Quarter 1, 2012
I write this on April 1st, 2012. The first quarter of 2012 has just ended, and for the sake of posterity I wish to chronicle the developments and associated stress, discomfort and sheer misery Tina and I have endured over this period. But rest assured, it has a happy ending.
The story starts last autumn back in the UK. With Tina's degree coming to its conclusion, my contract at IBM running out, and our lease expiring on our home in Romsey, timing was perfect for starting something new. It was time to return to Perth and to begin to build the lifestyle we'd been looking forward to since we left in 2005. We took some holiday at the end of 2011, in Wales and then in Las Vegas and California, and after Christmas we made plans to head back to Australia. The flights were expensive at £1,500 per person, so when we spotted a deal online with Emirates for about half that for one date only, we grabbed it. We'd given ourselves about 10 days to pack, ship stuff and then leave the country.
Living out of Tina's infinitely patient parents' spare room, we sorted everything we own into 4 piles: stuff to leave in the UK, stuff to take with us on the plane, stuff to be air freighted to Perth and stuff to be sea freighted to Perth. The air freight was bit of a treat, but having done this before we knew it would be worth it. I would have computers pretty much as soon as we arrived, and Tina would have a decent choice of clothes. Such things are important to us! I took photographs of every single box as we filled them up, so we'd know what was where.
We parted with our 20 boxes courtesy of a thoroughly miserable bloke from TNT, and on 16th January Tina's Mum dropped us at Andover railway station. Next stop, Perth.
It's hard to make a case for saying the flight was good. We've done it several times and it's never fun. Emirates were fine, and they fly the shortest route to Perth, so that was a good start. Dubai Airport was horrible - packed out and so badly signposted we couldn't even find the lavvies.
The second flight of the trip, over the Indian Ocean, is the longest - over 10 hours. But is passed eventually, and our friend Clive was a welcome sight, waiting at the airport as he was. He whisked us back to his place, and the heat endurance test started.
A heat wave in Perth is unofficially defined as 3 or more days with temperatures above 38C. The summer of 2011-2012 was to have 8 heat waves, the most on record. And we walked straight into the hottest spell: 7 days with temperatures close to 40C, and over 42C on a couple of occasions. Coming from a climate just above freezing, we suffered. In fact, it would be fair to say we suffered really badly. Already drained by the jetlag, unable to sleep at any time because of the heat, and with Tina getting a cold, it was really horrible. We came close to giving in and booking flights back to England on more than one occasion.
In the midst of this misery, we needed a car. Constrained by a very poor exchange rate, and therefore watching the pennies until one of us found work, we went for the cheapest car we could find. Tina discovered Joondalup Car Hire who rent absolute wrecks for very little money. We got a Hyundai Excel, battered and falling apart, with 240,000kms on the clock, for the bargain price of $23 per day. Sold.
The thing we needed most was somewhere to live, and this is where we found the greatest problem. The Perth rental market was, at the time, pretty much as tight as it's ever been. So many people wanting somewhere to live and so few properties on the market. There were various explanations for what caused it, none of which sounded too convincing. But the bottom line was that when a property came onto the rental market it came with an absurd rental rate and a crowd of people desperate to view it. We saw maybe 10 homes, many of which were indescribably awful. Mould, hanging cables, dark green swimming pools, you name it. It would be unfair to keep a dog in many of the places were saw.
This went on for weeks. We flitted between Clive's spare room and various types of holiday accommodation, all the time trying to find somewhere to rent, and trying to avoid the misery-inducing heat. Before long we forgot about trying to find a place where we wanted to live, or even the sort of place that we might want to live in. We joined everyone else, looking for anywhere that would be tolerable. As we went from home-open to home-open we started seeing the same families over and over. Some home-opens attracted 30 or 40 people, most of whom were as desperate as us, some possibly more so.
The photo above was taken at a house in Aberfoyle Heights in Currambine. I was amused by the way part of the crowd was clustered under the tree in the island in the middle of the road. But only slightly amused; another home-open, another 30 strong crowd and another 40C day (which is why everyone was trying to keep in the shade). I didn't know it when I took that photograph, but this was the house we were destined to get. We took a brief look round, said "yes, we could live in that" and got the application in, along with 5 other peoples'. For reasons best known to the owners, they accepted ours. I have never felt so relieved to be so badly ripped off by someone. (The photo below, by the way, shows the newer car we got from Joondalup Car Hire. The old one was so crappy and hard to drive with its shot gearbox we eventually threw in the towel and upgraded to something a bit better.)
On the bright side, there was a lemon tree in the garden and it was just coming into fruit!
The house is unloved and still on the market for sale. We assumed the owners would take it off the market if they got tenants, but they didn't do that. Not that we were told until we'd got the leasing contract in place. Major irritation but there wasn't much we could do about it.
While we were house hunting our air freight shipment arrived from the UK. I had computers and stuff, but nowhere to set them up. We had once again imposed on Clive's good nature and plonked them down in his spare room. Now we had a house, but no furniture. No matter, I got the computers and set them up on the floor in the corner of the otherwise empty living room of our new home.
The office chair is Clive's inflatable mattress, and from left to right we have my monitor, the Playstation, 2 computers one on top of the other, Tina' monitor and the little netbook we'd been using since we left the UK, only now deployed as an Internet gateway using its mobile broadband dongle. All very uncomfortable, but at least it was usable, and the room was airconditioned - relief from the heat at last.
With a home sorted out it was time to turn attention to the nagging problem we had: money. We'd been spending British Pounds, but with the exchange rate at a 27 year low it was proving very costly bringing money over. We'd agreed that when we got here whoever got a job first would support us while the other continued to fight the battles life was throwing up at us.
Back in England I'd spotted a contract advertisement on seek.com.au for a lead software developer with secure coding knowledge. Back then I thought it would suit me perfectly, but would it still be available when we got to Perth? Well it turned out it was, so with a home sorted and the relentless problems of emigration getting sorted out, I got an application in. Two interviews later, and I'd been taken on. There ensued a mad rush to find an accountant, set up a company and get the local income stream flowing, none of which was easy. But it got done and iWebGate would be paying me wages for the foreseeable future. Another relief, another weight off the mind.
Once the house and job were basically sorted out, we had something nice to look forward to. 6 years previously we'd stored virtually our entire life in a storage container in Perth. When we left it there it was a cheap option, but since property prices and the Aussie dollar shot up it was beginning to look a bit of an overhead. It was a therefore a relief to phone them up and say we wanted it all back. No photos of that happy moment, sadly, but we stood contentedly on a steaming hot day watching a couple of lads unload our entire life from their truck. Sofas, beds, tables, computers, bikes, you name it. Over a period of a couple of hours we went from having nothing and a life of hardship to having an entire home again. It took several more days to get things sorted out and made usable, but it's fair to say that was the turning point. Life was becoming tolerable again.
As March ticked by things began to calm down. I had a job and we had an income, the house wasn't what we wanted but it was comfortable enough. I got the broadband set up and the heat abated. And our sea freight shipment arrived from the UK, which completed the collection of things we call life.
But even though things were improving, we had a nagging doubt. Should we buy our own house? After a particularly unpleasant encounter with the estate agent who was trying to sell the house we are living in, we decided enough was enough. We're fed up of paying other people's mortgages and having a quarterly inspection of our home. We want our own place, which no one can take away from us, or invade at their say so.
So we started looking for places to buy, and chewing over the various options of cash payments and mortgages, expensive place or intermediate mid range place. After a few house viewings we found a place we couldn't afford. Two weeks later they reduced the asking price into our price range, but we still considered it over priced. After another viewing we decided to put in a cheeky offer. The agent considered it too low to bother writing up into a contract, but when the vendors hesitated (instead of turning it down flat as expected) the agent came round to us last Thursday evening at about 6:30pm to complete the formal documentation of the offer. He then took it to the vendors and put it down in front of them. An hour later he came back to us and, despite our insistence our offer was final, he said for another $10,000 we could have it. Our initial reaction was no, but after a few minutes thought common sense kicked in. The house is just what we both want and $10K, in the scheme of things, is close to nothing. We signed.
And thus I sit here, still in a rented house, but with a contractual agreement to purchase a property. It'll be the first house we've owned and lived in for 10 years, since we moved out of our place in Andover. We're scheduled to be in there in 6 weeks.
It's been a murderous three months, but I think we can finally claim to be on top of it. And as I write this last sentence, it's started raining. Sweet relief.
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