Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Central Pulse

So you thought I was kidding about the netball?

ANZ are the sponsors of the Trans-Tasman netball competition, known as the ANZ Championship, so there is yet another sporting fixture for which I receive discounted tickets. We decided that we should take a look at this game of netball next time it came to town...

The Central Pulse are our local team in the ANZ Championship (there are 5 teams each from Australia and New Zealand). They play in various stadia around the central New Zealand region, with a couple of games in Wellington's TSB Arena. Their opponents this week were the Melbourne Vixens.

We drove into town for a 4:20 start, getting to the Arena in time to take our seats with 10 minutes to spare. I went to the bar to get us some drinks, and found that the selections available were definitely targeted at a different audience to what's available at the rugby! There wasn't even a decent Kiwi beer on sale, but the wine selection was far wider. How I suffer for my art. I bought a Heineken.

The game started and for the first quarter, the Pulse kept on level terms, finishing the quarter 1 point down at 11-10. At the beginning of the second quarter, though, they had a points drought as they were intercepted, missed chances, and generally failed, and were soon 9 points adrift. they finished the quarter at 29-19, and never really recovered from that. They started to close the gap in the third quarter, to 3 points at one stage, but then it opened up again, They finally finished at 52-40, which was a bit of a hammering.

It was good fast action, and I think we'd go to another match. it would be nice if the Pulse could get their act together and win next time! Still, the Vixens are top of the table at the moment so I suppose it's not too bad to lose to them.

So, that's another sporting event off the "I've never been to..." list.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Australian Rules

Last year, the AFL (Australian Football League) played their first game for points outside Australia at the Westpac Stadium. This year, they decided to repeat the experiment, again on ANZAC day, with a match between St Kilda ("Saints") and the Brisbane Lions. I've been to one AFL match before, when I visited Australia in 2007, but Nicola had never been.

We drove into town early in order to be reasonably certain of finding a park. We headed into the stadium and went upstairs to the new mezzanine bar and dining area, which has just opened. This offers a slightly more upmarket experience to the stadium-goer than the standard burgers, hotdogs, pies and beer available on the concourse. Whilst these are, to some (many?) an essential part of the stadium experience, there is a significant section of the sports-watching population who want something a bit better to eat, and the stadium have belatedly realised that there's money to be made by offering it inside. The menu was chicken schnitzel burger, spicy meatballs, vegetarian burrito, nasi goreng and roast beef in Yorkshire pudding. The bar also serves a better type of beer than the standard Speight's available downstairs (although there's nothing wrong with Speight's) including a Crafty Beggars pale ale.

We were woefully ignorant of the rules of AFL, but soon picked them up - 6 points for a goal (between the two inner posts) or 1 point for a "behind" (between the two outer posts). The Lions soon went ahead, and Saints trailed them to a greater or lesser degree throughout most of the game, finally levelling the scores late in the fourth quarter at 75-75. The extent of their missed chances can be gauged by the final score of 82-79 to the Lions, as they missed 4 chances on goal, whilst the Lions scored 1 and 1 behind.

So, following our first rugby league game a couple of weeks ago, that's another sporting duck broken. Next... netball!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Didn't It Rain

Wednesday evening, and it was pouring with rain as we made our way to Trade Kitchen for dinner, before walking down to the Michael Fowler Centre to see Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band.

Hugh Laurie is famous to all as one half of Fry and Laurie, the hapless Bertie Wooster from Jeeves & Wooster, and most recently as the acerbic Dr. Gregory House. More recently, though, he’s thrown over his comedy and acting career to pursue playing in a blues band. He’s recorded a couple of albums: Let Them Talk and Didn’t It Rain, and tours the world with his band, made up of extremely competent blues musicians and singers.

When he came on he apologised to us for buying this pig in a poke. After all, we had no idea whether he was any good or not. He likened this to an announcement made by the captain of your plane after you’ve taken off, telling you that until two weeks ago he was a hairdresser, but flying planes was something that he’d always wanted to…you’d understandably feel a bit nervous. This showed that (i) he was deliberately underselling his own abilities, and (ii) hasn’t given up the comedy entirely. Indeed, throughout the show, as well as praising his fellow musicians, he kept up a stream of witty banter to keep us amused.

Oh yeah, and he can play the piano a bit.

The show was great, as he played material from both albums as well as some other classics such as show opener Iko Iko. On vocals he was helped out by two blues singers Gaby Moreno and JeanMcLain – it would be fair to say that he doesn’t have the world’s greatest singing voice, but then you don’t need one to sing the blues.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Cat's Meow

One of Nicola's colleagues had the lead role in a dramatic production of The Cat's Meow, based on the 2001 film of the same name starring Kirsten Dunst and Eddie Izzard. A group from her office were organised to get together and go and see her in the play, so on a wild, wet Friday night we headed down to Cuba Street first, to get a pizza at Heavens Pizza, before going along the the Gryphon Theatre on Ghuznee Street.

The play is set on the yacht of Randolph Hearst, and centres around events on board which culminate in one of the characters leaving the yacht on a stretcher. (No spoilers here!) The production was quite sparse as this is essentially an amateur dramatic production, but the singer and band were very good and the acting first-class. We were very impressed with it and have added the film to our DVD list to watch.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shen Yun

The weather in Wellington hasn’t been great over the last few days. Yesterday it rained and rained, the day before and today it’s drizzling non-stop, and the 10-day forecast does not contain a “sun” symbol. Autumn is definitely here, and with it comes more indoor-based entertainment options.

We went to see Shen Yun at the St James Theatre. We started off with dinner at Zibibbo – a last-gasp usage of the 2013/14 entertainment book, as we await delivery of the new one for the coming year. Zibibbo specialise in modern European-oriented food – last year we went there for their inaugural d├ęgustation menu during Wellington On A Plate, and very good it was too.

The dancing is billed as Classical Chinese, folk and ethnic dances. Many of the dances tell a story - which was explained to us by the somewhat cheesy MC before each number (and, presumably, slightly less cheesily in Chinese by the lady MC). There were also performances from two Chinese opera singers, a soprano and a tenor. The dances make use of a lot of flowing silk and ribbons as well as swirly costumes, all very brightly coloured. Interspersed with the "classical" pieces were more modern dances, which thumped home the point that was somehow omitted from any of their promotional literature, which is that all the dancers and the dance company are all followers of Falun Gong, and persecuted in China.

In the interval, we were approached by a slightly creepy Jehovah's Witness-style representative who asked us if we wanted to be "interviewed" about tonight's show. We both politely declined.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Once Were Warriors

The Warriors are the only New Zealand rugby league team that play in the Australian National Rugby League. Andy had a pair of tickets to go and see the Warriors play the Wests Tigers at the Westpac stadium, but unfortunately couldn't make it, so he donated them to us (they were comps). We decided it was high time we had a look at this game called "league". It's quite big in Australia - bigger than rugby union, which is the dominant code and, indeed, sport, here.

The game kicked off at 5, and we were seated right out at the front near the tunnel. The early game was a bit scrappy with three efforts being referred to the video referee and being turned down, so the game was scoreless before the Tigers made the most of their chances, including an absolute howler from one of the Warriors who attempted to shepherd a kick over the dead-ball line, and was passed and beaten by a Tiger who scored. Two tries down, and it wasn't looking good for the Warriors. They've not had the best start to the season so far with only one win and two losses before this match. However, they picked themselves up and scored two tries back, but failed to convert them. Looked like they would be going into the dressing room trailing 12-8, but in the final play of the half, with the hooter blown, they picked up another try, converted it, and went in leading 14-12.

They say it's a game of two halves, don't they? No wait, that's football. Well, so's this. In the second half, the Warriors conceded one try, which was a bit sloppy, really, as they took charge with a further 2 tries in the first twenty minutes. It was the last 10 minutes that  really sealed it, as they started to walk them in, with a further 3 tries. The final score was 42-18

Amanda Hugginkiss...there's a lot of group hugs in League

Try? No, didn't reach the line

That's a try.
The Mt Smart Joker - Vodafone Warriors' superfan

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Terrace

With the help of Nicola's dad and uncle Bruce, we've made a start on our "let's terrace the garden" project. So far, we've cleared most of the garden of weeds (although further applications of spray are needed) and uprooted a number of troublesome plants. Last weekend we levelled the area outside the cellar (some say "dungeon") door, and laid some weed matting, sand and paving stones. The result looks pretty good:

We're waiting for a good deluge of rain, so that the ground can settle and we can see whether we need to re-lay some of the paving, as I suspect there may be a bit of a dip...

After that, we are looking at the rest of the garden and thinking about putting in some retaining walls to terrace that as well.