Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Washing & reading

ahhh...the dulcet tones of my new Bosch washing machine. So quiet. So watertight (the last one was a bit leaky). It's even got a digital countdown and lots of other nifty features. Like words that make sense instead of pictures that don't. Not quite F&P (you can't get their washing machines here, although I have seen a very expensive dishdrawer in John Lewis).

I'm reading and enjoying the Penguin History of New Zealand at the moment (the enjoying bit might be a first for a history book, I think). It's so well written, such an easy, almost conversational style, while still doing justice to the subject - I'd highly recommend it. I was shocked, though, to discover that Michael King had been killed in a car accident - what a tremendous loss for NZ.

In fact, I think I'll get back to it now...altogether too much computer today.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Another week has passed

How did that happen?

It was a good week, actually. For the last three days (that includes Saturday AND Sunday, plus Monday when I should be at work but instead am lounging at home awaiting delivery of my brand new Bosch washing machine...exciting!!!) it has been hot and sunny - with all the windows flung wide, our weather station tells me it's 22.3 degrees. Nice. Nothing like a bit of sunshine to put a smile on a girl's face and bright red jandals on her feet. And it's only April...hopefully this bodes well for another record-breaking Scottish summer (there, I've jinxed it).

Speaking of footwear, I made my first e-bay purchase last week. I've been hunting down a pair of Puma Mostro sneakers since I saw them in France, but you can't get them here. Well you can, but only in red and white (white, white, all sneakers, I mean trainers, here are white and neddy)...maybe black's last year's model? I found them online in the US, but nobody would ship outside of the US. I found a lovely guy near Philadelphia by the name of Joshua (some of you might know him...he quite likes meat) who was going to accept delivery and post them back, but then no-one had them in stock in my size. I'd just about given up, and then ebay throws up a treasure...a pair of these very shoes, my size, brand new, in Newcastle (and for less dosh than I was planning to shell out). They haven't arrived yet, so I shouldn't get too excited.

Online shopping's had its ups and downs of late. Sainsbury's were a treat with their punctual delivery of NZ lamb, all frozen and perfectly stamped, plus a case of Stella (a bit hard to fit that on the scooter) and other delights. Argos, on the other hand, were dreadful. Their convenient delivery window is 8am-6pm (made even less convenient when 4 of 5 items ordered arrive at midday, and you wait the rest of the day for the 5th, assured that it's on its way with a different driver, only to be let down). The missing kettle & toaster were delivered a few days later to my neighbour, despite me cancelling their delivery, and when I took them back to the shop (opting to give another 10 hr wait for a pick-up a miss) they could only give me gift vouchers and not my money back.

Sorry, rant over.

France was fun. We arrived in Marseille, and spent our first four days there & thereabouts. Much time was spent in waterfront cafes, sipping coffee or pastis and watching the world go by. It was hot enough to sit outside, a real treat after a long Scottish winter, and we even managed to come back with slight tans (but no-one got to see mine, as I also came home with some kind of French flu). Other days were spent exploring the Calanques, Aix-en-Provence, and of course churches, shops, markets and art (just like everywhere we visit in Europe).

From Marseille we took the train to Toulouse, and mooched around there for a couple of days (again enjoying cafes, French food, shops, markets & cool old churches). It's very compact and picturesque, and unbelievably friendly (our first encounter with a Toulousian was when we got off the Metro and must have done our slightly lost tourist impression (luggage is a dead giveaway). We were swiftly and accurately pointed in the direction of our hotel. What girl could not love a town called "la ville rose" because of all its pretty pink buildings. Beats the pants off "City of the Future" - NZ's not exactly hi-tech Hamilton (maybe they've dropped that slogan, I couldn't find it on their website), or Scotland's own "City of Discovery", Dundee.

Next stop was Bordeaux, where we were being met at the train station by Andrew's cousin, Jay. We managed to wait for him in Departures for quite a while (for some reason, he thought we woudl arrive in Arrivals), and worried that we had missed him and wouldn't find him, as A last saw him 15 or more years ago. We needn't have worried. I recognised him the minute he stepped into the Departures hall, as yet another Taylor clone (strong gene pool, that lot). See for yourself.

We stayed with Jay and his wife Celine in their gorgeous old apartment in the old part of Bordeaux, with views over the rooftops and cobbled streets and pretty Places all around. It was a nice end to the trip - hanging out with Jay, Celine & their friends (including Simon from Christchurch!), eating late, sleeping late, drinking Bordeaux and climbing Europe's highest sand-dune.

Still no washing machine...hope this won't be a repeat of my Argos experience!

Sunday, April 18, 2004


It feels like that last month or so has been lived in fast-forward. Or maybe a strange combination of speed and busy-ness and moments of contemplation (after all, there have been two holidays).

I am a person who likes things to happen quickly anyway (and yet am not very keen on speed in and of itself - sports and activities that require one to go really fast are not my thing). There's an ad on TV at the moment (for AOL broadband I think), which has a guy in a variety of scenarios, experiencing frustration at how slowly things are happening (eg supermarket checkout) and intervening to remedy the situation (eg scanning his own shopping). Scarily, I'm reminded a little of myself. Andrew thinks I hold the land speed record for travel within an airport terminal (and probably for Princes St on a Saturday too).

So, what's been going on?

Well, on Friday we officially became property owners. Our little flat now really is ours. Exchange went without a hitch, except for the minor scare with the mortgage a week out when the Halifax inquired about A's accent and discovered that we had not been living in the UK for very long. Hurried lobbying of his HR dept and some signatures in the right place managed to avert that one. It's impossible to get any other credit here (except, of course, credit cards, which are given away like sweets) - we were excited about not having to pay anything towards our sofas for a whole year, but of course we failed the credit check, as they can't, for some reason, check NZ. In fact, we can't even open a bank account to deposit money into, never mind anything else, at the bank that A works for! Believe what everyone tells you, and set up your bank accounts BEFORE travelling the UK!

Our flat is looking a bit spartan (or perhaps minimalist) . We have the basics covered - somewhere to sleep (a new bed, heaven after the protruding springs of the last one), somewhere to sit, a bright red rug and kitchen basics - but our chest of drawers is still an assortment of shoeboxes, and our coffeetable is also of the cardboard variety. I had to go out and buy a grater today as we had a craving for carrot cake. It is nice, though, to be surrounded by things that are ours - the place really feels different. And that's before DIY adventures...

We've been to France, too - there are photos. More on that anon.