Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Big waves, beasts and beaches...

We have been in Indonesia for almost 2 weeks now - the time has flown by! We started in Yogyakarta, Java which is a sprawling, dirty city but the starting point for temple viewing. We visited Borobudur - a Buddhist temple from around 10th century which sits on a hill amidst paddy fields and volcanoes. It was gorgeous in the morning sun, though it was here we discovered the strange fascination Indonesian people have for Western travellers. Group after group asked to take their photo with us to our amusement and eventual annoyance; we've since discovered it is seen as a sign of intelligence to be able to speak English so the photo proves that they have conversed with Westerners. Not as Andy thought, that they had mistaken him for Brad Pitt. We also visited Prambanan, a collective of Hindu temples. Here I decided we should get a bit of culture and watch the famous Ramayana Ballet, because in a setting this dramatic, how could it be bad? Well, interpretive dance of a story we didn't know and couldn't really understand from the "dancing" on display, and a man behind us who clearly knew the story as he spent most of the performance talking loudly on his mobile phone was how bad .....Andy has now banned me from choosing our entertainment in Indonesia....

One of our favourite moments in Yogyakarta was when we went into a mall and tried to buy an Apple charger. Language was most definitely a barrier though we managed to get our point across though pointing and mime, only to be presented with a charger that cost the equivalent of one months' rent! Tourist tax, I think it's called....we declined. Hilariously, when we got back to our hotel Andy had a look at our charger (which I swore blind wouldn't fit the Indonesian plug socket) and made it work in seconds.....

After a couple of days in Yogjakarta we got on bus bound for Bali, glad to leaving the city, even if it meant a 18 hour bus ride. We passed through Bali, stopping only at Padang Bai, a nice harbour village for the night, and then we continued onto Gili Air.

Gili Air is one of three islands north of Bali, and close to Lombok. There was a lot more there than we expected; restaurants lined the beach and it was hard to find a quiet spot; it is basically a gorgeous Western styled holiday island. Andy snorkelled and I did yoga, which was great (yes, there was a studio on the island!), and we enjoyed the eating and drinking, but still we were looking for our perfect, isolated beach so we decided to keep moving, and head to Flores.

This tied in nicely with a cheap (and therefore basic) Komodo Dragon boat trip we'd read about - 4 nights on a boat - snorkelling, swimming, seeing wildlife galore (flying foxes, dolphins, turtles, manta rays to name but a few), 2 days of trekking in the Komodo National Park and seeing dragons before ending up in Labuan Bajo, Flores.The first afternoon on the boat was fun; getting to know our travelling group over a Bitang or two. It soon became apparent however that the itinerary was very liable to change depending on whatever Vic, our guide, decided was best. To be fair, we did do an awful lot of snorkelling, but not a lot of wildlife viewing or trekking. We also spent a lot of time on the small boat feeling waves smash against it, as we attempted to sleep, but hey, I guess we have our sea legs now!

It was a great experience in the end with a fantastic group of people, and we did get to see dragons on the final day; they looked fierce! It ended in Labuanbajo, Flores on the roof of the boat watching thousands of Indonesians on the harbour stream onto a local "ferry" (the size of the Titanic!) and a couple of Bitangs to celebrate surviving 4 nights at sea!

We spent our next 2 nights on a gorgeous island, Seraya, off the coast of Flores and although the staff were incompetent (and all under 16; they kept the ledger in a Hello Kitty notebook!!) it is still the most beautiful, relaxing place we have been so far.

And now, back in Labuanbajo we are planning our next travels, through Flores......watch this space.

Friday, 29 June 2012

A month of friends, family and more than a few drops of rain....

Sorry for the delay in updating - that was hell of a month! After a busy and fun old time in New York, we got into England (via Frankfurt - god bless cheap flights eh?) at the end of May. We really appreciated the Harrison / Travers welcoming committee at Heathrow!

Andy headed North to Doncaster to see his mum, and I went back to Chippenham, Wiltshire with my mum, dad and brother, Al. Now as a Northerner this gives me little pleasure to say, but Wiltshire and the surrounding area is simply beautiful! The first few days I spent exploring with the family, and getting to know my nephew, Daniel, and it was wonderful!

I headed to London next for a few days with Catherine in Clapham, then Karen, Holly and Beckie, exploring the South Bank and the Moomin store in Covent Garden.... It was good to see London as a tourist, rather than an harassed retail manager on the 8am tube to Canary Wharf - everything seemed historic and the sun (mostly) shone.

I headed up to Doncaster next, to meet up with Andy and his mum. We had a few days here catching up with family and even found time to watch John Simm in a Pinter play in Sheffield.

That weekend I drove up to Crathorne, North Yorks to meet up with my college friends Sarah, Vicki and Catherine. We enjoyed a thoroughly British Village fete (i.e it was cold and wet) in honour of the Jubilee but it was a cracking day regardless. After a brief stop in Boro to take photos of the Transporter bridge and visit aunty Jean I headed back to Donny.

The next day was the start of our 10 day road trip. And of course the rain (which only disappeared on our final weekend in England!) Andy drove and I was navigator, which was necessary as I had broken our Tom-tom within 30 minutes of being in the car. We went first to Newbury to celebrate my sister's Suzy's birthday over a pub lunch. Then onto Stroud to visit Andy's brother Colin and his family. They live in a gorgeous part of England and were wonderful hosts. Special mention to nieces Olivia and Hannah, who we very much enjoyed searching for chickens online with!

The next stop was Bristol and the herd of Hirds. It was fantastic to spend time with Jen, Mark, Euan & Callum again, and to finally meet Lauren and Noah. We would like it on record we had nothing to do with Noah breaking his arm, but were glad to be there when it did happen to help Jen out. Hope you get better soon Noah!

Next up was Bernie & Rob Lanaway and their gorgeous daughter Abigail. We had our first British curry of the trip (though not the last!) and a really fun evening together. The next day we all headed over to Ticknall, on the Derbyshire / Leicestershire border and to the National Trust property we'd rented for the weekend to spend time with the Lanaways, the Greens and the Worleys. It was a fantastic weekend of Shithead, poker, Fifa and football and general catching up. Oh and some of the best home cooked meals ever! And...perhaps a bit of alcohol too :)

It was sad to say goodbye to all on Sunday, but we were staying with Flo, Beaks and Annabelle Worley that night in Leamington Spa, we got to spend more quality time colouring in and playing jigsaws, and that was just with Beaks.......The next day we drove down to Eastleigh in Southampton to spend a night with Matt & Lucy Green, watching the England match and eating curry - brilliant!

Our final night of the road trip was spent with Andy's brother Stu and his lovely fiancé Lou in Winchester. It's another gorgeous place in England we had never been to before, and we had a great evening with them. Finally, we drove the long way home to Doncaster, and went out for a nice meal with Tom & Sheila Hird and mum.

The next day we drove to Nottingham to get the third of our rabies jabs, and then popped over to see Jane Skelton and dad David, and had a fantastic lunch in the garden, whilst admiring all of David's good work! Next, we headed to Leeds to meet up with Bex. We had another gorgeous curry (god, we miss English curries!) then headed out to the local for the pub quiz with her neighbours, Ian & Beckie and Al & Laura. We didn't win but we had an hilarious evening nonetheless.

Finally the day we had booked in for ourselves to just stop - our spa day at Woodhall hotel in Wetherby. It was a super day of being rubbed, relaxing and spending time together. It sadly came to an end and we were back on the road again, this time to the Harrison/Travers/Smith holiday, in the Peak district. The cottage was gorgeous and had a big family sized table which we utilized for communal eating and card playing - the latter earning mum the nickname of bullets Brenda! It was very close to Matlock, so Andy & I got to re-visit the scene of our wedding which was a bit romantic :)

We also managed to find time for a walk around Carsington Water, a visit to some decent country pubs, local towns, a 5km run most mornings and playing games with the family. It was amazing to spend so much time with the family again-Daniel especially-and in such a gorgeous part of England. I was very happy too, to find some time to catch up with Jo in her swanky house on the hill and to meet her youngest Charlotte.

As Andy's birthday fell in the week of our sojourn to the Peak district, we took ourselves back to Doncaster for the day for a nice lunch with mum and then a meal at Carlos (world famous in Donny!) with the Donny friends; James, Sarah, Matt, Aimee, Mel, Bex and Jane. It was one of the best Italian meals ever, and with such a great crowd of friends too! I'm sure Andy would agree it was a brilliant birthday.

The week in the holiday house came too quickly to an end and it was emotional goodbye to all the family but Al - he came with us to Manchester to see the Boss! A great but expensive day in Manchester's finest vinyl shops then off to Manchester City Stadium to witness Mr Bruce Springsteen in action! It was an amazing show and it was wonderful to spend more time with Al. Another emotional goodbye in the morning, and we were back on the road to Doncaster, though for the last time on this trip. We had clocked up 1800 miles in 3 weeks....insane!

Final weekend in Doncaster, we finally got to see Phoebe, Lucy and Nig Precious for a cup of tea before a fantastic meal out at the Oriental Palace with mum, the family Lees (minus Dave and the kids, sorry Dave!), Nig and his girlfriend Michelle. A very fun evening indeed. The Sunday consisted of a quick trip to Leeds for me to have a few wines with Anna and then an afternoon of catching up with the Warnes family and Helen, Lyndon & David Walters too.

Somehow we found time to pack, and the next day we headed down to London after another emotional goodbye with mum at the station. I found time to meet up with Catherine and Liam in a pub in Soho which was a lot of fun, but then sad saying goodbye :(

The next day, tired and emotional, we did some last minute chores and finally boarded the plane to Singapore (via Frankfurt. Obviously.) And that is for the next blog post!

As you can see it was a busy month, so apologies if it sounds like a role call - we truly loved spending time with each and every one of you, so a massive thanks for putting us up and making us feel so at home - you made it very hard to leave! To those we didn't get chance to stay with or even see, you are top of our list for next time, promise. So Jo you have to stay in that house for a few more years at least and Bob and Chris we will make the trip to Wrexham next time!

Love you all and miss you. Keep in touch! X






Monday, 28 May 2012

Burlesque, Cannoli and shoes in NYC (May 2012)

Well that was fun … exhausting but fun! May 2012, New York city - tick. So what did we get up to? Here’s the top 10 of our time in NYC … At 10 - Walking. The best way to truly get to know a city is to pound the pavement and we certainly put in the leg work. From Upper East to the Financial District there can’t have been much of Manhattan we didn’t walk up, down or around. At 9 - A super relaxing afternoon in the “Water Lounge” of Great Jones Street Spa in the East Village before we flew out of the city. Miranda, if you’re reading this it could be something to look at for when you’re in the city later in the year. . Number 8 - A doctors to remember. For our rabies jabs for Indonesia we needed 3 separate jabs, each one week apart. Due to "planning issues" we ended up needing the 2nd jab whilst in NYC. We booked in at a doctors on the Upper East side, a building that used to be a private residence before being converted into a doctors surgery. We were privileged enough to get to see how some New Yorkers live - 6 floors of marble spiral staircase anyone? (see photo below). Number 7 - Sights. Walking across the Broklyn Bridge and seeing the new World Trade Centre come out of the ashes (on our last visit the Ground Zero sight was just a hole in the ground) were amazing. 1 WTC is as at May 2012 70 floors in height and will be hitting 105 (above surface floors) before completion. In at 6 (note this could well be higher on Janine‘s list but I‘m writing so ….) - Consignment stores, lots and lots of consignment stores with (more) shiny yet inexpensive shoes! At Number 5 - The High Line Walkway. What a superb idea - convert an old / derelict raised railway line into a public walkway / garden. 10 blocks of the highline has been developed / regenerated so far and there’s another 20+ to come. This comes with a Smith seal of recommendation for anyone visiting the city. Number 4 - Amazing bar staff - thanks especially to Aussie Tim at Belfry bar and Sarah at Bowery Electric for making us feel so welcome - Sarah @ Bowery Electric music favourites … Johnny Cash & June Carter - Jackson Queen - bohemian Rhapsody Janis Joplin - Bobby McGee David Bowie - Fame Elvis Costello - Either is of the same town Fave LP - Rent (original cast recording) Tim @ Belfry music favourites ... Radiohead - fake Plastic Trees Jeff Buckley - Lover you should have come over Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ship Song Pink Floyd - Us and them Led Zeppelin - Rain song Fave LP - Abattoir Blues Nick Cave Number 3 - Great restaurants recommended by Zagat. From one end of the spectrum (The Old Homestead Steak House) to the other (Sacred Chow vegan café) this city really does offer the very best. Lets not even get started on the cannoli served by Marinellas (see “Number 1”) Number 2 - New York City pizza - favourite place was once again Ben’s on McDougal Street, Greenwich Village. Nom. At Number One - Meeting up with David and Collette (ex-Goldman/Spherion colleagues.) A night of superb food (how had we never eaten cannoli before - oh my god), laughter, speak-easy crawling (Angels Share and Backroom) and accidental burlesque at Nurse Betties. It was just amazing to see you both - lets not wait 12 years until the next time!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Wellington Weather In The Big Aple

After a rather long and cramped flight (insert rant re people that put their seats back for the entire duration of an 11 hour fligt) we arrived safely in LA for our one night stop over. Jet lag kicked in resulting in a 1.30am trip to the gym! We both may look like zombies but at least we'll be in shape. If you think going on holiday is about sunshine and beaches then ours to date would be a far cry from ideal. We've now arrived safely in New York and it looks like we've brought a batch of Wellington weather with us - it's not stopped raining since we arrived and today's forecast is thunderstorms! J's over the moon with the news and is using the excuse of poor weather to execute "operation thrift store", what looks to be a plan with military precision (there's actually a route map and everything!). Last night (our first night here) J managed to score free tickets to a gig. We spent our evening in the Hard Rock Cafe underground garage on Time Square, listening to a selection of New Yorks finest. Jesse Malin was super impressive (if your reading this and going "who?", firstly shame on you and secondly, check YouTube it's what it's there for). Off now to brave the rain and abuse the credit card.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Christmas, The Wedding Of The Year & A White New Year In The Big Apple

Well, looking back over the last three weeks it seems we’ve crammed an awful lot in. Christmas, Packing boxes for shipping, The Wedding of the Year, New York for New Year and San Fran. All in 17 days. Needless to say that although we’ve quite literally stopped in San Fran we’re both pretty shattered.

Anyone reading this will know how much we enjoyed Christmas – it was amazing to see you all. Feel free to start planning the return fixture to New Zealand. We’d love to see you.

The highlight of the trip back was no doubt the wedding of Lucy and Matthew. An amazing day and we were truly privileged to be a part of. Aside from the wedding itself the highlights were as follows:
- Matt and Lucy’s beautiful first dance- Silky moves people!
- J being referred to as “Jasmine” in the father of the brides speech
- Beaker’s sambuca induced dancing
- Seeing that Paul from Uni hasn’t changed an ounce
- Surviving the Best Man’s speech tumbleweed.
- Everyone being constantly confused between Matt and his doppelganger
- Having time with our best friends to catch up and talk rubbish.

For New Year we hit New York – here are some of the highlights:
To explore a city there is no better way than a bar crawl, that’s my stance and I’m sticking to it! Rather the standard research and crawl approach we decided to try something a bit different. The concept was simple – Pick the first bar and a general direction and then ask the server in each bar where they’d recommend we hit next on the crawl (within a reasonable walking distance). Now, the idea was a good one – by asking “randoms” for recommendations we should find some bars we’d never have found on our own. The crawl began well but was abandoned after the fourth bar. it failed due to the lack of creativity of our servers. Each server in turn recommended generic Irish themed rubbish; mock wood, mock Guinness, mock Irishmen and tons of second hand crap from the ceiling. The crawl was abandoned although the concept has not been - Mr Green / Mr Hopkins we will be trying this when I see you next in NZ!

Johnnies Bar was an exceptional find on our crawl (note – only found by accident and not via recommendation). A tiny place probably only 20 foot by 7 foot but with one of the best juke boxes ever (known by Zac the bar tender as the “crack-box” as all of his wages went into the thing). We sat at the bar and I was invited by Zac to a game of chess – If I won the round was on him. Promptly beating Zac and boasting to the assembled few that I was trained in India (note - alcohol induced garbage) I was asked by a regular at the bar if I’d mind playing him. He looked like a cross between Rocky Balboa (see Rocky III where he really gets a hammering) and the black chap out of From Dusk Til Dawn (post vamp turning). Confidence high it was fine to bet a couple of rounds on the game. It was only when he started name dropping people like Hikaru Nakamura, Ray Robson and Yuri Shulman that I got worried. No ..... I didn’t know the names either – that was what concerned me. I do now – they’re USA chess masters and it turns out they’re his friends. Apparently, my new buddy is a chess pro and competes /wins in nationwide competitions. All very well humoured entertainment and he even let me off buying the drinks!

As always when we’re in NYC it’s hard to keep Janine out of the Consignment Shops. Thanks to Mum (Anne), Nicola & Dave, John & Gill, Mum (Brenda) & Dad, Al and Jean for the Christmas dollars you gave us. They were “invested” as follows:

Me – A Paul Smith Suit and an Armani coat
J – 3, yes that’s right .... 3 pairs of Manolo Blanik Shoes, a Banana Republic raincoat, Marc Jacobs skirt and a Vera Wang dress.

On New Years and in a white NYC we went for a nice meal (note – J is never allowed to order the house special again – apparently “black truffle pasta” is extortionately expensive!!!). After the meal we went to our new favourite NYC bar – Nurse Betty. Again a small bar and considering it was New Years Eve it was dead – probably not great for the owner but excellent news for us. We got to meet some lovely people and have befriended a lovely New Yorker, Jen. Jen if you’re reading this we hope to see you at some point in Auckland!

A trip to NYC wouldn’t be the same without watching some English Football in Nevada Smiths. We met some fantastic people – Jack & John thanks for a very enjoyable morning! We also had the fortune to meet a guy called Jerry – Jerry has Attention Deficit Disorder & Tourettes but even with this manages to hold down a pretty senior job at one of the New York investment banks (perhaps these conditions are advantageous for such employment?). The Football was very frustrating (see Boro loss and Pool playing like they belong in the Championship) but people wise we’ve added a few more to our “must see next time we’re back” list. John / Jack – please do keep in touch.

We’re now in San Fran awaiting our flight back to Auckland. What a holiday – thanks to everyone for making Christmas 09 & New Year 09-10 so special.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Poker, Prohibition & Pain

We recently hosted our first poker game, attendees were as follows:
- James Bond
- The Oracle (from the Matrix)
- Amy Winehouse
- Andy Two Guns
(see photo below)

The result was a 3am victory for Andy Two Guns and a mental note that blinds must be increased at more regular intervals!

Continuing the gangster theme, on Saturday night we made it to a restaurant we’ve been meaning to get to since we arrived in Auckland – “Prohibition”. A fantastic place themed as a 1920’s speakeasy, gangsters, molls and everything from glassware to the toilets (copper – no less) in true New York speakeasy style (see photo below).

www.prohibition.co.nz

As Kiwi winter has kicked in running along the coast is no longer such an attractive proposition, so squash is the new exercise of choice. Having not played for over a year the only thing that has been achieved so far is a paralysed status akin to Paul Sheldon in “Misery” – post hobbling.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Time Flys ..

It’s been quite a while since the last update so if anyone still is reading, sorry for the lack of news. For the latest installment here’s what’s happened over the last 6 months –

• We were visited by Rob & Bernie Lanaway on their round the world honeymoon and did a road trip to Bay of Islands together for J’s 30th.

• Thanks to / courtesy of Matt Green I was thrown out of a plane at 30,000 ft. Please can no-one ever ask me why we call him the Bad-Man!

• We’re both still working – Me at Bank Of New Zealand in HR and J at AIG. We continue to live near Mission Bay and plan on staying here for another 12 months.

• We’ve started to make friends. Beaker, don’t get worried they’re not “proper” friends – we’ve yet to go to a scream pub at mid-day on Saturday, watch the football all afternoon and stagger home only to return the following day for the cycle to begin again.

• We had our first wedding anniversary on April 18th 2009. Neither of us can believe an entire year has passed since our big day. To celebrate we spent the weekend in a vineyard North of Auckland (at a B&B – not just hiding out amongst vines).

• We’ve had a couple of trips down to Christchurch to see Hoppy and Michelle and their new arrival Oliver. It still feels odd that a friend from the UK that I met for the first time in NYC has ended up on the same small island on the wrong side of the world.

• I’ve learnt to drive! Note that I’m not saying I’ve passed any kind of practical test – But due to somewhat dubious legal loophole I can drive over here on my Cook Islands driving license. Anyway, legal technicalities aside we’ve bought a little sports car (see pic).

• The car has meant we’ve been able to really get out and explore NZ (rather than being restricted to central Auckland). One of the highlights has to be something of a kiwi hidden gem – The Kai Iwi lakes in Northland (about 3 hours north of Auckland). The lakes are set amongst natural forest and the sandstone geology means they’re all surrounded by beautiful golden sand beach. See pic below.

• After nearly a year here in New Zealand we have still yet to find a consistently good curry house. It seems no matter where you go the premise is simple – use the same base for all curries (everything from Korma – Madras) and then simply add chili as applicable. Poor show NZ.

• After an amazing summer in the sun, winter is now arriving (June) and the weather in Auckland ranges from tropical storm to clear sky to mist to hail, and that’s just in one morning.

• Writing this we’ve just watched Man U win the premiership. I’ve already put a bet on for Pool to win next year.

• As The Bad Man has somehow charmed / convinced or possibly drugged a lovely young lady into agreeing to marry him, we’ll be back in the UK for the wedding on December 26th 2009. We’re back from December 19th to December 30th 2009. It’s only a taxi ride, a flight to Hong Kong, a flight to London, a train to central London, a train to Doncaster and then one final taxi ride …… it’s nothing really.

• Finally, and this is probably our biggest news – We’ve secured 5 year visas for NZ and have also been invited to apply for residency. It’s looking like we’ll be here for some time to come. Get planning your visits – all are welcome!


We both still miss you all!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

A Trip Back In Time With Jazz & Wine

For our first public holiday over here we took the quick (40 mins) ferry to Waiheke Island. Essentially it’s a microcosm of New Zealand – green lush landscape, rolling hills and gorgeous bays.

We stayed in a nice hotel/B&B named “Breakfast On The Beach”. Being the only guests staying that weekend and being in their house, it was like staying with your really rich auntie and uncle. The owners were like the 80’s version of Margo and Jerry Ledbetter in “The Good Life”!

Examples of their 80’s opulence -

- Being picked up by one of owners in his Miami Vice style – Left hand drive convertible.
- Smoked Salmon and caviar canapés
- Ferrero Rocher
- After Eight mints
- Mo-Hair bed covers (mmmmm soft and warm)
- The owner’s wife wearing an electric blue oversize jumper and matching ear-rings.
- The denim place mats and matching napkins.
- A small decanter of port and appropriate glassware left in our bedroom each evening.

We were told by everyone in the build to our holiday that Waiheke Island has “its own separate micro-climate”. It does – it rained just about constantly from the moment we arrived! Despite the rain we spent a lovely Sunday travelling by bus to various vineyards who were hosting the Islands annual Jazz Festival, culminating at the StoneyRidge vineyard – and to continue in the 80s theme they played the entire Sade album (“Diamond Life” for those who wanted specifics). Wine and Jazz = nice (although slightly marred by Sade)!

We also managed to find Irish bar in Waiheke. As you’ll know Irish bar’s the world over are famed for their warm welcome and chatty / friendly staff. There seems to be an exception to the rule – Waiheke Island! We arrived to a grunt of disapproval from the woman behind the bar and even the offer of a drink (surly a winner in any Irish bar!?) simply encouraged a response of “………….no”. In the bar there was a juke-box not only that but a free juke-box! Again you think, surely a winner- There was however one catch, someone (most likely our disenchanted Irish host) had but on roughly 3 hours of Gaelic music, some of which I’m pretty sure contained some strong anti-English sentiment.

We actually really enjoyed our time in Waiheke and we’ll defiantly head back, possibly not to the Irish Bar and probably not until summer!
Over the past month we’ve led a pretty quiet life. Weekends have been spent locally, around Mission Bay or St Heliers sitting out in the sunshine, walking and exploring. We do however have an event in the calendar … J’s 30th birthday is on Wednesday November 12th!

We’re also waiting for the arrival of Rob and Bernie Lanaway who are travelling around the world on their honeymoon. Copycats.

Friday, 10 October 2008

A Fat Russell Crowe & Some Places To Avoid

In May 2008 we wrote a quick top 5 places we'd like to live, perhaps influenced by recency - hence lots of USA placements. The list was -

New York
Chicago
Athens GA
Sydney
Christchurch

Continuing in High Fidelity style, here are October 2008 top 5 places we'd like to live ...(in no particular order!):

New York
San Francisco
Auckland
Athens GA
Rarotonga

Note: We really are loving living in New Zealand!!!

Also, here are our top 5 places not to live - (October 08)

1)Iraq - Pretty obvious, insurgents shooting at USA troops, USA troops shooting at anyone, no facilities, a government that doesn't work and screwed infrastructure. Mission accomplished!

2) Iran - Oh come on, we all know what's coming.

3) In any home with an Icelandic Bank mortgage.

4) Zimbabwe - Inflation running at 231000000% and 90%+ unemployment. Oh, and no particular love of "the white man".

5) Eastbourne - So full of old people it looks like a scene from Cocoon (possibly a bit harsh on Eastbourne but I've made the font small so it's unlikely anyone there will be able to read the blog)

A few more bit and pieces to report:

We watched "Body of Lies" last night which we both agreed was superb (not often that happens!). It ticked all the right boxes - political, spy-orientated thriller, with a hint of underplayed romance, cultural incompatibility and extremely good acting. And if you ever wondered what Russell Crowe would look like if he morphed into the fat Marlon Brando, see this film!

The honeymoon continues - We've booked our first New Zealand trip, to Waiheke Island for Labour day (a public holiday at the end of October.) Sun, sand and vineyards - what more could you ask for from a holiday?

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A Missing Stair-Gate & A Country With No Talent

The biggest news from our last couple of weeks has been saying goodbye to "The Hird Of Hirds" (Mark & Jen + Euan & Callum). They departed these shores last Sunday to move their life back to to the UK. Having had them live with us for two weeks it felt very strange to walk up-stairs to our lounge and not have to negotiate the child safety stair-gate. Hirds - We still miss you all!

Our routine continues pretty much as normal, work M-F, drinks on Friday night and then watching pre-recorded Premiership football on Sunday mornings. It'd be great if I could just manage to correct that M-F bit.

In regards to work - J has settled into her office job. She's a "Policy Administrator", she has her own desk / own e-mail and at this point AIG is still afloat - it's all good!

My work is somewhat up in the air - major changes in the HR department mean I'm saying goodbye to my "Solutions Consultant" job title - and hello to my new job title of "HR Consultant". It's a sad day - I was quite proud of such a meaningless title - It was only second to Gav Nunns who once presented me with his business card noting him as a "Knowledge Engineer". Nice.

Terrestrial TV over here is currently showing "New Zealand's Got Talent" This may be a shock to you but - FYI: New Zealand has NO talent. The acts range from a bartender pouring cocktails to a poor mans Gaelic jig band who note they are inspired by Scottish Gaelic bands - eh - isn't it the Irish jig?

The other thing that's running on TV over here is a series of anti-drink driving tv adverts. I've linked one to the blog - They do call it as they see it over here! Note: they did have one featuring a female drink driving, obviously it ended badly and was capped by the phrase - "if you drink and drive - your a stupid bit@h". They drew the line at this one, it never made the airwaves.

We think our favourite local barman is in fact an alcoholic! Last Friday we were feeling a Little antisocial and decided to go to a different bar after work (not our local - Tabac). Sitting down and enjoying a Corona we were surprised to see our barman friend stroll up to the bar in his work attire, order a vodka shot - hammer it in one and then walk out the door. Being inquisitive we decided to follow him - guess where he went - Tabac. He was at the start of a 8 hour shift. Hardcore (and possibly in need of help)!! Perhaps finding friends outside of bars/pubs is the way
forward!

We'll soon have visitors - We'll be saying hello to Emma (a friend of J's) in October shortly followed by a visit from Rob & Bernie in November. It'll be great to see some friendly faces. We've got plenty of room so if your reading this how about NZ as your next holiday destination - free accommodation!!!

Finally, we're planning to learn to drive early in the new year. That's right folks at the age of 30 I've decided it's time to get mobile!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Domestic Mayhem & AIG

Well it's been quite a month.

I guess anyone that knows myself or Janine will know that we flew back to the UK on the sad news that Malcolm had passed away. We'll never forget the support from our friends & family - Thank you all, we couldn't have got through it without you.

You may be interested to know that J has now got a permanent job in the CBD. She's working for American Insurance Group (AIG). Heard of them? .... If you've watched the news over the past month you should have ...

What a choice of company - on the plus side, an office job that means a 9-5, no weekends & a daily opportunity to wear nice shoes .... there are however a few downsides:

- William Hill have stopped offering odds on the company going bust.
- They are currently being investigated by the FBI
- This one concerns me the most ................. They sponsor .... I'm struggling with this ................ they sponsor... Manchester United FC!

Anyway, J has just survived day three and they've even paid her in advance - considering they're potentially going bust, quite a nice gesture!

We also have some housemates .....

Jennifer & Mark Hird, 2.5 children and two fish have moved in with us! Going from a quiet life with zero children to happy mayhem has been an unexpected pleasure! There is also the added bonus of a full pantry and someone as competitive as The Bad Man who enjoys playing on the Wii (note this is Mark not one of the kids).

As an example of Mark's competitive streak ... Whist writing this Mark has just confessed to once being challenged to fit 5 Cadbury's cream eggs into his mouth at one time (note - not by me), accepting the challenge he reaching a grand total of 4. Anyone care to challenge? Bad Man?

On popular request we've added on some video clips of where we live - feel free to browse from the menu on the left hand side of this page. Note the weather on the video clips - It's Winter and we hit 20 degree C!

Anyway, we will endeavour to keep the blog updated - please keep voting on the polls - it tells us people are reading!