3 years and counting….


I have been a very bad blogger over the past 6 months.

Life got the better of me. Stuff happened. Some of it was interesting, most of it was not. Self-doubt set in. Posts were written but never posted. Our time in New Cal was under question and therefore, for a while, I didn’t have anything optimistic to say.

The 4th February 2018 marked the end of our 3 years in the Pacific (yes it’s gone crazy quick) so we had some big decisions to make. Phil’s contract came up for renewal (and his UK secondment) and the University and I played a very long, drawn-out version of employment chicken, which ultimately ended with them being legally unable to renew my contract.

After much soul-searching, some quite painful experiences and an awful lot of indecision: Could I be here without working? Is teaching what I really want to do? Would I go bonkers here? Would I get any other work elsewhere? What do I really want to be when I grow up? Phil and I have come to a decision to not really make a decision. For now, we plan to extend our stay in NC, for the short term at least, and then we will see where the wind takes us.

The employment Gods shined on me, and without really trying, I have picked up free-lance contracts with a couple of different language schools and, although the start has been slow I should start working proper hours come March. Phil, after 3 years of setting up projects, now seems to actually be being an economist and doing some really interesting work and because of this, should largely be Noumea based, which is refreshing after 2017’s 18+ weeks out of the country between February and November which we both realise was waaaayyy too much.

Over the next few weeks I plan to catch you up on the last quarter of 2017 and post drafts that got forgotten between writing and publishing, but for now here is a taste of what we have got up to in the Pacific:




In the bleak mid-winter…

…arse-all happens in New Caledonia.

Because, well…

It’s cold like?

And this winter has seemed especially so, largely I think, due to the fact that we have now truly become acclimatised and so it actually feels like ‘winter’.

When we first arrived, Phil and I used to laugh at the locals who, following a temperature drop below 25°C, would don fur lined parkers and woolly hats. 22°C is practically a heat wave in the UK. How could that ever be considered coat weather?

Well, now it seems to be.

Granted, I haven’t quite gone that far, but there certainly have been days over the past few months when I have yelped at a temperature drop below 20° and quickly dug out my furry boots, socks, jumper, scarf and hoody and decided that impromptu baking was in order, largely so I could turn on and huddle around the oven…

…Yes, it has got that bad.  I am a complete and utter southern-hemisphere pansy who hasn’t swum in the sea since May because frankly, goose-bumps are just sooo unflattering…

We even got proper colds. For the first time in 3 years. Sore-throaty, sniffly colds. We were pretty pathetic. And when you are feeling pathetic, your willingness to be adventurous takes somewhat of a nose dive. And so then, much of this winter, when Phil has actually been here (this year he has had somewhat of a punishing travel schedule) has been spent huddled up on the sofa under a blanket, which, let’s face it, doesn’t really make gripping blog content.

Indeed, I worked out recently that I:

1) haven’t left New Caledonia since our trip to the UK over Christmas (vs. Phil’s 14 weeks AWOL) and also (more alarmingly) that

2) I hadn’t actually left the city of Noumea since our holiday back in June.

Cabin fever had most certainly set in.

Now don’t get me wrong, our holiday was pretty epic, in 10 days we travelled up to the most northerly point of New Caledonia, scaling epic mountains, crossing savannas and finding ourselves on secluded beaches surrounded by wild horses, but after 3 months of small-town city life, it seemed like a lifetime ago.


This is not to say that absolutely nothing happened in the last 3 months, but just none of it was very memorable, or indeed bloggable. As I said, not much happens in the Pacific in winter.

The one major exception was that the organisation that Phil works for celebrated a big birthday which gave us an excuse to dress up and dine with no less than 8 heads of state. Cue 3 days of watching police escorts whizz up and down the road next to our house and play guess the dignitary / name the flag. Basically the Olympics opening ceremony game, but with just the ones you didn’t know….

This is a picture of me (Drunk? Moi? Nooo?) at the said event with an old work colleague. The funny thing is that the man in the background with the microphone. He is the deputy prime minister of Samoa. He is singing Mustang Sally. It was a rather bizarre evening.

He is singing Mustang Sally. It was a rather bizarre evening.

It was a rather bizarre evening.


So, I digress, cabin fever had set in. I was getting stroppy so I decided to get up off my arse and solve the problem.

Firstly I got my friend Karen on board and we started project explore, opting for walks about 30 minutes out of the city to the river at Dumbea, an area of dramatic mountains bordering deep clear blue water holes and rivers. We walked, came home and drunk a bottle of wine because it’s the tropics and it is perfectly acceptable to drink at 4pm when the sun shines.

Buoyed but these micro-adventures, I had a thirst for more. Phil returned from another trip away and we had a heart to heart. The outcome of this talk was that for further adventures we needed new wheels.

Don’t ask.

Let’s just say that Phil is no longer allowed to mention that he wants to buy a boat.

So let me introduce you to **Norbert** (name pending approval) our very shiny new car.


We decided to break Norbert in by taking him on a trip to the very far South of New Caledonia, which happily means that this winter, we have been to both the Northern and Southernmost points of New Cal. June-September is whale season in New Caledonia so we ventured in the vain hope that we might see some whale action in the very far distance.

Alas, whales were not seen (although we did spot boats that were obviously spotting whales) but the scenery was pretty spectacular, we had a walk and Norbert got taken through his paces with both Hill and 4×4 modes being active, fords being crossed and very narrowed bridges being negotiated. He also got the traditional coating of orange dust that sticks to everything South of Noumea which Phil spent an hour loving cleaning off on our return.


So what next then?

Well the big news is that I have finished my second year of teaching, and as summer rapidly approaches we are patiently waiting to see if both of our contracts will get renewed, allowing us to extend our stay in New Caledonia past the initial 3 years (jeez this has come around quick, I can remember swearing that we were going for 1 year only).

Until we know our fate, we have largely been ignoring all major life decisions until we know what hemisphere we will be residing in. But for the short term, as the days get warmer, and I no longer have to go to work, we have lots of adventures planned and are hopefully making up for lost time.

Next weekend we are heading North to Fort Teremba for New Caledonia’s one and only music festival where we are going to see….wait for it…. THE DANDY WARHOLS!

Yes, a band that I have actually heard of are headlining a festival here. Phil and I are both pretty excited. This will be my first music festival ever that I camp at, but hoping that the fact there will be less than 1000 people there will mean that I won’t be too overwhelmed…

We then get 4 days in Noumea to recover and we are off again, this time for a proper holiday where I will actually leave New Caledonia! We are off to Vanuatu for 10 days, too (hopefully) stare into volcanoes, snorkel in blue holes and island hop Ni-van style. Again, I cannot wait.


French Cinema

‘But you must have watched French films?!’ cried my French teacher. ‘It should be a major part of your cultural understanding and language learning!’

Well yes. I would love to seem cultured and have highfalutin, in-depth discussions about the fabulous foreign films that I can now watch in their original language……but that would be a big fat lie.

I thought about it. It turns out that, in my lifetime, I have watched exactly 4 French films. Yes, only four. Even though I have been living in a French-speaking nation for two and a half years.

Cultured and highfalutin I ain’t.

Of those four films: One was Amelie (so I am not sure it counts), one starred the woman from Four Weddings (again dubious), one was by accident, when my Netflix (loving borrowed from my brother in the UK) inexplicably turned French and I ended up watching some school kid spend 2 hours getting worked up about his BAC exam and finally one that I watched immediately after said French class, in a sea of guilt and enthusiasm, called L’homme du train. Can you guess what it was about?

Of these four films, I am rather embarrassed to admit that I have fallen asleep in at least two.

Falling asleep in films is not that much of a rare occurrence for me.

Until this day, I still do not know why Adam Driver was in all the advertising for the last Star Wars movie. To my knowledge, he did not appear at any point during the film (which is possibly for the best, as I am not sure I could take any super-villain, who I have seen in compromising positions (in Girls), seriously).

However, this phenomenon does seem to be heightened when I have subtitles to deal with, so I suspect my route toward culturedness still has quite a few miles to go……


To counteract this cultural dearth, I decided to try something new.

I went to the cinema.

OK, the cinema in English, but still the cinema in English in France with French subtitles.

For a few months now, I have held the information that on a Sunday night, at 20.05, the cinema in central Noumea shows certain films in VO or version originale. I have been waiting for the right film and the right people to share in this experience and recently I found it!

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in VO!

Space comedy, mild violence, banging 80s soundtrack, not bad reviews for a sequel, a tree man, a green lady, a talking racoon and Chris Pratt Mark 2 (the abs version). What’s not to like?

But what a lot to spoil by dubbing.

I found some willing volunteers to join me on my quest for sleep-free non-French French Cinema and we quickly hatched a plan involving dinner (thank you Karen) and cinema funtimes.

We arrived at the cinema in good time and bought our tickets (sorry boys and girls this cinema only takes cash and cheques). The ticket seller double checked that we wanted to see it in English. We joined, or rather, jumped the queue finding our fellow Anglophone friends (and quite a lot of my students) and were happily assured of our next few hours of action-filled entertainment, sans ‘Je suis Grooot’.

The cinema was nice, chairs comfy and we all settled in, slightly aware that we were the only people speaking English in a cinema that was about to show an English film.

The adverts were in French, but we were still optimistic.

The film started. Earth 1988. Yep English. Soundtrack English. Yes. Girl singing, English. Yes. Girl and man run into a wood…….

Are they speaking Alien? That would be a realistic plot line?

Oh no…. that is definitely French.

What do we do now? Check tickets, yep….definitely in the right place. 6 people get up.

Did they forget the popcorn? Or are they disgruntled?

More French, more people leave.

Phil takes one for the team and runs down to the office.

The titles run, and yes, Je suis Groot makes an appearance. Chris Pratt sounds like he is on helium. The characters may as well be speaking alien as it becomes increasingly clear that two hours of this is not going to be good.

A woman reenters. Apparently, the language is not going to change anytime soon. We leave to investigate (and find Phil).

Turns out it was a ‘scheduling error’ (odd seen as the only show VO at the same time each week) and the woman that presses the buttons to make the movies work has gone home for the day. It cannot be changed. It’s French or nothing.

Fine. What then? – ‘well we can change your tickets for another film in English that is just starting now – it is also about Space’ – Life (not quite the same as GotG). NO. I do not want to see a horror movie that may or may not have already started. The customer service woman swears at Phil. Phil tries not to giggle.

After some further debate, we get our money back accompanied by death looks from the harassed woman in the ticket office.

We trudged home trying not to be unsurprised. This place just cracks me up.


*Random image from our holiday as nothing else is really appropriate.

Cyclone Survival 101…. Well almost….

This week has not been a normal week.

In my last post, I explained that I was off to see my friend spend the evening being a mermaid.

It turned out that this would not be the most exciting thing to happen this week.

On Friday afternoon I spied a depression alert on Facebook. A Tropical depression forms when multiple weather systems collide. They are a common occurrence in the Pacific and usually bring with them sticky days, heavy rain and high winds. Move over Wales, although you used to be my personal reference point for world levels of dampness, nothing that you threw at me in 15 years of habitation can match the ferocity of the rain we get here.  This is the type of rain you can smell coming, rolls like a snare drum and catches you off guard, soaking you to the skin in 5 seconds flat. During this kind of event, it is not uncommon to have to ring out your knickers after attempting to travel even the shortest of distances.

‘But it isn’t depression season!’ my friends declared. ‘We can’t have a depression!’ And yes, technically depression season ended last month, but it seems that this one was not paying due attention to its calendar. The French bureaucrats were very upset. An untimely storm is really quite a nuisance.

After some gentle mocking, I wandered home and went to bed.

Saturday morning, I awoke and checked the weather. It seemed that the depression was still quite depressed and taking its misery out on Vanuatu, resulting in some major sogginess. It looked like it would be hanging around and moping for a good while yet.

I went out for brunch with a friend and watched the rain. I informed her of said depression. We laughed about it. Seen as it was raining she kindly offered to take me shopping.

The nearest supermarket is about 20 mins uphill walk from my house. Most weeks I take pride in doing the majority of my shopping on foot, in the vain hope that walking for 40 minutes whilst weight down with shopping in 30° heat counts as double exercise, but my enthusiasm for this wains dramatically when the heavens open.

In the few minutes between finishing lunch and grabbing my shopping list, I hastened to look at the forecast again.

Things had changed.

The language they were using to describe the event had escalated and the words: ‘cyclone’ and ‘category 4’ were starting to infiltrate news reports. And more alarmingly the words ‘menace’, ‘extreme force’, ‘high risk’ and ‘grave danger’ were appearing close to the word Noumea.

Right. OK then. Things are getting serious. We could be in for a rough few days.

I immediately channelled my inner girl guide and got myself prepared.

A week’s worth of candles, water and non-perishable food were added to the shopping list and duly purchased. I found the spare gas for the camping stove and what turned out to be quite an impressive collection of torches and batteries. I tried filling the bath with water. Turns out the bath plug doesn’t work and I realised I have never actually used the bath…

At this point, the powers that be had decided that this depression was going to annoy people enough to deserve a name, and ‘Cyclone Cook’ was born (a little ironic that the potential biggest cyclone to hit New Caledonia since 2003 would be called Cook).

It was, however, a beautiful day so I went for a walk. The prospect of a cyclone did not seem particularly likely, but with the prospect of impending doom, I took some pictures just in case a before and after was required.

The news and predictions were, however, starting to show a rather different picture. By Saturday night it was getting clear that the cyclone was not going to go away, it was strengthening and on a direct course for New Caledonia and Noumea, due to make landfall late Monday night. The entire country was put on pre-alert, the first level of our three-level system, which basically translates to ‘get your shit together in the next 48 hours things might get a bit hairy’.

Cue the expat community to start getting a little bit antsy. But then I think that is really quite a reasonable response to predicted 200kph winds, 6-metre waves, 350mm rains and UN reports estimating the humanitarian impact to be in excess of 50 000, of which we could all potentially be one.

By Sunday I had had no less than 4 people suggest to me that large waves might pose somewhat of a problem to my house and that advanced levels of preparation would be required. I systematically cleared everything from outside my house and then helped my friend clear her balcony and then we started to play the game of which would be safer: a flat on the 2nd floor of the highest hill in the area (good for flooding, bad for wind) or my house (sheltered from the wind, but close to a river and the sea). This is not the form of top trumps that I enjoy playing.

By Monday morning I was getting quite worried. Multiple people had convinced me that might house may well be under water in less than 24 hours and until 8am on Monday morning, I was still unsure as to whether I was expected to go to work. We weighed up the options and decided my friend’s house would be the best option so I cleared everything that sat below a metre in my house, packed my bag and waited until 12pm, when Alerte 1 was deployed. Alerte 1 is the point where the government tell everyone to stop being bravado-filled idiots and go home. I closed the door and walked away from my home slightly nervous about what it would look like the next time I saw it and collected people and things from various homes in order to form ‘team cyclone’.


And then we waited.

It turns out that concentration on work tasks is rather difficult when faced with an impending Cyclone, which was definitely by this point being reported as a category 4. Look Mum! We even made it to the Australian news: Cyclone Cook! The next few hours were spent checking for updates and drinking tea.

At about 4 pm we lost power.


Our 4th party invitee was not yet with us, so Connie and I bravely decided to go and get her in conditions that seemed like they were rapidly deteriorating. We returned unscathed 20 minutes later and so did the power.

We watched the storm until it got dark or became unwise to do so. Something smashed. We gasped. The wind howled. For some reason, my friend’s toilet turned into a wind tunnel.

At 8pm we entered into Alerte 2, the final and highest alert. Full lockdown. This shit just got real….


…..Except it kinda didn’t.

As time plodded on things got quieter. The electric didn’t go out. We watched a film. Nothing happened. We cooked dinner. It got quieter. Are we in the eye? No that would be stupid. It got quieter still. We played games.

At midnight it was almost silent and we decided to go to bed. The eye had passed 50km further away than predicted and all was calm.


Day dawned. Alerte 2 was lifted. We were greeted by this beautiful sight:


Work was cancelled and the danger was over. We drove by my house to make sure it wasn’t underwater and then proceeded to have a lovely leisurely brunch before venturing out to assess the damage. Noumea was in a jovial state with everyone enjoying the free day off.

A few trees were down, with a very small light one leaning on my roof. The sea defences at Anse Vata had taken a beating, but it appears that Noumea has had a reprieve.

The rest of the country did not fare so well, with over 20000 without power for 3 days, a few injuries and one death. Some of the roads are still inaccessible and there was significant damage to The Loyalty Islands. But this seems rather light compared to what could have happened.

Cyclone survivors met in the pub Tuesday evening to report on the events. Everyone was outwardly a little bit upset that things had not been as dramatic as they could have been, but inwardly I think everyone was relieved that experiencing a direct hit from a category 4 cyclone is not something that we can tick off our bucket lists just yet….

Big love from a very safe and cyclone free Noumea.

Until the next time…


Back 2 Skool & The Big 3-0

Last month I celebrated being on this planet for a whole 3 decades.

After the initial ‘Christ I am old/What have I done with my life?/The end is nigh’ type panic, swiftly abated by a quick google search (apparently working on a foreign tropical island fulfills most of Buzzfeed’s criteria for tricennial* achievement) I got back to the rather pedestrian task of ‘being an adult’ and filled in my tax return, because that is what the over-thirties do.

February, March and April are the most ‘tropical’ months in New Caledonia. It’s hot, sweaty and sticky and most plans are motivated by the need to stay cool. It is also the start of the new school year and so my silence during the past month has largely been caused by me actually having to do the job I am paid to do, which I must admit, was a bit of a shock to the system after effectively 6 months of inactivity.

I was mildly alarmed to find that my timetable seemed to have doubled since last year (peaking at 18 hours a week – the horror) and included quite a number of horribly early starts, so I duly dived into evaluating my performance from last year (as serialized here) and trying (hopefully) to produce something vastly better than what I was able to present last year as a very ‘green’ an unqualified teacher. 

Le rentrée brought with it a certain type of chaos that I have now grown to associate with my place of work. But even despite this foreknowledge, I still was somewhat perplexed to be confronted with the following issues during class:

  1. Poorly functioning doors. Yes. Doors can function poorly. You would think that they operate on a binary system of open and closed, but turns out that in New Caledonia there are further options. Who knew? A clever electrical system can also add: Closed and not willing to open; Open once and then not again meaning students are locked inside and teacher outside or indeed, the opposite. Luckily my students have a sense of humour and did not hate me enough to exploit the potential of this for mayhem.
  2. Hostile automatic Lighting. It turns on when you enter the room. It works for 1 hour. It buggers off, not to return for the remaining 3 hours of class. Even if you suggest to the class that they are too still and should, therefore, all start waving frantically in a bid to re-activate it. This doesn’t work. You then have to instruct the class in blind opening. This is harder than it sounds.
  3. General lack of electricity. Never mind the lights, think of the entire electrical system in one sole classroom disappearing. I am not entirely sure how this is even possible. Try trying to explain that one in pigeon French. Think of Basil Fawlty shouting ‘THE ELECTRICITY IS BROKEN’ repeatedly and pointing maniacally at a plug socket. This was me. My Department secretary is very understanding and hasn’t sectioned me yet……..But there are still six weeks left of term.
  4.  Disappearing internet. When I was younger, it used to give me great pleasure watching my computer literate friends exasperatedly try and explain to me where the internet was. It must be somewhere right? Turns out, one place that it definitely isn’t is my workplace. It was there last year and still claims that it hangs out in the locale, but it seems to hibernate at critical points during my lectures. Praise be to YouTube’s ability to pre-stream and BBC podcasts. I love you and your ability to not make me look like a complete tool.
  5. And finally, slightly more primadonna-esque the lack of a working projector for an audio-visual class. I definitely didn’t audibly utter the words ‘too old for this sh*t’ during a rather hot and frustrating class and do a fist pump and shout YYEEESSS when I worked out how to use the portable one….. :s

Apologies for this slight whinge. I am aware that teachers across the world have a job far harder than my own, with giant class sizes and lack of resources to contend with. I am in awe of you and all the amazing work that you do. But still, it is all rather funny.

It is also nice that my actual ability to teach is not the thing I worry about most when I enter the classroom. This is definitely progress from last year. I now absolutely adore my job and get super excited at the prospect of designing a new class (yeah I know!) This terms highlights: Should we protect ugly animals? (Brought to you by the Ugly animal appreciation society.) Does the punishment fit the crime? (Cue the opportunity to play Les Miserable really loudly) and most recently (at my student’s request) Should we legalise Cannabis? 

It would be inadvisable to view my browsing history at this point in time.

Exams are nigh and I have almost finished half my year’s work which does seem rather odd seen as I only started  6 weeks ago.  I am currently on holiday and trying to force myself into advanced action whilst Phil is away exploring the Pacific (he is currently 2 weeks into a 3 1/2 week stint in Fiji – it looks like we are paying for last years ‘travel-light’ schedule). 

I seem to have managed to guilt the expat community here into spending time with me in Phil’s absence, so have spent the last couple of weeks, when not doing battle with utilities: entertaining (in an attempt to prevent myself eating a balanced dinner of frozen peas and slices of ham), having spa dates, attending French expressionist theatre and trying to cultivate French friends. I have actively started back in regular French classes and hopefully, am starting to make some progress (fingers crossed). This evening I am going to watch my Hungarian friend get dressed as a mermaid and swim in the turtle pool at the aquarium. As you do. 

* Yes this is a real word. The internet told me so.

Pride after a fall

Happy New 2017 everyone!

First, let me apologise profusely for the hiatus in posts. The last 3 months have been somewhat of a whirlwind (literally, we had 50kmph winds yesterday) and for quite a considerable part of that time, we haven’t actually been in New Caledonia, making the whole ‘blogging from the Pacific’ thing a little pointless.

So, what have we been up to, I hear you ask?….

Well, following my return from Melbourne, Team Helen & Phil got on with some major logistics.

The start of December saw a fantastic weekend spent on a catamaran with 5 of our fabulous New Cal mates. The weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful, fishermen Phil & Andrew caught us dinner, I played with sharks and touched a sea snake (Pacific living is making me well’ard) and we survived the weekend with only 2 broken fingers and some mild seasickness. For a group containing: ‘Liability Phil – there is no Pacific Island he can’t get injured on’, a guy that on occasion has got lost at sea and myself (to which my failings have been well documented) I think this is really quite good going. The skipper, who has now taken us out 3 times has already planned our next adventure & told us very firmly that next time we have to speak entirely in French. And only feed him French wine.

Phil and I then had a quick pre-holiday-holiday (because our lives are tough) to Lifou, the last Loyalty Island on our list (coz, like Pokemon, it is important that you catch them all). It was stunning, interesting, we had adventures in French and on the last day Phil asked me to marry him. Not a bad trip really.


A mere 24 hours after that bombshell we got on a plane and took the long 32-hour flight back to the UK for 5 weeks of merriment, over-indulging and revelling with friends family and general hangers-on (thank you postcards are on their way). It was lovely to catch up with everyone and we enjoyed ourselves fully.  We travelled over 3000km within the UK. We were quite tired. And Cold. So very very cold.

So now what?

After a plane journey that seemed to last forever we are back to the unusual existence I call normality. We have blundered through jet lag and for the first time realised just how royally it can mess with you. After a mere 18 hours back in the country Phil and I went shopping. I decided that I did not need a handbag. This turned out to be quite possibly the most stupid decision I will make in 2017. Well maybe. Turns out supermarkets are distracting places and I am easily distracted.  Shopping is often a chore that requires both hands.

I wandered off. So did my purse.

Cue: panic, hysteria and the realisation that this was a problem that couldn’t be solved in English. I would have to speak French. Quickly.

And oddly I did.

Even though I was sleep deprived and on the verge of tears.

Even when 12 hours earlier I had been failing to understand the French plane announcements which I have heard thousands of times.

I found an army of helpers. I got announcements made. I was able to give all my details and make people understand me.

Cards were cancelled. Banks were contacted (coz in New Cal it isn’t enough to just cancel the card centrally.) I understood that my bank at any one time does not know the contents of my account and that I would have to wait 3 days to see if I had been defrauded. I understood when the lovely lady who found my purse called me. I understood the instruction to pick it up.


Finally, after two years (practically to the day) of living here, I feel like I have actually achieved something. Yes, I speak French with an English accent. Yes I, makeup words or freely add in English if I don’t know the French. Yes, I use the wrong conjugation and blatantly miss out any words that don’t immediately seem important to me. Yes, I have decided to be zen and only live in the present (there is no past or future). Yes, I pick gender on a whim and change halfway through a sentence, but god-damn-it, I can get shit done.

For this, I am proud.

I may be stupid and a calamity and lose stuff idiotically.

But I am proud that  I can deal with it when I do.



Projects for 2017:

Get better.

Cultivate French friends.

Be awesome.


Guilt Free English

I was lucky enough to spend last week in Melbourne, Australia, the result of a rather snap decision on the back of cheap flights, wanderlust and the realisation that my current time-rich situation will be fleeting and that do I really have to ‘use it or lose it’. Life is short and there are adventures to be had.

So I booked my flights, found myself a hostel and started dreaming of proper coffee and art galleries.

As I boarded the plane, I realised that this was the first time that I would be going to an English-speaking country in 11 months.


This was a fantastical revelation.

Everything is going to be SO DAMN EASY.


It could be pointed out by an observant reader of this blog that I do not exactly have an ‘immersive’ language experience here in Noumea. Yes, I live in a French-speaking country, yes, if I want to get anything done I have to operate in French, yes, it is part of living overseas that you try to immerse yourself in the new language and culture in an attempt to integrate.


Turns out this is harder than it looks. I live with Phil. We converse in English. Granted, I often do not have a clue what he is on about (early in our relationship he told me he had spent the day making a model – I naturally assumed he was a sculptor) but we do still clearly speak almost identical versions of the same language. Indeed, the majority of our friends speak English as their first language or at least speak English to us (as their English blows our feeble attempts at French right out of the water). I also have the luxury of working almost entirely in English (and Google Translate) and there can be some days where I actually end up not speaking any French at all.


Relying on others is a constant source of guilt and shame for me. I really wish I could speak better French and it is something I am going to put a lot more effort into improving next year. I try hard, but not being understood is frustrating and learning any language is difficult.  Currently, every interaction has to be planned and practised, and if someone doesn’t stick to the script all hell breaks loose (see my previous post Girlz on tour).

I feel guilty when someone speaks English to me. I feel guilty when someone has to translate for me. I feel guilty when I feel I am taking up too much of someone’s time because I don’t understand and I feel guilty when someone (?understandably) gets pissed off and ignores me.

Therefore, you can imagine, after so long, that the prospect of going somewhere that speaks English was somewhat of a big deal.

So I found myself on a plane Melbourne,  excited by above all else, the promise that I would be able to speak fast, unthinking English, freely throwing in as many colloquialisms, idioms and general ridiculous slang as I could think of…. HEAVEN.

….I think however, I might have got a little carried away, such was my delight in guilt-free English-speaking.

I asked for help, often needlessly. I spoke to everyone I came in contact with…..often unsolicited. I started conversations to rooms, aimed at no one in particular and waited for someone to respond…

Yes, I am aware that this is not really socially acceptable behaviour and could be considered the actions of a crazy person, but in my defence, I was travelling alone, I like people and I appear to have developed a word daily word quota that I must communicate, even if no one else is around.

But it did pay off.

Fortune favours the bold.

And bold I was (quite uncharacteristically).

I even started conversations with people in restaurants and cafes, who nearly all turned out to be truly lovely and fascinating human beings who I hope I will spend a lot more time with in the future. It also appears that since I moved to the other side of the world, I seem to have become at least 50% more interesting as a person. Turns out not many people have met a Brit that lives on a tropical island, and that fact alone can at least keep a conversation going for long enough that people forget that you accosted them whilst they were having some alone time or enjoying a private meal.

Proven fact.

I took the advice of my newly-enforced friends and I went (slightly) off the beaten track. I went to some lovely places and saw some amazing things (ironically the 2 big blockbusters in town were Banksy and Hockney respectively….a little taste of home). I made snap decisions, tearing myself away from my natural instincts to plan everything. I found seats to comedy an hour before it started, I went to gigs and revelled in the fact that I could understand (almost) everything. It was awesome.

But blimmin’ heck it was cold.

It’s supposed to be Australia – a place to which my opinion has sole been formed by watching Neighbours, Skippy and Round the Twist. It is always sunny and warm. That is why people from the UK go there! You always wear ‘thongs’ (which still make me giggle) and short shorts and pretty summer dresses.

I was freezing at 14°C and wanted to do none of these things.

Socks, jeans, fluffy boots and a jumper were worn.

I am very much starting to worry about my imminent trip to the UK.

I am hoping that in the next 2 weeks I can absorb and store enough heat that I can then slowly radiate it back out throughout my 6 weeks in the UK.

Failing that I am going to hibernate until my flight back to the sun…..

If I don’t speak to you beforehand, have a lovely festive period and I will be back, blogging about my Pacific adventures in 2017 🙂