Just me

Posts about me, my family and friends (yes I have some), Seymour the Wonder Cat and his not-so-trusty sidekick Norman the Newbie Cat and life in general, both online and offline

No toasters but sponges

So, that was Christmas (apologies to John Lennon for mangling his wonderful lyrics).  

I’m pleased to report there wasn’t a toaster, or any other unwelcome kitchen appliance, to be found under the oh-so-fake tree on Christmas Day. Instead, I was the happy recipient of assorted goodies that included such treats as a Hendrix DVD, Drambuie and a Spongebob cuddle pillow. Life is good.  

My 5-year-old great-nephew Wyatt was a little taken aback that a reputed grown-up would have a Spongebob soft toy, bath sponge, ear-rings and zipper pull but finally believed I was a true fan when I proved I knew all the words to the theme song. He was even more impressed when we told him Uncle Grant was cooking Krabby Patties on the barbecue.


Cyber Santa

(This is the Online column written for The Southland Times)

Are you ready for the big day yet? There are only two sleeps to go until Santa comes scudding down our chimneys.

Well maybe not our chimneys.

If the weather continues with its current unsummer-like trend, Santa might just get a scorched bum if his chimney journey ends with a nice warm fire. Just to be on the safe side, I think I’ll leave the cat door unlocked for him.

I think I’m almost organised already this year, a first for me so early in December! The house is even decorated.

Maybe using the term decorated is overstating things a little — the 1m-high fibre-optic fake tree has been pulled out of its box and plugged in. Seymour the wonder cat seems to like it.

If you’d like to see some slightly more ambitious Christmas decorations, take a look at the houses in the Christmas Lights competition. You can view the entries by location. The house we sold in August is in the competition this year and I must say, the old girl looks pretty good with all her festive trimmings.

In the United States, the Komarnitsky family decided to create an interactive website featuring their festive flashy bits. This year, their house has 17,000 lights and if you visit the site make sure you check out the webcam, where you can turn the lights off and on with a click of your mouse.

The Komarnitskys have understanding neighbours.

If you haven’t already sent Santa your Christmas wish list, there’s still time. Xtra’s Christmas site has all the info for getting in touch with Mr Claus
via phone, e-mail or txt, and also offers games, e-cards and competitions. According to Telecom, the majority of requests to the Santaline (phone 0800 222222) have been for Bratz dolls, iPods, mobile phones and game consoles.

However, it seems the grown-ups have their own favourite requests. Santa has apparently had a whole bunch of letters asking for a bit of adult company. One hopeful wrote: “… could you please send me an elf to do the dishes? Make him a cute little sexy one, and I would prefer that he can not talk, burp or talk about rugby or politics.”

Santa (if you’re reading this), I’d also like one of those, too, if you have a spare.


In the wake of a quake

(This is the Online column written for The Southland Times)

Well, Tuesday got off to a bumpy start with the earthquake that rocked our world here in the deep south.

I was in bed when the quake hit and was suddenly joined by my rather large, and rather wimpy, dog Boof. Much to the disgust of Seymour the cat, who was already snuggled up on the bed enjoying a leisurely morning.

quakeI’m not sure which event traumatised the dog more, the earthquake or being beaten up by the cat.

My first port of call after an earthquake is always GeoNet, which provides real-time monitoring of seismic activity.

Unfortunately, I think Tuesday’s quake rocked GeoNet off its foundations because the site was down for quite some time.

It seemed appropriate that I got home from work on Tuesday night just in time to catch the start of Escape from LA on Sky Movies 2, which featured a humongous earthquake.

If your home suffered any damage from the quake, you’ll find all the information you need at the Earthquake Commission website. Unfortunately, it seems they don’t cover pets so I won’t be getting any counselling for my poor, traumatised puppy. However, there is a stack of info on making claims and on making your house safer before an earthquake strikes.

The amazing Captain Safety has an interestingly weird list of safety tips at his site but eHow has a slightly more sensible list of safety tips on offer.

And remember, if you look out your window during an earthquake and see a large, zig-zag-shaped crevasse moving rapidly towards your home, step either to the right or the left.

This year’s mini-series 10.5 dealt with the possibility of not just one, but a series of big, nasty quakes on the west coast of the United States. It’s an okay sort of mini-series but nothing can beat the good old 1970s disaster movies.


Quarantine over

Cough, cough. I’m back.

Between whooping cough and the assortment of generally nasty lurgies doing the rounds at the moment, it seems half the office is either crook or recovering. Getting back to work this week, now that I’m officially not infectious, I was greeted by a cacophony of coughs.

However, it’s good to be back — I was getting sick of my own company and I’m sure Seymour the wonder cat was getting fed up with me cramping his style by being at home during the afternoons when he likes to spend his time sunbathing in the dog’s basket and, as I’ve discovered, breaking into the wardrobe and pulling all my clothes off their hangers.

Very constructive.


Message for a pervert…

A special note for my very own pervy reader I appear to have cultivated: If you’re going to send e-mails of that nature, it’s much more effective if the smutty bits are spelt correctly.

You might find http://www.dictionary.com/ helpful.

Please, step away from the keyboard and wash your hands. And don’t do that, you’ll go blind.


Moving, schmoving…never again

Eight years ago I said I was never moving house again. This time I mean it.

You didn’t get a column from me last week because I was too busy unpacking. In fact, by my normal deadline time I still hadn’t hunted out all my computer cables. Not that it mattered because I couldn’t have connected to the net anyway.

In an attempt at being semi-organised, I’d made calls to Telecom, Contact Energy and Sky TV the week before we moved. Telecom had a hiccup with the phone connection and it wasn’t until I called them on my cellphone the morning after we moved that it was connected. Jetstream and Sky took another two days (the Sky technician was sent to the right street, right number, wrong city).

There was no explanation from either company. I did get an apology from Telecom’s customer service chicky but it just wasn’t the same when “Oh, we’re sorry” immediately followed me saying: “An apology would be nice” .

In the past I’ve always found Telecom’s service spot on so I was more than a little disappointed.

On a brighter note, all things electrical seem to be working. However, we got our power account last week. It said the final reading was transferred from a house we haven’t lived in for eight years.

The Service Quality Institute’s wide range of videos, books and courses might prove useful. Or we could just stick with the confusion, and take a look at Sign Language, which features a collection of photos of humorous, bizarre and/or confusing signs from around the world.


Organisation just hard work

Getting organised to move house is hard work, especially during a busy time at work in the middle of the Olympics (a collective awwwww would be appreciated about now).

I’ve always thought I was a reasonably organised person, and after having the house on the market for a while also thought I had got rid of a lot of the junk we’d accumulated over the years. However, once the actual packing began, it became screamingly obvious that neither of those things was true.

I found a couple of websites on getting organised (http://www.getorganizednow.com/ and http://organizedhome.com/) and after having a good read I’ve decided being organised is too much hard work. The moving house tips (http://organizedhome.com/content-75.html) were helpful but doing a laundry systems analysis is just too weird.


Joys of a Kiwi lizard in Oz


I recently had the opportunity to travel to Austraila courtesy of the South Australian Tourism Commission. Here is some of what I experienced.

Adelaide-rundleThe concierge at the Hilton Adelaide smiled and introduced himself to us as Christopher before asking if there was anything he could help with.

A couple of my travelling companions asked for directions to Rundle Mall, the city’s main shopping area. Then it was my turn to ask if he could direct me to a good tattoo shop. He didn’t blink, and his eyebrow barely flickered. “Certainly madam, I’m sure I can help you with that,” Christopher replied.

I started chatting with some of the others in our group, who were already planning their shopping trip, when the very clear, and very polite, voice of Christopher called out: “Excuse me, tattoo lady.”

He’d checked his books, asked a few questions and had found what he believed were two excellent tattoo studios for me to check out. After making sure I was equipped with a good map that had the easiest route to what he said was Adelaide’s equivalent of a red light area (in this case some nice bars, nightclubs, cafes and a couple of tattoo shops) he sent me on my merry way.

When I got there, both tattoo shops were closed for dinner so I took the opportunity to sample the wares of one of the local bars. And, as it turned out, it was also a great chance to do some market research after discovering one of the bar staff had been a customer at both tattoo shops.

He gave me his recommendation and off I went to Four Roses Tattoo Studio, ready to add to my mobile art collection.

Tattooist Les, after hearing what I wanted, hunted out the perfect image of a little Aussie gecko and set to work etching it into my skin as we chatted about politics, the war in Iraq and anything else that came to mind. An hour later I left the shop with a great tattoo and, with map in hand, made my way back to the hotel.

On the way I was stopped three times by helpful locals who, on noticing the map, wanted to know if I needed directions. That’s one of the nice things about Adelaide, the residents.

With a population of just over 1 million, the South Australia capital might be a large city by New Zealand standards but the locals kept telling me “no, this isn’t a city…it’s just an overgrown country town.” I’m inclined to agree with them. Adelaide doesn’t have the big city hustle and bustle feel of the likes of Sydney, or even Auckland, it has a more laid-back, relaxed atmosphere.

It’s also an easy city to navigate, even for people like me who have a talent for getting lost. In fact, after being in Adelaide little more than 24 hours I looked confident enough for another unsuspecting tourist to ask me for directions. The most surprising thing was I was able to help. Adelaide’s perfect for those who enjoy walking with great architecture to keep the eyes entertained and a simple grid layout to the streets that makes it a breeze for even the most geographically challenged to find their way around.

Tourabout Adelaide offers a guided walking tour of the city’s North Terrace area, home to some of Adelaide’s grandest buildings, including the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum, which features the new Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery. You’ll also find the 1838-built Anglican Holy Trinity Church, the oldest in Adelaide (which was once known as the city of churches), the University of South Australia campus, Government House and the National Soldier’s War Memorial, built in 1931.

For shopping fans, Adelaide is the mother lode. The city’s main shopping area, the Rundle Mall, created in 1976, features more than 600 stores and has the distinction of being Australia’s first street mall. Think of a major retailer and you are likely to find a store in this amazing shopaholic’s paradise.

The famous Central Market, located adjacent to the Adelaide Hilton, dates back to 1870, when a small group of fruit and vegetable market gardeners decided to set up a venue to sell directly to the public and wholesalers. The multi-cultural influence of what has become known as Adelaide’s fresh food pantry is one of the great attractions of the market, with the stalls filled with food flavours that have been brought to Australia by waves of immigrants since World War 2 _ Italian, Greek, Japanese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Chinese, German and more.


Fittingly, Adelaide is also home to Australia’s National Wine Centre, situated in the stunning Botanic Gardens. There are five areas covered in the centre’s Wine Discovery Journey tour, from vine growing and wine regions to, of course, wine tasting. In between you can have a play with some state of the art multi-media technology and have an interactive chat with six of Australia’s top winemakers, learn all about winemaking and even have a bash at making your own brew using the interactive touch screens. Choose your grape varieties and take your chances, the computer will tell you whether you’ve make a gold medal-winning wine or a fresh batch of vinegar.

While Adelaide, and South Australia in general, is known the world over for its wine and food, there’s far more to the city than just those. There’s something for everyone _ wine aficionados, foodies, shopaholics, art lovers, tattoo fans, architecture buffs, party animals and even the geographically challenged. It’s one of Aussie’s best kept secrets.



Jillian "George" Allison-Aitken

I live in the deep south of New Zealand, where smelly dairy cows are taking over from sheep in the livestock stakes. My hometown is the small but perfectly formed city of Invercargill, which is also the hometown of the original boy racer, Burt Munro. Find out more about me here.


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