Last days

Wednesday: my last day at Atlassian.

Since the news of my departure became public, I’ve been really surprised at how many people have said that I’ll be missed, and commented on the impact I’ve made. I mean, of course, I know I’m awesome ;) but it’s come as a really pleasant surprise to hear from others that I will be missed. Maybe it’s part of a big guilt trip conspiracy?

My last day was a mix of feelings. I’m sad at leaving behind a place that I wouldn’t have chosen to move on from yet, but I’m excited – and a little anxious – about the future and the unknowns that await me there.

In this final Sprint, my team had decided to try not having stand ups, but there was one scheduled for my final day. I was a little suspicious – in fact, I had wondered if they would do something to my desk on my last day, like wrapping it in tin foil or something. I was relieved to arrive and everything was as it should be.

At 9:45 the team gathered, and I was trying to compose an update – why is it that in those few minutes of walking to the stand up, I always forget what I’ve been working on? Luckily this time, I didn’t need to, to my surprise, the team presented me with a gift: a beautiful Wedgewood teapot! I wasn’t really expecting anything (well, maybe some jelly beans!) and I was impressed that a team of guys could choose something that suited me so well and was really pretty. It was so well packed I didn’t want to take it out before it got to Melbourne so I haven’t tried it yet, but I can’t wait to find a shelf or somewhere to put it out in the new place.


As the day went on, other people stopped by my desk to chat, and I made slow progress on my final work trying to complete an upgrade task. After lunch, a last packet of jelly beans from the lolly bar, and a final check in, I was done. My team lead presented me with a card (so many signatures, I was pretty blown away), I packed up my things, returned my swipe cards and signed out of HipChat: “BAAAAAIIIIIII!”

Leaving was strange, I don’t know what I expected. As I walked to the ferry, I hoped that the upgrade task I’d been working on would finally get through QA, and it was weird to think that there was nothing else I could, or would, do to make it happen now.

Thursday: my last day in Manly.

All week, I’d been saying that if I could go back, I’d have finished work last Friday and had a week off. Today, I was glad that I didn’t, because I really wouldn’t have known what to do with myself.

I spent the morning finishing off the packing, labelling the boxes and tidying up. There isn’t that much left to do, except to stand in front of the stack of boxes, sigh, and wonder where we’re going to put it all. I think that if I’d had a week off to do that, I’d have driven myself insane.

I headed to the beach at lunchtime, and wandered along the Steyne, paddling in the shallow water. It was a little too cold for me to go for a dip – there were loads of people in the water, but I’m just a big wuss when it comes to the cold, I’ll leave them to it. It was nice to just get my feet wet and sandy.

By the surf club, I got a cup of tea – no fridge in our apartment, so no tea for me there – and sat on the beach, drinking my tea and reading my kindle. It was lovely and sunny, warm, comfortable, except for the sand blowing across me.

I met Andrea for lunch in Jellyfish, salt and pepper squid with aioli, yum! And wine, double yum! I had promised myself that on my last day in Manly, I would buy a picture from Saltmotion, a lovely photo gallery that specialises in pictures of Manly beach and waves, so after lunch we headed over – I’d already picked out two that I wanted! The first was a beautiful underwater shot with blue tones that would look amazing in our bedroom, and the other one was a sunrise shot across to Shelly beach, that would remind me of Manly from the new apartment.

Back home with the post-shopping glow, I sat out in the garden reading but it was so hard to relax. In the end I went back into town and found a new “Manly beach” keyring (my old one was rusty!) … and a half bottle of Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay, well that’ll keep me going in the garden for the rest of the afternoon …

By the time Silvio got home, it was too cold to sit outside, but the blogs were almost done – result :) we packed what we could of the things that were left, and headed out for a meaty dinner at Ribs and Rumps …

And that was it, my last day and night in Manly, for a few months anyway. I’ll be back for a visit before too long, providing Andrea will have me to stay! ;) I’m now sitting in the wharf bar on Friday afternoon, whiling away the last hour or so with a glass of white wine. Today has gone from sunny and warm to windy and cold, so I’m the only person braving the jetty bar for once, but it’s nice to watch the choppy sea across the wharf and hear the light rain spattering across the umbrellas.


Our things are already well on their way, and it won’t be long now until I say farewell to Manly too. It’s been awesome, but now it’s time to find out what the next chapter holds. I can only hope it’s as good as the last one :)

Falls Creek.

It seemed like a long wait for the ThoughtWorks ski trip to Falls Creek (aka ThoughtCarver – although I don’t work for TW anymore, it will be part of my life for a long time yet it seems!). I had been counting down the days since getting back from Kuala Lumpur. After endless Skype calls, with unreliable internet and dubious sound quality resulting in a lot of our conversations being along the lines of “huh? what did you say? I can’t hear you!”, Silvio and I would finally be in the same place, and able to have a normal conversation :) Oh yeah, and I was pretty excited about my first time skiing in Australia too.

I have to admit though, Aussies don’t seem to have a very good opinion of their snow quality – I was led to expect soggy slush, short runs and bad conditions, and I was pleasantly surprised by the skiing in Falls Creek. But I’ll start as usual, at the beginning of the trip, with the journey …

I flew to Melbourne to meet Silvio, where we’d rented a car to drive across Victoria to Falls Creek. I was desperately impatient as the plane began the descent into Melbourne, it had been a long two months, and the taxiing from the runway to the gate seemed to take for-eeeevvvv-a … until finally, the moment of reunion at the gate! We grinned like daft idiots all the way through the airport, but I didn’t care, it was a nice feeling.

It was a pretty long drive from Melbourne, over five hours … and we still had to find snow chains, since it’s a legal requirement in Falls Creek. Thanks to Google and TomTom, we found Ray’s ski shop along the way, and then finally, FINALLY we arrived. It was bloody freezing, and raining! We parked the car in the last available spot in a cold, windy car park and luckily there were parking attendants to drive us back to our apartments, where the rest of the ThoughtCarvers we were sharing with were already cosy in front of a log fire with red wine … didn’t take us long to join in!

Thursday morning the mountain didn’t look particularly inviting. A heavy cloud hung over it, drizzling cold rain on the village streets … we almost gave it a miss, but eventually bundled up in ski gear and braved the low visibility and high winds for a few pretty good runs. My legs were a bit shaky on the first run down, but Silvio was off like a shot, and then on the second run he led the way into the soft, ungroomed snow. Like an idiot, I followed – well, couldn’t really see much else to aim for – but my legs were not quite ready for that! I was a bit all over the place on my skis that first day, but at least the snow wasn’t too slushy or icy, even if we couldn’t see where we were going. The runs were all very short and over too quickly, but the chairlifts were also short so not too cold (except for Scotts Chair, where the wind seemed to blow right through me) and there were no real queues. I pretty quickly discovered that most of the black runs were comparable to hard red runs in Europe, although there were a few with some decent steep slopes and moguls.

Snowy mountains

Thursday night, Silvio had one goal: MEAT! We went to the Falls Creek Country Club which was described on the website as the best place in town for a steak, it was pretty quiet but the steak was good. When we left it was snowing fairly heavily, the roads were white and we left trails of footprints back up the road … this was promising for the skiing conditions the following day!

Friday was definitely better – although there were still times when the clouds closed in, there were also moments of sunny, clear runs. The first two heats of the Age Corporate ski race were held, and many of the ThoughtWorkers were participating – I watched a few, most weren’t too competitive, but some definitely were (coughDuncan). Everybody had to do the course twice, it was fairly short though – I ended up taking Silvio and Alex-no-brakes-Ong’s jackets down the slope for them while they competed (better for speed, apparently, did I mention some people were competitive?), I must have looked a right sight in my own bulky ski gear, with two more jackets tied around me on top!

Sarah finishing in style

Friday night, we all headed out for drinks at Tom Dick and Harry’s. ThoughtWorks had sponsored some pretty cool jackets for all of us, which most people had worn for the drinks, so we were pretty easy to spot as a group. The drinks were put on for the racers, so there were lots of other corporate groups there too – Sarah managed to get talking to a guy from another company who happened to have a tiger suit (wtf?) – she later convinced him to trade it for her ThoughtWorks jacket. I haven’t yet seen proof that the deal went through, although he did wear it (and partly remove it) in the next bar.

Sarah had her eyes on this suit …

The drinks were flowing on Friday and we got steadily more rowdy as we progressed to The Man bar. Andy Tam was particularly good fun that night, until eventually somebody decided to make sure he got home :) We discovered the foosball table, which brought back memories of playing in Berlin with Alex … this time we played against each other, Silvio and I won by a narrow margin (I’m pretty rubbish). Some randoms decided to challenge the winners but I told Alex to take my place, they almost won as well :)

Saturday would be our final day of skiing since we had planned to leave around lunchtime on Sunday, and it was also the second day of the race, with two more heats down a smaller slalom. Silvio had decided to try a new technique that involved bashing down the poles as he skied past them, it was successful in terms of getting him a pretty good time, but less so in that after finishing the second race, he had some pretty nasty bruises on his arms.


As he finished, I was pretty excited, he had almost equalled Julie’s time which was bloody good, she’s done a lot of racing in the past and in fact she beat Duncan that day too, which she didn’t let him forget (I hear there are now two new email aliases at ThoughtWorks now … ibeatduncan and ilosttojulie!). After Silvio raced, he sat down in the snow complaining about his arms being in pain and trying to use the snow to ease the bruises, but I didn’t really clock on how bad it was until the ski patrol arrived (two of them!) They were incredibly efficient, and even offered to take him back down the slope on a stretcher – which I thought was kind of funny, although when one of them pulled up on a skidoo I did think it might have been exciting to get a ride on that :) Eventually they left us with an ice pack after filling in about seventeen forms, and I continued to tease him for the rest of the day for being such a drama queen.

Saturday night, it was back to The Man for food and more drinking … but we sneaked out before the dancing started (sorry, Sarah!) Sunday, I crammed my gear back into my suitcase – I swear, no matter how tidy I am at home, whenever I go away, my suitcase seems to just explode everything out the minute I arrive – and Silvio headed off to the cold, windy car park to get our car. He was gone for ages, and I was wondering how he could possibly have got lost walking up one road … until I saw him walking back, waving his phone at me and asking why I hadn’t answered his (five) calls … must remember to take that thing off of silent sometimes. It turned out that the car wouldn’t start: the battery was flat as a pancake. Nobody else had jump leads, not sure I’d know how to use them safely anyway, but there was roadside assistance man with a truck who headed up the hill to help us. He attached the cables, and the alarm promptly started to go off – but with power restored, once that was disarmed we could at least get the car going again. Apparently it happens quite often :( anyway, we were sorted and heading off to the airport, with a few stops in the city along the way to trade ski gear for work clothes.

Although it was an awesome trip (and expertly organised, thanks Julie and Andy!) and I was sorry to leave the snow behind, it was also pretty good going back … we flew together back to Sydney and spent a couple of days enjoying Manly before Silvio had to head back to Bangalore for his second and final semester as a trainer at ThoughtWorks University.

I think we might have enjoyed Manly even more if I hadn’t forgotten my keys on Monday morning, resulting in two pretty hungry and tired people slouching over the table in the Wharf Bar after work until my new housemate Matthias finally arrived home at 10pm to let us in :( We sat watching the rain sluice across the harbour and worried about the bags we’d left in the porch of the house, which luckily were still dry when we finally made it back!

Quackers made it to Falls Creek – of course!

So on Wednesday morning, not only did I say ciao to Silvio but my friend and housemate Viviana was also heading off on a two month trip to Europe, so I am now missing both of them. Ah well, not long to go now until my own big holiday – heading back to the UK to watch my little brother get married, which I can’t believe has come around already. I will be squeezing in a quick weekend in Singapore on the way though …

Moving Day!

In comparison to the events surrounding my move across Manly, the actual moving in day itself was very unstressful, if tiring. The drama started a few months ago, when Andrea’s flatmate announced that he was going to start looking for a new place. Having been coveting her beautiful view for months, I was really excited!

Having small, furry, rather noisy and sometimes smelly housemates was starting to wear on me, and it wasn’t long before my impatience got the better of me. When Rachel’s room unexpectedly became available, I decided to change my plans and move in to her place in Little Manly. It also comes with a beautiful view, not as amazing as Andrea’s, but from the bedroom itself which is rather nice.

The view from my room

However, Andrea was less than amused! Luckily for me she is also the forgiving kind though, and plus she eventually realised that she’d probably had a lucky escape.

A couple of weeks before the move, I had arranged for the internet to be connected at the new place … sadly, they also cut off the wireless at my old one! Cue a week or so of frustration – it’s amazing how I now feel totally lost without super fast internet at my fingertips wherever I go. Possibly something to do with also wanting to make Skype calls on a regular basis.

Over the next few days, Rachel was away so I stayed in what would be my new room, admiring the view from the bed, and counting down the days until I could move all of my stuff in! I made endless phone calls to the internet company, and unplugged and replugged in every single cable to my modem at least a hundred times until finally they sent a technician. On Friday morning, Vivi and I sat with our laptops and a 3G connection while he took apart the phone socket, discovered the phone line wasn’t connected properly, and promptly sorted it out. We stared and crossed our fingers as the modem light went from flashing red, to blue, and then back to red, until finally it stayed blue. We named our home network magicworks, because at that point in time I think we both believed it!

I went back to my own place for the last two nights, then finally the day arrived! We had a great girls night out on Saturday, with the result that I wasn’t feeling the best on Sunday morning, but I had a long day ahead and there was no time for hangovers. I left the house to get the car, only to return two minutes later having forgotten my glasses. This pretty much set the tone for the day …

First stop, IKEA

My first stop was IKEA: I needed a set of drawers for some extra storage space. I haven’t been to IKEA in ages – I haven’t really done much shopping in ages either, but I had to curb my shopaholic tendencies and stay focussed on just buying what I needed: drawers, and some storage boxes. I left with just $4 worth of impulse purchases, which must be a new record.

Next stop: Harvey Norman to pick up a tumble dryer. I found the shopping centre in Chatswood, found the right floor, went to get out of the car, and couldn’t find my key (GoGet have a really cool system, similar to Street Car in the UK, where I have a credit card sized “key” that locks and unlocks the car – the actual ignition key is secured inside the car). I searched my bag and pockets, but nothing. I was beginning to panic: I couldn’t even leave the car unlocked because it would automatically lock itself after a few minutes, so if I closed it then I wouldn’t be able to get back in. I didn’t understand how I could have dropped it at IKEA … eventually reason set in, and I found it down the far side of the passenger seat. Phew.

Shopping done!

Back on track … dryer collected and loaded into the car, and back to the new place to drop it off. I arrived, and nobody was there, they’d all gone out for breakfast … I managed to drag the heavy boxes out of the car and into the garden on my own, but it’s been a while since I wished that much for a strong man to help me!

Back to Pacific Parade, and the first car load took nearly an hour to load, but most of the big stuff was in. The drive across town took less than ten minutes, but included about twenty sets of traffic lights … luckily I wasn’t really in any hurry, it was still early afternoon. By the time the first lot of cases and stuff had been emptied, I could barely get in to my bedroom (not because I have THAT much stuff, but I didn’t do a great job of arranging it).

First load ready to go

Andrea was also moving stuff the same day, she’d hired a ute to pick up a fridge and some larger furniture from across town, having sourced it on Gumtree (her flatmate was moving out and taking all of his furniture, so she was about to have a pretty empty flat!) We decided to go together to the mall then to drop off her ute, so that she didn’t have to walk home. She was jetlagged, and exhausted … I suddenly realised that I was actually pretty tired already too, and I still had another car load to go, and furniture to build!

The car all stacked up for the final run

We made it to the mall, and finally the last car load was emptied. I dropped the car back in its spot near Pacific Parade, and collected my bike and my surfboard, which was too big to fit in the car so had to be moved on foot. I wheeled the bike over to Andrea’s, where my surfboard was going to stay in her garage at least until the summer! Finally I biked over to the new place. It was kind of strange to finish off the move on my bike :)

Viv was home by then, and together we got the new dryer into its new home and reconstructed my small shelves in the utility room, they looked pretty cool actually and Viv was delighted.

The new dryer

I managed to clear a way through the stuff into my room and stacked the cases against the windows. I was still determined to finish putting together my new drawers, even though both Silvio and Viv had told me to take it a bit easy, it had been a long day, but I was stubborn as ever …! Eventually, with the help of a couple of glasses of wine, they were done. And they looked good too!

I do follow instructions …

Getting there with the drawers

Moving fast!

By ten thirty, finally, I had managed to unpack enough clothes to last a couple of days, make up my bed, and bring enough order to the room to be satisfied. My eyes were almost closing …

It took a few more days to clear out the rest of the suitcases but I’m delighted with my new room! It’s light and quiet, and I can’t imagine a better place to wake up in :)

New home

The Waiting Game.

When I was skyping my cousin Julia recently, she mentioned that I hadn’t been doing very much on my blog recently. She wasn’t the first person, I think Mum had mentioned it too, a week or two ago.

I’ve been meaning to post for some time about my new job, but other than that, I haven’t felt like I had very much to say. Over the last six weeks, I’ve been trying to get my head around some significant changes in my life: a new job and a new relationship, both of which are fantastic, but bring their own stresses – like being six thousand miles apart from the person I most want to be with, most of the time.

And if that wasn’t ENOUGH excitement, in one more week I’ll move house. I always seem to try and do everything at once, but the last few months seem to have been one long waiting game :) Maybe this year I will finally learn patience. Andrea has also spent the last two months travelling for work, so my social life just hasn’t been the same!

Since getting back from Malaysia, it seems like most of my time when I’m not working has been spent either on Skype or exercising. After several months at Fight Gym, I switched to Virgin Active, an old friend from the UK – much as I liked the Fight Gym, I needed to do something different. VA manage to change it up with new stuff pretty regularly, so now I’m “enjoying” body attack, body pump and cardio routines on the powerplate – although the boxing classes are not as good as before.

Exercising at 7am on beautiful beaches like Dee Why is a great start to the weekend … but hard work!

I also flirted for a little while with outdoor fitness classes at 7am on a Saturday. For three weeks, I got up before 6 and rode my bike up to 10km to varied locations along the northern beaches, where trainer Penny Walsh shouted at a surprisingly large group of us to run up sand dunes and hills in between crunches, push ups and step ups – with REALLY big steps.

On the fourth week though, sitting in the Wharf Bar with Viv on a Friday night, the temptation of a second bottle of wine to share was too much … luckily I was off the hook when I discovered the class was cancelled anyway (it was, honestly!). That was over two weeks ago, after that I was attending a conference on a Saturday which ruled out the morning workout, and last weekend I just couldn’t face it. I was so tired and needed a nice, long lie in! In a funny way I do like the 7am class, the beaches are beautiful and empty and I feel amazing afterwards, but it’s really hard to get past the fact that the mornings start off so dark and freezing cold! Maybe I’ll try it again when it warms up a bit more :)

One thing I have kept up is running: from being able to just about manage the 5k from home to Shelly Beach and back, I’ve worked up to now running over 10k on a fairly regular basis. I’ve found a small group of guys at work who come running on Thursday lunchtimes, and they’re all faster than me, which has had a positive effect on my speed. Last week was the best yet: ~7.5k in 42 minutes, well over 10kmh which was my original target.

Lastly, I keep promising myself – and other people – that I will go climbing some time. There is a wall at the gym, and a group at work who go every week, but so far I’ve bottled out. This can’t last forever though: Silvio is a keen climber, but perhaps this is something to save for later in the year :)

All of this is paying off though: I still have a little way to go to my target weight but I’m closer than I have been for a long, long time. With the big wedding looming in just a few weeks, this is definitely a good thing!

As part of the new routine, I also tried (hard!) to cut back on alcohol – but there’s still been room for indulging!

I’ve spent many happy nights at the Wharf Bar putting the world to rights with Viv and Rach, including the night when Lucy, still jetlagged after just getting back from the UK, locked herself out putting the rubbish out … poor thing! I’ve also had some lovely chilled evenings cooking at Viv and Rachel’s, and discovered that I can actually rustle up some pretty good dishes, given time, wine, and good company. I can’t wait to try my skills out on Silvio when he gets back from India … luckily for him, I haven’t yet learned how to cook curry :) Anyway, hopefully there’s a future blog post coming up on that!

The next few weeks are looking promising: moving house this weekend, Andrea returns on Thursday, the end of (financial) year party at work, which is currently shrouded in mystery, and then my first ever Christmas party in July, just before I head off for a few days of skiing in Falls Creek. So hopefully I’ll have lots more inspiration to actually write some posts again!

On holiday with the family.

Tuesday morning, we jumped in the car and headed out to the airport. We were off to see the Aussie branch of our family (well, some of them, anyway) – my gorgeous cousins Yolly and Clauds, and Yolly’s kids Mya and Ivy.

View of Sydney on the way up!

Sydney from the sky

Above the clouds and looking down

Everything went pretty smoothly, except for my case being a kilo or so over (happens every time) – we got the train out to Brisbane, taxi to our hotel and then it was just a case of getting organised for dinner. There was a hitch in our plans for the next day though – with the bad weather in north Queensland, the roads from Cairns to Port Douglas were blocked – one by a landslide, and the other by flooding. It wasn’t clear whether or not we’d even make it through to our hotel in the morning … which left us all feeling a little stressed out.

Family shot

We had planned to meet in a restaurant for dinner that evening, but decided in the end to just stay in our hotel instead. It was easy enough for the others to get to and pretty kid-friendly. Yolly stopped by for a coffee in the afternoon and Mum brought out the gifts she had for the kids – Ivy was in a good mood, chilling out on Mum’s lap, Mum looked delighted.


Is it Mya ... or Gran? Hahaha.

Ivy and Yolly

Yolly headed off before showing up later for dinner with Clauds too – it was so nice to have everyone together. We took loads of photos as usual – including some particularly cute ones with the kids trying on Mum’s glasses – Mya is a dead ringer for my gran :)

It was all over too quickly … and so was the night’s sleep … at just after 6am the next day, it was time to get up and head to the airport for yet another flight. I think we were all feeling the strain of too much travel already! I rang our hotel at 9am and it was good news – the buses could get through! However, instead of the usual hour along the coast road, we’d be travelling for over two hours along the mountain roads – but at least we’d make it. We were prepared to have to wait for some time at the airport as well, so all in all it wasn’t quite the relaxing trip that we were hoping for!

High rivers on the way to Port Douglas

Some areas were still flooded

Great views from the mountain road

On arriving at Cairns, we found our luggage remarkably quickly, as well as our representative from the coach company. We had a short wait in a coffee shop – far from the chaotic welcome we’d been prepared for – then we were off, in a small coach with a luggage trailer. It struggled up the steep roads through the hills, dropping in to second gear as it screamed along with its heavy cargo. I think Mum and Dad were secretly delighted at the photo opportunities along the way though! I dozed and daydreamed through the journey, gazing out across bright sunshine on semi-flooded plains and wondering whether we’d actually hit any exciting wet patches of road (we didn’t).

Our apartment - upper floor on the left

It was a long way, nearly three hours compared to the hour long trip it would have been had the other road not been blocked, so we were pretty happy to finally arrive. Our apartment was gorgeous – two big adjoining suites, Mum and Dad’s had a living room and both had balconies.

Our apartment in Port Douglas

Sunset across the trees

We headed out in search of the beach and some food, ended up walking slightly further than we’d intended, but eventually found the supermarket … Dad kept asking me, “Is it this way, Jo? How much further along is it?” Now I know how he felt when I was a kid …

We went for a quick dip in the pool before dinner – it was sooooo warm and humid, starting to rain but it didn’t even matter. For a few days at least, life could just slow down.

Pool area at the resort

The next day was bright and sunny – we’d been expecting hot, humid and probably a fair amount of rain, so to have such gorgeous weather was great. We spent the day lounging around the pool, reading, cooling off in the water – Mum and Dad were planning to head out on a boat trip the next day to see some of the Barrier Reef, and I booked to go on a dive boat and see it up close. It was too hot to want to do anything much, so we didn’t :)

No diving ... but we will anyway

Relaxing by the pool

Relaxing in the pool

It was an earlier start on Friday, my pick up was around 8am. I was the only person on the bus with a huge back of diving kit … I wondered if I shouldn’t have taken it all along after all, but I’d much rather dive in my own gear. I still haven’t quite figured out my Suunto computer yet, so when they discovered I was an instructor I did take a little teasing for that too … luckily there was another English girl on board who was a bit more clued up and helped me out.

Me diving!

I was a little bit disappointed with the actual diving though. The water was beautiful and warm, but slightly murkier than I’d expected – similar to diving in the Maldives after a spell of bad weather though, so maybe the recent rain had caused that. We saw loads of small, pretty fish and coral, but nothing large – I guess the turtles were all staying home that day :( That said, Mum did see a turtle or two out on her boat! I did see some of the hugest giant clams ever though, patterned in purple, black, white and blue. There were also plenty of Christmas tree worms, which reminded me of diving in Bonaire – I love waving my hand across the top of them and watching them dart away – and some unusual sponges. I found a few Nemo’s lurking in the anemones too, and a giant lobster – I wasn’t sure if it was alive or dead, as it was pretty still, but I didn’t want to find out so I snapped a quick shot and swam away!

Diving the barrier reef

The dive boat

Giant clam

A lot of the coral around the reef is bleached and dead, which was pretty sad – a visible effect of the warmer ocean waters. All in all though, it was a really nice day out diving, but not the incredible experience I had hoped for.

Mum's dive buddy

Dad enjoying the boat

More of the reef

By the time I got back, I had a bit of time to myself before Mum and Dad returned from their trip. They had been in some kind of glass-sided pod and Mum insisted that she had photos of her “dive buddy” … she did too, she showed me later a guy who had been swimming along around the edge of them!

Chilling in the pool

We spent our final day and a half on Saturday and Sunday morning once again lazing around the pool, with plenty of wine and beer, eating in together in the evenings and generally just enjoying relaxing and spending time together. I bought some “pool noodles” from the supermarket and had a bit of fun floating around the pool with them … we also headed into town to explore some of the shops and take more (yes more!) photographs!


Slightly stormier day

Coming back to the harbour

Finally it was time to pack up and head back to the airport for the flight home. The journey back was much, much easier – only an hour along the coast road this time and we were at the airport. One plane, train, ferry and taxi later and we were home … well, home for me anyway!

Mum and Dad had one last day to chill out and hang around Manly before heading back home. I had plans for the afternoon, so we spent a couple of hours together in the morning and then ate out later in Manly. Next morning, we all met up and dragged the cases down to the ferry terminal and on to the peak hour ferry.

I left them at Circular Quay. I was determined not to cry, until Mum hugged me tight and we couldn’t let go, and my eyes leaked just a little. I headed straight into work and then out after work for the evening – it helped to get my mind off of them going, although homesickness did hit me pretty hard later that week. It was fantastic to have them here though … to share “my” Australia, to see a bit more of what theirs had been, and just having family time … amazing, and hopefully worth the journey for them too :)

A long awaited visit.

I’d been counting down the weeks and days, and finally it was the morning: Mum and Dad had arrived from the UK! I set off early (so I thought) but got caught in craaaazy traffic on the way out of Manly … nothing I could do but sit in it and hit the wheel in frustration, I’d been waiting ages to see them but the last hour or so was definitely the longest. Dad texted me and called from the airport, “where are you? Hurry up, been waiting ages!” I know, I’m hurrying as much as I can … finally, finally I made it, and as predicted, both me and my Mum had rather leaky eyes (she was worse, honestly).

Coming in to land ... I was still stuck somewhere between Manly and Sydney!

Dad enjoying Manly Beach

Exploring around to Shelly Beach

The weather was beautiful – after a fairly wet summer, Manly turned on the charm to welcome my family. We found their apartment, and then it was time for me to head off to work, leaving them to explore the beach alone. If only I’d had a few more days holiday – I so wanted to turn around from the ferry terminal and spend the day with them instead.

After work, they met me at the ferry wharf – typically, with cameras. Nothing like getting off the ferry after a long day with somebody snapping away at you! They were doing pretty well considering they’d landed at stupid o’clock that morning, we made it out for dinner at Yok Thai, but by the time we’d finished they were both starting to droop a bit!

Manly Wharf!

Exploring around the Opera House (and Opera bar)

Walking across the harbour bridge

I had to work from Wednesday through to Friday, but Mum and Dad managed to get out and about and see far more than I have of Manly, at least judging by the (hundreds of) photos they did, anyway. They walked across the Harbour Bridge and around the Botanic Gardens – two things that are definitely on my list of things to do while I’m in Sydney. We spent the evenings together – wandering around Darling Harbour (and of course taking endless photos … there’s a theme here), and eating some good old home-cooked meals! Outside their apartment in Manly, a row of trees played home to a growing group of bright green parrots every evening, the noise was insane.

Me and my Mum!

At the weekend, we headed out to Brighton-Le-Sands near Botany Bay, where Mum and Dad used to live some 40 years ago. Armed with a handful of old photographs, we tried to find some of the places they’d been – starting out at the St George Tavern, which used to be known as the Hotel Rockdale. They tried to recreate the old photos, the outside looked so different now! Sadly, the weather wasn’t playing nice either, but they managed to get the photos done before the rain set in. We headed inside for a beer (for me) and coffee (for them), and they showed the bar tenders the old photos – probably taken nearly twenty years before they were even born.

Recreating the old photos

Next stop was to find Banks Street. TomTom got us pretty close, with Dad reminiscing about the roads he used to drive down to go to work, and the nearby beach, and after driving around a bit we found their old house. It was fairly rundown, which was sad, I wish it could have been looking beautiful and looked after, but what do you expect after 40 years? The fence that was there in the old photos was still there, the front porch that Mum was photographed sitting on was extended now, and even the old mailbox was still in place. Dad described the days of checking the mailbox every morning for news from home, making and sending cassette tapes to the family back in the UK. All these years later, when Skype, email and cheap phone calls make keeping in touch so much easier, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be so cut off.

The house where Mum and Dad lived, 40 years on

The same tree where Mum was photographed 40 years ago

The old Rockdale Hotel

We wandered along the beach – it was fairly windy, and Mum wanted me to write a message in the sand for Nan back at home, then take a dozen or so photographs of it. I obliged for a while but there is one shot with some rather rude hand gestures … sorry, Nan, that one was not for you! ;) The kite surfers were out in force, jumping over the waves despite the angry and leaky sky. I usually love the beach but I was kind of glad when we eventually made it back to the car that day!

I got a bit fed up of the photos by this point

Kite surfers leaping in the wind

Hugs with Mum

I’m glad I got to see where Mum and Dad lived all those years ago, it was kind of strange not having the memories that they had of how it was but trying to create a picture in my head from their reminiscing.

On Sunday, we planned to go out to see the Blue Mountains – I was up bright and early, but my lazy parents stayed in bed far too late and it was mid-morning by the time we got going. We started off heading to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters – funnily enough, the same place that I’d visited only a few weeks earlier with my friends. It was cooler but just as beautiful – we didn’t go down the staircase this time (thank god, as I didn’t like it much last time!)

Echo Point

We wandered a little way through the forest, then back to the car to head on to the next sightseeing spot. We stopped at Govett’s Leap, to see the water leaping off the rocks and shimmering in rainbows on its way down, and then at Wentworth falls, where we took a short hike down a lot of stony steps to get a better view of the waterfall. We watched the clouds closing in across the mountains and threatening to soak us before we finally headed back up to the car park.

Rainbow in the waterfall

Watching the rain come in

View from near to the Hydro Majestic

There was a bit of excitement going on with two police officers trying to get a closer look at an unidentified white object a couple of hundred metres down the side of the cliff. They thought it might be a car – I’ve no idea how it could have got there – and lots of tourists were trying to use their cameras and binoculars to get a closer look. We never did find out what it was though.

Police and nosy tourist

We stopped in at Solitude before heading back home, the restaurant with amazing views where Andrea and I enjoyed lunch on our last visit. We made it nearly all the way back home until the niggling set in (after this much time together, it was bound to happen eventually!) Dad took a wrong turn and blamed my TomTom, I took it personally and we argued our way through the busier streets of Sydney city centre until he pulled over and told me to bloody well drive then. I headed back towards the bridge and would have missed the turning myself if I hadn’t been that way a few times … OK, OK, TomTom can be a bit unclear sometimes I guess.

Accidental wrong turn took us over the bridge

Driving across the bridge

View from Andrea's apartment

After a day relaxing on the beach on Monday – them, unfortunately, not me – we headed over to Andrea’s for a barbie. Predictably, the cameras came out when they saw the view, and Dad quickly took over cooking the barbie – we had yummy kangaroo steaks, corn, salad – mmmmm!!

On Tuesday it was time to leave Manly and head out to Brisbane and Port Douglas for a bit of a holiday … I’ll save that for the next post :)

Photo credit: all the photos in this post are Mum’s – with two cameras and at least twice as many lenses, I didn’t bother taking my own out!

Life and stuff.

I haven’t had much to blog about in the last couple of weeks! No big trips or stand out events really … life is just going along nicely. So I thought I’d do a bit of a general update instead …

Last week was a bit crazy. The people who know me well will know that I like to have a plan, and I had my week neatly lined up: Tuesday I was starting my fit2date class, I had a haircut lined up for Thursday and heading to the Space bar afterwards with Andrea, then hoping to be diving over the weekend. At work, we were expecting to start on our next project.

Right from Monday morning everything went awry … the project was delayed, leaving us with barely anything to do but surf the interwebz, the fit2date class in Manly was cancelled and I had a choice of a refund or doing the Sydney CBD class on Thursday. My first reaction was to be cross and want a refund, but I was really looking forward to the class, so did decide to reschedule in the end.

Things at work didn’t really improve much, we switched to look at another project but that didn’t go anywhere either. I headed out to the Ruby on Rails user group on Tuesday, which can be an effort sometimes but is always worthwhile, especially now I know quite a few people there. I managed to avoid mid-week alcohol and made it to the ferry home before nine, but I got mistaken on the way out for the bar maid which didn’t help my ego …

Wednesday turned out better when I got an unexpected date :) so the week was looking up. Thursday, I arrived far too early for fit2date, and when I first joined the group there was a few minutes of wondering what on earth I was doing (kind of like that feeling you get when you turn up to a speed dating event). The night turned out pretty good though, I left after to get the ferry but realised pretty quickly I wasn’t going to make it, so went back to join the group in the pub. I was glad I did, they are all good fun and I ended up getting the ferry back with a girl called Amanda – we chatted all the way home, so I was hopeful that I’d found a new friend.

Friday night finally rolled around – I had intended to go out for a run, but it was cool and windy and I just couldn’t be a***d, in all honesty! So I poured a glass of wine instead :) I sat outside with my housemate Chelsea putting the world to rights for an hour or so, then slowly got ready to head out. I was dressed and doing my hair when Andrea rang, to say she’d locked herself out of her apartment having lost her key while she was out running. Her flatmate was away until the next day, so she needed a place to stay, something to wear, something to eat, well, everything basically. Nothing was too much of a problem, except that she couldn’t sleep on the sofa because it was full of dog hairs and she’s allergic … well, thank goodness I have a big bed, because I also have a tendency to fidget a lot in my sleep! Poor Andrea, when her phone alarm went off unexpectedly, I forgot she was there and as I leaned over she got an elbow in the mouth. Whoops!

Anyway, I was still determined to go out for drinks, and eventually … we made it! We met a guy called Ron in the Space, he seems to be a regular, and he invited us to go out on his boat! There are some interesting people in Manly (I’m not going though). Halfway through our second bottle of wine, we were tired and I’d had enough – for some reason we decided it’d be a good idea to try and leave with it. Turns out, that wasn’t so much of a good plan, at least that’s what the security guard and policeman outside told us! We were relieved they only took away the wine then sent us packing, they were probably laughing at us though as we scurried away. Bad girls.

Saturday, I headed out for a morning run just as it was warming up, I was pretty damn hot by the time I got back. I run 5k along the beach, not on the sand (that’s way too much like hard work) – it’s a really pretty run, just long enough to feel like I’ve done something but not so long I get fed up with it. In the afternoon, I was off to Andrea’s – she’d got back in to the flat by then – for a barbie and a bit of a party with some friends, while we watched the Australian Open of Surfing from her balcony. The view from there is incredible.

The party went on all day and into the evening, until eventually I’d had enough cider and headed home. I carefully gathered up my belongings, still managing to leave behind my camera and iPod … I’m so forgetful.

Sunday was surfing and gardening! I met Andrea and Lucy down on the beach, and later Jess and Phil joined us too. The waves weren’t too bad, we managed to paddle out quite a long way and rest on our surfboards. I tried to sit up on mine – which was pretty easy on the big foam boards we had for our lessons – but on my surfboard, it was like it was trying to buck me off! Andrea laughed at me, especially when I fell off it (three times). I’m useless at surfing!

Towards the end, I managed to get both of my feet on the board – I was still holding on with my hands, but still, this is a first! By then, the waves near the shore seemed to be a bit bigger, and Lucy and I were having trouble getting over them to get out. After being thrown back down on the shore four or five times, I gave up and crossly marched out with my board, promptly getting turned over again before I managed to get myself out.

There's a spider like this in my garden

In the afternoon, I headed up to my herb garden to pull out the weeds that just won’t stop growing. I found an enormous black and yellow spider – it’s just an orb spider, which isn’t dangerous, but it isn’t one that I particularly wanted crawling through my hair, so I tried to avoid his web as much as I could. With my plants fed and watered (the rocket is ready to eat now!) I moved to the lower part of the garden, and just managed to finish weeding the front and side path, before Matt and Chelsea got home. I planted out a few of my pepper and beetroot seedlings which are starting to look really good, but it was clearly getting ready to pelt down with rain, so I decided to stop and start on the wine instead …

I put the barbie on a bit later, Andrea was going to come over for dinner, and I was feeling nice and chilled after the weekend, just writing a facebook status to that extent, when I realised the barbie was smoking a bit. I opened it to discover that the charcoal beneath the gas burner was on fire … that’s not supposed to happen, dammit. It wasn’t too bad though, it went out pretty quickly once it was turned off, and when we did eventually cook our dinner it worked out fine.

Then it was Monday again … back to trying to figure out what we were doing at work. I managed to run again on Monday night, then it was Tuesday, now let’s see … oh yes, Valentine’s Day. I headed out to my boxing class at lunch, which was nearly empty! It was wet outside, and I slipped over in my flip-flops, think I tore something in my right quad as it was a bit painful walking to the class after that. It didn’t bother me too much though, except when I tried to run across the road coming back to work there was a sudden twinge.

Now Valentine’s Day is not my favourite day of the year as a long-term single girl! I had re-booked my haircut deliberately, so after a lunchtime boxing session that was nearly empty, and seeing piles of flowers at the mailroom at work, I headed to Ebony in Manly to get a trim. I don’t want layers, so really my hair looks much the same as it did, except to me!

New haircut, looks completely different, right?

Wednesday, and we moved up to the 22nd floor in our building. It’s a much better view and lots more natural light, which is nice! In the evening I went to SydJS – the JavaScript user group, where I ran in to quite a few people I’d met there before, so it was nice to catch up on what they’d been doing in the month in between. I was tempted to stand up for the Open Mic segment – I’d been preparing and practicing a lightning talk for Web Directions next week, but I decided I wasn’t quite ready, and wanted to save it for next week.

View from the 22nd floor

Thursday night was my second fit2date event. I was a bit worried that my leg would hurt when I was running, it was fine for the warm up jog but when we played a bit of a team soccer game I went to kick the ball and it hurt! I had to run a bit slower during the games, but luckily it didn’t interfere too much with the post-class beer drinking.

So now it’s finally Friday! The milk was off this morning, which was a great excuse to have a naughty ham-and-cheese croissant at the cafe downstairs instead, I thought I’d try and be healthy with a mango smoothie but that tasted way to good to not have naughty stuff in it too.

Tonight I have another date – getting dinner cooked for me too :) Maybe I’ll write more about that sometime.

So … that’s it for now. Life’s good, not very exciting maybe, but pretty good …

A birthday with a difference.

As an English girl born in December, one thing I never expected to experience was walking home along a damp, deserted beach on my birthday, with a warm, gentle ocean lapping at my knees.

It’s funny how I never really paid much thought, when I was moving to Australia, to the fact that I would no longer have a winter birthday. It wasn’t until a week or two before that one of my friends remarked that I was now a summer birthday, that I suddenly realised it.

My date of birth is one thing I could never change, and many years ago I stopped bothering to envy my August-born brother for having a birthday in the middle of the summer holidays, guaranteed never to be at school and to be warmer than mine. Thank God school finished a long time ago.

Apparently, though: I can change the seasons in which I live – and in Australia, December 19th falls in the summer.

My birthday was wet and rainy, but not cold. After a night out near the wharf, I walked home, crossing the road at South Steyne, and descended the stone steps. With the storms and heavy rain, the sand was damp and cool, and the tide was low across the shore.

I walked diagonally to the water until I met it, foaming over my feet and ankles, deepening quickly until the back of my silk skirt was salty and wet. Viv gave me a crystal for my birthday with instructions to wash it in salt water, so I leaned forward to dunk it (carefully holding my handbag back).

The waves were crossing each other: towards and from behind me as I walked along the shore through the breaking white water.

I love the ocean. It never stops: it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life or anybody else’s; the waves just keep on coming. Small and foamy, big enough to knock me off my feet, sucking me back into the ocean or gently lapping over my toes, always changing, but never ever stopping. I looked out across the dark sky as it meets the sea, all I can see is the white foam forming regularly to separate them.

Late at night the beach is usually deserted. It’s the most restful place I know, and the most complete I think I feel. Several times, I’ve walked home this way or stopped and locked my bike up just to wander along the beach. If it’s clear, I can watch the stars, while the sound of the ocean drowns out any other noise. I stare at the stars, or out over the water, and let my worries drift away with the wind. Occasionally if I’m feeling sad, I’ve cried on the beach until the ocean calms the tears.

Sometimes I think: this is how I will know my soulmate … he’ll love the beach and the ocean as well. Not just on sunny days, but at night and when it’s stormy and empty too.

The surf club isn’t far along the beach, so when I reached it, I made my way back across the beach and back home in sandy thongs (sorry, flip flops!). It’s not a major birthday (thank god) – but it was a pleasant, quiet one; a nice celebration with my closest friends in Manly, and a very different experience from the last thirty two cold ones :)

Green Fingers.

Up the stairs in our garden is another space with lots of sun ...

Living in Manly, I love the fact that we have a small outdoor space, and I’ve been determined for the last few weeks to start growing something. Every time I go to Harris Farms for food shopping, they have various herbs outside and more recently tomato plants, and I’ve been so tempted! My Grandad always grew loads of tasty vegetables – I don’t have enough space, or time, to grow many, but I do love the idea of being able to eat something from my garden. Hopefully I’ve inherited at least one or two of his green fingers :)

When Andrea left for a few weeks away in the UK and Chicago, she entrusted me to look after some of her herbs. Two weeks in, I’ve managed to at least keep them alive, and love having fresh basil for cooking, and used the mint for tea.

It was all a bit overgrown

I decided this weekend was the time to set up my herb garden. As part of our garden we have a small area on a higher level, with a steep wooden staircase leading up to it. It was really overgrown but gets plenty of sun (and rain, these last few weeks …) so I made it my mission to clear it out so that I could grow some herbs up there. Starting, of course, with shopping!

I headed out to the market in Manly, where I knew there was a guy selling herbs and chilli plants. After that, I cycled on to Harris Farms to buy tomatoes! I brought them all back on the handlebars of my bike, had to cycle really slowly until I got used to the steering.

Herbs on the handlebars

My steering was all wonky from the chilli. It bashed my knee too!

Chives, Basil and Mint from the market

Ready to attack the plants!

I ended up with: chilli, basil, lemon thyme, chives, mint, and coriander. I also got some cutters for the more determined plants, and girly gloves to protect my nail varnish … all set to go gardening! By the time the shopping was done it was nearly five o’clock, so I spent just over an hour randomly pulling up herbs and hacking down the dead old palm leaves from the tree by the top of the stairs. There was a kind of creeping vine plant wrapped around everything, I think it was a blue dawn flower but I wasn’t too sure. It seemed really invasive, which was a shame as it had a few lovely flowers.

By the end of Saturday I was tired and getting bitten, so left the weeds alone until Sunday, but I did put all of the herbs into new larger pots. I still need to get some stakes for the tomato plants though. I ran out of potting soil as well, so some of them are a bit low!

All ready for new pots, just need planting

Basil and Mint in nice bright pots!

The coriander looked a bit sorry for itself after repotting, it's perked up since though!

Chilli plant in its new larger pot

Mau contemplates munching on the chives

The sun was shining on Sunday although it wasn’t boiling hot, perfect for doing a bit of gentle weeding in the garden. I started by clearing the steps, then moved into the main area. By about 2pm it was finally done and I could bring up the herbs – fed with a bit of fertiliser in the hopes they’ll grow big and strong! I brought Andrea’s plants up too – hope they all do well in their new home.

The steps looked nice when they were finally cleared.

The herbs in their new home!

Just need some sunshine!

The original area was so overgrown!

View across the steps before much was cleared

Working for a living … and spending my earnings.

After three and a half weeks “on the beach” (as we call it at ThoughtWorks, when we’re not working on a client project) it was time to start earning a proper living. I started work at my new client on Wednesday this week. No more rolling out of bed at nearly 8am and getting on the 9:20 ferry – now I have to be at my desk and working by 9am! That means getting up at six thirty-ish and leaving home in time to catch the 8am ferry. Lucky it’s only a five minute bike ride!

The last three days of the week flew past faster than any others since I arrived, with so much to do setting up a new project. The beginning is always the most exciting. There are just two of us (myself and another consultant called Hari), trying to build a working website within six weeks – it’s going to be challenging, but that’s what I like!

The building where I’m working is above a mall – it has about thirty floors, and the higher ones have gorgeous views across the water. Sadly, Hari and I are working on the second floor, but we have nice, big desks and plenty of wall space. We only have to go down a floor to find coffee or lunch, and we get to see the view when we have meetings on the upper floors.

Enough about work though.

This week I also decided it was time to get a bit more serious about exercise, and so I’ve joined Fight Gym. I used to really enjoy doing boxing exercises at the gym in Edinburgh – with pads, rather than hitting a real person – and I wanted to find a kick-boxing class. Fight Gym hold different kinds of boxing classes every night of the week as well as lunchtimes, and have two locations: one near work and one near home. I was a bit nervous going for my first couple of classes as the website emphasises how much hard work it is, but it’s SO much more fun than boring treadmills and cross trainers. It doesn’t hurt to let off a bit of steam after a tough day either! Not that I’ve had any of those out here … yet.

My run from home to Shelly Beach, along the Steyne

Other than boxercise, I’m also trying to run occasionally. I haven’t tried running on the sand yet, but I did make it about 5k on Friday night – from home to Shelly Beach, all the way along the Steyne, looking out across the beach. It’s a lovely route and nice and flat, but I do feel quite unfit sometimes!

Other than the gym, I went out for a couple of drinks near Darling Harbour after work one night, but the 6:30 start got the better of me and I had to leave early! (Not like you Jo, I can hear you say!)

Saturday was the Global Day of Code Retreat – developers all over the world were meeting up to practice writing code. It probably is as geeky as it sounds, but I had a fantastic day writing Ruby and Coffeescript … OK, OK, megabytes, blah, blah, I’ll leave it there, save it for my technical blog. Rachel and I had gone together, and by the end of the day we were both shattered.

I didn’t feel like going home though, so after dropping off the laptop and a quick change I headed over to meet Marie-Claire – another fellow Manly-dweller who has just moved into a new flat. I love that going to see my friends here is so easy and chilled, unlike London where it’d take up to an hour to get anywhere. That’s what I thought, anyway, until I tried to cycle up the STEEP hill where Marie-Claire lives – ooowwwww, my legs! (I didn’t even make it very far).

We ended up going out for dinner at Yok Thai – she skateboarded there, behind the bike! – and I had an amazing Thai green curry. Finally, home to collapse.

Sunday was shopping day! Rachel and I had planned to hit Warringah Mall and her housemate Viv joined us. Some days I can go shopping and not find anything much to buy (OK, not often) and others I want to buy everything, well, today was definitely one of those days where I wanted to buy everything.

I found some nice new clothes for work – some great trousers and a wrap around skirt, and accidentally ran into a little silk dress in Kookai that I fell in love with … Oh, I do love to shop.

A proper day out shopping!

Rachel was spending more of her “furniture budget” (the money we have from ThoughtWorks to furnish our new homes in Sydney when we arrive on a temporary contract) – mine is almost gone now! As well as clothes though I did find some gorgeous aromatherapy “melts” and an oil burner in a lovely little shop called Dusk. I also bought my first (and probably only!) Christmas decoration – a little SnowShopper called Pippa (I think). It’s a snowman (snowwoman?) with a candle inside and a little handbag, and she looks very cute lit up on my dressing table.

Viv was disappointed not to find anything to buy, at the last minute she rushed back but the shops were closing :( Rachel and I definitely had more than our fair share of purchases though! What a great way to spend a rainy Sunday … oh yes, people, Sydney is rainy and COLD! I went to bed last night wearing a fleecy top, this is not how early summer is supposed to be here. It looks like next weekend might be warmer, so fingers crossed, I want to get out on my surfboard.

That’s it for now, a bit of a long rambly one, sorry about that! I have been hearing from people that they are actually reading my waffle though, so wanted to keep writing, I like to feel we’re keeping in touch :)

Rachel bought a cute mirror

My "SnowShopper" candle, Pippa

Quackers got a friend!