Saturday, 28 January 2012

What is this Aussie critter?

My chief concern about moving to Australia was the diversity of wildlife, the bugs, the snakes, the dangerous spiders, all the stuff we don't have to worry about in England. Several of you have asked exactly what critters we've encountered, so when we saw this earlier, I had to cast fear to one side and pull out the camera. Seconds later, it was gone. So what I want to know is... What on earth is it?

Friday night was Andy Murray's semi-final against Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. Like Tim Henman before him, Murray knows how to put British fans through the ringer when it comes to the big occasion and this was definitely no exception. It was good to hear the BBC were screening the game live back home and to be fair, the Australian TV coverage - which has been pretty jingoistic at times during the tournament - was excellent during what was a true classic. I don't know if our neighbours on either side have young children but if they do, we woke them up with our yells every time Murray won a break point - or lost his own serve. As is so often the case, there was to be no happy ending but Murray left the court with his pride absolutely in tact after pushing the world No 1 right to the limit. The five-set match lasted almost five hours, while Saturday night's women's final between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova was over in 1 hour 22 minutes. If anyone wants to re-visit the "female tennis players deserve to be paid as much as the men" argument, I'd love to hear from them.

Rachel emerged unscathed from her first day at school, an inset, and we embarked on our first notable trip in the car to visit Beechworth, just under an hour's drive into Victoria. Our first stop was the Beechworth Bakery, operating under the banner 'Australia's greatest bakery.' I can only imagine that's a title they've added themselves. If anyone has visited every bakery in Australia with a clipboard, they've got a serious mileage claim to submit. My steak pie and Rachel's foccacia were top-notch, though, so I won't dispute the boast.

We spent part of the afternoon on a tour which told the story of Ned Kelly and his gang. Here is Rachel at the point where we had to meet our guide. I don't remember a load of details from the tour, but Ned ended up hanged in Melbourne. There was a plaster cast of his head (post-hanging) in the Beechworth museum. I can't see Madame Tussauds adding any of those to their collection.

On the way home, we made a slight detour to visit the stunning Woolshed Falls. The small dots you can see in this photo are indeed people, which gives you an idea of the scale of the waterfall. We took a few pictures, including this one, from the viewing platform, and then made our way down the rocks and up the other side to dip our feet in the rushing water. Stepping out of shoes and onto the burning hot slabs of rock made the cool sensation ever better.

Hats are becoming more prominent for us every day. The intensity of the sun means it's important to keep our heads properly covered, even into the evening, as the temperatures don't start falling away until it gets late. Australians are really on the ball when it comes to sunscreen and keeping in the shade, where we perhaps have a tendancy to maximise sunbathing in the UK. Saw a government TV ad the other day which finished with the punchline 'there's nothing healthy about a tan'. Given that 1 in 20 Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma, it's not hard to see why they take that line. I am borrowing this Billabong for now but am looking to make a purchase in the next week or so. All hat suggestions welcome.

After swinging by an amazing cheesecake shop (certain to hear more of that in a future blog) on the way home, we scrolled through the TV guide and found both the Graham Norton Show and Jonathan Ross Show being given prime time slots! Does Australian not make its own chat shows? We thoroughly enjoyed your breakfast news, a few blogs ago, so sticking with the TV theme I want to know what programmes are big in your world at the moment. What are we missing out on? Is anyone watching Mad Dogs on Sky 1? The first series was the best show on TV last year - fact. Let us know your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. I am @stevetervet

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