Before I came to the UK the one thing I wanted Mum to teach me to make was her gingerbread loaf. It is the stuff of dreams, not just because of the sweet ginger flavour but also because it lasts for up to a week without going weird AND it can be frozen. This gingerbread loaf is a total fixture in my mind when I think of my childhood (although Mum isn’t convinced she made it that often), those doorstop thick slabs covered in butter are the answer to almost any problem.

But even though I marched the streets of London with recipe in hand I have never successfully made it. Once a year Mum gets an enraged Skype from me about how I have failed yet again at the fail safe recipe. To be honest the numerous gingerbread loaf disasters were part me and part the UK. I always thought I knew better than the trusty recipe, changing the proportions or on one shocking occasion trying to substitute the milk/vinegar combo for buttermilk (learn from me kids, don’t do it). The UK does have a part to play in this ongoing saga however because the golden syrup over here sucks ass. It is weak watery rubbish that has as much flavour as licking the side of a London telephone box after an autumn shower.

Enter SANZA stage left. Antipodean expats in the UK will all know of SANZA, the website that has all of those treats from home that solve homesickness time and time again (INCLUDING ORIGINAL FLAVOUR BBQ SHAPES!!!!!!!!!!). SANZA offered to send me a box of goodies and to say I leapt at the opportunity was a slight understatement. They might have been slightly surprised at the first thing in my basket, because it wasn’t the Shrewsbury biscuits the Twisties or the Whittakers…it was Chelsea Golden Syrup – time for me to finally conquer the gingerbread loaf.

175 g butter                         
2 tsp baking soda
¾ C sugar                             
2 eggs
1 C golden syrup                  
1 C milk
1 T ground ginger                 
1 T vinegar
2½ C flour                                   
½ tsp cinnamon

  1. Add the vinegar to the milk & let stand to sour.
  2. Cream butter & sugar, add the syrup and beat well. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda and spices into the mixing bowl.
  4. Gradually beat in the milk & vinegar.
  5. Pour the mixture into 2 lined loaf tins or 1 x 20cm square tin.
  6. Bake at 170°C – loaf tins for approx 50 mins, large tin for approx 1 hr 20 mins.

I was primed and ready. In preparation I put on Dave Dobbyn and ate an entire packet of BBQ Shapes, it was time for me and gingerbread loaf to become friends. This time, I had the right ingredients and I was going to follow the recipe to the letter. No exam had ever been so stressful, no relationship as high risk; but step by (totally easy why the hell had I failed before) step I went through the gingerbread loaf recipe sent over from Mum. And do you know what? I only went and bloody well did it.

My gingerbread loaf was perfect. I feasted off it for the next week and froze two mini-versions to have at a later celebration. Turns out, with SANZA to the rescue and if I actually follow the recipe, all is right in the world.

Oh and since I was on a roll I did something that I had never attempted before, I made lolly cake. I was worried that after 29 years without making it, the NZ Embassy was going to revoke my Kiwi card. Lets just say that it was a tasty few days in the Runawaykiwi house.

I woke up today and being a millennial went straight onto twitter. The first tweet I saw was simply “Oh fuck” from a seismologist monitoring underground nuclear testing, not exactly the person you want swearing on a Sunday morning. North Korea had let off another test and this one was a biggy. As I sipped my tea I moved on to aimlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram which were far less terrifying.

I don’t know how seriously to take the threat of a North Korea induced nuclear winter. On one hand, with ego driven nut cases in charge of the big red buttons it feels like all it will take is either one seeing a tweet about their haircuts. But on the other hand I have to trust that the international bodies that have been set up since the last few wars are there to protect us and are possibly doing a good job.

I think where I have put nuclear attack on the Runawaykiwi worry scale is somewhere between embarrassing myself during a work presentation and chocking on a penny that someone has left in my tea (not a fantastical situation, this has actually happened to me). Given how this year has gone maybe it should be higher, but the absolute lack of being able to impact this fate means it is quite far down on the list.

In rather terrible timing I have been attempting to read books lately after years of only reading things in tweet form. Reading itself is not terrible, many people would argue that it is in fact a good thing. The problem is that that Taloned witch Lex recommended I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a delightful tale of living in a post-apocalyptic reality. In the book the apocalypse comes in the form of a fast acting flu that kills most of humanity rather than a Trump vs North Korea pissing contest, but the effect is somewhat the same. (Side note: it is a amazing book which unveils the story in a very clever way as well as creating a terrifyingly realistic post-“oh fuck” world).

This combination of book and tweet made me think on a Sunday morning made me think about where I would want to be when the world ends. Given how much I agonise over my physical location (I still manage to have a weekly existential crisis over it) the answer was astoundingly quick and simple: New Zealand. The reality is that in a post-apocalyptic situation New Zealand just has so many advantages. Low population density in relation to the size of the land means there is a chance we can get enough food for everyone. Fewer guns means the initial riots will have a significantly lower chance of death. And with the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude there is every chance that NZ will just keep trucking along as normal pretending everything is ok. Oh, and my family is there.

Now, I choose London with every fibre of my being because of the history, the culture, endless museums, galleries and markets. I choose it for the ability to make my own choices, be 100% authentic to me and to have career opportunities that don’t exist back home. But in an apocalypse? I don’t think any of that matters. Mum making me a cup of tea from tree bark foraged from behind the ear of a sheep will matter. And knowing her she will make it taste delicious.

So essentially I have to comb over every detail of Trump’s tweets to try and get the last flight out before that big red button is pushed…too bad I’ve already muted him.

When I first started blogging it was all afternoon tea all the time. In part this was because there used to be a kick ass blogging afternoon tea every month or so, it was a perfect combination of making friends and adventuring over London. But it was also because afternoon tea is just such a ‘London’ thing to do, and back when I was young and enthusiastic anything that made me feel truly ‘London’ was top priority. I have relaxed into living here a lot more now (ok, can my friends stop sniggering at the concept of me being ‘relaxed’) and so the afternoon tea with its high cost and dry-ass scones have drifted away.

That was until the other weekend when Emma invited me along to try the bunch afternoon tea at the Le Meridien Hotel. Of course I was excited by the concept of a brunch afternoon tea because brunch is an awesome lifestyle choice, but mostly I was excited to hang out with Emma. NB: We were a guest of the Le Meridien Hotel…or more specifically Emma was and I am just really good at gatecrashing.

Emma is not just my first blogging friend in London, I think if I remember rightly she was my first friend in London. We had followed each other on twitter shortly after I arrived in the UK and for a while traded expat woes in 140 characters or less. One day about six months into my London adventure I went to my first ever blogging event (man this post is full of firsts), it was a ‘Ladies in Blogging’ evening where we learned…something? I’m sure it was really important, and I am also sure that I should have been paying closer attention (5 years into blogging and I still can’t tell you a sparrows fart about SEO).

At the drinks before the lecture I had my brave pants on and was actually making an effort to talk to other humans. After talking for about ten minutes to this English girl she turned to me and said “are you Runawaykiwi?”. Turns out this English girl was actually London Kiwi Emma (yeah she is basically the Dr Who of accents, I’m waiting for her to regenerate as cockney soon), and I would continue to stalk her for the next five years and counting.

I think Emma is one of the most generous people I have met. She is the very first person to extend an invitation to something blog related (she is a real champion of other bloggers) and has the best collection of obscure and weird things to do in London. Oh and she is also the very first person to laugh at me when my reaction to being scared in an escape room is to scream and fall to the ground. What can I say, my fight or flight reflex sucks.

Anyway…this post was meant to be about afternoon tea right? So it was partly because it was brunch themed, but mostly because the stars had aligned and Emma and I were in the same country and free on the same day. The afternoon tea was O for Awesome. I am totally over dry little sandwiches but at this afternoon tea you got a full English served in a Yorkshire pudding, yes it was as good as it sounds. There was also eggs benedict in a little pie thing, scones flavoured with red pepper, chilli and cheese, and of course a tray of sweet treats.

The best part for me was the cocktail that I had with it which was gin, Earl Grey, sage and raspberries. It was bonkers how strong the Earl Grey flavour was, something I am going to attempt to recreate at home. I can just put a tea bag in a shot of gin right?

Well…that was a longer post than intended. If you just wanted the short version: Emma is an awesome friend and if you are still on the afternoon tea wagon then the Brunch Afternoon Tea at the Le Meridien Hotel is a tasty one to try.

Xx

I love London markets, they are one of my favourite parts of living here. But today I discovered that I have been doing them entirely 100% wrong. I was asked by Camden Market to do an Instagram takeover which was really flattering. I am the girl who refused to join Instagram for so long because I thought it was going to be a flash in the pan trend (yeah, slightly wrong on that count), so to be asked to do a takeover was awesome. I made the rather radical choice to take a day off work and even went to the extent of deleting work emails off my phone (I will wait for you to get over your shock and pick yourself off the floor before I continue) so I could have an uninterrupted day in Camden.

I had been to Camden market in 2008 (on the ten year anniversary of the Spice World movie coming out on VHS in New Zealand, not relevant to this post but I thought it was worth a mention) on a Saturday at lunchtime. I made a half ditch attempt to crowd dodge before getting fed up and declaring it a lost cause (not before going to CyberDog because Mary-Kate and Ashley went there in one of their classic movies). The sea of humanity was just too much. But some very credible sources (Talonted Lex and Pack your Passport) have raved about Camden over the last few years so something in the back of my mind said maybe I ought to give it a second chance.

I was going to do something I had never done before, I planned to spend the entire day at a market. The plan was to start with breakfast at Cafe Loren (amazing menu full of shakshuka), wander round the market, work from the Interchange co working space and then visit Half Hitch gin distillery (because gin and also because gin distilled with tea). It was in the middle of this day that I realised exactly what I have been doing wrong when it comes to markets.

On a Friday morning Camden Market is super chilled out, most of the stalls have opened but by morning tea time the crowds are already starting to file in, mostly on the hunt for food. Somehow though, the crowds weren’t bothering me this time.

It really puzzled me for a while, but in between my third coffee for the day and a family sized helping of churros I realised why it this market experience was different. Normally I am on a time crunch, I have a target and I go from A to B to get to it. I am so busy trying to get to that stall that sells waffles, or that coffee van where the guy gives me a free flat white and a hug (connections are important), that any mere hint of humanity in my way sends me into a rage. I want to be in and out in a hour and eat all the samples possible.

But this time I was going to be here all day. I meandered. There was no rush to get somewhere and so people being in my way didn’t impact me in the slightest. I had the time to look at the stalls, investigate the food options (while managing to drop churro sugar all over my camera) and hang back and people watch for a bit.

Turns out when you treat a London market as an experience rather than a goal you actually have more fun [insert quote about smelling roses here].

It had never occurred to me to spend an entire day at a market, but I am really glad that I did.