The early start was not too bad actually and the ride, which kind of made up for yesterday's train, was enjoyable. It was a relief to be led for once and the city looked much better with less traffic on quiet roads in the cool of the dewy, early morning. So many beautiful birds everywhere you look in this country, and Meryl told me this part of Queensland is a mecca for twitchers as, quite apart from the indigenous species, it's a crossroads for many migrants as well. I wish the same could be said about Coeleoptera and I've still only seen one large beetle in 1700 miles. So, Meryl and I migrated 13 miles to the district of Redcliffe (later I looked at a map of Brisbane and was amazed to see how tiny this distance was in the scheme of the whole conurbation). Here we rendez voused with about 20 members of the Brisbane Bicycle Touring Association at a coffee shop, after some of them had been on an organized ride. That's right - they had indivuidually cycled from a distant corner of the city, ridden together as a group and would then return home, or go on to work. Some had risen at 4.30 - and they always ride at this time to avoid the heat of the day (later it reached 30 degrees). It was amusing for me to watch all these oldies bedecked in lycra and animatedly shouting at each other like children. I was introduced to Trevor, who had hand-built a penny farthing and also to Keith, who had been born in Scotland and told me all about his distillery tour.
Meryl and I returned to whence we had come via a different route and Meryl did some gardening (her passion) while I visited the local McDonald's (my passion). So many weird and wonderful tropical fruits flourish in her garden, including male and female paw paws and pumpkins, which she has to fertilize herself because there is no bee population to do nature's work. Later we returned to beachside Redcliffe, happily by car, along with Meryl's friend, Veronica. Having spent 20 plus years in England, Canada and now Australia, Veronica is a bit of a hybrid and still calls things by the wrong name here. She is a professional house-sitter and lives gratis for several weeks at a time in mansions all over Brisbane. If there are any gaps between these sits, she stays with Meryl. We found a shady picnic table to have our packed lunches and played three games of Scrabble, yours truly winning them all. During these games a huddle of people formed around a baby cockatoo. Seemingly it had been parted from its mother in the wild, or had flown out of a house, where it was a pet and was now lost. Pastel-coloured, with a punky hairdo, It was looking very sorry for itself as someone was asking if a man would take his shirt off, so it could be scooped up safely. I was the only man in the vicinity, so manfully stepped up to the plate. A lady there put the bird in her car and said she would take it home, where it would be housed in a large aviary with other cockatoos. I got my shirt back too.
In the evening Meryl threw a dinner party for myself and three guests, one of whom hailed from Glasgow. It wasn't really any great shakes that the Glaswegian (and her Ozzy husband) didn't turn up because, after all, I've met quite a few in my 21 years as a resident. A juicy salmon salad was served up at a table on the patio and followed by another salad, of the tropical fruit variety, such as custard apples and dragon fruit. We discussed cycling, as the other guest, Alan, was of the fraternity. He had only got into the sport four years ago and yet had taken to it even more avidly than Meryl, and competes in gruelling competitions on dirt tracks and up mountains.
Brisbane may not have the vibe of Melbourne or the views of Sydney, but it certainly hs some lovely people, if the ones I have met are anything to go by.