Monday, October 08, 2007

Perth Trip

I came back from Perth with so many things stacked up that I had three all-nighters last week: while I joke about sleeping for 12 hours every second night, it is probably not so good for me.

My trip over there did not follow the most logical of paths: I left here on the Wednesday evening nearly two weeks ago, for Wellington, as I had a meeting there on the Thursday. My plan was to meet up with a friend and go for a drink but such was my ineptitude with texting (our agreed upon method for me letting her know I was in town) that it took me so long to communicate she thought I had stood her up and went home. So, left to my own devices, I tried out the Lido for dinner, and had a very curious arrangement of green peas, brocolli, chicken and slabs of pasta which they were passing off as a pasta primavera. Since the night was still young and fresh, I had a very nice wander along Oriental Parade, checking out the lights of the city and the rather pleasant looking apartment buildings which grace that part of the city.

I had my meeting, which went the way of most meetings, and flew down to Christchurch. Christchurch being Christchurch, by the time I got myself into my lodgings (the Living Space - a very nice place, albeit unfortunately located above several bars) my food choices were extremely limited. Apparently, 20 years ago, they had more all night eateries than London, but these days one is limited to the fast food joints after about 10:00, and even they close at around midnight, leaving one at the mercy of Starshops. The Japanese place that used to stay open very late is defunct.

Mind you, Perth was not much better. I got in at about midnight and made my straight to the YHA: asking the fellow on the desk where I might find a quiet drink and a bite to eat was not very productive, as he claimed to come from Northbridge (about 1 kilometre to the north east of the YHA) and not know the locality.
Northbridge had food, certainly, but the place was ghastly - full of shouty drunk people, very loud boom boom music, pubs with drunk patrons and unwelcoming doorstaff. I did find a hotel bar in town for that drink you need when you've just arrived and want a quiet moment but, as for food, my choices were limited to a kebab shop inhabited by a couple having a domestic and McDonalds. I went for the Golden Arches, and retreated to my hostel.

The weekend was occupied by me wandering the inner city, taking the CAT to get my bearings, finding a few coffee shops, visiting Retro Betty's burger joint in Leederville and going to watch the Joe Strummer movie. That almost never happened: I went to use the men's room, but as I tried to leave, I was baffled - the exit was by way of a screen through a vestibule, but everything was painted bright red, and i had some boundary issues.

Sunday afternoon, I changed digs, to the hotel being paid for by work, and I had drinks organised by the conference I was attending. Last time I attended this particular conference, I actually fled the social events, as I did not feel at all comfortable, so I has been a little apprehensive about the social demands this conference would make of me. Luckily it was made more than bearable by having several of my current colleagues, several of my former colleagues and a few of their colleagues to support me: I have to confess that I enjoyed the conference, and look forward to the next one.

Post conference, things got busy. I had a rental car and fled towards the south coast, with Albany in mind. But Perth takes such a long time to escape, and I had compounded this by dropping colleagues in Freemantle and so I was something like 150 kilometres short of the coast when darkness overtook me. Thus, a random night in a random hotel in Kojonup. The plan had been to spend two nights in Albany and cruise around a bit, but this put paid to that. So, I had a wander around Albany and pressed on to the West, pausing for the night in Pemberton. Even though I did not get to stay anywhere long, the drive itself was very pleasant - last time I was there, I had gone out past Wave Rock to Esperance, through the wheat belt - boring! This time, I went through forestry, rolling farmland, grape growing areas - everything was green.

The Friday night, back in Perth, I was off to the Perth Concert Hall for a much anticipated Tori Amos gig - row C, seat 11, which put me just off centre, a fantastic seat. Unfortunately, the show failed to grab me: the first time I saw Tori, it was upstairs in a small space in a theatre in Auckland. It was just her and her piano and (since the lights were out, it seemed) me. She sang and she talked and it was magic. I saw her again, and it was much the same. this time round, she had a band with her, it was a very polished show, don't get me wrong, but there was no feeling of intimacy. She hardly addressed a word to the audience, and when she discharged the band and it was just her and the piano, it seemed all part of a tried and true formula (including the part where she plays two at once).

I had thought it was just me losing appreciation for live music, but I went to another show on Saturday night where I literally had the worst seat in the house (in the second to last row, against the wall) and I was blown away. I had shivers go up my spine three times, I felt tears in my eyes twice, and I fell in love with one of the singers (Vikki). This was the Waifs, a band from Western Australia, one which sings about such things as saving up pennies to buy a Valiant to go cruising in (one tear inducing song). Here's the story of how they got their name:

DONNA SIMPSON: I actually kept saying to, Josh and Vikki they were having this big argument in the van, and I kept saying, ‘I’m leaving. I’m leaving. I’m leaving, you know.’ They just didn’t hear me.
ANDREW DENTON: And it was around this time that you got the name ‘The Waifs’, wasn’t it? That was that was given to you, really.
DONNA SIMPSON: Yeah, we, we, things got really tough on the road, so we all decided to go home and Josh went to his family, and virtually walked into the house and his grandmother said “Oh look at my waif, my waif”. And then we went home to our family and our grandmother said “Oh here come the waifs”. And like…
VIKKI THORN: Yeah, here come my little waifs she said.
DONNA SIMPSON: My little waifs.
VIKKI THORN: Meaning I guess that we were a little dishevelled, dirty and homeless looking.
ANDREW DENTON: It could have been worse. They could have said you little shits.
Vikki was amazing - she had several harmonica solos and sang two songs solo, no instruments, nothing. In between their songs (or even in place of their songs, when the harmony failed to happen, they'd just chatter away to the audience, telling great stories. I has been a bit dubious about the guys in the seats beside me, as they'd talked most of the way through the support act, and then left the venue, but when the Waifs came on, not only did the respect the band by not talking, they pretty much had all the songs down word for word. My only regret: I had had a chance to see them twice, as they'd played Bunbury earlier in the week, and I didn't take it up.

Seeing them was a suitable way of ending my trip: not much more than an hour after they left the stage, I was in a plane and on my way home. Speaking of which, I'm going home now to have another listen of Sun Dirt Water.

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