Time in Australia: 13 Days
Number of spiders seen: 4 - the latest one was an absolute mutation of the species
Probability of being back in the UK by January: Extremely high
After a relaxing few days in Canberra I had a coach booked to take me to Sydney to start my new job as an au pair. The coach took about three hours but it flew by. Although the route from Canberra is on a main road there was so much to see. Views that stretched out for miles with lots of trees and rivers. I was so glad I'd secured a window seat.
Unfortunately the young chap that sat next to me had obviously forgotten to shower - ever. I discreetly applied some hand gel (its strawberry scented so masked the smell a little) and turned my nose away from him. An hour in he dug around in his bag and pulled out a sandwich. I glanced at the packet and saw that it had egg in it. Who brings an eggy sandwich on a crowded coach on a hot day in Australia? I looked up and caught Stinky Joe's eye, glared at him, then turned back to the window.
I don't know if he just decided he wasn't hungry or if Australians are a little bit more sensitive when it comes to an average Londoners "f*** off" face. But he quickly stuffed the sandwich back in his bag and scurried away when we reached Sydney Central station.
My new employer picked me up from the station and took me on a drive by tour of Sydney. We went past the botanic gardens, the museum of contemporary art and St Mary's Cathedral. These were all lovely but it was when the harbour came into view I stopped playing it cool. I could see the sea!
It was beautiful. We drove right up to the Opera house to take a look then across the bridge so I could look back at it. It was good to see but it seemed a bit yellow, it could probably do with a good clean.
My new home was only a twenty minute drive from the city centre and I was told I could easily get the train there to explore on my own. The house itself was beautiful, I had my own bedroom and bathroom with access to the rest of the rooms and the swimming pool. The family had a young girl and twin baby boys who were gorgeous. I immediately felt very relaxed and at home, they were so friendly.
On the Sunday I went for a walk to explore the area. There was a big shopping centre about ten minutes from the house so once I'd checked that out I walked through the park (where I met Bryan the demon bird). I sat in the sunshine for a while thinking it might be nice to be working again, I was getting a little bored.
Twenty four hours later I regretted ever thinking that. The house was non-stop and I was thrown in the deep end trying to pick up the routine and daily tasks. It was actually crazy.
On the second day we went on a day trip to Manly with the twins. The beach was lush, even on a cloudy day I wanted to go for a swim but I was technically working. Manly is actually my favourite place so far. It's exactly how I had imagined Australia to be. There were surfers strolling about the place with no tops on, there were bars playing loud music with people drinking and enjoying themselves. But I had to change nappies and make sure nobody choked on mulched avocado.
After lunch in one of the beach bars and a stroll around the ferry terminal it was time to head back. I actually considered abandoning all my belongings back at the house and just staying in Manly. But there was work to do.
The following day the house was invaded by a further eight children. This type of invasion in suburbia is known as a "play date". There were children of all sizes running riot while the stay at home mums and dads sat on the terrace eating lamingtons (some sort of Australian coconut pudding, I'm not a fan).
I was introduced as the new nanny and then was expected to blend into the background as if I wasn't there. I don't like to think I fail at things but I definitely failed in this. I wasn't used to being behind the scenes of a party, even if it was one designed for five year olds.
I loitered around the parents, shielding the twins from the choking hazards (crisps mainly) that the older kids dropped on their play mat. It was a fascinating insight into the lives of wealthy stay at home parents. Especially in the lead up to Christmas. Their lives were filled with handmade gifts, Santa photos and the desperate race to book their cleaners in for an extra pre-Christmas session.
Hearing screaming I went to see what the children were doing. In the playroom it was chaos. The girls and boys waged war over the toys and were reaching the "whining" stage of battle. I was more comfortable here and soon had the troops clearing things away and setting up a civilised tea party with an assortment of cuddly animals. I had just finished building an indoor tent for me to hide in when I was called to sort out the twin's lunch.
It was Thursday, only four days in to my new job, when I decided it might not be for me. It paid enough to keep me going and because I was living there it meant I didn't have a lot of expenses. And I was close enough to Sydney that I could pop in and explore the city on my days off. But I didn't have many days off. And I was bored to tears.
I had been left alone with the twins and was pureeing corn for their lunch when I realised I wanted to go home. I was working harder here than I had been in England and it wasn't even that sunny. And there were spiders in the pool!
I thought being an au pair would be easy, I've always loved kids and have only met a couple who didn't like me. And these kids were great and had already accepted me as their new friend. But it was hard work. I'm fine with cuddling a baby or making a child laugh but it's actually really difficult to keep one alive and healthy let alone three… Mums work hard.
I decided to leave and booked a cab to take me back to Sydney where I'd found a hotel to stay for a couple of nights. It was hard leaving the family, the parents were both fascinating people who had travelled the world and had amazing stories to tell. I'd got on with them so well for the week I was there and I felt bad for letting them down.
I got into the cab and relaxed, knowing I'd made the right decision. Then the cab driver told me I was pretty and I was immediately on high alert… I had no weapon. He was Chinese and told me his name was Dave. He offered me a tour round Sydney, which I politely declined. Then he sang at me for twenty minutes.
I'm sure there was no real threat and it was just a translation issue as he spoke in quite broken English. But I gave him a fake name and had him drop me off at a different hotel, just in case.
As I hauled my suitcase away from the dummy hotel one of the staff appeared. His name was Michael (I scoped out the name badge) and he asked if I needed help with my suitcase. It was a little bit awkward having to explain that I'd asked the cabbie to leave me here because he was creepy and I'm actually in the hotel down the road.
Michael seemed to accept my story and even offered me a lift in the hotel minibus. I was suspicious again but felt better when he explained to me that the hotels were part of the same group so he was always running between them.
I got into the minibus and Michael explained that I was now in the Sydney Olympic park. There was an event on that day so it was crazy busy. He told me some of the places I should visit while here and gave me a map of the park so I could find my way back.
My real hotel is actually not as nice as the fake one but it's opposite the athletic track. After I dumped my suitcase I got my map and went out for a walk. I had booked a hotel in the Olympic park by accident but I was happy, there were athletes everywhere.
There didn't seem to be any security so I just followed some chaps in lycra (not for the first time) into the athletic stadium and found a place in the stands to watch the running events. It was great fun but a bit boring on my own. There was nobody to laugh with when the athlete's tripped over. After a while it got too hot in the sun so I went to get some lunch then walked around exploring the rest of the park.
I'll be heading back to Canberra in the next couple of days for Christmas but from there I'm not sure what I'll do. I'm already missing people. And the dogs. And the donkeys. I'm beginning to think I'm more suited to a holiday than travelling…