A Time for Reflection...

G’Day Folks!

I’m pleased to report that this week’s instalment comes to you with the rain hammering off the thin windows of my room at the Redland Bay Motel. Another exciting development over the past few days is that I’ve managed to acquire a rather alarming, but no less spectacular, chesty cough.

I even had to wear a cardigan to the pub this evening, where I spent the time over my two schooners of Castlemaine XXXX Bitter watching the rain bounce of the sun scorched beer-garden like bullets off a super-hero.

Yes folks, the weather has taken a turn for the worse Down Under and more rain is predicted over the coming days. The wettest June on record has even been spoken about, albeit in hopeful whispers and it has to be said that the locals are quite made up about it.

Crikey, but things aren’t half different this side of the planet.

Unfortunately, I can’t share in the collective enthusiasm of those around me as they celebrate the upcoming downpours, for you see, I’ve got a bigger fish to fry.

And that fish comes in the form of my much anticipated trip back home. Exactly one month from now, all being well, I will be landing at Aldegrove Airport and quite frankly, I’m just a little concerned.

I have just spent the early part of this evening sitting outside in temperatures of 18 degrees wearing a cardigan – the one and only item of clothing that I jokingly brought with me as a concession to when things might get “just a wee bit chilly” – and I was never so thankful for having an extra layer of clothing since moving down here.

So what has become of me? Have the ambient temperatures of Australia turned me into a big girl’s blouse? 18 degrees in an early Ballyclare evening would be considered quite balmy – even with the rain - and yet here I am zipping up my cardie to protect myself against the ‘elements’. Thank God I’m returning to the warm bosom of my friends and family is all I can say.

I’m reminded of a guy that I used to play football with during my time in Belgium; 6’4” and full of muscles (unlike the guy in the song from Brussels he is from Essex.) After spending 8 months in the Caribbean on a lucrative contract, he returned to Belgium complaining of the cold, even going so far as to wear a fleece top whilst playing football. Indoor Football.

Could it really be that I’ve wimped out as much as this? Only time will tell and that time is very almost upon me. How exciting is that? OK – perhaps not for most of you reading these words but for me – I’m PUMPED (to use the local vernacular) to be heading back home, if only for a few days.

Not only is today a landmark in that it sees me 4 short weeks from home but it is also exactly 7 months since I arrived in Australia. 7 months, since I left the safety blanket of a world that I was familiar with - a world where, even if working and living outside of Northern Ireland – I was never more than a short hop by plane from home.

So what of the last 7 months? What has the Australian experience been like so far for me? I hope you’ll forgive me the wee indulgence of some time (and Ballyclare Gazette space) for some contemplation…

During my time here, I’ve experienced many things - some of them good, some of them bad.

I’ve moved in with Krissy, the love of my life – a girl that I barely knew before moving here it has to be said - but someone with whom I feel complete (as cliché and corny as that sounds). I’ve been adopted by her family and friends and in spite of all the problems that that might have caused for all concerned, we’re all still on speaking terms, which is an achievement in itself.

I’ve stroked koalas and watched kangaroos in their natural habitat, I’ve been woken by dingoes during the night whilst camped in the middle of a rainforest and then been woken by the crazy laugh of the kookaburra, before promptly driving my potential father-in-law’s car into the middle of a sand dune and burnt its clutch, leaving us stranded for days.

I’ve experienced the delights of The Gold Coast, Brisbane, The Sunshine Coast and its surrounds and stood completely in awe as I surveyed that most iconic of landscapes, Sydney Harbour. Sydney also provided me with the opportunity to spend time with my lovely cousin Janette and her fantastic family as I was treated to some fine Northern Irish hospitality (is there any finer?), that had me hankering – not for the last time - for the shores of home.

I’ve struggled with living on a budget and without a job, without a right to even get a job, and watched as my girlfriend went back to gainful employment, as I trawled the internet looking for a position with a company who was prepared to deal with the extra baggage of sorting me out with a visa.

Thankfully, this period did not last too long and my new career has had me experiencing the delights of sugar factories in the middle of “whoop whoop” and chicken slaughterhouses at the end of a 2 hour commute. A job that I am enjoying as difficult as it can be at times and let’s not forget - a job that has provided me with the cash to make it back home in time enough for the family to still recognise me and to join in the Twelfth of July celebrations.

The job also provided me with an opportunity to develop my knowledge in my chosen field of expertise with all the challenges it throws at me and it has taken me to Melbourne to increase my knowledge further by way of some specialised training.

My time in Melbourne was worthy of an article in its own, because apart from the training course, it also provided ‘killer’ paintball, a bachelors barbeque, uninvited appearances at birthday parties and ten-pin bowling with a guy called Healy who would have had the GAWA almost as excited as our very own Healy gets us. Not to mention the introduction to a local cuisine called Chicken Parma. Believe me – it has to be tasted to be appreciated.

All this was by way of a friendship with a friend of Krissy - a lovely guy from Middlesbrough named Phil. A guy who along with his girlfriend Helen, spent the last few fun-filled days with us here in the Sunshine Coast and a guy who I wish lived a lot closer.

For you see, it’s been somewhat difficult to make friends of my own down here and that, it has to be said has been a bit of a surprise for me. Having lived away from home since the age of 19, it’s been a given that I would have to fend for myself and with that territory also comes the fact that I’m going to have to get out there and meet people.

The people back home in Ballyclare - and Northern Ireland as a whole - are a friendly lot and to be honest, you’re a hard act to follow.

Don’t get me wrong, Australians are great fun-loving people and I’m enjoying the experience of being in amongst them but – of course there was a but - it’s not home, it’s not family, it’s not friends from back home and I’m really, really looking forward to being back in amongst the people that I love most on God’s, green earth.

The Old Trafford Bar in Antwerp, with all its delusional ManYoo supporting clientele, the Rock Festival at Werchter with my closest friends in Belgium, the delights of Amsterdam and Taipei and beyond are all coming up on this trip and as much as I’m looking forward to all of these (and believe me I am) the days to be spent in Ballyclare are easily the highlight of the trip.

The kitchen session at mother’s, the Back Bar Session at the Ballyboe with my father and brothers and all the usual suspects, the Twelfth of July and seeing all the people that I love on the parade, both walking and watching are all the things that keep me awake at night with excitement.

Which I can tell you, is a helluva lot better than being kept asleep by the thoughts of cockroaches sharing my motel bed,.

Good night and God Bless. I’ll see you all soon!

(Feel free to get in touch – you can email me at JonnyBlackDownUnder@gmail.com)