First spider encounter, the beach house and more

Trip Start Jul 22, 2008
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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I apologise in advance, this is going to be a biggy. It's been a week since my last confession.

Do you like the hook I added to this entry's title? My first encounter with a spider. That's in this country obviously, i saw a few back home in the UK. More on this later. (there's another - it makes sure you carry on reading)

Reading back when to when i last blogged, I'd met up with Tom and Katie and done the Neighbours tour. Since then I've met up with a few more of Casey's family and friends, finally had my first bit of stick about my accent (everyone had been on their best behaviour until then) been to a proper football match (that's football as we know it), and spent a long weekend at Casey's uncle's beach house in Rosebud, on the Mornington Peninsula which is about an hour down the coast from Boronia.

Firstly the football, or soccer as i try to avoid but ultimately have to call it over here. Im not sure if the rest of Australia is quite as AFL mad as round here, as most f the teams are from either Victoria (my state) or New South Wales (with Sydney in), in short they pretty much all congregate around the South East Coast of the country. This in itself is not unusual though, i read the other day that 40% of Australia's population live in either Sydney of Melbourne, just two cities!

For a bit more of a stat attack, the population of the country is 20 million people.Thats less than a third of the population of the UK, but its 7,692,024km2 compared to Britain's 242,900km2 . That's three times as many people squeezing into an area one sixteenth of the size. Maybe the Daily Mail is right and Britain is full, maybe this is a life affirming moment where i realise I've been wrong in my liberal assumptions and political preferences? Sniggers...nope, right all along

I digress - more about me please.

I met with Casey's extended family for a triple birthday celebration - no pressure there then, but again, as with everyone else they did make me feel very welcome, and i was really touched by her grandfather's words, Im now getting comfortable enough for a bit of banter as well, most of it sporting, some of it drinking and a bit of it accent. I was actually really happy for someone to take the mick out of the way i speak, as it means they're comfortable enough around me - this was after I'd passed the Ouzo test i might add. Incidentally however, a woman in a shop the other day told me my accent was cool - so there! (she also went on to tell me about how great the sunglasses she was selling were, but im sure the two were in no way connected)

Then on Saturday me and Casey drove (...Casey drove) to Rosebud to stay at her uncle's beach house for the weekend.

How best to describe the house. It was old fashioned and old furnished, the heating was a nightmare to get started, it was hard to find thanks to the gnarled old trees hiding the front, and major lack of street lighting, there was snake friendly long grass surrounding the place and it had an outside toilet. In short, it was perfect.

It was a perfect setting for an adventure; reminiscent of the Enid Blyton books of my childhood, and after all, an adventure was what I'd come for.

As briefly mentioned it had an outside toilet, this unfortunately wasnt an extra thing in case you got caught short in the garden, or were too wet/muddy/covered in sand to trail through the house, it was the only toilet. I was reminded of this fact every time i walked into the bathroom already preparing my flies, to be confronted with a sink and a bath only. My word the air was blue on regular occasions.

This wasnt too much of a problem between the hours of 8am and 6:30pm. As discussed, it was quite fun getting back to basics and taking a few sheets of newspaper and a spade outside with you (this isnt strictly true- there was loo roll and it was a flushing toilet) but then when darkness fell, and you've never seen darkness like it, it became, well, positively terrifying for a city boy like me.

It was roughly a 30 metre walk around to the toilet at the back of the house. The first and last ten metres were fine as there were lights to guide you in and out, so to speak, but the middle 10 at the side of the house you couldn't see more than 6 inches in front of you. My mobile phone, with its pathetic backlighting extended this to about 2 feet, so i could see where my foot was, but not where it needed to be. Looking up, i have to say was beautiful. Without the light pollution im used to, the Southern Hemisphere has such a vast array of stars I've never seen, worlds i didnt know existed, sadly none of those were bright enough to cast light on each of my footsteps i was sure were heading into a spider or snake's nest or a wolf creek type predator was going to take exception to the pom invading the Antipodes.

Every night-time visit to the toilet, and this was kept to a strict minimum i can tell you, was followed by at least two minutes of reducing the heart rate, and then an enormous sense of achievement.

We actually did quite a bit more over the weekend than pluck up the courage to go to the toilet. The first full day I woke up before Casey and went to see the beach. Now Rosebud beach was approximately a ten minute walk from the house, but as i also needed to go to the supermarket to buy some breakfast Casey had given me permission to borrow her car.

If i take a moment to reassure people (im thinking of you here mum) that this is entirely legal. I have an international drivers permit which, with my UK license, covers me for a year in the country. Insurance is not a legal requirement but is heartily recommended. So I'm legally allowed to drive Casey's car, just to clear that up.

There is unfortunately a difference between being allowed to do it, and actually being able to do so. Australian roads, whilst i cant understand why or how, just feel different. They drive on the same side, have the same traffic lights, although no amber between red and green so it surprises you every time, speed limits are roughly the same except in kmph and well, its pretty much the same laws, but it just feels different somehow. As for the controls inside the car; I lost count of the number of times i accidentally washed my windscreen instead of indicating right. To steal a joke from Andy Kind's standup, "in a fit of road rage i tuned into Radio 4", however I got there in the end, and have driven a couple of times since then, im by no means an expert but think i'll manage not to kill myself or anyone else.

I digress once more.

Later that day, after I'd safely returned the car, we drove a bit further down the coast to Sorrento, a little beach town that judging by the size of the houses,is a bit on the pricey side. It was beautiful and Casey and I had fish and chips on the end of a tiny wooden pier (get any ideas of a blackpool sized construction out of your mind, the walk to the end of the pier was approximately a hundred metres long and only one metre wide, it also only had a handrail on one side - fine until we met  people coming the other way as we were heading back). We also stopped off at a wine shop to buy a bottle of locally produced (Yarra Valley) Pinot Noir.

The following day saw us visit the local spa complex. Built around natural hot springs this was the perfect way to relax, and i finally found a man hairier than me (this has actually been a worry watching Neighbours, Home & Away and the like) But seriously it was a stroke of genius from Casey. The springs were all outdoors, and the coldish weather only made the hot water seem more attractive. I also got chatting to a ten-pound pom. (history lesson, Australia needed to repopulate after the Second World War and invited people, many from the UK, to come to, and live in the country at the heavily subsidised rate of ten pounds - this lasted till 1973. Sadly it costs a hell of a lot more these days). After a few heavenly hours in the spa we attempteda winery tour but the only vineyard we could find, whilst open, was completely empty and we couldnt find anyone that worked there.

And that pretty much concludes this entry. Anyone on facebook may have noticed my statuses (statii?) have become increasingly negative. Im hugely missing you all there. As I've written repeatedly, everyone here has been fantastic, really nice, welcoming, helpful, friendly. But it's no comparison to having good friends that you can call at the end of the day. Whilst im enjoying all my activities here I'm really missing being somebody if that makes sense. In the UK i was surrounded by all of you, some of the best friends money can buy, and that in turn made me feel like the most important and luckiest man alive, so guess Im just missing that hundreds. Whilst i know you're all still there, an email or phonecall away, it really isnt the same.

So please, please dont forget me - keep those emails coming!

Tim

PS- The spider was a common household one- less poisonous than a stinging nettle!    
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