Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas in Mittagong




I've just got back from Mittagong where I had a really enjoyable stress-free Christmas Day with my dad, Cate and Sarah. After the busy run-up to Christmas, a couple of days in the country was just what I needed. I love it down there; it's so pretty, un-populated and quiet. It wasn't so hot that we had to turn the air-con on full whack either. Everything was just perfect.

Except me. I wasn't expecting any gifts from Dad and Cate or my mum in London for that matter and didn't get them anything in return, although I did ask what they wanted. Will have to make amends in 2009.

As for food, always a particularly sore point for me at Christmas, everyone was very supportive and didn't force me to eat anything (!) and we had a lovely cold Christmas dinner; delicious salads, some cold roast meat, plum pudding with ice-cream etc. It was my first Aussie Christmas for 21 years! The bulimic urges are still there though.

Boxing Day was spent at my uncle's house in Turramurra with all the cousins. My aunt put on a huge spread; lots of steak was eaten and cold beer drunk. I was even able to use their pool for the first time. It was far too cold back in July when Ric and I first came to Sydney. Have we been here five months already?! It's been so wonderful to reconnect with all the relatives over here and I find my self more and more reluctant to leave.

I do miss my mum though.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Shingle Bells

An update on the rash - Ric finally went to the doctor today as the rash was spreading, blistering and beginning to hurt. The diagnosis is shingles. Poor thing. He could have it for some time.

As for me, I've finished up at work and am looking forward to having a few days off. I'm so tired.
One of the staff gave me a beautiful bunch of flowers today so the flat now smells gorgeous.

I'll catch the train down to Mittagong tomorrow in time to wrap pressies with Sarah. Still doesn't feel like Christmas. Perhaps it's the heat or maybe I've finally given up on my childhood fantasies!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The week before Christmas



It's been another very busy week here in Sydney, but a fun one.

Ric and Charlotte have been doing lots of touristy things with their folks while I've been plowing on at work trying to get things wrapped up before we finish on Tuesday. I'm doing well for presents so far what with thirteen bottles of wine, one bottle of bubbly, a panettone, a basket of fruit and a box of cookies. Most of those are unwanted gifts given to the bosses but who am I to complain?

On Thursday we had our office Christmas party on the Chairman's 60 foot yacht which is moored in the prestigious Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Rushcutter's Bay. We had a fabulous day sailing round the harbours, eating fine food, pulling crackers (or 'bon bons' as they call them here), knocking back bottles of champagne and wine and avoiding shop talk (for the most part at least). The weather was glorious for nearly all of the sail and only started to turn bad as we made our way back to the club. The huge grey billowing storm clouds which loomed over Sydney were quite magnificent. At the boss' insistence we all had a go at the helm and as you can tell from the photos, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

As the weeks pass and the days get hotter, I grow fonder of Sydney and more attached to my job and know now that I'm going to find it very hard to leave it behind in February.

Yesterday Ric, Charlotte, their parents and I visited the stately 19th Century mansion Vaucluse House, the near-by Nielsen Park and the cliffs and beach at Watson's Bay. It is amazing how one can see sea, sand, skyscrapers, park lands and sumptuous gardens all within half an hour's drive of each other. There are so many parts to Sydney I have still to explore and so many gorgeous houses I can only dream of owning.

We've had some great experiences and adventures so far this year but today Ric and I did something which aced all others to date. This morning I was instructed to go and buy a big drawing pad, the biggest I could find, and some pens because as much as we enjoyed going to see Rolf Harris last week, we felt we really should have more of a souvenir. So, off we went back the Opera House where we waited to catch him after his final performance of the tour. There were quite a few people in line (we were second), mainly children and women of a certain age. He looks pretty good for 78 but seemed tired and drew an audible sigh when he saw the fans waiting for him to sign their various CDs, photos, brochures and wobble boards. We were chuffed when he drew Ric a Rolferoo and me a Jake the Peg and were grinning like loons all the way home. We love you Rolfie.

Ric has just developed a bit of a nasty rash on his back and bum - he said I could post this picture - we've no idea what it is as it doesn't hurt yet and we don't think we've got bugs in the bedroom - shingles? It's rather unpleasant whatever it is!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

East Coast Break

After a madly busy week back at work I've only just got round to writing up my two week jaunt around the East Coast with my friend Nicole.

Flying first to Proserpine, which has the funniest departure lounge I've ever seen comprising of just an grassy outdoor pen, we made our way to Airlie Beach. It wasn't the best night to arrive in town as the 'schoolies' (school leavers) were out and the place was crawling with drunk noisy teenagers. This wouldn't have bothered us had we not being staying in Magnums, the cheapest, noisiest and most central hostel in town. We didn't realise this when it was booked for us by the agent in Sydney. I also managed to take the wrong backpack when the airport shuttle bus dropped us off. The driver handed me a bag which in darkness looked just like mine. I only realised it wasn't mine after we'd checked in. What followed was a good hour of running up and down the high street asking in tourist offices and hostels if anyone had lost of handed in a bag. I managed to find the poor Canadian girl whose bag I'd taken but she'd left mine on the bus. I got it back the next day - thank goodness. So that wasn't a good start to the holiday.

After a sweaty and noisy night at Magnum's Nicole decided it wasn't for her so promptly upgraded to a nice hotel down the road the next morning. I didn't want to pay twice for accommodation and can sleep through most things so decided to stay put.

We were heading off on our Pride of Airlie trip that day anyhow so I had time to consider my options but I was inclined to spend my money on some diving later that week.

The Pride of Airlie was a booze focused three day sail around the Whitsundays with two nights sleeping on South Molle Island, some snorkeling and visits to a couple of the Whitsunday islands including the silica sand Whitehaven Beach. There were nearly 70 of us crammed on the catamaran so it was a good job we could get off and sleep in proper beds at night. Not that we did much of that what with all the drinking games, pool parties, dancing til late and getting up early. In fact I was up at 6am every day of the trip, mainly because of the intense heat in the tropics which starts as soon as the sun comes up at 5ish.

As far a social events go, this trip was a lot of fun and I didn't feel too old for it, but I was a bit let down by the snorkeling and everyone agreed that the food was just dire. We had the same tiny portions and basic meals for three days in a row (that's cheese sandwiches and veggie burgers for me) and the staff even rationed our milk and bread! I was worried that if she didn't like Magnum's Nicole would hate this but she had a great to time too!

Upon my return to Airlie I was eager to do some diving so booked another boat trip. This time I really lucked out. I went for the FantaSea Reefsleep, a two day/one night trip to the slightly cheesy sounding 'Reef World' on the Great Barrier Reef, some 70 miles out from the Whitsundays.

What I didn't realise when I booked was that when the 100 or so day-trippers went home at 2.30pm there would be only 4 of us left on the pontoon over night and that we would be treated to extra guided snorkeling trips, first class service from our personal steward and other staff, endless drinks and snacks and a three course meal with wine under the stars. Heavenly. They even threw in two extra dives for me! The other guests were great company. There was a lovely National Geographic journalist who was doing a whistle stop tour of Oz and arrived by helicopter and a couple from Proserpine. The trip was a surprise 50th birthday present for her from her husband- they'd never tried diving or even snorkeling before but were so keen to do everything and were really good! We all kept marvelling at how lucky we were to find ourselves in such an obscure but wonderful location and being spoilt rotten! I didn't really want to go back to the mainland the next day...

By the end of the week Nicole and I were ready to leave Airlie. This was compounded by the fact that I had a panic attack on the day we were to fly back to Brisbane. After months of my OCD getting the better of me more and more I just felt completely overwhelmed by it all. I just kept thinking I should be having a great holiday but was instead being constantly dragged down by irrational thoughts and the resulting behaviour and depression. I went to a local doctor who gave me some anxiety pills and anti-depressants but now I'm seeking help in Sydney. Just can't understand where this all comes from. Ric reckons I have bad genes. I think it's a hell of a lot more complex than that.

Onwards and southwards, we flew to Brisbane where we spent the night with a dear school friend who has settled here. It was a great evening of catching up, discussing natural health therapies (she's training in that field) and some awesome Thai food!

Next it was off to Dingos on Rainbow Beach where our three day Fraser Island experience began. Dingos is a pleasant enough and well organised hostel - you couldn't ask for better management for the Fraser Island tours but it felt a bit like a boot camp especially when you get given your plastic cutlery and crockery in a sack and are told to wash it up after every meal.

We were put in to groups of 11, given a humorous and comprehensive briefing (or three) by a passionate (almost evangelical) tour manager, given our crates of food, booze and a map and sent on our way to Inskip Point where a small ferry took us over. Our group was a mixed bunch comprising three German and three English girls, two Irish lads, a Welshman, Nicole and I. Most of us had a go at driving along the massive expanse of white sandy beach (we were advised to drive close to the water to avoid getting stuck or rolling over). We got on well and made an efficient cooperative team and managed to visit the incredible pristine Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, the impressive Maheno Wreck, Indian Head and couple of other places besides.

Along the way we saw lots of dingoes prowling for food, we were savaged by horseflies as we emerged from our furnace-like tents in the early hours, but failed to spot any Brumby ponies. I did a lot of cooking which I enjoyed. I even rather liked washing the pots and pans in the sea in the morning. Better than putting tents up anyway. I also swam in the sea each morning even though we were warned of the jelly fish and sharks. How easily I am enticed by the roar and mesmerising movements of the sea.

The evenings were great fun too when we camped with all the other groups - felt a bit like a music festival back home, except it was warm, dry and there was sand in my knickers instead of mud! I was surprised how much there was to do on the island and how little time we seemed to have. We even had to miss out Lake Wabby in order to hurtle back to the ferry pick up point on our last morning. The ferry was due to leave at 11.30am and with drove up at 11.29.

I would happily return to Fraser Island one day - an absolutely beautiful place which fully deserves it's World Heritage status. I just hope it stays that way and that the tourists don't wreck it with their rubbish and toilet areas.

Upon our arrival back to Rainbow Beach the car was inspected for damage. We held our breath nervously for an hour praying that we wouldn't have to replace anything that we may have inadvertently bumped, broken or scratched. Much to our relief we got an all clear - we didn't even lose a piece of cutlery!

Exhausted but elated by the whole experience Nicole and I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before catching our 7pm bus to Hervey Bay that night. We were there for such a short time that we didn't really have a chance to check it out but I did go for a nice long run along the sea front in the morning and was watched by a curious possum as I took pictures of it on the veranda at the hostel!

The flight back from Hervey Bay was easy and quick and we got in to Sydney by mid-afternoon with all the right bags this time! It was quite a shock going back to work on Monday but it was lovely how much they seemed to miss me. I also realise now how much I need to work in order to make me feel settled and happy. It's going to be hellishly busy now in the run-up to Christmas.

Nicole is now in New Zealand and we have just welcomed Ric's parents to Sydney. It's great to see them after all these months. They even managed to sneak some Marmite in which has just been smothered on toast and devoured by their twins.

Another friend gets in to Sydney in the morning and we're all off to see Rolf Harris at the Opera House in the evening!

Unfortunately I lost a memory stick with half my photos on so only the second part of my trip has photos:

http://picasaweb.google.com/alexecrawford/EastCoastAustralia2008?authkey=a6re3llUIlE#







Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Fun with family

Things were a looking a bit crap and then my cousin came to stay.

The flat is really too small for guests but as long as people don't mind the sofa, the bathroom-connected-to-the-bedroom, the stuffiness and small cockroaches, then all is well.

Oli was a perfect guest. We had a great weekend with him kicking off with an outdoor gig at The Rocks on Friday. The thunderstorm didn't deter us or the Potbelleez but we did get very soggy. The place was packed and a hive of creative activities what with the night markets going on too.

On Saturday we took him over to Darling Harbour and the Fish Market where Ric and he enjoyed platters of seafood. My stomach wasn't feeling up to fishy things by then. In fact, I'm just not getting in to fish at all yet. Tuna's ok, and I like snapper.

That evening we drank in the Opera Bar, met up with some of Oli's doctor friends and found ourselves listening to crap karaoke in a Chinese restaurant. Ric and I intended to go on the The Ivy which is a new uber cool club near Wynyard but I was still feeling too wiped out by my bug to go along. A shame.

On Sunday we caught the ferry over to Watson's Bay where we dined at the famous Doyles restaurant on the tiny beach front. The sun even came out for a while. I love the fact that even the fanciest, most stylish places to eat here have a laid-back, no nonsense feel. This one's definitely a winner and somewhere we'll have to take Ric's folks too.

It was such a lovely weekend, the prospect of work the next day was rather depressing.

Now Nicole has arrived and I feel guilty for being at work and not showing her round town. We've got lots of time to catch up when we go away next week though and it will probably take her a few days to shake off the jet lag anyway.

I don't think she's a fan of the cockroaches, or the sofa.

I am desperately trying to find an outfit for the Australian Chamber Orchestra dinner on Thursday. It's black tie but with 'a touch of Africa' - help! I'm not to fussed about going now but the tickets were $225 each and my boss has told me to go.

I really just want to see Ric in a tuxedo (he's borrowed one from a friend).

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Cranky Pants

All I seemed to do last week was cry and be snotty, fluey, stressed and overwhelmed by everything, or, in other words, nothing in particular. I honestly don't know why I've been this way - I mean, I only caught a chest infection. I can't blame Ric (although I do feel a bit of a computer widow of late and that I'm interrupting his flow of geekiness when I get in in the evenings). I can't blame work as that's a kind of stressful environment I thrive on. I can't even blame my hormones...err...hang on... maybe us girls can always blame those. Well whatever factor is to blame, I've felt like crap.

I have this constant feeling that I'm on the brink of change or something profoundly important and that all the choices I make here are finite but somehow out of my control. I have the strong sense that I am failing to live up to my dreams, whatever they may be. I waste a lot of time with OCD too though this is getting better. More and more I think it would be well worth pursuing some sort of Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) either here or when I get back to London next year.

Ric is being screwed about by agents but seems quite content working on his laptop from the flat.
He's building some cool games: www.bedroomlab.com/novaChain/

The weather here has been rubbish of late and I wonder when this place is going to warm up as promised!

Stockton fun





I've just returned from a very wet (and wild) weekend on Stockton Beach. Despite the forecast of rain and the onset of a sore throat and head cold on Saturday, I braved the elements and NSW rail and pitched up at Newcastle with Ric and Helen where we were kindly driven to the camp site by our friend's friend (one of many RAF engineers in the group), via a quick stop off at the bottleshop of course.

The beach, which is only accessible via a bumpy dirt track, is un-patrolled, long, wide and dotted with huge sand dunes, thus lending itself perfectly to quad-bikers and 4x4 drivers and all-weather campers like us.

We arrived to find the Hungi pit already being dug out, the shelter erected and yes, the rain drizzling down. But at least it wasn't cold.

One of the party had brought their 12 month old Labradoodle Charlie (see pictures) who was an adorable wool-bag who just wanted to run, dig holes, fetch things and lick everyone. Helen wasn't thrilled about his slobbery attention but I relished the canine love. Ric and I are always talking about getting a dog eventually and this cross-breed is rather special and, it seems, very popular over here.

After a few hours and with the aid of a boot-full of wood fire, the sand in the pit was hot enough to bury our dinner in so the two large and carefully wrapped foil parcels went in to the pit, were buried with sand and then covered with more burning wood where it was left to cook for the next four hours.

Meanwhile, the rain had mercifully abated, allowing us to put up the tents, crack open the beers and commence the games. We played Frisbee for a while (Charlie rather got in the way though) and then cricket on the top of the large sand ridge over looking our campsite. Forgetting that I was once quite a good batswoman, I played a few great hits notching up plenty of runs. It's hard work running in sand though and my thighs are throbbing today after all the balls I had to retrieve, oh, and after long jumping repeatedly off the edge of the dune!

The sunset was truly one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. All we could see for miles and miles was sky, rippled purple clouds, sand and the sea in the distant horizon which was dotted with almost spooky looking enormous cargo ships. The sky became variously red, pink, orange and then purple as the sun went down and every one of us watched in amazement as we were painted pink by its radiant glow.

The rain held off for the rest of the evening and we enjoyed great food (the chicken, pork and lamb all came out of the Hungi cooked to perfection, as did the pumpkin), games, music courtesy of Ric's new speakers and impeccable music collection, dancing and 10 litres of Very Fruity Port beside the camp fire which led to yet more frolics involving running up sand dunes with no clothes on.

Ric escaped that game by virtue of not wanting to stand up by that stage, but he somehow managed to roll in to the fire at about 1.30am at which point I decided it was time to drag him off to bed where we found Helen already curled up in the middle of our three man tent. We unrolled a few borrowed sleeping bags, huddled together and then passed out til 7am when nature called with great urgency and the rain drops started tapping furiously on our tent. In the five and a half hours sleep I had, I managed to strain my neck, wrist and left shoulder - or was that a result of yanking Ric out of the fire?

We dosed for a while longer listening to the patter on the plastic shell (how this reminded me of mornings at Glastonbury), some of us in a worse state than others, none of us fancying facing the bright daylight or rain again. But there was breakfast to be had, mess to be cleared up and tents to be packed up so we clambered out, sand falling off us as we walked.

We were given a lift back to Newcastle and caught the 12.30pm train back to Central so were home by 3.10pm. Ric was a little worse for wear though and had to run back and forth to the on-board loos all the way back to Central. Not so immune to the effects of alcohol perhaps...w

We had a lot of fun though and didn't even dip a toe in to the sea!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Melbourne Cup Day and Obama Win

When I was invited to GlobeCast's Melbourne Cup Day lunch over a month ago, I can't say I was that excited. After all, how much fun could a long lunch devoted to watching a horse race be? Especially when it wasn't even in Melbourne!

However, as details started to unfold about this event-that-stops-the-nation, including the fact that most of Australia (including our office) takes the afternoon off work (Victoria and Canberra shut down for the whole day!), that men and women in every state wear their finest garb to various Cup related functions and that there would be fine food, wine, sweeps and prizes for the best hats in store for us at the Maitre Karl restaurant in Willoughby, I started to feel more festive!

And what a fabulous afternoon it was, once we got there. We arrived long after the 12pm expected time, due solely to the infuriating habit the bosses' have of overloading us with all-but-impossible-to-meet deadlines minutes before we leave to go anywhere. We weren't too late for the entrees and champagne though or to place money in the sweep. I had never done this before and had no real clue what I was doing when I handed over my $5 note to a chap with an anxious expression on his face in return for a piece of paper with a horse's name on it: 'Viewed' - no one had even heard of it. I reassured my boss (who had placed a large bet on the favorite) that I never won anything. Meanwhile...

The restaurant, which seated about 50 of us, was delightful, managing to be both intimate and homely without being in the least bit twee or cramped. Charming, patient and efficient French waiters served plate after plate of exquisite European cuisine to the spirited crowd even while prizes, presents, races and the dreadful Latino Elvis impersonator were obstructing the way. I wasn't expecting anything special when I mentioned that I was actually a vegetarian (couldn't quite face the scallops and mussels) but the chef managed to rustle up some amazing dishes for me- there were even real truffles in my risotto!

As for the race itself, some of us had high expectations and a fair bit of cash to lose on the horses while others (me included) didn't really understand the form or particularly care what happened - we were just having fun - although the mounting anticipation was contagious regardless of our agendas. When the time eventually came for us all to stop chatting, pause chewing, down our cutlery and grab our sweep strips in order to watch, it was all over in a flash, even ending with a blurry photo-finish. Imagine that, a whole day centred around a five minute race! That doesn't even happen back home. As for me, I had no idea that I was holding the name of the winning horse in my hand until at least 3 minutes later! I had won $55 - I couldn't have been more thrilled! My boss muttered something about the unfairness of me winning and him missing out - "it's just not fair!". What could I say? I made up for it buying buying him a drink or two at a bar in Surry Hills later that day. I never expected him to agree to a drink as he and I have never really engaged in small talk before and The Clock on Crown Street isn't exactly his typical type of watering hole but Bridgitt and I pursuaded him to join us (well I did) and we found ourselves getting very merry with him several hours later!

I'm no political animal and don't want to step in with pithy aphorisms about this week's Presidential Elections but I want to say something about it. After the long and extensively covered campaign, it was a huge relief and deeply moving to watch the votes roll in for Obama on Wednesday. A chill went down my spine when I saw him up on that stage with his family receiving the results in front of thousands of his supporters and many millions more besides watching it through television screens around the world. Whatever he does next and however he copes with the extremely high expectations people have placed upon him to carry out what is arguably the toughest job on the planet, this is such a massive step for America and thus the rest of us too. I hope for everyone's sake that he proves his worth and is given the chance to fulfil his promises.

Ric and I are off to Stockton Beach (near Newcastle) tomorrow for a weekend of camping, eating, drinking, fun and games with some friends who are in the RAF. Unfortunately for our single friend who's coming with us, most of the boys will be spoken for. The forecast isn't too promising - rain and/or drizzle all day (typical!) which means we're relying all the more heavily on there being a tent for us to use, else we'll be sleeping under the stars! There's something very Glastonbury-esque about this plan all of a sudden...

Worse still, I think the 'pom' a work might have given me her sore throat which led to her having tonsillitis and possibly Glandular Fever!! I'm dosing up on vitamins tonight...

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Hallowe'en and Festivals








The sun is going down on another superb weekend here in Sydney.

On Friday I raced home from work with great excitement to transform myself into a racy devil woman for our friend Helen's Halloween Party. I struggled with the false eyelashes (mainly because I'd never used them before and the instructions were in Chinese!) but had no problem slipping the red studded cuffs, collar, tail, belt and horns on over my bargain Valleygirl party dress. I drew the line at the long black stick-on nails I also intended to wear- how would I hold my drinks or reapply my lipstick?! And the £12 wig looked just dreadful but we took it with us, on the off-chance that Ric might just enter into the fancy dress spirit during the party.

It was a terrific party; Helen had decorated the whole flat and put on an excellent spread of food and lethal punch. There were some fabulous outfits too- see pictures...

Then on Saturday once we'd crawled out of bed some time in the afternoon (I know - it's terrible at my age), we went to a food and wine festival in Hyde Park where the only thing left to buy were Dunkin Donuts and wine. My stomach could face neither. We sat under a lovely
Jacaranda tree with Charlotte and some friends as we soaked up the atmosphere.

The Aussies do like their festivals! Today as we set off on our Sydney Open tour, we came across another one next to Central Station, the Cruelty Free Living Festival. It was right up my street and I could have stayed there for at least the morning but Ric it was all to hippy and worthy for Ric who was already 50 metres ahead of me imploring me to hurry up before we missed the houses...

The open house tour was fun, though we didn't visit many places as our energy and enthusiasm for the queues wained. We first went to the Masonic Centre which was a strange place, then the old Sydney Fire Station where I snapped a fireman coming down his pole, the Sydney Water Head Office which was a rather ugly 1930s yellow tiled building, which felt a lot like am old hospital. The highlight of this place, we were told, was the men's urinals - sums the place up well I think! Then we went to The Mint and Parliament House where we were given an excellent tour by a very excitable Education Minister. Ric seemed a bit bored but most people were really into it. I guess it helps to be Australian in these situations. We were able to go right in and sit in the chambers including the The Legislative Assembly or lower house, also known as the 'bear-pit' where the ministers really scrutinise and lay in to each other.

I'm trying hard to ignore my OCD or at least talk about the thoughts I am having, which is making life a lot easier for both Ric and I. Today could have been a nightmare what with all the new buildings we walked around but it was fine. I know it's crazy, most of the time! I'm so tired of worrying about irrational fears.

Anyway, I can't dwell too long on such foolish fears. I've got another busy week coming up. It's the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday so I've got another swanky staff lunch to go. I've just learnt that most offices in Sydney close for the day and Melbourne and Canberra get a public holiday . I might even wear a fascinator.

My holiday to the East Coast with Nicole is all booked up and we're off on the 25th November for two weeks. Have I already said that? Can't wait!

I'm now composing a list of things for Ric's parents to do in and around Sydney, and beyond. I hope we can work out a way for us to combine all our wishes and have a nice break together.

I'm about to book my Glastonbury ticket for next year's mud fest. Am I mad??!!

And finally, if you are passionate about your area of London, I suggest you check out my friend's latest enterprise I Love My Postcode. She says if I give her a year she'll branch out to Oz!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

What are we going to do?


Ric and I have been putting off changing our return flights to London via New Zealand, the Cook Islands and America. Back in March when we booked our round-the-world tickets, STA's system wouldn't allow us to book beyond December even though we are entitled to so we always knew we would have to change them at some stage. With this on my mind and not being able to remember when our flight to New Zealand was I checked this morning. To my horror we were supposed to go on Saturday 25th October - last weekend! We missed a flight! Panic!

That could have meant that we'd forfeited the rest of our ticket. However, after much begging, excuse making and white lying to the nice lady at Air New Zealand she told me that all was not lost and that we could change the flights for $50 per head per flight which STA should cover.

Phee-eew!

The question now is when do we want to go and for how long. Is Ric's suggestion of 8 weeks in New Zealand too long? How long do we want to spend in California? Do I even want to go back?
What will become of us?

Ric is suddenly aware of all his recent spending and has lined up another job interview tomorrow (he thinks the last agency was put off by his travel plans) so we'll wait to see what they say, but the trouble is that he has to tell employers that he'll only be around for another 7 weeks before his family comes over. And then once they and visiting friends have left he wont want to sit in the flat by himself all day again until the lease expires in February. I don't blame him. It will be so hot then too - not nice in without air-conditioning. He'd love to be motivated enough to write his film or code from here but he just isn't. It's been so long since he worked.

It's alright for me. I can stay at work for as long as I like and quite frankly, I don't look forward to returning to London to search for employment with the economy as it is. Neither have I figured out what I'm going to do there.

We went to see How To Lose Friends And Alienate People at our local cinema this evening (cheap Tuesdays so only $10) which was well made, excellently scripted and hugely enjoyable. It included some extremely funny lines, hilarious comedy scenes (some with animals), a great cast, a and a smattering of Englishness (though not a whiff of (Hugh Grant) to keep us Brits happy.

Ric had to see Saw 5 on his own earlier. I can only watch those gore fests from behind a pillow.

I was then treated to a delicious dinner of Teryaki Salmon with stir-fried leeks, beansprouts, tofu and Enoki mushrooms, Japanese style. I didn't think I could manage a whole steak but Ric watched in pleasure as I ate it all. Am just trying not to think of it's little face or eyes. Was very tasty though.

It's raining here again tonight. I amazes me how quickly the weather changes in Sydney. It was scorching only yesterday!

I can't wait for Helen's Halloween party on Friday. I've invited a couple of girls from the office and have gone overboard with my outfit - even bought some glittery false eyelashes today!

I have drifted in to the pattern of going to bed too late again. Must stop it.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bands, birthdays, booze and a snazzy new bag

I've had a great week at the office this week. I've crossed lots of tasks off my list, had a giggle with V and B and got the whole team helping me find a fancy dress costume for a Halloween party next week.

Yesterday Danny, the company's caterer, shopper, driver, handy man etc., even drove me to an out of town shopping centre to find my ultimate costume. We didn't have any success unfortunately but it was nice to see something new. I must add, since she is now reading this blog, that V took me to Lincraft the day before but it was a bit crap as it was closing down.

I ended up finding the perfect outfit in the absolutely brilliant Chinesey 'everything store', Hot Dollar in World Square, 10 mins walk from the flat! They really do sell everything you can think of, from hair accessories to coat-hangers, kitchen utensils to art and craft supplies, slippers to sewing kits, candles to Christmas lights and even loo roll. I love it in there even though you have t wade through the crap and push past people as you go down the tiny aisles.

I wont spoil the surprise by revealing my outfit yet but let's just say i was be very red and very devilish.

I also bought my first Crumpler bag this week; a little treat to myself for working so hard and with a view to using it on my next holiday and of course as soon as I get back home and on my bike. I just love everything about this brand and the bag is going to last a life time, so they say...

It was the boss' birthday on Wednesday so today we all went out for a meal at the totally gorgeous Catalina's in Rose Bay. We enjoyed an exquisite four course lunch and didn't leave until 5pm! Any anxieties I had about consuming so much food at lunch time soon dissolved as I tucked in to my goats cheese and spinach risotto, hand made pasta and floating islands with Cointreau parfait and creme anglaise followed by petits fours. I couldn't move. Check out the menu.

Tonight I was taken on a blind date (sort of) by a flying nurse (what a cool job!) to The Forum near Fox Studios to see the excellent Bamboos who are an Aussie funk/soul/hip hop outfit. I don't usually go in for this genre of music but I'm always game for someone to have a go at converting me from Indie and I'm so glad i went. They were in themselves a great way to round off the week with their snappy suited look, positive lyrics and boundless energy. They even wowed the crowd with a Kings of Leon Cover. However, nothing prepared us for what was to come (we hadn't bothered to read the tickets). I didn't know what to expect as Roy Ayers and his band came on dressed in an unusual mixture of baggy suits, Africa robes and T-shirts and placed a xylophone in the centre of the stage. I was soon jumping up and down like the rest of the crowd as Roy's smooth voice filled the hall and each band member had their 5 minutes of soloist glory. What made the evening for me was definitely the drummer who did the most incredible 15 minute set I have ever seen or heard. He drummed one-handed, backwards, cross-handed, fast, slow, loudly, quietly, broke a few sticks, jumped up and down, and at the end he even left his stool and started running round the stage drumming the floor, speakers and every other surface he could find. He didn't even break in to a sweat. Amazing.

After a week of rain and cold, the weather is much better today and we're off to a beer festival in The Rocks tonight. I'm sitting here in my running gear trying to muster the will to go out. I usually do three laps of the park at the weekend but perhaps I'll just do one and get a paper and coffee on the way back...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Spring comes to Sydney (or is trying to)




Hello! I haven't given up on the blog yet. Have just been busy.

I had a pretty difficult time without Ric but he returned after 5 weeks of travel up the east coast and now we're together again in (mostly) warm and sunny. He's definitely got the nomad bug now and is keen to do some more, soon. As for me I've loved hearing all his traveling tales and think it's great he's done it but feel it's been great for me to have the opportunity to stop and be settled for a while and make some dosh, even though neither of us anticipates staying here beyond January when the lease runs out.

Sydney has grown on me and it's an easy place to live. China Town is on the doorstep so I've been cooking mainly Asian food when I get in late from work. Another thing that happened while Ric was away, partly out of my desperation to make our lives easier and better on his return was that I stopped mucking about with food. I really have had a breakthrough with it. The use of Charlotte and Paul's pool has been a real God-send too. So relaxing after a day in the office. As for the OCD, things are much improved and I'm nothing like as irrational as I was on my travels and even just a few weeks ago. Both of us worry it could flare up again when I start traveling again but I at least I know what to do about it if that happens and Ric wont be with me when it does this time!

I have also been having a bit of fish. I know! Why couldn't I have started in Asia??!! I'm not a fan of sushi mind you- slimy, tasteless, stinky - but cooked fish is fine. Ric made me a delish tuna bake the other night.

Other news...the job is going well, so well in fact that they seem not to want me to leave at Christmas. I will miss it. Well I'll miss Virginia my Office Manager. I have really enjoying the varied nature of my role. Funny to think how long it's lasted considering I was only supposed to be there two weeks.

I could say more about the rest of the team but I'll leave that for another time many months from now, or another continent!

I enjoyed a lovely family reunion the other week in honour of my uncle's 50th. It was so good to be there with all my cousins, uncles, aunts, dad, sister and even my grandmother.

I am getting very excited about going away with my friend from school at the end of November. We're going to do a mini version of what Ric did; ie. a ten day jaunt, skipping out everywhere except Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, Rainbow Beach, Hervey Bay and possibly Cairns. Plus, the fact that we are short of time and are classy ladies who don't fancy roughing it to the extent Ric was prepared to, means we'll fly as much as possible (I know, I know, not very 'green', but this place is HUGE).

I also really looking forward to seeing Ric's parents in December as well as our friend Jas who gets here around the same time. I've missed my morning runs around Brixton with him and on a rare wet day in Sydney (today is a shocker) I even feel a little homesick.

I hope we can all go away together if our schedules, budgets and desires are an accordance with each other. For the time being, though this is subject to change every day, Ric's inclination is to look for work. Hurrah! This makes me a very happy girl indeed.

I think he's realised how beneficial it might be stop here for a couple of months (as we always planned to) and to meet some new people here in Sydney, as well as earn some money for the next leg of our travels next year. New Zealand and America wont be nearly as cheap as Asia after all. Ric has also found that he's pretty out of practice with his coding so wants to brush up again; get back to his geekery though I do worry how long it will last. After all, I alone can't create the fun engendered by hanging out with dozens of backpackers.

We don't have a madly busy social life by any means but things are also a lot better between us now that we've had a break and more specifically, now I am so much calmer and better with my eating. That makes us both happier.

Today we went baby clothes shopping for our friends Andrew and Chris who are expecting their first born in December. We spotted an AC-DC hoodie some months back and couldn't resist. Well the child will be going to Glastonbury at 6 months old after all. Speaking of which, we have registered for tickets. Something to look forward to next year.

Tomorrow we are getting up early and going on a 'Wobbly Wine Tour' to the Hunter Valley. As the name suggests we will be cycling AND sampling wine. Crikey! Not sure how we'll bring it back if we decide to buy any. The weather has been glorious today and will hopefully remain so tomorrow. The place is supposed to be beautiful. Can't wait.

Although these are worrying times for the Aussies, we're enjoying the fact that the exchange rate has jumped so much. Our £ is worth AUS$2.5 today! Time to shift some dosh over. I just hope it goes down again when it's time to move my hard-earned money back.

Yes, I am missing certain things back home in London now. My mother, my dog and my friends AND all the weddings and new babies. Just wish it was a bit warmer over there and that both my parents lived in the same country.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Birthday escape

Phew. I've escaped Sydney for a night. I missed my train to Mittagong earlier though (by literally 10 seconds...I nearly cried as I watched it roll out of Central station) so it ended up me taking four and a half hours to get here.

Part of that was a two hour wait in the scorching sun at Campelltown (a bit of a dive with a few dollar shops and Asian clothes stores). I found a park to sit in though and my dear friend Ebony called, saving me from death by boredom.

It's probably good for me to have to stop for a few hours anyway. I've been so frantic at work. And I do love the rough red gumtree speckled Australian landscapes one sees from the train.

Anyway I'm here now and we've just enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner for Dad at a new tapas place in town. For the first time since I've been visiting him here, I haven't been cold (though I have turned the electric blanket on for good measure).

My sister looks well and brown and is playing Nintendo games next door as I write. Everyone says I look good too but I am tired.

Ric said he'd call but he hasn't. He'll come back soon hopefully.

I'm getting an early night (this place always makes me so sleepy) and will extract myself from this rural haven and return to Sydney tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Small steps to global domination

A quick update from Sydney.

Ric is still away and has now reached Cairns, having picked up new friends along the way. I feel very left out but am glad he's having fun.

Meanwhile, I have continued to work flat-out. In fact, things are going so well that they got a temp in today to do the work I was originally supposed to do but which has been deemed beneath me. After a day like today though (10 hours, non-stop) I kind of miss making the tea.

I worked so hard and late that the Chairman himself ended up giving me a lift to Martin Place so I could meet my godmother on time. It felt a bit uncomfortable sitting next to him and trying to make small talk as he Bentley as he drove the Bentley through the city.

His PA is off for a few days so I am filling in. I don't know how many letters and emails I've had to type up as he dictates from his car. It's mostly very interesting work though.

A contract is still on the cards but I'm holding out for a bit longer and have in the meantime, rather cheekily perhaps, asked for a pay rise and some time off in November so I can go away either with my sister or my school friend Nicole.

One more day and then the weekend; vital for catching up on sleep (I can't get to sleep at the moment and toss and turn for hours before getting up at 6am) but not so good for my mind which tends to dwell on how much I miss Ric and fantasise about what he's up to. On Saturday though, I'm off to my Dad's to celebrate his birthday and get the low-down on the Blue Mountains where he took my sister this week.

If I can get out of the office for a few minutes tomorrow, I'm going to buy some shoes. I've seen a snappy pair of heels which would look great around the office. I've also got to carry an iron and ironing board home...it's about time I started ironing my shirts.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A busy week and sunny days in Sydney

I've been up to my eye balls with work this week, clocking up almost 50 hours! I am surprised to say I love it. Well, not all of it (making Vegemite toast (no crusts) for the exec. director and being clicked at by the chairmen when he couldn't remember my name aren't highlights) but in general I am enjoying the work and learning fast. I don't mind how early I have to get up (6am at the moment) or how late I stay (usually 6.30ish) as it stops me moping about the flat, or shopping, plus I'm being paid by the hour for now so I'm delighted for it to all add up.

In between the daily dramas, people panicking over deadlines, mislaid documents and the like, as well as the occasional moment of friction, we have a laugh. The longer I stay there the more at home I feel. And it seems management agrees - we were discussing long-term contracts again on Wednesday...what shall I do?!

As for Ric, he's having fun up north and is apparently becoming immune to the effects of alcohol. Either that or he's just a bit drunk most of the time. He's now finished sailing off the Whitsundays (there wasn't much wind apparently so they just drank beer continuously) and says he'll probably come back in a week or so. Fantastic!

He's getting very brown on his travels ('losing my programmer's tan'), meeting people, seeing lots of beaches and semi-naked girls and is happy but I was rather alarmed to read the following from him:

'I was out at an Irish pub the other night and I was punched in the face by
some drunk Aussie bitch for no reason. She waltzed over to me and
smacked me. Then a bit later her mate hit me as well so I poured the
rest of my Guinness over her head. At this stage they got chucked out
the pub but she managed to throw a pint glass at me which bruised my
chin. I then got thrown out the pub as well. These Aussies are nutters.'

He assures me he didn't do anything to warrant this attack. Poor Ric! If only I'd been there to give them a piece of my mind...

Sydney is a fun place to live and even more pleasant now it's getting warmer. It was a roasting 31c today (by spring standards) and the forecast is for even hotter weather on Monday so tomorrow we're off to the beach to (carefully) soak up some rays. Coojee probably.

There are festivals and outdoor events happening everywhere it seems - it's the marathon tomorrow. Paul and Charlotte can watch the runners going over the Harbour Bridge from their sitting room.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Living alone and going back to work

I've not been writing much this week, partly because I've been working from 8.30am until 7pm most days and partly because I'm not very happy. Ric has been gone for two weeks now and I miss him dreadfully.

He's had the time of his life on Fraser Island and the photos convey a paradise, albeit a pretty drunken one. And onwards he goes. Every day a new journey with fresh beers to be drunk and bikini-clad girls to photograph.

Meanwhile, I feel like I've lost a part of me and hate being in the flat by myself night after night with hardly any friends to call or go out with. He says he's missing me too and will return once he has 'done his coastal thang' but I am living in a constant state of anxiety wondering if, when, under what circumstances will he come back. Will he meet someone else? Will he decide to go right around Oz without me? All I can do is sit tight, get on with my job and keep busy and not let on how crap I feel!

You can never really tell what that boy's next move will be so there's not much else I can do. He seems to have no compunctions about leaving me on my own and in the lurch which makes me seriously wonder what else he might do to hurt me.

I am trying to socialise and even took myself off to a local music festival today. We are celebrating Paul's birthday tonight too which will be fun.

It's not all doom and gloom here. I started work proper on Monday and by Wednesday they had all but offered me a full time job which would involve helping to manage the office and the company finances and looking after one of the two directors who has taken a shine to me. Apparently he doesn't usually bother to learn the junior staff's names, let alone the temps' but he took mine on board immediately and I have been sorting him out all week.

I have said I'll think about it. It's hugely flattering and just great to be wanted so much and praised so highly. It's not where I imagined working at all though!

It's a fabulous building to work in and I like all the team but it's no walk in the park working there as the big cheeses (father and three sons) are incredibly old-school and demand a hard working team. At this stage I don't mind it a bit though and I have thrown myself in to it. I find it fascinating and a great distraction from other concerns. I should join a class, a sports team, write etc. but I'm so exhausted when I get back each night I just want to go to bed!

Who knows how long I can stick it here without Ric though. It's tempting to go home to England sometimes especially when Ric says he's having the most fun he's had all year - yes - more fun without me there. At least I'd have friends around me in London and wouldn't have to go over to Charlotte and Paul's for a sob. I know he'll come back eventually but it would be nice to know when.

The end of the grumpy woman rant.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A visit to Canberra




The clouds were only just holding their rain as we set off from Mittagong for Canberra early yesterday morning. It was grey and cold and even more so when we arrived in the capital two hours later, reflecting and exacerbating the austere 1970s concrete buildings which the city is mostly comprised of.

It ain't a pretty place, that's for sure and I'm sad to say that although I have learnt to make my own mind up about places it felt as barren and soulless, if clean, as others had told me it would.

I can see why people might chose to bring their children up there though as it feels like a safe place.

We packed a lot in to our two day visit. First we went to the War Memorial Museum which is extensive and fascinating and overrun with school parties! We didn't need a guide as my father gave us the ultimate tour, knowing as he does so much about military history.

We then drove (you can't walk round Canberra with ease since it's all so spread out- but there are a lot of cycle paths!) to the new Parliament House where we sat in on a session of Question Time. It was extremely entertaining watching all the MPs and Prime Minister Rudd bicker, refrain from answering each others' questions directly and take the mickey out of each other. It didn't appear that they were there to achieve or resolve anything, just have a go at each other for the sake of the audience. What a pantomime!

I'm not sure I like the Parliament building's architecture and minimalist style decor but it isn't fusty and creates a somewhat calm ambiance. The colours are very neutral, reflecting the grey-blue-green of gum trees. The views around and across Lake Burley Griffin of the High Court, the Government buildings and the National Museum, Library and Gallery are impressive.

After Question Time, it was on to the National Gallery which is home to a modest collection of Victorian, Impressionist and more modern works by mostly Australian artists. I'm afraid I've rather maxed out on museums and galleries already this year so my mind wandered...hmmm...yes, OCD was getting the better of me and I'm missing Ric's level head and humour.

After that, with our legs beginning to feel slightly weary with all the walking, we headed to the hotel to dump our stuff.

We stayed in an unusual business-y hotel (and I thought I'd seen everything in the world of hotels!) called The Pavilion which housed a jungle in the middle! Well, alright, it wasn't that big but a huge area in the centre of the building was full of tropical plants. We enjoyed good food in the restaurant and I had a King size bed just for me. Sarah rinsed the supplies of tea, jams and Vegemite at the breakfast table this morning.

Today we went to the National Museum which displayed a lot of indigenous artifacts, art and some natural history. It's a very good place for Australians to visit and for school children doing projects but it left me a bit cold. Then we hit the shops in the Civic area where my gait was observed, my weight distribution assessed, my feet measured and finally fitted with a 'perfect pair' of running shoes in the rather unfortunately named 'Athlete's Foot' store. I also got another blouse for work, it's my new addiction - shopping for corporate work attire. Yikes - I don't want to think about that tonight.

Finally on our way back to Mittagong today visited our old house in Lyneham. I couldn't believe how familiar it looked even though I haven't seen it for exactly 20 years. The shrubs in the garden have grown up a bit but I'll never forget the garden's long shape and the big living room windows. It made me sad to see it again, trespassing as we were on someone else's property to catch a glimpse of our former lives. Happier days in my mind. 'Don't look back' said my Dad. I do all the time, I thought, such is the nature of my ever confronting and questioning OCD addled brain.

Seeing Canberra again has stirred me deeply. I hadn't remembered the greyness or town planning (well I wasn't even 8 years old when we left in '88) but I do recall the cold from my time there in the mid 1980s, as well as other fragments of my childhood: days spent playing in the grass and bark chips of our bungalow's long garden, the spiky black slugs writhing about in a hissing cluster on the garden fence, the neighbour who showed my brother and I a tiny bird he had caught flying around his living room, the pale blue of the local swimming pool, protecting my brother from the big boys at Sunday School, being told to 'stop looking so serious Alexandra' at school, drawing, painting, cutting and pasting for hours at our little table and chairs, the rose gardens outside the Government buildings, my mother's long floral print skirts and tissues in her handbags, always fighting to claim her free hand, hiding in my father's wardrobe to surprise him when he got home from work, dreams about saving my brother from certain death by ginormous rubber trumpets or ant hills (don't ask), my baby sister being brought home for the first time, going to see princess Diana and my first 'boyfriend' Liam Baker whose lap I sat on once while he patted my back. All these memories and so many others have flooded back to me since I started thinking about this trip and particularly now that I am here.

It doesn't feel like home yet though and perhaps never will but I feel I have at least claimed something of my Australian self back in recent weeks which makes me feel so much older suddenly but also like a child as I pine after my mother, worry about my father, learn about my family's past, recall my memories as if things happened yesterday, and now settle down and forge a new-ish life and in some ways identity for myself in Sydney. I learn something new about myself, my relatives and this intriguing multi-faceted country almost every day and the more I get to know it the more I'd like to stay.

Ric is still on his way north. He visited to Australian Zoo today having escaped Surfers Paradise. I'm trying to leave him in peace but am missing him dreadfully and cry every time he sends me one of his silly texts.

Tomorrow I am meeting my step-sister and her husband for the first time and then going back to the flat where I will find out if I left the straighteners on over the weekend. Yikes!

My school friend Evie Wyld (also half Aussie) has just told me that she has literally just found out that her first novel is to be published by none other than Jonathan Cape!! I am so thrilled for her. What an inspiration! Well done girl! Read this for a taster.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Going back to work and being on my own again


I had my first day of work yesterday. Everyone in the office was very smart but warm and helpful and I think I'll enjoy my time there, if not the hours (8.30 - 5.30 at the earliest).

The Judges House is a really fascinating old building, a cottage really, on Kent Street (and about a 15min walk from our flat!). I felt a million dollars in my suit and was glad I dressed up since everyone at the office looks immaculate. I was kept busy and they seem to like me. It feels very strange to be working again!

I don't have to go back now until next Monday which is a bit boring but it gives me a chance to hop on a train to the country to see my dad, Kate and Sarah. I'm looking forward to escaping the city for a few days.

We'll also go to Canberra to see where I spent my early school years and the war memorial museum.

To my delight, my father has just given me a copy of his freshly written autobiography. I haven't been able to read it thoroughly yet but it makes for a compelling read and is a very candid, detailed and sometimes brutal account of his life thus far. It truly is a testament to his character and his voracious mind and I will treasure it.

Ric reports that he has been diving (though it wasn't that enjoyable being cold and disorganised) and is now avoiding the teenage stoners in Nimbin. He has been offered work at an excellent web agency here in Sydney so he now thinks he'll do some work after all when he gets backs from his trip. This pleases me no end!

It's lonely here without him, the television is dull, I can't concentrate on my books and I'm not enjoying my own company any more! The temptation to abuse my food is also great which frustrates me no end, so I'm eager to rejoin my family ASAP. At least I have my wombat (above) to cuddle tonight.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Work!

Yikes! It's Monday morning and I'm off to work for the first time in over four months!

I got up at 6am just to make sure I had enough time to run, dress, put slap on and fix my hair.

Now I'm killing time as I don't have to be there for another hour. Another cup of tea...

Why do I find it so hard to find shirts that fit me? They are either too tight around the middle or the bust or the arms, and gape open revealingly but a bigger size always look stupidly baggy. Argh! Perhaps I need to get one made up. Perhaps I'm literally not cut out for this office malarkey.

It all feels somewhat ridiculous anyhow considering my mission to get away from the rat-race and do something true to my creative instincts. The things we think and say when we're on deserted sandy islands in Thailand hey? Ah well. It's not forever.

Ric has gone diving today, lucky sod. I don't think he is a fan of surfing and found it cold and difficult yesterday. I'd love to be in the sea right now.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Ric goes surfing and I get to work





We have been busy here in Surry Hills. My sister arrived on Wednesday so I've been showing her round town and visiting the sites. Taronga Zoo, where I fell in love with wombats again, and the Aquarium at Darling Harbour are fabulous! They really put Beijing's concrete prison to shame and the views from within the zoo are fantastic. Lucky giraffes!

Seeing the fishies today made me long to go diving again, or at least get some pet ones. I'm looking in to dive sites around Sydney as we speak.

Due to my eagerness to get back to work I decided to go down the temp route and consequently registered with a few agencies while Ric bought a bus ticket for the east coast. He left in the early hours of this morning. I miss him so much already but I wont call...

Fortunately, I wont have much time to dwell as I have a job starting on Monday! Hurrah!

It's not exactly the broadcasting job of my dreams and I'll probably be bored senseless answering the phone and pushing pens around my desk all day but it's better than sitting at home while I wait for the ABC to come up with something. I'll be working for a rather high-profile client and his family, 'very corporate...a good name to have on your CV' and dealing with 'highly confidential matters'. Sounds intriguing!

I'll certainly enjoy meeting people and having some pocket money. I just hope the massive red spot on my face vanishes before Monday morning!

And then there's the other problem, my attire. Despite my sister bringing out an entire suitcase full of dark clothes, my wardrobe still looks like a backpacker's, albeit a fairly discrete one. So with clothes panic in motion, I trawled some of the cheaper shops in search of my new corporate look. I soon gave up on that idea however and went to David Jones where I bought a very swish three piece suit. I spent at least an hour in the fitting rooms frazzling the assistant and trying various garments on. I'm used to wearing scruffy shorts and T-shirts to work so the look is hard to get used to. I quite like it though, especially with my new heels and fitted blouses (not sure about the ruffle one). Since I can walk to work I don't think I'll get a bike just yet. I've yet to see a single female cyclist in Sydney and there aren't nearly as many commuter bikers here which I suppose is hardly surprising when the drivers are so hostile and the streets so hilly. I find that such a shame when the climate lends itself to cycling!

I'm sleeping on the sofa tonight to give my sis a good night's sleep before I pack her off to Mittagong tomorrow. Then I'm on my own with a stuffed wombat, a pile of unread books, a drawing pad and a notebook entitled 'Alex's Novel' for company. I also have a copy of Grazia magazine, the weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald and a 7inch telly for distraction.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The end of the weekend and the Beijing Olympics


It was a lovely sunny day today and the city looked beautiful with its rich blue sky.

Ric, Charlotte, Paul and I went for a walk around the harbour, the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens (which weren't hugely interesting at this time of year although very green) and sat basking in the sun on the edge of the water.

I love the fact that all this is just a short walk away from our flat. Another ten minutes stroll brought us to China Town for a late lunch (it was like being back in China except cleaner and with English menus!) and then to Darling Harbour for some early evening drinks.

Now we've settled down to watch the spectacular closing ceremony of the Olympics and the handover to the UK while I apply for yet more jobs (or are they the same ones as last week? They all seem the same now!).

I'm also conversing with my mum and sister in London about which of the items I stuffed in my ginormous suitcase back in April can be left behind when she comes out next week. She was allowed to bring two bags then. Now it's only one. Nightmare!

Having to decide between my GHDs, potions and perfumes, my converse trainers and stilettos, my LBDs and cycling shorts is not an easy business let me tell you!

We were very sad to watch the story of the baby whale unravel this week. There always seems to be a whale or shark story in the news here.

Ric is going to book his bus ticket tomorrow (watch this space) and I'm off to buy him some new underpants (at his request).

I'm still simmering away inside. That's a good way to describe how I am at the moment in this limbo period of no work and no sense of belonging here. I spend the day just off the boil, achieving nothing much beyond chugging round the park a few times, sending a few emails, writing a list or two, tidying, food shopping, cooking, more tidying. By 9pm, with tiredness framing my every move and desperate for the sweetness of forbidden treats, I am ready to boil.

But I must not. I can not. Sydney is a great place, we have a sweet little flat and our time here has only just begun. I know that as soon as I have a job and a few friends and some warm weather I will wonder why I was so impatient.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Settling down or taking off?


Things are looking up a bit here in wind-swept Sydney - ie. Ric isn't leaving me just yet.

I haven't found a job and am bored applying for ones I don't even want (in PR, Sales and Advertising mainly) and I haven't decided if and when to go off traveling but Ric has changed his mind again and decided not to disappear immediately or if he does, I will meet him in Cairns in a few weeks.

In fact, after my initial panic about being abandoned, I've decided to encourage him to go as he's never been away on his own and we could probably do with some space. Plus it would give my sister and I a little more room here in the tiny flat for a while. I also don't much fancy the idea of bussing round Oz. I did enough of those long journeys in Asia and they weren't fun. I know it's a bit of a cop-out to miss out on the in between bits but I can live without seeing various sheep farms, ranches and vast expanses of outback en route to the northern coast.

So there we are, no major fall out after all. Neither of us wants that really and for the most part we get on fantastically. Who knows what he'll feel after a few weeks on the road with out me and my funny eating and all those 'bang tidy' gap year girls...

We've finally got Internet in the flat which has revolutionised our evenings. I realise that sounds a little pathetic but we were about to go out and buy Scrabble or a jigsaw puzzle. The telly is really rather bad - a mixture of budget adverts, British dramas and sport.

We're off to a house party later. It will be good for us to go out as we've done it so little since we got here. I wish my wardrobe was more stylish and smart. I'm quite tempted to bin all the scruffy clothes I traveled in. If I get an office job I might well have to buy some suits!

We've enjoyed the coverage of the Olympics but wish they'd shown a more diverse range of events and we could have done without the endless overtly patriotic Coles supermarket advertisements. Well done team Great Britain! Again, the coverage of their successes was minimal as is news from the UK in general.

We have discovered a very funny website on which you can 'yearbook yourself' - bored? us? never!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bomb Shell




Hello from George Street. Failing to get web in our flat yet, Ric and I have been using this large internet cafe every day to look for work and pass the time (I simply can't buy any more shoes). It's a shame the management insist on playing crappy 90's dance tunes all day long.

We've been in the flat a week now and although I'm prepared to have a stab at living here for a while, Ric seems to have decided to up and leave ASAP. He's bored, a bit sick of my company and doesn't want to work for less than he does in London. That's quite a blow and I'm not really sure what to say or do in response. I'm shocked and mortified.

He reckons he is here to see the country, not settle down. We have always known that I need to stop and work for a while before I travel again, for my mental state if not financial.

Hmmm. What a terrible blow. How dreadfully I will miss him. Will he even come back? How much will we lose if we have to get rid of the flat? I can't imagine him not being around after all this time we've spent together. I experience separation anxiety if we are apart for more than 3 hours!

Things are quite up in the air still. He may change his mind again this week. So might I, I suppose. Would I, could I, stick to my guns here? Should I stay and work and more importantly try to conquer my demons alone or with the help of a support group? I have really enjoyed being more settled and it's been good for me. I don't fancy yet more traveling just yet.

Meanwhile, my little sister gets here in a week so I'm not going anywhere before then. I am widening my job search, sending my CV off left, right and centre, joining numerous temping and media agencies and hoping Ric will decide that I, if not Sydney, am worth staying for.

I just wish I had some more friends here else I am going to feel desperately alone if and when Ric goes. I can't rely on Charlotte and Paul exclusively!

What are we going to do?

We went for a nice walk from Bondi to Coogee at the weekend (see pics). It was hilarious how many posers there were power walking in their Lycra all along the pathway. Every other person seemed to have a dog too.

I just love the salt water swimming pools they've built beside the beaches. What a great idea when the sea is too choppy to swim in!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Settling in to Foveaux Street




After 14 weeks of backpacking across eight Asian countries using trains, planes, boats, Jeepneys, Tuk Tuks and every other imaginable mode of transport, a restful week at my dad's in frosty Mittagong N.S.W. and two more in the plush basement billiard room of my kindly family's pad in leafy northern Sydney suburb Turramurra, Ric and I have successfully moved in to our own significantly more modest abode in (the reputedly) hip, trendy and 'gay' Surry Hills.

Hurrah!

As documented here previously, it was an absolute pain in the back-side looking for a place, getting our deposit in on time, waiting for the approval checks to be done on us and then trying to organise the $4000 bank cheques (for the bond and rent deposits) without yet having bank accounts here. 'Why can't we pay with cards or in cash' we asked, exasperated?! The bureaucracy with which seemingly everything here comes is bewildering, time consuming, often costly and means that essentials including mobile phone accounts, renting properties, visas and health care are so difficult to sort out. It's also highly embarrassing to have to borrow off my family when I can't access my UK money! Today I was told that in spite of proof of my new address and my Aussie passport I am not allowed to register with Medicare until I have proved I lived in the UK before now. Funnily enough, I have neither an NHS Card, a tenancy cancellation letter, work cessation letter or Tax form here. I might have to wing it without.

The Internet here is also very expensive. Almost twice as much as back home. We were meant to sign the lease two days ago but realised (almost too late) what the financial consequences might be if we decided to cancel a 12 month lease with the agency. So we asked them if the owner would agree to a 6 month rolling one instead. Thankfully he did.

Having only arrived in Australia three weeks ago it's just impossible to say where we want to be in 6 months! This is a big country after all and one with many faces. Besides, we have got a round the world ticket, so New Zealand, the Cook Islands and America are still on the list of places to visit before next April.

It's not grand in any way this flat and it needed a good clean once we'd got in, but it is an adequate size, contains the basic large pieces of furniture and the city and Central train station are a short walk away. Better still, we are surrounded by cafes, pubs, restaurants and fashion factory outlets. There is also a fabulous cheap Thai Cafe right on our doorstep for when we are feeling lazy as well as a small park round the corner for when I'm feeling fit. Today as I did my laps, there were about 30 Asians doing beep tests in there jeans. As the name suggests, it sure is hilly round here. Fortunately we are situated near the bottom of a very long, very steep road. I hope our guests (my sister is coming in just two weeks!) wont mind having to reach the bathroom via our bedroom. It's not an ideal lay out!

We decided to find an Ikea as there were lots of things we needed including ALL our kitchen utensils, cutlery, crockery, bath towels and bedding. It turned out to be near a place called Homebush (where the Olympic Park is) and not Moore Park as the Yellow Pages suggested, so we ended up traipsing round for hours before we found it. Ric's sister Charlotte gave up on the mission long before we got there at 5pm. It was strangely reassuring to be back in the store experiencing the oh-so-familiar love-hate feelings towards it as we pushed our trolley round with all the other couples, choosing once again between the cheap, simply designed and oddly named items we have both become so accustomed to during our time in shared houses and student digs. We have taken this cheap-skate stance as we don't want to spend much on things we might have to leave behind eventually.

Two hours, two hotdogs and $650 later we escaped the place and in spite of a rude and stupid taxi driver dropping us off at the wrong station we somehow managed to haul our huge bags on to a train and get back home. If we've forgotten anything, I'm going to a local KMart!

Now all we have to do is stock the kitchen cupboards, repair the hob, dishwasher and bathroom light, sort out the electricity supplier (all seem to be government regulated which is good), organise the phone and Internet connection, direct debit our rent, perhaps buy a hardy pot plant and then have a housewarming party to which all our friends (4 to be precise) will be invited. Rock on.

I also want a bike as I miss cycling!

Now we have visited the family and have started paying rent in a flat, my holiday remorse has properly kicked in. In Asia, where it is the norm to see people just hanging around with their paunches hanging out, lying in hammocks and generally not working much at all, one doesn't feel too guilty for doing very little in a day. Here on the other hand, I've been surrounded by suited city workers and commuters and by my relatives going to their respective offices, schools and universities and I am feeling the need to be part of that, pronto. More to the point, it's cheap to live in Asia - not so here, though it's probably on a par with London!

Shopping has lost it's appeal even for me and Ric is also itching to put his mind to more productive pursuits. I am going to have to keep an open mind about what I do as I feel very out of the radio and media circles I was once in back home. It's also been more than three years since I went for a job interview. I'm fairly confident I'll find something I can enjoy, although thus far the jobs advertisements haven't exactly been calling out to me from the careers section of the paper.

If only I had web this week it would make life so much easier! Patience, patience. I just hope at least some of the better jobs here are advertised externally, else I'm not sure how to get a foot in the door. I might have to temp for a while or even take up the offer of a job in the stylish cafe/restaurant/gig venue next door. The manager offered me work this morning when I went in for a coffee in my sweaty running gear. It's tempting.

Meanwhile, we have been checking out the city, sorting the flat and various accounts out and huddling under our new duvets to watch the telly. Its all about the Olympics here. Every time we turn on our wee box Stephanie Rice seems to have won another gold in swimming or is being interviewed about her successes. Ric thinks the green and gold colours of the Aussie team are pretty unflattering. It's hard to see how the Brits are doing in the games unless they happen to be competing in the same events.

The Chinese are doing well. They are an impressive race. It's a shame the Australian press doesn't stop moaning about the poor air conditions in Beijing. Give them a break I say! I was sad to hear that the little girl who sang in the opening ceremony was actually miming as the real singer was deemed not pretty enough just minutes before she was due on stage. Imagine how that would feel for a five year old! The predictable censorship continues. They have blocked the news of the miming girl scam, a bus crash and on the news now we are learning how a British ITN news reporter was arrested for reporting a pro-Tibet protest.

As for my OCD, mood and eating, I'm afraid to say the mental wranglings continue. I vacillate many times a day between fleeting bursts of pleasure and extreme happiness and almost overwhelming depression, heart-stopping fear and a sense of loss and loneliness.

As we start to settle down here I am still feeling very much in limbo and I find myself questioning my identity as a London-raised half Australian like never before. It is an unusual and sometimes painful thing to have two dearly loved parents living on opposite sides of the world. There's also no escaping the stark culture and personality clashes between myself and Ric and my young sports-mad cousins which has heightened my feelings of separation from this place which was once, a long time ago, my home. That's not to say I don't like it here. Sydney is an easy place to navigate around and the people are friendly and bubbly, it's just too early to call it home.

Perhaps it's not surprising that I am clinging to the security of my old routines and bad habits. I am so disappointed in myself though for simultaneously yearning to quash the demonic desires and craving the comfort of my sugar binges and obsessive rituals. Ric says I seem far more on top of things which is good to hear.

Ric made Tacos last night and we'll be hosting Charlotte and Paul later. We just love having our own kitchen in which to cook meals as we like them and not having to order food, be waited on, sit in a restaurant with fussy tourist or have to decipher foreign menus!