It’s day two of our final house-sit in Melbourne. We are now custodians of a beautiful ex-racing greyhound called Polly and a lovely house in North Melbourne. Oh, and Henna the cat, an 18 year old moggy that I have to force feed blood pressure tablets every morning with her breakfast. Aside from the hazard of putting my hand in a cat’s mouth, house sitting has once again come up trumps for us.
I’m writing this after an extremely pleasant morning during which I Skyped my parents (and was a little perturbed when my Dad, upon learning I was a fan of Polly already, told me ‘You know you have greyhounds in the family don’t you?!’. I was relieved when seeking explanation of this statement that my great-Grandfather trained greyhounds and they weren’t actually in my family tree… although this might have explained my lean physique despite significant cake consumption.) I took the dog for a walk, glowing with joy now I was walking a dog that didn’t pull at the lead or bark at anything and everything. When I returned from my first foray in the park, Georgi talked me into going for a run and we did a casual 5k before going to Victoria market for an exciting buzz and cake.
The weeks prior to this have been busy ones for me. Finally I’ve had the chance to earn my keep and working on the house we stayed in during the day was combined with a job doing market research in the evenings. I thoroughly enjoyed working on David and Glenda’s home, fixing gutters, painting railings, cutting down trees and some general (idiot proof) jobs in the garden meant I have been outside and enjoying the weather in what appears to be the most clement season here. Give it a month, say the locals, and it’ll be too hot to go outside. I’m glad I worked outside while I did!
Spending time with David and Glenda was also an enormous pleasure and their house was continually frequented by friends of theirs from all over the world so we were lucky to meet lots of lovely and interesting people from all walks of life. We also met David’s grandchildren who quickly grasped the subtly altered version of pass the pigs I introduced them to and in no time at all I had a six year old and a two and half year old racing each other to do sums with ‘Piggy and Porky’. David and Georgi sat on the sidelines looking rather disgruntled about being ignored but we had great fun. It did remind me a little of the good times teaching… except I could stop when I wanted, there were no exams to teach to, no one was grading me on whether my methods were innovative enough to be considered outstanding, there were no problems with behaviour and I didn’t have to put up with talking to other teachers once my lesson had finished… OK, it wasn’t that much like teaching, but it was fun.
The start of me working coincided with G having a break at work and she was keen on making sure our funds were kept topped up and she could be kept in wine. She responded to a ‘women wanted’ ad in the window of a launderette, thinking maybe it was a life drawing class and was horrified to discover the company who put the ad up basically was a porn company. Their claimed difference was that they were ‘liberating women’. A newspaper article about them came to Georgi’s attention and we learned that this highly controversial company was effectively exploiting the student rich and money poor suburbs we were in. Needless to say, she decided not to pursue this and moved from the $6 wine to the $4 bottles.
For my birthday I was desperate to get out of the city which. despite being labelled world’s most livable city numerous times, is a pretty mediocre affair by European standards (have any of these judges been to Prague, Helsinki, Bruges, Nice, Edinburgh… London?) We took the opportunity to go to a coastal town called Inverloch to stay with some friends of Georgi’s parents and wasted no time in getting to the beach. Sadly the weather let us down a little on my birthday, although I did have my first ever birthday paddle, but this didn’t matter at all as we had a lovely weekend and some delightful food. I was not impressed with the rugby however, don’t these lads know I have to get up in the middle of the night to watch them?!
During the weekend in Inverloch, we also went for a flying visit to Glenda’s sister’s house as a legacy of our travels in Asia has been to say yes to every offer of meeting people or doing things. This policy once more paid dividend as we were treated to fresh cookies on arrival and then taken on a stroll and introduced to lots of native plant species, many of which were very pretty. Georgi began asking Loretta’s husband, Barry about Australian snakes. He informed us that locally it was mostly the Copperhead that was of any danger but that it had short fangs so if you were wearing jeans or thick socks you’d probably be fine. Looking around at this point Georgi’s face was priceless as she realised she was the only one with bare legs and Barry had just said ‘This bit is a touch snakey, be careful’. He had a wicked grin on his face and I still don’t know if he was winding G up or not, but I think I caught the hint of a chuckle as he also observed Georgi’s reaction. The real joke of course was that if any of us did get bitten, we were screwed, the Copperhead is number 7 on the list of most venomous snakes in Australia. Haha! The Australian sense of humour is fun.
That weekend marked the start of a very good few days of wildlife spotting for me. We saw an Echidna (I kidya not)…(sorry) and I got within about a metre of it before remembering every animal in Australia either overtly or covertly wants to kill you. I was surprised at the size of the beast – having only seen then on TV or stuffed in a lab at Uni, I wasn’t prepared for it to be so big or move so amusingly. John Cleese would have been proud to include it in a certain sketch. It walked like a flipper wearing four legged sailor with a good dose of the clap. It amused me greatly. Then I saw a wombat while cycling to work, brilliant.
My new commute is a bit longer than my London ride but also goes alongside a river. This river is unlike the Thames however in that it’s got a path for bikes and pedestrians only and lots of signs that say ‘beware of snakes October to March’ and to reinforce that message, they have at times drawn the outline of snakes on the path. The latter is especially unhelpful as you haul on your brakes attempting to avoid a dose of neurotoxin from the snake you can see only to discover it’s painted on the pavement. You are now travelling slow enough to be attacked by any snake nearby however and so the route has become a lengthy interval session fuelled by fear: it’s so much better than the cycle superhighway down the Thames. On one occasion, I thought I had seen a genuine, real life snake crossing the path ahead of me but as I skidded towards it leaving half of my tires on the ground behind me I saw this plump little thing had comically tiny arms and legs and the stumpiest body of any animal I’ve ever seen. It was hilarious and sadly images online don’t do justice to the specimen I saw, but if you care to look, it was a particularly fat blue tongued skink.
Over the next few weeks, I’m very excited to try flyboarding (a present from my family) and to be visited by Anjali, a wonderful friend of mine from my previous life where I had a real job.
New pictures will go up in the gallery shortly after this post is published, so do have a look.