Sunday, 28 June 2009

Home sweet home

Gosh it's been a busy first 2 weeks here in Sydney. And quite stressful too. Starting a new job in a new country on the other side of the world does take it out of you. Especially a job that means I have to get up at 6am. Now you all know I am not a morning person. Gus is annoyingly perky first thing in the morning - I don't get going till way past lunch. Aussies all seems to start work early, and the Sydney traffic means a dawn alarm call is compulsory. And I have been quite tired as a result. And I don't think I should blog when I am tired, as I do find it hard to be witty when I am struggling to keep my eyes open. I've had some blog feedback that I sound sad - worry not. I was just stressed and tired.

I'm really enjoying myself here, and I am so happy at our new place. We moved in today - though transporting our meagre possessions is not really a house move. The bulk of our stuff is still on the high seas - hopefully - and will arrive at the end of July - also hopefully. Meantime we are making do. Which in the midst of the current credit crunch is so on trend. Of course we are making do on brand new white leather sofas with a new fridge/freezer and washing machine, but they were essential purchases. And bought in the sales, so actually we were doing our bit to stimulate the Australian economy.

So we are sitting here on the sofa, watching the rain clouds roll over Sydney, drinking sauvignon blanc and snacking on cheese and crackers. The lights of the city are just starting to come on. Magical.

The views from our balcony

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Need for Speed

My commute from Balmain to Bella Vista is taking me about 35 minutes, though I am leaving at 6.30am! It's not a bad route at that time in the morning, and it does eventually bring me onto the M2 Hills motorway. This is a toll road - I've been paying cash each day whilst I wait for my E tag to arrive.

There is one thing that bugs me though - and that's the speed limit. Not the absolute level of the speed limit (I still have no idea what 100km is in miles per hour). No - it's the fact that even on the motorway, the speed limit is constantly changing - sometimes it's 100km, sometimes it's 80, or 70 or even 60.........and these limits can apply for only a couple of hundred meters, so by the time you have slowed down, you can speed up again. Surely it would be safer to have all the trafiic moving at a constant speed rather than slowing down and speeding up all the time. I think most of the Aussies ignore the changes anyway. And don't even get me started on the state of the road surface on a road I am paying to drive on.........

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Swedish (meat)balls up

One advantage of still being a bit on UK time is that we wake up early and can get out and about before the crowds. So today we were at Ikea just before the store opened at 9am. We had been here earlier in the week and had seen some sofas we liked as well as a desk. As soon as the barriers were opened (actually red & white scene of crime tape) we raced to the furniture department to grab a staff member who are as rare as hen's teeth. Gus stayed with her to check & reserve the stock whilst I went and sat down on the sofa in question. Not because I am lazy - but to check how comfortable it was. And I just wasn't sure. I have short legs.....Gus has long legs - so for me, the depth of the seat is important. This felt a bit too deep. But it was the right shade of white and Gus loved the style so we went ahead and bought it. Along with the desk and some cheap as chips bits and peices from the marketplace which we will need before our furniture arrives. We'd asked about delivery and had been told that all we had to do was collect our stuff at the collection point and then push it to the delivery company's desk who would charge us about $140 to deliver it. Bit steep I thought but we didn't have much choice in the matter. So we queue to pay. Then we queue to collect the goods. And whilst we are waiting I pop across to the delivery people to check out the price, only to discover that they only do next day delivery. Big problem. We don't get into the new flat until Friday. Slightly pissed off that no-one had told us this on the furniture department when we asked about delivery, we ask at the collection point if we can collect the goods later in the week. No - they have to be collected now. Well they don't fit in the car (VW Golf) and we can't get them into the new apartment, so we have no choice but to cancel the collection. We then have to queue again for a refund.

I am secretly relieved because I wasn't really that keen, but I daren't say anything as Gus had set his heart on them. We leave Ikea and go for lunch in the foodcourt in the mall - Rhodes shopping mall in Homebush - quite a nice place. We head home. Not really saying much. Gus is directing me along the Parramatta Road (the satnav is on and also giving me instructions - I must be some sort of masochist) when I see a big furniture store called Milano on the other side of the road. So we do a U-turn and call in. We are in Leichhardt - which is the Italian area of the city, so no surprise that this place has Italian furniture. All at sale prices. We try a few sofas and then actually find one we both like. I ask the salesboy (anywhere else his jeans, jacket, open necked shirt and fancy shoes would set off my gaydar - but here he's just being true to his ethnicity) whether they have stock available. Only the floor model he says -which he then offers us for a generous discount. Sadly he didn't throw himself into the deal - but hey, we now have new Italian leather white sofas for the same price as the Ikea ones.

So we bought furniture, returned it and bought different furniture all in the same day. We are Olympic standard shoppers. Now I need a cup of tea, a biscuit and a lie down.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Spend, spend, spend

The rental market here is subtly different to back home. All apartments - or units as the Aussies call them - have to have tumble dryers - to stop you drying your washing on the balcony. I guess they don't want Sydney to look like Hong Kong...But they don't come with washing machines or fridge freezers. So today we headed off to spend my relocation allowance. We went to a couple of malls that specialise in furniture and white goods in Alexandria. First stop - Bing Lee - where every price is negotiable. We negotiated our prices on the products we liked (basically the cheapest washer and f/freezer) and then went next door to The Good Guys, where we got even more off...and 6 months supply of Omo. That's Omo - it's a washing powder. Stop sniggering.

We also needed to replace some of the other stuff we couldn't bring with us. That's the thing about a relocation allowance - you either spend it or lose it. And there is one benefit to arriving here in the middle of winter - all the sales are on. And as today was another day of rain, it was the perfect day to shop till we dropped. We needed to get sofas and garden furniture. It may seem odd to the Brits to buy garden furniture in winter - but Aussie stores stock them all year round. In fact, when your store is called Barbecues Galore, or The Outdoor Furniture Store, you have little choice. So we got a great price on a garden furniture set. We decided to buy that rather than replace the indoor dining set that we couldn't bring from the UK (wicker of mass destruction) because we reckon we will eat outdoors more than we will eat inside. That's the plan anyway - based on hope rather than our experience so far of the weather in Sydney......
Tomorrow it's off to Ikea to get the sofas.........

New apartment

Picking an area to live has been a balance between being as close to the city as possible without making my commute a nightmare. Because Woolworths are based to the north west of the city, we always knew we had to live somewhere in the Inner West or the lower North Shore - basically these areas are close to the harbour and to the west / north west / north of the city centre. Our search centred around Pyrmont, Balmain, McMahon's Point, Milson's Point and Kirribilli. We did a lot of research before we came on various property websites and read as much as we could about the various suburbs. Woolworths employed a relocation company to help us, and on our second day here we had an orientation tour which showed us the areas we had selected. We also looked at a few properties. We dismissed Milson's Point immediately as there is a lot of road noise from the Bradfield Highway, and all the properties were quite high rise. During my pre-work week we visited all the areas and got a good idea of them - Kirribilli has great views of the opera house and bridge but is ridiculously expensive - it is where the Australian PM lives. McMahons's just doesn't have much available.

We liked both Balmain - where we are currently in temporary accomodation - and Pyrmont, which is closer to the city centre. Balmain is trendy in a yummy mummy kind of way - and at times it's a bit knit your own organic tofu. Great cafes and restaurants and shops that stock stuff that no-one actually needs. Suits us perfectly. The main issue is the traffic - all those yummy mummies drive huge 4x4's - the Aussie equivalent of Chelsea tractors - and Balmain just wasn't built for them. In fact Balmain used to be the working class housing for all the dockworkers, so there is not much parking at all. Most of the properties don't have driveways or garages - and I am too old to be on the street!!!! Pyrmont used to be the wharves where the Balmain inhabitants worked - it's now an up and coming area with new apartment buildings. So we've picked Pyrmont - and have agreed a rental on a place in Point Street. It's what the real estate agents describe as a 3/2/2 - that's 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 car park spaces. It's a five minute walk to Star City, and 15 mins to Darling Harbour - very convenient for the city and all its attractions. And the view from the balcony is wonderful. We're open now for bookings through to end 2010.

We move in next weekend.

5 weeks before our furniture arrives.........................

New job

So I started my new job on Thursday, as Senior Merchandise Manager non-food for Woolworths. I am based in their support centre in Baulkham Hills which is to the north west of the city. It's about a 35 - 40 minute drive from Balmain depending on the route I take. The office building is huge - about 3500 people work there - Woolworths are Australia's second biggest employer. It's an impressive facility with 2 cafes, a supermarket, a gym - all of which are well used. I spent my first 2 days meeting the other members of my team and getting to know my way round the building, as well as my way to / from work. Before leaving the UK we downloaded a map of Oz for our sat nav - it has been a godsend. Especially Thursday night, when the torrential rain meant that it was quite a tricky drive back. The first 2 days must have been good as I am planning to go back there on Monday......

Friday, 19 June 2009

Something smells fishy

On my last day before starting work, we decided to go into town as it was another Sydney rainy day. It is winter here after all. We took the bus down to the ferry terminal at Balmain and hopped one stop over to Darling Harbour. A brisk walk later we are at the Queen Victoria Building - the QVB. This is a stunning building, and now houses a range of shops and cafes. We resisted spending any money here which was a major achievement. Then we popped into Meyr - one of Sydney's biggest department stores. We had 2 objectives - find season 1 of Kath & Kim, and look at sofas. Result - the Virgin section had the dvd we wanted. And in the furniture department we met sales assistant Marie, who was fun, knowledgeable and despite being shorter than me, walked quicker than Gus. He has now used her as an example of why I should be able to keep up with him. Of course, he hasn't realised the real reason I'm always bringing up the rear.

Lunch was taken at the fish market - this is still a working port right in the centre of Sydney. You can buy the freshest fish or seafood, or eat it right there. We wandered round intrigued by all the varieties of fish that we have never seen before - and then we saw Balmain bugs. What the **** are these - they look like something out of Jurassic Park. Scary.

This pic is for Adam

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

And breathe....

Gus is the most organised person I know. He is a planning machine. And he does like to fill the day with activities. Holidays with Gus are organised with military precision - the day starts early, and runs like clockwork, with the occasional break for cups of tea. So this is why I am behind on my blogging - by the time we have got home, the jetlag has kicked in and I just can't think of anything to say.

Sunday we were supposed to go to Manly - but the weather was overcast so we went to Bondi Junction instead. Now nothing annoys Gus more than a plan thwarted, so when Monday dawned bright and sunny - the trip to Manly was inevitable. First though we had to go into the city to verify our identities at the bank. The staff at Westpac were friendly and helpful - but dear lord, their computer system was a nightmare. Clearly invented by someone in marketing who never actually deals with real people, it was all about relationship building. So we had to answer questions about our goals - I so wanted to say that my only goal was to get the account opened and get the **** out of there - but it wasn't the fault of the delightful Armenian lady who helped make up non-committal answers - so I remained polite.

Account opened and money withdrawn - we were down to our last $20 so it was a relief - we took the ferry over to Manly.

Hmmmm - now Manly is an iconic Aussie location so I need to be careful. Lets just say it wasn't what we were expecting. It was like Brighton or Blackpool - a bit tacky. Some nice older architecture and a good beach though. We had a nice lunch of fish and chips on the beach, walked along the promenade, had some delicious Royal Copenhagen ice cream, and then got back on the ferry to Sydney. An hour and a half in total in Manly. We were a bit ashamed we had stayed so little time there, until we saw quite a few of the people we saw on the ferry coming out on the same ferry back.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Up the junction

It's a rainy, overcast day so we abandoned our original plans to go to Manly beach, and headed to Bondi Junction instead. This is a huge shopping mall - built by Westfield (who've just done the one in White City, London). We arrived about 9.30 - it only took 20 minutes from Balmain, and parked in the first parking area we found. This happened to be by a Woolworths - Australia's biggest grocery chain and my new employers. The store looked much bigger than the one in Balmain, which is quite small and overtrades, so we popped in to pick up a few things. It was very impressive - great fresh food area.

Then off for a wander around the rest of the mall, including a refreshment stop at Gloria Jeans. Now, if this store name makes you think of designer denim, then you are as old as me, and can recall those very annoying Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans ads from quite a few years ago. It is actually the Aussie equivalent of Starbucks - indeed the store we went to was inside a Borders. Gus is busy trying all the coffee chains to find his favourite - and this one was quite good.

The mall was excellent - it made us feel quite warm and fuzzy to be shopping in a great mall on a rainy day - just like home. Gus bought some Asics trainers - the mad trainer washathon has resulted in the only trainers he actually packed in his case being too tight. Then we had lunch in the Harbour Room - actually a posh food court. Great views of the bridge, and a fab choice of eateries; mainly Asian. We mixed some Japanese tempura and some Korean sushi rolls. There is another food court at the other end of the mall with McDonalds, KFC and other less trendy outlets.

The drive home proved a challenge. I am relying on the satnav to get us round Sydney - and the instructions are sometimes quite vague. The phrase "Keep left then keep right" resulted in me taking the wrong turn, and before we knew what was happening, we were in the Eastern Distributor tunnel. At which point, the sat nav goes quiet and I have no clue where I am going. So I head for City north, hoping for the best. This turned out to be correct - though that short tunnel ride cost $5 in toll....bloody hell. There are tunnels and bridges all over Sydney - some have tolls, some don't, some of the tolls are e-tags where you have to pay in advance - it is confusing - almost as if the government wanted to trick you into giving them money........surely not!

Life in beige

Looking for a rental property here in Oz is a slightly different process to back in the UK. Properties are advertised with an inspection date and time - say Saturday 10.30 to 10.45. Everyone who is interested in that property then arrives at the same time for a simultaneous mass viewing. At the cheaper end of the rental market this can mean up to 40 couples in one place together. If you like the place, then you pick up an application form there and then and fill it in along with anyone else who likes it. We are looking at a higher end of the rental market (no surprise there) but even yesterday, when we went to see a place on St George's Crescent in Drummoyne, there were 2 other couples. Now this place had great views - we are only looking at waterfront properties - but I just didn't like it. Why? Well the whole apartment was beige - the walls, the carpets, the doors, the skirting, the windows, the blinds, the wardrobes, the kitchen - everything was the same damn colour. It was beyond depresssing. And the apartment we looked at on Friday was exactly the same.

What is going on? Do Aussies not like colour? I know that magnolia walls are common in the UK - but beige everything...........

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The big picture show

Gus has been freaking out that he has been taking all these pictures and no-on has seen them. So today I loaded them onto his laptop so that I could post them on here. So here goes. Our move. In glorious technicolour.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

We're here, we're queer, get used to us......

The boys have landed. Being in Upper Class we got off the plane ahead of all the plebs in economy (let's face it - that's really why we all fly up front - to lord it over everyone else) The flight from HK was uneventful - though Gus was somewhat enamoured of a Spanish air steward - all tall, dark and brooding. That may explain what happened at immigration - hmmm - Gus went first - no probs - however, I got hauled to one side. I was slightly concerned at this point - fortunately no rubber gloves were donned, and the problem turned out to be minor. My middle name was not on the electronic copy of my visa. Of course, when I got thru to baggage claim, Gus was standing all innocently at one end of the carousel and the hot spaniard was at the other. I don't trust these foreigners.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Live from Hong Kong

I have flown on quite a few flights and I have never seen someone get off the plane before we have taken off. Until last night - when two passengers were disembarked, along with their baggage before we had even left Heathrow. I was in seat 2D so I had a frontrow seat for all the trauma. The first was a Chinese lady who took one step onto the plane and collapsed. Much discussion took place - conveniently translated for the benefit of those of us who are nosy (actually it was for the ground crew) - I think most of us thought she was very drunk - she claimed she had a possible brain tumour and was on medication (see Kerry Katona) - she even got out the box to prove it. The lack of a doctors note did not help, and even if she was ill - she shouldn't have been flying anyway. What was most bizarre was that this all took a good half hour, and the crew eventually had to go and look for her husband who had blithely headed off to his seat. He decided to stay on the flight - leaving her behind. I sense a deeper story.

The second passenger got off voluntarily - due to Cystitis, as was loudly discussed by the crew. Now - ladies help me out here - would it really stop you flying? Maybe Virgin didn't have any yoghurt onboard - but I would gladly have given up my cosmopolitan so the poor woman could have some cranberry juice. Perhaps her yoghurt had been confiscated at security....

All this - and a celebrity onboard. Why is Peter Andre in Hong Kong?Is he fleeing the country to escape press attention? I wanted to go and take a photo of him asleep in his Upper Class seat and sell it to Heat magazine for £200 - but I just couldn't channel my inner paparazzi. Sometimes I am just too English.

And they're off

That's it. No more goodbye's. We are in the Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow waiting to board. Actually we are sipping champagne at the bar, and wondering whether Peter Andre, who has just arrived with a camera crew in tow, is going to be on our flight.

Today has been a tough day. Saying goodbye to my kids was always going to be hard. As a distraction, I took them to Fortnum & Mason's ice cream parlour - great cakes and huge ice cream sundaes. Fraser had the Chocolossus - it was enormous and defeated him. Gus, Abi and I stuck to various types of chocolate cake. We are so going to need to diet when we arrive.

The kids enjoyed themselves, and it was a fun time - until we had to part ways. Tears followed. It's good to let these feelings out though. So I am full of conflicting emotions as I sit here - tired, excited, apprehensive and a little sad. I am looking forward to my new job and new life - but I know that I am going to miss my family and friends so much. I am glad that Gus is sharing this adventure with me - hopefully as people come and visit, we can share it with them too.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

So long, Farewell, Auf Weidersein, Adieu

These farewell tours are exhausting. No wonder the Rolling Stones only do one every few years. I will have to add pics when we get to Sydney and I can figure out how to get Gus' camera to talk to my netbook. At the moment, my brain is too befuddled to work it out. Blame stress or alcohol - your choice.

We had a great barbecue on Sat night here in Chelsea where we are staying with Tanya & Kostas. Tanya is an Aussie refugee - having escaped Adelaide 22 years ago. Kostas provided great Greek food and did his man thing in charge of the bbq. Nice sausage Kostas. The guest list consisted of the creme de la creme of London society - well the society of people who know us anyway. Roslyn & Denton (also Aussie refugees from Adelaide - the murder capital of Australia apparently) came armed with copious amounts of champagne (thanks guys). Allen (American) and Rose (South African) gave us our leaving gifts of an Aussie cork hat for me and Dame Edna glasses for Gus. And Bill and Judith (thank god some more Brits) provided the evening's glamour. Cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery rounded off the evening and gave some much needed sugar and carb to ward off the hangovers.

Sunday we drove to Manchester in torrential rain. The sun was shining by the time we met Breffni and Finn for afternoon tea at Harvey Nichol's department store in Manchester city centre. Great tea, great company and great views of all the chavs with their Primark bags waiting for a tram.

We were staying at the Great John Street Hotel - a converted school house right next to Granada Studios. Very cool hotel with eclectic decor and a mezzanine bathroom. Also a rooftop terrace with views of the Coronation Street set........exciting only for the Brits I know. We have a pic of Dev's supermarket............

Drinks and dinner with Mr Tim Wilman followed. Sadly Giselle couldn't make it - still poorly after her last trip to China. Tim was his usual ebullient self, regaling us with tales of his heli skiing holiday. Bloody scary. What is it with straight boys and their need to risk life and limb in pursuit of a good time! I can have a perfectly good time lying down! By a pool.....with a drink.

Monday we drove over to Anglesey to leave my car at my mum's. This was the first time Gus had met my mum - fortunately he was too hungover to be nervous. It went well, and we enjoyed our brief visit.

Then the train to London, and coffee at Euston station with Alison. We do know all the in places. Dinner again with Kostas and Tanya, and then more drinks with Rose, Allen and Bev (aka Lady Gaga) who was back from a weekend in St Tropez.

Today we are meeting my kids for afternnoon tea before finally getting on the plane to Sydney.

The start of our big adventure.

Friday, 5 June 2009

To boldly go where .....someone has already been

Last night we had a farewell meal with our neighbours - Johny & Kerry. We had a Thai takeaway from a place they recommended. Great food. Can't believe it has been open a year and we didn't know about it. We washed it all down with the last of our wine, and quite a bit of theirs. We were all a bit fragile this morning. Fun though. We will miss them, and their delightful kids - Luke, Louis and baby Harley. But most of all we will miss seeing Johny mowing the lawn during the summer - something he always does topless. It's the gay equivalent of the diet coke break.

Today Gus and I went into Reading - there wasn't much to do in the house save look at boxes. We had a full English breakfast and then Gus did a bit of shopping - new farewell outfit from H&M. Then off to the cinema - I wanted to see Terminator 4, but Gus wasn't keen and frankly the thought of all the explosions and robots fighting when I have a hangover was not appealing. So we went with Gus' choice which was Star Trek. Which I saw with Fraser last week. I enjoyed seeing it again though. And Captain Kirk was just as fine second time around.

And we are just back from taking the kids out for a meal. We went to their favourite place - the Toby Carvery. Good old fashioned English roast dinner. And because we were seated before seven pm, it was only £5 a head. Bargain. Can't go wrong with roast beef, roast turkey and all the trimmings for that price.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

They came, they saw, they packed

It's a bit disconcerting -seeing our carefully planned & co-ordinated belongings (furniture and clothes) transformed into a pile of cardboard boxes. Brown is so last season. But that is it. Well mostly - they'll be back on Friday to pack up the bed, telly and computer before the shipping container arrives at noon.

It wasn't too bad. They did a good job of packing - though I guess we'll only really find out how good when it all arrives intact in Sydney. Gus was a bit worried about these heavily tatooed men handling his delicates............that porcelain Russian tea set is quite fragile.

And for the Brits reading this - I've sent off the form to claim back 6 months worth of TV licence. Proof that I am emigrating included. Let's see if the BBC are as willing to give me the money back as they are to take it in the first place. And for my American friends - it is illegal in the UK to watch tv without a licence from the government (well BBC actually). Unless you are an MP when you can claim the cost of the licence, the tv, and the house it sits in all on expenses.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Ready Shreddy Go

Gus has been in a shredding frenzy. Three bin bags full now. And an overheated and over whelmed shredder. I did have payslips going back to 1989 though.

It's all calm now. Just waiting for the removal men to turn up.

Some like it hot

but when you are packing your life up to move half way round the world - the hottest day of the year just isn't helpful. The only good thing to happen today is that Gus and I managed not to kill each other - but only just.

We started the day sorting out toiletries - in an attempt to keep our baggage weight down we purged our bathroom collection. It was painful. Throwing out perfectly good shampoos and conditioners that we nicked from 5 star hotels and have never used. And worrying just how many anti ageing & anti wrinkle potions we have. Us gays sure are suckers for marketing. We are worth it though.

Then onto clothes. The packing bit was easy. Deciding what to take was a bit harder. Figuring out what we are going to wear over the next few days so that it could all go in one bag required a level of decision making that was quite frankly beyond me. Big decisions I can do - no problem. Like emigrating. Quite calm about that. Choosing which pair of shoes to wear on the plane has left me in need of counselling.

Amidst all this fashion trauma, I was also trying to sort out my email. I wanted to set up my new shiny netbook to access my email from my remote webmail before the BT internet connection is shut down. Some of you have already lost the will to live just from reading about this. Imagine having to do it. Took me two hours and some choice language before I worked out what I was doing wrong. Do not be misled by my fondness for Doctor Who and Star Trek. I don't normally do technology. I have people to do that for me. Not at home though. And my requests for a sonic screwdriver were ignored by Gus. Some assistant he is!

Then the phone rings. It's the man I rang a few weeks back about mending the dent on my car. I definitely need people to do reversing for me sometimes as I have a habit of hitting fence posts. He was supposed to come round ages ago and give me a quote. He didn't. Now he could. So he turns up and starts sanding, drilling, mixing resin and spray painting. Very butch.

My ex-wife's partner John then arrives to collect all the furniture we sold him - all the furniture of mass destruction that could lead to the end of Australian life. We get the resin man to move his van, and my dented car - back up John's van to the garage and start loading. He's also taking the dishwasher so I go and disconnect it. And get covered in smelly drainage hose gunk. Now I am probably illegal for entry into Australia!

Monday, 1 June 2009

In an English Country Garden

The English weather is doing its bit to make us feel homesick before we've even left. This weekend the sun shone brightly as we continued our farewell tour. We headed south, to the rolling hills of the North Downs. Beautiful, quintissentially English countryside, and peaceful - provided you ignored the jets landing at Gatwick and the packs of motorcyclists terrorising the locals. Gus drove his Mini (named Miranda...I know...don't even go there) and it was fun bombing down the M4/M25/M23 at illegal speeds with the top down. The wind was blowing in our hair. Well, the wind was blowing in Gus' hair. I felt the breeze on my bald patch.

We went for dinner and stayed overnight with our friends Michael and "Champagne" Jane, whom we met on SeaDream last December. They were the perfect hosts. Especially as they let us watch the Britain's Got Talent final. Their house is stunning with great views and a wine cellar that rivals Oddbins.

We tried our best to make a significant dent in it however. Gus has been a bit fragile today. These youngsters - no stamina.