Monday, May 30, 2011

100 Not Out

Yes, amazing as it may seem, this is my 100th blog!

On Saturday we drove out to a school hall in Lower Hutt for Nicola to take her silver medal social dance, as she’d been unable to take it earlier when the rest of the class did, due to a Wellington City Chorus singing commitment. There were only a handful of us there, taking various different levels of medals (we only recognised one other person from our class) – most of them at a more advanced standard than we’re at!

Nicola was ably led by our dance instructor, Michael, and rock’n’rolled, cha-cha-cha’d and waltzed around the floor. She’ll get the results and commentary when we go to our usual Thursday class later this week.

Afterwards we had a quick lunch at a restaurant in Lower Hutt, then headed back to Wellington to view some properties to rent in the afternoon. On Sunday we also went out, driving to Hataitai, Island Bay and Northland to look at three more houses. We were somewhat disappointed by the standard of the houses offered for rent, and have decided to look a bit more upmarket than we have been so far. The ones we’ve seen don’t appear to have been particularly well looked after – one in particular, where the owner proudly boasted that he’d lived there for 40 years. “And hasn’t seen fit to redecorate it in all that time” I said to myself, as we were put off by the mauve bath and avocado sink combination, both in a poor state of repair. It was unfortunate, as with a bit of modernisation these houses could be very desirable…but we’re not in the market for a “fixer-upper” at this stage. Anyway, we’ve identified some more to view that are better quality (we hope), and we’ll drive around to see those next weekend. All this is helping us get our bearings around Wellington and the suburbs, in particular the road systems where you have to plan which lane to be in two sets of lights from where you want to turn off!

We stopped off after viewing the Hataitai house and drove up to the summit of Mount Victoria – last time we went there we were on foot, and it was shortly after we’d arrived. It was a lovely sunny day so we took some more photos, and knew a bit more about what we were looking at this time.

Hataitai and Evans Bay

Saturday, May 14, 2011


On Wednesday evening we paid another visit to the Circa Theatre, this time to see Beatcamp! - a musical show by New Zealand's self-proclaimed "favourite girl group". We'd decided to go to the Circa restaurant for a pre-theatre dinner, and enjoyed a surreal conversation with our waiter:

Waiter: "Do you know the drill here?"
Us: "Er, no...why don't you tell us?"
Waiter: "OK…here's the menus, and here's a wine list"

So, just like one of those new-fangled "restaurant" thingies, then. Thanks for clearing that up.

Shortly before 7pm, we left the restaurant and took up our positions in the Circa 2 theatre. The doors were shut, the lights went down, and the show began…

Beatcamp! is a themed song'n'dance show, mainly based around the Fifties and Sixties, but with occasional excursions into the Eighties, Nineties, and Noughties. The first half of the show was set around an interplanetary space flight, allowing such numbers as "Fly Me To The Moon". The second half kicked off with a tribute to Amy Winehouse before turning into a more general Sixties girl-band routine (including that well-known Sixties girl group, Wham!, with “I’m Your Man”).

Inevitably, I compare them to the Puppini Sisters. The show is less of a gig and more a piece of theatre, and the harmonisation not as accomplished - although the overall quality of the singing was very good. Also, inevitably for a show of this kind, there were no original songs. Nevertheless, it was very accomplished and entertaining, and we had a great time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Not Quite A Jaguar

We’ve been looking to acquire a car over the last few weeks, and now we’ve finally succeeded! Apparently, the Toyota Corolla is a New Zealander’s car of choice, but we’ve found them surprisingly thin on the ground. Is this because they so popular that, having bought one, people never wanna give them up? * Having visited two Toyota dealerships, we’ve failed to find one that is within our price range, and seems to be reasonably priced. How do I know it’s reasonably priced? Well, I looked at around 50 cars on Trademe (New Zealand's most popular buy'n'sell website) and compared year, engine, mileage and price, and spreadsheeted the data. I could’ve gone for a linear regression model, but I think that may have been overdoing the geekiness a bit.

Two weekends ago, we caught the train out to Lower Hutt to visit a dealership. “Go to The Hutt” they said (“they" being my work colleagues), “cars are cheaper there”. They had one car which we took out for a drive, but when it came to price negotiations, they only took $200 off the advertised price (I thought it was worth about $2,000 less than they were asking) so we walked away. Disheartened, we then went to the Toyota showroom in central Wellington on Saturday last, where again they had nothing to show us. They did, however, have two cars in their other showroom, one of which they could bring down for us on Sunday. “Great”, I thought…

On Sunday, we turned up at the showroom to find that the car that we thought we were going to test drive was out on loan…so the saleswoman had brought the other car down instead. This was a Toyota Allex, and it wasn’t bad…until we tried to drive it uphill. It had a 1.5l engine, and it couldn’t really cut it around town in Wellington, so BoB knows what it would be like out in the mountains.  We didn’t even get to talking about price on this one - we walked away.

On our way to the Toyota garage on Saturday, however, we’d walked past the Ford dealership, and noted that they had a Mondeo at a reasonable price. So, after our disappointment with the Toyotas, we went back and spoke to the salesman in the showroom there. Turns out that not only did he have the Mondeo, but also a Focus. I told him it was out of our price range. “Don’t worry about the price!” he said, in true car-salesman style; “take her out for a drive!” We did, and we also took it home to see if we could park it in our “difficult, difficult, lemon difficult” parking space. (Digression: why is our parking space so difficult? We live at flat 1, and the parking spaces are ordered numerically, so we have the corner spot furthest from the garage door. Unfortunately, flat 2 drive a Mitsubishi Shogun.)

Well, we liked the Focus, but we couldn’t afford it. So we took the Mondeo out as well, and tried that out in our parking space. We took it back to the dealership and told them that it was too long, we just wouldn’t be able to park it. So we needed to talk about the price of the Focus instead. Frankly, he needed to knock around $3,000 off the price to bring it into our range, and I didn’t see that happening…and I was right. They were prepared to take $1,000 off, and I could’ve probably argued a couple of hundred more, but even so, too rich for our blood.

“But wait! I have another car in our Porirua showroom!” he said. Same year (2008), same model, higher mileage (or kilometrage?) So he drove us out there and we took that around a bit. It was (a) a nicer colour, (b) better to drive, and (c) (after a discount) in our price range (just!) So we signed on the dotted line, and paid a deposit, and I’ll go and pick it up tomorrow evening after work.

* You've been Rick-rolled!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Front Room

On Saturday night we walked to Mount Victoria to go the Front Room to see the John Butler Trio play.

State the obvious time: John Butler Trio, or JBT, are an Australian band with three members, led by John Butler. They’ve been around since 1998, but only became really popular in 2001 with the release of their second album.

We’d arrived at the venue early as, despite repeated attempts to reach them on the telephone, there was no answer, and so we didn’t have any idea what time the band would be on stage. Given New Zealanders’ penchant for an early night (there’s a famous (-ish) quote about a commentator once commentating “this party could go on past 11 o’clock!”) we didn’t want to turn up fashionably late and find that we’d missed half the show (this happened to me once when I went to see The Band So Good They Named It Twice – by the time I got there, the support act, Goldfrapp, had been and gone). The venue was filling up quickly though, as people staked their places on the coveted balcony spots and at the front in the mosh pit.

Our fears proved unfounded and we had a bit of a wait until the support band, Mama Kin, came on and gave us a 45 minute set. Mama Kin is fronted by Danielle Caruana, who happens to be married to John Butler. The rest of her band is her two older brothers…one of whom is also the drummer in…you guessed it, the John Butler Trio! All a bit incestuous.

Around 9:30pm the main act came on, and they gave a rip-roaring set that lasted until midnight. They played all their well-known songs (at least, the crowd seemed to know them) including a twenty-minute rendition of Ocean, a song from their first album. The music covers a range of styles but is mostly characterised by John Butler’s virtuoso guitar (and banjo) playing. He took it all too far…but boy, could he play guitar.

As always seems to be the case when we go out in Wellington, we met someone that we knew – but in this case we had actually been forewarned, as it was one of my colleagues who I knew would be at the gig. Still, we managed to spot them in a crowd of around 1,000.

At around midnight, and after a three-song encore including Ocean, we finally left the venue. We managed to get a taxi straight away, so were home in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Now I’m off to buy some JBT CDs!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Did I Believe It?

New Zealand is currently in the clammy grasp of its Comedy Festival – unlike most comedy festivals, this is a nationwide event, not just confined to one city. We went to see Did I Believe It? at the Foxglove Bar & Restaurant.

The show was presented by three guys and one woman, and followed the format of Tomorrow’s World and How?, but with comedic material and satirical purpose. Sounds familiar? Yes, it’s the NZ version of Look Around You.

 Tonight’s subject (sponsored by 42 Below) was vodka – the how, why, what, where and when of vodka. It contained much funniness, and also included 2 42 Below vodka cocktails in the price of admission – a uniquely Kiwi one to start with called a Falling Water, comprised of feijoa-flavoured vodka, Ch'i,  and cucumber; the one served at half-time was a Moscow Mule.

Afterwards we dined downstairs at Foxglove, where we had some rather good lamb and venison.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Circa Theatre

Wellington has a number of theatres, and we’re starting to explore them. A couple of weeks ago we went to see The Spy Who Wouldn’t Die Again at Downstage Theatre, and tonight we went to see August: Osage County at Circa Theatre on Wellington’s waterfront.

The play has won various prizes and has toured around the world – finally getting to NZ with an NZ cast last year. It’s quite funny to read the actor biographies in the programme – whereas in the UK, every actor’s biography contains The Bill, here everyone has Shortland Street. Well, it amused me.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t tell you the plot – there’s a film version due out later this year, apparently. The play is 3 ½ hours long including two intervals, so a bit of a marathon, but well worth it. Exhausting just to watch it, so BoB knows what it's like for the actors.

Whilst we were there we noticed posters for another production running concurrently in the Circa 2 theatre…what would be called a studio theatre in the UK, except the Circa 1 isn’t much bigger than a studio itself. The show is called BeatCamp, and hopefully we’ll get along to that one sometime next week, as it too only has a short run.

Right, that’s enough culture for now. What’s on telly?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Song & Dance

Today is song and dance day. To start with, Nicola headed down to the Wellington West Plaza hotel for a breakfast, before crossing the road for rehearsals for this afternoon’s Sweet Adelines International Region 35 (that’s New Zealand to the rest of us) Annual Convention and Competition, which is taking place this weekend. The chorus competition is this afternoon – the quartets were held yesterday. The main focus of the competition, for the Wellington City Chorus, isn’t the position achieved (although winning would be nice, of course) but what marks they achieve, as this will affect whether they get an invite to the World Championships in Denver next year.

Meanwhile, I had a leisurely breakfast before wandering down to the dance studio in Vivian Street, to take my silver medal test. I met up with some of our gang from the intermediates class, and we all made our way through our routines with varying levels of self-perceived ability or otherwise. We’ll get the results tonight when we go to the social dance.

In the afternoon, I went along to see Nicola perform in the actual competition, and saw a couple of the other choirs that they were up against. In the end, the Wellington City Chorus came second with a score of 620, a result with which they were not best pleased. There will be a post-mortem on the result when she goes to practice tomorrow, so expect an update then.

We weren’t allowed to take any photos during the performance, so here’s one of Nicola in full war-paint:

In the evening we took a taxi down to the dance studio on Vivian Street for the Social Dance. There we met up with others from various other classes, some of whom we’d met before. The social dance was slightly less well-attended than previous ones we’ve been to, which helped in reducing the opportunities for bumping into fellow dancers…navigating around the dance-floor is one of the tricks that we haven’t really mastered yet! I received my silver medal, together with my scores and comment. As expected, the silver medal standard is higher than the bronze, so whilst I still got a “Highly commended”, my marks were down on the previous medal. As usual, there were helpful comments on my dancing, and a certificate.