Tuesday 31 May 2011

Is it wrong

That I love this light so much?

The Animator, not so much; but the fact that Habitat is having a kick-arse sale - coupled with a sustained campaign of whinging from his wife - encouraged him to whip out the credit card.

Sadly this innovative piece of design will have to remain in the embrace of its packaging until we get back to NZ. Packaging which, incidentally, is the size of an average London flat.

All I know is that some shipping company is going to LOVE me.....

Monday 30 May 2011

Buon Anniversario

Thursday's Child has Far to Go was born a year ago today. According to Google analytics, over the last 365 days, 8,744 hits originating from 33 different countries have taken place. There have been some comments (oddly, most of you to prefer to email me than post a comment) and I've been touched at how many of you stop by to read my scribblings.

It was my beloved mate Kurt who encouraged me to start this blog; he rightly pointed out that as a writer, it was high time I booked my passage on the digital express. And because I'm so violently opposed to Twitter and the Book of Farce (both feel too much like cults for my liking), the only other way to let family and friends across the oceans know that I was alive was to start a blog.

And so, on 30 May 2010, that's what I did: we'd just returned from a family wedding in Belfast, it was our first UK Bank Holiday for some years and I was still reeling from shock at how rubbish the UK job market and the Slum were.

And so I started writing, and kept going. I discovered how much fun, and how healing, it is to share your life with the world: from the minutiae of every day to things that amuse, irritate or confuse me. As I've navigated my way around a new country, jobs and friends, tried to flee the UK as much as possible and attempted (unsuccessfully) to make peace with an ugly home (the kind where lemon walls and a fridge the size of a postage stamp are acceptable), this blog has allowed me the space to share, vent and connect with a wide range of humanity.

It is, in effect, an extension of who I am. I don't think I'm so very different in person from what you read here: I certainly cuss as much (far too much for my mother's liking), I'm just as passionate, outspoken and sarcastic as I am in real life and, I hope, just as honest.

Back when I was a baby journalist, I remember a note one news editor had taped above his desk:

'Creativity is seeing what everyone else is seeing, but thinking what no-one else has thought'.

Those words have always stayed with me and it's a concept I've tried to live by; I hope that this blog, in some small way, measures up to that.

So ka pai for being on this journey with me, boys and girls. Here's hoping this blog can bring a smile to your face in the coming year...

(Pic: Google Images)

Thursday 26 May 2011

What I know for sure

  • My head hurts. Note to self: don't try and keep up with film industry types. And go home earlier from after-work drinks.

  • At some stage last night there was an incident involving my shin and a low stone wall. If I ignore it, will it go away?

  • The weather is shite. It's almost as if summer looked at Bristol and went, 'Nah, too much like hard work, I'm off''.

  • Michelle Obama deserves to be inducted into Fashion's Hall of Fame. Her classic, understated style rocks. English women, take note.

  • Boots' super-duper paracematol doesn't work. Even when you exceed the recommended dose.

  • The Icelanic volcano has stopped; we are crossing everything on our persons that the ash cloud doesn't reappear before our flight tomorrow.

  • This morning I left the house without my ability to string together a coherent sentence. Today my energy and concentration levels would rival those of a particularly inactive sloth. I have a ton of work to do and certain people suddenly seem enamoured of the word 'deadline'. I need to pull finger instead of faffing around with this blog.

Speaking of which, I will be off blog for a few days because there is no internet access where we are staying. Have a great weekend, wherever in the world you are...

Does size matter?

This mofo enormous bunch of gypsophilia was gifted to me by my darling florist friend the other day. They were left over from an arrangement she was doing for one of her clients, an Italian restaurant.

These photos don't do it justice but believe me when I say this bunch is almost as big as the Slum's kitchen. You should have seen me struggling to get them home; they were so big I could almost have slipped a leash on them and walked them up the road. But they make the corners of my mouth turn up every time I see them.

Sadly, despite me doing all the right floristy-type things to the stems, the water and the vase, they have already begun their slow amble towards death's door...

Wednesday 25 May 2011


Today I bought a Size Zero top in Gap.

The words 'superficial loser' will probably be bouncing around your brain at this point BUT allow me my moment of celebration. Obviously the extra upholstery I've acquired since being here has finally decided to direct its attention elsewhere.

Fat deposits, please take note: you or any of your friends who may wish to re-join you on my hips, stomach or butt at any stage in the foreseeable future are NOT welcome back. Ka Kite Ano.

(Pic: Lowfatliving)

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Only in Ireland....

On Friday we fly to Ireland for the final May Bank Holiday weekend to see a very dear friend I once worked with at the BBC. And to write the obligatory travel piece, of course.

Annette and JP live in a tiny village near Galway BUT because there are no direct flights from Bristol to Galway, we have to fly into Knock (yeah, I'd never heard of it either – turns out it's a wee speck in the west of Ireland) and hire a car for the two hour drive.

I asked Annette for her postcode so we could plug it into the GPS thingy but turns out they don't have one. Nor, it would seem, are many of the streets named. These are the driving directions we received: “Start out on unnamed road. Take the road that goes under the arch (also not signposted). Turn right at petrol station where there is a sculpture that looks like a kebab”.

What? What? Those Irish eyes had better be smiling on us or a week from now we'll still be driving around the backroads of Ireland.

** That's if we even manage to get out of the UK – seems those pesky Icelandic volcanoes are at it again....

(Pic: Internationaleducationmedia.com)

Monday 23 May 2011

Food glorious food

Yesterday may have been the day the world was supposed to end, but for us May 21 was all about visiting a 435-year-old establishment to review delicious kai for a glossy magazine.

Hope you've already eaten because the pics below feature the food we gobbled down as though we'd be living in the shade of a famine for far too long. All of it was lovely but the biggest props go to the DIVINE bitter chocolate and beetroot cheesecake with beetroot glaze and marscapone parfait. It was like a kiss from an angel.

Not surprisingly the restaurant owner/chef was a doll (and looked a little like George Clooney's younger, more handsome brother). Okay so I might be slightly exaggerating, but he was supremely talented, nice and eager to share his foodie philosophy - and generous to a fault when it came to doling out free food and wine. So even if I didn't want to - and I very much do - I'd feel obliged to write something nice.

The Animator was shooting the pics to accompany my story, and is now being very selective about 'lending' me some for the blog. He keeps bandying around words like 'exclusives' and 'not compromising his artistic integrity'. It's like living with David bloody Bailey...

Saturday 21 May 2011

Last weekend

Has been a frantically busy week so apologies: have only now gotten around to downloading these pics. Last Saturday was Aardman's open day, where selected family and friends were given a backstage pass to the new feature film, Pirates!.

This included visits to the model making dept (interesting factoid: 893 separate 'mouths' have been created for Hugh Grant's pirate captain alone), as well as on set to see how a stop-motion feature is filmed, and all manner of areas in-between.

Sadly, we weren't allowed to take photos, but managed to snap a few in the foyer (chocolate fish to the first person to spot the Oscar in the wall cabinet). The Animator's cousin Paula and her husband Charlie, dyed in the wool Aardman fans, flew over from Belfast especially for the event and were so excited they needed a lie down after! Or at least a couple of restorative ciders. It was oodles of fun and good to see what my significant other has been toiling over for the last 14 months.

Sunday we took our guests to Bath for a fleeting visit. The fact we spent more time in the pub having lunch than we did on the tourist treadmill says something about the wind which almost sliced us in two. A lovely time was had, but it would have been nice if the South West could have gotten off its arse and strung together a few warm days. The calendar might say Spring but someone obviously didn't get the memo...

Friday 20 May 2011

Having a free feed and writing about it

Back when Michael Jackson was still wearing his own nose, I lived in London and spent my days working as a sub-editor for the BBC. At night I freelanced for any number of publications, filing travel pieces, profiles and features as well as reviewing posh West End shows, CDs, dodgy bands in smelly pubs and new restaurants. All these years later, I'm still deeply enamoured with the concept of moonlighting: not only did it help pay off two mortgages, it also keeps my writing fresh and bequeaths all manner of freebies.

Today I received three new commissions from a glossy food mag. Along with the usual profiles and features, there was a request to review a newish restaurant on the fringes of Bristol. It's been a long time between drinks, but I'm looking forward to once again dipping my toes into the food critic pool.

I also promise not to scoff everything in sight and then spend more time with my head down the loo than Victoria Beckham does. This once happened to me at the launch of a London eatery where, instead of being a diligent wee journo and jotting down clever observations about the food and beverages, I spent most of the night slumped in a toilet cubicle. I blame numerous cocktails and seven courses of rich food consumed at speed.

(Pic: Lifehacker.com)

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Have Mersey

Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper finally uses my Liverpool piece (albeit slightly butchered).

Still, should keep the Liverpool Tourism bods happy. Especially since our trip was on their dime.

Eh up duck...

Free speech

Dr Seuss, who was right about pretty much everything, had a marvellous take on speaking one's mind:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind”.

Take a moment to read those words. Go on, read them again. Now pick them up and feel their weight. But make sure you put them down gently, because they form the cornerstone of one of the great tenets of a democratic society – freedom of expression. They're what motivate the millions upon millions of bloggers, social commentators, tweeters and those who call it like it is, to bear their souls every day across this amazing globe of ours. It's what ordinary citizens in Egypt, Syria and countless other despotic regimes wish they could do; we honour their spirit when we make liberal use of our ability to speak freely and without censorship.

Theodore Seuss Geisel may have been a philandering old bastard, but he was also one smart cookie...

Tuesday 17 May 2011

New beginnings

The amuse-bouche stage of starting a new role can be challenging: the 'getting-to-know-yous', finding out where the loos are and signing what seems like 873 confidentiality agreements.

Which means I cannot divulge what I am writing or even which film project I am working on. What I can say is I'm delighted to be involved with an organisation whose values and morals align with my own; where people are in possession of a brain cell, maturity and good taste. You've been gone far too long, I wanted to exclaim this morning, so wipe your feet on the welcome mat and come on in.

Perhaps it's because the last few gigs have marched me to the very edge of my comfort zone – and not always in a good way – but this new chapter feels as snuggly and enveloping as a favourite cashmere cardy.

Today my happiness levee is in danger of being breached....

Saturday 14 May 2011

Birthdays and other stuff

Friday 13 was bad luck for Google - the Blogger service was down globally for the entire day. Which means it chewed up my birthday post of yesterday and spat it out god knows where.

Fortunately I still had it in my Google reader - so yesterday's post is being reheated as today's offering. The only buggar is that I have subsequently lost all the lovely birthday messages posted by friends from around the world. Bad, bad Google...

So here goes again - THURSDAY 12 MAY

Travel is supposed to broaden the mind and expand one's horizons. It also challenges our preconceptions and brings into question the karmic balance.

Exhibit A: the recent Emirates flight I took from Dubai to Heathrow. Not only did they seat me at the arse end of the plane, next to the loo, they also thought I'd enjoy sitting next to a four-year-old. Those of you who know me know that I consider children to be on a par with the Ebola virus - to be avoided at all cost. I wondered what I had done to deserve that particular hell.

But the oddest thing happened: not only was the rug-rat the quietest on the planet, his mother Maha turned out to be the sort of seat companion long haul travel was invented for. A financial journalist and author, she was ridiculously erudite, funny and generous. So much so that a copy of her first novel (pictured above) plopped through my front door this morning. A lovely unexpected birthday present, and proof that there are still some good 'uns in the world.

Yes, today is my birthday and so far it has been a roller-coaster kind of day:

Down: My age is now so high I get vertigo from saying it out loud.
Up: I couldn't give a toss anymore. I'm proud of the skills and achievements I've been fortunate to accumulate over the years; you don't get to this level by being an airhead teenager.

Up: The glorious bunch of flowers the Animator bought me.
Down: They activate my hayfever any time I go near them; hence the unceremonious way they've been plonked into a vase.

Up: The beautiful cards, texts and emails from all over the planet.
Down: Unless someone has invented a tardis I don't know about, I won't be able to spend my special day with loved ones on the other side of the world.

Up: Landing a writing gig with a film company of my acquaintance; nice to be doing something other than churning out media releases all day.
Down: Have you been smoking crack? Read the sentence above again. There is no down; the Patron Saint of Careers finally swung by.

Up: Breakfast and lunch were joyous carnivals of cholesterol. I have no reason to believe the pattern will be broken at dinner.
Down: Accepting those calories will never leave my hips; not without surgery, anyway.

Up: Wanting to bake a chocolate torte for tonight's celebrations with friends.
Down: Realising the health and safety implications of this; anything to emerge from the Slum's kitchen is likely to play fast and loose with one's digestive well-being.

Up: Getting the green light from my darling Aussie/British mate Gina for the copywriting I've just done for her website. And being asked to help out with her business.
Down: there isn't one - I've always secretly wanted to be a florist.

Up: Going for a leisurely run around an almost deserted Downs.
Down: Realising that no matter how many times I circumnavigate that sodding park, I won't lose the lard I've accumulated since arriving in the UK.

Up: Finding the perfect French Connection top to wear at the weekend - a mere snip at 3 quid (did I mention how much I am going to miss Bristol's superb charity shops?)
Down: Accepting it's yet another item to be shipped home.

Thursday 12 May 2011

The Maltese Falcon

Nup, didn't actually see any Mediterranean birds of prey, but we did get to experience a shed load of history (Malta, for example, has five World Heritage sites and some of the oldest structures on the planet). We also ate our bodyweight in traditional pastizzis, supped the local wine and experienced more stunning architecture than is possibly good for one country.

Lovely, lovely Malta, I miss you terribly. But thank you for receiving us with such kindness and for providing great copy for the two travel pieces I now have to write. I'd be back in an instant if I could.

Once more I prostrate myself before the Animator and his skill behind the camera...

Tuesday 10 May 2011

One year

“I've had my fun, baby I'm done. I wanna go home...”

Michael Buble

A year ago today, I wheeled my suitcase off the Eurostar and onto a train bound for Bristol Temple Meads. It was a cold, grey day and my shock at seeing the flat the Animator had rented was almost palpable.

To say I've been disappointed with the economic and job situation here is to cover myself in glue and run naked through the Understatement Store. It's daft to draw comparisons, but the contrast between now and when I lived in London back in the day couldn't be more pronounced. Sadly, it looks as though the Great UK Recession Festival isn't going to be selling out of tickets anytime soon.

But today the sun is shining (sort of) and there are all sorts of new and exciting things in the pipeline, so why waste energy on crap? And it hasn't all been bad – there's been some great travel, lots of laughs and it's been fantastic for the Animator's CV. From my perspective, it's also been kind of nice to take a break from my 'real' life and career.

But what I'm most thankful for today is that in a few short months, I get to invoke my escape clause and head back to the land of plenty.

In the interests of marking today's milestone, I am going to celebrate in time-honoured British fashion – by getting drunk. Cheers!

Monday 9 May 2011

Woop Woop

I am late coming to the party with this one, but word has reached me that Zara has opened its first store Downunder. Another outlet in Melbourne is to follow the flagship Sydney store next week.

Which means that my yearly trips to Hong Kong to worship at the temple of this Spanish retail giant will no longer be necessary (although HK remains one of my favourite places on the planet, so the Kowloon jaunts will no doubt remain).

European and American readers will probably wonder what all the fuss is about but the Antipodes has, until now, been a Zara-free zone. So allow me my moment of joy; today I am all about celebrating the superficial.

Sidebar: While we were in Malta last week, I tried on the most fabulous Zara shoes but because of budget airlines' idiotic luggage allowance, I had to say non, pas aujourd'hui. A girl with far too many clothes and accessories who, very soon has to figure out how to shunt them all to the other side of the world, has NO business buying more stuff. But last week I kicked serious butt in getting oodles of freelance copywriting/journalism work, so surely that deserves a reward?

Thank sweet baby Jesus there's a branch of Zara in Bristol...

Saturday 7 May 2011

So THIS is why we're here

This is the reason we hauled arse 12,000 miles.

The first stills of the 3D feature film the Animator has been working on have been released.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is the oddly-named Aardman stop-motion extravaganza that features the voices of Hugh Grant, Salma Hayak and Martin Freeman. And it looks FANTASTIC.

Even more exciting is that next weekend, Aardman is having an open day for family and friends. The Animator's cousin and her husband, diehard Wallace & Gromit fans, are flying over from Belfast for the weekend to come with us. Hubbie's previous role with Sir Peter Jackson in Welly was very much a closed shop; they didn't even have signage up, such was the level of secrecy surrounding their projects. So to be able to see what the Animator has been working on, and view snippets of the movie, will be all kinds of wonderful.

I am so excited, I'm getting a boner just thinking about it.

Friday 6 May 2011


This link was sent to me by a friend today. It's "O for Awesome" as Kiwis would say. It's also the most freakingly beautiful thing my tired old retinas have been exposed to for a long time.

Homesick? You bet yo' ass....

Thursday 5 May 2011


More thorny housing dilemmas today...

Our property management company in New Zealand is currently renegotiating the lease on our Thorndon rental property. So far, so ordinary.

The problem is that the two lads who wish to rent it are, respectively, 23 and 24 years old. Apparently they have impeccable references and a blemish-free credit record. And are willing to pay top whack for a limited rental period, something that shouldn't be sniffed at in this stagnant rental market, my agent emails with much abuse of the exclamation mark.

And yet, and yet, it doesn't still my beating heart. I have recently had dealings with a number of teenagers and 20-somethings, many of whom have ages that exceed their total number of brain cells. There are any number of polls that show how irresponsible and, well, stupid Generation Y is. One recent survey revealed that while very few could identify Elvis or Jesus in a lineup of photos, almost 95% were offay with Beavis & Butthead. As one UK newspaper put it, 'Generation Y: why can't we give them a good slap?'

Hence, my reluctance to let my property to mere slips of boys who will, in all likelihood, throw wild parties and ruin my nice furniture.

The Animator isn't fazed; they're willing to pay top dollar, we have insurance and a reputable management company that does frequent property checks, he reminds me. True, but I'm afraid my recent brushes with 20-somethings have done little to convince me that they're not all self-obsessed, feckless, lazy shits. Just saying, is all...

Wednesday 4 May 2011

You win some, you lose some

Today, cherubs, wasn't a good day in Shazza-land.

The house we were hoping to buy in Wellington turned into a big pile of waste product expelled from the digestive tract (not the house, you understand, the deal) and, for reasons far too tedious to go into here, we missed out on it. Today, my annoyance bar is spiking.

Now we are back at square one; looking for houses, especially from afar, wins the knuckle-chewing frustration cup. I also fear asking my architect mate Glenn to look at any more houses for us, lest it rent our friendship asunder.

On the positive side, I have made inroads into the ridiculous amount of freelance writing work I have been avoiding. Along with the travel pieces, there is some outstanding website writing for a NZ client, copy for a British friend's website and a couple of new commissions from a local food mag. I am hoping it will be a little like eating a tube of salt and vinegar Pringles: once you start, you just can't stop....


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