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

 

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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…

 

Finishing Lines

8 Nov Credit: BitScan Pty Ltd

There are two kinds of lines where meeting one automatically means meeting the other, but the reverse is not trrue. I’m talking deadlines and finishing lines. Meet your deadline and you’ve crossed the finishing line, pass the finishing line but the deadline may well have past long a go. With most projects, deadlines seem to act as a vague guideline because invariably they keep getting pushed back. Construction projects and house building seem to be a prime example. How often do Kevin McCloud or Peter Maddison revisit a build to see months have slipped by and they are still awaiting planning permission for a crucial feature wall? Well, it seems building an app is no different.

The past few months have involved dozens of meetings, where we have asked the question: How long now, two weeks? Do you think we’ll be ready by September.. Make that October? Mid October? Oh…

 

There is never one person or company to blame; as with all things technical, issues arise, things breakdown, pieces of code don’t work, updates are always available; as with all things human, people fall sick, people do make mistakes and people underestimate how long a ‘relatively small job’ will take.

However, the months, weeks, days and hours of talking, researching, planning, designing and head-scratching is coming to a close and we can now talk about the launch of our new app in matters of days. It is exciting. It’s exciting because we are, currently, first to market with anything of this kind, and because we are actually pretty pleased with the result.

Without attempting the bitcoin explainer again (see previous posts), the app has been designed as an interface for all and any users of bitcoin. It is packed full of features and we hope offers a sleek, user-friendly and fully functional application whether you want to trade, invest, analyse, inform, sell, promote or spend. It is, as we like to say: The World of Bitcoin in the Palm of Your Hand. For details about what it does and all its features, if you are interested, you can read more here. What might encourage you is that bitcoin is growing in value steadily again. Over the past few weeks it has grown in a fairly sustained, measured way and the price is now at an all-time high of around $300 a bitcoin. It has proven resilient to the Silk Road bust and resistant to attempts by the FBI to crack its code seeing as even they cannot access the almost 489,000 bitcoins it seized as a result, safely stashed in an encrypted wallet. With China now entering the picture, it is unlikely that bitcoin is going to disappear for a while. It seems a prime time to be launching the app. The finishing line is in sight.

Credit: BitScan Pty Ltd

The new BitScan app

I happened to cross another finishing line a couple of week’s ago. That of the Sydney’s Rebel Run half marathon at the Olympic Park. It was not an easy run and for whatever reason that day, I really struggled. I tend to be able to pace myself quite well and have enough in reserve for a bit of a spurt at the end, but not this time. Training had not been easy due to the searing temperatures we had been having. 30-degree plus days in October are not what I’m used to and the atmosphere for a few weeks has been hazy at the best of times with the smoke from the bushfires blowing over. Most mornings I felt I could have been training for the Sahara desert run! I had done a few long runs in preparation and had managed a sub 1hour 50minutes in training.

The weekend in question, our friend Will came to visit from Melbourne, which was brilliant and great to catch up with him. When the sun’s out and there are beers to be had (it was the Sydney Craft Beer Festival that week) Will and James were keen to head out. I joined them for a hog roast on the Saturday afternoon, although no alcohol, plenty of fluids, and plenty of pasta that night was order of the day for me!

As with all race mornings, I felt a little nervous with the anticipation of the 21.1 km ahead of me. A little tired as well, but only to be expected when you have to get up at 5am to make the 6.30am gun. I set off well, but possibly a little fast. After 11 km, the distance markers disappeared because we were running along track by the river and through parkland. I do not own a Garmin watch, and wasn’t running with my Nike Plus, so was having to estimate how far I had gone, but by what must have been about 16 km, I was starting to flag. The day was already warming up and a grey, smoky haze suddenly wafted over, which is never helpful when you’re relying on oxygen! Apart from once when training too late in the day and it was nearing 26 degrees, I have never had that urge come over me to stop like I did then. Of course, I couldn’t. If I stopped or walked, I knew I’d never get going again. I felt as if I was staggering along, forcing one foot in front of the other, not feeling breathless, just lethargic. My energy was completely sapped. Despite my little jelly bean stash for a glucose hit as I went round, my blood sugar must have taken a serious dip because at one point double vision set in. Dreams of making it anywhere in near 1 hour 45 vanished, I knew 1 hour 50 was going to be highly unlikely and I had to hope I could still finish in under 2 hours. I just kept telling myself to keep going. My muscles, which never usually suffer from lactic acid build up, were suddenly screaming, and my head was screaming at me in a different way. I have never had such a mental, let a lone physical, struggle during a run.

When the stewards in the sidelines yelled, “3km to go” I think I deflated even more. In the grand scheme of things, it was a short distance and this was usually when I would have started to increase the pace slightly if I had anything left. I didn’t. In fact, one man, running by, must have seen me wilting and said, “We’re nearly there, come on.” I had no intention of stopping but I think the feeling of disappointment that my goal times were a distant memory was an extra burden I was dragging along!

The last stretch along to the Olympic stadium felt never ending but even in the state I was in, there was something about running through the tunnel and into the stadium that meant the struggle was forgotten for a brief few seconds. Any fantasy of sprinting over the finish line with my hands in the air remained just that. As soon as the line was crossed I staggered to one side, collapsed in a corner and did not stand up again for a good five minutes.

Finishing the Rebel Run half marathon

Finishing the Rebel Run half marathon

Amazingly by the time I was home half an hour later, I felt fine. No aches, no pains, just ready for a nap! There was no stiffness over the following days either but the thought of running anything over 10km didn’t appeal so much!

Oh, and you’re probably wondering how I did… Well I crossed the finish line in 1 hour 52 minutes, which given everything, absolutely amazed me. Not my finest hour (or two) but it’s one finishing line I don’t have to worry about again.

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

Raro Time

6 Sep

From the moment we stepped off the plane, the Cook Islands welcomed us. It was the sound of the man in the straw hat and tropical shirt (who we now know is called Jake) strumming away on his guitar with island tunes while we waited in the tiny arrivals area for our bags to appear on the one luggage carousel. It was the sign saying ‘Welcome Louise & James’ when we headed to the desk for our transfer and it was our driver, Gna, offering us a glass of champagne in the back of the car before taking us to our accommodation. We had arrived in Rarotonga and from now on, everything was going to happen in ‘Raro time.’

The brief introduction to Rarotonga as we sat in the taxi, watching the dark shapes of palm trees and low-rise buildings slide past (the speed limit is a maximum 50kph on the whole island), informed us that tourists make up a higher percentage of the population than locals, the entire island is only 35km around and one of the best places to watch sunset is at the end of the runway.

It was 1.30 am and the owners at our accommodation had long gone home but Gna walked in, found the keys and showed us to our villa. Anywhere else, it might have seemed odd, but this was Rarotonga, a tiny speck in the middle of the Pacific, as far from anywhere as you can pretty much get and right then, Sydney, the city, work and daily routine felt very very far away.

Just before heading to bed, with the sound of the waves enticingly close, we had to walk down to the beach and less than twenty metres from our front door, we were on the sand and looking out over the lagoon, which surrounds the island. It was dark of course but feeling the sand between our toes and hearing nothing but water lapping the shore and a sweet, balmy breeze, we were on holiday.

Mii greeted us on our first morning and offered to take us to the supermarket to stock up on a few provisions. We weren’t planning on doing much self-catering, but a few bits for breakfast and lunch were all we needed. In the daylight, we saw our first glimpse of the inland lushness of the island; mountains reared up in the centre, covered in a vivid green carpet and all along the roadside were lawns, palm trees and bright flowers punctuating the dense foliage.

On the other side of the road, white sand sloped down to the lagoon, crystal clear and bright turquoise. I might be describing your typical tropical island paradise, but then, that is exactly where we were.

Rarotonga from the lagoon

Rarotonga from the lagoon

Rarotonga - main road

Rarotonga – main road

Titikaveka Beach

Titikaveka Beach

We hopped out of Mii’s car. The windows were left down, the doors left unlocked and every other person waved, smiled and hugged Mii as we walked in.

This is the kind of island, unsurprisingly, where everyone knows everyone. It is the kind if island where “going up town” refers to heading to the one settlement with more than two roads, on the north side. It is the kind of island where there are only two buses: clockwise and anti-clockwise and where, if you are waiting for a bus to take you home from ‘town’ at night and the police drive by, they tell you to “hop in” and give you a ride back to your villa.

Our villa was one of just ten, all facing the water, set back a few metres from one of the best beaches on the island for snorkeling and swimming. With a coral reef, protecting the island, there was plenty of coral to snorkel around and tropical fish occasionally jumping up near where we were lying on the beach. We did a lot of that. Lying. Lying and reading, lying and sunbathing, lying and sleeping and maybe occasionally rolling over, you know, if we were getting too much sun on one side… I think we occasionally mumbled something to each other but basically, the holiday, which was booked as a much needed rest and recharge, was just that.

Lazy days

There were several restaurants within walking distance and a few, which we went to by bus. Most were small, on the beach, serving Polynesian food, which is essentially a lot of fish, rice and typical sides like papaya salad. The American influence was still apparent: key lime pie and New York cheesecake were a common feature on the dessert menu!

Beach bar

Beach bar

The resort, where we stayed hosted a couple of communal events each week, to get guests mingling and talking. The first of these was a morning tea by the pool, with hokey pokey muffins (honeycomb for the Brits.) We got chatting to another young, American couple, who were honeymooning on the island, and a few of the other guests, mainly Kiwis. The second event, fell on our last night: the Petanque Championship. The stress was on ‘fun’ not ‘competition’ but if you’re going to stick a ball in James’ hand and mention the word ‘Championship’ to either of us, we aren’t going to take it lying down (perhaps we’d had too much of that during the rest of the holiday.)

Competitive spirits aroused, the other guests were not going to get their sedate game of petanque whether they wanted it or not. We won. Of course. Petanque champions of the week. We could leave, satisfied.

Petanque Champions

Petanque Champions

Our final meal that night was as local as you could get. The American couple had befriended a woman, who lived across the road and who had offered to cook them dinner. They invited us to join them and that evening, Mama Nicky came to their villa with dishes of home-cooked food: fish in coconut cream, chicken curry, raw fish in lime juice and a home-baked banana bread. It was delicious and a good way to say goodbye to the island.

Mama Nicky and crew

Mama Nicky and crew

We never got to see a sunset from the end of the runway, but we’re sure, the ones we did see, were not too bad.

Sunset from Titikaveka

Sunset from Titikaveka

 

City2Surf 2013

14 Aug

Last year I waited anxiously on the Saturday evening before my first City2Surf as the wind howled around the house and rain battered the windows. I was hoping the following morning would at least stay dry. It did, thankfully, and I completed my first City2Surf run in a fairly respectable time of 73 minutes. What a difference a year makes. Clear blue skies and temperatures well into the double figures greeted us for City2Surf 2013 and it was not just me running but James and five other friends as well.

I have now run this event twice and feel qualified to say, I love this race. There is a real buzz and sense of fun that you do not always get with more competitive, accredited races. With a previous qualifying time, I was in a different start group to my friends and just after 8am, my gun went off, followed by James’ 20 minutes later. The nerves may not have been as bad as last year but the pressure was on. Last year, it was about finishing and experiencing the atmosphere that you can only get in amongst 85,000 runners, pounding the streets of Sydney all the way to Bondi Beach. This year I had different expectations and a time to beat. I had not put in as much training and I knew heartbreak hill was going to prove more of a struggle than I wanted but I thought a 70-minute race might just be possible if I didn’t let the muscle burn get the better of me.

I started well but it was hard to tell how I was going (I do not have a Garmin or timing device) and in amongst faster runners, I was very much ‘one of the pack’. If anything was going to spur me on, it was knowing James was going to be on my back, and although starting well behind me, I admit there was a little competition going on between us, as well as with myself!

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

©Louise Edmondson

There are not many timed running events where you can high-five children lining the street, pass a man running in a policeman’s helmet or dressed as a smurf, get sprayed by water pistols by onlookers and feel the mutual sense of pain as you all dig deep to get up that hill. The urge to pat people on the back and just say, “keep going, you can do it,” was quite strong!

Once heartbreak hill is conquered, it is not, as some people like to believe, “all down hill from then on” in fact there are a couple of pretty sneaky but nasty ascents along Military Road before Bondi comes into view. The approach to Bondi is always the hardest part. You are so close and the finish is in sight yet the course, parallel to the beach, seems to go on forever and then you have to double back on yourself to the finish line. I saw a friend among the spectating crowds and gave a yell and a wave as I ran past and then it was the final stretch to the end.

It’s a tough course, no doubt. Need to see the faces on people as they finish?

Finishing relief!

I did not feel too bad after crossing the line. There was the sense of achievement at having finished and kept running and there was the knowing I had raised over $400 for my chosen charity, The Butterfly Foundation.  I had no idea of my overall time but I knew it would be close whether I had cracked my sub-70 goal.  Fortunately, James and I managed to meet up and walked home (up another hill), feeling a little tired but proud to have completed the, let’s say, ‘undulating’ course! A sunny Bond is not a bad place to end:

James_medal

IMG_0352

Once home, as much as the temptation was to have a soak and fall asleep, we had a party to prepare for. We had decided it would be a good afternoon to have our belated housewarming party so there was no time to sit and relax. There was food to get ready, barbecues to light and a house to clean. We were so lucky with the weather: sunny, cloudless skies and 22 degrees, perfect for taking advantage of the views and getting use out of the balcony. This became not just a sun trap but a tourist viewing platform, with everyone getting out phones and cameras to take pictures!

Our View!

Our race times came in by text. James, 76 minutes – very impressive considering just a year a go he was hobbling about after a knee operation and myself…. 71 minutes, a minute over my target so a little disappointing but at least a bit quicker than last year. When I thought about how I could have shaved off the minute, I started blaming that brief stop at the water point, the zig-zagging between people at the beginning, the seconds spent waving to my friend in the crowd… At the end of the day, I just needed to run faster!

Next year, there is always next year… But first, there is the Sydney Half Marathon in just over one month’s time.

That bitcoin thing…

5 Aug

So a few weeks a go I wrote a post introducing bitcoin and gave a fairly rudimentary explanation of what it is and where it comes from. In fact, a couple of things I mentioned were not completely accurate because, I was, and still am, learning about the currency, but I have a pretty good grasp of it now, even if I am not totally au fait with all the technological jargon.

I mention it again as things are moving along and hopefully, by next month, we shall have our app (initially for the iPhone but with an Android version following soon after.)

As a recap, bitcoin is the decentralised, virtual currency, which is transacted over the internet. It has no central authority controlling it so is transferred person to person without any middlemen charging fees or taking a percentage cut of every transaction. It also means it can be used anywhere in the world with no currency exchange costs. It is managed by a peer-to-peer, global computing network. These computers use specially-designed hardware called miners, to crunch away at complex algorithms. Once they have decoded a block of data, bitcoins are issued and this is the way bitcoins are released into circulation. They are held in digital wallets on the internet. There is a predetermined release rate of bitcoins and the bitcoin algorithm can increase in difficulty so even if more and more people start mining for the currency, the market won’t be flooded with bitcoins.  By 2040, all the bitcoins will have been mined.

The fact an increasing number of people are becoming interested in bitcoin is because for small businesses in particular, it offers a lot of benefits. The lower fees and ability to do business internationally without worrying about currency exchange rates are just a couple of advantages. Due to the finite number of bitcoins that can ever exist, it is also inflation-proof and so people who own bitcoins know it cannot be devalued. Then there is the ease of using it, for anyone with access to the internet or a smart phone can transfer bitcoins from one bitcoin address to another quickly and securely.

The currency was created by an unknown, enigmatic individual or group of people, known as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Many of the bitcoin evangelists describe themselves as financial libertarians, that’s not to say they are all anti-state or anti-government, but they do want control over their own money and an alternative to their fiat savings, which are being continually debased and devalued over time.

The owner and founder of BitScan asked me to get involved a few weeks a go and in that time, as well as helping out with some of the elements to the app, future web content and getting my head around bitcoin, I have been writing features for the BitScan features blog. It has been an interesting endeavour, in particular due to some of the people I have met and interviewed. These vary from a Cumbrian taxi driver to a bitcoin miner to various entrepreneurs within the bitcoin world. It is a world that might be relatively small but it is growing. Right now it feels as if those in the know are on the brink of something, which could be potentially huge. Similarly to the Internet all those year’s a go when the nay-sayers all said it would never take off, bitcoin is not only a currency, but a whole concept, which can take some time to understand and accept.

It will probably never exist alone and maybe never become the primary, global currency, but as  growing numbers want a bite of the bitcoin apple, it could well become a much more mainstream and viable option to other fiat currencies. For a start, one economist has declared it should be the national currency of Iceland.

One article on this is here:  http://www.coindesk.com/why-iceland-should-use-bitcoin-as-its-national-currency-btclondon/

A video showing some of his talk is here: http://bitcoinviews.com/bitcoin-london-2013-sveinn-valfells-should-iceland-adopt-bitcoin-as-its-national-currency/

Now on to us!

© Copyright BitScan

© Copyright BitScan

Our own website can be found by clicking here – take a look and see what you think. At the moment, it is all very new and we are developing a proper, integrated blog and website, which will come in due course. Rob’s analysis of bitcoin’s performance on the markets is proving a big hit and my Features blog can be found via the main home page or here.

Finally, I pitched one of my features to Coin Desk, one of the main bitcoin news sites, and it was their top story when it was published on Friday and still in their Most Popular and Must Read lists. It also got a big mention in their weekly roundup. It is a great story about the youngest bitcoin entrepreneurs, bees, honey and bitcoin! You can find a link to that story on our features blog here: http://bitscanfeatures.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/lifes-sweet-with-bitcoin.html

 

So there you go,  take a look and if you are particularly interested in how bitcoins are released (or mined) and how that all works, I wrote a feature on it recently, which hopefully cuts through too much technical jargon! Take a read: http://bitscanfeatures.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/going-down-mine.html

 

 

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

Bit by Bit

5 Jul
The bitcoin logo

The bitcoin logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I’m going to introduce you to something. I am reckoning that half the people reading this (just judging by my family here!) will not have heard of this and of those that have a few may not know exactly what it is or how it works. I’m talking about Bitcoin.

It’s a bit new, a bit radical and a bit crazy in a crypto-digital-techno kind of way.

So now you’re asking, what is Bitcoin? Well, Bitcoin is a currency, a cryptocurrecny to be precise, which means it exists purely in an encrypted, digital form. In that way, Bitcoin can be a hard concept to get your head around because you cannot physically handle it but these days so many of our transactions are done electronically and by card, we never really see our money anyway. Bitcoin is just as functional as regular fiat currency (such as dollars, pounds, euros etc.) Yep, it can be exchanged, traded, bought and spent just like those other currencies. In fact hundreds, no, thousands of outlets and businesses now accept Bitcoin for purchases. You can buy your coffee, get your haircut, do your weekly grocery shop and fill up your car using Bitcoin. Even wordpress accepts it!

So how do you get it and where does it come from? Here’s where you have to get your head around ‘the science bit’. Bitcoins are generated by people known as ‘miners’, the term used for the techno-wizards who periodically release Bitcoins into the system. It is done through running sophisticated software to solve a series of complex algorithms, and the mathematical process is known as ‘mining Bitcoin’.

This network of people use their computing power to keep a record of every Bitcoin transaction. It is known as the Block Chain… (Stay with me.) In essence this is just an ever-growing electronic ledger of every Bitcoin transaction ever made. Each time a Bitcoin is spent or exchanged, a new ‘block’ is added to the chain. This ensures Bitcoins are transferred to and from the right people and cannot be duplicated or spent twice. If you are interested take a look at blockchain.info and if you are so inclined, sit and watch it for a few minutes to see transactions happening and the blockchain growing before your eyes.

The reward these people get for monitoring this block chain and using their computers and power is a few Bitcoins and so every ten minutes or so, extra Bitcoins are mined into existence.

Are you following so far? I shall go on.

Really, the above is just the technical detail behind how Bitcoins come into existence and ensure the transactions are secure. The big difference with Bitcoin is that it is decentralized – no big banks or governments control it. This is why it is known as a peer-to-peer currency because it is collectively managed by the aforementioned network of miners. Understandably this sends some people running scared, although let’s face it, governments don’t have a great recent track record when it comes to managing economies; the global financial crisis, multi-billion dollar bailouts of entire countries, need I go on…

Apart from anything, the value of a regular currency depends on governments and how much they keep pumping into the system. (Quantitative Easing being a common monetary policy in recent years.) In effect they could just keep on printing the stuff and then, without wanting to insult anybody’s intellect here or embark on a high school economics lesson, the value of that currency decreases and you get inflation, where to buy anything, you need a lot of that currency, as its value is so low.

One of the ideas behind Bitcoin is that it eliminates this inflation risk. With Bitcoin the supply is finite. There will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins in existence and by 2040, they reckon all of those Bitcoins will be in circulation. Furthermore, one Bitcoin can be subdivided down to eight decimal places so there could be over 100 million smaller units.

Everyone who owns Bitcoins keeps them in what is known as a ‘wallet’, which is accessed by computer and each person has their own personal key with which to access it, which acts as their signature. As long as no one else knows the key, your money is safe. Transactions can be made simply by providing the wallet’s public key, a series of digits, in some ways similar to a bank account. The difference is that it is anonymous and of course, as it is not held by a third party, no account or hefty transaction fees.

The downsides? Well, of course, there are a few right now as you can imagine. Bitcoin is a currency but with no central authority setting its value and with its limited supply, is traded like a commodity. It is currently very volatile with its value soaring up last April to a spectacular high only to come crashing down again. It is relatively new (launched in 2009) and with all things new, there are risks involved. There has been plenty of criticism but also plenty of support – I won’t link to every article ever written about it here but there are lots as you will find with just a google search.

Ok, so now you’re wondering why I bothered to tell you all this (and to be honest, there is a lot of detail I have missed out and I am sure an expert could pick apart my explanation) well it is because it has something to do with a new business I have got involved with. I am just planting the seed and will tell all in the near future. But things are moving along and progress is happening bit by bit….

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

Onwards and Upwards

24 Jun

Apologies for the lack of update recently but moving house here (apart from stressful and time-consuming) means no internet connection for weeks! I’ve no idea why it takes a month to switch an account from one address to another but the library and wifi cafes will be getting a lot of business from me over the coming days.

So, apart from lack of connectivity, it is onwards and upwards and when I say upwards, I mean it literally: seven floors to be precise. From ground floor to top floor and with that move, some amazing views to boot. Sadly, the past few days’ weather in Sydney has meant I haven’t been able to take full advantage of the panoramic harbour and city vistas, which have been masked by a low cloud and teaming rain but being able to see the skyline lit up at night still blows me away.

Sunset view of SYdney skyline

The weekend before the move we spent packing up, chucking out and making trips to and from the new unit with some of the smaller and breakable items.

Moving mayhem

Luckily, James was able to take a couple of days’ leave to help with the move, which took a lot of stress off my shoulders but having said that, the three guys who moved us in worked so fast and efficiently and took such good care of our furniture and belongings, it probably would not have been as bad as we thought. When one of the men picked up a large, solid, wood chest of drawers with one arm, we knew we were in good hands. Turned out they had us out, in and unpacked in less than five hours and after a 6am start, we were having lunch in the sunshine in one of our new local cafes by 1pm.

Then the hard work began: the box emptying, the tidying and sorting, the rearranging and organizing and learning where things went and how our new home worked. That’s when James had to fly off back to Melbourne!

The next forty-eight hours I spent thirteen-hour days cleaning and putting everything in its place and traipsing the homeware stores to buy the bits we needed. One of the items, one of my favourite pieces, was my new desk. It fits into our new study area and with a view across to the city, I’m not sure I’ll be getting too much work done! I love it and with our new sofa, we’re beginning to find we’re slowly getting pieces that resemble our style and making our new place feel like our home.

Study area

As pleased as I am with the desk, buying it was a different matter. When I got to the loading bay, the first thing the man said to me was, “Do you have a big car?” Followed by, “Is there anyone who can help you with this at the other end?”

Several minutes of heaving this enormous box out of the car and shuffling it with my shoulder against it into the lift, I managed to get the box into the unit. Thinking the worst was over, I cut open the box, looked at the instructions and for the first time ever on an assembly manual, saw the words in big bold font: Two People Are Required For This. Oh well, a two-person job became a one-person struggle but eventually, a rather heavy and cumbersome desk was assembled!

In fact, buying furniture for a new place, especially an apartment that is not ground floor, can prove tricky when there are no large patio doors for access and the only way in is through a rather narrow security door. Then there are the limitations of the lift dimensions to consider (although thank God for the lift!), so carrying a tape measure in my bag has become common practise for the past week as has learning special sofa manoeuvres that seem to defy the laws of maths.

Now it is finally all sorted, this weekend has been about seeing friends, catching up on sleep and having something more than a bowl of soup to eat each day! Onwards and upwards…

Sydney harbour views

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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