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…


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.

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.

Feeling rough

January 9, 2011

I’ve been feeling a little under the weather recently, with frequent headaches and a general sense of being almost about to come down with something, so I took it easy this weekend.  On Saturday I ran a few gentle errands and then I started this outstandingly old-school jigsaw, bought for 50p from a charity shop:

In the evening we went to The Fox for a very nice dinner and after a few drinks we came home and finished the jigsaw.  Tristan, after being scornful of jigsaws initially, became quite committed to the project and was particularly proud of the part he played in building the entire sky.

Today I’ve spent most of the day on the sofa, with my personal companion close at hand:

She spent a lot of the afternoon sleeping on the job.

You just can’t get the staff.

Tui is four

December 6, 2010

She celebrated her birthday with a rawhide chew and a long walk.

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 at Strattons

September 27, 2010

Party people, we had such a lovely weekend away!  We went to a hotel called Strattons in a little market town called Swaffham, in Norfolk.  To date my only experience of Norfolk was a visit to the outskirts of Norwich to buy Tui, early in 2007, but I’d heard good things about it.

The hotel was pretty fab, actually.  I’m not sure that I would stay there again (mainly because it doesn’t take long to suck the marrow from Swaffham), but we had good dinners in the hotel restaurant on both Friday night and Saturday night and our suite was gorgeous.  It was also open-plan and this led to Tui the Wonder Dog ruling the roost.  Ordinarily the only time that Tui sleeps on a bed is when she stays with the dog sitter – we have schooled her to regard ‘upstairs’ as a mystical land that she has little hope of visiting – but at Strattons she slept on our bed for both nights.  Both mornings I was woken up when she decided to ‘visit’ me at 6.30 and loom over me at the head of the bed, wagging her tail excitedly.  She was absolutely delighted with this new development and the Tui-shaped marks on the bedspread suggested that, whenever we left her in the room, she spent all of her time lounging around like a little person in furry black pyjamas.  But rest assured that this doesn’t indicate a general softening in Tui-management standards: we put her to bed in the conservatory again when we got home last night.

We spent the weekend doing a lot of lying around and a lot of pootling around.  Norfolk is absolutely beautiful, with pretty villages that haven’t been ruined by high street blandness.  The only bummer was the dreadful weather.  We went to the beach on Saturday because we thought that it would be nice to take Tui for a run, but the wind coming off the sea was so strong that we could barely walk upright.  After 20 minutes of battling we gave up and went to a local deli for hot chocolate and cake instead.

The location and the company were, of course, brilliant, but the best thing about the weekend was the opportunity it gave me to switch off.  Tristan confiscated my Blackberry at bedtime on Thursday and I wasn’t allowed it back again until first thing this morning.  In the two or three years since I’ve had a Blackberry I have never gone for a day without checking it, so to leave it behind for three whole days was splendid and definitely helped me to unwind.  This has been a really hard year for me, for a variety of reasons, and my stress levels have been very high.  Although I have had some dramas at work, they really shouldn’t have caused me such angst: it’s more that, when really stressed, I struggle to cope with anything more taxing than getting dressed in the morning.  But by forcing myself to ignore work for three days I realised that I had lost perspective, big-style: Tristan commented that he was finding it difficult to grasp which of my work problems were ‘big’ problems and which weren’t such an issue, and I replied that I wasn’t surprised, given that I was finding it difficult to separate the two categories myself!  Having the space and time to realise this has already made it easier for me to take a step back.

So, it was a great weekend and three days off felt as relaxing as three weeks.  Many thanks to everybody who urged me to take Friday off!  It reminded me that I shouldn’t take it all so seriously and that I’m very lucky to have such a lovely and supportive husband (and a lunatic dog).