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The Future’s Bright…?

28 Apr

When you are married to the military, events such as Anzac Day suddenly hold much more significance than they once did. When you become a mother, especially to a son, they become more poignant still.

Examining one of dad's medals

Examining one of Dad’s medals

I admit, before moving to Australia I knew little of Anzac Day and the horrors of Gallipoli, but  you cannot but feel moved at the thought of those thousands of young men, boys, who ran head on into a dawn bloodbath, some, no older than fourteen, many never to see their home again; most, never stood a chance.

Anzac Biscuits

Homemade Anzac Biscuits

You can read a little more of what Anzac Day commemorates here. It was the first year that I have not attended a dawn service or watched the parade in the city but with sleep a precious commodity right now, I decided against waking a sleeping a baby at 4am to venture out on a chilly Autumn morning.

This year I found myself not just sparing a thought for the dead and the atrocities of the past, but of the world we live in now, wondering if despite the nature of war having changed, whether we have learnt anything from the sacrifices of our ancestors. I found myself asking what sort of world I have brought a child into: where battles still rage, where people still need to flee for their lives, where people still need to escape the daily threat of bombings, beatings, rape, torture; where people still live in fear for their existence. And it is not just in war-torn Gaza or Afghanistan, it is not just in Syria or Iraq; it is everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. It is in a New York skyscraper, a London bus, a Pakistani school, an African village, a Parisian office, a Sydney cafe…

And for those who do flee and seek a better life for themselves and their own children, are they welcomed across borders and embraced by their fellow humans or are they challenged each step of the way, punished for the sheer misfortune of birthplace and geography, then locked away for ‘processing’ until bureaucracy catches up on its agenda?

My sleep-deprived and baby-addled brain cannot eloquently express my point but really it is nothing more than a mother looking at the world and wondering what my son will make of it and whether this new generation can bring about any changes and learn to live with a greater tolerance and compassion. When you hear of children younger than ten being groomed to continue certain fights in the name of religion, I fear, to use the word again, that in some cases, it is already too late.

Cheeky smiles

Cheeky smiles

I write this as I scratch a remnant of pear puree from my ear lobe, which a seven-month old has splattered with his spoon and I am reminded of his little round face, smeared with sweet potato, and the impish look he gave me just before scuttling off to explore new territory in an undiscovered corner of the room, and I look at him now, curled up asleep, oblivious to all that I have just mentioned, and the world does not seem such a dark place after all.

Times to smile about

Times to smile about

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And then there were three

19 Dec

The hiatus in blogging is hopefully understandable. Two days after our last entry, our son, Toby was born. In fact, I’m pretty sure my contractions were underway as I hit publish on the post, as I was in the midst of getting everything ready and doing last minute jobs. Going into labour, for me anyway, is one sure fire way of finishing anything I’ve been procrastinating on.

Thirty-six hours later and two days before his due date, Toby entered the world, weighing a bang on average 7lbs 8oz (not the 9llb plus I was fearing) and measuring a little longer than average 52cm.

Two days old

Two days old

So where did the last three months go? To summarise the time in one post is almost impossible (unless feeding, crying, sleeping, pooing will suffice) and there are too many pictures and moments already to recap in detail. Toby is now almost 14 weeks old and those first few days and weeks are already a bit of a distant memory. My newborn has been replaced with an energetic and active three-month old little boy. Newborn clothes have been long consigned to the back of the wardrobe and the days of him doing nothing but eat and sleep are also behind us. Still, I won’t go into too much detail about a day in the life of Toby as it pretty much involves eating, sleeping, playing, sucking on fists, crying a little, being shushed, patted, rocked and wheeled around in the pram.

My day involves much of the same, perhaps with a little less drool and I tend to be the one doing the patting and rocking, although could probably do with being on the receiving end some days! Who knew smelling of baby sick and analysing nappy contents could bring so much pleasure?

They say babies change and grow so fast but until you live with one 24/7  I’m not sure you can really appreciate just how much and just how fast. It happens right under my nose but it’s gone in a  flash. Each day he seems to do something new. There have been first smiles, first giggles, first rolls, first grabbing of toys and babbling conversations.

10 weeks old

10 weeks old

With James having been away a great deal, the separation has been a lot harder for both of us this time round and even more so for James, who feels he has missed out on a lot of those initial changes. I keep him up to date with daily photos but of course, this is not the same and no compensation for missing out on bath time and cuddles.

I am waiting patiently for him to come home for Christmas and have a few weeks of respite. I absolutely adore being a mum to Toby, but the days are long when there is no one else just to share the load for a little while. (And that load is getting longer and heavier by the day!)

Twice a week I manage to meet up with other mums, now friends, from my mums group and antenatal class. There is great relief in hearing how another mum is coping with a particular feeding issue, or worrying about that weird coloured poo and there is mutual sympathy for the sleep deprived mess you may arrive as, and those non too glamorous moments where your baby decides to release the contents of his bowels over him and you while out and about with nowhere to change, or you realise your bra has been casually exposed all afternoon after you’ve forgotten to do it back up.

Along with the support of these ladies, I also had the luxury of my parents visiting and my mum staying out for the first six weeks, which was a huge help, especially during the first few nights after he developed reflux. Ah, those nights spent holding him upright while he cried and cried… Fortunately another (fingers crossed, touch wood etc) distant memory. With her help I also felt able to get out and about and it was important for me to start doing this early on so as not to become confined to the home. Toby’s first lunch date was at four days old. In his short life so far, he has already visited the Botanical Gardens, Sydney Harbour, the Opera House, travelled on a ferry, had walks along Bondi and Manly beaches and had many a lunch and brunch outing. He is oblivious to it all of course, but we will show him the pictures one day.

First visit to the Opera House

First visit to the Opera House

Luckily these are the moments, which keep me sane, as do the smiles, especially the smiles, which are an utter joy, but needed when you’re surviving on less than six hours sleep from time to time. Six broken and not always settled hours at that. We have had breakthroughs where he has slept through until 5am but we still get the odd night where he wakes a couple of times as well. But on that note, I would like to know where the phrase “sleeping like a baby” comes from because if someone told me they had slept like a baby, I would now imagine they had been snoring, grunting and sighing all night. Things seem to have quietened down recently but why does no one tell you that newborns sound like miniature steam trains and as if they’re always about to take their last gasp of air? Why too, are you not warned about the periodic breathing, that they occasionally breathe really fast and then stop for a few seconds, to resume normally again. “It’s all completely normal” is a comforting phrase and one that became familiar throughout pregnancy as well, but it can be pretty alarming at the time.

Night feeds

Night feeds

Just hanging out being cute

Just hanging out being cute

It’s amazing how these precious little bundles, so small and cute can be actually quite daunting and cause all kinds of anxiety. A friend described it well when she told me “he scares me because I love him so much.” Only in the last few weeks have I started to feel less worried than those first nights, lying awake, checking that he wasn’t too hot, too cold, breathing, sleeping… And as he grows, there will be more concerns than basic survival to add to the list.

With Toby asleep, I have managed to grab a few spare minutes to write this finally, as we have got our day naps in the cot sorted. Yes, these are the things in which only a mother can feel achievement. Of course I’ll be dashing away periodically to check on him as he has taken to lying on his tummy. This is the latest new thing; he has learnt to roll from his back to his tummy so gone are the days of lying him down and knowing he’ll be in the same position a minute later. Sleeping now takes place on the stomach, whether I like it or not, so to add to any other worries I might have, the “is he breathing?” one has just ramped up a notch.

Having to look after him on my own has helped me to grow in confidence with him; knowing you are solely responsible means you get on with it and do what is needed and muddle through somehow, but having to take care of yourself and the house at the same time means there are probably moments when I coddle him less than perhaps I would have otherwise. He is already learning that sometimes Mummy has to put him down so she can have a shower, get dressed, do the laundry, take the rubbish out, make some dinner…! But we do have lots of cuddles in between and I have been blessed with a happy, smiling and tolerant little baby.

Smiling for the camera

Smiling for the camera

He loves his milk, likes looking at books (I like to think) and the pram and car have the bonus effect of sending him to sleep. So if I were to do a day in the life of Toby in pictures, it might look a little like this:

Milk Drunk

Milk Drunk

Enjoying Noddy

Enjoying Noddy

Loving my car seat

Loving my car seat

Me like milk

Me like milk

Daddy comes home very soon and we have our first Christmas to look forward to, together for the first time as a family of three.

Family selfie

Family selfie

 

 

 

 

 

Moons and Showers

3 Aug The Three Sisters

Stick the word baby in front of ‘moon’ and ‘shower’ and you have two events, which have become almost rights of passage for women these days prior to having a baby.  Depending on where you live, the nature of each varies, but in Australia, a baby shower seems to be as common and as expected as in the US. The baby moon, previously the time after the birth, is now known as the short holiday before the baby is born.

I have to say I was not planning on doing or having either, but with James back for such a short time before leaving again, I was keen that we did go away, just for a couple of nights. I never thought of it as a ‘babymoon’, but if you are going to adopt the newly-used definiteion, then yes, it was a short break, where we could get away, enjoy some time as just the two of us and try to make the most of that, knowing in a few short weeks, things will change. Time as a couple is becoming precious and now James has gone again, I really have no idea how much more time we will actually have together before we are a family of three.

I booked us into a hotel in the Blue Mountains – a little luxury for a couple of days, to relax, go for walks, indulge in a nice meal and uninterrupted, adult conversations! In many ways it was an early anniversary gift to each other as well.

Lilianfels hotel

Lilianfels hotel

View from hotel gardens

View from hotel gardens

Hotel gardens

Hotel gardens

Admittedly, the walks were a little shorter than they might have been eight months a go but enjoyable all the same and as much as I dislike feeling as if I’m less capable now, there was nothing nicer than getting back, having a warm bath and curling up in the hotel lounge in front of one of the two big fireplaces. It was the first time we got a taste of winter, for it has been fairly warm in Sydney this year, apart from a couple of cold snaps lasting just a few days. Warm jumpers, hats and cosy log fires were just what we were after.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Blue Mountains views

Blue Mountains views

Blue Mountains walking trail

Blue Mountains walking trail

Admiring the views

Admiring the views

Walking the trail

Walking the trail

Mountain trail

Mountain trail

Post walk drink

Post walk drink

Evening by the fire

Evening by the fire

We couldn’t resist the high tea, offered by the hotel but felt we had earned it after our walk! Well, I am eating for two now… Right?

Post walk high tea!

Post walk high tea!

Relaxing in the lounge

Relaxing in the lounge

Warming up with a hot chocolate

Warming up with a hot chocolate

Sunset from the hotel

Sunset from the hotel

It was just a couple of days after James left again that I had my baby shower. A couple of friends asked if they could throw one for me, which was very touching, and of course, I was delighted, although specified I was not after anything extravagant and was not going down the route of a gift registry, which many people do. The word ‘shower’, implying I would be showered with gifts, actually makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

Initially I was hoping to have a joint party with James for a modern-day twist; less baby shower, more a bit of fun with our friends before the baby arrives. However, dates were limited and eventually we settled on a low-key, girls-only, tea party at our apartment. I have to admit I did enjoy making a cake and putting together some home-made thank you gifts and tags, which involved baking several trays of macarons… Patience and lots of willing later, I think they actually turned out ok!

Macaron thank you gifts

Macaron thank you gifts

To be honest, I could not have asked for anything more and I was completely blown away by the generosity shown by our friends and the efforts they had gone to, to create a fantastic party. Beautiful decorations, flowers, food, activities and gifts; a room full of women, love and general support; a lovely occasion, which given the timing, was a good way to enjoy myself during my first weekend with James away again.

Clouds and feathers

Baby shower decorations

Baby shower decorations

Party details

Cake what I made

Cake what I made

Baby bunting

Baby bunting

Baby clothes

Stringing up the clothes

Fantastic friends & Party Planners

Fantastic friends & Party Planners

Baby shower friends

Baby shower friends

Showing the nursery

Showing the nursery

Everybody who came brought flowers, a tray of food and gifts. I admit I even shed a few tears when they played a short video montage compiled of clips from a few friends and my sister back in the UK, wishing me well. Saying that, I can cry at the drop of a hat these days… I blame the hormones.

Food and Flowers

Food and Flowers

Quilt made by talented friend

Homemade baby quilt

Special gifts

Baby shower present

Friends

Shan & Sophie

Generous friends

Generous friends

34-week bump

34-week bump

End of the day

End of the day

With so many lovely things, the ‘nursery’ (read corner of our bedroom for now) is now pretty much set up. One of James’ jobs the past fortnight was to build the cot. We have a mini one, which expands to a full size cot when required, and I love it. Now I just need to start washing a few more little clothes and should probably think about that hospital bag!

Just need a baby now

Just need a baby now

The long farewell

26 May

It’s been a long time in coming. Since February, James has been on course to ready himself to become Commanding Officer of a ship but it has been on the cards since July last year when he was on the signal to take command. In fact for James himself, you could argue it has been something he has aspired to for the past 17 years of his Naval career. Well, the time has now come and we have said our farewells. In eight weeks when he returns for the first time, we’ll be able to tell you whether all that preparation has been adequate!

The period of James’ sending off parties seemed to reflect the length of time he has waited for this job. I’m not saying he likes to milk these things but…

It started a few weeks a go when I held a surprise party for him at a bar in Sydney. After scouring his contacts list and asking a few people to pass the word on to Navy friends, more than thirty people were already gathered when we arrived to give him a big cheer. It was a really wonderful evening with so many friends offering a lot of good wishes and congratulations. I had been planning a special gift for him to say ‘well done and good luck’ for a while. It is a naval tradition that only the captain of a ship can write in red ink and so decided it was a good occasion to present him with a Mont Blanc pen complete with red ink cartridges. It went down pretty well!

The following weeks involved drinks with friends, being taken out for dinner, more brunches and evening drinks and finally a lovely Sunday lunch with some good friends.

We have tried to make the most of these last couple of weeks together, particularly as when he returns I will be significantly larger and probably less up for traipsing about or going on long walks. We have stayed local but spent time down at the beach or in the park.

Walking in the Botanical Gardens

Walking in the Botanical Gardens

Autumn in Centennial Park

Autumn in Centennial Park

Bondi days

Bondi days

Drinks at Balmoral Beach

Drinks at Balmoral Beach

We had not been to Cockatoo Island before and decided to take the ferry there to see the biennale  – the art festival held only every two years. Although there were a lot of obscure video installations such as the one involving a man with a bag over his head and people wailing in German, there were also a few interesting and interactive exhibits, including the gym installation and the giant waterfall at the end of one of the buildings.

Harbourside buildings

Harbourside buildings

Working Out the Art

Working Out the Art

Cockatoo Island is a perfect location for an art festival. The once busy boat building hub and former convict prison is now an almost deserted island of old warehouses, sheds and prison cells. There is an eerie sense of abandonment in some of the old work sheds where the day’s tea order is still scribbled on to a blackboard, machinery remains suspended, the pulley systems rusted and decaying and the clock halted at the point when no one returned to repair it. Art installations aside, it is a pretty interesting place to visit and the view from the wine bar at the top of the island is pretty good too!

Arriving on Cockatoo Island

Arriving on Cockatoo Island

Old machinery

Old machinery

Turning to rust

Turning to rust

Climbing to the top of Cockatoo Island

Climbing to the top of Cockatoo Island

Abandoned and empty

Abandoned and empty

View from Cockatoo Island

View from Cockatoo Island

As you can see we have been enjoying some incredible weather over the past couple of weeks. Autumn has graced us with summer warm days and crisp evenings. It is really a beautiful time of year here.

Heading home

Heading home

When James and I next see each other it will be mid winter and it won’t just be the season that will have changed. I am sure James will have a fair few stories and experiences after his first stint in command and well, I just probably won’t fit in any of the clothes he last saw me wearing!

The Bump!

The Bump!

Sapphires and poppies

8 May

There are many things we’ve got used to after two and a half years in Australia and one of those is the fact a six or seven-hour drive is no longer considered that long or even unusual. When planning a trip away over the long Easter weekend, we decided to venture south to an area we had not yet visited together: the Sapphire Coast. A mere six plus hours in the car, still in the same state and only broken up a few more times than usual to let a pregnant woman stretch her legs and back!

Stopover in Kiama

Stopover in Kiama

The drive was actually worth it for the scenery alone for once you have hit the Southern Highlands, you are accompanied by rolling green hills, dramatic, sweeping coastline, sun-dappled forests and picturesque dairy farm land.

Rolling hills of the South Coast

Rolling hills of the South Coast

 

After a few wrong turns bouncing along dirt tracks, which would end abruptly at a river or some dense woodland, we got back to the road with the Sat Nav insisting we should, “U-turn when possible” and had our first night with James’ step uncle and his wife, who have a property near Wyndham.

It was lovely to visit them, after last seeing them both nearly three years a go at a party, where, to be honest, I met so many of James’ extended family, that I still struggle to remember who is related to who! Their home is set in several acres of land, which we walked around the following morning. It was distinctly cooler being that little bit further south and it was the first time we had to sit round an open fire in the evening.

The house near Wyndham

The house near Wyndham

Grahame, Andy and James

Grahame, Andy and James

The following days we stayed in a B&B near Tathra and explored the beaches and countryside around the Sapphire coast. It really is a stunning area, more remote than the South Coast closer to Sydney, fringed by long stretches of beach or smaller, bays, bordered by bush and forest. The water, unsurprisingly was a clear sapphire blue and in the middle of the day it was still warm enough to take a dip.

Tathra Beach

Tathra Beach

Bega Kiss Lagoon

Bega Kiss Lagoon

Forests along Sapphire Coast

Forests along Sapphire Coast

One of our favourite spots was Nelsons Beach, accessed by another dirt track with ocean one side and a beautiful lagoon on the other, which was perfect for swimming.

Nelsons Beach

Nelsons Beach

Walking along Nelsons Beach

Walking along Nelsons Beach

Lagoon at Nelsons Beach

Lagoon at Nelsons Beach

We treated ourselves to dinner at Mimosa Wines one night and seeing as we didn’t get to see it in daylight, stopped there again on the drive back up to Sydney. Artisan workshops, galleries and foodie joints seem to be springing up along the tourist drive, which winds along the coast and through national park.

Walks near Tathra

Walks near Tathra

Mimosa Wines

Mimosa Wines

Coffee with a view: Mimosa Wines

Coffee with a view: Mimosa Wines

Quaint shops of Central Tilba

Quaint shops of Central Tilba

It was definitely the breather we both needed and possibly our last chance for a long weekend away even before the baby comes along with James going away a few times before the due date.

It was a big holiday week in Australia that week, with Easter falling late in the year and coinciding with the same week of Anzac Day.

Anzac Day 2014

Anzac Day 2014

For the third year in a row, James got to march in an Anzac parade, this year in Sydney again, and a friend and I went to watch and support on what was a fairly wet and dreary start to the day. Luckily, by the time the rain really came down, James had finished his march and we were safely esconced in the officers’ pub of choice on Anzac Day, The Forbes.

Rain fails to dampen Anzac crowds

Rain fails to dampen Anzac crowds

Marie Bashir, Governor General NSW, applaudes marchers

Marie Bashir, Governor General NSW, applaudes marchers

James on parade

James on parade

Navy on parade: Anzac 2014

Navy on parade: Anzac 2014

Remembering the fallen

Remembering the fallen

After a few drinks there, James was clearly up for some stick, as we headed to the bar where some of his Marine friends were meeting up but ‘Jack’ was welcomed in with just a few derogatory comments!

Comrades!

Comrades!

The Anzac parade is always a spectacle seeing the hundreds of men and women marching together in uniform. It is certainly a moment to feel proud of those who serve and an event that equally shows them, the gratitude and support from the public. Every year since living in Sydney I have been moved at how many people, young and old, turn out for the parade, even in miserable weather. Perhaps a glimmer of the Anzac spirit being demonstrated in honour of those who fell.

A taste of Summer

8 Apr

Well Summer is well and truly over. Although it officially ended a month a go, we managed to grab on to a few warm and sunny days into March before the storms hit – and boy, have we had some storms. Living up high gives us a pretty spectacular view of the lightning shows and storm fronts, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Storm front over Sydney

Storm clouds build over Sydney

Luckily we had a pretty good Summer, although the oppressive humidity was not always welcome when battling morning sickness!

Now I am back on my feet, I can finally post some of the pictures from our third Summer in Australia. It is incredible how quickly the time has gone. Our third Summer of beach trips and barbecues and our third Australia Day, which fortunately was not as eventful as last year’s camping trip! In fact it involved a picnic overlooking the harbour at Manly – and a few flags just to show willing!

Australia Day celebrations

Australia Day celebrations

Australia Day picnic

Australia Day picnic

Manly for Australia Day

Manly for Australia Day

With James on course, it has meant we have been able to spend a lot of time together before he heads away next month. His routine has been a little more relaxed, which was useful when he had to come home and cook, but he has discovered some new culinary skills, in particular, sausage rolls, which he proudly showed off with the help of our friends’ daughter at their house.

One man and his sausage rolls

One man and his sausage rolls

We also managed a trip down the coast to Kiama and into the Southern Highlands, one of our favourite areas.

Beaching in Kiama

Beaching in Kiama

Lookout point across the Southern Highlands

Lookout point across the Southern Highlands

So, as we start to ‘rug up’ for Autumn, which over here involves wearing a cardigan over a T-shirt, and suffer the temperatures dipping to the low 20s, I will leave you with an image of our local beach where we have spent a few very pleasant Summer afternoons going for  swim.

Shark Beach, Sydney

Shark Beach, Sydney

Muse in Melbourne

9 Dec

The first time I saw Muse live they had just released their third studio album and were playing an intimate venue in Nagoya, Japan. I was front row standing just beneath the stage and could have reached out to touch the feet of Christopher Wolstenholme on bass.  Lighting was moody and there were a few projections on to the back of the stage. It was quite raw and quite brilliant. What a difference nearly ten years makes. Sat near the back of the 15,000 capacity Rod Lavner Arena in Melbourne, we watched the band members emerge on to stage under a pyramid of HD screens, lasers and smoke jets. Fifteen million albums, a Mercury Prize, Brit Awards, a Grammy, several NME awards and numerous Q awards, including “Best Act in the World Today” last year, the band have retained their slightly melancholic but stirring sound and are just as brilliant and importantly, just as humble. Themes from their albums have ranged from the usual relationship angst to, more recently, political outrage, greed and the economy.

They talked little and played their music, for that is what people had paid to hear. It was an energetic performance of many of their hits from The 2nd Law as well as a few favourites from past albums such as Plug In Baby.

This was a birthday present to both of us from both of us and it was worth the extra dollars we ended up having to fork out for a flight to Melbourne when we realised we still hadn’t booked less than a week until the concert. (A clear sign of the amount of work and planning we have had to fit in recently.)

Birds of Tokyo were supporting and were a brilliant warm up act and complemented the progressive, and at times, aggressive, sound that Muse produce. Despite being rock musicians, there are classical undertones to many of their numbers and Matthew Bellamy’s voice can be at once powerful and haunting.

Muse in Melbourne

Muse in Melbourne

Muse: Unsustainable Tour

Muse: Unsustainable Tour

We left on a high. It was a fantastic way to end our working week in Australia and begin the holiday that takes us on our own world tour.

Melbourne's Laneways

Melbourne’s Laneways

 

T minus 10 days

6 Dec

At the risk of sounding like my mother, where has the time gone? It seems hardly any time ago that we were talking about coming to the UK for Christmas “next year” and now it is ten days until we actually land back in the Mother country! It will have been almost two and a half years since we have seen some of our friends and family so we are, undeniably excited. However, ten days before we arrive means only three short days before we actually fly and that means a sudden panic about what I need to pack, buy, sort, post and finish before we head off.

With our birthdays both happening this past week, a huge amount to do for the new business, especially prior to leaving, and trying to arrange seeing people before Christmas and buying Christmas presents in time, the past few weeks have been hectic and at times, stressful.

With so much else going on, we kept our birthdays simple and organised a picnic with just a few friends on the beach last weekend. It was a lovely day and probably the first time we have purposefully gone to the beach for the day this Spring/Summer, as well as hung out with some of our friends for a while. Having Shan’s baby there kept everyone entertained as well!

Birthday picnic

Birthday picnic

Picnic in the park

Picnic in the park

James and Ash

James and Ash

On the days themselves, we went out to one of our favourite restaurants for dinner for my birthday, followed by ice cream at our favourite gelateria (both have coincidentally just opened up shop a short walk from us near Bondi – dangerous for the wallet and the hips!)

On James’ birthday I surprised him with some cake at the beach after work but these days it’s about as exciting as it gets!

The really exciting news is that Apple have approved the app and as soon as we give the green light, it will be available for sale in the App store… I have yet to break open the bubbles because the website and back-end functionality all needs to be smooth and fully operational before we do this and there are a few adjustments that need making. To add to the drama, a few weeks a go we learnt about the Inside Bitcoin Conference, taking place in Las Vegas and decided the timing was perfect to coincide with the app being in the store and for us to start promoting. So, we are now heading to Vegas for a few days before returning to LA and jetting off to London as originally planned.

Work aside, and it has been busy for both of us, it had almost escaped our attention that it is in fact nearly Christmas. It struck me as I walked into the Westfield mall the other week and heard ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ cheerily jingle out against the other sound of the slip-slap of flip flops walking along the ground. The wreaths, however beautiful, jarr against the stark white, sunlit walls as does the juxtaposition of the Polar Bear, pointing his way toward Santa’s grotto, while all around his frosty podium the shop windows display summery brights and neon prints. I never thought I would say we are looking forward to the cold and dark but at this time of year, it just seems right!

Having said that, once night falls and the lights come on, Sydney still puts on  a good effort and we went to see the Martin Place Christmas tree in all its glory when we met up with a couple of friends for a drink last week – as you can tell from the picture, the tree was perhaps not that interesting!

 

Martin Place Christmas Tree

Martin Place Christmas Tree

The traditional arcades, such as The Strand arcade also look lovely at Christmas and if it wasn’t for the 27-degree sunshine, you might almost believe there was a quaint English town outside.
Strand Arcade

Strand Arcade

 

As I mentioned, we have been trying to fit in seeing people before we fly off, and so last weekend we drove up to see James’ dad’s cousin out in Windsor. Ibby moved a year a go and has done a huge amount of work to the house and garden, which, looks out across the flood plains of the Hawkesbury River. We also managed to catch up with her daughter, Liona who popped in for tea as well. We were particularly impressed by Ibby’s sunflowers!

The 10ft sunflower

The 10ft sunflower

Liona, Ibby and James

Liona, Ibby and James

 

I expect this will be the last post before we land arrive in England and this has been a bit of a rushed summary of everything that has happened over the past month. One thing I should mention, as you have probably noticed, James is sporting a little more facial hair than normal, which was his ‘Movember’ effort, seeing as they can’t have moustaches in the Navy. He reckons he is keeping it. I gave him a really nice shaving set for his birthday…

 

Bracing for summer: Bushfire season comes early

18 Oct

Well, long time no blog, and despite best intentions to update several times over the past few weeks, other things, primarily work, has got me sidetracked and taken priority. I have been spending the last few days going through a huge database of thousands of businesses, ready for our new app. The launch date is now hopefully just three weeks away and so it is all hands t the pump.

I expected to update, when I could, about the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review, which took place a couple of week’s a go here in Sydney and was a true spectacle. At some point, I will blog about this and post all the pictures, but today I had to write about what we are experiencing right now.

Nearly every day, we feel so very lucky to live here, waking up to blue skies and looking across the harbour and appreciating that we live in a very beautiful city. The contrast to our view yesterday was quite startling.

Yesterday, after heading back from a work meeting in North Sydney, I looked out the train window and had to do a double take. There was no sky. There was a large, yellow, grey mass, crawling across it, obliterating the blue and turning Sydney an eerie shade of sepia.

Smoke cloud starts to engulf Sydney

Smoke cloud starts to engulf Sydney

Sydney smoke cloud from the train

Sydney smoke cloud from the train

It had been a scorching 32 degrees with a fiercely hot wind gusting through and it was only when I got home that I realised the seriousness of the situation just kilometres away, as close as Northwest Sydney and stretching up and down the coast. Bushfires had ignited everywhere from down in the Southern Highlands, up to the Central Coast and out to the Blue Mountains. After the hottest September on record and barely any rain, the flames had spread quickly and ferociously, ripping through neighbourhoods and rapidly burning out of control.

It is always hard to hear of those situations when you are relatively safe in your apartment and feeling very removed from it all. This time it felt much more real, as the fires made their presence known even in central Sydney. The smoke cloud hung, suspended over the skyline all afternoon, streaked with orange and we went to bed smelling burning in the air. This morning the haze remains, as does the smell of smoke, which catches in your throat.

It is an indication of how bad these particular fires are, with the smell and smoke reaching the CBD.  The reports state these have been some of the most ferocious fires people have seen due to the constantly changing conditions and how rapidly they have spread. The high temperatures and strong winds we have been experiencing have meant the fire services have been preparing for and expecting a bad bushfire season but it has started early this year and people are now dreading what is ahead this summer.

Sydney smoke cloud near Bondi

Sydney smoke cloud near Bondi

Smoke cloud obliterates the sky

Smoke cloud obliterates the sky

Smoke cloud hangs over Sydney harbour

Smoke cloud hangs over Sydney harbour

Smoke cloud shrouds the Sydney skyline

Smoke cloud shrouds the Sydney skyline

Due to how quickly the fires started and spread, there was little time to prepare and save much at all. People hearing about the fires were rushing back from work, trying to salvage what they could, search for animals and rescue treasured possessions.  Others were not so fortunate, they had to be told to move on and get to safety as the intensity of the fires increased and it proved too dangerous to return. Some people have lost everything.

Tragically, one 63-year-old man died, after trying to defend his home. His neighbours said he didn’t have much but he felt rich with his friends.

Watching the families on the news, going back to the blackened shells of their properties, picking through the wreckage, telling of lost photographs, treasured items, and missing pets is heartbreaking.

The heartbreak has been felt not just by the victims, but by those involved with fighting the fires as well. Particularly poignant was the press conference given by NSW RFS Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, who had to fight back tears when asked about the pride he felt in the firefighters who are risking their lives. “We have the best firefighters in the world, they are second to none,” he said before having to stop to swallow back tears in front of the cameras.

I am always in awe at how some people cope with these tragedies and how they retain their sense of humour. A prime example was the woman who walked through the charred remains of her home, burnt fully to the ground, pointing out the trampoline “with not much bounce in it” and the fact they still have the kitchen sink.

There are still nearly 100 fires burning and it is going to take weeks, not days, to tackle all the blazes. More than 200 homes have been destroyed and it is feared more will be lost today as fast moving fires continue to spread in certain areas.

In one town on the Central Coast, forty homes have been lost in one street and in another, a historic, heritage home, dating back to 1887 and in the same family for generations, has been completely gutted.

Some of the most beautiful areas are currently ablaze, clouded in thick, black smoke and forming large scars on the countryside. This morning, there was some welcome relief as temperatures cooled to the low 20s but no one is becoming complacent because as the day heats up, the fires are gathering pace again and flaring up in other spots. The initial reaction was to protect life and property and as days go on, firefighters will be able to work more on containing the fires. They know they will not be able to extinguish all the blazes by the weekend and on Sunday, temperatures are expected to soar again, causing more problems.

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected and to the exhausted firefighters and volunteers working round the clock to tackle the emergency. Australia is prone to natural disaster but when it strikes it still hurts. The stoic Australian spirit shines through in these situations and so whatever happens over the coming months, I am sure there will not just be more stories of tragedy, but also of communities pulling together and facing such adversity as only people living with this constant threat can.

The Salvation Army have launched an appeal to help those affected: http://salvos.org.au

A very Blue evening

22 Jul

If you are an Aussie, and particularly if you are an Aussie guy, (at the risk of stereotyping) you will probably have been watching a game last Wednesday night. That is, the game: State of Origin. The Blues (NSW) vs. the Maroons (QLD) and it was a crucial decider in the Rugby League competition too. As a non-Aussie and female, I, (at the risk of a backlash) was not watching it and was not too bothered about it. I might have tuned in if I had been home that night, but as it was, I had my cocktail dress on and had a date with another blue of sorts, Blue Ridge. Blue Ridge is an US Navy ship that was berthed in Sydney as part of a joint forces exercise between the US and Australian Navies. Talisman Saber is the biggest of its kind in the world, and the reason James happens to be over in San Diego.

As luck (or non-luck in James’ case) would have it, the Admiral on board, VADM Swift, knows James and had invited us both for a cocktail party. In James’ place, I took along my friend, Katie, who is also a Naval widow, in that her fiancé happens to be on deployment right now. There have to be some perks to this ‘Navy wife’ lark I suppose. The Ship was enormous and the dress and heels were not the easiest attire for climbing up a steep gangway, nor to make any sort of seamless entrance without tripping up ship’s ladders. Anyway, we made our less-than-elegant arrival just in time for the ceremonial aspect at sunset, the speeches and the cake cutting. Despite the thrust of the speeches being about the importance of building on the US-Australian relationship, the stunning location did not go ignored, especially with Sydney’s skyline in full illuminated glory from the deck.

Blue Ridge cake

Cutting the cake

 

I then made my way over to battle the crowd to speak to Admiral Swift. I was there really to show face on James’ behalf and I was not quite sure what to expect. I had never met Admiral Swift myself so envisaged a quick introduction, make James’ apologies, a quick drink, and then be off.

There were plenty of people milling around and a large crowd surrounded the Admiral as people went to introduce themselves and have a chat (and if they were lucky, a photo!) As it turned out, I did not have to wait too long to speak to him and as soon as I told him who I was and mentioned James’ name, his face lit up. Whatever James had done to impress this guy in the past, it had worked. I was handed a coin souvenir from the ship, Katie and I had a few pictures with the Admiral, taken by the official photographer, and during the evening, he came across several times to talk to us. He made us feel extremely welcome and despite not having our Navy partners, Katie and I had a great time, speaking non-Navy and chatting to the officers who came over to see us.

Louise and the VADM

130717-N-GR655-080

There was a fantastic spread of hot and cold food and a huge cake and chocolate chip cookies, even more impressive by the fact it was all cooked and baked on board in the galley. We had not got round to having any when the time came to leave but Admiral Swift ensured we both went away laden down with a goodie-box full of cake and cookies! He then also invited us to see his quarters and both had photos inside his cabin. Basically, we were very well looked after and the night totally exceeded my expectations. I might have been mixing with a bunch of guys in blue uniforms but I have to admit, it was more fun than watching the other guys in blue getting beaten by the Maroons that night.

Sprint Finish

22 Jul

I woke up last Thursday morning and decided to enter a 10k run. A 10k run that happened to be that Sunday, in just three days’ time. James isn’t around at the moment so I thought, what else is there to do on a weekend, may as well enter a race.

Although I run the distance fairly regularly when I go for a run, I had never entered a competitive 10k. Last year I entered my first organised running event, Sydney’s City2Surf and I am doing it again this year, so I saw this 10k as a bit of an opportunity for a training run to get me back into the groove!

I submitted my entry before I had read the average and fastest times the runners tend to clock up in this particular race. The Sydney Harbour 10k sees some of the fastest times of any 10k in Australia and I had just voluntarily decided to get up at 5.30am that Sunday morning to go and try to compete with these people. Hmmmm.

There were three ‘waves’ in which I could enter: under 50 minutes, under an hour and finally, anything over 65 minutes. I would have loved to have selected under 50 minutes, but I knew my times were just not fast enough. I had this 50-minute goal in mind, which would mean averaging 12k/h over the distance but always seemed to fall just short. So, I entered the second wave and just hoped I could do it under 55 minutes.

The morning of the race was a fresh 10 degrees but Circular Quay, near the start, was at least an inspirational setting at 6am with the sun rising beyond the Opera House.

Race morning

I stood around, and could have felt slightly intimidated by the number of ‘elites’, jumping up and down, stripped down to just small running vests and shorts, oozing lean, mean, running machine from every pore, while the rest of us huddled near the outdoor heaters in leggings and long sleeves. Minutes before the start, I braved the chill, stripped down to a T-shirt and made my way nervously to the starting line. As part of the ‘B’ group, we were corralled into our holding section, just behind the ‘A’ wave. There was some light humour among the crowd but quite a few serious faces and stretching going on. I was right at the front of the section, just a few metres from the A-wave. They were in my sights. They might be fast, but they were scared (I like to think so anyway.)

Starting line up

The countdown began and the gun was fired. I could not move. Slowly we edged our way forwards until the sea of bodies ahead of us began to move more quickly and after a couple of minutes I was over the starting line and running. The pace seemed steady. I did not feel I was pushing it and I was comfortably overtaking a few people, although admittedly, I am certain there was a stream of runners flooding past me. One of the big attractions of this run is the scenery, with Sydney harbour as a backdrop and the route taking you under the bridge, around to Darling Harbour and back, with waterfront views for most of the course. There is something wonderfully surreal about running under the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the sun just risen above the horizon and only the sound of hundreds of pairs of feet pounding the pavement around you.

The halfway point seemed like a long time in coming and in the back of my mind I was deliberating upping my pace versus having enough in reserve to keep up the momentum to the end. I noticed a few people around me seemed to be putting in some extra effort so I upped my game and kept going. I knew the elite athletes would probably finish in half my time but it was not until I had passed the halfway marker that I started to see the front runners doubling back for the final stretch. As Circular Quay came back into sight, I knew there was only a kilometre or so left and although starting to feel a little tired, I put in a bit of a spurt. It is always the case when the finish is almost within grasp that suddenly the final few hundred metres seem to stretch ahead of you, staying just out of reach.

The finish line loomed ahead and a few people were cheering and applauding and that’s when I heard it. Over the tannoy boomed, “30 seconds to make it in 50-minutes.”

That was enough. It was all I needed. From somewhere I dug deep and sprinted like I have never run before (not after 10k anyway) and just as the countdown from ten seconds began, I crossed the line. My face must have been a mixture of elation and shock. My heart was pounding. Part of me felt like crying and the other part, laughing. I think I was just beaming. I had done it. I had beaten my 50-minute milestone and not only that, I had actually beaten it by two-minutes due to the time I actually crossed the starting line. In the photo below I am in the orange T-shirt running for the finish and I would like to note, I am surrounded by A-group runners – hurray!

Finishing time shock

Of course, it would have been great to have had someone there with me but as it was, the sun was up, there was a fantastic atmosphere and I was able to watch the rest of the runners cross the line and join in the applause. Seeing the faces on some people really brought it home how much completing an event such as that means to them. Some manage to glide effortlessly over the line with a personal best, some you can tell, have put every ounce of effort into just getting round and have achieved huge personal satisfaction, some were there, running with parents or offspring, wanting to make somebody else proud.

Whatever the motivation, more than 3000 runners had all achieved something that morning; from struggling out of bed in the cold and dark to completing the 10k course. For me, there was a lot of satisfaction from walking through the door back home just after 9am, knowing some people were still having their Sunday morning lie-in, and of course, knowing that next year, I can enter the ‘A’ wave!Smiling finish

The best kept secret

8 Jul

I walked up to the trees, twinkling with fairy lights, candles suspended in pretty, glass jars and orchids entwined in the branches. There was soft music in the background and the clink of glasses and low voices. From the light and noise of the main road, I had walked through the park and arrived at the bar and knew instantly it was the perfect setting. The perfect setting that is for our friends, S and A, to be holding their baby’s Naming Ceremony. It was very them , especially S, who has been accused of being a bit of a hippy in her time but definitely has a spiritual, nature-loving side.

Celebrating the arrival of a new baby is always a happy occasion. Baby Ash arrived into the world just over two months a go and her Naming Ceremony was held yesterday. With James now away again I was flying solo to the event, which we were told would be a formal, evening do with a celebrant. It was held at the Bodhi Bar in Sydney, which specialises in vegan dim sum and Chinese style food.

Ash looked gorgeous in a little dress, both S and A looked very smart and the grandparents were there along with a small group of close friends. Just after 5.30pm we were asked to gather outside under the trees where the celebrant welcomed us. That is when after a few introductory words she announced that with all their close friends and family gathered, this ceremony was not just going to be about welcoming Ash to their family, but making that family complete. At this point, I think I might have let out a little squeak. I knew what was coming.

We had not all just been asked to come for Ash’s Naming Day but in fact to celebrate their wedding!

You can imagine the surprise from all the guests as not a single person (bar the parents and A’s brother) had known this was going to happen. There was a lot of cheering and applause and of course, open-mouths and dismayed faces! From the laid-back atmosphere, to the outdoor setting and the intimate gathering, everything was perfect. Our small group parted to let S walk through with her mum to the front where she an A said their vows and became husband and wife. We had not been totally duped for once the rings were exchanged, they took Ash and under the lights, candles and stars she was officially named and a candle lit in her honour.

This has to have been one of the hardest secrets they’ve kept because despite a few of us (myself included) knowing they were planning on getting married one day and knowing A had asked S to marry him, none of us believed that would be the night.

Sadly, James missed it but  funnily enough was still part of the celebrations. After drinks and speeches in the bar, A’s brother produced a brilliant video montage of clips from friends who could not be there. Those people had been given a few days’ warning and let in on the secret and James was one of them. I don’t know whether I was more shocked to see his face pop up on the screen, unamused at the fact he was in an airport car park, or at the fact he had been told and managed to keep it a secret for a full 24-hours!

Anyway, it was nice to see him because at that point I had gone nearly 30 hours without hearing anything from him and was getting a little worried. (Turns out their flights had been diverted and delayed due to the crash in San Francisco, which was not news I wanted to wake up to when I knew he was due to be on a plane heading that way overnight!)

All’s well that ends well and I feel very honoured to be one of the people present to witness their new family becoming complete. Here are a few of the pictures from a very magical evening.

Happy Couple

'I do'

Family complete

Naming Ceremony

Taking Command

30 Jun

I thought I’d give Louise a break from the blogging and write a post myself.  It has been quite a while since I wrote anything here and, to be honest, Louise is such a good writer that I feel that anything I write will pale into insignificance against the hundred or so other entries to this site.

Life has been hectic for us over the last few months; we have had to move home and I have been very busy with work, which has taken me to HMAS Cerberus in Victoria for the past 3 weeks and then I am off to San Diego in a week for just under a month.  We have a week’s leave booked for the end of August and we are both looking forward to a break.

My work has been interesting; I accompanied 27 student warfare officers down to West Head Gunnery Range where they were put through their paces in the art of Naval gunnery.  The range is located on a cliff top near the picturesque township of Flinders and provides an excellent training opportunity as we are allowed to fire live rounds out to sea.  Not sure I would wish to live close by as it makes quite a racket!

Our great friends Will and Isa, along with their two children, live nearby to HMAS Cerberus in Mt Martha and it was wonderful to catch up with them whilst I was down there.  Will is fast becoming a craft beer aficionado and is actually getting quite a good reputation as an online blogger on this increasingly popular interest in good beer. Check him out here: http://vonschlapper.wordpress.com/author/vonschlapper/

Yesterday I received some exciting news.  The RAN have selected me to command one of their patrol boats based in Cairns.  Command of a warship is a goal that I have been dreaming of achieving since I was a junior officer and it is a wonderful feeling to have been nominated.  I do not take up the position for another year, so there will be 6 more months of my role in training warfare officers here in Sydney before I embark on a 5 month course which will tell me of the many ways in which I must try to avoid getting into trouble.  The prospect of command is both exciting and a little intimidating as I will be responsible for everything that goes on in that Ship, including the welfare and safety of my crew – a daunting task but one that I feel honoured to tackle.

The job of the patrol boats is to protect the maritime approaches to Australia.  In this current climate of mass people migration from parts of the world  where people are desperate to escape tyranny and conflict for a better life this task will be a significant challenge both physically and morally.  The timing could not be more apt with the newly re-instated Prime Minister of Australia making incendiary comments with regard to Indonesia and immigration.  Who knows what the situation will be like in 12 months time, but one thing is for sure there will still be people taking great risks to get to these shores.

In many ways I have been preparing for command since the day I joined the RN in 1997, in the early years I didn’t realise this and there were times when if I am honest I wasn’t even sure that I actually wanted it.  An institution such as the Navy has ways to school its officers in preparation for this important job that have been honed through many years of war and peace.  Other organisations have great ways of preparing their people for leadership positions and an entire industry has sprung up touting the answer to leadership excellence, but I believe in the tried and tested methods of the Armed forces in which I am honoured to serve.

I will not actually command my own Ship, instead I will be the Commanding Officer of one of 6 crews based in Cairns where we will man four Armidale Class Patrol Boats (ACPBs), each crew rotates through the different ships.

English: The Australian patrol boat HMAS Child...

The Australian patrol boat HMAS Childers (and others) berthed at HMAS Cairns in Cairns, Queensland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: HMAS Broome (ACPB 90) in Darwin Harbour

HMAS Broome (ACPB 90) in Darwin Harbour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our plan as it stands is for Louise to stay in Sydney where we have friends and a support network, I will then either fly down or Louise will come up when I am not on patrol.  Hopefully this arrangement will work and it means we keep ourselves in the new unit in Sydney.  Having just moved, the prospect of moving again in 12 months is not an appealing one!

Marking a milestone

25 Jun

My 100th post! Wow – it seems a long time a go since I wrote the very first post on this blog, documenting our move from the UK to Australia. Since then we have also moved within Australia, although not too far! What is a few kilometres up the road compared with thousands of miles around the globe?

So I did wonder what I should write about for the 100th post. It feels like a kind of milestone and so the post itself should reflect this. I thought and then decided I would write about a special someone. I say someone, but actually, I’m talking about my dog, well, my family’s dog, who sadly had to be put down last Monday. I was hoping I would get to see her again when we come back to visit but it was not to be and at 14 ½, her time had come.

I suppose living so far from family means these events do happen and pass by without you being there and over the past 100 posts I have had to learn about the death of my Gran, the marriage of friends, the births of friends’ babies and now, the death of my dog.

I know she was only a dog, but you know, if you have one or have ever owned one, you know, they are not just dogs. Like all pets they become a member of the family, the friendly, familiar face that greets you when you come through the door, their tail wagging and in Jess’ case, a blanket or some such gift in her mouth.

This is not a Jess autobiography — I mean, she was a dog, a Labrador; she ate, slept, ate, walked, ate, played and ate some more.

©Louise Edmondson

I was a teenager, still at school when we went to the farm to choose a puppy from the litter and Jess was the one that scrambled on to my knee and sat there contentedly as a tiny, furry black creature that fit in the palm of your hand. One of my last memories is of her running across the fields near the reservoir, trying to chase the kite we were flying.

She had a crazy run, her ears always flew up in the air when she bounded through the corn fields so you simply saw a funny black head randomly appearing above the corn ears. As a puppy she licked everything and everyone in sight and as a dog she ignored the garden boundaries and saw the entire village as her back yard. A call from the local shop, a neighbour, or even the pub, was not unheard of. Jess was notorious, but if you were ever out walking her, somebody knew her and she was all too happy to receive their pets and strokes.

She was the most good-natured and friendly dog I knew but she had her mischievous streak. If an angler on the river made the mistake of leaving his bait unattended, Jess would have it; if a farmer left a brace of pheasants hanging in his shed, well, the contents might end up in Jess’ stomach and if someone accidentally dropped a Cornish pasty in the verge, it would be Jess’ next meal.

Incidentally, that was Jess’ last meal. On the way back to the vet after a walk in the sunshine, she came across said pasty and devoured it with the same gusto as when she was a sprightly, waggy-tailed pup. Some things did not change.

Like all animals, she had her own personality, her own quirks and plenty of endearing traits, which mean now she has gone, I know the house feels very quiet and a little empty. There is no longer a little dog padding about, sniffing the kitchen floor for any crumbs, sun bathing in the window or curled up asleep next to the armchair.

Although I have not been around to see her these past two years, I still miss her and have an abundant supply of memories, which I will not go on about here.

A sweet, funny, lovely dog and greedy to the last. She had a final walk in the sun on Monday and then fell asleep peacefully.

jess

Light at the end of the tunnel (VIVID 2013)

14 Jun
The Opera House illuminated during the Vivid F...

The Opera House illuminated during the Vivid Festival (Photo credit: JAM Project)

In the midst of an ongoing  and seemingly ever-growing mound of admin, there has been a beacon of light – or several lights – in the form of Sydney’s annual Vivid Festival. It is no overstatement to call it spectacular. The entire waterfront comes alive with light displays, music and fireworks from Circular Quay round to Darling Harbour.

Skyscrapers of concrete and glass are transformed into pieces of artwork; canvases for lasers and projected light installations. Entire buildings look as if they are moving in time to the music thanks to the illusion of light; optical fibre art work is suspended from archways; glittering tunnels lead people along footpaths; light fountains dance along to the beat and the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House are illuminated in a rainbow of colours and light effects.

The outside spectacle begins once the sun has gone down, but other events take place throughout the day during the two-week festival billed as ‘Light, Music and Ideas’. There are workshops, talks, exhibitions and presentations on subjects to do with photography, movement, reportage, film and even happiness. In fact, everything I love. Sadly I could not attend the daytime events but James and I did manage to escape for one evening to catch the lights. It was light we both needed as you will read…

VIVD 2013

VIVID: Sydney Opera House

VIVD: Customs House

VIVD: Opera House

Moving house, starting a business, getting involved with another business (can’t say too much about that here but stay tuned…) losing a wallet and getting a new phone has, as you can imagine, seen us swamped by the tedium and minutiae of updating details, renewing cards, informing everyone of new phone numbers and then add to that meetings, rental agreements and trying to keep on top of the writing. Moving house is normally a stressful and chaotic time but when there are several extra parties involved and Defence have to come and inspect your house (twice) and the owners also want to come and inspect it and the removal guys are one body but Defence provides an extra ‘liaison’ guy to help out (who also wants to come and inspect your house) well, yes, the diary is full and thank goodness for the new phone because at least I get an alert every half an hour reminding me who is due next to inspect or call! I’m grateful for the Defence assistance we get but sometimes, the saying ‘too many cooks’ springs to mind.

Did I also mention we’ve been selling some of our furniture and trying to coordinate pick-ups from online buyers? Oh and then to add to it all one of the units above us had their hot water system burst last night so two floors of the block are flooded. I woke up and was greeted by an internal stairwell of wet carpet and a neighbour above us wringing out towels and paddling about on his carpets, which have all had to be removed. So far, nothing down here, but I am watching and waiting for the damp patches on the ceiling and for the water to eventually seep through into our unit. I say ‘I’ because, yes, as luck would have it, James finds himself away with work! Ah yes, they have a cunning way of planning these things, I am beginning to suspect a conspiracy. I will be moving out and moving in alone for the third time and while James flits between Melbourne and San Diego, I shall continue to drown in a pool of admin (and possibly an actual pool of water as well.)

Looking forward to being settled again… There is light at the end of the tunnel!

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