Tag Archives: Oz

Go the Swans

Aussie Rules football – what is that all about?

Well boys and girls, if you listen carefully, I can tell you.  We are working for a premium broadcaster here in Oz, and they gave us a table in the corporate suite for a key Aussie Rules game. I knew nothing about Aussie rules, so I decided to try and do a bit of homework. I watched a game on TV, but unfortunately the commentary was not very helpful, as the assumption (rightly) is that those watching know something of the game. Thus most of this went over my head, and the game looked like a series of blokes pushing each other over while no-where near the ball, while elsewhere on a huge pitch the rest of the gang all chased after the ball like a school-yard crew of 7 year old kids playing football. There seemed to be little coordination and teamwork, just a mass scramble to get the ball, and then kick it through a set of 4 (yes 4) goalposts.

Seeing this goalpost setup added to my conviction that this game is for thugs s of, let us say “intellectually challenged” capacity. Nowhere else have I seen a game where the goalposts are there at the centre part of the back of the field, but if you miss, never mind, because there is a further, wider set of posts so your goal counts anyway. The only thing I couldn’t work out is why They stopped at 4 posts. Surely it would have been kinder to these poor eejits to put sets of posts all the way around the field – then every time the ball went out, someone would score. How exciting would that be? Oh, and by the way, the filed is round, so they don’t have to worry about knowing if they get backed into a corner, or figuring out where they are. You just keep running round the line, and eventually you will come to a goal.

So – with all this in mind, and having read of the reputation of “Footie” fans as being no more endowed with a blessed IQ than the players, it was with a mixture of interest and trepidation that I set off to the ANZ stadium on Saturday afternoon. I met Angela and David from work on the Ferry, which took us into parts of the river and city that I hadn’t visited before. The Paramatta river is very wide and undulating, with numerous inlets, coves and a pirate ship (at least I think I saw one), and goes inland a long way. The ferry was a powered catamaran, very stable and comfortable, and it headed up the river quite fast. There weren’t many on the boat, and the views of the river and houses were beautiful. It must be so lovely to have a house on the river here. Anyway, it took about 50 minutes to get from Darling Harbour to the wharf for the Olympic village – the Stadium was the Olympic flagship, built to house a capacity of 110,000, but now trimmed down a bit, so it only (ONLY?) seats 80,000.

A bus-ride from the wharf to the stadium complex passed through the whole Olympic area that was built for the 2000 games. There are a whole bunch of arena’s, hotels, business parks and the like. It was evening so I am not sure how well populated the area is during the day, but I hope it is in full use. Anyway – the bus was full of mostly Sydney Swans fans, with a few Collingwood supporters thrown in for good measure. The Swans are the only Sydney team, and have red and white kit, while the ‘pies (Collingwood) wear colours akin to Newcastle United, a black and white striped shirt, and I guess they either got their nickname from the shirt, or Newcastle, who are also known as the Magpies.

Apparently (I was told by someone who seemed to be very knowledgeable), the whole game comes from Victoria, with Melbourne as its’ capital. of the 16 teams in the Franchise, 11 are based in Melbourne, and the others, like Sydney, used to be Melbourne based, and 25 ish years ago some of the franchises were sold off to the other major cities to try and grow support for the game. The Sydney Swans used to be South Melbourne before they moved here. Also, a story that I heard is that the game was started to keep cricketers fit in the off season – this may also be true, and the scoring and umpires are certainly as idiosynchratic as cricket.

So, history lessons aside, we arrived at the stadium amidst a sea of red, black and white. There was a lot of banter in between the fans, but I didn’t see of feel any animosity in the way that football fans in England can behave towards each other. There were lots of families there. Also, there didnt seem to be any ‘away’ seating – the fans seemed to mingle happily so that when a team scored (which seemed to be every 1.8 seconds approximately) the cheers came from all over the ground. And what a massive ground it was – oval in shape, with various geometries within that, denoting various limits and areas. I reckon it was about 180 metres end to end. Thugs or no thugs, these guys are fit. They are always moving, and cover many many miles in the course of a game.

There are 18 players from each team on the ground at any one time, plus 4 substitutes that can swap as many times as they like. Then, there are 8 umpires, a whole load of guys from each team who can carry towels and water to their players, (during live play!), and then 2 guys dressed in fluorescent cycling gear, who kept running on and off the whole game, but didn’t seem to do anything useful. So – in all, you can have upward of 50 people all milling about on this massive field, and it would surprise me if anyone actually could follow the whole thing properly. To add to the confusion I faced, they have 4 quarters to the match which are supposed to be 20 minutes, but ended up lasting more like nearer 30 mins – so it did seem to go on forever.

The scoring also seemed to be somewhat cricket like in its complexity. With scores like 2-4-23 and 3-8-19, I was never sure who was winning and why. Anyway, it was an interesting experience, and one that will add to the richness of my visit here in Oz.

Work have asked me to stay involved in this project, so my stay overall in Australia is likely to be an extended one, with visits back home to see my kids and girlfriend punctuating stays of 5/6 weeks. I need to finalise things with the kids, their mother and with work, but I will probably be coming home in about 2 weeks time for a fortnight, then back out here again. Lena has booked us a visit to Riga for her Birthday, so will be over in Latvia for 5 days. I have mixed feeling about this – I want to deliver this project now that I have been involved in it – and it is an interesting one in terms of technologies that I haven’t been involved with before – but I miss my little peeps and my Lena. Oh well, nothing in life is ever straight forward, and the opportunity has been a great one, however it pans out.

Not much else to report on for the weekend. Some walking about Sydney, plenty of surfing (the web) and doing bits of work, expenses, money transfers and the like. There is an England football match tonight v Germany, in case you had missed the world cup, so will be watching that – maybe from the safety of my room, or maybe down in front of the massive screens in Darling Harbour with 10,000 other idiots.

Sydney is hosting the 93rd international Lions conference (you know, the organisation for retired do-gooders who meet up to raise money and share their mutual self-adoration for being such jolly good fellows), and I think all of them are staying in my hotel. That means that the lifts are always clogged, and stop on every floor (I am on the 7th), so that Doris and Butch from Wyoming can shuffle in and greet everyone at a volume that would embarrass a rock band. I have to admit that the Yanks are the loudest, and I actually chatted to one old dear who came from Joburg, and who was quite nice. She was still pretty impressed with herself, but then I guess they do a lot of good deeds so perhaps they all deserve to be. It is just making navigating the hotel and breakfast a bit of a challenge. Never mind

Be good, do good, and be impressed with yourselves…..

I came over all Manly, but ended up humping whales

Soooo

today is Sunday, and in a fit of decisiveness I decided to get the ferry to Manly today, and explore around there. It is supposed to be lovely – it is 7 miles across the harbour toward the north east, so after breakfast I headed off purposefully. I got as far as the wharf  below my hotel (to get the ferry to Circular quay and then change onto the Manly ferry), when I walked past a boat advertising Whale watching. Now this is not an unusual sight in Sydney, but I had kind of been thinking about going off to see the whales, so I allowed myself to get talked into the cruise by the rep.

The day was absolutely fabulous from a weather point of view. I think it was around 22 degrees, warm sun, light breeze, and in all very pleasant. If this is winter time, no-one told the sun.

I had an hours wait, so went back to the hotel, changed out of shorts and t-shirt (apparently it could get a bit windy and cool once you leave the harbour), and read for a bit. I am reading a book called Super Freakonomics, the sequel to the highly acclaimed (and very enjoyable) Freakonomics, so I whiled away the 35 minutes quite happily til I wandered back down to the Darling Harbour quay. The boat is a fast racing type thingy, with an engine that could apparenlty power a Jumbo jet or some such rubbish – anyway, it was very powerful.

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We set off and popped around to Circular quay, in front of the Opera House, to pick up the majority of the passengers. The boat was probably about 2/3rds full, and set off into the harbour with a groan of engines. It actually accellerated impressively and smacked across the waves at a fair lick. It took about 15 minutes to reach the harbour mouth – the Heads – through some beautiful views. The more I see of Sydney, the more I like it. We slowed down for a talk at the Heads, then slowly chugged out to sea, everyone looking for whale activity. The sea was very blue, and massive. Sydney is at the south-east corner of Australia, and beyond it is just thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, plus a few little islands dotted here and there (sorry, New Zealand).

After about 40 minutes of excited (but non-productive) whale spotting, we saw a small collection of boats, and taking that as a clue, headed towards them. Sure enough, there was a pod of 3 Humpback whales between the flotilla and us. It was very exciting to see – they are truly majestic animals. My photos dont do them much justice – the boat was rolling a fair bit, and I was more interested in watching the whales than taking pics.

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Anyway, we followed them for about 45 minutes or so, they kept diving down, staying under for a few minutes, then coming up for a breather and to roll around a bit. It was spectacular indeed. We stayed so long that we were going to be late for the boat to get back, so when we left, Captain Tim put the throttle on “Oh My God” speed and we skimmed the waves at a great speed across the open ocean o the harbour. It was nearly as much fun as the whale watching. The view coming in to the harbour from the ocean was pretty special, too.

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We got taken back to Circular quay, and I hopped onto the ferry back round to Darling Harbour, so I could enjoy a bit more water-time. Catch ya later, Crocodile

Haircut

Hello Bouys and Gulls

Another week has whizzed by. Been working quite long days – doing a normal workday, plus then heading back to the hotel for a conf call everyday at 6pm, which is 9am UK time, and is when everyone gets into the office back home. Once the call is done I still have to type up my notes, and then tend to get involved in emails that start flowing once the UK gets underway. Work is going OK on the whole – the project is in full flow, and things are happening.

Been watching a bit of the world cup here and there. The hours of the games in Australian money are not that convenient, but woek up this morning at 0420 to watch England grind out a boring 0-0 draw with Aljazeeria. What a steaming pile of pooh. Honestly, dunno how England have such talented players, and yet manage to play like drunken baby elephants so often in crunch situations. What is going on? Anyway, they have one game left, and if they win that one, they go into the next roud, so destiny is still in their own hands. South Africa have also been shit, so I might lose interest if neither go into the last 16. We shall see.

Am still enjoying Sydney. I go over the harbour bridge every day on the train on my way to work, and se the Opera House – lovely. Did a load more walking today – had a haircut, explored a few markets, saw some more neighbourhoods – and the weather has remained lovely. Wore shorts today – not bad at all for winter.

I spoke to Jexi on skype this week – yay, she remembered me. Spoke to the other chaps too, they all seem OK. Sent Span some money to book her driving test, not sure if she has done so yet, but soon enough, my baby will be a driver. Don’t they grow up fast……

I speak to Lena most days, often twice a day. Normally i catch her when she is on the way to work as I am on my way home, and often i I am awake early or up to watch soccer then we talk as well. Skype is such a marvelous thing, cos I can see who I am talking too, and it makes the distance almost bearable.

Had a look at booking to go to a show at the Opera house. “Waiting for Godot” is currently on, with SIr Ian McKellen – but the tickets are around 100 quid or more. Bloody hell, I know Sydney is expensive(over 5 pounds for 330mls of beer in a pub), but that is ridiculous. Likewise Yusuf Islam (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) is playing at the Entertainment Centre in Darling Harbour this week, but again tickets are well over 100 quid and upwards. I am going to spend my money on the kids rather – the girls want some Aussie UGG boots, so have been shopping around. Not bought any yet, but I have very specific instructions from the ladies as to what they want, so I will get some one of these days.

Next weekend we are being taken to an Aussie Rules Football match by our hosts, We have to dress formally, whih is a bit wierd, as teh game is played by hooligans and, from what I can see, involves a lot of punching and not much skill. Anyway, should be interesting. Not sure what I will do tomorrow, will decide in the morning, There is an area of town called NewTown which is supposedly a bit alternative and bohemian, so might wander off in that directions. In the meanwhile, be good…………

Fire and Water

Got the ferry round to the Circular quay last night with Paul, and after wandering around the night markets we sat at a pavement cafe for some food. Prawn rissotto, with prawns so fresh I think one of them was still moving. Hmm Mmm. There were a lot of people around the Rocks, as there is a four day event happening here, celebrating the history of the area.

After we had eaten, we walked down to the shore of Campbells Cove, where thousand of people were waiting for the evening show, a spectacular called Fire and Water. We sat down with everyone, and waited about 10 minutes until the show started.  The Opera house opposite was lit up by very powerful projectors from this side of the bay, and some of the paterns were stunning.

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The show told the story, from the eyes of a young Sydneysider (the name for natives of this city), about the travels and adventures of one of the early pioneers of Australian settlement. The man was an Indian, who lived in Glasgow, had various adventures bringing goods (mostly rum) to Oz, before settling in Kolkhata. So, the show had a spectrum from aborignal chants and didgeridoo playing, via a beautifully lit tall ship with acrobats flying in the rigging, to a full-on Bollywood spectacular, via a variety of comtemporary styles and themes. It was interesting, entertaining, spectacular and memorable.

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After the show we headed back to our part of the world on the train, and stopped at a pub to watch the Algeria vs Slovenia game. These 2 are the others in the England USA group, and from what I have seen so far, England have not got an easy passage into the knock-out rounds.

I have been for a long walk today – headed out via Picadilly and Kings Cross to Potts Point (am I in London?), did a major loop before ending up back at my hotel. It is a public holiday today – the Queens Birthday – so we aren’t working. The weather has remained lovely all weekend, and I have taken advantage with a good bit of touristing. Got a conf call in a bit, then probably going to watch the early game (well, early for us – kick off is 2130 Sydney time). Be good

Opera house

So yesterday, being Saturday, was a day for exploration. I got up quite late, having watched the RSA v Mexico world cup game, which finished at 0200 ish (and was the scene of some (or more) beer drinking). My hotel overlooks Darling Harbour (as I keep saying), which is a walk of about a kilometer or so from Sydney main harbour – Circular quay. I walked up to the quay, through town, and ventured in front of the Rocks.

The Rocks is Sydneys (actaully Australias) oldest colonial settlement. It is where the first white settlers set up camp when they arrived, and though not very old in European, Aboriginal or Big Bang terms, the Aussies are excited about its’ history – and it is a nice place. It is full of hotels and shops, and a nice arty crafty market on the weekends. I dropped down onto the quay-side first, and took some pics of the Opera House from this side.

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The, I wondered through the market, and bought some lovely food. It is apparently a Turkish dish called Guzleme or Gozleme – a roti or lavash-like flatbread, used to wrap up a cooked mix of cheese, spinach and chicken. Hmm hmm – lick that, Colonel Sanders. Very delish indeed. I walked through the markets back down to the quayside, then all the way around the Circular Quay to the Opera house. It is a very well known and instantly recognisable, iconic symbol of Australia and Sydney, and seeing it for real only reinforces what a fabulous place it is. It is so beautiful, quirky, bold and makes complete sense in context. You have to salute the bravery of a city that would commission and stick by the building of such an “out of the box” design. The history of the design and build is a fascinating one, not devoid of intrigue and drama – have a look at wikipedia for the story.

Anyway, I wandered all the way round the buildings (it is actually 3 main sets of buildings with a bunch of spaces underneath as well), took loads of pictures, and generally felt good to be there. I am sure that I will manage to see some sort of production in my time here.

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After I had gawped for some time, I wandered back toward the quay and the ferry port. I hopped onto a ferry that was going my way, and took the 25 minute ride to Darling Harbour. The ride actually crosses the harbour, so you don’t go directly, but is was just after sunset, and the views were lovely, the wind was fresh but not too cold, and it felt good to be alive. I got back to my stop, and in celebration of teh wonderous joys of being alive, I went to teh IMAX cinema to watch Shrek 4 in 3D. It was just as good as the other Shreks, nostalgically predictable, feelgood and thoroughly enjoyable. Back to the hotel, and early-ish to bed.

Woke up at 0345, to get up and watch the football – England vs USA. I met Paul in the hotel lobby, and we went down to the harbour, which was still pretty full of people. We sat in a bar, drank Aussie beer (at 4 oclcok in the morning), and watched Engalnd play like pumpkins.

Had a couple more hours sleep then got up for breakfast, did my weeks worth of expense claims, and am now heading off for another Sydney adventure.

G’day cobber

World cup fever

Morning all

So – the world cup is finally upon us. I am staying on Darling Harbour in Sydney. It is a lovely area with lots of restaurants, bars, parks and shops – and they have built a series of 4 or 5 massive screens to show the football in an “official FIFA Fanzone”. I reckon there were up to about 10,000 people there last night to watch the opening ceremony and the entertainment that was laid on.

I went out for a meal and a few beers with some colleagues, and then we walked to the “Fan Zone” and joined in the fun. There were people wearing all sorts of national colours, including quite a lot of both SA and Mexico. Watched the game, which was actually pretty good, but SA drew 1-1, so not quite the outcome we wanted, but not bad either.

Came back and fell asleep while talkin to Lena on Skype – she was just home from work, but it was 2:15 am for me, and coupled with not much sleep this week and a few beers, I was not great company. Missing her and the kids – Ben is being the most communicative, and Span is texting now and then plus a chat on skype the other day – I think Jex has forgotten her old dad :(.

Anyway – it is lovely outside, so am gonna go walkies in a bit

see ya later

Sleep is for wimps

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…….. who needs sleep anyway.

Not me, apparently. I have been in Oz for 4 days now, and still havent adjusted to the time zone. I slept about 3 or 4 hours last night, and was awake from 3 ish onward. Not good, but hoping it will pass soon (maybe tonight?) and I will be able to sleep through til the morning. Here’s hoping!

Had the tour today of the facility we are working at – a Major TV company, we went through the studios, edit suites, storage, tape libraries, Sattelite transmiters, generators and lots of other interesting things. Lots of statistics, more acronyms than you can shake a stick at, and a command centre that made the bridge of the USS Enterprise look like a lego toy. I enjoyed it a lot, learned a bit more about the world of TV, and realised how much pressure the TV companies are under to ‘keep the show going’. The world is pretty much used to computer systems going down, in fact it is pretty much expected. However, when was the last time your TV screen went black? They certainly seem to know what they are doing.

Right – will report back tomorrow, when I hope to have had a decent sleep

Things always look better after a sleep

Wandered around Sydney in a daze yesterday. Went shopping for some bare essentials to tide me over til my bag arrives, in an interesting market called Paddys Market, about 15 mins walk from the hotel. Then wandered back via Darling Harbour, which is much more up-market, but less satisfying. Met up with Paul from work, who is staying at the same hotel, and we walked up to Sydney harbour, had a few beers while watching the Sydney life go by, and then walked accross to the Rocks.

We had some food at an Italian place – Paul had an Australiana pizza, which was basically bacon and egg on a Pizza! Managed to stay awake, strolled a bit more, then headed back to the hotel about 5 ish. It is dark at that time already, and didnt want to go to sleep too early, so pottered about my room, surfed the web and read a bit til around 9ish, when I could hold out no longer.

I was woken in the night by my bag finally being delivered from the airport, and fell asleep again within seconds, though woke up at 0330, and was awake for 2 hours, just lying there being tired and persuading myself that I should be sleeping. Finally drifted off again and slept for another 3 or four hours, woke up feeling OK, so hopefully my body clock has arrived in Australia too.

Am meeting my cousin Errol for lunch in a bit, he lives in the north of the city, then this evening am meeting an old friend of my sisters who lives in Melbourne but is in Sydney for the weekend. All good stuff.

Catch you later

Oz

Woody Allen has a theory that the rings of Saturn are made up of lost luggage. I hope he is wrong, cos I am in Sydney with one laptop, two pairs of shoes and the clothes I have been travelling in for the past 32 hours. My bag has “gone elsewhere”. Ho hum. Welcome to Oz

Heathrow

So landed from Manchester a couple of hours ago. Had a meal which was overpriced and overcooked, along with a beer that cost as much as a small carribean island. Ah, don’t you love travelling. Two and a half hours to the next take off…….