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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Photoblogging: the possum problem

WARNING - don't look at the last picture if you're squeamish
(You have been warned!)

There are some gruesome realities of wildlife in NZ that you know about but rarely come face to face with. This weekend we stumbled across a possum hunter relieving the bush of the Queen Charlotte Track of the cute but nevertheless vermin.

Introduced to in New Zealand in 1837 to establish a fur trade from Australia, the possum population now tops 70 million and chomps its way through seven million tonnes of vegetation per year. The damage to native forests can be seen all too clearly in many areas. Possums ignore old leaves and select the best new growth. In some areas they have eaten whole canopies of rata, totara, titoki, kowhai and kohekohe.

Possums compete with native birds for habitat and for food such as insects and berries. They also disturb nesting birds, eat their eggs and chicks and may impact on native land snails.
Dairy and deer farmers have the added worry of possums spreading bovine tuberculosis.
Possums are a nuisance in suburban gardens, and sometimes even indoors.
So the solution to the possum problem is to control the population and make nice warm socks, hat linings or woolly jumpers from their fur. I'm not sure how the industry works per say but we met a down to earth local possum hunter plying his trade in Marlborough Sounds.
Before you read on be prepared for something not so pretty to look at - this is not for the fainthearted. But, remember that without the possum hunters New Zealand wilderness would be overrun with this immigrant vermin and the few remaining land loving birds would be dead and gone or like the kiwi population restricted to tiny numbers in protected land. In short, this is the way of putting right the problems created by man in the first place.

So what does a cute possum look like?

So what does a 21 century possum hunter look like?
(complete with special adapted all terrain tractor)

So what does a dead possum without the fur look like?
(look away if you're sqeamish.......)

Photoblogging: It's the only way to travel

Well we're back in one piece having had a wonderful weekend in Marlborough Sounds. For once the weather behaved itself so our flights across the Cook Strait were relatively uneventful. Here's a few pictures of the journey.
Views across the Sounds at 2000 ft.

Picton Marina

The Sea Faring Option docked at Picton

The only airport in the world smaller than Coventry!

DIY luggage collection

The next batch of passengers to journey back to Wellington

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wish me luck

We're off to Marlborough Sounds for some r&r and thought I'd check out whether Sounds Air had a baggage limit as I knew it was a little plane. Here's a photo of what we'll be travelling in. Hope that the wind dies down a bit overnight as I'm not sure how robust this airborne vehicle will be! Watch out for the photoblogging next week.

Lame ducks

High excitement in the last 24 hours as the Americans got their voting underway. Was a strange experience seeing the results come through on the news around 2pm in the afternoon! As you might expect MT was glued to the coverage with his usual brand of commentry - all I was wondering what what would President Barlett have done in this circumstance. I was advised that he would probably say something pithy in Latin and head off to plan his presidential library. Can't see bush doing the same somehow.

Back in NZ politics, the big vote this week has been whether to raise the drinking age from 18 to 20 years of age. It was voted down but the Government have announced a review of sales of alcohol to young people (whatever that might achieve). Like the UK the youth drinking culture is pretty much the same although I'd say that there is more drink driving here which is much more dangerous to the wider public. The big campaign about drinking behaviour here promotes drinking as an issue for everyone and it's not the drinking but the way we are (cut to lots of pics of party debris at home or 30-45 year olds staggering around at work parties).

The NZ Governnment are sitting again this week (they seem to have loads of recesses here) and my Minister is on the hop. We're busy putting together a truth framework for him to help him get his facts and figures straight.

After today it will all be a distant memory as we head off (in a smaller plane that I know I will rather be riding in) to the magical land of Marlborough Sounds. Lots of opportunities for photoblogging coming up.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Divided house

High excitement with the big rugby match to watch - not quite the same when the first thing you hear in the morning is the result. Although I'm not such a dedicated rugby fan to get up at 4am to watch the match live, it was fun watching the re-run tonight.

Only problem was I kept getting told off for supporting our boys from the land of the long white cloud. MT was firmly in the Red Rose camp whilst was sticking to the All Blacks. Couldn't help feeling good about the end result although it was also encouraging to see that England did actually play well and there's signs of improvement on previous performance.

Rubgy U hasn't been the same for me since Jonny, Lawrence and the other World Cup squad moved onto real life and hung up their boots. Don't know these fresh faced lads now donning the England's whites. Even though may see this as not patriotic I'm taking the view that it's the AB players that I watch most weeks and even went to see them at the Super 14s.

Well done Dan, you might not quite have the comical potential as Jonny but still a marvellous kicker. Probably worth saying that our dearest Telecom NZ have a spoof advert intended to wind up the poms where lads on the beach playing rugby and one does a Wilkinson style kick only then to hop around in agony from injuring himself. Cruel but quite funny!

PS - in case you didn't know the score England 20 - New Zealand 41

Remember, remember

This being the weekend of 5 November, Wellington has been alight with fireworks displays. The main one takes place in the harbour (literally) on a barge and is by all accounts a spectacle. There have been plenty of home displays in Khandallah so hope the pets have been kept indoors.

Interesting to think that here in NZ we are still celebrating the fact that Guy Fawkes and his merry men were foiled in their attempt to blow up parliament all those years ago (and miles away). I think it's any excuse to have a party. Safety as always is a big issue with this event and it's no different here in NZ.

So what did we make of the kiwi celebrations? Well to be honest we we at home away from the noise and excitement. Bah humbug eh. It had been a busy day with our own excitement to contend with and someone it just didn't seem right to be waiting till gone 9pm to be able to let off the displays. I was almost ready for bed!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hurry its last posting

It's been a mad dash this weekend to do the Christmas shopping as last posting this week back to the UK. This was quite a challenge as Christmas commercialism is not quite at the levels as it is back in the homeland. Very little tinsel and certainly no hype.

MT is going 21st century this year with his gift list - online with Amazon. For a boy who takes no chances in missing out of the promotion of his requirements each year it will at least make it easy for his admirers and nearest and dearest to select. I've never been a great one for gift lists which I know has caused much frustration to people over the years - what does one buy for the girl that has everything?!

Anyway please remember where we are this year and post early to save disappointment (ours that is!).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 46 weeks to go

Spirits have been high this week as the weather has improved. It's not quite warm enough to ditch the pantyhose (kiwi for tights) but the sun is enough to warrant the window open and a lingering stroll to the train station to capture the air. If all continues it will be definitely time to step into the Thorndon Swimming Pool again (outdoor but heated!).

Surviving the corporate body is taking less energy each day. I'm wise to the personalities and the possie approach to management is giving me hours of amusement. It's so rare to just have a meeting with one or two people, it's important to bring at least 2 or 3 henchmen into the process.

Major successes this week include threatening the success of the largest IT development to support the biggest change in social security the country has ever seen. All because I'm not signing off a bunch of system generated letters which are an insult. Fortuantly despite the best efforts of the possie from the 9 floor to bully me into submission I stood my ground and in a Friday afternoon comedy had my position vindicated by three senior managers and a little whooping in our office to celebrate this small success. Childish I know but it's not every day you grind probably the largest NZ public sector change projects to a halt. There is payback though - I've got to work this weekend to attempt to improve 65 of the 750 rubbish letters in the system. Good thing I've got a bunch of wordsmiths to help me on Monday to get them fixed.

So with weather improving, overcoming institutional bullying and a nice bowl of fries with my Friday night wine, it's all good in Wellington.