I do like to see a sculpture by the sea side

March 27th, 2015

Last weekend I finally managed to head to Cottesloe Beach to see the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition. Every year the beach and groyne are dotted with sculptures made by local and international artists. I really love this exhibition as it adds a dash of unexpected art to an area that is normally reserved for beachy-sporty-types. Of course, Cottesloe beach is located in the super rich western suburbs and so most people who swim here most likely own more sculptures in their own back yards. But the exhibition does provide easy access to sculpture for people who wouldn’t normally dare go near it.

sculptures by the sea

Cottesloe beach covered in sculptures

I headed to Cottesloe at 8am, hoping to beat the Sunday morning crowds. Clearly lots of people had the same idea as me and it was already quite busy by the time I arrived. Having parked in a 30 minute parking zone I had a limited time to explore before the eager rangers stuck a parking ticket on my car.

In general, the sculptures were interesting and it was fabulous to wander in between them, spotting those that blended into the background. However in recent years it seems there is pressure to create pieces that are ‘talking points’ rather than just lovely pieces of art. Instead of creating works that sit magically with the natural landscape, there seems to be a push to create pieces that stand out and just look odd. I’m all for contemporary art, but I also think there is so much potential for creating something that goes beyond being a marketing tool for the exhibition.

sculptures by the sea

Mini-windmills

There were some nice works (I really enjoyed some ‘Twister-esque’ windmills on poles and the red flamingos were nicely built) and it was a great 30 minutes. But I didn’t feel like I was missing much when I headed back to my car when my time was up.

Red flamingos

Red flamingos

Creepy Crawlies

March 21st, 2015

So the good news is that Sir Pubert has booked tickets to come and visit. He is leaving the safety of England and venturing to the southern colony, a brave decision considering his apparent fear of anything that moves.

Growing up in Australia you get used to being constantly surrounded by bugs. Flies, ants, mosquitoes, cockroaches, stink bugs (although I haven’t seen one of them in ages), slaters, spiders, moths… you develop excellent wrist muscles from swatting something away from your face every 30 seconds or so. While you do get used to it, they are also really freaking annoying. Having flies on your food or a cockroach running around on the wall just above your bed when you want to go to sleep really isn’t fun. Sitting in an ants nest is the pits.

However, despite this, when I moved to Europe and discovered that there just aren’t any insects over there, I missed my crawly friends. You’re never alone in Australia as there is always some sort of small, multi-legged creature watching you or attempting to steal your food. Right now, I am the only active human in my house but I am being gentle serenaded by the high-pitched vibrations of cicadas outside. On the beams of the roof I’m fairly certain there are spiders and there’s likely to be something crawly walking under the couch as I sit here writing this.

What most Europeans/Brits (eg. Sir Pubert) fail to realise, however, is that while we do have a lot of insects in Australia, they’re not all poisonous. I have been back in the country for almost two months and am yet to die. While this may be some sort of pre-Easter miracle, it is more likely due to the fact that most insects are just annoying and not venomous.

Saying that, I did have an altercation with a Red Back spider (red = danger = poison = go to hospital) this morning. I was still half asleep, but luckily it was too. With the help of some eucalyptus scented bug spray (the fresh smell makes it seem like you’re doing good things to nature rather than killing innocent creatures) and a tissue, I managed to win the battle of good and evil. There is an abnormally large number of Red Backs around my house at the moment building nests in roof beams, door frames, and the hot water heater. I found about 20 teeny-tiny baby Red Backs who had clearly all just hatched from their eggs in my car door the other day. While babies are cute, I really didn’t want 20 Red Backs in my car so I politely asked them, and their very large mother, to leave.

red back spider

The worst thing about Red Backs is that sometimes they don’t have red backs.

Apart from the Red Backs I haven’t seen anything potentially life threatening. One of the regular morning swimmers at the beach reckons he saw a shark chasing salmon the other week but he likes a good story so the validity of his sighting is a little rocky. So it is safe for Sir Pubert to come and visit. I just hope he survives the sniffer dog at the Perth airport on his arrival.

You Know You’re in Australia When…

March 21st, 2015

The past few years of living in foreign countries, my eyes have developed an instinct to constantly search for new and unique things. I have learnt to spot small details that many people would overlook because it is in their home country and therefore part of the background. Returning to Perth, I have felt like a bit of an outsider, rediscovering the city again after four years of being away. The city has grown enormously over that time thanks to rich miners spending money on housing, commerce and business properties. There are so many new shops, cafés, bars, hipster hang outs and places to be, which is very exciting for a once sleepy town. It is fantastic to see some life and activity injected into Perth and, dare I say it, even a little bit of c-u-l-t-u-r-e.

This eye-opening experience has meant that I have spotted a few quintessential Australian sights that I hadn’t really noticed before. Two of my favourites are:

  1. While every service station in the UK sells firewood, at ‘servos’ in Australia you can usually buy fishing bait. I was driving to Bullsbrook with my Dad the other week and was therefore at least a 40 minute drive from any sort of ocean or body of water, and we went past a petrol station with a sign advertising ‘Bait’. Why you would buy fishing bait in the hills of Perth, I’m not sure. My local servo, located in one of the ooh-la-la posh suburbs, also sells bait. While this makes more sense as it’s less than 10 minutes from both the river and the ocean, but I still doubt many western suburbs ladies who lunch will be picking up some tackle.
  2. Drive through bottle-os. It has dawned on me how illogical drive through bottle shops (that’s a store where you purchase liquor for all of my non-Australian readers) are considering Australia is such a nanny-state where you can’t do anything even close to dangerous or illegal without someone wagging their finger at you. I hope we never get rid of them though because I really enjoy the smell of refrigerated alcohol and cardboard boxes that permeates from the door.

So they are two nuggets of Australian quirkiness that I wanted to share with you. I love a sunburnt country.

Daily Triathlon

March 8th, 2015

After being back in Perth for a month, I am now feeling more ‘at home’ as I have found myself a morning routine. I like to say that I complete a triathlon every morning before work but that may be a slight exaggeration.

5.50am – My alarm goes off and I regret having set it the night before. It takes me 20 or so minutes to roll out of bed, wash my face and get changed before going for a run. Most mornings I will do a 7 kilometre run, trying to get back home just before 7am.

7am – I drive to the beach with Mum, Dad and Cali for a quick swim. The last few mornings have been absolutely glorious – the water has been calm and clear and you can spot fish swimming around your legs. After a quick paddle and splash about in the ocean, we get back in the car and head home.

north cottesloe beach

Mornings at the beach.

8.45am – Having showered, dressed and eaten breakfast I quickly throw together my things for work and jump on my bike. The final leg of the triathlon is a 3 kilometre ride on my 3-speed, dutch style bike, avoiding hills as much as possible. Unfortunately the route to work requires me to go uphill, and while my bike is super stylish, it is in no way designed to go up hills.

By 9am I am at my desk having completely a fairly pathetic triathlon. And then I fall asleep.

One Month Down

March 3rd, 2015

Believe it or not, I have been back in Perth for an entire month and I am yet to turn into a fried lobster. You could even say I have a ‘slight tan’, which mostly means I am not obscenely white – just very white.

It has been a busy month and I think life is about to become even busier. I now have two jobs. Yes, two. Why get one, when you can have two? Both positions are casual roles for the Subiaco local council – the first is working in the community engagement team while the other involves me organising cultural events in the library. I then come home and write amazing things for my clients, so I have been spending a lot of time lately staring at computer screens.

Meanwhile, my left foot is becoming more in tune with the movement of a clutch and I am slowly improving at this whole ‘manual car’ thing. I will admit to one rather large hissy-fit that was the result of a three-point turn, a hill start and a (luckily) very patient person waiting for me to work out the pedals. The fact that it was 38 degrees at the time didn’t help.

Last Saturday I volunteered for the Perth International Arts Festival again, this time at the new (well, new to me seeing as it had only just opened when I left Perth four years ago) State Theatre. I encouraged children and their parents to colour in flying machines and then have them projected onto a large digital installation. It was fantastic fun – watching children gain so much joy from seeing their artworks turned into magical moving images on a large screen was very pleasing.

PIAF

My art work zooming around on the screen.

Now I must dash and go to bed. I have taken to waking up at 5.50am to go for a run and/or head to the beach for a swim before getting ready for work. Ridiculous, yes. Enjoyable, also yes. A day without pre-breakfast exercise isn’t a day that you want to meet me. They say exercise gives you endorphins – I think it just sweats out my grumpiness.

Sun vs Snow

March 2nd, 2015

Apparently it is cold and snowing/sleeting in Manchester. It isn’t here.

Blue skies in Perth

So sunny. So blue.

Yet Another Half Marathon

February 24th, 2015

Call me stupid, but I felt 2015 was lacking a physically painful experience and so this morning I signed up for a half-marathon. I really enjoy the idea of half-marathons – not too long that you die, but long enough that it hurts to sit down the next day. I saw an advertisement for the HBF Run for a Reason event in May and got a tad excited. An organised run with water stations, cheering onlookers and a real finish line? Yes, please!

I don’t normally attempt to raise money when I do these races as it adds extra pressure to me completing the race and who really wants to pay to watch me suffer? But this time I have decided that I may as well see if people would like to donate money for Arthritis WA. Many of my family members, particularly my Grandma, are riddled with this painful condition and I will inevitably be next. So, raising money so that smart people can find a cure seems like a good idea.

If you’re feeling generous or would just really like to pay money to see me turn into a beetroot with sore legs, please donate via my ‘Everyday Hero‘ page. I definitely don’t think running 21 kilometres is heroic but it’s better than doing nothing, I guess.

Seventh Sense

February 24th, 2015

I think I have found my natural calling. This morning, while enjoying a relaxing dip at North Cottesloe beach, I was literally struck by a deeply embedded reaction that could potentially save lives. I am a… Stinger Siren.

There haven’t been many stingers at the beach this year which is great news for super-sensitive-skin me. I have had to spend many summers wrapped from head to toe in fashion-faux-pas rashys whenever I go swimming to avoid being stung by the barbed tentacles of invisible stingers. Once stung, I don’t just react that your average human with a bit of a red welt that disappears by the end of the day. Oh no. Why would I do that? Instead, my skin flares up and hops between pain and extreme itchiness for at least a week. It’s extremely attractive, particularly when I get hit on the face and neck.

This morning, however, I realised that my skin is so sensitive to whatever toxins those creatures send out into the water, that I can sense their presence. While swimming in the water this morning, my skin went prickly and my natural instinct was to stand up and get my body out of the water. And as I looked down into the particularly clear water, there he was. A lone stinger, floating oh-so-innocently yet oh-so-invisibly about half a metre away from me. I had managed to find the one stinger in the entire beach (or it had managed to find me. The bastard.)

He had managed to get one of his tentacles on my skin but nothing anywhere near as bad as the time in 2008 when I had a huge stinger drape itself across my neck, back and chest and I had to peel it off my skin.

So I am now thinking that along with the shark patrols they now have at the beach, North Cottesloe lifesaving club should employ me for Stinger Patrol. Protecting the innocent from the invisible evils of the sea.

I Don’t Like Dogs. But I Do Like Cali.

February 23rd, 2015

I’m allergic to dogs which is handy as it means I have a socially acceptable reason to ask people to keep their beloved mutts away from me. I have occasionally grown to like some dogs, this being a long process involving them learning not to get too close and to never, ever cover me in their drool. The general worldly consensus appears to be that you are inhuman and an essentially horrible person if you do not ooh and ahh and kiss and throw yourself over a person’s dog. Even when I explain that I am not able to touch the thing as it will result in me breaking out in a rash, sneezing and my eyes turning into tennis balls, I still receive looks of disapproval at my lack of excitement about the animal.

I wasn’t overly thrilled to be returning home to Perth to where a dog had moved in to my house. While I was living overseas, my parents replaced me with a black labrador that they are training as part of the guide dog program. Cali was presented to me on regular occasions via Skype and I could see that even my parents weren’t impressed by my lack of interest. Cali and I were in competition for my parents’ love and I was refusing to let a dog beat me.

Over the last three weeks, Cali and I have some how rapidly progressed from me frowning at my parents childish talk and screwing up my nose every time I felt a wet nose rub against my leg, to us going for walks together and hanging out on the floor. I pat her, praise her, and tell her she’s ‘such a clever girl!‘ for sitting when told to. I look forward to her coming home from puppy school and treat her to ice cubes on hot days.

Cali guide dog

She’s rather lazy.

So I’m not sure how that happened. I have a suspicion that she has somehow become an emotional surrogate for Sir Pubert, who is now on the other side of the world and not providing me with the attention and affection that Princess Jess requires. The other day, I was having a bit of a sob moment and Cali was instantly aware of my sad mood. She immediately came over and sat on my feet and didn’t leave until I was feeling perkier. Clearly, dogs are far more in tune to human emotions than men and I suddenly saw why humans become so attached to their pets. Cali had cheered me up simply through crushing my toes and giving my legs a bit of a lick.

I still don’t like dogs (particularly not small yappy things) so please don’t bring your dogs over to meet me. But Cali is Cali. She is part of the family and has taken on family traits (easily distracted, she likes to wander off and see what’s happening on the OTHER side of the road and this evening she wanted to eat cheese) and therefore I think she’s cool.

Learning to Drive Again.

February 20th, 2015

I have had my driver’s license for a scarily long length of time. Twelve years ago I passed my driving test on the first attempt and hit the road as an independent P-plate driver, phoning my mum at home for an entire semester to let her know that I had made it to Uni safely.

Somewhat unfortunately, I made the lazy decision to avoid the frustration of learning to drive a manual car and opted to get an automatic license. As a result, I have spent the last four years being unable to borrow anyone’s car while living in France and England as most people own manual cars. Therefore, high on my priority list of ‘Things to do while back in Australia’ is to get my manual license. Joy, oh joy.

L plates

L for Learner.

The good news.

I didn’t need to re-sit a theory test to get my learners permit. Nor do I need to do 25 hours worth of logged driving hours. That’s where the good new ends.

The less good news.

Despite these two very positive points, I did, however, still need to go to a Licensing centre and wait with half of Perth’s population for almost an hour, worrying about my rapidly expiring parking ticket ($3.90 per hour), in order to pay for a learner’s permit. Why I can’t just do this when I go to sit my practical test, I’m not quite sure. But it is done now and I have a yellow piece of paper that says that I am once again a ‘Learner’. I’m even going to get a card in the mail with my photograph on it. Shame I had a swollen eye yesterday thanks to an ingrown eyelash. GOR-GEOUS.

I hate being useless.

I have been out driving with my Dad a few times now and it hasn’t been a complete disaster. I am yet to crash and my rating of stalling the car isn’t that high, considering my lack of experience with a clutch. However, it is testing my ability to accept my flaws and be ok with the idea that I am learning and therefore am not going to be an expert yet. This is hard as I hold ridiculously high expectations of myself and I consider myself to already be a competent driver, and yet I am now struggling to get a car to go from stationary to moving. I am glad my Dad has less-than-perfect hearing as I stop un-lady-like words escaping from my mouth.

Anyway, give me a month and I’ll be a pro. In the meantime, if you see a white Volkswagon Up! (yes, the car has an exclamation mark in its name which hurts every bone in my writer’s body) with ‘L’ plates on it, please give me space.