Welcome to our blog! It's our way both of keeping a record of getting to know our new home, and also of keeping everyone at home in touch with what we are doing.

Love Wendy, Andrew, George and Anna xxx

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Rites of Spring

So here we are in October, which for Australians signals the start of spring. The children are on two weeks school holidays, and after the hottest September for 150 years, we were expecting to spend it on the beach. The first week, however, passed in a blur of winter temperatures, rain and greyness. All George's mates were away, and he spent most of his time moping in his pyjamas, in the way only a child on the cusp of teenagerdom can, making short trips between the tv, the X-Box and the computer, occasionally mumbling about the unfairness of it all.

This week, the sun is back out, and although not exactly beach weather to my mind (although when I walked the dog from South Curl Curl beach to Freshwater this morning there were plenty of people soaking up the rays, so maybe I'm being too picky!), it looks and feels a lot brighter. George's mates are back, and Anna, as always, has plenty to do, with a couple of days at Sydney Dance Company this week, and three days of dancing at her dance school over next weekend.

Last weekend, we had the excitement of going to watch the opening ceremony for the World Master's Games at the Olympic Stadium. If you haven't heard of this event, you should have, as it's bigger than the Olympics - the largest multi sport, multi nation sporting event in the world. This year they had nearly 29000 competitors - and I ought to know because I watched them all march into the Stadium! Anna's school choir joined with other Public School choral groups to create a megachoir of 500 voices to sing the National Anthem and another song called Dare to Dream during the massive opening ceremony which also featured a rock concert (well - Leo Sayer...) and fireworks. It was a great evening, and we couldn't help thinking how amazing it was that now Anna has sung in the Opera House, and in the Olympic Stadium to an audience of about 40000! Where next? Carnegie Hall? Time Square? Wembley??!

In the UK, I used to hate the school holidays. I think my sister put it best when she put as her status this summer - 'and here beginneth the childcare disaster formerly known as the school holidays'. The holidays meant an even more complex juggling act than normal of childcare versus work, which inevitably left the children feeling let down, and made me feel like a terrible parent. Working from home was far from being the answer, as clients on the whole did not recognise my childcare issue, and probably (although no one ever said this to me directly) wondered what all the screaming was in the background. On one memorable occasion, a phone call to a client was interrupted by a group of children bursting into my office shouting in horror - 'Mummy! Charlie is sexing Nancy!'. Explaining that Nancy was Anna's little friend, and Charlie was a border collie didn't really make things any better (but somehow was easier than explaining the bruises on Nancy to her mother when she came to pick her up...). Having an au pair didn't always help either, as children are a bit like clients in that when things are going pear shaped they want to see the person with the highest authority - you.

As a result, I viewed school holidays as something of a trial, and watched their arrival with dread. The children felt like something that had to be organised, like everything else, and fitted onto the spreadsheet I produced every week to let everyone know what the week ahead held - not like something to be enjoyed and cherished.

These days, however, I can't wait for them to start. No more school runs, no more rushing round to basketball, dancing, choir, netball, drama etc etc. Well, not so much. And the days are longer - everything doesn't have to stop at 2.30pm in order to ensure that you are around when they get home from school. And best of all, you get to spend some quality time with your children, instead of simply providing a chauffeuring service to them. It's bliss! I'm even disappointed when the term starts again, and counting the weeks till the next holiday. Who would have thought it? And these days George and Anna are such good company. We have a great time together. Don't get me wrong.....there are conflicts (for example about the number of days it is reasonable not to get out of your pjs....), but now we can watch movies together that don't bore me to tears, we can recommend books to one another, we can have a laugh. I regret that I wasn't around more when they were smaller, so that I could have enjoyed that as well, instead of always feeling so conflicted by all the different responsibilities I had, but what's done is done, and I'm seizing the day while I still can.

So - the best thing to come of changing our life and moving to Australia?

The opportunity to fall in love with my children all over again.....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Red Dawn

Imagine you went to bed one night after a clear, hot and sunny day, and woke up in the morning to discover the apocalypse had arrived. Because that is exactly what happened in Sydney yesterday.

We woke up as normal at around 6.15am to an eerie red glow coming through the shutters. I got up thinking it was a fantastic sunrise, looked outside and found that in every direction there was just....well we didn't know what it was. But it was red with an orange glow, it was everywhere, and instead of a view down to the beach at Manly, we now had a view which ended at the edge of our deck. There was a weird stillness and a strange smell. What the bloody hell was it?! First thoughts was a fire - we know that bushfires coming at you are either black or a wall of red, but the smell wasn't fire, although our eyes were stinging. The kids got up and George almost immediately started to wheeze. We put on the tv and there were pictures of the Harbour Bridge covered in red smog. We were in the midst of the largest dust storm ever experienced in metropolitan Australia - a dust storm of such enormous proportions that it spread from Newcastle in the north to Woolongong in the south - some 600kms. Air pollution was 1500 times the safe level and 75000 tonnes of topsoil whipped off the rain starved fields of central Australia was being dumped on the streets of coastal New South Wales.

The TV told us that schools were still open, but that people should not make unnecessary journeys, especially if they suffer from respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Not that this was going to stop Andrew walking up to the bus stop and going into the city as usual, although I did persuade him to take an inhaler. After a few puffs of the inhaler, George's asthma seemed to settle down, so I decided that missing school was unnecessary, although we were now going to be late. And this is where our day started to get farcical....

I drove George to school, taking Anna with me, with the intention of dropping her off at her school afterwards. As George was late, I was required to take him in and fill out a late form, so off I dutifully went. However, when I told them why he was late, they said they would really rather I took him back home, as they were worried about how things might pan out for the rest of the day and didn't want him having an acute asthma attack at school. Of course they were right - what was I thinking?! Especially when I had received an email from my mum who, having observed some of the scenes on You Tube, expressly forbade me to let George and his dysfunctional lungs out of the house! It wasn't going to be a day off though - a dust storm wasn't going to turn into an excuse to spend the day on X Box - oh no....so I sent George off to get some work from his locker to do at home. On the way back from there, we bumped into the Head of Middle School, who wanted to speak to me about a letter I written about some concerns I had, so we sent George off to sit in reception whilst we had a chat.

Now, if you thought insisting on your asthmatic child going to school during the apocolypse was an example of substandard parenting, this is where I go into some real prize winning parenting. Because I completely forgot that Anna was sitting outside in the car in a dust storm, and was expecting me only to be a few minutes......

So some 35 minutes later, George comes and knocks on the door. He has received a phone call from Anna, who is in the car, and by now quite hysterical, thinking that something has happened to me. I've left my phone in the car, and she is too frightened to get out and come and find me.

I'm wondering. Do other people do stuff like this? Do other people, for periods of 35 minutes or so, entirely forget that they have not one, but TWO children. One of whom is stuck in a car surrounded by spooky red dust? Or is it just me?

My meeting with Mrs. Oates is abruptly ended, and I rush back to Anna, who is red eyed and trembling, and says she thought I had been kidnapped. I felt so guilty I told them we would all go home together, and she would have the day off as well (despite having perfectly good lungs).

And then the car wouldn't start.

So. Let's recap. We are in the world's largest dust storm. I really shouldn't have left the house. One of my children is asthmatic. The other one is psychologically scarred forever. And we are stuck, on a steep hill, with cars in front and behind us, in our car, which will not work.

Now then. Did I mention that we are not members of any breakdown and rescue group? Could I be more thrilled with how the day is going?

George, being George, and being mainly made of Andrew's DNA, is unperturbed and gets out a book to read. Anna, being Anna, and mainly being made of my DNA, starts eating her packed lunch. Me, being me, decides that the best thing to do is to phone Andrew, and complain about how crap the day is going and to try to make it his fault. Andrew, however, being Andrew, is In A Meeting, and not taking my calls. This means, irritatingly, that I am going to have to sort this out myself...

It is in situations like this that you have to thank God (or someone) that you have great friends. Because Nicky drove over, tried to help me jump start the car (this required a fair amount of giggling, and confusion, as we don't really know how to do this...), and when we failed to get it started, drove me and the children back home. Whereupon, I jumped online, joined the NRMA (the Australian equivalent of the RAC) and arranged for someone to come and rescue the car. An interesting conversation ensued about the colour of my car, which although usually silver, in common with every other car I had seen on the road, had turned orange. Nicky then came back and took me to my ailing car, which naturally was able to be jump started no problem and made me look like the idiot I am when it comes to cars.

You'll be pleased to know that the rest of the day passed without further incident and that by around 3pm the world was back to normal in Sydney and the dust storm was on its way to Brisbane. The 100km winds which had been predicted never arrived, and, apart from grimy skin, a funny feeling in the back of your throat and a covering of red dust over everything, inside and out, you'd never believe it had happened.

And now, all I have to decide is whether to bother trying to clean it all up, when they are saying there is another arriving at the weekend....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Arts North Primary Choral Festival - 14 September 2009

Seven hundred and fifty primary school children sing to a sold out audience in the Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House, and Anna is chosen to sing the only solo of the night! A very proud mum and dad, and a wonderful concert showcasing the very high standards of musicianship and commitment to music in public (state) schools in NSW. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SOLO Heritage ad

George's advert for SOLO - see if you can spot him!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

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Anna's Sultana Bran advert - she's the one in front of the fuzzy boys with the red pigtails!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anna SDC winter 2009 Lyrical Contemporary

This one was choreographed and taught by Reed Luplau - if you are interested in this sort of thing, you can Google him!

Anna SDC Winter 2009 JazzFunkHiphop

This is the dance where you can see the most of Anna. Anna looks good, but it's hard not to look at the girl in the first section on the front row who absolutely ROCKS! Apparently she has only been dancing for a year - obviously a natural. If you are having trouble watching it, because it keeps pausing to buffer, just go away and let it do its thing until it has all downloaded then start again. Then you get to see it without all the annoying stoppages. Enjoy!