Here’s booking with you, kid

Yasmine and her meimei (nanny) Litiana.
FIJI’S air is humid and temperatures a good 20 degrees higher than the home I left five hours ago and I’m ferreting through a daypack for passports, five-month-old Yasmine on the arm. I plonk her on a nearby desk for a hands-free moment.

“Madam!” barks an official-sounding woman. “You need Special Attention!”

She claps her hands and, like a summoned genie, a young
man appears at my side, grabs our passports and runs past the queue of two planeloads of newly arrived Australian holidaymakers. Within minutes, we are bustled through customs, our luggage retrieved, the driver has collected us and we are bundled up in a cool van, turned towards the southern Coral Coast and our resort.

It is the ultimate queue-jump and a delicious taste of travelling in Fiji with a baby. The omens are good.

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Luke, Luke, Luke. It’s all about you. Even before you waltzed up to my table last night in the new Hilton on the Gold Coast, in your chef’s whites advertising airlines and restaurants, it was all about you.

I thoroughly enjoyed (and how often can you say this of cheap airline food) the tortilla with roast beef, vintage cheese and mesclun leaves as we flew up from Melbourne to the Gold Coast. There was the branding: Food by Luke Mangan. It was a deliciously far cry from your beef pie I ate with the same airline enroute to Fiji recently. Luke, leave rustic alone, please. It was so rustic, it comprised three enormous chunks of cow, so big that the wibbly plastic airline knife had no impact on it, leaving a plane of diners chewing like the animal they were consuming.

Then, last night, as we tossed over the difference between striploin, fillet and tenderloin, you schmoozed the room, smiling and shaking hands like the best-trained celebrity chef. Your name was on every plate that was laid on our table (and let me admit, there were many plates laid on our table).

Oh, how we ate. We ate the kingfish sashimi, with the most divine crust of ginger, eschallot and Persian feta. We at chargrilled quail on shredded zuchinni studded with pine nuts and currants. We at the tenderloin, we at the striploin. God help us, we went back for desert: chocolate three ways (which does sound a bit pervy) and a strip of sunshine-orange cheesecake. 

I need to lie down. I need to run a marathon, or whatever the people of the Gold Coast do each morning. I need restraint, I need to avoid you, Luke. 

Melbourne turns pink for Queen

The crowd in front of Flinders St Station

Today, I put my republican hat aside and went to visit the Queen. Well, technically, that’s not true. She came to visit me.

She was due at Fed Square at 12.15, and, being the queen and all, you’d expect her to be on time. Not so. Even though she had just four hours in the city before nicking off to Perth, she dallied and the crowd spent an hour mooching around the intersection in front of Flinders St Station. It was curiously silent as everyone waited to catch a glimpse of Liz II.

The crowd around me was mostly Chinese tourists and office workers who’d stepped out to do something different in their lunchhour.

Melbourne turned on the sunshine, so all the whiteys turned a gentle pink by the time she turned up. Me, I blame Melbourne trams. They never can run on time. Not even for the queen. If you weren’t aware, the Queen was travelling one leg on a new Royal Tram (or its decoy), complete with the usual vomitous-green seat upholstery that really should be burned.

I can confidently report that the Queen is On Trend. Her shocking pink ensemble was the dictionary definition of colour blocking, which is of course so hot right now. She certainly was the brightest note in a sea of Melbourne black, matching beautifully the newly sunburnt bald heads around me.

“I just saw her!” shrieked a British office worker behind me. “I saw someone wearing pink!” The crowd got collective whiplash following her pointing finger.

We watched as car after car was laden with flowers and teddy bears, then realised we were on the wrong side of the intersection, though nobody really knew quite where she was going to appear. She could have dropped in from the helicopters circling above, for all we knew.

The Queen did pay for her tram ride (with a pre-paid card, so she didn’t have to buggerise around looking for coins). Obviously she’s heard about the crackdown on fare evaders. The question of the day is: was the crowd bigger than the crowd that
turned out to greet the two rival football teams in the grand final a
few weeks ago?

The running joke of this royal visit is that the Queen didn’t feel the need to visit Sydney: there are enough queens there already.

More icing on the cake: Daylesford

Australia’s premier spa town just keeps getting better – and tastier. Discovers what’s new in Daylesford. 

“PLEASE, no mobile phones,” requests the Lake House’s restaurant
menu. And, “Please, no thongs.” Oh, only because you ask so nicely, I
won’t wear my thongs into your two-hatted restaurant for the first
showing of its spring table.

They like to keep themselves nice in Daylesford.

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