“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” – Mae West
After spending January undertaking an extensive road trip across Southern Africa, February rolled around all too soon, and Austin left to spend a week in Mexico filming a pick-up shoot with a Tzabcan Neo-tropical rattlesnake to complete episode two for the new series. Then he flew to Darwin in the north of Australia to film venomous animals for a further three weeks for episode five.
When Austin was near to finishing the Australian episode, Tigress Productions flew me to Sydney where I spent a wonderful week visiting my family, interviewing web designers for an official website we had planned, and constantly communicating with Austin via phone and text messages. When it was time for Austin and me to leave Australia, I met him at Sydney airport and my parents joined us to meet Austin for the first time. I was so happy to finally be able to introduce my parents to their son-in-law. The four of us enjoyed a late breakfast together and Austin posed for photographs with his new family members.
That afternoon, my parents waved goodbye to us and we flew to Canada to record commentary for Austin’s first episode and to take part in promotions for the series. After eighteen hours cramped in tiny seats on the plane, we landed in Vancouver. The area around the airport was covered in snow, and we were treated to a spectacular view of snow-covered mountains as we landed. We collected our suitcases while Sara Pickett, Austin’s talented camera assistant from Tigress Productions, competently gathered together multiple cases of filming equipment that were used in Australia. We then transferred everything onto the five-hour flight to Toronto and tried to get comfortable on yet another plane.
When we landed in Toronto we were met by a personal assistant from Cineflix named Mia. She took us to our driver who was waiting with a Lincoln town car. Toronto was minus five degrees Celsius and although we had packed our warmest clothes, they swiftly proved to be woefully inadequate for the Canadian winter. We froze in the short time it took to reach the car.
We got a good look at Toronto as we were driven to our hotel. At that time, it was dark, grey and dreary, full of sprawling highways and countless skyscrapers. Like Vancouver, Toronto was covered in snow. People had attempted to clear the roads of the snow and as a result, high mounds of it lined every street. There wasn’t a visible horizon in any direction and the closest Toronto came to a natural environment was a sparse scattering of pine trees that had lost their leaves at the beginning of winter.
As it turned out, our driver was not entirely sure of the location of our hotel, and we were forced to wander around in the freezing weather looking for it. Shortly after leaving the town car, I could no longer feel my fingers and my thought processes were egregiously slow. It was all I could do to remain focused on the pavement in front of me to avoid slipping in the freezing wet sludge. After stumbling down several wrong streets, Austin stammered through clenched teeth that he had located the hotel. Our hands shook as we reached for the tall glass doors and I was eternally grateful for Austin’s sense of direction as we shuffled into the foyer and the warmth of artificial heating enveloped us.
Cineflix and Tigress Productions had booked us into 1 King St West, a hotel which was once a bank, and our room more closely resembled an apartment than a hotel room. It had wooden floors, very high ceilings and began in a long hallway, which then lead to the lounge room. There we had a couch, coffee table and wardrobe, a kitchen bench with a stove, a coffee machine and a fridge, as well as a dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer. The bathroom and a large bedroom were down another smaller hallway to the left. We unpacked our things and Austin presented me with the latest round of gifts he had procured for me on his travels. He gave me a beautiful hand-tooled leather bag from Mexico, and an exquisite pair of silver earrings and a necklace, all adorned with spectacularly coloured opals from Australia. We had a nice dinner at the ground floor restaurant, and then we parked our defrosted and jet-lagged bodies at the bar for a few hours, sampling all the concoctions the bar tender could come up with.
Now, I had never been a habitual drinker and Austin and I reserved such indulgences for special occasions only. As it happened, a prominent televised beauty pageant had taken place in Toronto that evening and the stunningly beautiful contestants were calling our hotel ‘home’ for the night. Several of the women recognised Austin from his first television series and joined us at the bar, recommending we try various alcoholic concoctions with exotic names, such as the bright blue ‘Liquid Cocaine’ shot, a peach, vodka, cranberry and orange cocktail called ‘Sex on the Beach,’ and a coffee and Bailey’s Irish cream shot called a ‘Screaming Orgasm,’ which was great fun to order at the bar when preceded by the words “May I please have a…?”
One the most striking women in the bar that night was a gorgeous raven-haired beauty of Indian descent who looked about twenty-five years old. Her large dark eyes and coppery skin were set off to great advantage by the sparkling gold top she wore. Amazingly, she was not a beauty contestant but had come to the bar for her usual Saturday night out. She was eager to hear all about life in Africa and asked a great deal of questions about the filming of Austin’s series. When the topic of conversation turned to dance, she asked me to teach her some belly dance moves, which I did happily, if rather drunkenly. In fact, the entire breath-taking bevy of beauty queens crowded around the bar had imbibed a little too much and were teetering around on high heels, steading themselves using whatever, or whomever, they could find. As Austin sampled a Cosmopolitan cocktail and declared it to be his favourite, a tall blonde contestant withdrew a bright red lipstick from her purse and applied it to the lips of an obliging young man, and the bartender poured tequila into a continuously overflowing shot glass as he watched a porcelain-skinned redhead threatening to remove her top. Glass after glass of champagne appeared before us and we had all reached that blissful state of intoxication that tricks you into feeling that all is right with the world. It was one of the greatest parties we’d ever been to!
Eventually, tiredness from our long journey to Canada got the better of us and Austin and I decided to retire to our apartment while we were still able to walk in a straight line, more or less. The gorgeous brunette in the gold top who had been our self-appointment companion throughout the evening followed us to the lift that would take us up to our room and holding the elevator doors open to halt our ascent, she made it quite clear that she didn’t intend to part company with us until after breakfast the next morning!
My attractions to people have never been based on gender. I was quite taken with this girl and didn’t think Austin had any objection to her either, but warning bells suddenly rang in my head through the champagne-induced haze and I declined her tempting offer on behalf of both of us. We were newlyweds after all, and I didn’t feel inclined to share my marital bed with anyone but Austin, which I realised later was just as well when it occurred to me that the attractive stranger may have wanted to spend the night with us in order to have a story to sell to the tabloids the next morning.
We slept all day Sunday and I was alarmed to discover when we finally awoke that I barely remembered leaving the bar with Austin and refusing to allow the beautiful brunette woman to come with us, but I had no memory whatsoever of entering our room and going to bed! Strangely, neither of us felt even slightly hung over but it was the first time I had ever experienced a lapse in my memory as a result of alcohol and the lack of recall so disturbed me that I vowed it would also be the last!
To be continued in Chapter 28, when we find ourselves promoting Austin’s new series on the sets of some of Canada’s most popular television shows…