Auf Wiedersehen, 2015!

Auf Wiedersehen, 2015!

I was hoping not to start a single blog post with an apology, but here we go. I was hoping to update this on the Monday before Christmas with a few things and then update it again very shortly after the beginning of 2016. Due to wildly unforeseen circumstances you’re all left with this update in between every idea I’ve had for this time of year. Starting where I was hoping to end, I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas this year, however you celebrated it! Since I imagine most are curious as to how exactly I spent mine this year away from my family for the first time for Christmas, I think I’ll dive straight into there.


This may not come as a surprise, but Christmas this year was a little different to how I would usually spend it. After waking up on Christmas Eve and putting important items into my rucksack such as a Christmas jumper (unused regardless of the temperature only being a chilly 38 degrees), the infamous Bolton Wanderers Santa hat and a Santa beard, I met with Ben, Sarah and Martin (all German) at the tram station, where we eventually (after several traffic delays) ended up at St. Kilda with the intention of spending the day at the beach.

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Ben sharing some of his Christmas Spirit with me

It was so warm that my phone displayed a message indicating that it must cool down before it can be used. On Christmas Eve. After Ben had decided to share some of his Christmas spirit with me in the sea and we were getting a little tired of the beach, we headed just across the road to Luna Park.

Luna Park is a theme park which generously gives you free entry before ripping you off for everything else. We rode on the 103 year old ‘scenic’ roller coaster and then left to find comfort in a cold McDonald’s drink. It was the closest place with air conditioning, tasty liquids and fully functioning toilets. Upon leaving, we headed back to our accommodation finding crucial consumables such as beer, vodka and doritos for the next day.

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Outside Luna Park

 

 

I woke up at 7am to Skype my family back home on what was my Christmas Day and their Christmas Eve and opened presents which they had sent me in front of them, which was nice. Thank you, internet. After finishing talking to them, I left my flat just after 9am with my Malaysian flatmate, Kenny, with all sorts of things crammed into a rucksack and a plastic bag.

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The LEGO Christmas Tree at Federation Square

We got a tram from here over to Flinders Street Station, near Federation Square, home of the previously mentioned largest LEGO Christmas Tree in the Southern Hemisphere. I have a good picture of it now. We caught a train to take us towards Sandringham for us to get off at Brighton Beach station and head on down to the beach itself. We were first there, so by the time one of us put suncream on (with the other regretting it a little later) my two American friends joined us with questionable Christmas music (Sara, I will never forgive you for skipping Fairytale of New York.) some fruit and Santa hats. After two of their Australian friends later turned up, we had quite a good group together ready to head back to prepare for the evening and night ahead after some pictures had been taken.

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I feel like this one could be used quite a lot

We left the beach to go back to Sara and Colleen’s house to shower, change and cool the various beverages we had been carrying around. Sara and Colleen had proudly presented me with a Christmas stocking containing some chocolates and a toy dinosaur which I loved, and by 6pm Sarah and Martin (Germans) had arrived at the house ready for a Christmas dinner consisting of an all day breakfast which was a little different to the usual Christmas dinner I suppose. After dinner we played a traditional game either called King’s Cup or Ring of Fire depending on where you’re from. I didn’t say it was a traditional Christmas game. For those unfamiliar with the game; it’s a popular strategy game with the popular strategy being to enable your friends to feel their alcoholic beverage more than you can feel your own, with the usual outcome being that everyone feels their own alcoholic beverage just as much as everyone else. It’s also a great game to play if you’re a particularly large fan of cleaning. After the game had fizzled out hours later, I’d managed to grab a quick Skype call with my girlfriend and one of my best friends back home before being thrown up on twice, putting one to bed and then eventually sleeping on a hard wooden floor using the Welsh flag as a duvet. It wasn’t very good as a duvet and the next day I woke up with a slight headache but all in all Christmas Day this year was an unforgettable, fun filled day and night in what turned out to be quite a forgettable sense. Boxing Day was understandably significantly tamer. It consisted of finding a cafe for brunch the next day, getting a taxi home and having a shower long enough to move the state of Victoria into a drought before watching Harry Potter films for the rest of the day, building LEGO (thanks, mum!) and eating rubbish food. Just how it should be.


Of course, the last two or three weeks hasn’t all been Christmas. On the first Sunday after my previous blog post, we hired a car and drove for 3 hours over to the Grampians National Park where after buying food and water at a supermarket, we parked up and walked up to the top of The Pinnacle (the link will take you to the Parks Victoria website with further information should you want it) at Halls Gap in the Grampians.

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View from The Pinnacle

It was a very hot, over 30 degrees and pushing towards 40 – as if the walk wasn’t hard enough as it was. Uneven terrain with narrow paths and as if it wasn’t blindingly obvious, it was all up hill but certainly worth it for the views at the top and exploring the rocks was a lot of fun. Koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, snakes, lizards and other animals roam the Grampians, although we only saw lizards and I saw a mouse. After going down back to the car, we drove around looking for Mackenzie falls. After losing our way a couple of times, we eventually found the falls and had to walk down to them from the car park before finding the amazing waterfall.

On the return journey from Mackenzie falls we acted on a tip that kangaroos are commonly found at a park somewhere on the way back, so we went to see if we could see any kangaroos and it didn’t disappoint.

There were about 15 kangaroos just in this single field, with some of them being tame enough to let you touch them, others just hopped away. Kangaroos are basically like short haired dogs only with weird feet, unfamiliar with the rules of fetch and deemed more acceptable to be eaten in the Western world. Other than that, they’re exactly the same. Exactly. The same.


The next day, we still had the car so took it out for a little road trip across Mornington Peninsula towards Sorrento beach. We visited any number of beaches between 6 and 8. I lost count at the time and it was two weeks ago. But they all had sand and copious amounts of salt water. (Click on the pictures to enlarge).

After spending some time at the first beach and deciding it was time to go, I managed to cut my foot open on a rock, where two weeks on I still have some sand lodged in my right foot. Similarly, I have three…. things (I really have no idea what) stuck in my left foot from the beach on Christmas Day. So Australia is in fact getting smaller. Sorry about that. Other than that, this was a great day spent with Ben, Julia and Sarah and as it’s only a one hour drive away from Melbourne it was certainly well worth it.


So far this has been quite picture heavy which I’m sure the majority of us could agree is probably quite a good thing. Unfortunately, that ends right about now as I took zero good pictures from one of my favourite trips out to date which is really quite frustrating. Ben’s housemate, James, happens to be a part of a family who own a beach house on Phillip Island. Myself, Sarah, Julia and Ben were asked if we would like to spend a weekend there on Phillip Island with some of James’ family. The answer was, of course, yes! So we headed out there on the Saturday – 3 Germans, an Australian and myself. We got there, bought some food to take book to the house and then met James’ parents who were hosting us. After being treated to sandwiches and water, we walked 5 minutes down one road to the nearest beach where we spent the day. We went in the water and swam around, played around with a ball and some water pistols then got drenched by intermittent rain with thunder and lightning storms around us (we got out of the water for those due to a rare occurrence of common sense). The state of Victoria was under a total fire ban due to high temperatures and extreme risk of wildfires. We were on the beach looking across the sea to another part of Phillip Island where we watched one fire break out and then a second fire break out nearby, which was…. Odd. You don’t get those in Wales in December. Or July. Or at all, really. Later on we walked along the coast a little to a pier which had clear blue water below and was deep enough to jump down into. So we did, I mean, why wouldn’t we? So some of us (myself included) jumped off the pier and then swam along over to the stairs to pull ourselves back up to the pier. There’s something oddly satisfying about jumping 20 feet into freezing cold, salty water. James’ parents had cooked on the barbecue for us later that day for tea (not dinner, I mean tea. Because dinner is wrong.) which was lovely. Afterwards, we went outside to relax with two bottles of vodka and some lemonade because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Not quite ready for bed, myself Ben and James walked to the beach at 1am listening to some acoustic music from a bluetooth speaker we had carried with us and relaxed there a little which was lovely from what I can remember. The next morning and a headache later, Julia and Ben prepared French toast breakfast with a berry and rhubarb mix… thing. Which was much appreciated before setting out to a surf beach. We had borrowed three body boards kept at the house so whilst Julia and Sarah soaked up the sun, James, Ben and I got soaked in the sea surfing some waves over and over again. And that, readers, is how I caught a little cold in Australia. It’s cold work waiting for those big waves but worth it for the fun. I had a great time on Phillip Island once again and I really can’t wait for the next time I go back, because I’m sure I will again. After showering and changing back at the house, we got in the car and headed home and from that moment there really isn’t too much to report. I’ve watched every single Harry Potter film, invested in some more plasters, did some laundry, ignored washing up responsibilities, found out I got 100% in the criminology assessment I submitted a while back (it was a pass or fail assessment and I was writing about myself but still, 100%!) and spent some time down at Docklands just to browse around but it’s just boats and stuff. Nothing noteworthy really happened. I also went to watch my second Melbourne Victory game (if shirts were cheaper I’d probably have one by now) which they drew 1-1. Both goals were penalties. So in my two games I’ve so far seen 5 goals – 4 penalties and a free kick, so still nothing from open play. Maybe next time.


For now though, I think that’s it. I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and I wish you all the best for 2016 – the year in which I see most of you reading this again!

 

Exciting, right?

 

 

 

 

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Edible Culture

Edible Culture

Although I feel as though I haven’t been up to much since my last update, now that I sit down and think about it, I’ve still done quite a bit, just not as much as previously now that the world of studying and procrastination has become a very familiar reality once again. Familiar, but in a comforting way – it’s a good feeling to have the routine (although minimal with my timetable) of doing things that need to be done like lectures and assignments, even if it can take a little bit of time and motivation to get round to doing them. My studies have been going well though. I did my first online assessment this week for my Criminology unit and got 9/10 on both attempts (the highest mark counts from each attempt, two attempts to do it) and for my online capitalism unit (which I understand sounds quite heavy and intellectual and if I’m honest I’m not entirely sure why I chose it but here we are) I got 13/15 on the online assessment. Additionally I have two pieces of work submitted – one for my media relations unit and one for Criminology. All this means I have submitted assessed pieces of work for each unit with the exception of my exciting looking Australian studies unit, which starts in January in intensive mode. I have an intensive media relations day this coming Tuesday and then that’s it, I’m done for 2015 in terms of lectures with several assignments due in January followed by exams in February – which also ties in with my parents (hi mum!) and little brother coming to Melbourne for a week before they take me away to various different parts of Australia, and after that, my girlfriend is coming up to visit in March. 2016 is looking pretty good to me right now but there’s the small matter of completing 2015 first, and there’s plenty coming up!


So now we’re up to date with this enchanting academic life of mine, let’s get on to the exciting stuff.


The most observant of readers out there would have noticed that this title, like most others that I’ve come up with so far, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It really is the hardest part of doing this. Anyway, this post is largely just going to be about food I’ve eaten recently. Most things I’ve done have involved food. At the end of my last post, which you really should read here, I teased a little saying that I knew I’d have more to write about after the next day. That day I had been invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with two American friends of mine in the traditional American way – sit around a table together, eat a lot of food, insult one another and then drink cultural amounts of alcoholic beverages. I arrived with a good mood, two Germans, a crate of beer, a quiche and a cake. I left with a great mood, two Germans, significantly less beer and a noticeable lack of food. The meal consisted of the two Americans, three Germans, an Italian, an Australian and myself, with two more Germans arriving later on. As the Brit and therefore the indisputably most qualified of the group, I was made gravy taster before we all ate so much food that clothes started to feel significantly tighter than they did 30 minutes earlier. After several beers, some rum, maybe a little wine and perhaps a drop of sangria, we saw the time and realised that due to the inconsiderate timings of public transport around Melbourne, it was time to head off. We managed to do what would perhaps be a 20-30 minute drive in about 2 hours using public transport – including what could technically be described as a police escort from a train station to a tram station as we weren’t entirely sure where it was, so I asked police at the train station who said they were going that way anyway. After watching a bus we wanted to get on drive straight past us after completely missing the fluorescent orange sign across the road marking the bus stop, we were very ready for bed. The following picture was taken because an American girl wanted to prove to her mum that she has friends.

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Thanksgiving group minus 1 American

It would be quite safe to say that the next day, some of us were feeling slightly perkier than others. If you’re waiting for a plot twist, here it is: I was okay! And I wanted to do something. Nothing too much, but I knew I wanted to get out somewhere and see something different that Melbourne had to offer. When I saw on Twitter that Melbourne Victory were second in the league having played one game less than the league leaders and just happened to be playing at home against Adelaide that day with tickets selling on the door for $15 general admission for concessions, myself and Ben decided to go for it. After an interesting tram journey where it felt like everyone on the tram that was slightly odd decided to come and talk to us. We had a drunk Australian woman ask us several times if we thought she was pretty (we didn’t but weren’t completely heartless… immediately), an older guy who wanted to tell us about his divorce and then discuss religion at depth with a stranger as they both attempted to ram one’s religion down the other’s throat. After that we grabbed a beer, got ourselves some tickets and took our seats where it finished Melbourne Victory 2-1 Adelaide, Adelaide scored a penalty, as did Victory. The other goal was a free kick. The quality of the game wasn’t great, parts of the ground had a good atmosphere but largely it felt a little flat. After 30 minutes had been played, the entire lower tier of the stand behind the goal walked out. As you can imagine, that was quite confusing for us, but it turned out to be a protest against the FFA (Football Federation Australia, equivalent of the FA in England or FAW in Wales) who were banning fans from attending games for no apparent reason. Or something like that, anyway. I believe such protests have since been scrapped as an agreement has now been reached between the FFA and supporter groups across Australia which is surely positive news. As a Bolton fan, that’s probably the most positive news I could wish to receive at this point in time when it comes to football. This was the first time I’d been to a game and the time I wanted to win actually did win in quite a while. So there’s that, I guess.

After the game we got on the tram and decided to get off at Flinder’s Street Station for 3 reasons. I needed food and found it in the comforting nausea that is McDonald’s whilst Ben found filthy cheap coffee at 7-eleven. The third reason was the most important – the largest LEGO Christmas tree in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere. I did of course take a picture, but it was between 9 and 10pm. What I’m saying is it was dark and the picture is rubbish, so I’ll share a better one when I get a better one. After our tree visit we hopped onto a train, ended up packed in with a train full of Melbourne Victory fans like smellier, navy blue, testosterone packed sardines, got a tram and soon got home.


The following day was a busy one, too. It was an early start following a late night where we first called at 7-eleven for traditional $1 coffee after an hour on trams and then on to a nearby car rental place where rather predictably, we rented a car. We drove out of Melbourne for about an hour and a half (maybe) to Brisbane Ranges National Park. We walked for a bit through trees on a walking route, finished the route, decided we’d done it and turned back. The funniest part of the park was the toilets. Anyone that’s ever been to a national park like this before are most likely aware that the toilets are not 5 star facilities. Usually a hole in the ground with a bit of plastic claiming that one day it’s going to grow into a seat. One day. From the screams reverberating around the park with the source being the female toilets, one can only assume that they haven’t quite made it yet.

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Hop off

On the drive to the park we saw some wild kangaroos, but I was on the wrong side of the car for a decent picture before they hopped off. We also saw a wild wallaby on our walking path which decided to turn and hop just as I’d managed to fumble my camera out of its case and take a picture. So this is the best you’re getting. Sorry about that. The walking trail we did took us along an old pipeline designed to carry water from Lower Stoney Creek Reservoir at the head of Anakie Gorge all the way to Geelong around the 1870’s.

We left the National Park deciding to go to a Food Truck Festival! (I really wasn’t kidding when I said pretty much everything in this post involves food in some way). We paid to gain entry to the field where there were food trucks serving up a whole different range of food from all over the world. I ended up going for quite possibly the messiest options available to me, opting for chicken wings with fries (very sticky but absolutely delicious) and then a chocolate and banana crêpe. Which I proceeded to get everywhere. I looked like I’d been digging for chocolate sauce and struck rich, but it was worth it.


Next, we drove to a beach by a park. We walked along the sea for a little while kicking a ball around before deciding the beach was a bit rubbish and we should go somewhere else. So we went somewhere else. We drove back towards Melbourne and ended up at Williamstown beach. We parked up, got the football out and walked for a good 20 minutes kicking the ball along the coastline and saying hello to dogs. There appeared to be some kind of puppy gathering at a park (only 4 or 5 puppies but 1 would have been enough to get excited) and one of them had taken a liking to our ball and kept running up to whoever had the ball, nudging it a little then running off again. After coming up to me a few times, when the ball was passed to me with an excitable puppy chasing it, I had an urge to knock it 20 yards ahead of me and have a race with the puppy. This happened three times before the puppy got bored but I loved every yard. It was a great puppy. After turning back and calling at Subway for a bite to eat, we drove to St. Kilda in Melbourne where we saw things like this:

Allow me to explain. We got out of the car at St. Kilda to that sunset, started to take pictures and then walked on to the pier to get the most incredible views looking back to the city and out to the sea. At the end of the pier, there’s an area where like at Phillip Island the penguins return after spending the day out at sea. So as night fell, we waited for them to come, and then they appeared. The pictures aren’t phenomenal as flash photography is not allowed (rightly so) but the red light is a torch used by the volunteers who are there in the interests of conservation. I think the light is infra-red so that the little penguins cannot see it and it doesn’t damage their sight – unlike the glaring flash of a camera. Bearing in mind at this point because the sun’s gone in and you are basically out at sea that it is really rather chilly now. I was still in shorts but had put a hoody on (because I’m not daft) meanwhile the four Germans accompanying me that day had coats, jumpers and beach towels wrapped around them trying to give them something a bit extra to keep them warm. One of us was fine though and it wasn’t someone with a beach towel out the car!


A few days later and it was time to experience something completely new to me.

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Open Air cinema, St. Kilda

Back at St. Kilda again via tram and an ice cream stop (food) we visited an open air cinema hosted by popular ice cream manufacturer – Ben & Jerrie’s. We hired deck chairs for the evening, indulged in free wine tasting and refused to be drawn in to spend large amounts on snacks whilst we sat and watched Bridge of Spies – which was released back in October of this year. It’s a film about an American lawyer recruited by the CIA during the height of the Cold War to negotiate the release of an American spy captured by the Soviet Union, who also negotiates the release of an American student who was wrongfully captured and held. The film is based on a true story and the lawyer, James Donovan, was later on in life asked by President Kennedy to negotiate the release of 1,163 prisoners after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion carried out by the USA on Cuba. All 1,163 were released. It was a very good film and a really good experience too if not a little chilly!


Finally, I visited a Christmas Carol event recently in a park with two Germans and my two American friends. I bought an ice cream, we met an amazing dog (it was a Samoyed and oh my goodness it was beautiful) and to be honest they were the best things about the event. We went to the nearest liquor store 15 minutes after it closed as it was a Sunday and we hadn’t realised, so we ended up just going home instead. Not quite the Christmas market style event we had in mind but it was good to try it out all the same.


Since Sunday all I’ve really done is study, play futsal, cook food that even Gordon Ramsay would envy (I mean seriously, I’ve done well recently) and eat free food. Last night we had a taco night here on res (at halls) which was beautiful. Free food is always greatly appreciated. So really there isn’t too much else to say other than if you don’t already there’s a lovely little follow button on the left of this page somewhere where you can enter your email address and receive updates via email instantly as soon as I post, the comments box at the bottom for any questions or feedback but otherwise, thanks for reading!