Had my head down  last week finishing an academic paper – hit that point where I wondered why, when there’s a whole continent out there to explore, then broke through and realised the extra work had lifted the piece from an interesting but confusing ramble to something much tighter and better argued. Quite satisfying really. Now to the next deadline I hear whooshing towards me.

For light relief I escaped to Cabaret Kite, a local institution it seems, which filled the local theatre for a mix of songs, standup and variety acts, all MC’d by  Rusty Nails, who turned out to be the quiet woman from the corridor above me – revealed in all her diva glory, what a star. And my acrobat colleague did an amazing handstand on two piles of bricks which he dismantled beneath himself – astonishing. (Not all the acts were so professional, but hey).

Once the paper was done I joined an outing to Dubbo, about 200km north west from here – a nice drive through the country and some pretty towns. Must go back to Orange some time, and that cafe with local honey. The occasion was a PR do but turned out to be interesting as the theme was regional PR and two contrasting campaigns aimed at improving the lot of regional NSW, which tends to have the life sucked out of it by Sydney. The first, from NSW Chamber of Commerce was awfully pleased about the campaign bus they put together for an ‘apolitical’ campaign at which the leader of the opposition (now State premier) spoke at every event and which miraculously coincided with marginal seats in the region! I remember doing launches of buses back in the 80s, and it was pretty naff then. Second presenter was research based, highly intelligent campaign to nudge various target groups to follow their own desires to switch to a smaller city   – they realised the move to the ‘country’ was too big so highlighted the attractions (housing costs, commute, jobs etc) of smaller cities. Having now seen most of these I think it’s stretching the term a bit – these are county towns mostly, but the info on housing etc is accurate – Sydney sounds seriously inflated.

Talking of which – my Xmas plans have taken shape: I’m making my first trip to Sydney December 24-6, so will spend Xmas day wandering round the city, taking whatever ferries are running, getting a sense of the place. Might be a bit odd to be on my own but actually doing something completely different could be fun. Spent lovely afternoon with friends in Blue Mountains yesterday and they reckon there’ll be plenty to do.

Just got two chapters and a paper to finish before then……….

But – have made serious progress on the personal admin front: now registered with the Road Traffic Authority and Medicare, had first session with GP ($99!), got a credit card and, best of all, managed to link new modem to new set top box to new flat screen so that I now have movies, TV and internet access. Reward for  fiddling with all those cables was joining niece Leah’s 21st party  – younger kids were jumping up and down and my dad couldn’t believe what Skype makes possible – and I got to see lovely Leah looking so beautiful and happy, so thank you technology.