Saturday, May 26, 2007


Ever felt so tired the world was spinning too fast? Man. I had forgotten what it was like to work a full week.

And there I go jumping in the deep end with my first full week of work, and then to round it off, working 9pm til 4am in a bar on Friday and Saturday nights...

No rest for the wicked eh. But of a very different sort to my usual kind. So no doubt this blog will make no sense at all. Though some may that's no change from normal.

My strong views on Perth have brought forth some amused and amusing comments and I've tried to see more good in the city since my last blog. I saw at least two people with funky hair cuts on their way to work, and only 93% of people in cheap shoes.

Work at MLCOA, the medical-legal company I do admin and reception for, has been getting steadily better as I get the hang of the intracies of photocopying and taking messages... but seriously, I am more in the swing of it now and enjoying my bus rides to and from work, listening to BBC podcasts and sniggering away as the world-weary of Perth sit in their grey splendour looking at me like I'm a nut job with good legs and nice shoes.

During my last few days of freedom before THE JOBS, Caroline and I did some fun things that made me see Perth's prettier side - we sat by Swan River and ate 10 cents bags of marsmallows and drank coffee at London Court - a faux-medieval lane in the CBD.

We met up with my roommate Lisa and her lift to Broome Steve to suss him out, and the four of us climbed up to King's Park. It was stunning up there - a wonderful view back towards the city.

It really is Perth's prettiest side.

This week has been an adjustment to working, with dinner being cooked for us by wonderful friends, a French film with Tanu and two of her buddies and sleeping a lot.

Last night was my first shift at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow - a hard night after a 6.45am start. I got in at 5.30am this morning and slept for a few hours - hence the inane or insaneness of this blog. Few more hours kip I think before I do it all again tonight...

Sadly it means I miss out on the drinking and dancing. But that's probably not a bad thing, eh dad?!

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I am going to get killed... every Perth-lover, resident, adopted son or daughter.

But you can sometime tell this city is fricking remote from the rest of Australia and indeed the civilised world.

Sometimes in Sydney I'd be surprised by the Australian passion for everything the northern hemisphere has to offer - the clothes, music, history, food...

Magazines go on endlessly about British and US celebs, fashion shows, stores - except everything is topsy turvy here and we'd be baking in the sunshine while the darlings of Notting Hill and LA strutted their funky winter boots through the snow and slush and across pages of Aussie mags.

Music takes a while to filter down here and so on. But there was also a sense of pride in Aussie fashion, music, stores and above all, attitude.

There aren't many places in the world that bask in the sunshine so beautifully, that have such stunning beaches and yet have a cosmopolitan feel, such a good standard of living as Sydney and Melbourne.

Striding our way to our offices on level 22 of Darling Park in Sydney, Danielle and I would spot dozens of groomed and chic workers busily making their way to offices across the CBD, soy lattes and rasin toast in cupped in one hand and a briefcase in the other.

But Perth. Crikey. Cheap suits. Frumpy fashions. Ugly heels and bad followers of fashion. I'm hardly a style icon, and in backpacker mode I'm postively hideous, but it's not even SOME of these people - it's most.

Maybe it's the dire range of shops - the CBD is small, the alledgedly funkier suburbs
are spread far apart, maybe everyone fashionable doesn't walk my way to work. But there is no sense of life, of vibrance, of creativity here. Maybe it's the way I am looking at it - the lack of my kind of work and so on.

Maybe I'm in negative mode. Sorry Perthians - I think your 'city' is pretty, it's quite homely, but it's SO far away from anything bigger and brasher to escape to. For me, no amount of prettiness can score that away...

I am working now - I've just completed my third day as receptionist for a healthcare legal firm - basically a company with specialist doctores who do medicals for people making insurance and workers comp claims, that kind of thing. Quite a few fire brigade assesments too - always good for the eye.

It's the kind of job a school leaver could accomplish with aplomb. It's far from shops to browse at lunchtime (possibly a good thing), and has no natural light at the front desk. The people are nice but it's a small office. I curse that I cannot check my hotmail and will people to mail me on facebook instead...

I have training tomorrow night for a bar job - I'll be working 9pm to 4am on Friday and Saturday nights - crazy? perhaps. I need the moolla for the rest of my travels.

Elsewhere all is good. A fairly quiet weekend after a huge night on Friday. Very happily tipsy with some good dancing and so on at Black Betty's with Danielle, Lisa, Laura and so on. A good fun night.

Danielle and I cooked for our friends on Sunday night - a knock-out meal of chilli ovr nachos with cheese, sour cream and guacamole so the diet is going well ;) We've sort of joined their club and get genuine Thai food, homemade burgers, thick winter soups and shepherds pie in return. One night's hard labour for a week of good food can't be bad...

Right, time for bed. Not used to this working malarky. Rubbish!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lazy days in Perth

Perth is an interesting city. It has a different vibe to Melbourne and Sydney. The clubbing and bar scene relies heavily on local bands covering the hits which are interspersed with dance music or chart stuff.

It's an interesting time here. There is very low unemployment and are currently more jobs than people - an interesting situation because it doesn't necessarily mean things are great. Some businesses are struggling to get people to do simple jobs like kitchen hands and can't afford to raise wages and are having to close.

Perth is the sunniest city in Australia and one of the driest. So even though it is winter, days are still sunny and bright (mostly) and warm. On Thursday, Welsh lady Lisa and I went to Cottesloe beach for a sunning session and met up with Sabina, another girl from our hostel.

It was about 29C and beautifully sunny with cloudless blue skies. We lay for hours chatting, reading books and soaking up the rays before heading back to Perth on the train (about a half hour ride) with an ice cream.

Days since then have passed uneventfully - chatting to friends in the hostel, another interview with a job agency, coffee in a nearby cool cafe, reading in the sunshine of the courtyard, having dinner with friends, catching up on sleep, wandering around Northbridge (where the hostel is), Perth CBD, and trying to get over a nasty cold which is heading around the city at the moment.

Have also been celebrating one of the lad's birthdays - Mark of the rolling in the leaves fame - so of course it was obligatory to go out to Black Betty's for a beverage or two.

Caroline, our crazy fab stalker friend we met in Melbourne and fellow mad Take-Thatter, arrived in sunny Perth last night after a stunning trip to Uluru (Ayres Rock). So we met her at Moon Cafe - a funky place nearby - with her friends and caught up on all our news.

Things are going swimmingly but I've found it quite hard to get into the swing of things here. I'm looking forward to getting on the road properly, going up the west coast and seeing and doing some proper stuff - even though it's going to cost a bomb.

As we have been remarking this week, travel is great for broadening the mind (and wasitline), for meeting new people and seeing new things. But it can be quite a lonely experience to be thousands of miles from the people who know and love you best.

When you're getting up for work and are in the same old patterns you would be in at home - just in an unfamiliar and probably sunnier place - it can seem a bit pointless at times.

When you're feeling low and like getting away from everything - there is no where to hide in a hostl. You are surrounded constantly with people judging you, getting mad at you for making a noise, complaining if you decide not to go out, looking at you strangely for mad acts and it is hard to completely relax.

Of course, there are moments of just absolute fun and wonder - seeing a west coast sunset, sitting up debating til the wee hours of the morning with new friends, the feeling that, even though you've just met this person, you have a connection and you can rely on them for all sorts of things, the sunshine on your face when it's raining at home, seeing life through the eyes of people from all over the world, taking in another point of view, listening to new sounds...

But this is all to end soon - I have booked my final flight home. I will be leaving Christchurch on New Zealand's south island on November 30, and arriving in Birmingham on December 1 ready for a family Christmas in Lanzarote. Some people have all the luck, eh

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Exploring Perth

So what is the most remote city in the world really like?

Well, Perth doesn't feel that far away. It is a spacious city with sprawling suburbs that cover a wider area than Sydney.

As a fairly new city, it has been designed with wide roads, plenty of open spaces, tree-lined avenues and thoughtful buildings. The CBD (central business district) is more compact than Melbourne or Sydney.

The main part of the city is north of the Swan River - and I am staying in Northbrirdge - which is north of the CBD but very close. It is a studenty/backpackery area with plenty of bars and restaurants and, by the number of Chinese and Asian restaurants and supermarkets, is home to a sizable south-east asian community.

On Sunday afternoon, Danielle and I took the train to Fremantle (or Freo as they call it here) - a popular spot for backpackers and similar to Manly and it's relation to Sydney in a way - touristy, a short distance from the centre, and a self-enclosed and self-important town that is still tied to the big city.

We wandered to a pedestrianised strip, sat and had a sandwich at a pavement cafe and enjoyed the hot, hot sunshine.

We then wandered back up past the station and to the famous E-shed markets by the port - everything from belly dancer costumes to chocolate-covered bananas and knicks-knacks are sold here.

We wandered past some odd statues (pictured above)to the edge of the port and to the Maritime museum, where we looked for potential relatives - Spratts, Devlins, Lowes, Mackenzies... - on the lists of immigrants arriving on ships in the years gone by.

It had turned decidedly chilly by this time so we abandonned our walk and headed back to the station to take a ride on a free bus (the CAT) around Freo. A much easier way to see things than walking headfirst into the cold wind!

It is winter here but still pretty warm - until these cold gusts of wind come along and clouds gather. Rain tends to be hard and fast and then gone again. Mostly it has been sunny and warm.

On Monday, I made attempts to find gainful employment and signed up to an agency for work, and met Danielle for lovely (and warming) pumpkin risotto for lunch. In the evening, we headed to The Deen bar for free backpacker barbecue and free beer and a quick boogie.

Yesterday (Tues), I wandered Northbridge a little and then met Tanu and we drove (a very windy route) to Cottesloe Beach - one of the most popular (below).

It is a lovely beach - with an Indian-style tearoom built over the beach by the British many moons ago - and the sun was hot and wind mild. However, for some mysterious reason there were high cliffs of seaweed along the shoreline. Really odd and Tanu was rather embarrassed by it.

After a lovely afternoon becoming hyper on coffee (me) and being freaked out (Tanu by me), I went to meet Danielle for ingrediants for Tijuana Tuesday - we were making faijitas for dinner! woo hoo! yummy.

An early night was intended and successfully completed by Danielle. However, I was accosted on my way to fill up my water bottle and ended up with a bottle full of vodka and diet coke and chatting about the merits (or not) of journalism, the free free, Margaret Thatcher, unions, the miners strikes and living in the antarctic and whether you get SAD there.

In return for being allowed to stay in the kitchen area past bedtime (11pm), the group of us had to clean the kitchen from top to bottom - so sleep was sadly lacking.

Today, I sent out a load more CVs, finally signed up to Medicare (their healthcare system) so I can go to the doctors, sat in the park drinking chai tea and reading the job section in the hot, hot sun and generally chatting and reading and trying not to stress about lack of current job...

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, May 06, 2007

dubai to sunny perth...

The spice souk

So Dubai is now a distant memory and I am back to backpacker life - this time on the west coast of Oz - in Perth.

But first a brief(ish) recap of my final days in Dubai if I can manage to write anything properly with a stinker of a hangover...


I met up with a a chap called Andrew on Monday evening - he's a friend of a guy I worked with in Sydney, Noah, and he now lives in Dubai. I met him at a shopping mall and we drove out towards the Burj Al Arab hotel and to a bar called Batista (or something) at Dubai Marina.

Dubai stretches along the coastline for some miles and the marina is some way from the heart of the city. It's in the area where there are nice, plush hotels, malls and the complex world of the expats.

We sat and indulged in few G&T's and actually found out who the hell each other was before his lady, her mother and friend joined us. Like most of the expats I met, the seemed pretty disillusioned with life in Dubai - feeling the city to be a fake place built on lavish lifestyles, false friendships and greed.

The Emiratis, they said, did very little work because they get paid to live and accommodation free from the government and that most of the 50,000 population chose not to work.

Mostly, the people who wait on you, serve you in the malls and do the labouring are Indian, Pakistani, or African.

I then got a taxi back to my 2* hotel in Deira - a place the taxi driver labelled as full of prostitutes. Ah that would explain a lot.

On Tuesday, I decided to take a wander around and walked down to the creek. I took an abra (small boat) across the waters to Bur Dubai for 1 AED and wandered around in the hot sun. Andrew had told me about a nice cafe so I wandered around the textile souk (market) and then started looking for it and asked at a general store.

The chap in the shop actually rang directory inquiries, got the number, rang the cafe and asked directions before painstakingly making sure I knew the way. Like so many people I met in Dubai - he was immensely friendly.

It took me a while to locate XVA but it turned out to be in the historical building area - and very pretty it was too. The buildings look anciently arabic and have the wind towers perched atop walls to catch any breeze.

XVA was also an art gallery so I took some time to look at the modern art before settling down to a newspaper, mint lemonade and a wonderful lunch of some kind of rice, vegetable and yoghurt concoction.

Then the President of Uganda turned up. Which was odd. He took a look around while men in their white robes (the Emiratis) stood around wearing shades and talking urgently into mobile phones. And then, as suddenly as they arrived, they were gone...

That afternoon I embarked upon a desert safari - a kind of obligatory tourist occasion.

A 4x4 picked me up along with a Japanese chap from my hotel and a Malaysian lady and her sister and then we acquired a very nice French couple along the way.

We drove out of the city and to the edge of the desert, where we saw dozens of 4x4s ready to do the same adventure. And then we were all off, laughing smugly at those vehicles that hit the sand dunes and promptly got a puncture.

30 seconds later, we were not laughing so hard. We had a puncture too. Two minutes later, we were really not laughing. The engine would not turn over. The battery was dead. The air con was not working...

We tried to laugh. We asked what this might mean. Another vehicle? Death in the desert? A night under the stars?

We watched lucky bastards in their working 4x4s disappear bumping their way over the sand dunes and into the desert...

After about 10 minutes, another 4x4 appeared and they decided to attached a tow rope to the back of it and pull us down a steep dune to get the engine working. We scrambled out and watched...

...luckily it worked.

And so there followed about half an hour of bumping up and over the dunes, rushing sideways down the sand banks and headfirst down steep tracks. After the trauma of the breakdown, I was glad to see we were in convoy of 4 trucks - no way I want to break down in the middle of the desert - where mobile phones do not work.

And then it was to camp. Too soon sadly. We had to sit there for a good while contemplating sand boarding (I watched the French chap try it - it really wasn't worth the effort), taking full use of the free soft drinks, listening to loud loud loud music, fending off the attentions of the driver (me), sleeping (most people) and smoking shisa pipes.

I got a free henna tattoo and then paid to have it extended and everyone seems rather impressed by it.

Sometime later, a large barbecue was prepared with lovely humus, salad, chicken, lamb kebabs, lentil curry and all kinds of things.

And then it was time for the belly dancing - a trim, long-haired lovely came out and bent and shook her body in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways. It was fantastic and mesmirising and brilliant. Until the humilation of several as she got them to stand up and copy her moves. I was dragged up with my French friends...

Then later we all had to get up and dance in a circle before she whirled me into the centre and we spun around and around. And then it was back home and to bed and to fend off the attentions of a Nigerian guest in the hotel. There must be something in the water here...

Wednesday was my last day. I took myself off to the gold and spice souks in the morning - just a short walk from my hotel. Basically, they consist of a lot of shops selling gold. Or spices. I just wandered along the gold souk and in the spice souk - an older more interesting market - I smelled the wonderful spices and asked all about them. And ended up buying cashew nuts.

I was then accosted by an Emirati chap to go and look at the Dubai Muncipality Museum - a free video basically on the growth of Dubai and a look at some documents and the old Sheik's desk. Unfortunately, I then had to endure the attentions of this older man and his offers to show me the Emirates in his car... oh dear Lord. After explaining that I was leaving that day he eventually stopped trying to hug me and let me leave, but not before I had had a cup of Arabic tea. Hmmmm...

So then it was back to the hotel to check out before 12pm - and then just 14 hours til my flight. So I did what I do best. And went shopping. I decided to go back to Deira City Centre mall which I was told would be about a 25AED ride (three quid). So I decided to take the bus (1.5 AED).

The bus station wasn't far and after asking which buses I could take (6 or 27), I sat and patiently waited. And waited. The buses were not arriving for those routes. I waited some more at number 6 stop. Then I saw a 27 pull up and raced across the station. It parked. The driver got out and disappeared. I had been waiting 40 minutes by this time.

There then ensued a dance between the two bus stops for about another half an hour. Or maybe more who knows. I missed the 6 and ended up on the 27. But at least I was on the bus - and sat in the ladies section - which I highly approved of.

I then spent a very pleasurable however many hours shopping, watching a terrible French comedy at the cinema, drinking hot chocolate and then waiting for 40 minutes for a taxi back (which ended up costing me just 10 AED).

Then to the airport and to fly to Perth. I had a full three seats to myself on the plane. I arrived. I was met by Tanu, a lovely Perthian lady who was a coordinator for Travel to Teach in Thailand, who brought me to my hostel - Britannia in Northbridge.

I was reunited with Danielle and we all went for pasta and then a few drinks.

Since then, I have explored a little, bought a few essentials, slept a lot, eaten a lot and drunk a fair amount. We hit a club called Black Betty's on Friday night and then rolled in some leaves in the nearby park (I'm not joking) and last night, we had a few drinks in the hostel courtyard after a day shopping for clothes (for Danielle), listening to our iPods in the park and sitting by Swan River.

People are very friendly here - it's not Melbourne, or Sydney and the vibe is very different. Shops don't open on a Sunday. Weird. But it seems very nice and I'll daresay I'll have something proper to write about it very, very soon.

Below is Danielle and me doing our 'deer caught in headlights' pose. In the leaves. In the park.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,