Waiters and Gnocchi and Comets oh my!

What I’ve been doing for the last few Fridays.

Well, I’ve rather been burning the candle at both ends over the last week. Early starts (or at least attempts at early starts, it’s been more like my alarm goes off at 5:30 and I lay in bed groaning for an hour) and late nights. It all caught up with me yesterday – I felt like I was dying, so I went out and got a haircut (not because I felt like I was dying, just because I really needed one) then just watched DVDs for the rest of the day and had an early night. I’m much refreshed now so I thought I’d better do a round up of the last few weeks of my life.

OK, well Friday before last for starters. Katie finally heard back about that lucrative (well, more lucrative than working part time at a department store anyway) Government job she was going for – she got it! So we (which is to say her, myself, my brother Andrew, Travis and another friend of her’s who’s name I just cannot remember despite having met her before, which is shocking) decided to go out to dinner. Andrew was arranging things and we agreed to all meet up at a Japanese place in Mount Lawley at 8:00.

(On a side note, Western Australia is doing daylight saving for the first time in 15 years, as part of a three year trial brought in by the Government as a way of distracting us from the antics of the former police minister. I’m still finding it a little hard to adjust to – I apparently rely far more on ambient light levels for time telling than I realised, resulting in my glancing up at the clock of an evening and being shocked to see it’s already 11:00pm 🙂

Naturally I was working on Friday so I needed to figure out what to do between knocking off work at 5:00 and eating Japanese cuisine at 8:00. The obvious solution was to head into the city and catch up with Rebecca – especially as she promised to bring along my somewhat delayed Christmas present. So after killing some time walking down the Terrace (I got there a bit early) we met up outside her work at 5:30, where she revealed that she had in fact not brought along my Christmas present. I considered leaving right then and there, but decided to forgive her ;D

We set off to try and find a coffee shop that was both open and not packed out with lawyers and stockbrokers. This is a rather hard ask on the Terrace at 5:30 on a Friday, so we eventually ended up in King Street. We were thinking of hitting up the Etro Cafe, but instead decided to try out the rather trendy (and rather empty) place just opposite at number 44, which claimed to be a purveyor of fine foods and drink.

The claim proved to be quite accurate. We ordered a cheese platter (which was excellent, particularly the brie and the weird block of salty grape jelly stuff that Rebecca refused to even touch) and killed time discussing what she should wear to a work-conference-related fancy dress party she was required to go to. The theme was “come as what you always wanted to be” and (knowing that there are people like Rebecca and I around) there were explicit instructions against turning up in your normal clothes and saying “I always wanted to be me”. We didn’t reach any real conclusions, although I decided that if I was ever in a similar predicament I’d fail to turn up, then halfway through the evening have a telegram delivered saying “GREETINGS STOP ALWAYS WANTED TO BE RICH & IMPORTANT ENOUGH NOT TO ATTEND RIDICULOUS PARTIES STOP”.

I’d figured out that I needed to catch the 7:15 bus to make it to Mount Lawley in reasonable time, and so was getting quite jumpy as the clock got closer to 7:00. Rebecca kept telling me to calm down, and that we had plenty of time. As it turned out she was completely correct, my normally good geography had failed to inform me that King Street hits the Terrace just opposite the bridge to the bus station. So we got there with time to spare, said our goodbyes and descended into the gloomy underworld of the mole men to await our buses.

I got to Mount Lawley at around 7:30 (I prefer to be inconveniently early rather than inconveniently late). I quickly located the restaurant and after a quick scout around to see if anyone else was there took up a seat on some steps just outside. Ominously the place seemed packed. Even more ominously people kept walking up, walking in, then walking out looking disappointed about a minute later. From past experience I suspected that Andrew would have completely failed to make a booking…

He and Travis arrived at about five to, and sure enough hadn’t booked. And sure enough there were no tables available. So, no Japanese for us! Katie turned up with her friend not long afterwards, and we decided to walk down Beaufort Street to see if anything else appealed.

After checking out a number of options (all of which were unsuitable because of Travis’s aversion to Asian food apart from Japanese, my aversion to Indian, and Katie’s vegetarianism) we ended up at a little Italian place about a block up from the Queens. We got a table, and were instantly struck by the bizare behaviour of the staff. They raced up and handed us menus, then about a minute and a half later (while we were still getting settled in) raced back to take our orders. When we said we weren’t ready they asked if we wanted drinks, then ran away before we could answer. Then came back about a minutes later to ask for our orders. This was only the begining of their weirdness.

Over the course of the evening they proceeded to try and take the menus away before we’d ordered anything, tried to take two of our dishes away (one of them mine) before we’d finished eating (getting disgruntled when we objected), and completely failed to understand the word ‘vanilla’ when ordering ice cream – “I’d like the vanilla ice cream, one scoop thanks” (pointing at menu), “What sort?”, “The vanilla ice cream, one scoop” (pointing at menu), “One scoop of ice cream, what kind?” “The vanilla” (pointing forcefully), “What?”, “Vanilla!” (almost poking a hole through the menu), “OK, the vanilla”.

The best moment though had to be when we asked for the champagne we’d had them put in the fridge earlier. One waiter brought out the bottle and champagne glasses for everyone, followed immediately by another who took the champagne glasses away. And when I say immediately, I mean she was picking the glasses up off one end of the table as her colleague was still putting them down on the other end. It was so stunningly unbelievable that it took us five seconds or so to get any kind of objection together, and she almost got away with it. (She followed up by interpreting my request for ‘only a little bit’ of champagne – complete with finger and thumb held about a centimetre apart – as meaning ‘half the glass’).

So, an… entertaining night. The food was excellent – I had the gnocchi in four cheeses which was brilliant – but the service was like something out of Monty Python.

We paid up (not leaving any kind of tip) and headed back up Beaufort Street. After acertaining that no one had brought a car that I could get a lift from, I resigned myself to getting a bus and peeled off to wait at the stop outside the supermarket while everyone else went into Planet Books.

I had two options with the bus. I could get off at the top of Grand Promenade and walk, or at Coode Street and walk. Grand Prom meant a much longer walk, but had the advantage of avoiding Bayswater railway station which can get a bit dodgy late on a Friday night. So I went with the long option. It was quite a pleasant walk, I cut through the back streets for a lot of it – figuring that any psychopaths were more likely to be scouting victims along the main drags – and got home just on midnight.

So that was Friday before last.

This Friday (by which I mean last Friday) I headed out with Justin to see Comet McNaught. He was meant to come on Thursday night, but in his usual fashion didn’t turn up until 10:00pm (after saying he’d be around at 8:00), by which time it had long set. On Friday he said he’d turn up at 7:00, and arrived about 7:40, which with Justin actually counts as on time 🙂

I’d called ahead to Grilled down the street for some fish and chips, so we stopped in there to pick them up, and then drove over to North beach. Foolishly we’d both neglected to bring along jumpers or coats (it’s summer after all!) and were almost frozen to death by the gale off the ocean while eating said food and watching the sunset from a bench on top of the cliffs. We then retreated back to the car to wait until it was dark enough to make setting up the telescope worthwhile.

Obviously the news bulletins had said this was the last night to get a decent look at the comet because the carpark was soon completely packed. People were standing around (or at least sitting in their cars out of the wind) peering at the sky, and pointing excitedly at every plane or bird that went by. They got very excited once it got dark enough for Venus to show up, some even left after having a look at it. Judging that the comet would soon be visible we got out and unpacked the telescope.

What happened next was rather embarrasing. Perhaps it was the light pollution, perhaps it was that I was out of practise, perhaps it was that I pointed the equatorial mounting in completely the wrong direction, but I was completely unable to get the telescope trained on anything – it even took about ten minutes to point it at the Rottnest lighthouse. But it was OK, because as the darkness set in, the comet – initially just a light streak against the sky – became more and more visible, until it was just plain magnificent.

Language fails me on just how impressive it was, but you can certainly see how ancient people used to regard comets with such wonder and dread. The tail was astoundingly long, if you used averted vision it was at least 15° long, and shaped like a scimitar.

I eventually got the telescope trained on it, but all the effort probably wasn’t terribly worth it because it looked exactly the same. But at least my pride was salvaged. Several of the people standing around wanted a look, including one little boy thought it was ‘sick’ so that probably makes it worthwhile 🙂

Eventually of course the head started to fade out as it vanished into the horizon, so we packed up. I was ready to head home, but Justin wanted to get some coffee, and since he was driving I was at his mercy and had to go along. We checked out Scarborough, but figured it was probably getting a bit rough (Scarborough has a bad reputation late at night these days) and decided to head to Mount Lawley instead. We ended up at the coffee shop just opposite the Queens and confused the other coffee shop patrons by discussing nutrition for about half an hour (Justin studied it at Uni you see). Then he dropped me and the telescope back home.

All in all a very successful night’s comet gazing 🙂

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks. I’d better go put some washing on now or I’ll have nothing to wear to work tomorrow. *sigh*.

Oh, almost forgot, I meant to say what songs I voted for in the JJJ Hotest 100. They’ve done their usual trick of totally messing everyone around by limiting votes down to 10 per person this year (honestly it’s worse that Eurovision), so my carefully prepared list of 20 had to be butchered. I ended up going for…

  • When You Were Young – The Killers
  • Starlight – Muse
  • King Without a Crown – Matisyahu
  • Elevate Myself – Grandaddy
  • Stopping all Stations – The Hilltop Hoods
  • Alfie – Lily Allen
  • Better – Regina Spektor
  • Konichiwa Bitches – Robyn
  • Harrowdown Hill – Thom York
  • 45 and Rising – Midnight Juggernauts

Songs just missing out included…

  • LDN – Lily Allen
  • Not Big – Lily Allen
  • Take Me Back To Your House – Basement Jaxx
  • I Built This City – Baxendale
  • Funny Little Frog – Belle & Sebastian
  • Such Great Heights – Ben Folds
  • Reptilia – Fourplay
  • Yell Fire – Michael Franti and Spearhead
  • Trains To Brazil – Guillemots
  • Awoo – The Hidden Cameras
  • 9 to 5 – Lady Sovereign
  • Love Me or Hate Me – Lady Sovereign
  • The Strangest Secret In The World – London Elektricity
  • What Katie Said – The Matches
  • Zookeepers Boy – Mew
  • Welcome to the Black Parade – My Chemical Romance (Helen will want to stab me for this one I’m sure 🙂
  • Sawdust & Diamonds – Joanna Newsom
  • Tarantula – Pendulum
  • I Don’t Feel Like Dancing – Scissor Sisters (But maybe this will pacify her 😉
  • Hands Open – Snow Patrol
  • Fidelity – Regina Spektor
  • Can’t Con an Honest John – The Streets
  • TV – True Live

So, we’ll have to see how many of those even make it in. What are the odds Forever Young comes in at number one I wonder?

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