August 2007 Archives
When I was growing up, I played a lot of Scrabble. I have fond memories of long summer days spent sitting at the garden table under the weeping willow, moving the tiles around and playing with a vivacious kitten on my lap. Winter days were often spent lying in front of the fire, with the board on the floor and our various dictionaries spread around us. My mum was my most frequent opponent, but I sometimes played against my gran or my aunt or my sister. (I shamefully remember an occasion when I was about 15 and I managed to convince my sister that "oz" was a word. Soon after that, we procured our first Chambers Official Scrabble Words Dictionary (OSW) which revealed that "oz" really didn't exist, and she chased me around the house in anger. Something tells me that she refused to play with me again after that. But I did deserve it. And I didn't ever cheat again.)
Since moving to France, I haven't played Scrabble at all. My brain feels dried out, filled with too much French (which I still haven't mastered, and I really don't want to play Scrabble in French). My English is rusty (as anyone listening to the podcast can confirm). My Scrabble set sits on the top of the bookshelf in our loungeroom, unopened. I have yet to find someone willing to play with me (that I haven't scared off with my avidity for the game).
I've played nearly 30 games in the last week. I can feel my brain tightening up already. And I'm absolutely revelling in the deliciously devious flexibility of the English language. I'm not saying that I'm good at it, I just like to play. A lot. I love the little tiles, the jumble of the letters, the "click" in my head when I find something that fits, and, yes, I love making up words and seeing if they exist. Because that's half the fun.
I feel so much better. Like I've gotten a little piece of me back that I didn't even know I'd lost.
Wanna play? If I haven't scared you off with my complete nerdiness (you won't be the first), you'll find me in the evening (French time), under the name "cutestmidget". My favourite words are "qi", "zo" and ones that have 7 letters in them.
A month away, and I've forgotten how to speak French. Today, I speak the language not like a vache espagnole, but like a wombat australien.
Can someone tell me wtf I'm doing here? My "to do list" is about a mile long and I've only been back for an hour. And I've managed to draw on myself twice.
I would very much like to be somewhere else right now.
I wonder if anyone will notice if I curl up under my desk for a nap. Thank goodness I have a stock of teensy tiny packets of mini (normal!) m&ms in my desk drawer.
- Ate way too much lasagne before leaving and couldn't eat anything they gave us on the plane. Probably not a bad strategy, actually. Hugged lots of lovely people goodbye... family friends, old friends, family...
- despite all the lasagne in tummy, somehow managed to eat half a krispy kreme donut at the airport.
- did not enjoy the three very long flights back.
- cried lots. Fatigue probably didn't help. Neither did watching soppy movies on the plane.
- gaped at the torrential rain coming down when we arrived in Paris.
- spoke on phone (and got Symphony updates) all the way back from the airport in the taxi.
- was delighted to find a furry and purry little brown thing waiting for us when we got home. She purred for about 9 hours straight. Kyliemac took good care of Symphony. And restocked the fridge with our favourite orange juice.
- slept 12 hours last night. Woke up a number of times to find Symphony purring happily.
- unpacked ridiculous amounts of tim tams, cadbury chocolate, macadamia nuts, vegemite and fresh passionfruit. Amongst other things.
- felt nostalgic. Missing Oz and everyone in it already.
- am very thankful we took today off as well. We are knackered.
- oh, and I still can't figure out where summer has gone to. Apparently it's been raining the whole time we've been away. I thought it was supposed to be summer here. This weather is basically the same as Melbourne weather. In winter! Go figure.
Since returning from Hamilton Island, we have spent the last couple of days relaxing, pottering around the house, making little excursions into the city and just trying to make the most of the time we have left here before we head back today.
It's always hard to leave. The wedding and all the events surrounding around it - the whole reason we came over - were just fantastic. I am proud of my baby sister and I am looking forward to going home and putting some photos on our wall. And we'll see Symphony again. Our little pocket cat. And there are friends, good friends, who help make France seem a little like home. But it's always hard to leave Australia.
For one thing, it's just so much easier being on holidays. But we have realised that we need to go back to France, if only because we need to earn more money so that we can come back quickly for another snuba adventure! Because although visiting the Great Barrier Reef is a "once in a lifetime experience", there is nothing in the rulebook of life that says we can't do it again. So, by heck, we'll be back. It was one of the most amazing things that Sylvain and I have ever done, and we can't wait to get back in the water.
There's also that "end of holiday" feeling, and both of us have got the heavy cloud of work hanging over our heads as well, with the knowledge that we have got some long months of hard work ahead of us. And Melbourne is such a great city. It's not the same as Paris - I wouldn't dare compare the two - but it has such a cosmopolitain feel to it and I just love it. But there's also the fact that we're not sure when we'll be back in Australia again, or when we'll next be able to see the people and places we care about. I hate this moment in time... the goodbyes.
Following this visit, I think we've got some thinking to do. Who knows what we'll be doing and where we'll be in five years time - perhaps France, perhaps Australia, perhaps somewhere else in the world. We're very lucky to have such opportunities before us, but it will just depend on what we decide to do...
But there is still the now, of course. Our bags are almost packed. In-flight reading material has been purchased. Snacks are tucked away in easily accessible pockets. And today, we'll be surrounded by goodbyes. Last jokes and smiles. A few tears. As always. A couple of very long plane rides. And eventually, France. And reality. Upon reflection, it's not so bad. Life is an adventure, after all.
The only question that remains is, "how many packets of Tim Tams do we need to bring back?"
But before some smartarse decides to say "one for all your friends" or something utterly ridiculous like that because everyone knows I only share Tim Tams when forced to do so, maybe I should rephrase it? Perhaps the question should read, "how many packets of Tim Tams is TOO many?"
Btw, can you believe that we've been doing the podcast for over a year? We recorded a bunch of episodes in advance to cover our trip to Australia, but someone even made us a special podiversary video! All this internet lovin' makes me feel so warm and fuzzy.
Monday 13 August : 100 feet of water
- waved small children off to daycare.
- played cards. Revenge for the previous night.
- went down to the marina and selected snuba gear, then jumped on a small boat with 30 other people and headed out to Hook Island.
- stared in awe at the beauty of the Whitsunday islands.
- described previous days panic attack to snuba guide girl and she reassured me that I would be fine today.
- listened to captain's declaration that the visibility was 10 metres. V. glad I didn't register what that actually meant until later.
- realised that everyone was jumping off the boat in the middle of the ocean rather than going in to shore and coming in off the beach, and realised that I was being a total wuss about the whole thing, so decided to simply jump in the water there and then. After I pulled my fins and goggles on of course, and made sure my floaty-noodle-thing was ok.
- jumped in. Put head under the water. Could see only blue, the most brilliant bright blue imaginable, but no sea bottom. Put head up and panicked slightly, until someone explained that we were actually in really really really deep water and I would need to head towards the reef and it would be ok.
- swam very quickly towards the reef and tried not to think about all the beasties that could be floating below my 10 metres of visibility. Didn't know I could move that quickly.
- reached Point of Visibility and put my head back down.
- forgot everything else as I floated in the water and the world exploded around me again. Saw amazing coral, a lagoon ray, hundreds of fish, including one of the biggest butterfly fish and parrot fish I could imagine.
- giggled lots with Alexis.
- reluctantly went back to the boat when they called us in. It was an hour and a half of magic, but it went so fast that it felt like five minutes.
- tried not to panic as the nearer I got to the boat, the deeper and deeper and deeper the water got. Managed to keep my cool.
- was the second-last one in the water. Could have stayed for another 3 hours.
- only truly panicked when mum told me that we had been moored in over 100 feet of water. No wonder I couldn't bloody see anything.
- stood in the sun on the top deck of the boat. Laughed a lot.
- watched in awe as three humpback whales frolicked in the distance.
- ate fish & chips at the Tavern, and enjoyed quite a number of happy hour Screwdrivers.
- enjoyed some more beverages, chatted and played cards all evening.
Tuesday 14 August : goodbye to our magical tropical island
- reluctantly cleaned up and packed, then headed out to the beach.
- pottered around and paddled, enjoying our last day.
- felt gleeful when clouds started to cover the sky.
- looked for a classy souvenir, but was disappointed by all the crap that these places try to palm off to people.
- waved goodbye to our cottage, the cockatoos, the beach, our tropical island paradise, and jumped on a plane to come back to Melbourne.
- walked out of the plane to 8°C, and mumbled as I pulled my jacket on.
Saturday 11 August : the Great Barrier Reef
- got up early, headed down to the marina and jumped on a big boat with about 150 other people.
- sailed through the islands and into the open water, entertained small children, watched the waves and got Very Nervous Indeed about snuba-ing in 60 feet of water.
- lost breath when saw the Great Barrier Reef for the first time. That turquoise water, the aqua, is just the most amazing sight.
- ran downstairs with our party of ten as soon as boat moored, grabbed myself some optical goggles (since I obviously couldn't wear glasses in the water), had some trouble (as did a fellow party member) donning a wetsuit, grabbed myself a life jacket, fins and a floatie-noodle-thing, grinned at Sylvain, and slipped into the ocean, trying v. hard not to think about the 60 feet of water underneath me, then I took a deep breath and put my face in the water... and the world exploded.
- I have never seen anything so amazing in my life, and words can't begin to explain how beautiful it was. The colours, the life, everything. Hundreds of fish surrounding us as we drifted through the water, anenomes floating in the current, curious little fish coming up to investigate within centimetres of my face, the vibrancy of the coral.
- saw so many things it's impossible to talk about it all, but some of the highlights were... gliding out over the coral reef itself before the tide went out too much for us to swim over it, forcing us to swim alongside, over the trench... watching about 20 purpley-silver calamari flying like birds close to the surface... giant clams, more than a metre and a half in width... chasing parrotfish, as my sister advised... Sylvain thinking that I was grabbing his leg, when in fact it was a couple of territorial fish nibbling his legs in crankiness that he was swimming through their domain... the sunlight through the water... watching hundreds of tiny electric blue tiddlers zooming through the sea as one... finding Nemo... turning around in the water to see a giant turtle swimming alongside me, then watching, breathless, as it dove down through the water and settled on the bottom of the ocean for a rest.
- to say that every person in our party is now addicted to snuba-ing is an understatement. Everyone was simply enchanted by it all. A very humbling experience, and I feel so lucky to have done this.
- I must add that I was v. glad, from time to time, that there were ropes available to hold onto, but as a general rule, I think I managed to conquer this fear of snuba-ing in 60 feet of water. As long as I can see the bottom.
- enjoyed what seemed like a very long boatride back to the island.
- realised hair was completely encrusted with salt and it was futile to try to get any sort of order in it. Gave up and lived with a rats nest on head for 6 days.
- stood in the wind on the top deck and watched as the islands appeared around us again.
- realised backs of legs were sunburned after 3 1/2 hours of snuba-ing.
- barbecue. Vodka. Enchanting sunset.
- enjoyed some beverages, chatted and played cards all evening.
Check out more of Sylvain's underwater photos on flickr
Sunday 12 August : the day of rest
- made sandwiches, packed towels, books and snuba gear, and headed to the beach for a day in the sun.
- lazed on deckchairs lots, reading and running between pool and beach in between times.
- watched mother and S drink mango mai-tais, as dad and H drank beer.
- sticky-beaked a wedding on the beach.
- tried to go snuba-ing but had a wee panic attack when the visibility was really low, with the tide going out and the sand churning around me.
- organised second official snuba trip for the next day.
- went back to beach bar and and a long island iced tea instead.
- listened as Sylvain and P came back, thrilled to bits, having seen 4 or 5 big turtles and a sting ray amongst all the fish.
- ate Chinese food, enjoyed quite a number of beverages, chatted and played cards all evening. Including a very ridiculous game that went nowhere.
Thursday 9 August : beaches and buggies
- got up at insanely early hour and went with Sylvain and my parents to the airport to catch plane. Got Rather Excited about going on a holiday within our holiday.
- met up with the 6 other people travelling with us, and discussed the fact that red planes go faster than white planes with an almost-three-year-old.
- arrived in Brisbane and got Very Excited about going on a holiday within our holiday.
- got Super Excited about going on a holiday within our holiday when we spotted the Whitsundays from the plane. Turquoise water. Golden beaches. Tree-covered islands. Enchanting.
- Nearly Peed My Pants With Excitement about going on a holiday within our holiday when we actually arrived on Hamilton Island. I am now completely convinced that winter should definitely be spent on a tropical island paradise, at around 21-25°C, with the ocean water at around the same temperature.
- had a bit of a kerfuffle with our buggies, but squealed with excitement as we drove through the island on our buggy (the only cars/utes/trucks on the island are service vehicles and the shuttle bus, and everyone else drives around on buggies).
- squealed with excitement when I saw our fantastic self-serviced accommodation. Including a massive fridge/freezer with a built-in ice maker!
- did a buggy tour of the island. Freaked out when a huge spider climbed around the buggy. Was very pleased when gallant husband ridded the buggy of the horrible beastie.
- began imagining that if I were to drive the buggy, I might end up falling out of said buggy, a rock would wedge itself onto the accelerator and the whole kit and kaboodle would end up hurtling into the ocean. Decided not to drive the buggy.
- barbecue. Vodka. Enchanting sunset on a tropical island paradise.
- enjoyed some beverages, chatted and played cards all evening.
Friday 10 August : cockatoos and cards
- got up and went to the beach. Lazed on deckchairs by pool. Took photos. Lazed by on deckchairs. Swam in the ocean. Lazed on deckchairs. Snorkelled a little. Freaked out slightly when a stingray passed in front of me when I was knee-deep in water. Lazed on deckchairs. It was so beautiful, the photos don't even begin to do it credit.
- ate fish and chips on the marina.
- managed to find myself a logic puzzle book instead of that stupid sudoku.
- lazed around apartment and glared at cockatoos who were trying to get in and steal shiny things.
- helped people organise trip to the reef the next day.
- hunted for crabs at low tide with an almost-three-year-old.
- watched sun go down over the islands. Took my breath away. One of the most magical moments in my life.
- ate pizza, then chatted and played cards all evening.
Monday 6 August :
- wandered around the city with Sylvain. It's just so vibrant that I can't stay away. And have I mentioned the shopping? I love the city.
- ate dumplings and delicious Thai food. Garlic roti... mmmm...
- laughed a lot with family. It's a wonderful feeling, being all together - mum and dad, Sylvain and I, Carolyn and Ya. These are times to treasure, the memories for the future.
Tuesday 7 August :
- had strong coffee in the city. Have I mentioned how much I love the coffee here? LOVE IT. *spreads arms open wide* THIS MUCH.
- went shopping with friends on Bridge Road.
- was v. impressed with Sylvain's childminding skills and patience.
- got a number of delicious clothes, including a ridiculously silly top/dress with parrots on it, which I totally love.
Wednesday 8 August :
- wandered around the city with Sylvain. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Melbourne city?
- giggled at my bro-in-law's consumption of valium before their flight to Lebanon. Flight-anxiety is not to be messed with. Briefly considered asking sister if she had any spare valium for my snubaing-in-60-feet-of-water-anxiety. Decided I would rather be alert than floating through the water in a daze.
- hugged my sister and brother-in-law as they boarded their flight for two weeks in Lebanon. It's so hard to say goodbye, especially when we don't know when we'll see them next. And I miss her so much already. Even though she picks on me All The Time.
- came home and packed for Queensland!
- Attempted not to think about the 60 feet of water when snuba-ing, but had lots of incoherent dreams about swimming and trying to get back to the boat to get some valium.
- ate breakfast in the city. Muffins and lattés.
- shopped for Queensland clothes. Capri pants! Singlets! Hoorah!
- spent afternoon with sis. Painted nails. Annoyed Sylvain with smell of nail polish.
- hugged new bro-in-law. Lots£. So happy to have a new bro-in-law.
- ate Curry Company. Best butter chicken in the world. Even though I woke up tasting the garlic again 12 hours later.
- had coffee and cake, sitting on big leather couches, and talked about life. As you do.
- number of times I continued worrying about snuba-ing in 60 feet of water : 68,910,283
- slept in long time.
- surprised brother-in-law while he was at work by moving all the last stuff from their old apartment to new apartment so we wouldn't have to do it today. The look on his face when he realised what we'd done was a classic.
- ate noodles from noodle boxes. mmmm.
- sat on couch and gossiped with sis.
- made delicious birdie numnums for dinner, drank wine, talked for a long time with sis and bro-in-law. S and I love the two of them so much. They make me miss Australia.
- watched dame edna and a really bad movie. Scared Sylvain a little with our commentary about the funky bunch and ape action.
- number of times I continued worrying about snuba-ing in 60 feet of water : 5,291,887
- slept in long time. As you do on a Sunday.
- drank coffee and lazed. As you do on a Sunday.
- ate vietnamese rolls, pancakes and sugar-cane prawns on Victoria Street. Long, lazy talks over tea. As you do on a Sunday.
- went over to an old family friends house, drank coffee and lazed. As you do on a Sunday.
- number of times I continued worrying about snuba-ing in 60 feet of water : 1,882,182
Reflections on stuff over the last couple of weeks :
- service in Melbourne cafés can be painfully slow. But you have to forgive them because the coffee is so damn good.
- the sensation of space here is just marvellous. I love it that, when driving down the main street of country towns, there is enough space on the one-lane each way for three cars.
- having the flu on holiday sucks. Even if you're on the tail end of it.
- I love my sister to bits. But she drives me nuts. As I drive her nuts. And it is unbelievable how she and my husband enjoy banding together to pick on me.
- the Lifestyle channel R.O.C.K.S. Why doesn't France have this?
- Aussie accents are hilarious. I love 'em. And I love saying things like "too right".
- we are not "doing much" here this time around. Not much sight-seeing or touristy stuff, but this feels good too - I love Melbourne and I love just spending time with my family and friends. That said, I'm SUPER excited about our upcoming trip to Hamilton Island. Talk about touristy. It's going to be so much fun.
- I need to stop worrying about snuba-ing in 60 feet of water.
- headed out to the country to visit and play cards with grandparents and other lovely rellies.
- picked up Bill Bryson's book on Australia again.
- looked out the window, very pleased that it has been raining and things are indeed green again. For now.
- continued reading, and got up to part about his visit to the Great Barrier Reef and read it out aloud to parents and Sylvain.
- started hyperventilating about snuba-ing in 60 feet of water. My feet won't be able to touch the bottom.
Number of times worried about snuba-ing in 60 feet of water today : 70,782,491
- slept in.
- a trip to Mount Macedon with parents, friends and in-laws. The latter decided that if we move to Australia and can't find a fabulous beach front property on the Great Ocean Road, we should think about this part of Victoria. Ahem.
- saw a koala in a tree. Eating leaves. As they do.
- climbed Hanging Rock. Didn't have a picnic. And we didn't lose anyone on the way up. That was a relief.
- saw a couple of herds of kangaroos, basking in the late afternoon sun. The Frenchies were excited.
- ate the most delicious meal ever at a little café in Yarraville. Best. Lemon. Tart. Ever.
- slept in.
- ate a vic market fresh lunch. Spinach! Pine nuts! Cream Cheese! Mmm!
- waved in-laws off, back to france.
- played a couple of games of Scrabble. Got a 7 letter word on my first go. Yep - still got it.
- said a couple of things I shouldn't have in front of small children. (Mental note : learn tact and subtlety)
- got swept up in excitement and voted YES in booking trip for ten to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. Next week! Whee!
- ate pizza, and spent evening doing research on climate (yes! swimming! in the australian winter! hoorah!), activities (people will be delighted to hear that we will be snuba-ing on the Great Barrier Reef) and potential for a wifi connection (still not sure whether we'll have to sell a kidney in order to afford it up there or not).
- slept in.
- exchanged emails over potential for wifi on Hamilton Island. Getting even more excited.
- saw the Simpsons movie. Spider-pig, spider-pig. Hilarious.
- helped sister make enough curry to feed a small army. This over-catering thing seems to be a common problem in our family.
- ate curry. Laughed with sisters new husband and his family. Lovely people.
- pinched sisters bum. As is my job.
Oh my goodness oh my goodness. So much goodness I hardly know where to begin.
First and foremost? The wedding :
- woke up early on the day. Excited. Despite the flu that was making me sound like a croaking frog when I talked.
- headed out and got hair done with sis. Mum provided moral support and Boost juices. We both got feathers in our hair. Hers was so twenties, without that crazy wavy fringing. Mine stuck out all over the place.
- went to the hotel and ate lasagne. Cos that's what you do on a wedding day in my family, apparently.
- waved mum off, put feet up, drank orange juice out of wine glasses and gossiped with my sis.
- watched sis get her makeup done.
- went champagne shopping down the street with a girlfriend of Charlie's.
- affectionately watched sisters fiancé run around in a tizz all afternoon.
- drank champagne.
- sent recently arrived husband off to get some tissues at the pharmacy.
- realised that I was not yet ready to go to wedding with less than an hour to go.
- got ready to go to wedding with amazing speed. After all, it was her time to shine and I am just the sister.
- packed "bride's emergency handbag" with all the essentials : lip gloss, lipstick, phones, deodorant and party feet.
- helped sis put dress on. Ooohed and aahhed.
- put lots of delicious sparkly gold glitter stuff all over everyone.
- gulped down last of champagne.
- jumped into maxi taxi with sis, husband and friend. Swung by apartment and picked up fiancé.
- performed sisterly duties during the taking of pictures in Fitzroy gardens. Fluffed dress. Held handbag. Juggled cameras. Guarded the rings.
- danced around a tram stop and took funny pictures as we wasted time for the last important guests to arrive before "the entrance".
- hugged sister one last time and headed through the door.
- smiled proudly to self as the every single guest gasped when my beautiful beautiful beautiful sister walked in the door.
- promptly began crying.
- clutched sister of new brother-in-laws hand for support. And supported her as she sniffed.
- looked around frantically for non-existent tissues.
- continued crying all throughout ceremony.
- felt my arm being tugged and gratefully accepted a tissue from a sympathetic guest.
- continued weeping discreetly.
- croaked through the poem reading I had been assigned.
- sniffled throughout signing of the registry. Felt very glad (as my sister giggled in my ear) that the puppies were held firmly in place as I leant over the certificates.
- continued blubbering in the most unattractive of manners.
- felt so unbelievably proud of my baby sister, and excited and thrilled to count my new brother and his family as part of our own.
- partied it up for the rest of the night, talking to family and meeting friends of my sister and her new husband.
- talked so much that I forgot to eat. Drank enough to make up for that.
- acknowledged (to pretty much every guest) that yes, indeed, my sister is so darn clever for making that dress all by herself.
- hugged lots and lots and lots of people. Including my sister and her new husband about 60 million times.
- took half an hour to take the pins out of my hair. Sylvain is now well trained at hairpin removal.
- slept. So happily.
The day after :
- jumped on my sisters bed.
- latté in Degraves St in the City.
- huge party at the parents house, with extended family and friends.
- watched enough barbecued meat being traipsed through the house to feed a small army.
- the best part? sitting under the outdoor heater in the marquee at the end of the night, surrounded by close friends and my family, laughing so hard I nearly peed my pants. These are the moments I'll remember forever.