Thursday, 29 October 2015


Arggggghhhhhh! 37 is the first birthday I've hit where I've really felt like, oh crap, I am meant to be an adult by now. I AM SO NOT AN ADULT RIGHT NOW. SOMEBODY STOP THIS AGEING PROCESS MALARKEY!

As is tradition in our house, the day started off with the Official Birthday Table and Cake For Breakfast ritual. Also the Age Represented In Flames To Show You How Your Time On Earth Is Rapidly Burning Away, You Candle In The Wind, You...

That carrot cake is all miiiiine...
Also at this stage is the PREZZIE OPENING!! I had some lovely gifts from friends and, after much cajoling and hissy-fittedness, Jan got me what I wanted - a new camera. Those of you who know me well, will know my history with cameras is... uhm.... iffy. In fact the lake where we got married is currently in possession of one of my cameras, thanks to a boat trip that saw me drop it into the murky depths*. Enjoy your selfies, fish!

* In fact, we were a bit dubious about getting married at that lake, as I've also fallen into it fully clothed...

So Jan patiently tried to explain to me that my choice of new camera was probably a bad idea, as it was not a simple point-and-shoot jobbie, but involved me learning things such as 'aperture' and 'Focus' and 'F Stop' and I am more of a 'break down into full toddler tantrum when <insert any technology here> requires me to do anything beyond pressing one button'* kinda gal.

* iTunes is my nemesis and I will loathe it for eternity. WHY CAN'T I EVER JUST DO WHAT I WANT TO DO, DAMN YOU!!!

But I held firm to my choice, because why? Because it looked VINTAGE and that clearly trumps everything.

Oooooh, aaaaaah, look at the lovely VINTAGE, everyone!
I'm super pleased with it, and have even started to learn about all its functions, which I hope to work on more when we go to Tasmania next month. And it has already enabled me to take these super-artistic, highly professional shots:

Knobbly Knees (in all their glory)...

Breakfast Detritus (with NOTHING on any coasters...)

And my personal favourite - Top Of The Bottle.
Due to some shortsightedness on my part, I was actually working all day on my birthday. Although this totally eventually paid off in a whole extra cake - very kindly made for me by my lovely, lovely work friends.  Clearly, however, I don't have a picture of this, as I snarfed it down pretty much instantly - as a comfort for the fact it was 34 DEGREES outside and I could have been ON THE BEACH and not in the office casually know as 'Siberia. This was highly upsetting given that my birthday is usually conducted in cold, rainy autumn weather in England. Woe and alas - let me eat more cake to compensate!

However, it was still pretty warm in the evening,so  our friends came round for dinner and we ate outside on our balcony, which was really lovely, and the perfect way to usher in our next summer of Aus living!
Hmmm, maybe I need some more work on that Focus thang...

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Visa displeaser

If you've been with us from the beginning, you'll know that the whole reason we came to Australia was a random conversation with a colleague of mine, who had been offered work out here, but who couldn't go herself, so... hey! Why don't you go?! Jan and I discussed it at length* and decided to go for it. And so we got a company-sponsored visa for four years,

* "Cate: Fancy moving to Sydney?
  Jan: Yeah, sure."

But recently, the company I work for was bought by another company. And so the saga began.
"But surely they can just transfer your visa to the new company?", I hear you ask. And the answer? Stupid governmental bureaucracy is much the same as estate agencies - universal and universally awful.  For undisclosed reasons, they couldn't just transfer the visa - I had to apply for a new visa.  Only..... *pauses for dramatic effect*..... they've changed the list of jobs that can qualify for the visa! And, yep, you guessed it, mine's not on there! Your name's not down, you're not coming in! Release the Border Police:

The only real option was for us to ask Jan's company to sponsor him and get a new visa that way. Fortunately for us, there were already registered with the relevant authorities, as a company that is eligible to sponsor employees. Also fortunately, Jan is very good at what he does, and they didn't want him to be eaten by the Border Police just cos his loser wife had a loser job. So they got on making the application for Jan.

And so began.... the.... waiting..... Anyone who has had to fill out any sort of complicated paperwork will feel the pain of The Wait and the stress of your life being in the hands of someone else. Shall we book our honeymoon?! No, for fear we will get booted out. Shall we plan our next trip home? No, we might be there sooner than expected. Shall I book that dental appointment? NO, we might need your gold* fillings to pay for the flights home. Shall I book that leg waxing? Uhm.. maybe - it could make you more streamlined in the water for when we have to swim to Manus Island.

* Neither of us has gold fillings. Don't get me wrong - I have several fillings, I'm just too cheap to pay for gold ones. Heck, I'm so cheap I didn't even pay for the porcelain version! I got the old amalgams - who cares if they're black and they've got mercury in them?! They're cheap!

Anyway, a few centuries* later, we heard we had got a bridging visa. No illegal immigrants, us! A bridging visa is basically a visa that allows you to stay in the country while they work out if you actually can stay in the country - and in fact on a bridging visa, you are unable to leave the country! So we had basically gone from being unsure whether we should be here,  to being unable to leave. Uh, progress?!

* weeks, but dayum waiting is hard..

Then, after another couple of weeks, the wait was finally over and the country has deemed Jan, at least, good enough to stay here. We have a shiny new visa valid for four years - and now I am the dependant! Which means I can gad about quitting my job and spending all day on the beach if I like, while Jan is tied to the grindstone, providing for his ineligible wife! Hey, this might not be so bad after all!

Highly professional graphics added by me!

Sunday, 30 August 2015


Lalalala.... oh, hello! You're still here?!

Yeah, sorry about the ridiculously long blog silence. It due to a mix of lots of things, really. Enjoying married life being one of them, of course! Although people keep asking us, does it feel any different? And to be honest.... uhm, kinda? I mean normal day-to-day existence is pretty much the same. Just with extra added eternity. We've also been away for a fun weekend, plus we've had the sheer delight of the Prime Minister trying to boot us out the country*. So, you know, it's been busy.

* Uhm, well, not Tony Abbott directly or anything. Mainly the immigration department. Again, this will no doubt feature in all it's monotonous, bureaucratic glory in another blog entry. Suffice to say for now, we are fine and staying put, like the naughty immigrant squatters we are.

So with all that going on, what to talk about first?! Hmmm, being so out of practice with the art of bloggery, I think I may take the easy option and go with telling you about our fun weekend, because  (1) it's educational* on Australia, (2) it's not wedding-related, and I'm gearing up for a huge WEDDING FEST in the near future, so I am giving you a break, and (3) it's the most recent thing that's happened, so I can remember it still.

* You will learn precisely ONE new fact. That you may have already known about. What?! This isn't National Geographic, you know.

Ok, so are you ready for an exciting piece of information?! Drum roll, please..... Australia has SNOW. Yes, I know! Who would have thought! I certainly didn't! It's so special here that Australians literally say they are "going to the snow". That is one of my most favourite expressions here, it sounds so sweet, "Ah, yeah, we're takin' the littlies to the snow this weekend". LOVE. IT.

Thanks for the photo, Rebecca M!
So when I found out my friends from work were "going to the snow", well naturally I had to invite myself and Jan along! After all, our ski/snowboard stuff is looking embarrassingly underused in our garage next to the perma-sunny beach. It deserves an outing!

Even more exciting, the location of 'the snow' is merely a six-hour drive away! Oh be quiet, Europeans, a six hour drive in Aus is still 'just down the road*'! And what a road it was. After the fight to get out of Sydney, you end up on a pretty straight, open road with gorgeous views all the way to Canberra.

* It's worth mentioning, it's pretty damn hard to get lost anywhere in Australia, at least in a car, given that mostly there is ONE ROAD going to the next town/city. I can describe getting from Sydney to Perisher as basically, right out of Sydney, right, left, right again and you're there. The sat nav is most despondent with its lack of usage.

Once we were around Canberra, we went down another long road which I don't remember the actual name of, but will hereafter be known as Kangaroo Graveyard. I have only once before seen so many dead animals at the side of the road - and that was in Scotland where the rabbits there seemingly have learnt nothing from Watership Down. And for the first time, I realised why it is that people here always look highly worried when you say you might be driving at dusk. The reaction is a bit like if you were living in Transylvania and mentioned you were popping out for a moonlight stroll. But seeing these huge, muscular mammals lying by the side of the road makes you realise there's a mighty big difference between a rabbit and a mahoosive kangaroo hitting your car - so we proceeded rather cautiously, and sadly, down the kangaroo gauntlet.

After stopping off for a filthy McDonald's and some snow chains (mandatory in the national parks at this time of year), we finally started heading up into the mountains to our 'luxury' chalet and spa hotel. It was a huge building, with it's very own fountain out front, and looked quite impressive against the hills behind it. However, luxury may have been pushing it somewhat. The room we had paid a significant amount for elicited the response from Jan that it reminded him of going to the Czech Republic before the Berlin Wall had come down. Now, please don't get me wrong, I'm not one of these snobs who goes on TripAdvisor to denigrate a hotel because they haven't used the right thread count on the Egyptian cotton bedsheets, but let's just say, it was rather basic for what we were paying. On the other hand, downstairs had a big roaring fire, and a lovely bar with comfy sofas and we had a three course meal each night that was most definitely the right side of YUM. Plus, it had that thing that all serious boarders and skiers will pay for - location. They provided guests with a minibus to take you the final 10 minutes to the lifts.

So up and early on Saturday morning (with Jan in full GEM* we were off to the skifields!
* German Efficiency Mode

The party people...
Everyone had told us to expect the Australian snow to be crap compared to the lofty heights of Europe and North America, but we were pleasantly surprised. They'd had snowfall quite recently, so there was enough to make the slopes fun and not too icy. The weather was stunning - blue skies and sunshine, and there were lots of little areas to explore and have fun with. For sure, it's not got the range of its northern hemisphere counterparts, and there was way less off piste stuff for Jan to enjoy (haha, sucks to be a boarder!) but we still had loads of fun and the views were gorgeous.

Blue skis and white stuff

We went to Perisher on the Saturday and after a shamefully early night, we were up and off to Thredbo (another mountain about 30mins away) on the Sunday. Thredbo has some slightly longer runs, which was nice, and we had another beautiful sunshine day of exploring the area. When it was time to come down and go home, we took a route under the lift (there wasn't much other choice) which a fellow boarder claimed was "fun, but a bit green". No, this isn't some funky boarder language - we were literally skiing over grass by the end! We just about made it though. Now we just had to face the six hour drive 'down the road' home again....

TL:DR - check out our awesome ski trip!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Lost and Found

Things lost on the wedding holiday:

  1. Wedding dress (I may have walked off from my preshus suitcase containing the dress at Sydney Airport...)
  2. Tweezers.
  3. Contact lens case (mysteriously reappeared in suitcase).
  4. Contact lenses (sadly never made a reappearance).
  5. Pyjamas.
  6. Phone (left in a London taxi. Kindly returned by driver)
  7. Passport (Jan had taken control of it, given the above list).
  8. My name (generously replaced with Kollhof).

Things found on the wedding holiday:

  1. 1. A new husband.

So all in all, not a bad trip, really.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

It's the bridal countdown.....

 We're leaving together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To Aus, who can tell*?
After months of being engaged,
We're getting wed...
Will things ever be the same again?
It's the Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown

We're heading for wedlock the old chain and ball,
We've packed all our outfits - dress, suit and all, yea
With so many things to remember and rings to be found
(To be found)
I'm sure I've forgotten my garter...
It's the Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
(The Bridal countdown)
Ohh ho ohh
The Bridal countdown, oh ho
It's the Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
(The Bridal countdown)
It's the Bridal countdown
We're leaving together
The Bridal countdown
Forgotten my garter...
It's the Bridal countdown
(The Bridal countdown)
Ohh, it's the Bridal countdown

*Singapore Airlines can tell us exactly when. Cos we totally booked return flights.

When in Rome... race pigs

Right, let's step away from the wedding preparations for a moment*.  It's time to talk Australia again. And things Australian.  Like country music.  "WHUT?!" I hear you ask, "surely you have mistaken your countries and you mean Amurika".  Well, no actually! As we discovered in January, Australia has a LOT of countryside** and there is a thriving country scene here. It's kinda the same as the American country music scene, although with more mentions of kangaroos and swag.

* It's only two weeks away. *Faints*
** Well ok, I think we might have known that before January 2015.

The country music scene here is epitomised by the yearly Tamworth Country Music Festival, which we were invited to - and who passes up that opportunity? Not we, says, uhm, we.

So off we went for a long weekend in the country. As Tamworth is a good seven hours in the car (you can fly, but where's the fun in that?!), we stopped halfway at a most beautiful cabin in the Barrington Tops National Park. It was, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere - down a dirt road into a beautiful valley and, best of all, no phone reception for miles!

Down the long dirt road to the cabin.
Our little cabin for the night.
Some of our fellow guests
We spent a pleasant afternoon tramping about in the bush, which got less pleasant when I realised I had a leech on my sock. Cue major histrionics and casting-off-the-cursed-sock by me and a rather puzzled look from Jan. It's not like it was on my actual skin or anything. We still had to get it off my sock with salt, though, as the little bugger wouldn't let go. I am such a wuss.

Next day, we travelled on up to Tamworth, to get down with the country music thang. Now, remember, although it is January, to us Southern Hemispherians that means HOT and, Tamworth being inland, that means 38 degrees or thereabouts. So it's always important to keep your head covered - but more important to be on trend:

Rockin' the cowboy hats...
We were lucky and it wasn't as hot as it's been in previous years, so we took to the streets on Saturday to see the local festivities:

Centre of Tamworth - not like the Tamworth I'm used to!
Hahahaha, oh the fun we had with this....
The 'man pulls truck down the street' event.... He knows it has an engine, right?!
For the Saturday, I had already looked in the guide and decided what traditional country event I wanted to experience next - PIG RACING! At a PUB! How much more country can you get?! All day drinking and gambling! My joy was increased ten-fold when we got to the pub and discovered that the pigs were actually piglets! Basically, they have a little track for the piglets to run around, with some obstacles along the way, and the winner is the first piglet to successfully locate a bowl of milk and tuck into it. Before each race, the piglet racers are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who gets to name the piglet and receives half the pot of money collected (the other half goes to charity). The bidding was high and they made about $20,000 after a morning's racing. 

The racetrack- Racers, start your piglets....
Run, piggies, run! 'Black Daniels' is in the lead here I believe...
To the victor, the slop...
We also saw sheep shearing and yabby racing (this is a HIGHLY random sport where weird lobstery things are placed within a chalk circle and the first to scuttle to the middle wins. It's a kiddies' sport, cos why should being young exclude you from gambling on animals?). There would be photos of each, only at some point I got bitten by an unknown insect in a rather embarrassing place that left me walking weirdly and waiting to see if I would pass out/die. Stupid Australian country.

After that, it was time to chill out, and we went back to our friend's house for a dip in their pool:

Still with the hats on...
Rocking the beard/hat combo...
I realise after all this, I haven't actually mentioned any actual MUSIC from the Country Music Festival! Suffice to say, we did see some! Performers play on the town streets for most of the day and night, busker-style or on small stages set up too. There are also bigger acts at the local pubs and concert venues, although we didn't really go to those, we just wandered around and stopped where we enjoyed the music. We spent a long time sitting on the street listening to one band - to whom we paid actual dollars so they would sing Man of Constant Sorrow, which technically isn't even a 'proper' country song, given that it came from a film. But they happily obliged - and the night after, we heard them singing it again, so I think we did them a favour!

And that was pretty much our country weekend - we caught up with several friends, heard one of them sing, ate lots, walked lots, saw lots and listened to lots of music!

And the most important thing we learned? ALWAYS enjoy your country music responsibly:

Friday, 29 May 2015

Tumbleweed and efficiency...

I'm going to be honest with you. This is a bit of a cop-out post - it's been deathly quiet around here, because in an attack of the fainting goats, I've been running around, then freezing and falling over any time I/Jan/anyone else says the word 'wedding'.  And so, commensurate with my usual efficiency level, nothing much has got done.

I was actually rather hoping wedding planning would provide a mine of blog-worthy catastrophes and mishaps, but apparently, if I had wanted that, I shouldn't have married a German. Because the whole thing is proceeding in a timely and orderly manner. Vorsprung durch Leistungsfรคhigkeit, so to speak.

We've basically outsourced the wedding to Jan's parents, who have done a mind-blowingly marvelous job of just calmly sorting out quite a complicated day of events and surprises (which Jan's dad has apparently ruined, by including all the surprises in the Official Spreadsheet of What's Happening on the Big Day. But, hey, he was just trying to be EFFICIENT, people). So from our end that has really limited my ability to bugger things up.

People have asked us how we feel about having our wedding so far away and not being so involved in the planning. And it's a really mixed reaction. I am partly wistful and a bit sad that we haven't been looking at venues, trying menus and cakes*, nipping out with my bridesmaids for dress shopping and the like, talking to florists, and bands and generally actually organising. But, given my chronic fear of using the phone, and my complete inability to send anything other than overly polite emails, it's probably all for the best. Plus, hey! I trust Jan's parents 100% and now I don't have to be stressed about any of that stuff! And I won't accidentally order 100 - JAN HELP!!!  And, guess what, now we get to have a fantastic day with lots of surprises*!
* Ok, let's be honest - it's all about the cakes and food. And me not eating said cakes and food. Screw the rest of it.
* As long as we don't read the spreadsheet...

Plus, I can shut my eyes and imagine it all. We've been on lots of holidays to the area, and I can see all the beautiful lakes and woodland, taste the amazing coffee and cakes we'll be having (as well as Jan's mom's cooking which is worth the trip all on its own), and know all the generosity we will experience from everyone who will be there.  And really, at the end of the day, that's what it's about. We are dying to see our family and friends, and catch up and have fun, see what everyone has been up to since we've been gone, and marvel at everyone's children and how much they've grown, or meet them for the very first time. Because we've been in Aus for 18 MONTHS now. EIGHT-EEN! And in two weeks we will be on a plane home again. And I CANNOT WAIT.