Proud to be Aussie

January 15, 2011

A photo my friend Jerry took. Copyright Jerome Ahern.

This week has made me feel so proud to be Australian. While Queensland got destroyed by floods in scenes which resembled something from the movie 2012, my friends were networking on Facebook about getting together to help clean up their towns.

Other friends who weren’t in Queensland were doing their best to raise money for the towns that had been hit. The size of the disaster was huge – about as large as Germany and France combined. It’s hard to fathom.

My best friend lives in Queensland and my fiancé and I were over there in August for her wedding. Now I was seeing photos of the streets near her house completely submerged in water. It was frightening. I couldn’t get in touch with her for 24 hours and was worried. Luckily she was safe – her house didn’t have power but they had plenty of water and food.

People were dying and yet I saw no one crying on the news. Everyone was remaining positive. Stories of heroism brought me to tears, such as the tale of a young boy who was being swept away yet told rescuers to save his brother first. His bravery killed him. But he will forever remain a hero and his brother will never forget it.

Our country seems to bear the brunt of many natural disasters – fires, cyclones and of course, floods. Yet it doesn’t deter us. And even if we may have to face the weather beating up our country annually, I still no place I’d rather live.

What a country.

Mum’s coming to visit – the best Christmas present ever!

December 22, 2010

My mum is coming to visit me in the UK for the first time, two days after Christmas. I am seriously excited about this. No longer will I have to show her jerky web cam images on Skype about what our house looks like – I can show her for real!

Alas my dad is not coming, which is why mum is not coming for Christmas day – she didn’t want to leave him all alone to have a very lonely Christmas!

I’ve planned an itinerary for when she arrives – we’re seeing Jersey Boys, going to a Michelin star restaurant and visiting Winter Wonderland and Spitalfields markets. I can’t wait.

My mum and I are really close so this is really going to be the icing on the cake for me this year.

If the snow delays her flight into Heathrow I’m going to be seriously annoyed!

Anyway… Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you enjoy this special time of the year with friends, family and much joy and laughter.
Much love,

Carmen the Aussie xoxoxx

Protected: 2010…The Year of the Petallan

December 21, 2010

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The snow makes London slushy… and sluggish

December 6, 2010

It snowed in London in November which is very unusual, apparently. What was unsurprising was that London went into complete chaos yet again and nobody could walk along a footpath let alone get to work.

View from my office.

There were 50 mile traffic jams (!) and all trains were cancelled. It took a colleague four hours to get in, only to find that most of the staff didn’t even bother because they knew they’d get into trouble with so much snow everywhere.

Struggling to work

 

I’ve been living in London for nearly two years now and the novelty of snow is starting to wear off a little. Especially when it turns to muddy slush or freezes over and I fall on my arse in front of a group of school children. (That happened).

I swear, only a couple of weeks back I was taking photos of the autumn leaves everywhere and then, it felt like a few days later, I couldn’t see our garden bench! That’s how much snow fell in the space of a few days.

Autumn leaves a few weeks ago.

There was an uproar in the press with people complaining about the UK not being able to handle a little snow fall and at work I spoke to people from other places in the world (Canada, Scandinavia) and certainly felt like we were the laughing stock!

Sigh. Although I’ll stop being such a pessimist – the snow does make it feel more Christmassy! No cocktails by the pool for Chrissy this year!

Christmas tree in Covent Garden

Marrakesh – the city of red

November 20, 2010
Marrakesh, Morocco is completely crazy. I don’t think anything could prepare you for it. It’s a mash up of first world and third world, Europe meets Middle East meets Africa. A donkey parked up next to a Mercedes whilst a man carries a live sheep on his shoulders past the supermarket.

 

The busy streets of Marrakesh

The air smells of horse piss, spices, smoke, mint tea and a million different flavours weaved in together.

The markets are bustling, people pull you from all sides, demanding money, wanting to give you a henna tattoo, sell you their leather wares.

And yet we had an amazing time. We spent most of the six days in the city, except for a day trip out to the Atlas mountains where we hiked up to a waterfall. As we went further up hill, it became colder and colder and when we reached the top we were forced to pull out our winter coats. The view was worth it though. The valley spilled out before us while the waterfall crashed behind.

The Atlas Mountains

We went back to the city, where the temperature rose to a blissful 30 degrees which was delightful after coming from the London winter. We ate each morning’s breakfast up on the roof terrace with the sun beating down, before making our way through the city’s narrow and winding streets where we got lost on more than one occasion.

Dress-wise, I didn’t reveal my shoulders or legs, as Marrakesh is a strict Muslim country and if you’re female and don’t want to get any unwanted attention then it’s best not to dress too provocatively. You’re still bound to get a little hassled by men though – I was called ‘beautiful’ a few too many times by slimy guys but you’ve just got to learn to take it with a pinch of salt.

We ate some great food – numerous tagines, salads, couscous and grilled kebabs. It’s hard to get alcohol in the city though, especially with dinner, so it was a relatively boozeless holiday – rather unusual for us!

 

 

We spent too much money in the souks, the markets that sprawl on for miles, buying leather bags, shoes, harem pants, jewellery (turquoise!) and tagines. It was good fun although the bartering takes some getting used to. The best technique I found is just to walk away and pretend the price is so ludicrously high that you’re never going to pay it. More often than most they chase you down the street and agree on the price that you previously mentioned. I think we possibly got ripped off a little because we’re hopeless at knocking the price down but when you look at the bigger picture, who cares? I’m sure they needed the money more than we did.

We visited beautiful buildings that were built centuries ago that have intricate carvings that make you wonder how they were made. The mosques dotted around the city were stunning works of architecture and the call to prayer came five days a day, when you could see men lining up outside the buildings, shoes places neatly beside them, bending down in unison to pray to their God. Although I must admit the call to prayer at 5am was rather annoying – a man chanting through a loudspeaker that reverberated through the room of our Riad.

 

The main square – Djemaa el Fna – has men chanting snakes rising out of woven baskets and young guys walking around with monkeys chained to leashes. If you want a photo with either a snake or an ape you must pay them an agreed fee. I thought it was cruel to do so, especially because the animals weren’t treated very kindly – the monkeys were kept locked up in little cages when they weren’t posing for photographs with tourists.

At night time the square truly comes alive with the hustle and bustle of the city. The food stalls open and are rammed with diners having their nightly meal. Scooters and cars zoom around, narrowly dodging tourists, and dancers dance for hours on end until you’re sure they must be ready to collapse from exhaustion.

The main square at night

 

The most relaxing thing we did during our stay was to visit a hammam. I would highly recommend this. We were scrubbed down from head to toe, which was rather painful at times but made you feel squeaky clean. Then we were rubbed all over with oil and received a full body massage. It was divine and made me feel amazing!

Our trip was eventful from start to finish. If you want to visit a place like no other, which is both busy and exciting with its chaotic streets, and calm and soothing with its lush courtyard gardens and relaxing hammams, visit Marrakesh. It’s well worth a holiday.

Inside Majourelle Garden, formerly owned by Yves Saint Laurent

Prince William and Kate to get hitched… wish I had that kind of money to splash out on our wedding!

November 18, 2010

The happy couple - check out that bling! It was Diana's engagement ring, hopefully it'll bring Kate more luck than it did Diana

So Prince William and Kate Middleton have finally got engaged. Poor Kate, she had to wait nine years to get that shiny emerald on her finger. It must feel like a victory now she’s finally wearing it.

A lot of UK taxpayers are whinging because they don’t reckon they should foot the bill for the royal wedding but I don’t mind. The event is going to bring in big bucks for tourism so I’m all for it.

Although apparently Kate and ‘Big Willie’ (as Kate apparently likes to call him… hmmm, wonder where that comes from?) are going to ‘keep the economic situation in mind’ when planning for their big day. They’re not going to go all out, it seems, like Diana did when she married Prince Charles back in 1981. Their wedding cost a reported £40m or so.

However, this is a different era and with so many big names coming along to the wedding bash and with the threat of terrorism lurking, more than £20m could be spent on security alone.

I say go for it. Who cares? They’re hardly normal people and they deserve a big do. I’m sure Kate has been dreaming about this day since she was a teenager putting pictures of William up on her walls. She’s waited for nearly a decade, she should be awarded the crown… and one day she might actually be queen!

Completely off the point now but… I wish I had her wedding budget! Her wedding dress alone could cost a couple of hundred thousand pounds. If only!

The most important thing – the dress!

November 4, 2010

There’s one thing that matters for your wedding. Who cares about the ring, the bridesmaids or the flowers… everyone knows it’s ALL about the dress.

People are shocked to hear that I’ve already got my wedding gown. Bought 18 months in advance, it’s a bit of a risk, but to be honest fashion doesn’t really change much in the wedding world…and I was very keen on my outfit.

However it does mean I can’t put on any weight before the big day… so I have my measurements tucked in my purse just in case I forget that!

Of course, it’s a special moment buying the dress that your fiancé will see you in as you become his wife. And it’s important someone special is there when you buy it. That’s why I bought it when I went back home to Perth – because I wanted my mum to be there.

I’d tried on a couple of dresses in London before I left and burst into tears when I slipped the first one over my shoulders. The reality just dawned on me – I was going to be a bride! I got swept away and was adamant it was the dress I wanted.

In the end, the actual dress I got was 100 times prettier and I’m so glad I didn’t settle on the first one I tried on, simply because I was overcome with emotion!

When I went out trying dresses with my mum, I fell in love with a beautiful gown. It was stunning but something told me we should keep looking. It was lucky we did. As we pulled up at the next store I saw a dress in the window and I thought ‘I must try that one on’. So I did. And it took my breath away.

It’s true what they say – when you try on the dress you’re going to wear on your big day, you’ll know it straight away. And I did.

I walked around the store like a princess and had to laugh when my mum said ‘I knew you’d want something a bit more showy and glamorous’.

My mum knows me too well!

I want to look like a princess but not like this!

Our wedding venue

November 2, 2010
The view from The Boatshed Restaurant

When planning a wedding there’s much to think about. I didn’t realise just how much until I got engaged. I went out and bought a large pile of bridal magazines and began to organise. Anyone who knows me will understand that I am a bit of an organisation freak so planning a wedding, I believed, would easily be my forte.

 To be honest though, I underestimated just how much planning was needed. All the magazines stated a timeline which you had to work from and it said you needed to start planning at least a year in advance. Some would say this is a headache but I am secretly excited about the thought of a year’s worth of planning.

When we went back to Perth for a two week break, we looked at countless venues – so many in fact that my fiancé became frustrated and told me that I was only to take him along if I was certain he’d like it.

In the end, I fell in love with The Boatshed. It’s absolutely stunning and suits us to a tee. It overlooks Perth and the foreshore and has the most stunning views both during the day and at night. The food is divine and the wine is good enough for my dad (the harshest wine critic there is).

We definitely wanted to get married near water because my man is a keen sailor and growing up in Perth we spent a lot of time next to the water.

One of the first dates we went on was when he took me sailing on his skipper’s yacht!

So the venue was great. Best of all, the owner was delightful and I have a feeling he’ll make our wedding a special night to remember. I can’t wait! Only 16 more months to go…

Friday 9th March 2012 is going to be the best day of my life!

He proposed!

October 28, 2010

I haven’t blogged in absolutely ages. The main reason being because I started a new job and it’s taking up a lot of my time. But that’s a boring topic, so I’m not going to blog about that today!

An amazing thing happened since I last blogged… my boyfriend and I got engaged! He obviously learnt from the knife buying incident and decided to get me the best gift a girl could ask for on her two year anniversary – an engagement ring!

Although he had such a hard time on the night I’m surprised he bothered giving it to me at all.

Let me start at the beginning… we went out for dinner on the 2nd of July to this restaurant in London called ‘Dans le noir’. Basically it’s a restaurant that’s completely in the dark and your waiters are blind. For some bizarre reason we thought that the night might be romantic, but that was before my boyfriend stabbed himself in the eye with his cocktail straw (he couldn’t see it, obviously) and we were seated next to a couple of toffs who, when we asked where they went to uni, said the names of their colleges at Oxford. I had no idea where that uni that was, I said. “It’s Oxford darrrrrrling,” female toff drawled.

I quickly lost interest in their boring conversation after one remarked, “I haven’t been riding or shooting in absolutely ages, about a month!” To which my boyfriend replied, “I’ve never ridden a horse.” You could feel the silence.

Anyway, besides from the dull conversation, the experience of eating in the dark was quite strange. You couldn’t see anything at all, and I mean anything. Normally your eyes adjust to the dark after a certain amount of time, but not in this room. It was scary, but it did give me new-found respect for people with disabilities.

After we ate, we found out what we’d actually swallowed. My boyfriend had eaten zebra, kangaroo and other unusual meats… he thought they were all beef! It’s strange but you do seem to eat with your eyes, as well as other senses, and we both agreed that if we’d known what we were eating we would’ve appreciated it more.

As we left the restaurant, my boyfriend said he wanted to go for a walk, but I was wearing high heels and said I didn’t feel like it. He managed to persuade me, although I whinged all the way that we were going to miss the last tube home.

We got onto Millenium Bridge and the view was breathtaking. I’d never seen London from there at night. Finally I stopped complaining and said it was worth the walk. Before my boyfriend could get too comfortable though, I said, “After two years together are you still not a gentleman enough to give me your coat when I’m cold?”

Little did I know, the ring box was in his coat… so he took his jacket off, and as he did so he pulled out a ring box, saying ‘I just need to get this out first’.

I didn’t click straight away… but then he got down on one knee. Cue tears. And sobbing. He opened the box and I couldn’t hear anything he said, only that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. All I could say was ‘oh my god, oh my god,’ over and over. Tears poured down my face. I was so happy!

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been a fan of gems. This instinct did not let me down that night. I’m afraid to say, I was like a magpie and didn’t even give him a chance to put the ring on my finger before I swooped down, picked it up and smacked it on in the wedding position.

All he could do was say, ‘is that a yes then?’ before I had a chance to squeal “YESSSS!!”

And that is the story of how we got engaged.

P.S. After all that, we still managed to catch the last tube home. Not that I could feel how sore my feet were and would’ve happily walked the 10ks required to get home.

Internships for the young only available to those with rich daddies

June 15, 2010

Yesterday a columnist in the Business section of The Times said that so many people in the UK are exploited when they do internships at various organisations. There’s an acceptance that they are asked to work in return for little, if any pay, with a slim hope that it might further their career prospects down the track. I have to agree with this view.

When I first arrived in the UK I was shocked to see how willing people were to give up months of their lives for no money, with the dim hope that the company might employ them eventually. This was especially true with those working in the journalism and fashion industries.

With competitive careers it seemed that the only way to get into the industry was by relying on the chance to prove yourself – for free. In Australia it is certain that those with more work experience than others are more likely to get ahead, but as a general rule you don’t really work for longer than two weeks in a placemen, or one month at a push.

When I got over here it was expected of me that I get some UK work experience to get my foot in the door. The freelancing for free was okay and I’m still doing it because I enjoy it. However, I also worked at another media ‘workshop’ where I just retyped media releases all day and that was bloody tedious. I eventually gave it up because I thought that it was pointless – I was already experienced and there was no promise of a job there in the middle of the recession (not that I would’ve wanted to work for that company anyway).

Thankfully, I had my boyfriend who was willing to support me for two days a week, while I slogged my ass off for free. Others are not so lucky.

I think it is unreasonable for so many workplaces to demand that we have a CV full of UK internships when we go for job interviews. From the age of 18, many of us have to fend for ourselves, and those that are still privileged enough to live at home and have a part time job to fund their social life should count themselves lucky.

For the rest of us, starting out in the big bad world can be hard enough. If you moved out of home at a young age you’re often forced to pay the rent on crappy first jobs. Many do not have the option of working for free for an extended period of time, in order to get a job at the end of it.

If you’re unlucky enough not to have a rich mummy or daddy to help you along the way, it seems as though internships are only really targeted towards those coming from middle and upper-class backgrounds. I am forced to admit, I fall under this category, as I was able to live at home during my university degree.

Recently at Tatler magazine, a bidding war resulted in a rich daddy paying £50,000 for his daughter to work an internship at the publication. Are these the kind of ‘hard-working’ people we want in the working world? Someone who can’t even get a work placement off their own back?