Travel Blog: A brief tour of Crete and Athens

There has been a lot discussed in the media recently about the economic crisis in Greece – making it seem not the most appealing of holiday destinations. No doubt statistically, the country is not in the best state. Unemployment has reached 26% this year, thousands are homeless and 20% of shops in Athens are empty. Does this make it wrong to visit such troubled country for recreational purposes? On the surface, maybe so. But upon visiting Crete and Athens recently, I did not encounter a hostile and unwelcoming environment. In contrary, locals were welcoming and our experiences were nothing but positive. Greece is beautiful, and even if only visiting for a short few days as I did – you’ll find a lot of take away.

My itinerary was irrationally rushed. After finishing work on a Wednesday, I departed London to arrive on the Cretian city of Heraklion at two in the morning, their time. I was to spend two days in Crete, before flying Friday night to Athens. After a sleep in a backpackers I would have one day and night in Athens before flying back to London, with a day stop over to explore Rome on the way home. I would recommend spending a great deal more time in Greece, particularly Crete. There is a lot to take in and I only scratched the surface. I managed to see plenty of the ruins and historical sites, but something had to be sacrificed – in my case this was the beaches. Coming to the end of Summer this was not necessarily a terrible thing – I did manage one swim at a great spot just outside our Air BnB accommodation at Amoudara, yet if I am to return, I would most definitely make more of the Mediterranean sea.

heraklion venetian fortress

On my first day in Crete we hired a car at a discount price, and set off to explore the streets of Heraklion and drive the coast to the seaside town of Elounda. Before the leaving, we were given some insight into life on Crete, with the owner car rental business explaining to us that the depression had not hit Crete as hard as mainland cities such as Athens, due to the still booming tourist trade. We did however get a nice discount on the car hire price, perhaps due to it being the end of tourist season and to entice business in that bit more. If you do head to Greece at the right time, you’ll find it fairly affordable, accommodation as well as food and drink.

A flock of Kiwis with no previously experience driving on the right side of the road and in completely foreign country was probably not the most responsible group to be hiring a car, though we somehow we made our way from Heraklion to Elounda on the east coast in one piece. This was a great experience in of itself, tackling the aggressive Greek traffic while cruising past some amazing mediterranean vistas.  Once at Elounda we took a boat over to Spinalonga island, home to ruins of a 16th century Venetian military fort, and which was used as a leper colony in the early 20th century, before being abandoned in the 1950s. The ruins are fascinating and some good climbing is to be had. The town of Elounda is a charming seaside community in of itself with some nice restaraunts, and apparently beaches nearby. We did not stay long however – with Spinalonga taking up most of the day the sun was soon setting and it was time to return to Heraklion.


Back in Heraklion we stopped at our accommodation before heading out to dinner. A friend attempted to have a hot shower – in order to do this the hot water had to be turned at the main switchboard, as all water is heated by solar panels in Amoudara. The wrong switch was flicked at the mains, blowing the fuse in our accommodation and cutting off all electricity to the dismay of several of our group. With our cellphones needing a charge before the next day’s adventures – stress levels were about to run high. This potentially awkward situation had silver linings however, as the incident served as a glimpse into the generosity of Cretian hospitality. Several of the neighbours gathered to help fix the blown fuse – and going out of their way, eventually taking a fuse out of their houses and installing it in ours. Due to a significant language barrier, it was not immediately apparent how he had fixed our fuse board – until we looked in the corridor and saw his house, the apartment across the hallway from ours. His wife was standing in his doorway, in the dark, holding a candle. He had sacrificed power for his own house in order to fix the outage we had created in ours. A touching scene you couldn’t stage if you tried. We were taken away by this hospitality – we thanked them as best we could and a bottle of wine and chocolates were bought for the man and his wife. We hope they shared it and forgave our New Zealand bluntness, as we left with our tale between our legs and resumed our previously plans of heading to a cretian restaurant.


My friends had been in Crete for several days before I arrived and had developed some connections with the locals – the restaurant we visited that night becoming their local. At the time I was unable to decipher the name of the restaurant, being in Greek text, but I’ve since found it on trip advisor. It’s called kritiki Spiti and can be found here They had brilliant Cretan cuisine and introduced us all to a fantastic local drink – Raki. Raki is similar to vodka or tequila and works well with cucumber and a hint of lemon – a cocktail known as a Rakitini. I would say a visit to Crete is worth it for sampling the food alone. Restaurants will bring out complimentary bred, olives, cheese and dips before you’ve even ordered. Of the mains we tried, the Lamb and Artichoke was a big hit, Rabbit and Goat meat being on the menu as well, worth it if you’re willing to experience outside the usual meats. On the day of our group leaving Heraklion, we walked past the restaurant that became my groups favourite, waving goodbye to the old man who worked at and perhaps owned the establishment. He called us in, offering us a bottle of home brewed Honey Mead as a gift (which would later drink by the docs at Chania). His humour was a little controversial by Western standings, with flirtatious jokes aimed at my female friends being the standard, but this was taken to be in good humour rather than sexual harassment, with the culture and generation gap being the excuse.


In another example of Cretan hospitality, a taxi driver for example went out of his way to take me on a little tour of Heraklion where I stayed the first night, stopping for 40 minutes as I visited Knossus but charging me not a terrible amount extra to take me afterwards to the Venetian fortress at the harbour entrance. I gave him a tip – and yes the taxi still cost significantly more than public transport, but the conversation with a local of Heraklion seemed well worth it and more than I would have gained from a cheaper bus ride.

My time in Crete came to an early end, with a plane to Athens to catch on only my second night on the island. We had to catch the plane from Chania, the other major Cretan city, which had a larger and more organised vibe than Heraklion, and another spectacular wharf fort area, compliments of the Venetians. After hanging out of the pier, making friends with local stray dogs and getting a buzz going from the Honey Mead and Raki, the airport called and it was time for the mainland stage of the adventure.


I have equally good things to say about Athens, even though my time there was criminally short. Athens is for sure faster and bigger than Crete, and the failing economy makes itself apparent in the amount of graffiti and the general level of cleanliness. That is only surface observations, but I was not in Athens long enough to gain any deep understanding of the situation there. My first impressions involved the tube ride out of the airport, which seemed an organised public transport system not dissimilar from London’s. The Greek government had obviously pumped some funding into this. Once inside the city we headed straight for the backpackers as this was now night-time, stopping first to get a snack. A pastry feta and spinach option was my choice, which seemed a suitably Greek choice of fast food. Athens smelt pretty bad, or at least our area. Kind of like piss, to be precise. So rather than hang around this not so great smelling city square, we opted to sleep in preparation for the next day.IMG_1140

For our one complete day in Athens, we chose to begin with a free walking tour of the city, which took us by the monuments and back alley areas and gave us an understanding of the city and it’s history packed into a brief few hours. It was a good introduction and exposed us to parts of the city we would not have thought to visit, such as the museum for Melina Mercouri. Our tour guide, who was a high school teacher, part time studying for a History PHD and taking tours on the weekends, shared his own insight into Greek politics and society, taking us not only to the old monuments but also to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guards. The guard tradition was not particularly moving, though our guides insights into the currently political zeitgeist, with far right parties of fascist comparison gaining traction. He seemed dismayed that Greece, the birthplace of democracy, would be continually plagued by un-democratic political influence.

We tipped our guide and were then left on our own to explore the city. Getting stuck into the ruins, we managed to tick off several of the main areas. These included the massive columns of the Temple of Zeus, the impressive remains of the Temple of Hephaestus in the Agora, a brief visit to the Archeological Museum of the Athenain Agora and then of course, the Acropolis. The Acropolis is particularly spectacular and with to see such old structures still in any condition at all is a transcendent experience. Sitting up there, looking at the Parthenon, one could only imagine how powerful and dominating these structures would have appeared to the peasants down below, three thousand years earlier. The gods must really have appeared to be watching over the city.

View from Acropolis

Exhausted from the sightseeing, we briefly rested at our accommodation before heading out for one last Greek dinner. The authentic restaurant we stumbled upon had a musical theme, with some seriously good Greek folk musicians jamming just beside where we ate. The food was good, perhaps not great, but the entertainment was excellent, completed with a waiter smashing plates and throwing napkins in appreciation. If you’re ever in Athens, the restaurant was just off the city centre and called “Taverna tou Psirri”, it can be found on trip advisor here We invited all our new friends gathered during the early walking tour to join us, and the meal was thus extended with more and more drinks ordered. As we all had early flights, rather than sleep we opted to stay out exploring Athens some more, and consuming a few more beverages. This basically ended up with us all on the roof of a backpackers, talking smack and staring at the Acropolis in the distance. Perhaps an image that will be burnt into my mind for some time, contributed self-indulgently to the fact I turned 26 earlier that day.

The next morning I dragged my half-alive self back to the airport, not quite ready to say goodbye to Greece but being forced to due to a pre-booked itinerary. I had organised a stopover in Rome but in hindsight this time would have been better spent exploring Athens that bit longer. I spent an afternoon exploring Rome, but I had left my heart in Greece. For now, I will be an advocate of Greece over Italy as preferred holiday spot, but of course I will have to explore both in more detail later.

Arch of hadrian

TL;DR – Crete as we experienced it is a warm, varied and culturally interesting place. Athens was equally awe inspiring, with the obvious draw card being the share amount of Ancient ruins, some still in good condition. The locals we encountered in Athens were communicative and friendly, local customs are full of life and while there is some poverty most people seem to be getting on with their lives and the overall vibe is safe. I would encourage people to visit Greece – inject your holiday savings into their economy and learn more about what this historic Mediterranean nation has to offer.

flagpole hampstead heath

Observations on London: The Weather

British people love to talk about the weather. This is no secret. Living in London, the locals constantly complain about the cold days, the overcast days, the wet days, and if a hot day comes along, they’ll complain that it’s too hot. Although it is true that London weather isn’t the best in the world, the time I’ve spent here so far I’ve been a little underwhelmed. London weather is quite manageable, if not calm and pleasant the majority of the time. Far from the completely miserable conditions Londoners act like they live in most of the time. Auckland seemed wetter. Dunedin seemed just as cold. Admittedly I’ve only been here four months, and just in time for one of the better summers in recent British history, so I may have just got lucky. It does make me wonder why British people are so much more obsessed with the weather than other nations of a similar climate (New Zealand being one of these).

Another horrible London day in Hampstead Heath

Probably it’s just that English people like a good moan, or so my co-worker has suggested as a reason for the London obsession about discussing the weather. It is the most obvious and consistent topic one can moan about, so I guess the theory makes some sense. But I would be a hypocrite if I claimed it was only the British over here complaining about the weather, because as this blog proves, the immigrants, over-stayers and ex-pats are doing it too. I guess I’m only going to raise more questions than give answers here, but is England weather so bad that it deserves all this attention?

When I first arrived, I was greeted by blue skies and sunshine. Not exactly the image of England I had been expecting based on the images of this country I had seen broadcast on TV back home. Coronation Street always seemed grey and grim, the same with most crime dramas and the news reporting never delved much into British weather. I was warned before I arrived about how bad British weather is, so much so that one of the large reasons for me delaying my UK arrival was due to fear of weather. To my surprise, almost all of the first three months I’ve spent here have been in pleasant conditions. A British heat wave was reported on New Zealand televisions back in 2012, but the way it was reported seemed only a few days exception to the depressing norm. It barely rained the whole of June to September, which is more than can be said for my first summer in Auckland where I was constantly caught in torrential downpours. Forward to the present time in London, and although late October is seeing the climate getting colder, it’s bearable and not even as cold as my home town Dunedin would have been in early Winter.

view from london weather

The view outside my work window – The Westway

For example, we are nearing the start of November and on this particular day at 4.30, it’s not terribly cold and sky has plenty of colour to it. The grey British sky that I was expecting to see constantly seems to be partly a stereotype. Perhaps I got the wrong end of the stick, and London weather was always calm. Or could it be evidence of climate change, global warming or whatever name you like to use, that things are getting calmer around these parts. I can’t claim to be an expert of the weather of this country though – I’m yet to experience Wales or Scotland, which I’m sure is where all the really turbulent weather is found.

There is much to suggest that I am currently merely inexperienced and the bad weather has not yet hit. I am start to have to wear coats, and the sun is setting much earlier. I must admit that some nights after work, sitting outside having a pint with the work mates, it’s been pretty damn cold. But I’m adjusting. My friends and co-workers say that the worst is yet to come, so I’m bracing myself. Will it turn out that like other things in London, the worst weather will be a little bit over-hyped? (on a side note, other over-hyped things include – Hyde Park, the coolness of Hackney/Shoreditch, the quality of the local bands & the general social scene). Although I’m betting on a harmless winter, I will update you all in another few months time with word of whether things have gotten any worse. It won’t be long I’m sure that I’ll be eating my words.

Basically, if I can say anything constructive on the topic of British weather, it would be: don’t let it put you off coming over here. There’s plenty of other reasons to be turned off moving or visiting England, but the weather I don’t think should be the dominant reason. Unless you’re from California or Hawaii and you’ve never had grey skies and some cold ever in your life. But if you’re from a normal place like Auckland, Toronto or even Melbourne – London is probably on par with whatever weather conditions you’ve already faced. The winters are kind of cold, but not horrifically miserable and the summers are actually quite pleasant. Or at least so my fairly naive experience has led me to believe.

People reluctantly leaving their London houses




Film Review: Love And Mercy (Bill Pohlad, 2015)

Brian Wilson’s story is unusual by Pop history standards. A musical prodigy, who created his most notable and successful work before the age of 25, he soon succumbed to regular drug use as his mental health declined. His fears and neuroses plaguing him, creative output declined and by the early 80s he was bed-ridden and weighed over 300 pound. He at one point would have seemed a sure bet for the next name in rock’s tragic casualty list, along with Keith Moon, Elvis and Syd Barrett. But proving himself a rare survivor, in spite of his on-going near-schizophrenic illnesses and is still performing and recording music to this day – most of which is pretty good and nearly holds up to his early groundbreaking works. These are Smile and Pet Sounds, and if you haven’t delved into Wilson, I greatly suggest giving all versions of Smile listen to understand why this guy is so revered. Now he has his own biopic, which is greatly entertaining in spite of it’s flaws and has it’s own unique style and insight’s into this most unique of musical lives.

Veteran producer and recent director Bill Pohlad led the production, using inventive narrative devices to capture the essence of Wilson’s art as well as his strained genius. The narrative jumps between two key periods in Wilson’s life. Paul Dano plays a young Wilson, mental health declining while he reaches his creative peak. In the second narrative, John Cusack plays an older, increasingly troubled Wilson under the grip of psychotherapist Dr. Eugene Landy. This style is comparable to Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan cross-section, I’m Not There (screenwriter Oren Moverman worked on both). While that film took liberties with the life of Bob Dylan, drawing inspiration from his music and various stages of his persona, Love And Mercy sticks to the facts. Mythic moments of Wilson’s career such as the piano in the sandbox, the animals in the studio, the 1964 airborne panic attack – are all present. Much documented quotes and conversations are included, but they’re also condensed, which is probably necessary to not drag out exposition, but it does feel forced at times.


Minor script accuracy gripes aside, most of the early Wilson period is electrifyingly re-enacted, Paul Dano’s performance of Wilson being particularly accurate. Wilson himself is quoted as saying in regards to this performance, “I was really blown away by how close he [Dano] got to my personality. It’s amazing.” The scenes of recording Pet Sounds and Smile are a thrill, and seem to be very accurately depicted. Music geeks will get off on the attention to detail – the actor’s playing the session musicians are all really playing their instruments, the studios and locations look authentic, and even mythic scenes such as Wilson directing an entire orchestra to wear children’s fireman helmets are included. The early scenes steal the movie for me, and make the film worth watching for this alone. John Cusack does his best as the older Wilson and although Dano is a more realistic in appearance, Cusack’s performance effectively conveys the heartbreaking desperation of Wilson’s middle aged situation. Later scenes are dominated by exchanges between Wilson’s second wife, Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks) and the controlling psychotherapist and main antagonist, Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). A trim to these scenes wouldn’t have hurt, though they get their intended emotional effect across. Landy is portrayed completely as the enemy, and Ledbetter as Wilson’s savior, although many sources state that the real life Landy saved Wilson’s life (if the Daily Mail is to believed). No doubt their relationship was unhealthy towards the end, but perhaps in portraying Landy as an utter evil presence is some what a distortion of the truth.


Jumping between the two time-periods is sometimes erratic, with both having their own distinctive styles. Cinematography choices reflects this, with the early period seeming to be 35mm, while the later a digital aesthetic. The episodic structure of the film keeps things entertaining, as the script rarely falls on usual biography film cliches. These choices could be said to be experimental in the way that Wilson’s songwriting is – with edit choices comparable to the cut and paste techniques used in the recording of Good Vibrations for example. The sound design is also stand-out, with Atticus Ross drawing from Wilson’s studio archive to create something reflective of the auditory hallucinations Wilson experiences. The compositions sit side by side with the Beach Boys classics, tying the two narrative sections together, and amplifying the drug fueled paranoia of the 60s scenes immensely.

Technically impressive and emotionally powerful, this is an unconventional but polished dramatization of one of the most important musicians of our time. Wilson’s life is not greatly known outside of the realm of Beach Boys fanatics, so I feel this is an important story to push to the mainstream. Parts of the narrative might be slightly biased to certain party’s – the argument has been put out there that this is revisionist history praising Wilson’s current wife and demonizing Eugene Landy – but the story told within is a fascinating one, if simplified for mainstream audiences. I would argue more good than harm is done with the telling of this story, as it brings light on how debilitating mental health issues can be, even to some one seemingly blessed with talent and opportunity. Most importantly, this is a really entertaining and intelligently made film. Somewhat like the intentional musical errors found within some of Wilson’s best compositions, there are rough edges, but they only make the film more interesting.



An Update On Life in London

I hate to think of this blog being dead, so for the first time in over a month I’m focusing and finishing a post. I had a good run there for a while – several posts a week for a few months. I guess it was the extra free time from being unemployed for the first time in several years combined with the excitement of being a new city. But then suddenly – inspiration caved away. To be completed honest I seem to have been in a post-travel rut for the last month. The first few months in London were hugely exciting, full of ups and downs – and although I found myself missing home I had enough anticipation and hope about what was to come in London that I remained optimistic. But during this last month, I guess the reality of living in this city dawned on me. It’s an expensive place, it takes a very long time to get anywhere and much of the time – it’s pretty boring. Just like anywhere. I’ve traveled half way across the world and relocated to a major international city only to find that life is much the same here as it was back home.

Not a huge revelation I suppose – I’m the same person here as I was 3 months ago in Auckland. You take your problems and personality traits with you. Life doesn’t automatically change just because you’ve moved to some foreign place with a lot of history between it’s walls and within it’s streets. The grass is just as similar a colour as what the saying suggests it will be.

So no great revelations, but I have learned a great deal. About myself, about friendships – about how people half way across the world from each other are not all that different at all. London is still a fantastic place and I’m having a lot of good times, and new experiences. Obviously I’m not leaving yet – I’m getting enough out of living here to stay for the time being.

There’s a lot I’ve been wanting to write, review and talk about – but have been lacking in concentration and motivation. I could be concerned about views a little too much. Rather than just writing what I want, I end up writing posts in order to get my view counts to rise. Sometimes it seems a waste of energy to write long blog pieces only to get a dozen or more eyes scanning the page. I don’t know how many people actually read these, probably very few. I’m not making any money from whatever views I do get on this blog, wordpress takes whatever cents I could be making. I’m therefore far from a successful blog writer, but considering this is only one of the many hobbyist activities I’m pursuing – it’s not a huge deal. I should probably keep writing for myself, little diary entries such as this, and then it might be much easier to keep up the posting regularly.

Just this last week I saw both Morrissey and Martin Phillips live in London. Both were great, although for me Martin Phillipps took the cake – playing a mix of rarities and crowd pleasures. Morrissey was great for sure, but his ego is so far up his own ass – he seems to really believe in the mythology of himself – that too much of the show is all about worshiping the great Morrissey, rather than about good music. Morrissey has a lot of good songs, but he chose instead to play majority songs from his newest albums, mixed in with 90’s deep cuts. The diehard Moz-heads seemed to love it, I guess I’m just not die hard enough. These are concerts I should review in more detail – and hopefully I’ll get around to more of that soon. Off to Greece next month as well – first time in the Mediterranean and could supply inspiration for a post or two. I’ll most likely just eat some awesome Olive drenched food, and stare at some old things.

There is a lot more I want to write about London as well. The city and experiences within it have been well covered within blog posts – but I feel there is still room for another voice on the joys are struggles of this over-crowded British center. Alas, life in London will continue – I will endeavor to tell you more about the stupidly high cost of living and terrible experience that is the London underground. Until then, here is video of a rap set I performed recently at Cafe 1001, in Shoreditch:


Theatre Review: Everyman – National Theatre, London

Sometimes you’re drawn towards a piece of art because of it’s themes. Perhaps the topic of the artwork speaks to something that’s been on your mind at that point. Art, after all, is not just escapism but a way to learn about the world from different perspective. Or it is a medium of conversation, to discuss themes and transmit ideas in a way that would not be possible through everyday conversation. I felt drawn to the National Theatre’s staging of Everyman, not just because stars Chiwrtel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave fame – although I admit that was a part – but also because of the literalization of the theme of man’s confrontation with Death. With Everyman being based on a 15th century morality tale, it felt almost like Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal brought to the stage, yet subverting religious themes within the original text to become a modern criticism of the vacant materialism of modern lives. The subject of death is a fun one to ruminate on, and although it might sound heady, a contemporary update of a church morality tale is something worth venturing out to see.


In this version, Death arrives to interrupt the Everyman at the height of his success, just as Death came to the plague-era knight in The Seventh Seal. Chiwrtel Ejiofor’s Everyman character is not so cunning as Max Von Sydon’s Knight however, and is a much more of a jaded, pleasure seeking, ambitious modern man. The figure of Death here is portrayed as a wisecracking working class salesman, a subversion of the expected stereotype. Our narrator likewise is a figure taking the place of God, who here is cast as a cleaning lady with a wise mind. The Everyman, having not had time for his family for years, and surrounding himself with shallow friendships based on wealth and decadence – now finds himself with no one to testify in support of his character, in the face of death. These universal themes are boldly presented by writer Carol Anne Duffy and director Rufus Norris, who have pieced together a strong cast, backed up with original visual and aural cues. Spectacle is there right from the first act – such as Ejiofor descending from the roof on wire, simulating perhaps his suicide. A video wall is then used to enhance settings – and a hurricane, metaphor for man’s uncaring attitude to his earth, is simulated midway through. These tricks are impressive but not distracting. The acting and polish of the script is what shines through, with traditional dialogue sitting side by side with modern colloquialisms. Other notable strong performances include the Everyman’s parents, both of declining health, with a family dynamic many will able to relate to – with one sibling doing most of the caregiving while the other pursues more selfish ambitions. Ejiofor largely steals the show however, with a hugely expressive performance loud enough to reach to the back of the theatre, yet nuanced enough to effectively carry the emotion of the story.

It all builds towards a touching climax, where man comes face to face with his child self. I felt the director, writer and actors hit allusive grace note with the execution of the ending. We all have days where we sit around and ponder what could have been. Or other days where we hear the news and think of the destruction man is causing and whether the world is truely being affected by this. The play takes these emotions and deals with them in a way that is not forced, but instead sublimely executed. As my first time in the National Theatre and my first time seeing a major contemporary theatre piece in a British Theatre, I was perhaps always going to be impressed. Especially a performance which featured a major international actor who only recently was nominated for an Oscar for one of my favourite films of the last few years. But I will say I’ll just say – if in the mood for contemplating mortality, I suggest you head along to the National Theatre before 30th August.

everyman national theatre


How to live and work in the UK! – Steps to getting the visa

Before you head off on your ‘O.E.’ (if you’re a Kiwi the classic adventure is working in the UK), the first and most obvious step is to obtain the legal right to live and work in that country. As an Australasian or Commonwealth citizen one way to obtain this is via the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, which allows a member of the commonwealth to work in the UK for 2 years.

If your parents or grandparents were born in the UK you can obtain a 5-year Ancestral visa. Of course, if you or your parents were born there, you most probably can get citizenship.

I successfully got my Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa back in June and have now successfully managed to get set up in London. I feel therefore I can be of some help sharing my experiences.


You can apply for this at this website:

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Tier 5 visa, you must be between 18 – 31, from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Republic of Korea and have not secured the visa in the past. You must have proof of funds of £1,890 Pounds and apply outside the UK.

Also, you can only apply for this visa within 3-months of when you plan to enter the UK. If you submit the application and pay the fee, your visa will start from the date you set, within that three months, regardless of whether you’ve entered the UK or not. It therefore pays to apply for the visa once you have a definite date of arrival.

You can not get this visa more than once. So make sure you’re ready to go before you apply.

In saying that, it is relatively easy to obtain the right to work in the UK. These are the steps I took to gain the Youth Mobility Visa.

Filling out the visa

Start an application online:

Fill in your personal details. You’ll need this information:

  • Current passport number and details
  • Previous passport details if you have them
  • An address and contact details to give of someone in UK
  • Your past UK and international travel details of the last 10 years
  • Details of your parents, their DOB, etc
  • Details about children/dependent’s you may have
  • Past UK medical treatment details
  • Proof of funds for £1,890 Pounds

There are a few tricky questions within the application, one of these I encountered was regarding your passport. Place of Issue I was initial confused about as there wasn’t a section on the passport that stated that. I eventually decided to put New Zealand for Place of Issue, and Issuing Authority as DIA WLG. My visa got approved so it must have been correct.

You have to claim points towards the visa, to show you’re of the correct nationality, the right age, and have enough funds. You can work out the calculation for this here:

If you can’t be bothered doing the calculations – fair enough. The points as you list them on your application are:

  • Age Requirement = 10 points
  • Maintenance Requirement = 10 points
  • Nationality Requirement = 30 points

Biometric Appointment

After filling out your form, you sign an online confirmation and then proceed to choose a date to get your biometrics taken. Biometrics are a scan of your finger prints. Once you have chosen a date, you have to pay for the application. This costs $426NZD

You can generally get an appointment within just a couple of days. When you head off to get your biometrics taken, make sure you have these documents:

  • your current valid passport
  • a passport sized photograph of yourself taken to UK passport specs (wise to get this done professionally)
  • a bank statement showing you have at least £1,890 in savings
  • the print out of your application
  • a print out of your biometric appointment confirmation
  • Two courier bags with postage pre-paid, one to send off to UK immigration, the other you send with you application so that they can send your passport back (hopefully with the visa inside)

You must at this stage check if you have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge. This is a recent addition to the application process, and citizens from New Zealand do not have to pay this surcharge. You do however have to include an IHS reference number, confirming that you’ve either payed or are exempt from paying. This can be obtained here:

The IHS reference number is then written on the front of your application, which seems odd to me, but that probably shows how new this addition to the application is, the fact they haven’t included a section in the application for it.

Sending Application

In New Zealand the options of where to head to do your biometric appointment are:

Immigration New Zealand
39 Paramount Drive

Immigration New Zealand
110 Wrights Road
Addington 8024

BHC Wellington
Immigration New Zealand
Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
Level 2 Kordia House, 109 – 125 Willis Street

Because I lived in Auckland, it’s probably no surprise that I headed out to the Auckland Immigration office. Being out in West Auckland, it’s a fairly out of the way from where most of us live and work in the center of the city and it took a good hour commute to get out to the appointment. The appointment itself was very quick and painless. The man there had a look at my documents, took my finger prints and then stamped my application front page.

At this stage I headed straight off to the nearest NZ post store, double and triple checked that I had all the documents correct, made sure I had a courier bag with postage paid for include inside for them to send the passport back to me with, and then I sent it all off, crossing my fingers and my toes.

Biometric Residence Permit

Also, as of the 31st of May, instead of straight given a sticker in your visa that states you are able to work in the UK for two years, you will be given a vignette that allows you to enter the UK within 30 days of the date you gave as your start date. Once there you pick up your biometric residence permit, or BRP from a post office near to the address you gave on your application. You can apply for another 30 day vignette to pick up the BRP if you enter the UK after the initial 30 days have expired. I did not have to go through this as I applied before the BRP came into effect, and my man Chris from Aussie Nomad is a lot more knowledgeable in this than me, so head over to his site for more information. Alternatively email the UK immigration department in charge of all this, if you need any more information:

Wait times

The visa arrived relatively quickly. These are the dates of my process:

  • Sent application off: 6th May
  • Biometric Appointment: 11th May
  • Sent documents off: 11th May
  • Received email from UK immigration station decision had been made: May 25th
  • Received visa: May 29th

I had put on my visa the start date of 8th of June, although I was quite worried about it arriving in time for when I actually left the country, which was the 15th of June. Turns out I needn’t be, as it all arrived well before when I needed it.

Living in London

I’ve now been living in London for nearly two months, so I can probably offer some advice for how to get prepared moving to this city and country. I will do a larger guide later but the one thing I can stress for now, is that it is EXPENSIVE. People say that London is one of the most expensive places on the planet, and they’re not lying. I would recommend taking well above the amount required for proof of funds. Depending on your situation when you arrive, if you are traveling or sight seeing first, make sure you have enough funds to cover your adventures. I brought some where roughly around $10 000 NZD and I have chewed through most of this, perhaps somewhat due to attending music festivals. The exchange rate is also not great, as I write this something like 2.4 New Zealand Dollars equal one British Pound Sterling. In saying that, I didn’t spend a lot on accommodation when I arrived, having had a family member to stay with for the first few weeks. I would recommend greatly finding a friends couch to doss on for a few weeks at the very least, until you find a job and have some sort of income rolling in.

Accommodation isn’t hard to find, but it is overpriced. Jobs likewise, there are plenty of them, but most are low paying bar or cafe type jobs. London can be hard on a low wage. Once you start earning pounds, I’m sure it gets easier, but as I write this I’m still awaiting my first pay – a month into the job.

Not to put anyone off, London is great and if you want the adventure, come along. But be prepared for this place to leave a nasty hole in your wallet though, at least at the beginning.

Other Guides

There are many guides already available on the internet that give exhaustive information for what this involves. The best of these, or the one I referred to the most, was by The Aussie Nomad. Chris who runs the site is a great guy, spending a lot of his own time and effort answering questions in the comment section of his Tier 5 Youth Mobility guide. He’s answered many of my questions – so I suggest you head in the direction of his website for extra advice.

new zealander in london

the chills

The Chills New Album Gets a Release Date & Single: America Says Hello (+ lyrics)

The date has been announced and Martin Phillipps and band’s new album Silver Bullets is to be released 30th October on Fire Records. You can pre-order here. It’s only been 19 years since the last The Chills album, Sunburnt, which in my humble opinion was a pretty great album and an overlooked one – a trend of much of The Chills career. But it seems they’re set for a revival of appreciation, with all the big indie trendsetters such as Pitchfork spreading the word of the cult Dunedin band’s brand new release. The Chills performed to sold-out audiences through-out the UK last year; here’s hoping they return soon with more international dates, as well as playing the home land. The Pitchfork article does indicate a tour for next year.

the chills silver bullets album

In tandem with this news being released is a brand new single, America Says Hello, which following on from the previously released Molten Gold is another slab of classic atmospheric pop. This one features a drum and bass rhythm guaranteed to bang heads, dark jangling melodies and politically charged lyrics. The choice of vocals in the mid-section – “a rocket attack, and a property boom” are pretty telling. The bass riff of the chorus is almost Joy Division-esque, dropping the guitars for Phillipps’ hook to cut through with immediacy – “America says hello, and the world says welcome home”. The production is both rough and polished, suiting the reverb drenched, swamp-pop Phillipp’s has long mastered, but with a modern touch. The melodies and structure are complex, this will most likely be one on high rotation for some time.

The lyrics are up for interpretation, and although political in theme partially, I would be missing the point I think if I took criticism of foreign policies to be the song’s only meaning. The opening lines are about the wonder and scope of the universe; the futility of human endeavor in light of this seems to be another theme through-out. The planets and the symbolism of Mars are effective metaphors for waring powers. The chorus perhaps then alludes to the habit of the world to forgive America for the violence of their empire, and all it takes is a greeting. Stockholm Syndrome maybe. I’ll stop here before I get too university-student with this analyses. As with anything, give it a spin and come up with your own interpretation. It shows Phillipps has still got it – he’s given us a lot to chew on with this one.

The song can be heard on Soundcloud now.

Give the song a share and go pre-order the album now.

I’ve attempted to write out the lyrics, and I’ve probably got some wrong, let me know if so (comment down below)

The Chills – America Says Hello (Lyrics):

“When you gaze at the stars on a cool, clear night
– novas, sapphires, giants and diamonds, and all beautiful

But you grapple with fear as you stare at the sight
For they’re cold uncaring, moving, scaring – inscrutable

For it’s a small world after all – a lonely little blue and white ball
And the universe yawns at our plans – as another empire expands
For on behalf of the war-god Mars – here are fifty white, fightin’-fit stars
That make people want to wail and pray – saying Rome wasn’t burnt in a day…
…but hey, we shall see!

But then America says hello – and the world says welcome home
America says hello – and the world says welcome home

Yes, it’s a god eat godless world – as the galaxies around us swirl
While the poor run riot in spite
– to see stars they set the night alight

For the everyday people aren’t free – and they know they’re never going to be
With the powerful keeping them hushed – as the tyrants get noisy ones crushed
So they turn a deaf ear to the prophets of gloom
For there’s funding galore from the profits of doom
First a rocket attack then a property boom
A rocket attack then a property boom
Just a rocket attack and a property boom
a rocket attack and a property…

Yes – on behalf of the war-god Mars – here are fifty white fightin’-fit stars
That make people want to wail and pray – saying Rome wasn’t burnt in a day…
…but hey, we shall see!
…cause this isn’t the way it was always portrayed it should be

Now the cash has crashed, the dream-ship sailed, the gravy-train has been derailed at its own terminal
Let the fairy tale be an epic fail for no one found the Holy Grail and time’s terminal

But then America says hello – and the world says welcome home
America says hello – and the world says welcome home

We were on the wrong track, will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
We were on the wrong track, will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
Now, we’re back on the track – will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
Yes, we’re back on the track – will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)”