Fate now sees me sitting in a 4x4 in a Australian Army training village outside Townsville, listening to the sound of a platoon attack, watching it progress on the bit of situational awareness equipment I am supporting……….on a Saturday morning. It could be worse - it is the only weekend I have worked in years, I can spend an hour or so on the beach each day and go for a run/swim, and each night I sleep in a nice hotel, with views out to sea and over to Magnetic Island. The guys I am supporting said that I could stay out with them, but I made it very clear that was not on the cards. I am after all, a civi.
When I walked out of the doors of the MoD some 10 months ago, this is not where I pictured I was going to end up and it has been odd being around the army again. It is rather like bumping in to an old girlfriend who you left not because you hated each other, but because it just wasn't going to work out, and when you meet she gives you a nice warm hug. You can remember why you split up, and know you don't want to go back there, but it's nice.It feels comfortable, familiar and easy. So it's like that. Except without the perfume. And the embarrassing 'hot flush' that may happen as other memories flood back (except if she has become a minger, in which case you may give the hug a miss in the first place).
We have had a few strokes of luck recently. Firstly, in a ruthless and overpriced Sydney rental market, Jodie and I have managed to secure a lovely 1920's flat, with big rooms, fantastic amounts of light and, until the spring brings leaves to the trees, a view out to the harbour. Even luckier is that on the same day we met two lovely Irish girls who had to go home and were selling the entire contents of their flat for $800. We didn't need the beds so for a mere $500 secured all we need to live comfortably until our UK container arrives in late September (it is still bobbing around the ocean somewhere on the MSC London (which, through Google, I learnt is also the name of a club in London which caters to gay men with leather, uniform, bondage and biker fetishes). The flat has a spare room so all are welcome (unless you are just a random person reading this; then you are less welcome. Except if you're hot and especially if you're hot and you want to bring your twin) Hmmm - I'm sure they will be queuing up old man -Jodie
To even out the good luck/bad balance, the planets decided to have me drop the keys of the van we hired to move our stuff to the new flat in, down a gap in the lift shaft, causing a great deal more friction in an already busy day. It also meant I was branded a complete idiot by my beautiful wife, but this only lasted until the following day when J allowed a set of house keys to join them.
The flat is close to a floodlit tennis course so J and I have been challenging Uwe and Linda to frequent games of 'bat and ball' in recent weeks. Concern about the trade descriptions act prevents us from calling it tennis, but it is a lot of fun and helps to keep the pounds off. Eventually we may introduce rules that prohibit multiple bounces and introduce the odd concept of a ball being 'out'. The City 2 Surf run also helped the keep fit regime and Jodie and I joined 75,000 of our closest friends to run the 14km from the centre of Sydney, along the south of the harbor and over to Bondi Beach. It is a great experience, with loads of supporters, bands playing, some great views and a great place to finish. Best of all was the fact not only did Jodie get around in a time that put her slap bang in the middle of all the runners, but she was smiling at the end and didn't hate me (which I thought was a cert).On the strength of this success I have entered us both into the 9km 'Bridge Run' and the 40km "Spring Cycle' and may be pushing my luck………….Watch this space.
Shortly before we moved in we headed to the Blue Mountains to meet up with friends and enjoy the Australian tradition of having a 'Christmas in July'. I think that the concept of sitting around a large table in front of an open fire, over eating and over drinking on a cold crisp day is in European Australians genes and they get their fix by advancing Christmas by 6 months and heading into the hills. If you go to the right place you get snow as well. We had a lovely weekend, the weather was indeed clear and crisp, and the house was perfect, fitting 11 of us in with ease and having a huge fire in the kitchen. We played board games, Jodie cooked some fantastic food, Uwe emptied Sydney of pork sausages (he is German) and we even had a 'family walk' to burn some calories. This final activity should have ended in disaster as 10 hungover people headed into the bush for a three hour walk. In addition to hangovers, Charlie had a bad leg, Uwe and I both had ripped calf muscles, Linda is asthmatic and one of the gang needed to hide behind rocks to throw up once in a while. After a 45 minute steep decent into the bottom of a valley we knew we had to climb out of at the other end, there was little talking and we all envied the 11th member of the gang, Sharon, who was so badly effected by the booze fuelled game of Articulate that kept us up until 3 am, had refused to leave the house and was asleep in front of the fire. Amazingly we all made it out, but in three separate subdued groups. However, it did kind of justify the gluttony of the next 24 hrs.
We continue to sail most weekends and have been blessed by some glorious weather; winter draws to a close and I am yet to spend the majority of a day in the harbor in anything other than a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, perhaps slipping on a jumper as we come back into the sailing club, watching the sun set behind the Opera House and enjoying a cold beer. We missed a race one week when the crew arrived at the mooring to discover it was empty and it was only then that Uwe remembered that the boat was out of the water. Gondwana gets a clean once a year weather she needs it or not (of course her hull gets scraped every fortnight).Last weekend was the once a year and by god she needed it. As I have perhaps been contributing the least to the crew (being unfamiliar with her set up and the fact that Aussies have changed the names of many parts of a boat, and occasionally use a familiar word in an unfamiliar context), I volunteered to clean the heads and the galley, both of which may have missed last years clean. It is not all glamour!
We have a number of things to look forward to. We are off to see Cate Blanchett staring in A Streetcar Named Desire in a couple of weeks, have tickets to see Verdi's Requiem performed by 450 singers in the Opera House, will go to the Black-eyed Peas in October and do a Martini making course. The last of which I am really looking forward to, and guests need to acquire a taste for Martini's PDQ! Best of all we are coming back to England via Perth and Hong Kong in November and are really looking forward to seeing family, catching up with friends and seeing the house!