20 years in Australia


Twenty years
Well, well, well – it’s been 20 years since I arrived on these shores and started calling Melbourne home - 20 glorious years. I arrived as a happy man looking for adventures and fun and I am now an even happier man having had more adventures than I could have wished for.

It is strange to think of my life before arriving here – it doesn’t feel real - I can remember the things I did but I can’t remember how things felt. I remember the places I lived, the people I knew, the interactions I had, the laughs and the conversations, but they feel more like they are from a movie rather than the real world. I know that I was happy, lived in some good places, did some interesting jobs, met some lovely people, enjoyed it all - but I feel disassociated from it now.

My life here is nothing like the life I had in any of the other cities that I had lived in. What is different? Climate, attitudes, space, options, pace, expectations, desire, satisfaction, look and feel - that is quite a lot when listed.

So, as I have hit a landmark, it feels opportune to evaluate and assess.

As I tend to do, when I am looking to tell a story, I think of it as a book and determine what the chapters are - creating the spine of the tale. When thinking of chapters, it makes more sense to use broader strokes of where I lived rather than break it down by what job I did. Over the top of homes and jobs, there are relationships to be considered too, but if my story depended on them, then it wouldn’t have much of a spine at all – far too many gaps.



It is tough to think of how much of who I now am is down to Melbourne and how much is down to my attitude to life. I would have evolved wherever I happened to be and I would have embraced the life in which ever place I lived. I couldn’t say that I have done more here than I would have done elsewhere as it is impossible to know, but I do know that Melbourne has many options available to select from - and that certainly allows for more variation.

So here (in brief) is my Australian story ...



Chapter 1: Discovery
(Clifton Hill from February 1998 to August 1998)

I landed in Melbourne on the morning of Tuesday 3rd February 1998 and was greeted by my mate Murat, who had invited me to stay at his place until I settled. I started work the next day in a role that wasn't too stressful, but it did require me being on overnight support, so not my ideal. Though Murat was generous with his time and sharing his world, it was important for me to establish my own Melbourne life, so I started by doing some night school classes in the city. I also started discovering the hugely active music scene that existed in Melbourne. I also met Francine and was embraced by her, her family and her friends and life started filling out nicely.

Melbourne is very easy to get around using public transport, so exploring was easy. It was also new for me to have such a foody way of life – there are food options everywhere and it encourages the type of socialising that I didn’t have in the UK. And as the weather is better than I was used to, it was nice to experience the delights on offer that occur when you can rely on an outdoor way of life. Another change was the amount of space that there seemed to be – not as crowded as what I had left behind. As such, my pace of life was busier in terms of what I was doing, but I was moving slower (or more relaxed) than before – it is an easy place to live.



Chapter 2: Establishing
(Richmond from August 1998 to February 2000)

I was making new friends through work, being out and about, and also through friends - it was great how quickly I established a group of people I could enjoy good times with. After 6 months, the time was right for me to rent a place on my own and I pondered the best location in regards to work, the city and my social life. With those in mind, I decided Richmond was the place and I found a nice house to rent with easy access to the life I was living.

During that time, I was discovering more and more about what goes on in this city - plenty to keep my evenings busy and to allow my world to grow. Back then, there were a huge number of venues of various sizes, supporting and exposing the large amount of musical talent that this city houses and generates - it gave me room to explore and learn.

Socially, I was going to more and more things and I was living long days as I submerged myself into an active social life with a friendship group that grew as I connected with more folk who in turn opened me up to new avenues and suggestions. I had a thirst for this new life and tried to include more and more people to join me at things or to catch up with. It can get tiring when you are working, being on call, going out to share a meal with friends, going to events, etc. but for me, it sort of developed an energy of its own and the more I did, the more alive I felt - I recognise that a lot of that energy was the product of discovery. I often talk about my inner Tintin - the part of me that craves adventure - he was certainly getting his wishes granted at that time - new places, music, people and options - happy days indeed as my sense of Melbourne grew - the more I discovered, the richer my life became.

During 1999, I returned to the UK on a holiday and it was an interesting experience to be a visitor in my home country. It was obviously good to see family and friends, but something had changed - I didn’t feel like it was home. There is a different energy in the UK than in Australia - there is a bit more tension in the air and a sense of trouble that I hadn’t felt in my time in Australia. Whether it was real or imagined, I couldn’t say, but I felt more closed in the UK whereas I felt very open over in Australia. It’s hard to explain.

And as the millennium arrived, people talked about changes they would make and how life was going to be different - a time to assess and review. I looked back and realised that my choices had brought me to where I wanted to be and I didn't think of the future other than look forward to what it would reveal.



Chapter 3: Building
(Richmond from February 2000 to March 2002)

I was feeling very comfortable with my life at that time as well as all the options I had in place - plenty of socialising and being out and about. Work was ok - well, I managed to keep employed and that provided the funds for my lifestyle. I moved into the apartment opposite from where I had been living - a great place with a huge balcony that had great views of the city. As I look back now, though there aren’t any major events that come to mind - it was just a good and solid time. I’m not sure whether I changed much as it wasn’t a time of growth as much as a time of building a solid foundation of friends to share good times with.



Chapter 4: Surviving
(South Melbourne from March 2002 to July 2002)

In early 2002, I found myself finishing one role and struggling to find a new one – there was not much work around in my field at that time - companies were short of funds having invested huge amounts in both Y2K and then the introduction of GST, so they now tightened their purse strings and work became scarce. This was a scary time as my Business Visa depended on me working, so if it came to their attention that I was between jobs, they could have revoked my visa and I’d have to leave. It was a very uncomfortable situation to find myself in.

To preserve my funds whilst I looked for work, I left my apartment and moved in with a friend (who turned out to not be a friend) in a house in South Melbourne that also had an additional couple of nice people living there. I had 3 months of keeping a low profile, looking for work, relaxing in cafes, reading, watching the world and chatting to folk. It was a good but also weird time that gave me a perspective of where I was and what was available to me.

I knew that I loved being in Melbourne and I felt blessed to have so many great friends who were only too willing to join me in my adventures. But I also realised that my time in Australia was fragile unless I could find a way of cementing my place in this world - but there were very few options available to me to do that.



Chapter 5: Continuity
(City from July 2002 to July 2003)

Having found myself a new role and being made uncomfortable in the house share, I was back to living on my own in an apartment – this time in the City itself.

I got back into the life of music and eating out and socialising – and with renewed vigour. I seemed to be meeting lots of new friends and that opened new doors and new views of what was out there. A rewarding time of growth in terms of what I did, but probably not so much in who I was - I was like a kid who had been told that he didn’t have to go to bed yet - so I was making the most of my time before I did have to.

I did like the location of where I was living as it gave me so much access to everywhere. It was a time where, though I was very busy, a lot of what I did was on my own too – a great balance of my energy.

I landed another new role in the city, so had a short stroll to get to work and that was another delight in this time. That role was one that led to a huge increase in socialising as the project was full of like-minded folk and it was a time where I was part of a large, warm and social community, thus adding a new dimension to my world. Prior to this, it was more staggered – this was a time where continuity seemed to grow.

So I had my life in Melbourne blossoming, but had a reminder of my old world when my grandmother died back in the UK. Obviously there is a lot of distance between Australia and the UK, but the distance seems even more than the physical one, as there is no real overlap in what I do here and what I did back there - they really are two different lives and worlds.



Chapter 6: Decisions
(City from July 2003 to July 2005)

Having been in the one apartment for a year, I moved to another in the same complex, though in a quieter spot - it felt much better there, though it was slightly smaller.

Whilst enjoying my busy and full life, I was contacted by the Immigration Department informing me that my visa had expired and I had been an illegal immigrant for about 5 months. They acknowledged that it wasn’t my fault, but I’d have to leave the country for a week whilst they sorted it out and then I could return with my visa reinstated. I left in good faith and was then told that I couldn’t return for 3 years! I appealed that decision and 7 weeks later, they allowed me back - I owe thanks to all the folk who supported my appeal, who wrote reference letters and to my work for holding the job open and speaking on my behalf too. It was a horrible time where my future was up in the air and I was at the mercy of bureaucrats. All my stuff was in my apartment in Melbourne and I wasn’t allowed back for all that time. The whole experience was a real jolt and let me see how little control I had over my destiny.

A few months after my return, I was alerted to a permanent job at a small company out of the city - the main attraction being that they would support my application for Permanent Residency. So I took the job and it was a challenge in respect to the work I was doing, its employees, the salary, and the location. Though it wasn't much fun, it was what I needed to do and some things require sacrifice.



Chapter 7: Sorted
(Richmond from July 2005 to May 2009)

Based upon the location of this job and the need to get a train and a bus to get there, I moved back to Richmond and into a nice apartment in a very good location in terms of general access.

Four months into the new job, I returned to the UK when my father suddenly died - I won’t say much other than it was a weird experience - very surreal and threw me off track. I missed the funeral by a few hours, but that was ok - I was back to see the living - the dead look after themselves.

Soon after returning to Australia, I heard that my application for Permanent Residency had been successful. So just like that, Australia was my permanent - I no longer had to look over my shoulder and wonder - I could just look forwards and enjoy whatever I encountered.

One of the first things that happened was that I left the weird job by mutual agreement with the owner of the company, and I started a contract at a place in the City.

Another positive change came when I learnt to ride a scooter. I hadn’t had a car in all my Australian time as I had been comfortable using public transport and that had allowed me access to all the places I wanted to go. But now, with my scooter, I could not only get to places quicker, but also get to more places during a day and the range of my world expanded.

And on 13/03/08, I was granted Citizenship to this fine country with the bonus of it being a dual nationality deal, thus allowing me to maintain my British citizenship. And as I became more settled, I took up the offer of a permanent job where I had been contracting.

Life was grand and socially, it got busier with more people, shows, music, this and that. This hedonistic lifestyle continued unchallenged for 3 years - I was happy and I was enjoying myself.



Chapter 8: Settling
(near St Kilda from May 2009 and still there)

I eventually tired of the uncertainty of renting and was bored with moving every now and then, so I bought myself an apartment near St Kilda and I am still there. So I was an Australian citizen, had a permanent job and my own place to call home. Is that called settling down?

Well, maybe for a while, but life goes on and adventures come and go, as do people. I ended a long-term relationship and I took a few months off from work when I left my job after seven years and I am on my third contract since then.

During this chapter, I have had a very comfortable time and it remains a hedonistic one. I have met many wonderful people and had some interesting relationships and have become extremely comfortable with where I am and what I do. I have been to so many wonderful events, seen some amazing things and had some great holidays - the UK (4 times), Thailand (twice), Gold Coast, New York (twice), San Francisco (twice), Paris, Santa Monica, Las Vegas, Basalt, Barcelona, Singapore, China and Amsterdam.



It intrigues me is how much of who I am now is down to Melbourne and how much is down to the type of personality I have. What makes a person who they are anyway? Things happen and it is our acceptance or resistance to them that make them a good or bad thing to us. It is what we decide to do as well as what we decide not to do that defines us. Does it matter as to why we make decisions or is it just down to the fact that the decision was made? Melbourne offers me more options than any other place I have lived, but the choices I make are still mine.

I am excited by opportunity and love choosing what to do each day – I wake up to a blank canvass and I do feel disappointed if I end the day with the canvass still blank. We have a limited number of days, so it feels wasteful to not fill them with experience and value. We all have our own values and that is the value that matters.

I have a thirst for adventure. I am interested in people and their stories. I enjoy doing stuff on my own, but crave the energy of others too. My independence is important and I am grateful to have it. I like to help and support others – and I do that whenever I can. I seek out intelligent conversation and try to add the same into them. I value, am delighted with, and enjoy my friends. I appreciate how easy I have had things and I am happy to still be fit enough to do what I do and also pleased that I don't seem to be slowing down. I am untroubled and I am free. My accent has not changed, but my vocabulary has. Most of my hair has disappeared. I am fairly active and enjoy the outdoor options here. I find most places welcoming and enjoy experiencing that.

So what difference have I made? I’ve no idea - I do what I do - as do we all. It’s impossible to judge our impact on others – that comes from the stories of the others. I do feel that on a positive v negative scale, I tilt towards the positive.

What makes a life of value? That is a good question, but what is valuable anyway? I told somebody that my function is to take money from corporations (via salary) and then distribute that wealth amongst cafes, restaurants and music venues around Melbourne. A glib answer, but it amuses me. Do I choose to go to so much to stop myself being bored or do I do those things for the desire of them? I’m not sure - probably a mixture of the two.

So I am comfortable with who I am, I enjoy myself and I’m happy – that’ll do for me.