Sunday, 27 June 2010

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man

After a stressful month of hunting I can now finally say I have a job, Hooray! Since being here I have found it really hard to find work because of the length of time left on my visa. However, just over a week ago I replied to an ad on Gumtree asking if the job was still available (bearing in mind it had been posted ages ago), to which I received a reply saying 'yes'. The next day I popped to Oxford Street Bakery to chat to the owner. The bakery is situated in Bulimba which is a half hour walk from our place in Morningside. After a long chat about the bakery and how it is family-owned, Julie said how perfect I was for the job. The only thing I wasn't too sure about was my barista skills which she was interested in. If you remember, Jo and I took a coffee course while we were in Sydney which Jo went on to make the most of but I didn't! Anyway, Julie told me I could start in a few days and that one of her four daughters that work there would show me the ropes. I just hoped I could remember the difference between a latte and a flat white...! Well, it's been a week since then and I can safely say that I survived. All the staff are really friendly and made me feel very welcome. There are a few newbies there which takes the pressure off me a bit. Everything we sell at work is made on site and is of high quality. Each night I tried to explain to Jo how impressive everything is and how much we actually sell. Yesterday Jo came to the shop to have a look and was impressed with what she saw. She bought a 'Blondie', on my recommendation, which is basically a brownie made with white chocolate, yum! Just as I finished my shift she managed to sneak in a quick photo to show everyone at home my cool hat!

In the lead up to my job I have had a lot of free time. Each weekend Jo and I have tried to see a bit more of Brisbane and join in with any events taking place. Throughout June the local knitting community organised something called 'I Knit Brisbane'. Dotted around the city people have been showing off their knitting skills and putting their work on show for the general public. I met Jo after work one evening and we had a hunt to see how many we could find. There were so many that we came across but only a few that were worthy of a photo. The washing line was our favourite!
We later found I Knit Brisbane, along with all other going-ons, on a website recommended by Nichola called (thank you). It was on this site we found out about lots of markets dotted around Brisbane in the coming months. There was one particular market called BrisStyle which was located in Hamilton. We visited Hamilton not long ago when we went to watch a film at The Dendy. This is the same chain that owned the cinema in Newtown, Sydney. The market was very cute. Each seller had something different and unique to offer. It was such a gorgeous day which helped bring out all the lovely colours and fabrics used on the individual stalls. There were lots of talented Australians all showing off their artistic and crafting skills. One thing that stood out for me were lots of bird cages hanging from a stall with knitted birds inside, very cute!
We were informed by one of the locals that they will be there again in July as well as a twilight market in the city. We might just have to go there again as there we lots of bits that caught our attention for our future house!
We took the river cat to the market but to get home we thought it would be nice to walk back to the city. The walk was a lot further than we thought, but it gave a chance to see parts of Brisbane we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
As you probably know by now, Jo and I like to explore, which normally means walking somewhere. I read in our trusty bible (Lonely Planet) that there is a great view over Brisbane from the top of a 'mountain'. The last time we went to a lookout was Mount Wellington in Tasmania back in 2008 which I'm still blown away by even today! We caught a bus from the city to Mount Coot-tha lookout. The drive to the top, as you can imagine, was very windy. On the way we passed Brisbane Botanical Gardens and a very big graveyard. Even though it was a Sunday, it was really busy. We hopped off the bus and went to admire the view. It's hard to capture it in a photo but believe me when I say it was a great view. Atop this mountain was a gift shop and a very expensive café which we soon avoided after realising a caramel slice was $8, ouch!
After taking in the beautiful view we thought it would be nice to walk back down instead of catching the bus. The walk down took us through a very big woods which was a bit bumpy on the feet. Halfway down we thought we were lost until we popped out onto a street of houses which looked like they stepped out of Neighbours! We followed the road out and came across a cute park. No one was about so being the kids we are we had a little bit of fun on the rides and the swings! :)
The following weekend was a special day in our diary. June 19 was our six year anniversary, wow! We both thought it would be nice to have a chill-out day and just potter around the shops. We agreed that we wouldn't spend much on each other as we are trying to save, but that didn't stop Jo buying me a very funky tea towel. Yes, I know, a tea towel, but the plan is to convert it into a cushion, as you do! The design on it is by an Australian artist called Russell Leonard. I, on the other hand, decided to make Jo's favourite dessert, Key Lime Pie. The last time I cooked it was probably two years ago so it was a bit of a surprise for her. Jo gave it a big thumbs up and two days later it was gone!
That evening we booked a table at a Turkish Restaurant called Mado. It is located on South Bank which is a very popular area for food and night life. The meal was amazing. It took us back to our holiday in Greece as that was the first time we discovered aubergine dip, but here they call it eggplant dip. After tucking into our starter, and feeling full already, our main was brought out. Jo had an 'eggplant boat' full of lots of veg (so Jo!) and I had a pizza-style pide. Turkish pide is basically a giant pita bread full of herbs and spices. This one in particular covered my plate and was very very filling. Just after we finished our main a blast of music came out of the speakers and out popped a belly dancer. Everyone got involved by clapping in time with the music. Some guests got up and danced with her. We both hoped she wouldn't ask us, as we were still waiting for our food to go down! She was out dancing for about half an hour which was very entertaining. We finished the meal off with a cup of coffee before finishing the night with a trip to the cinema. All in all we had a really nice day and enjoyed reminiscing about the last six years together.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Phase 2

We have been in Brisbane for less than four weeks, yet if someone told me I’d been here for four months I would probably believe them. From the moment our plane touched down at Brisbane International Airport at 8.30pm on Tuesday, May 18, it has been go, go, go.
Things got off to a shaky start, reminiscent of our arrival in 2008 when we turned up during Australian Open fever and had nowhere to stay. This time round we had arranged to stay with Lloyd, an old college friend, for the first couple of nights, until we found our feet. However, Lloyd had got confused and thought we were arriving on the Thursday. So, at around 10pm, we had to find somewhere to stay in a city we barely knew. Not the start we had hoped for! Anyway, we ended up in Bunk (a giant backpackers full of ‘young’uns’). Not really our cup of tea, but at least it was a bed for the night.
Later in the week we did actually manage to stay with Lloyd and he also lined up a job interview for me with the boss of the cafe that he works at. By the Friday I was working at Atomic Coffee on Albert Street in the CBD. At this point I should talk about the horrific start to that Friday.... By this time we were back at Bunk (it was like a magnet, we kept getting dragged back to that horrible place) and I was due to be at Cool Beans (another cafe owned by Lloyd’s boss) for 8.30am. It was pouring with rain and I had totally underestimated how long it would take to get there from the backpackers. By the time I arrived, nearly 10 minutes late, I was hot, sweaty and soaking wet. Not the first impression I had planned. Darren, the boss, doesn’t mince his words. He made it clear that I was late and that he wasn’t impressed and also that Anthony, the boss of Atomic Coffee, had been expecting me 10 minutes ago! Things were just getting better and better.... Darren gave me garbled directions to the cafe and I headed out into the rain, again. When I eventually arrived at Atomic I was chucked straight in the deep end – pouring shots for the head barista during the morning rush! I have had some barista experience from working at Dolce and Gelato, but nothing prepared me for the pace at  Atomic. The rest of that morning is a bit of a blur, but let’s just say I must have done something right because they asked me back on the Monday.
Since then I have been working full time, Monday to Friday. The cafe is at the bottom of a giant office block and most of the customers are city workers, meaning that it is pointless opening at weekends. I spend most of my days off catching up on sleep as, to be at work for 7am, I have to catch the 5.45am train (or 5.15am when I start at 6am!). It’s tiring stuff but they pay well, so I can’t really complain. The people I work with are all very friendly. At the moment there’s a bit of a staff change-over going on, as quite a few people have left, but the newbies seem nice from what I can tell. Not that we get much time to chat, as it’s so busy all the time.
During our first week in Brisbane we went to visit Barry, Sue and Shane in Redcliffe. Barry and Sue used to live in Clinton Road, opposite my parents, but emigrated about 25 years ago. We stayed with them last time we were in Brisbane and thought we might stay this time for a while. However, Redcliffe is about an hour out of the city, which would have made job hunting virtually impossible. Barry and Sue were just packing up to go to the UK for 10 weeks, so it was nice to catch them before they left. We will hopefully see them again in August when they return. In the meantime Shane has offered to show us a few places, so we’ll probably meet up with him again soon.
Shortly after we arrived we were walking through Fortitude Valley and bumped in to Dan’s old school friend Joe, who moved over here about four years ago. Although Joe knew we were in Australia, we hadn’t yet told him we were in Brisbane, so I think he was pretty shocked to see us. That weekend he invited us to his house in Red Hill, where he lives with his girlfriend Steph, for a BBQ. Also at the BBQ was another of Dan’s school friends, Robin, who Dan hadn’t seen for years. They all had a right old catch up, gossiping about everyone they knew from the good old days and discussing what they were all up to now. After the BBQ we headed into the West End to watch a fantastic band – Chocolate Strings. They are classed as a ‘funk’ band, whatever that means! To me it sounded like a mix of jazz, blues and a bit of reggae. But, whatever it was, it was awesome and I even bought a CD afterwards.
After a week of hostelling both Dan and I were more than ready to find our own place. Being surrounded by drunk 19-year-old travellers when you have to get up for work at 5am is not fun. Anyway, we hunted around on Gumtree and made a shortlist. The first place we looked at was is the gorgeous area of Paddington
The next day we took a bus to Morningside, to view the second house on our list. Again, the area looked really promising, but I didn’t get my hopes up after last time. However, this house was lovely. A brand new development, made up of small townhouses. Although the room we would be living in was considerably smaller than the one in Newtown we didn’t mind, as the rest of the house was perfect. We didn’t say yes straight away, as we had another house to view that evening. However, after the third house turned out to be a party venue, we immediately said yes to the one in Morningside. We moved in to the house on Ison Street the next day. It felt so good to unpack and relax. The 20 minute commute doesn’t even bother me, because it’s worth it to stay in such a nice house. Plus I get to read my book on the train, so the time passes really quickly.
The house also occupies the owner, Anna, and two Brazilians – Miara and Larissa. All three are friendly and chatty and have given us lots of useful information about Brisbane. Miara is leaving soon unfortunately but, as her and Larissa share a room, I don’t think anyone else will be moving in.
This Monday is a public holiday, courtesy of the Queen’s birthday, so I think Dan and I are going to head out of the city to do some exploring. I think it’s hilarious that the Aussies have a day off for the Queen’s birthday yet, even though she lives in the UK, we don’t celebrate it at home. Personally I think Australians use any excuse for a holiday! Not that that’s a bad thing of course....