Sunday, November 30, 2008

A confession

I have a little confession to make, dear reader. Its something that I have learnt not to say in polite company. It seems it is a little bit shameful. Its not something you discuss. Indeed its quite the conversation killer...

But I am homesick.

There. Said it.

Noone really knows how to respond when you tell them that actually, you are missing your real life, and friends, and family and little house and The Way Things Were.

Its a faux pas to mention because (of course) Sydney is the best place in the world and if you can't see that being here is better than being anywhere else you obviously don't party hard enough, or have enough cool friends. Or something.

But I do party hard. And I have some lovely friends out here. And the sun is shining today and everything. But still, for the last two weeks, I have been homesick.

I head back to ol' Blighty in 3 weeks for Christmas and quite frankly I cannot wait.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Life's not too short...

.... to stuff a mushroom. Or so it seems.

Since washing up on these foreign shores I have lost my cooking flare. It has happened occasionally in the past and I just blamed it on the sunshine, the beach...

Perhaps more likely was the fact that I was pining for my culinary kit... salad spinner, beautiful garlic crusher, clever nutmeg grater, lovely knives....

I still miss all my stuff (I am convinced my new garlic crusher is going to break any day), but I think I have cracked it.

At the weekend, driven by home sickness, I downloaded a load of BBC radio podcasts. This is some confession because I am not talking Radio 1. Oh no. It started with Terry Wogan, Chris Evans and Steve Wright and descended swiftly from Radio 2 to 4.

For the last few days I have been merrily listening my way through Thinking Allowed, You and Yours, On The Move, Choice, Melvyn Bragg and (my all time favourite) Woman's Hour.

In direct correlation you find my dinners.... lasagne, a prawn and avocado and couscous creation and today an entire stuffed mushroom (aubergine, tomato, bacon, garlic, spinach, pine nuts and cheese... mmmm).

So it seems Radio 4 makes me cook. And of course it makes me cleverer.

I think I may be edging nearer to middle age again.... definitely time to go to a fancy dress party and get drunk. I shall update you on that on Sunday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On schoolies

I am a little under the weather today, but hoping I can muster enough energy to give this blog post the incredulation it deserves.

Here in Australia the big school exams are the HSCs (familiar to any Neighbours or Home & Away viewers, and almost always said with a "haitch"). Upon finishing these exams, it is tradition that the "schoolies" (year 12s) head off for a big party. They don't head to the pub, or hold a school leavers ball like we did back in the UK - oh no. Here Down Under they organise these massive schoolies events. Kids travel for a week to places on the Gold Coast to party. Its a big do, lasts three weeks (because the different states go at different times) and it dominates the news.

My incredulation has set in, however, in watching some of the media coverage of schoolies.

Where you find schoolies you also find "toolies". These are grown up people who prey upon innocent drunken schoolies.

The media has gone on and on about how the specially designed "toolie-proof fence" has not kept grown ups out of designated schoolies areas. It has waxed lyrical about how the volunteers have not kept the kids (passed out from too much booze) safe on their journey to their accommodation. Most recently, last night A Current Affair (admittedly The Daily Mail of broadcast journalism) dedicated 10 mins to bemoaning that police were not sufficiently policing.

But hold on.... who looks after these children (because they are underage, that is what they still are) the rest of the year? Who granted permission for them to go on a week long bender unsupervised? Who let the custom get to the point where a child would probably be outcast if their parents said no?

I am utterly staggered that the death/injury/crime rates are not even higher than they are around this annual fiasco. What they need is a couple of years heavy investment on police raids, prosecution and (heaven forbid) kids being shipped home early. Some hefty fines for the companys who organise these things if a single child comes to harm in their care. Plus a few more parents prepared to stand up to their kids. There is no point educating them on the dangers of drink, drugs, strangers.... and then chucking them into the ultimate temptation.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Braverer and braverer

Last night, as I arrived home from the CBS Interactive christmas party (which was jolly good fun) I headed to the bathroom to clean my teeth.

As I reached for my toothbrush a visitor put in an appearance on the tiles above, before scurrying back behind the mirror. That visitor was my first cockroach in Bellevue Hill. I *hate* cockroaches.

I didn't scream (my fear was probably partly muffled by my booze intake) but resolutely set off in search of a trainer (jogger to you aussies). I moved everything breakable off the sink surround in preparation for the battle that would inevitably ensue, then slowly slowly took the mirror off the wall.

Then ACTION! I started slapping the wall with my shoe, seemingly at random, but in fact just a girly attempt at aiming. It was all reminiscent of the axe scene in Titanic as the roach evaded my swipes and made a bee-line (roach-line?) for my shower. Oh no you don't, I summised, and leapt into the shower cubicle in a single bound.

One fabulously aimed whack later and half a cockroach was to be found on the bottom of my shoe while the other half has created a charming paint effect on the wall. I wiped the shoe with my frog-covered recycled loo roll and took myself off to bed.

How brave am I?

Pangs of guilt

I have the guilt.

I just checked my blog traffic figures to see how many people head to TOE these days. And I have lost 20% from my previous daily traffic highs.

I am not a fool. I know exactly why this is. I don't post as much.

I have an excuse - I am terribly busy working or actually living life to tell you beautiful bunch all about it.

But still... you don't care about that do you? You want juicy details of the goings on of Bondi bus drivers (actually I am sure my bus driver yesterday was unhinged). You need to know when someone around me makes me mad, or laugh, or cringe.

I expect you have been mourning that your days just don't feel complete anymore, haven't you?

Hmm. OK. Sorry. I shall see if I can do better.

Yours (when I remember),
Em

Monday, November 17, 2008

House prices

OK, so is it just me?

When the economy was booming, we were constantly hearing whinging wannabe first time house buyers complaining that the market was out pricing them. I was never very sympathetic I have to say. If you can't afford to buy, just rent. If you can't save a deposit then you certainly can't afford the payments. Don't get me wrong, I am sympathetic to poorly paid government workers, but 23 year old graduates bemoaning that they can't afford to buy? Get a life.

Today though, my eyebrows raised for quite the opposite reason. An article on the BBC website says:

"With the mortgage supply drying up, house sales have now slumped by more than half, first-time buyers have increasingly been driven from the market and the construction industry has plunged head-long into recession."

OK, so its hard to get a mortgage right now. I get that. But with prices dropping and the banks getting their houses in order (and Gordon Brown guaranteeing everything for everyone) its surely only a matter of time before those 23 year olds can start to take advantage of the lowered prices (because their salary will certainly not have bottomed out so quickly as the housing market). And these wannabe home owners are surely sitting on slowly increasing savings funds in their efforts to buy - all of which would have benefitted from reasonably steep interest rates over the last couple of years.

Just seems like middle class Gen Y is always pleading victim. Pisses me off a bit. Someone wanting to buy a house is hardly the bottom of the social rung or deserving of collective sympathy.

Familiar face

Today, as I was walking home from Bondi Junction, I bumped into a friend of mine.

Is that really worth a blog post, you ask. Well yes, it is. One of the things I love about Letchworth Garden City is that despite having a population of 40,000, everywhere I go I bump into a friend. Sainsburys, walking to the station, walking home, popping to the shop...

And now its starting to happen here.

The other morning Erin and Ryan flew past me in their car (and they tell everyone they run to work!) teasing me out of the window at the top of their lungs (what they shouted remains a secret shared only between me, them, and the Old South Head Road rush hour commuters). Then today, there was Conal at the traffic lights.

Seems trivial, but it was all rather exciting. I feel like I actually live here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Movember

The last twelve days have witnessed a disturbing change in Australian men.


It's been a gradual creep, but this morning there was no denying that Sydney is now fully in the grip of a facial hair epidemic. This facial hair is very focused. Its not littering up the chins or spreading the monobrow up and down the beaches.

Oh no. This is the month of the mo. Movember. The month Australians go tash-tastic for a great cause.

It's been slowly building. The odd email asking for sponsorship. A double-glance at a good friend... are they participating or just working too hard?

But this morning I saw a glorious example which left me in no doubt that the fast growers are well on track to a top lip bristling with hair in time for the ceremonial shave on December 1st.

We ladies do our bit in November too. We will have to grin and bear the dirty smears above the lips of Australian men and wish them luck in their endeavours.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

State of things

Do you ever feel totally filled up with happiness?

I don't mean on those special days - the wedding of a sister who means the world to you, the first time you meet your beautiful new neice, when you see a friend you haven't seen for months - but on a perfectly ordinary day.

I feel like that more and more these days.

I am an emotionally driven person, and am becoming aware just how lucky I am to be so happy so often.

Take today...

This morning I went to a chocolate making workshop - a birthday present from a friend. I met some lovely people and made lots of chocolates. Then I went to meet a friend for coffee and was introduced to her new baby. Then I watched a historical documentary with a glass of wine. I downloaded a new album (Josh Pyke) which I am really enjoying and I have just emerged from the shower, getting ready to meet some friends in Bondi. And I couldn't stop smiling the whole time I was showering.

Because this IS everyday. I smile on my way to the train in the morning. Increasingly, talk-a-lot Emily sits with her friends in the pub or in the sunshine and doesn't feel the need to say anything because she is deeply content.

Gosh I am lucky.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A startling conversation

Oh my golly gosh. It's a two blog post day because, quite frankly, I have just been handed a gem of blog content.

One of my colleagues (who will remain nameless for the sake of her future career) has just spun around in her chair to ask me a question, and the conversation went a little something like this... ahem...

Colleague: Hey Em, what does [client] mean about the law in NZ?

Me: She wants you to check whether that fact about companies being legally required to hold data for five years in Australia is the same as in NZ.

Colleague: Do they have different law to us then?

Me: Um, yes.

Colleague: But I thought they just had our laws?

Me: No. Historically speaking I believe Australia and NZ are both more linked to Britain than they are to each other. NZ do indeed have their own laws.

Colleague: OK, so we all have British law?

Me: No, everyone very much has their own law honey.

Colleague: But aren't there two systems? British and American? I thought everyone else was just a variation on a theme?

Me: Um, where would, say, France sit in this legal scheme of yours?

Colleague: [thinking] ... British?

There followed a brief explanation by me of how law works. Nods from colleague made me perhaps a little over zealous in my explanation. Perhaps mentioning that our contracts are actually written under the laws of New South Wales, not Australia ... or Britain... was taking it too far.

I am, however, heartened by her close:

Colleague: Like, when you say it, its ringing bells.

Quite.

Grass is greener

I had a realisation yesterday. I was sitting at my desk, still slightly immersed in post-holiday blues and I beginning to pine for home a little.

A few Facebook photos from home and random stranger-who-looks-like-a-friend-thousands-of-miles-away double-takes too many (plus perhaps the fact that the North Island of New Zealand looks a bit like Yorkshire on speed) had conspired to make Happy Em slightly home sick.

It was nothing crippling you understand, and its mild nature made me ponder on the reasons for it.

And I have sussed it. I am not home sick so much as chronically fickle.

When I was bored, tired or fidgety back home I would sit in front of my laptop and Google in search of opportunities to build a school in Ghana, travel South East Asia or (heaven forbid) move to Sydney.

Now when I suffer from the same boredtiredfidigetyitis I mull over how perfect my life in the LGC was.

My cute little back garden and latest DIY project. Tuesday night swimming and gossips with Felicity and Hils. Thick silk curtains keeping the cold out on snowy days or lazy saturdays watching bumble bees potter up and down my flower beds. Nipping to the parentals in search of a chocolate biccy, or to Melissa and Os's for pudding. My trusty Corsa (which I now have to refer to as a Barina) venturing all the way to Sainsburys and back, and running into friends and acquaintences the minute I stepped from the house.

But in Sydney I can paint an equally blissful picture:

Waking up to sunshine streaming through the blinds and heading down to Bondi beach to see some friends. Drinking fruit smoothies and pretending they are good for me. Picking up my favourite shoes from the best shoe repair man in the world on the way back from a thai lunch at Sweeneys with Bridie or Polly. Walking around the corner to Erin and Ryans for a cold beer on their balcony with a (very small) view of the harbour. Making a new friend every Tuesday at Fringe Trivia - and winning drinks vouchers and Freddos into the bargain.

Its not better or worse you see. It's just different. And to someone like me that makes it appealing enough.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My Youniverse

Dom posted about Youniverse and it looked fun. Your reaction to images builds a personal profile. Here is mine.

Youniverse Personality TestYouniverse Personality Test

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama and bananas

I was going to post this morning about an article in Mx (think Metro, if you live in London) which consisted of a load of people agreeing with me about the antisocial nature of eating bananas on public transport.

But then history was made.

America has elected a guy who seems to be great. He makes a good speech too - I actually got goosebumps and welled up a little watching his acceptance speech.

I am so hopeful that this man is exactly what America (read: The Free World) needs to get a little bit of balance back in our lives. A fresh perspective, and a different one at that. A man who runs the world's most powerful country who has actually *lived* abroad. A man who has tried on two religions for size. A man with the intelligence to decide between what is good policy and what is a vendetta. A modern man for a modern world.

Gosh, I am in danger of becoming pro-American. What is the world coming to?

So I blogged about both of them together in the end. And in so doing I think I chose a truly unique headline for the same post that all the world's bloggers will be writing today.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

... and back again. A hobbit's tale


I am freshly returned to the office this morning following my lovely trip to NZ, and really don't want to be here. Thrust into a case study call I knew nothing about at 9.15am and Melbourne Cup still an hour or so away, I am finding consolation in blogging about the holiday to try to make it last longer. Oh, and wearing my races hat too, off course.

The Auckland event went well on Thursday so Friday morning, after a little lie in, I got up for day one of the holiday. Onto a bus back to the airport to meet Rowan from his flight. Eventually his flight landed and he trotted through the doors (but not before I had done my fastest blinking and ceiling staring to avoid looking like a weirdo, crying at all the hugs and obvious pleasure at loved ones returns in arrivals).

We threw the dice, as we had agreed we would, to give our holiday a random edge. The dice said "spend the weekend in auckland, get on the bus". But we disagreed so rented a car and hot-footed it out to Bay of Islands - about 3.5 hours drive north.

OK, we reasoned, perhaps we need to reassess the dice rules. Maybe we only give it options we really want. To be honest in practice the dice saw little daylight, tucked in a special dice pocket in the car all weekend.

We had a fabulous time though... here is a list (because I like lists) of things we did - in no particular order:

- Collected shells that I was then too wimpy to smuggle into Oz - they were ENORMOUS

- Drank red wine on the beach at Russell, NZ's first capital, watching the sun set over the bay

- Watched an All Blacks vs Australia game (the Bedisloe Cup?)... and insisted Rowan hide around the pool table to avoid a fight

- Found the most photographed public loo in NZ (I love the idea that there is, somewhere, a second most photographed public loo in NZ)

- Went sea kayaking... where Rowan "discovered" an island. I believe it was called Rowania. Or something

- Found lots and lots of big Kauri trees - the biggest and oldest being Tane Mahuta. It was rather big and old

- Took a walk on the longest drivable beach in NZ (we probably should have driven it, which would have been more apt, but I was convinced we would sink in our little non 4WD car)

- Ate Fesh and Cheps in true Kiwi style... oh and laughed at the accent. A lot.

- Managed to listen to one CD for four whole days. Don't mention The Zutons. They aren't my favourite people right now.

- Won a lot of poker, then lost a lot of poker. Then won some more.

So all in all, a fun weekend. I will definitely be returning to NZ - maybe South Island next time.

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