Sunday, 28 March 2010

Button brings victory for the Brits!

If you haven't watched the Australian Grand Prix yet... then the title of this blog has probably already spoilt the result for you. Apologies. It was however, such a phenominal race that I couldn't resist blogging about it as soon as we got home!

Tom and I were really excited about going to our first Forumla 1 grand prix, and with the Australian race taking place within walking distance from our apartment, this was a prime opportunity to attend. We bought general admission tickets for both qualifying and race day, and neither visit disappointed.

Qualifying day was great as there were fewer crowds and we had the opportunity to walk around and soak up the atmosphere, as well as get close to the track to practise our photography of fast moving objects (does it get any faster than this?). We decided that standing up in the crowds for the 2 hour race didn't actually appeal that much, so tried and then failed miserably to get last minute grandstand tickets for the race. Oh well, next year.

Go Hamilton!

We were late arriving on race day due to the arrival one of my UK work colleagues, Sam Tomlinson, in Melbourne. After a quick lunch with Sam and some of the rest of the UK-gang, we rushed to Albert Park and staked our (rather late) claim on a small patch of grass by turn 2. The race went by in a flash and thankfully the rain added to the tension of the race more than it detracted from the comfort of our spectating. Jenson's win was a fantastic end to an awesome weekend of motor sport, and we flooded onto the track with the rest of the crowd to celebrate. I was waving a huge Union Flag and as we gathered with the other Britsh supporters outside Jenson's pit garage, the photographers took advantage of the sea of flags!

Go Button!

Here are some more photos from our fantastic weekend:

Tom celebrating on the track

Thank goodness for eBay - the flag was a great thing to have!

The noise was incredible and ear defenders a must

The British fans were very artistic

This is not me, but I liked the idea

Lewis on the parade of drivers, which I missed because I was in the queue for damn ice creams!!

In the general admission 'pit'.. once was enough

Lunch earlier in the day - L-R - Tom, Rob, Jacqui, Sam

Final celebrations before home time

Friday, 19 March 2010

Melbourne City Romp

This week I'm opening up with some statistics - our blog now receives an average of 5 visits a day, except on a day when we've posted a new entry, when we receive around 50 hits! I'm quite pleased with this, so thanks to everyone for continuing to read. Obviously these statistics don't capture our offline readership, and 'Tom and Katie Down Under' is now truely accessible to all through both printed and audio formats. A big thank you to our diligent parents and their hard working printers for distributing printed version of the blog. Perhaps we should seek sponsorship from Hewlett Packard to cover the ink costs?!

We've had a busy week, Tom with two big projects at work (which were very successful) and me with various social activities (a much better type of busy). On the social side, our friendship pool has expanded by two more people thanks to the arrival of one of my colleagues from London and his girlfriend. I never thought I would celebrate the arrival of two more Brits, and I'm sure you think that we should be mixing with the locals, but it's actually very hard to make new friends in a city of strangers, particularly as an adult. Our closest friends mostly hail from North America, the UK or Ireland (Northern or Republic, we're not fussy), however I did break the cycle on Tuesday evening when I caught up with my Aussie-friend Danielle! Is it cheating that I actually met her in London?

Danielle and I went to watch Mamma Mia the musical, which is a light-hearted story of a young bride conveniently written so as to include all of ABBA's biggest hits. Except Waterloo, which the writers couldn't seem to fit into the story so it was the finale song instead. If you haven't listened to the songs (older generation), seen the musical (middle generation) or watched the movie (younger generation, in which I include children), then you must have been living under a rock for the past two to five years. The show was almost a complete package - it had great music, brightly coloured flared trousers, lots of laugher and a sprinkling of rather attractive half naked young men... but was rather short on a decent plot. I've often wondered how on earth the writers came up with a good story that so many ABBA songs conveniently fit into, and I now realise that they didn't...

Having sworn that we would take a break from fundraising for a few years (mostly to recover some goodwill from our very generous family and friends!), we've been tempted back by an incredibly entertaining Melbourne fundraising event called 'The Melbourne City Romp'. Described as part treasure hunt, part amazing race, the event requires teams of 3 - 6 people to race around Melbourne using clues to look for checkpoints and solving puzzles. After much emailing amongst friends for willing participants, we rounded up a team, which was appropriately named 'Spot the Aus One Out', as from 5 people there was only one Australian.

After a late dinner party on Saturday night, we hauled ourselves out of bed early on Sunday morning to meet our team-mates for a power brunch. Then we spent a gruelling four hours racing around the city! It was great fun and an excellent way to get to know Melbourne better. We received free entry to a lot of the attractions and museums, but the competitive spirit got the better of us so we didn't hang around to browse!

The final results were released today, and we visited 16 checkpoints in 4 hours, earning us 320 points. Topping this up with 14 points for sponsorship money raised, we clocked a total 334 points which placed us 363rd out of 2,400 teams! We were very pleased with this placing, especially as we only raised $14! Discounting the fundraising part of the points tally, we placed 21st - not bad for a bunch of newcomers?!

Katie, Tom, Jacqui, Rob, Erinn - can you spot the Aus one out?

Other recent highlights have included Skyping into Tush's hen weekend, which was fantastic (second to actually being there in person of course), and completing our camera course (watch this space). This weekend it's the Melbourne Grand Prix, and next weekend we are off to Brisbane to visit Tom's second cousin Merryl, so lots more to blog about in the near future. Many thanks to Florence for responding to my question about the official name for Tom and Merryl's family link!

That's me on the computer screen!

Until next time... G'Day!

Monday, 8 March 2010

All Hail!

Today is Labour Day, an annual holiday celebrated all over the world that resulted from the labour union movement and celebrates the economic and social achievements of workers. At the risk of bringing politics into this blog, I’m not exactly a Labour voter, but obviously am happy to support the public holiday regardless. The celebration of Labour Day originated from the ‘Eight Hour day’ movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation and eight hours for rest. Given the hours that British employees work, this might explain why Labour Day is not celebrated in the UK!

In order to take full advantage of the long weekend, Tom and I had long ago booked a trip to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula. Sorrento is a popular beach destination for Melbournian’s to escape city life, and the rich few have fantastic holiday homes along the beach and in the hills. We were looking forward to a piece of this, and were really disappointed when the weather forecast for the whole weekend was rain and thunder storms! We chose to ignore the quiet sniggering from folks back home, who perhaps thought it quite amusing that we were on the end of a bad weather forecast for once, and ploughed ahead with our plans regardless.

After a leisurely drive along the coast and a stop off for breakfast by the beach, the sun decided to show it’s face - hurrah! Tom and I didn’t hesitate to jump on a boat for a seal and dolphin cruise. We sat on the top deck and sweltered in our trousers and jackets as the sun was beating down on the water. Why on earth did I insist on bringing all this gear with us when half of the other cruisers were in bikinis? Anyway, 15 minutes out into the bay and we were treated to the sight a manmade island full of Australian fur seals. The sight was incredible, but the smell was putrid. I can’t begin to describe the stench, but the fact that some people wanted to swim amongst the smell was beyond me! I had incredible flash backs of watching ‘Doctor Dolittle’ as a child and the Doctor walking around with a seal in a pram and then throwing it off a cliff into the sea. Bizzare.

Next up were the dolphins, which I promise were much better than the photos suggest! It’s very hard to capture the graceful dance of a Dolphin, or as we found, even capture them at all... Here is the single best photo of a bad bunch (of about 60!):

No sooner had we left the dolphins behind but the heavens opened! We had thunder, lightening, and lots of rain. Tom was miserable, I was miserable – but at least we had plenty of layers! We got utterly soaked traipsing from the boat back to the car, and by the time we got into our hotel room I was ready for a hot bath and a lie down. Unfortunately there was only a shower, but before I had a chance to complain we turned on the news to see that the city of Melbourne had been hit by a freak hail storm with hail stones the size of golf balls! The city was flooded and many cars had been dented or had windows broken by the hail. All of a sudden Tom and I stopped caring about the rain in Sorrento, and were very very glad to be out of the city at least.

We were really lucky the next day and managed to fit in some scenic walks and a trip to the local hot springs, which was not a patch on Bath, but I’m not sure why I thought it might be. The sun made a very well timed appearance for lunch at a beautiful winery, and thankfully the rain managed to restrict itself to times when we were in the safety of our car. This morning was even better, and we caught some beautiful early sunshine during a beach walk, which gave Tom a chance to put into practise some new skills learnt on our photography course.

Contrary to my appearance in this photo, I'm not pregnant or fat!

The next public holiday will be Easter, only one month away! We have a trip to Brisbane planned, so I will update you all then, if not before....

Obligatory sunset photo to close!