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'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


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.