I was leaving on the 8.10am flight to Abu Dhabi on Valentine's Day from Edinburgh. Disappointing lots of women obviously (When they realised I wasn't leaving for good), the flight to middle east was fairly uneventful. I had a two hour turnaround and made for the Duty Free with the intention of buying cheap booze and cheap fags to spread around my genial hosts. "Can I see your boarding card please Sir?" I was asked as I looked like I was stocked up for a council house party. "I'm sorry, you are only permitted to enter Australia with 500ml of alcohol and 50 cigarettes" I'd find out why later.
A few folk have asked me what the flight to Australia is like and the brutal honesty is, it is boring as fuck. Especially as Etihad were tighter than a dead heat when it came to bevvy dispersal. I get bored watching films on those tiny screens on planes and never find the setting convivial to book reading either. On arrival, due to having a visa, I breezed through immigration and was met by two friendly faces at Sydney Airport, Jim Reilly and Ron Dorran, the latter would be putting me up. Jim drove and seemed set to take us to the shores of Botany Bay before Ronnie put him right on directions. We stopped at a boozer near Ron's and I discovered the full extent of the Duty Free scam, it was $11 a pint and $30 for a packet of fags.
(I'll pause for a minute there as I know a few regular readers will need to sit down after reading those numbers)
Ronnie, and his lovely wife Cath, have a great place in Sydney in an area known as "The Spot" and I settled in right away ("There's the pub, the cafe, the bookies and the cinema"). Ron and Cath were incredible hosts. Whether it was lovely meals, incredible stories or even just a comfy bed, I loved my time there. My mind started freeing up, stresses were disappearing and I was very relaxed. That was all down to Ron and Cath.
I also got to spend a lot of time with the bold Jim Reilly, the man who can tell six stories at once using voice skills that a ventriloquist would marvel at.
The screening itself was great. Good crowd and a lot of laughs.
I had initially meant to have been in Brisbane for a gig after Sydney but about three weeks before I was to leave, they got in touch with the tour organiser in Australia to say they were out. The flip side was this gave me time to head up the country and stay with Steff and Sharon Gilmartin for a four days. What a riot. We were sitting up drinking one night and Steff says to me "What time will you be up tomorrow?" I retorted "Eh, 9 or 10 maybe?" he says "Ah we would have taken you to Tits on Toast at half 6" I waited for the punchline but none came. He was serious. We had a good laugh about this notion that topless waitresses served you scrambled eggs on toast and I went to bed around 2am.
I was awoken with my name being repeated over and over again and realised it was Steff calling me telling me my breakfast was ready. I ambled upstairs and was met with the bold yin standing, holding toast, stark bollock naked.
From there it was off to Melbourne and to stay with Australia's most hated man, Sean Fitzgerald. That's not true of course but if you ever have some spare time, just mention Sean's name on Facebook and his fan club are sure to appear.
What a week in Melbourne, looked after by he and his lovely wife, Maeve, amidst the backdrop of a stressful time for them both, I can't be more thankful to them. Sean has been a friend for many years and just chilling over one or twenty four beers with him is always good.
The screening was in St Kilda, as beautiful a setting as you'll find, and was great. It was a big, lively crowd and a great time was had by all.
From Melbourne it was on to Perth and met at the airport, in blistering heat, by club President Andy Gordon. Andy is one of those guys you meet that drives a club forward. Normally clubs are lucky to have one guy like that but Perth actually has loads, male and female. From Cathie taking the money at the door to Davy providing the fun and frolics, you can't go wrong in Perth. You also have hardcore Tims like Paddy McConie who keep you laughing day and night.
Then you meet guys like Stuart Campbell and the strong Celtic heart makes you feel at home.
Perth was a real chill for me. It allowed me to write and take stock of a few things. The tour was absolutely flying and I had had a brilliant time in Australia. I was feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin and the support I am getting is now incredible.
Australia is a huge beating Celtic heart.
This was summed up after I left Perth, had an eight hour layover in Sydney and Jim Kinlan travelled two hours on the train to come in and keep me company for a few hours.
Things like that are what matter in life and the more you experience them, the more you love life.
I experienced loads of them in Australia.
PS The guy I am with in the picture at the top is Paul Kane, a gentleman and brother of the late Martin "Kano" Kane.