Monday, 30 March 2009

Don't worry, V happy

This weekend was blissful from start to finish. It began with post-work cocktails with one of my Australian friends on Friday. Happily we restrained ourselves to just a couple so I was home and enjoying an anchovy pizza by about 8pm (nice!). Then on Saturday, after a lazy morning and a pleasant lunch, K and I made our way to the V Festival in Sydney’s Centennial Park for an afternoon and evening of lazing in the sun, sipping beers and great music. Unlike the draconian nightmare that was Big Day Out in January, this time we were actually treated like adults at a music festival (how shocking!) and there were no “beer cages” to fence us in away from the stages. We caught the last few minutes of Duffy (singing Mercy, what else) then settled down to take in Elbow, Madness, Snow Patrol and, then finally, the headliners – the Killers. They were amazing! I haven’t enjoyed a live band so much since Muse (who are my favourite ever live act). They were everything a headline act should be – really energetic, packed full of stage presence and with a beautifully-constructed set that started with some old faves and then just kept on building – it was an hour and a half of brilliance.

Bizarrely it hadn’t sold out – I think the V brand is still quite low in Australia as almost all the voices we heard were British – which meant that although there was a decent crowd, it wasn’t overly packed, which was all very pleasant.

We finished off the night with a drink in our favourite bar in Surry Hills, the Trinity and then taxied home with the sounds of the day ringing in our ears.

On Sunday morning I was up fairly bright and breezy and went out for a run. I’d been a little bit slack during the week so thought I’d better put in a bit of an effort. There are loads of hills near our place so I slogged my way up one of them (with the Killers in my iPod giving me a bit of a boost!) and then rolled my way back down, feeling quite pleased with myself for clocking up 40 minutes of hard work.

K had organised the afternoon’s activities which involved nothing more strenuous than catching a ferry to Balmain, finding a spot with a view of the city and the Harbour Bridge, unpacking a picnic lunch and lounging about reading the paper in the afternoon sunshine. It’s a really lovely temperature here at the moment – not too humid and about 25 degrees, which is just perfect for sitting about in, especially when you get a bit of a cool Harbour breeze. Then we caught a ferry back to our neck of the woods, popped into The Deck for a sundowner, amused ourselves watching the speed-dating session that was going on in one half of the bar, ended up eating there and then, once it was dark, headed home for a Sunday evening of not much really.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Empire Strikes Back

On my way to meet my friend B for a post-work Friday cocktail, I came across a familiar logo in the middle of the Sydney CBD (that's city centre to you non-Sydneysiders!) Clearly the nationalisation of RBS hasn't stopped its plans to expand into the Australian market - when one part of the empire collapses, efforts are redoubled elsewhere perhaps?! This is a promotional tent to do with the Australian Grand Prix this weekend (which is in Melbourne so seems slightly strange for this to be in Sydney) and given that RBS previous sponsorship of the ill-fated Stewart Racing team was widely seen as misguided, you have to wonder about the use of what must now by UK government money...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Wed 25th May

Coffee roaster in action: One of my jobs involves working with a small chain of coffee bars in Melbourne who’ve just moved into roasting and selling their own blend of coffee beans. The Social Roasting Company is now Australia’s first non-profit owned coffee roasting company and, as the business grows, I’ll be helping them to take on people who’ve been out of work for a long time. This is their coffee roaster in action – she’s a beauty!

Tues 24th May

Milson’s Point station, 5am Tuesday: an early start to catch a train to catch a plane to fly to Melbourne to get a taxi to go to a meeting to talk about lots of things to have some lunch to go to another meeting for another job to talk about lots of other things to get back to an anonymous hotel to collapse in a heap to eventually find motivation to go running to get rained on when running to have burger & fries for dinner to order a crap rom-com on in-room movies to fall asleep to start all over again the next day…and that was Tuesday

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Leg-stretching day

Up bright and early this morning to make our way to the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours drive outside Sydney. It was a beautiful day, in the mid twenties and we arrived at our starting point ahead of schedule (we were meeting other people), which left enough time for a v good bacon & egg sandwich and a very sweet cup of tea from the local cafe - mmmmm!

The others arrived and we started on the walk, a circuit that began with a descent via the Zig Zag track, so-called because it, er, well, zig-zagged into a gully. What goes down must come up when it comes to walking though, and the ascent was a tad strenuous (but good for the thighs!)

We all felt we'd earned a hearty lunch after our 1hr 30+ of walking, so it was a bit disappointing to be served some of the worst food I've had in a long time at the Mount Victoria Hotel. I had the soup which was so stodgy you could have plastered the walls with it - my spoon actually stuck in it! Never mind...

Our companions were all walked-out by this point and they headed back to Sydney looking weary but happy, and K and I fitted in another short walk, a stop at a scenic lookout and yet another cup of tea!

Hazy Saturday

Today we attempted to explore a different part of Sydney but were thwarted by the ferry wharf at our destination (Balmain) being closed for refurbishment. So we stayed on the ferry and went to Darling Harbour instead (a bit of an old fave - the regenerated waterside area of Sydney and very lovely it is too).

There was some putting-the-world-to-rights to be done by K and I, particularly as we'd been in different states for most of this week, so we had a long, lazy, sun-soaked lunch, followed by a long, lazy, sun-soaked afternoon of outdoor drinking. All in all it was very pleasant indeed, and after eventually calling it a day around 9pm, it was back to the ranch.

Pics are of Darling Harbour on our way to lunch, and K after several beers.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Random 100th post

This is my 100th post on this blog. I think I've been in Australia for about 250 days so I guess that's not a bad posting average. Having said that, I'm getting a little bored of posting in the current format, so my mission for this next week is to shake things up a little bit, possibly with some form of 'photo of the day' approach (I need to start using my camera a bit more than I have been as I've been slacking with putting my photography course from last year into practice).

I'll start with a randomly captured image from a week or so ago (artistic license!).

I walked past this car on my street on my way to get the train into work. It had been fairly wet the night before - obviously enough to cause the branch to collapse in a sodden heap! Not a nice way to start the day for the owner!

And the 2nd one is my view from train station platform while waiting for my train to work.

I realise I've been a bit down on Australia and Australians in recent posts, which is probably a bit unfair of me - apologies Australia! I've met lots of good people here and if I've been a bit negative, it's probably more to do with my natural tendency to take an opposite view of things to the majority around me - so I react against the unrelenting positivity of the average Aussie!!!

This week has been another busy one for both K and I - we have been a bit like ships passing in the night as he's been away in Canberra, Newcastle and Melbourne, and I've been down on the southern New South Wales coast. That old cliche, "quality time", is on the agenda for this weekend and we're also going walking in the Blue Mountains tomorrow with a few other people, so here's hoping for a rejuvenating, refreshing, relaxing weekend.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Whizz - there goes another week

The last week has been really busy but I can’t think of anything particular to write about in this blog. Here’s all I can really remember!

• I had a really crap, demoralising week at work (various things that probably best I don’t write about in public), although it ended reasonably positively.

• We had a friend from work in Scotland staying with us for most of the week which was nice but meant that K and I had almost no time on our own together, so this weekend it’s been good to actually catch up on each other’s weeks!

• I had a good skype chat with my pal Will on Monday and a good phone chat with my brother today, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed – tis good to talk, as they say!

• I drank far more than is healthy due to going out for dinner with group of pals from social enterprise after a particularly bad day at work on Thursday, which had me reaching for my glass of red wine more frequently than is sensible – oh well.

• Despite being pretty whacked by the week’s events, we ended up watching Man U-Liverpool in the pub with some friends till 2am last night, which perhaps explains why we’re both a bit zombie like today.

• I went running 3 times, to the gym twice and am going again later today – so it’s not all been too unhealthy!

• My homesickness from last week seems to have abated a bit, maybe because visit in May is getting closer.

Monday, 9 March 2009


Homesickness is a funny thing. Most of the time I don’t particularly feel it and although I miss family and friends, I feel reasonably in touch with people to avoid anything too bad. I haven’t found myself particularly craving haggis or Irn Bru or feeling the need to wrap myself in a Saltire or anything like that. And I’m really enjoying lots of things about being here. But I think one of the really hard things about being away from home is that it’s really quite hard to feel at home in a different place. Other times I’ve been away, I’ve been away for shortish periods of time where by the time the initial excitement and ‘wow isn’t this so different and amazing’ phase wears off, it’s almost time to go home again. Here, because we’re here for a few years, it’s inevitable that we’re reaching the ‘settling into life in a new country’ phase and bizarrely instead of feeling more at home here, I feel less so. It’s something to do with not having shared history, shared culture, shared sense of identity, shared values. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’ve definitely noticed over the past couple of months that I’m getting increasingly irritated by the “Aussie way of life” (shallow, superficial, individualistic, arrogant, unconcerned with social justice) What was mildly amusing when we first got here is actually getting me down a bit because I feel like I don’t fit in and I’m having an increasing number of moments where I find myself really missing the way of life in the UK (at which point I try to rub off the rose tint on my glasses!!!). Someone told me once that the average length of time people who’ve emigrated here permanently actually stay for is only 2 years. I was shocked and amazed by that at the time, but now, to be honest, I really understand why. It could be a Sydney thing rather than an Australia thing mind you – as whenever I’m in Melbourne I feel very at home. Maybe we should have moved there after all!!

Two seasons in one country

Apparently it’s a truism in Australia that there are only two seasons here – drought and flood. So after the bushfires that have made headlines around the world, now we have Cyclone Hamish, the worst cyclone to hit the east coast since the ubiquitous ‘when records began’ (does this mean since vinyl was invented?!). Queensland has been quietly flooding for a while and not getting much news because of the fires in Victoria, but now it looks like yet another natural, or possibly human-helped, catastrophe will be the talk of the town.

Life’s a drag

The Mardi Gras is on in Sydney at the moment. The main parade is widely heralded as a “Sydney institution” and was one of the things we put on our “things to do in Sydney” list when we first arrived here in July. Saturday night was the event itself and (unfortunately) was a bit of a damp squib. One of my colleagues said the best way to see it is to be in it, and I can understand why. The route is fairly short (pretty much restricted to the main thoroughfare in the ‘gay’ part of the city) and the crowds are big, so it’s kind of impossible to see anything unless you’re right at the front. I managed to see a bit thanks to clambering on K’s shoulders (benefits of having a 6’ 4” boyfriend!), but couldn’t keep that going for the whole thing! From what I could see, some of the floats were pretty impressive but most were quite basic and not the all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza I’d been expecting. That, and the gaggles of pissed 15 year olds everywhere made the whole experience a bit less than I was hoping for…oh well.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Celebrating idiocy

So, despite the fact that there have been two shark attacks at dawn and dusk in recent weeks (see post below) and therefore people have been warned repeatedly not to go in the water at these times (as this is when sharks feed), some teenager and his dad went surfing on a deserted beach at dawn on Sunday morning (you're also meant to go in water when lots of people around - big numbers put sharks off). Lo and behold, said teenager gets bitten by a shark and instead of the media highlighting the utter stupidity of him and his dad, instead it's poor old sharks that are getting a bad press, with talk of increased shark fishing quotas (note - sharks are actually endangered) and macho rubbish about shooting every shark on sight.


Sunday, 1 March 2009

Up & over

I’m reading Vaclav Havel’s autobiography (To the Castle and Back) at the moment – just started. I liked this observation from some time he spent in Washington just after the pope died.

“America is a rather odd country. It’s very religious, and at the same time it allows the broadcast of the pope’s funeral to be interrupted by advertisements, many of which were the direct embodiment of what he had criticized for his entire life. I found it truly hard to understand, and it made me more and more uncomfortable, until I finally switched the television off.”

On a less serious note, K and I went to a grand prix athletics event last night. It cost us $15 each (about £6) which is a bit of a bargain – most sports events here are really good value, especially compared to UK prices. We saw Asafa Powell, some other Olympic medallists and then Steve Hooker, Australia’s gold medallist in the pole vault. He’s aiming to beat Sergei Bubka’s long-standing world record – didn’t come too close last night but it was great to see an athlete of that calibre in action.