Thursday, 7 December 2006

Old News - Newsletter December 2006

I’m back again after a fabulous month-long holiday, travelling around Oz with my mum (and Milord here and there).

I’ve attached a map of Oz, with numbering for your reference ;-).

Mom arrived at the crack of dawn on Dec first, and after a shower and champagne brunch we took her out for the famous Black@dder introductory tour of Sydney (1). This involves a stroll through Balmain to the ferry stop, a ferry ride under the Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House to Circular Quay, then a walk along the water past the Opera House (with pub stop) and Botanical Gardens to Lady Macquarie’s Chair viewpoint and Woolloomooloo (another pub stop). Then a leisurely walk through the middle of town to the Darling Harbour waterfront and a late lunch overlooking the water, then a taxi ride home. Then more wine sitting in the garden…We managed to keep mum up til 9pm, which is pretty good going, and she says she slept quite well til 3am… We have a lot of big crow-like birds here called magpies (which tootle) and carawongs (which have a moaning caw) that like to congregate in the garden at daybreak… mum didn’t appreciate that one bit although she got used to it by the end!

The next couple of days encompassed the Aquarium, Fish Markets, Sydney Museum, various lunches and barbeques, and culminated in a belated birthday dinner for mum in the lovely Café Sydney which is on the fifth floor of the old Customs House overlooking the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, lit up at night.

On Sat the 4th mum and I flew to Tasmania and drove to the Cradle Mountain National Park (2), which is lovely and rugged. It reminded us a lot of Scotland in fact, and even snowed to reinforce the impression! We stayed in a lovely little cottage with a huge gas fire, so had a pleasant place to warm up and dry off in after going walking during the day ;-). We spotted wombats grazing, and also spent a bit of time at a Tasmanian Devil info center and got to stroke one… turns out the ravening beast image is not true at all, they’re really shy and only eat dead things. They’re about the size of a staffi, with heavy neck and shoulders, very interesting. We also saw a few wallabies, one of which kept turning up on our porch hoping to be fed!

After 4 nights on Tasmania we flew to Melbourne, and drove due west a couple of hours to the coast, then spent the next two days driving east along the Great Ocean Road (3), which is stunning. Cliffs, rock formations in the surf, winding roads through mountain passes, rainforest and rolling green hills dropping down to holiday villages on white sandy beaches. We also saw koalas perched in gum trees munching on leaves, completely unfazed by us underneath! We reached Melbourne (4) on Friday night, had a really blustery walk along the beachfront near kite-surfers while looking for a sheltered pub and ended up in a very funky backstreet bohemian area called St Kilda out of the wind watching the weird world go by ;-).

Back to Sydney on the Saturday, and Milord and I went to the U2 concert that night, which was as well done as ever, although they’re getting rather too political these days for my taste and kept losing the momentum. On the Sunday Milord took us flying in a little 4-seater plane over the Blue Mountains, then along the coast past Manly Beach and the Heads, and we were able to fly up the harbour and do a few circles near the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, which was fantastic! Our neighbours threw an impromptu barbeque that night and invited us, which was very pleasant. The neighbourhood possum also made an appearance, walking along the tops of the fences!

Milord decided he fancied coming with us to the Hunter Valley (5), so we did a bit of sightseeing on Monday waiting for him to finish work, then travelled there in the evening. We stayed in his (and his ex’s) golf apartment, which is pleasant and quite central. It needs a bit of TLC though, so on Tuesday mum and I had a bask by the pool while Milord shopped for paint etc, then we all mucked in and gave the place a slight makeover. Most of the effort happened on the balcony, with pressure hoses, paint and furniture oil in full flight. Inside we had a spring clean and touched up paintwork – it all looked far better in the end although we were all covered in paint! It’s been on the market for over a year so hopefully this will help. On Wednesday Milord volunteered to be chauffer and tour guide, and we had an excellent wine tour and lunch in the region. Everyone is so friendly, and being out of season we could have a good chat with the staff and try everything ;-). We also spotted a couple of galahs (big pink parrots) in a tree at the golf course.

On Thursday the 16th we all travelled to the Blue Mountains (6) via the scenic, windy back roads, and checked into a somewhat scruffy and grubby but very cheap cottage in Blackheath. Not Milord’s style at all, but he wasn’t supposed to be along on that leg of the trip so I hadn’t allowed for his sensibilities! Then a quick sightsee to the nearest gorge, before heading home to play with the log stove which made it all warm and homely.

Friday morning early Milord headed back to Sydney on the train to go to a birthday lunch/dinner/boozeup, and mum and I went for a glorious scenic walk along cliffs at Katoomba overlooking a vast gorge where we could see flocks of cockatoos flying through the trees below. We walked to where there used to be coal mines, and travelled to the valley floor on a thrilling almost vertical railway that used to carry ore to the top. We had very interesting roam around in the forest and saw a rare lyre-bird, then took a cable car back and walked back to the car. After a late lunch we went exploring in a vast rhododendron garden … being so high up it stays pretty cold in spring and they were just finishing, but we could still enjoy acres of colour.

On the Saturday morning Milord came back very hungover on the train, and after a fry up we headed off for the Gardens of Stone national park which I’d read about somewhere. We’d hoped to go walking but couldn’t find any trails so Milord ended up doing an extremely exciting impromptu 4x4 drive through some fantastic scenery. It’s the first time we’ve tested the car (big 4wd Lexus) off-road and we were pleasantly surprised! We were in the bush for hours, and it was fascinating to see the GPS showing us meandering around in uncharted territory… Then back to the cottage for a jug or two of g&t and a roast dinner.

Sunday was a slow start, with the smell of ash from the back-burning around a nearby bushfire that had been raging for nearly a week. The clouds of smoke over the ridge were truly ominous! We went out to do a walk along the nearby gorge, only to find it completely filled with smoke… we decided to head home to Sydney instead and had a quiet night in. I later heard that the fire jumped the back burning and entered the gorge, which is a shame.

On Monday 20th we did a bit of sightseeing and shopping for dive gear, then joined Milord for lunch before going home to pack.

On Tuesday we flew to Uluru (Ayers Rock) (7), got picked up by a “safari” outfit along with 12 others and headed off to the rock. It was very hot, about 45 deg, so we just did a gentle walk around the base before heading off to watch the sunset change the colours of Uluru. Turns out I’d found a rather, ahem, budget outfit, so we got to watch other tour groups sipping champagne from crystal while the 14 of us shared 2 bottles in scruffy plastic mugs! That kind of set the tone for the rest of the evening (rather blah dinner and no booze to be had), although we had the bonus of our own tent/hut with light and fan when most of the group bunked down in dark dorms. We were the only English speakers in our group, then rest being mostly young Germans and a couple of Japanese – pleasant enough but we didn’t exactly click!

The next day we woke before dawn and set off to watch the sun rise over Uluru and the Olgas (a nearby mountain outcrop sort of similar). We did a walk in the Olgas, through amazing deep red mountains and rock outcroppings. It was hot at 8am, and by late morning when we left the safari and checked into our room in the resort it was scorching! We gratefully collapsed in our en-suite air-conditioned room with a bottle of cold wine and two fresh fruit salads and had a much needed nap, before going to sit in the shade beside a very welcome swimming pool for the rest of the afternoon.

On Thursday we lazed around the resort until midday when we flew to Sydney airport, met Milord and flew immediately to Brisbane (8) to spend the night with his mum, Rita. She is in the middle of a chemo course so was very ill, but managed to stay up quite late chatting to us, and our mums were pleased to have met each other.

Friday we flew to Townsville (9), near Cairns, and spent the afternoon in a pub/restaurant on the beachfront. It was so pleasant there that we had lunch, stayed for more drinks, and when the kitchen reopened we had dinner there too! Then boarded our dive boat and headed off to sea… It’s a somewhat slow boat so took 8 hours to get to the first mooring, through some rather heavy chop and swell. Mum gets seasick, so had dosed herself up for days to deal with it, but lying down in the corkscrewing dark was all too much and she ended up bent over the rail in the darkness with waves breaking over the deck for all 8 hours! When I found her in the morning it was all she could do to sip a glass of water, and she skipped the first dive of the day and instead had a bit of a snorkel.

Luckily the weather and waves were kind from then on, and mum recovered enough to get her appetite back and join us on the rest of the dives. It is definitely the best diving I have done in Australia, reasonable visibility and lots to see. We also did a night dive, which was not as creepy as I expected, and also not as interesting as most of the fish are asleep! Our final two dives were on the wreck of the Yongala, which has been in 25m of water since 1911 and is so overgrown with coral that she looks like a wreck-shaped reef! It’s an excellent site and we’d like to go back, but maybe on a faster boat for a daytrip ;-). We had a nice crowd of 10 other divers with us, from Sweden, America, Oz and England, and the crew were excellent. A bit no-frills, but I can certainly recommend them!

We spent a glorious night back on dry land in big beds that don’t rock with en-suite and air-con in Townsville on Monday night, and flew back to Sydney on Tuesday 28th where we collapsed.

The last few days were very relaxed as we were all exhausted. Poor Milord had to go back to work, and mum and I did some gentle sightseeing for the last couple of days including climbing up one of the Harbour Bridge pylons for amazing views. We had a mob of people over on Thursday night for a barbie to meet the parent ;-), and mum flew home on Friday night.

We are all now back at work trying to get back into routine, and trying to shift the sneaky holiday kilos that crept on! Not easy in December!

Hmm what else? For Xmas we’re going to Brisbane to spend it with Milord’s mum and family as she’s not doing very well. We’ll be back for New Years though – my first hot one in about 8 years – can’t wait!

Work-wise I’m still at Readers Digest, and have been contracted to stay on til June. I am also in the process of applying for a full migration visa, as I now have enough points because they changed the classification of my skills! That will be great to get as then I’ll be free to work for whomever I like instead of just the agency who hold my current visa. All going well I should get it next May/June…

Apart from that I’m counting down to our trip to SA in March. We’re coming over to CT, Gauteng and the Kruger for 2 weeks – a bit fleeting but we can’t take much more time off and still holiday again in the year.

That’s it! Well done if you read this far ;-)

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Old News - Newsletter November 2006

Just a v quick note to say I haven't dropped off the planet... I'm on holiday for the whole of November! My mum is over for the whole month, so we have been sightseeing and travelling since the 1st.

So far we've done lots of Sydney, 4 nights in Tasmania and 3 nights doing the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Had this weekend at home, and tonight off to the Hunter Valley wine region, then the Blue Mountains for the week. Milord is coming with us this week as he didn't like being left at home last week!

All is going really well and we're having a ball ;-)

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Old News - Newsletter August 2006

We got back on Saturday after a glorious week sailing in the Whitsundays... what a fabulous time we had! Turquoise sea, white sand and green islands. Not too hot, not too cold, amazing snorkeling, ok scuba and not a single argument ;-).

We had an entire 40ft boat to ourselves (sleeps 6), so Milord and I had a cabin each for clothes dumping, and used the main one for sleeping. Two loos, a decent galley, and more than enough space once we got used to the dimensions and stopped walking into things (I am still covered in bruises!).

We did a couple of days of good sailing (up to 9 knots once), but for the rest of the time it was not very windy and we motored around which is very civilized (trying to drink a glass of wine at a 45 deg slant is not easy).

We moored in sheltered bays overnight, and had some awesome sunsets. Asleep by 9 most nights so up to watch amazing sunrises with a coffee shortly followed by fruit salad and champagne...

We got the charter company to provision the boat with a set package, which was interesting. Felt like a contestant on "Ready steady cook" for a lot of the time! Neither of us are into sweets, so we were left with a whole cheesecake and fruitcake by the last day, but had finished the nuts and crisps halfway through the trip! Probably a good thing as we didn't gain nearly as much weight as we could have!

We picnicked on the famous 5 mile long pure white Whitehaven beach, but apart from swimming ashore once to walk to a snorkeling site we didn't touch land again for 5 days.

I absolutely loved it, and we are already talking of going again next year. Maybe a couple of weeks later in the year when it is warmer, and next time we fancy trying a catermaran ;-).

Flippin expensive, but totally worth it! It was surprisingly tiring too - I don't think we slept very well on the boat at all - we have been doing not much apart from sleep since we got back. Oh, a huge bed which doesn't rock and creak, what a sweet pleasure!

Old News - Newsletter August 2006

7 months here now – I took Milord out last night to celebrate and am feeling a tad fragile today ;-). It’s going to be a long week!

It’s going to be an especially long week actually, as we are off on holiday on Saturday and I can’t wait! The plan was to go skiing with mates for a week, but they’ve been a bit distracted and the snow just isn’t good, so Milord and I have decided to go sailing around the Whitsunday Islands a few hours flight north instead! It’s going to cost double (don’t even ask!) but sounds worth it ;-).

We are chartering a fully catered 40ft yacht for 5 nights for just the two of us, and will be setting our own itinerary around tropical islands with white sand beaches and coral reefs. We can stop pretty much anywhere at night, and we are planning snorkelling, beach walking and lying in the sun with champagne! We’ll be taking our dive gear too as there are a couple of good sites along the way… Oh it’s a hard life!

Apart from that the past month has not been very exciting. We’ve been very busy, but literally nothing to write home about! Far too much domestic stuff sorting out the shed and garden, helping friends move, dinners out and at home… Milord’s been off to Brisbane a few times to see his mum, who’s doing as well as can be expected.

I’ve watched a bit of rugby wearing my new SA supporter’s jersey… You’ll be thrilled to know I was the only greenie in a sea of gold at my local pub the night we lost 49-nil. I had to leopard crawl out of the back door and home afterwards! Last weekend Milord and I went to the SA v Aus game, which was much less embarrassing. I’ve got to download the words to our anthem sometime though, as I just can’t remember it!

We went to an AFL (Aussie Rules) game a few weeks ago too. I didn’t quite get into it for various reasons, so we’re going to have to try it again sometime. Milord and I actually skipped the final quarter (the game goes on for over 2 hours which was a bit much!) and wandered off looking for a pub instead…

Um, that’s about it. I’ll send out a proper jealous making one of crystal sea and sparkling sand soon to make up for it ;-)

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Old News - Newsletter June 2006

Gee time flies! I’ve been here almost 6 months and it’s whizzing by.

Milord and I are doing very well. We are now finally entering the “honeymoon period”. It’s taken some getting to, but he’s had a lot of baggage to work through (me too I guess!). Kinda the reverse of the usual relationship pattern, but I’m hoping this means the lovey dovey part will be so much better as it’s built on a strong foundation!

It’s winter at this end of the world, and surprisingly chilly. Although Sydney is on the same latitude as Cape Town, it is not surrounded by sea to keep the temperatures moderate so gets quite a bit colder (and hotter in summer). On the up side there are no storms to contend with! It’s been getting close to zero on the clear nights lately, although still reaching the mid teens during the day. I have had to dig out gloves and scarf for the morning bus wait. Luckily Milord hates being cold too, so our house is nice and cosy to come home to at night.

The house is a complete shambles at the moment though. The landlord has got painters in, so it is total chaos with furniture moved and drop cloths everywhere. They are repairing the ceiling where damp caused peeling, and also giving the rest of the place a lick of paint. Should be nice when it’s done, but in the meantime we can hardly bear to be home with the mess and the smell! Our smoke alarm was going crazy last night until we took the battery out, so heaven knows what we’re breathing. The cat is sulking about it too.

On top of that we are in the middle of erecting a shed in the back yard, so that looks like a bomb has hit it and there is dirt tracked everywhere. What should have taken 2 days to do looks to be taking 4 now and costing double… We miscalculated the size of the (huge) shed we ordered so preparing the foundation took ages, and Milord measured the old slabs incorrectly so we can’t actually use them and need to buy more, and we had to tear down the back fence to get at things (it’s being replaced anyway, luckily), and the garden has more of a slope than we thought so there was heaps of digging to do and now we have a mound of dirt we have to do something with, and and and… Luckily we both have a good sense of humour, and the friends who came over to help say this is the norm for a Milord project and find it funny too ;-). We all worked until dark last Saturday and Sunday, and now we have 80% of the foundation laid and the shed frame erected. Another fun weekend coming up!

I broke a tooth last week. I have had a cracked molar for years, but the dentists always reckoned it would last a bit longer.. Well, it’s been really bothering me over the last month, so I made an appointment to see someone about it. Two days later, on a Friday night, Milord and I were having a quick pub meal after work before going to a movie, and I suddenly had a chunk of tooth gone. It was unbearably uncomfortable, and I had visions of having to cope for an entire weekend when I suddenly remembered that there was a medical centre over the road. We popped in and the dentist actually had a free appointment and was able to patch me up - great luck. The temporary fix is rough and lumpy and bugs me, but I can live with it for a couple of weeks until the crown is ready. It’s costing $900 (that’s R5000 or GBP350). Oh well, had to happen some time.

What else have we been up to?

We went away for a diving weekend last month to Jervis Bay. It’s a lovely area, lots of tiny villages and white sandy beaches with a holiday town feel. We did a couple of ok dives, but I have decided that I’m not diving in winter again. My wetsuit is pretty good, but I found I was chilly on the boat, then cold under water, then very cold on the boat and then freezing underwater! I never got a chance to warm up and simply got colder and colder. Milord was laughing at me that night as I huddled shivering next to the fire in all my layers while he was overheating.

We’ve been to the Hunter Valley for a golf competition weekend again too. This time we stayed in the apartment Milord and his ex own in the golf resort. They’re trying to sell it but the market is dead. It’s very nice, bright and airy, and I spent the days curled up in the sun reading, then meeting him in the bar in the afternoon. On the Saturday night there was a function that we went along to, and we tried out some of our dance steps. I’ve managed to talk Milord into going for Jive lessons with me, and we have now been to 3. He’s picked it up very easily although he still finds things a bit frustrating. After far too much wine I started showing him a few dips and drops which got hysterically funny as he couldn’t get the hang of one lean and I found myself on the floor with him fallen on top of me. Several times! (Hey K, remember the side lean, cross body lean, full drop move? It goes very wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing!)

Hmm what else?

My boxes from the UK have finally arrived, so I now have my clothes and pictures and various bits with me. I think Milord was expecting an awful lot more to arrive, as everything simply absorbed into his house before he got home on the delivery day ;-). He’d been talking about putting my stuff into storage and I kept saying there wasn’t that much on its way! It is nice to have my things here now though, it is starting to feel like my home too. I am now inflicting all my photo albums on him a couple at a time ;-). We’ve got as far as me leaving SA in 1999…

I’ve been to my first rugby game ever! We went to Aus v England the other day and I really enjoyed it. We will be going to Aus v SA in a few weeks time, and I’ve asked my Dad to send me a SA supporter’s jersey so I’ll be a greenie in a sea of gold ;-). Should be fun.

On the subject of sport we’re all a bit sad to be out of the soccer world cup. It’s the first time Aus has qualified since 1967 or something, and we got quite excited when we made it out of our pool. Of course with the time difference all the games are on after midnight so I didn’t actually watch any (Milord did though). I was going to make the effort if we got to the semis…

Milord’s mum is very ill. She now has lung cancer in both lungs and is undergoing chemo again. They reckon they can stop it, but not cure it, so she may not be around for much longer. Milord’s very upset, and he’s flying to Brisbane every few weeks to spend time with her. It is a very hard time for all of them and I feel completely helpless.

I’m still in the same job. My contract is currently extended to the end of July, and will possibly extend longer. I just need it to go to mid September and then I can apply for the full visa, so hold thumbs! Ideally I’d like to stay on til the end of October, as I’m going travelling with my Mom for the whole of November. Can’t wait!

That’s about it. We’re very busy as usual, and next month looks to be hectic again. Never a dull moment ;-).

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Old News - Newletter May 2006

I’m still having a good time here and settling in slowly. It’s not quite “home” yet, but that might only happen when we are living in a place of our own and I can put down roots. Milord went away with the boys for a golf weekend a few weeks ago, and I realised that I really don’t like the house without him in it! Not lonely exactly, just not comfortable and very restless. Some days I really miss my little house in Thatcham ;-). We’re planning to buy something small early next year, so I’ll just have to hang in there until then.

Work is going well. I’ve been extended to the end of June, and I expect them to keep me on longer too as their final deadline is only September and we have loads still to do. I hope so, as it's a super team and a very convenient location! June is the end of the financial year, so once they get their new budget I guess I’ll know what’s happening.

Hey - great news - I've realised that once I've been working over here for 6 months I can apply for the full-on immigration visa as I’ll gain enough points (before I'm 35 next year though when I lose some again, so a small window) and then I don't have to think about it ever again. No having to find a company to sponsor me, or hoping Milord will propose (!!!). Then I'll be on track for perm residency and citizenship and all that... passport 3 here I come ;-).

The relationship with Milord takes plenty of work, but it's definitely worth it (funnily enough he says the same thing). After 4 months we're still happy together and talking about the future, so that's a very good sign. His snoring and apnoea is a major issue in our lives, but he did a sleep clinic and has now been referred to a surgeon for treatment, so things are happening… Occasionally I manage a decent night’s sleep in spite of it and Milord says I am a different person when I do! I can’t wait for it to be the norm rather than the exception! He does spoil me outrageously though – he makes my packed lunch most days, when he could have an extra half hours sleep instead!

What else have I been up to…

We went away for Easter to Lady Elliot Island at the bottom of the Barrier Reef and it was lovely. Still not Sharm, but certainly the best diving either of us has had in Aus. The resort is super eco friendly, so a bit rustic, but that’s ok. It’s a bird and marine sanctuary so the critters have the run of the place and are very cheeky. Lots of turtles and rays, and a couple of sharks (luckily more scared of us than we were of them). It’s a coral cay, so lots and lots of great coral formations.

Speaking of diving, next weekend we are going away to Jervis Bay (2 hours south) to go diving. Could be freezing, as we’re almost to mid winter now, but I hope I’ll be ok. Milord bought me dive gloves and a thin thermal top to wear under my wetsuit, which will make a difference. We’re hiring a gorgeous apartment with spa bath, gas fire, and large windows looking out over the sea, so thawing out is definitely going to be good ;-).

It’s quite nippy here now - down to below 10 every night, and of course the houses are designed to let heat out! (Plus ours has windows that don’t close). I can’t wait for my boxes with my winter wardrobe to arrive (should be next week) as I have 1 jacket, 1 fleece and one jumper in rotation! I miss my boots too. I haven’t needed gloves or scarf yet, although I see the locals quite bundled up – that’ll be me next year…

Did I tell you Milord has a light plane licence which he's just renewed? He took me flying the weekend before last - all along the coast past the Sydney harbour entrance and over Manly and Bondi. It was gorgeous, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We are talking about flying over the Blue Mountains next time, should be very cool.

Apart from that, lots of lunches, pubbing and dinner parties – we went to a Bollywood themed one the other day and I’ll send along a picture ;-). Life is pretty amazing – Sydney is almost a blend of London and Cape Town, the best of both ;-). Every now and then Milord and I meet up in the Fish Market on a weekday for lunch and share a kilo of prawns and a bottle of wine looking out over the harbour… it doesn’t get much better!

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Old News - Newletters April 2006

I can’t believe it’s been a month already!

Life is pretty crazy over here, we’ve been very busy. Milord’s birthday was yesterday, so there have been things on for that – we hosted a bbq on Sunday for around 20 people. It went well although I seemed to be running around making salad and tidying etc far too much (I miss having other girlies to help – it doesn’t seem an Aussie thing to come over early to pitch in. And people don’t bring anything except booze so you have to make 5 salads not just one). Probably a good thing as I didn’t get much of a chance to eat or drink, and I woke feeling much (much) better than Milord in the morning!

Last night I took Milord out for drinks in the rather posh 36th floor cocktail lounge of the Shangri La hotel which overlooks Sydney harbour. The view is amazing, and we had a wonderful sunset. Then I surprised him with a night in another hotel where our room overlooked the harbour bridge and we stayed in and had room service and a candlelit bath. This morning we had a champagne breakfast in our room watching the ferries come and go in the sunshine, and it was glorious. Not cheap, but very good.

The weekend before last we went away to the Blue Mountains just for a break from domestic life. We hired a wood cabin in a very remote location, and were completely out of phone signal and could relax with no distractions. Big weekend papers, a simmering log stove indoors (it was very chilly in the mountains!), and wine in the sunshine on the veranda overlooking the valley – just what we needed. When we are at home there is always something that needs doing, but there we could shelve all that and simply enjoy. On the Sunday we did go for a good hard walk down and up the hill and along the valley, so did do some exercise too!

For Easter we’re off to Lady Elliot Island, which is right at the southern end of the Barrier Reef. It is a sanctuary so quite basic, but we plan to spend as much time as possible under water so that’s ok! We fly out tomorrow and get back on Monday. I haven’t had a good dive since Egypt, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Work is going very well. I work with a nice bunch of people, the managers know what they are doing, and we are working hard enough that the days fly but we’re not killing ourselves (yet). If you’re interested I’m working on a new Call Centre web app for Readers Digest, replacing about 10 disparate ancient systems. We’re using C# and, and I am learning a lot. It’s a good job. My current contract is 3 months, but I wouldn’t be surprised to be kept on for most of the year.

It is certainly nice to be earning again as my UK account is now empty!

Milord and I go from strength to strength, we are really starting to settle down now that we have a bit of routine. He still spoils me rotten though, and I’m loving it. A bloke who still treats me like a princess after 3 months – this is definitely worth crossing the planet for!

Autumn is here now, and I’m missing my winter wardrobe. I had to dash out for jackets and jerseys and closed shoes the other day when we had a cold spell, and we have the duvet back on the bed and a heater in the lounge. In spite of the temperature drop the weather is the best it’s been so far – clear sunny days with little humidity. My hair has finally stopped going curly and is back to the style I used to have!

As with all these things the “Bridget Jones equation” is in full force (that’s the one that says you can never be happy at work, in love, and thin at the same time). I have gained around 5kg+ since moving here and the clothes are all a bit tight! I dread getting into a bikini tomorrow…

But if that’s the worst of my worries I’ll take it!

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Old News - Newletter March 2006

Thanks for all the birthday wishes, I feel really spoiled ;-).

The best news is that my visa has been approved, so now I can stay and work for the next two years (extendable) - legal at last! The news came through on Friday, so a fab birthday present for me! I celebrated with a quick shopping spree for work clothes ;-).

I've had a great birthday. On Thursday I went for drinks 35 stories above Sydney Harbour, followed by dinner at a Tepinyaki restaurant (that's where you sit around a big hotplate and a Japanese chef cooks in front of you).

Friday was just a low-key drinks and dinner with friends, as Milord felt he'd organised enough ;-). He gave me the most stunning silver Tiffany starfish necklace with a diamond in it, so I can't complain! My first diamond ever... cool!

Yesterday we went sailing on a friend's boat. A new experience for me and not nearly as glamorous as I was expecting - very cramped with lots of ducking of flying ropes and winches - but certainly interesting. The weather was stunning, and sailing gently past the Opera House and Harbour Bridge is not to be sneezed at.

Today Milord and I were thinking of going diving, but as I have managed to leave my bag with wallet and phone aboard the boat it sounds like we'll be swimming out to the mooring instead!

I start work tomorrow, so hold thumbs for me ;-).

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Old News - Newsletter March 2006

Firstly, I have landed a job! The visa is now processing and I should start work sometime next week we hope. It is in downtown Sydney, and as luck would have it there is a bus which goes just about door to door in half an hour ;-). I'm doing stuff, fleshing out a system which has been built to prototype by consultants, and now they're using cheaper contractors to finish it. Not great money to start with, but a foot in the door and my next contract should be far easier to get. I'll be working on the call center webapp for Readers Digest - cool eh?

What else? Weekend before last Milord and I went off to Brisbane for a couple of nights - mainly for his work, but also for me to meet the family. It was his mum's birthday so the entire bunch were there... 2 Elderly aunts, his sister and 2 nieces. They're all really petite, don't know where Milord get's his size from! Apparently his dad was a learge man. Luckily they are all very nice and think I am too, so it went well. His mum is a lot older then I'm used to in inlaws (76) so I had a bit of trouble relating, but we entertained each other on Monday while Milord worked and I have a standing invite to come back at any time!

I think I caught a cold on the plane back, and have been sick as a parrot since last Wednesday. How I managed to perform in the interview on Friday I will never know as I was completely drugged up and fuzzy, but I guess they're not too fussy! I am now keeping Milord up half the night with coughing, and feeling very little guilt as he usually snores fit to rattle the windows! He's booked in for a sleep clinic next week to see if anything can be done about it...

This past weekend we went to the Hunter Valley for a golf competition and stayed with friends. We went to functions at the clubhouse Friday and Saturday nights, and Milord played during the days. I fiddled about wine tasting and exploring the local "town" on Saturday - to call it a one-horse town would be kind! Reminded me of those desperate karoo towns between CT and JHB. Oh - I found someone to ceroc with on Sat night! The style is a little different to what I am used to, but pretty much the same and still fun ;-). My new dress flares beautifully! On Sunday I joined Milord to walk the course and watch. Things sure have changed from when I used accompany my student mates for a hack around some scrubby course with a six pack! We had golf buggies, there were complimentary hotdogs, snacks and softdrinks all the way around, and occasionally a bigger buggy of beer would tootle by. A style I could become accostomed to!

It is our second "montheversary" today, and we are still going strong - better every day. Milord's divorce has now finalised which is a nice birthday present for me!

It's my birthday on Friday, and we have a couple of things planned. Thursday night we are meeting some friends at the top of the Shangri La hotel which is 20+ stories high and overlooks the harbour, then we are all going for dinner. Friday is a secret apparently... :-o. Saturday we are going sailing on a friends boat with a few mates. L is over from Auckland and will be coming along too which is fab.

So, things could not be any better! Even the weather has been perfect this week - hot and sunny ;-).

Monday, 20 February 2006

Old News - Newsletter February 2006

So, six weeks in Sydney now:
Milord and I are still getting on well.
I’ve been for one interview but didn’t get it.
Life is still good ;-)

And… it keeps raining! Who said this place is hot and dry? It’s a myth – I’ve seen more rain in the past six weeks than we had in the entire English summer. We have the odd hot dry day, but the rest of the time it is overcast and drizzly. They tell me to enjoy it while it lasts, but it’s affecting my beach-time! I’d be on Bondi right now, not writing emails, if it was a nice day!

The job hunting is very slow – although there are a few jobs going my visa status puts me at the bottom of the pile. Because sponsorship would take 3+ weeks, and everyone wants someone to start “tomorrow”, I’m not getting much interest. There is one possible nibble at the moment, so I’ll keep you posted! I had an interview just over a week ago, but it was in an area I don’t want to work in, and didn’t really go all that well anyway (over in 10 min – not a good sign!). I keep reminding myself that I’ve only been looking for two weeks and that it took me 3 months to land my first London role… Don’t panic!

Getting a little bored with being alone during the day now… sightseeing is not nearly the same on your own. I meet Milord for lunch a couple of times a week and do the odd exploration to stay sane, but I could do with a job – or a girlfriend to hang out with!

The house is completely rearranged cleaned and tidied, and I am now very comfortable in it. I’ve been doing a bit of gardening too and we moved all the containers around a week or two ago, so that occupied me for a couple of days. Milord has flowers growing outside now, which he grumbles about but I think might secretly like! Anyone who saw my garden last summer will know I like a riot of colour, so I’m slowly sneaking flowers into the shrubbery ;-). We also now have a herb garden which is fun. I used our own chives in the scrambled eggs on Sunday!

Milord is looking after me very nicely. For Valentine’s he took me out to a restaurant called Café Sydney, which overlooks the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It was fabulous! Apart from that he generally spoils me and treats me like a princess, which I could definitely get used to! He is avoiding any “future” discussions until he gets to know me better, which is probably sensible… but frustrating! I sometimes feel like I’m on an indefinite probation period! He has some emotional baggage from his horrible marriage to work out, but I’m hoping that when the divorce comes through (in about a month) he’ll be able to move on and do the commitment thing. Or at least stop looking at me like I’m about to grow snakes for hair! He’s the best boyfriend I’ve ever had so I really shouldn’t complain - I’d probably run a mile if he suddenly got serious :-p.

What else? I’ve done some exploring, and got terribly lost trying to drive from home to Manly beach. I ended up circling the eastern suburbs of central Sydney for a while, which is utterly in the wrong direction! Turns out the SatNav doesn’t know about one of the newer tunnels under the city so accidentally sent me into it… and sometimes the GPS gets confused and thinks I am 2 blocks away from where I actually am and tries to take me the wrong way down one way streets! I am reverting to paper maps!

Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Old News - Newletter January 2006

Greetings all from Sydney!

This is going to be long, so the summary is:
Milord and I are getting on well.
I have not been for any interviews yet.
Life is good ;-).

I have been here more than three weeks now, and I love it. I haven’t been in much contact because every time I sit down at the pc during the day I get distracted, and in the evenings we are either busy or Milord needs his computer.

Milord and I are getting along well now, although the first week was a little difficult. We’ve both been living alone for a long time, and it is hard to adjust to living with someone you don’t really know except on email! We seem to have gotten over that now, and have had an excellent couple of weeks since and are able to talk about the future a little bit.

So, what have I been up to? Mostly I’ve been getting Milord’s house girl-friendly. He’s been single a long time, and if his wife ever decorated this house I can’t find a sign of it ;-). Luckily he has a cleaner who comes every fortnight, so it wasn’t really that grubby, but I still needed to scrub every surface, shelf and cupboard before I felt comfortable. Things in the fridge were years out of date and there was junk crammed everywhere! I’ve been systematically cleaning and de-cluttering each room, cleaning windows, washing curtains and hiding trinkets (if he hasn’t missed them in 6 months I’ll ditch them!). I’m also quietly replacing the bed linen and adding cushions and vases of flowers. It is starting to feel like a girl lives here now! Sadly it is a rented house, so there is only so much I can do.

It is a 2 bed detached little house, with front, side and rear gardens. There is a lounge that we have turned into a lounge/diner, and an open plan kitchen/living area which opens onto the side and back gardens. It is a very old property, and it seems to have last been decorated in the ‘60s or ‘70s, which drives me a bit crazy. I don’t know how long there have been tenants in here, but it needs a lot of love and restoration... oh well, not really my problem! We are talking of buying a place of our own in a couple of years – not sure where though.

The suburb we are in is called Balmain. It is 15 min west of central Sydney over the Anzac bridge, very trendy and packed with restaurants, pubs and boutiques. Kind of the Hampstead of Sydney! Very expensive, but a nice lifestyle ;-). We’re torn between staying here or getting something closer to the beaches.

It has rained almost every day since I arrived, and today is cool and overcast again. Apparently this is unusual weather and I’ll miss it when it goes. I suppose so, but I have exhausted my wet-weather sightseeing options, and just wish it would stay sunny for me to go walking and go to the beaches! It is far more humid than I expected, but I don’t know if that is a side effect of all the rain! We’ve had a couple of hot days, but it has been mostly in the mid 20s. The place sure is green though!

Milord took a week off when I arrived, and we spent time exploring Sydney and Balmain, and also went diving. I am afraid I have been very spoiled by my Thai and Red Sea diving, as diving off Sydney was not very exciting! The visibility is less than 10m, and I kept having to strain for a flash of fins to see where the guide went. On the upside, Milord is a great dive buddy! We are talking of going for a quick dive after work next week with friends, followed by a barbie on the beach – it’s a hard life!

We went to the Hunter Valley for a long weekend after I arrived. The Hunter Valley is the closest wine region to Sydney – about 2 hours north, and Milord has a holiday property (that he is trying to sell as it is a joint property with his ex) and friends there. We stayed with his friends T and N, who were lovely. Milord and I spent a day wine tasting, he had a game of golf at dawn one day while I slept in, and the rest of the time we ate, drank and socialised as it was T’s birthday and they had a number of friends staying! A very nice introduction to the area!

I watched Milord at the golf driving range one morning, and he was startled at my knowledge – seems all those years of accompanying Mountain Man has rubbed off. I was able to say “did you mean to slice that?” which for some reason he found impressive! I might have a go at taking up the game again, but at the moment I prefer watching. If his next game is not too early I’d like to walk the course with him. He plays off 7, so will be worth watching.

Last weekend we borrowed a friend’s property in Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains. They are about 5 hours south of Sydney, and in winter have some of the best skiing in Australia (not sure what that means!). As it was summer we went walking instead, and Milord christened his first ever pair of hiking boots by summiting the highest peak in Australia! Sounds impressive, but actually it is a 300m climb over 7km from the top of the chairlift! It is such a popular walk that they have replaced the path with a raised metal grid walkway, and anyone from 5 to 75 can do it easily ;-). Still, I am very impressed that Milord is making the effort to learn my favourite land hobby! Now I have to get into cycling in return… I’m using the excuse that we have no-where to keep another bike, but we’ll be asking the landlord for a bigger shed so I might end up having to do it! Oh well, compromise is everything ;-). He’s even mentioned giving dancing a bash, so I really can’t complain!

While we were in the mountains Milord had an afternoon of fly fishing. I kept him company by finding a large rock in the shade and reading my book and watching him, and the beetles and lizards. He seemed to appreciate it though! I might give it a go sometime ;-).

In between all of this I have been exploring Balmain and Sydney. I’ve been into most of the shops in Balmain now, and am slowly getting my bearings. I haven’t driven alone yet, but will probably do so soon. That’s when I’ll really get my bearings as I get lost and go in circles for an afternoon! I’ve popped into Sydney a couple of times on the bus, gone to museums etc and met Milord for lunch. I spent much of a morning in the Sydney Tower with a map, working out where everything is, and that helped a lot!

We’ve been out a lot, either to friends or just out on our own. We hosted a dinner party last week that went remarkably well. I have annoying habit of falling asleep suddenly at dinner parties here though, and it’s not because I’m bored! I don’t think I’m really sleeping that well yet, it takes more than a few weeks to get used to a snoring partner, but I’m getting there. In the meantime my wheels fall off from time to time! Milord finds it cute…

I’ve not been looking very hard for a job, but is starting to push me. He’s sent out my cv to people he knows in the industry, so I am waiting for the phone to ring. I have a fair bit of savings yet, so there is no urgency. Of course, if I haven’t swung a visa within 3 months I have to go out of the country and come back again… Maybe a quick weekend in Auckland!