Thursday, December 28, 2006

Boxing Day Test

Early Tuesday morning, Melissa, Clinton, Jessica and I set off from Ballarat for Melbourne ready for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. My first time back in Melbourne since being back, and the test was set with the intrigue of Warne's 700th test wicket on the cards.

Drissle delayed play, and eventually saw the anthems abondoned, before play started. Seeing S.K.'s 700th...well, being there at least, was very special - especially given his announcement of his retirement. I say being there - at the crucial moment Clinton had something very important to say, apparently, and I missed the actual ball...dorks!

A few very dirty reds at the cricket (very dirty! Eww!), and then drinks after play at the Kingston in Richmond for a catch up with some of the Waving The Flag crew, the Ruygs and the Reids.

Day 2 saw the weather better, a little, but some slow cricket to weather some mild hangovers. Catching up with Ash from the lunch break, and then finally Hayden and Symonds got started - and the cricket was all good again. Drinks at the Transport Bar at Fed Square, which was very busy, but quite fun.

Today we have watched The Smashes kick on, with an Ashes match all over in 3 days. Quite sad seeing Warne, and McGrath saying goodbye to the crowd...and maybe a few more of that team today also.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Home For Christmas

Merry Christmas!

I have spent my day today home with the family, with two very large and yummy meals. Up for breakfast and the family gift exchange, and then lunch. We popped out to our Aunt and Uncle's for afternoon tea, to catch up with the extended nfamily - with grown boys and a new baby. Dinner at home with the six of us.

It seems many people have been writing to Santa for rain here in Victoria, with rain on and off for most of the last few days, and hail today. It's actually very cold, and we have had the heater on! It may have been the same temperature here as in London after all!

The week leading up to Xmas has been rest and recovery for me. Trivia at The Bended Elbow with Katie and Clarkie, which turned into a large night...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Winning The Smashes

One night stop on the final leg of the roadtrip, and a very early driving start, and we made it to Perth and the WACA for the first ball for the others who had tickets for that day. I took our 4WD back, and then made my out to meet Charmaine, who is staying in Perth at the moment and sweet enough to let me stay with her.

Charmas and I caught up for the day, having not seen each other for around 2 years, with a late lunch in Leederville, and then drinks and the view of the city from King's Park as the sun was setting behind us. I met Pascal, and we then drove back home via the beach for a view of the sun sinking into the sea.

Thursday being Day Two, and one of the days I had tickets for, I headed into town on the train, and then rode the free bus service in Perth, which took me to the WACA. This is the first time I have been to the WACA, and with the match looking interesting after a shaky day for the Aussies the day before, I set myself up on the East hill for the day's play. At the tea breck, I meet Miss Laura's dad, who took me into the Member's Enclosure for the final session, and a few heavies. Out to Cottesloe and the Ocean Beach Hotel after the day's play for drinks and a late dinner, with another great sunset over the beach.

The next day, Day 3 was a day I also did not have tickets for, however with the traveling group a pass was found through Matty J. Was great to see him, and sit with him for the day in the Member's Enclosure, on a VIP Guest Pass of Mr Breett Lee's. Whilst I was under the shade for the day, the players and the rest of the crowd baked in a 41C day - however it turned out to be an exciting day of cricket, with centries from Hussey, Clarke, and the second fastest century ever by Gilchrist. After play, a group of us walked down along the river Swan and a late dinner, before a quiet drink at the Barmy Army HQ, The Lucky Shag. We had made the bold statement that this would be out last dinner before we won the Ashes...

Charmaine joined me and the Chicks on Tour girls, and Dave, on Day 4 for a rather slow days' play. Certainly not the day we had anticipated, the Poms dug in, and held on till the last hour...and then several wickets fell in quick succession to set the final day up for our win.

And what a win! Labelled The Smashes early on, the Aussies managed to win back The Ashes yesterday, 3-0. A very exciting day, and one that seems to have righted the world again! Celebratory drinks at The Royal was had by a rather large group of Waving The Flag travelers.

Several of us were then driven out to the airport (thanks Charmas and Pascal!) to get respective red eye flights home. I arrived into Melbourne at 6.30am this morning, feeling a little worse for wear. I have managed to have a job interview and stay awake so for, but am in for some much needed rest before we do it all again!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Monkey Magic

After getting ready to set off yesterday, amongst tired and sore heads, we eventually discovered that the 4WD was not going to start. Several calls later, and a full battery recharge, and we were finally on our way again after a few hours layover.

Further driving down Highway One, we drove through the Tropic of Capricorn around 1pm, and then reached the western most town in Australia, Denham, in the late afternoon. We then made our way our to beautiful Monkey Mia, checked into our campsite, and headed to the Monkey Bar for much craved beers and dinner, upon a backdrop of sunset and blue and pretty Sharks Bay.

This morning we amazingly rose early to head down to the interaction area to view and feed the dolphins. The pod of dolphins that came in this morning included a week and a half old baby with it's mother, and we had the treat of watching them swim around, and the little guy frollick about in the shallow water.

Two feeds we watched, and I was picked at random to hand feed one of the dolphins in the second session. These sessions are completely dolpin led, with their regular arrival the key to the event. In the space of an hour we saw the first swim and feed, and then saw the pod return with mother and baby shortly after for another. So beautiful.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Highway 1, 12 Hour Drive

After picking up our Britz 4WD with all it's gear for our trip, we hit the road early out of Broome, onto Highway 1 and a long drive ahead. Headed to Karinjini National Park as our first stop on this road trip, born for me at a backyard BBQ in Tooting, London, Tom, Dave, Belinda and I absorbed the desert landscape for many hours as the kilometers passed us by.

We arrived at our campsite on the outskirts of the National Park just before sunset, which gave us time to figure out how the rooftop tent worked, and cook up a BBQ for dinner. Beneath more stars than I have ever seen, we spent our first night here.

Up and packed up early again, we entered the Karinjini National Park and arrived at the Vistors Centre at opening time. We walked through this centre, with the Aboriginal story behind the land around us, before heading to Orer Lookout, where Karinjini's three gorges converge. Beautiful site, with the red slate, green in the trees, and blue sky above.

We made the climb down into Hancock's Gorge, for one of the most beautiful and breathtaking swims I have ever experienced. Just spectacular.

Later we drove around to the Fortescue Falls, for another swim in the lagoon at the base of the falls, before heading to make up camp before sunset again. Another BBQ, a camp visit by a green snake, who slithered through, before I night of gazing at the spectacular view of the sky and the network of stars hanging above. No light, no sounds around in this basic camp, the show was on in the sky.

Yesterday, we drove the 6 hours out of the park, with a stop at Tom Price for refueling and a long awaited bathroom stop (!!), before hitting the unsealed road out of the Kimberley area. Around 5pm we reached gorgeous Coral Bay, for a hard earned swim.

Drinks at last, after several dry days, we had a beer and dinner night at the Ningaloo Reef Resort. Today we have had a lie in, and spent the day at the beach - me baking, and the lads catching tonight's dinner!

We have been without phone coverage for these last few days, and out of contact with much of the world too....mission accomplished! Amazing!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Our smallish plane touched down at Broome airport early on Wednesday evening, and walking off the plane onto the tarmac, we were met with the blanket of humidity instantly! We walked to our accommodation, the Kimberley Klub, and checked in.

We headed across to Cable Beach and the Sunset Bar to enjoy beers while watching the sun melt into the sea....very pretty! Palm tress, white stretch of beach, and the bar on the hilltop overseeing it all. A few camel trains walked past us as we had dinner, under the stars.

Today we have had a lie in, before exploring the one street raging metropolis that is central Broome. A beer to replace some of the liquid lost in that half hour walk, we stoped at the "Roe" on the main street, before finding our way to the Matso's Broome Brewery for drinks and an amazing lunch. Overlooking the blue, blue sea of Roebuck Bay, we sampled the beer on tap, and the local fish offerings.

A swim at our hotel pool, and then just hanging about in hammocks was the call for this afternoon, before heading out to Cable Beach again in time for a walk along the edge of the Indian Ocean.

Drinks and dinner enblazed by the sunset, we planned the next days drive...we set off tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Greatest Win Ever

How good was the win yesterday!!?? I am still reeling, just thinking about it! The drama, the Fat Man working his magic, and then Hussey batting like a superstar!! Was so awesome, and amaing to be there at the Adelaide Oval yesterday.

Monday, being Day Four of the Adelaide test, was the day Charles and I didn't have tickets for...but that was solved swiftly by Bumbles, and we were set. Another day in the sun on the hill. The scene was set for a most likely draw.

Yesterday, we had actually contemplated going down to the Barossa for a wine tour instead of the cricket, given the likelihood of a drawn match...lucky for us, that plan was not acted upon! A breakfast at one of the pubs near the YHA also provided a lift to the ground, and we settled in for Day Five on the hill, and for a bumper day of cricket.

Warne was in brilliant form, the beer flowed, the suncreen was slathered on at a continuous rate...and the hope for the English innings to be over just in time for Tea was granted! And it was game on.

The run chase was exciting from the first boundary from Alfie, and the Australian mood, and determination to get the tally of 168, was shown. Punter and Hussey were the men of the hour, clinching the match.

The group was aloft on the hill, with the greatest win bringing the Ashes to a 2-0 lead...and the urn that much closer to coming back to it's rightful home.

Needless to say, a boozy celebration in a pub in Adelaide city ensued, to mark the victory.

Dave, Tom, Belinda and I have amazingly made our first flight of two today, and are recovering in Perth airport on a four hour layover. Tired, and feeling a little seedy, it was all very, very worth it!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Adelaide Oval

Arriving in Adelaide late on Thursday night on a full flight, with only about four females on board, there were early indications of a huge week's play here. A taxi into town to find the Adelaide Central YHA, I caught up with Tom. Interrupted sleep with the lads coming in at all hours, again, the signs were there on the first night!

Day One at the pretty Adelaide Oval for the second installment of the Ashes battle, Dave, Belinda, Tom, Charles and I set up camp on the hill....for a slow, dull day of English batting. Drinks at the end of play to cure a dull day, at the Woolshed, with the girls from the Waving the Flag tours, and several of that crew.

Saturday saw another slow day of cricket, on the hill drinking half strength XXXX, and England batting. Collingwood's double century and KP in good knock put England on top.....but in boring, boring fashion.

After a power nap, Charles took us to the Grace Emily pub after some great Thai, for a gig. We saw Anthony Atkinson, over many Coopers Red. He was great, and the night turned into a rather large one for the four of us.

Today, amazingly, I made it to the cricket for the first ball, unlike the rest of the crew. However, I did manage to sleep for most of the first session, sitting up only to watch the replays of the wickets falling. The English lads around me helpfully let me know it wasn't actually worth that much effort! Not the best session for the Aussies, nor for me! I did make it there, though!

The hangover cleared, and I settled in to watch Punter score another respectable, but clearly disappointing for him, total, and Hussey also to bat well, for the day. Although playing for a draw is never as good as the real deal!

This evening I have managed to have a thirst quenching stop on the way back from the cricket with Dave, and then dinner at the much raved Italian place on Hinkley Street. The pasta was very good, and also the wine. We ended up dining on the table across from Pigeon and Bing, who must eat there every night when in Adelaide. Binga looked very good!! But perhaps McGrath needs to cut down on the bruchetta consumption!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ballarat pop in

With plans to travel around my home country for the Summer, I thought that a pop in to home while I could between tests was in my best interests. An antidote to my homesickness, a chance to catch up with Mum and the girls, and to get some things sorted. A few home cooked meals and my washing done was a bonus!!

Arriving into Avalon from Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon, I was greeted by two of my sisters, decked out in party hats and streamers...dorks! I don't think I gave them the reaction that all their planning had been aiming for....but it was the domestic shed terminal!!

Was great to see Miss Jessie and Miss Katie, and they picked me up, drove me home to Ballarat, and then we went straight to the pub! Now we are talking! We were the first patrons at The Bended Elbow, and also the last to leave. A great day in the beer garden catching up on stories and general family gossip. Andrea also popped in for a cheeky (non-alcoholic) drink, to catch up - and I got to see the baby bump at last!!

Not too much has changed here at home, except for the drought. The girls too me past the iconic Lake Wendouree on the way to the pub...which is not more. Dried up, it would be possible to walk over the lake rather than around it now. Very sad to see. Very scary.

Yesterday I had a psychometric test for a potential job for after we win The Ashes, and then a much craved roast dinner at home with Mum. Today I have sorted out bits and pieces, and about about to pack for the next leg of the Summer of Tash. Dinner at Thai Fusion here in Ballarat, before getting to Avalon again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Victory at the 'Gabba

Shaking our heads at the uninforced follow-on decision, we came away from the 'Gabba with the win eventually...with no day off for us!

The Barmy Army were all together for play on Day 5, and in full, loud, unstopping form. 'It's gonna rain in a minute' and then the rendition of 'Singing in the Rain' with umbrellas aloft, they were very funny. Showing that they just wanted to sing (rather than whatever it is that security measures are preventing), they stood and clapped and cheered for the whole days play. Warney gives them plenty of material, with 'Where's your missus gone?' and 'Warney, send a text', and then their chant of 'Your so old it's unbelievable'...they were entertaining, and well behaved!

A final jug of beer at the Brisbane German Club across the road from the 'Gabba, we moved on to The Pineapple Hotel for several beers, with the girls on tour. Bea, Remy, Lizby, Kathleen and Reggie, James, myself and Dave were up for a big afternoon. The power, and thus the options at the Pineapple, blacked out, and the crew relocated to The Chalk Hotel, where the Barmy Army was congregated and still singing. A long session here allowed us to see the 1-nil victory result off in style.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Day One of the Ashes

I have arrived on home turf, and was picked up at the airport by Dave in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday. Bless! He's a good lad! He took me around to get a bit of a feel for Brisbane, and see the city from the hills.

Charles arrived the next day, after Remy and a misguided trip to the airport, and it felt like the old clan was together again for the cricket!

Day One of the Ashes - so much anticipation, so much hype - worth every minute! We awoke early (how can you not when it's bright out at 4.30am!!??), got ready, and got a lift into the 'Gabba. We found our seats, and got pumped with the ground full of nervous energy. The anthem was sung, and the toss was won...

A ridiculous wide to start the match, and it was game on! Day One saw Ricky bat a sterling innings, minus four in the end, and a great start by the Aussies.

Security is tight here at the ground. No backpacks, no trumpets, no fun, no full strength there much we can do anymore!!?? The Barmy Army are silenced at every's not right!

Meanwhile, the Aussies are in cracking form...not that I saw much for half the game yesterday after a hangover from hell. Coming good again at Tea, and one of the most exciting sessions of cricket! All good.

Today we watched the too old McGrath show that his still has it....and a cheeky stop over at the pub across the road at Lunch and Tea has tonight flying!

It's the Ashes!!! Poised for a great day tomorrow. The real question at the moment is - what are we going to do on Monday? The Beach? Sounds good!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Way Ticket to BrisVegas

My mini cab took me from Wimbledon to Heathrow in no time, and just as well, as I needed to sort out excess baggage issues. Looks like my big bag will get home before I will!

I am hanging out in the amazing Singapore Changi Airport at the moment, after an uneventful flight from London. Three movies, several beverages, and a finished book later, I arrived here for my six hour glimpse at Monday the 20th of November!

This airport is HUGE! An great place to be stuck in for any number of hours. I have just had a swim and a shower, a luxury considering I am mid long haul flight. The pool is on the rooftop, will planes taking off overhead, and storm clouds rolling in. Was quite surreal.

I am really looking forward to coming home, which I am surprised about. I feel very ready to be home, in Ballarat and Melbourne.

Back to real football, where people don't spit on the street, where you have your bags packed for you at the supermarket, and people don't stop dead after stepping off an escalator or lift or off the train, oblivious to anyone around them! It's the little things that matter, and the longer I have been away from home, the more I feel like I appreciate it!

First stop, though, is Brisbane for the First Test. Let the Summer Of Tash begin!

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Host Of Farewells

This week I have had a whole load of farewell catch ups with mates here in London, to say goodbye in UK drinking style.

Wednesday night I met Jess at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, along The Mall near Buckingham Palace, to see Candy. An Aussie film with Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish, it was an Aussie take on the spiral of herion addition. Hrad going, but very good. Tiny intimate cinema in a grand building. We then tubed across town to meet Andrew and John for a pint at the Marlborough Head. A pub decked out in Addam's Family decor, with the loos through a door cut into bookshelves. It was goodbye to the Wilson's, for now. It's been fun living in the same city as them, even if for just a short time.

Thursday night I met Niny, Hilary, Chantal, and Scott for tapas and sangria in Clapham, where many HCML stories were told. I was reminded of all the crappy desks I have been sat at during my time at work, my black eye, and our many laughs during our pod silliness. The social side of work has been awesome, with a bnch of people in similar life situations as me, and thus, ready and willing for trips and nights out at the drop of a hat! Further drinks at The Fine Line made sure I was feeling a little seedy for my last day of work!

Friday I finalised all the dramas on my cases, and handed them all over - such a relief!

Drinks after work were at All Bar One in Clapham, with a large group from work. Many pints later, and I said goodbyes to Beate and Heather here. Train back to Wimbledon, and the remaining crew of Nathan, Fletcher, Scott, Kylie and Caitlin, headed to Bar Sia. This turned into a rather large evening, in the club downstairs which is a former swimming pool! Very strange!

After a decent hangover yesterday, and a struggle to meet the trying-to-get-up-while-it's-still-light with the darkness coming so early now here in London! I eventually made it over to Putney to meet Laura, Blake and Scott for some medicinal pints, dinner, and more goodbyes.

Now, I am all packed, and my taxi to Heathrow is just 45 minutes away from collecting me...and it's goodbye old London town.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Friendly Football?

Just when you think the game of soccer could not be any more wimpy, they also play "Friendly"s! Now when the real footy play games for exhibition or practice, it usually ends in brawls or pitch invasions....but last night I went along to the Australia verses Ghana match for none of that!

Nathan, Kylie and I headed over to Shepherd's Bush, and the QPR ground after work yesterday, to a swarm of Aussie fans. It felt like we were walking into a suburban ground in Melbourne, with the strong ocka accents everywhere - with the exception that everyone was wearing the same colours. The Socceroos jersey was everywhere!

Sitting in the cold stadium, in the Aussie half of the ground, we listened to the band in the Ghana side of the stadium play all night, while the action got under way - kick off....(I was thinking bounce down, but no!). The first half carried on, with our man Aloisi scoring the first goal of the evening at the 25 minute mark.

The stadium was out of beer at half time, which was very un-Australian, and the temperature dropped another few numbers. A reported fumble and clash at the other end of the ground ended in a Ghana score, and the match was a draw.

After watching quite a few soccer matches now, it's not as boring as it used to be for me. But still, bring on season 2007 for the AFL! Looking forward to good football matches at the MCG again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Monopoly Finale

On Saturday, I attempted to meet Jess at St Paul's to see one of the many touristy things here in London that I still haven't seen. Not really paying enough attention to the Rememberance Day and the Lord Mayor's Show Day information, I arrived at Bank tube station to chaos, delays on the tube, and the two minutes silence - was a little weird! Then a pararde kicked off with all the Queen's men... The St Paul's plan was abandoned after realising I was on the wrong side of the parade, and Jess reporting minimal entry to the cathedral.

Instead, Jess and I headed to the first stop of the second half of the Monopoly Pub Crawl, which was the plan for the day! A farewell London adventure for me, and the last chance to finish the crawl that I had been part of back in March.

The first stop for the recommencement of this crawl was Whitehall on the board, and thus The Lord Moon Of The Mall, where our first half pint was drunk, and a hearty pub meal of bangers and mash was consumed.

Charles joined us at the Northumberland Avenue stop, at the Sherlock Holmes, for a half pint of the Sherlock Holmes brew. A walk in the cold London air, and a short tube ride later, another pint was had at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for the Fleet Street stop.

Andrew, Kristy and Scott joined us at this stop, for the walk over to The Strand and The Wellington pub. Here we were joined by Nat, who wins the award for the most travelled to join the crawl, after flying in from Copenhagen (she's mad! we love it!).

Finding the Marquess of Anglesey was easier this time than the very first time I completed this leg, before we got to The Chandos near Trafalgar Square, and The Moon Under Water for the Leicester Square stop, where we were joined by Laura.

The Comedy for Coventy Street, with the half pints still coming, and a food and half pint stop at The Captain's Cabin for Regent Street on the board. A glimpse of the Xmas lights here showed that they were the same as last year - lame! No pub found at the location outlined in the instructions for Vine Street, and the posh looking establishments and their burly bouncers were none too keen on letting us half pint in there!

A wander along Carnaby Street before O'Neills for Marlborough Street, and a half pint upstairs in The Duke of York as the closest pub to Bond Street.

Our finale was the Oxford Street pub, which was quintessential English pub, The Woodstock, after another peek at last year's Xmas lights repeat! A Winter Pimm's, and then another full pint for good measure, the crawl was done!

Feeling suprisingly well on Sunday morning, I met with Jess and Nat for brunch of the much anticipated eggs benedict at the Glow Lounge. A chance to say goodbye for now to Nat, who has been a great provider of floor space, crazy travel ideas, a great travel companion, and someone who is up for anything, during my time in the UK. Love your work, Miss Nat!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Kevin and the Moon

The full moon was shining above the Old Vic as I walked over to meet Caitlin for our dose of theatre and Kevin Spacey last night.

A Moon For The Misbegotten is set on a little farm in Connecticut where Josie, played brilliantly by Eva Best, remains on the family farm with her drunkard father. The set is decked out to look out in the middle of nowhere, and hot, and Josie is working hard throughout the show.

The play is about love and matchmaking, and in the end, the scheming of a father for his daughter. Josie and her father were such strong performances, the dynamic between them was so good. Kevin was a strong presence as a lost and troubled drunk, much in love with Josie...with some ranting and highly emotional scenes.

Bit of a strange match, with Spacey playing a character perhaps younger than his good self! Nevertheless, a night out with Kevin is always good, and I really enjoyed! Thanks for arranging, perhaps my last play in London for now, Caitlin!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Irish Rules

After trekking up to Norwich on Friday, and showing a trainee how not to do our job (!!), I rushed out to Gatwick to board my flight to Dublin. Greeted at the airport by Liz and Cathal, it was so good to see them again, before I head back home this month.

A few pints at The Beach House in Greystones that night, and a catch up with the lads from Greystones. The following morning, Liz and I took the DART into Dublin, and wondered around for a bit. We stopped in at the National Museum of Ireland for coffee, before heading to Mulligan's. Stopping here for the best Guinness in Dublin, the old man pub feel was alive and well.

We then headed over to the Porterhouse in Temple Bar, for a range of different beers, and an Irish Stew. Following this, and walk through the cold streets of Dublin to a bar called Here in gaelic, and to meet Cathal and a lads for the night. A celebration for Cathal's birthday, the night became a fun and crazy night out - as they all are in Ireland!! We finished the night at Whelan's, before we were all kicked out.

The next morning we awoke in Greystones, and worked on getting into Dublin for the match. Arriving just before quarter time, and just after all the biff action apparently, we got settled for the Australia verse Ireland battle for the International Rules, at Croke Park. The game quickly became Australia's, with the Ireland players seeming intimidated by the pace and bustle of the Aussie team. More agro from the crowd, given the recent history of these clashes,

After the match, we headed to Mulligan's again for more Guinness, and to defrost. Cathal disappered at one stage, and we had started to wonder where he had gotten to, only to see him reappear into the pub, having gone to the chipper and got me a battered sausage! Bless! One of the nicest things anyone has done for me!! It was so good! Hee hee.

I had had no luck in tracking Anne down in Dublin, who has recently moved there, Cathal spotted another of many Hawthorn shirts walking into the pub, late in the evening...and it was Anne! Was so cool to meet up with her, and talk footy and work and all things moving to the other side of the world.

Liz and Cathal walked me to the bus to get out to the airport, and say our goodbyes. Who knows where and when we will see each other now! Meeting a mate from work at the airport, and proceeding to the bar, and then the bar services on the flight back....was a large weekend, in true Irish style!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Farewell to Miss Charlotte

Miss Charlotte leaves London today, to go home to New Zealand for the Summer, after a stop for run in NYC. Charlotte and I, along with Laura, Beate, Heather, Emy and Debbie, started in the same group at HCML, and she and I have worked and played and travelled (and lived for a bit!) together for the last year and a month.

On Monday night, a group of us met for dim sum at New World in Chinatown, in honour of Miss Charlotte. Last night I met up with her, and her sister Sophie and Mike, for an English pub meal around Covent Garden. We finished off Charlotte's last night in London with one of her favourite things to do - crossing the Waterloo Bridge at night. (Bloody freezing, but the veiw of the city is awesome!)

The hardest thing about travelling around and meeting new people, is that we all go home, or move on, eventually. Whilst staying in touch in the age of email is all good, still... I am going to miss Miss Charlotte! But it does mean I have people to visit all over the world, anytime!

Good luck in the marathon, Miss Charlotte, and I hope to see you soon!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Barcelona Birthday

Thursday night I finished work, and headed to my much anticipated flight to Barcelona for the weekend. Arriving just on midnight, it was 23C in the Spanish city, and very lovely!

Waking up in my hostel room to texts, and presents and cards that had arrived in London during the week, I began my 29th birthday with chocolate and sprinkles. I wandered down Las Rambles and found somewhere for brunch, where I got several calls from home.

Rambling along the main tree lined street, I walked through bustling Boqueria Market, and then through the cobbled and tiny streets of Barrico Gotico. Finding the Dali museum, and then Museu Picasso, I had an art filled afternoon. The Picasso collection, with history and artistic journey well set out, was very good, and in a very beautiful space and building.

I then walked along to Parc de la Ciutadella, and the gardens, up to the Arc de Triumf. As darkness fell, walking back along Las Rambles, into the anti-climatic Placa Reial (maybe it´s hard to match the place of this time last year!), and then past the Christopher Colombus monument and down to the port at night, was busy and pretty.

Saturday, after another glorious lie in, I took in the works of Gaudi - my new hero! First to Casa Batllo, and it´s pretty facade, before going over to La Padrere, and the amazing residence here. Functional chimnies, ornate and beautiful, this building is gorgeous. One of my favourites - I want a house like this when I grow up! It was commissioned as a private residence, and Gaudi came up with this design. Genius!

Then onto the awe-inspiring and breath-taking Sagrada Familia. Gaudi was brought onto this project, put some grand plans into action, which are still far from complete today. Walking around the grounds and looking up at the spires and ornate features that are complete so far, and then seeing the pictures of the man´s vision. Wow! Talk about man with a plan! Going up the 60 meters to the stage high up in between the towers allows an amazing veiw of the city, and mountain surrounds - plus all of the detail far up in the sky on the shorter of the planned spires. I definately want to come back here to see the completed version!

Following on the Gaudi path, I made my way up to Parc Guell. This is another of Gaudi's projects, which he planned and actually ran out of funding to complete in full (I can relate! Hee hee!). The park is set high up on the outskirts of Barcelona, with another amazing view of the city to be veiwed...and amazing structures out there too. The inside ceiling of the would-have-been market, with the rooftop mosaic pretty, and pretty amazing.

That evening I popped into the church of Santa Maria del Pi for a peek, before finding somewhere for dinner along the busy Las Rambles. Basking in my post-sunshine all day glow, the weather was lovely all weekend!

Yesterday I set off to the hills overlooking the water, thinking I would see the Olympic Stadium from 1992. Not to be, but I found the Fort up there, and another amazing view of the city, with the blue Mediterranean, over to the city, and over the mountain surrounds. From here I took the cable car across the Port, and made my way to the beach for some sun worshipping.

As the sun was setting, I Metro-ed over to the Espanya area to see the National Museum of Art of Catalyna, and then the Olympic stadium grounds behind that in the twilight, before heading out to the airport for my flight back to London, my birthday weekend over.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sweden for George

This weekend I went to Sweden, Stockholm and Uppsala, to see George Michael in concert. Visiting Camilla and little Miss Ella, and staying in Uppsala where we were for Christmas last year, was so lovely.

I flew out of dreary London around Saturday lunchtime, to an even colder, and darker Sweden. I treked through the buses to get to Uppsala, and meet Miss Ella for the first time, and caught up with Camilla, who I haven't seen for years. Hanging out with them for the night, and next day was really nice. I took Ella for a walk, and got to see Uppsala without the snow of last December!

A home cooked meal (first for quite some time!), after meeting Johan, and his parents, I was absorbed into a Swedish dinner. Camilla and I then went into Stockholm, and found the Stockholm Globe, in the Globen complex, for the concert.

Wanting to see George in concert since I was quite young, I have fulfilled a dream! And was not disappointed! He looked good, sounded amazing, and grooved for most of the night.

The show started with his Waiting as an intro, of which the lyrics were really poignant given George's position in life, and his reflection of it. The show then kicked into Flawless, and then Fastlove, which were full on dance tracks, and awesome. George was in full grooving form, and was looking fine in his black suit. The graphics on his big stage screen were very cool, although the young eyes looking out of the birka for Father Figure was quite naughty!

Speaking of naughty, his inflatable prop of Bush during Shoot The Dog, and just before his 20 minute interval, was George's politics of the evening. The heartrending tracks like Jesus To A Child, and You Have Been Loved showed how great George's voice still is, and songs like Faith, Outside and Amazing were brilliant, and why I have always loved George!

The Swedish crowd were very into it, and knew the words to sing along, which always make a concert great. They even knew the more obscure tracks like Star People and Spinning The Wheel, and helped George out with his only fluff during Careless Whisper.

Very much a goodbye feeling to the concert, with a full selection of all his tracks, and a thank you to the crowd for their support throughout his career. Fingers crossed he comes to Australia, and I get to see him again! He was amazing! One of the best gigs I have been to.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hanging out in old London town

I have had quite a lovely week, catching up with people, despite the winter weather and darkness creeping in.

Tuesday night, Charlotte and Laura and I met Hilary in the city, at Momo for dinner and drinks. Apparently a place for cool people and stars - we just hung out for a good gossip session and a general catch up! Food was Morrocan, and very yummy! Red wine was very good too! I had forgotten the ordeal of travelling into the city though, on the train and then the tube - how quickly the memory blocks! Such a mission.

Wednesday night Charlotte and I went off to see The Departed, after hearing rave reveiws. Brilliant movie, loved it. Haven't seen a movie that envokes a real stress response for a long time! And Leo was very good...

Last night, Charles took me to the theatre for my impending birthday, to see the long-running musical Blood Brothers. A story about twins seperated after birth, and their experiences growing up in two very different family, and socio-economic environments.

Quite a depressing look at the hard working class English experience. For quite sometime during the show, adults played the role of seven year old, which was a little odd. The actor portraying the mother of the two boys was fully into her role, and played the full emotions...and poor Marylin Monroe got a workout in the song sung throughout the show. Was quite good, and amazing to think that this production has been going for so long.

The narrator in this production was quite creepy, and funny, popping up throughout the show, speaking rather than singing, and just geerally being a presence.

Thanks heaps, Charlie!

Monday, October 16, 2006

I took the tube over to Camden...

to wander around. Yesterday. One of the things I have wanted to do in London, and have only just gotten around to!

After the very long tube ride up to Camden, I walked around in the autumn sunshine, taking in the sights and smells. Very busy, the network of markets had the full variety of wares on offer - and all variety of people wandering around too! Hippy, punky, funky, Camden markets have it all. Alot of people dressed in very weird stuff, too. I got quite lost, but could always find the collection of food stalls in every section!

On Saturday I went down to Brighton for the arvo with Laura, and her mate Dave. Walking around the pebbled beach, along the pier, past the palace, and through the Lanes. Several pints in a few of the very old pubs, it was a lovely way to spend a lazy Saturday.

I'm in London still. However, the end is near. I have resigned from my job, booked my flight, started thinking about what I want to be when I grow up...and I have five weeks till I am on that long haul flight.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Happy Birthday Charlotte

Yesterday was Miss Charlotte's birthday, and after some silliness in the office all day, a batch of us headed into town for a night in celebration. Happy hour cocktails at Ruby Blue in Leicester Square was our first stop, which ensued jugs of pink cocktails galore! The group grew, and I think we got louder, and more volumes were consumed.

The plan for the evening was for a regressive, or backwards, dinner, with drinks, then dessert, and then dinner. However, time, cocktails, and liquid full stomachs won over the ice cream idea after drinks, and we made our way for dinner.

Hi Sushi is a cute and colourful Japanese restaurant, with all you can eat sushi! We piled into the downstairs section, and were placed in a sunken red table. We ticked all the boxes for the menu choices, and then the food started coming. And coming, and coming! Great sushi! Starting with miso soup, complemented with Asahi.

A dare at the end of the feast saw our birthday girl eat a big green pile of wasabi, which was scared and then cracked us all up. She's a crazy, and easily led, kid!

Spilling out onto the street, some of the gang surprisingly had room for Ben and Jerry's before we tubed our way home.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rubiks Cubed

On Saturday night many of us made our way to Nathan and Fletcher's house party in Raynes Park, under the Rubiks Cube theme. The notion of wearing every colour from the rubiks cube was quite hard, and needless to say, looked very silly on the train. Red jacket, blue jeans, white shoes, orange hoody, green top, and yellow scarf. Looking good!

Jelly shots in the eight colours, and many drinks later, the idea was to swap around till you made yourself one side of the cube. (More photos)

I think I did quite well, while continually watching the location of my beloved red leather jacket, I managed to deck out in a green jacket, green hat, and eventually swapped white shoes for green! A little tricky to get the jeans swapped, and perhaps not quite enough alcohol consumed for that level of participation!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Game on at the 'G

In the early hours of Saturday morning, I left the house and set off on two night buses to get to Slug and Lettuce in Fulham, to watch this year's AFL Grand Final.

Meeting up with Toni, Clare and Ben at 4am, we settled in for our first pint, ensuring a good spot in front of the big screen for the game to be beamed in from the 'G in Melbourne.

This is the first actual match I have watched, despite many attempts to see replays of others during the year. After quarter time I ventured over to watch a half with Renee, Rachael, and Shae in a similar vein as our possie last year. Seeing the same match up as last year, I was going for the opposite result this year.

The final quarter was game on, and a really good match till the end. Back over with Toni and crew, we watched the excitement unravel from the other side of the world. Some brilliant 1%er work by our man Chick, and the game, and the premiership was West Coast's - by a mere one point. Renditions of their terrible song (it's really bad!), and then many typically Aussie anthems were sung, until we left the dingy pub into the daylight, and home (although I am unclear how that really happened! Opps!).

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Monday night we arrived into Berlin, and stayed at a little apartment Nat had found. Up for breakfast, and a quick walk through the construction zones of Berlin, we finally made it to the bustling and happening Berlin that everyone raves about - in glorious sunshine.

Facinated by the East German chubby and animated Amplemann, we stopped off at the shop selling all the traffic-light-man gear. We then walked along Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of the divison of the city between East and West.

We lined up for the dome and rooftop veiws of the city from the Reichstag building, before walking through Tierpark to central Berlin, where we following the Berlin Wall remaining cobbled path to Checkpoint Charlie.

The Checkpoint Charlie Museum was a collection of stories and accounts, and artifacts from the experince of the city divided. A fairly confusing museum, with no distinct layout or chronology...I don't know if I understand what the wall was all about any more after this visit than before! Loads of accounts of attempts to break through, to escape, and reactions to the tearing down of the wall were powerful, nonetheless.

After this, and a look at the East Side Gallery, which is the longest portion of the not so well preserved wall, we treked over town to catch up with Nick, for a beer or two. Was lovely to see Nick, who I haven't seen his 30th in Sydney.

Another mad and stressful dash to an airport for a flight I came so close to missing, I was back in London late, late on Tuesday night.

Oktoberfest and German roadtrip

Sunday saw another day at Oktoberfest for Nat, Jess and Andrew, and I, with an early start to secure a good spot in one of the busiest beerhalls. The Hofbräu beerhall is known as the Aussie tent, and has to be done!

We got there just as the crowds were gathering, and thus took some time to walk through the amusement ride section of the sprawl that is the Fest (and to build up a 10am thirst for a stein!). The four of us then got down to business, selected our table, ordered our steins, and tipped our already grumpy beer wench.

As the hall started getting rowdier, and the beer kept flowing, the fun began. The band kicked off, and then my memory grows a little hazy!

A challenge was set for each of us, and after completing mine, I decided to help Andrew verify his. Setting him the challenge of finding someone in the hall, apart from the two of us, who was from Ballarat, he had returned after a misson stating success. We set off to confirm, and wandered among the Fanatics group - who claimed there were two Ballaratians with them...somewhere! And there in the middle of all the riotous beerhall were Melinda and Brad (Hi Marg, Murray and Craig!)!! Andrew was quite stunned that I knew the people from home, without knowing they were going to be there. But people from Ballarat are everywhere!! Hee hee.

The next day we checked out of Munich and loaded into our Merc (when in Germany...) for a roadtrip to Berlin, through countryside Germany. Our first stop was several hours down the road at Regensburg, for lunch. Walking around the medieval city to stretch our legs, before jumping back into the car to drive to Dresden.

A pretty city, with reconstructed architecture after WWII bombings destroyed much of the city, we walked though the Zwiger, past the Frauenkirche Church, and round to the city centre. A quick snack stop, and we were off again, gliding at 200km/hr on the autobahn to Berlin.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Oktoberfest and Dachau

Thursday afternoon I left work early and made the trek into town, and then out to Stanstead. Meeting the Wilsons on the train, the three of us flew to Munich, where we met Nat in the airport for our first beer.

We spent our first evening in the dorm at the Party People campsite, and chattered our way through a very cold night. Breakfast the next morning in the mist, before heading into town, checking into out hotel, Pension Margit, and then to Beerfest!

Walking along the main drag, taking in the sites of Bavarian garb and beerhalls aplenty, we begun the day with a rocket speed ride on the EuroStar rollarcoaster. Then it was straight to the beerhalls.

Soaking in the atmosphere, struggling with the weight of a steiner, we began our amber consumption. Tipping our wench to ensure ongoing service, we even inadvertently ordered a chicken. Walking around after our sitting at one of the long woodern tables, taking in the sunshine, many litres of beer heavier!

Today we wandered around central Munich, taking in the city streets and the Rathause. Watching the glockenspiel, before a German lunch, we then joined the walking tour to Dachau. A train and a bus took us out to the first Nazi concentration camp, where our guide, Ceasar, took us through the memorial.

Hearing about the forced work camp, the conditions, the horror...walking through the reconstructed barracks, the prison cells, and the crematoriam...the power of the place with Never Forget as the lasting words - yet the saddest part of this visit is that the world hasn't learnt, and these horrors are replicated - all over, over and over.

Time for more beer...

Monday, September 18, 2006

London all-nighter - the Metro Life Hike

Friday night after a study day on brain injury for work, I met some of my work mates for farewell drinks for Chantal, at Be At One, in Clapham. She is leaving work for a new job, so two for one cocktails was deemed the appropriate way to see her off!

After two or three, Charlotte and I headed into the Guildhall in the city, to meet Caitlin and Jack, for the Metro Life Hike.

The Metro Life Hike is a 17 mile hike around London's Circle Line, above ground. A chance to see several open houses along the way, and raise money for the Maggie Cancer Caring Centres. Although we haven't managed to raise much money so far, we are hoping to raise more now that we have finished - you can donate here.

We completed our registration, and received our t-shirts and maps, in the rather grand interior of the Guildhall. After the provided pasta preparation for the long walk, and a warm up in the Guildhall square, the walk started at 10pm.

The walk, with loads of other people, started out through Farringdon, and then up to King's Cross. A rest stop at the Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building, before moving on to Regent's Park and Paddington way, and down to Notting Hill, and another rest stop.

Walking on through the early hours, we made our way past Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall, down through the embassy area of London, and past the Argentine Ambassador's residence. I must admit, I was way too tired by this stage to take in the light show here!

On through the little posh streets to past Buckingham Palace, we made it past Big Ben, across Westminister Bridge, to the London Eye. Here we were treated to a 30 minute rest, and the chance to enjoy the views from the first ever night flights on the Eye. At 3.30am, the lights on London were taken in with bleary eyes, and a round of Percy Pigs for our pod!

The last portion of the walk was the hardest, with zombie-like foot in front of the other walking to the next stop, City Hall, via Embankment and St Paul's (surely that was the long way!!??). Very tired as we walked across Tower Bridge with the hint of sunrise on the horizon. We finally made it back to the Guildhall after passing the Gherkin and Liverpool Street, and made it by 6.30am. (More photos.)

Just able to walk around now, that was 17 miles of walking when I should have been sleeping, that I am still feeling!!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Weekend out of hand

Plans for a quite, money saving weekend backfired, and as I am sitting at my desk this morning, a little seedy, things had just gotten away from me! But that's London - there is always someone doing something....awesome!

Saturday just after lunch I went into Wimbledon for a pint with a few of the members of my new house. Holly, Belinda and Mark and I were in search of the Aussie verses South Africa rugby (I think!!) match - but no luck. Given the nationality divide in the house now, it could have been interesting...but none of the pubs had it one.

Facing a quite Saturday evening at home, I got a text from Toni, who is back after her travels, and so I headed into Clapham Junction to meet up with her, Ben and Clare for dinner. Three bottles of wine later, a mini pub crawl had commenced! Was lovely to see Toni, and catch up on the last few weeks, and all the changes. Was quite nice wine, too! Hee hee.

Waking to a headache and a text message, I pulled myself together and made my way into town to meet Jess and Andrew, and Nat, at the Queen Mary for lunch. Fresh off the boat, Jess and Andrew have just arrived in big, bad London for a year of adventure! Soaking in the sun, the skyline and the Pimm's, the four of us we caught up, before walking through London streets to Covent Garden.

One the way home, I called into the Walkabout in Wimbledon, to have a drink with Renee. Haven't seen her for a bit, and it was lucky I was keen to catch up with her, cos the Walkie is gross!! Hee hee!! Lucky for her, there was an AFL replay on, and then I watched the first set of the US Open!

Back at work for a bit of detox now, after a weekend of catching up with friends over drinks, all over London! It's all good!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sex, Brownie and Madge

In the wee hours of Saturday morning a group of us made our way to Gatwick airport for our flight to Amsterdam for the weekend. Trusting Journey Planner a little too much, I took a train expecting to be at the airport with 20 minutes for checking in processes, and allowing just a little extra sleeping my near peril! The checking in for our flight was all over red rover, although the first response from EasyJet customer service was "I don't know". Helpful! I just needed to check my bag due to the changes to the hand luggage allowances (oh, and make the gate in time)....but no, noone would help me do that. Having a ready-printed boarding pass printed by Miss Laura back in May when we booked this trip, I decided to give it a go anyway.

Dumping all my toiletries (no liquid allowed), and my actual handbag (only allowed one piece of hand luggage), I then crammed my bag into the wooden bag guide and convinced the guy that it fit. Phew! Then I crawled in and under the massive line to get through security, apologising to all that were lining up, explaining that I was going to miss my flight. Off with the belt and shoes, and through the metal detector...running through to the gate with shoes, bag, passport in hand, and hitching my jeans up, I made it! It's getting more silly, me and this flying business!

After all the early morning drama, we touched down in Amsterdam, and were straight onto the bus from the front of the airport to the city area, and then walked to find our apartment. I had found the apartment for the seven of us through a website, where we found a lovely two floor apartment in Prinsengracht (familiar to anyone?) street, over looking one of the many canals.

After settling in, when headed off for a walk around very pretty Amsterdam. We walked down to Centrum, and Dam Square, where the Royal Palace is and street performers were doing their thing. We then wondered into the daylight version of the Red Light District, and viewed the window displays on offer!

Through here to Newmarket square, and those dutch music boxes (can't for the life of me remember what they are called, but remember them from when I worked at the Tulip Farm!) set up everywhere - with people out sitting and watching them!?

Stopping for a couple of Heineken's and to sample a brownie from one of the coffeeshops, we then went to see the funny and disturbing images on display at the Sex Museum. After the time allowed for this, an alternating giggly and weird evening followed, as we wandered through the streets and had dinner.

The next day, after a late brunch, Laura and I went through the Van Gogh Museum, which was a walked through the painter's life, from his early self teaching days, through to the flower stills and collection of ploughs and fields, to his copies from pcitures during his asylum days, and finally to the introduction of black into his final pieces. His Wheatfield with Crows, laudered as one of his most famous pieces, had me drawn for sometime.

Charlotte and I then visited Anne Frank's House, on Prinsengracht, luckily when the line wasn't too long. Walking through and grasping the Frank's family's two years of hiding in the small spaces, soaking in the fear and imagining the feelings of being trapped, brought my long age reading of her diary so much more real. It was compelling, however, to hear the aged quote from the time of the discription of the Holocaust as being one of the worst human atrocities one could imagine...and then thinking of all that has still happened since, and still.

Then, it was time! Time to work our way out to Amsterdam Arena, and the reason for our weekend. We walked and then metro-ed out to the massive soccer stadium, getting pumped up for Madonna's Confessions show.

Walking into the massive stadium, and soaking in the growingly amped crowd was so exciting! The Arena was so big, and atmosphere was electric!

After keeping the crowd waiting, and getting more and more pumped, Madonna arrived on stage for her all dancing, all singing show. Playing a lot from her new album, songs like Sorry, I Love New York, and Can We Get Together, were big numbers. Interspersing her older classic songs, she played Like A Virgin, Music, and Ray Of Light was a high energy number. The energy, fitness, and physique of the pop queen was mind blowing....

All the controversy regarding the crucifix on stage, which has been getting loads of press, was ridiculus after seeing her do the segment. To Live To Tell, the imagery and message was children in Africa orphaned by AIDS... Did any of the protestors actually see what it was about before going bananas? Madge mingled loads of politcal messages throughout the show, although nothing new to the dispair at the tate of the world.

The show was amazing, and we were all so excited about it. After making our way back to the city and having something to eat at last, we got back to the apartment for minimal sleep before getting to the airport in the morning to get our flight back to London, and back to work.
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