A Travellerspoint blog

Working 9 to 5

I know the blogs have been a bit thin on the ground lately, but now that I'm back on the chain gang again it’s hard to find the time to put pen to paper. I’m not exactly setting a good example for the writing group that I run (although that’s turning into a kind of discussion group where basically we drink wine and put the world to rights, but it’s highly enjoyable all the same). Trying to juggle a budding social life, maintaining the house and Mark’s lunchbox to his exacting standards and keeping up my "Essex Girl" tan– as well as holding down a responsible role flying miners in and out of places I can’t even pronounce – is no mean feat I discovered.

I have to say, I’m really enjoying my gainful employment. My training went well, and I’m now almost an expert on the 3-letter airport codes for most of the remote mining towns like Paraburdoo, Karratha and Meekathara. Mind you, they seem to have 3 letter acronyms for almost everything these days – us BTAs (business travel advisors) get monitored on our GCE “great call experience” at our PDPs (personal development plan meetings) – the list is endless. People can’t seem to be bothered to speak in long hand any more – WTF! I’m also becoming an expert on mine-equipped hire vehicles and can now tell you the difference between a dual cab wagon and a single cab flat bed tray top (not sure how useful this will be if I ever come back to work in London though). I’ve now moved over to servicing the Singapore account and have been flying employees out to exotic locations in South America, Guinea, Mozambique and Mongolia (I wonder if Thrifty’s Ulun Bator branch supply mine-equipped yaks?).

We had a visit by the agent from Cathay Pacific last week, and trying to make a good impression I enquired if she had any new “routes” planned. I’d obviously forgotten that the English pronunciation of “routes” means something quite different in Australian *, so I don’t think I’ll be getting any free flights to Hong Kong in the near future.

* Root (verb and noun) : synonym for f*ck in nearly all its senses: "I feel rooted"; "this washing machine is rooted"; "(s)he's a good root". A very useful word in fairly polite company.

Our offices are slap bang in the middle of the CBD (see, I’m getting into the terminology) so I can pop out in my lunch break for a bit of window shopping although I still can’t afford to buy anything. It is rather nice being able to wander over the road to lovely Stirling Gardens in my lunchtime to sit in the sunshine and eat my tucker amongst the concrete kangaroos knowing that it’ll be warm and sunny. I have even explored the interesting Old Court House (the oldest surviving building in Perth) and was shocked to discover that they only abolished the death penalty here in 1984! I suddenly felt grateful that I’ve only got a speeding ticket so far. Even the hour long commute to work on the bus is quite pleasant (and usually quite entertaining as it appears that only eccentric pensioners, high as a kite aboriginals and British ex-pats utilize public transport outside of the CBD – and I almost qualify for 2 of those!). So a bit of change from the Liverpool Street line. I’m kept entertained every evening waiting at the bus stop by the amazing light show projected from the council offices opposite (see pic).

The autumn has now set in, although it was a long time coming. The past few months have been very...well Spring like! The nights have been drawing in and it did seem weird getting home in the dark at 6.30pm when it was still warm enough to sit outside in a bikini! I felt like I should be walking back from the bus stop horizontal against the freezing wind, to a warm cup of cocoa instead of rushing home to put the air con on.

We’ve been to a couple of lovely open air concerts including The Freo Blues and Roots Festival, where we were volunteers. It was fun, but as we were stuck on the gate putting on wristbands for much of the day, I had to keep skiving off to watch the bands I really wanted to see! That will teach me to be so tight-fisted and not actually pay for a ticket! But it was rather lovely watching Steve Earle and Crosby Stills and Nash with the sun going down – and not a drop of mud in sight. If only Glastonbury could be transposed to Perth – I’d go every year.

In Perth there seems to be dozens of open air cinemas which spring up in the most unlikely places in the Summer/Autumn. The one we went to was on the roof of a multi storey car park and it was quite surreal sitting in deck chairs, watching “Dr Strangelove” with the city lights in the background.

It is now however getting a bit nippy in the mornings and evenings (we had our coldest May temperature for 90 years this week) and I’ve had to dig my winter woolies out of the suitcase. They’d have to dig me up before you’d ever catch me in Ugg boots though.

My vegetable plot is also suffering from the turn of temperature – my water melons are disappointingly small (the bane of my life!), my peppers/capsicums are more like chillies and my leeks are only about the size of spring onions. The only thing that seems to thrive, are cherry tomatoes, and they spread through the garden like weeds. The soil is almost pure sand and while it makes weeding very easy, you have to add loads of manure to it (no shortage of B*** Sh** here thankfully!). I’m beginning to realise why fruit and veg are so expensive in WA. Oh how I miss Sainsbury’s – that Nectar card is burning a hole in my pocket.

It seems an odd thing to be looking forward to, but a shopping spree is top of my list of things to do when I get back in the Summer. After catching up with friends and family of course! Dan and Joe both finish their degrees this year and Dan’s job hunting finally paid off when he was offered a great job for an American Engineering firm based in Reading, which he starts in September.

Joe is enjoying the high life, now he’s rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and in with the “Film and media” set. He’s just won tickets to see Lady Gaga at Twickenham for having the best photo on Twitter of himself and Russell Tovey the actor He even got to hand a glass of champagne to the lovely French actress Catherine Deneuve the other week and received an award at Uni from renowned writer Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Launderette, Buddha of Suburbia). He’ll go far that boy! I miss them both like hell and can’t wait to see them again after 12 long months. Will have a lot of mother/son bonding to do – so have started saving up now.

They managed to forget both Mother’s Days (celebrated in May here, March in the UK) – but all the “mums” in the family were treated to a lovely lunch at Mark’s sister’s. We were even joined at the table by their pet sheep (thankfully she wasn’t serving lamb) – not something you see every day!

So until July, when I’ll be “zipping up my (Ugg) boots, and going back to my roots” for some warm weather (ever hopeful), warm beer and hopefully a warm welcome from kith and kin (and maybe even some gold medals?), it’s “Gooday” from this jillaroo.

Skippy comes to town

Skippy comes to town


Bon Iver Concert - Perth Hills

Bon Iver Concert - Perth Hills


The Amazing Technicoloured Council Building

The Amazing Technicoloured Council Building


Rooftop Movies

Rooftop Movies


Where's the mint sauce?

Where's the mint sauce?


The Amazing Technicoloured Council Building

The Amazing Technicoloured Council Building


Scarborough Beach (Aussie style)

Scarborough Beach (Aussie style)


I'm feeling a little horse

I'm feeling a little horse


My First Aussie Rules Game

My First Aussie Rules Game


Cottesloe Beach Art

Cottesloe Beach Art


A screw on the beach

A screw on the beach


Cottesloe Beach Art

Cottesloe Beach Art


Cottesloe Beach Art

Cottesloe Beach Art


Cycling Along the Swan River

Cycling Along the Swan River


Egret on the banks of the Swan

Egret on the banks of the Swan


View of Perth

View of Perth


Sunday Lunch at the OK Coral

Sunday Lunch at the OK Coral

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Life's A Beach

The months have flown by since my return from Bali, and the lack of blogs may have had some of you wondering if the Great White which has been dining off local swimmers, finally fancied a vegetarian side dish.

I'm pleased to say that I’m still alive and kicking with all limbs intact (although it was touch and go over the New Year, when I succumbed to Australian flu and was crook as a pack of dingoes). I must admit that I have been reluctant to swim in the sea – but always send Mark in ahead of me when the heat’s gotten too much. We’re now in the midst of one of Perth’s "wettest and coolest" summers apparently. I’m sorry, but the Aussies CANNOT appreciate the meaning of “wet and cool summer” unless they’ve spent a miserable August Bank Holiday weekend at a British seaside resort. A few hours of rain occasionally, the odd stiff breeze (“cyclone”, my arse!) and temperatures plummeting into the mid 30s (with lows at night of 25!) still seems pretty tropical to me.

I still get confused by Christmas being in the middle of summer, and hearing carols being played in shops when the weather is scorching outside just seems plain odd. Being a bit of a Grinch anyway, I found it difficult to get into the Yuletide spirit. Forsaking Bing for the Beach Boys on my iPod, I managed to get through it and enjoyed Christmas Eve with the rellies (thankfully not a turkey, Christmas pud or brussel sprout in sight).

My much anticipated “Christmas Day on the beach” was a slight disappointment. To be honest it just felt like any other day at the beach, except the place was full of drunken backpackers wearing Santa hats. To make matters worse, Mark had bought us a sun shelter that was supposed to be erected in seconds. With the “Fremantle Doctor” blowing in, we struggled on but the shelter seemed to be modelled on the Sydney Opera House, or maybe we were doing something wrong? Sensing that Mark was getting as cross as a frog in a sock with the whole thing, even the Irish offered to lend a hand. Two tonnes of tarmac were not going to tie that kangaroo down, so we gave up and I plied him with stubbies for the next hour to calm him down. Drinking alcohol is highly illegal on the beach apparently (and most other places here) but luckily the liquor police were turning a blind eye (or maybe they were blind drunk), so we managed to get away with a few “quieties” to celebrate December 25th.

With Christmas thankfully out of the way, we popped over to Mark’s mate Murray’s on Boxing Day. He’s found himself an Essex Girl too – although Karen from Canvey has been out here some 30 odd years. Karen had some words of advice for her fellow Essex-ite – she felt I was hanging on to the old country too much and wondered if I was fully committed to life here. Hmmm.... Just because I’d downloaded the entire BBC Christmas Schedule and reminisced about shopping at Sainsbury’s. I hid the bottle of Daddies Sauce I’d brought for the bar-be.

The year got off to a bad start when I came down with a severe bout of Aussie flu. I don’t know what it is about this place, but everything is “extreme”. You don’t just get the sniffles for a few days, this flu hits you like a road train, and I gradually got worse and worse until New Year’s Eve I finally collapsed and was bed-bound for the rest of the week with a hacking cough and a throat as sore and dry as a dead dingo’s donger. I must admit to feeling a bit sorry for myself watching the Sydney, and then the London firework displays (sorry Sydney, London was the bo**ocks this year) on You Tube from my sick bed with a glass of Aspro Clear. We did manage to catch the Australia Day Fireworks over the Indian Ocean in Fremantle a few weeks ago though, which were excellent but totally overshadowed by the amazing lightning storm hovering over Perth.

The past few months have been devoted almost full-time to my visa application, which by the end was reaching epic proportions, and I feared that I might have to hire a “ute” to deliver it to the immigration office. I’d gone through 2 reams of A4 and a small fortune in ink cartridges, spent hours on the net researching the kind of things they look for, read hundreds of tales of triumph and woe from fellow applicants. I’d passed my medical and got my UK Police Clearance (the bribes had paid off) and I was slowly driving myself to distraction and defeat (especially when I called to make the appointment and was advised the current waiting list was 12 months long!) I did try to convince Mark that a Thai bride would be much cheaper (not to mention a better cook and ping pong player), but he seems to think I’m worth it.

When we finally presented it, the immigration officer seemed impressed and hinted that if everything was complete and in order, “just occasionally” they issued the visa straight away. Imagine my surprise and delight when just 8 days later, my grant arrived through the post. I was now “legal” and can work and travel as much as I like for the next 2 years until I become a “permanent resident”.

I can then also apply for citizenship, when I’ll presumably have to prove I can down a dozen tinnies in an “arvo” (afternoon), swear like a docker and forget all the rules of road etiquette. I’ll then be issued with my regulation “high vis” tank top and Fosters stubbie holder.

I’ve already been making my mark in the local community, being interviewed by the Kelmscott Examiner about the Writers Group I hoped to attend but ended up running, for the Arts Centre. Desperate for a bit of culture, I’ve also joined a book club and a Social group that organises theatre/music/film outings. In fact this month Perth hosts an International Arts Festival with some interesting events including a big red ball being squashed between the buildings, and two tonnes of feathers cascading over the city...

My job hunt was refreshingly short and sweet, with 3 interviews in 10 days and 3 good offers in the bag. I don’t think the word “unemployment” is in the dictionary here. Spoilt for choice, I’ve decided to gain some corporate travel experience, and start with American Express on Monday. Based in the city, I’ll be working on the Rio Tinto mining account, arranging travel for their VIP staff out of Singapore. The 50 minute bus journey should be a breeze after my long commutes into London, although I will miss those cold wet mornings, squeezing onto the tube at Stratford...not.

So it’s “hooroo” to the Housewife Superstar and “g’day” to the working Sheila. I may now even be able to treat myself to the odd banana or avocado. Woo hoo!

Where's The Turkey???

Where's The Turkey???


Convalescing Aussie Style

Convalescing Aussie Style


Skyshow over Freo

Skyshow over Freo


My new workplace

My new workplace


Biker Chick

Biker Chick


How big this place really is!

How big this place really is!


Poor Skippy

Poor Skippy


Views over Denmark, WA

Views over Denmark, WA


Cycling the Bush

Cycling the Bush


Deadly tiger snake

Deadly tiger snake


Baby Monitor Lizard, Denmark WA

Baby Monitor Lizard, Denmark WA


Partial Eclipse of the Moon - Denmark, WA

Partial Eclipse of the Moon - Denmark, WA


"Twenty Eights" Australian Ring Neck Parrots

"Twenty Eights" Australian Ring Neck Parrots


Oi!  Where's mine?

Oi! Where's mine?


Our grevillea bush

Our grevillea bush


Trek to Lesmurdie Falls

Trek to Lesmurdie Falls


Trek to Lesmurdie Falls

Trek to Lesmurdie Falls


View of Perth from the hills

View of Perth from the hills


Blackboy - Lesmurdie Falls National Park

Blackboy - Lesmurdie Falls National Park


Bluetongue - Lesmurdie Falls National Park

Bluetongue - Lesmurdie Falls National Park


Weird Landscape - Lesmurdie Falls National Park

Weird Landscape - Lesmurdie Falls National Park


Wildflower - Lesmurdie Falls National Park

Wildflower - Lesmurdie Falls National Park


Jacaranda Tree in full bloom

Jacaranda Tree in full bloom

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Bali, Hi!

Thanks to the constraints of the great Australian Immigration system, 3 months after arriving in Perth, I found myself facing the dilemma of spending several hundred dollars on trying to extend my tourist visa....or hopping over to Bali for a few days. After much deliberation, and a 3 and a half hour flight (bear in mind it takes over 5 hours to fly to Sydney!), here I am soaking up the sunshine by the pool of my surprisingly nice boutique hotel, just outside of Kuta.

I had surpassed myself by bagging a bargain on the net, at £25 a night including full breakfast (served in my room, until 11am – now that's civilised), Balinese coffee on tap and complimentary wifi. For the price, it was certainly a step up from a Travelodge and a whole set of extendable ladders up from some of the hostels I’ve stayed in. In fact it is significantly cheaper than living in Perth, I get to lie in whenever I want, watch the BBC to my heart’s content and someone else makes the bed. And....I probably don’t need a visa.

The fact that it’s actually an hour by taxi or a very long and dangerous walk to the nearest beach, is a minor inconvenience in my books. I’d made my mind up after my first afternoon here, that I’d seen quite enough of the Kuta/Legian area anyway and decided that there must be more Australians here than in bloody Australia! I’d had some pre-conceptions of Bali, being the closest and by far the cheapest holiday destination from WA and pictured a kind of Ozzie version of Benidorm. The streets would be filled with gangs of drunken Antipodeans staggering along in their Aussie Rules vests, far-too-short shorts and "kiss me down under" hats, clutching their tinnies in one hand and their Sheila (or scantily dressed Balinese bint) in the other, looking for the cheapest place offering “Tucker Like Ma Used To Make”. This wasn’t helped by the fact that everyone I mentioned my trip to, immediately advised me “don’t buy any drugs”, as if that was the only reason anyone ever went there. In fact, I was offered everything from kites to condoms (????) whilst walking down the street, but thankfully no cocaine.

My first impressions as I walked along the intermittent pavement and played “chicken” with about a million scooters as I tried to cross the main intersection on the way to the beach, was that it reminded me a bit of Vietnam or Cambodia. The walk to the beach would have probably only taken the 20 mins it boasted on the hotel’s website, if you didn’t have to keep jumping over open drain holes or dodging speeding scooters riding towards you along the bits of pavement that did exist. The profusion of bars and cheap souvenir shops selling T-shirts with a variety of slogans that were obviously hilarious to Australians, told me that getting to the beach in one piece was becoming an ever- increasing probability.

After visiting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world on my trip, to say that Legian beach was a disappointment was like saying that Australia is the cultural centre of the world. Full of hawkers and sun worshippers bored of trying to get a melanoma on home turf, a 15 minute stroll and a quick stubbie (OMG...I’m turning Ozzie) was a enough for my first day. By now my new “thongs” were chaffing (now, you know what I mean) and the walk back was out of the question so I jumped into the back of a taxi to return to the hotel. And that’s where I sat for the next 30 minutes until I came to the conclusion that there were better and cheaper places I could watch the world go by whilst having a sauna. My blisters had sisters by the time I returned to my little haven of peace, vowing not to venture out of the hotel again until my flight back to Perth. I’ve come to the conclusion that the road system around Kuta must have been designed by a drunken, dyslexic snail, being very windey and one-way for about 10 miles parallel to the beach with absolutely no side roads to escape down.

My spirits were rallied by a message from my friend Lydia (who I worked with in London and who now worked out of Hong Kong) and who just happened to be visiting Bali with some girlfriends. Her invite of cocktails at a trendy club on the beachfront at the much more upmarket resort of Seminyak, was just what the therapist ordered, so I put on my glad rags and gave the Balinese taxi service one more chance.

The strangely named “Potatohead” was certainly in a stunning location, set amongst lush green lawns and palm trees and with huge double loungers to pass out on, was certainly like no other club I’d been too (other than in my fantasies of being a Bond girl, but we won’t go into that). After an hour sitting at the bar hoping soaking up the atmosphere, Lydia arrived and we had a great re-union. A couple of beers and a natter later (I couldn’t afford a cocktail), I left the young 'uns to it.

Mark had treated me to a day’s diving as a belated birthday present (I’m not quite sure if this had anything to do with the fact that he insisted I add him to my will before I went), so I had an early start the next morning. The best dive site on the island was apparently the USS Liberty, a former US munitions ship that had been torpedoed by the Japs. After being dumped on the beach on the east coast of Bali, it was scuppered once again by the 1963 volcanic eruption and found itself flung a few hundred yards off shore and has since became the home of millions of tropical fish and a whole heap of coral. So after a bumpy, but scenic 2 hour drive me and my fellow subterraneans (including a girl from Bishops Stortford, would you believe!) togged up for a fantastic day’s diving. The corals and sea life were amazing – almost as good as the Red Sea. We saw barracuda, white-tipped sharks and garden eels...and even found Nemo (he’d been working undercover for the “prawn” squad).

All the exertion had piqued my appetite and that evening I dodged the traffic to visit the Indian Restaurant I had noticed when I arrived. Sadly it didn’t do much to change my impression that it’s hard to find a decent curry south of Brighton. The following day I had planned to meet up again with Lydia and also Lisa (another ex-colleague, who had made her home in Bali and worked remotely from there). After a great girly gathering and chin wag, I decided to hit the shops. Everyone had told me how cheap Bali was and I was hoping to pick up a few fake designer togs. I think the Fashion Police had been to town, but I did manage to find a nice bikini and spent several million rupiahs on a “designer” watch for Mark (to make up for having survived the diving expedition).

After a quick dip in the lovely pool back at the hotel, I nipped out for a quick pizza. I should have known better, after all I was in Bali, not Bari and sadly it lived up to my low expectations, and the pizza was almost as greasy as the manager, who tried to chat me up with promises of free garlic bread. I beat a hasty retreat back to my lovely air-conned room for an early night in preparation for my final day.

Whilst researching dive operators, I’d come across a company offering eco cycling tours in the interior of the island. Attracted by the fact that the 25km tour was totally downhill and miles away from the busy, traffic ridden resorts, with lunch as a reward at the end, I’d saved this as my final day treat. We were taken for breakfast overlooking an active volcano, Mt. Batur and its crater lake, enjoying the most stunning views in Bali. We then set off towards Ubud, stopping first to take photos of the spectacular rice terraces and had a coffee tasting at a typical Balinese Plantation. Starbucks eat your heart out – I never realized that there were so many different types of coffee and tea – and not a skinny latte in sight. Here it was explained that one of the rarest and most expensive varieties of coffee was “Luwak” – why so expensive, I hear you ask. It’s made from the beans of coffee berries that have been eaten and then poo-ed out by a small marsupial called a Luwak or civet. At upwards of $150 a pound I imagined hoards of farm workers manically running around the countryside, pooper-scoopers in hand trying to find the elusive turds. But sadly there are very few “free-range” luwaks around, and most are now kept in large cages – there’s progress for you. Bet that’s put you off your cappuccino!

On a caffeine high, we continued around the gardens, sampling spices and tropical fruits, and in my case almost walking into a gigantic spider’s web, along with it’s striking black and white (but thankfully not man-eating) inhabitant. I nearly invented a new brand of coffee!

Onwards and upwards through stunning countryside, until we reached the Ubud area, regarded as the cultural centre of Bali. This is where I’d come back to on a return visit to Bali (and if possible blag a few free nights at one of the stunning exclusive luxury resorts I used to sell here). We soon saddled up and were off on our bikes through lush forests and plantations, stopping at small traditional homesteads and being waved at by sweet little school kids (well I think they were waving). Almost every day is a festival in the Balinese calendar, so we witnessed a couple of small processions and events being held at temples as we passed through (we did get a few stares – perhaps they thought we were “meals on wheels”?). We even got to help out with the harvesting in a paddy field – and I finally found out how rice is produced – fascinating (if only they could make decent curry to go with it).

After an extremely pleasant few hours sailing through the Balinese countryside, we finally reached the end of the road (or the bottom of the hill) and were offered the option of a few kms of uphill cycling for those still feeling energetic. The effects of the coffee must have worn off as they didn’t have any volunteers, so we continued on to our final destination to have a delicious Indonesian lunch (with lots of veggie options for me). And all this for around £25 – must be one of the best value and most enjoyable tours I’ve ever been on.

Headed back to the hotel in time for a final beer by the pool before braving the traffic on the way to the airport for my flight to Perth, and my turn to get Mark out of bed at 4am. So all in all, a brief but interesting few days, and certainly somewhere I’d like to see more off – along with the surrounding islands of Lombok and the Gilis. And bought myself another 3 months hard labour (applying for my visa certainly feels like it) in Australia at the same time.

The Legian Guest House

The Legian Guest House


Seminyak Sunset

Seminyak Sunset


Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited


USS Liberty

USS Liberty


My breakfast vista

My breakfast vista


My Near Miss....

My Near Miss....


Getting into a paddi

Getting into a paddi


Beautiful Bali

Beautiful Bali


Lounging with Lydia at Ku Te Da

Lounging with Lydia at Ku Te Da


Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach


I'd finally been consigned to Room 101!

I'd finally been consigned to Room 101!


Top Shop Bali Stylee

Top Shop Bali Stylee


The School Run

The School Run


Stop following me!

Stop following me!


The new coffee flavoured Maltesers??

The new coffee flavoured Maltesers??


Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach


Bali Tree Top

Bali Tree Top


Ducking out of the sun

Ducking out of the sun


Huge Banyan Tree

Huge Banyan Tree

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Going Down Under

. Hello Possums!

Most of you by now will probably be well aware of the tumultuous events of my life over the past few months and know the reason why I am currently living in Perth, Western Australia. For those who have missed out on the catch up e-mails, Facebook updates, Skype calls, etc. here's an edited "omnibus" edition of my life since I returned to Oz:

Escorted back to the land of red dust (and wind and rain) in the middle of winter (early August) by my Aussie bloke. I think I must finally be getting used to all this jet setting – the 23 hour journey was a breeze.

Luckily we both had time to recover as we arrived back to the good news that Mark didn’t really have a job. A new boss combined with the fact that tourism had taken a downturn because of the strong Australian Dollar, meant that the demand for tour guides was pretty low. However, within days his highly efficient PA/Secretary/Agent/DEPENDANT managed to get him a couple of interviews. The first was for a Tour Guide/Driver for a Dolphin Swim Experience company just south of Perth. I was slightly worried that the interview may have consisted of candidates being sent out to look for dolphins in shark infested waters, and the one who makes it back with the most limbs intact, gets the job. Luckily he found a much safer option before it came to that stage.

He decided to take up a position for a local charter bus company where he started out doing the school run for the local Islamic College. I was understandably worried about how long this job was going to last, and even went out with him on his first run (in my headscarf) to try to stop him from swearing too much, and eating his bacon sandwich in front of them (it was right in the middle of Ramadan).

He now works at the local hospital transporting the doctors and nurses around and although he finds it a bit boring compared to tour guiding, we need the money (especially to support my wine habit, which has become incredibly expensive out here at $12 (£8) a bottle) – and they make the stuff! I’m beginning to wonder if Sainsbury’s do home deliveries to Perth.

As for me, well after initially enjoying the luxury of being able to sleep late and do nothing much apart from be a “housewife” again (a very strange feeling after so many years – especially with no kids to deal with), I needed to find a purpose.

To stop myself going stir crazy, and unable to legally work, I started looking into voluntary placements and soon found a job helping out 2 days a week at a local arts centre. It is run by David, a very characteristic and funny art critic, originally from Hull. They needed help with the admin, fundraising and gardening (the centre was an old weatherboard bungalow, with a very pretty garden and some studio space) - and it seemed quirky enough to appeal to me.

My first duties were to assist with setting up the debut exhibition of a young South African artist. There can’t be many people who can say they’ve spent the afternoon “hanging” Nelson Mandela, and I now know the difference between a picture hook and a nail. I was made head of catering for the actual opening (it soon became obvious that my knowledge of wine was greater than my knowledge of art) – and a good time was had by all. I may even be able to indulge my own “aristic” vent by starting up a “writers group” at the centre in the future... who knows.

I also started the lengthy process of putting my Partner visa application together and soon realised that it would be easier to enter the country as a “boat person”. They make you jump through so many hoops – I have to get a police check from the UK (is it still a requirement to have a criminal record to enter Australia???) and I have to list all the countries I have visited and the exact dates in the last 10 years! They’re having a laugh – might be easier to list the countries that I haven’t been to. By all accounts once you apply it can take from 2 – 9 months to be granted so I don’t think I’m going to be able to work much before the New Year at the earliest. In the meanwhile, I do have to leave the country at the end of October for a brief trip over to Bali (it’s tough, I know, but it has to be done) to renew my tourist visa. I plan on visiting my friend Lisa (who I worked with at Ten and who lives in Kuta), maybe book myself on the “Temples, Tequila and Terrorist Sites” tour, whilst making a start on this year’s tan and sipping cheap cocktails by the pool. I’m actually quite looking forward to a change of scenery – it’ll feel like I’m backpacking again. I may even stay in a hostel, for old times’ sake.

So, in between my days delving into the art world, chauffeuring Mark to work at 4.30am, gardening, shopping, cooking (I’m becoming quite the Domestic Godess), the days are actually passing quite quickly. I’ve joined the local gym (where they have an over 50’s club – and I’m horrified that I’m nowqualified to join it) and go to Pilates classes at the wonderful home of our Sinaporean teacher up in the hills where we sit on her verandah after class each week having coffee.

I also try to keep myself fit by cycling to the local shops (so that Mark can drive the car to work and I don’t have to get up at an unsociable hour) and must be quite a sight wobbling home with several bags of groceries balanced on the handlebars. Speaking of groceries, I never thought I’d be complaining about the price of bananas – but £1 each! And they’re tiny! There’s only so much you can blame on floods that happened 2 years ago.... So they’re a real luxury – as are avocados and leeks. I’ve just started growing my own veggies and if all goes well, I might set up a stall at the side of the road (and call it something creative like “Pomme” de Terre).

After a coolish (especially in the mornings and evenings) start, the weather here is finally getting warmer. Another week or so before it will become too hot, and the flies start to drive me mad. On the bright side, at least we’ve managed to turn the pool back from green slime to sparkling blue. I feel that I could write a book on the finer arts of swimming pool maintenance and am an expert on the advantages of a salt purifier over a chlorine filter and how much hydrochloric acid is required to keep the pool hygienic without burning all your skin off. So when the pool filter split and the pool quickly became a swamp full of what I thought were tadpoles, but which turned out to be midges, I had no compunction in committing mass genocide and will probably be brought up before a mosquito “Hague” in another life. So we now have a nice blue pool again (probably the same shade of blue I’d turn if I actually braved swimming in it at the moment).

I do miss my friends and family and although I manage to Skype the boys when I catch them on-line, it’s really not quite the same. We’re planning on coming back to the UK for a couple of months next summer though, so I hope I’ll not be lured back by the booming economy, the Olympics and the tropical climate...or the cheap bananas!

At least by then the boys will both have (hopefully) finished their degrees, and finally be financially independent. In fact, by then Dan should be a millionaire – he’s working on his thesis for a San Diego company researching “Fabric Re-enforced Mortar”. Now if he could develop “mortar re-enforced fabric” I think he would have much greater success in the US clothing industry (or if that fails, a promising career with Al Queda!).

I’m not sure that Joe’s decided on his thesis at the moment (he’s been sidetracked by his application to become the Queen’s new butler – don’t ask!). If only he could discover the cure for the common hangover, I could retire happily and he could become the International Socialite he aspires to.

Anyhow, until the next instalment of a “Pomme in Perth” (from our Balinese correspondent), I’ll say “good’ay” for now.

Winter in Perth - Mundaring Weir

Winter in Perth - Mundaring Weir


Birthday Flowers

Birthday Flowers


Victoria Park Arts Centre - My workplace

Victoria Park Arts Centre - My workplace


Perth as I see it when I take Mark to work!

Perth as I see it when I take Mark to work!


Oooh...so inviting

Oooh...so inviting


Weir - is the water????

Weir - is the water????


Lesmurdie Falls (our local falls)

Lesmurdie Falls (our local falls)


With Mark's mum in Dwellingup

With Mark's mum in Dwellingup


The Birthday Boy (with Simon our housemate)

The Birthday Boy (with Simon our housemate)


Our lovely gum tree

Our lovely gum tree


Queuing up to become shark tucker

Queuing up to become shark tucker

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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