Monday, 29 September 2008

Apples and oranges

Something we’ve been trying to work out – and that people have asked about – is how the cost of living here compares to the UK.

Here’s what I’ve noticed so far…

1. Trying to do simple exchange rate conversions doesn’t really work because the rate is fluctuating a lot at the moment. So when we arrived it was £1:$2 which made food and shopping seem relatively expensive but salaries seem high. Now it’s back to about £1:$2.25 so shopping seems cheaper but our pay packets seem less impressive!

2. Expectations of lifestyle are quite different. Here, it's pretty average to own your own plot of land and build your own house with pool, outdoor patio etc. Similarly, a ‘small’ car here is a Ford Focus or equivalent and most people have 4 wheel drives or “Utes”. So if you don’t go in for all of that (we prefer to save as much as we can for holidays!), then your relative cost of living seems quite reasonable.

3. Australia seems to be fairly high-salary, low-tax, for the middle classes anyway, or to coin the media’s terminology, the ‘average working family’. Although you hit the 40% tax band at a lower level than you do in the UK, you pay quite a bit less in council tax as the ‘rates’ here just pay for roads and rubbish collection.

4. But! If you’ve got kids, or are likely to need anything other than basic health care at any point in your life, you’re likely to have to budget for private health insurance and, for a significant number of people, for private education. Apparently something like 35% of Aussies send their kids to non-state schools, with 2/3 of these being Catholic fee-paying schools and the rest being what we’d think of as ‘public school’.

5. Australia has a compulsory superannuation (pension) scheme where employers have to pay 9% of your salary into a superannuation fund. But Aussies have very much less by way of other employment benefits. Sick pay and holiday pay are much less generous than in the UK.

6. And, unbelievably in the 21st century, there is NO right to paid maternity or paternity leave OF ANY KIND. That’s right – nothing, nada, zip, diddly squat. Women just have to pop off, have their kids and rely entirely on their partners or their own savings to support them. There’s also no state support for childcare as far as I can make out. I find it incredible and shocking in equal measure and it really makes me appreciate the benefits of having had a Labour government in power in Britain for 10 years. The new Australian Govt is looking into the whole issue and is considering changing this, so...

So all in all, for me and K, the upshot is that we’ve got a better quality of life here, relative to our earnings, than we would have in the UK. But that’s primarily because a) we have different expectations to most Aussies b) we’re not planning to have kids here and c) we’re not planning to grow old and infirm here.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Battle of the Cockroach and other events

This week’s assorted happenings


Signed lease on our new apartment. We move in 3 Oct and I can’t wait to get in and settled. Whether or not you believe in these things (and I don’t really), I have many of the characteristics of a typical Cancerian – nesting instincts and a desire to have my home in order, plus a craving of routine and a fondness for habits – which means that the thought of being in one place for at least a year, with all my possessions around me (well, apart from the oodles of stuff that’s still in the UK!) and having the ability to form routines like finding regular running routes, a nice brunch cafĂ©, a ‘local and things like that, makes me very happy!


Early morning second interview for job I’ve been offered. Things are done a bit differently here, so this was more of an informal chat (albeit with a set of structured questions), but it was with group of senior people so I guess it was mine to throw away! Thankfully it went well and was actually an enjoyable experience!

Out for a drink after work with one of my colleagues, a girl about my age with lots of things in common – was great to swap stories about working in the community sector/having mid-to-late twenties career crises/temping in the public sector! K joined us later and then he and I stayed in the pub for something to eat. I’m turning into even more of a lightweight than normal, although the early start may have been a factor, and had to leave my final drink and insisted we left at 9.30 - cue falling asleep on the couch by 10.30!


Found out I’ve definitely got the job! Still need to have discussion around specifics but they want me, I want them, it’s all good. Got message in the morning so had skip in my step for rest of the day!


Have been trying to get into a habit of getting up a bit earlier, so I can start to go running in the morning – as summer hits, it’s going to be the only feasible option I think. Plus I’m naturally lazy so after a long day at work it takes extra effort to do any form of exercise. Crap as Australian TV is, my capacity for watching mindless rubbish is quite high! So today, even though it was Saturday, I was up at 8am although not for exercise purposes – just trying to get my body used to the feeling of being up! I’d bought a few books on Friday so spent a couple of hours reading in bed. I bought three books from the Popular Penguins range, that’s also out in the UK (although interestingly, it’s a different set of books). If you haven’t seen them, I’d really recommend them – Penguin have chosen 50 books from their annals since they began publishing in the 1930s, a blend of fiction, non-fiction, ‘classics’ and more modern favourites. When I looked through the UK list, of those I’d read, I would agree that 90% of them were well worth it, which gave me confidence in the remainder. Here in Oz, they have the added advantage of only costing $10 (about £5), which is considerably less than the average paperback, which is about $25.

Anyway, after whiling away a few hours with “South”, Ernest Shackleton’s story of the Endurance expedition to the Antarctic, I walked into town in the midday heat (phew!) and after collecting my kit for Sunday’s 9K “Run the Bridge” race, caught a bus to Clovelly beach, where I bought some ‘hot chips’ (that’s normal chips to you and me), spread myself out on a towel in the shade and passed a very pleasant afternoon of more reading and relaxing to the sights and sounds of Sydney families playing in the sun. (An aside – I’ve noticed that people here look really old compared to their actual age – it must be the sun, so I am now scrupulously slapping on SPF30 whenever I’m in it for any length of time! It was interesting to watch people today – none of this European ‘avoid the sun between 11 and 3’ approach – they were all basking away for hour upon hour – scary).

Went to the gym once it got dark and then had a quiet Saturday night in, with the aim of being fully rested for my early race on Sunday. The only blot on an otherwise lovely day was a war of attrition with a rogue cockroach that I spotted in our bedroom around 8pm. Think it must have been disturbed when I switched the air conditioning on (the unit is outside and looks pretty dusty and like a good home for creepy crawlies). Anyway, it was crawling along the wall above our bed, so I tried to coax it back in the direction of the patio doors which I think it came through, but instead of taking the hint, it decided to belly flop onto the bed. Some comedic scenes ensued involving the cockroach scuttling under the covers, shrieks of horror from me, much poking, prodding and gentle lifting of bedsheets and eventually the damn thing disappearing under the bed.

At this point I decided to forget about it, assuming it would crawl back to whichever dark crevice it had come from, but oh no, half an hour later, I came back upstairs to find it on the wall above the bed again!! I took a different tactic this time, and decided to see what it wanted. I kept a stealthy eye on its progress (with the other eye on a George Clooney film on TV). All it did was crawl from one side of the wall to the other, stopped for about 10 minutes, then went back again. How dull! If it had just gone back outside once it was done, that would’ve been the end of it, but for some reason it just lurked around near the bottom of the bed. By this time I’d sourced some insect killer and as it was now within spraying distance, I’m sorry to say a brutal incident followed. Boy, those things take a while to die – I used a LOT of spray and it was still staggering around for a good few minutes (apologies to anyone who finds this kind of thing offensive!) Its sorry corpse is now in the bin outside our apartment and so far, none of its friends have come back to get their revenge. Phew.

I realise this isn’t the most exciting way to spend a Saturday evening but it kept me entertained! Typical that K is away this weekend - hobnobbing at some work-related shindig where he and various ‘big thinkers’ from both the UK and Oz are gathering to discuss how to sort out the problems of poverty and disadvantage and inequality – while sipping chilled wine by the side of the pool in a luxury resort – hmmm! K is a stand-in for someone else he works with and not sure if it will really be his scene, but we’ll see. Anyway, it meant I had to face the Battle of the Cockroach on my own (normally I’d just yell for him and it would all be over in 2 minutes as he would just pick it up and fling it away!) Perhaps he planted it to remind me of his usefulness!?


Up at 6.30am, straight into my running gear, a light breakfast and then a 10 minute train journey to Milson’s Point for the start of the 9K “Run the Bridge” race that I’ve been vaguely training for over the past few weeks. Milson’s Point is at the north end of the Harbour Bridge, and is very close to our new apartment, so it was good to see what kind of running loop I can do from there!

The race itself was pretty enjoyable, if somewhat badly organised (too congested at the start and throughout the course, runners not grouped according to speed, water stations pretty shambolic, finish not clearly marked in advance so difficult to do any kind of sprint at the end). But there was a good atmosphere, an impressive number and array of people running and some absolutely spectacular views, so these minor things can be forgiven!

The course took us over the Harbour Bridge and then down through the Botanic Gardens, before looping back to finish at the Opera House itself. It was hot – very hot – and hilly in places – but very satisfying to do. My time was a bit quicker than I was expecting – 46 minutes (minus a minute for a loo stop en route), which is close to 50 min pace for a 10K. I’m pleased as I didn’t think I had that in my legs and I actually feel like I could have gone a bit quicker – I couldn’t really get into my stride because there were so many runners and also lots of people walking the route. I can feel the running bug biting again, or perhaps it’s just my competitive streak!

So now I’m back home, having showered, lunched, snoozed, done some laundry and read a bit more. It’s a roaster of a day today and I’m quite happy to potter about in the shade for a bit, resting my weary legs! I had lunch outside on our balcony-thingy today, which was lovely. Our apartment backs onto the backs of lots of others, so it was nice to hear the vague sounds of other people’s lives floating around as I ate and drank.

Photos are of a) balcony and my lunch today b) K & Harbour Bridge, we’re going to be living just off to the right of the picture! and c) my new office building – no, I’m not going to work for HSBC, but I’ll be in that building on the 7th or 8th floor – good views!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Aussie lexicon

There are some funny expressions used here. Here's a few that spring to mind.

To auspice

To set up, run or manage. For example, "the project was auspiced by the Department".

To flick

To send an email to someone, particularly if it’s something for comment or feedback or discussion. For example, “I’ll have a look and flick it to you”.

To oversight

To oversee (strange confusion between verb ‘to see’ and noun ‘sight’!)


An organisation that provides a membership or advocacy role for others. Known in the UK as intermediaries.

Sydney in Spring

Spring is glorious here. It was 28 degrees yesterday and walking round Sydney city centre was like walking around in a warm bath. Even by the time the sun went down, it was still balmy enough to sit outside in a t-shirt and feel just fine. Today I sat in one of the big public squares to eat my lunch and basked in the baking sunshine. Although I’ll have to be careful and start using sunscreen soon as I had a distinct bit of colour on my skin by the time I got back after a mere 20 mins in the sun.

On the subject of lunch, this is another big thing in Sydney (and Australia)’s favour. In a five minute radius from my office, I can go and buy not just your average sandwich, but a whole range of yes, sandwiches (toasted, grilled, Turkish, multigrain, umpteen salads and meats), plus a vast array of fresh salads, soups, sushi, noodles, curries, burgers, fries, pizza…the list goes on and on. And it’s all delivered quickly and fairly cheaply. Today I had Malaysian chicken with flat noodles. Last week I had a multitude of different salads and one day (with a slight hangover) I had BBQ chicken and chips. It’s truly fantastic! On the downside, though, I can’t even begin to imagine how much waste goes to landfill as a result of all this – everything comes in a plastic box, with a plastic cutlery set and there are no recycling bins anywhere to be seen…come on Sydney, get your act together!!

The same could be said for the general approach to water consumption and saving. Australia is, famously, in the grip of a drought. But despite this, there are no water saving measures in place on any kind of scale. Even when it rains heavily, which it does (when it rains, it rains properly and for hours at a time), the water just runs straight into the sea – surely there must be a better way!?

Similarly, you’d think that a country like Australia might have invested in solar power on some kind of significant scale – but no, nothing doing. I’m sure it’s not as simple as you’d think but really, thousands of square miles are virtually uninhabitable because of the baking heat and yet there’s nothing in place to harness this!

Monday, 15 September 2008

To laugh or cry

I came across a sentence today, while doing some background reading on self-directed services for people with disabilities, which made me laugh out loud (that doesn’t often happen in my line of work!)

The final sentence in the paragraph below may not be all that amusing to most people, but for me it resonates with so many things I’ve seen in the past and really epitomises what is wrong with so much social and public policy.

“The xxx evaluation examined the impact of the program on all stakeholders. As stated by xxx in xxx, the program intended to assist students in their move from school to further education, training, employment and recreational activities and to facilitate the development of a flexible, consumer-responsive service system. However, there were no clearly stated aims and objectives for the program that could be used for its evaluation.”

Shedloads of money gets thrown at all kinds of initiatives and ideas, often according to ministerial or other political whims. Then, when some poor researcher or consultant is dragged in to try to make sense of what’s happened and identify lessons that we could all learn for the future (and therefore avoid wasting precious resources), they find a whole bundle of activities taking place, with “no clearly stated aims and objectives”. How can you figure out what works if you don’t know what you were trying to achieve in the first place?

It made me laugh because I could almost hear the writer’s silent cursing, but really it makes me cry.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Having a home

Following on from this week’s earlier good news, we’ve just found out that we’ve got the apartment we wanted in Kirribilli. Views of the Opera House, here we come!!

We’d been told lots of horror stories about how difficult it was going to be to get somewhere, with tales of people outbidding each other during 10 minute apartment viewings and stories of estate agents refusing to lease to anyone without squillions of references. So it’s been a very pleasant surprise to get the very first place we applied for, although it’s been a real exercise in bureaucracy and has taken way longer than it would in the UK – more than 2 weeks from viewing and saying we wanted to move in, to actually getting a ‘yes’ from the estate agent.

Thinking about it though, I realise that K and I are in an extremely advantageous position. We’ve both got good salaries, we’ve got no major financial commitments (i.e. kids!), we’ve both got jobs where we can be flexible about taking time off to sort out viewings, appointments, references etc, we’re “respectably middle class” and we can afford a fair bit more than the average rent. If we’ve found the process a little bit stressful and unsettling, what must it be like for people who don’t have all of those advantages?

We knew that if it ended up taking a bit longer than we had hoped to find somewhere to live, we could always move into a hotel for a few weeks – it would have been expensive and inconvenient, but it would have been relatively easy for us to do – we could have cut back on a few meals out or bottles of wine to make savings.

What do you do when you don’t have that option? It reminds me how close we all are, whether we choose to think about it or not, to homelessness in one form or another. For the lucky ones among us with financial security, a strong network of family and friends, education and good employment, the vulnerability may not seem so apparent. But for others, the difference between having a home and being homeless is wafer-thin. A few months of not working; disability; a violent partner; debt getting out of control; a family background that leaves you with no foundation to start in life; a breakdown of some kind. These things can happen to anyone.

Putting public spending in the hands of the public

One of the things I’ve been looking at a little bit in my temp policy work is the potential for social care services (for older people, people with disabilities and their carers) to be completely reconfigured so that the people who use the services actually get to choose how to spend the funding that is allocated to them. In the UK, this approach is known as self-directed services or personal budgets, and there have been some really interesting trials of how this could work.

This isn’t actually government policy here but I’ve been asked to have an initial look at what the implications of a move in this direction would be for things like regulation, access to services and so on.

It’s a fascinating concept – so simple – you work out how much money gets spent on meeting someone’s needs and you give them control over how to spend this – but so fraught with lots of potential resistance from vested interests, and riddled with all kinds of risks, whether real or imagined. For more, have a look at this report.

When you think about it, paying lots of tax to the state so that it can employ countless bureaucrats to process everything to death, seems like a daft way of doing things. There must be a better way!

One of the reasons this is being thought about in Australia, the UK and other developed countries is the well-known fact that the population is ageing, and that with ageing comes an increased need for care.

A recent report shows that by 2010, there will be an estimated 1.5 million Australians with a “severe or profound core activity limitation”. This is around 6% of the population. As life expectancy increases, so does “expected years of life with disability”. In fact, for women in recent years, 90% of additional life expectancy comprised “extra years with disability”. Hmmm. I’ve always said it will be a little blue pill for me when I hit my eighties!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Good things come to those who wait

Two good things have happened this week. First, my brother is now officially a clinical psychologist – WELL DONE PAUL!!!!! Most people probably have no idea how much hard work that takes (and I’ve only seen it from one step removed) but believe me, it’s been a huge effort and I am so proud of the new Dr in the family!! For a great insight into the work that he’s been doing as part of his thesis, have a look at, which I think is fascinating (no bias here of course).

Secondly, and hopefully I’m not jinxing anything here, I have success to report on the job-hunting front. Nothing is 100% confirmed yet, but barring major incidents or disasters, it looks like I’ll be doing two jobs from November! I won’t go into the ins and outs of how this has transpired – needless to say it’s been an interesting time of offers and opportunities and me trying to find a way to have my cake and eat it!!

The main thing I’ll be doing is leading an ambitious, national program of social enterprise development for a major Australian welfare organisation (I won’t name them until it’s all signed, sealed and delivered). The focus will be on using a transitional labour market model (on-the-job traineeships allied with vocational training) to support marginalised young people to access and sustain mainstream education or employment. Some really interesting commercial opportunities are on the table, plus the organisation in question has excellent links with government and corporate supporters, so it’s an amazing opportunity for me to lead something on a large scale which could, if we get it right, have significant impact, not only on individual young people but on the policy environment here in Australia. I’ll be working with senior staff across the organisation, and corporate/government partners, to design, set up and roll out the business model across each state and territory in Australia.

Then, on a very part-time basis, I’ll be supporting a brand new organisation which aims to create employment for people who can’t access jobs elsewhere, by buying existing businesses and developing supportive, integrated workforces over time. My role there, as part of a small management team, will be to set up the framework and accompanying policies for the business managers to work with when they’re recruiting and employing people who may not have worked for many years, if at all.

As you can imagine, I’m really excited about both jobs and feel like I’ll definitely have the challenge I was hoping to have in my time here. And hopefully both will give me strong experience and a useful perspective to bring back to the UK in 3 years!

Fingers crossed, I’ll be finishing up in my temp job and kicking off both jobs in late Oct/early Nov – wow!!!

Probably couldn’t have written a better script for this if I’d tried and am currently in a slight state of shock at how well it’s all worked out. Am particularly happy with myself for not rushing into taking the first opportunity that came along and forcing myself to wait for the right thing. Patience isn’t one of my strong points (no, I hear you all cry!!!!) and I’ve had to repeat various mantras to myself for the last few months to stop myself randomly applying for all kinds of jobs that I could do (but wouldn’t necessarily be happy with long-term).

Note to Sarah if you’re reading – I remember speaking to you about this way back before you left for SL, and I’ve often recalled our lunch in Tate Modern when I’ve been on the brink of giving in to temptation – so thanks!!!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Saying sorry

It started raining in Sydney on Friday morning and didn’t stop until late Saturday evening. Not just drizzly rain. Proper, verging-on-monsoon, soaked-to-the-skin-in-two-minutes rain. So outdoor activities were off the agenda and I decided to go to the Australian Museum. Most of it was okay, but a bit ordinary, especially when you’ve been spoiled by huge and very well put together museums in the UK like the Natural History Museum or the Museum of Scotland. But it did have one exhibition that was particularly affecting and moving: Indigenous Australians.

I was actually quite surprised to see this in the first place as there is very little acknowledgement here of the fact that Australia even existed as an inhabited island before the late 18th century. Where the 40,000+ years of pre-colonial history is recognised, it’s often in a tokenistic or patronising way, so my hopes weren’t high for the exhibition.

Thankfully I was wrong to be so pessimistic and it turned out to be a very moving, sensitive, thoughtful and frank exploration of the pretty awful history of colonisation, exploitation and abuse of people that has taken place over the last 200-odd years.

No-one knows exactly how many indigenous people lived in Australia before white settlement – estimates are around 350-500,000 or more. Within decades of the Europeans arriving, this number had been decimated and may have been as low as tens of thousands, with those who did survive being forced into pretty uninhabitable environments and/or ‘reserves’. This was partly because of the impact of new diseases like smallpox and TB, which the indigenous population had no resistance to. But it was also due to the large-scale intimidation and effective starvation of indigenous communities, as well as slaughter of “the blacks”, which was considered a “frontier sport” by many and was by and large sanctioned by the governing authorities (i.e. the British).

Although the worst of this behaviour did get reined in eventually, official policies of forced assimilation of indigenous people with white culture continued right until the 1970s. The most painful of these to read about was the forced separation of indigenous children from their families, known as the Stolen Generation. Over a period of around 100 years, from around 1869 until the 1970s, somewhere in the region of 100,000 indigenous children were removed from their families and either placed into institutional care or fostered and adopted by white families. Motivations for this appear to have been a mixture of well-intentioned attempts to protect children from abuse (no-one knows how misguided or not this was), and more sinister beliefs about ‘purifying the white race’ by breeding out “the blacks”. Whatever the reasons behind it, reading and listening to the personal accounts of some of the children who were taken in this way was harrowing, to say the least.

In Australia today, indigenous people have a significantly lower life expectancy than other groups, have worse health, get much poorer school results, are 11 times more likely to be imprisoned and are more likely to be homeless.

I haven’t got nearly enough of a handle on the issues involved to say much more than this at this stage, but what I will say is that it is really challenging to deal with a) the reality of barely concealed prejudice and discrimination that bubbles just beneath the surface of ‘civilised’ Australian society and b) the complexity of potential options from here and how to develop these, given the history of imbalances of power, the fact that it’s tricky to hold today’s Australians to account for the ‘sins of the father’ and the need to avoid over-sensitivity towards cultural differences. I’m also highly aware of my own advantaged position in Australian society, which has come about by virtue of my own colonial forefathers (in some from) and is even today, down to the fact that I come from the UK rather than, say, Vietnam or somewhere unlucky enough to be off the immigration target list for Australia.

The museum exhibition ended with a full reproduction of the newly-elected Australian Government’s apology to indigenous Australians for what has gone before. I hadn’t fully appreciated the symbolic power of this until I’d been through the exhibition and it made me glad that I’m here at a time when this apology has taken place and there is, whatever the challenges inherent, a willingness and a desire to change things for the better. I’d recommend anyone to read the full text of the apology. Some of it’s a bit political and/or cringe-inducing, but put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s family and community has experienced some of the things described above, and I imagine you will feel some impact from it.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

And some more!

And finally (for the moment), boats in the bay; our diving holiday island in Borneo; view of Melbourne centre from St Kilda; Watson's Bay in Sydney.

Some more pics

Some more pics - Circular Quay, where we get ferries; fancy boats at the Sydney Boat Show; St Kilda in Melbourne; the surf at Bronte beach; me on a sunny day walking along the coast (we'd just seen whales in the ocean behind me).

Some pictures

In no particular order, these are an AFL game, the view from our hotel in Kuala Lumpur of the Petronas Towers, Camp Cove in Sydney, view of Sydney from Watson's Bay and the Harbour Bridge at night, from the bar underneath the Opera House

Monday, 1 September 2008

Monday 1 September: Spring has sprung

Today is officially the first day of Spring in Australia and just to prove the point, it was the first day that I’ve been able to walk to work without a jacket and the first morning that we’ve not put our little gas heater on straight away when we got up. My body is a bit confused by all this as it’s gearing up for its annual retreat into winter hibernation mode, but I’m sure I’ll adapt!

Highlights of the past week…

End of luggage saga
Finally getting our bags from the UK! The three bits of luggage that we last saw at Edinburgh airport after being presented with an astronomical bill for excess baggage, and shunted back in a taxi to my mum’s for shipping by freight, have finally made it into our possession again after much paperwork, hassle and delay. It’s good to have a choice of clothes again and even better to have my ipod back!

A new abode?
Finding an apartment that we want to rent and, fingers crossed, being top of the list for getting to be its tenants. K did all the hard work on this and spent a few days last week trekking round various places. I’ve not seen the place he’s settled on but it sounds great and has views over the harbour including a glimpse of the Opera House! It’s far more common to use estate agents here and there are very few places for rent through the classified ads, so we’ve had to learn about the whole application process, which basically seems to involve a ‘points mean prizes’ approach where we get more points the more we earn, and the more proof of ID we can provide. It’s a bit strange but there you have it. We should find out later this week if we’ve got the place or not.

More fabulous food
Two stand-out meals from the last week. First, the Nepalese Kitchen, a 25-cover place in Surry Hills, which we went to on Sat eve after having been to the gym (how smug and virtuous!). I was ravenous so insisted on going for an early dinner at 6pm, which was just as well as we hadn’t booked and by the time we left, the place was full. Amazing food. Mild curries, packed with fresh spices and herbs, with flavours that woke up all my tastebuds and stayed with me for a lovely aftertaste. We shared a bhunta (aubergine, tomato and potato) and a house special chicken & pumpkin curry, with really nicely textured dal (not too thick, not too runny), a couple of ‘achars’ which are chutneys and relishes designed to bring out the flavours, a couple of rotis and some rice. All washed down with a lime soda. Fabulous.

The second meal to mention was vegan yum cha at Bhodi, in Hyde Park. We met an old friend of K’s and his family for lunch there before going to watch the football (see below). It was their choice and a great one it was. We were a bit early and they were running late, and as I’d just been for a long run (smug and virtuous again!), we started without them. We didn’t really know what we were doing though, as we’d never been for ‘yum cha’ before. But we watched and learned and basically the way it works is that you sit down and wait for a constant procession of staff to bring all kinds of little nibbly things to your table. We kept saying yes to things without knowing what they were and had soon stuffed ourselves silly!

“Who do we support? We support Sydney!! Who do we support…” and so on
Along with about 11,000 other people who are in the vast minority here who actually understand and appreciate the value of the beautiful game (most of them expats or offspring of expats), we went to see Sydney FC in a mighty tussle with Perth Glory. It was a seven goal thriller, well not really, but it was quite amusing and about a third of the price of an equivalent game in the UK. The most impressive part of the whole thing was the diehard section of the crowd behind the goal, who kept up their singing and drumming and chanting for the whole 90 minutes and seem to have developed their own particular habits including synchronised scarf-twirling and synchronised scarf-throwing-in-the-air-and-catching-again. Not sure how long they’d last on the terraces back home, but it was good entertainment! Bizarrely though, there were almost no away fans so the vitriol of the chants was a bit unfocused and this seems to have led to a splinter in the home support, between “The Cove” and the “Sydney Soccer Crew”, who amalgamated for most of the match but then split into their separate factions at the beginning and the end. Strange.