Thursday, November 29, 2012

Xmas letter 2012

At this time of year we go through our diaries and try to work out what happened in the 12 months that have just shot by, quicker than all the previous ones. It’s hard to think of a Xmas letter in which things have changed quite so much for us. Last year we were talking of Nicky’s job as Professor in Bristol, our lovely Georgian house in Clifton, Stuart doing auditions and trials around the UK….….well all that has changed.

Nicky resigned from Bristol Uni in early 2012. The least said about this the better. Nicky has learnt firsthand how busy one can be without a job – Stuart has turned this into an art form for decades. She started a 3 day per week maternity locum at Manchester Kids Hospital in the middle of the year, and is renting an apartment from Di, one of Stuart bass teachers.
Stuey has been running up the miles in the Mazda, tearing all over the country to do gigs and auditions, 55,000 miles in two years, more than TWO return trips as the crow flies to Australia and back if you could do it in a car!! He had trials for no2 jobs with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Opera North as well as gigs with a range of groups including Scottish Chamber. Highlights were a UK tour of Wagner’s Die Walkure, plus two festivals in Cornwall, St Columb and St Endelion. Later in the year Stuey worked with Orchestra Victoria, the Australian Ballet and the Tasmanian Symphony, among others. The year started with two basses, and ended the same, having bought one and sold another.
We have found it really tough returning to the UK and after lots of deliberation we have decided to return to Australia in 2013. Our health is being affected by the lifestyles we are forced to lead in order to work in our chosen areas in Britain. The house has been on the market all year, going nowhere fast, so we will have to rent it out for at least part of 2013 and rent in Melbourne once we return. Stuey has heaps of work lined up, Nicky will do so soon.

If our professional goals have not have been achieved, our personal ones certainly have. It’s been great to spend quality time with family and friends, too many to mention in this letter. One aim was to do as much of Europe as possible, and we have partly achieved that goal. In late Dec 2011 we stayed in Chris and Sharon’s beach pad on Ile d’Oleron, off the West coast of France. There was of course a detour to Bordeaux, to check out the Left bank of the Gironde including St Julian, Pauillac and Margaux.

In March we put the car on the Eurotunnel train and drove down to Macon, in the heart of the Burgundy region, to stay at Bob and Liz’s vineyard. What a wonderful part of the world, with good food, wine, countryside and company. The car creaked its way home laden with 16 cases of wine, most of which was for our friends, honest! We spent time in Beaune, Reims and popped into Paris to see England pip France in a six Nations thriller at Stadt de France. Bob is President elect of the RFU, and got us great tickets. Fabulous day. There was even time for sightseeing in Paris and we drove back to Calais thro the Somme region, which will be gearing up for its 100 yr anniversary of the appalling  WWI battle in 4 yrs time.

In July we hopped on cheap flights to Barcelona. Despite Stuey’s reluctance it was a stunning trip. The guide books really don’t do it justice – if you are reading this and haven’t been there, just go. It reminded us of Sydney – groovy modern city with stunning beaches. But Sydney doesn’t have Gaudi – amazing architecture, including La Sagrada Familia.

In August we had some time out in Edinburgh – Stuey was working with Scottish Chamber but there was time to celebrate our 22nd anniversary in style, with supper at Greywalls.

The “only” other trips were to Australia. Nic popped over 3 times, Stuart just once, for a 3 month stint from Sept – Nov. Any doubts about returning to Oz were extinguished in our trip to Melbourne in late 2012 – it’s a wonderful place to live and its home for us both. 2013 will be about making that transition happen.

We wish you and yours a wonderful Xmas and a safe and healthy 2013. For those out you outside Oz, save and up and come visit us. For those in Australia, get your beer fridge stocked up – we are coming back!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Echidna resident at Cape Paterson

Andy sent us these wonderful videos taken on 22nd Nov 2012. We have seen track before, but here is the evidence:-

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oz vs UK

I have been in the UK for around 18 months, and this is just my second trip to Australia in that time. For what its worth, here are some comparisons between the two:-

Australia is expensive. Beer in our local, the Royal Oak in Clifton is GBP3.30 a pint, and that is expensive for the UK, its much cheaper in parts of Manchester. In many pubs in Melbourne its A$10-12 a pint, and at the current forex rate that is GBP7-8. Ouch. The hi A$ skews the numbers a little, but things are expensive here. But people earn more also

Traffic is getting worse in Oz.....but it has a long way to go to get to the UK levels of congestion.

UK drivers are more considerate than Auzzies - I guess they have to be, as there are more of them on the roads. Poms are much better with cyclists, and Auzzies on a main road are far less likely to let people turn Right, in front of them onto a side road.

The UK is a little bigger than Victoria, the most densely populated state in Australia, with 5.5m people. The UK has 62.2m people, ie it is 11x more populated for the same land mass. This state tells us a great deal about liveability in both countries.

The roads in Australia are much better than the UK. There have been lots of pot holes this year due to the high rainfall, but many have been fixed, in Australia. Poms will know this is not the case over the Old Blighty.

I just bought the same car on each country - lets see how they last. Did a wheel bearing in the UK, I reckon the wear and tear in Australia will be much less.

Hay fever has been shocking this Spring in Oz, much worse than the UK. I never normally have a problem in the old country, but my eyes have been streaming here in Oz.