Monday, June 30, 2008

Last day, and an apology

Today is my last day of holiday before I start work at my new company, but before I tell you about my lovely day; an apology. Last night I had arranged to catch up with my grandad in Norfolk through the magic of Skype. Caught up in the beauty of a sunset over Bondi I totally forgot. Yes dear reader, you heard right, I stood up my own grandad on the interweb. So here is a public apology because not only is my grandad cool enough to use the magic of Skype to keep up with the Family, but he is also one of my more dedicated blog readers. Grandad, I am sorry.

Now, on to the business of the day...

Sydney put on a good show for my last day of hols, 21 degrees and sunshine. After a quick trip to the post office I set off to Bondi (yes, again, I confess its charms are growing on me!!) After finishing my book on the beach I headed off for a lovely ceasar salad in a beach side cafe. Feeling adventurous I decided to take another crack at the Bondi/Bronte coastal walk. Last time (about 18 months ago) Kate and I made it only as far as Tamarama before the heat drove us into the sea. Only after our dip did we see the "no swimming, dangerous conditions" sign. Whoops!

Anyway this time I made it all the way to Bronte. Its not a massive achievement, it only takes an hour or so, but the views? Wow. Below are a couple of piccies for you.

Upshot is I am rosy from the sun, happy, relaxed and after 5 weeks holiday... am ready to get stuck in again tomorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Friend dating

I went out for drinks and dinner with my pal Erin and three of her friends the other day and the subject of friend dating popped up.

Now I hadn't heard of it before, and initially assumed it meant dating friends (the wiseness of which could be cause for a whole-nother discussion). But I was wrong anyway, its not about dating friends, its about dating FOR friends.

One of the girls explained that she was in the midst of a "dating" ritual with another girl who she had decided she wanted as friend. She knew someone else who was already friends with this girl, and wanted a piece of that pal for herself.

The gist is, the same rules that you would apply to the regular dating scene, you apply to tracking yourself a friend. You chat with them when on a group night out, charm them with your zest for life, and invite them to hang out with you sometime. Its all done very informally so the target feels it all happens "naturally". Crucially, you have to make sure you aren't too eager else you risk looking like you have no other friends.

This particular girl was worried because she had invited the Potential Friend Target to two things, both of which the PFT had declined. Does the PFT have a busy social calendar or does she just not want to know?

It got me thinking (especially as I am in the process of wooing a few of potentials myself), is this normal behaviour? At first glance it seems a little stalker-ish - something about the pre-meditated conscious strategy seems to take away from the natural magic of meeting someone you like and just, well, getting along.

But then I realised, some of my favourite friends are part of Boo, the book club I formed through a random online advert when desperate to make friends after my move back to the suburbian homelands. Just because I consciously set out to meet them, does it take anything away from the friendship? I don't think it does, and in fact it makes me value them more (because it could have all gone so badly wrong! Just think, even now Ian could be internet grooming me from afar!)

So all in all I like the idea of friend dating. Twenty/thirtysomethings always seem to be obsessed with looking for The One. Why not invest as much (indeed, more) effort into finding your friends?

Water water everywhere...

I have never had much patience with people who say they don't like water. I mean, you are about 70% water, how can you not like it? Its flavourless, refreshing and essential to life!!

....anyway, it turns out I don't like Sydney water. Its not flavourless - it tastes kinda stale. Its yukky.

I knew I wasn't enjoying it but hadn't noticed I was actively avoiding drinking it until today when I couldn't escape the obvious signs of dehydration.

Unfortunately the other thing I don't have much patience for is bottled water - I mean how pretentious, fussy and unthrifty can you get?? But my dehydration has driven me the shops and 1.5l of bottled water later, I am feeling much better.

But there has to be another way (and I can't add Ribena to every glass of water I drink) so I also popped into a tea shop today.

I KNOW!! SHOCK HORROR!! EMILY DRINKING TEA!!

Anyway, after a good half an hour sniffing the many infusions (aside; at 9pm! A boutique tea shop open at 9pm! How cool!) I chose a lovely one. Its a black tea and cornflower infusion and smells devine. Erin talked me through how you make it/drink it and the nice lady wrapped it in a very exciting manner.

Just home and it went down a treat. Watch this space - Emily may be a tea drinker yet!

(Post script - yes, the perceptive among you might spot my home made mug from pottery - well I couldn't just leave it in the loft after all that effort!)
















How to move to Oz


















Ok people, here is a record that can exist in the vaults of the internet for whichever lucky sod googles for it. I couldn't find a handy tick list like this - hopefully it will be useful for someone. Sorry for the lack of info on the visa - my work sorted it.

You need to register for a tax number before anyone will pay you (unless you want to pay 45% tax!). You can register here.

Looking for somewhere to live? Gumtree is great for flatshares or Property.com if you are looking to rent or buy. If you are looking to get your own place, most rental viewings take place as an open house for 15 mins on a saturday so it can get competitive. Some people take a cash deposit with them so they can move quickly...

You need to sign up for Medicare to take advantage of reciprical health agreements the Oz goverment has with folks like the NHS. Look on their site to find the nearest branch, pop in and registration takes about 10 mins. You need to take your passport!

Unless you want to pay $1000 from your first pay cheque you also need private medical. The TV is crawling with ads for this, but beware that as a temporary resident you will have a YELLOW medicare card and many health policies only insure people with blue or green (Aussies, basically). Try these guys.

You will obviously need a bank account. The banks that seem to have the most ATMs are ANZ, WestPac and Commonwealth. This is important because they charge you for using another company's ATM. You will also need to get a credit card as there are many things you can't do otherwise (booking tickets etc, and some bars only take cash or credit). The banks all offer credit cards as well as savings and "cheque" (current) accounts.

Want money in your bank account ready for your arrival? Open your account before you go, and transfer the money by walking into your UK branch. If, like me, you didn't know to do this, you will need to either write to your UK bank or do a cash transfer from your Visa. Be careful, this does incur a fee (but you can minimise the daily interest by crediting your Visa in advance of making the transfer). You can't use your UK Maestro in stores here, but can use your Visa and your Maestro works in ATMs.

Finally, and my biggest headache as yet still unresolved, is the super (superannuation). This just means pension, and is a legal requirement in Australia. Employers pay at least 9% of your salary into a pension but unfortunately it seems EVERYONE is restricted by law from advising you of a plan! Many employers have a scheme, which seems idyllic from where I am sitting right now - I have decided to go for a pot-luck approach and talk to a financial advisor back in the UK at Christmas because even calls to FAs here have proved overly complicated. All I can suggest is to try this site for advice. Oh, and ignore people who say you can't release the fund when you return to the UK (I have a book that says it is released when you turn 60!). Not true, according to the government website. When you leave it reckons you can take it with you.

All that should help you on your way!

If anyone made it to the end of this post who isn't planning on moving to Oz, wow you must be having a boring day :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Intruder

Can anyone tell me what this is, and why it thinks it should be allowed in my bedroom? My best guess was "an Australian mini lizard". I shooed it out through the patio door and vowed never to leave my clothes on the floor!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The F Word

Last week Gordon Ramsey hit Sydney. It was the Good Food show at the weekend so he was in town to speak at the show and promote various things he's got going on.

Mr Ramsey is a famous chap round these parts - the American hell's kitchen is on TV at the moment and his books are everywhere - and his visit appears to have caused a bit of a furore.

There is currently a senate hearing related to his swearing on TV, and he was heavily critised on his visit. He was jokingly handed a swear jar (a dollar in the jar everytime he swears) as a gift from the Mayor... and proceeded to drop it, and swear loudly as it shattered.

I like Gordon. Some colleagues met him through work a few years back and said he was an absolute gent. His bullying in the kitchen disgusts me though, and the language is foul. I am happy with him swearing on his own show though, and can choose not to watch it and take the guidance of it being on telly after the watershed to ensure no children see it on my watch.

But what REALLY gauls me is not him swearing on TV, its the relaxation of the use of swear words in the newspapers. Quite likely directly linked to this general acceptance of swearing in public, the newspapers are now merrily quoting people who swear (thus avoiding direct responsibility for the language) and I believe people seeking the limelight are now deliberately swearing to spice up their quote and increase the chances of inclusion. I expect to be able to hand a copy of The Guardian to an 11 year old, safe in the knowledge that it will either improve their general knowledge or just go straight over their heads. I disapprove of children being exposed to swearing (its foul language, for use by adults in adult-only environments, and it makes me cringe when I see people swear around children or, worse still, children swearing).

Do I need to start insisting that my nieces are kept indoors with no access to the world's news to avoid their exposure to the F Word?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Critter crisis

This week I encountered my first resident creepy crawly since arriving in Oz. Merrily readying myself for bed, I wandered into the kitchen to fill up a glass of water and was stopped in my tracks by a cockroach sauntering across the floor like he owned the place.

Now I have made no secret of my abject fear of creepy crawlies - mice can over run my home and I will maturely slaughter them without breaking a sweat, but a cockroach only need look in my direction and I run screaming atop nearly furniture.

So how proud I was that upon seeing the interloper I didn't shriek. Nor did I tremble or flee. No dear reader, I calmly went to the cupboard and placed a glass over the top of him/her.

With the offending critter incarcerated I calmly called through The Housemate's bedroom door to alert her to the presence of the bug.

"Did you spray it?" she asked.

"Spray it? With what? Why? Why would I spray it?? No I didn't spray it - I trapped it" I replied.

A pause, then;

"OK, well ... well done. I will deal with it in the morning. Go to bed".

Some people just don't recognise raw courage when they see it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Who ate all the pies?

It was revealed this morning (once I tuned into the English language news, rather than the French or Russian) that Australia is now the fattest nation on earth. Apparently 26% of the population is overweight, compared with 25% of Americans. Ignoring for a moment the fact that about 9 people live in Australia compared to 900 million billion in the US*, it all makes me wonder - where on earth are they?? I don't think I have seen any of them and I have been here over two weeks. Sydney-siders certainly know how to dress themselves (even if they are a little too dependent on the colour black) and I have seen no chav element yet... although I shared a train carriage with a couple of bogans! This is the country that claims 'all the pies' as its national dish, but maybe its this stylish approach which covers up the enormous truth - Gok Wan would be proud.

* Statistics estimated at time of going to press

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Better/worse, lunchtime moments

Having only been in Sydney for two weeks so far, every day still includes some better/worse moments. In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of better/worse moments I shall explain...

I have lived in the UK all my life (barring a few months Camp America, aged 19) and so some things rarely occur to me, such as, for example, the national standard of lunch options.

Now that I have a comparison I suddenly find myself thinking very bizarre things, like;

- London bus drivers are less cheery than their Sydney counterparts
- British winter days seem light for longer
- Cadburys is ming here, due to an anti-melt ingredient. Yuk

Today I realised that Australian lunch options are massively better than in London. In London we go gaga for a pasta option to replace the usual sarnie. Pret a Manger gets away with its dull dull dull sandwiches because there isn't much better. In Sydney they have things called "Food Halls". These Meccas of the Midday Snack contain at least 15 dining options all surrounding assorting seating. I think you maybe have to be there, but seriously, so far its one of my favourite things.

I am rather enjoying these better/worse moments but I am enjoying the lunches even more!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Epistle for Cyclops

Today I received a package from my dad.

Included in the package was a letter; two sides of printed A4 keeping me up to date with the day to day goings-on in Baldock Road. I love these letters, I used to get one every couple of weeks when I was at uni and their charm is in their trivial contents - its exactly the mundane information that someone you see lots of would tell you, so I always feel close to the action. I do hope this is the first of many.

Also in the package was my long awaited contact lenses. They weren't ready before I flew out so the parentals kindly picked them up from the opticians and sent them. However, closer inspection has revealed that the two boxes they sent ahead in this package are both for my left eye.

Now, I have previously experienced life with just one lense (it was the result of a late night dip in Bondi, featuring a large wave which thieved my specs and involved flying long haul for 24 hours with one eye shut). I don't recommend it.

Guess I shall be leaving those boxes in the bathroom cupboard until their counterparts arrive!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Portions

First up, an apology. I haven't blogged massively since arriving in Sydney. This is partly because I am still jet lagged, and haven't done anything monumental, but also partly because there is so much to tell that I don't know where to start. Plus I have been separated from my trusty BlackBerry so blogging is no longer mobile and I have never had the world's best memory. An idea for a post strikes on the train, but now I have to wait till I get home. So I am forgetting much of my best work before it materialises ;-)

This post has vaguely entered my mind on a number of occasions this week, and swiftly left again. It just came back though... so here is my thought on portions...

In the UK we are repeatedly told "eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day". Its tough, we moan, we can't squeeze them between our Dominoes and Frosties!

But strangely, in Australia they are told "2 portions of fruit, and 5 of veg a day".

Which leaves me wondering... are Brits bred/evolved to need less fruit and veg?? Has our Turkey Twizler lifestyle brought dividends as our essential processes now need fewer vitamins and minerals to function?

Or has the NHS decided that goals should always be achieveable and the Australian system would be too ambitious to work?

One thing I do know, Saturday night was the first time I have ever been told "come to ours for a drink first, we have wine but can you bring some fruit?"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Glam

Today I ironed all my work shirts. And cleaned the bathroom.

Don't ever let it be said that life aint glam this side of the equator.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Superheat me!

Observation of the day:

The Australian's have fallen foul to Hollywood propaganda. They have been lead to believe that "winter" equals cold. And so in 20 degree heat they super heat all their stores.

Its hell trying to do your supermarket shop in Woolworths (its not just pick'n'mix here you know) sweating in an unnecessarily centrally heated store.

Pah.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Settling in

Today Lorna (my new housemate) and I took a wander down to McMahon's Point for breakfast. After a yummy eggs benedict we wandered down through Lavender Bay, past Luna Park and through Milsons Point before getting back to North Sydney.

I love this area, there are some gorgeous houses on the north shore which must be owned by some pretty rich people.

Its stil raining on and off (but then it is winter so I should probably stop saying that or its all I will say each day) but is still lovely and warm, Its now 5pm and just about dark but as its a long weekend (Queen's Birthday) think I may head into town for some drinks with Kenny as noone is at work tomorrow. Just need to convince him to come in from Bondi...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sydney-side

So here I am, Sydney-side. It was chucking it down with rain yesterday which I thought was a really sweet way of making me feel at home. Sadly I can't tell you what the weather was like this morning as I accidentally slept in until 2.30pm... ahem.


Got a mobile, bedding, broadband, a bank account - pretty much settled in!

Will update you more later, but for the time being here is a picture or the harbour views from my terrace. YEAH BABY!


Monday, June 02, 2008

The best book club in the world

.... this month anyway.

No seriously, Letchworth Boo has been chosen as book club of the month - here.

I filled out the entry form in January and after months and months of disappointment it is now official, for June 2008, Letchworth Boo is the best book club there is.

How cool!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Where did all the real women go?

I was out in Hitchin last night. I know dear reader, not my usual haunt and sadly everyone else who was out (with the exception of my friends) just seemed to be trying to prove why that is.

Women dressed as cow girls, nurses, school girls. Women wearing the shortest of shorts, the lowest of tops, more make-up than a clown, boobs pushed around their chins...

It all made me feel distinctly disgusted and pal Sue made me realise why; "Is this what has become of feminism?"

She is right. Sue is a little older than me and described how her family upbringing was still focused on becoming wife/mother but that her personal life choices were those of feminism - a career, independence, personal confidence. I think I have explained the tenets of my own upbringing before but it was about choice and personal confidence.

These girls were pieces of meat, dressed for the men rather than for themselves. A hen party was waving whips and dancing "sexily". It was sad to see. They were not individuals, advertising their ability to hold an opinion or asserting their value to the world. I am particularly sad as Hitchin has three secondary schools and one is a girls' school - I would have hoped girls (like me) who went there would have accidentally picked up some pro-women values beyond Girl Power.

Suddenly the DJ put on a new track. Nelly's "Hot In Here", and as Nelly sang "get up on the dance floor, give that man what he is asking for" I realised he couldn't have summed it up any better.

Girls - do it for yourselves and help us bring back the fabulous values of feminism.

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