Crown Seal Longnecks

Coopers have gone back to using crown seal caps for their longneck bottles. This is a real boon for homebrewers, who for some years haven't been able to buy anything but imported beer that can be refilled. For those of you from overseas, a longneck is a 750ml beer bottle over in these parts.

Cooper's Sparkling Ale

In other brewing news, I picked up my homebrew stuff at Big W today. It's amazing the difference between homebrew kit in Oz and the UK. A Coopers kit costs £9 in the UK. Here it costs $10. In an ordinary store, not a specialist homebrew shop. That's more than half the price. I'll start my first brew tomorrow.

New site design

After four years with the old design, I've finally got around to redesigning my site. This time around I've used CSS for layout, which was one of those things I've been planning to do for a long time. The blog still needs to be moved to the new styles, which I'll have a go at tomorrow. Feeling nostalgic for old designs? Try the Wayback Machine.

In other news, Holly and I are now on the job hunting treadmill again. As usual, this involved dealing with recruiters, marginally higher up the evolutionary chain from amoebas. I've already had one phone me and ask me a question which is answered on the third line of my CV. Sigh.

So if you know of any work going, drop us a line. Particularly keen on contracts at the moment, until life settles down a bit with things like having a home. Would consider permanent if the project was good.

Made it to Australia

Well we made it to Sydney yesterday. The flight was uneventful and we spent the day with family. Was lovely to see everyone again. Mum and Dad are now on their way to London, we dropped them at the airport on the way down to Holly's Mum's place.

We're staying down in Wollongong for a bit, probably until the weekend. Will try and catch up with everyone in Sydney on the weekend, then maybe head up to the Central Coast for a few days.

Leaving London

Well we're leaving London tonight at 22:30 local time. We've got mixed feelings about the move. After six years in London, it's a pretty big move to up stumps and head to the other side of the world, even if it is to move to the country we grew up in. I am, however, looking forward to seeing my mates and family, beaches, prawns, good Thai food and seeing the sun once in a while. Not looking forward to the redneck reactionary politics and media.

So London peoples, it's been great fun and we've met some wonderful people. Stay in touch and drop in if you ever make it to Sydney.

Sydney peeps, we'll see you soon! Plan is to spend Tuesday with my parents, then drive down to Wollongong for a few days. I'll probably be back in Sydney by the weekend.

I've uploaded some new photos:

Lovely newspeak from the UK Treasury

Under the heading "Pension Tax Simplification" you can read all about the complicated new rules that have been introduced this year. Orwell had nothing on these guys. Reading around with the experts, they all seem pretty well agreed that this new system has made things a lot more complicated. Bah!

Why am I hurting my brain with this stuff? I need to move my UK pensions back to Australia. Oh joy.

Homeward bound

So we've been in London since Tuesday, staying with Rachel. We've booked our flight back to Sydney for 3rd September, arriving the morning of 5th September. We'll probably spend the day with my parents, then head down to Wollongong to stay with Holly's Mum.

In other news, I bought a laptop. First time I've ever bought myself a new laptop, and I'm well impressed. I chose the one I bought due to its Linux compatibility, and it's incredible: just about everything has worked out of the box under Ubuntu. Wireless, video, sound, DVD drive, hibernate. Wow!

The laptop an Acer 2428AWXMi, i.e. a Pentium M 1.7 GHz with a gig of RAM, 60 gig hard drive and DVD burner. Built-in wireless 802.11b/g and Bluetooth. Highly recommended! The only thing that's a little flaky is 3D stuff in Google Earth. Will have a fiddle around and try to sort that out.

We're off camping with our mates in Norfolk this weekend. It's a long weekend here in the UK, so when we decided to come back they'd already organized this. Should be fun, and the weather promises to be just about okay.

Heading home

We're going home after five months on the road. Our flight to London leaves on Tuesday afternoon from Sofia. We'll organize our flight to Sydney when we get there, but should be in London 10-14 days or so. We'll plan some big get-together so we can say goodbye to everyone.

The reason we're heading home is a family thing for Holly, so we've had to cut short our trip. Still, we've had a damn fine holiday!

We're staying in Ohrid, Macedonia until Monday night, then an overnight bus to Sofia for the flight to London.

I'm currently uploading some new photos into the Macedonia gallery which include today's boat trip out to Sveti Naum which was lovely.

Cornflake breaded chicken?

Cornflake breaded chicken

The picture to the right shows a rather odd meal Holly ordered in Sofia. She was expecting some kind of schnitzel, but ended up with a cornflake-coated chicken thing instead of breadcrumbs. Weird!

We're still in Skopje, leaving for Lake Ohrid tomorrow. It's bloody hot so we're looking forward to cooling off in the lake.

I've uploaded some more photos. There's a bunch from Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia in the Bulgaria gallery and some new ones taken today in the Macedonia gallery.

Welcome to the Balkans!

Well we had a very eventful journey to Skopje today. We turned up at the bus station to find the "bus" is in fact a minibus, and chock full, so there's even a passenger sitting shotgun between the driver and his mate in the front seat.

The driver seemed to lose his concentration completely after the first stop (did he have a beer or six perhaps?) and thereafter was completely unable to keep his eyes on the road for more than two minutes. He's look at the scenery to one side, then jerk the steering wheel back to get back in the lane. Then he'd last another thirty seconds before deciding to have a good look at the girl in the middle's tits.

Over the four or so hours of this, we had rather a lot of near misses: either veering off the road into the barriers (where they existed) or into oncoming traffic. Then, of course, there's the ridiculous blind-corner overtaking maneuvers, with several near misses.

Well, if we needed any convincing that we're in the Balkans, this was it! Sofia and Skopje are only 300km apart or so, but the journey took 5.5 hours.

That said, there are advantages to being in the Balkans. The food is better, with kepabci and burek. Then there's the essential Balkan character of the people: fun-loving, charming and light-hearted. Makes a big change from the more stoic, staid attitude of the Eastern Europeans.

So we made it to Skopje. We'll be here a couple of nights and then head down to Lake Ohrid. My phone doesn't work in Macedonia or Albania, so if you need to get in touch in the next couple of weeks, call or text Holly's number.