PONDERINGS OF A POM IN PERTH... Going Down Under (Part 1)
Perth, Australia October 2011
Most of you by now will probably be well aware of the tumultuous events of my life over the past few months and know the reason why I am currently living in Perth, Western Australia. For those who have missed out on the catch up e-mails, Facebook updates, Skype calls, etc. here’s an edited “omnibus” edition of my life since I returned to Oz:
Escorted back to the land of red dust (and wind and rain) in the middle of winter (early August) by my Aussie bloke. I think I must finally be getting used to all this jet setting – the 23 hour journey was a breeze.
Luckily we both had time to recover as we arrived back to the good news that Mark didn’t really have a job. A new boss combined with the fact that tourism had taken a downturn because of the strong Australian Dollar, meant that the demand for tour guides was pretty low. However, within days his highly efficient PA/Secretary/Agent/DEPENDANT managed to get him a couple of interviews. The first was for a Tour Guide/Driver for a Dolphin Swim Experience company just south of Perth. I was slightly worried that the interview may have consisted of candidates being sent out to look for dolphins in shark infested waters, and the one who makes it back with the most limbs intact, gets the job. Luckily he found a much safer option before it came to that stage.
He decided to take up a position for a local charter bus company where he started out doing the school run for the local Islamic College. I was understandably worried about how long this job was going to last, and even went out with him on his first run (in my headscarf) to try to stop him from swearing too much, and eating his bacon sandwich in front of them (it was right in the middle of Ramadan).
He now works at the local hospital transporting the doctors and nurses around and although he finds it a bit boring compared to tour guiding, we need the money (especially to support my wine habit, which has become incredibly expensive out here at $12 (£8) a bottle) – and they make the stuff! I’m beginning to wonder if Sainsbury’s do home deliveries to Perth.
As for me, well after initially enjoying the luxury of being able to sleep late and do nothing much apart from be a “housewife” again (a very strange feeling after so many years especially with no kids to deal with), I needed to find a purpose.
To stop myself going stir crazy, and unable to legally work, I started looking into voluntary placements and soon found a job helping out 2 days a week at a local arts centre. It is run by David, a very characteristic and funny art critic, originally from Hull. They needed help with the admin, fundraising and gardening (the centre was an old weatherboard bungalow, with a very pretty garden and some studio space) – and it seemed quirky enough to appeal to me.
My first duties were to assist with setting up the debut exhibition of a young South African artist. There can’t be many people who can say they’ve spent the afternoon “hanging” Nelson Mandela, and I now know the difference between a picture hook and a nail. I was made head of catering for the actual opening (it soon became obvious that my knowledge of wine was greater than my knowledge of art) and a good time was had by all. I may even be able to indulge my own “aristic” vent by starting up a “writers group” at the centre in the future… who knows.
I also started the lengthy process of putting my Partner visa application together and soon realised that it would be easier to enter the country as a “boat person”. They make you jump through so many hoops. I have to get a police check from the UK (is it still a requirement to have a criminal record to enter Australia???) and I have to list all the countries I have visited and the exact dates in the last 10 years! They’re having a laugh. It might be easier to list the countries that I haven’t been to. By all accounts once you apply it can take from 2 – 9 months to be granted so I don’t think I’m going to be able to work much before the New Year at the earliest. In the meanwhile, I do have to leave the country at the end of October for a brief trip over to Bali (it’s tough, I know, but it has to be done) to renew my tourist visa. I plan on visiting my friend Lisa (who I worked with at Ten and who lives in Kuta), maybe book myself on the “Temples, Tequila and Terrorist Sites” tour, whilst making a start on this year’s tan and sipping cheap cocktails by the pool. I’m actually quite looking forward to a change of scenery – it’ll feel like I’m backpacking again. I may even stay in a hostel, for old times’ sake.
So, in between my days delving into the art world, chauffeuring Mark to work at 4.30am, gardening, shopping, cooking (I’m becoming quite the Domestic Godess), the days are actually passing quite quickly. I’ve joined the local gym (where they have an over 50’s club and I’m horrified that I’m now qualified to join it). I’m attending Pilates classes at the wonderful home of our Singaporean teacher up in the hills, where we sit on her verandah after class each week having coffee.
I also try to keep myself fit by cycling to the local shops (so that Mark can drive the car to work and I don’t have to get up at an unsociable hour) and must be quite a sight wobbling home with several bags of groceries balanced on the handlebars. Speaking of groceries, I never thought I’d be complaining about the price of bananas but £1 each! And they’re tiny! There’s only so much you can blame on floods that happened 2 years ago…. So they’re a real luxury as are avocados and leeks. I’ve just started growing my own veggies and if all goes well, I might set up a stall at the side of the road (and call it something creative like “Pomme” de Terre).
After a coolish (especially in the mornings and evenings) start, the weather here is finally getting warmer. Another week or so before it will become too hot, and the flies start to drive me mad. On the bright side, at least we’ve managed to turn the pool back from green slime to sparkling blue. I feel that I could write a book on the finer arts of swimming pool maintenance and am an expert on the advantages of a salt purifier over a chlorine filter and how much hydrochloric acid is required to keep the pool hygienic without burning all your skin off. So when the pool filter split and the pool quickly became a swamp full of what I thought were tadpoles (but which turned out to be midges), I had no compunction in committing mass genocide. I’ll probably be brought up before a mosquito “Hague” in another life. Still, we now have a nice blue pool again (probably the same shade of blue I’d turn if I actually braved swimming in it at the moment).
I do miss my friends and family and although I manage to Skype the boys when I catch them on-line, it’s really not quite the same. We’re planning on coming back to the UK for a couple of months next summer though, so I hope I’ll not be lured back by the booming economy, the Olympics and the tropical climate…or the cheap bananas!
At least by then the boys will both have (hopefully) finished their degrees, and finally be financially independent. In fact, by then Dan should be a millionaire. He’s working on his thesis for a San Diego company researching “Fabric Re-enforced Mortar”. Now if he could develop “mortar re-enforced fabric” I think he would have much greater success in the US clothing industry (or if that fails, a promising career with Al Queda!).
I’m not sure that Joe’s decided on his thesis at the moment (he’s been sidetracked by his application to become the Queen’s new butler – don’t ask!). If only he could discover the cure for the common hangover, I could retire happily and he could become the International Socialite he aspires to.
Anyhow, until the next instalment of a “Pom in Perth” (from our Balinese correspondent), I’ll say “good’ay” for now.