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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Three plane journeys

Where does the time go, eh? Almost a month has passed since I left for my whirlwind trip to the northern hemisphere…and a whirlwind it was.

I spent ages uuumming and aaahing over whether I should go to the UK or not in July – I had a couple of reasons, but it’s a very long way to go from all the way down here. But then my best friend told me he was getting married and suddenly I had the excuse I’d wanted. Wedding of the Year: UK Edition!

First thought, I flew Air New Zealand internationally for the first time and it was amazing. 10/10. Would recommend. Every other airline I flew was absolute pants but I digress. Because there’s a direct flight from Auckland to Vancouver, I decided to stop off there for a couple of days. I always try to go somewhere new when I travel, otherwise I feel like I’m wasting time somehow? I don’t know. Only so many leave days in the year. Ugh.

Vancouver was very pretty. And very overcast. I could not find a decent coffee anywhere and it made me very homesick, even though I had only gone for two days at that point. What can I say, when you live in the natural habitat of the flat white, you get used to certain standards. And when you’re boyfriend is a barista, it’s hard not to link coffee with fuzzy happy feelings. I mean, coffee has always given me fuzzy happy feelings but that’s beside the point.

My favourite part of my Canadian layover was visiting Grouse Mountain – hopped on the shuttle from downtown and spent a very foggy morning hanging with the two resident bears Coolah and Grinder. It was freezing. Summer is a lie. The fog lifted a little towards the end of my visit but it was actually just really nice wandering around the woods. Very atmospheric. And then I rounded off the day by walking around Stanley Park, a huuuuuge public park that borders downtown Vancouver and surrounded by Vancouver Harbour. In complete contrast to the mountain, it was gorgeously warm and sunny in town. All round lovely day.

I set off to London very little fanfare and spent the flight next to the most annoying man ever who kept turning my overhead light on and off while I was trying to sleep. I’ve decided airlines should let you choose whether you want to sit next to men or women on planes. It’s been my experience that men take up way too much space and don’t even try to fit into their surroundings. It’s tedious.

London was a delightful blur of friends. I caught up with M for dinner on my first night and we also went on the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The Hogwarts Express is there now! I was so excited! Even though I’d been before, it was still a lot of fun. And it was just awesome to hang out with M who’d only moved to London 4 months ago and it really seems to be agreeing with her. Yay!

Of course, on my second day it was time for Wedding of the Year: UK Edition (insert crowd cheering) What an absolutely lovely day. Just perfect for the couple, and filled with so much love and good will, I could barely stand it. It’s like your heart will just burst with the good vibes, you know? Could not wish for a better day for such a great couple and I’m just so grateful to see them surrounded by wonderful people. So thankful I got to share it with them.

And I got to spend loads of time with the groom the following week! Woo! We had pizza and played card games and it was almost like nothing had changed at all. I so desperately wish we could just hang out like that more often, so easy and relaxed, but no, of course we have to be a 34 hour plane ride apart. Life is hard.

I also got to meet my other bff A’s brand new baby boy! You can read all about him on her blog. It was so nice to see her and just catch up. We’ve come so far from where we were when we first met each other what must be 10 years ago but it’s so awesome that we can just pick up where we left off when we see each other. Even if we are actual adults now. The horror.

No trip to London would be complete without a gig – Twin Atlantic at Scala which was effing amazing and intimate and everything I love in life. I managed to catch up with some friends from my former work beforehand and it was so, so nice. It’s weird how you can still get on with people and just really click even though you only see them every two years and maybe exchange a Facebook message every eight months or so. I was also delighted to squeeze in a theatre visit with my friend V who had just gotten back from holiday. We used to be theatre buddies back in the day so, again, just like old times! The play was quite different and I found it fascinating…and it randomly had Matt Smith in it. I miss my UK friends so much. They’re good people.

Because rest is for the weak when on holiday, I crammed in a day trip to Paris because some of my lovely Sydney friends happened to be there and it was J’s birthday. I’ve been to Paris a couple of times so I’m pretty chill about wanting to do things, so I think that helped make this such a great day. I could just catch up with everyone and just go with the flow, really. Plus it was a gorgeous day, sunny, warm, and I love the way Paris sparkles in the sun. I always feel so grumpy when I first arrive (cause let’s face it, it’s dirty and it smells) but then I walk along the Seine and I get to the Latin Quarter, and all I want to do is rent a loft and write for three months. Such romanticism. It doesn’t suit me.

Just like that, it was all over, and I had to come home. Downloading Pokemon Go just in time for the journey to the airport…and the many hours I had to spend there after the flight was delayed. I was so stressed. I had a three hour layover in San Francisco but the delay quickly meant we were actually only due to arrive as my connecting flight was set to depart. And then they had issues with the in-flight entertainment when we boarded and I was about ready to lose my mind. But we got to San Fran and we were met by a lovely staff member who rushed us through security (wtf America, you need to chill) and we didn’t have to collect our bags so I count that as a win. Still had to run to the next gate though so arrived nice and sweaty as the plane was boarding. Who doesn’t love getting on a 13 hour flight drenched in sweat? I have never been so relieved to land in Auckland but alas, my joy was short-lived, cause they promptly cancelled my connecting flight to Wellington. I was so done by this point. I hate layovers and two is too many for me. That last leg from Auckland when you’ve already been on a plane for 24 hours is killer. And it was 5.45am and my rebooked flight was at 1pm. How about no? I managed to get on a 9am flight. Home by 10, collected by the lovely boyf, and at work by 12. Go me!

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The whole trip feels like a lifetime ago – it’s just been so manic at work. But it was a lovely trip. After all, what’s better than catching up with good friends?

Southern Road Trip

One of my work perks is that I get to go to as many rugby games as I could possibly want, including All Blacks games. This year I decided to take advantage of this and use it as an excuse to go to Dunedin, a city I’d not yet visited, and also fulfill my ambition of seeing a game at the super cool enclosed Forsyth Barr Stadium – it always looks so fun on the old tv. I couldn’t resist. So, a couple of weekends ago, the boyf and I set off down south.

The South Island is arguably the prettier of New Zealand’s two halves but it’s about as pointless as comparing Liam and Chris Hemsworth – both are pretty in slightly different ways, depending on your preference. (In this analogy, the South Island is Chris because it’s colder and snowier and therefore suits his blondeness while Liam is the North, slightly darker and a bit edgier.) It’s also the less populated and pretty much hemmed in by mountains everywhere and more often than not you have to fly teeny planes into places like Dunedin or Queenstown, which makes it stupidly expensive to get there. So we flew to Christchurch and made the 4.5 hour drive down instead. We weren’t alone either, there were more than a few All Black shirt wearing passengers on the plane and we passed one memorable group in their campervan more than once on our roadtrip.

It was actually a lot of fun. We aren’t really strangers to these random long car journeys, having made the trip north to Taupo for my birthday last year as well as trips to the Hawke’s Bay where his mum lives. Long car journeys are kinda just par for the course down under (in which I lump NZ with Australia yet again, risking affront by everyone I know. We should have an EU type agreement people! But I digress.)

Along the way, we stopped first at the Cookie Time factory in Christchurch for a kilo bag of choc chip cookies because sustenance is important, then dawdled along to Timaru to drop in on a friend for the lolz, and had a tourist stop at the Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach. The sun was just starting to set and the tide was coming in, but still very worth the stop. My fave was the one that looked like the Death Star and I couldn’t help thinking it’d be pretty cool if they were giant eggs of a dragon or some such. I just think it’d be cool if something mythological like that turned out to be real, after all this time. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much Game of Thrones.

Dunedin itself was pretty cool, if freezing. It’s like a mini Edinburgh really, which is pretty much how it was designed so I shouldn’t be surprised. It has a real provincial feel though and it all felt very much southern hanging out at the farmer’s market on Saturday morning – incidentally the best place to get a coffee in Dunedin as all the cafés we’d tried up until that point had been rubbish.

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After wandering around town taking photos of their ludicrously pretty buildings, we managed to cram in a visit to Tunnel Beach. Getting to the beach involves shambling down a steep path that cuts through someone’s farm and then clambering down some super slick steps down a tunnel carved in the rock, which my claustrophobia did not enjoy. We timed it perfectly though as the tide was out so we could wander around the beach for a bit before clambering back out and hanging out on top of the tunnel rock, eating M&Ms. Of course the horrific part is that you have to then climb back up this steep path to get back to the top where you left your car, and I can tell you that neither my legs nor my lungs thanked me for that. But it was worth it so whatevs.

As for the rugby, well we trounced Wales 46-6 so that’s always fun. The stadium is one of those almost vertical ones and it was a lot louder than Wellington – I still find it really weird how quiet kiwi fans are at rugby games. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad to have done it.

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The drive back to Christchurch was a bit dreary as it was alternately foggy or bucketing down. We left some time to hang out in town as neither of us had really spent any time there. I was pretty shocked by the state of the place. Five years on and the devastation of the earthquake is still there in the gaping empty lots and crumbling abandoned buildings, looking like they’d withstood heavy bombing. Very sombre and odd and sad. But out of that there have been some cool things, like a thriving street art scene and the cardboard church and the storage container shopping mall we briefly hung out in. Rebuilding is a slow journey.

So yes, yay for roadtrips! I’m currently in Vancouver airport, waiting for my flight to London, so there will no doubt be ramblings about that at some stage.

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.

The process of removing weeds from ones’ garden

Last month, my work wife and I embarked on a road trip to what we had dubbed the Wedding of the Year. It was the wedding of another work friend and ever since we met her, having all started at NZR at the same time, we’ve been obsessed with getting an invite. Well no, actually we just wanted to get an invite to the engagement party, which we thought was more achievable.

The reason? The bride is unexpectedly traditional and hearing her talk about this wedding, and watching her plan it, felt like witnessing greatness. It felt like the closest we would ever get to a royal wedding…and we wanted in!

After months of pub quizzing together, having high teas and secret lunches somehow we managed to sneak onto the invitation B list and to say I got a bit emosh when the gold-stamped envelope was hand delivered to me would be entirely true. The couple are just what you would describe as Good People™ and to think that I’d been deemed worthy to attend this wedding of weddings, intimate and exclusive as it was, made me feel both ecstatic and total appalled that I’d weaseled my way into it…but never mind!

Said wedding did necessitate a road trip to the Hawke’s Bay as it was taking place at a lovely winery near Havelock North. We escaped work early on the Friday as my work wife had kindly volunteered to take on the 4.5 hour driving duties. Bleh. There was lots of singing along to One Direction, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. It was great. Of course once we arrived at the flat we’d acquired for the weekend, we had to find some bubbles stat. It was a celebration after all! Two bottles later, it’s 2am and yet we somehow managed to be up at a reasonable time the next day. After some last minute wedding shopping, we met up with two of our colleagues who also managed to wrangle invites and end up sitting in the pub for far too long and really cutting into our preparation time. But we still made it to the wedding on time so A+ all round.

Did the ceremony live up to all the royal expectations we’d placed on it? I’m glad to say it did. The setting was beautiful. The speeches were hilarious. The guests were all impossibly glamorous. The bridesmaids looked gorgeous. And the bride was too pretty to even look at for too long. There were tears. It was too much.

The wine was also too much if my hangover the next day was anything to go by. Still, I dragged my sorry carcass off to the “morning after” event which was really just a bbq held at a house with the most jaw-dropping view. It was a perfect day as well, I finally understood why so many people love it in the Bay. But alas, we couldn’t stay. The 4.5 hour journey home seemed impossible and hellish to my alcohol-flooded soul but somehow I survived, and recovered enough to have some McDonald’s en route sometime after 4pm. Life is hard, yo.

The reason I’m posting about this is not just because it was an awesome weekend – it was – but I’ve realised the power of surrounding yourself with good people. Just good people. I can’t really explain what I mean properly, but the kind of people who make you feel better just by being there. There was absolute feeling of good will and happiness at this wedding and I just stood there thinking, imagine if your life always felt like this. And the thing is, for this couple, I think it mostly does. I’m so grateful to have such awesome people in my life and so grateful for the friends I’ve made here. Even if they are mostly work friends, it still goes a long way to filling your life. And, of course, all the friends all over the world that I somehow manage to keep despite my bad communication habits. Cheers to you all.

A wild Jen appears

Oh hey, I still have a blog. Who knew? I return to the land of wordpress pretty much a year after my last post which is indicative of the year I’ve had. Chaotic. Stressful. Overloaded. Intensely busy. Amazingly fulfilling. It’s been a rollercoaster basically.

I guess the biggest thing is that I’ve decided to withdraw from my PhD and focus on my work. Which is quite a 360 from where I was last year, or even 6 months ago when I was having a nervous breakdown, but changes are happening at work and I think my job is going to be at least marginally more manageable so…yeah. Let’s see where it takes me. At the end of the day, the company is pretty cool and even though I may not love my job 90% of the time, it could be worse. There is sadly just no way to complete a PhD and work full time though so I’ve had to choose. After all, I can always do a PhD later, right?

It’s been a very full year and things have taken a turn that I never really would have anticipated. I feel settled here and I think, fingers crossed, next year will be a lot less volatile. Here’s hoping anyway. I can’t even remembered all the crazy shiz that went down in 2015 so I’m just going to trawl through my photos and hope that’ll jog some memories!

January

A long visit home to Perth included a trip to Margaret River and burgers on the beach for my last night at home. I miss my dog more than anything! The month rapidly descended into madness though with commercial shoots. No rest for the wicked!

February

I’d like to say work got particularly busy in February but in retrospect, it might just be it’s normal pace. Slightly terrifying! Anyway, there was many a trip to Auckland, fun at a launch event, Wellington Sevens and many a late night in the office. Three cheers for the noodle place across the road! Liz also came to visit which was loads of fun as always and in our various wanderings around town I discovered my dream home (which was actually on the market in October – oh, the horror!)

March

Things got off to a great start with mum visiting me for a few days and summer putting in one final stellar appearance before the long dark of winter. I went to my only gig of the year, shock horror, at San Fran (Parquet Courts) and started a weekly pub quiz crew which some of us take way too seriously but is always a stupidly good time. And we often win, so that’s always a plus. I also became a proper Wellingtonian by becoming obsessed with cheese scones and flat whites. As you do.

April

Made a flying visit back to Perth to cuddle my puppy (valid motivation for most things), get my hair done and soak up as much warmth as humanly possible. Work was just going through the motions of covering rugby games every weekend so was looking for bright spots of entertainment like a Simpsons themed quiz night at a cafe near my flat. And then of course there was the big Anzac Day commemorations which I spent at the then-new Pukeahu War Memorial – complete with a moving light display.

May

Ah May. A month in which I despaired at how many meetings I had, and at how much uni work was building up. It’s also the month I helped my work wife stalk Prince Harry – and then we ended up sitting next to him at the rugby. I dragged the work wife out for cocktails and fell even more in love with this quirky little city.

June

Everything fell apart. I’m not even kidding. Full scale stress breakdown. There was just too much happening on all fronts and I had no support. I walked into HR and said that I had every intention of quitting when my manager got back from his 4 week holiday and I meant it. There were crisis talks. I was sat down in various rooms and asked to talk through my issues. And then I swore at a very problematic contractor and was given a disciplinary I thoroughly deserved. I also got the weekend off though which meant French toast at my fave cafe and walks along the beach. Times were tough. Morale was at an all time low. On the flip side, my aforementioned work wife finally let me hang out with her dogs. We went to see half a play. Our quiz team won first prize and made some dinosaurs out of play-doh. This is also the month I developed a crush on the guy at the cafe near work. June was a real turning point for me. I was so close to walking out on all of this. So close.

July

Of course you can’t have a meltdown without then having to deal with the meltdown. I started counselling – it helped a lot. I took a leave of absence from the PhD to try and get my head on straight. I started hanging out with cafe guy. I took lots of walks and cuddled other people’s dogs. We had a home Super Rugby final and it was nice to see the city buzzing. Work was still hectic and I was seeing more office sunrises than I’d have liked, but there was support. I started thinking that I might just be ok.

August

Everything started to shift towards Rugby World Cup in August as the international season rolled on. My work wife and I accidentally wore the same clothes for something like eight days in a row which cracked us up and weirded everyone else out. But come on, we’re adorable. We had a fancy high tea to talk about holiday plans and I spent a lot of time in places I don’t really have any business being…like stadium media rooms, suburban high schools and Parliament. Then the parentals came to visit for a week and I joined them for a trip to Auckland for the final Bledisloe Cup match which we thankfully won. I don’t know how we’d cope without the Bled in trophy case. It takes up so much room.

September

At work, there was nothing but Rugby World Cup. It was all consuming. It was all hours of the day. It was exhausting. We had an office kick off party where you were supposed to dress up as a country and the work wife decided Romania = vampires. It was fun. It was also the first work event I took the boyfriend to because yes, I now had one of those and yes, I was horribly, hopelessly in love. I might have lost my mind if I had nothing but work but there were date nights and dog walks and bootcamp at 6.30am which it really wasn’t warm or light enough for just yet. But c’est la vie.

October

More of the same as the war machine rolled on. The team was storming through the RWC though everyone was on our case about not being good enough. SIGH. We had so many staff activity events, it was ridiculous. One involved a trip to the Botanic Gardens to see the tulips in bloom…another involved representing a region of the country. Work friend and I panicked on the day about our shitty team effort and invested in some cow onesies – a very comfy investment as it worked out. I went to see a great play with another work friend, and the work wife and I continued to accidentally dress the same. Halloween was, unfortunately, a non-event as the RWC Final meant an ungodly 5am start the next day…

November

…and we only went and won the whole thing! All very exciting but also very stressful as we scrambled to welcome the team home and have the appropriate celebrations and what have you. It was an incredible experience but absolutely exhausting for a poor little introvert like me. But at least I have learned that I never want to be famous. No thanks! Football season had begun so I was dragged off to the stadium yet again. There was an impromptu trip to Sydney to hang out with mum and have dinner with my lovely Sydney friends – annoyingly didn’t take any photos, wtf self. It was so, so nice to see everyone again! Then it was off to Lake Taupo for my birthday. A much needed long weekend and a gorgeous part of the country. Cake courtesy of my work wife, of course.

December

And now it’s December and somehow it feels like both a long time coming and waaaaaay too soon. We had our work christmas party the first weekend. Circus themed. I went as a lion tamer, the light up hula hoop I acquired was the star of the show (good for clearing dance space that everyone wants to be in. Who knew?) And last Friday I was up in Auckland again for awards season. Pretty sure that wraps my work commitments for the year though and it can’t have come soon enough. Only a week left in the working year and lord knows I’m limping towards the finish line.

Bring on the holiday! Bring on summer!

What happened?

Google ‘terrible blogger’ and you’ll find a photo of me. It’s been an atrocious year for doing things I said I’d do, like blog, or you know, be around. I’d like to claim that I’ll be better but I’ve realised claims like that are counter-productive…basically, I have no free time so I doubt 2015 will be a better year for blogging. Waaaaah.

Regardless, I’m here now and lord, do I have a lot to catch up on. Where has 2014 gone? What exactly happened? I did not authorise any of this! I need an adult! (Apparently I am an adult now, I also did not authorise that. Double waaaah.)

My whole life is upside down since my last post. Things were insanely busy, what with the broken wrist and never ending uni work and moving countries. Again. I know, I know. T’is mental. So, in order, this happened:

Broke my wrist
Already blogged about it. But it went on for ages and was a massive pain in the ass. Not fun. Wouldn’t recommend.

Visited the UK
Was fun. Would recommend. Not with a broken wrist though…well, technically not broken but I was told it needed to stay in the splint for the journey so…that was something. It did mean I got a lot of sympathy on the plane though, which was handy since I had developed a fear of flying shortly before leaving (I was flying Malaysia airlines, so, self-explanatory.) But yes, I went to London and got to hang out with my BFFs and have an amazing time. I went to Paris for a day with V, Ireland for a day of Game of Thrones adventuring with Abbi and spent five glorious days in Iceland which is definitely in best holiday ever contention. It included a flight over a motherflipping volcano! It doesn’t get more awesome than that.

Moved to Wellington
Surprise! In a bit of a long, drawn-out procedure, I applied for a job as a bit of a joke in May and three months later ended up getting it. But because I’d broken my wrist and was essentially useless, I couldn’t start when they wanted me to but for some inexplicable reason they decided they were happy to wait and so at the end of September, I packed up my life and moved to the land of the long white cloud. It’s been a little over three months and I absolutely love Wellington, it’s a cute little city with a hipster vibe and more coffee shops than any caffeine loving fiend could hope for. And everyone is so nice. Mum was with me the first couple of weeks as I settled in and then M came to visit for my birthday. Lots of fun was had. The job is challenging and extremely busy, and I’m still finding my feet. I’m worried about how it’s going to fit in with my PhD (yes, still doing it, long distance) and I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep in the foreseeable future. But my manager is great and the team I’ve been adopted into is really nice. I already have what I’d call one good friend so that’s always great. Another girl always takes me out with her, so I’ve been to more soccer games than I ever thought I’d go to and the League grand final and lots of other random things, like the santa fun run. It’s really sweet of her to invite me and hey, it’s fun. Overall, it’s a pretty cool organisation to work for so, you know, I’m just letting it play out at the moment and not making snap judgments.

In other news, my ironic love of One Direction is no longer ironic – both worrying and hilarious. I’m also obsessed with Taylor Swift. Queen Tay! Oh well. Pop music is fun y’all. I really really need to listen to more new music though, I’m woefully behind on albums released this year. But where does one find the time? WHERE? That said, I have found the time to become obsessed with Teen Wolf (up to season 3!) and get up to date with Vikings after everyone told me to watch it (really it’s just a show for people who like Sons of Anarchy but not Game of Thrones, and vice versa.)

I haven’t read nearly as many books as I’d like, excluding uni reading of course. I’m sitting on 9 for the year, but I read one twice (The Gone Away World, so good) and I’ve also reread three Harry Potter books (currently on The Deathly Hallows). Just finished The Queen of The Tearling on the plane back to Perth for Christmas and it was soooooo goooooood. Agh. I hate reading unfinished series though. I’m too impatient. Look at this A song of ice and fire fiasco, this is where series reading gets you! But I digress. I’ve just downloaded The Maze Runner for the flight back to NZ, looking forward to that one. And no, haven’t seen the film.

That’s another area that’s been woeful this year, film watching. I just tried to make a list of things I watched this year and it came to 24, excluding re-watches of course. Pathetic! My fave films released in 2014 that I’ve actually seen: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Edge of Tomorrow and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies because I am lame and Middle Earth is everything and no, I didn’t see it twice in the space of 3 days, what are you talking about? In related news, Guardians of the Galaxy was lame. Laaaaaame. I also finally saw Only Lovers Left Alive which is basically everything I ever wanted in a film. 

So yes. That’s the last few months in a nutshell. In 2015 I want to read more, whine less, write more, finish Sons of Anarchy, organise my time better and be an all round bad-ass that gets shit done. Bring. It. On. No doubt I’ll be in a corner crying and muttering incoherently about my thesis by the end of January.

Music: Blank Space – Taylor Swift