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.

Walking with the Giants

February 16th, 2015

Regular readers may recall an outing Sir Pubert and I had in Liverpool to see Royal de Luxe’s Giants walking around Albert Docks. Having fallen in love with these amazing creatures, I was exceptionally excited to discover that they were coming Perth around the same time that I was heading home. When I then found out that the Perth International Arts Festival was looking for volunteers to help out with the show, I quickly applied and was lucky enough to be selected.

Two Saturdays ago, I spent the afternoon at a top secret location being briefed on what my volunteer role would involve and then meeting the Giants for the first time. The Little Girl Giant and a Diver Giant were part of the show and my fellow volunteers and I were allowed to watch part of the rehearsal. Clearly I have become emotional in my old age as I almost cried as I watched the two Giants stand up and start moving – the Little Girl being hoisted into the air by a crane where she started dancing to Royal de Luxe’s live band. It was so wonderful to be that close to these characters and to be able to watch them interact with each other. I wanted to give them hugs.

diver perth giant

The Diver is having a sleep.

The three day show started on Friday and, as I was part of the Diver team, I spent the three days looking after this very tall man. Friday involved asking people not to touch his helmet as he lay outside Perth train station having a bit of a snooze. The real fun and stress started on Saturday.

Today was the big day for the Diver – he was going to wake up and head off on a stroll through the city. Thousands of people turned up at Forest Place to see the raising of the Giant, one or two more spectators than the organisers expected. This caused a slight delay in the start of the show and he ran an hour over time. Surprisingly, the crowds of people who had been standing in the sun for over three hours didn’t complain too much and I only saw three people faint. When he finally got up, the volunteers formed a large human and red-and-white-striped-tape ‘bubble’ around the Giant, the music truck and all of his crew and we walked through Perth.

Giant diver perth

The Giant has a rest on his walk.

Walking alongside a Giant’s foot is quite daunting when there isn’t much room between you, the foot and the camera-holding crowd. There were moments where I thought that perhaps the end was nigh but at least I could have “Crushed by a Giant” on my headstone. Somehow, with many stressful moments, a lot of broken tape, and one or two disgruntled crowd members who were asked to move out of the way of the approaching Giant, we managed to move the Diver across town to Wellington Square and then, to his final resting point for the evening, down by the foreshore. Sunday was a similar event with the Diver and the Little Girl walking together and hopping on to a boat on the Swan River.

giant diver and little girl

The Diver and the Little Girl prepare for their boat trip.

Overall it was an amazing opportunity to be able to be up close to such incredible pieces of art – the structure and movement of these creatures is astonishing. Plus the performers who manipulate the Giants with their endless energy and stamina, jumping and pulling on ropes wearing thick velour suits in 30 degree heat – pure stupidity really, but an amazing performance. I felt honoured to be able to walk alongside them and be part of bringing the show to Perth.

It was a little disappointing to hear some of the negative comments amongst the crowd when their view was blocked due to a music truck or they were asked to step back to let a Giant past. It was a free show, there were hundreds of thousands of people watching and it is quite a feat to get giant marionettes to walk through a city without upsetting one or two people. Saying that, one of my favourite aspects of the show, was watching the joy and awe on the faces of so many people who lined the streets to Perth to watch these two walk past. Eyes were bulging and jaws dropped to the ground – Perth had never seen anything like this before and people were loving it.

little girl giant

Hello, Little Girl.

I was thrilled to play a small role in the Giants’ visit to Perth and it is definitely an experience for the memory bank. However, I was quite pleased to get home on Sunday afternoon and to not be standing in the direct sun, slowly burning to a crisp. I got a slight tan – I’m now a darker shade of pale.

The Tale of a Seriously Big Zucchini

February 10th, 2015

Once upon a time, a lady called ‘My Mum’ grew some seriously big zucchinis. They were the length of my Dad’s arm and about the same width. They were the biggest zucchinis ever seen in this part of town.

A big zucchini

The big zucchini

One day, a girl called ‘I’ decided to make dinner with one of the seriously big zucchinis. I wasn’t sure how they would taste because surely a zucchini of that size would just be full of water and tasteless. How wrong I was. After cutting the seriously big zucchini into quarters, roasting and stuffing them with an amazing cous cous, tomato, feta and olive mixture, I made a seriously tasty dinner with the seriously big zucchini.

stuffed zucchini

That big zucchini has been stuffed.

Another seriously big zucchini is still in the fridge waiting to be eaten. All recipe suggestions for the seriously big and seriously tasty zucchini are welcome.

*For any British folk reading this, zucchini is Australian for courgette.

What You Sayin’?

February 10th, 2015

The other day while bobbing around in the Indian Ocean, one of my fellow morning beach regulars said that I had gained a bit of a British accent. My “Gosh, do you really think so?” response probably didn’t help the situation. I have become very aware of how I speak, particularly my intonation and how I ask questions. A year ago, when I was in Croatia with my best friend for my birthday, I realised that I was saying, “Do you want some WARter?” (downward inflection) instead of the usual Aussie, “Do you want some warDA?” (through the nose and ending on an upward note.)

North cottesloe beach

The scene of the “You sound like a POM” crime.

I seem to be doing this a lot and while I have never had a strong Aussie twang, I don’t seem to end every sentence as a question anymore. The pattern and rhythm of my sentences has definitely taken on a British flow and I keep talking down, down, down. I still say that Princesses live in ‘CAR-sils’ and not ‘cass-els’ though.

I don’t think I sound British and don’t think I ever will, but over the last four years, I have been in many situations where people have struggled to pin-point my accent. I have been asked if I am South African a few times, to which I simply respond by walking away shaking my head.

I think having lived in Perth, Paris and Manchester, my accent has evolved into a fairly international hodgepodge of sayings, accents, tones and speeds. Living in Paris meant that I often spoke English to people who had learnt it as a second language. I would therefore change my sentence structure, speed and enunciation in order to help them understand what I was saying. I have to do similar things in Manchester – some of my Australianisms go in one ear and out the other with the Brits.

If ears could cringe, mine have been doing that a lot lately. I have always known that the true-blue Aussie accent isn’t the most pleasant sound in the world, but holy moly. Some people sound like they have pegs stuck on their noses and that they’re imitating the long, drawn out caws of the local magpies. So I’m kind of pleased that I sound a little bit like a snooty-Brit trying to impress the Queen with my rounded vowels. How now brown cow.

I’m Back.

February 7th, 2015

This time one week ago, I was squished between a window and a fat woman with a beard on my flight back to Perth. Having just spent 11 hours in the foetal position avoiding any contact with the excess flab hanging over into my side of the arm rest, I was quite keen to get off the plane, collect my luggage, assure Australian customs that I wasn’t smuggling any dead animals into the country and give my mum a hug.

Since then I have spent my time re-adjusting to life in Australia and drinking a lot of ice coffees.

Jet lag.

I thought I had done so well. After arriving home on Saturday afternoon, I managed to stay away until 9.30pm before having 12 hours sleep and waking up feeling relatively adjusted. However, Sunday evening I lay staring at the ceiling until 4am when I finally felt tired enough to go to sleep. It is a strange feeling to lie in bed knowing that you’re supposed to be tired and that now is sleep time, however your body thinks it is still living on the other side of the world.

Anyway, my body clock is functioning properly now and I have even managed to get into the obscene Australian lifestyle of getting up before 6am to do exercise. Who does that? A lot of people around here it seems.

The weather.

I hear it is a bit chilly in England. My plane was delayed by over an hour when I left Manchester as they had to clear snow and ice from the runway. Apparently the canals have frozen and people are complaining about the cold.

manchester airport

From this…

It isn’t cold in Perth. This weekend we’re expecting 37 and 40 degree temperatures which is a little unnecessarily warm. I had forgotten what it feels like to sweat and I have managed to reach ‘beetroot’ level where people gawk at my red face and ask me if I am ok after my morning runs. I had also forgotten that everything melts and all of my lip balms, hand creams, chocolates and pots of Nutella are particularly runny.

Perth skyline

To this.

My family.

I have managed to catch up with a lot of my family since my return and have spent many hours sitting around chatting with my Dad. We have managed to come up with many great plans of things to build, books to publish, jobs to complete and adventures to have over the next 6 months that I may need to extend my stay.

And I am catching up on four years’ worth of Mum hugs.

Mum lasagna

She may not be Italian, but nothing beats my Mum’s lasagna.

The dog.

While I have been living overseas, my parents have replaced me with a dog. My tendency to sneeze in the presence of any furry creatures and the fact that I was terrified of dogs as a child has meant that I have never been much of a dog-person. However, Cali isn’t any old slobbery mutt – she is a guide dog in training and understands the word ‘sit’. She doesn’t jump, bark, slobber, lick (that much), smell or make a mess. She doesn’t even seem to molt which is particularly impressive. While I still dislike dogs, she has managed to convert me into a Cali-person.

Cali

Cali rests her head after a long day at Guide Dog training school.

The beach.

Oh, the beach. Glorious, glorious beach. Tuesday morning saw my return to the early-morning-swim-at-the-beach ritual as Mum, Dad, Cali and I headed to North Cottesloe for a 7am swim. It was nice to see the regular beach-goers again and for them to recognise me and welcome me back. There is nothing like the smell of ocean air and the feeling of being immersed in salty water. Those 15 minutes of bobbing around really kick start a day. Both Paris and Manchester are definitely lacking on that front.

So I am back. Physically, at least. I’m not sure where my head is living and I have no idea where ‘home’ is exactly. But it is nice to know that I have multiple places across the world where people will be happy to see me.