Monday, 28 March 2016

Cool Fun In Hot Water

In the limited time we have spent in New Zealand I have always thought of the country as being a fairly conservative place; where the status quo is rarely troubled, and where traditional values are still seen as important.  But stick some hairy guy in front of a microphone and all that changes, for it seems that practically `anything goes` on the radio over here. I tuned in the other day and there was a phone-in on pubic hair and the use of mirkins! I heard of another station that had sent an undercover DJ to spend a night with a local hooker and then asked him to describe his experiences live on air. This wouldn’t be so bad if they were broadcast after the water shed, but this is on Breakfast Radio at 8.30am, for all to hear! And yesterday afternoon as we were driving down from Rotorua, some adverts came on the radio with a gentlemen pleading for `my poo`. I kid you not. I guess he must run some sort of sewage disposal business emptying septic tanks on the Kapiti coast. His tag line was `We are number one for your number twos!` We had to laugh.
it’s been over three weeks since I last blogged but it certainly doesn’t seem like it. The weeks seem to flash by and here we are with Easter come and gone, four weeks into the kiwi autumn, though you’d never know it. For here, in Wellington, and throughout much of the country, it’s still very much T-shirt weather, though the sun is reluctant to put its hat on much before mid-day. But as we get most of the sun in our garden in the afternoon that’s fine by us. I suspect these 20+ temperatures can’t last any longer.
We’ve been here now over two months, but I still find myself continually comparing prices and services with those in the UK. I know it’s crazy. The UK has a population of around 64 million, while little old New Zealand has less than five million. Things are bound to be more expensive here and the choice a bit limited. But there is one area of the High Street where NZ wins hands down and that is the DIY superstore. There are two major players: the Aussie company Bunnings and the Kiwi equivalent Mitre 10 – and are they on the ball.
Our local Mitre 10
Walk into a B&Q back home and you can easily spend 10 minutes playing `hunt the assistant`, and when you find one, and ask for a particular product you are usually met by a glazed expression. Here, there always seems to be someone with a smile on their face and a spring in their step ready to advise or take you to that elusive zip bit you need. Their assortment is extensive and varied and you don’t have to wait at the checkouts for 10 minutes because the person in front has a pot of paint with a barcode missing. Having now just finished the tree house I am on first-name terms with `Dan` and `Jimmy` at our local Mitre 10 at Crofton Downs.
The tree house was a big hit at  Livi’s fourth birthday party a couple of weeks ago. A bigger hit though was the fairy and her helper who played games and enchanted the children for two hours. The day was bright and sunny (that was a first for her birthday) and the garden was the perfect setting for the event. And Livi didn’t burst into tears, though the fact that I was banned from singing `Happy Birthday` on my uke might have had something to do with it.

The fairy and her helper were a big hit Livi's birthday party
Our little White Honda Fit (Jazz) is going well. We took it for a long road trip over Easter and it never missed a beat. It’s a bit of a pain for James to keep moving the child seats out of their car into ours, but it is really handy to have a second car and all the family (who have driving licences) are using it.

Even Ben wants to drive our new little car
Last week we entertained Pat’s niece, Julie from Australia. She was on her way to a conference in Auckland, with three of her pals, and they decided to see a bit of the north island on the way.
It was great to see her again after several years, and her friends, David, Glenda and Danii, were delightful and great company. David and Glenda are boaters as well, but his craft on the Murray in Mildura, might be as long as `The Cat’s Whiskers`, but it’s about five times as wide, complete with all mod-cons. He has invited us over next Easter for a few days for a bit of a cruise, and it is possible Pat’s sister Monica and her hubby Gary, might join us as well from Vancouver Island, Canada. Should be an International hoot. The Aussies are also keen to visit the UK in 2018 to try narrowboating, so we will have some serious planning to do.
Danii, Pat, Julie, David and Glenda, when they came round for dinner last Wednesday
We spent much of Easter in Rotorua. It’s very much the centre of geo-thermal activity in New Zealand, about 400 miles north of Wellington, and as you travel into the city, you encounter big plumes of steam coming up through the ground on either side of you. We did Rotorua back in 2003, and hit all the tourist spots then. It’s a bit smelly (the sulphur smells like rotten eggs), though not nearly as bad as I remembered it being last time.
Julie and her pals were also in Rotorua on Saturday, en route, for Hobbiton, from `The Lord Of The Rings`, which is down the road, and we met up at their luxury B&B accommodation for a barbecue and several drinks on Saturday night. The main reason we went though, was that my niece, Lucy, her husband Mark, and their two children Imogen and Ben, were spending the weekend there, driving down from Auckland. We hadn’t seen them this trip, and we had a great time catching up and playing with the children. On Easter Sunday morning we went to one of the most popular thermal parks to see one of the geysers erupt. They tease it into action by pouring down a substance that looked suspiciously like soap powder to us, and it responds accordingly shooting water high up into the sky for several minute. Mark is MD of Unilever in New Zealand. I told him he should consider sponsoring the event with `Persil` as the detergent of choice at the Park. Non-bio, of course!
My niece Lucy, Mark, Ben and Immy with the erupting geyser in the background
After lunch we caught the cable car up high above Rotorua, where you get spectacular views of the town and lake, and then took the gravity luge down, though we had to queue for nearly one and a half hours for our turn. I think every tourist in town turned up at the same time. Good fun though. The kids seemed to like it, though Pat has never been that keen on cable car or chair lifts.
The Skyline Luge with Rotorua in the background
This week its back to normal, looking after the kids and after many weeks, Livi has started to want to come out with us, so we hit the zoo last week and are planning some other days out, if the weather holds up. Inbetween we getting the 101 documents together we need for our residency application. We got the medicals sorted out today, so that is a big step forward.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Flying the flag

Good Morning. It’s just before 8am and I’ve just been chased around the house by an alligator; prior to that I completed a complicated underwater jigsaw, with a running commentary on what could kill you and what was friendly; put a play tent up... put it down... and put it up again; made a camp from 12 pillows and a blanket and designed and build a railway track to accommodate `Thomas`, `Gordon` and his pals. No wonder I have been taken afternoon naps.

I say I, but I really mean we. I may be Entertainment Secretary in this arrangement, but Pat is Laundry Operative and chief Chalet Maid. I mainly do the cooking for the family’s evening meal. Pat does nappies, wash-and-brush ups and mediates during temper tantrums.

So what else is new? Well March sees New Zealand voting for a new flag. Now if Scotland had voted for independence and David Cameron decided tomorrow that the UK flag no longer reflected the current make up of the United Kingdom and wanted  to change the Union flag to something more in tune with the 21st century, I suspect much of the nation would be up in arms.

Well, for the last three years New Zealand has been wringing its hands over whether they should ditch their current flag and go for something more.. more... Kiwi.

This is what has been appearing in the daily papers. I really like the new proposed design with the silver fern.

It is argued, and I think it’s right, that the New Zealand flag can easily be mistaken for the Aussie one, and I leant very quickly on my first visit here, that Kiwis don’t like to be mistaken for Australians. (Apologies to our Aussie family and friends.)

They have already whittled down the designs in previous votes and its now down to two, the original flag with the union jack in the corner and the four red stars, or the new blue/black flag with the silver fern. What is quite interesting is how little interest this seems to have generated. I have asked numerous New Zealanders what their opinion on the new proposed flag is, and most shrug their shoulders and show a general degree of indifference.  Some say their fathers and grandfathers fought, and died, for the NZ flag, so it should not be interfered with so it will be interesting to see the result at the end of the month. I think the new design is rather good. The age of colonialism is long gone. I’d vote for it. The NZ Prime Minister is also hoping it will be the more popular of the two. He is staking his reputation on a yes vote for the new flag, so watch this space.

`Pops` starts painting the tree house
Politics aside, things rumble along here. I have almost finished the garden treehouse. The steps are in and I have replaced several rotting floorboards and constructed new railings. It looks quite smart in its new coat of `Mission Brown`, and it will need another coat before autumn kicks in.  Not sure what will happen to the inside. That will be up to the grandkids, but it’s now safe for them to use. It’s also got a trapdoor under it, that I only discovered last week and a hidden ladder up to it. Pretty cool eh!

Almost done now. Just the back to paint.
We had a carpenter round last week to look at partitioning our large room into two. Looks like it will be a `pocket` wall, but we await the quote.

We finally `bit the bullet` on Saturday and bought ourselves a car. It will be the first one we have owned for nearly five years. A colleague at Erica’s school was selling a large Hyundai. I liked it, but it had high mileage and Pat wasn’t that keen. Then we saw a Ford Fiesta advertised privately. It was priced for a quick sale as the owner was off to Australia. We agreed a price and shook hands. The following morning I got a text to say that overnight a bus had hit it! Were we still interested? I think you know what my answer was.

So after visiting dozens of dealers’ web sites in and around the city, we travelled around the coast to the Hutt Valley and have purchased a Honda Jazz Sport. It’s a few years old, but nice and clean. Erica says it’s an old man’s car. Well, that should suit us perfectly then. We pick it up on Wednesday. That is if a meteor hasn’t hit it by then!
Our new runaround while in NZ
And the spending doesn’t stop there. Or no. Pat wanted a set of wicker outdoor furniture and one now stands on our patio. Hopefully I will be able to post a picture of her imbibing a large G & T, before dinner.
Pat enjoys her new patio furniture
We have also heard that our application for NZ residency has passed its first hurdle and been approved. That is the difficult bit over with. But with us it seems nothing is straightforward. NZ Immigration sent the papers to Erica’s old address two weeks ago. The new tenant there signed for them, then realised they weren’t for her and has sent them back. NZ Immigration have no record of them being returned, only signed for. The woman must be a couple of slices short of a full loaf, I reckon. Apparently we have four months now to get all the relevant paperwork and medicals in place. We anticipated this might happen while we were here, and have everything we need with us. Having residency will give us the ability of coming and going when convenient. So, bring on the stethoscopes, I say. The Filler’s are ready.

At the balloon festival at Otaki. That our grandson Ben, getting into the picture
It is now officially autumn here, and the mornings and evenings are getting a lot cooler, but we are still getting very hot afternoons. We popped up the coast on Sunday morning to a big kite festival at Otaki, an hour up the Kapiti coast. Our pals from Napier, John and Diana, are keen kite enthusiasts and it was quite a spectacle, though the grandchildren were more interested in the carousel than the huge structures hanging in the sky.
Well that’s all for now folks, so toodaloo