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Last few words from Perth

During my last week, I had a couple of days off and thankfully one of them was drier than the rest so I had the opportunity to wander around Perth freely rather that dodging showers.

After a very cheap lunch with a friend (a Thali curry voucher purchased from Groupon in a bid to eat as many different and interesting cuisines as I could before leaving Australia) I wandered over to the State Library for a gander. Both here and in Melbourne, The State Library has been a bit of a refuge for me. It’s a place that’s free, had air conditioning (not that that was a need of it in recent months) internet and in the case of Perth a really great range of second hand books just outside of the gift shop, and of course – nice, clean toilets. The café in Perth is particularly good, if anyone wants to check it out – coffee and a muffin for $6.90 which is pretty good value for Perth! Today I skimmed over the books I knew I couldn’t buy, but managed to find what I was looking for. A copy of the story I had enjoyed reading T & S many times when we rented it from our local library.
I bought it and went for a coffee outside – enjoying people watching, as well as glancing up at the oriental visions on the large screen. It’s akin to Fed Square (Melbourne) I suppose and a place I have often sat in for a ponder between appointments, or in the early days of Perth – just because I did not want to go back to the house I was living in.

Jumping on the tourist bus next I headed up to King’s Park to spend a couple of sunny hours before sunset. I realised I had never been to King’s Park on my own. In fact could only count 5 visits, which seemed a shame, as there was so much I hadn’t yet seen. My first was an unenthusiastic outing with the first family I worked for – then there were two dates (neither went any further) and I’d been there twice with friends who were visiting. I also realised I had always stuck to the same path which never leads anywhere new, so off I headed – quite literally taking the path less trodden, camera in hand for an almost meditative walk through the Spring offerings of the Botanical Gardens. I stopped to take photographs whenever I wanted, doubled back as many times as I felt necessary, sat down to enjoy the view a number of times to ponder over my time in Perth. I did feel, as one often does, sad to be leaving at that point. Perth has suddenly burst into bloom, and thanks to the awful amounts of rain we’d been having – moments of sunshine were really to be cherished. The perfumes and colours that were splashed across the park were stunning.

Although I was happy not to have to make awkward conversation (unsuccessful dates) and pleased I had nothing else to concentrate on other than myself, there is always that little part of me that wishes I were holding someone special’s hand.

Anyway, enough of that drivel – a good couple of hours were spent wandering around at my own pace (some of you will know how slow this is) enjoying the moment – stopping to smell the flowers and capture the moment whenever I wanted to.

Here’s a few snaps of the day.

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Live loving and love living… continued

Here are a couple of drafts that never made it onto my blog, so I’ve put them together here…

Happy New Year everyone!

As I sit in bed on January 1st, looking at the glorious sunshine out of my bedroom window, it’s hard to imagine the torrential rain yesterday that caused rivers to swell, roads to becomes rivers and puddles to become ponds. Just driving out of my village was like driving upstream yesterday which is something I don’t remember ever having to do before…
It’s nice to have a moment to contemplate where you have been and what you have achieved over the past year, and to feel inspired about how you will continue this year.

* * *

I write this as I sit on the train making my way from Taunton to Bristol, where I will meet my sister-in-law who will have a late lunch with me, drive me to Reading, where I will take the Airbus to Heathrow and later on tonight, be on my merry way to Singapore for the next phase of my journey.

2012 was a wonderful year. I decided to Live Loving and Love Living and that I did.
It was a full calendar year in Australia where my friends became my family, my adventures became my stories and my challenges became my strengths.

I fell back in love with my career: teaching English thanks to the ever-changing 18 or so students who I spent 4 hours a day with. Apart from a few personality clashes in the classroom I honestly never felt like I was going to work. Getting up every morning and knowing I was going to spend time with a group of wonderful adults never felt like work at all. In turn for improving their English, they shared their cultures, their music, their dreams and their trust in me and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I experiences Colombia, Korea, Thailand, Japan, China and Brazil all from inside my windowless classroom in Melbourne.

I had a number of opportunities to see Victoria and more from behind the wheel, from hire cars, to mini buses to motor-homes. I have driven along the Great Ocean Road, through the Grampians, down to Lakes Entrance, over to Philip Island, raced into Adelaide, got lost in Canberra, traversed a steep mountain road and driven around Queensland chasing waterfalls.

I’ve also lived the city life, lived the bush life, Lived the country life. I have taught and been taught and learnt so many lifelong lessons as I have continued to Live Loving and Love Living throughout the year.
I had the opportunity to meet family I didn’t know I had, to reconnect with friends from the past simply have a few moments to just enjoy being.

This year, I have decided will be the year to Make it Happen. I no longer have any time for useless aspirations to lose a few pounds, get a bit fitter or eat less chocolate and feel that the one goal we should all strive to achieve is to be happy. That’s all it needs to ever be.

So this is the year to Make it Happen. I achieved so much my myself last year, that I shall continue to do so and to go for the things I want. So If I want to go and lie on a white sandy beach, I will make it happen. If I want to visit a far away friend – I will make it happen. If I want to learn something new, I will make it happen. I am starting to believe that the power we have to do what we want is just endless.

January sky

January sky


So… 2013 will be the year to continue to Live Loving and Love Living, as that proved to be one of the best years I’ve and also to be the year that I Make it Happen – whatever it is!
So, who’s in? What are you going to Make happen this year? And did you have a go at Living Loving so you could Love Living? I would love to hear feedback from my readers!

moving on

I am sitting in Flagstaff Gardens as I write this, or at least I was, writing it in my notebook. A real pen and paper: imagine that!

It’s supposed to be 32 C, but it’s cloudy and considerably cooler than it was 30 minutes ago, but that’s Melbourne in a nutshell. Away from the madness of Bourke Street, I sit on the grass in the square shaped gardens with Saturday traffic rumbling past on each side. I can hear the cars, but I am at peace. There are some Asian girls in front of me chatting in a tongue I cannot comprehend, a group of people my age to my left enjoying each other’s silence and in another patch of grass a group of men of varying nationalities kicking a ball around. One is wearing a Chelsea strip a few seasons old, with Frank Lampard on the back, and sandals on his feet.A interesting backdrop for my Saturday thoughts.

And I sit here, cross-legged, with two days left in Melbourne pondering over what I have done, wondering where I am going and reminiscing on where I have been. My blog by my standards is way overdue – is it possible that I have had so much to say, it’s become too much to write about? My family say I write posts that are far too long, so I resolved to write little and often, but that doesn’t seem to have happened at all.

I have not had the opportunity to write about my fourth, yet by far the most fun trip to Sydney; my terrifying yet fabulously rewarding sea kayaking experience in Byron Bay; what it was like to return to a much hotter cattle station and all I realised I had learned about myself as I left again; the return to a city that has the familiarity and comfort of a place that I daren’t call home; the experiences I have had dressing in my suitcase finery and posing as a mystery shopper in Melbourne; eating all day and dancing all evening at a Latin festival; my impression and ideas about Melbourne and my thoughts on my nomadic life so far.

There really is so very much to write about and seemingly little time. I do not know where the last 3 weeks have gone. I do not know where the majority of my audience is based, nor fully understand their interests or what they/you want to read. I know one of my fans will tell me to write it all, write it all Grace!

Here is my train of thought for today, sitting in Flagstaff Gardens on Saturday 24th November…
I am thinking right now about the people I have met so far on my Australian Adventure and indeed on the literal and spiritual journey I have been taking to get to this very place today.

I feel that there are people who come into our lives for a purpose – yes, this is not a very profound statement to make, but there is more to it. There are the people who are in the background, setting the scene, playing the extras if you want a film analogy. They are the people in the park with me right now, the people that serve you coffee, sit next to you on the tram, the person who brushed past you in the street. The passers-by or passengers have, in my opinion, every importance to your day.For, without them, your day has no colour or sound.

Then there are those who are placed in your life because your purpose is to teach them something – they are the student. I don’t say this because my profession is teaching, but because they will learn something from you perhaps without either of you realising. Then, and perhaps it’s arguable that these are interchangeable, but there are the people who came into your life to teach you something. Again I refer not to the didactic role of a teacher, but more the passive role you play as you learn something, very often about yourself, through something this person does or how your relationship develops.

I also strongly believe that some of these people are planted in front of you to serve you a purpose and nothing else. They are passengers who get off at the next stop and need not stay on your train for any longer than necessary. You may never see them again, but you are pleased that they sat next to you for some time. Then there are the others who will continue the journey some distance with you, maybe until the very end because they have touched your soul in a way that the others didn’t. You therefore understand the importance of holding these people close either physically, or in your heart after geographical locations separate you.

As I sit here today, in my pensive mood, I am mentally flicking through the catalogue of amazing people who have coloured this journey and created endless lists of moments to laugh, cry and wonder about. I can clearly categorise the teachers, the students and the extras in my movie. I know who is going to continue on my journey: who I’ll hold onto dearly, and who I will smile at and say a fond farewell when I depart. I also remember those who have already passed through, those who have moved on and those who are coming with me, metaphorically. I remain optimistic about who is around the corner waiting to bump into me, or who will get on my train at the next stop. And I smile wholeheartedly from deep inside at the wonderful people who I’ll be certain to meet again soon or one day in the future.

It’s sad to say goodbye, better to say see you soon and oh so wonderful to say Hello again.

Melbourne to Sydney

Campervanning again.
Having enjoyed my jaunt over to South Australia through the Grampians in a house on wheels I very much wanted to repeat the experience going in the opposite direction. Visa granted, I was heading back to the bush for a few weeks to fill the visa-shaped hole in my bank account and because I can: enjoy getting there!
The beauty of Australia for us foreigners is perhaps its size. The sheer vastness of it means you can drive for hours then look on the map and realise you have made no progress. The frustration of this, to me at least, adds to its awe. The European concept of distance and time couldn’t be more different to that of the Australians. London is a “long way” from my house in the UK. A three hour drive! I would never just jump in the car on a whim and go there, but out in the bush you travel that far just to get to a decent supermarket!
So this time, I decided to take a campervan from Melbourne and drive to Sydney, swinging through Canberra on the way, and dropping down to the coast of southern New South Wales. This was achieved… but only just: thanks to a number of hiccups that I am not responsible for.
We arrived at the campervan place in Footscray, Melbourne. A really charming part of the city. Not. Slightly out of breath from the copious amount of luggage needed and excited to start another adventure my heart dropped out of my chest and splashed into my stomach when the manager informed me that I had cancelled my reservation. It seems too long ago now to bother with the details of the what-fors and the whys, but rest assured it was NOT my fault. Several phone calls were made and my Firm-But-Fair-I-Deserve-What-I-Paid-For voice was employed to speak to several people, some more helpful than others to resolve the situation. One of the “excuses” I was presented with was that I had called to cancel my reservation due to marital problems and the cancellation of my trip! Don’t get me started on how I responded to that one!
At 4:45pm, 7 hours after arriving, when we eventually let the handbrake off and steered out of the car park into the rush hour traffic in the 6-Berth Mercedes Sprinter, we were ridiculously happy, yet considerably weary and about at least 500km off target.
I drove until the articulated lorries overtaking me at 110kmph pissed me off more than I could muster and we started to search for a truck stop for night one. Nowhere near where we wanted to be, we pulled off the road in search of a campsite we could not find and settled for a side road just off the highway. There’s a first time for everything, and this was the first time I had “camped” on the side of a highway.
An early start the next morning to head to Canberra. Lucky I asked the nice lady in the petrol station for directions and good idea to get a second opinion in a café, and also to buy a road map. This was a sans technology route, since lack of campsite the night before had meant no electricity to charge all electrical devises we had between us. Fine by me: I grew up reading maps and asking directions and learnt to drive reading signposts.
Canberra’s arrival was much later than hoped, but then Australia is MUCH larger than most of us realise. With a shortage of time we screeched into the tourist information and told the smiling man we were just passing and probably had 30 mins to have a quick look around. The look on his face was priceless. He was visibly pained that someone would spend such little time in the capital of Australia and I felt obliged to give him a run-down of why we our schedule was so off kilter. We whizzed up to Parliament House, parked the van, ran around taking silly photos and then spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get OUT of Canberra. (They clearly don’t want you to insult them by spending such little time there, so make it impossible to get off that darn roundabout). I embarrassed myself painfully at the petrol station, twice, which I blamed on my “marital problems” – running joke of the trip.
At 8:30pm… only 4.5 hours after leaving Canberra (!) we arrived at a campsite, whose destination was changed at least 4 times en route. Our descent on the Robertson pass into Kiama was coupled with the smell of brakes as I manoeuvred our HUGE automatic, rather unhappy van down its very steep hairpin bends, complete with traffic backed up behind me.
Kiama looked pleasant enough, but exhausted and a bit pissed off, we pulled into our quite-expensive-but-we-no-longer-care campsite and raced over the barbecue area to crack open the box wine and cook a semi decent meal. Easts Beach was beautiful in the morning. The hour or so we had on the beach was well worth it before hitting the highway to Sydney.
We swooped into Wollongong, struggled to find a parking spot, but my newly developed “white-van driving” skills would make my father proud as we edged into a space. Just enough time to jump out, for a picture and some sand between the toes before again hitting Highway 1 north-bound. A few more cars with surfboards strapped on the top this time passing us, we were in full holiday mode.
Sydney greeted us with not too much traffic and a not too difficult to find drop off point with much more time to spare than my last delivery. We rolled out of the van into the Sydney heat to begin the next leg of the journey…

more to come!

So much to say!

I am back in the bush. The temperature is at least 10 degree higher, there are more puppies, an abundance of frogs and most certainly plenty of snakes waiting to say hello. Other than that, it feels like I never left, yet I did so much in my short time away I didn’t even get a chance to write about it.
I arrived in Melbourne over a month ago and experienced perhaps we could say “reverse culture shock”? I stood outside Southern Cross station waiting for a friend gazing up at the buildings instead of trees, stepping out of the way of people rather than cattle and feeling a chilly breeze on the back of my neck in the place of the sun’s gentle caress. I had no idea if I would return to the bush, let Melbourne be my home again, head off to new destinations or even board a plane home. The answer to that predicament came after two weeks of visa and medical stress caused by appointments, misguided information, unhelpful people, useless websites, being too honest, forgetting important things, making inappropriate jokes with foreign doctors and a number of other matters that left me rather depleted and a lot more skint! All to stay in Australia for another year! Well thanks to whatever forces were on my side, I am set to stay here for another year to fill this blog with more stories, adventures and thoughts from Down Under.
Watch this space readers!

campervanning to Adelaide

I was close to tears when I saw the size of it, filled with fear when I watched the dvd on how to use it and elated at the prospect of another Australia adventure to add to my list…

7.7m long

Relocating camper vans is one of the best and cheapest ways to travel around Australia. I managed to find a van that needed to be driven to Adelaide, I found two friends who wanted to come and i managed to muster up the courage to say yes when the relocation company only had a 6 berth dual cab van available – the biggest in their fleet!

We checked around the van, marking damages and scratches, and then the van man got into the cab with me to show me how it all works for the driver. Now the school bus and even dad’s van seemed a piece of cake, as this vehicle was far far bigger! The monitor/computer screen that I needed to use for reversing was broken. Great. Then the reverse sensor that tells you when you are going to hit something was also broken. I was starting to feel pleased I hadn’t paid $600 to rent this thing!

So we pulled out of the parking space, swinging wide to compensate for length, rounded the corner and exited the car park. The most challenging part was about to come, as we needed to park in a car park to stock up on supplies. I found a large space, pulled in and felt pretty pleased with myself. After loading the fridge and the various cupboards with food and booze for 3 days, we set off on out way to Adelaide via the Grampians National Park. As we got onto the road, my confidence grew and I realised how exciting it was, squawking ” I’m driving a house!!!”

Driving along the highway we were making pretty good progress, as I cruised along 10km below the speed limit ( to be honest that didn’t last long) but a light came up on the dashboard… an exclamation mark! I was rather alarmed, so pulled over, whipped out the manual and we all tried to figure out what on earth it meant. It seemed to be something to do with the vehicle’s speed equalization…

Further on, I looked in the wing mirror and saw that the door to the “house” part of the van was swinging open!! We pulled over, again on the highway, all jumped out and found it closed and locked. The three of us wondered if it was possible we all could have imagined the same thing, but carried on our way. As we pulled into a lay-by for a toilet stop the girls were pleased to see people waving to us. They weren’t, they were waving their arms in horror as they too noticed our door swinging open! It seems something was broken, which we solved by tying it with my scarf!

No other major drama other than almost running out of diesel because we couldn’t find a diesel pump that wasn’t for trucks! And almost arriving back at the drop off point late because of it…

The day after I dropped off the van, I got into the driver’s seat of a car and hated it! It was strange to be so low down and not see anything!

Did I enjoy the experience? Yes of course! What would I change? MANUAL transmission please! Would I do it again? Yes, indeed I am driving to Sydney next week!

Further posts to come of the fun had on the way to Adelaide…

Stop.Smile.Laugh

Stop. Smile. Laugh

The other day after a frustrating afternoon of half completed errands, cancelled classes and wasted time: I was sitting on the tram on my way back to Toorak. It was early for me, and I was wondering how I would make the most of an unexpected free evening.

We stopped at a busy interchange and a little girl got on the tram with her father. She jumped onto the seat opposite me, sat cross-legged and got out her “phone”. It was a large plastic toy phone with buttons that made different ring-tone sounds. The little girl sat on the tram pretending to be on a very important phone call. No more than four years old, she sat there nodding and gesticulating with her hands, whilst her father looked lovingly over her and I sat watching totally smitten by her.

Her back pack was placed on the seat next to her and had three characters on the front with the words: Stop * Smile * Laugh. Never has a four-year-old taught me such an insightful lesson. I stopped what I was thinking about. I smiled at her. And I laughed with her father at this little lady on the phone.

What a beautiful journey home. And what a mantra to take away from that moment.

aussie rules

Just a load of men running around in hotpants trying to catch soap…

I sat in the members’ area to watch Essendon against Collingwood. There were rules regarding clothing which alarmed me somewhat. We were instructed not to wear thongs ( which being British would alarm me even more, as how would they know what underwear I had chosen??), ripped jeans, sports wear, ripped clothes etc.

I had read enough to understand the points and some basic rules regarding picking the ball up ( why is it called football?), throwing it, kicking it and scoring.

I enjoyed it, could even get into it: wouldn’t say I loved it, as that would be unfaithful to the real game wouldn’t it?

Here’s a list of things I learnt or found strange.

  • It’s perfectly ok to get totally smashed at the bar once the game has started ( i didn’t do this by the way)
  • you don’t cheer if the team only scored one point ( as opposed to 6) ( yes, I DID do that, but only once….)
  • people run onto the pitch during play to give the players messages from the coach
  • there are 18 men on each team. each wearing very short shorts.
  • you don’t get excited until the game is over

There are some other points to make. Essendon won. And I found that very pleasing as that is who I was barracking ( new Australian word for me).

 

I think that’s all. It was at the Melbourne Cricket ground. Oh, and in fear or being embarrassingly late, I got there 40 minutes early. Now THAT’s not normal for me at all..

March moments #2

March really was a month of doing fun things: every weekend I went somewhere or did something worth blogging about, so in spite of the 2 month delay, those moments need to be written about.

On the morning of Saturday 17th March I was woken by an incredibly annoying, repetitive sound which took me some time to figure out that it was indeed the cars warming up at Albert Park. I had heard it the day before too, but it wasn’t until the Saturday that I got excited about it. I had bought some fairly last minute tickets to go to the qualifying, which was cheaper than then actual race, and since I understood relatively little about the whole event, I wasn’t bothered which day I went, just interested in being part of an event that I would never have had the opportunity to do at home.

It was a hot, late summer afternoon and as we arrived there were cars doing laps at breakneck speed and at an incredible volume. I had forgotten that I love things that go fast and found it exhilarating watching the V8 super cars roar past, remembering that I used to play car racing games for hours on the Super Nintendo and always on the arcade games in the bowling complex at home.

When the Formula One cars started doing their qualifying laps, I have to admit that my own ignorance pissed me off! I wish I had taken the time to read up a little so I could fully understand what was going on, or that I had t

aken a greater interest on those Sundays in Bratislava, when my flatmate was desperately trying to find an internet signal to get the latest race updates.

You often have to experience something to appreciate it, or to find out that it’s something you enjoy and this day I discovered that I could indeed enjoy and get into this sport. There are now two sports my future husband could feasibly follow: Football and Formula 1. Although I should be careful what I ask the universe for…