Thursday, February 2, 2017

Celebrating Australian citizenship in Mudgee

It is easy to see why it is called “nest in the hills”.  Some 3 and a half hours from Sydney, in mid-central New South Wales, Mudgee (from Moothi, which literally means nest in the hills) is a world away from the bright city lights of Sydney.  And with over 43 wineries to explore, it is an oenophilia’s paradise.  On the couple of weekends we have stayed, we are steadily working our way through the best of them.

Taking the Old Bells Line of Road, up through the Blue Mountains, we stopped briefly in the apple capital, Bilpin, for a piece of the world's best apple pie.  Pushing on, arriving mid afternoon at Riverlea Cottage, south of Mudgee, we were greeted by Toto and Guinness, the family dogs, like we had never been away.

In the 12 months since we were last here, not much had changed, just the addition of guinea fowl it seems.  And why guinea fowl you may ask?  Just as I did.  Well, the brown snake I almost stepped on whilst walking in the paddock answers that one.  Depending on what you read, the brown snake is reputed to be the second most venomous snake in the world.  I'll say that again.  The second most venomous snake in the WORLD.  And I almost just stood on one.  A recent blog had me celebrating making it past 44.  Making 45 was looking decidedly at risk.

The welcoming committee
Enter the guinea fowl.  As our saviours from snakes.  Apparently.  Somebody had told Helena that they were a good deterrent for snakes.  And now Ned had more mouths to feed along with the dogs, the alpacas, and the chooks.  I assumed the many kangaroos we saw managed to feed themselves. What I hadn't accounted for was dealing with the infamous Huntsman spiders.  Quite possibly harmless, everybody tells me, but just the sight of the bloody things are enough to give you a cardiac arrest.  THAT little critter was something I wasn’t going to deal with.  Cue shouting for Ned!

Australia Day finished with us stargazing, with a chilled bottle of locally produced wine.  And with zero light pollution, the effect was amazing.  But the day started with me meeting Tony Abbott (ex prime minister, originally hailing all the way from London) at my Australian citizenship ceremony in Mosman.  A journey that started on a bitterly cold December morning in Halifax, 2010, posting my permanent residency application off, which was granted on 26th January 2012, culminated on 26th January 2017, with the grant of my citizenship.  I am thankful to call home a country that welcomes immigrants, and builds its strength from the diversity that we can bring to a country and it's culture.

My struggles at times, settling into a new culture, thousands of miles from family, friends, and my beloved football club, have been well documented here.  I have to be honest and admit that on many occasions I didn’t think I would reach this milestone, becoming Australian.  But if you just focus on the days, the years have a way of looking after themselves, and here I am, a dual national, with opportunities now opening up in front of me.

Regardless of what happens now, from trying another country, a new culture, immersed in a new language, doing a doing a stint closer to home, or just taking an extended break travelling, having the passport allows us to return to Oz at any point.  Remaining in Oz, or returning later to downsize our life and live the quintessential laid back Aussie lifestyle.  There are many little towns that are perfect for such a life.  And what a life.

Reading here about something called "stress"!
Which is one of the reasons we love Mudgee.  A typical conversation goes something like this;

“Where are you from?”

“Sydney.  We are just up in Mudgee for the weekend.”

“Ah, Sydney.  I went there once.  Never again.  Too busy, too many people.”

And returning on the Sunday, to Mosman, brought this starkly into life.  Crossing the road, on a pedestrian crossing, the lady driving the car was revving her engine, actually edging onto the zebra crossing, and shouted out of her window for us to hurry up.  City life, for all it’s upsides, leaves a lot to be desired.

Tree change anyone?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reflections on a fantastic Xmas 2016

I have said it before.  And it needs saying again.  I live in a very beautiful, picturesque part of the world.  The village I live in has everything I could ever want, or need, without having to leave the confines of the post code.

But when I do venture out, beyond 2088, I am always greeted with new, and amazing sights, and experiences.

That said, into year 5 of living in Sydney, and with the daily drudge of the commute into the city, with everybody else, heads down, engrossed in their smartphones, it is often easy to miss what is in front of you.  Slightly take for granted that my office, in the architecturally magnificent, restored old General Post Office in Martin Place, is in the centre of Sydney.  One of the world's most visually stunning cities.

So, it is with delight, that when we have first time visitors to Sydney, as we have had over Christmas, I get to see Sydney all over again, vicariously, for the first time.  The first sight of THAT bridge, and the Opera House, as the Mosman Bay ferry rounds the bend at Cremorne, and Port Jackson comes into view, in all her glory.  This time of year, we also have the joy of seeing one of the many large cruise ships, docked in Circular Quay, speculating on where they are headed for the season festivities as they enjoy their sail away party, which is an actual thing, apparently.  Which you would know, if television programmes about cruise ships were amongst your favourite shows too.

In the beautiful Hunter Valley
So, how to best plan for visitors?  Regular readers of the blog will be aware of my love of a spreadsheet.  Not the boring kind I have to maintain at work, tracking annual budgets, and project forecasts.  But the more exciting kind, if there is such as thing.  Burger rankings.  Wine tastings I have done around the world.  And the one that gets recycled the most, the “See everything in Sydney in a week, or two, tour” spreadsheet.  Where all that seems to get changed each time it is used are the dates.

Planning for our visitors, the most recent of which arrived on these shores on December 18th, is spreadsheet nirvana.  Into Google Sheets (other applications are available) I go, save a copy of the last used, update the names of the guests, and away I go.  Wine tour, tick. (Special thanks to Sam at Kangarrific for what is perennially the world's best day trip).  Bondi to Coogee walk, tick.  Spit Bridge to Manly scenic walk, tick.  Blue Mountains day trip, tick.  Proper Aussie barbie, tick.   Xmas day on the beach, with beers, tick.  Chicken schnitty, tick.  Nothing gets left to chance.  Nothing gets left out.

I’d like to think, and hope, that all our guests go home with a real sense of what Sydney is like, and having had some quintessential Australian experiences.  Tim Tams included.

And in return, I get to learn things myself. Who knew “dabbing” is not just the latest dance craze?  That you could get “black jack” scented vapers? (a pretend cigarette, if like me, you were clueless).  And that you can actually buy “In The Navy” briefs.  Say whaaat?!?  Every day is a school day in my life.  Thank you Serge, and Serge, for those snippets of information.

Much fun was had over the holiday period, and I am just thankful we still had a regular bottle recycling collection.  I think we kept Dan Murphy's in business over Xmas.

The lads obviously brought their drinking boots.  After we warned them we would be sup’ing.  Being from the area in and around infamous Blackpool, they assumed it would entail many visits to Yate’s wine lodge, Wetherspoon’s, and the Tower ballroom type pubs and bars.  Little did they know this entailed a long board, a paddle, and much balance, as we attempted to traverse middle harbour at Balmoral.

Stand up paddle (SUP) boarding is harder than the people gliding out in the water would have you believe.  That said, one of our party was annoyingly good at his first ever attempt.  Most of the hour was spent trying to dunk him in the invigoratingly chilly ocean, once he had been suitably reassured there were no sharks lurking ready to take a large chunk out of him.  At least in the water he was safe from spiders.  And safe from pictures of spiders, which seem to cause the same involuntary reaction, which at first I worried was a stroke.

What is the first thing an English person wants to do in Australia?  Yes, determine the hottest part of the day, find the spot with the least amount of shade, and sit there.  And sit.  Well, I don't need to spell out the result to you.  You have all (Aussies excepted) been there yourself.  Day 1, first degree burns.  Whilst my call for shade on the first day ignored, the rest of the holiday followed a “safety first” approach.  Slip, slop, slap.

End of the Bondi to Coogee walk - beer awaiting

I'm sure the good memories will last longer than the pink faces that were still in evidence as we said a very sad farewell.  A great holiday, with great company.  You are welcome back anytime chaps.

Squish squish.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year (almost)

Henry David Thoreau.  Robert Louis Stevenson.  F Scott Fitzgerald.  Anton Chekhov.  Jackson Pollock.  Billie Holiday.  Marvin Gaye.  And not forgetting Steve Irwin.  I have succeeded in avoiding this illustrious list of people.  People you may well have heard of.  And due to some of their life accomplishments may have assumed they lived long, and fruitful lives.

The truth of it?  All dead at the youthful age of 44.  I have read the lives of some of these people, and the amount they crammed into their 44 years is nothing short of amazing.  And can leave you feeling like you could be doing more with your life.  Taking more adventures.  Living, over merely existing.  If you knew at the outset, that you only had 44 years to do everything you felt you wanted to do, how well would you think you did, or are doing, in achieving this?  And as the year draws to a close, what better, cliched time to spend a little time ruminating on this.

In the last week I ticked over to the ripe old age of 45.  And I am still yet to either write a book.  Write a song.  Paint a masterpiece.  Or even wrestle with an alligator.  I am not one for writing new years resolutions, much preferring a personal list of things I would like to experience, and accomplish in the year ahead.  Just ensuring that I am personally happy that when I do come to expiring, hopefully another 45 years from now, I do so with a smile on my face.

2016 has been a very good year.  I started as an Australian resident, and finish as a citizen.  My application all approved, and just the formality of the ceremony, which I will attend in Mosman, on Australia Day, 26th January.  The timing couldn't be better.  It will be 5 years to the day that I awoke on a cold winters day in Halifax, to an email informing me I had been granted my Australian Permanent Residency, after a 2 year wait.

A short while later, in August of that year, I was ensconced in a large Singapore Airlines business class seat, sipping champagne, about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life to date.  
Relocating to the other side of the world, sans job, sans accommodation, and sans family and friends.

Riverlea Cottage, Mudgee

And here I am still, over 4 years later, still enjoying life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, whilst getting to explore this glorious country.  2016 saw a first visit to the wine region of Mudgee, in central New South Wales, and 2017 will see a return visit to the idyllic little country town.  City life does leave you yearning for the peace and quiet of towns such as Mudgee, which doesn't even have any traffic lights in the small centre.

January of this year also saw me ticking off something I had wanted to do for many years.  Since first watching the Australian Open tennis, in a hostel in Adelaide, in 1994, I had wanted to witness the spectacle in Melbourne first hand.  Being even better than I expected, with a great atmosphere inside and outside the tennis arena, this is something that will definitely be repeated in the future.

One item that always makes my “year ahead” list is to visit somewhere new in the world.  And this year, this was achieved having finally made it to Canada for the first time.  Having heard first hand how beautiful British Columbia is, and about places such as Kelowna, and the Okanagan valley, I had wanted to get a taste of Canada.

An epic road trip that started in the city of angels, and traversed the west coast, through the Big Sur (unfortunately passing up the opportunity to stay at the Post Ranch Inn - this time) up through San Francisco, and the wine region of Sonoma, into Portland (with a visit to Powell's Book Store, where I could have spent weeks browsing the thousands and thousands of books), enjoying the world famous mac ‘n cheese at Beecher’s in Seattle, and across the water to Vancouver Island (with a first trip on a seaplane), finally culminating back over the water, in mainland British Columbia, in Vancouver.

Big Sur, California

I am not sure what 2017 holds, and where will be visited for the first time, but I sure will have a good time planning something. There may even be a spreadsheet involved!

Here’s hoping you, and your families, have a great and safe New Year.  

See you in 2017.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Beautiful Ubud, Bali

The heat is different in Asia. It is a heat you can smell, as well as feel.  And maybe that is in part due to the sweet, pungent cigarettes that I only seem to smell in Bali. That everybody seems to smoke.  And I mean everybody.  The humidity is in the high 90s.  And your body (and some would say your hair) knows it.  And it tells you.  All the time. The only respite is a refreshing dip in the villa’s private pool.

We stayed at Ubud Padi Villas, somewhere I would highly recommend.  A short 10 minute shuttle transfer from the centre of Ubud, this is isolated enough to let you feel you are the only people here. There are 10 private villas, all around a lush green central area that doubles as the outdoor restaurant. That said, breakfast was served in the room in each day, eating on the deck by the soothing sounds of our pool.

Breakfast is served
Ubud is full of great food options, and we have some excellent choices for both lunch and dinner within walking distance. Terracotta was an inspired choice, but even this was topped with a splurge at Kubu restaurant, in the Ritz-Carlton resort, a 10 minute walk away (or 5 minute golf buggy ride) from our villa.

Kubu is a river front restaurant, where you get to sit in your own private cocoon.  And indulge in a world class menu, whilst listening to the Ayung river charge by.  We went for the 6 course degustation, which was excellent, complemented by the chef's complimentary numerous amuse bouches.  Not that we needed dessert, I had elegant sufficiency, but after my heads up to the wait staff, Victoria got serenaded with a rousing rendition of happy birthday, and was presented with a beautiful little cake.

I probably didn't make as great an impression on our first trip to Bali as a couple.  Indeed our very first holiday as a couple, just two years ago.  Not long being together, we had a romantic week booked in a fabulous hotel, on the beach in Nusa Dua, south of Denpasar airport.

“I'm not a fan of how close the bathroom is to the bedroom, are you?”
“What do you mean, close to the bedroom?  Aren't all bathrooms close to bedrooms in hotels?”
“Well, yeah, possibly.  It's just that usually there is a door you can close.  Rather than these louvre shutter things we have.  It just seems a little…”
“A little what?”
“Oh god! You might want to put some music on.”
“Put some music on?  What are you talking about?  Is everything ok?  Where are you going?”
And with that I knew I was in a race against time.  And my odds weren't looking good.
“Just put some music on”, I shouted from the bathroom in desperation.  Not that I needed to shout. The was no noise cancellation created by the bloody louvre shutters.  And the lack of noise cancellation was my main concern.
“Oh god. Oh my god!  No. Oh no”

Mary J Blige came to the rescue, drowning out my first case of Bali belly.  And the point that our relationship was either about to blossom, or fade like a jacaranda tree at the end of Summer.

If you ever find yourself in Nusa Dua, I'd probably avoid the “Queen’s” Indian restaurant. Especially if you are trying to make a good impression with your paramour.

This time around, I have been a little more circumspect about what I eat.  Not that you really need to be.  As I've mentioned, the food options are excellent in Ubud.  It is more a case of deciding what you fancy that particular evening, and finding one of the many busy restaurants to suit your needs.  The only concession we did make, on occasion, was the amount of wine we would customarily drink on holiday.  Whilst food is cheap, wine prices are astronomical by comparative standards.  In keeping with my somewhat parsimonious nature, Bintang beer was often my drink of choice.

Whilst most of the trip was relaxation, and massages, we did get out and about a little. An activity I would recommend is taking an eBikes cycling tour. I was drawn to this both due to the effort required to cycle in this heat, and the fact that I had never ridden an ebike before.  Going out on the 3pm trip, our small group was led through little villages, to temples, and through the magnificent rice fields. One girl in our group even managed to cycle off the path and into the water ditch that ran alongside the narrow footpath we were cycling on.

We finished at a little uninspiring coffee plantation, where the main attraction seemed to be the civets that were kept in captivity. Civets are a little cat like animal that eats, amongst other things, the coffee cherries off the trees. These are digested by the civet, and disposed of, in the most natural of ways. The “waste” is then rummaged in, and the passed through coffee beans are retrieved, washed (thankfully), subsequently roasted, and ground, to make Kopi Luwak coffee, which is sold at a premium.  If you are waiting for me to explain the reason behind this whole bizarre procedure, I'm afraid I don't know.  Either what possessed the first people to start checking civet shit for coffee beans, or what then drove them to think it would be a good idea to use that for making their morning coffee.  One of life's mysteries I guess.

Balinese petrol station
I would like to tell you how much Ubud has changed in the many years since I've been, but I honestly couldn't tell you.  The whole place was unrecognisable, which tells its own story.  No doubt “aided” by Elizabeth Gilbert's infamous memoir, Eat Pray Love, Ubud has seen an exponential rise in visitor numbers over the last ten years.  And the traffic, or more accurately, the limited road infrastructure in Ubud is bearing the brunt of all these visitors.

It is a very precarious balancing act, appealing to tourists, and bringing in much welcome income to the economy, whilst trying to maintain the beauty of what attracted people there in the first place.  I have seen this done wrong in places, most notably Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.   I hope Ubud, and Bali manage to keep the balance right, and hold on to the magic this little island undoubtedly has.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie...oi, oi oi

My dad wrote a porno.  I didn't think I would ever write those words.  Well you wouldn't would you? If your dad hailed from the northern extremities of Scotland.  All the way from Buckie, on the Moray Firth coast.  And yet this is how I start the blog.  Why, you may wonder?

Well, this month, a friend of mine put me onto the podcast of the very same name.  And I can’t tell you how deranged I have looked since, hysterically laughing out loud on the commute home from a staid day in the office.  This is when you can justifiably use the acronym “lol” when instant messaging your mates about it.  

It is not the “erotic” content of the book.  It is so far removed from erotic to be laughable.  Literally.  It is more “50 Shades of an old perv’s mind”, than the Christian Grey variety.  The podcast takes the form of the author’s son reading a chapter, whilst getting critiqued (read, taking the piss) by a couple of his friends.  If you like typical British humour, of the “saucy seaside postcard” variety.  Download a few episodes.   Just don't blame me if the men in white coats come to cart you off the bus, due to your inability to stop inanely giggling in public places.

Talking of “50 Shades”, and old pervs, it has been quite a month since we bade farewell to my old mate Steve.  I’m glad to hear he is able to stave off poverty for a while longer, now that he has again found himself gainful employment.  Your retirement plans will need to go on the back burner for now squire.  But on the plus side, you will be able to treat yourself to a more sumptuous breakfast than sliced toast and tea.

And for me?  I have given notice to end my experiment with employment as a permanent member of staff.  It seems it did not sit well with me.  All the internal politics, and associated brouhaha.  And so, I will imminently be returning to the contract (freelance) market.  Something that I am very excited at the prospect of.

I will be taking up a 6 month contract, back into IT project management with one of the smaller banks here in Australia.  I will be starting at the outset of a 2 year programme, so hopefully, I will get my head down, make an impression, and I will have work beyond the initial 6 months.  If not, there are plenty of items on the travel bucket list, just screaming out to be attended to.

The other significant news this month is that I have now completed, and had approved, my application for Australian citizenship.  Along with the reams of bureaucratic paperwork all these things demand, it also entailed sitting a citizenship test, which was passed in quicker time than it took me to just tell you about it.  Twenty questions, multiple choice, with just a few wriggly ones in there.  I now know what a wattle is.  And the colours of the Torres Strait Islanders flag. This knowledge alone should hold me in good stead for the future.

All that remains now is the formality of an official ceremony, which is likely to be some time early in the new year.  This is the final step before I can get my Aussie passport.  I will no doubt devote more time on my whole road to citizenship, since arriving in 2012, in a future post.

A jacaranda in full bloom
Since we last spoke, spring has well and truly sprung.  The clocks have changed.  The trees have started blossoming.  My beloved jacaranda trees are once again in full bloom.  And walking through the Botanic Gardens early one Sunday morning recently, you couldn't escape the unmistakeable aroma of eucalyptus.  Without doubt the one smell that I immediately associate with my new home.

And with the spring, comes the warmer months, and thoughts of summer, and xmas.  After being on the road in Australia for last two December 25, this year I will be celebrating my birthday at home, with friends and family.  Having been warned that my guests enjoy a tipple or two, I can no longer close the cupboard doors for wine and beer bottles. Keep this to yourself, but I have had to resort to hiding the good stuff. Anybody know where I can buy Fosters in Sydney?

For the day itself, Xmas, I live in hope that Sydney smiles down on me.  The two years that I have spent at home since arriving in 2012 have been dampened by the ubiquitous Sydney rainfall.  Grand plans of champagne and picnic on the beach, sporting ridiculous xmas hats,  were washed away. This year I am hoping all will be different.  The weather.  I’m not sure about the hats.

Ubud, Bali
But before then, we have a holiday to Bali.  In November.  This trip will be to Ubud, a place I have not visited in over 16 years.  I am sure the once quaint little town, quietly hidden away amongst the rice paddy fields, in the centre of Bali, has changed immeasurably.  In some part as a result of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love”, which resulted in half of America descending on Ubud, in the same way that Rome, and all the ashrams in India benefitted (suffered?).  

If I can find time to put down my piƱa colada, and book(s), I will dedicate my next blog post to the trip.

Until then, adios amigos.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Party like it is 1994

One of the pleasures in living in such a beautiful city, is being able to showcase it to visiting friends and family.  Seeing the city through the eyes of a tourist brings to life how amazing it is.  How picturesque it is.  As sometimes you can take it all a little for granted.

I had the opportunity to do this again this month, albeit one of my visitors has indeed previously lived briefly in the Harbour City.

He had last visited Australia 16 years ago, but it was our original backpacking trip, many lifetimes ago, that we mostly reminisced on, having a great time catching up, visiting haunts old and new.

I don't think we have changed a bit!
The last time we roamed these streets together was back in 1994.  When we arrived as fresh faced 23 year olds, landing at the Youth Hostel in Glebe as our first port of call.  Little did we know just how much that first stop on the grand tour would eventually go on to shape parts of our life. That we were very green behind the ears in terms of travelling would be an understatement.  

Indeed, before embarking on our 12 month backpacking trip down under, I had only previously left the UK for as long as 1 week.  And only twice.  Formative trips to Ibiza, and Tunisia, were my maiden overseas journeys from England.  And these were on 1 year passports, that were made of cardboard.  Who is old enough to remember these?

And there we were, transitioning from colleagues at "the Halifax", into friends who were planning (a term used in a VERY loose sense), to jet off down under, with nothing more than an over stuffed backpack, and a sleeping bag appended that looked more like a tog 32 quilt.  Something I soon dispensed of in a St Vincent's charity bin.

Steve had packed his so full that he couldn't even carry his on day one, his dad having to traipse through Manchester airport with a 65 litre Eurohike pack on his diminutive frame.

Fast forward 22 years, and on a wet Friday afternoon, I logged off for the week, packed away the laptop, and I made my way around the corner to Kent Street for our first drinks together in Sydney in many a long year. For the Down Under leg of the "annual boy's reunion tour".  Albeit without two key members.  Fear not chaps, we drank your share too.

Any of you that know me well will know that I love a spreadsheet.  Be that judging burgers, tracking my spending, or making sure I am in the right place, on the right day when I visit the UK.  Laugh as you might, the spreadsheet is an indispensable tool in my armoury.  One that people soon see the benefit of, and then request their own, tailored version.  Steve's spreadsheet was under my aegis, baselined via a Skype call, and subject to change control.

Now, whether a daily breakfast of white toast, and a cup of tea, made in his hotel room, was in my version of the spreadsheet is debatable.  Once I had reiterated that Sydney, and Australia as a whole, is famed for the brunch offerings, he did finally venture out.

Then again, if the only eggs you will eat are of the fried variety, you don't need to venture too far to satisfy your cravings. An insatiable desire for pineapple, on everything, proved a little more difficult to accommodate.

I used to, in fact I still do, to be honest, give my old mate some stick about his reluctance to part with any unnecessary cash. However, he gives me enough ammunition.  He may not like actually buying a newspaper, rather he treats WHSmiths as his own personal library. But as they say, look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves. And how else would he be able to act like the late Pablo Escobar, and
roll around on his bed full of notes.

Line of the trip following a farewell dinner in Mosman...

"What is the fastest and easiest way to get back to the city?"

"A taxi."

"What is the second fastest?"

I'm gonna miss you mate.  We had fun. Safe trip back to the UK, and, subject to you securing gainful employment, I'm looking forward to taking the Annual Lads reunion to Spain next year.  This time with a full complement.  ¡Adios amigo!

For me, it is time to repurpose the spreadsheet, and start afresh, so that our visitors at Xmas, get the full benefit.  

I need to start by checking those brunch options.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Things they don't tell you...

About living in Sydney...

Having just passed my 4 year anniversary of living in Australia, I thought it very timely to write about the things they don't tell you in the glossy brochures.  Or at the fancy work expos for working down under.  Or that you don't find out from other friends living here.

Australia is a fantastic place to live.  I love Sydney.  Every day I am reminded of how lucky I am to be here, passing the glorious Opera House on my daily commute, the sun reflecting off the harbour, with the famous green and gold ferries bringing in commuters to the city. But you know me well enough now to realise I can also find something to gripe about.  Find the cloud in the silver lining.  And here are my top gripes.  At least for this month.

1.  Having to do your personal tax return every year.  By law.  And for the last couple of years, still getting a hefty tax bill.  Despite paying (what you think is the right levels of tax) each month direct from your employer.  How do you work that one out?  Medicare levies.  Surcharges.  Blah blah blah.  Stop.  It is not going to change anything.  But I can still complain about it.

2.  Despite a country renowned for its weather, and love of the outdoors, there a surprisingly few (very few) beer gardens.  How disappointing is that?  Mr Sunshine comes out on another glorious summers day, and you want to have a refreshing cold pint of beer, al fresco.  I still look back very fondly on such sunny days, sat out the back of Dicey's bar in Dublin, having a few ice cold Magners.  Instead, you are stuck indoors, the sounds of pokies ringing in your ear, and being blasted by sub zero temperature air conditioner units.  Or so it feels.  

3.  Football.  Oh god.  Now you have got me started.  You have to either give up your love of the beautiful game, or resign yourself to very late nights, And/or very early mornings.  And going to work bleary eyed after a mid week feature, yet again putting the scousers to the sword.  Ok, ok, less so in recent years.  But now we have the Special One, teamed up again with the Special Juan.  And the good times are coming back.  I can just feel it.  

4.  They call "rugby" football.  And also, some other game, played by men in vests and shorts that were fashionable in the 1980s, in Melbourne, gets called football.  It is very confusing.  The world game is football.  The one actually played with your feet.  The one with the egg, the niche sport, is played with the hands.  And is rugby.  Or Aussie Rules.  Or League.  Strewth.  I can't keep up.  

5.  It rains.  It rains a lot.  More than London.  Here is an actual fact.  Well, if you can believe what you read on Wikipedia.  I didn't get time to get to the State Library to check the official records from the Bureau of Meteorology.  The annual rainfall in Sydney through 2015 was 1337mm.  This compared to London of 594mm.  There should be a salary supplement just to buy umbrellas as they seem to blow inside out so often in the gales that whip through Sydney CBD.  And woe betide if you don't wear the right footwear to work, or you will be sitting with wet feet all day.  

6.  People are always "looking after you".  Despite making it to adulthood in one piece, it seems you can't be trusted to look after yourself in Sydney.  So people are employed to do it for you.  Take a trip to the football as an example.  You and your mates want a beer?  Let's hope there are not more than four of you.  Otherwise you will need a chaperone to go and actually buy the drinks.  The thing is, you can only buy four drinks at once.  So no buying in rounds.  This is to protect you from getting drunk.  Yes, just like when you were back in school, and the teachers were looking out for you.  Sydney is so kind to continue this service well into adulthood.  Even if the bar person can see your 5, or 6, or 7 other mates.  Right besides you.  Oh no no no.  Far too dangerous.  You have to get one of your other mates to stand at the side of you, get their own money out, and buy any beers that exceed your quota.  I kid you not.  This has actually happened.  

7.  Whilst I am on drink, as it's a good subject, Sydney seems to be regressing in to a nanny state.  Lots has been written about Sydney lock out laws, and how they are having a negative affect on the city's nighttime vibrancy, so I won't touch on that.  But, just try and order a whisky past a certain time.  Neat you say?  You want your whisky neat?  Oh no.  We can't be having you behaving like a lout.  You are likely to get drunk and punch the nearest person if you do that.  A much better idea would be to spoil your 16 year old Lagavulin single malt with a dash of cola.  And not just any old cola, but roller cola.  Surely.  There's a good boy.  

8.  Bouncers.  All of this is if you can even get past the bouncers, who are a different breed in Sydney.  On a night out, you will be stopped and asked, "have you been drinking tonight?".  How do you answer that ludicrous question?  With a straight face?  "Oh no, we have all just come out tonight, round all these busy, noisy pubs, drinking water.  It seemed the most fun thing to do."  What you actually do is quickly, mentally make a decision on what is the "right" number of drinks to have had by 10pm.  Apparently "four" is the wrong answer.  As I have found out to my detriment.  Things reached the nadir when one pal was asked to leave 3 pubs in one night, for being inebriated.  Funny thing was, he looked markedly sober compared to some of the other people in the pub.  But, we were in an Irish bar I suppose.  Imagine the ignominy of being asked to leave an Irish bar for being drunk.

9.  This last one is not a gripe.  It's a labor of love.  Burgers, and the analysis of.  Yes.  There really is a spreadsheet.  It all started as a Burger Off, with colleagues.  A bit of fun, with fellow burger loving friends.  Until Sydney took over, and burger loving became very hip and fashionable.  So typical of Sydney.  Now, there are probably as many places selling all varieties of burgers, as there are Facebook groups extolling the virtues of each.  Something I saw last week just captured the zeitgeist perfectly.  Ladies and gentlemen, I leave you with the Pokeman burger.  I am out of words.