April 17, 2011

I had a great trip down to Wellington over the past couple of days.  My father ferried me to the big city on Thursday and joined me to visit my grandmother, who is still with us, thank goodness.  She’s turning 96 next Friday.  That’s an impressive age.

I spent Thursday afternoon with my dear friend Anna and her gorgeous boys, three year old Sam and nine month old Charlie.  Sam is such a nice little kid: friendly, happy, chatty – and brave, too.  He was riding his scooter along as we walked to a local shop and he managed to knock his face with the handlebars (because he was adopting a low ‘speed’ stance).  He put his teeth into his lip and it bled for a good ten minutes – serious amount of blood, dripping off his chin and all over the place.  He barely even cried.  I would have been howling like a loon if it had happened to me.  And Charlie is the kind of smiley, sweet, chilled out baby that people like me just want to steal for a while.  Anna is obviously a magnificent mother to have produced two such lovely chaps!

I was staying with my friend Davey during my time in Wellington, so we just hung out at home and ate pizza and caught up on Thursday night.  Davey was coming to the tail end of a four-week detox, so we made our plans for our Friday of mayhem.

On Friday morning I visited Melissa, an old friend from school who I have been fortunate enough to catch up with again through the mighty powers of Facebook.  Melissa has a two year old daughter, the beautiful Nienke, and a brand new baby boy called Willem.  She also had her mother on hand to help with some of the heavy lifting, because she’s a smart cookie.  It was all happiness in Melissa’s household: new baby on the go; a new house bought recently; a husband who, after a bit of career frustration, has ended up with work that he likes; and – as the icing on the cake – a very nice Lotto win last week – not a life-changing amount, but enough to make the house move much easier and more fun.  It couldn’t have happened to nicer people.

It was so lovely to visit these sensible, grown-up friends, but it was also great fun to kick back with Davey and pretend to be young and stupid again.  We met up at 1pm on Friday and ran around town for the rest of the day.  We started off with a very tasty lunch at some Malaysian joint.  Next up, we went to The Lanes for a spot of ten-pin bowling and a refreshing pint of cider each.  And although Davey won both games, I must say that I was pretty awesome!  You never know, I might become a professional ten-pin bowler and kick into touch all of that ‘save the world’ malarky.

The weather was terrible, so we resigned ourselves to indoor entertainment for the rest of the afternoon and headed to Ballroom to play pool and drink beer.  We were both shockingly bad.  I hadn’t played for a long time, and it showed.  Davey has no real excuse – he was probably just letting me win, and managed to disguise it really well.  Later on, Dion (another very old friend) joined us. 

It was time for another pint of cider, so we went to Meow – a very funky bar that has been decorated to look like your parents’ living room, circa. 1974.  And we were joined by Matty, a top bloke who I met in London a few years ago and who moved back to Wellington late in 2009.

We then spent a few hours at the Southern and joined some of Davey’s work mates – one of his colleagues was leaving.  I met so many nice people (some of whom I had also met when I was in Wellington last year and went to a Guy Fawkes party).  However, my memory is terrible and I can’t recall anybody’s name.  Stink!  This was another cool bar (seriously, Wellington is FULL of cool bars – it’s fabulous).  This one was particularly funny, though – when I was young and living in Wellington a hundred years ago, this place was two separate venues: a smelly old man pub (the Southern) and a student bar (Zebos).  Zebos would do a half-price cocktail thing every Wednesday night and we would all go there and get chopped to bits.  Now, it’s all one place, and it’s like Meow in its decor: very funky seventies vibe.  Zebos was famed for having a garden bar, and this new version of the place has kept it and made it glam.  If I lived on that side of town I think I’d spend many summer evenings there.

While we were at the Southern we picked up a few more strays: Davey’s friend Dave (who I also met when I was visiting in October) and some English guys that were seconded from the UK to the Inland Revenue, were Dave works.  One of the English guys, Ravi, couldn’t get in to the Southern because they said he looked under 25 (he was 25, I think, but he looked about 17, bless him), so Davey, Dave, English John, Ravi and I moved on.  We tried Matterhorn (a bit of a Wellington institution these days), but either we were too impatient or things were a bit slow, because we didn’t get table service straight away and then decided that we couldn’t possibly put up with that kind of nonsense and had to move on.  So we wandered down Courtenay Place and found the next venue: Library Bar.  It was one of those places where you come to a totally unremarkable door next to a shop, tip a wink to the door guy, head up some hum-drum stairs and find yourself in an awesome bar.  This place just seemed to do lovely drinks and also puddings, so it’s pretty much my idea of bar heaven.

We didn’t have pudding, but we did put away a couple of bottles of red wine.  At this stage another English guy pitched up – Tom, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying life on secondment and who tried many of his best lines on me.  As he looked no older than 15 I asked him when he was born.  1987, he said.  I told him that I started secondary school in 1987.  Unperturbed, he tried another line or two.  I asked him what he was doing in March 1999.  He said that he would have been 11.  I replied that I was getting married then.  We agreed that he could have been a page boy – him and Ravi.

By this stage it must have been after 2am, so we rounded off the evening with some jaeger bombs at The Apartment.  I think we left at 4ish, and headed back to Davey’s house for another beer before sending the English boys on their way and then staggering off to our respective rooms after 5am.  Hardcore.

However, Davey and I couldn’t help but be reasonably responsible: we both drank a lot of water (and Coke, in my case) in between the beer, cider, wine, shots (I think we had shots at the Southern) and God knows what else, and although I was absolutely knackered yesterday, I was in fine fettle.  But let’s be honest: I am far too old for this kind of caper…

And this post should have been illustrated with many photos, but these will have to follow, as I left my camera at that last bar and need Davey to collect it for me.


Being idle

April 12, 2011

I wanted to give you some idea of just how little I’m doing at the moment.

I went to a sewing shop yesterday and spent ten minutes choosing a button for a skirt.  And then I went home and watched The Office and The Catherine Tate Show on DVD, while tackling a jigsaw.

Today I have walked Tui, and later I”m going to both pluck my eyebrows and paint my nails.

The days are just packed, people.

Back home

April 11, 2011

And here I am, through the magic of modern international travel, on the other side of the world.  I landed in NZ yesterday morning.

The trip was OK – we came over via Hong Kong and didn’t take a night off to break up the journey, but we both got a few hours of sleep on each flight.  It was lovely to know that we didn’t have to do the same mammoth trip again in three or four weeks’ time. 

Having said that, this feels like a holiday at the moment (albeit a weird holiday, where Tui has come with us and I don’t have to check work emails on my blackberry).  It must be different for Tristan; he’s stayed in Auckland had started work today.  I’m in my home town, population 12,000 or so, and I spent today hanging out with Katie, my oldest niece, running errands.  They were all very exciting chores: getting a new money card for my NZ bank account; talking to the council about registering Tui; finding out how and when to transfer our driver’s licences from the UK to NZ. 

None of that was very exciting, of course, but it was all made easier by the way in which NZ banks, councils and other organisations seem to be fairly decent to deal with – flexible about ID, that kind of thing.  For example, the lady at the bank agreed to deal with me and accept my UK licence as ID, even though it wasn’t on her list of recognised types of ID (my NZ one has expired, so she wasn’t able to rely on that).  She asked if I had my passport with me and I told her that it was at home, but rather than being a jobsworth and making me head back and get it, she just used her brain and made an executive decision, recognising that, with two driver’s licences with photos on them and two credit cards showing my signature, I probably was who I claimed to be.  From my experience of UK banks I’m fairly sure that this would have been fairly difficult to negotiate and I would have been on the receiving end of a ‘it’s not our problem: get the right ID’ response.  I’m certainly not saying that all UK customer service people are unhelpful, or that all NZ customer service people are awesome, but I do feel like, in the UK, good customer service is the exception and not the rule, whereas things just seem to be a bit more flexible and ‘human’ here.  Which is nice.

Nothing much else to report, really.   I was asleep by 8.30 last night and awake from 3.30 this morning.  Tui was slightly confused to see me when I arrived yesterday afternoon (and has been a very good girl for my mother and is very happy in her company, which is fantastic), but she soon got used to having me around around.  She’s absolutely loving life in a single-storey house: she’s sleeping in the kitchen, but she’s following me around from room to room and trying, in her own gentle way, to convince me that she should just sleep on my bed with me.  No chance, my furry little friend…

It is so strange to think that I no longer have a job.  I think that it’s going to take me a while to adjust to it, but I’m not going to give it too much thought until Tui and I have moved to Auckland.  I did fill my day with errands today, but I want to take it easier tomorrow and just lie around and read.  I’m really worn out – not just after the past few weeks, but after the past four or five years.  I think that my batteries need to be recharged.

My parents don’t have any internet access at home and I don’t have a working iPhone here, so don’t be surprised if updates are thin on the ground for the next week or two.  I’m going to Wellington later in the week, though, and will stay with lovely Davey, one of my oldest and best friends, so I might be able to manage something when I’m down there.  And I will definitely manage a few beers when we’re out on Friday night.  And I’ll get to catch up with some other wonderful friends as well – the prospect of seeing my favourite people on a regular basis is just magnificient!

I do think that I need to rename this blog, though – or start a new one that better reflects my new life.  Stay tuned…

Off we go

April 8, 2011

The house is sold. Our worldly belongings are packed away into a container. I’ve finished my handover notes (a 29,000 word dissertation about what I’ve achieved in the past four years). I’ve handed in my security card, been given a gorgeous Tiffany necklace by my kind and lovely colleagues, and have left the firm.

And now I’m on the Heathrow Express, and when I get to Terminal One and track down Tristan, we will emigrate to New Zealand.

Flipping heck. See you all on the other side!


April 6, 2011

It’s my final week at work and I’m up at 4.55am and am just about to log in to my work computer system from home for a heady 30 minutes, to write a presentation that I need to deliver to a horde of fresh-faced young trainees at lunch time today.  I’m going to get to the office before 7am, work for a couple of hours, head to our partner secondary school for a 9am meeting about a massive project that will, I hope, not grind to a halt as soon as I have left the country, then write handover notes all morning, then deliver the trainee presentation, then have lunch with my friend Caro, then write handover notes all afternoon, then have a 5.30pm meeting about a big piece of pro bono for one of our main charity partners.

I should get home by 7.30pm and will need to head to the house of the president of my parish’s St Vincent de Paul group, to give him the paperwork related to me being treasurer and to get him to sign the the quarterly financial return.  And then I’ll need to finish packing my suitcase and making sure that I haven’t inadvertently forgotten anything, as the movers are coming on Thursday morning and anything that isn’t in my case will be stuck in a container for three months.

  • Blood pressure levels: high.
  • Tiredness level: extreme.
  • Chances of getting to Friday afternoon without totally losing the plot: low.
  • Relief that I’ll be on a plane on Friday night: significant.

Now, where the hell did I put the two free Air NZ lounge passes, people?  I know that I put them somewhere really safe and sensible…

International dog of mystery

April 3, 2011

I’m delighted to report that Tui the Wonder Dog has arrived in New Zealand!  Here she is, hogging the sofa in Mum and Dad’s living room:

Mum said that she bounded out of the airport in fine spirits, wagging her tail like a furry little loon and looking like she’d had a fantastic journey. 

It is SO weird to think that Tui is on the other side of the world!  She’ll be barking with a New Zealand accent in no time.


April 3, 2011

Obviously, you can’t really decide overnight to move across the world.  Tristan accepted his job in early January and we have spent the past two months navigating the perilous immigration system (don’t get me started on this…)  Our intention had been for me to stay in my job until Tristan’s visa was confirmed and then resign, staying in England for a few extra weeks in order to work out my three-month notice period, but we were told that this wasn’t possible: his residency and work visa applications have both been processed through the spousal route, which requires us to leave the country together.  So I had to resign on 1 February and endure a tense six weeks while waiting for the work visa to be confirmed (we’re still waiting for the residency confirmation).

To amp up the uncertainty, we put our house on the market while we were waiting for the visa to be confirmed.  Initially we’d thought that we would keep our place and rent it out, but we then realised the high cost of Auckland housing and figured that it would be very helpful to take as much money as possible!  So we put the house on the market with a minimum price in mind, fully aware that the housing market is terrible and that we might not get any takers.  But I’m happy to report that the real estate gods were smiling on us: we had an offer in less than a week and agreed a price that was £10k more than our minimum!  Good times.

So I’m still working and will finish on Friday, 8 April, at 4pm.  And then I’ll go straight to the airport and we’ll fly out at 9pm.  And we’ve exchanged contracts on our house and will complete the sale on the 8th.  The packers and movers will come and sort us out on the 7th (Tristan’s new employer is paying for our flights and moving costs, God love them).  Our stuff is more or less organised  and we have a secret weapon here in the form of Pat, Tristan’s incredibly energetic mother, to help us figure out what to ship to NZ and what to leave behind.  We’re taking most of our stuff, though – we have a 20ft container to fill (and 75% of the contents may well be my clothes).

Tristan will start work the day after we land, the poor sod.  His work will pay for accommodation for the first three weeks and then we’ll find him a serviced apartment for a few more weeks.  We’re not going to buy a house immediately because we don’t know anything about Auckland and will need to suss out where to live, and because the exchange is terrible at present and we want to leave most of our money in the UK for a few months.  So we’ll need to rent a house, but will have to do so knowing that our 20ft container may take up to three months to arrive, which could leave us rattling around in an empty house.  I think we’ll wait for at least six or seven weeks before we find somewhere to live.

The bad news is that this means that Tui and I will have to stay with my parents while Tristan’s stuck by himself in Auckland (that’s ‘bad’ in the ‘it’s a shame that we won’t be together’ sense; obviously, I’m delighted that I’ll get to spend some time with my lovely parents).  Tui won’t be welcome in a serviced apartment and I dn’t want to lumber my parents with dog duty for more than is absolutely necessary.  So we’ll be five hours’ drive away from Auckland, in a very nice – but very small – town.  I’m quite sure that, in three or four weeks’ time, I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night and exclaim ‘OH MY GOD I live in New Zealand now!’