Saturday, 31 December 2011

365: Saturday 31st December 2011

The celebrations continue.

Friday, 30 December 2011

365: Friday 30th December 2011

Our wedding day. So hard to post just one picture. I didn't use my camera today, so here is one from our photographer, guesting on my 365, the incredible, Phillip Allen.

365: Thurs 29th December 2011

The day before the big day

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Normal service will resume shortly...

I have the small matter of a wedding to attend to. I promise I'm taking the photos daily, but will catching up on posting shortly!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

365: Wednesday 28th December 2011

Hague family Christmas.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

365: Tuesday 27th December 2011

All I want for Christmas is.... the new Blackberry Curve.

Monday, 26 December 2011

365: Monday 26th December 2011

Getting ready for the wedding...

Sunday, 25 December 2011

365: Christmas Day 2011

Delicious food.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

365: Christmas Eve 2011

It's all about the children at Christmas...

Friday, 23 December 2011

365: Friday 23rd December 2011

Open fire...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

365: Thursday 22nd December 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

365: Wednesday 21st December 2011

Beauty isn't always pretty

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

365: Tuesday 20th December 2011

Something blue...

Monday, 19 December 2011

365: Monday 19th December 2011

Bridal preparations....

Sunday, 18 December 2011

365: Sunday 18th December

Catching up with great friends....

(ok so my dates are a little messed up on the last two images - I'm clearly still jet lagged).

Saturday, 17 December 2011

365: Saturday 17th December

Celebrating with my hens...

365: Friday 16th December 2011

Watching Stephanie Powell rock it out at We Will Rock You in the West End...

A new project...

I've started a new '365' project, where I take a photograph every day for a year. It's designed to encourage creativity of photography, and also document my life! I thought I would share my daily images on this blog as a way of kick starting my updates into a more regular pattern.

To avoid bombaring your inboxes I won't be sending update emails to those of you who are registered for updates on a daily basis - I'll only send an update email if I've written a 'proper' blog entry! In the meantime, feel free to stop by whenever you fancy to check out my latest 365 udpates...

In the meantime.. Happy Christmas to you all!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

365: Thursday 15th December 2011

Back in the London commuter rush...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

365: Wednesday 14th December 2011

Our 'home' for the next 24 hours.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

365: Tuesday 13th December 2011

Ready to fly!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Around the world in thirty days... Part I

Before I begin, credit goes to Sarah Bassill for the title of today's blog!

At the end of August we embarked on our second trip back to the UK since our move to Melbourne. We planned 3 weeks travelling around England, followed by a week in Toronto, Canada for the wedding of our Melbourne-besties, Richard and Tamara. All in all, this trip would take us from Melbourne to Singapore, Sinagpore to London, all around England, then London to Toronto, Toronto to LA, and finally LA to Melbourne. We ate, drank, kissed, cried, laughed, shopped, packed, unpacked, repacked, photographed, attended three weddings and planned our own. It felt like we only slept when we got on a plane!

Here are some photos from our trip...

We arrived just in time for Fiona and Alex's wedding. Without these two, this blog wouldn't exist (nor would a lot of things in my life) - because they are the matchmakers behind me and Tom!

We stayed with Tush and Andy for several nights during our stay, and met their pup Veto for the first time!

Next it was home to Poole, to see Mum and Dad! Whilst we were there, we also caught up with Toby & Melissa, and Lucy and the extended Tammam family. I got some shots in with my new camera for Di's three beautiful grand-daughters:

We also visited Valerie and Aubrey but I don't have a photo collage for that I'm afriad!

We checked out Compton Acres as a potential wedding venue... and two weeks later ended up booking it and back there with our wedding photographer! Here are the amateur snaps:

And here is a snippet of the professional shots:

You can see more of our 'pre wedding' shoot at Mister Phill's Website.

We made a trip up to Sandleheath to see Grandma, and had a long awaited Pizza Express lunch with Emma, Marc, Jake and Daisy - we miss Pizza Express a lot whilst we are in Oz, but obviously not as much as I miss this adorable pair:

Next we were off to London, but en route we stopped in to visit Ella, Andy and little Amelie, who has grown up a bit since we last saw her! It happened to be her second birthday, so I thought I'd shown a bit of a 'then' and 'now', to illustrate, mostly to myself (because it makes me feel bad), how much the little ones change whilst we are away:
After a stop through my office in London we caught up with some friends in the pub (again, no photos from this part of the trip, but that is nothing to do with the amount of alcohol consumed!), did lots of shopping, had sushi with Elian on Southbank and I had the pleasure of tea with Dora and Lucy! We stayed with Tush and Andy again, and besides the pleasure of their company, were very excited to have an English Chinese takeaway!!

We waved goodbye to Tush and Andy, accidentally leaving behind my newly purchased facewash (can't buy this brand in Oz!), and accidentally bringing with us a bag of newly purchased maternity wear... oops!

Next was the short drive up to Cheshire (all UK drives are short compared to Aussie distances) to stay with the Wood's for a few days. We had seen them last August when they visited Melbourne, but we were amazed how much Millie, Rosie and Jamie had grown in the past 12 months. We also got to see their new extension and kitchen, which was super impressive, and the second new pup of the trip, Ruby the Schnoodle!

Other highlights of our trip 'up north' were waving Millie off on her first day at high school, going through old photo albums with Anna to catch up on the years before I was part of the family, having two fab personal assistants in the form of Rosie and Millie whilst shopping at the Trafford Centre, and seeing Louise with Benjamin and baby Sophia at Chester Zoo (even it if was raining):

We also saw Patrick and Adelene, and met newest addition, Isobel! Not to try to influence her too much, Tom came bearing clothing for both Norwich City and the Western Bulldogs!

Next stop was Norwich, for a few days with the Lister / Howlett / Shackleton clan, and then with the Woods again too. We had walks in the country and by the river, a big family dinner, lots of photography opportunities and lunch with Marian and Florence. So much happened, that multiple photos are required..

Tom's nieces and nephews amused themselves for hours in the sandpit, but were a bit put off when they thought the wet patches of sad where not from rain, but from cat wee!

Tom's mum, dad, sisters and their offspring:

It was obvious that the youngest, Ellie, is used to be photographed!

Many a meal eaten at this table...

The kids also really embraced Tom's new job, and we had great fun with a studio style shoot and some Western Bulldogs scarves:

Before we left Norwich, the idea was posed by either Claire or Sue (we can't quite remember who), that Tom and I could bring forward our wedding... and there began the craziness of wedding planning...

(to be continued)....

Friday, 28 October 2011

Two years to the day..

It's sad to think it takes as special an occasion as our two year anniversary of arriving in Melbourne for me to write a blog entry, but life has been such a whirlwind of late that I'm afraid the blog has taken rather a back seat. Since the last entry where we brought you up to speed with the Uluru saga, we have made lots more happy memories in Melborne, taken new steps in both of our careers, and also made a second whirlwind trip home to plan the next BIG event in our lives....

Here's just a snippet of the past four months...

In the UK, July brings the school holidays, Wimbledon, Pimms, the odd BBQ and maybe even some sunshine. In Australia however, it brings Christmas in July! This year we gathered with a group of fellow-Northern hemispher-ites and travelled 90 minutes down the coast the Blairgowrie, where a holiday house and food-a-plenty awaited. The Brits cooked a roast on Friday night, and the American's went wild with chilli-dogs on the Saturday night. We played 'Aussie rules' Secret Santa which permits the stealing of other people's gifts (contraversial, but undoubtedly more exciting for spectators), which saw me lose my amazing gift of a stylish water jug, in exchange for a $30 Myer voucher. Four months on, I actually spent the voucher last weekend - on a jumper for Tom! Typical.

Featured in this photo are brussel sprouts (to prove it was a genuine 'Christmas'), and my strawberry pavlova (to prove I can still only make one dessert). Jordan, bottom right, proves greater versitility on the pudding front with her US-flad sheet cake however!

Looking back at my photos from July and August, I don't have much to offer, largely because I spent most of it, day and night, in a windowless room with my calculator and fellow auditors, doing what we do best. I think they put us in a windowless room deliberately, because we can't tell when it gets dark and therefore 'home time' beckons. The hard work and long hours were worth it however, as I got a promotion for my efforts and feel very at home in the Melbourne office. The end of 'busy season' celebration was just as big here as it used to be in my London days, and we had a big dinner followed by a solid karaoke session! I rewarded myself for my hard work not with chocolate (usual reward) but with a new camera (less fattening, particularly when photographing children which requires lots of energy), and found a little bit of time to get in some shoots:

Ben is son to Lou and Sam, our friends and a very willing subject for me!

Whilst I was hard at work, Tom was busy plotting the next big stage in his career - in Aussie Rules Football! He has a new job with the Western Bulldogs as their General Manager for Fan Development, with the objective of building the fan base of the club. As a sports-nut, it's Tom's ideal role, and now one month into the job he is really enjoying it. I'm afraid the Saints will now have to take a backseat and make way for the mighty Doggies!! Here are some photos from an event Tom ran (and I photographed) a couple of weeks ago:

After the madness of August I was really relieved to get on a plane to the UK - not just to see family friends, but simply for 24 hours of travel time where I could do nothing but rest! We had three wonderful weeks at home, and caught up with family and friends. I'm going to have to end this blog here and write about that next time though... but I promise there won't be a four month gap! Until then....

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Uluru Saga


noun /ˈsägə/ 
sagas, plural

A long, involved story, account, or series of incidents

- the saga of visiting Uluru

On the second weekend in June Australia celebrates the Queen's Birthday with a day off work. With no disrespect to her Majesty, we have done a lot of Royal following recently (Willankate wedding mania was big in Melbourne), so we rather ignored the meaning on the holiday and instead took the opportunity to visit a place that you just can't get to on a normal 2-day weekend - Uluru. At 2,316 kilometers from Melbourne, it would take 26 hours to drive to this iconic Australian tourist destination. Of course nobody really does this, and instead we hopped on a 2 hour flight to Alice Springs, followed by a short 45 minute second flight to Ayres Rock. This still took the best part of a day, which is why Uluru is a place that you really need a 3 day weekend to cover.

After the excitement of Hamilton Island just two weeks previously, I'll be honest and admit that Tom and I would really rather have been going back to the Queensland sun than heading into the centre of the continent to watch the sun rise on a rock at 6am with zero degree temperatures. Not to be ungrateful for this opportunity however, I packed a suitcase full of warm clothes, walking boots and my camera tripod, and slapped a smile on my face. It was a bit of a fake smile though, because two days earlier I'd had an unfortunately-timed wisdom tooth extraction that had left me in quite a bit of pain.

Uluru from the air

Ayres Rock airport has to have one of the smallest terminals in existance. There is a baggage carousel, but when you land here and you and your 40 or so fellow passengers go to collect their bags, it's a pretty speedy affair. This also means it's pretty obvious when everyone else has collected their bag and boarded the transfer bus and you're still waiting. And the baggage carousel has stopped. And the security staff appear to be packing up. Yes, it was a true 'oh shit' moment when we realised that my suitcase had not arrived...

In at first what seemed like quite an amusing incident, it soon dawned on me that this might actually be rather inconvient. "Don't worry Madam", said the Qantas representative, "we'll have your bags with you in 24 hours." Great, I thought, wonderful customer service.... but hang on, we are only going to be here for 24 hours, so I'm going to receive my warm clothes after we've braved the zero degree temperatutes, my tripod after the photographic sunset opportunity, and my walking boots after I've tarnished my brand new white converse trainers with the distinctive rich red earth which characterises the Northern Territory like nothing else. Hmmm... The Qantas woman was still talking to me I then realised, she was handing me a 'survival kit'. Could it be, a handy all-in-one Qantas branded warm jacket with built in tripod and walking shoes?????! No, some grey PJs and a toothbrush.

White shoes + red earth = dirty trainers

Unamused, I boarded the transfer bus to join Tom, and here commenced probably the most ill-fated trip we've had to date. Unfortunately for Tom I struggled to get over the disappointment of the lost baggage, in particular because I'd packed significant rations of pureed and soft foods - which was all I could eat with my dental situation. He did his best to console me - lending me his t-shirts and socks as extra layers, and turning a blind eye to the extortionate amount of money I spent in the Ayres Rock IGA on replacing essential items.

I justified this expense on the grounds that the rest of the trip was quite a good deal - our hotel was on a 2 for 1 offer which included bus transfers - a steal in my eyes! Until we got to check in - they asked if we'd like to purchase the 2 day Uluru Express bus ticket, priced at a conservatively extortionate $180 per person. No thanks, I thought, we've got bus transfers included in our accomodation price.... or so I thought. Unfortunately this only involved the resort shuttle bus which goes from one hotel to another, and not to the rock itself. Now why anyone would want to use a shuttle bus to get to a hotel that they aren't staying in, I don't know. Anyway, out came $180 x 2 and the Ayres Rock Resort thanked Qantas for at least not losing my credit card en route.

What proceeded in the next 24 hours was really a rather wonderful introduction to the Northern Territory, and Uluru delivered everything that I had hoped for from a large sandstone rock formation, plus a little bit of extra sparkle. Arriving by air allows you to appreciate the dominance of Uluru in an otherwise flat lanscape, and walking up close confirms it's monstrous proportions. It emits a radiance that no other inanimate object can, and the way that the rock face glows in the reflection of the sunset is enough to warm even the coldest of people. Who don't have enough layers on. Because Qantas lost their bl**dy bags!

Straight out of the camera.. no Photoshop. It really is this bright at sunset!

During our trip we watched two sunsets, one sunrise, did a walk around one side of the rock, and also visited a second nearly rock formation called Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). One of our expected highlights was the Uluru Aboriginal Cultural Centre, however it was somewhat misrepresented by it's name as we didn't meet a single Aboringee there. Disappointing.

As a souvenir of our trip which was now drawing to a close, we purchased a wooden carved lizard (now named Lenny) from the Cultural Centre. It was a rather awkward shape for bringing home, but the staff in the shop wrapped it up well in bubble wrap and bright orange 'FRAGILE' tape. One for the hand luggage, along with the oversized tube we were already lugging around containing our obligatory purchase of Aborginal art. Tom and I were delighted to find a piece of art that we liked during a 2-hour visit (and thats enough time folks!) to Alice Springs, not just because it would be a new addition to our apartment, but because it meant we would never have to set foot in another Aboriginal art gallery ever again! We have been in Australia for nearly two years now and I estimate we've spent at least 3 days of our lives that we will never get back looking for the 'perfect' piece of art. Now we have it, and we carried everywhere so that Qantas would never be able to lose it. Tom also did some serious bargaining (inspried by Jedi Jim from the Apprentice) - to the point where I was quite proud of the discount but also quite glad we don't have to see that shopkeeper again!

The night before we left, my suitcase arrived at our hotel and I was delighted to be reunited with everything that I had packed as 'essential' but clearly managed without. Our adventure was over and the next day it was time to fly back to Melbourne. Little did we know however, that 10 days previously a Chilean volcano had started to erupt, sending plumes of ash high into the sky ready to drift into Australian skies... we woke up to find that our flight to Melbourne was cancelled, and immediately panicked that we may be forced to spend longer than the desired maximum of 2 hours in Alice Springs. We convinced the hotel to give us a private transfer to the airport, certain that this would mean first place in the check in queue and first dibs on alternative travel arrangements. We had forgotten that this the airport with only one desk and only one baggage carousel however, and despite arriving first, the terminal building wasn't even open! After 30 minutes of standing in the freezing cold, the transfer bus arrived carrying everyone else... BUT we were still first in the queue! Then my phone rang and it was Qantas. "Your flight has been cancelled Madam." Yes I know that. "However we'd like to fly you to Perth instead." Really? Perth?! That's 1,656km in the wrong direction. Aren't airlines supposed to be good at navigation?! After much deliberation we ended up on a flight to Adelaide. A reasonable compromise we thought, and with Adelaide only a 9 hour drive from Melbourne we could at least foresee a way to get home. Whlist we waited to board the plane, we called every car hire company in South Australia and finally secured what felt like the only car available for the one-way trip home, at a pricey $365.

The flight to Adelaide was uneventful, apart from bizarrely seeing the shopkeeper from the Aboriginal Art shop (you know, the guy I never wanted to see again because we bargained so hard his children will probably have to go without Christmas this year). He recognised us, probably because I was still clutching the cardboard tube containing the artwork. Awkward. He probably looked at Lenny the Lizard all wrapped up and wondered if we'd ripped someone else off too.

After some thinking time on the plane we realised $365 on hire car (plus hotel + petrol) was going to make for a costly, long and tiring drive home, and that maybe we would rather stump up and pay for a flight the next day, as Melbourne was now clear of ash. Qantas had seats for $200 each, so we jumped at it, but not before I'd told the Customer Service guy our back story. I included the part about the lost luggage, and 5 minutes later we had two boarding passes for FREE, courtesy of Qantas! Amazing.

We booked a hotel for the night, assured by the girl on the accomodation desk that this hotel must be nice because it is where her boss stays when he's in town. Of course it is love, because its in the RED LIGHT DISTRICT (which we discovered on arrival). Anyway, one night in a crap hotel didn't bother us. We had never intended to come back to Adelaide, and our lasting memory of our one and only previous visit was being 'dumped' by besties Richard and Tamara. We made a pilgrimage to the bar where they told us they were leaving Melbourne, wiped away a tear or two (joke), and then headed to the Adelaide Musuem for 20 minutes before it closed. In this 20 minutes I learnt more about Aboriginal history than in 20 waking hours at Uluru. Thanks RADelaide.

The next day we were up and ready to go, only to turn on the news to find that we had a friend in town - the ash cloud! Now clear of Melbourne, the ash had drifted over South Australia overnight and Qantas had cancelled all flights up to 10am. Our flight was at 10.30am, so hopefully we'd be ok. We went to the airport and camped out at the gate with all our gear, including bubble-wrapped Lenny and the art. Along came the crew, bags got loaded, meals were on board, even a TV crew showed up to film the monimentous occasion that would be our flight departing. And then it was cancelled! Tom took custody of the bags whilst I RAN to the customer service desk to repeat again the re-booking process. After what felt like ages, during which I was interviewed for Channel Ten news, I finally got to the front and the representative advised me to leave the airport and call Qantas customer services later in day. There was no way I was leaving that desk without being re-booked though, and 5 mins later we were booked on a flight the next day and checked into a beachside hotel with meals, accomodation and transport all paid for by Qantas. We then proceeded to have a rather lovely day by the beach in the sunshine, and with our trip extended by 2 nights, all of a sudden I was glad for a suitcase full of unworn clothing.

We finally made it home 45 hours later than planned. Thank you Qantas, for an eventful weekend that turned into nearly a week. I still had toothache at the end, but we'd seen Uluru, bought two fantastic souvenirs, taken 5 separate flights and had the unexpected bonus of making our first Australian TV appearance. Now that's something you just can't do in a 2-day weekend.

Tourists climbing the rock, which we didn't do because it's considered disrespectful

Tom at Kata Tjuta

Me doing what I'm often doing

Happy in RADelaide after an unplanned diversion

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Hamilton Island

The Whitsunday Islands was the destination for our latest Australian escapade, which was timed to coincide with Tom turning 28 (on the 27th) and the one year anniversary of our engagement. After last year’s rather impressive and romantic gesture from Tom of proposing on the sandy beaches of Bunker Bay , I thought it was my turn to come up with something special to celebrate his birthday. Whilst checking my emails during a footie match (I do all my best thinking in the third quarter – obviously I’m still paying attention to the game, yes really.. erm, ok not always) I chanced upon some reasonably cheap flights to Hamilton Island. I decided to book the trip as a surprise for Tom and excitedly told him that we’d be going away to a ‘mystery location’ for his birthday! 20 minutes later at half time I carelessly flashed my phone in his direction and he couldn’t help but read the giant orange letters on my email header ‘HAMILTON ISLAND HOTEL BOOKING’. Dammit. So the surprise ended there, but the anticipation began!

The Whitsunday Islands are a collection of continental islands off the coast of Queensland, approximately 900km north of Brisbane, which are actually mountains drowned by rising sea levels. Hamilton Island is the commercial centre of the group, but other islands also welcome tourists, including the idyllic honeymoon destination Daydream Island. We’ve got 18 months to go before we can claim to be honeymooners, so after ruling out the amusingly named ‘Plum Pudding Island’ (yes, that’s real!), we settled for Hamilton.

The views from the plane as we arrived were spectacular - this is one flight to try and get a window seat.

We stepped off the plane to blue skies, 22 degrees, a slight breeze and breathtaking views. With an airport terminal the size of your average kitchen, there was no hanging around or delays, and we were efficiently shipped off to a lovely hotel room overlooking the water and surrounding islands. Whilst we were expecting it to be nice, my first impressions well exceeded my expectations, and the combination of tropical paradise plus comfort and quality was clearly designed for the ‘suitcase and hire car’(as opposed to backpack and bus) kind of traveller that I am! To top it off, there was not an insect in sight – we were not bitten, chased or scared by a single critter.
The views from our balcony made Port Phillip Bay look dull by comparison!

Celebrating Tom's birthday

Whilst I had my suitcase in tow, there was no need for a hire car here – and indeed no possibility of getting one! The island is a car free zone, with golf buggies being the preferred mode of transport instead. I had never driven a golf buggy before, but you would think that it’s pretty easy, right? Yes, right, unless you’re me. I was not comfortable in the driving seat of this particular mode of transport, and arguably I should not be allowed in the passenger seat either, after accidentally knocking the parking brake off with my camera bag and sending the cart rolling backwards down the hill – with Tom in it! We survived, and so did beloved buggy number 216. The registration was 50886, which was also roughly how many photos I took of the damn thing. Here are a select few:

I was posing here, not actually driving... can you tell?!

Buggy mania

I love this photo! By this point Tom was really fed up with me taking pictures of the buggy, so the fact that he is parked at a stop sign is very appropriate!

Our second day was spent doing what everyone comes to the Whitsundays for – sailing. Aboard a 20 metre catamaran we spent a glorious day basking in the sun, swimming, sitting on the beach, snorkelling and watching the crew do all the hard work! Snorkelling on the reef is something that I was really looking forward to, but the fish were a little disappointing in numbers and the water was freezing. The promise of 24 degree waters was definitely a false one, although the crystal clear visibility did make jumping in a slightly more tempting option. As with our previous snorkel trip, it’s stinger season in Australia, meaning that lyrca suits are mandatory for all swimmers. The protection offered is not just a physical barrier between your skin and the water, but also the unflattering cut, colour and ‘cling’ which is enough to put any jellyfish off coming near you. NOBODY looks good in these things, but some people look particularly hideous and it doesn’t help your confidence that the size is written across the shoulder in black marker – pity the woman with the XXXL suit. Our day trip also included a visit to Whitehaven beach, which has apparently made every list on the topics of Top 10 places to go / beaches to sit on blah blah. It was incredible and the pictures probably don’t do it justice, but the fact that there was a fat man selling Four X beer out of an esky on a totally uninhabited island just topped off the ‘Aussie’ experience for us!

Aboard 'On The Edge'

The 'oh so sexy' stinger suits are on! The skipper said he'd given me a special 'Teletubby suit' - when asked if he was suggesting that I was brightly coloured, rather large and made wierd noises, he looked blank!

Spot the fish!

When on the beach, a cold beer is mandatory. We had diet Coke!

Whitehaven Beach

The sunshine continued and we absorbed enough Vitamin D to allow us to return to the Batcave that Melbourne winter was become until our next trip, which is Uluru, in just two weeks time. We will remember Hamilton Island for the sunshine and palm trees, breathtaking sunsets and abundance of stars in the sky. I wanted to tell you that there were more stars in the sky than spots on a teenagers face, but Tom says that’s disgusting and I should find a more pleasant analogy. There weren’t many fish in the sea, but I’ve already got my man (sorry, couldn’t resist), and we’d go back to the Whistundays in a heartbeat. If you’re planning a trip to Australia, this paradise should be on your list.

We stayed at: The Reef View Hotel

We ate at: Mariners

We snorkelled with: Cruise Indigo