Monday, 20 February 2017

Bangkok Blogger

Life is not about finding ourselves it is about creating ourselves!
George Bernard Shaw

Cooee! It's me calling in from Thailand. Sorry, it's been a while, it's been a tad busy. Still, we've not done badly. We've moved into our temporary apartment and are well on the way to finding something more permanent. We're overlooking the American Embassy compound, which is acres of impressive greenery in amongst the high rise buildings. I love it, I can even hear the little birds sing in the morning.

Outside our new apartment.
So welcome to my new life as .... drum roll please, Hmmm actually, I have no bleedin’ idea, so how about Bangkok Blogger for now?

How would you feel if you were to arriving in a new country, where you know no-one, and you're not even sure what your life will entail? For me, it was a feeling of excitement, crossed with a rolling of the eyes, a smile and my 'here we go again' expression. 

Of course, this always happens Mr Wren was away travelling and so I rocked up for my new Thai life solo last week. Yep on my tod. Welcome to Bangkok, said no-one.

It's been an interesting few days. With all my point of references removed, it's like being back in the first week at school where you hope you don't inadvertently say something daft and stupid. I don't know what is safe to eat, all that street food looks yummy but... and the majority of the time I don't know where I am going or what I am doing...

I didn’t know, for instance, filling in my arrival paperwork whether my brand spanking new non-immigrant Thai visa meant I could waltz in with a ‘Honey I’m home grin’, ready to set up our new life… or whether I'm still firmly in the foreigner queue. Silly me, of course, I was!

Who am I now? I have left behind my old Australian life where I was a Mother, a friend, a volunteer, and a Crazy Poodle owner. To rattle off a few of my reasons for being. I had roots, and pretty strong ones, given our ever changing corporate they say ‘jump’ we say ‘how high and where’ lifestyle. 

Here I have no kids, no dog, no work and no friends!

Ha, that makes it sound sadder than it really is. The beauty of the blogosphere is that my friends can come with me, well sort off, well virtually anyway. I have loved moving countries over the years and making new friends is on the list for future weeks. Watch out world.

But now, I am not sure what my life will entail. I could reinvent myself, perhaps my latent creative will come to the fore? There are craft and art groups here, apparently, the Aussies have a lively group called Crackers, who spend months making Christmas crackers, to raise money for charity. 

Perhaps I take up mahjong, bridge or golf? I think my inner sporty spice has done her dash and all this humidity is not likely to encourage her back out, apart from perhaps the badminton just so I can say I still can!

However, maybe I could start with fitter, not fatter so I need a gym. I want to find yoga and pilates and I really want to join in the fan-snapping, tai-chi ladies at dawn in Lumphini Park… I have managed to walk my 10,000 steps each day so far. Lumphini Park is beautiful and the weather is surprisingly kind but walking home in all that pollution leaves a strong metal taste in my mouth.

Sculpture Lumphini Park: Women in the next three decades
And somewhere hidden deep at the bottom of a trying move, our Bangkok-bound container stranded on the side of the road and we weren't sure whether the dog was at death's door or whether it was separation anxiety gone mad, is the new me. 

Just a little update, the Crazy Poodle had the audacity to add to the stress of moving, I got fatter he had rapid weight loss and blood in his stools. So I wasn't even sure if I was saying bye, see ya or Goodbye Forever. Although after various trips to the Animal hospital it certainly was ta-ra mega bucks! Anyway, his tail is now back to wagging wildly and I’m hoping his vomits was just his cheeky way of saying I've read your blog, don’t go! 

Crazy Poodle is getting his energy back!
So, as long as I don't get arrested this week, as I will have a lot of explaining to do about our family exchange of photos many of which include pictures of dog poo! I will be up for finding the new me.

 Somewhere deep inside is a Zen Wren waiting to burst forth. 
I might need a relaxing spa day first….

So who would you be if you could recreate yourself?

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Toodle-oo to the Crazy Poodle

Generally, I'm fine with our upcoming move to Bangkok, 
but there is a big elephant in the room, in the shape of the Crazy Poodle. 

Our seven-year-old Cavoodle did not score a ticket to Thailand. 
Leaving him will be really hard, even though I know it's for the best.

He's not good with change, hates all suitcases and our lovable velcro dog displays all the hallmarks of canine separation anxiety. You'd think he'd be used to it with the amount of travelling our family does, but as soon as those suitcases appear, he goes into full-on poodle sulk!

Without a suitcase in sight, he's a different beast, happy as a pig in mud. 
Content and relaxed, he sleeps at our feet without a care in the world.

However the moment he is left home alone, he is on guard. 
Alternating between being on surveillance with his nose and all four paws perfectly aligned under the gate. Or, patrolling the perimeter fence 
checking for likely possum or feline intruders.

I know we can't take him to Bangkok although plenty of expats do have dogs. There would be many issues. 
Firstly, with rabies, Bangkok is a non-approved country. 
So whilst the journey out would be one thing, 
any return would be mean a time in quarantine. 
I know he's better off at home bored with our adult kids, 
than going through this.

Then there is the hot and humid climate, a huge part of the pleasure of dog ownership, other than companionship is walking the dog. I've seen humans in Bangkok displaying aberrant behaviour walking around the lift foyer in a vain attempt to get some exercise without enduring the outside sweaty conditions. I'm not up for a sweaty Betty walk in Lumphini Park with a hot dog on a lead when we're used to long walks on gorgeous beaches.

So what do I do? 
Do I sneak out without so much as a see you later? 
Or do we have the whole teary see you sometime farewell?

What would you do?

Linking with thanks to Eileen at Saturday's Critters

Friday, 3 February 2017

The Year of the Rooster

... or the Year Of The Cock-up?

Maybe it wasn't an auspicious date to be planning to move house during Chinese New Year? Those born during the year of the Rooster* would be amazing to have as friends. The Rooster is they say almost the epitome of fidelity and punctuality and come to think of it, should have been part of my selection criteria for the whole team involved in getting us to Bangkok. 

So things did not quite go according to plan but hey we made it!

1. Firstly our removal company rescheduled our move without our agreement or knowledge. So Mr Wren and I, having run around like headless chooks on Australia Day, with not even enough time to fly our Aussie flag as in previous years, were sitting there in splendid isolation on what we had thought was our big packing day... 

Waiting, waiting...

22Now, this would have been an ideal time to practise all those new skills we need in our new country. Like being relaxed, happy, keeping our cool, avoiding conflict and not losing my temper. But hey we're still in Oz and I was definitely not best pleased! 

It was also a perfect opportunity as Mr Wren & I are moving to a country where we know no-one, to practise the gentle art of conversation. But it kinda went like this:

Me: 'They've stuffed up'
Him: 'Let's go!'

3. After a false moving start, I returned the following day to the Mornington Peninsula to find the team of three packers hard at work. They had started in the kitchen and were pleased with their progress. 

My 'where's the kettle?' wailing fell on deaf ears... I mean what school of packing forgets to teach that you never, ever, ever put the kettle in the first box??

Keep Calm and Move On! 

4.4 As I sat in the driveway looking at boxes and boxes through our empty wine rack, I realised that is why they don't allow you to pack any alcohol or wine. It's not the horrendous import tariff that makes it prohibitive, it's the fact that they know that take a woman's chance for a cuppa away from her and she'll hit the booze!

I did chuckle at all the things we were not able to take to Bangkok for a variety of import reasons... All my wonderful Buddhas, not allowed. Big no no, even when they never came from Thailand, nothing antique (too much paperwork) sporting goods (taxed as a luxury item, alcohol (massive tax) and for some reason only one of every sort of electrical item... 

Mr Wren has been travelling back and forth for a number of months. Each time if he had been ever stopped by customs I'm sure they would have raised an eyebrow - he looks like an alcoholic, elite athlete. He goes in with the full duty-free allowance and every sporting item we can muster; tennis, golf, you name it.  I mean we haven't played badminton for thirty years but a couple of apartments have badminton courts, so our badminton racquets are now in Bangkok. 

5. Finally just as I thought I'd waved goodbye to our two containers worth of household goods, one off to storage, the other on it's way to the Kingdom of Thailand, the driver returned without the second trailer. 

'Have you got a padlock?' he asks clearly flustered? 
"Errrrr no",  I was going to reply. 'You've just packed up my entire house...'

'The tow bar's bust, we'll have to pick up your trailer tomorrow...'

We always knew it was going to be hard to leave Australia
But maybe not quite this hard! 

           Oh well, never mind. I'm sure it will all work out.
Our removal company have been very apologetic and 
this is the new Thai Zen Wren talking.
Keeping calm and moving on!

Oh, I forgot to ask does anyone have a spare shuttlecock? 

The Years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Linking with thanks to Amy's Five On Friday

Monday, 30 January 2017

Byeee Federerific!

I can't think of a better way of bowing out of Melbourne life, than waving goodbye to Roger Federer at Rod Laver arena at the Australian Open Men's final. Mr. Wren is now on a flight to Bangkok and I will join him in a couple of weeks.

It was an amazing evening of tennis. My initial disappointment not to be cheering on Andy Murray having seen him lose in two previous finals was soon forgotten.  Melbourne knew it had a dream final with Federer and Nadal, and the players did not disappoint.

I was going to say the eyes of the world were on Melbourne, however, I know from the text messages that our friends and family in the UK had to make do with listening to the match live on the radio! Which was absolutely useless when we were saying look out for us in the crowd, our seats are brilliant!

Melbournians, of course, in the self-proclaimed sporting capital of the world assume the whole world is watching and cram into the aptly named Fed Square to watch the match live on the big screen.  Federation Square is our city's central meeting hub. The place where the city enjoys many a night of big events and they don't get much bigger than a Federer/Nadal final!

At Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open a larger than usual crowd was drawn to watching Roger win his 18th Grand Slam, for those not able to watch inside Rod Laver they were able to view on the big screens across the site and inside Margaret Court arena. After his momentous win, Roger takes the trophy to the waiting crowds at Margaret Court. He is such a gent! Likeable in every way.

Like Roger, we're not sure what our next year will bring but we hope to be back!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Does it bring me joy?

Oh, the joys of packing up...

With our Summer holiday and our involvement in the Australian Open tennis largely behind us, attention must be focussed on our upcoming move to Bangkok. The packers are in tomorrow. Somehow this has not been an easy move, but then are they ever?

It got a tad complicated when my house-hunting trip to Bangkok before Christmas saw us return without resolving the issue of where to live... As we have nowhere to live, we are not sure what to take, or what to leave in storage.

Our first appointment with Santa Fe WridgWays, our removal company found us disorganized, unenthusiastic (me) and with totally different opinions of what we wanted to pack, store or chuck. Mr. Santa Fe politely told me later this is perfectly normal behaviour!

It was disappointing that our house-hunting trip to Bangkok had ended badly. The first day was full of promise and I excitedly determined a shortlist of three apartments which would more than do for our new nest. I was full of hope for an exciting move to a new country with endless opportunity for travel.

However, one by one all potential places fell by the wayside, too expensive, next to a major development and already leased, sorry! 

Everyone tells me Bangkok is a fantastic and growing expat destination. It's a good Asian hub for companies. Cheaper than Hong Kong and Singapore, centrally located, the airport has good connections across the region and it's arguably easier to do business than Kuala Lumpur. The foreigners generally enjoy the vibrant life and living in the land of smiles. My Aussie friends, now back from their not so exotic overseas assignments, talk of longing for visits to Bangkok, the Brits excited by the opportunity for shopping at Tesco's supermarket or Boots the Chemist!

In the same breath, I am told how amazing the apartments are. Not on my watch! I remember from our Hong Kong days how the combination of high humidity and high pollution can rapidly propel an apartment from lovely to yuck in a few weeks. So there I was with tape measure in hand ready to sign a lease and measure up, only to be told it was already leased and instead shown a grotty, unrenovated apartment. I couldn't wait to leave the stinky, polluted place.

So after six major International moves and looking for what would be our tenth home in twenty plus years I thought I knew what I was doing. Apparently not. Slightly flummoxed by not knowing what we are packing for, the job became a lot harder.

It appears corporate relocations have changed over the years. Gone are the golden days of expat moves where in our case the company paid for everything to be moved or stored, no thinking required. Just take it all and sort out at the other end, a team of packers on hand at every turn. Now we are working to what Australian's would call a rather, excuse my French, a 'tight-arsed' budget! 

Bangkok apartments are generally fully furnished and there is the opportunity to go with very little and start from scratch. For me, that is appealing ... as long as the furniture is reasonable and we get a good nights sleep on the notoriously rock-hard beds... Note to selves, to take our own mattresses.

So that brings us to walking around with Mr Santa Fe discussing various household items. It appears that Mr Wren and I see trash or treasure differently. It felt like we are playing some weird game of paper, rock, scissors. The question "what about this?" appeared simple enough. 

Mr Santa Fe Ipad in hand, duly notes responses pointing at each item of furniture. The only answers are 'store, pack or trash'. Mr Wren and I successfully managed to produce a different answer to each item of furniture. 

Infact, such was our divergence in agreement that if we ever managed the same answer, we added the word Bingo! It was so not funny. I think that packing brings out my inner hysteria.

Remedial help was required and turning to my Little Wren Facebook page, our friends were quick to offer their support and advice. I was reminded of Marie Kondo's fabulous book 'the life-changing magic of tidying.'

The book promises to help you treasure the things you love and let go of the things you don't. With each item you ask 'does it spark joy?' Once this is resolved you can create a beautiful home and find the confidence and motivation to live the life you longed for .... ( I have no idea what this means if you are quite happy with the life you already had?!) and make space for future success.

Ok, ok s'pose future success could bring me joy
Bring it on!!!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Top Tennis Dog

My Sunday Photo: Sunday 22 January 2017

The Crazy Poodle has had a big week.
Firstly he had a pampering session at the groomers
so he would be looking gorgeous and smelling sweetly 
for our international guests.

Hmmm best laid plans of mice and men and all that...
The groomer points out a slight eye infection which appears once he's had his facial and combines with water in the ears to give him the itches.
  Big time!
He is none too pleased with my bucket on the head solution
but thankfully it does solve the problem and he is right (ok exhausted), 
for his media appearances later in the week...

He's a laid back dog at the best of time and can't believe his luck to be invited onto the sofa to watch the tennis. Of course he soon made himself comfortable on his favourite tennis player! Once there and fast asleep, he had no idea that he was just about to be Instafamous.
You can read the full story here

Linking with thanks to Darren at My Sunday Photo

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Winners are grinners at the Aus Open 2017

Talk about nearly choking on my cappuccino!
So there I am enjoying a quiet coffee at the Australian Open
when suddenly the peaceful garden area of the player lounge 
becomes a hive of activity and out of the corner of my eye, a croc appears!

Have you ever wondered how the players find the time to cuddle a koala or kangaroo? As if by magic the garden is transformed into a private up close and personal encounter with some of our favourite, and our not so favourite, Aussie animals. 

It was a watch your back moment as a massive snake appears... But let's show you the koala who was clearly aware of his opportunity to shine. I mean who has ever seen a koala this alert? They seriously normally sleep 24/7!

Of course, everyone wanted to cuddle the koala and who wouldn't except that in Australia you need a license to handle a koala, so bring on the little joey in the poach who seemed to enjoy all the attention from the gathering crowd.

But let me introduce you to my favourites, the fairy penguins who lucky ducks (well not quite, but you know what I mean!) were given a blue paddling pool to splash around in. These rescued fairy penguins couldn't believe their good fortune (me too), and in the presence of the world's best tennis players put on quite an athletic aquatic talent show. Diving, splashing and generally having a thoroughly amazing time.

Quite like this little wren who sucks her belly in as she tries not to bump a player taking photos. I thought about saying: 
'So does anyone want to meet a real Aussie Wren?'
 but sadly all eyes were elsewhere...

Linking with thanks to Eileen at Saturdays Critters 

Keeping our cool at the Australian Open

For the past nine years, we have been privileged to be a player guest at the Australian Open. Together with a number of friends we share our homes with visiting tennis players and through their generosity we have an opportunity to experience the Australian Open in a unique way. 

My player guest accreditation gives me access to travel in the Australian Open cars, to eat in the player cafe and to relax between matches in the Player Lounge. On Tuesday it was 38 degrees celsius, if it was tough for the spectators watching in that heat, it was even harder for the players. I don't know how they do it. I have the utmost respect for the players, this is a tough life. 

Here are some of my favourite photos from the week...

1. The Australian Open has a new logo, and we are greeted on arrival with this huge sign made of tennis balls. It is impossible to take a photo without someone in it as you can see!

Having a ball at the AO 2017
2. The Australian Open is not called the 'Happy Slam' for nothing.  Our blue tennis courts look good under blue skies with the Melbourne CBD backdrop setting. Our crowds are lively and together with easy transport access, it's easy to see why the fans, there were 73,000  of us on Day one, have a ball.

My tip for a great AO photo - stand behind a professional!
3. New this year is an area called Grand Slam Oval featuring Melbourne Gardens, Paris Quarter, NYC Streets and the English Club. It gives visitors a taste of the four Grand Slams on the worldwide stage. In 2016 I was fortunate enough to have also attended Roland Garros and Wimbledon, It was fun to stroll around before the crowds reliving old memories of these other grand tennis occasions. 
The Summer starts now at the Australian Open
4. For me, one of the big differences is the unpredictability of Melbourne's weather. The first two days of the tournament were so incredibly hot. We know how to pack for such conditions; sunscreen, hats, plenty of water and a bottle of frozen water bottle, a wet sarong to drape around our necks like the players iced-sausages that they wear between points, a towel to sit on, and the clever amongst us brought umbrellas for some shade... 

Of course, by Wednesday our temperatures had dropped by 22 degrees, so out come the towels and sarongs to keep warm! 

However by Thursday despite all my best precautions, my nose was burnt and we took every opportunity to be in the shade - good job this is not the French Open. I'm not sure this approach to fashion courtside would be considered tres chic! 

So here we are gripped watching Djokovic on the big garden screen on his way to an early exit.  Dare I say it now, but I am very much hoping to be cheering on Sir Andy Murray when we go to the Men's finals next weekend.

Wren and friend, doing the Aus Open in style
Looking forward to showing you some more photos of on and off 
court action tomorrow.

Linking with thanks to Amy at Five on Friday

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Summer is here!

Like some perverse sort of warm-up for my new Bangkok life, Melbourne has gone crazy hot.
It's fine down at the beach but not when we're back in town. I've jobs to do! Luckily one of those was sorting out the pond. You may have seen all the baby fish we found if you follow my Instagram @LWWren. 

Still, for those of you sitting amidst minus temperatures or staring down the barrel of a gloomy, grey January it might appear a bit churlish to be complaining about the weather but hey that's in my British DNA. Luckily not too many of my friends dare to call me a whinging Pom!

Well, not to my face! No everyone is being terribly nice to us at the moment. They hardly get the words out of their mouths about how sad they are to see us go, before the phone calendars are open and a Thai holiday being planned! Of course, that makes me super pleased it won't be so hard to leave if we get loads of visitors.

What am I on? Of course it will be hard to leave, Melbourne is putting on a perfect show of loveliness at the moment. The rains of late December have combined with the warmth to make everything bloomin' gorgeous. You don't call us the leafy suburbs for nothing! Give us another few days are we will be burnt to a crisp, but right now all is good.

All is calm too! This is my favourite time of year in Melbourne. With many still away for the summer, it's not uncommon in my area for families to be away at the beach until Australia Day on 26 January, it's quieter than normal. The roads are empty and parking is a breeze! If you look carefully you can see through the fence post the building of the house across the road. The tradies are still on their hols, not a single jackhammer at 7am, bliss!

Our garden is looking pretty as a picture. I'm rather pleased with the dainty lavender dancing amongst my Indonesian fence posts in the front garden. We created this garden art to give a subtle hint of Asia in the front garden, linking with the Chinese doors out the back. I remember saying I wanted a touch of Asia, without it being a massive Buddha's head. Hmmm that would make the neighbours laugh if we now added a massive Buddha's head to the garden! You can read about our Chinese garden doors here

Sooo you see everything is getting a bit of a spruce up for two reasons, one we're on a one way ticket out of here, not sure when I'll next get the chance... Secondly we have some lovely visitors about to arrive. Here is the Crazy Poodle sporting (ha ha) his new summer short back and sides haircut. He's on the lookout. Watching. Waiting.

Anyone for tennis?

Linking with thanks to the hosts at Our World Tuesday