Some slight differences...

It's Christmas eve. I'm sat on my Mum's (new) sofa eating M&Ms in my PJs watching Arrested Development. Sounds like your standard Christmas, no?

There are some ever-so-slight differences:

- It's about 35 degrees outside.

- I have all the doors and windows open, and all three fans on high. It's hot.

- My chocolate has anti-melting stuff (that's the technical term) in it.

- My hair is frizzing, but from all the humidity rather than endless drizzle.

- There's a Christmas tree next to me but it's not real, and all the presents underneath it have airmail stickers on them.

- I'm googling 'traditional Australian Christmas food', looking for ideas about what to take with me to Mick and Val's tomorrow; all of it is cold. No bread sauce here ladies and gentlemen.

- You could probably make mulled wine just by putting a pot out in direct sunlight.

- I still haven't heard any Slade. Or Wham. (Lots of Mariah though. Strange.)

- You can't purchase mistletoe in any shops. I think this is to do with it not growing in hot places rather than an attempt to curb ill advised Christmas PDAs.

- Forgetting to bring my bikini back with me is a genuinely upsetting problem. I'm not sure if the Australian government alter their public indecency laws to allow skinny dipping for Christmas day, but I doubt it.

- It's summer, not winter. That probably sums it up.

Skydiving, nuff said.

So. Skydiving.

When I first arrived in Mission beach I was pretty terrified of 'jumping out of a perfectly good plane', as all the promotional material puts it. Even watching Oceane's DVD put me into a state of mild panic, and that was with the calming effects of alcohol. However many weeks of watching load after load of skydivers landing safely, and then of serving their little happy faces drinks afterwards (the bar is right next to the skydive centre) put paid to that. When Stacey announced that we had a date and time for our jump my primary emotion was that of excitement rather than fear.

Being the sensible girl that I am, I decided to carefully prepare for my skydive. Following the example that most of the tandem masters have set, I decided to drink scotch with my friend Pete until 2am. Waking up at 6.15am has never felt so good. Really.

At this point I was still just feeling excited. Mostly hungover, but also excited. It wasn't until we had our safety talk and I heard someone utter the words "...tuck your legs underneath the plane..." that I suddenly realised 'oh feck, I'm about to throw myself out of a perfectly good aircraft'.

Not that at any point I didn't want to do it. I felt scared, but good scared. Like when you're about to tip over the top on Oblivion. Adreneline is amazing, and I've missed it. I can't remember who created the quote about doing things that scare you every day (probably Twain or Wilde) but they were totally right. That lovely build up of fear as you you 'tick tick' up to the top, only magnified by a 20 minute plane journey. It's ace thinking you're so high up only for someone to announce that, fantastic, we're halfway to the top.

14,000ft is high. Like, really high. Really, really far up. Very high in the sky. (I can't stress this enough). However when you're past a certain point it ceases to seem like reality. My outward bravado held strong until they opened the door for someone to get out at 9,000ft. And the person just went. Whoosh. Gone. I'm not sure whether I expected them to float out like a feather, but bloody hell people fall fast. At that point the fear really kicked in and I uttered some involuntary expletives. And started to mildly hyperventilate.

When we finally reached the right altitude the door was thrown open and people started to shuffle forward, some more nervous than others. My beautiful friend Louise was beyond scared, and I'm very proud of her for being able to sit right next to the door and not totally freak out.

Whoosh, there she goes. Good lass.

The gear they truss you up in is, as you'd expect and hope, pulled extremely tight. It's not the sexiest of looks, especially as it thrust my not-so-insignificant chest practically up to my chin. Shuffling forward, I repeatedly smacked myself in the face. Coupled with my calming breaths (think woman trying to breath through contractions) and goggles I look super-hot on my DVD. Rawr.

I'd like to describe the moment I finally fell, but in all honestly I now understand how people can describe things as being 'all a bit of a blur'. The seconds between being in the plane and out of it are indistinguishable. One moment I was looking up at the sky, the next I was looking up at the plane. As I fell through the sky.

How they can get away with calling themselves 'Jump the Beach' I don't know. You don't jump, you fall. And bloody hell, you fall fast. There's no reference point to look at and all I was aware of was the wind; the adreneline, my ears needing to be popped and the short bits of hair in the nape of my neck whipping against my skin. I didn't see or hear, I just felt. And it felt amazing.

Those first few seconds set a new bar in exhilaration, you feel invincible. People ask if you worry about the chute opening, or your harness coming loose. Not at all. At that moment you can do anything. You can walk through fire, swim to the bottom of the ocean and punch a tiger in the face. Gravity is your bitch. Physics is your bitch. I summed this up eloquently at the time by doing a 27 second long swear.

The opening chute jolted me back into reality, and for the first time I looked around. Even Tully looks good from 7,000ft (that's right, you fall 7,000ft in 60 seconds. Pretty cool, no?); the rest of it looks beautiful. There was a huge manta ray in the water, and you could see out to the barrier reef. I'm nowhere near eloquent enough to do it justice. Lets just say it was...spectacular. The day we jumped was clear and you could see for miles and miles, far northern Queensland in all it's glory for your viewing pleasure. I was very happy. My favourite part of plane journeys is looking out of the window (I'm 23, honest) and this was even better - a full 360 view rather than a tiny little gap in the side of a huge plane.

We'd been warned in the plane that our landings would be fast as there was very little ground wind to slow us down. Having not done it before I've got no frame of reference, but it seemed pretty OK to me. OK that is, until I had to do my bit and put my legs down. Boomf. On to my knees (there's a joke there somewhere). I didn't mind, until I watched the DVD back. I'm not going to say what it looks like I'm doing (or having done to me), but lets just say that I fall onto all fours and my instructor, ahem, slams into thhe back of me. (Oh Francesca, when will you stop behaving like Bridget Jones?). It's a very classy moment, though I was oblivious, way too pumped up to care about anything. I felt like Jedward, after sugar, on Christmas morning. That was my level of hyper-ness.

I now officially love skydiving. I'm going to be doing my second jump in a week or so, and Des (who took me up before) has promised to 'do some superman shit' during freefall. I'm hoping this means a backflip out of the plane and some mid-air twists and turns. If I had the money I'd do my solo training tomorrow, especially as companies are always keen to hire women (it's a very male dominated area). But it's expensive, and I need to see Australia on foot before I see it from the sky.

Would I recommend skydiving? Yes, wholeheartedly. You will never have a better experience doing anything else. Even if you feel terrified, feel the fear and do it anyway. I've seen plenty of people almost throwing up in terror, only to land with a wider smile than Wallace. My only warning: this shit is addictive.

Bits and Bobs

So, yeah. I've been pretty bad at this whole blogging lark over the last few weeks. Pretty bad at keeping in touch, generally I think. I could blame it on working a lot, but it might also have something to do with the fact that when I'm not working I'm either napping or drinking. After being very sensible for my first month, all the gloves have come off in my battle with early morning hangovers.

I'm not going to lie, it's been fun. Even if I now hate my alarm more than I ever thought possible.

Because I'm still feeling lazy, despite an afternoon off (inactivity breeds inactivity boys and girls) I'm simply going to list some the events and thoughts that I've been having. Trying to link them into one cohesive narrative is not going to be possible right now.


- I've been working super-long hours because Stacey had her Mum over to visit, so her and Ash had the week off. Despite being on the go from 8am-11pm most days the week wasn't as bad as I thought; even though I'm doing something 'menial' I'm still incredibly happy. It must be the location - it's impossible to shake the feeling that I'm on holiday.

- I did a skydive. And it was awesome. The experience cannot be summed up in a paragraph, so I hope to write an extended description at a later date.

- This is the least christmassy I've ever felt. I can't get my head around Christmas and summer being the same thing. It's not right. Oh, and Father Christmas arrives on a fire truck here. I kid you not. And carols are accompanied by banjos. Weird.

- I've still not seen a Cassowary. It's getting embarassing now.

- Illicity scratching mosquito bites is better than sex...

- ...especially when you get 38 new ones in a single evening, only counting your legs. Yep, that's right, my body is an all you can eat buffet for mozzies. The little bastards. It seems that Yasi has given them heaps more places to breed, which is excellent news. Especially when every other advert warns you about dengue fever.

- Yesterday I saw an iguana. Casually sauntering around by the hostel. I'm still yet to see a spider spider. So far I've genuinely only seen two, and we had bigger ones in the back garden of plush towers. Did you all just make up this shit to scare me?

- My little sister will be here in three weeks, which I'm incredibly excited about. At the moment I'm like the Doctor without his companion... Granted, you get the odd Kylie or Katherine for an episode, but they're no Amy Pond. (Actually, this totally works. because Catherine Tate was only in for a special, but ended up becoming a full time companion. Totally works, I know for a fact that some people are going to become regulars. If only I had a tardis rather than tickets for greyhound buses. I'm going to stop being a geek now).

- The weather has turned, in a big way. A storm on Thursday chucked down 15cm of water in a night. ONE NIGHT. I couldn't sleep because the rain was hammering on the roof. The outside of my friend's house turned into a river and I watched their doormat float away. On Wednesday Louise and I had a girly night; on the way to the bar I launched our umbrella away from us, after seeing lightening hit the street. And today? It's drizzling, which is worse than any storm.

- I finally have a new camera. This means that I'll hopefully be putting up pictures very soon so you can all cry about how tanned I am.

- Plans are starting to form about what I'm going to do with myself. My only concrete definites are flying to Sydney on Jan 18th, visiting friends in Victoria at some point and the Melbourne comedy festival. Funds are the main constraint, and I've also learned that sometimes not knowing what's about to come next is the bggest adventure of all. At some point I've got to do my 'regional' work for my second year visa, but I haven't decided which form of fruit picking I'll be inflicting on myself yet.

- If you have a pool in your backyard, and scaffolding up the side of your house, then boys will find themselves unable to do anything except jump in. Even if the pool is a metre deep and the scaffolding is three metres high. Especially after a works Christmas party.

A day in the life of a beach bum.

No posts recently because I've been SO BUSY doing lots of work to earn money for future adventures; when I've got a spare hour you're more likely to find me on the beach/by the pool with a bevvie than tapping away about how tired my legs are after another 12 hour day... I know, I know, get the tiny violins out.

I actually wrote most of this over a week ago and didn't find the time to finish it off. Nothing much has changed, other than now it's sometimes too hot to go to the beach. Seriously.

Anyway, all the days here seem to run into one another so I thought I'd give you an insight into my beach bum existence. Here is a summary of my average day:

07.15 Alarm goes off. Snooze.

07.20 Alarm again. Curse the world. Snooze alarm.

07.25 Snooze alarm.

07.30 I can skip breakfast. Snooze alarm.

07.35 Snooze alarm.

07.40 Do deals with self about going to bed early. Snooze alarm.

07.45 Snooze alarm. Then check the time. Realise how many times snooze has been pressed. Jump up, hit head on top bunk and fall onto floor in a tangle of sheets.

07.46 Discover I've become deaf overnight. Shit! What did I have for dinner....?

07.48 Remember I wear ear plugs. Idiot. Not deaf. Just dumb.

07.50 Get dressed in usual cleaning attire of denim shorts, baggy polo shirt and grumpy morning face. Brush teeth, then ruin minty freshness with coffee made from two dessert spoons of instant. Remember the days of £4 starbucks with misty eyes.

08.03 Walk into hostel kitchen. Try to work out who has left the mess. Plot revenge. Start to clean.

08.47 Silently curse all the backpackers who are now making the kitchen dirty again. Smile to their faces. Plot revenge.

09.13 Assure people that I don't mind them walking across the floor I've spent the last half an hour cleaning. Plot revenge.

09.30 Crack. Decide to have breakfast. depending on level of alcohol consumption this is
either vegemite on toast or cereal. Have a moan to new arrivals about how sleepy you are, despite general 'I-live-by-the-beach' smugness.

10.00 Start cleaning dorms. Plot revenge on all those who fail to take the sheets off beds when they check out.

10.47 Realise should probably stop gossiping to Stacey/Louise on reception and get cleaning finished on time.

11.05 Hop in shower. Whack on some face power and a slick of mascara. Put on work top. Walk the long 2 minute commute.

11.29 What is the point in showering when I'm back to 'sweaty and disgusting' after two minutes in this heat?

11.30 Work. Serve lunches, make drinks. Chat. Search and listen to songs on the music database. Stock some fridges. Eat food. Drink coffee.

15.00 Run back to hostel. Put on bikini. Slap on suncream. Put kindle in it's posh protective case (ikea sandwich bag).

15.08 Relax. Ahhhh, the beach. Put sunglasses on to optimise perving success. Pretend to read book. Admire the scenery. Realise book is quite good, actually, and forget about boys.

15.40 Too hot. Swim time. Ahhhh. Bath like sea. Lovely, though marred by possibility of death by stinger/shark/crocodile/stingray.

17.00 Go back. Shower, dress, ablute &c. Head to work.

18.00 Work. Work, workity work. Serve drinks. Try not to muck up people's food orders. Talk to friends. Resist urge to consume caffine. Eat yummy dinner. Clean. Knock off drink.

22.30 Home. One more drink can't hurt, it'll help me sleep.

23.00 Sure, I'll come to the Shrubbery for a drink. Why not?

23.16 Who bought that sambuca? No I will NOT drink the sambuca!

23.17 Sambuca is disgusting.

23.20 Sambuca is amazing. Who bought me more wine?

00.48 Blargh, sleeps time. I'll go to bed early tomorrow, honest.