Thursday, 10 May 2012

Shopping, moving country and being a clot twice!


I am taking the train into Melbourne for my final day. I have been very clever with my myki card and, after today's journeyings, it will have just two cents left on it. But it's clear that there are considerable problems with Melbourne's new transport technology. On several occasions, the card readers go out of service and, at one point, my card simply refuses to open a gate. There are currently a whole host of myki-uniformed staff helping sort out the problems, but the scheme clearly has some technological hurdles to overcome.
I have been having problems with my cameras, so head into Michael's cameras in Elizabeth Street, where the very helpful Trevor takes me to the technical department. There, an incredulous member of staff points out that the card I thought was 64 Megabytes was only a 64 Kilobyte test card. No wonder I haven't been getting too many shots on each of them. What a clot!
Michael's haven't got the new camera I am interested in buying, so another Australian institution, Ted's, is almost next door. There, Andreas, who is Aussie but was brought up in Germany, turns out to be a very good salesman indeed and I leave with a splendid new Sony which has an amazing 20 x optical zoom. Incredible for such a compact camera. Even better, as I have spent more than $300, I can claim back $40 in sales tax at the airport.


Further along Elizabeth Street are the Block and Royal Arcades, two lovely Victorian shopping arcades which remind me, once again, that much of Melbourne's architecture is so alike that of the city of my birth, Glasgow.


In front of Flinders Street Station, two very polite schoolboys from Mentone Grammar ask me to participate in a survey on the myki card. They are using not a clipboard and paper, but an iPad! I am most impressed!
I had intended visiting the Immigration Museum and the Polly Woodside tall ship, but, as I am almost next door, I am drawn back to the ACMI at Federation Square to spend some more time in their excellent displays on the history of the moving image.
Apart from anything, I am supposed to be meeting Chloe, but she's been detained in a tutorial. I have to revert to posting her the DVD in which she features in two TV interviews at the time of the HMS Nottingham incident on Lord Howe Island, which is where we first met.


The nearby Flinders Lane post office has everything I need and the task is achieved with the minimum of fuss. I am impressed with the layout of the place, but how quickly I am served and also the 'self service' technology they have.
Myki is again problematic at Flinders Street, refusing to recognise my card, but, even worse, when I get back to Eltham, several of the machines are 'out of service' which results in a train load of frustrated commuters having to queue to 'touch-off' their card.
It's my final night in Victoria, so I am treating Diana and Malcolm to dinner. We had chosen to have an Indian, but it's almost empty, which is nevera good sign, so we opt for the packed Nongkhai Thai, which turns out to be excellent.
In the morning, Malcolm and Diana have kindly offered to pick me up at 7am to take me to Melbourne Airport. I have thought ahead and packed an extra bag for my weekend trip to Sarawak.



Check in is almost instantaneous, but the Express Lane for immigration is horribly slow. Even worse is the queue for the TRS to claim back my sales tax. When, eventually, I get to the counter, my transaction takes only moments, but John tells me the hold up is being caused by a load of Chinese travellers who have suitcases full of goodies and fistfuls of receipt to process.



Business Class in the Singapore Airlines 777 is only half full, so I have the very spacious front row to myself. The seating and the catering are excellent although there's no attempt at any stage by the cabin crew to engage me in conversation, which is most unusual in a premium cabin these days.
Arrival procedures at Singapore's Changi airport are quick and efficient, my bags arrive quickly and I am in a taxi speeding on my way within twenty minutes of landing.
It's only when we are nine kilometres on our way when I realise that my third bag, packed especially for my weekend trip, is still on the carousel. What a clot!
Luckily, it doesn't take too much time to complete the paperwork to be allowed back inside to collect the bag, so no harm done. But it just shows you, a slight change your normal routine and things can so easily go wrong.
But at least I am in Singapore, two thirds of the way round the world, and my bags have stayed with me throughout.
Well almost.