Tuesday 30 November 2010

How to win a GrandSlam

As a journalist, I've written about everything from politics and financial markets to interiors, fashion and travel. But only once have I strayed into rugby writing territory, and that was when I was a baby scribe on a provincial paper and the regular writer was too hung-over to get out of bed. As the office junior, I drew the short straw. Let's just say I ended up getting the photographer to re-write most of my crappy scrawl, and draw a veil over the whole sorry experience.

No surprise then that I'm not going to offer a searing dissection of the All Black's brilliant win against Wales, of Hosea Gear's two tries, Daniel Braid's red card or of my homie, Nonu, taking to the paddock at the rump end of the second half.

It's enough to know that we had a brilliant time with Sarah and Grant, who came to stay with us from London - even if it was the coldest November night in Cardiff for 89 years. Much fun was had post-match before stumbling home on the last train. Also ran into a Kiwi friend I hadn't seen for years and made some new Welsh ones.

The 37-25 result, and winning the GrandSlam, was nothing to sniff at either...

Saturday 27 November 2010

Frostbite, anyone?

It’s taken two weeks, but I’ve finally stopped coughing up viscous hunks of nastiness from the back of my throat.

So at lunchtime I took advantage of the watery winter sun and headed out for a run. I was wearing two polyprops, thick socks and gloves – and I still couldn’t feel my fingers. They reckon it is going to snow later tonight or over the weekend, the earliest cold snap for 17 years.

Tomorrow we head to Cardiff to watch the All Blacks prove their dominance over those woosie Northern Hemisphere lads. It’s a 5.15pm kick-off and they’re predicting a low of minus six degrees. The god of warm weather hates me.

Thursday 25 November 2010

New Zealand's darkest hour

Today I finished an article about the lack of infrastructure in India highlighted by the recent Commonwealth Games, interviewed a futures analyst in Italy about European food trends for 2011, and tried to justify my presence at a conference in Paris by setting up a raft of interviews.

I also returned a library book, unsuccessfully bought a beret and successfully purchased a pumpkin for a Soup Off we're having at work. Tonight I'm going for a few drinks at a 16th Century pub with friends.

On the hour, and every half hour, the BBC radio station we have playing at work reminded me that the 29 Kiwi miners trapped in the West Coast's Pike River mine had perished after a second blast this morning.

It's New Zealand's worst single loss of life since the Erebus air disaster and, like every Kiwi in every corner of the planet, it brought tears to my eyes. Being so far away from home and going about one's daily business, it's easy to feel removed from the horror of the event. I can't imagine how those families feel, especially with Christmas so near, but I hope they know that the world mourns with them. Rest in Peace...

Wednesday 24 November 2010

I've always fancied living in Scotland

Before you lick the stamp of your hate mail, just passing on something that caught my attention today.

Apparently there is a new settlement in Nairn, deep in the Scottish highlands, where properties prohibit the keeping of ducks, rabbits, pigeons, bees and, rather gloriously, children. You are, however, allowed to keep one dog.

To own a house in Firhall, you also have to be over 45 years and, obviously, this side of sensible.

Bandy about phrases like ‘child hating ogres’ all you want, but if you’d seen the spoiled little brat who put on a remarkable display of vocal gymnastics in Sainsbury's last night (including biting his hopeless mother who seemed oblivious to the waves of hate everyone was sending her way), you too might think fondly of a world without noise, the Wiggles or Justin Bieber.

Monday 22 November 2010

For feline freaks

I can't understand it either, but turns out some of you prefer cats to dogs (yeah, I know).

A few weeks back I posted a UK advert featuring an impossibly gorgeous woofer called Harvey. Some of you emailed to ask for a feline equivalent.

Never let it be said I don't cater to my readers. Here is a UK advert for Ikea, filmed at their Wembley store, which shows what happens when 100 cats are let loose one night after closing. The results are too, too cute.

Ikea's furniture is frustratingly impossible to construct and shopping there at the weekend is like entering the seven circles of hell, but their advertising sure knows how to push one's happy buttons.


Saturday 20 November 2010

I need to lie down...

There's a scene in the movie, 'As Good as it Gets', where Jack Nicholson's character says: "Go sell crazy somewhere else; we're all filled up here".

Jack could well have been talking about Bristol.

Today, on a crisp but sunny Friday, the following crazy-ass things happened to me:

  1. Just after 8.00am, while walking to work, I saw a drug deal going down. And no, I'm not imaginging the bag of white powder that changed hands – I was stopped at the traffic lights for a good few minutes where anyone with a functioning pair of retinas would have witnessed it.

  2. I had to swerve to avoid a used condom, two piles of vomit and a junkie beggar whose efforts at elicting cash were severely disadvantaged by the fact that his eyes kept rolling back into his head.

  3. On a lunchtime mission to seek solace for a hacking cough, two window cleaners invited me into their white van, promising it would be “the best hour I'd spend this week”.

  4. On the way home, I saw a man drive his car into a concrete pole, back it up and do it again.

  5. But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was getting home to find that the bitch landlady had laid new carpet – and it wasn't totally heinous.

There's only so much excitement a girl can handle.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Autumn in BS8

So it turns out that I can happily co-exist in the same Venn diagram as freezing temperatures and driving rain. Who'd have thought?

But when the seasonal colours are this glorious, it isn't hard. Autumn has come to town in a way that it never does at home and it's been fun wading through the river of amber on my way to work each day. Except of course when it rains; I've almost taken a tumble a couple of times.

Yet weeks after the sun has been chased out of the sky, I'm still loving the fall colours and the crunch the leaves make underfoot.

Lame I know, but I'm all about celebrating the innane.

thanks to the superbly talented Animator for the pics

Sunday 14 November 2010

My TÅ«rangawaewae*

It's been just over six months since I last felt the sting of a Wellington southerly, six months since I left my lovely dog, friends and home at the arse end of the world to set up camp in a city I've never even visited.

And although the road has been long and filled with pot-holes you could fish it, there is much about being here that makes me smile. Yet, every so often, I have a flashback and have to catch my breath: I long to see Wellington's cute wooden houses clinging perilously to the hillside, to run along her beautiful waterfront and have brunch in the Botanic Gardens or the Aro Cafe.

If I shut my eyes hard enough, I could almost be back there: walking Molly in the town belt, losing the better part of a lunchtime at the funky library, or visiting Brookyn's art house cinema on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

I miss being in the 04 more than I ever thought I would but I know that one day, hopefully in the not too distant future, Wellington will once again open her arms and wrap me in her embrace.

Today I stumbled across this stunning collection of words that sums up my longing better than I ever could:

I hear you calling me
haere mai, haere mai
in my dreams
haere mai, haere mai
from the land you call to me
call to me
come home

my heart is in your forests
my spirit is in your land
eyes coloured by your sky
sea washed by ancient rites
I hear you calling me
back to the land,
to the land
my ancestors/mothers rest
within their ground
calling me
haere mai, haere mai
welcome home daughter
you of the land
welcome home daughter
you of the sky
sacred sea
sacred spirit
we watch our daughter
daughter of daughters
we watch her now.
call to your land daughter
call to your land
call to all the daughters
haere mai, haere mai daughter
now of the land.
Carol Neilson

* Home, the place where you feel most connected and empowered

Wednesday 10 November 2010

She who shouts loudest...

One brutally honest face-to-face confrontation, several terse phone calls and a couple of hate-mail type notes later, and bitch Tory landlady has caved.

We are getting new mattresses and carpets and having the whole place redecorated. And a week's free rent for putting up with her crap.

Calling her a Slum Landlord to her snotty, I'm-posher-than-the-Queen face probably didn't help to advance Kiwi/Anglo relations. But at the end of the day I'm here to fight for my rights, not to appease some crusty old cow who's probably never been confronted like that in her life. Is it bad that it felt so good?

Kiwis - 1; Snotty bitch landlady - 0.

Monday 8 November 2010

How the mighty have fallen #2

We have a new water feature in our house.

Sadly, it's not ornate or particularly Zen-like, or even meant to be there.

When I got home on a rain-whipped Friday night, I found water cascading from the kitchen roof onto the counters and in the upstairs spare bedroom.

There followed several hours of mopping up, movement of possessions and increasingly frantic phone calls to bitch Tory landlady to warn her of the latest addition to the Slum.

It's all too tedious to go into but the end result is waterlogged carpets, holes in the roof where there shouldn't be any and a particular aroma that last assaulted my nostrils when my wet dog rolled in a decomposing fish at Lyall Bay beach.

In the interests of seeing the glass half full, rather than half empty or half full of something I'm allergic to, one thing to come out of a ruined evening and far too much time spent in the presence of the horrid landlady is that we are getting new mattresses, which are long overdue. But even that didn't happen without a fight. As a landlord myself, I would never treat my tenants the way we've been treated – or have the cheek to charge a goodly sum for such a dive – but let's just say that in England, the only criteria you need to be a landlord is a desire to rip people off and treat them like something stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

The Slum, as I have previously mentioned, is, quite simply, the nastiest place I have ever had the misfortune to live. Imagine if you will the most decrepit building you've ever seen, then beat it viciously and frequently with the ugly stick. God only knows how old it is, but suffice to say the place hasn't been redecorated since the builders left.

Even the addition of new Ikea furniture can't disguise the fact that sometimes a sow's ear is just a sow's ear.

If I was to put my Pollyanna hat on again, I'd have to say that it's in a great location and because of its dodgy condition I've been able to send my Martha Stewart tendencies on an indefinite sabbatical. This from a woman who, in a previous life, had her house featured in 'Home & Garden Magazine' and thought nothing of spending all night scrubbing skirting boards and arranging flowers before a dinner party. In some ways, it feels good not to have to care.

Now counting down the days until the end of February when our lease is up and we can find somewhere that isn't reminiscent of the flat from The Young Ones.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

And they call it puppy love

This evening after work, I started my 30 minute walk home by criss-crossing the elegant Victorian park outside my office. So far, so ordinary.

But today I did it from behind a curtain of tears. In front of me a guy was walking three adorable dogs and while he entertained the older two with a tennis ball it was the third, a wee Jack Russell puppy, that crept into my heart and curled up there.

Despite her owner's best attempts to engage her in the green bouncy ball, the pup kept scarpering to the other end of the park where two students were kicking around a football. There followed a manic game where she would get in among the students, push their ball with her nose and try to chew it. Thankfully the students were dog lovers, because they good naturedly let the bundle of fluff join in.

It was such a cute sight I wanted to plop the puppy between two slices of bread and eat her up. But what caused big fat salty tears to roll down my face (thank god it was dusk!) was the single minded enthusiasm and sheer joy with which the pup flung herself after the ball, the way she exuded fun and love from every pore.

Some women crave babies but thankfully that's an emotion I've never had to endure. I do, however, have some understanding of what they go through because that's how I feel about having a dog. I cried today because I miss having a dog with every fibre of my being. I didn't realise how deeply, and messily, embedded four legged babies are in my psyche, in who I am.

Yes, I've still got my L-plates on when it comes to being dog-less, but today's teary episode made me realise I can't – and won't - function without a dog in my life. I love my new job, new friends and, of course, being so close to magical European cities, but my need to be a dog mamma, more than anything, will drive me home sooner than I thought.


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