The last time you heard from me I was going to Tasmania. That was back in February, when Christmas seemed like yesterday and the Australian summer holidays were still in full swing. It’s now April and some people out there in the virtual world have expressed concern for my well being; logic being, if I’m not blogging something must be wrong. Well, I’m happy to report that the lack of blogging is not an indicator of something being wrong, in fact it’s quite the opposite. In short, I’m still here, still happy, and still loving’ life down-under. It’s still my intention to complete those half written posts I’ve drafted (so look out for them sneakily appearing in the past), but for now let me bring you up to speed with my summer on the other side of the world.

Australian fun. Pictures by Simon Jones.

I find it hard to work on sunny days. Well, if I’m totally honest, I find it hard to work on any days, but those tasks are particularly trying on days where the sun streams through my window and the air outside is warm. It’s not particularly a big deal when you live in the UK where warm sunny days are like pearls on the sea bed, but here in Australia this affliction becomes much more of an issue.

I thought that I would probably do a lot more writing here, that the good weather would afford me countless opportunities to sit outside in the sun with my laptop and tap away the hours watching the world wander by while I sipped chilled drinks. The reality was, perhaps inevitably, a little different. Yes there were many hours spent at cafes, but they were more social and less conducive to quality time with my laptop. Strangers didn’t stay strange for long and I would often end up on first name terms with my fellow cafe dwellers.

Of course, I didn’t spend the entire summer in cafe’s. Far from it in fact. There were (and still are) bikes rides, beaches, walks, talks, restaurants, bars, concerts, shows, gigs, and all manner of social gatherings to attend. Like so many people who spend hours with the masses on Facebook, I was getting lost in the buzz of a social network, only for me this one was anything but virtual.

Photograph by Simon Jones.


It’s been fun familiarising myself with a new city. Learning the tram routes and numbers, the street names, and the different neighbourhoods. I actually enjoying riding the trams here. I wasn’t much of a public transport user back in the UK, but public transport in Melbourne is excellent and riding the trams is often more interesting that you might imagine.

Discovering interesting places to eat and drink has been an enjoyable task. I have my favourite places like ‘Naked for Satan‘ and ‘Polly‘ in Fitzroy, ‘Lentil as Anything‘ in Abbotsford, ‘Wall Two 80‘ in Balaclava, ‘Claypots‘ in St Kilda, ‘Eden Espresso‘ and ‘Second Edition‘ in Malvern, and ‘Hairy Little Sista‘ along with ‘Palmz‘ the rooftop bar in the city. However, you won’t find me installed like part of the furniture in any of these places as there are always new venues to try.

One thing I have learned is that Australians are pretty particular about their coffee. Ordering some sugary flavoured ‘Starbucksian’ nonsense in any of Melbourne’s cafes will likely be met with a scornful response from the barista. With that in mind these days I order a cappuccino, and a cappuccino is exactly what I get.

Photograph by Simon Jones.

St Kilda Beach, Melbourne. Photograph by Simon Jones.


Apparently my Australian summer has been the wettest on record, and I often over hear locals lamenting what they refer to as a shocking summer. However, from my point of view the summer here was great.

Being an Englishman I am more accustom to sunny summer days being a rarity, a gift among days more often suffocated under a concrete colored blanket of cloud. Given that, you can perhaps appreciate that when you live in a country where a week of fine weather might very well be referred to as summer, even a the worst Australian summer is something to revel in, and revel in it I did!

In Sydney I watched the opera Carmen performed in the Domain at sunset as bats flew over our heads. Back in Melbourne I spent a day watching tennis at the Australian Open, saw the Symphony Orchestra perform at the cities open air Music Bowl, attended various summer festivals, and watched movies under the stars in the Botanic Gardens, St Kilda Beach, Federation Square, and on a downtown rooftop.

Photograph by Simon Jones.

Photograph by Simon Jones.

Photograph by Simon Jones.


However, when it rained, it really rained. For the first time ever I experienced flash flooding as Melbourne was subjected to tropical rain storms in the wake of cyclone Yasi.

Right in the middle of summer cyclone Yasi headed toward the north west coast of Queensland eventually making landfall as a category five monster, the biggest cyclone to ever hit Australia, easily big enough to cover the entire UK.

The flooding in Melbourne was nothing compared to the devastating floods that struck Northern Queensland, however it was still enough to cause chaotic scenes across the city. By all accounts it was a summer of bizarre acts of nature in Australia with widespread flooding, bush fires and even a plague of locusts!

As a result of the summers unusual weather events the state of Victoria, and indeed much of Australia, continues to suffer from a surge in mosquito numbers. That might otherwise be a minor annoyance if the mosquitoes here didn’t have the potential to give people the Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses, as well as the deadly disease Murray Valley encephalitis.


Weather worries aside, back in February I took a trip to Tasmania (something I will cover more in a future -retroactive- post). I pretty much knew nothing about ‘Tazy’ other than it was a place that people who had been there spoke very highly of. With that in mind I booked a cheap flight and headed to the island where I would spend a few days touring around in a camper van.

Similar in many ways to the lush green landscape of New Zealand, Tasmania far exceeded my expectations. In many respects it reminded me of Wales with its rolling hills and quiet winding roads. I didn’t see any Tasmanian devils but at night you could hear them scream, which was actually quite creepy because when it gets dark in Tasmania, it gets really dark.

In that Tasmanian darkness the night sky was simply spellbinding. I doubt I will soon forget sitting on deserted Tasmanian beaches with my friend just looking at the galaxy wrapped around us.

Photograph by Simon Jones.


To the west of Melbourne lies the Great Ocean Road that winds its way along the rugged Victorian coastline. Having driven along it a couple of times I found that it easily lives up to its title. At several points I yearned for my old MG and the opportunity to put the roof down and enjoy the twists and turns that felt more than a little sanitised in the ‘garden variety’ rental car I was driving.

Both trips along the spectacular road presented opportunities to see plenty of Australian wildlife in its natural environment including kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, wombats, and much to my surprise several koala bears.

Of course, while driving the Great Ocean Road is immensely enjoyable, flying over a stretch of that awesome coastline in a helicopter is even more exhilarating, and with my friend Sam that’s exactly what we did. Swooping over the Twelve Apostles at 200ft was simply amazing, and while I am not much of a ‘box ticker tourist’ I was delighted to tick that particular box.

Photograph by Simon Jones.


As the summer drew to a close the Formula One circus rolled into Melbourne for round one of the 2011 Grand Prix season. I’ve been an F1 fan since I was a kid and I can’t tell you how much of a buzz it was to have a Grand Prix at one of my local public parks.

Just three tram stop down the line from where I live, Formula One racing cars screamed around Albert Park for three days. My friend Will had come over from the UK to join me at the event and in brilliant sunshine we watched the race, enduring the ear shattering noise that is quite unimaginably loud.

On the tram home my ears were ringing as if I had been to some head-bangers ball. Two days later, as the circuit was being returned to its normal public park state, Will and I rode around the track on bicycles like true Grand Prix nerds. As silly as it might seem to a non F1 fan, it’s a buzz to be able to experience a Grand Prix circuit even at a the slow pace of a bicycle.

Photograph by Simon Jones.

Photograph by Simon Jones.

So then, in review it’s been a great summer. The rare moments that I’ve doubted the wisdom of my decision to come here have always been followed by sunny days when I am reminded that I live in Australia, that I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do, and that coming here was indeed a great idea.

I’ll try to post more frequently, but if you don’t see a post for a while, chances are I’m doing something fun, electing to live the moment in the moment, and write about it later.

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