The best from a quick shopping trip in New Zealand

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The two dollar store in new zealand is a wonderful thing. But don’t just take my word for it; let me show you some of the wonders I found…

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The key thing to note here is that this does not cost 2 dollars. What a culture shock! In England, our pound shops don’t bother with price stickers… Everything costs a pound.

Here’s the best tags line I’ve ever seen:

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Let us own gorgeous night! So poetic, so inspiring. I desperately need to purchase this over-hyphenated product!

I’ve never owned gorgeous night before… Or at least I don’t think I have.

And finally… Something truly special.

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Did I read that right? Benign girl… Like useless girl? Not doing anything girl?

Well, at least they’re not pretending to be feminists. They say it how it is for this plastic lady. Sort of refreshing in a way… Maybe?

Most of the two dollar store products are shipped in cheap from various parts of Asia… So the translation errors are excellent.

A random little example of cultures clashing – which gave us the perfect holiday entertainment. Especially for two people slightly delirious from jet lag.

And hey, I finished this just in time to make this double post friday legit.

You didn’t doubt us did you?

The best thing to do on holidays

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My perceptions of holidays are changing. In the past they were a period of time to complete the checklist of pre-ordained sites I ‘had to see’. I’ve been to plenty of museums and galleries in my time and seen many interesting things.

However, I’ve been having something of a revolutionary mind-set reworking. Holidays are really good for chilling. Seriously. You don’t need to work, you don’t need to do anything, you just need to get your flight at the end of it. Just find a café and relax.

Now, this isn’t always how I behave. In fact, I felt incredibly tense in Istanbul until I knew that we were going to see all of the big sites. But some of the things I enjoyed most about the trip were just sat drinking Turkish coffee, eating some food on a terrace or enjoying a shisha pipe. They were relaxing times.

It’s at these points that you can really take stock of your surroundings and realise you are in a different country which behaves in a different way.

Of course I can’t knock people for dutifully going to see the top 10 in a guide book, but I feel that I’ve seen more art, old coins and pottery to last a lifetime.

The bits of sites I often think are the most impressive are the buildings, not necessarily what’s inside them. For instance, Topkapi palace in Istanbul is pretty cool from the outside, you can wander the gardens and come across a statue of the great Ataturk. But, from the inside, it’s just a collection of old stuff which you can’t see because everyone else is desperately trying to also see the old stuff.

I find I’m happiest standing outside and marvelling at the exterior designs. One of the few places I’ve been where it is imperative to go inside, is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – it’s stunning.

The rest of the time I want to take the weight off my feet and relax, or get on a bike and explore. You can people watch, you can chat with your friends and you can remind yourself that you aren’t at work. It’s brilliant and peaceful.

Saying this, I will still 100% be anxious to see whatever a city has to offer. If I go somewhere which has a must-see museum, there will need to be some convincing to pull me away from it, but my perceptions are changing…

The best thing to do with this spider

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Ok, this is a slight misuse of the blog. I’m supposed to supply you with a best thing, not the other way round.

But this giant spider has moved in to the area where my bin also lives. That means I have to deal with him on a biweekly basis.

And I need to know what I should do with him – how do I make him leave?

But first let me explain the situation…

I would describe myself as a recovering arachnophobe. I’m pretty scared of spiders but gradually becoming less scared. I deal with all spiders in our house because my wife is a full on arachnophobe, no recovery in sight.

In New Zealand, we had a huge house spider visit our bed and breakfast accommodation. The sort of spider that crunches when you kill it and wouldn’t fit into any glass we had.

I was so scared of this guy that I actually shouted ‘3 – 2 – 1 KILL!’ As I squished him with a mountain of toilet paper. I didn’t mean to say it; it just came out.

Like a lame action hero.

And I can justify that because I think that if a spider is inside, it has invaded my territory. I’m allowed to retaliate however I want.

But the beast pictured above is outside – he’s not a house spider. He’s too chunky and camouflaged for that. He’s sort of invaded my territory but not really because my bins sit on a public footpath round the side of my house.

Also I think if I tried to kill him, he would jump on my face or something.

I tried to solve the problem by breaking his web several times – to annoy him into leaving. It didn’t work though.

Then when I saw him on the actual bin itself I seized the opportunity and transported him out to the bin collection point. I thought surely when they tip all the trash into the truck, he will also fall out and be gone forever.

But he hung on.

Then I dealt with the problem by going away on holiday for three weeks… I thought he would be elsewhere or dead by the time I got back.

But I took that photo yesterday – he’s not gone anywhere.

So how do I get rid of the spider? 

I could kill him I guess – take a risk on the face-jumping. I could just let him live there and swallow my fear every time I go to the bins – hoping that I will eventually out-live him. I guess I could trap him in a large container and carry him to Scotland.

But really I’m not sure what to do.

Any suggestions?

The best way to deal with a ‘chicken on the bus’ situation

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This is how ready I am for any situation in my life...

This is how ready I am for any situation in my life…

I often find that I become complacent about things in life. Everything appears to be going OK and that nothing can go wrong. So when something unexpected happens, when I get a shock to the system, I’m frequently unprepared for it.

This is what I call a ‘chicken on the bus’ situation.

Let me explain…

Recently I was on a hell-ish coach journey from Bulgaria to Turkey (yes, this is another story from my holiday, deal with it, there’ll be another coming) and we had arrived at a rest-stop to rest. Everyone on the bus was suitably tired and I was dozing off myself when suddenly I heard a thump and a ‘braahck’ sound.

I turned around and there before me was a chicken. A chicken on the bus.

I didn't have the presence of mind to take a photo but I'm sure this will help you to imagine the situation

I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo but I’m sure this will help you to imagine the situation

I’ve never had to deal with a chicken before, particularly not one which has defiantly made its way onto a coach – they’re the most adventurous of chickens – so I immediately became tense and alert, knowing that I may be the only one who could deal with our new found chicken dilemma.

What did I do? I waited. I wanted to see how the chicken behaved. Would it come at my bus colleagues with a rabid beak attack, or would it leave in peace?

I also checked to see if anyone else was awake, partly to ensure this wasn’t just a dream and partly to see if they could help/be the audience for my impending chicken heroics. There was!

We stared at each other and then back to the chicken. It felt like we bonded over this ridiculous situation. I no longer felt so under pressure.

Eventually the chicken left from whence it came and the situation was nowhere near as problematic as it could have become.

And this is how we should deal with shocks in life, our own ‘chicken on the bus’ situations. Instead of panicking, we should wait and see if it really is that bad because it probably isn’t. We should deal with it calmly and not rashly. We should be prepared to act and step-up when it’s clear that we need to do something.

Finally, and most importantly, we shouldn’t try and do it all on our own. Other people can help. They can support us. We are stronger together despite what this self-centred world may teach you.

The best glasses you could ever drink out of…

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drinking faces

These are terrible glasses. Who made these?

 

For most people, drinking glasses are not really important at all. So long as they hold liquid they will do just fine.

But I’m the sort of guy who pays a premium to drink out of a glass bottle. It feels better, so it it tastes better. I do this with coke at Christmas and with beer pretty much all the time.

So if you want to sit down and talk with me about drinking vessels, we could be going for a long time.

But the best glasses you could ever drink out of came to me almost by accident. I bought them for novelty value and it turns out they are amazing.

glasses and birds

Here they are just chilling with the birds on my window ledge

Yeah, that’s right, someone stuck a handle on a jar and it turns out it’s a best thing.

Here’s a closer look, this time with real-life drink in it.

glass with drink

Such a quality product that it even says ‘quality’ on it

I really thought these would be a little bit of stupid fun – the sort of thing I force upon guests sometimes. But actually they are all I want to drink out of.

I like them so much I’ve actually banned myself from using them until work is finished for the day. I don’t want my 9-5 routine to take away the magic.

You can buy them for £4 at John Lewis.

You should only get two though because no one wants to go to a house where they only have jars to drink out of. That’s the house of lunatic right there.

One for you and one for a friend – that’s all you need.

And in writing this blog I just learned that these glasses aren’t dishwasher safe – that is valuable and new information to me.

So this best thing has helped you out and it’s helped me out – everybody is happy. Everybody.

The best weapon in your haggling arsenal

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Working-On-Beach

Hello! It’s been a long time since Jon or I brought you a blog article, we were too busy doing nothing on holiday, it was a lot of hard work. I’ve now returned and I’m raring to write my first post in a while.

As some of you may know, I recently went on a trip to Istanbul which was very exciting. There are lots of interesting things to do and it has the whole ‘East meets West’ thing which everyone always shouts about.

I’ve never been to somewhere with a colossal cathedral (Aya Sophia) staring a massive mosque (Blue Mosque) in the face, whilst tourists throng between them. What’s particularly interesting about the Aya Sophia is that it was originally a cathedral which was then converted to a mosque after the conquering of Constantinople by the Ottomans. This means that a number of Christian frescoes were covered by Islamic art and are now being restored. It’s a big culture clash.

hagia-sophia-and-sultan-ahmet-mosque

There’s also the Basilica Cistern which previously providing water to the Aya Sophia and the surrounding area. It can hold 100,000 tonnes of water! What?!  Apparently, the government didn’t know of its existence (this was after numerous conquerings – obviously someone originally knew about it) until residents started drawing water and fish from their basements. It’s now a tourist attraction and is pretty cool.

Anyway, what I really want to talk about is the Grand Bazaar which is a labyrinthine complex of the same 3 shops over and over. If you want to buy a lamp, some jeans or a bowl then this is the place for you.

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The Turks really are a force of nature when it comes to selling. They will try and sell you anything and everything as you walk past even if you already have it. Whilst on holiday, my friend and I were offered jeans, sunglasses and food as we were walking along, despite being in possession of all these things. Clearly, if I’m wearing sunglasses and eating a kebab, I don’t need those things! But they still persist…

One thing about the Bazaar which really is at odds with Western culture is the lack of prices on products. This isn’t because the products are too expensive but because the shopkeepers will try and get the measure of you and charge a price which it is your duty to haggle down.

Being from Britain, I find the notion of bartering for a cheaper price a bit ridiculous. It means having the brashness to say that I don’t think your product is worth it, or that you don’t trust the seller. But that is what you have to do. You’ve got to haggle.

And the one thing you need for successful haggling…

Be prepared to walk away

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This is an absolute must. No matter how long they’ve spent with you, even if they got you some tea, you need to be able to leave the product behind. If the seller even gets a hint of your desperation then they will maintain the higher price.

This happened to my friend who dutifully picked out two football shirts for 20 lira (£6). All he wanted was to say that he had bartered, that there had been a reduction in price so he was asking to pay 19 lira. The shopkeeper knew this was ridiculous and that my friend would buy the two shirts regardless. He couldn’t walk away.

It’s all about a power struggle. If you can leave then you have the power. If you can’t then they’ll have you eating out of their hands.

Besides, if you say ‘no’ and walk away, they will nearly always call you back and give you the cheaper price. It works like a dream.

 

The best thing about living alone

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In the bleak desert that is this short break from Best Things, a guest blog approaches from frequent guest blogger, Hazel…

I’ll admit, it sounds like the start of a potential tragic best thing today. Perhaps you’re worried that I will conclude, ‘There’s no-one around to hear you cry’ or ‘You can get as many cats as you want!’

I’ve recently moved out of a shared house and into a one bedroom flat for the first time (unless you count when I was living in Japan for a while, but I’d say that was less of a one bedroom flat and more of a cupboard with a toilet). Interestingly, the most frequent response to my move is, “Wow, it’s like you’re a real grown up now!” Even from my friends in their mid-30s. Apparently living alone is now something reserved for the chronically unsociable and spinsters over 50.

There are, of course, some negatives to solo living. Most of mine revolve around food, and the fact that supermarkets really really want you to bulk buy and don’t like providing things in single portions and that before I know it I’m faced with things like this in my cupboard:

Curse you tiny onions!

Curse you tiny onions!

Having my own place has also had the wholly unexpected side effect of a sudden desire to buy those quaint little knick knacks that always fill the homeware aisle, like pots labelled “tea”, “coffee” and “sugar”, brightly coloured throws and signs that say things like, “Home is where the heart is” and “I’m on a gin and tonic diet – I’ve already lost 2 days!”

We all know someone that has one, right?

We all know someone that has one, right?

A lot of peoples’ first answer to “What is the best thing about living alone?” is that you can walk around naked. While I do enjoy the novelty of walking straight from the shower to my bedroom whilst feeling fresh air circulating around my bottom, I wouldn’t say it was a best thing, and frankly not worth the extra financial burden of having to pay the council tax by myself. A better benefit is the lack of passive aggressive notes on my kitchen table asking me to PLEASE clean up the kitchen immediately after cooking or informing me that if I want to leave my washing up in the draining rack then I should buy my own, although perhaps this is somewhat influenced by my past experiences.

So, what is the best thing about living alone? Here it is:

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE CONSIDERATE ANYMORE.

It may sound selfish but think about it. No more guilt about being messy – you are the only one that will suffer. No more worrying that people will be annoyed that you don’t clean the bathroom enough, or feeling resentful because you seem to clean it more than anyone else.* Have you ever gone back to live with your parents for a while and immediately fallen back into lazy habits, while telling yourself that you really MUST do more to help out rather than sitting around feeling bad about it? No more! Stew in your own filth if you wish! Or don’t, but the choice is yours.

The flip side of this is that I have suddenly discovered what it is to be house-proud. I remember being baffled by my parents’ constant cleaning before guests came over, and yet now I do the same, whilst internally repeating “No-one must know that it doesn’t look like this all the time!”

Perhaps this is what it is to be a grown-up.

 

*NB. I read somewhere that a study found that if everyone in a house does the same amount of housework, they will all believe that they do more than anyone else.

 

That’s yet another great post from Hazel. Is it time we offered her a more permanent placement on the blog? Maybe once a month? Maybe more? Would Steve be ok with that? Would she even accept that sort of thing? Am I asking rhetorical questions instead of actually talking to her?

Yes.

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