Sunday, 27 September 2009

George and the Dragon

I think I suffer from a mild dyslexia. Seriously, I am bad at remembering telephone numbers and I haven't been able to accurately memorise my cell yet. I actually realised this the other day when a prospective client asked me for my number. Afterwards I realised I think I gave him somebody elses... O well he now has my card and he will think he probably misheard me. :-)
But yesterday being a Saturday, I went into work to get some stuff done. And the place has an alarm. But knowing myself, when I got my alarm code, i typed it dutifully into my phone. SO I unlocked the front door and swung it open with a flourish and punched in my code. Then at the bottom of the key pad, there are 2 buttons - one is 'stay' and the other 'away'. yes should be obvious, but the Admin / logistics Director who is the only one who issues the codes, when he gave me my code said that it is setup that you punch the same one in and out. So i stared at the keys. 730 on a saturday morning... if I set this alarm off, they will be rousing my boss's boss and his wife from their slumber, so let me not get this wrong... Well never mind that anymore... you know at those massive oil refinery sites or industrial sites where you have those outdoor horn sirens that summon people to work? Our helpful alarm company had installed it in our reception area of about 30m2 and mounted it, give or take about 900mm from my right ear. I can't be sure, but I actually think I felt the wind from the sound waves as it hit my ear and all hell broke loose. I punched at the pad frantically. She screamed at me. #### stay. ####away. ####stayaway ####awaystay stay####away away####stay. The screaming of the blasted thign just seemed to get louder. So I phoned the director directly from my cell to get the overide code, stepping outside where it was marginally quieter. O great, my cell is dead!..o no wait I just can't hear anything out of my right ear... try my left...? Hi... George... (to the groggy voice)... really sorry to wake you and your sleeping wife, sorry about this....and I vanquished the alarm with 4 malicious angry stabs.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Red Dawn

Sydney and as far north and South as a few hundred kilometres awoke this morning to a blanket of red dust caused by a massive duststorm that blew in from the Western regions. It was hectic. The 2 photos above don't do justice - the air was thick with dust and contaminated everything. We luckily slept with our ensuite bathroom window open and not our sliding doors as we normally do, but the dust taste was everywhere even so. The proportions were reminiscent of the biblical plagues - it is estimated that the amount of dust being moved across Sydney was 75000 tons per hour and the air was 20 times the hazardous rate. Most Sydneysiders had never seen anything like this before, so it is not normal, thankfully. The iron ore content from the soil is what gives it the red / orange glow. Excuse my poor photos, but I didn't want to open the door to let the dust in. They have lifted water restrictions here until Monday to allow everybody to wash down there houses. Sydney Airport was closed most of the day to international air traffic, ferrys were stopped and traffic was chaos. One odd thing, the sheep in the countryside were red as well and the problem is that once contaminated, their value decreases as the ore stains their sheepskin irreparably. Most of it had cleared by afternoon, so life is returning to normal. Except for the poor sheep and their red jumpers. They must be like so embarrassed.. Anyway.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Hearth, Home and some dirt

I have been working and looking at plots and houses and not much else. Before we came over, I had worked doing the same job for pretty much 11 years and so the comfort zone was entrenched. Apart from moving countries, and all that that entails, changing to a corporate from an entrepeneurial environment has been a huge change. When I was back in SA, I often wondered what day to day life would be / was like in Aus and my view now is that it really depends. It is similar to SA or anywhere else for that matter in the sense that some people work long hours and others not. The biggest difference is the size of the middle class, so whatever job you have, you generally can own a house and car and go overseas on holiday once a year. I seem to remember that the median age of Sydneysiders is under 35 so it is a young city: the fire / smoke alarm inspector looked like a kid out of school and the truck drivers hardly look old enough to have their licence. Up the road from us is Sydney Olympic park where the main stadia are that were used for the 2000 Olympics. We are boring people, but if you are into concerts: e.g. the other night Beyonce was there, Britney Spears is coming, Fleetwood Mac as well as Nickleback, Green Day etc - tons of International acts come here often which we missed in SA. This is truly a world city. I have to commit to get you guys to hold me to it, otherwise I will procrastinate, but I will - or rather I will get my brother, since he is good at photography, to take some photos of the stadium area at night - it is a stunning sight! The lighting is groovy, baby! So that will be our little project for this weekend and we will post on the blog.

We have kind of, sort of, decided that we will most probably live South of Sydney in an area called Bingara Gorge. This is a golf estate which is a relatively new concept here in Australia compared to SA. Not that either of us play golf, but we can try. It is like living in the farmlands which is great to raise kids, not that we have kids but we can keep trying. :-) The place is: And we were assisted by the saleslady who is an ex Saffer from Benoni!

Ok so much for the land. Well after walking through close on 100 display homes altogether - some a few times, we settled on a design, but are a little bit unsure of the builder. If you want to buy anything in Aus - you can check the supplier out on: and if you search the builders, almost all have people moaning about them. So yes something similar to SA, and you choose the one who has been least sued, pretty much. Will let you know, but from the time you put pen to paper and the builders handover, it is not like SA - it takes 12 months to build a house here. Sometimes longer.

Other than seeking a habitat, we almost became a cautionary tale. We had been on the lookout for a retirement village for when the folks eventually come over and we almost put their names up on the spot as a certain development looked stunning and the display homes excellent, but my eagle eyed mother in SA noticed something, googled them and discovered that the scheme is under investigation by the Australian securities commission. We had been warned by ex Saffers not to get too blase about crime here, just because it isn't violent. Perhaps we had not been as cautious in our approach as we should have been, so we learned that lesson just in time. In such a regulated society, when you think nothing bad could happen, it easily lulls you. Investors are out $25 million on that scheme so we'll see what the investigation yields. I saw the name Kebbel on the docs, can you believe it! Not sure if there is a connection. Anyway.

And yes, (sigh) still waiting for our container...

Monday, 14 September 2009


Not Kangaroos but houses.
This past weekend we went househunting - well actually plot and house hunting. We want to have a new house so have decided to buy one of those house and land packages. I thought I would give those interested an idea of prices here: North West of Sydney is the Hills District and there is a place there called 'Homeworld' which is a semi-permanent display of 120 homes by different builders. All the homes are finished and furnished and you can spend the day (or 2) going through all of them. Plots are around 300-400k and the houses similarly priced. A basic house (+-240m2) is listed at say 225k but then once you add the essential things like tiles and carpets, etc. you are up another 100-150k. The land is the most expensive part of the whole exercise is the land. So 650 to 700k gets you a nice house of around 340m2 depending on finishes. If there is a slope on the land, you could be looking at 120k extra, so level plots are essential. Next week we will be looking South of Sydney where land is about 30% cheaper in a similar area and not as crowded. So we'll see. Houses here take about 6-8 months to build. We are leaning towards Eden Brae homes as they have the nicest finishes we've seen. Here are 2 links to give you an idea:

Thursday, 10 September 2009


I know its been a while. Been busy. My brother and his wife arrived and kept us busy hunting for cars etc. And been working, working, working. I took a 3 day trip down to Canberra this week for work and it was interesting. The trip takes about 3.5 hours and for the last day I drove an additional 3.5 hours to Wagga Wagga (pronounced Wogga Wogga), which is a bit in the middle of nowhere.

I was told that Canberra was a dump by the Sydney guys, but was surprised. It is a manufactured city with its whole economy dependant on the government offices. It is estimated that 2/3 of the people that work there commute from Melbourne or Sydney on a weekly basis. But it is really a pretty place - tons of parks everywhere and the roads are wide, immaculate and fast. Well ok if you were allowed to. Compared to Sydney's horrific roads which are really 4th world, it is a real pleasure. Just a word of advice, do not stay at the Canberra Rex - looks really great on the internet, but... well just don't go there. Trust me on this.

I saw my first kangaroos. Ok so they were dead, but it still counts doesn't it? Let me explain. A freind of mine who lives in Melbourne but works in Canberra says that these kangas are nibbling on the grass in the mornings when he gets to work - sounds idyllic? He says they aren't aggressive and will generally run away if faced with a human. So what's the problem? Well he said he was cycling to work the other morning and a baby kangaroo (locally called a joey) was happily hopping alongside him. At 40km per hour. He warned me to watch out for them. Adult Kangaroos can grow to over 2m and are big buggers. You can't fence them in because, well they clear 2m in a normal jump and at full tilt - somewhere maybe between 50 and 60km/hr they will jump much higher than that. Again, so what? Well they appear not to be too bright. So imagine you are driving along at 110km per hour and a kangaroo doing 60km/hour clears a fence and meets you halfway across a road? Needless to say I drove the whole way down to Wagga scanning either side of the road as far as I could see. So thanks to my buddy Tony scaring the heck out of me, I was a total wreck by the time I reached my destination! There are special whistles you can fit to your car that emit a high pitched sound that they don't like and keeps them away, so I will get some and post a picture soon.

By the way, still waiting for our container - it is here apparently, but been checked by customs... so we wait...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


My brother and his wife arrived on Monday this week to settle here in Aus as well. They are staying with us for a couple of days until their apartment is ready for them to move into. I left home yesterday just after 3am to be onsite for a demo, so things have been busy - hence my tardiness in blogging.

I am starting to recognise streets and some things are even beginning to look vaguely familiar. On Saturday we went to the RTA (Road Traffic Authority) to transfer registration of Carmen's car into her name. You take a number from an electronic dispenser, take a seat and wait in the que until you are called. Elizabeth (not her real name) (well that is what her nametag said , but since she was Chinese, I seriously doubt it) helped us. When we got to the counter, Carmen and I exchanged glances - this appeared to be another Margaret - albeit the Asian derivative. Whilst she typed away busily on her Apple - yes certain government departments have Apples it appears!!! Anyway, as she typed, I asked her where to get the etag that fits on your windscreen and that automatically pays your toll fees. Silence. Type, type, type, Enter. Type, type, type.

She stapled the necessary, handed it over, her face still an impassive blank. I repeated my question.
'Forms at the flont.' she gestured vaguely in the direction of the entrance, her expression deadpan... I momentarily wondered whether she had ever tried her hand at poker and briefly thought of asking her, but thought better of it..
'And then where do we go?' I ventured.
'Then you take number.'
And rejoin the que she forgot to add, i thought to myself - if we end up back at her counter, I swear...
And of course we did.
Type type type, Enter. and then.... the unthinkable happened. She smiled and said 'thank you!' Is smile an exaggeration? I want to say she was almost cheerful - am I going too far, did I imagine it? It was almost as though in that instant she had remembered about some or other motivational customer care course she attended a few years ago in a hotel with red carpets and slightly faded curtains and a loud speaker in a louder tie. Whatever it was, at the end of the day, Margaret retained her title safely.