I got up at the unearthly hour of 6.30am on Saturday. It’s not that I haven’t ever seen 6.30am on the weekend. It’s just that usually if I’m awake at that hour it’s because I haven’t actually been to bed. So there I was emerging from my slumber blinking like a new born foal seeing the early morning sun for the first time. I made incomprehensible bleating noises and stumbled out of bed in a similar way to a new born too. You may at this point have guessed I’m not really a morning person. I was up this early in order to catch a train to Wollongong. Today was the day I would willingly jump out of a perfectly good plane. Today was Skydive Day (imagine Don LaFontaine saying that for full effect).
I had been gearing myself up for this one all week. Everybody I’d told had given me some kind of advice, my favourite hard earned pearls of wisdom being “Be a banana” from Housemate 1 and “Wear a good bra” courtesy of The Builder. Stepping off the train in Wollongong the girls were strapped in tightly and not going anywhere and I had limbered up enough to pass even the strictest EU fruit shape legislation. Bring it on.
Meeting point on the day was Stuart Park, a pretty seaside green with a couple of trees thrown in for good measure. It was very cold but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. At the front desk I chatted to Angela who was very reassuring. After some cursory paperwork she led me outside to get suited up. I put on some pants that MC Hammer would have been proud of in his heyday and listened to the safety briefing…intently this time (FYI Housemate 1 was bang on with the “Be a banana” mantra). I was introduced to Richard who would be my tandem instructor. He was a very nice, friendly chap and seemed very capable. After some probing questions I placated myself that I couldn’t be in safer hands. The man had survived a 16-year long career as skydiving instructor. Whatever his choice of profession says about his mental health I was pretty sure he knew what he was doing when it came to pulling a parachute cord at the right time.
“Ready?” Richard asked and before I could say ummmmmmm he was leading me to the bus. I looked round at my 5 companions and their instructors for the day. There we were; intrepid souls in parachute pants (I presumed the actual parachutes would come later), ready to leap from a plane at 14,000ft. But…not quite. “I have some bad news” Richard said. Mother Nature had decided that nobody would be skydiving that day. The wind was too strong and conditions too dangerous. The staff seemed genuinely sorry and we rescheduled my skydive for the next weekend. I felt the relief of a temporary reprieve but also a tiny bit of disappointment. I wondered could I keep the pants for the week.
Having made it all the way to Wollongong I decided it would be a pity to leave without giving the place the once over. The sun was still valiantly shining and the sparkle from the blue water was irresistible. I went for a stroll along the beach then had some lunch at The Kiosk looking out to sea. It really is a pretty place.
After lunch I strolled towards the lighthouse and discovered there was a free shuttle around the city. Not knowing my way around I decided this was as good a place as any to start. Spotting what looked like a cultural blip on the radar I jumped off at the city library. Across the street was the Wollongong City Gallery. My inner culture vulture tried to pull off an air of nonchalance while secretly doing cartwheels of joy. As one of those blinkered people who forget that awesome things happen outside Sydney I was pleasantly surprised by the gallery.
There were two exhibitions of note featured. Local artist Maree Faulkner’s About Time? blended colourfully intricate designs with social commentary. Another exhibition was a collaboration between Agnieszka Golda and Martin Johnson called Last Exile. It juxtaposed fairytale imagery with gothic nightmarish figures.
All in all it was a very enjoyable day in Wollongong. I’ll be back next weekend to finish what I started. In the end I was glad of the chance to explore a little of The Gong.
On Sunday I really missed alcohol. I went to the Courthouse to a good friend’s send off. La Face’s time in Australia had come to an end and she was embarking on a whirlwind tour of the US before heading back to England. I hope they have taken the necessary precautions and battened down the hatches. We have spent many a lazy, sunny afternoon in the Courthouse getting merry and discussing everything from the world’s political and social issues (all of which we solved) to who we thought was hot that week, as the sun set. It was a pity that the last afternoon we spent there would be one where I dutifully sipped a soda water and fresh lime. On the plus side I managed to guilt pretty much everybody there into donating to Dry July by wearing my most forlorn expression. Aisling 1 Drunken Posse 0.
What’s the deal?
GoDo crew member Aisling is taking one for the team and taking on the challenge of Dry July. This July, Aisling is going to show you how to have a good time for a whole month, without alcohol, GoDo-style. To reward her commitment to the cause, and keep her focused, we’re sending her on a bunch of activities to show you the stack of alternatives to sitting in a dingy pub this winter. And, because it’s such a great initiative, GoDo is donating the value of each activity Aisling embarks on in cash to the Dry July cause.