Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
1. WHAT DID YOU DO IN 2010 THAT YOU'VE NEVER DONE BEFORE?
Moved to Bristol, gave up my beloved dog, struggled to find a decent job, played the stock and bond market, became an editor, was made redundant, wore gumboots to walk to work in the snow, made peace with Macs.
2. WHICH COUNTRIES DID YOU VISIT?
France, Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Wales, Thailand and the US.
3. WHAT DID YOU WANT THIS YEAR AND GET?
Overseas adventures, my UK work visa, a job I love, great travel commissions and new friends.
4. WHAT DID YOU WANT THIS YEAR AND NOT GET?
To keep my lovely house and poochie, a good job and house as soon as I arrived in the UK, the usual end to war, hunger and cruelty.
3. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE IN 2011 THAT YOU DIDN'T HAVE IN 2010?
Security (of where I'm going to live and work), a decent house, a dog.
4. WHAT DATE FROM 2010 WILL REMAIN ETCHED IN YOUR MEMORY, AND WHY?
When we found out we were moving to Bristol - and had to turn down a job in Singapore. And the day I said goodbye to Molly - broke my heart in a way that will never totally be healed.
5. WHAT DID YOU LEARN THIS YEAR?
Uprooting my very comfortable life and starting at the bottom in a new country - yet again - taught me oceans about myself and how strong I am, how to roll with the punches and, most importantly, to shrug it off when it all turns to steaming piles of shit. I also got a tad better at walking away from people, situations and concepts that no longer served me.
On a more practical note, never to buy H&M jeans (they stretch like buggery), not to make impulsive financial decisions and good hairdressers exist all over the globe - they just take a bit of hunting out.
6. WHAT WAS THE HIGHPOINT OF THE YEAR?
Being reunited with the Animator after a seven week absence, being reunited with Ms Molly after a seven month absence, lots of new experiences, laughs with new friends.
7. AND THE LOWPOINT?
Having to turn down a job in Singapore, trying to find a job in the rubbish British economy, wasting four months of my life in a horrid contract, living in the Slum, being grounded at Heathrow by snow.
8. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU'D DONE MORE OF IN 2010?
Volunteering with animals, yoga, reading, keeping in touch with people that matter to me.
9. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU'D DONE LESS OF?
Drinking red wine in dodgy bars, wasting time and energy on jobs and people that didn't deserve it; hopefully next time I will be able to walk away more quickly.
10. DID YOU SUFFER FROM ILLNESS OR INJURY?
Apart from the usual sore throats and sniffles, no thank goodness.
11. WHAT WAS THE BEST THING YOU BOUGHT?
What a question to ask someone with a PhD in retail! The highlight of my time in the UK has been propping up the ailing economy, so all the clothes, shoes, handbags and household stuff fall into this category. God only knows how I'm going to shunt it to the other side of the world.
Other notables include our cute car (always wanted a Mini), a GPS (we'd still be trying to find our way out of our street without it) and my tiny-but-perfectly-formed Samsung Notebook. No more lugging around stupidly large laptops for this girl. Oh and lots of dosh also went to line the pockets of airlines and hotels.
12. WHO OR WHAT DID YOU WANT TO LOCK IN A ROOM AND THROW AWAY THE KEY FOR IN 2010?
People who don't walk on the same side of the footpath they drive on (yes locals, I'm talking about you!), cold weather, breeders with screamy, uncontrollable kids, bastards who do unthinkable things to animals, whoever screwed with the economy, my boss at the previous horrid contract and rude, inconsiderate people.
13. WHERE DID ALL YOUR MONEY GO IN 2010?
See question 11
14. DID YOU ACHIEVE YOUR NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS THIS YEAR? AND DO YOU HAVE ANY FOR 2011?
Yes, we made it overseas and had some adventures, so well done us!
2011: getting more stability in my life (of where we're going to live), finding a better house, putting the breaks on the wanton spending and making my life complete with a dog.
Monday, 27 December 2010
Sunday, 26 December 2010
Christmas San Francisco style
Hope you were as well fed, happy, relaxed and spoilt as we were...
Saturday, 25 December 2010
How's this for a view?
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Seven and a half months after saying goodbye to the impossibly beautiful Molly, we were reunited on a rainy Tuesday night in San Francisco. All thoughts of the three-day delay, of the rugby scrum/riot that is Heathrow and of being fondled by customs were forgotten when we set eyes on Her Highness.
She cavorted, she yelped, she ran victory laps around us and pretty much forgot that she is, in fact, an old lady. Apart from my reunion with the Animator after a seven week absence earlier this year, I can honestly say I have NEVER been happier to see anyone in my life. I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual.
When Her Ladyship calmed down, she sat there and looked at us as if to say, 'What the hell took you guys so long?' Her new dad Doug tells us that although Molly is exceedingly happy in San Francisco (who wouldn't be?), she sometimes looks for her 'other' humans. Well today those tardy humans finally showed.
And after the biggest hug in the history of the world, the Mollster jumped on her favourite couch and promptly fell asleep.
Today this glossy black dog made me happier than anything else on earth.
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Things I willl never do
1) spend another Christmas in this country
2) fly anywhere from the UK at Christmas (or Easter or any other major holiday)
3) travel with British Airways
4) refer to this landmass as 'Great Britain'. I can think of numerous other adjectives to replace the first word with, but as this is a family publication, we won't go there.
Okay, rant over. We are now in Heathrow's departure lounge and hoping that the World's Greatest Airline will get us the hell out of dodge. Thanks for the texts, emails and love from all over the globe. We owe you one..
Monday, 20 December 2010
Having spent 12 hours at Heathrow, we heard some of those stories first-hand: of the elderly couple who were flying to New York to do a four-day dream cruise which they had missed; of the American student who sat on the runway for seven hours before they were allowed to escape back into the terminal (and were only fed one bottle of water and a sandwich during that time); of the lovely Italian bloke who was only in London for a meeting and had spent two days at the airport trying to get home; of the Texan businessman who bemoaned the fact that every time he transited through London, something went wrong. “This country just doesn't work,” he said over our tenth coffee. I was inclined to agree with him.
Even singer Lily Allen was among the stranded. Her tweet pretty much summed up the mood at Heathrow: “Still no idea if our flight will go, ever. Can't get a hotel anywhere and cabs can't get anywhere near the airport. Guess we're all kipping here.”
Last evening we decided we couldn't bear the thought of spending a night on the cold stone tiles, so managed to get back to the Sheraton, dug out the car from thick snow and drove back to Bristol. Admittedly getting out of London was a bit hairy and the thick pea soup fog on the way home didn't help, but the M4 was surprisingly clear (thank god for salt) and there were few cars so we got home in about two hours.
Today we should have been in San Francisco, seeing the lovely Molly, catching up with our friends and enjoying the positively tropical 12 degree temperatures, not schleping around snow-covered Bristol. I am so cross and disappointed I could chew my own hand off. But in the interests of making the best of a bollocks situation, after sleeping for 12 straight hours, we rugged up and headed out. Here's me in front of Bristol's beautiful Cathedral and with the fabulous seasonal decorations at Cabot Circus, my favourite of the city's shopping malls.
Sunday, 19 December 2010
This is what hell must look like
British f**kin Airways, an airline almost as bollocks as Air France, couldn't even re-book us or offer us hotel or food vouchers. When we got stuck in Paris in May because of the volcanic ash, dirty old Easyjet bent over backwards to accommodate, feed and water us - and they are bottom of the airline barrel. So you'd expect a 'proper' airline to do at least as much. Today I feel as much love for Britain's national carrier as I do for the snow and this country. Arghhhhh...
Managed to book a flight on TUESDAY with Air NZ - not out of any sense of nationalism because I could quite happily travel in the cargo hold of ANY carrier at this stage. But it's the first flight out of this godforsaken place. Tonight Heathrow is our home and tomorrow we will attempt to retrieve our car from the Sheraton carpark and drive back to Bristol. And then make the return journey on Tuesday - if the friggin snow has stopped.
I have now lost the will to live....
Friday, 17 December 2010
So this is Christmas
But a fantastic time was had by all - as these pics of drunken English folk so clearly illustrate. Don't say you weren't warned...
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Managing my addiction
Last week, I bought a homeless bloke and his dog some food.
I'd previously seen them both around town but that day, the beautiful 10-year-old dog looked particularly unhappy. So I wandered over and let bossy Shazzy loose: had the dog eaten today (yes), had she had her shots (not sure), did he look after her (yes) and where were they going to sleep that night (in a hostel). I offered to buy them both something hot from the nearby chippie and as the guy chowed down on a greasy sausage, he told me all about his demons, his addiction to Class As and his struggle to be shot of both.
The sub-text of this story is that any of us could quite easily have taken a wrong turn and ended up with this guy's back-story. I'm outrageously thankful that my addiction is not to drugs, alcohol or gambling but, rather more innocently, to vast amounts of Christmas mince pies.
At this time of the year, most people are obsessed with spending stupid amounts of money on stuff no-one really wants or needs, getting lairy and channelling their inner slappers at the office party, or wondering how they'll survive spending time with their families. Yet my head is filled only with thoughts of inhaling enough mince pies to feed my serious addiction.
Perhaps its the frighteningly high sugar-to-butter ratio, or maybe it's the chunks of glossy dark fruit and occasional guest appearance of brandy or orange zest. Whatever the reason, these small, rich and sweet morsels of mouth happiness fit neatly into all sorts of gaps. The obvious one is as a welcome gift for Santa, but they're also the ideal accompaniment for present wrapping sessions, killer hangovers, to enliven the tenth cuppa of the day, or for comfort-eating after 48 fraught hours in a house that isn't your own.
Apparently, mince pies were originally filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than a dried fruit mix as they are today. They were first made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes. Legend also has it that Queen Victoria would only have sex if she had a couple of mince pies first (actually, I made that last bit up. My mind tends to wander between pies).
One custom that isn't fabricated – and of which I completely approve – comes from the Middle Ages where it was believed that consuming a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (6th January) would promise happiness for the next 12 months.
Yesterday a guy in Sainsbury's convinced me to buy 12 mince pies for the incredible price of two quid (wages may be shite over here but groceries are ridiculously cheap). And no, they weren't dried up hunks of rubbish either – they were deep, crumbly and everything a good pie should be. Just over 24 hours later, only one box remains.
If I'm not careful, my Size Eight licence may soon be revoked.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
Tis the season to...
- escape from work
- speed-date with cirrhosos of the liver, and
- throw your fun thermostat totally out of whack.
Last night, we had our editorial/design team knees-up. Thanks to the shiny, happy people below for inducting me into the Brits' love of the silly season - it's been a while since I was flung out of my festive comfort zone and into the OTT spectacle that is Xmas on this side of the pond. Somehow, though, it does feel right to have Christmas in winter - the snow, mulled wine, chapped lips and hearty fare.
Last night was just a dummy run for the biggie on Wednesday - the company-wide bash. The all-day event starts with a choice of various activities (paint-balling, go-carting, pole dancing, street dancing, clay pigeon shooting and ceramic plate painting) which wraps around 3.00pm and then we have a few hours to get glammed up for the black-tie evening event. Expect more random pics of drunken folk - just better dressed.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
What maketh a man?
Is it how well he wields a hammer or wrench? Perhaps it's his ability to score a try or remember your birthday. Or maybe it's down to the size of his wallet, his heart or his you-know-what.
According to the NZ Herald (and the bizzarely obscure Popular Mechanics magazine), the following list encapsulates the essence of man. Last night when the Animator came in from playing football (in the snow! Does that make him a man, or just a weather-denying lunatic?) I ran through the list with him. He, of course, could do them all except No 19 (the gun one – obviously he's a pacifist or I wouldn't be with him).
He's smeared in cleverness, that husband of mine. The only downside is because he's so goddam capable, I've become a lazy cow who doesn't feel the need to learn how to do any of these things. Still, as the old saying goes, why have a dog and bark yourself?
POPULAR MECHANICS' LIST OF 25 SKILLS EVERY MAN SHOULD KNOW
1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Manoeuvre a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25.Extend your wireless network
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
This time last year...
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Who ate all the pies?
One of my most vivid childhood memories is being at home from school with the flu, and Dad bringing me a steaming meat pie from the local bakery. In the Stephenson household, pies were obviously the comfort food equivalent of chicken soup. Needless to say, the culinary landscape of my youth and early adulthood is littered with the carcasses of dodgy pies (remember the horrific slabs of mince and cheese from Georgie Pie, anyone?)
The pie, however, was one of the earliest casualties of my decision to ditch meat nine years ago. Vegetarian options were obviously a concept too far for most manufacturers, and so began my fatwa against the pasty-encased delights.
Until this week, that is, when I stumbled across Pieminister, a cute wee cafe in Bristol's St Nicholas's Market. Along with the usual meaty suspects, I discovered possibly the world's most delectable veggie pies, crammed full of mushrooms and asparagus, studded with hunks of sweet potato and goats cheese, and nestled under a soft, buttery duvet. Hitching a ride was a mountain of mashed spuds, mushy peas and delicious vegetarian gravy.
The carb fest is served on the sort of enamel plates I remember from Girl Guides, and diners chow down at communal tables – so old skool cool it hurts. I Googled them as soon as I and my straining belly got home: apparently the company was born here in Bristol in the early 90s by two young blokes who wanted to change the way the world looked at pies. They now have several outlets around the UK, sell to pubs and cafes all over the shop, and are stocked by numerous supermarkets.
Truly a red-letter week: not only did I end my pie drought, I also supported a local business and got to scoff some of the best food to pass my lips in a long time.
Probably best to blot out all thoughts of cholesterol count and diet fallout, though.