Drinks, art, football and drinks

As I promised in my last blog, there are a few things that I was going to update you on.  Things I had been up to since my last dispatch.  Not that much of it has been overly exciting but my mum seems to enjoy reading about it.  And it saves me the cost of a stamp, sending her a real letter.  So mum, this is for you, but you may be sharing it with many of my other friends.
A couple of weekends ago saw me attending the annual beer festival at the Australian Hotel (pub, remember) in the Rocks.  I met up with a mate from England who was over here with work.  Budget constraints within Lloyds Banking Group means that they can no longer afford to provide biscuits for team meetings.  However, they can fly a couple of people business class to the other end of the world for beer festivals.  I was assured by Steve that he was also here to work on some other stuff, but I’m not so sure.  I think Steve thought I wanted to meet up with him as we had not seen each other for a while.  Actually, the real reason was that I was hoping he was going to return the box of Lapsang Souchong tea that I lent him in 2003.  I ended up very disappointed.  That said, we had an excellent day that seamlessly segued into an evening bar crawl around some of Sydney’s less touristy pubs.
With a head that was as tender as a heavily worked over steak, I again met up with Steve and Andy on the Sunday, to do the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, along with Scott and Kelly.  It was like “Yorkshire’s day out”.  All we needed was for one of the cafes along the way to start selling Yorkshire Puddings.  It didn’t happen.  We picked a good weekend for the walk as it was the “Sculptures by the Sea” event.  A random collection of art pieces placed along the walk; some better than others in my humble opinion.  But then, I’m no art critic.  I can’t tell a Manet from a Monet.
Tuesday of the following week saw me attending my first ever Spanish class.  Something that I have been threatening to do for years.  For a long time I have been dipping in and out of Spanish language books, listening to Spanish language podcasts, and even immersed myself in Spanish for 3 months last year whilst travelling around South America.  For the first time I am now formalizing my learning and have started an 8 week, level 1 course.  I have grand intentions of continuing post this course and taking my learning to a level where I could actually have a conversation in Spanish.  Some cynics have suggested that it is my way of trying to meet dark haired, buxom senoritas.  Me? 
My weeks really are beginning to develop a structure, and this continues on Thursday nights with me signing up to an outdoor 5 a-side futsal league.  Futsal is an extremely popular sport around the world, just not so in the UK.  It is essentially “normal” 5 a-side but with a small, less bouncy ball, large goals, and mainly no contact.  The no contact thing is the hardest to get used to, especially with a referee as fastidious on the rules as the one we have each week.  That aside, it is great fun and I’ve met another bunch of lads, both European and Australian.
Two other events of note have been Balmoral Uncorked and the Air BnB party.  Balmoral Uncorked is an annual event at my local beach.  Various wineries of the Hunter Valley set up stall and allow you to taste, and subsequently purchase their many fine drops.  Complemented by stalls selling cheeses, olive oils and various other foods, you had everything you could need for a fabulous Sunday afternoon.
For those not familiar with Air BnB, it is a global website whereby people advertise rooms in their homes to give traveller’s a more authentic experience than staying in a faceless hotel.  I used the site for my first month in Australia, which is where I was unfortunate lucky enough to have met Steph.  Based in San Francisco, the founders of Air BnB held a party on Cockatoo Island in Sydney for hosts and their guests.  So I went along with Steph, together with Darrol and Claire, two more guests that have stayed with Steph.
Not knowing what to expect I have to admit I was blown away.  Ferries were laid on every 30 minutes to shuttle us to the island from Circular Quay.  The bar was free all night.  It was, I kept checking!  And with a great selection of bottled beers, wines and cocktails.  There was free food served up from the excellent food trucks that have been doing the rounds of Sydney recently.  And once the guests were suitably inebriated, there was a DJ spinning some quality tunes, allowing us all to make idiots of ourselves on the dance floor.  Brilliant.  Oh, I did I mention the beautiful actress, Mila Kunis, was there too?  And her eyes are even more captivating real life.  She was with some fella called Ashton Kutcher who is mates of the website founders and did a little speech on their behalf.  
The last couple of weekends have been very quiet and tame in comparison, but judging by the number of shops getting in the festive spirit, I guess Xmas is just around the corner.  That being the case, I better start consolidating my finances and make sure I have enough to celebrate Xmas in style, have a rocking New Year’s Eve and usher in 2013 and all it holds.

Til the next time amigos…