WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
Depart for the UK today. Fly business class (Singapore Airlines) for first time as a couple. So exciting. Soccer, bloody soccer is all that the bloke in front watches on his screen. We are well looked after, but the range of beers is disappointing. Just Tiger and Heinekin. One of the movies I was watch is ‘Furious 7’ – ridiculous, but there is a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker at the end. Also watch ‘The Water Diviner’, with South Sydney Rabbitohs getting a mention in the credits.
On ‘the tube’ from Heathrow, I strike up a conversation with a crane driver from Southport, Lancashire, who sounds just like my mate, John Mullarkey from Widnes. After booking into our self catering apartment near Hyde Park, we adjourn to the Leinster Arms, where there is the ubiquitous Kiwi tourist in an All Black jersey. I bet he was an All Black trialist at some stage. Next stop, the Phoenix, where the Netherlands v Iceland soccer match is being shown.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
To Oxford Street, and while my wife shops I read my (free) Telegraph at ‘City of Quebec Inn’, which, I later discover, is London’s longest running gay pub. They have a big night planned to celebrate ‘THE Queen’ becoming Britain’s longest serving monarch. A Muslim bloke prays at a table in the pub’s outdoor area. He did not buy anything. Lunch at Iron Rail, Selfridges, is excellent – corned beef sandwich. Walk around the Paddington Gardens area. Drinks at ‘Swan’ pub, Lancaster Gate, before Marie cooks dinner at our apartment – teriyaki duck. A very small bowl of peanuts (something you would probably get free in a bush pub in Australia) – costs me around $3.20 at the Swan!!
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
This is tragic, I know, but today we go to Millwall (The Den) to watch a rugby league match – Wigan v Catalans Dragons. Security wanted to know if we were supporting the home or away team? We said we were Aussies and didn’t care. Bought tickets for the Barry Kitchener Stand and enjoyed an entertaining match (drinking Carlsberg and sitting beside a London Skolars’ league player) with Wigan beating the French side 42-16. Wigan’s Australian fullback, Matty Bowen is man of the match. We say hello to Catalans’ hooker, Elois Pelissier, whose family once put Marie and I up at their lovely residence in the hills north west of Perpignan. It’s a long story, but the connection was our son, Damien, who got to know the Pelissiers through an English mate, based in France.
Earlier in the day we had been to the Australian War Memorial and Bomber Command Memorial in Hyde Park. Weather cold, but deck chairs still available for hire!! An old gentleman was very emotional as he was shown around the Bomber Command site. I reckon he is a survivor of the campaign.
We had lunch at Cafe de Pierre, Piccadilly. The soup was cold and the service crap. Thankfully our night time dining experience restored our faith, with superb seafood at Applebees, after drinks with Wigan fans at ‘The Market Porter’, most notably Dean Walton, a scientist with Heinz who Marie reckons looks like the James Bond actor, Daniel Craig. Also in the bar was a prominent artist (originally from Oldham), who now lives in London and had been to Millwall to get a rugby league fix (his name escapes me).
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Lunch at Ladbroke Arms pub in Notting Hill – for my birthday (63 today). Excellent roast pork in sunny beer garden. Sri Lankan barman and I talk cricket. One of his favorites is former Australian spin bowler, Greg Matthews. Walk-off lunch around Holland Park, then drinks at Prince of Wales, Kensington, where a noisy group of Russians (one wearing a Welsh union jersey and looking like former Welsh league hooker, Kieron Cunningham) dominate. Polish barmaid gives me a taste of Equinox Ale. Walk ‘home’ via Kensington Gardens where the ‘Poms’ are soaking up the sunshine.
Back to the Leinster Arms, before dinner in our room. Talk to a couple of English chaps, one from Portsmouth, who objects to me calling soccer, soccer. He worked for ‘Big Issue’ magazine at one stage, but reckons its production and distribution has been hijacked by gypsies!!!
.Today is the 10th anniversary of the passing of noted Brisbane Telegraph league journalist, Harry Jefferies, whose ‘Year book’ was much sought after. I succeeded Harry at the Telegraph in March, 1981. I stayed with his son, Rod, in Singapore on my way home from covering the 1982 Kangaroo tour of Britain and France.