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
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
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’
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
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
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
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
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.
Belated Merry Christmas & Best Wishes for the New Year
and Long Life
Jackie on LinkedIn at
@JackiePCain provides tweets on
the world of internal auditing!
Jackie on Facebook at:
@JPC_0604 provides wry observations on the world in general
year at work
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!
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
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’
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
And, now, back to the end, click here!