Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Haute Cuisine

When the significant other and I were recently discussing my European sojourn (we're catching up after 18 months apart while she does an OE) the subject of Xmas dinner came up. The question was asked as to what would I like for the occasion. I'm sorry to say that I took the piss to a certain degree and rattled off a list that included foodstuffs such as duck and venison. I assumed she would know I was being facetious and would make her purchases appropriately.

Well imagine my surprise when I arrived to find smoked duck, venison, and a host of assorted goodies ready for my delectation. I almost felt guilty.

So I've been paying for my sins and have revisited my culinary days. Yesterday saw an entree of smoked duck, rhubarb and apple relish, and Roquefort cheese on garlic crostini. The mains was thymed potatoes roasted in duck fat topped with caramelised red onion and roasted venison, with fresh asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes.

Apparently people are coming around for Boxing Day dinner today so I've got a new menu to plan. I'll get onto it just as soon as I finish breakfast - whole grain toast topped with blue cheese, caramelised red onion, and cold venison.

I think it's what they call breakfast of champions.

Trails and Travails

OK so I'm on the road again. It's been 10 years since I was last in Europe and now I'm revisiting some old haunts as well as my love interest. I'll update when and where I can but what follows is a precis of one of the longest trips I've ever taken.

[take note; flying direct to London from NZ is a very bad idea - especially at Christmas]

22/12 2.30 pm Leave flat for Wellington Airport. It turns out there's no such thing as check-through baggage to Heathrow thanks to US Homeland Security. All arrivals to the USA have to go through customs and immigration. Thanks George.

4-5pm Wgtn - Akld. The usual domestic cattle class crap. If you're taller than 5'9'' then legroom isn't something Air NZ redgards as essential.

5-7pm Stuck at Auckland Airport with all the other Xmas travellers. Ick. Who takes 3 year old children on international flights? It's just asking for trouble.

7pm-10am (US WT) Ah the joys of timezones and the international dateline. It means I get to relive the 22nd of December. The flight to San Francisco's taken about 11 and a half hours and my normal habit of not being able to sleep on planes is running true to form. Still it was a good chance to catch up on a lot of films I've missed lately thanks to be an over-worked and anti-social bastard. I've managed to cram in Superbad, The Simpsons, Stardust, Invasion, and the Bourne Supremacy. Big ups to Air NZ for it's individual digital content on demand setup.

10am - Arrived in San Francisco. Was expecting a bit of a rigmarole with security (having the word journalist listed as one's occupation on immigration forms has been known to create all sorts of problems) but it's turned out not too bad. Though dear old Uncle Sam now has my photo and fingerprints on his database - not really too happy about that as I'm hardly a threat to democracy. The homeland security announcements in the airport are a little disturbing too. It's all a bit Orwellian and paranoid for a simple Kiwi lad such as myself.

I've now been up for 27 hours and on the road for about 20 so technically over halfway to London.

23/12 11am Frankfurt. At the risk of sounding like a whining bitch I have to truly say that flying Lufthansa truly bites. Seriously it's like airtravel in the 80s and 90s. The plane is dated, the AV system id a series of crappy blurry monitors in the aisles and don't get me started on the food. Forget about war crimes tribunals for former members of the Nazi regime, the caterers for Lufthansa need to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity such is the state of the food they provide. I know airline food isn't much at the best of times but the slop Lufthansa serves up is a vicious assault on taste, decency, and culinary standards.

Spent the flight stuck next to a very irritating German chap. Despite having acres of legroom on his side he feels the need to co-opt mine as well. Having an overweight middle-aged Kraut trying to play footsie with me in the dark of night is not pleasant. I've now been awake for 38 hours.

12.20pm Frankfurt. Bugger! Fog at Heathrow is causing flight delays. Flights are being cancelled left right and centre but mine is still listed as delayed - phew. No word as to whether we'll make it to Heathrow today but it isn't looking promising.

1.35pm Still stuck. They're talking about leaving at three but nothing definite. Can't leave the gate area in case I miss a boarding announcement.

4.30pm Wishful thinking on my part - Still in bloody Frankfurt. Lots of angry passengers wanting to know what the fuck is going on. The famed German efficiency isn't providing a lot of answers. We're now on the plane but no word on when it might actually leave.
My questions are; Why was this plane nowhere near the departure gate? And, why would you only have one person handling all the ticketing for several hundred frustrated passengers?

5.20pm Finally in the air. The flight into Heathrow is surreal. There's heavy fog, yet clear as a bell above 500 feet. I can see the lights of London glowing and shining beneath the fog -it's a surreal sci-fi sort of sight. Apparently the visibility on the runway is just 100m so they've had to reduce the numebr of flights into the airport for safety reasons. Heathrow's only handling 24 flights an hour which is why so many flights have been bumped/delayed/cancelled. I found out later hundreds ended up being stuck overnight and have had their travel plans turned to shit. Looks like I've had a lucky escape.

6pm London (GMT) Finally arrived and through customs. Been awake for over 48 hours and travelling and in transit for 40 - it's not quite as bad as the 42 hour train trip I once did from Istanbul to Damascus but it's pushing it pretty damn close.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

F**k Moving!

If there's one thing in life I hate above all else it's moving house.

So guess how I've been spending my weekend?

This is the state of my bedroom at the moment as I wrestle with my overly large library.

And the living room is not a hell of a lot better.

Seriously it has been bloody awful and I have to say I'm not overwhelmed with felicitous feelings for my former landlord who chose to put our old home on the market and cast us out onto the streets 10 days before Christmas. The only solace in it all is that the property market is now apparently on the slide so the evil bastard is likely to get his comeuppance.


Anyway moving in Wellington is a little different top moving anywhere else. The city, while reasonably picturesque, is cursedly hilly so access to properties can be a bit like ascending from base camp at Mt Everest. My new flat is a case in point.

The movers (yes I shelled out for movers as there was no way in hell I was lugging all my crap around), well their faces dropped when they saw what they were faced with.

It was sort of like scaling an alpine pass. This shot shows the little path that they had to wend their way up while staggering under the load of my worldly possessions.

Then there was worse in store ... what every mover fears most.

Stairs. Lots of them with nasty twisty turns. Just what you need when you're lugging a 48" TV. I almost felt sorry for the poor bastards. However the fact I was paying them about 90 bucks an hour did temper that emotion to a slight degree.

Anyway this shot gives you a rough idea of the height difference from my carpark to where my flat actually is.

I figure the movers earned their pay, and so did they. Poor buggers were absolutely shattered at the end of it and not happy that they still had two other jobs to do.

Naturally I was very grateful and promised that I'd use them next time I moved. Their response; thanks but really we'd rather never see this place again if we can help it so consider contracting some other suckers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Step in Time

Here's a tentative headline and opening par for what may happen at the next RWC given yesterday's decision by the NZRFU.

Auckland, October 14 2011.

New Zealand rugby fans are once again in the depths of despair after the All Blacks were once again bundled out of the Rugby World Cup. After dominating all-comers for the past two years the Graham Henry coached side went into the competition again as raging favourites yet were undone by the man rejected for the All Black coaching job back in 2007. Yes, in one of sport's cruellest ironies, it was a Robbie Deans inspired Australia that has sunk Kiwi pride to levels so low it's hard to see how they may ever rise again.

etc etc

Friday, December 07, 2007

Off the F**king Deep End.

This story's made a headline or two of late. It's a train-wreck all by itself.

But then I discovered the woman at the centre of the story has been blogging about it.

I suggest you read the comments - if you can stomach them.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Perfidy of Wellington's Wind

I've been in Wellington a little over a year and a half now and I'm still getting my head around the wind. Honestly I really should just recall what it was like the last time I've lived here - back when I was in high school two decades ago.

You see there's always wind in Wellington (though today was the exception to the rule) but it tends to come in only two directions; north and south. Most days it's either one way or the other.

Bad luck for me then yesterday when I did this ride.

When I left it was a gentle northerly. A bit of a nuisance but not that hard to push into and there's always the pleasant thought of having it behind you on the way home.

Can you guess when the wind changed to the south?? 5 km short of the Totara Park turn-around.