Homecoming Bean

Some of you may remember back in May last year when Jim and I woke up on a (sunny?) Saturday morning and decided to zip down to STA Travel to buy our tickets to NZ and Australia. We bought them so far in advance that we managed to steal a good deal. We also bought them so far in advance that I could shove ‘going home’ to the back of my mind and not have to think about it for the best part of a year.

London is good for that… you’re so busy rushing around making money, running maniacally for public transport, meeting up with people and schlepping to Europe on easyjet flights that you may very easily avoid huge, significant, life-defining, identity-shaking returns to places where everyone knows the ‘real’ you (aaaaahhhhhhhh)! That is, until you’re on the plane from Sydney to Perth by yourself and you suddenly feel like opening the emergency escape hatch whilst vomiting on everyone in the extra-leg room row. Thought you’d got the good seats? Think again.

Jump back a couple of weeks and Jim and I were leaving London very early on a chilly winter’s morning, even earlier than necessary due to Jim’s Woody Allen-like neuroses about being late – “I’d rather get there an hour early than be 5 minutes late!” It was only when we arrived at the airport that his nervousness re: missing our flight morphed into excitement. In fact, I’d never seen him so excited! I thought it was very cute so I giddily joined in. I had big-upped Singapore Airways A380 so much that I was anxious for Jim to like it, he hasn’t had the best experiences on long-haul flights so we had invested a bit extra to ensure satisfaction. By the way he was bouncing around, demonstrating all the different ways he could fold his legs and saying “This is amazeballs!”, I needn’t have worried. I always feel that sleeping on Singapore Airways flights is a waste of precious time; there are too many films to watch, crisps to request and camparis to drink! I stayed awake for the entirety of our 15 hour leg to Singapore, the best film I watched being Beasts of The Southern Wild. A combination of pent-up emotion, beer, tiredness and terrific film-making resulted in me quietly sobbing in my seat. Too embarrassed to keep wiping my face, I decided to just let the tears flow freely down my chin and onto my chest. When I turned to face Jim in the closing credits, the look he gave me was a mixture of bewilderment, disgust and genuine concern. After 3 days spent hot and jetlagged in Singapore (apart from an amazing meal at Fat Cow and our awesome hotel it all seems like a blur), and a gruelling 12 hour layover in Sydney, we finally arrived in Christchurch on the South island of New Zealand. I knew I’d be back! We landed just after midnight and Jim’s sister whom he hadn’t seen for 4 years drove us back to her house, where we passed out for a solid night’s sleep before driving down to Timaru the next afternoon.

Jim’s family live in a gorgeous country-style house with Molly the dog and their two cats Kanga and Roo. Ten glorious days were spent in serene relaxation –  pottering around in the sun amidst the flowers, walking Molly in the rocky rivers that are quintessentially Kiwi and just spending time getting to know each other. In the lead-up to Christmas more lovely family members arrived from around the islands, meaning there was always an air of festivity and somebody new to meet. A highlight of our first few days was watching the end of year school production at the boys’ boarding school that Jim’s mum works at. It was a musical take on Robin Hood, mysteriously opening with a performance of Footloose then unfolding as a 3-hour panto. The boys did an amazing job and were all so sweet, especially Maid Marian (played by a tall slender 12 year old boy with fantastic cheekbones). He completely outshone Robin whose only memorable moment was emitting a Napoleon Dynamite-esque ‘YES’ with fist-pump action upon receiving Marian’s hand in marriage. I totally get excited about kids achieving things, so I had a great time.

There were trips to quaint towns, fresh pasta making sessions, delicious lunches at The Shearer’s Quarters and Verde Cafe, drunken blister-inducing totem tennis matches, as well as a viewing of The Hobbit at a tiny independent cinema built in the 1920s. But the most exciting thing of all was Jim and I getting our Christmas present from his Mum and Dad early…the Air Safari Grand Traverse flight over Aoraki Mount Cook! We got it early because a) I was leaving for Perth before Christmas and b) we needed time to choose a perfectly clear day to fly. On our fifth day there, Jim and I got the all clear and jumped into the family car, reaching Lake Tekapo at 10am. We arrived just in time for me to use the loo (where I sneakily put on some mascara despite Jim hopping around in a rage brought on by nearly being late), board the light plane and take off into the amazingly blue sky. We were in the air for just over an hour, soaring over glaciers and rivers carving their way through mountains, finishing their journies in lakes tinged turqoise by glacial ‘flour’. We flew so close to the highest peaks in New Zealand we felt like we could just reach out and touch them. It was all so magical, I can’t put into words how awe-inspiring it was to see such massive mechanisms of nature at work. We heeded our pilot’s warning not to spend too much time looking through our viewfinders…making sure we were soaking in the experience firsthand. I was keeping a close eye-out for the huge mountain goats who apparently live up there, but instead caught glimpses of tiny huts on the barren, frozen mountainsides. Our pilot informed us that a few people live ‘off-the-grid’ in the Alps, far away from the bothersome presence of others. For someone now residing in one of the biggest metropolises on Earth, it was reassuring to see the wilderness in all its humbling power, as well as to know there are people still committed to stillness and solitude. On our way back we flew near a sheet of cloud cover where the coast meets the Alps, resulting in a dazzling strip of whiteness stretching as far as we could see. Aotearoa indeed.

 

 

My time in New Zealand was over far too quickly. As Jim’s Mum put it “I feel like I’ve been waiting so long for you to get here, and now that you’re here you’re leaving again!” I was sad to leave, but excited to get to Perth. I left Timaru with a bag of presents from Jim’s family, in a mini-van full of octogenerians bound for Christchurch airport. Something about NZ just makes the soul feel good.

Next time: the Perth leg (Gah!)

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It’s the end of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London, and I have been having a really laidback and enjoyable weekend. After a hectic day at work on Friday (the last day before half-term), which involved travelling from one end of town to another on the tube and getting a few more buses from school to school to boot, I was back at the office at 6pm when I realised I had to get yet another 2 buses home (and 2 back) to get my purse which I had forgotten. My original plan was to work til 7, then go straight to meeting my friend for dinner at 7.30pm near my office. Finally, after what seemed like the longest day ever, I was sitting in a cosy Japanese restaurant on Strutton Ground, sharing a slightly awful bottle of red wine but eating some properly delicious takoyaki, complete with the essential dried fish flakes on top. They wave around because the takoyaki ball is hot, so the dish is both tasty and entertaining! The night ended with my friend, Jim and I polishing off a bottle of Malbec at Gordon’s Wine Bar, which is the oldest winebar in London and has really cool underground cellars and a great range of port.

Jim and I woke up at my place on Saturday and decided that it was time to book our tickets to Australia for December! We spent ages with Sandy at STA in Victoria and ended up booking return flights to Sydney, with Singapore Airlines – my favourite! The plan is to leave London on 6th December and spend 3 nights in Singapore to celebrate my (eek) 29th birthday. I’ve finally realised that I find having birthday parties really stressful and I’m looking forward to having a quiet one this year before the dreaded 30-fest. My parents have very kindly offered to provide our accommodation in Singapore as my birthday present, and Wanderlust Hotel is the place we’ve decided on. Hopefully we get the Typewriter themed Whimsical Loft, but all of them look awesome to be honest so I am WELL EXCITED 🙂 It’s in Little India, a part of Singapore that I haven’t been to before, and I have a friend there who I’m really looking forward to catching up with. Next it will be a night in Sydney, hopefully seeing another Uni friend, then Jim and I will fly to Christchurch to see his family (they emigrated there 9 years ago). We haven’t booked those flights yet, but we’ll keep an eye out for specials with the budget airlines. I will fly to Perth just before Christmas while Jim stays in Christchurch and he’ll join me in Perth just before New Year. Then I have a whole 2 weeks to show him Perth before we head back to Sydney on 12th January, the day after my Dad’s 60th birthday. My Mum and Dad are thinking of heading over to Sydney with us and spending a couple of nights there, one with us and one after we leave, to celebrate their anniversary. So that’s the plan… I guess Jim and I are placing a lot of faith in the situation… this trip is 6 months away, the same amount of time that we have known each other. But, sometimes you just have to have faith in things. Plus, so far we only have flights booked to and from Sydney… 😉

View from our living room window

We also booked a car for the second week of August to drive around and camp in Cornwall! I recently went there for a long weekend with my housemate and some of her friends, staying in her boss’ amazing holiday house. Cornwall is beautiful  and I hatched a plan to go back sometime in the summer. Jim’s Gran lived in St Keverne, near Coverack, and he’s been keen to show me where he spent his summer holiday every year as a child. So it’s worked out well! On the way back from my trip to Cornwall, there was a huge traffic jam and a drive that was supposed to take 5 hours saw us on the road for 10 and a half. One of the various things we did to try not to lose our minds was making lists of things we wanted to achieve in the next 5 years.

My soon-to-be housemate walking towards the coast near The Lizard

 

 

Goals
(the ones fit for public consumption)
– Go to a teeth hygienist and sort out jaw pain problems
– Have a deposit ready for a property
– Do a short course in something interesting at least once every 6 months
– Do another pilgrim/camino hike
– Be relatively pain free
– Have 2 alcohol free days a week
– Have decided where I want to live for subsequent 10 years
– Read more classic books
– Do a drawing I’m proud of every 3 months
– Write a book

The next three days were spent at Jim’s place as all his housemates were away and it rained steadily throughout the entire Jubilee celebrations. We ventured out once to walk through Queen’s Park (very fitting, though inexplicably empty at 9pm), and to check out the street party happening behind Jim’s place. It was really cool to see people from all kinds of backgrounds dancing together in the street to Michael Jackson, with Union Jacks donning every house. After so much (lovely) inactivity I had a great time heading out to Angel for my housemate’s birthday/going away dinner and drinks. She is off to L.A. for a month to go to a wedding and look for media jobs, and her friend who came to Cornwall is moving in with me for the duration. Today has been another lazy one, making meals at home and helping my housie pack for her trip. I  have another 5 days off work due to school half-term during which I get to run errands that I never get time to when I’m working. Yay!

I’m off to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey now, to continue educating Jim about film. Will blog soon about our recent trip to Basel, which totally recharged my batteries.