Turning 30 thoughts

It is Friday morning. We fly to Auckland this afternoon, and tomorrow (technically) is my 30th birthday.

I’m not really feeling it to be honest.

I feel a bit weird and crappy and podgy, which I know is just because I haven’t really run this week, which I also know is the actual point. Tapering is hard; your body is used to running a lot, it wants to run! This is the point where people panic, overdo it, burn off that nervous energy and turn up tired on race day. I just need some patience. I’ve never been very good at patience!

The weather for the weekend is also not looking great. Rob bought me a tourist-tastic kiwi-covered plastic poncho yesterday. It’s not a good look. Really hope I don’t need it (for sartorial reasons as much as anything else). UGGGGH.

IMG_1250

Anyway. Whether I’m feeling it or not, it *is* my birthday tomorrow…! And I’m going to be 30. Which is a big deal. So while I’ve got time on my hands I thought this was a good opportunity to distract myself reflect a little bit on life thus far.

Unpopular opinion alert: I am really looking forward to my thirties. Really! I am loving getting older and the self-assurance that comes with age. In other words: I know what I do not give a crap about, and I revel in not having to give a crap about it. It is really a rather glorious thing.

It also is never far from my mind that I am – we all are – pretty lucky to get this far. This too shall pass. Make the most of it!

20 things I’ve learnt in my twenties:

  1. Going clubbing in flip flops is a stupid idea. I love that this was the first thing that sprang to mind!…
  2. Pints of wine in Live Lounge are not as terrible an idea as you may think. Yeah, sure, you’ll regret them the morning after, but one day it’ll be 10 years later and you’ll think, “Ah, good times!”
  3. Cheese and red wine are GREAT. It took me years to learn this. I ordered my first cheeseboard instead of dessert on Wednesday. I am determined to make up for lost time.
  4. Financial independence cannot be overrated. Save money. Get a pension. Yes it’s boring. But knowing there is something there if/when you need it gives comfort at a really deep level.
  5. Don’t overpluck your eyebrows. Thanks Mum!

     

  6. If you are ever in a position where you have to choose between getting and a mortgage or going travelling… go travelling. Travelling is hands down the best thing you will ever do.
  7. You don’t have to stay in a job if you don’t like it. Yes, some things are a learning experience – but it’s not worth it if all you are learning is that you are miserable. You shouldn’t run away from things just because they’re hard, or different, or scary, but if you know it’s not you, then just leave. Yes your career is important, but it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the be-all and end-all. Happiness is more important.
  8. Cherish your friends. Your friends are the best. If they’ve made it this far, fingers crossed they’re in it for the long haul. And if they haven’t, that’s fine too. People come and go and it doesn’t mean they weren’t important to you for the time they were in your life.
  9. Similarly, don’t waste your time on people who don’t make you feel good. Just. Not. Worth it. Don’t be made to feel like a b*tch for walking away from a friendship that made you feel like sh*t. You wouldn’t stick with a crappy boyfriend (well maybe 20-year-old you would…!) – friendship is just as much of a two-way street. You have limited time and energy and love; spend it on the people who lift you up and make you feel loved.
  10. Whatsapp groups are the devil. And no substitute for a real conversation and a walk.

  11. Your happiness is not decided by the size of your thighs. You are never going to fit into Topshop Size 10 jeans and that is absolutely fine.  There are plenty of people who do fit those jeans and are f*cking miserable (and probably couldn’t run a 10K). Equally, your life will not magically change once you own that top / dress / bag / pair of shoes. Basically, Topshop makes you feel like crap and should be avoided.
  12. Salt water really is the cure for everything: tears, sweat or the sea. If you feel like sh*t, go to the beach. Sit on the sand – who cares if it’s cold – and dig your toes in. You’ll feel better.
  13. Some things are worth the money: M&S tights, Clarks shoes, chiropractors, therapists, binbags.
  14. Your family are your team. Always have their backs.
  15. Stop caring about what people might think. Fact is, they’re probably not thinking about you at all.

    bridge

  16. You never know what’s going to happen. Generally, this terrifies me. I like to know what’s coming. But I’m trying to think of it as exciting too. For example, there are people in my life now who I may have only known a few years but can’t imagine life without. Think of all the friends you haven’t met yet, all the experiences to come.
  17. You’re not as annoying as you think you are. I saw a tweet from Matt Haig, one of my favourite writers, the other day which really hit home for me: “of all the things wrong with the world, an excess of your love is not one of them.”
  18. Find a partner that you like, as well as love. Having fun together is important, in the long run. Remember how lucky you are to have found each other. Play the Sliding Doors game and remember how easily you might not have.
  19. Do the things on your bucket list now. Don’t save it for “one day”, don’t wait for permission or for “the right moment” – there is no right moment. There never is. You can always write another list.
  20. Life is too short not to eat cake for your friends <3.

 

So there we are. Happy birthday to me! I feel a bit better now. Well done for making it this far. Whatever this weekend brings!…

 

Advertisements

Lyall Bay life

From the blue house to the beach house to the… bloody big hill house!?

We moved to our penultimate address of the trip on Monday (needed extra room for the impending younger brother’s arrival!!) and it is preeeeeetty steep!

The views are worth it though. This is the view from the kitchen window. Makes the washing up a much more mesmerising prospect, lemme tell you.

IMG_1207

I’m sure it would do our heads (and our knees) in if we were here for 3 months, but it’s fine for 2 weeks! The roads up here are so higgledy-piggledy. Cars just about manage to weave their way up and down and I like watching the bus come around the hill opposite, disappear into the trees for a bit, then appear again in front of me.

It’s quite good fun on two legs too. There are these funny little pedestrian tracks and steps and zigzags that criss-cross their way down through the trees between peoples’ houses, suddenly depositing you at street level. Very Famous Five. It’s easy to lose the path for a sec and accidentally find yourself standing in someone’s front garden… this has genuinely happened to me twice now, but our landlady has reassured me it’s pretty normal and the man I surprised mowing his lawn was very friendly about it…

That said, I am very glad we moved here quite late into my half marathon training! Can you imagine having to run up this!?! I’m definitely thankful for the fitness though; the first time we walked back up (on Monday afternoon in the lush bank holiday sunshine, post-Feijoa sorbet lollies – yum) I very much enjoyed the fact that my lungs weren’t struggling. My calves and knees however… they’re complaining a little bit! Needless to say, we are getting a taxi back from the airport on Monday!!

We have to get a bus into town (or Newtown, where there are lots of shops and cafes and things), but that’s not to say there’s nothing to do in Lyall Bay itself. You’ll have heard me talk about Queen Sally’s before (still need to buy that tshirt), and there’s a gorgeous veggie place called The Botanist I want to try too. I think it might be a little bit too hipster for my brother… but everyone loves halloumi, right!?

I went for a little explore earlier and scrambled up through the bush to join the Southern Walkway, which starts this end of the city and goes all the way along the Town Belt to Mount Victoria and the harbourside. There’s lots of different access points along the way so you can do it in bits, or tackle the whole thing. I’m planning on walking that way to the zoo with Robert next week! (If you’re interested in other walks around Wellington, a piece I wrote for Nomads Hostels went up today – read it here.)

Speaking of which – I can’t belieeeeeeve my brother will be in NZ tomorrow!! We land in Auckland tomorrow afternoon and he lands just before midnight. I don’t really know what we’re going to get up to on Saturday afternoon; I’ve got to check in at race HQ in the morning and collect my number, then the only other thing to make sure I do is get an early night!! I genuinely have to keep reminding myself that the Saturday is my birthday – according to the calendar if not my internal time zone!

We’ve got a couple of days with him and then Rob’s parents arrive on Wednesday until the weekend. It’s going to be a busy week!!

I’ll pack for Auckland later, but this afternoon I am unashamedly chilling out. And drinking lots of water – you’ve all heard of carb-loading, but it’s also important to increase your water intake a few days before a big race. I’ve got a big water bottle with me and I’m making myself sip continuously!

I also may or may not be listening to Nigella’s Christmas podcast… Hey – at home I am all guns blazing for Christmas pretty much as soon as my birthday is over! I found myself staring longingly at the packets of “English Fruit Mincemeat” in the supermarket earlier… sob!! Like I said, unashamed.

The only cloud on the horizon is that it looks like it’s going to rain for the race… UGH. Fingers and toes crossed. Please please please stay dry!! Surely getting up at 4am and running 13.1 miles is endurance enough…! (It’ll be Saturday afternoon in the UK, so keep an eye on my instagram – @sallymw23 – to see how I’m getting on).

I might not update for a little bit while all our visitors are here… though I will of course let you all know how it goes on Sunday (and whether it stays dry). Next time you here from me I’ll be in my thirties! See you on the other side!!

Weekend adventures: Nelson, South Island

We first came to NZ 5 years ago, spending the whole of Dec 2013 backpacking our way around. We flew into Christchurch and worked our way down and around the South Island, including a super sunny less-than 24 hours in Nelson with our friend Jo’s parents.

Rob met Jo when he was in Oxford and while I tend to naturally gravitate towards Kiwis and try and make them be my friend … when I found out she grew up 15 mins from me before her parents emigrated, I knew we were going to get on!

IMG_0075

We stayed with Jo and her flatmates in Wellington on that trip, but before we got there she put us in touch with her lovely ma and pa. They ran a jet boat company (if there’s a cooler job title I don’t wanna hear it) at Buller Gorge, about an hour out of Nelson, so that’s where we met them. Half an hour later we were screaming down said gorge, inches from the rocky canyon walls, the engine roaring in our ears and the spray splashing our faces (and sandflies nibbling our ankles, but the less said about them the better). It. Was. Awesome. 

We followed Julian, Jo’s dad, back to Nelson, where he made us curry and cups of tea and we got to sit on a sofa for the first time in about two months. Just when we thought it was time to hit the hay, Julian bundled us back in the car with the dog and we went for a walk on the most incredible beach at sunset. Julie (Jo’s mum) gave me some crazy aromatherapy smelly stuff to put on the aforementioned sandfly bites and they waved us off the next day, saying they’d see us in Welly with Jo.

Flash forward 5 years. It’s early on Friday evening and Rob and I are sneaking through Julie and Julian’s kitchen, having followed their instructions to let ourselves in through the French doors super quietly, so we don’t wake their granddaughter. There was definitely a 5 minute period when we thought we were in the wrong house. But then Julie came downstairs and gave us both a hug and we felt a lot less like cat burglars. Phew!

It was a bank holiday weekend and we’d only seen a snapshot of Nelson last time, so we were excited to head back. The flight took a grand total of 36 minutes. 21 on the way back!!

Nelson is such a pretty city. The only bit I remembered from last time was the big church at the top of the main street (and J’s kitchen… dream house alert). We happily killed time sat out on the pavement with some bank loliday burgers and beers. Well, for Rob, not me, I am off the booze til after the half… it was a struggle in that sunshine, I can tell you! But the burger was the best of the trip so far!

We certainly burnt them off the next day. As you may know from our Napier weekend, we love a bike ride, so on Saturday we took on the Taste Trail. So-called because you’re meant to stop off at breweries/wineries etc en route, but we focused on edibles instead!

First stop, the farmers market for early-morning coffee in the sunshine, lots of free samples, two smoothies and one croissant. All excellent.

12k later, another coffee stop (I appear to be replacing booze with caffeine; not sure if that’s any less bad for me!) at a pub called… The Honest Lawyer! Sadly, there was no magnificent, mysterious, Jamaica Inn-style back story… they just thought it was a good gimmick. Guys, just make something up!

Next stop, lunch. This is making it sound like all we did was eat! Which is only … actually yeah, that’s pretty fair. We shared an epic ploughmans in the gorgeous cottage garden at Grape Escape, then hopped back on the bikes.

The cycling required a lot more concentration than Napier (though Napier got easier the more wine we had…). It was quite gravelly and I was nervous about coming off and falling down a hill and scuppering the half marathon. But I did just about manage to take in the amazing scenery! Where else in the world can you be cycling through a pine forest with a sweeping sand of beach on one side and snow-capped mountains on the other?

We cycled as far as the ferry to Mapua, just under 40km in total, and rewarded ourselves with boysenberry ice cream (me) and Mapua’s own Golden Bear beer (Rob).

This was meant to be a chilled weekend but my knees were really hurting by the end of the ride!! Bit worried we’d overdone it… We’d planned to go to a museum on Sunday but the weather was so LUSH we wanted to stay outdoors. We had brunch of dreeeeams sat outside (in OCTOBER, yesssss): pancakes with rhubarb compote, coconut yog and grilled banana. Yes. Please. The waiter was from Anglesey! We resisted the urge to ask him, “OMG do you know our friend Josh!?!?”… #dontbeatourist.

Fully fuelled, we walked up the hill to the Centre of New Zealand. It’s a geographical survey point with amaaaazing views. It was short but pretty steep and, again, we thought we’d overdone it… We chilled out for a while at the top as my knees were not having it!

We wanted to go back to Tahunanui, the amazing beach we’d been to the first time, but it was about an hour’s walk soooooo we lay in the sun in the park instead. Sounds relaxing, and it was… apart from a brief interlude where we were chased by a rather aggressive duck. Not even joking. It was scarier than it sounds.

We had dinner at a delish veggie place called East St – so good I didn’t even take a picture! And that’s saying something!!

If you are looking for a weekend escape in NZ, Nelson really does have everything – and you will not go hungry! But the best part was seeing the wonderful Wisemans again. It’s funny where life takes you, isn’t it? We’ve talked about that day in Nelson so much since we got back – the beach, their house, Julian’s awesome lizard tattoo on his foot (inspired, me?…). Being back in that kitchen 5 years on, thinking about everything that had happened in between, was a really special feeling.

5 years both is and isn’t a long time. We don’t think we’ll ever be back in New Zealand after this trip – but it goes to show, you never really know. Wonder where we’ll be in another 5?…

Slang of the day: It was pretty fun trading slang with Julie and Abi, Jo’s sister… “dooner” (no idea how to spell it) is a duvet, and “mean” or “mean as” is a way of saying really good! They enjoyed “be there now” and “now in a minute”… #welshisms!

Half marathon thoughts: 1 week to go

The half marathon is NEXT weekend!! Argh!

I’ve been meaning to write about my training, but if you follow me on Facebook / Instagram (@sallymw23), you’ll see I’ve been doing it there instead! I did want to document it though, so that I have a record. So, back to the beginning…

I signed up for this race a couple of weeks after getting back from honeymoon. We only decided we were definitely coming to New Zealand 2 weeks before getting married (!) and I had already signed up for the Cardiff Half (7 October). I was determined – nay – desperate to run a half marathon this year, so I googled “half marathon NZ” and found Auckland. And when I saw it was on my 30th birthday, I couldn’t really not, right!?

I’ve done one half before, the Great North Run in 2015. Well, technically, one and a half halves – I did almost all of the training for the Bath Half 2016, but had to pull out a couple of months before. That’s been the theme of my last few races – I’ve pulled out of three in the last 18 months due to reasons outside of my control.

It’s been really frustrating, and I was gutted to have to pull out – but that frustration has made me more determined to DO IT this time. It showed me how much I wanted to do it. Nothing is going to stop me from getting to the starting line this time – though I am now fully paranoid (mara-noid?) that I’ll get hit by a bus or trip over a kiwi or the wind will finally succeed in blowing me into the sea between now and next weekend…

Let’s get physical

I am neither an expert nor an athlete, but I thought I’d share a little bit about how I’ve trained and some tips. First things first: if you’re sat there thinking “Christ I could never run a half marathon” – everyone thinks that at the start. 10k is my favourite distance; it doesn’t take me too much to train for that. A half is much more of a challenge. But I’ve built it up gradually. How does anyone get to a marathon, or an ultra? They all started somewhere.

When I signed up I could run 6-7k pretty easily. I looked at how many weeks there were til the race, and decided what distance I wanted to get to by race day (17-18k). Some people want to have done the full distance in training, to know they can do it on the day, but you don’t have to. You’ll be running (literally) on adrenaline on the day, and if you can do about 75% of the distance, you’ll be able to do it all!

My plan was to build up half a km each week, with 1 long run, 1 shorter run (ideally faster, too – that didn’t always happen!), and 1 cross-training / strength session (like swimming, cycling, general gym-ing). Cross-training helps as you work different muscles, get a bit of “active recovery”, and also get a break from the monotony of running. The worst thing you can do is plod plod plod along day in day out! Running is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one (more on this later) and you’ll just get fed up, and burnt out.

Distract yourself. I’ve done this alone, but Rob trained for the London Marathon with our (awesome) friend Pete, and maintains that he wouldn’t have been able to do it by himself. I’ve discovered podcasts this year and love lining myself up a playlist before I head out the door (faves are The High Low, The Guilty Feminist, Ctrl Alt Delete and Desert Island Dishes, though that last one just makes me hungry!!).

And remember, rest days are as important as run days! There will be times when you just need to let your body recover. It’s not worth getting injured, and you’ll soon learn the difference between feeling sore and feeling a twinge you need to do something about. Similarly, there will be times when you HATE IT and need a break mentally. If you need a break or a week off, take it. One missed run is not going to derail everything.

Set yourself little goals along the way – and celebrate them! I remember the first time I ran from our flat down to Cardiff Bay and back again – something I’ve wanted to be able to do since forever! I never thought I’d be able to achieve that a few years ago and was so proud of myself.

Run the world

Moving to the other side of the world part-way through training was less than ideal. I was up to about 13K before I left, but missed a couple of weeks in the middle while we were in Melbourne (though I did love our beach runs in St Kilda!). Thankfully I didn’t lose much fitness – and once I was back on track I leapfrogged up to around 15K pretty quickly.

I’ve not been able to do much cross-training since we got out here, though I’ve been swimming a couple of times. Speed stuff has kind of gone out the window. The wind decides how fast you get to go, not you! I did cave and spend $40 on a foam roller (basically a big solid tube-y thing that helps stretch your muscles post-run; a bit like a rolling pin for your legs!) after about a week here and I am soooo glad I did!!

The first few runs here were REALLY hard. The wind!! I know, I know, all I do is whinge about the wind, but I was bowled over (literally) at how different it was to run in. I miss Bute Park – lovely, calm, sheltered Bute Park!

My 15K run was the worst. I went up the coast, stupidly not realising I’d just be exposed the whole miserable way. I also wasn’t fuelling properly. And by this point it really is fuel, not food. Think of it as putting petrol in your tank. I wasn’t filling up enough and my stomach was rumbling and I felt lightheaded by the end of the run (3 glasses of wine the night before didn’t help either…).

I spent the last 5K berating myself – this was a stupid idea, it was too soon, I wasn’t training enough, I should stick to 10ks. The only thing that would get me round was sheer bloody-mindedness and I’d probably end up injured.

This is where the mental side kicks in.

It’s all in your head

I’ve written about this before but in the last couple of weeks, as my runs have got longer and the race has got nearer, it’s become more and more important. Running is a mental challenge as much as a physical one. There will be times when the only thing that keeps your legs moving is your determination not to stop. Your sheer force of will.

You build resilience, and not just against the elements. You learn that you can do hard things. You can depend on yourself, and grind your teeth and dig deep and drag yourself through them.

When I find it hard, I think about two things. Firstly, I think about how lucky I am to be here, and that my body can do this. I think about all the people who can’t run. Running makes me grateful.

Secondly, I think about all the hard things I’ve got through before. I tell myself, you did that. You didn’t think you would, but you did. And if you can do that…

As a lot of you will know, this has been a tough year for my family. And I’m not embarrassed to say that this run is my answer to that. Not just because I’m fundraising, but because I need to do it for me. To show myself I can do hard things. That I am strong enough to get through them. And lucky enough to have the chance.

It’s one big f*ck you to 2018. You tried to break me, but here I am.

——————————————

So, where am I now. With just over a week to go I’ve done my last long run and I’m feeling good. I am fully into the “eat whatever you like” stage of training (well, within reason….) – not looking forward to having to reign that in!!

I feel like a ninja; this is probably the fittest I’ve ever been. I’ve started to think about life post-race and what I might sign up for next; I really enjoy feeling this strong and I’d like to keep it up.

We’re off to Nelson the long weekend (Monday is a bank holiday in NZ) and we’re going to try and have a chilled one. This is not normally something we succeed at. All I’m going to do next week are a couple of short runs (no more than 5k) to keep my legs ticking over. And then – it’s race time! I can’t wait to let you know how I get on.

I’ll be back on Tues with a weekend round-up, but I’ll leave you with this, as it made me laugh this morning. I had an email from the Bournemouth Hospital Charity earlier saying they’d featured me in their newsletter. Hurrah! I was super excited – until I opened the PDF and they’ve called me “Sally Hawkins”. I.e. the actress from Paddington and The Shape Of Water. FFS…

 

 

Welly weekends: Garage Project & Somes Island

This was our last weekend in Wellington for a little while… this weekend coming is a bank holiday so we’re heading down to Nelson on the South Island, and the weekend after is the half marathon (!), oh, and my birthday (!!). And then we have visitors – woohoo!

IMG_1089

It was quite chilled out by our standards – no 30km bike rides this time! Saturday morning we made a point of relaxing and went to the cinema up the road which is also a cafe / restaurant during the day. I’ve spent a lot of time there the last few weeks as it’s a really nice atmosphere to sit and scribble for a couple of hours . We saw First Man there on Thursday night after absolutely demolishing 2-4-1 pizzas at a bar up the road called Brewed. The cinema itself is really cool, it only has room for about 20 people and the seats are comfy two-seater sofas, like the Everyman in Bristol.

(Quick pause for film review – loved it! It’s arty and moving and while I’m sure it wasn’t 100% true-to-life, I genuinely feel like I learnt something. Have made a note to have a good old chinwag with my parents about What The Moon Landing Was Actually Like. I really want to see A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody next!!)

The main event on Saturday was something R has been excited about since we got here: Garage Project in Te Aro. In a city of craft breweries, this is the place to try! It first made its way on to our radar in Melbourne, when R had a can of its BEER beer in Chuckle Park – he’s wanted to check it out ever since.

I often find myself turned off something if everyone’s raving about it (previous examples include Avatar, Love Island and La La Land) – the sceptic in me just doesn’t believe something can be *that* good. But Garage Project definitely lives up to the hype! We were warned that it gets busy, especially at weekends, so we arrived about 4pm. They have a brewery and tap room on one end of Te Aro Street and a bar at the other. Te Aro is about 15 minutes walk from the top of Cuba St and it reminded me of Pontcanna; it’s got an older, village-y feel compared to the rest of the city.

The brewery is in a derelict petrol station – hence the name. Oh, and it’s very dog friendly!

Knowing less than nothing about beer, I was worried I might feel like a bit of an idiot, surrounded by serious aficionados. Probably wearing skinny jeans, hipster moustaches and nary a pair of socks between them. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Well – about the atmos, not the hipster facial hair (I couldn’t assess the sock situation; the bar was in the way). The staff were super friendly and we got stuck in tasting the taps on offer.

They had 5 or 6 to try, free of charge, though like with the wine tasting in Napier, you only get a mouthful each time. The girl serving us told us a bit about each of the beers we were tasting and why/how it looked, smelt or tasted the way it did. She also filled us in about the drinking laws here, which are much stricter than the UK (i.e., the country that invented binge drinking). All bars have to serve food, it has to be available at all times and one option has to be veggie. They are also really strict with selling to anyone underage; one of the big supermarkets lost its liquor licence last year in a sting. Hence why I’m getting ID-d all the time! (That and the fact I look about 12).

I knew you could get different types of gin or whiskey or coffee or even honey, based on the plants you use and how you use them, but I had no idea there was so much variety in beer!

She also gave us tips on how to fly it home (go for cans, not bottles, and let them settle for a bit before you open them). R wants to save one up to open on his 30th next May!! My fave was the Fresh October and R liked the Red Eye Gravy. We both loved the Verbohten Fruchte (forbidden fruit), which was so strong they only sell it in half pints, and tastes like Black Forest Gateaux!

We headed over to the bar where you can have a tasting flight of 4 x 100ml serves. The weirdest one was the Cereal Milk Stout – not so keen on that! It’s clearly super popular – there were groups of all ages in there (not just hipsters!). I am so excited to take my bro when he gets here (Robert, spoiler alert!).

We may have been slightly in need of some food to soak up all that beer, so wandered down to the Cuba St Night Market. Like the market in Napier, we thought it might be a bit bigger, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good!! And it was pretty reasonable as trendy street food goes. After scoffing sharing some veggie dumplings, I super-predictably went for a steaming plate of Mie Goreng (spicy Indonesian noodles, i.e. STG dinner of dreams) and Rob’s had the most enormous wrap stuffed with crunchy veg and Chinese pork belly.

So far, so normal – beers, food, standard Saturday night, right? Herein lies the twist. Rob’s colleague’s partner plays for the NZ Symphony Orchestra, and offered us some mates-rates tickets. I’ve grown up watching my brothers in various bands and orchestras and whatever else, but R had never seen a live orchestra – and hey, my bros are great, but I’ve never seen anything of that standard! So we checked it out!

It did feel a little strange to be sat in a sumptuous, beautiful, softly-lit concert hall, not that long after being sat in a graffiti-covered craft beer bar… but the music really was wonderful! I don’t think we appreciated it on quite the same level as the people around us (we were also the youngest people there by about 30 years!), but we really enjoyed the performance.

And then went for another beer on the way home. Culture clash!

Sunday we were back to normal: a quick 4k run first thing while Mr TG had a lie-in, then we headed down to the harbourside to get the ferry across to Somes Island. I’d not heard of it before we got here, but it’s fascinating. It’s slap-bang in the middle of the harbour and has over the years been everything from a Maori settlement to a quarantine station to a detention centre for “aliens” during WW2. It was restored, replanted and finally reopened to the public about 20 years ago as an animal sanctuary and it made for a beautiful (if blustery!) Sunday stroll.

IMG_1027

We had to have a biosecurity inspection when the boat arrived as it is completely predator-free, and understandably, they want to keep it that way. It doesn’t take long to walk around the whole island, but there’s plenty to see: a little visitor centre (which used to be the detainees’ hospital), the quarantine station (creepy), NZ’s first harbour lighthouse, and of course amazing views back over the city!

We got lucky wildlife-wise too: we saw seals on the way out, plenty of kakariki and oyster-catchers (though sadly couldn’t spot the tuatara, a prehistoric lizard species they’ve successfully reintroduced on Somes) and – a penguin on the way back!! They have Little Penguins nesting on the island, though we only saw the nest boxes while we were walking. But then about 10 minutes from the dock we saw a little guy splashing about in the water. My first wild penguin!

Home in time to finish The Two Towers – the second and, arguably, best (OOOOH CONTROVERSIAL) Lord of the Rings film – I hope we can finish the third one before we leave this Airbnb as we can’t take the DVDs with us!!

Some exciting plans this week: last night we met up with the lovely Abi, our friend Jo’s sister, who gave us some more top brunch tips that we’re keen to get stuck into! It’s my last long training run on Wednesday, we’re going out for food that night, then flying down to Nelson on Friday after work.

We also move to Lyall Bay next week – I’m going to miss Island Bay! I really like this little neighbourhood. You’ll hear a lot about LB back home I’m sure as it’s one of the places Harry and Meghan are visiting on their NZ tour. They’re even going to the surf cafe we loved last time we were in NZ.  She’s obviously been reading my blog…!

What I’ve learnt in a month in NZ

As of this weekend we have been in NZ a whole month! Where has that gone!? Weirdly, I kind of thought I’d be more homesick by now (thank you Whatsapp Video Call), but I think we’re just aware that we really aren’t here for that long. It’ll be Christmas before we know it!

We’ve definitely thrown ourselves into things in the last 4 weeks, but there are a whole heap of places, walks, eats and adventures on our list (we literally have a list..).

In no particular order, here are a few things we’ve learnt since we landed:

  • I still know most of the words to the Lord of the Rings films. Rob, I would apologise, but I’m not even sorry. You know you married a big old nerd.
  • I would be a terrible freelancer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing a lot of writing – and not just on here – but I am also frequently distracted by my book / podcasts / staring at the sea. I definitely NEED a deadline and some structure to get actual work done!
  • Rob works very differently to me. I knew this already: I don’t wear a wig to meetings and have never finished at 2 to play golf. This has been more revelatory for Mr TG: “If it’s 3pm and I’ve finished my work for the day, I can’t… just… leave.” Well, no. That’s how work works. Working in an office with an actual HR function for the first time has blowwwwn his mind. “They ask me how I’m doing! And how my workload is!” It’s made me more aware of the things I take for granted about work: if I’ve got a problem, I can speak to someone about it; I can have a chat with my colleagues while making tea and it’s not wasting time; I close my office door at 5 and leave my work there!
  • Coffee is never going to be the same again. Ugh. This country has ruined me. I have been completely spoilt; wherever I am, I can get an absolutely perfect flat white for less than £2.50. I am dreading seeing a Costa again, for my heart will truly break.

IMG_0853

  • I understand weather now. I know I’ve complained talked a lot about the wind on my instagram when I’ve been trying to run. It’s a genuine struggle; sometimes I just think “BRACE!” and try and avoid being blown into the road / sea. Umbrellas are for idiots. As are any form of hair straightening – totally pointless.
  • Kiwis really are the most open, friendly, disarming people. My favourite EVER example: who in Britain in their right mind would walk into a sauna and introduce themselves?! “How you going? I’m Steve! What are you training for? I’m a kitesurfer. It’s about weight versus power. Great surf out there, ey…” #bemoresaunasteve
  • If you are moving to a new city, don’t live in the centre. We’ve been in Kilbirnie and now Island Bay, then Lyall Bay in November and Hataitai in December. I’m really loving getting to know the suburbs and their different vibes and personalities, and we’ll feel like we know the city inside out by the time we get home!
  • They genuinely think of Christmas the way we think of Christmas, despite the fact that THEIR CHRISTMAS IS IN THE SUMMER. They don’t seem to understand why we think this is weird. A few people have said it’s from watching Christmas films, which makes some sense, but it’s more than that.Lots of people do a “midwinter Christmas” with their friends in July “to make it more Christmassy”. It’s like this collective cultural memory. NZ is pretty new: all pakeha have some connection to the UK or Europe and for most it’s only a generation or two ago. Those traditions have passed down and seem imbued in them at birth. I guess it makes sense that you hold threads that connect you to something more tightly the further they are being stretched.
  • That said, they still think a mince pie has meat in it. *rolls eyes*.

IMG_0980

  • Living by the sea makes me so happy. I will always be a Bournemouth girl at heart and feel at my very happiest on the beach, sand between my toes, breathing in salty sea air. I couldn’t live in the midlands (sorry, midlands). I don’t understand places with “no edges”. But despite knowing this, I don’t think either of us realised just what a difference being by the sea every day makes to your daily life. We are going to be househunting next year and I really think we’ll expand our search a bit now (parents, don’t panic, we aren’t expanding it as far as NZ).
  • We love getting outdoors. When we came home from travelling we said to each other we’d be “more outdoorsy”, as we’d realised we enjoyed it so much. And we sort of did… but work and life admin and rarely having more than one weekend in a month in Cardiff gets in the way. Equally, I think it’s easy to get a bit intimidated by it at home. We aren’t “outdoorsy people”. Being here takes the pressure off.  Nobody knows that we dont know how to read a map and care about being rained on and don’t know our icebreaker from our crampons. You can enjoy the outdoors without having all the gear or sleeping in a field or being able to orienteer yourself blindfolded up a glacier backwards. You can just get outside and get some air in your lungs because it’s nice and it’s there to be enjoyed. You also get eat a lot more crisps, which can’t be bad.
  • Home & Away is terrible but… that hasn’t stopped me watching it. THE SHAME.
  • The Bake Off bar is much lower. Seriously. We’re watching Aussie Bake Off (the first-ever Kiwi one starts this week and has had sooo much press) and the standard is nowhere near as high as ours. Case in point: last week, the signature was a Swiss Roll. Pfft. Amateurs. And someone said sh*t on last week’s episode, and they didn’t bleep it out! Haha. Mary Berry would never stand for that…

IMG_1029

  • Creative writing is harder than you think. Well, than I thought. You need a lot of self-motivation (see point 1) and a really well-formed idea. I used to do loads of creative writing but I’ve struggled to really get into anything so far. I think sitting down and saying to myself, “Today I’m going to write a NOVEL!” was maybe a bit overambitious. But I’ve got time and I’m enjoying having the headspace to play around with some ideas. I’ve learnt the main thing is to keep trying to write – nobody thought of an entire story in one go!
  • Keeping in touch is much easier now – sort of. It’s been amazing to Facetime mum and our friends, and have pictures of our brand new nephew (!!) within a few hours of him making his appearance! But – it’s also pretty easy to ignore a whatsapp or an email and that can make you (me) a bit anxious. People may have read your message, but they are also living lives and going to work and doing their washing or whatever else. The time difference also means that for most of my day, you lot are asleep. It’s strange going for a walk at lunchtime and knowing I can’t speak to anyone for a few more hours (all my baby mamas, hit me up!). However, it’s fun waking up to a flurry of pings. We can tell when people wake up by what time we start getting Instagram notifications… sometimes I’m like “Ooh, so-and-so’s up early!”.
  • NZ isn’t perfect.The sterling work of Visit New Zealand generally markets it as this lush, green, mythical utopia. And it is – I will never get bored of casual mountains. But it’s not without it’s problems. There’s a lot of poverty, a big recycling problem, anger about public-sector wage cuts and a lot of tension between Maori and non-Maori communities. Everywhere has issues. Even if you have casual mountains too.
  • Similarly, being here has softened my “the UK isn’t so f*cking great” speech. Don’t get me wrong: I still hate the UK’s sense of entitlement and prejudice, the fact that nobody can have a debate without having an argument, the fact people voted Leave based on absolute lies and the liars are getting away with it, and the general assumption that we have nothing to learn from other cultures. I still get told, “No Brexit before breakfast.” (sorry, Rob). But stepping outside of it has made me appreciate it more too. The NHS, the BBC, our Bake Off. No earthquakes. Being so close to Europe (sob). Being close to, well, anywhere! NZ is 250 years old; our country has history. I can only be so critical of Britain because I’ve, thankfully, grown up there. I had the sheer luck to be born in a safe, privileged, wealthy, powerful country. I am a product of that privilege. I’m still turning it over in my head… There might be a more articulate blog post on this later! Told you I had a lot of time on my hands.

IMG_1042IMG_1042

  • It’s never too late to do something different. I turn 30 in less than two weeks (I KNOW IT’S CRAZY I’VE HARDLY MENTIONED IT) and if you’d told me, at 20, that one day I’d be living in New Zealand with that boy I snogged in the Students’ Union on Saturday night… I’d have been pretty bloody excited. Don’t do something because you feel like you should, or because that’s what everyone around you is doing. If you want to do something, go and do it. Don’t wait for permission or for someone else to make the plans. It’s your life. It’s on you.
  • Lastly, appreciate things in the moment. That’s something I’ve been working on all year. I know I’m lucky to be here, to have the opportunity to press pause on life and step back and take some time to process a pretty mental year. Equally, I know we’ll never be here again. Literally (think big holidays are off the cards for a few years after this…) and… existentially? We don’t get long. So look at the waves. Climb the mountain. Eat the crisps. Spend the afternoon reading if you want to. Just enjoy it, while you’re here. Some advice we could all use being reminded of.

 

 

Weekend adventures: Napier & Hawke’s Bay

Last weekend we set off on our first NZ road trip in 5 years! We’re pretty used to being on the motorway long into a Friday night, so as we set off it felt strangely like we were off to North Wales to visit Rob’s parents…

Napier is a good 4.5hrs north of Welly and as it was mostly in the dark we didn’t really appreciate the scenery we were passing, or the gorgeous house we were staying in! We got a sense of a rambling garden as we climbed down the steps to the front door – in fact I got a little too close to some of the plantlife when I missed a step in the dark and nearly ended up face-down in a shrubbery. Let it never be said that my life is not 100% glamour.

The house was enormous, and so quirky and higgledy-piggledy and sprawling. Our room had a big snuggly bed and sash windows looking over the crazy jungle-like garden. There was a beautiful old-fashioned verandah outside our room complete with old rugs, wicker furniture, sea views and two of the chubbiest cats I ever did see. And it wasn’t only the cats who were well looked after! Yvonne and her husband Steve were so lovely to chat to and made us a gorgeous breakfast – homemade muesli, homemade sourdough, homemade lemon curd! She even had a little cake dish in the kitchen with a post-it saying “Please help yourself” (the Airbnb listing mentioned that “home baking would be available at all times”… I think you can see why we booked it). They’ve only been running it as a B&B since February and if you’re ever in the area, make sure you look them up!

I now want to run a little B&B in the future – chatting to people from all over the world and baking all the time, that’s all there is to it, right!?

We set off to explore the city. Napier is famous as the “art deco capital”. It was devastated in an earthquake in 1931 and completely rebuilt in the style of the times: i.e., art deco. Since then it’s been impeccably preserved. At street level it just looks like a normal high street – you have to look up

It really is unique, like walking around a film set. You can do tours in classic cars and visit the art deco museum. There is even an art deco festival in February, which sounds AMAZING and the perfect place to live out my Great Gatsby dreams.

As lovely as it was… neither of us are mega interested in architecture. Don’t get me wrong, the city’s lovely, and it’s worth seeing, but it’s also teeny. We found and had eaten our way wandered around the Saturday farmer’s market in about 10 minutes, and after that we weren’t really sure what we were going to do with the rest of the day… maybe a books-and-café day?

After consulting Yvonne’s map we decided to walk around the coast to Ahuriri, where we’d heard there were lots of nice cafes. 10 minutes later… we realised that free tourist maps are rarely to scale. Thankfully, we stumbled across Mr Fishbike. And I fell in loooooove.

I have always wanted a beautiful blue-green bike with a bell and a basket on the front in which to put my beautiful artisan bread and cycle back from the farmer’s market…. (#lifegoals). However, Rob had two bikes stolen from our building in two months, so we’ve decided that until we are homeowners, we can’t be bikeowners either.

Looooooooook! Talk about meant to be! Suddenly a café-and-chill day became a … cycle 30km day! Woops.

The other thing the Hawkes Bay region is famous for (and the thing we were probably more interested in) is WINE. Fun fact courtesy of Rob TG, attorney at law: there is no such offence as cycling under the influence of alcohol. Well. There’s no such offence under UK law. However, we took the fact that the bike trail map listed no fewer than 31 wineries as a sign that it was probably OK…

Our first stop was Crab Farm Winery. I’m well aware that I’m running out of synonyms for gorgeous… but at the risk of sounding repetitive, it was gorgeous, rustic and welcoming, with orange trees out front and an enormous log burner inside. I told Rob that if we ever get married again we’re doing it there! Alternatively, if anyone wants to get married in a vineyard and invite me, please do!

We were welcome to wander around the vines and the grounds while we sampled the wares! We tried the Chardonnay and the Pinot Gris. Soooo yummy. I am not going to try and describe them as I know naff all about wine, apart from “ooh this is nice wine”. But safe to say they were delicious, and the ol’ £6.99 Jacob’s Creek back home probably ain’t gonna cut it any more!…

Having consulted the map we hopped back on the bikes and set off, just a teensy bit more wobbly, to Mission Estate. Let’s just say the name was appropriate. It was an absolute mission to get there (thanks, map) but worth it when, panting and a teeny bit sweaty, we finally rocked up at the bar!

Mission is NZ’s oldest winery and “the birthplace of NZ wine”! If you only have time to sample one, Mission would be a good one to pick! We couldn’t wander around as much as at Crab Farm, because someone else had the same idea as me and they were setting up for a wedding. The views over the vines and the rolling hills beyond would make some truly awesome wedding photos…

We paid a totally bargainous $6 for a “wine flight”, where you sample 6 different wines, a rose, two whites, two reds and a dessert wine. When I think of rose I think of something quite cheap and acidic, which probably says more about me (and Sian) and our uni days than I’d like to admit… this was delicious, fruity and crisp and refreshing. We bought a bottle of the dessert wine as it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted! Sweet and syrupy without being sickly, and apparently it goes well with Christmas cake – sold.

We left Mission at 4.15 and had to return our bikes by 5pm. We got back to Mr Fishbike at 4.57!!! PROUD. Shows the half marathon training is working.

Sunday we were up early and after another fabulous breakfast courtesy of Yvonne we hopped back in the car and drove 25 mins south to Te Mata Park. We had a mountain to climb!

The walk to Te Mata Peak is gorgeous, varied, and at just over 2 hours, pretty doable if you’ve only got a weekend in Hawkes Bay. It does get preeeetty steep towards the top (I had flashbacks to dragging my poor mother up the wrong side of Arthur’s Seat a few years ago) – but if you don’t fancy stretching your legs you can drive up.

We saw a couple of cute fantails (one of NZ’s best-loved native birds) as we followed the track down and out into a grove of redwoods. They were incredible! I felt teeny tiny! It was so peaceful and quiet there and the smell of the pines was amazing. You stroll around the base of the hill through some farmland and just when you think “hey, this tramping lark is pretty easy!” you start zigzagging up. It’s pretty narrow and exposed at points so I’m glad it wasn’t too windy, but scrambling over rocks does make you feel like a badass. And the views at the top were truly breathtaking.

Just when we thought we’d had enough nature for one day… literally about 15mins from Te Mata are the Maraetotara Falls. You just park the car at the top, follow the path along the river for a few minutes and this is your reward! I just wish it had been warm enough for swimming!

There was just time for one last winery before we headed back to Welly, this time Black Barn. The vineyards are so different and so individual: you could easily spend the entire weekend hopping from one to the next!! This place was full of families out for a special Sunday lunch, and there are a handful of boutique lodges if you want to stay on site. I was tempted by their “Amber Wine” as I’d never seen it before, but in the end plumped for the Arneis, as their winery is the only place you can get it. Rob was driving so just had a mouthful of mine – don’t worry guys – and then it was time to hit the road. We were gawping at the scenery on the drive home; we’d missed a lot by driving in the dark!!

We ended the day with fish and chips in a little takeaway just outside of Welly, exactly two years since we’d been in a swanky hotel room in Paris, getting engaged <3. Much less glam, but there’s certainly nobody else I’d be climbing mountains (or sharing my chips) with!

This weekend coming is our last one in Welly for a couple of weeks! We’re going to Nelson on the South Island next weekend and then… it’s Half Marathon time!! And my little brother arrives. AND it’s my birthday!! So we’re going to try and have a quiet one. And actually stick to it this time!!

Slang of the day: A couple of carb-related examples this week – “chipper” instead of chippy / fish & chip shop, and “chippies” instead of crisps!

 

 

 

 

 

Welly weekends: Beaches and bush walks

From the little blue house to… the little beach house! I’m writing this from our new pad, an Airbnb in Houghton Bay. I’m sat at our table in the window about ten feet from the ocean. I can see rocks and cliffs and clouds, three little white lighthouses and watch planes coming into land and the ferry to the South Island crawl past. Yep, it’s pretty nice.

We moved here on Saturday afternoon. I feel like we’re starting to get into our groove a bit now – feeling like we live here, rather than we’ve just arrived, if you get the difference! We’re actually not that far from Red Rocks, where we walked last weekend. It’s a ten-minute walk to Island Bay to get the bus into town, and where there’s also a corner shop (“dairy”), a couple of bars and a retro cinema we’re going to check out next week! (I know it’s summer, but deep down October means autumn and that means getting cosy and watching films!).

We really enjoyed our weekend which, of course (I’m not even going to apologise) started with brunch, this time at The Beach House Café on Island Bay. If we ever emigrated (parents, I jest, don’t panic), I know exactly where my café would be: NEXT to this place. Seriously. It’s teeny and gorgeous and SO popular and apparently it hasn’t occurred to anyone to maybe… capitalise? There are enough gorgeous views to go round!

In the interest of “not just eating poached eggs all over the world” I saw Best Ugly Bagels on the menu and plumped for one of those, with mushroom pate, goats cheese, rocket and toasted seeds. Yep, THEY KNOW HOW TO BRUNCH down here. And while the name is fantastic, it is also misleading: ugly these bagels are not. Yum.

We headed into town via the incredibly windy coast road… not ideal after brunch I’ll admit. The land is so steep here; even right by the coast, it just goes straight UP. So it’s a coast road in the most literal sense: a squiggly ribbon right next to the sea, on the only flat bit available! So if sea levels rise even a little bit… that road’s a goner. Food for thought!

We had wanted to walk around Somes Island, also called Matiu, which is a nature reserve in the middle of Wellington Harbour. It’s a two-hour walk around the island, and as I’ve said so many times, when the weather’s good, you gotta pounce! Annoyingly, we got to the ferry office a bit late and wouldn’t have had time to do the walk before the last boat back. I know we’re embracing the outdoors on this trip, but impromptu camping trips are probs still a little bit beyond us… Next time!

The afternoon wasn’t a waste though. What would you do in the UK on the first sunny Saturday of Spring? That’s right – go and find a beer garden (in this case, Fortune Favours) and have a sunny afternoon pint. Marvel at the fact it’s warm enough to take your coat off (but not your scarf) and feel the sun on your face for the first time in a few months. Summer’s coming back around!! It also occurred to me this weekend that this year I am going to have a HOT BIRTHDAY for the first time in my life!..

Sunday was chocka: up early to Skype Team Taylor before heading off to find an 800-year-old tree (more on that in a sec). Though not without a coffee pitstop (again, I am not apologising: unashamedly caffeinated since September 2018). This time we went to Midnight Espresso, a Cuba St institution. The queue snakes down the counter and if you spot a free table, you gotta grab it! I was genuinely proud of Mr TG and his assertive table-pouncing skills. I’ve rarely seen him move so decisively. We really are on a voyage of self-discovery.

What kind of place serves brunch til 3pm, and dinner til 2am?! A pretty awesome kind.

IMG_0657

So: the 800-year-old tree. This really is Middle Earth, right? We hopped back on the bus and 15 mins later were winding our way through ancient and fairly undisturbed bush. Whose bush? (Stop laughing at the back.) Otari-Wilton’s Bush to be precise. (Not, as R calls it, Irwin Mitchell’s Bush. As in… the UK solicitors firm. Haha!).

This is a 100-ha forest reserve and sanctuary on the edge of the city which is dedicated to NZ-native plants, some of which aren’t found anywhere else. And it was amazing!!

From the canopy walk all you can see is a wall of trees (it looks not unlike Jurassic Park… thankfully the scariest thing we saw was a kaka, or bush parrot!). Underneath, you really feel lost in the wilderness, like you’ve gone back in time – not 15 minutes from the capital! It’s not damp and humid like Borneo was (#clang), it’s green and cool and peaceful in there, with enormous tree roots to climb over and vines and creepers curling down everywhere. And it was so quiet: it’s actually school half term here at the moment, but we hardly saw another person!

(I do have to just interject here to vindicate myself: you may remember in Port Fairy, I heard a bird, and R laughed at me and told me it was in fact a windchime. WELL. I can confirm that we BOTH heard the same birdcall while walking in the Bush. Ha! Long live the Jangle Bird.)

The 800-year-old tree was a Rimu and was… wow. You can’t really fathom something that old. All the things that have happened, all the arguments and wars and stresses and nonsense in that time, and it’s just stood there. That’s quite reassuring, really. (Also, nerd alert, you can totally understand why the Ents in Lord of the Rings were totally not arsed about all that One Ring stuff. Silly tiny humans.)

We absolutely loved OWB. $2 on the bus to feel in the heart of the bush; it’s really something special. If you’re ever in this neck of the woods (literally), I would totally recommend it.

Continuing the bush exploration theme, we watched a gorgeous little film on Sunday night called Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I’d vaguely heard of it, but it’s quite well-known here; a modern Kiwi classic, in the way Gavin & Stacey is in Wales. Plus it’s got Sam “Jurassic Park / Peaky Blinders” Neill in it (who knew he was Kiwi!?) which is never a bad thing. It’s funny and sweet and very, very, Kiwi – worth a watch!

I’m pretty excited about this weekend as we’re off on our first Weekend Adventure. We’re hitting the road North and going to Napier and Hawke’s Bay. The town (they call it a city… it’s not a city) is best-known for the art-deco architecture (it was flattened by an earthquake in the 1930s and rebuilt), and like Welly, there are lots of murals around, but we’re also keen to check out some waterfalls and climb Te Mata peak. Hawke’s Bay is also wine country. Now, I’m supposed to be off the vino til the half marathon but I’M IN NZ… training’s already a bit upside-down. It would be rude not to, right!?

(Another realisation this week: my birthday is the Saturday, the race is the Sunday. Therefore I can’t have a drink on my actual 30th birthday. FFS. If that’s not worth sponsoring me I really don’t know what is. Thank you to the lovely Brennans for sponsoring me this week!)

Slang of the day: “think outside the square” – Omg you guys. The “Prue” on Aussie Bake Off said this about FOURTEEN TIMES on this week’s episode. Obviously it’s just their version of “think outside the box“… but good lord it was irritating!!

I am not a very good runner.

I am not a very good runner.

I’m not very fast and I find it pretty hard going most of the time. I’m not the strongest and I’m certainly not the skinniest. I do not have “a runner’s build” but I do have a runner’s body.

Today I ran 15k and it was hard. Really hard! My back is niggling and I was really hungry and I drank 2 glasses of wine last night, and running into the wind here (why do I always seem to be running into the wind?) makes it all so much harder.

IMG_0597

But… views like this help. This country is so ridiculously, heartbreakingly beautiful. I spend the entire run weighing up making actual progress or stopping to take another photo. You cannot feel ungrateful or tired or annoyed with yourself when this is where you get to run. I know I am lucky to be here, in all senses of the word.

Running shows me I can do something if I put my mind to it. It makes me appreciate what my body can do and what my strength of will can achieve.

I run because I love it. It makes me feel so grateful that I have a body that can. It reminds me how lucky I am that I am fit and well enough to be able to get out that door. On good days it makes me feel like a superhero. On bad days it gets me out of the house and, most importantly, out of my head. On really bad days it is the only thing that works.

When you’ve got 13k behind you and another 2k to go, and you just want to stop, a little voice kicks in. It tells you to keep going. That you’ve come this far, what’s 2 more? To grit your teeth and keep your legs moving.

It’s cheesy, but you find a hidden reservoir within yourself. You grind down and you think you’ve reached the bottom, but actually, there’s a level of strength there that you didn’t know you had. And just because you discover it on a run, once you’ve got home and showered and dressed and got on with your day… you still know it’s there. You’ve got that in your pocket for the next time you feel you can’t, that you’re not strong enough. It’s pretty magical. We could all use a bit of that sometimes.

IMG_0615-2

I know I’m banging on about this half marathon a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to breeze it. 13.1 miles is a long way and I’m going to feel every one of them. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty emotional (and not just because I have to get up at 4am!). It’ll be me, out there, on my own at the starting line, on the other side of the world from most of the people I know and love (apart from my two Robs, of course). On my 30th birthday!

There are plenty of reasons not to do it. But there are plenty of reasons not to do anything! And how boring would that be? We’re on this planet for a reason, and we might not get long. So you might as well get out there.

It’s going to be hard and a huge challenge but I’m determined to get round. Life is hard. Life is a huge challenge. Push yourself and you’ll be surprised at how strong you are, and at what you can get through if you try.

4 weeks to go and then you all get a rest from me banging on about it. And I get to eat all of the ice cream. Worth it :).

Welly weekends: Mt. Vic and Red Rocks

We covered a lot of ground this weekend! 18.2km / 33,072 steps in fact (thanks phone pedometer!). We crashed out on Sunday afternoon feeling achy, windswept and happy – the state we’re hoping to find ourselves most Sunday afternoons between now and 19th December.

We wanted to tick a few things off our “city” list early doors, as we want to spend the weekends exploring further afield if we can. Friday night I met Rob in town after work and we checked out a few bars along Courtenay Place. First stop, a rooftop bar called Dirty Little Secret (great name!), which was “inspired by Melbourne’s laneways” (I can concur #clang) with fairy lights all over the place, a big shipping container bar and lots of colourful murals.

Then we went to The Library, an awesome little place tucked away up a flight of stairs which does cocktails, sweet treats, and cheese. Apparently Liv Tyler was there loads while filming Lord Of The Rings… !! Sadly (for Rob) no sign of Liv this time, but I very much enjoyed my Apple Pie martini all the same.

We were pretty hungry after that so decided to try a tapas place we’d seen called Basque. It’s so brightly coloured on the outside that we figured it would be our kinda place, and we were right! There was a real buzzy, Friday-night atmosphere inside and we were lucky to get a table pretty much straight away (wouldn’t get that in London would you!). And the FOOD! We have made some tapas-related mistakes in the past (essentially, oh my god why did we order/eat so much) so we were fairly restrained… yes, that GIANT PLATTER above is our version of “restrained”. (#ilovemanchego).

And anyway, we needed to fuel ourselves up for a big old weekend of walking. Though that wasn’t the reason I was up bright and early (like… really early) on Saturday. I went to my very first running club!!

Wellington Harriers are the same guys who organised the 10k the weekend before. I’ve never been brave enough to go to a running club back home. But there’s something quite freeing about only knowing one other person in the entire country (*hemisphere); it gives you the confidence to do things you wouldn’t normally do at home. And anyway, any fears were unfounded as they were super friendly. Basically everyone lapped me (I never said I was fast!) but they were so nice about it!… It was really nice to meet some people. Just hoping I can figure the buses out to get there once we move.

They did freak me out a little bit about Auckland though. Some of them have done it and the word “undulating” came up a few too many times for me to be comfortable with. I am definitely going to throw some hills in for the next few weeks!! (less than 5 weeks to go… sponsor me heeeeeere thanks!).

Back home and freshly showered, our weekend could really begin! And there is no better way to start a weekend than with BRUNCH. AND, there’s no better place for brunch in Wellington than Prefab!

It’s on Jessie St, behind Courtenay Place, and has been recommended to us soooo many times (inc. by former Newcastle United player, Steven Taylor – not even joking) that we knew it had to be our first brunch in Kiwi land. We got there at 11.30, aka. Peak Brunch O’Clock, but only had to wait a few minutes for a table. Inside it is gorgeous, all concrete floors and pale wood, with floor-to-ceiling windows around and enormous bi-fold doors. And those flowers! I was obsessed. Serious #interiorsinspo. (Nikki – if you’re reading this – I think you’d love it!).

I don’t have any photos of what we ate (FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING RIGHT) which shows you how good it was.

Brunched up, it was time for Te Papa, NZ’s national museum. Yes, it’s a museum, but it’s not dry or dull or dusty – it’s so interesting. Though sadly… we couldn’t be reunited with our old friend the Colossal Squid. They’re putting a new exhibition in so C-Squiddy is currently off-limits. Sad times.

We consoled ourselves with Te Papa’s current hit – Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War.  All I knew about this exhibition was that Weta Workshop was behind it. For those that don’t know (erm, where have you been?) Weta is the GENIUS studio that made Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and plenty of others that I don’t get quite as emotional over. They have a studio in Miramar (aka Wellywood) where I had genuinely one of the most nerdtastic afternoons of my life last time we were here.

You can tell a movie studio has had a hand in it; the highlight are the enormous, incredibly lifelike statues of the individuals whose stories are woven through the exhibition, but as well as that, the music, projections, storytelling – you really do feel like you’re in a film, rather than a museum. It’s fantastic! And lame as it may sound, I really did learn a lot. Gallipoli was NZ’s big WW1 involvement and again we found ourselves truly mind-boggled over the link NZ feels/felt with us. They essentially woke up, Britain had gone to war, so they felt compelled to help “the mother country” and get involved too. (Well, that’s what the exhibition said, I’m sure not everyone felt/feels the same way!). It’s crazy, seeing the strength of the bond (historical and current) NZ feels with us. It doesn’t seem to flow the other way at all.

Despite us (me) not being appropriately dressed, we (I) decided we should take advantage of the lovely afternoon and go up Mt Victoria, the highest point in Welly. Everything we’d read and everyone we’d spoken to suggested it was a pretty easy walk, a nice little stroll to the top, gorgeous views once you get there. 25 mins, tops!

Well. Let me tell you this. Never listen to a Kiwi when they are describing “a hill” to you. It was about 25 mins, but some of those mins were just laughably steep!! I was wearing Converse. Woops.

It was beautiful though, winding through the forest before scrambling up a near vertical stretch emerging at the very top. Where there’s a car park. Because some sensible people drive up. Ffs.

The views were 100% worth it though.

There are a few different routes up, so maybe we just picked a silly one! We started from Oriental Bay but walked home through the Town Belt which was much more picturesque.

More walks on Sunday! We went out to Island Bay, one bay along from Houghton Bay, where we’re moving this Saturday. It is STUNNINNGGGGGGGG.

This part of the coast is the Taputeranga Marine Reserve. R is going to do his PADI diving course here later in the trip. It was about a 45-minute walk to Red Rocks, where there’s a seal colony at certain times of year (though we didn’t see any). We sat on a bench eating our packed lunch, school trip style, and could see the South Island across the Cook Strait (can you see it in the pic below?). Absolutely amazing. I can see this becoming a regular Sunday afternoon walk when we’re living over that way. Can’t wait for it to be warm enough for beach picnics!

Though it did occur to us last night that in Houghton Bay we are more Tsunami Front Line than Tsunami Safe Zone. Hmm.

We’ve got a few more bits and bobs on this week: I’ve got a meeting about some temp work (booooo) on Wednesday and we’re going to a pub quiz with some people from R’s work. And we’re excited to check out Laundry on Cuba St (date night + long run rewards!). Then moving day on Saturday, and possibly another walk somewhere outside the city on Sunday if the weather’s good. Did you know the Stairway to Heaven’s in Welly?

Slang of the day: Crook – feeling rough/dodgy/unwell (“He’s got a crook stomach”); Dairy – newsagent/corner shop.