Reminiscing: Manly, NSW

As I left my 9-5 job at the Sea Life Sanctuary on the beach, I made my twenty minute walk up hill, back to my rented apartment. The first thing that hit me as I stepped outside was usually the humidity, but sometimes it was a battering storm. Rain or shine, I’d smile as I walked past the beach with children playing, and cockatoo’s scavenging, and start the ascent.

I’d walk as fast as I could up the steepest part of my commute,
past the house called Wimbledon which everyday, without fail reminded me of going to watch the Tennis Championships, and there waiting above me as the road levelled out were a mix of tropical birds on the power lines. Having the chance to see what Aussies class as garden birds but what I class as tropical looking down at me every day always brought a smile to my face – no matter how noisy the cockatoos were.

On the last half of my journey I’d walk under the beautiful spring blossom and admire the purple and pink petals under my feet. There was even an unfortunate possum hanging dead on a power line, somehow fried stuck to it. I was amazed to see this sight the first day after his demise, then every day until he finally fell down after a big storm, I looked up at him as I walked past and wished him well.

As I reached my apartment, I’d hear my neighbour practising his drums from the loft of their house, where he’d have the window open trying to cool down from the Summer heat. Each time I heard him I contemplated asking for lessons, but instead I just enjoyed the melodies.

Even though my journey home was now over and I was inside, this blissful evening wasn’t ever over yet. Manly was the first time I’d had a shower to get cool instead of warm, and I relished in that fact. I much prefer to be showering to cool down in a hot room, than what we’re used to in the UK – having a boiling hot shower, trying to get warm, only to freeze as soon as we stop the water and reach for the towel.

If I didn’t feel the need for a shower, I’d pour myself a sparkling water and lime and sit out on the balcony overlooking the neighbourhood with Manly beach in the distance, and read, or watch any wildlife that might pass me by, like the possums that ate the flowers on one of our trees, or the fruit bats that migrated to the city to feed every sunset.

These memories are vivid in my mind, and I turn to them regularly for a sense of calm and reminder that I’ve had these happy experiences. It may not be good to dwell on the past, but when they help you look to the future they make you smile.

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Our Weekend in Malmö

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to stay with my friend in Malmö, Sweden. The easiest way to fly into Malmö is by flying into Copenhagen in Denmark and then getting the short train journey across the sea right into Malmö central.

As it was the beginning of December we were lucky enough to see the city dressed up for Christmas, and don’t the Swedes love Christmas!

We soon learnt that they bring out Christmas themed versions of most foods and drinks after my friend introduced them to us over the days.

Saffron buns & Julmust

There’s your standard mulled wine, but they also make Christmas bread, Christmas ham, Saffron Bread for Lucia day, and Jülmust which is a sort of spiced coke. The list goes on. We even found a Christmas themed Princess Cake, the cake of Sweden.

Princess Cake

We wandered around the supermarkets taking in all the beautiful foods and Swedish Santas.

Swedish Santas typically look like garden gnomes

Our first full day was spent seeing the Turning Torso, a new building of offices and apartments. This area is clearly an up and coming part of Malmö with new homes being built along the seafront as well as the new World Trade Centre and a massive supermarket. We walked right up to the seafront and had a warm cocoa before moving on.

The town centre of Malmö is quite varied. There’s an older part which we learnt was from the 1400s onwards, with old factory buildings which are now used as shops. They have a few beautiful squares, one of which has become a Christmas market during these Winter months and has lots of things for children to do like a merry-go-round and a ‘playroom’ in the shape of an igloo.

What I love most about Malmö is that it’s a relatively small town but has plenty in it to keep people entertained. The lights at night are gorgeous, and the classic buildings frame the seaside place beautifully. It’s great for a mini break away or a stopover on your way onto Stockholm for example. Malmö is a considerably cheaper option than Stockholm!

Lastly, I’d like to turn your attention to this that’s happening at the moment:
‘Tiny, Magical Shops For Mice Are Popping Up In Sweden’

Beautiful ‘mouse shops’ being created by someone in a suburb nearby.

What happens next?

Since arriving back in the UK after 8 months abroad I’ve struggled to fit back in. Probably because I wasn’t ready to, and I’m still not! Last year I began my journey in Australia, spent Christmas and New Years on an island in Fiji, campervanned around New Zealand, had a guided tour around Sri Lanka, and spent my last weekend away in Dubai, UAE.

Writing it all down like that, it comes out like quite a long list for 8 months away, but since getting back all I’ve done is miss the sunshine. I’m one of those people who thrives on sunlight and find myself in a depressive pit during the dark winter months. Therefore I’ve always felt that I’d find life a lot easier if I was based in a warmer climate.

My head’s currently all over the place and changing it’s mind every day, but I know that these thoughts aren’t fleeting, I have always wanted to do the following, it’s just choosing when to do them.

Work in America – Like Australia, I’ve always looked at the size of America and felt that to see it all I would need to work there. For some reason the USA doesn’t look too kindly on Brits going over to ‘New England’ to work, and make it slightly difficult to gain a working visa. I am however working on this, and have been on and off for many years. If I can get a visa to work in America, I can continue in my current career in LA, something I don’t feel comfortable doing in London anymore.

Work in Dubai – I’ve been to Dubai at least once a year for the last 6 years that my friends have lived there. Every time I go there I have a great time and love the humidity (I still haven’t been there in midsummer when you can’t even leave the house). Considering I’m a country bumpkin, I actually like the idea of living in a city of sand and coloured lights. Slipping on marble footpaths, and having the world’s largest mall as your local shopping centre sounds fun, at least for a little while. Dubai, however, will be a bit more difficult for me to work in. I probably wouldn’t want to work in my chosen career there, but I would happily have an office job, just to live the lifestyle for a little while.

Learn Italian in Italy – Many years ago, when I was a child, I made a deal with an Italian friend of my family’s that I would stay with her for 3 months and learn Italian, live the Italian lifestyle. Then, 10 years ago, she died suddenly with heart problems. This spurred me on to keep my promise and make it that I’d learn Italian whilst living in the country.
I’d planned on doing this on my way back from Oz but since arriving back home and contacting Italian schools, I feel that this is one thing I could do a lot later on in life. Sure, the idea of living in Italy sounds great. I’d get fat on pasta, pizza, pastries and the like, but then I’d be fat, and that’s one thing I don’t plan on doing until I’m a lot older!

Hopefully one of these will become a reality in the next few months and I can write all about it!

The many faces at Hostels and how to handle them

During my stay in hostels I came across many different ‘types’ of people. There’s your classic European single guy vying for attention, groups of girls or guys who all met travelling and are now making their journeys together, and lots and lots of single female travellers.

As we made our way around various locations of Oz, women started telling us their experiences whilst staying in hostels around the world. On a tour around the Daintree rainforest we were shocked to be sat with a group of girls from all walks of life and each of them have a negative story whilst travelling around Australia. One girl had had a way too friendly hostel owner offering her a private space expecting benefits in return, another had had men coming onto her in a mixed dorm, all of these experiences are the kinds of things you don’t expect to hear these days as most posts speak highly of the safety of women travelling alone these days (but we all know to still keep our wits about us). Luckily these women had their heads screwed on and knew how to handle themselves – that’s the reason they’re on their independent journey –  but it came as a shock to us that amongst a table of 5 women, 3 of them had already felt unsafe somewhere during their travels…

…Which could be a good reason as to why I found so many mixed groups during my trip. These people had met up randomly whilst hostelling elsewhere and formed such a bond that they were happy to carry on their experience together. I never got to speak to the groups but from observation they appeared a lot more confident and seemed to always be having the time of their lives. Yes, a few of them were probably having holiday romances, but if it keeps you feeling happy and safe, what’s the down side to this story?

As for ‘Crazy Dave’ who walks in a room wearing some clashing luminous clothes, shades indoors, and shouts about how much fun he’s having, he’s not as original as he might think he is. When we greyhounded our way down the East Coast we came across many ‘Dave’s, and tried to ignore them as much as possible. For me, they’re too full on and I wouldn’t be able to cope with having that amount of energy around me all the time, which is probably why they’re usually found on their own during the day. At night, however, they’ve finally become the centre of the party they wanted to be and all the drunkards love him. Good for you ‘Crazy Dave’, may you always find ways of expelling your energy through travelling.

Even though we may all be there for different reasons, we still all want the same thing out of it; to see the world. As long as we look out for each other, and ensure to enjoy our time together respectfully and happily, then there should be no problems. Guys respect those girls, and ladies, you continue being the kickass bitches you’ve always been. I salute you all for embracing that travelling bug and running with it.

How I came to appreciate the UK again

During my travels I saw many sights and met many people from all different kinds of backgrounds. As I reached my final destination, back in the UK, I had learnt one very simple but important thing:

No matter where you go, the story’s always the same.

In each country across the world there will always be someone moaning about:

  • Immigrants
  • House/Rental prices and ‘foreigners’ buying them
  • Big companies buying up all the produce/land and hiking up the cost of food

It’s sad, but it’s true. As human beings, we can’t all get along and agree on the exact same thing; that’s what makes us human!

In learning that the rest of the world appears to have the same issues as home, I started looking at what the UK has, to appreciate it once again.

Free Healthcare – The NHS gets a bad rep, mostly by Conservatives, but if we didn’t have the NHS I don’t know how we’d survive. Over the years I’ve needed them for surgery, check-ups, injections etc. and although you get the occasional hiccup with waiting times, I’ve always felt looked after.

Food – We have such a large variety of food here in the UK. Not only do we have amazing restaurants bringing us cuisines from all over the world, but we also have great variety in our supermarkets.
I found Australia’s shops missing a lot of items which I thought were staple products, and their curries were nothing but heartburn to me. In Dubai however, they appear to have everything, and they have it beautifully presented. I’m always amazed at how neatly the fruit is stacked whenever I shop at Waitrose in Dubai Mall.
When you reach places like a remote island in Fiji you’re once again reminded of the ‘Western World’ we live in in the UK, and the amazing choice we get. For 10 days straight we were fed whatever the local fishermen had caught, and at some points the chefs struggled as it was the stormy season and no boats could come near us. Our fruit plates became banana plates, and the main courses diminished in size. Being based in the UK we have all of Europe growing fruit and veg, and we even have the specialised shops offering (highly priced) imported foods from America or China.

The BBC – Whilst living in Oz I couldn’t watch BBC TV over the net because I wasn’t in the UK. When I went on the BBC news website whilst in Oz, it was filled with adverts. When you’re in the UK looking at these things there are no adverts allowed as it is funded by us, the people of the UK. Other channels and countries have to have adverts all over their stuff to make money. I’m happy to pay for the Beeb as it’s given me Attenborough, Sherlock, as well as many classic TV comedies such as Blackadder and Only Fools and Horses. Now who can compete with that?!

The Countryside – I grew up in the countryside but have spent the last 10 years based in cities, rarely stepping out into a woodland or field. Over this time I completely forgot the fact that the UK is still at least 80% countryside.
When we drove around New Zealand I was amazed at how much was untouched. In the entire country there are only a few places heavily built on, the rest was just little towns or villages surrounded by mountains or lakes. It was stunning but also similar to the views of Britain. So as our plane flew in circles coming into land at Gatwick, I looked out at the land below and took in the fields and trees I’d forgotten about for so long. Now I’m back, I plan on seeing the country I grew up in.


We may all have the same problems of mass corporations buying everything out and hiking the prices, people buying out all the properties to invest and make more money, and an ever-increasing population from both immigrants and procreation, but the point is we ALL have that, and we’re ALL just people. If we can learn to respect one another and accept what’s going on around us (to an extent), then we will find a happiness within ourselves. I’m still working on this one but at least I’ve come to appreciate the land I grew up in and all it has to offer.

A Pommes Perspective of Australia

During my travels in Australia I came across many wonderful and weird things. Here’s my view overall of Oz.

Roads – Brilliantly signposted! When I arrived in Australia I was so relieved to see maximum signage on the roads. They direct and warn you about everything.

aussie-road-sign

TV Promos – ‘You’re not going to believe what happens.’ ‘What they did next will amaze you.’  One thing I’ve noticed about Australian TV promos is; they’re all the same. Even if the programme doesn’t contain any drama, they’ll make a promo to make it look like it’s one filled with it. Coming from a background of working in the TV industry, I know the deal, but in the UK they certainly seem to mix it up a little bit more than over here. The UK certainly doesn’t try to make a home decorating show look like a dramatic reality TV series. I’ve not watched a lot of American TV in my time, but the Oz promos certainly seem to be heavily influenced by the American way.

Walking side – Where in some countries you have a bike path and a pedestrian path, here you have a pedestrian path side for whichever way you’re walking. It’s quite cute, but a waste of road paint, because no one really abides by them.

Food – I seriously struggled to eat a good meal in Australia. To many Australians, you’re not to know any different, but curry isn’t supposed to taste like that. Kiev’s aren’t supposed to have bones in them, and pasta should not taste so thick and stodgy that you won’t pass it for weeks. It took me a while to know which items to pick and choose out of the small amount of options, but I gradually learnt what not to eat.

Franchises – I soon learnt that the well-known chain restaurants I’m used to are not going to taste the same in Australia. They’re franchises, owned by some local who’s got the famous menus up behind him, but different products behind the scenes. One day I really fancied a Nandos so I asked for my usual of a chicken burger and chips with halloumi and the guy looked at me with utter confusion. Halloumi is not on the Nandos menu here. I mean c’mon. It makes the chicken burger if you stick the slab of halloumi on top of it, and then there are the Nandos fries I love so much. I was given your typical cheap-ass, worst tasting fries you could ever imagine; horrific. Australia, you have no idea what amazing food you’re missing out on.

Double glazing – Okay, I vaguely get it. We have double glazing in the UK because it’s cold 99.9% of the year, but you guys (depending on which part of the country you’re in) get cold spells too! Not only do you actually have winters where it’s low in the single figures, but double glazing also helps cut out sounds. So far, in the many places I’ve stayed, I’ve wished for double glazing. I don’t want to hear the really noisy birds outside, or the boy racers burning rubber on the street. When I get inside, I want peace and quiet. I want to feel like I’m in my own space, not still sharing it with the whole world. On top of that, door-makers really need to learn to measure. I’ve still not seen a door that goes all the way to the floor – even front doors. You have massive fences up to protect you from all this dangerous wildlife, but you’ll leave an inch gap at the front of your house so that all the little critters can crawl on in.

2a7dfc0100000578-3159224-hatton_calmly_walks_the_spider_to_the_front_door_where_he_says_h-m-30_1436789738716

Heating – This ties in with the double glazing. Some parts of the country do get cold and yet none of them have any form of heating installed. All of the people I’ve met so far have complained about the lack of heating in their apartment and have had to buy standalone radiators that hardly give out any warmth, but use up a lot of electricity.

Loud birds – Going back to the double glazing again, it would be really nice if you had some so that the bird that insists on calling out to his friends in front of my window every morning wouldn’t be so loud. There’s a whole range of them, and I’m sure I share this pain with most people.

cockatoos

Internet options – You guys are being taken for a ride. There are adverts all over the TV for super-fast broadband at a rip-off price and it’s still not unlimited! I just don’t get it. It’s already well-known that this country doesn’t have very good internet coverage, and I can understand why – you’re huge with massive expanses of nothingness to get across – but I don’t understand why these companies can’t just offer you unlimited rather than 200GB a month. If you’re asking for 200GB a month it should be classed as unlimited!

Where to buy what – You go through life learning what items work for you, and go buy them whenever you need a top up. When I arrived in Oz I soon found that my staple products might not exist in this country. In the UK, supermarkets contain a large variety of everything from knickers to noodles. I’ve found that in Oz you may need to go to a few stores to get everything on your shopping list. It began with toothpaste. I must have walked around 4 different supermarkets and discount pharmacy’s before assuming that my brand wasn’t made here and settled on something similar. Then I ran out of face wipes, deodorant, and shampoo. It’s not so simple that once you’ve found it in one store you’ll find it in another one of theirs – that’s what makes Oz shops so confusing! Different Coles stores will have different items. So where I might be able to find a shampoo I want in one of them, another Coles elsewhere doesn’t stock that particular brand.


Over the months I began pointing out more negative views of Australia, but overall they’re not a bad bunch. They have advert campaigns like this one:

s6myehu

And have a far more relaxed view on life than most European countries. Australians know how to work a sufficient amount, and play to the absolute maximum. They’ve learnt how to handle big bugs, and ferocious storms. All in all, my view of Australia is it’s hot, independent, and very, very beautiful.

DSC02563

What I learnt whilst in Oz

Cancer awareness – Everyone is very much aware of cancer in the world, and it’s always prevalent, but my trip began in Brisbane where skin cancer is rife. All my cousin’s friends had cancer; there were ads all over TV for it, and skin cancer clinics on every corner. Sunscreen was cheap, everywhere, and was made in high SPF’s.

Healthy Eating – When I moved to Manly, it was what I was putting into my body that I became more aware of. Manly appears to be a very health conscious town, and my new housemate had been taking it one step further and started to buy organic products for cleaning, and make up as well so that anything she touched or ingested was chemical free, and 100% natural. I’d always felt bloated after pasta or bread anyway, so I knew I should try cutting out gluten. After reading about other things that you could remove from your diet and how it could benefit you, I started to seriously plan my eating habits and embraced the new meal options.

It’s hard to change lifestyle habits, but since having my eyes opened to a new way of living, I now follow healthy eaters on Instagram like @chloescountertop @kirstywaterman @deliciouslyella who show me a new way of eating and viewing. I also came across Quirky Cooking which has some delicious recipes and suggestions.

In learning more about the products you put onto your body, I’ve started compiling a Pinterest board of DIY products, and the many uses of coconut!

As I made my way further south, I found Sydney and Melbourne to be the most health conscious. There were lots of independent shops including health food stores with plenty of variety for the intolerant people. I felt like I was walking into a magic, Harry Potter shop when I entered a store in Melbourne. Outside it had a stand of wicker baskets which you could use whilst walking around the shop, and they’d used every single space imaginable for something. The crevices in the walls were filled with tubes of every seed and nut you could think of, and they even had a mini bakery on sight! These sorts of shops do not exist in the UK, but certainly should.

Australian TV – I found their TV to have quite an American influence, with a slight environmental and health conscious vibe. During my stay in Townsville, the local TV adverts were mainly focussed on obesity, and how to lead a healthier life. At the beginning I found it funny that people in such a sunny state could have an obesity problem, but actually, the heat can be too much for exercise, and the sea can have crocs, sharks and stingers to be wary of! Most coast towns do have pools which filtered in the sea water though, so there’s no real excuse.

Aborigines – On the road in Western Australia, I learnt about how much the Aborigines’ were quashed. I went on a 6 day tour of South West Oz and at nearly every stop it was all about how the Aborigines once were this and that, as if they don’t exist anymore. It makes me rather sad that they’re talked about this way, and have been removed from their lands to make way for a western world who didn’t even know how to cope in this harsh environment.

Australian Made – Independent companies appear to be thriving as well as state made adverts encouraging people to shop at independent stores rather than big businesses. It’s great to still be able to buy your meat from a butchers, vegetables from a greengrocers, and fish from a fishmongers; this is something you’d struggle to still find in a built up UK city, as the big chain supermarkets buy out all the smaller stores to make ‘locals’.

And finally, what I’ve learnt about me…

I’ve learnt that I love a Wintery Christmas in the northern hemisphere. It was weird going through December with Christmas films showing, and having no relation to the weather outside. Even topics and stories online weren’t corresponding to the heat of the Australian summer. I found it so weird that I wrote a blog entry about it.