NW8, London. 

Since returning from our road trip we’ve tried to make the most of being unemployed while still, you know, trying to get jobs.

We’ve been to galleries and parks and the Tower of London. We’ve done things I’ve never done before and I’ve been able to revisit some of the places I’ve been but see how they’ve changed and see them through the eyes of my favourite person.


In our flat we have three bedrooms, a kitchen, and the bathroom. While it was super strange for the first few days, I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to not having a living room. I think perhaps all the hotels actually helped.

We’ve even bought a few little plants, which I absolutely adore.

We live with a lovely couple who’ve just moved here from Portugal, with their gigantic cat Gaspar who is kind of terrified of me? Or just pure hatred. He hisses at me when all I want to do is love him.

I’m trying to not hold it against him.

 Our other flatmate is a lovely English girl who stays with her boyfriend most of the time so we barely ever see her. I think legitimately the last time I saw her was 8 days ago, though I know she slept here at least one of those nights. 

Maybe her boyfriend has a living room at his place.

And despite being pretty much constantly together since we left New Zealand? My girlfriend and I have not killed each other yet and I’m still ridiculously heart-eyes-emoji about her.

We spent this afternoon picnicking in Regent’s Park and it was a wild success. Despite not bringing enough to drink, having two excellent parks within 20 minutes walk of our front door is an excellent excellent situation. Plus, there’s the zoo?

It’s been hard sometimes. I loved my job and we loved our flat and cat and pals and sometimes I miss them, a lot. Somethings are ridiculously expensive and some things are cheap. Sometimes London is grey and raining and it’s freezing cold despite it being, allegedly, summer. And then the sun comes out and you can picnic and get sunburnt.

Relocating across the world and dealing with brand new and sometimes inexplicably difficult bureaucracy can drive you up the wall, and we’re all speaking the same language here! I have no idea how my pal Laura has managed moving to Brazil but lord I have mad respect.

Though sometimes, it seems like maybe we’re not actually speaking the same language at all.

Now all I need is a job.


1600km around England and Wales

Oh hi there! Welcome back!

So yes. Initially we booked a rental car for pick up in London, before we got spooked and changed it to a train to Bath and the rental car from there. We picked places to visit almost at random from the guidebook – anywhere that looked interesting, really, and then picked hotels based on: 1. does it look like Manderley? 2. is there a pub nearby?

It was the best week with the worst beginning.

Traversing the city on the tube at rush hour is never the most pleasant experience but doing it with a bag? Horrible. Even if it’s only carry-on size, like ours were, it’s not the nicest. Oh and then when we got to the station we discovered our train had been cancelled.

Like I tweeted at the time, there’s adventure, and then there’s ‘trying to catch the National Rail on a day with a signal failure.’


We were given two options; to hope for a train to Basingstoke and then take multiple extra little train journeys to Bath, they had no idea how much extra it might cost and it might take us all day; or to get a refund, go to another tube station, and spend £20 more to catch the train on a different service to Bath.

We paid the £20. It was worth it. 

It was raining when we got to Bath and it seemed like our rental car company had vanished into thin air. Wandering around an industrial area is not the most fun you can have an is in fact less fun than dealing with a cancelled train and unhelpful customer service people.

Once we were at the rental car company, eventually, the skies cleared (I’m not even kidding) and we were given a brand new SEAT León to drive.

It was adorable and black and had only done 18 miles when we got it. And, thank everything, it had Sat Nav. We named her Penny and she would become a saviour and a menace over the next week.

On our way to our hotel for the night we took a detour to Portishead because it was on the coast and, mostly, because of the band. It was one of the windiest places I’ve ever been. And I’m a born Wellingtonian.

The hotel we picked was the most Manderley of all. A big old hotel on a cliff overlooking the sea in a town called Clevedon just out of Bristol.

We drove in to Bristol to visit the suspension bridge* and then returned to our hotel by the sea to sit in the bar, where we were the youngest people by about 30 years, to drink beers and plan our next move.

You know, if you ever visit Bristol, you should definitely check out the SS Great Britain. Initially we thought it would take maybe an hour? Three hours later we were back on the road. It was the only super touristy thing we did in Bristol but I don’t regret that for a second. 

 Croeso y Gymru!

I’d been to England before, and I’d been to Scotland, but I’d never actually made it to Wales. It became my favourite part of the trip.

Tintern Abbey was just far enough off our route that I was beginning to really hope it was worth it when we rounded a bend and there it was, majestic and crumbling and almost in the middle of nowhere. 

We were almost alone among the stones.

Our first night in Wales we technically stayed in Cardiff but drove out to a place called Cowbridge (in the Vale of Glamorgan!) to have dinner with another member of my girlfriend’s family. 


We were underwhelmed by Cardiff – the traffic and hotel were terrible, there was nothing we really were that invested in seeing, so we decided, fuck it, Cardiff’s not going anywhere, and headed out of the cities.

It was the best decision.

If we’d stayed in Cardiff we’d never have stumbled across the Botanic Gardens of Wales or had enough time for me to get us lost in the moors searching for a random church we saw a sign for.

 We also visited another ruined Abbey – the Strata Florida from the 12th century, and the Devil’s Bridge which only cost £1 to visit and was worth so much more.

   Basically, a 2.5 hour drive took us the better part of 7 hours and I wouldn’t change a thing. Every time we rounded corner to see yet another beautiful part of the landscape one of us would invariably exclaim “Fuck Cardiff!”

University towns, we like. Aberystwyth has a university, and a ruined castle, and a funicular, and a beautiful classic British seaside town waterfront. It was utterly utterly charming.

We stayed in a hotel on the waterfront because, when you’re in a place like that, you just can’t not. Our room was in the attic with a beautiful view of the sea, and apparently half the hotel was originally built as a home for one of the Jack the Ripper suspects. I was in love.

Continuing our pattern of doing-things-beloved-by-old-people, on our day in Aberystwyth we clambered around the ruins of the castle (13th Century!) partly because they were there, partly because they were free, and then took the (crazy steep and rattly) funicular up the hill to see the view. 

 On our way back down, I kicked the bar at the northern end of the promenade. No, I don’t know why. A sign told me it’s a tradition.

Oh! And, visiting the old-old-old books at the National Library of Wales, I snuck this photo of Angus McBean’s guest book (I didn’t use flash, I swear).

Also continuing our pattern of taking-7-hours-to-drive-anywhere-in-Wales we drove to Colwyn Bay via Snowdonia National Park and Portmeirion, because why the fuck not, basically.

     Portmerion looked a little bit like a hallucination and we got lost in the woods. But it was such fun. 

 (we also ate Welsh Rarebits because they were on the menu, it was cold outside, and well, we were in Wales so I think it’s mandatory)

Most of the way to Colwyn Bay we crossed an old old one lane bridge and saw there was a pub by the river and it was so fucking gorgeous I could barely take it. 

So we stopped and had a pint and it was just perfect. I couldn’t have been happier.

Which is good, because Colwyn Bay was very very weird. We stayed in a B&B run by the loveliest people (and their precocious daughter called Hermione Rose) but the town itself? Almost utterly charmless. A strange dinner in a strange restaurant followed by a pint in a Wetherspoons pub. But only one. Because it was a Wetherspoons and not a very nice one at that.

Driving out the next morning we drove along the waterfront to see the Bay the name promised, but a wall had been erected all the way along, as if they didn’t want anyone to see it. 

We should have stayed in Conwy.

In Conwy was yet another medieval castle ruins. This one was from the 1200s and is in remarkably good nick. Plus there were a lot of birds nesting all around the walls which adds a surreal air.

Then, for some absurd reason (um I think I suggested it?) instead of just driving the under-two-hours to get to Lancaster, we decided to drive all the way around Lake Windermere so 1. I could see the lake, and 2. we could visit Satterthwaite which is probably named after a distant distant relative of my girlfriend (her name isn’t Satterthwaite, don’t get all stalky)

It ended up taking us all day. 

But! The Lakes District is beautiful, and Sattertwhaite is a tiny town with a babbling brook and whitewashed houses and a country pub where we had lunch. 

Thanks to our diverting diversion, and the fact we needed to get to York, we ended up not having any time at all to see Lancaster. Which was a pity because our room was in the attic with a view out over beautiful grey stone buildings. Maybe we’ll go back someday.

It’s beautiful in York. We were staying at a hotel-above-a-pub right next to the medieval gate and two minutes walk from the Minster.

 We spent hours in the Minster – the undercroft area is actually a pretty interesting museum but they don’t even tell you that when you go in. So odd. We also climbed the 275 steps to look out over the city. Also an excellent choice.

 (oh and I was super glad we did the Yorvick Viking Centre first because well that was not impressive at all and it would’ve been terrible the other way around)

After York we drove to Bath – probably the longest journey of our trip, and the only one where we stuck to the motorways and listened to Penny the SatNav the whole way through. We had to get to Bath in time to drop off our wee Leon.

When we pulled into the rental car place we’d clocked 995.7 miles (or more than 1600 km) and we hadn’t damaged their brand new car at all. Phew.

Our hotel in Bath was terrifying and probably haunted. The bathroom was twice the size of the bedroom and constantly chilly. There was terrifying art on the walls of the hallways and the only other people there seemed to be over 80.

The Baths of Bath? You kind of have to, if you’re there. I touched the water in the middle before I saw the sign saying to not touch the water and my finger felt all strange and wrinkly for the rest of the day. The water tastes …. like blood.

(there was a tap and paper cups, it wasn’t the same water you weren’t supposed to touch)

That night we were sitting outside our hotel, not quite ready to face the potential horrors of a night in a haunted hotel, when a man (this is disputed, my girlfriend swears it was a woman) in full creepy-clown makeup and long hair, accompanied by a younger person holding a light bounce reflector scurried into a bar next door to our hotel.

We were just drunk enough to think there was maybe some strange kind of circus/cabaret act going on at this bar called … Circo. Not even kidding.

Of course there wasn’t and this story, like so many, kind of just ends there. We had hoped for circus cabaret but instead we had a couple of really delicious cocktails at an almost-empty cocktail bar, and slept all night undisturbed by ghosts.

The next day we caught a coach back to London, moved into our flat, and enjoyed the special bliss that comes with unpacking a suitcase after weeks of living out of it.


* a terrifically sad sidenote to our time in Bristol. As we headed back to our hotel for the night we noticed the area around the suspension bridge had been cordoned off by the police. It had only been an hour or so since we had been at the look out and when we checked local news websites that night and the next morning we couldn’t find out what had happened.

It was a couple of weeks later we found out an old woman had committed suicide from the look out and that’s why everything was cordoned off. I’m beyond certain she was sitting on one of the benches when we were up there (my memory is very good) and … the rational part of my brain knows there’s nothing I could have done, but the irrational side wishes I’d smiled and said good evening to her.

Almost 1200 hours since we left New Zealand. 

I landed in London with my best girl by my side 41 days ago now. 41 days. It feels like yesterday and forever ago all at once.
I’m going to write and write and write until I can’t think anymore. This might get long. If it does I’ll split it up. Promise.

58 days ago I handed in my swipe card and left Parliament through the public entrance. After 6 years of working in the complex it was a strange, sad feeling.


The following week passed in a blur of packing and storage units and farewell dinners. It was one of the strangest, hardest weeks of my life. But ultimately, adventure and wanderlust win out.

Our alarm went off at 3:30am on a Monday morning. We said a sad farewell to our cat and the best flatmate in the world drove us to the airport.

(seriously – she even snuck heartfelt presents into our bags. How fucking sweet.)

We queued with our enormous bags with a crowd of Australian waterskiiers returning home and one Greek Orthodox priest. It was a surreal morning.

Despite having a man of god on board, the flight to Australia was one of the most turbulent I’ve ever experienced and oh man that was just not fun at all.

Hitting the heat of Bangkok was almost a relief after the crisp sterility of plane travel. That lasted for all of about 5 minutes and I was relieved to be in the back of an air conditioned taxi driving into the middle of Bangkok as the sun set around us.

Both my girlfriend and I have spent time in Bangkok previously (her step-father is half-thai) so ticking off all the sights was not high on our list. We wanted to visit the malls, the forensic museum, eat a lot of thai food, drink a lot of iced coffee, and maybe visit a couple of temples.  


We achieved everything we wanted to and more – I think we had iced coffee at least twice a day? It’s one of the best things in the world. We also watched Fast and Furious 7 which was an excellent and important piece of cinema.

 But my favourite thing we did in Thailand was get out of Bangkok. My girlfriend’s Thai family have a guest house in a seaside town called Prachuap about halfway between Bangkok and Phuket and we headed there for two nights.

Prachuap combines all my favourite bits of Thailand, takes out most of the tourists, and has super cute monkeys you can visit.

(There are also terrifying monkeys you can visit and you should NOT get the two confused)

We borrowed bikes from a cafe and despite the fact I hadn’t ridden one in actually 20 years, it turns out you really don’t forget so we spent our two days in Prachuap cycling around like a goddamn Wes Anderson movie.  

One morning we climbed 396 steps up a hill to an abandoned monastery, fighting off decidedly unchill monkeys with selfie sticks (no, actually) (they were the terrifying monkeys) all before like 11am? We swum in the sea then ate lunch at a place which offered Shrimp Explosion and Taewpo Incubation Mix (to be fair, the food was delicious)

Our final evening in Prachuap was spent at the local food market where my girlfriend’s Thai family introduced us to their friends and bought us so much food. Just, so much food. It was all delicious.

The minivan we took back to Bangkok was possibly one of the most terrifying rides of my life. It was four hours of highways and changing lanes and no indicating and using the verge as a lane. I needed to close my eyes a lot because, well, they know what they’re doing. And we made it back to Bangkok in one piece.

The flights from Bangkok to Dubai to London were extremely stressful. For some reason, despite leaving more than enough time before getting to each gate, we ended up running and almost missing each of the flights. I don’t recommend it. 

But, on the other hand, when you ask for a wine with your meal they give you two, so Emirates is alright by me, overall.

All of a sudden we were in London. Separated with my Irish passport and her New Zealand passport, there were a nervous few minutes before we were spat out into arrivals where my girlfriend’s brother met us and helped us wrangle our giant bags onto the tube.

I was so excited. I still am so excited. I’m in my favourite city in the world with my best girl and I can’t quite believe my luck.

On our first full day in London we had lunch 36 storeys above the city.

Our second full day in London we had to haul our bags which just seemed to keep getting heavier and heavier from one end of London to the other. We used the tube and well, suffice it to say we decided we would NOT be doing that again before we leave.

I rented us an AirB&B studio in Stepney, forgetting that 10 minutes from a tube station is at least 5 minutes too far, and that the DLR is a pain and a half. It was a long week. 

(Also, the bathroom had taps shaped like dolphins, with one red eye and one blue eye to indicate temperature and they were the worst things I’ve ever seen)

The weather packed in and it was colder in London’s spring than it was in Wellington’s autumn. “We’re heading into summer” I’d told my girlfriend. I was perhaps a bit optimistic. Besides, anything after a week in Thailand is going to feel relatively icy. 

The rain didn’t help my rationalisation.

By the end of the first week I had shown her pretty much all my favourite places – the Tate Modern, St Paul’s, Borough Market, and we’d discovered new things of our own (like Porky’s BBQ in Camden).

Best of all we found a flat. We could see an end to living out of suitcases.

Our plan had always been to get to London, spend some time getting our bearings, and then take off for a road trip around the UK for a week so, dear reader, that is precisely what we did.

But ah, I wrote that and it’s super super long. So I’ll post that tomorrow.

Meetah Cheetah

It was amazing. Cheetahs are excellent.

I’m a pretty good present giver, I must say. It’s a gift.

(pun unapologetically intended)

I think it stems from enjoying wandering around the internet reading lists of pretty things. Occasionally I buy the pretty things and I give them to the pretty people in my life.

But at Christmas I was torn because pretty things take up space and the one thing you don’t have when you pack your life in a suitcase* and move across the world? Space.
So I decided instead that the main part of the present to my best girl would be an experience – we’d go and hang out with a cheetah.

Wellington Zoo: Cheetah Encounter

Meeting to meet a cheetah

I had thought you would be shuffled into a pen or holding area and the keepers would bring a cheetah in on a leash and perhaps you’d get to pat it and take a photo or two and then that’d be about it and oh I just the most wrong you can be.

Pat pat

You sit on a log and the keepers spread a hessian sack out in front of you, they open a gate and the cheetahs lope on in. They settle themselves right in front of you. They might just choose to sit on your feet.


You’re told to make no sudden movements. You do not make any sudden movements. There’s something instinctive, inherent that happens and when he yawned with his long long teeth ever so close to my tiny defenceless ankle? I was not making any sudden movements.

Back to being a cat

There are three keepers, four other people, and two cheetahs. One keeper for each cheetah and an extra for good luck.

The keepers tell you all about cheetahs** and about conservation and answer questions while you get to pat pat pat at the cheetahs. Their spots are ever-so-slightly softer than the rest of their fur.

The third keeper also takes the camera and takes photos for you. It’s the best thing.

TEETH. Close to my exposed ankle.

At one point the cheetah at our feet stretched and turned over towards us. Just like a cat. Only much much bigger.

Cat again



Oh and my girlfriend? She loved it. Her smile alone was worth it. Worth anything. Priceless.

* 79 days! We leave in 79 days. Good graish.
** Did you know it’s a bone that makes cats purr? The cats who have it can purr but not roar and those that don’t can roar but not purr. Cheetahs have it. They purr so loud.

Priorities. Austerity. Coffee.

In 2013 I bought a coffee every day on my way to work. In 2014 I did not.

Wednesday: Coffee with Tapp

When I announced I was giving up purchasing my daily coffee more than a couple of people doubted my resolve or doubted I would last the week or the month or the quarter.
A few more pointed out that on a stay to day basis, a $3.50 long black was not going to save me all that much money. But I persevered.

I made it an entire year.

I can’t say I put that $3.50 a day into my saving account but taking a daily extra step towards austerity, thinking about saving every morning as I filled up a cafetière in the office, I think that change in my thinking was the most important thing.

Don’t for a second think I’m holding myself up as someone who is excellent at saving or anything like that. I’m not bad at saving, I barely have any debt (about $500), but I still could have saved so much more this year if perhaps I’d not gotten quite so many tattoos, or been more vigilant about bringing lunch from home, or not drunk nearly so much.
I’m just saying: this one little thing, this thing I did manage.

I was thinking about this today as I decided I probably can’t justify spending $400 to travel to Auckland for two and a bit days to go to a concert. Not 3.5 months before I finish my job and leave New Zealand to travel the world.

I’m not happy about it. Not by a long shot. Two of my all-time favourite people live in Auckland I am dying to see them before I go overseas. But perhaps I’ll be able to manage a trip where I don’t have to take time off work and where I don’t spend $150 on a concert ticket. I know I’ve made the right decision for now.

Oh and finally, today was my first day back in the office for 2015 and the first thing I did after logging in? I went to the kitchen and made myself a coffee. It didn’t even occur to me to go and buy one.

New Plymouth: there and back again

New Plymouth in a weekend

This past weekend it was the annual Tattoo Festival and you know what? My adorable girlfriend drove us all the way up and back again.

New Plymouth in a weekendHad this sweet dagger added to my arm by @brooketattooer yesterday (the tip is straight when my arm is) at the @nztattoofestival

Arriving just minutes before my appointment to get stabbed, I had a dagger added to my other arm by Brooke. We wandered the festival, bought a few presents, and watched a daredevil couple perform.

New Plymouth in a weekend

That Saturday night in New Plymouth the options for entertainment were: the Tattoo Festival, the Seekers at the Bowl of Brooklands, or the annual local Christmas parade.

We found a pub two blocks back from the street and sat in the sun drinking beers and watched the children watch the parade.

(at a distance: really the only way I like children)

New Plymouth in a weekend

Overnight, we stayed at a fancy hotel called the King and Queen Suites and I don’t think I’ll ever stay anywhere else in New Plymouth ever again – the bed was a gigantic white cloud.

(I felt terrible leaving my colourful-plasma mark on the sheets.)

New Plymouth in a weekend

The Govett-Brewster gallery is currently closed for renovations so another trip to New Plymouth passes without me visiting. One day I’ll get there.

Instead we drove back down the Island stopping at all the places with signs which had piqued our interest on the drive up.

New Plymouth in a weekend

Near Hawera we stopped at the Tawhiti Museum and almost balked at the $12 entry fee. But, you know what? For a small museum in small-town New Zealand, with a lot of displays including mannequins, it was an excellent excellent place to visit.

New Plymouth in a weekend

New Plymouth in a weekendNew Plymouth in a weekend

New Plymouth in a weekend

On the drive up the country we flew (at the speed limit) past a man, parked near the entrance to “William Birch Pond”, surrounded by chickens. Yes, chickens. And roosters.
I couldn’t work out if the man in the car had brought his chickens to the park or if, perhaps, the chickens lived at William Birch Pond. I had to find out.

New Plymouth in a weekend

It turns out the chickens and the roosters live at William Birch Pond. The more you know.

New Plymouth in a weekend

New Plymouth in a weekend

We’d also seen a sign on the road shouting “HISTORIC PLACE. 800m” and 800 metres later, a sign shouting “HISTORIC PLACE. CAMERON BLOCKHOUSE” and an arrow pointing down what appeared to be a private driveway.

Of course we stopped.

New Plymouth in a weekend

I’m not sure what we were expecting, but the “enter at your own risk” sign seemed ominous.

New Plymouth in a weekend

THE Cameron Blockhouse (not a memorial for a man called Cameron Blockhouse) is a small red shed at the beginning of a farm. It’s pretty empty inside.

New Plymouth in a weekend

It’s the kind of place you walk inside, read the sign, look around and say “… huh.” before departing again. But if I’d never visited, I would have always wondered about HISTORIC PLACE, CAMERON BLOCKHOUSE.

New Plymouth in a weekend

Our final stop was Ratana. It was open and empty and quiet.


You know, I like New Plymouth more and more each time I visit. Perhaps I’ll move there after London.
(I’m kidding. Maybe.)

Months ago in Mataikona

Mataikona Escape

Months and months ago my girlfriend and I headed up the coast for a weekend by the sea.

Mataikona Escape

Mataikona Escape

We found an isolated cottage. It was like a single hotel room but all on its own. A bed, a couch, a table and chairs, a sink and oven, a tiny bathroom. An amazing view of the sea and the sky.

Mataikona Escape

Most of the entries in the guest book talked about how cheery the owners (who lived next door) were. So friendly, popping around with paua fritters and inviting the guests to tea.

Mataikona Escape

We were heartened to see there were some gay couples in the guest book. It’s a new thing, for me, this double checking of strangers’ prejudices.

Mataikona Escape

We met the neighbours. We weren’t invited in. We didn’t get paua fritters. Maybe they were having a bad weekend. Maybe they will rent their room to a gay couple but they’re not wanting to make friends.

Mataikona Escape

But my girlfriend and I, we read and walked and napped. We cooked good food and drank beer and wine. We got away from it all. It was everything we were looking for.

We have enough friends.

Mataikona Escape

Exploring Karori Cemetery


Opened in 1891, Karori Cemetery is the second largest cemetery in New Zealand. It covers 100 acres and is the resting place of at least one of our Prime Ministers.


I chose a path at random and we ended up in the section for children who died within a few hours or days of birth. I wasn’t allowed to choose paths any more. Too terribly sad.








S.S. Penguin!



Oh, I forgot to mention: The Pass of Branda

Life, huh? It gets all up in your business, stealing all your time. Sometimes in the best possible way.

Anyway. A very many Sundays ago, I went exploring around The Pass of Branda. We were looking for the army lookout which has, reportedly, been extensively decorated with graffiti. There’s little I love more than dereliction and graffiti.

But, of course, I was not wearing appropriate footwear and the wind was intense even for Wellington standards. But we clambered a bit, and found a wee skull friend, and came away sweaty and caked in seasalt.

Here are a few photos from that ill-fated trip.

Pretty bay

Sunday: Skull friend



Reassuring name
(a reassuring name for cliffs)

Oh, I forgot to mention: Pipe Bands in Palmerston North

You know, I mentioned it in passing during one of my many many 365 in 2013 posts, but during one extremely warm weekend in December, I travelled to Palmerston North to see my exceedingly talented pal Libby compete in a Pipe Band competition.

Don't drop the bass.

This was a massive deal for me as I’ve always always hated bagpipes. To the extent that when they get too close to me I burst into tears.
It’s a physical reaction, they aren’t tears of terror or anything, just completely bizarre.

Libby and the Tenors

But I love Libby, and I wasn’t going up alone but with a more-than-lovely friend, and we decided we would make signs! Be pipe band groupies! Drink beers in the sun! It was ever-so-much fun.

Pipers "tuning"

Also, we were the only ones there with signs. So I think we win.

Libby, Pip, and the signs we made

The NZ Police pipe band were there

Judges. Judging.

Other people were paying attention too

Holding a sign while they marched

Post-piping debrief