Category Archives: Australia

First impressions, kangas and aching everything

human lizard on the farm

My normal line of work is less about weeding and more about sitting in front of a computer and occasionally getting up to make a cup of tea. My first couple of days of farm work have therefore left me with a lot of aches and pains and a strong desire for my 88 days to pass  quickly.

It’s not all bad though: the farmer and his wife are lovely and the surroundings are absolutely beautiful. Yesterday I walked around part of the 100 acre property and the landscape took my breath away.

kangaroo bouncing along near the lake

Every evening a family of kangaroos come into the olive grove and you can see them from the kitchen window. A family of kangaroos. That you can see from the kitchen window. Amazing.

This evening the farmer told me that, “The real work starts tomorrow.” He wants to get an early start so my alarm is set for 6.15am. Hopefully this means we can finish working before the temperature hits the predicted 31°C.

84 days to go.

In which the human lizard becomes a farmer

Before I left London to spend a year living in Melbourne a friend said to me, “Make sure you don’t go falling in love and deciding to stay.” I replied with a chortle and a “Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen.”

It happened. On my second day in Australia.

I am here on a one-year Working Holiday Visa but you can add on a second year by doing three months of ‘regional work’ during your first year. Immigration has a list of postcodes that they consider ‘regional’ and a list of jobs that they want you to do, which are basically all farm work.

So, after Christmas I will be driving out into regional Victoria to work at an olive grove for a month. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be really hard work and there’s a real chance of meeting some snakes and some pretty scary spiders. The things we do for love.

I’ll be blogging a bit more regularly than normal while I’m away, so do check back for some hilarious olive-related anecdotes. I bet you can’t wait.

Same same, but different

In many respects, Australia is not all that different to the UK. Especially when you live in a big city like Melbourne, where even the weather is the same.* Sometimes however, I’ll be going about my business and something will remind me that I am a very long way from home.

Barbeque’s Galore

Entrance to Barbeques Galore on Bridge Road
You can’t tell from the photo but this is a huge shop. Just for barbeques.

The language
On a few occasions, I’ve had to resort to Google to find out what the hell has just been said to me. Some examples:

  • How’re you travelling? – How’s it going?
  • Who do you barrack for? – Which team (usually AFL) do you support?
  • And then she just cracked it/cracked the shits – She wasn’t very happy and expressed her feelings. Strongly.
  • Sanger – sandwich
  • My friends are still bagging on me for that – I did something stupid and my friends are taking the piss. I probably deserve it.
  • Chrissie – Christmas. This is being used already and I hate it.

Myki cards
The Myki is a shit version of the Oyster card and it makes me miss London every time I swipe through a station. I do find it reassuring, however, that everyone in Melbourne hates Myki cards, not just the tourists.

Variety packs
This blew my mind a little bit. What the fuck is it doing?Kellog's variety pack opening in a unique way

The prices
Melbourne is up there with the world’s most expensive (or exy, if we’re getting into the local slang) cities. Earning Aussie dollars makes a big difference though, and it’s a magical moment when you realise you’ve stopped converting everything back to your home currency and then crying into your £7 pint.

And finally, traffic lights
The traffic lights here go straight from red to green (omitting the all important red-amber), so there’s no time to get ready.**

* I haven’t done summer here yet though. Summer will be different.
** I keep pointing this out to people but no one else seems to think it’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal.

In which the human lizard finds herself being a landlord

There are strangers living in my home. They’ve been there for two months now* and I still feel rather weird about it. Thing is, when you decide to leave your job and move to another country you have to find a new way to pay the mortgage. So, I’m a landlord now.

Immaculate flat waiting for tenants to arrive

I’m doing everything through the letting agent so I don’t have any direct contact with the tenants but, thanks to the reference check, I know a surprising amount about them. For example, I know that they are a couple living together for the first time. And so it is that I find myself rooting for the ongoing success of a relationship between two strangers so that I don’t lose my rental income. My girlfriend of six years and I only lasted seven months after moving into that flat but I’m confident that these guys can stay the course.

Anyway, if you thinking about renting out your place, here are some things I wish someone had told me:

  • If you are leaseholder, you need to get permission from the freeholder in order to ‘sub-let’ your property. I did not realise this until very late in the game and had an incredibly anxious three-week wait for the housing company to give their approval. 
  • You also need to tell the mortgage company. And if you’re lucky, they’ll say they need to put an extra 1.5% interest on your mortgage during the letting period. Just for fun.
  • The energy performance certificate you got when you bought your property is actually important. If you can’t find it after spending a day looking at every single piece of paper in your possession, you will have to pay £50 for a new one.
  • If you opt to clean the property yourself rather than paying a professional, be prepared for how long it will take, especially if the oven, windows, under furniture, on top of furniture, etc, haven’t been cleaned in the three years that you’ve lived there. I recommend inviting your mother to help. 
  • You own more stuff than you think. You should probably hire a van.

* I wonder if they’ve realised that Upstairs Neighbour is a huge Everton fan yet. It’ s pretty obvious if he sings his song** but the more impressive route is to notice that you only ever hear him crashing around when a win has raised his spirits.

** “Everton, Everton, Everton, Ev-er-ton.” Classic.

In which the human lizard is a reluctant spy

It almost goes without saying that when moving to a new country, it is essential to join a board game club as soon as you can. I arrived in Australia on Friday night. On Saturday I attended my first meeting of Melbourne-based Cafe Games.

Back home, my own humble board game club (affectionately known as BGC) has eight members, average attendance is four or five and we play in my living room. Cafe Games is held in a pub’s function room and was attended by well over 100 Melbournians. There was a really good mix of people and everyone was very welcoming and apparently unfazed that this was how I’d chosen to spend my first day in their fine city.

The games being played were many and varied. When I arrived, a new game of The Resistance was about to start. While watching this game on Will Wheaton’s TableTop recently I had thought that I would be terrible at it and should avoid it at all costs. I joined right in.

Members of the resistance (blue) and spies (red)The Resistance takes place in a country ruled by an evil government. At the start of the game you get a card that tells you whether you are a member of the resistance or a government spy. Everyone closes their eyes and then the spies open their eyes so that they can identify one another, but they don’t get any chance to talk tactics. For the resistance, the aim of the game is to successfully complete three out of five missions. The spies’ aim is to thwart them.

Players take it in turns to propose a team for a mission then everyone votes to approve or reject that team. If the mission gets enough votes to be approved, those taking part anonymously choose whether the mission succeeds or fails (the resistance can only choose ‘succeed’). The outcomes of these stages help the resistance to work out who the spies are so that they can put together successful, spy-free missions. There is lots of discussion at each stage, with accusations flying around and spies telling fibs to throw suspicion onto others.

I really hoped that I’d be part of the resistance but of course I got a spy card. I’m terrible at lying so my tactic was to stay quiet, which made people start to suspect me. I started throwing out some accusations, some of which made no sense at all. Despite my poor efforts, my team of spies were able to fail enough missions to win the game and uphold the evil regime. Horrah.

The Resistance
Players: 5–10
Ages: 13+
Vaguely interesting fact: The Cafe Games venue sells pints of beer for $10. That’s about £6.40. Ouch.
Verdict: This is an awesome game and, if I can just develop the ability to lie convincingly, I’ll be amazing at it.