Arriving in St Kilda, Melbourne

As I mentioned before, three days in Hong Kong just isn’t enough but I was ready to get to Australia at last! Another long flight loomed. This couldn’t be worse than the last one, right? Mostly.

I was on an aisle seat, which was fine. Two Chinese women were next to me and one wanted the aisle seat and the other the window seat. I didn’t want to be trapped between them so I politely said no. Unfortunately, they spoke no English. The flight attendant translated for us but somehow I got stuck in the middle anyway!

Without going into too much detail, I think I either got adopted or married, honestly not sure which. The only phrase they knew was “I love you” and it was said to me over and over! They were fascinated with my eyes and kept showing me pictures of their families. I fell asleep for an hour and woke up wrapped in three blankets. And they kept feeding me food! How awkward. Still, better than kids.

Anyway, I’ve been in St Kilda for just under two weeks and I’ve loved every moment…well, except one part.

Settling in and defeating jetlag

The first day was wasted, but it’s normal. I sorted out some boring stuff like banks and orientation and took myself on a short walk but mostly chilled at the hostel. A few drinks in the evening helped me settle and I met my first friend, who works at Base. We get on really well and this isn’t one of those who I’ll spend time with and forget, I’m sure we’ll keep in touch!

If you had told me before I arrived exactly what kind of hostel Base was, I probably wouldn’t have booked in. Too much partying and noise for an old git like me but actually, I think it was the best thing. It forced me to do things and get involved and that helped me get out of my shell a little. You might not think I need help with that but being so far away and knowing no one, that little push helped me get involved a little quicker. I’ll pop back every so often but I don’t think I need it anymore.

St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

Less than a week after I arrived, St Kilda Festival arrived. I didn’t know this was happening before I arrived but I was excited to go. It takes over the entire area, and is one of the biggest free festivals in the southern hemisphere! About 400,000 people were expected this year with stages and displays and arts stuff going on throughout the day.

Of course, I found the rock stage.

Saw some good bands and spent a nice day wandering and chilling in parks with some of the friends I’ve made since arriving. To have this right on my doorstep, literally, was a stroke of luck and while I get why residents avoided the area for the day or weekend, it was good fun and I didn’t see any fights or riots that happen in festivals back home at times.

A feel for Melbourne

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

I’ve spent a lot of time finding my feet so far, going on walks around the area, visiting the beaches – some of which are really nice but I’ve been told they’re nothing compared to elsewhere! Melbourne is a very friendly place overall, and despite the busy areas feeling a little overwhelming at first, I feel like I did in Manchester. I love it here.

I’ve heard mixed things about Hosier Lane but I found it really interesting. Some great graffiti art here and I took a lot of pictures. It was smaller than I expected, though, and I saw someone working on a new piece. Having a place for people to do this is clever, as I’ve not seen as much graffiti as back home generally.

There are also penguins living on St Kilda pier! They come out at sunset and go hunt. They’re not phased by people at all but I did feel like pushing people away when they were trying to get past the crowd. It was so cool but it’s important not to feed them to disrupt their cycle.

A missed opportunity

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

Being slightly out of the city has its perks, it’s easier to relax a bit more and still be close to everything I want to do. Getting out of the holiday mentality where I feel like I have to do something different every day has been hard but I’m getting to the stage where I’m happy to have a chill day, especially knowing I’ll be back again.

However, a few days ago I was out on a pub crawl and my drink got spiked. I didn’t know at first but soon I was unable to stand, see straight or do anything. The next day I couldn’t focus my mind, see properly, eat anything and more. It was awful. It took me over a day to fully recover but I’m fine. It’s happened now and it hasn’t put me off doing things – I just need to be a little more careful.

The sad thing was I missed White Night, which is a 12-hour light show in the CBD with music and such. From the pictures and videos, it looked epic. Next year, I’m doing it!

Moving on

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Tomorrow I fly to Perth for two weeks to see a friend from back home and spend a little time exploring the city and the area. I’ll be coming back to Melbourne after for another few weeks to explore more and find more sunset views like this before a big, month-long adventure!

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Manchester Children’s Book Festival…Round Three…Begin!

It seems like only yesterday that I was volunteering for the MCBF 2010. That was my second year of uni at MMU but in reality, it really kicked me into gear again. It had been a long time since I had done anything of the sort – four years or more at the very least! It was great to dive in again and do what I could. I proved myself capable more than anyone expected, I think.

Come 2012 and I was back. I was just about to graduate and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to end my student life before heading out to make it as a writer (I’m still working on that bit, but it’s coming along). There were plenty of highlights along the way but now it’s 2014, it’s year three of the book festival and once again…I’m back.

Why am I back again?

That’s a good question. The first two festivals proved to me and those around me that I could do it – and by it, I mean a lot of things. I never had a set role; I would just fill in as needed. I was flexible although I did miss the Family Fun Day in 2012 and I’ll be missing it again in 2014. I’m cursed!

I’m taking a much smaller role this time. I’m volunteering at a number of events and while I’ll always be ready to step up if needed, there’s a part of me that hopes I don’t need to. I’ll offer advice when people need and want it and ensure disaster doesn’t hit but this festival is for a new generation. I’m passing the torch, so to speak. I’ve been involved since the beginning and this is my last festival as a volunteer in this way – I expect!

My other role has been to work with the Media Team and share with them blogging advice, techniques and tips. How to use keywords and search engines to their advantage and while social media is so important to them, the festival and all festival goers. Again, I’m here to help them throughout but I’ve noticed how capable they are so I don’t think they’ll need me much – if at all.

A highlight

The 2012 MCBF will always be special to me as I got to meet one of my favourite writers – the fantastic Philip Pullman! I love his books and writing style and it was amazing to be able to meet one of the writers who is such a big influence over my own work. I look so happy in this picture but it’s all I’ve got!

Meeting Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman with myself and a bunch of volunteers from the MCBF 2012!

That’s just another bonus of doing this stuff – you get to meet some awesome people, both established writers and other volunteers. It’s definitely worth it!

Keeping up with it all

The festival is going to run for a couple of weeks and if you can’t make it then all is not lost! The Media Team will be covering every single event and blogging about them so you can keep up with anything you might miss – you never know what you might learn. Not only that, they’ll be Tweeting (sometimes live Tweeting) so that’s a great way to keep up with them. I’m in a good mood so here are find the official MCBF blog and Twitter pages.

While the festival itself may end – that’s not the end of everything. Events take place throughout the year that you can keep track of and in some cases, you might find them to be of use or benefit to you. Keep up with them socially and some of their emerging talent through the Humanity Hallows blog.

Just don’t forget about me, okay?