Sunday, 31 March 2013


I have only been awake for four hours but already I want to crawl under the duvet. Jet lag and over-tiredness have pulled back the curtains of my life and let the harsh daylight in. We were once again fortunate to fly business class on the return journey and although it was all kinds of wonderful, and I totally heart Korean Air's fully reclining seat bed thingys, my old friend insomnia also tagged along. He was still here last night when we went to bed.

My eyes feel scratchy, a kind of rawness that no amount of eyedrops seems to be helping. I have done two loads of washing, unpacked and caught up on the email Mt Everest. I sat down and wrote a list of commissions that need to be completed in the next couple of months and almost certainly gave myself a new wrinkle. The Animator went to the vege market and several closed supermaches before realising it's Easter Sunday and returned grocery-less. We now have to pull together our end of year tax and six-monthly GST paperwork for our accountant, always an exercise in teeth-gritting, but in the shadow of tiredness/jet-lag, even more painful.    

Still, it is good to be home and to see the Hound, who keeps cuddling into me. He absolutely loved Lil, who graciously flew down from Auckland for the week to do canine/house sitting duties, but I can tell he is pleased we are back. He makes everything okay.

Today's visuals are of Seoul's fish market which I'm writing about for a food mag. They were taken with my phone because although the Animator took over a thousand pics (he is supplying images for my stories), he is yet to process them so we will have to make do with these pitiful ones.


Friday, 29 March 2013

Snip, snip...

It's our second to last day in Seoul. We fly home tomorrow night and I can't believe how much we have packed into this week.

Loads more pics to share but the Animator hasn't converted them from raw files yet so in the meantime, here for your reading pleasure is my story from last weekend's Sunday magazine about the Animator's decision to cut holes in his body as a form of contraception (click here to read). Overshare? Maybe, but as they used to say in journo school, why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary?

(Pic credit: Sunday Star Times) 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A Seoul Kind of Feeling

Sorry no blog for a few days - been running around this amazing city like mad folk, doing everything from  impersonating horses in Gangham (!) to a food walking tour, a trip to the  fish market at stupidly early o'clock, haggling for goodies at stalls and not only eating our bodyweight in kimchi but also having a go at making it. If it wasn't for the cold - and the fact I am missing my fur-baby - I could quite easily move here.

The Animator has taken about a gazillion photos but here are a random few.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Woop woop!

I would like to find whoever invented Business Class and give him or her a big snog on the lips.

Twelve hours of being encased in a tin can miles above the air was made more bearable by seats that morph into beds, very few other humans and seafood so fresh they may well have a tank in the galley.

A couple of hours work' and three movies later (Silver Linings Playbook - so-so; The Perks of Being a Wallflower - brilliant and 10 Years - don't bother) and we touched down at  the stupendous Incheon Airport. Travelling with us was a bunch of Kiwi travel agents, so there was much fun and laughter.

Our guide Jenny from the Korean Tourism Office met us and whisked us away to our hotel. Late last night we did a quick trawl of the markets but, being Sunday night and effing freezing, we didn't loiter too long. But have no fear, I shall be back tonight after our full day's activities.

This place rocks! As does Korean Air (and I'm not just saying that because they gave us free flights - honest!)

Friday, 22 March 2013

Relaxing? Not much...

A million and one things to do before we hand our departure cards to the nice man at Auckland Airport early Sunday morning.

Today our final itinerary arrived and, holy mother of god, it is packed to the gunnels: every minute of every day of next week seems accounted for by those nice folk at the Korean Tourism Organisation. We even get our own guide, which will be nice. I only hope she likes shopping; I am determined to get to the markets, even if it means I have to do so at 3.00am (a couple of the markets are open all night, which is my kind of place). A few years back, I scored a media trip to Hong Kong and was also supplied with a guide by the state tourism body; he was lovely and ever so patient as I made him take me to every street and alleyway on the island in search of my wedding dress. Here's hoping our Seoul person will be made of the same stuff.

(Pic credit: Google Images) 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Time for a bit of culture

Tonight after work I was invited to a charity art auction organised by an organisation I once contracted to.

It had been a long day, the last before I head away for a week, and I was busy drawing lines under projects. I was also desperate to get home to the Hound; as silly as it sounds, I'm starting to feel the familiar guilt that always strikes pre-departure. The strings of my heart twang at the thought that Bristol will feel we have abandoned him; it's happened to him at least once before so perhaps he feels our absence more keenly? Could be I'm projecting, but before I go away there's always this mad rush to top up his love bank, so he has something to draw on whilst we are gallivanting around the globe.

But back to the auction. I had promised an exceedingly lovely woman that I would attend so off I trotted. Once there, a fortifying Pinot and yummy snacks perked me up. And I said hello to, in no particular order, a former Governor General, the current Race Relations Conciliator and a couple of MPs. It was that kind of function.

But I also got to eyeball some NZ art at close range and traded gossip and laughter with a couple of former colleagues. Just what this little girl needed to turn up the corners of her mouth.

Today's visual is of one of the pieces that was auctioned. It's by Kiwi artist Shane Hansen, who I interviewed for a magazine about 15 years ago. All I can remember of that interview is that the photographer and I got lost trying to find his studio in, of all places, Palmerston North.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Death and sunshine

For the past two days, there has been more grey than blue in the sky. But, hallelujah, today the sun returned.  And oh did I salute it.

There was a run along the waterfront this morning (sans the Hound, he is still recovering from kennel cough and I'm rethinking my stance on dragging him with me on jogs - I fear it may be too much for his wee legs).

Later I climbed the mountain of research for our upcoming media trip. I now know so much about Seoul I may very well nominate it as my specialist subject should I ever be invited on Mastermind (does that programme still exist?)

Later still, the Hound and I walked into the Town Belt with one of the Mt Vic Walking Crew and her woofer. She flies back to London on Friday to attend her grandmother's funeral. As we walked we talked of love and loss, of ageing and the inevitable. Of how hard it is let go of someone you love. And of the nightmare 30+ hour trip she has ahead of her (including a five-hour stopover in Melbourne and another in Abu Dhabi).

As we hugged goodbye, and wished each other safe travels, I wondered how long it will be before I have to cross an ocean to say goodbye to someone I love.

Apropos of nothing, today's visual is of Seoul's subway map, the longest in the world and the second largest (in terms of stations) after New York's. Looks a little like a wiring diagram, eh? Does anyone else find it alarming that I am turning into a metro geek? A couple of months back I even sat down and counted how many of the world's subways I have been on. Sadly, that's kinda how I roll these days...


Monday, 18 March 2013

Long overdue

So they can put a man on the moon, invent the silicon chip and introduce indoor plumbing.

And yet they can't develop Smell-O-Vision.

If they could then about now the sweet, pungent aroma of this basil from the Animator's garden would be tanging your nostrils, reminding you of a hot, summer day. And, apparently, being better than a fistful of chemicals: back in the 16th Century, basil was used as an anti-depressant. Go figure.

I am about to turn this pile of green goodness into a garlicky, oily pesto to drag though hot pasta for dinner. I'm not sure if it will aid my mental health, but I know it'll be good for my belly.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Asian night-markets

Or the one where I eat far too much.

Last night, part of the Welly waterfront was roped off for an Asian food festival which was all kinds of delicious. There may have also been some entertainment but I was too busy shoving hunks of tofu smothered with Indonesian satay sauce into my gob to notice. And sharpening my elbows on the crowds. Still, as the Animator said, it's good practice for Seoul's markets in a week's time.  

Apologies for the poor quality of photos. Despite spending the afternoon in the company of two of Wellington's best snappers, my images are sadly lacking. Once again, my desire to fill my belly took precedence over careful art direction. But you get the idea.


Saturday, 16 March 2013


Yesterday I popped into my friend Ani's place to lend her wee boy Bristol's Elizabethan collar (for the uninitiated, a cone worn by animals after surgery to prevent them unpicking stitches, etc).

Humphrey has just had the snip but unlike every dog I've ever known, he didn't mind the constricting band of plastic around his head. He is a delight and I could have stayed there all afternoon. And would have if the mistress of deadlines hadn't been sitting on my shoulder, yelling at me to go home.

Bristol was mighty peed off that I had been fraternising with his mate when he couldn't. He remains under house arrest - one more day to go. It cannot come too soon.

And now I am off to bake a raspberry coconut cake for two extremely talented photographer friends who are coming over this arvo to sit in the sun, drink wine and talk bollocks. Happy days.


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Two days in one

This is a tale of two days: the one that started with a niggly migrane fighting its way to my frontal lobe, detoured into complicated work issues and pulled into the lay-by of frustration when I failed to nail an interview for a magazine article.

And the one that ended with an email from a US travel website soliciting my interest in writing for them (insert happy dance), a run along the waterfront in the sun and locating a book at the library I've been trying to find for ages.

And then there's this chap who would make any day, no matter how bad or good, even better.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A good day

Can we just discuss how nice a day it was today?

Once again Welly put on her SPF40. I have run out of adjectives to describe this summer, which is one of the best I've ever had.

Whatever the weather, I heart Wednesdays. It is one of my two working from home days and, clever thing that I am, I've managed to retain Wednesdays and Fridays as my out-of-office days at the new contract.

Several of you have emailed requesting an update on the Hound's health: he is feeling much better and his barking-like-a-seal shtick has also fled for the hills. Today was so glorious I cheated a little and took him into the town belt (the vet has confined him to 10 minute walks around the hood on his lead), which has made him so morose, I thought we'd extend it a little. He was thrilled to be off the lead and I made sure there was no canine fraternising, which isn't allowed until Sunday.

Back home, there was a tonne of work done and I even found the word 'No' in my vocab when an editor of a swanky design mag came a-knocking (go me!) I have one more feature to file and then it's full steam ahead on research for this trip (it shames me to admit I haven't yet cracked open the courier pack of info sent to me by the Korean Tourist Board PR). I will be in catch up mode, if anyone is looking for me...

Today's visuals are of more gorgeous woofers from Tumblr....


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

There is a God, afterall....

This morning, while minding my own business, an email plopped into my in-box offering me a free media trip to two neighbouring cities in September. Hint: one features maple syrup, the other rain. I just have to sort out a few details and hopefully it will be done.

If that wasn't enough, I was offered a contract at a place I spent my Thursdays and Fridays back in 2009. Lovely folk, fascinating work and a chance to stretch those PR muscles which haven't really had a decent trot around the park for some time now. I was honoured to be asked back and took about 0.5 seconds to say hell yes.

And then a 2000-word feature that's been a little like wrestling a rowdy octopus for a few weeks finally fell into place when I secured a couple of interviews with subject experts.  

Apologies for hogging the happiness train today - but it has been gone from my station for far too long.

  (Pic credit: Flickr)

Monday, 11 March 2013

Shanghai shopping story

The April issue of NEXT Magazine, on sale today, features my Shanghai shopping/travel piece (click here to read).

The answer to the "Are you looking forward to having a similarly fun retail experience in Seoul" question is a big, fat yes. March 24, would you please hurry up and get your sweet ass over here...

(Pic credit: Google Images) 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Yet another reason to live in NZ

So Friday, on International Women's Day, I was a little distracted by a certain woofer and an outbreak of kennel cough.

Which is why I missed this wee gem from the Economist which rated NZ the best place in the developed world for working women (click here to read). Out of 26 nations, we came top in all five categories. But that's as it should be for the first country in the world to give women the vote, back in 1893.

Today, my patriotism detector is all aquiver...

(Pic credit: Google Images)

Saturday, 9 March 2013

All is not well in paradise

Poor, poor Bristol. Yesterday he started coughing, a nasty hacking cough that sounded as though he'd swallowed a live seal.

We rushed him to the vet and it turns out that, despite being vaccinated against it only a few weeks ago, he has a mild case of kennel cough. One steroid injection and a round of antibiotics later and, thankfully, he seems a lot better. At least his distressing cough has disappeared.

The worst of it, however, is that my little social butterfly has had his wings clipped: he is not allowed to fraternise with his doggy mates for 10 whole days! And we're to restrict his walks to 10 minutes only.

Work aside, I have cancelled all this week's extra-curricular activities, along with his beloved doggie play dates.  He, and we, are looking down the barrel of 10 very long days. Wish us luck...

His Highness in happier times


Friday, 8 March 2013


This morning I had the great good fortune to drink coffee and eat cheese scones with one of New Zealand's most iconic photographers, the 77-year-old Ans Westra.  

She was generous with her time and laughter. And her anecdotes, which grazed across some of the most fascinating periods in our nation's collective history.

I was privileged, and humbled, to be in her presence. I only hope I can summon 1500 words to do her justice.

(Pic credit: Ans Westra and Stuff)  

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Last night we folded ourselves into the Welsh Dragon Bar (the Southern Hemisphere's only Welsh bar, in case you were interested) to watch several men, and our crazy Welsh friend Ani, have their heads shaved to raise dosh for Shave for a Cure, Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ's flagship fundraising event.

Along with the auctions and raffles (the Animator won a Converse bag and a cupcake), shedloads of money was raised. There was also oodles of laughter. And red wine. And only four hours sleep. Not quite sure how I managed to stay awake at the gulag today.

But it was a great night and I salute Ms Ani's bravery and willingness to support something she believes in.

Apols for the rubbish quality of pics - its what happens when you try to operate a camera after too many wines. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

An afternoon at the beach

One of the joys of this working-from-home-two-days-a-week lark is that I get to do stuff that's impossible when you're a wage slave, entombed in an office doing work that doesn't excite, alongside folk you'd normally cross the street to avoid.

Today that included driving out to Red Rocks with the Hound. Apart from a couple of other dog walkers, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. And it was gloriously sunny and restful and so goddam pleasant to look at something other than my laptop.

Y'all know about my two year plan, right? How, in two years (or less, if I can swing it), I will focus solely on freelancing instead of whoring myself out to PR contracts. When/if that happens, I plan on strolling the beach at least once a week.

Now if I could just figure out how to make time run faster....



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