Northern Boys Love Gravy

It’s funny when you’re out shopping and you spot a familiar-looking English product. Like this tub of gravy granules, for example. Looking at the packaging you think “Hey, they’ve got Bisto!” but then you see the name and it isn’t. It’s “Sooo Gravy”. 🙁

You then take a proper look and, sure enough, find it is actually made by Bisto in the UK. Result! :d

Apparently all the ex-pat Brits know all about Sooo Gravy but, in a cruel twist, the supermarkets have now decided to phase it out. They’re all up in arms about it on the message boards. Who’d have throught a discussion about gravy granules would attract over 2300 readers? :((

Last week, while visiting a different suburb, we found a Safeway that still had a few tubs on the shelf. We are now stocked up with enough to last until 2008. Phew. #:-s

Of course a roast lamb dinner wouldn’t be the same without proper mint sauce too and the Aussie’s “mint jelly” just won’t do. Fortunately there’s a little shop in Bayswater that sells English goodies, so we picked up a jar of Coleman’s Mint Sauce the other day. A bit dear at $5.50 but the little things make all the difference. They also had Walkers Crisps and, according to the owner, Monster Munch are due in next week! =p~

Some of the supermarkets have now started stocking Helmann’s Mayo and Vimto cordial. We’ve also found a sweet shop in Olinda that sells Polo mints, Double Deckers, Highland Toffee, Tizer and various other goodies. :@)

Daylight Savings Time

Just a reminder that the clocks go forward by an hour here in Victoria this weekend when they go backwards by an hour in the U.K. :-t

It’s odd that some Australian states don’t bother with Daylight Savings at all (Queensland, Northern Territory & Western Australia) and that Tasmania does it at the start of October, rather than at the end. :-b

Anyway, Melbourne is now eleven hours ahead of the UK, rather than nine. (:|

Food Glorious Food

A couple of days ago, we were chatting about food and drink that we used to like in the U.K. but can’t find over here. One of the things Sara said she misses most is Marks & Spencer’s food hall, especially their coleslaw. 🙁

I suggested going to a department store in the city called David Jones, which I’ve read about and sounds like the nearest thing to M&S. So she checked it out on the internet and agreed it looked promising. So on Friday, having had a really busy week with job applications and interviews, we decided to take a trip into the city just for fun.

We drove into the city without the aid of TomTom — I even discovered a short-cut to get around the usual traffic jams in Burwood — and found $5 all-day parking in the fabulous Crown Casino complex on the south bank of the Yarra River. It’s a huge place, easily rivalling the big Las Vegas casinos and, even if you don’t like gambling, there’s tons of other stuff going on. You could easily get lost inside; we did. :-s

We then headed over to the David Jones store on Bourke Street, about ten minutes walk from the Crown. Having been to the city half a dozen times now, it’s really nice when you start to get your bearings and know the names of a few streets. It helps that Melbourne’s centre is laid out in a regular grid pattern.

We went downstairs to the food hall where we came across none other than Gordon Ramsay, who had just completed a cooking demonstration and was now signing copies of his new book. Unfortunately we didn’t buy one (we’re unemployed, remember) but we took a couple of snaps for the blog. He seemed much shorter and stockier than he does on telly and looked a bit rough, probably jetlag. Had I known he would be there, I might’ve asked him to sign a printout of the Omelette recipe. 😉

Anyway, he soon disappeared and the staff began dismantling his stall and replacing it with another celebrity chef’s merchandise and temporary kitchen. It looks like they do these book signing/demonstration events all the time, so we’ll have to keep an eye on the website in future.

The food hall itself is absolutely sensational. All sorts of smells hit you as you walk around, making you want to buy everything. It’s a bit like a cross between the cafes in Selfridges or Harvey Nichols, combined with a M&S food hall. There are lots of separate little deli counters where you can buy meats, cheeses, breads, seafood, coffee, cakes and chocolates. There are also half a dozen circular eating areas, with tall bar stools around an open kitchen area, catering for whatever you want: pasta, seafood, salad, pizza, chinese, thai or even a roast beef dinner. It all looks wonderful, but sadly it’s beyond our budget for the time being. =p~

We browsed around the international grocery shelves and found all sorts of different and familiar things. Top finds included McVities Chocolate Digestives and Thorntons Chocolates. We’ll definitely be coming back here when we’re earning. :@)

Whilst we were in the area and inspired by seeing Ramsay, we decided to take a wander over to Jamie Oliver’s new “Fifteen” restaurant that recently opened somewhere on Collins Street. We walked the entire length of Collins street in both directions — a good couple of hours walk — but didn’t spot it. (It turns out that it’s inside one of the many malls, just off Collins Street.) I was also keeping an eye out for the Charles Dickens Tavern, highly recommended for watching football, but didn’t realise it would be a basement pub so we missed that too. #-o

Before heading back to the car, we jumped on one of the old-fashioned City Circle tourist trams and did a complete circuit of Melbourne, taking in some of the famous landmarks as we trundled around the edge of the city centre. It’s a fantastic service, running every 12 minutes during the day, really handy for getting around the city because you can hop on and off as often as you like. Best of all, it’s completely free. :d

Manchester United 2 – 0 Vermin

I can’t remember looking forward to a match more than this one. All week I’ve been humming “If You All Hate Scousers Clap Your Hands”, “In Your Liverpool Slums”, “We Won It Two Times” and all the other chants that go with this particular fixture. =d>

After setting up the Media Player in the living room and making sure that all of the Asian channels that usually show live Premiership games were working properly, I got myself further in the mood by playing the tunes that United usually run out to at Old Trafford: Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life and This Is The One by the Stone Roses. :-”

At 10pm I settled down to watch the game with a six-pack of Cooper’s Sparkling Ale, enjoying the pre-match presentation for Paul Scholes who was making his 500th first team appearance today. A true United legend and a nice, modest fellow too, which is a rare thing in football these days. I’m so pleased that the rumours of his early retirement from football for health reasons proved to be untrue and it’s a pleasure to see him back in the United team and playing well. #:-s

I remember Scholesy being interviewed during the last World Cup and when he was asked about his favourite player of all time, as a lifelong Oldham Athletic fan he named “Frankie Bunn” and, when the interviewer looked confused by the answer, Scholsey added “He scored six times for Oldham in a League Cup tie against Scarborough, you know”. :d

What a game! After a bit of a shaky start United took control of the game and, once Scholesy followed up his own parried shot to score United’s first, Liverpool weren’t in the running. Evra looked excellent on the left, Saha was very sharp and Rooney’s movement pulled the Liverpool defence all over the place. Carrick showed promise (but gave the ball away a bit too often) and even The Scottish Player had a more than decent game for once. Rio Ferdinand, of all people, scored the second. @-)

The atmosphere sounded superb. One of the funniest things I heard was the “Does the circus know you’re here?” chant when Peter Crouch was brought on. Quality. :o)

The Stringybark Festival

We’ve just got back from the “Stringybark Festival 2006”, an annual event held at the Rowville Community Centre, about 15 minutes away.

It was a bit like a county fair with an environmental theme. There were all sorts of things taking place: arts and craft stalls, hands-on woodwork and pottery workshops, a model village, sheep shearing demonstrations, reptile displays and livestock competitions, steam engines, radio controlled cars, cooking classes, homebrew and winemaking, Harley rides, a miniature farm, Shetland ponies and a funfair for the kids. #:-s

We pottered around for a couple of hours, enjoying the live music (including a bagpipe band wearing shorts and an all-white Gospel choir) and watching people try their hand at various activities, including making “damper” on an open fire, or painting boomerangs or learning to play the digeridoo. :-”

In amongst all the entertainment there were various stalls introducing things like solar powered homes, rainwater collection systems and recycling initiatives. :)>-

A really good afternoon out. 🙂

Commuting by train

This morning I had another job interview in the city centre. :-ss

Having made a similar rush-hour journey by car for a different interview last week, we decided to try the train today instead.

Our nearest train station is at Bayswater, about five minutes away, and we were able to find a free parking spot on the station car park (as opposed to paying $24 to park in the city centre for three hours last time). Arriving early, we found that the service runs to the city every 8 or 9 minutes in the mornings. Bayswater is on the main Belgrave line so we wouldn’t need to change trains at all.

Metlink — Melbourne’s train, tram and bus network — is divided into three zones: Zone 1 (Yellow) being the city centre and immediate suburbs, Zone 2 (Blue) is the next few inner suburbs and Zone 3 (Red) is the outer suburbs. The price of the ticket is determined by the number of zones you wish to travel through, so we had to buy a Zone 1+2+3 ticket to get from the outer suburbs to the city centre.

There are various cheaper options for regular or off-peak travellers, but a standard Zone 1+2+3 Metcard costs $7.40 (£3.00) and is valid for two hours — well actually it’s valid for two hours from the next full hour so, if you play your cards right, you can get almost three hours out of it. :-b

Knowing that we’d be coming straight back after the interview, we decided to validate our tickets at 8:01am allowing them to be used until 11:00am. $-)

According to the timetable, the 8:03 train would get us into Southern Cross (Spencer Street) station with enough time to get to my 9:00 appointment. Unfortunately, this particular train simply didn’t materialise. If we were regular train users, we would have subscribed to the free SMS service that tells you about delays and cancellations on your chosen route. ~X(

We jumped on the next available train at 8:11 which, luckily, was an express service so didn’t have to stop at many of the smaller stations, and we arrived just before 9:00. I won’t go into details about the interview here, but I think it went fairly well. We were able to re-use our tickets to get back to Bayswater. #:-s

Since many of the jobs I’ve been looking at are based in the CBD (Central Business District), it was a good experiment to try the train today. Although it was very busy, it’s certainly a lot cheaper than paying for parking and was much quicker than driving during peak times. It’s quite relaxing too, watching all the different suburbs flash by as someone else does all the hard work. 🙂

I also liked one of the official Metlink notices I saw on the train, you wouldn’t get this in England:

– – – – – –
NOTICE TO FARE EVADERS
Please take the time to thank the passenger sitting next to you.
Some of their fare has gone towards paying for you today.
Maybe you should offer to mow their lawn.

– – – – – –

Speaking of trains, I also found these two quality Jimmy Saville clips on YouTube. Link1 Link2 =))

Regional Accents

I’m currently sat here listening to “Well Well Well“, the debut album by Milburn, a new band from Sheffield. They remind me of the Arctic Monkeys, but with a bit more talent. :-”

Anyroad up, sat here listening to their strong Yaarkshire accents has made me realise that you don’t seem to get regional accents here in Australia, as far as I can tell. Everyone I’ve spoken to so far sounds exactly the same (except the ex-pat Brits, of course). 😉

It’s odd really. Whilst Manchester is undoubtedly home of the finest regional accent in the world — where people speak “normal” — you only have to drive for 90 minutes in any given direction to experience a completely different twang.

Drop over the Pennines, only as far as Halifax or Leeds, and you get the broad Yaarkshire accent I’m talking about. A similar distance in the opposite direction along the East Lancs and you’ll get the horrible whiney Scouse accent which, thankfully, I haven’t heard at all since getting here. (I shudder to imagine one day hearing “Eeehhrrr, excuuuse me mate” and turning round to see an export-strength tash-and-perm shellsuit-clad Scouser.) %-(

Head south for a hundred miles or so and you’ll hear the unfortunate “Black Country” accent, while a couple of hours North and you’ll find the incomprehensible Geordies and, not far beyond that the Jocks. :-$

But over here all Aussies sound exactly the same. Today I’ve spoken to a couple of people in Sydney and, to my untrained ear, they speak exactly the same as Melburnians. On the telly, I don’t notice any difference at all when people from Adelaide, Perth or Darwin are talking. According to Sara, everyone sounds like “cockneys gone wrong” and she’s got a fair point (although neither of us can do a decent Aussie impression yet). 😕

Regional accents are one of the small things I’m missing about England so far, along with decent chips, proper football and real beer. 🙁

What Aussies lack in regional accents, they make up for with a refreshing lack of political correctness and their use of bizarre words and phrases. I didn’t think people would really say things like “Fair Dinkum”, “true blue” and “daggy” but they do, it’s quite entertaining really.

We’ll get used to it. 🙂

Phew, what a scorcher!

Today has been the second hottest October day on record in Melbourne, with temperatures reaching over 37° in some parts of the city. #:-s

Having seen the forecast earlier in the week, we planned to make the most of it and spend the whole day relaxing in the garden. It was very pleasant indeed, although we had to keep coming back inside frequently to cool off. The only times we’ve experienced hotter weather than this was when we went to Egypt, where it was often in the 40°s, and once when we visited Greece during a heatwave. b-)

Now that I’ve started looking for work properly, I had a quick shufty on the I.T. job websites every time I popped indoors and fired off a few applications. Sadly, I learned that I didn’t get one of the interesting-sounding posts that I applied for last week and I also got an immediate knock-back for another one this morning for being “over qualified”, but I’ve still got half a dozen applications on the go. :)]

Later this afternoon, when we couldn’t take any more sunshine, we decided to go for a swim. It would be great to have our own pool in weather like this; it’s definitely something we’ll consider next time we are looking for a house to rent/buy. It was incredibly busy down at Kilsyth pool, but very refreshing.

On the way home from the pool I got a call from one of the agencies I contacted this morning, asking me for some more details and outlining a potential job that sounds pretty good. They’ve invited me in to the city tomorrow for an informal interview. Thankfully the forecast says it’ll be a bit cooler tomorrow and it’s the company’s “casual day” on Fridays, so I won’t need to wear a suit this time. 🙂

I stumbled across this blog the other day. It’s about a bloke who has decided to apply for 100 jobs over the next couple of months, despite the fact that he is obviously completely unqualified and has no experience in any of them. If they sound interesting, weird or pay extremely well, he’s putting in an application. If he’s successful, I might just follow his example! :d

Catch Up

It’s been a couple of weeks since the blog was last updated, so I’ll do a quick catch up post:

  • It’s now Spring and the weather has picked up nicely. Temperatures are in the mid 20°s most days, with the odd 30° day every now and again. There’s still the occasional overcast or rainy day but more often than not it clears up within a few hours. 🙂
  • A couple of weeks ago, on one of the hottest September days in Melbourne for 25 years, we headed over to the Mornington Peninsula and spent the afternoon on Rosebud beach. We then took the coastal road back, passing through places like Safety Beach, Mount Martha, Mornington and Mount Eliza — all very nice places to live, but too far out of Melbourne for work purposes — before reaching Frankston and heading back East.
  • Although I haven’t really stepped up the job hunting, I’m still receiving feedback from the handful of applications I made a few weeks ago. So far I have had a couple of telephone interviews and one proper interview in Melbourne last week (very hot in a suit!). I’m currently waiting for feedback about a different job which one of the agents recommended me for, hopefully I’ll hear something in the next few days. If not, it’s time to pull my finger out and put in some more applications. :-w
  • Last weekend was “Grand Finals” weekend in Melbourne (presumably the Aussie Rules Football equivalent of the F.A. Cup) and virtually all of the neighbours were out in their gardens, watching the game and having a beer and a barbie — the whole neighbourhood smelled great. I’ve no idea who won the game, but it sounded entertaining enough listening to the neighbours’ shouts every time there was a goal/try/touchdown or whatever they are called in Aussie Rules. :-??
  • We’ve had barbecues galore. Last Sunday we went back to Cardinia and, never mind “throw another shrimp on the barbie”, we saw someone actually cooking an apple pie on it! =))
  • A couple of days ago I accidentally dropped the electric garage door on top of Sara’s car whilst reversing out, so today I’ve spent several hours with T-Cut and Turtle Wax, polishing out all the scratches. No real harm done, thankfully, or I’d never hear the end of it. #:-s

No new photos, sorry, but I’ll update again later in the week.