So long, IBM!


Today was my last day for a while at IBM – it’s been fun working such a long way from the UK, and Dave & the team at IBM in Pennant Hills have been great hosts. Alas, no longer will I have a decent excuse to play computer games for a few hours on the train each day, eat lunch in the sweet eucalyptus tree aroma, or be safe in the knowledge that no more work will arrive as everyone else is asleep, for now it’s time to get on with the business of seeing more of this great country.
The photo is IBM Darling Harbour (the office for lazy days), I didn’t have a Pennant Hills photo to hand, and for once I think I’ll leave that computer turned off. Is this a turning point for Simon, a life without computers? Nah, don’t be silly! 🙂

It sure doesn’t feel like Christmas


Parades and fairs were the order of this weekend. The Sydney Christmas tree lights were turned on during the week, so we headed down to take a look. On the way we caught the end of the Christmas parade making it’s way from the CBD down to Darling Harbour. It did feel a tad bizarre watching what I’d consider a winter activity on a glorious summer day – you have to sympathise with Santa and his elves dressed up for the North Pole in the scorching heat! The parade ended in a small park with the obligatory childrens show, which we watched for as long as the Mango & Passionfruit smoothies kept us cool for.
After catching up with the Aussie election news in a decidedly cooler park (landslide to “Labor”, with the residing PM losing his seat, and an MP getting slapped by a jilted journalist – UK politics is so dull!), were our ears deceiving us or was that the faint drone of bagpipes? The annual Scottish fair was in town! Passing the Irn Bru and shortbread stands with saltires flying, we managed to make it in time to hear the thank you speech and see the tents get put away. Ah well, at least we managed to scoff a square sausage butty (white sliced bread, obviously!)
There was still time to get back to the flat and walk to Bronte beach for a quick swim, if that’s what you call being at the mercy of huge waves (great fun though!). I reckon I’m in need of more beach time – still haven’t mastered walking around in those thongs!

Park life


Work this week took me to my first private school – really in 30 years I’ve never even set foot in one before! I was a little nervous to say the least but I loved it and am pleased to say the feeling was mutual – they asked me back until the end of the week and even went as far as to ask if I was looking for permanent work. I wish. What makes it so great I hear you ask. Well to start with I was in the preschool so the fact that the privileged little darlings were, well, little helped. It also helped that for the first time since I have been with the agency (about a month now) I was sent into the ‘Nest’ a.k.a the babies room! (I have been longing to work in a babies room since I started but was beginning to suspect a conspiracy, eg Si phoning the agency and warning against it due to broodiness overload!) Yes all of this helped but what really did it for me was the staff. I was treated with respect! Quite rare in this temping work (some people don’t even bother to ask my name just boss me around and give me the yucky jobs). But at this place they were unbelievably nice. Almost to the point of being too good to be true. I don’t think I realised there are quite so many terms of endearment in which to address children. Almost without fail every sentence to come out of these Mary Poppins-esque teachers began with some variation of ‘my darling’ or ‘my beautiful’ ‘my lovely’ and so on! At one point, after struggling with a particularly obstinate little ‘darling’ who refused to tidy up the mess he had made, I asked one of the teachers for some help. I was hoping that she would tell him to just do it but to my surprise she cupped his chin with one hand and said in a soft voice ‘Wilbur my gorgeous boy, could you please….’ and even more surprisingly- it worked!
Another plus point about working there was the long hours which meant that by Thurs I’d clocked up enough hours to take Friday off and hit the beach. Unfortunately I learned that it is not so easy to apply suncream to your back on your own and I got a tad burned. Oops, No more beach for me this weekend!
In an effort to avoid the beach at the weekend we headed to Centennial Park After picking up one pair of rollerblades and a bike we were ready to hit the road. Luckily there was a path in the park especially for rollerbades and bikes so we didn’t have to worry about such obstacles as cars and other people. Even more lucky, for me, Si took the rollerblades first. After a wobbly start he was off like a pro making it look easy. I, on the other hand, did not find it so easy! I made Si swear, on pain of death, that he would not let go off my hand- fortunately he is an expert on a bike and can ride one handedly! Of course, after a while I did pluck up enough courage to let go of his hand for brief spells and amazingly I only fell off once. Honest!
In the evening we headed to the Opera bar for a much needed drink or two. The bar is located beneath the Opera house with perfect views of the harbour bridge, especially for the fantastic New Years Eve style fireworks.
Sunday found us hitting the park again but for a much more chilled out affair this time. Armed with a picnic and our books we prepared ourselves for a day of relaxing in the sun.

Going to the Zoo…


Another day, another tourist attraction ticked off the list, this time it was Taronga Zoo, hidden on a hillside looking over the Sydney harbour. Arriving by ferry from near the harbour bridge and Opera house makes the visit more of a quintessential Sydney day trip. First animals to visit were obviously the kangaroos, enjoying their early afternoon nap and unperturbed as zoo visitors wandered past in their enclosure. Round the corner, an almighty roar broke the silence, with a cute koala being the only culprit, which it probably was – they’ve also been known to confuse a few Aboriginals too. The other highlight was sitting inches from a huge salty (crocodile, that is), fortunately for us a couple of those inches were glass…
Back to Bondi for fish and chips, well prawns in my case as they’d run out of octopus. I thought I was on to a winner as the bag was pretty full, but as I sat down to munch, 12 little black eyes stared back. Time to try and remember how to peel the little critters!
Sunday started rudely with Caroline waking me up for a walk to Coogee. We walked along the same path as last weekend, although there was now a sign indicating that the homeless man was not an art exhibit, and to please step away. A few miles, and several bays later we arrived in Coogee, where a proper slap up breakie of pancakes made up for the walk.
It’s now only 2 weeks until I’m done with this working lark, and the holiday starts again. It’s feeling like those final few days of school before summer holiday, maybe I should start taking board games to work…

Arty Farty!


Purely by accident, we seem to have spent the weekend doing arty things. The annual Sculptures by the Sea was in town, a collection of “interesting” sculptures along the path between Bondi and Tamarama beaches. The strangest thing was everyone thinking the homeless man who has set up home on the cliffs next to the path was a piece of art. Well you can hardly blame them, knowing what passes for art…
Continuing the art theme, we headed to the Star City theatre for a showing of Miss Saigon. Now I know it’s a musical, but you’d think their motto was “Why say it when you can sing it”, for barely a word of dialogue was spoken, instead replaced by long theatrical outburst (man, they can hold a note). Nevertheless, a good time was had, and the show had an underlying political theme, raising awareness of the children of US soldiers born to Vietnamese women.
Sunday was easier on the art, after a failed attempt to get to the zoo, we wandered around the botanical gardens next to the Sydney Opera House. Caroline had heard there were bats in the park, and only after wondering why the crows seemed to be hanging upsidedown did we see them – fruit bats, or flying foxes – and they definitely have a fox-like expression as they stare down at you from their lofty positions. Walking on, and passing loads of outdoor weddings in progress (brave souls, it was forecast to be a wet weekend), we sat for a while at Mrs Macquaries chair, said to be one of the best views of the harbour. It was alright, but you really had to strain to see the harbour bridge, and to not look at the docks in front of you. I guess Sydney’s changed a bit over the past hundred years.

Lord, oh the flies!


The Australian flies are a special breed – and they truely are Australian, having made a sport of attempting to fly up your nose at any given moment, or attempt to land on your eyeball given half the chance. They’ve also taken that other Australian trait to heart by never being inside, even if it’s a smelly place, oddly enough (odd for flies, not the Aussies…).
One of our encounters with the flies this week was at Watsons Bay and South Head, the southern side of the entrance to Sydney Harbour. You can imagine Captain Cook entering the harbour through the relatively small entrance to the large natural shelter, but what is quite surprising is how far they went before stepping on shore near the harbour bridge which is way off in the distance. Watsons Bay itself surrounds a grassy park, perfect for Sunday picinics – something that the ferries and buses realise as they only head out this far at the weekend.
We didn’t miss out on the beach action either, although it was a bit more uncomfortable this time as I walked down to the beach in my new thongs (that’s Aussie for flip flops in case you were worried…)