Thursday 30 September 2010

Lost in translation

Found while waiting for the clock to tick over to the most glorious time of the day, 5.00pm: a 2009 survey in which the BBC rated the Kiwi accent as “the most attractive and prestigious form of English outside the UK”. Shite, if it's from the Beeb then it must be right, eh?

According to the survey, the Kiwi “fush and chups” came seven places ahead of Australia’s “sex and Seedney” – and nine ahead of the American accent in terms of attractiveness.

It didn't say what criteria they used, but I'm assuming that no Bristolians were involved. That's because most locals can't understand a word I'm saying – and vice versa. Bristolians, you see, enjoy an intimate relationship with the letter 'R' and everytime I hear a dyed-in-the-wool local, I expect to see Johnny Depp appear wearing an eyepatch and brandishing a sword.

The dude who used to check my security pass each morning sounded like he had stepped straight out of pirate central casting, but he might as well have been speaking Hindu – and I Cantonese - for all the sense our shared dialogue made. Which was an entertaining, if slightly confusing, way to begin the working day.

I am soooo glad my office has moved into the city centre, but one casualty has been the daily “I can see his lips moving, but I can't understand a friggin word he's saying” game.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Lunching in Oxford

Sixty miles is a long way to go for lunch – but this was no ordinary lunch.

More years ago than I care to remember, I worked at the BBC in West London with Nickely, a woman as bubbly as a human Berocca. This Aussie dynamo eventually left the Beeb to pursue her dream of opening a dance school in Oxford (the Animator once designed a poster for one of her shows), while her marriage to fellow Aussie David, in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, remains one of the most fun, laid-back nuptials I’ve ever attended.

And while our respective journeys have taken us to all sorts of interesting places, they've seldom crossed and somehow we lost track of each other. But, thanks to the all-invasive power of Google, I managed to track Nickely down and so on Sunday we strapped ourselves into the Mini, made the sign of the cross and braved lunatic British drivers on our journey to Oxford for lunch with Nic, David and their cute-as-a-button sons, Henry and Rufus, whose blonde, sun-kissed looks belie their Antipodean heritage (despite the posh English accents).

Embalmed by the warmth of a shared history, we ate, drank, laughed and caught up on many missed years. I had forgotten how it works here – how this far from home, we create networks out of nothing. I had forgotten the strength of friendships forged in temp jobs years ago. And the realisation that time and distance do not dimish those bonds.

Thanks guys – we look forward to returning the favour soon.

Friday 24 September 2010

There is a God afterall

Some days, while chipping away at this block called life, it feels as though I have the world's smallest chisel.

But today I managed to knock off a huge chunk. Not only did I receive three travel commissions from NZ I also landed my first ever British freelance gig - a profile of an iconic deli for the Bristol Food Magazine. Noice, as Kath Day-Knight liked to say.

Now if I could just land a few more of these puppies, I could kick the horrid day job into touch earlier than its December demise.

Thursday 23 September 2010

My new best friend

Those who say money can't buy you happiness have obviously never handed over four quid to Willie Harcourt-Cooze.

Otherwise known as the UK's King of Chocolate, Willie's 100% pure cacao is like doing backstroke in a sea of deliciousness.

The first I heard of the eccentric Brit was when NZ telly screened a reality-style show earlier this year about Willie's mission to grow his own cacao in Venezuela and convince the mass produced, milk-chocolate loving Poms to switch to the dark, uber unctuous stuff.

With a passion wrapped up in posh vowels, Willie overcame more setbacks than anyone should have to endure to achieve his dream.

Last week I discovered that temple of ridiculously glorious consumption, Harvey Nichols, stocks Willie's wares and, before you could say “Aren't you consuming your whole day's calories at one sitting?” I had signed up for the chocolatey carnival of cholesterol.

Probably the most compelling reason to spend £4 I've ever come across.

Monday 20 September 2010

Things I've seen in the past 24 hours

1) The owner of the corner shop completely wasted at 9.00am yesterday morning. Buying my Saturday Guardian has never been a more surreal experience. Either he was still trashed from the night before or is genetically disposed to drown his cornflakes in vodka.

2) A business card advertising the services of a naked cleaner - on a noticeboard in the kind of suburb where so many late model European cars prowled the wide leafy streets, it made me wonder if the neighbourhood was sponsored by Porsche.

3) The Pope, currently in the UK at great taxpayer expense, on the BBC banging on about the Catholic Church's "overriding concern for the unique dignity of every human person". This from a former member of Hitler's Youth who, in 2001, instructed Bishops NOT to report cases of sexual abuse that have dogged the Church for decades. And, lest we forget, this man helms an institution that thinks no woman on the planet is good enough to become a priest, instructs people with Aids - hell, everyone - not to wear a condom, and believes that gays are "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound". Having spent most of my adult life railing against the religion that was shoved down my throat as a child, I could go on and on - but the Internet called and said it doesn't have the room to store it all.

4) My first ever car boot sale. As British as PG Tips, grim weather and queuing, the early morning event was filled with so much rubbish my retinas will be hurting for days. Who buys this crap? I should've stayed in bed.

5) A huge display of Christmas mince pies in Tesco. People, it is only SEPTEMBER.

Thursday 16 September 2010

From the mouths of Aussies...

Every day I walk past this pub, the Ship Inn, on my way home and most days the laconic Aussie bar manager has scribbled some kind of smart arse comment that helps to dilute the horrors of the previous seven hours.

But today's effort really made me laugh.

And no, Doriette, it's no relation to the Ship Inn in Sydney where we had such a good time on your birthday a few years back. But it's just as much fun.

Monday 13 September 2010

The Freddy's rock Bristol

I'd be the first to say I've had a pretty fortunate life. Good health, education, travel, a great marriage, good friends and family: tick, tick and big fat tick. Plus, as I've recently come to appreciate, my passport entitles me to live in a country that isn't at war with anyone else, has a high standard of living and few people to ruin the view.

So fortunate, yes. But lucky? Even though I've laid out the welcome mat several times, Lady Luck has seldom wiped her feet on it. In my lifetime, all I've ever won is a meat pack (mighty useful to a vegetarian), a toilet roll doll holder and a magazine.

The Animator, however, practically has the lucky one on speed-dial: he only has to walk past a casino and his bank balance swells, and he's won Lotto so many times (including $12,000 on one memorable occasion) I'm surprised they don't ban him from playing.

But yesterday I, too, found out what it's like to eyeball Ms Luck. We'd dragged our hungover selves out of bed to watch the All Blacks beat the Wallabies by one point at the Walkabout pub and, afterwards, started chatting to some fellow Kiwis. Turns out they were up from London to see a gig by iconic Wellington band Fat Freddy's Drop who we didn't even realise were in town. So we shot down to the O2 to see if we could bag us a couple of tickets but, dammit, they were all sold out.

Leaving the arena dejected, we came across the band's roadies unloading the truck and got yarning to their videographer who, Welly being the villlage it is, knew some of the same folk we did. Hearing of our plight, he offered to leave us two free passes on the door that night.

So Saturday night saw us rocking the house with hundreds of others as our favourite band worked its way through its backlist. Having expected a homegrown crowd, I was surprised at how many Brits were there. Just goes to show that music crosses all boundaries.

So a rocking night out – and a free one at that. Now if I could just figure out a way to get the lucky chick to hang around, there are a few other issues I'd like to discuss with her...

Thursday 9 September 2010

After Shocks

When you turn up to a new facialist for the first time, you expect them to comment on how long it has been between treatments, how manky your skin looks and how the unholy trinity of sunshine, late nights and advanced years are taking their toll.

What you don’t expect are their first words to be: “I thought you might have cancelled today because there’s been a major earthquake in your country!”

What the…?

It took a few minutes to establish that a 7.1 earthquake had rocked NZ’s second largest city, Christchurch, in the early hours of (their) Saturday morning. And another few to discover that no-one had died. Facial over, I rushed home where the Animator and I anxiously scrambled for any snippet of news we could find on the BBC, on NZ websites and on Facebook. We don’t have any family living in the Garden City, but I’ve visited many times for work (including a fantastic media junket where I covered the International Busker’s Festival a few years back and was royally fed and watered for a gloriously sunny, fun weekend). Several friends also call this most English of NZ cities home.

What was most shocking was the devastation – watching 3 News being streamed into my living room 19,000km away and seeing places I know flattened beyond recognition. It’s hard to shake the feeling that this kind of malarkey only goes on in “other places”.

They say the recovery costs will be around the $1billion mark. Thankfully we have a government committed to footing this bill, unlike those in countries such as Pakistan and Haiti.

When you live in NZ, you get used to volcanoes and earthquakes, just as our cousins across the ditch learn to contend with snakes and spiders the size of bread plates. My UK colleagues have been bemused by tales of the earthquake drills we have at school, where we learn to cower under desks or in door frames as far away from windows as possible. They have smirked at my account of the emergency rations we squirrel away – tinned foods, bottled water, blankets and torches – for when the Big One hits. And I’ve even regaled them with stories of the Civil Defence bunker in the basement of our Parliament building, The Beehive, which I once visited as part of a PR disaster recovery exercise (back in the day when I had a ‘Real’ job).

I don’t think I’m blowing anyone’s trumpet too loudly when I say that Kiwis are tenacious, practical and not overly given to indulging in hand wringing or whingeing. We are a nation of individuals with a strong can-do attitude instilled in us by isolation and a pioneering spirit. As a result, we’ve earned a reputation for being able to make anything out of a piece of Number Eight fencing wire and a heap of determination. Mother Nature throwing her toys out of the playpen won’t rattle the good citizens of Canterbury; they’ll just roll up their sleeves and get on with returning to life in one of the best countries in the world.

The thoughts of Kiwi expats everywhere are with them…
Photos: The Press

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Farewell to summer

Just days ago, this freakisly large sunflower, which lives a few doors down from me, stood proud and tall, turning its face to the sun and adding a pop of colour to an otherwise nondescript Clifton street.

But, alas, Summer has ticked over to Autumn and the switch has been flicked: there's dew on the windscreen each morning, the leaves are disappearing and daylight seems inclined to put on its pyjamas by 7.00pm. And the genetically modified sunflower is about to commit hari-kari.

Summer… you were good to me. I miss you already and look forward to seeing you again next year. It might be back in NZ or it might be here. Who knows? Either way, me and my sunhat will be ready and waiting.

Autumn… welcome. I am very excited for your arrival as you come bearing gifts of yummy soup, thick tights and Green & Black's hot chocolate. We can now start filling our diaries with things such as ice skating under the stars, bonfire night parties and weekends spent on the couch with a good book, DVDs and a glass of something red.

Saturday 4 September 2010

There are no words...

Yesterday some bloke at work flung himself off the third floor of the open plan atrium. That's a very long drop straight onto hard marble floors. They say he died instantly.

Luckily, I was spared the sight but a couple of my colleagues saw it happen. The 52-year-old wasn't known to us (not unusual when you consider that around 3,000 people are employed at my company) and was said to have been on stress leave for some time. But the spot where he chose to die is close to a bookshop, bank and escalators that ferry hundreds of people daily to a cafe, gym and the back door. Not sure if his choice of location was a strategic decision or not.

It's no secret the organisation I contract to is currently shedding large tracts of its business, meaning the threat of redundancy is high. Plus, the headline act in the UK is still the Recession, so there are even more unemployed, cash-strapped and stressed folk around than I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. I've only worked here for three months and already I've come across two women crying in the loos. It's fair to say it isn't a terribly happy place to work.

No-one's quite sure of the reasons for this poor bloke's decision to end it all one warm Thursday afternoon – and maybe we will never know why. Understandably, though, it has caused much freaking out amongst the general populace. I can't imagine what it would be like to be innocently using the cash machine, or waiting for a coffee, and see a man hurtle to his death. Just the thought of it makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. Fortunately, we are moving buildings at the end of this month (into the CBD - yay!) because today the place just seemed to echo with sadness.

(Pic: Google Images)

Thursday 2 September 2010

Our Bank Holiday 'Staycation'

Sunshine during an August bank holiday?

About as likely as Victoria Beckham wearing flat shoes, say those in the know.

And since the sun hadn't written or phoned for what seemed like days, the odds of a dreary, wet weekend were high.

Fortunately, the golden orb was coaxed out of hiding and for three whole days, we enjoyed glorious weather. However, plans to travel abroad or even to another city were thwarted by devious tourism operators who hike up prices for the break, so we decided to experience the most hackneyed word in the UK travel press, the 'staycation', and holiday in our own backyard.

On Saturday, the Animator treated himself to an early birthday present - an overpriced camera lens - so he spent much of the weekend snapping anything and everything that moved...

Lunching in the sun at St Nicholas' market

Having dinner at the Clifton Kitchen with our lovely British/Australian florist friend, Gina.

Walking home from the restaurant with Brunel's superb Suspension Bridge as a backdrop. Note the Animator's coat - the nights are starting to close in.

Checking out the small but perfectly formed Bristol Museum and Art Gallery which swallowed most of an afternoon. Love the installation made from strategically placed books.

Eating at the Angel Inn, a quaint country pub that dates back to 1495. Luckly they've changed the menu since then, so we tucked into Thai fish cakes and beautifully spiced salmon fillets and walked off the calories with a hike around Leigh Woods.

We finished off the weekend in the kitchen baking this cheesecake for Martin's colleagues. But as we don't have any containers big enough for him to take it into work, he had to pre-slice it. It seemed a shame not to try a piece...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...