Next morning I was Sydney bound. I woke at 6:30am and got a taxi to the airport. Qantas being crap no longer fazed me. This was my fourth flight and I decided to just go with the flow. I was due to give a presentation at Westmead Hospital to clinical microbiologists and public health doctors in the afternoon. I was seriously considering cancelling or postponing. But I decided that would be unfair to my hosts and just slightly lame. So the plan was to get it done and get back to my death-bed ASAP.
Westmead was about 45 minutes by train from the airport. I arrived at the hospital and realised how appalling I looked. Unshaven, stinky, dirty sporting death eye-rings. I made several trips between hospital shop and the gents, feeling like an alcoholic surgeon trying to get ready for a morning operating list after a heavy evening. Westmead Hospital is similar to many British hospitals built in the 70s – all concrete with no natural light.
After some time I managed to get myself looking half-way decent and even got my sweat patches under control. I popped another Panadol and went for lunch with my host Vitali, a microbiology consultant. We had a decent Thai meal and chatted about high-throughput sequencing applied to clinical microbiology.
Then it was time to look around their impressive clinical diagnostics lab. Then presentation time. I had 30 minutes this time, so I took my time and think I was clear if a bit more downbeat. The Ashes joke didn’t go down quite as well in this more austere atmosphere. But I good interest in the talk with 30 minutes of questions afterwards which was gratifying.
I was staying in Potts Point described as a leafy, well-to-do neighbourhood in upper Sydney. What they didn’t mention is that Potts Point borders the notorious Kings Cross district. Checking in to the Quest apartments the super-chatty receptionist said “don’t worry, it’s not like Kings Cross in London”. Presumably she meant because the London version is a lot classier. A mix of backpackers digs, kebab shops and nudie bars gave the area a grungey, Soho-like feel. Walking North into Potts Points properly it does get much more chi-chi. I killed the cockroach that crawled out of the kitchenette onto the carpet and decided to go out for dinner.
I had some restaurant recommendations from Chowhound and really fancied a decent bowl of pasta. The queue at Brothers Fratelli was long and unmoving so I settled for Lotus Bistro next door. The staff were off-hand and forgot about me for ages whilst I nursed a beer in the bar that I didn’t want. The clientele were seriously trendy, with suits sharp enough to take your face off. I overheard a particularly odious conversation – “I’m going to have a Gin and Tonic. Made with Hendrick’s Gin. Have you had Hendrick’s Gin? Hendrick’s Gin is better than other gins. I don’t have lemon with Hendrick’s gin because it bruises it.” This sort of brand-conscious behaviour made me laugh. Everyone knows Gordon’s make the best gin!
I didn’t really want to be in this place but I was so hungry it didn’t seem like an option to try my luck elsewhere. I was eventually seated and ordered a steak. Typical of Australian food there is a fusion theme. My “Scotch” fillet was served with sauteed greens, roast garlic, corn and wasabi butter. It was actually pretty good. But it would have been better if they’d served it plain with fries. Next to me were two Qantas air-stewardesses discussing their failed relationships and broken dreams. They talked about the life of a long-haul stewardess, it sounded utterly depressing. Who would volunteer for that level of sleep deprivation, periodically punctuated by terrible drink-soaked nights with philandering captains?
Mentally I was totally broken. I decided to spend as long as I needed in bed from that point on until I felt well again.