Today is one of those still, promise-of-heat sunny mornings. I stand on the balcony and watch diamonds dancing on the water. I have to pinch myself, again. They don't happen as frequently as they used to – these 'ye gods, we're in Australia' moments – but they still strike occasionally. And instantly banish any little niggles waiting in the wings.
About this time last year, I listed some of the things that had made a big impression during my first 12 months in Australia. This may become a tradition.
2011 has seen Brisbane's big flood; mega-sized Cyclone Yasi; the climate-change debate hotting up and a carbon tax passing into law; economic bedlam in Europe; bankers worldwide still getting away with it, but ordinary mortals making their disgruntlement felt; the coal-seam gas debate intensifying, from the Bowen Basin to Blackpool; our moving house; running the Bridge to Brisbane; and my first Ekka.
Meanwhile, our great Australian adventure continues, with a thousand views to stir the soul.
What struck me this year was...
…that my second year passed just as quickly as the first.
…Queensland's level of preparation and provision of advice and ongoing information prior to a severe weather event
…Brisbane's rapid clean-up and re-establishment of normalcy after the Flood
…the spirit in which the people of Brisbane rose to the challenge of helping those most affected, not just in the days immediately following the Flood but for months afterwards
…how quickly the CityCats were up and running again (more than half after just 12 weeks) and what a joy it was to welcome them back.
...just how many dogs in Oz there are, and how many of them are little white dogs (like Chaz, below), and how many owners leave them to bark for hours in backyards and on balconies with very little complaint from neighbours, it seems
…but how few cats there are in Brisbane.
...how much the cityscape changes according to weather and light
...and how wondrous clouds are (especially the 'drowning cloud', below but two).
...how on earth Brisbane City Council allow jet skis to race up and down such a busy river
…and Byron Shire Council think it necessary to collect rubbish every day, including Sundays, at 6am or earlier.
…how easy it is to change the habits of a lifetime and:
never wear a watch
go months without buying clothes; OK, weeks
become a lady who lunches on Wednesdays
(almost embarrassingly often).
…that skyscrapers can be so photogenic.
…that there are even more Aussie rules than I thought
…and moving house in an exotic location is every bit as tedious as it is at home.
…the rate at which Opposition leader Tony Abbott's ears (not his nose) are growing (sorry TA),
…that Julia Gillard held on to her prime ministry against all odds,
…and that Anna Bligh – Premier of Queensland and descendant of William Bligh – gets about so much (and wears so many different kinds of hat).
...bat plants (again)
…and the fact that whale-watching was even more awesome the second time around.
…that a serious storm approaching can be exhilarating as well as terrifying.
Marijke Doldersum, Easy Done
…the blossoming of Brisbane.
…the cheek and greed of hoteliers who expect 100 per cent of the high cost of staying with them up to 30 days before the event
…and how easily you can get away from it all once you leave the city limits.
…that I have to take back most of what I ever said about Facebook. It has enabled me to re-establish contact with friends from way back and keep in week-to-week touch with others far more easily than via any other social medium.
…that there are still so many beautiful beaches to discover in Australia.
…that photography can be so much fun
...as well as being arty-farty.
…that I still derive so much pleasure from exploring this land and all it has to offer.