Tag Archives: Australia

A very short rant

Things I don’t mind passing on:

going to the beach

Sydney Opera House bar

Temple Bar

London’s Oxford Sreeet

Ulla Dulla (don’t ask)

Westfield Centre or any shopping mall

That’ll do for starters. Hey, just noticed – New York City got off lightly.



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High up on Watson’s Bay with a blue sea below and a bluer sky above, Sydney did what only Sydney can do – offering  a panoramic view of the start of the 2013 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

2013 clipper race dec 26 006

2013 clipper race dec 26 007


Below,  the white bright sails glimmered in the water, the two maxi yachts with their black sails already battling it out. But I was rooting for the clipper ship the London Derry Doire, sponsored by Derry City.


There are 12 clipper ships on a round the world race with this leg of it taking in the Hobart race.

The previous day, in the bar of the Crusing Club of Australia, in Rushcutters Bay, I chatted with some of the crew including Michelle Porter who had had to lifted off by the South African coastguard when she’s suffered a broken arm during a knockdown in the Indian Ocean. ” But I’m like a magnet,” she told me,” I’m always drawn back ot the boat.”

The knockdown ( it only takes a second or so for the mast to come back up again) left two others of the crew dangling by their harnesses. Funny now, not then. There’s always the memory of the terrible year when a storm claimed the lives of six sailors.

This year, the weather forecast isn’t great: down by the Bass Straits, they’re expecting winds gusting at 60 knots and waves 12 metres high – all part of the expected storm later today.

The big boats will have their storm sails up – made not for raciong but for surviving – while the clippers will plough onwards. As ocean-going yachts, this is what they’re built for.

” We even have our own sewing machine on board specially adapted for asymetrical sails,” Conor O Byrne tells me as we chatted pre race in the floating pontoon by the boat. Conor, now a garda siochana, used to work for the RNLI in Dublin.

xmas eve oz 2013 081

Like all such ventures, there are superstitions attached to sailing. Because the boat is mainly Irish, I’d expected the crew logo to be green but no: ” No,” says Nick Blewer, a financial consultant from Cheltenham, ” green is the colour of land – not a good thing when you’re sailing.”

xmas eve oz 2013 078

As the fleet came out through the heads, the tiny motorised convoy of well wishers buzzed to and fro among the yachts until they turned back to the safety of Sydney Harbour leaving the racing yachts to carry on alone, ready for whatever the seas and winds might throw at them.

When I woke in the middle of the night, I thought of the crew of the Derry. At 1am, they’d be getting ready for their third watch….


Stop press: 24 hours into the race, the Derry is holding her own on the top 6.  Derry  Abu!



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Bondi and alcohol

Bondi beach is one of Australia’s finest and a big draw for surfers and tourists but the papers are daily full of drink-related violent crime.As darkness falls, it is best avoided. Peopel who look like being a danger to themselves or others are taken to places to cool off but these are run by voluntary organisations who have no right to detain ppl after they are deposited in one of these “tanks” where the average stay is four hours.


 So what can be done to rebarnd Bondi as a pleasant place for families and visitors? The idea of zero tolerance worked in New York City. Can it work in Sydney? Some feel no: people deposited in tanks have complained of wrongful arrest and/or being subjected to police man-handling while under arrest. Threat of litigation thus deters a policy of arrest and containment.Thata;s no reason not to keep trying.

       Local businesses could get involved and put their backs to a programme of positive policing.It’s in their interest, after all. The government needs to provide a better programme of care for people and not leave it to cash-strapped voluntary organisations.

 Australia, Bondi Beach is a national treasure –  look after it and those who use it.





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Want to avoid jetlag on the way to Oz? Break your journey. But where?

Changi Airport, Singapore.

Someone wrote to The Irish Times recently enquiring about a stopover from Ireland to Australia and New Zealand.

It’s a long haul flight to Sydney – nearly 22 hours – and though I’ve done it a few times, the one occasion when I had serious jet lag made me look at the stopover options. What I discovered – and what many people already know about – was Changi Airport, Singapore.( www.changiairport.com) It’s a 12 hour flight London to Changi with  another 8 hours on to Sydney – the perfect place to break the journey.

Changi has been nominated best airport in the world many times and it’s easy to see why. My flight touched down in the early evening and within an hour I was in the rooftop, openair swimming pool, floating serenely beneath a glowing moon.

The system is simple: you book into a room for blocks of six hours which is easily enough between landing and getting your onward flight.If you want more, you can book another hour or two.  Use of the swimming pool is included in the price of the room. If you don’t want to run to a room, you can  book into the hotel’s transit lounge and within that, there are pod-like nap rooms to rest if you really need to lie down.

As you are intransit, your luggage is taken care of and there are no customs or passport checks. You simply walk through into the transit area with your overnight bag, up the stairs to the hotel and into the room which you have previously booked online. (Booking is advised a month in advance though I did it only two weeks in advance.)

There are lots of eating places within five minutes of the hotel as well as numerous internet points – all free. A mobile post-office sells cards and stamps and takes your letters. There are also lots of ways to pass the time including a butterfly breeding station that forms  part of a tropical forest exhibit which you can walk into.

When you’ve had your swim, eaten and watched the butterflies hatch, you’ll be ready for bed. The hotel already knows the details of your flights and a wake-up call is part of the service. If your flight is late arriving, they’ll know and adjust your six-hour booking accordingly.

The hotel is the Ambassador Intransit Hotel

To book online   http://bit.ly/AxCf7U

Telephone: +65 6507 8788

Rates: single room, for six hours: 46.43 euro

Need extra sleep? Book another hour for 9 euro.

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