Wednesday, 29 December 2010

From the streets of San Francisco

We experience some of that famous SF fog... and various other locations

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Deconstructing 2010

As 2010 skids towards the finish line, I thought I'd borrow a bunch of questions from a fellow Kiwi blogger. To be honest, this has been a pretty rubbish year and I'm glad its boarding pass has almost arrived. 2011: hurry up and get your arse over here.


Moved to Bristol, gave up my beloved dog, struggled to find a decent job, played the stock and bond market, became an editor, was made redundant, wore gumboots to walk to work in the snow, made peace with Macs.


France, Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Wales, Thailand and the US.


Overseas adventures, my UK work visa, a job I love, great travel commissions and new friends.


To keep my lovely house and poochie, a good job and house as soon as I arrived in the UK, the usual end to war, hunger and cruelty.


Security (of where I'm going to live and work), a decent house, a dog.


When we found out we were moving to Bristol - and had to turn down a job in Singapore. And the day I said goodbye to Molly - broke my heart in a way that will never totally be healed.


Uprooting my very comfortable life and starting at the bottom in a new country - yet again - taught me oceans about myself and how strong I am, how to roll with the punches and, most importantly, to shrug it off when it all turns to steaming piles of shit. I also got a tad better at walking away from people, situations and concepts that no longer served me.

On a more practical note, never to buy H&M jeans (they stretch like buggery), not to make impulsive financial decisions and good hairdressers exist all over the globe - they just take a bit of hunting out.


Being reunited with the Animator after a seven week absence, being reunited with Ms Molly after a seven month absence, lots of new experiences, laughs with new friends.


Having to turn down a job in Singapore, trying to find a job in the rubbish British economy, wasting four months of my life in a horrid contract, living in the Slum, being grounded at Heathrow by snow.


Volunteering with animals, yoga, reading, keeping in touch with people that matter to me.


Drinking red wine in dodgy bars, wasting time and energy on jobs and people that didn't deserve it; hopefully next time I will be able to walk away more quickly.


Apart from the usual sore throats and sniffles, no thank goodness.


What a question to ask someone with a PhD in retail! The highlight of my time in the UK has been propping up the ailing economy, so all the clothes, shoes, handbags and household stuff fall into this category. God only knows how I'm going to shunt it to the other side of the world.

Other notables include our cute car (always wanted a Mini), a GPS (we'd still be trying to find our way out of our street without it) and my tiny-but-perfectly-formed Samsung Notebook. No more lugging around stupidly large laptops for this girl. Oh and lots of dosh also went to line the pockets of airlines and hotels.


People who don't walk on the same side of the footpath they drive on (yes locals, I'm talking about you!), cold weather, breeders with screamy, uncontrollable kids, bastards who do unthinkable things to animals, whoever screwed with the economy, my boss at the previous horrid contract and rude, inconsiderate people.


See question 11


Yes, we made it overseas and had some adventures, so well done us!

2011: getting more stability in my life (of where we're going to live), finding a better house, putting the breaks on the wanton spending and making my life complete with a dog.

And, it makes me sound like friggin Pollyanna, but being thankful for all that I have...

(Pic: PSD Graphics)

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas San Francisco style

Dogs, an open fire, good friends, scrumptious food and a visit from the fat geezer in the red suit - what more could anyone wish for on Christmas day?

Hope you were as well fed, happy, relaxed and spoilt as we were...

Saturday, 25 December 2010

How's this for a view?

Frankly, there's nothing worse than a blatant show off, but after what we've been through lately, I reckon we're entitled to a wee boast.

So here goes: this is the view across San Francisco's downtown area that smacks our gob every morning. We're currently house-sitting for Doug and Suzi's doctor neighbour, Tonya, and this is the vista that greets you when you look out of her bedroom window. We're also baby-sitting her adorable Jack Russell, Gizmo (pictured below). Fortunately Gizmo and Ms Molly have taken to each other like a duck to orange sauce, so we're all having a grand time.

On Sunday we head to another undoubtedly lovely house/dog combo in another undoubtedly cool neighbourhood, and then one more before we go home. So far it's been wonderful seeing Molly and our friends and rediscovering what is surely one of the world's greatest cities. Yesterday we had a Kodak moment at the Golden Gate Bridge and once the Animator sorts those piccies, I'll slap them on the blog; they are breathtaking.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks for reading my scribblings this year and for the love and comments. Hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are and that it isn't too cold (or hot). Shazzy xx

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Reunion

If you're the sort who doesn't like dogs (why are we even friends?!) or excessive displays of sentimentality, then look away now.

Seven and a half months after saying goodbye to the impossibly beautiful Molly, we were reunited on a rainy Tuesday night in San Francisco. All thoughts of the three-day delay, of the rugby scrum/riot that is Heathrow and of being fondled by customs were forgotten when we set eyes on Her Highness.

She cavorted, she yelped, she ran victory laps around us and pretty much forgot that she is, in fact, an old lady. Apart from my reunion with the Animator after a seven week absence earlier this year, I can honestly say I have NEVER been happier to see anyone in my life. I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual.

When Her Ladyship calmed down, she sat there and looked at us as if to say, 'What the hell took you guys so long?' Her new dad Doug tells us that although Molly is exceedingly happy in San Francisco (who wouldn't be?), she sometimes looks for her 'other' humans. Well today those tardy humans finally showed.

And after the biggest hug in the history of the world, the Mollster jumped on her favourite couch and promptly fell asleep.

Today this glossy black dog made me happier than anything else on earth.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Things I willl never do

Having survived Snowmageddon, I have vowed and declared NEVER to do the following:

1) spend another Christmas in this country
2) fly anywhere from the UK at Christmas (or Easter or any other major holiday)
3) travel with British Airways
4) refer to this landmass as 'Great Britain'. I can think of numerous other adjectives to replace the first word with, but as this is a family publication, we won't go there.

Okay, rant over. We are now in Heathrow's departure lounge and hoping that the World's Greatest Airline will get us the hell out of dodge. Thanks for the texts, emails and love from all over the globe. We owe you one..

Monday, 20 December 2010


If there are 10 million stories in the UK, then nine million of them currently involve snow: of temperatures plummeting to a record -26 degrees in some parts of the country, of hundreds being trapped in their cars on motorways, of the coldest December since records began and of the 250,000 whose travel plans slithered to an abrupt halt yesterday. Including us.

Having spent 12 hours at Heathrow, we heard some of those stories first-hand: of the elderly couple who were flying to New York to do a four-day dream cruise which they had missed; of the American student who sat on the runway for seven hours before they were allowed to escape back into the terminal (and were only fed one bottle of water and a sandwich during that time); of the lovely Italian bloke who was only in London for a meeting and had spent two days at the airport trying to get home; of the Texan businessman who bemoaned the fact that every time he transited through London, something went wrong. “This country just doesn't work,” he said over our tenth coffee. I was inclined to agree with him.

Even singer Lily Allen was among the stranded. Her tweet pretty much summed up the mood at Heathrow: “Still no idea if our flight will go, ever. Can't get a hotel anywhere and cabs can't get anywhere near the airport. Guess we're all kipping here.”

Last evening we decided we couldn't bear the thought of spending a night on the cold stone tiles, so managed to get back to the Sheraton, dug out the car from thick snow and drove back to Bristol. Admittedly getting out of London was a bit hairy and the thick pea soup fog on the way home didn't help, but the M4 was surprisingly clear (thank god for salt) and there were few cars so we got home in about two hours.

Today we should have been in San Francisco, seeing the lovely Molly, catching up with our friends and enjoying the positively tropical 12 degree temperatures, not schleping around snow-covered Bristol. I am so cross and disappointed I could chew my own hand off. But in the interests of making the best of a bollocks situation, after sleeping for 12 straight hours, we rugged up and headed out. Here's me in front of Bristol's beautiful Cathedral and with the fabulous seasonal decorations at Cabot Circus, my favourite of the city's shopping malls.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

This is what hell must look like

So thanks to the f***in snow, ALL flights out of the cesspit that is Heathrow were cancelled today.

British f**kin Airways, an airline almost as bollocks as Air France, couldn't even re-book us or offer us hotel or food vouchers. When we got stuck in Paris in May because of the volcanic ash, dirty old Easyjet bent over backwards to accommodate, feed and water us - and they are bottom of the airline barrel. So you'd expect a 'proper' airline to do at least as much. Today I feel as much love for Britain's national carrier as I do for the snow and this country. Arghhhhh...

Managed to book a flight on TUESDAY with Air NZ - not out of any sense of nationalism because I could quite happily travel in the cargo hold of ANY carrier at this stage. But it's the first flight out of this godforsaken place. Tonight Heathrow is our home and tomorrow we will attempt to retrieve our car from the Sheraton carpark and drive back to Bristol. And then make the return journey on Tuesday - if the friggin snow has stopped.

I have now lost the will to live....

Friday, 17 December 2010

So this is Christmas

Almost 24 hours after our company Christmas party and my head still feels like boiled marmalade. I wish I could take my brain out, rinse it under the cold tap and reinsert it. Even eating my bodyweight in carbs today didn't help.

But a fantastic time was had by all - as these pics of drunken English folk so clearly illustrate. Don't say you weren't warned...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Managing my addiction

Last week, I bought a homeless bloke and his dog some food.

I'd previously seen them both around town but that day, the beautiful 10-year-old dog looked particularly unhappy. So I wandered over and let bossy Shazzy loose: had the dog eaten today (yes), had she had her shots (not sure), did he look after her (yes) and where were they going to sleep that night (in a hostel). I offered to buy them both something hot from the nearby chippie and as the guy chowed down on a greasy sausage, he told me all about his demons, his addiction to Class As and his struggle to be shot of both.

The sub-text of this story is that any of us could quite easily have taken a wrong turn and ended up with this guy's back-story. I'm outrageously thankful that my addiction is not to drugs, alcohol or gambling but, rather more innocently, to vast amounts of Christmas mince pies.

At this time of the year, most people are obsessed with spending stupid amounts of money on stuff no-one really wants or needs, getting lairy and channelling their inner slappers at the office party, or wondering how they'll survive spending time with their families. Yet my head is filled only with thoughts of inhaling enough mince pies to feed my serious addiction.

Perhaps its the frighteningly high sugar-to-butter ratio, or maybe it's the chunks of glossy dark fruit and occasional guest appearance of brandy or orange zest. Whatever the reason, these small, rich and sweet morsels of mouth happiness fit neatly into all sorts of gaps. The obvious one is as a welcome gift for Santa, but they're also the ideal accompaniment for present wrapping sessions, killer hangovers, to enliven the tenth cuppa of the day, or for comfort-eating after 48 fraught hours in a house that isn't your own.

Apparently, mince pies were originally filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than a dried fruit mix as they are today. They were first made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes. Legend also has it that Queen Victoria would only have sex if she had a couple of mince pies first (actually, I made that last bit up. My mind tends to wander between pies).

One custom that isn't fabricated – and of which I completely approve – comes from the Middle Ages where it was believed that consuming a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (6th January) would promise happiness for the next 12 months.

Yesterday a guy in Sainsbury's convinced me to buy 12 mince pies for the incredible price of two quid (wages may be shite over here but groceries are ridiculously cheap). And no, they weren't dried up hunks of rubbish either – they were deep, crumbly and everything a good pie should be. Just over 24 hours later, only one box remains.

If I'm not careful, my Size Eight licence may soon be revoked.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Tis the season to...

If you're not religious, or have kids, then Christmas is really just a big fat excuse to:
- escape from work
- speed-date with cirrhosos of the liver, and
- throw your fun thermostat totally out of whack.

Last night, we had our editorial/design team knees-up. Thanks to the shiny, happy people below for inducting me into the Brits' love of the silly season - it's been a while since I was flung out of my festive comfort zone and into the OTT spectacle that is Xmas on this side of the pond. Somehow, though, it does feel right to have Christmas in winter - the snow, mulled wine, chapped lips and hearty fare.

Last night was just a dummy run for the biggie on Wednesday - the company-wide bash. The all-day event starts with a choice of various activities (paint-balling, go-carting, pole dancing, street dancing, clay pigeon shooting and ceramic plate painting) which wraps around 3.00pm and then we have a few hours to get glammed up for the black-tie evening event. Expect more random pics of drunken folk - just better dressed.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Man up...

What maketh a man?

Is it how well he wields a hammer or wrench? Perhaps it's his ability to score a try or remember your birthday. Or maybe it's down to the size of his wallet, his heart or his you-know-what.

According to the NZ Herald (and the bizzarely obscure Popular Mechanics magazine), the following list encapsulates the essence of man. Last night when the Animator came in from playing football (in the snow! Does that make him a man, or just a weather-denying lunatic?) I ran through the list with him. He, of course, could do them all except No 19 (the gun one – obviously he's a pacifist or I wouldn't be with him).

He's smeared in cleverness, that husband of mine. The only downside is because he's so goddam capable, I've become a lazy cow who doesn't feel the need to learn how to do any of these things. Still, as the old saying goes, why have a dog and bark yourself?


1. Patch a radiator hose

2. Protect your computer

3. Rescue a boater who has capsized

4. Frame a wall

5. Retouch digital photos

6. Back up a trailer

7. Build a campfire

8. Fix a dead outlet

9. Navigate with a map and compass

10. Use a torque wrench

11. Sharpen a knife

12. Perform CPR

13. Fillet a fish

14. Manoeuvre a car out of a skid

15. Get a car unstuck

16. Back up data

17. Paint a room

18. Mix concrete

19. Clean a bolt-action rifle

20. Change oil and filter

21. Hook up an HDTV

22. Bleed brakes

23. Paddle a canoe

24. Fix a bike flat

25.Extend your wireless network

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

This time last year...

Almost a year to the day I was here, at the water's edge in one of the world's most stunning cities, tagging on a few days at the end of a work trip to spend time with one of my oldest and loveliest besties, Doriette.

Who'd have thought that 365 days later I'd be swaddled in scarves, gloves, long-johns and enough layers to make me look like the Michelan Man's fat sister? Winter has pounced quickly and savagely and I can't remember what it's like to feel the sun on my bare arms. All I want to do is draw the curtains, crank up the heating and set the alarm for April. If nature is hibernating, then surely we are meant to as well?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Who ate all the pies?

One of my most vivid childhood memories is being at home from school with the flu, and Dad bringing me a steaming meat pie from the local bakery. In the Stephenson household, pies were obviously the comfort food equivalent of chicken soup. Needless to say, the culinary landscape of my youth and early adulthood is littered with the carcasses of dodgy pies (remember the horrific slabs of mince and cheese from Georgie Pie, anyone?)

The pie, however, was one of the earliest casualties of my decision to ditch meat nine years ago. Vegetarian options were obviously a concept too far for most manufacturers, and so began my fatwa against the pasty-encased delights.

Until this week, that is, when I stumbled across Pieminister, a cute wee cafe in Bristol's St Nicholas's Market. Along with the usual meaty suspects, I discovered possibly the world's most delectable veggie pies, crammed full of mushrooms and asparagus, studded with hunks of sweet potato and goats cheese, and nestled under a soft, buttery duvet. Hitching a ride was a mountain of mashed spuds, mushy peas and delicious vegetarian gravy.

The carb fest is served on the sort of enamel plates I remember from Girl Guides, and diners chow down at communal tables – so old skool cool it hurts. I Googled them as soon as I and my straining belly got home: apparently the company was born here in Bristol in the early 90s by two young blokes who wanted to change the way the world looked at pies. They now have several outlets around the UK, sell to pubs and cafes all over the shop, and are stocked by numerous supermarkets.

Truly a red-letter week: not only did I end my pie drought, I also supported a local business and got to scoff some of the best food to pass my lips in a long time.

Probably best to blot out all thoughts of cholesterol count and diet fallout, though.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A winter's tale

So this is what we woke up to Saturday morning - and pretty much every day since.

Looks beautiful - but don't let its pristine blanket of fluffiness fool you. It's a buggar to walk to work in and, since hooking up with its Baltic cousin, ice, it has launched a concerted campaign to fill every A&E across the land with poor folk trying to go about their daily business. Having done my Bambi on Ice impression a couple of times already this week, I subsequently purchased a pair of the ugliest gumboots (or wellies, as my colleagues like to correct me) on the face of the earth because they are, apparently, the best for handling snow. The jury remains out on that one.

All I can say is that Heathrow had better be open on December 18 when we fly to San Francisco or I will not be happy with this snow shit.


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