Thursday, 31 January 2013

Going Underground

It feels like several lifetimes ago, but I once spent four and a bit years living in London.

And almost every day of those four and a bit years, I descended into the bowels of the earth, swiped my travel card and journeyed along the tentacles of this city's metro system, one of the oldest in the world. Like everyone, I dealt with my share of nutters and gropers, of rude people and the patently insane. But I was never one of those who 'suffered' the Tube; I loved its frenetic energy and the challenge of trying to negotiate my way around it, even on days when it was so unreliable, overcrowded and frustrating I was surprised they hadn't slapped a misery warning on it.

Since then, I've been lucky enough to ride subway cars in New York, Moscow, Prague, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo, Washington DC, Munich, Berlin, Athens, Bangkok, Madrid, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Budapest, Cairo, Seville, Rome, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, St Petersburg, Vienna, Singapore, Milan, Lisbon, Oslo, Warsaw, Barcelona, Istanbul, Helsinki and Glasgow (apologies if this comes across as hubris; it isn't meant to. I hadn't realised until now how many I've actually been on. It makes me sound like some kind of rapid transport geek).

Anyway, this is a stupidly long way of saying that today the London Underground celebrated its 150th birthday by hosting Chuck and Camilla (obvs everyone more interesting was busy). The glorious Guardian ran a caption contest, asking readers what they thought was going through the Cornwalls' minds as they got a taste of how the little people live (but without the vomit, pick-pockets and homeless folk, of course). I have just spent the last hour almost peeing my pants reading the comments; they are beyond priceless (click here for story).


Wednesday, 30 January 2013

You're going to put that finger where?

This morning I took His Highness to the vet for his slightly overdue health WOF and innoculations.

And although he wasn't particularly kindly inclined towards the whole exercise, he allowed himself to be subjected to the pokes and prods of his new vet Natalie and her assistant who was helping out before starting a five-year vet science degree.    

Thankfully, everything was where it should have been and performing as it's supposed to. Natalie declared Bristol to be in rude good health and one of the best-behaved dogs she's ever seen.

But oh the indignity: she weighed him on the cat scale! He was NOT impressed.

This photo was taken just before Natalie did the finger-in-bum thing to check his anal glands. Note the crazed look in his eye.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Not a good day

Today all was not well behind the velvet rope of sunshine.

There was major fuckupedness on the corporate front, website links that didn't work when they were supposed to, media releases that didn't contain the information they should have, more tension than an average week in the Middle East.

Perhaps the heat is getting to everyone.

I'm afraid all I can offer today are more images of ridiculously cute four-legged creatures. But when you're knackered and over it, Tumblr is a glorious, mind-numbing, time-wasting hole.

 (Pic Credit: Tumblr)    

Monday, 28 January 2013

Whatever blows your skirt up

This evening, on my walk home from work, I saw three women of a certain age - and wardrobe, and affection for blue eye shadow - excitedly heading to the Cliff Richard gig.

"I hope he sings Miss You Nights," said one, as I walked past.

"Ohh, and Summer Holiday. That's my favourite," added another.

"If I was 30 years younger, and he wasn't so funny looking, I would definitely be interested," said the last of the eye-shadowed troika.

I'm not sure how you follow a conversation like that.

So instead you shall have this photo of a baby sloth clutching a stuffed giraffe. Cute doesn't even come close...


Saturday, 26 January 2013

My big fat Wellington summer

Hey Summer, thank you so much for coming. And for being kind to us.

According to this piece, you have kicked off your shoes and settled in for the next wee while. We truly heart you.

It's just a shame that I have taken on an urgent copywriting gig this weekend (it's not that I'm not grateful for the work, or the fabulous hourly rate) but it does mean the only Vitamin D I'm going to get in the next few days is through the window.


Friday, 25 January 2013

An intervention may need to be staged

Continuing the obsession with all things vintage, we found this old cash register that I am currently crushing out on.

Our house has now imposed a fatwa on the acquisition of any more stuff. Especially stuff that's older than the Animator.


Thursday, 24 January 2013

The one in which I realise I'm still mourning

So my gorgeous mate Frenchie (real name Christelle and yes, she is French; I amaze myself with my creativity sometimes) emailed from Bristol to say she was tootling around this blog and read about Molly.

She expressed sorrow and said, in her charming Gallic way: "I hope you are at peace with yourself. Do not be too hard on yourself. You are a great person and you take good care of everyone you love". I hope she doesn't mind me reproducing her words, but they were so overwhelming sweet. Along with a rush of love for my dear friend, I was reminded of our loss, of the Molly-shaped hole I now carry around with me.

It also reminded me of a story I read somewhere about a vet who had to put an old Irish wolfhound to sleep. The dog's owners brought their six-year-old son along to the surgery, thinking it would be good for him to understand what was going on. When it was over, they discussed how dogs have much shorter lives than humans and how sad that is.

Apparently the kid responded with: "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like being nice and loving everyone. But dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to hang around as long as people".

Y'all know Shazzy's views on rug rats, but even this cold heart found that rather sweet. He's right, of course.

Pic today of, what else, but the Mollster's unadulterated beauty...


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The cheese man

The Feb issue of North & South Magazine features my story about the bloke responsible for the tastiest  halloumi to ever flirt with my taste buds. And ice cream and a smoked yoghurt that tastes so much better than it sounds (click here for the story).

Even more importantly, he was a Very Nice Chap.

(Pic Credit: Stuff) 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Wellington Anniversary Day

Two of my favourite things on the planet - apart from clothes and canines - are baking and sharing said baking with friends.

To celebrate today's Bank Holiday, we invited our favourite San Francisco import, Donna, to sit in the sun and carb load with berry friands and a dense chocolate cake that fairly sloshes with red wine (I may not be drinking right now, but surely consuming it in baked form isn't the same?) Holiday gluttony is, in my opinion, the best sort.

Donna's architect daughter was over from Geneva, en-route to Indonesia to work on a large sustainable not-for-profit project, so it was fun to catch up on the last three years (the last time our paths crossed) and to plot the next three.

The rest of the day was filled in with a run in the Town Belt, work for a design magazine and research for a media trip in March (hark at me being all coy; let's just say it involves noodles, a ridiculous song that's named after a suburb and one of the tightest borders in the world).

Today's visual is of the red wine chocolate cake from the Smitten Kitchen blog, from whence the recipe came. I could, of course, have taken my own pics but the God of Bank Holidays told me I didn't have to.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Moving on

Back in October, I was asked to write an obituary for the Animator's former colleague and mentor, Euan. We also attended his moving memorial service (link here).

As we were leaving the service, I told Viv, Euan's widow, that she was welcome to visit any time. Tucked into the grim nest of grief, it's the kind of throwaway remark people often make. But I'm glad Viv took us up on the offer and yesterday she and her daughter, her husband's American business partner Gina and her doctor paramour, joined us in the just finished back garden to eat cake and blueberries, to drink wine and catch up on the past few months.

Viv had recently returned from sprinkling her husband's ashes on his family farm in the South Island and was now bravely Getting on With Life. I was in awe of her strength and resilience, of her ability to hold it together in the face of such raw, spiky pain. Without realising it, I had been holding my breath, careful about the conversational minefields we walked. But there was no need: Viv was candid about Euan's illness and his death, about the ways in which it had turned the pocket of her life inside out. We also laughed a great deal and I was reminded of how, in the end, there is nothing for it but to start to heal, to move on. Viv is one of the most serene and gentle women I know; there is much I can learn from the quiet and dignified way in which she deals with life's crap.

Today's visuals are of the reworked back garden and the adorable woofer. Santa was kind to the Animator, delivering a shiny new camera, so the Hound and I are currently spending large chunks of the day trying to avoid being photographed. The Hound, it has to be said, is much less successful than me...


Friday, 18 January 2013

This was my view a few minutes ago

After dinner, I lay on my back on the Animator's newly built garden seat, reading my book and gazing up at the Tiffany Blue sky. Oh that the rump end of every week was as good.

Sadly not everything is peachy in Shazzyland. On a walk with a friend earlier, her delightful but boisterous woofer  ran into me and knocked me down a hill. Nothing is broken but I am incubating several bruises and it hurts to put weight on my right ankle. So no exercise for a few days (and yes, I should feel worse about that than I do).

Thursday, 17 January 2013

I might as well hold up a sign

saying "nothing to write about" today.

Instead, you shall have this delightful clip from The Guardian of two Labs who launched their own pitch invasion during a European football match.

Insomnia is once again sharing my postcode, so tonight I am too tired and afflicted with can't-be-arsededness to come up with anything even vaguely resembling an amusing response. Far easier to click on this link and let the  unabashed joy of these canines -  who seem to be having more fun than anyone else on the pitch -  wash over me like a soothing balm.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Every Wednesday, on the first of my weekly working from home days, Bristol and I head out around the waterfront for a run. It's always carefully timed to avoid the office hoardes that engulf the route between noon and 2.00pm, unravelling the serenity with their too-bright lycra and four-abreast approach.      

And even though the Hound can't go off-leash, he loves these jaunts, stopping far too often to sniff the pavement, pee on lamp-posts and scold seagulls, innocent bystanders who irritate him beyond all reason.

Today we ran in full sunshine, the rain of the last few days having gone to bother someone else. And as Bristol squinted and I thanked the inventor of sunglasses, we passed a couple of old fellas fishing off the side of the promenade. Nothing unusual about that - there were at least half a dozen blokes doing the same - but these two chaps were dressed in a manner more suited to the cafes of Milan or Paris: well-pressed pants, crisp white shirts, highly-polished shoes and one, bless his heart, even had a cravat thingy around his neck. And while they waited for fish to nibble their lines, or do whatever it is fish with a death wish do, they played chess on an old wooden board spread on the seat between them.

As we passed them, they smiled at me and paid their respects to the Hound. What struck me was not so much their slightly incongruous outfits but how peaceful and comfortable they looked. Like they knew the secret to the universe and it amused them no end. It was charming and glorious in equal measure.

Perhaps I'm getting soft, but in that moment, I wished some of the old boys' serenity, their knowledge of their place in the world, could be transferred, osmosis like, to me. And no, I haven't been drinking; quite the opposite actually, as my January detox is going gangbusters and I remain an alcohol-free zone. Yeah, I know...

(Pic credit: Google Images)


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

No Pants on the Subway Day

From New York to Shanghai, Mexico to Stockholm, yesterday tens of thousands of folk in 25 countries around the planet dropped their drawers as part of No Pants on the Subway Day (click here).

It's the 13th year the event, which is designed to "bring chaos and joy" to public places, has taken place. The rules are simple: random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter without pants. Winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves are permissible but pants need to be left at home.

Apparently the only notable thing about this year's event was the number of frayed and huckery old undies on display. Proof that economies everywhere continue to devour themselves.

But hey, it made this old girl laugh and that's never a bad thing.  

(Pic credit: The Guardian)

Monday, 14 January 2013

V Day

It's exactly one month until the day when people with no imagination get to express their love to their nearest and dearest. But magazine lead-in times being what they are, the February issue of NEXT is out today and features my story on three couples who found love in unusual places (click here to read).

Barf bags at the ready (kidding). It turns out most people aren't cynical old hags for whom Valentine's Day holds as much appeal as televised chess. Who knew....

Seriously though, the three couples I interviewed were kick-arse folk and had genuinely cool yarns to tell. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

This Summer's job

So the back garden was in need of a hot date with a landscaper.

Instead, it got the Animator.

I jest, of course: the boy has done wonders, moving a shed and levelling earth that spun a bloody good line in resistance. There were numerous trips to the garden centre, much huffing and hauling of pavers up stairs, the grouting of flagstones and other mysterious boy things.

All we need now is a barbie and we are sorted. If I told you how much I heart this space, the garden would, I fear, issue a restraining order.

Action shot:

Check out his trusty apprentice:



Saturday, 12 January 2013

Woop Woop!!

The INCREDIBLE feature film that the Animator worked on (and the reason for our 14-month detour to the UK in 2010/11) has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film (click here). 

Huge props to all the talented and wonderful folk who worked on it. Now fingers crossed the judging panel is wearing its sensible cloak and appreciates just how kick arse this film is...

Friday, 11 January 2013

A Friday Drive

If you find yourself in possession of a day off, rising mercury and a desire to fossick in second hand stores, you could do worse than to head over to the Wairarapa, a rural-ish settlement about an hour north of Welly.

Earlier this week, the clever Animator won an auction for three vintage wooden rulers on Trade Me (NZ's lame version of Ebay). Seeing as we both had today off, we schlepped over the hill to pick them up. It would have been rude not to check out the plethora of vintage stores along the way, and have very average veggie nachos in an old Masonic lodge that the waiter (who insisted on calling us 'Bro' at every possible opportunity) reckoned was haunted by a woman named Mary.

But it was worth it, because the rulers look pretty spiffing in their new home.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Killing

It's a little surreal to sit in your living room, wearing shorts while the sun blazes outside, watching a drama about a murder in a cold, grey Danish landscape.

But years after the rest of the world twigged to the brilliance of The Killing, a series set in wintery Copenhagen - and British colleagues, and The Guardian, repeatedly referred to it in awed tones - I have finally rented the first season and for the last three nights the Animator and I have been having ourselves a sunlight-free marathon, wolfing down episode after episode of this riveting crime drama.

And oh the tension, the bombshells, the puzzles, the investigative cul-de-sacs and clues that lead nowhere. I am hooked. It's also fun to play the "We've been there" game, spotting locations we visited on our trip to Copenhagen a few years back.

The only thing I won't be converting to is Sarah Lund's nasty Faroese jumpers; come winter and I will NOT be rocking one of those. Fact.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Missing him

Things I really should be doing right now:

1) going for a run
2) finishing an article on vasectomy (I shit you not), and
3) writing a grocery list.

Things I really shouldn't be doing now:

1) tootling around food blogs, looking for a way to use up the bowl of strawberries that is currently holding high-level talks with mould
2) wandering around the house, picking up the Hound's toys and pressing them to my chest like a lunatic. And saying to nobody, "Gosh the house feels empty without him".

This morning, I dropped Bristol off at a groomer we've never used before to have various things things done to his coat, nails and anal glands (don't ask). Since his arrival almost 14 months ago, he has been a constant  presence in our home. So it's strange not to have him curled into his customary position next to me while I work, to not have him follow me down the stairs while I make a cup of tea, hoping my hand will stray towards the treats cupboard. It's an odd feeling and I don't particularly like it.    

Post script: When I picked him up, the groomer asked if she could keep him. We really are the luckiest folk on the planet to be in possession of such an angel. Here's what he looked like at 8.00am, and then rocking  his newly shorn look an hour or so ago...

Monday, 7 January 2013

Look at this face

and then tell me you don't like dogs.

“Dogs are minor angels, and I don’t mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy.”
(Pic Credit: Tumblr)

Sunday, 6 January 2013


Those in the 04 will know that the bit of the Town Belt behind Mt Vic is a fabulous place to walk a dog.

This arc of public green space, all 1,061 acres of it, has been frequented by runners, walkers, mountain bikers and dog walkers since 1840 (okay, so maybe runners and mountain bikers were as rare as the teeth of a hen back then, but you get the idea). It's where the Hound frolics, smells lots of canine butt and makes friends, as often as twice a day in summer.

And where a 10 minute walk can turn into an hour-long outing, as random folk stop to admire him and express surprise and shock that his previous owner could have abandoned him. And every time, as happened this afternoon, I swell with pride, as though I am in some way responsible for his good looks and sweet nature, as if his beauty is somehow my genetic bequest to him.

When all I did was find a place in my heart, and my home, for him. It's hardly the most difficult thing I've ever had to do....


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Too hot

to write much today.

Or bother with things like proper meals. This was as much as we could rustle up for dinner.

Large chunks of the day were spent looking at this glorious view from our back garden.

But unlike us, this furry chap won't be pushing the 'like' button anytime soon. He's currently passed out on the stone kitchen tiles, praying for the God of Cold to return.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

All you ever wanted to know about NZ's Art Trails

So the first day back at work and I spent a good 10 minutes Googling the side effects of anti-depressants. True story. But the fact that the words 'weight gain' were given a bruising workout in every article means I will NOT be going there.

In the end, there was nothing for it but to hitch up my skirts, slap on a smile and get on with it. Fortunately there was a lot of 'it' to get on with, so the first day whizzed by and I am now ready for a lie down in a darkened room.

One ray of light was my article on NZ's art trails was published in Eclipse Magazine (click here to read).

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Floral blessings

Today I got to rest my gaze upon these blue beauties, a gift from a friend up the road. I do love me a good hydrangea.

They were my companions on my last day of freedom as I tapped away at an article, framed up a couple of magazine pitches and began plotting a possible collaboration with a photographer mate of mine.

Tomorrow I go back to the gulag to finish the second half of my current contract. Goodbye freedom, you were a steadfast and loyal friend; I shall miss our sleep-ins, long, languid breakfasts with a book, lunching with the Hound and the rare luxury of spending time preparing dinner. Y'all come back now, y'hear....


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

So 2013 knocked at our door and we let her in, along with good friends, lots of laughs and a strangely retro banquet that included a cheese ball AND a trifle (is it, in fact, 1973 not 2013?)

Wherever you are, I hope you drank slightly too much, laughed a little too loudly and gave twenty twelve the send off it deserved.

This year is going to rock...

 (Pic credit: The Guardian)


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