Quarter End Nightmare

In what I anticipate will be only a fleeting moment of peace and quiet in my first ‘end-of-quarter’ fortnight in this job (this period really does give potential new definition to the meaning of the word “nightmare”), I thought I would break with recent bad blogging habit and let you know that I’m still alive and kicking. Thank you for all the comments following on from my India blog. Yes, I am pleased to be alive and not the equivalent of whatever is leopard-speak for “Whiskas”. It has also proved difficult to re-adjust to ‘normal’ life – I actually miss eating with my right hand, wondering whether each sip of water will be my last and the sensation of having absolutely no sense of where I am/where I am going or how long it will take to get there. I miss the adventure.

This blog will not be the most exciting. The past 2.5 weeks have really been work-dominated. Last week I was in Melbourne for a few days and this week I’m in Singapore ensuring that we close deals quickly for the quarter. There’s not much to report from Australia. Winter suddenly arrived on Saturday afternoon after we’d been enjoying a glorious morning of 35 degrees. Rachel and I had brunch at Balmoral and almost had to ask for a table further from the window, it was so hot through the glass. As the afternon progressed and I rushed around the shops frantically trying to avoid reaching melting point in the heat, the skies started to darken. Then, just as I left the florist (the shop I visited on Mosman’s high street that was furthest from where my car was parked – OF COURSE), the heavens literally opened and by the time I returned to my car every stitch clothing I was wearing (even my underwear) needed wringing out! By midnight, the wind was howling and rattling the apartment’s windows so hard I thought the glass would shatter and the temperature felt distinctly ‘icy’. Its been merciful to fly up to Asia for a few days of steamy humidity!

Saturday’s other huge event was the NSW State Elections. Voting here is actually compulsory – you can be fined $25 for not showing up at the polling booth. However, there seems to be very little choice on who to vote for and most of my mates agree: you are forced to vote for someone you find repulsive, offensive and objectionable. Personally, I’d part with the cash. Interestingly though, you can turn up at the polling stations, give your name but not actually need to prove your identity which kind of leads me to question the whole safety, and democratic nature, of the Australian voting system. If I’d known earlier, I could have conducted an experiment to see how many times I could vote under the name of ‘Sheila Waterhouse’.

We’ve had 2 awful tragedies this week in Australia – a multiple pile-up in a tunnel in Melbourne caused by a truck which was out of control caused the deaths of 3 people, a fireball, several explosions and traffic chaos for days as the tunnel was closed pending investigation. Last night, A Sydney Harbour ferry crashed into another boat just by the Harbour bridge killing and maiming several people and sinking the other vessel almost immediately. $68m-worth of cocaine have also been seized from the Qantas cargo terminal at Sydney airport allegedly smashing an Asian drugs cartel (maybe this explains the ‘smacked out’ expressions and lousy service from Qantas cabin crew on my recent red-eye flight to Melbourne…). Apparently, the offending containers were seized and transported by heavily armed armoured patrol vehicles through Sydney’s peak-time traffic (d’oh!) yesterday – the police refused to disclose the contents until lunchtime so clearly speculation was rife that an attempted plot to reduce Sydney to dust with a nuclear weapnon had been thwarted. Flippin’ natives – always so dramatic! David Hicks, the Australian held at Guantanamo following post 9/11 raids on Afghanistan and the subject of far too many ‘Free David’ posters throughout the city and stupid benefit concerts, has pleaded GUILTY to various offences including assisting Al Quaeda. Either he’s been the recipient of legal advice from a US publicly-funded defence attorney (the kind they usually save for death row prisoners they have no intention of acquitting no matter how compelling the evidence of another’s guilt) or its a careful plot to get him into a home prison and then prove his innocence or he is actually, heaven-forbid given that he’s a true blue Aussie, GUILTY.  Very sadly for women throughout the nation, Ben Cousins ‘the hottest thing in AFL’, has fessed up to having a substance addiction (apparently AFL is rife with it) and is now in rehab. Am considering whether I might qualify for a stint in rehab recovering from ‘extreme stress’ (aka the “Robbie” or “Britney” condition) after the past week at work…  his presence certainly makes it an attractive option for a mini-break. Oh yes, and we ‘good ole poms’ are once again the subject of mirth and derision given the UK advertising authority’s decision to require Australian Tourist Board advertisments not to use rude language in its’ attempts to lure poms on holiday Down Under. So, no more ‘Where the bloody-hell are you?’ posters which is quite a shame as they were quite good! Boy, are they giving us heaps.

In between, when I’ve had a spare few hours to kill, I’ve caught up with most of my friends and been forced to amuse them with stories of my Indian exploits (in true story-telling style, the leopard is now a yeti). Some of my new trekking buddies caught up on Friday night – we’d not worn our salwars since we returned and needed an excuse to wear all the bling. Clearly, we were all also suffering from curry-buffet withdrawal symptoms and the need to squat! I’ve also seen ‘Becoming Jane’ – the film based on Jane Austen’s life story which was enjoyable. Oh yes, and there have been too many rehearsals for words… world has gone mad it seems. And I visited a great restaurant with some colleagues here in Singapore last night – at Vivo City ‘No Signboard Seafood’ – black pepper and chilli crab were the specialties and they were delicious.

That’s it for now xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

BIG Indian Adventure

This blog starts with yet another pathetic apology for the blog-less life I have been leading for a few weeks. Its not that nothing interesting is happening in my life or in Australia (quite the opposite in fact!). It’s just that this new job is incredibly, insanely busy and I’ve been taking time to find my feet pretty much at the expense of just about every other aspect of my life. The good news is that the hard work is paying off – I’m told I’m doing well and, as a result, my residency application (which the company are sponsoring – a considerable burden for them) is being submitted on 2nd April. So maybe, in the not-too-distant future, I will be officially allowed to remain here fore ever. Which would be perfect.

Before, I fill you all in on the big adventure that was my recent trip to India for Opportunity International, a few highlights from the past weeks in Australia merit a mention. Sydney literally went ballistic with excitement when the 2 biggest cruise liners: Queen Mary and the QE2 rocked up on 21st February for a few hours and a few days respectively. Not only was it an excuse for everyone to take time out of their busy lives to go and gawp at these huge hunks of metal, it was also another excuse to send another $4m worth of fireworks off. I am realising how fond Sydney is of giant firework displays! Inexplicably, every road around the City (including the one across the bridge) ground to a halt with the pressure of people trying to drive to vantage points. It all felt a bit OTT for a city built largely around a harbour and to which big boats are not unusual visitors. Similar chaos is predicted for this weekend when the Harbour Bridge, the Coathanger, celebrates its 75th birthday. There are to be more fireworks, a lightshow and the bridge is closed to traffic all day so that hundreds of people can walk across it in celebration. As a hard-working taxpayer I could think of a million ways the public coffers could be used to improve public services and provide for the nation’s welfare. However, what do I know? – am just a stupid pom after all.

On the subject of ‘poms’, we finally found our cricketing form in the one-day series and whipped the nation’s collective butt quite convincingly. This led to an immediate questioning of Brett Lee’s form and Ricky Ponting’s captaincy (it seems no failure is permitted here at all) which was very enjoyable to ths particualr pom who had grown heartily tired of the constant post-Ashes disaster jibes. According to Marilla, there was some complication with the Kiwis – Graeme was forced to consider supporting England rather than his Home nation (you have no idea of the pain involved with this) as an England victory was the only way to ensure an Aussie exit from the series. So great is his hatred of all teams sporting and Aussie that I believe he was actually persuaded to go as far as shouting with the Barmy Army. However, I would have liked to see this to be certain that it occured.

Summer is coming to an end and is officially one of the worst on record. The temperature highs of last year were not achieved and we had (apparently) more than a fair share of rubbish, rainy days. As a Brit, I thought it was a pretty decent summer but then we’re establishing a trend that I know nothing about these things! I’m waking up to a distinctly ‘nippy’ feel each day now and have even been forced into a turtle neck this week. Not long until Easter and the end of Daylight Savings and more confusion (for Mum!) about time diffferences. There is also an election looming with all forms of press and media cheerfully predicting the end of John Howard’s time as PM. It would be good to have a ‘hot’ PM, as in Blair’s early days but I don’t suppose Kevin Rudd really qualifies as ‘hot’. I don’t have to vote this time, which is good news for the recycling bin at home. Next time I will need to pay attention to all the usual canvassing.

On a personal note, when I’ve had any time at all in recent weeks, I’ve mainly been hanging out with friends, watching movies, singing and working hard supporting activities at church. Renee and I had a fab girls weekend away on the Central Coast (about an hour north of Sydney) just relaxing by the sea and chatting. Both of us desperately needed the break. Renee has decided to move to the UK for a while (why? WHY?) and is heading there for a fortnight’s holiday this weekend during which time she will also be job-hunting. Life is all change again it seems.

Ok. So everyone has been asking about India. What can I say? It was INCREDIBLE. In the week before I left, I could happily have withdrawn from the whole thing.  I was petrified, exhausted and less-than-motivated by the thought of a ‘walk for want’. I am so relieved that I had no opportunity to escape. First, I have been privileged to travel and bond with some of the most awesome women that I’ve ever met. Each one of the 22 trekkers had a story, a life experience that really was a tribute to survival skills and character. Working together to achieve a common goal, there was no time for barriers or boundaries and everyone opened up freely to each other, sharing their story, weaknesses and fears. It was impossible not to have utter admiration for my fellow trekkers and to love them for their honesty and generosity. I have been the beneficiary of some incredible mentoring and advice and have learned heaps about myself as a person and a team player. Completing the emotional & physical challenge of the trek has left me stronger and more determined. It has been an awesome experience.

In the beginning, it just seemed to take forever to get to the start line: the Sydney contingent of the trek team met at the Green Frog next to the Singapore Airlines check-in desk on the Tuesday morning at 9.30am. In Singapore, we picked up the Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth & Adelaide teams. By the time we arrived at our hotel in Downtown Chennai, it was 12.30am local time, we had been travelling for almost 20 hours. We were hot, tired, nervous, grumpy and ready for a long soak and sleep. Sadly, we were woken at 4.30am by an alarm call to ensure we were back at the airport in time to catch a 6.45am flight to Cochi in Kerala. The actual process of checking in for a domestic Indian flight leaves a lot to be desired. Its about as chaotic as a process can be – lots of shouting, arm-waving, people telling you not to take your eye off your bags for a second… then whisking them out of your sight and pushing you away if you try to follow. Approximately 32 people were trying to take charge and organise us and, in the end, we had to queue-jump at security which was just great for the Aussie women and scarily unnerving for me who, being a well-behaved Brit, just does not do that kind of thing even under strict instructions from a man holding a big rifle. The list of ‘forbidden’ hand baggage items gave us a flavour of the country we had arrived in. Not only were all the usual suspects listed: guns, knives, needles, gels etc. but apparently we also have to fear the most astonishing list of weapons, musical instruments and chickens (!). In the end, security was a breeze – we were all wearing our VIP lei’s that we’d been given on arrival in Chennai the night before so they assumed we were all celebrities. Believe me, this was a miracle for most of us who had our stashes of handwash gel and medicines in our hand luggage and feared having them confiscated. One girl – Natasha I think (who has stunning model looks) – was asked for her autograph!

After arrival in Cochi, we drove for hours through rural India to Alleppey where we spent the night in a beautiful riverside hotel. Mum would have had a fit – to actually get to the hotel involved a journey on a canal-style boat a few hundred metres through coconut groves and past fishing huts. Once we’d checked in, we were taken (by ‘holey’ punt!) to our bedrooms. After a quick shower and a very late lunch, we were treated to a large kayak ride through the pretty backwaters as the sun set. Jokes about piranas and jellyfish aside, this was heaps of fun. After a candlelit dinner and a raid on the local craft shop (complete with handsome shop assistant who wanted, predictably, to marry all of us), we settled into bed early as local wildlife serenaded us to sleep. The next day involved another ridiculously early wake-up call, taking an inexplicably long period of time to get back to our coach, the wild excitement of seeing an elephant heading to a temple to assist with some building work (22 Aussie chicks leapt out with cameras at this point and terrified the locals), learning to find the best possible loo spot in any town/village/forested area, too many discussions about bodily functions – we commented it was a bit like being 3 years old again – everyone was obssessed by how often you ‘went’ and ‘what it was like when you did’ YUCK, a very very very long winding bus journey up into the mountains and through spectacular tea plantations to Munnar in a bus that seemed to be resisting the journey and smelled increasingly like it was planning to explode as we progressed. Finally, as the sun started to set again, we arrived at the amazingly beautiful Tall Trees resort for our last night of luxury (meaning hot water and sanitation) before the impending trek began. How we had taken almost an entire day to travel merely 160kms I had no idea at the time. Now, however, I understand the concept of ‘IST’ Indian Standard Time! Everything takes much longer than it should – everything.

That night, we enjoyed multiple showers, ate like Kings in an incredible restaurant with a glass roof and revelled in the beautiful surroundings. This particular hotel is highly-rated and is (according to Lonely Planet) ‘a popular spot for honeymooners’. I am definitely returning one day as it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. Interestingly, there were a lot of couples there but of the Elderly ‘Jolly Hockey Sticks’ British variety. Lots of well-to-do wives barking over dinner at their deaf husbands – one actually yelled in response ‘I am NOT deaf!’ when it was absolutely clear that he was! (Marilla , Lucy – does this sound familiar?….) One very sweet old (almost blind) man to whom I had been chatting asked how my husband or lover could bear to be parted from me while I participated in the trek – I toyed with the wicked idea of pretending to be a lesbian but thought better of it when I realised the nearest hospital with a coronary unit was probably 3 days away.

Before bed we were given a full briefing on what to expect from the trek – it would be gruelling, we must do our stretches each night and morning, we will take it slow/have many breaks & pauses, the scenery will be incredible, make sure you apply sunscreen and mossie repellent, drink 3 litres of water a day – MINIMUM, keep positive – 90% of the battle is in the mind ….  expect to have fun (!!!!). 10 hours later, we all stood, fully-kitted, camel-baks loaded, walking-poles at the ready, outside reception and READY to go. The first hour was a dodgy jeep ride into the Middle of Nowhere where we were dumped unceremoniously into a field and welcomed by a the Ground Crew. And so it began.

I won’t detail everything from each day – you can’t capture the whole experience – but we walked and walked and walked up and down through the most spectacular scenery: jungle, forest, open plains, bush, up mountains, through villages and tea plantations (a childhood dream fulfilled to see tea pickers and a tea factory). The campsites were varied. The first night we were on a plain (in a wind tunnel – no sleep, inexplicable need to visit bathroom ALL night due to biting cold), then in forests and finally, an incredible spot right at the top of a mountain and above the clouds. It literally felt like we were sleeping at the gate of heaven. Our crew set up camp – with 2-man bed tents, a huge dining tent, shower cubicles (meaning you stand on a wooden crate and pour scalding water over your head from a bucket – actually very effective), 3 long-drops (one with Western Toilet seat – WOOHOO!!!!) and a kitchen tent. Each night we built a huge camp fire which was the focal point for revelry, singing, dancing, story-telling and kept away monsters… sorry, local wildlife. Our hero was Youssef, the chef from Kashmir who somehow managed to produce the most incredible food several times a day. For vegetarians, it was a gourmet experience after Australia’s intolerance for non-carnivores. Each morning, we were woken by the sunlight and a cup of tea in bed which the lovely crew brought for us (result: who needs husbands?!).

There was much adventure though: our doctor, who had never trekked in his life, became sick after the first day and stayed back at camp tending those of us who became weak or injured; we were seriously and scarily lost on day 2 in the rainforest and, arrived back in camp in the dark after finally reaching a village and being assured we were only 1km and 10 mins from camp to discover we were actually 6kms, 3 steep hillsides, 1.5 hours and several thousand leeches away .. grrrrr!!; we had a blood-curdling experience one night when a leopard arrived in the campsite just after lights out, sniffed out several tents before disappearing back into the forest  – not one lady ventured alone to the loo that night; our jeeps were a little past their best in terms of maintenance and one day, on a brief trip out of camp, the driver lost control for 5 seconds as we headed down a mountain road. I felt I would die with the sound of Mum saying ‘Careful!’ ringing in my ears; for four hours, I sat on a bus roof (it could only fit most of us on the inside) as it wound its way up a mountainside to Bodi. At a checkpoint, the police said we should not be up there but that it would be ok if we got down, walked round the corner and got back up again; our leader had a fall on the final day and seriously injured herself (including a broken wrist) – she then had her own  special Indian Hospital adventure complete with resetting bones without anaesthetic; there were injuries/sicknesses/mutinies; we experienced Indian Standard Tim (take the estimated timeframe and multiply by 2), Indian Standard Kilometres (take the distance you are told you will trek and multiply by 6) and local concepts of ‘the truth’. After a week, we finally made a very exhausted arrival at our final checkpoint!  In terms of wildlife, we saw a lot of elephant pooh but no elephants – a day ahead of us according to the elephant-pooh experts. We saw monkeys and incredible birds (during the hour when we stopped talking). The villages we passed through were fascinating and in one I had the honour of naming a baby with a Christian name. I suggested Samuel (‘Sam’) which we had to write down – they were thrilled – and then we all burst into tears which scared them. Rural poverty is not as confronting as the poverty we saw later in the slums in Chennai but the schools really helped us to understand the challenges. The children were so excited to see us, play cricket, sing songs and have their photos taken (they were obsessed with our cameras) but invariably their uniforms were almost rags and the school had so few resources. Amazingly, literacy rates are 100% in Kerala. When in the UK we blame lack of resources for poor education, this example does raise a few questions. As we left, the children asked for chocolate – clearly, they do not understand women. 22 of us, trekking, no men, no alcohol. If there had been chocolate, it would have been devoured long before we got to the schools!

On arrival in Madurai at the end of the trek, we literally leapt into the bath. It was the best bath of my life – hot, scented and very long. After a visit to the town and the famous temple, we enjoyed a group ‘celebration’ dinner in the hotel restaurant and fell into bed before yet another 4.30am alarm call to enable us to catch a train to Chennai. The highlight of the journey was the henna-tattoo painting sessions which we indulged ourselves with and exploring the toilet facilities – a hole opening straight onto the track. 6 hours later, we were checked into our hotel, given 30 mins to freshen up before being bussed to Spencer Plaza and told to shop for a traditional sari or salwar and be back at a restaurant for a formal welcome dinner at 6.30pm. Madness – a new reality TV show could be made out of the ensuing chaos ‘Ready, Steady, Shop’. For the next 3 days, we were participants in the celebrations for International Women’s Day, visiting the expo and cultural celebrations on the day itself (wearing our newly-purchased local dress complete with ‘bling’ and ‘bindis’), spending many hours with the Trust banks and projects in the communities being supported by Opportunity International, talking to the women receiving micro-finance, listening to their stories and helping out in any way that we could. This was an extremely challenging time for all of us – these women are used to existing on less than US$1 a day and to a gruelling way of life. As they spoke about the changes in their lives as a result of the help they were receiving, their joy and excitement was infectious. They were delighted that now they could fund their childrens’ education and provide more than 1 meal a day. It was humbling when I thought about how easily I complain about my own struggles. Particularly poignant, was the obvious evidence of domestic violence and the work that many agencies are doing to help the women in India (and Asia) realise that this is not something that is acceptable. It was heart-breaking stuff – I actually witnessed one incident and was shocked that no-one, not even the woman herself, reacted to the husband’s outburst. It is just so normal.

On the last day, many of us spent time with our interpreters and their families seeing the City and shopping in local bazaars. For my group, our interpreter Ladha was a true angel in that place. She and her family are also very poor by our standards, yet they run local community projects and give so much of the very little they have to the people around them. We have decided as a group to support their project on a long-term basis. Their generosity to us was incredible. To say that we left ‘changed’ is perhaps a cliche. I think for most of us, the trip more confirmed thoughts we are already having about the directions we want our lives to take and the work we want to do. I’m not sure that I will stay in the corporate world for years to come and it was good to start to have some tangible thoughts as to what the alternatives would be. As a gift, Opportunity gave each of us David Bussau’s (one of the founders) biography written by Philippa Tyndale who is in Opportunity’s staff. His story, from orphan in NZ to the internationally-respected development consultant that he is today, is amazing. A life spent tirelessly serving others. He has acheived so much.

Arriving back I was met by the lovely and wonderful Liz (hooray!!!) whose prayers had kept me going and who gave me a HUGE hug and made my everyday real world a happy place to come home to. Work has been hideously busy this week but I will take time out this weekend to reflect on all I’ve seen and put together a plan. A HUGE thank you to all of you who sponsored me – as a team we raised over $60,000 and there is more coming in now. I can assure you that your money is being very well stewarded and that the women in India are experiencing changed lives as a result of Opportunity’s work. They asked us to thank you too.

There’s more to tell as I remember it all but that’s it for now. Love you all loads xxxxxxxxx


Filling in the gap

I need to type pretty fast (am v busy) but just wanted to touch in again and say ‘hi’ as its been so long since I last wrote. Christmas and New Year’s celebrations have been and long gone. For me, it was a great time with Mum and Dad making their first visit to Australia and, thankfully, loving it. Being stoical Brits, we took the Ashes disaster bravely on the chin, ignored the fact that God chose to bless Sydney with its wettest Christmas for many years (freak weather is here to stay it seems) and took in the sights: the Opera House, the Domain, Balmoral, Featherdale Wildlife Park (complete with doped-up Koalas for cuddling). Much of our time was spent in the fresh air – walking, grabbing an ‘al fresco’ coffee and just relaxing… BLISS. New Year’s celebrations were pretty tame until the most incredible firework display I have ever seen at the Harbour, all viewed from my apartment windows.

Straight after New Year, I left HDS (HOORAY!!!!!) and started with Business Objects. Was here for 1 day then deported to Old Blighty for Orientation Training. It was wonderful to catch up with friends and family around a pretty hectic schedule of meeting new colleagues and training. I was also spending time with Lucy who was back in the UK recuperating from a nasty, sudden appendicitis – am now the only person in our family without a revoltingly unpleasant post-surgical scar! Otherwise, I’m afraid the whole trip was packed with reminders of why, exactly, it was that I left for these bright shores: cold, miserable weather; freak storms; rubbish public transport – total rubbish; dark days; too many people; unhelpful hotel staff; crap coffee and too many slightly-too-raw memories/associations of painful past parts of my life.  Hopefully next time I return it will be in the summer!

The new job is great. I’m settling in well and learning all about the software business. My next trips are to Singapore, HK and India so I think the airlines will do well out of this new role. I’m feeling happy and pumped again. My application for permanent residency is progressing – next week I need to have a bunch of blood tests before being pumped full of innoculations and malaria tablets for India (the charity trek). Oh, and BIG excitement: tomorrow I am being interviewed/photgraphed for the national press here with 2 other of the Trek participants. There is going to be quite a bit of publicity for Opportunity International which is just awesome. As tonight is Australia Day Eve, I am out with some friends for a few post-work drinks (see last year’s blog about the same event for a reminder of the carnage that would await me tonight were it not for my training regime). I need to get up early though so it must be a quiet one!

Ok. Well I need to get on. Lots of love. I will write more next time xxxxxxxxx

Much News

If you’re not sitting down, can I suggest you do so? By the time you’ve finished this blog, I’m not sure if you will know what century you’re living in. So much has happened since I last wrote.

Actually, right now, today, I am just delighted and thrilled to be alive. After a long day in Melbourne yesterday, I boarded Qantas flight 460 for Sydney at 18.10. Knowing that I was meeting a friend for a drink and bite I declined the inflight refreshment and began flicking through my Hello! to see pictures of the TomKat wedding. Just as we were expecting to start our descent into Sydney, we hit some serious turbulence and the pilot told everyone to sit down immediately. Next thing we know, we are being informed that, due to extreme storms, it is too dangerous even to attempt an approach into Sydney airport, all flights are being diverted elsewhere and (since we are running low on fuel) we are headed for Canberra. The next 30 minutes were something of a white knuckle ride accompanied by the stench of strong bushfire smoke (lightning strikes start bushfires) before we finally bashed down on the tarmac to everyone’s immense relief. During the next hour or so, it was unclear what would happen next. First, we were told we could use our mobile phones to explain that we might be staying in Canberra overnight. Then we were asked to switch them off so that the plane could refuel and attempt a landing at Sydney. Eventually we did take off and, due to strong tail winds, were descending into Sydney 15 minutes later and just before the flight curfew kicks in. I have NEVER prayed so hard in my life but we landed (God Bless Qantas pilots) and arrived back at the terminal, which was in total chaos. Needless to say, I missed the opportunity to catch up with Brent and fell into bed at midnight!

Its been a week for dangerous excitement. On Wednesday, I was sitting in my office when I heard the sound of screeching and swerving from up the road. This was followed by BANG, THUD, THUD, SMASH and the sound of a million feet running past my office. I joined the throngs heading for the window and looked out onto the sight of a Commodore, P-plated, wheels-spinning, lying crushed and on its roof in our car park entrance. A couple of other cars appeared to have been totalled simply for sitting parked in the car park. As the shock sank in, we realised the chances of anyone coming out alive were negligible and called the emergency services immediately. Within minutes we had ambos, fireys, cops, a TV crew and….. an insurance risk assessor outside the building – together with several scores of people from the offices all taking photos on their mobile phones or with digital cameras (P-plater accidents are the current hot topic politically). By some miracle, the speeding punk that had been driving actually crawled out from under the wreck apparently unharmed – he was taken to hospital for ahead x-ray, presumably to see whether his 1 brain cell was still in place. I am still in shock that no-one from our office was killed. The airborne path he took from the dual carriageway, through our garden and into the car park cut right across the pavement that we all walk along several times a day to get a coffee from the Silverchair Cafe next door. How he managed, on a 40 degree day, to pick a moment when no-one was thirsty to have his moment of madness I have no idea but, once again, it was a minor miracle.

Well, the pommies (of which I am still, for the moment, one) are the laughing stock of Australia after the dismal start of our Ashes defence. In Taylor Square, an enormous advertisement has been erected by Tooheys who also posted that ‘Poms will choke’ billboard I referred to on my earlier blog. This new advert has a scoreboard showing the number of ‘pommie complaints to date’ – it ticks over to show the new total every couple of seconds and when I drove past on Thursday was showing a tally of 6, 392, 675 which was rising. Aussie humour – so simple and abusive! Bring on Perth….

Last weekend, Renee and I moved into our new bachelorette pad and are now busy turning it into a home. Moving day was packed with excitement such as the removers ringing 10 minutes before they were due to say they were running 2.5 hours late. By the time they finally left us, it was almost 8pm and we were all utterly exhausted. Thank goodness for Anna (now a very near neighbour) who arrived with thai takeaway and a bottle of sav blanc! The first night in a new place is , always a little strange but my first night must take the biscuit: I awoke mid-stage 4-sleep to jungle sounds. More than a little disorientated and alarmed, I jumped out of bed and headed for Renee’s room. Then it hit me: we are a stone’s throw from Taronga Zoo. I was not going mad – there are lions and monkeys approximately 3 streets away. Glad I got that straight. On a slightly more serious note, it is bliss to be in the new place after almost a year in Paddington. Paddo has its virtues (more if you are homosexual) but one of them is absolutely not a sense of peace and quiet… Maybe it’s my age, but P&Q is very high on my list of ‘Requirements for a Decent Life’.  Oh yes, with one exception, the gigantic flock of Rozellas that live near by and use our roof for a nestling place on Sunday morning. Rozellas are beautiful, vibrant colours, but are also basically boundary-busters when it comes to P&Q. David Attenborough would be appalled at what I intend to do to them in the near future.

Finally, I have also acquired Matilda: my new Corolla Ascent. Not the most exciting of cars but she is a fabulous electric blue colour, has a great stereo and, importantly, represents the enormous effort it has taken a non-resident such as myself to actually succeed in purchasing a new car (numerous forms, blood tests, supporting documents etc being required). She is VERY cool and I love her. A lot. The first passenger to grace that all important front seat was….. DAVE P who was over in Sydney for a whole week before moving on to see his sister in Perth. We had a great time catching up although it felt a little strange Dave being HERE and not in London. Sort of surreal. Anyway, mostly the weather was not too bad (Dave reckoned he wanted his money back at one point when we were blessed with some much-needed, much-prayed-for rain) and we managed to take in the sights of Opera Quay, Balmoral/Mosman, Manly and Dee Why before Dave moved on west.

Another old friend has also ‘appeared’ in Sydney. Gordon used to sing with me in the Chapel Choir at Uni and has recently moved out here to work for KPMG. We’ve caught up a few times in recent weeks and it is lovely to have him around to hang out with again – just like old times. He joined my ‘admission’ celebrations on Friday night at Orbit and so royally entertained many of my other friends that he is the talk of the office anyway! Not much has changed it seems.

So you will also have picked up that I am now offically a Solicitor of New South Wales (see cool certificate below). On Friday afternoon, at the Supreme Court, I endured a fairly emotional admissions ceremony which involved the proclamations, bowing, swearing-in and signing of the roll that usually marks these occasions. The presiding judge actually managed not to look too bored – it was the 7th ceremony of the day and he must have been well over it by then. His 2 mates on the bench behaved in an appropriate way for the senior judiciary: 1 fell asleep (or appeared to), 1 went red and had a wandering eye. However, the highlight was a speech congratulating us on our huge achievement and reminding us of some of our more solemn duties: to deliver impartial advice, to remember our higher duties to the court and to justice and to defend the weak and unpopular where this is the right thing to do even in the face of criticism. By the end, I had a slight lump in my throat and more than a small tear in the eye. This lasted for the time it took to walk over to Orbit and start celebrating!


So: new house, new car, new professional status, new church building (we moved in Sunday) and also…. new job (I said you needed to sit down). Several months ago, I was approached by Business Objects (a global ‘business intelligence’ software company) about a role as their counsel for South Asia. At the time, I was unsure I wanted to leave HDS so soon after joining but VERY VERY long ‘John Grisham’ style story short it became apparent that I would not want to remain here much longer after November so I agreed to enter into discussions with them. The outcome was a really exciting offer and I resigned (finally) last week and will take up my new role on 8th January. I cannot wait. The new role is based in North Sydney, a 10 minute drive from my home, although there will be more international travel as I cover a great deal of Asia (not China, Japan or Korea which are the ‘North Asian’ countries). It’s a serious step up and presents some serious challenges but I’m ready for this and am very excited. Funny how these things happen all at once.

Christmas is almost upon us (I can hardly believe it) and last Sunday I enjoyed the deep irony of singing ‘See Amid the Winter’s Snow’ in a sweltering church while melting uncomfortably under my cassock. I’ve survived our annual Christmas party with my dignity in tact – unlike some of my colleagues – and am now awaiting the ‘Arrival of the Parents’ on Friday next week… Hope they like my new surfing dude haircut, wardrobe and tattoo….. JOKE (no parental concern emails required thanks Mum).

Cool. Well I’d better get on with some work or maybe I’ll just go and grab a coffee with a mate. After all, what are they going to do? Sack me??!!!! xxxxxxxxxx

And so it begins….

In what must be one of the hottest weeks since time began, the much-anticipated, long-awaited Battle for The Ashes (Revenge of the Green & Gold) has commenced. I am officially “The Enemy” and have been relegated to Canberra for the day in protest at my Pommie roots. Waiting at Sydney airport this morning was an interesting experience - at Gate no. 10 of Domestic Terminal 3, I watched legions of the Barmy Army (together with the odd Home Shirt) board the plane for Brisvegas and the Gabba. Thankfully (and God does deal miracles on a daily basis) our Canberra office was recently refurbished and now boasts a giant plasma TV in the main workstation zone. So we have had the Ashes on all morning and very little work is actually taking place. Bliss. I love Australia!! Its just a pity that clients are turning up for a few beers and a barbie at 4pm. As one of the few poms down here I expect to take a severe pasting. Anyway, it’s lunch now so the players are all hiding from the beating sun. Wonder if I can see any roos from the window?


Freak Weather

Australia is in a state of blind panic. The front page of The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday stated that Sydney suffered its lowest recorded minimum temperature for a November day since records began. For approximately 22 seconds yesterday morning, thermometers recorded a temperature of 8.3 degrees…! I ASK YOU. First, Dear Natives, it’s November. Not January (when 30+ is the norm). Stop panicking. Get over it. Summer is just around the corner. Second – 8.3 is not actually LOW. Its pretty mild actually. Buy a jumper, put on a doona. Third – SEE. God IS on the side of the English when it comes to the Ashes tour. He’s bringing down weather that will ensure the tourists feel right at home!

Anyway, the good news is the sun is (kinda) shining again today.

The English cricket team are doing their level best to lull the Home nation into a false sense of security by losing any game they play whether it be against the Prime Minister’s XI or St Bruce of Parramatta’s local church side. For Heaven’s Sake boys….. give us a break and try to give it something… anything…. You have no idea how much is stacked up against the wall here!

Since I wrote the last blog its been a pretty ordinary few days which is, I suppose, interesting in itself. When I first arrived everything, every little mundane task, felt “different” somehow to how it felt in England. Now, I guess, life has become more “normal” and so I feel there is possibly less to share. So now I’m reduced to ‘waffle’ and ‘philosophy’ which I guess just about sums the last few days up.

Actually, there is some news. I’m finally (I think) over the flu/cold thing that has been hanging around for the past 3 weeks or so. The positive side effect of this is that I actually wanted to get out of bed this morning – the negative effect is that I no longer have any excuse for slacking at the gym!

Enjoy the weekend. I intend to! Oh, and don’t go to watch “Children of God” at the movies – not a top choice  xxxxxx

A Long Blog

So much has happened since I last wrote that I need to make sure I remember it all for the blog. Life really does seem to be moving at 100mph+ right now. The positive side of this is that Fridays appear very quickly after Mondays (hooray for the weekend). Sadly, it also means that I need to restart my ‘Christmas is wrong Down Under’ campaign as, yes dear Readers, of last weekend the shops are simply bursting with snowmen, snow-covered Christmas trees, tasteless baubles and other Christmas paraphenalia. At choir and church music group rehearsals, we are wading our way through scores of Christmas music including ‘100 Carols for Choirs’ (oh Joy…). During one church events-planning meeting, I had my first (almost) stand-up row with Jaime who claims that no-one in Australia has heard of Little Donkey. I said he must be (a) wrong; or (b) an idiot. Simply EVERYONE on the face of the planet was subjected to Torture by Little Donkey when at school – it was a far more effective punishment that lines or detention if I remember.

Three significant milestones have been reached since my last blog: (1) I have turned 34 and celebrated in style (see below for full details); (2) I passed my constitutional law exam  (yes, yes, yes) and am due to be admitted as a Solicitor here in the Supreme Court on 8th December; (3) on 30th October I celebrated (quietly as my head was still slightly fragile from my birthday celebrations and it was a Monday), the anniversary of my arrival on these shores. As is appropriate when important times occur, I took the opportunity for a ‘pause for thought’ and to ponder on the last year or so. Its been a real slog in so many ways. Just about every aspect of my life is completely different from 2 years ago and I barely recognise myself. But this is ALL GOOD. Really good.

The aforementioned birthday celebrations were great fun. After completing a 10k run at the gym (training for India stops for no-one’s birthday), I met Renee and Anna for brunch at the Bathers’ Pavilion, Balmoral – my favourite brunch destination and the most beautiful beach in the whole of Sydney. Renee took this photo of Anna and I:


After this, we returned to Anna’s place (via Toni & Guy for ‘wash and blow’ hair therapy session) to change for the evening while drinking champagne. The excitement of having 3 girlie-girls together (Anna lives alone, Renee and I currently share with bogans… sorry boys) was too much and very soon we were trying on the whole of Anna’s immense wardrobe and accessory lines with the aim of improving our outfit choices. Much giggling and screaming could be heard throughout Sydney I expect! By 5.30 we all looked simply gorgeous (well we thought so anyway – but maybe it was the Veuve!) and headed to the 3 Weeds in Rozelle to meet everyone else. Almost everyone I know here in Oz turned up and we had heaps of fun. Kathy had arranged an amazing strawberry-ripple cake – see photos below – but thankfully kept the candles to a minimum: there is a fire ban here and I suspect 34 candles would easily start a bushfire!


Later a few of us headed to the North Shore to the Pickled Possum (for karaoke) followed by Minskys for dancing. I have to say though – I was the party-pooper and headed home around 1.30pm utterly exhausted and ready for sleep. Clearly I am too old now for all this fun!

The other hugely exciting news is that Renee and I have found somewhere to live at long last. Flat-hunting here is a very depressing business. Basically, in most decent suburbs  there is a dearth of nice places to rent (all the good ones go and stay gone for years since so many people rent here). Real estate agents generally do nothing to enhance the reputation of their ilk for being devious, two-faced and scheming. The process of apartment-searching is something along the following lines:

(1) scour newspapers and www.realestate.com.au and www.domain.com.au daily for places to rent. Send 20 emails a day to agents asking for details;

(2) after 3 weeks, realise that no agent ever responds to email and pick up bloody phone to try to arrange viewings. Quickly work out that agents are never at their desks, never respond to voicemails and that their mobiles are permanently engaged;

(3) finallly by some miracle, speak with agent. Ask for appointment. Receive information that desired apartment is occupied by tenant. Only chance to view is therefore on Saturday between 8-8.15am when you (along with 24 other couples) will need to turn up, queue and then run round the matchbox-sized home in no-more-than 30 seconds before being panicked into filling in an application form and then waiting for 4 days while the agent processes your application together with the other 22 applications to select a ‘winner’. Prize is opportunity of lifetime to share said matchbox with cockroaches the size of horses for a not inconsiderable chunk of your life savings. Getting to this stage however will require you to provide copious amounts of impossible-to-retrieve information such as handwritten references from your great-great-great grandparents proving your lineage;

(4) after several attempts to find ‘perfect place’, have application for shoebox accepted… then decide you are want to live in different suburb anyway. Start process again while watching your back the whole time for contract killer hired by furious, psychopathic real estate agent!

To say it has been demoralising is the understatement of the century. HOWEVER, the wait and pain was worth it as we found a complete gem of a place yesterday and have just secured it. Its on the top floor of a huge old house in Mosman on a beautiful and very quiet street not far from the village centre. By some miracle it has not only 2 enormous bedrooms (mine has a sunroom off the bedroom where I will be able to sit and write/work for hours), but a gorgeous bathroom, a kitchen with a very cool ‘diner-style’ eating area and BOTH a separate lounge and dining room. But the best bit is the view – it is stunning and looks across the treetops to the harbour with an uninhibited view of the Harbour Bridge. New Years Eve celebrations will be perfect!! Bizarrely, we are the ONLY people to request a viewing and the agent was also really sweet and lovely. Renee and I decided that God must have hand-picked the place himself and then made very sure no-one else got a look-in. Full photos will be available soon. We hope to move in before the end of the month. I need to source furniture before then though and will have some fun doing this over the weekend.

Work is pretty excitingly busy right now as we are in the heart of Q3 and there are many changes afoot. Outside of work I am busy with music (choir, church, jazz group), training for India, the hospice and chilling with friends including attending my first ‘hip-hop’ class with Renee on Sunday afternoon. I thought I had some rhythm and could dance before the class – now I am very unsure! Last weekend, I was also invited to a drinks party at Orbit at Australia Square – a bar on the 47th floor that revolves so that you are blessed with a 360 degree view of Sydney (see link). It’s spectacular and has been ‘the week’ for amazing views. Apart from this one, and the view at the new apartment, I attended a function at Westpac’s new premises on Kent St. From the 21st floor, the view of Darling Harbour and the Inner West was also incredible. Thank goodness I don’t suffer too much with vertigo.

What else? Well we’ve just had the Melbourne Cup – the day when the whole of Australia gets completely trollied for a horse race lasting no more than 2-3 minutes. I really can’t get that into it but then I’m not Australian. Oh yes, Ashes fever has really started with daily predictions of just how badly we pommies will lose featuring on every news bulletin and in the press. Pommie-bashing was taken to new heights at the weekend though with the appearance of a HUGE advertisement on the Victoria Road at Rozelle. It was for some stupid beer (that I won’t be drinking… ever) and said, simply, in massive letters: “The Poms are going to Choke”. THE CHEEK!!! I pointed out, as only I could, to the bunch of Aussie mates from CHURCH (who found this hilarious) that by stating we are going to “choke” this must acknowledge that we have a chance of winning in the first place…. Ah hah…. you SEE. They all looked confused. As if I had gone mad and should be sectioned immediately. Today’s news contains an article about one brave Aussie who is infiltrating the Barmy Army camp for the duration of the campaign to see what goes on. Celebrations… that’s what! Lots of them!! As an aside, if England don’t win, I need to go into hiding.

The weather has been not great actually. Pretty wet and, at times, very cold although there are some unbelievably sweltering days in between just to confuse your body and optimise incubation conditions for bugs and germs. I have had a nasty fluey, bug thing for almost 3 weeks now and am having to take drastic remedies such as the ‘early nights’ remedy (patented by Mum as a cure-all) in an attempt to recover this side of Christmas. I seem to remember it was similar when I arrived last year. This time of year is also when the creepy-crawly world materialises again after a long cold winter. I have been attacked by my first mossie (in Kathy’s garden on Saturday night) and have subsequently replenished my ‘jungle fever’ stocks!

This weekend should be lovely and very sociable. Tomorrow night, I have a church music group get-together. Saturday is bookclub and then a girlie shopping/lunch trip in Balmain followed by the cinema in the evening. Sunday is HUGE: I am being water-baptised (with 9 other people) at church in the morning and then, assuming my voice is back to normal, I’ll be singing evensong in Christ Church St Laurence at 6.30pm.

So, I’d better turn back to work. There’s heaps to get through this morning and I’m awaiting an important call! Be in touch soon. Love you all loads xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Hunt for Blog October (now over)

I don’t know why it seems to get harder to write this wretched blog each week. I think it must be a sign of how hectic life is becoming. This week I can blame the need to catch-up on everything post-holiday and I think I have just about achieved that now. Work is thankfully quiet as many of our executive sales team are on some sort of ‘jolly’ in Japan – I just hope they are behaving themselves! Anyway, this has given me some time to empty my inbox of all enquiries that arrived in my absence and to suffer PMT quietly behind a closed office door without fear that I would appear ‘aloof’ to my customer base. Interestingly, my cycle appears to have synchronised with my assistant’s so it has been a dangerous mission for anyone to request anything out of the usual from the legal team this week! An example of this was the site manager asking me, as part of the refurbishment planning, what to put on the new signage for the second floor. My response (given that this is where our very clever and geeky technical team live) was ‘Abandon Hope all Ye who Enter Here’. When he laughed, I shot him a look that froze him to the spot. He backed gently out of my office before running down the corridor….. OK. I slightly exaggerate – he didn’t actually RUN.

So I had an awesome holiday with my sister and, for some of the time, her Kiwi husband Graeme. I flew Freedom Air into Palmerston North on a sunny Friday morning on, confusingly, an Air NZ aircraft. Actually the fact that it was not the Freedom Air jet was a relief – I’m not sure I want to board anything covered in Disney cartoon characters. Given it is a budget airline and most of the $500 I had spent had clearly gone on fantastically colourful artwork, I remained a little concerned that safety features might have been skimped on! At Mount Ruepehu on the Saturday I rediscovered my ski-legs in shocking visibility. Thankfully I can now manage most slopes and lifts without much drama so my challenge was coping with lumpy pistes which have not been beautifully cleared by piste-bashers as in Europe. Skiing in NZ is definitely not the elegant, chic skiing of the French Alps: there is a much grittier, more raw feel to it and people are far less glamorous if, unquestionably, more psycho. If you know (as I do) the fear of standing on the side of a slope and hearing the terrifying thundering/swooshing sound of a pack of boarders approaching before they crash over the edge above your head and wipe out everywhere around you, this is CONSIDERABLY more frightening in NZ where boarders rule in undeniably larger packs. The only good news is that they actually appear to know what they are doing and manage to avoid wiping out on top of you, unlike in France! By the end of the day I was exhausted and fell asleep on Marilla’s sofa in the 2-hour break between a steaming hot radox bath and dinner at a local restaurant. On the Monday, Graeme was taking his students kayaking for a few days (apparently, he gets paid to do his hobby!) so Marilla and I took Koru up to the Coromandel Peninsular for 4 days. Honestly, it is the most breathtaking place, even for NZ which is not exactly lacking in stunning scenery. As we got out at Ocean beach, on our way up to Whitianga, to watch the waves crashing down I thought my insides would melt away. I could have stayed for all 4 days and just watched the sea. However, I can highly recommend Whitianga for its beautiful bays and the Coghill Cafe (best latte anywhere ever). Other highlights included Hot Water Beach, the coastal drive from Whitianga to Thames via Coromandel Town, a 6-hour tramp through the Coromandel Forest Park up to the Pinnacles and the Tuscany Thames Motel where they gave us 5* treatment because Koru was an LSAR dog. By the time we arrived in Hamilton on the Thursday evening, we were appropriately shattered by the exercising that seems to be a feature of Swift/Waterhouse holidays!

Since arriving home, I’ve also been busy searching for a place to rent with Renee in Balmain. There are 2 waterfront (please, oh please God) townhouses open for inspection at the weekend. We are both in overtime prayer that we get one of them. I’ve also started the process for my permanent residency application and am pulling the necessary information together. The good news is that Hitachi has some pre-approved places with the Department of Immigration here so I hope it won’t take too long. At some point in the next 2 weeks I should also get my exam result and, assuming I didn’t screw up too badly, I’ll be able to apply for admission as a Solicitor here. Its not a strict requirement but it would be useful. So lots going on.

Socially, I’ve been catching up with friends and chilling when possible. I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ currently showing at cinemas – it is very funny. Renee and I couldn’t hold it together at all. Choir rehearsal last night was interesting: Our conductor Brett is very sick and needs major surgery so we have a stand in. She’s lovely but VERY particular and does that evil thing of picking out individuals who are missing a point and making them sing until they ‘get it’. Thank goodness I had done my homework! We have a service in the Cathedral on Sunday and a concert in the afternoon. I am praying it is not a shockingly hot day as I am tired of melting in my cassock! Training for India is going well (although I’m glad that my tramp with Marilla wearing a backpack highlighted that there is a little way to go yet) – I am actually enjoying the sensation of becoming super-fit although the 5am starts are getting a little exhausting.

Sad news at work yesterday: Big Al, the world’s most handsome builder announced that he’s finished his work ahead of schedule. All females in the office are in mourning and are frantically trying to work out what we need to break to get him back here. The huge office across the road are clearly having fire alarm issues which resulted in what must be the whole of the NSW fire department appearing within minutes for the second time in 3 weeks! I’m actually amazed that anyone was available as the weather has been so hot that bushfires are breaking out all over the state with regular monotony. And we’re nowhere near summer yet.

So I’d better leave it there for now. Take care xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

sorry, sorry, sorry

Ok. So I am officially ‘crap’ for not writing for 3 whole weeks. I have been trying to catch up with my life after The Exam. Also, the blog (some of you may have noticed this) seemed to have become a magnet for extremely dodgy porn sites – I was deleting a couple of links a day – so I wanted to sort that out before encouraging anyone to log on! 

Spring has totally ‘sprung’ and we are having a mini-heatwave with temperatures (apparently unseasonally for this time of year) in the high twenties. Yesterday was beyond unbearable – a very strong gale-force hot wind blowing across the city resulted in a whole stack of bush fires on the outskirts of Sydney. As I drove out to Penrith for a concert performance, it was a real effort to hold the car on the road. Scary stuff particularly as a very kind friend of mine, Wendy, who is on business in the US for 5 weeks has loaned me her Mercedes SLK convertible and I am desperately trying NOT to trash it! The heat has also proved a challenge due to the lack of air conditioning in my office. For some reason, it ain’t working (it took me several days to work this out as I’ve been unwell and thought it was just the fever) and I’m waiting for it to be fixed whilst slowly melting in the corner!

So, the past few weeks have been pretty eventful. First, I need to fill you in on the office renovations that are taking place. The whole of our floor is being smashed out and reconstructed so that we can squeeze…sorry…fit…. extra people into the premises. The place resembles a bomb-site and is an actual OHS nightmare with nails, ferocious-looking tools, boxes, plastic sheeting and paint lying everywhere. However, you will not find a single woman in the place complaining thanks to the presence of several EXTREMELY handsome builders who are also VERY NICE & FRIENDLY. On more than one occasion, I have had to remind my colleagues that this is a WORK environment and that some people are of sensitive disposition so please could they keep the ‘phwoar’ comments at a ‘non-blue’ level! I am also secretly concerned that the builders might start to feel ‘harrassed’… That’s the trouble for women working in the IT-industry: so rare is it that a decent, good-looking guy walks past your desk, when it happens you are beside yourself.

A recent visit to the doctor for some antibiotics also caused me cultural confusion. At first blush, the system here seems similar to back in the UK: turn up at surgery at crack-of-dawn feeling like sh*t, be abused by vile receptionist, sit for hours waiting to see duty doctor, read completely tasteless out-of-date gossip magazines, find a dirty old man staring at your cleavage in the waiting room and then, eventually, when you are almost dead in your seat, your name is actually called. I dragged myself in to see her and was immediately interrogated and prescribed before she proclaimed ‘you do not look good. Your immune system is clearly not working’ (Hello, lady, I KNOW that. That is why I am here asking you for some lovely drugs). At that point she explained that what I needed was some isotonic multi-vitamin thing that would get straight into my bloodstream and make me feel heaps better. Apparently this is only available at 1 pharmacy in Australasia (I exaggerate) but she could sell it to me for $40…. it occured to me that this was perhaps a little unusual but then I relented thinking it must be an Aussie thing. However, a quick survey of my Down Under mates reveals that this is in fact not usual practice. I would feel less irritated if the stupid stuff was having any effect but to be honest I feel exactly the same as I did last week (minus the UTI pain). Hmmm….

I am also cursing the medical system here as a result of my tax return which I completed last week with help from a nice accountant in Penrith. Don’t get me wrong, the overall effect of the exercise is very pleasing as I am expecting a healthy rebate. However, I discovered I have to pay a medicare levy DESPITE THE FACT that I am not allowed to use the medicare system unless I am actually in an emergency situation. I joked that I should get myself run over by a bus just so that I can get my money’s worth. OK. Not Funny and, before any parental-concern emails wing their way over, I won’t go and play in the traffic.

Work has been crazy-ish but I am now realising that this is NORMAL. I’ve had flying visits (of under 24 hours) to Wellington, Perth and Canberra in the last fortnight and we are in the last week of Q2 which means that all salespeople are about to pull secret deals out from under their desk and require URGENT help to close them before Friday 5pm. Thank goodness I am on holiday next week – catching up with Marilla in NZ and, for once, turning the flippin’ BlackBerry off.

Otherwise, I have been enjoying spending heaps of time with friends. I’ve been to see the Cirque du Soleil who are in town at the moment, watched Talladega Nights at the cinema this weekend, we’ve had another full-on Smooth Jazz Cafe and found some new cool places to hang out (La Sala and Longrain). Its also decision-time re: residency and I think I will apply on 1st November for my permanent residency. There are a whole heap of benefits with this (not least that I can actually use the wretched Medicare system that I’m helping to pay for) and it means I can come and go from Australia as I want to rather than being held hostage in this role. I’m sure this won’t come as a shock to any of you, but I feel so at home here and coming back permanently to the UK is not really something I can see myself doing for some time, if at all.

Anyway, I need to get on with some work now. Miss you all heaps and love you very much


em xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx