The story so far

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Thoughts about England

As the time ticks by and our departure from the UK gets closer, we are thinking more and more about Australia.  I guess that's to be expected, but some of these thoughts are frankly quite unexpected and I thought I would share them.

It's a mixture of emotions.  We are going to Australia, at least in part because we think we can get a better life there.  In England we have made certain choices which tied us down, forced us to work in demanding jobs to pay the mortgage.  Australia is a chance for a new start.  We have no ties and it is an opportunity to set ourselves up again with more focus on what is most important to us now.  There are things we love about the UK also, and these thoughts, while not overpowering, are beginning to creep in.
Before I launch into that though, a quick update on my impression on the Aussies from the last post. I've had a bit of feedback from both UK and Aussie colleagues on the working environment out there. While I was right about the Aussie approach, the dominant culture in the workplace is that of the corporation. What I mean is that the larger the company you work for, the more likely you are to be bogged down in bureaucracy. I'm sure with the Aussie mentality, it will be a more pleasant working environment, but the corporate culture is certainly something I should bear in mind.

Hannah's contribution was to tell me that my basis of Aussie culture also included Kiwis, namely Brendan from Strictly Come Dancing. While I acknowledge this inconsistency, I do not believe that it will significantly alter my conclusions. I can't really tell the difference between Kiwis and Aussies at the moment anyway and that will make an interesting study when I arrive.

This mention of Strictly leads me on, conveniently to the subject in point. Missing the UK. Hannah has had two disturbing thoughts recently, one about the great Autumn TV season and another about cheese. Missing TV in the UK is not a problem, we are leaping into the iPlayer, online TV generation. Hannah is even excited about how "far out" it would be to listen to Breakfast radio at teatime. I reckon listening to Dance Anthems at breakfast would be quite disturbing though.

So what of cheese? Surely we can't be worried about leaving England because of it's fantastic cheese? Well no, that is not it although, in my opinion a good cheddar or stilton equals the best French cheese. The French would disagree but that is their national sport and in any case, it's not the point. Hannah came back from the supermarket yesterday and declared "There is cheese on the shelves in the supermarket which can be consumed after we leave the country". That is actually quite a poignant though which encapsulates Hannah’s increasing anticipation about leaving for Aus, but I was more puzzled by the action of reading the sell-by-dates on cheese.

I never knew cheese would last that long. It is a dairy product after all. However, I had never really worried about the length of time cheese would last for. I mean, milk, meat and fish are all examples of products for which I would check the sell-by-date, but never cheese. I guess I eat cheese quickly enough never to have had to worry about it. Either that or vegetarians are naturally more fussy about food.

During the working week, I stay in the Hilton Hotel at Newbury North, from Monday to Thursday. Other colleagues are there and we talk a bit, drink whiskey and then talk a lot more, generally about more interesting things. One evening, an Australian colleague who had been in the UK for a few years asked me what I would miss about England. I hadn't thought about it before.

Bruce had recently been back to Australia and had told me that on arrival he had seen a Gum tree or Eucalyptus. He told me that he had stared at it in awe and had not realised that he actually missed these trees until he arrived back in the country. I expect that there will be things like that form me too, but I tried to answer his question.

The obvious answer is family and friends. I will miss my family and I have to say that as they will probably read this.  I have great friends from school, university and previous jobs, but due to the nature of life I only see them once or twice a year. We always get on again like time has stood still, so there is no reason Australia will effect this.

I did also think of the English country pub on a winters day after a bracing walk across frozen fields in the rolling countryside. Having a few pints of English bitter by the fire cannot be beaten as an experience of pure relaxation and companionship. This only happens very rarely, especially now we have kids. In the effort to recreate part of this, I often have a few pints alone in the pub or try to take Hannah and the kids to the pub for dinner. More often than not, the experience is marred and relaxation is never on the agenda. Again, if we come back to the UK, this will be something I will try and do and the experience will only be better in its rarity.

I am beginning to sound quite positive, as if I will not miss the UK. I am sure that when I get there it will hit me. Like Bruce and his gum tree, I may not realise what I miss until I get back and see it again.

One thing I have been thinking about recently is the lifestyle I have. In theory I dislike my lifestyle. I have to stay away in hotels all week, I don't get to see my family apart from for half the week and get very little leisure time. However, as it draws to an end, I am thinking more about the good things I will miss.

Living for three years in a hotel, you get used to it and stop appreciating the good things it actually brings. Part of it is being known by the staff.  Recently, Aniruddh who is the front desk manager, arranged for our hotel rooms to be upgraded in Thailand when we stop off on the way to Australia. He also gave chocolates to the kids when they came to the hotel to pick me up one afternoon. Esme ate two Mars bars as Zoe didn't like hers and vomited it all up over her new clothes. Still it is the thought that counts.

I am perhaps best known in the bar. Leaving for a new life means that I know there is a limit the amount of bad living I can do and health concerns can go out of the window.  I usually come to the bar for a whiskey or two and when the menu changed, Emily who works behind the bar carried on ordering my favourite, the Laphroaig even though it was no longer on the menu. I felt honoured in a slightly sordid way. She later revealed that the Whiskey sales in that Hotel were way above the national average, that can't be a coincidence.

The biggest thing I will miss about hotel life though is illustrated by an evening this week. There was no-one in the bar, so I ordered my Whiskey, took it back to my room and watched “Trawler men” and played Xbox all night. I love my family, don't get me wrong, but having a night or two away from them means peace and quiet and watching trash on TV, playing video games and drinking whiskey without being "judged" in any way.

Yes, that is what I will miss....but I won't because it will be replaced by many better things.


  1. NIck these are amazing blogs, when all else fails you could probably make a living as a beach bum and journalist.

  2. Don't worry...we have whiskey and (fresh) cheese, Aus is renowned for it's fabulous food/resturants....we got our convicts here on boats and cheese gets here too!!!! Just get here! You can breath here...I did find Europe and England a little restrictive....we have wilderness down the road and I missed that, but we still have culture so don't worry! Plus, you will have willing babysitters down the girls and I hope you access us! You and Hannah out on the harbour, sipping whatever and your girls safe and secure and hearing poems and stories....just get here!

  3. It's Jo here ( i did the whiskey/cheese post)...had to post as anon.....bloody the way, we swear a lot in Aus....and "bugger" is a commen expression, which, I believe is unacceptable in England so...get used to it!

  4. Hi Jo,

    In England, I do frown on buggery, but the use of the word bugger, even in a work context could be acceptable (in my work anyway!)

    I'm going to be writing an article comparing the relative benefits of Melbourne vs Sydney. You've just added a big benefit of Sydney! The problem is that Melbourne seems to be the main source of potential jobs. I'm working on that though!

    Nick xx