Within a year of living in the land down under, I felt very settled there. None more so than when I got an invite to a posh Gala Dinner at the Sydney Hilton. One thing though – I was a cheap traveller without a suit to wear, just one day beforehand!
I had a day to get myself a suit and head to this mega posh dinner – drinks and food totally included and a posh night out in Sydney was in store. I was pretty excited and count myself very lucky with some of the jobs I’ve had and the perks I’ve got. From working hard in PJ Gallagher’s Irish Pub in Parramatta, I got the invite from the HR department via a phone call to the bar – Brew Bar where I was working.
It was on a website, all done for charity and the night out was an annual function known as “Hotels Have Hearts”, it wasn’t actually my first glamorous night out in Sydney though it was to be the most glamorous. The previous two glamorous nights out had been for the John Marsden Memorial Lecture with my flat mate Rebecca Yu in November 2009, then in January 2010 I had a party boat night out with the pub – a cruise of Sydney Harbour.
Lowes in Parramatta was the local shop for cheap clothes. I didn’t have much time so I ended up buying my entire suit in there, including a new pair of shoes. It cost me just over $100 AU for the entire suit, but that was me almost skint having just paid off my Antarctica trip. I was working lots though and would save every penny from then on in until I went travelling again a few months later.
Ruben and Rebecca my flatmates were surprised I could look so posh. It was the best I looked in my time in Australia.
I was originally scheduled to work on the Brew Bar that night, but the ever obliging Charlotte stepped in to take my place, as I headed with Cobi, Ilka, Corky, Ann and a host of others from PJs Parramatta and PJs Drummoyne, both pubs which I had worked in.
With Ilka to my right and Cobi looking stunning in purple to my left. This was taken in the staff car park before we got taxis (all paid for) directly to the Hilton Hotel in downtown Sydney. This was surely all a dream.
The five of us, me, Ilka, Corky, Cobi and Anthony. I was the only non-Australian. I felt really happy and really priviliged to be invited. Corky was general manager, Cobi was manager, Anthony was head bouncer, Ilka was the longest serving bar staff and then there was me – the Northern Irish traveller. Anyone could have got that invite, but it was nice that I got it.
The taxi through rush hour Sydney took about 45 minutes and we were let out right outside the Hilton Hotel. On arrival on the 5th Floor, I found my name on the list, signed in and was greeted with a free beer and met up with Patrick and Angela Gallagher.
With the lads! Michael from Drummoyne who I worked with once on the left (my right) and Craig and Alex from the head office of Pat’s company.
There was also a Joanne Blair, and then there was me on the next page! Proud moment.
Table 18 it was then…
For $1,000 Australian Dollars you could buy a heart with a prize…
Flambouyant designs on the desks on the way in. Just glamour all around. For a boy from Marlo in Bangor this was just amazing!
Lit up hearts.
Endless rows of champagne. They were $50 each and a donation to charity. The company had paid for the table and the night and we all got one. Of course it tasted good!
Some of the live stuff for auction was just amazing. Events by Diageo.
A signed Bulldogs shirt (though I’m a Parramatta Eels fan).
A football and a Fox Sports package. Of course I don’t own a TV but my flatmates had one.
A chocolate heart and my auction card. Putting this into the device my name would come up on the big screen for having bid for something. I used it once just to say I’d used it. I think I bid $50 for the Sports package! Well that was a safe bet not to win, and if by chance I did, then I’d have been happy enough.
Our table 18. Note the light of hearts.
Get your bids in for the silent auction.
Vince Sorrenti, the host and also a comedian. He did have everyone smiling and laughing most of the time. I kept thinking how could he not. This was a mega fun event.
Starter arrived it was ravioli with mushroom sauce. And I hate mushrooms. Somehow I managed to eat it. This was how GOOD the food was and how good a night out this was.
The menu. A hat trick of mushrooms? Ouch I didn’t even taste them!
No one should have to know this, but someone is going to…
Silent Auction starts, Ilka, Cobi and Anthony think “I know let’s bid $900 to watch Swan Lake at Star City!”
More Silent Auctions. I seem to remember Anthony and Ilka putting in a massive bid on Pat’s card – probably the Swan Lake one. And he won!
The ever gorgeous and glamorous Cobi Johnston. Matching purple fingernails and a genuine smile. I remember thinking “Every pub should have a manager like that”. I’m happy to have worked with her for about a year or so of my time in Australia.
Ann Corton was another of the bosses at PJs. I never saw her much on nights outside the pub so this was a nice rare moment with her. She had another big job away from the madness of bar work. If you worked hard for her she appreciated it, if you didn’t, you’d know it. Funny I don’t have a bad word to say about any of the staff at PJ’s in Parramatta. That’s how good it was.
The total raised kept coming up on the screen. The bidding was well underway.
Concentrating on the bids. As a Northern Irishman living in Australia just being there was an honour. I was in awe as the beer kept flowing and I knocked them back.
Our table, at a posh event, in an Australian wonderland.
My card for all transactions, as mentioned before I didn’t put any big bets in and wouldn’t have dared!
The top bids get higher and higher.
These were also “mood changing lights”, the sincerity of which somehow passes this Ulsterman by.
Main course. I went for the Grilled Barramundi. Unusual as I’m normally a beef man – but it just sounded so tasty! And boy was it!
The Toohey’s New PR girls were there – this interview was outside the hall and broadcast live. The one on the left had fake boobies. Therefore the one on the right was immediately more attractive. My Australian flirtations didn’t delve too far, nor did the Aussies ever see the best of me, I was still deeply caught up about my ex-girlfriend (the reason for going to Australia was to escape her). I often wonder if I was even myself back then.
The girlies enjoy a joke.
Concentrating on the bidding.
Joining in with the ladies. Ann, Cobi and Cheree. I worked with them all at different points.
PJ Gallagher’s had 2 tables – the other one, table 17 was mostly made up of Drummoyne and Head Office workers. I had also worked in that pub so knew a couple of them. I met the sparkling blonde girl Ella Parker that night.
The view from my seat.
A few blurred photos of me with Pat and Corky!
The Barramundi arrives and is top notch. Delicious and grilled. A reminder of the types of exquisite cuisine I used to enjoy in London on my PR nights out, in days gone by. Another couple of bottles of Pure Blonde beer go down well with it.
OK so I did make another bid. But this one, Patrick lent me his card to do it! It was a top bid at the time but he lost in the end. It was something Irish or to do with Guinness I think, that’s why he fired it over to me.
A speech by Barry Farrell, leader of the opposition no less. Are you serious?
And a speech from Lloyd Blair – no relation.
More comedy. The beers as ever being knocked back.
The tables began to mingle with each other and I met the lovely Gill Swinbourn and the rest of the Drummoyne and Head Office Staff at GHM.
A Guns’n’Roses event was just an example of the things you could win. I was happy with a posh night out, meeting great people, endless food and alcohol. And most of all the memories. However, as the proceedings came to an end in the main hall in the Sydney Hilton, the night was far from over!!!
This was the glamorous entrance to the event.
And the elegant atrium. 10 years earlier I was working in Stock Control in Tesco. 5 years earlier I was selling ice creams on the beach in Bournemouth.
OK so there was time for a few more – and to sample some other types of Australian Beer – I tried every new one they had including Hahn Super Dry in a bottle. Photo of me with Anthony the bouncer here.
With Joseph. Originally from Eastern Europe, this guy has some stories and has worked with Pat for years!
My shy moment with the very pretty Ella Parker. Another time, another place…
With the lads. The joys of living down under. With Patrick and Michael. Livin La Vida Loca for sure.
The after show party was in Zeta bar upstairs. Posh as you like.
Our group in the Zeta bar. Notice I am drinking from a bronze tankard. It was some kind of obscure cocktail reminiscent of a lime fuelled Smirnoff Mule in my youth. Smiles all around.
Scenery shots for the night – we were downtown Sydney and you could capture the view onto George Street.
Looking down on George Street.
Three lovely ladies. Cobi, Gill and Cheree.
The late night gang in Zeta Bar.
A couple more for the album. Pretty damn glad I captured all these. These moments in life simply don’t come round again and don’t last forever. Never assume they will. This was my big night out in Sydney.
Cheree and Ronny.
I liked to mix up a few random drinks for wee Ilka. Here she got Baileys, milk, ice, Creme de Cassis and Pernod. These went down a treat!
After Zeta bar we made it to another bar in King’s Cross, it was a taxi ride up there. This bar was empty though so we had a quick drink then left. I cannot remember the name of it. Neither had I been in it before or since.
So it was Bada Bing next! Normally a strip bar. But we were in it for the shots.
We got a lot of shots in there.
Gill, Cheree and Ronny happy in King’s Cross.
Bada Bing menu.
Shots in Bada Bing.
I actually left Bada Bing and knew there was football on across the road so I headed to the Sports Bar, knowing it was so late that I could stay in there till dawn and get the first train home! Working nights was always good because I could sleep all day then get up and go into work! Being in the Sports Bar was also slightly tinged with sadness, it was there I had first drank with Dan, Neil and even Natalja on arrival in Australia a year earlier. They had all come and gone and I missed them a tad.
Typical tourist taking 5am photos of the Cathedral near King’s Cross.
I walked all the way to Central Station after that and got the first train home to Parramatta.
First train home in the morning. Reminiscent of a few nights out in London about 5 or 6 years earlier.
Sunrise at Parramatta golf course on my walk home was as stunning as ever and the sweet smell of Eucalyptus reminded me how blessed I was.
The fading moon and the rising sun all at once in Parramatta.
It was another mad night, and in the end my most enjoyable and glamorous night out in Sydney, at least for this lifetime. As I got to bed for 7am, it was another Parramatta sunrise and this old world still looked the same. Another frame…
What – Hotels Have Hearts
Where – Hilton Hotel, George Street, Sydney, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
Transport Used – Taxi, Sydney Rail
Bars Visited – PJ Gallagher’s Irish Pub (quick beer before leaving), Hilton Hotel, Zeta Bar, Nightclub I don’t remember the name of, Bada Bing, The Sports Bar
Who Went – About 1,000 people
Who Went That I Knew – (apologies to those I’ve ommitted) – Cobi Johnston, Angela Gallagher, Patrick Gallagher, Ronny Ghantous, Ann Corton, Ilka Andriejunas, Gill Swinbourn, Ella Parker, Michael Broome, Cheree McHarry, Alex, Craig, Joseph, Corky, Anthony
Strange Currencies – Australian Dollars and Cents (sometimes via Silent Auction)
Top Food – Grilled Barramundi
Top Beer – Pure Blonde
Top Drink – $50 a glass Champagne
Nationalities Met – Australian
Apologies – For taking over two years to document this on here
Key Song –
LADY GAGA – PAPPARAZZI (no idea why but it was on that night in one of the bars, somehow reminds me of the time in between good and bad, and fits with posh-ness and elegance) :
Alternative Key Song –
FERGIE – GLAMOROUS:
Videos I Took That Night –
THE LIVE AUCTION AT HOTELS HAVE HEARTS:
THE COMEDIAN AT HOTELS HAVE HEARTS:
BALCONY IN THE AFTER SHOW PARTY AT ZETA BAR, HILTON HOTEL: