Monday, August 30, 2010


We planned to catch the bus up to Brooklyn to check out a new (to us) cinema, The Penthouse, to watch the Girl Who Played With Fire. Unfortunately, due to inattentiveness on our part, we went to the wrong place to catch the bus, and missed it. With buses only running every half hour on a Sunday, and as it wasn’t raining, we decided we could walk it. Of course, it started raining as we were halfway up the hill. Oh well. We were exploring an area of Wellington we hadn’t been to before, including Central Park, which seems to my untrained eye to meet only one of the criteria for being so named. The cinema has a café attached, and we had lunch there, slightly later than planned due to our half hour walk. It also looked like we’d got there just in the nick of time, for no sooner had we sat down than a queue began to form and suddenly tables were at a premium! After the film we managed to catch the bus back into town (sorry no photos).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Compare The Meerkats

And gocompare…and moneysupermarket…and Purveyors of annoying adverts, eh? Well, we’re trying to organise some insurance here in Wellington, without the benefit of these websites. Let me tell you, it’s hard work! Never thought I’d be saying it, but I miss them – or at least, I miss the ability to put one’s requirements into one website, once only.

Wait! What am I talking about? Insurance companies that can give you insurance quotes over the internet? The few that I’ve found (and I only needed the fingers on one hand to count them) that actually do this, then insist on you phoning them. All this to get a quote. Remember when everyone did it this way?

Job Search

I went to meet a chap from another recruitment agency yesterday. Wellington doesn’t have the high-density of financial recruitment firms that London has – naturally enough, most of the banks are headquartered in Auckland, with a secondary office in the capital. We talked about the possibility of another role at Kiwibank – who seem to be on a recruiting drive, particularly in Wellington, at the moment. I haven’t found any jobs on offer at any of the other main banks which would suit my talents. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quiz Night 5

We went to the Backbencher pub for their quiz night. We’d been unable to get in last week as it was closed for a private function, but had vouchers for free drinks so thought we would take the opportunity to use them.

One thing struck as immediately: all the teams were regulars, and we were greeted as a new team. So it looks like the kind of place at which we could, should we so choose, become regulars.

The quiz followed a similar format to most of the previous ones we’d tried, with one round to play a joker on. Initially we scored well, and slightly embarrassed some of the regular players with our knowledge, taking the lead after playing our joker on the Seventies round. Other round subjects included music, geography, a picture round (name the boy band, we scored dismally), and news (again, poor scoring due to lack of local knowledge). The final round was a connections round – as well as points for the answers, additional points were on offer if you guessed the connection between all the answers: the earlier you got the connection, the more points you got. We entirely failed to spot the names of 8 Australian prime ministers amongst the questions we answered. After taking the early lead, we faded towards the end, and finished second from last – for which we won the booby prize, a $30 bar tab next time! Repeat after me: “these are commercial prizes to make sure you come back next week”!

We hadn’t eaten there, so we don’t know what the food is like, but the menu on their website looks good. Also, they serve Speight’s Old Dark, which is fast becoming my favourite beer.

We really need to get some Kiwis onto our team, so Nicola is canvassing her office for potential participants.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mount Victoria

On Saturday, seeing as it was a lovely sunny day, we decided to climb to the top of Mt. Victoria to the Lookout, to see what we could see. This was a novelty for me, less so of one for Nicola (who had already climbed it last time she was in Wellington, 4 years ago).

The way to Mt. Victoria is through Courtenay Place and up Majoribanks (sic) Street, so off we went, clad in jacket, jumper and shirt. By the time we reached the Charles Plimmer Park, jackets had been shed, and by the time we were at the top we were in t-shirts. This is no gentle ascent! There is a bus that will take you to the top, but it helpfully only runs Monday-Friday.

We took photos halfway up the ascent, 

and when we reached the top, 

when my camera’s batteries decided to give out on me. The views from the top are quite spectacular, across Oriental Bay and south across the Cook Strait to South Island (was that it visible on the horizon? Or just a cloud bank?) and beyond to Antarctica (not visible from this distance).

We decided to take an alternative route down, and promptly got “lost” in the forest, but eventually came out near Oriental Bay, and continued down by road.

Consumer Durables

Having been healthy all morning/lunchtime, we decided to increase our collection of consumer durables in the form of a Blu-Ray player. After much research I had selected the appropriate model (i.e. one that could, with a software modification, play our UK DVDs) and we trotted off to buy it from the only store that seemed to stock it in NZ…at least, I’d checked two shopping comparison sites and they both only listed one store.

We were then faced with an issue: how to check that it was working? Inevitably, we had to buy a Blu-Ray film, so we selected Inglourious Basterds, and watched it on Saturday night. We’ll find out whether the software code for UK DVDs works when our stuff arrives here – until then, we’ll be joining Fatso, NZ’s postal rental provider.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I have bought chicken from the supermarket a few times now, and on each occasion I’ve been struck by the size of the portion. Are they growing super-chickens here? The chicken breasts are large enough for one breast to make a dinner for two, and the legs are enormous! Have they been crossed with moas at some distant point in their past?

It turns out that New Zealanders are quite protective about their chickens, and all chicken bought and sold in NZ is from NZ chickens, which are free from many of the diseases which affect other parts of the world. There is a complete ban on chicken imports.

Right, I’m off to curry some chicken for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quiz Night 4

Another night, another pub quiz. This time, it was organised through Nicola’s work. We had arranged to meet at the Backbencher pub which is just behind the Parliament building. I got there 5 minutes before the agreed time, to find out that the pub was closed for a private function. They were “sorry for the inconvience” (sic) and handed me some vouchers for free drinks next time…so we’ll probably be back! 

Undeterred, we returned to Nicola’s office to update the remaining players, and an alternative venue, The Shepherd’s Arms , was quickly arranged. It was another 10 minutes’ walk away. (Everything in Wellington is close to everything else!) We got there, and various other members of the group arrived. We had decided to eat there, and I had my first dish of green-lipped mussels since I’ve been here – cooked Thai-style, with coconut cream, chilis, lime juice, coriander etc. They were very good, and I must get some myself to cook at home – they’re available fresh at both our local supermarkets.

The quiz followed what seems to be a fairly standard format here, except this time we could choose two rounds to play our joker on. We went for the French round – all the questions were about France, French, or things with France in their name; and the music round – all pop, so Nicola’s specialist knowledge didn’t come into play. Several questions throughout the quiz, and particularly on the final round (TV and cinema) required local knowledge, so it was a good job we had a few Kiwis on the team! If we’re going to set up a regular team, I think that this is going to be a requirement, ’cos we (Dr. Evil voice) need the info.

After playing our two jokers, we were at the top of the leader board, but the second-placed team played their final joker on the last round and scored a perfect 10, thus pipping us to the post for first prize. Still, we ended up a creditable second, and won a $50 “bar cheque” to be used next time…as our former landlord Steve would say “these are commercial prizes to ensure you come back next week”.

All in all, a good night, and probably the best prospect so far for a regular night out – the food was good, the beer excellent (Speight's Old Dark). As it’s also close to Nicola’s office and where some of her colleagues live, the chances of getting a regular team together also look more encouraging…we’ll have to see about that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Farmer's Market

Having been a little disappointed by the market at Hill Street last weekend, we set out to the market at Te Papa to see if it was any better…and it is! Much larger, with lots of stalls selling the usual array of fruit and vegetables, as well as some stalls selling other types of produce. Fish was available fresh off the boat as well.

We need to organise our food buying a bit better to take advantage of this, as it’s only a short walk away from where we live. As it is, we bought some herbs (Vietnamese mint, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and coriander) to use with the groper I’d bought a couple of days ago.

Whilst we were in the area, we also popped into Te Papa to see and read about the colossal squid on display there (insert your own joke about calamari here).

Yes, those are people in the tank where it was being defrosted. 

They Do Things Differently Here

It’s the season for sales here in Wellington, and a number of shops are advertising on television. One thing that I noticed was that some shops were selling “Manchester”. At first, I took this to be a brand name, but it kept cropping up. “Blimey, Manchester must be a popular brand – all the shops are selling it!” I thought. But it’s not.

A prize of 100 internets to the first person who can tell me what Manchester is.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


On Saturday we took the Wellington Cable Car up to the Carter Observatory, as arranged last week at our housewarming party. The planetarium show, which lasted just under an hour, consisted of two parts: the first was about the effects of space travel on the human body, some of the challenges met by astronauts and how they train and prepare for them, including the “vomit comet” method of achieving weightlessness whilst still in the earth’s atmosphere; the second part was a live presentation by our friendly astronomer, guiding us around the Southern hemisphere’s night sky, including the conjunction of Venus, Mars and Saturn currently clearly visible here. All in all, a good show. We met up with the presenter afterwards and had a quick lunch in the café, before finding our way back home – the observatory and Botanical Gardens are right behind our flat, up a hill.

Other things we noticed: lots of tuis. 

We’re still quite excited to see these. This will probably wear off in time.

Nicola took her cello in to the music shop, to check the strings after the air freight journey. Fortunately they seem to have survived the journey, so a retune was all that was required.

...And Gastronomy

As part of our mission to fully discover New Zealand, I’ve been trying the local fish available in the supermarkets and wholesale outlet that we use. There are some familiar types of fish and some that are new to us: so far we’ve tried tarakihi, 

File:Nemadactylus macropterus (Tarakihi).jpg

and groper. 

So far I’ve just had it plain grilled with a dash of lemon juice, but tonight I’m going to try it with some Asian herbs/spices on noodles, and see how that works.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quiz Night 3

Last night, we went to another pub to try our luck on their quiz night. It looked promising to begin with – fewer people around than in the last place we tried, and the quiz was slightly less professionally-organised.

At the beginning of the evening we had a bit of hassle from an extremely drunk guy, who was promptly removed from the bar by the manager.

To begin with, we struck out, with rounds pertaining to NZ culture that we just didn’t really have a clue about, although we scored some lucky guesses. But later there was a “blokes round” and a “girls round”, where we did reasonably well (including identifying the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel – well done, Nicola!), followed by a trivia trail round, where we did even better. Interspersed between the rounds were quick-fire prizes for handing in your answer sheet first (lollies!) and joke-telling (a fish swam into a concrete wall. He said “Dam!” won us two bonus points), and a musical chairs round (I came third, nul points). To our surprise, we came equal third at the end (those bonus joke points were important after all!), and faced off against the other third-placed team at Stone-Paper-Scissors, which I won – so final position was second. This is clearly a more fun quiz than the one we went to on Tuesday, which seemed to attract the more professional quizzer, as some teams were regularly scoring 9 or 10 points per round.

The drawbacks on the night: obviously, the drunk guy, and the food wasn’t brilliant (although the beer was – Mac’s Sassy Red). Hopefully the drunk guy won’t be a regular feature of this venue, and we’ll try different options on the menu, but it does look more promising.

Next week we’re off to yet another pub with Nicola’s work colleagues, so we’ll be able to try that out as well, and maybe be able to come to some kind of informed decision about where we’re going to spend our quiz dollars (metaphorically – all of them have been free to enter so far). Honestly, I’ll stop blogging about quiz nights when we find one that we like and can become regulars with!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

High Definition

When we moved into the flat, the landlord kindly supplied us with a 20” CRT television with a connection to the analogue signal in Wellington, together with a VCR. That’s a Video Cassette Recorder – remember them? Now, the analogue signal in Wellington isn’t great due to the hilliness, and deteriorates even further during bad weather, so I looked around for upgrading this equipment. Turns out that the flat has both a Sky dish and a UHF aerial attached, so it was a question of deciding whether we wanted to go the whole hog and get Sky, or whether the Freeview digital service would suffice.

Well, we didn’t move to New Zealand to watch television, and as we’re not really into watching televised sport, the Sky option seemed superfluous to our needs. Yesterday we had delivered a new flat-screen, full-HD, 100Hz Freeview TV. It’s lovely! So now we can watch Shortland Street in high definition…not that we watch Shortland Street, of course.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quiz Night 2

Last night we went to another pub to try their quiz. It seemed very well-organised, with questions, music and video clips on screens, and pre-printed handouts for some of the rounds. The questions covered general knowledge, sports (where we did surprisingly well – usually we’re rubbish at sports rounds), geography (with the inevitable so-obvious-everyone-got-that-one questions about New Zealand geography, which totally floored us), and a music round consisting of speeded-up versions of popular songs, where we scored nothing (to be fair, I only knew about half the songs when played at normal speed – we’re not really down wiv da kidz these days). There were over twenty teams competing, and some of them were very good. We ended up about fourth from the bottom of the table, but made some errors which, had we not, might have elevated us a couple of places. The food and beer choice wasn’t brilliant, so we’re still thinking of this as a “possible” rather than a definite.

We have another pub to try on Thursday night, so we’ll see how it goes there. We may also return to the one we went to last week where the quiz was cancelled, to try them out again. It’s hard work, but someone’s gotta do it! Eventually we’ll find our level, I’m sure.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Odds And Ends

Not much happened yesterday. The weather was  wintery, with a strong Southerly blowing, so I wasn’t tempted to get out much.

The shopping arrived – only one substitution, which I’m hoping is typical. So that looks like that’s a good service which we can continue to use. Now we are well-provided for, we don’t need to drag our groceries up the hill all the time.

We received, and duly returned, the forms for the tenancy of the flat in the UK. So it looks like that’s all going ahead as planned, and our tenants will move in at the weekend.

Today I went for an interview at Kiwibank. This turned out to be less of an interview, more a “do we like you enough to interview you?” chat. If they decide the answer to that is “yes” then there’ll be another, more formal interview with another senior manager. I won’t know whether this is the case until next week, so fingers crossed!

Monday, August 9, 2010


We had our housewarming party last night – DJ, bar, flashing lights, disco dancers, dry ice machines etc. and about 1,000 close personal friends.

OK, that’s not strictly true. Around a dozen people came for mulled wine and nibbles at 5pm on Sunday. As it had started raining and the wind blowing, mulled wine was very welcome to those coming in from the cold! Some folk were from Nicola’s work, others from various encounters in Wellington. Sadly, I have no friends of my own as yet. Note to self: must get friends.

One of the invitees is also a recent UK arrival, who works at the Carter Observatory, having previously worked just round the corner from us in the UK at the Greenwich Observatory. Having chatted for a while we have now made a plan to go and visit the observatory next weekend, then have lunch at the café there. We’ll be able to learn more about the Southern hemisphere’s constellations, and also have a look at the line-up of Venus, Mars and Saturn, which is particularly visible here. This visit will also give me the chance to go on the Wellington cable car which I’ve not done so far…so much to see and do, so little…wait, actually plenty of time!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Yesterday we went to explore some of Wellington’s retail opportunities. Earlier this year, the first farmer’s market was set up in Hill Street, so we went along to that, and bought some fresh produce and cheese from the suppliers there. Maybe it was because we were quite late getting there, and raining, but it didn’t seem particularly busy. Perhaps there are more stalls, and more interest generally, in the summer.

After that, we strolled down Lambton Quay, which is one of the main thoroughfares of the city, then headed towards Courtenay Place for rather more prosaic shopping – some necessary bits and pieces for the flat. We don’t want to acquire too much stuff here, as all our kitchen equipment etc. will be arriving from the UK in (we hope) fairly short order. We also went shopping for our housewarming party, which we’re holding on Sunday. We’ve invited all the people we know in Wellington – admittedly not very many so far, but that will change in time.

In the evening, we ate stuffed squid and watched the All Blacks beat the Wallabies again 20-10 – a much closer matcher than last week’s, but increasing their unbeaten Bledisloe Cup run to 9 games, and securing the 2010 cup.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Health Issue

I went to see the doctor yesterday, and got the results of my blood tests. And it’s official – I am 100% healthy! The liver function tests, which in the UK had been – to  use the medical terminology – “mildly deranged”, are now back inside the normal parameters. I took the forms round to Malcolm Pacific, together with the immigration forms – one for a work visa, and one for residence based on family. So the immigration process is now properly under way for me, and should take about 4 weeks, according to our immigration advisor…which is just as well, as I have an interview on Tuesday, and I’ll need to be able to tell them when I will be available to start work.

To celebrate, we went out and got riotously drunk.

In other news, Nicola’s cello turned up yesterday – it was air freighted from the UK. It’ll need to be retuned, and possibly restrung. We’re taking it down to a music shop today to find out. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Home Blog

Yes, this is the first blog that I’ve actually been able to post from the comfort of my own home! Telstra have finally connected us to the telephone and internetworks, so no more USB sticks and internet cafés for me!

As a consequence of this, I ordered food off the internet for the first time here. The websites and ordering process aren’t as slick as UK online grocery sites – in many respects, technology and internet stuff seems to lag behind by a few years here. I’ll see how good they are at not substituting items, and delivering on time (2.5 hour delivery slots! Sheesh! You don’t know how spoilt you are with your!) when it arrives on Monday.

Technology: they’re just about starting to do television broadcasts in HD. Sky, who usually lead in these things, won’t be broadcasting full HD until next year, apparently. And we might be getting DAB radio next year as well.

They Do Things Differently Here

For a country that is one of the largest dairy producers in the world, the range of cheese on offer is disappointing. Cheese seems to come in 4 flavours: Edam, Swiss, Colby, and Tasty. After that you have to go looking for expensive handmade cheeses, or imported cheese, so far as I can tell. I shall have to investigate further.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quiz Night

On our exploration of the harbourside at the weekend, we’d noticed that one of the bars ran a quiz night on Wednesdays, so last night we went out to check it out. When we got there we asked the barman about it:

“Hi, is the quiz happening tonight?” I asked, looking around the almost empty pub.
“Begorrah, to be sure, the weather’s keeping everyone away, an’ all” he replied.
“You’re not from round here, are you?”
“To be sure, begorrah, what gave me away?”

It seems that the Wellingtonians are fair-weather quizzers. It had been raining all day, but when did a bit of rain ever hurt anyone? We stayed in the pub and had dinner there, including the quiz night special, even though there was no quiz; played a game of pool, then came back home. Next week, we’re going to try quizzing in another bar. Hopefully they won’t cancel it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Medical Mayhem

When Nicola originally applied for a visa to come and live in New Zealand, we both went for medicals as part of the visa application process. Unfortunately, medical certificates only last for 3 months, so I have to be re-evaluated, and have a new chest x-ray and blood tests.

At the behest of Malcolm Pacific, our immigration consultants, I went along to the INZ-approved doctor yesterday. The good news is that my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol are all down – I reckon it’s all the walking around hilly Wellington. This morning I went to get the blood tests done, and should have the results when I go back to the doctor on Friday. I’ll then be able to get my application properly underway.

Weather Forecasting

Despite what the weathermen keep predicting on the news every evening, for the last two days it’s “turned out nice again, guv” – so much so that I was walking around yesterday morning in t-shirt, jumper, scarf and leather jacket, but by mid-afternoon was feeling distinctly uncomfortable and had to shed the scarf and jacket! The wind has dropped to the default setting of a gentle breeze (I’m not sure that it’s ever completely still here) and it’s really quite pleasant out in the sunshine.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Weather Report

Yesterday, Wellington finally (for me) began to live up to its nickname of “windy Wellington” as the good weather of the past few days was blown away by gale force winds and rain. As we sat in our temporary apartment on Sunday morning, we noticed something: a strange feeling of movement. Yes, the building is actually swaying in the wind, and you can feel and see the movement up here on the seventeenth floor. It’s quite unnerving really, and I think we’ll be glad to be returning to ground level. The bad weather seems to have blown away overnight; we’re promised more of the same for the middle of the week, although the weather forecasting here seems to be as reliable as the UK’s.

Back in the flat, the carpet is being relaid today. This will take most of the day (there’s an amount of cleaning that also needs to be done at the same time), and we will be able to move the furniture back and finally start getting on with making the place a bit more habitable. The telephone and broadband were supposed to be connected today, but Telstra failed to do so. They’re now predicting Thursday. I hope their forecasting is more accurate than the weather.

We have the television working, after a fashion – i.e. we can receive all the terrestrial broadcast channels. I’m going to explore the freeview and satellite possibilities once we have a working internet at home. Blogs may be a bit intermittent until then.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Bledisloe Cup

Today’s exploration was down to the harbour, where the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, is located. As Wellington’s, and indeed New Zealand’s, main museum, it is enormous and contains loads of interesting stuff. We managed to get through about half a floor’s worth of interesting artifacts before we started to suffer from museum fatigue, and retired to a harbourside bar, Mac’s Brewery for a bit of lunch. I sampled the Mac’s Black beer, a dark beer but without the head you normally get on Guinness or similar. I suspect that I’ll be back to try all the other beers on offer – purely in the interests of research, you understand!

In the afternoon, we headed down to Cuba and Courtenay Place to explore further and familiarise ourselves with the area, as they will be just around the corner when we move back into our flat on The Terrace. Around the corner and down a bloody steep hill…which is all well and good when you’re going there, but somewhat daunting when you’re coming home. Ah well, the exercise will do us good.

The Bledisloe Cup

Or the Bledisloe Clup as I keep calling it, kicked off last night in Melbourne. An 8 o’clock kickoff meant 10pm here, so we stayed up to watch it. The All Blacks stuffed the Wallabies fairly comprehensively 49-28, continuing a run of 8 games unbeaten now. It was a good game, with lots of tries and open play. Quite frightening to watch, having seen England play in the last 6 Nations tournament – frankly I don’t think they’d stand a chance against an All Blacks (or indeed Wallabies) team playing like they did last night. The next match is on home turf in Christchurch, next Saturday.