Three weeks in, the fog of killer jet lag has finally lifted and we are starting to have fun and feel very much at home in our new land. We have arrived in mid-winter and although I have bemoaned the cold in a couple of emails home, actually it’s only cold at night…in the house. The days are always sunny and by mid-day a tee-shirt and jeans feels like you have too many clothes on. Now we all have fury slippers and hot water bottles and the land lord has kindly brought round 4 big plug-in radiators for the nesh Brits, we are starting to thaw out at night too.
Our house is lovely and offers a great vista of the Sydney skyline including the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and we are only a few minutes’ walk from fabulous parks and playgrounds, shops, a very reliable and extensive bus service, a very well-resourced library, swimming pools and we can scoot right into the centre of Sydney, via the harbour bridge, in about forty minutes (it’s all downhill, takes tired little legs a bit longer on the way home!). Sadly it’s only borrowed for a couple of months and we have already started house hunting for our next rental pad. Unfortunately views of the bridge don’t come cheap so we will be moving to a more affordable neighbourhood; it feels like we are in the Fulham or Sandbanks of Sydney but I think our budget is more Clapham/Southbourne! We were reminded how far away from home we are the other day when we saw a house advertised with the “highly sought after north east facing garden!” So we are 180 degrees away from everything we know to be true! Haven’t noticed water going down plughole the other way but not sure which way is the right way anyway!
We are trying to carry over as much of the simple life we loved so much in the DR but we are well and truly back in the land of plenty, opportunity and, in all probability, the promised land – Australia really is the perfect place to live, if of course, If you can ignore the following:
- The sun here is trying to burn you alive, so is to be feared rather than welcomed
- Australia is home to more species of deadly snakes, spiders and jelly fish than anywhere else in the world
- There are things in your back garden that can kill you with a dirty look
In the spirit of the simple life, we are still enjoying being car-free and being so close to the centre of Sydney with its amazing transport network of buses, trains and ferries it is very easy to do. We still walk and scoot as far as we can. In the further spirit of the simple life, my disappointment was equalled and probably eclipsed by the children’s delight at the sight the flat screen TV in our rented home. Having said that, I cannot deny that I have been absolutely glued to the Olympics so am glad of it for now. I hope in two weeks we can unplug it and forget it’s there but the children won’t give it up without a fight!
For all their alleged POHM-bashing, the Australian coverage of the Olympics has been fabulous and very pro-Britain both in terms of the event itself and any British achievements. If there are Brits and no Australians in any event, the Aussie commentators are very much on the side of the Brits and the Sydney Morning Herald proudly portrays British gold medal winners on its front pages even if Australia has good news to report.
Ever since my first visit to Australia about 20 years ago I have thought that it is the perfect combination of all the things that are good about America and all the things that are good about the UK, without any of the bad stuff. I have seen plenty here this trip that reaffirms that view. Regular readers will know of my despair and disappointment with the theme parks of Florida, especially Sea World. We went to Toronga Zoo on Thursday and what a refreshingly different experience that was. We were treated to our day out by my friend Jan (accompanied by her five year old, another crazy haired Zach) but had we had to pay, it would have cost only $100 Australian (approx. £70) for all of us – it cost that much per person to enter Sea World. I wasn’t searched when I went in nor told under no circumstances could I take in my picnic. Like all places here, picnicking is actively encouraged with lots of tables and shady spots to take a snack break. Apart from a small shop at the entrance, one cafe and several collection boxes asking for loose change to help conserve endangered Australian animals, there were no opportunities to spend any money – just my kind of place! The children saw kangaroos, koalas, wombats, echidnas, Tasmanian Devils, saltwater crocs and many other native Australian animals that they had only read about before, plus a whole myriad of snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies that delighted them. I was fine with them too as they were behind 3 inches of glass – not sure I’ll feel the same if one wanders into the kitchen!
The children have settled in well and love Australia – but their friends speak English, we have a TV, and you can buy fish fingers and baked beans – so it’s a life much closer to the one they would call “normal” and that probably explains their enthusiasm. That and the fact that they don’t go to school yet!
Rich and I fell in love with Australia together when we lived here nine years ago (the twins were made here in fact!) and our feelings haven’t changed at all. Rich loves his new job (despite the long hours) and the people here are warm and friendly and very pro-British. It’s hard to find too many real Australians, every other person here is British or Asian so it is a real melting pot of culture and custom and it incredibly interesting as a result. I love the fact that it’s hard to be away from the water anywhere in the city as its geography and topography are quite stunning. The city is built around Darling Harbour and Circular Quay and up and down the coastline is a serious of inlets and peninsulas that mean the ocean is never far away. I also love the fact that most Australians would never win any awards for fashion. The Australian idea of dressing up is to wear clean jeans with no holes in so I feel right at the leading edge of fashion for the first time in my life in my trademark Levi’s and a fleece!
The downsides of our new life, if there are any are, firstly, it’s incredibly expensive here. As a major supplier of raw materials to China, Australia is enjoying a very buoyant economy and the prices of everything –food, rent, clothes, entertainment has astounded us (too much time in the third world perhaps!). We pay twice the price for Australian wine that we pay in the UK – how can that be?! Secondly, Rich is working a 12- 14 hour day so he is very much back on the corporate hamster wheel and I am very much back to being a full time single mum…multiplied by a huge factor of not knowing anyone, anywhere or anything and children with no school to go to! One of the main reasons we went to the DR was to the improve the quality of our family life and the time we spend as a six-some and it has been put on hold for a time while Richard makes his mark at work. One of the ways this will manifest itself will be in the paucity of blog articles, as once again we struggle to find the time to breathe, never mind write 2000 word diary articles!
It was never part of our plan to come to Australia – we were due in Saniago, Chile on July 17th – but the opportunity came our way and it was too good to turn down. We will continue with our Spanish education as best we can (a tutor, some Spanish playgroups and all our textbooks) but for now we are well and truly back in a world that is both geographically and culturally thousands of miles from the DR and, believe it or not, we are just a little homesick for our Caribbean island.