Me(me) again

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
I was halfway through my penultimate year at high school, probably right in the middle of doing a play.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

  1. Go to dance class x2
  2. Attempt to buy dress to wear to Andrew’s wedding (ew Oxford Street)
  3. Bra shopping (depressing)
  4. Supermarket shopping to stock up for Pancake Sunday (every Sunday is Pancake Sunday when I’m in town)
  5. Meet up with school friends for dinner (yay!)

3) Snacks I enjoy:
Anything salty and fatty!  Crisps, corn chips with guacamole are probably my favourite.  Honey roast cashews, mm.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Go back to university and study all the stuff I didn’t get around to last time – economics, history, sociology, english lit, french lit, art history, international development, etc etc.  Not all at once, I’d spread it out.  Travel the world.  Buy a nice house in London and a little bit of land outside London where I can have chickens and a garden and babies!  Also a house in the Marlborough Sounds and one in France.  Make that a chateau with a vineyard.  Les enfants must speak ze français!

5) Places I have lived:
Christchurch, North Loburn, Germany, New York, London

The ABCs of me

Meme time! Via Monster Yarn

Accent: Mostly mild Kiwi, a bit Merivale, with a sprinkling of RP and there’s some Sarf London creeping in there due to my place of work.  Argh!  My accent’s always been all over the place though – it depends who I’m talking to.  It’s more British when I’m talking to my parents, and more Kiwi if I’ve been hanging out with a bunch of friends from home.  It gets an annoying American twang sometimes if I spend too long in the States.  My phone voice is pure Merivale.

Breakfast or no breakfast: Can’t eat first thing in the morning.  I tend to eat something like a muesli bar when i get to work.  One day in the weekend I usually do a big cooked breakfast.

Chore I don’t care for: Ironing!

Dog or Cat:Eugh!

Essential Electronics: Laptop, camera, N95

Favorite Cologne: Chanel Chance

Gold or Silver: Silver (or platinum!)

Handbag I carry most often: Maroon one that’s big enough to hold my Tube reading

Insomnia: If I’m woken up after 4 I find it very hard to get back to sleep

Job Title: Problem Solver (I don’t actually know what my job title is)

Kids: can I steal yours?

Living Arrangements: Poky flat in the middle of London with two Italian Doctors of Philosophy and a 21 year old American, soon to be replaced by a Jason!

Most Admirable Trait: My loyalty

Naughtiest Childhood Behavior: I don’t know, Mum?  Maybe scooping the dirt out of houseplants, but come on, I was just a baby!

Overnight hospital stays: none!

Phobias: Buses.  But London buses are much better than Christchurch ones so I think I’m over that.

Quote: A life lived in fear is a life half lived – Strictly Ballroom

Reason to smile: Censored, but a few of you (especially Jason) will know what it is.

Siblings: A brother

Time I wake up: About 6:30, that doesn’t mean I get up then though!

Unusual Talent or Skill: I’m very hypermobile, which hurts sometimes but means I’m quite flexible.

Vegetable I Refuse to Eat: I think I eat pretty much everything, even the stuff I don’t like so much.  Although I’m struggling to think of a vegetable I really dislike.  It depends on context.  I won’t eat cucumber in a sandwich.

Worst Habit: Hmm, I have a few.  Driving my friends nuts?

X-rays: Just my teeth I think

Yummy Stuff: Vegetable tempura!  Broccoli

Zoo Animal I Like Most: Giraffes, probably.  They’re fun to feed.  Monkeys pull my hair but I do love orangutans.  Zoos make me a bit sad though.  Places like Orana Park are better.

Prague purchases…

I was a little disappointed that on my recent travels to Belgium and Switzerland that I didn’t manage to find any additions to my Christmas decoration collection. Well in Prague I hit the Christmas jackpot (don’t ask me why an atheist collects Christmas decorations, by the way, it’s just one of my many quirks), and what with the prices I went a little overboard:

004

006

011

010
(ok, technically Easter decorations, but they’re going on the tree!)

007

And here’s the Mucha poster I bought:
003

Prague

I really, really wish Tori was still living in Prague, as that would have made it even more awesome! But armed with her tips, I travelled there with Steph and her friends Kim and Mel for the long weekend.

One of the best things about Prague is the currency – they still use crowns and haven’t switched to the Euro yet. What with the Euro being so high that makes Prague a very good place for Brits to take our holidays! We ate (and drank) rather a lot throughout the weekend. Czech beer is yummy!

Some photos, with explanations where I can be bothered:

093
View of the Charles Bridge, the most famous bridge in Prague

080
Death, detail of the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square. He rings his bell on the hour.

077
Street scene by the Old Town Square

067
I loved all the painted buildings

058
Lunch overlooking the river. The cafe was down a very narrow passageway, so narrow in fact that it needed this:

053

055
Traffic lights!

033
View from the cathedral at Prague Castle

031
Window in the cathedral painted by Mucha. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go in the Mucha gallery. I’ve always been a fan of Mucha. In my bedroom in our old holiday house we used to have a Mucha poster of Sarah Bernhardt that I loved, I wish we had kept it. I suppose I could just buy it again. In the end I bought Printemps, which is now up on my wall, and a couple of postcards.

023
Making a wish on the Charles Bridge – you have to put one finger on each star and wish.

064
One of the highlights of the trip for me was going to see Carmen at the State Opera. It cost 100 crowns each for the cheapest seats, which works out to under £4. The opera was great! I knew the music of course but didn’t know the story very well. Don Jose is a soldier who ditches the lovely (and plucky) girl his mother wants him to marry in favour of Carmen, who never loves anyone for longer than six months. He turns to a life of crime with her, but inevitably she tires of him and ditches him for the toreador. He tries to get her back but she tells him she doesn’t love him any more. He asks her to come with him again. She says no again. He still can’t get it through his thick head. Carmen tells him once more that she doesn’t love him and throws his ring back at him. Mad with jealousy he kills her, then waits around to be arrested for her murder. Moral of the story? Men really are idiots.

prague
Panorama – click through to flickr to see the whole thing.

Picnic!

On Sunday we had a picnic on Primrose Hill. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as warm as it has been but on the plus side it didn’t rain!

002

004
(that’s us under the tree)

011

There aren’t any photos of me because Jason went out of his way to take bad ones!

Top 5 Museums/Galleries

This list is pretty fluid and subject to change, but (in no particular order):

1. Museum of Modern Art, New York

2. Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne

3. Canterbury Museum, Christchurch

4. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

5. Pergamon Museum, Berlin

What are your favourite museums?

(of course, now I’m thinking of what would be in my top 10… the Holocaust Museum in Melbourne, the space museum in Washington DC, the Costume Institute at the Met in NY, the list goes on…)

Switzerland!

So I took Monday off work and had yet another long weekend last weekend. This time it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing but a long-planned trip to Switzerland with Steph.

We started off in Geneva:

002

… where there was a stupid football spoiling the view of the jet d’eau.

We went to the Red Cross museum, and the UN, which caused a few pangs, because I always wanted to work for the UN. I learned that although all of the main organs of the UN are based in New York, 2/3 of UN-related work goes on in Geneva.

For some reason I didn’t take any photos of the Palais des Nations, which was the original base of the League of Nations. But it was pretty cool.

It was so warm that we dined outside!
018

On Sunday we caught a train to Lausanne, where we had just enough time to go to the Collection de l’Art Brut. This was possibly the highlight of my trip. Because the website is in French I will quote from the leaflet I picked up: “The Collection de l’Art Brut presents works by self-taught creators who, for varioius reasons, have escaped cultural conditioning and social conformity. Marginalised people entrenched in the attitude of a rebellious spirit or impervious to collective norms and values, those who produce Art Brut include prisoners, inmates of psychiatric hospitals, eccentrics, loners and misfits.”

The current exhibition is sourced from their recent research in Japan, and is absolutely amazing. There is a severely autistic man who draws nothing but portraits of trains, every different kind of train he has seen. Portraits because he only ever draws the fronts of the trains. He squishes them up next to each other on the paper until there are dozens upon dozens of trains. When his pictures were all buried in the Kobe earthquake he just started again. Another man draws incredibly detailed fictional cityscapes. He spends a lot of time just looking out the window. There were also a lot of fibre-related works in the collection. One of the most amazing was a very finely crocheted wedding dress, made by a woman in an asylum who desperately wanted to get married. It’s right up there in my top 5 list of museums now (hmm, that’s a topic for another post).

After eating a picnic lunch on the lakefront, we hopped on a paddle steamer bound for Montreux. We had been looking forward to a nice boat ride in the sun but unfortunately by that stage the clouds had rolled in and it rained quite heavily. I saw some lighting strike a mountain though!

028

It was still raining when we landed at Territet, close to Montreux and even closer to our hostel, which was lucky. Soon the clouds cleared though and we walked along the lakeside in to Montreux for dinner.

039

Dinner was fondue, and I guess it must have tasted too good for me to waste time photographing it! We were befriended by a local man who insisted on correcting our fondue-eating technique! Now we know how to get the right size pieces of bread, stir the cheese properly, coat the bread properly and avoid drips! He spoke no English so I guess it was a good chance to practice my French!

In the morning we headed in the other direction along the lakeside and visited the Château de Chillon. Byron made the Château famous in his poem The Prisoner of Chillon. As far as castles go it was pretty cool.

056

063
(the dungeon! you can still see the rings the prisoners were chained up to and also Byron’s name scratched into a pillar)

072

I love castles!

We walked back to Montreux (it was a good day for walking!) and ended up sheltering in a bar to get away from a little more rain (and more thunder!), until it was time for our train to Geneva Airport, and back to reality.

Wales again!

It was a bank holiday weekend this weekend and I made another fairly spur of the moment decision to go to Wales. I went on another tour with the same company who ran the Bruges trip.

First stop was Chepstow Castle, which I saw the last time I went to Wales but this time I had time to go inside:

009

018

Then it was off to Tintern Abbey but I’d already seen that so didn’t bother going in again.

In the afternoon we went to Big Pit coal mine, a former coal mine that is now a museum. They take you on guided tours down the pit, and the guides are former coal miners – very authentic!

019
(cheesy!)

Day two we went riding in the Brecon Beacons in the morning:

021

And to Hay-on-Wye in the afternoon:

023

Hay-on-Wye is also known as the “town of books”. It is absolutely chocka block full of bookshops. I wish I had a whole day to spend there. As it was I only had time to buy a couple of books. Much better than the last tour of Wales though when we only stopped for an hour at 9am Sunday morning and everything was shut! I will definitely go back one day and do some serious shopping.

We spent day three in Cardiff, where we saw the castle and did a little shopping before heading home. The shopping was very good – same shops as everywhere but much less crowded than Oxford Street and the service was impressive everywhere we went. The staff were so attentive it was frightening! In Gap we were asked if we needed help three times and then at the counter we were asked if anyone had asked if we needed help and who in particular was helpful. Freaky!

Cardiff Castle is pretty cool:

024

025

Something really cool is that they keep falcons at the castle to scare away the pigeons and stop them from depositing droppings, which can seriously damage historical buildings. The falcons don’t kill the pigeons because they have not been raised to do so, however the pigeons are still quite scared of them so it is an effective deterrent!

037