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06 November 2007

Why am I surprised?

Last week I made the now routine business trip up to Sydney, which began with a trip on the Skybus shuttle to the airport. This trip is actually made in two legs: a shuttle pick-up at our apartment to the Spencer Street bus terminus from where the Skybus departs to the airport 24 by 7.

It was about 10 minutes into the second leg of the trip that I realised that I must have left my mobile phone on the shuttle. "This will add extra, unneeded, spice to the trip", I thought, since a number of the meetings I had arranged relied on phone confirmations or finalising of arrangements depending on the time of my arrival. I had my laptop with me, but was not sure whether I had stored all the phone numbers I would require on it. I decided however that the best would be to hire a mobile as soon as I got to Melbourne Airport, since I would probably have a touch more time there rather than in Sydney once I arrived. I was not that concerned for the phone itself, and decided to tell the driver of the bus of my faux-pas immediately, hoping that he could alert the driver of the shuttle, who in turn could recover and leave it at the Skybus kiosk for me to collect when I returned to the bus depot in the evening. The driver did not seem at all concerned and only asked me which shuttle I came in on.

The driver's attitude assured me that the phone would in all likelihood be recovered. Australia has a mobile penetration rate in excess of 100% i.e. everyone has one and their theft is not common. (Only a few weeks ago my colleague Robert went to pick up his son's phone at the tram depot after the teenager forgot it on the tram he took home from school!) On alighting from the bus I asked the bus driver whether he had received any news about whether the phone was found. The driver's response however left me speechless: "The next Skybus is due at the Airport in 10 minutes", he said, "the driver of that bus is Tony, he has your phone. If you wait right here where I dropped you, Tony is expecting you and will give you your phone as soon as he arrives". I was so surprised, I could only mumble a quick "Thank You" to our driver. Sure enough ten minutes later Tony arrived, handing me the phone as soon as he brought his Skybus to a stop, allowing me to continue my business trip unaffected, except for shortening my wait at the departure gate!

Later I reflected on whether my surprise at receiving such service from a common public transport provider (this was NOT a limousine service or anything of that sort!), meant that I have not quite acclimatised to living in Australia, where not only is petty theft not common, but ordinary workers look out for their customers' best interests! The shuttle driver must have known that leaving home without a mobile phone would be problematic, and used his initiative to pass the phone to the next bus driver, even before it was reported missing, in order to ensure that there was the best chance of the phone being re-united with its owner before his departure!

Thank you Skybus for providing an excellent service, I will certainly continue to recommend you!

02 September 2007

Spring has sprung,
the grass is ris'
I wonder where the boidies is?

Well the boidies and blooms were out in full force this morning as we strolled through Melbourne's botanical gardens!

Yours truly with the statue of Sidney Myer, the sponsor of the music bowl, in the city gardens.

The Sidney Myer Music Bowl in the shadows of the city skyline!


The first day of spring! Melbourne weather was 100% on cue. After a morning cycle along the coast, while having a coffee at one of the many coffee shops along the route, I was wondering how I would best make use of this perfect weather. I barely had time to have a shower and something to eat once I got home, when I got a call from a colleague that there was a Spring Day sailing race on at Brighton, and one of the yachts was short of crew. What an opportunity! It was a perfect day for a beginner like me, the winds were light, but sufficient to get me started on the drill. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and will certainly be doing more of this. I did not have my camera with, but managed to take this snap from my phone - after the event!

26 August 2007

Winter break - Falls Creek!

We took Friday off work to take a long awaited break at Mount Beauty. Mount Beauty is a small village in one of the valleys amongst the Victorian High Country peaks. Notably, Mount Bogong - the tallest in Victoria, overlooks the village.
We stayed at a small B&B there and on Saturday we drove the remaining 30km up to the Falls Creek ski areas. The weather played along, and we had a day going up and down the slopes. On Sunday we took a leisurely drive through some of the other valley settlements before motoring the remaining 250km back along the freeway. The weather was perfect, definitely more like spring than the last weekend of winter!

We had lunch at a quaint wine estate called Anapurna. The mezze platter was a great accompaniment to some good wine.

Falls Creek's inviting, crisp slopes!

Although it was weekend, the crowds were manageable, by European standards.

On the way home, in the valleys it was a real spring day!

15 June 2007

Wintery Melbourne Scenes

After the warmest May in many years, the winter has finally arrived together with some welcome precipitation. Although Melbourne is still officially in a severe drought with level 3 water restrictions, recently some showers have brought welcome relief, even bringing generous coverings of snow for the first official skiing weekend of the season.
Despite the weather, Melbournians remain fanatical event attenders: On Friday night my footy team was playing the one that Pearl supports. We decided to go to the match, only to find out it was "standing room only" at the Testra Dome, which seats 50 000+. This on a foggy night, with temperatures below 10 degrees!

03 June 2007

Great Ocean Road

Pearl and I took Cobus and Nick from SystemicLogic in Johannesburg on a drive along the Great Ocean Road. On Sunday we stopped at the Ottway fly, to walk amongst the tall tree canopies.

23 March 2007

All work and no play ...

Last Friday evening Jay, visiting us from South Africa, took us to dinner at a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant in Chapel Street in South Yarra.
As usual there was more than just good food, Pearl felt quite proud for catching a bowl thrown at her by the chef. It was great fun. We walked home along the river past the Birrarung Mar's angel statue, just before stopping off at the federation vaults for a couple of nightcaps.

Moomba parade

The second weekend in March is Moomba Water Festival time in Melbourne. The festival incorporates activities such as ski-jumping championships on the Yarra River, Chinese boat racing at Docklands and is concluded by means of the Moomba parade down Swanston Street on the Monday, which is Labour Day holiday in Victoria.

We chose our vantage point at the corner of Flinders Street, and watched the procession of floats and marchers each representing one of the many cosmopolitan groupings that live in Melbourne.

11 March 2007

Excentric deliveries

The foyer of our apartment block often witnesses the arrival of the strangest of deliveries. Pearl could not resist a recent arrival (at least to have a picture taken with it) - a 10 kilogram slab of chocolate!

Women in Wine at the MCC

One of the things Pearl and I did on arriving in Melbourne, was to put our names down for membership of the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) - we did not waste any time, as the waiting list is 15 years plus! In February though we got a preview of the hallowed "Long Room" located at the MCG, and the occasion was a "Women in Wine" seminar under the auspices of the women members of the MCC - who are very active members indeed! (This seminar was a follow up in a series, which included "Women in Cricket" and "Women in Australian Rules Football"!) Well the "Long Room" is perhaps not as hallowed as it once was - the members' pavilion was entirely rebuilt as part of the preparations for the Commonwealth Games of 2006, and the current long room is a brand new reproduction of its former self. However all the cricket memorabilia has found its way back to recreate the atmosphere - loaded with years and years of tradition.

The inaugural "Cocktail Party" was addressed by Anna Aldridge, 2003 Victorian Rural Woman of the Year and Winemaking/Marketing consultant of the Yarra Valley Network. Six wines were presented, all exquisitely accompanied by various canapes and finger platters:
- Yarrabank Sparkling* (accompanied tartare of yellowfin tuna on toast with lemon mayonnaise, baby capers, chives; and chicken mushroom and spinach pie with fruit relish and baby cress)
- Boato Craigo Sauvignon Blanc 2006* (with pancetta wrapped tiger prawn skewer with lime mayonnaise and pea, haloumi and mint fritter with whipped herbed fetta)
- Allinda Riesling 2006 (with mini pizza with three toppings and wine leaf wrapped barbecued lamb fillet on baby lavosh with tzatziki)
- Millers Dixons Creek Pinot Noir 2005 (with an antipasto platter)
- Seville Estate Shiraz 2003 or Hirsh Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004* (with a selection of cheese).
This very successful event was a further introduction for us to the Wines of Victoria. Those marked (*) above were especially appealing to us, and we have since ordered our own supply and would not hesitate to recommend these lesser known local wines to trained palates.

09 February 2007

Summer nights

Having now been in Melbourne for over a year, I have a slightly better persepctive of the seasons, and the latter part of summer is tops. The evenings are still long (due to daylight saving, it does not get dark till just before 9pm), the temperatures are moderate and even the constant breeze tends to die down. Last weekend we went out for a walk with Piero, Jill and Luca, who are going back to South Africa for a visit soon. Walking from Southbank towards the Docklands presented us with some stunning views of the city.

We also starting to look out for potential properties in earnest as my current lease ends in May, and we may need to find another place to stay. It is good to have a better perspective of the city, being able to find ones way around, and also to have a better idea where one would like to stay, and potential invest in property. We are not restricting oursleves to looking in the city, but are also looking at surrounding suburbs. I must say though that after staying for a year within walking distance of work, clients and not to mention major attractions it is quite difficult to think of perhaps giving it up in favour of some sort of commute. There are many considerations though, and we will have to work through all of them to come to a satisfactory outcome (hopefully)!

21 January 2007

Open season

January in Melbourne is dominated by tennis, and specifically the Australian Open Championships, which is hosted at Melbourne Park, just adjacent to the MCG! However prior to the Open commencing a number of run-up tournaments are hosted around Australia. In Melbourne the Kooyong Tennis Centre hosts the AAMI Classic to which eight of the top ten ranked men are invited. This year saw the who's who of mens' tennis at this tournament, and we went to see the final play-offs last Saturday. Andy Murray triumphed over Safin in the contest for third spot, and Roddick beat Federer for the top spot. The Kooyong provides the opportunity for seeing good contests the equivalents of which are typically sold out at the Aussie Open months in advance!

Summer holidays

Although we did not go away for the summer holidays, we did manage to take some time out during the non-working days. My brother came out from South Africa again, and on one occasion we cycled to Williamstown on the opposite side of Melbourne harbour. Pearl took the train and met us on Williamstown beach, before joining us on the cycle back to Melbourne. Melbourne is extremely accommodating to cyclists, and being able to take your bicycle with you on metropolitan and regional train services is just one example of this. This allows one to go out to more remote spots and cycle back into the city or vice versa. There are numerous cycle tracks throughout the city and the suburbs. Some are exclusively for cyclists' use, others are shared with skaters or pedestrians. Many roads have specialist cycling lanes which ordinarily motorised traffic is not permitted to infringe, and even where there are no demarcated cycling lanes, traffic is generally extremely considerate of the cyclists. This means that there are very few excuses left for not going out on a bike, and I have quite taken to this new pastime quite well. I have been out on a Saturday morning run on a few occasions: this involves cycling along the coast from Melbourne down to Rickert's Point and back, a distance of about 50km. Melbourne's ubiquitous coffee culture, with its innumerable coffee shops comes to ones aide somewhere along the road, allowing a good aerobic workout to also serve as a social! Chatting to Robert, who invited me on the run, the cycling culture has taken off in Melbourne over the last number of years, and he estimates that the number of cyclists on the roads on Saturday mornings has at least doubled. Undoubtedly more and more people as finding out about this form of recreation and taking it up more seriously!