Saturday, 26 December 2009
We were a party of seven for the day – Tom and I, plus his parents Sue and Peter, their ‘adopted’ (not legally) daughter Emma, and finally Emma’s friend Lynne with son Jake. We were determined to take this opportunity to add an Australian flavour to Christmas, but our day still reflected some well know British festive traditions - we ate excessive amounts, went for an afternoon walk and opened presents. Instead of the Queen’s speech and the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, we shared a game of rounders on the beach, and a quick paddle in the bay – with the copious amounts of floating jelly fish and a strong wind dampening my desire to take a Christmas Day dip.
Secret Santa visited the Lister-Hague household and each of us bought a present for under $10 to exchange with another guest. Tom and I thought this would give a focal point to the day, and little did we know that Peter would get hours of enjoyment guessing and then second guessing who was buying for who. Of course he had worked it out by the time we came to exchange presents, but hadn’t spotted that I had bought his gift whilst out shopping with him! Tom and I also exchanged more significant gifts, and with Tiger Woods leaving a gap on the world golf circuit, I bought him some golf lessons to brush up his skills (on the golf course only!).
Food wise, there was no turkey in sight and we served a meat and fish direct from the BBQ on our balcony, with a selection of salads and breads on the side. We were so excited about cooking “shrimp on the Barbie” that I queued for 30 minutes at the fish market to buy the little blighters! Pudding was a choice of strawberry and Turkish delight trifle or mini-chocolate puddings. See photo of trifle below – I didn’t take a photo of the chocolate puddings because none of us made it past the trifle! We all really enjoyed the meal, and so did our neighbours across the road, who we caught trying out their new binoculars in the direction of our flat! We all started waving and before long they were waving back and we all got on with our Christmas meals undisturbed!
As our Christmas Day drew to a close, the UK woke up to their Christmas morning. We Skyped Tom’s sisters, Claire and Anna, so that we could watch their children open their Christmas presents from us. It was so lovely to see the looks on their faces as they opened their gifts, and it really made us feel a little bit less than 10,000 miles away. Rosie (aged 6) was, as usual, particularly expressive!
Today the men + Emma have been to the Boxing Day Test, and Sue and I have been to a place where we feel more at home – the sales! I had a fantastic haul and got some great bargains – proof that shopping skills can traverse the world!
Monday, 21 December 2009
This is the first year that Tom and I will be hosting Christmas Day, and there will be a party of seven of us here in Melbourne. I have been decorating the flat and have had lots of fun creating our own Christmas tree from twigs collected from the Dandenong forest. I spray painted them silver and added red and silver baubles, which I think creates quite a nice effect, albeit rather different from a traditional green tree. I hope the landlady doesn't notice the slightly silver sparkle that our balcony now has after my spray painting episode!
In what Tom could only describe as his nightmare before Christmas, I visited Melbourne's only 22,000 square foot Christmas Warehouse to purchase our decorations. Luckily for him I went alone, and whilst this was good for Tom's sanity it wasn't so good for his bank balance! He has been very tolerant of my obsession with scouring Melbourne for the best red baubles available, only to go and buy the tackiest ones possible from the warehouse of Christmas nightmares.
We have a large collection of Christmas cards that many of you have sent from the UK - thank you so much for making the effort to send cards to Australia and we really appreciate you thinking of us at Christmas. We are planning a BBQ on Christmas Day, and I hope you're thinking of us then too as you're all cold and stuffed with turkey!
I have also stepped into baking overdrive and made lots of Christmas edible-indulgences to see us through the festive period. I never really realise how much I like mince pies until I take my first bite, then after Christmas is over I promptly forget about them again for another 11 and half months. Christmas baking is of course just really an excuse for me to re-stock our kitchen with lots of new kitchen gadgets. I wish I had shipped more from the UK, as I do feel as if I'm buying duplicates of things that are sitting in a box back home, but given my love of kitchen shops I don't mind! Tom thinks I'm attracted to anything plastic.. I wish he thought I desired more sparkly things however!!
Here are some photos of us getting into the festive spirit:
Monday, 14 December 2009
Right now we’ve just finished what I hope will be a very typical Aussie day for me and Tom. A good day at work for both of us with a prompt finish, home for a snack then off to the gym to get in some time on the treadmill before returning home for a dinner whilst the sun sets. Unfortunately today we are running a bit behind and the sun has already set, so instead of cooking the shrimps on the BBQ, Tom is cooking them on the griddle on the hob (I blame my Bunnings detour for this tardiness, and given my mum’s obsession with Homebase I’m afraid I just can’t help shopping for home improvement items – it’s in my blood!).
Anyway, more about the past week – it’s been a great one! Firstly my ankle recovered – after much rest on Monday and Tuesday I was limping around and then back to normal in no time. Secondly, this week marked the arrival of our first (and second and third!) set of visitors, which we’ve been looking forward to for weeks.
Sue and Peter (Tom’s parents) arrived on Tuesday evening, and we were really pleased to be able to go to the airport to meet them. They had already been travelling for 10 days by the time they reached us, having taken in Singapore and Perth. We were really excited to show them our flat and catch up on all their news – but before we could blink, the next set of visitors arrived! Peter’s cousin Merryl flew in from Brisbane the same night, and the next day Tom’s almost-sister Emma (long story) arrived via train from Perth. Ironically she left Perth two days before Sue and Peter and arrived one day later (moral – take a plane, not a train).
So, on Wednesday night we had a houseful and cooked dinner for the whole clan. We were blessed with a fantastic sunset and the food went down a storm – a really great evening.
On Thursday night we all went for dinner in Lygon Street – the Italian district. The pasta was fantastic but it was the desserts that really caught my eye. Tom and I shared a very elegant ice cream swan (see photos below), and the menu also included a rather dubious reference to a fruit dessert, served with “an appropriate sauce”... as opposed to what? An inappropriate sauce? Sue ordered it out of the curiosity, and just so you know, she didn’t rate the sauce!
Tom and I were flagging by Friday, by there was no rest in sight! We took Sue and Peter to the airport for the Tasmanian leg of their trip (they’ll be back with us next week) and in the evening Tom went for drinks with Emma and I had my work Christmas party! It wasn’t lawn bowls this time, so there was no health and safety assessment required for fear of me repeating my ankle injury. This time it was a big boozy night out at the famous Crown venue in the city. We had a fantastic ballroom, wonderful food and a great band – the fact that I only knew about 10 people out of a 1000 made it a bit difficult, but I’m sure it will be easier next year!
At the risk of this sounding a bit repetitive and diary-like, I’m now going to tell you what we did on Saturday.. we drove to the Dandenong ranges with Merryl. This trip is worth a mention just because I had the best pizza that I’ve found to date in Australia, and it is a real shame it’s a 50 minute drive from our flat. On second thoughts, it’s probably not a shame for my hips. By taking a walk in the forest, Merryl demonstrated that she is at least ten times fitter than me, despite being a generation older. Perhaps that has something to do with her volume of pizza consumption compared to mine. She took Tom and I to the most fabulous Greek restaurant in the evening – we will definitely be returning there and I thank you very much for the recommendation Merryl!
This week is my last week at work and I will be decorating the flat for Christmas. I still haven’t taken proper photos when it’s tidy so I’ll have to wait a bit longer before I post some. Here are a selection of pictures from the week however...
Friday, 11 December 2009
Just before we left for Australia, we were delighted to be recognised in the annual Cancer Reseach UK Flame of Hope awards. Obtaining a 'highly commended' certificate in the awards category for 'Oustanding Achievement'. I wanted to share this with you all - without whom we would never have raised so much money!
One year on, we'd like to thank you all for your generosity when supporting The Big Pink Ticket. We will continue to support Cancer Research UK, but promise not to ask you to hand over any more of your hard earned cash for a little while!
Saturday, 5 December 2009
I believe that the mystery injury may have occurred during my office Christmas party on Thursday afternoon, at Albert Park Lawn Bowls Club. Rather ironic really, given that bowls is probably the most sedate activity that could have been selected for the “do”, but it was shortly after my few games on the green that the pain arose. Two days later and I have very limited movement in my foot and can’t put any weight on it. Anyway, to cut a long story short after 4 hours in A&E and 3 x-rays, I find myself with inflammation but no broken bones, and instructions to ice my ankle and keep my weight off it. To help me with that part, the hospital took $285 from my purse. How kind?!
Anyway, on to some better news – our new apartment! After moving in last Sunday we have really enjoyed our first week here. The most exciting time fell on Tuesday when our shipping was delivered! We waved goodbye to several boxes of our clothes and household items on 11th September, and were very happy to receive it safe and sound on the 1st December. When I saw the huge dent in the side of the TV box as it was unloaded from the lorry, my heart sank a bit. I knew it would be rough on the seas but had high hopes for our indestructible Panasonic . I need not have worried, as it was only superficial box damage and all was well inside. This allowed us to discover the fact that UK televisions can’t actually pick up Australian audio transmissions! Who needs sound on their TV shows anyway... (Tom might argue that we actually don’t need sound, given my ability to talk through anything he wants to listen to!)
After a mammoth unpacking session, the only item that was broken was a single wine glass. We were very lucky. Tom was the luckiest though – he left for work one September day and when he came back everything was packed and gone. Similarly, he left for work last Tuesday and when he came home everything had arrived and been unpacked. Lucky man I say!
Seriously though, we both worked very hard to get everything straight and looking nice. We’ve made a few shopping trips to buy essentials and uttered a few expletives trying to build the cheapest chest of drawers Ikea could provide (missing our Malm drawers Di!). We now have a clean and tidy two bedrooms, two bathrooms, laundry and kitchen/lounge/diner. We also have a nice big sunny balcony and the piece de resistance – a walk THROUGH wardrobe! The corridor from the master bedroom to the en-suite is lined with hanging rails and it’s like a girls dream come true for me. For all of you Michael Macintyre fans out there, you'll be pleased to knew that Tom already has a well established 'man drawer'. I believe the contents were shipped directly from the UK, so will be of even less use here!
The views from our bedrooms and living space is gorgeous – out across Port Philip Bay and as I type this I’m watching the sailing boats lapping up the breeze and sunshine glistening on the water. There are two downsides to our location however – firstly we are on quite a busy road and so get traffic / pub noise. Secondly we are 5 floors above a pizza restaurant and the smell is INCREDIBLE! Those of you that know me well will recognise that this presents a huge temptation for me! Pizza is the only food that I can eat in unlimited quantities, and I’m using all of my willpower to resist the temptation right now!
After the excitement of last week, this week is going to be even better, because we have family arriving! Peter and Sue (Tom’s parents) are now officially on Australian soil – currently in Perth, but arriving in Melbourne on Tuesday evening. I hope my ankle will be better so that I can drive to the airport as chauffeur! We also have Merryl arriving on the same day, and then Emma Roache the following day. It is sure to be a great week. Oh, and we are getting broadband installed too!
I hope that many of you have received our Christmas cards with our new address details. Thank you to all of you who emailed when you got them! It was also really lovely to speak to Em and Marc this week and I look forward to Skyping again soon!
Until next week, happy December to you all!
Monday, 30 November 2009
With today’s blog entry I bring very good news – we’ve moved! As I type I am sitting at our dining table and watching the sun set over Port Philip bay! It’s a cloudy evening and not the best sunset in the world, but it has great potential and is a beautiful 180 degree view of our new Melbourne surroundings.
This weekend has been a busy one, filled with fun activities and new opportunities to meet people. On Saturday we were invited to the country races with a colleague from my office. The Aussies are very passionate about horse racing and after the glamour and hype of the Spring Racing Carnival 3 weeks ago we thought we knew what to expect. This was a very different flavour however- 75km outside of Melbourne, in the Yarra Valley, a much smaller country race track with no dress code and a much more relaxed attitude. We dressed up anyway, and the group that we were with had hired a parasol and tables directly next to the track. We all bought a picnic item and made a fantastic spread between us. The horses provided some light entertainment but there was lots of conversation and general merriment and we enjoyed it much more than the formalities of the major racing events.
Sunday was M-day and the highlight of the week – MOVING DAY! We were up at 7am to do the final bits of cleaning and packing and by 12noon we had unloaded the car into our new apartment. Thank goodness for the capacious Ford Focus, into which we just about squeezed all of our belongings. It is such a relief to be out of the tiny studio flat in the rather too colourful suburb of St Kilda, and into the spacious surroundings of our two bedroom “pad” in Port Melbourne! I will post some photos once we are all unpacked and set up – our shipping from the UK arrives this Tuesday and once we have some familiar things around us I will be even happier!
Two hours after moving, we were due to attend our first ever Thanksgiving dinner! Our new friends Pat and Amanda are from Cleveland, Ohio, and threw a Thanksgiving party for all of their international friends (and a couple of locals). Despite some delicious food, the highlight of the party was the Kris Kringle. We were all asked to bring with us a $10 gift, and I was expecting a Secret Santa style exchange at some point in the festivities. What I didn’t realise however is that Kris Kringle has rules, and rather cut throat ones too! Everyone participating must pick a number from a hat which determines the order that you can select a gift from under the tree. When it’s your turn to pick, you can chose to “steal” a gift from a participant that has selected before you, if you want the item they were given. In this instance the guest who has lost their gift can pick again from the tree, but not steal from another player. Unfortunately I drew number one, meaning I had no one to steal from but 19 people who could steal from me! My gift was a rather cool massaging thingy, which lasted until player 15 or 16 and then I lost it in exchange for a mug. Tom and I had bought really tacky presents – chocolate and small reindeer toys that “poop” sweets when you wind them up. It was obvious through the conversation that we’d bought this, and I was a bit embarrassed at how tacky our gift was... until.... someone liked the pooping reindeer so much that they actually stole it from the player that had picked it first!! Everyone found it hilarious that someone wanted this toy enough to admit to it in front of 19 grown adults, and our gift choice was vindicated after all. Tom got a Saints (St Kilda) football (looks like a rugby ball to you and I) which was actually really great as this is the team that we are going to support!
That’s all for today as I must go and do some more unpacking, but finally – thank you to all of you who expressed your concern at my parking fiasco last week. I would like to report that I have since made it into my employers car park without a hitch. Phew!
Sunday, 22 November 2009
I’m writing this on the eve of our four week anniversary of arriving in Melbourne. Those four weeks have gone just as quickly as the four weeks leading up to our move did, and we’ve certainly had lots of fun times since we arrived. This week was all about ‘business as usual’ though, as Tom started his new job and we tried to settle into some sort of routine. This went pretty well, although we still feel like we are living in limbo in our tiny little studio. Every single day we talk about how excited we are to move to our proper flat – still nine more sleeps to go however!
Incidentally, Tom got off to a good start at his new job and hopefully will be very happy there.
With a week that consisted mostly of work (my honeymoon period is well and truly over!) there were just a couple of interesting titbits that I will mention to you. Firstly is my very exciting gym visit on Tuesday night – when who do I see in the tiny gym in our apartment block but Daniel MacPherson! Who??? I hear you asking... to you and me that is Joel from Neighbours! I was very excited about this and promptly tried (and failed) to take a subtle photo of him on my iPhone because I knew selected friends of mine (Lucy that’s you) would be very excited about my first Neighbours-star meeting! It turns out however, that Daniel MacPherson is actually a huge star in Australia - much more famous than I’d give him credit for being in Neighbours! He stars in a popular prime-time drama, and presents the Aussie version of Strictly Come Dancing. All of a sudden to going the gym has become somewhat more appealing...
Wednesday brought my first real test of driving the Melbourne roads for work - without having Tom to help me out with navigating and road rules. On Wednesday we drove into my office together and the plan was that I would drop Tom off and park the car, before driving out of town mid-morning to a client meeting. We had a small hiccup on the way into the office when the sat nav tried to direct us across a tram track, but Tom guided me on a different route and we made it to my office. Tom jumped out to leave me to park the car, because that's not difficult, is it? Well, if you're me it is! Corporate car parks can be more complicated than most, but I managed to make a total dogs dinner out of my first attempt at getting into the PwC Melbourne multi-storey. I was armed with a pin code and parking space number, and knew I would need to use to pin code to access the car park. So in I drive, go up the ramp, around the corner and up to the barrier. Nothing happens. Nowhere to put in my pin. A car pulls up behind me so I opened the window and called back for some help from the driver. I then notice that his car is right beside the pin machine! So, I have to ask him to reverse back around the corner and down the ramp (along with 3 cars behind him!) so I can go back and enter my pin. Needless to say I did a bit of girly reversing and ended up more than an arm's length away from the machine. So, I undo my seatbelt, open the door, jump out, input the pin. Nothing happens. So I pushed a random button. I waited. I'd only gone and called security! The guy behind me has now stopped finding this funny and is getting annoyed! Security then tell me I've got the wrong pin and I say NO WAY and repeat it aloud to them. Finally they just raised the barrier for me and in I drove! What a palava.
This weekend we were looking forward to another sunshine filled beach adventure – everything that we hoped for when we moved to Australia. Instead, Melbourne has seen a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Honestly. The locals keep telling us we are in a drought but you really wouldn’t believe it from the amount of rain we’ve seen! The real pelting rain usually starts as soon as we are in the car and trying to drive along a freeway, just to make visibility as hard as we would possibly hope for. The only time I can recall driving in such terrible conditions was in a Floridian storm whilst on holiday with Pippa in Fort Lauderdale. Luckily though, the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy a couple of hours at the Healesville Wildlife Park in the Yarra Valley. This was a 2 hour trip outside of Melbourne and our first long run in the car. We stopped for lunch on the way at our very first Aussie McDonalds! Our excuse was that there is a new Angus burger that is taking Australia by storm, and we felt that we needed to try it. One very interesting point of note was that all chicken burgers/wraps/nuggets that you buy in an Australian McDonalds can come either crispy (like in the UK) or seared – ie without the fatty coating and grilled, rather than fried. That’s a good enough excuse for me to justify more visits to Macca’s on health grounds!
Anyway, back to the wildlife. We saw the full complement of Australian animals. Tom was really looking forward to seeing the dingos, but as luck would have it the dingo enclosure was being renovated so we didn’t see those. The snake show was informative and we both got to stroke a snake, but the commentary was hilarious... [please read in thick Australian accent]... “Aaah look, there is absolutely no need to ever fear a snake, but it will slither into your bath tub, and if you step on it, it WILL KILL YOU!”. That, my readers, is the reason we’ve rented a flat on the sixth floor!
On the way back from the wildlife park we stopped off at a local winery to sample some wines and hopefully buy some for Christmas. Unfortunately our taste buds have been spoilt and will now only like Blossom Hill Rose - Zinfandel or Grenache!! We will have to become somewhat more sophisticated to truly appreciate the Aussie wines.
Today we have been to Melbourne’s Westfield shopping centre. I haven’t even been to the London one, but I hope it’s less stressful that the down under version – traffic to get there, terrible parking, nightmare in the food court and all in all a very stressful experience. I did find a new handbag though – so it wasn’t all bad!
To finish here are a few more photos.. until next time... g’day!
Sunday, 15 November 2009
And how did we get to the aforementioned garden centre? In our new car of course!! We collected our lovely titanium-grey Ford Focus Zetec from the garage on Tuesday evening, and have been enjoying having the smartest wheels in town (in our opinion!) ever since. I wanted to take a really swanky photo of our car by the beach with a Melbourne sunset in the background, but I haven’t managed that, so here is a photo from the garden centre car park instead:
This week hasn’t just been about cars however – it was also my first week at work. I was pleased to get going with the job that has brought us here in the first place, and the first week went by in a flash. I’m doing an identical role to my job in London, but in a smaller office – and as a result I will go from managing two clients, to eight! Cue brain overload. I have responded to this challenge in my usual way – by making a spreadsheet. I think I may need more than this however! After a week of being home alone, Tom will start work this week, and having us both at work will take us one step closer to normal life here in Melbourne.
Yesterday we took our car east along the coast to the suburb of Black Rock – which had lovely shops and cafes so we nicknamed it Hampsted-on-Sea. After a snoop around at the lovely Christmas decorations on sale we hit the beach to sit back and relax, although the weather was very overcast and quite cool compared to recent days. Our blissful peace was interrupted however by the 7 – 9 year old population of Black Rock having a surfing lesson and screaming at the number of jellyfish in the water! At the first sign of rain (which incidentally never arrived) we jumped back in the car and drove home, only to look in the mirror and discover that we were both burnt to a crisp. It was, and still is, very painful!
We had been invited to a BBQ at the home of one of my work colleagues on Saturday night, and this proved a great opportunity to meet a few more people. We looked liked sun dried tomatoes however, and playing “spot the newcomers to Australia” was pretty easy. Everyone here is very friendly and encouraging – we’ve mostly mixed with other ex-pats and they all seem to have made strong friendships since their arrival.
Our studio flat is looking ever-smaller as more and more belongings are unpacked from our four suitcases. I don’t know how I fitted everything into those bags when we flew over, because it’s never going to fit back in again! I’m still undecided about how long you have to live in one place before you fully unpack. We were in the hotel for 2 weeks and only scratched the surface of the cases, but after one week in our studio and the prospect of two more weeks before we can move, I have decided to get a bit more organised and actually put things on hangers and in drawers. We are both very excited about moving to our longer term home however!
Must get back to Australian Idol now.. the inferior substitute for X-Factor and Strictly...
Monday, 9 November 2009
I have lots to report from the week since my last blog entry – and mostly good news! We started the week with our fingers crossed that we would secure our chosen apartment by the beach. We spoke to the agent on Monday to check our application had been received, and were told we’d have to wait until Wednesday for an answer. With Tuesday being a public holiday in Melbourne, lots of workers had taken Monday off to make a long weekend and no decision would be made on the property.
To take our minds off the wait and occupy us during the bank holiday, we booked a day trip out of the city to see some of Victoria’s finest wildlife! In a very long 15 hour trip, we ticked the following animal experiences off the list – feeding bird seed to wild parrots, riding puffing billy (that’s a train, not an animal, but I’m counting it anyway!), bottle-feeding some very hungry calves, milking a dairy cow, getting up close with baby kangaroos, photographing some koalas and (the best bit) watching the little penguins race up the beach to their burrows to meet their babies, then watching them feed in the dead of night. It was an amazing day, and I’ve posted some photos below:
Wednesday was D-Day and during a shopping trip we took the fateful call to tell us that we didn’t get the apartment. I was so disappointed that I lost all desire to shop (ie very very disappointed!). We went straight back to the hotel to get back onto the internet and re-commence our search. By this point we’d view every available 2 or 4 bedroom apartment in a mile radius of our preferred location, but luckily a couple of new properties had been uploaded after the bank holiday and so there was a light shining on the horizon. We scheduled three viewings (or inspections, as they are called here) for the Friday morning, and crossed our fingers. When Friday morning rolled around, Tom loved the first flat we saw, but I loved the second. As the X-Factor would describe it, we were in deadlock. We had three hours to kill until the third and final viewing and not many words were uttered between us!
The final viewing was for a furnished flat at the top end of our budget, in a modern block on the main street of Port Melbourne. When Tom and I walked through the door, we both knew that it was the place for us, and 30 minutes later we had applied and been accepted by the agent! It’s a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with 180 degree views of the coast. As it’s furnished, it will save us a lot of hassle fitting out, which in Australia requires a tenant to provided their own white goods also.
Unfortunately the flat is not available until 1st December, which left us having to find three weeks of accommodation. In an unhopeful plea to our real estate agent, she surprisingly offered us three weeks in a very smart studio flat in Melbourne’s lively St Kilda. It was the perfect solution and so we jumped at the chance. Two days later we had moved in, and it’s turned out to be a fantastic location – just a bit further down the coast than our more permanent home will be.
After the success of Friday, we were on a high and Saturday was another great day. Tom and I were invited to join my PwC-Melbourne colleague Matt, his wife and their friends at Stakes Day of the Melbourne Cup – the final day in the 8 day Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. Melbournites love their horse racing like he British love tea, so we were really pleased to be introduced to the event by some locals. We got all dressed up (fascinator essential for ladies) and as the temperature exceeded thirty degrees, we were relieved to have inside seated tickets. We ended up roughly even on the betting, and just about survived the heat to make it out for dinner afterwards.
Sunday was moving day, when we left our hotel and set up life in our little studio. The four suitcases that we brought on the plane have magically expanded to several more bags, so we had to order a maxi-taxi to transport us. We then had to go out and buy all the little things that you take for granted in a hotel that we no longer had access to – boring things, like coat hangers and bin liners!
That brings you all up to date, with just today – my first day at work – to report. All went well on day one, but as it was just a technology induction I think there is a way to go yet! Tom starts work next Monday and then the holiday really will be over.. or will it?