Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Update

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Santa's Precis:
- I started and ended the year in Australia but did a heap in between
- I've been back in Perth for five months now without travelling which must be some sort of record
- hence the lack of travel emails
- Its been a big year for the family, beginning with an engagement party and ending with a wedding
- Curse my lack of creativity in buying presents
- Not surprisingly I have travels planned for 2009

Fear not my involuntary groupies, I don't have long so I'd better be quick. I've just had a massive Christmas lunch which included quite a bit of turkey. It's only a matter of time before the chemicals hit me and I pass out at the keyboard. It's already knocked out three of us so it's only a matter of time. If I don't make it you'll notice: one of my mates was fighting off sleep when writing a while ago and lost the battle. The result was 5 pages of the letter E.

I hope you'll notice anyway.

Not wanting to sound like Eddie McGuire, It's been a big year in 2008. I began down in Margaret River to celebrate the wedding on Emmanuel and Mel. That was in the middle of a 17-day binge which undid a lot of the good work I did in London gyms for two years. And it certainly undid the Delhi belly I'd recently suffered.

After celebrating the Engagement of my only sister to Dave (I don't want to ruin the ending but he's now my brother-in-law) in a Bollywood themed extravaganza in February, and a few nights of mayhem at the Beck's Music Box I jetted back to London, hoping to get a new visa and continue there for a couple of years. I got a job very quickly and beavered away to save money (to apply for a visa costs 1500 squid, plus a flight back home while you wait for entry clearance, so about 3k in total). But it wasn't to be. I did the sums and was about 1500 squid short of my income requirements. I was of course very sad but decided to use the funds to travel for about eight weeks in Europe. I wont further bore you with details of that - I managed to send out 16 blog entries during that trip: 8 weekly updates and 8 stories from the road. I may have mentioned that there are plenty of places I'd return to, specifically Paris, Freiberg and Istanbul. I followed that with a whirlwind tour of the UK which relied on the special generosity of Shane Balzan who lent me his car, and a good chunk of the Tucker family (who are pretty much my UK family). Thanks again for all your generosity, it was really wonderful!

So I arrived home on July 26, went to a wedding celebration that very night (to drown my sorrows at the Saints losing to the Eagles at Subiaco), and started work back at DPI on July 28. That's right, your taxes paid for my jetlag.

And really it's been pretty quiet since. In fact I don't think I've left the metropolitan area of Perth. I'm surprised at how difficult it is to stay still actually as I definitely have the travel bug.

The only travelling I've done since then has been lingual: I started learning French again at the Alliance Francaise in Nedlands. I've always wanted to learn another language and French is my second language at the moment (second by a long, long way mind you). I wanted a second language for a number of reasons, not least because it makes you think about English a bit more and hopefully allows me to be a bit more articulate (which isn't difficult). I have found it really enjoyable actually. For those in the know, I start at Intermediate level next year (which is level A2 in EU classification). Thanks also must go to Ines, who has been good enough to give me additional tips and clarification on a weekly basis with the benefit of being a native speaker.

At about the same time I moved into new digs in a great location in Subiaco, with two old friends, Nick and Kate. They've both been really great housemates so far - certainly they've been tolerant of my temper tantrums when I can't connect to the bloody internet for some reason. The house is awesome, as those who attended the housewarming a few weeks ago could attest.

We also had guests for two weeks: Mark "Chop" Leslie and his lovely girlfriend Nao crashed in the room next to me. They were involved in two memorable meals while they were here: the Hungry Jacks Quad-Stacker demolition and also some incredible Japanese food cooked as a thankyou to us. It was our pleasure!

December 13 was a particularly important day - Kristy and Dave's wedding. Aside from a minor scare with the wedding venue on he day (predictable when Dave said earlier in the day that he wasn't nervous at all), it seemed to go off without a hitch. I was honoured to be the MC for the reception, even if it did mean I couldn't drink much until my speaking duties were done. It was a wonderful celebration and was a great way to kick off a long and successful marriage, no doubt.

A week later (last Saturday) we did it all again, with Sleepy and Vanya getting married. Another excellent wedding and seven and a half hours of reception we ended up at the casino again.

Which is great because it will be good practice for my next trip, which starts tonight! There are seven of us jetting off to Melbourne on the red-eye to watch the Boxing Day test, and (hopefully) three of us will then head to NZ for New Years and a few days after. It should be fantastic!

Before that I have the rest of today to get through (must... fight... sleep). It's been a very relaxed day with great company and fantastic food. The only problem is that I am cursing the laziness of my purchasing choices for presents: so many rectangular presents (books, DVDs, CDs etc) - I really dislike buying them as I feel I can do better, but each year I fall into that trap. I'll do better next year.

In fact I hope to do better on a number of fronts next year: 2009 already involves trips to Broome (April), UK and France (July) and Sydney (September), so plenty of opportunities to get into interesting situations and then bore you with the details. The first such email will probably arrive in a couple of weeks from my travels to NZ and Melbourne.

In the meantime, let me take this opportunity to say thank you for listening to my rants during the year. I hope Christmas has been wonderful for you and that 2009 is just as exciting! I wish I could email or call you all individually but for now you'll have to make do with this!

Anyways, enough about me. How about you? What did 2008 hold for you? And what about 2009?

Take care and enjoy yourself,


PS. I am still to put up pics of some of my travels in Europe but will do so as soon as I can!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Pits

I came back from lunch today to the familiar guffaws of my neighbouring cubicle farm occupants, making the usual jokes about when I'd sign up for Iraq etc.

They were making the jokes as I'd got a haircut, and the jokes were familiar because I always get this haircut nowadays: No 2 on top and No 1 on the sides. While the guffaws (there's something about the word guffaw that's appropriate here - maybe because it reminds me of the laughter of Cletus, the Yokel from the Simpsons) were many, I was happy to be self-effacing also, calling myself Jarhead etc.

While this was all good fun, the experience of the haircut itself was a touch more worrying. First of all the price of the haircut was pretty exorbitant at $18. While many people, women in particular, will scoff -or perhaps guffaw - at my complaint at this price, a few things need to be borne in mind. Specifically:

(i) With a haircut like mine, which a blind man could do while hungover, there isn't that much variation in quality

(ii) Bearing that in mind, my barber is one of the old school establishments. By "old school" I mean mediocre. And by "establishments" I mean unisex salon.

(iii) Last time I got my hair cut there (September) it was $15, and the time before that (February) it was $12

Accepting this - because I was too lazy to go around the corner and check out the other old school establishment in the area - I walked in sat down and the lady started with the clippers. I don't understand how, no matter where on your head they're cutting your hair, you only ever
seems to be looking in the armpit or at the jowls of your barber. I honestly wonder whether it's some sort of geisha-like secret art form taught at barber college, but it's remarkable.

Needless to say, on such a humid day, it wasn't pleasant. It's quite possible that the only things less attractive than dinner lady arms are dinner lady armpits.

No wonder I get my hair cut so short - it makes for a long time between visits.