SXSW 2007

This is my travel blog. It started as a way for people to keep up with my trip to Australia to watch the 2006/7 Ashes series, and continued with my trip to SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas in March '07.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

This is the view from our hotel window (actually our balcony) in Adelaide. I don't think you could get closer to the Oval without actually staying in it!
Just arrived in Adelaide & its raining. So there's hope for England yet. The word is we will play 2 spinners with Anderson making way for Panesar. So we should get a few rounds of "Oh Monty Monty, Monty Monty Monty Monty Panesar" for the next few days.
Yesterday was spent just pootling around - I visited the maritime museum in the morning, and tried to visit the Art gallery in the afternoon. Unfortunately it and the Modern Art Gallery were both closed thereby proving the old theory about whenever an Aussie hears the word culture he reaches for his gun.
In the evening we both did the Story Bridge climb - a sort of Sydney Harbour bridge climb wannabe. We started in the twilight and the sun set while we were on the bridge giving us great views of the city at night. Unfortunately you aren't allowed cameras so couldn't get any photos but take my word for it the views were superb. We also we lucky (if you can call it that) that there was a big electrical storm sweeping round the edge of Brisbane at the time & we got brilliant sight of the lightning strikes. I'm not so sure Moz was that keen on the idea of being on a large metal structure in a storm but he seemed to come round to the idea eventually.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I had a little trip out through the Brisbane suburbs yesterday on the train down to the town of Ipswich. I took a cab to the railway workshops museum and paid my $16 entrance. There was a tour of the blacksmith shop leaving almost immediately which I joined. I say joined as I was the only person there & so I had a one on one tour. I expected that we would be seeing exhibits and looking at displays of how the work used to be done. But no, this is still a working factory, now used to restore and maintain the historic steam trains used for tourist trips on Queensland rail. So I was in my element - loads of ancient engineering equipment still being used - no worries about Health and Safety here - I was able to see the forging, hammering and welding going on at close range.
The workshops here are just like the ones that used to be in Swindon - I felt quite at home. They even have a working traverser, which they used to take the tourists to the various workshops. For those of you that are wondering what a traverser is (shame on you) it's a device for shifting the engines & carriages from workshop to workshop - if you walk to the Outlet village in Swindon from the town centre you will have passed the Swindon works traverser which is still there.
We were also shown round the steam repair workshops where they are working on the various engines and carriages used for tourist trips. All the trains in Queensland are narrow guage - I think it's the largest narrow guage network in the world. It's also indicative I think of the Queensland mentality that they have stuck with it rather than go for the usual standard guage like the rest of the world.
Anyway I really enjoyed my trip down memory lane. After getting back to Brisbane & meeting up with Moz after his trip to the zoo, we went out for a meal on the pierside overlooking the Brisbane river. We sat out in the open in our shirtsleeves and enjoyed our view of Brisbane at night. I thought I'd just put that bit in for all of you back in the UK currently enjoying the rain and cold..................Sorry!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The inevitable happened yesterday after about an hour and a half of play. That man McGrath caught Harmison off a top edged pull & England move on to Adelaide already 1-0 down in the series. Any remaining faint hopes that England could survive perhaps for a session or 2 and then be saved by some forecast rain proved illusionary when Pietersen clipped Lee to midwicket in the first over of the day. The rain never showed up either.
Today is one of our free days from cricket and Moz has gone off to see the Steve Irwin zoo outside Brisbane (now minus Mr Irwin of course). I'm off later to a town about 30 miles from the city call Ipswich to a railway museum there. Rather anorakish I know but it interests me anyway. I would have gone to another museum that was even more eccentric - the Gympie museum of woodworking - but it was too far north of Brisbane to get there & back in a day. Shame really because they have a working steam sawmill which was what my great grandfather used to own & run.
It's odd how even the most glamourous sounding holidays descend into routine - last night was mainly spent doing laundry (or rather Moz showing me how to laundry as I haven't done any since last time I was in Australia!). We also cooked our own meals - Moz with his rather impressive looking pasta dish, and me with a microwaved baked potato, ham & baked beans. I'm sure that indicates something about us but I'll leave you to decide what.................
We then went out for a drink at the Barmy Army HQ, the Pig & Whistle pub not far from where we are. It's really quite odd being this far from home & walking into a pub that sells Boddingtons, looks like any bar in any town in the UK & has a band playing Oasis covers as we walk in. Not an Aussie to be seen (except behind the bar so just like the UK as well) and an impromptue rendition of "We are the Army, the Barmy Army" for a good 10 minutes at one stage of the evening. The Barmies are getting great press here - everyone seems to love them. With a bit of luck in Adelaide they can group together more easily and get behind the team. I really think it gives the England team a lift when the songs are echoing around the ground. Only on the last day here were they able to get enough people in one place to make sufficient volume, as there was loads of space - probably about 10000 in a stadium that holds nearly 40000.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Better. Better. That's all I can say about England today. The batsmen applied themselves and have at least forced Australia to bowl for most of today (Sunday day 4) and made the game go 5 days. Collingwood batted well - just lost his head trying to go to his ton the easy way instead of doing it the slow & steady way. KP was his usual self - lucky at times but that's the way when you bat like he does - the chances you give are often difficult. If he's still there tomorrow when the tailenders are in we should see some fireworks.
The Barmy Army are beginning to get a bit more organised now - they are congregating on the concourse near the bars & doing their best to raise spirits. The local police are acting with a kill joy policy though - even the locals are bemoaning the hard line they are taking. People are ejected for all sorts of petty reasons - even starting Mexican waves. The locals are reasonably friendly - Moz has had a bit of stick at times on his way to the bar in his England shirt but nothing too bad. We have also discovered our local pub The Storey Bridge Hotel which is actually under the aformentioned bridge (I haven't noticed any trolls yet..................) and serves an ale that Moz says is a reasonable substitute for 6X. They also run a red double decker London bus to and from the ground which we availed ourselves of today on the way back to our hotel.
Our hotel is very comfortable - we have a 1 bed apartment, I've got the sofa bed & Moz the bedroom which gives us a bit of space each (plus I get the TV). We also have kitchen & laundry facilities - whatever they are. The location is great too - quiet as it's away from the centre across the river but only a 5 minute ferry ride to all centre. We also have shops & restuarants on site too. Everything one could need in easy reach.
We have booked up to do the bridge climb here on Wednesday - it's like the Sydney Harbour bridge climb but about 3 times smaller. Should get good views of the city though.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

If this test match was a boxing match it would be stopped by the referee to prevent one side being seriously injured. England were given another right royal caning yesterday. Ricky Ponting decided not to enforce the follow-on thereby ensuring that Harmison would have to bowl again. He wasn't as wayward as in the first innings but still had no penetration. When Australia bowled the ball had pace, bounce, movement & accuracy. When England bowled it seemed to be on another track as the batsmen plundered runs at will. The only wicket to fall was a runout.
Earlier the only batsmen to get his head down was Bell who mange 50 exactly. Everyone else succumbed to the tight off stumpline kept by McGrath & Clark (a sort of McGrath clone). Pietersen was possibly unlucky in that his lbw might have been outside the off stump, and apparently Flintoff's dismissal was on a no-ball not spotted by umpire Bucknor.
On another tack umpire Billy Bowden is really pissing me off. He never misses an opportunity to get himself into the action with his assinine signals, twice on the first day gave lbw appeals not out but then ostentaciously scratched his nose making the crowd think he had actually given them out. He also has given England nothing in this game.
I doubt this game will go much past today and barring some miraculous tropical storm we will go to Adelaide 1 down. I can't really see what they can do to sort the bowling line-up out. Harmison is useless so should go, but who should replace him? Mahmood? It would be a very inexperienced lineup with Mahmood & Anderson. Possibly could play 2 spinners I suppose. Perhaps I should have brought my bowling boots after all.................
Day 4 awaits. It's possible we could have seats in an executive box run by one of Moz's old Nationwide colleagues so we might be in more comfort today. We have been watching from seats right by the sightscreen during the afternoon and evening sessions which don't seem to assigned to anyone and are out of the sun. You get a good view of the bowler & batsmen but the screen blocks off your view of one side of the outfield. But you can see the replay screen so you don't miss much. It's at the Stanley street end so look out for us.

Friday, November 24, 2006

On the last Ashes tour Australia made 600+ in the first innings at Brisbane and won by (I think) 400+ runs. Only a miracle on the scale of the Dunkirk evacuation will save England from a similar fate over the next day or so. I realised that we were deep in the shit early in the day when, searching for somewhere to shelter from the sun later in the day, discovered that you could watch standing on the covered concourse behind the sightscreen. From here I could see Hoggard getting appreciable swing, Anderson movement off the seam & bounce from Harmison. Unfortunately the accuracy of their deliveries left a lot to be desired & so no pressure was applied to the batsmen. If we can move it that much I thought, what will McGrath & Co manage? And so it came to pass. Yea verily England are deep in the doo-doo and the first rule when you are in a hole? STOP DIGGING! So what did Strauss do? Hooked it straight down the throat of Hussey at backward square leg. Cue usual collapse.
Harmison should be sent home & never play for England again. If any of us who play cricket bowled as he did yesterday & the day before we would be dropped like a stone. At times he could hardly get it on the cut strip. His only wicket was one caught down the legside. At times the batsmen couldn't even reach the ball let alone hit it.
Oh well, I suppose it gives us a day off on day 5 & even perhaps day 4 as well. I'm off to the ground now so wish me (and England) luck. They need it...................

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I think yesterday (1st Test Day 1) was an education for all involved. Certainly for England as the score of 340ish for 3 indicates. It's going to be a long and very hot tour. Unless we bowl exceptionally on day 2 we are looking down the barrel of 5-600 and having 3 days to bat to save the game. I thought we stuck at it well - no real howlers in the field, apart from Harmison's first ball which was hardly on the cut part. Moz & I didn't actually see that ball as we were still queuing to get into the ground - the organisation was poor & we would have missed more of the game had they not opened the gates & let people in with no bag checks when it got close to 10am.
It was a bit of an education for me as well as I had forgotten from 4 years ago how hot it gets in the sun here. Just sitting watching cricket takes it out of you. You sit stewing in a marinade of suntan lotion and sweat, turning a sort of beetroot red colour. I had to take refuge in the back of the stand during the afternoon and evening sessions just to cool down. The sun reaches us about lunchtime and from then on it's a pretty full-on BBQ session. I managed to avoid getting burnt - just a bit of slight tenderness on the face but OK. Which is more than I can say for quite a few of the other England fans - there were a number who had been on the beer all day & had omitted lotion on their list of essentials who were going to regret it later when they sobered up.
The police were present in great numbers, several people got chucked out for being drunk, and they were cracking down on anyone trying to start Mexican waves as well.
Any way, Day 2 awaits. It's about a 20 minute walk from our hotel which is OK in the morning but seems like an hour in the evening when all you can think of of is a nice cool shower!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Well, about 8 months of work is finally paying off. I've got in my hand tickets for all five days at Brisbane & Adelaide, and in about 40 mins will set off for the Gabba. Come on England!
There's loads of England fans here - you can spot the greater spotted Englishman anywhere with his white legs (soon to be lobster pink after falling asleep after lunch in the sun), cricket or footy tops and general demeanour of "where's the alcohol?". Pubs & bars are doing roaring trade.
Pictures - despite what my good friend Faz back in the UK said I do really need an Australian ISP to use my laptop from our hotel so I can't yet upload pictures to this site as I'm using the hotel's PC which won't allow that. But rest assured I will overcome this technological hurdle & glorious colour snaps of our hotel room view of the Brisbane river, sunshine & general shots of wonderful sights & weather will soon be winging your way!
PS Moz & I will be at backward square leg for the entire match at Brisbane so look out for us!

Dude, what happened to Tuesday?

As I type this I'm trying very hard to stay awake as it's about 4:30pm on Wednesday 22nd - we left Heathrow at 8pm on Monday and arrived in Brisbane at 7AM this morning and if we are to stand any chance of surviving the whole day tomorrow at the Gabba we MUST stay awake 'til 10pm tonight. It's not easy tho' when your entire body is saying "Go on! You know you want to close your eyes! Just for 2 minutes. Really. Just 2 minutes.................."
We are off to meet Moz's friend Russell in a bit - he's the one who has acquired the Ashes tickets for us here in Brisbane so it's quite important that we meet up!
The flight was reasonable - we stopped in Dubai and Singapore which meant each leg was about 6-7 hours long with a break to stretch our legs in between. Very civilised. Especially when you can use the Executive lounges and get free food and drink! It was also rather impressive to be met by a chauffeur dressed in a suit and peaked cap............. Pictures of this to follow.