So much closer

I’m sitting in my parents’ house in Perth for what’s likely to be the last time – next time I’m here, they will probably be in the brand new house they’re building. Isn’t that exciting? They’re very excited. It’s my last night in town before I head back home tomorrow and so I thought it fitting that I do the usual year in review post before the new year breaks.

Let’s start with home – home, what a concept. I felt like I was home when I stepped through the door on Saturday to be greeted by a happy pup and a glowing Christmas tree. But I simultaneously miss home, my home, the little part of the world that’s wholly mine, the life I’ve carved for myself and the people I have carved it with. It’s complicated, this adulthood business.

Surely we can all agree that 2016 has been a pretty insane year in the wider “the world is on fire” sense. Everything’s gotten scarily nationalistic and as someone who has spent most of her life drifting from country to country, this kind of PATRIOTISM4EVA attitude generally just confuses the hell out of me and makes me horribly depressed. So yes, I’ve been sad and alarmed by things like Brexit and the US Election and even Australian politics being a bit shit. But it’s also made me realise what I really care about, what my values are. I used to think I didn’t really care about anything (side order of nihilism please!) but turns out that’s not true. Mostly I’m angry. And I’m not afraid to speak up about things any more because if this is the way the world’s going, we need to speak up. And we need to do things. Otherwise, how can you complain?

I feel very lucky to live in tiny old New Zealand. A beautiful country that lots of people forget exists, and where the biggest political issue was whether or not to change the flag. I mean, if that’s the biggest problem in a country, things aren’t that bad. (I’m being facetious, I know there are real issues, but comparatively speaking those issues aren’t that bad.) I’m thinking of getting NZ citizenship, as soon as I’m eligible, so I can have a say in things when needed. Having AU/NZ dual citizenship is possible the most pointless combo but both feel like home so…whatever. I love NZ and it’s been good to me, really, if you ignore the recent shaking. Oh dear lord, the shaking. Do not want.

Now let’s do the really superficial monthly recap thing! Woo!

January

After spending Christmas in Napier with the bf’s mum, things got off to a very chill start with a glorious summer in Wellington. We went to the Wellington Cup Day races where we were hosted but none of our horses won. Sigh. Another memorable moment was Dom visiting which gave me an excuse to visit the Weta Cave for the billionth time, and I also got to introduce him to rugby sevens at the always awesome Welly Sevens (people say the Sevens are dead and the media like writing about how terrible it all is, but they’re all wrong, it’s still heaps of fun).

February

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Love my little family

I don’t really know what I did in February other than work, hang out with mates and go to bootcamp at a ridiculous time in the morning…I did go to Perth towards the end of the month though, to spend time with the parentals and get lots of puppy cuddles. I realised that spending two weeks at the familial home was just a little bit too long.

March

March was bad for me, not gonna lie. I had a bit of a depressive slump and struggled to get out of it well into April. I don’t like being sad, but what can you do? It also meant the bf saw me at my absolute worst and somehow he still managed to stick around through the crying and the silences and general mental instability. My knee jerk reaction was to run screaming for the hills, and I really had to fight that flight reaction cause part of me thought I’d have to break up with him as an act of self-preservation. But I didn’t, thank fuck. Thanks for nothing, brain. Wasn’t all doom and gloom though – work wife and I went to the Wedding of the Year and I took the bf to see Sufjan Stevens perform  Carrie & Lowell in its entirety which was a hundred shades of amazing.

April

Still mostly depressed but improving. Still going to hideously early bootcamp sessions. New job was created at work which I applied for and somehow managed to get. Woo! Absolutely delighted to move teams because I was losing my mind in my previous team and wanted to do more analytics and less social media. Save me from the crazies on social media! So that was definitely a highlight. Another highlight was the big dog walk with lots of dogs which was exactly what it said on the tin and meant I got to pat dogs. Always a win.

May

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The theme for this rugby season was drizzle and cold

No longer depressed – yay! I started making more of an effort to take care of myself which included signing up to My Food Bag to take the stress out of meal planning (lord how I loathe thinking about food) and also getting a cleaner once a month. This made me feel painfully middle class but also meant I stopped feeling guilty about not cleaning and overall that was a big help. Also started using the awesome Go To skincare range which smell divine and is an all round delight. And also rugby was on again so nights at the stadium were on the cards.

June

Just work. So much work. Work, work, work…and a trip to Dunedin! Woo! It was my first visit and I thoroughly enjoyed the little Edinburgh vibe.

July

Things got off to a pretty shit start with my grandmother passing away. She’d been ill for a long time but I was still devastated. In the last six years, I’ve lost three amazing, kind, generous grandparents and it sucks. It just sucks. My grandmother passed away just before I was due to leave for my trip to Europe but the guilt of not going to the funeral was somewhat mitigated by the fact that I was engaged in a (still ongoing) battle with South African immigration which means I’m unable to actually go to the stupid country. Ugh. So I disappointment my family yet again and went to London via Vancouver instead. But with good reason since it was Wedding of the Year: UK Edition time! And what a beautiful wedding it was. Also had the pleasure of catching up with good friends on a day trip to Paris and just generally enjoyed hanging out with awesome people.

August

The Hurricanes won their first ever Super Rugby title and I was there! Getting frostbite, but hey whatever, history! The bf and I celebrated our first anniversary. It was adorable. We’re disgusting. We’re that couple who plays with each others’ hair in public and say stupid things. If it makes it better, we are ashamed of ourselves. I never thought I’d ever be that person, but here we are. This was also, of course, Olympics month which meant lots of working upstairs in our lunch room in front of the TV. I love how everyone starts caring about the most random sports. So much fun. I also worked a Test match which was stressful but very enlightening. So many moving parts to make that shiz work. So. Many.

September

I rediscovered my love of the library and read a lot of books. Also played a lot of board games. That’s literally it.

October

Work was stupidly busy which meant a lot of weekends at the office. But it was also fun with dive bar gigs by bf’s friend’s band, and a purely delightful Harry Potter themed cocktail night at one of my favourite bars. Bf got a new job so that was very exciting for him and a bit sad for me since I couldn’t just pop downstairs to see him whenever anymore. Also realised a friend of ours had never seen Lord of the Rings so took it upon ourselves to host her for a marathon. We only watched the first one. She needed a break. Not everyone can nerd like me haha. I also had to go to Sydney for a lightning quick work trip. It happily coincided with mum’s work trip so we got to hang out and have dinner and it was just all round awesome. Made it back to Welly in time for a superhero themed Halloween extravaganza. Loads of fun. Hangover the next day, not so much.

November

It started off just fine with fireworks and movies with my work wife and then we had an insane earthquake and everything went to shit. For one thing, I do not cope well with earthquakes, as it turns out. I was terrified. Anxiety levels were through the roof. And then we couldn’t get back into our building cause the one across the road was a threat. So it had to be demolished. At first the work wife and I just worked out of her husband’s office which has the benefit of ocean views and a dog, but then work sourced alternate digs for us and we got stuck working out of the cold concrete dungeon that is the stadium. Very kind of them to host us, but still fucking miserable. Everything was grey and fenced in and cold. I felt like I was walking to a POW camp every morning. Dramatic, me? Never. AND WE WERE THERE FOR FOUR WEEKS. FFS. At least November ended with my birthday so that’s always nice. I took the day off to treat myself and it was a solid life decision. 10/10. Would recommend. Also FYI, saw Fantastic Beast (twice) and loved it.

December

“December is for cynics, December is for critics.” I love Christmas and despite the reluctance of pretty much all my friends in Welly, I insist on acting like an idiot. So I was delighted when the work wife donated her old Christmas tree to me rather than the dump. There’s no real room for it in the flat but it made me ridiculously happy. My team had a Christmas party on a boat, which I hated thanks to my chronic sea sickness. Work had a Mexican themed Christmas party that was borderline inappropriate. I made very little effort and had a nice enough time without nursing a hangover, so I consider it a win. And we were also finally, finally, allowed back in our building. I never thought I’d experience such joy going back to the office but it was such a relief. I celebrated by baking cookies for everyone, and cupcakes for my workmates to take home. So domestic. Who even am I? I arrived in Perth late on Christmas Eve and I have been spending my time relaxing, reading in the sun and cuddling my pup. It’s been great and I know I’ll miss my fab little family when I leave. But tomorrow I head back to Wellington and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to getting back to my life, my bf and my friends. This cross-continental living is a drag.

Overall, I just feel lucky to have what I have. Enjoy what’s left of the holiday season and let’s hope 2017 is good to us all.

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Never go out of style

I don’t consider myself romantic, and I never thought of myself as particularly effusive…but it’s my one year anniversary with the boyf today and I feel it’s worth mentioning.

I never would have predicted being in this situation but I’m so insanely content, it’s mind-boggling. To be honest, it feels like we’ve been together for a lot longer – maybe that’s just cause we spend so much time together. But that’s one of my favourite things, that I can just share things with him. Silly, stupid things, important things, things that upset me, things that stress me out. The compulsion I have to rush over to his work so I can share a joke or gossip or just show him the Pikachu I just hatched. And the overwhelming compulsion I have to make sure he’s ok when he’s sick, or angry, or stressed. To be there.

Sometimes it scares the shit out of me, how much I care. But that’s ok too. I love how low maintenance everything is, how natural it feels. That I can miss him if I don’t see him, and yet when we’re together we’re perfectly content ignoring each other while we’re on our phones, or he’ll play video games while I read. And it’s great to have someone to cook for…and to have someone around who makes me pancakes on weekends. And he let’s me cuddle him in public when I’m freezing even though he doesn’t like it haha

He respects me and supports me and makes me laugh so much. I think that’s the most important thing at the end of the day. It’s all really gross and hashtag blessed but I’m just so pleased to have this human in my life, this person who makes me feel more like myself. Plus it makes me ridiculously happy to think Harry Potter brought us together. Gotta love HazPotz, always defining my life. Ten points to Ravenclaw and ten to Slytherin.

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“Just keep talking about that little ball of light touching your heart, and she’ll come round.”

In a future five years from now

A few weeks ago, my work wife sent me a link to an article about being a newbie living in New Zealand. She prefaced it with a simple “Bet you can relate!” And I totally could. Recently I’ve read a couple of articles about living in New Zealand, and why people love it, and it got me thinking about my own motivations.

See, I love New Zealand, specifically Wellington, a lot. I’ve always had a soft spot for the country cause of my love affair with Lord of the Rings but I never would have anticipated my love of Wellington. For one thing, I loathe the wind. LOATHE IT. And Wellington is the windiest city in the world. Lord help me, it never lets you forget it. Did you know that the average wind speed in Wellington is 27km/ph? And often said wind is blowing straight off the arctic to turn you into a walking icicle? Well it does. And it sucks.

But there is a trusty cliché here that people like to trot out and like most clichés it’s grounded in truth – you can’t beat Wellington on a good day. And when Wellington’s good, it’s magnificent. Lonely Planet was 100% correct when it named the city the world’s coolest little capital and here are my reasons for loving it so damn much.

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1. One big community vibe

You may not think that this matters but it really does. Wellington is ridiculously small compared to other cities I’ve lived in. This means that when I’m out with people we will, more often than not, run into other people they know. You’ll see it all the time, friends running into each other, completely by chance. The other day I went to an offsite meeting and a mutual friend’s husband, who I had never met, was chairing the thing. How is that real life? While big city anonymity has its loner appeal, there is something beautiful about the way that Wellington just glows with six degrees of separation. Everyone seems to know someone you know. Which leads me to my second point…

2. Everyone is so nice

So effing nice. You have no idea. They’re welcoming and friendly and will go out of their way to help you. I rented a car once and when I returned it, the car rental guy gave me a lift back in to town so I wouldn’t have to wait around for the bus (and Wellingtonians say thanks when they get off said bus). My colleagues offer to lend me their cars on the regular without even thinking about it. Not to mention giving me lifts all the time. Everyone’s looking out for each other. Maybe that’s because everyone knows someone who knows someone they know but whatever it is, it’s fabulous.

3. Coffee, coffee, coffee…and brunch

This is the country that invented the flat white so just stand aside and let the experts look after you. It feels like there’s a café on every corner, and maybe there is, after all Wellington has more cafés and restaurants per capita than New York.  And ok yes, the abundance of good coffee can turn you into an insufferable coffee snob in next to no time but still…COFFEE. My personal favourite spots are Red Rabbit, Memphis Belle and the Flight Coffee Hangar…but there are so many I am yet to try. Another great thing about the café culture is a healthy appreciation for brunch, the best meal of the day. All day, or late, breakfasts are pretty easy to come by and from the bottom of my so-not-a-morning-person heart, I thank you Wellington.

4. Cinema love

I’ve always enjoyed going to the movies. I pretty much lived there in high school and I developed a healthy habit in the UK as well. Wellington has an overload of awesome cinemas though and it will ruin you for mainstream movie theatres forever. I complain every time I have to step foot inside a chain multiplex now. Every time. Can you really blame me when you could just go the Embassy Theatre instead, a lovely 1920s cinema with a bar that’s straight out of a Bond villain’s lair?  Or a couple of streets over, you can go to the Light House, an indie cinema that has super comfortable couches to snuggle into. Or go for an adventure out to the art deco loveliness of The Roxy, owned by Peter Jackson and home to random retrospectives (currently Tarantino, we saw Pulp Fiction just last week and it was brilliant). Or The Penthouse, another art deco one out in the burbs. Or The Empire. Or the Paramount. Just…why would I go to a bog standard cinema? Make it an occasion! Plebs.

5. Arty, indie nonsense

There’s always something happening in Wellington. From big events such as the NZ Festival, Comedy Festival and Film Festival to low-key community organised things such as photography exhibitions, comedy gigs, plays, open mike nights and the like, there’s always about 10 things happening at once. Considering how small the city actually is, that’s really a testament to how involved it is as a community. On Saturday, a local woman organised ‘A Big Dog Walk With Lots of Dogs’ that sort of blew up and attracted loads of attention. The Facebook page had over 2K people listed as going. It was one woman trying to raise money for HUHA – and it ended up being three events across the country. We went because I’m obsessed with dogs and just wanted cuddles, but that was the whole point – it was for people who loved dogs to get together, including those who may not have dogs. To me, the whole thing just sums up what Wellington is about. Random and awesome and full of life. There always feels like there’s lots to do in town but you don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t do it either. You can just play it by ear and go at your own pace.

6. Local is best

People love supporting local and independent shops and enterprises. Some of the most popular products are made in town, like Six Barrel Soda and Fix & Fogg peanut butter, not to mention chocolate and craft beer. Pizza Pomodoro is my go to pizza place now, lightyears ahead of the usual chain stores, while donut deliveries from Little Dough Co is fast becoming our go to for cheering up the work place after a shit week. And I think everyone can agree that Whittaker’s Chocolate is the best chocolate. I’m yet to drag myself out of bed early enough to get to one of the awesome farmers markets around town but I can vouch for the cool independent artists trading wares at weekend craft markets, and the independent shops all over town.

7. Cash isn’t a big deal

Apparently NZ is where they trialed paywave…and you know what, you can tell. Hardly anyone uses cash here. There are no minimum card payments and no fees. You want to buy that 99c chocolate from the dairy (and corner shops are dairies here), go right ahead. I can’t even really tell you what NZ notes look like cause I hardly ever see any. They recently changed some of their notes and as I was examining it in the shop, the woman rushed to assure me it was real legal tender. I had to explain that I hadn’t actually seen the note at all before. I’ve only been here almost two years…awks.

8. Wellywood

Yeah. I said it. I don’t care. I love the film aspect of life here. I’ve been on the Weta Workshop tour three times. I love randomly stumbling across props on display around town, or filming of some sort happening. Just a couple of weeks ago they were filming a car chase downtown! And of course about six of my colleagues happened to come across it as well if everyone’s Instagram feeds is anything to go by (see point 1, place is small!). It’s nice to think of all that industry and creative spirit existing around the place.

9. The Waterfront

I love that I live on the water…or 10 minutes’ walk from it, anyway. I grew up in a landlocked city and we used to take family vacations to the coast. I still remember the joy I felt when I first spotted the ocean appearing over a hill, and to some extent that never went away. In London, I was lucky enough to live near the river and that was always my favourite part. But while Sydney and Perth are both obviously coastal, I was never actually close to the water on a regular basis. Now it’s right there, every day. I can see it from the meeting rooms at work. I have bootcamp in the park next to it every Monday and Friday morning. I harass the boyfriend into taking walks along it whenever the opportunity presents itself (aka when it’s not blowing an effing gale). The waterfront is just an awesome part of town, pedestrian friendly with lots of random sculptures and quotes from NZ’s most well-known writers engraved along the way. It just makes me happy.

10. South Coast wanderings

Wellington’s pretty unique – it’s pretty much just jammed in between mountains and a rugged coastline. This does mean that it feels like an incredibly green city, with houses climbing up the hills, surrounded by trees and protected parks. One of my favourite spots is Red Rocks reserve, about half an hour out of the CBD, home to narrow beaches, looming hills, lots of rocky terrain and a very chill seal colony. It’s a bit of a hike out to the colony but heading back to town via Lyall Bay and stopping at Maranui Café for some scones or lunching at the Spruce Goose makes it one of my favourite days out.

Then there’s the bar scene with a new cocktail joint to check out every other week (even though I invariably spend most of my time at The Library), all the awesome places to eat delicious things (and forming small habits like going for Kaffee Eis gelato after dinner or heading to Scopa for hot chocolate), catching the latest exhibitions at Te Papa, various sport outings and so much more that I’m yet to even discover. I’ve only been here 18 months after all!

Once, years ago, I wrote a blog that mentioned New Zealand and I said something like, “If I was the type to settle down, who could be at peace, I imagine it would be here.” And now here we are. I’m 28 and tired of packing up my life every other year, tired of leaving friends behind, tired of starting over. I’m settling down. And I love it.

Writing to pass the time

I have a little house
Close to town, but not to the city
Far from home, but near my family
No water views, but so close to the sea
I see
This is how my little life could be

And I’m filling it with things
Like furniture I find on the street
And all the special things I’d like to eat
Pictures of people that I’d like to meet
I’ll meet them when I’m orbiting the world…

Would you really rush out?

Weird week.

I’m teetering on the edge of a flu I can’t shake. Was down with it two weeks ago and thought it was over, but the scratching in my throat suggests otherwise. I’m properly cold now, winter is in my bones. I hate the cold. I hate that it took me over a year to adjust to a London level of cold and manage just fine, but in less than four months I lost it all…now I think 13 degrees is cold again. It’s madness. But this is the desert. Mild days, chilly nights, scorching summers.

Some bad news came filtering across the water. My uncle’s father-in-law, who I’ve known for most of my life, passed away unexpectedly. Two days later my great-grandmother had a light stroke and was rushed to hospital. She’s recovered pretty well and seems to be doing ok now, back at home. Still. Long exhale. It’s pretty scary and stressful for everyone involved, and mum takes it so hard. Ouma will be 99 this year and we all love her to bits.

I’m struggling to find a happy balance with my work/uni arrangement. I’m not doing nearly enough studying. Too many distractions, I find it almost impossible to focus. It’s really annoying cause I used to be so good at focusing, and following a routine and getting shit done. Now I feel like I can’t sit still for more than twenty minutes without losing my mind. It’s a self-discipline problem and I need to get it sorted really effing quickly.

Also waiting on some news that could have pretty big repercussions for my plans…I don’t want to want it, cause then I’ll be so disappointed if I don’t get at least a shot at it. But it’ll be huge. So I’m waiting and biting my nails to the quick.

Now to do some uni reading. I have so much of it. So much. And I have barely started any of it. Just over a hundred days to go until I have to present a candidacy paper. So much stress. That’s just how I roll.

Music: Blindsided – Bon Iver

Say-yes-and-youll

House of Queens

‘When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die? Her malady begins far back before this day…’

Eowyn

The Return of the King – JRR Tolkien