Fernvale and Brisvegas.

At the last minute before I was due to fly to Brisbane, I had the crazy but awesome idea of spending the last week of my garden leave in India. However, in order to do that I would need a visa … which meant a rush to the visa office in Sydney city before my flight at noon. For some reason, I don’t seem to like my life to be simple. However, my plans were quickly thwarted when I was told it would take up to two weeks to arrive because of my Australian working visa, so that was the end of that – time to find an alternative.

As a consequence, I was left with plenty of time on my hands at the airport – the domestic terminal doesn’t offer an amazing array of shops, the wireless is pretty rubbish, and it was far too early to even think about visiting the bar that Andrea and I usually end up in before flying … wasn’t it? I behaved myself for once and went for the Boost juice instead.

Finally, I was en route and in no time, touching down in Brisbane. Yolly met me at the gate – I love being met at airports! Far too many times when travelling for work, it’s a lonely, tired arrival, and it’s so good to see a friendly face at the end of a journey.

The girls were at Bush Kids – Yolly said that Mya had told everybody that morning that “Auntie Jo” would be there to pick her up with her mum! Despite the fact that I’m not really her auntie … I like it though :)

We picked the girls up, packed them in the car, and headed home. As we got out of the car, Mya volunteered to take my case in for me – even though it’s almost as big as she is. She wants so much to do everything that big girls can.

"I tan take this for you"

We headed out for a long walk, stopping by the supermarket on the way home. It was fairly warm when we left but as the sun started to go down the temperature dropped really quickly, we were all pretty cold when we got home. The roads are hilly and I was having trouble keeping up with Yolly, even though she was pushing the huge double buggy with the girls in it.

Back home I got to help bath the girls and put them to bed, they look gorgeous all clean and in pyjamas! It doesn’t last very long though :)

With them in bed I had a bit of time to adjust and figure out my holiday plans, India was out, but I could have a few days in Malaysia … no advance visa needed!

Tuesday morning was a bit of a shock to the system: up before 8am and not even a job to go to – what’s that about? Yolly and Casey are incredibly early risers, he leaves for work by 5am. I heard them get up, but just found my ear plugs and went back to sleep :) 7:30 is more than early enough for me!

It was Yolly’s birthday that day, so the phone was going non stop, and she had cards and gifts to open as well. We sat down with the girls, who were more than happy to help with ripping open the parcels.

Opening birthday presents with mum

When the girls went for a sleep at lunchtime, Yolly and I took advantage of the time and made up a little exercise session with circuits. We decided to spend five minutes running up and down her driveway and five minutes on the trampoline – I underestimated how hard it would be trying to run up that hill, it is STEEEEEEEP! Trampolining is pretty hard work as well, although I’m sure I used to do it for an hour at a time when I was a kid …

Ivy on the trampoline

We were almost finished when Ivy decided she’d had enough sleep, but she seemed happy, if slightly bemused, to watch us finish off the last few rounds. Mya was up pretty soon after that, they had a bit of a play on the trampoline, then Yolly showed me the runner beans they were growing. There were a few that were ready, but Mya hasn’t quite got the hang of when to pick them yet, so some of the smaller ones came off the plant too!

Picking runner beans

In the afternoon, the girls made jelly dinosaurs with special moulds – we tried to make two layers with strawberry and lemon jelly, but it took forever to set. Later on, Mya asked for her hair to be put into two plaits – she almost never wants it like this, but it looks so cute! I had to have mine done the same way as well, luckily it’s just long enough now.

Photographer Braban

Just checking how my picture came out

She wanted to try out my digital camera – she got the hang of how to turn it off and on, take photos and look at what she had taken almost immediately, it was amazing. The photos weren’t all that bad either :)

Yolly feeding Ivy (by Mya)

Braids by me, photo by Mya

Hi Mummy! by Mya

Kitchen, by Mya

Me, taken by Mya

Me again, taken by Mya

On Wednesday, we had hoped to do a similar exercise session, but this time we hardly had any time at all before both Mya and Ivy were restless and out of bed. Once again Ivy was pretty easy to amuse – this time with the jelly dinosaurs! They didn’t come out of the moulds very well, sadly, but she didn’t seem to mind – they obviously tasted just as good.


Mya desperately wanted to join in with me and her mum, so first of all she followed us as we ran around the house. The boxing circuits we’d hoped to do were harder … she found the spare pair of gloves and put them on her tiny hands the wrong way around, it was very cute though. I think she’s nailed the kicking technique better than me already …


Thursday, we headed over to visit Steph, baby Xavier, and her older children Phoebe and Zeb. After spending a week or so together at Christmas on Fraser Island, I last saw them in February and it’s amazing how fast they all grow up. Steph and I had a good catch up (aka gossip!) – she was discovering the delights of online shopping, it must be a godsend if you have three kids. Meanwhile, said children were all looking very civilised as they sat at a child-sized table outside, complete with umbrella, eating chocolate cake.

Playing with Phoebe and Zeb

In the evening, Cory, Claire and Casey’s dad Cran came over for dinner. I heard many stories of Cory and Casey growing up together, and they demonstrated that they still do crazy things sometimes by munching on lemons …

Cory wrapped Yolly’s head in kitchen paper as a joke, and she made a mask of it with eye holes. She looked so funny, I wish I’d taken a photo. Poor Mya was very distressed though, especially when she thought her mummy might never take it off … Yolly finally did remove it, and Mya couldn’t stop touching her ears and nose to make sure they weren’t going anywhere.

It was so amazing to spend the few days with Mya and Ivy, whether they were making a mess with their dinner (Ivy is insistent on feeding herself, but often prefers to spill the food when she’s done), zooming around the house in tiny shoes or ramming the walls with little plastic cars. Ivy is so little that every time I see her there are big changes. This time, she was starting to look like a little girl instead of a baby, walking all over the house and she even says a few words – like “Bai” (that’s how she says it, not “bye”) and something that’s starting to sound like please and thank you. I think it’ll be September at least before I see them again (I’ve got a busy summer with a VERY special event coming up in August!) and no doubt she’ll be chattering away and running about by then.

By Friday though, I was exhausted! I have no idea how Yolly does it, but she seems to have a never ending supply of patience to deal with the girls.

We headed into Brisbane around lunch time and met up with Claudia in the mall for a bite to eat before she went back to work for the afternoon. We wandered over to the Botanic Gardens after that, where the girls could play in the park – Mya got a fright from the huge ugly ibis birds wandering fearlessly around on the grass, they get so close they have to be shooed away.

Finally it was time for Yolly to go, I was going to spend the night with Claudia before heading back to Sydney. I had to make a quick stop to get jabs for my trip to Malaysia, then Clauds and I met outside of her work and walked back to hers – up some bloody steep hills, with my stupidly-heavy-for-five-days suitcase!

Out for the night with Clauds

We headed out for the evening for dinner with her friends. It was my first ever night out in Brisbane! The restaurant was really good, the chef was the boyfriend of one of the girls we were out with. We had more wine than we meant to but it was a really lovely night out with a great group of girls. They had an empty picture frame on the wall for some reason, we decided to take some daft photos with it, until we got told to please put it back … whoops!

We've been framed!

Saturday morning, we actually managed to make it out to Boot Camp for 7am with another friend called Angie. I was so pleased with myself! I’m not sure if I’d have made it if it wasn’t for Clauds though, I was snoozing in bed at ten to six thinking, please oh please say you don’t want to go after all. We all felt so good afterwards! Clauds took us around the corner to a fantastic place for brekkie – it was practically hidden, luckily for us she had found it a few weeks earlier. I can’t remember the name of what I had to eat, but it had sourdough, avocado, poached eggs, lemon and fetta cheese and I hoovered it up in a couple of mouthfuls.

The food was amazing, but it wasn’t very warm and we were all cold in our still sweaty exercise clothes. We headed home, where I managed to use all the hot water in a totally amazing shower (sorry Clauds!).

Afterwards, Clauds did my make up for me in preparation for my night out. I asked for dramatic eyes with green eye make up to match the top I was planning to wear, the only problem was, I had to go all the way home with it on – wearing my jeans and trainers! It looked good though :)

Getting my makeup done by Clauds

The best part of the day was still to come though! Claudia’s flatmate Susie and her friend Monica were heading out to the races for the day, and we were all going for a champagne brunch beforehand! I felt very spoilt having two breakfasts in one day, but why not, I’d earned it … so I decided to have the sweet option this time around, and ordered a mountain of pancakes with berries, maple syrup and ice cream. And champagne and orange juice. It was so naughty, but oh so bloody good … Clauds finished the last few bites that I couldn’t quite manage.

Yummy second breakfast

Susie and Monica were dressed up to the nines and looked amazing, with fascinators and high heels – I did feel a bit of a slob in my jeans and converse drinking champagne before noon but it was amazing fun.

Finally, it was back to the airport, plane-train-ferry-bus home and a quick change before heading out to the next party in Manly … :)

A big change.

I think my feet first started itching in early February, but they had been tingling for a long time. After nearly four years working for ThoughtWorks, the time had come to make a change.

The last time I started looking for a new company to work for, I wanted to get out and work across a range of different projects and companies. I wanted to see how things were done in different environments and work with people who truly believed in Agile software development. In every interview at ThoughtWorks, I was asked if I minded travelling, told that this was a key part of the job. I had no ties, no reason to stay in one place, and although it sent butterflies through me, I was excited at the prospects. Before I even started, Heather called me to tell me that my first project would be in Dublin, and those butterflies went mental.

Nearly four years on, I’ve spent time working in Dublin, Manchester, Berlin, Edinburgh, Sydney and many parts of London – around the corner from Borough Market, within walking distance of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and in the heart of the west end. I’ve had some incredible opportunites and I’ve made the most of them all – and the memories are all over my Facebook timeline (am I the only person who actually likes it?). Most of all, I feel like I achieved the goal I started out with.

Somewhere along the way, I decided to switch from doing business analysis back to writing code. It was the hardest career move I’ve made – at least starting out as a developer after university with very little experience, people had much lower expectations. ThoughtWorks helped me get there though, and I haven’t looked back since.

But goals shift, and always being the outsider on a client site eventually wore me down. I missed being part of a team, I missed seeing and working directly with my own ThoughtWorks colleagues every day, and now I want to spend more time writing code and get really, really good at it. I never quite managed to get used to the uncertainty that goes with consulting, of “where will I end up next and what will it be like”. My poor mum, she had to listen to me worrying about the next unknown project time after time.

So eventually, I started to take notice of my itchy feet and look around. I knew I wanted to stay in Sydney, and I also knew there was a very specific kind of company I wanted to work for – one with a culture with many things in common with ThoughtWorks (as I described it to Steve Gilles “the kind of company that keeps beer in the fridge in the kitchen”), where I could do hands on coding, work with really smart people … and one that would sponsor my working visa. I was really lucky that I already knew a company that would fit that bill, and they were recruiting: Atlassian.

Three months, seven interviews, a whole heap of stress and a brand new visa later … and I am almost ready to start next week!

As a bonus, I wasn’t assigned to a project when I resigned, so for the first time in my life I had “Garden Leave”. I haven’t spent much time in the garden though.

On my last day at ThoughtWorks, those three empty weeks loomed ahead of me like a big void. I had some ideas of how I would fill them: I booked a trip to see Yolly and Claudia, I wanted to finish Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, read some technical books, lots of exercise, cooking nice food, maybe blog a little.

It didn’t take long to get used to getting up after nine am and catching up on TV (MasterChef Australia started just in time …)

I did make it Brisbane though, and I also managed to do quite a bit of exercise, including some circuit sessions on the beach and meeting Viviana for a bit of boxing with an ocean view! But I have to admit that most of my other lofty ambitions went out of the window fairly fast. It only took a couple of days for my brain to switch off completely and go into holiday mode, and I didn’t fight it. I’m hopeful that I will feel very refreshed next week.

With just one week left to go, I’m heading off to Malaysia for a pretty special trip tomorrow, before I have to get my brain back in to work mode next Tuesday. Hopefully, I’ll have enough time before that to write a quick post about the time I spent with the girls in Brissie.

Wish me luck :)