Countdown to New Year


So another year is coming to an end, we’ve got our tickets for the Harbour fireworks booked, and are now just counting down the hours. (check your TV’s at about 1pm for a paddle steamer next to the Harbour bridge, hopefully we’ll be on it!). Here’s hoping you all enjoy those extra hours of 2007, and have a great new year!
To see the year off in style, I’ve bought a bodyboard (short surfboard for lying on) and got down to the surf at Bondi Beach this morning to catch those waves again. Alas all I managed to catch was a mouthful of sea and a rip current, but I’m learning!



I believe those were the exact words screamed at about 12,000ft as we literally fell out of a plane! Fortunately there was an instructor attached, and even more importantly a parachute attached to him. Yes, today was my Christmas present from Caroline, a skydive for both of us over Woollongong beach A storm was brewing over the hills for most of the day, and we were delayed a little while, but this was all good. As the little plane with a very thin plastic door (I was worried at this point as I was attached to nothing), we rose above the clouds to an amazing sunset, and a cotton wool landscape. The 5 minute warning came in from the pilot, so strapping in tight we waddled across to the open door. The sky opened out, we leaned into the freezing air and were gone, freefallling with the exhilarating realisation there was nothing to grab onto apart from harness straps! The fireball lasted about 1 minute, enough time to admire the sunset, see the other bodies hurtling toward the ground, marvel at what the air was doing to the flesh on my hand and think “so this is what it’s like to fall from a plane”! Once in the warm musty cloud, Tony opened the parachute and we were yanked up, quickly slowing down to a much more leisurely fall. Dropping out of the cloud the beach came into view and the city to the south. The descent obviously wasn’t that slow as a few corkscrew twists proved, and the ground quickly approached in the final few seconds to a gentle touch down on our bottoms. A few seconds later the whooping screams of a Caroline could be heard from above as she touched down. Apparently Caroline had done a backflip during her freefall, or so she thinks as her eyes were shut!
Thanks Caroline for a fantastic Christmas present! 🙂

Watching the boats go by


Today was a glorious day to be out sailing, and seeing as we don’t have a boat to be out in, the next best thing was to watch the yachts leave in the Sydney to Hobart race. A crowd had gathered in the park next to the harbour entrance, and the boats were setting off just as we arrived. Helicopters were flying around, and a small flotilla of craft crowded around the racing boats (at least what looked to be the racing boats) and followed them down the coast. There was also a sky-writer who kindly wrote my name in the sky (until he messed it up by writing some more), and the best bit was 2 dolphins jumping out of the sea below us!

Christmas in Bondi – living the dream!


Happy Christmas! My guesses are that we’re celebrating Christmas a good 11 hours before most of you. Christmas Eve was quite traditional really, with no less than three trips out to get food. First off was the butchers for crocodile and emu sausages, then the Sydney fishmarket to get prawns (so we can throw another shrimp on the barbie!) and smoked salmon, as it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it. Turns out we are responsible for 0.0001% of Sydney’s Fishmarket sales for Christmas Eve (they sold a total of 700 tonnes in one day!)
We stuck to a typical Aussie Christmas by spending most of it outside (although given the number of Irish in Bondi, you could be forgiven for thinking you were still in the northern hemisphere). There was walking along beaches, playing beach tennis at Coogee, and venturing into the sea at Bondi for a quick paddle. Dinner was of course a barbeque in the park opposite the flat, ending partly because we were stuffed as expected from everyone on the 25th December, but also as the mozzies were tucking into their Christmas dinner!

Surf’s Up!


And so was I, only once or twice, but that’s good enough for me! Donning full wetsuits, us surfer newbies learnt about rips, balance and how to stand up then made for the broken waves. After finding out that being a little too far forward equals a mouthful of sea and interesting few seconds under a wave, I did manage to stand up – thanks to Caroline for recording the momentous occasion!
My arms are now thoroughly tired, which isn’t that surprising given that they were essentially doing press-ups for 2 hours, and that’s a tad more work than the typing they are used to. It may take a few days to recover, but I’ll be back in again soon!

On top of the world! (well, Sydney at least)


The original plan was to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, but who’d have thought it would book out on a weekend in the high season? (Caroline might be silently pleased with that, but she has committed to going up it!) So as a backup we climbed (into the lift) of the Sydney Tower, the tallest building in Sydney, for views stretching pretty much as far as we’ve been in Australia – Blue Mountains to Bondi, North Sydney to Cronulla. After I’d done a couple of laps of photographing, and Caroline was starting to wince at me contemplating doing it all again now the sun was out, we made for the OzTrek show at the bottom. The much hyped OzTrek was included with the ticket, alas it turned out to be a couple of tacky 3D video clips and a nauseating seat shake.
My quest for uber-fitness goes on, bike rides-a-plenty, and even a ride back to the Olympic pool for a swim. The swim was really to prepare for the surfing lesson tomorrow – despite there being the first shark attack for 70 years at Bondi, I’m going into the water. We were walking along Bondi Beach on Friday night around the time the attack happened, and saw someone swimming in the darkness – didn’t think it was the wisest thing to do! Anyway, the shark was a tiddler that just had a nibble, and statistically it’s probably the safest time to go back in, as it’ll be 70 years until the next attack. That’s my logic and I’m sticking to it!

He’s not the Messiah…


He’s a very naughty boy! For the un-enlightened amongst you, we’ve just been to see Eric Idle (a messiah if there ever was one…) perform the operatic version of Monty Python’s Life of Brian at the Sydney Opera House. Having seen the musical Spamalot in London, I was expecting a similar show – actors singing amusing songs and so on, but this was much more high-brow, well as high-brow as Monty Python can get… When we arrived there was a small stage, with empty chairs arranged facing the centre. The musicians filed in, followed by the conductor and the thought crossed that we were in Handel’s Messah instead of Idle’s. With a flick of the wrist, the conductor put us at ease with the orchestra starting off with the Monty Python theme tune, and from then on comforting silliness ensued. There were dancing sheep, scottish bagpipe players, and the choir wore hard hats and imitated welsh miners, oh and the orchestra knew how to play too! The show was in the larger concert hall shell of the opera house, although a lot smaller inside than I’d imagined. Half time drinks at the huge brown glass end of the building, with what must be the best interval views over the harbour and bridge – Southampton’s Mayflower theatre can’t really compete!
Other weekend activites included lengths at the North Syndey Olympic pool, in full view of the harbour bridge. The pool definitely seemed to come from an era before the recent Olympics. The outdoor pool was filled with salt water, and after a few lengths of injesting a weeks supply of salt, we retreated to the indoor pool. Post swim snacks of salty pretzels were ill-advised – salt overload!

Who needs the surf when you’ve got two wheels?


Surfing lessons have been put on hold for this week, seeing as Sydney is being deluged by bursts of rain and thunder to boot. It has given us the chance to look into getting a campervan, there’s quite a few for sale, but they are all at least 18 years old, and the sellers gleefully tell you how many repairs have been done in the past few months (from oil changes to engine changes!). I’m sure that is meant to fill you with confidence that it will be reliable, but my first car (a lovely brown Ford Sierra, “the shed”) was like that, and it just makes you wonder what is next to go wrong!
To get me around in the meantime, a cheapo bike from K-Mart seemed the ideal solution. With the big box already balanced on the trolley, the prospect of waiting a week for them to build it was too much, I mean how hard can it be to stick a wheel and saddle on a bike? Shoving a spanner and allen key set in the trolley, I found a quiet corner of the multi-storey car park. 50 minutes later, and without looking at the instructions (pfft, they’re for amateurs) the bike was done, albeit with flat tyres meaning a walk home (well they felt hard when prodded inside the box…). It’s also my first bike ever to have a side stand and a bell, maybe I should get a nice little wicker basket for the front too…
Today after the rain stopped, I took to the roads. With spanners in pockets just in case my handywork wasn’t all that, I toured the coast line around Bondi, and found some more great beaches, like the one in the photo (no, that’s not from Fiji, it really is Sydney Harbour), and also discovered it’s not so great living at the top of a steep hill…

Star struck in Bondi


Si forgot to mention a very important and significant event in his last blog – I met Hugh Jackman! Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine. In. The. Flesh! Turns out even gorgeous celebrities have children who need to go to school. Of course, it was the posh private school I mentioned before and of course I love it even more now. Have decided to carry on working a little longer even though Si has finished (well, ok, yes it may have something to do with the desire to meet my friend Hugh again, I’m just hoping that next time I might even manage to talk to him rather than just grinning like an idiot!)
Other events sort of pale into insignificance but I’ll do my best to recount them nonetheless. Saturday we went to explore Parramatta, in the rain. It’s supposed to be one of the oldest settlements in Sydney with lots of old buildings but all I can really recall now is that it rained. All day. Apparently November had twice the amount of rain than normal here for this time of year (a third of that was in one night too!). Doh! But it’s ok, don’t feel too sorry for us cos on Sunday the sun came out in full force to bathe us in its glory once again. So we made the most of it. Headed down to Bronte for an early morning swim. Suppose it was more of a splash around in the waves really, seems a bit cheeky to call it a swim. Especially since we saw the final leg of the Bondi to Bronte ocean swim. Over 1800 competitors swam more than 2kms, in the sea. With a whale! (Forgot to mention that on Friday night we saw some beach surf life saving competition action, unfortunately, team GB didn’t too very well despite our cheers.) Witnessing all these fit people doing all their fit stuff inspired us a little. Si mentioned something about us now having 9 months in which we could hone our bodies into their peak physical fitness but I’m not sure I could hold him to that (or want to!) However we did say that we will put more effort into our swimming, just need to buy some goggles first – swimming in the sea isn’t easy! And maybe one of those nose plugs. Wonder if a wetsuit would be going a bit too far…
After our beach visit we headed into town to visit the Rocks market and walk across the Harbour bridge. I am working myself up to doing the bridge climb!