20 things we never knew about Australia

So we all have the stereotype view of Australia right? Much like they have of the Brits, or in fact anyone has of the Brits. So moving here, having only visited once, briefly, we relied on a lot of what we thought we ‘knew’ about this fair Island which lets be fair, like most of us in the UK we get all our information about Australia from Neighbours and Home and Away. Which in itself is a bit warped for example for all the times Alf Stewart in Home and Away said ‘fair dinkum’ i think I’ve only heard an actual person say it once and that was more as a demonstration than part of a conversation. So here we are..some things we have discovered…

  1. Voting is a legal issue. If you don’t vote you are breaking the law. Technically we can’t vote as we are not citizens but those who are HAVE to vote. If you don’t vote you get a fine. I actually like this idea. Not sure how it would go down in the UK but i kind of agree with the principal.
  2. Public schools are not free. Which makes sense right because Brits call private schools – public schools (which is altogether confusing) But a public school in Australia is a state school but attending is not free. They bill you every year for contributions to the building, the staff, the physical education, the stationary, the white boards etc etc…..I actually think technically you don’t have to pay it but its kind of expected.
  3. Most kids going through school here will play some sort of brass instrument. From year 3 all kids are given the opportunity to join the band. They then have to rock up to two rehearsals a week and attend competitions.
  4. Long Service Leave – most places offer their employees a way of gaining a big chunk of leave for time served. You can cash it in at any point. The longer you stay somewhere the more leave you get. This is additional to your annual leave. If you have been in the health service for example for your entire career you can expect to get about 2 years long service leave. This explains a little how so many australians disappear off for long holidays travelling the world.
  5. The Australian TV is dreadful. Not really something we didn’t know but the reality is that it is shocking. Thank goodness for Netflix
  6. In the area we live in despite having space they seem to opt for the idea of building malls and sticking every sort of shop, including supermarkets, in the mall. This is an issue of great annoyance for me as I loath going to the mall for a grocery shop. I don’t like wasting time parking on floor 650 to have to wait for a lift with your trolley full of shopping and then get lost trying to find your car. I don’t think ill ever get over it!
  7. Shopping malls, however, do have three hours free parking before you start paying to park your car. This, in general, is great and most trips won’t be over three hours. If they are though the hourly rate can then be a bit insane
  8. Amazon in Australia is NOTHING like it is in the UK. Like, seriously…I marvelled at amazon prime over the holidays in the UK. Ordering something one day and it arriving the next. Here it is just for books…like..just.books.
  9. Most people have NOT seen the scary animals that frequent the news. Our first week here we saw a massive python crossing the road and mentioned it to a neighbour who said in 25 years of living there they had never seen a snake. Same for the spiders in general. But we do give the kids ‘the talk’ and also anyone that comes to visit!
  10. Contrary to some people’s beliefs about Australia, it does actually get cold here. Winter temperatures at night can get down to low single figures. Which you are thinking ‘so what?’ to right? But generally most houses do not have heating and so winter in Australia consists of many furry blankets, hot water bottles and fan heaters..which are stupidly inefficient as most of us worked out in our dingy college days. But that just seems to be the deal here. Also yes it does rain. Sydney gets more annual rainfall than London. Yes. seriously. But it tends to fall in huge downpours and less drizzle. Australia is, however, so vast that when it is single figures in some part of the country it will probably be 30 degrees somewhere else.
  11. They call sandwich toasters…jaffle irons. This makes no sense at all.
  12. A bogan is a chav. Guess they will have those types of folks everywhere
  13. Their system of healthcare is a complicated mix of a public system like the NHS and a private system. I basically, don’t hate me, think that it is a good system and actually makes more sense for people who can afford private to pay for it so that some of the burden is taken off public system.  I was and am a very proud member of the NHS and wholeheartedly believe in it. But it cannot pay for everything in this world of rapid advancing health care and technology. I guess unless you want to pay WAY more tax and lets face it who wants to do that. The government offer tax incentives for having private healthcare and you claim your portion back of whatever you pay through medicare. So everyone still gets their ‘free share’ so to speak.
  14. They still have bank holidays here. Days when the banks shut and everyone else goes to work. What we call a bank holiday is called a public holiday here.
  15. Australia Day is a public holiday at the end of the summer, much like our august bank holiday expect that it is shrouded in controversy as it is celebrating the day when Australia was first landed on by settlers. Many of the aboriginals and Islanders call it ‘invasion day’ – there is generally a whole host of marches and protests on that day. But it is, i think, supposed to be a traditional ‘straya day. BBQ, beaches and sun.
  16. Their fruit and vegetables are still ‘seasonal’ Remember how satsumas used to appear in british stores around christmas? Its still like that here. Mangoes appear for the summer and then disappear over the winter. There are seasons for certain fruits, like strawberries…..as they begin to appear the price per kg starts to come down until they are practically giving them away by the end of the season.
  17. You can’t buy alcohol in the supermarkets. They have to be sold in a separate off licence or ‘bottlo’  These are actually generally owned by the supermarket so its all a bit of a nonsense. Except in Aldi – where you can buy alcohol but you have to pay through a certain check out!
  18. “getting the shi*ts” here does not mean what it means in the UK. I gave a fellow nurse a very puzzled looks when she used this phrase in a handover one evening about a baby. I wondered for a while if this baby appeared to have some sort of gastrointestinal issue going on. It, in fact, means getting angry.
  19. One for the teachers. Education funding for each child in NSW will follow that child whichever institution they go to. So if you send your kid to a $45K a year school, that school will still get their portion of government funding for that child.
  20. No matter how hard you try a British person you can never really genuinely refer to flip flops as Thongs without wincing a bit.

The same old new thing

I have been thinking for a number of weeks now about my blog and what to do with it. I have even made a new blog template with a different name. I was wondering with so much time gone between since i last posted anything maybe i should start again. A fresh voice. But then i realised that  everything that is here is part of what makes up the history of our family. I also got an email from our friend back home whose company hosts my blog I thought of all the work and effort put into making this site what it is and i have decided to keep it on.

But for now it will take a slightly different direction. Not that it necessarily had a certain direction before but things have changed. We have all changed and indeed i think blogging has changed. But our family has changed. We have moved to Australia for the time being, our kids are ripping towards being teenagers and in fact adults. I am thankfully out of the nappy stage, the pre-school stage and the dummy stage. Hoo-bloody-ray. Although obviously the drama of toddler years is swiftly exchanged for the high drama of teenagers. Which feels sort of similar but with much later bed times!

I have in the past year been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, finally got a reason to the ‘are you always tired’ questions other than children and 13 years of night shifts! I have slipped a disc, discovering in the recovery that i do, in fact, have a bit of a bent spine. I have been the new girl at work after 13 years of being part of the furniture. I have been the main bread winner in our house for the first time since we got married.

So in that regard i felt that my blog should be different. I have toyed with the idea of vlogging -video blogging but i say far too many er…um’s when I’m talking or using instagram for micro blogging but the mobile only format means you have to sit and tap all text into a phone and as i can type pretty fast ( two degrees/dissertations will do that for you) if i have anything lengthy to say then i tend to give up out of sheer laziness and resort to a keyboard.  I’ve also wondered about writing on tumblr and then sharing through instagram but you can’t actually do that. Instagram don’t allow a third party to post onto its site so that wouldn’t work and id have to use all sorts of links -which would mean that whatever incentive i had to write would be easily extinguished by the sheer effort of having to navigate different platforms. So after going round the houses and up the courtyards I am back to where it all started. Sometimes eh thats the way it works out.

Im keeping everything as it was…well apart from the glaring obvious change in design of my blog. I am very aware now that our kids have an online presence of their own and they may not want their cheery teen faces appearing on a mummy blog. So the look is a little bit different and the content may be different but I’m not going to ditch the name or the history. So if you want to scroll back to see my back to school posts and product reviews then you can. But largely that won’t be the direction I’m going in now. Primarily I want to write, which is ironically what got me into this in the first place. Yes there will be images, because who doesn’t want to look at something pretty. But generally i won’t be doing reviews or photography stuff.

I’m not after awards or rankings.  I don’t want to go down the route of SEO and how many links i can get back to my site by commenting on as many others as possible. Thats what kind of killed it for me a lot before and look, i know that doing all that stuff is a choice anyway and you can decide to opt out of it without running away from your whole blog and for me it wasnt just that, but it was part of it. So this time it will be less about that. In fact not about that. I am actually, this time, writing for me.

We have all endured a big change as a family and largely i think we are winning. I like to embrace change if possible no matter how scary it may seem on the surface. No matter how much it pushes us outside of ourselves and stretching our muscles so much that we can still feel the sting long after. I know that some change comes easily welcomed like a cool breeze on a summer day. Other times its dirty and gnarly. Grinding metal against metal in the fire of what can feel like completely overwhelming pain. But whichever route we come to it, whether its painful or not. There is always a chance to grow and learn and adapt. Thats what we are all destined to do.

So here it is. The same old new thing.




Things have changed….#ouraussieadventure


I realise that i have been a really bad blogger…..I sort of dont even feel like i can give myself that title anymore as i rarely blog, i rarely think about it and it has gotten to the point where i am sitting here having struggled for an hour to remember my password to access my admin page.

The reason for that is mostly called ‘being too busy’ with life to actually sit down and write about it. Also it has been difficult to put into words my experiences of moving to the other side of the world. It hasn’t been easy and there have been some hard times and verbalising those sort of things is tough. Treading water takes all your energy after all.

Also, as a bit of a side note,  i am now the mother of a teenager and im realistic about how much he would want his life plastered across the internet (as a savvy techie himself) and so it is with new eyes in more than one way that i now view my public writing…

So things have changed…..

We have changed!!

Things have changed in a way that i had always dreamed they would. For years and years this goal had been our dream. Travelling, doing life somewhere else, having a more global view of the world, giving our children a chance to experience a life outside of where they were born.  Not the tourist experience, getting under the skin of a country experience, digging in for the duration.

We hadn’t always had our heart set on Australia necessarily, it just offered the opportunity and so we decided to go for it. It was after a lot of thought, going backwards and forwards and talking ourselves in and out of the idea we summized that we had to at least try. That to live with the success or failure of having had a go was far better than to live with the regret of having never tried.

Leaving behind family, friends and a city we have called home for a long time now was a lot harder than we ever imagined. It really does crush in on you and cloud every sensible decision you are trying to make. The sadness for ourselves was one thing but the guilt was and is, for me, very hard to deal with, especially when you have good irish catholic roots thrown in. 😉

In a way, i was pleased we had paid for the flights, resigned from our jobs and made other commitments that meant we had to go otherwise i think my guilty feelings would have got the better of me and we would have bottled it. That saying ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ was never more real to us than in those last few weeks leading up to going. I am so grateful for some amazing people who were so relentlessly supportive and behind us. It meant and means so much and we genuinely couldnt have done it without them.


Flying with kids is never easy but flying 10,000 miles with five kids, 22 bits of luggage and an extra couple of duffle bags of heavy and mixed emotions was always going to a bit of a choker. For a good few months after arriving here I couldn’t talk about leaving, it was too hard and i sometimes had that bewildering ‘out of body’ feeling that some other mad woman must have done it.  But now looking back at that day. I can actually laugh and sometimes not just a giggle, a great big belly laugh till you cry kind of laugh. Like, what the heck where we thinking….. …

Like labour, time has softened the edges and we can look at it with eyes wide..’did we really do that?’

Did my husband really schlep through immigration with hard drives in his coat pockets (one of two he was wearing on his back) so that we wouldnt be over our weight for hold luggage. Did we stress over and clean every last thing we were sending and taking to Sydney for fear of their tough immigration laws only for me to sail through australian immigration with, unbeknown to me, five lovely, brown, shiny conkers in my handbag! Did my daughter really travel 10,000 miles with a giant soft carrot and broccoli tied to her backpack because she refused to leave them behind!

We flew from Manchester last November, leaving our house looking like a squat. Our house contents left for australia about 5 weeks before us and so we  borrowed mattresses, duvets and a few bits of kitchen stuff from our amazing, fabulous  friends and family.  The kids thought it was hilarious ‘camping out’ in our house. I wasn’t quite so sure. We had spent most of the last night before packing and re-packing already full to the brim bags to try and get more in whilst simulatenously making it weigh less!. Staring at vast piles of stuff and trying to justify what we could realistically leave behind. We had two taxis to the airport, made up of two people carriers driven by two incredibly brave and wonderful friends. One car had all the bags and one had all the people!

We knew we were probably going to be over our allowance at the airport and at the end of the day we thought we would just have to pay it but after some negotiation and a bit of heavenly intervention the check in desk lady deemed that our guitar case, which was largely full of other stuff and a token small guitar, could go on as a musical instrument and not count in our total allowance and also our laptop bag (weight: about the same as a small child) could be omitted also as it was a small electronic device bag and apparently they don’t count?!

Passing through the security scanners we thought, looking like the travelling circus that we were we wouldnt look too suspicious other than in a ‘are they really all yours?’ type of way.  But alas, they seemed keen to see all the things we had packed. Their lovely curiousity about our luggage meant that we had to frantically re-pack all our hand luggage and try to convince some already flagging kids to carry their own bags to the gate. We half walked, half ran through the maze that is departures scooping up in a minesweeper style stray welly boots and other assorted random items that had been loosely stuffed into bags.  Even though we checked in almost at three hours before our flight we were still one of the last bunches of people to board. ‘ah we have been waiting for you!’ exclaimed one steward. Had he heard about the frazzled, crazy parents travelling with half a tonne of luggage and a gaggle of kids from his check in friends? hmmmm?

I have never felt such mixed emotions when taking off, when you are going on holiday there is generally excitement but i had to struggle to not sob uncontrollably. The relentless task of closing up shop in a practial aspect and saying goodbye multiple times left me washed up emotionally and it all came rushing to the surface once we had taken off.

The plane entertainment system did an admirable job on the first flight, largely the kids just settled down to their 8 hours of TV and video games with non stop snacks and drinks without concern! I have said many times to people since we moved that the plane journeys were okay. The second leg was harder as it was night time for us and also it was the longer flight. But the transfer was something else. Tired, hungry, disorientated and needing the toilet and water. We had a little under 2.5hrs to change flights, which sounds like a lot right? ha!

We tried in vain to get our youngest to sit in one of the airline supplied strollers but she refused outright and just to show us how much energy she had she ran head first, the wrong way down a travellator sending sandled, skirt wearing arabs jumping to the side to avoid her like skittles. I offered them a weak smile of apology whilst simultaneously wishing for a tranquilisier dart for my daughter.

The Arabs are seemingly very paranoid about the risk of explosives in liquid for as well as the usual security gates prior to the departures lounge where we all dutifully emptied out our water bottles. There was then another check at the gate itself where they took water or fluids bought in departures away?!  Which then left us sat in the gate, unable to get out without going back through the check again, without any water! It was a long wait till we were boarded and then my first question to the steward was ‘water please!’

The kids managed to sleep in a bizarre arrangement of leaning into each other and laying top to toe in the tiny space we had. I was just so relieved that they slept that i didnt try too hard myself to get any sleep. Preferring to lull in and out of semi-unconciousness whilst listening to old episodes of Friends and the occasional turbulence announcement when i tried to inch the kids into their seat belts without actually waking them up.

We arrived late into sydney, something we had anticipated happening as the plane left Abu Dhabi late. We had a real problem we realised when we landed that the company we booked our car through was going to close while we were still the wrong side of immigration. We tried several times to phone them but our UK mobile phones, that we had switched to PAYG before we left did not have enough credit to make phone calls to Australia via a British network. In desperation we sent a text to a friend of ours back in the UK who had given us a number of someone they knew in Sydney and we asked them to contact them and ask them to call the car company to tell them we were on our way! For what seemed like ages we had no idea how we were going to get to actually leave the arrivals area. But then, out of the darkness, came the shuttle bus and the car company had stayed open for an extra hour to allow us to pick up our car. Never felt more grateful for the incredible communication systems that allow us to stay in touch so swiftly!

While OH was sorting out the paperwork for the car, i lugged all the bags and shoved them in the back of our van. Hot and sweaty we all piled into the van and set off, as apparently all british do, to Manly. Driving to Manly from the airport you pass through the city and pass over the harbour bridge where we pointed out the opera house to the children. Having seen it many times since then that first time feels very surreal, like a dream. It was like being on a simulator ride,  like driving through a movie set. Were we really here?  

Our apartment in Manly (or unit as the australians call them) was at Queenscliff ( an area that sits to one side of Manly beach and, as it seems with most of the area, is fairly well built up with apartment blocks and houses teetering on the edges of cliffs trying to build as close as possible to get the enviable ocean view.  Arriving at the apartments well past 8pm we discovered that one of the down sides of lots of apartments is lots of cars and the parking was non-existant. The info on the apartment we had led us to believe that it had a garage but we struggled to find it, navigating our large, tall and ‘large excess’  9 seater van through narrow and low areas under an apartment block in the dark was quite a challenge!  We eventually found it only to realise that there was no way that the van was going to fit. So the only option was to park further away and carry the bags up to the apartment – all 22 of them – a job that fell to my OH!

The owner of the apartment had put some basic supplies and we had a swift dinner of pasta and sauce before a welcome shower. Luggage strewn all over the small living room, hunting for pyjamas and toothbrushes scattered through numerous bits of hand luggage. I sat and looked at the picture of a lighthouse that was hanging on the wall, an image that had become very important to us in the months before we had left home and burst into tears. The relief that we had arrived, unscathed (largely), all together,  the only casualties so far being a winter coat. Here we were a huge family in a small apartment in a strange land down under.

Sleep came pretty quickly…listening to the soft sound of the waves crashing onto the cliffs below us.

We had done it!



tap..tap..tap..anyone there?

There is a fair amount of dust around here, on the old blog. Bit of tumbleweed blowing through and there is a bit of a good reason for that, although might not be what you think…


We moved our whole kit and kaboodle to the other side of world. 10,000 miles of airspace.

That is a lot.

It has been my initial desire to write a funny, witty, sensitive, enthusiastic blog on emigration and how it is sometimes all kinds of crazy.

Which it is.

But then we arrived…

and survived…

and that sort of took all my time.

So its been six months now and just maybe i can get back in the saddle again eh?

For now, here is the money shot right?

What is it, if not Aussie, to have a boy learning to ride a wave, with the instructor fist pumping at the attempt.

Fair Dinkum!


In case of emergency!

I always have to make sure i have a way that i can get myself out of trouble? Are you like that?

Its not always possible i know that but I like to make sure that if i needed to get out of somewhere i could. When i travelled around Canada back when there were dinosaurs wondering the earth ;). I wasnt the most flush of students, didnt land a cushy job that paid really well. On the contrary i found myself doing a whole host of weird and wonderful jobs just to find a quick buck. But even though i didnt have loads of money I always knew that i had access to some funds if i needed it. Largely thanks to my very understanding parents! 🙂

Travelling is obviously a very glam reason to need a little extra injection of cash but then there are also the boring everyday ones. What i call boring spending. Thats the sort of stuff like…’the car needs a new whatever’ or the ‘guttering needs to be replaced’ There is no joy in spending money on those things in my opinion but if you want to drive yourself from a to b and you dont want your windows to leak then you need to get those jobs done! Its not sexy but when your car has broken down you would usually give anyone anything to get it going and get you home right? Back in the time BK (before kids) we owned a fabulous camper van. It was a special part of the family and we had some fun journeys in that van, all be it pretty slow. One particularly long and hot journey back from Devon we noticed it was really starting to struggle on hills and my OH took it to his trusty mechanic when we got home. Only to be dealt the blow that the engine was pretty much dead and we would have to buy a new engine. Not cheap. As Oh was using it for work, we had to find the money to fix it but after that little stunt and the arrival of our number one kid it was time to send Floyd onto better things and people with deeper pockets! I dont think our girls have forgiven us that only their brother got to ride in Floyd. 🙂

I think then as a young adult i didn’t think about the possible emergencies I might have found myself in. Back then an emergency might have been not being able to find somewhere to eat on a saturday night in an incredibly sleepy canadian city. But now, as a parent with responsibilities there are all manor of emergencies i can imagine! Sometimes there are times when within our own resources we might not be able to meet the need and we have to, responsibly, get some help.




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