Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hello from Down Under!

We have safely arrived in Melbourne, after a long but surprisingly bearable journey! We travelled from Heathrow to Melbourne via Singapore and Sydney, making a total of 26 hours on the road (well, in the air). Our journey was, on the most part, hassle free, but got off to a very stressful start at the Heathrow check-in desk. Given the nature of our journey (ie one-way) we had a LOT of excess baggage (55kg to be precise). I’d already checked up on the charges that we’d have to pay, and so the BA levy of £110 for our additional bags was no surprise and didn’t seem unreasonable given the weight. As the final leg of our journey (Sydney – Melbourne) was a domestic flight with Qantas, the BA check in staff informed us that we would have to pay Qantas excess baggage fees also.. charged at £33 per kilo! If you do some quick maths, that works out at £1815. Cue major panic for both Tom and myself. After what felt like an eternity (but was probably about 3-4 minutes!) of discussion with the check in staff, we agreed that they would only check our bags as far as Sydney and we would deal with any Qantas charges when we got there. A problem delayed is a problem solved, right? In this case, yes! When we got to Sydney we re-checked our bags for the Qantas flight and they didn’t even comment on the weight, let alone charge us extra. Phew!

Our BA flights were excellent, with lots of on-demand movie choice and plenty of food. Our BA pilot friends Kate and Chris had put in a word to the Captain that we were on board, in case he could offer us an upgrade. Unfortunately the flight was full (we were actually offered £550 each to travel on a later flight!) so we didn’t get upgraded, but the cabin crew did bring us some champagne! Then when we boarded the plane for the second leg from Singapore to Sydney we got a surprise upgrade to premium economy. Ooooh the leg room was very welcome.. thanks to Kate and Chris for their efforts and for making our journey much more pleasant!

Here’s the proof that we arrived in one piece with all of our bags:

Tom "before" in Walton, and "after" in Melbourne!

Almost everything was in one piece when we opened the suitcases. Unfortunately one photo frame had broken (Claire it was yours, but the picture was not damaged).

Melbourne has been wonderful so far – warm sunny days and plenty to explore. We are staying in a hotel suite with river views, which of course is located right opposite the PwC office! We are battling terribly with jet lag (its 6am as I write this, and we’ve been awake on and off since 2am!) but have time to get over it before work starts. Today we are viewing 7 or 8 properties to rent, and hope to be able to report back with some positive news on that front soon!

I’ll sign off with some photos of our first 48 hours in Australia...

Our hotel room

Proof that I'm still smiling!

Tom on the balcony

Lovely sunny Melbourne!
PS.. public apology to Tom for accidentally taking our very nice toaster to Walton tip!!!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Under the kitchen sink...

I’m writing this entry on the train from Bournemouth to Walton. We are returning from saying our final goodbyes and after a brief stop off at our house in Walton we will be off to the airport! This week has been non-stop and we are exhausted – hopefully exhausted enough to sleep through a significant portion of our upcoming 26 hour marathon journey Down Under...
We started this week with two days in Poole to see my parents, my grandma and family friends Valerie and Aubrey. After that it was back to Walton to pack up everything in the house ready for the removal men to ship it all down to Poole for storage (aren’t parents great?!). This was a huge task and one that turned out to be full of surprises...

As we’ve only been living in our present house for 3 months, you might assume that we haven’t had much opportunity to accumulate rubbish. Wrong! We found all manner of unwanted things as we sorted through the house, some of which I’m quite ashamed to admit, but as it might make for an amusing read I’ll tell you anyway! Our first and possibly worst ‘discovery’ was a two month old chicken and broccoli pie in the fridge in the garage (the fridge had been turned off for the duration!). Not thinking that we could top that, I then found a Burger King takeaway bag under our bed!! I think I was the guilty party there, but I’m going to blame Tush for leading me astray to Burger King after Kate’s hen cocktails... I now feel suitably ashamed however and promise never to eat a burger in bed again! No more food-related discoveries were made (thank goodness) but I did find a copy of the Bill Bryson book “The Thunderbold Kid” under our kitchen sink, and a “Rustie” toy from the Pixar film “Cars” under the sofa!

Removal man and van - nice headband!

All of our possessions are now safely stored in Poole, after being transported by our sweat-band wearing removal man! After initially questioning this rather bold fashion statement, I was quite glad that he was wearing it to catch the buckets of sweat pouring off him!
Tom and I drove down to Poole the night before our flight – one final trip in our lovely little Ford Focus! We’ve been driving around all week with a for sale notice in the window, but despite a truck driver at Walton tip (sorry, it’s a Waste Transfer Station....) offering us £300 (what?!!!) there was no interest. Dad had lined up a viewing on the car for Saturday morning however and it sold straight away. Thanks Dad!

House let and car sold!

The remainder of our possessions are now crammed into four carefully packed suitcases. Please could you all cross your fingers for us at approx 6.30pm as we check in for our flight and try to avoid excess baggage charges... despite purchasing some digital luggage scales and carefully balancing items between bags there is no getting around the fact that we just can’t fit our lives into 2 x 23kg cases, which is the BA allowance. Some of you will be pleased to read however that ALL of your gifts have made it into our luggage and that essentials such as towels and clothing have been ditched to achieve this!! Who needs jumpers in Australia anyway?! We have also packed all of your cards to remind us of home and for my uni girls... the Percy Pigs have also made the cut! I’m afraid I have eaten the Colin the Caterpillars during the packing process however! Colin was rather yummy though :-)
So all that remains is for us to get on the plane. We are off to Heathrow any minute and I will blog again once we arrive!

Much love to everyone and thanks for all of your good luck messages!

PS I’d like to apologise to those of you who didn’t get a tearful goodbye from me... whilst you might have read about my inability to retain any form of composure in my earlier blog entries, I have become rather well practised at saying goodbye since then, and am now able to keep almost dry eyes! It doesn’t mean I’ll miss you any less... it just saves on waterproof mascara!

Final photo of autumn in Walton.. because I thought it was pretty!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

UK Road Trip

One week from now we will be on the plane! Very scary thought given how much there is to do between now and then... this past week has been very productive however - touring the UK to see friends and family. We've clocked up some serious miles travelling from Surrey to Cheshire, then to Norwich and then back to Surrey again. Next week brings two trips to Poole just to get the final bit of value out of our car that we've only owned for 4 months! Travelling with us on the road was our trusty sat nav, which Tom helpfully zoomed right out to view the whole of Europe on the map! My navigation skills are already challenged without this complication...!

Navigationally challenged

Anyway, stop number one was Tom's sister Anna and her family in Cheshire. We had a fun packed few days which primarily consisted of shopping, eating, school run, shopping, eating, school run.. and so on! We made a brief pit-stop for coffee with Louise and Benjamin in Chester, to get my fix of baby cuddles and catch up on Louise's new life up north. It was great to spend some time with the Wood's before we leave, and we are excited about their planned visit to Melbourne next year! Anna and Kev have kindly offerred to store our 40" TV in the bedroom whilst we are away, which is very generous given that it's probably bigger than their bed. Here are a few photos from the trip.. (10/10 to Anna for her steak dinner as pictured below.. it was AMAZING!)

With Millie, Rosie and Jamie

Borrowing baby Benjamin for a cuddle!

The aforementioned decilious steak!

No amount of windscreen wiping could clear my eyes as we drove away from Anna's, but it was on to Norwich and more nice times and delicious food with the Lister family. We also managed to fit in the school run twice during this visit (bizarre as I'd never done it before with Tom's nieces and nephews!) and even 6 year old Emily's harvest festival assembley! We also found time to fit in a white knuckle ride on the newly-installed stairlift at Tom's grandmother's house (if you haven't tried one, I recommend it.. just allow plenty of time!), and for me to meet the infamous Paula Bullen at last (Lister family members will get this.. everyone else just read on!). Paula is from Australia and brought us a spectacular pavolva, which is apparently an Aussie favourite! Anyone who has had dinner at our house will know that meringue is the only pudding in my repertoire, so it sounds like I'm going to fit right in! Claire (Tom's other sister) gave us an amazing montage of photos of the Lister family, and I will defintely try and take her up on the offer of making me a Hague family montage too!
With Charlie, Emily and Ellie

Hold on tight!

Paula Bullen's amazing pavlova...

Tom and Emily

I left Tom in Norwich to continue the family visits, and drove back to Surrey in time for a fleeting trip to the 02 Centre for the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships. Lynne came along too and after watching a tremedous display of atheticism and fitness we then gorged on Wagamammas! Yummy. Saturday brought my goodbye to Elian and she introduced me to brunch at Breads etc in Clapham. At Breads etc you sit on a table with your own toaster and spreads and you cut your own bread and toast as much as you wish! This was really rather novel and exciting at the time, but upon reflection it also seems like a crafty ruse to cut down on staff costs making toast!

Elian and our toaster

A gymnast on the beam. Not sure which one (we were in the cheap seats).

That's all for now.. till next time.. g'day!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Goodbye to London jobs and friends..

I'm blogging from Cheshire where we have just arrived for a week of family time. The past 7 days has been full of London goodbyes though - to work places, colleagues and friends..

Friday was the last day in the office for both Tom and I, so cue another round of goodbye cards, presents and drinks.Tom's work definitely wins the prize for the best Aussie themed "goodbye", with a creatively customised card (see photo below), some sun cream and several cans of Fosters! The best present though was the "beach towell" .. which was actually flannel sized! I'm not sure that the Fosters will make it as far as Melbourne and will probably be confined to the huge stash of booze that we seem to have accumulated over the past three months and can't drink in time!

Leaving my job was difficult, having been there for five years and made many fantastic friendships. I didn't go quietly though, with multiple leaving events, three cards, two hours of Lucky Voice karaoke, and one very special gift. Parting with my work laptop and crack-berry was almost as hard as saying goodbye to some of my colleagues, but I was very controlled and managed to stay composed in the office!

The same could not be said for our Saturday night leaving drinks at the Pitcher and Piano in Trafalgar Square however. We were so happy that many of friends made the effort to come and say goodbye, (from distances as far as Cambridge and Cardiff!) but despite my best efforts I might have shed a tear or too! Saying good bye to Fiona set me off and the prospect of not being able to take Phil will me to Melbourne was all too much to contemplate! Nevertheless we had a some laughs and Catherine did a very good job of photographing the evening to give us some lovely memories to take away:

Enough of the sentimental stuff.. now that we've finished up at work, the real preparations can begin. Sunday morning was all about hardcore packing, and after a brief interlude for lunch with my brother Mat (on flying visit from Bulgaria), we loaded up our little Ford Focus to the MAX we drove up to Anna's (Tom's sister) in Cheshire for the start of our family visits..... now I'm sitting in front of the X-Factor waiting to see who will get voted out in week one. Any volunteers to give us play-by-play updates on X-Factor and Strictly after we've moved?!

Patrick and Adelene with Tom

Phil and Rich strike a pose in unison!

Eric and Lynne

Tom, Rachel, Claire and Sally

Eric, Miles, Mike and Lynne

Tom, Catherine, Matt, Firthy and Alisdair

Cambridge, Katie, Rich & Wai

Sally, with Katie and Tom

Katie with Kate and Cambridge

Wai and Rich

Fiona and Katie

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Cookie that made me Crumble...

With just over two weeks until we fly, and only three days left at work, we are now in full swing with our "goodbyes" to family and friends. Last night it was the turn of my girlfriends from Bath university - we all studied economics together and have become a very close knit group of friends since moving to London after graduation. It shocks all of us that we've known each other for NINE years now!

Needless to say, it was horrible saying goodbye, although at least I've proved that my tear ducts are fully functional. In honour of my favourite food, I chose Pizza Express as the venue and we had a great meal and caught up on everyone's latest news (weddings, babies, coursework, holidays etc!). After I failed to leave the table to give them a chance to do sneaky things behind my back, Sarah suggested I might like to visit the ladies.. for at LEAST 6 minutes.. (no idea why six minutes, Sarah please enlighten me). Anyway, when I got back there was a lovely pile of pressies and a card full of fantastic messages awaiting me!

(L-R) Sally, Katie, Pippa, Fiona, Telfy, Sarah, Tush

Sally had gone to tremendous efforts to find me quite possibly the biggest cookie in the world, which she had beautifully decorated with "We'll miss you Katie!" in pink icing! After being totally composed until this point, I then crumbled a bit! We all ate a slice of the cookie for dessert and it was a lovely present - so thank you everyone. The girls also bought me some Percy Pigs (and Pals!), who will be travelling with me and saved for a homesick moment... Thanks also to Telfy for your wise words of experience re: overseas living, and for the delicious chocolate :-)

After trying to fight back the tears in Pizza Express I managed to attract plenty of attention in Waterloo by blubbing my way through a goodbye to Tush and Sarah. I actually think I was dehydrated by the time I got home!

So a HUGE thank you to you all for a wonderful send off!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Bye bye Amelie...

... and Ella and Andy!

I said goodbye to new parents Ella and Andy last night, as well as to their one month old darling daughter Amelie. In honour of Ella's support for this blog I thought I'd mention the Driscoll-Roberts family in their own post!

Fiona, Tush and myself had dinner with Ella and Andy at their new flat. Amelie exercised her lungs and Andy gave us all a demonstration in how to stop her crying. Well done Andy!

Fingers crossed Ella will invest in a webcam so that I keep see Amelie on Skype as she grows!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Goodbye to friends...

Tom and I have been really busy over the last few weeks seeing as much of our friends as possible. Here are a few pictures and memories:

A lightening quick dinner with Alex and Fiona (and the biggest pizza I've ever seen!) before Alex flew back to Saudi for work.

Louise and baby Benjamin came to London for a visit. He was a darling in Starbucks, then cried when we reached the office! Oh well...! It was fantastic to see Louise looking so well :-)

More to follow....