Tag Archives: work to live

The countdown begins

25 Mar

Ok, take a deep breath. Breath in slowly… breath out. Breath in slowly… breath out. Here goes… as the end of March approaches, Matt and I have come to the stark realisation that we have only three months left in London. Yes, we knew we were only going to be here for a limited time but where did that time actually go?? Last we checked it was Christmas and we were on a sleigh getting pulled along the snowy ground by mighty husky dogs in Sweden and saying ‘six months left’. It seemed like forever. Now, all of sudden we’re researching shipping companies to ship home our accumulated goods, looking into renewing our travel insurance for the last time and making plans for the trip home. We’ve even booked our flights back to Oz (shock horror!) and now there’s no turning back. Or is there?

Lately we’ve been thinking about how lucky we’ve been in our lives in the UK, or more specifically, London. London has given us throngs of possibilities, opened doors for our careers and thrown us into some of the most memorable experiences we’ll ever have, all without even asking for it. I don’t know how people feel back home, but I don’t think Toowoomba, or even Brisbane, is going to live up to the benchmark that London has set for us. Where in Brisbane will we be able to meet a Prince, shake hands with celebrities on more than one occasion, walk past the most beautiful century-old buildings on the way to work (hell, I even work in one!) and experience exclusive ‘London only’ opportunities like running in the brand new London Olympic Stadium (six days to go!) and to be official photographer at some of the most prestigious events for one of Britain’s ‘2012 CoolBrands’. For some reason I’ve walked across Waterloo Bridge quite a lot recently and every time I look to the skyline and see the magnificent dome of St. Paul’s cathedral, I sigh and feel sad about the thought of leaving a place that is so stunning and that has been so good to both of us.

But then I think of what awaits us back home. Without a doubt, the one key thing about going home is the chance to see all our family and friends again. We have four babies to meet – some yet to be born – and missed witnessing the marriage of friends. There’s no explaining how much we have missed these experiences and more importantly, the very important people in our lives to the point that we feel it has really come time to leave. We are also excited about the possibilities in terms of work – our CVs have been enriched by our experiences here and we cannot wait to settle down and make a home for ourselves again. For the chance to drive and to visit the beach and to experience sunshine for more than one consecutive day in the row will be absolutely lovely to make part of daily life again.

However, I cannot help but take notice of that nagging question still running through my mind… what if we stayed just a little longer? Now don’t go getting all ‘up in arms’, you don’t have to worry, of course we are coming home and I don’t think we would change our minds at this stage. I just think that it’s taken this long for us to actually feel part of the city and we’ve gotten to know it quite well. Sure we’ve merely scratched the surface of things to do here but it takes time to immerse yourself into a city and to set up a life. Only now do we feel that we’ve gotten to that point and it makes me wonder what our lives would become if we were here for a couple more years. Where could London take us given the chance? I guess my consolation lies in the fact that we could always come back, alas not on a working holiday visa, but perhaps if we get to the point where we could be ‘highly skilled immigrants’. The enticement of further possibilities in London will mean that we may never really rule that possibility out. At the moment however we are on that plane back to Australia and are very much looking forward to it. But in the meantime, we’re making the most of our last three months in London and we cannot wait to make it the best three months ever!

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Girly fun in Portugal

20 Oct

There are a lot of places that we would absolutely love to visit but will probably never get the chance to while we’re still living in London. There is just too many places on the list and let’s face it, we’ve had to prioritize our ‘must-do’ list. But when Kristy and Amy suggested a girls weekend to Lisbon, Portugal, famous for its Portuguese cock (no… a symbol of a rooster… just think Nandos!) in a bid farewell before Kristy returns to the brown land indefinitely, how could I say no? Another city to explore and another country to experience, if only for a weekend. Sorry Matt for leaving you at the airport again, but you just wouldn’t fit in on a girl’s weekend!

We were glad we had all made it to Portugal in the first place after our weekend got off to a stressful start. With Kristy nowhere in sight, Amy and I reluctantly got on the early tube to Heathrow. When we eventually had service on our mobiles, Kristy revealed she had slept through her alarm and was only just leaving her house, whereas we had been on the train for half an hour. Thinking that three may become two, we prayed she was able to make it to the airport on time. Out of breath and incredibly thankful, Kristy made it to the gate just before we boarded.

It still amazes me that we can reach colourful destinations all around Europe within the space of a couple of hours from London. Before we knew it, we were making our way to our hostel in the middle of all the action in the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. Even though it’s small, it really does offer a lot as a city… It has a riverside location and close proximity to the beach, temperate climate, gorgeous tiles that decorate the city’s buildings, peri-peri chicken, delicious wine, old-school trams that still run through the city’s old streets, an active nightlife and a beautiful and colourful cityscape to goggle at. It’s a chilled out city, as well knowing how to party into the wee hours, and we could have easily spent more than just a couple of nights there.

The hostel we stayed at offered pub crawls starting at the respectable time of midnight. The nightlife begins late here. Of course we took advantage and allowed ourselves to be shown the best pubs and clubs that Lisbon had to offer. We put on a bit of glam and danced the early morning hours away; repeating this on the Saturday night. For good measure and of course what every girl’s weekend needs, we threw in sightseeing and (a lot of) shopping in between our nights out. Sleep didn’t really come into the equation much, but when you’re in a city for such a short amount of time, something has to give.

We made a trip to the seaside town of Cascais, which also is the closest beach. It was tiny at that, but there was sun, sand and water. We ate olives, fresh-as-can-be bread with mouth-watering cheese and wine to wash it all down in the afternoon and ate peri-peri chicken for dinner. We visited Belem, a short tram ride from the centre of Lisbon to let our taste buds experience one thing, the delectable warm custard tarts that are famous in Portugal. They are said to be made with a secret ingredient and whatever it is, they taste absolutely incredible with a crunchy pastry on the outside and warm custard filling. Definitely worth the trip. We also went on a tram ride through the old town and got a taste of the hilly and cobbled streets. We walked from the bottom to the top of Lisbon for views over the city and chilled out for lunch with refreshing drinks when the weather got a little too hot. On our last day we visited Sintra, a town in the hills not too far from Lisbon. It’s like the hinterland of Lisbon with a craggy castle that sits atop the biggest hill. It’s a gorgeous town with beautiful buildings including a palace and other mansions.

But alas, before we knew it, we were back on the plane heading to London. That thing that has four letters and begins with ‘W’ was beckoning. Well, we do have to fund our girl’s weekends away somehow… where to next?

Five things… we love about living in London

16 Aug

1. Underground buskers… Get off the train, ‘mind the gap’ and walk the mile (as it feels like sometimes) to our next underground line and in the distance we hear the sound of the bagpipes, or it might be a tune whistled by a very talented guy, or, it’s the strum of a guitar or the powerful voice of an opera singer or the soulful tunes of a jazz musician. The underground buskers are amazing and they lift your mood at the start of another work day. Or, it’s the perfect end on the way home from a night out.

2. A city for walking… and aimlessly at that as you never know what you’ll come across in the diversity of neighbourhoods that make up the great city of London. From fashionable Soho with it’s variety of trendy bars and cafes; to Hampstead and Belsize to rub shoulders with incredibly old and beautiful suburbian London with it’s massive Hampstead Heath; to East London with it’s markets and famous Brick Lane; to Surrey Quays, our home and a not too shabby walk along The Thames. There is nothing more we love than going for a walk on a lazy Sunday afternoon, discovering new gems and embracing what London has to offer.

London 'street art' off Brick Lane. You can find street art everywhere in London - you just have to keep your eyes open for it.

3. The seasons… OK, not so much to do with London, but with the country we’re living in. There are four distinct seasons. Blossoming spring; intermittantly hot and more-often-then-not, rainy, summer; golden autmn and cold and dreary winter. It makes for an interesting year rather than moving from hot to not-so-hot back home to mark the beginning of winter. Even as we approach mid-August, if you look hard enough, some leaves are already starting to hit the ground.

'Our park' along our street. These golden leaves will cover the ground soon enough.

4. Majestic sights… Sitting on red double-decker bus #188, we drive past Waterloo, over The Thames, past London parliament and Big Ben, through the city streets to Russell Square. Look left and you can see the London Eye, look right and there is Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. The dome of St Paul’s cathedral can be seen poking out of the city skyline across the river. Living in such close proximity to these absolutely amazing sights gives us butterflies in our stomachs. We actually live in this city and we can see these most famous sights whenever we please. It’s such an amazing feeling and I think we will miss this when we eventually have to leave the great city of London.

The view from the bus. We'll never get sick of this.

5. Parks… in all their beautiful, green glory. Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Kew Gardens, Regent’s Park, Southwark Park… all beautiful spaces with neatly manicured gardens. London’s parks are home to squirrels who scurry across the path in front of us as we walk through, with gravel paths that take their walker between flowering garden beds and giant trees standing tall and magestic.  Strolling through these parks and gardens is the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday and the perfect way to get amongst London at its very best.

Hyde Park in Spring.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. Boswell

Wild UK Challenge for The Prince’s Trust

17 May

When I finished cycling through rural China on a fundraising challenge I wrote in an email back home: “I rode 400km through China on a bicycle and I’ll be glad if I never see one again!” I can eat my words because I’m getting back on the bike to train for another fundraising challenge, this time through rural England.

Through The Prince’s Trust, I have signed up to participate in the Wild UK Challenge in a team with three other girls. We named ourselves Charlie’s Angels (and I realise there is four of us!) and we’re all excited about going out there to ask for pounds for young people and to follow a scarily looking training regime. I say regime, because it really looks like a military-style exercise schedule that now sits on our fridge, reminding me every time I reach for the ice-cream or chocolate, I should be running around our park across the road instead.

But hey, I guess this gives me something to aim towards – to get fit so I can complete the 100 miles of combined hiking, cycling and kayaking in three days for the challenge. The team makes it easy to get motivated and I’m sure the excitement will escalate!

So, as a gentle hint and reminder for my birthday coming up in early July, I’m going to be asking all my friends and family back home to throw me a tenner (or a fiver, or whatever you can spare) in lieu of any birthday gifts. Please donate towards The Trust. Did you know that The Trust has to raise £1 million every single week to help young people get into education, jobs, training or volunteering. Since The Trust was started in 1976 by HRH The Prince of Wales, over 650,000 young people have gone through a Prince’s Trust programme. Quite an achievement, but there is still more young people out there who haven’t had the opportunity to finish school, to further their education and job prospects, or to simply get the training they need to even get themselves considered for a job.

You can donate towards our team here, or you can click on my name to sponsor directly to me.

I’ll definitely keep you all updated with how Charlie’s Angels is going!

Mel xox

today was meaningful

a collection of thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

An Australian Writer in (North) Germany

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