Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Death by flipchart

Today was a milestone in my renewed career in the corporate world. Good to know that I've still got the ability to beat my colleagues to submission with my flipchart routines.

There were 50 communications staff from around the organisation together to get a collective sense of purpose and start to bond rather than spit furiously at each other over the respective merits of writing in civil servant language. It was really fun, yes I do mean it!

To be fair, my colleagues were willing victims to the group activities and through themselves into them with complete gusto. Admittedly they were pretty hyperactive from the sugar in the mega muffins served with their morning coffee but still it was an impressive performance to have nailed a new mission statement, statement of outcomes and strategic framework for communications in the space of the day.

This hard work was topped off by two interjections - one from our chief executive who did a shirt sleeves performance with a white board agenda (he likes to rub out what he's written so flipcharts are no good for him!) and my boss, Deputy Chief Executive who spoke from the podium and completely without any briefing or prompting for me has set out a few ideas that have already become know as H's principles.

I can't quite work out whether the response from my folks has been so positive because they are so highly motivated or starved of management attention that a few muffins, some white board pen sniffing and the opportunity to play out the usual games with a few rules for decorum has been a release value to their simmering creativity not normally visible.

By comparisons of some of my team building exploits in Oxford this is pretty tame stuff. Whatever the reason, they seemed to like what we did and now enthusiastically begging for another day out of the office to play again! Oh how much they might live to regret that request.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Three on the trot

OK readers you've just got to accept that the Brit's and kiwis have an obsession with the weather. This weekend just gone has been the third weekend washout on the trot.

Yesterday was a celebration of rain and wind which bucketted down all day and then combined with some wonderful thunderstorms overnight. Lying in bed in the wee hours I was starting to imagine what it must have been like in Noah's arc.

You'll be pleased to know the drainage system in Kandallah has taken away most of the surface water but I suspect that travel on the trains this morning will be a little more difficult and plenty of slips around to clear up. The good news is though that it fills up the water resevoirs and rural rain collection water systems.

As a future owner of rain collected water for domestic purposes I have to develop a new attitude to rain. But for the moment I'm just fed up for being turned into a drowned rat everytime I open the door.

Trouble in paradise

It looks like there are at it again in Fiji - the military that is. Seems once again that they are dissatisfied with the performance of the current political leadership and fancy they can do better.

These coups are a regular occurrence in this small pacific nation. Living in the UK you’d be aware of them but it would unlikely made headline news. It’s different here in NZ because Fiji is a neighbouring state, not to mention the playground for kiwis who can afford to holiday there.

PM Helen Clarke has been sticking her beak in where it’s not been wanted on the Fiji situation and told forcefully to get back in her box and mind her own business. This is probably also the regular pattern of diplomacy on such matters, who knows.

What I do know is that Fijians need another coup like a whole in the head. Just as they get back on their feet from the last one and create some economic momentum, build up their tourist industry, they Government and military seem to do all that they can to demolish this and set them back to life of relatively poverty and instability.

Will they ever learn the damage it is doing to the lives of everyday Fijians? Probably not, and I suspect that in the games of power and authority it’s the last thing on their mind. Shame really, it is a beautiful part of the world that given a chance to really thrive.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Photoblogging: up and running again

Have managed to get the backlog of photoblogs up from last Monday's labour day trips. Enjoy

Phtoblogging: me and my whanhua

My Dad's been clearing out his cupboard and the miracles of technology have unearthed some some wonderful pics of my family. This is a special girl's birthday - yes I'm the one with the fetching pink hat being the centre of attention. Clearly my sense of comedy started at a young age.

If you read my blog on Father's day early in the year, you can see my Grandad Fleming (left in shirt and braces) and Pop Wheeler (balding guy just to my right).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 47 weeks to go

As I stood having drinks in the bosses office tonight it was hard to believe that it had been a week since I had last stood there. Very sociable lot the kiwis.

It was a short week in the office and made shorter by the fact I was at the docs mid week getting some pharmaceutical relief to my crock back. A few doses of painkillers and muscle relaxant later I'm at least feeling now I can face the physio for some manipulation therapy.

Exciting week this week for both MT and I. Thursday 26th was the day that Telecom unleashed their broadband to the world. I'm still trying to work out what difference it has made to us (maybe its unleashed so much the photoblogging has been knocked out) but for MT its another successful product launch which hopefully means stress levels will lower again.

For me, it was the announcements of the biggest shake up of the social reform system in 50 years in NZ. All went reasonably according to plan although it was a little worrying to hear our spokesperson in high office looking more and more like Pinocchio as his confidence in media interviews grew and so did his assessment of the reforms. Still, combined with an arrest of a significant fraudster there was plenty to celebrate in the bosses office tonight.

I'm just pleased to have survived another week - next week it's staff planning days and I unleash my full powers on the staff. That will wake up a few of them from their slumbers!

The most exciting thing that's happened this week is that the Thorndon summer pool has opened and if it doesn't rain next week I might stretch myself with a few lengths in the heated pool after work.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Photoblogging: the wetest, coldest labour day

OK - I almost give up. There's been some technical difficulties this week to be able to post my photoblog from last Monday, labour day which was by all accounts the wetest, coldest and darkest labour day in more than ten years.

There seems to be a pattern of weather behaviour that is destined to break all records since we've arrived. Let's hope the summer is the longest and warmest!

Sorry about the photo's as soon as I am able to load the pics I'll get our labour adventures on the site.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Photblogging: South Wairarapa Coastal sights

Coast line at Cape Palliser - black sand on the beach

Colourful tug tractors are used to take boats up and down the beach

Local residents taking 5!

Landmark building

Photoblogging: labour day in the South Wairarapa

Just look at the rain rolling in over the hills from Wellington towards Lake Ferry. This is a salt lake that heads out to the sea. A hamlet of houses and baches line the side - not a place to linger on a cold day!
Walk along river bed at Putangirua Scenic reserve to reach the Pinnacle Rocks

Putangirua Pinnacle Rocks - carved by the weather over thousands of years.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

AB's heading north

It was another bitterly disappointing outcomes for the local rugby team. The Wellington Lions were in the final of the New Zealand cup this Saturday playing in Hamilton against Waikato. Despite the number of current or former ABs (All Blacks) on the team, they were still defeated 37-31. Never mind, they can't win them all. The fact it would be nice that they won a final once is beside the point.

With the domestic season over the ABs are heading north next weekend to try their luck in the Northern Hemisphere. It will be divided loyalties when they arrive in England - I think given our location we'll have to cheer for our new home team. I trust that our friend and family will take close interest on our behalf but we'd appreciate you keeping the score quiet till we've had chance to wake up and watch the recorded match!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 48 weeks to go

At times I've felt like a lollypop lady with a cardboard stop sign trying to stop Juggernaut lorries on the M25. Yes, it's been a bit manic with people coming from all directions making demands and having expectations. It is probably fair to assume that the new girl honeymoon period is over!

Still I survived the week with all its adventures, including an audience with our minister. You'll be relieved to know that I had done my revision for the test and can name the regulatory changes being made and the treasury estimates for savings. Pity I didn't get asked about any of that but there was plenty of focus on the sorts of biscuits that will be served at a forthcoming event. MT would have seen that as a key priority too.

Back in the real world we've had storms and sun this week so Spring is living up to expectations. Monday is labour day which means that its a long weekend. Yeah! There is a mass exodus from Wellington as people head off to dust of their beach houses. We are planning to go to the beach with our pack of sandwiches and flask of tea. South Wairarapa has some stunning coastline which is pretty much vacant of civilisation due to its isolated location. Watch out for the photoblogging.

Another milestone has passed this week, I graduated from my coaching course. This means I'm now free to market myself as a qualified professional coach. Still got to do some more test to get some fancy letters after my name but will work towards doing that by Winter next year (that's May/June for us). It's been a real learning journey which in the main I've enjoyed. The best bit now is working with real clients who work so hard to change their lives and I get to celebrate those achievements with them. Tough work but someone's got to do it, so why not me!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A slice of country scandal

The change in clocks has ruined my routine with UK catch ups. First stop in the morning, after I've put the kettle on, is to check whose been writing to us, what news is on the Beeb and catch up with the latest Archers episode.

I am resigned to the trickle of email from friends and family and the daily purge of spam mail and most of the significant news is covered on Morning Report with Radio New Zealand. What is proving more frustrating is the fact that I have to wait till the evening to read what's happening with the Archers.

This is a real bombshell as the story line hots up with possible country affairs - of the marital kind that is. Yes, this slice of idyllic country is a hotbed of passion with David and Ruth Archer seemingly drifting apart to fall into the arms of the cowman and a fashionada. This follows the romantic episode where David tried to convince Ruth that he's not having an affair only to ruin the atmosphere by mentioning that Ruth's arch rival (and David's former fiancé) recommended the chick flick to watch.

We are divided in this house hold as to whether Ruth or David at fault. Whatever the outcome, it's another adventure into the extra marital activities of Ambridge residents. Fingers crossed the BBC don't try to emulate the skin crawling episode of Sid and Jolene in the shower. Hey, this is a simple tale of country folk!

So I'm resigned to the wait to see what happens next. Tune in if you can or read up on the Archers Addict website. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/archers/

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A day that rocked the core of New Zealand

The latest kiwi film to premier is Out of the Blue which tells the story of loner David Gray's massacre of 13 people at the tiny coastal township of Aramoana, near Dunedin, on November 13, 1990.

This tragedy shocked New Zealand in a profound way. It cut to the core of the idyllic self-image of the country – ‘gods own country’, ‘a great place to bring up kids’. Before Aramoana, random violence seemed to happen elsewhere but after 13 November, the violence of the world came to New Zealand making the Aramoana tragedy is one of the more significant events in NZ's recent history.

You might think a film of such tragedy would be macabre but the events of that day are handled sensitively without too much blood and gore. The thing that strikes you most is the cinematography that captures the stunning beauty of the NZ coastline and gives an atmospheric insight into how New Zealanders lived at that time. Aramoana is a small place close to Dunedin with two beaches that are breathtakingly beautiful, located on the South Island's southern coast it is literally on the edge of the world.

Although there are parallels made to the shootings in Hungerford in the UK, the key difference is that the siege of this small hamlet was over a 22 hour period with people locked in their houses with the gunman wandering around indiscriminately shooting people who came into his path. I was left wondering though why make a film of such a devastating tragedy - the film makers say it was to tell the story of those that lost their lives in a meaningless way and to honour those who showed enormous bravery.

For me the hero of the movie was Helen Dickson, a lady in her 70's recovering from a hip replacement who crawled along a ditch several times to call for help and then sat huddled in her kitchen until the nightmare was over. She was awarded the George Medal by Queen Elizabeth II for her efforts during the tragedy.

The movie opened to critical acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival recently and worth taking a peak if it ever comes your way.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 49 weeks to go

Apologies for regular readers who I have let down this week by being so slow in updating my blog. The reason for this tardiness is that its been full on at work and I'm nearing the end of my coaching course so blogging has unfortuantly slipped down the priority list.

Being the new person is so exhausting - like my mate Martin's running alter ego I hit the wall about Wednesday with an aching brain trying to take in all the information and playing Government games. But you'll be pleased to know that I'm old enough in the tooth to now know when to disengage from it all and take a break.

Today I've been a domestic-executive after taking a well earned rest. Working a short week is certainly the way to go. I've been able to catch up with all those nagging jobs.

We also had some news which has meant a breakthrough with the new house. I was able to break the silence with the vendor on what's happening with the land. It turns out that there were some issues with land drainage that the council were not happy about and there was a potential that he would have to redesign the plots which would have impacted on us. However, today he got the go ahead from the Council that his solution was satisfactory which means that we can proceed with full steam ahead now.

This is exciting news after weeks of silence. The steps from her are for the plans to be registered with Land New Zealand which is the first step towards getting land title. He is also pressing ahead with finishing the road, getting the power installed and fencing put in. The proof will be in the pudding but I feel that I was talking to a very relieved man. Not half as relieved as I was feeling though.

Put that together with confirmation that our plans have gone for pricing with the builder and the final designs are being put together for a building consent application it's been a positive step forward in realising our dreams.

On the basis of this progress I'm scrapping all plans for domestic prowess in the kitchen tonight and joining the kiwi crowd for a fish n chup (sic) supper.

Photoblogging: Tiki

MT is standing under a Maori carving at Otari-Wilton Bush. This shows traditional Maori carving. The tiki represents the first created man of Maori mythology and represents ancestors or gods in sculptural art.

The name tiki (penis) is also applied to stone statues elsewhere in Polynesia. It is the name of a male demigod which appears often in Polynesian mythology and is unquestionably ancient. The symbology of Maori tiki has been much debated. They are thought of by some as fertility symbols, but strangely given their name, the detail of many of them shows female reproductive organs. One theory interprets detail on tiki as representing common birth deformities (club foot etc.) and suggests they are a talisman to protect against such things.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Photoblogging: a walk in the bush

After a disappointing visit to Kaitoke to see no progress on the land, we cheered ourselves up with a local bush walk, the kiwi equivalent of a walk in the woods.

Otari-Wilton’s Bush is the only botanic garden in New Zealand solely dedicated to native plants, as well as being the country's foremost native plant collection. In this unique plant sanctuary there are 5 hectares of plant collections and 90 hectares of mature and regenerating native bush. The mature podocarp-northern rata forest is the only remnant of this once common forest type in the Wellington peninsula.

Being 5 minutes drive from Khandallah with lots of picnic spots I can see it being a regular haunt when the weather is conducive!

Spring growth in the fern trees

Waterfall - home to dragon fly and glow worms

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Photoblogging: flowers in the garden

Official spring date has passed, daylight saving has started, the spring equinox has brought the winds to Wellington. Peeping through the garden though is a very early spring flower.

Snow drops - quite appropriate given NZ was the coldest place apart from Antarctica this week!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 50 weeks to go

Well there goes another week. This week seemed to pass even faster than last; I'm wondering whether it’s the gale force winds.

I've been getting close up to the machinery of NZ Government this week weaving my way between ministerial office politics and heightened anxieties from within the organisation. Talk about making a drama out of a non crisis. Still, after all that bobbing and weaving I think that we have a solution to the issues that arose at the beginning of this week but suspect that the whole excitement will be ratcheted up a notch at the start of next week. All I can say it’s a good job I am getting more patient as I mature in years.

Getting to know your colleagues is an exhausting process but nevertheless good practice for my listening skills. I've got a talented bunch of staff that in the main are happy bunnies but there are also some characters that will require some careful coaching to point them in the same direction everyone else. No tears this week, which is a relief, although the true extent of my teary friend’s misery from last week is starting to become apparent - seems that not many people think that that person is any good at their job. Only another 15 1:1s to have and then I'll have completed my listening exercise. Then it's down to business.

I know that at least one reader will be interested to know what happen to the twerp on his perch. He's still eating cuttle fish like a good budgie should. So on the grounds of good behaviour I'm reserving my energy to attack another personality. You know the sort - chairs a meeting and makes it a monologue: on and on he goes until someone reminds him there are 20 other people on this steering committee who are waiting to say their piece.

The Board are going to have an exciting meeting next week - two communications items appearing to give strategic direction to. Approval of the internal branding for the green initiative (yes they are only now thinking recycling paper might be a good idea) and, wait for it, to approve the copy for the first issue of a newsletter. I literally choked on my tea when reading the papers - how the heck did this get on the agenda. I'm pleased to say it wasn't my team that put it up for consideration. Good to know that the important matters of the day are getting the attention of NZ's state sector's finest minds.

In days gone by I might have turned purple with frustration – not now. Future domestic executives need to keep their eye on their end goals. So this weekend it’s cake making for afternoon tea on Monday. Well, got to make my mark somewhere. I’ve decided to move the usual morning tea festivities, which are too close to breakfast for my liking, to a time of day when you need a sugar boost to keep you going and bring in a more English tradition.

Two weeks down and only 50 to go (minus 5 weeks holiday and 9 days public holidays). Oh bliss!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blow me

It's been a while since I've had a moan about the weather but this time the kiwis are at it too. A massive southerly has blown in and causing gale force winds and snow in the high country. Flights and ferries are being cancelled at Wellington airport which is never a good sign. Rain has brought massive flooding and slips to Auckland and move houses are disappearing down the hills. 6 metre swells in the Cook strait have been making sea crossings a little hair raising.

My umbrella went to Wellington's umbrella graveyard as I was blown uphill yesterday walking to the office. Fortunately I felt safe and sound inside but things at MTs end of town were more severe. Workmen on the building were told to leave work on the roof for their own safety which they did. Sadly someone forgot to tie down all the materials and sheets of corrugated iron were raining down on Willis Street, one of the main pedestrian streets in town.

The change in weather may bring further delays to progress up in Kaitoke, fingers crossed though that things are not blown too far off course. I'm wearing my hob nail boots today in an effort to keep my feet on the ground - not very stylish I know but at least I might have a chance of not getting blown over.

Monday, October 02, 2006


As if the internet and satelite TV doesn't offer enough entertainment variety, listening to podcasts is the latest craze to befall our house. Boosted by the fact MT got his own iPod for his birthday we've not got it set up on the laptop as well and it's almost like listening to the Beeb live.

Shame the Archers hasn't yet made it to podcasting but listen again suffices. Having said that if David Archer doesn't snap out of his drooling over Sophia the potential homewrecker I'm going to stop listening altogether. Good to know Ed is back on track to being a model citizen too. Sorry, got carried away like an Archers Addict there for a moment.

Podcasting, yes it's a wonderful thing. You can keep right up to date with all your favourite tunes and programmes with it updating the latest version automatically. Not too many podcasts from NZ radio yet but I'm sure that they'll catch up soon. The only downside with postcasting is that it's not easy to share the iPod and although my beloved is always opening to sharing the earphones there is something a little undignified about that on public transport!

Put together with online video, we're keeping up with all the happenings at the party conferences and even enjoyed Tony's last address to the loyal party. Perhaps our earstwhile PM here in NZ could learn a few things from Blair who does at least rise above the maelstrom of gutter politics.