Lordy, all this domestic jet-setting takes it out of you. The past two mornings have involved 5am alarm calls. Yesterday I had just enough time to shower, dress and down the obligatory cup of coffee before my cab arrived to ferry me to Williamtown Airport. I met up with Daniel & Steve, the other two guys travelling to the Gold Coast, boarded a twin-propeller Qantas flight and, just over an hour later, we touched down in Brisbane. We made good time - even better when we realised that Queensland don't observe daylight savings. So yes; I gained an hour. If I'd have known that, I'd have arranged to spend it in bed.
Brisbane was hit very severely by storms last week so I'd packed my swimmers more out of optimism than anything. Thankfully the storms didn't get as far south as Surfers Paradise, which is around 80km south of Brisbane. We arrived at Surfers at 9.30am and the temperature was around 28 degrees. Once we'd checked out our exhibition stand, we took a wander down the main strip and found a coffee shop. It even served my favourite coffee, although I have to say that Gavin makes it better. Anyway, we sat and drank our coffee as we watched the world go by - and I quickly came to the conclusion that the region should be renamed. Gold Coast is all very promising and pretty as names go, but I think "Mahogany Coast" would be more apt. Everyone I saw seemed to have borrowed Donatella Versace's skin. The only exception were the few schoolies that were out that early. Most of them were still in bed I think.
Once we'd returned to the hotel, it was a case of erecting our exhibition stand and grabbing some lunch with the conference delegates. Then we manned the stall as they all came around to talk with us and the other exhibitors. I had a really good time and got to meet loads of my brokers, many of whom I'd never see because they all work so far away from Newcastle.
The exhibition was due to run from 2pm until 5pm. By around 3.30pm, everyone had passed through and we were free to do our own thing. All that standing around and talking takes it out of you and the 5am start wasn't helping any either. I decided to check in to my room, sort my attire out for the evening's formal dinner and then head down to the beach.
Halfway through ironing my shirt, the phone in my room rang. It was Daniel and he'd decided to accompany me to the beach, a mere task of crossing the street and heading down the road. I was a little apprehensive because although the weather was significantly better than the Newcastle we'd left behind that morning, the sea was more than likely going to be around 16 celsius. The minute I walked into the surf, I knew I didn't have to worry. Queensland is closer to the equator than Newcastle and the distance made all the difference. The water was absolutely marvellous and after we'd finished swimming, we checked out the hotel's pool before going our separate ways and getting ready for the formal dinner.
The dinner itself was very well organised. The food was good and the entertainment they laid on was actually very funny. My experience of corporate speakers and entertainment hasn't always been positive but in this instance it was a magician-cum-comedian called Matt Hollywood. Maybe I was just enjoying myself and in a good mood, but let's be charitable and say that he was very enjoyable.
After dinner, the usual drinkin' and dancin' ensued. I don't drink and that has a knock-on effect to the chances of seeing me on a dance floor. Oh; that and the fact that I have the rythmn of a cadaver, of course. I spent the evening chatting to various people, introducing myself to people I'd not had a chance to meet previously and, in the end, found myself sitting on my hotel balcony in my shorts at around 11.30pm as the wolf whistles and occasional shouts from the schooles on the streets below permeated my self-satisfied little moment. I should stress that the schoolies weren't wolf-whistling me.
This morning the alarm went again at 5am. I slept relatively well but you know what it's like in hotels - you never sleep as well as you do in your own bed. I was in reception at 6am to meet my colleagues, ready for the drive home. The last time I'd seen Daniel, he'd been pretty wasted in the bar and it came as no surprise when he rolled up at 6.30am looking rather ill. The sad thing was that he'd not even lasted the distance. He'd gone up to his room around 1.30am yet as we were getting ready to leave to head back to the airport at 6.30am, two of the delegates came back to the hotel. They'd left the hotel bar at 1.30am and had gone on to the local casino. Yes, they spent the whole night at the casino tables and now they were grabbing a quick shower before heading back down for another day of the conference! I've only ever been to one casino in my life - and that was to look around rather than place anything resembling a bet. I don't see their appeal but each to their own I guess. Put it this way; I don't feel like an old square for having been in bed before midnight (even though I have to admit I probably am).
We left straight away to get back to Brisbane, drop off the hire car and get on the flight back to Newcastle. It turned out to be good that Daniel was so late meeting us in reception. If he'd have come down on time, chances are we'd have had breakfast at the hotel before heading off. As it happened, we left as soon as he came down, telling ourselves that we'd get breakfast at the airport instead. Just as well, seeing as the journey from Surfers to Brisbane took close to 2 hours because of roadworks and the peak-hour traffic. Anyway, we got there on time, got our hire car back, got on the plane and I'm writing this from the comfort of my front room.
I had a good time up in Queensland and I'm pleased to be able to say that I've been there. I think the best thing around the Brisbane/Gold Coast area is the weather. It's warmer than Newcastle, which isn't cold at the best of times. I can't see myself ever living there, though. Maybe it's different the further north you go, but the whole place was a bit skyscraper-tacky for my liking. If you want miles of golden sands and high-rise apartment blocks, you'll like the Gold Coast. Nope; if we go anywhere, I'll be trying to persuade Vanessa to make it Melbourne.
So now it's after 11pm at night. I just tried to call my mother at work to wish her a happy birthday but she's not back in the office until midnight our time and, in all honesty, I'll be dead to the world by then. Hopefully I can catch her in the morning - the evening of her birthday over in the UK.
Rather than faff about inserting photos in various sections of this posting, I'm just going to dump them all at the end. Just basic shots of my trip. Before too long, I should be able to put up some pictures of our new lounge room too. I did some more painting earlier this evening and all I have to do tomorrow is put a second coat on a small section of wall before I can say that the walls are finished. Then it's the one-coat ceiling paint, the quad and the glosswork and we're done. Whisper it, but this weekend might just see us ready to move the lounge room into the front. Maybe.