Will Young, Tim Henman, sweaty betties and sparrows...

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Oceania » Australia » Victoria » Melbourne
January 18th 2012
Published: January 21st 2012
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I've become really lazy at typing my blogs up of late so I'm spending today catching up. It's not such a bad thing, as the Melbourne weather is doing its finest to amaze and confuse. I woke up this morning to a grey and dismal sky, and after two days of extraordinary blue skies and belting sunshine, I must admit I felt a little jaded. Having dusted myself down and got myself ready to blog, the sun comes out and it's now glorious out there. Damn this place...

Let me tell you about my last two days. Monday was a sad day - Julia hit the road back to Germany and my dorm became full of girls who don't speak, when I've been spoiled for the last few days with a real comedy bunch of girls. Julia and I went into town for a last lunch in the lovely Melbourne sunshine. As has become our custom, this lunch involves sushi. Yummy scrummy sushi.

However - and there's a big however here - I've found something I seriously don't like about Melbourne. Sparrows. Now, from the moment I arrived (you'll no doubt recall the Hungry Jacks incident), everywhere I eat has been plagued by the damn things. I can't work it out - there should be signs on the door - 'Sparrows welcome here' - because restaurants here, or certainly your lunchtime, take away joints, just allow the pesky things to fly in and out, willy nilly, to peck on everyone's left over dinner plates. No one bats an eyelid - customers or staff alike. The birds come in, peck away, fly at you and then inevitably shit all over the tables, floors and often customers or their lunches. And still no one cares. The wooden tables you sit at bear the scars of some hastily mopped up crap around the edges, the walls similar. However when it comes to the Deliglight fittings - well these are indescribable. Where once there was a surface edge, there now sits an inch deep of bird poo. Delightful.

My sushi experience today was blighted by the sparrows but was nothing compared to watching a poor guy tucking into his lunch outside the state library being dive bombed by a seagull, which pecked a mouthful of noodles straight from the guy's takeaway box, and flew off into the CBD...

My spirits couldn't be dampened as I was off to the Rod Laver arena shortly after waving goodbye to Julia. Today is the first day of the Australian Open so Zoe, two of her friends Alex and Olly, and I are off to see Federer followed by Wozniacki. Belting hot, I arrived and was amazed at the efficiency of the operation. Free trams running every two minutes from the city ferrying eager tennis fans to the stadium of their choice. Bag search queues efficient so as not to allow any fans to bake unnecessarily before watching the matches. Beyond the gates, and it was a sea of white garden furniture housed neatly beneath trees, for you to sit back and enjoy the views of the water fountain or the tennis on the big screen. A scene reminiscent of Ascot or Aintree on Grand National day. I found Zoe and Alex, and a bit later Olly, shortly after and we set about obtaining as many free 'heat-survival essentials' as we could. Picked up a paper fan in the shape of a pingpong bat at the Kia stand, made the boys play tennis in order to gain sweatbands. Alex, who bears an unbelievable resemblence to Tim Henman, served the ball on a par with his doppelganger - Tiger Tim would have been proud! Could have obtained battery-operated fans if we'd ventured into the ANZ (bank) tent, or an ice cold neck pack if we'd got there early enough to play 'hit the ball through the hole in the wall game' at another sponsor's tent.

We ventured into the Rod Laver and took our seats practically in the back row. Which is where the hilarity started. With Alex on one side, I awaited the arrival of my seat-neighbour the other side. She turned up - all 30 stone of her - and proceeded to sit down and span my entire left leg with her right thigh. 'Sorry', she said. Half crushed, she then got out what looked like a pack of Mentos and asked me and Alex if we'd like one. But they weren't sweets - they were compressed towels that came to life with water. She demonstrated - by pouring water all over herself (and of course, me). I'm no little girl, I know - I'm smaller than I was and I'm certainly nowhere near 30 stone - and some of you may think I'm rude in saying this but it's a fact. She needed to book two seats. Sadly, there was a girl the other side of her - much smaller than me but equally as crushed - so I took the only decision I could and moved. The arena was fully booked so I sat on the stairs for much of the Federer match, and got my seat back for the Wozniacki game as the lady was only interested in the first game and then left.

Our cheeky nature took over for the end of the Wozniacki game and all four of us moved down to some empty seats we'd spotted courtside. Well about 10 rows back anyway. We sat down, much to the bemusement of those around us, and then we realised why. We were in the corporate area, where you needed a special pass. We didn't have one. Only one woman said anything, and that was under her breath to her husband. And we got to watch the Wozniacki game within spitting distance of the court. Genius!

Having tiptoed back into my room very late (roommates unamused), I slept for a few hours but then it was time to get up again for more tennis! Originally I had booked a ticket for Tuesday night only but Zoe and I decided we couldn't miss Federer on Monday. We decided on Monday we couldn't miss Murray on Tuesday day time so we got tickets for that as well. When we went to the ticket counter on Monday, we were offered restricted view (view restricted by photographers) tickets on the Hisense which would allow us to see Sharapova, Murray and Roddick, for $50. Too cheap to turn down, we took them. So on Tuesday, I arrived to find Zoe already in the stadium and that our tickets were far from restricted - a crystal clear view of the court, about 10 rows back, in the full 35 degree plus Melbourne sun. The latter aside, they were perfect. The heat was extraordinary - would have melted ice in 30 seconds. It's going to be a tough day in this, I thought.

Half way through the first game (Maria somebody, not Sharapova, but seeded none the less), Zoe hatched a plan. No one was sitting in the front row - so like yesterday's stealth mission, today could be a case of 'finders keepers' too. We went for it and hey presto, for that game and most of the Sharapova game we were sat directly in the front row. Our fun was marginally spoilt when a family of four returned to claim their seats - the ones we'd stolen - but they were very gracious and let us carry on sitting in two of the seats while they sat directly behind. The graciousness however was shortlived. The man of the family, who bore an all too spooky resemblence to Will Young, decided he wasn't too keen on my face. His mum (I'm guessing that's who it was) wanted to squeeze by me and I pulled my 'breathe in' face. Not that she was a big lady, quite the opposite, but that I was most definitely blocking her way. Will Young decided that this 'eek' face was actually me gritting my teeth in disgust and chose to have a pop. Incensed by his misjudgement (most of you know that there's no disguising when I'm really gritting my teeth!), I moved away and left Zoe to it. He was apparently nice to her - just me that'd caused a rumpus. At the ordinarily civilised sport of tennis. Outrageous!

Will Young reclaimed his seat from Zoe for the Andy Murray game next so she moved to more vacant seats in the front row. The fanclub was out in full swing - four Aussie guys singing comedy songs to Murray complete with t-shirts spelling out his name provided much-needed entertainment (particularly after the only noise from the crowd for the previous two games was some Mr. Bean-voiced guy repeatedly shouting 'Come on Maria' (convenient the first two matches involved girls with the same name, I thought). I went down to join Zoe for the remainder of that game and for the Roddick game afterwards. No one came to reclaim their seats - clearly wise souls as it was so hot sitting in the blazing sun that you could wring the water out of our clothes by the time the matches had finished at about 7.30pm. Even our constant supply of frozen cokes couldn't make us cool down.

Zoe headed off but I still had my evening ticket that I'd bought months ago. I went back over to the Rod Laver to watch Hewitt, then Serena Williams. Great to see a game involving an Aussie - and so much entertainment from the crowd for the frequent medical time outs requested by Hewitt's opponent. Mexican waves of varying speeds, the highlight being the uber-slow wave, which looked brilliant. It was still roasting in the stadium and impossible to cool down - and sitting in wet clothes was just even more horrible. I kind of hoped the games would be over quickly however, as the Tasmanian lady next to me pointed out, Hewitt likes you to get your money's worth. And that he did, by nearly throwing it away too many times and the match went to 4 hours in duration...

Serena Williams helped matters by battering her opponent but it was too late for most of the crowds. Final trains left town at midnight so the crowds drained quickly, particularly when they saw the annihilation that Williams was dishing out. There were probably no more than a couple of thousand left by the end of the night...which was pushing 1.30am.

By the time I got back it was gone 2am, and my roomies were once again less than impressed. However just goes to show, Grandma has more staying power than the lot of them put together! Despite sweating out about 2 stone and slumping around in wet clothes for 15 hours, I stayed the course ;-)


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