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Archive for September, 2009

I’ve been meaning to rant about this for a while. A post about the pitfalls of debit cards over at Get Rich Slowly has finally spurred me to action.

For those of you looking for the weekly update, it’s coming. Last week was a big week and so I need the right headspace to tell you about it.

In Australia I was mostly on top of my finances. Bills got paid (mostly) on time, I had a regular savings plan, my credit balance was steadily declining after rising during the very lean university years. I had good systems set up to ensure that I didn’t overspend.

I’m quickly realising how much the Australian banking system actually helped with this. Here, in the UK, I’m increasingly frustrated that these systems are not normal, and hence what I am presented with is, to me, weird; part 3 in the ongoing “Things that are weird” series. (more…)

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My uncle, who also worked as a public servant for the NSW government at the same time I did, has a slogan which he repeated ironically everytime we discussed our work:

“Working to make the state of New South Wales a better place for the people of New South Wales”

Now, irony and self-deprecation is appreciated in our family, so it was always delivered in a slightly sarcastic, political patter, so you didn’t take it too seriously. But now I wonder.

My work ethic has substantially dropped off. I’m just not really interested in what I am doing at my current position, and every so often I wonder why, as this place does have the potential to be fantastic, so there must be something specific.

(more…)

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It’s almost 6 months since I arrived in England (arrival date: 27 March).  In some ways I feel like I’ve been coasting through, and getting grumpy with myself about why I am not balancing my life as I did a year ago.  One theory is I don’t have enough energy to do anything much following the BIG MOVE. Which may be true. However, midway through last week I realised that this is actually what’s been going on:

Realisations Normally I can juggle many areas of my life successfully. Working on each are as they need to be addressed, confident that I’ve got most of it under control.

Recently I’ve had a nagging worry that I should be doing better (note the use of the word should – guilt word). I should be taking action to get a more enjoyable job, I should be taking action to get us into our own house, I should be more active, more sociable, more…

Then I had a realisation, that in fact I have been doing as I normally do, it’s just that one of those juggling balls, namely my relationship, and the related ball the relationship with L, have been taking up most of my concentration. There’s a secondary one, coping with change, which is taking up most of the rest of the concentration. Such that I’m really only able to do the minimum to just keep the job/career, finances, fitness, social life, etc. balls in the air.

This is starting to change. Thankfully.

Last week we made a firm decision that it’s time to move. So I took a crash course in house hunting in London. Decline gave me some excellent advice during our fortnightly catch-up.

So I started the difficult task of working out which part of London is we should focus on, and how much we should be willing to pay. Online rental sites (hooray rightmove.co.uk) are useful to get an idea of standard house prices, availability, quality… Knowledge I take mostly take for granted in Sydney. As an aside, this might also be the reason that Sydney’s population generally remains so static, once you are familiar with the peculiarities of an area and have found your best fit it’s a lot of effort to regain the knowledge.

London has a few more variables to throw into the mix when deciding what price range you are comfortable to pay. There’s rent, of course. Also Council tax (equivalent of rates) which is payable by the residents of the property, not the owners, and can change by over 100 pounds per year. And travel expenses as an additional zone adds to the cost of a seasonal travel pass. It’s all very confusing.

Once this is decided, then you have to work out what the neighbourhood is like. A very fraught excercise for non-Londoners.

We wanted to spend Saturday looking at potential flats. In the end we only saw two. This is mostly because you need to make an appointment with an estate agent to view a property. A complete contrast to my usual Inner West experience where house viewings occur in 20-30 min blocks for as many people as possible. So now we have to take a day off work and get very serious about looking at as many properties as possible so we can be comfortable with our chosen compromise between price, quality, features and space.

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I think this week marks the start of phase 4 of this journey: Moving on Together. We know we’ve made the right decision to share our lives, now to make those lives betterer. (yes, a deliberate typo)

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On sharing a house

I’ve been living out of home since I was 20, a total of 11 years now (yes, you can all guess my age if you didn’t already know it…) In that time I have lived in 6 different houses, with 17 different people (not including an additional 5 regular visitors, e.g. siblings and SOs of my flatmates).

Bec and I used to talk about this topic quite a bit when we lived together in Newtown (one house and 4 flatmates ago). It’s an interesting experience, one which we agreed we should all go through as part of becoming an adult. You learn so much about yourself while living with other people in a share situation. You also learn a lot about other people. (more…)

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Autumn has arrived. There’s a chill to the air in the morning, the sun is getting up later, I’m remembering to not leave the house without a coat or a light scarf (which had been mostly unnecessary for Summer).

To be honest, I’m enjoying it. I was a bit over the extended Summer I’ve just had. My body and senses wanted a break from the warmth and brightness. It was craving a chill to the air, cold noses, rugging up in coats and blankies. I know that in winter I will absolutely hate these things, but, I have a very strong sense of cycles and rhythm and my body and subconsious were constantly trying to tell me that it was supposed to be cold and they’d like a break from heat and humidity now. Please.

This may seem odd in a society which is devoted to following the sun, and to comfort. I’ve had a few strange looks from people here when I’ve mentioned I’m sick of my extended Summer (although this may be because I am ignoring the complaints about the weather heirarchy). However I feel that cycles are important. Change is important. Relishing each season for what it brings is important. Trying to cheat the natural cycles, or getting frustrated because it’s not always warm is pointless and stressful.

Leading on from the advent of Autumn is shopping! Maybe this is why I’m enjoying it. I’ve not spent any money on clothing during Spring and Summer knowing that I would need to purchase heavy coats and boots and scarves and gloves and layers and hats and trousers and socks and all things to stop me getting desperately cold in my first winter in England.

Last week was the start of this process. I now own a couple more merino wool jumpers and a long cardie, argyle socks and stockings, a merino wool smock dress, stripey long-sleeved tops, plain long-sleeved tops and a faux sheepskin hooded coat, all courtesy of UniQlo (we love UniQlo). We probably spent more than we meant to in the store, but they are all good quality, simple items that will last us for a number of years, even with heavy usage, so in my book that’s entirely OK.

I’ve also acquired a pair of black brogues, to wear on rainy days when I’m sick of boots, an angora cardie, and a gorgeous maroon silk, empire line, knee-length dress. With pockets! It’s lovely. (I meant to take a photo yesterday after wearing it to work, but was a bit worn out after my commute home).

Still on the list is a pair of knee high, flat soled boots (or two). Ankle boots (casual pair, and a work pair). Warmer fabric trousers to wear to work. Heavy knitwear that I was covetting last season in Australia and never purchased, but were out of stock when I arrived here. A long sleeved, floral dress to wear under various layers. More leggings and a pair or two of wool tights for the keeping warm of legs. A warm waterproof hooded jacket.

The question I’ve been meaning to ask: what do you deem necessary to get through a Northern Hemisphere winter? What really obvious thing am I possibly going to miss and regret not owning?

(we did some other stuff as well, including me staying in London unexpectedly overnight and having a very lovely breakfast with Mikki and J the next morning, and building of lego towns with L. But weekly update posts do not always need to be in the format of monday, tuesday, wednesday etc. )

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As a result of unexpectedly changing our plans on the weekend, the planned homemade pizza dinner on Sunday night didn’t happen. (Homemade bases, yum!). So I decided to use up the bulk of the ingredients in a pasta dish on Monday night.

Except I was tired and a bit dopey yesterday, so I kept forgetting what I wanted to put into the dish and which order to put them in.

It started out as a flavoursome oil-based sauce for some lovely tri-color spiral pasta shapes we had. Onions, pancetta, zucchini (courgette), whole basil leaves, then deglazed the pan with some left over red-wine. I was considering finishing it off with the rocquette that was in the fridge, tossing it all back into the drained pasta pot, adding a slather of good olive, mix it all together, serve.

Then I remembered that I had some creme fraiche to use up, and decided that zucchini needed tomato if I was going to make a creamier sauce. So, in went some tomato paste as well as the creme fraiche. This wasn’t the strong flavour hit I was after, and was more reminiscent of a mild nacho dish than a sauce for pasta. Then I remembered I meant to add some chopped up cherry tomoatoes with the zucchini. So they went in after the creme, as did half a tin of tomatoes to take off the dominant creme fraiche taste .

Then, I remembered the grated mozzarella and the parmesan in the fridge and decided to make it a 2 cheese-cremey-hint of tomato pasta sauce. Which thankfully tasted fine, as it was behaving more like an omlette by the time it had finished cooking. All that cheese.

The boys happily ate it up, I enjoyed it, but I would certainly have never set out to make such a strange hybrid. Oh well, the joy of experimental cooking to use up what’s in the fridge.

Edit: Maybe I should have made this Zucchini Pasta Carbonara instead.

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I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this space. Where to take it. What to write about.

It seems to me that this blog has 3 functions and this will be the basis of what I write here.

1. Keeping my nearest and dearest up to date on what’s happening – the “this week” posts. Categories: weekly update, family, food, work.

2. Reflections on being an immigrant in England – predominantly the “Stuff that is weird” and “Things I like” posts, although I am thinking this will become a wider theme. Categories: community, culture shock.

3. Progress on learning how to fly – goals, relationships, step-parenting, attitudes, posts relating to the journey to becoming the person I would like to be (which is not to imply that I am unhappy with who I am, I just acknowledge that this is always a journey). Categories: adventure, flying, goals, home, philosophy, resolution.

There will of course be the occasional post that doesn’t fit into any of the above 3 areas, but this is the direction that I want to take this blog. Hopefully these topics will be of interest to you as well.

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