Anmaree Bancroft has done her London-life on her terms, her way, and is showing no sign of slowing down.
I first encountered Annmaree through her blog, Donuts + Detours, found while Googling ‘Kiwi Bloggers’ on one lonely afternoon at the start of my blogging journey. I immediately fell in love with her from the first blog post, which depicted her walking through the woods in london, with coffee cup in hand, and a cute smile matched with a cute woolen scarf.
Her blog deals with life’s highs and lows, and is very beautifully written. She enjoys sharing recipes and travel destinations, but isn’t afraid to touch on her struggle with being gluten free, exercise and anxiety. When I planned to visit London, after a year or so of mutual Instagram stalking, I asked her if she’d like to meet. Her enthusiastic reply and the fact that she owns a house just 20 minutes from where Matt and I were staying was clearly a sign: we were supposed to be friends.
This suspicion was confirmed on meeting her at a pub nearby Tooting Broadway. She rushed up to me and we hugged like we’d known each other all our lives. Talking with Annmaree was very easy and her new friendship is something I truly must admit was a highlight of our 10 week holiday. We stayed at the pub until after 11. She also kindly invited us to her amazing 40th Birthday, co-hosted by her partner, known only online as ‘The-Boy-Next-Door’ (also a lovely human who’s anonymity will not be disclosed!). On chatting with Anmaree, it transpired that she’s had a fascinating worklife, one with celebrity encounters, luxurious London homes and of course, plenty of donuts.
Lucy Revill: Annmaree, where were you born?
Annmaree Bancroft: In Auckland, New Zealand.
LR: What area of Auckland?
AB: I grew up in East Auckland, Half Moon Bay, Bucklands Beach area, and I’ve I lived there my whole life until 22, when I moved to London.
LR: What happened when you were 22 that made you decide that you were going to take a leap?
AB: An ex-boyfriend. I met my now ex-boyfriend him in East Auckland and he was moving to London, and I’d always wanted to move to London, or to move somewhere overseas, but I was also very afraid to leave my family. It was always like a dream that I thought I would never be brave enough to do. I’m thankful for this relationship because even though it turned out very sour once I was in London it didn’t last, if it hadn’t been for that boyfriend I would never have taken the leap to move to the other side of the world. So, that was the initial reason, and then obviously we went our separate ways.
LR: What did your parents or family think of it at the time when you moved?
AB: They were somewhat shocked that I was going to go, and they also, I think, probably secretly placed bets that I wouldn’t last more than six weeks, and actually I had a flight, like an air ticket return to New Zealand six weeks after I landed in London, just in case. It frightened me just to book the one-way and think, ‘Oh my goodness, maybe I won’t like it.’ Yeah, so they were shocked because I was a real homebody. They knew I loved travel – I had already travelled to Japan, America, and Australia when I was younger – but I think they knew I wasn’t your typical person that would be brave enough to take the leap and move thousands of miles away. I think they’re still in shock, yeah.
LR: What was the first suburb you lived in, in London?
AB: Luckily for me it was Chelsea.
LR: Oh, wow.
AB: I got a very up-market perspective of London. I remember getting off at South Kensington tube station from Heathrow when I first arrived. It’s so funny thinking of my initial impression of London when I first got out at South Kensinton, because it looked like a little village to me, and all the houses looked really old, and I didn’t really feel that impressed by them. Now when I go back to that area around South Kensington and Chelsea – I mean these houses are worth, I don’t know, some of them are 10 million pounds plus, and now I look at them and think, ‘Oh, if only I could live in one of those.’ It was just so different to New Zealand that at first I wasn’t impressed by it. Yeah, it’s a different world.
LR: What kind of job or role did you go into to start with?
AB: It took me a while to find a job, which is generally the standard when you move to London. I did a lot of babysitting to make ends meet, and then I worked as a telecoms administrator for Ernst & Young in a six-month contract. After the six-month contract ended I realised administration the corporate world is was not for me.
LR: Had you just studied in New Zealand?
AB: I had studied to work in the hotel industry, then my first job in New Zealand was actually
working in an English school where I was a secretary and coordinated all the activities for all the
children that were coming from Asia Taiwan, Japan, all of those from and various other places. I coordinated their activities around Auckland that they’d do in the afternoon after studying, so it was a bit more of a creative secretarial role, I guess. So when you put me in Ernst & Young, I don’t really fit into the corporate world.
LR: It’s really rigid.
AB: Yeah, it’s definitely not for me. So after that, I decided I was going to give nannying a go. That’s when I started nannying.
LR: What kinds of families have you nannied for over the years?
AB: All sorts of families, from your regular, everyday Australian family that are living a similar life to me, to your celebrity families that have you in the situations where you’re sitting on a sofa next to Jude Law, or you’re meeting Sir Famous Actor. You’re on movie sets in London with the kids. So from your regular, everyday, to the type that you read about in magazines.
LR: What’s your most craziest experience that you can talk about?
AB: After I nannied, I became a private PA, so I was looking after the family’s day-to-day life, including their business interests, running the house is in every possible way. With one of those families I worked with, I went to stay with George Clooney at his villa in Lake Como. Obviously I already knew my boss was good friends with George, and I knew there was a chance that this day might come, that I might need get to go to Como.
LR: This is pre-Amal, I’m assuming?
AB: Pre-Amal. This is when he was with Elisabetta Canalis. So my boss asked me, ‘Annmaree, we’re going to Como for the July fourth,’ this is 2010, ‘Do you want to come? We need someone to watch the kids.’ So I was essentially going just to nanny, and if any PA work came up, I would have to do that as well. So, ‘Yes, yes I would love to go to Lake Camo Como, thank you.’ I remember my friends just thinking, ‘Oh my god.’ Everyone’s messaging, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to George Clooney’s.’ I just kind of emotionally shut down, because I didn’t want to get too nervous, too excited. I mean, this is one of the biggest celebrities in the world, and I didn’t want to come across as an idiot when I met him. I remember one of his drivers picked us up from Milan airport and we drove there, and we get into the driveway, and then the moment hit me and I thought, ‘Oh my god. I’m about to meet George Clooney.’ I remember getting out of the van and George was standing there, Elisabetta Canalis was standing there, and I just tried to look confident. I shook his hand and was like, ‘Hi, I’m Annmaree.’ He’s like, ‘Hi, nice to meet you.’ So, we stayed there for four days.
LR: Does he introduce himself? Does he go, ‘Hi, I’m George?’
AB: He didn’t, and I thought that was so funny. Yeah, I think he knows everyone knows who he is. Imagine if I said, ‘And who are you?’
LR: Yeah, yeah.
AB: So, we stayed there for four days: four of the craziest days of my life. The day before, I had missed out on meeting American country singer Willie Nelson. That’s the country singer, isn’t it?
AB: And Woody Harrelson: they’d been there the night before. The day after I arrived, this girl appears on the stairs of the villa. The villa is huge. It’s like living in some kind of fancy hotel. I had my own room with my own bathroom – a whole floor. There are actually two villas on the property, and you’ve got all the staff. The kitchen, you just go in and you just open the fridge and it’s full to the brim with anything you want. Chefs can make you a pizza in the woodfire pizza oven – all this stuff. Anyway, I’m on the stairs and this girl arrived, and Elisabetta (George’s now ex-girlfriend) was there, and I’m looking at this girl and she’s like, ‘Hi, I’m Emily. Nice to meet you.’ I said, ‘Hi, I’m Annmaree. Nice to meet you.’ I’m looking at her thinking, ‘Wow, you look so familiar.’ So I ran to my room later and I was on Google, googling ‘Hollywood actress Emily’ and then I realised: oh my goodness, it’s Emily Blunt.
LR: I love Emily Blunt.
AB: She’s there with her then-fiancé John Krasinski, and they were actually getting married on George’s property the following week. So they were there, and then the same day Uma Thurman turned up when she was with Arpad Busson, so they were there. I remember one of the days we were staying there, there’s this huge, beautiful pool and my bosses’ kids were in the pool and you’ve got Emily sunbathing on the side, Elisabetta walking in her little, tiny bikini, and Uma doing laps in the pool. My bosses’ kids were in the pool and they wanted me to get in, and I remember they were like, ‘Amee’ – they used to call me Amee – ‘Amee, come in the pool,’ and I was like hiding with my towel, ‘In a minute, in a minute,’ thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, no way.’
Yeah, I had a crazy experience with my boss returning to London from Como. My boss had to fly back to London to do some filming, and I was there stayed in Como with the husband and the kids. and he My bosses husband came into the room one day and said, ‘Oh, Annmaree, I need your passport.’ I said, ‘Oh, okay. Why?’ because we were booked to go back on a British airways flight, and he said, ‘Uma and Arpad said we can fly back on their jet with them.’ So I flew back to London on a private jet with Uma Thurman and Arpad Busson – madness! So, yeah, that’s probably the story that my friends love the most.
LR: That’s incredible.
LR: Then the next year you started Donuts and Detours, or had you already started at that point?
AB: I started my blog around 2010 I think, around 2010-2011, and it had a different name, then later I switched it to be called Donuts and Detours, yeah. That was just after a friend of mine in New Zealand had seen an interview about another blogger, a New Zealand blogger living in New York. My friend sent me a message: ‘Annmaree, I’ve seen this interview about this Kiwi girl living in New York. She writes a blog and I just think you can do this.’ I had thought about it, and I’d already written a fortnightly column for NZ Girl about my life in London, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m just going to do it.’ I was in New Zealand on holiday, and I remember I just started it and then things just went from there. My perfectionist nature is, even when I don’t feel like writing, I feel an obligation to share my life particularly for my Mum and her family and friends, mostly. It just grew from there.
LR: What’s been the most rewarding thing you’ve found about having a blog?
AB: I think it’s really the connections that you make. You think you’re just writing and that’s all it is, and maybe taking some photos, but because of the nature of social media and particularly, I think, Instagram, you actually make connections with other people who are blogging or maybe commenting on an Instagram photo or a blog post. There’s a blogger who was in New Zealand and now lives in Australia, and she wrote a really heartfelt post once, and I commented on it, and she had a huge following. I commented and I thought I would never hear anything, and she sent me a personal email thanking me for my comment, and from then on we just kept emailing back and forward. She and I actually met in Paris (she was living in Paris last year for six months). I went there for three days to meet up with her and hang out with her, so I think those friendship connections that you make are really the most important thing.
LR: Do you feel like you’re a Londoner now, or do you still feel like a Kiwi?
AB: That’s a tough question. When I first moved to London I think I kind of wanted to shun my New Zealand roots. I wanted to embrace London life, and it was… you know, you have stars in your eyes and it’s the big city. New Zealand just seems like this quiet little country that didn’t feel special because I had lived there my whole life. I used to say, ‘I’m never going back to New Zealand. I love this side of the world and this is for me.’ But I think things change as you get older. In my twenties I had so many friends here living in a huge house-share with all these expats, so why would I ever want to go back to New Zealand? I had zero interest. But as time goes on, friends leave and you feel a sense of loneliness at some point in London. It’s such a big city full of so many people, yet you have many times where you feel alone because you don’t have your family here, your friends from your childhood. Even if you don’t have things in common with those friends, it’s the history that makes it special. I guess as time went on, I started to feel that loneliness, and that’s when I started to miss home again and feel my ‘Kiwiness’ come back.
I did a Google search and found the New Zealand Business Women’s Network online, and I went along to a meetup. Then I have fully embraced New Zealand since 2015. For me, I just became very patriotic and very proud of New Zealand, which was such a change from when I first moved here in the first, say, 10-12 years of my life living in London, where I wasn’t interested in the culture or what New Zealand had to offer, and maybe that’s just part of growing up. I don’t know, but I can talk about New Zealand till the cows come home now: how special it is and how amazing we are. For me, there’s no other country on the planet that has this can-do attitude and doesn’t worry about the details, just has a goal or a dream and says, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’ and goes for it. It’s astounding, so I am definitely a proud Kiwi, but I guess I’m somewhat of a mix of London and New Zealand.
LR: You’ve got the great British fashion sense. What’s next for you now?
AB: I’m heading to New Zealand tomorrow for 6 weeks of (hopefully!) lovely kiwi sunshine. It’s been a manic second-half of the year so my plan is to get to my family beach house in the Coromandel and spend as much time as possible relaxing on the beach. Once I’m back in London in February, I will continue to work on growing my social media business, plan some more travel for 2019 and try not to freeze during the coldest month of Britain’s winter!