Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

Our last day in Melbourne was spent doing what we do best - National Trusting. We visited Como House which was once out in the bush but now in a well to do Melbourne suburb. A pleasant end to a lovely break.
Had we stayed in Melbourne for New Year we'd be able to choose from at least three firework displays. We hoped we'd see the Wellington display as we flew across the harbour at midnight but instead it was a damp squib - new year celebrations cancelled due to the wind and rain.
Did I mention we went from 28 degrees in Melbourne to only 9 degrees in Wellington. Hmm, not such a good call to get home for the festivities!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Photblogging: going botanical

Dad and Shirley would have been proud that we took in the botanical sights of Melbourne. As much as it was where the venue for the evening's outdoor Shakespeare performance of Midsummer's Night Dream but also provided some inspiration for our plans for our own garden in Kaitoke.

Photoblogging: Melbourne views just got better and better

Sorry if this photoblogging is getting boring but it's hard to capture the beauty of Melbourne without stopping at almost every corner!

Views of the CBD from the southbank

Similar view from the Kings Domain

Longer look from the Shrine of Rememberance on the King's Domain

Photoblogging: a day of culture

On account of the impact of the sun from the Cricket indoor venues were very much in order. There are plenty of cultural sights close to where we were staying we were able to dodge the sun through the trees in Carlton Gardens.

Royal Exhibition Hall built for the International Exhibition, 1880. Not open for viewing which was a real blow as I'd like to have revisited the hall where on my last visit to Melbourne I enjoyed a particularly boozy and floozy conference dinner.

Melbourne Museum - home to thousands of bugs and artifacts and the Ashes Exhibition. Juxtapositioned adjacent to the Exhibition Hall it seems a fitting place for one of the best museums I've ever visited.

What is it about men and boys?! MT's favourite exhibit

Friday, December 29, 2006

Photoblogging: change of plan for day 4

This shows the view we should have been looking at from the MCG towards the city but since the cricket was over we headed off for alternative entertainment.

JT taking in the boats at the new docklands area

View of the CBD and the other stadium in Melbourne, sponsored by a rival telecom firm we don't speak about!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Photoblogging: a day at the cricket

It's hard to convey to excitement of being part of a crowd of over 80,000 people and the misery of seeing the demise of England's finest cricketers. The barmy army kept us entertained until MT got sun burned and that brought on new depths of despair. It didn't help knowing that our ticket for the next day's play was worthless as the match was over in just three days. Wouldn't have missed it for the world though to be part of such a sporting occasion.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Photoblogging: Melbourne sights

View from hotel at night

MT in conversation with the locals in Treasury Gardens

Free tram that trundles around the CBD making it easy to get to all the sights across the city

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Melbourne Christmas

At 4am we started Christmas part two to get to the airport to fly to Melbourne. Luckily it's only 20 minute drive to the airport and with no parking or traffic hassles to contend with we were on our way around 0630. Our hopes for a hot Boxing Day were dashed by a southerly blowing through Melbourne but at least it was around 19 degrees with prospects of getting warmer.

The Boxing Day sales were in full swing in Melbourne so we braved the crowds to get some instant retail therapy. Also, was able to take in the Christmas and not so Christmasy sights.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Kiwi Christmas

Christmas kiwi style, like pretty much much else here, is a low key affair. Certainly the shops don't get angsty and over the top with the commercial push and since there is a pull in many households as whether to go traditional or not the food shops have schizophrenia.
We've enjoyed traditional with the First family which was a lovely way to be amongst our new whanau. I have to admit to a small panic when charged with the responsibility for desserts we couldn't find a Christmas pud as a suitable alternative to the anglo/italian trifle speciality of MT. All turned out well in the end and we were as stuffed as you ever are after Christmas dinner.

There is no doubt though that the key missing ingredient this year was family who are enjoying their festivities 13 hours behind us back in Europe. It's been great catching up and exchanging Christmas wishes by phone. For all those family readers - we miss you lots!

As always MT and I are spoiled with lots of lovely presents which we put under our poinsettia plant as we haven't a tree this year. Look forward to enjoying them over the next couple of weeks off work. I was especially spoiled and am now the proud owner of a shiny silver iPod which will come in handy for listening to on my cross trainer when I have to do double time to work off the Christmas excesses!

Happy Christmas to all - and thanks so much for the cards, pressies, texts and emails.

Friday, December 22, 2006

38 weeks to being a domestic-executive

Although maths is not my strong point there is a reason for me rapidly increasing the countdown to being a domestic executive to only 38 weeks. This is because I now have two glorious weeks away from the office - yeh....!

By about Tuesday this week I started to seize up and brain function was slowing to almost no existent pace. As the kiwis say - "I was over it !".

This sloth like behaviour has not been isolated to me. Most of my colleagues and friends were feeling the strain too. The general consensus is that it has been a busy year but people are more tired because the weather has been so lousy that the usual Spring like behaviours have been missing and its just been one long winter.

There is no doubt that the last three months have proved to me that I am truly over being a senior executive and my instincts have been right all along. I'll be ready after the rest to plough on with what I've been employed to do but with house and home plans shaping I can feel my focus shifting to a place I'd rather be. At home working as much as possible.

Still, not got to think about work for the next 2 (well actually 2 weeks and 2 days) so I shall set the Ministry to the back of my mind and concentrate on having fun!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 40 weeks to go

I could make lots of excuses about why I've not been blogging but best to be truthful and say things are a bit normal - in other words not very interesting to my average reader.

The festive break won't come soon enough - I'm tired and need a rest. This executive-domestic is all worn out. Perhaps I am taking my lead from the English cricket team!

The most exciting thing that happened all week was being woken up at 5am by some person from Telecom who wanted to tell MT that the overnight changes to the mobile billing system didn't work. To say I wasn't best pleased would probably be an understatement - and after the cuffufel all that was needed was them to press the big red reset button to reboot the system. Shame that they couldn't do that working on their own initiative but needed to escalate such a decision to the lofty heights of MT and disturb my beauty sleep in the process.

There are lots of things to look forward to so its my goal to see through the next five days in a more optimistic way and benefit from the sun which is starting to put it's hat on most days and light up Wellington.

Still, another week has passed to reaching my goal - blog readers you would have been proud of me to have avoided the pressure this week to extend my contract where I am working. No fear I said I've got a domestic-executive appointment to keep!

Here's a pic of a certain young lady clearly on a similarly important mission!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Post party blues

After the excitement of partying last week I was looking forward to a few quiet days to prepare myself for the holidays looming. Trouble is, I think I've slowed down too quickly and now struggling to get going at all.

At first I thought it must just be an age thing and adjusting to the southern hemisphere seasons but talking to a few people today made me realise that it's just because my batteries are flat. It's been over 4 months since MT and I had a proper holiday and that is falling behind our usual pattern of not going more than three months for a break. In thinking about all this it's made us realise how big a year we've had!

The fact we've sold our home, brought our chattels to the other side of the world, left behind family and friends, had to start new jobs and put up with months of anguish about land buying and house building has simply been absorbed and I think we are both now starting to feel the pain a little.

Still, no time to dwell on such matters - still got the Christmas shopping to finish, find a landscape architect and complete another 10 days in the office before we can finally relent. With 2.5 weeks of work over Christmas it will be plenty of time to recharge the batteries and then we'll return to being at peace with the world again. Well we might do if England do better at the Cricket!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 41 weeks to go

The fact that we've now exchanged contracts on the land on Kaitoke Loop Road and told the vendor of the other land to take a hike the whole domestic executive thing is becoming more real. Put together with another week passing in a flash I can see that time is going to motor on in the next year.

This week really has been party time and I'm not sure that I can be the party girl now, at least not for several nights in the row. It's been full on at work with event after event culminating in the staff Christmas party where over 500 people boogied away to the staff band.

It was a fabulous occasion with a good atmosphere which made the earlier escapade this week a dim memory. On Wednesday we only had sold 150 tickets out of a potential of 2500 people on national office campus. I had to get my folks to down tools and don santa hats, reindeer antlers and other Christmas paraphenalia and walk the floors twisting every arm to buy tickets.

Fortuantly the sales drive worked in the end although I was still pretty pessimistic part way through the day when my guys were returning to the office having only sold one or two each. Word must have got round or we just started to hit the party animal floors because all of a sudden sellers were returning (after being missing for hours) with sales of 50, 70 and finally 90.

All in all it was a fantastic team effort and the communications team came to the rescue. It was touch and go with the boss who was threatening to cancel if we didn't get numbers above 400. All's well that ends well. And, at least I won't have this worry next year!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Stop press: progress at last

Hot off the press, we've just got word that the first set of paperwork from Land Information New Zealand (affectionately known as LINZ) has arrived and this means we can go unconditional on the purchase of Kaitoke Loop Road. This is the same as exchanging contracts in the UK.

It's fantastic news and another small step towards reaching the dream. The next step is for the final paperwork to be lodged and LINZ to issue land title which will then allow the sale to be settled (same as completion) and we will get the keys to the gate!

At such a relief!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

EJ in Wellington

Did I want to be corporate wife and go to see Elton John? Why not, I said. So we did. Us and about 30,000 others at the Cake Tin.

It was a strange event on a number of counts. Being corporate wife is not something I do often but pleased that MT is getting the good stuff in recognition of his hard work. Being on the same pitch where we went to watch rugby gave a new dimension to being in the stadium. Also, just being at a concert which is not something I've done in a while.

Anyway, EJ played his heart out and was most sincerely folks to the crowd despite the fact that he'd flown in on his private jet and was flying straight back out and wasn't lingering to savour the kiwi hospitality. Remarkably I seemed to know all the lyrics and sang along much to the embarressment of MT. Fortuantly our host was also bopping along so I was on safe ground and not showing myself up (well not much anyway).

Everyone has been raving about what a fantastic event it was - and to be honest it was great. For once it was a pleasant evening and not too cold, the wind died down and the accoustics of the cake tin pretty good. Only problem was it was a school night and after several other party nights this week it was tough getting up this morning.

I don't think it will surprise you much to know that the furniture specially commissioned for EJ's green room back stage is now up for sale on trade me (kiwi = of ebay). Will be interesting to see who's mad enough to cough up for it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Now don't tell me there's no global warming

I was pretty excited about this at the time but things with the house took over blog space and then I forgot to mention it. Sorry about the delay but here's the evidence that there must be global warming or some other weather phenomena.

Icebergs have been floating off New Zealand for the first time since 1930. They arrived about 3 weeks ago (middle of November) having travelled from Antarctica for the last five years. But, when they reached New Zealand's warmer waters they started to dissolve more rapidly. They'd been moving about two kilometres a day.

The icebergs were visible from the hills of Dunedin on the south of the South Island but as you might expect for some people that wasn't enough. One of the local television stations sent a reporter and cameraman to view the berg; they descended onto the berg and sent the footage and reported from the berg itself.

After that little escapade the berg broke into two pieces and got smaller by the day. The larger of the two icebergs was about 300 metres long and 100 metres high. Tourist flights were plentiful as people clammered to see this unusal sight.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 42 weeks to go

Many people think that I'll not stay the domestic executive course and do a u-turn on my plans and stay in full time work. After a week like I've had I can continue to plead my case that I've had it will full time corporate executive responsibilities.

There was no single big event that made me reaffirm my plans but simply the build up of lots of little niggly things that overall just serve to remind that even if you change the job, organisation or the country, corporate life if pretty much the same everywhere.

Now I am settling into my desk and people know I am in post the in-tray is piling up and email box is overflowing (no Murray here to lift the lid on the ICT limits!). The difference is now I don't take it home to do on an evening or weekend, what doesn't get done in the office quite simply doesn't get done.

This change of attitude and behaviour is very empowering and somehow the big stuff still gets done and so far noones complained. Not spending time at home on work frees up bags more time for other things - we're back on proper cooking on an evening, I'm keeping up with my emails (mostly) and most of all there is time to spend with whomever I chose.

Next week it's a social whirl with the party season starting to get into swing so just as well my new work policy is in place as I've got too much partying to be done!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas confusions and panic

It's starting to get really confusing with Christmas looming.

The daylight and climate is just not very christmasy. I was wandering around the supermarket this evening and heard a carol and was temporarily glued to the floor as I tried to reconcile the seasonal music to the circumstances. Sure, traditionally christmasy foods are starting to appear in the shops - there are crackers and gift packs - but it just doesn't feel right.

Earlier today I was horrified to find my EA has a christmas tree on her desk, complete with lights and red bows. I'm not sure whether it was the fact that it had appeared in November or more of the same sensory confusion that bows and christmas trees just don't feel or look right when the sun was shining outside (don't be fooled folks, the southerly promptly blew in tonight).
Still, in my usual style I will do my MT Christmas shopping this weekend, after getting my christmas hairdo in readiness for the christmas parties next week. Need to work on finding a christmas outfit and get on top of my christmas cards which will never reach the UK if I don't send them next week!

Talk in the office is as to whether people prefer the traditional christmas dinner or whether a BBQ is the way to go. Need to have a family board meeting I think to decide what we will do.

The fact that Christmas here is a potentially very long holiday here - most people take at least 3 weeks off - makes the seasonal break something that has more to it than the lunch, pressies, TV and stroll about the village. We'll be off work for 2.5 weeks and then still having a week in February to look forward to.

There is a chance that there will be too much of a good thing at one time since when the winter comes around it's a long haul from Queen's Birthday (June) to Labour Day (October) when in the UK you're enjoying the summer breaks.

It's all a new experience, different but still good. Now, If I'm ever going to get ready for the traditional greetings I'd better find those Christmas cards I put away safely and now can't find!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 43 weeks to go

Friday night drinks are a bit Wellington thing and this week it was particularly satisfying to be notified by MT over a round of drinks that it was only 20 more working days till Christmas. This news seemed to lighten the mood that was already pretty high because the sun had come out and it makes the world look a much better place.

It's strange to be contemplating the round of Christmas parties this year in light nights and hopefully some more of the sun. They start in the coming week when we're off to the Zoo for a do. MT's very excited there are guided tours and opportunities to get close up and personal with the zoo's inhabitants. The week after we're off to see Elton John in concert at the caketin stadium, corporate do so the tickets will probably be good. I've got at least four work do's lined up so it's all good on the social networking side.

The week's really do fly by so guess I must be having a bit of fun at work. People are certainly very good fun to be with although I have so many contractors that after Christmas I'll be bereft of staff as they all take their long summer breaks (usually whole of January and some of February). As a domestic-executive it will be one long vacation so have at least got that to look forward to although with the growing mountain of work to do in the next 43 weeks I'm not sure there'll be much time for R&R before then.

Hmm, moment of madness me thinks. We've got 2.5 weeks at Christmas, a week in February and then Easter will be around the corner. Oh, let's hope the sun keeps shining and the countdown will go even quicker.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bringing home to NZ

I've talked before about the wonders of technology and we were once again able to experience the closeness of the whanau in the UK across the internet. Very frustrating when Auntie June is passing around cups of tea to those on camera in the UK and we're left without!

MT has another new boy's toy which allows him to attach his iPod to a radio and when combined with some special software he is able to down load all sorts of programmes from the Beeb and other broadcasting institutions. Podcasting is really bringing home to NZ as we listen to the weekly news casts and I can listen to my beloved Archers (shocking about Ruth, David and Sam!).

Email has poured in from my note to friends and family to say hello. Blog readership has sky rocketed and once again I've felt connected with folks back home in the UK. It's good to know you're out there reading about our exploits in NZ and continuing your encouragement of our endevours to live the NZ dream.

I'm off to Christchurch today which is another new adventure - pity I'm going to spend it all in boring offices talking to colleauges!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Changes on the domestic front

Some people have noticed that I've been pretty quiet about the house and land for a while. This is because there have been some developments so tiresome I didn't wish to bore everyone with the detail until we had a resolution one way or another.

In short, we're had to change our plans. The land we were suposed to buy is taking an age to be finalised and the behaviour of the developer who is subdividing the land suggests that it might never happen and ultimately we'll end up very disappointed and plans for a house but no land to put it on.

The situation is that the land we want to buy is in the second phase of a subdivision which requires another bridge to complete the third phase. Having put in the bridge across the Pakatuhari river it seems that this is having an adverse effect on the river flow and causing erosion as an unintended consequence. Whilst he still has resource consent (planning permission) to continue with the arrangements on phase 2 his opportunity for phase three is ebbing away because putting another bridge over the river may cause further erosion that the regional council are not prepared to accept. Therefore, the land in phase 3 becomes worthless for housing.

According to the neighbours who have seen the revised plans, he intends to change phase 2 plans and instead of having 4 lots of 4 hectares will have 8 lots of 1.2 hectares and not sell lot 7 (ours) but keep that as the building plot he can sell the remaining phase 3 land with. His ability to realise the value of the land is his primary concern and he's waiting approval from the council to get a new subdivision plan.

This dasterdly deal is being done without our official knowledge but we smelt a rat and decided to look for new opportunities. Fortunately we've found a new piece of land and if all the legalese sorts itself out this week we should be the proud owners of 6 acres in Kaitoke at another location before Christmas. Our architect has done a plan for the existing design of house and cottage to fit and subject to approval by the local council we hope to start building if February.

To say it's been a roller coaster of emotion of "losing" our dream plot is an understatement but being the pragmatists we are we knew it was time to detach ourselves from a dream that was rapidly turning into a nightmare. The vendor is legally bound to sell us the land and we could hang in there and try to insist he fulfils his side of the bargain but all the advice from the lawyers is to walk away and minimise our costs.

Ironically, the new plot of land is within the original budget we set ourselves for land, is closer to town and still has beautiful views across regional parkland. I'll do some photoblogging so you can see the new place. Fingers crossed it all comes through and we can start to live the dream of our house in the country in New Zealand.

Photoblogging: Kaitoke Loop Road

You can get a better view of these pictures from

Panaramic of Kaitoke Loop Road Property - we're planning to buy lot 3 in the top right hand corner

close up to Lot 3

The closest neighbour - lot 4. Lot 3 is to the right and down the hill

Plots closer to the Road - Lot 3 is next to lot 3 which is out of site down the drive

Not a bad view to come home to at the end of the day!

Photoblogging: Kaitoke Loop Road

For more information on the surrounding area look up the following link and look at the map of the Pakuratahi Forest. The plot sits immediate above the Tunnel Gulley Block of Regional Council Land (shown as white area).

An aerial view of Kaitoke Loop Road

Photoblogging: Lot 3 Kaitoke Loop Road

View from entrance road across top paddock and views beyond

View of the building area that will be made flat to form place for house/cottage and immediate garden (fence to left is boundary with lot 4)

View from top paddock down the hill to the bottom of the plot where the kitchen garden will be built.

I know it's a strange thing to photograph but this is our power and telecommunications supply!

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 44 weeks to go

Life has been so busy I'd forgotten to recognise my countdown to being a domestic executive. Don't worry I'm not weakening my resolve and I'm bouncing back to remind myself that it's almost time to be putting together the new plan for 2007.

I'm now officially over my honeymoon period as a newby at work. After the letter incident I'm now seen as a force to be reckoned with. Little do they know that underneath I'm as soft as putty. Not wishing to ruin my growing personal brand I'm continuing to give people a hard time about how any muppet cannot do marketing and communications and you need skilled and experience professionals.

There are some people who still tell me that things have been seen and signed off by policy and legal as if I am suposed to get out my rubber stamp. It's like red rag to this taurean but I'm being as polite as I can in response.

The big difference with this job than any other I've have a new sense of empowerment that you just can't have when you're a signed up full time employed member of staff. Having a slightly independent perspective doesn't lessen my commitment to the work but gives me a slightly detatched view that enables me to be bolder than I might otherwise be.

One of the key reasons for going back to work (apart from money) was to get a social network of people and on that front I'm doing quite well. I'm starting to meet a wide range of people and collecting their business cards with one eye on future client potential. Mercenary I know but hey when you're goal is to be a domestic executive you've got to be determined to get what you want!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Capital Quake

It's been a busy quake week this week. I've experienced abour 12 earth shocks, about 10 imaginary and then 2 biggies for real!

I've been involved in a cross Government planning exercise for a major earthquake - code name Capital Quake. This was a desk exercise which meant we pretended what we'd do if there were an earthquake centred on Wellington. There were times when the situation reports of damage, death and distruction for the 7.8 richter quake centred in Lower Hutt (about 7km from the CBD) felt real enough. It was tiring play acting in the crisis management team for my organisation but lots of learnings which will help improve preparedness for the real thing.

The real thing happened twice yesterday - once during the morning when I was in a meeting and it was a continuous rolling feeling. The odd thing is that when I peered out of the door to see whether we were heading for the hills, my colleagues were head down not really noticing. It only freaked me slightly as this was the first time I've been in our cronky old 1960's building that only two days before in our exercise was rendered a pile of rubble.

Last night we had another which rattled the house and woke up both MT and I. Both these were 5.5 and not too far from Wellington which is pretty unnerving. People say it's best that there are lots of little ones to avoid the big one so I have to take it at face value.

For more information on our quake experiences

Must get those radio batteries and extra stock of baked beans in!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Trussed up like a turkey

After all the excitement of the weekend I've been made to suffer by the physiotherapist this week. Not only has that not been nice physically but the mental torture of MT who has been delighted all week and singing his little ditty of "I told you so".

Let me explain.

Friends and family will be aware of my defective back. This has blighted me for the last twenty years has off. Anyway, a month ago it (the back) went again so off I went to the quacks to get more painkillers and a referral to the physio.

In kiwi land you can get remedial treatment covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation which you pay for as part of a wage levy (a bit like NI). So off I went to the physio who diagnosed strong tape to make my back straight and exercises to bend zee knees.

It's been absolutely rotten - I appear for the last 20 of so years to have compensated for bad back by not lifting, sitting or moving properly and now I've forgotten how to do it and my muscles have rebelled and don't work properly.

MT is loving it as he's always complaining I don't bend my knees, lift of bend properly. After four days of tape on my back up I've ripped it off (very painful I can tell you) but now the trick is to continue bending, stretching and generally getting back on balance.

Once I've mastered the basics I'm going to be packed off to pilates - not looking forward to the pain that I know that will generate with muscles I don't even know are there. Still, at least the back pain has eased which can only be a good thing.

Must say though - the trussed up turkey is not a good look and not much fun!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Photoblogging: Weka for lunch

The weka is a large, brown flightless bird that has a famously feisty and curious personality. It is these two qualities that have traditionally made the bird an easy food source for Maori and early European settlers.

We have the company of a Weka at the Black Rock day hut where we stopped for refueling on our tramp on the Queen Charlotte Track.

Photoblogging: tramping Queen Charlotte Track (2)

MT - proud of his walking achievements

End of the walk view - looking towards Portage Bay

Where to next - Picton by road (1.5 hours drive), Picton by boat from Torea Bay (10 minutes)

11 November 2006 - Remembering those lost from Kenepuru Sound

Photoblogging: Tramping Queen Charlotte Track (1)

Long before the inter-island ferries plied its waters, Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui) was an important trade route for Maori, and provided good shelter and bountiful seafood for the many Maori who lived there. The early European explorer, Captain James Cook, also took advantage of the shelter and natural bounty of the Sounds, making Ship Cove (Meretoto) his New Zealand base. He spent more than 100 days there between 1770 and 1777.

Since that time, the area has been the scene of a diverse range of activities from gold and antinomy mining, whaling and fishing through to tourism and forestry. The Queen Charlotte Track passes through a variety of vegetation types, from grassy farmland to undisturbed native forests. At sea level, the forests are particularly lush. Ferns, tree ferns, nikau palms, climbing kiekie vines and perching plants make up a spectacular coastal forest. Several forest birds are common along the track, including the bellbird, tui, fantails (saw one of these) and the weka (shared lunch with one of these) . Along the shoreline shags (cormorants), gannets, terns and shearwaters can also be glimpsed.

A view up the track

Views to die for (that's if the tramping doesn't get you first!)

Well a girl needs a break for lunch!

More views to keep you going

Woodland kiwi style