Saturday 14 June 2014

Home sweet home

The last time you saw our flat, it looked something like this, I believe:

We have been slowly but surely adding to it and trying to make it into a bit more of a home.

You will remember the near Odyssean search we had for a decent sofa, which we are very happy with, but we needed more, more, more! A TV cabinet was soon to follow - and then a highly important piece of furniture that, when installed, finally made the place start to really feel comfortable. I am, of course, talking about the thing every home needs - a bookcase.  We found this one:
It's a beauty, no?! Me love it long time.
Much to my excitement, it was time to crack open all the remaining cardboard boxes and see what exciting things we had! 
This is only a small representation of everything - as I found two more boxes after this!
Hmm...  So let's inventory this:
  1. DVDs that we never watch. 
  2. All the German books I have bought (and never used).
  3. Blockbusters, the board game. Because, you know, everyone needs a bit of Bob in their lives! Can I have a P please!
  4. Assorted board games we hardly ever play - as board games for two aren't as much fun.
  5. Actual books of any worth.

So basically, in the mad packing frenzy that was leaving the UK, I mainly threw in a bunch of useless s***e.

Ho hum, anyway after some overly enthusiastic alphabetising of the books that had made it and some loving polishing of the new bookcase, we ended up with a pleasingly full and rather attractive end result:

Since then, we have also bought a rug, some cocktail glasses (tres important!), some cushions and a console for the dining room (arrival pending). So do you want to see the end result of the lounge? Yes? Yes? Oh, alright then!
We are waiting for a beautiful photo to arrive for the wall behind Jan.  Will be posting again when it gets here!!
The view from the sofa into the dining room.
In the first picture the wall above Jan will soon be adorned with a canvas picture of a photo Jan took with his own fair hand.  I will post a picture of it when it gets here, because it's an amazing shot!

There is also one more thing we have bought which we have to show you - but we have to wait for the last part of it to arrive before we unveil it! Stay tuned!

Sunday 8 June 2014

Sydney lights up in honour of us living here*

* This might be a lie

Well, the last few posts have been quite wordy, so I think for this post I will tell you about the light festival that's happening in Sydney at the moment and let Jan's pictures do the talking.

As a child one of my favourite times of the year was October and November - not only for the fact it was my birthday but also because of the Walsall Illuminations held at Walsall Arboretum. It was always fun on a chilly autumn evening to go around looking at all the light displays - and of course there was a fair (INCLUDING CANDY FLOSS!) at the end of it, which also added to the excitement. So imagine my joy when we heard the central business district was lighting up to celebrate our six months here! (Well, and also for the Vivid Festival, which is coincidentally the same time of year. Bad planning, Sydney, bad planning). Sadly, I found no candy floss, but we did have a lovely supper and an enjoyable walk around the harbour looking at all the buildings in - well, in a new light. Boom, boom!

First, some shots of the bridge and harbour area:

The Sydney Harbour Bridge - you could actually take a turn at changing the lights on the bridge yourself - but we couldn't find out where the control station was! 
Pirates in the bay!
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Here follow several of the Opera House, which was cycling through an impressive number of designs:


And finally, some rather more random exhibits:

We spent some time discussing all the, ahem, polite messages you could deliver to that annoying tailgater behind you if only this screen was available on all cars....
Donnie Darko's less scary brother 
For some reason, these people were holding a tea ceremony between the protective paws of the rabbit 
This was awesome - down the front there was a control unit whereby if you "touched" the mouths with the blue line you can see running down the building, they would sing to you.

This is only a very small amount of what was on in the city, and it was great fun wandering around and coming upon the weird and wonderful! I'll leave you with this - they are balls bouncing on the water's surface and you could operate the mouth by speaking into a microphone. It starts out funny, but after too long, well, it just gets plain weird...

Thursday 5 June 2014

A road trip down memory lane

Once again, I hang my head in shame - lots of exciting* things have been happening around here and I have failed to write about them, so expect multiple blog entires over the coming days, as I regale you with adventures big and small.

* some are only exciting to me, but you will be forced to hear about them anyway.

Let's start off with our road trip to Canberra a couple of weekends ago.  I discovered a long weekend loophole in my work roster (finished early on Friday, enabling a swift getaway, and a late start on a Monday, facilitating a leisurely return). We decided to make the most of it by doing an extended road trip - although Canberra is only three hours by car, so it's still literally down the road in Aussie terms.

We went with Kym and Michael and, after a nice trip with a stop for views, we arrived in Canberra early evening. There then followed a mad dash for Jan and I as we had, gasp, forgotten our bikinis! Well, I mean, I had. Jan favours a tight speedo. He is German after all! We were staying at apartments with "spa facilities" (yes, the quotes are fully intentional, as you will discover). So we dashed round several shops trying to find cossies (it's winter here now, so although in England swimming in these temperatures would be considered tropical, apparently Aussies eschew all water activities when the weather is under 30 degrees. Wusses). Anyway, we found some. End of that exciting story.

That evening, we visited our old flatmate Denise who we lived with in London when she was backpacking around Europe. EIGHT YEARS AGO. She now has three gorgeous children, and (Jan, you don't need to read the next bit) a not-too-shabby husband (If you happen to be reading, Rowan, SORRY!). We had a lovely evening, reminiscing over life and playing with the kids. There are some cool toys out there, people. I might even procreate myself if it means I can get that giant robot thing.

Next day it was time to see the sights. It bears mention that, whenever I told anyone of our weekend plans, the unanimous response was "Why are you going there"? It seems like Aussies don't see Canberra as a happening capital.

Our first stop was the war memorial. Yeah, I guess if one of your tourism highlights is a war memorial, I can see people's point. However, it is a memorial and museum and it's really interesting. We took the guided tour, because it's absolutely massive and there's no way you could see it all in one morning. When we arrived, there was a "famous" football team there, and the guide got very over-excited about the fact that we weren't allowed to "make a fuss" over said players, if they happened to enter a room we were in. Yeah, right. Firstly, "football" here is Aussie football, which is essentially Gaelic football as opposed to "soccer" and seems to involve two teams inflicting wanton violence on each other, with a funny-shaped ball dropped in so they can call it sport. Secondly, this was one of the crapper teams in that sport. So colour me distinctly underwhelmed at their presence. THEY'RE NOT ROYALTY, PEOPLE, THEY DON"T EVEN HAVE A PROPER JOB!

Ahem.  So anyway, here are some pics:

The war memorial containing the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. It is very pretty inside.

The domed ceiling inside the memorial - the dot in the middle is open to the sky.

The plaques bearing the names of all soldiers killed in all wars Australia has been involved in. People buy the poppies to place next to the names of their relatives.
The boys got really excited by the time we reached the military hardware section. Plaaaaannnessss, gunnnsss, submarinnnes - ooh yeah baby!
One thing I will say about the museum is you really get a wider perspective on the world wars in particular. A lot of the things we learn in Europe are obviously very centred around that area - but here were stories and exhibits from an entirely different perspective - an Asia-Pacific one. Hearing how people fought in ridiculously humid jungles and impossible terrain really makes you realise they really were 'world' wars. Even the Australian mainland was threatened during the Second World War, with a Japanese (albeit midget) submarine attacking Sydney Harbour.

After we had been around the museum we did a drive-by of the old and new parliament buildings and had a walk down by the lake.
Parliament House. Meh,
The Aboriginal Embassy. Yeah. I am lead to believe the government have deigned to provided an area within Parliament House for the Aboriginal people now, but this remains as a testament to history.

Jan and I and the war memorial in the distance. We ignored Michael telling us to take "just one more step" backwards. 
Finally some autumn colours!
After all the cultural visitings, we met up with Denise and her children and had a lovely walk around the botanical gardens, followed by a trip to the Telstra Tower for some more views of Canberra at sunset.

We went right to the tippy top...

.. and got a lovely view
When we got back the the apartment, we realised we had enough time to treat ourselves to that spa we were so eagerly anticipating, so off we went to find it. After a rather breezy route through the hotel corridors in bathers, we finally found the "spa". Which consisted of a small swimming pool and a jacuzzi that fit four people in. Except if you wanted the jets to work and produce bubbles. Then two people had to get out, because otherwise the system got flooded and it just made a sad gurgling sound. And after a while it got cold. But then we spotted a steam room to warm up in! Only... you guessed it.. no steam. So that was totally worth the time and expense of the search for swimwear. NOT.

Rather deflated, we got ready for dinner and headed into town to meet up with Denise and Rowan and a friend of Michael's. We had a lovely dinner, lots of good food, good wine and excellent company.

Next day we had an easy brunch in a cool cafe with a tree in the middle (the cafe was built around it) and then Jan (and it WAS Jan, not me!) noticed a bunch of wineries on the map, conveniently on our route home. So. Well. Yeah. Michael bravely nominated himself as designated driver, which we all gleefully accepted, and piled on into our first winery. We visited three in the end, which was plenty enough - and more than enough for some of us, for whom the excitements of the weekend were just too much...

Jan hatte zu viel SpaƟ.
And that was about it for our pseudo long weekend! We had a really great time renewing old friendships and cementing new ones - and of course, sealing the deal with a few bottles of wine!