Sunday, 28 December 2008

The stuff of legend

Yes, it is finally here, THE STUFF.

After seeing them boxed up and taken away on 1 October our worldly possessions were returned to us on 23 December. After horror stories of containers left on the dockside in Singapore for 8 months, Somali pirates, shipwrecks and officious NZ customs officials we were very pleased to see them arrive.

However, after the initial pleasure came a period of unease, bordering on the mild panic. Sure, having stuff is good, but it also means that you have to look after it and take it with you when you move etc. You're no longer just away for an extended holiday when you have all your stuff with you.

Now, after much sorting out, it's all starting to feel more homely. There is a sofa to sit on instead of the floor. A bed to sleep in instead of a mattress on the floor (the floor has played a big part in our life for the last couple of months). There are pots and pans for all your cooking needs, rather than restricting meals to those that can be made in 2 saucepans. There is a choice of clothes and shoes - hopefully work colleagues will no longer think that I sleep in my clothes for a week.

Of course there were some casualties in the move. A couple of bowls and glasses and a desk, to name a few. The oddest was my Nintendo DS, of which I have the charger, instruction booklet, games and pointer, but no games unit itself. Still, everything is straightening itself out, including Nero, and the good news is that if you come to visit there will now be something for you to sleep on and to sit on.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas in the sun

Merry Christmas!!
Christmas in the sun is a weird concept to get your head around as a Northern Hemisphereite. Yesterday we took a drive over to the Wairarapa which is a region to the east of Wellington. We drove down towards Cape Palliser which is the most southerly point of the North Island.
When we got back we took a walk along Oriental Parade where Anthony took the great picture of the frisbeeing Santa.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Kiwiana Part 1

Lots of New Zealand towns have a landmark to make them stan out from the crowd. I'll record these as I come across them. This is the first batch. the plane doubles as a cafe.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Tri-ing too hard?

Triathlon is almost a way of life in NZ. On my way home this evening I had to negotiate ranks of dripping runners newly emerged from the harbour. 

I recently saw an advert for a triathlon event for 5 year olds. They obviously start them young here!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

How do they do that?

They are advertising this 'Massive shoe liquidation' at a venue on my route to work. I'm really curious to see how they are going to liquidate a massive shoe - acid? I'm not sure how massive the shoe is, but it's bound to be impressive.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Oh I do like to live beside the seaside

I know that I am risking it all by saying this, but it seems as though summer has finally reached Wellington. Yes, there are still days when you have to walk at a 45 degree angle, but at least the howling gale has a touch of warmth to it.

Where we live is the prime Wellington beachfront area. At least it is now that the mayor has paid for a couple of million tons of sand to be stolen from someone else's beach and dumped in front of the sea wall here. Wellingtonians make the most of this strip of sand and there is always someone playing beach volleyball/walking their dog/jumping into the sea straight out of the sauna. This morning there was a 'surf carnival' where teams of lifeguards raced each other in boats. Really I'm beginning to think that my new life involves being an extra in Home and Away.

Exciting things come in on the sea too. On Friday I was cycling to work when I saw a pod of dolphins in the harbour. They were right in close to the shore, about 8 of them. They had just come to look around, perhaps killing time before Te Papa opened. Lots of people stopped to watch them and I have to admit it made a welcome change from tube mice.

Yesterday we went on a cycle ride round some of Wellington's bays. You don't need to go far to fell as though you are out of the city. On the Miramar peninsula we stopped at Scorching Bay to watch a diving school. It was fun to watch their trail of bubbles and they made their underwater journey around a reef. I'm not sure that I want to take up diving just yet, but a friend at work goes snorkeling regularly and I might be up for that. In the meantime, I'm happy sitting in the sun having a coffee watching Anthony getting to grips with sailing.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sandwich horror

One question that we get a lot is: "what food do you miss from the UK?". Really we haven't been here long enough to miss anything. However, if you pushed me I would say an M&S tuna and sweetcorn sandwich. Actually, any M&S sandwich would be good. You see, for those of us who don't like egg, tomato or random beetroot in our sandwiches then New Zealand is not the best place to look for bread-based lunchtime solutions.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


I had a really interesting week in Taupo at the geothermal conference. One of the highlights was a trip to the brand new (the official opening is next week) Kawerau geothermal power station. The station generates around 100MW of electricity, as well as providing power to the neighbouring pulp and paper meal and heating greenhouses growing vegetables. Here are some short video clips and some pictures.

Saturday, 8 November 2008


I'm off to a conference about geothermal power this week. A significant proportion of New Zealand's power is generated from geothermal resources. The conference is in Taupo, which is in the volcanic region of the North Island.

There are a couple of field trips to geothermal power stations which should be interesting. I'll try to post some pictures when I get back.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Observing the Kiwis

I imagine that this will be a theme that I return to, but the New Zealanders do have their own ways of doing things. On sunny days, like today, they can be found sprawled anywhere, regardless of whether they should be there or not. There is one spot on Oriental Parade where the promenade passes a row of boat houses. You regularly see people sitting on the roofs of these boathouses having a beer and soaking up the sun. In the UK this would be frowned upon, but here it is the norm. What I find less acceptable is the people who ride their bikes on these raked roofs, using them as some form of obstacle course.

A disregard for authority is de rigour here. On Guy Fawkes night there is a huge firework display in the harbour and on the way home from work I came across a group of people unloading two sofas, two armchairs, a coffee table and a couple of crates of beer from the back of a pickup. They then proceeded to set up their outdoor living room in the middle of the pavement at the harbourside.

We went to the local pool to use the steam room last night. However, we didn't join many of the locals who spend their evening going to the sauna, and then running down to the harbour to throw themselves in and then return to start the process again. 

Clearly we have some way to go before could be considered to have adopted the Kiwi lifestyle!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Kiwi coffee nomenclature and the national scone obsession

Cafe culture is big in NZ - BIG. People seem to go out for coffee with alarming frequency, and at the weekend brunch is de rigeour. Apparently this has only been the case for the last 10 years or so. Before that the Kiwis drank tea and stayed at home for the most part.

I have to say that I've yet to have a bad cup of coffee at a cafe here. They do the usual cappuccinos, espressos, lattes etc., but most people go for one of the Kiwi coffees. A 'short black' is an espresso and a 'long black' is a normal black coffee (like an americano). My favourite is a 'flat white', it's kind of a cross between a cappuccino and a latte.

Along with the coffee most Kiwis will consume some type of cake. Most cafes have a choice of savoury or sweet muffins (American style) and savoury or sweet scones. Whether you pronounce scone to rhyme with Joan or gone, you'll get your fill here. Date seems to be the favoured sweet flavour, and cheese the favourite savoury. I've yet to experience a range of scones, but my first impressions are that we make them lighter at home! Mind you, at home we don't microwave them to heat them up and melt the copious amounts of butter that we've spread on them. Am yet to find a proper cream tea, that will be a happy day!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Team planning days - the same the world over

We had our team planning day at work yesterday. I was interested to see how this would differ from ones that I've had in the UK. The short answer is: not much.

Venue: a hotel just far enough from work not to be at work, but not so far that you can't go back to the office afterwards. Check.

Catering - horrible coffee with so much caffeine that you are on edge for the whole day. Sweets on the table that you have no will to resist and end up eating all day long. Odd combination of foods at only just above average buffet lunch (in this case Hawaiian pizza and weird chilled risotto). Check.

Work planning - all day spent talking about what we're doing now, not what we need to do (which is assigned a hurried 5 minutes at the end). Check.

Personalities - old school staff who think that everyone should have an in depth knowledge of the highly dull vs. new staff who are keen to develop a range of skills. Check.

Follow up - feeling that although you've spent the whole of the next day writing up the notes they'll forever be consigned to the round file on the floor. Check.

It was in fact a useful day for me to get a good overview of what everyone does and how I'll fit in. I also went for a walk in the bush (as in forest, not giant shrub) with one of my colleagues at lunchtime and we got lost and nearly missed the afternoon session.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Long weekend

It's a bank holiday weekend here, today being Labour Day. Looks as though today is shaping up to be the best day weather-wise, already nice and sunny.

Yesterday we went to visit some friends who live on the other side of Wellington harbour. The ferry ride across was a little bumpy to say the least. It's a little boat and when it was turning against the waves there was a lot of pitching an tossing - someone upstairs was screaming! The captain and steward looked calm though so that's enough for me.

We went to the early settlers museum in Petone. This tells of the first settler community in the area. It was really interesting to see the elements of the old country that they brought with them, and what they had to put up with to establish a community. We discovered that where we live, Oriental Bay, is named after one of the first ships to bring settlers, the Oriental. There were lots of familiar names from around Wellington that came from these ships and the early settlers. Looking through the archives it was interesting to see that the Scots (Humes) generally went to the South Island, whilst the Welsh (Bowens) settled in the north.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Getting poetic

Today is my last day of holiday before starting work full time tomorrow. I've enjoyed my week and a half wandering around Wellington. Each day has brought something different, and the weather is not the same from one hour to the next.

With some time on my hands I sometimes play around with poetry. Here are a couple of poems inspired by the different weather conditions here (apologies to all poets).

Wellington Haiku #1
Wellington at sea
Mounts Victoria and Cook
Rise to circle it

Low cloud
There's something primeval here,
Lurking in the hills
The fog shrouds it, but I know it's there
Will the breeze let me catch a glimpse?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Get through it!

One thing that strikes you when you move to New Zealand is the emphasis on disaster planning. There are TV adverts where a very shouty Kiwi man exhorts you to have enough canned goods and water to survive in your house for 3 days. "When it happens, get through it!" is his none too catchy and rather alarming tagline. What 'it' is exactly is yet to be fully explained. You see, here there are new dangers from the London life. So, no one is going to push you into the path of an oncoming tube/bus/rickshaw, but there could be a volcanic eruption, earthquake, tsunami etc.

Disaster management in the home is one thing (I should at this point admit that I had canned goods and bottled water at home in the UK in case of emergency and Anthony used to laugh at me about them). At work it take on a whole different dimension. I had my induction at work yesterday and there was a whole disaster management section to it. On each floor they have enough canned goods and water to survive 3 days. That's right, 3 days trapped with your work colleagues! There are also orange emergency rucksacks under each desk that you are supposed to equip with trainers, water etc. Apparently the command will be: "take you rucksacks and run!". Very reassuring!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Wellington on the cheap

We're in a bit of a limited cash flow situation until our first pay packets arrive (thankfully in NZ you get paid every fortnight) so I've been enjoying the freebies that the city has to offer. Most days that means buying a coffee at a cafe that is well stocked with magazines. Yesterday I went to a free lunchtime concert featuring clarinet and saxophone players from the NZ School of Music.

Today I made my almost daily pilgrimage to Te Papa where I can get a free copy of the daily paper. As I was leaving I was stopped by a lady doing a survey. I've got loads of free time at the moment so I stopped to speak to her. The result of completing the survey was a voucher for a free coffee - something to look forward to tomorrow!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Where many Scots have gone before

I'm really enjoying my free time in Wellington and am beginning to have a real soft spot for the city. The waterfront is like a magnate, especially in the sunny weather that we've been having. There are lots of spots for sitting out, and at lunchtime it is busy with people having their lunch or going for a run. When we move to our apartment I'll be able to walk to work along it.

One of the jewels of the waterfront is Te Papa (Our Place) the museum of NZ. It is a really modern museum that covers all aspects of New Zealand, from the first Maori to the potential effects of climate change. I popped in today for a little while and spent some time in the section about the Scottish settlers to NZ. It really reminded me of the legacy of the Scots here and what I owe to these pioneers who paved the way for me to come here. Their legacy remains strong today, which is a good thing for me as it allows me to get my porridge for breakfast and a wee dram for the evening!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Finding our feet

We finally arrived in Wellington on Thursday evening and have been getting our bearings. It is fair to say that moods have been up and down. I think that they will continue to be for a while yet.

The weather has been fantastic since we arrived, and everyone that we meet stresses that it won't continue like this!

We've already found somewhere to live and have bought the basics for moving in. Although our stuff doesn't arrive for a few weeks yet we're hoping to make do with the minimum. The apartment has a great view over Wellington Harbour.

Anthony started work today and I met my new work team, although I don't start there until next week. I was due to start on 27th, but that is a national holiday so I'm going to go in at the end of next week - ease myself in.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

More eating and drinking

Went out for a great Korean meal last night. Probably should have foregone the whisky and cigar at the end of the evening as I had a shocking hangover this morning.

Still, we struggled out to the Intercontinental in Kowloon for their buffet lunch - well worthwhile. Nothing like having total control over what you eat when you have a hangover. 

I had a plate of fresh fruit, then put the sushi chef to work making me a variety of nigiri and maki. What I really want now is my own sushi chef, but Raff pointed out that it might be a bit J Lo!

We finished the meal with lots of different puds, including mini icecream cones.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Chillin' in HK

This is our second day in Hong Kong. We took the ferry from Sai Wan Ho over to Lei Yue Mun where there are lots of seafood restaurants. They have tanks full of live fish and seafood and you pick what you want and then go to one of the restaurants to have them cooked. Apparently during the last typhoon there was so much water that much of the stock escaped! You can read about our meal, eaten sitting out over the water, at:

Here are some shots from around about.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

On the way

So we have left the UK. I'll post more about the leaving when I have more time.

We are in Hong Kong staying with friends. It's pretty cool, we're watching the dragonboat racing from their balcony.

The flight was OK, but I didn't get any sleep. Anthony had an air rage incident with the git sitting in front of us!

Looking forward to a few days holiday before the whole new life thing kicks in.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Packing up a storm

Today is move day. I went to bed after midnight and was up at 5am. So much still to sort out, and taking care to keep the stuff to go separate from the stuff we need with us. I don't want our passports going on a 3 month boat trip!

Odd to be cleaning mud off boots at 6am. NZ has strict biosecurity regs so all traces of mud etc. must be cleaned off things.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The hardest word?

Elton says that it's 'sorry', but I'm starting to think that 'goodbye' isn't too hot either. I always knew that this would be one of the toughest periods of the move. All that I really want to do now is to be on my way, as with most things the anticipation is more to deal with than the thing itself.

Intellectually I know that for most people it isn't 'goodbye' but rather 'au revoir'. For some that may not be the case though, and that's hard.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Tuna for Alex

There are a plethora of places to pick up some lunch near where I work. Like most people, I have my favourites that I return to on a regular basis. One of the naughtier ones is the tuna and cheese toastie from Eat. It has fat, it has calories, it's a treat rather than a staple.

I'm not going to spend this post going on about how it tastes etc (good!), the thing about this sandwich option is the ordering system. At Eat they take your sandwich and put it in the toasting machine and then take your name and write it on a paper bag. Once the sandwich is ready they call out the type of sandwich and your name, as in "Chicken for Dave". This seems like a good system, but it never quite works like that for me.

Normally I am Alex. I can accept this as I know that I can be softly spoken and people don't always hear what I say. How they got to Helen I'm less sure of. It could be worse, my friend Gillian has been Joe on more than one occasion.

Maybe that's part of the driver to move to NZ - to escape my alter ego of Tuna for Alex.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Gerry, Gerry!

We're in the process of working through all of our opened bottles of alcohol prior to the move. Before the inevitable, and probably unpalatable sake and midori cocktail, there is half a bottle of tequila to see on its way. My normal tequila based tipple is a margarita, but there is a stumbling block - the triple sec is already finished. This left me in a quandary: buy more triple sec and then be left to drink it when the tequila runs out, or drink the tequila in non-margarita form. Then it came to me - there may be a third way, and one that doesn't involve Tony Blair at that!

Gerry's is a Soho institution. If you've never been you should head off there immediately. At the far end of Old Compton Street it has the most amazing range of alcohol you've ever seen, including miniatures and half bottles. In most places you are lucky if you kind find one variety of orange liqueur (aka the devil's semen as my friend Soph would call it), and it's nigh on impossible to find it in miniature form. In Gerry's the conversation went like this:

Me: Hello, I was wondering if you had a miniature of orange liqueur. You know triple sec, grand marnier, cointreau and the like?

Gerrys' man: We have all three of those and a number of others in miniature, what would you like?

Me: Goody, I can have margaritas now!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Le weekend c'est non

This weekend we had planned as our farewell to Europe. Travel out to Paris on Saturday morning, mooch around, spend the night in the ridiculously expensive Hotel Crillon, all paid for with frequent traveller points. Sadly, a fire in the Channel Tunnel seems to have put paid to our plans.

Instead we will have to go for the 'staycation' (vacation at home) option. Perhaps we should speak French to each other, eat French food, and pay someone to be rude to us.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The big sleep

I've not been well this week. You know that you're not well when you sleep all day, and then sleep all night too.

We've taken the next step on the road to letting the flat - appointing the agent. They're coming round next week to take pictures etc. Will need to try to make the place look less like the scene of a minor skirmish by then.

Had a lovely weekend visiting friends in the West Country. I'm so envious of them growing their own veg, having pets etc. Hopefully this will be more like the life that we have in NZ.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Everyone's a critic

We had potential letting agents round today in preparation for renting out the flat. It's odd having someone coming and casting a critical eye over your home.

Having spent so much time working on the flat in the last few weeks I was non-plussed to say the least when one of them asked if we could redecorate because some of the walls have colour on them! I know that people want a 'blank canvass', but it's not as though we've let Kandinsky loose with a troop of 3 year olds and the annual output of Dulux.

It's weird to think about other people living here, but realistically we would have been moving on at some point anyway.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Give it up

I'm watching the 10 o'clock news and I can't get over the Hillary Clinton supporters who are protesting and saying that they will vote for John McCain. Are these people Democrats or not? Hillary lost, and she knew the risks of not playing the nicey nicey game. Her so called supporters should get over it and get behind Obama.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Feeling the pulse

It's the turn of the larder today. Honestly, I don't know how I've managed to acquire so many types of beans and pulses. Looks like we're in for windy few weeks as we eat them up!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Farewell faithful old friends

Continuing the clearout prior to the big move, today got to the wardrobe. Known for my Imelda Marcos-like shoe fetish I was a big brave girl and sent 6 pairs to the charity shop. Handbags didn't escape either and a fair few of them followed the shoes. So it's goodbye and thank you to:
  • Strappy wedge sandals, as worn to Buck House
  • Ruby slippers!
  • Dutch slingbacks
  • Brown suede mules
  • Miffy rucksack
  • Toystory alien and Bagpuss rucksacks

Hopefully they will find new homes.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The 1st post..

So this is my 1st post.

I've set up this blog to record the ups and downs of our intended move to New Zealand. Once we're there hopefully people will use it to keep up with how we are getting on.

I chose the black background for my blog as it saves energy when the computer displays it. There is a version of Google that does this too: