Received a nice surprise from the British tax man. And without having to repeatedly ring/email/plead for what is rightfully ours - as we are currently doing with the UK council tax, insurance and gas companies. There is, I am convinced, a special place in hell for these buggars.
A pleasant 12-year-old in an electrics store fixed my iPod for free. Then he called me 'Mam' which made me feel old (this should probably go into the 'not so good' register).
Whilst the Animator nudged the 60-hour working week mark, I went to a fascinating doco with my mate Donna – Bill Cunningham New York, a film that chronicles the life of an octogenarian photographer who's spent most of his life riding a cycle around the Big Apple snapping pics for the New York Times' style section. My description doesn't in any way do it justice but seriously, if you get a chance, go see it. It's delightful, uplifting and made me smile for a long time afterwards.
The Animator and I rented a harrowing but beautiful DVD, Sarah's Key, starring the delectable Kristen Scott Thomas on whom I've had a girl crush for the longest time. Not in a lesbian way, though.
Ate great sweet and sour fish and drank oolong tea at our favourite down-at-heel Korean place on Courtenay.
Visited the Chaffers Street farmers market to stock up on fruit and vege for the week. The best bit? It's only across the road from the hotel so we didn't have to travel far.
Saw three houses, one of which I swooned over, all of which the Animator dissed. We will never find a place to buy at this rate.
Checked out a new Mini (we lose the free rental car in five weeks). Spent the next half hour hyperventilating into a paper bag.
Ate delicious home-made biscuits with the lovely retired couple we previously lived next to. And saw how the new owners had decimated 11 years of the Animator's gardening efforts.
Drank a good Kiwi pinot noir to bid adeiu to the weekend.
Sunday 31 July 2011
Saturday 30 July 2011
Friday 29 July 2011
Sleep has not been kind, insomnia wants to spoon whenever I lie down.
I'm still, you see, on British time; I awake at 2.00am, bright and bushy-tailed, ready to leap out of bed and get on with the day.
Thank goodness for Melatonin, which I stockpile on every visit to the US. It helps a little.
Apparently there is no statue of limitations on jet-lag. I just have to let it work its course and hope that I can pull it together enough to show up to work on Monday.
(Pic: Faith Anatomy)
This is the sight that greeted me on my morning run around Wellington's bays today.
No, my system still hasn't recovered from the polar snap but at least the sun has come out to join me in the last few days as I've coffee-ed with one of my oldest friends, Janice, and caught up on 14 months of gossip with my lovely American galpal, Donna.
I've also looked at three houses and sorted details for my new contract which starts next week.
Today the gorgeous Brownie (below) and I shopped, lunched and renewed our friendship vows; not a bad way to pass the hours between 11.00am and 2.30pm.
I could get used to this ladies who lunch existence; especially the living in a hotel part.
(Pic: Sydney Morning Herald)
Wednesday 27 July 2011
Tuesday 26 July 2011
Describing Wellington's weather as “bloody freezing” is a cautious use of language, a little like calling Barack Obama “quite important”.
Apparently it's our timing that's to blame: had we been here last week, or even a few days ago, we would have been lolling about in double digit temps. Instead, I almost got blown over on Courtenay Place this am.
What I need is to bring a big, fat box of perspective to the table: it is winter, afterall. And our accommodation is lovely and warm. And walking down the street this morning I ran into at least five friends and former colleagues who were so welcoming I almost forgot I could no longer feel my face.
And I have a couple of houses to view this week. And lunches/coffee/drinks with friends. And a six month contract lined up to start next week.
On balance, I think I am going to like this being home lark...
(Pic credit: Citizens Advice UK)
Sunday 24 July 2011
Forty eight hours ago, I was wearing a wispy summer dress and saying goodbye to dear friends.
This morning we flew into Wellington, into the teeth of a southerly gale that could have sliced us in two with the efficiency of piano wire.
Surprisingly, our journey wasn't too bad: seven time zones, five movies, more than passable inflight kai and a few interesting fellow travellers. Including Kiwi rugby league legend Dean Bell who made the hour's flight from Auckland to Welly almost disappear.
The accommodation Gods are smiling down on us, because home for the next six weeks is the swanky Museum Hotel (thanks to the Animator's employers). I'm glad to see one of my favourite Welly spots, the Olive Cafe, is still standing but am surprised we don't turn into human popsicles walking there. Several friends tell me it's the coldest day of winter so far. Just my bleeding luck, then...
We contend with all sorts of fuckupedness at Vodafone who won't let us reinsert our former Sim cards; instead we have to buy new ones and learn new numbers.
My brain feels like runny scrambled egg and I need clothes pegs to keep my eyes open; so far it feels slightly surreal to be home – familiar, but also weirdly not.
While we've been collecting air miles, the world seems to have gone mad: we saw initial reports of the Oslo carnage before leaving Heathrow but now the full horror reveals itself. And almost the first thing we see on NZ TV is that Amy Winehouse is dead. Such a tragic, stupid waste of a brilliant talent.
It is now 7.30pm and it is all I can do to keep typing. I am too tired and at one with my comfy bed to stay awake much longer...
Friday 22 July 2011
Later today we leave Bristol for the two-hour bus ride to Heathrow. And the marathon 28 hour journey home. Oh Bristol, you made me laugh and you made me cry. You're a cool wee city and you have more than a shadow of fun hovering over you.
The last 15 months haven't always been easy. We've made a lot of mistakes but we've made just as many friends and experienced even more laughs. There have been wonderful times, not so wonderful times and oceans of red wine in between. I cannot tell you how happy I am that today is July 22 2011, and not July 22 2010. But I’m glad we did it, that we made it, and I can’t imagine Bristol not being a part of our narrative.
Now I'm standing on the cusp of change – wishing for the waves and wind to carry me to a place that I can call home...
Thursday 21 July 2011
About 800 years ago I worked in central London editing BBC publications.
Most lunch times, a colleague and I would cross the road for a sandwich from Boots the Chemist, not because of their ability to do anything spectacular with a slice of bread and a hunk of lettuce, but because of the check-out chick, a grumpy Irish lass who clearly made liberal use of her staff cosmetics discount.
Every day, without fail, we'd get our day's entertainment from this woman's tendency to trowel on the orange foundation and NOT blend it in, leaving her face the colour of chicken tikka marsala and her neck as white as the driven snow.
If I was looking to be critical – and I am – I'd have to say that not much has changed in the UK in that respect. The nation is still awash with women who spray tan and drown themselves in foundation the colour of third-degree burns. Is there an excess of Fanta-coloured makeup that has to be used up before the Olympics? Or is it that the clarity of the mirrors in these women's homes is somewhat wanting?
Please make them stop. Or at least teach them the art of blending...
(Pic credit: Google Images and Tumblr)
Wednesday 20 July 2011
The rest of the day was occupied with so much shopping and chatting I feared our tongues would fall out of our heads. Some buggar also managed to steal whole chunks of the day without us noticing.
Tuesday 19 July 2011
One of the things I will miss most about living in the UK is the fabulous Guardian. Reading it online is not nearly the same and I'm already mourning the loss of lazy Saturday mornings tucked up in bed with tea, toast and the best newspaper on the planet.
The last few weeks the UK media has been agog with the salacious details surrounding the phone hacking scandal and the subsequent closure of the 168-year-old News of the World. Be they tabloids or broadsheets, there's no doubt the Poms love the Fourth Estate; the Newpaper Society's website tells me there are currently 1200 regional and local newspapers in the UK.
The best take on Britain's print media probably comes from Bernard, the private secretary from the old BBC comedy Yes, Minister, who neatly summed up how Brits' choice of newspaper says oodles about their political, cultural and social leanings:
"The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country, the Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country, the Times is read by people who actually do run the country, the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country, the Financial Times is read by people who own the country, the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.’”
Sir Humphrey: “...what about the people who read the Sun?”
Bernard: “Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.”
Sunday 17 July 2011
Friday 15 July 2011
Thursday 14 July 2011
Today I have been:
Supervising two Welshmen and one Bristolian who were a little too gung-ho with our possessions for my liking.
Pleading with them to wrap the 845 fragile items in yet another layer of bubble wrap.
Trying not to micro-manage.
Deciding which clothes I won't get sick of in the next three months. And trying to squeeze them into far too small a suitcase.
Getting embarrassed when the boys packed my underwear drawer.
Making endless cups of tea.
Having a nervous breakdown.
Fare thee well beloved possessions. I hope to see you in 8-12 weeks. Hopefully all in one piece...
(Photo credit: Ikea)
Wednesday 13 July 2011
We are now at that awkward pre-moving stage where there is no point in buying foodstuffs such as flaxseed oil or balsamic vinegar.
Last night I used the last of my glorious aged Italian balsamic. It was with much sadness that I said goodbye to beautifully dressed, flavoursome salads. The problem is, dear reader, that I am too tight to buy a bottle when I will get through so little before we leave.
If you were in the vicinity of Clifton, Bristol last night, that loud sigh you heard was me trying – and failing – to enjoy my naked salad.
Tuesday 12 July 2011
Spied this pic today and couldn't help but right click and save. Yes even Shazzy, who believes children are the devil's spawn, thinks this kid is well cute. But as I spend yet another day making out with my headless chicken persona, this photo is like a visual sorbet, cleansing my fevered mind.
In other news, and apropos of nothing, during my half hour walk home today I was accosted by:
a) SEVEN different charity people, trying to solicit money. Is there a rule that charity workers have to have blonde dreadlocks?
b) A street person who smelt strongly of Tennents Extra and had an even stronger West Country accent (think the Forest Gump of England). He's obviously got good taste though, because he admired my shoes and asked if he could try them on.
c) A woman handing out sale flyers for a maternity shop. Excuse me? Do I look as though I am about to give birth? Sweet baby Jesus, must be time to up the running...
(Pic credit: Pinterest)
Monday 11 July 2011
One of the great nightmares of unpicking the ties to one's adopted country is the hours of pointless phonecalls, queries and playing of the "What the f**k form do we need to fill in now?" game.
In the midst of this administrative nightmare, I have just discovered that we pay £300 a year for our water. They must be having a laugh, as they say round these parts, because that's 300 big ones for water that tastes like pond scum. Hence the cupboard full of Sainsbury's bottled lemon and lime water at a quid a pop.
What's more, if you're renting a property here, you also pay Council Tax (rates for the Kiwi/Aussies). At home, only property owners pay that, not tenants. So Bitch Tory landlady owns three properties but only pays Council Tax for one of them. Totally ridic.
Okay, whinge over. On a lighter note, here are a couple of pics from Saturday and our celebration of the Animator's new job...
Saturday 9 July 2011
Apologies for the gratuitous abuse of exclamation marks and capital letters, but some things are too important to go into lower case (or remain unadorned with grammatical marks).
Because (drum roll please) WE ARE GOING HOME!!!
That clever wee hubbie of mine has been offered a contract back with his previous employer who is, very kindly, paying for our flights, accommodation and a car which is fabulous given our Thorndon apartment is let until November.
Trying to extricate ourselves from our lives here in two weeks is the stuff that heart attacks are made of. I may well stay on a little longer to tie up loose ends.
It's been a fun 14 months (16 for the Animator) and I'm glad that Bristol is part of our story but I'd be lying if said I wasn't overjoyed to be leaving this turgid economy with its ever recurring parade of redundancies and low wages. Not to mention the schizophrenic weather and overcrowding. Of course, I will miss the dear friends I've made, the proximity to wonderful European cities and the sublime shopping, but they're only a plane ride away.
Besides, now I get to do those things I have been waiting so long for – like getting a dog. The thought that very soon I will be able to visit the Wellington SPCA and pick out a needy woofer makes me smile so widely I fear my face will crack.
And I won't bang on about how tired I am of living in a house that even crack addicts would dismiss as too squalid; you've heard it all before. I currently have a ridiculous number of Welly estate agents on speed-dial and am scouring websites daily for new listings. Fingers crossed it won't be long until our lovely new home - which we hope will have four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage and garden and won't be attached to anyone else – reveals itself.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to attend to a glass or two of bubbles...
(Pic: credit unknown)