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!


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!’

Leaving the firm

March 31, 2011

The hardest thing about leaving the UK is leaving my lovely, lovely job.  I would never have thought that I would have thought twice about the opportunity to return to NZ, but when it came to the crunch I really did need to think about what I would be giving up here.  Tristan first heard about the job opportunity in November, but we talked about it and decided that it was too soon for us to leave – we’d thought that we would think about making the move in 2013, so it all felt a little too soon.  And I knew that my area of business (corporate social responsibility) was fairly low-key in NZ – it seems to be a few years behind what’s going on in the UK.  So I thought that I would benefit from another couple of years of experience before heading back and trying to change the world. 

Anyway, it soon became apparent that the job opportunity for Tristan was just perfect and would not necessarily become available again for several years, so we had to go for it.  And I’m really glad that we did.  I am so sorry to leave the firm; I’ve loved every day of the past four years there and have been so fortunate to work for one of the best organisations in the world, surrounded by brilliant colleagues who treat each other with kindness and respect.  But the prospect of being able to ply my trade in my own country is just fantastic.  It’s daunting to think that I’m leaving behind a role where I’m liked and respected, where I’ve built up credibility and been able to make a real impact, both for my firm and for the charities and schools that we support, but I have had the opportunity to learn so much, and now I’m ready to push myself a bit further and see what I can really achieve.

When we arrive Tristan will start work straight away, but I’m going to take some time off.  To begin with, we’ll need to find somewhere to live, and then I’ll need to do some networking and planning.  I have a couple of ideas of what I might do next, but I will have a lot of leg-work ahead of me.

It’s scary, but it’s very exciting!

Tui’s big adventure

March 31, 2011

There is SO MUCH to tell you about our move!  I’m going to do it in chunks, to devote sufficient time to every exciting detail.

Tui the Wonder Dog is heading to New Zealand a week ahead of us.  It won’t surprise you to learn that flying a dog across the world is a mission (and hellishly expensive), but given that the alternative would be an epic road trip through several continents, we’ve all had to get on with it.

I’d always assumed (as much as I’d ever thimk about these things) that pets would be sedated before flying, but it turns out that this isn’t the case: sedation lowers one’s blood pressure, as does flying, so the combined effects are too dangerous and no pet is allowed to fly if it looks to be a bit doped and woozy.  Instead, the Wonder Dog will travel in her own personal crate, built to give her just enough space to stand up, lie down and turn around.  She’ll travel in a special part of the hold that is temperature-controlled and will be very dark – apparently, most dogs sleep for the entire journey.  Is it just me, or does this sound like a pretty awesome way to travel?  I wish I could fly home in my own custom-built bedroom.  I suspect that it will be more comfortable than folding my lanky frame into an economy-class seat for two back-to-back 12 hour flights.

The only grim thing is that Tui will be sealed into her crate at Heathrow and won’t be allowed out again until she gets to Wellington, some 30 hours later.  I was slightly concerned about this and asked about bathroom arrangements, having assumed that Tui would be allowed out for a scamper around at the halfway mark.  But no!  The dog shipping company suggested that we don’t feed her for 24 hours before the journey and take her for a decent walk beforehand, to let her do her business.  She will have water on the trip, so she won’t be a shrivelled-up little puppy when she arrives.

To prepare for the journey we’ve needed to sort out medical records and blood tests.  Thankfully, dogs travelling from the UK to NZ don’t have to spend any time in quarantine at the moment, but she will need to be under house arrest and avoid other dogs for the first month.  My parents are going to pick her up from Wellington and take care of her until I arrive, a week later.

One of the hardest things we’ve had to do is tell Tui’s lovely dog sitter, Tina, that we were leaving.  Lovely people, poor Tina was devastated.  She has two dogs of her own, but she and her husband really love Tui.  She’s had her for three days this week, just to soften the blow of parting, and she’s bought her a blinging new collar.  Check it out:

Our taste in dog fashion is a lot more sober, but Tina decided to throw away Tui’s collar after buying this one… Tristan’s going to buy her something slightly more ‘everyday’ this morning, and this glam number can be kept for special occasions.

So, Tui is spending her last day as a UK dog today.  She will be taken to Heathrow tomorrow afternoon and I will be a nervous wreck until I know that she’s made it to Wellington in one piece.  I’ve written my mother an extensive Tui the Wonder Dog operations manual.  We’re all set.