Thursday, December 28, 2006

New year? new diet...

In the Christmas spirit at a beach barbecue on Dec 22

Christine gives me a Christmas kiss

You know I love being Rudolph

Christmas morning in Manly

Canadian Kim shows goodwill to all men

Dani is thrilled to be a Christmas jester

Well very Merry Christmas and Happy New year to everyone. I've been rubbish at updating this blog - been having way too much fun? Mais bien sur!

Christmas was very strange away from friends and family - and to be in the warm sunshine. The forecast for Christmas weekend was rain, thunder, rain and more rain. But the sun shone down brightly on Christmas day and made Manly feel like the best place to be in the world.

When Danielle and I finished work on Friday we went to Cargo bar at Darling Harbour with some of the imaging guys and Danielle's sister Laura and sat in the boiling hot sun sipping white wine and wanting to throw ourselves into the water to escape the heat.

It didn't feel like breaking up for Christmas, rather like we had a summer holiday to look forward to.

I returned to Manly Backpackers that night - away from the comfort of Steve's flat while Danielle went to the apartment her family is renting over the holiday period.

There were quite a few new faces and a many familiar ones too and we all jollied down to Shelley beach for a barbecue - decked out in Christmas gear and feeling remarkably unfestive nevertheless. However we soon rectified this by singing Christmas tunes very loudly.

The night turned into a party at Cerutti's bar - it felt great to be back among my friend's again who all look out for each other no matter how long you have been there for.

It felt so strange to be away from family and friends at this time of year. Being on the other side of the world, in a place so like home but so far apart in terms of time zones, temperature and distance, I missed everyone so much even though being in the heat and the sunshine is fantastic.

Luckily, I had Danielle's wonderful family to look after me. After a day spent dyeing my hair (it has gone purple? black? see top photo) I met up with them on Saturday night at the Rocks - the "historic" part of Sydney near the harbour bridge. Her father Brian and sister Laura have come over from Glasgow for Christmas and Jen had flown over from New Zealand. We sat drinking wine outside an Irish pub listening to live music in the warm dusk.

On our way to Darling Harbour for dinner we heard live music coming from another bar so ventured in for one drink and ended up staying to watch a talented duo play fantastic songs from The Beatles to Oasis and dancing away.

At Darling Harbour we went for a delicious slap-up Italian meal - and I really felt welcomed into their family. Danielle and I decided the night was still young and that we needed to dance the night away so grabbed a taxi back to Manly and went to party at Cerutti's again.

I was feeling pretty homesick in the lead up to Christmas and even missing the cold and the dark so I could crave another mince pie instead of an ice cream. Just so I could cuddle up on the sofa with a duvet. Just so I could drink tea all day and eat mountains of food with my family.

I realise the rain in Britain isn't quite so stinging when listening to carol singers, how the wind merely makes fairy lights dance and make you feel cosy and warm in the comfort of your home.

On the other hand, two weekends ago this was the weather. This was the view....

It was the best hangover cure in the world - going to Taronga Zoo with Danielle, her cousin Nicky and his girlfriend Cheryl.
We fed giraffes and observed snakes, we saw a komodo dragon and were excited to see lions and tigers and bears - oh my!

So Christmas Day itself was warm and sunny too. I stayed at Danielle's flat the night before and we sang carols walking around the block in the rain and in the spa bath which didn't work (so we ended up just having a bath together instead of sharing a jacuzzi!).

In the grey morning light we opened our presents - they even bought me some stocking fillers - and had breakfast before heading to Manly around lunchtime.

Danielle and I headed to the hostel where everyone was getting merry and had already eaten lunch. We danced and had a drink with them before meeting the rest of D's family on the Corso. By this time the sun was shinning brightly so we went for a drink on the Corso and then headed to Shelley Beach for the barbecue.

Some of our friends were already there and we had a spot in the shade of some trees. Jen and I ran straight for the sea and then we barbecued our food and drank champagne. Danielle's dad was playing guitar, someone had a flute - there was a tambourine I'm sure...

We then played french cricket and some more friends came to join us. Kim climbed a tree and Christine and I played tag with the cutest little boy I have EVER seen.

We then partied at the hostel (after I left my wallet at the beach and had it kindly recovered by a random) and I tried to ring home many many times but had no success. Combination of drunkenness, phone cards being dead and a broken phone sadly.

On Boxing Day a massive group of us went to Sounds of Boxing Day. It is a huge party at a hotel in North Sydney. They have massive speakers in the courtyard and tons of rooms with different music. Thousands of people danced in the sunshine from 2pm onwards. It was great fun.

Now however it is back to work and real life again. Hopefully will be moving into a flat once two of my friends move out - great to have a base but sad to lose my lovely Canadian friends. More pics of Christmas will be posted soon!

Welsh Anthony

Mr Devlin - also known as Santa

Welsh boys and Geordie Steve barbecuing on the beach

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Working girl...

Am now in the full swing of working life here in Sydney. Last week Danielle and I moved into Steve's apartment in Mosman - a rather well-to-do suburb North of Sydney.

Working full-time five days a week has curbed our drinking and socialising - particularly as we are now two short bus rides from our friends in Manly. This is excellent for our waistlines and wallets on the one hand: on the other, we now enjoy buying cappucino's and flat whites, posh salads and pastas for lunch and shopping in our lunch hour.

I now want to have posh working outfits, iPods, a laptop, nice phone and all the trappings of working in the city. Sadly, the pay is pretty crud once the high taxation has been ripped from my weekly salary.

Kindly, Mr Steven Lewis (pictured above with Danielle and me) has allowed us to continue to rent his son's bedroom from him now that he has return from Thailand. We were delighted to accept until we discovered that the cockroaches we kept encountering in his flat were not just because of Sydney's humid climate and warmth. Oh no. He has been breeding them so his son can feed them to the bearded dragon lizard (Wesley) and it's wild and vicious friend the blue-tongued lizard (Bluey). Nice.

Thankfully, we have today been informed that the said cockroaches have been carpet bombed with insect killer and I expect a veritable graveyard of corpses upon my return home this evening.

Danielle and I managed to get to our Manly Wednesday night haunt last week - The Steyne. Karaoke and great music afterwards. There is always a good crowd there of serious and not-so-serious karaoke singers. A group of us from the hostel sang - very badly - last week. We were missing Jose though - our Chilean friend who sings Ricky Martin fantastically - who has moved on now.

During the day we were taken for our first work meal. Hannanprint - the printers for the magazines - took us to Blackbird Cafe at Cockle Bay Wharf (left) for a slap-up meal.

On Friday night we went for after-work drinks with the team from Mag Ops. Everyone migrates to The Shelbourne pub across the road from our office and we got to know the imaging guys and everyone from the team a little better. We then gorged on Subway before attempting to go to Manly.

Slightly tipsy, we could only find the bus to Mosman and jumped on that. By the time we got there we were sleepy and decided to go back to the apartment. Once there we realised we were way too tired to make it and ended up falling asleep on the sofa around 10pm. Unfortunately for Brett, a chap we know, he was on his way to visit and was trying to get to us before we headed to bed. He got a speeding ticket, 3 points on his licence, a $230 fine and then discovered I was not answering my phone because I had already fallen asleep. Whoops!

On Saturday, Danielle headed for her friend's 21st birthday while I returned to Manly for a toga party in honour of our friend John leaving. We all partied on the top floor of the hostel and on the balcony - dancing to iPod tunes and generally having a good natter and drink.

This week, we had our work Christmas party - about 35 of us from Magazine and Newspaper operations (the pre-printing bit) at La Cita. The bar at King's Wharf put on a salsa class and we had top quality canapes (lamb cutlets, ribs, chicken thighs, nachos and so on) and sangria with our new colleagues. It was all good fun but luckily we kept ourselves respectable - in fact far more respectable than our bosses...

We are hoping to return to Manly (above) and find somewhere to live there but it is very difficult at this time of year. Many places are let out at high prices to holiday makers and longer term accommodation is for 6 months minimum lease. The penalties for breaking leases are very high here and so we are a bit stumped.

We will stay at Steve's until next week when his mum comes to visit. Danielle will leave for her 5* apartment which her dad is renting for Christmas and New Year for her, her sisters and him. Looks like I will be back at the hostel. Not looking forward to that - mainly because I have accumulated a massive amount of stuff. It all piles up when you are buying things like washing powder and huge economy bottles of shampoo...

The weather here has been crazy. On Monday it was very hot and humid and by mid-afternoon it had clouded over in a dramatic fashion. Here on level 22 of Darling Park (three grey towers right of centre - below), we were watching the storm coming towards Sydney from the west. Forked lightning was soon piercing the grey day. It was spectacular.

Tuesday was then miserable and grey. It was raining and only about 22C - we felt very Christmassy because bright sunshine and Jingle Bells seems like an odd mix to us Brits. Then yesterday, Wednesday, was warm and cloudy but overcast, and today is 35C and sunny. Tomorrow, rain is forecast with temperatures only at 20C. Chilly! So although we're hoping for the beach this weekend (we haven't been since we started work) - it may be dvd's on the sofa again...

Monday, December 04, 2006

New beginnings

So still no proper pictures (where is that damn cable?) but a quick update.

I now have gainful employment. Gone is the 'marketing assistant' for Richardson and Wrench (pamphleting and telesales), the threat of becoming an events waitress below some upstart I trained when I was 15 or any number of waiting jobs. Instead I am now production coordinator for magazine operations at Fairfax publishing - one of the largest publishing companies in Australia.

Basically it means I am using some of my design skills from days of yore - well the computing packages anyway. I have to set deadlines for advertising and editorial teams, make up a grid of how the adverts and articles will be laid out, put the adverts onto the pages, output all the pages to the printers, get the proofs and dyelines from the printers and deliver them to all the teams involved, reoutput them to the printers and so on and so forth. It's basically the middle ground between advertising and editorial.

My friend Danielle also has a job in the same department and works as advertising coordinator. The money isn't great (we got the jobs through and agency) and the days are very long with the commute by ferry from Manly. The bonus is that it goes past the harbour bridge and opera house - a magnificent sight in early morning light and at dusk.

This week Danielle and I have taken a break from the backpackers and are renting our friend Steve's apartment for the week while he is in Thailand. It is in a suburb called Mosman, which is a bus ride from the city. From the windows of his place we can see the lights of homes around the harbour and across to Manly.

It means we will have a quieter place than Manly and we will have a more civilised week with people over for dinner and supping on wine rather than slapping the bag (of wine) and downing goon.

Danielle, Dani and her chap Taz are hoping to live in an apartment right opposite the beach in Manly. It is on the third floor of a small block and is set back from the beach road so it is quiet. It has a balcony from the living room overlooking the beach and, although quite small, has lovely wooden floors and light rooms. Hopefully we will get our application in tomorrow and secure it.

Hoping to get some more surfing in. Don't think I mentionned in any of the posts so far but Danielle and Dani and I had a surf lesson the other week. The three of us went to Freshwater beach with our instructor Paul to try our hand at riding the waves on a longboard. It was such a glorious afternoon learning to surf at this world-famous beach.

It had been raining all day but as we left the hostel at around 3pm, the sun came out and shone brilliantly through the late afternoon. While one of us attempted not to get bashed about by the waves, the others played in the surf. Dani and I got a bit excited by the whole thing at one point, doing handstands and cartwheels, pirouettes and hornpipes in the water, feeling the sun on our backs, the salt water on our lips and knowing this was the life we were going to live for months to come.

And there was the windsurfing the weekend before last - a free lesson won in the quiz at the hostel several weeks ago. Danielle, Paul and I had a lesson at Balmoral Beach taken by our friend Ash and his hot mate Joel. Much harder than I remembered it from when I was 14. And not good with a hangover!

I have honestly never felt this free in my life. Fickle as the friendships can be in the hostel, among those who are here for the longterm, they are enduring and caring. People look out for each other and a wonderful clique has formed of Welshies, Scots (well, one - Danielle), Poms, Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, Texans, South Africans, Dutch and so forth. Going back to the hostel on Sunday afternoon having missed a big night out, I found everyone partying on the balcony. They had maybe had two or three hours sleep and were just determined to carry on the party in the sunshine. People were skipping through the bedrooms dancing and laughing.

In one room a Christmas tree 'acquired' from goodness knows where was lit up with fairy lights, the walls covered with wrapping paper, photos of our recent nights out and advent calendars - giving it a santa's grotto edge. Unfortunately I don't have my reindeer costume with me...

Backpacker nickers - John and Steven. Steven has recorded us for his latest podcast of The Rules - as his houseguest, more episodes featuring me are due...