Four Weeks Notice

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Today I am handing in my notice at work. And I am absolutely dreading it.

You may be able to tell this from the fact that instead of working on my letter of resignation, I am writing a blog post. I have been at my desk for an hour and so far have watered my plant (Ludo II), made three cups of coffee, watched videos on Youtube, stamped my arm with the company stamp in an artful fashion and made blubbing noises at Jaws, AnJawlina and Sid Fishous; the company goldfish. This blatant avoidance cannot go on any longer, however.

I really love my job. It’s hard not to love a job that mostly consists of filling a beer fridge, playing ping pong and buying fish tanks. But I also really want to move back to Australia. My job is fantastic but it is woefully devoid of a beach.

The HR manager sits opposite me. She is a good friend of mine. I know that at some point today, I have to tell her. But I feel like I’m about to confess adultery to my husband of 30 years. I’m not sure how to approach the issue. Its a pretty informal set up here (corporate powerhouses do not tend to invest quite as much of their time and resources in in-house ping pong tournaments), so an official letter of resignation probably isn’t going to cut it.

I could ping her a quick Skype message and ask to speak to her. Then, of course, she will immediately know what I am about to tell her. People don’t tend to send cryptic messages asking for ‘a word’ unless they are about to quit, they accidentally dropped the goldfish in the blender or they are dying.

I could try to corner her when she leaves her desk for the coffee machine but in all certainty would time it wrong and freak her out by following her into the loo.

I could work on a musical ditty and surprise everyone so much by suddenly leaping onto my desk and breaking into song that it would take a while for the actual news to sink in., by which time I have escaped and am munching on a Classic Super Club in Pret.

Or I could skulk out of the office and stand below the window, throwing pebbles at the glass until she appears, and then hold up a sheepish sign.

 

I have quit many jobs over the last few years. I usually feel terrible. When I worked for a public sector accounting body I spilled the news out in my review meeting and cried, whilst my bewildered manager looked as though he’d prefer to jump out of the window than comfort me. My job for a networking group for millionaire entrepreneurs ended in tears from the other side as my boss choked back a sob and stormed off, leaving me sitting in the lobby feeling a tad awkward.

I quit my job lobbying for a cancer charity in Perth over email and turned up the next day to find that the locks had been changed on me, leaving me with no choice but to break in through the toilet window to retrieve my laptop, favourite mug, spare flip flops and half a watermelon.

The problem for working for SMEs (oh my god get me to a beach) with a close knit, entrepreneurial streak is that you’re made to feel that your decision to quit is a personal affront. You’re not just a number. You’re a twentieth of the company. The person whose pocket will feel the strain of having to recruit someone new is sitting in your direct eye line.

If you leave, the beer fridge will be empty save for three alcohol free beers bought by mistake and some tumbleweed; the fancy Nespresso coffee capsules will run out leading to a company-wide meltdown as no-one knows where to get any more; the bailiffs will turn up as no-one is paying the bills and Jaws the goldfish will be floating on the surface for a week before anyone notices that AnJawlina is half starved and driven insane in her grief.

 

Perhaps I would feel more confident if I had a concrete plan in place, with which to wow everyone. I gather that people usually move on from jobs either because they have found something else, they are moving away, they are with-bun or they have won the lottery.

I am technically moving away, it’s just that at the moment I have not quite pinpointed the exact location. I have the country down, which is a start. My farewell email to my colleagues is at the moment looking something like this:

“It is with great sadness that I inform you all that I will be leaving the company. I am heading back to Australia with dreams of working as a reptile keeper at a crocodile sanctuary. I have sent my CV to every reptile park in the country, but as yet have not been offered a job. I’m not sure where I will be living yet, but if you ever find yourself in Byron Bay, Northern Queensland, Torquay or Broome; look me up , as I have been browsing these places on Google Images and they look nice.”

My HR Manager just sent me a completely unrelated Skype message and I jumped about five feet into the air. I have the guilty look of betrayal plastered all over my face. If I drink any more coffee I’m going to have a kidney failure.

I’m praying that they don’t tell me to pack my stuff and get out. It will be a tragic moment if I have to pack a small box with my terminally wilted plant, jumbo pack of Mars bars and musical camel novelty pen, and try to stoically walk to the door with Jaws in a teacup.

I’m giving myself until 5pm, by which point I will probably have broken down and bellowed my treacherous intentions to the entire office in response to someone offering me a crisp.

10 Things I Miss About Australia….

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…..without being totally predictable and talking about sun, warm weather and lounging around in the sand like a beached jellyfish.

As is probably quite evident throughout this blog, I am seriously itching to get back over to Oz. The sooner the better, before I start hanging out at SheBu Walkabout and pining for The Footy Show.

Here, then, are 10 things which the UK just doesn’t do as well as its convict cousin:

  1. Masters Choc Milk. It’s really tasty, has funny adverts and is killer for a hangover.
  2. Solo.  It’s really tasty, has funny adverts and is killer for a hangover.
  3. Kebabs. They’re a lot better in Australia, and can actually be classified as a meal – as opposed to something that you buy when you’re drunk to smear on your face and throw at buses.
  4. Bus journeys. Everyone says hello to the bus driver when they get on and when they get off again. No-one is that polite here. We even have to have signs on London buses reminding us not to beat up the driver…
  5. Local TV ads. I used to really like seeing an advert from the local butcher on TV. You’d be sitting eating dinner and all of a sudden Fred would pop up on your screen out of nowhere! “Gahhh!!! It’s Fred!!! I bought pork sausages from him the other day!!! Go Fred!!!”
  6. Sunday sessions. People are a lot more sensible about it over in Oz – as in you’ve finished drinking by 7pm, you’re hungover by 10pm, and therefore fine for Monday morning. If I drink on a Sunday in England I need a month off work afterwards.
  7. Local Newspapers. They have sports match reports saying things like “Steve persevered like a wounded buffalo…” I swear that’s a line I read in a match report in a Bunbury paper. The Metro never compares people to wounded buffalo.
  8. Thongs (aka flip flops). Thongs are not a big enough part of life in the UK. My feet are happiest when they’re out in the open, wafting in the breeze. Shoes are rubbish. And please don’t even get me started on socks.
  9. Back Country Pubs. They’re awesome. There is a severe lack of Friday night Meat Raffles in London. How have the big London nightlife honchos missed out on this great concept? You buy a beer, buy a raffle ticket, and could possibly win a box of raw meat! I’m in.

I was having a bit of trouble deciding on #10, and trusty Aussie Sam stepped in with some things that he missed. This is the one I concurred with the most, although yes, Sam – iced coffee and KFC sides are something I miss too. And I agree that a tub of baked beans does not constitute a side dish.

10. Drive through bottle shops. As we are all quite enamoured with convenience these days, and don’t want to have to move unnecessarily, drive throughs are a revelation. Fast food drive throughs are great when you’re hungover as hell and still wearing slippers and don’t want to face civilisation. But drive through bottle shops are something else entirely. Firstly, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone that you can buy three cases of beer and a bottle of rum when you’re behind the wheel of a car. Secondly, you drive in, roll down your window, and someone asks you what you want, goes to get it, and loads it onto your back seat. You only have to open the window and utter your request. That’s it.

I promise you, it’s the future.

“If you’re bored, you’re probably being boring”

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A couple of weeks ago I went to Secret Cinema in London. It was a pretty incredible experience and we all came away safe in the knowledge that it was £50 well spent as we got to sit in an igloo made out of books and attend a lecture on seasonal novelty vaginas.

We were each given a different fancy dress theme – mine being some sort of high society aristocratic penthouse cocktail party attire. I go to parties, but they’re usually in draughty flats and grubby share houses rather than penthouses. I am also not, alarmingly, a member of the genteel aristocracy. High society ladies do not tend to hail from a three bedroom semi in Essex.

I think I pulled off an admirable interpretation of what a high society aristocratic person might look like, focusing on sparkly things and dead animals.

Secret Cinema was on a Friday, and rather than stumbling around trying to get changed in a toilet cubicle; bare foot accidentally landing on a suspicious wet patch on the floor, I went to work dressed in my cocktail party finery. The reaction at the office was quite astonishing. There were compliments, shocked faces, hushed whispers and the IT guy fell over a bin. For about 30 seconds I was convinced that I had done an amazing job and looked awesome, but then realised after the 18th person told me that I looked “Soooo different!!” that it was actually because I usually come to work looking like complete shit. I think the fact that I had actually brushed my hair had blown everyone away.

It got me thinking that maybe I should make more of an effort for work. I know the day will come when I’ll be on the tube in my worn jeans that are baggy around the bum, muddy Converse and T shirt with a coffee stain down the front; hair straggly and un-brushed; make up smudged after a 12 hour day of commuting and hunter gathering…and will run into either; a) an ex boyfriend that I haven’t seen in years, b) an old school friend that I haven’t seen in years, or c) Sean Bean. Who I have never seen but am hopelessly in love with.

The train home out to Essex is packed full of immaculate looking girls in outfits that do not consist of Converse with grass clods in the laces; who have obviously tended to their general upkeep throughout the day. They do not have panda eyes, a reflective forehead, an ink mustache or Dr Emmet Brown hair. I’m starting to feel like the bird feeding woman from Home Alone 2 in their presence.

The thing is, I really like jeans. I also am a big advocate of Converse, grass clod or no. And to top it all off, I love T shirts. Whilst people around me at work lurk on Facebook or gaze at secretescapes.com, I trawl happily through Threadless.com. I could look at T shirts all day.

 

Anyone can submit a T shirt design to Threadless, and they’re voted for by the customers and you end up with an awesome T shirt depicting Abraham Lincoln punching a T Rex.

I would much rather wear my Middle Earth tube map T shirt than a smart dress. I fear the day that the print starts to flake from my Zombies in Wonderland T shirt, the colour slowly fading from Alice’s cheeks as she swings her samurai sword towards a peeling zombified Cheshire Cat. I feel very smug slipping into my “I Am Alt of Ctrl” T shirt knowing that some commuters somewhere in that vast green commuter belt are currently shoehorning themselves into a suit.

It makes for a more interesting coffee break too (which for me stretches from 8.45am to ohhhh….hmmm….lets say about…lunch), than sifting through the inane drivel on my Facebook news feed. My spontaneous culls are reaching a critical stage. Looking at the same photo of the same person in the same dress in a mildly altered selfie position is not fun. Looking at a Threadless T shirt entitled The Communist Party is fun. Look, Stalin has a beer! Karl Marx has a lampshade on his head!! They’re Communists at a party!!!!!

 

This week in London is going to involve this thing which we have all forgotten about and need to reacquaint ourselves with…The Sun. There will be a transition period. Once we have all reassured ourselves that this burning ball of flame in the sky is not the coming of the apocalypse, and I have recovered from my chronic sunburn and Vitamin D overdose, we can move on to more pressing matters.

Flip flops. Bare skin. Ray Bans. My Ray Bans have been prepped and ready to go in my handbag since March. Every so often I feel optimistic and bring them out, but then I can’t see where I’m going and end up posting letters into a rubbish bin.

My flip flops have been sitting eagerly by my desk, waggling excitedly at the prospect of a day out. Today I jolted down the street like an out of practice Tony Manero, before eventually easing back into the rhythm of fast paced London flip-flop walking.

I might even have to cut the sleeves off some of my favourite T shirts.

 

The Australian Car Crash Chronicles: Vol. 1

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Above: The Clamry Wagon, now sadly deceased. R.I.P Old Friend.

I spent the entirety of last weekend by myself, at home. It wasn’t because I’d been stood up or cancelled on or realised that none of my friends like me, but a voluntary hibernation to Get Things Done.

I’ve been writing an article for an independent magazine on drug trafficking in Northern Mexico, and am spending way too many of my working hours researching rural narcotraficante gangs and bootlegging grandmothers. If I type ‘cocaine’ into my computer one more time I think they’re going to fire me.

So this weekend was set aside for self-imposed exile, to beaver away happily surrounded by empty coffee cups and a towering fort of articles about murdered Mexican beauty queens and lawless Sinaloan valleys full of drugs, guns and rhinestone studded cowboy boots.

Everything went swimmingly until about 4pm on Saturday when I began to get a serious case of cabin fever. I found myself singing Alice in Chains at the top of my lungs and replacing key words with the name of my dog, whilst she looked at me blankly and then deigned to ignore my presence. After ten minutes of bellowing “Into the JESS againnnnnn… Same old Jess it was baaackkk thhheeennnn!!!” at an uninterested canine I considered going out before I lost the plot and butchered a rosemary bush.

I had by this point fallen into a total state of lethargy and going out meant changing out of my reindeer pyjama bottoms and putting one foot in front of the other, colloquially known as ‘walking’.

Outside the window sat Stella, my sisters prized Nissan Micra. I stared at her for a while, pondered, reflected, did a couple of walk-bys, weighed up the pros and cons…and then decided firmly against borrowing her for the afternoon, for the following reasons:

1. I’ve seen my sister when she’s in a bad mood, and I don’t want to die.

2. Driving is not my strong suit. I think I’m really good at it, but then I wrap a car around a tree and realise I’m probably not as great as I thought I was. And I don’t want to die.

 

My shoddy driving record began with my first car, a company provided Audi A3. I hadn’t driven since my driving test when I was 17 and cruised along the pavement for a while during a reverse parallel park. I was now 23 and couldn’t remember which pedal was the brake.

I decided to start the re-acclimatisation process off with a healthy dose of motorway, and took Pamela the Audi on an 8 hour drive from London to York. It shouldn’t have taken 8 hours, but I spent quite a long time on the M25 before I realised I was headed for Portsmouth, which is in the wrong direction. I eventually reached York, flushed with pride, and reversed at high speed into a wall.

Pamela unfortunately went on to suffer further indignities. My Dad took to referring to me as Conan the Destroyer after conifers, garden ornaments, plant pots and his car fell prey to my erratic parking skills. My brother came sprinting outside one night after hearing what sounded like “the Titanic splitting in half” – which had been Pamela rearranging the left hand side of my parents BMW, as my music was on at full volume and I couldn’t hear the fact that I was stripping half of the paintwork from both of our cars.

I crashed into a lamppost whilst on a picnic shopping trip in a blind panic, as someone had stopped to let me out and I had a complete meltdown. Pamela’s front bumper was left with a gaping hole which I cheerily hoped I could ‘buff out’.

I’d just started seeing someone and very kindly agreed to give him a lift somewhere. I pulled away after he got out of the car and was momentarily distracted by people in fancy dress on the other side of the street. In that moment, he had decided to step out into the street, relying on the assumption that the girl he was seeing would not stoop so low as to mow him down in the street for no apparent reason. The next thing I knew, there was a loud bump and he was staring at me in stricken horror through the windscreen with his legs askew and his nose squashed into the glass…kind of like this

What made it worse was that before I had pulled away I had revved the engine as though I was going to run him over, we had both chortled happily and slapped our knees, and then I had actually run him over.

 

Following my lack of success with Pamela, it was a while before I had another car. My next foray into the world of driving was the Clamry Wagon, my prized run-around bestowed upon me by my boyfriend at the time, when I moved to South West Australia. It was love at first sight. The Clamry looked like a weathered tin shoebox and came complete with a speedometer that had absolutely no basis in reality. We had some great times together. When I put a six pack of beers on her roof and reversed, smashing them all on the ground, she was there for me. She was a shoulder to cry on when I did the same thing with my new laptop. We were together when I saw my first wild kangaroo, and celebrated by almost flattening it. I commiserated with her when I left her parked in Dunsborough with the window down and someone threw the innards of a sausage roll on her passenger seat. When I drove her to a brewery, got drunk and left her in a car park for the night, and woke the next morning convinced she’d been stolen from the driveway…she understood. Sure – it took me a day to find her, but she understood.

It still hurts when I think back to her untimely demise. I should have seen the signs. A few weeks beforehand, I’d spent the afternoon drinking beers with weird and wonderful flavours at Bush Shack Brewery. You have to give your car keys as a deposit when you open a tab. It worked a charm as I spent 15 minutes fumbling around in my pockets and searching underneath logs before a disgruntled bartender came to inform me that he had my keys, and I owed him $90. I had a typical drunkard’s response to finding oneself in a remote place with no public transport but a perfectly good car within rolling distance. My friend and I buckled ourselves in and I hurtled off down the road safe in the knowledge that “I’m a WAY better driver when I’m drunk!” This bravado lasted until I braked too late at an intersection and went steaming off the road straight into a post. The post was made of rubber, which was a bizarre lesson in my surroundings but also very lucky, otherwise the Clamry probably would have been cleaved in two and I would have killed my friend.

We carried on our way with absolutely no lessons learned, paving the way for the end of the Clamry a few weeks later.

I’ll never forget the day that Clamry died. I had been working at Bootleg Brewery, and was on my way home to scrub off the spilled amber ale. I was going to a festival the next day and so was poodling along trying to find an exact track on my iPod. When I looked up again, I was heading directly for the tree line. Instead of calmly adjusting course and braking smoothly, I almost ripped the steering wheel out – all the while slamming on the brakes and swearing as loudly as humanly possible.

This, shockingly, did not work, and I completely lost control of the car. The last thing I remember thinking was “Fuck. I don’t have a seatbelt on” and then I was tearing up foliage and a fence, flying around the inside of the Clamry like a pinball, and had shattered the windscreen with the back of my head. Obviously I was a bit perturbed.

A family on a relaxing day out had pulled over to look at what they thought was an old car wreck. Who says the recession hasn’t hit in Australia?! They were greeted with the sight of  me stumbling out of the back door of the car as the front ones were pinned shut by angry uprooted trees. I was dishevelled, covered in blood, had half a gearstick poking out of my knee and wailing something about the car not belonging to me.

They locked their kids in their car as quite frankly I looked like a raving lunatic, and managed to calm me down enough to wrap a picnic rug around me and get the plastic out of my leg. Soon we were all fast friends, sitting around on crushed vegetation sharing bottled water and laughing about the time they locked the kids in the car as they thought that I was going to kill them. They even sent one unfortunate child into the glass strewn, precariously positioned wreckage of the Clamry to retrieve my phone. When he came out with a bleeding hand we all guffawed at the newest turn in our hilarity-filled day.

The ambulance arrived to whisk me away and had to wait whilst I swapped numbers, hugs and teary goodbyes with my new friends. The police had breathalysed me and I had lied stoically about the non-seatbelt wearing episode, whilst they pondered the fact that it must have been a stretchy seatbelt seeing as I had taken out the windscreen with my cranium.

I had to spend the night in hospital sharing a ward with an old lady with a severe flatulence problem. The next morning I was concussed, sore, had itchy stitches and had to shower in a hospital cubicle the size of a postage stamp. The nurses gave me some Oxycontin and told me that under no circumstances was I to go to a festival. I popped the Oxycontin and went straight to a festival.

Despite the concussion and Oxycontin, I was going OK, at least until I threw alcohol into the mix. With the addition of alcohol I went from slightly dazed but happy to inciting a riot with a group of burly bearded bikers to get into see Slayer, charging through the assembled security guards with my hospital wristband held high. After I remembered that I don’t like Slayer, I wandered off with a few new bruises, my stitches pulled and bleeding and a new best friend with a leather vest and prison tattoos called Mike.

I learned a few lessons from the whole episode.

  1. Concussion, prescription painkillers and canned Wild Turkey do not mix well.
  2. Trees are not made of rubber
  3. Seatbelts are not just there to be used as bungee cords for securing guitars, microwaves, and whatever else I have ill-fatedly purchased from Gumtree. They work very well to protect the back of your skull too.

Lesson #3 came in very useful three weeks later, when my friend rolled her car with me in the passenger seat. But that’s The Australian Car Crash Chronicles: Vol. 2… 🙂

Wanderlusting Lowdown: Imbibing in Perth

I had overcome the quite hefty obstacle of having no friends in a new place. There were people I could go out with! But where to go in Perth? With friends did not immediately come an innate love for the city. I found bars that I liked, a few that I loved, but I could never quite get used to the city streets going from hustle and bustle to the Marie Celeste as soon as the clock struck 5.15pm every weekday.

It seemed that the majority of bars revolved their entire musical repertoire around Rihanna’s back catalogue and the bouncers had taken it upon themselves to form an elite Gestapo unit whose mission statement was to make sure people didn’t even consider going to a pub to actually….wait for it…have a drink. Arriving at the doorstep of most boozers led to an interrogation into how many drinks you had consumed, where you had been, what you had been doing, if you were out for a big night, and so on and so forth. You would give a stock answer of “two drinks, just come from home, standing here being pub-blocked by you, just a quiet one – we’ll probably curl up in the corner with a book” and hope they believed you. Then you would be in for a shocking dismissal of your flip flops as “inappropriate footwear”. This would then be followed by an eventual blessing to cross the bridge or being water boarded and sent home.

Us English folk, used to drinking until we can’t tell the floor from the ceiling and spending the night snuggled up in the middle of a roundabout, tend to be flummoxed by this human shaped obstacle to our prospective inebriation.

There are however, some gems among the Identikit 17 Inch Heel Parades, all of which I miss desperately and stalk on Facebook as though they were long lost ex boyfriends. Hula Bula are doing $10 Mai Tais this Friday????? How could they have moved on so much without me.

If you happen to find yourself in Perth, Western Australia and are in need of some fun times, devoid of rugby tackles from over-zealous bouncers and listening to every song Rihanna has ever warbled in her entire life, here are my recommendations:

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1. Hula Bula Bar, Victoria St. a) it has a great name. b) they sell every rum you could ever conceive of. c) they play fun music. d) they do $6 Jamaica Mules on a Wednesday (if you knew Perth drinks prices, you would realise that this is akin to finding a Rembrandt for a tenner at a car boot sale) e) they give you plastic toys in your drink. I’m not even kidding. Every time you buy a drink you get a plastic monkey/zombie/eyeball/snake/octopus tentacle. I literally just cannot think of anything better.

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2. The Jazz Cellar, Mt Hawthorn. a) You have to walk through a London phone box to get in. b) its full of weird and wonderful knick knacks that you could spend hours exploring if you could reach any of them, as the place is usually packed to the rafters. c) its BYO food and drink, so your night will rack up to the relatively bargainous cost of entrance, a six pack and a takeaway pizza from next door. d) an elderly jazz band provides the entertainment and they are AMAZING. Plus they take breaks for a cup of tea and tell the same jokes that have served them well since 1941, but have no cultural relevance now as we don’t have air raids anymore. e) everyone, and I mean everyone, gets up and swing dances as the night wears on – and no one cares if you have the coordination of a broken sprinkler.

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3. Mojos, North Fremantle. a) this is how they describe their line up: “Mojos Bar loves live original music seventeen days a week. It loves it local and foreign, hard and soft, new and old, obvious and obscure, friendly and furious… you get the idea” b) you’re allowed to wear flip flops. I love flip flops. c) it has the kind of outdoor space which makes me want to live outside for the rest of my life, with cushions and lanterns and fairy lights… I love fairy lights almost as much as I love flip flops. d) Flipside Burgers is next door so you can go there first. “Mmmmm!! This is, a tasty burger!”

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4. Devilles Pad, Aberdeen St. a) its owned by the same people as Hula Bula, so it must be good. b) its a ‘Las Vegas style hell themed nightspot’. A good dose of satanic fun is what I look for in a night out. c) the smoking area has a giant volcano in the middle of it. d) they have go go dancers. e) everyone is chilled out, dressed up, having a great time, and not a single person will sneer at you or spill a drink on you. f) they have a guy that walks around making balloon animals for customers. Although at first disappointed that he couldn’t make an armadillo or John Malkovich, I must concede that he does make a mean octopus. g) They sell deep fried jalapenos stuffed with cheese, which would be my Last Supper if I was on Death Row.

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5. X Wray Cafe, Fremantle. a) they have an open piano night, where really talented people make you wish you hadn’t given up music lessons to play Pogs. b) you never need to look at another online gig guide again, as you can use their toilet walls – a fountain of local gig and festival knowledge. c) its open during the day so you can go and have coffee and grilled mango for brekkie. d) it looks like a beach bar but you don’t get any sand up your bum.

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6. Ezra Pound, Northbridge. a) it’s down a little graffiti filled alleyway and you feel like Marco Polo for discovering it. b) they serve long necks in a brown paper bag, so you can guffaw about looking like a hobo even though you can afford current Perth beer rates and most probably don’t live in a gutter. c) they have games, so if the company is boring you can ignore all conversation with them and play Connect 4 instead. d) they sell Bootleg beer. It is $9 for a bottle but I am a sucker and will gladly pay just so I can say “Guess what! I used to work at the brewery!” before shutting up and playing Scrabble.

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7. Tiger, tiger Coffee Bar. a) its absolutely nothing like Tiger Tiger in the UK. b) its a coffee bar by day, laneway bar by night, so the staff see your bleary morning persona, and your idiotic drunken persona, and still like you enough to take your money. c) it sits in the kind of leafy laneway setting that makes you feel like you’re in Umbria eating prosciutto and watching passing Lambrettas. d) they have competitions like ‘win a free coffee every day for a month.’ Coffees are generally $4 a pop in Perth, so you can save yourself $120 and then go and spend it all the next month, on coffee.

In Sydney a new small bar will materialise every 5 seconds. In Perth, the small bar scene plods along at a more sedate pace, but things are speeding up. As I left the city, bars like La Cholita, The Classroom and slushie especial tequila soaked el Publico were opening to much fanfare and queues around the block. The new Brookfield development on St Georges Terrace led to new restaurants and bars in the CBD, and every time the Six Thousand Perth newsletter hits my inbox there seems to be a new watering hole opening up – The Mechanics Institute, Frisk Bar and 399 in Northbridge, The Local Shack in the CBD and Miss Kittys Saloon in Inglewood. Northbridge even has a new coffee bar/toastie hut with the quite frankly, brilliant, name – Toastface Grillah.

But, if these don’t take your fancy, you can swing by Hula Bula Bar for a rum and a plastic frog.

Upping Sticks: How to Make Friends

When I first moved to Perth, I didn’t know a soul. I’d envisaged the kind of easy friendships that blossom over hash pipes, djembe drums and tequila shots in hostels the world over; and wasn’t quite prepared for how different moving into an empty flat in an isolated city was, when compared to moving into a creaking top bunk in a crammed dorm.

My first attempts at human contact were dire. I chased my new Asian neighbour down the street like an anabolic greyhound, sprinting after him laden down with groaning shopping bags overflowing with chicken, basil, lemons and soy sauce, such was my eagerness to introduce myself and make a friend.

He looked quite frankly petrified as I charged him, and sped up, I assume, to escape. In all of the excitement I tripped up a step and went sprawling; chicken soaring through the air, basil scattering in the wind and soy sauce rolling forlornly down the stairs. To my dismay, new neighbour/potential best friend for life carried right on escaping, stepping over the soy sauce, completely ignoring the fact that I was prostrate on the concrete with the contents of my dinner strewn around me.

 

My flat was in Nedlands, an area solely populated by Asian students, empty megabucks properties and pensioners. I didn’t realise this when I first moved in. I went to my local ‘student pub’ and was met by tumbleweed and a soggy beer mat. I tried a pub slightly further down the road called The Byrneleigh which was a lesson in self-important wankiness. The bartender resolutely ignored me until I started wondering if I’d mistakenly walked into someone’s house and was standing uninvited by their impressive personal alcohol collection. When she finally deemed me worthy of attention, she wandered over with all the enthusiasm of a dead haddock and stared down her nose at me like I’d walked in off the street naked and made myself an outfit out of her menus. For some reason when faced with this Jack Torrance level of customer service, I turn into the most ingratiatingly polite human being ever. It’s like I have to make up for both of us in the civility stakes. I joked and guffawed and cajoled and slapped my knee and slobbered, whilst she threw a beer in my general direction and glowered at me through hooded eyes.

After The Byrneleigh, I set my experiments in social interaction a healthy bus ride away. I had strayed into Claremont – the “I’m 18 and a university student therefore I must throw up on my shoes” capital of Perth. For a while I thought that Perth nightlife was entirely dominated by people who derived enjoyment from being insulted and people who derived enjoyment from covering themselves in their own bodily fluids.

I was still yet to make a friend, and after starting up impromptu conversations in toilet queues, bar queues, bus queues and coffee queues, resigned myself to skipping along the pavement stuttering erratically to a hedge for the rest of my life. I had to look beyond The Queue.

I got a job behind a bar, and used this as a platform to Make Friends With People. The bar was in Claremont, so all of my new friends were 18 and covered in vomit. After a couple of weeks of discussing cheese toasties, toe cramp and how one would go about making do-it-yourself LSD, I decided to broaden my horizons. At about this time, I met an English girl called Katherine. We set up a date to go for drinks and I spent the day going on about my ‘friend date’ to anyone that would listen. Which was pretty much my fridge door and a potted cactus.

I turned up late after I got off the bus too early and had to walk across half of the city, after a stressful day of trying to unblock my sink with various contraptions I had purchased from the hardware store and proceeded to throw around the place with no real idea what I was doing. I spent way too long explaining the intricacies of unblocking sinks with long bendy wires and almost blew the whole ‘maintaining your cool so people want to talk to you’ thing. Katherine was going back to the UK for a wedding and wasn’t sure if she would come back to Australia. I had to stop myself from yelling “Don’t go!!!! You’re my only potential friend!!!!” in her face, and instead smile and nod and not be weird.

 

After this I met aforementioned Sam at work, and so began a friendship based on how hilarious it is when you forget to attach something to an email after stating ‘please find attached.’ After we progressed to riding escalators in opposing directions and high five-ing at the midway point, said friendship was cemented for life.

Soon began a deluge of new found friends. I went for rum cocktails with a girl that served me in the Body Shop. I made friends with my hairdresser. I met a guy on the bus. I ran into an old friend from South Africa on my lunch break.

I still don’t fully understand how I went from going out on my own and trying to ooze uninvited into peoples lives; to actually having real life friends that weren’t inanimate objects in my apartment or the characters in The Walking Dead.

If I had to give someone tips for making friends after moving to a new city/country/hemisphere, it would probably go something like this:

1. Get a job in a local pub/bar. Even if you’re working full time, you can spare one night a week to pull pints and meet the regulars. They will like you because you provide them with alcohol. You’ll go from lurking around the edges smiling nervously at people to yelling “Yo Bob!! How’s that shit heap of a truck??!!” and clapping people on the shoulder for no apparent reason in a matter of days.

2. Find hairdressers/eyebrow waxers/language classes/pottery lessons etc on Gumtree. I found my Perth hairdresser on Gumtree and we are still friends today – she swears that Gumtree is a veritable mine of potential friends, all you need is an excuse to meet up, e.g ‘please can you cut my hair? oh yes, and lets be pals for life.’

3. Don’t feel too proud to look up ‘New to the area….’ social groups on Meet Up, Couchsurfing etc…sure you’ll feel like a friendless cretin the first time you go and you might meet a motley crew of agoraphobes, maniacs and people with no understanding of personal hygiene, but there might be a diamond in the rough somewhere. Find a group that’s targeted towards a specific interest instead of just a generic Billy No Mates gathering, so at least you can talk about sci-fi, skydiving or unicycles instead of facing conversational abyss or someone that has just been released from the local mental facility.

4. Live in a share house. Instant social network. If following people around in the street like a lost puppy is not resulting in a packed calendar, you can just follow your new housemates around the kitchen instead.

5. Talk to people. It’s quite obvious really, but people still don’t really seem to do it. If I hadn’t started striking up conversations with random people when I moved overseas then I wouldn’t have a single friend. It doesn’t always work, and people might assume that you are an evangelical missionary or about to murder them, but out of the non believers are a few that are open minded, friendly, or just as lonely as you are. Steer clear of asking people for a lock of their hair and you should be fine.

6. You’ve started talking to random strangers? Great! Now, ask them if they want to go for drink. If you’re chatting to someone in the gym changing room and getting on like a house on fire, why not get on like a house on fire more regularly? They might be thinking exactly the same thing but just be too embarrassed to suggest it. And what do you have to lose besides dignity, self esteem, a cheerful mood and the ability to ever go that gym class again? If they say no you can always just quietly seethe and plot their downfall later.

7. Hi-jack your friend’s friends. When you have a new friend, meet their friends, and then steal them. When I became friends with Sam, he invited me to spend Australia Day with his friends. We laughed, we drank, we made up ritual dance routines to the rain gods…  They are now my friends.

8. Don’t let it get you down if it takes a while. Most of the people you’ll meet are born and bred in that area – they have their own friends, families, boy/girlfriends, jobs, hobbies and social lives to contend with. They might not have time for a new friend. But you’ll get there…even Ed Gein had a couple of mates, and he spent his free time making belts out of human nipples. If all else fails, go to your nearest hostel bar – a totally acceptable place to turn up on your own and start talking to people without someone thinking that you’re about to make accessories from their body parts.

The Death of the Hard Back Book?

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Trying to succeed as a writer is difficult. It is even more difficult if you can never be bothered to write. I am my own worst enemy. I will clear an entire weekend to sit in front my laptop and pitter patter on the keys until some kind of literary genius comes pouring out.

Then I will make a coffee. Then I will make bizarre cooing sounds to my aging springer spaniel and rub her belly. Then I will remember that she smells like a stagnant fish pond and spend five minutes scrubbing my hands with Moroccan Rose hand wash, moaning about my ill-advised decision to rub the dog’s belly. Then my coffee will have gone cold. I will make another one. Then I will watch two episodes of Game of Thrones to relax. Clashing swords, ferocious deaths and token full frontal nudity is incredibly relaxing.

After this I will spend perhaps two hours perusing things other people have written on the Internet to ‘get in the right frame of mind’. Then I will sulk either because they are better writers than I am, or because they’re not but they still manage to have been published.

I will eat something, distract myself by chatting to whoever is in my direct line of vision, wander around loudly expounding about how bored I am, sit down in front of my laptop again, stare at a blank page for five minutes, then stoically give up, close the laptop and go to the pub.

Occasionally I will have a stroke of inspiration, tap manically on my keyboard for four hours straight and sit back, mentally exhausted and elated all at the same time. This usually happens when I am at work. Thus, I am slipping further and further behind and have a poker tournament, a white label launch, a summer party and a company holiday for 100 people to organise – none of which I have made any in roads into. I look incredibly busy as I studiously type away, but I am writing blog posts about incessant wanderlust instead of booking beach volleyball venues; and plodding away at a novel about subterranean London, as opposed to finding a Scottish castle to house 99 Scandinavians and me for 4 nights.

The truth is, it seems easier than ever to publish something. Literary magazines are everywhere, agents are popping up all over the place, Amazon are rolling out Kindles like hot cakes…and if no-one else wants to publish you, you can go ahead and publish yourself.

Literary agents are more accessible than ever – the London Book Fair housed The Pitch this year – where you can go and pitch your book proposal to a real life agent. The North London Literary Festival put on a ‘speed pitch’ event, and Faber and Faber held a talk on how to get published.

The website Authonomy, the Harper Collins created and backed literature-sharing forum, offers writers the chance to upload their work and have it either picked apart or lauded with praise from their peers – the material with the most votes winging its way to the Editor’s Desk at Harper Collins itself.

Open Pen publish scribblers of any ilk – pulling together a quarterly magazine that shows off a cross section of phenomenal talent. Their association with Berg’s Little Printer means that you can jot down a mere 50 words and still potentially have it published as their weekly short story for the Little Printer publication.

But is it really as easy as all of that? London is full of small, independent bookshops, but how long will they last? They only have so much shelf space, so is there room for new writers? I met a guy who had written a book called Beach Dogs, about his experiences as a middle aged waster in Goa. He had been offered a publishing deal, which in today’s barren void of publishing contract offers is a pretty laudable achievement. The contract is e-book only, however.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Obviously times change, things move on, and we’re not reading from papyrus scrolls anymore. But I know that if I had my book published, and saw all of those tens of hundreds of thousands of hours of work condensed into digital form and perched as a thumbnail on an imaginary shelf, whilst bored housewife drivel such as 50 shades and its ilk still took up half of W H Smith, I’d be pretty bloody pissed off.

There’s nothing like holding a real book in your hands. I’m not one to donate a box of old books to the charity shop, instead keeping them, re-reading the ones I like and underlining sentences that made me remember why I love reading so much.

I still dream of having a whole wall made up of bookshelves, with everything I’ve ever read and loved neatly stacked, and a rolling library ladder propped up against the whole shebang so I can fly around the room like a crazed Julie Andrews.

Thumbing your way across an iPhone screen just doesn’t cut it.