Category Archives: General life stuff

In which the human lizard gets married overseas and it is very easy

union jack, australian flag and new zealand flag decoration

I’ve never been too keen on the idea of overseas weddings but when you are from the UK, your partner is from New Zealand, and the country that you live in won’t let you get married, you don’t have a great deal of choice. The choice that we did have was whose country to go for. When it became clear that I had quite a few ideas about how I’d like my wedding to go, while kiwi gf had LITERALLY NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT, the decision became a simple one.

From there, we found that planning a wedding is incredibly easy.

Here’s a rundown of how the planning process went after we told my parents that we wanted to have the wedding in their part of the beautiful English countryside.

  • Parents emailed us a list of venues they thought would be good. We looked through the list and picked one. They visited and booked it. Tick.
  • Decided to have the reception in the village hall. Mum spoke to her next door neighbour who does the bookings. Tick.
  • lazy beaglesMade cute photo of our beagles into a ‘save the date’ email that most people didn’t actually get. Tick.
  • My sister said “Please, please, please can I decorate the village hall?” Tick.
  • Went through pointless process for kiwi gf to get a marriage visitor visa for UK. Tick. Twice. Tick.
  • ‘Gave notice’ of our marriage, with extra scrutiny because of kiwi gf being a dirty foreigner. (Luckily, as the lady later told us, she could tell our relationship was genuine as soon as she saw us in the waiting room – rather than holding hands and looking all lovey dovey, we were playing on our phones.) Tick.
  • Asked my bestie if her defunct function band would get back together to play for us. Tick.
  • Ordered ten dresses from the internet. Liked one but it didn’t fit. Ordered different size. Tick.
  • Went with kiwi gf to a dress shop where she spent 20 minutes trying on dresses (10 minutes of which was spent trying to work out how to put on one of the dresses) before choosing one. Tick.
  • Bought an $11 Word template on Etsy for the invitations. Sent invites. Tick.
  • Ordered two pairs of shoes from the internet before returning them and deciding to wear a pair I already had. Tick.
  • Went shoe shopping with kiwi gf who bought the second pair of shoes that she tried on. Tick.
  • Tried to arrange hair and make-up. Failed. Mum booked for us to go to a hairdresser in the nearest town. Tick.
  • Mum sent an email with food options for the buffet. Chose our favourites. Tick.
  • Asked my awesome friend if she would bake the cake, also to be the desert. Tick.
  • Put together our one real contribution to the proceedings – party bags (which we forgot about until half our guests had already left). Tick.
  • Copied and pasted vows from the internet. Tick.

bunting and fairly lights

Based on our experience, I would offer the following tips for planning a wedding on the other side of the world:

  • I suspect this has already become clear but, outsource. If you are very lucky, you’ll have a mum who loves to plan things, as well as friends and family who have talents that they are happy to share.
  • Give those people the freedom to make decisions, and trust them to get it right. When my sister asked what the colour theme was, we said: “You choose.”
  • Prepare yourself for the reality that some people will simply not be able to come. Find the silver lining: these people will get you the best gifts.
  • Decide the things that matter to you and scrap everything else. Wedding favours? No. Chair covers? Hell no.
  • If your parents aren’t big drinkers, make sure they are clued up on how much alcohol you and your friends can get through of an evening. On a related note, big thanks to my bro for doing a beer run.
  • Film it. We set up a video camera to film the wedding, speeches and some of the dancing. The end product is of dubious quality – not unlike the dancing – but it was great to be able to do a screening for our whanau (family) who couldn’t be there on the day.
  • Relax. Most of the arrangements are out of your control so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Remember when it wasn’t cold all the time?

It’s winter at the moment. It is raining and it is cold. Seems like as good a time as any to recall the joys of summer.

My first Australian summer saw me living in the country and hanging out with livestock. As fun as that was, the next time summer came around, I was keen to see and do everything that Melbourne has to offer at the start of the year.*

I then remembered that I am really lazy, and so “everything” quickly turned into “a few fun things when it’s not too hot”. Here are some of those things.

Moonlight Cinema

This is an outdoor cinema in the Botanic Gardens and runs on nights throughout the summer, except when it rains. A pretty familiar set up you might think, as indeed I did when we went along to see The Theory of Everything. But no, this is Australia and so the girl next to us brought her pet snake with her. Not cool.

Cricket

After England’s disappointing performance in the tri-series and abysmal performance in the World Cup, I think it’s best that I focus on the Big Bash League here. As mentioned previously, we support the Melbourne Renegades. We went to all but one of the home games, decked out in our red t-shirts, sometimes with a small child, always with snacks. Our team didn’t do particularly well – we decided their motto when batting is “Everyone gets a turn” – but it was always good fun to watch and we’ll be back next year.

Zoo Twilight

A picnic and concert at the zoo, with lions roaring in the background. What’s not to love?

Water fights

I’m lucky enough to have a really mature fiancée who does things like coming back from the supermarket with two big water guns. The joy of a Melbourne summer is that it’s actually hot enough for a water fight to be refreshing, rather than something that leaves you shivering and grumpy.

The dog beach

The fun thing about beagles is that if you let them off the lead, they will pick up a scent and run and run until they are dots on the horizon and you are a sweaty mess trying to catch up. A fenced dog beach is, therefore, a magical thing for a beagle owner like myself. They get to run around and you get to enjoy the beach – everyone’s a winner.**

The Australian Open

So, I didn’t actually go to the tennis this year either… but I saw a bit of it on the TV. Did I mention that I’m really lazy?

* Which, dear international readers, is when summer takes place in Australia. Madness, I know.
** Except for the jellyfish Jasper rolled around on. Because it is dead.

Same same, but different

In many respects, Australia is not all that different to the UK. Especially when you live in a big city like Melbourne, where even the weather is the same.* Sometimes however, I’ll be going about my business and something will remind me that I am a very long way from home.

Barbeque’s Galore

Entrance to Barbeques Galore on Bridge Road
You can’t tell from the photo but this is a huge shop. Just for barbeques.

The language
On a few occasions, I’ve had to resort to Google to find out what the hell has just been said to me. Some examples:

  • How’re you travelling? – How’s it going?
  • Who do you barrack for? – Which team (usually AFL) do you support?
  • And then she just cracked it/cracked the shits – She wasn’t very happy and expressed her feelings. Strongly.
  • Sanger – sandwich
  • My friends are still bagging on me for that – I did something stupid and my friends are taking the piss. I probably deserve it.
  • Chrissie – Christmas. This is being used already and I hate it.

Myki cards
The Myki is a shit version of the Oyster card and it makes me miss London every time I swipe through a station. I do find it reassuring, however, that everyone in Melbourne hates Myki cards, not just the tourists.

Variety packs
This blew my mind a little bit. What the fuck is it doing?Kellog's variety pack opening in a unique way

The prices
Melbourne is up there with the world’s most expensive (or exy, if we’re getting into the local slang) cities. Earning Aussie dollars makes a big difference though, and it’s a magical moment when you realise you’ve stopped converting everything back to your home currency and then crying into your £7 pint.

And finally, traffic lights
The traffic lights here go straight from red to green (omitting the all important red-amber), so there’s no time to get ready.**

* I haven’t done summer here yet though. Summer will be different.
** I keep pointing this out to people but no one else seems to think it’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal.

In which the human lizard finds herself being a landlord

There are strangers living in my home. They’ve been there for two months now* and I still feel rather weird about it. Thing is, when you decide to leave your job and move to another country you have to find a new way to pay the mortgage. So, I’m a landlord now.

Immaculate flat waiting for tenants to arrive

I’m doing everything through the letting agent so I don’t have any direct contact with the tenants but, thanks to the reference check, I know a surprising amount about them. For example, I know that they are a couple living together for the first time. And so it is that I find myself rooting for the ongoing success of a relationship between two strangers so that I don’t lose my rental income. My girlfriend of six years and I only lasted seven months after moving into that flat but I’m confident that these guys can stay the course.

Anyway, if you thinking about renting out your place, here are some things I wish someone had told me:

  • If you are leaseholder, you need to get permission from the freeholder in order to ‘sub-let’ your property. I did not realise this until very late in the game and had an incredibly anxious three-week wait for the housing company to give their approval. 
  • You also need to tell the mortgage company. And if you’re lucky, they’ll say they need to put an extra 1.5% interest on your mortgage during the letting period. Just for fun.
  • The energy performance certificate you got when you bought your property is actually important. If you can’t find it after spending a day looking at every single piece of paper in your possession, you will have to pay £50 for a new one.
  • If you opt to clean the property yourself rather than paying a professional, be prepared for how long it will take, especially if the oven, windows, under furniture, on top of furniture, etc, haven’t been cleaned in the three years that you’ve lived there. I recommend inviting your mother to help. 
  • You own more stuff than you think. You should probably hire a van.

* I wonder if they’ve realised that Upstairs Neighbour is a huge Everton fan yet. It’ s pretty obvious if he sings his song** but the more impressive route is to notice that you only ever hear him crashing around when a win has raised his spirits.

** “Everton, Everton, Everton, Ev-er-ton.” Classic.

In which the human lizard reveals a superpower

A year ago, give or take a couple of days, I lost my sense of smell. This means that I can’t smell anything and can only taste bitter, sweet, salt and sour. Or to put it another way, it means I can happily eat half a bowl of cereal before noticing that the milk has lumps in it.*

A few appointments and an MRI scan** later, the ENT consultant said she didn’t know what had caused it and that there was nothing she could do beyond advising me to check my smoke alarm regularly. I cried. It was awkward.

Arm Fall Off Boy detaching his limb

Recently I’ve been trying to view anosmia (the medical term for loss of olfaction) as my superpower. For example, when I walk into a bar with friends and they start complaining that it smells like vomit, I remain as happy as Larry. Yeah, it’s a rubbish superpower, but there are worse. There’s also a money saving element to the condition. I’ve always been quite a thrifty shopper (my ex called me The Miser) but I now buy Sainsbury’s basics EVERYTHING. When I did Live Below the Line last year the 27p baked beans almost broke me. These days I rather enjoy them.

Cooking for other people can be a bit more of a challenge. The instruction ‘season to taste’ feels like a bit of a kick in the face and I’m paranoid about serving food that has gone off. My tactic is to stick to tried and tested recipes and to take use by dates very seriously. However, if you’re ever eating something I’ve cooked, please don’t be afraid to pipe up if it tastes odd – for both our sakes.

Green cakes and chocolate flapjacksI’d really like it if anosmia helped me to eat healthily. While it’s true that I don’t really like chocolate anymore, I eat more sweet food than ever because ‘sweet’ is my favourite of the four flavours available to me. If it looks like cake and tastes like sugar, I’m in.

I was very reluctant to tell people about all this to begin with but over the past year my loss of smell has gone from being a secret entrusted to just a couple friends to something that I can joke about. Mostly. There’s no getting around the fact that it totally sucks but, fingers crossed, I might catch a whiff of coffee, fresh cut grass, or even vomit, any day now.

* I really wish I could say I stopped eating my cereal when I realised that the milk was off. Low point.

** Top tip: When they ask you which radio station you want to listen to while you’re in an MRI machine, do not say Radio 4. The machine is so loud that John Humphreys and Sarah Montague really can’t compete – some background music would be far more appropriate.

In which the human lizard plans for death

Yes, this post is about death. But in a practical, I-have-no-intention-of-dying-anytime-soon kind of a way. So it’s ok. And not at all weird.

Last year I decided it was about time I made a will. A tiny amount of research led me to believe that if you meet certain criteria it’s pretty safe to make your will online. It was surprisingly easy – you hand over the very reasonable sum of £28, fill out all the details, wait for confirmation that it has been checked by a qualified human, then print it out and surprise two of your colleagues with the odd request of witnessing you sign your last will and testament.

The benefit of having a will is pretty obvious: it’s the way you can have a say in who gets your money and ‘stuff’ when you shuffle off this mortal coil. It means you can divvy things up between people, leave some money to a charity or leave your worldly wealth to a beloved pet.*

Making the will got me thinking about death generally and, more specifically, about my funeral. I have some STRONG FEELINGS relating to how my funeral/memorial fiasco should go down and it makes far more sense to put these things down on paper than to just hope that someone I’ve told remembers and is around at the right time, hopefully many years down the line. Last week I finally got round to doing this and I rattled down the important, won’t go into it here, part but then started to think about the other elements. I completely failed with music requests, so apologies funeral organisers, you’re on your own. It’s hard to think of songs that are happy but not entirely inappropriate when someone has just died. For example, my current favourite song is a Bright Eyes tune called First Day of My Life but I’m just not sure that a funeral is the time for irony.

lego man dressed as a chickenWhat was much easier to pin down was the dress code: no black (with an exception made for my brother as I don’t think he owns anything else). I’ve also included a reminder that a certain friend should come dressed in a chicken suit. I can’t remember how this came to be proposed (it was several years ago) but feel that it would lighten the mood rather well.

Something I now realise I didn’t mention is the food, but you can’t go to far wrong with a buffet. I do so love a buffet and am more than a little disappointed that I’ll be missing out on this one.

* Don’t do that.

Writing a will/planning your funeral
Players: 1
Ages: 18+
Vaguely interesting fact: A holographic will is one that is handwritten, signed and dated by the person but not witnessed. It could include a will written in the dust of a car bonnet by a person dying while lost in the desert. Validity of such wills varies depending on where you are.
Verdict: Writing a will is an incredibly easy thing to do, especially considering how grown up and important it is. If you own property or anything else of significant value, you should give it some thought.

In which the human lizard shares some wisdom about internet dating

Having had a degree of success from online dating over the last year, I’ve decided that I’m an expert and keep trying to impart my knowledge on anyone who’ll listen. Here are some quick tips for any potential daters out there.

  • The human lizard sitting at a computer, doing a bit of internet datingFirst off, internet dating is great. You should give it a try, what’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that.
  • Don’t pay for a dating website if you’re too chicken to start messaging people. I handed over £30 to the first site I signed up to and then didn’t use it. That’s money I could have spent buying alcohol to drink alone in my flat. What a waste.
  • You don’t have to pay for online dating at all – there are free sites that are worth trying out first. OKCupid is a well-designed site with a reasonable number of nice, normal, attractive people. PlentyOfFish is hideous in terms of the site’s appearance and usability but is, I think, the biggest free one out there. Unfortunately the sheer quantity of fish means that the quality is lower and you have to sift through quite a few ‘interesting’ profiles to find the good ones.
  • Everyone I know who has used Guardian Soulmates says it’s good, the obvious benefit being that the danger of finding yourself on a date with a Tory is really, really low. However, bear in mind that there’s no point being on the paid sites if you don’t pay as you can’t send messages.
  • Try to avoid using ‘wink’, ‘like’, ‘meet me’, ‘favourite’ or whatever feature the site you’re using has to achieve the same as a ‘poke’ on Facebook (ie, nothing). Make the effort and send a message.
  • If you see a profile you like, send the person a message then move on. Do not spend a whole evening crafting the perfect message while planning out your lives together because there’s a good chance they won’t reply and you’ll be gutted.
  • Struggling to find the courage to contact people? Have a drink and then try again. Repeat as needed.

Right, that’s enough for now, I have a date to get ready for.

Internet dating
Players: 2 (though you’re likely to get quite a few messages from people who think the game is better played with 3)
Ages: You decide
Vaguely interesting fact: There is a dating site called Love Horse. Amazing.
Verdict: With a little bit of effort you can find yourself on some fun dates with nice people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. And there’s also the potential that you’ll meet someone awesome. Good luck.

In which the human lizard reflects on living alone

I love living on my own and I really wouldn’t have it any other way right now. However, living alone has its downsides, and here are a few of them.

1. It is always your turn to do the washing up.
I hate washing up and I hate that it’s always my damn turn. (Admitedly my ex only did the washing up about once a year but at least then I got thanked for doing it.) Living alone does provide a couple of positives when it comes to washing up though: the supply of pans, mugs, cutlery, etc, lasts longer than if you had a roommate and, more importantly, there is no one around to see if (when) the dirty plates start to grow mould.

2. Cooking for one feels like a chore.
I quite like cooking when it’s to have a few people round for dinner but there is something a bit depressing about cooking for one. And really, who can be bothered to cook themselves a healthy and nutritious meal every night? I know that most people don’t eat with their housemates but at least you’ve got someone around to pass judgement when your dinner consists of a garlic baguette with a slice of cheese, or when you have pancakes for three meals in a day. You probably don’t realise it but your flatties are doing your waistline a favour just by being there.

picture of a kitten being cute

I was going to put a picture of a spider here, but who wants to see that?

3. There is no one else to deal with spiders.
I wouldn’t say that I have a fear of spiders but I really don’t like having to catch and remove them from my flat. I generally try to avoid dealing with them – if there’s a spider on the bathroom ceiling for instance, I’d rather leave him there and just keep a very close eye on him when I’m the shower.

Sometimes, however, spiders have to be dealt with. A couple of months ago I was about to start the washing up when I saw that there was a massive spider in the sink – you know, one of those fat-bodied, long-legged, generally hideous ones. I was really quite freaked out by him so imagine my distress when I saw that the bastard had an equally large friend.

I started to panic a bit at this point – how could I possibly capture one spider without running the risk of the other spider CRAWLING ON MY HAND. At that moment my mobile beeped for a text and my only thought was, please let that be someone I can immediately phone back because I am getting hysterical. Happily, it was so I rang my friend up, completely ignored whatever it was she had text about and got her caught up on the kitchen invasion situation. An expert in crisis management, she calmed me down and came up with a simple but effective solution: put the phone on speaker and she’d then talk me through the spider removal process. After a few minutes of very girly squealing from me and supportive words from the phone, it was all over.

Does the fact that I got safely through this traumatic experience mean that I’ll be less of a mess next time I’m faced with an inconvenient spider? No, it just makes me want to get a girlfriend/cat* who will deal with these things for me.

4. There’s no one around to do your bidding.
You know when you really want a cup of tea but you just can’t be bothered to get up, or when you really need some chocolate but you’re just way too lazy to go to the shop? When faced with these situations I find myself thinking that if there was anyone else around I could totally wear them down with constant requests until they got me what I wanted.

5. It is entirely possible to go 24 hours (if not a whole weekend) without speaking to another human.
Sometimes I find that I talk to myself instead, or to Stanley the moose (he’s not an imaginary moose or anything, just a soft toy. And he doesn’t talk back yet so I think we’re ok).

* Do cats work on spiders? I guess I’m thinking about mice. Haven’t had to deal with mice while living alone. So there’s something to look forward to. 

Living alone
Players: 1
Ages: 26+
Vaguely interesting fact: Stan the moose is named after Stanley Park in Vancouver.
Verdict: In spite of these issues, living alone is actually kind of awesome. I should probably write about why at some point. That post will have less about spiders.