Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why Are We Waiting.....?

Meanwhile, in Auckland, things have stalled somewhat.

The last week has been spent in industrious pursuit of employment, with my days consumed by a mix of glacial bureaucracy, futile filling-out of forms, elusive recruitment consultants (and their feeble, feeble excuses), queuing, more queuing and boo-hooing.

Yes, the job hunt has started alongside a wade through the mire of household chores that inevitably accompanies a move to a new country, including a chat with an Indian call centre, a suburban bus trip to a place with a name right out of a Carry On film and several pointless interviews where several pointless recruitment consultants asked questions straight out of "Interviewing For Dummies" eg "Now, what would you say your strengths and weaknesses are?"

A right grilling, I can tell you.

Had one interview so far with the Radio Bureau where, curiously, the woman knew nothing about me, or what I was looking for, despite having the email I sent her printed out in front of her throughout the meeting. Thanks for that, duck. I could have spent that time being fobbed off by Madison Recruitment. For instance:"Yes, she's just picked up the phone"; "Yes, she's just stepped out" ; "Yes, she's just accidentally been taken hostage by rogue Shia cleric, Muqtada al Sadr. Can she give you a call back tomorrow?"

Anyway, I've about done all I can do now. I just have to wait for the offers to come rolling in.

Monday, April 07, 2008

From OZ to NZ

Sorry have been quiet for a bit. I've been swapping countries. I'm now in a place where "Bread Pat" is the actor out of Seven and "Jungle Bills" is a Christmas carol.

Yes, I am now in New Zealand. Home of the Maoris, Crowded House and Russell Crowe. The first English speaking country to see the new day, the first country to give women the vote and last country I'll probably visit on my worldwide jaunt.

I arrived in Auckland a week ago, but lets rewind to the last few days in Oz.

G'bye Mate

After 1770 I arrived in Brisbane with the express intention of visiting Moreton Island after Lou's recommendation. Clearly my intentions were not sufficiently express as I'd left it too late to phone and the tours were all full. My fault, but a lack of signal in 1770 and a lack of accommodation in Brisbane meant my attention was elsewhere for a few days.

Speaking of accommodation, Cloud 9 in Brisbane, where I ended up staying, was a last minute choice, and I certainly paid the price for it when, really, I would have preferred them to pay me to stay there. Grubby, sweaty pits for rooms, toilets in darkness and a "DVD lounge" comprising a chair with no back and a sofa with clouds of yellow stuffing billowing from holes in the PVC. Both chairs were pointed at the TV in a rather perfuctory effort. The room looked like it had previously been used as an arena for fighting pitbulls.

Brisbane itself was like Leicester. Generic, unimpressive and utterly acceptable: one main high street with regulation McD's, HMV and Dick Smiths (Oz equiv of Dixons). So no Moreton Island trip meant no point in hanging around a town whose chief accolade was that it wasn't particularly awful.

Actually, since you ask, though not mentioned on this blog, I did visit Canberra before Christmas and although it attracts much criticism for being "dead" and "boring" and "dead boring", let me tell you, it was far more interesting than Adelaide and Brisbane put together.

I returned to Sydney two and bit days early and stayed in Claire's flat which, after the hoo-hah of wondering whether you would be sharing your room with a bunch of hard-drinking Geordies or drink-hardened Glaswegians, came as a relief.

When I put things down, they stayed put down. No one woke me up unzipping their rucksack into its 49,3287 constituent parts, and no one came into the room at 4am, turned on the light, and treated everyone to a lesson in how to take your jeans off whilst drunk.

Then it was back to the Pink House for a few days to be reunited with the my giant red suitcase, and triple the amount of pants and socks at my disposal.

On the Monday I was off. Goodbye Australia. Hello New Zealand.

Wizard of NZ

I arrived in Auckland about 6pm and grabbed the shuttle bus which dropped me at the door of the Browm Kiwi, my hostel, all being well, for the next couple of months.

Initially I was apprehensive as choosing somewhere to be your home for 10 weeks without actually seeing it is a risk. But luckily Chris's recommendation was spot on; the Brown Kiwi is clean, quaint, quiet and well-resourced and most of all friendly. It's almost a cross between a backpackers and a B&B, with it's huge kitchen table around which the "family" gather.

Its receptionist, despite talking of his "ex-wife", is clearly no stranger to the music of George Michael, and has a keen wit. He's like a cross between John Inman and Pete Waterman, and fires off one-liners for his own edification. When I commented the NZ money contains the Queens face, he replied with lightning speed "Oh, we all love a Queen in Auckland, darling".

Despite people's warning of the soullessnees and dinge of Auckland, I've warmed to it quite quickly. Not the best place for a tourist destination, but it seems fine for a base for a couple of months.

And so all that remains is for me to go through the ritual rigmarole of getting a job. The emails have been sent, the phone calls made, the agencies contacted. All I have to do now is wait. And if it's anything like Sydney, I should have a job by this time 2012......

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Vicious Cycle ....Or Who Am I Eddie Kidding?

From Airlie Beach it was another 11 hour bus journey to the town of 1770, allegedly the only town in the world with numbers for a name.

It's typical of Aussies to spend little effort in naming anything when they could be barbecueing a possum or something . Hence The Snowy Mountains, The Great Sandy Desert and inevitably 1770.

"What shall we call this place? Well, what year is it? 1770? Right that'll do.....Right, now to pick up some supplies from Fly-Infested Shithole"

In fairness 1770 is so called as it was the original landing point of Captain James Cook, expert cartographer and "discoverer" of Australia who, in 1770, set in place a chain of events culminating in the creation of Home and Away and Rolf Harris. Thanks for that, Jim. Thanks.

Chris recommended 1770 as a kind of antidote to Airlie. It's a quiet town with a strong sense of community and no mobile phone signal, and with only 120 beds in the whole town, booking ahead is essential. I was already in at Cool Banana. A great hostel, brightly decorated and clean, it showed the Pink House in a new light. Or rather a new dinge. They get extra marks for hammocks. Hammocks rock. Literally. Obviously.

A free morning tour revealed an idyllic town with no drugs, no crime and no McDonalds. Land here goes for millions of dollars, yet prospective residents are still only allowed to build Deliverance-esque shacks. It's commonplace to see stainless steel Porsches next to wooden porches.

Our tour guide for this activity was a man whose name I didn't catch, but who had clearly wandered off in a purple haze during a Grateful Dead gig in 1970 and woke up in 1770. Like, wow, man. He resembled a cross between Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider and a Mexican bandit, and spoke with a thick South Afreeeekaan accent.

The real reason I was here was for Scooteroo: a kind of cross between a daytrip, theme park ride and a quick burn with the Queensland chapter of The Hell's Angels. Once again hosted by Johannesburg's answer to Carlos Santana, Scooteroo gives backpackers the opportunity to get out on the open road, riding in a convoy of 100cc scooters, all of which look as if they have been decorated by the band Iron Maiden on a particularly interminable Sunday.

Alarmingly, it all seemed rather too relaxed with the thick gutteral Afrikaans tones of "Bob Harley" reassuring us "eef you kann rade a pushbake, you kann rade a scootah". We gathered in a huge parking lot and selected our bikes from a neat square of rowed up machine, each of them tipped slightly on to their kickstand. And, after the briefest of demonstration, "this is the throttle. This is the brake. Any questions?", we set off on an experimental and wobbly lap of the carpark.

At first I was veering wildly from side to side, every attempt to correct and adjust sending me careering. "Oh no" I thought "Supposing it turns out I'm shit at it". Potentially embarrassing. By the time I had reached the drive way I was met by the Durban Warrior's Oriental wife.

"Everyfink OK?" she said
"I think there's something wrong with the bike. It keeps veering left and right" I replied
"Oh that normal . Bye" she said and ushered me on to the main road

Great. Soon, though, I had the hang of it and was razzing round the narrow roads of 1770 with 30 other backpackers on what looked and sounded like Devil's Hairdriers. It was a 60km round trip finishing at a beach to take in the Sunset.

After I took stock of my trip:

* Flies in the face - 24

* Times I hit 80km an hour - 1

* Unscratchable itches inside helmet - 34

* Re-overtaking people who had overtaken you 30 seconds previously - 9

* Kangaroos seen - 11

* Kangaroos hit - 0

* Times I pretended I was Street Hawk - 1

The bikes rowed up during a break.

Me with the town's local bike........

Like, wow, man.......