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 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!
• 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.