Australia's real bonza!

EVENING Star reader Mavis Bensley, 71, lost her clothes overboard from the QE2, and attended a party where a man wore little more than elastic bands!In the ninth column charting her 100-day adventure, she has fun describing the characters on board.

EVENING Star reader Mavis Bensley, 71, lost her clothes overboard from the QE2, and attended a party where a man wore little more than elastic bands!

In the ninth column charting her 100-day adventure, she has fun describing the characters on board.

“G'DAY cobbers - 'ow's it goin'?

This little Sheila's fair dinkum. Strewth mate, it's a sizzler, a drop of the amber nectar goes down a treat. It's a beaut here down under! Australia's real bonza!

My week started off in Melbourne, missed by the early explorers because of the narrow entrance channel but grew rapidly when gold was discovered in 1850.

Today it is a blend of modern high-rise buildings, well planned and diverse. Free hop on hop off buses and trams do circular tourist runs of all the main sights. After seeing museums, cricket ground, open air art and sculpture exhibitions and lunch in China Town etc, I made my way back to the ship and found a grocery store shore-side, where I bought a four litre box of wine for $10 - about £3 - that should keep me ticking over for a while!

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We sailed in to Sydney on Tuesday. I decided to go for coffee and went to put my shorts and t-shirt back only to find they had gone! No doubt blown overboard in the 25-knot winds and on their way back to Melbourne.

In the afternoon I missed the instruction class on how to crack whips, given by a fellow guest. I mean, who would pack their bags and say, “Oh, I mustn't forget to pack my whips.” The mind boggles.

After an early evening meal, rushed and abandoned, everyone crammed on all decks to watch the entry into Sydney harbour.

I could not believe my eyes. Hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes were there to greet us because it was an historic occasion - the Queen Mary 2 also sailed in today. The last time they were there together was 1941/42. The sisters sounded their whistles in greeting to each other and all the boats, ferries (full to overflowing) hooted, tooted, whistled or sent plumes of water into the air. It was very moving. The sun was beginning to set as we docked.

Nearly four million people live in Sydney and I swear the majority were out to see us. For miles outside the docks people stood at every available viewpoint, beaches, parks, towpaths, wharfs, trees and buildings - even on top of the bridge, shouting, waving flags, whistling to give us a rapturous welcome. It was so exciting I forgot about being dignified and waved, cheered and shouted back.

I feel privileged to have been a part of it. I shall never forget the day as long as I live.

The next morning my friend and I walked our feet off, visiting historic sites and found what I call 'Dad's Bridge' because during the depression of the 1930s my father worked in Dorman Long Steel works in Middlesbrough. The order came to supply the steel girders for the bridge and his job was to pull the red hot metal out of the moulds and stamp numbers on them to identify what went where in the assembly.

The afternoon was taken up by a trip to a wildlife park where we saw loads of koalas, emus, wallabies, roos, echidnas (like porcupines), dingoes and flying foxes. Sheepdogs rustled up some sheep and a guy sheared one for us, after which we sat round a billabong and drank billie tea. I swung a billycan round my head - apparently it settles the tealeaves - and didn't spill a drop!

I love Sydney - superlatives are just not good enough to describe it so I've coined a new world “Pluperlative”.

You can't come to Australia without doing at least one beach. With a couple of friends we caught a local ferry to Manley where the sand was fine, wide, warm, golden and clean.

The surf turned into rollers. There were lifeguards, tall and bronzed but nothing like David Hasselhoff or Pamela Anderson. All the girls I saw were thin as rakes, but very tanned and muscular. When a load of blue jellyfish were spotted the lifeguards moved everyone on.

Back on board, I met a lovely lady over dinner in the Lido self-service restaurant, who had boarded in Sydney. We seemed to hit it off straightaway. She was a divorcee with teenage kids, so I offered to introduce her to Harold the dance host. Anyway it turned out she is quite a star in Australia and was the entertainer the next evening - and I had told her about people dropping asleep in the front row at the shows!

She was really good with a range from opera to pop. Nobody slept during her show. I gave her a big hug afterwards and she departed the ship in Brisbane.

I went to the Mardi Gras party in the Yacht Club with my friend Shirley who had a fantastic Maori feather cloak and mask - I wore my silver one. It was crowded and very hot with loud disco music. Most went dressed up but my eyes nearly popped out at one guy.

He wore a sea captain's uniform; hat, braid, medals, the lot, but when he boogied on round, the whole thing was backless revealing a couple of elastic bands to hold the costume together - and a thong!

Anyway I'm off to meet some aboriginals in the rainforest tomorrow - that should be interesting.

No worries.

I interviewed Harold, a gentleman dance host who is one of ten on board, aged 50-75.

Most are widowers who like dancing - some are not all that good at it. Harold has been a host for two and a half years, after being a competition dancer in Blackpool.

He had a dance 'interview', a couple more chats over meals and a dance test. His health was checked as were his references and criminal record.

At night must wear navy jacket, white shirt, plain tie and fawn trousers. There are three dance “sets” in the evening, with short breaks in between. Drinking must be limited, there's no close association with the ladies or they can be sent home, although no doubt romance does occasionally occur.

He has to be aware of ladies who cling, and having watched a few I would call them predatory. Some ladies actually take notes on who dances with whom and how many times, and if not suited they will report the offending host to the cruise director.

One or two ladies seem to dance much more often than the others, much to the chagrin of the lady next to me who berated all and sundry because she was only asked once and felt slighted.

She really got het up, I was glad when the end of the session came and I could escape.