Throughout the majority of my first week over here, most of our time was spent simply taking care of business. For example there was work still to be done to pay the bills, a lot of running around to meet the needs of the various emergency services groups Jodie supports and family matters to be taken care of. We did however manage to slot in a few extracurricular activities along the way.
On the Wednesday for instance I was invited along to the SES (State Emergency Services) awards ceremony at Logan East SES on Daisy Hill where after being in the country for less than 36 hours I was greeted by the mayor of Logan Pam Parker, who immediately decided it might be a good idea to introduce me to the whole turn out as the man from the UK specially drafted in to take photos for the evening. WTF? Did she not know my camera skills were second only to those of an untrained chimpanzee?
Apparently it turns out that I being a mere tourist was the first person to be spotted with a camera and it is here that endeth the only vague similarity between me and the more professional camera jockeys of the BBC. Anyway, I did what I could for them and while my efforts are quite possibly far from perfect, I am still more than happy to do my bit to help promote the unsung heroes of Australia and all they do for the local population. And in doing so, I am also happy to include a few of the dreadful shots I managed to take for them here.
|Check out the full SES awards album here|
We seemed to do a lot of stuff for the cadets that week. There was a lot of running around to do for these guys as it was soon to be their end of year thingy wotsit doo dah. Friday night was the penultimate meeting for the cadets this year where it was interesting to go along and see what the guys actually got up to and learn what it was that took up so much of Jodie’s time.
We did however manage to find some “quality” time too. And I say that in a tongue in cheek kind of way because it entailed watching three “Twilight” movies in preparation for the recent screening of the latest instalment. Yes you heard me right… Twilight - the one with the sparkly vampires. Somebody shoot me please! I mean if the global economic meltdown wasn’t enough to worry about I now had sparkly vampires to keep me awake at nights too.
Anyway it was Saturday night when we trekked up to Yatala for the local speciality Yatala pies. I had four of them. Greedy bastard I hear you say. And yes I know, but having already learned what I’m like over making choices over something as simple as coffee, did you really expect me to be any more decisive with something as tasty as Yatala pies?
So, armed with said pies (it was a drive through) we headed off down the road to my very first experience of a drive in movie theatre (yes to watch Twilight four – Oh god). Never mind though, if the movie was lacking the whole experience was quite entertaining in itself. There were cars galore and people sitting on top of them, in them, in front of them with barbecues burning, hell some people even backed their yutes (utility pickup type vehicles) with mattresses in the back to recline in for the evening/movie.
The pictures projected onto the screen and sound radioed in through the car stereo (high tech or what?), the experience was enjoyable and we also had the added bonus of a set of semi comfortable seats. Much better than at a common cinema. I was also interested to see what kind of atmosphere the drive in could offer as with most movies in a cinema, it is often the crowd interactions that can often help make or break the film being shown and I must say that sitting there with the windows wound down gave pretty much the same sense of belonging.
And having come out here fully expecting to blog the whole trip, we spent whatever spare time we could doing a little sight-seeing too. I wanted to get some pics together for this and found some good opportunities to do so at Brisbane’s South Bank where you could find covered walkways, a Nepalese pagoda, a big Ferris wheel eye in the sky affair that most major cities seem to have these days, pools and garden walks along the way.
|Check out the full South Bank album here|
There was also Mount Coot-thawhich overlooks the majority of Brisbane. Here were some stunning panoramic views of the whole of Brisbane. We arrived there early evening hoping to catch a sunset over the area which we did but unfortunately the battery of my camera managed to die before the sunset had fully given in to some truly magnificent night light scenes. We hope to go back sometime and more properly capture the full glory of the place.
|Check out the Mount Coot-tha album here|
Another recent jaunt included a trip up Mount Tamborine. Unfortunately the lighting and partial cloud cover restricted any photo opportunities. Having said that though, I have to state I love the whole place and how anyone could ever visit and not like it would be beyond me. It really is quite awesome.
Ok, I’ve been gone for a week now and the blog is already far behind. I mean for you guys I haven’t even landed in Oz yet. But I did and was only 20 minutes late in doing so, which is far better than some of the local bus services back home I might add.
Anyway… After reading about all the extremes of the TSA in America within the almighty treasures of the Goog, I was fully expecting to be strip searched and having my botty seriously violated on entry to this huge country (yes I do generally look that dodgy), I therefore felt completely cheated to be only politely requested to amble past a tiny sniffer dog; a beagle barely the size of my fist. I mean, I had lube at the ready and everything. What the fark kind of way to quell a revolution is that? I nearly demanded to go through again such was the level of my disappointment.
And but for the fact I had someone rather special waiting for me at incoming, I would have made more of a fuss but schedules were at stake here and whereas I was here on my jollies, my hosts still had work and other daily nasties to take care of so my terroristic activities had to be somewhat curtailed for now. Maybe on my way back home perhaps…
MEET MY HOST
“I had someone rather special waiting for me at incoming”… Meet Jodie Anderson, AKA Jodie Dragonfly to the members of Google. A remarkable woman who not only holds down a full time job, spends upwards of a further 40 hours coordinating Emergency services cadets, even more time supporting Rural fire service and still found some time to keep a certain Brit entertained through the wee small hours of the UK night. She really is a human dynamo without an ounce of selfishness in her body. A simple look through her diary would tell the most sceptic of onlookers that this woman is driven with a passion for her cadets. Well you would do if you could wade through all the innuendos and general high level flirting the two of us have been up to, but maybe we best not go there.
I know a few of our closer Googlies have been half expecting us to shag each other to death within minutes of meeting each other but we have nonetheless managed to keep things real. I mean there is more to life than sex you know. Like bacon. You must always find time for bacon!!
And then there is work and blogging and coffee drinking to be done. Things that could get either embarrassing or at least messy if done in a multitasking jerky sort of way. So with all this in mind, I regret to inform the raunchier among you readers that we have decided to limit our lovemaking activities to a mere 12 times a day for now. We will of course review this from time to time for the inclusion of the occasional quickie here and there and hope this will be to your liking. And no, there won’t be any pics as photographers are quite pricey at that time of night.
Needless to say what with the effects of things like jet lag, unpacking and general getting used to having each other around, it would have been easy to include sight-seeing photos but the inside of a stranger’s bedroom might not be that interesting to some so maybe we should skip that bit. And what I am really trying to say is that in being so bold here I am hoping you are now sat wondering whether or not we did or didn't. Hopefully too you will get the picture it is none of your business and just leave it at that.
AND LIFE GOES ON
For the greater part of the first week, I was invited along to where Jodie works. Naturally I wasn’t to be allowed on the actual shop floor so to speak but I was allowed to come and go in and out of the canteen area and help myself to drinks and the like. The whole setup seems quite civilised on the face of things despite it being an office of sorts with which comes the usual mix of office politics and treacherous back stabbing bitchiness. Something I was soon to become a part of; as it was later declared I was a ‘security risk’ to the smooth running of everyday operations (I told you I looked dodgy).
Maybe it was because I wandered round taking pictures of the place, maybe it could have been the fact I was roaming around with a netbook and they feared I was illegally tapping into their wifi. They are after all one of the biggest ISPs in town here. Or maybe, just maybe, some back stabbing knob head had heard about my reputation on G+ (thanks for that) and had insisted the higher authorities put a stop to me being there. In any case the “Yes” Optus trademark was specifically changed just for me and was now a resounding “Optus says NO!”
At any rate, whatever prompted their decision, I was left out in the not so cold baking heat of the great outdoors to wander around aimlessly for hours on end (Nice tan by the way) free from the great constraints of air conditioning and shaded office interiors. Oh my god, I’m from England, I’ll melt in this climate! And despite going walkabout all alone unable to find Jenny Agutter I did make it unlike my friend Mr Toad here.
Luckily, there is still plenty for me and others like me to do while left to our own devices. Sightseeing was one option and I did manage to get some in here and there. Then there were the coffee shops. Can somebody please explain the whole range of latte, skinny, full blown, half baked, dry, medium, and sweet and all that really means? And for God’s sake tell me why nobody other than me seems to know what Nescafe instant is. I know someone has to know because I alone cannot buy the 50,000,000 jars on display in any supermarket. Give me coffee dammit, not a crash course in some foreign language.
Anyway I digress… Back on the wildlife front, I had yet to meet the herds of assassins promised in all the holiday brochures. But I did manage to see a wombat…
Billy Bob is that you mate?
According to that great god of the internet Google, just 16,471 kilometres, 10,235 miles or even 8,894 nautical miles (as the crow flies) from my bedroom, lies a distant land that time has almost forgotten. And in English money that equates to two flights across lands afar and waters deep. The first from Manchester UK to Dubai, an uneventful flight on a Boeing 777 300 lasting a whole of 11 glorious hours of being sardined into a metal fuselage around 20 years old. And the second, pretty much more of the same. Another 14 hours of the same in fact if all be told. But despite the lack of legroom and the dehydrating effects of the freshly compressed, cabin atmosphere, the plane was still fully equipped with all the modern conveniences of a dollar a text messaging facilities, Harry Potter’s last stand and seat to seat conferencing via the on board telephone systems. All well and good I’m sure you’ll agree, but when it is just bog standard internet you really want, it left a whole lot to be desired.
And what of the distant land of Australia? Well just like the plane, it is old too. Very old.
Because for around 60 million years, since the formation of the Great Dividing Range (stretching more than 3500 km from Dauan Island off the north eastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through New South Wales, then on into Victoria and turning west, before finally fading into the central plain at the Grampians in western Victoria), Australia has been all but silent geologically, which has allowed it to preserve many of some of the oldest things ever to be found on earth – the most ancient of rocks and fossils, the earliest of animal tracks and riverbeds, and probably the first feint signs of life itself.
You see at some undetermined point in the great immensity of Australia’s past – perhaps 45,000 years ago, maybe 60,000, but certainly before there were modern humans in the Americas or Europe – it was quietly invaded by a deeply inscrutable people, the Aborigines, who have no clearly evident racial or linguistic kinship to their neighbours in the region, and whose presence in Australia can only best be explained by positing that they actually invented and mastered ocean-going craft at least 30,000 years in advance of anyone else in order to undertake an exodus, then having finally arrived on the terra firma that is Australia, promptly forgot or abandoned nearly all that they had learned and scarcely ever bothered with the open seas ever again.
It is an accomplishment so singular and extraordinary, so uncomfortable with scrutiny, that most historians breeze over it in a paragraph or two, then move on to the second, more explicable invasion – the one that begins with the arrival of Yorkshire born Captain James Cook and his doughty little ship HMS Endeavour in Botany Bay in 1770. Never mind the fact that Captain Cook didn’t actually discover Australia and that he wasn’t even a captain at the time of his visit. For most people, including most Australians, this was where the story truly begins.
The world those first Englishmen found was famously inverted – its seasons back to front, its constellations upside down - and unlike anything any of them had seen before, even in the near latitudes of the Pacific. Its creatures seemed to have evolved as if they had misread the manual. The most characteristic of them didn’t run or lope or canter, but bounced across the landscape, like dropped balls. The continent teemed with many other forms of unlikely life. It contained a fish that could climb trees; a fox that flew (it was actually a large bat); crustaceans so big that a grown man could climb inside their shells.
In short, there was no other place in the world quite like it. There still isn’t. Eighty percent of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, exists nowhere else on the planet. More than this, it also exists in an abundance that seems incompatible with the harshness of the environment seen around it. Australia is the driest, flattest, hottest, most desiccated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents. (Only Antarctica is more hostile to life). This is a place so inert that even the soil is, technically speaking, a fossil. And yet it teems with life in numbers uncounted. For insects alone, scientists haven’t the faintest idea whether the total number of species is 100,000 or more than twice that. As many as a third of those species remain entirely unknown to science. And for spiders (eeek), the proportion rises to nearly 80 per cent.
You take my point I’m sure. This is a country that is at any given time staggeringly empty for the most part and yet still packed with stuff. Interesting stuff, ancient stuff, stuff not readily explained. Stuff yet to be found. Trust me, this is an interesting place. You see Australia is the world’s sixth largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent, and the only continent that is also a country. It was the first continent conquered from the sea, and the last. It is also the only nation that began its modern life as nothing more than an outdoor prison.
It is the home of the largest living thing on earth too, the Great Barrier Reef, and the most famous and striking monolith Ayres Rock (or Uluru to use it’s now official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It also has more things that will kill you than anywhere else on the planet. Of the world’s ten most famously poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures – the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue ringed octopus, paralysis tick and stonefish are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but sometimes actually go for you. Pick up an innocuous cone shell from a Queensland beach, as innocent tourists are all too want to do, and you will discover that the little fellow inside is not just astoundingly swift and testy, but exceedingly venomous. If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may also be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible tidal currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback.
It’s a tough old place without a doubt. And as if all that were not enough for the peoples of this expansive land, the poor buggers were now only hours from having to put up with me too. Or should it be me that needs to worry I ask myself.
If you have ever been lucky enough to have travelled through any old market town in, of or around the good old United Kingdom, there’s a very strong likelihood there could and would more than likely be a weekly cattle market or similar still being held there of a weekend and it is in such places you will get to see all nature of domesticated farm animals being herded through and around turnstiles leading them to either an end of the road knackers yard bolt gun thing to assist in dispatching the poor animal or an auction ring of some sort whereby the hapless creatures would be sold and led off to pastures new, only to be fattened up in time for their future journeys down the gated corridors of the local abattoirs in order to at best meet their makers or more commonly, some untalented chef’s warming pan.
Yes there are indeed still places around the world like this where modern life can still imitate what happened in times of yore in these olde worlde bastions of fenced off-ed-ness. Take for instance our post offices draped floor to ceiling with what can only be classed as Olympic grade hurdles, jumps and fences or even better still the average way we are greeted in today’s airports. Which have us being herded individually through man-made turnstiles; makeshift barrier-tape corridors and endless queuing systems deliberately laid before us to either completely naff us off or prove the scope for even more red tape and its inherent delays from the powers that be on our inward or outward bound journeys.
Never mind the fact we have spent the last three hundred years or so fighting for the abolition of slavery or forcing our leaders to adopt a better stance on the rights of the world’s population and his dog, but it is airports to me that appear to have been sorely overlooked in this matter. I mean, right from the very offset, we are channelled through check in; a ticket collection, passport control, luggage sorting affair type obstacle course we are forced one by one to cross in carefully manufactured and manipulated lines.
And having got thus far, we have committed ourselves to a further funnelling through even more channels specifically designed to arrest any would be terrorists from leaving our shores and wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting world. And if by chance you should make it past these guys of border control, you are rewarded for your tenacious herding abilities by being allowed to spread about a little as you graze on the offerings of the great god Duty Free in a last ditch attempt from the presiding government to stop you draining the county’s resources by taking all their precious currency away with you.
And it doesn’t even stop there. Within just seconds of leaving the inshore tax havens of the duty free shop, we are finally freed (of a fashion) of our captive boundaries as we are left to spread aimlessly about in a millionaires’ utopia of designer coffee shops, newsagents, and bespoke suppliers of last minute, exorbitantly priced dress items for those who had previously left the house without their socks no doubt. This host of lifesaver superstores preying on their captive client base like vultures hovering the skies around an empty oasis. Bleeding us all dry of what little hard earned we might have after forking out for our fortnight in the sun.
And why have the airports gotten away with this for so long you may ask. We don’t usually tolerate being treated in such a Guantanamo Bay fashion. But because we are finally on our jollies, Those two weeks in the foreign sun that have probably cost us more than two months in overtime to afford, we simply don’t seem to give a shit and allow the airlines full privileges to abuse us in that manner. And besides, getting through the herding mechanisms of most airports has to remain to be easier than finding an easy exit to your local Ikea furniture store. At the very least there remains a slight possibility that when push comes to shove, there is a good chance you will eventually make your way back home intact from the airport. Nonetheless it was the airport I was at and I was about to board flight number EK 0020 to Dubai. I was finally on my way….
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