If anything getting up is becoming harder, but after a few strong coffees I get going again. The first thing on the itinerary is Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. It’s not just being a dedicated venue open seven days a week that this place has in common with the Stand comedy club in Edinburgh; it's small, dingy and tight too. Although we’re there at 10am, it definitely feels cool. The owner is there too, still visibly drunk from the night before, wearing a t-shirt several times too big for her. The fact that she quite obviously doesn’t give a cat’s cock about meeting a foreign journalist like this is to her credit. When I say where I’ve come from she puts her hand on my shoulder and offers her commiserations, which I accept with sincerity. At one point she mentions a New Year party that had people partying in the streets. It’s a pretty bland story but when A shouts “Fair dinkum?!?!” in her face, she nearly falls off her seat.
Composure regained, we talk jazz, about which I know very little, but she paints a picture of an exciting, passionate crowd who turn up nightly to enjoy the different shows they put on throughout the week. In some ways it’s disappointing to hear that even before the smoking ban, no one was allowed to light up in here; with the purple walls and low ceiling, it would have housed a debilitating cloud very well.
Tony drops me off at the National Gallery of Victoria to explore on my own. The place is big and airy and, in many ways, the building itself is as interesting as a lot of the pieces on display.
After lunch I meet another woman for another walking tour of the city. This one is much more general and the guide a lot less exciting. Between my general fatigue and the knowledge I’ll see one of my best friends in just a few short hours, I am obviously distracted. I apologise several times for this ignorance and worry a bit that I’m not absorbing enough information. There a couple of things she does drum into me though: Melbourians love cafes, and they love being creative with use of space. The council frequently grants short-term licenses so, for example, someone can open a bar in an alleyway for three months or until such times as someone comes in with a better offer.
The city has also fiercely guarded its tram system, meaning this ancient form of public transport still provides the most cost-effective, efficient way of travelling around town. I board one to take me to St Kilda, a part of the city that has the feel of an English seaside town; all beachside restaurants, bars and ice cream parlours.I head to the Prince, a five-star boutique hotel and spa facility. I’m surprised by the fact no one is on hand to check me in almost as much as I am by this fact irking me. Does this mean I’m becoming a proper travel journalist or just a prick? I know instantly that I won’t be able to enjoy of the extra luxury it has on offer, but the bed does at least look very comfortable.
I’ve got the rest of the day to myself and force myself out into the streets to take more pictures. There’s a big dramatic sunset to shoot too and the number of people there with cameras is amazing; I need to get a better one as soon as I can afford it.
Dinner is at a small designer restaurant and while I sip wine at my table for one I can’t help check my watch and phone. George is here now, which – including Marco and Jenni – takes the total number of people from home to five; five people on the other side of the world from where they met. What a weird fucking coincidence.I continue my policy of ordering the most bizarre things I can from the menu, which this time includes pureed eel ravioli. It’s not as bad as it sounds.
A while later I’m back in my room waiting for some kind of signal to meet my friends. Sitting down is a problem as I immediately want to fall asleep, but getting five minutes wouldn’t be a problem. If I just close my eyes for a sec… The phone goes. It’s time to go out. I scrape myself from the bed, put on a shirt and head out into the cool night.