Sunday, 18 March 2012

A winning Formula

Welcome back to our Australian adventure. We've been here for two months now and I hope you're still enjoying following our progress.

I want this blog to be an honest reflection of our time Down Under. I'm aware that most of the time it equates to our 'Best Bits', as the times we have the camera with us are those when we have stuff planned - mainly at the weekends. We have already met some awesome people and visited some spectacular places. Sport has featured a lot - as you'd expect. But the day-to-day stuff doesn't get highlighted that often. Rachel is doing well at her school, although teaching in a completely new place of course throws up regular challenges. I am still looking for work, which isn't ideal. I miss my work back home - not that I left a job to be here - so I need perseverance and patience in equal measure. Most of our friends, reading this, are thousands of miles away. But the internet makes the world a smaller place and your emails, skype calls, Facebook messages and tweets are a lifeline. Oh, and letters. Rachel loves getting letters!

A load more photos have just gone up on the front of our fridge-freezer. Are you on there? Click to enlarge the pics.

So, onto the blog itself. I was fortunate enough to watch the practice sessions at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Friday. I travelled by train from Albury, which 'boasts' one of the country's largest covered platforms. Having bought my ticket, I was told the train was running 'a tad late'. An hour late, in fact. So that's why I had enough time to read up on station trivia...

The train journey itself was very smooth. They announced over the intercom that hot meals would be served, read out the menu and staff then came to take our orders. Does this happen anywhere on the UK rail network? I've certainly never come across it before. I went for the spaghetti bolognese, which was marginally cheaper than the chicken schnitzel and beef teriyaki. Superb service.

I spent the night at Rob & Jan Bell's house. In the morning, one train and one tram got me to Albert Park in good time. I was there before the gates opened at 10.30am.

The V8 Supercars (above) were a good aperitif before the main event - and they gave us a hint of the noise that was to come.

I got to watch the first practice session from the James Boag's Draught Superbox after entering an online competition earlier in the week. The scream of the engines was phenomenal and I quickly reached for the $2 earplugs I had bought on my way into the park. They were little more than two lumps of plasticine, though, and didn't stay in place, so I had to tough out the noise. Later in the day, I realised my iPod headphones were a decent alternative. It took a while for the action to get going, but by the end of the session all the cars were out and the track got pretty busy.

Away from the track, there was a 15-minute freestyle display by a touring group of dirt bike riders called the Crusty Demons. The guy with the mic revved up the crowd and gave a running commentary while the bikers went through a series of 'daredevil' stunts. They were excellent value and their deafening soundtrack, which featured Darude and Limp Bizkit, further added to the experience.

As you can see, the weather in Melbourne wasn't fantastic. There were sunny spells, but when the rain arrived, it really lashed down. Away from the grandstands, there are limited covered areas. Some people huddled under umbrellas and ponchos, while I found shelter underneath the F1 simulator (like the ones you see by the beach) with a handful of other blokes. The ground quickly turned into a swamp and it made driving conditions pretty tricky too.

Really good crowds across the weekend, in excess of 300,000.

Jenson Button went on to win Sunday's race for McLaren.

This was my vantage point during the second practice session.

More food on the train home. This time, a Devonshire Tea. The only negative: dried fruit in the scones.

We hosted a meal for the first time when a group of friends from church dropped by Park Avenue. It was great to share our home with people who have been so welcoming since our arrival in Albury. Pictured (left to right) are Gemma, Ray, Amanda, Cameron, Michelle and Rhi.

This brilliant little man (in green) is Zach, Cam and Michelle's son. Zach turns one at the end of March and although he's a man of few words - very wise - he's definitely nailed "ball", which suggests Australia has produced another sportsman of the future.


Rachel and I are taking a schoolboy football team, representing Albury, to a regional competition. Last week we ran trials for boys in Years 5 and 6, from schools across the city, and from a group of around 25 we selected a squad of 14. We will run a training session on Tuesday [March 20] before travelling to Cootamundra - Google it, it's a long poke - for the tournament seven days later. Early days, but thoroughly enjoying it so far.

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