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Last Legs and Broken Dreams


Well, this European journey is almost at an end. We spent the last few days visiting my mum on Ibiza, taking in some summer sun and sampling the local food (we bypassed the plethora of dance clubs advertised everywhere, though). And in what's likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime moment, Ann and I got to hold the real Oscar awarded to Casablanca as best picture of 1943, which now lives in the El Palacio hotel alongside a range of other movie memorabilia. It's about as heavy as you'd expect!

Now, I'm in Frankfurt waiting to board the plane back to Brisbane (via Singapore). I feel a little sad to be going - this has been my longest trip through Europe since I left in 1994, and (in between conferences) my longest stay with family here as well. It's been good to catch up, and to see the familiar faces and places again, but I also realise how much this isn't home any more - so I look forward to getting back to Brisbane even though there's a mountain of work waiting for me there, with semester two about to begin all too soon. But I hope to be back here in Europe again soon - there's always another conference somewhere.
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More by accident than by design, this has also been a trip on the sidelines of the World Cup, of course, and tonight the feeling here is quite different than when we first arrived.We landed in mid-July in a Germany full of fans of all nations, and those team colours were a constant feature of our travels - from the Koreans in their Red Devils outfit on the train to Dresden to the Ukrainians, Spanish, and French wandering through Hannover, and to the very noisy Germans themselves celebrating the win over Sweden just as we passed through Bremen. Fan miles everywhere were bustling with people, sharing the spirit as well as some very hearty German food and drink.

For me, though, the fun dissipated somewhat when both of the teams I'd cheered on exited the tournament: first the Australians were refereed out of the World Cup, then the Germans failed to find the goal, so that now it's up to what were two of the most consistently boring and lacklustre teams of the tournament to play the final match, while the much more entertaining Portuguese and German squads play off for third place. I can't help but wonder how differently things would have gone if that silly penalty hadn't been awarded in the Australia-Italy game, with the Socceroos hanging on to beat Italy - an Australia-Germany semi-final would have been a very juicy prospect... Instead, perhaps it's simply late in the day, but tonight the excitement is gone, and Frankfurt is quiet - and I'm heading home.

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