Saturday, 6 October 2012

You know you're in Australia when...

You know you're living in Australia when you have to buy Brut 33 anti-persiperent from the supermarket.

What's more, it actually smells quite nice - much nicer that when I last encountered it in my teens. Perhaps this has nothing to do with Australia at all. Could this simply the beginning of my second childhood?

Thursday, 27 September 2012


It must seem odd writing about Monday on a Thursday, but, all of a sudden, so little in life makes sense.

Monday 17 September:

One of the great things about life in Oz is getting to spend more quality time with my family; and whilst Monday mornings in our household would test the patience of Ma Walton, we do manage to send them off to school, hats on heads, and overloaded packs on backs without any reportable incident.

A quick journey, and I'm at work with a good ten minutes to spare. I then spent the next couple of hours praying for the phone to ring, just to break the tedium, whilst simultaneously compiling a mental list of everything that I failed to get round to doing over the weekend, whilst also checking my emails, and of course the football scores. Whilst so doing I chanced upon an article declaring Sydney to be the 17th more expensive city in the world, whereas dear old much maligned London Town was 10th. This disturbing statistic was based upon criteria such as housing costs and clothing. I would like to know how anyone around here can find accommodation for a mere $900 per month. But what I'd like even more is to have the $1900 that I apparently need each month to spend on my wardrobe.

Fast-forward a few hours. I doubt that I've done much more than 3 hours' real work (whatever that is), and I'm back home by 6pm. Just in time to spend some more quality time, coercing my kids into finishing off their homework and getting into bed without injuring each other.

Monday 24 September

It's School Holiday, so we decided to take a short flight to Melbourne, and spend a few days there. Now Melbourne was to our liking. A booming cafe culture, big shops selling familiar brands, museums, theatres, boulevards and trams. Just like a major European City in fact. I feel like a British tourist in Majorca, looking for his chips and beer. I've just crossed to the other side of the globe, and all that I want is what I've just left behind.

We spent our first day at St Kildas, and chilled-out hippyfied seaside resort. In spite of a mile-long golden beach, I'm apparently not allowed to call it a Beach. This is apparently because it does not boast any lethal-looking waves, nor posers on planks of wood. Anyway, regardless of its status, it's a great place to visit, and like Melbourne in general, is full of charming and friendly people. The rest of the time was spent exploring the City; and since there is little that I can usefully add to what is contained within any Guidebook, I shan't bother. Although the weather was much cooler than that to which we've now become accustomed, it was interesting to monitor our collective mood. We were all more relaxed, enthusiastic, and nicer to be around - probably. In fact, when it came to 'Going Home Time', A pleaded with me to find a job there. It's only a few months before the Australian Open Tennis, and then we have the British Lions Tour in June. It could happen.

Monday, 17 September 2012


The fallacy about the Aussies is that because they speak broadly the same as us, we expect them to be the same. That simply isn't fair, because we are 15,000 miles apart and have been brought up on entirely different experiences. Yes, their voices do go up at the end of sentences, and they do say, 'No Worries' and awful lot, but these are just nuances. And, after all, books have been written on the peculiar habits of the British. Yes, there are ruffians with dangerous looking dogs, as well as an unsavoury hooligan element. There are many who in England we may consider racist, when their voice their opinions on a handful of immigrants who have arrived illegally on boats. This does seem very strange in an underpopulated  land built on immigrants, and  brimming with the confidence of their enterprise. But, I have to ask myself, if I'd had the same experiences as them, would I have been any different? The answer is 'probably not'.

On a daily basis, the Aussies are patient polite and helpful. After the stresses of London life, they are a complete antedote, and I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that nothing is quite as important as I might think it is. Wherever they rush or not, everything functions and everything gets done.  They are generous with their time, and when they say 'No Worries', they genuinely mean it. Time to hit the beach and relax.


Friday, 14 September 2012


I'm not sure what I'd expected of a New South Wales winter, but I had thought that it would be reasonably fundamental that if you know it's going to get cold you do have some form of heating. I honestly don't believe that I'd been this cold since I was  a student with a single bar radiator as my only source of warmth. And everything is just as confused when the temperature rises. At the first signs of warmth on comes the air conditioning in the office, and we're back to those student days all over again.

Spring has a fairly constant dry warmth feel about it, interspersed with the odd downpour and fairly scary winds. Jen has convinced herself that this is as warm as it will get. It's in its low 20's. I've been here in the summer, so I know what to expect. I'm sure that I'll have plenty to say on the weather ovee the forthcoming months.

MISERY RATING:  :(  :(  :(

Thursday, 13 September 2012

ANIMALS:  We've all heard the horror stories about sharks, funnel-web spiders, the blueringed octopus and the positively terrifying box jellyfish, but the reality is much different. Every morning I am woken by kookaburas calling and go downstairs to see birds of paradise flaunting their beautiful feathers as they fly past my kitchen. And then, if we have time, we can walk down to the beach to watch the dolphins revelling their way  through the ocean. We have also seen kangeroos in the Bush, and recently a koala literally hanging around in a tree. The most unpleasant animal experience I have is with the flies that so assiduously harass me in the office foyer whenever I am waiting for the Lift. I concede that it will only take one confirmed shark-sighting or an over-developed arachnoid for this to change, but for the time-being, this is a Positive.


MONEY:  Now, here I do have a problem: there isn't enough of it to go round. The commentators say that the national economy is balanced on a knife edge. My personal finances are teetering on the head of a sheered needle, and I so often feel as if the Aussies have conspired to find ingenious new ways to make me pay. A classic example is their Health System, where there really is little alternative to private insurance. The effects of this, for me, are twofold. First of all, I lay awake at night, imagining ailments, in order to get my money's worth from the extortionate scheme that I have had to join. And next, it makes me so appreciative of the wonders of the British NHS.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

So now that I've pretty much brought things up to date, here are a few observations on Life down Under:

FOOD:  All food in Australia has something in common: it all tastes the bloomin' same. There is too much of it, and it tends to make one very fat very quickly. On the other hand, it is all local produce, and the prices do encourage one to plan ahead and pack some Tucker for one's lunch every day.

MISERY RATING (out of 5):    :( :( :(

CLOTHING:  The kindest thing that I can say about Aussie fashion is as little as possible. But when I start yearning for my own wardrobe to arrive, I remind myself that it contains at least one pair of cords, two pairs of loafers, and far too many cardigans. With this in mind, and since the Fashion here tends to evoke more Mirth than Misery, I'm going to award a very satisfactory



We love having our kids at the same school, and we love the sun hats that are compulsory. On the other hand, within a week of their starting, Jen began spying at kids at another school just because she thought that they may be more our sort of people. We also had to contend with the strangeness that defines which years they are in. A (10) is with kids some of whom are a year older and others who are more than a year younger; N (7) is just about right, whereas Z (5) is with kids more than a year older.The kids' names are also a source of amusement. Gone are the Ollies and Harrys, Sofias and Olivias that haunt London schools. In come the Jacksons, Mitchells, Halles and Harpers. Pure Class. And then we have the Language issue. This very day, Jen was taken to one side by  Z's teacher, and told that he had used inappropriate language. The expression he had used: 'Holy Mackerel'. My reaction to being told this:
'For %@$£s sake, get a @%%ing life'.

MISERY RATING:   :(  :(  :(

More to follow tomorrow

Monday, 10 September 2012

By the time I'd left Blighty, I'd picked up more commendations for my 'bravery' than the average World War I Tommy. And it was true that I'd given up quite a lot and was getting very little in return. Four weeks in, and the expenses were increasing, it was still cold, and away from the sea, everywhere resembled a run-down Midland town, albeit with trees lined with an incongrous combination of fir and palm trees. Our luggage wouldn't arrive for weeks, and I  was also getting rather perturbed at having to recycle the same suitcase of clothes. When in London I could always tell an Italian or Frenchman from their attire. Now that I was abroad I could kid myself that even though I only had 4 suits and one pair of work shoes, I was the most stylish guy in town.

At least the kids were settling in. Having overcome all of their protestations about a severely curtailed summer holiday, we had started them at school. One of the great things about children is that they are so adaptable. We had banked on two things with the school. First of all, it would be great and so un-London to have them all under the same roof. Next, their Englishness would guarantee them instant popularity. And I was right on both counts - just. When the teacher asked his class  how many Golds Australia had won at the Olympics, my eldest, A, aglow in the gilded light of the Brits' recent success, duly raised his hand and said 'Two'. But even such setbacks couldn't deter their inexorable rise to the top. Not only were they all very happy, but they all looked very smart. In fact, as smart as Pom office worker in his new-found Paradise.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Another problem:

Yesterday,we bought a pair of weighing scales; and in the short time that we've been here, I seem to have acquired an extra 10 kg. I thought my trousers were feeling a little tight. Everyone here does seem to eat a lot, and the quality of the food aint great. Of course, they also seem to take their exercise very seriously.

Over the past few weeks I've been eating like an Aussie, but exercisng like a Brit. I wonder where I've gone wrong....

Thursday, 6 September 2012

                                                              The Olympics

And so much for the Honeymoon Period.

I'm a chap who likes to be kept busy, and there really wasn't very much going on at work, I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing, and there was rarely anyone to ask for help. In spite of my best efforts, the end result was always the same: too much free time on my hands. Things weren't much better at home. We were looking at schools and cars, but there wasn't much else on offer for three lively young minds. I don't know how Jen managed to cope.

We were also finding it a very expensive place to live. Accommodation was dear; a can of coke was 4 times the price of back home, and a loaf of bread twice as much. Thankfully it's possible to buy a decent bottle of Aussie wine at a reasonable price, and we certainly made the most of that.

But everything changed on Saturday 28 July. After all those years of waiting, the London Olympics had finally arrived. Of course, the timing wasn't always good, but at least we had something to watch in the evenings, prompting the now immortal observation that 'There's nothing to do around here other than to drink wine and watch the Olympics'. And yes, I felt proud when I saw what a great show my countrymen had put on, and an intolerable smugness watching the over-hyped Aussies failing at virtually everything other than Kayaking -Kayaking, for God's sake- whilst Team GB racked up 29 Gold ones.

Things took an other turn when we all visited Sydney for the first time. It was cold and bustling, and so busy that we could hardly walk. Jen and the kids loved it. The boats were great, as was the Aquarium, where we could see sharks swimming over our heads. This, we all decided, was the place to be. And we've been back most weekends ever since.

One thing that I forgot to mention about the office is that nearly half the staff are called Linda, or something similar. We have a Lin, a Lindy, a Linda, and as if to prove that she is the boss, Belinda. In a way it's a good thing, because this dramatically reduces the chances of getting anyone's name wrong; and whilst I have nothing against the name, it does get a bit confusing after a while. Anyway, Boss Belinda is evidently no great fan of her State Capital. She seemed to recoil in horror when I mentioned that I'd been there, and enjoyed it. I'm still not sure whether this is provincial inverted snobbery, or whether she is paranoid that I'll be lured away by those bright harbour lights. She needn't have worried - not until the Olympics were over, at any rate.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


I'd been to Newcastle before, but not so the rest of the family, so it was with some trepidation that I watched them boarding a Happy Cabs People Carrier, that then flung us all all the way from sydney airport to our final destination. My wife, J was sitting at the front, me at the rear, which afforded me an excellent view of her facial expressions as she went from stony silence to jaw-dropping disbelief, as we closed in on our new temporary home. In fact her countenance pretty much mirrored my own, on my first day in the office, when told that since there was no men's Toilets, i would have to share with the ladies. More on that to follow.

No sooner were we unpacked than we were exploring the sites of Newcastle. The golden beaches aren't great when cold and the wind is up; and everywhere else had the feel of a run-down 1970's UK holiday resort, out of season. I soon discovered that there was a limit to how many times I could say, 'It's so much nicer when it's sunny' without sounding desperate. It was bleak, cold, dirty, and intimidating. Not at all how I remembered it from 6 months' earlier. But we were here now, and here we were going to have to stay.

I knew that J hated the place even before she finally voiced her opinions (approx 36 hrs post-flight), but I had to cling to the belief that once the sun came out (approx 3m post-flight), everything would be creamy-peachy. I took them to my favourite cafe, to the beach, and on occasions managed to lift the prevailing air of despondency to one of weary indifference. The nights were another matter: hysteria, floods of tears, and temper tantrums. And that was just me and my wife! To their credit, the three kids took things in their stride. To them it was just another cold poorly organised vacation. Those hard years of holidaying in the UK had evidently not been in vain.

Sleeping was a problem. The two boys were having to share a bed, and this contributed to the general sense of restlessness. Whilst I had jetlag, this was actually of some benefit. At least i was able to console J whenever she went into her nocturnal meltdown; and, whenever she threatened to pack her bags and head back to Blighty, use whatever means necessary in order to prevent her.

And then there was the work. 3 days after landing I embarked on the beginning of my glittering new career Down Under. I don't recall much about the first few hours, other than being introduced to a lot of people whose names and roles I instantly forgot. There was a short presentation in my honour, at which I somehow contrived to tell the same anecdote twice within the same short speech - and get it wrong both times. It was around now that Phil, the only other male in the office told me about the Toilet situation. he blithely assured me that he bumped into a lady in the loo 'Maybe once a month'. Well, Phil, mate, you must have a much larger bladder than me. I managed three in the first week.

My first week ended with a trip to Sydney by train. I'd already been warned about the trains, to the effect of, 'Look straight ahead, don't make eye contact with anyone, and whatever you do, don't use the toilets'. It's true that some of my fellow passengers weren't exactly Bill Bryson, but hey, I'm from Inner City London, and this was nothing to me. The greater problem is that it really shouldn't take 3 hrs + to complete a 100 mile journey. However, there were positives. En route I saw a kangeroo.  I got a quick glimpse of Sydney, and I got a lift back, over the magnificent Harbour Bridge. At last: bona fide evidence that I was definitely not in England.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Will the Pom: So, here I am. 7 weeks away from Blighty, living i...

Will the Pom: So, here I am. 7 weeks away from Blighty, living i...: So, here I am. 7 weeks away from Blighty, living in NSW, surrounded by the sea and sand, with the weather getting warmer every day. It sound...
So, here I am. 7 weeks away from Blighty, living in NSW, surrounded by the sea and sand, with the weather getting warmer every day. It sounds idylic. So, why am I so blooming miserable? Ah, well there's the thing.

I will attempt to explain exactly what is going on in the lives of me and my dearest.  I work in a profession not known for its honesty, and will try to temper my candour with a genuine wish not to hurt anybody's feelings. I will try to keep it interesting, and who knows, maybe even a little amusing. If anyone does feel moved to comment on anything I say, that would be great.

Happy blogging, one and all!