April 29, 2011

I did a stupid thing today: I visited my ex-firm’s website.  When I got there, I checked out the Community section and realised that I had been erased; unsurprisingly, all references to me have been removed.  And the Community News page, which provides short updates about recent projects and activities, featured several initiatives that I had dreamt up.  It’s really true: that isn’t my job anymore.  The world keeps turning.

It sounds daft, but I almost feel like I’m in mourning for my lovely job.  I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to work there and develop the community affairs strategy into something that is now a source of great pride for the firm.  It was wonderful to do something that ticked so many boxes that are important to me: it made me happy; it gave me the chance to use a wide range of my skills; it enabled me to spend every day dealing with fantastic people, both in the firm and externally; and it made a positive difference to the world, helping the schools and charities that we supported and, by extension, the people that they were set up to support.

I am going to set up a community engagement initiative of some kind in New Zealand, and I know that it will be amazing to be able to use my expertise to help people in my own country.  However, this will take time – the kind of things that I want to do are likely to be different to what is already happening here and I will need to get myself organised.  For now, I’m left missing the day-to-day ritual of my job.  I honestly don’t know how people can choose not to work.  I can understand it if you’re at home with little kids or something (far busier than any job, from what I’ve seen), but aside from that… no.  What do people who don’t work talk about when their spouses come home in the evening?  I miss talking to people all day.  I guess that I could fill my day with coffee dates and the like, but I fear that I would discover that I only shared a surfeit of leisure time with my fellow coffee-drinkers and had little else in common.  I guess that I could go to the gym every day and fill my hours with exercise classes.  Actually, I should do something like that – this enforced idleness is a good opportunity to get in shape once again.

Essentially, I miss having that sense of shared purpose with my colleagues.  I went to work every day feeling fortunate to have that job and I was never sad when holidays ended: there weren’t enough hours in the day to get through my wish-list of new projects.  Now, I miss contributing to something more meaningful than cleaning this shoebox of a serviced apartment, or making dinner.

It isn’t a surprise to me that I’m feeling this way.  In a couple of weeks we should have our rental house organised, and then I will start making my plans.  For now, I think I should call time on the whole ‘exilednzer’ thing and stop thinking about my old life and, by extension, what I am missing about it.  Time to hit the reset button and focus more fully on my new life – after all, it’s going to be awesome!


The Happiness Project

April 28, 2011

I’ve been aware of the book (and blog) The Happiness Project for ages, and I’ve finally got around to buying the book.  I am blessed with time to read at the moment, after all!  So far I’m four chapters in, which equates to three months of Gretchen Rubin’s year-long experiment, and I’m absolutely loving it.  It helps that Rubin is a really good writer: her use of language is great and she’s so honest that it makes me feel far more inclined to reflect upon my own negative habits and how I might address them.

If you haven’t heard of The Happiness Project, start by checking out the blog.  It offers bite-sized ways to make life happier.  What could be better than that?

And on a happy note, I wanted to give you a recap of my achievements since yesterday, when I wrote:

Today’s plan: view the house at midday; drop Tristan off at his work; be brave and drive around until I find my way back to the shops at Takapuna; buy a sat nav; get a new SIM card and reactivate my iPhone.

We viewed the house and really liked it: it’s quite small (and quite expensive), but it’s nice and in a good area, and I think that it will suit us well until we’re ready to buy a house of our own.  We’ve submitted our rental application form and are just waiting for the landlord to confirm everything.

I did drop Tristan off at work yesterday, but the weather was filthy (so far, it rains A LOT in Auckland), so I didn’t explore.  However, I’ve got the car to myself today and tomorrow because Tristan’s in Christchurch for meetings, so I drove to Takapuna and back this morning, and I didn’t get lost or have any motor disasters.  I really don’t understand why I’m a fairly nervous driver: I’ve been driving for six years and have never had a moment of drama.  It’s stupid to be worried.  I should just drive more.  And I did buy a sat nav today, so I will be able to explore with no hassles.  Hurrah!

And I spent half an hour in the Telecom shop and have got a new SIM card and account for my phone, so I will unlock my iPhone later today and get it all organised.  And that will make me happier.

In Auckland

April 26, 2011

I’ve been in Auckland since Monday night and I’m going to be honest with you: I’m a little freaked out.  I’m finding it very disconcerting to be in a strange city, not knowing where anything is, not recognising any of the street or suburb names, having no job to go to and nothing much to do.  We have one car between the two of us and, so far, I haven’t driven anywhere. I hate not knowing the way.

Actually, that’s not true – I do have to find somewhere to live.  At present we’re staying in a motel unit, kindly funded by Tristan’s new employer for his first three weeks in the country.  It’s fairly basic, but I guess that it has everything we need.  And the lack of space provides an excellent incentive to find a house.

The complicating factor is the need to find a dog-friendly rental property.  We saw a place yesterday that would house a dog – and had done so recently, judging by the state of the carpet – but the house itself was tucked away on a back section and in a fairly dreary neighbourhood.  We’re seeing a place today that seems more promising; we liked what we saw when we did a drive-by last night, and the landlady sounded decent when I telephoned her last night.

At the moment I’m breaking down my life into manageable chunks.  First job: find a rental property.  Next: organise our move and get our meagre collection of possessions (a bed, a book shelf, some bedside tables, a coffee table, some kitchen stuff) shifted up from my parents’ house in Feilding.  After that: wait for our container of furniture and belongings to arrive and get the house sorted out properly.  When that’s all done: start figuring out what to do with the rest of my life.  I also need to organise a trip to Sydney, but I’m delaying even thinking about that until we’ve found somewhere to live.  One step at a time.  And I need to get in touch with my Auckland friends.  I think it will do me good to see some familiar faces.

When we arrived in Auckland on Monday night it was in the midst of a huge rain storm, after a very slow car trip from Taupo.  Tristan had come down to Feilding for Easter and we’d travelled up during the whole day, visiting Kate and Stephen in Taupo on the way.  The weather continues to be fairly damp and gloomy, and the humidity has made my hair go stark raving mad: I’m going to have to grow it long again, to ensure that I can tie it back and forget about it.

It isn’t a surprise to me that I’m feeling slightly out of sorts: my whole life has changed.  Let’s be honest; anybody who knows me will have anticipated that the recent changes and current uncertainty would send me into a bit of a tail-spin.  I’m fine, though. I know that I just need to get things sorted and then I can start getting to grips with life in Auckland.  It was easy when I was in Feilding for a couple of weeks, safe in the bosom of the family.  It just felt like a holiday.  Being in Auckland, it feels more like the start of our new life.  EEK.

Today’s plan: view the house at midday; drop Tristan off at his work; be brave and drive around until I find my way back to the shops at Takapuna; buy a sat nav; get a new SIM card and reactivate my iPhone.

Anzac Day

April 25, 2011

It was New Zealand and Australia’s version of Remembrance Sunday yesterday: Anzac Day.  The day – a public holiday – remembers the contribution of past and current members of the armed forces.  The name ‘Anzac’ stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and dates back to when troops from both countries fought and died together at Gallipoli.

For the first time we went to the dawn service.  Feilding, my home town, was also the home town of Tim O’Connell, the first New Zealand soldier to be killed in Afghanistan last year and, yesterday, members of his family laid a wreath in his memory.  His was the first name to be added to the war memorial since the Second World War: a sad honour to hold.

Hundreds of people attended the dawn service at Feilding’s war memorial and I was pleased to be one of them.  And as we drove north to Auckland yesterday we passed through several small towns; each one had its own war memorial and each memorial was covered in wreaths, showing that dawn services had been held everywhere.  I like that.

Anyway, Pip has posted a couple of times about Anzac Day and my grandfather, Pat.  Read here and here.


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…