Melbourne in September: Part One

Arrival and Worldcon

Melbourne city lights
My journey to Australia started well, in glorious sunshine. Apart from getting stung on the thumb by a wasp (while climbing into the Rail Replacement Bus at Wolverhampton), it was a painless journey to Heathrow. I’d expected delays as it was August Bank Holiday Monday and the end of the Reading Festival. Reading station was crammed with muddy youngsters, surrounded by baggage and tents, the floor coated with a pale brown carpet of dried mud. But traffic was moving steadily and the airbus got me to the airport ahead of schedule. I spent a long time sitting outside in the sunshine, peoplewatching.

The flight out was crowded and rather turbulent. There was a stench from the rear toilets, someone near me was being sick. By the time breakfast was served, before we landed at Singapore, I was feeling decidedly queasy as well as shattered from the lack of proper sleep. The second leg of the journey was calmer and seemed to pass quite quickly. (Too quickly – I missed the end of the film I was watching: a dramatic life of Confucius, with English subtitles. I don’t like wearing headphones, so end up watching a lot of foreign films on planes.) I was near the back of the plane, so had a long wait to disembark, but I got through customs and baggage claim swiftly and there was Kevon waiting for me. It was so amazingly good to see him. We drove to his flat through the early-morning halflight. A much needed shower, some breakfast, a few hours rest and then a good walk to Acland Street for a late lunch followed by food-shopping at Coles.
Ship reflections, MCEC
The next day I felt a lot better, and ready for Aussiecon 4, the World Science Fiction Convention. We had to change trams at St Kilda Beach to get to the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre, so we started a habit of breaking the outward journey with breakfast at Macdonalds, right by the tram stop. (While watching the mynah birds on the grass and the lorikeets in the palm trees.) The part of the MCEC used for the convention is a dramatic modern building with interesting angles and mirrored walls. It’s next to the river, and beside it is an old sailing ship, the Polly Woodside. I spent a fair while helping with the Art Show set-up that day, but at last it was done and I could hang my pictures and look at the rest of the convention.

Polly Woodside, mastsThe next few days passed in a blur of programme items and mooching around. One of the highlights was listening to artist Shaun Tan talking about his work and influences. His delicate pencil drawings and picture-books are enchanting. I had barely heard of him before Aussiecon 4, so they came as a delightful surprise. Kevon went to a lot of talks and panels on climate change and geo-engineering, I enjoyed meeting some old friends, including some I had never met in person before. But the MCEC doesn’t function terribly well as a friendly space for sitting and chatting, and there were lots of talks and discussions that I didn’t want to miss, so I failed to speak to some people I had hoped to meet up with. Staying out at Kevon’s flat meant we were not there in the evening, when most of the relaxing and nattering happened in the adjacent hotel.

But overall it was good. And I was very satisfied with my take from the Art Show, which went a good way towards paying the day-to-day expenses of the holiday. The last morning of the convention ended with a near-disaster as Kevon managed to fall on one of the escalators. (It was the teddybear’s fault.) Kevon came home two badly grazed knees and a pair of heavily bloodstained trousers. So that afternoon I was up to my elbows in gore, in the sink, scrubbing the stains out with salt (with complete success), while Kevon had very sore knees for the next few days.
Bear on a Melbourne Tram
In the next installment, I’ll tell you what we did after the convention. There will be pictures of dingo puppies.

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5 Responses to “Melbourne in September: Part One”

  1. Interesting stuff, Sue. I look forward to the next episode – and to seeing you soon.

  2. A promising start to your trip. Don’t envy you the trip out though. I’ve flown from Sydney to London just the once and the only reason I didn’t totally lose the plot before the plane landed in London was an overnight stop in Hong Kong. There is definitely a limit to how long I can stay cooped up inside an aircraft.

  3. suetortoise Says:

    I’ve been there and back three times now, and this outbound trip was the least pleasant and most crowded journey of all.

  4. Was the flight done without any stopover, and was it on one of the ‘double-deck’ A380 giant planes? How long did it take?

    How would you say an Australian Con differs from a British Eastercon?

    • suetortoise Says:

      I had about an hour to wander around Singapore’s Changi airport while they serviced the plane, otherwise it was straight through both ways. Not one of the A380s, just a normal-sized (and rather smelly and crowded) one.

      Aussiecon 4 was much larger than an Eastercon and with far more programming, but quite small by Worldcon standards. If the conference centre had been a bit less formal, it might have seemed as friendly as Glasgow in 2005. Instead we mostly seemed to pass people in the hallways between programme items, and didn’t have a chance to get to know anyone we didn’t already know. Which was a pity: I’d have liked to have met more of Aussie fandom. But the good bits made up for the lack of socialising, and some of that lack was simply because Kev and I were commuting-in every day from the suburbs.

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