Tuesday, 30 December 2008

My Top Five

My top five people right now (in no particular order of greatness)

1. My genius hairdresser Simon
For the first time in ten years my phobia of hairdressers is beginning to fade. So much so that I can sit in the chair without getting into a state of stress induced 'rigor mortis'. I have complete faith in this scissor wielding saint.

2. My friend, housemate and pillar of strength - Eloise

She is always at the end of the phone, bed, sofa, kitchen bench... for tears, laughter, wisdom and counselling. She never complains, and is always patient and understanding. And as much as she would be justified in doing so, in the last four months she has never screamed at me 'for god's sake woman - grow a backbone and pull yourself together!' Surely any other normal human being would have done that weeks ago.

3. Courtney Love

Nothing makes you feel more empowered than walking through the tube station crowds to 'Miss World'. I need to steal a little bit of her attitude and spirit right now.

4. Toyin - my co-pilot at Engage

She is so filled with spirit and energy that if I could only have one tenth of her love for life then I would be a happy woman. And for someone who has to work with me she is amazingly happy. All the time. An absolute joy.

5. My pair of parents

For never telling me what I should do; where I should go; or how I should live my life. Ever. For standing back and always just wanting what makes me happy. Even if it means being on the other side of the world. I was truly blessed to be born to them.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Christmas Bat

My family has a large number of odd Christmas traditions. From the bachelor button in the Christmas pudding which we would all fight over annually; to the 'fly candle' (don't ask, it's a bit gross, and Mum put a stop to it a few years ago); to us 'kids' still insisting on having pillow cases from Father Christmas. With our names pinned on them. Chris gets the one with the Wombles on it.

But of them all, my most favourite family tradition is that of the 'Christmas Bat'.

Every Christmas Day someone has to dress up in my sister Nicki's ballet pantomime bat costume from when she was about ten. The first year it was my Dad. Then Chris had a go. And more recently, since someone was daft enough to marry into the Bramwell clan, the honour has gone to Dave (as seen below).

The Christmas Bat is charged with the responsibility of handing out the presents on Christmas Day afternoon. They then must remain in the costume for the rest of the evening. Even when, after copious glasses of wine, the previously erect ears start to flop right over.

The honour of the Emerald Fairy (the bat's special helper) goes to whoever can fit into my sister's 'tasteful' 80's Ball dress from her last year at high school.

I hear there is a fresh unsuspecting person in line for bat this year. Oh if only I could see his face when he hears the news.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Bucket, string and some aspirin....

I'm alone in my lounge right now apart from a squat fir tree propped up in the corner of the room, encased in mesh like a bank robber with his face in a stocking. He has a wooden base next to him which will eventually support him, once we 'let him out of the bag'.

I carried him home on my shoulder this very cold winter's evening. My breath tumbled in front of my face, and my fingers stung with cold despite being wrapped in gloves.

When I was a kid Dad would go out onto the farm and find a festive looking pine tree branch to become our Christmas tree. More recently, Mum has gotten someone to deliver a suitable branch to the house. Usually it is enormous. As in about ten feet of 'enormousness'.

Our Christmas tree 'Herbert' will (hopefully) sit nicely on his wooden base.

Mum props the pine tree in a bucket, goes out into the paddock to get the appropriately sized rocks, then fills the bucket with water and aspirin to keep tree alive for the next two weeks. Then she will string it up in some elaborate fashion so it doesn't topple over on some unsuspecting relative.

Herbert au naturale

This week we will go out and buy decorations so Herbert feels suitably like a cross dresser whilst he sits in the corner of our room for the festive season.

Dressed up Herbert

Every year Mum will go to the hall cupboard and pull down the same cardboard box of Christmas decorations she has had since I can remember. She will pull out the toilet roll covered in crepe paper to look like a cracker; the angel cut out coloured in with crayon I did when I was five; and of course the string of Christmas lights she has had since she married my Dad. Over 40 years ago. Some of the bulbs have blown. But they still work.

The Bramwell Xmas Tree 2008

I remember once when I was about ten, sneaking into the lounge in the middle of the night and sitting underneath one of those big pine branches. I sat there amongst the piles of wrapped underwear from various aunties. All the lights were out except those persistent coloured tree lights. And even though by that time I knew there was no Father Christmas; and I knew the small, soft parcel from Auntie Colleen was underwear, Christmas was magical all the same.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Welcome Home

Sometimes in a quiet moment at work I daydreamed about how I would react should I get that 'the work permit is yours' e mail. Of all the scenarios I invented, there was not one where I get the news in my red fluffy pyjamas with a 39 degree fever and a jackhammer in my head. But you can't plan these things. And that is how it happened. And maybe I was too sick to do a little solo (no one is watching) dance in my teeny bedroom, but I smiled to myself for a little bit. And then exhaled properly for the first time in weeks.

So the champagne remains unopened, but it is in the fridge. Until I'm fully recovered. And I can now start working through my list of things I had put off until my work permit came through. Membership to the Tate. A subscription to Vanity Fair. Book another trip to New York. Get on with my life.

The relief is almost indescribable. Sometimes I just sit back and let it wash over me.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

London Limbo

My fate currently rests in the hands of a seemingly nameless, faceless Home Office employee.

In two weeks time I should know whether I can stay in this country I now call home; continue working at the place where I finally actually get a little bit of respect and responsibility; and keep my lovely house with my even lovelier housemates.

I don't want to think about the alternative. Maybe because I haven't thought of one yet. The idea makes me feel a bit sick really..

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Democratic Right

Nine years ago I cast my first vote in a general election. I can remember the day so vividly, even still. On a sunny Saturday morning, myself and my friend Janine took a stroll down to the Aro Street polling booth after having decorated our flat with stolen election advertising the previous night.

Mine was one of the votes to bring in Helen Clark and the Labour Party who would reign in New Zealand until today.

This week I cast my fourth vote in a New Zealand election. By fax. Much to the amusement of my colleagues.

And as I lay in bed this morning, with Radio New Zealand streaming live to my duvet, I followed the fall of that party and leader I helped elect all those years ago.

Earlier on this week I woke to a text message at 4am telling me history had been made. The headline on the Metro one day later said it all. 'The day America became a little cool again'. It was a happy day in the office that Wednesday.

And two days ago a nice lady stopped by my house to inform me that I am eligible to vote in this country's general elections too.

How nice. Women can't even vote in Saudi Arabia and I get to vote in two countries.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Where has the time gone..

If someone had asked me 20 years ago, what I would be doing on the 3rd of November, 2008, I can't think what I would have said.

But 15 years ago, I'm pretty sure I would have said I would be a star of the stage.

10 years ago I would have been a touch more realistic and would have said working for the United Nations as an environmental development officer in Sri Lanka.

Five years ago I would have said I would be now working in my first international posting for the New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade. Maybe somewhere in South America.

One year ago I would have said I would have just started my intensive Japanese language studies for my Masters research.

And here I am. The third day into November - 2008 and I'm sitting by myself in a crappy 1980's office building, waiting for an engineer to come out to fix the alarm system at 7pm on a Monday night. Not only is it dark outside, but it is raining. And I'm meant to be sitting in a Covent Garden theatre right now watching a play.

I can't see much light on this dark Monday night.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

I have never...

I feel like I have squeezed a fair few things into the last 28 and a half years. But as I was walking the waterfront the other day, I made a long mental list of the things that so far I have never...

I have never read War & Peace. I have never been to Africa. I have never shoplifted. I have never eaten snake. I have never sung solo in public. I have never run a marathon. I have never been to the supermarket in my pyjamas. I have never swum in the Atlantic Ocean. I have never been in love.

I have never break-danced. I have never changed a car tyre. I have never seen Angkor Wat. I have never been to a strip club. I have never seen a glacier. I have never tasted truffle. I have never ridden in a limousine.

I have never walked out of a job. I have never been to a massive concert. I have never painted on canvas. I have never slid down a bannister. I have never seen the Northern Lights. I have never been on a sunbed. I have never had anything waxed. I have never seen Pulp Fiction. I have never owned a shell suit.

Friday, 26 September 2008


I was meant to be half a world away by now.

I would have been soaking up some New Zealand springtime before packing up and leaving again.

But I changed my mind.

Some of you may know that somehow I managed to bag an all-expenses paid stint at a university in Japan. Kick-off: October 2008. Next week. 18 months of research in a topic of my choosing.

But Japan is a very hard place to live. And when it came to the crunch, the thought of going back there freaked me out a little. Besides, I'm in love. With a wonderful city called London.

I feared I would regret giving up the opportunity. Some people would kill for it. But since I finally made up my mind, I have never once looked back. Everyday I wake up in the knowledge that I have made the right decision. Picked the right path.

London: it has been magnificent. And if you are ok with it, I'd like to stay please. What was meant to be a brief affair has turned into a proper long-term relationship. I love your crisp autumn mornings where the low hanging sun bounces off Clapham Common; your incredibly talented collection of buskers; your heaving pubs on a Friday lunch for a fish finger sandwich and a pint of Strongbow; your quirky and slightly throaty laugh and roguish, scruffy nature.

It is nice to finally feel roots grow from my feet and have no more moves tattooed in my future.

Thanks London. It's so nice to call you home.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Summer's ugly stepsister

Unfortunately for every summer, there must be an autumn. Even for a summer like this year's one, which felt pretty much like autumn anyway.

Summer is always going to be one tough act to follow. What can autumn offer that summer didn't?

Crisp sunny mornings; walks to and from the tube in half-light. Colourful death dropping from deciduous trees. Promise of short days and wintry nights.

Frantic searchings for matching gloves on frosty mornings; Tuesday evenings in with a bottle of cheap red and a good friend. An excuse to lie in for an extra hour on a rainy Sunday morning.

Steaming bowls of soup in cheap Clapham cafe. Beers on a Saturday afternoon on a couch at the Windmill.

Fortunately for every autumn, you know that a spring is sleeping somewhere in the not too distant future.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Moving Mania

My life has been taken over by moving lives from one place to another.

Two weeks ago my company said goodbye to the Borough Market; to sunsets over London Bridge; to the Nazis on downstairs security.

We packed everything and moved east. Temporarily. While we find a home worthy of our fabulousness. Until that time we are bunking down in an 80s revival office at the arse end of Canary Wharf, London's pinstriped financial district. Someone really needs to invent a new shirt pattern.

And so I said goodbye to my cathartic walks to work. Hello to tube rides in and out of a station where I am always the only person wearing jeans. Unless I'm with a colleague.

Not only has my work life relocated, but shortly my home life will do the same.

Yes, it is also goodbye to 11 Langham House.

Hello 196 Cedars Road. Hello a slightly more civilised living space and two wonderful women. Goodbye lovely housemates. Fortunately I wont be saying goodbye to Clapham. I tried to move north but instead the fates wished me to stay. And so I move from the south side to the north side of the Common.

A little further from the tube station. A little closer to..... well, a little closer a few things really.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Yes, I am alive

No I didn't fall in front of a tube. And no, I didn't fall victim to a nasty late-night kebab. And I definitely wasn't whisked away by a knight in shining armour. Nope.

Instead I am only just emerging from a dark, dark time of 12-15 hour days of work. It all culminated in a weekend where I managed to squeeze a week's work into 2.5 days. I actually even slept at work for one night. All of an hour and a half kip on the blue sofa downstairs (5.30am) before waking (7am) showering, drinking rivers of coffee, eating three slices of cold pizza, and starting the day all over again.

I am only now rediscovering my sense of humour. A long weekend at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival helped me with just that.

Now I must do some much neglected laundry. And talk to these strange people in my home who seem to think they are my housemates.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

An anti-religious experience

I could never understand some New Zealanders being so incredibly awestruck when they met famous rugby players.

But last night, I had that feeling. I sat perched in a chair for two hours, leaning forward, eyes wide, hands clasped.

Seven foot in front of me, on a stage I could have reached out and touched, was Salman Rushdie. Talking away quite happily, in his casual black trainers and slightly baggy jeans scuffed at the heel, about his book Midnight's Children which just won the Best of Booker Prize.

If Salman and I weren't such atheists, it would have been a religious experience.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

5 reasons why I'm in love with London right now

1. Post codes

I love the postcodes in this country. I love the way when you are internet shopping you type your post code in and it tells you your address. They only introduced post codes into New Zealand last year and they have 4 digits.

2. Berry berry nice

Right now I'm eating bran flakes with possibly the sweetest raspberries I've ever tasted. Bought as I walked into work this morning from the fruit man outside who calls me darlin'.

3. Sunshine

BBC tells me it is going to be 28 degrees today.

4. The Guardian

This genius newspaper will always be on my top 5 list of great things in this city.

5. So much to do, so little time....

Surely it is impossible to be bored in this city. On Saturday I'm going to a Pirate party on a boat on the Thames. Two Saturdays ago I broke a world mass dancing record in Trafalgar Square with 2000 other people.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Post-dating comedown

What is next when you have just finished 17 dates in 17 consecutive days? I have to say that I am now at somewhat of a loss.

It is very strange to finish work and not have to rush off to a pre-arranged location within London, to meet a friend of a friend of a friend's colleague.

I just don't know how I can top this stunt. But any ideas would be most welcome.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

A Duvet Sandwich

Years of sleeping alone in large beds has done strange things to me.

For the last few months I have found myself sleeping diagonally. Occasionally I would wake up to find myself peculiarly perpendicular.

But most recently I have moved to the duvet sandwich style of sleep.

I lie on top of half my duvet and fold the other half over me so I resemble a sort of white poofy synthetic slug.

It really is awfully comfortable.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Ruby

A very special little girl turns one today. Across the other side of the world.
14 July, 2007
Dear Beth
I saw you for the first time ever, just now.

You were magnified in a little glass case, protecting you from the outside world. This safe haven allowing you a few more weeks of shelter before you begin to make your way out here, with the rest of us.

On your back, you kicked and wrestled with the still uncomfortable coldness of this world. Your little chest rose and fell quickly and sharply, while you beat your powerful legs against the air.

You were all yawns, with your little mouth stretching for oxygen. But eventually you sank back into restfulness, your limbs getting a rest.

“How can something so little work by itself?” I thought. Teeny lungs and a little heart, blood flooding its way around your tiny, fragile body.

Now in all the pictures of you I see, your cheeky character shines through. In floppy summer hats under brilliantly blue skies. Wrapped in towels with your parents doing funny things to your hair. Pictures that we will pull out in twenty years time. You will look at them and laugh at the fashions of the time. Trying to imagine your parents that young.

Happy birthday baby Beth.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Am I not even half way?

So you want a taste of all that dating advice I'm gathering on my journey?

As the 'victim' who I went out with a few days ago advised me (who had a slightly nervous demeanour which very briefly made me wonder if he was going to drag me into the long grass and smother me with a crisp packet) you should figure out what you like to do, and go to places where guys who like the same thing hang out.

So I am currently trying to think of where a man who likes long distance off road running, curling up on a rainy day with words and books, long train journeys in far away countries, coffee, Sunday newspapers, recreational activities on water, antipasto, Kings of Leon, and dislikes telly might spend his time....

Saturday, 5 July 2008

5 down - 15 to go

My life has been hijacked by dating.

When I’m not out actually on them, I am planning them, writing notes about them, or trying to line more of them up. I need a PA. And possibly 12 consecutive hours of sleep.

I barely have time for work in my life right now. Let alone laundry.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Officially Completely Insane

I've done some stupid things in my time.

I once walked the entire length of a massive open plan office with my skirt tucked into my pantyhose. Not to mention the time I got caught in my pyjamas in the... Ok, better not tell you that one.

So, maybe some weren't surprised when I came up with my latest stunt.

One Saturday afternoon, over too many bottles of Pinot Grigio, a plan was formulated. Summer makes people do crazy things, especially after two winters in a row.

Perhaps this is why I decided that I should set about the journey of trying to line up 20 dates in 20 days.

This was the pitch:

Is Romance Dead? Or is it Just Me?

I'm going to try and find out.

I'm researching for what may become a literary piece but this time I'm really rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty. Figuratively.

July is going to see me carry out what I believe to be the ultimate dating challenge. See, I'm the first to admit, I'm sceptical about this whole romance rubbish. But perhaps before I completely wash my hands of it, I should really give it a good go. Just so when I am 75 and surrounded by cats and newspapers, I can sit on my couch which is covered in plastic and think 'well, at least I gave it a shot'.

So this July, I am going to attempt 20 dates in 20 days. Now anyone can jump online and set that up. But time and time again I hear people say 'the way to meet him is through your friends'. Well, I'm putting that to the test. I'm asking my friends to help me line up a date for every day, from the 1st of July to the 20th.

The challenge details:

The chosen male shall be tasked to choose the date. This is where I ask for a large helping of creativity. Not only do I want to find out if there are actually 20 single men in London, but I want to find 20 great things to do in London on a date.

The financials:

We split everything, and here is the catch: the date must cost only a maximum of 20 pounds.

And there is even a blog. Of course.


So there we have it. Crazy? I know.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A New Addition

In an attempt to curb my incessant selfishness, I have recently taken responsibility for another life.

Well, it was forced on me of sorts, but when the lease-a-plant guy told me to keep the unwanted plant in the rubbish bag or to throw it away, there was only one option. Throwing a plant in the bin would be awful karma. Even if it is only one of those nondescript green office plants that sits in the corner of the room in an attempt to fool employees into thinking they are not sitting in a large polystyrene box.

So on Monday, Plant (as I affectionately call him) took his first tube ride. He was fine at Elephant & Castle where we got on, but by the time we got off at Clapham North he had taken on a very harassed look. A quick stop at The Clapham General Store to pick up a pot and some potting mix, and then we were home, for some time on the balcony and a few big glasses of London tap water.

He perked up quickly and seems to be fitting into life at 11 Langham House just fine. And I haven't accidently tipped battery acid into his pot or done anything equally as mindless to him. Yet.

Monday, 16 June 2008


I last went to a music festival eight years ago, where we cooked instant mashed potato and bird's eye peas on a little primus stove somewhere out the back of Golden Bay, NZ; bathed in the river, and slept on those incredibly useless pseudo-foam bed rolls. It was right up there with the greatest four days of my life.

Last weekend I festivaled again - on a small-ish island off the south of England, with 64,999 others. The Isle of Wight festival was rather famous back in the day. 1968-1970 to be precise. In 1970 The Doors and The Who headlined on Saturday, with Jimi Hendrix having a go on Sunday, along with Joan Baez.
Well, things have changed since 1970, and also since 2000. A lot of the above are dead. I don't eat instant mashed potato anymore, and am very reluctant to sleep on another one of those stupid bedrolls.

So last weekend, while others camped, we 'glamped'.

An ingenious company will go in and set up a tent for you, in your own area very near the main arena; give you inflatable airbeds, and nice new sleeping bags. You rarely have to queue for the (hot) showers; whereas your average camper will be waiting for sometimes over an hour and a half for a cold rinse. Oh how lovely it was when this morning at 5.30am, I packed my very civilised weekend bag and just walked away from the tent. No peg counting, or fly folding needed.

There is one downside to all this being grown up though. Where eight years ago I recovered from the festival by lying on a beach in the Abel Tasman for five days; this morning, four hours after hovercrafting my way off the island, I found myself back behind a desk replying to four days' worth of e mails.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Academia Holds Brain Hostage

My brain is awash with long and tiresome phrases such as 'cultural discontinuities', 'symptomatology across ethnic groups' and 'systematic endeavour'.

'Creative Emma' is slowly being smothered to death underneath a pile of photocopied journal articles heavy with black text and weighty concepts.

'Academic Emma' sits at her desk, staring blankly at the laptop screen in front of her. Every now and then the oppressive silence is smashed when she erratically bats out another regurgitated phrase.

All the while 'Creative Emma's life flashes before her eyes.. From the time she won 3rd prize for her cardboard construction at Pet Day; through to the headband and brooch she crafted from a silk neck tie last weekend.

'Nothing can save me now' she thinks, as she chokes on yet another 'APA referencing style' citation.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Goodbye Winter

I bought this get up in Toronto, November of last year. At the time I was romanticising about wearing a mountain of ice blue fluff in the depths of an English winter. But it never really got cold enough here in London for me to dig out my matching scarf, hat and mitten set.
So now I find myself pulling them out of my top drawer and stashing them away in a dusty cupboard, along with thermal underwear and possum fur socks, in the hope that I might wear them next winter.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

#10 - Save on carbon farts...

Feel uber-urban as you step onto the Eurostar at the brand spanking new St Pancras Station, London. Until you find yourself surrounded by 75 year old couples all called Mavis and Bert as they prepare for their annual bus trip around Europe.

But in just over two hours, leave all the Mavis and Berts behind as Paris welcomes you with three kisses. Quickly finding yourself installed in a sidewalk cafe; for days of endless sunshine, cheap wine and a whole lot of laughs. In particular, laugh at the excellent sociological displays in the Louvre as riots just about break out in front of Venus.

Soon realise you need to leave the museum when you begin to fantasise about impaling all the annoying tourists on ancient Roman statues.

Friday, 2 May 2008

All Those In Favour Say.....

Number 9 on the list of things to do in London before you die of chronic lung disease is......Vote.

On Thursday I exercised my democratic right as a citizen of London and voted in the mayoral election.

Unfortunately 100,000 more people liked bumbling, funny-haired 'Tory Boris', than 'Red Ken', so overnight London swung to the right.

There was definitely an element of 'the lesser of two evils' in choosing who to vote for. But I enjoyed the experience all the same.

Thanks London for letting me have my say.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Hello Stranger

Clapham Common - April 6th

And less than three weeks later, on the 26th....

Summer. It was lovely to see you today, after such a long time apart from one another.

Let the good times roll.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Deserter - Epilogue

Phone turned up this morning with an exceptionally coy look on his face. But otherwise in good health. Wallet, Keys, Jacket and I were all very happy to see him back.

And so, me and my vital possessions were reunited.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

The Deserter

I've always been amazed at the way my belongings manage to stick with me. Particularly after a long night. If you could see footage of me returning home, you would see me climb out of a taxi and hold the door open as my wallet, jacket, keys and mobile phone jump out, thank the driver (my belongings are very polite) and head for my front door like one big, happy family.

When I wake the next morning, I will always find them lying next to me, tittering away to each other about what a great night they had.

Unfortunately last night there was a deserter.

When I awoke this morning, Wallet was flat out on the floor, still sleeping; Keys were in bed next to me, one arm shielding their eyes from the morning light; Jacket was curled up at the end of the bed like a dutiful puppy. Phone, however, was nowhere in sight. In fact, it seems that Phone didn't come home at all last night.

To say I am disappointed in Phone is an understatement. But as the phrase goes: 'If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, then it is yours. If not, then it is now some other lucky person's'.

In a way I hope Phone left on its own accord. For new and exciting adventures.

Thanks for the good times Phone. We'll all miss you.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


Lately I have been struggling with the concept of 'home'.

Home for me now is here. 11 Langham House. It is the eighteenth front door of my life.

I have paid income tax to four different governments; put money into a pension scheme in Australia and Japan, but never New Zealand.

I lived in Wellington for six of the last ten years. But I am not 'from there'. I was born in Pahiatua, but never lived there.

When I think of home, I don't think of New Zealand. I'm not proud of that, but that is just how my head works. I don't think of Huffer hoodies, L&P, roast lamb or 'Country Calendar'.

While I may struggle to call New Zealand home, there is a small piece of space within that country which is very much a home to me.

Down Evans Road, take the first right - opposite the (now) free-range egg farm. Head down the gravel drive, past mum's vege garden filled with fountains of silver beet, and through the garage door. Up the hall, into the lounge and out onto the deck. The deck that my dad built with his own hands.

If you sit on the edge of that deck, leaning on a pole, you get a view over the rolling backyard Dad used to mow in different patterns every Saturday. Each time replicating a famous sports ground. 'We'll do Eden Park today' he would say.

Twenty years ago that deck you sit on was uniform in colour, with all the nails diligently keeping their heads down and backs straight. Now it tells the stories of a thousand days of sunshine; the scars of pet dogs, cats, chickens and children. If you listen very closely, it will tell you stories of the Al fresco dinners, post-wedding lunches, ruby wedding anniversary parties. Or maybe you will hear about that magical time we all sat around, playing the guitar, singing, and just 'being' in the warmth of the afternoon.

Yes, this rectangular piece of 'dad-made' nature is where I call home.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

It's Just Crushing

This story of a small town girl living in big city London is a well-rounded tale in most respects. There is drama; comedy; laughter and tears. It is human-interest and documentary all rolled into one. But there is definitely one element missing. The 'love interest'.

Cue 'Crush 2008'. Not since the fondly remembered 2006 crush of 'Dry Cleaning Guy' has my life seen this sort of fluttering of hearts.

I have a completely ridiculous, yet fabulous crush. You know the type. When someone with otherwise only a cameo role in your life, sets centre stage alight.

Crushes are crazy because you know that the person probably doesn't even know you are alive; yet they have the power to reduce you to the consistency of two day old packet custard.

It is like being 12 again, with that TV Hits poster of George Michael on your wall. Or like when I met my favourite Radio New Zealand presenter, Bryan Crump, when he needed change for the vending machine. And I had some. If only I could open my wallet. I lost all motor skills and the ability to speak in any language apart from some sort of Jabba the Hutt impression.

But back to the present. It is amazing how completely ridiculous things can come out of your mouth when you are being so careful trying to impress. And how can I possibly have pesto in my teeth when I can't even remember the last time I ate it. 'Sensible Emma' rolls her eyes, shields her face from the shame, muttering 'how embarrassing' under her breath. All the whilst 'Possessed by Crush Emma' giggles uncontrollably and says a stream of inappropriate things.

How can I be Audrey Hepburn with the 60 year old postman, then a female George Bush / David Brent rolled into one, so soon after?

Crushes are great when you know that they will never eventuate into anything complicated, and they simply serve the purpose of popping a couple of nice moments into your day. And that is exactly what Crush 2008 does. Just like the Dry Cleaning Guy did in 06. That was before the restraining order..

After all, every girl needs something to get her out of bed in the morning, right?

Sunday, 6 April 2008


Two days ago it was 17 degrees and I walked home from work wearing my sunglasses and a dress.

This is the sight I was greeted with when I woke this morning.

Complete with Sunday morning bed hair and an obvious late night carved into my face.

And Clapham Common.....

Later in the day, When the melt leaves only the snow men and women behind.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Gorgonzola The Great

A wedge of this wonderful cheese, in all its stinky finery became my third 'cheese of the week'.

It came to me from Piedmont, Italy, via a man with many gestures at the Borough Market -London's finest and oldest food market. It has been at its present location for over 250 years. My new cheese did smell as if it had been there for a fair few too, but that old shoe stink never put me off a good cheese experience.

As the kind man of many gestures carved me my wedge off the massive, gooey round on his table, I asked him how I should eat my new Italian friend. He suggested with fruit, or just by itself.

And so I wandered over to a neighbouring stall, purchased some quince paste (not as good as my mum's, but you can't have everything) and some oat biscuits.

Another wonderful 'cheese of the week' experience.

Wednesday Night Football

Number 8 on the list of things to do before you die is......

A football game in the UK
What better thing to do on a slightly showery Wednesday night than to go and see some of the world's greatest footballers play at the best stadium in London with 60,020 other people. All of them in a good mood.

Brazil took on Sweden in front of thousands of vocal Brazilians, and a lot of quiet Swedes. Oh, and three slightly awe-struck New Zealanders.

The atmosphere was fantastic, and because it was a friendly held on neutral territory, we also missed the usual street brawls and stabbings.

Brazil won 1-0 for anyone who cares.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Mozzarella Madness

My second 'Cheese of the Week' was a big blob of mozzarella, direct from Italy.

I lay slices of it on a slightly warmed piece of ciabatta, with vine-riped tomatoes, basil care of Ivan Smith in West Sussex, and a generous slosh of aged balsamic vinegar.


Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Ladies & Gentlemen! Introducing to you all..... 'Cheese of The Week'

After many minutes of wandering vacantly about Sainsbury's last Sunday I realised something. I need to make the most of the wonderful things this great country has to offer before it is too late.

My time here, unfortunately, will be far too short. And whilst my next destination will have many splendid attributes; there are many things it will lack. One of those is good cheese.

Therefore I have decided to introduce a whole lot more of this fine dairy product into my life. And so I introduce to you 'Cheese of The Week'.

This week's cheese is haloumi, in all its salty, squeaky glory. Straight from Cyprus.

Last night I cut it thick, placed it on pita bread and grilled it. I then lovingly smothered it with houmus. Symphonic.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Born of the National Disaster Isle

Apparently the earth moves over here too. There was rather a large earthquake up north last week, scaring the life out of a fair few people who didn't grow up with classroom earthquake drills like New Zealand children.

I managed to shock my colleagues the other day by telling them my mother has the crockery on her sideboard stuck in place with 'earthquake glue'. It then totally blew their minds when I told them the sideboard was actually fixed to the wall to stop it falling on your head as you run to the doorway during the shaking.

This led me onto a 'thought tangent'. This is where I sit at my desk and stare at a 45 degree angle, head tilted vaguely towards the ceiling. Everything around me blends into an office haze, voices quieten to a low burble, and my thoughts wander off on a mental soliloquy of sorts. Happens quite a bit when the most exciting part of your job is trying to identify mystery items as they bob their way down the Thames.

It is quite a natural disaster country I am from. And it always seemed quite normal. Volcanic eruptions that spoil ski seasons, rivers that are 40 degrees, the occasional geyser erupting in someone's backyard, the phenomenon of 'earthquake weather'; even the odd cyclone and tornado thrown in there for good measure....

They certainly do live a sheltered life over here in Old Blighty. Just man-made disasters like terrorism and London Underground to keep life interesting.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Emma The Builder

I have always suffered from inconstructionitis. This is commonly known as: the inability to construct items from written instructions.

So when I bought a desk online this week, I was very, very concerned to discover it was not going to get carried into my flat by two men who would carefully put it down, put my laptop on it and say 'voila'. Nooooo. My new desk was slid into my room inside of a cardboard box. A very thin 'undesk looking' cardboard box.

And so it was that I found myself, on a Saturday night, screwdriver in hand, determined to overcome my building disorder.

After an hour or so of my tongue sticking out the side of my mouth, and repeating 'screw two S4 bolts into panel B' to myself - I was done.

To say I was proud of myself is quite the understatement.

(Note the two shelves, including one that slides in and out.)

Two hours later and it still hasn't fallen over.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Raising her Weary Head

Spring is peeking sleepily over the horizon. Slightly stunned, she blinks into the post-winter light.

The first sign of this was the daffidols showing their eternally happy faces outside Clapham Common tube station.

Then bunches of asparagus began to appear at Sainsbury's.

Finally, when I skipped out of work yesterday at 5.40pm. it was dusk. Not night time.

All of a sudden it was obvious.

As I write this, spring is picking sleep from her eyes, and smoothing down her 'bed hair'.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Do what every good Londoner does once in a while - take to the country for the day. Constantly remark on how 'quaint' everything is as you savour the fresh air, lack of Starbucks and regain your sense of personal space.

Support the National Trust and walk the paths walked by kings.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

My Talented Mum

Look at how amazing my mum is.

She crafted this dress especially for my friend's gorgeous little girl Madeleine.
The smocking is beautiful and she did it all by hand.

The craftiest thing I have done of late is to paint my nails. And even that I made a mess of.

I worry a lot about our generation. Maybe I should take up a craft. Then I would have less time to worry about the dramatic loss of traditions, culture and history we face with every passing day.....

Friday, 8 February 2008

The Northern Line's Incredible Friday Phenomenon

I just witnessed an incredible phenomenon. So amazing in fact, I just had to write about it straight away.

My entire carriage this morning, was made up of ridiculously good-looking men. 'Why?' I hear you ask. I have no answer for you. Perhaps they were all on their way to a Calvin Klein casting.

There I stood, surrounded, sardine-like. Immediately I started thinking about what the collective noun for group of good looking men might be. (a 'smooth' of men, 'a scarf' of men, a 'lust' of men......) So there I was, surrounded by a lust of men all minding their own business while I stood aghast. Even more amazing, was that they just kept getting on. Until there was simply no more room.

As I (sadly) alighted the tube, I actually managed to hook one of these beautiful specimens. With the cord of my Ipod headphones. Unfortunately I had to throw him back before the closing doors got me.

You can bet I will be taking the 8.05:34 Northern Line tube via Bank from Stockwell next week too.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Taking my very own bank holiday

A very wise friend of mine religiously takes his birthday off, every year. On one particularly gruelling Thursday last week, when my hate for work was at extraordinary levels, I decided to introduce the same policy. So I took Monday the 4th off.

I sat in a backstreet cafe and ate scrambled eggs whilst reading the paper. I had a 'good' haircut (as opposed to the disaster cut of three weeks ago). I ate my favourite Japanese food (okonomiyaki) covered in mayonnaise and mystery brown sauce, with some of my favourite ex-Japan people. I drank my favourite beer (Asahi) and at the end of a great day, I enjoyed tea and a Selfridges carrot cupcake.

The following day I returned to work a much more pleasant person. And a year older. And with a pair of reading glasses. But I'm still too emotional to talk about that yet.

Friday, 1 February 2008


Leave. Purchase 1p flights (which are not actually 1p at all - but £40 once you add on compulsory 'check-in charges', 'anti-crash tax', 'ensure you are delayed surcharge' ....) to anywhere requiring a passport. This alone is a novelty for any New Zealander.
Proceed to have a fabulous weekend away, all the while in the knowledge that you have a fabulous city to return to.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008


Actually buy the 'Big Issue'. And read it. Then you can look the homeless guy outside Sainsbury's in the eye as you turn him down for the rest of the year.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

False Sense of Seasonal Security

As the year already skids towards February, we, the people of London, are being lulled into a false sense of seasonal security. After a cold patch, it has warmed up to, sometimes in the mid-teens.

Usually this would be something to celebrate (i.e. bikinis in Hyde Park etc) but we all know what is around the corner.

I'm very much used to savouring this coming short month. In New Zealand it holds a long weekend, and I turn another year older. As well this, it is generally New Zealand's hottest weather. But, on this side of the world, it is the month of meteorological doom.

Typical that it would be a leap year. Making the pain that slightly bit longer for me.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


Mid-week comedy night - fold yourself into a room the size of a broom cupboard in Leicester Square, with a bunch of other people, everyone beers in hand. Laugh until you are doubled over, discovering stomach muscles you never thought you had.

Friday, 18 January 2008


On a rainy Tuesday night in, decide to do something fun the following evening. Five minutes later, after consulting the Bible (Time Out) and logging onto www.lastminute.com and you have half price tickets to a comedy night in Leicester Square. Then quietly revel in the fact that there is always something to do in London-town.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Hangover Happiness

There is nothing like a mid-week hangover to brighten up your week.

Not only are you usually late to work (thereby having to spend less time there); you spend your day eating absorbent (rubbish) food, not giving a damn about anyone whilst you laugh at your own hilarious jokes.

The only thing better than having weekday hangover, is sharing one with your colleagues. I have many a fond memory of standing around the breakfast bar at my last job, shovelling butter onto scones and retelling 'you had to be there' stories.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

2008: The Year of the....


I will saturate myself in these - both native and foreign.

Culinary Mini-Break

Fish and Chips in Brighton; Pasties in Cornwall; Deep fried pizza in Edinburgh. 2008 is the year of the weekend regional delicacy tour.

Engagement, Marriage and Babies

Yes, that's right. More than ever before people in my life will do this. Until I am the last woman standing.


Isle of Wight, Notting Hill, Arashiyama Fall Foliage Festival...... I'll see you there.

The last year of the:

Mind-numbing job. No more shall I sort mail and go home with phones ringing in my head. No more I tell you!

Purposeless roaming about the world that has so far characterised my life. I am now slowly carving a dirt path to my future. Ever so slowly.

Saturday, 12 January 2008


Have a 'real' coffee at the Borough markets and proceed to fly around the stalls in a caffeine stupor. Make sure you get to the cheese stall with a creamy blue practically oozing a trail off the table.

Friday, 11 January 2008

100 Things to Do in London Before You Die of Chronic Lung Disease - #1

Visit the cupcakes in Selfridges' Food Hall. Peer through the glass at their perfect little icing hats, as they squat in rows, giggling away at each other. The carrot with lemon icing cups are particularly cheeky. Grab some American peanut butter and laugh at the £22 bottle of mineral water on your way to the oyster and champagne bar.