Thursday, June 29, 2006

The House

There are hundreds of lifestyle TV programmes and magazines devoted to building houses. They focus on the aesthetics, the engineering, the pitfalls and the delights. But they all tell a partial story of what is an incredible journey - to have your own house built.

I've just finished reading a book passed to me by a colleague of Martin's. It's House by Tracy Kidder. This is an non-fiction book but reads like a novel. It covers the various perspectives of building a house - the client, the architect and the builders. It pulls no punches on the complexities of building and explores the equally complex relationships that build between different parties. It's the first book I've read about building your house which gives equal weight to the rational and emotional dimensions of house building projects.

This isn't a tale of a cowboy builder, a demanding client and an overly artistic architect. It's a story of people's passion for building the best house for the location at a price they can afford. Inevitably this means compromise for everyone. I found the book quite inspiring and I hope to learn some lessons as we move forward with the development and build of our new home in Kaitoke.

Having found our ideal piece of land we're now curbing our frustration whilst the wheels of rural development grind on slowly. To access the land, we need a bridge across the Pakuratahi Stream. This will then enable an access road to our plot. After weeks of delay and just in the nick of time before the trout spawning season construction is now underway.

It's this bit of developing a house that most of the programmes and magazines completely ignor - and in reality its often the longest and equally stressful part of the self-builders journey. Weather permitting the infrastructure work on the rural plot will be complete within the next 4-6 weeks and we can see inside the metaphorical tunnel. The light won't start shining until we've got through the consent systems and processes with the local council. Oh deep joy!

In reviewing Kidder's Book, The New York Times said "The making of a house is a strange blend of dreams and mundane work, of heaven and earth".

At this pic shows, we're off the starting blocks for our house dream with plenty of mundane work to come!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Taking time for the view

I was visiting Petone and decided noticed this person who clearly has mastered the favoured kiwi pastime - to take time out to admire the view. It was indeed a beautiful day, if not a little chilly, to sit back and soak in the view across the harbour of Wellington CBD.

It's the quality not the quantity that counts

Wellington is rated 12th in the world for quality of living and ranks 100th in terms of cost of living. Not bad eh for a small city at the bottom of the world.

The views must definitely contribute to the quality elements so it's only fair that I share another from Khandallah - this time across the bay to Eastbourne.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Changing priorities

After 93 days of rest, I’m to become an executive-domestic for a while. Yes, I got the job. But, before people despair, it’s only a short 10 week contract with the Ministry of Justice and there is method in my madness.

To build a home based business in consulting and coaching you need to have a network of contacts to draw on. Since mine is a pretty short list at the moment so this will provide my first step towards weaving my new net. It’s a job that shouldn’t be too stretching professionally so I’ll be able to keep stress levels in check and since you get paid hourly I’ll be keeping to a strict regime.

My big worry at the moment is about how I’ll fit in my swimming regime. With the office being five minutes from the station in town I’ll be able to take my togs (kiwi for swimming gear) and head off after work to Johnsonville which is my local pool. Hopefully I’ll be able to time it to avoid the worst of the swimming lessons and flipper ball sessions (don’t ask!).

It’s a daunting thought that I’m going to have to adjust my social antennae and start a new socialisation process. Still, it’s only 10 weeks and will mean that I can avoid the future rejection of “sorry, no New Zealand experience”. There’s plenty to do in the next two days – getting set up for self-employment (a myriad of tax, banking and levy issues) and getting the domestics in order for their period of lesser attention.

Other interview was OK – it was first stage interviews with head hunter so very early days. But, have high hopes for possible success as the head hunter’s parents are neighbours of ours in Khandallah. After all, it’s not what you know but who you know!.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Going downtown

Big day today - job interviews (well one must show willing).

Pic shows Wellington CBD from Khandallah.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The dark side

Apart from the dreadful weather, the news in New Zealand has been dominated by a series of horrific crimes. This has included the death of two three month old twin boys and the rape of a woman in her own home. The man arrested for the rape has turned out to have distant familial ties to the family of the twins.

Whilst these tragic events happen the world over, I was pretty shocked to learn that New Zealand has highest rates of domestic violence and child homicide in the world and certainly amongst the OECD countries. This is indeed a dark side of New Zealand.

I’ve been more interested in social issues this week as I mug up for a job interview with the Ministry of Social Development. The Government’s manifesto for the Country revolves around three themes – economic transformation, families – young and old, and national identity. In the last five years priority has been given to getting people into work and New Zealand now enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD grouping (3.5%). Looking forward the focus is turning to protecting and supporting the most vulnerable groups in society.

Social exclusion and deprivation in New Zealand is most prevalent amongst Maori and the reasons for this are complex. An opinion piece in this week’s Sunday Star Times highlights this issue.,2106,3711599a1861,00.html It’s clear that the Ministry of Social Development has a tough agenda to tackle.

Not unrelated, I’m going for a contract job with the Ministry of Justice to help them with their communications for collecting fines and reparation payments. They’ve just started a campaign identifying individuals to try and tackle the burgeoning payment default levels. As at 31 January 2006 $671.7 million was owed in fines by 482,939 people. Of this amount $366.7 million was overdue for payment. Men between the ages of 20 and 30 owe $213.2 million nationally and these men’s attitudes to their fines range from defiance to forgetfulness and they hope that by ignoring the problem it will go away. It seems that the NZ Government are getting tough on fine defaulters and tax evaders putting in place new legislation that will allow people who owe fines to be stopped at the airports.

On a lighter note, considerable Government time was spent this week debating whether farm dogs and granny’s poodles should be exempt from a new micro chipping law. From 1 July all new dogs will have to be registered and micro chipped so that they can be tracked if they are lost, cause damage or attack. The vote decided that farm dogs would be exempt but not others – bang goes $200 when our bassets arrive then.

So along with the weather, it’s been crime and disorder that’s been dominating the news this week – that and the All Black’s creeping in with another last minute win against Argentina after defeating Ireland in a similar way the two week’s previously.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


As fate would have it, the moment I started this blog my camera broke. But, now re-equipped we can be back in business!

For those who read my blog on 17 June, here's the scene a week later. And yes, it's still raining!

Friday, June 23, 2006

It's a cold snap

New Zealand has been in the grip of winter for the last 10 days or so. Snow dumps put the south of the South Island into chaos with power and telecom lines down and today more snow has paralysed the central North Island, at one point with no roads passable.

Whilst you might expect winter to bring such conditions, the NZ Met Office ( says that these polar conditions from the south have arrived around a month earlier than and more extreme than usual. You name a weather pattern and some part of New Zealand has been experiencing it.

Wellington has faced bitterly southerlies bringing a wind chill factor to add to our balmy 5-10 degrees. But, it’s nothing compared to the -20 degrees faced by some residents in the rural areas of central south NZ (some of whom have had no power for 10 days). It’s rained a lot and I was viciously lashed in a hail downpour which appeared in a cartoon like manner tracking me across a car park.

You might think that the British are obsessed by the weather but it isn’t a patch on the kiwis. Checking the weather reports is an essential pastime and one which comes close to matching the melodic tones of the shipping forecasts in the UK. In NZ, weather is described in two parts – first the overall situation (the science bit) and then the regional detail. Wellington’s weather is about half way through so we get to know what’s going to happen elsewhere in the North Island first. Since the bad weather hit the south, I’ve religiously continued to listen in solidarity for those poor souls surviving in parts accessible only by helicopter.

Weather is reported on a regional basis so forecasts are a good lesson in NZ geography. Some of the Maori names can be tongue twisters so any presenter trying to speed up the report can get into a terrible tangle. One time, the news presenter on National Radio had to give the weather forecast instead of the specialist forecast giver and he got terribly frustrated with repeating some of the weather patterns. Big mistake, he tried to make it more succinct only to start leaving out vital bits of information and needing to go back.

I’ve become a bit of a dab hand at interpreting the weather for Wellington’s micro climate. For example, showers mean periodic burst of rain that could be widespread or isolated to a single street. Rain means its going to lash down so take your brolly and wellies. Squally showers/rain means don’t bother with your brolly as it will end up in the umbrella graveyard beaten to death by the wind. Fine means it won’t rain but will generally be cloudy. It is only sunny when there’s not a cloud in the sky.

The prevailing wind in Wellington is north westerly. If you hear a southerly is on the way its time to (a) get big coat, gloves and scarf or (b) stay at home in the warm. Winds tend to be gusty which means that things can be relatively calm but then freakish gusts can almost take you off your feet – or as it feels like sometimes, will blow in the windows.

Houses in New Zealand just aren’t built to stand the winter weather. Kiwis live in denial that this isn’t a cold country. Pah, I’m sitting here with my thermals and fleece waistcoat on top of normal clothing; and if I could actually sit on top of the heater I would. Central heating is not a big feature of kiwi homes – we’re lucky, we rent a newish townhouse that is well insulated and has a gas fire in the living room. There is under-floor heating on the ground floor (spare room, study and second bathroom) but the upper floor where our bedroom has nothing.

It brings back memories of childhood in the 1970’s when you wake up and it’s freezing cold and condensation on the windows and my attic flat in Sunderland in the late 1980’s. But, it’s a wonderful metabolism booster as you burn up more calories to keep warm (perhaps this is a new wave diet I could promote?). I’ve got into the ritual of hot water bottles before bed, turning on the portable heater when the alarm goes off and have even been contemplating whether it’s time to act like a kiwi and invest in an electric blanket.

I dream about the central heating we’ll have in our house in Kaitoke – oh we’ll be toasty warm! It will be just as well because compared to Wellington it gets 5 degrees colder up there in winter and 3 degrees warmer in summer. Our 4x4 will be an essential for winter as cars tend to get stuck on the Rimutaka Hills (Kaitoke is at the foot of these mountains that divide the Wellington region from the Wairarapa).

So, brrrrr it’s a cold snap indeed. And to add insult to injury this is my second winter this year. Still, only two more months of this to cope with and then Spring will be here. To survive our first year we’re treating ourselves to a winter sun break to Fiji (5 nights on the coral coast). What bliss, I’m counting the days on my frostbitten fingers and toes!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Small steps to the dream

Reflecting on my need for more definition and a plan, I’ve concluded that my immediate life as a domestic-executive is to deliver on three areas: house-keeping and social event management; overseeing the design and build of our new home in the country; and developing a future home-based business.

Although sometimes, I feel that I’m simply muddling along, I am in fact making good progress towards achievement of the starting over plan. I’ve become thoroughly reacquainted to house keeping duties, we’re well underway with the purchase of land and our architect is making steady, albeit slow, progress with our house design. On the social scene there is more to be done so Martin and I can enjoy some independent networks but in the meantime we’re making the most of what we can of our leisure time.

Payment for my endeavours comes in the non financial benefits I have been craving for years. The lifestyle is flexible; work is stimulating and most of all I’m having a good time. But, like all jobs it comes with its occasional frustrations, disappointments and problems. I did take heart yesterday though when someone suggested to me that if you have an idea of what you want to achieve, New Zealand is a good place to make it happen.

So, today I signed up for my future home-based career move. I’m going to train as a personal coach. I was inspired by a bright woman who I employed in my last job who was developing her own part time coaching practice. I found she has energy for life and an enthusiasm for making a difference that was contagious.

Through the evolution, and sometimes bitter experience, of my management and leadership style, I’ve really come to appreciate the importance of personal and empowerment in the workplace. I want to build on this interest through professional training so I can continue to do the best of what I enjoyed working in organisations but based at my new home in rural Kaitoke.

I’m going to be following the system of the Australian coaching guru David Rock. If you’re interested, more information at

Of all the opportunities to learn about coaching his system seems like the one with least psychobabble and more pragmatism. If not, I’m sure my beloved partner will keep my feet on the ground as I drift of to start nailing jelly to the wall or hugging the trees in the Park. If I start to evangelise about NLP and the like, this will be a most worrying sign.

Today’s small step feels like it may actually be the biggest leap for me personally and professionally so fingers crossed I’ve made the right choice. Tomorrow I take a bigger leap - blind networking.....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Not bored, but maybe a bit lost?

Lots of people told me that I’d get bored being off work. I kept saying I wouldn’t and I’m not. To be bored is “feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity“. [The new Oxford English Dictionary].

There are so many facets to being a domestic-executive there is limited scope for boredom. In my fledgling weeks and days in New Zealand, I tackled my duties like an executive in the fast lane. But, now there is a slower pace creeping in that I’m not sure is necessarily a good thing for workaholic like me.

It’s funny how the disciplines of working practices soon disappear. I’ve been having an very unsettling time as my long standing compulsion to write, review and complete daily to-do lists has all but gone. I still manage to write the to-do-lists and even branched out into a new repertoire of lists for shopping expeditions. The trouble is now that once lists are written they tend to get forgotten.

Perhaps I’m losing my touch. Or maybe I’m just finally learning to not sweat the small stuff!

Although I meandered into this Blog because I had the time to do it, I’ve been given a new sense of responsibility to work a bit harder at demonstrating how I'm making the most of the opportunity for starting over.

Deeper thinking is in order to rise to the challenge set by a former colleague. Here’s his response to my news in an email that I was considering my options for paid employment again. I quote, “Your move represented a state of aspirational nirvana for all us working but donotwannabe’s, so you cannot go back to work unless we all vote on it…..I for one am not ready to have my mental oasis deleted, so go do plan B, and buy a lottery ticket”

Boy, I do appreciate the benefits of being released from the shackles of employment. I just now need to get the hang of what I do with all this time and opportunity.

Maybe I need to trawl back into my executive toolbox and more clearly define a new sense of purpose. Perhaps, with a new strategy for the future and an action plan for achieving it I’ll feel more at peace. I fear that without those performance setting norms, I’m going to slack off and end up in a nightmare instead of living the dream.

After all, I don’t think that my future can be based on the New Zealand lottery. Although every Wednesday and Saturday I’m in to win the chances of winning are pretty slim!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Honour thy father!

Oops, I almost missed Father’s Day yesterday but was saved by the 12 hour advantage so I could still ring my Dad and wish him well. Here in New Zealand Father’s Day is celebrated on the 1st Sunday in September so I was not reminded by the usual commercial fanfare. Realising my close call, it got me thinking whether the origins of Father’s Day.

Apparently, Sonora Smart Dodd first proposed a fathers day to honour her father William Smart in 1909. Mrs Smart died in 1889 during childbirth and he was left as a single parent to raise his five children. Sonora was inspired when listening to a Mothers’ Day sermon and wanted to let her father know how special he was and celebrate his strength and selflessness as a single parent. This idea spread across the US and was promoted in Government until finally in 1966 the 3rd Sunday of June was declared as Fathers Day. William Smart’s birthday was in June, hence the significance of the date, but this doesn’t explain why the kiwis have nominated the 1st Sunday in September!

I bet you didn’t know that the red or white rose is the official flower for Father’s Day. You wear a white rose to honour a father who has died and a red rose for a father who is living. Father’s Day is also used to honour all men who act as a father figure – stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers and adult male friends.

Interesting as this might be, I think honouring one’s parents goes back much further to the Ten Commandments. “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exodus 20:12)”. Not being a regular churchgoer or a theologian I don’t think it’s my place to explore the true relevance and significance of this but if you’re interested, I googled the following
which might be of passing interest to you.

It’s been nice to think about all those men in my life who have acted as a father figure. I never really knew my Pop Wheeler (my maternal granddad); he died when I was very young. But, from photographs he looks like a jolly sort of chap and I admire anyone who can sport tummy hugging swim shorts and swim each day in an outdoor pool come whatever the weather.

I have such fond memories of my Grandad Fleming. I used to spend half term holidays with him and my Nan from Boarding School and also stay with them en route to Dubai and school each year. I slept on a sofa bed in their living room and watch TV late into the night – Horse of the Year Show and the Sweenie were my favourites. I’d trail after him every day to the Ridley Road market and Mare Street in Dalston, East London to do the daily shop which took ages on account of him stopping to talk to all his mates on the market. He was a cheerful soul who used to whistle whilst he worked and was famous for his exercise book accounts and knowing all the prices of things in the shops. Hmm, come to think of it, I think there is some similarity with my own Dad on the retail price indices.

The Fleming and Wheeler clans have never really had strong family ties so as far as uncles go, I’ve had a few but apart from my Uncle Bill they’ve now all died or got lost in the distance. But, being adopted by the Treanor clan, they’ve made up for that in spades.

I only knew Grandad Treanor for a short while but he was a gentle man who I loved to visit. He’s responsible for Martin’s lifelong support for Coventry Football Club so he’s never far away in spirit. Grandad Sam (Darlaston) is charming and witty who is never short of a tip for perfecting vegetable growing or if you want advice on which horse to place a bet (came in very handy when I was at Ascot for a corporate do once!). I could go on with a roll call but I won’t – only to say that for entertainment value Uncles Jeff and John should be honoured!

The only other man who I would consider as a father figure was Mr Coleman, my friend Ruth’s father who I admired greatly as I spent increasing weekends and holidays with Ruth from school on their Church Stretton Farm. One of the many defining memories of time spent with Mr Coleman were the walks at the crack of dawn to collect mushrooms from the fields which we promptly came back and cooked for breakfast. Now I think about it, perhaps it was the time spent with Ruth at Womerton ( ) that sparked this long time yearning to be a farmer myself.

As a novice domestic executive diary keeping is something I’ll need to work hard on. Although technically my Dad and father-in-law should benefit from two Father’s Days celebrations each year, I’d like to think that they know how much they are loved and cherished 365 days of the year. Ahhh!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Domesticity in a global village

We chose New Zealand for its beautiful country, laid back lifestyle and English language (easier for finding paid work). We'd visited the country, did plenty of research and thought hard about what we wanted to achieve. But, nothing can prepare you for arriving in a foreign country.

As a foreigner in a strange land you seek out familiarity and luckily the global village can provide some of that. My lifeline to the wider world is on my desk top, laptop and if I want to pay the outrageous rates charged, on my mobile phone. The internet is a truly wonderful thing faciliating access to friends and family - email, webspace, Skype (when we get operational) but also provides that 24 hour access to all that is familiar from the UK.

As a domestic executive its been a frustrating time getting to grips with consumerism in NZ, or the lack of it. The greatest challenge has been finding replacements for those familiar brands or products from Waitrose, Boots, WHS Smith etc. To do so is all about readjusting expectations and trying new things. A major breakthrough was achieved when I reframed New World supermarket as the Waitrose of the southern hemisphere which when combined with Moores Wilson Fresh we can now source most of what we ever did get from UK supermarkets, although it is a bit pricier for some things. I am still baffled by why cheese is so expensive here - mental note to do some research on this.

As for other consumer activity - I still steer clear of most of the shops to be honest, I still find them unfamiliar and a little intimidating. If I do venture to Wellington I'll happily spend time in bookshops and kitchen shops as globalisation has been achieved here. One attempt at clothes shopping was just too much to bear and I've put that off for another day. Anyway, a domestic executive living in a one income family can't really go off for retail therapy like I used to!

There are other strange kiwi ways that I find intriguing - getting paid every 2 weeks, utility bills coming once a month and a complex parking culture that still scares the wits out of me after my earlier traumas of being clamped for being parked in the wrong place with the wrong ticket at the wrong time - enough said I think.

One thing that I think the rest of the global village could do with though is a touch of kiwi character. People are so friendly - I know its cliche but its true. It doesn't matter whether you are at the supermarket (where they pack your bags), the post office (where they measure your envelope to see if its standard size), the butchers (who always have what you want even if you can't see it) and the corner dairy (corner shop that sells everything that you might want when the rest of retailing has gone to bed) you will get added value in your shopping experience from a friendly kiwi serving you. They're genuine in their enquiry and ecstatic if you return the compliment by asking them things in return. This can of course be time consuming to strike up a friendship when you pop out for a pint of milk and the paper but nevertheless is an endearing quality that somehow makes you feel more at home.

For the fanatical e-consumers that Martin and I are, shopping on-line in New Zealand is a disappointment. There are few true online retailers and ranges are limited. But, this is probably because their whole retail economy is limited by the size and of the country and its distance from the rest of the world. Don't get me wrong, there's lots to buy but with few national chain stores and limited market there just isn't the choice that you get elsewhere.

Such is the clamour for new retailing opportunities in NZ, a new out of town shopping centre, Sylvia Park, opened close to Auckland last week bringing with it so much traffic that the main highways were brought to a stand still for hours - road chaos that made headline news and has kept the letter pages full of commentry since. The stampede to get there on opening day was because The Warehouse was giving away stuff at knock down prices. To keep things in perspective though, opening day was for 57 of what will be 200 shops with about 2000 car parking spaces. The doom merchants are predicting that the rest of the development will never happen because of the disastrous opening. It reminds me a little of when the Metro Centre opening in Gateshead in the early '90's - everyone said it would be a white elephant.

In gentile Wellington we don't have the landspace to create such mighty retail emporiums although Porirua (about 15km outside of Wellington) has a Mega Mall (a bit like the retail parks found in most UK towns) with a focus on home furnishings, white goods (fridges and washing machines), TVs, computers, other home furnishings and amazingly the biggest craft store you've ever seen (would be really exciting for my Auntie Barbara whose a wonderful craftsperson). 5 km closer to town there is Dress Mart, the kiwi answer to Bicester Village (not!). But, we do have a traditional department store in town which is due for a makeover to bring it into the 21st century (it needs to update by about 30 years) but is a much loved Wellington institution - -

My motto for consumerism in New Zealand is be prepared to be underwhelmed. But, I'm learning to love the small niche shops and independent retailers with a personal touch - so far I vote for (see what I mean about online retailing), (the official Treanor outdoor outfitters), (mainly because they have very nice toilets and are conveniently located in the centre of town and is an ideal spot to meet people out of the wind and the rain).

Although consumerism hasn't reached its global reach peak in NZ you can't get away from Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Macdonalds and the like. We prefer the home grown kiwi versions of coffee houses, sandwich shops, pizza outlets etc. But, the whole foodie thing is another whole story for another day.

In short, we can consume all we want here in New Zealand but it takes a bit more effort to find it and buy it. Not a problem for a domestic executive with plenty of time on her hands. We have at least stop converting everything we try and buy into GB pounds and rather suck through our teeth at the outrageous prices in dollars. Also, the EPTPOS system means that you don't have to worry about carrying cash as every retailer uses them for cash or credit purchases (which is just as well as cashpoints are a like a rare bird in hiding when you get out of the main towns).

I never dreamed New Zealand would be a consumer metropolis but it doesn't stop me missing some of those familiar brands - its trial and error which can be fun but also expensive to make mistakes. By shopping daily at my local New World Supermarket (about 2 minutes walk) I can get all that I want without the waste that there invariably was from a weekly shop at home.

Yesterday when I popped to the butchers (1 minute stroll) I procrastinated over whether we'd have chicken or beef enchiladas for dinner, the young butcher lad said "so how are you then Julie, ready for the weekend...." you could have knocked me over with a feather. It was a quintessential kiwi experience - local independent retailer right on your doorstep with that personal service (and a cany butcher who read my credit card and remembered my name!).

This morning listening to Country File essential listening for prospective country folk(Saturdays, 7-8am,, the big focus was on the Field Days - NZ's answer to the agricultural show. Here there were thousands of farmers on their annual pilgrimage to farming retail heaven. So with the kiwi dream about a few chucks and pigs in the country perhaps there is a future in country consumerism that I hadn't really appreciated and next year I'll be at the field days with the rest of the farming community for their annual retail therapy!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Weekend working?

The rules for weekend work for a domestic executive are very unclear. Obviously it makes sense for the working partner not to be exposed to domestic work normally done Monday to Friday, but when does the domestic executive get a day off?

So far, this has not been a hotly debated topic in the Treanor household but the lack of policy did require momentary discussion yesterday. Should MT get his own specialist food shopping if he is cooking dinner, or should JT go armed with his wish list since there was a clear failure to provide the necessary goods for smooth running of the kitchen at the weekend? In typical partnership style, because I’d actually bought some of what he needed, MT set off with his own shopping list to experience local retailing. But, it’s clear that this morning I am responsible for the washing up debris left after a wonderful dinner shared with our good friend Naomi.

I’m all for flexible working. I have come to terms with the split shift arrangements to accommodate breakfast (the early shift) and dinner (the late shift) but I’m less comfortable with the concept of full time weekend shifts too. Perhaps weekend domestics need to be reframed as a joint enterprise, otherwise, when does a girl get a break? After all, it worked for years when we were both fully employed in the UK.

Our house in Khandallah overlooks the village centre. This means I can see the comings and goings amongst the shops and there is a wonderful pattern to life on a weekend. The rush hour is 9-10am Saturday morning with cars jammed nose to tail and a fair amount of parking rage. All people want is to nip in and get their bit of shopping, normally before ferrying their offspring to some sporting endeavour. Between 10-11.30am there is a statelier pace of traffic of people with more time on their hands to enjoy a wander and perhaps partake of a coffee at one of two coffee bars. It’s also the arrival time of the brunch bunch that slope off to Taste our suburban dining room. By around noon things slow and by 1pm it almost looks like a ghost town. Some of the shops shut up in the afternoon although others are diligent in their community service serving the steady stream of customers throughout the day. On Sunday’s the brunch bunch are the main arrivals in the village second only to people dashing in to buy the papers and those forgotten items. It’s a fascinating insight into how people spend their weekends and I can easily spy on people through the slats in our Venetian blinds!

Ah, the joys of weekends – a great invention, although never quite long enough. I see weekends split into two distinct types. Those designed for leisure and pleasure and those that offer pure rest and recuperation. The best weekends are a mix of the two. Coming to New Zealand has required some adjustment to the normal weekend routine.

Firstly, the weekend papers take about an hour to read in total and shorter if you miss the property and job supplements but do read the classified advertising. That leaves about another three hours of time to fill compared to reading UK weekend papers. Not a problem if you partake of the coffee or brunch culture which means a long leisurely meet over wonderful breakfast menus with friends. Also, the wonders of the internet and digital publishing do mean we can enjoy both NZ in print and the UK papers on-line. Secondly, weekends are the only time that we can juggle the time difference and manage to ring friends and family at home. Thirdly, and I guess most importantly, a much reduced requirement to do those annoying chores that can now be done in the week.

We probably need to work harder at making the most of weekends but the last three have been dampened by illness and weather although we’ve had some interesting outings since we arrived – the NZ Food Show, the NZ Home Show, cinema, Wellington Maritime Museum, Te Papa Museum, walks (usually uphill), exploring places (Petone – foodie capital of Wellington, Eastbourne – antique capital of Wellington, Porirua – retail capital of Wellington) and for the first time in a long time yesterday, a retail outing to Wellington. There’s also a good dollop of sport – normally Rugby (keen supporters of the Wellington based Hurricanes and the mighty All Blacks), sometimes Netball (yes, prime time viewing), and more often than not football (especially now we’re in the festival of football – the FIFA [nice branding] World Cup) or Cricket from UK.

So, despite the uncertainties of the role of a domestic executive on weekends, we’re settling into an adjusted pattern of weekend living. I guess the biggest difference is that we’re both not so exhausted that we can actually enjoy whatever it is that we decide to do. A key objective of moving to NZ was to get a slower pace of life so I think it’s fair to say we can put a tick in the box for good progress on that so far.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Was this the dream?

It's been four months now since I swopped a place at the boardroom table for a full time role as a domestic executive. In that time, it's been a roller coaster ride of change.

Firstly, I had to pack up our home in the UK and ship our chattels to New Zealand. This was always going to be traumatic but seemed much more extreme doing it on my own whilst Martin was settling into his new job in NZ and whilst also coping with illness (black eyed flu and winter vommiting) and disability (a seriously painful back). It was a blessed relief to get on that jumbo jet for 24 hours of complete rest where someone else was taking responsibility. I'd also enjoyed a couple of days as a child again in the capable hands of my Dad and Shirley who looked after me in the way that only parents can when you most need them.

It seemed that the 24 hour journey was insufficient to rejuvenate me and it's fair to say I arrived in Wellington looking haggered and only a tiny bit less stressed. Not a pleasant sight for my beloved husband! But, I was free of the stresses and strains of professional life - phew!

My first few weeks were a flurry of excitement - exploring my new home town, looking for land for us to build our new home and soaking up the culture of kiwi life. I promised myself that I'd get fit and healthy when I arrived so started a daily swimming regime at the Thorndon swimming pool and gradually I settled into a new rhythm of life.

At least from the domestic operative perspective, our apartment on Molesworth Street was small and easy to keep clean. I became the model housewife with a daily routine to cleaning, shopping, washing and ironing. I also had plenty of time to keep up with my email correspondence, maintaining ties with family and friends so many miles away.

Whilst I was enjoying freedom, Martin was coping with a new job with huge challenges making him tired and a little cranky. Whilst trying to be as supportive and understanding, it was tricky to feel liberated and relaxed when he was having such a tough time. There is no doubt that there were days when I felt very lonely as he spent long hours at work or preoccupied with work trying to fix problems not of his making. His talent saw him through and by the time we left on our Easter holiday we were both ready to rest, relax and reconnect in a beautiful location.

Hot foot back from Hawkes Bay we moved to our rental town house in Khandallah. The unpacking was almost as tiring as the packing but it was a wonderful feeling to have our favourite things around us. So, now settled in our temporary home it was time to start living a normal life.

The question is, was this the life I'd dreamed of?