Reporting in

Having an amazing time in Athens too much food,not enough sleep, walking our feet off,and almost filled a memory card of photos already. such a gorgeous place (despite pickpockets and the fact that everyone smokes everywhere all the time).

I’m discovering the value of a mathematical education for trying to decipher street signs, and I’ve learnt to say hello and thank you , (though my pronunciation is awful). Everyone speaks some English, which makes communication easier, but I’m trying to be polite enough to at least attempt a few words of Greek.

I’m writing this on my tablet, which is difficult, so This will have to do for now.. Just wanted to let you all know I’m alive and having a wonderful time.

Final countdown

Do do do do, do do do-do dooo… sorry, accidentally segued into bad 80s music there.  But I’m all packed, the house is tidy, I’ve left a note for my house-sitter, and in an hour or so Lytteltonwitch will turn up and we’ll be off to the airport.  And about 35 hours and 5 airports later, we’ll be in Greece!

I could definitely do with a holiday, because this week has been even more chaotic than usual.  Work was super busy, of course, trying to get everything completed and/or handed over to colleagues before I disappear for a month.  Plus I had to try and write sufficient notes for myself on the data coding I’m in the middle of for my thesis, so that when I get back I’ll remember what exactly I was doing and will be able to pick up where I left off.

And then, just to add to the long list of “things I must get sorted out before I go”, I developed a minor toothache on Monday, which by Wednesday had developed into a “no, you can’t just ignore it until you get home” sort of pain, which meant I had to get an emergency appointment with a dentist.  Where, after x-ray, it turned out I had an abscess, and was given the option of either a very expensive root canal that the dentist warned might not last more than a year because of previous work done on that tooth, or an only mildly expensive extraction.  So I opted for the extraction.  Which of course means I’ve had to fit salt-water mouthwashes into my schedule multiple times a day to try and get it reasonably healed before I leave (which doesn’t seem that bad, except that the kitchen and bathroom are on different floors in our building, so for the rest of the week I spent a large proportion of my work days going to the kitchen to make up a cup of salt water, then taking it downstairs to the bathroom to rinse out my mouth, then back up to the kitchen to clean out the cup… and repeat every couple of hours).  The good news is that it seems to be healing well – I can’t quite eat on that side of my mouth yet, and my jaw still feels a little bruised, but there’s no real pain now, so I should be fine to fly without needing to resort to my emergency stash of painkillers.

I finished work on Friday, but didn’t exactly spend the weekend relaxing.  Ages ago I’d arranged for Dad to bring the boys up for the weekend, because there were some jobs that needed done around my property that I couldn’t handle on my own (most important being chopping a large branch off a tree in the back yard, which had grown too close to the chimney and become a fire hazard, and the branch was big enough that it would need multiple people hanging off ropes to stop it damaging the roof when it was cut down), and this weekend turned out to be the best option because the boys would be on school holidays, and I wouldn’t be studying (I’m officially suspended from the Masters programme for the next month).  So they arrived on Friday night, with the surprise addition of Niece (who I think had been a bit upset to hear her brothers were coming to visit and she wasn’t, so Dad let her come along too – which led to some very complicated sleeping arrangements trying to fit four extra people into the house – luckily Niece is still small enough that she could sleep on the recliner armchair, but the boys are pretty much adult sized now, so the days of making up beds on couches are numbered…)

It was great having them here, and they worked incredibly hard (even Niece helped out occasionally with little jobs, but mostly I let her just play on my computer to keep her safely out of the way).  We got the offending branch removed, cut back or removed entirely a whole load of other trees and bushes, painted the window trims (rather badly – I let the boys do the first coat, which was a mistake, because I think more paint ended up on the surrounding bricks than the woodwork… they’re great kids, but no practical skills* at all!), cleared the gutters, and seriously cut down my long “when I’ve got some of this mythical spare time” to-do list. I wish I’d thought to take before and after pictures, because the transformation of my jungle of a back yard is incredible.

*Or common sense: Nephew #1 was loading up the trailer with green waste to take to the dump, and left the rake lying in the bottom of the trailer.  So when they got to the dump and needed the rake to pull everything out of the trailer, it had half a tonne of branches on top of it…

As well as being good to get all that work done, I really enjoyed getting stuck in to some physical work myself – after so many months spending virtually all my time sitting at a computer or behind a textbook, it felt almost restful to just be using my body instead of my mind.  And because I’d have felt too guilty letting Dad and the boys work on my garden without helping them, there was no temptation to head into the university and try and squeeze in just a few hours more work before I leave.  Given how good I felt after it all (well, apart from a couple of aching muscles today), I think I should schedule a couple of similar visits over the next year or so, to ensure I get a break from studying occasionally.

They left at lunchtime yesterday, and the rest of the day was spent frantically cleaning (it’s amazing how much mess three children can generate in just a couple of days!) to get the house into an acceptable state for the house sitter, then the evening was spent packing (not quite as last minute as it sounds – I had everything I wanted to take organised, so it was just a matter of throwing it into the suitcase), so this is really the first chance I’ve had to sit down and relax.

But everything is done now, and very soon we’ll be on our way.  I’ll try and post occasionally if I get wi-fi access, but you’ll have to wait until I get home for the full trip report (assuming I don’t do what I so often do and never get round to actually writing it up…). And lots of pretty pictures of course!

Official food blogger

As promised, a totally selling-out post on the Food Show, which I attended today (with Lytteltonwitch as my trusty assistant) thanks to free passes from a friendly PR person.

I was greatly amused when the free passes turned out to be media passes!  Yes, I know blogging is social media and all that, but it’s still funny to think of my little blog being considered media.  A few stallholders noticed my badge and asked who I was affiliated with – I think they were probably hoping for The Press or one of the big magazines, but they all hid their disappointment well when I admitted I was just a blogger 🙂

Anyway, here’s all the pretty pictures.  Proof I’m not a journalist: I was more concerned about getting good photos than including the companies’ branding in the pictures, but I did make a note of the names of the ones whose free samples I particularly enjoyed (So many free samples!  There was an area where you could buy lunch, but by the time we’d done the rounds and sampled everything on offer, neither of us felt in need of an actual meal).  Mostly though I just took pictures of attractively laid-out displays, or particularly enthusiastic demonstrators – just stuff that caught my eye, in other words.

Chilli-infused lemonade, from Pete’s Natural. Interesting, but seriously intense (yes, that is an actual chilli pepper you can see inside the bottle, and it tasted like it too!) – I can’t imagine drinking a whole bottle of it! Their Lime-o-nade flavour was really good though – it had mint in it, which was so nice. If I wasn’t going away so soon I probably would have bought a few bottles to take home.

This guy was wonderful. Very strong Italian accent, calling out compliments to everyone who passed and encouraging them to come and try some limoncello (which was very nice, especially the cream variety, but with a serious kick – I reckon it would be very easy to get very drunk on it very quickly!)

Parsnip dip (no, not the cat, the vegetable 🙂 ). The stall wasn’t actually selling dips though – it was actually promoting vegetables grown in Southland. They had boxes of really nice-looking winter vegetables for sale that again I probably would have bought if I wasn’t heading away so soon.

When the woman at this stall saw I was taking a picture, she quickly rushed to re-fill the dishes of olives so they’d look better for me. So even though I wasn’t particularly excited by the food (I’ve never been a big fan of olives), I’ll give them a plug just for being nice 🙂

Rosewater-flavoured icecream. An interesting idea, but a bit sickly for my taste.

The samples of mussel paté at this stall were being grabbed up faster than the staff could replace them!

A refreshing break after all that spicy food (and especially salami – it seemed like every second stall was offering salami. So many so that they all began to blur into each other, and I can’t remember now which ones I liked). Fruit and juices from Nelson. They gave me a notebook and pen too – swag!

Apparently pipi have been rebranded as “Southern Clams” now. You can’t fool me, they’re still pipi, and you can pick them up off the beach for free :-p

I almost didn’t notice this guy until Lytteltonwitch pointed him out. He looked very tired (though he perked up a bit for the photo) – I suspect he’d been on his feet all day.

There were cooking demonstrations from various celebrity chefs over the course of the day. We only watched one, but it was very entertaining. Robert Oliver was demonstrating some Samoan recipes, but what made it really fun was he was “assisted” by Cindy of Samoa, a fa’afafine entertainer whose commentary had the audience in hysterics – she was turning everything Oliver and the MC said, no matter how innocent, into a double entendre, and had a poor young man from the audience blushing intensely as she taught him the traditional way to scrape a coconut (which involves sitting on the scraper and rubbing the coconut on it between your legs… yeah, you get the idea).

So, general impression of the day: fun, lots of interesting foods to sample, and I reckon if you’re a foodie probably worth the entry price.  And definitely worth it if you can score a free entry! 😉

Two Happy Things

  1. I had to go into town for a meeting on Thursday (it still amazes me that I have the sort of job now where I get to have meetings – and not the sort where I’m only there to take minutes!), and on the way back to work I passed a sign for Scorpios‘ newly reopened shop.  I didn’t have time for more than a quick look around, but it was so exciting to see them back in a proper shop (while the cramped container in ReStart and the Riccarton satellite branch are great, they’re just not the same).  Brought back so many memories of the days (pre-Amazon) when I used to come over from Westport for the weekend and stock up on as many books as my budget would allow, just so I could survive a little bit longer in the cultural wasteland.  Of course I had to buy something, and Margaret Atwood’s new book (well, newish – it actually came out last year, but this is why I need Scorpios, so I notice things like new Atwood novels when they actually happen!) leapt off the shelf at me.  I was smiling all the way back to work – there’s something just so comforting about a new book in a Scorpios bag 🙂

  2. It’s April, which means I’m going to Athens this month!!!  In just over two weeks, in fact!  I went down to the bank in my lunch-hour yesterday and got some Euros, which is the last major bit of preparation I needed to do (other than the last-minute stuff like packing).  There’s something about getting foreign currency that makes a trip seem so much more real (especially in these days of e-ticketing – a printed-off email never seems as real as a proper ticket).  Lytteltonwitch and I have been talking about this trip for so long (two years in fact, since Athens’s bid for the 2016 convention was announced) that it’s felt like a far-off thing even while I’ve been buying tickets and booking accommodation.  But now it’s suddenly very immediate and real.  There may have been a small degree of happy dance occurring while I took the above photo…