British writer lands in Sydney thanks to the British Council
British writer lands in Sydney thanks to the British Council: At 10.30pm last night I touched down in Sydney Airport with my project partner, graphic designer Carl Burness, thanks to support of Arts Council England and the British Council. We learnt on 7 February that our application for £5,000 of funding from the Artists’ International Development Fund had been successful – terrific news after having worked on the project for several months. It had been a nail-biting couple of days.
We are tremendously excited to be embarking on a two-week research, networking and performance project in the major Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne. More accurately, we will be tremendously excited once we’ve recovered from the disorientating effects of jet lag. We now have two days to make our final preparations for attending the SPACLALS literature and climate change conference focusing on polar regions and disappearing islands at the University of New England in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta. At the conference I’ll be performing my writing and song at a public event alongside leading South Pacific writers. I’ll also be writing and presenting a paper to an academic audience for the first time.
Today was, as set out in our funding bid, a day of recovery and pre-prep after an arduous 26-hour journey. We set out on 8 February and arrived on 10 of the month. It is disconcerting seemingly to lose a whole day while travelling across something like six time zones from England. The day (in this case, Friday 9 February) was gobbled up. It will be returned to us (in a sense) when we fly home again because then we will ‘gain’ a day.
I have been to Dubai on holiday once – a seven-hour flight – but have never gone straight from such a lengthy flight directly onto a second 13-hour one with only 15 minutes in between. Due to the delay of the first flight, we were frogmarched to the second one: there wasn’t even time to tie my shoelaces and I stumbled all the way. When, at the start of the second, Sydney-bound flight the Emirates in-seat console displayed 7,483 miles to our destination, it felt utterly surreal.
First impressions of Australia:
My first impressions of Australia were – after being hit by the heat even this late at night and the non-air-conditioned airport – of the smooth running of things. Now, having been here less than 24 hours, I feel I’ve understood why people love travelling to Australia so much and want to move here in droves. The ease and friendliness are relaxing and exactly what I would have hated when I was younger and sought dislocation, foreignness, language barriers, and buses with bullet holes.
The transit to central Sydney and Chinatown where we are staying was smooth and uncomplicated. At the airport we handed in the boarding card that we’d filled in on the plane declaring that we weren’t carrying soil samples, animals or nuts and seeds. On purpose I left my Waitrose granola bar in my seat pocket, though did bring in my Wine Gums which did not seem to be contraband. Then we zoomed through an e-passport system (not dissimilar to the British one), checked in to our serviced apartment with ease, and connected immediately to wifi.
As part of our Artists International Development Fund application we had researched the different types of accommodation and costs in depth. The serviced apartment came out as being much better value than a hotel. It’s also better for us and our British Council-funded project. We can self-cater – thus saving money and helping us settle in – and there are business facilities on site. (I’m revising and refining my conference paper, so will be taking advantage of the option to print on site.)
Today was a day of orientation, fact-finding, and stock-piling. First thing, obeying the recovery from jet lag advice to go to bed at Australian bedtime and get up at Australian time, we stepped out into the bright 29 degree heat of the Australian summer and blinked. At home there had been frost on the grass and we’d had to scrape ice off the windscreen.
Five minutes’ walk from our apartment and we found ourselves watching Chinese people in dragon costumes bobbing and rising on the other side of the street: a build-up procession for Chinese New Year. Later, a friendly Australian named Brad told us that the celebrations are starting this year a week early. We discovered our planned destination of Paddy’s Market just round the corner, where we were able to stock up on notebooks and back-up chargers.
By the late afternoon, just as the jet lag kicked in with its sleeping sickness feel, we decided to walk to Darling Harbour for some air and a coffee. That ticked, we stopped off at the local Chinatown supermarket on the way home to buy victuals. We came away with frozen seafood dumplings, something in the reduced price section called bitter melon, and a quarter of ripe watermelon. Back to the apartment we discussed our media strategy and put the finishing touches to a new webpage to promote the project.
If you have any great bitter melon recipes, please let me know. Tomorrow (fingers crossed for a good sleep and feeling in Australia time by the morning) will be a day hard at work on the paper, and emailing literature professionals in Sydney and Melbourne … Whilst I’ve been writing this, dramatic thunder cracks have ricocheted through the air. Torrential tropical rain has torn through Sydney.