The Royals and Me.

William the Conqueror
Queen Esther
King Xerxes
King Edward III
Queen Phillipa
King Potatau Te Wherowhero
William Shakespeare
King Louis VIII “The Lion”
Abraham
Pharaoh Ramesses XI
Charlemagne

What do all these history shapers have in common? Me.

I have always had a fascination with genealogy, largely thanks to my beautiful Nana who has been a genealogist as long as I can remember. Parts of my childhood were spent at the Auckland War Memorial Museum helping Nana enter tons of data into the system. Also because my father’s side of the family has remained quite the mystery, and me being the curious bugger I am… Well I had to find out all I could.

Enter ‘My Heritage’. It all began with a DNA test for my Nana, just for laughs we wanted to see what she was ‘made up of’. Then our curiosity peaked, we ordered DNA kits for the whole family and lo and behold, answers were found but even more questions arose.

“Who am I?”

Well, according to the DNA results, I’m:

40.6% Irish, Scottish, Welsh
18.8% Polynesian
11.3% Scandinavian
10.2% Baltic (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)
9.7% Iberian (Spanish, Portuguese)
5.6% Central Asian (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, etc)
2.7% Italian
1.1% Native American

I knew I was a mixed bag, a classic Kiwi mutt, a perfectly balanced genetic cocktail, however this raised more questions, such as… “Who are my ancestors? Where did we come from?”. I knew that most of my family (both sides) were from the UK, and commoners, but these DNA results show that there is far more to the story than we currently knew.

So we began digging into our family tree. As I said earlier, Nana has been a genealogist ever since Marie Antoinette proclaimed “Cake is AMAZEBALLS!” (or something to that effect), and has done a lot of both her family tree, and my grandfather’s family tree. We were armed with plenty of information on that side of the family, no major expectations, but excited to see where these people would take us.

My father’s side though, they were a slightly different story. I was only armed with my grandparents names, and my grandfather’s parents names. I knew my Polynesian blood came through my grandmother’s line, and I knew my grandfather was VERY Scottish… and that was about it.

So, as I have been recovering, I have been helping my mother dig into our past, it almost became a wee competition between us – “Who can go back furthest?” We surprised ourselves with just how far we could venture back! But we’ll get to that shortly…

One morning, after dropping my brother off at school, my mother had an unexplainable feeling of excitement, like something amazing was just around the corner. We had been following her father’s lineage back and earlier that week she had found nobility. How exciting was that! To know that we had well-to-do ancestors that were important persons in society was empowering. I, who grew up in borderline poverty, descend from fairly notable people! Who knew??
Little did I know that on that morning that my mother felt she was nearing something unimaginable, she would strike literal gold.

King Edward III.

I heard a scream of shock and amazed laughter, I hobbled as fast as I could downstairs to see what on earth that crazy mother of mine had found.

“Steph, we descend from King Edward III. We descend from royalty! A direct line to the King of England!”

I was shocked. And speechless. A rare thing for me.

I followed the line back down the generations… A direct line that led to me.

How do you describe that?  How do you put that feeling, that discovery into words?

I, Stephanie, descend from royalty. Me? The injured waitress, comes from a royal line that goes back generations? Beg pardon, say what now?

So I did what anyone would do, I fired up the old laptop and followed his lineage back as far as I could, spanning centuries and countries. Circa 900AD is where I hit a ‘dead end’, in France. I was floored. It was empowering to know this information. I come from a long line of Kings and Queens…. What happened? Where’s my castle (with overflowing wine cellar)?? Also, my name now seems quite apt. “Stephanie”, meaning “Crowned”. Too bloody right!

Fuelled with this knowledge, I jumped onto my father’s side of the tree and began following the lineage via his father, and very quickly arrived in Scotland. Soon I began to hit wall after wall. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t quite break through. I was intent on following my father’s name back as far as possible, because I wanted to know where we came from.

Then one evening mum called me over, “Steph, does the name ‘William the Conqueror’ mean anything to you?”
“Yes, of course! Why do you ask?”
“I’ve followed a direct line, via one of the wives on your father’s side, all the way back to him. You descend from William the Conqueror. And this means that your father’s line and mine meet here.”

Again I was speechless, but not for long. I immediately began poking around the names that had appeared, one name jumped out at me, so I followed the trail. Mum had ‘returned to her side of the tree’ and made it back to 75BC before challenging me to “Beat that!” before toddling off to bed.

She knows I’m competitive. She knows that I will make it my mission to ‘Beat that!”.

I kept following this one line back, nobility led to royalty….. and remained so. One of the perks of finding nobility and royalty is their information is public knowledge AND well documented. I followed this line through generations of royalty in Northern Scotland, seeing their names slowly change to more Scandinavian sounding names. Soon I arrived in Scandinavia, still chasing a solid royal line. Then it began to be quite interesting… We arrived in Turkey. Then Mesopotamia. The Seleucids appeared.

Seleucus I Nicator, who served under none other than Alexander the Great as an infantry general. He eventually rose the ranks to gain the title of ‘Basileus’ (King/Emperor) and thus began the grand Seleucid Empire.

Continuing up the tree we follow a direct line that includes the likes of: King Darius of Persia, King Xerxes the Great of Persia and Queen Esther (Hadassah) the Great. Following Queen Esther’s line, we have a direct lineage to Abraham himself (and further).

Jump to my father’s line, my sister had been digging around and discovered an ancestor with quite the unique last name. Te Wherowhero. I recognised that name from my school days. In New Zealand it’s a pretty big deal. The first Maori king.
See, I never knew much about my Dad’s side of the family, but I remember two family rumours. One, that there was Native American in my history. Two, that once upon a time, my family were on the throne in New Zealand. Turns out family rumours always hold a margin of truth to them, so you should never fully rule them out until you’ve researched them thoroughly.

So where does this now lead me? What does one do with this rich information? Well, I’m not sure! But when I know, I’ll be sure to fill you in.

For now, smile peasants, it’s wine o’clock!

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Hello, old friend.

Hello, old friend.

Well! Where do I begin?

SO, clearly I haven’t posted anything in what feels like a couple centuries, to be completely honest, I have been in a bit of a situational funk.

About 10 months ago I injured my foot & ankle quite badly. How, you ask? Well because this is me, it is the least exciting injury you could imagine! While playing guitar my foot went numb (a usual occurance), however instead of being smart and waiting for my foot to regain feeling, I stood too soon… Putting all the weight on the top of my foot, and hearing a couple delightful snaps on the side of my foot.

Instant vertigo and nausea hit, and yet I didn’t feel anything.. But I knew this wasn’t a simple twist.

After multiple trips to the doctor/radiologist/physio/specialist I was told, “It could be a really bad sprain with tearing to the ligaments and tendon damage (soft tissue damage), or it could be an avulsion fracture where a small piece of bone has been ripped off due to ligament tearing.” And my personal favourite, “In the medical industry we call this a ‘Nothing Injury’.” All I knew for certain was I was in for a long road to recovery.

At first I was given a couple weeks off to recover then sent back to work part time, but that was a disaster that only lasted a month or so. Since then I have been solidly doing my physical rehab, doing all I was told, but still struggling.

I was moved from a ‘Return to Work’ program, to a ‘Pain Program’ which involved a Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, and Psychologist. When I heard a Psychologist was being involved, I did (internally) get a little defensive, “I’m not crazy. I’m not making any of this up. Why do I have to do this?” I thought.

We did a couple of questionnaires to assess where I was physically and mentally. Moderate depression and anxiety, they said. Apparently this was very normal for someone in my situation, going from being very active in work and physically, to being in a moonboot, on crutches, and often being reduced to tears due to pain, frustration, and the loss of a lot of my independence. I was reliant on family (God bless their cotton socks) to move about the house, to go to shops, to just getting anywhere.

And because I didn’t yet drive (I had been held in the tight grip of a fear of driving), if I wanted to see friends, I had to rely on others to go somewhere, or they would have to come by the house. I felt like I was a terrible burden to everyone, so I withdrew from socialising at all. I wasn’t completely isolated as I’m always surrounded by a large and loving family, but due to my self-imposed isolation I heard from people less and less…. and responded to others less and less.

My world became very small.

Physio at gym 5 days a week, Tuesday lunches with Poppa, stepsisters come to stay every second weekend, grocery shopping… These were my main weekly escapes/interactions.

Very quickly I began to believe that I would never get better. I was bloody well doing all I could and seeing no change! I’m naturally a very optimistic person, and yet I began to think more and more pessimistically as each day passed.

But as Christmas rolled around (My favourite time of year) I couldn’t be pessimistic surrounded by decorations, lights, music, and family. I began to change my mindset back to thinking optimistically, to seeing the silver lining once more.

Instead of living just to see the end of the day, I began to plan little things here and there throughout my weeks, play a bit of guitar one day, go see a movie the next, dive into my genealogy, tackle my fear of driving, sing more, smile more. For me, this helped me realise that although I’m still in pain, I can still enjoy life.

I know this all sounds melodramatic, but this is my story, my pain, my thoughts… And my road to recovery.

I want to thank all you gorgeous people who continued to contact me throughout my funk, and didn’t chastise me for my social quietness. I am in a much better place now, and am also beginning to improve physically.

Fun times ahead!!

Devil’s Bridge

Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello! And welcome to the Graham Norton Show…
Hang on, wrong script…

Hey gorgeous! You’re looking fierce today! Sorry I’ve been AWOL as of late, up until recently things were the ‘same old, same old” and I didn’t wish to bore you with the same stories and thoughts.

I’ve recently come back from a glorious weekend in Wales! A weekend is never enough time to see another country, but it’s just enough time to catch up with family and have a pint… Or three…

Give me a second…. *sorts through memory filing cabinets* Right! Need a cuppa? A pint? You have one already? Fab!

Thursday was the initial (and preferred) departure date… But France had other things on it’s mind. France, you say? You thought I was going to talk about Wales? I will! Bear with me, ok?

My super smart/creative uncle T, whom I was to travel with to Wales, was in France on business judging advertisements from around the globe (correct me if I’m wrong, T!), and was to fly out from France to Heathrow Airport where I would meet him, and we’d be on our merry way to Wales. However!! France was throwing it’s toys out of the cot, getting it’s tits in a knot, over a few matters and were vocalising their passion by way of ‘strike’. SO, due to a series of unfortunate events, T missed his flight. Bugger! (Quick note: I still love France, and I do infact understand the need to stand up for certain things. It was just a mild disruption to my holiday… You owe me a holiday, France!)
It was decided we would travel the next morn, so my other uncle (L the *almost* half-centurion) wouldn’t have to collect us in the wee hours of the morn.

No matter! Hakuna Matata! We made it to our destination relatively unscathed, and promptly napped, read the afternoon away. Such party animals! Once rested, we made our way to the pub! Woooo! There we made plans for the following day, a motorcycle ride through the countryside.

Here I must quickly explain, I am one of the least athletic people you would ever meet. Yes, I’ve dropped a couple dress sizes recently, but I have the grace and athleticism of a stationary pumpkin. Me getting on a bike would somehow result in: catching my foot on the seat, catching my foot on the seat and faceplanting on the other side, or just looking at the bike and falling over. All of which would result in me going bright red and giggling like a five-year-old.

BUT! The next day we were kitted up, I looked like a kid in her uncle’s oversized coat, and we were off! And I’m in love. I’m in love with the Welsh countryside, it’s rough, rugged, green, ever changing, and oh so very beautiful. I’m in love with motorcycles, the raw power is intoxicating. You almost feel naked as it’s just you, the bike, and the road. It’s utterly amazing! We were on a couple of Triumphs with HA-YUGE engines. Merely tweak the accelerator and it charged ahead, almost leaving you behind. I can only liken it to a horse, chomping at the bit, waiting to be given just a little leeway to bolt over the start line.

Oh, and the scenery. The lush beautiful scenery! In the space of five hours I saw forest, rivers, waterfalls, reservoirs, dams, ruins, quarries, mountains, hills, cliffs, fields, streams, civilization, wilderness…. and sheep. Much like New Zealand, they are everywhere! Especially when there are no fences separating road from farm, you can expect to see on the road: sleeping sheep, racing sheep, feeding sheep, herds of sheep, statuesque sheep… But it does make for an entertaining ride!

We stopped off at a place called “Devil’s Bridge”, which was charming, utterly amazing. The bridge is a tad different as it is three bridges built one on top of the other, over many centuries. The first bridge built around 1075-1200, the second built in 1753, and the “modern” bridge built in 1901.
Where they built the bridge is over a terrifying drop of 90 metres (300ft), my inner kiwi exclaimed “let’s put a bungy here!!”. Peering over the edge of the bridge, you see a beautiful waterfall that empties into the ‘Punchbowl”.
The story goes – The Devil finally booked tickets to see the breathtaking scenery of Wales in the eleventh century. As he walked alongside a fabulous river, he heard the sounds of a distraught woman. He thought, “Gosh, I’m trying to enjoy the views here, but that woman is making such an awful racket! I’ll shut her up!” With an evil twinkle in his eye, he asked what was the matter, discovered her cow had swam to the other side of the river but she was too weak to go fetch her.
As he was such a considerate being, he decided to help. Said he, “Cheer up lass, I’ll throw together a bridge like no other has seen. All I ask is to keep the first living thing that should cross my masterpiece. Deal, or no deal?”
She agreed, he was happy that she’d shut up and the countryside was once more at peace. Being such a cheery bloke.
The next morn, the old woman returned to the spot where she had spoken with the odd looking fellow, and much to her delight, a strong bridge stood there!
“See here, miss. I’ve done a fairly cracker job on this here bridge, now it’s your turn to keep your side of the bargain.”
What he didn’t realise was this woman was the first lawyer in Wales and was not so keen on the fine print of this deal. She had a plan! Waddling to the bridge, she stopped just before setting foot on the bridge and threw a loaf of bread (or was it a welshcake?).
The Devil thought she was a bit balmy until he saw the dog run onto the bridge for the food.
Mortified that he had been outwitted by this fine Welsh attorney, the Devil quickly fled the country on Hell Express, never to return as the burn was so severe.
The End! (This is *exactly* what happened)

After a pleasant lunch, with glorious views and entertaining company, we zoomed back in time for beer-o’clock!

An by my calculations, it’s time you had a drink! What’ll it be?

Hungry, Hungry Kiwi!

Foooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!!!!!
Ok, maybe not today… But beware… I could strike at any moment…

Ok England, what’s up with all this stuff you call ‘food’?? I’ve tried to keep quiet on the issue, tried to help you by thinking I caught you on a bad day, but no longer. I need to ask some serious questions… Because I’m hungry!

You have easy access to ingredients and recipes from Europe, Asia, Mediterranean, and Africa, so you have no excuse for what you are doing to the food industry here.

Some of the finest coffees in the world come from countries not five hours flight from you, and yet you still serve compost water as coffee? Milk served with third degree burns, having the texture of raw wool, and truly not fit for human consumption. Be gentle when making coffee, it is an art, not road maintenance. Why do you not want the best for yourself? Paying over and over again for mediocre, bland, horrible food and drink is not the way to live!

Where is your *flavour*?? Why are you so grey and bland? Why are you overly sweet? Why the excess grease? Herbs and spices are your friends! Food doesn’t need to be spiced to the point of physical harm upon consumption, but at least learn to flavour your foods so all ingredients are balanced, complimenting each other, and salsa dancing with your tastebuds. (Heh, see what I did there?)

Food needn’t be so damn grey and boring! Yes, the British weather is grey on the odd occasion, that doesn’t mean you need to match your wardrobe and fridge contents to the weather! Instead, through some life and colour into your meals! Taste the rainbow! (No, not endorsing Skittles, lest you wish for teeth resembling Swiss Cheese.) I don’t know about you, but when I go out and spend my hard earned cash, I like to be happy with my purchase. I like to think, “Wow, these people know what’s up! I’m coming back here!” Take a leaf out of your favourite child’s book (that’d be New Zealand… In case you’d forgotten) and have delicious food for people in all walks of life.

I’ve heard England has some of the best restaurants in the world. Well, that’s nice! (Mrs Brown would be so proud!) I don’t have the dosh to throw at restaurants in that price category. So I go to the cafes, the food trucks, etc. In NZ, our cafe culture is enviable. We train our baristas to make coffee that brings customers back again and again, singing for their perfect pick-me-up. We have exciting blackboard menus, as well as cabinet food. We add flavour, character, and our own spin on classics such as the mighty pie, the scrumptious b.l.t., and the refreshing salad. We have food that is delicious, affordable, and tips it’s hat to other cultures. So I am quite shocked when I walk into a cafe in the UK and 9/10 the workers are on their phones, bitching to one another about their lives, and not truly paying attention to the customers. The food, apart from the odd exception, has lacked the “X-FACTOR” (Simon, don’t sue me) that one expects.

Pies. I love a good pie. As I come from New Zealand, that shouldn’t surprise you. Give me a sweet pie, give me a savoury pie, I’ll be a happy camper… Usually.
A pie is not so hard to make, and yet here in England, it seems to be the forgotten 13th Labour of Hercules. Every single pie I’ve braved has been so very different from the previous.
I’ll tell you the secret to a good savoury pie – a simple short pastry on the base which is crisp yet does not disintegrate upon contact. A light, flakey, scrumptious pastry top. And what goes in the pies, I hear you ask? A wonderful, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth stew like delicious number. Meat, gravy, occasionally veg, layer of cheese sauce. NOM! Not hard, is it? I’ve made many pies myself, gorgeous things they were! So I’ve tried a few here… Chef Steph not impressed. (Disclaimer: this author is in fact not  chef, just an avid – and very hungry – cook. No need to shout, was just a handy dandy rhyme to fill in the thyme. Ba dum tsh!)
Pastry has ranged from brick to cardboard consistency. Though there has been the occasional pie that had lovely pastry!
The fillings? Right. Well. Some have not been cooked long enough, resulting in a pie with tough meat, water replacing the gravy, and the veg…. Bleh. To the other extreme, a pie with no gravy (say what?!) with the meat and veg mashed into a dry mess. Why?

So, my search for amazing, affordable food continues. I have discovered many international food trucks/stalls that have yet to conform to the grey standards established by long held traditions of bleh-ness. So, not all is as bad as I’m whinging about. There have been fiery fusion chicken wraps. Devilishly decadent churros. Magnificent marinated olives. Tasty traditional German hot dogs, with sauerkraut of course! Chicken vindaloo that could fuel a bonfire. There have been some real gems, and many food comas…
Good thing as an au pair, I have to run around after two kids everyday, burn off those calories!!

“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.” Aye, let us cheers to that!

Historical Meanderings and Musings

Ok, so chronologically I may be 22, but maturity wise I’m around 4 3/4… Yes, I may still watch ’90’s cartoons on Netflix… And yes, I’m still a Disney girl… And yes, I may still giggle at toilet jokes…

My imagination is rich, I’m a ridiculous romantic, and an indefatigable optimist. (May have pinched that from Dean Koontz’s book – Life Expectancy. Read it! Quirky humour, gripping plot with twists and turns at every corner.) This means visits to historic places (Castles, mansions, cathedrals, markets, etc.) are super fun for me. As I meander through these sites, I study them intently and let my imagination run wild as I try to picture what these places were like in their hay-day.

On my first trip to a castle, I was very lucky to have been presented with a blank canvas, as the castle was in semi-ruin. I got to see the bones of the place, how it was all held together, where staircases would’ve emerged from walls, where fireplaces were situated in relation to one another on different floors. A wonderful time was had as I investigated each room with the keen eye of Sherlock Holmes, seeing the floor plan and deciding how each room would be arranged, had I been the Lady of the castle – which I would’ve been! Now bow to me and you shall live! Muahahaha!
Kidding!

Stepping into the kitchen was just incredible! To think about how many people crammed in there, cooking course after course for banquets that would’ve been attended by nobility from all corners of the country. The air would’ve been hot, as the two magnificent fires roared, occasionally spitting at workers when broths and soups boiled over. Deafening bangs and crashes from pots and cleavers. Shouts from the chef to the cooks. Delicious aromas of herbs, spices, and all kinds of goodies!

The king overseeing the grand banquet in the enormous grand hall – filled to overflowing with people, food and drink. Soft, warm light illuminating the room from the vast crackling fireplaces, high candelabras, and hundreds of spitting candles. Hollow whistling and pitched twanging fill the air from flutes and lutes, accompanied by melodic singing.

Tables sag under the immense weight of jellies, stews, roasted meat, pies, and breads.
Echoes of chatter and laughter almost drown out the music, as people eat and drink their fill on mead, foaming beer, juicy meats, wholesome (organic) veg, and devilishly sweet desserts.
Framing extravagant murals and carvings would be richly coloured banners and flags hanging limp in the hot, steamy air.
Servants dart in and out the hall, constantly clearing and replenishing food and drink.

Walking through mansions that have changed very little in hundreds of years, I imagine…
The lord and lady of the manor holding a fine dinner party. Ladies adorned in their finest silks and pearls, their hair delicately arranged and pinned in place. Gentlemen standing tall and proud in sophisticated tuxedos, chains from pocket watches gleaming in the candle light.
A small band plays in the corner as guests laugh, gossip and dance late into the evening. Soon guests are escorted to the dining hall where crockery, cutlery and glasses have been polished until they gleam. Candelabras adorn the table illuminating the room in a rich golden light. Napkins are intricately folded and presented in silver napkin ring.
Wine is poured, food is served – silver service, no less! The hours pass as one, two, three, four, five courses are consumed (And people wished for more accommodating clothing, such as elasticated sweatpants). Plates are whisked out of the room, the men stand as the women adjourn to a leisurely drawing room where tea/port/coffee and chocolate is served. Meanwhile, the men remain in the dining hall sipping port, smoking cigars, boosting egos and enjoying political discussions.

Even walking along old streets, or through ancient markets, I listen out for faint the ‘clip-clop’ of hooves on cobbled streets, creaking and rattling of carriages, shouting of Town Criers, and, and… Well you get the picture!

It certainly is a fun way to see places, imagining time as it once was. Oh, if walls could talk!!

Now, in which room should I place the crystal chandelier? The grand entrance hall, the dining room, or the ball room? And do I have a library room…. Or a separate building to house my library?

The “C” Word

Sorry, I missed that. What did you say? Oh, am I enjoying London? Why, yes I am! Although one thing does perplex me… Most of the cafes here don’t seem to deliver your coffee to your table? Wonder why? Perhaps they like congestion by the counter?

The past couple of years have been full of surprises, both wonderful and awful! I’ve always lived under the false assumption that our family were untouchable, immortal, somewhat immune to everything, and would always be there. Because, well, family is always there for each other. Growing up in a single parent home is not easy for two young girls, nor their mother. So, I’ve grown up with a firm relationship with my immediate family, and a deep love for my extended family. Family means so much to me, so when something unexpected happens that affects my family, it throws me.

Not two years ago, my sister was thrown deep into the grasp of a horror known as “psychosis”. It was awful to see my beautiful, bubbly, wonderful little sister in such a state, it really rocked me to the core as someone in my family was hurting/unwell and I couldn’t do anything to help. Well, that’s how it seemed. It’s still very hard to go into detail, so for now I’ll point you in the direction of my superhero Mother – sandisparklewilson.wordpress.com – She has put into words, what I cannot. Yet. What I can say is I am so incredibly proud of my sister, and my family for being so strong, and my mother for wearing the hat of so many during that time. Mother, counselor,  carer, friend, nurse.

We also encountered the “C” word, a few times. My Beloved Naughty Nana discovered she had cancer. When I found out I was shocked, horrified, and scared. It felt like my whole world had been turned upside down. My Nana? Cancer? NO, it can’t be! My Nana is so full of sass, spunk, joy, love, beauty – inside and out. There must be a mistake.
But no, it was no mistake. You see, I have such an incredible bond/relationship with my Nana. Perhaps it’s because I’m her oldest grandchild, or we’re quite alike? Clearly, I’m her favourite… Stephanie! Hehe! All I know is that my Nana has been there for me throughout the years, when others have not. She stepped up so much to pick up slack left by others. I have immense respect for her, as she has had such a colourful life, lived through so much and yet she still smiles, she still sings, she still loves.
So, when I found out that she had cancer, it was a huge jolt to the system. I realised my beautiful Nana is, in fact, mortal. I need to truly cherish each and every moment I have with her. You have no idea how it felt to hear it had been caught early, and dealt to quickly. She’s ok! Much to the relief of myself, and her ever expanding clan! And to make matters even sweeter, she still lives up to her nickname of “Naughty Nana”. The jokes she sends me? Good Lordy!

But wait, there’s more! My wonderful Poppa encountered the “C” word as well! Poppa is world famous in our family as being a fabulous musician! He’s arranged music for so many people/organisations/schools throughout NZ, and outside of, we’ve been told! He was a tenor in a quartet. He was the composer/pianist/singer of his 12 piece Jazz band.
Also, on a fun note, I grew up believing him to be Santa Claus, for so many years! He had the grey/white hair, amazing beard, a definite tummy, and a hearty laugh. He obviously would zoom up to the North Pole to collect the sleigh, reindeer, and presents, zip around the world delivering them all, and be back in time for Christmas breakfast. A logical line of thought!
He hasn’t had the best couple of years… In the space of six-months, he lost his sister, stepson, and marriage.
Last I heard, he’s in the clear yet is now living with dementia. It truly breaks my heart to see such a cheery person be reduced to a mere shadow of himself.
And my beloved mother had a cancer scare. This truly turned my world upside down. To everyone else, I was holding it together for everyone else. Ever the optimist. Yet when I’d turn in for the night, I would cry and cry. What if she didn’t make it? I’ll step up and look after my family. I’ll leave my current job for one providing more “family friendly” hours. What if? What if?
I turned to food for comfort, created an extra giggly/cheeky/funny persona, not wanting people to see how much pain I was in. Yet I wanted someone to ask “Steph, I see through this. Are you OK?” Ha! Living up to the stereotype of how complicated a woman’s mind is!
Don’t worry! Again, happy ending. Boy did we celebrate!
Through all this, I have learned to truly appreciate my colourful family, and not take the time I have with them for granted. Also, shout out to all my lovely friends who helped me through that difficult time, you are my adopted family. My weirdos, and I love you all the more for it! Get used to it, you’re stuck with me!!
Now, I’m in the UK and spending as much time as I can with relatives over here! I think the village of Llangorse have adopted me. If ever you get the chance, pop round for a cuppa! Or a pint. Lovely, quirky people there!

Small town girl meets big city!

As a kiwi abroad, many things astound me about London. Architecture, size, noise, liveliness, etc. I enjoy many things, public transport is brilliant, diversity of nationalities is amazing, so many places to see and activities to do. And yet, there is much I miss about Paradise on Earth – AKA New Zealand.
Our laid back nature, give us a sunny afternoon, a beach, picnic and cold beers, we’ll be happy as pigs in mud. Friendliness, coming from a small town where everyone is connected in some way, it’s so very strange to walk the streets of London and never recognise faces. My family is known for always having an open door. We love it when people just “pop round for a cuppa” and end up staying for hours.
In my short time here, I’ve truly learnt I’m a small town girl. I like cities for day trips, maybe overnighters with sightseeing (not shopping, thank you very much!). And I truly do miss living by the beach.
Opening my eyes to the grey light of dawn. Rolling out of bed into my dressing gown and slippers, tip-toeing my way to the door and stepping outside. Stretching my tired muscles as I look over the bay, boats are mere shadows in the pre dawn sun, bobbing on the ever moving tide.
Trees whisper their greetings in the morning breeze that ruffles my already messy hair. Birds awaken and sing their stories for all to hear. Clouds and stars fly above, caught in the dark blanket of the night. Cars cough and start, chugging up the road, taking their charges to another day of work. The ground coated in dew drops, cold and refreshing underfoot. Shimmering and shining, a mirror reflection of the sky above.
Somewhere in the distance,  someone flips a switch, causing the giant of the sky to stir in his sleep. As he wakes, he slowly stumbles above the horizon, his light beginning to crawl across the sky.
Looking up I see stars bid me farewell for the sun has come to stay. The inky expanse begins to ripple with colours so vibrant, so warm. Indigo to magenta, magenta to red, red to gold, gold to blue. Colours reaching across the sky warmly embracing the earth. Gulls soar and call out. Tui and kereru natter and forage in the trees.  Flowers rise and greet their old friend.
Morning has arrived.
Give me that over the sounds of trains, planes, traffic and sirens any day. Though don’t get me wrong, London is a magical place where anything can and will happen! There are so many wonderful restaurants, parks, shopping areas, and quirky gems hiding in plain sight. I’ve just grown to appreciate my life in NZ even more.
Come summertime,  I’ll be moving on from my current position as an au pair, and heading to slightly greener pastures.  Back to a life of erratic hours within the hospitality world. And from there? Who knows? I plan on seeing many places. Absolute first item on my agenda will be a week (or longer) in the sunshine of Greece.
Care to join?