Friday, 19 September 2014

Goodbye Melbourne...

I've been composing this post for several weeks. It's all about us leaving Australia, and it feels like a 'biggie'.

I've written a few 'big ticket' blog posts in the last five years.. leaving the UK, our wedding, Sienna's arrival... I write mostly for myself, to capture my thoughts for future reflection. I find it therapeutic to write blog entries on the big events in life, but they have also generated a greater response than I ever anticipated.

So here goes...

Five years. It's a big chunk of my life, our lives. It's longer than I spent at junior school, at university.. one sixth of my lifetime..  We came to Melbourne for a two year 'fling' and ended up falling madly in love with this wonderful city. It's welcoming, live-able, vibrant, sporty, foodie... a place we will always feel at home.

We arrived in October 2009, uncommitted and free from responsibilities - me, an accountant, and Tom a management consultant, totally unaware of how our Australian adventure would change our lives forever. We leave as a happily married couple, with our beautiful Aussie girl Sienna, and me, a budding photographer, and Tom, a sports marketer. We didn't just find sun and travel in this land down under, we found things that we are both truly passionate about. Tom took the plunge with a total career change, and has found his happy place in the world of sports marketing. I discovered my overwhelming joy for portrait photography and set up my own business doing something that I truly love.

Moving to Melbourne was the scariest thing I had ever done, but has turned out to be one of the most rewarding life experiences. It taught me that being a little bit afraid can be a good thing... had we stayed in the UK, I bet we would not have discovered our new passions in life.

It's not just the place, but the people here that we have to thank for amazing memories that we are taking back to the UK... I want to mention a few people here who have played a huge role in my Australian life, and who I will miss dearly when we leave. I'm taking a risk by naming a few people that there will be others who I've left out.. so sorry if you're not mentioned in person, but I promise I do love you too :-)

In no particular order..

Christie... how bittersweet that my closest friend here still lives in a different city. I'm SO glad I found you at the Tamara Lackey workshop back in 2011. We bonded over a passion for photography, and sealed our friendship with a shared struggle over babies that won't sleep through the night (although we love them dearly of course). You are an inspirational photographer and a dear friend who has captured my family in photographs that I will treasure forever (including the image at the top of this post).  I expect you will be able to get a bit more done in your days now that we are in opposite time zones and can no longer have a continual day-long conversation via text message. There's nothing quite like an hour of CreativeLive/ClickAway/AIPP viewing with live chat between the two of us! How you juggled two kids and that many messages I will never know. Lets keep the dream alive for another photography workshop before too long..

Shelley... my mummy-friend from parenting classes... we were destined to cross paths. We have known each other only a year but you have been not only a trusted friend but also an absolute hoot to hang out with! You are eloquent and expressive, passionate and ambitious... an amazing mother to Hugo and oh-so-sweet with Miss Sienna. They shall remain betrothed to one another despite the distance, and I expect many a Skype chat with you in the future to continue the laughter... This is only just the beginning of our friendship..

Claire... my goodness how I will miss you! Our Tuesday swims, late afternoon meet ups at the park, and chance meetings in the supermaket... you have made the first year of motherhood so much easier with your advice, sympathy and cheerleading. We share a mutual obsession with baby sleep, let's not get started on temperature... We will miss you and Matilda so much, and here's hoping our paths cross again soon and the 'swim twins' can be reunited :-)

Lou.. I first met you nearly five years ago, whilst you were in labour with Ben! I thought that was pretty random at the time, but as I've got to know you I've realised that going to a party whilst in the early stages of labour is just how you roll, and of course I love you for it! You and Sam have been a constant support to my family over the years... always able to provide child models, emergency baby advice, a good talking to, and a great laugh! I will miss seeing your little 'mates' grow up and your new house take shape.. Please keep in touch 'tidylou'... xx

(Kevin I know you will love that your are photobombing this image!)

Jac... without you we would not be here. We only found Melbourne because we found you! You hosted us on our 'reccie' back in 2008 and immediately I knew that Melbourne was the city for us. My early education at 80 Strand in the Australian delights of Tim-Tams and Fairy Bread stood me in good stead for what I was letting myself in for! Thank you for the connections and the welcome that have made this experience so fantastic. (Below photo is from 2007!)

Lisa and Ali.. I couldn't have asked for a better work 'family' than you two.. Supportive both professionally and personally, our experience here in Australia would not have been the same without you. You have guided me on my career and given me opportunities i will always be grateful for. Lisa you were the first person to meet baby Sienna, and you've both let me into your lives to photograph your nearest and dearest... If we make the move back Down Under, I will most definitely be in touch... (sorry no photo here!)

My mother's group.. it has been harder than I envisaged to wave you goodbye. Whilst Sienna will sadly not remember her little friends, but I will never forget the friendship, kindness and fun times that we've created as a group. Clea and Ella, Aneta and Lachie, Martina and Felix, Lucy and Claribel, Bree and Isla, Nikki and Makenna, Nicky and Jess, Carla and Harper, Liz and Tyler, Andy and Mason, Claudia and Clara, Tania and Perry, Viktoria and William, Antonio and Salome... we will keep in touch and hope for a reunion one day.

My fellow YLTers... what an experience. The year we all spent together was inspirational and thought provoking. You supported me through the tougher times of 2012 and inspired me to strive for the things that make me happy in life. In particular.. Lauren.. thanks for being my rock, Ben... your chaos inspires me (embrace it!), and Will, I hope our families paths will cross again because there are more good times to be had!

Tom.. I wonder if he will ever read this? He's not a big reader of this blog, so this message may remain unread for years to come. When you do read it, I want to record how grateful I am to you for this wonderful journey you've brought me on... we both know that I came here for you, and you are leaving here for me. I wouldn't have done this without you, and am so glad we did it!! You'll absolutely HATE this public display of emotion so I'll stop there, other than to say I hope the rest of our life can be as happy as the last five years have been :)

We leave as not just Brits but Australians too, making a return Down Under one day a realistic opportunity. For now, we bid you farewell. Thank you, Australia, for welcoming us with open arms and changing the course of our lives forever... x

Monday, 15 September 2014

Five very random things we will miss about Australia...

1. Cheesy music in the supermarket

I love food shopping to music. It makes me feel good. Last week Coles played The Spice Girls, Dirty Dancing and Craig David all in the space of one food shop. They know their audience, and I spent a fortune!

(Incidentally I think Australia might be the only country still regularly playing Craig David songs in public venues... please let me know if not).

2. Healthcare freedom

Here we can visit any GP, anytime. Pick whoever you like, no geographical boundaries, get an appointment same day, even shop around for multiple opinions. It's amazing..

... on the flip side however, I still cannot comprehend a health insurance system that only covers inpatient care. Why oh why can I not get private health insurance that also covers me for outpatient appointments? Somebody please tell me!

3. Traffic lights without the amber

In Australia, traffic lights do not show amber before green... Only before red.. And Tom LOVES it! (Yup, weird.)

4. Squeesy tomato sauce

Does this UK have this invention yet? Perfect for applying ketchup to your meat pie with the ultimate precision, the squeesey tomato sauce packets are a feat to behold..

5. Total ignorance of any type of watershed

The threshold of 'inappropriate' is WAY higher in Australia than in the UK. A number of words that would be 'bleeped' on British television are thrown around casually on Australian family TV shows, and it's not uncommon to listen to a radio phone in about sex, broadcast on a major station during the school run!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Highlights from Down Under...

In the first of a multi-part blog series to mark our departure from Australia, I've decided to look back at some of the highlights of our time here 'Down Under'.

This is going to be a bit like one of those TV shows that just takes existing footage and re-plays it with new commentary over the top... yup, nothing 'new' here folks but hopefully some fun trips down memory lane...

Most ill-fated trip: Uluru

This blog entry makes me laugh. We had quite possibly every problem that could have occurred on this trip - illness, lost luggage, cancelled flights, diverted flights, delayed flights.. sensing a theme? We had a great time though! I must have written the blog entry in a fit of rage and it still makes me laugh until this day.. it's worth a read, not just for the gorgeous photos of the most impressive and imposing rock I've ever seen...

Read it now: The Uluru Saga

Besties-for life: Richard & Tamara

Our fab Canadian friends Richard and Tamara moved to Melbourne in the same month as us. We spent an awesome 18 months having tonnes of fun and good times until they sadly 'dumped' us during a trip to Adelaide and moved back to Canada! Our parallel lives have been the source of much entertainment.. we got engaged just months apart, married in the same year, and both 'Ramara' and 'TomKat' welcomed a first born with the initials SM in 2013. What's next guys?! We miss you SO much... I'm glad I documented some of these fun times that we had together:... (none of which are linked but they are there somewhere!)

If you're feeling at bit miffed at not getting a mention.. sit tight.. there are a number of individuals who have made a huge impact on our lives, and I will be expanding upon you guys in a future post...

Visitors from Afar: Rosie wins the prize

We've been blessed with so many visitors from afar, to share in our fun times and great view. The Woods have visited not just once, but twice and Tom's parents, Sue & Peter, have been three times! We've welcomed EmmaKatie & Chris & SimonTush & Andy (honeymooning no less!), Telfy & Ant, Rich (fleeting return, but long enough to meet the real Peter Alexander!).. and possibly more people who we might have forgotten?

I asked Tom to name his most memorable visitor moment.. and Rosie Wood you have won the accolade! We award you the prize for your absolutely outstanding bravery amongst 'eagles' (known to me and you and cockatoos).. here is the video evidence:

Most-unwelcome visitors: Eight-legged friends

(there is no picture to accompany this 'highlight', because the images are already etched on my brain forever)

I'm not much of a spider-lover. I have insisted that we live on the seventh floor to minimise the risk of disruption to my daily life (this has succeeded with one week to go), but could not control the 'company' that we would find when travelling around Australia.

There are three horrific arachnid moments that stand out in my mind. All were met with the type of 'solution' that would probably win £250 on You've Been Framed...

- Just weeks into our move, we were holidaying at a B&B in the middle of a dense forest (why did I not see this coming) with Tom's parents and a GIANT HUNTSMAN. After the B&B owner attempted to catch it with his hands and dropped it several times in and around our luggage, Tom and his Dad spent a good half hour performing a thorough check of both our rooms! More here...

- I arrived at a rental cottage in Daylesford for a girly weekend with some work friends, to discover half our group in a flap at yet another giant huntsman on the wall! After decided we couldn't hoover the beast up, two brave souls gassed him with spider-spray. Ugh... if you want photos see: Daylesford Spider

- Finally, I picked up a rather nasty species-unknown-but-huge spider on my wing mirror one day at work. After noticing it on the freeway I was pretty proud of myself for not crashing in horror. I refused to park in our garage for fear of polluting it with arachnids and so made tom come out into the road with a long handled broom to brush the offender away! I can't bring myself to link to the photo, it's too yucky.. but it's on the blog somewhere!

Favourite holiday state: Queensland

We have enjoyed travelling all over Australia, but our favourite state has to be Queensland. It most closely represents stereotypical Australia to us, with gorgeous beaches, tropical weather, koala cuddles and tropical reefs. We've been to the amazing Whitsunday Islands twice, visited the tropical North, toured the best of Brisbane and surrounds with Merryl, and spent a day unsuccessfully looking for whales with the Sea World crew. We've also worn the obligatory stinger-suits on more than one occassion, in an attempt to convince ourselves that snorkelling is a fun activity (it's not).

Best sporting moment: Tom's career change

Melbourne is a great place to be for sports. During our stay here we've been to four Australian Opens, four Formula One Grand Prixs (pural spelling?!), three AFL Grand Finals, two Ashes tests, multiple horse races, a million AFL games.. and just one soccer game (A-league is not that great!).

Perhaps the best sporting moment has to be Tom's career change to the world of sports marketing - a bold move that has proved life-changing for Tom and our family. Such has been his passion and dedication to the Western Bulldogs over the past three years, that his departure warranted 'Lister Week'.. a full week of celebrations, gifts and heartfelt words of appreciation. He received not one but two rather hilarious video presentations, a ginormous signed print (complete with engraved plaque), and some gifts-of-words that brought us to tears. Ever modest, he wouldn't admit to any of this, but I write safe in the knowledge that he won't read this to get embarrassed!

Milestones for our family

We got engaged in Margaret River in May 2010, had an Aussie wedding party by the beach in Port Melbourne in February 2012, and welcomed our best-Australian souvenir Sienna in October 2013. I have lots more to say on these topics but this is a strictly non-emotional post so will save those words for next time!

Okay.. that was epic and took AGES! I thought this was a quick summary re-hash post? I hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Nowust go and pack.... 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Day with the Daffodils

Today was our last trip to the Mornington Peninsula, a place which has given us many happy memories during our time in Australia. Our good friends Shelley, James & baby Hugo invited us to lunch at the family smallholding. Not only was a delicious lasagne on offer, but the daffodils were in bloom. Marvellous. Where is my camera?!

As if the daffs didn't provide enough photographic inspriation, Granny Pam had knitted matching jumpers for Sienna and Hugo.The outtakes are cute as cute as the 'successful' photos!!!

Shelley and James, thank you for such a happy, happy day. The sun shone and a great time was had by all. Good photos, great food, even better memories...