Australia Part Three Melbourne

This time at the airport I decided to just have a light breakfast not wanting to make the same mistake as my previous flight. However for this trip my ticket did not include any food, so I had to splash out and buy my own cup of tea. The journey was also delayed slightly we were due to land at one thirty but did not arrive until after two. I had only a short amount of time in Melbourne as it was, so losing an hour was a bit annoying.

I have no idea why this is but my bag always seems to be pretty much the last one off the plane. Therefore by the time I had got my airport transfer I did not arrive at my hotel until just after four. There were a few people I actually knew in the City. The first of these was a bloke I used to work with at Wembley Stadium called Michael Cornell. He is now the owner of his own tour company in Melbourne. He met me at my hotel as soon as I had arrived and took me on a two hour walking tour around the place.

Neil Quigley and Michael Cornell

The sun was out and it was a lovely afternoon. Melbourne is a pretty vibrant and multicultural city. It has lots of high rise buildings and a fairly compact central area. We managed to do pretty much a circuit of the entire place.

Like London they have an area alongside the river known as the South Bank with lots of shops, restaurants and bars. It has a really fun feel to it. He also took me past the famous Flinders Street Station, along one of the mural filled side streets and pointed out all of the key buildings to me.

Melbourne

He then had to go and do a few bits and pieces and as it happened I was meeting someone else I knew from London for dinner. They met me outside my hotel which was the lovely The Savoy Hotel. We then walked down to the South Bank and found a nice restaurant there. In the evenings they pump music along the river which creates a great atmosphere as you stroll around. I had an excellent meal. The place we went to only used local produce so it was a pretty traditional dish that I enjoyed there.

After dinner we went for a little walk so I could take a few pictures of the City lit up for an evening. We then found this great floating bar on the river where I sampled some more of the local Australian beers. My dinner friend had to leave but Michael met us in the pub and me and him stayed on board for another beer. He then took me on a bit of a mini pub crawl through some of the bars he knew. Like all big cities there were plenty of options and I could only sample a very small cross section of them sadly.

Neil Quigley

I must confess I was happy to keep most of my Australian adventure nice and loose and generally just go with the flow. But there was one tour that I booked before I left England. When I was a child the show that used to mark the end of kids television and the start of the more grown up programmes was a Soap Opera called Neighbours.

I used to watch it every week night. At that time it featured Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce, Craig McLachlan, Anne Charleston and Stefan Dennis amongst many others of course. I once interviewed one of those stars when I was at Ivel fm in Yeovil. Sadly for me it was not Kylie Minogue but the lovely Anne Charleston who was great.

Ramsay Street

Now I have not really watched Neighbours since I was about fifteen, which I think it is fair to say was a long time ago. However I do have fond memories of Ramsay Street as I was growing up, so I thought it would be rude not to visit it. They run an official Neighbours Tour, so I secured my place on it before I had even packed for my holiday. It just felt like something that I had to do. It is always good fun looking around television studios and sets, I think. On my way to the tour I found an amazing cafe for breakfast. The menu was excellent and I had the Eggs Benedict on Sour Dough, which set me up very nicely for the day.

I met the branded Neighbours Tour Bus and our guide Kellie in the centre of Melbourne. There were about twenty of us on it in total. We then headed out on the forty minute drive to the studios. On the way Kellie was telling us a few fun facts about the show. She also dropped the bombshell that sometimes there is a meet and greet with a cast member depending on the filming schedules. As we were nearing our first destination we were treated to a selection of songs from former stars of the programme. Who had gone on to have music careers, to be fair there have been quite a lot of them over the years.

We then arrived at the complex, cleared security and got our very first taste of being around one of the world’s longest running series. We leapt out of the bus and had our picture taken with the welcome to Erinsborough sign. Next up the Tour has its own special area at the studio where there are various exhibits and photo opportunities, not to mention tea and biscuits. It was while we were here that we found out that we were getting a meet and greet. As one of the cast was very kindly giving up part of their lunch break to see us, which I thought was an extremely nice thing for them to do.

Neil Quigley

We were just tucking in to our tea and biscuits when the assistant production manager arrived with Olivia Junkeer who plays Yashvi Rebecchi in the show. She was fantastic, really smiley and fun and happy to pose for a picture with everybody. We also got the chance to ask her some questions about her career and what it was like as an actor in Neighbours. I did of course get a few questions in myself but I was a bit worried about it turning in to an interview, so I did in the end back off a little bit and give some other people a go.

She then had to dash off to finish her dinner and return to set. They do work them quite hard and are pretty strict on filming schedules. It was really lovely to meet her and you never know she could be the next Margot Robbie.

Neil Quigley and Olivia Junkeer

Sadly because they were doing a lot of interior filming we were not able to have a look around the sets. We did however get to see all the outside locations that they have at the studio complex including Lassiters, Harold’s Cafe, The Waterhole and Back Packers, as well as Paul Robinson’s and Dr Karl Kennedy’s back yard’s.

I also got to have a picture taken in Sonya’s Nursery. This section brought to a close the studio side of the tour. We all climbed back in to the bus and headed off to a road called Pinoak Court or to give it the TV name it is better known as Ramsay Street.

Neil Quigley

We turned into a fairly nondescript Australian suburbian estate until a recognisable little Cul-de-sac suddenly appeared on our left. As we parked up I could see all the fronts of the houses that I had seen the stars of Neighbours go in and out of as I was a young child watching at home in England. It was quite weird just walking around Ramsay Street.

It does attract a lot of visitors so they have a full time security guard stationed there. People do actually live in the houses so you are told to stay out of their way and of course not to trespass on their property. I did get to have my picture taken with the Ramsay Street sign outside one of those famous buildings. That was possibly the highlight of the whole tour for me.

Neil Quigley

As we were driven back to where we started in Melbourne we were given old call sheets to look at, to see the filming schedules and some of the directions for the actors. Then we were shown a DVD made to mark the show’s 30th Anniversary, although this year it is thirty-five years since Neighbours first appeared on our television screens.

It was a fun thing to do and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I am glad I did it. I was met off the bus my Michael as he had arranged for me to do another tour that I also wanted to do if possible while I was there.

Melbourne

We hopped on the Tram to take us a little closer to where we needed to be. As we had to be at the place for a set time and my Neighbours experience had overran slightly. We then got off the public transport and walked the rest of the way. As a big sports fan while I was in Melbourne I had to look around the MCG. We arrived there in time to go on the last guided tour of the day.

It is a wonderful stadium. It holds one hundred thousand people. That makes it bigger than any venues we have in the United Kingdom. It is mainly used for Australian Rules Football. Those are the matches that attract the biggest crowds. Cricket is also played there fairly often. The Australian soccer team have also played some of their World Cup Qualifiers there in the past.

Neil Quigley

The tour was great. We got to see all the different stands, including the corporate areas and their Long Room. We also saw the changing rooms and the press conference room. It has a lot of sporting history attached to it and was the main stadium when Melbourne hosted the Olympics.

The tour finishes in the Cricket museum that they have there. I would have liked to watch a game of something there, but maybe I will get chance to do that in the future.

Neil Quigley

Next to the MCG is the home of the Australian Open Tennis Finals The Rod Laver Arena. Well that is the main court there are also quite a few other courts that are used. Thanks to Michael I managed to get on one of the outside courts that is used as a practice court before the tournament starts. It would have been rude not to get a cheeky picture there, so I did. I actually fancied a game at that point but rain again stopped play.

All the sports stadiums are nearby each other. I also saw the outside of the Melbourne City FC Stadium. Then at the airport the next day I actually saw a few of the Melbourne Victory players.

Neil Quigley

I said goodbye to Michael and thanked him for showing me around. He is actually moving back to England shortly so I will be able to see him again pretty soon. I made my way back to the hotel to change my clothes before heading out for dinner. I had completely forgotten it was Valentine’s Day so when I arrived at the South Bank for food it was a lot harder finding a table at one of the restaurants than I had thought it would be. However eventually I did actually find one that had a table for one.

First I ordered another local beer which was great. All through this trip I had been trying to eat different things and have native dishes for a lot of my meals. On the menu I saw what was described as a whole Barramundi, which was curried, cooked in banana leafs and served with rice. I figured it must be a fish dish, so I thought I would give it a try. When it appears it literally is the whole fish including the eyes staring at me. The waitress puts the plate down and then says to me I will just get you a dish for the bones, I just smiled like I was expecting this without trying to look too confused.

I had never had a fish served complete in this way before. I carefully picked my way through it trying not to choke on any bones. When I got half way through I managed to lift out the head and most of its skeleton, which I was strangely proud about. Anyway I managed to eat it without dying which I suspect you have already worked out. It tasted really good, although it was hard work. I think I might I have used more calories eating it than I gained from consuming it.

Neil Quigley

After dinner I found another bar similar to the previous night that was on the waterfront. I got a beer and found a table facing the river. I had a table of four all to myself so this group of three ladies and a guy came over and asked if they could join me. I of course said yes.

They were all mates who were single on an anti-valentines night out. I had a good laugh with them and they very kindly bought me a drink, which was really nice of them. I had a really early alarm call for my flight back to Sydney the next morning, so I said goodbye to my new friends and walked back to the hotel.

Neil Quigley

I had a quick drink in the hotel bar and then headed off to bed. I was being picked up at four o’clock in the morning so I had a relatively sensible early night.

This did mean that I could not party as much as I would have liked to in Melbourne, which is a shame as it seemed like a fun place to hang out at night. I was up in plenty of time to grab a shower and check out before the car arrived to take me back to the airport for the next leg of my journey.

Neil Quigley

Part Four coming soon…………

Australia Part Two Gold Coast

I had an early flight booked from Sydney Airport to the Gold Coast. As previously mentioned I was staying at a hotel next door but even still the 5am alarm was a bit of a shock to the system, despite the power cut enforced super early night, the night before. While I was waiting to board I got myself quite a decent sized breakfast from a cafe in the departure lounge. Mainly because I wanted to try the breakfast pie they did there.

All my flights and connections had been booked for me by the travel person I use. I was flying with Jet 2 and unbeknown to me my ticket on this flight included a cup of tea and three large sandwiches. That I ate out of politeness even though I was already full up from the food that I had purchased earlier. I have got a real thing about wasting any food at all.

It was only a short journey with a flight time of around one hour and twenty minutes. Although as they actually use a different time zone up there currently it is one hour behind Sydney, so local time wise I landed twenty five minutes after we had taken off. The reason that I wanted to visit the Gold Coast is because I was desperate to stay at a specific hotel.

Palazzo Versace

I am a massive fan of the ITV 1 television programme I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. I have watched every single series from start to finish. Over the years I have been lucky enough to meet a large number of former contestants and winners from it. All of whom have spoken very highly about the whole experience.

When their time in the jungle comes to an end they are then sent to a very nice hotel where they stay until the show has finished. And the King or Queen has been crowned. When I decided to make the long trip to Australia I also decided that I to had too stay at this particular hotel.

It does feature quite heavily in the show as people get voted out. You always see them arriving in the driveway and then being welcomed in to the reception area. They do also normally show you inside their room and do some other filming in and around the facility.

Therefore I have seen this hotel in all its glory on television many times over the years and always thought that it looked amazing! It is called the “Palazzo Versace”. It is a Five Star hotel and is quite simply stunning. I was staying there for the entire three nights of my Gold Coast experience. I must confess I was possibly way more excited than I should have been about that situation.

Palazzo Versace

When my taxi arrived the entrance looked so familiar having seen it on screen hundreds of times previously. It does look pretty stylish from the front. The circular driveway where the celebrities’ people carriers arrive and drop them off actually looks smaller in real life than it does on TV.

I did have to take a moment to admire the outside of the building before I walked in through those famous glass doors. I then found myself standing right in the middle of that spectacular reception where the friends and family greet the newly arriving ex camp mates.

Neil Quigley

The area is beautifully decorated. One of the main features is a huge Chrystal Chandelier which along with the mosaic on the floor takes centre stage. While I was waiting to be booked in to my room I had a look around the pool area, while working out where I had seen a few bits filmed over the years on “I’m A Celebrity”.

Once I was checked in I made my way to my room on the second floor tracing the steps of a whole host of former contestants. In case you are wondering yes I did open the door and throw myself straight on to the bed.

Palazzo Versace

The rooms in general and the bathrooms in particular do follow the Italian and Roman theme of the hotel. While I was on this trip I read Elton John’s book, he was friends with Gianni Versace. He mentions him, giving the impression he was a very elaborate and flamboyant man.

I do feel this trait really comes across within the hotel and the individual rooms. It does feel like a special place to stay. It also has a classy and yet relaxing feel to it.

Palazzo Versace

The hotel is situated at the top of the Gold Coast, so it is a fair way from the main towns of the area. Right next door however there is a small shopping centre which does have a McDonald’s. A little further down the road there is a Marina with a few restaurants and bars.

I initially found a cafe overlooking the water that I ended up using for my breakfast every day. They had a decent variety of food options. In fact one morning I had a healthy spinach based shake alongside a waffle, syrup, bacon and banana dish, which was lovely. And I think you will find the two combined made for a very balanced start to the day. Life is all about moderation!

Neil Quigley

During my first afternoon on the Gold Coast for the first time since I had arrived in Australia the sun had come out. I took full advantage of this by firstly having a nice long walk down the beach including a bit of a paddle in the sea. Then I returned to the hotel for some sun bathing by the pool.

They have a beach area built there with sand on the side and as you go into the water. All of the sun beds are padded. It was peaceful and relaxing, finally the chance to top up my tan a bit. I stayed there almost until the sun set spending the final part of it at the outside bar having yet another wonderful locally made beer.

Neil Quigley

For my evening meal on my first night I went to the local pub at the nearby Marina. It was in the same area as the local radio station that I found. It was called Juice and I must admit I did consider popping into their studios to see if they had any jobs. As the sun had now appeared it was becoming an appealing place to live.

I had a nice meal in the pub and discovered another Aussie beer that I liked. They have the bar area and then a separate counter to order food. You then get given a buzzer which flashes and vibrates when your food is ready to collect from the service counter. This seems pretty common practice in a lot of the pubs out there as far as I could see.

Neil Quigley

Day two on the Gold Coast and the sun was out again, so after I had breakfast I was straight back to sun bathing by the pool again. Apart from staying at the hotel this part of the trip was always meant to be the chill out and relaxing bit.

As I do like feeling the sand under my feet and hearing the sound of the waves I went for another long walk along Main Beach. I felt I had to take this opportunity as this is not a thing you can really do in England in February. The “Palazzo Versace” has its own Spa on site, so I thought while I was there I would treat myself to a treatment.

Neil Quigley

I booked a session in the Sauna and Steam Room as well as a sixty minute full body massage. I arrived in good time, filled out all the relevant paper work, then did the Sauna and Steam first. As well as that facility they also had three pools you could use, a cold one to jump in and cool down in after the heat treatments. Then two more in which the temperatures were progressively warmer. I tried all three as I am someone who is always keen to get my moneys’ worth. I did all of this before the massage.

When it was time to get ready for it I went back into the changing rooms to put on the paper underwear I had been given. It was the first time I had ever used them. I must say as far as I could tell they do not do a lot to preserve your modestly, but rules are rules. I was shown in to the room, which always have the relaxing music and the scented candles. The massage was great I could really feel the knots in my back and shoulders being released. An hour of basically being beaten up by a fairly petite woman does actually go quite slowly. But I did feel nice and relaxed at the end of it though.

Palazzo Versace

After it had finished they gave me some fruit to eat and some sort of ginger shot to drink. All the Staff were lovely and friendly in the Spa, so as the weather for my final day was not meant to be too good I booked in for another Sauna session.

That evening I ate at a chain style restaurant called Hogs Steakhouse. I took the name very literal and I did have a big steak there. While I was eating my meal on the screens in there a picture of their mascot appeared, which I will be honest made me laugh. It was a big bright pink Hog, which I would argue looked a tiny bit camp strangely.

Hogster

Before I had headed out for dinner there was something in the room that I had to try out. If you are a fan of “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” you may well remember from the show that the rooms at the hotel have Spa Baths in them as they often feature in the footage as they arrive back from the Jungle. My room had one of these and in the mini bar I had clocked an half a bottle of Australian Red Wine.

I filled the bath, which did not take as long as you might think. Then I put in some bath salts, poured myself a large glass of the wine and then got in. I spent the next ninety-minutes turning the bubbles on and off as I sipped the wine. It was heavenly, such a cool and relaxing experience. I now want one at home!

Palazzo Versace

Every night I would have a drink or two in the hotel bar which kind of over looked the reception area. It was a nice way to round off the day there. I woke up for my last day to find it was tipping it down with rain. The forecast was for heavy rain and thunderstorms all day. That obviously put pay to any sun worshipping plans I had.

I spoke to one of the Concierge team for suggestions on what to do on a wet day in the area. While we are mentioning them, weirdly one of the staff does look like Dec. In fact it was him who very kindly took the picture of me standing in the middle of reception. The guy I chatted to that morning suggested I visit a massive shopping centre about a twenty minute taxi ride away.

I did go there first but I did not really want to buy anything and apart from the stores there was not much in the way of entertainment. On the way back to the hotel I decided to take the tram to somewhere that I had found earlier when I was searching on line for things to do. It was basically in my humble opinion the worst wax museum on the planet.

Neil Quigley

I knew it was bad when I decided to go there but it was still raining heavily, I had nothing to do and most importantly I thought it would be funny. I found the place and went in, fair play to the gentleman on the front desk. He really gave it the hard sell detailing the amazing historical figures I was going to see and how I could take as many photos as I wanted, stating that this would be a very memorable experience.

To be fair to him he was not wrong, from the moment I walked into the small display area I could tell it would be memorable but not in the way that he had suggested. All of the models in this place were totally horrendous. None of them were a good likeness of who they were meant to be. Often the only thing that gave away who people were supposed to be was their clothing. I had to read the cards on most of the exhibits to know who they were.

Wax museum

It is hard to explain how bad it really was. I can only presume the model maker had never set eyes on anyone that he was making. None of them were at all flattering to the celebrities that they were representing.

The worse one was the model of the American Singer and Actress Whitney Houston not only did it not look anything like her, but it did not even have the right skin colour.

Whitney Houston????

I had been given half an hour to look around but I had finished it all in about ten minutes. I really cannot explain just how bad it was I am not sure how it has the balls to claim it contains the top celebrities that it does. There is another part to this experience. As part of your entrance ticket, (yes they actually charge to witness it) you get a guided tour around their chamber of horrors section.

This features random bad models showing torture techniques through the ages in no obvious or particular date or time order. You learn very little and the whole thing just appears to go on way too long. The plus side of the visit is that I did get a few funny pictures and I managed to stay out of the heavy rain for an hour. If there is a more useless wax museum anywhere I would like to see it. The Staff are all very friendly and lovely by the way. It is worth going just to try and guess who everyone is or at least who they are meant to be.

Wax Musuem

I figured that if I was staying at such an exclusive hotel I had to eat there at least once. On the final night I booked into their flag ship restaurant Vanitas. I had a lovely table for one looking out over the pool area. It is a classically decorated room.

I decided to go for the four course meal with accompanying wine. It was very quiet and peaceful in there, before the meal had actually started the waitress delivered the most amazing Italian bread and truffle butter to the table. That was already a great start to proceedings.

Neil Quigley

I am not normally someone who takes pictures of their food but each of the dishes looked so good, I did on this occasion. The main was a sensational lamb dish, which was delicious. The wine that came with each course matched perfectly with the food. It was a very nicely paced service, so you could eat and digest everything in your own time.

The dessert was magnificent, a chocolate tart with a couple of different flavours of Italian ice-cream. It was a really good meal and the perfect way to round off my stay there. Well I say round off but before bed on my final night I may have had another quick go in the Spa Bath.

Dessert

I am glad I visited the Gold Coast and stayed at the hotel. It means I will be even more excited every year when I watch “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” as it will bring back memories of my time there every time I see it.

I had a morning flight to my next destination, so I had to say goodbye to the “Palazzo Versace” at half past seven in the morning as I was picked up right outside it and then driven off to the airport to catch a plane to Melbourne.

Palazzo Versace

Part Three coming soon……….

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.

Kick Start

I must confess I am on a little bit of a January health kick. There is no real reason for it other than it being just a small challenge to myself. I generally do eat reasonably healthily and try to keep fit and in shape, which for the record does become slightly harder every year, as you get older. The popular thing to do during the first month of the year is to have a break from alcohol, but with several fun events already in the diary. That was a non-starter.

There is seemingly a new angle this year with some people choosing not to eat any meat for a month. I fully understand the logic behind this but it did not really appeal to me. I have to admit while I often have and enjoy vegetarian meals I am happy to go on record as being a meat eater. I decided to see if simply cutting out three things that I really enjoy eating just for one month would make any difference to the way I feel and look.

I usually on a daily basis will have bread, cheese and crisps. This is a staple part of my routine lunch break during the day, every day of the week. For one month only I am trying not to have any of these items at all and also limit the amount of chocolate I eat. The way I am doing this is instead of having my standard midday meal. I have got myself some Kale, Spinach, Celery, Cucumber, Kiwi Fruit, Avocado, Banana and Coconut Water to make a green smoothie thing. That I am drinking instead of the bread, cheese and crisps.

I am doing alright currently and have so far managed to keep this up all month as it stands. It is actually quite enjoyable and I have even started experimenting slightly with other ingredients for the drink. I have also stepped up my exercise routine ever so slightly adding in a few extra sit ups every day and some sprint training. The key I feel to these things is to not constantly check results, as everything you do takes around the whole month to become a benefit. Therefore I took some readings at the start and will then do the same when the first month of 2020 has ended. It is nice to test yourself at the start of a new decade, I think.

Neil Quigley

In December I went to the Doctors about something very small and just as a precaution I was sent for a blood test. As I said earlier I do try to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit in my diet plus take Vitamin and also Cod Liver Oil tablets. Much to my surprise when the results came back I got a call from my Doctor to tell me I had a slight Iron deficiency. I did not have any symptoms, so it did catch me out a bit. I checked to see which foods supply the best source of Iron. Weirdly as it happened I was already having most of the top ten suggestions regularly.

They gave me a short course of iron supplement tablets to take. That if you have never taken them without going into graphic detail will greatly alter the colour of something we all produce, which for the record was a bit of a shock at first. Anyway I finished the course of tablets. They did another blood test and I am now back operating at the right levels. This is not the reason for my current health kick by the way I had already decided I was doing that before this arose. I do not feel any different now my iron levels are back up but I do make a much better noise when I go through the airport security scanner.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

The first Saturday of January 2020 I went to a good mate’s fortieth birthday party. That was a major factor in me deciding not to take a month off the booze to be honest. The very first day I met him was when I started a new job, where he worked and we ended up in the pub afterwards for a quick pint. Therefore it would have been totally wrong not to mark this occasion with a few beers. I must say it was a very classy and fun do at a bar and restaurant in Beaconsfield that I had never been to before. That is quite an achievement as I am not sure there are many pubs in the whole of Buckinghamshire that I have not been to at least once.

It was great to see him and a few people I had not seen for years, as well as meeting some fantastic new people. He does not really like or eat cakes, so his other half had the genius idea and making one from a mountain of doughnuts. They still put a candle on it and sang happy birthday but instead of having to cut it up afterwards, people could just help themselves to a doughnut. However as the evening went on it did turn into a very sweet inspired game of Jenga. It was great fun celebrating a top bloke’s landmark anniversary. He is slowly catching me up at last.

Doughnuts

I was out when the first episode of The Masked Singer was shown on a Saturday night. I was aware it was happening but had no idea what it actually was. As I was travelling home I was reading on Twitter all about it and it sounded totally mad. Just for the launch weekend of it they had an extra episode on the Sunday night. Intrigued by what I had heard about the previous night’s show, I decided to watch it.

Within the first couple of minutes I was thinking what on earth is this? It felt like I was tripping with the lighting, the look of it and those ridiculous costumes. Then add to that the bloke from the Hangover films, Davina McCall, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross all playing an impossible game of guess who. You have got one of the strangest programmes I think I have ever seen. The even weirder thing is I then got sucked in to it all and was then desperate to know who all of the Masked Singers were.

It is I would say one of those shows like I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here where it is more fun to watch the show while being on say Twitter. There are plenty of good observations and jokes on there, which I found added to the enjoyment. Plus you were getting all sorts of celebrities having to go on there to deny they were on the show. I think my favourite was Peter Crouch having to come out say that he was not the singing tree.

I did also like how the panel were guessing the acts such as say Jamie Foxx, Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Samuel L Jackson and so far the celebrities that have been un-masked are Patsy Palmer, Alan Johnson and Justin Hawkins.

No offence meant to anyone involved but I do think that may be the panel should lower their expectations ever so slightly. It is all just good silly stupid fun. Even when I cannot watch it I still need to know who the latest celebrity to be revealed on it is. I suspect that will be the case until the end of the series now.

Masked Singer?

I appreciate Ricky Gervais is somebody you either tend to love or hate with very little in between. Personally I like him and do think he is really funny. I have watched most of his stand up shows and also seen him live twice. Doing some warm up gigs for his various tours. He is also pretty good on Twitter to. A lot of the things he says about people being offended by things make sense to me anyway. You have the right to not find something funny, but just because you do not, it does not mean you have to be offended, just do not laugh that is fine.

The reason I mention him is because he hosted the Golden Globes in America recently. It is a huge awards ceremony which covers film and television in the United States, much like the BAFTAS do in the United Kingdom. It was the fifth time that he had been asked by the organisers to present it. Therefore nobody should have been at all shocked and surprised by how he decided to play it. It was a room full of the Hollywood elite. I have only watched his opening speech but it is in my opinion brilliant!

He makes it clear right from the start he is just there to tell jokes and poke fun at things. There is no agenda or plan to score points. He is up there telling jokes that he thinks are funny or that amuse him. It is fair to say judging by the reactions on peoples’ faces some of them were possibly more able to laugh at themselves than others. Which is again fine, we are all different.

There were some excellent, clever and funny jokes in there. The tone was about right for how he had set himself up to be, the annoyed host who almost begrudged being there, all just part of his shtick to make his material work better.

The fact that he was hosting and the way he did it attracted a lot of media coverage and interest. That is exactly why the organisers of this event would book somebody like him. That is what they want for their thing to be talked about as much as possible. As is the want of the newspapers, several of them took different angles, some went down the line of him being a hero for telling the truths to the film industry. Some accused him of hypocrisy. All he was doing as he said right at the start of his monologue was telling some jokes. You either find them funny or not. A lot of them made me laugh out loud and no body died!

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I paid my first trip of the year to White Hart Lane to see Tottenham get beaten by the Premier League Champions elect Liverpool. If I am honest prior to the game I was worried we would get thrashed, but as it happened we put in a much improved performance. I thought we were possibly a bit unlucky not to get a draw. Between me and you I would have taken a one nil defeat before the game. Next up in the league we are away to Watford today in a game we must win to I think stand any chance of qualifying for Europe this season.

Happily Spurs are still in the FA Cup after we managed to get past Championship side Middlesbrough at the second attempt beating them in a reply at our place. It was nice to go one up after just three minutes for a change, however despite another fairly early goal we still managed to make very hard work of the victory.

We travel to Southampton next weekend in round four. That will be another tough match. If we can get through that then we are suddenly only two games away from a big Wembley semi-final, which would be brilliant. But as ever I will be taking one game at a time, especially the way things are going this season.

Neil Quigley with FA Cup
Neil Quigley with FA Cup

I am very excited for this coming week I am going to see my favourite comedian Frank Skinner in the West End. My sister got me the ticket for my birthday.

He is fantastic live, although I am a bit concerned as I am in the second row and he does like to chat to people does Frank. I will let you know how it went next time we speak.

Neil Quigley

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

Neil Quigley Presenter