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Published: January 20th 2012
A largely uneventful day yesterday (i.e. did nothing but write blogs and catch up on correspondence during the day). Much more fun in the evening catching up with Jackie, Lawrence and their three lovely cats Garfield, Phoebe and Minnie, for pizza and a good old gossip. Fantastic to see them, and made me realise just how rubbish I am at keeping in touch with people. Must try harder in 2012.
Time for another adventure today. I've booked myself onto a Ramsay Street tour, to hopefully catch up with Dr Karl Kennedy. My optimism knows no bounds - I am aware that the chances of seeing him are on a parallel with finding Shergar, and that the only guaranteed sighting I'm likely to have will be next Monday when his band play at the weekly Neighbours pub night in St Kilda, however I'm still keeping my fingers crossed. Incidentally, that previous sentence was not a typo - there genuinely is a weekly Neighbours theme night in a pub, where the 'stars' turn up to sign autographs and have their photos taken with you, while you take part in the Neighbours trivia quiz. If the quiz was, in fact, just a version of the Neighbours board game I had as a kid, I'd walk away with the prizes. However, something tells me the quiz is geared towards the plethera of 18 year olds that appear to be making up the majority of the population in this hostel. Questions dating back to Scott and Charlene's wedding predate their birth...
I ventured into town to pick up the tour bus and met the 15 others who were on the trip today. It turns out I'm not the only one who wants to see Ramsay Street - there are two tours today and each is fully booked. They're fully booked most days. With the tours costing $50 a time, you can imagine how lucrative this is. Brookside might still be alive and kicking if Phil Redmond had done something similar... ;-)
Our 'star' was meeting us in town rather than on the set. I'd head that it could be anyone - you may/may not recognise them (see note above - anyone post-Kylie and Jason and I'm going to struggle). A little figure appeared around the corner and there was something vaguely familiar about them. A girl said to me 'ooh I'm so glad I know who she is'. I didn't have the heart to confess I hadn't got a clue. We were waiting for an absent tour member called Stephanie. For all I knew, this was her...
Still, I smiled and carried on regardless. She started talking about her family, and her 'dad', Dr Karl. Oh lordy, the lightbulb went on and I realised it was Libby, or rather the actresss that plays her. She was lovely - photos and autographs for everyone, and told us some stories about her and her fellow cast members. She didn't hold back on the detail - in real life she's split up from her husband, who has gone up north to join a cult. She calls Dr Karl 'Daddy', and her daughter calls him 'Grandad'. She still speaks to her onscreen brothers (I asked her that question - was more interested suddenly if there was any chance Mal was turning up today too...). She's always crying onscreen because they write scripts that play to your strengths and hers is blubbing like a baby (reckon I'd be alright at that too, especially if there was an annual performance review thrown in for good measure). The first thing she did when she left Neighbours was cut her hair off, dye it black, have three tattoos and paint her nails - all were banned when she was onscreen. No plans to go back to Neighbours in the near future because she has custody of her daughter but she probably will one day.
Libby meet and greet over, we headed off on the tour bus, with our crazy driver (woman, name unknown, very Australian, too knowledgable about Neighbours). She told us some interesting facts - deaths to population ratios on the Street, Paul Robinson's been married 8 times (seriously - who'd marry him once?!), amnesia cases 2,000 times the national average etc. Very funny guide. Our first stop was at the original Erinsborough High, which is now an English language college and not used for filming since the parents demanded that their children, who appeared for seconds in the background of some school scenes, be remunerated. The crew just went off and moved to a further education college nearby, where the pupils are over 16 and whose parents don't need to give consent (i.e. can't demand appearance fees) for their little darlings appearing on screen.
Next was to the studios, where we wandered around Grease Monkeys, the garage and the bus stop. All were totally themed - even the bus timetable was Erinsborough and the address labels on the parcels at the garage made out to Erinsborough Motors. Saw the back of Lassiters, the balcony where Paul Robinson was pushed (I don't remember that but guess it was by one of his harem of wives).
Then it was off to Ramsay Street itself, a tiny cul de sac of 6 houses, in real life on a road called Pin Oak Court. Real people live in 5 of the houses; Neighbours security lives in the Robinson's old place. They are paid a fee to have the cameras film there and have their gardening/exterior maintenance done for nothing. The houses in this cul de sac are actually numbered 2-12 but on Ramsay Street these become 22-32 by the careful addition of removable numbers from the front of the properties. Curtains remained closed at all times - I guess they must get paid a fair whack because only one house has been sold there in 26 years (Mrs Mangel's house, to an English couple), and they have a constant stream of gawping tourists turning up on their ordinary, run of the mill cul de sac's doorsteps 365 days a year.
Tour over, and we headed back to town on the bus, watching Scott and Charlene's wedding edition on the in-bus DVD player. But no Dr Karl. The nearest I got to him was his face emblazoned on the back of the tour bus. Don't fret - it's not a real obsession. All I wanted to do was talk football with him as he's a massive Liverpool fan, probably the first one I've seen since I met up with Rich in Brisbane.
I wandered along the river, the Yarra, in the late afternoon sun, taking in the restaurants and sculpture that make the Southbank here special, and avoiding those bloody sparrows that are making eating out hell! Further along is the Crown Entertainment Complex, a huge building full of sumptuous luxury. Dark granite and marble accompanying shops from Versace to LV, Nobu for those who are hungry, and an enormous casino for those who hope to be able to afford to shop in such places. It was the image of The Star in Sydney, where I had a couple of nights out a few weeks ago and I remembered its enormity from the last visit here with Jackie and Lawrence four years ago.
And with that, I was done. Having had to check out of the cramped, miserable 8 bed dorm I was in last night, tonight I've checked into a 4 bed, in the same hostel, that has a lot more space and two fellow over 30s in it. And they speak less than the 7 miserable ones from last night. Great. Off to St Kilda tomorrow, once I've caught up blogging. Hopefully there'll be some more human company down there!
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