The ‘Fynn are on tour. Two intercontinental flights — a blur of letterbox-sized movies, insomnia, meals with no name (what’s the correct term for a snack comprising chocolate, nuts, cheese and crackers served at 3am in some indeterminate subcontinental time zone?) and thousand-yard, sweaty-faced stares in 747 toilet mirrors — have brought us to Australia. Ten days in Melbourne have passed and ten days in Brisbane remain.

Charlie picked us up at Melbourne airport on a Sunday evening and ferried us back to his house in Bentleigh, a genteel suburb south-east of Melbourne city centre. We sank some Tasmanian beer (James Boag’s, pronounced “bo-ag” if ever you have a need to confuse a Victorian) and a few shots of duty-free Talisker before heading to bed. I slept very well indeed, waking woozily only for a short time in the early morning to hear Charlie and Penny’s eldest Annabel getting ready for nursery. I went back to sleep.

Our first day was a quiet potter around a local suburb named Hampton. We ate lunch just off the main road (I had a salmon risotto which tasted a little curious — this becomes important later), afterwards wandering out to the nearby beach and then heading home so that Penny could collect Annabel. Davis rode along in Penny’s Camry while Doug and I climbed aboard Charlie’s venerable, sun-blistered Ford Falcon Futura to cruise home in ironic style.

I fell in love with this car instantly. It was a redneck bruiser, a lurching retro-tank with acres of space and buckets of character. There was paint peeling off the bonnet, tinting film peeling off the windows and the HVAC controls were off-limits (“if you’re driving this car,” Charlie said, “don’t touch the heating. Sometimes it just stops dead”), but a 4-litre straight six, rear wheel drive and a willing auto box go a long way to mitigating such piffling cosmetic issues. I had an absolute need to get behind the wheel.

Charlie tuned the radio to Melbourne’s local indie station, Triple R as we rolled down Hampton’s main drag. He had been conducting not a PR offensive but open PR warfare against Triple R: “I faxed these dudes a copy of our album cover about six times, with the words “Coba Fynn” written on each one in big black letters.”

He had, in addition, forked over $300 for a series of ten thirty-second radio spots in the days leading up to our imminent gig, and we listened eagerly for it during each commercial break. Charlie’s initial script for the advert had been a semi-random list of adjectives like ‘bombastic’, ‘tender’, ‘farcical’, ’emollient’, ‘surprising’ and ‘bonzer’ (along with the rogue compound noun ‘idiot-savant’) culled from band emails, and had been soundly rejected by the station. If you listen to Triple R’s self-produced replacement you can quite clearly hear the laughter in the narrator’s voice.

Our advert was not forthcoming.

“I’m going to call them with a request,” Doug said.

I watched Doug in the massive fish-eye mirror that the Falcon’s previous owner had clamped over the standard one, and which gave a back-seat passenger a panoramic view of pretty much the entire world, as he dialled Triple R’s number on his phone. This is the conversation he had, word for word:

Doug: “Hi, is this the correct phone number to ask for requests?”

Triple R: “We don’t generally do requests, but what are you looking for?”

“Can you play something from the new Coba Fynn album?”

Suddenly firm: “We don’t take requests.”

“Okay, fair enough. Bye.”

Doug turned to Charlie and I.

“She knew exactly who I was.”

“Oh God,” I cringed. “They must hate us.”

That evening we drove the fifteen minutes to Jam Tin rehearsal studios, two converted industrial units in an anonymous estate off the Nepean Highway, for our first practice in almost a year. We were listed on a whiteboard on the way in as “Covasynn”.

Our room was indistinguishable from more or less every rehearsal room we’ve ever used: a large but past-it sofa upholstered in unfortunately absorbent fabric took up one wall; a mismatched, abused drum kit faced it and a complement of middle-of-the-road Marshalls liberally painted with the words “Jam Tin” completed the picture. The combined whiff of stale BO and air freshener added some olfactory authenticity. We were instantly at home.

With most of our gear still in the UK, Charlie had sorted us out with two Strat replicas and a Stingray bass knock-off, all sporting maple necks, black bodies and white pickguards, and all bought for peanuts at the local Cash Generator. Either they sounded great or we’re chronically unable to appreciate expensive musical instruments; either way, the old ‘Fynn sound was surprisingly audible in these hundred-dollar guitars and battered drum kit.

We broke for dinner a few hours into the practice. The only place open nearby was a Nando’s across the road, so in the Australian style we drove the hundred years to the car park, scarfed down chicken burgers and drove back to Jam Tin to finish the session. The practice had gone rather well, I thought, and with another six-hour block still to come the following night, things were looking good for Wednesday’s gig. Charlie ferried us home and we retired to our various pits.

…only for me to awake nauseous and sweating at around 3am. I clambered off the sofa where I was sleeping that night, stumbled into the bathroom and had only just made it to the toilet when I forcefully hurled the contents of my guts into it. Chiefly visible in the matter I had ejected was risotto rice and partially digested chicken. “Oh God,” I moaned. The sight and smell made me sick all over again. I clung to the porcelain throne with eyes watering and chest heaving for a few more minutes. Finally finished, I brushed my teeth, gulped down some water and collapsed back on the sofa, sleeping, more or less, until Annabel got up noisily around 5.30am.

The bulk of Tuesday was an unpleasant blur, a sort of movie nightmare sequence of tossing and turning and sweating and shallow breathing, lest I trigger the whole thing again. The guys were off out somewhere, so when I managed briefly to get up I sat with Penny and Annabel and baby Alex and tried not to breathe on anyone. Penny gave me an electrolyte powder to help get some water back into my system and by 5pm that day I was well enough to get up, shower and get ready for the practice. At 6pm we were back in the same room down at Jam Tin. I was still a little wobbly, but we managed to take care of the loose ends in our set, and more significantly I was able to hold down some Thai food from an unassuming but decent local restaurant.

On Wednesday, Doug, Davis and I occupied ourselves with a little light sightseeing (lunch at Federation Square and a visit to the observation deck of the Eureka Tower, a genuinely entertaining attraction which comes across as a little desperate to define its uniqueness — “highest public vantage point in a residential building in the Southern Hemisphere”) while Charlie worked. We had a beer in a Federation Square café but I was still suffering from yesterday’s travails and a single ‘pot’, or Aussie half-pint, was enough to send me home for the day.

Thursday, the day of the gig, was mostly spent practising, writing down makeshift set lists and picking up rental gear. Charlie was working again, but having met up back at his house we made it through the turgid rush-hour traffic and were unloading our hired amps at the Empress with a couple of hours to spare.

The Empress was a marginally grungy place composed of a bunch of knocked-through rooms on the ground floor of an old hotel. We set up and soundchecked on the crowded stage with our begged, borrowed and (possibly) stolen gear and retired to the dining room to await our hoped-for public. What with our radio ad, spruced-up website and Charlie’s hounding of his colleagues at work, we were expecting literally teens of people. I picked at my stringy steak sandwich without much enthusiasm; lingering rumblings in my stomach combined with acute nervousness to suppress my appetite.

Gradually people arrived: some of Charlie’s colleagues, Doug’s old housemate Kristen and her boyfriend Steve who happened to live in Melbourne, and my old workmate Sheena who even more coincidentally happened to be on holiday in Melbourne at the same time. With fans of the headlining band Paint Me A Phoenix arriving too, the room was reassuringly non-empty.

We took the stage at 9pm, strapped on our matching pawn-shop guitars and played. And when all is said and done, we played pretty well for a band ravaged by jet lag, food poisoning and the common cold. Granted, we were a little shambolic at times, but what’s a drumless verse or a fluffed bass line between friends? We finished with our first-ever live rendition of Whitechapel, a track of which I’m inordinately proud despite having nothing whatsoever to do with its composition, and it rounded off the gig magnificently. We came off stage and clinked glasses. Tour complete! Now the drinking could begin.