Friday, 30 July 2010


So the Lonely Planet, in its received wisdom, warns us off visiting Seville in July/August. Google weather (above) illustrates why.

Note to self: next time read guidebook BEFORE booking trip. But it's a good excuse, as if we need one, to down gallons of sangria and indulge in long, languid siestas.

Now stumbling through the dance of pre-holiday preparations: the Animator is attempting to speed learn Spanish from a CD (the words 'too', 'little' and 'late' come to mind,) while I'm trying to figure out what you're supposed to pack for temperatures that threaten to turn visitors into barbecue spare ribs. And why the hell can I never find my togs when I need them?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

To the big fullah upstairs

Dear God,

I know it's been an age since I last appeared on your radar. And yes, I get that with me being a tiny bit on the agonistic side, this shout-out may come as a bigger surprise than your old mate Peter stitching you up for a bit of bling.

Anyway dude, I'm hoping you'll be able to help me out. Well, not strictly me, but our beloved doggie, Molly. About now, Her Royal Highness will be at Auckland airport, having her not inconsiderable bulk squeezed into a crate in preparation for a 10,000km flight to her new home in San Francisco.

It’s no secret Ms Molly has always been this side of nervous, so I’m kinda hoping you can shine your light (or whatever it is you do) over her to keep her safe during her journey. Held captive in a noisy, dark steel bird for 12 hours when you’ve clocked up roughly 94 human years – and suffered a stroke earlier this year – can’t be that flash on the old ticker.

Seeing as you’re an all seeing, all knowing kind of chap, you’ll be aware that I’m already swimming in a sea of guilt about abandoning Molly, so if anything were to happen to her I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.

If you’d see fit to help her out, I’d really appreciate it. Having been force-fed Catholicism in my formative years, I know how the drill works: I need to do something in return. Last week I bit my tongue when some posh Pommy bitch cut in front of me in the supermarket queue, while today I extracted even more blood from my poor bruised tongue when I refrained from telling my neighbour what a loud, tossy public school wanker he is. Does that count?

If you could do your bit, I’d be ever so grateful. For my part, I’m crossing everything on my person that my sweet fur baby will be okay.

Shazzy xxx

Monday, 26 July 2010

Pub of the month

One of the good things about living in Brizzle is that it's close to places we've never been, such as the Cotswolds. When I lived here last time, I was all about London and exploring the Continent. This time around, we want to check out what's on our doorstep.

Today satnav Lola led us to The Green Dragon Inn, a 17th century pub in a tiny hamlet called Cockleford, as recommended by a colleague who lives up that way. It’s the English village/pub of the collective imagination: take white picket fences, country lanes and low-ceilinged cottages, put them in high definition, and you have some idea of how chocolate-box cute it all is.

We sat outside and stuffed our faces with risotto and Pimms, but I can also imagine how lovely it is in the dead of winter, snuggled in front of the open fire with the Sunday papers and a glass of velvety red for company.

It was a great way to end a lovely weekend. The best thing though is that I'm looking down the barrel of two four-day weeks – yeeha!

Sunday, 25 July 2010


You know summer is here when you can't turn around in Sainsbury's without knocking over huge displays of strawberries.

Personally, I've never met a berry I didn't like and today I hit paydirt when I noticed a local super marche, one I don't usually frequent, was having a special on berries. So I bagged a summer trifecta of cherries, strawberries and raspberries, and all for the ridiculous price of 5 quid.

No matter that the fruit has more air-miles than I do - the cherries are from Greece, the raspberries from Turkey, the strawberries from God knows where – these tiny morsels of delight made Shazzy's tummy feel exceedingly yummy for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The milk of human kindness

Some days you're Superman, and some days you're just plain old Clark Kent.

Today most certainly fell into the latter category: I got soaked going into work, had to cross the road to avoid a homeless geezer using the footpath as a urinal, and got an email from my NZ bank to discover they had totally screwed up a term deposit. The cherry on top of this giant turd of a day was being held hostage to the megalomaniac whims of my lunatic boss, a woman whose only discernible skill seems to be squeezing every last bit of joy out of life.

But this afternoon, when I was telling my lovely pod buddy Gemma about my planned trip to Ikea to buy a clothes rail for my NZ clothes, the universe thankfully decided Shazzy's day had already overshot the runway of bad luck.

Turns out Gemma had a rail she wasn't using that was cluttering up her house. She said I'd really be doing her a favour if I took it off her hands.

The blonde bombshell and her beau even dropped it off on their way to a pub quiz.

Thanks Gem for restoring my faith in humankind - and for saving me a trip to the suburban hell that is Ikea.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Lovely London Town

This weekend, a window in my heart opened up a bit, and London sneaked back in.

For four years I called this sprawling city home and last year I returned twice on media trips, so it hasn't been that long between drinks. But it has been an age since I really felt the frenetic energy of this chaotic, dirty city slide beneath my skin.

Early Saturday morning, the Animator, Lola (the woman who lives inside the GPS) and I headed down the M4 to Queens Park. As luck would have it, the accommodation planets aligned, meaning we got to play house-sitter for the Animator's cousin Grant and his partner Sarah while they were out of town.

And what a glorious weekend it was – we were fed and watered at Kiwi chef Peter Gordon’s acclaimed Providores/Tapa Room restaurant in my old stomping ground of Marylebone High Street (pictured above), were spit-roasted by temperatures in the late 20s and began to understand how sardines feel when we squashed onto crowded Tubes.

We walked the streets of Soho, saw a drug bust, and the Animator drank the best flat white he's had since arriving on English shores at the Kiwi café Sacred Coffee in Carnaby Street, where I interviewed the Wellington owners for a magazine last year.

I even got the bargain of my life at the Banana Republic sale when I spied a fitted suit jacket for the insane price of £12.99!!! I initially thought it was a mis-print, or they’d let a lunatic loose with the price-sticker gun, but turns out that was, in fact, the price so with one swipe of the debit card, it was mine! Shazzy has hit bargain nirvana many times in her life, but the fashion gods have never been rooting for me as much as they were on Saturday. Bonus: it’s from BR's Petite range, so the jacket doesn’t have to go anywhere near a tailor.

Saturday night we met a Kiwi friend for a drink at a lovely Maida Vale pub, scoffed yummy Malaysian food and tried to figure out which house in Grant’s road belongs to singer Lily Allen. Sunday was spent leisurely wandering around Spitalfields Market and wondering which cool furniture and antiques we’d buy if our surnames were Hilton.

Drove home Sunday afternoon, feeling smug about the lack of tail-backs on our side of the road (does rush-hour in London ever end?) and collapsed in a heap with the Sunday papers and a large glass of something red.

Lovely, lovely London…I’d be back in flash if it wasn’t for the Animator’s absolute refusal to do so.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Height to weight ratio

The Health Police would no doubt have me arrested at gunpoint, but dinner the last few nights has consisted of microwave popcorn and several glasses of vin rouge.

Hardly nutritional kryptonite, but I’m too busy unpacking my cartons and doing battle with the iron in a hopeless attempt to return my wardrobe to its former glory.

We’re going to London this weekend, which will almost certainly be a fiesta of trans-fats, but I plan to get my five-plus, flax-seed oil and oily fish groove back on next week. In my defence, I have been running most days, so surely that goes some way to mitigating the dreaded Heathrow Injection?

For those of you who don’t know what the latter is, the Urban Dictionary has helpfully provided this definition:

Heathrow Injection: metaphor for the weight gained by Kiwis/Aussies when they migrate to London for an extended stay. It is attributable to the fast-paced lifestyle that leads one to eating mostly take-away and drinking too much. As in:

Person 1: "I reckon I'm getting a little tubby. I think I'm developing love handles."
Person 2: "Yeah well you've been here in London for three months now. That's the Heathrow Injection right there. I've been here for two years now. Look at this flab on me. I slap it and it makes waves."

Friday, 16 July 2010

Gentlemen, start your irons....

This is only a fraction of the clothes that have to be sorted, ironed and found a home somewhere in the Slum.

Sadly, I have neither the photographic talent, nor a wide enough lens, to capture the others that currently hang from picture hooks, door handles or lie crumpled in pockets all over the house.

The iron and I have never really been close, a relationship that is currently being further strained by having to spend long periods of time in each other's company. And my trigger finger hurts from over-use of the steam button.

Still, finally being in possession of all my belongings (not to mention precious photos and kitchen utensils) gives me an undeniable swell in the vicinity of my heart.
If only there was an iron I could apply to the Slum to make it look better...

Thursday, 15 July 2010


So the headline in today's newspaper could have read.

But then today was a caps kind of day where every sentence felt as though it should have been book-ended by an exclamation mark.

The moment I'd been waiting 10 weeks for finally arrived when six overstuffed boxes trundled down the M4 from Croydon and arrived on my doorstep.

I was so excited I woke up at time when most people were still hours from their first latte. As the useless moving company (tip: never, ever use Britannia Movers) wouldn’t give me an estimated delivery time, I had to drag myself into work. Trying to edit complex financial documents, never riveting at the best of times, did little to still my excited mind. Has there ever been a woman less drawn to the notion of patience?

I even braved the dodgy showers and went for a lunchtime run to try and calm my nervous energy. Did it help? Did it heck; I spent the rest of the day trying to focus my Jedi powers on making the hands of the clock spin faster.

But at 3.00pm, I got the call that the truck was nearing Bristol and I felt a strange sensation in my face - I began to smile. And I didn't stop smiling for the rest of the day as I reacquainted myself with my beloved possessions.

The best thing was unpacking clothes I had forgotten about (stand up red frilly top from Sydney), the worst seeing what damage bad packing and weeks of being shunted from one side of the globe to the other can do (take a bow cream coat from Hong Kong). I console myself with the fact that it's nothing an appointment with the iron can't fix.

Friends tell me having all my 'stuff' around me will help me feel more settled and I'd bet the rent money on them being right. For now though, I'm just happy that the system actually worked and everything arrived in one piece.

Today was, to borrow a concept from Tina Turner, simply the best.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Postcards from Bath

Last weekend the junket fairy was nice enough to make an appearance, so we headed to Bath to explore this charming Georgian city and write nice things about it for Wellington's metropolitan daily, the DomPost.

We wallowed in the warm, curative waters of the rooftop Thermae Bath Spa, walked the same honeyed alleyways that Jane Austen did, and paid our respects to the baths where, around 3,000 years ago, the Romans discovered that hot water bubbling out of the ground was just the ticket to cure their ills.

We also ate and drank until our bellies swelled (thanks Bath Tourism!) and had the loveliest weekend away.

The Animator (the artist formerly known as Husband) managed to stretch his Kodak moment to hours: he and his horrendously overpriced new toy are responsible for the lovely pics here.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Consolation prize # 1

There has to be something to take the edge off living in a country where 62 million people are shoehorned into a space roughly the size of NZ, where infrastructure hasn't kept pace with the population and accomplishing the smallest of things, such as getting an internet connection, can assume nightmarish proportions.

That something, my friends, is spending Saturday traipsing up and down the high street, soaking up the retail bling and filling one's wardrobe with absolute bargains. There is no reason for any man, woman or child to be badly dressed in this country because clothes are incredibly cheap, particularly now that Sale signs are dangling from every window.

Today, I joined the masses and patriotically did my bit to prevent the UK from sliding into what economists are euphemistically calling a 'double dip' recession.

Along with the usual suspects from Zara (my favourite shop on the planet), I found these black lace-up stunners for a whopping three pounds! And before you ask, no they weren't from nasty old Primark! How these delectable bits of leather and cotton can even be conjured up for that price is beyond me, but probably best to ignore all thoughts of little fingers toiling away in third-world sweatshops.

This country is turning me into Imelda Marcos.

Friday, 9 July 2010

A taste of home

It hasn't even been two months, but already I find myself missing that all-important sense of belonging, of being tethered to something tangible.

It's a weird, discombobulated feeling being a stranger in a strange land and, over the last few weeks, I've found myself aching for the familiar.

Which is probably why I almost kissed the Kiwi couple and their student son who fetched up behind me in the queue at Sainsburys yesterday. A day spent clenching my jaw was made even worse by half of Bristol attempting to do their shopping at the same time. And just to ensure my crap well didn't run dry, when I asked a staff member where the tahini was, he looked at me as though I was special needs (despite describing and spelling the word. Very slowly. Several times). And then he led me on a marathon around the bleeding store to find it.

By this time, petulant six-year-old Shazzy showed signs of bursting, alien-like, from my body. But then I heard that familiar vowel-stretching accent and, before long, the Kiwi couple (who were in town for their son's graduation from Bristol Uni) and I were chatting like old mates. There was a reassuring resonance, a clicking into place, a sharing of the familiar in an alien, anonymous city.

They probably don't realise it, but that couple's small gesture of kindness, their gift of conversation, helped me reconnect to a life I'm only now beginning to realise was more special than I ever appreciated.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Happy Birthday Brownie

As I type this, fingers of sunshine are pushing their way through the curtains and a BBC breakfast presenter with an annoyingly high-pitched voice is telling me it's going to be a glorious 24 degrees today.

On the other side of the world, Wellington has donned its winter coat: the Stuff website says it's raining and a nasty southerly is rattling its cage. Somewhere in Khandallah, the lovely Brownie is nearing the end of her first day as a 40 year old. I still kick myself for missing Brownie's wedding and now I've gone and missed her milestone birthday too. What a rubbish friend I am.

But, dear B, know that you're never far from my thoughts and every time I use my iPod or accumulate someone's business card, I think of the generous and thoughtful gifts you and Sarah gave me when I left NZ.

At an interview recently, I was asked how my friends would describe me. I'm not sure which jumble of adjectives and nouns Brownie would assemble for me but I'd liken her to a cashmere blanket: stylish, classic and so warm and cosy you want to permanently wrap yourself in its embrace.

We came to our friendship late, meeting not at work or school (she went somewhere far posher than Sacred Heart, which is probably why she's the classiest person I know) but via a mutual friend. Since then, I have been an immensely lucky recipient of B's gift for friendship and, despite the fact that our lives are on totally different trajectories, she has helped me rewrite the script of several life crises.

This vision of blonde loveliness has also achieved that rarest of things – producing one of only two children on the planet I can stand to be around (the other being my niece Amira). Thanks Charlotte for showing me that not everyone shorter than me is to be avoided.

Brownie, hope today wasn't too traumatic. Forty is just a number and I know you'll carry it off with the aplomb and grace that has served you thus far. Happy Birthday, my darling friend xx

Monday, 5 July 2010

The boy in the bubble

While waiting for the muse to clock in (am supposed to be finishing a freelance travel piece) I came across these pics from photographer Romain Laurent. If you're going to waste time, then this dude's website is as good a place as any to dally...

Friday, 2 July 2010

My blue suede shoes...

Who'd have thought you could enter the gates of heaven in a lunch-hour?

Today on my way to work I spied what they refer to over here as a 'retail park' (a few largeish shops, to you and me). So at lunchtime, I changed into my walking shoes and headed over there. And discovered, among other things, a NEXT outlet store (insert happy dance).

Shazzy's well-honed bargain radar quickly spotted these cool suede shoes - a mere snip at 13 quid! So of course I had to buy them to cheer up my feet. Note the cute yellow lining and the square toes - I was a one woman cauldron of happiness when I bagged these babies.

Shame they don't go with my other bargain of the week - a purple pleated work dress (looks way better than it sounds) that I bought from a vintage shop (read: charity store). It was only 5.99 but the best thing about it was that it came from a PDSA shop where all proceeds pay for vet care for animals whose owners can't afford it. So not only have I added to my slender wardrobe (where the hell are those cartons, anyway?!) I've also helped an animal in need and earned a shed-load of good karma.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Goodbye to the Vespa

The Vespa came into my life by stealth.

While I was still in NZ, disentangling us from our lives, Husband phoned to say he was tired of riding two buses to work and was going to buy a black Vespa. A prospect that appealed to me about as much as wearing jandals in the middle of winter.

But spouse had spied a window – and disapproving Wifey was, after all, 12,000 miles away – so he jumped through it as fast as his Size 8-1/2s could carry him.

Sadly, expecting the worst is a reflex over which I have little more control than sneezing and since the Vespa inveigled its way into my life, I've spent far too much time wondering when a policeman is going to knock on my door to tell me he's scraped Husband off the road.

I'm not such a Nana that I don't think the sleek black hunk of metal isn't sexy. But, let's be honest, it's more suited to some Italian hottie zipping around the Colosseum than it is to an ageing Kiwi bloke wearing a reflective vest and tangling with the M4 at rush-hour.

In a few days, the Vespa is about to exit stage left as we reintroduce ourselves to four wheels. Husband is suitably sad, but I'm quietly thankful that both he and his toy remained in one piece.


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