Driving to work on Friday, I found myself behind a bus. It was a double decker open-topped bus, which is unusual for Perth were it not for the fact they these buses presumably drive around many major cities. They tour the city complete with running commentary and have number of hop-on, hop-off points that visitors, or indeed residents can enjoy as they take advantage of their 24 hour ticket to explore the sites.
What caught my eye, though, was not the red tinsel that someone had wrapped around the top railing, but the advert wrapped around the back end of the bus. Picture this: a nighttime image of the capital’s river, with the violet evening sky contrasting with the lights shining from the cityscape upon the water, casting a luminescent rainbow of the dark surface of the river.
Floating just above the water were two wooden chairs, the sort of wooden slat chairs that someone with a holiday home in The Hamptons might have on their deck. In those chairs, with their backs to the camera were a man and a woman, both barefoot, both in faded jeans and white shirts, they looked at the row of buildings as they shone their magic onto the water’s surface.
‘Enjoy a different view of the Swan’ read the tag line – or something along those lines. I can’t remember exactly what it said because I was thinking of a time. A time when I went on a river wine cruise – that same river cruise that the advert was promoting – and I was trying to reconcile the image before my eyes with the memory in my head.
It was about nine years ago and I had been helping a mate by proofreading her Uni assignments. As a surprise and to thank me, she bought us tickets to go on a wine cruise with a bunch of her work colleagues. She was a nurse.
The cruise was not at night, it was during the day. There was no sophisticated violet sky, but a hot sun beaming down from a cloudless one. We clambered aboard and sat down. The ferry cast off.
As soon as we were underway, a tablecloth was pulled away to reveal a buffet. I assume this was to help soak up the wine, because this was a wine cruise and there was certainly going to be a lot of wine. Wine was ordered by the bottle and the crew obliged. The wine was included in the ticket price, so no one was holding back. One of the nurses went up to the table amd came back with a plate of just prawns, ‘I love prawns,’ she declared while peeling each one carefully before eating it. She had already had about half a bottle of wine. The second plate of prawns took even longer to peel than the first.
It was certainly enjoyable watching the water and the houses on the banks of the river drift by. Then the Captain told us we were about to reach our destination – a winery that had a jetty on the river’s edge, because we certainly had not had enough wine yet.
I turned to one of the nurses, ‘What happens on the way back?’ I asked her.
‘I don’t know,’ she said.
‘Isn’t this the fourth time you have done this cruise?’ I asked.
‘The fifth,’ she replied.
We were led from the ferry to a cellar and all the crew got behind the bar to help with the wine tasting. There was an opportunity to buy some of the wine we had tasted. I bought a couple of bottles, it seemed only fair, and then we got back on the boat.
All the food, all the glasses half-finished and all the bottles of wine had disappeared. It was like a crack CIA clean upteam had been through. I waited to see what would happen.
The boat pushed off for the return journey back to Perth. A small hatch opened at the back of the boat. People started queuing at the hatch. There was wine available there, but this time it was for sale, by the bottle only. People were well lubricated by now and didn’t care. Wallets came out and the drinking continued at the same rate it had on the way up.
I bought a bottle and was considering going out on the deck to enjoy the cruise back, but I had reckoned without the multi talented crew. One of them grabbed a microphone, flicked a switch to produce background music and started belting out classic dance numbers. Everyone got up on the floor and started dancing. Including me.
Later, I did sit up on the deck and got some fresh air, which as everyone who has ever had a lot to drink will know, is a great combination with alcohol. I was quite tidy compared to many of the passengers, including the prawn nurse, but then I had focused on bread rolls to start with not seafood, which is why I was fatter than her, but at least still vertical while she was asleep on a bench.
We disembarked and some of the nurses collapsed into the arms of their highly amused husbands who had come to pick them up. I got into a taxi and got home in one piece, and gave thanks for bread.
So this is what went through my mind as I looked at the advert on the bus, and that it why it appeared to me totally appropriate that the advert was wrapped around the bus’s arse.