So it’s been a while since I’ve posted a ‘blog entry’ and I think it’s fair to say that the focus of my posts in the last 12 months or so has been the latest immigration news effecting wannabe migrants.
This is something I’d like to try and address during 2014. I’m hopeful that the entries will still be of interest to those of you looking to make the move down under and I’ll try to focus on life in Australia as much as I can to give you all a flavour of what life in Australia really is like.
For starters though, I’ll let you onto a little secret. This time last week I was shivering my butt off back in the UK! I’ve not returned to the UK since arriving in Australia over 7 years ago and since separating from my wife and gaining a new ‘missus’ it seemed the perfect opportunity to make the return back ‘home’ to spend time with my folks over Christmas whilst introducing my Aussie missus to the delights of winter in the UK.
To be honest, a lot has changed in my life since being back in Blighty and I was intrigued to see how I’d feel about the old haunts once I returned.
Flying into Manchester airport and feeling the blast of freezing cold air as it smacked you across the face made me quickly wish that I’d not thrown all my old UK winter cloths away when arriving down under.
You see, Aussie winters are very different to those in the UK. Sure, the mornings can be a little fresh but by lunchtime you can quite easily saunter around the streets of the Perth CBD wearing a pair of trousers, a short sleeved shirt and very little else. Back in Blighty on the other hand, we were quickly attired with t-shirts (x 2) Fleeces, scarves and hats to keep out the winter chill.
The new missus who’s a born and bred Aussie didn’t think it was too cold when we arrived. I may or may not have spent the last few months suggesting that your breath freezes and that you stick to metal pipes in the UK wintertime so she was expecting far worst!
I think from memory, when we arrived, the temperature at Manchester airport was in the region of 4 degrees Celsius, a whopping 31 degrees colder than the Aussie summer weather we’d left only 24 hours earlier. Add a small thing called ‘wind chill’ and she quickly got the idea though.
Picking up the hire car from of all places the ‘hire car village’ which is conveniently (not) a 5 minute bus journey away from the airport, we were quickly on our way northbound, on the M62 to sunny Yorkshire.
So, how did I find the UK after not seeing it for over seven years?
Well, in seven years, not much has changed and in a way that’s not a good thing. I was born and bred in Bradford and the lack of development was depressing. The place seems littered with pound shops and other tack starting to take over the empty stores abandoned by more mainstream retailers a number of years ago.
What was the old Broadway shopping strip is now a building site although according to my folks it’s been a building site for a very long time. With all that said, the new Bradford city park seemed a nice addition but beyond that it was a pretty glum place to hang out.
Now I don’t mean to bag the old city that I called home for over 30 years. It’s just a very different place to the place I now call home here in Australia. Even the 1000’s of starlings who used to call the city centre home appear to have taken flight to pastures new.
On the flip side, the drive from Manchester up to Bradford through the Lancashire and Yorkshire countryside reminded me of just how beautiful a place England really is.
Compared to the desolate deserts you’ll come across during long journeys back in Australia, the rolling hills and green grass really does take your breath away. It was very easy to take the countryside in England for granted when I lived here but a decent break made me see the countryside in a whole new light again.Other observations from my trip.
- It’s cheap, well it seems it after spending a decent time in Oz!! With the exception of petrol prices which are crazy back in the UK, everything else just seems so ridiculously cheap. A coffee doesn’t cost a squillion dollars and a nice meal in a restaurant can be had without the need to auction off one of your appendages.
- Christmas in the UK is still awesome. My mum and dad made sure they had a proper live Christmas tree which smelt amazing the second we walked through the door. The Aussie missus found the fact that they were playing Christmas songs in the shops whilst it was cold outside weird. A feeling I can relate to as jingle bells + 40C heat + people in shorts and T-Shirts also feels weird!
- Being cold has benefits. My mum and dads double garage served as a massive extra fridge during the Christmas period. It must have been just a touch over freezing in there for the most part and beers and white wine stored in the garage came out colder than the drinks stored in the fridges. Water from the tap was also a delight to drink due to the automatically chilled pipes. Cold nights also seemed to have a mysterious impact on sleep patterns and hangovers too. I slept pretty well back in England and despite my best efforts to drink my dad under the table with a couple of mum special, face numbing G&T’s, wine, beer and brandy chasers throughout the night, I woke up with a clear head every single morning.
- Fireworks rock!! Unfortunately you can’t buy fireworks here in Western Australia due to the fact they present a bushfire risk. Obviously the UK winter weather means that the fire risk is low so Fireworks can be bought in plentiful supply in the lead up to the new year celebrations. I bought enough explosives from the supermarket to blow up a small country in a mass of gold and purple sparkles. They totally rocked!
- You don’t have to give way to bus drivers.. A small thing but a massive pet peeve of mine since arriving in Oz.. Beep Beep Mr. Bus Driver! Wait your turn on these small country lanes!!! Similarly, not being able to undertake on the freeway/motorway is a good thing. It’s illegal in the UK and means you don’t need to be completely paranoid every time you merge back into the inside lane after overtaking.
- It rains… A lot! Ok , I know it doesn’t rain all the time and to be fair, I choose a pretty stormy time to come back to the UK but as these are my observations of my trip.. It rained.. A LOT!!
- New Year’s Eve in the UK rocks! I think this may be more down to the fact that I live in Western Australia but the whole of the UK really kicks off on New Year’s Eve. I know Australia has Sydney and the fantastic firework displays over the Opera House and the Bridge but the lack of displays in Australia due to the fire risks makes the wider new year’s celebrations sometimes seem a little flat. It may well be my Neanderthal instincts kicking BUT I miss setting fire to stuff on New Year’s Eve!!!
I could go on but I won’t. Instead I’ll summarise my thoughts.
Going back to the UK was brill. It was wonderful to see my folks and spend Christmas getting stuffed with my Mums perfectly cooked turkey. It was also great to introduce the Aussie missus to the places where I grew up and feel the chill of the cold winter air and warm pubs selling decent ‘proper beer’ on draft.
With that said. Going back to the UK also made me realise that I made the right decision moving out to Australia. The UK will always be my birthplace, Australia though is now my home.
It’s a little pricier to live here but on the flip side I’m better paid. I could be spending my weekends walking though puddles back in England but instead I’m dipping my toes in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and the golden sands of the beautiful beaches they have here.
There is a buzz of optimism here in Australia, I didn’t sense that any longer back in the UK. Lots of news about migrants flocking into the UK from central Europe. Claiming benefits and taking advantage of the UK benefits system. All pretty gloomy news indeed.
I still love the UK though and the missus and I plan to go back at some point in the future as we simply didn’t have enough time to see all the things we wanted to see including several visits to the great curry shops back in Bradford.
Perhaps next time we’ll wait until it’s a little warmer though!
All the best