Fremantle and footie

Quite a hectic day once we all got of our collective backsides and left the house. We started by popping into Perth centre for some shopping. I decided to spend a decent amount of money on some walking boots and the ones I got seem pretty good. Much better soles for walking on rocks than the $40 trainers I’ve been making do with recently. They get punctured the first time you walk anywhere off the pavement.

We then went to Fremantle Prison, one of 42 National Heritage sites in Australia. The prison only closed down in 1991 so it’s not in bad nick (pun intended). There are four tours available – a general walk around, one concentrating on escape attempts, another taking in the tunnels and a night-time torchlight tour. These vary from 1 1/2 hours upwards and you can buy tickets for more than one at a time to save money. You don’t have to take the tours on the same day, just purchase the tickets. You have two weeks to use them.

Regular tours set off every thirty minutes with around twenty people in them and cost $16. The tunnels tour is nearer 2 1/2 hours. We just did the regular one and it was pretty entertaining. Our guide showed us round most of the main buildings from the “check in” through the exercise yards, various different cells, chapel, gallows room, administration offices and kitchens.

Disabled access is good throughout, though the chapel is up some stairs which you can’t get up with a wheelchair. Instead, there is a guidebook which the staff provide to those who can’t manage the steps showing all the areas they can’t see along with all the information and trivia dished out up there.

There is a series of cells in one of the blocks which have been done out in various standards to show how the living conditions changed from decade to decade. Painting adorn some walls and were allowed in the last few months of the prison’s active life. One cell has several pieces of work as the prisoner incarcerated there was adjudged to be high risk and the painting therapeutic for him.

A replica of the frame used to tie prisoners up while they were whipped has been erected in one of the yards. Punishment was with the cat o’ nine tails as that’s what was used on the ships that brought the convicts over. The “cat” changed as the years went by. Early ones had metal shot at the end of the tails which gouged and ripped flesh. Later versions just had knotted leather which cut the skin on the back, but didn’t pull lumps out. How nice.

Laden with information on prison life, we drove (very slowly and carefully and making sure we paid the parking charges in full) to the Roundhouse, the oldest standing building in Western Australia. It was opened in 1831 and served as a very small and basic prison until the main jail was built in 1850. There was a wedding taking place on the lawn outside in the sunshine. Nice place for it!

In Fremantle itself we took a wander down the streets. One main one was closed off and designated a Smoke Free zone so that crowds could surround the numerous street entertainers without breathing filth in. A sign of how much better Oz is than home is the fact that people paid attention to the signs. Not one ciggy anywhere.

I had the most delicious gelato double-cone (wild berry and passion fruit) and a half pint of Emu at the bar in the Fremantle Market. This is a great little watering hole – and “little” is very descriptive. Live bands play all the time, essentially just busking within the bar, and the beer is good – and very reasonably priced.

Mel and Matt dropped me off at the Oval for the West Coast vs Collingwood game. One of Matt’s old work colleagues had scored a handful of free tickets and I’d somehow managed to be gifted one of them. I was wearing my usual Newcastle top so was effectively a Collingwood fan as they also play in black and white stripes. The thing is, in Oz, supporting Collingwood is tantamount to being a ManUre supporter at home. They’re the team everyone who knows nbthing about the sport support, and none of the fans come from their region. Having said that, Collingwood haven’t won anything in as long as Newcastle United so there the similarity ends.

The game was a lot tighter than the Adelaide / Essendon one I saw last week with West Coast just pipping Collingwood by 12 points at the end, coming from a deficite at half time. Pretty entertaining though I’m still not 100% on some of the rules. During the first half, clouds rolled in over the stadium so heavy and black they looked like an oil fire. This illusion was added to by the deepest red sunset I have ever seen – the light only just peeking through some holes in the cloud. Stunning.

Another difference with the football here is that a season ticket (or “membership”) offers a significant saving over buying individual tickets. My season ticket at home barely saved me a tenner on match-by-match purchase. In addition, it includes travel to and from home games on public transport. Newcastle offer this in the form of an addition pass which – surprise – costs money. I don’t know what other clubs offer.

This is apparently common with many event tickets in the Perth area – festivals, concerts and other sporting events. My single match ticket has “includes public transport to/from match” on the front of it. So a ticket which probably cost less than $30 included anything up to $8 worth of transport as well. Superb.

Using said ticket I made my way to the Carlisle hotel where I’d actually first met Mel. She was out with one of her brothers, her b/f, one of her friends and the usual crowd of regulars, some of whom I met last time. Stella was on special at $5 a pint so I made the most of that and enjoyed a few bevvies before heading “home” and… staying up till 4:30am on the internet.

Some things never change, even when I’m travelling.

*bounces*

Two things to get excited about: I’ve managed to score a free ticket for the Eagles vs Magpies (Perth vs Collingwood) game for tomorrow courtesy of Mel’s boyfriend. Thanks, Matt! Hopefully I’ll make it there in time to see the whole game this time…

I’ve also just spotted an update to the Graspop Festival lineup – and Papa Roach are playing. Whoop!

Today’s been pretty cool as well. The Aussies do – it’s a stereotype, but it’s true – use anything as an excuse for a barbequeue. It’s Easter weekend and I’ve been off to one in a lovely local park with Mel, Jacqui and the family. Along with Mel’s two brothers, I discovered that carrying a puppy around does attract women. Sadly, they always seem to be under 13 or over 50… Bugger.

The troop have taxi’d off to another BBQ at a house elsewhere for the evening, but I’ve cried off as I have a ton of work to do on this walk. Plus, only getting four hours’ sleep last night has knocked me for six! One of the kittens is hyperactive and decided to spend the night playing with any part of me that was sticking out of the bed covers. Cute, but exhausting!

At the footie, drinking a beer

Here’s an unusual sight – people watching football in the sunshine. Traditionally, it’s supposed to be raining and cold. But then, traditionally, you play football with your feet and there are goalkeepers and a rectangular pitch and a round ball.

Today I went to see Australian (i.e. “No”) Rules Football which was on my “to do” list since I arrived in Oz. I won’t go through all the rules – yes, there are some – instead referring you to the AFL page on Wikipedia.

Some hints for those visiting Adelaide to watch the sport:

The AAMI stadium (I assume this will change name as it changes sponsor) is located about 20-30 minutes’ bus ride out of the city. The big, oval cricket ground-shaped thingy near the festival centre… is a cricket ground.

You need to catch the 113, 118 or Footie Express for $3.80 each way from Currie Street. The Footie Express starts running 2 hours before kickoff and departs every 20 minutes. The last bus leaves 20 minutes before kickoff. Miss this and you have to resort to the 113 or 118.

Yeah, OK. Guess who missed kickoff? My main regret is that by the time I got there all the match day programs were sold out and I’d have liked one as a souvenir. Ah well.

But what an afternoon. 43,064 fans at a sell-out opener (though I wasn’t sat in the correct seat so some people hadn’t turned up) and no segregation. Home and away fans sat mixed up like M&M’s in a big bowl and no trouble was had at all. Families were there as groups and I hear tell that at times over 50% of the crowd at AFL games is female. Hugely different from back home.

Another major difference is the ticket pricing. I paid less than $30 including booking fee for my ticket. This is approximately £12 at today’s prices. A Premiership (or Championship/Old Second Division) ticket in the UK will average at £35 per match. Aussies on the whole don’t earn that much less than a Pom in the same job, so I guess it comes down to the way the sport is run.

AFL players aren’t paid extremely stupid amounts of money in comparison the “proper” footballers. Teams don’t shell out millions to buy players from other teams or to grab kids while they’re barely in their teens. Instead, the system works like the American Football draft where the team that finishes lowest one year gets first pick of the fresh talent the next. A much fairer system and proven by the huge variety of teams who’s won the cup over the last umpteen years. How many different clubs have lifted the Premiership trophy back home in 15 years? I think 4?

I got a barracking for saying this to a Crows (Adelaide) supporter, but watching them reminded me of watching Newcastle United. They were outplayed continually by a team which actually seemed to know what it was doing. They came second best at most challenges, lost the ball too easily, didn’t have the kicking accuracy of their opponents… Yet the fans didn’t give up yelling for them. Even with two minutes to go and four goals (24 points) down, the two guys in front of me were saying “two quick goals and a bit of luck and we can make something of this”. Our equivalent back home was a 4-0 drubbing at Anfield a few years back when the entire away section was singing “5-4! We’re going to win 5-4!” as the clock showed 89 minutes.

Final score: Adelaide 74 – 105 Essendon.

As is my tradition, I picked up a keyring as a souvenir of visiting a new football ground. OK, it’s not proper football but “as in Rome/Adelaide”…

The transport back to Adelaide was well organised with a huge bus concourse outside and staff ensuring as many as possible got onto each coach before it set off to be replaced by an empty one. Bus lanes meant that those who’d opted to come by car were sat sweltering as we zipped past them.

Overall, I still prefer “real” football but watching AFL was a hell of a lot more pleasant. I think I saw about four police all day and they were just wandering around trying to get a good view of the game. Now, if they can start getting these kinds of crowds for the A-League and stop calling it “soccer”…

As an aside, something I forgot to mention yesterday. Down a side street near the hostel Delphine spotted a wall covered in toy cars. An outdoor brick wall. Appoximately 1 gazilliong cars of various shapes and sizes. Held on with blu-tak. We could tell this as some had dropped off. There were no signs to say who or why, but… cool.

Oh, and don’t buy Coles’ “Sherbet Bombs”. They’re crap.

Footie *sigh*

Another day like many others in Goa. Sat on the beach, soaking up the rays, swimming in the warm sea, eating great food for not much money.

At dinnertime, Hans and the neighbours went off into town somewhere for what was, I’m told, a very good meal. I was feeling a little antisocial due to a very painful shoulder. I think I got it from sitting in a really stupid position while I read for around 4 hours.

Regardless, it made it easier for them to get a taxi (four people rather than five) and I just settled on a simple roast chicken before going to the Cuba bar for a beer (or five) and to watch the footie.

This, I realised, was the first complete live Newcastle match I’ve seen this season. Good grief. It may well be the last going by the places I’ve still to travel through. Thankfully it was a corker. Goals everywhere, a crap referee who most definitely needs glasses, fights on the pitch, end-to-end action and two comebacks from behind to nab three points and take us back above the Boro!

The thing is, it’s matched like that that make me think that I’m missing so much being away from home, or at least a TV. Then I remember that one game in ten seems to be entertaining these days and I’m glad I caught one of them tonight.

The best part was the bar being quiet, but still having a handful of Spurs supporters. Everyone else didn’t support Newcastle, but had a grievance against Tottenham as the supported other London clubs. One Dutch guy won himself 500Rp betting on us to win against a Spurs fan.

After the game, I wandered down the beach to meet Leigh again. She was watching Borat for free at a bar down there and then we walked around a bit while the power died and we discovered how dark the beach could really get at night!

Two more nights here and believe me – we need more. Although I’m about to go next door and berate the people who just moved in as they’re singing foreign drinking songs at 1:30am. I don’t think they know how thin the walls are here.

Shearer! Shearer!

 By some lucky coincidence (thanks to NUFC.com), I’d found out that Alan Shearer (ex-captain of England and Newcastle United) was doing a promotional event at South Melbourne Football Club this morning. Having never actually met the guy, I had no choice but to get up early and make sure I got there for it. Annoyingly, I’d have loved to have got my flag signed but it went walkies in Vietnam somewhere and I’ve not replaced it yet. Instead, I had something else planned.

The event was really good. The kids who took part in the training session had all won a draw via Umbro and got some basic hints and tips and some demonstrations for almost an hour before they did a goal-kicking contest. The lad in goal almost saved a Shearer shot that went low and left – had he been wearing gloves I think he’d have stopped it! The poor kid came up for his photo later with an icepack on his arm.

All the children got to keep the football they’d been using, a t-shirt listing Shearer’s goalscoring achievements for clubs and country, a personally signed photosheet and a professional photograph of them with Alan. He then made his way along the crowd (around 200 people, at a guess) and signed at least one thing from every person who thrust stuff at him despite his agent telling him to hurry up as they were late for a TV commitment on Channel 10.

Lovely day, great guy and a good bunch of people who organised it. It was great to meet so many ex-pat Geordies and honorary ones who’d visited Newcastle some time ago and fallen in love with the place!

 Oh, yes. What did I get signed? My arm, right above my Newcastle United tattoo! Only, of course, this would rub off. So I got it inked in permanently the same afternoon.

Mari is a fountain of knowledge as regards Melbourne or at least the area immediately surrounding where they live. When I texted her to ask if she knew any tattoo parlours, I didn’t expect a reply back within two minutes telling me the best two within walking distance of the flat. One said he could fit me in around 4pm as it was only going to be a quick job so I walked out of the Grand Final we were watching in the pub and got back again, avec new tattoo, to catch the last quarter.

Oh, yeah, there was some Aussie Rules game on as well. West Coast Eagles beat Sydney Swans (who used to be South Melbourne so had most of the local support) by a single point. I have to say, I left a very one-sided competition and returned to a very close finish in the last ten minutes!

 After the game ended, I helped Mari and Jesse with the shopping then collected my bags to meet Ben and Fiona in town.

Another “thank you” is called for here. Once more, people have shown themselves to be really welcoming and helpful. Mari would sit and go through maps and phone books to help me plan things out, and even got hold of information about the Japanese rail tickets from someone she knows for me! Jesse is just an amazing kid – I think about 12 years old. Great to talk to, really polite, wise beyond his years and when he gets older if he wants to travel to wherever I settle down I’d be more than happy to offer him a couch to sleep on.

I originally met Ben in Hanoi around early May, I think. He’d been to the final itself and looked like he’d been up all night. Which he had, more or less. His ticket just got him into the ground, but didn’t alot him a seat so he and some mates camped out and had a barbie outside so they’d get the pick of the seats when the gates opened.

We jumped on a train to Ben’s and when we arrived started on the booze. Ben’s basic rule is that he spent so long sponging off other people when he was travelling, that he refuses to let visitors pay for stuff while he’s at home and working. Very generous… again, like all the Aussies I’ve stayed with so far. We went through a few beers and wines then (just) caught a train to Richmond for some food and to meet some of Ben’s friends in a bar.

As is apparently quite common in Melbourne, we had to queue to get in though Ben’s friend inside was saying it wasn’t too busy so he didn’t see why we had to wait. Never mind, after a 10 minute wait we were allowed in and headed directly barwards.

We just had a good natter with a few people, some of whom I’m sure I’ll never see again but they were all good company. I got talking to one couple at the bar who saw my Newcastle shirt and helpfully told me that Shearer had been in Melbourne that morning. I showed them my new tattoo! Then when I went to sit back with Ben and Fiona, the same people walked over – they knew Ben!

Around 2am, we decided to call it a night as we were all pretty tired. Ben had been sleeping on concrete, Fiona was woken at silly o’clock by two drunken lads in her hostel banging on the doors and I’d simply not slept well as I’d not wanted to sleep in. We managed to flag a cab down after an age, dropped Fiona off and Ben and I returned to the house. Ben zonked out in front of the TV while I watched a couple of episodes of Friends with his brother and sister. Then I felt the need for sleep and retired to my comfy mattress and duvet/dooner. Posted by Picasa