Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Santa came to see me last night

I had a visit from Santa at 2am this morning. I think I was supposed to be asleep, but as it was only an hour after finishing feeding the baby I was still mucking around.

He thought he was sneaking in, but I saw him all the same.

This morning I had to wake the baby up as she was still sleeping much too soundly at 7am - and I could hear squeals of delight (from 3 older children) coming from the parents bedroom. I took the baby and my stocking downstairs to find a pile of gifts, paper and people that barely left space for the baby and me!! We had to mountain climb our way in to the bedroom...

Thank you Santa for my presents, I was especially pleased to get the clementine - it reminded me of my childhood Christmas stockings!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dark, damp and deeply different...

...from the Caribbean, but I'm so pleased to be back in London!!

I've been back in London 5 full days now and quite happy to be here. Our flights back were relatively uneventful. The small plane was once again a hit with the boys. It was quite exciting being able to see the pilot and of course the view was much better. The big plane was easy with lie flat seats, except perhaps that it took 3.5 hours to serve dinner hence lights out didn't happen until half way through the flight! The poor wee boys were unable to sleep until it went quiet and dark. We had 2 very tired and grumpy little being upon arrival at Gatwick at 6am.

Mum left for New York on Friday so I missed her by two days. I won't see her now until I go there myself in January.

I've been back at work for 2 days and so far so good. Six weeks here then off to NY.

Friday, December 07, 2007

This time tomorrow...

...I will be packed and nearing ready to go.

There will be a few things I shall miss, tortoises in the garden, on the road, near the beach and under the trees.

Lizards galore - same places as above.

The Hummingbird that flits around the Orchid tree as dusk and hovers around the flowers enjoying the nectar - desperately avoiding the camera but occasionally being too nosey and coming right up to me whilst I try so hard to get that elusive photo.

The warty toads that sit near the lights in the garden waiting for it's dinner to fly near enough...

The constantly changing view of the islands and the sea. Today choppy and cloudy, yesterday calm and mill pond still.

I'm not so sad to be leaving the hot, uncomfortable temperature - I'll see how long it takes for that sentiment to change!!

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Basil's is one of the 3 bars on the island but is the more established of them all. They have the occasional 'Jump Up' a rather lively evening with a band and lots of expensive cocktails on offer.

I arrived late and had one glass of champagne, one passionfruit and vodka cocktail and 3 Baileys and chocolate cocktails. I chatted with an American woman who's husband is an upholsterer. They were contacted a week ago to do some work for someone and found themselves flown out here for a week. She was so shocked that not only would they fly her and her husband here, put them up in the house with meals provided by the chef, fully kept, but they were going to pay him as well!! Hilarious!

I then met a Kiwi bloke who manages a few properties here and he promised to show me some of them - I'm not holding my breath. The Kiwi population seems to be one of the highest not counting local, British or US. Not that I am sure they are of the good ambassadorial types...

Off to the beach now for the daily dipping of sore ankles (not much skin left for the little blighters to eat now).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

OK, so maybe it's not so bad...

Boy, not sure what I was on earlier! But I'm not on it now!

After writing my last blog I went for a 'drive'. I say 'drive' instead of drive simply because it is hard to go for a drive on an island that is 3 miles long and 1.4 miles wide. It is however possible to go for a 'drive'.

I went to the north end of the island and looked for the Herons. None there so went to a little beach instead. Spent 4-5 minutes there - long enough to dip my well eaten ankles in the sea and take a photo of a palm tree. Retraced my earlier drive in the hope I would see a Heron... none there. Until I was about to go 'round the bend (haha) and I saw, from the corner of my eye, one fly in so up the road to do a U turn and then back to take another dozen or more photos.

I'm guessing the occupants of the villa right where the Heron was may have wondered why I went past their place 3 times - innocent I promise!

Off to the airport - approximately 45 second drive - and a little plane was about to take off so stopped to have a look and snap another photo. Into 'town' (3 shops) to get a can of coke ($EC4 - Eastern Caribbean dollar) and a chat with the shop keeper.

As I was heading back to the car a man stopped me and asked if I had made it to the Lagoon the other day... Took me a moment to recognise him and the one who gave me directions - turn left up the road between the 2 trucks, turn right, follow the road to the incinerator, but keep going - not nice there, first break in the bush on the right and follow road all the way to the end. I did make it and it was well worth the bother. We had a little chat and as like so many here he is from St Vincent and works here.

The lagoon is a fresh water oversized pond that housed an amazing amount of wildlife - approx 1GB worth of photos I'm guessing. There is a walk with a trail of information which was very informative.

Oh how nice it is to be happier!!

Please may I come home...?

I've had enough now and would rather be in my manky little bedsit in cold, dark, damp London. Sad but true.

It's definitely nice to see the sun, and to walk on some nice beaches (in the small moments of freedom I get).

Not so nice being drenched in sweat as it is so hot and there is so little shade - and even the shade is hot!

Not so nice being eaten alive every moment of the day by either sandflies (close relation of Satan) or mosquitoes the size of small bombers.

Not so nice being hungry - of course one ought not eat more then a slice of lettuce and figment of fish each meal in order to fit in that special outfit that cost more then a small country's annual budget.

Not so nice paying more then my weekly wage (almost) for a taste of melted chocolate that has sat on the shelf at the local store since 1979.

Not so nice feeling unhappy about being somewhere beautiful when I could be having such a wonderful time exploring this little tidbit of paradise...

Roll on Saturday...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My not so happy bird day

The other day I watched a bird fluttering about in front of a mirror on the patio and the butler mentioned that sometimes they fly into it and stun themselves.

Later that day I found a millipede and was taking photos of it and a bird low dived (I guess to get the millipede) and smacked head first into the window. I picked it up and found it to be suffering so I went looking for the butler wondering if he should put it out of it's misery. I couldn't find him and decided I would try to give the bird some water. It drank a little but I noticed it had a long tongue so thought maybe it was a nectar eating bird. I put a little sugar in the water and the bird drank with great gusto!

I took it back upstairs and sat under a tree while it decided just what it would do. It hopped off my hand onto the side of the pool and a tiny mite of some sort was foolish enough to wander past, the bird ate it - nectar eater? maybe not... But the happy ending came when it flapped it's wings a few time and then flew off.

Later that night I was in the Great Room and I heard another little thud. I searched around and found the most beautiful little Hummingbird! So tiny and so frightened - and so disheveled. I picked it up and was wondering what to do when it flew off up onto a ledge in the room - narrowly missing the fan!

About a half hour later, the butler found me and asked if I would rescue a bird for him... luckily I didn't find him earlier - he doesn't 'do' birds! I asked if it was the Hummingbird and he said yes. I found the poor little thing behind a table and carried it outside this time. It was in a poor way. It's little beak was open and it's eyes were struggling to stay open. I wanted to find it somewhere safe so the local cats wouldn't find it. I sat with it on my hand for quite a while watching it sway, barely managing to hold itself up.

Then suddenly it flapped it's wings a couple of times and disappeared off into the night! I decided it had found itself somewhere safe to hole up for the night...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Machetes, fame and 7.3 of shaking earth

The locals tend to wander around with machetes in hand. I feel a little concerned that there is something they're hiding... Or maybe they just all do a lot of gardening.

The dog at our villa, Reggie, was a gift from His Royal Highness, Mick Jagger. So one could say I am one degree away from MJ himself... Yesterday Tommy Hilfigger arrived at our villa to check out the architecture as he is using the same man to do his villa. He left his flip flops behind, and his architech turned up this morning to collect them - they had tigers heads on them. If only I'd known - I could have sold them on ebay for a small fortune.

Yesterday there was an earthquake here - none of the staff at the villa have ever felt an earthquake. I was the only earthquake experienced person there. It went on and on and instead of carrying up the road with small boy in buggy under bending trees, we did a very quick turnaround and walked right home again. V, the maid was completely hysterical and praying very loud that we should all live through this. Dwayne the butler who had just arrived home in the buggy/cart thingy was oblivious to the earthquake and spent the next several minutes calming V. I have heard since that an office building collapsed somewhere and a woman was trapped in the rubble. She was found and all seems well. It measured 7.3 on the Richter (sp) scale I'm told and lasted 5 minutes - it was very long as every few steps I stopped to see if it was still going. and it was for a looooong time....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mustique the mystic

Oh well, goodness me, I sit here typing away in the library on an island in the Caribbean which has a population (at peak tourist time) of 1300.

I'm surprised each time I look out my window by the beauty and uniqueness. I wonder if 11 days is enough to not be stunned by this place and to take it as ordinary...

I am here with a family I worked with a while back. They have 20 month and 3.5yr old boys and my job is to mostly take care of them at night while they get used to this time zone. If last night is anything to go by, I'll be busy!!

We flew from London yesterday to Barbados then hired a private planette) - ie a very little plane - to get to Mustique. That part was 35 minutes and compared to the 8.5hrs earlier, was a piece of cake. The boys were incredibly good on the whole journey and even though it was 11pm (UK time) when they went to bed, I couldn't complain at all. The fun started at 1am local time and lasted til 5.30am. Tonight I hope they will be a little more acclimatised.

This morning I was up with No2 at 6.45 but I had no complaints as the view was really something to behold - although No2 was not at all interested in anything but his glass of milk...

I have now made it down the hill to the library which looks better set up then the Chelsea library at home... The only problem I see with that sentence is the 'down the hill' bit. It is a serious hill and I have to walk up it again soon. Although on the way down I saw a tortoise (the land ones are tortoises... yes? no?) so I shall try to locate it - or any other wildlife that wishes to come my way by leg and preferably not by belly. Not so sure I want to see the slithery locals that much.

As soon as I find a way to download photos, I will oblige.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Time flies by...

I've been trying to get on here for weeks now. But with either no internet access or so slow I could have flown to NZ and back in between loading pages, or no energy - it was bound not to happen.

I got back from Canada and went back to No1 and No2 for what should have been a week. All plans changed yet again and I only did 4 days. I then took on a 10 day job and now in a 5 day job just to fill in a bit of a gap until I fly off to the wonderful Mustique with a family I know.

On Sunday mum had a few hours off and I was off so we met and walked to Westminster Abbey as it was Memorial Day. There was a memorial 'lawn' of crosses to mark all the service persons who have died in wars. The equivilant of Anzac day really. There was a little tiny bit of lawn for the NZ soldiers. People could buy a cross and write on it to remember a family member or friend and then put in the the ground in the appropriate site.

After mum went back to work I went on to Hyde Park Corner and had a close up look at the NZ memorial that had been erected in 2006. I had been past it on countless occasions riding on buses but never managed to stop. It is a darn sight better up close then it is from a distance... Interesting.

While I was there I heard the telltale sound of horses hooves on concrete and when I looked up the Queens guards were coming by - I guess to collect their team from the horseguards to go home for the night. So lovely - and almost no one to get in the way of my view!

Then it was home again to get on with the mundane part of life... packing my bag ready for work tomorrow.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Viagara Falls...

Our three nights in Niagara, although the odd slip of the tongue meant it was called Viagra, were very pleasant.

We stayed at the very disappointing Hilton Fallsview. No fridges in the room for the wine, no sewing kit to mend my shirt, no shoe shine kit for my poor wet shoes, no comb for Jane, unhelpful front desk etc. Internet connection that failed to connect so none of the promised blogging actually got done. It’s another hotel chain to come off the near-top of the list along with the Marriots and Le Meridiens.

But back to Niagara Falls, Ontario. What a sight to behold! The falls are truly incredible. The power and beauty of the water is hard to comprehend. Niagara river holds 20%of the worlds fresh water… I never knew just how impressive it would be.

We had a view of the falls from our room - even though the Casino cut it in half it was still worth waking up to each morning. The first morning the sun came up in a colourful and stylish way, then the next 2 mornings were a bit grey. It rained quite heavily on our first day then we were lucky to avoid any more.

First afternoon we went out for a walk to get our bearings and get some lunch. We watched the Maid of the Mist make her short journey up stream to the American falls then the Horseshoe falls (Canadian side). It looked worthwhile and we’d been told by all to make sure we did it so next morning we headed out early’ish and put on our lovely blue rain ponchos - provided with our entrance fee - jumped aboard and headed off upstream. The view of the falls from below is even more spectacular. It becomes obvious from below just how much power there is in that water and what a mad bunch those are who have barrelled down the falls in years gone by!

Dear old Annie being the first person to go down the Horsehoe falls in 1901 - dressed in a skirt no less! She was 63 years old, a retired teacher who sought fame and fortune for her old age. Unfortunately neither came her way and she died lonely and penniless in the poor house just 2 years later. But she started a run of adventurers who wanted to do as she had. 15 people went over the falls in various vessels and 10 lived to tell the tale. One mad hatter even did it twice…

Lack of internet...

It's been a challenging few weeks with very sporadic internet access. I don't like it!

I've so much to catch up on. so will start here and also back date some ramblings in the future...

We’re on the train from Niagara Falls Ontario to New York, New York.

We arrived at the station this morning and awaited our train which was due to pull in at 10.30. It didn’t get to us until about 11. So we crossed the Niagara river and pulled into Niagara, New York State. Customs then boarded the train and we had our passports processed and another massive delay for some unknown reason. Although the murmurs were all about immigration - lovely happy people that they were.

We finally set off again about 2 hours late. Better late then never I guess. I cracked open the Baileys Irish cream not long after and here I sit now, gone 8pm and almost finished the last drop…

We are now changing engines at Albany and when we get going again we’ll have about 1.5 hours left to go.

We’ve played amazing amounts of Backgammon, Polish Poker and Yatzee, looked for every opportunity for an internet connection, slept (me), played computer games and looked out the window. Now it is pitch black and remarkably boring. The lights are out while the engine is changed.

Niagara and it’s rushing waters are long gone...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The cottage by the lake

It's been almost a week since I was online and I am suffering the worst withdrawals ever. Also it has been a busy time so there was so much I could have written that will no doubt now end up forgotten. Oh well.

I've been staying at Pam's family's cottage up north of Toronto. We arrived last Wednesday with Grandma and Isaac, and had a night to ourselves before the rest of the troops arrived. Pam is one of four so they all arrived with respective spouses and offspring.

It's Thanksgiving weekend here so last night was the BIG night and we all cooked a part of it and then ate way too much and went to bed early to sleep it off!

The first few days were so sunny and warm but yesterday it turned grey and damp. But not cold at all. I've needed the air con on in the car both days as it's been so humid. But as a result the photos were prolific in the first days and have tapered off to almost nothing today. I'm disappointed as there is so much more I could go and enjoy with my cameras given the chance...

We're off back to Toronto tomorrow early as my friend, Jane arrives mid morning from New York. We've got the week together then I'm back to Pam's for the final few days before coming home to face reality...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Black squirrels

The squirrels in this place are extremely cute!

They have black ones here in Canada - black squirrels seem so much cuter then the greys.

Yesterday morning I was staring off into nothing when something moved and caught my eye. It was a black squirrel running along a telephone wire upside down while another ran along another wire above up the right way.

I squealed with delight and pointed in the direction while Pam looked at me instead of the squirrels and missed the whole thing. Which of course, it turns out, was not a bother to Pam at all.

I went off for a bit of a walk yesterday and managed to get a couple of photos of these sweet creatures, but I'll have to wait until I can connect to my computer.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Too much excitment!

Today has been a thrill a second as I slept until 3.45 this afternoon.

I got up earlier and had some breakfast with Pam then went back to bed to 'read my book'. Cunning plan, I thought. Then woke just after 3.30. Feeling much better as I've been going to bed late and getting up early.

Last night was another evening sitting in the back garden - me on the Baileys this time. Chris's sister came over and we had wonderful animated conversation, mostly regarding the Burma situation - a subject close to Pam and Chris's hearts.

I just went for a walk to find a store to buy something for (lunch?). Found a large supermarket and have now got lunch on the way.

Plans for tonight... Chris's brother coming over and another night in the garden assuming it doesn't rain as I suspect it may.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Landing in a flood of tears

I landed in Toronto yesterday. I arrive here with mixed emotions - excitment at the thought of seeing Pam and Isaac again and sadness for not being soon enough to see Chris.

Isaac is taller and thinner then when I last saw him. He's just as adorable although a little shy with me initially. He still loves tv just as his dad and him used to in London. He also speaks with a true Canadian accent. Very odd when the last time I spoke with him he was East End London through and through!

Pam is just the same. We shared a bottle of wine last night in the back garden and it could almost have been London - even the same grey skies!

And of course the big difference is the lack of Chris. Very strange. It seems like he's just away at the moment, I think I'm expecting him to turn up at some stage, even though I know he won't.

I went for a wander downtown today and happened upon a shoe shop with my size shoes. Most exciting thing was walking out with 3 new pairs of shoes. Apologies to the bank account... But it will be so nice having a choice of shoes to wear when I get dressed in the morning.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Crumbling orchards

The crumble was rather delicious - and possibly more so thanks to the 2 year old's special mixing efforts!
Another walk the other day took me through apple orchards an pretty green treed fields. One field had a sign saying there were new Shetland cattle just introduced. I hoped I'd see them, but no luck.
I'm looking forward to the end of this job as my next adventure is to Canada to see Pam and Isaac. Can't wait to see them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And the sun shines so the berries grow

We have had about 2 weeks of sunny weather without any rain.

I'm still struggling to believe it myself. I am working outside of London at the moment and I've been able to enjoy small snippets of the afternoon sun while out walking.

Today I went out with the baby in the sling along some of the local footpaths. There is an old apple orchard which has been left to become overgrown and I discovered a heap of blackberries growing up through some of the trees. I've decided to go back and pick a pile tomorrow and a few apples to make a fruit crumble. I have it on good advice that there is an expert crumble maker in this house.

I'll report afterwards...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's a scarey world out there...

I went to another movie tonight that couldn't have been more different then last nights one if I'd tried.

I went to see Sugarhouse. A British movie about a crackhead and a middle class guy in a bit of a tight spot who meet under 'stressful' circumstances and of course drama ensues.

I won't write too much in case you plan to see it as it would be too easy to give away the whole plot. But ultimately it set me to thinking again about how futile life can be. How easy everything can change and how unbelievably sad some peoples lives are... And how quickly priorities move. How money doesn't make everything better when you have some; but makes a big difference when you have none. How can that work?

Then to top it off, I went to a convenience store on my way home and a very drunk/stoned woman barged past me and got a drink off a shelf, opened and drank some then went to the counter and said that her boyfriend was paying. He had left after paying only for a beer. So an argument followed where she called the shop keeper names I'd never heard before and she tried to run out of the shop. He caught her but she managed to get away while still reading him his pedigree.

It made me angry to think that she could deprive the shop keeper of his income and still think he was being unreasonable. Why is it some people work hard to eke a living while others think the world owes them and are willing to take away from those working hard. I bet if someone stole from her it would be a whole different story.

Just a philosophical moment I guess, but scary and thought provoking

Saturday, August 25, 2007

You wouldn't read about it - 'til now...

I decided this evening to go to a movie. I'd heard there was a New Zealand film that was on general release. This excited the socks off me so tracked it down to a very local cinema and off I went.

There didn't seem to be a rush for the ticket counter - not that I expected one at 10.45pm, but I did think there may be a few others in this area keen to see a bit of Kiwiana. How wrong could I be.

For the first time in many, many trips to the cinema in this country I was the only audience for a movie. It had happened a few times to me in New Zealand, but I never thought I'd experience it in the UK. The population being a little denser here...!

So I decided on a row near the front and counted in 9 seats - the middle - and sat down to enjoy. And I did enjoy. It's a painful movie in it's subject and the snail pace at which it moves. But the humour in it is fantastic. Lily writes songs to play on her guitar... "You are apples, I am tangerines. We are different fruit from the same tree," just one of the more memorable lyrics.

I wondered if the humour may be a bit too Kiwi for some, but quite frankly, do I look worried? I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those not needing the usual Hollywood action to keep their attention.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm on a Roll...ing Stone!!

There must be something in the water here... It took me a few too many hours to finally get out of bed this (morning?). And I was sitting almost exactly where I sit now winding my way around the online world seeking a new house for us to live in. One with a bathroom and enough space to swing a cat - but that's a whole different story...

I had had enough of all that and went off track a bit. To Gumtree again, if I must be honest, and put in that clever little word again, 'tonight'. And guess who came up for grabs today! Mr Jagger and friends are in London as part of their European tour. There were several tickets available to this show, but at a much steeper price then Prince. Over 3x the cost of a Prince ticket! But then I thought to myself, it's not every day you get to see a group like the Stones, so made some calls and a couple of hours later I met with M who had broken his ankle and couldn't see himself climbing the stairs to his seat. Shame...

How sad for him and what a score for me. The warm up band were a bit more of a blow-your-eardrums-out-before-the-real-thing-then-it-won't-matter-if-the-Rolling-Stones-are-rubbish band. They were very very loud and not very musical in all that noise. There was one song they did that was lovely - I recognised it then, but now? heck knows what it was...

Then the RS came on singing a well known tune which title eludes me right now. Then they did a whole lot of stuff I didn't know. I got bored so went out to the loo and bought a couple of Smirnoff Ices. And when I got back the stage had moved! And the tempo had risen and the crowd was up on it's feet having a whale of a time! Now this is what I came for!

The stage was in the middle of the floor instead of up the far end. Prince's stage was central for the whole show and I think I preferred that. After a few more songs, the stage then moved back into original position... very clever. And the music really picked up too. Everyone was dancing and singing along to all the old favourites. I even stayed the encores this time - I don't usually as leaving a building with 23000 others takes time and patience. And of course taking public transport with the same 23000 people is a total nightmare!

So watch this space... who is next?

Who the Prince was that???

I want to do something a little different so I look online for opera, ballet, theatre etc for tonight. Nothing.

I was on the phone to mum so I'm rambling on about wanting to do something. It seems the severe lack of energy I've been suffering is on it's way out. So I get onto Gumtree and do a 'tonight' search in the tickets option. And who should come up?

Prince. He has 21 shows on his 'world' tour and they're all in London. Hmmm. And Mathew is selling a ticket for tonights show. I dump mum off the line and phone Mathew. He says is a fan and this will be his 3rd show this week. I'm guessing he probably is a fan then. He bought this ticket when the sales first went out and then just yesterday he was offered a floor seat. Much better then his original so he has to get rid of the original.

He puts his add on Gumtree and - he says - 3 minutes later I call him and agree to meet him at the O2 centre at 7.30. It was meant to be I think.

I have to admit, I really don't know anything about Prince. He doesn't do interviews so how could I know him? I know a few of his songs from the 80's but don't know anything more recent. I am also wondering was it Prince and Purple Rain that caused the riots in Auckland in the 80's?? Anyone know?

I've never seen the O2 Centre inside before. Formally the Millennium Dome, it of course was another of London's 'let's spend an exorbitant amount on something that will never amount to anything' projects. It's now looking like being a useful and interesting site - now it's under private management of course.

But it is huge and has lots of restaurants, cafes, bars etc. It even has it's own beach...

Prince is a great entertainer, for a small lad he has a big presence. I only recognised a few songs but loved the energy he emitted. He said at one point we should all phone a friend so they could enjoy the show too.

Thanks Mathew for the ticket and I'm really glad I went. Prince is the first big music event I've been to in London... can't really count Tom Jones here can I?? And I'm going to be more spontaneous on my nights off in the future...

Where was I?

How slack am I???

So much has been going on it's impossible to get a clear enough head to sit here and write. Pity 'cos there's so much to write about when that happens!

Lucy was over last week. She arrived the day after I finished my 3 month job so I was a wreck to say the least. I hadn't slept very well the night before - my usual post-job energy burst when I sit and think of all the things I must do now that I have X days free. But of course I spend X days recovering from sleeplessness etc, and then find myself with one day to do everything that would normally take several days...

C'est la vie. Lucy arrived and we both inserted match sticks to enable our eyes to stay open. I had booked us a table at the Ivy restaurant but our table was for 9.30pm. Not a good time for either - me having just not slept enough and Lucy being on a 5 hours ahead time slot.

Dinner was divine but unfortunatly no stars to be spotted this time. Just lots of Americans being very loud and a couple sitting quietly near us who we named Ms Sparkley and Mr Animal Print. Both looking a little oogley at each other and having quiet conversation while their outfits screamed LOOK AT ME!!! Very cute.

I ate lobster - sorry lobster. But it was very delicious and I'd eat him again given the chance. At the end we couldn't manage a desert each so we shared a Sticky Date Pudding. And even though I was known as the Sticky Date Pudding Queen in Mapua, I have to admit this walked all over even my best attempt. Truly divine and perfect in texture, taste and presentation. I'll be going back if just for another Sticky Date Pudding.

We got home and Lucy was asleep before her head hit the pillow - mum's new 'bought-to-match-my-sleeping-on-air-pillow'. And I sat up until 4 am thinking I ought to be going to bed, but not having the urge to sleep. Then finally I hit my lovely pillow with a heavy head only to be up again in 4 hours.

Lucy left at 5am'ish the following morning so I went back to bed and slept until 2pm. When I woke I wanted to do something a little excting and perhaps a little different...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The World's Stupidest Deaths...

I was in a charity shop the other day and this book (titled above) caught my eye and I had to waste 50p and a space in my bag to carry it home. It has turned out to be a very entertaining book.

My favourite story has to be the one about the dwarf and the hippo...

"In July 1999, during an exhibition in Northern Thailand, an Austrian dwarf and circus acrobat was killed when he bounced from a trampoline into the yawning jaws of a hippopotamus and was swallowed. Not realising that a terrible accident had occurred the 7000 strong crowd continued to applaud, unaware of the fact that the panicked crew and paramedics were not part of the act."

This yawning hippo just happens to be one I photographed in Thailand in December last year. I can't help but wonder if he had a dwarf in his tummy in 1999... He looks very very happy about something!
Although it would not have been much of a meal!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hunters and the mayor of London...

Lucy was over from Armenia this week so on my day off we booked dinner at Langans in Mayfair, a place recommended to me by my current client.

It was wonderful. The food exquisite, the service attentive but not overly so, the atmosphere warm and lively... And of course we were dining with the Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London - well, ok he was at the next table! When a waiter delivered a dessert to a young man at another table nearby and started singing Happy Birthday, Ken sang along too. After the hip hip hoorays Ken jumped up and shook the bewildered lads hand. All very amusing.

Not quite so interesting as the drama going on outside in one of those modern timed toilets that was positioned on the corner opposite. Firstly a rapid response car turned up (a paramedic) and then a police car, then an fire engine and lastly a van of the company that looks after the loo's. Then while I was watching the birthday boy blush with extreme embarrassment, the whole drama ended and when I looked back only the toilet company men were left.

So I am left wondering... Did someone have an unfortunate event within the loo and then get stuck? Or was it just a paramedic who needed the loo and didn't have the right change?

But the highlight of the evening was the bottle of Hunters wine we had with dinner. I was so excited to see a Hunters Sauvignon Blanc on the wine list - there was no hesitation in my choice - sorry Lucy if you thought you'd have liked something else!

A fun night out indeed.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I am sailing.....

If you see me floating by, could you please throw me a rope and haul me in. It means someone has lifted the anchor on the UK and we're now drifting aimlessly with the currents.

Britain has just experienced the wettest June on record and some parts are still under water over a week after the worst of the rain.
I'm keen to see some sunshine... Today the forecast was for rain, hail, thunder and lightening, sunny spells and wind. Just add some snow and we will have about all the weather throws at this country! Yesterday we had all of the above, today just rain and wind in my neighbourhood!

Roll on summer - which will apparently be on the 12th July for just one day according the weather 'experts' in the UK. I remember this last year - it was supposed to be August 12th - but it never happened. Instead we had a heatwave of several weeks that got more and more difficult to live in.

Oh I do love the weather here - never a dull moment!! - A wet one maybe...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Living in London

As you are probably aware, London has had another terrorist event. Car bombs, undetonated - thank goodness!

It set me to thinking about the risks of living in a city that is at the top of the list for these sort of crimes. I love London and I wouldn't want to move just because of a possibility of danger. Anywhere I live will have an element of risk... buses, trains, planes, industrial plant, murderers, branches falling from trees, etc. So why leave the place I love for fear of something that may happen.

I do believe there will be more successful attacks on London. But I figure that if I live as safely as I have control over, and be vigilant, then I whatever will be, will be.

I love London and am willing to take the risk to enjoy the lifestyle that I currently enjoy.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Phoning the police

I just got a text from the babies mother warning of reporters potentially banging on the door so I went down to talk to the nanny and on the way I spotted Miss 4.5yrs on the phone in her parents bedroom.

I wondered who she could be talking to as I'm sure she doesn't know any numbers... I asked her who she was talking to and she said 'the police'. OK, so she doesn't know any other numbers except the police - so it now appears.

So I took the phone from her and said 'hello?'
And the voice at the end says 'hello'.
I say 'Is this really the police?'
She says 'yes'
I said 'oh'
I said 'I'm so sorry, we're going to have to have a serious chat'
She says 'yes, she asked me to put Master 3.5yrs in jail'
I said 'oh...'

Once off the phone, Miss 4.5yrs tells me that Master 3.5yrs was being mean and chasing her so she wanted him in jail. We had a little chat about wasting police time and hopefully that will be the end of it all.

But, in the middle of all this is the reporters...
Why? Because my clients are connected to the lad who just won the British Apprentice TV show this week. His mothers house is currently surrounded and we're just lucky to have the occasional door bell.

Oh the excitement...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The hill from hell

I've been on a mission to get into shape and I was going to hire an exercycle because I'm in this job (in one place) for 12 weeks. I thought it would be a good chance to get some regular exercise as this is the one thing I find difficult in my job. Some days I don't even manage to get outdoors let alone take a good walk.

But, I discovered the need for a device to exercise on may not be necessary after I arrived here and discovered the hill I have to walk up to get to the house... I thought to myself I could save a few pennies and get fit!

So instead, as often as possible - still not every day but certainly most - I put the boys into their pram and go for a walk. It does not need to be a long walk as right on my doorstep is the hill from hell. It's short but steep and boy do I know when I've walked it!

I go down and do any shopping or chores that need doing then take a deep breath and walk up the hill, I then turn around and walk down again. Then another bracing breath and up again. So far it's only twice, but I think I may be ready for another run this week. I have to say it must look quite 'interesting' watching me. While people huff and puff up the hill, I overtake them pushing a huge double pram with 2 babies on board. I then turn at the top and do it all over again! I do huff and puff myself, but I'm lucky in that at the top of the hill I can hide in my front yard and do my breath catching in private!

The other day, I went on a small marathon walk with the babies and walked a few miles (who knows how many!??). To get home I walked through Primrose Hill which is a lovely park set on a hill, as you may have guessed. Before I got there I thought I would head home via the 'home' hill thinking I wouldn't have had enough of a work out by then. How wrong could I be! Primrose Hill lives up to it's name and the hill I walked up was much longer but as steep in places as the 'home' hill. I was in a major sweat by time I got to the top but the view over London was wonderful.

I went home the easy way instead.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

My dear friend Chris

I got news on Tuesday night that I honestly didn't expect and it's taking some getting used to. My dear friend Chris who has been battling cancer all of the 5 years I've known him, passed away a month ago.

I went to work for Pam and Chris back in 2002 when Chris was first diagnosed. I was hired to take care of their wee boy, Isaac for 3 months, he was 5 months at the start. I stayed with them for 5 months in the end and only left to go home to celebrate J & L's 21st birthdays. When I got back I moved back into their tiny flat and we all lived there for a total of 3 years.

Mum and I eventually decided to get our own place and we moved in October 2005. I had spent 3 years playing scrabble and watching bad tv with Chris most evenings (when I wasn't working), drinking too much wine and listening to Chris's fantastic selection of music, being driven to complete distraction by Chris's desire to cleanse every germ off the face of the planet, playing more scrabble, talking about Chris's illness and his fear of leaving Isaac and Pam alone, BBQ's in the back garden, walks in the park and row boats in the Hollow Ponds with Isaac - I have extremely happy memories of that time in London.

When Chris took ill again last year his doctor recommended he go home as soon as possible if he wanted to go at all. Home being Canada. Within about 8 weeks, the house was sold and all belongings packed up and shipped out. It was a sad day when mum and I saw them off at the airport. I wondered if I'd ever see Chris again, but deep down I really thought I would. I never thought I'd be getting this news before making a trip over there to see them all settled in their new life.

I have missed Chris, Pam and Isaac so much since they all went to Canada, but it's hard to imagine that I will never get to see Chris again. It doesn't yet feel real and I'm not sure it will until I land on Canadian turf and he's not there to meet me.

I know Chris is in a better place and he never has to suffer again. I wish I could be with Pam and Isaac, but until such time as I can visit, my thoughts and love are with them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Feijoas and jaffas

My mother truly knows the way to my heart... or is that my stomach?

She went home for a month and upon her arrival back here, presented me with 6 feijoas and a box of jaffas. I was a very happy little chicken! I am eating the feijoas one by one and thoroughly enjoying each one.

"The Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana, synonym Acca sellowiana), also known as Pineapple Guava or Guavasteen, is an ever green shrub or small tree, 1-7 m in height, originating from the highlands of southern Brazil, parts of Columbia, Uruguay and northern Argentina..."
"...The fruits have a juicy sweet seed pulp, and slightly gritty flesh nearer the skin. The flavour is aromatic and sweet..." (Wikipedia)

Jaffas are an orange candy coated sweet with chocolate in the middle. Also rather delicious and unfortunately I was less able to ration these and they are now all gone!

Next time I head for home I really need to plan it for the feijoa season.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Babies and lawn mowers

As one may well imagine, the above ought not be mixed...

I am now into day 2, almost starting day 3 of sharing the life of 2 lovely little boys. The babies are feeding every 3 hours so I set my alarm and try desperately to get up on time. They get fed, nappy's changed and then resettled and we all go back to sleep to start it all again in a couple of hours. I awoke this morning quite obviously feeling a little worse for wear.

I was dreaming of mowing the lawn. Or so I thought. In fact I was really looking out my bedroom window watching the father of the twins mow his lawn with a remote control lawn mower. Yes you did read that correctly - he was wandering along behind the mower with a remote control which was attached by a cord to the mower. His lawn isn't even big - although in London standards it's huge. But he was out there in his suit trousers and shirt which I found even more amusing.

So if you're looking for the gift for that someone who has everything... I bet they don't have one of these.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Oh My Goodness!

It's only 2 more sleeps until I start the job that could shape my career. I really hope I'm being overly dramatic here...

I am about to start a 12 week contract with the owner of the agency I get most of my work from. I am of course very flattered to have been hand picked from all the staff on her books. I am also aware that if this goes well, it could mean good things and not so if it goes bad...

I have 2 little boys 5lb 10 and 4lb 12 so both wee fellows. Both apparently eating well and feeding 3 hourly already. Long may that last!

As there are only 2 more sleeps and tomorrows sleep will be a later one due to a planned outing, I really ought to stop procrastinating and get to bed as it's already after 1am. But there are too many things to think about... what to take with me - 2 shampoos or 1... important stuff like that!!??

Also going to bed requires making my bed and because that is something that takes a moments effort, it can wait. But then the advantage of making my bed is that it will be with freshly washed linen... hmmm now that sounds more inviting.

And of course my pillow awaits... OK making my bed now!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go....

I went back to work yesterday although tonight it feels more like last week, I'm so tired. I managed to score an 'emergency' job to fill in the next few days until my prebooked contract starts - which ought to be Monday.

It feels good to be back at it. I'm lucky to enjoy my work.

But upon saying that, roll on October when I have taken no bookings and may just have to have a wee adventure somewhere exciting!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I love my pillow!

I do, I honestly do!! I have the most divine pillow on the face the of the planet!

I arrived home from Thailand last December to a large package awaiting my attention. Mum had been Christmas shopping and being the clued up woman that she is, she bought me the pillow of my dreams! Or maybe it was just that I went on and on about this pillow so often, she thought it best to shut me up.

Last year I worked with a client who had just bought a new summer house and had to furnish it so they went shopping one day and bought beds and linen to fill 8 bedrooms (EIGHT!!??). When we went down to stay at the house a few weeks later and my bed was graced with 'the' pillow. They bought 18 (!!!!!) of these pillows! I remember the mother-in-law saying "that's the total price isn't it, not each?" when she read the invoice.

This pillow is not any ordinary creature, it is 100% Siberian goose down in a silk/cotton covering. The first time I slept on one - I had 2 on my bed! - I knew I was going to save up for my own one. (Mortgage the house if needed.) I had the best sleep I'd had in a long time. I felt like my head was resting on air - no comments please, that's air outside my head I'm talking about!

So when I got back from Thailand in the midst of the coldest snap of the winter to discover my new pillow, life took on a new dimension (ie. from the comfort of my bed).

Every night now I can't wait to climb in and hug my pillow. I'm like a dog with a bone - don't come too close... I will protect that pillow with my life if necessary!!

This is what my life has become since arriving back in London without even a plan as to my next trip away!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

7.30am Oakley Street - it's the horses again

Every now and then I am woken in the morning at 7.30 by a bunch of horses walking by some with riders and some being lead. The riders wear a khaki military uniform of no great distinction so I have no idea who they are or where they go.

Yesterday I was awake when they went past so I leaped into action with my camera.

They stop at the traffic lights at the end of the road and then off they go again. Traffic just treats them like any other vehicle on the road. No one bats an eyelid...

This is one of the things I love heaps about London. I never know what to expect and when to expect it.

I'll give it a go!

Here goes my first webblog. I've been meaning to do this for ages and I guess now I have a computer I have no excuses at all.

It's great being back in London. Been back about 45hours - but who is counting!! I'm on the emergency list for work so cross fingers for me. I don't think my credit card will live another 11-12 days until my next job officially starts.

Just an hour or so ago, I was lying on my bed playing a game on the computer when I heard the fire sirens start up. I live on a street that is opposite the fire station - I would say I am 100metres away. The sirens went for all of 10 seconds before coming to a stop right outside my window. I was a bit worried as I was still in my favourite nightie and it was almost 2pm. Anyway after lots of firemen running around most eventually walked back to the station and the fire engines (2 of them) were employed at the ends of the street to stop traffic.

I'm guessing it was a gas issue as there were a couple of British gas vans there also. Someone donned a gas mask and went into the house across the road. Thankfully I am still in my nightie in the privacy of my wee room!!

Spring has sprung here, it's so lovely coming back to London in this sort of weather compared to the horrendous winter weather I was faced with after being in Thailand.

Singapore, egg sandwiches and home

I AM SO HAPPY TO BE HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

A bit of change in scene has occurred...

I just spent 3 nights in Singapore and wished I'd had 3 times that as I did not get through as much as I'd hoped.

I got in late Friday night after a less then 5 hour flight - remind me to live in Perth when (if) I decide to live on that side of the world again - and went straight to my hotel and slept until 10am next morning.

Woke hungry so went for a wander to one the many shopping malls nearby and found a food court that sold real food. Such a surprise after spending 2 months in Australia with mall food courts that sold nothing but synthetic food! Had a lovely breakfast (waffles - couldn't face noodles) and then went back to prepare myself for an afternoon of bliss...

I'm beginning to believe that if there is a croc farm within 100km radius I will find it! As was the case here. I was reading the phone book at bedtime the night before (as you do!!). It had a great tourist section and in my flipping of pages, I saw a word that looked like 'croc'. I went back through the pages with a fine tooth comb and sure enough Tan Moh Hong Croc Farm was there in a small ad (unseeable to the common folk...)

I actually found 2 croc farms, but one has closed due to financial reasons. When I asked a woman at Tan Moh Hong, she said it was because they had to buy land and set it up from nothing, but her boss had had croc's since 1945 and had set up in his back yard - I kid you not!

So on the MRT (underground) and a bus I went. I got on the bus with a $2.00 note thinking I would be able to get change, but the driver looked at me as if I were a foreigner or something. I had nothing smaller (I thought I was doing well to have $2 when many $50 bills were spat out at the ATM) and a very nice man gave him the .90 cents I needed. When I tried to give the man my $2 he wouldn't take it.

I arrived at the croc farm and very quickly understood why this one had survived. It was without a doubt set up in this man's back yard. A space MUCH smaller then the average Kiwi backyard and a few concrete enclosures with a few unfortunate crocs. If I wasn't happy just to be seeing croc's I would be horrified. I am pretty shocked that this place can continue to hold animals as dangerous as these when there are so many neighbours and so few safety measures. I'm sure the local kids must have the odd dare to see who can retrieve the ball from the enclosure...

I spent most of my time in the shop (more things to look at in there) and found an area with lots of info panels all hand drawn and coloured. There was also a taxidermy skull that no one was allowed to touch as the croc had died only 6 months earlier so the chemicals were too fresh. As nasty as it was, I was thrilled to be feeding my addiction!!

Later that night I caught a bus to the Singapore Zoo. They are the first place in the world to offer what they call a 'Night Safari'. It was incredible and I'm so pleased I went. I jumped on a little train and it takes about 40-50 minutes to go a full circuit. There is a guide who tells you where to look and tries desperately to add a bit of drama to the whole thing too. It made me laugh several times. But it was amazing to see so many animals so relaxed and calm under very 'gentle' lighting compared to the usual zoo scene with tigers pacing, shy animals hiding as far away from the hoards and never a sight of anything nocturnal. I met up with a mother and daughter originally from Zimbabwe and we enjoyed the evening together. They reminded me a lot of mum and me. So much so that the daughter made up some story to a willing steward and we went around on he train again - for free. Apparently 'our' mother had a sore foot and couldn't do much walking... Hehe, I liked her even more after that!!!

They invited me to join them the next day for 'high tea' at the Raffles Hotel. It was so nice and the egg sandwiches were without a doubt the best I have ever eaten! I drank about 4 cups of lovely coffee then ordered a Singapore Sling - it had to be done as it was 'invented' by a barman at Raffles a few decades ago. It has a list of spirits too long to list (or remember) but was very very nice! Lots of little men running around replacing cutlery and folding napkins... A 'must do' next time you're in Singapore.

I floated back to the hotel about 6.30 to pack my bags as I was to leave at 6am the following morning. I got about 10 minutes in and thought 'what the heck am I doing?' I still have a whole night ahead of me and Little India will not close until the last person leaves... It was great. Sunday is the only day (or night) off for most foreign labourers so Little India bulges at the seams for a few hours every Sunday evening. (Indians being one of the main nationalities of foreign employees). There is a shopping mall called Mustafa that is several floors of bargains. All the products for sale looked genuine (as opposed to the fakes usually seen in such places) and I could have filled several bags (bought here of course) with cheap toiletries, clothing, shoes, sports gear and so much more.

I'm going to have to go back and see some more of Singapore one day (and take an empty suitcase too), it is an amazing place.

I flew home yesterday and felt so happy to be back on familiar soil. This is so truly home for me. Bless Her Majesty's wee cotton socks.

Perth - or bust!

You wouldn't dream of it... I just wrote a huge long story about my journey west and lost the whole lot thanks to Yahoo or my computer... One or the other had a moment and as I was saving it it disappeared never to be seen again... So perhaps the abridged version is best from here - for sanity reasons.

Greg arrived in Sydney (from Perth) on Friday and we set off on Sunday heading south on the coastal road towards Melbourne. First night was at Mollymook, the second at Cann River and the third was at Tarwin Lower. Earlier on the third day we had spotted a wedgetail eagle sitting on a dead tree and it had kindly obliged me by sitting there calmly while I took many photos, changed lenses and took more. It then flew away giving an incredible display of it's wing span and size. We also saw 2 dead wombats, 3 dead kangaroos, a dead fox and a dead bunny. Later that day we headed towards Cape Liptrap (yes, it's real name..) in search of somewhere to stay (as per the road sign). We got there and neither of us saw anything that resembled a building let alone accommodation for the night.

So it was back into the car after a quick walk to check out the lighthouse and a very careful drive back out along the corrugated shingle road. Being dusk we knew we may well meet some wildlife, but nothing prepared us for the deer and fawn, wombat, kangaroo, owl, fox, and bunny that we were to encounter. In this instance all were live and well. The wombat was on the side of the road and I stopped the car fitted the flash onto my big camera as I knew the wee camera flash wouldn't suffce. By the time I'd done that the wombat had had enough thinking time and decided to waddle off into the night. I didn't even try with the rest of the creatures.

Next day we got to Phillip Island and went to a place called Nobbies Point ( I thought that was a great name). There are seals and penguins there - although none to be seen while we were there. On our way back though we had to stop the car and let an echidna dawdle it's way across the road in front of us. This time I did manage a few photos and even had time to swap cameras while the silly thing stay rolled tightly in a ball after I had shooed it off the road. Very cute though.

Finally into Melbourne that afternoon and found a hotel for the night.

7am next morning I was woken by Greg telling me he was leaving. And by 'leaving' he meant stranding me in Melbourne with no cash, no transport and no accommodation. I'd been paying stuff on my credit card and he'd give me the cash so I had daily spending money. So with my rude awakening, I had to make a plan. I decided to fly out and head for London. I phoned my friend Dave who lives in Melbourne and he picked me up, I stayed their the night and then headed for the airport next morning.

I'd managed to change my flight easily (and for free as I'd payed for an expensive ticket in order to upgrade using my airmiles) but when I got to Perth, I was 14 hrs early for my flight. I phoned them again and changed it to leave in 3 hours. I then phoned them back and said I'd like to stop over in Singapore. I recommend Singapore Air very highly so far.

I'm not so sure this is as abridged as it could have been but certainly shorter then the previous attempt.

A wedding, a birthday and North Shore Hospital

What a few weeks!!

I went to Brisbane and saw my old friend Pauline again, we went to Australia Zoo which was great. I then stayed with Frank - a chef I worked with in Mapua. We went on a little tiki tour for a look around and lunch. I went out the next day as the scenery had been so beautiful I knew I would need to spend a day with my camera.

I saw cattle and cattle egrets by the 100. They were very like our white heron but shorter and stockier. I went to a place called Mooball which took my fancy. I recommend a visit one day if only for the paint job!! And of course a wee wee at the moo moo is a must!

Back to Sydney and met up with Jane and Lisa from New York. We were staying at a hotel in the west of Sydney and celebrating Dan (Jane's brother) and Trina's wedding day on the Saturday. It was a fantastic day although poor Sue (Jane's mum) woke me at 7.30am on the morning to tell me she had a tummy bug. So I was up and off to the pharmacy by 8am.

The wedding was really lovely. It bought a tear to my eye, they make such a wonderful couple. During the dinner, Sue was seated behind me and I heard a noise just after our main had been served. When I turned, I saw Sue trying to gasp for breath, her lips blue and
in a state of panic. Larry (her ex) had tried the heimlich manoeuvre but to no avail so somehow I pushed in and tried but to no avail again. All I could think was this woman is not dying at her sons wedding so I got in position again and gave it all I had! Poor Sue, she started coughing (and breathing). I spent the next several minutes apologising for the sore gut that she would have later. Better a sore tummy then the alternative... Both Sue and I managed to be reseated in time for dessert.

The next day we moved out of the hotel to a small apartment that my client had kindly arranged for Jane, Lisa and me. On Monday we were meeting with lots of the family to celebrate Sue's 60th birthday lunch. It was a a really nice afternoon. Afterwards Jane, Lisa and I went on a ferry around the harbour and then home. We got some dinner to take home only to find we had no pots or bowls to use on the stove or in the microwave. Interesting dinners over the next couple of days!!

I got a text first thing Tuesday morning to say that Sue had fallen and was in hospital. We went out to the hospital and found poor Sue in a pretty bad state. She had broken her little finger and dislocated it and banged her face quite badly too. She was in heaps of pain. Later that day she had surgery to sort out the finger and was much more comfortable.

So much for all the sightseeing we had planned, but I can tell you where to find emergency and ward 8D at North Shore. We did manage to fit a ferry trip to Manly but caught the bus back from there directly to the hospital...

Jane and Lisa flew out and I went back to the apartment to await the arrival of my friend Greg who was in the process of driving over from Kalgoorlie (Western Australia). We were going to drive back to Perth together...