I did begin to write this blog a couple of nights ago, one-handed. But it became immediately evident that having a puppy is a both hands kind of job.

Those following my Instagram and Sarah’s Facebook posts will have seen that yes, we are now the very proud owners/parents of a beautiful little English Bulldog who we’ve named Elsie. She’s adorable.

You can follow me on Instagram @elsie_bulldog

We’d both loved to have a gun dog but living in a unit and needing to have our canine companion in the office most days, a less energetic breed was called for and we both fell in love with the idea of a Bulldog as soon as it occurred to us.

Elsie was born just nine weeks ago up in Gosford. Her breeder is by no means a full-time pro (she won’t mind me saying that) and had grown rather fond of Elsie (who she named Pepper – due to her almost black colouring at birth). But she has a prize-winning bloodline and on meeting her breeder, Sam and Elsie’s Mum, we were immediately hooked.

You may note the time of this blog entry and rightly spot that I must be at home today. That’s right. After picking Elsie up last Saturday, Sarah’s had Monday-Wednesday off with her and I have today and Friday to get her match fit before taking her to the office on Monday.

Everything’s looking hopeful. Numbers one and two are being dealt with (mostly) without great mess or struggle and she’s just starting to get the hang of walking on a lead.

We’ve just had a very eventful morning. After dropping Sarah off at the ferry wharf, we ran around in the park a bit, made friends with an old lady with prison tattoos on her hand, a Staffy puppy and about a dozen people who all made a kind of high-pitched “ooohhhwwweeewatchawooowooo” kind of noise as we approached.

As I said, she is adorable.

In other news, I had another two-goal Monday with Trumpton, this time helping us to a 4-4 draw against a bunch who decided to name themselves Bare-arse-lona. I’m just upset we didn’t give them a good spanking.

And yes, to my third ‘P’… Police Station. Friday night, we had some after work drinkies at an awesome new bar at the end of a wharf by work. But after doing our best to get sozzled, Jim and I had a sobering end to the night when our taxi driver was assaulted at a set of traffic lights in the city and we did the decent thing of offering to give a statement at my local station on the way home.

Not sure what good a statement is from someone who’s been on the Patron XO Cafes but you do what you can, don’t you?

A year and a half without footy has been, quite frankly, rubbish.

So when a chap at work, Luke, wandered over to my desk last week and asked me if I’d like to join his Monday night fives, I fairly chomped his arm off.

This band of Englishmen-abroad go by the name of Trumpton Town – not sure why, there wasn’t a fireman in sight – seem to suffer the same ‘are we going to actually turn up with five’ syndrome that Bob did.

We turned up with four, grabbed a ringer and kicked off with barely a touch of a ball.

And it showed.

We went a couple down before a thunderous left foot shot found it’s way miraculously into the roof of the net from a young whippersnapper named Williams. But the celebrations were short-lived and we saw more fly into our hockey net than theirs over the next half and a bit. And it ended up 3-5.

We’ll get better I’m sure and, if I get fit, I reckon I’ll be able to improve on my two-goals-a-game average and establish myself as resident goal machine for this lot.

I did however manage to pick up a yellow card*, so hopefully I can bring that down from one-a-game over the next few weeks.

It was great to be back playing, I have to say. Hands up if you reckon I’ll be suffering in the morning…

*For not going back far enough at a free-kick. Come on ref, give the new guy a break!

… can you stroll out in the rain, watch a bit of a skateboard competition, turn to the beach to see people ice-skating, then walk back up the grass in the sunshine to stroke a snake and a blue-tongued lizard.

Gotta love the madness.

And speaking of madness, it’s been a busy old couple of weeks. Work’s been pretty bonkers and the weekends haven’t let up. This one – sadly now drawing to a close – has been great. Drinkies in Bondi on Friday. Catching up with the lovely Mel D on Saturday and an afternoon of Bondi bonkersness today. They have their Winter Festival on right now, hence the ice-skating and the reptile show. Sadly, whoever booked the live music didn’t do as good a job and we left the front to the tune of some plonker doing the Wiggles on a harmonica. Nice.

I even managed to sneak in a run this evening – though I’m not sure if I’m allowed to yet. But all this inactivity has been doing my head in and I figured if my doc can tweak my back into shape as I train, that’d be perfect. So I’m just not going to tell him and see what happens.

He might notice something’s up though when I see him on Tuesday. I’ve got my first match with a new 5-a-side team on Monday night and I can only see a world of pain to deal with after not playing for so long. That was partly my motivation for a jog today. And hey, if I can play footy, get jogging again and have my back sorted soon, Tough Mudder might still be on. I’ve still got two and a half months to get ready for it and that should be enough. Shouldn’t it?

Oh, and while we’re on the theme of madness, I have to share with you my favourite ever sticker, seen the other day. Is it normal to have a favourite ever sticker? Who cares. Anyway, waiting for a bus at Edgecliff, one pulled in on the other side of where I was so I was on the driver’s side. On his window a blue box and a red warning circle told me, ‘DO NOT BOARD BUS THROUGH WINDOW’.

Makes you wonder what must have happened for the board of Sydney Buses to decide to get those made…?

Yes, I’m in Melbourne.

Not much else to report so far – other than my delight at being given a meat pie as my lunch on the Qantas flight down here.

I’ll be back, if only for another one of those.

Firstly, if you’re reading, a very happy birthday to you Ma’am. I hope you have a lovely day – don’t let Phil get too drunk.

Secondly, a very happy day off to me! Australia has it right and marks our good Queen’s happy biffday with a public holiday.

So why, I hear you cry, am I updating my blog instead of getting out there making the most of the glorious Aussie outdoors? Well, cos it’s raining kangaroos and possums out there. Looking out of my window, I can see ducks on the fairway. And even they’re looking a little fed up.

Inside, we’re a tad concerned about rising damp in our bedroom and an Antarctic breeze blowing in under the back door that forced us to sit under a duvet to watch Game Of Thrones last night.

But, when not hiding from the elements, we’ve had a pretty fun last week or so… Tuesday was our 2nd wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a drink and posh dins at Pier in Rose Bay – reputably Sydney’s top fish and seafood restaurant. A claim I have no argument with after demolishing their crab lasagne and seared tuna.

Wednesday was bigger and later than planned after meeting up with one of Sarah’s old pals who, with a 7 week old back at home up the coast, was very keen on nailing a few drinks. Thursday I was with a work crew at the IMAX to enjoy an oversized 3D screening of Prometheus. 3D Charlize Theron in neoprene: good. Guinness after the show with Jimbo: almost as good.

Friday was a great catch-up dinner with our newest Aussie buds and that of course ended up being a three am finish. Rolling into a Saturday evening dinner and drinks with Chappers and the crew. Leaving Sunday as a much-needed booze-free day.

Which brings us right up to today and a very productive day off. Sarah’s busy with her bits and I’ve been to the shops, potted a couple of plants and caught up on the gorgeous family snaps on Facebook. My little nephews are too adorable for words and clearly a handful as they’re getting more and more mobile.

I’m down in Melbourne tomorrow presenting some work and would be very excited about getting down to see a new city if I was actually going to see any of it. Seems we’ll be flying in, flashing work around a table and hopping straight on the first flight back.

Oh well, there’ll be another chance soon I’m sure. And if not, we’ll be down there at Christmas with Graham and Sally. Is it too early to be planning Christmas? I imagine Oxford Street’s gearing up already.

Fact.

Yes, I understand it’s nearly summer there and almost winter here. But still.

We’re in jumpers in the evenings at home – it was clearly summer when they built Sydney as there’s no heating anywhere. Oh, and it seems they were probably drunk too as none of the doors or windows quite meet their frames so we have a very fresh breeze cutting right through the golf course into our bones.

We did hit the beach this weekend though – in jeans and long sleeves. We were up an hour and a half North of Sydney seeing El – who we met diving in Borneo – and her boyfriend Dave. They fed, watered and walked us like prized pooches and we came back to the city Sunday night feeling very refreshed and pleased to have got away.

The beaches up there are stunning. We went to Shelly, Birdie and a couple of others – with a cliff-top walk thrown in for good measure. El and Dave also took us to an incredible spot at The Entrance where dozens (maybe hundreds) of Pelicans congregate to be fed by locals and tourists. They’re very tame and to get close to such big birdies was pretty cool.

Back in Sydney it’s Vivid in Circular Quay. A couple of weeks of awesome light and music shows around the harbour. They’ve got 3D projections on the major buildings, including a very arty one on the Opera House. They’ve got the tiles of the building all projected in place and they ripple and tear apart to reveal the insides of the place. All very Instagramable.

Oh, and we’ve got our friends Sarah and Jack staying with us for a while too. They’ve moved out here and we’re passing the parcel of hospitality that Claus showed us when we arrived until they get settled. It’s great to have them here and see the city anew through their eyes.

They’re getting stuck into looking for work and making the most of their free time until they get one by cooking us lots of meals. Happy days. Of course, the real benefit of having full-time guests is that every night is wine night.

My wine man in Berry is going to be a very happy man.

Standard training routines have been hard to find time for – work’s been busy, weekends have been filled with ever-so-important things like long breakfasts (when I’ve actually had a weekend) and, well, motivation’s been lacking.

To make myself feel better, I’ve been convincing myself that I’ve been doing plenty of training in my everyday life and that when the gun fires, I’ll be just fine.

Humour me if you will…

In place of push-ups, I’ve been doing a lot of pushing trolleys in supermarkets and Swedish furniture stores. Instead of hurling a kettle-bell above my head, I spent an afternoon lobbing Andy and Margo’s little Xander around in their lovely new back garden – dribbles on the head to simulate the river jumps. I’ve spent many a gruelling afternoon fixing up and shifting around flat packed furniture – anyone who knows the fun of Ikea furniture knows that’s a feat equal to any run through hot coals. And at any opportunity on our walks, I’ve been lifting and hoisting Sarah over fences and down from walled walkways. Who needs squats with bar-bells? The locals must thing I’m very gallant and romantic, either that or that I’m a nice chap to be taking care of an invalid in my spare time.

We did even incorporate a run into our most recent furniture trip. We jogged the 7K to the Supa Centa to pick up a few bits – which in true Gary and Sarah style turned into a load of bits. That in turn gave me a fantastic training opportunity as I struggled across the Eastern Distributor Motorway to grab a taxi home.

I’m not sure if it was the run, the carrying or the putting together of the furniture – but I now have a very sore back which might put me out of ‘training’ for another few weeks.

This is not going well.

Whatever your religious beliefs, you’ve got to be happy about a four-day weekend, haven’t you?

And we put ours to very good use.

Sydney has this wonderful thing it calls Easter Show. The closest thing I can compare it to is a summer fete in England. But it’s bigger, stranger and impressively well organised. Within a minute of our arrival, I’d had my first Koala encounter, stroked a Python, tickled a Bettong and seen one of Australia’s (and possibly the world’s) rarest animals, the Bilby. Apparently only around 400 of these funny, cute things remain.

Less rare, but just as fun, were the sheep, pigs and cows we encountered in the next set of marquees, with shearing, milking and petting in full swing (no prizes for guessing which goes with which – and if it’s taken you more than two seconds, you should be ashamed). We spent some time trying to find the heaviest bull there and our champ weighed in at a whopping 1,123kg. After chatting to its proud owner, we discovered that testicle circumference was actually a more important measurement for breeders. No bull.

We chewed this over, over a cracking steak sandwich before checking out their version of Crufts, chatted to some more enthusiastic breeders, spending a lot of time with the bullmastiff dude.

Animal box, well and truly ticked, we went in search of some real Aussie treats. And found ourselves in the woodchop finals. Awesome. Dudes axing away at horizontal logs, upright logs and finally the tree-fell. Tree-fell for anyone who doesn’t know is the one where the lads hack a notch into a 30ft upright log, wedge a plank into said notch, climb up and repeat until they’re at the top, hacking through the final section to claim their win. Next up: Rodeo. Oh, after some of the most appalling singing and dancing allowed in public ever. I thought it was karaoke when we first walked in. The Rodeo was great though. Australia vs New Zealand in events on bareback horses and bulls and a couple of mounted races.

And that was just Friday.

Saturday we had a couple of friends over for a little bbq in the sunshine. Sunday we went for our run – you’ve read about that. And today we got up early to try our hands at Stand Up Paddleboarding – with some success I should add. Good core exercise that, so expect ripped abs and buns of steel next time you see us.

We’ve just finished the long weekend off with a last couple of hours of Bondi sunshine and a glass of wine back home on our porch.

Wether we need to thank Jesus, the Easter Bunny or Santa, it’s been a fantastic few days.

And just for the record, I do fully believe in the Easter Bunny.

You may or may not remember that a few weeks – or is it months ago now, I mentioned getting involved in a hair-brained excuse for a good time called Tough Mudder.

Well, now we’re about six months away from the event, I thought I’d start sculpting this sack of uselessness into something close to a lean, mean, obstacle-climbing machine in preparation for it.

I printed off an exercise regime from the TM website which encourages a series of exercises incorporating running, squats, press-ups, chin-ups and dips. Only for a lot of the sets, it asks that I use a rock or weights to make it more interesting. I’m going to go the Rocky route and find a suitable boulder just as soon as I get the hang of things.

For now, I’m concentrating on running and the occasional chin-up. While Ma & Pa were here I tried to kick things off with a gentle jog back from dropping the hire car off in Kings Cross. It’s a four to five K run if you go along the main road. But that’s a bit fumey. So I tried to find a more scenic route. 10K later I was back home to a very worried Sarah.

The upshot of which is that I know I can nail 10K on any given Sunday, so spurred on by the awesomeness of my sister-in-law’s efforts, I went for the 11K round trip to Bronte and back last weekend. Along the way from Bondi to Bronte are a series of exercise stations allowing me to try the dips and chin-ups and some lovely soft grass at Bronte for me to lie down on before attempting my push-ups and squats.

All good in the hood. No crying, vomiting or even dry retching to report.

Today, after a hearty Easter breakfast of boiled eggs, soldiers, baked yoghurt, hot-crossed bus and coffee (you really have to be properly fuelled you know), I invited Sarah to join me and we made our way in the drizzle to the coastal run. Another 11K in total – but I was glad to have Sarah with me as an excuse to go slower and stop occasionally after my beer, wine and bbq Saturday. The chin-ups were more successful than last week, but I’ve made myself a challenge today: to step up from my current 10 to a much more manly 20 before the real event.

We’ll have to see how that goes…

Where did I leave you? Oh yes, I was going back to work for a few days and letting Ma & Pa explore the city after a lovely Jervis weekend.

So what happened next? I hear you cry… Well… Just that. The olds had some better luck with the weather and Sarah and I met up with the increasingly bronzed pair for a couple of lovely evenings. We had Claus over for a night of wine, food and perving at the neighbour through her bathroom window. Nods there to the two dirtiest old buggers I know – Claus and my Pa.

We kept it more civilised for an evening at The Owl House on Crown St. Fantastic food and cracking service. That’s one of our favourite Sydney finds by far.

After four days back at work, I’d had more than enough and the Friday was our leave date for the Hunter Valley. Sarah’d booked us into a great lodge in the woods and sorted a wine-tasting day on the Saturday. The drive up was pretty eventful on its own with the excitement of meeting some ‘real’ Aussies in and around Cessnock (a.k.a. Incest-nock) and roadsigns for places with names like ‘Jigadee Creek’ and handpainted signs advertising ‘Poo’. Not dung, manure or muck but ‘Poo’. One beauty actually read:

Cow $3
Horse $4
Poo

Awesome. Because some people might not have fully understood the first two lines.

Our lodge was a corker. Three beds, a spa, a gas bbq and some local roos and lizards to keep us company. We barbied a load of meat (sorry about not letting you do the steak Pa, but… well… yeah, I’d been excited about cooking those all day).

The morning we were picked up bright and early by our wine tour minibus and were quaffing by 11. Bit of a mix of wineries through the day – generally, the smaller and more intimate, the better and our man Hamish at Ernest Hill Wines definitely won the day – we bought a mix of three unusual dessert wines from him. By our final winery of the day, we were definitely a little over-tired and couldn’t stop giggling when our hostess was trying to describe the Semillions. With her accent, all we heard was semi-ons and her comparison of young semi-ons to old semi-ons was simply too much.

Not quite done with a day of wines, cheeses and chocolate – oh and a big bowl of pasta for lunch – we went and had a grand dinner at Leaves & Fishes in the evening, where we thumbed through the wine list like pros and ordered an ever-so-slightly aged Riesling which we knew would perfectly compliment our mix of dishes. Slick.

We continued on this eating and drinking merry-go-round when we got back to the city. I’d been clever in taking the Monday and Tuesday off and we went to the world-famous Doyle’s in Watson’s Bay for Monday lunch. Complete with harbour views, gorgeous weather and a giant caterpillar in the salad. Free starter for the Williams': Tick. Then we topped it all off with a Tuesday to rival any. Brunch and drinks in Surry Hills, followed by a dinner at Catalina in Rose Bay.

Sarah and I’d agreed that we’d go to Catalina when she got a job sorted but with that not hurrying along, we figured we’d book it as the perfect last night with the olds. And what do you know, Tuesday morning rolls around, dinner’s booked for that evening, and her recruitment dude phones up to tell her that she’s got a job offer. We should have booked it months ago.

A perfect last day.

We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to say goodbye straight after dins so got Ma & Pa back to ours for some of that lovely Hunter dessert wine and a cup of coffee to end the night before we really had to call time on the trip.

What a cracking two weeks. And brilliantly rounded off the following day with Ma’s text to say that they’d been upgraded to 1st for the long leg of their trip home.

I’ve always said you make your own luck.

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