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

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