Month: March 2010

Another Year Gone

Well, I thought I was rather clever.  I’ve got a fair bit of work coming up, so this previous weekend was probably going to be the last one I can be social for about 6 weeks.  And – I managed to swap my on-call with somebody else, and organise a fairly small gathering of people.  By coincidence, yes – it was my birthday – but I figured I wouldn’t mention it, and I could get away without people thinking it was some kind of birthday thing.  But – no, not to be.  I had forgotten several things.  Firstly – not everybody is as bad as I am about the whole birthday thing.  Several people seemed to remember off their own back… even before the second thing I’d forgotten – the hated technology.  Facebook especially – apparently may have some feature reminding people of upcoming birthdays.  And even if it doesn’t, family members will of course send publicly visible birthday wishes via Facebook and/or this here ‘web-log’.

So – after sitting at a table covered in delicious yum-cha for nearly an hour – I started feeling pretty smug.  A couple of people had said the whole happybirthday thing – but I managed to keep it quiet from everybody else.  Or so I had thought.  And then cards are pulled out.  And, it seems, the only people that weren’t actually aware were my own flatmates.  I really had thought I’d gotten away with it.  Not happy.  But – oh well…  It was a good day anyway.

(And thanks to everybody who attended, everybody who tried to attend but couldn’t, everybody from overseas who sent me messages, phone-calls, etc.  I think I have finally learnt my lesson – I can’t escape.)

Yum-cha in Chinatown – followed by a couple of quiet beers in a nearby pub.  The pub, however, was a dutch-themed pub – and therefore no beers that I was really too keen to drink.  So, champagne it was.  And, next thing we all know – it’s some ridiculous hour of the morning, and a few of us are in a taxi back to Balham – for a few more hours of drinking wine, beer, whiskey – and listening to music.  And discovering we have new neighbours upstairs.  Who probably have a very bad impression of us – after their first night being rather loud.  Not sure how many weekends of not-so-rowdy behaviour it will take for them to forgive us, and perhaps start to realise that this isn’t a particularly regular occurence – just very very bad luck on their part to move in on that particular weekend.

Anyway – that’s about all that’s happened since I’ve returned from NZ.  Have upped the squash-playing up to twice a week – but still a long long way off from giving Chook a serious challenge.  Have noticed my bank account shrinking – mostly due to the trip to NZ, and a sudden influx of bills.  That should turn around soon – as I’ve cut down my wine-drinking bill significantly.  (Well – the amount of wine has been cut severely – but the quality has probably gone up).  Anyway – looking at the costs of this trip I want to do at the end of the year, I should probably start caring about money a bit more, and trying to be ‘sensible’.  (ie: not drink champagne because I don’t feel like Amstel).

Oh – and it’s April very soon.  April’s New Month resolution – in honour of Spring (which I’ve heard should arrive soon) –  I will be eating lamb.  I’m a little worried about breakfasts – but have some ideas.

Aotearoa 2010

So – I’m back in the UK.  Back to the cold.  Miserable, grey, dreary, etc.

But – a quick synopsis of my trip to NZ.  (Ed: Having just finished it, maybe not so quick)  Got to Melbourne early in the morning, quite intoxicated already.  Elise picked me up from the airport.  Met a few people, had a few more drinks – and somehow stayed awake.  Until my flight that evening.  Got in the car – and off to the airport.  Got dropped off, then figured I didn’t have my passport or wallet.  One phone call later, and I’m on my way back into Melbourne.  And then – well, met a few more people, a few more drinks, and somehow stayed awake into the wee hours of the morning.  Really rather messy – all in all.  Called Qantas the next day – and bought a ticket on the next flight to New Zealand.  Happened to be Auckland rather than Wellington – not ideal, but my wee sister had taken time off work to be in Taranaki, so I just took whatever I could to get there as soon as possible.  So – arrived in Auckland about 10pm – very very exhausted.  Tried to get a rental car.  The nice people told me everything was booked out – and my best bet was to go into town, and get a rental car from one of the city companies the next morning.  So – wandered over to the domestic terminal to check for flights.  The domestic terminal was deserted.  But – there was a phone, and I found the next flight to New Plymouth was in the morning.  By this point I’m just kind of wandering aimlessly, unable to think properly.  Headed back to the international terminal to try and find a hotel somewhere, anywhere.  Noticed the rental car offices at the domestic terminal were open.  So – as a last-ditch option – stopped in to ask for a car.  Not expecting to have any luck – seeing as they were the same companies as those in the international terminal.  And surely they’d talk to each other, right?  Wrong.  I ask for a car, and the nice man says “sure”.  Fill out the paperwork, pay much more money than I expected – and I’m off.  The very first intersection, I drive through a red light – not noticing different lights for traffic going straight, and traffic turning right.  Pretty lucky there was nobody coming the other way, I treckon.  Very nearly did the same at the next set of lights also.  But – eventually got myself together, stopped to buy some L&P, and started the long drive south.  Didn’t start hallucinating until a few hours into it.  Kept thinking I should pull over and grab an hour or two of sleep – but didn’t find anywhere suitable, or kept finding an extra little bit of energy.  Until I was so close, I figured I might as well finish the job – and arrived at Stratford about 3 or 4am.  Nobody up – and door locked, as I’d sent a message I probably wasn’t going to make it that night.  So – woke people up, staggered inside, and collapsed.

And after that – it was pretty much a two-week blur of driving from town to town, visiting people, eating dodgy pies/sandwiches on the road, and usually delicious roast dinners in the evening.   Matt’s wedding in the middle was a welcome respite – if you can call it that.  Not really much of a rest – mostly consisting of driving from Wellington to Levin & back several times – and then the obligatory binge-drink at the wedding.  Lovely wedding though – and I just hope my messages of congratulation in the guest-book & my hastily bought/filled-out wedding card managed to convey my sentiments adequately & appropriately.

Next day – barbeque brunch – and managed to give everybody a fright with the old “pushed into the pool while holding my camera” gag.  Bought myself a waterproof camera on the way over, you see.  Got called “cruel bastards” by one chap when he figured it out.  And then – some more driving – back to Wellington initially.  And then onwards.  But to where, it seemed I didn’t really know.  I just started driving – got an hour out of Wellington, then realised that I didn’t know where I was actually going.  In that I didn’t really have a destination.  Or – I did, but my plan was completely unfeasible.  I think I had set out with the intention of going to Hawkes Bay, visiting somebody (anybody, hadn’t figured out who yet) – and then onwards to Reporoa/Rotorua to meet with Mum/Angela for dinner.  Until I had it pointed out to me that I probably wouldn’t be arriving in Reporoa/Rotorua until very late.  Found myself completely unable to think properly and make a plan – so had one made for me.  Ended up staying in Palmerston North – and having a lovely dinner with the Whitson clan, and young Katie Pi.  Not sure how they felt about having their daughter’s ex-boyfriend thrusted upon them at short notice – but it was a nice evening, and it was great to see them all anyway.

That ended in my giving Genevieve a lift back to Wellington – and then finding myself in another state of being unable to decide what I was doing.  I was very very close to just giving up, and sitting around in the Wellington sun for a few days – but finally got myself moving – and finished off visiting most of the people I was hoping to visit.  And finally, left myself with nearly a whole day of being able to relax in the Wellington sun.  Dropped off the rental car, complete with cracked windshield (luckily – this was the first time I’ve ever opted for the additional insurance – so didn’t cost me any extra), and quite a few more ‘miles on the clock’.  Except it was, of course, kilometres.  Because some countries are progressive enough to use the metric system.  While others aren’t.  You know who you are.  Anyway – it seemed that over the course of about 12 days – I’d driven somewhere between 3,500 & 4,000 kilometres.

And – back to Melbourne (managed to book a flight at much more expense than usual – due to booking it about two days prior) – where Elise tried to get me to ‘make a plan’.  ie: decide what we were doing that night, and where.  I don’t think she really understood that this was the last thing I was inclined, or able, to do at that point.  So – I might not have been too helpful.  Apologies Elise.

Anyway – I finally left, and I think it was probably the first time I ever looked forward to getting back to cold miserable dreary London, and back to the regular monotony of 9-5 work.  That viewpoint changed within an hour of being back in London of course.  I was absolutely buggered when I got back – and the brain wouldn’t even allow me to figure out what train I needed to catch from Gatwick to Balham.  I ended up just asking the nice man at the information counter – who spotted this immediately, and suggested I sit down and have a coffee before continuing my journey.  I declined his advice – figuring I would probably go comatose if I sat down.  So – continued on, got to Balham, and then resolved to stay awake as long as possible, so I would hopefully sleep through the night – to be relatively refreshed for work the next day.  Middling success on all counts.

All in all – I managed to visit most people I hoped to.  And to those people – apologies if I wasn’t my normal bubbly entertaining self.  Well, entertaining at least.  And to those people I didn’t manage to catch up with – apologies, but if it makes you feel any better – you probably didn’t miss much.  I was a broken wreck of a man by the end.  Well, from the beginning, really.

I have only now recovered completely.  Finished unpacking my bags over the weekend (lots of warm clothing from NZ – have really been seen without my SwannDri since I returned).  Tallied the overall cost.  Financially – I transferred some money from my UK account to my NZ account to pay my NZ credit card.  It just happened to be around the same time as my monthly pay.  But was more than my monthly pay.  Not including the major airfares.  Not often that I spend more money than I earn in a given time period – but this was certainly one.  But – in spite of the whinging tone – it was of course, overall, definitely worth it – in respect to the money, the effort, everything.  Next time though, I might just get a beach house somewhere, give people plenty of advance notice – and the mountain can come to me.

So… until next time…