One of the most important political events in the world was unfolding under my balcony, so naturally, I took the opportunity to escape. There is no selfie with a foreign dignitary in the world that would compensate being covered in protester’s projectile of choice (eggs, rocks, molotov cocktail?), being strip searched by the police or, most sobering, being a victim of the T word.
My office was closed for the whole working week so I popped down to Newcastle on the proceeding Saturday. The flight was uneventful, unlike the daytrip I took earlier in the week, on Thursday, to attend a meeting at Hexham where, on our return to Brisbane, we were delayed 45 minutes, instructed to fly away from Brisbane airspace, landed in a thunderstorm and then waited for 50 minutes on the tarmac until the storm subsided and ground crew could receive us. I usually try not to ponder a flight-related fatality, especially whilst in the air, but as lightning turned the dark clouds surrounding us into strobe lights, I couldn’t help but think how embarrassing it would be if I had spent my last hours on earth watching old episodes of Fawlty Towers. What an anti-climax. Luckily Em had a wonderful hot meal of mussels to fortify my nerves when I got home.
But back to the trip at hand. As mentioned, I arrived in Newcastle the Saturday before G20, leaving behind my very first capsicum to fend for itself against protestors, politicians and police.
My first engineering task was to assist with some couch manipulation in order to move a chair from my Aunt and Uncle’s study to their living room. It turned out that all of this struggle was to accommodate me in the family room, and I felt very welcomed.
Determined not to squander my time away in wanton (wonton?) laziness, I rallied my cousinesses to attend a Body Balance class at the gym. Naomi arrived early with a surprise for us in her thermos. I was secretly hoping for hot chocolate, but Naomi had very sensibly made us all a green smoothie to start the day.
We all felt quite relaxed after the class and continued our relaxation with some lunch and light shopping.
I was to spend the week working in the Hexham project site office. My colleague, Dominy, picked me up before the crack of dawn so it was very lucky that the office had a coffee machine.
The site office was quite an old building, with a brick structure, covered on the inside with 60s style wood panels and with an art deco facade on the outside. I sat the photocopy room – a small room which echoed every time someone walked up the stairs. I felt a little like pre-Hogwarts Harry Potter.
However, I started to feel more like Hogwarts era Harry in terms of sharing one’s environment with something that isn’t entirely muggle… The longer I sat in my little office the more I felt that there was someone sitting behind me, looking over my shoulder. And as I was quietly closing one of the doors between corridors, something from the other side pulled the knob out of my hand and slammed the door. Creepy! Though, what can one expect from a building with “Hex” in the name…
It is our tradition in Brisbane that we have dinner at a pub called The Grove on second-Wednesday nights to celebrate Aidan’s return home from his FIFO job. Without intending to carry on a semblance of this tradition, my aunt and uncle invited me to their usual Wednesday night haunt, The Lemongrove, for dinner, a meat raffle and a members’ draw.
My aunt won a ham and I tried out a gluten free apple cider so everyone was a winner!
After sitting at the right people at this dinner, I was given the opportunity to ride in a coal train cab on Thursday. I found it really interesting and pertinent to my vocation to see how my end users actually use the product of my labour. The drivers I was with were also really friendly guys, happy to answer my questions at appropriate times on our journey. I imagine that most of you don’t actually want to see 50 photos of NSW coloured light signals, or the numerous videos I took of aspect sequencing, so I’ll move on.
Thursday marked the last day of my working week due to the Friday G20 public holiday. Although, working and living in a different location, going on exciting train adventures, and possibly experiencing paranormal office activity did make it less work-like than usual.
On Friday morning, my aunt, uncle and I went for a little shopping excursion and had some morning tea.
I had intended to catch the train to Maitland to visit my cousin for lunch. I bought my Opal card at Waratah station, tapped it on and boarded the train.
It was all going well. I watched the wetlands fly past the window while reading my crumpled copy of the Big Issue. That was, until we got to Thornton and the train stopped for half and hour. We were asked to de-train and then the train left, passengerless, stranding us in what appeared to me to be the molten core of nowhere. It was so hot I thought I was going to melt – “Oh what a world! What a world!” – into a slimy pile of paisley goo topped with my felt hat. Luckily Kel came to save me.
InstaWeather record of the temperature
We indulged in some Hogs Breath for lunch and picked up the boys from school. Kel dropped me at the station I had intended to visit earlier in the day and I made it all the way back to Waratah.
Back in Newcastle, my uncle and I went on a little shopping excursion where I found a “thank you for putting up with me” present for my aunt – a disco rubber duck that flashed rainbow colours!
In the evening, we took some photos before heading out for a night on the town.
Naomi and Paul accompanied me to an art exhibition opening that I’d seen advertised on Facebook as the artists are folk music buddies of one of my friends. I’d also purchased some of their jewellery before. Upon arriving at the gallery, Naomi and Paul realised that they already knew one half of the Strutt Sisters because she is the mother of one of their daughter’s classmates. So I attended “The Strutt Sister’s: Let the Chips Fall Where They May” as a friend of a friend, an existing customer and the second cousin of a son’s classmate. Just call me Kevin Bacon!
I was already reasonably excited for my night out, but I was tipped over the tickled pink edge upon finding that the gallery doors were painted like a TARDIS!
You can check out the exhibition here:
My favourite was, not surprisingly, Lights Out, because it featured a steam train.
We also ended up with our photo on the internet!
After dinner, Naomi and I attempted to go to a Japanese restaurant on Darby Street, but its listed address ended up being a carpark. In the end, we caught a taxi to Honeysuckle and got a table at what appeared to be a very popular Japanese restaurant overlooking the harbour.
Aside from NSW liquor licensing preventing me from ordering a milk-based cocktail from the menu (which hadn’t been updated), we had a lovely evening of Japanese tapas.
The waiter even complimented me on my Japanese pronunciation when ordering! We finished off our multicultural meal experience with dessert at Movenpick.
Saturday started off as a lazy rainy day of lounging on the couch, followed by a treat of McDonald’s for lunch with 3/4 of the Trute family. In the afternoon, we created a menagerie of Play Doh animals, where I did my best to avoid the glitter Play Doh while still appearing to be a “cool Aunt”. (I don’t think this worked and I’m pretty sure Amy at 4 years old, is much cooler than I will ever be.)
For dinner, I made Thai fish curry as a pay back for all the amazing food my aunt and uncle had fed me during the working week.
On Sunday morning, the house was transformed into a feminine hygiene factory with a working bee of volunteers making products for Days for Girls. (You can see an explanation of their great cause here
.) I took some photos to document the occasion and then got out of the way, catching the train to Maitland (and actually getting all the way there this time.)
Kel and I had a disappointing and windswept walk around the Maitland markets (which had apparently taken a turn for the worst) and then stopped in at The Pourhouse, a boutique beer bar in downtown Maitland. I tried out a testing platter of Willie Smith’s Organic Cider, Kooinda Valhalla Golden Ale and Doctor’s Orders Brewing Prescription 12 Belgian Black IPA all of which, I thoroughly enjoyed.
I then washed it down with a burger and chips “chaser”.
After lunch, we went for a little wander around the shops. I was complimented on my brooch (which was an Empress Wu original) by the shop assistant in Bras ‘n Things and got into a conversation with her about fashion design. She told me that her nephew often designed for Cate Blanchett. I asked if he was the designer of “that dress” and indeed he was. I was inspired by that design to create my first crocheted garment a few years earlier.
What a strange coincidence…
I also bought a shirt at Cotton On Body which reads “COCO NUT”, which I thought was hilarious at the time. Note to self: minimize shopping after going beer tasting.
I was also pretty excited about finding a train!
I spent my last evening in Newcastle crocheting and watching a Cilla Black biopic.
Monday was a quiet day of retrieving all my possessions which had spread around my aunt and uncle’s house, and playing babushka doll shop with Amy (an excellent game, especially when Amy’s shop introduced a convenient online shopping and delivery arm!) until it was time to fly home.
Despite this being a work-related trip, I had a wonderful and relaxing time with my family in Newcastle. Perhaps I should bring a Simmons/Trute entourage on all my future site visits to make them just as enjoyable as this one!
P.S. I arrived home to find that my apartment building was still standing, undamaged, largely because it was too darn hot for protesters to be bothered doing anything more strenuous than a slow walk with placards.