Fri­day and my fab­u­lous friends

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GRA­HAM ER­BACHER

Fri­day is deals day. My mo­bile phone pings with the prom­ise of a week­end of shows to see, books, mu­sic, cars and houses to buy, dogs to be groomed, eyes tested and, most won­der­ful of all, des­ti­na­tions to visit.

These emails and texts know pre­cisely what I like and some­times, eerily, plant the perfect idea in my head be­fore I have thought of it. It’s all got to do with search en­gine al­go­rithms, I hear.

Now we did al­go­rithms at school years ago but I wasn’t fond of math­e­mat­ics and, in the first sig­nif­i­cant mis­take of my life, I didn’t try. I can see, though, how it (mostly) comes about — mar­ry­ing data from past on­line pur­chases and searches to shape a pro­file and pre­dict an out­come. In Ama­zon’s early days I was ex­cited by the ready ac­cess to Hol­ly­wood clas­sic movies I hadn’t seen since Bill Collins was a boy. Among my first pur­chases was a box set of Joan Craw­ford films. In the blink of an eye I re­ceived an email in­form­ing me that I might also like a few Bette Davis ti­tles, these of Bar­bara Stan­wyck, and how was I off for the dou­ble al­bum of Judy Gar­land’s leg­endary 1961 con­cert at Carnegie Hall? Some peo­ple bought all of these to­gether, it was help­fully sug­gested. Do tell!

For the day­dream be­liever, I like scrolling through my Fri­day feast of sug­gested get­aways to Lon­don, Paris, Ber­lin, the Amalfi Coast, Barcelona. I have used ac­com­mo­da­tion book­ing web­sites for a few of these places, but (this is where the story gets sad) some­times I just en­ter a date at a favourite ho­tel to see if a room is avail­able, at what cost and to pore over the pictures. One day I might do some­thing spon­ta­neous and head off for a (very long) week­end. And then we’ll be in the age of tele­port­ing.

Two faith­ful sug­ges­tions are my Fri­day de­light. One is for El­bow Val­ley, a speck on the map 25km from War­wick in south­east Queens­land. A few years ago I searched ac­com­mo­da­tion in War­wick and en­vi­rons be­fore a fam­ily re­u­nion, so I un­der­stand how it makes my “likes”. The other pro­posal, reg­u­lar as clock­work, is Went­worthville, in Syd­ney’s west, and this one stumps me. I’ve been there but, in this life at least, have never sought out ac­com­mo­da­tion. Maybe the al­go­rithm has an odd bad day. Time to turn it off and on again.

A week­end at these two des­ti­na­tions is her­alded with the same breath­less ur­gency as the in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tals. Oc­ca­sion­ally I am warned how few rooms are left and the num­ber of peo­ple around the globe look­ing at snap­ping them up right now. I won’t be spooked into a hasty de­ci­sion, but I want to go, or at least buy the T-shirts. “El­bow Val­ley, dis­arm­ingly beau­ti­ful” per­haps, or “El­bow Val­ley, what a joint!” Went­worthville is more of a prob­lem — so many let­ters. I might have to set­tle for “I (heart) Went­worthville” in a snazzy type­face.

Now I know stop­ping these emails is only a ticked-box away, but I’d miss my Fri­day friends. How nice it is to know that some­one or some­thing out there, even if it is Al­gie Al­go­rithm, is think­ing of me, just me.

Su­san Kuro­sawa is on as­sign­ment.

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