31 January 2008

Concert Royalty

"some person called Fergie is supporting. You don't think it's the same Fergie who married Prince Andrew, do you?...Nicole Kidman, her husband and Hugh Jackman were sitting down in the stalls and, one can cheekily think, queueing up to buy their sausage rolls!"

There I was at work last week contemplating life, the universe and everything when the phone rang. It was the wife. "Hi" she said in an excited tone. "We are going to the Police" Straight away my mind started racing at 1,000 miles per hour (or 1,700 kilometres per hour for all you metric nerds). I responded "Police? why what has happened? has there been an accident, or a robbery? are the girls okay?"

My wife then started laughing. "Nooo, silly" it's the rock group that I am on about". Once I had gotten off the floor and my pulse had returned to normal, I let out a huge sigh of relief. "That's not all" continued the missus. "I have won tickets to a corporate box to see them!" By now I was all ears. It turned out that my wife's name had been selected at random through shopping for her part time business and had become the recipient of two corporate tickets.

I was over the moon! I hadn't seen the Police since London way back in the....dark ages. At that stage they were just about the biggest group in the world. The news got better as my wife explained "some person called Fergie is supporting. You don't think it's the same Fergie who married Prince Andrew, do you?" I advised her that it was the lovely Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas fame and not Sarah Ferguson. To this day I am not convinced that my other half was joking.

Well, two days later and we were at the Sydney Olympic Stadium to watch the concert. It was a warm night and more that 40,000 people were expected to attend that night. We arrived at the corporate box and received a friendly greeting. I have to admit going 'corporate' sure beats queueing up with the masses. It really is another world.

During the night we were fed lots of food. In fact, you could have fed half the population of Sydney methinks. It got to the stage where I was refusing food. Anyone who knows me will tell you that for me to refuse food is akin to finding gold at the end of the rainbow! But that night I did. I was also drinking fruit juice and water as I had promised to drive home that night. Mind you, with all the differing wines and beers on offer I was very tempted to sample a few.

As for the concert itself, Sting's son was singing in Fiction Plane the first act of the night. His voice was very similar to that of his father. Next up was Fergie. When she started singing I was thinking that I would be bored with all the hip hop and rap stuff that she was performing. As you might tell I am not a great fan of these musical genres. Mind you, she could sing and even do a number of hand stands while singing! She had a number of 'body popping' dancers on stage as well as a backing group who were quite good.

Fergie went off and came back a few minutes later bedecked in black and looking like a rock chick. This she confirmed while singing songs by Led Zeppelin, Guns 'n' Roses, and the Rolling Stones before doing a great version of Heart's 'Barracuda'.

Off she went again and came back to sing a few 'RnB' numbers including her huge hit 'Big Girls Don't Cry'. Throughout her time on stage she was very impressive. I think I had become quite a huge Fergie fan by the end of it!

There was a 30 minute break before the Police came on. My wife whispered to me, in between eating another hors douvres, "I can't wait to hear 'Fields of Gold' live". I had to politely remind her that the Police didn't perform that song but Sting did as a solo artist. Music is certainly not one of her strong points!

Anyway, Sting, Andy Summers (65 years old and looking 50!), and Stewart Copeland put on a show that was absolutely awesome! From the opener 'Message In A Bottle' to 'Every Breath You Take' the Police were superb. The bearded Sting has a voice that can only be appreciated live. The group gave it their all as they played the obvious greatest hits package.

Meanwhile, from our great vantage point in the corporate box we were all being wined and dined like royalty. It amazed me that while, for one night at least, we were being treated like like VIP's, Nicole Kidman, her husband and Hugh Jackman were sitting down in the stalls and, one can cheekily think, queueing up to buy their sausage rolls!

Now there's food for thought!

19 January 2008

I've Had Enough!!

"So what had caused my consternation. Had my fave footy team lost (yes, but hey, that's quite common).... I have visions of a simpleton working for the NSW sheriff thinking 'who can I annoy today?'"

"That's it", I said. "I am going to rescind my Australian citizenship!" Following this outburst to myself, I and myself headed outside to get some fresh air. "self" I said "How can they continue to do this!" Naturally 'self' didn't answer.

So what had caused my consternation. Had my fave footy team lost (yes, but hey, that's quite common)?, was the screen writers strike in the US of A affecting my television viewing (er, no - but if 24 is not shown this year then I won't be a happy Vegemite*)? or had I lost my Kylie Cd's (well no, seeing as I don't own any!)?. So what was it that was causing me so much grief?

Well the cause of my consternation was quite simply that I have been called up for jury duty for the fourth (yes that's 4th) time in the last 7 months!!! Now I am fully aware that it is a person's obligation to attend Jury duty but having received four notifications seems a tad excessive. I have visions of a simpleton working for the NSW sheriff thinking 'who can I annoy today?' After less than 10 seconds my name comes to mind. So in the post I receive another notification!

The previous three times I have been able to 'get out' of attending jury duty because, quite simply, I have been way too busy with a number of projects to manage. For the past eleven months I have been working out of two offices looking after three large projects. Each time I received the official letter I immediately got cracking on writing a letter explaining why I cannot fulfill my duties.

There are two other factors that affect my ability to attend jury duty. The first is the fact that I am a Justice of the Peace. Yeah, I know. Upstanding citizen blah blah blah. Some of my friends have been known to call me a 'Justice of the Piss'. Anyway, being a JP means that I get to sit in on the juicy cases. No stolen cabbages for me, no sir! I get the murders, gangland bashings, drug hauls and so on.

This may sound good but the main drawback is that I work as a consultant in the Finance industry. Hence, I only get paid for the hours I work. It's true that you do get paid a minimal amount for attending jury service but even this would not be half my weekly pay. So seeing that the latest notification says that the case will be for at least 6 weeks it means that I could be bankrupt by the end of it. I suppose that I could end up in the bankruptcy court. Now there's an ironic twist.

So the obvious question is do I attend or not? Well, I could go dressed as a goth or punk rocker and hope to be discharged from standing as a juror, or maybe I could write yet another letter!

There is one fail safe way to stop me receiving jury duty notifications, and that is to rescind my citizenship.

Therefore, if you are reading this epic blog from another country (thankfully 40% of my readership comes from overseas) then let me know if I can take out citizenship for your own beloved country. There is only one request though. If you are from a war torn country then please do not contact me...just yet!

* Vegemite is a dark brown savoury food paste that is made from yeast extract and is loved by all Australians!

12 January 2008

Travelling Lift Style!

"I have seen many people wandering aimlessly around the ground foyer trying to work out how to catch a lift....they must be thinking to themselves "that's a newbie" or "sucker!" "

Working in the Sydney CBD can be lots of fun. In reality its quite a small CBD when comparing it to other large cities like London, Paris and New York. Though, having never been to the Big Apple I will have to rely on hearsay! The good thing about Sydney is that it's easy to walk around and get from, say, the Opera House to the Sydney Tower quite quickly.

As with most big cities architects have used their creative inspiration and designed large tower blocks that have interesting (some might say bizarre) interiors. One of the offices that I work out of certainly has some 'interesting' features.

At present I work out of two offices which are approximately 15 minutes walk between them. One is definitely one of the top office blocks in the city, with superb views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The other is a much smaller block which is situated close to the Harbour Bridge and has extremely limited views. Actually the only view we get is of a small holiday apartment building which enables us to see tourists sitting on their balconies, or swimming in the pool on the ground floor. Sometimes the views get quite interesting!

Anyway, digression aside, if you are visiting the smaller office block for the first time you may have trouble catching a lift to go to the floor you want to visit. When this block was being designed the architects must have been smoking some rather weird substances. Normally when catching a lift you would get in a lift, push the floor number you require and the lift would take you there. Well this isn't the case at this location.

What you have to do is push the floor number on a keypad located in the main foyer area. On the keypad a letter of the alphabet appears. You then have to try and find the correct letter that corresponds to your lift. On more than a few occasions I have seen many people wandering aimlessly around the ground foyer trying to work out how to catch a lift. Rumour has it some people can spend weeks at a time trying to get to get to level 10!

Maybe that's why there always seems to be a commissionaire on the ground floor. Actually, they must be thinking to themselves "that's a newbie" or "sucker!" when they see the aimless expression on the face of someone who is trying to find lift 'H'.

Once you have mastered the keypad and sprinted to catch the correct lift you are then exposed to the next lot of fun! Inside the lift is a small monitor that displays pictures. Now this is not uncommon as a number of office blocks will advertise shops within the building, or reveal news, business and sport highlights. However, this lift displays pictures of, wait for it, mountains!

Why mountains? I have no idea. The first couple of times you see them you think "wow" or "this is cool" by the fifth time you are thinking "this is weird". Having caught the lifts in this office block for 11 months I can tell you I am now impervious to the pictures. The other strange thing is that the floors that the lift is going to are displayed on a thin strip next to where the doors open. Quite often new visitors have trouble working out which floor is which because of this.

One side issue that has arisen from this is that when I visit the other office (aka the Mothership), I sometimes forget to press the floor number. So rather than going to level 23 I end up at level 39! After 5 minutes of travelling up and down the floors I eventually get off at my correct destination. Albeit late for a meeting!

So if you are in Sydney take care when catching a lift, especially if it's in a small office block close to the Harbour Bridge!

05 January 2008

Driving in North Sydney

"Who in the world would close a multi storey car park on the busiest day of the year?....Fortunately I hadn't picked up a parking ticket. Parking officers must have time off - even in North Sydney!"

New Year's Eve is a special day for most people. From a psychological point of view it is the end of the old year and a day away from what can be perceived as a 'new beginning'. It's like wiping the slate clean and starting all over again. Resolutions are made and most will be broken before the month is out. Then eleven months will pass before the same resolutions are made. Shades of Groundhog Day!

In Sydney it also means fireworks. As most people would know, Sydney hosts probably the best New Year's Eve fireworks display in the world. It's not just the fireworks themselves, but its the setting. The view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House is utterly fantastic, even more so on New Years Eve.

For children it is a highlight of the year akin to Santa, Dora the Explorer and Elmo. It is an exciting day for my two young daughters. Amazingly, they were so well behaved as they knew that if they were 'good' they would be taken to see the fireworks. At one stage I was so surprised by their great behaviour that I thought the two toddlers in front of me were imposters!

Anyway, I had agreed to meet up with friends at St Leonards park in North Sydney that offers a superb view of the harbour and Sydney Opera House. We had been there before and I knew that the fireworks would look amazing. The only dilemma was in relation to parking. As I was driving to North Sydney I would need to find a parking spot. I knew this wouldn't be easy especially on New Years Eve.

We left home at 7 o'clock to ensure that we would have a chance of finding a place to park. I had packed food, a picnic blanket, Nemo ball, dental floss (for me - i'm addicted to it!) and water. I drove from the house with two well behaved girls sitting in the back seats. I was still wondering if they were imposters or not!

Our friends had suggested that I try a car park in Ridge Street as it is normally empty on New Years Eve. I drove there and my heart sank when I read the sign 'car park full'. I was now beginning to get worried. If this car park is full then where am I going to park? Even the most casual of visitors to North Sydney will tell you that parking is hard to find even on a quiet day.

So I drove around looking for a parking spot. In fact, I drove for the next thirty minutes trying to find a place to park that was not too much of a walk for my daughters. I had mentally calculated that a long walk after midnight would be nigh on impossible for my two gals. So the parking spot had to be no more than 10 minutes walk from the park.

I drove around untill cold beads of sweat appeared on my brow. I was getting frustrated! Every darn spot was taken. Then I saw a sign pointing the way to a multi storey car park. Hooray, I thought. At last a place to park the car. However, when I drove up to this impressive and very tall car park my heart sank. It also had a sign. This one said "closed". I let out a profanity under my breath. Who in the world would close a multi storey car park on the busiest day of the year? Only in North Sydney, I thought.

I drove around and after pondering parking at the Mater Hospital visitors car park I found an illegal parking spot in a quiet road. This will do I told my daughters while praying I didn't get a parking ticket. North Sydney parking officers are red hot on issuing fines as I had heard many times.

I made my way to the park and was joined soon after by my friends. I told them that I couldn't park in the Ridge Street car park as it had a sign saying it was full. When I asked them where they had parked they replied "the Ridge Street car park". I was totally confused. How? why? what the...? Apparently the car park has the full sign to deter people from parking there. I presume as there is no one manning the pay booth. My friends advised that there were plenty of parking spaces. Again I thought 'only in North Sydney'.

After the 9pm fireworks I went with one of my friends to collect my car and drive to the car park and thus saving a potential fine. This was quite a stressful thing as I couldn't remember where I had parked the car! For the next 30 minutes we walked up and down quiet roads until we found it. Fortunately I hadn't picked up a parking ticket. Parking officers must have time off - even in North Sydney!

So we parked my car in the 'empty' Ridge Street car park and made our way back to the park. The rest of the night was uneventful in comparison. For the record, both the 9pm and midnight fireworks were great. My daughters will attest to that. Afterwards we made our way back to the car park and had a relaxing drive home.

So if you are visiting North Sydney on New Years Eve I suggest taking public transport, or parking in any car park that has the words 'car park full' displayed!