Once again, fate was on my side and conspiring to keep me in Australia; I was granted the second year visa and so I sent yet another email to my friends and family to say that sadly, I wouldn’t be home for Christmas after all. The plan was to work over the summer in Bondi, buy a car and then head up the East Coast before finally going back to England. First off though, I needed to find a job!
Rich had been working at the Fitness First in Bondi Junction for a while, so he put in a good word for Jo and me and we started our training the week after. Jo was placed in the Randwick gym – a short bus ride from Bondi and I was placed in Maroubra, a little further out.
By now, Rich and I had also moved into an apartment in North Bondi with Jo and Will. Supposedly a short term solution whilst we looked for something more permanent, we set up a make-shift bed in the sun room, just off the living room. But one week turned into two and soon enough, we were paying rent and had planned to stay in our little ‘home’ until after Christmas.
Although the house was a little messy and our pokey room was hardly a haven, I loved that little house and our time there over the summer. Just a stone’s throw from the beach, I would often get up early and head for a run along the promenade. Even waiting for the bus seemed that much more enjoyable as I watched the surfers head for their morning paddle. Once home from work the four of us would cook together, sit down to talk about our day and then Rich and I would borrow some bikes out of the garage and take a cycle along the promenade or on to Watson’s Bay where we had a perfect view of the city.
When we weren’t working, the four of us – plus Greg, Rachel and a few others, would head to the beach or to the nearby golf club for a game of snooker and a steak. It was a great way to spend the summer but it wasn’t all perfect…
Living with our friends was fantastic but it also meant that we didn’t get much time on our own as a couple. Greg seemed to have an annoying habit of calling Rich just as soon as we were about to head out somewhere on our own – even Sunday brunch would turn into a group activity! I started to resent it a little after a while and began secretly wishing the summer away so that Rich and I could head off on our own little adventure.
The Hunter Valley..
Although we were supposed to be saving, in a bid to get some alone time with Rich, I booked us onto a couple of excursions. The first of these was a day trip to the Hunter Valley – the wine region just a few hours north of Sydney. We set off (very) early one morning, headed into the city and boarded the bus along with a dozen or so other travellers.The tour guide took us from vineyard to vineyard and we sampled a different wine (or two) in each one, stopping off at one of the owner’s houses for a delicious lunch before moving on to the next. It was the perfect way to spend some time alone with Rich (or as alone as we could be with a bus full of people!)
One day alone wasn’t enough though and so a few weeks later, we booked a trip to the Blue Mountains, including an over-night stay at the YHA hostel there. I had already visited the summer before with my friend Vanessa, but it was a different experience seeing it all with Rich. We hired out bikes and cycled along the hilly roads, then descended into the woods to take in the spectacular views.
It wasn’t all about getting away though and at Christmas time in particular, it was good to have a group of friends around. On Christmas Eve, we had a real ‘family’ dinner – inviting everyone round to our house for a traditional English roast with all the trimmings, followed by a little too much of the festive spirits.
When Christmas day came around, the weather wasn’t quite as good as the year before but we still managed to make it into the sea for a little paddle…
After which we all headed up to Greg’s house for an Aussie-style Christmas – a huge BBQ followed by a hedonistic house party.
New Year was a bit of a disappointment after the previous year – in hindsight we should have headed down to the harbour again but instead we opted for a house party. Rich and I had an argument about nothing much in particular but it caused us to miss the fireworks and start the New Year off on a bit of a sour note. We were famed for arguments amongst our friends – with everyone joking that we’d kill each other travelling up the East Coast but despite the petty arguments, we fell in love that summer and our East Coast adventure only cemented that.
Read about our first East Coast adventure in the next post…