Bryn and Fionnuala, Perth, Western Australia. Talk about an epic adventure. At 35000-something foot above the sprawling Indian and Southern Oceans, pushing tin at 959k’s an hour while alongside me old ‘Farty Pants’ was living up to his nickname, Bryn and Fin’s wedding wasn’t exactly a day/night game. Australia is far boet. Or should that be mate? Was I excited to go? Honestly? Not really. As I stood at Cape Town International with a decidedly disinterested Customs Official not feeling any real enthusiasm or energy to look at me, let alone check my bags, I wasn’t overly in the mood. Poor service and I don’t go well together. I bit my lip. Then I climbed aboard the plane and my view of life was about to change. Ready? Let’s fly…
Whoops sorry, let’s not fly. SA354 to Jo’burg is delayed. By almost an hour. Well that’s handy because I’m now in some serious jeopardy of missing my flight to Perth. So lesson number 1 is: always use a travel agent who is going to be like gold during the course of your journey. In this case, starting with one of my brides, Nicci Hayden would have been the bright thing do to. So here’s a commercial break before we even start:
Nicci Hayden: http://bit.ly/1qoWKQ3 Bright girl. Nice too. Phone her for your honeymoon travels, she’s goooood.
Anyway, I didn’t use Nicci (she’s never going to let me live that one down) and so I nearly didn’t make it to Oz. It was a case of ‘this is the last and final boarding call for passenger Williams’ as I ran through the gates and onto the plane at OR Thambo. Then it was take-off, beef for supper, part of an unforgettable movie, a bit of bumping here and there and plenty of ‘thunder and lightning very, very frightening’ from ‘Farty Pants’ in Seat 22F. The flight to Perth was pretty cool and 9 hours later, there I was in the land of the enemy sporting a t-shirt that read: Clifton, Cape Town. I looked for a kangaroo in the road. None. A bit disappointed I boarded the bus for Terminal 2 to catch my connecting flight to Sydney. Oops, wrong bus. Stay where you are Warren, you’re already at the correct Terminal. All aboard for Sydney. 4 hours later I arrive. But time has going completely haywire. It’s 11.00pm at night here as the Sydney Bridge passes below us. I get off the plane and collect my bags. Here comes head-turning moment number 1. The baggage belt is literally at the front door that leads out of the airport. Doesn’t anyone steal baggage here? I mean look, there’s a quick, clear escape route out of here. I watch everyone taking their baggage. Nope, seems like folk here are awfully honest. I take my bag and there in front of me is my long-time friend Al and his good wife (and legend) Jana. We hug. I tell them I smell. We hug again. We drive home, drink a Lazy Yak beer, then another. It’s 2.30am. We go to sleep.
It’s 6.00am. I’m awake. I smell coffee and trundle down to Al who’s in the kitchen. ‘Cappuccino?’ he asks. I don’t really drink coffee let alone Cappuccino, but I accept anyway. It’s darned fine. I have another one followed by a Machi-something-or-other. And so begins Al and my morning ritual of all things coffee. It’s day 1 baby and Al, Jana and myself head for Sydney. On the train. I’m a bit horrified. Trains smell. I don’t do trains. Until you climb onto one of these double-decker air-conditioned puppies. We arrive at Circular Quay in Sydney Harbour, cameras in tow and it’s game on. For the next 3 days we walk Sydney into oblivion. Everywhere you turn there’s something to shoot – buildings, people, boats, the Sydney Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, more people, ferry’s, Anzak Bridge. We visit the Sydney Fish Market. I truthfully cannot believe what I’m seeing. Fish, fish and more fish. And fresher I’ve never seen. Walk, walk, walk, people on bicycles, running, skateboarding. The camera is pushing its temperature limit. We shoot graffiti in Newtown, pop into an old record store, Al drinks a Turkish coffee. More people to shoot. We go down to Sydney Bridge for a night shoot and I help out some ladies with their camera settings. I promise to come back and run a night photography course for them.
Sydney by night is extremely impressive. Next up is Manly. It’s a bit like Plett. Curio shops, surf shops, long-stretches of beach, summer vibe. It’s buzzing. Surfers, bathers, restaurants packed to the brim. Walk and shoot, walk and shoot. Back onto the ferry. The clouds above Sydney are playing ball big time. I’m feeling supremely lucky.
Oh look, it’s the 29th Feb. My birthday. I’d forgotten about that. Al and Jana take me out for dinner to The Malaya. It’s proper. Outstanding food. I can’t believe I’m sitting at this extremely fine dining establishment in a pair of shorts and messing on the table. But so be it – the food is unparalleled and Warrie is tucking in. But then The Malaya was only one of a number of fine places I was fortunate enough to visit. Try Din Tai Fung the next time you’re in Syders. To coin a phrase: ‘Eish.’ Oh and don’t even get me started on the Apple Store or we’ll be here for hours.
And so it went – onto trains, off trains, on foot, by ferry as we dissected every square inch of Sydney. But all good things must come to an end as Al and Jana headed off for Melbourne and I jetted into Perth. In short, these guys were superheros, amazing to the n-degree. Thanks chaps, see you next time round!
Time to focus. There’s a wedding day coming up. Bryn and Fin arrive with dad Anton to pick me up at Perth Airport. Once again it’s the middle of the night and my internal clock goes wonky. We travel home. Time for a cold beer. And with eta-i.org/ambien.html that I’m suddenly in the midst of people who I know from other weddings that I’ve photographed. Anton and Heidi, Mel and Ivan, Carynn and Alister. It’s a bit of a hug and reunion expression session.
It’s early morning and still no jet-lag as we all start part 2 of the adventure. Anton and Heidi are exceptional hosts and nothing is too much effort as they take me around town. I’m a bit astonished. Their son is about to get married and here they are playing tour-guide-tour-guide. We head through to Fremantle which I take an instant liking to. Lunch is at Little Creatures, before a gentle stroll along the promenade. Good times. Then it’s the wedding rehearsal at the church. It’s all going swimmingly well. That evening it’s a braai and then early to bed because tomorrow is match day.
It’s Saturday 5 March 2016, 11.00am. Isabel, the one videographer from Marcelo Productions picks me up for the wedding. (Check out the wedding video Bernie and Isabel produced on the above link). We travel through to Fin. We arrive and the bridesmaids and Fin are terribly hard at work getting their hair and make-up done. I look out of the window and vertigo sets in. We’re really, really high up. We go about the knitting. No different to any other wedding at this stage. Underwear lying around, snacks strewn across the room, pretty girls talking excitedly. All good. Time starts to run away with us and so off to the church it is. I walk in, feeling a bit strange. People thus far in Oz have battled a bit to understand my accent. I’ve had to say most things at least twice. Bryn and the lads arrive. I meet Liesl Cheney who is Second Shooting for me. Bryn arrives, and it’s bombs away as we go through the ceremony without a hiccup. Then it’s a quick big group shot and off to Matilda Bay Restaurant we go. Boom, bash, family photos finished. We’re heading into time troubles here. I glance at my watch. We’re going to have to move fast, very fast – perfect, that’s how we get on a roll. We take a short drive to the University of Western Australia. Situated right alongside King’s Park, a sort of super-sized Kirstenbosch Gardens, I’m delighted to be shooting here after we scouted it out yesterday. We had a great time before heading home and ending up just millimetres away from a somewhat serious accident involving another bride in a vintage car. But all good, we survived.
The reception was outstanding with Summer Club Band giving it horns all the way. The speeches were excellent and dad, Anton, didn’t let me down by delivering exactly what I expected from him – a virtuoso performance (his speech at daughter Carryn’s wedding was always going to be a tough one to match up to). And so the band played, the Irish contingent committed themselves to the dance floor, the wine flowed and the masses were happy. As we all know, there are tough crowds and there are easy, approachable crowds. This was the latter. I may have been the photographer, but I felt like a guest. At the 12 hour mark I was quite keen to keep going, but reason had to prevail and so home time came. It had been a long, long day.
Oh look, another day in Oz. Anton, Heidi, Mel, Ivan and myself go for breakfast. Then they drop me off at Caversham Wildlife Park so that I can get to meet some kangas, wallabies, koalas and the like. I love being alone sometimes and right now, I’m in my element. It take me hours to get around the place. Then the guys pick me up again, we head off to see some of their mates, and finally bedtime. Still no jetlag. Next day I take the train into Fremantle for a bit of shopping and bonding with an ‘old’ bridal couple of mine, Mien and Dawie. The following morning I do a family photo shoot for them – it’s over here. The days are blurring now – it’s like being on a magnificent rollercoaster ride and I simply cannot get enough of this fine country and its people. Ant, Heidi and I have lunch together. They’re very, very special people these and as I sit there munching on fish and chips I know I’m so going to miss them. I ask Ant if he wouldn’t mind dropping me off at the airport early. It’s a ploy. I hate long goodbyes. I just want to sit and contemplate this extraordinary journey alone for a while. I want to just connect quietly with the Aussies, my sworn sport field enemies. But it’s become difficult now. They’re not enemies, they’re totally amazing. Arrogant? Not that I can see. Full of themselves? Nope, didn’t pick that up at all. Confident in their abilities? Oh for sure. I sat at Perth Airport for 5 hours thinking about this place, what I’d done, who I’d met and what I’d seen. On a scale of 1 to 10, Australia hit a straight 10. Was I excited to go home? Noooooo! I wanted to stay. Forever. So what did I learn from this adventure into the unknown? Well, nothing that I didn’t already know – except for the fact that when a nation has a vision, they not only think of covering every base but they do it as well. Right now, only 3 words spring to mind really: Advance Australia Fair. Oh, and before I go completely off track, here’s the extraordinary Bryn and beautiful Fin’s wedding. Thanks guys – next time, lunch is on me. And dinner for that matter. Love to you all.