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.


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…

Baby cardigan

March 12, 2011

I’ve just posted this sweet little baby cardigan to a sweet little baby girl in Auckland:

My mother knitted the cardigan when she was visiting a couple of years ago, and I added the buttons and the sleeve detail last weekend.

I love baby clothes!

Lunch chez Barnes

February 20, 2011

We had a lovely afternoon with Ana, Russell and Milo this afternoon.  Russell made a delicious chicken, leek and bacon pie and Ana whipped up a fab gooey chocolate cake for pudding.  And Ana and I polished off nearly two bottles of wine between us, which is a good effort for a Sunday afternoon, I reckon…

It was such a pleasure to spend a few hours with these smashing people!

Doing nothing much

December 3, 2010

Party people, it’s so flipping cold in England right now!  You know, just in case the pictures of snow didn’t give it away.  I was at home alone last night and was very well rugged up against the Arctic chill.  I’m talking woolly tights, socks, fleecy pyjamas, a hoodie, and a rug wrapped around me.  And it was still chilly.  This weather sucks the big kumara.

I made use of my night at home by writing an email to my friend Hugh.  He’d emailed me a mere twelve weeks earlier, so I thought that it was high time that I devoted some time and energy to catching up with him.  A prince amongst men, he responded straight away by sending me an outstanding photo of his Movember moustache, making me laugh out loud when I opened the attachment on my way to work this morning.  When I am President of The Whole World, I will make it a law that all men must participate in Movember.  Few things make me laugh more than a good comedy moustache on an otherwise-normal man.

Tristan’s back from Portugal today – hurrah! – and we’ll be able to collect Tui the Wonder Dog from Tina the Wonder Dog Sitter’s house.  After four days there, Tui will have gained a few pounds and will spend the entire weekend absolutely exhausted, sleeping off her excesses.

My rock star life continues this weekend: my St Vincent de Paul group has organised a mass for the sick and housebound of our parish, so I will be attending that and then helping with the tea and coffee afterwards.  The other thing I must do this weekend is make Christmas cards.  I bought the stuff to make Christmas cards two years ago, so it’s probably time that I got around to it.  If you would like me to send you a home-made Christmas card, send me a message at exilednzer @ yahoo . co . uk (without the spaces, obviously).  Having people waiting for the cards might spur me on to actually make them!

Weekend in Edinburgh

November 21, 2010

Here are a few photos from our trip to Edinburgh.

A cool sculpture in the middle of a river, passed as we walked into town from our hotel.

As promised, my pre-rugby lunch at the Chocolate Lounge in Harvey Nicks.

Jane and I sorted out some All Blacks branding before we all headed to the game.

After the game there wasn’t a taxi to be found and one of our party was dealing with some minor mobility issues, so we decided to catch a couple of tuk-tuks back to our hotel. Fair play to the tuk-tuk guys: it was mostly uphill and each one was towing two of us.

To round off the weekend, Tristan and I went to the Remembrance Day parade in the cold and rainy Sunday weather, and Geoff and Jane checked out the castle.

Edinburgh is a really nice place. The weather would do my head in, though. I was freezing by the end of that parade.

There and back again

November 9, 2010

Hola!  Did you miss me?  I’ve been to New Zealand and come back again.  I didn’t intend to be so silent for the last couple of weeks, but my parents don’t have internet access at home and this cramped my online style.  It was quite restful, though. 

I am so pleased that I went home, albeit for a very short trip.  My grandmother was delighted to see me and I visited her three times during the week or so that I was there.  She’s absolutely fantastic and I am lucky to have had her in my life thus far.

Speaking of fantastic: my family rocks.  It was SO nice to spend some time with them.  I stayed with my parents for most of the trip and although we didn’t get to have a vast amount of time together (Dad was travelling around the country with three Brazilians and Mum was pretty busy with work), the time that we did spend was good.  I also got to hang out with my sisters and my nieces, which was lovely.  We played a bit of Singstar and also a fantastic game called ‘Buzz’.  Does anybody know it?  It’s a TV/playstation music quiz and it’s great fun.  I got beaten at the last moment a couple of times by my sister, the dastardly Vickie.  Damn her and her fast reflexes.

We also visited my Auntie Jen and her lovely partner, Denise, on their cool lifestyle block and witnessed a calf being born!  It was the miracle of life in action, people.  Money can’t buy that kind of excitement.  I also got to hang out with my mother’s first cousin (which makes her my second cousin, I think), Janet – such a nice woman.  I had crashed her holiday somewhat, as she’d organised her trip out to visit Mum and Dad a while ago and I then turned up at the last minute, but it was cool to spend some time with her and it meant that Mum was able to crack on with some work, safe in the knowledge that Janet and I were pottering around.  Mum, Dad and Janet are off to Fiji later this week, the lucky sods.

Although my trip was so short and I spent most of it in my home town, I did manage to see quite a few friends.  My friends are awesome.  They’re the most low-maintenance people I know, never inclined to cause drama and always happy to see me.  My sister Pip and I went to Davey and Carla’s house for a BBQ and some rugby-watching on the first Saturday that I was in the country and it was great to chill out and shoot the breeze.  Davey is a legend and I’d consider him to be one of my best mates.  His friends are cool, too.

Towards the end of my trip (last Thursday, in fact), I headed down to Wellington and had dinner with Matty, who had moved back to NZ from London last year.  And I had a coffee and a catch-up with Amy, a friend of mine from way back.  And I had a cup of tea and another catch-up with Melissa, another old school friend.  And I sat in the sun with Davey and co, drinking beer and shooting the breeze.  And I watched a great fireworks display over Wellington Harbour on Guy Fawkes night. 

My last day in NZ was spent in Auckland, where the sun was shining and the world was looking good (I’ve discovered that I quite like Auckland, much to my surprise: all non-Aucklanders are raised to think that Auckland is pretty sucky, but it’s actually a nice city).  I spent the morning with Anthea, who used to range around the Manawatu countryside with me on horseback, causing mayhem.  We sat in the sun in her garden and watched her husband, the lovely Greg, assemble a new barbeque.  The afternoon was spent catching up with Anna, one of my dearest friends and the person that I would love to live next-door to!  She took me to the airport and we spent some time planning a brilliant long weekend in Melbourne – a trip that we will take whenever Tristan and I move back to NZ for good.

I also loved being at home, in general.  I just love that country.  The people are super-chilled, everybody is easy-going and friendly, the food is great, life moves at a nice pace – it’s great.  I am very happy to be living in the UK, but every time I travel home it reminds me that, in the long term, NZ is where I’m going to want to settle down.

I’ve got to rave about the service I received from Air New Zealand on this trip.  I’d decided to mention the circumstances of my trip when I checked it, which paid good dividends.  On the way out, they made sure that I got the window seat I’d requested and marked all my luggage as ‘priority’, which helped me to get my connecting flight from Auckland to Wellington without a hassle.  On the way back, the lovely check-in lady heard my tale of flying home for a very short trip and having to go straight back to work the day after getting back to the UK and did the best thing ever: she gave me my window seat and blocked off the two neighbouring seats, ensuring that I had three seats to myself for the first leg of my flight home.  This meant that I got around seven hours of sleep while flying from Auckland to Hong Kong, which is, I’m sure, the reason why I haven’t suffered from any jet lag.

I slept really well on the flight to NZ as well, come to think of it.  This is a first for me: at my height, a long period in an economy class seat usually means that I get no sleep at all.  The magic formula was: lots of high pressure work for a week before the trip, wearing me out; two double vodka and tonics at the airport; a glass of sparkling wine with dinner, on the plane; two Night Nurse capsules (a fantastic cold remedy that makes me super-drowsy); an inflatable neck support thing; an eye mask; and my own pillow on the flight.  In each of the two flights (London to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Auckland) I slept for at least five hours.  It really helped me to get to NZ without feeling like a zombie and meant that I didn’t waste any time there, being knackered.

By this stage of the day you may have realised that I’m in a fine, chipper mood.  As past blog entries have suggested, I have had a fairly hard, long, stressful year – and I was feeling sorry for myself and downtrodden for the first part of my trip home.  However, for various reasons (and after some good conversations with lovely family members and a telephone call with Tristan), I decided that enough was enough.  Sod being stressed out and miserable!  I’m over it.  Although I know that I have valid reasons for feeling that way at times, I’m afraid that it has become a bit of a lifestyle choice recently.  I refuse to accept that I don’t have any control over the way that I view the world, so I’m choosing to be positive and optimistic from now on.  I recognise that I may still have hard days, but I am DETERMINED to keep things in perspective and just get on with it.  Life’s too short, etc.  Yay!