Monday, February 27, 2006

The Honeymoon is over, baby...

I think the honeymoon is almost over for me.

I am now living and working in Melbourne.

I am in the same time zone AND hemisphere as my family.

I have infinite coffee at my fingertips.

Great, cheap food is everywhere.

Sushi hand rolls cost me $2 a pop and 3 of those constitute lunch.

I am slowly catching up with my lovely girlfriends and rediscovering again what good friends I have.

Unlike Ian, I have a routine, a job and the promise of income for the time being.

So, I am here. The place I wanted to be for almost a year. And it is good to be here. Don't get me wrong. I am so very that all of the above, trivial as some of these may seem, have helped me settle back into Melbourne.

However it is a very different Melbourne to the one I left. I too feel slightly unsettled and I am not sure why. Let me say from the get-go that it could very well be hormones. Those inscrutable little bastards that can turn a sane, level-headed woman into a raging, snorting dragon-headed beast from hell in the blink of an ovary.

So, with that aside let me consider the other possibilities for my apparent unsettled-ness. As Ian pointed out, the all too real feeling that where we live at the moment, whilst being a wonderful home living with wonderful people, is not ‘our’ space. And if you know Ian and I you will realise how important having ‘our’ space is.

I guess the other thing bothering me is the travelling to and from work. Given I’ve only worked 4.5 days at this point, it is more the prospect of all the travel to come.

I catch the 7.30 train which gets me to Parliament Station at 8.22. I walk to Café Alcaston, grab a coffee then cross Collins Street to my building. I am usually at my desk at 8.30. I finish after half 5, usually 6. The trains on my line run every 20 minutes. If you catch an express it takes just under an hour to get home. If you get a ‘stopping all stations’ it takes an hour and 10 minutes.

So I get home in time to see Harrison for about 10 minutes, get some tea, sort out my stuff for the next day (so I am not fossicking around in the morning and disturbing Ian) and go to bed.

The next day...

It is now Tuesday and I am re-reading what I wrote yesterday. I think maybe it was hormones. I feel so much better today. I also I feel infinitely grateful for all the good things in our lives right now. We have a lovely place to stay, a wonderful family around us, jobs, money and endless opportunities. Sometimes I just get stuck in a bog.

Give me a stick I'm off to kill me a dragon-headed beast.

Weekend Blues

And so... another weekend draws to a close.
If you're in the UK, you'll be savouring those last few hours of freedom, but it's now 9 AM on Monday morning. Not that I've got work to go to yet, but you get my drift.

In fact, it's getting to be a little frustrating not to have some routine in my life. Never thought I'd be saying that, but it's definitely exacerbated by the fact that I'm in a new country too, and need some permanence, some roots. Something I can call my own.

Friday, as Claudine had already mentioned, we went for a meal in St Kilda, which is such a cool place: a bit grungy with a distinct seedy underbelly, but that somehow adds to its charm. It's Melbourne's version of the seaside [although technically it's a bay - Port Phillip Bay - but it has sea in it, so... it's the seaside].

Saturday was spent food shopping and preparing for Stephen's birthday party. It was a weird sort of Melbourne day, overcast to start with, some sun, and then intermittently bucketing down with rain. So much so that the kitchen window gave up and let the flood in. Fortunately, the rain eased sufficiently in the end, but others in Melbourne weren't quite so lucky. It continued overnight too, as we woke up intermittently to the sound of what appeared to be the roof [or the sky] falling in.

We're on a slope, so thankfully the water drains away onto the road pretty quickly. Though when I say road, I mean "creek", as the road is largely an unsealed dirt road, and the rain makes a series of channels as it seeks lower ground. It all sounds very exotic and hillbilly, but we're actually only about 200 metres from a main [tarmac] road.

The party went with a swing, although Claudine and I "piked" about 11 PM, as they say here: "A person who does not participate or unreasonably stops participating is known as a piker. A piker, by definition, pikes." We both simultaneously realised that, as welcome as we feel, and settled as we are here, it's not our home, not our space. Yes, there's an element of control-freakery about it [in that we couldn't tell people to bugger off as we wanted to go to bed], but we'd not met anyone before, it was Stephen's party, and as nice as the guests were, they weren't our guests. Having re-read that, it sounds pretty ungrateful, doesn't it? But I hope you can see what we mean.

We retreated to our bedroom, a little grumpy and fed up, yearning for a place to call our own. Realistically, that's some way off as we have not a bean to throw at a deposit, and renting would delay the buying process considerably. We were feeling a little claustrophobic, a little trapped.

So we did what all good people do in this situation: we looked at the ceiling and told each other what we could see in the knots in the wood. A sort of indoor-nighttime version of cloudwatching. We ended up pissing ourselves laughing, and felt considerably better as a result. Aaaaaaaah, siiiggghhhh, as the serotonin kicked back in. And, in case you're wondering, we have ducks, a giraffe, fish, aliens, and one or 2 other creatures. Our toilet has E.T. and Jar-Jar Binks.

Sunday started with another melancholy, homesick moment, as I checked the football scores and discovered that QPR had beaten second-in-the-table Sheff Utd 3-2. Great news turned to much rumination on the fact that my footy mates would probably now be in some pub in Sheffield or Manchester [The Lass! Maybe even in The Lass!], toasting the victory, revelling in it,
and by now suitably toasted.

I thought of the journey over to Sheffield by train, which, although not one of the world's great train journeys, holds a special place for me. Going through the Pennines, into tunnels and out into glorious green and brown hills and dales, woodland and scree; never knowing whether the sun would show itself or not; and / or whether the brooding, ominous clouds would deliver a torrent rain... I so love the hour or so it takes to get there!

It was also the scene of QPR's last great moment, the city where we got promoted 2 years ago [albeit at Wednesday on that occasion], a highlight amongst a catalogue of ignominious events over the last decade. I remembered that great day, the train over, the beers before, the amazing atmosphere as 7000-plus QPR fans took over the Leppings Lane end for a party. Forget the fact that the Wednesday fans were less-than-welcoming, it was such a memorable and great day, and one, I realised, that I don't think I'll ever experience again.

Sure, if we were, by some quirk of fate, to get to the Premiership or FA Cup Final, I'd negotiate my way over to the UK. But I wouldn't have shared in the anticipation, the build-up, the 40-something often ragged and frustrating games with the occasional spark of brilliance. And I'm missing that already somehow, dammit. The great news of our win lost its shine, appearing lacklustre by the mere fact of my absence.

I managed to pull myself [kicking and screaming, it must be said] out of my fug
of melancholy, and spent the rest of the day chilling out. We knew Stephen & Lisa were going out in the afternoon, so Claudine and I were left alone in the house for a few hours, some space together at last.

So we did what every married couple does when given some time together, free from distraction and obligation. Yes, we watched TV for 3 hours.
Battlestar Galactica, in fact. I'm not a sci-fi buff [as Claud & Stephen both are - I call it one of nature's amusing little genetic tics], but this is one show [actually, there's also Firefly - yikes, what have I become!] that I enjoy, and that we can both share, two spods in a pod. Bliss.

And so, now we're now back to Monday morning. Yin is happy, yang is happy.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

View from the 30th Floor

We did a silly thing today.

Ian came into town this afternoon and I made him head to a part of Federation Square that I could see from my window. I then called him so we could chat. He looked so little from way up there!

He then worked out which window were mine and I stood in front of it, surreptitiously walking this way and that in the hope he'd see me.

I can not describe how childishly happy I was when he said he could. It was brilliant!

Friday, February 24, 2006


Ah, Friday nights. I do love them.

My favourite part of the week, a whole 2 days before I need to roll out of bed on Monday morning. I know, I know. Some would say that this was only my first week back at work after a month off but I feel I deserved it. There.

Ian and I went to a tapas bar called Pelican in St Kilda tonight and it was nice. We sat out on the decking and munched through some lovely saganaki, fabby chargrilled octopus (me, not Ian), rocket salad with caramalised onion dressing (divine) and patatas bravas that my unpretentious husband declared was inauthentic. Ponce. He also necked two 750ml bottles of his new favourite tipple, Coopers Sparking Ale, so his pretension had fairly good basis...

We then wandered along the Esplanade to Acland Street which was fairly busy. The temperature was still quite warm and muggy with absolutely no sea breeze to bring relief. So we sought relief at 7 Apples for gelati which was, as usual, scrummy. We walked past all the cake shops that at one time, defined Acland Street wishing I'd skipped the tapas and just gone straight there.

For a fairly popular strip, Acland street still houses a few cake shops / cafes that have not changed in the 50 years since they opened. My favourite one is called Monarch, which it actually opened in 1934 and still has the original old fashioned glass cake cabinets.

Monarch are famous for their chocolate kugelhopf which, for those of you who don't know, is a kind of pastry layered cake type thing (articulate aren't I) which gets better the longer you leave it. Monarch actually sell their's by weight which is brilliant cause the heavier it is - the more chocolate is in it.

However I bypassed the Kugelhopf made a beeline for the decadent looking Polish Baked Cheesecake. I promised I would make my brother a birthday cake for his belated birthday barbie tomorrow. So I asked him what he would like and to my dismay he said Cheesecake. Not that cream cheese concoction. Proper, dense, crumbly baked cheesecake.

Bollocks. Trust him to want the only thing I've never made and therefore never perfected. I scrounged around for recipes until my sister came up with a foolproof one. So she says.

But let's be honest here. The temperature tomorrow, the day of the barbie, is going to be in the mid 30's. Plus, the ingredents alone would cost me almost as much as what the ready made article before me would. As my mind churned through my options I confess that I snapped. I did what I have spent years ridiculing other people for doing. I bought a ready made baked good in a moment of weakness.

I am truly sorry to all of you...

A Few More Things

Some more largely animal-base observations that just popped into my head...

1. Kangaroos still make me smile. After inexplicably not seeing a 'roo on my first 4 visits to Australia, I now see them quite regularly, even if from a distance. They are the weirdest creatures, so apprently serene and innocuous, barely moving for long periods [in fact, the first ones I saw from a distance led me to exclaim, in all seriousness: "O no, they're only cardboard cut-outs". D'oh]. And then they suddenly bounce off, usually en masse, usually in the same direction. And then I can't help but crack a grin.

2. All Wombats are Dead. Well, all the ones I've seen are.

3. Possums Scream.
You do get used to it, but I've had a few sit-up-in-the-bed-and-say-what-the-xxxx-was-that moments. Not sure what they're screaming at, but I'm glad I can't see it.

4. White Tail Spiders are here! Well, one is. One scuttled out of a sheaf of papers that Lisa was ruffling through a couple of days back. So not only do they hang out in linen, they like piles of paper. Grrrreat. But more research seems to point out that they're not actually terribly poisonous unless you have an allergy-type reaction to them. That's OK, then. Claudine doesn't like them because they have "pointy legs". Well, quite.

5. Humans - what are they like?
Conversation heard recently at South Bank. 2 middle-aged couples appprently from somewhere other than Melbourne. The two husbands said precisely nothing during the 20 minutes this "chat" took to evolve, whilst looking at Melbourne's Yarra River...

Woman 1 : Sydney Harbour is beautiful.
Woman 2 : Yes, beautiful.
[Long pause]
Woman 1 : Not that many hobos, not that I can see.
Woman 2 :
No, not as many as you might think.
[Longer pause]
Woman 1 : I'm hungry. Shall we eat?
Woman 2 : Yes.
[Cue exit]

Well, Claudine and I feel a whole lot better about our relationship [and relationships] now. Nothing to worry about., oh no no no.

6. Grape Grazing, which we did last Saturday, is aptly named. At the end of it you end up on your hands and knees with your nose in the grass, looking for something, anything, to drink. A civilised version of the pub crawl? Errrrr... No. If I ever recover that day's particular braincells, I'll tell you all about it.

So ...

Where the bloody hell are ya?

Happy P.O.E.T.S.* Day!

* piss off early tomorrow's Saturday

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Observations on Down Under from on high...

Happy to be here...

I guess the one thing that I have not said here is how happy I am to actually BE in Melbourne. I do not know how many of you have lived somewhere other than your home town. I guess many of the English among you, who have gone to University, will all know how it feels to be away from a place you know intimately for a few years.

Unlike most Aussies who leave for the adventure and excitement of a life abroad, leaving Melbourne was not an escape. True, I was bored and needed a challenge but I did not leave shaking the dust of my shoes hoping never to return. I even spent the last few months of my time in Melbourne relishing everything from the way the late afternoon sun shimmered and danced on the bay to radio personalities that almost seemed part of my circle of friends. Leaving all that was a wrench I was not prepared for.

I know this is some kind of reverse nostalgia that overcomes one as they prepare to leave a place. So I am under no misguided illusions regarding Melbourne. What I am trying to paint is a picture of my town that I loved, left and missed terribly.

There were times I would wake up in our bed in Manchester and my immediate thought, upon opening my eyes, would be that I was in the house I grew up in. I could see in my minds eye the willow tree in our front yard, the houses across the street and sometimes I would have to physically open the curtains to convince my head that I was in Manchester, not St Albans* sometime in 1984.

Does anyone else have those split second ‘wake dreams’ where you find yourself seeing, in your mind’s eye, a place you are not actually in, but for some reason have recalled? I do that often. I can be watching telly and for some reason the unbidden memory of a side street in the Barrio Gotico in Barcelona flashes through my mind. Why does that happen?

I digress. Again.

Back to my love affair with Melbourne. As I sit here looking out my window where I note the blue of the sky blurs nicely with the blue of the sea (although that could just be pollution) I can not help but get excited. There are so many things I want to do and even more places I want to go.

The weekend...

I am toying with the wonderful feeling invoked by the prospect of a weekend in Melbourne. We are having a barbie for my brother’s birthday on Saturday which should be fun. However, that still leaves Friday night and all day Sunday to indulge. We could go for breakfast to any number of excellent café’s in and around town or save ourselves for a late lunch somewhere near the beach. We could even drive down the coast and admire the view back to Melbourne from Rye or Sorrento even.

Although we are some 30kms from the city, it is not really uncommon to head clear across town for a latte / gelato / souvlaki or even a view. We Melbournians will drive anywhere to sample fare that is hailed as ‘the best ever' or an experience 'not to be missed'!

So if the weather is fine I may drag Ian out for a lazy brunch and the Sunday papers. We could then go for a mooch in St Kilda as we’ve not done that yet. We can take in the Sunday market along the Esplanade and grab another coffee (I confess I have been tippling too often of the dark liquid which is keeping me awake and twitching till the wee hours) and maybe, if energy is not an issue – walk along the beach for a few kilometres.


As I am now working in the city, I am scouring the laneways for new places to eat and shop. Melbourne is a bit like Barcelona in that there is a plethora of shops where you are sure to find that one-off (affordable) handbag / pair of shoes / necklace and know that at least one person will exclaim Where did you get that?!

Unlike the UK where a quick look along the high street you find all the shops are churning out the same fodder. You just know that if you are female and you work then inevitably, a colleague will roll up at work in your exact same top (3 sizes smaller even) from either Next, M&S or Topshop**. Of course if you earn upwards of £50K you will most certainly find many one-off items but you will pay through your teeth for them.

I do not want to be dissing the UK now I am here but I did have gripes and those of you who knew me, knew what they were. Surely you did?!

Anyway, speaking of shopping I’m heading out now to look for another jacket for work. Much to my dismay, most of the corporates here are still stuck in bloody ‘corporate’ attire which means I needed to rush out and buy, at the very least, a jacket last week. Which, it has to be said, my husband most graciously paid for. It also has to be said that he was fairly trollied at the time!

*Not St Albans in Hertfordshire but the St Albans of Western Suburbs Melbourne fame – or Snorbans as it is affectionately referred to here.

**Apologies to my girls in back in the UK who disagree but I promise to take you shopping when you get here – especially you Miss J, you know who you are!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

She speaks from on high...

So it’s my turn to update!

As Ian wrote I have taken a temp position with a major bank. A dear friend of mine called me last Monday, the day before my interview at the ad agency, and mentioned that one of the business unit heads was looking for a new Executive Assistant* - with a bit of nouse - so she gave him my name.

The interview at the advertising agency went really well and the guy who saw me was keen to have me on board. Unfortunately (or fortunately, only time will tell), the client they pitched to before Christmas gave the work to a smaller agency in Perth, so what would have been my job, does not, at this point, exist. (That was one badly punctuated sentence [until my husband corrected it], folks!)

So, when I found that out on Friday I called my friend and arranged to start work here yesterday – Tuesday. Can I just say from the outset that I am typing this from my desk on the 30th floor of a tower in Melbourne’s CBD. My desk faces a HUGE window that allows me a clear view of the Yarra River, Southbank, the Docklands and out to Port Phillip Bay so if nothing the view is absolutely stonking!

I digress.

The guy I am working for has ushered in a major restructure of the operations in his particular business unit. Lots of toe-cutting will ensue, I am told. However, he has asked me to review this position and let him know how much of the job is just supporting him (minimal – I could do it standing on my head and be bored with it in a nano-second) and what other tasks could be added to the job description. So, I am to liaise with other department heads to get their feedback and basically create a role from scratch.

Even then I don’t think I would want the job. However, he has told me not to cancel out the fact that there may be another "interesting" role for me here. He hired me on the strength of my CV and my mate's recommendation, and as she is highly regarded, that bodes well for me.

So who knows where this will lead, really. What with Ian getting a job today, I can take it easy. And let’s face it, as I really enjoy telling people what to do, I am in my element…

*Fancy name for glorified, overpaid Personal Assistant.

I Ain't Superstitious...

...but I have to admit to feeling a little cautious in writing this till everything is completely sorted... [anal, me?]



I just had a call from Manager of the Ward I visited yesterday, and, subject to good references, they want me to work there! No need for further interview as two Managers have seen me and HR are apparently happy.

So, please, Sue, Martin and John - check your in-boxes! They'll be asking for references over the next 48 hours.

Not sure when I'll be starting as it's a bit complicated: other people taking up jobs elsewhere etc. So I may be a man of leisure [although I do prefer the term "kept man"] just a little bit longer.

Money's no great shakes to start out with, and I've knocked back another Community interview offer today [Panic, panic... don't panic! Breeeeaaathhhhe...], but I reckon it's the right move for now. I think. Maybe. Errrr...

More details to follow...

Jobs For The Boys... and Girls? Part 2

Claud started a temp job yesterday [Tues] working at one of the large Australian Banks. Sort of PA stuff but with a bit of room for manouevre in the marketing area. I'm sure she'll tell you more about it, but she certainly enjoyed her first day...

I had my proposed "chat" with a really nice Manager at a Melbourne clinic on Monday, following my application to work there as a CPN [Community Psychiatric Nurse]. Basically, he explained that I wasn't likely to be offered a job there at this point, as I had the three-fold disadvantage of not having worked in the community, having worked solely with older age since graduation, and the fact that I'm British...

Actually, the third one isn't quite true - what he said was that I hadn't worked in the Australian system, so legislation, procedures, Mental Health Act and so on were quite different here, so it would be a real baptism of fire to drop straight into managing a caseload of 30 or so patients in the community.

Having said that, I have an interview to do just that on Monday, albeit in a different area of the city... although, given his caution about this, even if I got the role I probably wouldn't, or shouldn't, take it at this point. He was really helpful in explaining how the system works in Oz, and Melbourne in particular; suggesting areas of the city that I should look at working in; and some subtle advice - areas that he couldn't recommend [one of which is where I have the CPN interview above!]. But, given 6-12 months in the system, in a ward-based role, I should be able to take on a community role quite easily. It was fantastic that he took the time out of his day to go through this with me, in full knowledge that I wouldn't be working with him.

I think the fact that he originally comes from the Mother Country influenced him, having experienced the baffling and apparently impenetrable mental health / hospital system here. Easy once you get your head around it, but looking at it for the first time...

If I wanted to continue to work in older age, I should be able to become a CPN even sooner, even immediately, but at this point I've decided that I want to broaden my experience, with a view to working as a CPN or similar community-based role in "adult" mental health.

It's one of those weird nursing things that if you're over 65 you're no longer termed an adult, but instead take on whatever the currently fashionable politically correct term for such a person happens to be [not geriatric, not over 65, not pensioner]. Is it just me, or does that seem patronising, implying that all people ultimately end up reverting to a kind of pre-adolescent or baby-like state once they hit 65? That perhaps the term "adult" is the word that needs to be modified in this context never seems to enter the equation. Or maybe I'm just being too politically correct? Anyway, continue...

In light of the "chat", I emailed my CV to a Melbourne hospital he'd recommended to me. Within half an hour the Ward Manager was on the phone, inviting me in for another "chat". It crossed my mind that I could maybe spend my career having chats whilst remaining perpetually unemployed, but within 20 minutes I was on my way to visit her [By the way, I'm not naming names or places as I should be a wee bit discreet at this point]. She had already spoken to the "Clinic Guy", had perused my CV, and thought she should take the opportunity to show me round and talk through my previous experiences.

I wasn't actually particularly nervous, which was a relief as I hate interview situations and frequently sweat, shake and lose the feeling in my limbs. I'm serious - I just get so stressed about it. But this time I felt I was on familiar ground, it was all very informal and easygoing, with no difficult moments. It was particularly straightforward as it felt like she was selling the ward to me rather than selling myself to the ward...

The ward was fantastic, very well furnished with excellent facilities, lots of programmes for patients, and a really chilled atmosphere [and thst didn't appear to be down to over-medication]. The end result is that I was then invited me in for a more formal interview on Monday morning.

At last, things seem to be moving...

I'm now in the odd situation that I have two interviews in a day, one in an area that I didn't really want to return to but that I now really like the look of, and another in a role that I really want to undertake but don't actually want to do just yet. But it's nice to have some options.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Rude Interruption

Could John Mac & Martin K please email me?
I'm not sure that the email addresses I have for you guys are working... and prospective employers may soon [hopefully] be using them to contact you for references...

Pleeeeease email me to confirm your addresses. Or the kitten gets it...


Victory is... er...

As I mentioned a while back, Australia now has its own nationwide [association] football league, the A-League, a title which nicely avoids the question raging here: "so... is it soccer or is it football?" by not mentioning the sporting code in its name.

Previously, Australia had a series of State and City leagues [and still do, in fact], but they are just about to complete their first season of the national league, albeit comprised of a measly 8 teams at the moment. O, and did I mention that one of those is actually from New Zealand, the NZ Knights, who bizarrely seem to have Charlton Athletic as one of their sponsors.

There is currently some dicussion about adding a number of teams in order to extend the season, as they currently play just 21 games, although the original decision to play so few matches was perhaps partly influenced by the hope/promise that the league winners would subsequently be eligible for the Asian Champions' League. At the moment, they're not allowed to compete, so there's no little disappointment here.

In the meantime, there's the odd situation [to British eyes, at least] that the "Minor Premiers", Adelaide United, who won the league over the 21 games played over the summer, are now competing to be "Major Premiers" in a play-off system similar to that employed in Aussie Rules...

You sure you're ready for this?
The top two play in "major semi-final", the winner of which meets...
The winner of a play-off between the winner of the "minor semi-final" [3rd and 4th teams] and the loser of the major semi-final, known as the Preliminary Final...
So the losing team in the 1st v. 2nd game gets a second chance to play in the "Grand Final" against the team they originally lost to in their first play-off game, providing they beat the winner of the match between 3rd v. 4th.
Hope you followed all that.

And in the meantime the Victorian Premier League [or VPL - insert your own joke here], has just kicked off, as they play through the winter [it's late summer here now]. These consist of long-established teams who are determined to a large part by their ethnic roots [hence team names such as "Hellas" were prevalent], and some teams remain capable of achieving low 5-figure crowds. Melbourne Victory (sic), Victoria's only A-League team, averaged a respectable 14,000 for the season, with the national average was a touch under 11,000.

The A-League has allegedly scooped the cream of the VPL along with a number of Aussies returning from a career in various European Leagues. They're joined by assorted European players who've reached the twilight of their careers and are happy to play out their time at a 2nd-division level in the sunshine - known as "Marquee Players". They are paid outside of the otherwise-sensibly-applied salary cap, their wages paid by eager sponsors.

One such person is Dwight Yorke, playing for glitzy Sydney FC, or "Bling Bling United" as they're less-than-affectionately known down Melbourne way, managed by ex-West Germany winger Pierre Littbarski.

Other returnees include such venerated names as Carl Veart [Sheff U, Palace, Millwall], a strangely goal-shy-now-he's-home Danny Allsop [Notts County, Hull], scrapping yard-dog Kevin Muscat [Palace, Wolves, Millwall, Rangers] and one of the worst players ever to pull on the famous hooped shirt of QPR: yes, lazy-arsed waistrel Ned Zelic [Who, inexplicably if you ever saw him play for the Rs, had just won the German League with Borussia Dortmund].

And 3 poms have set up shop over the Tasman Sea in New Zealand: Sean Devine [Barnet, Wycombe & Exeter], Neil Emblen [Millwall, Wolves, Palace, Norwich, Exeter] and Simon Yeo [Lincoln City & errr... Hyde United], although as they managed just one win and three draws all season, they may well be heading home very soon.

As if the disadvantage of being from New Zealand; Kiwis not being terribly highly regarded here; was not enough, their inept performances have led to the legitimacy of their presence in the A-League being seriously questioned.

I managed to get to Victory's last game of the season, freshly-arrived and missing home. Unfortunately, by the end of the game I was more homesick than ever. The football was poor, 2nd-division standard at best, and the crowd [at least where I was standing - but at least you can stand here!] appeared to have been time-travellers from 80s England, foul-mouthed, pissed-up and one-eyed.

OK, OK, maybe I've been spoilt, hanging out with the good bunch of blokes that make up the Manc Rs [who have probably at some time or another been guilty of all the above sins], but perhaps it all seemed so odd as it also felt that their passion was a little forced.

Strangely subdued other than when being encouraged by the shaven-headed pom leading the "Cheer Squad" [no pom-poms, no short skirt, just a pom] in a series of delectable songs such as "O Melbourne is... so wonderful, o melbourne is so wonderful... it's full of..." If I need to finish that song for you, just be thankful that I didn't. Let's just call it a little peurile and sexist.

Every time the NZ players touched a ball, several hundred people cried "baaaaaa" and then sniggered at their amazing wit [New Zealand = sheep, geddit? Ho ho, ho hum], and the Second Half was characterised largely by verbal hostility and a little confrontation with the police, who had enforced the removal of their banner protesting at the Victory's lack of... well, victories, although the football was a little better, though no goals were scored.

My poor old brother-in-law, Stephen, who had been bigging up the game for me, desperate for me to take to the club, kept asking me if I was enjoying myself, only too aware of the lack of quality on the pitch, and the neanderthal element that surrounded us off it. I tried to smile, I tried to enjoy it, and I did in a funny sort of way, but it was a strangely dispassionate and sanitised experience, despite the foul mouths and rage that emerged from time to time amongst members of the crowd.

I'm hoping to make the Socceroos' [Australian Football Team] impending pre-World Cup game with Greece at the MCG on 25th May, with probably around 80% of the 100,000 expected consisting of those with Greek heritage. As Oz is made up of so many people of European origins, loyalties are divided between those who will support Australia [thus passing the old Tebbitt Test], those who will support their "home" country [thus failing it], and those who will support both, at least tacitly.

Croatian-Australians' true feelings will be tested should the meeting of those two nations on 22nd June ultimately decide which team makes it through to the next stage. Ooooo...

I really want to experience some VPL football, where I'm hoping that, by virtue of the clubs being long-established, and consisting of a disproportionate amount of European immigrants [largely Greek, Italian, Serb, Croat - o, yes, it's quite an interesting mix] who grew up with the game, that there may be more of an identity with the clubs, a passion and a real heart for football, and make it more of a familiar experience for me.

That's not to say that the 10,000 or so who made it to the game I saw weren't all of those things, at least in part, but that there was something that was just not quite there for me. It was like watching the Milton Keynes Dons playing another Milton Keynes Dons [albeit from Poland or somewhere distant], with little history and desperately seeking some real experience, but so poorly served by the football on offer.

I'm aware that you can't judge a whole league by one game played out by two under-achieving teams, and it was a hot 25+ degrees too, which made it a little peculiar. I will no doubt go along next season, hopefully with some local "ethnic" football under my belt, but hey, it's not like seeing Crewe v QPR. No, really, it's not. And maybe that's really the heart of it. Maybe it was the homesick blues rearing its ugly head again in another form.

O, and by the way, Melbourne won 2-1.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Jobs For The Boys... and Girls?

I'll let Claud tell you about her interview etc. herself, but I just got asked to go for a *ahem* "pre-interview chat" at a Clinic down in Armadale. It's very near to where all the rich people live [hmm, see my previous comments about rich people, and wonder... God's sense of humour again?], an area called Toorak.

Actually, the clinic covers a wide area of inner-city Melbourne [Malvern, Caufield, Elsternwick (part of), Gardenvale, Armadale, Carnegie, Murrumbeena, Chadstone (part of), Ormond, Glenhuntly, and Prahan] for those of you familiar with the geography of the place. Soooo, that may be just the two of you then.

I've been holding out only applying for good first jobs, rather than get stuck on Bront... errr, some awful godforsaken in-patient unit. I sent off about 10 applications this morning, to go with the previous few I'd already sent, and got a phone call within an hour or so. They're nearly all community based jobs, which is what I really, really want to do . Not all are 9-5, with some requiring on-call duties, on what they call CATT teams [Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team], which is like a sort of a cross between CPN, Approved Social Worker and Superman, flying in on home visits at times of crisis.

It is a bit of a drag to Armadale from where we are... well over an hour on the train, but if it's a good role, and it appears to be on the face of it - lots of assessments, community treatment and case management [i.e. a bit like a CPN], it would certainly be a good place to start.

I'm actually a bit excited about it, if truth be told, although it's not an interview, just a "chat", as I keep reminding Claud as she tells people my " news". Anyway, if you have fingers, do cross them; if you have a half-full glass, top it up for me; and if you have good contacts with higher powers, please... have a word with them for me, eh?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ladies and Lentils, Man

Had a quiet, low-key sort of a birthday last Friday, going out with Claud to her ex-boss's farewell cocktails at the Ian Potter Centre [Modern Art Gallery] in funky Federation Square, dontchaknow...

Rubbing shoulders with the hoi-polloi of Melbourne's Philanthropic community i.e. lots of seriously rich people who give it away [well, some of it]: "Lady this-that-or-the-other", who were lovely, but, to my Pommie ears, sounded exactly like Dame Edna, which really did make it a bit difficult to concentrate during the speeches. Goggle-eyed in wonder, yes, but concentrate? Noooo.

Annoyingly, whenever I encounter Philanthropy, I'm always forced to rethink my backward-thinking old-school slightly "Class War" perspective, dammit. Nice and generous rich people? Hey, don't challenge my hard-fought preconceptions, OK?

We then went out for dinner with one of Claud's other ex-colleagues, Scott, which was lovely, though somehow didn't feel particularly birthday-like. But we're going out with Claud's siblings tonight, as a sort of belated do, to the blessedly cheap-as-chips-but-healthier Vegie Bar. That's one of the nicest things about being here... Being able to eat out cheaply, and the food being generally brill [though surprisingly I've had one or 2 klunkers food-wise, so far.]

Applying for lots of jobs, although not sure if I'm aiming too high or not, as the system's a bit impenetrable and getting lots of different answers to questions about what I can apply for, pay rates etc. Getting towards the bottom of our safety net now, so will have to start temping soon if nothing perm. comes up.

Though... Claud has an interview this afternoon, which will take the pressure off if she gets it. If she doesn't, she has another option of a probable 6 weeks work, though it's kind of PA stuff so it'll feel a bit of a backward step for her. But it's temp. and it's money.

Still desperately trying to hold on to my Pommie accent, although have caught myself doing the cursed end of sentence lilt-up thing when talking to strangers. Dammit, not so soon, not so soon!

I've been PUBLISHED!

Okay, it's not that exciting but it is to me.

I posted this on the Guardian's Been There site in the Travel section before I left the UK.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from my friend Catherine who told me that my tip had been included in that Saturday's Travel section in the Guardian! In the paper bit!

So needless to say I was chuffed.

Oh, and before you offer, Catherine has kindly offered to send me the paper so I can attach it to my CV.

Just kidding.

Not really.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

4 Weeks Today

Happy Valentine's Day one and all!

Ian and I spent the morning pottering around the house then headed off to Greensborough Shopping Plaza for a bit of lunch and a movie. We saw Walk The Line, the Johnny Cash biopic starring the fabulous Joaquin Phoenix and the surprisingly vocal, Reese Witherspoon. It was a great film with one of the most romantic marriage proposals I have ever seen. Go see it!

I have not blogged for a while now and it’s not really due to anything other than wanting to be anywhere other than sitting at a keyboard. Time has flown however and things have been happening so I'll try and do an Ian and list things out;

Job Hunt

I have an interview tomorrow at an ad agency I will name if I get the job! My brother-in-law works there and felt that due to my experience and sheer force of personality (my emphasis not his ;O)) that I would make a great account manager. Well, after reading my CV the general manager felt I was too senior for the position so wants to interview me for a job as a SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER!

So at 11pm the night before the big interview when I should be in bed I am up blogging and watching the cricket highlights. Which leads me nicely to...?


It has been so much fun being back in Oz and supporting Australia in the cricket. I am so looking forward to the Ashes later this year which will bring a few of you over to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test. We hope to be in our own place by then with space aplenty so get your flights booked folks and let us know how many tickets you need cause at this rate, we will be the only one's able to get you them!

Oh, and keep an eye out for Ricky Ponting's absolutely MAGIC catch taken today in the final against Sri Lanka. We won that too by the way...


I love summer. I love the bright sunlight and big blue skies that typify summer in Australia for me. I love everything about summer, the sounds - the crickets and cicadas in the early evening, the magpies churdling and cooing whenever they feel like it. The smells - suntan lotion, bbq's, jasmine, gum trees and the odd moment when a bushfire is burning somewhere and the smoke is hanging around...

There is just such a great sense of space that I only ever feel when I am here.

I just love knowing this is going to last for a while and not just stop being warm one week and then it be time to drag out the winter coat the next. Apparently last year it was still warm in April - bring it on I say!


As Ian mentioned this is my home. Home. An interesting word and a rather complex concept. England was my home for 6 years and it became more so as the years went by. But as I always knew my life in England was finite I did not have to relinquish too much of my life in Australia for I knew I would return to it eventually.

Now it has not been a simple matter of picking up where I left off. For starters I am married and my brother and sister are parents! Melbourne has changed greatly since I last lived here and Australia has endured a conservative government for the entire time I have been away. Enough said.

Then there are friends who have moved on or left the state which obviously alters dynamics in those relationships. Having said that I have simply picked up the phone and seamlessly continued with where we left off with the special few. That has been such a blessing.

The most wonderful part of returning to Melbourne however has been regaining that sense of belonging that I only recently realised had gone. I come from a very large family. I have 40 cousins on my mother's side and as many again on my father's. This makes for a rather large safety net of people and places to stay and shoulders to cry on and hugs on tap and the odd cash loan and the occasional meal ... you understand what I mean? So to leave all that behind was rather scary but I survived and Ian and I built a life of our own.

What I did not realise though was that I lived with an underlying sense of loss during my time away. Obviously I was not alone - I had Ian, I had wonderful friends and colleagues and my life was full. However it did not replace the fact that my people were so far away.

You see not only am I Australian but I am Maltese first and always was. When I got to England people heard me speak and declared me an Aussie. I know that sounds odd but growing up in a very multicultural city, meeting people my own age always entailed that conversation around what nationality you were. We all knew we were Aussies but most of us were first generation so our roots were not that set and I guess we were all figuring out who we were and how we fit in. So my answer to the inevitable so what nationality are you? was always I am Maltese but I was born here.

With all that in mind I lived in England, in South Manchester among the English. It was rare that I heard anyone speaking Maltese or Greek or Croatian - the languages of my youth and the ones I can swear most profusely in.

I digress. This essay was about home and belonging so I'll get to the point.

Our friends Anna & Kev lent us the DVD series of an Australian program called LOvE my WaY which Ian and I watched compulsively over about 4 days. It is some of the best telly I have ever seen but aside from that it moved me deeply. In case any of you ever catch it, I won't spoil it for you with details however, towards the end of season one there is a death. As I watched each member of the family unit, shambolic as the relationships were, for this family were not all bound by blood, I found myself sobbing.

Ian asked me what I was crying about as he realised is was not just a reaction to what was happening on the screen. Perceptive husband. The thing is he was right, I was not crying because a character had died. It was slowly dawning on me that as I watched each person drift in and out of their own private grief, they remained strongly bound to the unit they called their family. No matter how badly they behaved or how far they flung themselves from each other, they were still part of that unit and therefore, always connected to it.

And there it was. I was suddenly reminded again how badly I wanted to feel that I belonged. Then I realised something. I already did. What I had been missing and searching for was here. My family and my people. I knew then that no matter how crap life got, I belonged somewhere and to something and that made it all okay. I cried because I had missed that so much and I was so happy to be back.

As hard as the wrench from England has been for Ian, my hope is that he will one day he too feels that he belongs here. Not just to this place, the land and its culture, but to the people here. My people.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ten Things

To make up for the fact that it's been ages since we posted anything, here are a few things to tell you about our time here that you may or may not know...

1. Australians like "spruiking"
[nothing to do with Ricky Ponting this time]

To speak in public, usually at length and using overly elaborate language, to promote a product or a service.

(Verb) Slang, applied mostly to salespeople, marketeers and such.

There are a few Arthur Daley-type blokes who stand outside their stores in the centre of Melbourne, equipped with a little P.A. and a microphone, giving it all their patter in order to persuade you to buy their tawdry goods...

2. ...which may include, "Manchester"

Manchester is the word they use for linen, cotton goods and the like.
It's a bit weird to see shops that just say "Manchester" on them, wi' nowt else, luv.

According to the esteemed Macquarie Dictionary [the Aussie equivalent of Oxford Dictionary], Manchester [adjective] is also:

"pertaining to a type of indie dance music coming about in the late 1980s and originating in Manchester, England. Also, Madchester."

Makes me a little bit...

3. ...Homesick?

I can't help it, but that's what I've been feeling the last few days.

The people are lovely, the weather's ace, the whole place is fantastic and I've been made soooo welcome, but I still find myself wistfully longing for a place of familiarity, of safety, of refuge.

I just don't have anywhere to got that is mine, to run to, to hide, to relax. Not properly. That sense of familiarity is missing here, although I know that will come, in time. It's actually worse because Claud is from here, and it is and always will be her home despite her 6 years in the UK, so we can't share in a mutual homesickness, and never will do. And that makes me sad.

4. And we're disappointed that we haven't been asked to pass the Commonwealth Games baton on to the Aussies [or even carry it through Hurstbridge, which is due to happen next Sunday] from dear ol' Manchester on March 15th The city is expecting a hundred thousand visitors or so, and there are predictions that the city will grind to a halt under the weight of 'em.

There are some dissenters, mainly due to the word "commonwealth" and the bitter taste that causes for pro-republican Aussies. Just like Manchester did, they're shipping out their homesless too, although apparently they're going to re-house them in suburban hotels for the duration of the games.

The biggest fuss, however, seems to be that, due to crowding and safety issues during the Games, Melburnians now won't be able to meet "under the clocks" at Flinders Street Station, breaking a Melburnian tradition that seems to have been in place for aeons.

5. Had a birthday last Friday. Thank you for the emails, texts, and calls I got to wish me a happy gmpfnnfnffth birthday.

We're due to meet some more Mancs soon. We celebrated the birthday of another Ian, husband of Sharia, a couple of weeks back, and had a nice leisurely Sunday lunch with them. Some of their friends have other friends who are from Manchester, and apparently "like meeting other Mancunians". I know the feeling, guys...

7. We're also catching up with Anna & Kev from the UK again soon. Saw 'em a couple of weeks ago, in their plush band spankin' new house in Narre Warren, about 35km south-east of the CBD.

We persuaded them that Melbourne was the place to come if they wanted to live overseas, and after some initial reluctance to commit [the homesickness thing again], they're now loving it. Although they're stopping short of saying they're here forever [a psychological trick that makes it easier to live somewhere that isn't your original home], they'll be away from Northampton/Newcastle for a long time, I'm sure. And it's great to have some English people to relax with...

They were very excited that the pub by the beach in South Shields where they had their reception is featured in the new film "Goal!" too.

8. We took the very exciting opportunity to visit Fountain Lakes Shopping Centre, just up the road from their new home. For those of you who know your beeswax, this is, of course, the spiritual home of Kath and Kim. For the excited Brits, watch out for it on BBC Two soon... no need to endure Living TV! Hurray!

Embarrassingly, when I said I couldn't find the website, Claud told me that it's actually called Fountaingate. And I've been merrily telling people that I'd been to Fountain Lakes. No wonder they were looking at me funny.

Even more exciting is the fact that Claudine actually saw that great hunk o' spunk, Kel, walking towards Flinders Street the other day too... sadly, I was out shopping for a copy of the Mental Health Act, so I missed out... I did once see that Greek actress from Home and Away [wearing a pink velour tracksuit - eek], but still not spotted Kylie. But hey, watch this space, I'll keep my eyes peeled... exclusion orders allowing, naturally.

9. Lincolnshire... Fair Dinkum?

Apparently the phrase "Fair Dinkum" [adjective], which, staggeringly, is used pretty frequently, originates from the backwaters of England [just kidding, Ruthie]

1. true; genuine; dinkum: Are you fair dinkum? --interjection
Also, fair dink, fair dinks. (an assertion of truth or genuineness): It's true, mate, fair dinkum. [from British dialect North Lincolnshire, from dinkum hard work]

10. We're going "Grape Grazing" this weekend, just up the road in the Yarra Valley. There are lots of wineries [vineyards] here, and Grape Grazing is a kind of up-market version of the British pub crawl [sigh... homesick again!]. How cool is that? There maaaay be some advantages to living here, then...

Trouble in Paradise #2

You may have seen the headline along the lines of: "Shark Frenzy Closes Beaches".

O bugger, you say. That's what I've always said about Australia... etc. Well, rest assured, that's nowhere near us. We're a thousand miles away from there.


I had my own close encounter with one of more serious elements of Australia's wildlife population yesterday too.

I'd spotted a little spider in the loo a few days back, but it had scuttled behind the cistern when I tried to swat it. Yes, despite being a wildlife-lover and saviour of Pommie spiders [they always ended up in our garden, despite Claud's protests that they have some sort of a homing instinct and would somehow find their way back], Ian has been cautioned to take no prisoners with Aussie creepie-crawlies and had drowned a humungous cockroach that emerged from a box of tomatoes only last week.

Anyway, I mentioned it to my arachnophobe wife, but hadn't succeeded in locating the brute, until it again showed its belly to me last night, hanging upside down on a new web it had created. Learning from my previous encounter, I swatted it towards me this time, and it then landed the right way up on the floor just a few inches from my bare foot.

You can see what's coming, can't you?
Well, no. It didn't bite me, but just sat there looking at my ripe, succulent big toe. I think it was my big toe it was eyeing up.
It sat there for a while as I took in the markings on its back. Red markings. A bit like this:

Hence its name, the Redback. [not actual size. The one I saw was only about 3-4 cm]
Only three Australian insecty-type critters are capable of killing you, and only two of these are spiders. And one of these is the redback:

"Redback spiders are not aggressive, but their bite is very poisonous and potentially fatal for children or the elderly. After a bite, the onset of pain may be delayed for five minutes then increase in intensity. Subsequent symptoms vary but have included nausea, vomiting, abdominal or generalised pain, sweating, restlessness, palpitations, weakness, muscle spasm and fever."

And I particularly like this bit [excuse the pun]:
"If abdominal pain occurs, it is worse when the lower extremities or genitals were bitten, probably due to lymph node involvement."

No shit, Sherlock?

If you consider the bits I was about to expose, it was a worrying experience. Although I had the distinct advantage of presenting a small target, of course.

What sort of warped sense of humour does a deity have when the two most common biting spiders in Oz have a reputation for either hiding in your bedlinen [the White Tail, which apparently makes your skin necrotic, although some contest this conclusion] and under toilet seats [the redback]? The theological subtext is that we should have left the aboriginal peoples in peace, I reckon...

There's even a song about the redback in this vein [bum-bum], by Aussie country legend, Slim Dusty, inevitably entitled "Redback on the Toilet Seat":

"There was a redback on the toilet seat, when I was there last night
I didn't see him in the dark, but boy I felt his bite.
I jumped high up into the air and when I hit the ground
That crafty redback spider, wasn't nowhere to be found."
(and so on, in an equally duff manner)

Where we're living is apparently the edge of "Bush". Well, after last night's experience, I think it could do with a Brazilian at the very least.

Trouble in Paradise #1

Australia score their highest one-day tally ever.

"Aw no, not again! Last time it was a stand-in who ran me out and made me look a berk. Now some would-be bloomin' stand-up does the same..."

And that was even after starting off at 10 for 3 wickets... Yes, king-of-the-sledgers' captain Ricky Ponting shrugged of the pain of his humourless whinge after having the mickey taken out of him by gurning England buffoon Phil Tufnell, by helping crank up 368 against a Sri Lanka team that had humbled the Aussies just a few days earlier [lots of links here, if you're interested]. If there was ever a reason to caution against the use of illegal substances, Tuffnel is it, but poor old Ricky just couldn't see the funny side, could he? This is what Tuffers (sic) actually said:

"Evening all. And I'm thrilled to be in the presence of such great men. The cream of Australian cricket, or the cream that's just slightly curdled a little bit since last summer.

Boys, where did it all go wrong? Losing to Bangladesh wasn't a great start. Now, they're a good side but you lost, probably the biggest upset in world cricket. But that didn't stop old Pigeon McGrath from predicting a five-nil whitewash against the old Poms in the Ashes. Hey, Pidg, give us a tip in the 3.30 at Ascot. Not. And I hope the ankle is a little bit better since that nasty accident before Edgbaston. And you can take some consolation because you did average with the bat more than your wicketkeeper did.

Talking of Edgbaston, Punter, what were you doing? You won the toss and you stuck us in - 407 we scored that day and they've even stuck a plaque up commemorating that fact at Edgbaston. Thanks mate.

Warnie. The legend that is Shane Warne, batting like a maestro, bowled like a magician - zooters, wrong-uns, they were all coming out. But just because you're a mate of Kevin Pietersen didn't mean on that last day at the Oval that you had to drop him twice. Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and thought you might have dropped the Ashes? I've got Herschelle Gibbs' phone number here if you want some counselling.

Anyway, about 50,000 of us Poms are coming down to Australia this summer to watch us retain the Ashes. That will 'Crown' it. Have a great night."

A big fuss here, of course, although most commentators appear to have rolled their eyes in embarrassment at poor old Penfold's rant, who squawked:

"I probably wouldn't have minded so much if it had been someone who had actually played in that series, but for someone that has never really done anything against Australia in any game he's ever played, it was a bit hard to swallow, I guess.

It certainly got under my skin a little bit . . . here we are sitting at our Australian Cricket's night of nights and we've got to put up with some of that stuff that he had to say."

And suddenly; and I never thought I'd find myself saying this; Phil Tuffnel skyrockets in my estimation... even though he apparently believed he was being recorded for a satirical Aussie Rules show rather than the prestigious Border Medal awards show.

The shame is that Penfold's 124 and last-seen-hitting-six-cold-ones-in-Tesco's-in-Didsbury-beer-aisle, Andrew Symonds' 151 may be used as justification for Ponting's pissiness: proof that they are really "up for it" after the bloody Poms' sarcasm and arrogance... Yes, yes, pots, kettles, all that.

But lovely that he's still smarting over his decision to put us in to bat at Edgbaston, all the same...