Sunday, 16 November 2014

Antipodal Adventures: Parental Edition #1

Right, it's time for the first instalment of the excitement of having my parents here. They arrived at the end of September, looking dazed, bleary-eyed and slightly shellshocked by the joys of long haul travel. "There was just so... much... orange juice". But they had had a nice stop off in Singapore for a couple of days to break up the journey. And, just to make them feel really at home from the start, it solidly rained all day on their arrival. Thanks, Sydney.

The first few days were spent recuperating from the jet lag and processing the whole 'being on the other side' of the world thing and also discovering the wonders of a couch with a chaise longue*.

* If you're short like me and my dad, you can stick your legs out ALL THE WAY and you still don't reach the end! Wheee! Needless to say, that became "Dad's spot" very quickly.

Then it was time to go out and explore.  We took them on a mini road trip down the coast to Botany Bay to show them where all the crims first washed up:


It turned out that the fleet arrived at Botany Bay on the recommendations of a previous ship that had stopped there. However, the first ship had arrived in the Australian winter and had marked it down as lush and liveable.  By the time the First Fleet got here,  it was summer and an arid wasteland again and they were like, "What the heck were those guys thinking? Eff this schizzle" and moved on up the coast to Sydney Harbour. 

But as we were visiting in early spring, we got the nice version too:

Full disclose: Jan hates this top I'm wearing with a passion. Well, ok, he strongly dislikes it. But I am NOT getting tan lines for my wedding dress, dammit, and I don't care how awful I look in the meantime, 
Then we took them along the Grand Pacific Drive to see the sea bridge and the beautiful coastline. In the face of such beauty, my dad remained the most impressed by how much taller Jan is than him:


So that was their first few days!  In the next edition: it's cake-for-breakfast day!


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Confessions

I am lazy.  Not just a little bit lazy, like, oh I can't be bothered to <insert whatever task> right now, but BIG FAT SUPER lazy, where even getting up sometimes can be a problem. Sure I can get ready to leave the house for work in 10 minutes!  In fact I can probably do it in 8, so maybe I will snooze for an extra two minutes! *Arrives at work stupidly late because no-one can get from bed to work in 8 fecking minutes*.  And then I do it all again the next day.

Mainly I waste spend most of my time on the internet.  And I sit there reading about all these great things and really getting excited, like, yeah! I am soooo going to do that*, it sounds fantastic. In fact I'm going to start right now! And then three hours later, I am still sitting on the sofa mentally compiling all the great things I'm going to do, whilst not having moved an inch.  Even now, I have stopped writing this to buy a voucher for yoga classes and check Facebook (even though most people I know are asleep on the other side of the world right now) because, also, I now have the attention span of a 3-year-old child.

* that = anything from actually eating breakfast in the morning, to doing regular exercise, to being more organised and responsible, to swimming with crocodiles...

It's the same with the blog.  I'm driving to work, or sitting on my arse doing housework and a great idea comes into my head, and it's frikking hilarious!  And then I sit down to write something and forget it all instantly and write complete rubbish instead.

AND I HAVE TO HELP ORGANISE A WEDDING OCCURRING IN LESS THAN 8 MONTHS. AND IT'S OVERSEAS. AND IT NEEDS COORDINATION AND PLANNING AND THINGS. Hahahahahahahahahaha *faints*

Hence why it's only now, a week after they've gone, that I'm telling you about my parents being here for six weeks.  Six weeks! And only now do I sit down to, I don't know, perhaps mention it at all?! It being so very important and huge and all?! Good job, Cate!

Haaaanyway.  So yeah, my parents came to visit. It was great fun and we had lots of adventures, which I will tell you about soon.  You know, I mean, soon as in maybe possibly at least before next year.  Well, if I get round to it.  Cos... you know... I have all that important Facebook lurking to do. Oh, and I suppose I should use that yoga voucher. Maybe. Let me just check what's happened on Imgur first, then I'll definitely go. Definitely. In a minute.

In the meantime, have a picture of my dad, the intrepid explorer, who is ready for anything at all times:
The quintessential Englishman abroad...

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Rather belated news...

Erm.... so.... *looks shamefacedly at her feet*.... yeah. Hi. How are y'all doing? It's been a while. Sorry about that. *sweeps away accumulated dust and tumbleweed off blog*.

Don't worry! I haven't forgotten you! It's just, well, there has been rather a lot going on of late, out there in 3D land. And rather embarrassingly, it's stuff that I usually would be jumping straight online to tell people about. Big things! Important things! But I have been running around in a manic ball of whoopdeedoo and huzzah and yippedydoodah and things of that manner and rather neglected the old blog.

Anyway, as this blog started out as a reflection of major life events, I shall start with the biggest life event thing first - Jan and I are engaged! After a mere ten years, five house moves and two continents, we have decided we'll probably not kill each other after all. Happy days!  

Jan and I like to make all our major life decisions in a thoughtful and serious* manner. 

* ridiculously flippant

Moving to the other side of the world, away from all our family and friends, to a place we had never been before was done via text (Me: Fancy moving to Sydney? Jan: Yeah sure).  So the story to be passed down to children and grandchildren about the auspicious day we decided to splice for life runs like this:

It all started on a sunny Saturday morning in Coogee. We sat down at our favourite coffee place, in the sunshine sipping flat whites and musing on holiday plans for next year. Somewhere on this side of the world, I posited - after all we moved here so we could explore the area more easily (for some reason, before we got here, I thought Japan, China and Thailand would be merely down the road. Yeah.  Should have Google Mapped that some more....)  Jan piped up, "Or I could take you back home and make an honest woman of you"!  I laughed for a while, then went to work. After a nine hour shift involving rugby and V8 supercars, I returned home to a beautiful dinner on the table and Jan asked when we were getting the rings.  Oh. OH. It's.... it's not a joke?! To top off all the unrelenting romance, Jan got a heavy cold and remained under a blanket on the sofa for the rest of the weekend.

It took another 48 hours of me harassing a runny-nosed Jan with, "So it's not a joke then?" and "So, are we really engaged then?" before I though it might be worth ringing the parents.  Jan and my dad agreed on 16 sheep and 2 goats and the matter was settled. Although, I think my dad might think he is marrying Jan, as his response when Jan asked for my hand was, "Yes, of course you can have my hand in marriage"!  

And so we enter the next stage of our adventures together, when in June next year, we will head to Germany's lake district and get married.  And yes, I did finally believe we were getting engaged, when Jan presented me with this, on bended knee:


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Holiday to Hobbit Land (a poetic retelling)

In August we had a fantastic trip to New Zealand.  In fact, it was so fantastic, I have broken out into spontaneous poetry to describe it...  So, erm, enjoy!

We departed Sydney in a sea of fog:


And after airborne views that left us agog:


We landed in Queenstown to find our car:


And on our drive we gazed afar:


An inn we found to get us fed:


Before we reached our home (with bed):


Thus ended day one, dear lads and lasses,
(Well, we also went and bought ski passes),
So for day two we were ready to go,
All we needed now was a little snow...

Sunday dawned fine and bright,
We were up with the early light,
With skis and poles and boots and boards
We joined the other skiing hordes.
And made our way up to the peak,
And the views at the top? C'est magnifique!




However, what skiers never want to have seen
Are rocks and ice and bits of green,
We saw plenty of all, and with a clear understanding
That they don't make for a happy landing,
We prayed to the snow gods with all our might,
"Please send to us a bit more white".

The next day's weather gave skiers pain,
Yes, that's right! There was lots of rain!
So with our Alpine plans unfurled,
We decided to go to Puzzle World!

Funny angles...



... and optical illusions...



... Caused our brains a lot of confusions!

But while it rained and rained in the town below,
Up on the mountain, it was snow, snow, snow!
So while some of us (Cate) were woken too early,
Others of us (Jan) were distinctly less surly,
And thought today was the best of times,
As we rushed up the hill to go and grab fresh lines.



After two snowy days, which were sure to tire,
We sat down with some port and a nice log fire:


On Thursday, the curse of the rain came once more,
So we set off on a lovely driving tour.
We drove through the valleys, which were most sublime,
Until we reached an old gold mine,
Where Chinese workers panned for treasure,
And lived in not-exactly-leisure:




(And it wouldn't be a trip of mine,
If we hadn't stopped for a glass of wine...)


Next day on the hill, we froze and shivered,
Even Jan's beard was a victim of the blizzard:



But where to get warm? That was the rub,
Until we found the guests' hot tub:


On the last skiing day, we couldn't feel glum,
Because finally we got some sun!



Then it was time, our tracks to make,
But not without a last view of the lake:


Spotting ducks diving for food:



Taking pictures with large chucks of wood*
*It's the old pronunciation. Ahem.



And taking some pictures of nature in splendour:




And eating a burger, from a famous burger vendor:



That is our tale, - we hope you liked our rhyme,
New Zealand, we love you! Until next time!



PS! If you prefer your poetry in motion,
Check out this awesome edit Jan put together:


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Jolly jaunts in July: Part 3, the fully faux festive edition

After warming up for the festive season with Kym and her family, we launched into full-on Chrimbo celebrations last weekend.

After a rather odd first Christmas in Australia, with only the rain to remind us what time of year it was, and no Christmas tree at all (OH, THE HORROR) I had booked us a trip to the Blue Mountains in July, where they have a Yulefest celebration in the cold months for those of us who associate Christmas with freezing your chestnuts off, instead of sweating them off on the beach.

And so Jan (much against his will, and insisting this would be the tackiest of all the tackies) and I set off for our winter weekend. 

On Saturday, we took a trip to the Jenolan Caves. They are a really spectacular system of caves in the mountains, with some great Aboriginal Dreamtime stories associated with them about how the rivers and caves were made. Before we left the hostel, Jan asked the owner about them and he advised us it was a pretty drive and we would find a lake on the way that had a platypus in it. I wasn't there for the conversation, though, so all I could get from Jan regarding the location of the lake, was it was "somewhere on the way" and"definitely on the left".  Hmmm.

The drive was really beautiful and they had even laid some snow on for us! Not quite enough for a snowman, but definitely enough for a cheesy picture!


Sunglasses and snow!
We reached the caves via a long, steep and windy road which Jan loved driving. At the bottom there was a huge tunnel into the cliff and, after going through it, this suddenly appeared:


Jenolan village
It's a really pretty village, mainly based around guest facilities for the tourists. We bought some tickets for the caves, then asked about the mysterious platypus lake. Excitingly we found out it was just on the left of the entrance to the caves, so we went down to have a look.



As we reached the lake, there he was, splashing about in the water just for us - Percy Platypus! Yeah, ok, I made the name up. But I was very excited! It can be quite hard to spot platypuses (platypii?!) in the wild, so to see one right away was awesome. In fact I was so in awe, I totally messed up my beautiful new blue Uggs, stepping in mud whilst trying to be the intrepid wildlife photographer*.  

* This story was met with bemusement in my office - who wears Uggs outside?! Let alone to the mountains! Silly English lady!

And here was the spectacular picture I got as a reward:


A rather blurry Platypus bum... 
Ahem. So yeah, turns out they are even more difficult to photograph than they are to spot.  But I pinkie swear, it WAS a platypus and not a floating log or something...

Anyway, after that thrilling but muddy encounter, it was time to go down under in Down Under.  We had a cave tour guide with us, who was clearly a retired man who loved to talk. ALL THE TIME. Mostly interesting, cave-related things, but boy that bloke was not averse to a completely irrelevant tangent.  

Normally, I am not claustrophobic in caves, but I have to admit I started getting nervous when he kept pressing his little light control and mumbling to himself "that's not supposed to happen" or "it worked last time I was here".  The culmination of this was when he turned ALL THE DAMN LIGHTS OFF in the cave to give us a talk about how the first explorers would have found the caves, with just a candle to see by. He flicked on a lighter at this point to show us how much they would have been able to see, which was all very atmospheric - until he couldn't turn the effing lights back on again! Gah! I was gripping on to Jan's arm, wondering if, a-la-Nirvana, we would be condemned to living off of moss and the drippings from the ceiling forever, in the PITCH BLACK, whilst this man kept pressing various buttons and telling us he'd been away on holidays for a few weeks and this was his first time back and he wasn't sure why the emergency lights had gone off as well...

After several nail-biting minutes** he managed to get some lights on and, after spitting out the moss I had been nibbling (you know, to get used to my new life), we carried on with the tour. 

** Well, you know, seconds. But in the blinding darkness it could have been a day or more...


Despite the trauma of the lights, it was a really good tour and there were some fantastic views:

Spooky weird formations - can you see the bat wing?

Stalactites and stalagmites - if they join together, they become a 'column'

Can you see the Angel Gabriel?
But enough of this cave talk, beautiful though it was. It's time for the main event - Christmas! Off we went to the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba for a festive evening. Jan was very excited about celebrating Christmas in July:


'The Grinch' - Jan war sehr Froh, Weihnachten im Juli zu feiern!
The place was all decorated for the occasion:




And a had an, erm, traditional bagpipe band to play us Christmas songs:

Hark, the herald bagpipes play...
Because there's nothing as festive as a few Christmas ditties being banged out at 180 decibels. There was also a choir and a visit from Santa! Now you know what he get up to in the summer months!

By the end (and after a bottle of wine and some 'festive spirit' on the Christmas pud) even the Grinch had to admit it was a fun time:



Merry Christmas everybody!!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Jolly Jaunts in July: Part 2

After putting up with us all of last weekend, it seemed we hadn't outstayed our welcome, as this weekend we went to spend "Christmas in July" with Kym's family in Bendemeer. This is a small town in the countryside of New South Wales, off the New England Highway - a name which might give you some clue as to what the surrounding countryside is like.  Rolling hills, lots of lush vegetation - it really is beautiful.



As it's about a six hour drive from Sydney, we set out on the Friday afternoon, and drove up to a small town called Murrurundi (try saying that when you're sober, never mind about drunk! Suffice to say, the locals pronounce it Mur-run-die and leave it at that).  We were stopping with a work colleague I had met the week before who, upon learning that we were passing through her town on the way north, very kindly offered us a room for the night. Obviously, had she know us much better, she wouldn't have made such a silly offer, but by the time she realised, it was already much too late, bwahahahahaha....

We had a lovely evening, as it happened, arriving just in time for dinner (my stomach always ensures we arrive at this time, regardless of the actual digits on the clock) and had lovely home made pizzas, along with copious helpings of wine and interesting chat.  So interesting, the next time we looked at the clock, it was 1am and time for bed!

Next morning, we had a yummy home cooked brekkie and then went for a walk around the town, which was beautiful if you enjoy sunshine, crisp, fresh air and the whiff of log fires burning on the breeze, which, I REALLY DO. We stopped off for a cup of coffee and a cookie (well, you can't go on the road hungry, can you? Even if you're only driving for an hour...) said our goodbyes and then it was onwards to our final destination.

We arrived in the afternoon, and were greeted by the world's worst guard dog, who ran over barking and then lay down for loves and cuddles and in no way tried to protect his territory from the incoming masses. We spent a great afternoon in the sunshine with snacks and beers, and Jan got taught the country way - ie he was shown skinned rabbits (with their little fur paws and heads still on), taught how to crack a whip and other mysterious practices. I wasn't present for that, but got told he had only lost one ear and a bit of his nose during the whip cracking, so I think it went successfully. 

When the sun went down and it started getting chilly, we went inside to the log fire and an amazing three course Christmas dinner. We had yummy pumpkin soup, then lamb and chicken and vegies, followed by Christmas pudding. Some of us (JAN!) had two helpings of EVERYTHING and got called a suck-up for asking for extra cake to take home with us. It was a great evening and there were lots of laughs, and Jan even learnt some brand new words - like what "getting dacked" means (although thankfully it wasn't practical lesson). He even went full-on Aussie when his little feet got too cold and borrowed Kym's sisters Uggs:


This is against everything he stands for, as he thinks Uggs are Ugg-ly, so naturally I took pictures and uploaded them to the internet immediately.

On Sunday morning, we woke up to another sunny day and spent all morning with the kids playing on their trampoline in the yard. Jan taught them some tricks and basically they were all in love with him by the end and arguing over who got to hold his hand:


It's a tough life, being popular. Although I didn't do too badly myself - I am now the "new best friend" of the little 2-year-old, after a rather extensive bonding session of playing with her toy dolly and puppy and helping her feed them and put them to bed.

It was a fantastic weekend, full of getting to know some really great people and sharing lots of laughs. And also getting to see a bit of life outside Sydney, which I have to say, is looking rather attractive!