Here’s a quick run down on our October.

Liking: Having some time off between the bids which was aweseom and relaxing. Also the Navy Fleet Review which came to Sydney was a pretty good event all around.

Disliking: Running out of Marmite! I’ve gone back to cereal for now as this inferior marmite below has a second ingredient of sugar, the wrong texture and a nasty after taste! Also the lavender plant on the balcony died – still 5/6 are alive which I don’t think is a bad result so far.

NOT Marmite

NOT Marmite

Watching: Arrow pinched off a work friend. Also I watched all of Series 1 of the Tudors. I might have to invest in Series 2 soon!

Consuming: Wine and cheese from the Hunter Valley – yum yum yum. Also I tried the Quinoa I got back in September and concluded its not massively exciting! We went with the climbing club for a weekend in the Wolgan Valley which included 8 hours roasting a whole sheep, rump of lamb and chicken over a camp fire. They tasted awesome! 🙂

Buying: Not very much. We are about to buy a barbeque, so have been thinking about different ones of those. – not the $6,000 ones though!

Working on: Bits and pieces we should have done but were too busy to do when the bids were on.

Thinking about: The bid result – waiting is killing me!

Visiting: We went camping and climbing in the Wolgan Valley which was good – 35km up a dirt road to a clearing surrounded by mountains. I saw 4 wild wombats and a whole heap of kangeroos. We also went on a bus tour with Matts work around the Hunter Valley tasting wine and eating cheese, which was also good. More about these soon.

Looking forward to: Our friends Phil and Rhiannon visiting at the end of November.

What have you guys been up to?

26. October 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Ramblings · Tags:
Entrance to Mantra Yoga

Entrance to Mantra Yoga

Since coming to Sydney I’ve been getting into yoga, so I thought i’d write a bit about it.

In the UK I was a member of the Horsham Leisure Centre and a fan of fitness classes, which I tried to go to a few times a week. Gyms I find super boring, I like to be fit and don’t get enough exercise without some sort of structured exercise. My favorite class was Body Combat – the music was good, it was high energy and I liked letting off some steam pretending to hit / kick whoever had recently irritated me!  I also enjoyed Body Balance, which they call a mix of yoga, tai chi and pilates. I have a dodgy back, so tried to go along to help strengthen that.

Here is Sydney we have a gym in the basement but its even more boring than a regular gym as there’s no screens or windows. Yoga seems quite big over here, and there is a center less than 10 minutes walk from our flat so I thought i’d give it a go. An intro two week pass for 5 classes was a bargainacious $20, so I couldn’t go wrong really. Since then i’;ve been going 2-3 times a week and would like to do more if I wasn’t at work or had the motivation to get up for the 6.30am class!

For those of you who know anything about Yoga I do both Hatha and Vinyasa yoga. Both are in a warn room at about 28 degrees to help get your muscles warm, but not so hot you dehydrate or sweat massively. The Hatha has more static poses which you hold for a long time, the Vinyasa is more dynamic with flowing moves. 

I really enjoy the yoga, and would encourage everyone to give it a try. I do miss Body Combat for more extreme cardio, but don’t really want too join the soul-less Fitness First down the road just so I can do it!

Here are some of the reasons why I like yoga…

  1. Its good exercise: Both for stretching and toning up your muscles and a bit of cardio action too . For me specifically its also good for my back.
  2. It helps with breathing: I used to have asthma and very much breathe from my chest not my abdomen which sometimes makes presenting hard, as I gasp. I’m using yoga to teach me to breathe properly
  3. Awesome people: I don’t know a lot of people who do yoga, but those I have been fortunate enough to get to know are all lovely, kind hearted and exceptionally friendly individuals. This includes the teachers.
  4. It makes me less stressed and more happy: Both the postures (asanas) themselves and the bit where you live on the floor relaxing for 10 mins at the end of most of the classes! After a yoga class both my body and mind feel great 🙂
  5. You can do it yourself at home: I’ve not really done much of this yet, but all you need is a mat and you can practice where you like

Later on I’ll do another post about the Mangrove Yoga Ashram which I went to stay at for a few nights recently. 

Have you done yoga? Did you like it? Why not give it a go?

23. October 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Helicopter

Helicopter

Recently it was the Australian Navy’s 100 Year Fleet Review (see here).

The Australian Navy has now been around for 100 years, so to celebrate a whole host of war ships and tall ships got together in Sydney and there was a massive firework, projection and laser show over the October long weekend (yes, we get a long weekend in October here, but not in May).

For us there were two parts of the Fleet Review. On the Saturday there were lots of ships to look at in the Harbour, fly-bys and a fireworks show. In a separate post I’ll write about the Money where we went on to a whole load of the ships for a proper nosey around.

Matt is more into the details than me. I know there were fly bys by a Hornet which is super fast, and the Australian equivalent of the Red Arrows. The city was packed. On Toby’s recommendation we grabbed a cheeky afternoon drink at a cool spot on the Harbour with views of the bridge, which not many tourists know about! We watched the spectacular up at Observatory Hill which has cool views to the Bridge and along a lot of the Harbour.

Our viewing spot

Our viewing spot

I found the start of the show a bit disjointed because we couldn’t see much of the projection or hear the music. Because the show covered such a big area of the Harbour I don’t think many people would have seen the whole thing, unless they were on a boat or in the sky. We got a good view of the full thing later on the TV replay! It was cool to have been there to see it, and the fireworks got really epic and very loud towards the end – the giant bangs.

More on the boats themselves another time…

BOOM!

BOOM!

Recently I’ve had to explain what I do at work to people a few times. If you ever wondered, here’s an interview style guide to being a Proposals Manager.

Whats your job title?

I am a Proposals Manager (sometimes called a Bid Manager).

Who do you work for?

I work for Balfour Beatty Australia, who also own Parsons Brinckerhoff which more people in Australia have heard of. For the bids going on at the moment we have teamed up with Transfield Services to form a Joint Venture called RoadsPlus. Its all about RoadsPlus for me!

Where do you work?

I work in World Square in Sydney city centre most of the time. Its about 30 mins door to door from our flat, so pretty good.

What’s the point of your job?

Well….in one sentence – to prepare winning bids for road maintenance contracts with state Governments and local Councils.

What’s road maintenance?

Its sexy stuff. Basically it involves a whole host of things to keep roads open and running smoothly, including: filling potholes, bigger carriageway repairs, sign cleaning, gulley (drain) emptying, resurfacing, small improvement projects, grass cutting, responding to traffic incidents, developing asset management strategies, doing designs and some stakeholder consultation.

Who does all this at the moment then?

At the moment State Governments and Councils do this themselves. But they all need to make cuts and savings, so by bringing in private sector companies like RoadsPlus who are experts in this they can make savings. In the UK these services have been outsourced for a long time, so we bring a lot of experience in how to do it very well.

How do the bids work?

Normally there are two or more stages. The first is an Expression of Interest (EOI). This is normally fairly simple. The client says what they want and sets out some questions. We reply to express our interest and tell them why we’d be good for the job. The client then selects a shortlist of people for the second stage which is normally a Request for Tender (RFT). For the tender there are normally some more technical questions, a large price element and some commercial and legal aspects too. As proposals manager I am in charge of the non-price elements (called ‘Quality’ in the UK). Sometimes either during the RFT or after you also get to have client meetings and presentations, which I really enjoy.

One of our recent bids was epic. We did 6 copies in musician roady style massive cases. The proposal in each one had over 580,000 words!!

Epic bid

Epic bid

How much are the bids worth?

Its big money. Typically the contracts are around $30m – $100m per year (depending on the size of the network) for 5 to 7 years.

What do you do most days?

The bid process is quite well defined, so it really depends what phase of the bid we are in. Normally I spend my time split between working on my computer with emails and writing and having meetings. Things I get up to include: reviewing all the client documents so we understand what we have to do; brainstorming and planning out our bid response; getting a team together the write the responses; managing them to do that; writing some bits myself; gathering evidence; arranging and doing reviews of drafts; putting questions to the client; having regular update meetings with the team and working with our production team on the ‘look and feel’ of the response.

What do you like most about your job?

I really enjoy my job for a lot of reasons. I love a challenge and like a healthy amount of stress, so the bid process and its regular deadlines works well for that. The team we have is really great and I enjoy working with them to get a good bid together, and make a better solution than any of us could have individually. We work hard but have great banter and of course lunches and biscuits! I like having the opportunity to work with clients and really understand what they want. I learn a lot every day, be it about something our company has done, something geeky about asphalt or from some of the other random things I get involved in like marketing. The variety is really good. I also enjoy knowing we put together a really good offer, which could actually make services better and spend tax payers money more wisely. RoadsPlus is a new company in Australia, so bringing all the experience fro overseas is a really exciting thing to be doing.

Whats the worst bit of your job?

The hours can be pretty long, especially coming up to deadlines, which also makes for a bit of an unhealthy diet! Because I’m an impatient person waiting for the results is also agonizing, but its teaching me to be more patient. Of course not winning is also rubbish, but hopefully that doesn’t happen too often.

How are the bids going at the moment?

Since coming to Australia we have put in two EOIs for contracts in SE Queensland and Sydney and we were shortlisted on both, beating some fairly stiff competition which is great! We have put in two full bids for each of these now, and am waiting with crossed fingers for the results soon!

So now you know what I do! Any more questions I forgot?

My trusty kindle

My trusty kindle

Before I get into the topic of my recent readings, I’ll start with a confession.

I have a kindle and I love it. My mum used to be a librarian, Matt’s dad works in printing so there’s a bit of a book bias in the family! I hate reading things on a computer screen, so if I have much to read at work I do tend to print things out. I love the smell and feel of a nice old book so wasn’t convinced about the kindle at first, but now I am totally converted. The main reasons I like it are:

  • The e-ink is just like reading a real book – no glare or computer like qualities at all
  • You can fit so many books in one small space – perfect for holidays travelling and even the train to work
  • Loads of books are FREE – yes, free. Those published before a certain date and those from new authors don’t cost you a penny and
  • Its easy to hold – no pages to fiddle with

So there you are. I read a lot of books on the Kindle, My favorite genres are fantasy and crime, with some non fiction and easy reading thrown in for good measure. Here’s some of the books I’ve read recently:

Game of Thrones (all 5 books), George R.R. Martin: These are awesome! I read them all before seeing the two series on TV. I can’t wait till the next book, although I’ve sort of forgotten where it all got too. The characters are well developed and I love all the fantasy stuff with dragons and mythical lands. The names f people and places in books can be a bit hard to follow, so probably watching the TV show first would help give you an idea of how it all fits together. We will be watching Series 3 soon!

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein: I read this last year ahead of the film coming out again, after reading it first in Primary school (I was an advanced reader!). I love it almost as much as GOT.

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling:  I read this quite recently. For me the book was a real contrast between two sides of the story. On the one hand was the banal small village politics of local Councils and on the other was a gritty, and at times harrowing story about the teenagers and children around the village who get involved in drugs, self harm, unprotected underage sex, abuse and death. It was though provoking and I was interested that JK Rowling could write well about some pretty hardcore issues.

Life of Pi, Yann Martel:  I haven’t seen the film of this, so the book had me a bit confused at first as its a bit obscure and philosophical / religious. I’m glad I persevered though, its a great story. Who can’t like a book with a tiger called Richard Parker?

The Penal Colony, Richard Herley: This was a random Kindle book, about a man sent to a Penal colony on a remote Scottish Island. There are no guards and people have to spend the first week fending for themselves in the wild before they are accepted into the colonies. I really enjoyed this book as it was a bit different.

What have you read recently? Any recommendations for me?

Post warning: Best not to read if you’re really hungry!

For our first wedding anniversary we went for a meal at Restaurant Tristan in Horsham, which was awarded a Michelin Star shortly after and was excellent. I totally recommend it.

How time flies – recently it was our second anniversary and being a bit of a food lover I thought we should go somewhere for a nice meal. In Australia they don’t have the Michelin system, but use Chefs Hats instead. Good top restaurants can get one, two or three hats. 

After deciding I wanted to go somewhere with a degustation menu (‘A menu in which a series of small portions of unusual dishes is offered for tasting’ (Wikipedia)) I did some research and picked Sails in Lavender Bay. Its a One Hat restaurant, which seemed like a good place to start our Sydney fine dining adventure. The 9 course menu looked great, was reasonably priced in comparison to other places offering a similar thing and the restaurant itself it on the waterfront opposite Lunar Park with a view back to the Bridge and Opera House.

We decided to go all in with the matched wines which I’ve not done before. All in all we got 9 lots of food and 7 drinks – prosecco, 2 whites, 2 red, dessert wine and a port!

Here’s what we ate:

 SailsMenu

Its hard to pick a favorite course. The goats cheese pannacotta was really nice, super smooth and was presented really nicely with bright flowers, normal and orange beetroot slices and little colored jellies. I really enjoyed the scallops and surprised myself enjoying the cauliflower puree with those ass i’m not a cauliflower fan. The duck was awesome with masses of flavor and of course the chocolate desert with port was top notch. Although the wines were small 7 was quite enough!

10 our of 10!

ClimbFit

ClimbFit

We live about a 15 minute walk fro, the ClimbFit climbing wall in St Leonards, so go there fairly often.

Recently they did a ‘lights out’ night. They turned off all the lights and you were only allowed in if you had a head torch. They gave out free glow sticks and of course sold head torches to hapless customers who turned up without them for $50 each!

It was even more busy than usual at the wall, novelty factor I guess. It was a good experience, but for me the novelty was probably slightly outweighed by it being so hot from all the people and so busy there wasn’t much choice of route. By the end when it quietened down a bit it was better, and they cranked up the good tunes so it was like being in some sort of crazy climbing disco!

Maybe one day we’ll do some climbing in the dark outside and get some cool light trail photos.

 

So climbing around Horsham, UK was pretty rubbish. To get to any outdoor rock was over an hours drive and to get to anything decent it was more like 3+ hours.

Sydney is a pretty cool place to be a climber. Basically the whole city is built on hard sandstone, which means that there are loads of crags in and around the city. We have a great bouldering crag 10 mins up the road and good sports crags less than 30 mins from our flat.

Lindfield - Bouldering

Lindfield – Bouldering

Lindfied - Bouldering

Lindfied – Bouldering

If you venture 1.5 hours out of the city you get to the Blue Mountains which has 1000s of climbs (trad, sport and aid) both single and multi-pitch. Many of the climbs really don’t have a long walk in either.

Bunny Buckets Buttress (18) - 8 Pitches Sport

Bunny Buckets Buttress (18) – 8 Pitches Sport

Mt York - Sport

Mt York – Sport

And of course the weather here is much more amenable to climbing – most weekends have great weather and we can get out to explore a new crag. In the UK you can expect the weather to be bad and be lucky to have good climbing weather. Here it is the other way around, you can expect to have good weather and you are unlucky for the weather to be bad.

Pearl Bay - Bouldering

Pearl Bay – Bouldering

Pearl Bay - Bouldering

Pearl Bay – Bouldering

If you travel a bit further, you can experience some other great climbing areas. Recently I spent a week at Frog Buttress in Queensland, which is the best crack climbing crag I have ever been to and has probably the best climb that I have ever done – Infinity (19) beautiful hand jamming all the way up for 45m.

Infinity (19) - Trad

Infinity (19) – Trad

Devil'd Dihethral (20) - Trad

We have been here 6 months now and I have already managed to rack up 156 climbs this year, so lets hope that continues once the boiling hot weather starts. I have found that doing more climbing and not knowing the grading system has allowed me to push my grade a bit so I am now sport climbing 21 – 22 (6c – 6c+) and trad climbing 19 – 20 (E2 – E3) depending on what conversion scale you look at.

Bonnet Bay - Sport

Bonnet Bay – Sport

Elly was scared of climbing here originally because of the evil wildlife potential, but so far has seen no snakes or spiders! Lets hope that continues too!

Come and visit and you can come climbing too! 🙂

bluemangroup

We went recently to see the Blue Man Group at The Star in Sydney.

I wasn’t very familiar with them before Matt suggested it, but after a bit of You Tube learning and finding out it was only $50 a ticket we thought we’d give it a go.

The show is really hard to describe. Things it included were:

  • Three men all painted in blue who don’t speak
  • Drumming on lots of things including pipes and drums covered in paint
  • Hijinx with paints
  • Clever projection with animations
  • Scary audience participation (luckily we weren’t picked)
  • Comedy type sketches
  • Giant bouncing lit up balls and streamers in the audience whilst dancing

I think it was worth $50, but I’m glad we didn’t pay more than that. The drumming bit was really good, especially on the pipes and I liked the projection bits too, but I wasn’t convinced by the comedy. We were sat fairly far back so probably didn’t get the full experience.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10. Worth a trip if you get a cheap ticket