Monday 28 June 2010

Places I've been to lately

The master plan is to head away at least once a month. It is, afterall, one of the reasons why we moved to this side of the world. While we plot our next trip, here's a wee recap of where we've been lately...
Paris: yes, it was as cold as it looks but then it was early May. As a setting for a reunion with Husband, it was fine but the words 'Paris' and 'love' will still never emerge from my mouth in the same sentence. I do concede to enjoying Clignancourt Market, catching up with French and Kiwi friends and filling my camera's memory card. There was even an extra night thrown in, thanks to Mother Nature mucking about with an Icelandic volcano, but Paris still couldn't win over this hard heart. Nice pain au chocolat, though.

Atop Belfast's Victoria Square shopping centre with Husband's family for a post-wedding view across the city's spires and gingerbread rooftops.

Cardiff: took Husband's parents to the Welsh capital for lunch and dropped into Cardiff Castle for a looksie. I first visited this beautiful city around 17 years ago and in my absence they've been busy, particularly around the swanky wharf area. And Mr Sunshine tagged along for the ride, which made the day even better.

Bath: playing the dutiful daughter-in-law in front of spectacular Bath Cathedral. Loved this historic city so much we are heading back next weekend but this time for a freebie media junket for a story I'm doing for a NZ publication. Bring on the posh hotel!

Brunel's Suspension Bridge provided the backdrop for this Kodak moment with the in-laws. The glass of red at this popular Bristol pub which overlooks the Avon Gorge wasn't half bad either. A nice way to end a weekend spent playing tourists in our new backyard.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Riding the buses

It's been 97 days since a nice man came to my Thorndon apartment to give me a cheque for the Rav 4.

Even though it blew out far too many candles at its last birthday, was covered in dog hair and smelled like an old sock, the green jeep was a faithful servant for many years.

Making the transition from being independently mobile to an active consumer of public transport has had its positives: I now understand how smug greenies feel, knowing that my daily activities aren't contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion or the end of civilisation as we know it. Plus it's kinder on the wallet.

Not surprisingly, the other side of the ledger has filled up just as quickly. There was, for example:
  • the bus driver who wasn't aware that the middle pedal was the brake
  • the driver who made us all wait while he urinated in the bushes. The fact that we could see him didn't make it any less uncomfortable
  • the collection of odd-balls who tried to engage me in conversation. Don't tell me to smile, that it might never happen because it already has – you're sitting next to me, loser
  • the teenager with an extensive vocabulary of swear words who told one passenger she “needed to f----n get out more often” after the passenger admitted she didn't know the fare as she didn't usually catch the bus. Cue shouting match while mother of potty mouthed teenager provided the laughter soundtrack.
Having dipped our toes in the mobile world when Husband's parents visited recently, we realised just how much we missed having a car. The result is that Husband is now making noises about ditching the Vespa and buying a Mini.

It won't win me any brownie points with the eco warriors but I don't care – bring on a new car.

Saturday 26 June 2010

And still this little girl waits...

According to the letter that plopped through my front door this morning, the ship containing some of the things I love most in this world is no longer floating randomly across the globe, but has docked in Portsmouth.

Now it's just over to HM Customs & Excise, and no doubt an excessive amount of hoop jumping and box ticking, before the six cartons can be delivered to Bristol.

I can almost hear my beloved clothes, shoes, handbags, photos and kitchen appliances calling to me. Don't worry sweeties, you'll be with Mummy soon...

(Pic: Susan Reep)

Thursday 24 June 2010

The doors

"In this universe, there are things that are known and things that are unknown and, in between, there are doors."
William Blake

When we embarked on this whole moving to the other side of the world lark, I knew I'd have to walk through several of those doors.

Today, I entered the door marked 'new job'. Given my history of starting a different PR contract every three to six months, the logistics of arriving at a new workplace, finding out where the loos are and getting my head around an entirely new business strategy are no great stretch. Doing it in a foreign land is, admittedly, a little daunting.

However, I seem to have lucked out: more than 3,000 people share my workplace and today I met a handful of them as I was shown the on-site gym, cafe, bank, newsagents and beauty spa. There's even a man-made lake out back and, handily, a running track. The bonus is that it's within cooee of Husband's work, so not only can we share the commute, we might occasionally be able to break bread together at lunchtime. The marketing team seems nice, there's lots of work to keep me occupied, and the fact that it's the financial services sector (I've only ever done two short-term contracts in this space) means it's a valuable opportunity for this old dog to pick up a few new tricks. Plus, it isn't government. Enough said.

Another door down, how many more to go?

(Pic: Front Doors)

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Tourists, know thy place

Loving this 'tourist lane' sign from the streets of New York...

Cheek of the week

It's no secret Shazzy would rather eat meat than deal with les enfants.

But today even I was shocked at how selfish some breeders and their bratty offspring can be.

I'd popped into my favourite cafe on Whiteladies Road to read the Guardian, drink green tea and eat the best bruschetta this side of the Vatican. The fact that it's a charity cafe, where all proceeds go to cancer research, always gives me a warm glow.

But today the lovely girl behind the counter was almost in tears. Turns out some horrid woman had come in and dumped her kids on the staff, saying she had errands to run.

The spawn of Satan had taken their mother's absence as a licence to throw food, jump on the furniture and train for the Screaming Olympics.

Note to breeders everywhere: if you absolutely MUST add to this already over-populated planet, then at least take responsibility for your progeny. And for the love of Allah, please teach them some manners.

(Pic: Google Images)

Friday 18 June 2010

To all the dogs I've loved before

If there was crown for the most farewells said in the shortest period of time, it would currently be super-glued to my head.

Last year, I bid farewell to my beloved terrier Brompton as he made his way to doggy heaven. Six weeks ago, I said goodbye to his rambunctious sister Molly and, later today, I will walk out of the delightful Woolly's life.

Just before his 15th birthday, Brompton the Beautiful received an unwanted present: a horribly large cancerous growth near his groin. Making the decision to end his suffering was probably the hardest decision Husband and I have ever had to make. But decide we did and the end was, mercifully, swift and painless. Not a day goes by that I don't think of Brommie and the joy he brought into my life.

Leaving Molly behind also deeply perforated my heart and I still find myself tearing up at odd moments when I recall how close we grew in the last few months. But I am eternally grateful to our good friends Doug and Suzi who, despite uprooting their own lives and moving back to San Francisco, managed to find a place in their hearts – and home - for Ms Molly. Which means my baby will soon be an American dog and I can't wait until Christmas when I can see her again.

Woolly, meanwhile, is a black, short-haired lurcher (pictured above) who was rescued by his lovely owner Clare from an abusive home five years ago. Unlike the slightly pudgy, cuddly dogs I've known, Woolly is slim and angular and would be taller than me if he chose to stand on his hind legs. But when he turns his sad, brown eyes my way, I totally melt. For a month now, I've walked him twice a day in beautiful Brandon Hill Park which we amble around slowly as he gets the doggy news from what seems like every tree and blade of grass. I'm reminded of his size and strength every time he paws at the earth after toileting, sending big clods of grass flying. But he's such a gentle wee soul – except when it comes to other dogs or dastardly squirrels that insist on taunting him – and in the short time I've known him, I've grown to love him and his jaunty bandannas.

Now, however, I've landed a 'real' job, which means having to trot out yet another goodbye. Sweet, timid Woolly, I'm so pleased to have met you and sad that we won't be spending our days together any more. I hope, though, that if you ever need looking after at weekends, you'll think of me...

Thursday 17 June 2010

Things I'll miss when I start work

1) days filled with books, sunshine and dog walks
2) endless cups of green tea and the Guardian at my favourite cafe
3) Phillip Schofield fronting ITV1's This Morning show
4) afternoon runs on an almost deserted Downs
5) leisurely strolls around the supermarket instead of the usual five minute dash.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Please make it stop

Although I'm loving life's Second Act, it isn't all beer and skittles over here.

Currently a tsunami of patriotism is washing over England as the nation becomes obsessed with a bunch of over-preened millionaires chasing a ball around a paddock.

The most obvious manifestation is the use of St George's flags to cover every possible surface, from shops and cars to houses and offices. The deeply unattractive bloke fixing my neighbour's roof felt so moved by Capello's lads he even had the red cross tattooed on his pale, pudgy belly. Needless to say, he spends as much time with his shirt off as possible.

A long time Arsenal supporter, it's not the Beautiful Game I object to but, in much the same way as I was keen to get out of NZ before next year's Rugby World Cup, overt displays of nationalism - no matter what the stripe – make me want to crawl under the duvet.

I'm all for the World Cup being a fleeting chance for humanity to unite, to help bounce South Africa out of economic Armageddon, etc, etc. But do we really need such jingoistic overkill?

A pub I walk past every day is advertising itself as a 'World Cup Free Zone'. I may have to move in there....

(Pic: Telegraph UK)

Friday 11 June 2010

Things I wish I hadn't seen #1

Spotted while walking Woolly in a 'nice' neighbourhood this morning: a kid slumped next to an Italian restaurant's back door, the ground beneath him carpeted with used syringes.

I wouldn't have even seen him if it wasn't for the restaurant owner yelling at his daughter to call an ambulance, while trying to shake the kid awake.

The journalist in me, the one desperate to uncover the truth in any situation, wanted to hang around and find out if he'd ODed. Fortunately, the humanitarian shoved her aside and, after ensuring the Italians didn't need any assistance, I averted my eyes and willed my legs to carry me away from there as quickly as possible.

Sure as hell ain't in Kansas any more, Dorothy...

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Time to exhale

Finding a job is a little like being hit by a bus, dusting yourself off, then waiting to be hit by the next bus. When you're doing it in a foreign country, it's like being hit by a double-decker bus.

For what feels like weeks now, I've been regurgitating my skills, experience and numerous contracts in overly long and tedious application forms for faceless managers who either don't bother to respond or tell me I'm too qualified, not qualified enough, don't have any UK experience or have too much government experience. Declining my application (and written test) the editor of one travel website memorably informed me I was “a more experienced writer than either himself or the deputy editor and that wouldn't sit well in the office”! But at least he bothered to get back to me.

Probably the hardest thing has been making the mental somersault from being a respected and competent 'someone' to just another displaced foreigner looking for a job in a market that's still deeply scarred by the recession.

Subsequently, a dark cloud of self-doubt has been hovering over me, making me wonder what I'm doing wrong and why these idiots can't see how much value I can add to their organisations.

But on Thursday, three and a half weeks since I arrived in Bristol, the train pulled out of Looserville and into my station. Not one but TWO recruitment agents called with good news and I was able to kick the self doubt monster, Ninja-style, to the kerb. The first job was a permanent role as a Marketing Executive for an Australian financial support company; the second was a nine-month contract, again as a Marketing Exec, for a global, blue-chip financial services organisation (the 15th largest company in the world by revenue, since you ask).

For reasons far too tedious to go into here, I accepted the second role and, even though it's a few steps down the food chain from where I was at home, it's a job and in this country where so few people have one, I'm pathetically grateful for the opportunity.

It happened just in time too, because I've pretty much reached the nadir of the application and interview process; I'm punch drunk from having to 'sell' myself and my career and am ready for the coldest of turkey. Just gotta wait for the two week reference process to be over and I'm in.

The bonus is now I get to do all those things I've been putting on hold until I found work – join a Zumba class, get a subscription to Red Magazine and hand over lots of pictures of the Queen in return for some glorious new clothes.

Must be time to help prop up the ailing British economy...

Monday 7 June 2010

My first British barbie

Choose the metaphor that best suits you. Life is:

A) a random series of events over which you have little control
B) way too hard
C) a beautiful thing.

I'll admit that my choices usually oscillate wildly between all three options. Lately, however, they've been spending far too much time paddling around in the A) and B) end of the spectrum.

Today, though, was definitely a C) day.

I spent it lying in the sun in Bristol's glorious Downs, eating my bodyweight in veggie sausages, Spanish olives and onion bread, and downing an entire bottle of Australian merlot. A couple of Husband's colleagues had dragged a gas barbie halfway across town and, in yet another example of the kindness of strangers, they opened their tight circle to allow me in to eat, drink and play frisbee.

It sounds as cheesy as a ripe Gourda, but today life truly is beautiful...

Friday 4 June 2010

How the mighty have fallen

Meeting your idol and discovering they're not nearly as cool as you'd imagined must surely rank as one of life's more disappointing experiences.

In much the same way that watching sassy, sexy women you once revered reduced to a bunch of overdressed airheads in need of a decent script is.

Last night we went to see Sex and the City 2. Being car-less, this meant a cross-town schlep on the distinctly unglamorous No 1 bus to a nondescript multiplex in the unsexy location of Cribbs Causeway. But Husband's lovely work colleagues had taken pity on friendless Shazzy and invited her to join them in viewing the latest exploits of Carrie and co. I tried, and failed miserably, not to think about the first SATC film when, after dining and cocktailing at Chow in Tory Street, a group of my BFFs skipped between the puddles to snuggle into the big, squishy seats at Courtenay Central's Cine Lounge and gush over the clothes, the city and the blatent product placement.

But that was then and this is now: having been in Bristol less than a month and able to count the number of locals I know on less than one hand, it would have been churlish to refuse Husband's colleagues' invitation.

Besides, as a long time fan of the TV show and someone who loved the first movie enough to repeatedly watch a Hong Kong-bought copy, I wanted to see how the Manhattanites were faring as wives, mothers and women whose ages were now so high they were surely in danger of getting vertigo.

Not well, it would seem. I’m not sure where Michael Patrick King's head is at – or just how badly the economic skies have fallen in for the quartet and ring-ins such as Penelope Cruz and Liza Minnelli – but dear God people, what were you thinking? There’s not much sex, not enough city and a plotline so thin it would make Kate Moss look obese. Sure there were some laughs but swapping Abu Dhabi for New York doesn't obscure the fact that you've got nothing left to say.

The best line comes near the end when Carrie and her once relevant sistahs stand on the steps of their flash hotel waiting to be driven to the airport. Instead of the white limos that ferried them in, a pair of broken-down old taxis turn up. “Oh how the mighty have fallen,” sighs Carrie.

How right you are Ms Bradshaw.....


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