Six months in Sydney

After silence that’s lasted rather too long, my recent half-anniversary of living in Sydney has kicked me back into blogging action. I can blame many things for the silence, but one of them is definitely that I have much more of both a routine and a social life than I did even a month of two ago. Nothing like my London life, but enough to keep me (new me?) entertained! So what have I been up to?

My routine is based around exercise – I’m more active than at any time since I stopped rowing vaguely seriously at uni 12 years ago. This is partly because I’ve got a bit more time on my hands than I used to, but it’s also the Aussie lifestyle! I now run twice or three times a week (including a new-found love of Parkrun), swim twice most weeks and go rowing at daft-o-clock on a Thursday morning. The running may reduce a bit after the City2Surf (a massive 14km race/fun run which I entered on a whim – if I can run half and walk half then I’ll be happy!), but I ought to pick up a second rowing session a week again soon. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d enter the City2Surf, she wouldn’t have believed you! It feels really good to be exercising a fair bit again, and go more quickly and further, and the encouragement of my work friends to get running definitely helps – as does the wonderful setting of the North Sydney Olympic Pool.

So that brings me to work… I wrote in a previous post about all the things that were different and why it was a challenging transition from my role in London. The good news is that I think the transition is mostly in the past tense! I can’t explain exactly when that happened, but the difference has been having a couple of projects to get my teeth into after the first couple of months were dominated by business development and some seriously quiet patches when I wondered how I’d be chargeable in a new market. It took me most of the six months to feel I’m working “at my level” but I definitely think I’ve got there now. And you can tell I’ve settled into the team because I got the “human megaphone (loudest in the office)” award at the End of Financial Year party!!

I’ve also done a fair bit of exploring. I’ll write about the Sydney Explorers meetup group in another post soon (maybe next weekend as I’m doing a walk with them on Sunday), but through that group I’ve done a fair bit of walking in and around Sydney, as well as having a weekend away camping in Jervis Bay, a beautiful spot three hours south. I’ve become a confirmed North Sydneysider and, much as I enjoy getting out and about, some of the best weekends have been ones when I haven’t crossed the Harbour Bridge. I’ve discovered some great local eating spots, lovely parks and a fortnightly farmers’ market, all within close walking distance. And I still love the fact that whether I get the bus, cycle or walk (which I’ve done once), I get a pretty fantastic view crossing the bridge every day.

In store for the next six months is more of the same active life and hopefully getting quicker, probably getting involved with a local cricket club if one is looking for a scorer, and lots of travel – weekends in Auckland, Brisbane and Melbourne, a few days skiing in NZ as a birthday present to myself, and three weeks off at Christmas with visitors and travel in Victoria and Tasmania.

Regrets? None at all!

Resolutions for a new year and new country

A few days late, I know, but happy new year! I saw in 2018 in a park in Melbourne and enjoyed the very impressive fireworks set off from rooftops in the CBD. A bit weird to do so on my own (well, with hundreds of others around, but nobody I knew…) but perhaps an apt end to a year when I remembered how to make time and decisions for myself and enjoy my own company.

The new year means my extended holiday is drawing to a close, and it’s time to turn my mind to a new job and – as some of my friends have put it – a new life. I’m not sure I’d express it that way because I don’t intend to let go of a lot of the things I enjoyed in my “old life”, but settling in a new place and being over 10,000 miles from my closest family and most of my friends does mean a certain amount of beginning again. And the period of time off has given me a chance to think about what I want from that. So, despite the fact that I’m not normally one for resolutions, here are mine for the new year and “new life”:

1. Make time for myself

This is first, front and centre of my resolutions. Back home, I led a pretty manic life – working pretty hard (at various times, too hard), maintaining a very active social life and being a bit of a sucker for committees and responsibility. I can’t (and don’t want to) change my nature and of course I want to make friends in a new place, but the opportunity to do just a little bit less and have a few more evenings and weekend days to myself is one I know I need to take. Work is where that will be particularly challenging, since I know my instinct will be to prove myself in a new company, and work as hard as it takes to do that as soon as possible.

2. Get some exercise!

Despite quite a lot of walking, there’s no escaping the fact that an 11-week holiday isn’t a ticket to a healthy lifestyle unless you’re FAR more disciplined than I am! But, to be honest, the damage to my previous exercise regime (such as it was) was done before I left London. It turns out that announcing you’re leaving the country makes you quite in-demand for social occasions and (see 1 above) I don’t really need an excuse to rack these up. Cue many, many evenings out on the beer which, not only led to high-calorie food and drink consumption but also kiboshed my three-to-four times per week cycling to work habit. No wonder many of my clothes no longer fit. My bike will arrive in Sydney in mid-February, but I’ve resolved to get back into running (slow jogging) and sign up for a local parkrun. Two 5k-ish runs down and I’ve been shattered both times, but I remember it gets better…

3. Reduce consumption of single-use plastic stuff

This one isn’t for me, but plastic waste is something I feel quite strongly about without always putting my money where my mouth is. However, recently I’ve imposed a “no disposable coffee cup” rule on myself – if I forget my keep cup and won’t drink in, I don’t deserve the coffee, and if a coffee shop or stand won’t take/use it then they don’t deserve my money. Once it’s became routine to toss the keep cup in my handbag (I have had a lot of flat whites in the last 11 weeks), it’s not been hard – and it helps that proffering a cup when ordering a coffee is much more normal here than back home. I compare my experience at the very busy coffee stands at the Adelaide Oval and MCG here to that at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, where the grumpy vendor (I refuse to call him a barista – the coffee was terrible) looked at me like I had three heads when I asked him to put my drink in my cup.

The challenge now is to always remember the reusable shopping bags, ignore the plastic veg bags in the supermarket, refuse straws and get hold of some beeswax wraps so I can remove cling film from my life. Plastic bags are still free here and therefore pretty widespread, but the two biggest supermarket chains are phasing them out by June this year.

4. Don’t spend NYE 2018-2019 alone!

Much as it was fun and I have zero regrets about doing the solo new year’s, some company would have been pleasant. Despite resolving to make time for myself in 2018, I’d like to make some new friends too!

Au revoir (again), London!

Just a short one today… mostly to share a photo I’m pretty proud of!

London really turned it on for me on my flying visit yesterday. In over ten years living there, I don’t think I’ve taken a better photo than this one, westwards from Waterloo Bridge at sunset. Fitting that my favourite viewpoint in town was the last place I spent time in central London before scuttling off to catch a train from Waterloo. My office used to be very close to Waterloo so, much as I’m sure Sydney Harbour will compensate, I’ll miss my daily dose of the Thames and views like this will always give me fond memories of home.

I’ve been asked what I’ll miss most in London. Obviously the thing I’ll miss most is people – the majority of my friends are in or around London after all. Beyond that I’ve come up with good beer and old buildings, neither of which Australia is very good at (I hope to be corrected on the beer front!). Also London has incredible (and free) museums which I’ve loved reacquainting myself with in the last month or two. I look forward to seeing what Sydney has to offer in that department!

Au revoir London – not goodbye!

A false start and silver linings

Writing my first posts from the UK was not the plan. After a whirlwind but carefully choreographed week after leaving work, my 97 boxes had been taken away to begin the long journey to Sydney, my suitcases for the plane packed, flat cleaned, leaving drinks enjoyed (perhaps a bit too much… ahem), and boarding passes printed. But some things can’t be controlled… the night before I was due to put my one-way ticket into action and embark on a 10-week dream holiday, I learned of my grandmother’s death and threw the plans out of the window.

Suddenly it was one decision at a time. Starting with “Do I fly tomorrow morning?” Once I’d settled on “no”, I decided that everything else could wait until tomorrow. After each decision I worked out what the next one was and gave myself time to make it. I’ve now got further with the decisions: staying with my parents until the funeral on Monday, flying to Sydney the next morning, rebooking this week’s Tasmanian tour to start the weekend after I arrive, cancelling the following week’s tour and picking up my original travel plans from the Adelaide test match onwards. Still things to sort – insurance (more on that in a future post), flight refunds, post-tour accommodation… but I’m getting there.

I think I’ve been able to help with funeral arrangements (typesetting orders of service are within my skillset, it turns out, and knowing a nice pub in the right bit of Oxford should mean we have the post-service refreshments sorted). But going from the rollercoaster of getting myself ready to emigrate to suddenly having close to nothing to do has been strange. Very strange. Nothing to do is really not my style. I go mad if I have to sit still for ten minutes let alone two weeks. But, in a desperate attempt to stay sane, I’ve discovered and enjoyed many things – the view from St Giles Hill in Winchester (where my parents live) and a stonking lunch in the lovely Wykeham Arms, which I’d never got to before; a country walk along the Thames with a friend on his week off between jobs; catching up with people who couldn’t make my leaving drinks; a new and superb coffee shop in Oxford; some bonus time with my parents who I’ll miss immensely; a chance to draw breath in a way I wouldn’t have had I got on that plane as planned.

The last fortnight feels like three months, I’ve no idea what day it is half the time, and there’s definitely a big grey cloud I’d never have chosen. But it’s one with silver linings. Australia will still be there when I arrive, and the sun will probably still be shining. Right now, family comes first and I’ve a final few days of Autumn colours to enjoy here.

Passport burning a hole in my pocket

Since announcing my plans to emigrate to Australia, several months ago, I’ve been asked “why?” more times than I can count. And it’s a fair question. Why would I walk away from London, one of the greatest cities in the world, a job I reckon I’m pretty good at in a company where I’m supported and immensely valued, more friends than I can count, and my beloved parents 90 minutes away?

In short, because I can. I’m fortunate enough to be a British-Australian dual national, thanks to my Sydneysider mother (who, 45 years ago, did the classic “come over for three years” thing, met my dad and changed her mind about going home – so intercontinental moves are in my blood!). That little blue passport opens the doors to Australia, and indeed New Zealand, for as little or as long as I want to stay there, no questions asked. It offers me the opportunity to live in the same continent as my cousins, who are fantastic but I’ve not had enough face time to be close to as I’d like; to experience a lifestyle which may be similar but definitely has differences; to see far more sun and sea and sand; to visit all the stunning bits of Aus and NZ I never get to on holiday because by the time I’ve visited my friends and family it’s been time to fly home; to reset expectations on my work-life balance over 10,000 miles from my previous job; and to take on the challenge of applying my skills in a new market. After returning from a year in NZ in 2007, I’ve always thought I might go over for longer one day. Recently I’ve concluded “if not now, when?”.

After looking at it from the perspective of what will I regret more in five years’ time, I decided to give it a whirl. It’s for three years minimum, unless I decide I really don’t like it, so I have to invest in a new life and new friends. Sounds alarming, three years, but what was I doing three years ago? Pretty much what I’m doing now. I had the same job (or a more junior role in the same place), the same friends, the same flat. I’ve loved absolutely all of it, but in my mid-thirties it’s time for something to change. I wouldn’t have chosen the single life, but while I’ve got it I want to enjoy it to the full – and one big advantage is being able to make decisions for me and only me. As a friend and former colleague put it, “You only get one shot at life”.

With a combination of careful planning and some slices of luck, I’ve managed to set things up quite nicely. I have landed a good job in the heart of Sydney at an international professional services company, but not to start until mid-January. For this cricket tragic, the timing of two months off and the Ashes in Australia is no coincidence – I’ve tickets to eleven days over three matches. And I will also walk the Overland Track in Tasmania, explore Kangaroo Island, spend two weeks in New Zealand over Christmas, and catch up with many friends and family members.

There’s a huge amount I’ll miss, but a lot to be excited for. Time for the little blue passport to stop burning a hole in my pocket.