We all relaxed perceptibly after the gig. Borderline shambolic it may have been, but we’d belted out some great tunes and by gigging the new album we’d come satisfyingly full circle from our first recording sessions almost two years ago.

Friday was spent in gentle recuperation from the stresses of the gig but the day after that we piled into both cars for a trip down the Mornington Peninsula, the spit of land which forms the western boundary of Port Phillip Bay. After an hour or so in the car we turned upwards onto a zigzag, Alpine-style road leading up the slopes of a hill named Arthur’s Seat after a supposed (and to my eyes, wholly imagined) resemblance to the Edinburgh original. Charlie’s otherwise bulletproof Falcon felt just the slightest bit geriatric as we rounded each switchback.

We parked alongside Penny’s more athletic Camry (there’s something you don’t hear every day) and wandered out to the lookout point in the blazing sun. It was spectacular: we had uninterrupted views out over the pale blue water of the bay and unbroken sky, with the Melbourne skyline hazily visible to the north a full 60 kilometres away as the crow flies.

That afternoon we drove a few miles inland to a winery for lunch. There was a grassy slope and a sandpit round the back where Annabel could run joyously amok while the rest of us chilled out at a long table on the terrace and gazed out over the rolling countryside. Waiting for our food to arrive, Doug and I walked round to the cellar door at the front of the winery and proceeded to methodically sample each of the ten wines produced there; there followed a fairly outstanding meal and for me at least, a gratifying feeling of being on holiday at last. (I think for me it’s being half-cut at 2pm in the afternoon that does it.)

The festivities continued that night with our first official band night out in Melbourne. We grabbed a taxi to the CBD and followed Charlie through the bustle on the streets to a bar called Cookie. “I’ve been here before,” he said, “it’s great.”

The bouncer eyed us up as we approached. “Got a reservation, guys?” he asked.

“A reservation? For a pub?” Charlie replied with evident incredulity.

“Yup. It’s [inaudible] night tonight — look at all the other people. It’s the races.”

We did appear to be a little underdressed compared with most of the other revellers out that night. And whether or not this ‘reservation’ was just a ruse to keep four likely looking lads out of his bar or not, the bouncer had a point; the races in Melbourne go on all spring and this was clearly some sort of Big Night Out.

We wailed and gnashed our teeth and after consulting Doug’s iPhone went round the corner to Berlin Bar instead. This was to be our first encounter with Melbourne’s infatuation with theme bars, but this was no sloppily clover’d-up Jimmy O’Flanagans or Union Jack-bedecked Red Lion; this was instead a literal recreation of East and West Berlin circa 1984. The door was guarded by a buzzer system and pierced by a slit window through which the maitre’d could decide our worthiness to enter. We passed whatever test was silently administered by the fashionably quiffed (and drop-dead gorgeous) girl who answered the buzzer, and were then shepherded through the opulent ‘West Berlin’ room and into gritty ‘East Berlin’, decorated with ammunition boxes and anti-Soviet graffiti. We were worthy, but only just. Another startlingly attractive waitress took our order of four standard-issue but eye-wateringly expensive lagers. We clinked brand-specific glasses and got to it.

After Berlin Bar we trotted a few streets along to the Croft Institute, a three-storey, ceramic-tiled chemistry lab/hip hop club which served shots in plastic syringe plungers; we drank cocktails at Sweatshop, another hip hop place nearby (sadly, this one only really measured up to the others on the expense front), and lastly we descended on the magnificently pompous Melbourne Supper Club/Siglo, a pair of twinned bars sited respectively inside and on the roof of a grand old Victorian building. We shivered on the roof while drinking beers and eating meatballs — this was a night which needed some protein if it was to continue — and then descended to the warmer surroundings downstairs to drink whisky and rum. I was absolutely mortal, truth be told, but as is my custom I held it together and smiled wanly as the others blethered. Possibly the stand-out, jet-liquid-out-your-nostrils moment of the night happened just then, as a clot of braying, preppy 25-year-old guys at the table next to us started complaining loudly that their cheese platter was taking too long, and that they absolutely could not enjoy their Beaujolais Nouveau without it.

We caught a taxi home, tired, as they say, but happy.

On Sunday Doug and I caught the train to north Melbourne to meet up with Kristen and her boyfriend Steve (who we’d already met at the gig) for a barbeque at Steve’s place. We sat out the back in camping chairs and shot the breeze as we waited for sausages and kangaroo skewers to cook.

Doug had mentioned a few days before that Steve used to restore old American muscle cars for a living, and that he might just have a couple of works in progress on the premises for us to take a look at. My mind reeled at the prospect of getting up close to the coke-bottle curves of a General Lee-era Charger or a Plymouth Satellite or something equally exciting. “So, Steve,” I asked as casually as I could, “I hear you used to repair old cars for a living?”

“Yeah,” said Steve. “In fact, I’ve got a couple on the go at the moment in the garage if you’d like to see them.”

Yes, Steve. Yes I would indeed. Show them to me right now.

Steve rolled back the garage door to reveal — well, as Doug said later, it wasn’t quite the gleaming Mopar mecca we’d expected, but the cluttered garage had a charm all of its own. Two grimy white late ’60s cars — a Chrysler Valiant wagon a cut-and-shut Dodge Dart coupé, Steve told us — were crammed in side by side, the rest of the garage filled with sundry mechanical innards.

“I’ve got a Skyline engine waiting to go in the Dart,” Steve said.

Okay, now you’ve got my attention again.

We nerded out with some petrolhead chat until the food was ready, and after eating we headed inside so that Steve could educate us in the ways of the Melbourne music scene. Seemingly a bit of a renaissance man, Steve is the owner of Love & Theft Records, and as we blethered he trawled through his label’s back catalogue, putting on this vinyl or that CD. Doug told him about our abortive PR attempts with Triple R.

“That’s weird,” Steve said. “Normally if you pay three hundred bucks for an advertising campaign Triple R will play some of your music or get you on air for an interview.”

Coba Fynn: masters of the own goal.

Our last few days in Melbourne went by too quickly. Monday was taken up by a leisurely lunch in St Kilda followed by a little light boozing and some excellent funk music in Windsor that evening, and on Tuesday we again loaded both cars for a day trip down to Phillip Island, off the southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula. We took a walk along the scorching sands of Woolamai Beach on the southern edge of the island, and which, unprotected from the overwhelming expanse of the Pacific, gets some of the best surfing waves in Australia. For lunch we drove over to Cowes on the placid northern coast, and then, leaving Charlie & Penny and the kids to play on the beach, Doug, Davis and I commandeered the Falcon for a trip to a nearby Pirate Mini Golf course. How could we not?

“Anyone mind if I drive?” I asked as we finished our round. I gleefully helmed the Falcon for the 20-minute journey back to Cowes. Charlie, if you’re reading this, I must be honest: I hooned it just the tiniest bit. How could I not? I spun the wheels on the way out of the gravel car park and chirped the tyres as we turned out onto the highway, but that was the limit of my automotive abuse; for the rest of the drive I adhered to the internationally accepted speed limit of “as fast as the guy in front”.*

We rounded off our day on the island with a visit to the Penguin Parade. Each night at dusk, hundreds of Little Penguins come ashore after a day at sea and waddle up the beach to their burrows in the sand dunes above it. We watched this earnest little procession from boardwalks raised up off the beach in the dim light cast by ‘penguin friendly’ floodlights, wandering back to the cars when the last of the birds had scrambled up off the sand. We were all shattered, and I must admit that to a person, we forgot to heed the notices warning us to “Check under your cars for penguins!” before we set off home. Happily, though, no penguins we injured in the making of this entry.

Charlie ferried us to the airport the next morning. Annabel slept soundly in the child seat between Davis and I, waking only to wail inconsolably as we said goodbye at the airport kerb. We kissed her goodbye, man-hugged Charlie and set off for the flight to Brisbane.

* Australia still wholeheartedly embraces the sort of car culture which America seems to have forgotten. GM and Ford (who own Holden and Ford Australia) have abdicated this responsibility to their antipodean subsidiaries who manage to design and build mass market, rear-drive sedans powered by 4.0 sixes and 5.0 V8s in a country of only 22 million inhabitants, while in the USA only bit part player Chrysler can make a similar claim. I saw more ’70s iron with bonnet scoops and side exhausts in three weeks than I’ve seen in many months in North America. It’s enough to make me want to spend a gap year over here, if only so I can spend 12 months hooning an ex-cop Commodore SS around the outback.