Thursday, January 31, 2019

Rants In The Dark

Circa Theatre’s first flagship production of 2019, Rants In The Dark, is an adaptation of the book of the same name, published by Emily Writes from her blog. I don’t think Writes is her real name. She blogs about being a mum of two small children. Sounds interesting, eh? She blogs about all the things you won’t find on Mumsnet, and tells it like it is. She, quite literally, rants in the dark. It’s stunningly popular.

We went along on Wednesday night to see it. The presentation is of “Emily” basically talking to the audience. She provides little vignettes into her life, with the help of two other actors, one of whom plays her husband (mostly), and with the other they play the parts of all the other characters who come and go – mother, sister, toddler, friends, not-so-friends, doctors and midwives. There’s singing, dancing, and swearing. A lot of swearing. Being a mother makes you swear. She goes through the highs, and lows, of her mothering career so far, including the original rant in the dark, how she blogs, why she blogs, what it’s all about. It was all jolly good fun, and you should catch it if you get the chance. Whilst the audience was predominantly female, it is aimed at “anyone who’s been a baby”. It stars Renée Lyons, known for 800 Words, appearances on Jono & Ben and other New Zealand tv work; Bronwyn Turei, also known for NZ tv including Auckward Love; and Amelia Reid-Meredith, best known as a long-time Shortland Street actor.

Afterwards we crossed the road to go for dinner at Field & Green, who provided us with a  great steak and snapper.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Black Clash

Friday dawned, and the reason we’d come to Christchurch was finally here: the Black Clash cricket match. This is a T20 match between the Black Caps and the All Blacks.

But that’s not until the afternoon. In the morning, we decided to take a tour around the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. They’re in Hagley Park (everything is in Hagley Park – the cricket ground is there, too), so we walked from our motel to the park. They have all the usual stuff – glass houses, rose garden, New Zealand section, and rock garden; we perambulated these in no particular order, including a stop for refreshment at their café. The plants in the rock garden, in particular, were attracting a lot of bees.

We spent all morning there then headed into the city once again to find somewhere to eat lunch. Our map of Christchurch had clearly marked “shopping and restaurant” areas delineated, so we headed for one of these and ended up in a restaurant called Original Sin, where we had salads of prawn and seared beef.

In the late afternoon, we set out for the Hagley Park Oval for the cricket match. Now, you might think that the All Blacks would have a bit of a disadvantage here, but there were a number of tweaks to the teams that evened things up a bit. Each team was allowed to pick a player from the other sport, and the qualification rules were very relaxed, such that Brendon McCullum opened for Team Rugby as he'd turned out a few times for Matamata. Both teams featured a player from their respective women’s teams as well – Liz Perry for Team Cricket and Kendra Cocksedge for Team Rugby. Both teams included current and former players from their respective sports – notably, Team Rugby featured Richie McCaw, as well as two Barretts (Beauden and Jordie).

The match was advertised as starting at 4:30, but was clearly underway by the time we arrived, so I guess they must have pulled it forwards by 10 minutes or so, and the score was already 23/1 when we found a suitable patch of grass to view from. We hadn’t brought any of our usual paraphernalia (cushions, keep cups, scorebook etc) so just plonked down on the grass. Shortly afterwards a group further up the bank from us decided to move elsewhere so we were able to snaffle their spot and get a better view than the worm’s eye position we’d started in.

Whilst the game was hard fought, there weren’t going to be any shenanigans – when there was a run out, the player walked without waiting for a replay, no review system for lbw etc. There was some good cricket, including batting from the Barretts, bowling from McCaw, and some spectacular catches (McCaw again). Having batted first, Team Cricket set a target of 169 for Team Rugby, and they made it with five balls to spare.

All jolly good fun! Next morning we were back to Wellington, and ready for some proper, real cricket on Friday when the Firebirds try to redeem their somewhat patchy season. They can technically reach the playoff if both the Stags and the Aces lose their next two matches and the Firebirds win both of theirs…so they need to beat the Stags on Friday.

Monday, January 28, 2019


 On Thursday, we took the scenic route out to Akaroa on Banks Peninsula, as it’s very picturesque. It’s a short drive out of Christchurch. First stop is at Little River, a small town whose main purpose seems to be to direct people into the rest of the peninsula. We had a coffee and tea in the café there, and planned a route around the rest. We decided to head up to Pigeon Bay first, then continue on the summit road around to Akaroa.

The summit road is so named because the whole peninsula is an extinct volcano, as is apparent if you look at a map. At Pigeon Bay, we went for a walk and spotted two kereru almost immediately. It was quite hot in the sunshine with little cover from the sun so we didn’t take a walk all the way to the end of the trail, instead turning back after about 25 minutes when we’d reached a shady grove. On the way back, a number of fantails decided to try to tempt me into taking their photographs. Fantail photography is of the type “here’s a branch where a fantail was two milliseconds ago”, but I managed to get a couple.

We drove on to Akaroa and walked along the bay shore, seeking out a place for lunch. Akaroa was originally settled by the French, and the street names and many of the businesses there reflect the French heritage. We settled on The Wharf, and had fish & chips and tuna salad for lunch. Afterwards we walked up to the lighthouse, which was originally placed at Akaroa Heads, at the mouth of the harbour, and moved to its current location by the Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society in 1980.

We took the shorter route back to Christchurch, passing the turn-off to Le Bons Bay along the way. Unfortunately there was nowhere convenient to stop so I was unable to take a photo for Duran-spotting.

In the evening we explored Christchurch’s dining scene, and entertainment book, once again – this time ending up in a South American bar and restaurant called Casa Publica. This offers South American specialities such as ceviche, guacamole, and espetadas. We started off in the bar with a  couple of pisco sours before heading upstairs, where we I ordered guacamole casa, which is made at the table for you, and you can chose which ingredients you want to include. I went all in with chillis, red onion, lime juice, coriander and cashews. Nicola had the chicken espetada main, which is basically chicken on a stick.

By the end we were pretty well stuffed, so we forewent dessert and headed back to our digs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Our digs are on Bealey Avenue, which could be renamed Motel Avenue. We found it easily enough, and then found that it appears to have merged with the next-door Prince Of Bealey (presumably, King and Queen had already been taken). Our room is a little smaller than in Hanmer Springs, but it is modern and new, with everything we need, and handy for centre-ville.

In the evening we researched our options for dining and decided on Spice Paragon as being within easy reach. Also, it’s in the entertainment book (I’ve recently upgraded our membership to cover the whole of New Zealand), and this pretty much covers the cost of that.

The next day temperatures were forecast to reach over 30°, so we decided that visiting the International Antarctic Centre would be a good plan. Bound to be cooler there! We drove out towards the airport, and got there well before opening time of 9:00 (we’d been advised to get there early as they get crowded), so we stopped for a quick beverage in the café before heading in. They have all kinds of informative stuff about Antarctica, including the original expeditions and the current research stations there. They also have an Antarctic storm experience, where they give you overshoes and a thick coat to go into a snowy room. The temperature inside is -8°, but they then lower this further by introducing wind, and the windchill takes it down to -18°. At this point some of the less sturdy visitors left, but we, being hardy kiwis, stuck it out till the end. In shorts, natch.

Outside, my glasses immediately steamed up, so we waited for them to clear before heading outside for our next adventure, a ride in a Hagglund all-terrain vehicle, of the type used in Antarctica. They’ve built a little assault course out the back of the centre to simulate some of the conditions that you meet in the vehicle, then after a short safety briefing (“wear your seatbelt! Hang on to the straps! Press the buzzer in emergency!”) we were off. Our driver took us up and down steep inclines, cambers of 20°, and through snow and swamp. After ten minutes we disembarked, shaken and stirred.

The next stop was the little blue penguins feeding time. Little blues are endemic to New Zealand, and are the world’s smallest penguins. The ones they have at the centre are rescue penguins – they’ve been found injured, recovered under the aegis of DOC, and then transferred to the IAC where they can live out their lives in comfort. This is a life sentence – they’re not released into the wild once they’ve recovered, as many of them have missing or damaged limbs which would make them easy pickings for predators in the wild. On the upside, their life expectancy is greatly enhanced in captivity, as they rarely live more than 6-7 years in the wild, whereas the oldest at the IAC died recently at the grand old age of 25.

We’d pretty well done everything in the IAC so decided to head up the road to the Willowbank Reserve, a wildlife park with exotic and native species. We followed most of the prescribed path through the exotic animals, which included wallabies, possums, otters (we didn’t see any ), but ignored the farm animal section due to lack of interest. The final section was New Zealand natives; unfortunately most of these are in aviaries, and the kaka, kakariki and kea didn’t look particularly happy. Give me Zealandia any day! There was, however, a kiwi house containing four brown kiwi. Unfortunately no photos of these as it’s very dark inside, and naturally, no flash photography is allowed. You have to wait a few minutes to allow your eyes to get used to the gloom, but once you do, you can easily spot the kiwi rootling about and running around.

They also have tuatara, again in cages, and takahe, who were hiding themselves away. We stayed for a spot of lunch in their café, then decided to can our good intentions hatched earlier in the day of a planned walk to Washpen Falls. This was confirmed when we got to the car and the thermometer read 34° - not really weather for a two-hour hike! We headed back to the comfort of our airconditioned hotel room to watch the first ODI against India.

In the evening, we went out to Pescatore, Christchurch’s only two-hat restaurant for dinner. Neither of us wore a hat. Despite this, they let us in and we enjoyed some salmon and snapper cooked cheffy-style, followed by a chocolate cremeux and a curry icecream with pineapple and rice. Although we'd only ordered two courses, they were back and forth with little amuses-bouches and similar throughout the meal - a malt tea and stuffed flower before we began, a "pre-dessert", and petits fours afterwards, so we were well satisfied. It was only slightly marred by the utter dick at the next table who complained about everything. There's no pleasing some people. We left to watch India complete their demolition of the Black Caps in the first ODI.

Hanmer Springs

We planned a short break to the South Island, to take in the Black Clash cricket match and visit Christchurch for the first time. We haven’t visited before as, shortly after we arrived in New Zealand, they had a couple of great big earthquakes which basically wrecked the place. Eight years on, and they’re still wrangling about some of the buildings, but we decided that this would be a good opportunity to finally visit.

Another place we’ve been meaning to visit is Hanmer Springs. As the name implies, they have hot springs there. We booked ourselves into the aptly-named Hanmer Springs Retreat. We set out early from Wellington airport, then picked up a hire car and drove up into the mountains. It’s about a 90 minute drive. We grabbed some lunch in a pub in town before checking ourselves in, then went and found the pools where the springs are. They have a number of pools of different temperatures, some with bubbly jets, some still, and some sulphurous. We tried most of them, then, feeling refreshed and relaxed, headed back to our hotel before going out for pizza in the evening.

The next day we drove back to Christchurch, stopping along the way at Waipara Hills and Greystone wineries to taste some of the local produce, and purchase a couple of bottles. Waipara Hills is a well-known international brand, whereas Greystone is a bit more local, and the woman doing the tastings was able to give us some personal service and chat about the wines. She is a winemaker in her own right, although not for Greystone – she rents a plot and makes organic, biodynamic wines under her own label.

We stopped in Amberley at a café for lunch before completing our journey at the Bealey Plaza motel in Christchurch.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I Don’t Like Cricket

I have the t-shirt!
Cricket season is upon us, and we’ve been heading down to Wellington’s premier cricket ground, the Basin Reserve, on a regular basis. First up was the test series against Sri Lanka, where we went to Day Two on a Sunday, and watched the Black Caps start amassing what seemed like an unassailable total against the Sri Lankans, who had ended the day before at 275 for 8. It didn’t take long for New Zealand’s bowlers to pick up the last two wickets, and they ended on 282 after 3 more overs.

Then the Black Caps started batting. Unlike in some recent matches, the openers managed a reasonable stand before Raval was out for 43. Then in came Kane Williamson, and along with Tom Latham, put on an impressive stand for the second wicket – Williamson falling short of his century at 91, and kicking himself all the way back to the pavilion. Latham batted on, and at the end of the day, New Zealand were ahead. On day 3, he carried on, eventually carrying his bat for 264 and putting the Black Caps in a commanding position. Unfortunately the weather had the final say in this match, and it was drawn after very little play on day 5. Still, an impressive knock by Latham, the sixth highest in New Zealand history, and it set them up well for the second test, which they won emphatically by 423 runs.

Next up, the T20 series. We have so far been to see the Wellington Firebirds and the Wellington Blaze play two double-header matches – the women’s match starts at 12:45, and the men’s at 16:00; on the first occasion, against Otago’s Sparks and Volts. The Sparks pretty comprehensively outplayed the Blaze, particularly in the field, and as the overs dwindled, the run rate got away from them and they ended up losing by 20 runs. The men’s match was more closely fought, and with a target of 168, they needed 18 off the last two overs – eminently achievable in a T20 competition. The Volts were having none of it, however, and with some tight bowling, excellent fielding cutting off the boundaries, and three wickets falling, won by one run.

Last weekend was not just another double-header – it was free! Sponsored by Wellington City Council (so paid for by our rates, really), this time it was against the two teams from Canterbury – the Magicians and Kings. The women were set a similar target (150) to the previous week, but this time out seemed to have the better of it. They stayed on top of the run rate and achieved the total with two balls to spare. They’re currently sitting at the top of the table, although they have played one more match than most of the other teams, so we need to wait and see.

In the men's game, The Firebirds were put in to bat first. With a display of hitting from Conway, including seven sixes, they set a daunting total of 199 for the Kings. They came out fighting, and dropped two early wickets in the second over to Bennett. A bowling change in the fifth over yielded similar results, with two wickets to Sears, and Van Beek picking up the fifth at the beginning of the sixth over, and suddenly they were 40/5. Their captain, McConchie, batted on bravely, eventually amassing 83, but he kept losing partners, and the run rate got away from them. Eventually they were bowled out in the 19th over, for 135 – well short of the requirement. A convincing win for the Firebirds, putting them second on the table.

There aren’t any more double-header matches, but the men’s competition continues this Saturday, so we’ll probably go to that, weather permitting, and then in February there’s a T20 and an ODI against India, both at the Stadium. Woohoo!