Category Archives: Australia

Django Unchained: a vignette.

I need to get better at writing here. So I’m trying something new. I read a quote by John Berendt the other day which struck a chord with me. He said: “Keep a diary, but don’t just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it up as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel.”

It sounds like fun, so I figured I’d give it a try.

Sometimes I read the time as I imagine it to be. I thought the film started at 1.30, it actually started at 1.10. It was too late to make it by the time Ollie checked up on me to see if I was wrong, again. We both know I usually am. So we decide we’ll see something else instead.

Driving half way across the city in 35 degree heat, our conversation inspired by the judgemental stares that heavily tattooed women receive and Amina’s bare chested protest against the continuously misread patriarchal view of Islamic sharia. Topics as heated as the weather outside. I watch the train tracks stretching in each direction, dry lawns, browning trees and the bright contrast of rainbow coloured birds in an otherwise stark landscape. People run around in the sweltering mid-March heat and I consider how lucky I am to be married to a man whose views match mine.

We arrive with minutes to spare. He asked for tickets to Django Unchained, pronouncing the D. I look on in pretend horror as the guy serving us hands over our tickets and pronounces it correctly without missing a beat. “It’s Django!” I say as we walk away, “the D is silent.” He realises the joke a little into the film, as Jamie Foxx repeats the line.

The theatre has five other patrons. It’s my favourite kind of theatre experience. I haven’t seen a Tarantino film in years. I know what to expect. I think back to the first one I ever saw. Heavily pregnant with my first daughter, my father and I made a weekly date to see a film together. This night, I chose Pulp Fiction.

I was hooked. Tarantino is a genius. We laughed and were shocked and talked about it for a long time afterwards. The lights dim, the theatre is ours, we’re at the back and the armrests can be lifted. I lift mine and curl up beside my husband.

We’re not let down. The film is pure genius from start to finish. It ticks all my boxes. It’s funny, it’s dark, the losing side wins. I have to shield my eyes from the screen a handful of times and the music is perfect. Tarantino’s cameo is possibly the best one yet.

When we leave the theatre, the mall is cool. The doors open and hot air floods in. It’s a backwards experience for me. For a moment I’m confused, and then I remember I live in a new country now.

it’s just a different style of living

I’ve been reading a lot lately. A LOT, a lot. As in pretty much everything I can get my hands on. Cook books, novels, short stories, blogs, biographies, poetry, websites, the backs of food cartons and even some instructions. I KNOW.

I think it’s because I’m having trouble actually focussing enough to sit down and write. I do a little bit, but nothing that’s actually thought provoking or creative. Just general chatty stuff and a lot of moaning. It’s really hot here in Adelaide. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that, but I really didn’t. I figured I was a heat rat. You know, the kind of person who did better in warm climates. I’d been living in Christchurch for 16 years. I spent my entire twenties and half of my thirties there. Before that, I’d been in Nelson, and a teenager. My life consisted of a lot of weekends spent swimming at the river or in the ocean, and basking for hours in the sun.

Christchurch was a completely different environment. It was mostly grey, and we were never close to a beach or any rivers that were worth swimming in. I had small children, I didn’t drive and I was coming to terms with how different my life was from what I’d imagined it would be, in a city that seemed grey and cold. I’ve never really found it easy to make friends, and because I couldn’t get around all that easily, it was pretty tough. So the idea of moving some place warm filled me with total joy!

Don’t get me wrong, it still does. I love the fact that there is so much sun here. That I can go to the beach and actually get IN the water because it’s warm enough to do that. But I still wasn’t really prepared for just how hot Australia is. My mum said something the other day, it seems simple enough, but I tend to get lost in my own whining and forget I’m an adult. She said “it’s just a different style of living”.

I don’t adjust all that well to change, but I was definitely ready for one. The past two years were strange, and interesting, some of it was awful, some of it was amazing, but it was time to move on and everything kept pointing towards the fact that that’s exactly what we needed to do. Australia didn’t seem like such a big lifestyle change. It really is though.

I had a lot of plans. I was going to start being a morning person for one. THAT hasn’t happened. The problem is, we don’t really have a bedroom here. The loft, which sits over the kitchen and living area, is all open, so it’s not particularly quiet or private. It is also so hot that Ollie and I have probably spent about 7 nights up there since we moved in. Our bedroom is mostly the lounge. This sofa bed lounge suite is most definitely one of the best things we thought about doing. I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t have a bed to retreat to on these hot nights. It’s not very easy to get to sleep, so those extra hours in the morning are still as important to me as they ever have been. *sigh*

It’s taken a lot more time to settle in than I thought it would. And as much as I adore this little house, it just doesn’t feel like home. It belongs to someone else, there’s no easy way for us to hang pictures, and it’s hard to really make it feel like it’s ours – when it isn’t. The heat is oppressive too, so we can’t really have people around yet because you just sit in here sweating like you’ve just run a marathon! Never imagined I’d ever say this, but I am so looking forward to Autumn finally catching up with us and cooling down this place. I’m not used to sleeping in my own bed! That’s crazy talk to me! I’ve slept far more often on the sofa bed than I have in my own bed.

But in saying all of that. I love it here. I really do. Things are a lot more accessible in this city. It’s only a 10 minute bike ride to the city centre which I wasn’t sure of at first, but now I really love. And when they say that Adelaide is the 20 minute city, they’re not lying. Pretty  much anywhere you want to go is only a 20 minute drive away.

The food here is to die for too. It’s all so fresh and so easily accessible. I’ve tried foods here that I had never even heard of at home. I’m sure we had it, but I have no idea where you’d have found it. Here, you just go to the markets and it’s all there.

I feel bad that I complain so much about the weather. I am sure that our poor family members think I hate it here. It’s not that at all. I just got used to the cold I suppose, and we’ve been stuck in the same rut for so long that breaking some of the habits we’ve formed has been incredibly difficult.

I needed to figure out how to work through this exhausting heat, and that’s what I’ve been doing rather than any real writing. I’ve been working out a lot and trying to change some of the extremely bad and damaging habits I’d sunk into, with some really amazing results.

The last time I went to the doctors in NZ, I was overweight, had high cholestrol and blood pressure (something I’ve never had in my life – my blood pressure has always been extremely low), and I was pre-diabetic. Insulin resistant. It was actually pretty devastating to realise what kind of a state I’d let myself get into over the last couple of years. I gave up my blog..I turned away from a lot of things and people I cared about and never really realised just how depressed and stressed out I was.

Now that I’m away from all of that, I can look back and see why I did the things I did. Since we moved here, I’ve started to do more, I’ve changed my diet and I had a range of blood tests done a few weeks ago. When I went back for the results, everything…EVERYTHING came back normal. Normal blood pressure, good cholesterol levels, good sugars and I’m losing the weight I gained. In the course of two months, my health is back to normal. I literally cured myself from becoming diabetic!

I’m really proud of myself actually. I was pretty down about my health, and I fixed it, just by having the opportunity to think about what I’m doing to myself, instead of worrying about what was going to happen next.

I’m looking forward to being able to put more energy into writing now. Because if I can do that for my health in this hot little house, then I can do anything! *flexflex*

22 February 2013

It’s been two years since the 6.3 aftershock hit Christchurch, tearing my family’s world apart and almost claiming the life of my husband.

For the two weeks building up to this date, I have felt a little off. Not myself. The heat hasn’t helped, but I just couldn’t understand quite why I was always on the verge of tears and desperate for my own company and no one else’s. Nothing I did could shake the lump in my throat and the feeling that I was just about to cry, and then my dad called and said a few really thoughtful things which made me realise what was going on.

It’s strange to me that I still don’t really have a complete handle on my own moods. I know when I feel sad, or uneasy, or scared but I don’t know why. It all made sense and I just let it happen. Let myself feel those feelings and took deep breaths.

I had been missing Christchurch a lot in those few weeks. I felt like I should be there again. Like I wanted to be there, but I didn’t really. I spent the couple of days leading up to the 22nd thinking about what we should do. I wanted to do things that I knew Ollie would like. As awful and heartbreaking that day was for me, he’s the one who almost died. It should be a day where he got to do the things that he liked.

I wanted to share some photos with you. To show you how far we’ve come.

2011-03-11 13.57.01A couple of days after he was pulled from his building. I’ve never seen my boy look like this. He took it of himself – I can’t remember why. There was a reason. Just before we left Christchurch we met the fireman who helped save his life. It was a surreal and amazing day. To be able to hug the man who is the reason the person you’ve loved and spent the last 16 years of your life with is pretty incredible. He told us that Ollie was only moments away from losing his foot and they had to put everything into getting him free.

It was pretty amazing to listen to him tell his side of this story. He remembered so much that Ollie wasn’t able to.

2011-03-18-11.30.58At home in his hospital chair that helped support his broken pelvis. Game controller in hand. We had to put sheets over it because it was so hot he was sticking to it.

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A couple of months later, the company he worked for held a memorial at the building site. They had pulled it down by this stage, and we were the first ones in to see it. It was very difficult to stand in front of an empty space where his building once stood and to remember the ten people we lost. I think it was harder on me than it was on him, because it was the first time I had really seen for myself that all of this was real. I had the proof in front of me of course, every time I looked at Ollie, but you sort of blank it out, you don’t really consider the reality of what happened until you’re confronted with something like this.

It’s been a long couple of years following all of this, and it’s hard to believe just how far we’ve come. Now we’re living in Australia and life is completely different. People are different, the weather is different, the birdsong, the insects. It’s only one country over, but it just feels so very different here.

We’re moving on and settling in and coming to terms with a whole new life. We’re taking our time and enjoying ourselves together and just letting things happen as they’re supposed to. On the 22nd of February this year, we took to the city on our bikes.

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This is mine. I love it so much, you have no idea! I’ve only ridden it twice because of the heat, and it is still missing it’s basket as yet (although I have a feeling that will be delivered today! YAY!), but I just LOVE it. It’s so cute and easy to ride. I was stopped in the city by a guy who wanted to know all about it. As soon as people see it, they love it. It’s just the most adorable thing in the world.

Our day consisted of riding through the park opposite us in order to get to the city which is only about 8 minutes away where we had lunch at a cafe.

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Mine was a Thai noodle salad with coconut water, and Ollie had a mushroom pizza. It was SO good! And then we continued on through the city to the Art Gallery where we wandered for awhile looking at the exhibitions. Some of which I have to admit were extremely horrific and kind of terrifying. One was the carcass of two horses stitched together and hung from the roof, one was the statue of a dead man with a bird eating his penis – a rendition of the first sight Siddhartha had when he left his palace, and one was a very intricate and detailed model of Nazi war. Skeleton Jews hanging Nazi soliders, beheading the corpses, violence and death and in the centre Ronald McDonald figures in a playground. It was intense and interesting and the more you looked the more you saw. I wish I could have taken a photo of it. It was so disturbing but totally brilliant all at once.

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We carried on down to the river after this and saw birds there that looked suspiciously like Pukekos! On the way back – all uphill, my bike chain came off and a lovely woman stopped to help us get it back on. By the time we were cycling home, I was almost dead and the heat was stifling. We had a few hours relaxing and playing video games together, before we headed out for dessert at Eggless Dessert Cafe – Ollie’s cousin’s restaurant. It’s a gorgeous little place and all the desserts are to die for! Their menu changes each month, and we’re pretty sure we’re going to be some of those regular customers who end up in there once a month to try their new creations.

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This is such an awful photo! But I had to include it, because it was so much fun to take. I used my cellphone and no one was happy with the outcomes, so we ended up taking FOUR and were completely blinded by the time they were over, which explains the slightly stunned expression on our faces.

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Peachy plum and salted caramel crumble with my most favourite drink in all the world – Morrocan Mint tea! It’s to die for and it’s vegan! So very good.

A far cry from how we spent that day two years ago.

Kia Kaha Christchurch. For sixteen years you were my home. I miss you dreadfully sometimes.

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Ollie’s building site as it is today. It’s so beautiful and green and peaceful. Hard to believe what took place there only two years ago. Thanks to Greg who took the photo on his way home that day. We love you. xoxo

Waiting for the Miracle (or some cool weather..which would be a miracle)

I really wanted to update more than once a month, but it’s just so HOT here internet.

The room we have the computers in is the hottest room in the house, which means that if I am out here for any length of time, all I’m really doing is wilting and looking at pretty things instead of being creative and thoughtful and writing!

Speaking of writing, that has come to a little bit of a halt. Obviously moving countries has given me reason to be lax. Terry Brooks says it the best really: “Fiction writing is a twenty-four-hour-a-day occupation. You never leave your work behind. It is always with you, and to some extent, you are always thinking about it. You don’t take your work home; your work never leaves home. It lives inside you. It resides and grows and comes alive in your mind.”

This is pretty much exactly where I’m at right now. I have been writing notes and thinking up plots and fixing the holes in my head, but I haven’t actually written anything yet. It’s so hot! Hot hot hot! And when it’s not hot, you get this little moment of pure pleasure where you go “let’s go out!”

We are doing a lot of things here at the moment. Starting new routines, becoming better at cooking, eating, shopping and living. It’s gone past the holiday stage but not completely. We are still sort of figuring out what it is we’re all about in this new country, and finding the cohabitation with large bugs and HUGE SPIDERS all a bit overwhelming really.

In saying that though, Siobhan and I are back to dancing, and really loving it! We are being very challenged which is great, and have a beautiful and inspiring group of people to dance with. We are hyped and even go on the super hot days when we’re likely to die. Which is pretty much exactly what I did this week.

I am however, determined to get my fitness levels back up to something. Anything!

It’s a very long story, the short of which is that stress and unhappiness and quakes and almost losing my husband along with just normal day to day life crept up and kicked me in the arse. I put on a LOT of weight and stopped looking after myself. Actually, if I’m going to be honest, I haven’t looked after myself in YEARS. I dieted on chocolate and coffee and lost 10kgs. But ruined my health in the process. I was tired and weak and my last doctors visit announced that my normalcy of low blood pressure was well and truly gone. I had high blood pressure and cholesterol and have become insulin resistant.

This has been pretty devastating for me, but I have no one to blame but myself. And my first instinct was to throw a complete childish paddy and eat everything and anything in sight. Which meant I piled on the 10kgs I lost again and felt even worse. The moving business didn’t really help. In those last few months, we ate a lot of take aways and fast foods, and I wondered and lamented and wailed and gnashed my teeth wondering why I’d put on all this weight, and bitching about how life wasn’t fair.

It’s taken me a few months to admit to myself that it’s my own damn fault and to face up to the consequences like the adult I strive hard not to be. The past three weeks have been hell. I have been slowly trying to repair this damage, and making choices that contradict a lifetime of bad habits. It’s been hard, but I’m getting there, slowly. People always say “you didn’t put on that weight overnight, you won’t lose it overnight”.  The truth is though, you always feel like you DID put it on overnight, and when it doesn’t just come off over night, it can be really demoralising.

Exercising in this heat is something else. Today I had sweat literally pouring off me. Running down my back! I do not like to sweat at all, but despite all my inner protests I did it, and 44 minutes later was on the floor doing ab and back work.

Yeah, I’m proud and showing off.

I feel a lot better than I ever have. Particularly now that my withdrawls over lack of salt and sugar have worn off. I no longer really crave chips or chocolate. I never, ever thought I’d say that. Ever!

So, I hope that you’ll forgive me my lack of actual writing right now. I am reading a TON of books and keeping up with writerly type things, and considering attending a full day writing workshop coming up in March, and definitely, definitely still living in my world with my characters and planning their next moves. They are far from forgotten.

I have also become a lot more confident with driving a GINORMOUS car we’re borrowing from family in this GINORMOUS (don’t even laugh – there’s a million more people here than there were in Christchurch, it’s HUGE) city…AND I have a bike, which I totally adore, and I know where the library is.

So if my husband does not get his arse off that computer chair next to mine and get out to work, I will leave him behind for the glorious, and air conditioned deliciousness of our local library.

God. Why aren’t I there right now?

*melts*

Moving Countries is Hard

but pretty amazing! We’ve been here now for almost six weeks and it’s finally starting to feel like home. Things have gone pretty smoothly. Ollie’s family have been great, without them I don’t think it would have fallen into place as quickly and as easily as it has.

Our original plans fell through a bit when we realised we’d have to rent, and move into a place very close to the city in order for the girls to be able to attend the school they want to go to. House hunting was starting to look really bad. Everything in our price range was terrible. Old, falling apart places rented to students for years…or just totally not at all what we wanted or needed. And add to that, we were bringing our cats over, places willing to take pets were hugely limited.

Then we were told about another site to check, and the first place we saw was the house that we eventually rented.

As soon as we saw it, we fell in love. It’s so cute and on the cutest street in the cutest neighbourhood where all the houses look just like this one. And at the end of the street is a chocolate factory!  No kidding! It was totally love at first sight. There are definitely pitfalls though. Like the fact that it has no airconditioning, and a day after we moved in, Adelaide was hit by a heatwave that rocketed the temperatures up past 40 degrees celcius! (that’s in the hundreds for you Americans). And we were DYING! The hottest Christchurch ever really got was 32. Ten degrees and more above this was devastating. Particularly without any air conditioning!

The house consists of two bedrooms and a loft. Ollie and I took the loft, but during the hot days, we’re sleeping in the lounge because it just bakes upstairs. It’s not so bad though, it’s a little like my idea of camping. In a room with a sofa bed and a proper bathroom right next door. 🙂

It’s hard to take photos that do this place justice, but here are a couple more:

This is our backyard. This is what truly won me over when we came here. I just love that view so much. The doors all open up so that it’s just a big flow indoors outdoors. There’s not a lot of it, but there’s enough for us. Behind the Buddha is a small shed, which is currently packed to the rafters with empty boxes. Every time I cook, this is my view. It makes being in the kitchen far less of a chore, I can tell you! We haven’t really spent much time out in it though to be honest. It’s far too hot! I found this lovely outdoors chair though that I really want. It’s a hanging basket and I plan to curl up out there when everyone goes back to work and school and write (this is assuming it’s going to cool down some).

My lovely little kitchen, which has far more bench space than I have ever had in my life! This is obviously not too long after we’d just moved in. We do have a fridge now, courtesy of family members who generously decided to upgrade their existing fridge/freezer and sold us their other one. You can just see my first kitchen purchase – that orange jug completes my entire life! You have no idea just how much I love it. I have also managed to acquire a stunning food processor and an amazing blender. Being able to go shopping for an entire new house load of things has been really great and also, really tiring. We are still not done yet, but the house is starting to sound a little less echoey and look a lot more homely!

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That really is a floor to ceiling wine rack. 🙂 This view, I think, totally encapsulates why this wee house was made for me. It currently has a whole two bottles in it. This is the space underneath the stairs which lead up to the loft. Everything about this house just feels peaceful and welcoming and I really love being in it. Particularly when it isn’t too hot to move.

Our cats arrived on the hottest day we had – 44 degrees. It was terrible, and they were so uncomfortable. I’d never seen a cat pant like a dog before, it was cute and sad all at once.

I missed him too! They were both so glad to see us! And the heat was a blessing in disguise really, because they certainly did NOT want to go outside at all. Even now when we let them out they stick very close by. Lily has started to get a little more adventurous and has jumped the front fence a few times to investigate the houses across the road, but they haven’t really attempted to go far. Greebo found himself a spot under our bed and comes down for food and to go to the toilet. He’ll sometimes curl up under the bamboo, but he prefers to be inside. There are possums that hang out in the neighbours big trees and they freak the cats out.

Although I think the entire world should be scared of Buddha riding laser eyed Lily!

Whoa!

I finally have my computer AND an internet connection! It feels like a very long time since I have had either. Keeping up with just a phone and a very poor 3G connection has been really difficult. I’m so glad to be back!

I’ve missed being able to just write here, and I feel like I have a lot to say, so expect some posts in the very near future! With pictures! I guess that’s the one good thing. I haven’t really had the opportunity to put up the photos Ollie has been taking on Facebook, so that means there’s a lot of new ones I’ll be able to share and write about here. (Unless you’re friends with Siobhan – in which case you may already have seen them!)

Happy New Year friends and family. I hope yours has been as interesting and varied as ours has been. Wishing you all the very best for 2013. xoxo