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21 Posts

Braidwood NSW

Posted by sammysf May 20, 2008


Early this month I spent five lonely days in lovely Braidwood,NSW. I described this town to my family as a Woodland, CA (my hometown)circa 1884. It looks like one of those gold rush towns whose facadecould be the set of an old Western. But there is no Hollywood actionto be found here, mostly it is a few cafes and quilting shops. Mymother actually emailed me to say that she had learnt of it's quiltingfame through google and asked if I wouldn't mind stopping by the shopand picking up some fabric for her. After announcing my purpose at thestore, I bought her a ten pack selection of indigenous aboriginalpatterns for about $50 and sent it off along with the Encyclopedia ofAussie Animals I picked up at Corrumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Nothinghas changed much over the course of time in Braidwood, and the town boasts a population of around 2000- though the sign welcoming you to the town says 1,100.







And so I came to Braidwood on

assignment for my role as a multimedia officer for the NSW Fire

Brigades.  The brigades had organised to burn a house in this town for

fire research.  This house was actually more like a shed, which

recently was cleared of asbestos and reinforced with some simple dry

wall and carpentry.  I was told that the project was a cooperative

effort between the NSW Police, Arson & Forensics, NSW Fire

Brigades, and some pioneering researchers from universities in Sydney.

As it turned out, I found myself mainly associating with the university

researchers as they were the youngest and most eccentric of the bunch.

Hamish stood out immediately, with his early 90s death metal look of

long hair shaved on the sides and held tightly in a ponytail, black

gothic clothing and constant sardonic commentary. I loved him

immediately, and his techie geek / mad scientist persona did not cease

to entertain me at every turn. He was on board to test out some goggles

and special cameras which he designed for the firies to wear as a point

of regard in their attacks on an incident. Some of the footage which

survived was absolutely amazing and will serve to supplement nicely my

wide shots on the exterior of the house burns.  Debbie in contrast was

a soft spoken young lady who was graphing the various temperature

changes throughout the rooms of the house as they were burnt one by

one.  She also happened to be easily the most popular member of our

trio as she was more or less the prettiest thing in a sea of

testosterone (I don't count myself of course, these blokes wanted

blondes!) :P







The schedule of the burns was straightforward:  one or two burns a

day, starting at 9am and more or less finished by 2pm.  Each experiment

started with a planned scenario, such as a crime scene with actual

human blood samples or a pig carcass.  The photographer from the police

took "Iswrap" images which basically were meticulous 360° records of

the rooms before and after. Later, he would stitch these together with

software on his mac and create a virtual world from the images.

Suffice it to say he was the fourth component of our gadget nerd clan,

and we all somehow would get stuck with one another at meals each

evening. This was another highly organised affair, with a different

pre-arranged location every day. On the first night at the local

pizzeria, the death metal geek got my blood boiling when he retold an

experience working with some firies on another occasion. Basically he

was saying that in a video they dedicated to him, these firemen asked,

"What do you think of that guy Hamish, seems like a bit of a poof don't

ya think?" The firies then all agreed and had a good laugh at his

expense, which he didn't seem to mind and somehow felt it necessary to

reiterate here now. It was almost as if he were putting his lack of

masculinity on display, or in effect rendering harmless a homophobic

incident by offering himself as the brunt of the joke. It worked, he

elicited laughs from the table and broke the ice for the men I suppose.

I kept my head down and tried to not react, but this went noticed by

one of the senior firies who had asked me earlier why I moved to

Australia and knew about Brian.  He immediately involved me in

conversation and asked if I wouldn't like another beer. Yes, I very

much would I replied.





We continued on to one of the local bars and I attempted to shake

off the comment from dinner but felt a bit alienated. Memories of

growing up in a small town in the Central Valley of California came to

me. I decided I wouldn't bother getting to know any of the people here,

they were bound to dissapoint. Instead I chose to peruse the jukebox

and make my selections for everyone, Santana. . . Queen. . . Tom Jones

singing "Burning Down the House".  I thought the last one was cheeky

and would get a good response, but before the song came on I got a call

from Bri and went into the pokies room. By the time my selections were

through the bar had emptied and everyone was gone!  Ah well, I was

drunk and ready for bed.





Back at the motel where I was staying, the lodge owners reassured

me that mine was the "dearest" of the rooms and to not mind the

supernatural visitors should they decide to come around. This didn't

creep me out nearly as much as the lace draping from the bedposts or

the various little dolls which stood on the mantle- sort of out of

place and imposing in a miniature freak show way.  I was just grateful

to be alone, and have some space to stretch out and do my editing.

Evidently the Assistant Commissioner from the Police force was arriving

the next night, and I was warned about the arson guys who were staying

there. "Those boys like to play hard, they will be keeping you up all

night with their drinking" said Bob Alexander, head of Fire

Investigations & Research Unit.  Sounds like my kind of party!  But

mostly I chose to spend the afternoons alone, returning to a wifi

hotspot on a street I discovered and going on "smoking" drives along

the road leading to Araluen.  I found myself in the pleasant company of

many cows along the way and found an impressive a grove of gumtrees

which shaded the sinewy road alongside a cute little creek. 


In fact, I did manage to get my drink on each night with the

geeks.  By the last night I was chatting easily with most of the firies

and some of the police who offered me advise on applying for civilian

jobs in their image capture department.  The firefighters were by far

the most personable, and very loyal in their friendships. I was asked

repeatedly about why I came to Australia and took each opportunity to

talk about my relationship with Brian. On one of these occasions I

noticed Hamish in my peripheral.  I know that he didn't mean to offend

with his earlier story, and I figured he was interesting and queer

enough in his own way to let it slide. Besides, I'm sure I did more to

alter some of these guys perceptions of gays by simply refusing the

traditional closet. I could swear some of them got friendlier the more

they got to know me, and this made me feel very good about it all. 








On the final day of the burn, today, I witnessed some awesome

displays of natural power.  Most you know that I worked with a visual

effects studio for the last three years I was in San Francisco. None of

that compared in the least to being physically present at the site of

the burn today.  It was like a mini Burning Man Festival, with

everyone's anticipation building day by day.  When we finally got that

little house a cracklin there wasn't an operational staff on the block

who didn't have their camera out or the mouth wide open. The heat from

the fire alone caused me to back away with my tripod three times.  I

felt that I was dangerously close to it and watched in complete wonder

as the fractals of flames would build more and more and occasionally

dare to lick toward me. When the roof collapsed on one side, there was

a tea kettle effect which forced flames to shoot out one side.  At one

point the frame of the house was charred and everything was a hellish

inferno inside, billowing smoke parted for an instant and a random

flock of white cockatoos screaming bloody murder cut through the

background.  On more than one occasion I heard the firies exclaim in a

whisper, "beautiful!" or "awesome!"  I was told that firefirefighters

love what they do, and above all have a reverence for the element that

employs them.  But I had only the night before heard the horrors of

their discoveries; children who accidentally kill themselves with

blankets thrown on heaters, elderly whose only evidence of attempted

escape are scratch marks on blackened doors... I did not expect this

level of aestheticism to come from them I suppose, and I had a whole

new respect for their love and choice of career.







I will finish here with a funny story about a vivid "dream" I had

on my last night.  This occurred to me after all the talk of ghosts and

such (and I am not a believer in such things, or very spiritual for

that matter).  I had fallen asleep on my bed after unwisely sharing two

bottles of unwooded chardonnay with my team at a pub.  The police had

entrusted me with all their master tapes so I was racing against time

to capture them to my laptop.  On either side of me I had the laptop

wired to the DV cam which were both plugged into external power

sources.  Furthermore, my electric blanket was on and I had the

portable furnace going. Not a cute scenario after all the real horror

stories we heard this week.   Anyway I did wake up at 3am to turn these

off and hurriedly go back to sleep, only to be "awoken" about an hour

later by strange noises. First the bed shook gently, then again a bit

more violently. Then I heard what I can only describe as electronic

sounds of gremlins moving beneath me from one side to the other. The

bed shook again and then I found myself wide awake and with heart

beating fast. I wasn't scared. In fact I was hoping to have a

confrontation with these so called spirits. Only later did I realize

that I had instinctively launched into an Our Father in spanish to

repel these thoughts- seemed to do the trick. I also noticed with each

hour that dawn approached that I was very hungry indeed- so hungry that

my stomach made these interesting growling gremlin sounds.




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Fireman Sam

Posted by sammysf Apr 1, 2008

Hey there, this image was taken at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney where the NSW Fire Brigades has a booth. I'm also posting to notify anyone still reading that I am moving my blog somewhere else. It's been a fun experiment but this space is not the ideal place for me to write as freely as I would like. Please contact me directly if you would like the next blog address, once it's been created.

















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Si Se Puede, Yes We Can

Posted by sammysf Feb 4, 2008
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Workin for the Fire Dept.

Posted by sammysf Jan 30, 2008


Today officially marks the end of my first week at a new job, working with the New South Wales Fire Brigades.  I am basically in their media and public affairs office dealing with any and all video related needs. Specifically, I'm the in house Final Cut Pro guy and am supposed to be called upon to document as a videographer any "incident" such as a bushfire, major accident or other a hazardous material spill.  I hate to dissapoint but I likely won't be able to share much in the way of images/video here as it is all guarded for internal purposes. But I am tickled at the range of responses I've received from friends and family. Let me just dispell any suspicions:



No I am not thinking of becoming a Fireman.  No I don't see any hot firemen. No I am not part of any calender (seriously this one came from my sister!)



So far I've had the opportunity to photograph the Commisioner of our Fire Brigades in his signing of an official statement of reconciliation toward the Aboriginal communities in a symbolic meeting today.  I also will have the opportunity I believe of documenting a ceremony tomorrow meant to honor the newest recruits of the fire brigades from their rigorous training- in short the newbie "firies".



An interesting comment I heard this past week was questioning why we were apologizing to the aboriginals in the first place. It was not the first time I had a slightly uncomfortable conversation with someone in Australia regarding race- not to make any generalizations. This person in particular seemed to think a federal statement was good enough, but apologies by individual government agencies unecessary and a waste of money.  Then just a few minutes ago I became aware of someone sobbing on the local news, it was a representative of the "lost generation" who was expressing their gratitude at finally getting the statement of reconciliation. Guess it means different things to different people.



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Happy Australia Day

Posted by sammysf Jan 29, 2008


It was technically Saturday, but better late than never mate!



Anyhow mate, this arvo a bloke I know sent this and I thought I'd let it have a fair go.  If you're lost due to aussie speak, no worries.  See it's Summer in Sydney, OY!  Time to turn on the barbie, fill the eskie, drink some schooners or middys and chillax this arvo. ARRIGHT!



I'm mad as a cut snake for beer o'clock so here are some of my fav:


Anyhow mate:  a saying used to change the subject when talking (usually when they bored with what you are saying)


this Arvo:    this afternoon


Aussie (pronounced OZZIE):   someone from Australia - an Australian


Ay? or eh?    didn't catch what someone has said, or pardon me


Barbie:    barbecue cooking outdoors


Beer o'clock: Knock off time, time to finish what you are doing and have a well earned beer


mad as a Cut snake    someone very upset, that could do anything


Esky:    large insulated box which you put ice bricks in, to keep food and drink cold (beer)


Fair-go Mate!    statement you make when someone is not letting you do or say something


Ga day, Gidday or G'day:    a friendly welcome (same as hello or hi)


Middy:    285 ml beer glass (NSW)


Ocker:    Aussie that likes beer, sport and women and uncultured


Orright!:    All right! Can mean great delight but could also be a protest at being asked to do something you don't want to do. Depends on the tone of voice


Oy! or Oi!:    a Aussie bush call



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Andrew Sullivan has some good points:



*"To be black and white, to have belonged to a nonreligious home and a Christian church, to have attended a majority-Muslim school in Indonesia and a black church in urban Chicago, to be more than one thing and sometimes not fully anything—this is an increasingly common experience for Americans, including many racial minorities. Obama expresses such a conflicted but resilient identity before he even utters a word. And this complexity, with its internal tensions, contradictions, and moods, may increasingly be the main thing all Americans have in common."*



Just about everyone I talk to who is not an American appears to be excited at having Obama as the next face of the United States.  I believe that his complex upbringing does represent a good cross section of our society.  My experience growing up in California has brought a lot of these issues to mind over the years.  I like how Andrew Sullivan compares Obama's reflection of coming to understand himself as a multi-racial teen in his first book Dreams From My Father as similar to a gay teenager's coming out process. 


And whether you believe identity politics is alive or not, there is a very palpable sense that Obama speaks to this variation. .  Also his external appearance has a good influence on how he is perceived by the world, which goes a long way toward what can be accomplished.  I'm starting to identify more with this message, even though my old school allegiance to Hillary is very stubborn. But I think there is something to be said for having international appeal, at face value.


Here is the New York Times Editorial board endorsement of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nomination:

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The funnything about this encounter is that initially my buddies thought it wasa male kangaroo because the joey's tail was pokin out of the pouch andit looked like a long *****! **** gays, all they can think about is sex.

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Mental health break:


Bow down to the Wichitee Grub:

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Our trusty guide from Oz Tours shows us one of the deadliest creatures we were fortunate not to have found on our own while walking the trail.  Someone should find a way to put HIM in a jar, pure ANTIPODEAN.  A "bogon" is another affectionate term which can be used to refer to our mate, according to an Aussie (pronounced OZZIE) friend of mine.


And... a flawless description of how the Blue Mountains got it's name (isn't he just adorable):

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Hillary bounces back

Posted by sammysf Jan 9, 2008

Da-yamn. Guess the women's vote is really going to make a difference here, you go girls! Makes me think of that hilarious sketch of Chris Rock from SNL a while back, too bad it's been removed from youtube:




Season 32: Episode 15



SNL Special Report: Road to the White House


.....Chris Rock





Announcer: And now, a "Saturday Night Live" Special Report. Road to the White House. Here with his comments, is Chris Rock. dissolve to Chris Rock seated at an executive desk, as the audience screams and cheers


Chris Rock: Good evening! Good evening, good evening! [ the applause dies down ] Now, in six-hundred and seventy-four days, we're gonna have a new Presient. And the field is just SO crowded. On the Republican side, there's McCain and Guiliani. Now, is it me, or was McCain too old eight years ago? And then we have Guiliani. Now, Guiliani's great. He's great -- in a crisis. But, uh, in real life, Guiliani's kind of like a pit bull. He's great when you have a burglar - but, if you don't, he just might eat your kids.


Then, we have the Democrats. And everybody's saying the same thing: "Hillary or Obama?" A black man, or a white woman. It's so HARD to make up my mind! You know, as if it was a SUFFERING contest! And, even if it was, how can you compare the suffering of a white woman to the suffering of a black man?! It's not even CLOSE! I mean, white women burned their bras; black men were burned alive! I mean, sure, white women couldn't vote for an a minute, so they'd march, and protest. You know? And when they had to get on the BUS to go to a protest, who do think gave up their seats? You know hoe much better Seabiscuit's life was than my grandfather's? You see, when a horse can't run any more, they put him out to stud; when a black man can't run any more, he gets shot fifty times! I mean, how can you compare the pain of a white woman to the pain of a black man? They used to hang black men just for looking at white women! I mean, nobody ever lynched a white woman! No white woman's ever been assassinated! Everybody looooves white women! White men love white women; black men reallllly love white women! I mean, did you see Anna Nicole Smith's funeral? She had SIX black men pallbearers! I thought Farrakhan died!


Everybody loves white women.. except white women! White women are the majority of the country, and they've had the right to vote for almost a hundred years, and still they've never elected a white women President! What are you ******* waiting for?! If black people were the majority of this country, there'd be a different Black President every day! Okay? Every year, a new Black person would get a term to be President! Obama would be President; Oprah'd be President; O.J.'d be President; Flavor Flav, Halle Berry'd be President for half-a-term! And for that very reason, that's why I predict Oback Barama will not only be the Democratic nominee for President, Oback Barama will be the NEXT President of the United States! Okay?


And for those doubters out there who keep asking the question, "Is American ready for a black President?" I say, "Why not? We just had a retarded one!"


"Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!"



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About My Left Eye

Posted by sammysf Jan 8, 2008

I know it's a tired subject but a lot of folks still don't know what happened to me the day I was supposed to move to Sydney. Also, I have yet to post any pics of the interior of our apartment. So in order to satisfy both curiosities I've made my first youtube video with me as the subject. Don't think I'm tryin to be all seductive with my shirt off either, it is hot as a mofo here and the humidity alone would make you glad youtube hasn't figured out how to convey scent in their videos yet. (Jon Waters was soooo ahead of his time with Odorama!)


Enjoy. And please comment to let me know if you like the format, hate me beachin (got to misspell for this retarded cuss word censor filter on the blog), or want to see something else.


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Obama Wins In Iowa

Posted by sammysf Jan 4, 2008


Oh how I miss being home right now!


The political blogs are going nuts about what's happening with the election. I am starting to feel a bit differently about Obama's chances as are a lot of folks.  Evidently people who really want a change in the system feel he represents just that- and Democrats are jumpin ship on Hillary because she appears to be cracking under the pressure. I felt a bit sorry for her getting teary eyed and emotional, but other cynics say it was just a show. Whatever the case may be, it is pretty amazing that Barack is bringing out so much support- and in such a white state as Iowa! We'll have to wait to see what happens next.

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It was a Good Year!

Posted by sammysf Jan 2, 2008


Brian and I in Darling Harbor, after eating a proper British Christmas dinner courtesy our friend Wil McIntyre



Well the last week of 2007 was quite memorable, if for no other reason than we finally moved into our new place in Surry Hills.  Christmas was amazing with such great dishes such as goose, yorkshire pudding and mince pies to name a few. Our good friend Wil McIntyre and his family (thanks Mrs. Mac!) cooked up some traditional English holiday dinner.  I will post the video of us lighting the brandy on the cake as soon as I can get it on youtube.  Brian and I were embarrassingly late to the table however, after an alarm clock mishap following his working the night shift during the holidays. But by the time we showed up, the guests and hosts welcomed us with open arms and poured on the bubbly.  People can be so forgiving during this time of year! (Especially when they're drunk)




Sydney Harbor on NYE, as we boarded the yacht Brian and I were to bartend for that evening.




Speaking of drunks, we spent New Year's Eve serving about a dozen of them from France, Australia and Dubai on a 75 foot yacht cruising Sydney Harbor. Among one of the few job prospects that I landed during the holidays was this cruise on the Bay for the friends of a fellow who advertised a need for a bartender on craigslist.  As luck would have it, he was looking for a gay male to serve his party and he agreed to let Brian and I do it together so we could ring in 2008 under the best fireworks show on the planet (insert youtube video here).  This was really the easiest way I ever made hella money on NYE, and we even were able to get our outfits for cheap that day. One funny detail is that Brian bought his tank top at this store and I thought he was unaware that it was a woman's cut. I chuckled to myself as he complained through the night of feeling like "a ballerina". But as it turns out he didn't care, and as you can see it looked fabu on him anyway.  Here we are at Central Station, blocks from our house, hurrying to get to our pick up spot: Double Bay.





The craigslist ad asked for gay bartenders, our client who is from Dubai specified black tank tops.



The day before NYE was spent sunning on one of Sydney's infamous northern beaches, Obelisk Beach. It took some time to get there and  proved an interesting nature hike at that but it was well worth the effort.  Unfortunately I wasn't so good at spreading the sunblock on Brian's back and he had a strip of red across his lower back right above the speedo line.






Bri and Shawn tryin to get invited on one of the yachts at Obelisk beach.








The path which finally leads the curious one to the actual destination of Obelisk Beach, in North Sydney.







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Don't you expect to see a child appear on a big wheel?








The fine mural which assaults you upon exiting the elevator onto our floor at the Vera Adderly Residence for Cancer Patients.







Today we move out of the lovely Prince of Wales Hospital Residence which we've been at for the past week and a half. We had decided to go with Brian's employee housing because Kanga House raised it's prices for Christmas. Essentially we saved ourselves a few hundred dollars but in exchange we had a home that was something like a cross between The Shining and One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest.  Above is a pic of our lovely hallway, that carpet looks like it's been scrubbed of a few bloody murders, eh? Actually many deaths do occur here, since it happens to be where cancer patients and their families stay between hospital visits. Not the happiest place on earth, but it does make you appreciate that you are alive and well, even if stuck in a depressing place! 













The lovely kookaburra Brian and I found ourselves suddenly upon while cruising La Perouse beach.







The first night at the residence I expected to hear howls of tortured souls, so you can imagine my horror when I was promptly awoken at three in the morning by what sounded like an insane banshee laughing outside our window. Of course, I don't really believe in ghosts but this was uncanny. It sounded like children screaming or chimpanzees being murdered, but in several octaves. As it turns out, this is the distinct call of the unmistakeable Kookaburra.  Aside from the lulling sway of a grove of eucalyptus, there really was no noise to disturb our slumber at our new residence- save for the maniacal kookabura who obviously claimed this her home long ago.  Without fail, each night at three in the morning these birds gathered for some kind of variety comedy hour with the patients and ourselves being their unwilling audience. Oh I would get used to the curious little beasts, after unsuccessfully trying to hit one of them with a rotting orange the first night. I have to say they are still much more cute than the occasional hysterical barfing teenage girl in the parking lot, now there's something to laugh, kookaburra, laugh about.










As it turns out, Brian and I actually got to see one of these birds up close in the wild during a hike at La Perouse beach.  I did manage to snap a photo but it's not currently on my camera so I will remember to add it later. Basically this thing looked like a ferocious stuffed parrot, with a sharp beak (evidently these carnivores are known for devouring other birds' babies among lizards, and mice).  It did not move once until I decided to walk away, and Brian noticed it follow us with a stare and quick head turn. Talk about freaky eh?













Studly Bri posing for the camera at the south point of Sydney, La Perouse Beach 









Our new address is 5/2 Bellevue St, Surry Hills, 2010 NSW, Australia... hint hint









Our balcony is the one above with the two lemon trees









Our street, as seen from in front of our building





So anyway, as I said before we move into our home today in Surry Hills- a long time coming and something I still won't believe until we are there.  It appeared for the past six weeks that all signs were indicating that this would not be a smooth transition moving to Australia. My plans to start triathlon training were hampered by my accident, as was my hunt for new work and search for housing. I am still in recovery, and my chances of seeing better than 20/30 out of my left eye are diminishing each day. At least it's within legal driving limit I suppose.  But I must also report that I had several good prospects for work approaching for 2007, one of which might see me traveling to another country. I won't disclose details until it's a sure thing, in the meantime I have found work with a charter boat company cruising Sydney Harbour- serving drinks and canapes. Last Saturday I was even able to serve the members of Daft Punk and 100 of their friends in the after party which followed their concert in Sydney. Everyone asks me what they looked like, since the public never sees them outside of robot costumes. The French dude was lithe and greying with long hair, in his 30s. He smoked of course, and we had to tell him to not do so in the boat. The German is a little pudgy but totally friendly, I promised him a refill on his champagne while he chatted on his cell phone outside- he wore thick rimmed glasses and had a mop of curly hair.  I promptly forgot to bring the refill when upon descending the stairs one of a myriad of coked up, tore back, ate up, toe-up-from-da-flo-up groupies crashed into me sending champagne flauts breaking all over the stairs. It really made me reconsider any hard drinking for the holidays.... yeah, that will last.



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A few more Sydney tour pics

Posted by sammysf Dec 13, 2007


Brian and I our first week in Sydney







Notice I'm squinting and it's not just because of the sun, today I don't do that anymore so the eye is on the road to recovery!














This is a koala waking up to us staring at her, whilst a huge thunderstorm brewed above us all.

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