Chez Cecile

Press reporter Cecile Meier shares impressions of her new life in Christchurch, far away from home in France, as she struggles to master the quirks of New Zealand English and culture.

Cecile is off to get married

05:00am 22 Aug 2014


I'm off to Europe to make an honest man out of my fiance Nick.

I'll be away for four weeks, leaving a huge column-shaped hole in your lives. But fear not - I've arranged an all-star team to replace me.

They have all been victims, to some extent, of my desperation for writing material. Everything anyone says to me has the potential to be used in a column. Normally, people don't get the chance to write their versions of events but I can offer a platform to these four.

The first guest writer will be none other than the future Mr Meier.

Nick claims I have exaggerated or even invented things about him. Perhaps Nick will set the record straight on topics such as his dancing or mountaineering skills. Please do not believe a word he writes.

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Having kittens over wedding dance

05:00am 15 Aug 2014


My fiance Nick's dream wedding was going on a hike with a bunch of friends and family and then having a party in a mountain village.

I had many problems with this: How was I going to wear a wedding dress on a hike? How could our grandmothers join in? What if someone broke a leg on the way down? No, really his plan was not practical.

We agreed on a more traditional yet simple option. Our ceremony and party would take place in a little restaurant by the sea in my home town. There would be no intricate flower arrangements, no invitations, and he wouldn't wear a tie.

But Nick was keen to keep one tradition - the first dance. Given our natural talents, this meant lessons.

Learning to dance made me nervous, especially a dance where you have to switch partners every two minutes. Besides, I've never been able to co-ordinate my body to music.

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Cecile Meier: Post-quake stress rules

05:00am 08 Aug 2014


Last month I made two mistakes. One trivial mistake that led to a crazy and potentially dangerous situation. And one crazy, potentially deadly mistake that led to hugs and forgiveness.

Three and a half years post-quake, Cantabrians are low on tolerance and high on stress.

Police have seen an increase in road rage, petty neighbourly domestic arguments and stress crime. In this context, a slight argument can blow out of proportion. For me, it started when I parked in a shop's car park to do an interview next door.

There was nowhere else to park and I thought I would need only half an hour.

Going back to my car, I saw the shop's car parked right behind me, blocking my way out. I went inside and apologised to the owner.

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Joyous night on town for fake French hens

05:00am 01 Aug 2014


I never saw myself as a hen's party type of girl. Herds of hysterical women dressed in pink roaming the streets made me cringe. But my friends did not see it that way. There would be a hen's party here and another one in Europe and I would have no say in any of it.

I wasn't too worried about my French nuit des poulettes, which was bound to be elegant and understated. But what to expect of my two Kiwi organisers, Abbie and Georgie?

Abbie had facetiously suggested hosting a high-tea party while Georgie had wanted to chain me naked to the Christ Church Cathedral. I was hoping for something between the two.

Last Saturday night, I found my hens at the Dirty Land in Victoria St. While a group of French women on a hen's night are indistinguishable from any group of French women - stylish, appearing to float above the pavement - our gaggle of hens looked like six excitable flamingoes.

Stephanie had a glittering pink hat, Emily a pink-feather boa, Kate pink angel wings, Abbie pink devil horns and Georgie pink bunny ears. They handed me a pink "bride to be" sash, pink mesh gloves and a veil.

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Cecile Meier: A week without spending

05:00am 25 Jul 2014


Last week I kept my purse strings closed. No coins, notes or cards were allowed out. This wasn't because of a reality TV-style intervention to save me from crippling debt. In fact, I don't have any debt. But I also don't own anything and I have been slack at watching my expenses lately.

Some weeks I buy half a dozen lunches, two or three slap-up suppers and enough drinks and coffee to drown a fish.

Just as I realised that this lifestyle was not sustainable on a reporter's salary, my English friend Andrew became obsessed with early retirement. The concept is to slash your spending and invest your savings until you get enough money to "retire" (that is, to have enough money that work becomes optional).

To immolate his wasteful spending habits, Andrew decided to go on a spending fast (no spending outside of housing costs and groceries) for an entire month.

At first, I thought he was insane. Surely he would lose all his friends and starve himself to death with his meagre cooking skills? (He is English, after all.) But then I thought it might be fun to give it a go for a week and compare my experience with his.

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