2012 Christmas Message from Graham and Jackie
(with links to Graham's photographs!)


Greetings from Australia!  We are here because Jackie started working for the IIA-Australia in Sydney in March.  We are posting an electronic Christmas Message this year. To see some of the highlights in photographs, go to Graham's Flickr pages here.
    

At the end of 2011 we spent Christmas in Milton Keynes as guests of Graham’s sister and brother-in-law, along with the rest of his immediate family.

The months of December and January were dominated by getting the London flat ready to rent out.  This involved arranging a major outside decoration, some new windows and (triggered by a failure of our elderly boiler) a new gas central heating boiler. We also took the opportunity to paint most of the flat (in neutral colours, of course), freshen up the kitchen with new lino and renew the fridge (it was either that, or clean it!).

With the bulk of the work behind us, Graham took the opportunity to pop up to South Shields and visit his family while Jackie visited her mother in Spain.  Graham travelled with his brother and nephew Daniel to see him play an away fixture in a game of basketball, which his team won.

Prior to leaving the UK, Jackie called a “Girls’ Get-Together” meal for her college friends at our flat in London.  As a spin-off benefit we managed, after a successful test drive, to sell our car to Jackie’s friend, Krysia.  As far as we know, it’s still going strong.

Jackie managed to see quite a lot of friends and family, including a day-trip to Manchester to see her Aunty Gladys and Cousin Geoff. She went to see Wicked with her singing friends and had an obligatory karaoke night with them.

We also managed to fit in two events at the Sadler’s Wells flamenco festival: a Gala and a collection of works backed by guitarist Gerardo Nunez.  Graham also found the stamina to attend a third Flamenco event – Fuenteovejuna.

After a big farewell at Graham’s sister’s house and the rather tedious 24hr+ journey, we arrived in Sydney on 28th February 2012 and were relieved to be able to crash out in a hotel room provided by Jackie’s employers.  The next day, with our heads back in order, we moved to a temporary apartment in Pyrmont – a very central suburb.

One of Graham’s first actions was to get a bicycle and start whizzing around Sydney, carrying out photo-reconnaissance of the inner suburbs to aid our choice of final living accommodation.  Although a relatively modest "town" or "hybrid" bike, he made sure that it had lots of gears (in fact twenty-seven) ... and he uses them all !  In April we found an apartment we really liked – just around the corner in Pyrmont!  An easy walk to the centre, it has wonderful views over the harbour.

For the astronomers out there, June saw the Transit of the planet Venus across the sun.  This is something that happens only twice each century or so - in pairings separated by eight years.  The last one was in 2004 during the UK daytime (and Graham pictured it through his telescope). This one was during the Australian daytime.  So to see them both you would have had to have been in the northern hemisphere in 2004 and the southern one in 2012.  I wonder how many people fit that bill ?  Without a telescope in Sydney, Graham was reduced to holding a pair of opera glasses in one hand and a camera in the other, snapping away at the image projected on various hard surfaces.  A bit Heath-Robinson ... but it worked !

At the end of June, Graham used the unexpired portion of our original return ticket to Australia to fly back home to the UK for a short visit.  He stayed with his sister and then parents over a two week period ... which, as luck would have it, included his parents’ birthdays.

Sadly later in the year both Graham’s Uncle Jim and his Aunty Margaret died.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones.

In September, despite the autumnal sound of the month to a northerner’s ear, we acquired a monster gas-fired BBQ for the upcoming summer months.  We are turning Aussie !

Despite being “new arrivals” here in Sydney, we have still managed to fit a few musical events into our year.

Within days of our arrival in Australia we saw notices on taxis and bill boards for a run of Puccini’s opera Turandot – in just a couple of week’s time.  To our amazement (and unlike the UK) we were able to buy (quite decent) tickets.  We must say that the interior of the Opera Auditorium does not live up to the wonderful exterior.  It’s really rather ordinary (as, it has to be said, were the company).

In July we “cashed in” Graham’s wonderful 50th Birthday present from his sister – tickets to a symphonic concert of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”. The Concert Hall, unlike the Opera Theatre, is excellent. This performance turned out to be not just symphonic highlights, but the entire movie (on a superb large screen) with ALL of the music being “played in” live by the orchestra.  Quite a thing!

In August, Jackie took Diane to South Pacific – the musical, not the place – at the Opera Theatre in the Sydney Opera House. It was a great production and they had a meal overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge beforehand.

In September, with Jackie away on a trip to Singapore to speak at a conference and to Spain to see her mother, Graham went to two distinctly different concerts: Nitin Sawnhey (at the Opera House) and Bill Bailey (at the State Theatre).  Yes, that’s the Bill Bailey you see on TV in panel shows.  He did a rather average stand up show but backed with some of his excellent comedy music pieces.

In October we went to a much anticipated concert by Elaine Paige at the State Theatre.  We’ve seen her before (many years ago in Sunset Boulevard in London) and have to say that she is showing her age now.  But she can still deliver the musical theatre numbers with great authority.  As well as her standards, she did a very pleasant version of Closest Thing to Crazy. She made another big contribution by introducing Nic Kyle to the world.  A New Zealander, he's been in some shows and he's in London from 2014 - let's hope he gets a break.  He has a tremendous voice.

Sydney (in fact Darling Harbour) is of course home to "The World’s Largest IMAX Screen".  Find out more here. Graham saw the Alien prequel Prometheus there.  Let’s just say that, in this instance at least, bigger does not necessarily mean better!  Even adding an extra “D” (it was in 3D) didn’t make it anywhere near as good as the first film.  We later both saw the new Bond movie Skyfall there.  Although a much better film, it wasn't ideally suited to the IMAX presentation.  They had scaled it up after filming it with the result that one felt a little too close to everything (or, put another way, everything was just too big).  Trying to take in what was happening when the action kicked off across the huge screen was like trying to watch a tennis match with court-side seats !

In other events, they have a university boat race here too. The Universities of Sydney and Melbourne go head-to-head each year. This year the race was held in Sydney and finished in Darling Harbour, just five minutes’ walk from our apartment. We went down to find that the “crowds” comprised about two dozen people: a far cry from the thousands that line the Thames each year for THE Boat Race!

Once again business commitments – a trip to Thailand – meant that Jackie had to miss an event when in November Brian Cox (rock star physicist) gave a lecture at the Opera House, in the small drama theatre, not on the opera stage. It was really more of an after dinner speech in the style of one of his TV shows, with slides and everything.  Graham got to put his hand up ... to be counted as one of the people going to see the eclipse later that month!

Because November 2012 saw one of the other rare celestial events: a total eclipse of the sun.  Although there is usually one every year or so, more than half of them occur out to sea. A good portion also happen in “the middle of nowhere” (deserts, deep forests, etc,.).  So when we heard that there was going to be one this year, here in Australia, on a holiday coast only an hour or so by aeroplane ... we could hardly turn down the opportunity!

We flew to Cairns and stayed for a few days in a resort hotel in Palm Cove, an idyllic holiday spot on the beach front looking out over the South Pacific Ocean.  On the day of the eclipse we got up at 5:30am (yes, I know!) and walked the 20 yards to the beach and stood there with a couple of hundred other people (spread out over miles of beach – not crowded at all).  For a couple of hours we stood around and worried about the intermittent cloud cover.  Then, at the last possible moment, a gap in the clouds opened up and we saw the sun being eclipsed by the moon.  When totality occurred there was a general gasp as we looked upon one of nature’s true wonders.  It lasted a mere two minutes and was warmly applauded as it ended.  Being on a tight return schedule, we dashed back to the hotel to grab breakfast to find that we were the first back.  We took seats on the terrace with a view of the second half of the eclipse and enjoyed it all over again (backwards) whilst taking breakfast.  Very civilised!

For a series of photographs of the Eclipse, go here.

Of course, part of the reason for being here in Australia is the proximity of Jackie’s family and we've taken the opportunity to meet up quite a bit. While in Canberra, Jackie was able to meet her nephew, Chris, for breakfast. We’ve seen a bit more of her niece, Charlee, and family but then they live closer.  We've visited their house for the day; they've come to Pyrmont to see our apartment; and Jackie and Charlee have had lunch a couple of times. In particular, we joined them and proud grand-parents at an end of term concert in Penrith featuring Jackie’s great-niece Sierra as Peter Pan. 

We made a day of it, stopping off at Parramatta to see the “historic” Governor’s house (not much older than our flat in London!).  This was when we discovered that it is a great deal hotter (and more uncomfortable) just a few miles inland.  The benefit bestowed upon Sydney by the presence of the water is enormous.

We’ve seen quite a bit of Jackie’s sister, Diane, both in Sydney and visiting her house in Thirroul, a seaside town, which may see more of us during the summer! Jackie introduced Diane to Karaoke World and, for Diane’s birthday, Jackie arranged a karaoke session for her – and didn’t tell her that Charlee and the family were coming too! After the karaoke, Graham joined the family singers for a meal at an Italian restaurant.

So far, we've not had any visitors from the UK but we did meet up with Phil Tarling, current Chairman of the board of Global IIA and an old friend from IIA-UK and Ireland days. We went to Beppi's, an award-winning Italian restaurant here.

We've enjoyed dining out in Sydney.  The food is good.  Dinner seems to be more expensive than in London but lunch can often be cheaper and there are some excellent cafés and coffee shops that provide excellent food for the money.

Our Christmas present to ourselves was a December road trip to the towns of Orange and Parkes.  Jackie knew Orange from visiting her sister years ago and Parkes is the home of “The Dish”, a radio astronomy dish featured in the film The Dish.  It was used to bring back pictures of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, so if you’ve seen them, you’ve “looked through” The Dish!  Being out in country NSW, we had one tremendous clear night when we stood outside ogling the infinite number of stars ... and the clear stripe of the Milky Way (the bulk of our galaxy).  Graham was a bit miffed to note two small clouds which seemed to spoil the otherwise 100% clear sky.  Imagine his surprise when he looked up a sky map later and realised that they were in fact astronomical nebulae ... and one was actually The Large Magellanic Cloud – which is a completely separate nearby galaxy!  It is 160,000 light years away.  No one can query our eyesight now - when they ask how far we can see we can say: “160,000 light years – how about you?”.

For pictures of Orange and Parkes, see here.

Christmas in Australia was very strange for us.  Warm weather, light nights - and Santa Claus and Christmas trees!  Still, as one Australia who had spent five years in the UK firmly told Jackie: it may seem strange to you but Christmas without barbecues and visits to the beach seemed all wrong to me as well!  For some of the sights of Christmas in Sydney, see here.

Much of Jackie’s year has been taken up with work, of course.  The first 6 weeks tidying things up in the UK and then 10 months in Australia, building a whole new set of working relationships and getting to know the ropes in a new country and organisation. She’s been quite surprised by how much travel is involved. Australians, like Americans, don’t seem to think anything of jumping on a plane up and down the East Coast to do business.  Jackie has started to get more used to it but still finds it more tiring than her contemporaries.  For a bit more on internal auditing in Australia click here.

So that is a brief summary of our year.  As we said at the beginning, we'll add some more photographs and other links over the first couple of weeks of 2013, so do check back.  Meanwhile,

 

 

A Belated Merry Christmas & Best Wishes for the New Year
Peace and Long Life

 

GrahamWoodhouse@btopenworld.com  
JackiePCain@btopenworld.com

Find Jackie on LinkedIn at  
@JackiePCain provides tweets on the world of internal auditing!
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@JPC_0604 provides wry observations on the world in general

 


 


Jackie's year at work

Jackie's travelled several times to Melbourne and Brisbane as well as to Canberra, Adelaide and, once, to Perth.  The main purpose has been to meet people, both heads of internal audit who are members of IIA-Australia’s CAE Service and regulators and representatives of various governments.  As is often the case when travelling for work, Jackie hasn’t seen much of the cities she’s visited but she’s enjoyed walking around and drinking in the atmosphere.

There was a change of government in Queensland soon after we arrived and some of the meetings have been about discussing the consequences of the decisions of the new government for governance and internal audit. IIA-Australia also sought to build stronger relationships in Canberra with both the current Federal government and the opposition in advance of the Federal elections which take place at the end of 2013.  It was pretty exciting being able to walk around the Federal Parliament House in Canberra, going from meeting to meeting, unescorted.  And we didn’t get lost once!

IIA-Australia has had a seat on the ASX Corporate Governance Council since it was convened over ten years ago.  Jackie has filled the seat and spent some time meeting other members of the Council – a great opportunity to get to know what other players in the corporate governance field are thinking and doing.

Jackie’s also done a lot of presentations and explored new concepts such as chairing a panel session at a conference, chairing a conference including summarising the day’s events and introducing a national politician! Not bad for 9 months’ work!

As noted above, Jackie also travelled outside Australia, speaking at IIA-Singapore’s very well-organised conference held on the holiday resort of Sentosa, which was very interesting, and at the Asian conference hosted by IIA-Thailand at the Queen Sikirit conference centre in Bangkok.  The Thai tourist authority provided lots of local colour with drummers and dancers from every region of Thailand.  IIA-Thailand hosted a dinner boat trip on the river from where you can see all the main palaces and temples – quite a sight in the dark.

And, now, back to the end, click here!