Sunday, 3 April 2011

We have relocated!

Hello lovely person,

You are welcome to peruse this blog here, but it is now no longer active. Please head on over to for the new home of Lies My Parents Told Me, where you can read this blog and others by Ashley Fryer.

Thank you for visiting! :)

Ash x

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road and Adelaide II OR The Last Australia Blog

Hello one and all,

Apologies for this ridiculously belated post, but I felt I couldn't get the blog back to normal without finishing off the last chapter of my incredible six month adventure! And even though I have been back in the UK for a whole month now, I wanted to share the the last 3 weeks of my trip with you because it was a really wonderful time.

So, I left off in Sydney, having climbed the Bridge, celebrated my birthday, and took enough photos of the Opera House to fill its own album. I spent eight days in Sydney, wandering round wide-eyed (believe me, you never get used to seeing icons like the Opera House) and then flew to Melbourne, via an airline that makes Ryanair look like Airforce One. Melbourne has two airports: Tullamarine and Avalon. A word to the wise - if a city has more than one airport, do the research to find which is closer to said city. Do not choose an airport based on the argument that it has a prettier name, or you may find landing in a field outside a large shed, 55km away from your destination. But I digress.

Melbourne has a reputation for being a more 'European' city, which I imagine is due in part to its cafe culture and pokey sidestreets, which have the obligatory restaurants spilling out onto the cobbles. It has trams (more on that later) and a wonderful suburb called St Kilda, which is known for its hippy dippy culture and seaside loveliness. St Kilda has a rather fantastic street called Ackland St, which is famous for its cakes, so I felt right at home. I stayed in St Kilda for my first few days and split my days between exploring St Kilda itself, and tramming it into Melbourne to explore. Melbourne is quite simply one of my favourite places in the world. Not only because it is beautiful and cosmopolitan, but because it has that vibe that certain cities emanate. San Francisco is another of my favourite cities and I genuinely think it has something to do with the energy around it, the atmosphere, the very feeling you get when you step off the plane - either that or I really have a thing for trams.

Having gorged myself on cake for four days and bohemed around St Kilda, I moved to Fitzroy, a suburb in the north of Melbourne, famous for Brunswick St - another pocket of Bohemia in Melbourne. I stayed with the lovely family of a long time friend of mine, and Lou arrived back from Darwin a day or so later. Fitzroy is another lovely area - gorgeous cafes, folky music nights, vegan shops etc. We had a wonderful stay with our fab hosts and then planned the next part of our journey - The Great Ocean Road.

We opted to do a relocation deal with a car rental company, and got a steal of a deal, paying just $5 a day to rent a 4WD camper van. As a Ford KA driver myself, I am used to driving a tiny bubble of a car and I consider myself to be a fairly confident driver. However when we were walked through the car park to the car we were hiring, I was left speechless at the BEAST I was expected to drive 1200km to Adelaide. It was quite simply the biggest car I have ever seen, let alone driven. But drive it I did, all the way, all 20 hours or so to Adelaide. And it was without doubt, one of the real highlights from the whole trip.

The Great Ocean Road is a road stretching about 150 miles along the coast, starting at Torquay (near Melbourne) and ending at Warrnambool (no, I can't pronounce it either). It has some of the most spectacular coastline imaginable, with breathtaking rock formations such as The Twelve Apostles and London Bridge. It is one of the most popular scenic drives in the world and for good reason. I drove eleven straight hours on that road and barely blinked.

After the Great Ocean Road ended, Lou and I started looking for places to camp for the night. It is illegal to sleep in your car/camper in an ordinary car park and there are fines in Oz for those that do so, but by 10pm, neither one of us cared about the idea of being caught. We picked a random town along the way and pulled up outside a hotel, drew the curtains in our car and tucked ourselves in. By 7am, the sunrise had woken us up and so I jumped out of the back, pajamas and all, to stretch before driving again. It was as I climbed into the front seat that Lou pointed out that the entire hotel restaurant in front of us was staring at us in bemusement, at which point I put the car in gear, waved, and pulled out. It was a fine moment for blondes in big trucks everywhere.

We spent the next day road tripping along to Adelaide, passing The Big Lobster (made ever more famous by Bill Bryson's Down Under) which is a giant concrete lobster in the middle of a town in the middle of nowhere. What makes the Lobster particularly stand out from Australia's weird and wonderful collection of 'Big Things' is that the man who built it misread the plans and used metres instead of feet - so the thing is about three times the size it should be and it stands above Kingston in all its ferocious glory.

We arrived in Adelaide later that day and I was happily reunited with my Aussie family. We spent a wonderful day wine tasting in the Barossa Valley, and I even managed to see the actual Jacobs Creek! Lou then went up to Alice Springs, while I spent time catching up with my pals in SA. I spent Australia Day camping on the Fleurieu Peninsula with my godsister Sammy, and then a couple of days later we had my farewell meal at a fabulous Indian restaurant in Adelaide. I left Australia on the first day of February and so ended my wonderful six months away. I want to end this by saying a huge thank you to everyone I met along the way - every single one of you contributed to what was the most incredible six months of my life. I also want to thank everyone back home - whether you were there when I had a wobble, or there to send me a Christmas card, or even just there cheering me on - I am so grateful to have friends/family like you. THANK YOU.

And to anyone out there who is wondering about travelling - anyone who is stuck, or bored, or lost, or looking for something more - GO TRAVELLING. I cannot recommend it enough. I had my doubts about going out there on my own, but I can genuinely tell you that going was the best decision I have ever made. Do it. Take the leap. Believe in yourself.

Life is out there.

Friday, 7 January 2011


Hello boys and girls,

Greetings from Sydney!! I have been here several days now and I think I am a little bit in love with it. Lou and I had an amazing New Years Eve in Byron Bay, completed by seeing in 2011 on the beach with several thousand other people, dancing and drinking under the stars, followed by a delightful couple of days winding down in Byron before moving on on 2nd. Lou went straight to Sydney, while I took a 36 hour detour to Coffs Harbour, to visit my dear friend Sophie, who came to Oz the same week I did. I had a really lovely time catching up with her and we went swimming in the sea, ate chips and pizza and watched several movies on the couch. Only had one minor freak out when a huntsman spider sidled into the lounge, but thankfully Sophie was a hero and removed said offensive beasty. All in all it was a wonderful few days and 2011 is looking pretty darn peachy so far.

I got to Sydney on 4th and went to meet Lou at our hostel in Kings Cross, which is in the red light district of Sydney, a 30-45 min walk from the heart of the city. Our hostel was not perfect - the cockroaches were particularly unwelcome and though I heard reports of bed bugs, my room seemed to be clear - but I ended up having a good couple of nights there, before relocating to a more central location yesterday. Lou and I went for a long walk around Sydney, via the botanical gardens and took several hundred photos of the Opera House and Bridge, despite the fact it was totally overcast, then walked the longest possible route to Darling Harbour and admired everything from the view to the monorail to the sexy Aussies that come hand in hand with this place. When the day was over we headed back for an early night, as the following day was my birthday and we had big plans.

On the morning of my 22nd birthday, I was given several lovely pressies by Lou (complete with a cupcake card! she knows me so well!) and I opened the cards from my family, which was lovely. Then Lou and I made our way down to The Rocks (the oldest part of Sydney) (and via Starbucks of course) to find BridgeClimb. BridgeClimb was established in 1998, and is the company that allows you to climb the outer arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, for the princely sum of $220. Given that my bank balance is looking increasingly pathetic it was never something I would have normally afforded, but thankfully Ma and Pa gave it to me as my birthday present, so I was particularly excited to be there. You get to wear a special sexy grey suit and a harness, which means you can't fall off the bridge (a relief for me since the first thing I had done that day was fall down the stairs in the hostel), and off you go. I was expecting it to be ladders and stairs agogo, and that by the top I would be a magenta version of my former self, but it was surprisingly easy, and with every step the view became ever more magnificent.

We were lucky enough to get good weather, so from our view at the top of the world's tallest bridge, we could see all of Sydney which stretches all the way to the Blue Mountains. It was just breathtaking. Aside from the intricate workings of the bridge itself, which services trains, traffic and pedestrians, the climb itself was exhilarating, and it is truly and experience I will never forget. Unfortunately the only downside was that a single photo of the day cost a ridiculous $26, so I had to sneakily snap some blurry photos on the old iPhone to capture the memories of our fabulous climb.

After BridgeClimb, Lou and I headed out to Bondi (via a cupcake shop) and spent an hour walking through the dodgy parts to get to the beach, which was overall a little disappointing. But the graffiti art that lined that walls behind the beach was really special, so I had a good time anyway. We then headed back to the hostel by which time word of my birthday had spread, and several people were pre drinking in honour of my birthday night out (which I wasn't even aware about). We ended up playing drinking games on the landing in the hostel before catching the party bus to Scary Canary, a backpacker bar in town, where we danced to the very wee hours before weaving our way home. I was very impressed to realise I had returned with the meagre $2.50 I had gone out with, and had singlehandedly failed to pay for a drink all night, which is excellent for my bank balance, but not so excellent for my head. I can confirm that hangovers do get worse as you get older, and I am currently still maintaining I will never drink in excess again. Though we all know how long that mantra usually lasts.

Yesterday Lou and I took the ferry to Manly, which was just lovely. We had beautiful blue skies and lovely white sand, and I happily slept off some of the hangover on the beach. I should point out that I have actually spent the last 6 months wearing the same pair of short shorts, and I have hilariously white tan lines where the shorts go, which has rendered bikini wearing nearly impossible. I had had to accept that I will simply have to wear these shorts until my tan fades, which should be about 2 days after I get home, judging by the weather in England! But anyway, back to Manly. We had a lovely time mooching about on the beach before taking the ferry back and we got some cracking shots of beautiful Sydney in what was the best weather we have had yet here.

Today's plan was to head out to the Blue Mountains to see the stunning sights depicted by our guidebooks and postcards. So we duly got up at 7am to make the 8am train to Katoomba - a journey that takes two hours. Interesting side bar - did you know the trains here are double decker? Even the tubes are on two levels!! It is so weird. So we got on the train all sleepy but excited, and were whisked off to see the majestic splendour of the Blue Mountains, so called because of the eucalyptus evaporating from the gum trees there, which gives the mountains a bluish hue. But a bluish hue was no where to be seen. In fact the mountains in general were completely invisible. It seems Lou and I picked the worst possible day to visit Katoomba, and after walking half an hour to Echo Point Lookout, we were faced with a solid white wall of cloud, and not a mountain or even a small hill in sight. It was very surreal to see such a pure white out, and Lou commented that it looked like we were at the end of the world (and after two hours on a train, it felt it too). But we laughed it off and took pictures of ourselves in the mist, before heading back to Sydney to the sunshine.

Tomorrow Lou leaves for Darwin, while I have a few more days here. I am planning to do all the museums as Lou isn't a museum fan, as well as the Annie Liebowitz exhibition down at the MCA. Then on Wednesday 12th I fly to Melbourne, before Lou joins me on 16th. Really looking forward to Melbourne too! I am having the time of my life out here, it is surreal to think I will be home so soon. Thank you all so much for your birthday wishes on facebook - I am always surprised and touched by the people that take the time to drop me a line! Can't wait to smother you all in love when I get home on 2nd Feb. :)

Until next time my lovelies! xxx

(All photos by me)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas in Brisbane & Byron Bay

Greetings from sunny Byron Bay!

It has been a long 5 weeks since I have posted anything here, so apologies for the long gap between blogs. But since leaving my job, leaving Brisbane and leaving the crappy weather behind, I am finally able to sit down for a good hour to update you all on the latest comings and goings of my six month haul around Oz. I have a mere 5 weeks left here before flying home on 1st of Feb, so there is lots to do and see before I return to chilly England.

I left my job at the call centre a couple of weeks ago, having worked for about 2 months out of the 11 weeks I spent in Brisbane. Although repetitive, it was a great challenge for me, especially as it is a financial services firm - and anyone that knows me will know I am essentially incapable of managing money! So despite the fact that I had to google 'equity' on the morning of my interview, I am now highly knowledgeable about the Australian tax benefits for working home owners - none of which will ever apply to me given that negative gearing doesn't exist in the same way back home... but I digress. It was a very handy job for a backpacker, and I will dearly miss all the strange and wonderful people I met during my time there.

After leaving my work, I spent a couple of weeks essentially killing time with my flatmate Lou, who quit her bar job around the same time. Brisbane is a charming city in many respects but after 11 weeks, you will have essentially exhausted every possible outlet of fun. And when one is on a tight budget, one does not have the luxury of eating out, shopping incessantly and all of the other delights associated with holidays. And there was also the rain. I gather from people back home that the floods in Queensland have been on the news, and I can definitely confirm that there has been no end of rain in Brisbane in the last few weeks/months. It isn't even quaint English drizzle - it is a full on deluge daily, with flash flooding all over the city and small streams running down the pavements. It is such a relief to see some sunshine again now that we are in Byron.

The main event of the past five weeks was of course Christmas - which is an extremely weird thing to celebrate when it is over 30 degrees outside. All the way through December neither Lou or I felt remotely Christmassy. Christmas is about big jumpers, open fires and home made soup - not bikini shopping, sunburn and flipflops. It is also a time of year most associated with family, and I was worried that spending it away from Fryers in general would cause unbearable homesickness, replete with excessive drinking and wailing into the night. Fortunately that was not the case. Lou and I had a lovely Christmas, complete with roast dinner and santa hats. We opened pressies (largely shipped over by Mummy Fryer) and drank vodka all day long, which was of course brilliant. Unfortunately, Christmas was not without drama.

To cut a very long and dramatic story short, I have been robbed. Yes, gentle reader, I have actually been robbed. The man who cut off our internet on Christmas Eve (despite us paying for it, and deliberately so we couldn't skype our families the following day) was due to give us our deposits back (about $400 each - which is about 200quid) the day before we left Brisbane. However he coincidently went MIA the day before, and we were unable to get our money back. Despite explaining the sorry tale to the police, we were unable to file a report as due to the technicalities of it being a deposit - and the drama continues. No solution has yet been found but I will keep you posted should anything happen. It is highly dramatic though, and has kept Lou and I suitably stressed since leaving Brissie.

Speaking of which, we packed up our bags (how have I acquired so much stuff?) and trundled down the 4 flights of stairs to our front door with FOUR bags each. Despite initially adamant that we would indeed walk all the way to Roma St Station (a 20 minute walk on a good day), by the time the handles of my handbag all simulataneously snapped we called it a day and got a taxi. (NB an average handbag which you got for $10 will not hold the weight of three books, a laptop, a purse, two pairs of sunnies and all the other crap I had squashed in there).

We got the 8am Greyhound to Byron and arrived here at lunchtime yesterday. Byron Bay is famous the world over for its beaches, its waves and its hippie dippie culture (trust me, you can get stoned just standing in the street here). It is a hippie haven where barefoot bohemenians come to relax and escape the cities, and where backpackers gather en masse for the sun, sea and surfing. It is also adjacent to Nimbin, a small town inland of Byron which is famed for its total tolderance of pot smoking and pot themed nibbles. But you don't need to go as far as that to get high - merely walking through the hostel will do that for that. Byron is also home to its famous lighthouse, which marks the most easterly point in all of Oz. It is a beautiful town with fierecely protective locals (hence, there is not a McDonalds in sight) and is home to what appears to be a daily tye-dye convention. If you like your brownies spacey and your beer organic, Byron is the place to come.

The next stop for me is Coffs Harbour, where I will be visiting a friend from England, then it is on to Syndey to catch up with Lou. Then flying over to Melbourne before driving the Great Ocean Road (Google it - it's stunning!) and then it's back to Adelaide for a week before I head home!! Officially leaving on 1st Feb and arriving back at dawn on the 2nd. I dearly love you Australia, but England has my heart (for now). Plus my iphone just crapped out and deleted EVERYTHING and I have to wait 5 weeks to get back any of my music, so there is no question! I am coming home!! :)

Until next time... xoxo

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Koala Cuddling!

G'day from sunny Brisbane one and all!

As most of you will be aware I am currently residing in sunny Queensland on a temporary basis until I have enough moolah to move on. If you read the last blog you will know I accepted a job in a call centre at the start of November, and it may amaze you to discover I am in fact still working there (as I have neither lost the will to live, nor been sacked). Far from the cruel hours of fundraising and well away from the frightening prospect of door to door, I sit at a desk for a mere six hours a day and chat tax talk for money. It is pretty peachy considering telemarketing is fairly soulless, and since we get free pizza and beer every Friday, I am a happy bunny. Besides no other job offers me the delights and disasters that ringing Aussies for a living entails. When I am not being hung up on or sworn at, I have been enchanted and amused by random people all over the country who have taken the time to actually talk to me. And lets not forget the very solemn conversation I had about Doomsday in 2012 with an old Italian gentleman this morning. Who would have thought telemarketing could lead to such an interesting observation of the human condition.

But I digress. I have not come to chat away about the frolicks and frivolities of call centre life. I have come to talk about Australia and all its coasts and creatures. I have been lucky enough to spend my weekends exploring more of Queensland, and I managed to get back up to the Sunshine Coast a couple of weeks ago to visit some family friends. A little further south than Noosa lies Mooloolaba (best name in the world?) and Maroochydore, and a little inland is the town of Buderim (pronounced 'bud-rim' as opposed to bewwwderrrim - apparently this pronounciation makes you look like an arse). I spent a lovely couple of days eating gelato on the beach, being shown around the area and gorging on my first home cooked roast dinner since August with my delightful hosts, Sandy and Greg. And like all good Australians, Sandy and Greg have a well stocked wine rack, a beautiful house and a gorgeous dog to call their own. It was like a home from home, which is the cure to any jaded traveller's call centre blues. I was treated like a Queen and have been invited to return to sample the famous Eumundi Markets, which I will head up to in December. The Sunshine Coast really is one of the most beautiful areas I have seen here in Oz, with blue skies, perfect beaches and even the odd Starbucks. It was definitely the break from Brissie that I needed.

The following weekend I hit the Gold Coast with Louise (my roomie) and Chloe, a friend of hers. We drove down in the morning and were at Surfers Paradise by noon. Surfers is a funny little place in the heart of the Gold Coast - which is far removed from the quiet wealth of the Sunshine Coast. With its sky scrapers that run all the way up to the beach, the Gold Coast wears its bright and tacky heart on its Prada sleeve, and is the home to bad nightclubs, huge strip clubs and the Surfers Meter Maids. From what I understand, the meter maids were originally employed to top up parking meters in the city, though their job now involves standing on the street in teeny weeny gold hotpants and having their photographs taken with tourists. I gather they used to be paid, but now all their money is made from tourists paying to take said photos. Either way, they are a staple of Surfers and an unmistakable emblem for the lifestyle of the place - tacky, shiny and probably 99% fake. Surfers is populated largely by women who could hide behind a lampost and the men who buy them breasts. The town is over populated by men at all times - not just the swarms on stag nights, but the draw of Surfers as a business hub means the women have the pick of about 5 men each at all times. We had a great day. :) (photo below not by me unsurprisingly!)

After arriving at midday and paying an extortionate $16 to park for a few hours, we headed to the famously long beach straight away for some vital sun exposure (turns out working all afternoon in an office starts to drain the tan pretty severely). As Chloe and Lou went off to play in the sea, I guarded our stuff and sunbathed, ensuring to cover myself liberally in suncream every hour. When they got bored of the sea, the girls went to buy a ball and promised to return with a surprise (which was unfortunately not Hugh Jackman covered in whipped cream as I had hoped). Instead they returned with an ice cream (don't you just love them!) and a giant, bright yellow inflatable kangaroo, who was promptly plonked beside me and named Sheila. After taking approximately five millions pictures of ourselves with Sheila (it had to be done!) we headed off to play beach rugby by the water and had a merry old time of it having ye olde style fun. By the time Lou and I went off to explore the town, I had noticed my chest was a little pink, but thought nothing of it and went off to see the sights of Surfers. By the time 4pm rolled around I was keenly aware that I had 'slightly caught the sun' as the pink tinge of my chest started radiating enough heat to rival the sun. As I lay on my bed that night covered in cocoa butter and aloe vera, it was quite clear that I had apparently missed out spots just above and just below my bikini, which left me with an angry red burn all around some particularly white areas. And as all good burns do, they blistered beautifully and I have learned a harsh lesson about the Queensland sunshine. No wonder 75% of Queenslanders eventually get skin cancer.

As the burns subsided over the week, Lou and I ummed and ahhed about our next adventure to be had, and I suggested a visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is located in the darling suburb of Fig Tree Pocket just 12km from Brissie. Lone Pine is world famous and is regularly voted one of the top zoos in the world. If you head to their website you can view the whole host of famous faces that have cuddled koalas there, including Carey Mulligan, Taylor Swift, The Queen Mother, Mariah Carey etc etc. I had wanted to go there ever since I received a postcard with a photo of my sister cuddling a koala there when she was in Oz six years ago, and was very excited at the prospect of having a cuddle with one of Australia's most iconic residents (alas, still not Hugh Jackman).

To cut a long story short, Lou and I had an amazing day at Lone Pine. We fed and stroked kangaroos and wallabies, saw dingo puppies, fed lorikeets (very bright parrot things), were chased by an emu and of course I finally managed to cuddle a koala. Lou went for the baby crocodile cuddle (you couldn't even pay me to do that!) and also, randomly, sheared a sheep! I was given a little girl koala called Shassi, who was very sweet. Koalas are lucky enough to spend 20 hours a day sleeping, and the rest of the time getting stoned on eucalpytus, so Shassi was excellently mellow and chilled (which is a great comfort when they have one clawed hand resting on your right breast). It was a really wonderful day.

I had a bittersweet weekend last week as I said goodbye to my dear friend Dominique, who I had been with nearly two months now! She has gone to NZ now for a while and returns to Brisbane over New Years but it is unlikely I will still be here. I did get the chance to see a friend of mine from the UK though on the following day, which was really wonderful. I had a lovely time catching up with my friend Sophie, who left for Oz just a week before I did. It is amazingly comforting to have someone from home in the same country and we had a lovely day together!

Right, there is not much else to report just now (until you want further mundane anecdotes about the call centre) so I will love you and leave you until next time! Not sure what the plans are for the next few weekends, but I will no doubt update you the moment anything remotely exciting happens. :) Love you all oodles. xxxx

PS - all photos by me except the Meter Maids!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Brisbane II - finally living above the poverty line!

Aloha one and all,

Sorry it has taken me ages to get time to sit down and tell you all about my most recent trials and tribulations - it has been a crazy couple of weeks indeed. I will start where I left off, which I believe was a couple of weeks ago. After I left the internet cafe that has become my second home, I skipped off into town and was promptly offered a job interview by a very enthusiastic British girl in a Red Cross tshirt. I was a little surprised she knew I was job hunting (especially as I had left my 'hungry and helpless' sign at home) but I decided it was a sign of divine providence and I arranged to go for an interview on Monday morning. When Monday morning materialised, I whizzed off to Toowong (a suburb) on the train and swished into my interview wearing my snazzy new pencil skirt (thank god for Target - we need to get this shop in the UK! it's like Primark but nicer!). But I digress. After meeting a few people I was sent off for an observation to make sure I could do the job - the job being signing people up for monthly donations to the Red Cross. Yes, you know those people that stand on the street and try desperately to make you talk to them? - well that was me. Having passed the interview with flying colours I was rostered on the start the next morning at 8am sharp (!) and I was away laughing.

Nothing could have prepared me for the following day. I rocked up at 8am as promised, and sat down for half an hour of training (or brain washing, as I like to call it) and watched as everyone stood in a circle and cheered for each other. Yes, it is one of these places. Never accept a job which involves standing in a circle at 8am. It can never be a good sign. Me and my teacher were sent off to our spot for the day - a totally random corner of Brisbane with little foot traffic and a very high population of people who do not speak very good English. It was hardly the ideal spot for me to start pitching about Telecross and the Good Start Breakfast Club. By 10am I was being accused of 'negging out' - and was referred the the 'downward spiral' diagram on the training manual. By the fourth time Rich accused me of 'negging out' I snapped back that the diagram was a circle, not a spiral. It did not improve much from this point.

Despite my keen and friendly approach, and the fact that I made 34 full pitches, I didn't make a single sale. And my mentor, who has 16 weeks experience, made ONE. ONE in NINE hours. My brave face was wearing awfully thin and I was accused over and over of being too hard on myself - a fault which was hardly going to be corrected by some douchy Brit pointing it out repeatedly. I was subjected to speech after speech of inspiring bullshit and by the end of the day I was ready to go home and drown my sorrows in whatever I had at home (a daring choice between milk or squash). I should mention at this point the very worst part of all - the job is 100% commission. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. So if you don't make a sale, you literally go home with squat. And since our delightful leader sent us to the seventh circle of fundraising hell, I didn't stand a chance. So 9 hours of being a prat and I went home with nothing.

At the end of the day as Rich excitedly asked me how I felt about the day, I told him in no uncertain terms that I thought my soul was dying. He looked at me slightly uncertainly and asked if I was being sarcastic, to which I replied I was in fact not being sarcastic, and that I was going to go home immediately to cry myself to sleep. Amazingly enough I told him I would stick it out for the following day and I trudged off home. By the time 7am rolled around I had made a decision. But as I am a woman of integrity, I got up and headed back to Toowong for the morning meeting. To cut a long story short, I finally achieved a life long dream of mine - I quit a job dramatically and in front of a room full of people. Having strolled in and politely listened to the next lesson (he'd already written it all on the white board bless him), I finally told him I had made a decision. As my voice grew louder I told him I couldn't work for a company that only paid commission as I felt it to be unethical and uncaring - I couldn't work for a company that cared so little for the welfare of its employees and I wouldn't be used or exploited for profit. By the time I said "I care about myself too much to let myself be used in this manner", half the room was staring at me open mouthed and without further ado, I handed Rich my tshirt and swanned out of the room. It was amazing. :)

Thankfully my period of peasanthood was due to be brief and I have since secured not one but two jobs that don't make lose the will to live. I am now working a call centre during the day, which is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I am not selling things which is nice, but booking people in for free appointments to do with getting tax entitlements. I still get hung up on a lot and shouted at down the phone, but as the job isn't actually morally bankrupt, I don't mind much. I get a nice base rate as well as a commission for all the bookings I secure so I am finally able to stop worrying about making rent and having enough $ for food. It was Melbourne Cup day on Tues too so we stopped work an hour early and watched the races with free champagne! So much better than any other job I have had yet! I also work in a bar on Friday nights and the odd shift during the week too. The jobs are hardly the stuff of dreams but I have become so much less snobby since getting here, and they are paying for me to continue living my life so I am a happy bunny again. :)

In other less job related news, I have been filling my weekends with as many budget days out as possible. A couple of weeks ago for instance I went out to North Stradbroke Island which is just off the coast of Brisbane. I didn't know much about the island but Shirby and Carolien were keen to go and promised it would be pretty cheap so off I went. It was quite simply one of the most beautiful spots I have ever been to. Blue skies, turquoise ocean, dolphins, turtles, giant sting rays, wallabies and roos - it was everything Australia is meant to be and more. We went for a hike along the North Gorge walk and then off to Frenchman's beach for some sunbathing and beach time. I think the photos speak for themselves really. It was awe inspiring.

Dominique and I spent last weekend doing the Botanical Gardens which were amazing. There are two sets of gardens here - one in the city and one up at Mount Coot-ha about 20 mins from the city. We booked ourselves in for the free tour of the city gardens on Sat and were surprised that it was just us - so we had a personalised tour of the city by a little old lady who knew everything there is to know about trees, shrubs and flowers. It was really interesting! The Mount Coot-ha gardens are three times the size of the city gardens and they were amazing. There is a gorgeous lake, a bonsai house, a Japanese garden, a fern house, a tropical dome, a rainforest area... you name it. It was a lovely day out (though I am a bit gardened out now!) and we had nice warm weather for it which was lovely.

I am off to Buderim in the Sunshine Coast this weekend to stay with some family friends which should be lovely. Praying for some sunshine since the weather in Brisbane has turned to monsoon style rain in the last day or two, and the forecast says it is here to stay... :( But still, we should be in line for a very sunny and warm Christmas indeed. Louise (my flat mate) and I are planning a lovely Christmas for the two of us and whoever else is around (though perhaps not our downstairs roommate/landlord who is a bit of a douchebag).

Anyway that's all for now! Sorry the blog has been a bit job-centric! Now that I have settled into work I should hopefully just have nice updates about my weekend escapades from now on! :) Lots of love, xxx

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Brisbane and the inevitable prospect of being a peasant

Aloha one and all,

NB - photos are off Google as I haven't sorted mine out yet!

Alas the tragic time has come for me to stop the backpacking gambit for a few months and settle and find work. I always knew this day would come - and really it should have come sooner - but hey ho, here I am in Brisbane and here I must find a source of $$ that doesn't include standing on a street corner, selling electricity door to door or decorating christmas trees in a dodgy warehouse, that is probably in fact the set of a snuff movie.

I arrived in sunny Brisbane nearly a week ago from Noosa (ahh beautiful Noosa) and was staying in Bunk Backpackers - a very flashy hostel in Fortitude Valley - the entertainment district of Brissie. It is incidently also home to all the tramps of Brisbane, the arty studenty types, Chinatown and all the slightly dodgy sales companies. It is usually just referred to as 'the valley' by locals, which is something I do as often as possible, purely because it makes me feel a little bit like I live in LA. But I digress. I started jobhunting while in Noosa, and I have been primarily looking for temp work in offices, call centres (yuck), and nice shops that will be needing Christmas casuals within the next month or so. I also sent applications to all those slightly suspicious adverts promising me I could earn up to $1000 a week and even put an advert on gumtree, stating that I was looking for work (a massive error I shall discuss momentarily).

I had my first interview the day after I applied for suspicious $1000 a week job and was promptly offered the job that day. The job was advertised as promotions (something I used to do a fair bit of in the UK) but it was actually selling electricity door to door all over the suburbs. I was initially interested - with dollar signs gleaming in my eyes - but was already a bit concerned by the fact it was entirely commission based, as well as the fact it was door to door (according to my mother this means a high chance of being kidnapped on someone's doorstep) so I started to have my doubts. It was the moment the boss (in his south London meets Queensland drawl) said that my "cute British accent would be totally disarming" that I remembered turning to door to door sales was in fact morally bankrupt, and by the time I woke up the next day, I remembered that I hate door to door sellers and everything they stand for, and I promptly turned the job down.

(That's my apartment building above!)

After a few casual rejections for some random jobs, I pimped out my CV to, er, expand on some of the jobs I have done previously. This was an excellent plan. I also put an ad on gumtree in the looking for work section. This was not such an excellent plan. Aside from the man offering to use me as a model in his 'experimental art project' where I would be 'naked and more' (!!), I had three offers to become a hooker (and not in a Billie Piper glamorous way!), another offer to be a door to door sales chick, and a very questionable offer to decorate Christmas trees in a unit in the middle of nowhere. I rang the guy back from the Christmas tree job (and firmly declined the rest of the offers) and was asked to start on Friday (today). When I spoke to the guy yesterday he didn't seem able to tell me the company's name, they didn't have a website (it's 2010 people!), and he was very very vague about how and when I would be paid. When I asked what the hours were he simply said to be there at 7am and that we would work 'all day'. The warning bells were already going off when he gave me the address as Unit 2, street in the middle of nowhere, 45 mins out of the city... so I decided that until he could offer me concrete evidence that it was a real, legitimate company and that it wasn't me walking into a room full of tripods and scary men I decided to call it off.

Beggars can't be choosers is all well and good until you mysteriously disappear and the flatmate who only met you once is suddenly on the news appealing for your safe return. So I am not doing very well in my hunt for jobs as I keep turning down the jobs I am offered... But I have enough $ to survive three or four weeks of rent and food (if I start living on lentils) so I have decided to follow my survival instinct and avoid death by kidnapping, or indeed death by snuff film.

Speaking of my flatmates, I am living with two people in a little apartment in the heart of Brisbane! I haven't actually met the man who lives in the room next to the kitchen yet but all I know is that he is Malaysian and a 'business man'. The girl I share the upstairs room with is also from the UK and she is really nice so it's all good. My apartment is cute and small with a fairly decent kitchen and and a pokey lounge. I have a double bed for the first time in several months which is nice, and I have finally unpacked my backpack which is such a blessing. Backpacking is great but living out of a bag you have to pack up and carry every few days gets old pretty quickly. It is nice to have time to breathe, even if every other breath comes with the paralysing nausea about not finding a job, not making rent, and eventually having to become a very specific kind of masseuse.

But on the plus side, I really love Brisbane, I live 5 mins walk from the very heart of the city, and there are THREE Starbucks here. That is three more than ANYWHERE else I have been in Australia so you can imagine how happy I was to find one just a few mins walk from where I live. It was an almost spiritual experience ordering my first caramel frappucino in 2 months - it nearly brought tears to my eyes. It was like being at home for a few mere moments. And now I cannot afford it so I am one of those crazy people that walks past it inhaling deeply and looking a bit glazed. I have also taken to spending my afternoons in the library (mornings are strictly devoted to job hunting) where it seems all the other unemployed people hang out. I haven't got a memebership yet so I pick books I know I can finish within a couple of hours - which has led to some hilarious sneaky reading of Mills and Boon (I think that last one was called 'Bedded for Love, Purchased for Pregnancy' or something equally ridiculous) which has been a source of endless amusement. I have certain rituals to curb my occasional homesickness and visiting the books is one of my never fail tricks. I also go to the cinema (but only on Tuesdays which are cheap here!) and lie on the grass and make cloud shapes which I have always loved. Being on your own thousands of miles away from family, friends, birthdays, parties and other things you should be at home for is not easy by any means - and there have been moments when I have really wondered what I am doing here. But then I will see something incredible, or I will remember some of the things I have done here and I remember how worth it coming here has been. As I remind my fellow backpackers when they get homesick, it is really easy to forget how brave it was to come here. So a quick pep talk and some library time rights me every single time. :)

Right, have to pop back to my flat and sort some stuff out. It's a beautiful day in beautiful Brisbane. I miss you all, more than you could possibly know. Hope everyone is alright. :) Love xxxxxxxx

PS - I have an interview with a temp agency on Wednesday so hope is not lost!! Woop!