Our first weekend in Sydney has been safely and enjoyably navigated. Alison and the kids are still pretty jetlagged – judging by Alison’s inability to sleep at night and then equaally not being able to rouse herself in the mornings. We had late starts both Saturday and Sunday – not leaving the house before midday – but once out and about we managed to explore a fair bit of our new surroundings.
Saturday started rainy and windy. And carried on that way. After a very late breakfast we caught a decent break in the weather and headed off toward North Sydney and the office where I’m working. To get there we walked through St Leonards Park where the kids stopped to play on the swings, and then down Miller Street past the North Sydney Community Centre, where the kids stopped to play on the swings (there’s a theme here somewhere….after playground depletion in the DR they are making up for lost time).
Passing by the office where I’m working, we headed on to the foot of the Harbour Bridge. Stopping at the foot of the bridge to eat our cheese sandwiches in a Force 5 wind, wrapped up in fleeces and windstoppers, we felt every bit like ‘Brits Abroad’. Undeterred (chin up and all that, best foot forward), we pressed on. “This is an icon, kids – you won’t know it but you are so lucky to be here”. “My feet hurt”. “I can’t walk any further”. “Why couldn’t we get the train?” and “When are we getting to the next park?” were my only replies. Kids, sometimes there is just no pleasing them. Actually, swap ‘sometimes’ for ‘always’ in that last sentence.
Through the Rocks, down to Circular Quay, ferry to Old Cremorne, then a mile or so walk back to the house. Pasta and pesto for tea. Just like the DR, really.
Well actually, not at all like the DR. For starters, it’s bloody cold here. It’s definitely trousers and coats weather – the shorts and t-shirts that form the majority of our clothing will be staying deeply packed for some time. Secondly, it’s really expensive. Not helped by a poor exchange rate, but even the locals say how expensive this place is. As I said to our hosts in Manly on Sunday, we used to live on about £15 per day in the DR. “That’s a round of coffees here”, Dylan replied.
So yes, on Sunday we went to Manly, which is a truly fabulous part of this truly fabulous city. At the seaward side of the harbour, on the north shore. It’s a bit like Mudeford spit (for those of you who visited us in Bournemouth) – with beach on both sides of the spit, a ferry to get there and some stupendously expensive beach huts for the fabulously well-heeled. Only this spit is a bit bigger, the ferry takes 200 passengers on the 30-minute ride from Circular Quay (rather than 16 people and a couple of dogs on the 200-metres or so from Christchurch Quay), and the houses average about $6 million each.
In Manly we met up with Al’s old friend Jan, her husband Dylan and their children Siena (7) and Zach (5). Their Zach definitely out mads our Zach in the hair stakes – his shock of curly white blonde hair reminding me of Matthew from his early years. Jan & Dylan drove us back to their lovely house for a late afternoon BBQ (prawns on the barbie, what else!) and then it was the bus home, the family Britton being carless for the foreseable future. There is something about the typical Australian home that we both find really appealing. Where in England a home is typically split into lots of small rooms, the Australian style is open plan – typically with the kitched, lounge and dining area as one large, flowing space. With just a bit of thought to keeping this area warm (maybe a radiator or two, or underfloor heating) and this woudl be our ideal living space.
By 8pm we were back at our increasingly warm little house (thanks to the our new plug-in radiators, supplied after a mercy call to the letting agent). Thoughts turning to work on Monday (boo), I gathered my clothes for the morning and headed off to bed to leave AL catching up on her online word games. Back into the old routines so quickly…..