Sydney living – blue mountains, beer pong… and sheeps balls

21 07 2012

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A million crazy chickens called Jessica

21 07 2012

June was quickly upon us (the month not the person) and we were faced with a rather unusual dilemma when our tiny Canadian land lady suddenly announced that she’d be removing all the furniture from the flat within the week. And so began the Furniture Challenge through which we managed to obtain the most wonderful items of furniture we’ve ever seen. Naturally, the first thing we bought was a set of canvas scrabble letters – mostly to spell rude words on the lounge windowsill. Jess then acquired a ‘vintage’ desk from the neighbours which looks a bit like Bambi did when his mum put him on ice. A double bed and mattress were also found, which again involved me hanging out the back of a friend’s car, sandwiched (more like hot dog-ed) inside the folded mattress. It may seem impossible to believe that our well calculated and practical approach to this has left us as yet without a sofa… but camp chairs do the trick, and need less cleaning. Also good for the Feng Shui effect (as a vast expanse of bare, lonely floor often is)

Jess’s shoulder has now firmly reattached itself to her body, though on occasion she likes to wear a shoulder support that makes her look like a medieval jouster. She’s also managed to translate the exercises that the physio gave her into lifting pints of beer. Yes, really. She most notably ventured onto a friend’s boat at a yacht club where she made the mistake of asking for ‘light’ beer… which is punishable by strong beer apparently. And then proceeded to be given the strongest alcohol anyone could find as punishment (ha, she text me proudly that night, that’s not a punishment!). The boat outing turned into something of a party on the ocean, with magical amounts of alcohol and a chef/captain who fell asleep during dinner… and of course an outrageously dire hangover the next day. (Ha, I text her proudly the following morning, this was her punishment). Last weekend she ventured to the Blue Mountains with 60 or so unsuspecting people for a ‘Christmas in July’ celebration (Australians will generally do anything to get through the season of SAD). Inappropriate presents were exchanged, an excessive amount of vodka was consumed, a dog was found, and shopping trolleys were ridden home. She did suffer a particularly stupid moment when she went on a run one morning – in search of the famous ‘Three Sisters’ mountains. Puzzled at their absence from the landscape, she returned… only to find that she’d actually been running over the Sisters. Literally couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

We also ventured down to Melbourne for the weekend to visit people we’d met during our travels, and found ourselves in the midst of a suburban house party. A ping pong table was being assembled in the garden for a competition of ‘beer pong’ and we merrily stepped up to represent England… very very badly. It was a bit like when the Olympic Committee invited GS4 to the party; an epic fail.  The next morning we ‘celebrated’ a birthday with tequila and our interpretation of eggs benedict (yep, that traditional birthday combination) and then spent the afternoon sitting in a pub in the sunshine. The bar lady got an order wrong which somehow resulted in a glass of ouzo and coke appearing on our table… Jess was so excited at the prospect that she spilt her entire drink all down her front. It can only have been the memories of a classy week in Faliraki during our misspent youth that promoted such a response. We later ventured to the casino where we lost ample dollars, and the following day headed to watch our very first AFL match (aka 36 people wrestling on the ground for 80 minutes). We did try to understand the rules, but we were distracted by the flag woman on the sidelines wearing a white dressing gown (see photos). Dear me.

Work has been going well… A funny thing happened a few weeks ago (I hope you can tell from the tone of my words that it was in fact the opposite of funny): due to an illness within the team, I very suddenly found myself presenting a new strategy to the entire business alongside our CEO, which was fun (if by ‘fun’ you mean a haunting nausea deep within the soul)… I even managed not to make any inappropriate jokes until right at the very end🙂 I later went on my first Australian business trip to Melbourne for two days which was good fun (the non-nausea kind). Given that most of our previous arrivals to Melbourne airport have been wearing beach shorts and backpacks, it was entirely strange to arrive this time and be greeted by a wonderfully suited young man holding a sign with my name on it. And a beautifully shiny black car waiting outside, just for me. Oh yes.

A conference and a 5.3 magnitude earthquake later, I was drinking bottomless sparkling wine (which accounted for me not feeling the 5.3) and having a rather lovely dinner whilst an actuary tried to talk to no one in particular about something very complicated. I still really have no idea why. The wine headache the next day was surprisingly minimal and had all but disappeared by the time I reached the Qantas business lounge, complete with free buffet…and a bar. Oh Melbourne, you are naughty.

I also took my first few days’ annual leave to spend a long weekend in the real Australian countryside – a small town called Coleambally. It’s about eight hours drive south of Sydney, with a giant statue of a sheep (and its famous balls) on the way down. The weekend was spent on a beautiful farm, deep in the country, with acres of running space – in air so fresh that it hurt a little bit, and lovely people. I had the (extreme) pleasure of cruising around on a quad bike, motorbike and… has my first lesson on how to drive a tractor (on a real road!). I generally acted like an excited child (see hovering photo) for three wonderful days. There were also millions of crazy chickens there that looked like they were wearing slippers, so we named them all Jessica.

Jess’ volunteering at the tennis club is going well, though she is still adjusting to being surrounded by children that call her ‘Miss’ and adults that (hopefully) don’t. She’s managed to convince the club (a tennis club?) to incorporate soccer into the children’s holiday camps, and so will be coaching that over the next few weeks. She and I also went to our first football night out which started with a free bar (and therefore started with four double vodkas) and ended with tequila. We clearly forgot that we were both up extremely early the next day and needless to say, we were useless all day. So we slept on the beach in the afternoon. And then went out again.

We’ve both joined a running club at Bondi Beach which runs at 6am three times a week. It’s sometimes a bit of a (massive) shock to the system to be up that early and trying to make your muscles move in a coherent way, but absolutely amazing to start the morning in pitch black and be running along the beach as the sun rises🙂 Jess has also joined a weekly Boot Camp (yes I know, it sounds like Fat Camp) which marches her through the botanical gardens in the city centre every Wednesday.

This weekend I’ll be running the Sutherland to Surf 11k race in an attempt to beat friends who are actual runners (hmmm) and in a couple of weekends Jess will be running the rather famous City to Surf 14k race, from Sydney to Bondi Beach (with the aptly named Heartbreak Hill in between… ouch). I was due to run C2S but will now be paying a visit to the Prince of Wales hospital on 1 August, and will spend a couple of weeks after that enjoying not doing anything (or as Julia Roberts puts it in that horribly annoying film about Julia Roberts crying every twenty seconds, indulging in ‘the art of doing nothing’. What’s the film called? Eat. Pray. Stab myself in the eye if she cries again.)


Coogee living – walks, sharks and dislocations

6 06 2012

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“LET. ME. GO” “Okay… but your bone is sticking out”

6 06 2012

To celebrate being in Australia for exactly six months, we decided to pay our very first visit to an Australian hospital. Or rather, Jess did. All it took was a sunny winter Sunday, a slightly reckless tackle on the football pitch… and an anatomical predisposition for shoulder dislocation. Oh, and mum watching from a distance – in abject horror.

An uncertain silence fell across the pitch as I jogged merrily to see why Jess hadn’t got to her feet… only to find a strange looking lump on the top of her shoulder (aka her humerus… and as it turns out, not so humorous). Bleurgh. When it slowly became clear that no first aid would be coming, it very quickly became clear that someone would need to relocate the flailing limb. Yikes. So Jess and I tried to work out which way it had exited its ligaments and ergo which way it was more likely to re-enter them. Jess, to her credit (and sub-zero blood pressure), didn’t make much sound at all – except once to tell me in no uncertain terms to “LET. ME. GO” to which I meekly replied; “Okay… but your bone is sticking out”. Mum also made very little sound as she watched us from across the pitch with colour rapidly draining from her face… this just happened to be the first time in twenty-nine years that she’d watched us play football. Excellent timing.

So once the cheeky limb had been reassembled, we quickly made our way to hospital for x-rays and forms and passports and waiting room food… and Jess in a nightie and then Jess in a sling. And finally Jess fully retired from football, with a dislocated shoulder and a hill sachs lesion on the humeral head (um, fracture?). Ouch.

This has all been happening over the last week or so – terribly dramatic, but of course there is much more to say about the weeks before, when Jess was a fully functional human being. And I could sleep at night without seeing lumpy shoulders…

For instance, I have been adapting to an ever busier working life… Oh how they love their early mornings here, and even more so if you want to play corporate touch football (and who doesn’t want to play corporate touch football?). I mostly blame my lack of cognitive function at 7am on a Tuesday morning for still not being able to grasp the offside rule… but in reality I just think it’s a stupid rule that doesn’t deserve to be understood.

And there was also my sleeping arrangement which further complicated (destroyed) my sleep pattern… it was about two weeks into our move to Coogee that I made the ridiculous decision to remove the ridiculous two single beds from my room and replace them with a double bed. Except I didn’t have a double bed, so what actually materialised was a borrowed inflatable bed, which sometimes deflated during the night and always required an unclassy scramble to my feet in the morning. We soon arranged to pick up a local bed frame… in the back of a car that was somewhat limited in space. And ergo, not only did the boot door need to be held down from the inside (who has rope these days anyway?), the bed frame itself needed to be wedged in to the back of the car to stop it falling out. Or rather, someone needed to be wedged into the boot to hold the door down and keep the bed in place (oh, see photos). The best part about this that while I was busy jamming myself between car and bed, the couple sitting in the parked car behind us were absolutely pissing themselves.

Such early morning endeavours and nights of sleep deprivation have lead to some wonderfully mindless acts of public stupidity… one morning I sat down at my desk and swapped my flats for my heels as I do every day. Easy. I then stood up to get coffee – and got at least half way across the office before I realised that I’d put my shoes on the wrong feet… and had to carry on walking to avoid anyone seeing me switch them back. And then there was the time when I put salt in my coffee in front of a client… and drank it anyway. And lastly, my inability to navigate in the right direction from the lift means that I’m often still standing at the lift doors by the time it comes back to my floor again… Hey corporate Sydney, I’ve arrived.

Our Coogee weekends have became delightfully indulgent, with lots of lying in the sun, wandering/running up and down the coastline and drinking coffee on the wonderful Coogee steps (people watching mostly, but also trying not to laugh when children fall over).  Jess, in one of the classiest moments of her life, decided to buy a Coogee coffee with her spare change… which was about $4 worth of 10c pieces, all of which were counted (slowly, with a growing queue behind her) into eight neat piles on the counter. Oh yes. (She partially made up for it the following weekend by paying for $4 coffee with a $100 note, though I suspect the staff weren’t overly grateful for her schizophrenic choice of currency).

And early one Sunday morning, probably to celebrate having got home from the city at 4am the night before, we were up and ready for an 8am football training session on the beach where we did some rather public sprinting/Pilates/crawling on all fours. Needless to say, post-training breakfast was much more enjoyable. Jess later took full advantage of my birthday present to her and headed for a massage in North Sydney for a few hours… where she was stripped naked, put in plastic pants, stripped naked again, followed around by a naked Chinese woman, and somewhere along the way (presumably) had a massage.

Mum arrived here for two weeks on 17 May – which was brilliant. It would’ve been nice to have known which day she was actually arriving, but due to a rather unclear ticket confirmation and a colossal time difference, we found ourselves up at 4am three mornings in a row (on the second morning we got an email from Frankfurt saying it was ‘unlikely she’d be in Sydney in the next few hours’). Finally on the Wednesday we made it to the airport for 5am, homemade sign in hand (yes, really) and there she was!

So while I was at work, mum and Jess busied themselves finding walks to do around scenic Sydney. The first took them through swamps on the northern shores where they got infinitely lost near some incredibly steep cliff edges (they later discovered). Another involved walking through a lengthy disused coal-loader passage, which do exist apparently.

That Saturday we did what good Brits do in the Australian winter; we bbq’d kangaroo steaks on the beach and drank sparkling wine, and then merrily ate/drank/ran in the sea for the rest of the evening. Mum succumbed to jet leg a few hours later, so Jess and I jumped in a taxi and headed into town to meet friends… and straight into a club with a skateboard ramp and free popcorn. Most irresponsible. Or rather, we were the following morning when we underestimated the distance to football and arrived 20 minutes into the match in pouring rain. Not really what Sundays are for, but we won at least and no one dislocated any limbs. Later that night we headed to the pub that sponsors the team for their monthly raffle… and open bar tab. Yikes.

The following week there was yet more walking – much much more, in many beautiful and wonderful places in Sydney. Jess disappeared for SES training on the Tuesday night and came back dressed in her uniform – complete with goggles and, er, mud. They’d been learning how to climb onto roofs I think. Or saving cats… probably both. The following evening was the State of Origin match which is some kind of interstate football (ie rugby) match that makes every single Australian absolutely insane. Jess went to watch it with the football girls, where she was treated to green drinks, Kath and Kim impressions (just normal Australians?) and lots of shouting at the television screen about a man who dropped a ball but didn’t really because someone kicked it first. A lose interpretation of the law of gravity if ever there was one.

That Friday Jess and mum cooked what can only be described (by them, many times) as the best bbq breakfast in the history of anything that ever existed (see photos). Jealous, me?😦 The following day mum and I wandered to Sydney fish market… and came back with Angel Shark. Ha, that’s one way to conquer an irrational fear of sharks. And to prove it, we later swam in the sea* to show just how fearless we truly are. (*fenced off Ladies Baths which are made of sea water but in no way accessible to the sea).

The Vivid Light show was in full swing by the time we got to the city centre that evening, where we drank wine at the opera house bar, met a friend from Bristol (Bristol reunion!) and were generally impressed by the light spectacle. And the wine. We all fell asleep on the bus home that evening, which meant at least that we were well rested on the Sunday to tackle a beautiful Coogee breakfast. And then coffee on the steps in the sunshine… and then an ill-fated football match which resulted in Jess wearing a sling. And then fish and chips on the steps in the company of 1.3 million curious seagulls.

Oh Sydney, we heart you.

Coogee living – moving house, growing older, getting sillier

7 05 2012

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“Far out, I’ve never seen someone eat so many jelly beans”

7 05 2012

And so having not worked for five long and wonderful (insane) months, I suddenly found myself in a suit, commuting to the city, trying to remember how to communicate with real people. Jess, bless her, came on the bus with me each morning for the first three days… even when I reminded her of the restrictions of my restraining order against her🙂

We were both extremely grateful for Easter that weekend and celebrated the launch of a friend’s business with ample champagne on Thursday night. Having not managed to eat dinner until 3am that night, Jess felt somewhat dizzy the following day… and decided to clear her head by braving the remarkably large waves at Coogee Beach. Hilarious. The first wave soaked her (as waves often do), the second wave knocked her over and the third took her bikini top… so by the fourth wave she had forgotten all about her hangover and was concentrating solely on staying alive. And finding her bikini top. Excellent hangover cure (if one doesn’t mind losing one’s dignity in the process). I mostly lay in the sunshine at the Ladies Baths.

Revived by her aquatic experience, Jess met a friend in town on Friday night and watched street performers and circus acts at Darling Harbour – and was horrified to find that the entire city shut down at 10pm on account of it being Good Friday… nothing really Good about that Jesus. I was so tired from a mere three days at work that I lay in a foetal position and sobbed… working nine to five is all taking and no giving you see.

The next couple of weeks were spent running long distances (see wonderful photos of parks and sunsets), learning to cook (see awful photos of facial pizza), celebrating my first Australian pay check (Champagne!) and flat hunting…  and there were certainly some interesting flats; one with a hyperactive semi-naked live-in Italian landlord, and another with no carpets or paint (though it had a lovely elderly neighbour who promised us antique furniture…). Excellent, thanks Sydney.

I kicked off birthday celebrations a week early and headed to a rather wonderful spa with a friend on the Saturday before our birthday… and instantly regretted my decision to drink quite so many cocktails/crash a random party the night before with a friend from uni. Note to self; when alarmingly hungover it’s not always a great idea to go into a small hot room and have a small Chinese lady cover you in mud and wrap you in cling film, especially if you’re genetically prone to exothermia. Yikes. Nonetheless, it was extremely lovely, even when the lady mummified my face and then put the coldest liquid known to man over it; “You can breathe okay Imogen?” “Well yes, but the shock just stopped my heart”. Oh blissful indulgence.

That evening we drank champagne (old habits die hard, especially that one) and headed into town to meet people… and somehow managed to come across an old friend of ours from college on his stag do. Craziness meets outrageousness. And then as icing to this cataclysmic cake of madness, there was jelly wrestling. Oh yes.  Jessica ended up having another 3am dinner which consisted of a box of crackers (consumed rather cunningly in a fast food establishment) before joining an AFL team in a pool competition and returning home to start getting ready for bed in the wrong bedroom (aka my bedroom).  She needs constant supervision I tell you.

The following week we were incredibly excited to be moving into our new unit (ahem, apartment) in Coogee (or ‘Coo to the Gee’ as Jess likes to call it, unfortunately). We’ve managed to find a rather beautiful fully-furnished apartment just round the corner from the beach (see map photo)… so we’ve naturally started talking about going for sunrise runs across the beach and surfing before work. Now, given that neither of us are morning people and both of us are terrified of being eaten by sharks, this may never happen… but it’s infinitely amazing to have the choice🙂

The day after the move was Anzac Day which Australians celebrate with an amazing amount of drinking and gambling. We met friends for a cheeky bottle of wine in our local (yey, we have a local!) and then headed to a club where ‘two-up’ was in full swing. Two-up is a very straight forward gambling game that I never quite managed to understand. Jess did, and spent much of the night waving monopoly money (aka Australian currency) over her head and shouting at random people…

Our actual birthday weekend started in style with a crème brule birthday cake, lots of shopping and lunching, champagne at the Opera Bar and drinks in the CBD. Old age seemed to get the better of Jess when she momentarily forgot how to order drinks, and faced with the dilemma of having to pay for something over $20 on her card, decided to order five diet cokes. This instantly aroused the suspicions of the bouncers and we were promptly kicked out… and went straight into the bar next door. They clearly knew we were celebrating our birthday and had arranged for copious amounts of jar of jelly beans to be strewn about the place… which prompted a comment that was truly worthy of us entering the final year of our twenties; “Far out, I’ve never seen someone eat so many jelly beans”. Classy meets restraint, all in one go (not to mention an extreme bout of e-number induced hyperactivity).

Needless to say we were a little worse for wear on our actual birthday, but this didn’t stop us from playing our first Australian soccer (ahem, football) match… oh dear, muscles that had been dormant for some time were suddenly forced to move, and rather blurry heads were forced to think. And that evening there was more wine.

Last week was decidedly quieter than previous weeks. Things appear to be settling into some kind of routine… we try to meet for lunch in the city twice a week where we usually go to a local sushi train and dare each other to eat strange looking things. More recently we’ve started making rice paper rolls at home to bring in for lunch… however, these mostly fall apart in our hands and become pigeon/Ibis food, but we’ll get there eventually. And we’ve been attempting to teach ourselves to cook properly (i.e work the oven)… the verdict is still out on this, though neither of us have become ill as a result. And actually, we’ve started accumulating a collection of herbs and spices which is the true sign of culinary geniuses. We’ve had to improvise with a spice rack, but this in no way diminishes our professionalism.

Speaking of professionalism, I recently got to drive my first Australian car… and was almost overwhelmed by the smell (and volume of screaming) of the clutch.  Oops. The guy watching me try to parallel park was also pretty overwhelmed… and even more so when I got out the car dressed in my pyjamas, blazer and running trainers. Yes, members of the public, I am 29.

And it’s not just cars either; after almost two weeks of living in Coogee, I still haven’t managed to catch the correct bus to work. The downside of this is that I have to leave the apartment at least twenty minutes before I actually need to… the upside is that I have seen a lot more of Sydney than I would’ve otherwise. And spoken to people from all walks of life… And cried a little bit, which is always good for the soul. This is somewhat opposite to Jess who has an app on her phone to tell her when and which the next bus is, and no doubt some kind of satellite navigation to tell her when she should start walking to it… guess who stole all the genes for self-navigation, hmm? We’ve come to an agreement that if she doesn’t tell me exactly when and where I have to get the bus from, she has to come and get me when I assume the foetal position next to the bus timetable. We’ll see if it works.

In other news, Jess’s State Emergency Services training is going really well – she’s now passed her induction test and came home with the florescent orange uniform last week (which was then worn for five days without interruption). Equally exciting was the discovery that members of the SES can enter the fire fighters Olympics in Sydney in October, and she’s been invited to go… so we shall be going to the Olympics this year after all!! She’s also volunteering as a tennis and football coach in North Sydney which she loves, especially when they give her pink tracksuits to take home. It’s as if they knew her favourite colour was pink.

My work is going well, though it’s still a bit of a shock to the system to actually be working…  but the free coffee,  fruit Mondays and massage Fridays help. Also, getting paid is nice. There was (of course) an infinity embarrassing moment when an unsuspecting colleague caught me dancing in the lift, but we’ve now worked through it and he can just about bring himself to look me in the eyes again.  And work certainly has its perks – my Friday afternoon last week was hijacked when a spare ticket to a corporate event became available and I found myself having champagne and high tea at a rather delicious hotel in the city. Unfortunately, with it being dress down Friday, I was in jeans, flats and a t-shirt while everyone else was immaculately suited… something made worse by the fact that when we arrived at the lobby of the hotel all the girls wordlessly sat down, took out small bags and put on big heels.  Oh how they laughed/I cried.

Last Saturday we met our Aunt in the city for coffee – her last day in Sydney before flying back to England, and then we (rather foolishly) walked all the way back to Coogee, stopping intermittently on the way to shop/eat/philosophise about life. We got back just in time for Jess to start getting ready to go and meet her friends in town… and for her to convince me to start getting ready to go out too. A friend gave us a lift into the city which we nearly didn’t survive (for instance, to get to the front  of the petrol station when someone was blocking her way, she drove down a very much pedestrianised pavement and reversed into the exit… almost as bad as my driving really) Great night though, full of hilarity, random dancing… and yet more jelly beans,

Yesterday we played football which, due our lack of transport, involved walking an hour to the match, playing the full ninety minutes, then walking back again. For the last twenty minutes or so we surrendered to spontaneous crouching/crawling/sitting to try to change/ease/break the muscle firing patterns in our legs. It didn’t work, but was highly entertaining for anyone watching. Also highly entertaining was a grown man on a skateboard taking a corner too fast, and managing to stay upright for at least five metres after he came off the board. Oh, these people will make us laugh unashamedly and uncontrollably. We got back just in time to sit and watch the sunset on the beach… and the Super Moon rise over the sea. Ohhh, we love this city.

Sydney living – St Paddys day, Lady Baths… and a Thai-themed silent disco

2 04 2012

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