Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fit to Work!

I had to go into the city today to give the local nursing registration body a piece of paper that they neglected to request in the first place. I did suspect that perhaps their mission was to make the NMC [UK Nursing Registration body] look like they're ruthlessly efficient.

I spoke to them yesterday to find that, after 9 weeks of "processing", they'd sent letter to me in the UK a week ago [despite having explicitly asked for email contact, and having told them I was now in Australia on at least 2 occasions].

They were writing to notify me that the NMC hadn't sent verification of my registration in the UK. I asked them to re-check as the NMC had written to me mid-December to say that they had indeed done it.

They phoned me back a few minutes later, meekly apologising in a quiet voice, "Ah, yes, we do have it, after all... sorry." And if I could bring the other bit of paper in they'd issue my registration over the counter, unless they happen to forget in the meantime and insist on sending it to the UK via Uzbekistan. I may have made that last bit up.

I went in, they were disarmingly pleasant, polite, helpful and efficient, and in 15 minutes I was registered and able to practice here as a nurse.

So the job quest can now start in earnest. There's a community job in South Central Melbourne, so I'm applying for that, and have a few agencies applications on the go too. More news as it comes...

If anyone would like an email, please email us first as we can't access our address books at the moment - the back-up DVD won't work on our drive here for some reason. And we do like emails to find out what's happening in your lives. Just use the "comment" option and we'll get the message! And don't forget that there are some party photos on the pics site. Our broadband connection has maxed out on bandwith too, so we won't be uploading any photos till next week - sorry!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Wee We Update: Where are we up to?

No Jobs...

We had decided to have a couple of weeks to settle in before taking up jobs, but the process of getting to that point has proved a little more tricky than anticipated.

Ian has to chase up his professional regulatory body [the Nursing Board of Victoria] again this week, to find out quite why the original quote of 3 weeks needed to register to practice has been extended to 9 weeks so far... and counting...

He also needs to chase up a couple of possible links that may give him a job [friends of friends, agencies etc.]. Rather than take the first job he sees, he'd prefer to suss out the system, good places to work etc., and focus on getting a community rather than hospital-based role.

Claudine is to see HR at KMPG Melbourne and also discuss potential role with Advertising Agency early this week. A prospective Cafe manager job seems to be diminishing.

Driving Licences...

After being stopped and breathalysed 3 times in 3 days [her reputation clearly goes before her] and being severely reprimanded by the policewoman for not carrying her licence with her [required at all times here], Claudine was compelled to get her Victorian State licence back... Ian got one at the same time to avoid future complications. We produced the most hideous photos you've ever seen, but we're now legal for the next 10 years!

Amid the confusion about UK licences and their eligibility in Oz, the first cop that stopped us gigged: "What!?!" when we said Claud's UK licence would expire in 2037... "Yes," we explained, "in Britain, you can even drive when you're dead ..."

A Bank Account...

We've joined the Bendigo Bank, the closest thing to The Co-op Bank to be found in Oz.

No Deposit...

Although the houses are generally cheaper here than the UK, it's not quite that simple. We'll need about AUD$35,000 [about 15 grand sterling] to even get a 95% mortgage here, as they insist on $5,000 insurance [which covers the bank rather than us, of course] if you haven't got the "normal" 20% deposit! The fact that they have the house as collateral for the loan doesn't seem to enter into the equation for some reason. Add to that the $15,000 we need to cover obligatory Stamp Duty... and you see that the actual deposit is dwarfed by the other charges.

The ironic thing is, that based on our potential salaries and the fact that we have no debt, the bank would happily lend A$500,000. You gotta laugh eh?

We are looking at possible new build homes as you only pay stamp duty on the land price in that case, which could reduce our costs by 40% or more. But most of the new builds are way out of the city or in areas we don't want to live. The research will continue...

See, the sun doesn't always shine here!

Somewhere to Live...

So... we've decided to stay here with Stephen & Lisa in the meantime in order to maximise out ability to gather together enought to cover the deposit/fees etc. as soon as poss, although how long this may take us is anyone's guess. And it also depends on when we get jobs too...

[sorry, that was all a bit boring, wasn't it?]

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Fire update: The worst appears to be over

We've had lots of rain over the last 24 hours, and things are under control again north of us. Other areas, notably parts of the Grampians, haven't been quite so lucky, but Lisa's sister & her husband have now thankfully been able to return home to Kinglake safely.

For pictures of the fight over the last few days, see The Age [highly recommended Melbourne-based newspaper, owned by Fairfax, Antipodean media nemesis of that lovely even-handed Mr Murdoch ].

From the CFA Website:

"The continuing damp and humind conditions last night and today have greatly assisted firefighters as they complete and consolidate the 14 kilometre control line around the Kinglake (formally Burgan Track) fire.

There is no immediate threat to residents. Rain and stable conditions today have given crews the chance to strengthen control lines. There is currently no running fire edge, and fire crews will continue to control hot spots.

Residents who have evacuated from their homes could consider returning as the threat to the area has greatly reduced."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Scuba diver found in tree after forest fire?

Whilst on the subject, just to clarify a story you may have heard about forest fires [this one's for you, Chad... been watching Magnolia too often?], this link explains that it is indeed a myth.

Snopes is a great site for debunking lots of the stories you get via email... You know, the scare stories about date-rape drugs, missing kidneys, people accessing your phone at your expense, George Bush being an utter idiot [o no, hang on...] etc. etc.

The search engine works a treat. Check it out here.

Wanted to clear that one up as it popped into my head.
Thank you!

A New dazefly Pictures Site

We've posted some pictures of the Farewell Do's Here:

Leaving Do #1 [Saturday Night]
Leaving Do #2 [Thursday/Cavendish]

This will be updated with pictures from time to time, and is on the links on the main dazefly site.

This Week's Recommendations

Film of the Week

As good as the apparently increasingly-controversial "Munich" was, its slightly less-focused and clunky final third means that the honour of my film of the week goes to... "Good Night, and Good Luck". If the words "A Film by George Clooney" may initially send a shiver down your spine, take comfort in the fact that Time Magazine describe him as "Hollywood's leading lefty"; so relax, sit down, watch, and be absorbed into an utterly engrossing un-Hollywood movie.

It's shot in black and white, perfectly capturing the 1950s era in which it's set, and focuses on CBS News' attempts to counter the reactionary threat of anti-communist witch-hunts. The two main protaganists are Edward R. Murrow, a superb performance by David Strathairn; and Senator Joseph McCarthy himself via authentic newsreel footage. The tension it builds as their weekly show "See It Now" broadcast goes out live is phenomenal. It's also much funnier than you'd imagine, with a stream of dry one-liners between members of the news team as they attempt to ease their paranoia and tension, whilst reassuring each other that what they are doing is right.

The parallels with the US's current "War on Terror" [sic] has been well-documented, although Clooney has distanced himself from that particular debate. It can't be avoided, however, so I'll end with a quote from Murrow himself: "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

Breakfast Cereal of the Week

Since arriving here in Melbourne, I've become started eating breakfast most mornings. Usually, other than on weekends, I avoid breakfast completely [the 7.15 starts helped with this], but I've changed. And it's all thanks to Weet-Bix®. Yes, that's right, Weet-Bix with a dash, not an "a".

Along with the Weet-bix I've had to take a good dose of humble pie after asserting my view that the Aussies had clearly stolen the idea and name from good ol' Weetabix. But, as I hang my arrogant Pommie head in shame, I have to tell you, dear friends, that the Aussies did it first in the early 1900s, with the Brits 'bix following-on languidly in 1932, when Weet-Bix was sold not only as a breakfast cereal but [bizarrely] "also as an alternative to bread." Jam or vegemite on that, dear?

Anyway, they hold together better than Weetabix, are crunchier [not something I usually go for in a breakfast cereal, believing the soggier the better], but are, along with the British version, the only cereal I have to put sugar on.

O, and it's made by a company called "Sanitarium" too, which makes me smile every time I see it, although that may just be due to something they put in the Weet-Bix rather than a childish sense of humour.

Language of the Week

So, I've been here barely 5 minutes and I'm already changing. BUT, I'd like to reassure you that I am maintaining a rearguard action on my Englishness by not giving in to an Australian accent. I already have a magpie-like ability to take on the accent of the person that I'm talking to at any given time, and whatever Mancunian I once had, had been assimilated into a vague "northern" accent over the years, but I'm determined not to give in to their ockerdom.

Sure, I already tend to drop in a "no worries" now and then, but that's a product of my status as unemployed when Neighbours first hit British screens, leading to my twice-a-day fix of Kyli... er, Antipodean Soap.

I'm asking for YO-gurt rather than yog-urt, and will say "Can I GET a beer" rather than "I'd like a beer please" or the rather more pleading "Can I HAVE a beer, please?" but I don't think I'm on the slippery slope. Mind you, I'm asking for zucchini rather than courgette, and aubergine has been dispaced by eggplant, but that's not going too far, is it?

Anyway, better go. Got some hard yakka to do, like making the bed as the doona's gone totally cactus, and I need to find my thongs [you really DO need to click the links for this one]. See ya's later.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quick Update...

Well, so far all seems okay in Kinglake. Except for the 134 firemen who will be working tirelessly through the night to keep houses and people safe. God bless them.

We will know more in the morning for that is when the full extent of the damage will be known. Apparently, the fire front is not the thing that causes the most damage. The radiant heat from the front is dangerous if you are standing in the vicinity but the danger to property is what is called an 'ember attack'. This is why people stay in their homes and wait for the front to pass. They then man the hoses, buckets etc. to put out any spot fires caused by falling embers.

Do not think I would be brave enough to stay put while a fire raged past my house. Then again it would be hard to leave knowing I could do something after the worst had passed. I dread the news in the morning.

Hazy Daze...

I wish I could type something of note today but we have not been doing a whole lot, the weather has seen to that. It hit 38 today - Australia Day - so we took it in shifts to head to the air conditioned comfort of the cinema. They boys went to see Munich this morning while we stayed with Harrison then Lisa and I pootled off to see Underworld: Evolution. I would have happily watched any old thing today as it was unbearable to be anywhere but under an air-conditioning unit running on freeze.

There is one thing however that is worrying us at this point. The bushfire that is raging about 15 kms up the road. As you know we are living in Hurstbridge with my brother Stephen, his wife Lisa and their lovely son Harrison. Lisa's sister and her husband live further north of here and therefore in a far more rural bush area called Kinglake. They live in a beautiful, one of a kind house on 20 acres - Lisa's sister designed the house herself and oversaw the building of it. A lot of love went into that house.

At the moment however, they are not at their house. They are at Lisa's parent's place a couple of suburbs away waiting to hear if the fire front, that is at this moment on their road, has left their lovely home standing.

A bit unbelievable really. We are also waiting to hear if the fire will be contained or, if the wind changes again as it did earlier today, will it head our way. We are not scared. We have just ordered pizza for dinner. It only seems real on the telly however it is happening 20 minutes down the road. After almost 5 days of fires only today can we smell smoke. Probably because there are a few high hills between Hurstbridge and Kinglake. These hills could mean the difference between the fire burning back on itself or it heading straight for us.

The pizza has arrived.

Prozac Nation? ...in a good way

Happy Australia Day!

Yes, today's the day that [I think I got this right] Australia celebrates the fact that Captain Cook and his crew arrived in Oz, murdered the natives, raped the unique ecosystem of indigenous plants and animals by bringing in their own "superior" ones, strangled the English language, and made a nation suited for a halfwit like John Howard to be PM. So, lots to celebrate then. O, and I think it's also to recognise that Britain still owns their beautiful land.

But seriously, it's a great place. There's a feeling that people are just generally happier here than in the UK [yes, yes, sweeping generalisation, I know, but please, indulge me]. Claud mentioned something yesterday that I'd already noticed, which is the fact that even people in the most mundane of jobs seem to be relaxed, happy, and enjoying their work. The surly youths that serve you in the supermarket, clothes shop, petrol station etc. in the UK, just don't seem to exist here. It's not that working in retail is intrinsically destined to be mundane, but simply that in the UK so many people seem to be fed up to be doing what they're doing. I'm not a sociologist, and the reasons are probably multiple and complicated, but the difference is so striking that I always find myself slightly bewildered by it.

As an example, going into the local bottle shop [off licence] a couple of days ago [the only solution on a roasting hot evening is a bottle of Carlton Cold], the guy serving me asked, "How you goin'?" This is the less formal version of the normal Australian question as you go into a shop/restaurant/public place of, "How are you?" in a very sincere and apparently interested way. He added to this with a "So how was the weekend then?" I resisted my initial reaction to think that he had me down as an alcoholic who probably had a raging, drunken weekend that was either entirely fantastic or that I would not be able to remember in any detail, but still only struggled to mumble, "Yeah, alright thanks."

In the past I've occasionally been rather more surly and sarcastic in asking back in their bright-as-a-button way "I'm good! So how are you doing?" which always seems to baffle them somewhat. But I've learned that there is a genuine degree of sincerity, of politeness, of general perkiness and ease with doing their jobs which is generally pretty alien to us Brits. I've said to some of you, when asked about moving to Oz, that I'm a different person here, and I think that's true. My normal disposition is to see the glass half-empty, despite whatever facade I may be able to construct at the time. But I am more gregarious here, more full of energy and interest, less negative and bored. And I think that's largely down to the people, I really do.

That the climate plays a part in that, I'm pretty certain, but there's more to it than that. It's like the country has never suffered really bad times [though it has], and as a consequence is not anticipating more bad times. There's no residual depression here, it would seem, and there's always something good to look forward to. Not only is the glass half-full, some bugger must keep filling the thing up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

From our Special Correspondent...

For anybody ever thinking of moving to Aussie to live...

August 31st
Just got transferred with work into our new home in Mount Isa, Queensland!!
Now this is a city that knows how to live!! Beautiful sunny days and warm balmy evenings. What a place! I watched the sunset from a deck chair on the veranda. It was beautiful. I've finally found my home. I love it here.

September 13th
Really heating up. Got to 35 today. Not a problem. Live in an air-conditioned home, drive an air-conditioned car. What a pleasure to see the sun everyday like this. I'm turning into a sun worshiper.

September 30th
Had the backyard landscaped with tropical plants today. Lots of palms and rocks. What a breeze to maintain. No more mowing lawn for me. Another scorcher today, but I love it here.

October 10th
The temperature hasn't been below 35 all week. How do people get used to this kind of heat? At least today it's kind of windy though. But getting used to the heat is taking longer than I expected.

October 15th
Fell asleep by the pool. Got 3rd degree burns over 60% of my body. Missed 3 days of work. What a dumb thing to do. I learned my lesson though. Got to respect the ol' sun in a climate like this.

October 20th
I missed Kitty (our cat) sneaking into the car when I left this morning. By the time I got to the hot car for lunch, Kitty had died and swollen up to the size of a shopping bag and stank up the $3,000 leather upholstery. I told the kids that she ran away. The car now smells like Wiskettes and cat sh*t. I learned my lesson though. No more pets in this heat.

October 25th
The wind sucks. It feels like a giant f*ckin blow dryer!! And it's hot as hell. The home air-conditioner is on the blink and the AC repairman charged $200 just to drive over and tell me he needed to order parts.

October 30th
Been sleeping outside by the pool for 3 nights now. Bloody $300,000 house and we can't even go inside. Why did I ever come here?

November 4th
It's 38 degrees. Finally got the ol' air-conditioner fixed today. It cost $500 and gets the temperature down to 25, but the bloody humidity makes the house feel like it's about 30. Stupid repairman!
I hate this stupid f*ckin place!!

November 8th
If another wise arse cracks, "Hot enough for you today?" I'm going to f*ckin throttle him. F*ckin heat! By the time I get to work the car's radiator was boiling over, my clothes are soakin f*ckin wet, and I smell like baked cat!!

November 9th
Tried to run some messages after work. Wore shorts, and sat on the black leather seats in the ol' car. I thought my f*ckin arse was on fire.
I lost 2 layers of flesh and all the hair on the back of my legs and my F*ckin a*se. Now my car smells like burnt hair, fried a*se, and baked cat.

November 10th
The weather report might as well be a f*ckin recording. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. Hot and f*ckin sunny. It's been too hot to do anything for 2 damn months and the weatherman says it might really warm up next week.Doesn't it ever rain in this damn f*ckin place? Water rationing will be next, so my $2,000 worth of palms just might dry up and blow into the f*ckin pool. Even the palms can't live in this f*ckin heat.

November 14th
Welcome to HELL!!! Temperature got to 44 today. Now the air-conditioner's gone in my car. The repairman came to fix it and said, "Hot enough for you today?" My wife had to spend the $2,500 mortgage payment to bail my arse out of jail for assulting the stupid f*cker. F*ck Mount Isa! What kind of a sick demented f*ckin idiot would want to live here?

December 1st
WHAT????? This is the first day of summer???? You are f*ckin kiddin!!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Hot Hot Heat and Cool change

One of the strange things about this part of the State of Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, is the phenomenon of the "cool change". You can nearly always depend on a quite dramatic change in temperature when the heat has been overpowering for a day or two. The heat is dry, unlike Manchester, but it can quite easily rise to the early 40s, only to drop 15-20 degrees, often in a matter of minutes.

The warm blanket of heat that has enveloped you suddenly takes on a brisker, fresher feel as the wind changes direction quite suddenly. The wind can pick up quite spectacularly, even sometimes taking down the fragile wattle and gum trees in its wake. The rain usually follows, along with a thunderstorm, and the whole place smells of damp baked earth and tarmac as the needle plummets and relief is felt all around.

The side effect of the storm can be that the lightning may ignite the tinderbox the heat has created, with bushfires resulting, as has happened over the past 2 days.

We're staying here...

Harrison in the rain as the "cool change" begins...

... which means a drop of 15 degrees in a matter of minutes.
And, in this case, a glorious sunset.

Song of the day

One of the things about another country that can make it feel so alien is the sounds of the place. No more so than the noises made by the local wildlife, and in particular the birdsong.

Since I was a kid, I've always had a thing about birds [insert joke here] but have never paid that much attention to their songs. I just took their songs for granted: a soundtrack for my life; a non-irritating version of muzak; pleasant lift-music.

Every time I've been to Oz, however, the difference is striking. The sheer bloody racket that a tree full of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos or Galahs [Yes, as in Alf's repeated trill: "You great galah"] make, usually at 5.30 in the morning, is quite astonishing. And, however exotic it may seem to my British ears, exoticism can soon lose its appeal, trust me...

More pleasant is the Australian Magpie [no relation to the European magpie with it's ack-ack-ack ack machine-gun chatter], whose warbling woody tones are to Claudine, the sound of Australia, and something she practically swoons to when she first hears it on her return to her homeland.

For me, the sound of Oz is the Kookaburra and its manic laughing-clown muhahahahahaha cry; and the Bellbird, which I prefer to call the bottlebird due to its distinctive sound, which you can imagine it creating by tapping its beak on a bottle, which echoes round the bush. I love it! It's exotic, weird, but strangely soothing. You can listen to the sound here if my description makes little sense to you.

We're fortunate to hear all these, as we're currently out on the edge of Melbourne, living in Hurstbridge, which is about 33km from the centre. We're staying with Claudine's brother, Stephen, and his wife Lisa, and our 15-month old nephew, Harrison. Yes, it's a little out in the sticks, with lots of utes, beards and wholefood, although we've yet to see anyone carrying a banjo.
For the moment, though, it suits us just fine, as we're with not only family but generous, welcoming people, and are also both still jobless... more of which later. Suffice to say that the Nursing Board of Victoria, the professional body I have to register with, are about as quick and efficient as the NMC. 'Nuff said.

O, and it's been sooooo HOT. Since we arrived last Tuesday the daily max. temperatures have been 24, 29, 34, 37, 41 and peaked yesterday at 42.4 degrees Celsius. Yes, that's about 108 fahrenheit. Thankfully, today is going to be a max. 26 degrees C, which will feel like a cool day after the last 2. Now where did I put that fleece?

20 miles from this...

...to this

Saturday, January 21, 2006

An arrival of sorts...

Well folks, we are here. In Melbourne. Wow. In some ways it feels so normal but at the same time seems like I lived here in another life. The grounding for me has been seeing my family again. The anticipated arrival at Melbourne Airport was a slight anti-climax i.e. no screaming family or nephew running across the concourse for a hug. No, for once my entire family took my advice and arrived later than they normally would have. They camped close to food and coffee - the airport cafe - to wait out the 45 minutes I had told them it would take us to get through security and customs.

So Ian and I finally arrive, after months of eager anticipation and scan the crowds outside the Hello Gates looking for familiar faces. After a few minutes, much searching and decreased adrenalin levels I conclude that they are not here yet. So we move towards the back of the crowd and continue scanning. All the while I can hear what sounds like my nephew's voice over and above the babble but, as I can not actually see him, deduce that I am just hearing things.

Eventually we consider pushing our enormous pile of luggage over to the cafe for a coffee. We head off into the general direction and there, standing by a table is a little boy in an England t-shirt whose eyes are getting bigger by the second. Ian runs towards him and Dante, in a rare moment of abandon, rushes into his arms. My sister turns around, looks at me and in typical Said Family understatement shouts "Bloody hell are you here already?!". We hug, we laugh while my dad, who has been standing in line for coffee shouts "I'd hug you but I'll lose my place in the queue" ...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Lost in Transit

Now at Singapore Airport... in the Krisflyer Business lounge dontcha know. The only way to relax between flights. Well, perhaps not the only way, but a good way nonetheless.

Shed more tears as we flew out of Manchester. Emotions all over the place. Suddenly became real that I was leaving my home town, my country, my old life. No sense of new life, dreams or ambitions, just grieving what I've left behind. Anyway. Moving swiftly on...

Claud has had a bit of a crappy journey so far, as she's developed a stinker of a cold, glands up, feeling awful, couldn't sleep on the plane etc. etc. It's usually me that picks up these things just before we go to Oz, so I feel like I've missed out this time somehow. Let's hope it's an omen of good things to come: a change in my luck as I approach the "Lucky Country" [nothing like a pessimistic, miserable and ungrateful old sod is there?].

She's just finishing a book that she stole from Chad, so I've taken the opportunity to post something here, mid-journey. We've filled up on breakfast food: lovely vegetable curry and dosa for me; thank goodness for my completely messed-up body clock which allowed me to enjoy it at 7.30 in the morning. Mmmmm.

Recommended films watched on the journey so far:

1. The Constant Gardener - mixed reviews in the UK, but a bit of a gripper, I thought. A kind of whodunnit and whywhodunnitdiddit.

2. The Edukators - The Daily Mirror appears to think it's a comedy, but I think it's an intelligent and thought-provoking exploration of idealism, lost dreams and that old chestnut, the unforseen crisis when a crime goes awry - a sudden panicked response results in unexpected consequences [think "Shallow Grave"]. O, and it's in German with subtitles, just so I can live up to my reputation as a Film Pseud.

"Die Fetten Jahre Sind Vobei" was the original German title ["Your Days Of Plenty Are Numbered" or, as Babelfish translates it "Fats The Years Are Past", which I think I prefer]. Stars the guy out of "Good Bye Lenin!", Daniel Brühl. O, and talking of German films, if you've not seen "Downfall" or "Der Untergang", you must. A superb dramatisation of Hitler's last days. Not a chick flick or date movie though.

3. Fell asleep to Corpse Bride [so wanted to like it, but found it tedious], and found Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be by some way an inferior re-tread of the classic 1971 "Willy Wonka". You can never go home again, as Thomas Wolfe once said [or had said to him], which seems particularly apt today of all days. I just don't seem to get on with Tim Burton films, to be honest - they always seem like a good idea, but never quite get a hold of me. Nice Michael Jackson turn by Johnny Depp though. Sweeeeet [pun intended].

OK, going into Singapore now... Claud's finished her book and we just have to get away from the sub-porno flick murdered classics "lounge" music they're piping through to us in the errr... lounge.

Only another 10 hours or so here, then 7 or so hours in the air, then the "Hello Gates" at Tullamarine Airport.

Still not sure what I'm feeling, whether I'm ready, where my head's at etc. But I think I've already said enough about that, eh. Pass the onion.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Kissing is for girls...

Quickly writing this 20 mins before we leave for the airport, so 'scuse the lack of editing, sub-editing and general sloppiness.

Just to say that we love you all, will see you all again either in the UK or Oz, and that we're still reeling from the affection, support and love you've all shown towards us. I've never kissed so many women or so many men [no funny stuff though], cried so much, hugged so much, or realised how much we're loved by so many people. Overwhelmed.

So it's adieu, farewell, it's time to say... see you soon.

No matter where I roam
I will come back to my english rose
For no bonds can ever tempt me from she

I've sailed the seven seas,
Flown the whole blue sky.
But I've returned with haste to where myLove does lie.

No matter where I go
I will come back to my english rose
For nothing can ever tempt me from she.

I've searched the secret mists
I've climbed the highest peaks
Caught the wild wind home
To hear her soft voice speak

No matter where I roam
I will return to my english rose
For no bonds can ever keep me from she.

I've been to ancient worlds
I've scoured the whole universe
And caught the first train home
To be at her side.

No matter where I roam
I will return to my english rose
For no bonds can ever keep me from she.

The Jam, English Rose

Friday, January 13, 2006

How to Comment!

Some of you have asked how to leave a comment on the blog.

Beneath each post, see, just down there where it says Posted by Claudy at ...? Just after that it says Comment with a pencil beside it.

Well, if you click on the word Comment it should open up a pop up window where you can say what you want.

Please try it, we want to hear from you!

This one is for you

We tried denial but that only worked for a short time. By banning the word goodbye when we last saw you in the pub last night, or at work yesterday, or at our leaving do last week or at your house the other night or outside our house last Sunday, we thought it would be less painful when we eventually turned to walk away.

That however, is a special kind of stupid. Regardless of what lies we tell ourselves the fact is we are moving away from home, from you and from our life here, and it is hurting by degrees.

Ian reported magnificently on our leaving do last Saturday. It was such a wonderful night for lots of reasons, but mainly because you were there. We have thankfully since seen most of you who could not make it, which has been fab. It would have been awful to leave without seeing your beautiful faces one last time.

We have both cried a lot. In some ways these staggered fare thee well's have been slightly easier than an en masse arrangement. It would have been horrendous to walk around a room, with all of you in it, seeing each of you briefly for the last time, and have to deal with the grief of that for only a moment before moving on to the next person.

No, in this way, after each farewell, Ian and I have been able to comfort each other (for we seem to be falling apart alternately which is helpful), and then once the sobbing ceases, are able to recall the stand out memories we have of each of you, find a happy place again, and manage to laugh through the tears.

We have been amazed and humbled at your generosity. You all know who you are and what you have given us leading up to our departure and we so appreciate it. I want to take this opportunity to send you all a heartfelt thank you. We have much to remind us of you all when we are in Melbourne, so please know that you will never be far from our thoughts.

I write this before I have to say farewell to my work colleagues today over lunch, which is probably why I have managed to stay dry-eyed for the duration whilst writing this. On some level I am still in denial. You can tell this by the fact that I have written the G word just once in this whole post.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Friends, Mancunians, Countrymen...

Now it's tempting to continue that with "...Lend me your beers", but that would be obvious, to poor comedic effect, and just plain lazy. But it still made me smile.

So. The day draws ever closer, and thankfully some of the almost-overwhelming tension has now dissipated as we've now had the first of our succession leaving "do"s and [Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!] the movers and packers have now been, moved and packed.

The "do" was on Saturday night at a bar in the City Centre called "Pure Space", and was very kindly arranged by our friend Dave [now booking for weddings, bah mitzvahs, funeral parties and swingers nights]. It's certainly got funkier since the days when I used to go to what was then called "Generation X" [amazing how dated that sounds now], and we're so grateful that Dave was on board to organise it so brilliantly. He even provided the perfect set of tunes, including some late early 80s new wave classics and even some Australian stuff [Yes, it was "Cattle and Cane", Andi. But have you got this?]. And thank goodness, no INXS... Phew.

We were fashionably late, of course. Or put another way, disorganisationally delayed. But fortunately, most of our other guests were dedicated followers of our trend, so we avoided a grand entrance to an array of bewildered guests. Things were confused somewhat by the fact that the roof terrace was holding another private party by "Mr Sponge" and a number of guests headed in that direction initially. Now call me paranoid, but why did so many friends think that I was now known as Mr Sponge?!? Is there something you want to tell me, people? I thought my jeans were reasonably modern and dahn wiv ver kids, but perhaps I was inadvertantly wearing square pants?

At which point, can I also point out that the shirt was intended as an ironic reference to Australia, and was in fact Australian surfware manufactured by Antipodean weirdos Mambo. [Although I hear that that sort of Reg Mombassa-inspired peculiarness just doesn't cut it any more. Shame.] I should have dressed as a Bogan, to be true to my roots whilst nodding a reference to my future, but most people just wouldn't have got that and my cred would have been even more in tatters than it now is. If you're up for another example of Mambo's messed-up take on haute couture, you'd better be at the Red Lion [above] on Thursday evening. Be there or...

Lots of people arrived through the course of the evening, although sadly but understandably a number of people weren't able to come due to childcare/distance/other difficulties. It was so good to see everyone, of course, although the sense of being stretched so thin being host and hostess was a little frustrating. As I cast my eyes around the room [they bounced against the wall and popped straight back in, funnily enough] it was fantastic to see so many people we love all getting on together, although I felt I wanted to be involved in every conversation, chat to every person for the whole evening, be everywhere experiencing everything. I believe there was dancing at one point, but I neglected to become involved myself.

But, as is inevitable with this sort of event, it seemed that as soon as it started it was over. 2 AM came and I had over-refreshed [no, no, that's not me] and didn't feel able to continue the party in "sub-space", the club below. Only a couple of people did make it down there, but I won't name them as I believe they lasted barely 40 minutes with the place rammed full of young persons of a boogalooing persuasion.

So it was time for goodbyes. I had a few "dusty" moments throughout the evening as people left. As much as I tried to carry on normally, the inevitable bottom-lip quiver ensured that either the waterworks needed to start or my chin would soon be pounding uncontrollably against my chest: a simple choice and I gave in to it. Big thanks go out to Jimmy for his impeccable distraction techniques at one such time, which led to the best score of the night on Galaxians, I believe.

I hear on the grapevine that Mr Clive Gifford, AKA Captain Shandy of the Manc Rs managed a very creditable top score of 47, which I believe is also a personal best. So well done to him. Pictured here "grooming" another youngster for his imminent "Galaxians Baidoo Boys" group.

So, a BIG Thanks to everyone who came, again to Dave for his fantastic efforts, and our love to those who couldn't make it. We had the best night, despite the trauma.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'll be there for you

Friends. Either a once-funny sitcom that eventually became so smug that it even made the old funny episodes seem unfunny, or something that's been on my mind a whole lot lately. Nothing focuses your mind on what you have in your life or, more specifically, who you have in your life, than being about to leave it all behind you. Well, not my life hopefully [although the troubling question of Aussie spiders is not an issue I've yet raised here], but leaving your country, your job, your security and all that is familiar.

It's been really bugging me that I've neglected a few people over the last 18 months or so, particularly since we made the decision to go to Oz. Just not getting in touch with people I care about, who are friends, who I don't want to let go of just yet thankyou, despite the fact that I'll be ten-and-a-half thousand miles away [that's about 17,000 km in that new-fangled foreign measurement they use there] in about two weeks. Bugging me because I'm pretty hard on myself a lot of the time, certainly, but also because I don't want to leave with unfinished business, with regrets. Bugging me enough to start writing this at 6 a.m. as the wheels of my mind grind and shudder to a start.

I want to go to Oz with a clear conscience, with something to build on, if that doesn't sound either too pretentious or too callous. I don't mean I'll have better relationships with Aussies, but there's something psychological happening deep down that means I can't leave on a sour note and just go, although that would in some ways be easier, notwithstanding the fairly obvious denial and complex issues to deal with in the future. People just slip away, off the radar and into the ether [apologies for the mixed metaphors], and the thought frightens me at the moment. It's like a sort of anticipatory grief.

There were things that happened over the last 2 years that really affected my confidence and self-esteem, and made me withdraw from just about everyone for a time. I got a bit depressed, and TV became my friend. Some people were oblivious to my withdrawal and just carried on regardless, not seeming to realise that I never reciprocated by getting in touch with them in return, but others just slipped away. I'm thankful for the former group, as they made things easier in the long run, but am really sorry about the latter. In retrospect it seems easy: just give them a call once in a while, see how they'e doing, catch up, get back in the routine. But when you've been out of touch for some time, the longer it gets the harder it is.

I guess it comes down to fear of rejection, although in the cold light of day it's hard to imagine that someone I've known for a long time would say, no, you're out of my life, see ya. But even that knowledge doesn't really seem to help somehow. It seems like the old joke: you stop the car and the bloke you ask for directions says "The football ground? Oo, no, you can't get there from here; you'd be better starting from somewhere else." I swear that happended to me once in Carlisle, and it's silly, but somehow you just know what he means.

So what am I getting at here? Well, I guess all I'm doing is some sort of cathartis, trying to express and come to terms with the rollercoaster of feelings that this organisational nightmare is constantly bringing up, and find some peace, some resolution. The nature of friendships can be either fleeting or permanent, as circumstances change, but it's something we depend on at times in our lives to be stable and definite. People come and people go, but some people you just don't want to let go of. Ever.

Having spent a lovely couple of days with James & PJ up in Grassington last week, some of this started to really hit home. We planned for them to come to see us in Melbourne: this was something we needed to do, to mutually express the permanence of our friendship. It most likely won't happen for another 12 months, more likely 15 months from now. But that's a long time when your god-daughter is [nearly] two years old, and Robert, their 3 month old will be nearly as old as Trinity is now when we next see them. If we hadn't have had the conversation, I'm sure we'd still keep in touch and that they would still be visiting in early 2007, but we needed to set down some definite plans, to mark out our territory, our joint ownership of this thing we call friendship.

As James said shortly before we left last Friday, it could get a bit "dusty" at the farewell party. I'm already practising my British stiff upper lip. But it's already starting to wobble.