My little book of memories

A bit hectic out there! TC Seth on the points.


TC Seth hits the points

It was a long time coming, but TC Seth gave Noosa surfers a dream start to 2022, when he pushed a powerful east swell into Laguna Bay in time for New Year’s Day. As I write, we are into the third day of solid waves with only marginal signs of it abating soon. And then we’ve got another round of tropical lows behind it. While the king tides and heavy swell started gouging the excess sand out of First Point, the record crowds surfing the points were also straining the patience of locals, causing mayhem on the water and gridlock in the Hastings Street precinct and beyond. But boy it’s been fun! Seth photos courtesy of Fenna de King (

Waiting for the swell to build and the crowd to miraculously disappear this week, I decided to tackle the great archive box reduction.

Of course, this should be therapeutic, approaching the start of a new year with a purging of the burnt-out embers of so many previous ones. But if there’s one thing worse than spending an entire day discovering that every faded photo of people and places you don’t even remember is too precious to chuck out, it’s opening the first pages of a few travel diaries and losing another day of your life to memories.

Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a diary of my earliest travels, but in 1983 I decided to get serious. Before leaving for Europe with my wife of four years I bought a 240-page Collins notebook and scribbled on the first page “En vie d’amour et d’eau fraiche” – literally, to live on love and water alone, but figuratively, to live a carefree life, which was my intent, even though we’d already added to a ready-made young family.

But I was feeling romantic. We were off to Europe and we’d left the kids behind.

“Tuesday 9 August 1983 – Arrive Schipol Airport Amsterdam after 32 hr flight through Denpasar, Jakarta, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Frankfurt. Garuda service lousy, not much sleep either.”

By ’83 I don’t think you had to fly the milk run of the world to get to Europe, not like a decade earlier when I’d flown Sydney-London via Manila, Karachi, Tehran, Athens and Rome on a succession of dodgy cheap airlines. I’m sure our ’83 trip routed through Bali so we could spend a week or two either side in what was still paradise. But we’ll get back to that.

I’d recently finished a two-year stint as editor of Australian Playboy and as a parting gesture, had convinced the publisher that I should write an article called Europe on $1000 a Day, which of course I didn’t have, but through a mate in the PR game I’d got the luxury hotel group Relais et Chateaux to stump up rooms and meals at their finest establishments.

One of my post-Playboy gigs was to run the Sydney office of the thriving photo agency Scoopix in partnership with the Melbourne-based founder Rennie Ellis. Our cunning plan was that Ellis and I and our partners would whoop it up in style while he shot pictures for the library and I cut deals to sell them to publishers in Amsterdam, Paris, Milan and London.

My little diary pulls no punches as it describes the debauch of the next month as we eat and drink our way from the Hotel de Crillon in Paris to Villa D’Este on Lake Como, with side trips to London, the Cotswolds and the New Forest along the way, finishing up with a glorious week in the French Basque country.

Our $1000 a day fantasy trip aside, we always ran to a tight budget wherever we travelled, and some of the more engrossing details in that first diary reveal how little we spent. Take a 1984 Bali trip, for example:

“Wednesday 15 August – 8.40am Garuda flight via Melbourne arrives Denpasar 2.30pm. Hot, cloudy afternoon… Our bungalow is very pretty and somewhat functional, although no hot water, cooking facilities and not enough power points. In fact just one. But the new hub of Legian nightlife, Chez Gado Gado, is 100 yards away in one direction and old favourite Blue Ocean is 400 yards the other way… Expenditure: 2 snacks Blue Ocean, light dinner Gado Gado, beers, cocktails – Rp 19,000.”

On the opposite page I have written the exchange rate and our budget: “$A1 = Rp 848, daily budget Rp 30,000, excludes rent.” So our first day’s costs for two adults and three small children amount to a shade over $22. Our rent is $300 for two weeks paid in advance.

Flying was different back then, as revealed in an entry for Saturday, 21 June 1986: “Two and a half hours out of Honolulu en route to San Francisco. Sitting in the pub section nursing a bloody mary while I write. The girls are back in the seats watching the movie.”

We used to love Continental’s “pub in the sky” which only closed for takeoff and landing and in the very worst turbulence. No seatbelts but at least the bar stools were bolted in.

`Those were the days.