Georgi and I were treated with a visit from Anjali, a friend of mine from home during our second week in North Melbourne. Anjali, over in Australia to visit her sister and new niece in Sydney came and spent a few days in which we tried to cram as much as possible. We started with the Night Noodle Market, Melbourne’s Asian food fest on the banks of the Yarra River. The three of us, all having been recently in Asia for extended periods hastened to find our favourite treats. Richly marinaded kebabs and several pork dumplings later, we treated ourselves to a few drinks and an enormous frozen yoghurt. It was a lovely evening and we got to see just how important food is to Melbourne and Melbournians, queues for the more popular stalls were over a hundred metres long with a wait equable to a flight to Asia (and some prices not far off that either!)
Despite having stuffed ourselves the previous night, the next morning both Georgi and Anjali were up and getting ready to go for a run while I was still blundering around trying to shake off my food coma. I was eventually convinced to go jogging with these lunatics and was pleased to find I didn’t die, vomit or cry. Anjali seems to have gone kilometre crazy and is aiming to run 1000k a year, which although when broken down day by day sounds less daunting still sounds to me like a quick way to reduce your knees to pulp. Georgi is no less determined and seems to start most days with a 5k. There may be something to say for the effect of the sunshine here; it is more appealing to head out to exercise when the mercury shows 21 degrees rather than 2 as it would be at home around now.
During the time Anjali visited, we also went to Werribee mansion and gardens, which were very pleasant gardens but the mansion was described by Georgi as ‘a second rate building from Aberdeen’ so we didn’t deign to go inside! We had a glorious stroll along the beach in Williamstown, dodging many jellyfish that had been washed into the rockpools by recent storms. We drove to Arthur’s Seat, the Australian version which may have a better view than the original.
We also indulged Anjali’s love of mazes by going to an attraction called Enchanted Adventure, a series of gardens with mazes and some slides down a hill. Unfortunately I ruined mazes for Anjali when I told her a little trick for navigating them, but the day was a sun-drenched delight that we finished off in a beer garden of a ‘traditional British pub’, perhaps the only one with a view of the Bass Strait!
Before Anjali left she took us to see some people she had met while on the Trans-Manchurian railway. Elki and her two eldest sons had been on the trip and, along with her two other sons and husband treated us to dinner at their ‘small’ Australian farm of 304 acres. Dinner was, of course, straight from the BBQ. Very authentic.
After Anjali left Georgi and I have been working as much as possible to fund our Tasmanian adventure in February. Georgi played a trump card and has been travelling to Brisbane with her work, staying in a fancy hotel and enjoying dinner paid for by someone else. It was strange to be apart after so long in each other’s company; we’ve been away nearly 8 months as I type and had spent only a day on our own in that time. Happily, Georgi came back from Brisbane so we must be doing something right to not want to get away and stay away! While G was away I was also chuffed to receive a hamper of delicious food to eat from my family which they could not have sent at a better time… I showed enormous restraint however and saved her the wine.
A less expected family treat came in the form of a Great Aunt of mine who my parents discovered lived in Melbourne. A quick phone call led to a visit and Georgi and I spent a good few hours asking Jean about a bit of family history and enjoying hearing about the Australian side of the Howses. It was also great to hear a West Country accent so strong even after 50 years of antipodean life.
Slowly but surely I’ve been able to make friends here in Melbourne and as well as having David and Glenda (our previous hosts) over for dinner, we also went to an open range zoo with a friend of mine from my work. Cara was keen to show us exciting parts of Melbourne and we had a pleasant day viewing a number of species I’d not seen in real life previously. Hippos blew my mind with their sheer scale and smell. I’m looking forward to the next tour she has planned for us already.
Christmas shopping could not feel more wrong here, there was a queue in town to see a Santa in a department store that went down the street. I really feel for the guy who has that job, I’m strolling around in shorts and a t-shirt and that poor fiend is cooped up inside in a full length outfit, hat and beard. Why Australians haven’t adapted Christmas for the hot weather baffles me. If mince pies here can contain rum instead of brandy surely St. Nick could own a pair of board shorts and a rash vest as well as his Arctic get up? The mind boggles. Still, Georgi and I were able to make the most of the festive feeling and after some deliberation we sold the bike she bought when we arrived for a $100 profit (I knew hours of looking at bikes online would help me one day) within 5 hours, Georgi had a shiny new bike sold at a discount when she asked nicely.
A new bike was very exciting but more momentous shopping came later when we bought our first home together; a delightful one bed weighing 3.5 kilos in a wonderful shade of forest green. This home, our first tent together, will be mission HQ for our cycle trip in Tasmania and I’m very excited about receiving it!
All this made for a bit of an early Christmas, so it was really lovely to speak to our families on the day. We continued to be spoilt, getting a trip to the Melbourne skydeck (with an extra of getting to go on the glass bottomed section for added adrenaline) and a Gopro to capture our adventures. And the sun was out! Since this was our first Southern hemisphere Xmas, we felt it would be remiss of us not to spend it on the beach so we made our way down to Port Melbourne on our bikes. I had a dunk in the sea and Georgi basked in the sunshine and made us a delicious prawn cocktail. The beach may be unconventional for a Christmas, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Boxing day was wonderful. We went to the MCG and watched Australia vs. India. It started off extremely cold in the morning but by the afternoon we were in the sunshine and saw a very balanced day of cricket that we both enjoyed… although I did catch Georgi sleeping at one point. I explained this was perfectly acceptable at a test match and I think Georgi may even consider going again! When we got home, Boxing day got better still when I found out I won a writing competition for AirAsia and will be in their January in flight magazine. I also won a two night stay in the Hilton Doubletree… but sadly this is in Johor Bahru which I don’t intend to visit any time soon!
We have loads to look forward to in the coming weeks, I’m yet to go flyboarding (a present for my birthday in November) and Georgi’s parents are heading out here to join us for a few weeks split mostly between tennis and vineyards (I’m guessing.)