Here we go again…
Saturday 10th August, 2019
Riots in Hong Kong and a very deep atmospheric low over south-eastern Australia gave rise to more than the usual pre-departure concerns about this trip.
The latter meant Sydney Airport’s strong westerly winds reduced runway availability to the single east-west strip and we were 90 minutes late on eventual departure onboard Cathay Pacific A330-342 (B-LAD). No ground visibility over the Blue Mountains and so far further west.
My pilot’s navigation app on my iPhone tells me we are now over Wingadee north of Coonamble at 38,000 feet.
Air smooth atmosphere now very hazy. Earlier we flew over Tooraweenah which took me back to my very first flight with my father as a six or seven year old en-route to St George to stay with his friend, my Godfather Rod Wood, where ten years later I was to begin my first employment as a First year jackaroo. Butler Airways ran a scheduled (DC3) service Sydney/Tooraweenah which connected to a light aircraft service Tooraweenah/St George.
Air clearer as we crossed the Queensland border, flew east of the Clover Downs aggregation which we put together, over the Warrego south of Wyandra then over the Paroo and headwater creeks of the Bulloo River. Now flying over the Barcoo (Lake Eyre catchment) near “Arno” out from Blackall, where I once bought 4,000 merino weaners with a client from Hillston. On to the Thomson River south west of Longreach. Lovely looking open country from 40,000 feet!! If my information is right the country should soon be turning green as we cross the country which benefited from the tail of cyclone Trevor which did such awful damage further north-drowning and perishing (cold) some 500,000 head of cattle. Country still open as we move into the Diamantina catchment.
We should go close to “Cork” (south-west of Winton), the property Dudley Dunn (Clyde) bought and stripped some very big numbers of Hereford cattle, for which we (Dalgety) lent him $1.0m. I recall how impressed he was with the speed of our decision and he quickly repaid it.
Just flew over the Diamantina (proper) still no sign of green-light turbulence. Reminds me of all the beneficial flooding downstream, Birdsville, Goyder’s Lagoon and good flows into Lake Eyre.
Now touching country which drains to the Gulf, south-east of Cloncurry. This country would have felt the full brunt of Cyclone Trevor. But, looks bare and open from this altitude.
Here we are at the Gulf, south-west of Burketown, flying parallel to the west coast. Didn’t realise what a long way it is to the top of the Gulf and the Gove Peninsular. Our track took us over Arnhem Land, over Maningrida where I suspect there is a beacon and out over the Arafura Sea.
After a delicious, diet consistent lunch, slept lightly in the dark cabin-it was mid afternoon, all shutters closed! Clearly none of my fellow passengers have any interest in Australian landscape! Whilst at the loo, the steward closed my windows (shades of home). I re-opened it, as practised.
Arrivals Hall at Hong Kong airport literally packed with “rioters”. Very noisy, young and friendly. Occasionally singing revolutionary songs from Les Miserable.
Fast limousine ride to my favourite East Hotel on Hong Kong Island. ‘Elevated’ room with spectacular views out over the harbour to the old Kai Tak airstrip and Kowloon.
Sunday August 11th, 2019
Lazy morning with much communication with son Mike on computer/blog issues. Was surprised to learn that Hong Kong taxis only work for cash not credit cards so went next door to HSBC auto-teller to get some cash. The machine refused to provide and promptly “swallowed” my debit card which was supposed to access my topped up Westpac bank account. It’s a horrible feeling. Being Sunday the Bank was closed and there was no way of recovering the card before I leave for London early tomorrow morning. HSBC, by ‘phone, told me to contact my bank! I told them in no uncertain terms that they had my card and I wanted it back! To no avail.
I then rang Westpac in Sydney who told me that my accounts had a restriction on them for ‘phone banking and I would have to contact my branch in business hours tomorrow as given the restriction they could not help me. This did not improve my humour! When I mentioned Private Bank the lady became more accommodating, but there was no after hours service from them. So it looks like a call to Private Bank tomorrow to get the restriction removed and organise a replacement debit card or usage of my credit card for cash needs without interest charges.
Monday August 12, 2019
Arrived at the Airport unnecessarily early and spent an eternity on the ‘phone to Westpac in Sydney. Again initially unhelpful. When it seemed we were getting places the line dropped out! I lodged a formal complaint which I will pursue when I get home. I also put them on notice that if I have to draw cash on my credit cards I intend to hold Westpac liable for interest charges! Difficult old man! Meanwhile I am rather enjoying the challenge of operating without any cash. So far no problem.
We took-off more or less on time at 10:15AM. Upgrade came thru’ then, joy of joys, a family wanted to sit together and swap the most forward window seat in Business class with my aisle seat at the back of Business class and were most grateful for my co-operation. What sacrifices I make!
Weather overcast, but soon cleaned up as we flew for hours over this mammoth country. I connected to inflight wifi and exchanged messages with Mike. View initially hazy, now clearer. Headed NNE. Northern China/ Inner Mongolia mountainous with green valleys. Now drier looking and flat, Gobi Desert. A 12 hour flight-now 9 hours to go, just under 34,000 feet. Intermittent cloud.
This is heaven. Great music, good maps, and open communications to all and sundry as I type away occasionally. I can hear certain family saying/singing “boring”! As Mike remarked technology is remarkable, in that here I was 40,000 feet over Mongolia and he at home and we are texting each other as though I was home at St Ives and he at Mosman.
It’s a long flight-12 hours 12,000 kilometres-from Hong Kong to London and I was glad of the “communication” diversion. A lasting impression from heavy window gazing is what huge countries China and Russia are. Most of the journey is over these two countries of which I know so little compared with Australia.
Mid flight word came through on my devices (iPad and iPhone) that the protesters in HK had mobbed the airport and it had been closed and I realised we were lucky to have got away.
London time is seven hours behind Hong Kong, so arriving in London at a very reasonable 3:30pm is in Hong Kong time (body clock time) actually 10:30pm. I managed to find my way to the Heathrow Express with little difficulty, enjoyed a very fast ride to Paddington and a friendly taxi ride the short distance to Swire Head Office at Buckingham Gate where the office was still open (5:30-12:30 Hong Kong time ) and was greeted in Reception by some familiar faces from my visit four years ago.
This reminds me that this is my fourth Lord’s Ashes Test in succession. We lost the first two, the first time Australia had lost at Lord’s for 80 years, then won the third, but went on to lose the series. After last weeks triumph at Edgbaston hopes are high for this one. The weather forecast is not encouraging
I found my way thru’ the very formal looking Board Room floor to Flat D on the 5th (top) Floor, unpacked and collapsed into bed.
Tuesday August 13, 2019
Slept pretty well considering the time changes and headed off in my Wallaby jumper on my morning walk around 6:30. Found a friendly, cricket loving Indian guy with a very small mixed business around the corner in Victoria Road who was able to set me up with a new SIM card for my UK ‘phone and also top up my Oyster card for public transport. Very convenient. Did my usual walk down Victoria Road, past the Abbey and Houses of Parliament. A lot of construction/maintenance going on including Big Ben,which rather spoils the scene. Security very much in evidence. Bollards all over the place. Returned via St James Park and Birdcage Walk-3.16 km.-almost exactly the same distance as at home, at the same pace. Had a diet shake for breakfast.
Around 10:30 I walked (again) down past Buckingham Palace, across Green Park and got the Tube out to St. John’s Wood and picked up my tickets from Lord’s.
Had lunch at a little nearby pub, appropriately “The Colonies”, which I discovered last trip with Barry and Felicity (brother-in-law); then slept soundly for a few hours.
The Lord’s Test – (Australia 1 – England 0)
Wednesday August 14, 2019
As forecast today brought rain, quite heavy at times, starting around 9:00AM. The toss has yet to be done and play was abandoned late in the day without a ball being bowled. Showers and another wet day on Friday are forecast. What chance of a result?
I got a cab out to the ground around 11:30. Very heavy traffic. Caught up with my friend John Russell and his Norfolk farming mates in one of the bars in the new Warner Stand. Enjoyable interlude. Had another drink at John’s airBnB also in St. John’s Wood before getting a taxi back to the flat. Still feeling jet lagged.
Thursday August 15, 2019
Australia won the toss and sent England in. Hazlewood and Cummins bowled brilliantly with Lyon chipping in. Siddle had two catches dropped and was desperately unlucky. Some wag commented it was the best 0/for he had seen. We let Bairstow and Woakes get away with England finishing on 258. 200 or less would have been better. Australia 1/30 at stumps with Warner again failing.
Friday August 16, 2019
As predicted Day 3 was washed out at lunchtime. Australia struggled to be 4/80. Smith not out.
Very comfortable padded seats in the uncovered Compton Stand. Otherwise facilities in the Lord’s Outer were of their same old poor standard-access to and egress from the stands and the ground, toilet facilities, etc. I hate to think of the situation should there be a need to evacuate the ground in a hurry.
We caught up with Ralph Godsall and had a drink with him in the new Warner Stand after play was washed out and arranged to meet him again on Day 4.
Saturday August 17, 2019
A great days Test cricket. Got a taxi out to the ground at 5:30 and joined John Russell in the queue of members as we have reciprocal rights for today and tomorrow to the “holy of holies” and were keen to get our usual superb seats in the single front row of the middle deck of the Pavilion, just under the TV cameras. This we succeeded in doing.
Australia managed to get to within 8 runs of England’s total, thanks again to Smith’s 92. England’s bowlers bowled very well and kept us under pressure. Archer bowled short and fast and after hitting Smith on his forearm he also hit him high in the neck and Smith frightened us all by falling straight to the ground and not moving for some minutes. It was dramatic, fair but hard stuff. Smith had to retire hurt, but returned after the fall of the next wicket, hit out with abandon, but fell 8 runs short of his century. Australia was all out 8 runs short of England’s 258.
The England innings stated dramatically with Cummins dismissing Roy and Root of successive balls. England 2 for 9. At stumps England were 4-96.
Had a very pleasant dinner with John Russell and his friend from school, Andy, also a medico. Went home by tube from St John’s Wood to Green Park and walked across the park in the dark.
Sunday August 18, 2019
As arranged I met Kate and her carer Robin at Westminster Abbey at 10:30am. The only people allowed access to the Abbey were those attending the Choral Eucharist Service. Rev Ralph Godsall was preaching and told us to mention to the “Ushers” that we were friends of his and we were given front seats right in front of the pulpit. Ralph told me later that that was where the Queen and the Duke sit when attending!
Lovely music, but two of the three hymns were unfamiliar to me. Ralph preached colourfully with the Epistle and Gospel readings cleverly interwoven. I am looking forward to reading the sermon again when it goes up on the Abbey website. I was able to introduce Kate and her carer, Robin to him before the service and we spoke to him again as we left.
Afterwards we three got a taxi to Leicester Square where Robin and Kate caught up with the rest of their tour group and I went on to Lord’s. The start of the cricket was delayed by rain and I only missed about an hours play where Australia failed to make further inroads in the England second innings. Warner’s dropping of Stokes proved costly as he treated us to a brilliant hard hitting century.
Root timed his declaration well with a lead of 266 and Australia having 48 overs to win or lose. My thinking was that if Warner fired we would have a chance of getting the runs. Otherwise?
Overnight Smith had been diagnosed with concussion and withdrawn from the game and under a new rule was replaced by Labuschagne who was entitled to bat. Warner did not fire being dismissed by Archer, who again bowled brilliantly. Labuschagne and Head steadied the ship, but when Labuschagne was out (59) there was a collapse and there were real prospects of England winning. Fortunately Head (42 not out) and Cummins held on until rain washed out what would have been the last over with three balls to bowl. Australia were 6-154. Match officially ended in a draw.
So finished a great Test notwithstanding the time lost to rain and the drawn result. Had a drink with Ralph Godsall after the game in the Bowler’s Bar where we have imbibed at some length on previous occasions!
I joined John and Andy for another enjoyable meal (Thai) and returned as last night by Tube from from St John’s Wood then walked across the dark deserted Green Park, past the Palace to my now so familiar “digs” at 59 Buckingham Gate.
Monday August 19, 2019
Did my usual walk. Found an entrance from Whitehall across Horse Guards Parade, walked up to Pall Mall and down Marlborough Road past St James Palace then back to The Mall.
I managed to reach Martin Whitaker by phone and had an enjoyable long discussion.
I found out from Kate that her group were going to The Royal Mews just down the road behind the Palace, so I joined them and did part of their inspection as they had a spare ticket. Said another goodbye to Kate, had lunch across the road at “The Albert” – for old times sake-and came back in time for my meeting with Sam S at 3:00pm.
Very pleasant discussion with Sam in the 4th Floor sitting room. Discussed a range of issues and he told me the background to the Rupert H Cathay situation, gave me news of Judy and I told him of my appointments to have breakfast with Merlin and lunch with Rupert in Hong Kong on Thursday. We both wondered whether the latter would happen.
Tuesday August 20, 2019
During the night I sent an email to Rupert’s Assistant. She replied to my delight – light heartedly confirming the lunch was still on.
Did a different walk, going west then down Palace St and circumnavigated the Palace walking around the wall in a clockwise direction-usual distance 3.25km. During the walk had a very welcome call from Mike. Did my packing with a plan to head to Heathrow on the Express Train from Paddington by 3:00PM.
Left a bit earlier – that Heathrow Express is great. Fancy not knowing about it on earlier visits. Now on board a CX Boeing 777-367ER (B-KQP). No problem with an upgrade with windows-there’s actually two. It’s 7:30 pm local time and they are about to serve us dinner. Then like little children it will be lights out and off to beddy byes.
Wednesday August 21, 2019
Had about six hours sleep before arriving at a very hot and humid Hong Kong about mid-day. Took the hotel car to the now familiar Swire owned and managed East Hotel. Was ushered to a room on the 28th Floor with a magnificent view across the harbour to Kai Tak. Unsuccessfully attempted some gift shopping. Had a drink and light snack in the Sugar Bar before a rather sleepless night.
Thursday August 22, 2019
As arranged a Swire car took me to Taikoo House for breakfast with M. Very smart substantial home high up on the Peak. Met his delightful family and we discussed a range of issues not least present Hong Kong “troubles”.
Met RH at the Hong Kong Club for a very enjoyable lunch. Thence to the Airport-very early. Got my now customary upgrade with a window seat. Aircraft seems very lightly loaded-at least in Business Class. So ends a very full and satisfying trip.
Not quite over-its dark outside, but my pilot’s app OZRunways keeps me informed. Much more precise than the aircraft’s map on the screen.
Friday August 23,2019
It’s 4:30AM. I’ve been wide awake since we approached the Australian continent. Came in over Arnhem Land just east of Cloncurry, over Arno again, and crossed the Bulloo River near Milo. We are east of Thylungra. Now about to cross the Quilpie/Charleville Road just east of Cheepie. Have now crossed the Paroo and are approaching the Warrego south of Wyandra. All so familiar! Nice to be home. This section of Business Class is almost empty and I can open my window shutters (2) without fear of abuse-still dark anyway Just crossing the Cunnamulla/Bollon Road Not Far East of Weelamurra, one of the properties that make up the Clover Downs aggregation. What a pity my Swire/Clyde friends still don’t own it. Just crossed the Nebine-the main watercourse from the north west which joins the Culgoa south of Weilmoringle. You might well ask “who cares?”.
All these places bring back memories to me, so I care! For example we are now about to go over Brenda once the home of our close friends Peter and Pop Petersen. Peter died only a few months ago and we will miss him when we next go to Mooloolaba and catch up with Pop.The memories of friends and events and my fascination with inland water-flows (when there are any) all add to my enjoyment.
Our track home is to the east of the outward track. This time we flew right over the top of Walgett, over Come-by-Chance and east of Baradine. We have tracked even further east now`and are beginning our descent from just under 40,000 feet. Now over the magnificent Liverpool Plains-Tambar Springs, Coxs Creek and the Mooki. Now over Scone, so will be approaching Sydney from the north. Landed just after the curfew lifted at 6:00 AM.
This trip was a great success from every angle and I look back on it with real pleasure. The cricket, linking up with John Russell and his interesting friends,the Abbey and Ralph Godsall, Kate in London, the heavy Swire involvement particularly with those at the centre of the Cathay Pacific sagas and the impacts of the Hong Kong riots; all together made for a fascinating journey. Great company, top accommodation in London, Hong Kong and on Cathay aircraft-wonderful. Will I do anything like it again? God knows. Probably not.