Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Australia

So, as promised, Australia. To write this I am tearing myself away from my ukulele, a Christmas present from the DFP. I requested a uke for Christmas a few months ago, but I think it was only threats to ship my accordion over that gave the impetus for me to actually receive one.

When the whole move to the other side of the world was first mooted Sydney was the city suggested as our new home. Then, quite quickly, the DFP suggested that Singapore would be a better bet for several reasons. Firstly that it is a far more central base for the region he has to travel to for his work. Sydney is +8 hours before you get anywhere and we thought he would be doing even more travelling than he is. ( Since July he been to India, China twice, Korea, Australia, Malaysia - don't think I've missed anywhere.)

The second reason was that we thought it would be easier for me to find work in Singapore. It's hard to know whether this would have been the case or not. I suppose I did find work relatively quickly. I've had the job I'll finally start on Friday since late September/early October. It's just taken a very long time to be approved by all the ministries.

Australia is fantastic. And it's easy. In fact it's a bit like a sunny version of the UK. All the things I've been finding challenging in Singapore seemed to be easy in Australia. Of course holidays are holidays. One shouldn't be lulled into thinking it would be the same living there. But, oh dear, I did have a good time.

The DFP found it all very amusing. We went to the beach at Manly, a paradise of sunshine,sea and sand connected by ferry through the stunning harbour to central Sydney. As we walked along the seafront the DFP laughed at me and pointed at the beach paradise. "We could have lived here", he said "and you chose Singapore!" I'm not quite sure where the idea that 'I' chose Singapore comes from.

I have been missing the things that for me make life worth living. The people I love. My friends, my family and my other passion - theatre. In Australia I had all those things.

I went on my own to Melbourne first. I've wanted to go there for years and it's just as wonderful as everyone says it is. It's like Europe for people who want to live in Australia. Very cultured, very beautiful. There are streets that feel as though you could be in France or Italy. Wonderful places to linger over a well made cup of coffee. Quirky, individual restaurants and dress shops. And friends. People I have know for longer than two weeks. People I have lots in common with. People I like not just people I am trying to like because I don't know anyone else.

I saw my cousin C***, his daughter and his partner. I was an hour late to meet my friend B**** who was nice enough only to laugh about it. I drank de-constructed cocktails with my amazing, beautiful, talented friend H***** from Lecoq in the coolest cocktail bar I have ever been in. I saw a fairly rubbish play by a young, female Australian playwright. But I saw a play. New writing. Theatre. I cannot tell you how I miss theatre. And talking for hours (about theatre) with people I have lots in common with, lots to share and laugh about.

Then more joy in Sydney. More family. Both my parents, by hilarious co-incidence have cousins called T***** who immigrated to Australia and their children and grandchildren now live there too. I met up with them all and I cannot begin to say how much joy it gave me.

The DFP who lived in Sydney for seven years and has an Australian passport also has friends there who I know and get on with. The person I walked home from school with from the age of 13-16 now lives in Sydney with her husband and two daughters. We met up with her.

Everything that has felt hard in Singapore felt easy in Sydney. I suppose when I say this I mean socially. Making friends here feels as though it has been a bit of a struggle. If it weren't for A***** (daughter of my mum's old friend) and her husband who have invited and us out and introduced us to their circle we would have been even more lonely.

We went to a party to celebrate the marriage of one of the DFP's old friends and I got talking to someone there and got one very well with her and she invited me to go to the zoo with her and I did! So easy! Why hasn't this happened for me in Singapore?

In my other excursions this autumn I have visited a lot of galleries and museums and sites of historic interest. Though I did a bit of that I found that what I really wanted was people and coffee and funky shops and I had my fill of them.

I saw Cate Blanchett in a slightly weird German play. She was absolutely stunning. Watching her I felt I was really watching a star. It was a matinee and as usual heavily weighted with old people. After about 45 minutes some of the old people started trying to escape from the German play, creaking their way towards the exits. This would have absolutely been welcome behaviour in 'Story of a Rabbit' which I've missed for years in the UK and finally saw at the Opera House.

While walking through the Botanic gardens with Mum's T***** and seeing the orange fruit bats hanging in the trees we talked about what was the happiest time of your life. If asked I say it was the two years I spent in Paris studying at Lecoq and it was a truly magical time. It's good to look back and have happy memories but I need to be a bit careful. Perhaps now is the happiest time of my life? Perhaps I'm living it right now?

I have a tendency to be rather 'glass half empty' or as the Australians would say a 'whinging pom'. I've had an amazing time these past few months with my enforced holiday. This year I have travelled more than I have in my entire life up until now. I have visited Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, India, China and Australia.

True, it hasn't all been plane sailing, but really I am incredibly lucky and I think I need to remember that a bit more often.

The new year is coming up fast. My time as an Expat wife is ending. The expat wife thing started as a joke and became an accidental reality. I've had an unusual, amazing time but will be glad to be earning my own money and have the identity and freedom that work brings.

And my new year's resolution? I think in the past it's been to travel more. Tick. Next year I plan to be a more cheerful, happier and more positive person. Or to put it another way a bit more Canadian.

Melbourne








Sydney












A day trip to the blue mountains



the effects of a forest fire





Sunday lunch at the fish market. My favourite of all the amazing meals we had.






Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas in the heat

Lord, it's been a while since I checked in with you all. Sorry about that. I've been off having a lovely time in Australia, first delicious Melbourne and then jaw dropping Sydney. But I'm going to work backwards and start with Christmas.

Brunch is one of Singapore's specialities. All the big hotels put on very expensive monster brunches every Sunday. They cost around $150 upwards. This includes free flow Champagne and more food than you could ever possibly eat. More food than you could even try a little bit of each thing without feeling very sick at the end. There are roasted meats and vegetables, cheeses, sashimi and sushi, lobster, crayfish and oysters, puddings, cold meats, tempura, salads, stir fries and on and on. The Romans would have been impressed.

The problem, or rather once again my problem, is that I try and eat and drink $150++ of food and drink. The drinking bit is almost hard not to. Your champagne glass refills, as if by magic, every time you turn away. And as for the food, well I'm quite greedy by nature but you do get full amazingly quickly.

We were invited by friends to join them for Christmas day brunch at the Ritz Carlton and it felt suitably festive. It certainly makes a normal Christmas dinner look rather meagre. This was our second brunch, the first was the birthday party for one of these same friends.

I feel rather uncomfortable about brunch. There's something immoral about the excess and therefore the waste that these incur. Lots of Expats getting drunker and drunker while their glasses are magically refilled by the Filipino waiters and waitresses. 

As we walked into the enormous ballroom where the brunch was held we passed the desert table laden with cakes and huge panattones.  The DFP swerved me away from the gorgeous cakes. (Did I mention how much I love cake?)

That night as we were reading in bed before I suddenly realised I had forgotten to have any of the panattone and exclaimed in dismay.
"Yes you did" retorted the DFP. "You had an enormous slice".
And I had. When he reminded me I remember how it took up almost the entire (small) plate and that I'd had problems fitting other puddings on (but managed). But I had drunk so much I had completely forgotten. There's dieting lesson in there somewhere, but I'm not quite sure what it is.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

More photos of Beijing




Ming Tombs



At the Great Wall: atmosphere or pollution?




An Empresses crown - dragons and phoenixes


Peking duck!


 The Summer Palace
















Outside the Forbidden City. We didn't have to take our boots off.


The Temple of Heaven