Saturday, September 30, 2006

Get in time: the clocks are changing

Tonight the NZ clocks go forward an hour to summer time. This is a symbolic moment much wanted by those who are starting to experience SAD. Apart from the physiological and psychological effects, there are some practical issues that readers should take into account.

FOR UK readers - From 1 October NZ will be 12 hours ahead of GMT. That means when we wake up at 7am tomorrow (1 October) it will be 7pm on Saturday night (30 September) in the UK.

FOR readers in Spain - From 1 October NZ will be 11 hours ahead of Spanish time. That means when we wake up at 7am tomorrow (1 October) it will be 8pm on Saturday night (30 September) in the Spain.

In a few weeks the UK will change it's clocks and make NZ 13 hours ahead - this makes it more complicated again, but we'll take it one step at a time!

NZ Defining Moments: #3

It’s appropriate as I start work at the Ministry of Social Development that I share with you New Zealand’s defining moment rated number three from their top 20 list.

NZ has an international reputation for progressive social policy – the Social Security Act of 1938 provided for a comprehensive, modern welfare state that provided social security and protection for generations of New Zealanders (NZs). It has provided the financial safety net for those people who have been unable to work because of illness, disability or circumstance.

In 1973, widows and sole mothers who worked were provided financial assistance by the Government to supplement their wages and support their families. The Domestic Purposes Benefit (as it was known) was sufficiently high that sole mothers were able to stay home to care for their children without paid employment.

But 1970’s NZ economy blew a whole through the Welfare State as its position of near full employment was unravelling and the costs of funding increased the economic difficulties NZ was facing in the global economy. In 1984, economic reforms saw a virtual transformation of its economy – it went from a protected, state-directed economy to a transparent, free-market approach with an extremely limited role for the Government. By 1998 welfare reforms required to counter slow economic and job growth and demographic changes, including a significant increase in sole parents and teenage parents.

The reforms required beneficiaries with children over age fourteen to look for full time work, those which children aged 7-14 to look for part-time work and those with under sevens to attend an annual planning meeting to discuss their future prospects for employment. The Government also required certain DPB beneficiaries to take part in the Community Wage, a workfare program that requires beneficiaries to engage in unpaid community activities in exchange for their income assistance check.

Since this time, the emphasis has been to move all beneficiaries to receive support from welfare to work. This continues today through the Ministry of Social Development’s Work and Income department which assesses people for benefit and helps them find jobs.

Currently NZ has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the OECD so it’s fair to say that they’ve been successful in this endeavour. The key challenge that now faces the Government is those growing numbers on DPB, disability or invalidity benefit.

For those reading this blog from the UK – sound familiar?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Countdown to being a Domestic Executive: 51 weeks to go

There are some people who call themselves my friends who are waiting for me to fall from grace and abandon my vocation to become a full time domestic executive. To reassure them and myself that I am still on track this is a weekly countdown towards that marvellous day. The first week in a proper job here in NZ has been exhausting but reassuring since I just don't have what it takes to make the long term investment in an organisation in the way I used to.

It's a liberating feeling when you can observe organisational behaviour in the knowledge that this little twerp across the table talking rubbish is not someone that I need to build a long term relationship with to negotiate a favourable position for my team. I have found myself thinking, not putting up with this garbage if I'm to achieve the goals that I've been set. Don't panic though, I'm the soul of discretion and politeness and just biding my time to determine the point at which I will swoop in with my intervention and knock the twerp off his perch.

My immediate colleagues are a real delight although my strategy of not keeping tissues on my desk continues to be the best line to take. It seems that I can still have the effect of making someone cry - but I was particularly pleased with this week's performance when I hadn't even opened my mouth before the floodgates opened. Tired and emotional me thinks - and a perfect candidate for coaching :o)

Only one member of the team being put through performance management and early reports suggest that intensive intervention required to help them realise their potential or find a new job. Ah, me thinks another candidate for coaching :o)

Can you see a theme developing? This week I passed my coaching assessment which is another good bit of news.

At the end of this first week my impressions are positive (apart from the annoying twerp) which leaves only another 51 to tackle. Less 5 weeks of holidays so it's not going to be that bad!

Treasure close to home

Here is a picture of our treasure close to home (taken from the front door step). It's not quite the Red Lion Pub which was about the same distance from Holly House but serves a similar purpose. Instead of beer we can get wonderful wine, brunches and other foodie meals. It provided much soul food as the energy was flagging. It also raised our spirits momentarily as we took in the news that a former colleague of MT's who had returned to the US had died suddenly under not disimilar circumstances to a colleague of mine before Christmas last year. Sudden death of anyone is tragic enough but it is someone who you liked, respected and who touched your life in a memorable way it's hard to reconcile the tragedy.

The only learning you can take from such sad events is that it makes you count your blessings more each day.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Swimming of a new kind

I've just finished the first day on my new job and I've been overcome with all the information swimming in my head. You forget how exhausting it is to be the new person and not knowing simple stuff can be debilitating

Luckily the morning tea ritual saved the day and the warm welcome from all the staff made things much easier to deal with. Also, the lunchtime 5 minute quiz from the paper was a nice team building touch.

As for important stuff, I think that's yet to come with an increasing number of meetings planned that will no down continue that waterlogged feeling in the brain for some time to come. Just as well as MT was bemoaning the fact that September has been an exceedingly dry month with close to the lowest level of rainfall on record.

There's no pleasing us poms when it comes to the weather!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wearable Art

Wellington has been playing host to one of the country's art extravaganza. It's a cross between an art and fashion show and has been wowing the crowds. I didn't actually get to see the show this year it's definitely on the must see list for cultural interludes next year.

The closest I came to artistic endevours this week was to persuade MT that he shouldn't buy yet another blue and white check shirt to add to his already extensive selection!


It's good to get my blog stats each week - this tells me how many people are reading my blog and where they are reading it from. This is essential feedback as so far none of my readers have taken the plunge and left a comment on the site. Nevertheless feedback comes in from other means so thanks for taking the time to catch up with my kiwi adventures it makes friends and family feel much closer.

I'm pleased to introduce you to a new blog that's been started by a great mate of mine - look it up as . That will raise the pressure for him to write another entry!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Gutter politics

You may remember that I talked about the depths that politics has sunk here a couple of weeks ago. I'm afraid we are still travelling downwards as politics has become personalised almost to a point of no return.

The Prime Minister, Helen Clarke, called the opposition Don Brash, corrosive and a cancerous growth in politics. He continues to call the Labour Party Government corrupt over payment of an election pledge card paid for from public funds (incidently, other parties did the same but not to the same high level of spending). Throw into this mix media reports (allegedly fuelled by the opposition party) that the PM's husband is homosexual and the fact that the leader of the opposition has recently taken time out to spend time with his family when he got caught having extra marital affairs.

It's a desperate state of affairs which does no politician any good and some might say that it spells the death nell of the PMs position in the forthcoming election (2 years away). Certainly she didn't appear like an international statesperson leading a country but rather like a mad fishwife who has lost the plot. Who knows where this will all go - Parliament is in recess at the moment so we'll have a couple of weeks to see what happens when the debate opens again.

I can't help wondering whether such people were ever told when they were kids "sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you". I think perhaps if a few of our senior politicians didn't react to childest namecalling then perhaps you might get some decent debate about the real issues facing New Zealand.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sign of things to come

Having finished my contract last Friday I've been enjoying the life of a domestic-executive. It's been a lovely interlude and one which has reminded me of the potential of things to come next year.

So what I have I done with this time away from the office. You guessed it, cleaning, shopping, washing and house building chores. I have taken time to hit 50 balls at the golf range do a 25 minutes whizz around Khandallah with a new friend who needs the exercise and got up to date with all my filing.

Now all I need is another week to do the sorting out, spring cleaning, get up to date with my emails, do my coaching reading and write up an article I've promised for the old school magazine.

But alas such pleasures will need to wait as its back to the grindstone for the next three days - a planning day with my new colleagues, meetings with the tax man and consulting for the Ministry of Health before finishing the week with a networking event for Government communications professionals.

Still its hump day and the weekend is looming. We'll be back to Kaitoke to try and work out whether our living room is going to be pointing the right way!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Photoblogging: our neighbours to be

To give you a sense of who our prospective neighbours in Kaitoke will be, here are some critters who were camera shy!
A pukeka running away

I seem to have had the same effect on the sheep!

Photoblogging: a spring walk by the harbour

Seagulls - sunbathing (not), rather they are bracing themselves in the wind

Floating ball in the civic square - yes, it's really floating......

Old crane against the modern building scape.

Getting ready for the sailing season.

Looking back up to the church on the hill

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It was the biggest rumble yet

Last night there was a heck of a rumble, the biggest we've had yet which almost sent me packing under the dining table for cover.

Reference Number: 2625245/G
Universal Time: September 15 2006 at 11:43
NZ Standard Time: Friday, September 15 2006 at 11:43 pm
Latitude, Longitude: 40.95°S, 174.48°E
Focal Depth: 50 km
Richter Magnitude: 5.0
40 km north-west of Porirua40 km west of Paraparaumu40 km north-west of WellingtonFelt widely throughout the lower North Island and upper South Island.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So much to learn

Being a stranger in a strange land is always an unsettling thing. But in Wellington there are some key institutions that make the transition as easy as possible.

In my first few days I signed up to join the library, an airplane hanger type building packed to the gunnels with books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and other useful information. It's better than any library I've ever experienced in the UK and an online resource base that makes it easy to read all the international journals and magazines for free. It's saving us a fortune as printed materials here are expensive and knowing that you can read them on line maintains the connections with things familiar.

The other jewel in the kiwi knowledge crown is Te Papa the national museum on Wellington Waterfront where you can while a way several hours. Thursday evenings is late night openings and its always a quieter time to visit (weekends are bit of a bun fight and full of kids and tourists!). Last week's treat was to visit the constable exhibition - it was certainly more fun that grappling through the crowds at the Tate in London. And it only cost $12 (about £3).

You can enjoy some of the Te Papa experience on line at Well worth a visit to mug up on kiwi ways. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Domestic pleasures

Filled with the excitement that the bridge across the Pakuratahi Stream bringing us one step closer to our dream home, I decided to celebrate and bake a cake. This simple domestic pleasure often seems like a nightmare because cakes have never really been my thing.

Although I have acquired new muffin making skills I've been a bit wary about tackling a cake which wasn't a christmas cake. Suffice to say that this deep rooted fear has come from a dreadful failure with a victoria sandwich cake when I was about 14!

Not wishing to take too much of a risk I took the recipe of my good friend Sarah who is a bit of a whizz in the kitchen and assured me this would be doodle. And she was right. Both him indoors, a bit of a cake Connoisseur, gave it the thumbs up and there was lots of rapture in the office this morning when I brought the remains in for morning tea.

In the spirit of sharing with my kiwi adventures, here's the recipe for New Zealand Moist Carrot Cake with acknowledgement to Sarah who was the inspiration for another domestic pleasure. Now all I need is some more recipes for other cakes, any suggestions?

New Zealand Moist Carrot Cake
Makes an 8 inch (20 cm) cake

9oz (250g) wholemeal self-raising flour
6oz (175g) raw sugar (muscovado or Barbados)
6oz (175g) soft brown sugar)
3 x medium eggs
6 fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla essence
Approx 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 level teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
11oz (300g) grated carrots
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut

For the topping
1 small tub of full fat cream cheese
A couple of drops of pure vanilla essence
Icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to gas mark2, 300°F (150°C).
You will need one 8 inch (20cm) round cake tin (lined with baking parchment) and two mixing bowls.


In the first mixing bowl, you place the eggs, oil and vanilla essence, then sieve the sugars into it as well (to avoid any lumps). Into the other bowl you sift the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, soda and salt.

Now beat the wet ingredients and the sugars together, then fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the carrots and coconut. Mix well to distribute everything evenly, then spoon into the cake tin and bake on the centre shelf for 1½ to 2 hours.

To make the topping, make sure the full fat cream cheese is at room temperature. Add a couple of drops of pure vanilla essence, then beat in icing sugar until the topping is stiff enough to spread, tasting to check it is sweet enough.

When the cake is cool, spread the topping thickly all over the top and refrigerate the cake until you are ready to serve.

Note that the cake freezes well without the topping.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Photoblogging: our bridge

Truck, digger and road roller - all promising signs!
A beautiful sight - view back across bridge, which we drove over!

Yes, it even holds my weight!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Now now boys and girls!

There is a quaint expression here in New Zealand would have worked well to quell the politics of the Labour Party in the UK and the parliament here in Wellington this week. If only people had stopped and "pulled their heads in".

As far as I can tell, this expression is used to cut down people who are prepared to stick their necks out for an issue. I prefer to see it as a useful way for people to bring their brain back into closer connection with their mouths enabling them to think more clearly first before they speak.

Here in the Beehive all the party whips were called to see the leader of the house to be reprimanded for the appallingly bad (or rather childish) behaviour of MPs in recent days. It was like a playground with children calling each other names - the one that tickled me most was when one politician requested that the "windbag" on the opposition shut up!

Looking at what's been happening with the UK Labour Party pressing its self destruct button pushing the PM to name his retirement date. Lots of little knowns having their 15 minutes of fame, for what, endless hours of coverage by 24 news.

If only our elected representatives would think before they speak they wouldn't look quite so much like children throwing toys from their prams. I think if they would have pulled their heads in a little more they wouldn't have looked so ridiculous and more interesting current affairs would have got more air time in the media which are of greater public interest.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Am I just a country mouse?

Today I was in the big smoke after taking a big aeroplace north to Auckland. It was my first business trip north and probably the closest I'll get to the Auckland Races (it was a meeting in the Race Course Grandstand).

Quite apart from the adventure of getting up early for the flight, I am not sure that I'm really an Auckland city girl. By comparison with Wellington it's big and busy and not really my sort of place. The motorways were packed and loads of people around.

It was a blessed relief to land back on Wellington soil - having admired the harbour, the hills and even enjoyed a little light wind to make the landing more exciting! It's a strange feeling but it really was coming home - Auckland is nice for a visit but I'm much happier back in our small but beautifully formed Capital city which I admit by UK standards is more like a town in the country.

After year's of commuting the the UK capital to work - I think I've finally found a Capital city that I really love coming home to. Now if that makes me a country mouse, I can live with that!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A new insight to househusbandry

My dear supportive husband has thrown himself into sharing domestic duties since I have started full time work. I can't quite work out whether his enthusiasm is just another routine that he draws pleasure from or whether he's getting more obsessed about standards of domestic hygiene.

So for 90 minutes each weekend we get into the cleaning frenzy. I get the bathrooms and kitchens to clean and he does the dusting and vacuuming. I know who got the short straw!
Nevertheless it’s heartening to see the new insights that he has gained from this participative domestic sport – that glass cabinet he thought his plasma TV would look wonderful on has taken on a new dimension. Also, he now understands the need to have the see through bucket on the Dyson to monitor the dust flow through the house. The stairways are his biggest pain needing to change all the tools and lug the equipment up and down.

But after almost 3 months of this routine his enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be waning. Although, he was rather too quick to draw up the spring cleaning routine for me to do when I have a week off work soon!

I realise that this joint activity is only an interlude until I am back being a full time domestic-executive but for the meaning I’m enjoying the company and revelling in his excitement as he finds a new and quicker way to tackle chores or mid week will protest when something happens that might impact on his weekend domestic duties!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Shopping locally

If you've read Nigel Slater's book, The Kitchen Diaries, you'll be familiar with the practice of shopping locally for seasonal produce. For most people the labour intensive style of food retailing is beyond their time limitations and a short sharp trip to the supermarket is the most efficient way.

Since becoming a domestic-executive I've been more able to adopt the Nigel Slater rules. We have a supermarket less than 3 minutes walk and the bus stop is located outside. The daily routine on an evening is to hop off the bus and in to ponder what to make for dinner that evening. There is also a butcher on the high street which also makes for a good source of ingredients.

Today, we ventured further to the new Farmer's Market set up by the foodie group in Wellington. Every Friday and Saturday in a barn construct on an industrial estate between Porirua and Tawa (about 10 km drive from Khandallah). Because its still early spring the vegetables on offer were limited but we did get some bargain potatoes and some massive leeks which will go splendidly for soup. There were two artisan bread producers and bakers with tables groaning with cakes. The barn was humming with Wellingtonians buying their wares and also the coffee shop doing a roaring trade.

Next door in the Moore Wilsons cash and carry were the usual array of foodie goods. There is a fish market in there complete with tanks of fresh lobster. One day I'll have the courage to buy one instead of just gawping at them through the glass.

There is no doubt that shopping at this way is more fun than the supermarket run but it will probably only be an occasional pleasure until I become once again a full-time domestic executive and can relish the pleasures of shopping locally on a more regular basis.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Spring is here, it's official!

1 September is the first official day of spring and to celebrate this significant milestone in the calendar, the sun has put his hat on and started to shine.

The last few days have been glorious with plenty of sun, leaving me a little red face still wearing my winter coat. By the end of this week I switched to my spring coat which felt so much better.

Despite scouring Wellington for floral signs of spring, I've had to resort to cultivated daffodils from the shops to celebrate.