Christmas in the middle of summer

Christmas tree baubles from multiple countries.

Christmas for migrants often means a mix of traditions from several places.

We’re coming up for our second Christmas in Australia and, just like last year, as native Europeans, it’s hard to reconcile the time of year with the weather outdoors. If this feels like familiar ground, then you’d be right – I wrote a post about this ‘Tis the season… except it’s not’, this time last year.

I’m revisiting the point though because of an old newspaper article I chanced across which, I have to say, makes my own uncertainty pale with its agonising over a mid-summer Christmas, and concludes that the only thing to do is to move Australia’s Christmas to 25 June. I kid you not.

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Welcome home

A Qantas Dash 400 aircraft at a domestic gate at Sydney Airport.

The Canberra flight awaits, with Sydney’s international terminal in the background.

I ran. Sydney airport had somehow managed to take 90 minutes to deliver the bags from my inbound London flight to the luggage carousel, where I needed to clear customs before checking them in again for my onwards domestic flight to Canberra.

I dodged the swarm of amblers, greeters and sign-readers on the 500 metre or so walk from International Arrivals to the Domestic Transfers hall. I had imagined it differently – it was almost a year to the day since the whole CBRbound family had arrived via the same route as new migrants. Continue reading

House prices a complex picture for migrants

If there’s one thing that Aussies and Brits have in common, it’s a constant fretting about the housing market – are prices going up or down? Are we at the peak of a price bubble? Should you rent until things calm down?

There’s no shortage of experts willing to offer answers to all of these questions but, in truth, only time will offer up the real answers.

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Danger at dusk

This weekend, as part of researching my next book, I went to a literary festival in Sydney, about a three-to-four hour drive from Canberra, or about the same distance as London to Liverpool.

I had to be in Sydney by 10am, and would be leaving at just after 5pm, but the trip caused me no end of consternation because I found it hard to decide whether to go up and back in a day, or to include an overnight stop along the way.

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Elemental Australia

Banished’, a new BBC drama about the first British penal colony in Australia has had the CBRbound family gripped for the past few weeks. Written by the excellent Jimmy McGovern, writer of Cracker, Hillsborough, The Street, The Accused and many other outstanding series, the show attempts to depict how Australia would have been for those very first European arrivals.

As well as connecting these new arrivals with the story of those early settlers, the show also serves as a reminder of how brutal this land could be, and still can be – something that, as born and bred Europeans, still takes us by surprise.

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Rolling out the red carpet

An aerial shot of New South Wales from an aircraft window.

Our final short flight to Canberra was filled with excitement.

The countdown has begun. In just two weeks, we will be rolling out the red carpet for our first overseas visitor, my mum, Nanny CBRbound.

The boys are excited, and I think Nanny is a little bit nervous. This will be the longest trip she’s ever taken, by far.
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God bedring København

Last night, I walked past the main synagogue in Copenhagen with a friend. We’d just had an evening of catching up, having dinner and enjoying a beer in a favourite local bar of mine.

At the synagogue’s gate, a burly man eyed us intently, darkly even, as we sauntered past. I remember making a passing comment about it to my friend who speculated that it was the temple’s security guard. We both agreed that it was very ‘un-Copenhagen’ – a city characterised by its easy informality – and then the conversation turned to other things.

Half an hour later, back at my hotel room, I start to receive messages from friends and family – are you okay? We’ve seen the news? Are you safe? Continue reading

Canberra’s sporting bonanza

The CBRbound clan likes a bit of sport – we’ve trekked across Europe to see the World Equestrian Games, had season tickets for our favourite football teams, seen the royals play polo, and even been to Wimbledon on men’s semi-finals day, to say nothing of all the sporting activities that the kids actually participated in. But nothing quite prepared us for the feast of sporting activity that is on offer in and around Canberra this southern summer.
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The Syney Opera House, seen from the Manly ferry.

Taking the slow train to Sydney

Inter-city train travel in Australia isn’t fast. It takes more than four hours to travel the 286km from Canberra to Sydney, but what the journey lacks in speed, it more than makes up for with its in-flight entertainment, otherwise known as the scenery.

Whatever the merits of living in Canberra, it’s fair to say that Australia’s capital doesn’t represent most people’s view of a classic Australian landscape – at least, not until you head out into the countryside. But board one of the three daily trains that leave Canberra’s only station and the ‘real Australia’ quickly reveals itself. Continue reading