My reaction to spiders has changed since living in Australia. I am still uncomfortable when I first notice a spider but after a moment the rush of fear subsides. After Australian spiders, justifying a fear of spiders in France is impossible.
It is difficult to really fear insects in Europe once you have lived in Australia. That is not to be macho or suggest bravado. I can claim neither. Instead living in a country where a real fear of spiders is justified provides perspective on those times when the fear is utterly pointless.
I remember the first spider I saw crawling on the wall in my Sydney apartment. That moment of not being sure quite how nasty that tiny creature might be. Tracking the tiny black creature moving disturbingly quickly along the wall.
Since that first Australian spider I encountered all manner of nasty insects. They exist but despite the perception that Australia is full of lethal animals, you rarely come across them in your daily routine. Locals do however take more care than tourists and immigrants. This extra care can go unnoticed and that can lull you into a false sense of safety. That care is also not explicit but instead just a childhood habit instilled by parents and teachers over many years.
Australian kids are taught to never never prod and poke around under fallen branches and rocks. Adults are careful when gardening and working around the borders. Venturing into the bush requires good shoes and covered legs. Fridges are home to magnetic leaflets with silhouettes of spiders identifying those with nasty bites.
Explaining the joys of a childhood nature trail to an Australian results in tears of laughter and shock. You were encouraged to lift up rocks and seek out hidden creatures? Crazy.
Sydney is an undeniably photogenic city. The city is bathed in a strong Australian sun that rewards the point-and-shoot camera. It feels easy to point the camera in almost any direction and end up with a vibrant set of photos.
Sydney is a massive city. The suburbs stretch for hours from the centre. However, the inner city houses many older residential terraced homes. Over time these properties are being replaced by apartment blocks. Thankfully the transition is slow.
The centre of the city focuses on the stunning harbour. A harbour I am delighted to think that I once lived near and could incorporate into my running routes. I doubt I will ever be able to match the feeling of running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge; the experience never failed to boost my flagging energy.
Arrangements did not go entirely according to plan and I found myself with some time alone in Sydney. With this fragment of time I visited the NSW Art Gallery near the Royal Botanic Gardens.
I avoided trying to see all the gallery had to offer. I had been before many times and have learnt to focus on one or two sections per visit. To do more, is to risk becoming fatigued and souring the visit.
The gallery’s collection has grown since my last visit. I left uplifted and delighted with the time I spent slowly moving around the exhibit space.
Manly often plays second fiddle to Bondi. Both beaches are within Sydney and easy to access using public transport.
When I lived in Sydney, I did not visit the beaches often; I am not a bake in the sun type of person. Despite this, after traveling all the way back to Australia we knew we had to visit at least a couple of beaches during our short stay.
Over the years, I have come to prefer Manly. The approach on the public ferry is stunning and the streets around feel less crowded. It was at Manly that I heard my first public announcement warning swimmers of jelly fish. It was at Manly that I spent my first New Years Day in Australia many years ago. It felt good to return and wander aimlessly around for a few hours.
I put together a short film to remind myself of the beach. The film is embedded below and available on my YouTube channel.
During the months since we left Australia, the large fast food brands have started putting calorie information in their menus. In Australia, this dietary information was previously available in the outlet or online, but now the values are next to individual items on the above-counter menu displays.
The effect for me was dramatic. We enjoyed meals from a couple of fast food outlets – in particular, those we can not get locally in Lyon, Oporto and Gloria Jeans. Seeing the difference in calories between a small, medium, and large was enough for me to consistently pick the smaller size of any two I was comparing.
This shift to showing the calories does not appear to be a legal requirement. Smaller food outlets are not displaying this information but most of the larger brand outlets are. Is this an attempt at self regulation and responsible food retailing?
One choice is to realise that the calorie information displayed often assumes a zero calorie drink with any meal option. A can of sugary 375ml drink can easily add another 675kJ to a meal.
Unchanged is the notion that these types of meals are to be enjoyed sparingly and as part of a balanced lifestyle. I wonder if having the calorie information immediately on display will change the way people see these food types and the available choices.
It appears Australia is being used to test Coke’s latest marketing ideas. Australia is a small isolated market of twenty something million people. Products and brands can be trialled, tested, and measured without affecting other larger markets.
In 2011, Coke started selling bottles with common first names printed on the labels. The marketing worked and I saw numerous friends on Facebook posting about buying the bottle carrying their name. It was undeniably fun.
As a marketing scheme I wondered if it would go international. It did not. There are a number of problems Coke would need to overcome. What names do you pick in each country? How localised will your choice have to be? Are you going to cover multiple spellings of each name? What about different scripts and dialects?
In 2012, Coke has iterated on their notion of unique labels. This time the scheme can scale globally. Bottles of Coke in Australia are now carrying years. The marketing calls on customers to buy the coke with a year relevant to them – be that a birthday, anniversary, or other notable year. A clever iteration on the original personalisation.
I also notice Pepsi has released a new brand in Australia that I have yet to see in France, Pepsi Next. This lower suger edition is being heavily pushed. It contains Stevia as a partial sugar alternative. Stevia is available as a niche sugar substitute here in France but I have seen little comment about its benefits or otherwise.
We joined Megan‘s grandparents for a ferry ride from Cronulla to Bundeena. The ferry we took was called “M.V. Curranulla”. The operators claim this ferry to be the oldest commuter ferry in Australia working to a regular timetable.
Australia’s reputation for large insects and dangerous animals is well known. In daily life encountering the nastier creatures however is unlikely. What does surprise me is the size of the more mundane animals.
Ants in particular stand out as both bigger and smaller than those I know from the United Kingdom. There are multiple sizes of ants and they appear to be able to nest in overlapping regions.
I have frequently watched tiny swarms of ants walking around larger single ants. They do not interact and seem not to be from the same nest.
This afternoon I noticed a larger pair of ants and took the opportunity to take some footage. The resulting film is available on YouTube and embedded below.