Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waterworld

As you may have noticed from my weather icon on the right, it’s been raining here in Wellington. What you may not have noticed, however, is the direction of the rain, which has changed to a warmer northerly. Unfortunately, this seems to have highlighted another issue with the flat…the bedroom window appears to be rotted through, and water is coming in through it. Once again, we’ve alerted the rental company’s property manager, who will be sorting it out. It’s not as catastrophic as the previous flooding, but it needs to be fixed.

They do like their buildings leaky here! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaky_homes_crisis

I hope it stops raining soon.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Chorus Line

Nicola has joined the Wellington City Chorus http://www.wellingtoncitychorus.org/ Last night we went to a concert where they were singing – Nicola didn’t sing as she had only just joined and wasn’t fully conversant with their routines, so we were in the audience until the end, when she joined the ensemble renditions of How We Sang Today and Te Aroha.

The concert was being held at Hutt International Boys School, in the Hutt Valley. Geography digression: the Greater Wellington conurbation is made up of four centres – Wellington, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt. The Hutt is the river that flows into Wellington Harbour. This was my first trip outside of Wellington “proper” since I’d arrived here.

We checked the train times, including last ones back in the evening, and set out for the station – which is on Bunny Street. Well, I found it funny. We got tickets, then found out that the trains weren’t running – they had weekend engineering works! So, not much different to the UK, there was a bus replacement service. We got on, after having been passed back and forth between the two buses because they couldn’t decide which one would be stopping at Heretaunga.

Guess what? The bus we were on didn’t stop at Heretaunga – it went straight on to its final destination of Upper Hutt. We (and several other passengers) complained to the Tranz Metro guy on the bus, and he, to his credit, apologised and sorted out an immediate return bus to Heretaunga for us. So we eventually arrived at our destination, fortunately with enough time to spare to get us to the venue.

Women’s barbershop singing seems to be a big thing in New Zealand. As well as the Wellington City Chorus there was one other large choir at the concert, and a number of quartets performing. Some of these choirs compete internationally, mainly in the USA, as well as in the domestic competitions, and New Zealand has a growing reputation in the barbershop world. Who knew?

Wellington City Chorus performing "One"


The concert was a great success, and we managed to beg a lift home with one of Nicola’s choir colleagues, so didn’t have to worry about watching the rail replacement bus whizz past us as we stood waiting disconsolately at the station bus stop.   

Nicola - front & centre


Summer Time

New Zealand moved on to Summer Time this weekend, so those of you who wish to call us from lands afar, take note of the change in time difference. I’ll let you know when actual summer weather kicks in – it hasn’t yet.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ballroom Blitz

We went back to ballroom dancing lessons for the second week. I’d remembered what we’d learned the previous week, and managed not to stumble about too much. So then the instructor hit us with some additional steps so that we could advance our foxtrotting and rock’n’rolling skills. It’s all a bit complicated for a bear of very little brain, but I’m just about keeping up. We need to practice more between lessons, I think, as he’s going to add even more next week, I’m guessing. There’s a dance on 9th October so I’m hoping that I’ll be just about competent in time for that!

Scrutiny

We went out for dinner last night to the Boulcott Streeet Bistro http://www.boulcottstreetbistro.co.nz/ for Nicola’s birthday. The food was great – we both had venison for main – and generally enjoyable. At the end of the meal, however, we found that they’d added a bottle of wine to our bill which we hadn’t had. This is the second time this has happened since I’ve been in Wellington, so we now scrutinize every restaurant bill carefully. Coincidence or incompetence? These are high-end restaurants, so I expect them to get it right first time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Cake Tin

The last time I went to see a rugby match was a couple of weeks ago, and the time before that…I think I was playing in it! The Cake Tin is the affectionate name given by Wellingtonians to the Westpac Stadium, home of the Wellington Lions RFC team. We went along there for the first time to watch Wellington Lions play Hawke’s Bay. The league contains 14 teams, and we’re about halfway through the season; we expected it to be a fairly one-sided match, as the Lions were 3rd in the ITM table, and Hawke’s Bay were near the bottom, having won only two games so far.

Westpac Stadium - the "cake tin"


Wellington, and indeed the whole of New Zealand, is in the grip of a storm “the size of Australia” at the moment, which has caused everything from power cuts in Auckland to heavy snowfalls in South Island – enough to close the ski resorts. In Wellington, of course, due to the geography of the place, the main feature is severe winds. This will naturally affect the kicking game in rugby.

15 minutes in, and Hawke’s Bay are 10-0 up! What’s going on? Fortunately the Lions got their act together, and scored 3 tries in fairly quick succession, although only converted one due to the wind. It was fairly clear from where we were sitting how the wind was affecting the ball, so why it didn’t occur to the teams, I don’t know. There’s no way that they should have attempted some of the penalties they did under those conditions.

I caught the moment of the Lions’ second try:



Clearly there’s more to this sports photography than I thought!

Lions finished the half 17-10 up. At half-time I went and bought a hat, cos it was getting pretty chilly up in the terraces!



The second half wasn’t quite as exciting, and only 3 points were added by Hawke’s Bay, with a penalty after a sustained period of pressure in the Lions’ 22. The game finished 17-13 to Wellington – not a good result by their standards, and due to other results within the league, they’ve dropped down to 6th. There are four more matches before the play-offs, two of which will be played at home; so seeing as we had a good time tonight, we’re planning to be back for their remaining home games.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Visa

I have a visa! Woohoo!

Strictly Ballroom

A few weeks ago I signed up to a website called The Daily Do www.dailydo.co.nz who send you a daily email with a special offer in the city where you live. The deal with these offers is that they are usually only available on the day that you receive the email, or are limited in number, so you need to make an (almost) instant decision.

Last week, one of the offers was $10 for three weeks’ tuition of ballroom dancing. Well, obviously we went for it, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog! We had our first lesson last night. The class had been running for two weeks already, so some folk knew what they were doing, although we weren’t the only first-timers there. The hall was almost full with people of all ages. I stumbled through a foxtrot, and almost, but not quite, got the hang of rock’n’roll.  

So next week we’ll be back, and hopefully some of what they’re teaching me will rub off, in time for the Social Dance in October.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Radio Ga Ga

When we arrived in Wellington I searched around to find a radio station to replace my normal UK listening of XFM. I wanted a station that played contemporary music, but excluded all the Lady Gaga-type rubbish.

Sadly it was not to be, but I did find a station, X105, who seemed to be not quite as trashy as modern pop radio. Of course, they had the standard “zoo” format for the breakfast show with the newsreader and sports presenter chipping in with their inane nonsense, but it was generally OK.

You’ll have noticed the past tense in the above paragraph. When the alarm went off this morning, it made no noise. X105 has gone off the air. So far all I’ve been able to find is one tweet which said “Sadly X105 is closing today. Thank you so much to all who listened, contributed and sent messages of encouragement. Least we forget.” Do Wellingtonians only like their radio trashy? Or are they so hardcore that they listen to heavy rock of a morning?

So, farewell then, X105. Now I’ll have to find another radio station. 

Stuff


Meanwhile, our furniture and other stuff has arrived in Wellington. All we have to do now is free it from the clutches of Customs and the Ministry Of food, who take an interest in biosecurity.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quiz Kings!

Last week we didn’t do as well in the quiz, missing out on the prizes with a fourth place. Another tricky connections round was our downfall.

This week we fared somewhat better. Having elected to play our joker on the first round (anagrams), we were dismayed when the quizmaster announced that the format of the round was, in fact, only one anagram, formed of the nine first letters of the first nine clues! We thought we’d been sold a pup, but soldiered on regardless…and, with seven of the nine letters, we got the anagram (we’d been given a clue that it was a place name), and were therefore able to reverse engineer our answers to the final two questions for a perfect 10 points on the round.

Having established a commanding lead from the beginning, we expected it to be whittled away over the following rounds as the seasoned quizzers of The Backbencher reeled us in. Which they did, but not convincingly enough, and at the start of the final connections round we were neck-and-neck with another team; several other teams were a point or so behind our lead. Both us and our rivals got the connection at the same time, so it came down to a final tally of correct answers in the round…and we’d both scored eight, to tie for first place. The tie-break question was, literally, a no-brainer (“How big is Homer Simpson’s brain? Is it a) small, b) medium, c) large?") I raced to the front with “small” written on a scrap of paper and, by virtue of getting there first, we won first place! Woohoo! (_8^(|) An $80 bar tab for next week!

So, the gauntlet has definitely been thrown down. Let’s see how we fare from now on in.

On the way home, walking past Nicola’s office, we met one of her colleagues coming out, and told her of our moment of glory. We also mentioned that we were still looking for a Kiwi to provide us with local knowledge (we’d fared badly on the “In The News” round again), and she volunteered to join us next week. Hopefully we’ll manage a bit better on the news next time!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Miramar Peninsula

The weather forecast was fine, so we set off on a trip to the Miramar peninsula – the bit of Welllington that has the airport and some nice residential areas. Whilst waiting for the bus I noticed this building:



And wondered which was the greater act of vandalism – the blue “tags” on the third floor, or the use to which it has now been put.

We took the Number 2 bus, decorated with the Sistine Chapel on its ceiling.



We got off at Darlington Road, then walked over the hill to the beach in Worser Bay. Worser than what? I wondered. Apparently it’s named after the weather predictions of one James Heberly, a 19th century master mariner, who frequently predicted “worser” weather. On the wooded hillside we spotted tuis and fantails, but unfortunately none of them would stay still long enough for me to take a decent picture of them; here’s one taken by someone else:

A Fantail

Fantails are a highly regarded bird in NZ, especially on the South Island, as they make a habit of eating sandflies. Anyone who’s been bitten by a sandfly will appreciate this fact.

Worser Bay was pretty much deserted, although I’m sure it gets a lot busier in the summer. There were quite a few people out on the water in Laser yachts. The road leads into Seatoun, where we stopped for lunch at Zak’s CafĂ© http://www.zakscafe.co.nz/ . As the weather hadn’t turned out entirely as predicted, we then hopped on the bus and headed back into town.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Cinnamon Club

Those of you who follow my antics on h2g2 may already be aware of the cinnamon situation: that we bought a 250g bag of cinnamon quills for our housewarming party to make mulled wine, as it is actually cheaper to buy a catering pack than it is to buy one of those Schwartz-type jars containing approximately 3 cinnamon sticks. This means that we have a surfeit of cinnamon in the house, and we are seeking creative ways to use it in cooking. So far we have tackled the obvious option of moussaka, and last night I made cinnamon & lemon chicken, which, surprisingly (to me, at any rate) is an actual recipe. Does anyone have any other suggestions? Please send recipes to the usual address! At the moment we have no grinding facility, but when our stuff arrives from the UK, hopefully in the near future, I’ll be able to grind cinnamon quills for inclusion in baking etc.



That Earthquake In Full

You may have heard that there’s been “an earthquake” in Christchurch. Click on this link to find out more: http://www.christchurchquakemap.co.nz/


Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Walk In The Park

Yesterday was a sunny, still day here in Wellington. The weatherman has promised us storms for tomorrow, and wet and windy weather for the rest of the week, so we took advantage of the lull before the storm and headed up into our back garden, also known as Wellington Botanical Gardens, which are just up the hill behind our flat.

There are several walks around the gardens, or you can just wander aimlessly. Although we set out to do the latter, we found ourselves unintentionally following the Sculpture Trail, with works by both local and international artists, including a Henry Moore.



We stopped off at the Lady Norwood rose garden, which is completely bare at this time of year, but should be more promising in a few months time. Take a look at this picture now and compare it to our next visit!



We also looked inside the Begonia House, which has tropical and subtropical plants growing in a classical Victorian-style glasshouse.

The herb garden was a bit bare as well at this time of year – hopefully it will spring into life more as the months progress, and I’ll be able to nip up there to grab a sprig of thyme or oregano for dinner. From the top we could see out to Oriental Bay, where some yachts were out – something that we hope to take up in the summer. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Rugby Match

On Friday, we went to watch a rugby match. No, not the All Blacks, nor even the Wellington Lions, but the annual Treasury against Land Information NZ (or “Linz” as they are popularly known) match. This fixture is over 100 years old, between the two oldest departments of the NZ Civil Service. We got on the number 2 bus, and headed out to Hataitai Park on a sunny spring afternoon.

Hataitai is a pleasant suburb of Wellington; I’d been there once before when I was getting my medical done for my visa application. It is also home to Wellington’s oldest rugby club, called (unsurprisingly) Wellington Football Club. We found the location without too much difficulty, having stopped along the way to take some photos.



When we got there, we were somewhat dismayed by the lack of activity. It was ten minutes to kick-off, and there was no sign of anyone on the pitch, and a worrying lack of cars in the car park; time to make some calls back to the Treasury to check that we’re in the right place.

“The match has been moved to the artificial pitch at Newtown”, we were informed. “Great”, I thought. “That’s not far away. Do you know where the pitch is?” A further phone call elicited the response that it was on John Street. As I had taken the precaution of bringing a map with me, I was able to locate it, and we set off on foot. The route was basically round the base of Mount Victoria (we could have gone up and over, but it was particularly muddy after the rains of yesterday, so we decided against that).

We finally arrived at John Street, and immediately started casting about for the location of the rugby club. We found it eventually, and managed to catch the last 10 minutes of the match. Treasury lost 10-12, having missed a penalty in the dying seconds of the game.



The game ended before I could get a decent action shot.

Afterwards, we were invited to Linz’ offices in Lambton Quay, where there were drinks to be had and prizes were handed out. There had also been two netball matches (women’s and mixed) played between the two departments. Treasury managed to lose both of those as well. Nevertheless, there was a good spirit of camaraderie between the two departments…we got the impression that the Treasury had done rather better than they usually do. Linz let slip the fact that they had been practising, which we felt was a bit unfair.

They Do Things Differently Here

They take netball seriously. The Silver Ferns are currently in a 3-match test series against Australia (the “Diamonds”) which is drawn one all at the moment, with the decider on Sunday.

How seriously do they take it? NZ’s top domestic drama series, This Is Not My Life, was moved from its regular 8:30pm slot for the netball to be broadcast live on tvnz One. That’s serious.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Victory At Last! (Nearly)

We went back to the Backbencher pub to quiz again, and used our ill-gotten gains from last week. We had dinner this time, which was OK but not brilliant. I think I need to lower my expectations a bit – after all, we were perfectly satisfied with burgers and chips at the Ship & Whale! Again, we scored badly on the news round, but playing our joker on the capitals round and getting the connection fairly quickly as well, we finished a creditable 3rd! We still need to recruit a Kiwi to our team, then maybe we’ll be challenging for the top spot (the first two teams finished quite a few points ahead of us). So we’ll be back next week to try and improve on that position.

The quiz ended at around 9pm, and afterwards all but one of the teams cleared out of the pub immediately. We went over and chatted to the remaining team, to find out that, yes, they were mostly Brits, either visiting or permanently expatriates, and were equally bemused by the sudden exodus. Anyway, we seem to have found our niche in pub quizzing, hopefully we’ll be able to beef up the team sometime soon.