Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Up & down

After a 'fed up' week last week, had a definite Friday feeling and fortuitously ended up out for a few drinks with some people involved in the One Foundation, who have just launched One Water in Australia - all profits go to ensuring clean water supplies for African villages.

Then on Saturday we went diving, which felt like a bit of a hassle when we had to get up early on Saturday morning, but which was actually exactly what I needed - 50 mins of a really easy, shallow dive (we didn't go below 5m so could really just have snorkelled it!!) where we saw cuttlefish, lots of pretty fish, some interesting underwater rocks and generally had a very relaxing time. There's a high faff factor with diving though, which meant that by the time we'd got back to the dive shop, sorted out our gear and had something to eat, it was 2pm by the time we got home. After a quick mid-pm snooze with a crap romantic comedy on in the background, we then headed to one of the big public open spaces out here for a free evening of jazz outdoors. Accompanied by a cool bag, some wine and a blanket, we met up with a friend from work and whiled away several pleasant hours in the warmth and mellowness. Too much wine was consumed though, which led to the pretty silly decision to go on to another pub and meet up with another pal from work. I paid the price the next day!

And so now it's Tuesday evening, I'm flying down to Melbourne on the red-eye flight at 7am tomorrow and once I've got the next three days of work out of the way, I'm ON HOLIDAY - HURRAH!!! Our itinerary includes the Australian Open, a music festival, driving along the Pacific Ocean, walking in "the Grampians" (prob nothing like the Scottish ones!) and some world famous wineries in the Barossa Valley near Adelaide.

Will, of course, post up holiday words and pics in due course - back in a few weeks folks!!

Thursday, 15 January 2009


It's January, it's the post new year blues, it's another week of stifling heat with thankfully, relief of a storm on the way. And I'm flagging. Maybe it's because we've got a holiday coming up and I can kind of see the finishing line or maybe it's just because it's January and, as K's theory goes, we should be hibernating and eating chocolate right now, not being all busy and active!

Either way, it was a bad sign on Tuesday that we both felt the need to go to the pub for a couple of drinks and have a mutual rant about all things social enterprise in Australia. Pub-based exchanges of tales of woe and hardship and struggle in social enterprise were quite a common feature of our relationship back in the UK, but think this was the first one here!

I'll spare you the details but one thing we did both agree on, which I've since found out is a common view of a few other non-Australians living here is that Australians don't, in general, appear to have any concept of what hard work looks like. Now obviously that's a sweeping generalisation and I know lots of them do work hard - and lots of my colleagues do in fact - but there is a really apparent culture of 'whatever' and 'no worries mate' that means when it comes to project management or business development, it's bloody hard work to get things done. There doesn't seem to be any real sense of having to perform, to meet deadlines, to manage limited resources, to make a strong case for a project or a business concept, or anything else like that.

K reminded me that we'd met someone in Malaysia who worked in Australia and she'd told us that Brits were adored by Aussies for their hard work ethic - and now I can see why!

I don't know why it's like this here - maybe because the economy has been so strong (and remains relatively strong compared to others), maybe because there's so much of the place to go around, maybe because it's sunny and to be frank, the rest of the world seems pretty damn far away and well, what's the worst that can happen if that deadline gets missed or nobody really keeps a handle on that project - hey, the beach and the surf will always be there! I don't know, whatever the reason, it's not helping with my general January malaise as I feel like I'm knocking my pan in, in a culture that doesn't appreciate it! (not talking about specific colleagues - just general sense - in case anyone's reading!!!)

I also realise that what I've just said is probably the very reason lots of people emigrate here and love it - so maybe I just need to get over my typical Scottish 'if you haven't worked till your knuckles hurt, you don't deserve any reward' mentality!! Good old Calvin's influence still going strong huh?!

Anyway, I feel better now that I've shared!!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Festival First Night

Yesterday was the start of the annual Sydney Festival, which is a bit like the Edinburgh Festival except nowhere near as big and nowhere near as many tourists! See photo album to right of this for a snapshot...

To mark the occasion, K and I had a day of cultural activities, starting with a visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to see their current Monet & the Impressionists exhibition (very good) and a photography exhibition called Portraits from Black Australia which was variable but very good in places. It felt a bit like the curator had been obliged to fit in as many photos as possible by lots of different artists so it was a bit cluttered and there was no interpretation of any of them, so difficult to get a sense of context. But some of the portraits were very beautiful and moving (and some of them were just a bit forced and overly trying to say something).

Then, as it was a lovely day, we wandered round Sydney’s green spaces taking in the sights and sounds of “Festival First Night” (which started in the afternoon) and was a series of mini-concerts etc all over the city.

Finally, we went to see a play called Rabbit at the Wharf One Theatre, which is on the end of one of Sydney’s “finger wharves”, strips of land that stick out into the harbour (like fingers) and that have been redeveloped from their original use as trade wharves into a variety of arts venues, restaurants, boat moorings and apartments. The play was entertaining, very well acted and well written although I couldn’t really tell you what its main message was. It was set in a club on the occasion of the main character’s 29th birthday and was a bit of an exploration of male-female relationships, sex and family from the perspective of, well, my generation, I suppose.

Today I spent the whole day lying on our couch reading The Chimney Sweep’s Boy, by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) which was an excellent novel. It was billed as a psychological thriller and I wouldn’t say it lived up to that but I really enjoyed it – it centres on an author who dies suddenly and whose life is then explored by his daughter after his death, with all kinds of mysterious secrets being discovered slowly until the truth of his life is revealed. It’s better than it sounds, honest!

Sometimes I get so engrossed in reading that I forget to eat or drink or go to the loo – and today was a bit like that. I only meant to read for an hour or so this morning until K got up, but by then I was hooked! I felt a bit queasy after only reading for 7 hours, but then went for a run and had a lovely dinner, watched an episode of Heroes and spoke to one of my old pals on the phone, so feeling more balanced again now!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Sunny days

Scorching in Sydney right now - close to 40 degrees apparently, although I've spent my time dashing from air conditioning to shade to air conditioning as much as possible!

We went diving on Sunday - there were about 25 of us altogether, two shore dives off the waterfront in a couple of bits of Sydney. Both dives were excellent - on the second one I spotted an octopus hiding in the shelf of a reef wall. Managed to get pretty close to it while it glowered at me!

K and I were trying out our new wetsuits and other diving-related gear (masks, snorkel, fins, gloves) - bought as combination of various gifts over the past six months (my birthday, K's leaving work, joint Christmas gifts) - it was all very exciting!!

Photos on link to right (Diving and Sunny Days).

Friday, 2 January 2009

2008 - that was the year that was

And so, after the most spectacular fireworks display I’ve ever seen, made so, so much better by the fabulousness of the view from our apartment building’s rooftop (link to photos on right hand side of this page - don't do it justice though!), it’s now day 2 of 2009.

It’s also almost exactly 6 months since K and I left the long summer evenings of Scotland behind and set off on our Australian adventures, so it seems timely to do a bit of stock-taking of what’s happened since then.

The highs

• The best birthday and going away party I could ever have hoped for – so many good friends and family, acres of decorations and brilliant balloons, gazebos and trampolines, seamless, endless supplies of good grub, champagne by the embers of the fire in the wee small hours of the morning, drunken and emotional fireside chats (always the best!), sunshine and warmth and happiness in bucketloads.

• Getting upgraded to a business suite on arrival in Kuala Lumpur – exactly what we needed after emotional farewells and overnight flight!!

• Jawdropping diving in Sipadan, Borneo – turtles, turtles everywhere; baby reef sharks chasing each other’s tails in a circle like kids in the playground; the strange alien sight of squid and cuttlefish spawning and defending their eggs by changing shape and colour; dropping into the water into the middle of a group of huge, bumphead parrotfish just hanging around – and more. A-ma-zing.

• Seeing humpback whales off the Sydney coast on one of our first walks

• Successfully getting a fab flat in a fab area – 4 times the space of our London flat for about half the rent (depending on exchange rate!!).

• Getting not one, but two ideal jobs in social enterprise – greedy I know!!

• Getting a good temp job within days of arriving in the country – phew!

• Meeting new people and making new friends

• Finally getting all of our belongings from home (only to them pack them away into cupboards and wardrobes where they will probably only emerge when we go home again!)

• Hanging out with lots of pissed 17 year olds at the races in Melbourne

• Adapting to the concept of distance in Australia – where journeys are measured in time instead of miles

• Swimming in the North Sydney pool in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge

• Britain getting more medals than Australia in the Olympics – tee hee!!! (Oh, and South Africa cuffing Australia at cricket – sorry, but it really is hilarious to see the Aussies losing some of their sporting arrogance!)

• Commuting to work on the little green and gold Sydney ferries that chug from our place to the city centre in about 7 minutes, via views of the Opera House and pootling right past the Harbour Bridge – there is no better way to start the day.

• The fun of a 72 hour visit from mum! And particularly sundowner cocktails at the Shangri-La, looking out over the harbour from 45 levels up!

• The bliss of the summer heat and knowing there are months of it ahead, not just one snatched day in August.

• The bliss of the cool Southerlies that come in from the sea, drop the temperature by a good five degrees and whip up a wind that is so welcome at the end of a hot day

• Always having something new to do because it’s all new here!

• Having a great companion, supporter, friend and more in K – couldn’t have done this without him by my side – and managing to deal with the inevitable stresses and strains of new jobs, new home, new lives, without any major fallouts (only minor ones!)

• All the phone calls, Skype calls, emails, texts and facebook messages from home – it really helps so thank you for all of them – even a quick hello means a lot and makes the distance seem less.

• And finally, ending the year in incredible style with rooftop view of fireworks over harbour, in company of new friends from Sydney and with champagne flowing!

The lows

• Saying goodbye. So, so hard. So, so not something I want to repeat.

• The gap in my life that exists from not having people I love, and who love me close at hand and just there – for a cup of tea, for a quick chat, for a night of doing nothing except eating pizza and watching Strictly Come Dancing, for sharing good news, for comfort, just for no particular reason except that we love each other.

• Not being able to really be there for other people. Not really knowing, or sharing what’s going on in everyone’s lives. Not being able to help. Not being able to put my arms around people I care about and give them a big hug.

• The feeling of transience that comes from knowing you’re only going to be somewhere for a few years – not really putting roots down, just observing.

• The sense of guilt, unease, something I can’t quite put my finger on, that comes from knowing how fortunate we are as UK migrants with nice visas that let us do lots of stuff, compared with refugees and other migrants who are much less welcomed here.

• The seemingly intransigent situation for indigenous Australians – no, we can’t go back in time and undo past wrongs, but where do we go from here? No easy answers but worse than that, a lack of willingness or interest from the majority population in asking the questions.

• The utter, utter dreadfulness of Australian TV, especially ‘news’. Scary.

• The way Aussie sports commentators make their English equivalents seem positively humble and neutral!

• The relentless positivity of Australians – just for once people, tell it like it is – life isn’t always “AWESOME”!!!

The year ahead

Road trips scheduled, flying visit home scheduled, diving with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef scheduled, clifftop paragliding on the coast in the pipeline (thanks to 30th birthday pressie from pals), jobs that will develop and grow and unknown opportunities that will come along, still considering a move to Melbourne at some point, planning to train for and run the Sydney marathon in September, getting to know new friends better, keeping in touch as much as possible with old, dear friends, a big birthday at the end of the year for my brother, 52 more weekends of sunny fun (even if it does get colder!), blogging and photographing, hopefully making a bit of a difference through work, hopefully learning and growing a bit more, trying not to spend so much time thinking about the future that I forget to enjoy the moment, maybe (just maybe) getting round to starting to write that book I’ve always thought about – watch this space!!

Happy New Year everyone with much love and many thoughts and wishes for you all.

Emma xxx