Yes.... an update is well overdue. After the manic couple of years leading up to the move I have been enjoying having time to relax at night, knowing that I don't have a list of things to organise and not having the constant worry on my shoulders.
I think it's fair to say that my impression of Melbourne is softening a little bit, but I still stand by my words - lots of Melbourne is scummy and not nice. I am beginning to think the trick is to be careful about where you go. I still find the graffiti unbearable but the government seem to have finally realised it is a problem and now offer 2 years in jail and up to $24000 fine for people caught doing it - not before time. And the other negatives I listed in previous posts still exist... but let's not go there again!
Since my last posting we have done quite a lot. We have been to see the Phillip Island penguins and Koalas, Arthurs Seat, the Great Ocean Road, etc, etc. There is certainly plenty to do, and although generally you will need a few hours driving to get to these places it is a cheap day out, unlike the UK where it seems to cost money the minute you step out the door. It could partly be because the weather is so nice that you can just take a picnic rather than have to go somewhere to eat, but generally you can
find something to do that doesn't cost much. You can always find a free open air barbeque spot as well.
I have come to the conclusion that the trick to living here is to get away at the weekends. Monday to Friday is the same as it was back home (except that I can now work flexi time, and I can cycle to work every day along the beach road!!). At the weekends we always go somewhere out of the city and this is when you see the beauty of the place that everyone talks about. If you don't do this you might as well live in the middle of London, because Melbourne is just a city like any other. Last weekend we took a trip to Aireys Inlet which is just at the start of the Great Ocean Road. We were all blown away by this place (it is like a mix between Dorset and Cornwall). The beaches are great and there are some nice walks along the coast and some of the scenery is stunning. We are planning to buy a tent as it seems that quite a lot of people just throw a tent in the car and go away most weekends in the summer, which makes sense to me. My OH was worried about creepy crawlies before we came out and said there was no way she would go camping, but now she has changed her mind as we haven't seen any scary spiders since we have been here (which I am kind of disappointed about in a strange way).
The big plus is the weather... it is now winter and although it is cold in the mornings (around 6c today when I got up) it doesn't feel like a UK winter morning. This was our main reason for coming here (along with all the benefits that good weather brings with it) and it certainly hasn't disappointed us on this front. The skies are always blue and at the moment it feels like a spring morning in the UK. We do get rain, but the difference is it remembers to stop raining here! It will generally rain for a few hours and then the skies will be blue again. We are still in the habit of taking coats with us everywhere we go but haven't needed them yet! I still walk around in a tee shirt although the natives wear winter coats.
The one thing that still evades me is this great reputation that Melbourne has for food. We have found a couple of good places to eat, but that accounts for < 1% of the number of eateries we have looked at. Most places look like you would be guaranteed a dose of food poisoning if you went in to them. Having said that, I think lots of the good bars and restaurants are well hidden. When I have been out with the locals I normally end up in places that aren't visible from the street (e.g. you need to go through a mall and down a couple of flights of stairs to get to them). I have also come to the conclusion that you can't get a good curry here, and even most take-aways (Indian, Chinese, etc) will serve you up a dish with the horrible bits of chicken that you would normally not eat (something I haven't seen in the UK for well over 10 years)!
The cost of living is higher than the UK (based on the current exchange rate, and taking into account that wages are less). We certainly don't have anything left at the end of the month (so the same as when we lived in the UK), but now we have the added burden of having to pay several thousands of pounds to fly home every couple of years - don't know how we are going to manage that yet!! Petrol and rent/house prices have shot up even in the short time we have been here. The supermarkets are similar to 1985 supermarkets in the UK - they don't really do anything other than the basics (e.g. you can't get ready meals, etc) and they even have the short checkout conveyor belts that you used to get back in the 80's, which means that you can only fit a quarter of your trolley onto it while at the checkout. But, they are good enough, and it means that we still have the small shops (green grocer, butcher, etc) which the supermarkets in the UK have put out of business years ago.
I don't think we will be staying here long term. We will do at least 2 years here but at the end of that time we are going to decide whether or not to return to the UK or to move elsewhere in Australia or Victoria. If we stay in Victoria it will be somewhere outside of Melbourne, although that could prove difficult on the employment front! We just don't really have a good feeling about Melbourne - there is nothing there that makes us want to stay and we do our best to avoid the city. I dare say if you don't have kids you could probably have a good time there but it's just not for us. We know a few people here who have emigrated from the UK... 1 family love it and get offended when we point out the negatives, but the rest of them don't think it's great but like the weather and the laid back Aussies, and that is what keeps them here. We know another family who are on their 3rd stint here having returned to the UK twice - I think they are still undecided.