I am 50 rupees short of the cab fare to get me to the airport (naturally they do not take credit card) and so I am forced to cash another $50. That’s okay I think, as I have a few things I would like to buy at the airport and the concierge at my hotel assures me there are lots of shops. When I get to the airport I find that there are precisely three shops; all selling fast food. And at my attempt to change money back I find you have to have a minimum of $50. My day has to get better from here, surely.
And it does. I find myself sitting next to Mr Gorgeous-brain-box for the flight home. He is an Australian Investment Banker living in New York and he has just spent three days in Mumbai (read, the inside of the Taj Mahal Hotel) attending a junket. Naturally there is a Mrs Gorgeous-brain-box who, while studying for a second degree in law by corro with Deacon University, looks after the three brain-box children, meanwhile flipping pancakes with her left foot.
Undeterred, I spend a happy few hours discussing with him the implications of sub prime debt, syndicated loans (he explains how the science of bond grading has caused a lot of the contagion) and globalisation; superannuation, CFDs, equity markets in general, the process and outcome of the Australian Federal election as seen from the inside by me and the outside by him, and as many other financial/economical/geopolitical topics as we can squeeze in before dinner.
We also manage to talk about a few less weighty topics. He tells me that he and his family have been away for about five years. ‘It’s terrible you know,’ he says, ‘I was playing ball with my five-year-old son in the park the other day and I told him to kick it over the grass. He says, “What’s GRARSS?’ It’s GRAS!” He’s correcting my pronunciation to be American! Wait till I get him home to Australia!’
After dinner he pops a sleeping pill and says, ‘Nightie night. I’ll see you in ten hours.’
Green with envy that he can sleep so solidly on a plane, I settle down to watch the first of five movies. Sleuth is my first choice, as I already know a lot of the background. If you have seen the original version with Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, it is the same story, but with a script re-written by Harold Pinter. ‘Otherwise, why would you remake a perfectly good film?’ says Mr Caine. The difference is also that Michael Caine plays the older jaded author this time, and Jude Law plays the younger unemployed actor. I am not a huge Law fan, but he plays this role with great skill and is not overshadowed by Caine’s sheer brilliance. Given that Jude Law also has another Caine film remake to his credit, the writer sadly couldn’t resist giving Law the line ‘What’s it all about then?’ There are only two characters in the whole film (which is also an excellent stage play) and it survives on its superb dialogue alone. See it if you can.
The Jane Austen Book Club is based on a book I was given for Christmas one year, and I am keen to see how it transfers to the big screen. It’s a girlie flick for sure, with it’s multiple intertwining relationship stories and they have done a good job of enhancing the story subtly without departing too far. Nice and satisfying.
Then I couldn’t resist watching my all-time favourite film Out of Africa – the only slight imperfection I will allow is that Robert Redford plays the Englishman Denys Finch-Hatton with his own accent, thus condemning Finch-Hatton to being a Yank forever. Then I got all sentimental and had to watch The Man From Snowy River and Strictly Ballroom. Cringe-worthy cornball, but I love it. The first for its scenery, soundtrack and tradition and the latter for its soundtrack, dancing, energy and sheer effrontery. Although, I hadn’t remembered how utterly appalling Paul Mercurio’s nasally Australian accent was. He should have just danced in his Chesty Bond singlet and kept his mouth shut. Phwoarr.
My bleary red eyes have picked up the natural light that has started to creep under the window flaps. We are on the downhill run, so to speak. There is stirring and movement and breakfast is being served and people start peering eagerly out the window for their first sight of Sydney. I have not seen my wonderful city for two whole months, but Ben the Banker has not seen it in a few years. He is a Melbournian though, and I think he is getting more excited about the prospect of seeing that brown windy strip of Yarra.
For a homesick Aussie there is nothing like swooping in over our shimmering harbour city. Her décolletage of dark craggy coves is speckled with red-roofed houses that lead to her heart of glittering green glass and she wears the Opera House thrust out on her chest like a corsage; the Harbour Bridge is her tiara. That brash breezy superficial strumpet of a city has her arms wide open – and I can’t wait.