Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Lessons in beach survival

After a couple of trips to the beach in my days off work, I feel I have learnt some valuable lessons I need to pass on to those of you planning beach holidays in 2014:

(1)  If going to a beach with reasonable-sized waves, DO NOT attempt to body surf said waves in glasses.  It will lead to them being irretrievably swept away and you looking like a squinting idiot trying to search the sea for them.  This will be followed by an awkward period of time spent trying to find out where you left your towel, whilst not trying to squint up close at all the other people on the beach like some kind of pervert.  This will THEN be followed by a very careful walk home, trying to avoid anything that looks vaguely human-or-dangerous-obstacle-shaped.

(2)  You know those body parts where you say, "Oh it/they never tan(s)"?  Put sun cream on them anyway - THEY WILL BURN.  Then you will be walking around hunched over like an old woman trying to prevent anything touching your thighs, because even the slightest gust of wind feels like molten metal being poured on them.

(3)  When returning to said beach (with high factor sun cream protecting thighs and contact lenses safely installed) for a repeat attempt at body surfing - DO NOT stand up after a particularly big wave has wiped you out without checking your bikini positioning.  Otherwise your boyfriend will be laughing at you, as you treat the entire beach to an upper body eyeful.

That is all for now.  You are welcome.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Timely wisdom...

Guess what? We have been here A MONTH already!  One whole month! And to celebrate, we decided to go on ahead and move from one temporary address to another! Cos, you know, we've got the moving bug now. Packing a gazillion things into suitcases and lugging them around just never gets old ...

In reality, our month's free grace accommodation from my work has expired, so we have had to find somewhere else to live (whilst we wait to sign the contract on the place we actually WANT to live in). And believe me, this has been a hard, thankless and expensive task smack bang between Christmas and New Year, when it seems the entire world has descended on Sydney to see the spectacular fireworks at the Harbour (which it's looking like we will miss this year - but that's another story!)

So after a long and pointless search for another hotel which was in at least the universe - never mind the ball park - of affordable, we went with AirBnB. If you've never heard of it, basically people rent out their homes, or a room in their homes, or possibly just a sofa in their homes, for you to sleep on. Sometimes you get the place to yourself, sometimes you are sharing with the owners, and sometimes you are probably sharing with the owner's dog. But due to the time of year, we have managed to find a relatively reasonably priced flat to ourselves on the same road as our potential forever home (and when I say "forever home", I really mean, "home we might be staying in for more than five seconds").

So today Jan had the joyous task of carting three large suitcases and numerous ancillary bags over to the flat and setting us up in someone else's home.  It's kind of weird, but kind of okay, as they don't have too much stuff (not even a TV! What do these people do at night - TALK TO EACH OTHER?!?!? *Shudder*).  

But I think it was the place we were meant to be in, even if it's only for (touch wood) six short days, because after the big move over to Australia, and the new jobs, and the emotions of being away from family and friends at Christmas, and the concerns over whether we will ever move into the flat we want, this is the only decoration hanging on the wall:

Well, alright then.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas post: Rain edition

I know you were all waiting with bated breath for our santa hats/speedos Christmas special - but due to stupid Australian stupid weather circumstances beyond our control, we had to cancel the picnic and opt for rainwear instead of beachwear, because  IT HAS RAINED HERE ALL THE LIVELONG DAY, WELCOME TO AUSTRALIA, MERRY DAMN CHRISTMAS!!!  Needless to say we are very disappointed:

We feel the country has let us down. After much grand talk of Christmas on the beach, barbies and cold beers, we were left with dashed hopes and downpours. Bad Australia.  

On the upside, we had a lovely Christmas eve at home. Thinking we would be setting off for a beach picnic on Christmas day itself, we made a tasty "traditional" Christmas dinner of roast chicken, veg and mashed sweet potatoes. I managed to get some giant Brussels sprouts into the mix too:

Considering we had to work with the utensils in our holiday flat, and no weighing scales, we were rather pleased it came out so well. We spoke to Jan's parents on Skype and opened the presents they had sent us (which is completely allowed, as the German tradition is to open gifts on Christmas eve. That way they can fit more eating into Christmas day). Jan's mom had hand-made us a beautiful cup and saucer each.  I was really happy with mine:

Jan was less happy with his:

His mom is making him a new one though, so don't worry, we will be his-and-hers-mugged-up in no time! We also tucked into a few of the yummy cookies and sweets they sent us and, after imbibing the, ahem, appropriate amount of festive spirit*, we passed out went to bed.  

And awoke to ... well a pretty British Christmas after all. But coming from hardened stock, we determined not to let the weather beat us and headed into town, where we purchased a well-thought-out Christmas present to each other:

After an Italian lunch, we treated ourselves to a small dessert:

Before walking it off around the botanical gardens. Then we found the boss of all of this and went to lodge an official complaint about the weather:

Now we are back at home on Christmas night, and enjoying watching Christmas unfold in England via social media. It's like having two Christmases in one!  I've spoken to my parents on the phone (their Skype has decided not to co-operate - AND MY DAD IS APPARENTLY WEARING A GIRAFFE ONESIE AND THE DOG HAS A TINSEL COLLAR AND I CAN'T SEE ANY OF IT, OH SWEET TORTURE!!!). I have opened my Christmas stocking, donned the robin socks, put my keys on my new owl keyring and found a place for my lovely owl paperweight**, and am tucking in to the festive spirit again. Jan and I are both at work tomorrow, so the celebrations are short-lived, but we have enjoyed our quirky little Christmas nonetheless. We hope you have fun with yours too! Cheers!

* Pinot Grigio
** I like owls, innit

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

'Twas the day after....

... my first week of live on air work. It has been very ... eventful. Mostly fun. A few technological hiccups, a few last-minute panics, and one case of forgetting to actually press the button and go live! But also quite a lot of feeling like I am improving, positive feedback from people and a feeling of relief, because so far... yes, I am enjoying it! One of our biggest fears when we decided to move was that I had never done this type of work before and had no clue if I would enjoy it (enjoyment is an essential part of work to me) or like the shift work. But so far I have found it exciting and challenging and interesting work to do. So yay!

And in no particular order, five things I like about working here:

(1) I have swapped my commute from one hour each way of this:
photo by Tom Page / CC BY-SA
To 30 minutes each way of this:
I am VERY excited about my new bike.  It's black and pink!  It has some gears!  It's whizzy! I haven't died on the streets yet!  Did I mention it's black and pink?!

(2) I now have one of these:
photo / CC BY-SA
And it's sort of my own!!  Sort of because we are all meant to share but most people pick one booth and tend to stick to it.  (I want to point out this is a stock image and NOT my real desk.  I have no manky old sandwiches on my desk...)

(3) I am part of one of these:
As much as I liked the freedom of being self-employed, I have missed having colleagues to see every day and now I am part of a team of stenos, re-speakers and supervisors who all support each other, which is great.

(4) I don't have to carry one of these every day...

... because I have one of these:

Hurrah!  Now no-one asks me if I am going somewhere nice every time I leave the house! Yes, I still go out in a permanent state of panic, convinced I am forgetting something important, but I'm sure given a few more months that will start to fade.
(5) Finally, here you get paid EVERY TWO WEEKS!Party Hat  

In other exciting news, Jan has become a BUSINESSMAN!  Behold the evidence - fancy new trousers, blingy sunglasses and a phone permanently attached to his face:

Yes, he has got a contract job, just in time for his office Christmas party, whoop!  I am slightly jealous, as my Christmas party involved a bar at a local pub and his involved a glass pontoon sail around Sydney Harbour!  Hrumph.  Anyway, he is enjoying it so far and has met some interesting people.  For those interested he has told me, "I build mapping tools" and that's as much as he will give me.  But then, that's as much as I can understand, so there we go. So hurrah for being gainfully employed! 

We are off now for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and head back in for Boxing Day.  So Merry Christmas, everybody! As we will be seeing Santa first this year, we will tell him you have all been very nice and hopefully he will deliver!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Tis the season to be...

.... weirded out by the fact you are sitting in 28 degrees and sunshine. Yet in a week it will be Christmas.

For a lot of people it might be a dream situation - but Jan and I are both winter people. We are most definitely Starks of the "Winter is Coming. AWESOME!!" variety. We love celebrating Christmas, from our London trips on Christmas Eve to the Albert Hall with my parents, to the gorgeous snowy Christmases in Germany with Jan's parents. We are Christmas tree fundamentalists - not only does it HAVE to be real, it HAS to be a Nordmann. Otherwise there's just no point. And EVERYONE loves watching Jan light bottles full of high proof alcohol to make the traditional Feuerzangenbowle, waiting to see whether we will end up with a delicious drink, or a visit from the firemen.

But hot mulled wine would melt us like snowmen in the summer sun, we haven't had a single piney whiff of a Nordmann, and a white Christmas?! Pah! We are aiming to make a sand-man this year. All of which means that neither of us are feeling very festive at the moment.

The decorations are up here:

And the Christmas songs are playing, but what with the trying to find a flat (more on which later), trying to find a job and trying to find our feet generally, we keep forgetting to do the basic Christmas things like DECORATE or BUY PRESENTS FOR PEOPLE. It has been a monumental achievement that we have posted cards that may just make it before Christmas day.

At the moment we have no plans for Christmas, although I am sort of planning my inaugural-new-bikini-wearing-and-first-swim-in-the-sea for Christmas day. There are also carol concerts around the city on Christmas eve, so we may check one of those out (because, you know, singing "In the bleak midwinter" will feel so atmospheric here).

Our present to each other this year will hopefully come in the form of a lovely flat by the sea, for which we have put down a holding fee (which means the estate agents won't advertise it anymore) and we should be signing the contracts in the next week or two, with a prospective move in date of 3 January. Hurrah! Merry Christmas to us! Pictures will follow, but at the moment it feels like we might be jinxing it a little to say the flat is definitely ours - so everybody please stop reading now and go and touch some wood for us (preferably a Nordmann Christmas tree) so that it all works out!

In the meantime, although we can't go all-out yule crazy with decorations in the temporary flat (this is the first time IN LIFE I have not had a Christmas tree, waaaaaahhhhh!) I have created a little festive table to try and get us in the mood:

For those wondering, it consists of
(1) A plant from the local supermarket with cheesy glitter green leaves in amongst the flowers,
(2) The aforementioned multi-purpose celebratory disco ball I nicked from a fancy cocktail and used for Jan's birthday,
(3) A candy cane boiled sweet I took from a pizza place we ate at,
(4) Two tree decorations we bought to reflect our new life here - a Koala in a plant pot, replete with eucalyptus leaf, and a kangaroo in a boot - BOTH in the essential Christmas hat.
(5) Two Lindt teddy bears - MANDATORY.  Even if Jan thinks chocolate in the heat is a bad idea.  You just have to eat it quicker.
(6) My (eek!) stocking filler presents from my lovely parents (I foolishly packed the stocking in the shipping container, grrr).  And NO, we don't need to talk about the 35-year-old-still-receiving-a-Christmas-stocking issue.  I LOVE my Christmas stocking. I would rather have a Christmas stocking than an actual present.  THE END. 
(7)  That worldwide Christmas staple that was most definitely present in the crude animal stall Jesus was born in - TINSEL.

But you know what? As much as I miss all my Christmas decorations and the excitement of unwrapping them and the flood of memories of Christmases past they bring, it is actually really nice to have a pared down Christmas this year. Because instead of being distracted with decorations and present buying and all of the Christmas commercialism that can leave you jaded if you are not careful, this year the most important gift is going to be the time we will make to speak to family and friends. You can really take that for granted, until you are thousands of miles and several time zones away, at a time of the year when celebrating those close connections is so important. 

So MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!  Make you sure give all of those people you love an extra big squeeze - and we are sending you big squeezes from across the ocean! Get ready for our Christmas: Beach Edition* in, oh, about seven days or so!
Xmas tree with presents
* Warning, may contain cringe-worthy pictures of us in swimwear and Santa hats.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Jan's Birthday Blog

The last post contained a lot of waffle about me and my new job, but not so much about the other half of this lovely equation - Mr Jan.  Or should I say, Mr OLD Jan now.  He has just celebrated his cake day here in Aus and suffice to say it was rather ... uneventful.  Usually we make a bit of a fuss of birthdays - we set up a "birthday table" in the morning, which involves decorating the dining table with flowers, chocolates, pressies, cards, candles and anything else inventive we can think of.  Also a cake.  A cake is very important.  Coffee and birthday cake for breakfast is a bit of a birthday tradition.  Yes, of course it means you head off to work with your insides churning, wondering whether you will make it to the next loo before your stomach gives up trying to hold in chocolate and caffeine instead of the usual cornflakes and juice.  But you know, that's part of the charm.

Anyway, this year, I have been awful and got Jan no cake and no pressies - trying to convince him that a whole new life in another country is the best present ever.  He maintains it's no iPad mini or Hero3 Black Edition, but heck, you can't please all the people all the time...  The furthest the birthday table got was a small disco ball I stole from a cocktail we drank at the weekend and my laptop with an open document saying "Happy birthday Jan" on it.  In colours he dislikes.

No, seriously he has been very lovely about the fact his birthday has been a bit of a non-event.  We did go for a delicious meal in the evening at a Japanese restaurant where we ate all manner of dead fish and mammals (raw and cooked) and drank Sake.  I was brave with all the food except the oysters, which I just can't get past the mental YAK barrier with, so Jan had to eat all of them.  His telling me "they taste like the sea" didn't inspire me to try them.

But the nicest thing that happened to mark the occasion came in the form of these:

Beautiful flowers from Jan's parents and a lovely note (clearly painstakingly written out in German by an Australian florist).  They have made us both smile a lot, and have brightened up our rather impersonal temporary flat no end.

So for Jan this is a new year in a new country, all options open, anything possible.  I'm wishing him all the happiness and success he deserves and hoping all his dreams for his new life here come true.
<3  <3  HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOVE  <3  <3

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Super mega long post about our first couple of weeks

I started out calling this post "Our first week" until I realised that actually we've been here nearly two!  It has gone so fast already - but then there's nothing like an intense new job to make you really feel like you've been somewhere forever.
After we arrived we pottered about a bit, opening accounts and buying new iPhones (extremely important obviously).  Then on the Saturday we shamefully stayed indoors because it rained and... well... jetlag.  Yeah, jetlag.  On Sunday the weather perked up and so did we.  We did a little trip out to Coogee (pronounced "could-jee",  although any way you pronounce it sounds rude to me).  This is a seaside surburb and has a beautiful coastal path all the way to Bondi beach.  After much lecturing of Jan about his lack of suntan cream usage, we both got stupidly burnt due to the evil trickster clouds making us think it wasn't that sunny, so neither of us put cream on until it was too late.  Needless to say there was much angry muttering from me about having to turn up to a new job looking like a stupid English tourist who had never seen the sun before... dammit... grumble.... mumble.... snarf.  The day trip has definitely won us over to living near the coast though - it's just too beautiful not to.  

On Monday Jan made me breakfast, put my backpack on my back, took me to work on the bus and proudly took a picture of me before he left. 

Just like the first day of school all over again!!  I didn't get a Schultüte though, so that was disappointing.  Still, I hitched up the backpack and went bravely into unknown territories, sending prayers to the gods of steno.  Turns out they listened because everyone was lovely.  People kept coming over to tell me how pleased they were I was here.  I felt a bit like royalty for a while and even started practicing my special hand wave - until I had to type.  Then it rapidly became clear that Australian news is ridiculously fast and contains an enormous amount of names and people I know nothing about (Wollongong anybody?! Indooroopilly?  No?).  And the weather reports.  Oh the weather reports!  And the sports.  TOO MUCH SPORTS.  

The rest of the week was then spent abjectly apologising to my trainer/boss and trying to reassure him I had actually seen a steno machine before and was au fait with its workings.  God, I felt crap.  Then on the Thursday, I had an HR induction and was informed my contract was changing and I was to be on six months' probation instead of three.  Cue existential breakdown tantrum of epic OH MY GOD I CAN'T DO THIS AND I'VE UPROOTED OUR LIVES TO MOVE ACROSS THE WORLD AND I WILL BE SACKED WITHIN A WEEK, WHAT HAVE I DOOOOOOONNNNNNEEEEEE.... proportions.

Poor old Jan was also starting to worry - both about my sanity and the fact that we might have to get into the shipping container back home with all our things.  But wise man that he is, he told me to man the heck up and just ask what was going on.  Which I did.  Turns out everyone is on six months' probation and it was probably just an HR error.  My trainer thinks I'm doing fine.  So that's alright then.  Ahem.

Last weekend - well you have seen what we did last weekend in the previous post. If not, check it out - Jan makes a good video!

To recover on Sunday we went shopping.  A peculiar role reversal occurs when we do this.  Jan is a master shopper, he goes through men's departments like a whirlwind, tries everything on, it looks good (annoyingly so.  Everything looks good on Jan).  Boom.  Done.  New Wardrobe Achieved.  Me?  I umm and ahh and can't be bothered and reluctantly try stuff on after much nagging and - it all looks crap.  And so it continues through every shop.  I finally found some jeans I really liked (yes, people wear jeans here in the summer!!  Special summer jeans though.  The nice lady explained).  Let's not talk about the price tag.

This week is going well so far.  Jan is still on the hunt for places to live and I am still on the hunt for any ability to perform my job.  Which is hilarious considering that next week I will be live on air.  LIVE ON AIR!!  That scares the bejesus out of me.  Especially as so far I have called the dearly departed Nelson Mandela a FLAN PISS* and also written "DONG COCK*" whilst shadowing along to major news programmes.  Boy, are the innocent people of Australia in for a treat.

*  A small prize to anyone who can guess what I meant to write...

Monday, 9 December 2013

A small offering from bad bloggers...

For a blog about our adventures in Aus, we have become conspicuously quiet since getting here.  Apologies for the silence, I have been thwarted by things like, erm, going to work mainly.  I mean, honestly, how rude that I am actually expected to put in full nine hour days to get paid.  Don't they realise I came here to have adventures?!  Anyway, all seems to be going well so far - in other words, they haven't fired me yet.  But then I haven't been live on air yet either.  I have been busy learning myriad new computer systems, remembering how to type fast and working out the coffee machine.  All very important tasks that have demanded much of my tiny brain space.

So whilst I craft a mammoth post detailing our first official week as Sydney-siders, I will leave you to enjoy this little video Jan put together of our canyoning adventure with friends.  Two thoughts on this:

1) It's scary.
2) Don't punch the rocks on your way down.

Saturday, 30 November 2013


Yes!  We made it!  We are actually here!  At this point I was going to include a cheesy upside down picture of us for giggles, but frankly our jet-lagged faces would have caused serious emotional and physical damage to you, not to mention the camera.

So, after we took refuge in the safe haven of Singapore Air, we hunkered down for our first 12 hour flight.  Several films and thousands of bags of peanuts later we arrived, bleary-eyed, into a ridiculously sunny morning in Singapore.  We met a friend of Jan's there who was on holiday and kindly took a day out of his own sightseeing to escort us around town.  We caught the train into town and walked around the harbour area where there is a giant three-tower hotel with what looks like a large boat atop of it.   

This is the Marina Bay Sands and for a tenner you can ascend in the ear-popping lift and get a good view from the top. 

Of course the one and only thing to do once you have reached the top of said dizzy heights and had a look around is to participate in a bit of Movember Blue Steel...

After that we went to get food, by which time I was practically asleep on my feet and drowning in my own sweat (a difficult feat, but totally achievable in the insane humidity).  We ate at the Food Trail which is a series of small huts selling different foods and drinks and it was yummy.  We ate satay skewers, Hainanese chicken rice and pak choi in oyster sauce, and tried cold bird's nest soup* and sugar cane juice to drink.  We then headed to Raffles hotel for a mandatory Singapore Sling before we headed back to the airport and on to even more bags of peanuts and our final destination.

And now we are here.  And it is kind of strange.  We are not rushing about doing the sightseeing touristy things like we would if we were on holiday.  We have sorted bank accounts and phones and wandered around a bit looking at a city we don't know, but knowing it will become ours in time.  We have unpacked our clothes (how did I manage to bring only ONE pair of trousers and ONE long sleeved top and NO pyjamas for slouching around in?!?!) but we have no house to call our own yet.  It has rained (trust us to move half way around the world and have it RAIN) but that actually made me feel a bit more at home.  We have done a shop and found some brands the same and some brands different.  Home feels far away at the moment, which is both exciting and scary, but we will take it a day at a time and, for now, say a big CHEERS!  We are here!

* Meh.
 † Also meh.
   Definitely NOT meh.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Leaving #2

I am not a fan of flying.  I used to be terrified.  Now I am more relaxed and can get on a plane without practicing a bunch of rituals in my head to prevent the plane going down, or checking I have a working lifejacket.  But after our last week in England was over, I was positively running on to the plane and begging it to take off.  Read on to discover why...

At the end of the last post, we were innocently heading into our last week here.  We saw off Jan's mum and dad on Monday morning (sob-fest as previously predicted) and Tuesday saw me running around London amending, cancelling and updating accounts and such.  Wednesday was my last day of work and on Thursday I went down to my parents' house to spend a few days with them.  On Saturday my dad sang in his male voice choir with a military charity, so I was happy to see him perform for one last time before heading off. 

On Sunday I brought my parents back to London - something they will no doubt regret forever, as it was less a poignant-last-few-days-with-beloved-daughter and more a last-few-days-with-a-screaming-harpy-ball-of-stress-and-insanity.  We started well enough with a lovely Sunday lunch with some friends.  Then we trotted back home and realised we essentially had a whole house to go through and split into "container", "suitcase", "parents" and "dump" categories.  Simple, when in your head you don't have that much stuff.  Not so simple when stuff keeps bloody appearing out of drawers and cupboards and goodness only knows where and you are still in the first room you started on hours ago.  After eons of sorting, compiling and dumping crap on innocent friends we retired, dusty and forlorn, to bed.

On Monday, I had some errands to run and took my mum with me, while we sent my dad to do a run to a charity shop.  Neither journey went well.  We live a 5 minute drive from the high street, yet my dad managed to bypass all of those charity shops and ended up at a Cancer Research two miles away in Highgate.  He found his way home after an hour.  We got on the road to go and drop off a chair at my friend's parents' house - without actually having put the chair in the car.  Fortunately we realised after ten minutes or so and rushed back to get it.  During all of this Jan was bouncing around at home with no clue what was going where anymore, cursing the day he ever met any member of the Oates clan.

By the time mum and I made it back, dad and Jan had loaded up a car and made it to the tip.  Dad and I then went with another carful of junk - only to find the tip closed at 4pm (DAMN YOU, BARNET COUNCIL, grrrr!).  It was now 4.10pm and we had at least two more carfuls of crap to go.  We called the council but some mischief maker on the other end claimed we couldn't leave the stuff out for them to pick up, they wouldn't collect it, and had we thought about leaving it in a church car park and asking the Christians for help?  Erm, no, we hadn't thought of that.  But as it was rapidly getting dark and we were rapidly being chucked out of the house by the inventory checker (who was actually very nice to us, probably because she realised she was dealing with complete and utter lunatics) we took the car and went up to the church where our theatre group has rehearsals.  No-one was there (all being at The Gatehouse in Highgate for their new show Treasure Island (we are gutted to be missing it!!  CLICK HERE, GO AND SEE IT PEOPLE AND REPORT BACK TO US!)) so we essentially fly-tipped the stuff around the back of the church while frantically calling theatre friends, begging them to do our dirty work for us and take the stuff to the tip the next day whilst at the same time hiding shamefacedly every time someone came out of the church, as they were finishing a service at the time.  This was obviously just our way of making our leaving easier for friends to cope with, by engendering a feeling of "just bloody go already and leave us in peace" in their hearts and minds.

After another two cars full of crap were dumped, a rental car dropped off and an obscurely situated hotel found at Heathrow, we finally breathed out - and then commenced packing the suitcases properly.  YES, IT WAS NOT OVER EVEN THEN!!!  After multiple re-packings and re-weighings of luggage, Jan deemed the suitcases acceptable and we collapsed into bed.  And that was it.  Our final week in England was over and now all that was left was to say goodbye to my parents (GAH, woe and misery) and then get on the plane.  Or the "Safe haven of no more stuff to pack" as I like to call it.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Leaving #1

It's been a while since the last post, because FINALLY things are happening here*!  But given that I had to spend several hundred pounds on repairs to my work machine after I accidentally poured a glass of liquid** over it, I figured I'd better stay away from the laptop until I got my uncontrollable sobbing outbursts in order, to protect it from snot-related damage.

So, first things first, to drag the previous analogy kicking and screaming into this post, Australia has decided it will date us!  Yay!  Now we just have to decide what to wear and how to have our hair!  (Only I have no summer clothes and Jan is in the middle of Movember, so we will definitely NOT be making a good impression.)  

Hot on the heels of our visa approval, we were finally able to book our flights.  Normal people of course would book flights based on sensible things like timing and cost and luggage allowance.  We booked ours on the basis that Jan wanted a go on the new double decker planes that have just come out, which we since discovered have a crappy luggage allowance, so now we have some serious packing decisions to make (Jan refuses to wear his parachute rig on the plane, so it looks like I will have to wear all my clothes at once Joey-from-Friends-style to make room for it).  But hey ho, our official leaving date is 26 November, when we take to the skies for the day, then stop at Singapore on the Wednesday, arriving in Sydney on the Thursday morning.  We also have details for our fancy serviced apartment - in Waterloo, nonetheless! It is paid for by the company for one month, after which it is highly possible we will be sleeping on the beach.

Since then, it has been a Whirlwind of auf Wiedersehen (or a Tornado of Tschüss if you wish).  I visited my dearest friends in Telford/Birmingham for a long weekend, which was a unique form of self-torture.  You spend a few days with your favourite people which just emphasises how freaking awesome they are and how much they mean to you, how much of your history is tied up together and how you just wouldn't be sane and present in the world today if it wasn't for them, and then you tear yourself away because you won't be seeing them for a year or two.  Ouch.  Suffice to say, there were many tears and it hurt WAY more than this:

But then I guess with good friends like mine I take comfort from the fact that they, like the tattoo, will be around for ever (and will need considerably less aftercare.  Seriously, the world's supply of nappy rash cream has been severely depleted due to this body art).

We kicked off this weekend with a leaving do in London for our friends here, which was fantastic. To have all of those lovely people in one room was so much fun and it was really touching that so many could make it to see us off (or make sure we were leaving?!).  It has really made us realise how lucky we have been in our lives here and how blessed we were to make such good friends.

On Saturday I woke up with the worst hangover ever, thinking I might not make it through the day, let alone through another couple of weeks (they lied you know!  Beer before wine does NOT make you feel fine.  Not at all.)  Then Jan's parents arrived.  They had driven FROM GERMANY to come and say goodbye in person (and to let us dump all the crap we can't take to Sydney on them).  Given I could barely remember my own name, the small talk in German was a bit lacking.  At one point I thought my brain had haemorrhaged and was seeping slowly out of my nose as I tried to string the German for "Did you have a good journey***" together.

We will say goodbye to them on Monday morning (another sobfest naturally).  This week we have even more goodbyes to say, to friends as well as my parents.  Underneath it all there is a certain amount of excitement for what is to come, but for now we are very much still living in what has gone before and working out how to say goodbye to it without drowning it in snot.

*   Yeah I know, we don't blog when there's nothing happening and we don't blog when big things are happening - what kind of half-assed bloggers are we?!
**   It was a wine/mosquito related incident.
*** It's two words, dammit.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Teenage Kicks

If you have ever idly dreamed about how much simpler things were when you were a teenager, or how how simple and innocent your first love was, and wished you were back there - DON'T.  Going through the visa process has been somewhat like that unrequited, head-over-heels, crazy first love we all went through.  You spend ages dreaming about what it would be like if it came true, you start planning in your head for the eventual realisation of said love, you start bargaining with your chosen deity* that if only - if only - this happens you will do whatever is required of you.  Then you spend a lot of time and effort concocting just the right form of words that must surely sway the mind of your True Love (to be sent in a letter/text/Valentine's/voice message/dating website/whatever teens do these days) and send it off and hold your breath.  And wait.  And wait and wait and wait.  And sneakily check whatever medium you have used to send the message (is your phone still connected?  Still receiving calls/texts?  Has your email suddenly broken/started putting all emails in the spam folder?  WHY IS IT ALL WORKING FINE, DAMMIT!).  And still nothing arrives.  And now you are desperate!  Why, oh why, haven't you heard anything?  What does it mean?  Did they get the message?  Read it?  Are thinking about just the right response?  Do they hate you and have dedicated themselves to ignoring you for the rest of their lives?  WHAT?!?!

So every day, we keep on checking our emails (including the spam folder), we keep on checking the immigration website and we keep on keeping our fingers crossed that sooner or later a message will come to say ... Australia loves us! And we can go on our first date!  <3  <3  <3

*or fate, destiny and chemical chance, if you don't have a deity to call God.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Big waits....

Well after the excitement of the first post, there has been a distinct amount of nothing going on at Kollhof/Oates Towers.  I mean minus the amazing trip of a lifetime of course*.  But the other stuff is kind of.. meh.

Regarding said trip of a lifetime, we have just returned from the USofA after two weeks of amazing train and road trippin' (New Orleans to California via four national parks).  Thanks to this piece of amazing crap we had to improvise somewhat on our plans, but nevertheless we had an awesome holiday, the highlight of which was surely sitting like outcasts in the corridor of a Las Vegas hotel (no wifi in the rooms) trying to desperately fill in our visa application and upload a gazillion documents, all to be PDF and less than 3MB.  Joy!  After an interesting sequence of events involving Jan getting held by security for attempting to enter our room with a malfunctioning door key, me having to down two large margaritas before rushing to rescue him and then us realising we had failed to purchase the health insurance we needed for the visa, we gave up our attempt.  Suffice to say it was much more stressful than getting the car stuck in a creek and flooded, then having to pay $160 to have it towed out again, which we did later in the holiday, just for kicks.

We finally managed to get the application lodged though, which has led to the necessity of me getting a health exam, by dint of the fact I take a fairly common daily medication.  So off to the (government approved†) doctors I go to be poked and prodded and deemed not an immediate health risk to the Australian population.  T'other half is being smug about his perfectly non-medicated life as he seems to have escaped having to provide any more information.

So that's where we are at the moment, stuck in red tape land still, with at least another 3-8 weeks of waiting.  Our landlord has been kind and is letting us stay in the house for another month, and work for both of us is also being accommodating.  We initially thought we would be on a plane by now, waving the autumn weather goodbye, but it looks like Blighty is stuck with us for a bit longer yet!

* pictures to follow

† stupidly expensive

Friday, 13 September 2013

Big news...

Bah. I always knew, if I ever started a blog, that the first sentence of the first post would be the hardest. Even with news. BIG news. Big news you aren’t quite sure when, how and who to share it with. So I will take the approach I have adopted with the people I have told so far and just blurt it out. So, guys, I have big news about me and Jan. We’re moving. To Australia. So there.

Phew, it’s out.

For a variety of reasons that information seems somewhat awkward to share. Firstly, we are very firmly in the land of red tape, waiting for nominations and visa applications and flights and guff and blah, so there’s always the possibility of a future retraction of said news accompanied by a mumbly, red-faced explanation of how we were rejected by an ENTIRE COUNTRY. Secondly, we are 34 and 36 respectively, so any hint of the words “big news” seems to be followed by the person you are talking to visibly readying themselves to shout “you’re engaaaaaged, congratulations!!” or, “you’re having a baybeeee, congratulations!!”. This is then rapidly followed by a completely bemused expression when it is neither of the above.

But the people we have told so far have all been incredibly excited on our behalf – more excited, I think, than I am myself. Not that I’m not excited. I really am. But at the moment the excitement is like a reluctant child being dragged along by Mother of God WHAT ARE WE DOING??!! We have a great life here in London – good friends, fun hobbies, jobs we both love (and which seem to be surviving the economic situation), and yet we are going to let it all go and head to a city we’ve never been to. It somehow seems … ungrateful for what we have. Reckless. Something I should have done in my twenties when everything seemed less risky somehow. I will be working in an area I have never tried before and I already know it is going to be intense and hugely challenging. And there is a real possibility it is something I am not quite good enough to take on yet. Almost there, but not quite. I don’t know. JK so far is still looking for work, although we are confident he will have a job before we leave. Not to mention the beautiful people I love on this island that I will be leaving behind to head to a different one. My parents, my sisters-from-other-mothers who I can’t even begin to fathom how I will get through a day without, friends from work and theatre and skiing and and and…

But don’t get me wrong, I am not a pessimist. I know we can do this. I’ve always wanted to live in another country, try a different lifestyle, be that cool person that travelled the world and experienced other cultures. I AM excited about this. It’s just so huge. But it’s happening. So I’m hanging on to the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Whatever this blog turns out to be (photo journal, thoughts and feelings on a new city, a list of embarrassing mistakes I have made which have gone out on national news), I hope it will reflect that sentiment.