Australia Part One Sydney

In nineteen-ninety a film called “Quigley Down Under” was released starring Tom Selleck. I received a little bit of ribbing about it, mainly due to the fact I think that was the first time my name had been used in anything relating to the arts. I must state now however that I have never watched the film. This possibly highlights my lack of ability to watch them, as I could not even motivate myself to see one that had my surname in its title. But as remakes are now very fashionable out in Hollywood I decided this year I would create my own version.

Neil Quigley is ready for Australia
Neil Quigley is ready for Australia

I have some family who live in Sydney and have done so now for a long time. I have seen them at various times over the years, when they had been visiting England. For their last couple of visits I had been saying to them that I would like to go and experience Australia for myself, making the trip to see them for a change. The plans just kind of fell in to place for me to be able to achieve this aim recently. It worked out that I had a couple of free weeks available during the football winter break, so I booked the trip last November.

I will be honest I found the thought of being on a plane for just under twenty-four hours pretty daunting. My previous longest flight had been a mere twelve hours and this journey would be nearly double that. But if you want to go and explore the other side of the world it is what you have to do. I arrived at Heathrow Terminal Five nice and early for my British Airways flight. I checked in, cleared security, had dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant there and then got a pint in. I do not normally drink before flying but I hoped that one might help me get some sleep on the plane.

Having got myself psyched up to spend a whole day in the sky I took my seat on the air craft. Just as we had made are way to the runway and were about to take off, sadly someone was taken ill and we had to return to the gate. Thankfully they were fine and were met by the medical staff. However it did mean the flight was delayed by around two hours, which did mean I had an extra one hundred and twenty minutes on the plane on top of what was already quite a long stint. There was a stop-over in Singapore to refuel the plane. Then it was back on board for the remaining seven and an half hours to Sydney.

I did manage to get some sleep during the journey. I also watched a couple episodes of Fawlty Towers, Friends, Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory. As I was literally a captive audience I did unusually for me actually see a film. I watched the new Judy Garland biopic called simply “Judy”. The movie itself was pretty average it did not really have much of a story line or tell me anything I did not already know. But Renee Zellweger was sensational in the title role, portraying the icon perfectly. I can totally see why she won the Best Actress Oscar for this role, she was fantastic!

I landed in Sydney, Australia at seven o’clock in the morning, only an hour later than planned in the end. My dad’s cousin Phil very kindly met me at the airport. It was great to see a familiar and friendly face after travelling all that way. We hopped straight on the train and in to the heart of the city. Within an hour of arriving I found myself in a coffee shop between the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
They both look so distinctive. It is an almost magical view. What an entrance to a place from the water. The first thing you see when you sail in on one of the many huge Cruise Liners that seem to dock at the port daily.

Sydney

I had a bit of a look inside the legendary music venue. We then had a walk around the Quay area before we went back to Phil’s place, so I could get rid of my luggage and settle into his home, where he and his wife Jenny were very kindly letting me stay while I was in town. They live in a suburb about forty five minutes outside of Sydney. It is in a lovely area.

He took me out for lunch at a local members club, he belonged to. There I had my first taste of some real Australian beer and food. Both of which were excellent. I must at this point concede that the weather was not what I was hoping for. I had been looking for some winter sun and normally this would be a safe bet. But I had arrived during four days of forecast heavy rain.

Sydney

On the way back from lunch he took me for a drive around a totally breath taking gorge. The sights were amazing. Mother Nature is quite simply astonishing sometimes. One of things it took me time to get my head around is that some of the Australian trees not only shred their leaves but shed their bark, which of course is something I have now discovered was also fuelling the bush fires.

When we got back “home” another surprise was waiting for me. The wild birds are amazing there, the colours are spectacular. My favourites were the Rainbow Lorikeets but I also saw Cockatoo’s roaming free. Also a Bush Turkey was a regular visitor in the garden.

Sydney

After a great night’s sleep in the guest suite it was time for my first full day of exploring. Sadly the weather was wetter than it had been the day before. But undeterred Phil had a fantastic day for me lined up. We got the bus into Sydney in the morning. Firstly he took me to see some of the many Quays, then for a walk around a coastal area called Barangaroo. This led us past one of the oldest existing houses in the city to the Ferry Wharf. He was taking me across the water to see a place called Manly Beach. Sadly it was not a day for sunbathing but the promise of a nice pub lunch overlooking the harbour there sounded very appealing to me still.

I am not saying it was a bit of a rough crossing but I am sure the boat was almost sideways at some points. You do get to sail out and then back in between the Harbour Bridge and The Opera House though, which is quite something. It is a very pleasant forty-minute journey. On arrival we made our way to said pub. I sampled yet another local beer which was again lovely. As I was keen to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible I had an Australian Burger for dinner. As far as I can tell that is basically a normal burger with some beetroot thrown in.

Sydney

After lunch we did have a walk to Manly Beach, which looked great. But owing to the fact it was still hammering it down with rain I did decide not to go in for a paddle in the sea. We got the ferry back to Sydney Harbour before getting the train back “home”. We had a nice relaxing evening chatting over dinner with a few glasses of wine and a couple of glasses of a very nice port just to round things off.

We also watched a bit of A-League football on the television. Phil is a season ticket holder with Sydney FC. He had managed to get me a ticket to the Sydney derby that weekend, although due to the rain the game was under threat.

Manly Beach

As it turned out while I was over Phil’s son David and his wife Helen were throwing a first birthday party for their son. I had seen David a few times over the years. When we were kids we played football one afternoon in England. That turned in to a match between Quigley’s and the rest of the world. I am pretty sure we won. The last time I had seen him was when he visited the UK after the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

He and his wife very generously let me gate crash the do. They have a lovely house on the outskirts of Sydney. It was a morning affair. As a result of which I ended up drinking a few glasses of Prosecco from ten-thirty on a Saturday morning, which I think is a great way to kick start the weekend. I blame David and Helen’s friend Debs who was I must say very good at keeping people’s glasses topped up. All their friends chipped in to help out with everything. That was great to see and shows what a wonderful group of people they all are.

It was nice to catch up with the whole Australian family in one go. I managed to see Phil’s daughter Stephanie and her husband Michael both of whom I had met before. Like David and Helen they also have two children of similar ages, it was lovely to see all the generations of cousins getting along so well. I was also able to meet some of Jenny’s family to, which was really nice. In fact everybody there was so friendly and easy to chat to. It was a lovely party with some very nice birthday cake, which tasted great despite the birthday boy literally putting his foot in it.

Sydney Familiy

It was while we were at the party that we found out that the Sydney Derby had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. It had not stopped raining since I set foot in Australia. It was a real shame as I was looking forward to sampling my first taste of A-League action. It would have been great to go to the football with Phil. To make up for it he took me on a bit of a sports stadium adventure.

We went to the Olympic Stadium the ANZ Stadium. While I was there I got to see the flame from the 2000 Sydney Games. We also looked at the list of the volunteers who helped out with the games which did include a familiar name on there. On the way back to his place we stopped off to have a look at the new stadium for the other Sydney team Western Sydney. That night we went out to a local pub for a great meal, I had the world’s largest pizza and sampled a few more of the local ales. That once again did not disappoint, they tasted great.

Sydney

As I woke up on my fourth day in Sydney the city was expecting its worse storms since nineteen ninety-eight. Therefore we decided it was the perfect day to visit the legendary Bondi Beach. Before we even left the house a large part of a tree had blown down and fallen in to the garden. The rain was also the heaviest it had been all week.

I had really wanted to go to Bondi and in my head before I made the trip I imagined a bit of sun bathing on the beach then some mocked up pictures of me surfing. However what I got was some pictures of me in the car park overlooking the beach, while the rain continued to fall.

Bondi Beach

Sensibly we then decided the best plan of action for a day like this was to find a pub in which to have a few drinks and some food. Just across the road from the beach was the Bondi Beach Bar. We spent a couple hours in there having a beer or two and a nice meal. I was off to the Gold Coast the next day.

My flight was early in the morning so I had booked a cheap hotel at the airport for the night. On the way to my accommodation Jenny gave me a bit of a tour around the coastal areas and showed me some buildings that featured in her past. Even in the rain some of the views were stunning.

Bondi Beach Bar

They dropped me at the hotel the rain still lashing down and the wind blowing. I checked in and went up to my room. I was watching a bit of television and wondering what to do for the evening when all the power went off. It had just got dark and there was not much to do with no electricity, so I just went to bed.

The power came back on at about eleven thirty. I know this, as I had left the TV and the lights on so they all sprang back in to life. I was up early to catch a flight to the Gold Coast for the next stage of my Australian adventure.

Part Two coming soon……….

Entertainment Mask

The longest month of the year is now over. Although it has the same amount of days as March, May, July, August, October and December. January does always seem to drag a little bit. It may be as a result of a post festive season lull, the fact that it still gets dark pretty early or because a lot of people are on health or fitness drives during it. If you are not drinking alcohol or eating meat that could make the days go by more slowly, I guess. I have by my standards had a fairly low key start to 2020.

I did manage to complete my own mini health challenge. I succeeded in going the whole month without eating any bread, cheese or crisps. As part of this I did step up my daily exercise routine slightly, adding in a few extra routines and extending the time of some sessions. This sacrifice did not make any massive difference to how I felt or looked. But I have toned up a little bit, which was the plan and my reason for doing it. I am really looking forward to a cheese and crisp sandwich.

My plan to only drink on nights out that were already booked in my diary did not go quite as well. I think I ended up having at least one alcoholic drink on five more occasions than I was planning to during the month. In my defence, if you cannot enjoy an impromptu drink with some friends, what is the world coming to? I never said I was doing dry January. It was always going to be more of a damp one. Normal service will now be resumed for the rest of the year.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I got a lovely mention on the Early Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 recently. Nicki Chapman was sitting in for Vanessa Feltz at fairly late notice. It just happened to be her birthday. She was asking for weird ways people had spent their special day in the past. Many years ago when I was working at Ivel fm in Yeovil I ended up doing a gig with the Drifters on my birthday. It was for a Christmas Party Night at The Westlands Leisure Complex. The guests had a sit down three course meal. I was the DJ for the evening and the Drifters were the group.

BBC Radio
BBC Radio

Therefore I spent most of the evening hanging out backstage with the band. I went on first and did half an hour or so to get the crowd warmed up. I then got to introduce the legends on to the stage. They were as you would imagine brilliant. I had a wonderful time watching them from the wings. They did all their big hits, naturally. When their set was over I came back on and finished the night off, so technically I headlined for The Drifters.

It was a great way to spend my birthday, it was great fun! Anyway that is the story I sent her, which she then read out. I have been on the radio myself for years but I will be honest I still get a huge thrill from hearing my name read out on air. It was nice to at last make my Radio 2 debut as well. I will forgive you if you missed it as it was on the wireless just after five o’clock in the morning. It does just go to show though you never know where I am going to pop up next.

Sarah Parish started the Neil Quigley Fan Club

For my birthday this year my sister bought me a ticket to see Frank Skinner. I love comedy and like a lot of comedians but he is still my favourite. The ticket was to see his latest tour show, which is on in the West End for a limited time at The Garrick Theatre. I went to see it the other Friday. Fair play to my sister as the seat she had got me was on the second row. Therefore I had a brilliant view of the great man but was also perfectly safe as he only normally chats to those in the front row.

Waiting for Frank Skinner

It was a classic London theatre trip for me. I got there nice and early to get to the bar before there is a queue. I ordered a pre-show glass of wine and the same again ready for the interval. I can never see the point of waiting to buy a drink during the break, when it can already be poured and waiting for you. Feeling refreshed and slightly giddy I took my seat. He had a warm up act with him, who I must confess I had not heard of before. He was called Pierre Novellie and came on and did around twenty minutes, He was really good, as you would expect anybody supporting the “Don” for an entire tour would be.

Then before the main attraction we had the interval. I politely went past all of the people queuing at the bar to collect my glass of wine from the side, before returning to my seat ready for Frank Sinner. One thing I will say about his audience is that he clearly attracts a nice mixture of polite and friendly people to his gigs. That is a bit surprising bearing in mind some of the topics he covers on stage. Needless to say he was hilarious from start to finish. My jaws were aching from laughing so much by the end. He is so quick and razor sharp, great to see a full show of his live for the first time. I had a totally brilliant evening.

Frank Skinner

It was all very last minute but I ended up going to see one of the BGT Audition sessions at The London Palladium. I got a decent place to watch the proceedings from. There is quite a bit of waiting around before the warm up man Stuart Holden appears and gets the crowd ready for what is ahead. Then the atmosphere is ramped up when the show’s hosts’ Ant & Dec are introduced coming on to Let’s Get Ready to Rumble. They have a quick chat on stage. It is really the only time you see them as of course during the auditions they are mainly back stage interviewing all the acts’ before and after their performances.

BGT

The judges then arrive. Simon Cowell gets on the microphone and addresses the audience. Then they get started. It is a bit strange as all the acts just randomly wonder on to the stage. The judges then chat to them before they do their thing. Obviously I do not want to give away any spoilers, but needless to say there were the normal combination of great and terrible acts, as well as a smattering of interesting back stories. All pretty classic reality television show stuff.

BGT

It was good to see Floor Manager supreme Alan Conley running things. As a rule he seems to work on all the biggest programmes in the country. He always seems to be jolly with a big smile on his face. That is quite an achievement in itself with the conditions in which he is working. Next time you watch a high profile programme look out for the titles at the end. There is a decent chance that you will see his name there. Also if you think his surname is familiar his brother is Brian Conley.

I do not view myself as a harsh or even tough person but I do always seem to agree with Simon Cowell when he is commenting on all the acts. This was again totally the case on this occasion to. Even more worryingly on the afternoon I was there we were both pretty much wearing exactly the same outfit. I have no idea when the latest series of BGT goes out but it is only fair to warn you to keep an eye out for my face, just in case it appears on screen, apologies in advance.

Blues Brothers
Neil Quigley

While we are on the subject of crazy television shows I am still a fan of The Masked Singer. It is totally mad I will grant you that, not much of it really makes any sense but I am desperate to know who all the people in the costumes are. I have not guessed any of them correctly as yet. But I am taking great comfort in the fact that I am at least a lot closer than Ken Jeong. I must watch the American version as if you go by his guesses the line-up and quality of stars they get must be amazing.

I think I might have worked out who the Fox is but then half the UK also seems to have cracked that one. It has to be Denise Van Outen right? I still think the more clues they give you about each person actually make it harder not easier. It does appear to be the only thing Rylan is not in at the moment unless he is in one of the outfits. (I am just joking, I like him, he is ace!). The only thing about it though is I really do not care who wins it, I just want to know everybody who entered it. And also who makes the costumes in case I get invited to any really good fancy dress parties this year.

Sun Studio
Unmasked Singer

For her Christmas present my sister wanted to go and see Sandi Toksvig perform her current live tour show. Therefore I took her to the Wycombe Swan last Thursday to watch “National Trevor” Both my sister and I first became aware of Sandi when she presented the ITV Saturday morning children’s programme No 73. Therefore we have known of her for a long time. She is now of course the host of QI. I have been to a couple of the recordings of it and she is fantastic.

Her stage show is a mixture of comedy, great stories, amazing facts and audience interaction. It is of course excellently and intelligently put together. She has such a lovely way of talking to you, which is inclusive and friendly. But she can still be quite cutting when she needs to be, years on the comedy circuit around the world will do that to you. The show does give you a good insight into her life and also how technology and our lives have developed over the years. Not always for the better.

It is a funny show with plenty of laughs. It is expertly crafted and put together. You leave feeling like you could sit down with her and have a really good chat over a cup of tea. It is also a positive and uplifting performance. You will not believe some of the titles of books that she has in her collection. They are hilarious! It is educational as I said earlier, she gives out lots of facts. This is a good one I think, out of all the people that have ever lived 95% of them are dead. We are in the exclusive 5% of people actually alive at the minute. This I believe is a good inspiration to live life to the full and enjoy every single minute. We really are only on this planet for a very brief amount of time.

Sandi Toksvig

Tottenham Hotspur’s season continues to flatter to deceive. Every time it looks like we have turned a corner the next game makes me think otherwise. Somehow there are lots of teams around us in the league with similar issues. We are still sixth, six points behind fourth place and that coveted Champions League spot. That it would seem we still have an outside chance of claiming. That seemed a ridiculous notion a few weeks ago. I will however be at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to see us play Manchester City tomorrow, which obviously will not be an easy match. It would be great to win it though.

We are still in the FA Cup just, after drawing away at Southampton. The replay is this coming week. It would be great to keep the season alive with an extended cup run. It will be a tough one. But if we can win it would be nice being able to dream of Wembley at least for a few more weeks. I think we are overdue a win in the competition. I am not saying it was a long time ago but I was only fourteen when we last won it!

Neil Quigley with FA Cup
Neil Quigley with FA Cup

In other big Spurs related news we have an actual brewery at the ground (insert your own jokes). It is owned by the local beer maker Beavertown. Their beer is already served there of course. But in the last couple of weeks they have launched a new exclusive Tottenham Hotspur beer created solely for the club. It is called “One Of Our Own”. I have sampled it and I can confirm it is a decent pint. I am sure I will enjoy some more of it between now and the end of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur Beer

Have fun and we will catch up again in a few weeks. Cheers Neil.