29 November 2014

What is Friendship?

Thanksgiving fever has got me thinking. As an long-term expat living on the other side of the world to her family, friendship comes to mean something slightly different doesn't it, or does it?

friend  (frnd)
1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
5.  (Mountaineering) mountaineering a device consisting of a shaft with double-headed spring-loaded cams that can be wedged in a crack to provide an anchor point

Weird mountaineering jargon aside, is it possible to describe this epheremal thing? What is it about that one person that fills an indescribable void in your life, compared to that other perfectly nice person on the other side of the room who you have no spark with. Is it humour? It is shared interests? Is it having nothing in common bar your country of birth?

Short answer: I still haven't got a clue - and for a long time living in this country it totally eluded me. I worked in a couple of industries where the workday was so pressurized that spend a few more hours outside the office would have sorta felt like torture, let alone the fact that the English are a hard bunch to crack. This is despite many attempts to lure them into the pub - where I was led to understand that rambling conversations about football a friendship makes. Well, if you're an English bloke.

Growing up in your home country you have years and years worth of family, school friends, uni friends, work friends, random drinking friends, no good friends, and people that buck all definitions. When you move to a new country, denuded of these established connections it can be pretty tough and at times intimidating.

But here in the big smoke, friends can take on an even more important role; family. They are the ones who will call you when you sound blue, yell at you for a hare-brained scheme, plot world-domination with you, they understand homesickness and when all you need is a hug or a huge slice of Lolly cake, they'll make sure you're not forgotten, they'll remember your birthday, they'll lend you a shoulder to cry on and they'll offer to give you their cat when life really seems to suck.

And do you know what I'm grateful for this, and every Thanksgiving (eventhoughI'mnotAmericaninanywayshapeorformthoughIlovepumpkinpie)? It's my friends. The ones who brunch, the ones who just need to have a glass of wine and let off a little steam, the ones who attend charity-fundraising DIY afternoon teas, the ones who invite us to Thanksgiving feasts, the ones who I see at blogging events, the ones whom I go on holiday with, the ones who put up with the most bizarre ideas, the ones who comment on my little corner of t'internet, the ones who almost drive over ancient Tudor gardens on mad-cap castle hunting weekends, the ones who celebrate victories, the ones who commiserate failures, the ones who accidentally follow you to catch a train in the exact opposite direction to where you need to to, the ones to go to Paris for lunch with, the ones who read to the end of ridiculously long sentences, the ones who are family, the ones who pop in and out of our lives at the perfect times, just all of them.

What are you grateful for? (and Pumpkin Pie is a perfectly acceptable answer!)

28 November 2014

Friday Figments and photos

With a hiss, a roar and the thumping double bass, the silly season has begun! Rejoice! Buy painkillers, eat well and don't get caught taking photos of door knockers...!


27 November 2014

Travels + a Pinterest addiction = ...?

It's an interesting equation by anyone's guesstimate I reckon. One would begin to think that travelling would quell that insistent need to experience ever more wonders of the world, but it doesn't. Every single time I pop onto Pinterest, (owing mostly to the cool crew I follow) more travel lust rises in my heart with every beautifully framed image (and plenty of the real life, wonky, out-of-focus ones too).

It's that darned 'Add a place' button that causes the money to fly straight out of my bank account...
I can't help it.

Like an addict, I've found a coping strategy. Narrowing my travel ambitions down to 5 boards has helped this hobby a little; streamlining them into 2 categories; home & abroad and having two delicious wishlists for inspiration.

First, the World.

The UK.

And finally one of my favorite homes (all us expats will know exactly what I mean by that!)

...not to mention the awesomest explorative group board;

So, how do you cope with Pinterest inspiration overload?

Pssssst don't forget the new Monthly Travel Linkup topic is out for the 1-7th; all things deliciously festive!

26 November 2014

The tallest French wine tasting* class in all of London town

Let's be frank here - wine pairings can make or break a meal. An experienced sommelier is much like an acrobat dancing the fine wire between courses as they dance from flavour to flavour in a dish. They tease, they taunt, they delight your palate in ways you might not think possible. All from one tiny piece of fruit - the mighty grape.

French wine recommendations - Adventures of a London Kiwi

A few weeks ago, kindly invited to a wine tasting in the unmissable Paramount, Miss Jess-on-Thames (I'm reliably informed that's her new legal name) and I strode through London on a dusky work evening. Ruddy cheeked and fresh faced from the autumnal cold we were delighted to be ushered upwards to the restaurant for Sopexa's perfectly named "Absolutely Cracking Wines from France" tasting class. Bumping into the lovely, slightly altophobic Rosie, we settled in for a memorable night of learnin'.

25 November 2014

Able Sea-Cat Simon

My heart was broken this week by a weathered, whiskery old Sailor. His name was Simon, and served gallantly aboard the HMS Amethyst at times under heavy fire in turbulent seas during World War II.

Able seacat Simon

Regarded as very lucky by sailors, cats were welcomed on board many early ships for their rat hunting skills as well as their cute faces (I may be slightly paraphrasing here). Simon was picked up off the Hong Kong docks by a drunken sailor, the young black and white moggy took to life a sea like the proverbial duck to water. Hunting rats, improving morale and performing tricks (when he felt like it, cat's perogative of course) he was incredibly popular amongst the hard-bitten sea men.

Badly injured by shrapnel during an attack on the ship that became known as the Yangtze Incident, killing the captain and 15 sailors, Simon recovered and carried on with his role as a ratter, killing the rats who were eating and befouling vital rations whilst comforting the sailors who survived.

Are you crying yet?

 After a few years at sea scooping ice cubes out of water jogs, sleeping curled up in the captain's hat and running a tight ship accompanied by the captain's dog, Simon was brought back to the UK to recover and rediscover his love of rolling meadows - rather than bouncing foredecks. He became so infamous one of the ship's crew was appointed to deal with the resulting mail for him.

Sadly a few months into his quarantine Simon succumbed to the rampages of a viral infection, and was honoured with a full military burial in the Illford PDSA pet cemetary. Many of the ship's crew turned out to say goodbye to their feline companion.

Posthumously Simon was awarded the PDSA's Dicken Medal, the pet world's Victoria Cross for boosting the morale of stranded shipmen under fire. Of only 53 animals in the world, Simon is the only feline to receive this honour for displaying “conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty.”

50 years later, almost to the day of his passing (unintentionally) we made our way through London through the grizzly grey Saturday to remember this little fellow who made such a mark on so many lives, so many years before.

But what really broke my heart? Someone had taken the time earlier in the month to leave a wreath on his tiny grave, to mark another fallen warrior on Remembrance Day. 50 years later, and people still think of this small black and white cat.

Call me a softy, I don't care.

24 November 2014

People watching: the great London game of life.

I love people watching. Just while waiting for the train, drinking coffee, staring out the window (only very occasionally) or eating lunch in a park square; and London is the best place in the world to do it (except maybe the Wellington water front, now there are some entertaining characters).

People watching: the great London game of life - Adventures of a London Kiwi 
I realise the great irony in this, as a blogger whose photos are generally always empty of the general public - they are there I swear, often in droves - but don't nessecarily add to the story of many images. Or do they?

People watching: the great London game of life - Adventures of a London Kiwi

As London life is lived, I see harried housemothers, monks, businessmen in loudly pinstriped suits, look-at-me girls with legs up to their armpits and not very much clothing, mischievous kids, loved up couples hands interlinked like nothing will ever change, blokes dressed head-to-toe in fluoro pink, rampages (the collective noun I've made up) of power rangers, tourists with expensive cameras dangling from their hands, whilst their fanny-packs are padlocked out of sight. I've seen a tribe of smurfs, nuns, snakes (a boa constrictor), and don't even mention the Waitangi Day Circle Line tube crawl.

People watching: the great London game of life - Adventures of a London Kiwi

As a longtime London resident I have learned not to make eye contact; several years ago a bloke tried to sell me a kitten from his cardboard box full of kittens. Oh, how I wanted one, but I was working in an office where they had a rather elderly, rather blind collie and as I was worried she might think the kitten was a chew toy...

People watching: the great London game of life - Adventures of a London Kiwi

A secret quilty pleasure of mine are the handbag dogs. Immaculately dressed women, walking innocuously around with their incredibly oversize bags, then 'pop', out comes a cute little head at their elbow. (As an aside, I wonder if biscuit would be my handbag cat? I did see a camping cat a few months ago...) I do sometimes wonder what the pups think of their situation, but they don't ever look unhappy - is this the head-out-of-the-car-window moment for modern dogs?

People watching: the great London game of life - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Christmas brings out a whole new level to this microcosm of human behaviour; busy, harried shoppers at the end of their day barging in and out of shops, discussing presents for every member of their extended menagerie, tales of office Christmas parties, drunken exchanges, the calculated avoidance of busy train doors, an exultant snatching of a last minute bargain.

I've also seen incredible small moments of kindness: retrieving a dropped teddy bear, buying a drink for the stressed person in the line behind, giving hot food to the needy, a bowl of water outside pubs for canine companions.

People watching: the great London game of life - Adventures of a London Kiwi

And there are always ten bonus points if you manage to spot people sleeping on the train...

22 November 2014

Fjord Cruising, Norway style

Hopping out of our hotel, we walked approximately 15 feet and boarded the boat that had been cheekily winking to us from the window corner of our hotel for 3 days. We then glided around the breadth and length of Tromso's main island, mentally checking that it really was 

a) actually Monday morning 
b) we weren't dreaming & 
c) we were gliding around arctic seas 350km into the arctic circle

Fjord Cruising, Norway style - Tromso

Fjord Cruising, Norway style - Tromso

Fjord Cruising, Norway style - Tromso

Fjord Cruising, Norway style - Tromso

After spotting the ability to catch a more sea-based view of the stunning Tromso on Van's blog, we had hunted around until we found one that suited our non-committal hearts - we didn't fancy being stuck onboard a massive ship rammed with people, though on reflection it probably would have been nothing like this - so we booked a 3 hour leisurely punt.

Fjord Cruising, Norway style - Tromso

Fjord Cruising, Norway style - Tromso

Fjord Cruising, Norway style - Tromso

Our only regret was not being brave enough to hire a car (I'm such a wuss when it comes to driving) and drive right up to the Fjords, so beautiful in the distance; or step onto a longer cruise to explore more places indepth. There are 50 minute busses to the Fjords from Tromso, but we hadn't quite left ourselves the breathing time to do it the next day before flying home, dragging our sad suitcases behind us...

21 November 2014

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

 Tromso, the arctic city so cold even the statues wear woolies...

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

Just a few snaps that made us smile...

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

Leave your pugs at home, in Tromso it's wolves and sled-dogs...

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

Art imitating life...

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition
Assuming the blogger position...

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

So the British Consulate is/was in the world's most northern brewery? Fancy that...

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

19 November 2014

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks)

We were so busy exploring in our arctic gear that my normal zeal for tastebud travelling was a little subdued - our itinerary is normally heavily influenced by a desire to try everything that country is famous (and infamous for) with thoroughly researched restaurants and supermarket sweeps. This time, not so much due to time restraints and a rather awesome hotel deal.

(As an aside, what is it that's so fascinating about other countries' Supermarkets? Everywhere we travel much to the Mister's impatience I like to spend half an hour browsing the shelves I'll never need, looking at food I'll never buy...)  

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

We began each day with a delectable buffet in our hotel; cold salads, hot English breakfast food, continental pastries and Ryvita. I don't quote know why, but for some bizarre reason it just tasted better closer to the North Pole. Loaded with a touch of coleslaw, salmon and beetroot or ham and pickles, it's a perfect morning fuel accompanied with coffee and apple juice. Move along, ignore the cheeky brie, nothing to see here folks....

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Norway was a touch different for a few reasons - one of them being cost. Luckily our hotel included breakfast, an afternoon snack and an evening 'supper' which meant that we were fairly sorted. We did dip our toe in the Norwegian food scene slightly though...

Rich and very moreish reindeer jerky...

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

On the run hotdogs...

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Fresh made piping hot waffles drowned in strawberry jam & brown cheese, a Norwegian specialty...

Lingonberry jam...

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

And Northern-Light-spotting-open-fire-hotdogs. Oh, and Jaffa cakes, vegetable soup, cheese sandwiches and a tot of whiskey - all of the Aurora food group. Absolutely essential!

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

There was much so we didn't get to try (though we did pop out for a pretty darn good dinner Pizza with Van) and the next day enjoyed a coffee with a rather majestic view...

Tromso tastebud travelling (aka Norway rocks) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

18 November 2014

Tromso wandering, Norway

Chasing the Northern Lights was our main reason for exploring Tromso, but it's a pretty city all in it's own right. Blessed with clear blues skies for most of our trip we. couldn't. stop. taking. photos.

Tromso wandering, Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi 
Literally just sat at the window sill with a chair pulled up to the prettiest view from our waterfront hotel room, we spent a lot of time just watching the port boats slip in and around. Cup of tea in hand, and freshly made waffle in plate (complete with Strawberry jam & the infamous Norwegian brown cheese) life felt pretty good (even after a flight with a horrendous hangover - take it from me, do not fly with a hangover - it feels as though someone is bouncing on your stomach.)

Tromso wandering, Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi

The next morning dawned, with gorgeously clear skies again so we took to the pavement. Armed with Van's blog recommendations (definitely check out Snow in Tromso), we enjoyed a day of puttering. Exclaiming at the glassy water, laughing at our breath forming in front of us, admiring the incredible Fjords that hug each view from the island and shivered in the cool crisp 5°C temperatures.

Tromso wandering, Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi

We popped into the Polarium, a cool marine mammal exhibition (though sadly no Arctic hares to the bizarre request of the Mister - where he got the idea that there would be hares I have no idea)...

Tromso wandering, Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Tromso wandering, Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi

...and stared into the glassy harbour depths, watching shoals of small fish dart to and fro, and jellyfish slowly parachute through the water.

Tromso wandering, Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi

We wandered over the bridge linking Tromso with the mainland, and although we sadly couldn't enjoy the views from the cable car due to maintenance, we walked to the Arctic Cathedral, a modern beacon on the hill (shaped like the nearby the rocky island of Håja, and Iceberg, Sami tent, boathouse or fish-drying rack - you pick) and rather loved the view looking back over the frosty island of Tromso.

 The Arctic Cathedral, (Ishavskatedralen) Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Our noses suitably nipped, we danced our way back over the bridge to watch the early-afternoon sunset.  

 Tromso wandering, Norway - Adventures of a London Kiwi