Sunday 12th July
It’s 22 years ago today that I joined the police! No wonder I need a year off! I can’t believe how fast those 22 years have gone, and in the most it’s been a brilliant job! Despite how much I moan about it, I’ve done some amazing things, especially during my time in the covert world, and had the pleasure of working with some great people – Toddy’s team at DOCG, and more recently Blue Team have both been huge highlights. Sadly neither team exists any more (strange that all my teams get disbanded??!!). I’ve had the fortune to work on investigations in France (the most epic trip ever!), Spain (with Swanny, what a brilliant laugh that was!), Germany, Belfast (many trips there – it was cheaper and quicker to fly to Belfast, use the Firearms Forensic Lab there, stay in a hotel, than drive the 11 miles to Wetherby Lab!!), and Guernsey. Not to forget Chapeltown, Dewsbury and Sparkhill!!! There’s been a lot of laughs, and sadness too. The unexpected deaths of various colleagues has always been hard to understand, most notably the lovely Nik Nak, and the funniest and nicest person that ever lived, Mr Philip Andrew Bailes. Bailsey’s death is still a mystery to me, and I still expect to meet him in any bar I go into! I’ve no doubt that we’ll still have lots to drink together one day at the big bar in the sky. Hopefully not too soon though! I think all my most epic drinking sessions have involved Bailes, including beer for breakfast in Austria with him and Olly, carafes of wine in Boozeville in France, champagne in a hotel in Heathrow (celebrating my 40th birthday, despite me being 42 and it not being my birthday) and the time that I foolishly drink with Bailes, Mick Swales and Bob Cherry in the Lake District, and they almost destroyed me. They were the true Champions League of drinkers! Made me look like the Vauxhall Conference! Happy (but vague) memories.
Anyway, last night we were in Ayr, which is not a place people usually stop in, but we were meeting some lads from Harrogate! Josh Birch (barman supreme from the Pitcher and Piano in Harrogate who’s looked after my drinking for several years!), and Josh Radcliffe (brother of our Josh’s best friend and flat mate Dylan). They are both travelling, but spending a few months working on a farm in Ayr to get some more money. They work bloody long hours, but get paid about £10 an hour (minimum wage here!) and it really gives them the chance to get a stack of money together to continue travelling. The bar was brilliant, and filled up with working backpackers, and the beer was £5 for a 2 pint jug! The jugs flowed and flowed! At one stage there was a very drunken and amusing FaceTime call to Josh R’s mum, the lovely Jan! Very funny! I know that Jan was a little upset that we’d been able to get to see Josh R while she’s at home, but also happy that we’d made the time to go. Jan, get yourself out here!!!! You’d absolutely love it! Come travelling with us!! And your lad is having a great time! Anyway, me and Cha left at about 11, as we were the oldest by about 76 years, but our Josh stumbled home about 3 ish. Needless to say, he’s been a bit “dazed” today! A great night out! Thank you Joshes!!
Today we’ve landed in Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. It’s a lovely buzzing backpackers resort, and I think we’re going to be here a few days. Because we’ve had such a hard couple of weeks on various beaches, we’re going hardcore tomorrow with a sailing trip on board a catamaran, visiting Dream Island and the infamous Whitehaven beach (just picture a paradise beach with white sand….) with stops for snorkelling, food all day, and all inclusive wine and beer!!!! I don’t know how we manage! The weather forecast is good, despite it being mid winter and southern Australia getting a dusting of snow!
It was a surprise earlier this afternoon, having decided we should maybe have an alcohol-free day, to find ourselves sitting outside a packed bar in the sun with a couple of jugs of beer! Just how does that happen???!! Anyway, it was the only thing that brought Josh back to being vaguely human. I don’t know where he gets it from……. We watched live on the big screen the UFC cage fight between the Irish Connor McGregor and American Chad Mendes. I’ve never seen cage fighting before, but it was brutal! Not much separating this from bare knuckle fighting. Strangely enjoyable though!
The hostel is superb, Backpackers By The Bay, and there’s a BBQ tonight and a quiz! Surely with my advantage of many years of wisdom over the kids I must win? (Unless the questions aren’t all about 60s and 70s music…)
We’ve just cooked and eaten our dinner of chicken, salad and rice. I was very entertained to see that one of the young backpackers was having a fine dining experience of …… A plate of baked beans. No bread, no nothing. Just baked beans. I expect his mother is very proud of him. Speaking of mothers and sons, our son is now flagging badly and claiming to have the worst hangover in the world. He is a disgrace. I still don’t know where he gets it from……
Tuesday 14th July
Yesterday was one of those magical days that only come every so often. We took a very early ferry to Hamilton Island where we were welcomed aboard the racing catamaran, On The Edge. The size of a tennis court and with a 29m main mast, I’d never been on a boat like this before. It was beautiful! We sailed for an hour to Chalkies Bay. The wind was strong and the swell was big! It was a real battle with the boat and we had huge waves of spray coming right over us! Fantastic! Once at Chalkies it was time for snorkelling in the crystal clear water on the reef. Mind you, even with wetsuits on it was bloody cold! We only managed about 45 mins snorkelling, but saw absolutely amazing fish in that time, swimming right up to your face mask! It was much better than when we swam on the reef at Cairns, just needed to be warmer! Josh actually claimed he was dying of hypothermia, which may have been a little of an over reaction ! Mind you, he’d been up since 5.45am so his body was obviously in turmoil! With snorkelling done it was time for lunch on the boat, and most importantly the opening of the free bar! And while this was going on we sailed to the paradise that is Whitehaven Beach, where we moored in the shelter of the bay and spent a few hours on the beach. This is the most perfect, tropical beach we’ve seen yet. Beautiful white sand, so fine that it squeaked as you walked. It was like icing sugar! Brilliantly the free bar was transported to the beach too! Heaven! It’s fair to say that the Rock Family got their money’s worth out of this trip! And we saw a magnificent turtle swimming lazily and coming up for air. Absolutely amazing! As we sailed home, sat with our legs dangling over the side, Charlotte had the “greatest idea ever thought of”! – we’ve got the month of November with no plans yet, so why don’t we try to find a sailing course somewhere like Indonesia or Malaysia??!! Yes!!!!! Even in the sober light of this morning it still seems like the best idea ever!! I’m going to be a sailor! But practically too, as if we could get some qualifications it opens up a whole range of job possibilities crewing on yachts! Finally an idea that might one day save me from the police!! I have already suggested that in anticipation of this Charlotte and Josh should start referring to me as Captain Rock……
Yes, a superb day!
I finally had to concede defeat and play The Last Post to my favourite pair of shorts last night. The groinal area was no longer operating as a cover for my bits, so it was with great sadness that they went to the bin.
Speaking of defeat, we’ve failed to win the hostel quiz two nights running now! I can’t believe it! So I’ve instructed my family to spend the day reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Tonight we WILL win!!! Losing is not an option!!
Today, as I headed out for my morning run the hostel owner asked me if it wasn’t too cold to go running? After all, at 8.30am it was only 19 degrees! Haha! Perfect running weather, with the never ending cloudless sky. I noticed that a P&O cruise ship had moored in the bay overnight and the town was full of cruisers. What is the collective term for a group of cruisers? I’ve decided it should be a “selfie-stick” of cruisers, as that is their essential tool on land. And they only travel in huge groups, refusing to spend money as everything is free on board. Anyway, each to their own….
Now, we’re settled at the beach for another day of sun worshipping. I’m happily listening to Yes and watching the world go by. We’re going to try and make it to 3pm before we get our first jug of beer, but I can’t promise…..