A couple pics of my gorgeous cheeky nephew Brandon looking VERY grown-up compared to the last time we saw him before leaving NZ!

Monopoly Pub Crawl 26 July 2008

Louisa organised a girl version of the pub crawl some of the guys had done a month ago. Louisa, Pam, Toni & I were the keen crew, looking fab in our matching pink custom-printed t-shirts. Debra, Pam’s sister, joined us early afternoon. We had decided that there weren’t any rules when it came to drinking and we were just going to go with the flow and see where the day took us, while trying to stay on track as much as we could and setting foot in many monopoly destinations.

We met at 10:45am for an 11am start, it was weird stepping into a grotty pub at that time of the morning, and I was wondering what we had got ourselves in to… But we soon loosened up and got the hang of this “daytime” drinking, while manoeuvring our way through the hot stinky streets and public transport of London.

We took plenty of photos with all the desired street names and stepped foot in many bars. Tacky apple shots (bargain pre-purchase), bacardi breezers, goldschlager, pear cider, apple cider, cocktails, baileys, vodka & tonic and tequila were all sampled.

It was the first time we’d tried Goldschlager - It is a clear cinnamon liqueur, swirling with hundreds of tiny flakes of real gold. Yes! Real gold!! We all felt an immediate “warmth” after that shot.

We met a couple of other groups doing the Monopoly Pub Crawl which really added to the day. We kept bumping into each other at various pubs and had some fantastic running jokes and photos with them as well. Hilarity all around!

We bumped into Niki and the boys later that evening in one of the bars, it was cool to see them, but disappointingly they weren’t in pink, so after a baileys shot and a brief chat we headed onwards and upwards. The night kind of petered out not long after that … tiredness and things taking their toll, was a shame the day was over, but the flip-side of which meant the spending stopped and we were all l home safely in bed by midnight. I’m also pleased to report no hangovers on Sunday…does the phrase “drink yourself sober ring a bell”!!

Sunday we had gorgeous weather and laxed in the local park. Bring on London Summer!!!

Summer Festivals 19-20 July

The UK has a tonne of music festivals on during the summer, massive 3-dayers like “T in the Park” and “Glastonbury” but also random afternoons in local parks. On Saturday afternoon we headed to the Ealing Blues Festival with Tim, Louisa and Toni. It was only £1 entry plus you could bring in your own food and drinks, and then they also have food stalls and beer tents for purchases, so it doesn’t end up having to cost a bomb – wish it was like that back home for Blues Brews! We sat in the sun and the bands were playing in a large tent so we didn’t have good visual, but it was nice listening to them while laxing back and all getting a little tiddly. London put on a good afternoon/evening of weather for us and we stayed until 9ish.

Sunday afternoon Niki and I went to Brixton to meet up with Spence at another summer festival. This one was a lot larger than Ealing, including lots of festival rides. We had been to this same festival last year with Spence & Lee-Ann, it still shocks me that we’ve been here over a year already! Brixton has a large population of Carribean people so the music was very Bob Marley-ish and soul. We just sat around by the main stage which is really good for people watching, there are some “incredible” heads of dreadlocks around. It was neat to catch up with Spencer and by the sounds of things the next time we see him may be in NZ!

A new arrival in the Laban family

Niki’s brother and sister-in-law had their first baby a week ago. I'm totally out of the loop and don't even know the exact date/time yet. Her name is Kayley Marie Laban and she weighed a tiny 5lb 4oz. Niki is buzzing out at being an Uncle and obviously wishes he was back home. We can't wait to get home to see and spoil her at Christmas. Here are a couple of pics of the beautiful wee girl.

bits and bobs

You may have noticed an extra link on our blog “Our photos from April 2008” – we’ve had to open a new web album as the other is full up (“full up “as in no more free space available, I ain’t paying). I’m trying hard to keep it up-to-date =) feel free to browse.

Meanwhile we have only 3.5 weeks until we leave for the sunshine in Portugal, Spain and South of France (we're away for 4 weeks - bliss). Mum and Nana McG - I'll be celebrating your birthdays with a jug of sangria no doubt!
We're travelling by ourselves again, but are trying to get a bit of a plan sussed and accommodation and transport booked before we leave to make it easier and to ensure we get to everywhere we want to. We are booked on one short tour though - 3 days in Valencia (Spain) to attend the La Tomatina festival (basically a giant tomato fight), should be a crack-up!
I’m so ready for a break, we’ve been back working for over three months now. It’s a hard life! =)

KiWi KAI - 12th July

On Saturday we had a KIWI dinner round at our flat. Tim and Louisa were in charge of the main course whilst Pam whipped up a Pav (and Kev carried the heavy bags?), Niki got free NZ wine from work and Toni and I went shopping for goodies at the kiwi shop. (oink oink)

Tim and Louisa had power issues at their flat so the cooking ended up being done in our kitchen by Tim, with Kev and Niki for moral support, whilst us girls chattered in the lounge. Our “entrée” was grainwaves, cheezels and chips with maggi onion dip. Mmmmm they tasted sooo good, especially since they cost the equivalent of $7 per bag over here! We all had a good laugh and everyone (especially the blokes) was somewhat tiddly by the time we sat down to eat our delicious feast at 9pm. Pam’s pavlova was incredible also, I still dream about it now. We were all full up so didn’t even open the goodies Toni had brought – luckily she is crashing on our couch for a few days so on Sunday we had pineapple lumps, macaroons and mallowpuffs… you can’t beat junk food from home!

Surprisingly we only took one photo of the group – and unfortunately I was the photographer. I am a very bad photographer…I do a much better job on the other side of the camera. Here it is anyway.

Isle of Wight 5-6 July 08

We’d been talking about visiting Gina and Ben on the Isle of Wight for a couple of months and finally found a perfect weekend. Sat 5 July we were up at 6.45am to make sure we were on the road by 8am, I’m not a fan of early mornings, let alone early weekend mornings but we had to maximise our Island time! We drove in Niki’s work-van and had arrived at Portsmouth by 9:30am. We parked up and took a passenger ferry over to the “island”. It is the most expensive stretch of water to cross within Europe, our ten minute ferry crossing costing £8.80 each!

Gina and Ben have a car so met us at the ferry at Ryde and took us tiki-touring around the island for the day. The population is about the same as Tauranga (where we’re from in NZ) and it has approx 40 primary school and six high schools (Gina works at the local council so was telling us all the stats!) so it’s not as small as I had imagined it would be, and is divided into smaller townships with all the shops and everything you need readily accessible. Isle of Wight is famous for the large music festival that is held every year - the biggest one being back in the 70's, and it's also quite popular for the Brits summer holidays. The island of course comes complete with a british beach essential - tacky carnival rides!

We were lucky to have fairly nice weather – apart from the wind, as it’s coastal. One of our stops was the Needles: “The Needles are the western most point of the Isle of Wight and are a series of chalk stacks which protrude into the see at the end of which is a lighthouse”. The views were pretty spectacular. We had a scrummy lunch and sampled the Goddards Fuggle Dee Dum! - a local beer and of course some Minghella local ice cream.

Later in the afternoon we headed down to a local park (via off-license of course!) with a plastic cricket set (made for six year olds) and had some laughs trying to play – had a local ten year old boy join in with lots of energy so he did most the running, whew! That night we went to a local pub for dinner and drinks where we were amused by some interesting outfits donned for a birthday celebration. The guys for example were dressed as grandma, dominatrix and spider man whereas the girls were dirty cop, slutty nurse, sexy maid, skimpy Lara Croft, wonder woman - you get the picture! In their defence they were hot girls… must’ve been an 18th cos I know my backside doesn’t look that good anymore! =)

Sunday we didn’t get going til about 10am. We had a lovely brunch at a nice café – bargain prices compared to London. We visited Osborne house which was Queen Victoria’s Palace by the sea, it was impressive. We were able to see the Queen’s bedroom, the nursery rooms and even royal bathrooms. The grounds were massive and immaculate but we didn’t spend much time exploring as it was pouring with rain! Gina and Ben have Heritage passes so we sneakily used those to save the entry price.

Ben had to pop into work for a couple of hours so Gina drove us out to Carisbrooke Castle. Niki went in to explore whilst us girls had a good catch-up and wander around the outside. Later we did a supermarket mission and met Ben for a late lunch overlooking the water…. And then it was time to head back =( Gina and Ben were such fantastic hosts, thanks guys!!!!!

We took the hovercraft back to Portsmouth which was pretty cool, it comes right up on the concrete! We got back to London around 8:30pm - in time to see part of the exciting Wimbledon men’s final.

Social Butterfly 30/06-04/07

The other week was rather busy, fun of course, but also surprisingly made me treasure the quiet "school" nights I usually have. A self-confessed Nana!

Monday we went out to dinner as my work had told me they'd pay for Niki & I to go out for dinner as a thank you for working quite late one night - they already paid me overtime as well but hey I'm not complaining. It was nice going out and not worrying about the cost. It wasn't an expensive place so even with 3 courses each and a few drinks we came in well under 'budget'.

Tuesday I went to Sheree & Marty's for their "farewell" BBQ as they were off travelling the next day for a month then off home back to NZ in August. I ended up kitchen-bitching it with Sheree for an hour before heading 5 houses down the road to their friends for the BBQ. It was really entertaining, they have a good bunch of kiwi flatmates and friends who are all living it up in London. Later Sheree loaded me up with a massive bag of her clothes she no longer wanted and other bits including 3 bottles of booze, and I managed to get home by midnight - after major missions carrying everything!! Niki didn't come as he had to start at 3am the next day ... yes I said 3am!

Wednesday I had nothing on, but Niki was away - which is typical.

Thursday I had wrangled an invite to a work party involving a bunch of my old workmates from Edinburgh! It was so fantastic to see everyone again, I didn't realise how much I missed them all. Unfortunately the party was a little bit lame, them not serving spirits was a contributing factor! By the time the music started some time after 10pm I had already decided to head home - taking into account the tube ride home etc = another late night... concealer required!

Friday we had Mandy & Aaron's farewell at the Temple Walkabout. I had had a manic day at work and had stayed late so was ready for a vodka! It was great to catch-up and we had a laxed time including sampling some "gourmet" pub grub - Niki opted for the kangaroo burger of all things, tastes like any ol' burger according to him. The DJ was playing cheese music so we had a wee boogy, brought the kids a "see ya later" jager shot and had some tearful (the girls) hugs good bye. We made a beeline for the door just after 10 as we had an early start the next morning - but that's another post altogether.

Wimbledon 2008

Saturday 28 June we went to Wimbledon with Sheree and Toni. We were blessed with beautiful weather which made the early start and major line-up bearable. The process for those without tickets is to line-up at a designated field and be issued with a “queue card”, so that no-one can jumped the queue or anything. They were running behind so we sat in our line for quite a while before they got to us and we were feeling a bit blue as we thought there were only 6000 tickets and knew they had already well reached that limit. Luckily on this day they had approx 9000 tickets to sell for general admission and that would get you in by 1pm, for the rest of the crowds they would have to wait patiently until people started leaving the grounds later in the day.

It only cost £20 for a ticket and you’re allowed to take in your own food and 1 bottle of wine per person, so it’s really great and you can totally do Wimbledon on a budget.

We had a couple of "hiccups" which made me mad but by the time we got through the gates and I was seated with a Pimms in hand all was good.

In the “queue” there was a lot of free stuff given out from various companies – umbrellas, muesli bars, bottles of water etc and we had purchased newspapers solely for the “free” gifts that came with them (one of which was a small radio which Niki thought would be good to listen to the cricket on – multi-tasking!) anyway when we got to security we were told that we couldn’t bring in any of this stuff because they weren’t sponsors of Wimbledon and were trying to get the brand on camera. You had the option of leaving it in left luggage for £1 but who wants that hassle! It was a bit OTT because you could bring in any other muesli bars/food. Anyway Niki’s radio had to be chucked, and Toni & Sheree had to give up their giant umbrellas and they turned the bags the newspapers came in, inside out, however we made them let us keep our muesli bars etc just took off the wrappers! They weren’t very thorough or consistent with their searches though as Toni got in with her free muesli bar – wrapper and all, and I also had a plastic bottle of Pimms in my bag which I got through with. I was pretty mad at the newspapers though for conning us. grrrrrr

And if that wasn’t enough we got a whole lot further down the line – so close to the entrance when Niki realised he didn’t have his wallet, so went all the way back to security as he had had to empty his pockets there, was told it wasn’t there, came back to me, I was nearly in tears…and then he bloody well found it in the bag with the wine. BOYS!!! I’m seriously going to go grey before my time!

First up we watched the NZ girl play and man it was soo close, but unfortunately she lost. It was a really cool atmosphere and even though we didn’t see anyone famous in the flesh it was really fun. We flitted between courts for the day so saw a range of men, woman, juniors and mixed. We also sat on the “hill” to watch the action from centre court on the big screen. We got a great cheap “souvenir” – a used tennis ball with Wimbledon 2008 stamped on it! The facilities and staff were fantastic, was really impressed with customer service for probably the first time in UK.

A mammoth 12 hours after arriving we decided to call it a day… Seriously it was excellent – and I’m not even a tennis fan!