February 4th – 14th 2016
On the 4th of February we signed the contract to rent our flat in the brand new Southbrook Rise. This is a tiny one bedroom flat, but new and modern and easy to heat and clean. The building used to be an office block, and is being converted into flats. This comes with advantages and disadvantages. If anything goes wrong in the flat, there is still a site office around the back where we can go to ask for a tradesperson to come and check on things. As the general utility providers are not yet established, we got free water and electricity for the first month. However, in order to change from being a business area to being a residential area, Southbrook Rise has to be given a new postcode. Here in the UK postcodes are a big deal. They tell all the government and business computer systems which street the building is on, as well as the general area to which it belongs. So, technically to know where you are, all anyone needs is your flat number and building name, with a postcode. This is a problem when your postcode is brand new. Our postcode was not listed in any of these databases when we moved in and this made a plethora of administrative tasks much more difficult, such as getting phone contracts, and getting a National Insurance Number which is the UK equivalent of a Tax File Number in Australia. The postal system started listing our postcode fairly soon after we moved in, but much further down the track at the start of March, it still can’t be found on many other systems.
Southbrook Rise is much further towards the city centre than where we were previously staying on Archers Road. We are within a 5-10 minute walk of the main train and bus stations. We can also easily walk to the equivalent of Rundle Mall, a street called Above Bar Street which is home to two large shopping complexes, the WestQuay and the Marlands. In addition, our closest shopping centre is now an Asda, a huge supermarket with everything including clothes, but sadly not loose leaf tea. A peculiarity for us compared with Australia is the fact that you can buy alcohol in supermarkets here. We frequently get cheap beer from the Asda to drink over the weekend and the quality is pretty good, with all the major brands we like being available. On the other hand, wine here is terrible imports and very expensive, so we never drink it.
Most of our first week was spent buying and building our furniture and taking care of administrative issues. On the 6th, however, the evening before Lloyd’s actual birthday, we had cake and singing and a long chat with our parents, Charmaine, Emily and Ashton and Brendan and Iona to celebrate. I was even able to take a sort of family photo. During the day we had been unsure whether we would have any internet to use for this, but we managed to sort out some mobile coverage at the last minute. It was of course already his birthday in Australia when we had the chat, so Lloyd referred to it as a ‘quantum birthday’, which he found very amusing. On his birthday, Sunday 7th, we spent most of the day role playing online with Emily and Ashton. It has been a great relief that the games still work pretty much the same online and we get to see their lovely faces every week. It wasn’t the same as the birthday weekend we would have had if we had been in the same place as all our favourite friends and family, but it was a pretty good substitute.
The following week, besides continuing to build furniture and deal with administration, we headed out to Portsmouth on the weekend to visit Nevada Music and obtain Lloyd’s real birthday present, or rather, his birthday, getting a PhD, and landing a job present, a Gibson guitar. We’d been through the budget with a fine tooth comb the previous week and discussed whether we could still afford this long-planned acquisition. Owing to the impending sale of our car back in Australia and the convenient lack of utility bills for the first month, we decided it was manageable, and the guitar came home, along with a Yamaha acoustic for me, so that I could finally get back to song writing.
Of course our trip to Portsmouth also coincided nicely with Valentines Day, which was my excuse for getting a present too. Lloyd had during the week rather impulsively decided he needed a new low D Irish whistle, which we called his Valentines Day present. Valentines Day itself was another day mostly spent role playing with our friends, which was good. I found my first Valentines Day unable to bake for and surprise close friends and family members a bit tough. I’ve always been a believer in letting friends and family know they are loved on this day as well as spouses, and normally this is quite easy, because of course I am the heart-shaped-baking-creation queen. This year it was a struggle to know what to do for these people who I couldn’t bake for or hug or leave surprises under the doormat for so to speak. It taught me how much I genuinely love some of our friends, to an extent I realised not everyone does. I hesitate to label this capacity to feel love for a bunch of people, but I wanted to do something to show it this Valentines Day, despite our distance from these others. In the end I shared my made up biscuit recipe which I used to produce Lloyd’s heart shaped biscuits, so that these friends and family members could make some for each other, and I sent an image of a ‘long distance hug’ which is basically cut out hand prints on a piece of string that if posted, can be wrapped around someone. I couldn’t send everyone these in the mail so I sent a photo, and kept the physical copy of the long distance hug at the flat to send to someone in need of a hug down the track. Mum pointed out that it was like a Claddagh Ring, which was a nice image. I also utilised my new guitar immediately to learn a fun love song. I chose ‘Something in the Water’ by Brooke Fraser and posted my attempt at covering this on YouTube some days after Valentines Day, owing to it being a fair bit more difficult to play than I had expected.
We also did a lot of other music-creating as a result of our new guitars, which I will talk more about in a future entry.