Note from my boys saying they don't want to go to England!

Note from my boys saying they don’t want to go to England!

Back in early February, during a work trip to New Zealand, our team got the jaw droppingly shocking news that our funding had been cancelled and so we were all facing ‘potential redundnacy’ (HR technical term). Things were a bit shaky back on November but then picked up, so this was a total bolt out of the blue. I’m going to do a few posts about it. This one will be on the redundancy process, including my thoughts and feelings about that and some tips for anyone facing job loss. In some future posts I’m planning to discuss career planning and job hunting, and then one on the musings of an unemployed person. So without having a big old moan, in summary the process was handled pretty poorly. I did give constructive feedback to the Directors about this, so hopefully it’s better in future. It was without doubt the most stressful experience of my life. Sure, things like buying a house is stressful, and getting married is a whole world of planning, but this is a new level. Those things are pretty binary, you commit to doing them and get on with it. I wasn’t definitely going to be redundant. After almost two weeks of thinking I would be, I got offered a new job internally, but it was pretty different to my old one. So I could do that and stay, or accept redundancy – it was up to me. There were so many different decisions and internal politics and a massive range of possible outcomes from deportation to a few kinds of mediocre and happily ever after that at times it was overwhelming. A few things combined to make it horrible, notably:

  • The initial surprise, anger and sadness
  • The lack of information internally and satisfactory answers to questions
  • The delay in being offered a new internal role
  • The many possible outcomes (and how one decision could either go very well or very badly depending on too many unknown things)
  • The potential for deportation, which although it would make a good pub story in future, wasn’t very palatable
  • Me being a thinker (worrier) at the best of times, which meant I got a bit sleep deprived
  • Having my decision impact in Matt in a pretty big way
  • The whole rubbishness of it for the rest of my team who were awesome and
  • Being royally messed about on a couple of occasions

Anyway, in all we weren’t ready to come back to the UK after only a year. And although we would have got relocated back by my work, I’ll be coming back on my own terms when in ready, not when I’m forced! (So there!) So, early on we made the decision to fight to stay. It’s just how that panned out that was the uncertainty. Would Matt’s work sponsor him? (Yes). Would I find another job internally? (Yes). Could I get another job somewhere else that I wanted in a reasonably quick time? (Yes) Would I get a fair redundancy settlement? (I suppose). Should I just give up and have a baby? (No!) It all worked out OK for us, as you know.

Redundancy flowchart

Redundancy flowchart

 

So, from the other side, here’s some tips if you end up facing a redundancy process, in no particular order.

1. Be informed – know your rights and facts: In psychological profile terms I’m an ‘activist’. It made me feel better to do (useful) things rather than sitting about being miserable. So I spent a fair bit of time researching the law, employment rights, taxation on redundancy, new jobs, all that sort of thing. In the end I knew more about some things than the HR team! Plus, sometimes making cakes is the most useful thing you can do!

2. Talk to other people: I read some good websites about redundancy and a lot of them say often people try and sort everything out themselves, by themselves, without any help. This is a bad plan! I can see though if you’re the family breadwinner, maybe with some kids and want to keep your macho image it can be hard talking about your situation. But, the more people who know, the more likely you are to get some good advice, leads in new job, general motivational words of wisdom and whatever other support you need. It’s not you the company’s getting rid if, it’s your job so there’s no reason to feel like a failure.

3. Accept help: This is a crappy time, so take some help if you need it. It might be a pint or giant glass of wine and chat with a mate, a box of tissues, giant cake, talk about career options and contacts or even sleeping tablets! For me the main stress was about two weeks, and then things got better. Our team worked really well together when we did have work to do, and really pulled together throughout the redundancy process. So much so, work were quite surprised. I’m really grateful to and proud of my old team for how we all got through it.

4. Look at the opportunity: This sounds cheesy, but it is true. Losing your job is a good opportunity to take stock, evaluate and get stuck into something else. To quote the Manager of the Great Marigold Hotel ‘It’ll be all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.’

5. Draw a giant flow chart if you need to! I ended up so confused I did indeed make a giant chart of all the options. It did help get my thinking straight and down on paper. I still had to make the decisions though.

6. Consider calculated risks: In the end my flow chart showed I could basically either play it safe for a mediocre outcome, or take a risk and get either deported or happily every after. It was a tough one, and I spent ages weighing it up. In the end, by the time I had to go down the redundancy path I was fairly happy we’d get a visa through Matt’s work and had a good solid lead on a new job. Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different. Good luck!

The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

 

Near the centre of Sydney at the bottom of Darling Harbour is the Chinese Garden of Friendship.

It was built as a  symbol of friendship between Sydney and Guangzhuo in China, to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988. The garden was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners following the Taoist principles of ‘Yin-Yang’ and the five opposite elements—earth, fire, water, metal and wood. Unlike western-style gardens, there are no planted flowerbeds or manicured lawns. Instead, wild aspects of nature are recreated in landscapes that feature waterfalls, mountains, lakes and forests. Admission is $6.

You can walk around the garden itself quite fast if you wanted to, easily in under half an hour, but that wouldn’t really do it justice. I sat about reading my kindle for a while, enjoying the peace and quite. There is also a tea shop where you can have tea and dumplings.

Chinese Garden waterfall

Chinese Garden waterfall

The garden is in a busy bit of the city, but its got a good sense of calm.The waterfalls and ponds are very scenic, and of course the pavillions too. There were a few lizards about too, with one quite big one. On my way out I also spotted a couple of these colourful Rhino sculptures. They were all around the city to raise awareness of Rhino conservation. If you’ve got week or so in Sydney I’d put it on the list to have a look around, and Chinatown is right nearby for some crispy duck after or nitrogen gelato!

Rainbow Rhino

Rainbow Rhino

 

 

Port Stephens

Port Stephens

Back in late February we made a last minute decision to get out of Sydney for the weekend (at 7pm on Friday). I was put on the spot a bit, and came up with the idea of Port Stephens, about 2.5 hours up the coast, which I’d heard good things about.

Luckily I managed to convince Matt we should get a cheap motel rather than camp, as it was meant to be a super wet weekend. We set off on Saturday morning and the weather was terrible! The wipers were working flat out, and I was cursing Matt for saying he missed overcast damp days!

Port Stephens is actually a habour rather than a place. It was named by Captain Cook when he passed by in 1770. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend:

Tomaree lookout: We walked a kilometre or so up a steep hill to the lookout over the bay and the view was excellent. There are lots of little islands, nice sandy beaches and hills that run down into the sea. One of the islands has penguins living on it, so I’ve pencilled that in for a bat trip or kayak adventure!

Tomaree Lookout

Tomaree Lookout

Tea Gardens: The place we stayed was a small town called Tea Gardens. We arrived too late for high tea, but got a famous fish cone dinner at the pub instead (a bargain for $10), followed by some ice cream sundaes and chocolate fudge cake.  

Wildlife potential: The area had good wildlife potential with a koala reserve down the road from our motel and lots of koalas in the general area and some dolphins who come up the river to feed in the mornings. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to spot any exciting wildlife beyond a lot of giant pelicans, but it was nice knowing it might be around!

Myall Lakes NP: On Sunday we drove back via the Myall Lakes NP and went on a chain ferry across the lake. It was scenic with a giant lake on one side of the road and big dines and the sea on the other.

Giant sand dunes: We went to the edge of the giant sand dunes on the Worimi Conservation lands. According to the guide book they are the ‘longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere’ and stretch over 35km. I’m not sure how they define it, as really all sand dunes move, but anyway it looked cool. You can go on 4×4 rides, try sand boarding and ride a camel! It was a soggy day so we added that to the to do list for another time.  

Camels!

Camels!

There were lots of tourist activities in the area including Putt Putt (mini golf), a shark and stingray centre, a toboggan run, an aviation museum and plenty of things involving driving through or boarding down sand dunes. It would be a good fun place to spend another weekend when the weathers a bit better!

Our kayak

Our kayak

In March we finally got around to hiring a kayak and going for a paddle on the Harbour.

We got a duo (for two people) and of course Matt got the back seat so he could control the steering with the rudder and encourage me periodically by saying “Keep paddling Elly”!

We rented it from Spit Bridge, which is in the Middle Harbour. Its quieter up there as the main Harbour gets really busy with lots of boats and can be quite choppy too. We went for the 5+ hours option, and started about 9.30am. The rental company had a pretty laid back Australian attitude. They gave us a map, but nobody asked us if we had paddled before or had any idea what we were doing. We paddled until about 3.30pm which turned out to be pretty hard work! We were both knackered by the end and very achey the next day.

Captian Matt

Captian Matt

There were a lot of pretty fancy yachts and sailing boats around, as well as some houses with seriously good views and water access. We saw a lot of fish and birds, and luckily no sharks! We did practice some ultra fast paddling a few times, in case we needed to escape in a hurry! We paddled around lots of little coves, some of them quite peaceful as they were too shallow for the big boats. We went up to some Mangroves and stopped a couple of times for a Tim Tam snack in a picnic area at a wharf, lunch on the beach and then  a final stop for an ice cream before dropping the boat back off. 

Me and my kayaking hat

Me and my kayaking hat

The boat people warned us about some winds expected in the afternoon, and sure enough they came. We got off the water about 9- minutes before a giant thunder storm which was good timing. The weather the next day was pretty wet, so we did well with our choice of day.

It was a good day out and I’d be keen to paddle some other bits of the Harbour or other places in future as its a good way to see things and get some exercise too. It felt cooler on the water compared to when we got off it. Next time though maybe we wont try and go quite so far!

 

Fancy houses

Fancy houses

17. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Crab woven from fishing net

Crab woven from fishing net

We’ve been meaning to check out the Australian Museum for a while. Its the oldest museum in Australia and opened back in about 1855. Entry was $15 each, and we spent over 2 hours wandering about, so pretty good value.

They have temporary and permanent exhibits. The temporary one was on the T-Rex, but as the main museum had a dinosaur section anyway, it didn’t seem particularity Australian, and was full of noisy children we passed on the extra $9 to go and see that.

Some of my favourite exhibits were:

Indigenous Australians: The museum starts with an exhibit about Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islanders which was interesting and informative with a lot of information about historic racism during and since colonisation. There was also a lighter side with lots of animal sculptures and artworks made by indigenous people. I particularity liked the giant fish and crab sewn from old fishing nets. 

Chapman Mineral Collection: This was a big collection of shiny rocks and gemstones. There were easily several hundred there, and they were generally very pretty and shiny!

Crocoite (from Tasmania)

Crocoite (from Tasmania)

Surviving Australia: This exhibit had information on lots of venomous and deadly animals and some live creatures too. I learnt about a crazy kind of venomous shell which you shouldn’t pick up!

Birds and Insects: There was a big room full of several hundred stuffed native birds. It was interesting to see all the different ones in one big collection. I liked th colourful parrots and cockatoos as well as some of the big birds like the pelican, emu and albatross.

Skeletons and dinosaurs: There was a room full of skeletons including different kinds of animals and a skeleton rider on a skeleton horse. There was a separate exhibit all about dinosaurs too, which was good if slightly overrun with children!

The museum was a good way to spend half a day, and was certainly jam packed full of more information than you could possibly take in.

Creepy skeletons

Creepy skeletons

 

14. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Bluebells

Bluebells

In March I ended up between jobs, and although I had a new contract signed, I couldn’t start work until the nice Immigration people granted us a new visa, and we had no idea how long that would take.

So, after spending some weeks in Sydney, making pasties, cakes and nice dinners and very quickly getting fed up, I figured it was a good time for a trip back to the UK. We weren’t planning on heading back until Summer 2015, but with free time to kill it seemed like a good plan, and overall Matt would be less jealous than if I went to New Zealand, Fiji, Bali or Thailand!

I flew back with Cathay Pacific. I’d not been with them before, but as I waited a long time to book flights they ended up being more reasonable than Emirates. As they’re the national carrier with Hong Kong, that’s where I stopped over briefly. It was 9.5 hours there, then 2.5 hours in the airport and 12.5 on to London. I got bored after a film and some comedy on the first leg, looked at where we were and had only made it to Darwin! The flight was very dull and I didn’t really sleep (as expected). Overall I think the Emirates service and food is definitely better, but you do pay more.

I managed to get over the worst of my jet lag in about 4 days, although for a bit longer I was still getting sleepy in the afternoon and waking up a bit early. On the way back it wasn’t really an issue at all. I landed at 8pm, got to the flat and sorted for bed about 10.30pm, had a pretty good sleep and was then mostly OK.

Over here, I wrote a list of the things I wanted to do on my visit, and I made excellent progress, and very fast near the beginning. After the first week and a bit I’d done almost everything or had it in the diary. That said, there isn’t a limit on how much I wanted to do each thing, and I can always eat more marmite, socialise more, eat more and shop more! In the end the only thing I didn’t do was have a charcoal BBQ as it rained at Easter. It would take me too long to write about all the exciting things I did, so here’s an overview and some thoughts.

Propaganda in the Cox spare bedroom

Propaganda in the Cox spare bedroom

I did feel cold at the beginning of the trip, but got used to wearing extra layers and made a mental note to bring some slippers with me next time! It was really great seeing people in person, and I got pretty excited about the shops, fields, old things, marmite and the price of peppers!

Travelling around and doing lots of socialising is pretty tiring! Next time I’ll try and spend more time in one place and make people come and see me. I was over a nice long time, and it did feel like ages, so in future we would probably condense that – mainly out of necessity for not getting much annual leave as much as anything else.

Doing a couple of yoga sessions with friends was great. I did the first one the day after I arrived, which was a great way to get over some jet lag and all the aches and pains from the plane.

I’m still not sure if my trip was a holiday or a visit. Some of it was like a holiday, but then I did live for 30 years in the UK, and have only been gone just over a year, which made it more like a visit to the old stomping grounds. Maybe it would have been more like a holiday if I wasn’t unemployed at the time.

I also pondered “where is home?” I visited our old house which was pretty strange as I met the people now living in it. Its still mainly in good condition which is great. I referred to coming back to Sydney as going home a few times. I suppose it is where I live now, and where Matt is, but then again its not where I grew up or where the majority of my friends are. I suppose its just semantics really anyway. For now I reckon they can both be home.

It was very nice to be back, but it did also make me realise we’re not done with adventuring at the moment and aren’t ready to move back just yet.

Finally, there’s a few things which either surprised me, or I enjoyed unexpectedly:

  • Seeing friends that I didn’t think I’d be able to catch up with was excellent
  • I really enjoyed the company of people’s pets – that’s Chekov, Rocky, Yoda, Chewy and Bink (even when Yoda did try and wake me up in the morning by jumping in my bed)
  • Hearing proper posh and West country accents
  • Doing baking in other people’s houses and
  • Doing jigsaws (this confirmed it was indeed a holiday)
The cat invasion (Yoda, Chewy and Bink)

The cat invasion (Yoda, Chewy and Bink)

Rocky

Rocky

Tristan

For our first wedding anniversary (yes that’s right, the first one, in September 2012), Matt bought me tickets to see the Lion King musical. We went in Jan 2014!

Let me explain. The Lion King was on in London at the time and I’d been keen to see it for a while. Matt decided we’d buy tickets together so we could agree the date. But because of our busy social life at the end of 2012, spending most of December in New Zealand and then an incredibly busy first 6 weeks of 2013 before emigrating to Australia we never found time to go.

But I’m not one to forget a present, and luckily the Lion King is now showing in Sydney so of course I was owed a trip! We went on Friday night so grabbed some food first after work and headed on in. The Show was at the Capitol Theatre in central Sydney, which is the main theatre and opened back in 1928 (see here for more history). I have to say the inside is not to my taste at all! Its very decorative, but to me looked like it was done by a dodgy builder with sub-standard plastering and painting skills (sorry!).

The show itself was excellent. At the beginning and at various points int he show the animals and cast sing and dance their way down the aisles. Noticing this the first time was cool, especially when I turned around some more to see a giant elephant coming down our asile! The show itself has a lot of great dancing and choreography as well as the well known songs. There was a drummer at each side of the stage lifted up so you could see them which was also good.

My favorite thing was the costumes for the animals. Lots of them were really good, and looked and moved just like the real animals. I particularly liked:

  • The giraffes – These were one person bent over with stilts on their arms and legs with their back angled like a giraffe and a big puppet head.It must have been pretty hard for them to walk around and I was impressed
  • The cheetah – This was one lady at the back of the puppet cheetah who controlled its movement with poles. It moved and slinked along just like a real one.
  • The gazelles – To do a herd of gazelles each person had a gazelle model on their heads and each of their arms. They bobbed up and down and moved their arms to make them run like a herd which looked really smooth
  • Pumba –  Pumba is a good comedy character and this really came through in his costume and acting
  • The hyenas – Although kind of scary looking the hyena costumes were cool. The actors had to do the two hyena arms with one of their arms and the head with their second arm, which must have been very awkward but again the movements were really animal like.

I think I was marginally more wowed by King Kong, becasue of the epic set, giant Kong and effects, but of course anything with lots of animals in always gets my vote! The Lion King also had a better feel good factor, given its Disney heritage.

Hakuna Matata! 

Sydney Olympic Pool (Milsons Point)

Sydney Olympic Pool (Milsons Point)

On the lower North Shore of the Harbour by Milsons Point (near the scary clown face theme park) is the Sydney Olympic swimming pool. Its almost right under the Harbour bridge, which makes for some great views. 86 world records have been set there since it opened in 1936 including at the 1938 Empire Games.

After going past it on the train most days I decided recently it was time to eventually try it out. Outdoor swimming pools are pretty common over here on account of the good weather. There’s one near our flat, which is $7 a swim. The one right by the Harbour Bridge is…..$7 a swim! In my mind its a total bargain. There are some extra costs though – I did pay an extra $2 to use the sauna and jacuzzi, and another $2 for a locker, and $1 for a shower token. I probably wouldn’t bother with those again, apart from the shower. The locker you can only access once, so no good if you want to go back for your sun cream or book. Most people seemed to just leave their bags around, which I reckon is fine if you make sure not to bring a load of money or cards with you.

There’s a 50m outdoor pool with salt water, a 25m indoor pool, kids area and a sun deck and cafe too.  From the stands and sun deck you can look over the harbour and opera house. I enjoyed my swim there, although would have preferred freshwater to salt water. It was pretty quiet with only 2-3 people to a lane most of the time, although that was a weekday afternoon. I imagine the weekends are packed out. I’ll probably make another trip back soon. 

UnionFlag

 

So I pretty much spent April in the UK on holiday, visiting friends and family. So here’s a quick run down on that:

Liking: Top of the list of course is seeing all my family and friends in the UK who I have missed a lot. Also having access to all the things I’ve been missing, like Marmite, familiar clothes shops, fields and seeing generally old stuff. Also I found out a couple of weeks in to my trip that we had our new visa granted, so we can stay on working in Australia without getting deported and I can start my new job – this was a very big relief!

Disliking:  It was pretty damp the first few days of my visit and quite a few other days too. I’ve noticed a few differences like not having anywhere to fill up water bottles, kids smoking down lane ways and the high cost of trains (which only have the one level). Also the flight was very tedious and on the way back I ran out of films I actually wanted to watch.

Watching: I’ve watched some BBC news and Series 1 of Wire in the Blood which I got downloaded on my ipad. I’ve also started Dexter in the iPad and finished Season 1 just after I got back. On the plane out I watched American Hustle, the Book Thief, the Secret life of Walter Mitty (poor) and half of Series 4 of Downton Abbey plus some Big Bang Theory. On the way back they didn’t have the rest of Downton Abbey which was pretty dissapointing. Instead I watched 12 Years a Slave (the best of the bunch), Frozen, 47 Ronin, Savin Mr Banks and Last Vegas. 

Consuming: . So many things! Marmite, cream teas, welsh cakes, chips with vinegar on, fish and chips from the chippy, melting middle fish cakes, pub grub, dairy milk, mini eggs, dark chocolate hob nobs, full Englaish breakfast, roast dinner (both on the same day) the list goes on…

Buying: Clothes! One of the main issues I have in Sydney is a lack of affordable decent work clothes which suit me. I’ve been stocking up on my trip and got a couple of pairs of Clarks work shoes too.

Thinking about:  Where is home? (Deep stuff). I keep referring to going back to Sydney as flying home, but then also feel like the UK is my real home at the same time.

Visiting: I’ve been touring the south of the UK visiting a lot of people and places. In all I’ve stayed in 8 different places (one twice).

Missing: Matt – I didn’t see him for most of April!

Looking forward to: Staying in Australia longer and getting stuck into a new job (although my lazy side would quite like to carry on slacking!). In the UK I also did some planning with our friends coming to visit in November, and we’re taking a trip with them to the Great Barrier Reef which I’m excited about already!