And the winner is… Melbourne!

So it’s official. Actually it’s not official at all, I’ve hardly told anyone. But most people I know don’t read this blog so I’m saying it here: we’re moving to Melbourne! I have no idea how we’ll afford it, but the plan is to go early next year, once life has settled down after the New Year but before the Dude’s birthday in May. I’m thinking March or April. I can’t believe it’s finally going to happen. Mr Chewbacca has been reluctant for a long time, and it’s really my fault we didn’t end up there to begin with, instead of crappy Sydney. Back in June 2009 he actually agreed on Melbourne, even though he didn’t like it, but I felt bad for him so I agreed we’d go to Sydney. Big mistakey!

But now it’s here. Mr C has finally seen the light about why Sydney doesn’t suit us and why Melbourne might. I’m not under any illusions that it’s going to be some kind of utopia. In fact I think we’ll probably end up back in the UK at some point down the track. But at the moment, it’s Melbourne. I’m excited because it means we are finally settling somewhere. I can actually look around and think about buying a house, once we’ve been there six months or so and have a feel for the place.

It’s all happening at the moment in our world. Not only have we made that big decision, but we’re off to the UK in November (again, how we’ll afford it I don’t know but I have faith that it’ll work out).

Actually that’s more what this post is about: faith. Positive thinking actually. Mr C gets shitty with me for just believing stuff will work out when it’s an impossibility but from my perspective, unless we’re going to change our plans, what’s the point in being negative? Even realistic can be a trap.

Take our UK trip, for argument’s sake. We have paid for our tickets in full but we really don’t have spending money. In addition, Mr C will not be working while we’re gone and will therefore not ve getting paid for three weeks. To top it all off, our car rego is due then, which is close to a grand. Fuck! Sounds freaking impossible, right? Yeah, it’s shit. But I believe that we are meant to go on this trip. And because the Universe is on our side, somehow we’ll manage to make it work. Not sure how, which is the scary bit, but I just know we will. Like that song… Who was it, Paul Simon? Can’t remember. But it went something like:

We are going, heaven knows where we are going. We’ll know we’re there.

We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there. We know we will.

It will be hard, we know, and the road will be muddy and rough but we’ll get there, heaven knows how we will get there. We know we will.

Yes.

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Pregnancy and nesting

So I’m now 27 weeks along and feeling just fine. It’s certainly been an interesting ride so far.  Baby’s head is sitting firmly in my pelvis (not a pleasant feeling on the bladder) and feet and hands are moving almost constantly. Which is good, it’s what’s meant to be happening apparently. Despite being overweight, I’m healthy, blood pressure is normal, baby’s heart rate is normal and I feel good.  Being pregnant hasn’t been hard yet, but I suspect as I venture into this third trimester I’ll start to feel a bit heavy.

I’m having the baby at home, not in a hospital, which has been my wish from before I even wanted to be pregnant (or had someone to get me pregnant!) and I’m really excited about it all. At first I was a bit apprehensive about giving birth in our loungeroom, as we live in a tiny one bedroom flat under a big mansion, so it’s not like I can dedicate a room as the birthing room, and baby won’t have his or her own room (not that it’s needed anyway early on). We’d talked about moving out to somewhere with two bedrooms before baby arrived, and I thought this was the plan until a couple of months ago my husband mentioned casually how he’d been telling people I was having the baby in our lounge in our current flat.  I was surprised to hear this!  Turns out he’d worked it all out in his own head but had forgotten to mention it to me.  He said he thought it made sense – we live in one of the best suburbs in Sydney, right up on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  It’s so beautiful that tourists come here from everywhere just to walk around across the road from our house, and it’s the perfect place – calm, natural, quiet, awe-inspiring – to bring a baby into the world and for him or her to spend the first few months of life.  He commented yesterday that the lounge is such a peaceful room, not too bright but not too dark, large enough to fit a big pool in, wooden floors to help deal with any, erm, spills, and just a generally serene place, perfect for the arrival of our first baby.  I soon realised that he was right and that we didn’t need to move.

And that brings me to the nesting part of this post.  I still can’t get used to Sydney as my home.  I don’t want to, the truth be told.  I don’t want to be a part of this place.  It’s like it bores into my soul, or strips something out of me every time I drive through the city.  Just being in Sydney often makes me feel like my life is at an end!  I feel hopeless here.  We’ve made some lovely friends, good people, whose company I enjoy; but at some level it feels a bit like we’re trying too hard.  It’s like Jerry Seinfeld says, you get to a point in your life where you have your friends, and you don’t need or want any more; you’ve only got a certain number of ‘slots’ to fill and those are all filled.  I guess I’m also unique in this sense because I don’t ‘need’ friends as such, or at least I don’t have to socialise to feel complete.  Socialising for me is an effort.  Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy it once I’m doing it, but sometimes I just want me time, alone time.  My husband is the opposite, and although he loves doing his own thing or just spending time with me, he really needs lots of people around him and lots of stuff happening constantly.  He’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert, in the simplest sense.

I’m really over complaining about Sydney; I don’t like it, end of story, and I will never feel at home here.  I want to move to Melbourne.  At least the city has no negative affiliations for me, I can start fresh there, and I do have some good friends there who I’d like to see more often.  More than anything, it’s about starting fresh and settling down properly, instead of this forced ‘plonking’ I’ve done in Sydney.  I’m only here because husband wanted to come here, and I figured it wasn’t fair of me to make him move to a city that he, at the time, hated; he’s coming to live on the other side of the world with me, so I should at least give him the choice of city.  Oh how I wish I hadn’t relented!

I’ll never forget that moment I chose my Sydney fate.  We’d had a few drinks, more than a few really, having come from an annual rugby club dinner at the Houses of Parliament (London), and we were partying the night away at the after party which was on one of those permanently moored boats along the Embankment – Tattersall Castle?  Or was it Queen Mary or whatever that other one is called…? I can’t remember.  It was somewhere close to midnight, and we happened to coordinate our air (read: cigarette) breaks up on the deck outside.  I wore a cheap, black cocktail dress I’d bought off eBay for 30 pounds and I was hot and sweaty from dancing downstairs in the nightclub.

“Okay. Let’s go to Melbourne then.”  He looked at me with the most forlorn look on his face.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and asked him to repeat it, which he did.  My reaction wasn’t what he or I expected; it was delayed, and not because I was utterly overjoyed at the prospect of moving to a city I’d wanted to live in for a good ten years.  I couldn’t handle allowing him to make that sacrifice for me, to move to a city that, four years prior, he’d experienced as cold, unfriendly, and generally boring, when he knew Sydney a little, and had found it so friendly, warm, sunny, full of fun and beaches and pubs and his favourite rugby.  I finally hugged him and said “thank you”.  But I couldn’t feel happy; I felt deflated, like it was a bit of an anti-climax.  And he was clearly miserable.

We went back downstairs and I told a friend from Melbourne that the decision had been made; needless to say she was very happy, as was her Kiwi boyfriend who was going to be moving down around the same time as us and knew no one in the city.

I really wish I’d ignored my man’s misery and ploughed ahead with the plan of Melbourne; but how would we have booked a wedding venue when neither of us really knew the city?  How could we have moved there any way?  We’d have had to organise every aspect of our wedding in the four months between arriving in January and getting married in April, and that’s ignoring the fact we’d need to find a place to live and get jobs.  Could it have been done?  I can’t answer that, because we never attempted it.  Maybe there’s a parallel universe somewhere with a version of me living in Melbourne, buying a house there, decorating a room for this baby, planting vegies in the garden, working as a freelance editor for some awesome publishing house… Or maybe that other version of me is just as miserable as this one, knowing that Australia is the wrong place to be.  Coming home has made me question why we ever did it, why we left London.  I know it was because I wanted to bring my children up and settle down somewhere more family-friendly, slower-paced, with better weather and more social freedom.  But that idealistic picture I had of Australia is slowly becoming eroded, as I realise more and more just how behind we are here, and how maybe being here doesn’t suit me as I thought.  Maybe that realisation I had at 18 that I was actually Australian and not European is being turned on its head, and once again I struggle with my cultural and social identity.  Time will tell…

The Melbourne vs Sydney debate

How I arrived at an answer to the question: where to live – Melbourne or Sydney?

Everyone who’s actually heard of it thinks Canberra is a shithole. It’s not. Yes, it’s small, spread out, lacking in population, insular, manufactured specifically for the seat of government in Australia. But the fact is, it’s unusual and this makes it appealing.

Does it look like a bunch of confusing roundabouts wedged into bushland?

I grew up there, but I don’t think I’m biased. I was born in Sydney, and when I was about 2 or 3, my parents and I moved to Canberra; for the obvious reason – public service jobs.  Well, on the surface it was for that reason, but I think underneath my parents had more reasons. We lived in a beautiful area of Sydney, around Mosman, which back in the late 70s and early 80s (when we were there) was stunningly beautiful, as it still is, and quite affordable, which it no longer is.

My dad was trying his hardest not to do what his own father did and uproot his family time and time again, but in fact he did exactly that. My mum wanted a pure and simple life for me, and Sydney wouldn’t  provide that in the same easy way Canberra could. So we moved. And now I say ‘I’m from Canberra’.

Living there, once I’d finished school and uni and was working, I got into a terrible rut. I wasn’t happy and I knew it. I was something of a hermit, watching too much tv, eating crap, and going out with friends occasionally when I could stand it. Life there was really unhealthy, and although it’s the kind of place where you can lead a really healthy, simple life, something made me fall into this neverending cycle of self-indulgent, lonely, depressive behaviour.

Is it really that stunning or just plain odd having a city perched on those fingers of land?

I always had this idea about moving to Melbourne – I think because it wasn’t Sydney really, and I always felt it was like Canberra and Sydney combined; the order and small town feeling of Canberra, with the big city ‘things are happening’ feel of Sydney. My whole life I’ve driven up and down to Sydney, back and forth, hundreds of times, and it’s always been quite a negative experience for me. The sticky heat, the traffic, the roadworks, the smog, the pretentious people, the consumerism, the superficiality (see, here comes the angry rant already, bubbling up inside me like puss from an infected wound)…

Sydney has a lot of negative memories, experiences, feelings attached to it for me. I’ve only recently realised just how much that stuff has affected my view of the place. Yes, it is expensive, congested, busy, hot, uncomfortable… but it’s also stunning, full of beaches, cafe lifestyle, so many places to go and explore, and it’s varied, it’s all different.

I first went to Melbourne at 16 with my friend – we took the bus there from Canberra, nine hours all up. I liked it because it was new to me, and it was a proper city, unlike Canberra.  There was great shopping to be had, lovely little cafes where we had cheap breakfast, and it was so easy to find your way around on the grid system.

It doesn’t look very distinct but it’s not about the outside appearance.

Yes, I loved Melbourne, and I still do. But I loved it because I knew nothing else but Canberra and Sydney. What was Sydney to me? We’d always go there to visit relatives, and both sides of my family were not the healthiest or happiest, so there was always an element of negativity, and I’d feel trapped there, couldn’t wait to get out.  I loved it when I got my driver’s licence and could just get in the car and leave when I wanted to.  Such freedom.  I always enjoyed the drive, and I think driving those three or four hours each way every few months contributed to my love of driving and road trips.  As soon as I’d hit Campbeltown, and the outskirts of Sydney, I’d get disoriented and lose my bearings completely.

I never know where anything is in Sydney; I know the names of suburbs and areas, and I know who lives where, but where all those places are in relation to each other, I haven’t got a clue!  I’d just drive and try to follow signs to where I was going and hope for the best, but inevitably I’d find myself going over one bridge, then another, and before I knew it, I’d be in the northern beaches again.  I once even ended up in Hornsby, which is on the way out of northern Sydney.  My grandparents lived in Manly, and somehow I was always drawn there, it seemed like the easiest place to get to.  So overall, I hated Sydney with a passion and vowed I’d never live there.

I’d wanted to move to Melbourne for a few years when I left Canberra for London.  A few of my friends were planning on moving there, and it just seemed like the best place for me, a single girl, to move and make my own life better.  There were possibilities in Melbourne, and being the arts capital of Australia, I thought it would fit me perfectly.  I looked forward to moving there for years, and it always played on the back of my mind – my personal utopia, where everything in my life would slip magically into a pattern of harmony, balance and joy in being alive.

I certainly didn’t want to go to London, which I’d hated both previous times I’d visited, but something inside me told me it was my only hope for pulling myself out of that Canberra rut and really reaching my potential.  Of course, that was the right instinct, and it did exactly that.

Despite my transition from hermit to happy, I still carried that Melbourne dream with me, thinking about how great it would be.  So many of my friends have moved there recently, and I saw myself there; or at least I thought I did.  When I met my future husband, things changed.  He wanted to go to Sydney!  What?!  Sydney???!  Hell no!!  I couldn’t believe anyone would want to go there.  To me, Sydney was London, just with better weather and beaches.  And I was planning to leave London, I wanted the quiet life.  Or did I?

For my boyfriend’s sake, I seriously considered Sydney.  I read suburb descriptions online, read polls about Melbourne versus Sydney, and time and time again, I came back to the idea of Melbourne; I just couldn’t do Sydney.  So although I wasn’t adamant, it was pretty clear to my boyfriend that I wasn’t going to agree on Sydney.  He eventually said, right, that’s it, let’s go to Melbourne then.  And I wasn’t excited.  It just didn’t seem right.  I was confused as hell!  I was glad, happy that he would make that sacrifice for me, as I knew he hated Melbourne (and had initially wanted Perth but, you know, instant veto, for the obvious reasons…)  But something just wasn’t feeling good about the decision.  So I emailed a few friends and told them he’d agreed to Melbourne and it was official.  As soon as I started telling people, I knew it was the wrong decision.  I really didn’t want Melbourne; it wasn’t me any more.

I suddenly became acutely aware of just how much I’d changed since I’d come to London.  I knew there’d been huge changes, and I’d talked a lot about them to others.  But what I didn’t realise was that Melbourne didn’t suit me any more, as a woman in a committed relationship with a man, ready to settle and have a life together.  Melbourne might suit me as a single girl, flitting about and having coffee with friends in trendy cafes on weekends.  But now I wanted to make a partnership, a family life; and I thought Melbourne would be a good place for bringing up kids, which it would be.  But in all honesty, it’s foreign to me.  I’ve been there maybe three or four times all up, and it’s still very much new and unknown; I can only apply very limited knowledge to it, and the rest of my feelings about Melbourne are influenced by projections I have about the place.

So in my Melbourne vs Sydney debate, Sydney seems to have won.  Not because it’s the ‘better’ city, but because it matches who I am in this very moment.