24 November 2007

A Country Flush

"The subject of my laughter was because the bookmark was advertising, wait for it, the 'National Public Toilet Map'!!...After all, I was in Canberra, a city that has 'circuits' instead of roundabouts and a Parliament that has a lawn on its roof"

A couple of days ago, my wife and I thought we would drive down to Canberra and attend an event held by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Our main reason for going was that a good friend of ours, Jia, was one of the keynote speakers at this event.

We had a great time and got to talk to a number of ICRC members about their work across the globe. As we bade our farewell (we were driving back to Sydney the same day - 600 kms round trip), I noticed a stand that contained some informational leaflets. I decided to check them out while waiting for my wife.

There was one in particular that drew my attention. It was shaped like a bookmark and had the Australian Government emblem on it. I decided to pick it up and let out a small stifled laugh when I read what it was promoting.

The subject of my laughter was because the bookmark was advertising, wait for it, the 'National Public Toilet Map'!!

My first thought was "what the ?". After all, I was in Canberra, a city that has 'circuits' instead of roundabouts and a Parliament that has a lawn on its roof. To me it was something that I would expect to find in the nations capital. In my opinion, Canberra is a crazy governmental sterile type of place. If you ever visit Canberra do so with an open mind, and don't stay too long, otherwise you may get to like it.

Anyway, the Australian Government has apparently set up a website called http://www.toiletmap.gov.au/ to help Australians, and tourists alike better plan their journeys. I suppose, putting on my serious hat for a few seconds, that if you have young children, or suffer from incontinence then it may be a good idea to have this information at hand.

However, the fact that the Government has spent loads of money setting up the website and advertising it seems quite ludicrous given all the other problems that the country is experiencing at present. But for now, I'll put aside my view of Australia's woes until another day.

Being an inquisitive type of person, I decided to take a look at the website to see what I could learn about all things lavatorial.

When you enter the website, the first thing that you notice is that the search functionality is divided into 'Browse', 'Find' and 'Plan'. I quickly clicked on 'Find' and entered in my postcode. Sure enough, the search results revealed that I am surrounded by five public toilets, including one at the railway station (which is normally locked up). Wow, amazing stuff! I then searched on other parts of Australia and found details of more public toilets!

By now, I was getting excited (which doesn't say much). Who'd have thought that searching for toilets would be such fun!

Next I tried out the 'Plan' functionality that allows you to identify all the public toilets between two destinations. I entered details of two suburbs in Sydney to see how many of them there would be. Well, the search results advised me that there were six public toilets on my chosen route, and it even gave me directions on how to get there! The only thing missing was information about the toilet rolls contained in each toilet!

You can also register for your own 'Toilet Map' and save your favourite trips and destinations, as well. All important stuff indeed. The thing that really amazed me was that you can subscribe to a newsletter.

Now I don't know about you, but my mind was thinking about what the newsletter would contain. Would it give an update on the state of toilets for Bunbury?, have testimonials from a Mrs Jones who used the toilet planner to travel from Wagga Wagga to Forbes?, and would there be a picture of the 'Toilet of the Month"?

Who knows, but I am tempted to subscribe and find out!

21 November 2007

A Long Hot Summer

"One can only hope that Santa has an air-conditioned sleigh, otherwise he is going to be reeking really bad in that fur lined red cloak!....Suddenly, you notice a passenger standing up holding onto a rail with armpit raised"

Even though it’s not quite summer here in Sydney, it is certainly starting to feel like it.

Already the temperatures are rising, and the nights are getting sticky (and that’s not because Justin Timberlake was in town recently he he he). This year it seems that the humidity has started earlier than normal, as we don’t often experience that humid, clammy feeling until January at the earliest.

So for the vast majority of people living in Sydney, we can expect perspiration to be the order of the day for the next three months. One can only hope that Santa has an air-conditioned sleigh, otherwise he is going to be reeking really bad in that fur lined red cloak! With the possibility of reindeer droppings, the mind boggles as to what the combined smell would be like.

One of the certainties of the warmer months in Sydney, even more certain than mosquito bites and sunburn, is the rise in body odour. In fact, the first noticeable sign of this is when you are catching public transport while travelling to and from the CBD.

What happens quite often, is that you will be sitting on a train, ferry or bus totally engrossed in your book or trash mag (in my case, being a male, it is a classic rock magazine) when all of a sudden your nose detects an unusual smell. Instinctively, your head moves to the direction of where it thinks it has originated from. Suddenly, you notice a passenger standing up holding onto a rail with armpit raised right next to your seat. As if by magic, the smell continues to waft over you until you exit your mode of transportation. By now you are desperate for fresh clean air!

To compound this further is the fact that virtually all the trains that I seem to catch are not air conditioned in the warmer months. I find this very strange, as in winter I always seem to catch an air conditioned one – which is the time of year when you don’t really need it! My view is that most air-con trains must go on a summer sabbatical to cooler climes. This being the only obvious reason for their lack of appearances across the city in summer.

So, dear reader, spare a thought for us Sydneysiders who rely on public transport to get to work, school, Britney Spears concerts etc and having to inhale a variety of nauseating body odours.

Roll on the cooler months!!!!

18 November 2007

Is it Christmas already?

"It is quite surreal to walk into a department store and see these 'winter images' ... Try cooking a roast turkey with all the trimmings when the mercury is nudging 40C! It's not a pleasurable experience at all!"

This morning I took my two daughters to the local supermarket as we had to pick up a few odds and ends. Although it is our local supermarket I had not visited it for a few weeks. Partly because I had been overseas, and partly because, well, I hadn't!

Anyway, as I walked into the store, straight away my eldest spotted some Christmas candy sticks (sort of striped walking sticks - but obviously not on the same scale!). Immediately she said 'Dad, I think we should get some for Christmas". My reply was "not today, Christmas is many weeks away yet."

When we got home, I realised that Christmas is not a long way off at all but only five weeks away. My second realisation was that I need to start seriously thinking about the family Christmas - but this thought soon passed.

The subject of an impending Christmas gave me an idea for a blog. The main reason being that I didn't have anything else to currently write about. Even though I do not seem to suffer from bloggers cramp, akin to writers cramp, I had not come up with any topics. So I thought it would be good to describe an Aussie Christmas compared to an English Christmas.

Despite the obvious, ie: the weather, there isn't too much difference between both Christmases. In fact, aside from differing religious views at this time of year, it's exactly the same! Now I know you are thinking this cannot be the case - but it is! I have the evidence to support my views on this as well.

For example, all the major department stores put up snowy Christmas scenes in their store windows. The fake snow, carol singers, a portly Santa and so on. Exactly the same as in England! It is quite surreal to walk into a department store and see these 'winter images' when the temperature is 30C!

All around Australia, major cities and towns will erect Christmas trees decorated with baubles, angels and tinsel etc. I have to admit that this can look strange when you are in the tropical part of Australia where palm trees are the norm! Around the base of the trees you will mostly find a scene from the birth of Christ, or a winter type theme.

Carol singers will do the rounds in some parts of the country. However, these ones will not be rugged up against the winter cold, but will be wearing a t-shirt, shorts and thongs (flip flops). It can be slightly amusing to new migrants from Northern Europe to see this.

When it comes to the 'Big Day', assuming that you have been a good boy or girl and had some pressies, the Christmas Dinner is prepared. No prizes for guessing what is cooked!

One recent Christmas I thought I would cook a turkey with roast potatoes, veggies etc and cover it with a nice gravy sauce (yummy). Well there was one thing I totally overlooked, and that was the weather! Try cooking a roast turkey with all the trimmings when the mercury is nudging 40C! It's not a pleasurable experience at all! I have to admit the food was nice, but the amount of sweat dripping down our foreheads was unbelievable!

Most British people will see on their news programmes that at Christmas there are lots of people celebrating on Bondi Beach! Well, I have to advise you that the vast majority of these are backpackers from Britain and other countries around the world. The typical Aussie will be at a family gathering somewhere eating turkey while drinking a nice cold glass of beer or wine.

As you can see from the from the few points above there are huge parallels between England and Australia where Christmas is concerned.

Well, I am off now to make a list of Christmas presents....

15 November 2007

The milk triangle strikes again!

"The milk only lasted 3 days! Yes, that is correct, just 72 hours!!...So far, no one has shown any signs of a milk addiction"

This is a follow up to my two earlier blogs where has all the milk gone and looks like the milk is still disappearing where I mentioned that I must be living on top of a ‘Milk Triangle’ similar to that of the Bermuda Triangle. In this case it is our milk supply that is going missing and not planes or boats!

Well, I can announce, rather frustratedly, that this problem has gone from bad to worse!

Last Sunday we purchased 15 litres of milk for consumption by the family. At present our ‘family’ consists of three adults and two young children (aged 5 and 4). For a ‘normal’ family 15 litres of milk would probably last the best part of a week, or even longer. Alas, this is not the case in our household. The milk only lasted 3 days! Yes, that is correct, just 72 hours!! Putting on my mathematical hat that means 1 litre was being consumed every 4.8 hours.

Since my last blog about this I have been keeping a strategic eye on the other four members of the family. So far, no one has shown any signs of a milk addiction. In fact, this has made it harder for me to work out the real reasons for the disappearance of the white liquid.

I am seriously considering hiring a security guard 24/7 to monitor access to the fridge, and in particular the consumption of milk if this activity continues.

If anyone can shed any light, or suggest any solutions then please do. In the meantime I’ll look up ‘security guards’ in the yellow pages….

12 November 2007

School Days Revisited!

"The class, oops introduction night, started with….a prayer! I began to think, in my groggy food poisoning state, that maybe I had turned up to the wrong place!....Then the Principal asked if there were any more comments while fixing me with a steely glare. I looked away and pretended I hadn’t heard the question."

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended an introduction night for a local Catholic school. The reason for this was because we are thinking on enrolling our eldest daughter into it when the new school term starts in late January 2008. This school would represent the first year of ‘big school’ for her. Since mentioning the words ‘big school’ our eldest has suddenly become ‘grown up’ and even started to boss around our youngest! It’s amazing how children change their habits so quickly (even quicker than what a Nun could do – very bad joke!) when they think they are growing up.

Anyway, there were a few issues about attending this introduction night. Firstly, my wife is a Sikh and I was bought up in a non religious Church of England family. So, the obvious question was why are we able to potentially send our Sikh/COE daughter to a Catholic school? Good question indeed. Fortunately, for a few years my wife attended a Catholic school in the far northern reaches of NSW which certainly helped us. Also, there was no need to ‘change’ religions to fit into proper Catholicism values for this school. Indeed, on the introduction night there were families of Muslim, Hindu, Orthodox and, of course, Catholic backgrounds as well as our own religious mixture.

However, the main issue on the night was not related to religious reasons, but rather to health. The previous day I had come home early from work and had been suffering from food poisoning. This involved numerous unintended stomach exercises and frequent visits to the bathroom! To say I was feeling weak and ill was certainly an understatement. Somehow, I managed to get myself together for the two minute drive to the potential new school.

When we got there we were invited into a room similar to that of a small assembly room. In it were a number of parents who were keen to find out more about the school and its curriculum. I was very keen to find out more too, as well as locating the nearest bathroom in case I needed to do a 100M sprint! Inside the smallish room were three teachers together with the Principal – a lovely lady who exuded so much love and passion for all things education.

The class, oops introduction night, started with….a prayer! I began to think, in my groggy food poisoning state, that maybe I had turned up to the wrong place! A prayer to start proceedings? What was this all about? All the schools that I attended had praying very low on the agenda. In fact, it was virtually non existent! Anyway, I put my hands together and listened to the prayer, which was about children, especially the ones that have nothing. By the end of it a few mothers were crying, including my wife. It was a very emotional prayer indeed.

Next, was a general introduction to the school and its educational services. All quite impressive, really.

Following the introduction the Principal asked everyone to turn to the person next to them and introduce themselves, and then explain how they felt on their first day at school. Quite a simple request. For me, however, this was quite hard. Obviously I could introduce myself easily enough – no problems there. The main problem I had was trying to remember my first school day!


There were two reasons for this. Firstly, I was unwell and secondly, my first day was so long ago I think they still had steam trains running! I turned to my wife, who was enthusiastically telling a couple about her first day at school, and I quietly whispered into her ear ‘I can’t remember my first day!!!’. My wife turned to me and said ‘of course, you can. I remember mine like it was yesterday!’. My reply was ‘erm nope, can’t remember anything!’

By now I was feeling totally inadequate. How could I be the only person who could not remember their first school day? I made a mental note to ring my mother in the UK over the next week or so and ask her about my first day experience.

To compound matters, the Principal asked for parents to reveal some of their experiences. Straight away my wife raised her hand and proceeded to inform all of her feelings and experiences. A number of other parents also contributed to the discussion. Then the Principal asked if there were any more comments while fixing me with a steely glare. I looked away and pretended I hadn’t heard the question.

For the rest of the night we learnt a lot about what the school had to offer and, yes, I was very impressed. They certainly seemed to have all bases covered in relation to the future education of our daughter.

We left the school with positive impressions of it and happy to send our daughter there, If that is what we do. For myself, I needed to do some homework to find out about my first day at school in case I am ever asked about it!

09 November 2007

1,000 hits and more to come!

"Workmates also suffered my powers of persuasion and I managed to influence Jia and the Bunno Bumpkin to take up blog writing!....I am popular in the US city of Tulsa as it is my 6th most popular city! "

When I started writing blogs I didn't really think that anyone would be remotely interested in them. To my surprise I soon found out that people all around the globe were clicking on to my blog to read my tales of catching buses to Kellyville, watching Fairy DVD's with my daughters, discovering a Milk triangle (Bermuda Triangle for our milk supply) in the house, travelling to Ashfield from Sydney via Broken Hill! and so on.

Even more surprising, especially to myself, was that I have continued to write blogs at fairly regular intervals. I honestly believed that I would be able to write 6, or maybe 7, and then that would be it. I also thought that the novelty of having a blog site would wear off. How wrong could I be! This blog is my 24th effort since mid July.

I soon recorded my 500th hit within the first two months of the inception of my blog. I have to admit there was a fair amount of shameless promotion in reaching that figure. I hassled friends and family to click onto my blog and read my stories. Workmates also suffered my powers of persuasion and I managed to influence Jia and the Bunno Bumpkin to take up blog writing!

By now I was getting regular visitors to my blog and that was very pleasing. So at this junction I would like to say a big THANK YOU to my regular readers! You all know who you are!

I then added an RSS feed to the blog site and made it easier for my readers to subscribe to the blog site. I was also starting to receive good feedback from the comments that some of my readers left and this was very comforting to myself.

Anyway, I always thought that it would be good to register the 1,000th hit, and this week it happened! I reached the magical mark in just under 4 months of having my blog site! To say I was excited about this would be a huge understatement. I now want to go on and get to 2,000 as soon as possible!

To date my blog has been viewed by 34 different countries on every continent in the World. I can safely say it's a truly global blog! Newer countries that have been recorded are Latvia, Cyprus, Argentina, FYR Macedonia, Yemen, Finland, Philippines and Egypt just to name a few. Australia, naturally, is my main market and it accounts for approximately 2/3 of all my hits. This is followed by the UK, US and France.

Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and London are the main cities where the hits are coming from. However, I am popular in the US city of Tulsa as it is my 6th most popular city! This is followed by Dubai (Hi Nesreen), Manila and about 40 other cities! Strangely New York is not a big market for me at present.

So there you have it, a milestone has been reached. Something I never dreamt of happening has well and truly happened! Onwards and upwards to 2,000! Maybe I should also think about compiling a book of my blogs. However, I'll leave that for another day!


03 November 2007

looks like the milk is still disappearing!

"In fact, the amount of milk purchased would have been enough to feed all the starving children of Africa!...Could it be that when I am sleeping my daughters are tiptoeing downstairs, using the telephone to call their toddler friends and inviting them over for a midnight party

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog called 'where has all the milk gone?' //http://dw-perspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/where-has-all-milk-gone.html The premis of this was that despite buying copious amounts of milk it always seemed to vanish. In fact, the amount of milk purchased would have been enough to feed all the starving children of Africa!

Anyway, things settled down soon after I published that blog and I thought that, maybe, it was just a blip on the radar. After all, not every plane disappears over the Bermuda Triangle. So it seemed that my very own 'milk triangle' had decided not to make all our milk disappear every time.

Naturally my two daughters (and even my wife) seem to drink milk like most people might drink water. Even allowing for that there was always a large volume of the white liquid left over for breakfast cereal etc. However, this week it seems as if the 'milk triangle' is back and with a vengeance.

What I would like explained, from a scientific and rational point of view, is how 23 litres of milk can disappear into thin air in a shade over 4 days!

Now I am sure that there is an easy answer to this question, but I am not sure that I can think of one!

Could it be that when I am sleeping my daughters are tiptoeing downstairs, using the telephone to call their toddler friends and inviting them over for a midnight party of muffins and milk? Now there's a thought. Maybe I need to stand guard outside their room all night to see what happens.

If anyone else has any ideas then please let me know!!!

Jet lag in Sydney, or is it London?

'I apologised and handed him a $10 note only to find the shop assistant still looking bemused. I then realised that I had given him 10 Hong Kong dollars and not Aussie ones!...you can be assured a 5 and 4 year old will not let you sleep, especially when they are continuing with the rugby tackles'

Well I've been back in the land 'Down Under' for just over a week now and I really feel like I never went on an overseas trip. I guess that is the thing with reality. Once you arrive back home your holiday, trip abroad or whatever the reason was that you ventured overseas for seems very surreal. I suppose there's always the photographs for you to look at to remind you of your 'great adventure across the ocean'.

One of the things all travellers have to get over, especially when flying half way around the world, is jet lag. Now jet lag is not just the fact that you are in a different time zone. It is also about having to deal with a different climate; culture; language (Aussie strine. eg - strewth, fair dinkum etc); food; transport and even differing types of alcohol (which is not really a huge problem for me, hic!).

So I thought I would record how my first week of being back in Australia has gone in re-adjusting to the Aussie way of life.

I suppose my first symptom of jet lag happened while I was still at Macquarie Bank - oops Kingsford Smith airport. Having rung my wife, to arrange being picked up, I decided to buy a newspaper and catch up on all that had been happening since I had been away. However, when I gave the shop assistant the correct money, he looked at me quizzically and said 'I cannot accept English money'. I apologised and handed him a $10 note only to find the shop assistant still looking bemused. I then realised that I had given him 10 Hong Kong dollars and not Aussie ones! As the queue behind me was getting bigger I handed over an Australian $50 dollar note, took my change and departed hastily.

This example really is a classic case of jet lag. Even though you know you are in a different country your brain just does not want to respond accordingly!

Having arrived home and being constantly rugby tackled by my two daughters (please take note of this Australian Rugby selectors) I tried to relax and stay awake until the early evening. One of the best ways of getting over jet lag, especially when you travel from England to Australia, is to force yourself to stay awake throughout the day until night time. Even though your brain and body are saying "hey, what are you doing? it's 3am in England!!" you must do your valiant best and fight off that sleepy feeling.

There's a number of ways to do this. One way is to go out for the day and do lots of active things and ensure that you get plenty of fresh air. Taking your daughters to a park, or somewhere similar is good too as you can be assured a 5 and 4 year old will not let you sleep, especially when they are continuing with the rugby tackles. Another way is to drink copious amounts of coffee. However, I do not recommend this as you may not be sleeping for a long time.

In my case it was simple - spend time with my daughters and wife, have a nice relaxing shower and get to bed by 8.30pm. Naturally, this was not going to happen. Mind you, all was going according to plan. I had my shower and it was approaching 8.30 when suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge thunderstorm decided to make an uninvited appearance. I spent the next ninety minutes comforting my girls who were very scared of the thunder. Finally, at just after 10pm I got to sleep only to wake up at 3.55am! So much for a big sleep.

There were other instances this week. The most obvious being my use of the word 'pounds' for 'dollars' which has meant I have received puzzled looks especially from my co-workers. Another instance was not remembering where our bathroom was for a few seconds as the one at the family home in England is in a different place. And no, I didn't wet the floor!

Probably the most unusual incident this week was the fact that while I was unfortunately vomiting in the Sydney CBD (due to food poisoning the previous day, caught probably from a dodgy burger at Maccas) my mobile phone rung twice. The thought crossed my mind to answer the phone on both occasions. However, my urge to 'drive the porcelain bus' was very strong so I let the messages go to voice mail. I must say it was a close run thing!

As I mentioned earlier it's amazing that what your brain wants you to do can be in direct contrast to what you need to do.

Fortunately for me the rest of the week was uneventful except for the bruises that I now have from all that rugby tackling!