Blue Mountains


Friday, 19th September 1986

Victor woke me up at 5:20pm and told me that the others were already in the Rex. I threw my coat on and made a beeline for the pub.  I had the usual excellent Steak sandwich for breakfast/ dinner or whatever meal my body thought it was eating, whilst chatting to Declan and Josie about trying to see more things outside the Sydney.

The three of us agreed to go on a trip to the Blue Mountains, just outside Sydney, together the very next day.

Declan and Josie introduced me to another new arrival; Simon.  Simon was from Nuneaton and was an electrician.  He had already travelled through India and had lived in New Zealand and a fair bit of Australia too.  He had moved into the hostel and was now intent on boosting his finances with a bit of work in Sydney before moving on to travel more round Asia.

Josie told me that everyone was intending on attending a bad taste party that Hannah had suggested would be a laugh.  Hannah was a local Australian girl who had become part of the  (largely non-Australian) traveller crowd via her friendship with a British lass called Amanda who she worked with and who lived in one of the hostels.   Josie told me that I was invited to the party too.

We all went back to the hostel via the Paradise nightclub where Declan had apparently left his wallet the night before.  He didn’t find it there.

Strange as it may seem, we were actually at a loss to find something that we classified as bad taste.   In the end, someone suggested the Backpackers hostel as they had boxes of unwanted clothes they collected for charity.  We headed around there and picked out some clothing. Declan put on a Mini skirt and I had an old woman’s hat and coat.  It wasn’t really bad taste but we knew it would have to do.

Once we had the clothing sorted  we got a box of wine and went back to sit on the hostel roof to get in the mood for the party.  Up on the roof amd dressed n bad taste were Declan, Simon, Jez and a Canadian called Tim.  Josie went off to Hannah’s house with Amanda to get ready for the party.

Eventually we set off. We stopped off at the chip shop and then got the train from Kings Cross to Bondi Junction.  From there we went by taxi to the Bondi retired serviceman’s club where the event was being held.

We walked into the party and quickly realised that although there were a lot of people dancing they were all in normal clothes.  There wasn’t any bad taste to be seen.  We  looked at ourselves dressed like some kind of amateur transvestites,  burst out laughing and then ran into the toilets to get changed. We thanked goodness that we had brought spare clothes with us.

Josie, Amanda, Hannah and Hannah’s sister Alison all arrived soon after and had to go through the same changing process.  Hannah apologised for having given us the wrong information.  We forgave her and we all danced until 1am.  The band was a local band and they were called the Tall Shirts.  After one dreadful song followed another, we rechristened them the Tall Shits.


Saturday, 20th September 1986

At 1am we went down to Bondi Beach. Jez and Tim watched as Josie, Declan and myself danced for the first time in our lives in the Bondi surf.  We then realised how stupid we had been when we had to walk about a mile in our wet clothes.  Finally we found a nice warm taxi to take us home.

We ended up back in Kings Cross and then went to McDonald’s.  I told everyone that we were eating some of the buns that I had seen the night before whizzing past me in the bakery.  The others got a little bored with me explaining how the buns were made and told me so.

We had coffee at the hostel till 4pm and then watched music videos till 5am. We pledged ourselves that we would catch the 7:15am train to the Blue Mountains but we would have a little snooze first.

I didn’t snooze at all and stayed awake the whole time.  I had a shower at 6am and then went up to Josie and Declan’s room to get them awake.  It was impossible and they were just groaning.  They suggested getting the next train at 8:45.

I had a cat nap in the lounge and then went back at 7:30am to try again. Josie woke immediately but it took both of us 30 minutes to wake Declan.  He accused me of being like his mother back home.

Finally at 8am, with very little time to spare, we ran down to Kings Cross Station and got the train to Central.  We were there by 8:20 and we tried to get a ticket at the mainline station.  We asked for a day return to the “Blue Mountains” but we were met with an incredulous look.  The ticket clerk then did his best to then explain that the “Blue Mountains” was actually quite a wide area. He suggested that we might want a return to “Katoomba”.

We got on the train with a bit of time to spare at 8:40 and immediately began eating a breakfast of stuff we had bought from the station buffet,  sausage rolls, meat pies, milk and apples.

The train got to Kattomba at 10:45 and, whilst Josie and I checked the time of the trains back, Declan phoned and tried to cancel the credit cards he had lost from his wallet the night before last.

Katoomba wasn’t the best signposted town in the world.  We started to follow the sign to Echo Park on a road through a housing estate and then seemingly lost the track altogether.  We lost confidence that we were going in the right direction and then asked where we were at a garage.  “You are in the Blue Mountains” we were told by a customer.

We finally dragged the directions out of the attendant and set off descending a long hill, that we knew we would regret on the way back.  We turned right somewhere and suddenly stumbled on the Skyway cable car.


We stared from the edge of the cliff as the Skyway cable car headed out across the valley about half way and then stopped and returned.  We decided not to bother going on it.  Perhaps it was because we were dead tired, but we actually decided that the Blue Mountains didn’t look that spectacular after all.

We walked instead along the edge of the cliff to Prince Henry’s Walkway taking in the Three Sisters along the way and then we returned to the Echo point centre.

We feasted again on meat pies, chips and milk whilst watching the birds fly around the information centre.  I went into the centre to ask the times of the buses back to the station.  The good news was that they ran every half hour.  The bad news was that they had finished running on Saturday at noon.

We walked the one and a half miles back to the station and stopped for fruit and drinks along the way.


We got the 2:56pm train back.  Unfortunately there were a load of boy scouts on the platform and to our horror they boarded our train and sat in our carriage. They were running up and down the carriage the whole time and prevented any chance of sleep.

We arrived back at Sydney Central just before 5pm more tired than ever.  As we arrived back at the hostel I calculated that I had been awake for 24 hours exactly.

After four cups of black coffee we got hold of a box of wine and climbed into a taxi heading for 155 Balting street in Rose Bay.

The house was owned by a rather famous lawyer. His housekeeper and nanny was Hannah, Amanda’s friend.  He and his family had gone away for the weekend and so in their absence Hannah had decided to hold a small dinner party.

We arrived to find Hannah, her sister Alison, Mark the Canadian and Amanda preparing dinner.  The others explained that they had all been staying over the weekend.   With nothing else to do we headed for the garden where Josie and Declan started to bounce around on the family trampoline.

Eventually we all sat down talking and admiring the house, the furniture, the decorations on the walls and the BMW 7 series in the attached garage.  It was certainly the wealthiest house I had ever been in and quite a revelation on how the other half lived.

After a while we were joined by three more guests to make up the total party to ten. There was a Hungarian artist who was quite outspoken. He had a funny habit of banging the table every ten minutes and shouting “I think the women should take off all their clothes”.  I actually thought this wasn’t a bad idea, but otherwise the guy was totally obnoxious.

There was also an Australian chap who claimed he was actually a true Glaswegian even though he left Glasgow when he was 18 months old and had never been back.  The last guest to arrive was a plumpish  Australian guy who stayed silent most of the evening.

We dined on chicken pieces roasted with a fascinating selection of vegetables and potatoes filled with some kind of herb cream.  It was followed by strawberries, biscuits and cream smashed together.  I don’t know if her employer would have approved of the party but we all had to admit that Hannah was an excellent cook.

Before the coffee was even served the Hungarian suggested we all go to another party with him.  When we refused he called a taxi and left.  I was hoping it wouldn’t be a woman taxi driver lest he ask her to take her clothes off.

We sat watching National Lampoon’s European Vacation until 1:30am and I thought I did very well not to fall asleep.

Now in my 31st hour of being constantly awake, I jumped in a taxi with Josie and Declan and finally went to bed at 3am setting the alarm for no earlier than 5pm.


Sunday, 21st January 1986

I managed to sleep, more or less, right through and woke at 5pm.

When I woke I learnt that there had been two casualties on the job front on Sunday.   Josie had decided not to bother with her Sunday afternoon interview for bar work at the Beef and Bourbon club, and Declan had overslept for the 7am Sunday shift for the second time in a week at the nursing home and he had quit before he could be fired.

I showered, shaved and then caught the 6:10pm train out of Kings Cross.  I managed to get to work just 10 minutes late at 7:40pm.

After the long sleep work was surprisingly fine and the night passed quickly.


Monday, 22nd September 1986

I got home and for the first time found I had enough energy left to make myself breakfast. I cooked a 3-egg omelette with mushrooms whilst chatting to Victor.  He had another plan for a house.  He certainly wasn’t giving up. This one was in Elizabeth bay.

I went to bed around 10am and slept until about 5pm.

I got up and went onto the roof.  I found everyone up there.  I updated myself on the latest news.  Declan and Josie were still unemployed but Guy in my room had found work as a set shifter at rock concerts.  They all went off to buy wine and soda and I left again for work.


Tuesday, 23rd September 1986

I started to economise further.  Instead of using the bakery canteen for my “lunch” break (2:30am to 3am) I followed the advice of some of the other bakers and just took bread off the assembly line when passing.  It was perfectly fine and nobody said anything about it.

It was a simple idea.  I brought the fillings and the assembly line provided the bread. One day I would bring cheese slices and the next day meat paste.  I simply grabbed two rolls as I was going upstairs to the break room.  If I felt peckish I would take another one or two back out to the crate washer later.


Wednesday, 24th September 1986

I decided to experiment with my sleep pattern and I started staying awake until midday and sleeping a little bit longer until 6pm or even 7pm.  It seemed to work a bit better.

I got up at 6:30pm and went for a chicken sandwich meal in the Rex before heading out to Warwick farm.

There were now two additional temps from Drakes at the bakery.  There was a young bloke about my age who was originally from Barnsley and  a much older Australian guy who claimed he was working, not for money, but for exercise.


Thursday, 25th September 1986

I got up at 6:30pm again and we all went to Hare Krishna’s again for dinner

Josie’s friend Helen arrived from the Midlands on a short break and was accepted as one of the group. Josie had organised a boat cruise around Sydney harbour to celebrate her friend’s arrival and more significantly for Fiona’s departure on Friday evening.  We were all invited.


Friday, 26th September 1986

At 1am I was taken off the crate washer and rushed into the factory. The dough mixture had failed and we had to spend the next hour removing all the bad buns from the production line.

The line was up an working again by 2:30am. This was just as well as I only had cheese slices with me again for lunch.

I finished normally at 7am and caught the train back to Sydney.  I got off the train at St James for a change and, when they opened, I had a look around the Adidas store there. I was intending to buy some training shoes and track suit bottoms.  I was kind of accosted by the South African sales woman and quickly sold a rather upmarket pair of trainers for $115.  That was more than I had wanted to pay but I had to admit they were rather nice.

After she had finished selling me an expensive pair of track suit bottoms as well, she introduced me to Belinda, her colleague, who then explained to me that she was from Guilford in Surrey.  We chatted for a bit and then found we were both invited to the same party on the harbour cruise boat that evening.  I thought Belinda was quite nice and started to look forward to seeing her again at the party later.

I went home and slept from 12 noon and set the alarm for 4:30pm.  I must have slept through the alarm as the next thing I realised was Declan shaking me awake just 20 minutes before they were all due to leave for Circular Quay.

We hurried over to the Rex to meet everyone. I stopped at the bank to get money from the machine and hurried on the train down to Martin Place.  We walked down to the Jetty en-masse, there was Josie, Simon, Declan, Helen, Fiona and about 16 of Fiona’s friends.

Fiona was leaving for Scotland via New Zealand at the end of her 12 month working holiday and she clearly didn’t really want to go.

We boarded the MV Southern Cross and we had a beautiful evening cruise around Sydney Harbour with the Harbour Bridge looking especially beautiful lit up as we passed underneath it.

We feasted on prawns, followed by sea bream and a very unusual selection of vegetables.  We were each given one potato, one piece of broccoli and a cabbage leaf. That was it.  Perhaps it was some kind of new world cooking ?

The dessert was pecan pie with ice cream.

We ordered only soda water and lemonade the whole evening.  Each time the waitress had disappeared into the kitchen we all passed around the Barcadi and gin bottles we had brought with us and had hidden under the table.  We figured the waitress must have known what we were up to but she didn’t say anything.

The trip took about 3 hours and we were back at Circular Quay by 11pm.  We were all quite drunk on rum and gin and a mixture thereof.

We left Helen to her bed and then Josie, Simon and I headed out to the all night party at the Piccadilly hotel.  We were only about 20 yards from the train station when I threw the whole meal up on the pavement.   I think it must have been the prawns.   We couldn’t get in at the Piccadilly as it seemed locked up.  I went home to have some soothing milk and the others carried on to the Rex.

I seriously did think it was the prawns because after a few glasses of milk I felt a lot better.  I went out and joined the others at the Rex and then we eventually we found a back entrance to the Piccadilly.

We spent the night until 3am drinking and smoking on the roof until it began to get cold and foggy.  Declan was then sick on the stairs and we decided to call it a night.

Back at the hostel we watched music videos and I danced with a mop and bucket until we finally went to sleep at 5am.

I don’t know where Belinda got to.  She wasn’t on the boat.


Saturday, 27th September 1986

I woke up at 9am to discover that somebody, possibly Ashley the American, had left with my key.

I went to check on Declan  and Simon.  Declan told me he was “rough as ten bears”.  He always had a scale of bears to denote the severity of his hangovers.  Five was bad enough so ten was quite serious.  Nevertheless, he reached for his cigarettes and, repeating the commercial from Australian TV, he put one in his mouth and looked at me and said “Anyhow, have a Winfield”

Simon also had a set routine for his own hangovers.  He just looked with a kind of smile that tried to elicit sympathy and said  slowly “I am sorry I am a little bit worse for wear”

We were feeling much better by 1pm and took a taxi to Bondi Beach where we stayed body surfing to try and get rid of the hangovers until 4pm.  We took a bus and train back to King’s Cross.

After a meal at Hare Krishna’s we took ourselves off to the Village Cinema to see the excellent Woody Allen film “Hannah and her Sisters”.  It came out at 9:15pm and we walked back to Kings Cross via the tattoo shops and prostitutes of William Street.

We’d been in the kitchen just 10 minutes when Hannah and Amanda dragged us out to the Rex again.   We moved on from there and ended up in a flat around the corner drinking until 3am again.

My liver couldn’t cope with much more of this, could it ?

Sunday, 28th September 1986

I got up at 11am and had a walk around Kings Cross again on my own.  I bought a copy of Clive James’ Flying Visits and spent the afternoon reading it, punctuated by a lot of cups of coffee.   I talked to some new arrivals; Dave from London and Sally who was a secretary from Plymouth.

Declan , Josie and Simon got up and went out to see “Out of Africa”.

I grabbed some chicken and chips and then headed out once more at 6pm on a Sunday evening to work.

There was an additional new temp at the bakery; James from London.  He had started off in London on a round the world trip, gone across the USA and then landed in Sydney.  He had fallen in love with a local girl and now he lived across on the north shore.



Monday, 29th September 1986

At 7am they gave me a bag of wasted buns to take back with me. I didn’t know why. I wondered if I had passed some landmark or test, but I didn’t ask, I just took them.  I ate some on the train and the rest I left on the table in the kitchen at the hostel before heading to bed. They were gone when I woke up.

When I got back it was raining. I had intended to go out and photograph the arrival of ships from different navies of the world.  They were coming to Sydney to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Australian Navy.  It had been billed as the “event of the decade”.  I was too tired, though,  and I thought the pictures wouldn’t come out well with the rain anyway.

I went to Hare Krishna’s again with Amanda, Declan, Guy and Helen. Sadly the meal was unusually tasteless and a bit disappointing. I ate mine but the others threw theirs away.  We went on to Haagen Daaz for banana and cherry ice cream.

Kings Cross was suddenly full of sailors of all nationalities. There were lots of black American sailors resplendent in their crisp white uniforms.  All of them seemed to be in search of the unique form of entertainment that only Kings Cross could provide.  The prostitutes looked happy anyway.

I had a cup of coffee and a chat with Guy in the room before heading off to Warwick Farm once again.


Tuesday, 30th September 1986

I went to the university at Redfern on my way back from work at 8am.  I went there to see if there was any accommodation opportunities advertised on the university notice board.  There weren’t any, but I had a good look around the campus anyway.  It was a pretty grey concrete kind of a place but it seemed pleasant enough.

They certainly served good coffee in the student’s union and there weren’t many students about at 8am.

I went back to the hostel and fell asleep.

I woke up in the evening and went back out to work.  There were train problems and the Sydney system ground to a halt.  I got stuck on a late train between Central and Redfern.   I eventually made it about 30 minutes late.  They weren’t too bothered but they told me that, in order to meet the Labour Day weekend rush, we would be starting 2 hours earlier for the last two nights of the week.  I would need to arrive by 8:30pm

Wednesday, 1st September 1986

I got back at 7am and slept for much of the day.

I woke at 3pm and left at 5:30pm to ensure I would get out to the bakery on time, whatever the train system threw at me.

Thursday, 2nd October 1986

The bakery was extra busy with the Labour Day rush.

I arrived home at 9am to a bit of a crisis. Victor  told me I needed to go straight round to a house in Dennison Street, Bondi Junction.  We were in a good position to get it but someone needed to go as soon as they could.

We had been discussing accommodation more frequently recently. There was certainly a hard core of people who were quite desperate to get out of the hostel and into something a bit more civilised.   Victor had been looking since I met him and now Simon and Declan were looking as well.

Victor had seen a potentially suitable  place in Bondi Junction in the Herald and Simon had rung them up.  They had made a viewing appointment.  Now, as everyone else headed for work, it fell to me to go and see if it was worth living in or not.

Bondi Junction