Sunday, 24 January 2010

Back to the Blog

I must start with an apology for the long delay in this blog entry, and a thank you for your concern that perhaps Tom and I had dropped off the face of the earth. Given that we are now Down Under and live life upside down, this could have been a perfectly plausible explanation for our absence, but in fact the gravitational pull has done it’s job and brought us right back down to earth. With a thud. Yes, the honeymoon period and fairytale hot Christmas is well and truly over, being replaced by the stressful and time consuming part of year known in my profession as ‘busy season’. Over the past two weeks, my Australian dream has comprised working in the glamorous locations of Melbourne’s industrial suburbs, the home office and the real office. I’ve experienced these delights at all hours of the day and night, as well as the wonders of Sunday working! I’ve learnt bad things (like that the office air conditioning is not turned on during weekends) and good things (like being 12 hours ahead of Europe allows Australian’s to work through our night time and still meet a deadline!). All in all, I’ve learnt that Australian’s work just as hard as Londoners and anyone who thinks Tom and I have come here for a couple of years chilling on the beach is mistaken!

Contrary to what you might think from the above, I am really enjoying my job, in which long hours in January and February are just par for the course. Tom has managed to keep himself entertained during my absence and this weekend I’m taking some time away from work to relax. We have tickets for the Australian Open and will be watching Hewitt v Bagdatis tonight in the Rod Laver (Melbourne’s centre court). The last time these two players met at the Australian Open, their match ended at 4.30am! If we see a repeat performance I fear I may not last the duration!

We have also experienced Melbourne’s hottest night on record, when after reaching 45 degrees in the daytime, the temperature didn’t fall below 30 degrees overnight, and that was at 8am the following morning. It was a challenge to say the least, as we only have air conditioning in our main living area and not the bedroom. I ended up sleeping on the sofa in the direct firing line of the aircon unit, and Tom had a fan blowing in the bedroom!

In the absence of any non-weather related tales to tell you from the past two weeks, I will complete the story from our Christmas holidays, when we took a four day road trip with Sue and Peter (Tom’s parents). We drove east from Melbourne along the coast for about 200 miles, to the beach town, Lakes Entrance, where the Gippsland Lakes connect to the Bass Straight seas, and to the famously beautiful Ninety Mile Beach. Whilst we didn’t cover the full 90 miles on foot, we tackled a 5km walk and the sights and sounds of a totally empty, sandy beach with huge crashing waves and warm water was breathtaking. That evening we drove just 20 minutes to our accommodation – a small bed and breakfast run by a lovely couple Les and Darrylin in the middle of the forest. Driving along the dirt track to this little purpose built house in the middle of a dense forest made our car filthy, but it was worthwhile for the fantastic accommodation that awaited us. We enjoyed a beautiful home cooked meal by Darrylin and were taken on a tour of the forest by Les. There was wildlife, lovely smells, beautiful surroundings and we were all thinking just how heavenly it was. And THEN.... I saw it. The spider. The HUGE huntsman spider. Not outside, not on the ceiling but in the very room that Tom and I were supposed to sleep in that night. (New paragraph required here as I have a lot to say about this.)

I walked into our bedroom and saw this huge intruder on the patio door, but I couldn’t tell if it was on the outside (fine) or the inside (total disaster). So I shouted for Tom who I think could tell from the tone of my voice what the problem was. I asked him if the spider was inside or outside and after going in for a closer look he told a small white lie and said, “It’s on the outside, now GET OUT OF THE ROOM NOW!”, before physically removing me from the room and shouting “Les, Les - can you come here please?!” I had cottoned on the reality of the situation by this point and run into the lounge area.

Just to clarify, a Huntsman spider is not poisonous, but will bite and is the size of the palm of an adult’s hand, with very chunky legs. Les is an experienced spider handler after living in the forest for 30 years, and didn’t think twice about picking it up with his hands. He also didn’t think it was a problem when he dropped the spider on the floor of our room and it started crawling around in our belongings! Eventually, after the spider bit him, he tried to show it to me and I ran away screaming, the spider was returned to the forest. I was still a quivering wreck however and so I proceeded to make Les check every corner of our room and also spray it with insect killing formula. Tom then had to go around and do a second check, including shining a torch under bed. Let’s just say it was in uneasy night for me!

The next day we continued our trip by driving inland in a northerly direction, along the Great Alpine Road which traces the slopes of Mount Hotham. In the winter time this is Victoria’s top skiing destination (only skiing destination?), and in the summer it makes for a beautiful drive (unless you don’t like heights, sorry Peter). At the end of our drive was a pot of gold – well almost. Our destination was Beechworth, and old gold mining town where I was to get my first taste of the intense Australian heat, and where Peter was due to meet an old friend from his schooldays who had emigrated to Australia. Whilst the olds caught up on, well, old times, Tom and I did what holidays were intended for – we relaxed by the pool! In what was probably our first day doing nothing of the whole Christmas break, and in such intense heat, we really enjoyed soaking up the sun and swimming! Just in case you are worried, we didn’t find any spiders in our hotel but I did make sure Tom did a thorough check, just in case!

We then drove inland back to Melbourne and Sue and Peter departed the next day. We thoroughly enjoyed their visit and were so glad that they liked our new home and surroundings. Peter I owe you a huge thank you for teaching me how to use cruise control on our car – it has revolutionised my long commute to clients.

There is so much more to talk about but I’ll leave it here for now and save the rest for when other news dries up! We read the UK news online every day and so are acutely aware of the dramatic snowy weather that you have all endured and are probably fed up of now. Visitors to Melbourne are welcome to escape the UK winter!

Nothing but mountains - the view from Mount Hotham, along the Great Alpine Road

Peter enjoying the view - and staying away from the edge!

Tom on the Great Alpine Road

Our tour of the forest involved a bit of wildlife spotting up a ladder...

.. waiting at the top were these little lovelies! Sugar gliders.
Enjoying the tranquility on Ninety Mile Beach

Walking to Ninety Mile Beach at Lakes Entrance

Back home, a beautiful sunset over Port Philip Bay

Friday, 1 January 2010

2009: What a year!

As 2009 draws to a close and I see in the New Year so far away from friends and family, I have been thinking about some of my personal highlights of the past 12 months...

1. Snow Day

The second of February 2009 made history for the monumental snowfall that graced the UK. In London, Tom and I were snowed in at our flat in Belsize Park and with no tubes and no buses in operation we settled down to ‘work from home’. I use inverted commas because there was more snow fighting than working taking place that day, and we were lucky enough to live walking distance from Primrose Hill, which had turned into a sledgers delight! We saw people sledging on roadsigns, blue Ikea bags and even an ironing board! The best sight of the day though was a man in a giant inflatable sumo suit. I’m not sure if it was for function or fashion....?

2. Claridges

In late 2008, Tom and I, plus his sister Anna and our friend Sally organised The Big Pink Ticket – a raffle to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Tom’s grandmother Florence was the lucky winner of the first prize – a meal at Claridges! Florence is in her nineties but still made the trip from Norwich to London, along with her sister Marian. Tom and I were invited too, along with his parents. We had a delicious Sunday lunch and were looked after very well by the staff!

3. Take That

Continuing the theme of winning prizes, Anna won tickets to see Take That at Trafford Park in June of 2009. The Circus tour was one to remember and we both had an absolutely fantastic night re-living our younger years and screaming for Mark, Gary, Jason and Howard. It was an outdoor event and we had a perfect summers evening for it!

4. Joining the Property Ladder

When Tom and I have a big decision to make, we don’t usually take long over it – and that was certainly the case with our first house purchase. One minute we were on a fun day trip to Walton on Thames, and two weeks later we’d bought a house there! We got the keys in July and embarked on a stressful few weeks of renovating as we co-ordinated three sets of builders (one cowboy set, others ok), two sets of extremely helpful parents and our jobs all at once. We didn’t anticipate how long it would take, how incompetent our builders could be, or that we’d also fit in a hen weekend, a stag do and a birth (Lucy’s daughter Dora) during the process! The finished product is wonderful however and we are very proud of the transformation – plus very grateful to our parents, without whom we would never have finished in under a month.

5. Babies

2009 brought babies into the lives of my friends for the first time, and consequentially into my life too. I was honoured to be present at the birth of baby Dora to my oldest and bestest friend Lucy on 18th July, and I enjoyed a wonderful three months of cuddles with Dora before we left for Australia. Either side of Dora’s birth, Louise and Dyfed welcomed Benjamin and Ella and Andy brought the world Amelie – two more gorgeous little bundles of joy! Just after we landed in Australia, Eleanor was born to Rachel and David, and I hope to meet her at some point in 2010!

6. Kate and Chris’ Wedding

12th September was a good day, because it was the day that my first university girlfriend tied the knot!! Kate very appropriately married BA pilot Chris in match that I truly believe was meant to be! They had a picture perfect ceremony in Dummer village church before a sun-drenched reception. I was delighted to be part of the wedding party as a bridesmaid for Kate. Part of the fun was getting together with all of the crew from Norwood halls of residence – who would have thought it’s over 9 years since our first day together at Bath university. It makes me feel old, but it’s great to see how far everyone has come, and there will be two more Norwood weddings next year – Tush will marry Andy and Ben will marry Sarah. With Allen already married to Faith, that’s 50% of us married off!

7. Friends and family

With our move to Australia pending, Tom and I made an extra effort to spend time with friends, and family before we left the UK. I wish we all made that much effort all the time – because it made for a fantastic summer, full of laughter, good food and good company. You all made so much effort to fit in seeing us before we left, and we were so flattered that some of you wanted to see us again after we’d said goodbye (Tush and Andy that’s you!). 2009 was also a good year at work, with Tom finding a job he loved, and me getting the Manager promotion I’d been after.

8. Moving to Australia

Buying a house together was a big step for Tom and I, but moving to Australia was even bigger. Although nervous before we left, it became clear in the few weeks after our arrival that we had made a sensible decision, and I’m confident that our time here will be a fantastic experience, great for both our careers and us as individuals.


The trouble with writing a list like the above, is that there are so many things that you can’t include, and for me this list looks like the following for 2009 – Mum and Dad’s 30th wedding anniversary, Lynne & Mike’s wedding, several engagements (Telfy, Sarah, Tush, Wai) and pregnancy announcements (Ella & Andy, Rachel & David, Jac & Sam, Wendy & Sam), Legoland with the Woods, London with the Howletts, Bath with Carol and Martin, Easter in Norwich, May Bank holiday in Poole, Ella’s baby shower, two sets of karaoke with my fantastic colleagues, Christmas with the Listers etc etc!

New Year’s Eve in Melbourne was a total wash out. We stayed home and watched the lightening show from our window – who needs fireworks?! I hope you will all keep reading our blog and Tom and I wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe 2010!!