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A little update

22 Mar Sydney Opera House

It seems the great and good of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have looked through my mountain of paperwork and deemed me a suitable person to reside in Australia PERMANENTLY. I am officially a Permanent Resident; here because someone believes I deserve to be, without need for sponsorship or time limits. Pressure’s on then… Better get proving I’m worthy of their faith in me 🙂


Fireworks and reflections

2 Jan

We played a few Christmas songs, I made some mice pies, we decorated our tree, put up the cards and wrapped our presents and so despite the sun blazing through the windows, Christmas Eve was fairly festive. When we woke up on Christmas Day, the sky was grey and the rain started an hour later. It did not stop and so for our second Christmas in Australia we felt quite ‘at home’ in the decidedly British weather, had a roast turkey dinner, watched Christmas films and eventually went for a walk in the rain!

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It was our first Christmas in our own home in Sydney and our first (and possibly only) Christmas spent with just each other. We were joined by families via Skype later in the evening but all in all it was a very quiet day. I suppose we did miss some drunken relation falling asleep during the Queen’s speech or the dog eating all the mince pies and a family argument over a game of charades but I suppose there were no risks of typical family tensions. In fact  just to make sure I gave James a book and he gave me a jigsaw so conversation was pretty minimal!

New Year’s Eve was an entirely different affair. The sun was out, it was hot, James’ dad and Lindy had arrived, a feast had been prepared and a group of our friends and their families had assembled at our house for the pre-fireworks barbecue. As usual, there were too many sausages, plenty of beer and as the sun went down we enjoyed a bit of a party on our patio. Then it was an organised procession to the bus and up to HMAS Watson for a view from the wardroom for Sydney’s famous NYE fireworks display. The champagne was flowing and the display did not disappoint.




It is strange to think we have now had our second Christmas and another New Year in Australia. Last year we were still growing accustomed to life ‘down under’ having only been in the country four months. This year we’re almost ‘old hands’ and have a brilliant bunch of friends to show for it. As usual, New Year is a time when many people look back and reflect on the past twelve months. For us, 2012 was the year of settling and exploring! After a hectic 2011, a year of change and upheaval, this past year has been about establishing a home, a network of friends and some kind of routine. I started the year freelancing and ended the year having written a novel. James started the year on a ship and spending months away at sea and ended it in a shore-based job just a few kilometres from home. Our friends have actually changed very little but we have met some new ones and grown closer to our other ‘less new’ ones!

In 2012 we had visits from my parents, my friend, my sister and currently, James’ dad and step mum. We have had holidays in Margaret River, Jervis Bay and Tasmania. This year we may do a little less travelling but James has several trips away with the Navy and we look forward to a visit back to the UK towards the end of the year. It will inevitably be a busy one, particularly with James’ job this year and hopefully I’ll find something new and try to persevere with getting my novel published. We shall see…

Full Circle

29 Aug

It was only a few weeks a go that we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary but today marks another milestone for it was a year a go that we landed in Australia and woke up to that glorious day, walking through Sydney, roaming through the Botanical Gardens and catching (for me) the first ever glimpse of that most iconic of scenes: the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Now they are two landmarks, which we see on a weekly, if not daily basis but they are never the less impressive for it.

Our year in Australia has to be one of the most memorable ever, having seen so much, travelled to many new places, made some great friends and of course, there have been the inevitable bumps along the way: those moments when you miss friends and family in the UK so much, when things haven’t gone quite so well and you wonder if you made the right decision. It has been a year of frustrations, sadness and scary moments but more importantly one of adventures, excitement, new discoveries and lots of laughs; the good times have certainly outweighed the bad and we have got through it together.

The time has gone so quickly as we remember so vividly that first day in our ‘new home’ but then looking back to that day in the airport, saying our farewells to family, it really feels as if a lifetime of things have changed and happened.

James has started his new job, encountered the expected obstacles and frustrations of transitioning to a new way of doing things but has also achieved a huge amount and been given opportunities, which will stand him in good stead for the future. We have moved into our new home, started up from scratch and (finally) we unpacked all those dozens of boxes and found a home for all those military books! We have been to five of the Australian states together, camped around New Zealand and also enjoyed hosting our own visitors. We made a fantastic group of new friends, who have also been a big support during moments of homesickness and also there to celebrate the birthdays, successes and difficult decisions. I started doing something I always thought would be a pipe dream and have now written over 70,000 words of a novel and we have got through the biggest test: the months of James being deployed and the weeks of him being away at sea.

On the day we arrived, it was 22 degrees and the end of Winter, today, the sun is shining and the high is 24 degrees. Spring has definitely sprung in the last few days and we find ourselves ready to start our second year here and begin the cycle again – not from a hotel room, living out of a suitcase, but from the comfort of our home, feeling quite settled but still wondering what this next year may bring.

Call me crazy…

30 May

When we first arrived in Australia, I heard about an event called City2Surf. In fact we had missed it by just two weeks and I remember thinking it sounded like quite a fun event, perhaps something I or both of us could do one day. Well, nine months down the track, entries for City2Surf 2012 opened and I decided to give it a go.

Now, the distance may not seem huge, in fact it is only 14km so not even a half marathon, but when I say the course route is undulating, I’m not doing those hills justice. Put it this way, there is a 2km section of the route, which would send even hardened athletes running for the fens of England, called Heartbreak Hill. It’s the kind of incline, which causes some cars to groan heading up and it’s one horrific hill start if you have the misfortune of having to stop half way. Cruelly, it is at the halfway point of the route so there’s no respite at the top and the rest of the route is hardly flat. As much as I like going for an occasional run, I live just 1km from the start of Heartbreak Hill and would rather add a few more miles to my route to circumnavigate the thing rather than run up it. Hopefully I have now assured you that this will be quite a challenge for me.

Graph showing elevation of City2Surf course

Graph showing elevation of City2Surf course

The run is on August 12th so I have two months to get into practise and I thought while I was at it, it would be a good opportunity to raise some money for charity. I opted for an organisation in Australia called beyondblue, which helps treat, promote awareness of and prevent mental illness and depression in all its forms. Personally I would question the state of my own mental health having signed up to this but now it’s done, the entry fee is paid and I am committed!

This will be my first race and as it is the largest annual, timed running event in the world (around 80,000 participants) it is sure to be quite an experience. As I have no previous recorded times I am running in the group, which needs no qualifying time, so for anyone running for 90-120 minutes. I’d hope to be closer to the 90 minute mark but you never know. If the hills don’t break my heart, they may just break my will…

My finishing line cheering committee (ie. James) will hopefully be waiting at Bondi Beach, whatever the weather… Fingers crossed for sunshine.

So for more details of the event and my fundraising, here I come rattling my tin:

Navy wives do not mow lawns

4 Apr

With James away, there are inevitably jobs to do, which usually the ‘man of the house’ would take care of. I’m not one of these people who can’t or refuses to do these things and have always had to get on and do them in the past anyway so sorting out car tyres and that sort of thing, well, you just get on and do them.

That was until the other day when I was confronted by my neighbour, who I have to mention is really friendly but seemed absolutely outraged that I was in the front garden holding a strimmer.



“Don’t do that. Seriously, Alfie will come round and do it.”

“Oh, it’s fine. Don’t worry.”

“Louise, Navy wives do not mow lawns. It’s the law.”

Well that was me told and despite my protests, Alfie showed up the following morning with his four year-old son in tow, to come and cut the grass.

Stereotypical gender roles? Well, Alfie got started on the lawn, while I gave a little boy apple juice and struggled to find cartoons on one one of the digital channels.


Of course, I was very grateful for someone helping me out and have to admit, he probably did a better job than I would have!

It got me wondering what other ‘laws’ I’ve missed out on and how much time I might have wasted washing the car, climbing ladders to change light bulbs and taking all the buildings’ bins out.

On a serious note, it is reassuring knowing there are people looking out for us ‘Navy wives’.

Paddington: But not like London

22 Jan

There are still a few areas of Sydney, which we have not yet fully explored,  so today we decided to tick another suburb off the list and head over to Paddington. This is an area, not too far from us, closer to the city and renowned for its federation style townhouses, the Victorian ironwork and small boutiques and cafes.




It also has a few secondhand bookshops, which is good because the price of books over here is astronomical – approximately $30 or more for a paperback, so about three times the price compared to England.

We’ve obviously become old now because we had a really nice afternoon just wandering about, stopping for a coffee and browsing a couple of furniture and bookshops!

We walked back via Rushcutters Bay, where a lot of sailing yachts are moored, and on through the smart area of Darling Point, a quick drink in the Double Bay yacht club and home on the ferry.



Armed and Dangerous

17 Oct

James might be the one trained to fire weapons but I may be firing my own if Australia’s wildlife wanders into my territory. While James is away on a firefighting course he left me with a parting gift, should I get into any trouble in his absence:

They do say you need to adapt to living in your new environment but when that new environment includes all manner of potentially deadly creepy crawlies – I am taking no risks!

On that note, so far, I’ve not had to deal with anything more than a couple of cockroaches and a few rather harmless jellyfish on the beach (although I note the beach was called Shark Bay):

I am trying to ignore the fact I am living in a country with some of the world’s most painful and poisonous creatures: snakes, spiders, sharks, box jellyfish to name a few.

As people who both love the water, we now have to be aware that stepping in it could lead to serious injury or even death. If you’re not attacked by a shark or a crocodile or stung by a jellyfish then you might just get dragged out to sea by a rip current. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a spray that can help me on those fronts so I will just have to take my chances.

Flat whites, high surf, low scores

16 Oct

Typically the weekends start with a coffee and in true Aussie style – it’s a flat white and normally outdoors in the sunshine but the best treat of all: a slice of toasted banana bread – another Australian favourite we have found we’re willing to adopt!

This weekend it was an early start and a two-hour trip in the car, heading up to the Central Coast – an area, which we’ve heard a lot about as everyone seems to be clamouring to buy a house or land up there. It’s like the house-buyers’ equivalent of the iphone right now: everyone wants one, it looks great and you get more features for your cash. We weren’t exactly going on a house hunting mission though, we just fancied taking a trip ‘up the road’!

Despite being relatively ‘just up the road’, (Avoca beach is within an hour and a half’s drive of Sydney) it could not be more different: from the more laid-back atmosphere, to the wooded hillsides and long wide sweeping beaches – even the colour of the sand – a much darker yellow.

Although it seemed everybody was out on the beach enjoying the recent turn in weather (27 degrees and counting now), unlike in Europe where the entire town turns out to find their inch of space on the sand on which to sizzle, there were wide stretches of empty beach and most people were watching the surfers in the ocean. When you see a child of practically six years-old stand up and noncholantly surf a few waves on to the beach you begin to appreciate the other differences in lifestyle as well.

Terragal is just a few minutes further drive up the coast and has a bit more life to it with more of a focus in the centre with a few more shops, cafes and what felt like a community hub.

For us on a day trip, it felt a bit like a holiday town; a surf club, residential areas, a few coffee shops and the beach. Admittedly the housing plots are larger, the views spectacular and the prices much cheaper but I think it will be a little while before we’re ready to move out to and settle in distant suburbia!

Come evening, we’d gone from watching surfing prodigies in the sunshine to beers and rugby down the pub followed by a curry (you can take the guy out of England….). We met up with a fellow Brit and RN exchange officer at a bar in Double Bay to watch the Wales France game. Obviously we were cheering on Wales so the result was a bit of a disappointment but we were cheered by the discovery of a really good Indian restaurant a few minutes walk from our house.

Making a house a home

6 Oct

‘Look at the cushions!’

I have never seen a grown man get so excited about cushions before but admittedly, just adding a few instantly starts to make the room feel more homely.

It was also the first time we had seen our Zanzibar purchases in use, so as strange as it was to get a bit overexcited about the prospect of cushions on the sofa, it was actually the first step to making our house a home.

Since then we have added a few more bits and pieces and started to accumulate more furniture and bit by bit we are getting there.

Commuter Boat

5 Oct

Sandwiched between grey-suited bodies in a train stuffed to bursting while you try and find space to breathe and not inadvertently sniff your neighbour’s armpit, heading underground out of the grey and into the black… Commuting in London was never much fun!

Here we have a different way of traveling between the city and home – the Sydney harbour ferry – and the journey is quite literally a breath of fresh air.

Balancing Act

22 Sep

Moving to Sydney was as much a lifestyle change for us as a great opportunity for James’ career and an adventure to have while we can.

Before the move we often fantasised about sunny days, finishing work, hitting the beach and living close to the coast to take advantage of the great outdoors: Our Australian Dream!

Yesterday evening we met up and went for a drink at one of the bars in Watsons Bay – a short stroll from the Naval base – and sat watching the sun go down over the harbour.

We were just one of dozens of couples and groups doing the same thing in the early evening while we saw another group doing Stand Up Paddle around the bays, a couple of guys kayaking and not to mention the people out jogging, power walking or just out for a lazy stroll.

It is the same each morning as Sydney-siders head out to exercise and enjoy their surroundings and this is exactly what life here is about; not working until midnight, not letting work take over and striking a very important work/life balance – afterall there is plenty of life here to enjoy!

With the sunny evenings, we find ourselves drawn to the beach, even if it’s just for a walk or a game of frisbee! Weekends the parks are full of people working out (there are even special workout stations where people can effectively use the gym outdoors) and even after exercise, one thing you never tire of are the views. Plus, the beach, the parks and the sunshine are all free!

‘The Australian Dream’ is starting to become our reality.


The ‘Eastern Suburbs Set’

20 Sep

One of the things we were looking forward to about Australia is the perceived sense of egalitarianism; no snobbery about who you are, where you’re from or who you know but then again, as with all places, the latter can always help!

We discovered this at a cocktail party hosted by the officers at HMAS Watson. The annual event last night was a chance for a bit of a meet and greet with some of the more high profile members of the community and for us, the opportunity to get to know our new neighbours a little better as Eden and Alfonso (Alfie) were both there and introduced us to some of their friends.

There were murmurings that a ‘Malcolm Turnbull’ was there, who we discovered is the local MP for the electorate of Wentworth. Three facts that were good to know just before he arrived at our table and got chatting to us. (We subsequently learned he was the former leader of the Opposition and could potentially be the future Prime Minister if the Liberals win the next election).

The conversation was more an exchange of pleasantries and the ever-coveted business card (although it was a one-way offering) and a brief chat about how we were settling in and what jobs we did. A charming man who seemed very friendly and sociable, unlike some other politicians I’ve come across, the free-flowing drink may have helped.

His wife was equally charming and later, thanks to Eden and Alfie, we also met two news presenters from the Seven and Nine Networks, who were being admired from one corner by a group of girls, who eventually plucked up the courage to ask for a photograph as they were ‘huge fans’.

With our brief brushes with Sydney’s ‘glitterati’ most of the evening was actually spent admiring the views over Watson Bay and out across the harbour, talking about the move and how we were coping with the transition with James’ colleagues and getting to know about life down under from those with more experience than a mere three weeks.

It was the following morning that the benefits of those ‘brief brushes’ came to fruition with several email exchanges and a phone call with a certain Malcolm Turnbull MP… Within an hour of logging on and signing in, I had a meeting set up with a head of news at one of the networks and a dinner invitation chez Turnbulls.

We shall see where this all leads of course but it seems we’re mixing in the ‘right circles’, although that may depend on your political persuasion!

First day of waiting

19 Sep

The Foxtel (Sky TV) has been installed – therefore life is complete – almost.

We are still waiting for the phone line and broadband to be connected. We have gone with Dodo for the latter and hopefully it does not live up to it’s name: Non-existant.

We are also waiting for the Qantas Airmiles card so we can start SHOPPING! So it is very much a waiting game right now but with the sun still shining and the temperatures reaching the high 20s, I am happy to wait for a while – perhaps down at the beach.

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