Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mount Difficulty

In the morning we drove down to Clyde and Alexandra. Clyde is where the river is dammed to make lake Dunstan, by which Cromwell sits (having been mostly relocated out of the way of the lake).

At Alexandra, we walked along the shore of the river Clutha, New Zealand's second-longest river. On the way back, we stopped at the Cromwell lookout, which (unsurprisingly) looks out over Cromwell and lake Dunstan.

How's the serenity?
We then carried on to Mt Difficulty to taste some wines, and also have lunch, which we'd booked some time ago.

We arrived on a lovely sunny day. Mt Difficulty is in the Bannockburn wine-growing area of the Central Otago region, and is one of the better-established vineyards in the area. Well known for its "Roaring Meg" label, I tried all styles of wines before settling down with the pinot noirs, which are the speciality of the region. We lunched off a cold platter of mixed cheeses, meats and pickled vegetables, washed down with more of their wine, all very civilised and leisurely.

In the evening we chilled out under an almost-full moon.

Life is hard.

TSS Earnslaw

The TSS Earnslaw, "The Lady Of The Lake" is a twin-screw steamship that was built 100 years ago and is still running on lake Wakatipu. Previously used to transport freight as well as passengers, it is now used only as a tourist attraction, running between the dock at Queenstown and Walters Peak homestead, a high country sheep farm.

We'd booked our trip and dinner, and arrived at the dockside a little before 6, to board. Whilst steaming along the lake, we took some pictures,

Nicola finishes one beer and reaches for the next.

...including seeing down into the engine room, which is opened up so you can watch men shovelling coal into the furnaces, and the engineers about their engineering. Communication between the bridge and engine room is still via an engine order telegraph which can be seen on the left of the picture:

We arrived at the homestead for dinner, which was followed by a demonstration of sheep shearing by Bob, who told us about the history of the farm whilst shearing a sheep:

Around 9pm our ride returned:

We hopped on board for our trip back to Queenstown, and the drive back to Cromwell.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Boxing Day morning dawned slightly less warm than the previous day. We set off for Wanaka fairly promptly in the morning, and after parking conveniently next to the i-site, we found only two of the town's complement of cafés was open, and both were full. After walking around a bit to confirm this, we returned to the first one we'd found and saw what must have been the mid-morning rush had lessened somewhat, and we were able to sit down inside and enjoy a coffee and an Afghan.

We perused the map obtained from the i-site and set off on a walk towards Waterfall Creek. This followed the lake shore around through Roy's Bay.

We walked round the track to find, as I had surmised, that the waterfalls would actually be found substantially further upstream. 

Waterfall Creek - where's the waterfall?

There was a slipway for boats, and a few people picnicking in the area. After admiring the scenery and trying unsuccessfully to photograph greenfinches: 

There's a greenfinch in here somewhere (actually there's three)

We turned around and retraced our footsteps back to town. on the way, a pair of biplanes flew over in formation:

When we got back to town we headed for The Trout pub for a spot of lunch, before going to Stuart Lansborough's Puzzling World to meet Nicola's uncle Bruce, who lives in nearby Luggate. We'd arranged to meet here, and had a coffee in the café before exploring the puzzles - which consist of optical illusions, holograms, and other things that mess with your head, like the perspective room, the tilted house and the wall of following faces. 

Afterwards Bruce took us up to the War Memorial, from where we were able to see all of Wanaka and various other points of interest including Mount Aspiring, Roy's Mount and part of the Cardrona Pass, which we were to drive through to get back to Queenstown in the evening.

Mount Aspiring


Christmas day dawned hot and bright. We made a leisurely start to the day, then headed into Queenstown for lunch. After finding a convenient parking spot, we wandered around a the town a bit, noting where the TSS Earnslaw is moored (this would be important on Boxing Day) and seeing folk down on the beach dressed as santa:

We then headed for our Christmas lunch at Tatler, where traditional turkey and Christmas pudding was on offer. In the 31º heat we decided against that - fortunately there were more climate-friendly options on the menu.

We took a walk through the Botanical Gardens in Queenstown, where there were all kinds of birds sunbathing:

...before heading back to our accommodation, and escaping the heat. In the evening we sat outside, drinking wine in the evening sunshine.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


We drove along State Highway 6 almost back to Queenstown, before turning off to arrive in the picturesque Arrowtown. Arrowtown was a town built on gold, discovered in 1862, but since then has remained and is now a popular holiday spot. The town has retained a lot of the old buildings, suitably restored, and is full of shops selling stuff that people don't need, and cafés and restaurants.

We selected Café Mondo more or less at random, and had a perfectly acceptable lamb burger and pear & blue cheese salad. I washed mine down with a couple of cold Moas, which meant that Nicola had command of the car keys for the rest of the afternoon.

Sculpture in the café courtyard
There are a number of walks in and around Arrowtown and we may take the opportunity to do one of these later in the week. As it was, we started one, looking for a LOTR site, which may or may not have been here:

We'll have to check the locations book when we get home to find out what was filmed here.

After a quick paddle through the river, and an exploration of the shops, we then headed back along SH6, also known as the Gibbston Highway (as it passes through the Gibbston Valley), where we stopped at the imaginatively-named Gibbston Valley Winery. We tasted some of their wines, including a notable Le Fou Riesling. They also make their own cheeses on the premises, so we went and tasted them in the shop next door as well. 

Further along the Gibbston Highway we stopped at a lookout over Roaring Meg, a tributary of the Kawarau river, which is now the site of a hydro-electric power station. As we were admiring the scenery, we noticed some people in the water: yes, it seems that the sport of "putting on a wetsuit and being swept downriver in a raging torrent" is a popular pastime in this area!

Mad kiwis


We set out to explore the sights of Cromwell in the morning. This, it turns out, is not a time-consuming activity. The notable feature is an area called Cromwell Old Town; this is a series of buildings from the old town centre, which were rescued and rebuilt on higher ground, when the town was flooded and Lake Dunstan created with the building of the Clyde Dam, built across the confluence of the rivers Clutha and Kawarau in the 1990s.

Cromwell Old Town
We stopped for a coffee in the café - indoors as it was sweltering outside - then walked back round the other side of town. And, er, that's about it. There's a small retail mall opposite our digs, and the aforementioned New World. We decided to seek out some lunch in Arrowtown.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Nicola finished work on Thursday, and I knocked off at around 3pm on Friday. We are officially on holiday! Back to work on Monday 7th January.

The weather in Wellington was a bit murky on Sunday morning, but soon brightened up into what looked like a promising day. However, around 1:00 pm the low cloud combined with a sea fog and covered the Miramar peninsula. "Sod this" I said, "let's get down to the airport and see where the first plane takes us!" So we quickly chucked a load of clothes into a bag, and tootled down to the airport (which is still within walking distance).

Actually, that's not true. We did tootle down to the airport after lunch, but as part of a carefully-laid strategy that had been planned weeks, nay months beforehand. Our flight to Queenstown departed at 2:50, and, unlike some of the weaker-willed pilots/airlines, we managed to get away as flights to Nelson and Auckland were being cancelled around us. We departed fog-bound Wellington and wound up in Queenstown an hour and a half later, passing some beautiful scenery on the way. remind me to take my camera on board when we fly back. We quickly picked up our suitcase, our pre-arranged hire car, and found our way to Cromwell where our accommodation in the Colonial Manor awaited us. Duly welcomed and unpacked, we undertook the first order of business - a trip to New World to stock up on essentials for breakfast, chups'n'dups, and beer (for the fridge - fridges feel unwanted and unloved if they don't have beer in them).

Now we're off to explore what Cromwell can offer in the way of budget dining. Budget because we have booked some rather un-budget eateries for later in the week, which I shall tell you all about at the time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Carols

Nicola has been working hard over the last couple of months whipping her Christmas Choir into shape. The choir consists of volunteers from the Treasury and other government departments, and she has put together a medley of songs, ancient and modern, for them to perform.

I went along this lunchtime with my camera, and captured some of their performance on video. The sound quality isn't brilliant, and you can hear the occasional noise from the sliding doors (as well as see passers-by go and get their lunch at the Wishbone next door!), but generally you can see and hear what's going on. Enjoy!

Deck The Halls

Joy To The World

Solemn Medley

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gangnam Style

That time of year has  come around again - the annual "Pimp Your Pod" competition. Last year we took the prize with our famous Beery Christmas beer tree. Since then, our team has divided - Nelish is now leading the Portfolio Reporting team, whilst I work for Brent in the Portfolio Analytics team. So this year, we decided to pimp our pod...

Gangnam style!

We obtained some pictures of Psy from the internet (you may have heard of it) and decorated our pod accordingly:

We faced stiff competition from the Risk Information team, who had put together a decoration based on the transition of National Bank into ANZ, which has been a big thing here in New Zealand over the past two years. For those of you who don't know, ANZ bought the National Bank from Lloyds in 2003. They have now decided to merge the two banks under one brand, the ANZ brand. This has caused wailing and gnashing of teeth, mostly by a media-induced hype of "foreign ownership" which conveniently ignores the fact that (a) all the other big New Zealand banks are owned by Australian banks, (b) that National Bank was bought 9 years ago, and (c) Lloyds Bank, the previous owner, was also a foreign bank. Hey ho.

Some other teams also put up their decorations, including the Snoopy Christmas, and the Beach Bach Party;

All the rest went with a basic "Christmas" theme which we felt was a bit boring.

We also did the Gangnam Style dance to the song, to impress the judges, dressing (as close as we could) to Psy's Gangnam Style - this involved white shirts, bow ties, and black trousers. I'm not sure if this improved or worsened our score...particularly as Brent didn't seem to know the moves, and Shane only learnt them at lunchtime. Fortunately Cliff and myself were at the front, so hopefully covered up their bad dancing.

The judges went off into a huddle, and then came out with the result of their deliberations: we came second, winning $50, and the Risk Information team came first, winning $100.

On Thursday, we will have a "final of finals" between all the winners on all floors in Risk with the Chief Risk Officer as the final adjudicator. There is an as-yet unspecified prize for this also, so we may yet win...if our team members can improve their dancing skills!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On The Move

On Monday, we moved house. The men from Coolmoves turned up at 8:15 and loaded up the truck – a process which took a couple of hours – then drove it a mile down the road to our new house, and started unloading there. We’ve now got loads of stuff, because we bought loads of furniture to move into Calabar Road, and the new place is a bit smaller, so we’ve had to be a bit creative about what goes where. I think we’ve managed to squeeze it all in though – although there may be some rearranging to do.

The new place is still in Miramar, only a bit further away from the city. In driving terms this is negligible – the main advantage is that we’re a couple of stops further on the bus route, so our chances of getting a seat in the morning have increased somewhat! We are fortunate to be on an express bus route, and previously had boarded at the last stop before the CBD, so getting a seat wasn’t always guaranteed. Ah, the small things around which our lives revolve!

We had a minor trauma on the day of the move: the man from Telstraclear came round to sort out the transfer of our telephone number and internet in the afternoon. Our new house has a driveway which is quite steep, and is also at an acute angle to the road: 

New house

He’d tried to make the turn in his van, and failed to get round the corner, so decided to reverse back and do a 3-point turn to get round the angle; he reversed too quickly and managed to dig the tow bar into the road, lifting the van off its rear wheels. He was now unable to go forward or backwards. Unfortunately we were parked on our driveway, so our car was trapped and we were unable to get back to the old house to clear up a few bits and pieces that were left behind originally. Eventually a tow truck arrived and was able to get the van back onto the road. 

We're working our way through the boxes trying to unpack everything and find a place for it. I'm also sorting out the technology so that we can skype from the living room again...once we've got the place tidied up a bit.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Partial Eclipse

As you may be aware, there was an eclipse of the sun visible in the Southern Hemisphere on the morning of Wednesday, 14th November. Totality would be visible in Northern Australia, and partial in New Zealand. Whilst the weather forecast at the beginning of the week was not promising, by Tuesday evening the Met Service was promising sunshine for Wellington and Northland. Wellington would be able to see a 76% partial eclipse.

We went outside from work at around 10am, and stood around in Post Office Square to drink coffee from French Kiss and look at the eclipse through a pair of sun-watching glasses that I'd acquired earlier in the year to watch the Transit of Venus - an event that was a washout for us, obscured by cloud.

I pointed my mobile phone camera over my shoulder, more in hope than in expectation of getting a picture (I also tried taking a picture through the sun glasses, but that didn't work). Whilst it's not possible to see the eclipse in the picture, it is captured in the lens flare under the sun.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


As you may be aware, the month of Movember is upon us. I, along with some like-minded individuals in the office, have decided to participate in Movember this year.

Just in case you don’t know, Movember is an annual fundraising event for charities connected to men’s health – notably prostate cancer, and depression. The event is marked by growing a moustache, and raising sponsorship via the Movember website.

You can keep track of my progress, and that of our team, by clicking on the link:  My Mo space

And of course we would all appreciate a donation to the charity! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We Are Amused

We headed  out on a Friday night for some dinner and entertainment. Our first stop was a new restaurant, Muse, opened by a former chef at The White House – one of Wellington’s premier fine dining establishments (although our previous experience there left something to be desired). It’s located on Allen Street which is one of the side streets off Wellington’s main entertainment street, Courtenay Place. We were there early and at first the place was distinctly empty, but it soon filled up. I had scallops followed by tarakihi fillets, and Nicola had pork belly followed by porcini risotto. All was very well executed and we had plenty of time in the end.

Afterwards, we went round the corner to the Downstage Theatre to see the Weekend Comedy Cocktail. This consists of two separate performances: the first half is Vance Fontaine and his band, the Peculiar Sensations. Vance gives a command performance incorporating songs from his extensive back catalogue. He invites audience participation as he demonstrates that it was in fact he who invented all the musical genres we know today (presumably with the aid of a tardis or similar device). He apologised for inflicting dubstep on us, then gave us his rendition of a dubstep/John Cage mash-up. He also played songs in the styles of mariarchi, opera, bubblegum pop, and Duran Duran – one of his early influences. All the songs are (allegedly) made up on the spot and improvised by the band in the styles suggested by the audience.

After the break, a musical comedy of a slightly different flavour: Miss Fletcher Sings The Blues. Miss Fletcher arrives on stage as a substitute Geography teacher, ready to teach her class. Unfortunately, as she immediately admits, she knows nothing of geography, so decides to give us a music lesson instead. She regales us with stories about her life, and the frustrations that we encounter every day. She finished up with “Key Changes For Africa” an inspirational song to help people in Africa, for which she recruits several members of the audience. Unfortunately she was called away halfway through the song for an interview about “appropriateness” with the head teacher.

All very funny, and we enjoyed it all immensely.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mussel Inn

The Nelson area is known as the craft brewing capital of New Zealand, dating back to the first settlement of the area in the 1840s when it was colonised by German settlers. They found it an ideal location to grow hops, and Nelson remains the principal hop-growing region of New Zealand. There are a dozen local breweries, some producing beer which is available throughout New Zealand and beyond, like Stokes, whilst others are micro-breweries selling beer only available at their pub. Many of these brewers brought their product to Beervana, which I went to in August.

After picking up a hire car at the airport, we first headed back into Nelson to the Founder’s Park, which contains many old buildings and is also the site of the Founder’s Brewery. It shows a somewhat idealised picture of the life in old New Zealand – although the equipment in the dentist’s surgery gave a grisly reminder that all was not sweetness and light in the good ol’ days.

After that we decided to head up to The Mussel Inn at Onekaka in Golden Bay, on the advice of a former colleague and (current) beer fan. This was a bit of a drive away, via the scenic State Highway 60. We stopped along the way at various lookouts to admire the scenery.

Snow-covered mountains

We stopped to admire some geology

Classic tui-in-a-tree pose

We reached The Mussel Inn in time to have some lunch there, and to down a pint or two of Captain Cooker, one of their own beers brewed on the premises.

At the Mussel Inn

We made a plan to drive back via a couple of breweries, but were somewhat thwarted in our quest as it was getting late on a Sunday afternoon, and they were either closed on Sundays, or closed by the time we got to them. We took the car back to the rental place and checked in for our flight back to Wellington.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Abel Tasman National Park

The following morning we were up with the lark, to catch a bus at 7:30 from a stop about 10 minutes away from our hotel. We were heading out for a day in the Abel Tasman National Park, which is found around the top of the South Island, across the Tasman Bay from Nelson. We were driven for around an hour to get to Kaiteriteri, where we boarded a boat. The boat took us to Bark Bay, making a few stops on the way as our captain took us to Split Apple Rock and some other bays on the way.

We waded ashore at Bark Bay, then, after a quick rest to dry and reshoe ourselves, we set off onto the Abel Tasman walkway, which runs along the coast of the park. We thought that we’d have a nice, tranquil stroll through the park, away from the hustle and bustle of the city…wrong! It was the day of the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic, a 36k run which started at 9:30 that morning from Totaranui. Every minute or so we were passed by a runners either singly or in groups.

The local wildlife wasn't what we expected

At one point we were able to fork off from the main track and go out to a spur, where it was a bit quieter. A fantail decided to join us and hung around long enough to be photographed.

Eventually the last of the runners passed us, and we had a more peaceful time of it from then on. We crossed the swing bridge, followed by quite a steep ascent; and passed a sign to Sandfly Bay, which we decided not to visit…because it’s probably full of sandflies, and they give you a bite that itches like hell. We finally made it back to Torrent Bay. Whilst this is where we were eventually supposed to be picked up, we were in fact only halfway there, as there was still the small matter of following the track around to The Anchorage, which took us quite a way inland before we were able to cross the river which runs into the bay. We decided to stop for lunch at this point, and found a picnic table in amongst the campsite. Then we cracked on, taking a short detour to Cleopatra’s Pool, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as it was inaccessible due to the heavy rains of the previous weeks, which made the crossing to the pool impassable.

We got round to our final pick-up point with time to spare, and idled about in the sun, watched by a pair of red-billed gulls and a pair of oystercatchers.

We then did our journey in reverse, getting back to our hotel in plenty of time to get ready to go out to The Boatshed; having acquired a righteous hunger from the day’s walking, we dined on whitebait and crayfish, and mushroom bruschetta and roast duck, all washed down with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Monday, September 24, 2012


We took Friday off and flew to Nelson in the afternoon. This was my first visit to the South Island, after living in New Zealand for over 2 years. This is not so bad as it seems – I managed to live my entire life in the UK without ever visiting Wales, for example. Nelson is in fact almost due west from Wellington, and the flight is only half an hour (depending on wind conditions). Nelson is known as the geographical centre of New Zealand, and also the sunniest place in the country.

We landed around 3:30 and hopped into a cab to our accommodation – a motor lodge on Rutherford Street (Ernest Rutherford is arguably Nelson’s most famous son, and there are many places named after him in the town). We took a short walk into town to get our bearings, and found the i-site to gather leaflets for the weekend’s entertainments (largely unnecessary, as we’d pre-booked most of it already).

In the evening we headed out to Hopgood’s Restaurant & Bar in the centre of Nelson, where I had scallops followed by pork belly, and salmon followed by gnocchi; all very well cooked and presented, and very, very tasty. The puddings were good as well – chocolate mousse and rhubarb cheesecake. Then we headed back to our room as we had an early start in the morning.

Monday, September 17, 2012

All Blacks

What was once called the Tri-Nations tournament has now evolved into a competition currently called The Championship, with Argentina being admitted to the Southern hemisphere’s rugby competition for the first time this year. Argentina have distinguished themselves as contenders in the last two Rugby World Cups, coming 3rd in 2007 by beating France, and going out in the quarterfinals against New Zealand last year.

We scored tickets for the game early on, and headed down to watch them at the Westpac on what promised to be an evening of challenging weather conditions. The wind was blowing and more rain was promised. Fortunately we’d got tickets well up in the back of the stand, so should be away from the worst effects of the weather – although when the wind is driving the rain in horizontally, nowhere is safe. We were fortunate to be on the lee side of the stadium.

The first half was a bit of a mess. The All Blacks hadn’t scored any tries, and were lucky to be ahead by 6-5. The game wasn’t flowing and the ref was stopping the game constantly, in conditions which caused a lot of ball handling errors. Not a classic match by any stretch of the imagination.

Line-out action

When weather goes bad

As the teams came out for the second half…the lights went out. A momentary powercut in Wellington, but the floodlights have to be allowed to cool down completely before they can be restarted, which led to a 20 minute delay before the second half could begin.

The lights went out (the last fuse blew)

The second half didn’t really come alive until substitutions were made, and Piri Weepu and Liam Messam were able to inject a change of pace. Then the Pumas went down to 14 men after a sin-binning for a deliberate knock-down, preventing what looked like a certain try for Cory Jane. In the final 15 minutes there were two tries scored by Jane and Savea, and the scoreline finished a more respectable 21-5. 

McCaw rallies the troops

Friday, August 24, 2012


On Thursday I went to Boulcott Street Bistro with a colleague, where we had heard tell of a burger that might fit the bill for my search for that perfect 10 burger. It is called The T Rex burger, and this is (presumably) because it is the king of the burgers (not a Burger King, which is something completely different).

And this was, truly, a magnificent beast. To start with, it was served not on a common-or-garden plate, as lesser establishments are wont to do, but on a brontosaurus rib. OK, it’s probably a cow scapula, but you take the point. The burger is held in place with another piece of bone, and the smoky tomato relish, in which to dip your chips, is served on a vertebra.

The burger itself is made from chuck steak, and is garnished with marinated barbecued beef rib meat, as well as a beetroot relish and celery horseradish salad. Washed down with a glass of Wairarapa pinot noir, the whole thing was a meaty, full-on burger experience in a  fine dining eatery.

Yes, I gave it 10 points.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Burger Shenanigans

Continuing my search for that perfect 10 burger in the Burger Wellington competition, I surveyed the list for a beef burger in a restaurant or bar near to work. In fact, they’re in quite short supply: most of the CBD eateries seem to be offering something other than beef in their burger. I eventually settled on Vivo Enoteca Cucina, a wine bar on Edwards Street which I’ve not been to before.

Inside it was dark and there weren’t many people around. It struck me that this is more of an after-work or dinner venue rather than a lunch one, at least on a rainy Monday lunchtime in winter. The burger came with Gorgonzola, mushroom and red peppers, and I asked the barman to help me with my wine selection to accompany it, as the cheese has quite a strong flavour and needs something that would cope with that. He recommended an Urlar pinot noir from Wairarapa, so I ordered a glass.

The burger was served in a long rather than a round bun, with the patty at one end and the mushroom at the other. Again, this wasn’t a burger for eating with your hands – its construction was too unstable. The patty was cooked medium, and the cheese, though strong, was not overpowering. The polenta-encrusted chips were pretty good, too. Overall I scored this burger an 8.

Today, I rang the changes and headed to Featherston Bar& Grill, where I tried their “Tri Our Burgers” offering. As the name implies, there were three of these mini-burgers, or “sliders” as they are known, on the plate: one pork, one lamb, and one beef. The pork (with coleslaw and apple sauce) and the lamb (with rocket and mint sauce) weren’t patties, but sliced roast meat, which was a bit of a let-down. Only the beef burger was a proper burger, served with cheese and gherkin.

I felt the lack of  proper patty for the pork and lamb burgers meant that I could only score this dish a 7. I could pick them up, though.

Monday, August 20, 2012

CoCo At The Roxy

Disgracefully, we have lived in Miramar for over a year without visiting CoCo at The Roxy. Sure, we’ve stopped in for a coffee when we’ve been to the cinema, but we decided that the time was now ripe to break our duck and go for their Burger Wellington offering: The Silence Of The Lambs burger. Unsurprisingly, this is a lamb burger. It also comes with a fava bean purée. The nice Chianti, so they tell us, is optional. In fact it’s served with either a glass of Chardonnay or a Garage Project Trip Hop beer – which is what I opted for (Nicola had the wine).

And what a burger it was! A substantial lamb patty, with lettuce, the aforementioned purée, and grilled halloumi cheese; the burger was cooked pink in the middle, and served on a good bun, with chips. This is one of the best burgers I’ve had, and I scored it a 9 – it would have been 10 if it had been made of beef.

It was followed by an ice-cream sundae with summer berry compote, vanilla ice-cream and Whittaker’s chocolate sauce – very decadent! I don’t have a picture of it because, frankly, I’d scoffed half of it before it occurred to me to take a photo.

Afterwards we went to see The Chef.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fork & Brewer

It’s Friday, and time to tackle another burger in my quest for the perfect 10 in the Burger Wellington competition. I know in advance that this one’s not going to score it, because my (self-imposed) rule is that the perfect burger is going to be a beef burger. A lot of establishments are offering up non-beef burgers as part of the competition, ranging from the obvious (lamb, chicken, turkey), the not-so-obvious (pork, ostrich, fish, hare), the offal (both brain and tongue are available in burger form), and the sweet (several variations on a dessert burger). Today’s offering at The Fork &Brewer, one of Wellington’s craft beer pubs, was a pork burger.

We turned up at the appointed time, got some beers, and placed our order for 5 burgers (this was a work outing). 5 minutes later the waitress returns with some bad news: they’ve run out of burgers. We expressed our incredulity, then ordered other food from the menu. Naturally, the burger was awarded 0 points for failure to turn up. There’s no picture, either. So, Fork & Brewer, a bit of a FAIL there. We discussed the option of going back at a later date, but after some discussion (about the availability of refrigeration equipment and other methods of ensuring that you don’t run out of burgers) we decided that a place that couldn’t organise itself to provide the meals it was advertising didn’t deserve our custom.

More burger shenanigans next week.

Battle Of The Brains

...or should I title this post "déjà  vu"? Discerning readers of Wellington Boots may well remember this event from last year, when I was but a rookie at the ANZ National Bank. The event is to raise money for the Cancer Society. National Bank has a history of supporting their annual fundraising campaign, Daffodil Day, and this is the 21st Annual Battle Of The Brains competition.

The organisation of the competition had changed slightly since last year. Our team captain had put in an early bid for a table, and we were accepted. Unfortunately, due to events entirely beyond his control, he was forced to go skiing in Wanaka for the week in which the event would be held. Casting around for a deputy, yours truly was selected. Not that there's much to be done once the table has been allocated, but someone has to organise and take a lead.

We had, over a lunch consisting of beer and pizza at Lovelocks Bar, decided on a theme for our costume, which was Grexit - the possibility of Greece exiting the Euro and European Monetary Union, which at the time (a month or so ago) seemed highly likely. We therefore contacted a retailer of fancy goods who was able to supply us with 16 Greek flags at the princely cost of $6 each, and printed off pictures of a cracked Euro coin and a green exit sign, cunningly manipulated to say GREXIT. We assembled these into a low-cost costume consisting of two Greek flags stitched together, and wore the grexit signs around our heads, whilst the Euro medallions swung around our necks on lanyards, in the style of gangsta rappers or Olympic medal winners.

Thus adorned, we headed down to the Amora Hotel on foot, accompanied by a bunch of Muammar Gaddafis and a team of reindeer pulling the Snow Queen (from Narnia).

Sorry about the blurriness - cameraphone!

The quiz followed a familiar format of 10 rounds with 2 jokers; there were also auctions and raffle prizes to be won. After the first four rounds, the leader board was shown, and Team Grexit was in first place! Admittedly we had played both our jokers, but we had selected those rounds from those available early on, and we had come good on them. I was particularly proud of our performance on the Science round, because I can do science, me.

As the quiz progressed (and after a particularly parlous Geography and History round) we found that at the next update, after 8 rounds, we were down to third. But we finished strongly on what we thought would be our two worst subjects (entertainment and famous faces) thanks to the help of our token young person, and also a ringer-in from Auckland who was visiting the Wellington office and who we had recruited at the last minute; we scored a 10 and a 9 in the final two rounds.

As the judges counted and recounted the points, we waited with bated breath. We strongly suspected we were in a top 5 position, (we were 15th last year) but were elated and delighted to be announced as 3rd equal, out of 50+ teams in total. Our prize is a $100 voucher at The General Practitioner, which I think we can put to good use, particularly as I rated their burger so highly not a few days ago!