Tuesday, January 30, 2007

City of sales

This weekend I've been putting in more hard yards but this time on the high street in the city of sales. Ophs, I mean the City of Sails. Yes, I decided to set aside my prejudice of Auckland and try some rest and relaxation in the company of Naomi. A girlie weekend unencumbered by him indoors (who incidently spent the weekend watching televised sport or reading his new Wisden).
First the views.
Auckland city tower from the Domain
View across Auckland Harbour to the bridge
I have to admit that this trip did redeem Auckland generally and NZ from a retail perspective as I pounded the streets of Ponsenby, Parnell and Newmarket with a fleeting look at Queen's Street which provide more shops for girls than you can really do justice too in a two day break.
Puntuate the shopping with some fine dining and a concert (Madeline Peroux) it added up to a splendid city break.
As always with shopping trips you rarely buy what you set out for but in Naomi's case I have to say she did enough shopping for both of us and more. She was on a roll from the moment we set of and didn't stop until her bag would no longer fit anything else in. Me, well in my usual restrained way I bought the first pair of shoes in the first shop I went in and then it was all down hill with nothing else really coming up to scratch. Not even the prospect of a new handbag amongst the myriad of choices.
Flying back to Wellington it still very much like home but I did get a better perspective on NZ's largest city. Trick now is to venture north on a regular basis to stock up on those items that you can't get in Wellington in either the volumes or with the convenience.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Countdown to being a domestic executive - 35 weeks to go

At last I've got into a really interesting project that has consumed my time at work this week. It beats the usual round of pointless meetings and corporate strife to work as part of project team on a worthy cause. Attention this week has been on a campaign to address NZ's darkest secret - family violence.

It's brought me back on contact with the suits, creatives and assorted hangers on within advertising agencies and most importantly exposed me to the full range of options for morning and afternoon tea that kiwi hospitality can offer. In short it's been fun!

OK so it might be in a wierd and twisted sort of way but professionally speaking you can't beat it within NZ to part of the latest "social marketing campaign". The closest thing to this that has happened in the UK is the NSPCC Full Stop campaign.

As always with things kiwi we've been battling with the middle ground and trying to come up with a solution that will be agreed by over 25 assorted organisations working to prevent family violence. Can't have any tall poppies in kiwi land showing their colours and towering over others . So, I suspect we'll end up with a compromise campaign than will have limited impact on the bottom line of stats which are grim reading (9 domestic deaths over the holiday period, 3 more than happened last year).

Whilst I've been closested with the great and good of the communications world this week, MT has kept his usual view that any muppet can do marketing and after a cursery look at the prized proposals he has voted for the best campaign. Good to have him supporting my work so closely.

Whilst this professional euphoria has been nice whilst it's lasted I am back to base next week and the usual round of high jinks. Still, it's only 35 weeks to go till I can work on fun things every day - and wouldn't that be better and sitting around being miss piggie in the muppets.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wellington Anniversary Day

We've been enjoying a long weekend to mark Wellington Anniversary Day that commemorates the arrival of the first British immigrant ship in the area and marking the start of settlement. There are anniversary days all round New Zealand, for example, it's Auckland's next week.
It reminds me a bit of the local fiestas that they have in Spain when you least expect it and find that you're plans to do business in some towns on a certain day are twarted by random closing of businesses and shops.
For us we celebrated by a trip to see the joiner about our aspirations for our kitchen in the new house that entailed another trip over the hill to the Wairarapa. It was a good job we did as it was sunny on that side of the Rimutaka's - 7 degrees warmer and blue skies to match. If you don't believe me, here are the photos to prove it from our land in Kaitoke. One looks left and the other towards the right of the plot of land.

The view towards Wellington (20 degrees)

The view towards the Wairarapa over the Rimutakas (27 degrees)

Know where I'd rather be!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Countdown to being a domestic executive: 36 weeks to go

As another week passes I can't help reflect on where the week has gone. Maybe it's age but time just seems to flash past at a rate of knots.

At least I've had the amusement of watching those people who have just returned to work coping with the brain fog that decends causing your memory to fail and your energy drain away. Mine lasted at least three days when I first returned but now I'm needing to turn up the dial as all those things that were kicked into the long grass before the break have crawled back out for attention.

To keep spirits high mid week - and celebrate the arrival of a new manager - we had morning tea, so cake baking was required (thanks Sarah for the Mary Berry Lemon Cake Recipe which was a real hit). I could really get into this baking lark - a few whizzes in the food processor and hey presto instant gratification for those with a sugar deprivation.

Talking of sugar deprivations, we're on a new eating and drinking regime which means no alcohol Monday to Thursday and more vegetables than you can shake a stick at. I'm also trying the 1 litre of water a day (I know it should be 2 but there is only so much time you can spend going to the bathroom!). Results are good so far but need to keep up the good work and avoid morning teas for a while.

It's a long weekend this weekend which is a wonderful reprieve - Monday is Wellington Day (mor on that in Monday's blog) so hopefully we'll be able to enjoy the Wellington summer for another day. Now that would be a rare treat!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snoozy NZ

Increasing numbers of people are returning to work but someone there are parts of NZ that are still on snooze mode.

For example, last week our train line to Wellington from Khandallah was still running on a special summer timetable leaving me bemused when the train didn't turn up when I thought. Newspapers are still as thin as ever (although the price hasn't changed) and there is no morning report (NZ's answer to the Today programme) and we're stuck with smooching summer tunes from the beach boys to listen to in the morning and ever increasingly exciting episodes (not) of Harry Wakatipu to listen to. [For those just not in the know, Harry Wakatipu is a greedy old packhorse that accompanies a 12-year old Urewera hunter with a moustache on his travels across the backcountry]

Rumour has it that NZ will remain in slumber land until at least Waitangi Day (6th February) and then everything will grind back into action and much will return to normal.

From a personal perspective it feels like things are already starting to ramp up - my once quiet moments in the office and escapes to catch a few rays of sun are drying up rapidly. Also, pressures to get things moving on the house are plenty and keeping on top of the paperwork, lawyers and builders is almost a full time job in itself.

Hard to believe where time goes and we're already through January - luckily for many New Zealanders they are still at the bach (beach house), camping or tramping without a care in the world. I've made this mistake this year but think I'll turn native next and take off January to follow the crowds to be part of snoozy NZ.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Countdown to being a domestic executive - 37 weeks to go

Over the years I've learned that restarting work after a holiday on a Monday is definitely a bad idea. The thought of a full working week stretching a head when you can barely remember the name of the person who shares your desk pod is not a good space to be in.

This week MT and I returned to work on a Wednesday and of course the three days passed in a flash. Sadly it was only about 2pm on Friday when my mind actually ground into action and I was able to do something constructive. I can't imagine what it's going to be like for people who've been off work for much longer.

Hard to believe that we're almost half way through January and my countdown continues at a rate of knots. Worth flagging now that we've been in "dialogue" with the builders and architects for our house project and it may be that this kiddie needs to extend her deadline for work a few weeks if we're to get carpets, curtains and appliances in the new house!

Boy, you can read all the books and watch Grand Designs as many times as you like but it still doesn't really prepare you for the detail that you need to keep a handle on and most importantly the design aspirations of your architect. Beautiful all the fiddly bits might be but they can rack up the costs at an astounding rate that we are just not prepared to afford.

So this weekend its about reviewing the specification again and shopping for tiles, bathrooms and appliances so we can nail down the detail and fine tune the costings more. Although this is scary when you look at the $s in the spreadsheet there is a sense that we are actually getting closer to the achievement of our kiwi dream.

In the meantime, the real world starts again on Monday and I really must try harder to be productive this coming week and practise the names of my staff!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Something to smile about

This evening is an auspicious occasion that needs loud celebration. The sun is out, it's 24 degrees in Khandallah and MT and I have come home to sit on our decking for the first time ever. Yes, summer may have arrived.

It's been lousy for the last couple of days which has only made the return to work much more miserable. Then, quite by surprise there was a rush to my side of the office with the crowds wanting to rubberneck at the rays of sunshine outside the window. This precipitated a stampede of people to take long morning tea breaks on the park lawns in front of our building. These then stretched into long lunches and to cap it all, I stretched to a long afternoon tea.

You may think that this is strange behaviour but when you consider that for most wellingtonians this is the first sign of summer since summer began it's understandable that people want to grab the rays whilst they can. The office started to decant at about 4pm with furtive calls on mobiles making arrangements for evening BBQs and beach parties.

It's amazing how different the world looks when the sun is shining. Who knows what will happen tomorrow so best make the most of it whilst we can!

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's like a ticking bomb

It's that time in a holiday when you start to think that you should really set the alarm in the morning to start to retrain the body into the way of the world of work. Only kidding!

I'm still making the most of the time at home away from the realities of work but today has been very much about taking stock of where we are with house stuff. As they say...things are all heading in the right direction.

The current status is that the inspection by the council of the land as part of our resource consent has concluded that the application should be approved when we have title. This is indeed good news as it could have been a real stumbling block to be moving earth around and wanting to build a slightly larger than normally permitted cottage on the plot.

There is a pile of drawings ready for submission now for building consent. Only thing awaiting is the engineers report on how many piles we need to drive into the earth to hold up bits of the house. Subject to final drawings and calculations we expect all the paperwork to be with the council imminently and these should be approved when we have title.

Now what is this title you might ask? It's the bit of paper we need from the land registry to say that the land is now a separate plot and recognises our ownership. According to the lawyer there is one more signature required by the electricity people to confirm the power to the land and then it can be submitted for the title to be issued.

Although things are heading in the right direction it feels like a ticking bomb as we wait for the housing industry and the administration of New Zealand government departments to do their stuff. I know that the next month will be as frustrating as we wait for all the bits of paper to fall in to place but fingers crossed and a fair northerly wind 2007 might actually be the year that we get our 6 acres and a house with a walton's porch and two turrets!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Making the most of the holiday time

Being back home from the Wairarapa has been quite a shock. The sun just doesn't shine as hard on this side of the Rimutakas so back in windy Wellington it would have been easy to hunker down and not make the most of our remaining holiday. Fear not, we're still making the most of our "summer" break and set off today to see some sights in Wellington.

The Botanical gardens with some of the finest examples of municipal planting in the capital amongst the 25 hectares of unique landscape, protected native forest, conifers, specialised plant collections, colourful floral displays, and views over Wellington city (complete with the cable car to save your legs up the hill!). It is classified as a Garden of National Significance by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture and is an Historic Places Trust Heritage Area.

Also, we ventured to the birth place of Katherine Mansfield, a tragic heroine of New Zealand literature which was just a few yards from our first apartment block on Tinakori Road. http://www.katherinemansfield.com/

The sun did shine when we ventured out so being tourists in our own home town didn't feel so bad!

Photoblogging: Wellington views from the botanical gardens

The Rose Gardens
The Slackers route up the hill!
The kiwi Christmas Tree

Views across the city from the gardens

Friday, January 05, 2007

Off to the land of my dreams

Part of my dreaming over recent years has been a hankering to grow vines and olives - very cliche I know but there you have it. Before coming to New Zealand I was very excited about the prospect for doing this as one of the finest wine growing regions (the Wairarapa) is about 80km (50miles) from Wellington and I thought this might well be a doable commute for MT and started searching for my ideal plot to start my new farming venture.

Little did I know that there is a massive mountain range to cross between Wellington and the Wairarapa making it an impossible daily road commute. Although there are trains they take an hour plus travel time to the station so my dreams were starting to be blown away into something more realistic and closer to Wellington.

Still, I've been living that dream for a couple of days staying in Martinborough. We took to the road on two wheels and went wine tasting, had excellent porch picnic at our "retreat" venue, lunch at a vineyard and dinner at a foodie hotel in town. All in all it was a smashing break to see what I was missing but most of all the sun was shining and we enjoyed a little New Zealand summer.

Today's photo blog gives you a flavour of what we saw, alternatively you can look up what the Wairarapa has on offer for future potential visitors www.wairarapanz.com (we stayed at the Aylstone).

Photoblogging: Martinborough views

View from our room porch door
Views across the vineyards to the mountains beyond
Olives basking in the clouds!

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year views

It's fair to say that New Zealand, and in particular, Wellington has not been enjoying good summer weather. The new year started with southerly winds which turned into gales but hey it's good to know that it's living up to it's namesake of Windy Wellington.

Naomi suggested a stroll up the park in Khandallah - after an hour of leg numbing climbing uphill I did get to see Wellington in all it's glory (well minus the rain) and started of the year remembering that it isn't such a bad place to live after all! If you use your imagination could can see what I mean if the sun was shining.