A week in Oz

In a few hours we will have been here exactly one week. Dani has finished his first (half) week in his new school. It’s hard to say how he is adapting as he never tells you anything. I suppose it’s fair to say that things are going quite well as we have not heard otherwise. Meanwhile we have been viewing some properties in the area. Bloody hard work without a car but more on that one to follow…

Getting to know the area

After dropping Dani at school today I went for a ‘reccy’ of the area just past the school. Only one block away is a real oasis. An urban retreat called Cooper Park.

The Park

Named after former owner Sir William Cooper the park is a large bushland reserve of 38 acres (15 ha). There is a natural creek running through the Park and a wide variety of native trees. The park has been developed for modern urban living over the years to include walking tracks and paths. There are covered shelters and picnic areas. If a bit of sports is your thing then there are eight floodlit grass tennis courts and a cricket pitch.

This park is an amazingly tranquil area in the midst of the huge urban sprawl that is Sydney. If a little transcendental meditation takes your fancy then this could be the spot for you. On the other hand if you venture less than 3 kilometres to the east you end up on the world famous Bondi beach. But more on that in a future post…

Dream Houses

The park lies in a dip between well established residential areas. There are some fine examples of early Sydney architecture and a fair few new builds. The new properties look modern but seem to compliment the old houses perfectly.

One street near the park is called Edward Street. Back where I come from there is a street of old terraced houses with the same name. They may share the same name, but they are a world apart. Not only because they are on opposite sides of the planet. I am guessing the cost of one of the big houses in this Sydney street would cost the same as the whole of the Edward Street that I know.

Pubs or Hotels?

Some good news for this old dad. I visited a local watering hole today and discovered that they will be showing the big fight live in a few weeks’ time. That’s the heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in case you didn’t know. With the time difference between here and Las Vegas it means I will be able to watch the action at a sensible time.

I hope to visit a few more pubs in the area over the next few weeks. And of course, report it here. For now, here are two things I have noticed. One; that most of them are called hotels rather than pubs. And two; they have a distinctive architecture. Here’s one…

Typical Pub Architecture in Sydney

But I can’t be spending too much time inside such places. At least just yet. What we need now is a place to live. With three apartments to view tomorrow we may be a step closer…

First Day at New School

Today was all about Dani’s first day in his new school.

On Parade

Dani was up early and dressed himself quickly in his new school uniform. Proud of how he looked, he was ship-shape and on parade long before we had to leave the apartment. That school designed ruck-sack? Hmmm… Bit on the big side?.

I think those hats are great but he won’t be needing that just yet. The mornings have been cloudy and the sun only seems to break through about midday. Still, it makes for a great photo and is officially part of the uniform.

Meeting his “buddies”

Arriving at school

Only a 7 minute walk from our temp accommodation we easily got there on time. We were immediately met by the face of the emails we had received – Stephanie. She then told us to wait a while as a couple of “buddies” would be down shortly to meet Dani. This is how they integrate all new starters. A good idea I am sure you will agree.

Soon enough they turned up. A kid called Liam (sorry I forget his surname, maybe Greek sounding? I will find out and report later) and another called Winston Wang. Yes, he looks Chinese. So I guess he must be.

Pensive. Waiting for his “buddies”

Big Bag Theory

Judging by Dani’s own level of geekiness and some of the other kids I saw, they could start a new club. They could call it the Big Bag Theory named after their school ruck-sack sizes and those nerds on TV.

We met his new teacher, Miss Brookhouse. Although I am sure she would have been there for a couple of days prepping, this was her first proper day at the school also. An interesting mix of subjects and options they have too. During the day we looked over his timetable on the school’s website. Quite impressive. It looks more like a secondary school list of classes. This could lead to some interesting conversations with our son – should he decide to tell us anything about his school day…

Never to old to learn new things…

So, what has Dani’s old dad learnt from this new school start?
Here is a list:

  • ‘Invasion style games’ – Space invaders more like!? This actually means sports like rugby and Aussie rule football. Hands up, I have never heard of that one.
  • ‘Morning enrichment’ – Yes there is such a thing in schools these days. Amazing eh? It turns out that these are early morning activities for kids whose parents have to dump them off an hour before official start time. Then they can commute with the crowds and get totally stressed out for the rest of the day. Ahhh… So glad to be out of that rat race! (at least for now).
    Among the morning enrichment options is Tap Dancing. Great for a budding Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. But I would have thought tap fitting would have been a much better option. Why don’t they teach really useful, practical skills in schools?
  • HSIE: Which stands for… Wait for it…. Human Society and Its Environment – Oh ohh!… ‘Greta’ type stuff by the sounds of it. Fortunately for Dani he gets the ‘alternative Greta’ side of the coin from his wise old dad.
  • PDHPE – Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Yeah; me neither. Not to worry – or ‘no worries’ as they say in these parts.

That HSIE and PDHPE stuff sounds more like corporate shit than primary school lessons eh? It really was so much simpler in my day…

And ‘morning enrichment’? Feck me! When I was that age we were all thrown into the same classes and whatever that involved. And get on with it! Actually, it would have been just the 3-Rs and little else at that age.

New Kid on the Block…

Last night before going to bed Dani arranged one of his Star Wars Lego figures on the chess board. Here it is. I call this work of art ‘The New Kid on the Block’:

New Kid in School…

I wonder how much of this was subconsciously how he thought this day might go?…

Big Day for a Little Boy

Tomorrow is a big day. Dani’s first day in a new school. In a new country.

Back to Normal

It’s a huge step for the little lad. Yet he seems quite laid back about it though. I think that is because he finally got his mojo back today. The previous two days he as been dog tired and falling asleep in an instant, in almost any position – including standing. Jet lag. He has really suffered from it.

He was in fine form when we went to buy his new uniform. Now he is fast asleep in bed. Back to his normal sleep pattern – more or less.

Don’t worry

While he was clearly suffering the effects of jet-lag he also had a temperature, so we were a little worried. Then we get an email from the school asking parents who have travelled to China during the long school summer holidays to keep their kids at home for a couple more weeks. Effectively self-quarantined.

This coronavirus scare is a classic example of something we should all ignore.

Here’s why. It’s that classic old saying. “Don’t worry about what you can’t control.”

If this thing really does become a pandemic, then who cares? We are all done for. The chances are of course that it will all blow over.

Crazy figures…

The only thing that seems certain is that this thing started in China. On the TV the other day they stated that there were 42 flights a day from China to Australia. Admittedly not all from near the infected region and not all coming into Sydney. Also not all passengers (by any means) will be Chinese – although they would have spent time there. However, when you work it out the figures are staggering. Let’s assume that the average number of passengers on each of those 42 daily flights is 450. Then it follows that the number of people flying in from China are as follows:

42 x 450 = 18900 per day, (x 7) 132,300 a week, (x52) which is a staggering 6,879,600 in a year. The population of the country is only just over 24 million.

Asking kids to stay off school an extra two weeks is clearly not the type of quarantine the country needs is it? That is if they re serious about the so-called ‘threat’.

Real Perspective

This, in a nutshell, is why nobody should waste time worrying about this kind of thing. If this disease really is a big problem, then “the horse has already bolted” (so to speak).

Just to put this into perspective; I have an acoustic guitar being shipped over in our container. When it arrives, it will have to sit in quarantine for a month because it is made of wood. The same goes for any wooden products. Food and animals even worse! Yet people just come and go from any country provided they have a passport and visa.

Then they try to scare us with stories of deadly diseases? Crazy eh?

Sydney: Where are all the party animals?

This is a quick follow up to the post yesterday on Australia Day…

I want to talk about something that was bugging me slightly at the time. And I am not talking about that smoking lecture prick! I want to try and put some perspective on what I saw. Or at least what I think I saw…

What was bugging me?

There was something not quite right, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time. I hinted at it when I said that “there was a party (of sorts)” going on under the bridge. Then when I woke up – early this morning – it hit me. (Is that a jet-lag thing?)

There was live music, food and drinks stalls and other activities. It was a hot summers day but this was all under the shade of the bridge. So, what was wrong?

Well in a nutshell I think it all seemed too sanitised. For one thing, there was hardly any sign of booze being consumed. Only those who had brought their own – as there was no cold beer on sale. (Missed opportunity there guys!)

It was also totally clean. No litter. Now that’s not a bad thing but hardly a sign of a large number of people having a good time and letting their hair down. Yeah, I know that information leaflet (see earlier post) asking people not be a “tosser” was both funny and good advice. But still… Are Australians afraid to fully celebrate their national day? Conscious of the “invasion day” protests in other parts of town, are they now subconsciously dumbing down their own parties? **

Spain and UK versus Sydney…

On the opposite side of the spectrum, in Spain, the place would have been a mess. But the townhall’s street cleaning services would have soon sorted it all out. The area was relatively small and kind of contained after all. In Spain the people definitely know how to celebrate long and hard into the night. They are famous for their party-animal-mode antics

In the UK beer would have flowed. Then of course at some point blood would have also flowed. Also, the police and paramedics would have had to deal with those who had drank too much and could hardly stand. Yeah, I know. Trust me; party time in the UK is not always jut about the fun side. But the point is there would have been a real party.

Stepford?

I am trying really hard to put some of my reaction down to the hidden effects of jet-lag. But to me it all seemed a little bit too ‘Stepford Wives’*. Just not quite real or too good (or clean) to be true. I realise that this is one small area in large city, but there are over 4 million people in Sydney. It seems odd that so many people can be so obedient. Simultaneously.  I am not saying it’s a bad thing but definitely unusual. Is this what it is like everywhere in Australia?

Anyway, that is the end of this little rant/update…

Footnotes*
*Stepford Wives: The 1975 cult horror film set in the town of Stepford where wives are reprogrammed to be obedient (to the point of subservience) and always clinical in everything they do. The term stepford is sometimes used to refer to someone or something that is always perfect. Too perfect in fact to be real.
Not to be confused with the 2004 remake which was really more of a comedy. In this version the women were changed into robots. The original was far more creepy.

** “Invasion Day” – more on this subject in a future post. Once I have had chance to speak to people.

Australia Day

Well Australia half Day in Dani’s case. This kid was so jet-lagged we were worried he had fallen ill. It was hot and humid and there was no beer on sale. What the hell was going on?

Under the Bridge

We took the trains to Milson’s Point where there was a party (of sorts) under the iconic Sydney Harbour bridge. At least it was in the shade.

There were food and beverage stalls – street food if you will. But where was the bloody beer?

There were plenty of people there. Some set up for the full day with picnic hampers and cooler boxes. It would have been good fun if Dani was not so tired.

And then this happened…

Hello. What’s this? The Smoking Police?

It’s a little early in this adventure to be getting totally pissed off by some Australian idiot but this actually happened, so here goes…

While under the bridge Dani’s mum was approached by some bloke who asked her if she should be smoking. To which I pointed out that we were outside. In the wide open. It took us completely by surprise. So; I had to ask.
“Was it illegal?”.
“No” he responded.
“So, what’s the problem then?” I said – really wanting to tell him to f*#k off.
“Well do you think it is a good thing with all these kids around” he retorted. At this point I should mention that he did not have any kids with him.
“No. It’s your choice but I am just asking you to think about it. I will leave you to make your choice” he continued.

Yeah mate. Go on, walk away!

I should have asked him if he drove a car. Because we have just sold three cars and are now (for the time being at least) car-less. Instead I just said “Yeah leave us alone to decide what to do.”

What a c*#t!

Off he went to queue up for some insanely high sugar content drinks. Great example for the kids that eh? Sorry to repeat myself but; what a C*#T!

Real Wildlife

Anyway, not to be put off by that strange wildlife, we moved over to an exhibition tent where a real-life Crocodile Dundee type was showing the kids some interesting animals. Snakes, scorpions, a stick insect and a few types of lizard. He was a bit like that fella who used to be on TV until he got killed by a stingray while trying to be clever and swim above it.

I can safely say that the kids – and adults – gathered around the one man show definitely learned a few things about some of Australia’s amazing wildlife.

Dani loved it. He got to touch the lizards and had a large stick insect crawl up his arm. Now that’s a great Australia Day for a kid.

The Finale

After grabbing a nice meal in Kirribilli village we could barely keep the boy awake. We had to take the train back to the aparthotel.

By 8pm Dani was totally gone. He is running a temperature and not 100%. Hopefully it is all down to the long journey and the erratic sleep pattern of the past few days. Hopefully he will have a long sleep and tomorrow will be fully recovered and be ‘in the time zone’. So, we missed the firework display but not to worry. There will be more.

On TV there was one of those very long live concert broadcasts from the opera house. Outside of the opera house actually. They dug up (almost literally) some old acts I thought were long gone. The original Seekers for one. Blimey! I can barely remember them. I half expected Rolf Harris to put in an appearance singing ‘Tie me kangaroo down’. But then again…

First Day in Sydney

This is our first day in Australia and it has been tiring. We are all feeling the effects of jet-lag now. Dani is flat out. So, before I join him in dreamland here is a quick review of the day…

Year of the Rat

Today was the Chinese new year. We passed through Chinatown and saw some dragon dances. Dani had never seen anything like it before. So naturally he enjoyed it.

This was after opening a bank account where the bank clerks were all Chinese. Then we bought Australian SIM cards for our mobile phones. Everyone in the mobile phone shops were also Chinese.

We walked through Darling Harbour and took a ferry ride under the famous harbour bridge and into Circular Quay. A great view of the famous opera house to boot. From there we walked through the area known as The Rocks and stopped at a pub for some very traditional Australian food. Pizza.

Yeah? Really? Well, it was the toppings that were uniquely Aussie. Salt-water crocodile, Kangaroo and Emu to be precise. All very tasty. Although Dani was not too keen. He likes his pizza simple.

Coronavirus

On a more sobering note… There was something on the news today about three confirmed cases in New South Wales. Coronavirus. What an odd name. King of germs? (Corona being Spanish for crown).

I am not total ‘couldn’t care less’ person but I am always wary of things that the media latch onto. In recent years they have tried to scare us with tales f possible swine flu, (bird) avian flu and even monkey flu pandemics. Then there was that Sars thing. Probably others. I just can’t be bothered trying to remember. You name it; there is always something and oddly enough they nearly always seem to originate in China don’t they?

The confirmed cases in NSW are men from China – so we are told. Well, there is no point in trying to avoid it here in Sydney.

Australia Day

Tomorrow is Australia day. Also referred to as ‘Invasion Day’ by the Aboriginal population. But I don’t even want to get into that one. Let’s just see what the day holds. Suffice to say that there will be plenty going on. Culminating in a firework display in the harbour to rival the new year’s eve celebrations. Where will we go to enjoy this national celebration?

Typically Aussie

Meanwhile this made me laugh. It doesn’t get any more stereotypically Aussie than this…

Earlier today we picked up a little folding map and Australia Day guide from an information booth. At the bottom of the folded sheet are a couple of advice sections. One being “Stay Safe”. If English is your first language (or you are familiar enough with the slang) I guarantee it will make you laugh.

Yeah, it means don’t toss your empty drinks bottles and tin cans. But it is definitely written with the other meaning in mind.

 

Waiting for a plane

Here is Dani waiting in the airport lounge for the first plane to Dubai – where we change for the final leg of the journey.

Etch-a-Sketch or iPad?

Not a care in the world. But what is he doing you may wonder? Well it may look like an iPad – very popular with adults and kids alike these days. But in fact it is a new special edition of an old favourite; Etch-A-Sketch.

It seems they are popular again and all thanks to a clause in Michael Jackson’s will. He wanted his ashes magnetised and put into these new toys so that the kids could still play with him. At least that’s one version…

OK. It is an iPad. A bit of an old Mikey Jackson joke that one but still funny…

Last Day in Europe

This is our last full day in Europe. Tomorrow we fly to the other side of the world.

Those stressful loose ends…

They say relocation can be stressful. I would agree. Then relocating to the other side of the world must be even more stressful. The reality of emigrating to a far-off land means that you not only need to pack your personal possessions but also tie up a whole load of loose ends. Like selling your cars (see last post) and finding long term storage for things you leave behind. That is if you are not simply getting rid of everything.

These last few days in Madrid have been extra stressful because the apartment we were renting was virtually empty. Beds and sofas on their way by ship to Sydney, New South Wales. Well, apart from hundreds of boxes of crap that needed to be moved out. It meant staying with the mother-in-law – or suegra in Spanish. Give me strength!!

After a few nights of sleeping in Dani’s abuela’s house that 24-hour journey suddenly seems a lot more appealing. Right now it could be a 48 hour journey as far as I am concerned. Let’s get this show on the road I say! This short week has really upped the stress levels.

OK. All joking aside: When you think that family members will no longer be there for us due to the great distances it does help you focus on what is important. It is going to be hard to adjust once the initial holiday-mode feeling has died down. But it should be fun. It is what you make it.

A taste of things to come?

I am afraid I already know that the project Dani’ mum will be working on out in Sydney will be a complete joke. I already know it is being run by fools. Here’s why…

With some of those loose ends still to be tied up they have been requesting her presence in tele-conference calls for the past two days. Normally that would not be too big of an ask right? /but taking into account the time difference it has meant that she has been getting up for video conferences between 5am and 7.30am for the past two days. As if that wasn’t enough; the actions resulting from these meeting lead to them asking her to go to the office and sort some (minor) details out for the project.

Nut-jobs…

What?! Are these people crazy or just stupid?

My reaction was I suppose obvious.

Don’t they know that she is about to fly down there specifically to get on with the job.

I would have said, ‘I can get you what you want over these next two days or just go with the plan and fly down there to live and work full-time on the project. Which do you prefer?’

Can’t these people wait couple of days and get everything sorted face-to-face? These projects go on and on for years. Is a couple of days going to make that much difference?

Sadly, I know the answer. Well actually there are two answers and I know both of them. One is ‘yes’. They need to tick a box right this minute so they can look good. The real answer is of course ‘no’. It doesn’t make the slightest difference. Whatever they have discussed and agreed this week will be undone and done again at least another two or three times before things get implemented.

Agh! ‘F*#k them’ I say. I am so glad that I am out of that. For the time being that is…

Meanwhile let’s get down there and see what’s what. We are ready to go…

The Journey Begins – Loose Ends

It’s a long way to Australia. If you live in the northern hemisphere of course. For me the trip begins shortly. Today I fly from the UK to Madrid. Then after a few days we fly to Australia on Thursday.

There were, and still are, plenty of loose ends to sort out. One of which was selling my car in the UK. It’s a long story but here is the short version.

They buy any car…

For a price that suits them. It was like “Hey dude! Where’s my car?”

Somebody stole it! Or you could say I sold it.

Then again, a bit like hearing the news on mainstream media and then listening to a conspiracy theorist; the reality is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I did not have the time to sell the car privately, so I went online. The first (and still most popular in the UK) company that set up a car buying service on the internet was “webuyanycar.com” so it seemed the logical place to start.

“Webuyanycar.con more like! Their website offered me a decent figure. More than I needed to break-even. When you take a car to these people they then make up all sorts of excuses as to why it is only worth (in my case) almost £1000 less than that website figure. I would have been happy meeting them half-way. But the word ‘haggle’ is not in their dictionary. They know that you want to get rid of your vehicle and they want to spend as little as possible. Obviously, I knew that too. And I had to sell. But you can’t help feeling that companies like we-buy-any-car are the internet age version of the not always fully honest, second-hand car dealers like Arthur Daley.

Of course, this is the case. But these companies clearly serve a purpose. The second-hand car industry is huge – especially in the UK where it is worth over an amazing £40billion a year. And it has been this valuable every year for the past 10 years at least. That is more (every year) than that infamous one-off EU Brexit “divorce bill” of some £39billion (as we are often told).

It gets worse….

I did try another website. But after this one I really could not be othered. “Jamjar.com” is a complete joke. I urge you to go ahead and try it! Enter your car’s registration number and laugh at the figures on offer. The first one or two will be about right but then it just gets silly. I have no idea how that thing works and how they can even think they are offering a realistic service.

Arthur Daley? Who’s he?

Apologies to non-British readers who will probably be saying ‘who the hell is he?’

Arthur Daley was a character in a popular British TV series called Minder which ran from 1979 to 1994. Daley, played by George Cole, was the classic ‘loveable rogue’ and, to some, a kind of working-class hero. His unscrupulous money-making schemes were the source of each episode. The stories were written with a strong comic element. Despite the many dodgy dealings he was involved in his main source of income was as a used car salesman. Hence why, in the UK, whenever you hear jokes about buying used cars the name Arthur Daley often pops up.

Retirement – Well, Maybe.

Today was my last day at work. I am officially retired. At least that is how I feel. Not exactly that ecstatic lottery winning moment. Nor like it might feel to score the World Cup winning goal. Nevertheless, it feels good.

As for the move to the southern hemisphere: It’s all becoming very real. While a happy go lucky six-year-old can be oblivious to it, his old dad must get real…

Where the F*#k will we live?

The pre-trip plans are taking a back seat now. Yes, of course there will be some things I forget to do or forget to pack but those are now almost unimportant. My focus is now turning to a basic question. “What the f*#k will we do when we get there?”

This is not panic, even anxiety, or anything like that. The main thing on my mind is; where are we going to live? I have been in Sydney once before but only for a short time. And that was years ago. Back then I wouldn’t have paid any attention to the suburbs.

I have been emailing real estate agents so at least I now have some contacts on the ground before we get there. This is always one of the biggest (if not the biggest) hurdle to settling into any new location. Even a few miles (or kilometres) down the road, never mind the other side of the world.

We have a month in one of those ‘aparthotels’ so not much time to find a suitable residence. Especially when all I have heard and read suggests that good properties in good areas are rented out fast. And what exactly is a “good” area in a new country/city that you do not know?

As always, the only answer to this type of question is that you have to get there and suss it out. Do the leg-work.

Location Location Location?

The area will depend on how easy (or not) it is for Dani’s mum to get to work. For a sprawling city like Sydney there are surprisingly few train lines and no underground rail system. Such details limit the availability of “good” places to live even more. It also leads to the inevitable congestion of road traffic.

It’s that work-life balance thing again. When isn’t it? Maybe more of a non-work life balance in my case but we will get to that later.

When my boy is old enough to read all this blog nonsense I wonder how much he will remember about how he was feeling at this time?