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.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Advice for Brides on the Big Day

No, not the wedding day, silly!  The auspicious day where you pick up your wedding dress from the shop and it officially becomes yours.

So, here is how to do it:
1) Get up nice and early, have a shower, get ready to leave.
2) Leave in plenty of time, get there early, maybe treat yourself to a coffee while you wait.
3) Arrive at shop fully relaxed and ready to be fussed and cooed over, as is your bridal right.

And here is how I did it:
1) Get up nice and early, faff around the house, watch box sets until you suddenly realise you have 15 minutes to shower, dress and leave.
2) Rush around the house in a pre-shower panic, after breaking your only hairband, and finally tie your hair up with a pair of swimming goggles so you can shower without turning your hair into a ridiculous afro.
3) Leave the house 10 minutes late, with a 30 minute car drive ahead of you.
4) Rely on the sat nav on April Fool's Day, even though it has CLEARLY DECIDED TO SEND YOU ANYWHERE BUT THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
5) Ring the bridal shop ten minutes after you were due to arrive to tell them your sat nav says you will still be another half an hour, whilst stifling down the sobs.
6) Arrive at the shop 7 minutes later, because YOUR SAT NAV IS A F*@%ING LIAR.
7) Park the car and realise you've forgotten your damn shoes you need to try the dress on with.

Yup. Although after having burst through the door in a sweaty mess, the lovely ladies at Kylie J Bridal were very sympathetic and wonderful and fussed and cooed and were very excited for me when the dress fit and looked beautiful, and so all was not lost.

So, sshhhhhh.... no-one tell Jan what's hiding in the closet.....

Those may or may not be my recovery macaroons in the shot there.... Come on, a gal needs something after all of that!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Forging of the Rings

Cast your mind back, if you will, to that "design and technology" class you did at school, where you had to do metal work, but really all anyone ever wanted to do was play with the flamethrower at the back of the classroom that the teacher wouldn't let you near.  Now imagine the epic Lord of the Rings, as the One Ring To Rule Them All is pulled triumphant from the forging fires of Mount Doom by Sauron. Now combine those two images - and you have exactly what we did last Wednesday. Yes, indeed, we forged our own wedding rings, with fire and ineptitude*....

* actually Jan was pretty nifty with the tools. Me however....

We'd already had a consultation with the wonderful folks at Larsen Jewellery to decide on our rings. It was meant to last an hour, but, come on, this is us we're talking about! We were still there two hours later - Jan couldn't decide what metal he wanted OR which ring finger to use* and I couldn't decide on sparkly versus plain. Eventually the long-suffering staff said we could decide on the day, just please get out already.

* German tradition favours the right hand, as opposed to the left.

So last Wednesday, we arrived keen and ready to go - and still completely undecided on what we were going to opt for. Which didn't immediately matter as all we had to work with was this:

Note the giant hunk of platinum for Jan's ring, versus the, ahem, slightly more modest amount of white gold for my ring. Jan had decided he wanted an unusually wide ring*,  which even had the jeweller slightly worried, as she'd never made one that big before and warned us we would have to be careful as we rolled out the metal, as platinum is not so easy to manipulate as some other metals. But like the optimistic fools we are, we weren't going to let making a stupidly large ring out of difficult-to-work-with material stop us - we like a good challenge! So off we went!

*ooh er missus. Sorry, couldn't help it.

First, you put the metal bars through some bloody great rollers...

Ok, ok, Jan's hamming it up here - it's not really that difficult! Although his platinum did take a lot of squishing. After a few goes through the rollers the metal becomes hard and difficult to work with, so you have to anneal it, which basically means heating it up to release the pressure and make it more pliant again:

Then it's back to the roller for another round - then rinse and repeat until you have the width and length you require*:
* Hahahahaha. Sorry.

I think you can guess whose is whose.... Suffice to say, Jan's took about FOREVER to get to this stage and mine took about five minutes. Well, ok, maybe more than that, but still. We had to roll Jan's ring sideways as well as lengthways, use both a vice and a hammer to straighten it out and repeatedly anneal it to get the right dimensions. Basically, I'm calling Jan high maintenance here.

From this, mine was then cut in half, as there was more than enough metal for my tiny finger. Then it was time to get it into shape:

This is one of numerous photos where the look on my face is in a kind of, "Oh god, why are they letting me be responsible for this, I'm totally buggering up an expensive piece of metal here - and I have to wear it for the rest of my days, oh god, oh god, smile for the camera" expression. Naturally Jan got his ring into a lovely shape*, whilst mine had to be take away to the vice to be straightened out.

* Honestly, I am really fighting not to have this turn into an innuendo-laden mess, but... it's.. just... so...difficult...

After this, it was time to saw off any extraneous metal:

Then you finally have an actual ring! Well, a piece of metal in the shape of a ring anyway. The next big task is to solder the two ends together to join them. For this, you need highly specialised equipment:

Nothing to say about that. Moving on.

This is me soldering my ring. I got 'normal' glasses because my ring, being gold, didn't glow so brightly as Jan's when heated, so it wouldn't burn the retinas out of my head.

After a mere FOUR HOURS of work, you finally end up with this...

..coupled with a rather large sense of achievement. I made dis - all by my own self! And yes, now you can really see why Jan's took so damn long. IT'S HUGE! In fact it's so huge mine fits snugly inside his!

Now you have the basic shape, it's time to fancypants it up a bit. We start with the filing:

 Basically, it's sandpaper on an electronic stick.

Mine took forever to file, as I was basically terrified of letting the sandpaper touch the ring in case I inadvertently filed the whole thing apart*. Jan's took forever because... well... you know.

* This is IMPOSSIBLE. But still, it's me we're talking about here.

Next, if your nerves haven't been tested enough with all the responsibility of rolling, melting, bending and filing your ring, it's time for the real white-knuckle activity - the stamping. Although this time, my fear wasn't for damaging the ring. Rather it was for damaging the fingers of the poor, poor lady holding the stamp:

LOOK AT THE CONCENTRATION, PEOPLE! "Please God, let me hit the stamp, the stamp, please, let it be the stamp...."  My ring now proudly bears two stamps (one identifying the type of metal and one the stamp of the jeweller) and no-one broke anybody's anythings. Success!

Finally, it's time to bling the ring:

Putting the polish on was one of the most enjoyable parts for me - partly because this piece of drab-looking metal you have been working on all day slowly metamorphoses into a beautiful, shiny piece of precious metal before your eyes, but mainly because it was the one machine I could damn well operate.

And finally, after all the rolling, annealing, hammering, filing, soldering and polishing, you go from this:

To this:

Real shiny wedding rings that look like actual rings even though you made them yourself!

We were super pleased with the results and more than a little bit proud. Wedding rings are obviously of highly sentimental value anyway, but to make your own just feels that little extra bit special. And we had such a lovely, skilled and patient person helping us with each step, and lots of interest from everyone else in the workshop as to how we were going, that it made it for a really enjoyable and interesting day. Jan has decided to opt for the traditional German style of wearing the ring on his right finger, and I have opted to have a bit of bling on mine. So there you are! Wedding rings in 20,000 easy to follow steps!

And just to finish everything off on a high, the jewellers give you a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Which clearly, being people who just love to overstay our welcome, we drank until after the workshop shut!

Dear God, just get these people out of here already!

Many, many thanks to Larsen Jewellery for giving us such a special day. We truly enjoyed all of the experience and would highly recommend it.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Tropical Adventures, part 2

Alright, everyone, I think I have left you stewing over that cliffhanger from the last post for long enough. So strap in for part two of the Oates Family Adventures!

When we left off we had made it through high seas and terror to the tiny Heron Island, which is directly on the reef. This means (1) you can walk into the sea from the beach and immediately start snorkelling on the reef, (2) "the beach" is literally the whole island, and (3) it's rather pretty:

Hello tropical island!
So how, I hear you ask, did you lose your mother on such a ridiculously tiny island? Well...

Not wanting to waste our short time there, we went for a walk to the nearest beach and Jan and I decided to go snorkelling while mom and dad went for a longer walk. So off they went. Ten minutes later, my dad reappears asking if we've seen mom. He had nipped to the loo and then carried on walking but couldn't find her anywhere. We laughed at him - how could you lose someone on this tiny island?! Go and look again, silly daddy. 40 minutes later and he still can't find mom, and has enlisted the help of the staff to perform what must be the Guinness Book of Records tiniest hunt for a human ever. It's at times like this, however, that all those "interest" stories we cover on the TV at work start creeping into you head ("Woman abducted by merman! Sharks grow legs to eat people on land! Jurassic dinosaurs found on tiny island!) and you start to get a bit nervy. Ten minutes after that, the missing mother was found sitting peacefully on another beach wondering what on earth all the fuss is about. It turns out she hadn't heard dad saying he was going to the loo and thought she had just lost sight of him round a corner. So she merrily wended her way around the whole island, before realising what must have happened. She knows only too well the amazing propensity of my father to lose anything and everything (including an incident which involved throwing both rubbish and car keys together into the local tip) and so she had sat down to wait for him, before being "rescued' by a bemused staff member. On the return journey we overhead said member of staff saying it was "the most exciting thing that had happened all week". And that is the sort of thing we cheerfully chalk up as an Oates Family Adventure.

Having located my mother, we then set about trying to calm our nerves by feeding my dad a Margarita cocktail and laughing at the look on his face. Suffice to say he is not a fan. We stopped overnight on the island and had a lovely morning, with more snorkelling time, and a guided walk by mom showing us exactly where she had gone the previous day. Here is me doing my best Ursula Andress impression - or as dad likes to call her, "Ursula Undress".

Please also note the snorkel mask I am wearing. I have indeed inherited my father's genes - I had forgotten my contact lenses, without which snorkelling is an impossibility. Although they had masks with prescription lenses at the resort, my eyesight is so very bad that in the end Jan and the man in the shop had to stick two sets of lenses together with masking tape and then tape them into the mask for me to be able to see anything. It's a really classy look, let me tell you. Jan went scuba diving and maintains it is better than the more traditional barrier reef diving sites, as it's a mere ten minute boat trip and there are way more fish to see. He saw four sharks, turtles, a giant manta ray and a groper fish as well as all the multi-coloured smaller fish.

After a much less eventful return to the mainland, we were off to our next island destination - Fraser Island (K'gari is the Aboriginal name). It is an amazing island, made entirely of sand and yet still supporting a rainforest on it and a dingo population.

Look at the fluffy wuffy ickle doggy
Dingoes are controversial on the island as they have attacked and killed people in the past, since tourists did the wrong thing and fed them, so they became unafraid. Their population was culled almost to destruction, and they suffered greatly (one dingo was found starved, with nothing but a chocolate bar wrapper in his stomach) but they bounced back and the natural balance has been restored. Just don't get out of your jeep to pet them, or - as one rather foolish chef did - go onto the beach at night in the apron you've just finished cutting meat in. Doesn't work out well.

The best thing to do on Fraser Island is drive:
Ahhhh, the open road...
This is us with our tour group for the day. With a choice of all of the stunning views, dad picked outside the toilets for this:

The next best thing to do is swim - in "champagne" if possible. This "champagne" was in fact rather smelly seawater that splashes up behind you and into the rock pool, which has a jacuzzi effect:

What do you mean, look out behind you?!
And much fun we had, too. We also swam in a stream and a lake that consisted of rainwater. It was really really soft and pure.
Also, the shipwrecks here are quite pretty. This ship is slooowly sinking into the sand and the bit you can see is only the top deck:

We stopped overnight on Fraser Island, before heading back to the mainland and further down the coast to Noosa, which was a culture shock to say the least. After a week of being surrounded by the peace and beauty of nature (minus the odd screeching cockatoo), suddenly we were in a town full of designer shops, fancy cars and trendy parents. Yack.

We did manage to find a nice nature reserve and were rewarded with our first sighting of a koala in the wild! It was quite a spot, as we were informed only two lived in that area, and it was a pretty big area. But some intense staring at trees finally paid off:

A koala in the wild!
But then it was time to bid farewell to sunny Queensland. We had a fantastic trip, made lots of good memories and stayed in lots of wonderful places. It was great to spend some quality time with my parents and have some Antipodal Adventures with them too. But for now, it was back to the airport and down to Sydney (with some losses of passports thrown in for good measure, of course).