Great Walls of Leederville

April 20th, 2015

Perth has been surprising me lately with some exciting initiatives that are bringing life and colour to the city. FORM, a creative cultural organisation that does so much for the arts scene of Perth, has once again initiated an amazing collection of public art pieces scattered throughout the city and surrounding suburbs.

Form

So much detail.

On Saturday, my friend Simone and I, wandered through West Leederville to check out nine or so murals that are being painted to the sides of buildings throughout the main cultural precinct. Most were still being painted with the artists being lift up by cherry pickers. These pieces add so much colour and vibrancy to otherwise dull, concrete buildings. The biggest winner, in my opinion, was the Water Corp building that has been transformed from an ugly concrete box into a giant water fountain.

Water corp Form

Adding a touch of blue to the Water Corp building

Well done to the team at FORM for bringing this to Perth. May it be embraced and continue into the future. Big thumbs up.

No Longer a Loser Learner

April 20th, 2015

It seemed like such an achievable goal – upgrade my automatic driving license to a manual. My 17-year-old self made the fatal mistake of giving up on the clutch way back in 2003 and I have only been able to drive automatic cars since. My time in Europe and the UK has demonstrated that this was a silly, silly thing to do as most cars in the northern hemisphere have that whole moving stick thing and additional pedal. I was back in Perth for six months – I would quickly learn to drive a manual car and upgrade my license.

Yeah. Easy. Not. Learning to drive wasn’t the hard part and once I had worked out what to do with my feet and had thrown one or two hissy fits, I was relatively confident. Surely I would pass the practical test with ease.

Apparently I was wrong. As I sat in the car park of the City West Transport office at 7.30 this morning, my stomach churning and a feeling of doom descending upon me, my Dad turned to me and joked, “Well at least this will make a good blog post.” I didn’t laugh. This was the second time in two weeks that I was attempting to pass my practical test. Two weeks ago my Dad and I drove out to Mirrabooka and after 35 minutes of driving around the suburban streets, I was informed I had failed.

Failed? But I have been driving for 12 years. I have never had a car accident. I can reverse parallel park. I understand the concept of ‘merging’ and I stick to my lane in a two-lane roundabout. And yet I had failed my test without stalling, without crashing, without killing an innocent pedestrian.

According to the driving test man, who has since gained nicknames that I can’t write because my mother reads this, I was coasting and therefore he was obliged to fail me. I also apparently took too long to find somewhere to turn around in the ‘Oh no, I have forgotten my wallet’ turn-around-and-go-back-to-where-we-started task. This was purely because he didn’t like the drive way that I had chosen to use as it was apparently too close to the crest of a hill. I also have thoughts on this but again, too many rude words are involved.

After much discussion with fellow driving test failures (aka the entire driving population of Western Australia) this guy was failing me just because he could. I may as well have not driven anywhere and had him give me a list of ridiculous reasons as to why I can’t drive. It resulted in me having nightmares last night about failing once again because I didn’t take my foot off the clutch early enough when turning corners.

But today was a good day. I was with a friendly man named Paul (yes, Paul) who was from the UK (yep) who seemed keen to pass me from the start. This time I drove around for 35 minutes feeling like I couldn’t do anything wrong. He suggested easy places for me to turn around, encouraged me to nudge my way in to a busy row of traffic and said “Just go through” when a traffic light turned orange as I approached. At the end of my test he said I had passed with 100 per cent which is a significantly different result to two weeks ago. Either my left foot had gained epic skillz over that short time period or there’s something just not quite right about the system – who am I to say? All I know is that I passed and I no longer have to drive around with bright yellow ‘L’ plates attached to my car and my dad sitting in the seat next to me.

I’m Still Here

April 7th, 2015

This last weekend was made up of four glorious days of non-work. I have come to appreciate my weekends so much more now that I have a 9 to 5 job and I’m not my own very relaxed, ‘yeah sure you can have a really long lunch’ boss. Weekends don’t come fast enough and then they disappear before you know it. Cruel, cruel world.

Work has evolved once again and I am currently working four days a week filling roles in the Community Engagement, Communications, Cultural Services, Administration and Communications (again) departments at the Subiaco Council. I am waiting to be asked to act as Mayor for the day. I spend my fifth day and most of my evenings writing for my clients in the UK. It is definitely appealing to my scatty brain to be working in so many different areas at one time.

Today was the first time in two months that I wasn’t able to eat my lunch outside in the sunshine in a park next to the council. The Easter rain arrived a few days late and it completely ruined my lunch time Vitamin-D ritual. It is still a novelty for me to be able to go outside and be 1. warm and 2. not wet. Alas, winter is on its way.

Blue skies over the Swan River

Blue skies over the Swan River

Good news – the Easter Bunny came. Perhaps thanks to the fact that I am one of the oldest children still living at home with their parents in the world, that chocolate-producing rabbit still managed to find me and leave a trail of… well… poop to a delicious dark chocolate Lindt bunny. Cheers, mate.

Follow the trail!

Follow the trail!

My cousin, Sophie, got married on Sunday so it was a weekend of kitchen teas, dresses, and tears of joy. It was lovely to be able to spend a lot of time with my family, especially the few hours that I spent with my close girl cousins, helping Sophie get ready. It was nice to be in the same country and be part of a family celebration for once, as the last few years I have usually been on the other side of the world.

Apart from that, my adventures in Perth have come to a standstill and largely involve my house, work and my grandma’s house. I am looking forward to two weeks of showing Sir Pubert where I went to primary school, which spiders are actually dangerous and which supermarket I like to go to. I bet he’s excited, too.

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.