Welcome to this blog, the story of a great big Australian adventure. It documents my travels, life in Australia, and a subject close to my heart – environmental conservation. 

A foreign posting

I sit writing this at the end of a day intended to include more pampering (my daughters and I have already spent two days at a spa celebrating the youngest's birthday). We were headed up to West London for a pedicure with a difference: immersing the feet in one's own individual water tank full of small fish (Garra rufa, aka nibble fish) keen to feed on dead skin for lunch. Signal failure on the District line scuppered the plan somewhat. We arrived late: my daughters were able to share a free appointment slot half an hour later, but my feet missed out on this tickly fishy treatment. Another time, perhaps, but I may have to wait. C'mon Australia, it's not weird or disgusting. There are so many spas there: somebody, somewhere must offer this soon? (Please let me know if you do.)

We dashed back to Dorking, later than planned. My eldest daughter was off to a wedding after-party; the soon-to-be birthday girl had plans of her own; and I was left to my own, hopefully quiet devices. The last week or so has been hectic: to Norfolk to visit family; to London to see friends and former colleagues on the London newspaper's magazine; and catching up with my Dorking pals. I even sneaked a day's work into a packed schedule.

All day I had been relishing an evening of catching up – on diary writing; emailing; checking the results of the first day of Premiership and Championship football action; and reading the Aussie press and the
BBC's Sydney correspondent, Nick Bryant, on the latest election developments back in Oz. But suddenly, a desire to blog instead. Millie (small black and white cat) sits beside me, having got used to the fact that I'm back. I look out of the casement window beyond my computer and the sun is still glinting through the trees, low in the northwestern sky. It is 8pm. How I miss light summer evenings when I'm in Brisbane. A true child of the temperate zone. I must confess, however, to having long argued for the abolition of daylight saving time (known as British Summer Time, or BST) in the UK.

While I've been away from Brisbane I've missed the
Ekka, the Royal Queensland (agricultural) Show. My friend has reported that is well worth a visit in order to appreciate Queenslanders' idea of a fun day out and to witness the farming community putting on a show to 'bring the country to the city'. It is considered to be such an important part of Southeast Queensland life that many people are given public holidays so they can attend. And these are staggered, presumably so the Show is never so rammed you can't move nor the roads so jammed you can't escape. Next year I will see the Show for myself, unless I've been persuaded by Animal Activism Queensland that it perpetuates a romanticised view of where our food comes from and is in breach of welfare regulations for cute little furry animals. (Why Ekka, are you wondering? It used to be called the Brisbane Exhibition. Ex. Ekks...)

My friend tells me that, with the exception of a couple of days of downpour prior to the Show, the weather in Brisbane has relaxed into what, they say, August is all about – settled sunny days. (Here in the UK it has been very warm, but now it's very wet – more typical August weather.) And I've missed Tony Abbott's display of how not to be 'a tech-head'. He was being grilled about the Opposition's plans for improving Australian's sluggish broadband network by veteran political commentator Kerry O'Brien, whose style has grown on me enormously since I've lived in Australia. The aspiring PM did not appear unduly concerned that he was unable to discuss peak-speed capability. Well, this is the man who dismissed the idea of anthropogenic climate change as 'crap'.

It is now a beautiful Sunday morning, 15 August. I have just returned from a run over the Downs in hazy sunshine. The perfect temperature for running. Much to my surprise, there were
Chalkhill Blues still fluttering by. And I spotted Field Scabious (below), Cow Parsley, Sloe berries, still-red blackberries, thistles, Sweet peas and Mombretia, which I remember from Cornish cliff walks as a child.

My thoughts this weekend, however, are with the family and friends of Ella, a 24-year-old who lost her life not far from
Dorking on Friday night when she crashed her car in torrential rain. My eldest daughter has known her since their first day at school, aged five. I hadn't seen Ella for a good while but bumped into her a few days ago in the high street. I was introduced to her delightfully smiley, big-blue-eyed six-month-old, Teddy.

A beautiful yet awful morning.

This post was last updated on 15 January 2012

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