Saturday, 26 September 2009

Dust to dust

Quentin Crisp - the author of "The Naked Civil Servant" and the inspiration for the Sting song "An Englishman in New York" never cleaned his New York apartment. He claimed that after the first five years, the dust never got any worse. I am not sure what he would have made of Wednesday, when Sydney awoke to a bright red dawn. Strong winds had picked up thousands of tons of topsoil from South Australia and brought it over 1000km to our doorstep. The dust itself had a high iron concentrate and so was actually red in colour. The large amount of it in the air also refracted the light so that everything was red

It was a day of travel chaos as the ferries were cancelled and planes grounded. Gus' mum was supposed to go to Brisbane - her flight was cancelled as the dust storm had moved on there and so the planes couldn't land.
Gus had gone to sleep on Tuesday night with his contact lens still in - he woke in the middle of the night with a sticky eye, which prompted him to remove his lens. In the morning, he got up, threw back the curtains and panicked that he had somehow damaged his cornea!

The dust changed the look of the city. Our view of the harbour went from this

to this

By early afternoon it had largely settled - leaving a layer of red on every surface. Gus - who as you all know - is Mr Clean - soon set to with the Dyson and a hosepipe to remove every last trace of Martian dirt from our balcony. Sadly, his valiant efforts were in vain, as this morning, the dust was back. Not as dramatic as the other day, but still eerie.

That photo above reminds me of Manchester...on a smoggy winter's day. I am so used to Sydney being about clear blue skies. Let's hope it stays that way.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Walk, don't run

Sydneysiders love any excuse to be outside. They also love exercise. And they are passionate about Sydney's icons - the Harbour Bridge and The Opera House. So no surprise then that today's Blackmore's Sydney Running Festival which featured a course that took in the bridge and ended at the opera house was so popular. Over 32000 entrants. What will surprise you all is that Gus and I took part....along with Gus' mum, who is here for a holiday. Of course, she now realises that life with Gus is never a holiday.....

There were several activities in the running festival - a marathon, a half marathon, a 9k run and a 4k family run / walk. We went for the family run. Well actually we were invited to join Florida Girl and her family and friends. We were all supposed to meet up at the start and complete the course together. Hmmmm - you know what they say about the best laid plans.....

So we got up early - much to the chagrin of Mrs Mostert - who was not impressed with her son's idea of a Sunday morning activity! Gus had checked the public tranpsort website the night before - we had to get the bus from near the apartment to Central Station, and then the train to Milson's Point. The whole event was starting from there. We pinned our event numbers to our chests and headed out (free public transport was provided for participants). We get to the bus stop for the 6.40am bus - only to discover that all the buses in our area had been cancelled as the marathon route ran thru Pyrmont. We head to Star City to get a cab. For the first time ever there are no cabs at Star City - just a queue of bedraggled all night revellers trying to get home. Off to the light rail station - beginning to panic that we are going to be late. By the time the tram arrives, we have accepted that we are not going to be able to join up with everyone else - especially as we receive a text telling us that Florida Girl and her family cannot make it. We board the tram and pay for our tickets - no free tranport on here as the trams are run by a private company. Now getting a tram that goes thru Star City at 7am is not for the faint hearted - it is clearly the morning after the night before for most of the passengers. There are a few others heading for the marathon - we all have our numbers on - and the contrast between the beer ridden masses and the health conscious few is quite apparent. And the smell of alcohol in the air is overwhelming. After several minutes breathing in this air - I feel quite tipsy.

Arriving at Central we head to the platform for the train to Milson's Point - and suddenly are surrounded by people all wearing running numbers. The only liquids beind drunk here are Sports Hydrators! The train fills up at each stop until we all get out at Milson's Point - leaving behind a few bemused and numberless passengers.

It is chaos as we leave the station -and the only bit of the day that is not well organised. No clear signs as to where to go we head off in one direction, only to be told we need to turn around and head elsewhere. Eventually we find the start area - just as they are closing the start for the family fun run - "You're late" barked one of the officials at us. Well we've already completed a bloody marathon just getting here I thought, as we began our official 4k walk.

At the back.

With no young children with us to justify our position in last place.

It brought back memories of school cross country when I was always at the back - only this time I didn't cheat and take a short cut.

Crossing the bridge in the centre of the 8 lane highway was a surreal and quite cool experience, and as we headed down the Cahill Expressway we took in some great views.
The whole atmosphere was great - lots of families out having fun. We reached the finish line, and joined all the other particpants in the "Recovery Area" (I so need one of these at work) We had to be de-chipped and then we collected our medals. I did think about collecting medals for the half marathon instead, but soon realised that no-one would believe me anyway.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Time flies

Well we've now been here 3 months - wow how fast has that been. I guess it's gone quickly because we've kept ourselves busy. The decision to move down here was quite a tough one to take, as it meant leaving my kids behind. Sometimes being a dad means taking the decisions that are right for the family, even if it means some heartache along the way. And moving out here has given us some financial security for the next few years - which I didn't have back in the UK. I miss them all so much - to be honest, I try not to think about it. And that's why we get on and do stuff. There's just no point wallowing in homesickness or sad feelings - we are here for the next two years and so we are determined to make the most of our time here. So we treat it all as one big adventure. I think of it as the gap year I never had as a teenager - but without the backpacking!
Last weekend we headed off to the Blue Mountains - they're about 2 hours away. It's an impressive area full of breathtaking natural beauty - check out Gus' facebook pages for the full photo album. We stayed in a quaint heritage B&B - it was a bit twee - goddawful carpet and decor - but the owners were welcoming, the location great and the breakfast was excellent. Full of bacon and egg, Gus faced his fear of heights and we went on the steep scenic railway to the floor of the valley. Actually I had no idea that Gus was scared of heights - not sure how he copes with being that tall - I spend all my time staring up at him.

This weekend we hace just chilled at home. We had a celebratory meal at Wok Station on Friday evening - our local Thia restaurant. It was great - as good as that's a compliment. Today we headed out early and picked up some fruit and veg at Paddy's Market (why is it called Paddy's when all the stallholders are Chinese? Does anyone know? And who was Paddy?) Then after lunch we wandered down King St in Newtown and looked in all the secondhand stores. Gus bought a china cup, saucer and plate set - he is building a deliberately mismatched tea set. We christened the first two cups in the set with afternoon tea on the balcony, as we watched the cruiseliner Sun Princess depart.