The months have flown by since my return from Bali, and the lack of blogs may have had some of you wondering if the Great White which has been dining off local swimmers, finally fancied a vegetarian side dish.
I’m pleased to say that I’m still alive and kicking with all limbs intact (although it was touch and go over the New Year, when I succumbed to Australian flu and was crook as a pack of dingoes). I must admit that I have been reluctant to swim in the sea – but always send Mark in ahead of me when the heat’s gotten too much. We’re now in the midst of one of Perth’s “wettest and coolest” summers apparently. I’m sorry, but the Aussies CANNOT appreciate the meaning of “wet and cool summer” unless they’ve spent a miserable August Bank Holiday weekend at a British seaside resort. A few hours of rain occasionally, the odd stiff breeze (“cyclone”, my ****!) and temperatures plummeting into the mid 30s (with lows at night of 25!) still seems pretty tropical to me.
I still get confused by Christmas being in the middle of summer, and hearing carols being played in shops when the weather is scorching outside just seems plain odd. Being a bit of a Grinch anyway, I found it difficult to get into the Yuletide spirit. Forsaking Bing for the Beach Boys on my iPod, I managed to get through it and enjoyed Christmas Eve with the rellies (thankfully not a turkey, Christmas pud or brussel sprout in sight).
My much anticipated “Christmas Day on the beach” was a slight disappointment. To be honest it just felt like any other day at the beach, except the place was full of drunken backpackers wearing Santa hats. To make matters worse, Mark had bought us a sun shelter that was supposed to be erected in seconds. With the “Fremantle Doctor” blowing in, we struggled on but the shelter seemed to be modelled on the Sydney Opera House, or maybe we were doing something wrong? Sensing that Mark was getting as cross as a frog in a sock with the whole thing, even the Irish offered to lend a hand. Two tonnes of tarmac were not going to tie that kangaroo down, so we gave up and I plied him with stubbies for the next hour to calm him down. Drinking alcohol is highly illegal on the beach apparently (and most other places here) but luckily the liquor police were turning a blind eye (or maybe they were blind drunk), so we managed to get away with a few “quieties” to celebrate December 25th.
With Christmas thankfully out of the way, we popped over to Mark’s mate Murray’s on Boxing Day. He’s found himself an Essex Girl too – although Karen from Canvey has been out here some 30 odd years. Karen had some words of advice for her fellow Essex-ite – she felt I was hanging on to the old country too much and wondered if I was fully committed to life here. Hmmm…. Just because I’d downloaded the entire BBC Christmas Schedule and reminisced about shopping at Sainsbury’s. I hid the bottle of Daddies Sauce I’d brought for the bar-be.
The year got off to a bad start when I came down with a severe bout of Aussie flu. I don’t know what it is about this place, but everything is “extreme”. You don’t just get the sniffles for a few days, this flu hits you like a road train, and I gradually got worse and worse until New Year’s Eve I finally collapsed and was bed-bound for the rest of the week with a hacking cough and a throat as sore and dry as a dead dingo’s donger. I must admit to feeling a bit sorry for myself watching the Sydney, and then the London firework displays (sorry Sydney, London was the bo**ocks this year) on You Tube from my sick bed with a glass of Aspro Clear. We did manage to catch the Australia Day Fireworks over the Indian Ocean in Fremantle a few weeks ago though, which were excellent but totally overshadowed by the amazing lightning storm hovering over Perth.
The past few months have been devoted almost full-time to my visa application, which by the end was reaching epic proportions, and I feared that I might have to hire a “ute” to deliver it to the immigration office. I’d gone through 2 reams of A4 and a small fortune in ink cartridges, spent hours on the net researching the kind of things they look for, read hundreds of tales of triumph and woe from fellow applicants. I’d passed my medical and got my UK Police Clearance (the bribes had paid off) and I was slowly driving myself to distraction and defeat (especially when I called to make the appointment and was advised the current waiting list was 12 months long!) I did try to convince Mark that a Thai bride would be much cheaper (not to mention a better cook and ping pong player), but he seems to think I’m worth it.
When we finally presented it, the immigration officer seemed impressed and hinted that if everything was complete and in order, “just occasionally” they issued the visa straight away. Imagine my surprise and delight when just 8 days later, my grant arrived through the post. I was now “legal” and can work and travel as much as I like for the next 2 years until I become a “permanent resident”.
I can then also apply for citizenship, when I’ll presumably have to prove I can down a dozen tinnies in an “arvo” (afternoon), swear like a docker and forget all the rules of road etiquette. I’ll then be issued with my regulation “high vis” tank top and Fosters stubbie holder.
I’ve already been making my mark in the local community, being interviewed by the Kelmscott Examiner about the Writers Group I hoped to attend but ended up running, for the Arts Centre. Desperate for a bit of culture, I’ve also joined a book club and a Social group that organises theatre/music/film outings. In fact this month Perth hosts an International Arts Festival with some interesting events including a big red ball being squashed between the buildings, and two tonnes of feathers cascading over the city…
My job hunt was refreshingly short and sweet, with 3 interviews in 10 days and 3 good offers in the bag. I don’t think the word “unemployment” is in the dictionary here. Spoilt for choice, I’ve decided to gain some corporate travel experience, and start with American Express on Monday. Based in the city, I’ll be working on the Rio Tinto mining account, arranging travel for their VIP staff out of Singapore. The 50 minute bus journey should be a breeze after my long commutes into London, although I will miss those cold wet mornings, squeezing onto the tube at Stratford…not.
So it’s “hooroo” to the Housewife Superstar and “g’day” to the working Sheila. I may now even be able to treat myself to the odd banana or avocado. Woo hoo!