Battening Down

By | nubbed | No Comments

It seems like a good time to start pulling things back in. I’ve kept all The List adventure posts, because: adventure! Yeah!

If you’re still keen to keep in touch you can find me on instagram – ellyrarg.


The List #79 – Legitimately Yell ‘Bingo!’ in a Bingo Hall

By | RL | No Comments

I love the idea of playing Bingo and being lucky enough to get that one line. I thought it would be all euphoria and standing on my chair, arms in the air! The loudest Bingo you’d ever heard. Do you know what actually happened?

In a place where there was fancy purple lights and partying and disco balls, with two bottles of red going down nicely, I scratched my head, held out my bingo card to Zee and asked ‘Is this a line?’

Uhm, what? That’s absolutely not how I expected it to go.

Rebel Bingo is one of those great (and well ridiculous) parties that you’ll find in the backstreets of London. It’s loud, and everyones punch drunk and dancing, in a great mood. It’s more like a show, really. A happy drunk show where everyone draws on you as well as your bingo card. I wasn’t sure whether calling out Bingo in a party when you can’t hear yourself think counted… but then Rebel Bingo did a show in a proper Bingo Hall. With the board that lights up in numbers and everything! I bought tickets months in advance, and we went.

It was intense. We were drinking cheap wine and dancing in our seats, bathed in this super purple light. The numbers came thick and fast (seriously, only buy one card. Save the rest of your money for the wine!) and I was positive I’d never win. It was the last round of four, the bonus round. And I did. I got a line, and (after careful consultation with Zee) yelled Bingo!! Woop!

Except, another girl one over did too, just after I did. It was unheard of (apparently). A Rebel Bingo first, a simultaneous bingo. So, we were pulled up on stage, and we rock, paper, scissored it out. Alas, I didn’t win, but I was equally stoked to be there. To have called Bingo, and to be able to cross this one off The List!

What a night! It was ridiculous. And fun, and we both had a great time. So, Rebel Bingo! If it comes to city near you, buy a ticket. You might even get Bingo.

I called Bingo, and I was SO happy about it. Number #79 – Done!

The List: #44 – Be brave and get a pixie cut

By | RL | 6 Comments

Turns out that bravery isn’t really getting a pixie cut. I was scared, I loved having long hair and despite talking about getting a pixie for years and years, a small little something always held me back.

I was worried about being thought of as less feminine.

But, once the weddings were out of the way and the award ceremony was done I figured it was a good time. I was reading The Four Hour Work Week, the segment about risk vs fear, and realised that the fear (of being less feminine) as much greater than the risk (because hair grows back and if it was horrid I only had to wait it out. Any results would be temporary) and so booked in with appointment for the next day, and just… did it.

I love it. I feel like someone else, a more confident do-what-I-want type someone else.

The hardest part was showing Zee. He’d made a fuss about how much he *loved* my long hair. Truth: that made me want to cut my hair off even more – I adore Zee, but I hate the idea of being that girl who does what her guy wants. And I was worried that he would hate it, and therefore like me less? It was weird (completely unsubstantiated) fear. I didn’t send him any photos once it was done, and when he did see it, there was much disappointment on his part (he keeps saying he was half asleep… but even if he was, excitement and pleasure was the opposite of what came out of his mouth). Still, because I loved it so much, his disappointment was more of a twinge than an urgent drop-everything problem.

He’s gotten used to it now, I think. Everyone else loves it (I went to a girls evening the other night, and there was much squealing involved) and I get loads of compliments.

So, in terms of being brave? I’m not sure this is bravery. I think it’s easy to hype up fear, especially when it’s hard to define why exactly. It was big thing in my head, but truth? Not such a huge thing. It’s just a hair cut.

Still, #44 – done!

The List: #62 – Attend a red carpet event (and walk the red carpet)

By | RL | No Comments

I was pretty lucky to go – my first (and likely last!) Red Carpet event. Duke had spent the last year watching a million different theatre shows, and was a judge at the prestigious Olivier Awards.

I got all dressed up. I wore a Ralph Lauren dress, and had a makeup artist come do my hair and make up. Duke and I were met by a driver with a sleek black mercedes and dropped off at the awards and oh you guys – the red carpet was RIDICULOUS.

I’m so, SO glad I’m not famous. The carpet was lined with fans and I have to say – they were vicious. I was walking down just ahead of Mark Strong and Jamie Campbell Bower and I have to say that prior to standing on that carpet I had no idea who they were.

Needless to say I did after. The fans screamed, literally. Non-stop for a long time. Constantly screaming out their names, and oh! The entitlement! If the person of their interest did not stop to say hello, sign something or pose for a selfie, the fans got really rude. Really, horrifically rude. I was shocked, and a bit baffled and mostly very very grateful that I hadn’t done anything worth of stardom. The fans were a pack of raving bears.

As if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the carpet, there was a wall of camera lenses. Easily a hundred or so photographers with fancy zoom lenses doing some more yelling. It was intimidating, and I stepped off the red carpet early so I wouldn’t have to go anywhere near them.

Still, apart from the fans and the photographers it was actually pretty lovely. I felt amazing, pretty special being up there. I got glimpses of a few famous people I did recognise (Gok Wan was one – he seemed pretty delightful) and generally just enjoyed the moment best I could.

It was wonderful once we were in – The Royal Opera House is pretty phenomenal. Laurent Pierre sponsored the pre-event mixer, so there was much bubbles and clinking. It was pretty great. The awards themselves was phenomenal.

Angela Lansbury was great, what a wonderful speech. She was so heartfelt, and I got so teary listening to her! I got teary with Lorna Watt too, her speech was so heartfelt and unexpected, it was lovely. Loved Judi Dench’s intro to Kevin Spacey! It was like you were being let in on a few fun little secrets. It was so fantastic. It was also pretty great to see the casts cheering from the upper balconies. I felt like this was their event of the year – that they’d all worked so hard these awards validated their efforts :)

Show wise, I really loved the bit by the Porgy and Bess cast. I went and saw Porgy and Bess twice when it was playing (mostly because it was in the outdoor theatre at Regents Park, and the first show was rained out) but it was fantastic to see them again.

They were even more fun at the after party. I don’t think everyone who was at the ceremony was invited to the after party, and it felt very exclusive. There were so many people there, and everywhere you looked, there was someone relatively famous in the London scene standing not very far away. Everyone was so lovely! Laura Carmichael (LOVED her dress) stood next to me a the bar, Claire Sweeney smiled at me, Pixie Lott was lovely, and listened attentively to everyone she spoke to, and Adam Garcia was TOO PRETTY (what a ridiculous pretty man!). It seemed that every second person that walked by was holding an award.

It was insane, I had such a good time. Here’s the thing though, I didn’t get any selfies, or try introduce myself to anyone. After the in-your-face fan experience of the red carpet, I realised that I wasn’t entitled to anyones time here. I didn’t have any goals that these people could help me with, and there wasn’t a reason to interrupt their night of celebration.

So, I didn’t. I enjoyed my night right alongside their nights and called it good. It was fantastic – we had such a great time. Super grateful to Duke for taking me.

Oh red carpets. Have any of you walked the red carpet before?

The List: #64 – Walk on a Glacier

By | RL | 4 Comments

We’d been in Queenstown a week and I’d booked a helicopter ride for Zee and I. It wasn’t looking good, the whole week the wind had been high – too much for a little helicopter to be out in. On the last day I called hoping we’d be able to go out, and sure enough the weather was finally co-operating. Except, that the ride was an hour before our flight was due to leave.

Turns out this wasn’t actually a problem. We checked our luggage in and instead of waiting at the gate we walked across the terminal to the helicopter launch site. And we took an hour flight out Clark’s Glacier.

Woah. Buddy.

It was glorious – I couldn’t believe the views and I felt very very small and insignificant. The Southern Alps are massive and so few people go out to explore them. The photos really don’t do them justice.

Landing on the glacier was also pretty amazing. It was grey for a start, I always assumed that a glacier would be pristine but alas it was covered in dirt. It was pretty phenomenal though – the only access was via helicopter and it was impressive to be standing in a safe spot, knowing that a few hundred metres away was a sheer cliff and in the other direction, a summit with a big drop on the other side.

I wasn’t sure what I thought this would be like when I put it on The List. At the time it seemed completely unachievable. I’m surprised that I checked this one off in New Zealand! I was sure that when I wrote The List, a lot of the large adventure-y ones would be done overseas.

Still, #64. Done!

The List: #17 – Learn how to ride a horse (and actually have it do as I ask)

By | RL | One Comment

My Dad moved a few months ago, out to a lovely spot on a hill outside the city. It was all kinds of heartbreaking and new and exciting, and I realised that while I was out here I could cross another adventure off The List and I spent a week and a bit with Grove Livery and I learnt to ride a horse. And it actually did as I asked.

I learnt to trot, which was hard. Not the getting the horse to trot bit (which was easy when all the horses were so biddable and attentive) but trying to figure out how and when to stand up, and how to do so without your hands pulling on the reigns! It took some effort. Cantering was relatively easy by comparison and oh jumping! Jumping was quite fun.

It’s always surprising to me how these big, wonderful giants are willing to take instruction and do our bidding. To carry us around on their backs and run (or trot, jump, canter). I wonder what ‘breaking’ them in really means… they’d never do this in the wild, willingly carry us. How far does being humane go? (Especially cause the language we use to get horses to follow instructions are a piece of metal in their mouths and kicks).

In saying that, I spent a week on Ellie and Shadow and they were more than engaged. When I asked them to work a bit harder: cantering or jumping from a trot – they were more than happy. Their ears perked up, they moved a bit faster than asked and they were keen, often jumping further than required. It was an exhilarating experience!

It was a good week of lessons. I’m not an expert or anything by any means, but I did learn a lot about grooming; each lessons came with the extra responsibilities – brushing the horse down, picking out their hooves, tacking, putting the bridle and boots on. At the end of the lesson we’d remove the tack and wash our horses down. If it was cool we’d put on coats before releasing them into the fields.

I’d say I’m a comfortable beginner. But I can get a horse to do as I ask, so I’m calling this one done. Woop!

All Photos by Dan Draper, of DCD Photography

The List: Number 107 – Visits the Giants Causeway

By | RL | 5 Comments

Well, I have never been colder in my life. Zee and I rented a car and drive up the Antrim Coast, which was pretty enough. It could have been part of New Zealand, or England. Blue skies, rolling green hills, stupid amounts of sheep. I was grouchy, so not the most enjoyable car ride up. I think we were both glad to finally get there.

It was cold. Pretty, but SO cold. It’s a long walk down to the steps from the visitors centre, and the wind was biting. Still it was amazing. The basalt had solidified in hexagonal pillars and steps, formed 66 million years ago thanks to volcanic activity.

I’ve never seen anything like it, and was immensely glad we’d made the trip out.

As we were out that way we stopped to see the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s a small rope suspension bridge from the mainland to a small island used by salmon fishers to cast off their boats. It’s mostly a tourist attraction now (salmon fishing had been made illegal in these parts because the fish schools had been overfished) and it was closed by the time we got there. It was a nice walk out along the countryside, and you could still see the bridge.

There was also a whisky distillery and an old castle (apparently where a lot of Game of Thrones had been filmed). We drove by both, but because the sun goes down so early this far north (3:30pm, ish) we passed on doing more than a drive by.

107 Done! Antrim Coast, well worth a visit.

The List: Number 90 – Visit a Coffee Shop in Amsterdam

By | RL | No Comments

This one felt a bit ridiculous to do. I know that Amsterdam attracts so many tourists a year because they rather pragmatically decriminalised the marijuana trade, but I didn’t realise how much more Amsterdam had to offer.

Still, we went into the coffee houses and tried some of the many weed varieties have they have available. It’s an odd thing, but most of these places are pretty tacky.

There wasn’t an easy way to find nice places really, we kind of stumbled across some. You’ll find that all coffee houses have a green and white flag/sticker in the window. If you can’t spot the sticker, usually they’ll have a big Coffee Shop sign (a Cafe or Coffee House sell coffee, and only coffee). Also, coffee shops can’t sell weed and alcohol, so if you see alcohol signs, that’s not a coffee shop.

In terms of actual places to visit, avoid Dolphins unless horrible tourist tack is your thing (it was really horrible).Barneys or The Greenhouse is okay. We liked Amnesia best, though.

So yes, #90. Done.

The List: Number 61 – Pay off my student loan

By | RL | 10 Comments

My student loan balance is NZD$0.00. I can’t even talk about how amazing this, how for the first time since I entered Tertiary Education twenty years ago I’m debt free.

So here’s the thing. Education is EXPENSIVE. My student loan all up was $62,640.13, not including interest. What the hell. Do you know what that got me? A four year Bachelor of Science in CompSci. I also did minors in Psych and Philosophy, because originally I was going to do a double and get a Bachelor of Arts too. Right up till I learnt it would take me an extra year or two of study. It was also a bit of an identity crisis in the form of half a Post Grad Diploma in Early Childcare Education. Academically, rocked it, lots of As. However working with kids is not everything its cracked up to be (it’s really HARD), and outside the lovely Maori Medium centre my first practicum was held in, I couldn’t handle the bitchy politics that is kindergartens run by the NZ Government. I quit four days into my second practicum.

Now? Now I don’t really use the knowledge that I gained with that fancy degree. I use it more like a badge in a job application. It says hey, I know you have a checkbox on your candidate criteria for a university education and you can check that box. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what relevant skills I have. My degree doesn’t get me jobs, my experience does that. It was $62k for a tick in a box.

I’d expected to be paying off that loan for the next ten years, whittling it down month by month. Because I’m overseas, it wasn’t interest free. I was very very aware of that – interest was accrued daily, and it was INSANE. I paid $12,624.37 in interest on top of my loan. Woah buddy. Still, I had a plan and I mostly stuck to it, sending almost $750 home a month to pay it off. It was a tricky time though, because interest could be anywhere between $300 – $400 a month. It felt like a ridiculous amount, that half my payment was going towards keeping the interest at bay and barely touching the capital. Whelp. Still, a little is better than none, so I kept at it. I had a plan, the numbers were going down, and eventually I’d get there.

What I didn’t count on was my folks having a little bit of a windfall. I never expected my folks to pay for my tertiary education, I always assumed it was on my shoulders and I’d take care of it. So, when my Dad told me over Skype that they had decided to make a payment on my behalf I got all choked up. It was gracious and unexpected and I cried. It was enough to pay off the bulk of my loan and I transferred the last $900 across yesterday.

And now, I’m debt free. Loan balance $0.00.

Woah, buddy.

The List: Number 65 – Wander the halls of the Lourve

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I wandered the halls of the Lourve, intentionally finding the empty halls, the ones with no crowds of hustling tourists. Past Iranian pottery and tiles, past Egyptian sarcophagi, through a medieval ruin, down amazing halls with ridiculous ceilings, up stairs down stairs around this corner… I’m seeking the empty corners of this very big museum because I don’t want to see Zee. I’m angry at him, and right now the introvert in me wants to be as far away from everyone as possible.

Five years ago when I wrote The List, I definitely didn’t imagine a trip to the Lourve to be something like this. I didn’t think that I’d be angrily stalking through the corridors. Willing people out of my path. I thought it would be full of awe and amaze. It’s really hard to feel awe and amaze when fifty tourists are jostling you with their elbows so they can get a bad quality shot of a master piece on their iPad. Holding out their iPhone to get selfie with a piece of work that’s over six hundred years old.

Ridiculousness example:

I feel less amaze than I thought. I’m mostly impressed with the building, and how glorious all the hidden corners are. As I type this, I’m in a stairwell. I’m sitting on a marble bench, and the three ceilings (one for each of the two staircases up and down and one for the platform on which I’m sitting) are intricate and detailed and amazing. Yet not one of the handful of people walking by has looked up.

This building has so much gorgeousness going on that your eyes kind of glaze over a bit. The Lourve glaze.

An hour and a half later and I have well and truly wandered many the halls. Neapolean had some truly balla apartments. There is an awful lot of stuff to see, we stayed till closing, and oh. Sculptures, paintings, tiles, weaponry, archeological finds, ruins, furniture, rugs, jewellery… All of the things. And I’m aware that I’ve only seen a very small part of all there is.

I found Zee towards closing time, I managed to lose him after Venus de Milo. He was taken with the courtyard of impressive sculpture, filled with big, powerful Roman sculpture. Very impressive. He’d spent most of his time in the main building, where I had fled to the wings.

We fought in the courtyard, right by the Pyramide du Lourve. One of those emotional, stroppy all out arguments where he pushes all my fears out into the open and I lash out because how dare he. It was rough, and emotional. By the time we’d hit the Tuileries we’d made up with a do over. Quiet sniffles and small apologies and holding of hands and all of the argument after feelings.

That’s mostly what I remember about The Lourve. All of the emotions. Seems fitting.

2nd-century marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, just hanging out in a hallway.

Venus de Milo, one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture apparently. Sculpted in 100 BC. Now satisfies audiences of phones and tablets.

These next few are from the fanciest room I wandered into. It was ridiculous. It’s called The Galerie d’Apollon. A young Henry James wrote of the Gallery once “the wondrous Galerie d’Apollon…drawn out for me as a long but assured initiation and seeming to form, with its supreme coved ceiling and inordinately shining parquet, a prodigious tube or tunnel through which I inhaled little by little, that is again and again, a general sense of glory. The glory meant ever so many things at once, not only beauty and art and supreme design, but history and fame and power, the world in fine raised to the richest and noblest expression.”

Needless to say – fancy as fuck.

The detail was insane. Next up – Napoleons apartments. Dude certainly had it lush.

This guy kept me company in a stairwell. Look at that moustache! Pretty fancy for a stairwell.

So yes, #65, done.