The one where I don't get hit by the boom!

I'm just going to warn you now that this blog contains extreme levels of smugness. Whatever you thought I was capable of before, triple it. In fact, if you're reading this at work on Monday morning then, in all honestly, I'd advise that you stop reading now.

Right, I prepared you. So no getting uppity about my boasting, 'kay?


Last Sunday I was woken up by my little sister at 9.30am. I felt so sick I had to turn down a bacon sandwich and it was my third night on the trot with very little sleep. This Sunday I woke up naturally at 7.30, had coffee outside whilst looking out for wallabies, then packed a bag for a days sailing.

That's right, I spent yesterday sailing on a beautiful yacht in the coral sea. More specifically, racing a yacht around Magnetic Island. Well I say sailing, I spent the day falling over everywhere and trying to not get in anybody's way. Which for the most part I did a fairly good job of. I'd joke that my job was to 'look pretty' sat on the stern, however of all the words to describe what I looked like for most of yesterday 'pretty' would not be one of them. Although I defy even Christina Hendricks to look nice slathered in suncream, wearing an old demin skirt, with hair scraped back under a baseball cap. Oh, and sweating quite a lot ('perspire' isn't quite a strong enough way to describe how you feel under the midday sun).

The sun directly overhead

To be truthful, I can quite happily forego looking good in exchange for a day on the waves. Although I'm not going to pretend like I didn't put my summer dress back on and powder my entire face the second we got back on to dry land.

Anyway. As I mentioned in my previous blog (I think, I can't remember what I put in it because of the jetlag) Mum and I were invited to sail in a race by a lovely couple, Mick and Val. We were joined by four other crew members which thankfully meant that I didn't have to pitch in. Not in a selfish way - when you are taking 40 seconds to tack a novice sailor would be a hindrance as well as a danger. Instead I sat happily on the stern and watched what everyone was doing. I'm definitely going to learn, and even after a day I've started to pick things up. Ish.

The race began at 11, and the crew spent about half an hour getting to know the boat and each other; practising tacking so we could start strongly. The boat was really heeling so I had to make sure I switched sides along with the crew. On our first go, I tried to do it without holding onto any of the sheets (that's what us salty seadogs call 'ropes') and the boat came up to meet my knee as I went to put it down. -Whack-. Ouch. It took about ten seconds for an impressive lump and bruise to appear but I bit my lip, feeling rather foolish that I'd managed to injure myself without actually having any sailing business to worry about.

When the crew had settled in (and I'd started to get sea legs) we were off to the starting line. There's something both terrifying and thrilling about the start of a race, as boats come within feet of one another and everyone tries to get in the best position. Most of the boats sail regularly, and there are various leagues and tables for the sailing season so there's lots of rivalry and competition. We took a tack away from the island, and that put us in a good position for the rest of the race. As we swung round and put out the spinnaker (check me with ma sailing lingo) our speed really took off, and we could all have a rest (I was obviously exhausted) and enjoy the surroundings.

My face was NOT fit for photographs...

There was a magical moment when a dolphin or two appeared and everyone stopped to look. It was nice to see that even the aussies still found that special - I can't imagine ever getting over the novelty of seeing creatures like that in the wild.

The rest of the race passed smoothly, although one boat behind us caught a gust with their spinnaker and heeled so far over we wondered if they'd capsize. It was a bitter rival, so there was quite a large amount of schaudenfreude involved.

We came 4th, which everyone seemed pleased with; Mum and I had obviously proved our worth, and we're racing with Mick and Val again next week to Herald Island. It's a five hour race, and we stay over for the night with a BBQ and bonfire on the beach. I think we're going to sleep on the deck under the stars - but there is a cabin with our names on if the weather turns! One of the things I was most upset about missing was bonfire night, so it's quite funny that I'm going to end up having such an amazing experience - and a bonfire! - on November 5th.

I feel pretty lucky that I've got to have such brilliant opportunities so soon after moving here, but it goes to show that getting stuck in combined with the Aussie generosity is an excellent combo. When we landed on Wednesday Mum pointed at the little white dots in the bay and said, 'Oooh, I can't wait until we're out there!', but we didn't expect to be out there this fast! Everyone on the boat couldn't believe Mum and I had only been here for 4 days; to tell you the truth neither could we...

Most of today has been spent with admin tasks (and no procrastination in the form of swimming or skyping at all) so not much to report. Unless you want to hear a detailed account of CV tweaking and RSA researching? No?

Happy Monday!

A sleepy blog

It's been a very busy few days on this side of the world, trying to get everything sorted before Mum starts work on Monday. I didn't even manage a morning swim today (though I did make it up later on...).


Friday morning was spent sorting out and picking up a car. Thrilling, and necessary. Fortunately that meant that we could start exploring, and we managed a drive up to the top of Castle Hill to see the views. Even with quite a bit of haze the views were amazing, and it made us realise how big Townsville actually is!

Next on the 'to do' list was handing in CVs in a shopping centre called Willows, as someone from the hospital had told me her friend owned a shop and might be hiring. In true Aussie spirit she was amazingly friendly, and though she didn't have any vacancies she did reccommend some places that did.

Unfortunately my jetlag wall decided to hit at about 5pm. I've moaned about the jetlag before but, oh my, it was nothing compared with how I felt last night. I honestly can't quite remember a lot of yesterday afternoon and evening, and I went through stages of total euphoria and absolute depression. Sometimes within a few minutes. Thankfully I was able to remind myself that I was horribly sleep deprived, otherwise the madness could have been far, far worse.

However, being the trooper that I am, I bucked myself up enough to attend a social evening at the local sailing club (yeah that's right. Local sailing club). Sure, I asked for a red bull from the bar in a similar way that James Franco asked for water at the end of 127 hours, but I managed to make conversation with lots of people. I think. My Mum and I must've had our best charm hats on anyway, because we were invited to help crew a boat for a race around magnetic island on Sunday! I'm sure Mum will be fine, but given that I haven't even sailed a toy boat for years don't be surprised if tomorrow's blog just reads 'hit by a boom'.

After we eventually managed to leave (they were a very friendly bunch!) mum and I managed to keep our eyes open enough to skype my cousin Helen and her daughter Kira who didn't believe that she could 'see us over the internet'. Obviously being an adult I had to prove a child wrong. Once that task had been accomplished I fell into bed, and was very pleased with my only waking up twice during the night.

(Yes that's right. I've become a baby. When I finally sleep right through I'll be cracking open the champers. It took me 3 weeks to do it as a baby (I was an amazing baby) so I'm hoping to beat that.)


No leisurley breakfast today. Cornflakes were shovelled into mouths and we were out early to try out the Aussie tradition of garage sales. Basically car boot sales, but not conveniently located in one place. In fact, the Aussies were very confused by the concept of car boot sales. On our list was a bike (for me) and a coffee table (to replace the cardboard box covered in a towel we currently use). Alas, the few that we visited seemed to only be selling childrens bikes; while having not cycled for years I'd be happy with stabalizers it wouldn't be very comfortable.

One friendly family advised that we try cash converters, and it proved to be a good tip because I got myself a bike for only $80. Sure, I nearly fell off trying it out but I'm sure with a bit of practice I'll be navigating my way to Cairns in no time...ahem.

After a 'big shop' from Coles I had obviously bugged mum enough because we drove down to the beach. It's such a way of life here - people turning up after work for a quick dip and an hour in the sunshine. There are huge public BBQs, and you can see groups of family and friends pitching up with their 'eskies' filled with food. Why sit in your back yard when you can sit on the beach?

Exhausted from sunbathing (-smug face-) and a swim we came back home to a dinner of kangaroo steaks, salad and red wine. Yum.

I keep worrying about not having found a job yet, and then having to remind myself that we've only been here for just over three days...not long at all. We've been on the go so much that it honestly feels like over a week. I do feel like we're starting to settle into the lifestyle, and we're certainly getting to know the town since we've been able to drive around. After thinking that living close to the sea would be prohibitably expensive, Mum discovered that actually we should be able to which is nice. I'd trade a pool for the sea, even in stinger season.

Fingers crossed that this makes some sort of sense. I'm very sleepy right now. Defs the jetlag and not the red wine and G&T. To all, a good night.

Things I always knew but didn't -really- until I got here

Once again I'm tapping this sat outside. The humidity is up once again and even at 8.30 it's getting incredibly warm.

1. There is wildlife fucking everywhere. And most of it can kill you.
So far we've had a wallaby jumping about on both mornings, a salty has just been captured in the bay, we've had warning about stingers in the water and brown snakes in the grass, there are ants that bite all over the patio and last night I found an inch long insect sitting in the middle of my bathroom floor. It's like living in a zoo when all the creepy crawlies have escaped. This is a crappy webcam picture of my back yard (the rails keep the crocs &c out, but not the bush turkeys):

(My Mum has loads of snaps on her blog. I've not got organised properly yet.)

2. Aussies are the friendliest people you will EVER meet.
The lady who set up our bank accounts genuinely offered to lend us her car for two weeks while she was on holiday. It took us extra time to do everything yesterday because everyone wanted a chat. The man is telestra gave us real estate advice, the woman in medicare taught me how to avoid snakes, the woman in Woolies told us how to get home... No one ever seems too busy to help you out or have a chat. There seems no suspicion of intentions - "why wouldn't I want to help someone out?". A boring day of '1. bank account, 2. Medicare, 3. Internet/phone' was made a lot of fun because of the people we encountered.

3. The NHS is a thing of wonder.
It's not until you go through the rigmarole of registering with medicare here that you realise how lucky we are to just be able to walk into a hospital or doctors and receive treatment without worrying about the cost.

4. Vegemite tastes nothing like marmite.
I know this because marmite makes me want to hurl and I've just had vegemite on my toast for the second morning in a row. Admittedly I spread it quite thinly.

5. While lovely, the Aussies are sometimes very odd.
Mostly through advertisments. Every other one is for life insurance or funerals. There was a sign in woolies that said 'Why pay $10 for a BBQ chicken?!? Our chicken is only $9.88!!!' with no sense of irony. And of course the brilliant quarantine video and airport 'peadophile' warning.

6. Everything here is beyond expensive.
Everything. At least 30% more than the UK. It's like London prices with a little bit on top. Yesterday a lunch of a piece of lukewarm lasagne served on a plastic plate with a crappy coffee cost £9 each. Even subway costs a bomb.

7. You have to wear sunscreen at all times.
Apparently 1 in 3 Aussies will get skin cancer at some point. Yesterday we bought some sunscreen that was being sold by the litre. It's got a little pump on the top. No messing about.

8. They love The Queen.
Honestly, I thought they weren't that fussed here. But there's loads of excitement about the visit, which I didn't expect to see. It's really lovely, and I shall continue to make a toast to HRH before dinner.

9. Some stereotypes ring true.
Although here I'm referring to us. Mum and I have both brought over our own tins of tea (hers being twining Earl grey and mine being English breakfast purchased from the Buckingham Palace gift shop). The aussies don't get it. You really start to notice your accent too and odd little un-Australian quirks.

10. Australians don't speak English.
They really don't. I don't want a schooner, I want a pint. Root means 'shag' so asking someone 'I need to go shopping, can you advise me on the best route please?' means something totally different. Though I may forget to know that purely for my own entertainment.

11. My Mum lies on her blog.
There were no tampons in my bag, but it made for a better story. I didn't scream about the bathroom bug, I calmly went to get my mother to sort it out for me like a proper adult. I suspect I will be publishing more retractions (on her behalf) in the coming months.

12. Jetlag is awful.
It really is. I was so bloody cocky before, but after yesterday evening when we almost couldn't function and waking up at 4.15 this morning I admit defeat. It's really, really horrid.

Today will be spent: getting a car, doing a proper shop and handing out CVs. We're also going to a social for the local sailing club tonight. Given that by 5pm yesterday we were dancing around Big W with coathangers because we actually felt drunk with fatigue, it should be interesting.

Once again though, all this will commence after my morning swim.

G'day mate...

...and welcome to my first Aussie blog. I'm typing this as a sit outside on our little patio listening to various birds make strange sounding noises (that's not a nice way to talk about your mother you say, ho ho ho). It's just before 7am here and it's pleasantly warm, though it feels a lot more humid than it did yesterday. I've just glanced up into the bush behind our house and seen something move. Fearing for crocs (we're close to a very large river) I shot up and looked around. Not a croc. A wallaby. A little hoppy wallaby just casually bounced into the area behind our house. Mum managed to get a few snaps, just as proof that I'm not making this up.

But we made it. Sure, it took 28 hours and three flights across ten timezones, but we flew with Emirates. And I'm really never going to complain about it taking five hours to get from London to Edinburgh again.

For starters, we almost didn't get on the plane. Feeling very sad and weepy, I was giving Mum a hug rather than concentrating as I went through security, thus forgetting to take my makeup and laptop (and other electrical goods) out of my hand luggage for inspection. Cue a very understanding security man (who took one look at my red rimmed eyes and decided I wasn't a terrorist, or if I was then not a very good one) who bagged up the liquids for me properly and scanned everything I owned for bomb dust (or similar).

(I've now just had a weird bird wander into our yard. No idea what it is but there's tons of them. They look like really rubbish turkey's with black feathers and sunset heads. It's like living in a zoo. I've now been told they're an actual breed of turkey. Weird.)

Our first seven hour 'hop' to Dubai was OK. I had a window seat which always makes me happy (mind of a child) just a shame that Emirates decided to turn the heating up to volcanic levels. This was made all the more enjoyable by the heating vent by my feet which not only meant that I couldn't stretch out, but also that I felt hotter than anyone else. At one point I genuinely poured water over myself to cool off. We also had the pleasure of squeezing past an odd man sat on the aisle who preferred to not get up when we wanted to get out. He'd also opted for an eight hour wait in Dubai before a connecting flight to Mumbai rather than going directly from heathrow because he 'only lives 20 minutes from Birmingham so it's so convenient'. Strange man.

After an hour or so in Dubai (where I thouroughly enjoyed an iced lemonade) we got onto our blissfully quiet fourteen hour marathon to Brisbane. If we'd drawn the short straw on our previous flight, we had the longest straw in the world on this one. It was so quiet we managed to get three seats each to stretch out on. Heaven. I had books on my kindle, thousands of films, music and TV shows on my little telly screen and red wine on tap. Really darling, you haven't lived until you've watched a thunderstorm from 30,000 feet while sipping merlot and listening to Debussy. Probably one of the most pretentious things I've ever thought or felt.

Having dreaded the flight it was really very enjoyable. I'd have happily stayed on for a few more hours. But after a short film about Aussie quarantine laws (featuring a woman being stopped by a sniffer dog to apple in her hand luggage!!! And another woman (sexist) getting caught by the X-ray machines attempting to smuggle in...a wooden african drum!!!) we had to disembark. We spent most of the immigration queue laughing about the apple smuggler so obviously the one person on our flight to be stopped by the sniffer dog at quarantine would be my Mum. She was let off, and is still certain that the dog could smell her 'double long haul flight without a shower' aroma.

My favourite airport warning sign goes to: "It doesn't matter where you are in the world, peaodophilia is still an Australian crime'. I'm really not sure that they meant it to imply what it appears to imply...

Most of the little domestic flight to Townsville was spent reading and lauging at Australian Sky news. They spent ten minutes talking about HRH the Queen's superb choice of hat. I also had no idea that the Aussie's were so fond of our monarch, it made me feel a lot better about my new choice of home.

Townsville greeted us well, with low humidity and blue skies. Having not experienced proper hot weather for four years, it took about an hour after moving in to go for a swim. That's right, our complex has a pool. -smug face- Feeling sleepy after our five lengths (and not because of the jet lag) Mum and I went for a sleep.

Waking up after an hour was hellish beyong belief. My body did not want to comply and thank God mum was there to wake me up or I'd have slept straight through.

It's very disorientating to not have the use of internet or a car. We'd been provided with milk, bread, butter, jam and tea (basically an Enid Blyton picnic) but had nothing in the way of 'food' food so we went for a walk to forage. Well, we didn't find a shop but we did find a little complex with bars and a cafe right on the river. Deciding that alcohol has fed us more than vegetables anyway we opted to stay for a drink. I was delighted to find they had strongbow (which is much sweeter here) but very confused by the option of a 'schooner' or a 'pot'. Thankfully Mum speaks the lingo and translated for me.

Saints be praised there was an offie nearby, so we got some tonic for our gin and some medicinal red wine to go with our dinner of Pizza Hut pepperoni. Yum.

Exhausted, I sloped off to bed at 9. I've been pretty skeptical about jet lag, feeling more concerned about the tiredness than waking up. So I was rather surprised to find that when I woke up feeling rejuvanted it was only 90 minutes after I'd turned off the light. This pattern repeated every couple of hours but I did manage to sleep until 6am which is pretty good for a first timer.

I'm not feeling too homesick at the moment, but I imagine that'll kick in in a couple of days. It's hard to not be able to connect with people instantly, so I'm keen to get internet sorted sharpish. I need skype back in my life. At the moment everything's so new and exciting that feeling sad isn't emotionally possible.

Anyway, that bring us up to now. Breakfast is finished and the wallaby has run away. I had some vegemite which is nothing like marmite because marmite is THE DEVIL and vegemite is quite nice if spread thinly. We're pretty much unpacked and I have pictures up and all of my leaving cards on my bedside table. I sent over the tea I purchased at Buckingham Palace and Mum has her twinings earl grey so that's OK. Today we will hopefully get a car and look into internet. Plans are being made to clear the yard and to perhaps drive up to Mission beach next weekend.

But before all that, I'm going for a morning swim.


So we've arrived safely after our epic 28 hour journey and are settling in well. I've written a proper blog about what's been happening thus far, but as we've not got internet in the flat (I'm on one of the computers in the hospital offices) I can't post it!

The weather here is amazing, the scenery is spectacular and a wallaby joined us for breakfast this morning. So rest easy, I'm doing OK.

Although when I woke up this morning and went outside my body said 'mmm, have an afternoon beer'. I told it no, and had a cup of tea and some vegemite on toast instead. Thoguh I'm not sure if that's jetlag and being out of sync, or just my body generally.

Peace x


So, it's really happened. October 24th has actually arrived. In just over 12 hours I'll be on a plane that's lifting off the tarmac at Birmingham International. Three planes and 28 hours after that I'll be touching down at Townsville airport.

How long after that it takes my Mum and I to make it to the pool in our complex I've no idea, but looking at the forecast (-smug face-) and given that I've not been on holiday for 4 years, it probably won't be long.

I've had to say goodbye to some bloody amazing people over the last few weeks. Thank you to everyone who's made the effort to say goodbye - I see the separation sadness as a good thing. Not being upset about saying bye to people would be a pretty awful reflection on my life! I've become pretty accustomed to crying on public transport because I always seem to be getting on a bus or train right after. Can y'all start saving for your airfares please? Thanks.

The whole 'emigrating' thing is pretty scary, actually a lot more so than I thought it would be. I've wanted to run away and have adventures for as long as I can remember though, so it is a sort of nervous excitement. This has been on the cards for so long that I just want to be on my way now.

Anyway, I should probably stop talking rubbish and start my packing.

Skype you soon...


Earlier, I freaked the f*ck out because a teeny tiny spider crawled onto my bed. Literally screamed and flapped around like a proper girl. My fear extends to an inability to even look at pictures of spiders. It actually makes me nauseous and JUMPY.

(As I typed that I felt something on my leg. Due to the nature of what I'm writing my mind said SPIDER and I ended up dropping my laptop. Smooth.)

My Mum think's it's hilarious to take pictures like this and pretend they're real. (For those of you not able to see that pic - it's a massive spider ON MY MUM'S HAND. She told me it had come in through the window at her friend's in Australia. Lies. It's a dead one in a museum. She once captured a massive house spider, put it in the sugar pot and put it next to me on the table after giving me a cuppa. Bitch. It's a good job that that's the only real child abuse I can recount in 23 years.)

I managed to let a teeny spider crawl on my hand at Bestival, mostly because I was so very drunk, but even then it made me feel all sick and awful afterwards.

London Zoo run an arachnophobia course, which comes recommended by Claudia Winkleman, but I can't go on it because, 1. It costs £130, and 2. I've no time left.

So what's a girl to do? We can laugh all we like, but for those that have ever seen me in the company of an arachnid you'll know that it's not something I find funny. Regardless of how much I'll joke. And how much of an idiot I look freaking out.

Seriously. I'd rather be locked in a room with a weeping angel than a spider.

Will it all get better when I'm out there? Or will I end up living a life that involves me checking under the toilet seat in a blind fear every time I need to go?

Tips welcomed. Unless they are sarcastic tips that involved links to pictures of spiders. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Ding Ding! Round Two with Paxo

Note: I typed this on the internet point at conference and it seems it didn't post. Enjoy hearing from my past self.

Some of you may remember my triumph (ahem) on Newsnight last year. Well, for some reason they wanted me on again. Despite my protests of "No, no. I won't put my hand up this year", I did, because I'm a gobby cow and Phillip Hammond pissed me off royally about the EU.
Anyway, Paxo was nice to me this year. So all is forgiven. Until, possibly, tonight when I'm on again. I'd recommend watching - it's going to be 80 women and Boris Johnson. Genius.

For those wishing to laugh at me, I'm about 25 minutes in... Enjoy the way they CUT BACK TO ME when I least expect it.

Post Edit: I didn't get my oar in on Tuesday. I did, however share a lift with Paxo. I smiled, he raised his eyebrows. It was all very awkward. Which, as those of you who know me well will expect, I absolutely loved.

1st October 2006

Everytime I think about how scared I am about leaving, I re-read my diary entry from my first day at University:

I hate it. My flatmates are lovely - Sarah is mad, Beth is quiet but reminds me of Soph and Rosie seems cool. But I'm just so homesick, the thought of being here for three years is too much and it depresses me. I want to go home so much, I would even be happy to go back two years and do my A-levels all over again. My future here is just so uncertain and I don't like it. The only time I felt peaceful yesterday was when I forgot I was leaving [home]. I'm crying now and I shouldn't be - I'm a student, I've dreamt of this for the whole of my life but the reality is so far away from my conceptions of it - in my mind I didn't miss home this much.

(Now, ignoring the lack of paragraphs and First World Problems tone of the entry, I think we can see that I wasn't such a happy bunny on my first night away from home. At all. Most people celebrate their first night of freedom by throwing up on a one night stand; I ate pesto pasta and moped.)

I then like to read the next entry, a week later on Sunday 8th October:

Can't believe it's only been a week. I feel so at home here and so happy with my mates. When I think about how much I hated it when I first got here......I must have been mad.

The rest of the update is primarily concerned with boys and drunken stories, so I've left that bit out. No one wants to hear my 18-year-old self's thoughts on those matters.

To summarise: Yes, emigrating is shit scary. But I'm pretty sure I'll be OK. Aus won't require me to write essays about Kant and has lovely weather. The same cannot be said about my (beloved) University city.

(I've honestly not made this up. If I had, trust me, I would've made my younger self sound far more eloquent and worldly wise.)