Well, 2015 was an interesting year
Started the year off in Haven VIC, with a bub on the way and potentially another very quiet year of work. Last year I’d effectively retired after my main client took on new investment funding and working with a sole developer wasn’t really in their plans. Took a massive hit in income (1/10th of what I’d earned the previous year, but that’s part and parcel of being a contractor).
With Pickle due imminently, and the flat in the UK needing thinking about (either sell it, or possibly move back there with the girls for a bit), I wasn’t in a rush to find other work initially. Still have a few side project ideas, and was still mulling over an investment idea in Rarotonga, but mostly was waiting to see what sort of impact having a baby would have on my life first.
I did interview for a short term role in Melbourne, but was a little surprised I didn’t get it (first time that’s happened in a while!). I think the feedback was that I’d obviously done a lot of projects, but that I fumbled over the terminology they wanted to hear. Which is sort of amusing, but not the first time I’ve come across this. (Last time was with an insurer, and I’d never worked in contract-first WCF development) So apparently “Smart and gets things done” didn’t quite cut it in these circumstances. I’m not too stressed though. Have a good safety net, and these things have a tendency of working out.
Started exploring a lot more around Bendigo on the new (for me) bike. There’s tons of amazing bike trails, but I quickly found that you need some serious tyres to handle the crap that’s lying around. There’s these sort of prickle things that are scattered all around that just punch holes through tyres, so I quickly ordered some replacements to keep me on the road.
I also interviewed (and was offered the position) for a small company role here in Bendigo, but the pay and conditions were pretty awful. No flexibility (which would suck with a child on the way) and would have been my lowest pay in 15+ years. However I really liked the team and the product, but the salary was laughable, so I’d rather keep my options open.
In Taiwan I’d fallen in love with Pomelo. I’ve no idea why it’s my perfect fruit, but I’m addicted to the stuff. Unfortunately they’re pretty expensive here in Bendigo (when they’re available). We’re talking something close to $16 per fruit. (They are a couple of kg each, and cost roughly $8-10/kg) So I bought my own Dwarf Pomelo Nam Roi tree. For now it’s just pot-bound until it finds its forever home.
There is a really old Pomelo tree here in Bendigo just behind the Chinese Museum. It’s a massive tree, but I haven’t seen it fruit at all.
And then there were four. Michelle made the birth seem simple, especially compared to the occupant of the adjoining room who was screaming in denial that they were even having a baby. But we had a tough week and a bit after, with Mum (& bub) having to remain in the Hospital.
In some ways, the enforced hospital stay was a blessing. It gave us a chance to get used to the idea of having a baby in quite a managed environment. Definitely still would have been better to be able to go home, but the hospital meals weren’t terrible - it’s always nice having someone else cook for you.
I was surprised how many cars were booted around the hospital. Car parking definitely left a bit to be desired.
An ex-Airforce mate down in Melbourne was getting married, so the girls got to go to their first wedding. Squigglebug loved the ‘Princess’ in her amazing white dress. Pickle wasn’t too bothered either way.
A trip to SA ended up being our first out-of-state trip this year. We had hoped to drive up and see my cousins in Surfers, but Michelle had her car backed into in a car park, and the guy left false details, so had to get that sorted out, which put the kibosh on that idea. Bonus about SA is our respective sisters both live there, so the kids got to see cousins from both sides.
We’d also hoped to get back to my step-sister’s wedding in Auckland, but getting a passport for Pickle in a timely manner ended up being impossible.
I needed to head back to the UK to sort out the flat, and most of the Beer family were heading on a cruise heading out of Brisbane back to NZ, so I organised flights back to the UK via Brisbane. Stayed with my Dad and step-mum for a couple of days before flying off to the UK via Darwin and Manila.
Got a job offer of sorts in Darwin. I was chatting to a guy who ran a company locally who was talking about how hard it was to get staff there and that they’d literally hire anyone who turned up and was smart & capable. Will keep it in mind, for sure.
Next leg of the flight was to Manila. I was just doing an overnight and mostly I was focussed on eating as much as possible. I was only staying in Makati, but pretty sure my taxi driver took the long way around. But traffic was pretty horrendous and fairly stationary. At one point I just hopped out and walked the remaining 1.5km to the hotel. I was pretty tired, but I was also pretty sure I’d get there faster on foot. Went for dinner at a BBQ joint I knew, downing a few San Migs while listening to live music, but it was the breakfasts I was most keen on.
The following morning I pretty much stuffed myself with breakfasts. Tapsilog, Tocilog and Longsilog. I was pretty much in a food coma by the time I got to the airport. But so worth it!
It’s funny returning back after several months away. There’s always a huge pile of mail waiting for me. But this was the biggest one yet.
Fortunately, none of it super crucial as most things are on autopilot, but I do have a lot to sort through and need to get some sort of forwarding/scanning service set up, as it looks like this could be it for my UK trips for a while.
Got into the rythmn of things pretty quickly. Caught up with a couple of mates (saw my godsons) and was also fortunate enough to make it for Heather’s 50th birthday, which was a great weekend event.
But my primary focus was to get my stuff packed up, and the flat ready for ‘something’. I’m just not sure what, yet.
Okay, I suck at renovations. I’m definitely capable, but found it pretty painful to do. Stripping wallpaper was not much fun, and I just kept finding more and more jobs to do. Vehicles were also a pain to get sorted. Winterising the bike and car normally works a treat, but this time the solar panel didn’t keep the batteries topped up, so I had to get new batteries to replace the dead ones (often in the past I just disconnect them, but tried something different this last time, and it didn’t work out).
Worked my arse off getting everything done. Was hard going and wasn’t helped by things being rough back at home too (Being separated can be tough at times).
God! I forgot how terrible it is to sell stuff. Flakers, people who don’t turn up, people who want to haggle after they’ve agreed a price. It’s just a nightmare. Ended up just giving a lot of it away to nice people who turned up.
Managed to get a good price for the Boxster, and was able to use it until one of the last few days I was there. My bike was a little more painful to sell, but left it to be sold on commission at one of the local dealers. Wasn’t the best option, but convenience won out in the end.
Even after giving away as much as I could, I still ended up with something like 43 boxes heading back to Aus. If I got rid of all my books and computer bits, then you could probably halve that number, but I wasn’t ready to do that.
I’d teed up a guy to replace the gas system and install a new bathroom while I’m gone. And a mate also needed a place to stay, so there was a weird sort of serendipity where I was able to give him most of the furnishings and let him use the flat as long as he needed.
Time to head back down under to the girls, I’ve been away too long! But on the way back I get to spend the day in Bangkok - mostly chasing after Pomelo and Kana moo grob (Chinese broccoli with crispy pork).
For some reason, crispy pork was in short supply. No idea why, but all the usual places I’ve eaten at said there were no supplies. I eventually found a place that served it though, and it was a passable effort.
Back to Aus
So good to be back with the girls. Back into our regular rhythm of cafes, walks, markets, parks and playgrounds. First trip was back to Horsham where Michelle’s sister had the absolute best recipe for bubbles.
Recipe: - 1 cup boiling water - 3 cups warm water - 2 tbsp + tsp dish liquid (fairy regular) - 1/2 heaped tsp baking powder - 1/2 tbsp glycerine - 1/4 heaped tsp guar gum Mix guar gum and glycerine first. Add boiling water stirring. Add other ingredients, mixing slowly to combine. Avoid too much foam in mixture.
Then with some string and a couple of sticks, you can make some pretty epic bubbles.
While down in Melbourne visiting a mate, I managed to pick up a sweet set of clubs from the local charity shop. Michelle’s Dad and I have been heading out for a hit occasionally, and it’s nice to have my own clubs while I’m waiting for my UK set of Pings to arrive. I’m considering joining one of the local clubs and getting out for a hit regularly… but we’ll see.
One of my little side projects I’ve had in mind, is making some large chess pieces. There’s a chess board at the botanic gardens, and I’ve often thought some concrete pieces would be just brilliant.
So I’ve started sketching up some designs, and will be making some moulds to cast them in concrete. I’m thinking of making them about 30cm high, and 15cm wide. I’ll probably make a couple of sets and just donate one to the garden.
Markets are a huge thing around Regional Vic. Maldon is a lovely one held the second Sunday of every month. I’ve been trying to make a calendar of all the markets, as they’re all on various different schedules, but was having some fun with github pages and Jekyll. I’ll get it sorted eventually.
We’ve had a bit of nastiness in Bendigo lately. A new mosque is being built, and the right-wing nutters have been out in force. Fortunately, the police presence has been pretty good, and the protests have been pretty small. What’s funny, is everyone protesting are from other towns. The locals are not really bothered by it.
During part of our regional Vic explorations, I spotted a Concentrated Solar Power (looks more CPV then true CSP) plant that looked abandoned (or at least not in use). Now I think it’s more of a training facility, but it was still pretty cool to see.
Went to see Michael Leunig give a talk at The Capital. Was a really warm and funny affair. One of the most enjoyable events I’ve been to.
Just in time for Squigglebug’s 5th birthday, my new camera arrived. Finally bit the bullet on a full-frame digital, rather than just relying on my little G16 Powershot. Just have a little nifty 50mm prime lens for now, but I always preferred shooting on primes, so not in a hurry to get anything else.
Had a cool party at the Discovery centre, which was basically bubbles and goo. The kids loved it, and it was a nice change from the usual party venues.
All my crap arrived, so it looks like this is my new home now. We also moved out of Michelle’s 2-bed flat, and into a 3-bed house. It’s still a bit of a squeeze, but it’s nice to have a bit more space. That said, it was gutting to leave the neighbours behind, as they were utterly awesome.
There’s probably just enough space for us, and I’ve bought a desk to setup a little office, but will also build some custom shelving to make the most of the room (and somewhere to house my copious quantities of books).
We headed down to Melbourne to catch up with with one of Michelle’s friends, as well as eat yummy food at the ‘Taste of Melbourne’ food festival.
And after a very packed year, it was nice to just chill out and relax for a bit. Back to Haven for a typical Aussie Christmas. Hot days and BBQs, swimming and Christmas lights, presents and family.