Archives for category: Australia – settling in

Started this two weeks ago, feels inadequate already, as deeper feelings about leaving Oz surface, but, for the record (and with more pix to come) …….

 

Sitting in Dubai airport cum space station, digesting the fact that, after four and half years, I no longer live in Australia. Fewer than five years, but this time has had such an impact. Will take me more time, more words to understand how much it has changed me, but here’s a first stab at what I will miss, in no particular order

Coffee – flat white here is quite different from its pale, late imitations. On a trip to New Zealand recently, I learned that NZ is home of the FW – or so they claim. The cafe at Sydney airport where I would gasp for real coffee after 30 hours of airline chemicals….  Luckily, I plan to spend time in Spain whose café con leche rules supreme.

flat-white-coffee

Sydney festivals – I didn’t make Mardi Gras, but went to Sydney Vivid several times – the best illuminated buiildings I’ve ever seen. The exuberance and playfulness seemed to sum up something very Sydney-ish. Loved the Writers Festival too, great setting on the harbour, interesting speakers, large literary crowds. Talking of harbour faves – Grilled


Barra and chips sitting looking out  at the sun setting across the Harbour. Watching La Traviata performed on a pontoon on the Harbour, with fireworks and flying foxes accompanying the arias in the dusk

 

18d5ee5caf60db57976d3f663ff65b53

Australian journalism – the ABC broadcasts current affairs, investigations, media analysis and Any Questions discussion panel across prime time Monday nights. Puts BBC shoving journalism out of the way in favour of Come dancing or whatever to shame. SBS broadcasts a range of shows to engage and reflect the range of cultures in contemporary Australia – reminds me a little of early channel 4. Both channels are largely in public ownership.

Public ownership – as are the trains (about a fiver for 200 kms from regional NSW to Sydney); utilities (not all), roads, and much more. This leads to a mix of low costs and irritating obstacles (imposisble to access outside working hours). Trade unions still determine conditions for most workers. Pensions funds are obligatory and employers make substantial contributions (17% in my own experience!!)

Language – finally realised that Australians speak Tabloidese – fitting as Murdoch’s birthplace. – love the Rego/servo/arvo/doco compressions. Also everyday use of more arcane language, so that rort is a common verb for scam or fraud, as in ‘pollies rorting expenses’.

Now the big ones: living quite differently in and on the land, and making friends far from home.

I want to write something substantial about how the Australian land has changed me, so will not say much here, except that the wildness of this continent generates an inner freedom to which I have responded deeply. Two years in the Blue Mountains have given me audio memories of the Kookaburra dawn chorus. Night skies that reach down to the rooftops in regional cities. The unfamiliar language of trees, not symmetrical, not shapely, the magnificent scruffy gum trees that scent the world. The light, shooting everything in HD, each leaf visible across distances.

IMG_0002

People

Nothing is impossible but it seems unlikely I will work again with such a creative bunch of colleagues – the location of my discipline (public or organisational communication) in a creative rather than business school meant I shared corridors with performers, writers and directors. People interested in bodies as well as brains, like the lovely Dan Aubin,  handstanding past my office door, an image that sums up SCCI at its best (pic to follow).

 

Advertisements

I moved out of London in 1993, first on an experimental basis, to do an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, then permanently, a year later,  to take up a position at the university of Central Lancashire. So I’ve been a visitor to my home town for the past 21 years. But until moving to Australia in 2011, such visits to family and friend were pretty regular, only a few hours drive or train journey.

Now it’s an annual event and I’m finding that place has usurped chronology in my personal story-telling. Having been struck by the Indigenous emphasis on land not time as the main unifying narrative, a recent trip to London has illustrated how this works for me.  Every bus journey takes me through a jumble of pasts: that supermarket was the swimming pool where I learned to swim; I kissed a boy there, broke my heart here; saw Hendrix there; got drunk, got sober, worked, organised, lived, here, there, then.

None of my memories of Australia are more than two and half years old; London is scored through four decades.

Watching cop shows on the ABC here, I know from the colour of the house bricks exactly where the body is buried; can still tell north from south London accents (and loved it when the recorded announcement at Waterloo, in contrast to the usual posh advice to mind the gap, told us the next platform was dahn the escalators). This knowledge carries a poignancy, as it’s quite redundant in a new country. Who cares?

Then, walking through Regent’s Park with a friend one summer evening last week, describing the loss of this personal history, she laughed and said ‘how liberating’ and I realised she was right. I see people living in mausoleums to their own histories, defined by what they’ve been, not what they are. (And I am not immune to this – with 5 boxes of memorabilia in transit as I write.) I need to go home at least once a year to be with people who know me in the way only family and ancient friends can know you (my father recalled a childhood scene at the (long gone) Primrose Hill swings where my oppressed little sister surrendered her place to me& waited her turn –  only to be grandly informed  that ‘we don’t do turns any more’ ).

But it’s rather marvellous to come back to somewhere that tastes of the future.

 

Just watched my first Australian election night coverage. Major differences from UK – including compulsory voting, elected upper house, a complicated form of proportional representation and no returning officers in town halls – but remarkably familiar array of vacuous clichés from highly groomed people who don’t seem to stand for anything. New lot offer to protect one of the wealthiest and least populated countries on the planet from the Terror of asylum seekers and plan to start mining the Barrier Reef asap. Sigh.

None of it my fault of course as I don’t have a vote. I do have Permanent Residency however, granted last month, which allows me to stay with the full range of civil rights, bar voting. This change of status fed into a range of conversations in London, Barcelona, Chicago and Point Reyes over recent months: I have been in Australia for nearly two years but my ‘real’ life has stayed in Leeds and London, where my friends, family and home are. The main focus has been on my job, understanding the organisation, my colleagues and the challenges faced by Australian higher education. But I’ve been wondering if its OK to have so much of my energy tied up in work – should I change something or accept this as an opportunity to write the papers and books that are bubbling up? I would think wistfully of my warm kitchen, friends sitting at the table, something made with lentils in the oven,  sigh and return to my companion iPad. Hmm. Then one conversation shifted everything and I realised I don’t have to be mildly miserable all the time and that I can have fun here without that constituting an act of betrayal against friends or family or even my Leeds home. Some part of me was behaving as if too bereaved by loss to engage in the present let alone the future. I wonder if this is common among people leaving the familiar for the unknown? Or just older single people doing likewise? This blog was always intended to explore such stuff so it seems right to record it.

Anyway, came back from conference travels to Europe and US with a willingness to embrace what Australia has to offer (this was before the election of course). And bugger me if the most beautiful house didn’t come on the rental market within a week of my return. Looking at these pictures (See link below), it was as if I already lived there. My books are on the shelves and – look – those are lentils simmering on the stove. Met the owner, a delightful woman who clearly loves the place, the following week and we could both see the match – same sort of age, same taste, both writers. She was as happy to find a tenant so clearly besotted with it as I was to realise I really can live there with the kangaroos and possums and parrots and gum trees. Just have to work out if I can finish the MS for Routledge before I move or if that’s impossible. Can’t wait to have friends round, planning a house-warming, hoping people will stay over on the way to or from Sydney and following the FB post, expecting many more visitors. A new start in my new home.

New home in the Blue Mountains

New meaning for PR in my life: I’ve started the permanent residency process. Spent Thursday morning in Sydney with all the other people who hope to make Australia their home – all very pleasant and efficient (unlike the horrible offshore camps where desperate refugees are warehoused). Lots of forms to fill (including citizen status of parents, living and deceased!) – decided to start with medical in case general feebleness and old age present insuperable barriers. I sense not – white, British and employer-sponsored, so shd be OK. And as the beautiful Australian summer lingers on, I can really see the point. Getting more grateful for Bathurst posting (at last) as the dry inland heat is not only bearable, it’s really rather lovely. Coast is much more humid which makes lower temperatures harder to cope with.A few sticky days when the brain melts but I’ve managed to keep writing through the summer – got 7 nearly finished chapters now, 3 to go. I know there are potholes flagged behind me which I’ll need to tidy up and fill in later. Then there’s the joy of referencing (finding the author, title, publication and/or page simply ceases to exist under scrutiny)…. But am reasonably on track to complete full draft by end of March. Well, I say that, but am about to be derailed by fast approaching new academic year and the much more joyous arrival in a couple of weeks of my beloved nephew Flynn on the first leg of his global wanderings. Suspect I’ll mainly be a base for his adventures – he’s a parkour coach and has thousands of FB chums with spare sofas wherever he goes (a return on the welcome hostel my sister provides to passing parkouristas in London). This is him doing his stuff

 

Got a couple of trips in mind which  we may do together – but have promised I won’t go backpacking with him. So, just got to finish writing, tidy the house, sort his room… Can’t wait. First  family member to make it out.

All being well, I’ll see the rest in June as I have papers accepted for the International Communication Association (ICA) conference in London and the Barcelona PR conference the following week (so add writing full papers to the To Do list). Should have time to do whirlwind catchup with friends too.

As the new academic year gets going I do have a sense of being in the right place – I’ve got interesting work as Course Director of the Doctor of Communication and will be part of the team re writing the whole undergraduate programme this session – so should keep me out of trouble (not that Bathurst is exactly a hothouse of temptations). I think I’m setting up a balance between work and little jaunts out of town – the Hawkesbury, a bush retreat coming up and a trip back to Jervis Bay all planned before end of April. Like I say, no riots but pretty productive.