Thursday started nice and slowly with a small sleep-in. I had a couple of ‘stupid’ moments, though, like when I realised I hadn’t brought any styling products for my hair, and I had to wash it, so just had to let it sit and dry naturally. Then I thought I’d pop out to a hairdresser and get it styled for the evening, only to remember I didn’t have any keys to the house, so had no option but to sit still and relax. I just spent the day reading until it was time to get ready for the function. We had to be at the Hotel “ready to leave” no later than 4.45pm, so Brenda had to finish work at 2pm to have us ready to leave by 3pm – Nigel very kindly came home early as well and drove us into the city. Here’s a photo of my beautiful hosts just before we left the house (jeez, I wish I could’ve done something with my hair!).
Me with Brenda
Me with Nigel
We managed to get to the Hotel at 4pm, so we checked in and took my bags up to the room, then went down to the bar for a vodka for Brenda and a bourbon for me (at the price of $17 for two drinks that’s where we finished LOL). The Hotel we were staying at, compliments of work for the night, was the Four Points by Sheraton, Darling Harbour. I’ve included a piccie here of the Hotel that I actually took on Friday, as it made more sense to include it here.
Four Points Sheraton at Darling Harbour
We all had to meet in the Lower Ground level of the lobby where we were given “boarding passes” and name badges. Here I managed to meet up with the other two ladies from Melbourne that I work with, Mary and Carolyn, and Teresa that I used to work with in Auckland (it was so lovely to see her and here Auckland’s news). We didn’t have to wait around for long before we were sent on our merry way in two groups for a short walk … down to the harbour. At this point I was getting a bit disgruntled and jittery – I get seasick, and I’ve been hoping like heck we weren’t going on a cruise, but unfortunately those hopes were dashed! I’d packed my Sea-Bands ‘just in case’ and popped them on, but that basically meant that I wouldn’t be drinking or eating on board, which put a real damper on the evening for me … the boat started rocking a bit while we were moored, at which point I figured it would be better to get off until we were ready to actually move, so I asked a crew member if I could leave – and he kindly brought me out some homeopathic travel sickness tablets (ginger-based) that wouldn’t affect me and meant I could have a drink etc … that went a BIG way to putting me at ease! I’m usually OK on boats for about 1/2 hour (which I why I felt OK to try the ferry the previous day), but after that I’m laying ground bait …
As it turns out we were on board that vessel for some considerable time – we had one of the chief managers of the company with us and we each had to go up to to the front and receive a framed certificate from him and have our photo taken together. There were even people from as far away as our London and Tuscon offices – I thought that was wonderful. Brenda mentioned to me during the night that “this really is a big thing that you’ve won, isn’t it?”, and I probably had to agree that I guess it was – the whole event made me realise just how big it was. Out of 7000 nominations, I was one of the 200 around the world who won … wow! 🙂
Anyway, back to the story … we cruised up the river for a couple of hours, and in fact almost made it as far as I had the day before when I travelled to Rydalmere – eventually, though, we got off the boat at Homebush. We were then bundled into coaches and taken a short distance up the road to our final resting place for the night – Acer Arena at Sydney Olympic Park. Here we were ushered to a lobby area where there was a band playing and yet more alcohol being offered (boy, oh boy, they certainly didn’t skimp on providing refreshments!). We stood there for a while chatting, then all of a sudden curtains were pulled back just behind where we were standing, and the doors were opened into the stadium itself – it was like we were Olympic athletes flowing into the stadium … and when we walked in it looked like something from a fairy tale! Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of it all, and the photos in general from now on are a bit crappy due to the poor lighting, my poor camera, and being a fair distance away from the stage etc. But take my word for it, it was magical! We were seated in the middle of the arena itself, with formal dining set ups, and a stage with two large screens on each side.
Sydney Olympic Park – Acer Stadium
Brenda and I inside the Stadium about to sit down for dinner
Unfortunately we were all split up at different tables, as they’d already given seating allocations … at each place setting for the winners, though, they’d put a book together as a momento – inside it includes a photo and blurb about each of the winners and what they did to win the award, plus a copy of the menu, and the entertainment schedule for the evening etc. It was a great touch, and made the evening even more special … although those special touches just kept on coming!
After everyone was seated at their tables and introduced themselves music started in the background then eventually it changed … the lights dimmed and then a spotlight went onto three members of the Australian Girls Choir on stage, who started to sing “I Still Call Australia Home” … then a line or two in spotlights moved to our side of the stadium where a line-up of more girls appeared at the top of part of the stadium seating, then the same happened on the other side of the stadium. I have to admit it brought a lump to my throat and goosebumps to my arms … that to me was one of the major highlights of the evening. I’d rather not say in print what the significance of having them there singing that meant … but I’m sure at least the Aussies will know why that’s important 😉
Part of the Australian Girls Choir singing at the top of the stadium
That, though, was just the start of all the entertainment! We had speeches from top management, and I have to say they really made me feel proud to be sitting there. They also put together a video set to music of all the photos they took of us onboard the boats receiving our awards from management – it was great. During the evening we munched our way through the various courses – the menu was (sorry, but no stone is being unturned in this post haha):
Salad of chicken breast with sweet potato, cucumber and semi sun-dried tomatoes, tossed with spring leaves and a lime and sweet chilli dressing
Goat’s cheese and semi sun-dried tomato tart with Italian antipasto salad
Marinated rack of lamb with seeded mustard potatoes, vegetable bundle and balsamic vinegar jus
Pan-fried Atlantic salmon fillet with potato gateau and fresh herb hollandaise
A trio of desserts:
Lemon tart, chocolate charlotte and assorted desserts served in a shot glass
Triple layered chocolate black forest, white swan mousse and assorted desserts served in a shot glass
Tea/coffee … followed by port
During the entrees we had an Aerialist perform, hanging from two strips of ‘fabric’ from the frame surrounding the arena area … that was a bit ho-hum, but the next lot of entertainment blew me away … next up we had, of all people, the infamous Toni Collette and her band performing live for us – wow!! She performed about six songs for us.
Toni Collette singing
The next, and final, act was someone I’d never heard of, as I’m not a jazz officianado … but now I’ll remember his name as he was the best entertainer of the evening! It was James Morrison and his band, along with Emma Pask on vocals … all I can say is “wowzers!!!”. That guy can really PLAY! He’s also a really fun entertainer and showman – just exceptional! And what a way to finish the night off!!
James Morrison and his trombone (shocking photo sorry)
Eventually the night came to an end – to say this was a memorable event in my working history for the company would be an understatement … I for one really appreciate all the work and effort that went into such a successful evening, and I’m extremely grateful I was able to attend. We finished the evening by being taken by bus back to the Hotel again (here, though, I said goodbye to Brenda, as Olympic Park was closer to home than the city, so Nigel came to pick her up from the venue). It was sad to say goodbye to Brenda, but we’ve agreed I really do have to make the trip more often, finances willing.
When I returned to my hotel room, though, there was another surprise waiting – they’d taken the framed certificates off us again on the boat so we didn’t have to think about losing or breaking them during the night, and they said they’d be waiting for us in our rooms … that they were, BUT they weren’t alone! There were two black boxes sitting on the bed – when I opened one up there was the certificate tucked in under a couple of straps in the lid, and sitting in the base was a bottle of wine, a pair of the pyjamas designed by Morrissey that people get in First Class, as well as the little First Class amenity pack. My jaw nearly hit the floor! What an awesome way to finish off an already perfect night!! 😀
Now I can explain why it was a good thing I bought another ‘wheelie case’ two days earlier … while I loved the gifts etc, they were quite large, and weighed a ton (the box itself is really really heavy!) … and of course because Brenda didn’t stay at the Hotel I ended up with two boxes, with the quandary “how the hell am I going to get them home?”. In the morning I did some major rejiggling with the suitcase and managed to get one box in the bottom of there, then I asked the airline staff to let me take the 2nd one on board with me (the one with the certificate) – as it turned out it wasn’t an issue, as I managed to get business class home again, and you’re allowed two pieces of carry-on bags anyway … phew! I almost dumped the second box, but then decided against it, as I figure it will make a lovely storage case for some stitching supplies, or other crafting supplies 😉
So, all-in-all it was a wonderful, wonderful experience that I’m extremely grateful for. Mind you, by the time lunchtime rolled around the next day, I probably wasn’t quite as grateful for having the Chardonnay flowing so freely as I do have to admit to feeling ever so slightly seedy haha.