A good old fashioned telling off

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Sometimes I just need a kick in the pants. And I haven’t really had one for a while – I don’t mean like literal physical abuse type ‘kick in the pants’ – I just mean a firm nudge to get on and do something. And then my wee friend Mary prodded me via Facebook about not blogging – and here I am. Mary is a lovely friend, and, in fact, a lovely person – but she’s got that tiny woman thing about her that I find a bit terrifying sometimes.

So – life has rolled around and around the last few months. We came home, we settled in. There were welcomings and catch-ups and cakes and cakes and cakes. All of our clothes shrunk somehow. I interviewed for two jobs. One sounded wonderful but I was told I was over-qualified for it, which I was slightly relieved about because my boss would have been about 8 years younger than me and, during my interview, told me how he thinks all of his staff should relive his recent caving experience. Caving? Um, I’d rather lie back here and let you remove my toe-nails with some rusty old pliers thanks. And also the enlarging of ass thing often doesn’t suit squeezing through tight spaces. Ask Winnie the Pooh.

I interviewed for another job. There were 4 interviews in total for this role, all with the same person. For the last interview I was told it was down to the ‘final one’ so it was just about negotiating. It turned out that we had different ideas about suitable payment. I kind of felt like I should be paid for the job I’ve trained to do for the last 15 years, he sort of felt like he should pay me about the same as a service station attendant. It was a bit disheartening but I’d been reading a lot about getting paid what you’re worth and, let’s face it, if I’d taken that wage I would have had to start a side-line selling office stationary on the black market. I also did a bit of a re-cap and realised that he asked me, in every one of the four interviews, how many children I had. Because having children kills off brain cells – right buddy?

Downhearted and thinking, “um, hello small town – is this all you’ve got?” I gave myself a stern talking to (Mary lives too far away for urgent call-outs) and thought ‘take control you non-caving old trollop!” (My internal voice likes old-fashioned put-downs). So I started my own company. Just like that. It’s actually not that hard and once I started it all happened.

Now I have more than full-time hours with my 4 contracts, and other contracts pending. I’m getting paid a fair amount to do a good job and I’m networking and having fun. Granted, I did order some heels and nearly put my back out after an afternoon’s wear but other than that I’ve slotted back into the ‘corporate’ world fairly well. Sure, there’s mother-guilt every time I leave Bubba, who now stands in her PJ and says “I go with Mama!” whenever I sneak out in the morning. And she knows where the power button is on the laptop so if I’m on it that bit too long she just shuts it off. Thank God for Autosave. But it feels good to get back into it. I gave my first presentation for a loooooong time the other day and I did not piss my pants, which is something to be proud of I think.

I’m going to keep blogging, but I have had to get my head around the fact that I’m not sitting in a city of 4 million any more, and if I slag off the lady in the bookshop (which I wouldn’t – because she is LOVELY) people might click on to who I’m talking about. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but I’ll get there.

And in other news, my tiny little baby is turning 2 on Monday. TWO YEARS OLD. This growing up business is out of control.

I hope you are happy and healthy and either basking in the sunshine or cuddling up with a cocoa and no bra on as you read this. I am considering patenting an invention that makes bras pop off the second you either sit on a comfy chair or walk in through the back door. Sure, there might be some issues for prudish visitors but, on the whole, I think it’s a goer.

 

 

My new girl-crush

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I’ve made a new friend, and I’m kind of stoked about it. Some close mates of mine told me that their Great Aunt had been moved into a local resthome and that they were going to travel down to Taranaki to visit her over summer.

“Oh, I can go and visit her if she wants some company,” I said, chipping some of the tarnish off my rusty halo. I figured I would drop in once or twice, take Bubba to twirl for the delight of the oldies and that would be that.

But I was wrong.

Lyla, the lovely lady I visit, is absolutely gorgeous and just a delight to chat to. I LOVE my weekly catch-ups with her. When I first met her I thought she was so sharp and in pretty good shape so I figured her to be around 75 or maybe 80.

She’s 97. It’s just incredible. She taught yoga for years, in a church up north. After she’d been using the church for classes for around 6 years some locals decided that yoga was pretty much the work of the devil and she had to stop. She didn’t. She said, no – I’ve been here six years and I’m going to go for one more. And she did, much to the dismay of the local lynch-mob. While they were trying to bully her out Lyla’s grand-daughter was born partially blind.

“See?” They said – “that’s what you get for being so wicked!”

Can you even imagine?

One time I went to visit Lyla and she was tired, her and her friend had decided to take a wander around the sprawling grounds of the resthome (it’s huge and houses a hospital and community of retirement apartments too) the day before. They took off for such a hike that 4 carers had been sent off to hunt them down. They did it all on their walkers, up hill and down dale – I imagine they tied silk scarves around their hair Thelma and Louise-style but I have no proof of that.

During my visit yesterday Lyla was telling me all about a little party the home had put on for the residents and their families, an afternoon tea in ‘olden-day style.’ Beautiful hats were mandatory, scones and tea were served in lovely vintage crockery and old-time music was played while the revellers partied until the wee small hours of the late afternoon.

How lovely would that be? It got me thinking about the kind of yesteryear parties they’ll plan when I’m in a resthome. I talked about it with the Viking, we decided that the staff might dust off some early model iPads and we could all sit around in our cow onesies playing Angry Birds and listening to One Direction. Which sounded pretty shit by comparison really.

What do you think the icons of our generation will be? Please don’t say Justin Bieber. 

 

Getting my Griswold on

This is a sponsored post for www.oo.com.au

For the last few months I have been rubbing my hands together with absolute glee at the prospect of going Christmas-cray-cray. It’s our first New Zealand Christmas as a family, it’s my first Christmas here for four years and it’s Bubba’s first Christmas with more than just her Mama and Papa around. And we’re hosting it. I can’t wait.

I think I’ve been showing signs of becoming one of those slightly eccentric people who turn their whole houses into Santa’s grotto for some years now. I love colour, glitter, flashing lights and canned carols as much as the next three-year-old and I love the whole ‘a parade just exploded on my front lawn’ type of decorating that is taking hold now.

My only Achilles heel, my little smidge of Kryptonite is my husband. In Norway they keep their deccies fairly classy and low-key, and – get this, his family normally leave putting the tree up until December 23! And generally people don’t climb on ice-covered roofs to string up flashing Nativity scenes in -20 degree weather either. The Viking is mystified by my tinsel-obsession. He simply shook his head and walked away when I unveiled the elf hat with sewn on elf ears for him to wear. He tried to take Alfie with him but I’d already nabbed him and forced him into a Rudolph outfit.

I’m not taking any prisoners this Christmas.

So when I got an email from OO.com.au asking if I’d like to be set free on their awesome Christmas Decorations website I started foaming at the mouth a little.

I opted for some white LED lights, because I want to do this:

house-christmas-lights

And then, then I cut loose a little and got an LED Santa Sleigh! Because HELL YES! Obviously there are a lot of Griswold-wannabes with the same mind-set as me because this has since sold out,

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but, if your lounge needs some festive flashiness, I found this:

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Crazy-tall sparkly tree.

and this:

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Big, friendly, LED Polar Bear 

And elves on a see-saw, just because.

I love seeing more and more houses getting their Christmas glam on, and I’ve been fervently researching the latest trends in festive faberdashery (I just made that up, I’m aware it doesn’t make sense but I’d committed to the alliteration before I read it back). Over the weekend I joined a thousand other dedicated Christmas loving women (and about 4 men) in trekking around 9 houses that had taken part in ‘Deck the Rooms’ – which is a local fundraiser for Women’s Refuge. It was good fun and great inspiration. Note to self though – when looking around a very fancy house with posh lady owner sipping Pimms in kitchen, do not make jokes about slipping beautiful antique furniture into one’s handbag. You will find yourself ostracised from the group immediately.

How are your Christmas deccies coming along? Are you all over it or just over it?

If you’re interested in perusing the www.oo.com.au site I’ve noticed (she says while simultaneously checking the Christmas budget) that a lot of their decorations are now on special. Cheap and sparkly – two of my prerequisites for decorations, jewellery, clothes and nail polish. AND they deliver to NZ. 

 

Guy Fawkes? Really, New Zealand?

joyland fireworks sign

Whenever I think of fireworks my first image is of a Twilight Guy Fawkes Gala Day at my primary school. I was about six years old and my Dad took me and my five year old cousin along to the Gala Day. Dad got to throw the lollies for the lolly scramble and would pinch pocketfuls of them so we could get a sugar rush without trying to fend off the big kids in the sweet scrum.

At the end of the Gala Day some bright spark decided to put on a Fireworks display. It was the 80s, I don’t think safety was a great concern and I remember we all stood in a big circle while someone’s Dad lit the fireworks in the centre. I don’t remember the show going on for long before a firework went shooting across the circle horizontally instead of going up into the sky. A little girl called Abby, who was a year older than me, was struck in the head by the firework. I heard her scream and saw everyone gather around her.

Dad picked my cousin and I up, and, I clearly remember him putting my cousin and I up on one of his shoulders each, probably to distract us, and using his long strides to get us away from the chaos.

In the following days my class made Abby a ‘Get Well’ card as she recovered in hospital. Eventually she came back to school with half of her beautiful hair gone. I think she was okay but I still think of Abby every time I hear about Guy Fawkes.

Having lived in Australia for the last few years we haven’t had the annual fear that Guy Fawkes creates. It’s not celebrated in Australia and fireworks, I believe, are only available for private sale in Queensland. Now, on the day after my first Kiwi Guy Fawkes I’m feeling particularly grinch-ish.

Why?

Why do we have a week of banging and explosions ringing? Nights of shivering and petrified animals? Drunks messing around with gunpowder – where’s the sense in it? Really, New Zealand? You’re better than that.

I’m not saying that, done well, fireworks aren’t spectacular. They are. The most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen were a few years ago over Sydney Harbour Bridge, probably millions of dollars worth of incredibly coordinated and fantastic pyrotechnics. But the fireworks that were shot at arriving guests at the Guy Fawkes party I went to at a university party in Hamilton in 1996? Not so much.

I’ve just signed this petition to ban private sale of fireworks in New Zealand. Who knows if it will work but it’s worth a try. If you want to sign it then go for it.

Why I will never go to a Foam Party

Foam parties - testing the limits of waterproof mascara and string bikinis since 1992

Foam parties – testing the limits of waterproof mascara and string bikinis since 1992

I would like to tell you that the Viking and I were sitting, hand in hand, retelling tales of our youth when the subject of foam parties came up, but in actual fact we were watching Gavin & Stacey. Gavin was dragged along to a foam party and, quite sensibly, thought it was shite.

I have never been to a foam party, although in my younger years I did think they looked ah-may-zing. Like, Oh My God! A friend showed me a photo of her and a bunch of board short wearing muscular types cavorting at a foam party in London and I thought, “phwoar – that looks like good fun.” But I never made it to one. Poor little foamless Steph.

I asked the Viking if he’d ever been to one. He had. Of course. Our youths were so different. My party locations were seasonally determined, summer = beach party or outdoor concert, winter = house or, when things got rural, woolshed parties. Growing up in Norway the Viking had all of Europe as his playground. Summers and graduation celebrations were generally spent in Spain or Greece, winters were closer to home, skiing in the day and warming the cockles in mountain cabins of an evening.

He said that after high school had finished him and about a dozen other young fellows went to celebrate on the Greek Island of Hersonissos. I had a ‘burn your notes bonfire’ in Waitara but that’s by the by. Back to Greece. So all the lads took themselves off to a foam party. My mind instantly conjured up images of debauchery, topless maidens swirling around in the foam and draping their soapiness all over my husband. Those horrible, slutty, imaginary teenage girls from the past!

I asked the Viking if that’s exactly what it was like. He insists that the state him and his friends was in on that island shaped them into a woman-repelling force. I have my doubts, strapping young lads with accents and piercing blue eyes – I wouldn’t have minded the odd drunken slur back in my hey-day.

Back to the foam – I asked if he’d enjoyed it. He said it was the worst party he’d ever been to. Factors I hadn’t considered came into play. Your beer tastes like Sunlight liquid detergent. When the foam evaporates you’re just wet, and then it gets cold. The Viking said that the foam at this party wrecked the sound system so the music stopped and it was more like a carwash than a party.

And then him and one of the boys wanted to go home and they waited forever for a taxi only to have one stolen from under their noses by a some lads who said that their friend had broken his hand and they had to just duck in and get him and quickly go to the hospital. The taxi driver said “sure sure if these guys don’t mind.” Of course the Viking and his equally as socially responsible companion said “be our guest” and the friends ran back inside to get their injured mate. As soon as they were out of view the taxi driver said “get in you boys, I’m not taking someone to the hospital, it’s too risky that they might blame me and I’ll lose my taxi. If you don’t get in I’m leaving anyway.”

So in they hopped and went home to the aromatic delight that must be 12 teenage boys sharing close quarters.

I’ve decided it’s all a part of me growing up, this not wanting to do the things I used to. Maybe I’m a bit slow off the mark with these realisations, but going to a foam party hold about as much appeal as drinking from the bladder of a baboon nowadays.

Have you ever been to a foam party? Or, given the chance – would you get soapy on the dancefloor? 

The shish kebab saga – part 2

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Well, what a few days it has been. I tell you, if you’d ever like a little more drama in your life – feed your dog something long and pointy.

So after dropping Alfie at the vet we waited for an update and a decision about surgery. It seemed that the better he felt, the more likely he was to need surgery. Kind of ironic. Had he expelled the offending object from either end we may not have reached the decision we were forced to.

We transplanted his head with that of a tiger to make a fearsome beast with a comedy body.

That’s not entirely true.

We did, in fact, decide to do the surgery. Well, we agreed to the decision – we didn’t offer to wield the scalpel ourselves, just to be clear. The vet told me that the kebab stick was visible during the camera-down-throat process and had been snapped in two pieces (my guess of one clean bite was clearly correct) and was sitting ominously in his tummy.

I got off the phone and sobbed my little face off.

“They’re going to cut him open!” I howled dramatically. The Viking nodded sagely. Perhaps the hint of a single manly tear. I lay on the floor, beating my breasts without restraint.

We waited for the next call. Emergency wine was administered by a caring relative.

The phone rang. He had come through it well, but was tired and sore, and would stay the night at the vets in case anything happened. We were to ring and check on him in the morning and pick him up if all was well.

That night I slept surprisingly well. The Viking was up at the crack of dawn, which is rather unlike him. I asked why and he said that I had stolen all of the blankets. It turns out that Alfie sleeping on the foot of the bed acts as an anchor, preventing me from unconsciously wrapping myself in a duvet cocoon.

Our house is not a home without that pooch tripping us up in every doorway. Bubba’s scraps lay idly under the table, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to clean up dropped food from the floor.

When we went to pick up our boy he looked like he’d had a hard 24 hours. His normally long, tousled and glorious stomach hair has been shaved off entirely and he’s sporting a scar so impressive it makes my c-section scar look like a paper-cut. He’s exhausted and he’s tender, and he’s clinging to his Mama and Papa like there’s no tomorrow.

If there is a moral to this story I think it would be:

When it comes to meat, dogs are idiots. You could wrap an AK47 in a piece of schnitzel and a dog would swallow it whole. But you gotta love ’em.

No more meat on a stick! Doctor's orders!

No more meat on a stick! Doctor’s orders!

 

The Biology of Boganism

A flanno, mullet and frosted tips - this bogan's got it all

A flanno, mullet and frosted tips – this bogan’s got it all

I would love to say that I have noticed more of this strange beast as we get closer to the warmer months, but alas, it appears that the ‘bogan’ is an evergreen, he takes no break for cold seasons and has no need for hibernation as he warms his denim-clad cockles on smoking exhausts and roll-your-own ciggies.

My hometown is not shy of a bogan or two, a fact I’ve been reminded of recently. We live on a street that leads down to one of the city’s main beaches – which is fantastic, although many a bogan likes to drop some phat beats out of his pimped-out ride (I know, I’m SO gangsta) on the way to check out the waves. Actually, I remember going down this very street as a youngster, probably in someone else’s bogan-wagon to a party in the beach carpark. A party that was to farewell one of the town’s brightest young things on his way to, well I don’t know, and he wasn’t ‘bright’ so much as good looking and probably a rugby player. In fact he was so cool he didn’t even show up to the party.

But I digress.

The bogan. I am somewhat of an expert at recognising bogans as one of my earliest suitors was a definite bogan. All he ever wanted for birthday, Christmas or anniversary presents was car speakers. I remember doing a count up at one stage and he had 17 speakers in his 1970s Ford Escort. For a short time he had two of those huge wooden box house speakers on the backseat, leaving so little passenger space that only his smallest friend could squeeze in between. I was left to sit in the front on the knee of his 6 foot 5 best friend because, y’know safety first. It’s no wonder I can’t hear the TV now with the way he pumped Violet Femmes through those speakers.

I remember one particularly enchanted evening when we were out a cruisin’ and the car’s normally grunty exhaust suddenly became noticeably more grunty. It started to sound more like a machine gun and, I kid you not, as we turned a corner a young man threw himself down on the pavement – sure he may have seen Boys In The Hood one time too many but he was genuinely frightened. Luckily for me, my Romeo had an old bit of rope in the boot and it was my job to hold the piece of rope – which was wrapped around the broken exhaust – outside of the passenger window of the car until we could get to a safe area for some quick repairs. Oh the romance! I still swoon whenever I hear a car backfire.

And now, as I look upon these lovely little motorhead morsels revving their engines up and down my street, noses barely visible over the steering wheels from their bucket seats, sunglasses on on the darkest, rainiest days I think to myself – far out, that was a lucky escape.

Have you ever dated a bogan? Or are you, proudly, a bogan? How fat are your rims?

 

Four years and one day

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The Viking and I are heading towards our six month wedding anniversary. I reminded him of this on Wednesday night while waving Tiffany blue coloured boxes in his peripheral vision to plant the subliminal seed for a present.

“It’s actually tomorrow.” He said.

“No it’s not. We got married in May, that’s only five months ago.” I retorted, with rather a superior twang.

“Yes but tomorrow’s the tenth of October, four years since we met.”

That smart-arse was right. It’s now been four years since our paths crossed on a beach in Vietnam.

If you fancy, take my hand and let me lead you down memory lane – it goes something like this (insert appropriate flashback music, and fuzzy image slowly sharpening to reality):

I was but a lass, *cough cough* of 31, I was in Vietnam for my second stint volunteering with orphans. I know that makes me sound a little bit Mother Theresa-esque, but in a way it was a good balance for my normal life of spin doctoring and online dating. Anyway, I’d just come back from trips away to typhoon-ravaged villages where I’d helped families whose lives and homes had been devastated by Typhoon Ketsana – it had been the worst and best thing I’d ever done. I was placed back in Da Nang and set up with my regular visits to help at orphanages and homes for displaced people – including children who had been found living on the streets. It was work I love, work I still think about every day, but it was also work that it was important to take a break from every now and then.

Hoi An is about an hour and a half, by bus, from Da Nang, and was the regular weekend escape for the volunteers. There were other volunteers in an area called Tam Ky who would meet us there for a weekend of massages, shopping and ridiculously cheap fruity cocktails. Two of the Tam Ky girls were young Swedish beauties. They were the types of girls everyone fell in love with on sight, beautiful yes, but warm and open and funny. They called me ‘Steffie’ and I wanted to be their Kiwi big sister and take them everywhere with me, those little blonde bombshells.

Anyhoo, the Swedettes talked me and my lovely friend Roz into a dinner and drinks and then somehow conned us into going to the beach party. I had thought I might be a bit long in the tooth for such malarky but I forgot about that after a few mojitos. To get to the beach party you catch a mini-van from a bar to a beach club and dance the night away. So we did that. As we sat in the van, waiting for it to fill up, two dashing young men approached the vehicle – one was as blonde as sunlight with big blue eyes, the other tall, lean, bearded and balancing two beers with expertise.

“Well they look Scandinavian” said one of my Swedettes. And then a conversation followed where they chatted away to the boys in the same language as the chef off the muppets while I eyed up the bearded one.

“Hello!” I shouted forth to him, with the subtle grace of a fishwife.

He looked down at his beers.

Oh well, I thought, no English I guess.

Later that evening, and for four years since, the Viking would debate that he didn’t hear me, such was his focus on keeping his beers in tact.

As we arrived at the beach party and the evening progressed, I moved my attention to the dancefloor. A lovely and tiny local chap was quite amused by my dancing prowess and I recall spinning him around ala the Ultimate Warrior to a Daft Punk song. One of my Swedettes approached me and mentioned that there was an Australian boy who was becoming a little too amorous.

“Ooooh Steffie, I don’t know what to do. He’s trying to kiss me and I don’t want to kiss him.”

And I was off. Trying to kiss my little sister? I don’t think so mate! She pointed him out and I delivered a long and eloquent diatribe to disuade him from his advances:

“She’s not interested. Fuck off.”

To which he responded something along the lines of:

“Who are you? I can do …”

“Which part of ‘fuck off’ don’t you understand, my friend?”

And that was the end of that and I think I cemented my place in the heart of my little friend.

I went back to the dancefloor, aglow with my quashing of the horny Australian combined with the consumption of cheap cocktails served in kids sandcastle buckets. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and found myself staring into the ice blue eyes of the Viking.

“So what brings you to Vietnam?” He said.

And that was that. We talked. We danced. We decided to take a swim in the ocean. We danced some more and dried off. We took another swim. We had our first kiss as the waves lapped around our waists (not very water-safe, I know). After the beach party finished we bussed into Hoi An to find somewhere to have a coffee at 4am, and failed to do that.

After that fateful night we managed to coordinate another get-together in Ho Chi Minh City a few weeks later. Again, our meeting was brief and when we parted I saw how sad my Viking looked. I realised he thought he would never see me again. I didn’t feel sad because I actually was 100% sure I would see him again. He put me in a cab to the airport, lifting my pack into the back and hugging me goodbye. I watched him out the back of the cab as he walked away. He was stopped by a streetkid asking for money, he put his hand up to say “no” and took a few steps, and then he turned back to the kid and reached for his wallet to give him some money. My heart melted.

I flew on to Cambodia and met my friend Nicky who was working with girls who had been rescued from the sex trade. She was doing amazing work and I was so happy to be able to see what she was doing and offer any help I could for the short time I was there. I told Nicky about the Viking. She rolled her eyes at me. I sat at her table in small town Cambodia, wrapped in nothing but a cotton sarong and sweating all over the place and read an email from the Viking. He’d quoted a book he was reading on the plane back to Norway, he said it reminded him of our last night together.

While in each others arms entranced they lay,

They blessed the night, and cursed the coming day.

And I turned to Nicky and said. “That’s it. I’m gone.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m in love.”

And that was the exact moment, when we were a million miles (give or take) apart, him trudging around in the snow in Norway and me melting in the Cambodian heat. As many who have read this blog know, I went from Cambodia to Egypt – where I stayed with another good friend and confessed my new love. I tried to coax the Viking to Egypt to visit me, I mean, Egypt’s not that far from Norway, right? He said he couldn’t, he’d used up his leave from work and had to pay his credit card off. I thought it was over before it began. I took myself off to Dahab and met a lovely guy from San Francisco and told him of my conundrum – he said “follow  your heart.”

The Viking and I started skyping in Egypt. From Egypt I went back to New Zealand and we skyped, texted, phoned and messaged every day. I started shyly referring to him as ‘my boyfriend.’ He would send me messages in Norwegian and laugh at my creative translations.

I decided that I might move to Cambodia, to work with children and join their war against the sex trade. I didn’t have a clear plan but I knew I wanted to leave in April or May – which is when the air in Cambodia is as cool as fire. I thought a little sight-seeing on the way wouldn’t hurt. Europe is lovely at that time of year. I’ve never been to Scandinavia.

I floated the idea with the Viking.

It went down a treat.

Suddenly Cambodia became less of a reality as I planned a quick trip to London and around Austria and Germany with my cousin, before taking a one-way trip to Norway. We figured it would be a short stay or a long one. Turns out it was a long one.

Four years and we’ve lived in three countries, four houses, adopted a spoodle, had a daughter, got married, cried, laughed, eat and drunk, travelled around Norway, France, pockets of Australia and, hopefully soon, stretches of New Zealand. These have definitely, without doubt, been the best four years of my life, and all because of two Swedish girls, a party on a beach and cocktails in buckets.

Jeg elsker deg, min Viking.

Is this the world’s ugliest lampshade?

I like to call this 'the lightshade effect'

I like to call this ‘the lightshade effect’

There is so much I love about being home in New Zealand, some things are weird and unexpected, others are part of the what drove me back to these fine shores. Here’s a few of the things I’ve noticed since I’ve got back:

Surprise benefits of living in provincial New Zealand

– Incredibly cheap parking. 50c an hour. No wonder everyone learns to drive at an early age here, it’s cheaper than busing and SO much cooler when you can wind the window down on your 1995 Holden and pump that awesome bass. Oh yeah.

– Our new ride. Speaking about cars, we said a sad farewell to the Hulk in Melbourne, actually – that’s a lie, I barely glanced at the Hulk in the madness that was the morning of our departure. We then pimped the Hulk out on social media and eventually sold it from New Zealand to a Dutch guy with a love of passenger airbags and very, very shallow pockets. But we now have the Ewoo, another wagon that has the automatic windows the Hulk aspired to but never quite achieved and a radio that continues playing when travelling over speedhumps – there is nothing worse than belting it out to Katy Perry (hey, we’ve all done it – don’t judge me) and then being dumped into the world of off-key acapella when the radio quits. The Ewoo gained his name because he is actually a Daewoo, but the d and the a went AWOL, hence the Ewoo. Sorry Hulk, you’ve been usurped.

– The Op Shop Paradise that is Taranaki. I hadn’t realised how seriously New Zealand takes all things retro, and I am SO down with it. If you follow me on Pinterest you’ll notice, amidst the crochet devotion, that I’m now all over teacups and vintage crockery, because I am nearly 100 years old – no, but I’m slightly ashamed to say I’m a Shabby Chic lover. You can take your minimalism and clean surfaces and shove ’em, give me a beautiful upcycled hutch filled with pretty vintage any day.

Hope Santa doesn't slip a disc delivering this to me for Christmas

Hope Santa doesn’t slip a disc delivering this to me for Christmas

– In keeping with my Op Shop addiction, I’ve also been clearing my parents’ garage of all of their amazing old stuff. My Mum is ecstatic to offload a bunch of stuff that’s cluttered their back rooms for years, Dad’s got a touch more ‘hoarder’ about him so I tend to whisk things away before he has a good chance to consider how he really could use that decanter.

A box of deliciousness rescued from behind the lawnmower at Mum's place

A box of deliciousness rescued from behind the lawnmower at Mum’s place

– Small town manners. I haven’t lived here for over ten years, and I haven’t been back in New Zealand (for longer than a week) for almost four years, so it’s kind of a weird culture shock settling back in. People look you in the eye here, all the time. You walk down the street and people will look right in your eyes and acknowledge you, that doesn’t happen in big cities – and I like it. People want to talk to  you, I bought a magazine and left knowing the name, age and behavioural oddities of the saleswoman’s grandson. Coffees take a lot longer to make and deliver, there’s not the sense of hurry. Everywhere I go I see people who are vaguely familiar, which can be disconcerting. Because it’s been a while since I’ve been here it’s like being surrounded by those drawings of how celebrity babies will look as adults, I know the faces but they’re a bit more wrinkled than I remember from high-school. I asked a friend what the protocol is, am I meant to approach everyone who I vaguely recognise? She said no, that that will do my head in – “it’ll be non-stop Steph, pick a few you want to talk to and just smile at the rest.” Sage advice. But I do love a good chat – I met the woman who trained me to make coffees at my first cafe job when I was 16 yesterday, she still makes a killer flat white.

– Our house. We love our new house. The location is amazing and our daily beach walks have seen the size of Alfie’s butt decrease ever so slightly (the size of my own is staying strong though, lots of family catch-ups means lots and lots of cake) and Bubba is loving trotting up and down the walkway, spotting ducklings and rock towers. (We told her Macca Pacca comes from Taranaki – that’s an ‘In the Night Garden’ reference for those in the know). Our house has many amazing features, two fully-functioning bathrooms, an industrial size washing machine, a double-door fridge – I know, I know, it’s the stuff dreams are made of, but there is one screaming beacon of ugliness that adorns the lounge.

This:

A rainbow lighthouse? A Baroque traffic light? The losing find in Bargain Hunt? No, no, no it's the feature item in our eclectic loungeroom decor

A rainbow lighthouse? A Baroque traffic light? The losing find in Bargain Hunt? No, no, no it’s the feature item in our eclectic loungeroom decor

It’s a lampshade with a fetching ‘traffic light’ colour palette. It hangs low in the lounge, which is on the street-side of the house. Mum is most concerned that the red lamp is closest to the window – perhaps encouraging horny vagrants to knock on the front door – I’m sure they’d be a bit deflated by the sight of a grumpy bearded Viking answering the door though.

I love the deco ceilings, I can live with the dodgy paisley carpets – but this lamp, oh you’ve got to go my friend.

 

A very Kiwi homecoming

New Zealand - doing fruit flavoured marshmallow wrapped in chocolate like no other country

New Zealand – doing fruit flavoured marshmallow wrapped in chocolate like no other country

We’re here!! We touched down in New Zealand on Thursday night after a gigantic day of travel. I think time travelling with a toddler should be measured like dog years, the flight was three hours but felt like about 14. And then there was the rigmarole trying to track down a fretting spoodle after we hauled our own selves through customs. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back. But we got our shaggy little sidekick in the end and he celebrated with masses of kisses for us all and a wee on the grass outside the imports warehouse that went for about 15 minutes. Bless.

We stayed the night with my sister on Thursday before driving south to Taranaki the following day. As we drove through the frankly spectacular New Zealand countryside I looked at my lovely husband and said

“So what do you think? Of MY country?”

There was a pause.

“It’s very green.”

Oh darling, stop with the gushing already.

Twenty minutes passed.

“And quite hilly.”

Hang on, is that Tourism NZ on the phone, busting a gut to have the Viking pen their next campaign?

New Zealand – very green and quite hilly

Look out Peter Jackson, I think you have a competitor in the promotion of New Zealand stakes.

But anyhoo, effusive praise aside, my Viking does seem quite pleased with the lay of the land. Our new house is so much better than the dodgy dark photos we were shown online, with a massive kitchen and double-door fridge – of course stocked full of every delight you can imagine by the world’s happiest grandparents.

Bubba has a line-up of new toys, and a reserve line-up of new toys for when the first lot need refreshing. Alfie has a comfy couch to lie on and a front yard to bark from – it’s elevated above the street so he can peer over the heads of passers by and feel quite mighty, important features for an anxious dog with a ‘small canine’ complex.

And me? Well I’m glad to be back in a place where I won’t have this conversation for a while:

Person: So you’re from New Zealand?

Me: Aha

Person: You don’t really have an accent? I didn’t pick it up.

Me: Well, yes I’ve been…

Person: There it is! I heard it! Wow! It’s strong! How did I miss that? Do “fush n chups”

Me: I’d rather not

Person: “Choice bro Tafe?”

Me: Nah

Person: What comes after five?

Me: Yeah, I’m not really…

Person: “RILLY” ha! You Kiwis are hilarious!

There are a few things I’ll miss about Australian life but that conversation will not be one of them.

For the rest of the weekend we intend to keep up with the unpacking, and I will continue my barrage of all things Kiwi for the Viking. So far we’ve had perky nanas, New Zealand salmon, Vogels bread and the Sauv Blanc is on ice. Any other suggestions? So far he’s rated the Vogels very highly, I’m keeping whitebait fritters in my back pocket (not literally) for when I really want to pull out the big guns.

Have a great weekend,