Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Cheer

Well Christmas has come and gone.

This has been an interesting Christmas. The first in years that I've actually been in Australia. It was actually a nice change to be able to experience the lead up and the change in attitude of everyone as the holiday season approached.

The change in food was also very welcome.
Since everyone was going to be in different places over the festive period, my housemates and I decided to do a Christmas dinner a few weeks ago. Now this wasn't any simple Christmas dinner, we decided to go all out!
Here's Andy gloating over the fact that he won the wishbone.... stupid Andy.....
To top it all off, we even had a Christmas pudding that we flamed!
A lot of hard work went into making the whole dinner, but none of us seemed to mind.There's something about this time of year that brings out behaviour that would normally make little to no sense. For instance, cheering and applauding when we flamed the pudding? Yet during this period, it seems like a fantastic idea.
And the effort that goes into it all! Josh even found his inner Margaret Fulton and made a hard sauce for the pudding.
Food really is a fantastic way of bringing people together.
But unsurprisingly, when it comes time to washing up the ridiculous mess that was created preparing the meal, everyone seemed less festive....

Monday, December 07, 2009

Taronga Zoo

With my little godsister in town with her family, it was the perfect time for a nice little trip to one of Sydney's famous attractions.

We went to Taronga Zoo!!!
Now, I hadn't actually been to Taronga Zoo since I was about five (I think it was around that time anyways....) and I was probably more excited than my little godsister!

The trip over to the Zoo itself was fantastic. We decided to catch the ferry over and we were treated to the amazing views of the harbour.

The Zoo was fun. Much more fun than I expected.
I got to see this koala up close!
And I even got to see the giraffes being fed!
It was a nice day out. A simple thing to do, but fun nonetheless.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

An artistic walk

Every year, there's a sculpture display that is set up on the walk between Bronte and Bondi.

The walk between Coogee and Bondi has always been pleasant, but I was keen to see what it was like now that the section of the walk near the Waverly cemetery had been upgraded with a walkway hugging the edge of the cliff.

So now, with the sculptures all up, it seemed like as good a time as any.

The walk really was nice and the new improvements worked well.

The warm weather brought out thousands of others too.
It was nice wandering down through all of the sculptures with all of the crowds. All of the bustle added a nice atmosphere to what is normally a much more serene location.
To be honest, not many of the sculptures really grabbed my attention bar a few. This nice silvery sculpture was the one I liked the most. Glistening in the light with the ocean as a backdrop it seemed to glow brighter than anything else I would see that day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Winter's over isn't it?

Well, this has been one nasty winter for me.

The cold times are well and truly over and I can feel the weather warming up.

The beach is just around the corner and I want to enjoy some of the sunshine and sand that made me move to this silly city.

After a winter of what seemed like constant illness, I'm very much looking forward to the seasonal change.

Standing at the bus stop in the morning before going to work, I can smell the ocean breeze. It's inviting and fresh. I look forward to some early morning and early evening swims!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Terrible luck....


Seriously amazing.

Wonderful even.

I had ended up in hospital. I had been struck down with what the doctor would describe as being "incredibly unlucky".

Laying in the hospital bed feeling faint and weak was not the most pleasant experience.

However, like most experiences there were the funnier parts. Waking up to find myself surrounded by the medical students and their professor going through my case would definitely rank up there. It felt like I was in a medical drama, except from a vastly different perspective. Laying in the bed, looking up a bed surrounded by people in white coats all talking intently whilst looking at you is a surreal experience that makes you feel almost detached from reality.

Thankfully, my stay wouldn't last too long. I was looked after by the fantastic (and disturbingly overworked) staff and allowed to leave.

Hopefully there will be no return trips.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Laughing Kookaburra

I recently made one of my rare trips to Newcastle.

There's nothing wrong with the place. It's just there's nothing in the city that really interests me that much.

However, mother and father were there. So it was time to be the good son and visit.

Since I had last visited, dear mother had apparently decided to befriend some of the local wildlife.
So much so in fact that these kookaburras were now happy to be fed by hand.
There's something comical about kookaburras. They almost always seem to have a sneaky expression. This added to their intelligence makes them always appear to be up to something...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

An antique sound

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to a private performance of the guqin.

The guqin is an ancient Chinese stringed instrument. It has a history that spans thousands of years and has been in its current standardised form for over 2000 years. It is an instrument that requires immense dedication and is famous for its role as a solo instrument. This instrument is heavily linked with poetry in Chinese culture and its music has been favoured for its role in personal development and thought.

My old Chinese teacher Judy's husband Jia Wei is a professional guqin player in China. He has performed to audiences around the world and was in Sydney for a short time to see his wife and perform.
Amazingly, I was given this opportunity to hear him play in this private performance.

The guqin was beautiful. An antique no less. Jia Wei gave us a brief explanation of the history of his guqin. This priceless antique was made in the Ming Dynasty. It only survived to this day due to being fortunate enough to have been kept with a mathematician in a safe compound during the Cultural Revolution.
The sound of the guqin is something that cannot be described. It is almost like a person's voice, but there's a sadness to the sound that seems to reflect the tortured years of Chinese history this instrument must have witnessed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Nationals

It's been a while since I went skiing. About two years I think (well, according to my blog records anyway).

It has definitely been too long. Getting out onto the snow is something I would ideally like to do at least once a year. Once in two years simply isn't enough. I feel like I've missed out on something, as though the last two years have only been one. Skiing has become like a fulcrum for the year and not having it has made the years merge into one long unmanageable mess in my mind.

But finally, I was able to travel down to Thredbo. I had a couple of good reasons as well. First was that it was Angus' buck's party. He was getting married in December, but rather than have the traditional buck's party closer to the event, he wanted to go skiing (or in his case boarding) with his friends. It was great fun to see old friends (even if they were all boarding....) and we had a blast on the snow as you would expect.

However, the trip for everyone was done by Sunday. I on the other hand had decided that I would stay a little bit longer. It didn't seem right to only go for such a short time, but more importantly I would be catching up with Bryce!

Catching up with Bryce whenever I go to Thredbo is one of the priorities. After all, with his need to travel around the world for races, when else are we going to meet? The timing of this trip was perfect. I had arrived in Thredbo in time for the Nationals! Bryce and his brother would both be competing in the Slalom and the Giant Slalom. I had never been to a ski race, so I was looking forward to not only seeing the two of them race, but to see how a race took place.
The conditions were ordinary, but I was ready to watch a race! I had even brought along the cow bell that Bryce had given me years back to cheer with.
Thankfully for me, Hugh and Bryce's sister Cherry kept me company and kindly led me to the race course. She even directed me to the best places to watch the race.

Before Hugh and Bryce went, the disabled skiers raced.

These racers were truly awe inspiring. Seeing these racers flying down the mountain in the buckets or on one leg made me realise quickly the power of determination. It also made me realise just how slowly I ski....
Bryce got a decent result in his second race, but sadly crashed out of his first.
The speed at which these guys fly down the mountain is breathtaking. Skiing down the mountain from the top of the race course to the bottom made me quickly realise both how long the course was, as well as how slow I was going (my lack of speed was becoming a recurring theme). Many long minutes later, I was at the bottom of the course. Looking at the race timer, I could see the times for the racers light up ..... all of the times were under a minute. Again .... wonderful to know that see my own skiing inadequacies highlighted once more.

I really do love skiing. Being out here on the snow always makes me happier. There's something about the cold wind and the perfect white blankets of snow that seem to calm and relax. On those perfect white days, when the sun is blanked out by snow falls and when all you can feel is the spray of the snow in your face, you feel as though nothing can be more perfect.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Time keeps passing

It's been a while since I last put anything onto the blog. I can't work out whether it is because nothing has been happening, or rather because I have reached a stage where I feel that nothing has been happening.

Regardless of the reason, it does seem as though working life is taking its toll on activities and the spontaneity of existence. It is a terrifying thing to look forward into the future and see with a fair degree of certainty what you will be doing in a week, a month, a year.... It is not something I enjoy at all.

Times are definitely moving along though. This was highlighted by a recent trip to Brisbane.

I hadn't been to Brisbane since I was 5 years old, so this was a welcome opportunity to see a place that I had memories of through the eyes of a child.
It was a very nice place. The middle of winter, and yet the sun was shining and it was warm enough to wander around wearing a T shirt. Even Sydney's winter is relatively tame, but this was just fantastic.

The reason for the trip was not just for a visit though.
My old friend David was getting married.

Seeing him taking this big step made me think back to our childhoods together. It seems like another lifetime ago. At the reception, there was even a photo of the two of us together. It was a bizarre feeling seeing the picture and then noting my own current circumstances and situation.
I was happy to be able to be there for his wedding. He and Rose both looked so grown up, so adult. I felt strangely childish and out of place. Time was certainly moving along.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Down at the club

Playing Aussie Rules football again has definitely been one of the best ideas I've had for a while.

The combination of the fitness provided through training and the enjoyment I get from playing the games has been further enhanced by the social aspect provided by the club. I had made some great friends from all walks of life at this club and I enjoyed going to training even on the coldest of nights.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to even receive some recognition at the club, being awarded the "Selfless Act of the Week Award" for a shepherd I put on in the dying stages of a match. I was presented this shiny training top to wear during the week.
It's great being recognised for what you do, particularly when you take into account the pain that also resulted from the act!

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Hunter Valley

I went out for dinner with Marine and her friends one night as part of what I thought was a "goodbye" since she was heading back to France. However, whilst speaking to her and her sister, I discovered that their original plans to go to go on a day trip the next day had fallen through because the person who was meant to go with them had abandoned them at the last moment. Since I was doing nothing the next day, I thought "why not?" It would give me the chance to spend a bit more time with Marine before she headed off.

Not to mention, any chance to explore some new places is always fine by me!

The next day, nice and early, we started our drive. After only a couple of hours, we were at our location.

The Hunter Valley.

This was the home to one of Australia's most famous wine producing regions. Surprisingly, I had never been here before. With my parents living only a short distance away in Newcastle, it was definitely a place I should have visited by now. I was looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about.
I soon saw why so many people came here. The scenery was amazing.
It was postcard pretty. Everywhere you looked, there were the stereotypical "nice" things. The green hills, the vineyards, the lakes.....
While we were there, we managed to take in a few tours. It was interesting to see how they treat the grapes. With the glut of wine in day to day life, it's become very easy to forget about the physical work and labour that goes into its creation.
With the combination of cloud a some light rain, we were given some pretty amazing views of the area. Seeing some of these places, I understood why the Hunter Valley has become such a popular location for weddings.
Stunning isn't it?
This trip also gave me a chance to finally go and see Tempus Two.

I had a friend who worked as the winemaker at this winery and I was keen to see the place in action.
It was very hard not to be impressed. Tempus Two was an ultra modern and sleek operation. Apparently, the wide area in front of the winery regularly played host to some pretty famous musical acts (Elton John being one of them!).
I quite liked the whole region. Driving from location to location was easy and there was a laid back attitude to the whole place.
Later, as we sat down to lunch, our quiet was interrupted by a helicopter as it took off.
It didn't seem quite right for some reason. With the calm and gentle surrounds, the noise of the thing was just completely out of place.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Boutique Hotel

"Boutique". What does that even really mean? I am now of the opinion that the word boutique is never to be trusted.

What's more, what does it mean when you apply it to a hotel?

Now I can understand its use in certain circumstances when you have small, very targeted hotels that aim to do something specific.... but personally, I find the use of the word "boutique" to be one that should draw immediate warning signals. It seems to have become the word used interchangeably with "small" or as a way of hiding some other fact about the subject being described. It's a "boutique" firm, it's a "boutique" company, it's a "boutique" (insert noun).
Well, I found myself in a boutique hotel.

I was sent to one of these establishments for work. Since they were sending me, I wasn't going to say no......
The hotel seemed nice enough. The catering was good and the conferencing facilities they provided were also enough for our needs. It also had some very nice looking rooms and open areas. Everything was decorated in an old English style.
But of the hotel itself.... it was strange. While nice enough, there was something about the place that made me feel as though this was a cross between the set of an old murder mystery and the house of the old ladies my mother used to make me visit as a child (they would give me scones with jam and cream).
There were quirky decorations, old paintings and random books strewn everywhere. My favourite thing was probably the chessboard with the mismatched pieces.
I was lucky that my room was in a secluded corner of the hotel as well. I was able to get a nice quiet nights sleep. Others were not so fortunate and were subjected to bizarre creaks and the sound of pipes at various times during the night. The hotel may have looked nice and posh in an old country-manor sort of a way, but for me, it really did seem as though the word boutique had been used in this situation to replace the word "old".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Trumper Park

I love aussie rules.

I really do. Great game to watch and a great game to play. It's the game of my childhood. I grew up with this game. Many of my childhood memories involve being taken to school on a wet weekend morning to play games or going to watch my team play at Waverly Park in Melbourne.

I finally decided to be less lazy this year and to start playing again. So, I found myself a nice club and joined up.
The home ground of the club turned out to be the amazingly picturesque Trumper Park in Paddington, Sydney.
It really isn't a bad place to run out for a game at all. In fact, I would say it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen to run out for a game of aussie rules.
The old pavillion looks out onto the nice picket fences and the hill. Off to the side the ground is surrounded by rows of the old terrace houses that this part of Sydney is famous for.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Moving Again

Surprise, surprise.

I've moved again.
Once again I was lucky. Shortly after I found out I needed to move, a place came up.

I now found myself living with my old friends from high school and uni, the Colman twins. These guys had a room available so I took it.

It's amazing how things work out sometimes.

It felt a bit weird looking at my "new" room though. It felt essentially the same as the old ones. Surprisingly little has changed in the make up of what I own. It's almost like I just keep the exact same room and move it from apartment to apartment...
I was looking forward to this move though. It would give me a good opportunity to experience living in a very different part of Sydney.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Tragedy of Travel

I love being able to travel. Moving too.

I've been very lucky through my life. I've had the opportunity to experience living in numerous places and I've seen alot of amazing things. There's something about going to a new place that always gives me a thrill. When I'm merely passing through a place, I love being able to soak in the experiences and sights offered. When moving somewhere new, I just enjoy knowing that I'm embarking on something new, that in many ways I'm getting another chance to start over fresh.

However, there are also points about travel and moving that I dislike.

Some of them I downright hate.

Now there are little things that irk me like not being able to go back to places I enjoyed spending time in (the deserts of Jordan for instance) or not being able to continue old habits that I had become used to (such as going to the cafe "Silo" in Canberra on a regular basis). But really these things are minor inconviniences that can usually be substituted.

What cannot be subsituted are the people you meet.

This was hammered home to me very recently. I decided that coming back from India, I would stop over in Singapore to see some old friends and to spend some time with my parents who were travelling through there at the time. While there, I got to see some very special little friends of mine.
I was lucky enough to see little Tina and Magnus! These are two kids I used to babysit and look after when I lived in Singapore. They're starting to grow up now. I could hardly believe how big they had grown since I had last seen them!

Now, it was time for what would be the last goodbye for a very long time. Their family was moving away from Singapore. Who knows when I would see them again? The saddest part was that even when I do see them again, they won't be the way they are now. They'll be grown up, and much of these current cuteness will be gone.
It's a depressing thing to know that I won't get to see them grow up. I still remember when Magnus was a baby, I could hold him in both of my hands. Tina could hardly walk when I first met her. So saying goodbye to these two kids was incredibly difficult. It's the way alot of goodbyes are really....
But that's the way things are.