Monday, September 13, 2004

London Calling

Hi all

Sorry for the long period between blogs - did try and write one last week but managed to lose the lot dammit! after 25 mins typing.

Having to think quite hard about what we have been up to since the last posting.

Hmmmmm - We have been staying with Tony for the last 2 weeks. Prior to that we were with Briddy in Bromley (South East London).

Each weekend has been full of activities, as is fitting. Our first real big adventure was the Notting Hill Carnival - over a million people visiting one suburb in two days. Forgot the camera but did manage a few shots with my phone of the teeming crowds. Quite overwhelming, at least until we had had a few beers. Had our first outstanding meal in London too- Jerk Chicken bought from a street stall at the carnival. Absolutely fab and tasty.

The weekend we went to Notting Hill we also trekked across town to Crystal Palace (quite a distance actually) to a party with some friends of Tony's. Had a great time and got to meet a few locals as well. The mini cab ride was interesting as well. The poor driver had to stop and check his map a few times as Crystal Palace was seriously outside his usual area. Thank god we agreed on a price beforehand.

Weeks have been full with work mostly, plus a bit of going to pubs as well . And there are sooooo many of those. Good ones so far have been the Coal Hole on Strand, The White Horse in Parson's Green and the Bedford in Balham (which will now be our local).

After a few terse faxes, I finally got a response from the property owners and had it confirmed that we were accepted as tenants for the Balham flat. So we move in next weekend - and we can't wait. Living out of backpacks (and working in a corporate environment) sucks!

Other things that we have done......
Ate greasy chinese and drank heaps of booze with Tony's flatties, Tracy and Rich; Went to the Tamara de Lempicka exhibition at the Royal Gallery: saw the movie Dodgeball (still yet to go to the Motorcycle Diaries); braved Ikea on a Sunday afternoon (1000 shoppers all trying to exit the store at one time through around 35 checkouts); managed to arrive 1 and a half hours late to a lunch with all the cousins to farewell Mark (braving 30+ degree heat to do so) - welcome to the London transport system; saw Bob Geldolf on the street in Sloane Sq while I waited on a bus; had a fab organic picnic with Ngaere and Rebecca and baby Jimmy; had a drink at a pub that Nigella and Charles visit - apparently (bit of a topical ref for you foodies out there).

Well its a bit brief but it does let you know a little of what we have been up to lately. I must go - we have a train to catch and if we miss it then it is another hour until the next one.

Ciao bella

Mel and Phil

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Old Blighty then!

<>Well hello there - apologies for the gaps between posts!

Lots has happened since I arrived. I now have a mobile
- I'll be emailing the number through to you all as it costs heaps
to txt internationally. Having a few problems with 'my
vodafone' though - very frustrating. I may end up having the number change but I'll let you know.

Singapore was great but pretty jolly hot - but with
the airconditioning it was not too bad though I had
the air conditioning up too high for one night at the
hotel, until I figured out how to adjust it.

Lily (Phil's sister-in-law's sister) was a great
guide. Not only had she arranged our hotel rooms at
the hotel she is head of housekeeping at, she upgraded
our room and we only paid $60 a night for the room (I
thought we were supposed to pay $60 each). We didn't
do much in the way of touristy stuff. Our hotel was a
bit further out from the touristy area so we just went
and had a look at Raffles - didn't go in as we were
too hot, sticky and grimy. We spent our time trying
everything in the local cuisine and a spot of
shopping. We even tried durian fruit (the stinky one)
which was not as smelly as I imagined - sort of mango
smell with oniony undertones. We also had: yum cha,
singapore chilli crab, laksa (phil had this for
breakfast - $2), hor fun, oyster pancake, chicken rice
(the best in singapore apparently), steamed greens,
pork belly, prawn noodles, jackfruit, dragonfruit -
and the worst European breakfast I have ever had
(apparently the hotel used to only serve Asian food
for breakfast but Asian customers requested an
european buffet?!). We bought a stereo and an i-trip
so we can play our i-pod through our stereo or any
handy radio. We really enjoyed ourselves and Lily was
really nice - she wouldn't let us pay for anything and
took us everywhere for 2 days. We couldn't have asked
for a better introduction to Singapore.

The flight from Singapore to the UK was uneventful.
Managed about 6 hours sleep. the selection of movies
was average so i mostly watched the little plane move
closer and closer to Europe.

Upon arrival at Heathrow I had to line up in a very
long queue and Phil took about 5 minutes to get
through passport control. He was standing on the other
side with our luggage before my line even started
moving! Luckily we were at the back of the line and
we got moved to another faster moving line - I think
it might have taken me 20 mins to get thorough which
was pretty good. I had to go answer some health
questions but didn't have to see the doctor.

It was raining when we arrived but warm so we dropped
off our gear, had a shower then headed into central
London (we have been staying for the last week and a
half in Staines). I foolishly chose to wear my
jandals with my jeans, which rapidly got soggy - I had
to roll the jeans up and wash my feet several times.
By lunchtime the sun had come our and we were able to
sit in the sun in Covent Garden and devour a delicious
cornish pasty and beer. By the time we got home that
night we were mightily knackered though and my ankles
were sooooo swollen it was gross. Did see a few of
the sights though and experienced Oxford St for the
first time. No. of pubs visited : 3 pint

Day 2 - we headed into town again. I had to go to the
recruitment agency so I went in by myself and met Phil
and Haz (cousin's husband) after I'd been at the
agency. Reed had a job for me at Coutts & Co private
bank so I needed to complete all the requisit forms to
register properly with Reed. They contacted me the
next day to ask me to meet someone at Coutts for the
once over and by Friday afternoon I had a job,
starting on the Monday as a Credit Officer at Coutts
& Co, working in the Entrepreneurs, Acquired Wealth
and Retired division. £15 an hour too which I have
rapidly realised is a pretty good hourly rate. The
rest of day too was further checking out of London's
sights (I didn't realise that Big Ben was so gilded!).
We did the 'run for and leap onto the back of a double
decker bus' and drank more beer. We dropped into
Clapham on the way home and visited my friend Phil who
works at the Clapham Fresh n' Wild - I bought some of
that yummy wholemeal bread Rach! and then drank some
more beer. Phil and I purchased some veges at Fresh
n' Wild and took them home to make some dinner for my
cousin and her hubby. Yummy pasta with tomato, red
wine and olive sauce with fresh parmesan grated on
top. Oh my god the amount of organics available in
this country is great - I was at a Sainsbury's today
and I could have bought every single thing organic if
I wanted to! I'm in heaven!!! ; - ).
No. of beers: 3 pint (one of which was London Pride -
never again)

Day 3
We did nothing but chilled out at home. The jet lag
had well and truely kicked in by this time and I was
feeling pretty shitty. Lay around the house and took
stock of everything. Had dinner at the rather
unfortunately names 'Yellow River - Staines'
restaurant. Reasonable asian food - reminded me a bit
of Monsoon Poon. To tired to really eat properly
No. of beers: none, I think

Day 4 - Friday
Had my 'interview' (in the loosest sense of the word)
and was duly hired. My bosses basically gave me the
once over and told me that things were a bit mad and
they really needed my help provided I was ready to hit
the ground running etc etc. I said - 'of course' and
they offered me the job starting Monday. Yay! I was
now employed!

Met Briddy for lunch and she took us out to Bromley
where she is living with her new girlfriend Sal. Sal
is a real honey and they are very much on the same
wavelength. The house is fabulous (they are boarding
with this great woman Katey who owns the place) - it
even has a back yard and 2 cats. Phil and I are here
this week looking after the place while they are all
away, what a bummer *wink*. Fab lunch too as Sal's
cousin who is a chef cooked a salmon strudel that was
d-vine! We then whipped off again and met my friend
Tony for dinner. He lives in Fulham so we went to a
local Antip bar - it was pretty naff but it was really
good to see Tony. Was pretty tired from the jet lag
still so had to leave earlyish. When we got back to
Staines we discovered that there was something wrong
with the door to the flats so we had to wake up my
cousin who was heading to Edinburgh really early the
next morning to let us in.
No of beers: 2 pints

Went to Cranleigh in Surrey to see an old uni friend
Ngaere, and meet her husband Chris. Really nice to see
her again and we got to see a real market in
Guildford. We also went to a wonderful "ye olde
English pub" in the middle of the countryside -
complete with low ceilings, wood beams and two old
geezers and their dogs and personal pool cues. While
the guys were whipped at pool Ngaere and I caught up.
We then went back to theirs and had a nice meal and
some more beer. I have decided that I prefer John
Smith's Extra Smooth as my tipple of choice. On the
Sunday we went back into town and met my sis for lunch
in Richmond.Very nice. We then headed for the city and
went to check out Camden - with my still slightly jet
lagged brain it was almost too much to absorb. Decided
that maybe we would not want to live there but it will
definitely be worth another visit. We dropped into
the Coal Hole for a pint AM! Very nice - have been
back a few times and it is just down the road from my
work too. At some point we went to Greenwich as well.
We have been checking out a few areas with a view to
where we want to live.

Anyhoo - this leads onto:
The last week:
I have been working at Coutts & Co for a week. My
friend Luke who I worked with at AMP sits next to me.
My other co-workers are pretty nice and easy to get
along with (Andy, Peter, Harry and Suzanne). 'Next'
has been my saving grace with regards to appropriate
work clothing though I still need to get some more
work shoes. The work is not very hard though learning
the ins and outs has left me with a headache at times.
Peter my TL gave me really good feedback yesterday
just before I left so that made me feel pretty good.
Phil had his interviews at some agencies but these did
not really come to anything. On Thursday he sent his
CV to the woman at Reed who I got my job through and
she got back to him on Friday with a job at Barclays.
He's going into Barclays on Monday to meet with them.
Fingers crossed.

We found a place to live in Balham SW12, a few blocks
away from the Bedford pub which is apparently a great
(free) live venue. Nice one bedroom flat at the top
of a terrace house. Sunny with views over the roof
tops and 5-10 mins to the Tube/NR. It was only the
second place we looked at but it was so good,
especially in comparison with the smelly dank shoebox
we looked at in Knightsbridge for only £20 less. I
have discovered that you can buy Krispy Kreme
doughnuts at Harrods so will be missioning down there
sometime soon. We will be hopefully moving into our
new flat in about a month. We've paid the deposit and
just have to send in our references to the owners so
we can be assessed. If Phil gets this job that will
help things in that department no end.

So far things have been going pretty well - I've had a
few bouts of homesickness when tired and crabby but
have met some really great Brits as well. I think
that we are going to like it here. The trick is to
selectively listen to advice from everyone and apply
the old common sense and intuition when required.
It feels really strange to think I am on the opposite
side of the world from you both - until I put on the
TV and can find no mention of New Zealand at all (and
the British are only just getting into their stride at
the Olympics)

Well thats about enough for now - its getting late and my memory is failing me a bit. There is a lot that we have missed of course.

Ciao until the next post - hope you are all well - Mel and Phil

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Cerebral feasts, iPod madness, driving mr hazy

Christchurch - Friday - Arrived in the afternoon, having forked out $90 excess baggage. Proceeded to turn Ian and Bevs house into something resembling the aftermath of a force 10 Hurricane (not sure if force 10 is well large or not but you get the idea). Went and saw Mels mates Marcus, Nick, Nathan and Jamie (aka The Undercurrents) play at Creation gallery. This place used to be a porn theatre so theres a large screen behind the stage which was used to first show Death Race 2000, followed by Faust. Two bizarre films at the best of times but remove the sound and have bands play music at the same time and the plot is anyones guess. Well confused but a fantastic, multimedia, cerebral feast!!!

Since Friday have been catching up with friends and family (a couple of very cute babies).

Have bought a laptop to take with us. With Mels Dad being an apple-a-maniac we got a good deal on an iBook (I am in fact typing this very message on it - doesn't help the quality of my prattle though). Had a minor heart mumur when we accidentally wiped our iPod of its contents (which apparently everyone does at least once due to apples wonderful software - I really wanted to type that in the most sarcastic font I could find but how exactly does a font look sarcastic?). Chris is, thank the gods, coming to our rescue and sending the songs on DVD to us so we can reload them. (ps Chris if we can find a Magnum of blonde Mac - its yours!!)

Have my driving test first thing Friday morning. We have hired a little Mazda Demio to run around in while we're here and for me to practice and do the test in. Need to have a couple of dry runs around the streets but I am beginning to love Christchurch's wide flat streets. Fingers crossed!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Lessons you learn from locums

Wull its been a while since the first post, largely due to my forgetting my password duh!. We moved out of our flat last weekend (without too many arguments) - what a full on and stressful week that was. Perhaps I should have taken time off work but I so did not want to lose any hol pay. All settled into Phil's mum's house and being spoilt (washing done etc.). Unfortunately I have caught Phil's lurgy that led to his brain being absent from his body for much of our moving week - not the best situation when he was in charge of much of the organising of the relocations people etc. Phil - now that I have an understanding of how much this cold makes my head feel stuffed of cotton wool - please forgive me : - ). I feel like crap - and I could only take one day off work last week on Wednesday. As I was going to the doctor for my pre-travel medical on Thursday, I thought I better go to work. As it turned out, Thursday was a good day - I really felt like shit on Friday when we had to organise our going away party from work - yay!. And on top of that I had the locum from hell conduct my medical. Note to self - it is not a good sign when the doctor asks you what you want done for your medical. I think I'll go back for a second opinion some time in the next week.

One more week of work, two weeks in Welly, three in NZ, Four (approx) to London - beginning to get excited....! Sat down with friends and wrote some places to go and see when we get their today which did much to make me feel more excited despite the large amounts of mucus attempting to exit my body via my nose. Arghhhh....

Much to do over the coming weeks.... farewell for now

P.S For those who care - Sammy has settled well into her role as Cafe Cat to the stars of the Waikato. Last seen sunbathing with a smile on her face, Sammy has taken over title as 'queen of the household' and has put Molly (co-cat) firmly in her place. Must have been something to do with the excellent sedatives that I was able to administer her to prevent undue travel trauma. There was some revenge had in the form of a small pile of poo in the corner of the guest room but as I said, when I left the next day, there was not a whisper of discontent... all the best my beautiful feline furball

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Countdown 5,4,3,2,1.....

One week until Sammy the cat becomes a Waikato Cafe Cat, 2 weeks until we move out of our flat, 4 weeks until we finish work, 5 weeks until we leave Wellington, 6 weeks before we leave NZ!

Whoooaaaahhhh it's beginning to freak me out!