Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The heat is on

"I'll pick up the story in Perth in my next posting, but for now, farewell!" - sounds so bright and breezy, like I'll get back to it in a few days, doesn't it? That was over 6 weeks ago. There's been a few things going on in that time, although that's not really an excuse. I guess I just lost the energy for a while. At any rate, time to try and get back to it.

Hello, my name is Patrick, and I am a Blogger. It has been at least 6 weeks since my last Blog...

Before I do actually start on my travels and travails in Western Australia (henceforth to be known as WA), I guess I should take one of my occasional side-steps out of the narrative to let people know what I'm up to at the moment.

Basically, I'm back in Melbourne again, after my sojourn over in NZ during December. I'm back working as an office temp, at the same firm I was working for back in November. Which means the money's going to be coming in again as of this week (yay!), which is a relief after I celebrated Christmas firly exuberantly.

I've been enjoying the spectacle of the Australian Open Tennis, including going along to Melbourne Park to see matches a couple of days - I went last Tuesday (17th), and managed to get into the Vodaphone Arena (the 2nd biggest court) to see a few matches there. Saw about half of Tommy Haas' victory over Richard Gasquet, then all of Andy Murray's unfortunate encounter with Juan Ignacio Chela, and all of Kim Clijsters' first round win over a Korean lass called Cho. I then caught the end of Hewitt's protracted victory over Robin Vik on the big screen out by the entrance. Which I thought was pretty good value for $27 (about 12 quid).

I then went again on Saturday, which unfortunately wasn't such good value, due to the extreme weather. Whilst I caught most of Paul-Henri Mathieu's victory over Lucio Horna, all play pretty much stopped for the day on all the outside courts after that, as the temperature climbed through the 35C cut-off point for outside play, and ended up around 39 or 40 degrees. I eventually caught about 2/3 of another match late in the day, seeing Daniele Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama beat two Chinese lasses in women's doubles. But most of the intervening time was spent over in the Beer Garden, attempting to hide in the shade, listening to a band play, and marvelling at just how drunk people were getting (and making a few new mates). So, not quite such good value, but an interesting experience.

The extreme weather unfortunately carried on through Sunday, though, topping out at 42C, which is deeply unpleasant when one is nursing a hangover - I'd randomly bumped into another ex-colleague from Accenture in one of the pubs in St Kilda the previous night, and had a few more drinks there. However, my minor complaints pale into utter insignificance against the carnage going on across the country from the heatwave - there's been bushfires across many of the states, with some pretty full-on ones here in Victoria, and several still burning away in Tasmania. The fire-fighting efforts are extraordinary, but there have still been some heart-breaking stories of the tragedies that the fires bring. And the temperature's predicted to top 40 again tomorrow, which could set things off again.

All of this could make life interesting when I head off on my next little side-trip: I'm off to Tasmania in a week and a half, flying from there to Adelaide, and then coming back overland to Melbourne through the Grampians and along the Great Ocean Road. Or at least, that's the plan - the Grampians has been one of the hardest-hit areas in Victoria, and parts of Tassie are still on fire, so I figure there might be a few amendments to the itineraries of the trips I'm doing.

The hot weather tomorrow is also going to affect how I celebrate Australia Day - it's their national equivalent of 4th of July or whatever, and tradition would dictate celebrating outside with a BBQ. However, when the sun is probably going to be hot enough to cook me, and unlikely to leave me with much of an appetite for burnt meat, I think I may work on the basis of finding activities that involve being indoors amongst air-conditioning. And to any of you who are thinking "why aren't you going to the beach?", I just laugh in your general direction - I have absolutely no intention of turning into a prize lobster. By all accounts a fair amount of celebration actually happens this evening anyway, on Australia Day Eve (yes, I've seen posters calling it that), on the fairly logical premise that better to celebrate today if you won't have to get up and go to work in the morning...

Otherwise, the festive period was notable more for the unfortunate news from back home, where my Nan had a couple of strokes, one on Boxing Day and another at New Year, the latter of which she never recovered from. So poor Mum's spent much of the last month up in Cheshire, first being at Nanna's side, and then organising the funeral - not the best of introductions to 2006 for the family. Apparently the service and everything went fine - part of me would have liked to have been there, but there would have been absolutely no point in trying to leg it back from the wrong side of the world. I'm not really any kind of a religious believer, but if she has gone on somewhere else, I hope she's happy there; if not, then she'll be resting in peace.

So, that's where I am now. Over a third of the way through my planned time away. Being back in an office makes it all slightly surreal again - feels too much like what I left behind. I think I'll try and find some other kind of work when I'm in Sydney. Still, it's paying the rent. For the moment, time to look forward again, to Tasmania and South Australia, then to New South Wales and maybe Queensland, to Fiji at some point, then to South East Asia. And then, eventually, to home. This time next year, I'll be back in Blighty, unless something unexpected happens.

So, for all of you, I hope you had as fun a Christmas as I did, and a significantly better New Year (sweltering whilst feeling homesick for the first time on the trip, and then finding out about Nanna put a bit of a damper on that one). I hope 2006 brings you as much enjoyment and good fortune as possible.

Take care and have fun,