12 July, 2013

Blog Log - A Cricket Tragic's Indulgence

Tuesday, 9th July,2013
At the Swire (Australia) Christmas Party last year the Chairman suggested I should accompany him to the Ashes Test match at Lord's (London) in July.That got me thinking, particularly when I discovered I could get a ticket thru' my membership of the SACA (South Australian Cricket Association). He then announced  that business commitments would prevent him from going. But,my mind was set!

So here I am on CX110 en route to Hong Kong for a 36 hour stop over (they used to promote it as a "shop-over", but I suspect HK is now probably no cheaper for electricals or apparel than Sydney) before flying on to London on Thursday.

Beautifully smooth flying conditions at 38,000 feet and 528 miles per hour in an A330. A 9.5 hour flight with first three hours over this vast Australian continent. If I can believe the satellite map and marked route in front of me we fly up most of Cape York and cut across the top of the Gulf of Carpentaria-a long way further east than on previous occasions. 

Later...
We are now just crossing the Equator over Indonesia. Have gone up to 40,000 feet and speed has increased to 545 mph. Just watched a film "The Late Quartet"-very good. My hearing greatly assisted by switching on the sub-titles. The Business Class (yes, I scored an upgrade) cabin has been in near complete darkness for the last few hours with many people asleep. What's wrong with them? It's 1:20pm Sydney time and HK is only two hours behind Sydney-same as Perth. Perhaps they are going to be up all night? Four hours (2000 miles) to go.

Later still...
Hong Kong has lost none of its vibrancy sine Gail and I were last here in 2009. Got the Airport MTR (Mass Transit Rail) into Central. Chatted to a smart looking young guy on the train who turned out to be a Cathay pilot who had been at the airport on the simulator. He haled from Perth and had done his early flying (getting the hours up to qualify for bigger jets and bigger money) at Kunnunurra in the Kimberleys. At Central I spoke with anothey guy in the taxi queque who also turned out to be a Cathay pilot of 25 years standing. Once again the Swire presence is huge. The East Hotel where I am staying is developed, owned and operated by Swire. It is on Taikoo (the Chinese name for Swire) Shing Road, in the Taikoo Shing district. Before going to bed I had a drink in the Sugar Bar (about more anon) on level 32, the top floor with spectacular views cross the harbour and the old Kai Tak airstrip to Kowloon. I gave dinner a miss having had ample to eat on the flight.

Wednesday 10th July
Did a leisurely early walk around the block, had breakfast in Feast, the strangely named main dining room and spent some time with a delightful girl on Reception trying to work out how I could watch the cricket tonight (First Test  at Trent Bridge) on television.Conclusion-impossible from the Hotel. Caught the MTR from Taikoo Shing to Central and after getting hopelessly bushed, found my way to the wharves and did the tourist thing and caught the Star ferry across to Kowloon. Wandered around and took some photos of the ever more impressive Hong Kong Island skyline. Since Gail and I were here in 2009 the two tallest buildings (one on Kowloon) have been completed. Much building going on around the ferry wharves.

My drinks appointment with Swire Taipan and former Swire (Australia) Board colleague, Chris Pratt, was moved to the Hong Kong Club. I regard it as a real privilege that I can come to Hong Kong and receive a briefing, as it were, from one of the leading Hong Kong businessmen. 

I queried with Chris the dominance of the Swire (Taikoo) name around the East Hotel and he exlained that this was the site of the Swire Sugar Mill (hence the Sugar Bar) running down to the (Swire) Dockyard. All the land was used by Swire Property to do a huge residential (high rise) and commercial development.

As we were about to leave we decided to have a look at the cricket score in a downstairs bar at the Club. This led to us enjoying a Club dinner with some convivial cricket knowledgeable members. Chris took his leave and I stayed on to Tea time at 11:00PM before deciding I'd better get some sleep before tomorrow's long flight.

Thursday 11th July
Took a taxi to the Airport as I wanted to see (again) the spectacular expressways and bridges that the new airport required. Flight bookings were high and prospects of another upgrade to Business Class were not good. But at the Gate, joy of joys, there was a Business Class Boarding Pass waiting for me.

From my allocated seat there was literally not a window in sight, but there is always the Google Earth map with our route superimposed and then I discovered something new, a camera fitted under the aircrafts nose with pictures available on the screen. Mostly pretty murky at altitude, but great on landing at Heathrow. Top speed with a tailwind was 595 mph. Total flight time was 12.5 hours, but I managed a deep three hour sleep after lunch-served early in HK time terms. The Business Class seats/cubicles can be laid back to a bed like horizontal position, which I find makes sleep so much more conducive. We seemed to fly further north than the last time we did this trip-well north of Omsk over the Western Siberian Plain and I made a note to look up the ravine like (from 34,000 feet) Ob River.

At Heathrow I decided to brave the Tube (mostly underground rail) notwithstanding my three pieces of luggage. This was fine with few passengers until we got closer to central London when we coincided with peak hour crowds boarding at day end. Alighting at Green Park I managed to put my carry-on case on top of my big case and carry my suit bag with the other hand. Thank God for bags with wheels. I proceeded thus across the Park amidst all these funny little Poms in their hired deck chairs enjoying a rare sunny day! I negotiated the tourist crowds outside Buckingham Palace and along Buckingham Gate (further than I remembered) to Swire House. Moved into Flat B, had a quick beer across the road at "The Albert", I watched a replay of Agar's extraordinary debut innings and went to bed.

Friday 12th July
Awoke feeling great, donned my new bright gold Wallaby jersey and track suit pants and strode out. The first person I passed looked at me and in a broad cockney accent said "ye must be a very proud man this morning". Clearly referring to Agar's innings. Everyone else, in typically English style overted their eyes and didn't speak. I avoided the temptation of heading for the Abbey, Houses of Parliament etc. and explored the area arong Victoria for supermarket, laundry, taxi stand and SIM card sales for my extra mobile-all of which I found.

I then spent the day watching the Trent Bridge Test on television. At about 4:30pm I received a very disappointing email from my friend Canon Ralph Godsall, who was to attend the Lord's dinner as my guest, saying he was stuck at Glasgow Airport with a broken down aircraft and there was no way he could make the dinner. When the British-Australia Society noticed that there was a clergyman on the Guest List they contacted me through the SACA and asked if it would be in order to ask him to say Grace. They clearly thought he was travelling from Australia. I directed them to Westminster Abbey and gave them Ralph's 'phone numbers with the comment that I felt sure he could draft and deliver a suitable Grace in cricketing parlance, which he apparently agreed to do. In his email Ralph asked to record his apologies and for me to read his Grace.

I responded to Ralph's email as follows:

"In the colloquial-what a bastard! I am very disappointed. I will be tempted to claim authorship of your wonderful grace, but will give reluctant attribution and apologies!"

The Grace read-
O Lord, you'd scarcely think it wicket (pronounced 'wicked')
to give you thanks for wondrous cricket,
to celebrate the ties that make Poms and Aussies such good mates.
Now shades of that great Grace attend to take guard at the Nursery End
and praise with us the life of Bradman whose runs the Aussies once relied on. 
Give thanks to God, you cricket lovers,for food and drink. 
Remove the covers!
Greta Bradman, John Bradman's daughter and "the Don's" granddaughter, has recently won the 2013 Australian International Opera Award and has a truly magnificent soprano voice. Unannounced she commenced singing in an ever so powerful voice with no amplification "Bess You is my Woman Now" from Porgy and Bess. One of my favourites-I was wrapped. She then invited me to say Grace. I was chatting to John Bradman before we entered the Long Room and he told me that Greta had tested the room for accoustics and was delighted with how good they were. Just as well for when she introduced me I was at my table (appropriately the "Benaud" table) which was up one end of the room, seemingly miles from the microphone. I jumped to my feet and addressing the other end of the room in a loud voice asked "Do I need a microphone"? I was relieved to be assured I did not. I then proceeded by way of explanation how I had met Canon Godsall at the 2009 Test. My first at Lord's and how from an Australian perspective not an auspicious occassion as it was the first time England had beaten us there for 75 years. I explained Ralph's absence, gave his apologies and read "Ralph's Grace".

The Long Room (it is a big rectangular room) has been described as the most evocative four walls in world crcket. It is somewhat like a European opera house replete with three chandeliers and the walls carrying some great works of art in what I would call "old masters" style depicting cricketing scenes and portraits.

It was a big occassion. This was brought home to me when I called to see Merlin Swire as I was leaving Swire House (in my dinner suit). He knew where I was going as I had, some months ago, invited him to join me at the dinner. When I told him in view of Ralph Godsall's transport problems I had to say grace, he exclaimed "you have to say grace in the Long Room-wow"! "Is it in Latin"?  It was a great night. I was sitting beside John Bannon's wife Angela and Sally Niehuus, a member of the SACA Board. The main speakers were Australian High Commissioner, former SA Premier, Mike Rann and John Bradman.



Saturday 13th July 

Awoke to a very upset stomach and severe cramps. Food poisoning? Or simply the body clock telling me is doesn't like all these time changes etc. I spent the day in the flat sleeping fitfully and watching the First Test. Not shaping well, but still some slight hope. Another  miracle from Agar would truly be a dream.

Sunday 14th July
Feeling stronger I did my favourite walk. Down Victoria Street to the Abbey, noting Service times as I passed, past Westminster Palace (Houses of Parliament) and Big Ben. Over Westminster Bridge and back, up Whitehall, crunched the stones crossing Horse Guards parade ground, down The Mall to the Palace across Birdcage Walk and back home. As always when doing this I reflect upon our anglophile Mother and how she just loved everything about England and how she would have loved it. And how sad it was that she never made it. I saw an old copy of an Illustrated London News in a shop window. That brought back memories of how prominent was that publication in our early lives. Mum's generation and her parents seemed to really see themselves as "out riders of Empire". I recall they and their friends often referred to England as "home" often in the sense "she had a trip home..." Look out I could get very nostalgic!

11:00 AM seemed to take forever to come around. Wickets fell too often until we got to the last one. Haddin and Pattinson, particularly the former were magnificent and they went to a delayed lunch needing only another 20 to win. After lunch Hadden "feathered" a ball from Anderson to the keeper. England made a half-hearted appeal and the umpire gave it not out. England with two reviews in hand called for a review. Hot spot showed an ever so small spot and there was an audible "click". The decision was reversed and England had won with Australia 14 runs short and in a real  anti-climax it was all over. "Snicko", not used by the umpires, showed a clear snick so there is little doubt Haddin was out. What rankles, even more now the margin was so close, is Broad's failure to walk, when he knocked the cover off the ball and was caught at slip. Whilst players can validly argue the rights and wrongs of walking in very close situations, when it is so obvious that the Umpire has made a huge error the players should help. It rather reminds me of business deals when clear agreements have been made, well understood by the parties, but somehow get missed in the drafting of legal agreement and the benefiting party refuses to stick with the verbal agreement. I have a particular transaction in mind!

I was attracted by a Letter in The Times which pointed out what a bad example Broad's action sets for more junior cricketers and how it makes the job of umpiring such matches so unpleasant and difficult if players are not prepared to work with the umpire. What's that thing called 'the spirit of cricket'.

With the Test finishing at 2:30PM  I realised I had time to get down to the Abbey for a 3:00PM Choral Evensong and a Valedictory to seven choristers. The focus was music in worship as was the Dean's uplifting sermon. The Anthem was based on words by John Milton with music by Charles Parry-truly magnificently sung. It featured heavily in the sermon, here is the link http://www.westminster-abbey.org/worship/sermons/2013/july/sermon-given-at-evensong-with-valediction-of-choristers-14th-july-2013
I thought it was great. Then to add to my pleasure the final hymn was one of my favourites-"The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended". Puts loosing Test matches into proper perspective!

Monday 15th July
Gradually adjusting to local time. Decided to walk the parks this morning-St. James and Green. Buckingham Palace was bathed in bright morning sunlight, so with SMS encouragement from Kate, I took some photos. After breakfast I again walked across Green Park to the Tube station, purchased an Oyster ticket-for use in all modes of transport, and caught the train to St John's Wood and walked to Lord's, to pick up my tickets. Then walked down to Maida Vale Road and got the Bus back to Victoria. Ralph Godsall returned my call of earlier this morning and we are to have lunch at the Oxford and Cambridge Club on Wednesday. After all the walking I was "buggered". Bought a sandwich for lunch and had a good sleep. Later did some shopping, had a roast beef early dinner a "The Albert" and have been typing ever since! Rang Angela Scott and hope to catch up with her next week.

Tuesday 16th July
Headed off around the Palace wall this morning. At Hyde Park Corner I paid my respects to the very evocative Australian War memorial Wall showing thousands of place names where Australian soldiers came from. Spent the morning reading and watching television before heading off to meet Martin Whitaker for lunch. Had difficulty getting across the roads around the Palace with the "Changing of the Guard" crowds barricaded in. Had to hurry to make the agreed time. We met at the Hilton on Park Lane and then had a very pleasant lunch in a small pub with excellent food. After lunch Martin suggested we should have a look at the Summer Exhibition of Art works put on by the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. A huge range of mostly modern works of painting, sculpture and photography.The hottest day London has had this summer peaking at 31C. Arrived home "pooped" after all the walking.

Wednesday 17th July
In my now usual early walk I checked out the location of the Oxford and Cambridge Club where Ralph Godsall had invited me to lunch. My first visit to the famous London "club land" on Pall Mall. With so much eating since leaving Sydney I felt like Bustopher Jones-the fattest of cats. It was great to see Ralph again. I commiserated with him on missing the Lord's Dinner and reported on the event and the spontaneous applause that his cleverly composed grace drew. A most enjoyable occassion. We walked in to a near empty very grand dining room and I was struck by the beauty of all the prepared tables amidst some great art (royalty). We had a most pleasant and ,at least from my perspective, most interesting lunch discussing a wide range of subjects including theology, cricket and world affairs, We walked back to the middle of St James Park where Ralph went left back to the Abbey and I went right to Buckingham Gate.
As I was returning to the flat I was delighted to run into Sir Adrian Swire on the Fifth Floor and hope to see him and Judy before leaving the UK.

I managed some "shut-eye" before getting a taxi to the Royal Garden Hotel for the Lord's Taverners Test Eve Dinner. Had a real fun night with some great company.Predominantly one family group on my table-the Poore's. The table was the highest number(41) at the very back of the room. Fortunately the acoustics were good and we had a lot of fun being well entertained. Main activity was picking our dream Ashes team from English and Australian players by consensus per table. Or team included-Hutton Cook Bradman Compton Botham Evans Warne Laker McGrath and Lillee. The winning team included Hutton Hobbs Bradman Harvey (he was there) Gilchrist Trueman Warne McGrath and Lillee. The guy who conducted the auction of cricket memorabilia was an outstanding auctioneer in this sort of social atmosphere and they raised a lot of money.

Thursday 18th July
Did my favourite walk-down Victoria Road to the Abbey, along Whitehall, Horsegards was closed so went on to Trafalgar Square, up The Mall then across St James Park and home. Based on previous experience I bought a couple of sandwiches for lunch at the cricket. Headed off about 8:00AM walking down to Westminster (again) and caught the Tube to St John's Wood then walked down to Lord's. Seats were very good, under cover, albeit largely square on to the wicket. Quite a few others around me who had also got their tickets through the SACA. Next to me was a medico (Dr John Russell), a St. Peter's Old Boy who had spent some time in the UK and a period with the Flying Doctor based in Broken Hill and a time at Mildura. He knew his cricket and was most companionable. England won the toss and batted. At 3 for 28 we Aussies were cock-a-hoop. At 4 for 250 and Bell and Bairstow in full command we were not so happy. Yours truly kept mumbling "bring on Smith". Eventually Clarke did just that and he promptly took three wickets! So at 7 for 289 on what seems a good batting track  is not a bad position.

Friday 19th July
Same old routine. Today I circumnavigated St James Park within the park. After breakfast walked across Green Park to the Green Park tube station. Took the Ipad. With the help of a cricket loving globe trotting Pom hooked up to the Lord's Wi-fi "on the cloud" and emailed photographs to Australia. Australia took the eighth wicket with the first ball. Then the English tail wagged and they finished up with 360 odd. Australia made a good start. Lost Watson before lunch to be around 1 for 50. After lunch, in a pathetic batting performance they were all out for 128. A huge disappointment. England then batted badly and at stumps were 3 for 30 after dropping Root, so could have been 4 for 30. Today (Saturday) we need a miracle to get England out for around 100 and then chase down 330 odd. Not likely, but you never give up hope. A bloke down the road who I put this scenario to said "your deamin".

Saturday 20th July
After my usual constitutional  My third day in the Mound Stand in almost exactly the same excellent seats if you don't mind watching cricket from square on. Given the hot weather we were lucky to be in the shade all day and high enough to pick up some breeze. My mate down the road on Buckingham Gate who said I was "dreamin" proved to be dead right. England batted all day and put us totally out of the game. About the only plus Australia could  take out of the day was that Pattinson bowled much better than in the first innings, but without luck.

John Russell suggested we have a light meal after play, being a liitle shocked that I admitted my evening meal the previous night was a Big Mac! Walked down to Maida Vale and did just that.

Sunday 21st July
Today was my first (and as it turned out only) day in the Members with my SACA reciprocal rights. Took the luxury of a taxi to the ground at 5:30AM and was abour 50 metres from the Grace Gate in the queue. Had very good company for the nearly three hour wait. When we were let in I made straight for the seats I had identified from the Mound Stand, which I thought looked the best on the ground. These were a single row in front of the TV cameras on the middle deck of the Pavillion. Claimed three directly behind the bowler's arm without difficulty and as arranged John Russell and Ralph Godsall soon joined me. We visited the Bowler's Bar and balcony where the bell is located. Had breakfast in a small dining area just down the stairs from the B B and hung around the Long Room. Ran into Rod Calvalier, but didn't see any other Australians that I knew. I believe John Howard and Ian McLachlan were there somewhere.

England batted on until Root was dismissed for 180 and England declared well over 500 runs ahead. After Watson played some great drives he was trapped for his usual LBW. Clarke and Khawaja batted well for 50's on a very difficult pitch with Swann and Root both turning balls out of the bowler's footmarks at right angles. However, the inevitable result was finalised on what was the third last ball of the day. So no second day in the Pavillion. Pattinson batted spiritedly at the end until dismissed LBW by Swann. In summary, I would not be too critical of the Australian batting in the second innings given the pitch and yet another dubious third umpire decision. It was the first innings batting on Day 2 that caused Australia's defeat. Swann tok the easiest "5 for..." of his career.

I have now been to two Australia/England Ashes Tests at Lord's and have seen Australia beaten at Lord's for the only two times in the last 79 years!

Monday 22nd July
Today was to be "Lord's recovery" day. The usual route for my mornng walk somewhat self consciously wearing my Australian Wallaby jersey. Drew only one comment in a broad accent-"your a brave boy wearing that today"! I thought so too. The TV news was running only one story all day-that the Duchess of Cambridge had gone to hospital in labour in the early hours of the morning. I first heard this in a SMS from Kate Boyd!

In mid morning I walked down to the Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard and to see if there was any announcement whilst I was there.

Had a snooze after a sandwich lunch and as arranged met my former Swire (Australia) Board colleague and now Group Chairman, James Hughes-Hallett in the Board Room here. It was great to soon lapse into our Australian days very friendly relationship and we traversed a whole range of personal and business issues. I have always liked and admired JHH and he thoroughly deserves the honour of being the only Group Chairman of Swires who was not a member of the Swire or Scott families.

Subsequent events are best described in an email I sent to my family later in the evening under the heading "I was there!"

"At about 8:30PM this evening (still broad daylight) I wandered down to the Palace to see how many people were gathering in anticipation of the Royal birth. There was quite a crowd and  soon after I arrived people rushed to one of the gates and the cry went up-"it's a boy!" Apparently the news agencies had the word before the Buck Palace notice was posted at the Palace. People at the Palace were getting the word on their smart 'phone news apps.

Shortly after an official came to the fence with the easel and then a man and a woman came out with the bulletin. The crush to get to the fence to read and photograph the Bulletin was unreal with no Police controlling things and people pushing from every direction with no exit path. It was actually quite dangerous and I was concerned for younger or frailer people. However, I persevered and made it to the fence. The notice was small and low down. Why the police didn't anticipate what would happen, put some barriers up and organise an orderly file past I don't know. Similarly, why they didn't make a bigger notice and place it higher is a mystery. Thought I might write a letter to The Times and suggest that whilst they might be able to play cricket (at the moment), this was a real stuff-up. 

I was interviewed twice by the press (video) one lot from Japan and the other local (UK). My line was that I was there for the cricket and felt by also being there for the birth announcement I was salvaging something from the wreckage and thought it was wonderful news to be there for the birth of a future monarch. 

So, take note, that when the announcement that the future King had been born, I was amongst the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace.Lots of love. Dad/David"

I was planning on giving dinner a miss - I haven't lost any weight since I've been here - to the contrary. However, the loss of body fluid in the "close and personal' crush at the Palace called for a drink and I was hungry. So, a final beer and roast beef at The Albert was called for.

Tuesday 23rd.July
Stormy morning. Got a cab around to the Victoria Bus Station and caught the Gloucester 10:00am bus to Cirencester via Heathrow. Angela met me a Cirencester and we drove out to the magnificent Ampney Park. The garden and house were even more beautiful than I recalled from our visit nearly exactly four years ago.

Angela showed me her more recent property acquisitions and we walked around the truly scrumptious garden. A lot of work and more sculptures since our last visit. I was struck by the lovely, typically Cotswold mellow stone. Met her new husband Simon, a New Zealand architect come property developer, for the first time. We found common ground and got on well. Went to dinner in a typical local pub in the nearby village of Barnsely.

Wednesday 24th July
Angela took me to the markets (no sale on) and a nearby "everything for farmers" retail outlet. Also toured some lake (old quarry) developments and a new property development on the edge of Cirencester being tastefully built in that lovely mellow Cotswold stone; all in her very sporty Merc.

In the afternoon I had another walk around this magnificent 12 acre garden and took a lot of photos.

In the evening Angela and Simon thoughtfully invited some friends/neighbours for a BBQ. A scrumptious meal and a very jolly time. I immediately warmed to Allison a recently widowed lady with great spirit and a keen sense of humour. The other couple were also great fun. The male partner, Brian Richardson was a very keen cricket follower and ex player (Worcester) whose two brothers had both played for England. One of his brothers was Peter Richardson whose name was very well known to me as an opener who played under Peter May in the late 50's/early 60's. Both Brian and I had Keith Miller as our boyhood hero and even had clear memories of Richie Benaud's great 97 at Lord's in the 1956 Test and the spectacular catch he took one handed above his head fielding in the gully to dismiss Colin Cowdery.

Thursday 25th July
I have been so blessed on this trip with the people I have met and the old friends I have seemingly run in to by chance. It has also been just great to have been so warmly greeted.

One of Angela's garden hands drove me to Heathrow. We ran into a nasty very slow traffic snarl before we got onto the M4. Fortunately, we had plenty of time on our side. The Economy Class queue was long so I presumptuously took the Business Class queue. The check-in very pleasant girl didn't seem to have the upgrade request on her screen and asked me if I would be paying for it! I explained that I was a former Swire Director and didn't usually pay extra. She obligingly immediately upgraded me to Premium Economy with a wait listing for Business Class. I think she must have found some reference on the booking. I was very keen for an upgrade on this 11 hour flight to Hong Kong with horrible time changes. She also gave me a pass to the Business Class lounge which had not been offered elsewhere. As I was preparing to leave the lounge I walked past a man in conversation with one of the Cathay senior ground staff. I thought he looked like an older, finer faced Angus Barclay who worked with us in Sydney and is now General Manager - Europe for Cathay. Bearing in mind Gail's consistent encouragement in such circumstances, I retraced my steps so as to come face to face with this man who immediately recognised me, it being Angus. We had a very pleasant conversation, swapped family news and his companion presented me with my Business Class Boarding Pass! In fairness, I think It was coming thru' anyway, but it was great to have the personal touch and I was delighted to catch up with Angus. I had him on my list to contact in Hong Kong on the way over when I discovered he was now in London. I had also looked for him at Buckingham Gate only to be told his office was at Hammersmith.

CX252 to HK was an old 747 with Business Class on the short top deck with the herring bone seat configuration. Not much good for "navigation", but great when stretched out bed like for sleeping. We have been cruising between 31 and 37,000 feet and in the early part of the trip had 70 MPH tailwinds with a cruising speed in excess of 600 mph (over 1,000 km PH). Now over far western China and due in HK in 3.5 hours. Should be asleep as its 3.00AM HK time.

Friday 26th July
Arrived around 7:00AM to a very wet H.K.-cleared later. Initially wished I had booked straight on with a flight leaving in two hours. However, too late with luggage and hotel (East again) bookings. Got a taxi to the hotel with a driver who drove like a maniac in such bad conditions-it was teeming rain. Was pleased to get immediate access to a fabulous corner room. Twenty-eighth floor (16th on the way over) with the most spectacular 90 degree views. Felt really grotty after the long flight and had a lovely long shower and change of clothes.

Went next door to the very smart City Plaza shopping precinct in an unsuccessful search for adult, small presents - needed Barry Dugan! Presents for grandchildren bought in London will have to suffice. Had a sleep, a McDonald's Quarter Pounder mid afternoon and enjoyed the room view.

Saturday 27th July
Awoke early and headed by taxi to the Airport. Weather showery and driver nearly as fast as yesterday. Was too early for the Check in counter, but approached the separate Cathay First Class section for advice. They promptly checked me in, acknowledged the upgrade request and directed me to the Flight Deck lounge. On arrival at the lounge I was greeted by name and assured of my upgrade if seat was available-which duly transpired.

A sprightly elderly lady (she admitted to 82 years) was sitting in the other middle seat (more like cubicle). She struck up a conversation by asking about my Ipad. It turned out that her late husband had been a very early pilot with Cathay, knew deKantzow, one of the two founders and I think she said he had flown Betsy, one of the original two DC3's. She had been a very early Cathay air hostess. She rather reminded me of Unity Pheils (nee McCaughey). More Swire tentacles!
We entered Australian airspace over the corner of Arneham Land, flew over Groote Eyland (hi Amber) in the western Gulf and east of Mt.Isa. No window, but dark anyway. According to the Google Map we always fly over a very prominent looking place-Connemara-I think it must be a Station! I am often unimpressed by the tendency of Google to name obscure places and omit more prominent ones. Flew over Bourke, Dubbo and finally in to Sydney.

Summary
This has been a really great trip. I think it is the first time I have traveled overseas alone. I know my 'Thursday Group' at the Australian Club will be seeking a brief report on the highlights. What will I tell them?


In chronological order-

  • Drinks and dinner at the Hong Kong Club with the Swire Taipan-Chris Pratt 
  • Staying at Buckingham Gate and seeing Merlin, Sir Adrian and Chairman James Hughes-Hallett 
  • Saying a very cleverly written cricketer's Grace in the Long Room at Lord's at a black tie dinner with Greta Bradman as the guest soprano 
  • Attending a fabulous Choral Evensong at Westminster Abbey 
  • Meeting and having lunch with Martin Whitaker in London and attending the Summer Exhibition of Artworks with him 
  • Having lunch at the Oxford and Cambridge Club with Canon Ralph Godsall 
  • Attending the Lord's Taverners Test Eve Dinner 
  • Getting the best seats in the Pavillion for the last day of the Lord's Test with friends Ralph Godsall and John Russell 
  • Being present at Buckingham Palace (out the front), when the birth of the future monarch was announced 
  • Staying at the fabulous Ampney Park in the Cotswolds with Angela and Simon 
  • Meeting Angus Barclay at Heathrow 
  • Having the most spectacular panoramic room on the 28th Floor of the East Hotel in H.K. 
  • Being given upgrades to Business Class on every leg of the trip. 
  • Finally, beautiful weather not a single wet day and the one pullover I took was never worn.

Epilogue
Checking through the build up of The Australian newspapers while I have been away revealed a photograph on page one of the Second Edition of the 24th July. It was taken of the crowd pressing in to see the Bulletin announcing the Royal birth. On the far left, as clears as a bell, is none other than yours truly!
Post a Comment