Coinciding with the plummeting mercury is the long weekend. Aside from the usual two days to cap off the week, Monday represents a public holiday as this commemorates the Queen’s Birthday in our state. About three years ago, I wrote a similar post on Mot Juste. Then, the ski fields were the hottest ticket in town. One must recall that this was before COVID. Three full calendars later, things have changed. Here is a recap of what to expect and what has changed since June 2018.
- Queensland is the place to be. Before, Sydneysiders were spoiled for choice. Victoria and the sunshine state (Queensland) presented equal options for the weekender. Melbourne and Brisbane are roughly the same distance from Sydney. Victoria offers the best live sports events, is a foodie and arts haven, among other things. Meanwhile, Queensland is synonymous with the surf and sun. If you wanted a more temperate getaway, a cavalcade of beaches, and water sports, then off you headed. However, with the recent number of COVID cases in Victoria, the pick is more clear-cut. For instance, my chiropractor is spending six nights on the Sunshine Coast. He told me that he had planned this trip for a while now. Events are being rescheduled from Victoria to Queensland. Even Melbourne-based AFL had to improvise due to the fourth wave. Some matches were rescheduled to neutral venues.
Game 1 of this year’s State of Origin was moved from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to Townsville, Queensland. This edition marks number forty of the annual best-of-three showcase. The attendance was a robust 27,533. I anticipated another Maroons romp, but the effort of NSW coach Fittler’s boys was pleasantly surprising. From the get-go, they attacked the Maroons’ defence and were accumulating tries by the middle of the first half. The Blues side also had an exemplary kicking game, going eight for eight from goal. Tom Trbojevic netted three tries in a triumphant return. This represented the most decisive NSW win in Origin history.
- The French Open: different but the same. Three years prior, Ash Barty (who is pictured) was ascending the women’s ranks. A week later, she would win the 2018 Nottingham Open for her second career WTA Singles title. Rafael Nadal would notch up his eleventh French Open, defeating Austrian Dominic Thiem. The latter is regarded as the second-best clay courter on tour. Three years on, another Nadal victory seems a foregone conclusion. Already tied with Roger at the top for twenty grand slams, a fourteenth Paris close-out would secure Rafa sole first-place among male slam winners. There has never been anyone as dominant on one surface. Moreover, nobody has matched his haul, full stop. I recall this conversation many moons ago. Roger had just surpasses Pete Sampras’s fourteen slams. This critter told me that Rafa would one day eclipse Roger. If all goes according to plan, Nadal would pull this off in a couple of nights.
This Open has a curfew for fans, in line with local regulations. Until 9 June, the curfew was at nine pm, which was later moved to eleven pm. The tourney itself was moved forward from last year’s September start to the traditional late-May commencement. Spectators were capped at a thousand and subsequently increased to five thousand. This is the 125th staging of the premiere clay court championship. This time, Barty fell at the second hurdle while her male compatriots – including Alex De Minaur – did not fare so well either. The Fed Express notably withdrew, citing health reasons. He rather favours his chances at Wimbledon, site of his greatest successes.
- The mid-year sales are heating up. Just like in 2018, the June long weekend sees a gamut of stores hawking their mid-year sales. Now is the perfect time to rug up for the cooler season. Whether you’re after baselayers, mid-layers, gloves, or ski jackets, now is as good as it gets. Stock up on those winter woollies. Apart from clothing, there are reductions across shoes, small kitchen appliances, and electronics. Get your hands on that shiny 5G phone. Better yet, nab that bulky 4K TV set.
Recently, we bought a replacement Thermos from Myer. Earlier, I also picked up some notebooks. I want to start chroniclin’ like Chatwin. DFO Homebush is currently having a Big Brand Weekend, with some stores offering fifty to seventy percent off. However, these storewide reductions come with asterisks. The exclusions make the sales appear farcical. As a kid, my sister pointed out this sign announcing one hundred percent off. My dad, who drove us, was immediately sceptical. ‘That means those shoes are free,’ he told us. ‘Feel free to choose the shoes you want. They’re freebies, after all.’
Of course, I understand the hesitation. The COVID era has made us think twice about spending big. Unlike before, you wouldn’t spend hundreds on a few branded items. Thinking about the bigger picture is always nice. At the same time though, striking a balance is key. If the past lockdowns have shown us anything, it’s that life’s too short to overthink. When the days were long and the restrictions were intense, we had little options. We still do. We can’t travel to other continents or, in some cases, another state. Social distancing is in place. Some stores are temporarily closed, others, permanently. In any case, one look at the train, in shops, or on the street, and we have braved the tide. Life has gone on.
- Snow days are back. The ski season will be radically different than last year’s. Instead of empty snowfields, resorts will be booked out. 2020 saw businesses boarded up; passes and bookings dishonoured. This year, demand for snow trips has never been higher. This is directly related with the closing of international borders. The only options for snow enthusiasts are Oz and New Zealand. Niseko (Japan) and Aspen (US) are off the table. The first dusting of snow has arrived at Kosciuszko National Park. The ski and snowboarding seasons are officially here. Time to get those mittens, poles, and snow goggles and work on those snowploughs.
This coming long weekend, we may be in different spots. Queensland is the people’s pick as New Zealand’s too far. Some of us will visit relatives and drive a few hours. Some might head to the snow and practice their flips. Others might be content catching the footy or witnessing another Rafa masterclass. Many will go out of town. Let us just pause and think back to a year ago, when having a long weekend didn’t mean much. We have sure travelled a long way since then.