My brief emigration & life abroad in Australia began with a sore ankle. Having taken a role at JP Morgan based in Bournemouth, my walk home after getting off the bus was causing me some considerable pain. The walk up a reasonably steep hill was causing agonising pain in my lower legs & causing my ankles to seize up.
I started to visit physio-to-the-stars, Paul Noble at BWT (look him up if you live on the south coast & have an ailment of some kind). Paul, the super-fit marathon runner, seemed to take great pleasure in inflicting pain upon while trying to diagnose my problem. The initial diagnoses was shin-splints, but exercises & acupuncture didn't seem to help. So Paul delightedly sent me off to Bournemouth hospital to have some dirty-great holes bored in to various points of the muscles that run down the shins.
The tests proved Paul's further diagnoses correct (although, to this day, I still believe he was guessing at best) - compartment syndrome in both of my legs. Simply put, the lining around the muscles in my shins was too tight & not allowing the muscles to expand as they flexed when I walked & therefore cutting the circulation off.
During all of this the global recession struck & JPM made the decision to make cut-backs in operational areas. My team members around me all had at least 10 years experience on me, so would be due massive pay-outs if they were made redundant. So they went for a few of the newer people who technically weren't entitled to sweet FA. Despite being a nightmarish place to work, JPM did the decent thing & gave me a decent pay-off - three months paid gardening leave & then three months salary as a redundancy payment.
I used the time off (& private medical care I was still entitled to) to have my legs operated on & consume a large amount of drugs (prescribed ones, I might add) mixed with quite a bit of booze.
During one of my ever-enjoyable physio sessions I was discussing options as to my next career move with Paul. I had an interview lined up in Slough (a horrible little place just west of London). Paul baulked at the idea of Slough & started regaling me of stories of his time in Australia. A few people had mentioned moving away / travelling before, but the realisation of "working in Slough, or the sunny, warm climes of Australia" hit me & that was it - I had a trip to plan.
I was looking at places in Australia to move to & registered on a few forums to get other expats experiences. Most said stay away from Sydney ("it's just like London, but hotter" - I was told a couple of times) & a few people mentioned Perth in WA (Western Australia). As luck would have it I kinda knew a couple of people in Perth - one girl I'd gone to school with many years previous & another that I used to work with. I contacted both to get their thoughts & ideas, & luckily the old school-friend had just bought her own place & offered me a room for when I got there. That was it, I was set.
I sold the contents of my flat on eBay, stored a few boxes at a friends (just in case I ended up coming back), shipped two boxes over & then there was just me left with my suitcase. I said my goodbyes & off I went.
I travelled for about 36 hours (on Emirates via Dubai) & arrived in Perth at about midnight local time. While waiting for my bag I was stopped & questioned twice by two different immigration officers. I was then further stopped & questioned at the immigration check-point, & then pulled to one side at customs & questioned. After emptying out all of my suitcase, showing them everything I had, having my case x-rayed & answer the same questions for about the 5th time, I was allowed to officially enter the country. What a great start to my life in Perth(!)
My first week was spent at a hotel in the city called The Billabong. A decent enough place. I spent my days wandering around the city centre, checking out the sites & reeling in shock at the price of beer in every pub/bar!
After a week I moved to my friend's place in Butler - a new suburb about 30 miles north of the city centre. It was still half-built & half-occupied. It seemed like a ghost town at times, & as I didn't have a car I was kinda stuck there. The transport infrastructure was still lacking & there would be a bus every hour or so that would go to Clarkson train station, but coming back the last bus would be at about 6:30pm. My friend had only moved in to the place a few weeks prior, so I tried I tried to keep out of the way so that she could enjoy being in her first house without having me hanging around. I don't think my friend realised what I was trying to do & just found it strange that I was either rarely about or was in my room reading when I was in. It ended up getting to an almost awkward point where'd be almost strangers & I thought at that time it was best to move on.
I'd managed to find a part-time job in a 'gourmet' food store in Joondalup shopping centre. It was only 8am-1pm, but it paid enough to cover the rent of a place I'd moved in to just up the road while still having enough for a few beers each weekend.
I moved in with a girl from Wales who'd been living in Perth for about 18 months & a family friend of hers, George. George was/is a 20 year old in a 40-something year old's body. A top guy & a great laugh. A guy that I now refer to as my 'big bro' as he looked out for me & became a great friend during my time there. George's eye for the ladies got him in bother occasionally & also once ended up with one of his exes turning up at the house while I was there watching football & trying to burn the place down. She turned up drunk & asking to use the toilet. I let her in as she knew both of my housemates. She went off to the toilet (or so I thought), but actually went looking for George's room. She sprayed the contents of his wardrobe with cologne & deodorant & then set it all alight. Myself & Emma (my female housemate who had come home) somehow managed to contain the fire to a small part of the room & get most of it put out - all while the drunk ex was sticking her hands in the flames & complaining about the noise the smoke alarm was making. Sufficed to say we spent a large part of that night in hospital having x-rays & coughing up all sorts. There are other stories I could tell, but I'll save them for another time....
During my time in Joondalup I managed to secure some proper contract work for a bank in the city. This was a god-send as it got me out of Joondalup, in to the city & meeting even more people - not just the friends of friends & guys from football that I'd been socialising with to date. The work was a standard off-shoring project, but it was full-time & paid more than the previous job so meant I could start going out & enjoying myself a bit more.
I'd "met" a few Perth-based people via Twitter (a great tool if you move to a new place & what to see what's going on around you), but I guess the people that had the most impact on me & my time there were definitely Liliana & then the Ex (please do visit Lil's blog at www.lilianab.com). I went & met Lil & a few other Tweeters for the first time one Friday evening after work. I went to a leaving do at the Lucky Shag on the river & then wandered back in to the city centre to meet everyone at Durty Nelly's - a nice Irish-themed pub with a constant sale on Guinness. The Ex was actually Lil's housemate at the time & as soon as we met we hit it off. I won't go in to too much detail about her or our experiences, but she's the mother of my son, so she at least get s a mention or two in here.
We started seeing each other & before long I was spending most of my time in the city for work & at Lil & the Ex's place in East Perth - a gorgeous spot just outside the city centre, but right by the river & a small selection of shops, restaurants & pubs. The door to door journey to or from Joondalup was over an hour & it was getting a bit tedious going backwards & forwards each day, so I started to look for a place in, or at least nearer, the city. The Ex mentioned this to Lil that I was looking to move in to the city & it was suggested that maybe I move in with them - there was the room & it would save everyone on rent/bills if being split with another person. It seemed like an ideal arrangement & I moved down to East Perth a few weeks later.
I loved my time in East Perth, esp with Lil & The Ex. Some of my fondest memories of being there. Even thinking about it now I have a lump in my throat. I do miss those days. Even just the simple things like sitting on the patio with some tunes & a beer or watching The Biggest Loser & supplementing it with endless sarky comments (both from myself & Lil - but mainly Lil ;-D).
The end of both mine & The Ex's visas were quickly approaching & there didn't seem like much hope of extending them - neither of us had completed the 3 months "rural work" you need to do to get an extra year. My contract at work was also soon to expire & more work was proving hard to come by. We made the decision to head back to the UK where we would have the opportunity to get work again & actually have a support network. We saved everything for a couple of months so that we had enough cash for the flights home & back we came. That was certainly a difficult day.
We flew back to the UK & The Ex then went on home to Finland for a couple of weeks, before joining me back in Poole. That's when things started to go wrong..........
Lots of things that were said & done in the heat of the moment (by all parties involved) could have been handled better, but we are where we now are & it's time to make the best of the situation. My boy is the most important thing, & despite how things ended with The Ex, I'm so grateful that we went through what we did & that we have him - he truly is amazing - more on him in another blog.
Anyways, that's a 'summary' of my time abroad. There was a lot more to it & lots of other stories, but I'm now losing the will to write, & if you're still reading you must also be losing the will quite rapidly by now! If anyone who's thinking of moving over to Australia stumbles across this, please do feel to ask any questions or drop me an email if you'd like any information.
I hope to be back in Perth sometime soon! Miss you all!