My Journal
Driving, Running, Cars and other things

Hi everyone!

We made the year, and spent our Ozzie Anniversary joining a bunch of friends down the local tavern and having a yummy $10 steak – classic.

The latest headlines are:

  • Tiff PASSED her test! She made it seem a piece of cake by only being out for about 20 minutes and passing first time. She managed to keep confident and our biggest worry for her (her exam nerves) was unfounded. She has been out pretty much non-stop since then experiencing her freedom!

  • James has started his second term of Tiger Tennis, and is coming along nicely. We hope he’ll enjoy playing for some time to come.

  • Alison is starting work at the local primary school tomorrow. It’s just a few hours a week, but gets her some of her own spending money. She is still working hard on her remedial massage course, and it won’t be long now before she gets her Certificate. On to the Diploma next.

  • We are finding the winter quite cold. It may seem a bit odd if you look up the weather. 20+ degrees in the middle of the day, only 1-2 degrees colder than some of the warmest summer days in the UK this year. BUT the nights are much colder, getting down to freezing on some nights; the houses are not built for the cold; and we are spoilt by the really hot weather. Brrrr!

  • We are both running regularly now. Both Alison and I beat our personal bests in the Gold Coast 10K race. I beat mine by 5 minutes and Alison beat hers by 4 minutes. Oz must be doing something good for us. We have another race on Sunday, this time in the Brisbane Running Festival.

  • The guests are still coming. Currently, we have Alex (Tiffs friend from the UK), and in a month we’ll be seeing Alison’s mum and dad.

Nearly a year

I have had a reminder on my to-do list since 3rd March to write this.  It has been in my face for nearly three months!  2 months ago I started writing it, with the obvious title of “9 months” and opened with some remark about it not being a baby - and then never got back to it.

Why haven’t I been blogging?  I can think of two reasons.  Firstly, I didn’t feel comfortable with posting an entry that was merely a pile of isn’t life wonderful down under, we’re fantastically happy, best thing we ever did, blah, blah, blah.  Why would the few people that are following me want to hear all that sugar coated crap?  The problem is, we are probably still in the honeymoon period of our life in Australia, and when I sit down to write - that is how everything comes out. Then I look at it, and don’t post it.

The second reason I don’t post is because life IS so wonderful, so I am not sitting around a keyboard all weekend, so my opportunities to write are a lot less that before.  I am more likely to catch up on reading, or watch some TV when I’m relaxing in the evening.

I am looking at my aborted draft post of two months ago - and it contains a wealth of newsy items, all of which I would love to update you on.  So, I’m just going to list them, headline style!

  • Tiff has done her 100 hours of learner driving, and is applying for her test - watch out south-east Queensland!
  • I have a permanent job
  • Ali is munching her way through her therapeutic massage course, and is building a round of customers to get her practical hours logged
  • My diet is progressing nicely with the occasional off day (like yesterday)
  • I’m running again - at a pace similar to where I was before that half marathon so long ago.
  • We had a nice toasty summer, not too hot - the locals say it was a pretty cool one
  • We won the quiz night down the golf club in December, and came last in March!
  • I finally installed the surround sound system, 7 months after moving in. Procrastination rules!

Yesterday, we spent the day showing a friend from the UK around the city.  Today, we are off to the formal opening of a new park thats within a mile of where we live.

Diet update

Living in the land of the BBQ is very handy for eating a diet that is heavily meat biased, so it is getting a bit of a heavy work out.  We even invited a few friends around for breakfast last week for bacon, egg, sausages and mushrooms done on the Barbie.  We did get in some baked beans and bread for the guests, though. 

Monday, Wednesday and Friday I am doing body-weight circuits of push-ups, pull-ups, squats, inverted shoulder press and plank.  Tuesday and Thursday I do kettle bell swings and on Saturday I do a set of sprints.  Most days I try and walk outside at lunch times, and get around 2.5kms of walking at a reasonable pace done.

This week coming, I will be starting swimming again (with the session replacing one of my walks). with a few guys from the office.

Since I have started, I have lost 15kg. This is one of my minor milestones, at 90kg, with my first major milestone of 85kg approaching fast.  At that weight I will be a BMI of 30, so technically still quite overweight.  Interestingly, though, my body fat percentage has come down from 30% to 23%, and if I carry on at the current rate it should get to 19% around that milestone.  19% body fat is considered to be at the upper end of healthy, which sort of contradicts the BMI?!?

The best results are in the way I feel.  I am feeling fitter than I did back when I ran that half marathon, and I feel so positive about my health in the future.  This is a life style I hope to be able to follow long term.

Wet wet wet

As I write this, on holiday, I am basking in the glorious sunshine at Adelaide, South Australia which is a thousand miles away from where we live.  But, with the news reports highlighting the terrible flooding in Queensland, I have received a few emails from friends and relatives concerned that we are OK.

The rain has been heavy and almost every day for several weeks.  Some days the rain has been heavier than we’d ever seen before, and going on for hours on end.  As has been widely reported, towns up and and the state have been flooded, roads have been closed and airports shut down.  Food is running out in supermarkets.

So far, we’ve escaped all but the most minor inconvenience - the rain has been annoying and the supermarkets have had the odd item out of stock due to delayed deliveries.  We have heard of problems at nearby Ipswich, where the Bremer river is 12.7m above normal and bridges are impassible.  Suburbs that we know of are now receiving flood warnings, so it is starting to get too close for comfort.

The weather forecast is improving towards the end of this week, but I imagine it’ll take a while for the rain to work it’s way through the system.


6 Months

We’re coming up to six months in Australia. We’re now settling in to a normal day-to-day life. Work, sleep, weekends, you know the drill.

James has just had an early birthday party. We decided that it was fairer having the party just after the end of school term, before people start leaving on their summer holidays, or going to visit family for Christmas, than to wait until the actual day. We’ve been keeping an eye on the weather forecast all week, as the party was in a nearby park where we were going to use one of the public BBQs. Although summer is here, we have had unusual weather all year. The coldest winter, the wettest spring and now the wettest summer. At least there isn’t a water shortage and the reservoirs are all full! So, we had been watching predictions of rain all week.

The day came, and we had a couple of impressive showers in the morning, which had the advantage of dropping the temperature from a steamy 32 degrees to a more tolerable 28 deg. People were ringing to ask if we were going ahead. Of course, being Poms, carrying on with a BBQ despite the weather is pretty normal! Anyway, it was a great success, and the weather held off until we were wrapping up when we had another shocker of a shower. Almost all the kids came, and everyone had a brilliant time. It was the first time we used one of the public BBQs, and it was brilliant. Reasonably clean, free heating and handy.

Our tree

Our tree

It is certainly weird sitting here in shorts and a t-shirt with every window in the house open, with our Christmas tree twinkling away in the corner.

I have just finished my first contract, and I’ve started another with a company making event management software that is only a 25 minute drive from home, so I am not using the train at the moment. The funny thing is, the companies UK office used to be in Pixmore Avenue, Letchworth and has now moved to Hitchin. Talk about it being a small world! I’m still looking for that permanent role, so we can settle down a bit more.

Tiffany is working full time now, at Fone Zone, a high street mobile phone retailer. She is settling in there quite well, and things look good for her at the moment. We hope she does well.

Alison has started a correspondence course in remedial massage therapy. It is a very detailed course, consisting of 16 modules averaging 100 hours of study per module. Alison will ultimately receive a diploma, which would entitle her to run her own business as a recognised practitioner. She has completed the first two modules and achieved high distinctions in both!

The weather today is fantastic, brilliant sunshine and blue skies.

Latest news

Another couple of weeks have passed since my last update, and so it is time for a news update.

Around about the time of my last update, Alison was driving back home along the Centenary highway near Jindalee and as she came over the brow of a hill she was confronted by a big chunk of lorry tyre slap bang in the middle of her lane. She couldn’t drive round it, since there were other cars around her, so ended up going over it with quite a bit of banging as it passed underneath. On getting home she discovered a petrol leak. We thought she’d damaged a pipe, so arranged a mechanic to come the next day and left the car on the road outside the house so that the petrol wouldn’t leak on the drive.

The next morning we were awoken by a bang! The neighbour opposite had reversed straight off her drive and into Alison’s car! Of course, it didn’t end there. The mechanic turned up, and discovered that the petrol tank was split, the front bumper had lost it’s skirt and there was a fair bit of damage to the underbody. So, Alison ended up making two insurance claims in one day. She picked her car after it’s extensive repairs yesterday.

Tiffany has managed to get herself another job after the debacle with Specsavers Indooroopilly, and she starts with FoneZone next week. She is really excited to be working again and is looking forward to getting some spending money again.

My job has been going well, and I have been approached about going permanent. Hopefully, the offer will be acceptable and I’ll be back on the payroll again!

Dad and Wendy are coming to visit in a couple of weeks, and we have planned a few trips out. It will be great showing him around on holiday, after all the times that Mum and Dad hosted our holidays in Spain.

We have our next visitors a couple of weeks later, and in-between we are visiting my cousin and her family in Adelaide for her daughters wedding.

I think we may have cursed southeast Queensland’s weather! We have had the coldest longest winter in years, and now we are in the middle of the wettest spring school holiday for ages. Nice!

Two months

We’ve now been in our new house for six weeks, and I’ve also been working in the city for the same time. Life is now moving into a more routine pattern, and rather than running around trying to sort out everything, we are now starting to look at things to do at weekends rather than running around sorting things out.

We missed out on the iPhone 4 launch in the UK by jumping on an Airbus A380 bound for Singapore instead of queueing up at an Apple Store. We both had the older iPhone 3G, had skipped the 3GS model, and were wanting an upgrade. So, when the iPhone 4 launch parties at midnight on the Thursday were announced we made sure we were going to be there. Initially, I suggested we grab a movie in town, and then wander over to join the queue. The film I wanted to see finished after 11PM, so we knocked that on the head and thought we’d go for a nice meal instead. When Alison came into town to meet me, there were already 30 people queueing, so we decided to just go and join the queue (at 5:40pm).

It was a great experience queueing in the main shopping mall in Brisbane for over 6 hours. The people queuing around us were great, and there was a good party experience. We learned loads about the area, and good places to go, shop, etc.. The grand opening at midnight was a massive anticlimax, as it took a further one and a half hours to get to the front of the queue. Optus only managed to serve 50 or so people in that time. They had loads of staff on, but when we got served ourselves we realised why. The processing was so archaic, with large chunks of the contract being explained and highlighted to each and every customer individually and it took half an hour to complete the process. At 2am after queueing 8 hours, I don’t think many people would give a stuff over the contract specifics!

In fact, it was easier buying my car, a much bigger commitment, which I picked up two weeks ago. It is a Holden Commodore International 3.0L V6 Sportwagon. It is a lovely machine with a nice throaty roar when you feed it some juice. Not exactly the most economical car on the road, put with fuel at around 60p/L fuel economy isn’t on many peoples mind here.

All our things eventually arrived from the UK a couple of weeks ago. I had declared a couple of electronic items that were less than 12 months old, so customs wouldn’t clear the container until the $58 duty was paid. A whole house’s content held up for $58! Even better, when I went to pay the phone payment service kept dropping my call and the internet payment service didn’t recognise my reference number. When I phoned the office and spoke to a human, I was told that electronic payment would take 3 days to clear and if I wanted to clear my container we should go and pay at the office in person. So, the next day Alison travelled to the office near the airport and paid up.

Of course things didn’t end there. The next stage was quarantine. I was slightly concerned as we have loads of wooden things, and the movers packed some things we didn’t want to bring, such as opened cleaning products, which we knew could cause problems. We received notice that quarantine had seized three muddy shoes, and we were given the choice of professional cleaning at $300 , or destruction at around $100. We went for the destruction. It turned out that the three shoes were one of a pair of wellington boots and Alison’s trail shoes which she had run through the washing machine, so shouldn’t have been a problem. We had other shoes that were definitely dirtier.

So, we sent the payment details through to the movers and heard nothing. Alison chased them up, and was told that there had been a change of manager, and the payment details had been mislaid, could she send them through again. She did, and again we heard nothing.

A couple of days later, we tried to find out when we would get our stuff, and was told we would be notified when they had a slot.

Another couple of days (we are in Queensland, by the way, so this is normal and I am teaching myself to accept it) and Alison phoned to see if they could give us some idea, so that I could book time off. This call was at 4PM, and guess what? “Oh, has no-one called you? Your delivery is first thing tomorrow morning!”. There was no way I could get the next day off.

Anyway, Alison wasn’t going to be on her own. Tiffany had been thoughtful and already had agreement from her employers (Specsavers in Indooroopilly) that when our delivery came she would be able to take the day off. So, she rang them up and explained that we had had short notice ourselves, but that she wanted the pre-arranged day off. The manager was not impressed, to say the least. She accepted the request, but not without making Tiffany upset with her attitude.

The next morning, while they were both unloading a 20 foot container (a fairly busy and slightly stressful time, with boxes everywhere), Tiffany took a call from Specsavers. Apparently, she was considered to be unreliable (because she followed up on a prior agreement for a day off) and was told that she was no longer required. They then withheld her wages on the next pay run pending the return of a work shirt. My feelings over the matter are fairly obvious, the management of the Indooroopilly store are petty and dishonourable and have shown me their true colours. I recommend that you don’t have anything to do with them.

Alison and Tiff worked at everything for the whole of the coming week, gradually straightening the house out from a position where it looked like our things would never fit to a comfortable warm home again.

There are a load of other things to tell you about. How my jobs going, places we’ve been out to, BBQs and rejoining the gym. But, this has gone on quite long enough for now.

We are so looking forward to receiving our first visitors from the UK in October, now we have our house in order. Dad and Wendy are visiting at the beginning of October and Martin and Pearl towards the end. We are also looking forward to Samantha’s wedding in Adelaide, and catching up with everyone there.

22 days in Australia

It’s nearly two weeks since I last gave you all an update of our progress here in Oz, and a hell of a lot has happened. I am sat at McDonalds writing this while waiting for some work to be done on Alison’s car, at a place called Ipswich!!! What a small world, as the a house we are now renting is about 15 miles from Ipswich, sounding familiar?

Some of our regulars may be confused as to our housing arrangements as they have changed a few times. The house Alison originally liked had a couple of practical problems, the living area was a tad small for our furniture and we didn’t really have any practical way of finding space for those few guests we knew would be coming over the next few months. So, with great difficulty she gave up the idea of living there and we started searching again.

We then found a lovely house in Augustine Heights, with a killer feature of a range cooker. We even got as far as signing up the application forms at the agents, and then Alison asked questions about the school catchment areas. It transpired that the school we had picked for James wouldn’t take children from that street. Great sadness ensued, and the agents then pulled out the stops to find us a good alternative.

We then found a nice house in Springfield Lakes, which seems to tick all the boxes. So, we signed up and are moving in today and tomorrow. Since then, we have ordered two new beds, a new sofa, fridge freezer and microwave. We have rush purchased a dirt cheap dinner service, kettle, toaster and various essentials. Arranged for electricity to be connected, and phone and broadband. All while organising and sorting the rest of the things below…

So, with a house organised we went down to the school on their child-free day just after their two week school holiday. The principle was amazing, and sorted James out a place. The school looks really good, and we hope it turns out well for James. He started the next day, so we have been having to run him to and from school, a journey of 20 miles each way every day. Now we have moved that will be much easier,

While all that has been going on, I have still been applying for jobs. The early part of this week was getting progressively more and more disappointing as some of the roles that I had previously been getting hopeful about started to fall by the wayside. On Wednesday, I did a trawl of and applied for three interesting looking jobs. On Thursday, I arranged a face to face meeting with the agent that had been making a really strong effort to get me placed, so was all suited and booted when I got a call that resulted in me being required for an interview immediately in the CBD. By the end of the day, I had had two interviews and had been offered a really interesting looking job. I start on Monday.

We bought a car for Alison, and for Tiffany to learn to drive in, on Monday. It is a slightly aged Golf GTI, but in really good nick. So, we have also been running around getting the car “roadworthy” sorted out (which was really the sellers job, but we wanted to get the car quickly), getting our Australian driving licences and getting the car registered to Alison. Add insurance and buying and getting fitted the replacement car stereo system to all of the above and you start getting a picture of what a wonderfully relaxing time we are having.

Just took a call, our beds are being delivered at 7am tomorrow morning, have to get up early to drive over to the house before then, at the weekend too! Gulp.

We are having beautiful winter days at the moment. Bright blue skies, 21 degrees in the shade, 26 in the sunshine. Also, checked the best way to get to the city, and the train is only £6 per day, return. Sounds good.

I’ll try and get more regular updates in…

10 days in Oz

We’ve been in Australia for 10 days now, as residents and not as holiday makers.

Just as we left the UK, apparently they have had a mini heat wave with temperatures rising above 30 degrees Celsius. I say apparently, because there is always the remote possibility that absolutely everyone is lying. Just to rub it in, the winter here is going through an uncharacteristically cold snap with daytime temperatures of only 15 degrees, and it falling to near freezing at night. I was talking to someone in Melbourne the other day, and they have had to scrape ice off their car - a rare treat for Australians.

The journey was the usual mundane endless drone of jet engines for about 21 hours, punctuated by a brief 3 hour respite at Singapore airport. This 3 hours sounds like a nice leisurely break, but it is amazing how quick it disappears if you allow for the time to disembark one plane and then the time it takes to go through the boarding process for the next plane. Singapore airlines were much better than Qantas/British Airways. The interior of the planes were in much better condition than any of they planes from BA that we used last year. The entertainment system was cleaner and much easier to use. And, the staff were very attentive and helpful. The best bonus was the comfort of the seats, which on the longest haul flights is probably the most important thing.

While we were on route, the sale of our house moved on, and we exchanged contracts. We completed a few days later, and the money is on route to Australia as we speak. My savings account gets 6% interest!!

Since we have been here, I have applied for a few jobs and had two interviews. We have looked at 12 houses,visited friends for a BBQ, opened bank accounts, registered for Medicare, applied for tax file numbers, moved from one unit to another and bought a car. Tiff has got a job, too.

The Australian people have been amazing, too. Everywhere that we have needed help, they have taken their time, and been very encouraging about living here. The time that sticks in my mind was when we were trying to work out if a train back from the theatre late one evening would have worked out. We asked the guy at the ticket counter, and he painstakingly worked out every combination of trains while a queue was building up behind us. We were getting embarrassed, and I said that it was OK, we could work out the rest as there are quite a few other people waiting - and he said it was no problem, they wouldn’t mind!

This relaxed attitude combined with the fact that the end of June is a tax year end has meant that it is taking longer to hear back from interviews than I am used to. When I mention this to the agents, they say “welcome to Queensland”.

Better get going, we need to get out for another BBQ today.