When The Kiwi announced he had a later afternoon meeting in CBD we decided to meet up afterwards and explore some of Auckland’s restaurants. A craving for sushi lead me to search for offers for Japanese restaurants in our newly purchased Entertainment book. After spotting the incredible reviews on Tripadvisor I settled on Kushi Japanese Bar and Kitchen which is located on Durham Street West, just off Queen Street in Auckland’s CBD. Purchasers of the Auckland Entertainment book or app can claim 25% discount off their total bill.
After consulting the extensive menu, The Kiwi was happy to let me choose based solely on the fact that I spent several weeks in Japan last year, which apparently makes me an expert on Japanese food (personally I’d describe myself as an enthusiastic eater of Japanese food rather than an expert!). Whilst everything on the menu sounded delicious I selected a slightly eclectic mix of my favourites including:
Gyoza – a pan-fried Japanese dumpling
Okonomiyaki – a Japanese savoury pancake
Cha-han – pan-fried rice including bacon and vegetables
A mixture of sashimi and nigiri sushi as selected by the chef based on what was fresh that day
The food was delivered to us Japanese style in the order listed above. When travelling in Japan I discovered that when ordering lots of different food the sushi and sashimi is usually one of the last dishes to be served. Whereas in the UK it is often served first, like a starter. It was a great way to finish our meal – beautifully presented and perfectly fresh. It was served with all the usual accompaniments: wasabi, pickled ginger, grated daikon and grated carrot. The Okonomiyaki also deserves a special mention as it was absolutely delicious – completely authentic – it was like being back on the island of Miyajima.
I was very pleased with my choice for the evening – we both left feeling full but not too full, having had a really lovely time.
If you’re thinking about visiting my tip is to ask for one of the special tables at the back of the restaurant. Unfortunately I only spotted them on my way to the bathroom. They are Japanese style tables with sunken seating which require you to remove your shoes. authentically Japanese they will only add to the experience. Next time we return I’ll definitely be booking one of them!
Shop A, 22 Durham St. West, Auckland CBD 09 368 4000 Lunch 11:30am to 2:30pm (Mon to Fri) Dinner 5:30pm to till late (Mon to Sun)
A lot of my posts recently have deviated from providing advice on moving to New Zealand. So I thought I’d share my experience of finding somewhere to live in New Zealand as it is not as straight forward as I first thought.
Before arriving in New Zealand I was really lucky to know that since The Kiwi had moved out ahead of me we had somewhere to live – his firm had arranged for him to stay in serviced apartments right next door to his office.
Great as this was his office is out in the wop wops (or ‘the sticks’ to those of you back in the UK) and given that my office is in Auckland CBD this was only going to be a temporary option. So on Day 2 of my new life in NZ it was time for me to start looking for somewhere for us to live. Forgetting the hugely complicated list of requirements that we had set up in Excel (with weightings and everything – I actually think we should copyright and sell our housing criteria checklist!) there were two key factors that would influence where we decided to live (and no I don’t mean a built-in pizza oven and space for all my shoes!):
It had to be furnished – whilst The Kiwi has some furniture in storage it wasn’t feasible to get it all prior to moving and;
It had to be on a short-term contract – since neither of us had any idea about where to live in Auckland we didn’t want to commit to too long a lease
Now the first thing anyone looking for somewhere to live in New Zealand needs to familiarise themselves with is Trade Me Property. Trade Me is basically like the Kiwi equivalent of eBay – in fact I’m not sure people here even use eBay as everything seems to be done via Trade Me (items for sale today seem to range from a military jet to an Island to a steam engine museum).
I’d familiarised myself with Trade Me Property before leaving the UK, however, most rental properties are available almost immediately and the property market in Auckland moves ridiculously quickly. So it made sense to wait until I was here on the ground before seriously looking.
The first thing I very quickly learned is that New Zealand properties are very different to properties in the UK. Most properties I’d lived in in London were period properties and I expected that being newer properties, New Zealand properties would have fewer issues. This is not the case! New Zealand had a serious problem with the construction of some of its buildings – historically building controls were not as tight as they are now which has led to a large number of what are dubbed ‘leaky homes‘. Also, although not so much of an issue in Auckland, there are issues with ‘earthquake prone buildings‘ (if you are property hunting in Wellington this is definitely something to bear in mind).
When house hunting in the UK three of the things at the top of my list would be double glazing, central heating and insulation. Now obviously New Zealand is not as cold as the UK but it does still get cold here in winter. What I discovered is that none of these three things seem to be present in New Zealand homes. So I resigned myself to being cold during the winter based on the fact that since I grew up on the Isle of Man, in a house without central heating, I can cope with it!
Some more general observations about New Zealand properties gained from my property viewings:
Washing machines here are weird – they are toploaders
Every Kiwi expects to have a dishwasher in the property – there may be no central heating but dishwashers are a must!
Most sinks have garbage disposal – now these just aren’t a thing in the UK and I still haven’t got over the novelty of peeling vegetables over the sink and then just pressing a button
So back to my actual experiences of Auckland properties. After sitting down for several hours to trawl through Trade Me Property with a large map of Auckland and google maps for calculating travel times (as well as large cup of coffee – this was Day 2 in New Zealand and jet lag was kicking in…) I had a list of potentials. The next step – to start calling real estate agents. Again I quickly made another discovery – New Zealand real estate agents generally do not do evening or weekend viewings! Not very helpful given that The Kiwi was working. Second discovery? Most of the properties listed on Trade Me Property had already gone. It really is true that the property market moves quickly in Auckland!
Eventually I had a list of viewings booked in and The Kiwi had agreed to come and see some during his lunch hour. Of the properties we viewed there were at least two where he walked in and basically walked straight back out again whilst I tried to make polite conversation with the real estate agent (when he doesn’t switch on the shower to test the pressure I know it’s a definitive no!). It’s safe to say that the viewings were not going well….our best option was a short-term let of a huge family home in Remuera whilst the owners were travelling in Europe. Whilst it was a beautiful property it really would have felt like squatting in some else’s home since all of their belongings were still there. There was also a cat to look after (not just any cat but would you believe it a Manx cat!) and the combination of my terror at the prospect of accidentally losing someone’s beloved pet and the fact that we are planning to travel quite a bit during the next few months meant this just wasn’t feasible.
Then one morning as I opened up Trade Me Property again and ran the usual search – I discovered a beautiful two bed flat in Parnell – how had I missed this one before? Even better it was being let directly by the owner and she could show us around on Saturday. On viewing the property it turned out that the owner had agreed to let it to another couple who had pulled out at the last-minute – even better it was fully furnished (down to glasses and cutlery!) so we really could move straight in. The following Saturday we packed up the car (which didn’t take too long as my boxes still had not arrived from the UK) and waved goodbye to life in the wop wops!
Now since moving in we’ve discovered the apartment isn’t perfect. After my boxes finally arrived from the UK we realised there is nowhere near enough storage , the pole int he wardrobe keeps falling down and somehow we overlooked the fact that there isn’t a dishwasher. Also, watching The Kiwi try to shower in the tiny shower cubicle provides hours of amusement – I think he’s going to have permanently bruised elbows! However, Parnell is a really great area – there are loads of bars and restaurants, we have a view out over Auckland harbour (my dream I can see the ocean from my home!) and I can walk to work in 25 minutes. So we’re going to be very happy here for the next 6 months – until we get back on the crazy Auckland property merry-go-round again!
No not that Kiwi! I’m going to introduce you to another Kiwi – or as I’m going to call him ‘The Kiwi’………
Now for those of you who read my post on my reasons for moving to New Zealand (and if you haven’t you can do so here) you may recall that I listed 7 reasons that were behind my move. Now whilst all of those were absolutely true (although since I’ve decided to move to New Zealand during the winter I’m not sure Number 7 ‘The Weather’ currently counts!), I omitted the main reason behind my decision.
Well I never thought I would say this but the real reason behind my move was a man, or more specifically, The Kiwi.
When we met in London late last year I always knew that his visa was due to expire in April this year. What I didn’t know was what I was going to do about it. However, after an amazing holiday together over Christmas and New Year I made my mind up – despite it being one of the craziest things I’ve ever done I decided to give up my job and move half way around the world. Of course then I realised how difficult it was to actually get a visa and as the Kiwi’s departure date from London got closer and closer the amount I was panicking made me realise that I was absolutely making the right decision. Then I secured a job in Auckland, followed closely by my Resident visa and next thing I knew my life was in boxes and I was on a plane.
So why am I telling you this now? Well now I’m on the ground in New Zealand, The Kiwi is going to be making a regular appearance as he accompanies me on my adventures in Kiwi land, so it’s only fair that I introduce you.
So ladies and gentlemen meet The Kiwi……………
The only problem is, just like the bird, The Kiwi is a bit shy so you’re going to have to wait a while until you meet him properly!
Reading this fantastic post by blogger Jen Grieves on her 20th anniversary as a type 1 diabetic caused me to reflect on my own experiences. Now I don’t talk about my own diabetes very often (to the point that a lot of people who know me are not actually aware that I even have Type 1 diabetes) but for some reason reading Jen’s posts always inspires me to share with my friends and family a little bit about how I feel about my diabetes and how it effects me. The first of Jen’s posts to inspire me in this way was Ignorance and Defiance. I received such a fantastic reaction from those of you that I shared the post with that, thanks to Jen, I’ve decided to share more publicly this time! After all I do have a category on this blog headed ‘diabetes’ which so far is empty!
One of the reasons behind my reluctance to talk about my diabetes is that once the subject comes up, most people are interested to hear about how and when I developed diabetes. Now that’s only natural – if the tables were turned I’m sure I’d be similarly interested. The problem is that the story behind how I developed diabetes is pretty dramatic and truth be told I hate telling it. However, one of my reasons for starting this blog is to help me to get better at sharing (something that I’m terrible at!) so if you’re still interested here we go (and you might want to get yourself a drink at this stage because it is a long story)……
First of all I need to cast my mind back to December 1999. The charts were full of Steps, the Vengaboys and S Club 7 , along with a smattering of millennium inspired songs from Prince and Europe. The world was panicking about the ‘Millennium Bug’ which was apparently going to have disastrous results (that didn’t quite happen….). As for me – I was 16 – the most important things on my mind were what I was going to wear for the millennium eve party to impress the cute new South African guy who had just started at school and how many extra shifts I could do at work to save up for my trip to Paris. I was also sick – or so I thought. I put it down to the flu, I hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep in weeks and I was drinking every liquid I could get my hands on. I was also losing a ridiculous amount of weight – I was so skinny I could fit my hands around my waist – of course being a 16 year old girl I though this was fantastic. My parents were not so pleased about this development.I’m pretty sure my Mum thought I had an eating disorder. Not only was she doing her best to get me to eat (which I just wasn’t interested in) but she also dragged me to the doctors. The doctor basically said I was fine – he advised her to feed me Complan and prescribed me an inhaler as I’d been having some difficulty breathing and he thought my asthma had come back.
Fast forward to Millennium Eve and I was ridiculously excited about that night’s party. I’d bought the tiniest dress my Mum would let me get away with wearing and had spent the day applying multiple layers of glittery nail varnish (because that was cool back then…..). I’d done this whilst lying on the sofa and finding it increasingly difficult to breathe. After this things get a little hazy – I now know that my body wasn’t getting enough oxygen and I spent most of the next few hours hallucinating. The next thing I remember I was in a hospital bed and someone was stabbing needles into me in various places trying to find a vein. And then nothing………nothing until I woke up in intensive care and it was the year 2000. The world hadn’t ended and the computers were still working, in fact the only thing that wasn’t working any more was my pancreas. Oh and I was hungry – so hungry that I think my first words to the nurse were ‘I want a bacon sandwich’. At which point she pretty much ran to get a doctor.
Now at that stage I had no idea what had happened – that was slowly revealed in the coming days and weeks. I obviously had some idea that something must have gone very badly wrong but as I say I was so distracted by hunger I wasn’t thinking too much about that. I now know that things got serious pretty quickly that night. My body had gone into such serious hyperglycemia that I had developed ketoacidosis and my organs were starting to shut down. At some point during that night I stopped breathing – apparently it was touch and go for a while as to whether I would make. I don’t l think I realised for a long time how serious things had been that night – even now it isn’t something I really think about. It’s difficult to process something that big so to be honest I just avoided thinking about it.
Anyway the road to recovery – after I was deemed well enough to leave intensive care I was transferred onto a general ward for a few weeks. Which was nightmare! I was constantly bored despite many visits from friends and family. All I wanted to do was get out of the hospital and go back to my life. The most important thing on my mind was whether I’d still be allowed to go to Paris. During that time I had to get to grips with my new life – starting with injecting oranges. I have no idea who imagined the idea that injecting and orange will prepare you for sticking a needle in yourself but hey if it meant getting out of hospital sooner I was happy to do it. This whole period of time isn’t something I think about very much to be honest. I remember being really uncomfortable with the amount of attention I was getting and just wanting things to go back to normal. In some ways wanting to get back to normal meant that I adapted pretty quickly to what was actually a big change in my life. I focused on the practical aspects of what I needed to do and didn’t really think about the emotional side of things. I was determined not to let it hold me back and in some ways I think it made me realise how tough I was.
On the outside it probably seems to people like that is how I have always been – ‘I manage my diabetes it doesn’t manage me’. Most of the time that is exactly how it is, but there are some days, when it feels like a never ending battle. Days when no matter what I do I can’t get my blood sugar reading within that magic range. Days when my blood sugar level yoyos from low to high and back to low as I try and correct each reading. Days when I’ve been awake all night trying to sort out a hypo, terrified to go back to sleep again in case I don’t wake up next time it goes low, and then I have to show up at work the next day and be on it. Days when all I want to do is go for a run (not just because exercise is good for Diabetes but because I love running) and my blood sugar level is too high.
Apart from this silent struggle – silent because I choose not to share it with anyone – I’ve realised that I’m embarrassed about my diabetes. That’s the real reason I don’t talk about it. I’m a strong person and I don’t want people to know about this weakness, I don’t want diabetes to define me. I have diabetes but I don’t want to be ‘A Diabetic’. I realise this is crazy – I didn’t do anything that caused me to get diabetes – it was just genetic bad luck. A lottery in which I was the unlucky winner. So after 16 years I’m making a conscious choice not to feel ashamed of my diabetes – next time someone asks me about it I won’t just brush it off, I’ll talk about it and maybe one day if someone asks me if I’m OK I won’t just say yes. Maybe next time I’ll talk to them about how I’m really feeling – but we’ll see.
So when I started this blog I had the best of intentions and promised myself I would update it regularly – well it would appear that leaving your job, house and moving halfway around the world to start a new life is a little bit more stressful than I thought! However, now that things have settled down I thought it was about time to get back into the swing of things and update you on what’s been happening.
So first news – I’m in New Zealand and have been for the past month – I actually landed here on 9th May. Now that I’m one month in it seemed a good time to reflect on my first month here.
My last few weeks in London were such a whirlwind that I didn’t really have any time to reflect on what life would actually be like in New Zealand. I finally received notification that my resident visa had been approved on 25th April and immediately booked my flights, departing London on 7th May. That meant I had under 2 weeks to box up all of my belongings and arrange for them to be sent to New Zealand and most importantly say all of my goodbyes. With hindsight this was probably a very good thing as it meant I didn’t have any time to worry or stress about my move.
Similarly once I landed in New Zealand I had a whole list of practical things to focus on. I landed on 9th May and started work the following Monday, which meant I had a week to sort opening a bank account, getting a phone, finding somewhere to live and trying to find my way around Auckland! Once I started work the whirlwind continued, on day 3 of my new job I flew out to Sydney for three days to meet some my colleagues and the following week I was in Wellington for two days to meet my colleagues there. On top of that I’ve already had some exciting adventures (more on those in future posts) which have meant every weekend has been pretty busy. So I really feel like this is the first week I’ve had an opportunity to stop, pause for breath and reflect.
However, there are so many exciting things to tell you that I’m going to start posting regularly again. As well as updating you on my adventures here in New Zealand I also want to use this blog as an opportunity to help any of you who are thinking about making the move to New Zealand, or who may have recently arrived here. Finally, I’m going to be reviewing activities, bars and restaurants – so hopefully that will be of interest to those of you living in New Zealand.
I’m excited to be back blogging again and can’t wait to bring you all up to date with what I’ve been doing so far!
So in Part 1 I left you just as we’d completed Up at the O2 and were heading off for some dinner and a few well deserved beers before ELO. Since it was the main event of the weekend I thought the concert deserved a post all of its own!
I’d been particularly excited to discover on Twitter just a few days before the concert that the support act was The Feeling.
I first saw The Feeling back in 2008 and remembered them being a really good live act so we made sure we were in our seats in plenty of time for them.The first very pleasant surprise was just how good our seats were!
Now I’m not sure how many of the crowd had actually heard of The Feeling before but they quickly got the crowd going and it was pleasing to see how many people were standing up and singing along. They turned out to be the perfect support act – especially when they played Join with Us, from the album of the same name, which had real echoes of ELO. Playing Wicked Heart from their new album The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells, declared “I’m not very good at Selling, I’m better at showing off”. Never was a truer word spoken as Sells demonstrated during an energetic performance of Love it when you call.
It was then time for ELO and I can honestly say I’ve never felt so excited before a concert. Next thing the lights went out and the intro to Tightrope started playing. As the stage slowly lit up, the screen behind the stage was illuminated with shots of the universe as the band made their way onto stage. Straight away half the crowd were on their feet dancing and singing along. A great opener! But better was to come – Evil Woman which has to be one of every ELO fan’s favourite songs.
Next up was All over the world, followed by When I was a boy from their latest album, Alone in the universe. When you have so many hits it’s always a risk playing a track from a new album – not so when you are ELO. When I was a boy could have been taken straight from Out of the Blue.
It was straight back to the classics with Livin’ thing which had the entire O2 on their feet dancing along. It was then back to the new album with Ain’t it a drag. Then a change of tempo as they moved onto Strange Magic which gave everyone a chance to rest their feet before Rockaria got everyone back on their feet. 10538 Overture proved just how timeless ELO are – recorded in 1972 it could just as easily have been recorded today. Onto Secret Messages which to be honest isn’t one of my favourites – it did however, provide a good opportunity to grab a much needed beer after all the singing and dancing.
I’ve always lowed Steppin’ out – but it was particularly emotional hearing it played as my Dad sang along to:
“I’m steppin’ out
I’m moving on
I’m gonna see the world”
Which of course I’m just about to! Let’s just say that song is going to have particular memories from now on.
Picking up the tempo again it was onto Shine a little love which once again had the whole crowd on their feet. And they stayed on their feet because next up was Wild west hero which had everyone singing along and swaying. It was a good job everyone had had a chance to warm up their vocal chords as next up was Telephone line. It was quickly back to dancing with Turn to stone which had Dad and I (and the rest of the O2!) dancing along very enthusiastically. ELO had hit their peak – next up was Don’t bring me down and Sweet talkin’ woman and the crowd continued to go wild. Then the moment I’d been waiting for – the distinctive opening bars of Mr blue sky and the stage illuminated in blue. I’ve never screamed so loudly in public and I must apologise to everyone sitting next to me as I’m pretty sure my singing (screaming?) probably drowned out ELO for them!
The realisation that this would probably be their last song dawned and as the crowd went crazy with applause I started wondering what the encore would be.
Before the encore though there was just time for the band to take a ‘selfie’ with them and the whole of the O2 crowd!
It should have been obvious – as ELO made their way back onto stage, the opening bars of Beethoven‘s Fifth Symphony sounded signalling Roll over Beethoven. They couldn’t have picked a better song to close the show. On the way out of the O2 there were many many smiling faces – I had an amazing time and will always remember finally getting to hear Mr Blue Sky live. Even as a massive ELO fan I couldn’t believe how every song on the set list seemed better than the last one – it’s insane how many hits they have had over the years. Jeff Lynne’s voice is as crisp as it was back in the 1970s. Not to be overlooked was the overall spectacle of the concert, in keeping with their name the light show was amazing and perfectly choreographed to the songs. My only regret? Not getting tickets to more shows!
The sun shone on London today for what was a truly spectacular day – maybe one of the best I’ve ever spent in this city. It’s days like today that make me realise just how much I’m going to miss this place – I’ve been so caught up recently in thinking about the move that I haven’t really stopped to think about that.
Today had been several months in the planning – earlier this year, when moving to New Zealand was an idea that I hadn’t made much progress with, I found out ELO were going to be playing at the O2. My love affair with ELO has lasted many years – I discovered them when I was 15 after rifling through my Dad’s (very diverse) music collection. It all started with Mr Blue Sky and that has remained my favourite song. Not just my favourite ELO song but My Favourite Song Ever. It’s one I play when I need to be cheered up – it’s also become my most important running track – during each of my half marathons I’ve needed to play it at least 3 times – right when things were getting tough.
So after realising they were playing I needed to work out who to bring with me – a quick plea on facebook made me realise it was an easy decision as within seconds of posting my Dad replied to say that whenever they were playing he would be there.
A couple of weeks after booking the tickets it became apparent that I would very likely be moving to New Zealand in May. All of a sudden the weekend took on a new importance – it would be the last time for a long while that I would see my Dad. Determined to make the most of the weekend we set about planning a packed schedule which would tick off some of my London bucket list – including Up at the O2.
Finally the day of the concert had arrived – but first to walk over the venue in which we’d later be dancing to ELO. On arrival at North Greenwich station our first thoughts were “that looks higher than we were expecting!”.
So we did what any sensible people would do in that situation and decided to grab a beer beforehand in the Meantime Beer Box.
It was then time to head off for our ‘expedition’. After a safety briefing and signing our lives away on a disclaimer we headed off to ‘suit up’. We were provided with overalls, shoes and of course the harnesses we wold use to clip ourselves onto the safety rails.
We then climbed the stairs ready to start the ascent (pausing briefly for an official photo op – more on that later….)
The climb was actually tougher than expected – the floor is slightly bouncy so it takes more effort to walk up. Although you are not allowed to take photos on the ascent or descent we stopped every few minutes to take in the views which got better and better the higher we climbed. Once at the top there is a viewing platform where you are able to take as many photos as you like. Here are some photos of the amazing view – we were really lucky that it was such a clear day.
After making our way back down (more difficult than the ascent!) we were able to take a look at the photos from the earlier photo shoot:
Official photo purchased we decided it was time to grab some dinner and a few beers before the main event of the weekend……..ELO!