Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A marathon, a Great White Shark and a road trip

Before you begin reading this blog entry be warned that it is a long one, over 9,000 words. It has been quite a while since I last updated you all on my activities but hopefully some of the things I have been up to will keep you amused and entertained.

The past few weeks has seen me travel through 4 of Australia’s States and cover a distance of over 4,000kms. Unfortunately, I now find myself back where it all began in Melbourne but it is fine, I know that in only 2.5 more weeks I will be back on the road for good.

I am currently homeless so this post comes to you from the front room of my good Aussie mate Nick ‘he wishes he was English’ Burt. His place is amazing and just the sort of gaff I would like to eventually find myself in. As I type this I look out over his balcony with a view of the Melbourne city skyscrape to the right, the coastal suburb of St Kilda and Luna Park directly in front of me (a small theme park housing the world’s oldest roller coaster) and surrounding all this, the ocean.

So here we go, I will do my best to be brief but there can be no guarantees!
Back to the beginning of October and it was the AFL (Aussie Rules) Final. Tradition dictates that you should attend a BBQ with your mates and get drunk whilst watching the game. I was invited to the house of a friend of my mate Winslow (footy mate from Grimsby) and had a great day. To summarise, the guy had a pool table, a number of cool lad gadgets on his veranda, 3 widescreen tv’s and lots of alcohol. The game kicked off at 2pm and I got to bed at 5am after mixing a lot of different alcohols and was rewarded with hangover number 9 of my life the next day. It was not pretty.
The game itself was quite good but the highlight was the pre-match entertainment – Meatloaf murdering his own songs during a 12 min set which was slated all over the media, especially due to his $600,000 fee.

The next week was taken up with preparations for that coming Sunday’s Melbourne Marathon. I have no problem admitting that I was terribly nervous and a little scared as the day approached but I considered not completing it, after all, failure is not an option.

The day before the race I attended a birthday get together for Winslow’s girlfriend Rae with Arancha. The do was at the Belgium Beer Gardens in Melbourne and I did not enjoy it – I was on lime and soda! By chance there happened to be 4 previous Melbourne Marathon runners in the birthday invitees and they all had some great advice for me which I readily took on board.
One guy, Andrew, gave me 3 pieces of information that I couldn’t help but think “bloody hell” as we discussed them:

1)You must do the run in your training gear – comfort is everything during a marathon

2)The energy gels are great and I assume that you have trained with them, as that is essential

3)I trained for a year for my marathon and once you get past the 30km mark you are in unknown territory but you know you can do it because it is only another 12km’s

The reason I got scared was:

1)Even though I knew this fact I ignored my own and his advice and only that morning brought some nice new running shorts and vest which I was determined to wear

2)I had energy gels but I have never trained with them before. In fact, I have only tasted one once before. To minimise the adverse effect that they may have had I took the gels without caffeine in them as I do not have much caffeine in my diet and I did not want a dodgy belly

3)He assumed (quite rightly) that I had done a lot of training for this. I daren’t tell him that I only decided 5 weeks ago to enter and that my previous longest run ever was the half marathon I did two weeks earlier. I really couldn’t be doing with that raised eyebrow look that said you are an idiot, I was nervous enough as it was.

That night I carb loaded and got a very early night. I was awoken an hour before my 5:30am alarm call by a text from my mother wishing me good luck!! I had to giggle to myself that her best intentions had robbed me of an essential extra hour sleep but that was that, I was now awake and scared shitless. Love you Ma.
I got to the MCG (start line) via taxi at 6am and had a good hour to prepare myself for the upcoming challenge. The all important preparations consisted off some pasta, half a banana, a poo (essential) and covering myself in Vaseline (even more essential as chaffing is a killer, especially joggers nip!)
Whilst getting ready I saw one of Arancha’s uni mates from Sydney who I had met the day before and he had some last words of encouragement for me which helped a lot.

So that was that, judgement time was upon me. Just before the race began the guy over the tannoy announced that the days oldest competitor was 83 years old – that statement was enough for me to know that I had to finish the race, if he can then so can I.
I won’t lie, it was really hard, but I still enjoyed every moment of it except for the last 5kms that seemed to last a life time. My way of tackling the marathon and getting over the finish line was to feed off of everybody else’s pain and suffering. It may sound harsh but surely that is what all sportspeople do in order to win – they psychologically get one over on their opponent.
For example, at 8kms I looked over to the other side of Albert Park lake, about 3kms behind me and saw people running – that’s a boost, you are beating a lot of people already; at 10kms a fit looking guy broke down and was hobbling and crying – my thought was he has trained too hard and his body has let him down, you should’ve done 5 weeks like me. There were other occasions on the course where you loop around the roads, so as you are running down one side and people are coming up the other you know that they still have to cover what you have just done – gutted.

I specifically remember crossing the 21km mark (halfway) and thinking that I was now in unknown territory as I had never run this far before but it was fine, I was feeling good and the occasion and my i-pod was keeping me going. Oddly enough, I started to feel a little rough around 28kms and at that exact point I noticed Andrew (the guy who gave me the advice at Rae’s bday party) in the crowd. I gave him a thumbs up, he applauded me and I cannot describe what a boost it gave to me. It is odd, but that smile from him alone got me through the next 10kms and I had only met him the day before.

As I got to the 37kms mark I really began to hurt. All I could do was put one foot in the front of the other and block every other thing out. I remember one guy stub his toe because he wasn’t lifting his legs up enough and I wanted to ask if he was ok but I couldn’t even muster the words to speak. It didn’t matter because within 5 seconds the guy was out of it, that little stumble stopped him completely in his tracks. It is really hard to describe the feeling of not having the capability to do anything more than just keep running forward towards your destination.

After what seemed like a 5km eternity I got to within 500 metres of the finish line. At that point I heard Arancha calling out from the crowd and I saw her and nearly lost it. A lump appeared in my throat but being the well spoken individual that I am I managed only to tell her that “I am f*cked” and carried on past her.

It’s odd that I managed to run 42.2kms in 3hrs 43mins, but the moment that I got over that finish line and stopped running I couldn’t breathe at all and I started to get very emotional. I have always wanted to test myself by running a marathon and I had done it. I think the worry of failure to complete it, which was my biggest fear, came to the surface after I had finished and all I wanted to do was burst into tears and lie down. However, the most important thing was still to be completed – collect the marathon medal that I have always coveted.

What followed was yet another emotional moment when I finally got to Arancha, a lovely leg massage from the volunteers at the finish line and then a self administered ice bath at home which was the key to my recovery. It was very uncomfortable and my penis was positively inverted by the end of it, but my limbs felt pretty good afterwards, so much so that I went for an 8km run 2 days later to stretch out.

The marathon was probably the greatest personal achievement of my travels so far and this maybe goes beyond my travels as well and I am definitely doing it again. Next time I will do some proper training though as I want to see how fast I can do it with better fitness levels and real preparation. Still, this was another positive result for mind over matter – the basis of how I live my life. If you want to do something, just do it.
By the way, marathon day also happened to coincide with my 1 year anniversary of being out of the UK – I clearly know how best to celebrate such occasions.

My final word on the marathon is a big up to the women who finished last. Fair play love but you couldn’t have been running much if you finished a total of 3hrs after me, but at least you finished it.

The next 3 weeks was an exercise in finishing up with the temporary life that I have made in Melbourne over the past 6 months. I moved out of my flat and in with Nick and his bird Sam (both amazing people and I am so grateful to them for letting me stay rent free for a couple of weeks), completed my contract at work and as usual had the odd night out on the lash.

One annoying thing is that since I completed my marathon my body has got it into its head (not mine) that it is ok to relax and put on some weight. I have told it that this just isn’t on but it isn’t having any of it, the w*nker, so over the next couple of weeks I will be taking it to task! It just isn’t cricket!!

Staying at Nick and Sam’s has been great. It is weird that after only one night there I felt more at home than I did in 5 months at my own place. I guess it all depends on the company that you share your environment with!
One amusing thing about staying there is that Nick has just got into remote control planes and on my first Saturday at his place he invited me along to go and ‘play’ with him. Here I was thinking that I may get to have a fly but it turned out that because the ground wasn’t perfect he just needed a body to hand launch the planes for him and somebody to carry the tool box (who carries a toolbox around a park?). It is easy enough to hand launch the planes but these planes are real weapons and about half the height of me in length.

When we got to our flight destination Nick started to prepare the plane for take-off whilst I stood there and tried to avoid the stares of all the ‘lads’ getting ready for their cricket match. It felt a bit like when you would walk though the council estates back home and all the cool kids would be there wearing their Nike Air Max whilst I hurried through, head down, wearing my Clarks trainers.

Still, my mum was right, Clarks are better for your feet and they are in good condition now, so I remembered this and held my head high as I prepared to launch the Cessna. My pride came crashing back down though as Nick then declared that he was too nervous to fly with so many potential victims around.

So we moved on and found another location just around the corner. There was nobody here except for a couple; he was practically slathering at the plane, whilst the wife was practicing throwing her javelin (as you do). I have to admit that his planes are pretty cool, especially with the fact that he attaches little cameras to each wing to film the plane’s eye view. It all suited my very geeky nature.
If you would like to see ‘our’ flight (you can see my curls at launch and me duck as he flies over my head whilst I am also filming the flight) you can view it on youtube by typing in ‘Park flight – small space!!!’. This will also give you a link to another clip of Nick crashing his plane into a lake and nearly having a spaz attack which is hilarious and one where he flew the plane into some overhead train cables and there is an explosion which destroyed his plane (one of many).

A couple of other events that I attended in my last few weeks of ‘life’ in Melbourne were the Derby Day, one of the biggest race days of the Melbourne Race Festival and a wedding.
Derby was great fun. I went along with Arancha, Nadia and Nat to the Flemington Race Course and as you would expect we got very merry. Overall I had a decent day, 2 winners and 2 places but most importantly I did not exceed my budget for losses, so I was happy; happier than Arancha who got fed up with my choices and decided to bet on her own horses only to see me win on the very next race.

The wedding of a colleague of Arancha’s was 2 days later and was out in the relative wilderness of the Dandenong Ranges. The location was lovely and it was nice to meet a lot of Arancha’s fellow teachers as I will be at their Xmas do next weekend. Seems odd that it is approaching Xmas and it is 30 degrees outside and I am looking at the sea.

Aussie weddings are different to ours and by all accounts this was a typical one. The wedding ceremony was at 4pm and thankfully was only about 30mins long. After that you are then left to amuse yourself for about 2 hours whilst the bridal party has the photos done and it isn’t until around 7pm that you are invited to join the reception and eat, although the speeches are first. The problem with this is that by the time you have eaten you are only left with about 2 hours to hit the dance floor and party to those wedding classics (yes they have the same ones here as well).
This leads me onto Aussie men and their claims that they are big drinkers – the truth is that they cannot drink for sh*t. Wedding timeframes like this are proof of it. They may argue that they have had 10 beers in a night “you pommie b*stard”, but they have been drinking from Scooner glasses, so the equivalent of about 6 pints.
However, big up to the sheila’s, they know how to drink.

The following week was my last at work, and what a great pleasure it was to tell people that I was now embarking upon a long weekend, a very long weekend, about 7 months to be exact. I wasn’t at all upset to be leaving Medibank, I mean who would be upset at leaving their job to travel? Still, I was very lucky yet again to have worked with some really excellent and talented people, some of which I will be staying in contact with.
I had 2 leaving meals, one on the Wednesday with 2 colleagues who would not be around on my final day and then the other on the Thursday with the wider team. There isn’t too much to say, lunch was nice, the company was good and I was presented with 2 souvenir books of Melbourne and Australia as a parting gift. My boss’ speech for me was funny when he told of how I came to the interview for the job with the most bags that he had ever seen for an interviewee and wearing a shirt bearing the telltale creases of one just out of the packet. He said that he knew I would be right for the job because I explained everything straight away and he knew that I would need a sense of humour to work within the department.

Basically, on the day of the interview I had nothing to wear, so I went into the city brought some trousers from a second hand shop (I didn’t actually mention this), a new shirt and tie (which the shop owner assured me that my body heat would cause the creases to drop out – I am not sure why I believed that) and some new shoes. As I didn’t know if I would get the job I planned to take some stuff back as I was a skint backpacker so I rocked up to the interview with all of these bags.
Funnily enough I did actually take the shoes back after the interview – I needed the $100.

I would like to say a big thank you to all of the guys at Medibank for making my time there good fun. It was frustrating at times (you guys know why – EDW) but I still take away some valuable learnings from the experience that we be very useful for my career in the future.
Now we get into the good stuff so you might to pause here to get yourself a cup of tea.

Finishing work meant that I would be flying to Port Lincoln, South Australia the very next day to go cage diving with Great White Sharks – a life dream. Definitely the best birthday present I am ever likely to receive – thanks again Lil’ C!

Via Adelaide, Arancha and I flew to Port Lincoln on the Friday and checked into our very liveable accommodation just on the outskirts of town. That night we had a couple of drinks and some dinner before retiring to bed early as we had to be up at 5:45am the next morning.
The alarm sounds and it is ‘Shark Day’. Buzzing and full of anticipation we board the boat ready for the 7am departure and take our seats as we begin our 2.5 hour journey out to Neptune Island. Getting onto the boat and seeing the cage on the back of it is a definite reality check moment but it only heightened our excitement.
During the journey out there we were treated to various breakfast items and drinks. Over the past 3 weeks I have been on a number of boat trips and I have to say that the food on offer is always of top quality. The Aussie’s can definitely put on a decent and healthy spread of food. Then again, they should for the price you pay for the trips. Still, I can just imagine how it would be in England on a cruise off the coast of Blackpool and getting a soggy egg and cress or tuna sarny, after the captain has ripped the cling-film off of those flimsy tin trays, with a bowl of cheese and onion crisps and a bottle panda cola on the side.

As we approached Neptune Island we could see seals on the rocks, a good sign. If the prey was there then hopefully the predators should be nearby. It was then cage lowering and chum time!! Over the dozens of documentaries that I have watched about sharks it is always the dumping of the chum into the ocean that is synonymous with the hunt for that elusive Great White that could be lurking just under the surface of the water.

For those of you who are not aware, Chum is ground up fish guts and blood. It gets pumped into the ocean to attract the sharks to simulate a potential injured or dying animal. I am pretty sure that I read somewhere that a Great White’s senses are so sharp that it can identify 1 part blood in 1 million parts water!! That is pretty awesome.
Along with the chum a number of huge fish innards were thrown overboard attached to ropes – essentially to act out a carrot and a stick scenario for when they arrived.
A couple of hours passed by as everyone kept their eyes on the ocean waiting for the first sighting, but a few people also used it as an opportunity to fish and they caught a number of decent sized fish. It was eerily quiet as we all hung around staring out into the dark waters that had streams of blood on the surface from the chum and that silence was only broken by the staff banging and splashing the waters to mimic an animal in distress.

Finally, the shout that we have all heard on tv went up, “SHARK!”. There it was in front of us, my first (and only as it turned out) Great White Shark, approximately 10 feet long and a beautiful dark grey in colour along the top of it’s body.
The first dive group jumped into the cage and were treated to the shark approaching the cage a couple of times and thrashing about right in front of them. As they exited the cage after about 20mins you could see it written all over their faces – pure amazement. All I wanted to do was get in there.

We were in the third group and by the time it was our turn the second group had been in there for 30mins with no sightings at all and I wasn’t hopeful.
I was first into the cage and whilst down there all alone two things struck me:

1)It was so cold – it is the Southern Ocean after all

2)If a shark does turn up now out of the murkiness and I am going to be really scared

Soon I was joined by the 5 other divers and we hung there in the freezing waters praying that our luck would be in. At one point we saw a fish that was the size of my thumb, I looked over at Arancha who had also spotted it and I could tell by her eyes that she could appreciate the irony of this as much as I could. There were some other big fish that came over to inspect us but alas there were no more Great Whites to be seen on this day. The only other things to happen whilst down in the cage was a girl slipping off the top of the ladder and landing on her arse at the bottom of the cage because of her weight belt (I found that really funny) and a fresh release of chum being swept into the cage by the current and some of it getting caught up in my now long flowing locks (which Arancha found really funny and refused to help get it out).

After another hour or 2 it was time to set off back to the mainland. To say that I was disappointed was an understatement but I can at least console myself with the fact that I have still seen a Great White with my own eyes and that is still something pretty rare and inspiring. Another consoling point was that I will be passing back by this way in 2 months time from my Western and Southern Aus road trip so there is no reason why we can’t come and try again.

I am a believer in karma and positive energy and I believe that I am doing well in the good karma stakes at the minute so I was pleased that karma presented me with an opportunity whilst on our way back to port especially after highlighting above that I would be passing again.
One of the staff walked past me with her folder and piece of card fell out of it and landed by my foot. I picked it up but before handing it back to her I read it first. I was pleased to see that it was a voucher for a free cruise on the boat to be used before Apr 2012 – I am passing by in Feb 2012.

Now there is an argument that says that I should’ve handed this back to the woman and this point was more than likely shared by the passenger who saw me pick it up, read it, smile and put it under my towel.
However, I was torn:
a)You can take the Lambert lad out of Leicester but you cannot take the Leicester and the Lambert out of the lad – I don’t call it theft, I call it opportunistic
b)I believe in my karma stakes and I was just taking what was due
c)Plus, the fellow passenger met my eyes and I could tell that he knew the rules of grassing on a G!!!

I was further satisfied with my karma and my decision when the staff member returned later and handed us a half price voucher to return and cage dive at a later date – which I was hopeful of receiving but wasn’t sure if we would get it because even though we hadn’t seen a shark in the cage we had seen one on the day which is the trip policy.
So the result is that I will phone up and find out if my full voucher is valid for a cage dive, and if it is we are quids in as I will ebay the other voucher, if it doesn’t include the cage dive I am also quids in as I will ebay that voucher and use the other. I love karma!!

So that was that, we got back to land, had dinner and a few beers to commiserate but still managed to have a really fun night.

The next day it was back to Melbourne and then the following day I was back at the airport to fly off to Sydney to be reunited with 2 of the hombres – Mr Latner and Mr Eggbert – after 13 months apart.

I got to Sydney around 4pm on the Monday afternoon and headed over to Lauren Greenall’s place, which is where I would be crashing for a few nights whilst we were all in Sydney. (Greenall is my mate from London who now lives out here and I stayed with her back in March when I first arrived in Aus, but you all know this as you are avid followers of the blog!!)
That night Lauren and I went out for some food and a few drinks.

Early the next morning I was up, out of the house and heading down to the hostel where the lads would be shortly arriving. What follows is an account of the lads’ roadtrip up the east coast of Australia – enjoy.

Day 1 – Sydney:

• We are reunited after 13 months apart. We embraced, enquired as to how we are all doing and then settled back into the same old routine. I wasn’t surprised to find that after being away for so long it seemed like I had only seen them last week. We have all been mates for nearly 20yrs now and all we have ever had is an easy going, take the p*ss out of each other relationship
• First thing we did was the obligatory sightseeing around Circular Quay – the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and get lots of photos of us all together
• 11am and it is time for the first pint. You may consider this as a waste as the lads had just arrived in Sydney but in my defence I did take them to a pub in The Rocks area of Sydney which is the location of the first buildings ever to be constructed by the convicts!
• Took a ferry over Sydney Harbour to Manley Beach. This is my favourite beach in Sydney and the lads got their first taste of the Pacific Ocean. Literally 5mins after walking onto the beach we headed to the pub and settled back for a few drinks.
• During this time we were approached by an old lady from the southern United States who wanted to take a picture of 3 genuine Aussie lads having a beer and then asked us if we had seen Chuck, her husband, who had gone missing. We had to keep an eye out for a fat (of course he is, he’s a yank) man wearing a yellow t-shirt and blue shorts! We also saw a group of South East Asian school kids who has trousers so short that they looked like a group of Michael Jackson’s with their black shoes and white socks
• Back into town to get changed and then met up at the Sydney Opera Bar (at the Opera house and looks out over the harbour and the bridge) along with Greenall and Helen (a friend who by coincidence would be on her hen do in Byron Bay this Sat when we would also be there)
• Boozy night which culminated in Egg having a dance off with some backpackers in their hostel nightclub
• There was a funny Latner story from that night. In the hostel you needed a card to get into the bathrooms; Lats apparently went to the loo but forgot his card. After banging on the bedroom door for ages Egg woke up and let him in so that Lats could get the card. He went back to the toilet and realised that he had gone into the bedroom, walked around and did not pick up the required card. Once again he found himself trying to wake Egg up and when he finally did, he went straight to bed. The result – his p*ssed the bed and he was on top bunk.

Day 2 – Sydney:
• Met up around midday and headed off to Bondi Beach to swim, bodysurf and splash water into each others’ faces.
• Took a walk from Bondi along the cliff edge to take in the Sculptures By The Sea exhibition – an annual exhibition of art along the cliff tops
• On our way up we passed an exclusive bar which overlooked Bondi Beach and there in front of us on the balcony sipping champagne was none other than Mel B, her husband and Monty Panesar (England cricketer) – an odd combination
Mel B quickly disappeared indoors but we were able to get a photo of Monty with Mel B’s husband
To quote Egg, this is how we got the picture:
“Alright Mont-eh, give us a picture son”
• Took in the delights of the exhibition which was really good. Personal highlight was this little hobbit type house and Egg making us take a picture of him in the doorway with his bare arse just peeping around the corner of it
• Out that night on the lash in the Kings Cross area of Sydney. We couldn’t get into the best club as I was wearing my thongs (flip-flops) which in my defence Greenall told me would be ok. So we found ourselves in this crappy sports bar playing pool with 2 couples from the back country, the guys hated us for some reason and there was also an old alcoholic woman that would just not leave us alone. I finished up at 4am as I was flying the next day, the lads carried on until about 5:30am and got lost going home
To prove that the guys hated us, after I had left the lads had a photo taken with the others and as Latner put his arm around one of the guys he quickly shifted and told Lats “don’t you f*cking touch me...” – ha ha!

Day 3 – Lennox Head

• We had booked our flights separately and the airline then messed us around meaning that I flew up to Ballina (the north end of New South Wales) 24 hours before the lads
• I was due to pick up the camper van the next morning so I headed over to Lennox Head, a cool little surfing town with one of the top 10 surf beaches in the world, checked into a hostel and wasted my evening chatting with other travellers and getting some sleep stored up for the coming 2 weeks

Day 4 – Nimbin

• I awoke bright and early to a warm sunny day and took a leisurely jog along the beach before checking out and heading back to the airport to pick up the camper van – our home for the next 2 weeks
• It was still early and I had about 6 hours to kill before the lads landed so I headed over to some cafe that the campervan lady recommended, had some lunch and sat back and read for the afternoon
• It was now time to get back to the airport so that we could begin the roadtrip. Backing out of the parking space at the cafe I was greeted with a very loud bang – I’d only had the van a couple of hours and already I managed to reverse it into a road sign that I swear wasn’t there before. Luckily there was no damage and we had full insurance so it wouldn’t have mattered anyway
In my defence this is why I am reversing out very slowly as Egg films me at the beginning of the roadtrip dvd – after all I was back in the campervan car park and that is not the place to have another bump!
• We christened the van Gaz because it has a sort of high top back which resembled Lloyd (only the lads will get this joke). The great thing about the high top back was that this was to be Latner’s coffin type sleeping space. It was decided that he should have the ‘prime’ sleeping spot because it was advised that this sleeping space was not suitable for small children and Latner is bigger than us two
• We were officially on the road and first stop was Nimbin – Australia’s hippy version of Amsterdam. You will recall that I was here back in March with my German buddies and I met Nimbin Kate in the museum, swigging her vodka. I wanted to lads to experience such cultural delights
• As we drove to Nimbin, which is located in the misty hills away from the coast, we saw something stretched out across the entire width of the lane. Before I had any time to react I had driven over a huge snake, driving over the tail and head! I had no choice, the roads were wet, it was raining, we were travelling at a decent speed so it was the snake or us
• We spent the night free camping in a car park whilst fully taking in the local culture!!

Day 5 – Byron Bay

• We left Nimbin in the morning following a nice breakfast at a place where Lats played with an equal of his – a dog that kept bringing the stick back to him and if it couldn’t find the stick it would pick up another and bring that to him
• The first thing we did was head to a swimming hole out in the countryside. We approached it from the top of a waterfall which we had to climb down in order to get into the water. Unfortunately it was only Latner and I that went for a swim because when we were crossing the rocks to the edge of the waterfall I noticed a small leech on my foot which I showed to Egg. He then saw a small one that had attached itself to his foot and I have never seen someone panic so much over such a minute organism, I honestly thought he was going to have a heart attack! Anyway, after getting it off he flatly refused to go into the water which left just the 2 of us to frolic
• The afternoon saw us arrive in Byron Bay, check into a nice caravan park and head to the beach. Whilst in the sea trying to perfect our bodysurfing technique we saw a large shadow cover the area that we were stood in and before we knew it a kite surfers huge kite came crashing down into the sea just missing Egg – why is it if your mates nearly get hurt it is really funny?
• That evening was our first night cooking our own food – a nightly ritual that we would come to really look forward to and a time when we could sit back and enjoy the fruits of our cooking labour. Every meal consisted of meat and pasta. We would enjoy all sorts of steak, kangaroo, sausage and chicken over the next few days. Egg has got a real talent as meat cooker and should open a kebab shop!
• It is fair to say that we got smashed on that night out in Byron. We ran into the girls on their hen do at around midnight after I heard Greenall laughing from the other side of the road (big mouth!!) and we proceeded to all get as drunk as skunks

Day 6 – Beerwah

• We left Byron and stopped off for lunch in Surfers Paradise
• The aim was to get to Beerwah (a small place north of Brisbane) and spend the evening there before visiting Australia Zoo, the spiritual home of Steve Irwin, the next day
• The bonus of hanging around in Beerwah for the afternoon is that it is also the home of the Glasshouse Mountains. We had some spare time so Lats and I ventured up to the lookout to get a fantastic view of the mountains. Unfortunately Egg’s chronic fear of heights (which you must get sorted out matey) meant that we left him further down in the middle of nowhere watching some kangaroos in a field
• Evening time was taken up with a BBQ and hanging around the van taking the p*ss out of each other

Day 7 – Australia Zoo and Noosa Heads

• Australia Zoo was great and I rank it as the number 2 zoo in the world behind Singapore Zoo. We were all a little gutted to see that if we had arrived a day later we would have been at the zoo on Steve Irwin Day and that would’ve guaranteed us a sighting of Bindi Irwin – the lads appreciate what a special treat that would’ve been! We consoled ourselves with a good time watching the crocodile show in the huge show arena, feeding kangaroos and having photos with them pretending to take them from behind and generally melting in the sun
• We drove on to Noosa Heads which is a very upmarket coastal town set around a number of waterways and a national park and it is lovely
• The usual afternoon and evening entailed – check into a cool caravan park located by the water, bodysurf at the beach, BBQ our dinner and then head out for a few drinks

Day 8 – Hervey Bay

• Today we headed off to Hervey Bay, which would be our base whilst we spent some time on Fraser Island
• We arrived mid-afternoon and checked into the Scarness Caravan Park, which was probably my favourite location that we stayed in. Our site was literally 20 steps away from the beach which is how I like to live my life. The owners of the park were Phil and Marilyn and they were really nice but they loved to talk. When checking in I noticed a calendar of the 2 of them in China and enquired to Marilyn about their trip as I am heading there next March. She proceeded to tell us all about the trip over the next 20mins.
We parked up on the site that Phil directed us to and then Latner made the mistake of mentioning China to him which meant we were treated to an extended version of the same stories over about 30 more minutes
• We had booked our Fraser Island trip through the park so we wasted the remainder of the day in our front garden that was the beach

Day 9 – Fraser Island

• We were picked up bright and early and taken to the port to catch the ferry over to Fraser – a world heritage site and the largest sand island in the world
• Egg was feeling a little rough so he went and sat inside for the ferry ride which meant that he missed the sight of 2 sea turtles swimming about just below us, 2 of 6 Latner and I would see that day (including 1 dead one)
• As we disembarked the ferry and prepared to join up with our tour group Egg dropped the bombshell that he was feeling very unwell and would be going back to Hervey Bay. We were obviously gutted that he would not be joining us but not as gutted as Egg was when we had to get a $50 taxi back to the van after receiving no refund from the tour company – I reckon that was the most expensive ferry ride in history!!
• So it was left to me and Lats to explore and enjoy what Fraser had to offer. We were on a coach trip with about 30 other people and the first thing to do was the say hello to everybody. Our group was as expected very international but one person stuck out straight away – Canada. He was a lone traveller and he was a nob, an opinion held by a number of people on the trip. We did our best to steer clear of him and he was annoying personified
• Our first day consisted of a rainforest walk (the only place in the world where a rainforest grows on sand) where we filled our water bottles up with fresh 100 yr old water from the creek, a visit to Indian Head which is a lookout over the ocean and was also the sight of a horrendous incident in the past when the indigenous residents of the island where forced to commit suicide or be pushed from the cliff tops by the wonderful white people, and we also spent some time at Eli Creek
In order to get to Indian Head from the Eurong Beach Resort which is where we lunched and would also be where we stayed for the night you needed to navigate along the beach highway – that’s right, the beach is a legal highway and an airstrip all in one, it has its own traffic cop and he will give you a ticket if you break the speed limit
Through all of this we avoided Canada
• As evening approached we went back to the resort and were handed our room keys. We were to be in a room of 4, meaning that even if Egg was here we would still have a spare bed and I bet you can guess who was allocated that bed can’t you? CANADA.
We couldn’t help but laugh to ourselves but we did our best to chat to him and invite him out to the pub with us but to no avail, he decided on a game of tennis with a German dude and an early night.
As usual with these trips it is only the English that seem to congregate in the pub at night and this was the case on this trip. We had a good night and got to know a few people a little better including Stuart Adam, an economics genius who is the expert that the UK news programmes will go to when they want an expert opinion
We retired around midnight and kept Canada awake with a joint snoring effort

Day 10 – Fraser Island

• The second day on Fraser Island was by far the best. We visited 2 of the many natural lakes that exist on Fraser and each one was its own version of paradise
• Lake McKenzie was first – pristine white sand and clear blue water, followed by morning tea
• Lake Wabbi was next – to get to Wabbi you must first trek for 2kms through the rainforest, then tackle a desert like area before finally getting to the top of a huge sand-dune which far below has an emerald green lake with a rainforest backdrop. It was like something out of Jurassic Park.
We were warned by our guide that we should not run down the dune and dive into the lake as it has made paraplegics out of more travellers than anywhere else on the island – so you can guess what Canada did
The sand on the dune was so hot that it felt as though our feet were blistering, but as we were second to the lake after Canada we then had the joy of watching every other person stagger down in agony towards the lakes edge. Each person that got down would run into the water and then turn around to also enjoy everybody else’s pain
• That was it for our Fraser Island trip, we headed back to the port and were reunited with Egg back at the campsite. That night Lats and I ventured out to the pub for a few drinks in probably the quietest town ever

Day 11 – Rockhampton

• Whilst on Fraser Island we were told about the rodeo that takes place every Friday night in Rockhampton, the beef capital on Australia, so we decided to check it out and it turned out to be my favourite night
• We arrived late afternoon and got straight on it. We started off by doing a Gazza style dentist chair at the campsite and the night went on in that fashion
• We visited a few bars and then onto the rodeo. The rodeo itself was quite funny, it was full of real cowboys strutting about like real men and the steak sangas on offer were really good.
As for the action I didn’t like it – it is just animal cruelty. My favourite parts of the rodeo were when the bulls got their own back and when the little ponies hurt and made the child cowboys cry
• Afterwards we hit Rockhampton’s main nightclub which doubles as a strip joint. Straight down to business as Egg and I bought Lats a bartop dance with the highlight being the motorboat that he got to act out on her huge chest. The night was messy, we met some cowboys, some very rough bogan (pikey) women and we drank a lot whilst dancing the night away!
• We found out at a later date that Latner had once again p*ssed the bed that night – and he was sleeping above me and Egg

Day 12 – Airlie Beach

• This was a beast of a driving day especially considering the night out we had had
• We got to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and a wonderful place surrounded by a turquoise sea late in the afternoon to find out that it was schoolies week – the week after high school graduation – meaning lots of drunk and loud teenagers
• That night we cooked up a feast and then went to a few bars in town

Day 13 – Airlie Beach

• First mission of the day was to book a cruise for the next day – my birthday!
• The rest of the day was spent hanging out at the lagoon, as we were now in stinger (jellyfish) territory so we could not enter the sea without donning a stinger suit, followed by bird feeding at 4pm at the camp site. Now it may sound gay that we went to the 4pm bird feeing slot but it was good. We got to hand feed the rainbow lorikeets that would land on our hands and heads and now that we had the bug we managed to tempt over about 20 ducks and 5 cockatoos to our caravan and hand fed them too! Yeah, that’s what real men do

Day 14 – Whitehaven Beach and my 32nd birthday

• We were up early ready for our 7am pick up and the lads had done me a great service by bringing over a number of birthday cards from back home which was a nice treat. Thanks for the cards people and big thanks to dad for the poem and a drawing of his favourite child – the cat. Homo.
Also big up to Latner for the present he gave to me
• The cruise itself was really good. The day was spent sunbathing, drinking beer, eating good food, snorkelling and spending some time playing football and rugby on the pristine white sands of Whitehaven Beach
• As we prepared for my birthday night out back at the van the lads gave me a song to listen to whilst they prepared my birthday present. The song was titled ‘Dick in a box’ and imagine my surprise when the lads then came around the corner naked except for, yep that’s right, their dick’s in a box. Latner was sporting a wine box and Egg a crisp box. My surprise was nothing compared to the 3 schoolies who happened to walk past at the wrong / right moment – love you boys!
• We had a boozy night out as expected in which I sported a present from Moggy, one of the homies back in the UK; a Mika t-shirt because I look like him. My hair is actually lot longer now but I can still appreciate the resemblance; not.
It was quite amusing to overhear some people who actually thought that I was wearing it for real

Days 15 & 16 – Mission Beach

• Mission Beach is located just 140kms from our final destination of Cairns, meaning that over the past 2 weeks we would’ve driven approximately 2,000kms and it is also the protected site of the Cassowary bird, a bird in my opinion that proves that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Unfortunately during our 2 days there we were not lucky enough to see any in the wild
• Our 2 days were very a chilled affair of the beach, BBQ and a few beers

Day 17 – Cairns

• Today was the day that we said our goodbyes to Gaz, our faithful friend who had housed us for the past 14 days, we were sad but at the same time also looking forward to our own beds, especially Latner
• We booked ourselves into a hostel opposite the lagoon and harbour, sorted a trip to the Great Barrier Reef for the next day and had nothing left to do but go to the pub
• We drank the afternoon away, played pool (yes Latner I admit to the fact that you beat me) and then went for a curry with good intentions of carrying on late into the night
• Back at the room to get changed we were greeted with cool air-con and a comfy bed each. Bearing in mind that it was 7pm we awoke the next morning at 7am! Looks like we have definitely reached our 30’s!!

Day 18 – The Great Barrier Reef

• We all really enjoyed our day out at the Reef. We got to snorkel at 2 reef sites and the second one was fantastic, further enhanced by a trip on a glass bottom boat. We saw a lot of marine life and some absolutely massive clams
• There were 2 stand out items from the trip

1)Our stinger suits made us look like real ninjas. We spent a good hour or 2 pretending to be ninjas and took many photos of us mock fighting and posing like the warriors we wished we were to the confusion of the other travellers

2)Maurice AKA Commando. Maurice was a big black ex military US citizen and a typical American (you know that I love them). When the safety briefing took place he was the one that gave out a big “Yeah” when everyone was asked if they were having a good time, he pumped both arms when informed that it was a non smoking boat (what does it really matter to him if someone is having a fag at the back?) and when the dive brief was given he was sat at the front asking dumbass questions and not getting the jokes even though we later found out that he was only snorkelling; he shouldn’t have even been at that briefing.
The moment that annoyed me the most was when he was snorkelling, got into trouble and the staff had to swim out to help him and to remind him that you should not be standing on the coral reef as it takes years and years to recover.
Honestly, what went wrong with that country?

• Upon returning to Cairns we decided to join the hostel bar crawl as I wanted to show Latner a true backpacker night out. During the past few days Egg had decided that enough was enough and he was now t-total and aiming for a healthier lifestyle (???) so it was up to the two of us to fly the flag.
We had a great night out and the fact that we downed a ½ litre bottle of JD before we began set the tone for the evening. We met some cool people whilst out and about but when I saw Latner’s eyes rolling in his head I knew it was time to call it a night.
We got back to the room which was pitch black but Latner insisted on leaving the door open so that he could show the now awake Egg how he could bend the light coming in from the corridor.
He then p*ssed the bed for the third and final time

So that was that, the trip had come to an end. We all flew out of Cairns to Brisbane and went our separate ways. I flew onto Melbourne and the lads after a day in Brisbane flew onto Singapore for 2 days and then back to Blighty.

I would just like to say a huge thank you to you both for coming out and visiting me. It was a long way to come and an expensive trip but I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did and after now being away for 13 months it was a real treat.

To the lads back home Latner’s new name is now either Scrapes or Taps depending on the situation – I will leave it up to Egg to explain. As he hates both please try to use them going forward.

So I now find myself back in Melbourne wasting away the next couple of weeks until Arancha and I hit the road for our travel adventures – I can’t wait.

Ok, that’s enough as I can type no more.

Oh one last thing, I came out of Melbourne’s Flinders Street station last night and I saw a backpacker boring 2 dressed up girls chatting about some rubbish – it was Canada. With my head down I rushed past, Latner will appreciate exactly why.


Monday, 26 September 2011

P...p..p...p...pick up a penguin

My friends, it has been a while.

The reason I have not posted anything for some time is because not a lot has been going on to be honest. It has been a case of living a relatively normal existence except for the fact that it is on the other side of the world.
But do not worry bloggers, I have been working hard to save up and book some flights to embark upon new travelling adventures just so that I can keep you guys entertained!!
That is how selfless I am.

Before I list my travelling plan for the next 8 months and beyond I will fill you in on the past couple of months.

Obviously there has been the bore that is work. I do not need to go into it except to say that I have brought the end of my contract forward by 3 weeks and I will be leaving the world of the 9 to 5 as of November 3rd. Sweet!
Moggy, it wasn't The Enemy's 'Away From Here' that inspired me this time, just the lure of more travel.

There has also been the football. The season has now ended and I must say that I had a great time playing for the mighty Ashburton United. It wasn’t the most successful of seasons but we ended the season with a run of only 2 losses in the final 12 games to ensure that we finished in a respectable mid table position.
Last Friday was the Ashburton presentation night and it was a very civilised and all round nice night out. The club gives of a real family feel to way it conducts its business and if I ever move back to Melbourne (a possibility) I think I would play for the team again (depending on their league position and if another team higher up offers me cash to play for them!!)
One of our younger players actually has a trial for Melbourne Hart this week, which is the equivalent of a premiership team in England, although not the same standard of course.

If you would like to see some photos of me in action and a little 4 second clip of me looking pretty damn good on the pitch you can check out Ashburton on YouTube. Type in Ashburton Soccer 2011 and enjoy the ‘show’. My clip is precisely on 3 mins and 10 secs.

In the past couple of months you will not be surprised to read that I have done a lot of drinking and socialising, but also a lot of running, the reasons of which we will go into in a minute.
I did manage to get to a gig recently as The Kaiser Chiefs were in town, so a few of us went along and I don’t mind admitting that I got wasted. It was one of those days where it just hits you and I was ruined. ‘Nuff said.

A few weeks ago I went to see Cadel Evans – Australia’s first Tour De France winner – as he took a victory ride through Melbourne. I am not really into cycling but it is one of those things you need to go and see isn’t it.

What else have I been up to?

Oh, I went to my first Aussie Rules game. The game was part of the Finals series which culminates in the grand final this weekend, which is the same as the FA Cup final in England. Aussie Rules is a funny sport as it essentially dominates only one State in Australia; Victoria. It is absolutely huge here and is on multiple TV channels every day. There are about 20 teams of which only about 6 teams exist outside of Victoria and of those remaining 14 teams, most of them are solely in Melbourne. This is even crazier when you consider the sport has just signed an approx $1bn TV rights deal. That is a lot of money to have floating around in one city in Australia.
There was a 3 hour TV show on last night just to present the player of the season award and the first hour was taken up with the WAG’s on the blue carpet, which was some huge event in itself.

This Friday sees the Finals parade taking place. It seems odd that the city will come to a standstill so that the 2 teams to play in the grand final on Saturday can do an open-top bus tour before the actual game is played. I will go along and watch as you have to soak up everything that a place has to offer so that you can really take in the culture and vibe of the city.

Anyway, back to the game that I attended with a footy mate who is a fellow Englishman from Grimsby. He is a really good guy and definitely one of those people that you meet on your travels who you know you will stay mates with.
He has led an interesting life up to this point as well. He is a journalist, travelled all over the world as the writer for the Barmy Army, penned the official song for Graham Swann that was recorded and he is in the music video (very funny), has an ex whose mother left George Best for Frank Worthington (now that is class), and has just signed a contract to have a book published next year.
But best of all, he likes to have a scotch and coke with me for breakfast after we have had a night out.

Back to the match itself, Hawthorn Hawks vs Sydney Swans, the Hawks won, that’s all you need to know as it wouldn’t make any sense to you anyway. So it’s a big tick for going to an AFL game and another tick for going to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to watch it.
The MCG is an awesome and iconic stadium in Australia. It holds approx 100,000 people but seems much larger than Wembley. I think this is because the Aussie rules pitch is an oval and covers a much larger surface area so the opposite side of the stadium is much further away. There was an attendance of 55,000 people at our game and due to its size it looked like there were only 20,000.
The only other thing to say about the MCG is that the beer is awful; flat and expensive, but at least you can drink in your seat.

Now back to why I have been doing a lot of running. October 9th will be my 1 year anniversary out of the UK (I can’t believe how quickly that has gone) and I couldn’t think of any better way to celebrate this fact (stupidly) than to run/walk/piggy back on an unsuspecting child’s back/crawl the Melbourne Marathon.
Why I decided to do this I do not know but I do have a constant desire to push myself to the limit. I echo this sentiment by letting you know that whilst most people give themselves about 6 months training for a marathon, I decided 5 weeks ago to do it! Ha ha!
Last Sunday I took part in a half marathon as part of my training and I won’t say that it was easy, but it wasn’t hard. As I finished I did wonder if I could run that entire thing again and that is when I got scared, really scared!

I did the half marathon with Arancha and Nadia. I am sure you are familiar with them by now – sexy twins that I met in Nepal and met up with them again once I moved to Melbourne.
I say that I did the race with them, but technically I didn’t. The reason for this is that Arancha and Nadia don’t always listen to instructions!!
If they were with me I would like to think that they would have started at the right time and place but I was lucky to start the race on time myself. Runners like to go for a poo before a race, a combination of nerves and getting rid of some extra weight, so I was stood in a big queue (for a poo) waiting to use the Chesney Hawkes (one and only) cubicle.
By the time I got to the start line the 5km and 10km runners had departed and the half marathon runners were getting ready to go. I couldn’t find the girls anywhere and I was never going to as they had already started, in the wrong race.
A few minutes into that race the girls realised that they were the only runners with a blue number and so had to stop and wait like a pair of identical divs for our race to begin and then jump over the barrier to join us.
The race website has a good photo of 2 blue numbers amongst a sea of yellow and green ones.

I finished the half marathon in 1hr42mins. I was happy with the time and if I can keep a consistent pace that is a 3hr20min marathon. Obviously that is not going to happen, but all I want to do is finish it in less than 4 hours.
One thing to aim for with the marathon is that the finish line is at the end of a lap of the MCG, which will be a pretty cool location to accept my medal.

I want to give a big up to the girls for their race times. They weren’t far behind me and given their couple of additional years on me it was a top effort.

If you would like to view some pictures of me looking like a pasty Leicester inbred who has just rocked up for a run in his vest and shorts then please follow the links below:

I promise you that I did have a tan when I got to Melbourne in April, but the winter has washed it all away.
I will have to try harder when I get back on my travels.

One other weekend that I do have to tell you all about was my trip to Philip Island.

Philip Island is on the southern coast of Victoria, about a 2 hour drive directly south of Melbourne and is home to Australia’s most famous wildlife attraction, the Penguin Parade. Every sunset, wild Little Penguins emerge from the sea from a days fishing and waddle across the beach to their sand dune burrows.
My self and Arancha headed to Philip Island after work on the Friday and by 7pm we were booked into our Inn in the island’s main town of Cowes.
As it was a Friday night we decided to hit the ‘town’. At dinner I asked about the nightly entertainment that was to be had on the island to be informed that the only pub in Cowes had recently burnt down! However, the local hotel had a bar / ‘club’ attached to it and that would be the best place to go.
I can’t say it was the best drinking establishment that I have been to and the crowd was rather eclectic, but after a few shots it looked like any other hole that I have managed to get tipsy in.

The next morning, still a little hazy, I drank drove to the Information Bureau to sort out what we were going to do with the day before the evening penguin bonanza. I thought I was fine to drive but it soon became apparent that this was not the case (it was my parking that was the give away). All good though my friends because the island is very small and I couldn’t cause too much damage.
After some much needed breakfast and a strong black coffee our day began in earnest.

Stop 1 – the chocolate factory. As with Tasmania I was to be disappointed; there was no sign of an Umpa Lumpa or even an enslaved penguin worker. In fact we took one look at the reception area and decided to give it a miss all together

Stop 2 – A Maze N Things. Now this place was worth the visit to the island alone.
It is an attraction that incorporates optical illusion rooms, puzzle rooms, a maze that covers of 2kms and mini golf.
Now it sounds rubbish doesn’t it, but it wasn’t! Let me explain why:
• A mirror maze – it was bloody good fun alright
• When you are in a room that if you stand at one end, someone at the other and the photo gives the illusion that one of you is a giant and the other is a midget, this is good. It is even better when you pretend that you are a monster, your bottle of pop is your penis and on the photo it is as big at your bird who is at the other end of it looking terrified
• There was one of those vertical slides. This was great once I had done it, but I did get scared at the top as you had to climb over the edge and hang in mid air before you let go. My hands were sweating and I couldn’t grip the bar but once did I still couldn’t let go when the guy told me too. It took me a few more seconds to build up the courage.
Now that is entertainment, is it not?
• The puzzles were pretty good too. For example, we had to work out how to get to pirate treasure through a number of rooms and gates. See, fun for the mind as well!
• The maze also kept us busy for about an hour. There were 4 flags that you had to get to, so it was decided by Arancha that we should race each other. Through sheer tenacity and scrambling over a couple of walls, I won!

After those fun and frolics the rest of the day was taken up with visiting various look out points over the Southern Ocean, visiting a shipwreck which we couldn’t see, visiting a vineyard and tasting some local wine, plus some bonus sightings of the local wildlife.
At one point Arancha went a little off road and found herself standing over the tail of a Copperhead snake.
This snake has no known anti-venom but the bites rarely kill humans. Still, if it had got her it wouldn’t have been nice as I would have probably had to go to the parade on my own!!
I wanted to venture into the bush to see it, but as I was only wearing shorts and flip-flops I decided to let this nature sighting pass me by.

By early evening it was time for the Penguin Parade.
The majority of the paying public go to the huge grandstand that overlooks the beach so that they can view the penguins coming in to shore and leaving the sea. We decided to upgrade to get access to another area that was just off of the beach and would provide much better views of the majority of the penguins when they make their way to their burrows.
We got there early so were able to place ourselves right at the front and we were rewarded with an amazing experience.
As darkness descended and the penguins started waddling up the beach, we were literally 30cms away from the nearest ones behind the barrier. It was really interesting to watch them as they herded themselves together and then in groups of 15 or so would make their way home in the safety of these little groups. Once one group got to the point at which we were sat, the next group would then set off, and this pattern continued for about an hour as over 1,500 penguins made their way home.
On the way back to the car park you walk for over 1km alongside the penguins as they head for their burrows that can be located as far at 2kms in land. You even have the check under the car before you leave to make sure none of them are taking a break.
It was a very cool experience.

For the rest of that evening we drank from the bottles of goodness that we purchased at the vineyard earlier that day.

The next morning we took in one more wildlife / lookout point before heading back to the city. The amusingly named Nobbies is an area at the south-western tip of Philip Island and is the home of some pretty dramatic landscape, an awesome blow hole, as well as home to more penguins and also some seals.

Overall it was a great weekend away and it was nice to get out of Melbourne and see some of the Victorian coastline.

So that is what I have been up to in the past couple of months, so now onto the exciting stuff of what is to come, and let me tell you it is gooooooood.

Oct 1st – BBQ (I hope there are shrimps on it) to watch ALF final, England vs Scotland at the rugby world cup, Merseyside Derby
Oct 9th – Melbourne Marathon – scared
Oct 29th – Derby Day – day at the races
Oct 31st – my first Aussie wedding
Nov 1st – bank holiday for the Melbourne Cup (Australia’s version of the Grand National)
Nov 3rd – work contract finishes
Nov 4th – fly to Port Lincoln.
For my birthday Arancha has bought me the best present I have ever or will ever receive. We are going to South Australia to the place where some of the Jaws movie was filmed to cage dive with Great White Sharks. This is the number one thing on my bucket list so let’s hope that irony doesn’t pay me a visit
Nov 7th – fly to Sydney
Nov 8th – 26th – Latner and Egg arrive down under. I am very much looking forward to hanging out with 2 of my best mates and exploring the east coast of Aus on our 3 week road trip that will include my 32nd birthday
Nov 28th – Dec 8th – fly back to Melbourne and then I will walk the Great Ocean Road with Winslow (Grimsby lad)
Dec 9th – attend Arancha’s work Xmas do / leaving do
Dec 17th – road trip with Arancha along the NSW coastline up to Sydney
Xmas day – dinner at Arancha’s mums!
Dec 26th – Dec 31st – fly to Tasmania to take in the Taste of Tasmania food and drink festival with my uncle, and then attend the Falls Music festival for 2 days camping to see the Arctic Monkeys amongst others
Dec 31st – fly back to Sydney for NYE at the Sydney Harbour Bridge to see the fireworks
Jan 1st – 5th – my self and Arancha fly to Alice Springs so that we can visit Uluru (Ayres Rock)
Jan 5th – Feb 16th – fly to Broome in Western Oz to begin a road trip around that part of the country
Feb 16th – drive back to Melbourne as part of the mammoth road trip as Arancha has an art exhibition. Whilst in Melbourne we will attend a friends 30th birthday and then it is a big birthday for Arancha and her sister the following week
March 3rd – May 10th – my 1 yr Australian visa expires so I fly off to China with Arancha and we will travel around and make our way down to Tibet
May 10th – back to the UK for Bob’s wedding on the 12th after 17 months away
May – Dec – take in the Euro’s, the Olympics, get a 6 month contract in London to get some more $
2013 – fly to Canada to ski for a month or 2 and then on to South America for however long we can afford to

That is the grand plan. Everything up to May 10th is organised and paid for, so that is definitely happening.
As for May onwards, that is still in draft.
Whatever happens, as of the November 4th the blog will once again get much more interesting.

You see Bloggers, I put myself through all of this just for you.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A poo machine and staring into the abyss

Hello all.
The past two weekends have seen my travels get back on track, even if it is only for the short term.
As for the rest of my time it has been the usual work, football and drinking, so no need for an update on that, except to say that I am still not getting on with the referees over here.
In my last match I received a couple of verbal assaults on the senses and an eventual booking for my attitude towards the ref. I was also informed after the match that some spectators thought that “it was about time that the he got booked as he has been mouthing off all game”.
My response is if they can’t control a match to the standard expected in England, then don’t do it at all!
Apart from that, I am still really enjoying playing the beautiful game, which I am determined not to ever call soccer!!!

Since my last post it has also been the birthdays of my mother, Suzy ‘The Suze’ Lambert, and my little sis, Beck ‘I can’t really call this a job can I?’ Lambert.
Once again, Happy Birthday to you both.
Beck, was that the best card ever, or what?

Did you know that on your birthday Skype declares your age for everyone to see with a sentence of ‘such and such is xx today!’
The Suze was not best pleased about this when I called her.
Don’t worry mum, you don’t look a day over retirement age.

Anyway, back to my past two weekends.

Weekend 1: Tasmania

I flew over to Tasmania on the Friday evening after work and landed at about 8pm after a very easy 1 hour flight.
I was met at the airport by my uncle John, who looked exactly the same at the last time I saw him 10 years previously, except for a few more grey hairs.
I mentioned previously that he owns an ice cream factory in Hobart that supplies ice cream to most of Tasmania and is currently breaking through into mainland Australia. If I had forgotten there was no getting away from this fact when I saw his car.
The number plate is ‘ICREAM’.
Yes it looks like ICE CREAM but to me it also tells me about his and every other bloke’s private habits!
I am not sure what he really thought about that.

From the airport we went into the centre of Hobart, to the Salamanca area of the city for some food.
Salamanca is one of the main restaurant and bar areas of Hobart and is based around the harbour. The architecture really gives off the impression of an old English town apart from the fact that it is on completely the opposite side of the world.
After eating a very, very good steak we retired to my uncle’s ‘humble’ abode for a few more drinks and a catch up.

I awoke early the next morning to a stunning view over the gardens of my uncle’s crib and down to the ocean on a sunny but seriously chilly Tasmanian Saturday.
John’s house is pretty sweet. It looks a combination of a church and a colonial style house from the past. The ceilings are high, the rooms are spacious, and the sun shining through the many stained glass windows gives the interior a feel of being inside a rainbow, which is quite disorientating when it’s early and you have had a few drinks the night before.
The gardens are also lovely, a nice lawn (I am English, so by default I love a lawn of grass), an area where a combination of fruit trees geow and a converted stone barn which gives extra living quarters. With the view of the ocean beyond, it makes for an amazing setting.

After watching some of the breaking news about the Norway attacks we ventured back down to Salamanca to take in the Saturday market and to get some breakfast.
In the bright sunshine and 0 degree morning, the harbour looked very picturesque apart from a vintage crane from yesteryear sitting by the dockside. Imagine my surprise when John showed me the plaque on the side of it that said it was all the way from Leicester, our home city!

After breakfast John took us on a road trip through the Tasmanian countryside to a little, and I mean little, village in the middle on nowhere. The village was called Campania and is allegedly the birthplace of my great grandfather and is as far back as we can trace the origins of our Lamberts.
I found it quite special to be there to pay homage to the ancestors. I had the obligatory photo taken under the Campania sign.
As we left I started to hum a song that it still in my head today and is driving me crazy. To the tune of Peter Andre’s classic ‘Insania’, ‘do do do do doooo, do do do do doooo, it’s Campania!’

From there we headed back to Hobart through another small town called Richmond. Richmond is the sight of a famous sandstone bridge that was built by the convicts and was completed in 1825.
There’s nothing to say that after the completion of this bridge that it was then that the ancestors settled in Campania!! Who knows?
Richmond also houses one of my uncle’s best ice cream customers. He wanted to have a little look in the shop so we went in and I was there to witness him buy his first ever ice cream from his own company. I got a lemon and lime scoop with a cornet.
This was turning out to be a great day!

Once back in Hobart we went to check out one of the top footy teams who were playing. We timed our arrival perfectly, a goal straight away and then the final whistle 2 minutes later.

I then got my tour of the Valhalla Ice Cream factory.
As we entered through the minature door, my uncle sang ‘come with me and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination’.
He didn’t really, but I so wish he had.
Listening to my uncle explain what goes on, what the business was like when he bought it, what investment he has had to make and where the business is now, left me a little awe struck. This is all the more impressive as even though he is a very successful business man he specialises in fashion and clothing, not making bloody ice cream. But then a business is a business I guess.
I have to admit that when he showed me around the freezer I could not take my eyes off of the door. It was baltic in there and I have seen too many films where it all ends badly in these situations.
The only disappointments about the tour were:
• no raspberry sauce waterfall,
• no trip on a flake canoe down a mint choc chip river,
• no ever lasting screwball ice cream, no fizzy lifting ice cream sodas,
• but worst of all, no Umpa Lumpas.
Still, as Charlie Bucket’s mother sang, ‘Cheer up Lamby…..’

After leaving the factory in the great glass ICREAM car we headed back to my uncle’s neighbourhood of Blackman’s Bay for a beer down by the beach.
After that, we got our gladrags on and went back to Salamanca to hit the town Lambert stylee.
I think John enjoyed his night out. He certainly drank like he did.
We spent most of our night in an Irish Bar, live music, good company and I don’t know about him, but I was smashed.
We headed home in the wee early hours and of course I chose the taxi with the crazy driver.
All I remember from the ride home was him telling me thatt he was former SAS and he could kill 6 men easily with his bare hands. The way he said it was so blasé, just sitting back in the chair and declaring “yeah, I was former SAS me”, “I can kill a man easy you know”.
You can easily kill a man because you are one of the fattest (not to mention ginger) men I have ever seen. Sit on them or eat them, you will kill them!

I awoke on Sunday in a very drunken state. John was up and about hammering a door – which wasn’t a welcome sound.
It was a sad start to the day as I found out that my hair doppelganger Winehouse had died.
Peace out to the Wino.

First order of the day was to get a fry up. We went to another beachside café and ate heartily. There I met some of John’s friends, including one guy who owns a 40ft yacht that they all go out on now and again and spend the day eating and drinking. I reckon that I will be returning in the summertime to have a day out on that!
The guy was also telling us about how his son was going to lose his virginity today and he wasn’t sure if he should drop some condoms around, just to be safe.
Apparently she was gagging for it!
I just ate my extra sausage, which I swapped with the mushrooms because I do not like them, and listened.

Sensing that I still wasn’t quite with it, John drove us up to the top of Mount Wellington. Wellington rises 1,271 metres above Hobart, which it built into its foothills. As it was another clear day the views were spectacular.
From up here you could see the shape of the land around the south of Tasmania, the waterways leading up into Hobart, the snowy capped mountains off to the north and oceans to the south.
I found it quite mesmerising knowing that the next land mass south of where I stood was Antarctica, the bottom of the world.
There was a lot of snow up there too, so much so that someone had built an igloo!

The only other thing worth mentioning about the mountain was that my stomach was in a bad way from the night before. We were in the observatory looking at the sights and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I am sorry to say that I had to let one go and it even shocked me.
I quickly moved away from the spot and left John where he was. All of sudden he looked up at me, with a look of pain on his face and asked if that was me. I couldn’t stop laughing at this point as he suggested that we get out of this room, and we left the other visitors to it.
As we drove down the mountain he told me to warn him if that was going to happen again that he could stop the car and I get out. This would ensure that we didn’t drive over the edge!

Our final sightseeing stop of this weekend was to MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art.
MONA is the largest private museum in the world and was built by some local mutli-millionaire professional gambler for $100m.
Apparently, the museum contains all of his own collection and he has so much that the exhibits change every 6 months.
The place is set in his own vineyard, has a shuttle boat that runs to and from Hobart, and is built into the rock, so you enter from the ceiling.
It also has an outdoor grass area that has a stage for concerts and Mick Jagger performed there for the grand opening.
It is an amazing place. As you enter, entry is free; you are given an i-phone which is your tour guide. So simple, yet so effective.
So to the exhibits, which were a wide ranging collection of oddities, artistic pieces and historical artifacts. My highlights were:
• A huge machine that drops water down from above to form words within the falling drops
• A wall containing 20 screens, each containing an individual dancing in silence before launching into the singing of Madonna’s greatest hits all at the same time
• A sarcophagus set in a private room that you have to walk over stepping stones to get to. Next to the sarcophagus is a replica of it where the image slowly clears to give you an x-ray of the skeleton of the Egyptian inside
Now the odd stuff:
• A video wall that showed various artistic visions of nudity – including one guy squatting over the camera and doing a poo!
• A painting of a 2 Aussie guys naked. One has his own castrated penis tied to his leg, the other is bloody and is being rimmed by a kangaroo – I have a photo of this to prove it
• A wall containing about 200 plaster casts of various vaginas – some of them were an absolute mess! Some needed a trim, some needed a trim in another way, and the one that was at an angle, well I think she is beyond help
• A machine that mimics the digestive system – it feeds at one end, goes through a series of pipes and processes and then does a poo at the back end. I couldn’t stay too long and study it as the smell in the room was horrendous

And that was my trip to Tasmania. It was a brilliantly diverse weekend and I will definitely be going back.
I have been invited back during the summer, which I would like to do, as I didn’t really see much of the rest of the island, which is supposed to be incredible.
Thanks a lot John, top weekend.

Weekend 2: Skiing at Mount Hotham

My second trip to the snow this Australian ski season saw me venture to Mount Hotham, one of Australia’s best ski resorts.
Myself, Arancha and Nadia (the sexy twins that I met in Nepal) drove up on the Thursday night to meet Natalie and her beau Stuey who had already travelled up earlier in the day.
Not much to say about the journey there except that when you are out in the countryside in Aus the stars just blow you away and we also had to stop halfway up the mountain to fit the wheel chains to the car as the ice was slip, slip, slippery!

We arrived at about 2am, so it was straight to bed to get some sleep before the ski action.

Friday morning saw me looking out of my window to see snow, snow and more snow. Over a metre of natural snowfall has been recorded so far this season on the mountain and it is one of the best seasons in years.
Our accommodation was based at the back of the best bar in Hotham, so this was ideal for breakfast and après ski beverages. The actual apartment itself was sweet as well. A 2 bedroom split level new build. All very plush.

We all got up, got ourselves sorted and headed over to the ski bus to take the 5 min ride into the centre of Hotham.
The conditions on both Friday and Saturday could not have been better. Clear blue skies, very sunny and great snow.
Hotham is a great resort, many different runs including some very challenging ones. The added bonus is that apart from the beginner and lower intermediate runs there is hardly anyone on them. At times over the weekend we found ourselves skiing on our own – bloody brilliant.

We all started off skiing / snow boarding together which was really good fun.
A little later on myself and Arancha went off on our own to tackle the advanced runs. In a previous post I stated what a good snowboarder Arancha is; she is fast and technically sound. I am fast and technically suicidal.
Both Nadia and Nat are technically good, but I do not think they will mind me saying that they are not as confident as Arancha, or as stupid as me.
So the rest of the day was spent on a number of black runs testing my nerve and thoroughly enjoying it.
I can’t say that I had any really bad falls on the first day, but Arancha was taken out hardcore by a fellow snowboarder. It is a good job that she recently invested in a helmet or else she would’ve been in trouble.
We managed to complete about 5 hours skiing on the Friday and I loved it. I will never tire of skiing down a mountain with those views. You feel like you are on the top of the world when you are stood there with the snowy peaks all around you, before launching yourself over the edge and down.

Obviously one of the best parts of skiing is the après ski. We all met up at about 4pm on the Friday and got on it.
The first bar was fine until the owner Dominic came to sit with us. He was nice enough, complimenting me on my hair (which was quite similar to his) and getting the shots in for us. However, he then got a little freaky and said he wanted to hug my hair and sleep top and tail with me so that we could then be cock to cock. No idea what that was all about? You have to at least get me drunk first my friend before you try it on.
The rest of the night was a boozy affair.

Saturday was a late start ski wise après le après ski of the night before. However, in terms of skiing, it was my best day technically. Like any sport, some days you are good, other days you just want to snap something in half through frustration.
Saturday was a good day. My skiing was sound and it all felt right. The only dark point was losing a race to Natalie.
I have no idea how I lost. I was ahead, I edged her out over towards the edge of the cliff and then she made some crazy maneuver and overtook me. From that point on we were on a relatively flat run and I couldn’t catch her.
I hold my head in shame, but to Natalie I say through gritted teeth, “Congrats Sister!”

Saturday also saw us all stick together for a fair while and follow Arancha – the mountain guide. Our guide took us off piste through trees and over mogul runs. I have to say that it was great fun and there is footage of me catching some air as I attempted a jump which I did manage to land!
To me it felt so high and the bang of the skis as I landed confirmed this. Watching it back on film I was broken to see that it was about 30cms off of the ground.
Myself and Arancha did still take the opportunity to get away and tackle some more of the demanding runs. I took a few falls, but the worst one was not actually falling but spinning 180 degrees and my legs splitting so wide that it felt as though I had torn my nut sack down the middle. Owwwww!

Saturday night was a quiet one so that we could rise early and get on the slopes for a good amount of time before we had to leave.

We awoke on Sunday to a whiteout ie. no visibility. I am not exaggerating when I say that we could only see about 5 metres in front of us.
As for the skiing, I loved it. It is very unnerving when someone sets off in front of you and within 2 seconds they have disappeared.
It’s even more unnerving when you are going down steep black runs with no idea if it is the right way and you have to just take it on faith that you are going the right way.
But most unnerving of all is leading your friends down the aptly named ‘Twilight Zone’ run and through the dense cloud realising that you are about to ski out into the abyss. On closer inspection it wasn’t quite a cliff edge, but a big enough drop to break me. It required a sharp left turn to get back on track.

However, I did take a very funny fall during my time in the cloudy wilderness. We were all going down a black run together and we slowed up to try and get our bearings. As I slowed to a halt I somehow managed to fall over onto my side and began to slide down the mountain. I would say that it was a good 30 seconds of sliding on my front, back, shoulders, doing 360’s, before I managed to dig my skis in and stop.
Arancha and Nadia found this hilarious.

By about 2:30pm it was time to leave the mountain and I had the honour driving us back down on the winding roads with zero visibility and back to Melbourne.

Overall, it was a fabulous weekend and I can’t wait to get onto the slopes again. I am thinking Canada.

So that’s all folks.
Next trip away is to Philip Island in about 4 weeks time to see the resident penguins.

Until then, cheerio and keep searching for those Valhalla golden tickets so you too can get the tour!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Who cares about the day of rapture? This time I survived an earthquake!

BLOGGERS! What’s up?

It’s been a while but you can put that down to my now relatively normal existence – booo!

The missions I had set myself in my last post were to find a place to live and a footy team to play for, both of which I have now achieved; but before we get onto that let’s recap on the past few weeks.

Whilst I was still residing at Natalie’s place she introduced me to a family institution – the St Andrew’s Market.

Intriguing, interesting and entertaining would be 3 words that I would use to describe this place. Essentially it is a hippy market - organic veg, gluton free cakes, hemp made clothing etc, but best of all are the people that attend.

Nat’s family meet there every Saturday afternoon to do their shopping and then once that is done they all sit down and have a cup of tea along with Pierre, a French national, and Ian, some old dude who essentially is an adopted member of the family, and everyone has a good old natter about this and that.

I was pleased that on my market debut I was able to bring some deep philosophical chat to the table:
Is it possible to go for a poo without doing a wee at the same time?

Have a think about it people. My firm stance is that it is not possible and having canvassed a lot of opinion on this subject and I’m happy with my conclusion.
Surprisingly, this sparked off a big debate around the afternoon tea table and endeared me to the family!

Being a hippy market there is also live music belting out and this is where I was introduced to Desire. He changed his name by deed-poll so that is actually his name.
Desire cannot be described, you need to see him in action to fully appreciate him. Whilst the band plays, Desire will stand there taking in the energy of the music before launching into a very expressive form of dance – a mix of Mr Soft (from the softmint commercials) and an eagle swooping in for the kill. An odd combination if ever there was one.
Once he has finished with his dancing he then moves onto the guitar and launches into some deep and dark lyrics about demons and devils.

I went to the market 3 times over the period that I lived with Nat, and Desire was in this form on every occasion – sometimes even when sporting purple jeans which I can’t say I have ever seen before, and once even playing a xylophone!
There is not enough xylophone playing in this world!
Another reason to go to this market is that Ross Noble (quality UK comedian) lives around the corner and attends regularly. This market definitely suits his personality but unfortunately for me I did not get to see him.

During this period of time I also started my new job. There is not too much to say on this subject is there? Work is work.
All I will say is that the company seems to be a good one to work for, my colleagues are nice, the work is easy and they are paying me a very, very good salary, so I cannot complain.
I have to keep reminding myself that this is a means to an end. I am skint so I have no choice but to work, therefore, I may as well earn as much cash as I can over the length of my 6 month contract, save as much as I can, and then continue with the travels (which I am missing incredibly)

Through my job I have also been on a course to learn about some Management Information system that I will need to use and become a relative expert in.
Do not worry I am not going to talk about the course, it was painful enough for me whilst I was there without thinking about it again; instead I am just going to mention the tutor.
He was a legend! A proper English toff who made anti-American jokes which only I laughed at and would guffaw, yes, guffaw, at his own little ditties and anecdotes.
They just don’t make English people like this any more – why not?
The most incredible thing about him though was his hair.
Being a toff, he had to have the standard floppy side parting / quiff. If you stood looking at him head on he looked like any other toff which his thick side parted fringe with short back and sides of blonde locks, but as soon as he put his head down it was all gone, and I mean all gone. Apart from the fringe and sides he was completely bald, it was just plain bizarre. I have never seen anything like it and I couldn’t stop staring, especially at the odd Bobby Charlton comb over strands.
And do you know what the dominant thought was that kept creeping into my head?
How come he is completely bald all over, but with regards to his fringe he is not receding as much as I am!!! It doesn’t make sense.

So what else have I been up to?

I went to a Lego exhibition which was pretty cool, although there were not enough exhibits in my opinion.
I have been to see Mark Seymour live in concert – no idea who he was but apparently he is a famous Aussie singer from the 80’s and it was yet another excuse to go out with the girls and get drunk.
I went to the Royal Australian Ballet last week with Arancha. Yes, yes, gay I know, and during the first 20mins I could not stop yawning. But after that, once I had got into it, it was ok actually.
One funny thing was this old dear who was sat next to me. She was on the edge of her seat throughout the performance, clapping her hands and getting really into it. At the end she donned her real fur coat (not something that I am a fan of) and exclaimed how it had been a real pleasure to share this time with us. She then reached over to Arancha and told her she is a real princess and would be a princess forever. I think the real reason for this is that she wanted to feel Arancha’s fur coat to see if it was real like hers. Considering it looks like a dead badger that has been run over by a truck I could’ve told her that it wasn’t real (Sorry AJ!)

There has also been the standard Friday and Saturday night out on the town exploring the different areas that Melbourne has to offer.
I also got confirmation of my Olympic Games tickets. Can’t say that I am overly impressed. I am going to 5 football matches, including the Women’s final and I am taking Pa Lambert to 2 of them, which will be good.
But apart from that the only other event that I am going to is the Handball final. What is handball you may ask? I am asking that question as well because I was convinced that I applied for the Basketball final!!!
So that is my Olympic programme – pretty standard really. Still, I will be in London for the full event to soak up all of the atmosphere before then hopefully sodding off again on more world adventures.

One bonus of starting my job when I did was that I was just in time to take advantage of a public holiday. It was for the Queen’s Birthday weekend; yes, there is a bank holiday here for our dear Liz’s birthday.
That weekend happened to coincide nicely with the opening of the Australian ski season, combine that with the fact that the weather was really cold and it was the best snow to an opening weekend in 11 years meant that there was only one thing that I was going to do.
I went with Arancha and we got up super early on the Saturday morning to drive from Melbourne to Mount Buller.
I love the fact that I live by the sea (and can see it from the bottom of the road of my new apartment) but within a 3.5 hour drive I am in the mountains and on the ski slopes.
Skiing was awesome. Arancha is a quality snowboarder and gets to the mountains about 5 times a year (the advantage of being a teacher at a school where they do a lot of ski trips and they pay you to go)
This was only my 11th day on the snow but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. The girls had told me that there was no way that I would be able to keep up with Arancha because she is so good, and she bloody was, but being very competitive coupled with a low centre of gravity, I wanted to put that to the test.
I didn’t consistently beat her down the runs, but there were a few occasions where I did. In order to achieve this I had to be suicidal. Whereas Arancha glided down the slopes ever so gracefully, I had my skis pointed downhill, legs going all over the place and just let rip. After a couple of big falls I did get the fear for a while and I had to have a little word in my own earhole to stop being a big girl and get on with it – there was English pride at stake here!
On one of my suicidal downhill runs I must’ve looked out of control because the next thing I saw was one of the ski patrol guys waving both arms and yelling for me to ‘calm down’ as I flew past. I soon saw the reason why as there was a group of medics around a skier who had taken a bad fall and was having an IV line attached to him. Ooops.
As it was opening weekend the town was in a celebratory mood as well and there was live music and free mulled wine for everyone. It was a really fun atmosphere.

The plan was to ski on the Saturday, stay over, and then return to Melbourne on the Sunday to attend a house party. However, plans are there to be broken aren’t they?
We got up on the Sunday and decided to get back on the slopes.
This day was probably more fun because we decided to film each other attacking the slopes. One would ski / board halfway down and then film the other. There is one clip of each of us stacking it but unfortunately I didn’t press the right button to film the moment when Arancha tried to spray me with her board and ended up taking me out.
We eventually left the slopes at 2:30pm and got back to Melbourne in time to get drunk at the houseparty until the early hours.

The bank holiday Monday was to be my moving day!

I got the flat that I wanted in St Kilda, so on the Monday I moved. Being a traveller with just a backpack and couple of other bags it was all pretty straight forward.
I love living in St Kilda. The area is perfect for me; vibrant, lots of backpackers, lots of drunks, lots of characters, lots of bars, clubs and restaurants, it is by the sea, we have a beach, there is lots of open green spaces, lots of palm trees and it is also the red light district of Melbourne! Oh, and best of all, there are resident penguins, although I am yet to see them.
My flat mate is really nice as well. She is a 28yr old Queenslander who likes to party hard at the weekend and has a jet-ski in the garage. I need to get onto that bad boy in the summer.

My flat is located just off one of the main streets and as I mentioned earlier, I can see the bay from the bottom of my road.
I am also only a 20min tram ride from the City, or a 35 min run away. I have been running into work about 3 times per week and my route takes me past the bay and then through Albert Park, along the side of huge lake that takes 10mins to run the entire length of, and I am actually running along the track of the Australian Grand Prix course.
It is great.

As I stated at the top of this post I have also found myself a footy team. Sports teams in Oz put their counterparts in England to shame.
My team has 4 men’s teams and a ladies team. We train twice per week and there is a great turn out at every session meaning that we can do some proper training.
On one particular Tuesday we could train due to a waterlogged pitch so the club paid for us all to go to a local gym and attend a spin class. At home we would just have the night off.
After the Thursday training session we all get dinner from the club and on match days we have club wear to turn up in.
My team is fairly international, English, Irish, Scot, Dutch, Kiwi, Aus, Portuguese and Greek, and all of the lads are sound.
I have made pretty good mates with a lad from Grimsby and we had a good night out with the other lads a couple of weeks ago. So I finally have some lad mates to go out with, rather than just the girls (which hasn’t been a problem)

For my first game I was expecting to be a sub, but 10mins before the game I was told that I would be playing the full 90mins because of an injury. It was my first game in over a year and I played in centre midfield – knackered!

I have played 3 games so far and I have done ok.
So far I have given a goal away, scored one and hit the bar with a full on left footed volley from 16 yards out. I caught it so flush that when it hit the bar it ended up further out than where I struck it from – gutted.
There is a rumour that some guys in my league are getting up to $250 per game to play! I was offered a trial with a team that pays you to play but I had already joined this team by then. Oh well, I like the atmosphere of this club so I am staying.

And so to the earthquake!
I was sat at my work desk on Tuesday and all of a sudden I literally felt the earth move. Honestly, my first thought was ‘is this an earthquake?’, and then I told myself to stop being a div. The obvious reason for this shaking was that there was a fat person walking along the office floor, which would actually happen in my old workplace in London. So I actually looked around to see who it was, but there was nobody there.
I thought nothing more of it until 2 hours later when the news broke on the internet that yes, there was an earthquake, a mighty 4.4 on the richtor scale. I have to admit that I am happy it was a weak one – my desk is situated 16 floors up!
It was cool to say that I have been in an earthquake though and was aware of it (sort of)

So that is that. Quite boring eh?
Coming up in the near future:

1)2 do’s to attend tomorrow. A friend is having leaving drinks in the north of the city before she travels Europe, and from there I am back to St Kilda to go and see this crazy homo glam rock band that my flatmate is friends with. Their stage show is supposed to be brilliant. Afterwards they are having a party at some house with a roof terrace that overlooks Albert Park, so it should be a sweet gaff
2)I am going to Tasmania in 2 weeks time for the weekend to visit my uncle John. He owns an ice cream factory over there and I really hope my fantasy of it being an ice cream version of Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory with little Tassie umpa-lumpa workers is not shattered.
I was thinking about when was the last time that I saw him and I reckon it is about 10 years ago, so this will be a sort of reunion for us. I am looking forward to it a lot.
3)The weekend after Tassie I am going skiing again with 4 other people
4)Rachael is moving into my place this weekend for the week before she leaves for New Zealand. It will be nice to hang out with her before she departs considering we first met on a hot train in India back in November. It has been quite an adventure with her so far, and letting her live with me is a perfect mates favours for when I visit her in California!

That’s all I have to update you all on.
Hope everyone is well back in good old Blighty.