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

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 a cataclysmic year of shock and change…

2016 started off as a normal year for our family. However looking back there were signs even then of what was ahead. From the moment we sweltered through an uncomfortably sticky New Years Eve, it should have been apparent that the year of the fire monkey was going to have me hot and bothered!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Mr Wren also known as Monkey man, on account of his zoology background studying red colobus monkeys, was bored. Ready for a change. Yep, oh my golly gosh all the signs were there: fire and monkey. I was just head down, bum up, enjoying life, and rather blindsided when the Company announced our move to Bangkok, before I'd even been to look at the City of Angels. I call that a bit rude, he calls that effective business planning!

Our January showed little signs of what was ahead. I was finishing off in my locum Social and Community Development role with the wonderful Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and preparing for our last family holiday together in Myanmar. Daughter Number One was packing to leave the nest for the London Good Life.

And there was the Tennis! We'd had a thoroughly amazing time, our seventh year hosting for the Australian Open tennis and indeed in 2016 I was well on my way to the Fan Slam having also loved being a tennis groupie at Roland Garros and Wimbledon before the proverbial rain stopped play! 

Our family travel in 2016 was at an all time record. The kids all living up to their parents wanderlust tendencies. We've covered a bit of the globe between us: Australia, New Zealand, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong & Macau, Malaysia, France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Croatia, United States of America, Cuba, Guatemala, Belize and more I'm sure I have forgotten.

In July a surprise return to work, was a welcome distraction from cataclysmic world events like Brexit, mutterings of an international transfer and a whole heap of kids sports related injuries - if you can count jumping of a cliff a sports induced injury...

So 2017 will see us jumping into a new life in Thailand. I won't say we are leaving the 2016 World's most liveable city, the bestest of friends, or my favourite job ever to do this... I know we would have never had all this, if we didn't leave the last most amazing city Hong Kong, or Brussels before that...

And of course I wouldn't dream of leaving before the tennis, so don't get too excited to see Bangkok as we have a whole lovely Summer of tennis ahead. Roll on the Australian Open!

Happy New Year to us all!!!