Sunday, May 28, 2006

Smokeless in Sydney

Had a gorgeous weekend after a much more successful week in my new job - thank christ! After the first week I didn't know how long I would cope in an environment as exciting as a monastery but things have brightened up. I was astonished to be engaged in small talk with a number of my office neighbours and almost floored when I was invited out to a lunch where the people seemed fun, witty and dare a say it - entertaining. Thank god. Maybe they all came across my blog on the net and felt guilty about neglecting me......

The weekend was luverly, went out on Friday night to a rather swanky bar in Surry Hills where I am pleased to report that Sydney seems to be finally embracing a more Melbourne ethic when it comes to design. Gone are the cold, white, glass and chrome dentist surgeries that typified the Sydney bar of the past and hello to kitsch but stylish wallpaper, cushions, couches, warm low lights and atmosphere. The very best bit is that all bars in Sydney are pretty much non smoking now so after a night out with friends boozing and eating it up I came home NOT smelling like an ashtray, amazing.

Went to the Sydney Writers' Festival on Friday arvo which was great if a little overcrowded, got locked out of the travel writing session cause it was full and had to content myself with sitting on a plastic chair outside listening via a speaker, felt a bit pathetic really. On the Saturday I took Eduardo in and after explaining to him it would be horrendously crowded we walked straight into a book launch to be greeted with the sight of a half empty room of only 40 or so folk and then we were loaded up with complimentary glasses of red wine and hordeuves, was a pleasant surpise and was a very nice intro back into Sydney, wine in hand, looking out across the dark waters of the harbour and across to the sparkling lights of Luna Park, such a pretty city.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Office

Well I started my new part time writing job this week. I have to admit I was all fired up about starting work and bowled in on the first day full of beans. I got the tour of the office, met all the other people that worked there who seemed nice and then I was shown my desk. Then my new boss gave me a few interesting projects to get working on, disapeared, and then no-one pretty much spoke to me for the

At first I thought maybe it was me, but after a few hours of silence I realised that no-one talks to each other in this office! In fact it is more than a little bit like working in a library. After working for 7 years in a rather famous white pointy building in Sydney where the staff were more dramatic, entertaining, selfish and theatrical than the actors in the shows this has come as a bit of a shock. I have a gasbaggy nature and a very loud voice (should have been an actor) and now I feel like my voice is reverbing off the silence all around me. I mean this place is primarily for people who write all day for a living and the rest of the people are from the more nerdy scientific side of the fence so their social skills aren't that strong so I understand it should be a little more quiet than my old office, but it feels very weird. I mean they seem to be nice people, the types that rescue baby birds from the road, have environmental and RSPCA posters up and don't look like serial killers but the no talking? It's weird.

One hilarious thing about my new employer is that they keep a database of every staff member with a photo and a little paragraph about each person. Eg: "Hi I'm Julia and I work in accounts, I like windsurfing, drinking wine and watching movies. Make sure you come and say hi when you are near my desk" it's all pretty typical stuff. But in one of my quieter moments during the day I did some delving and discovered office folk who like dressing up in Medieval Costumes, bellydancing, Historical Sword fighting and one guy who loved nothing more than the company of his "prize winning spotted mist cat". I almost snorted coffee out of my nose from laughing. But I will treat this knowlege like a precious code that will force people to talk to me, how could you possibly ignore an opening line like "how is your historical sword fighting going?" at the water cooler?

Ps: my new career as an extra is going from strength to strength, one week concerned high school teacher this weekend concerned bank customer - oh the glamour!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Extra Extra!

We'll we've been home for just over 4 weeks now. If I had been able to look into the future before we came home, I would have been very suprised to discover that fate had dictated that I would appear in Australia's favourite long running soap opera Home and Away.

Yesterday I fronted up to a closed down high school in the suburb of North Ryde at the ungodly hour of 6am to appear in an episode of Home and Away as an extra, or as they politely called them on the set "background artists".

My exciting role was as a high school teacher, there were five of us "teachers" and a huge swarm of youngsters all dressed up in school uniforms playing the kids. It was a bit confronting for me, even though I am in my 30's I still like to kid myself that I am, indeed, a kid myself. Failing that I've always fancied that I would be seen as a bohemian, a rebel, or even a femme fatale, not someone the kids want to call "miss". But there you go, I guess I have to deal with the fact I look like a responsible member of society.

So there we are, on a freezing cold morning in the dark. The 'kids' swarm into a trailer wearing jumpers, jeans and ugg boots and emerge wearing cotton summer school uniforms, goosepimpled legs and unhappy faces. I giggled at their misfotune and snuggle down into my jumper before getting a call to wardrobe myself where it was deemed that I would be wearing sandals, light cotton pants and a flimsy sleeveless cotton top, oh my god I am cold. Y'see apparently it is never winter in "Summer Bay" the place where Home and Away is set so although the crew were rugged up in overcoats us 'artistes' had to suffer.

And suffer we did in more ways than one. Out first scene involved us teachers evacuating our students because of a fire alarm. I was assigned my own gaggle of "kids' who followed me up to the classroom. I said to one diminutive blonde in my best 'patronising adult speaking to child' voice "arent you lucky to be having a day off school" to be told "errr I'm actually in second year University." Whoops! Guess the uniform was having the desired effect. My own teacherlike demeanor was also given a boost when one of my other kids said "you seem just like a teacher, are you a teacher in real life?" Geezus, talk about being typecast. Another kid got so confused he called me "miss".

So for the next ten hours me and my kids silently acted out little hearts out, trying to pretend we were scared of the fire, that we weren't suffering from hypothermia and ignoring the directors pleas to "not look cold! It is NEVER cold in Summer Bay". In between our silent mouthings I also got to watch some of the 'actors' on the set, spunky young Aussie teenagers who will probably release crappy pop singles in the UK to much acclaim one day but in the meantime throw their fake tanned bodies about dramtically and cry out immortal lines like "oh moi gawd, where's Salleeeeeeee!!!" it was gold. Cannot wait for my debut on National TV in a few weeks time.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Last week before I enter the world of work once again. I can't believe I am writing this but I am really looking forward to it. It's been nice to be at home but by next week I will be climbing the walls if I'm not out and about. But then again it hasn't been too hard being so close to some of the worlds most beautiful beaches.

Just 10 minutes from my door is the Bondi to Bronte walk - a steep climb over wind swept cliffs, views across the deep blue ocean and climbs down into a string of golden beaches. What with it being a weekday and a wee bit cold the beaches take on quite a different personality. Gone are the ice cream eating day trippers, suntanners and beachgoers. There is a secretive atmosphere - most people are alone and look like they have skived off work for the day, work nights or maybe they are just like me and in between jobs. People lie in the sun, a single surfer in a red wetsuit climbs out of the ocean shaking off salt water, old ladies walk fluffy white dogs and other solitary souls just sit staring out at the water to the horizon.

Something else I've noticed since I've been back is that here people all but disappear during the Mon - Fri 9 - 5 period. Except for mums with little kids, old people and the odd person like me - everyone else is locked up in the office. In Asia and Sth America it was difficult to tell what day it was, because everywhere was teeming with all kinds of people all the time. In some ways Sydney feels lonely through the week, but on the other hand having these beaches all to myself in the middle of a big city can't be underestimated, it's a special place this walk and it's nice to know that all you have to do is break the routine and it can be almost all yours, lovely.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fat is a feline issue

Since we've been back I've had fat on the mind. When I used to read about how Australia was sitting pretty in second place as the worlds fattest country (no prizes for guessing who is number one) I used to find it hard to believe, but having spent the better part of a year in 2nd and 3rd world countries I am astonished by how big everyone seems now I'm back. Also the obsession with being fat or getting rid of the fat or even staying skinny - no matter what the body shape everyone in Australia seems to be thinking about it all the time. From that bizarre biggest loser show on the telly to the amount of over processed sugary "low fat" foodstuffs in the supermarket, and the endless eating plans and diet plans on the covers of magazines; it is quite strange. As a new observer back into Sydney it seems at times all Sydnesiders do is drink coffee, go shopping, eat and drink themselves silly and then get up and go shopping again while getting fatter and fatter each week.

And it ain't just the human folk putting on the pounds. I have even been blown away by the size of a couple of the cats that live in our apartment building. One of them, who I used to call "little thing" has developed quite a saggy gut and a love of haunting our kitchen demanding food. In Asia cats were delicate, dainty works of art with their tiny frames and lithe bodies, in South America cats were, sadly, skinny neurotic freaks who were always on the run from the packs of dogs that roamed the streets.

Here in Oz our cats seem to only come in large, extra large and monstrous. The Queen of the fat cats though would have to be a cat Ed and I nickname "Weirdy". Weirdy was, before we left, already quite a large lady. She is a big build and always was, as my mother would say, well covered. Well in a year Weirdy has been busy - she has ballooned into this ginormous beast who I can now barely pick up - a rough guess would put her weight at over 12 kilos easily. In fact I was so amazed by how she is I had to take a picture. She came to hang out with me the other day and it was like having a wild animal in the flat, the floor was thudding when she took a run off to jump onto the bed (where she promptly settled down on Eds leather jacket from Argentina - oops)

But then Ed and I can't talk about porkiness either. Although some good old food poisoning, 3rd world food, running through the jungle with wild animals and of course a no food whatsoever fast has shed the kilos since we were last in this land I do remember a conversation we had with our Ecuadorian family early on in the trip where we were more than a little on the lardy side. One night over a few wines Marco our host pleasantly enquired of Ed in Spanish "So Eduardo, how long have you been fat?" I was on my way to the toilet and almost fell up the stairs from laughing. But my smug laughter was to quickly turn to mortification as I heard Marcos wife Yolly say "And Katy? How long has she been fat?"

Thank god for Giardia.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

House arrest

I have been under house arrest today thanks to Australias most useless telecomunications company - Optus. After a near month long wait for our internet service the little buggers (after about 22 phone calls) insisted that I stay in the house all day long awaiting the delivery of our special modem thingy. It is incredible the amount of things that you suddenly decide you need to do outside the house when you are told you have to stay in, I kept wanting to sneak out but I was too scared that I would miss the delivery and have to do the house arrest thing all over again in a few days.

To make it worse it is the most gorgeous sunny day and the beach at the end of the street is calling me but I am doomed to perching on the the window sill trying to get a bit of sun.

When the courier finally arrived after a scintillating 6 hour wait he then tried to tell me that only Ed could sign for the package and that it would have to go back to the depot. I must have looked so demented and angry after that when I started to lunge towards the package anyway he looked scared and gave it up to me muttering something about technicalities, right move Mr Man.

So the upshot of this boring little tale is A: don't ever use Optus if you live in Australia - they are crap . And B: I finally have internet at home so I can actually blog and post phots and things without having to make like a backpacker and traipse down to the internet cafe with all the poms. Hurrah!

That is all - stay tuned.