Saturday, May 30, 2009

Four Seasons in One Day

We have been busy unpacking this weekend and watching the weather pass by our living room. The forecasters predicted snow and so far we have seen bright sunshine, hail, rain and snow. We have rather a good view from our lounge and can see the hail pass from east to west across the valley below.
I am wondering if our cheap Ikea furniture is now more valuable as we have shipped it twelve thousand miles and there is no Ikea in this country? Probably not!

Nothing can describe how pleasurable it is to actually be able to sit at a proper table and eat your breakfast after 3 months of sitting on the floor and eating off your lap.

Naughty toads on the balcony!

Watching the hail fall is fascinating when your two!

Hail in our back garden.
Ten minutes after the hail and its bright sunshine again. This is the view from our balcony towards Pautahanui inlet.

The girls thought it would be a good idea to helpfully point out all the mistakes Daddy was making when putting the shelves together.

According to my girls the empty boxes make excellent pirate ships, cars, buses and many other innovative forms of transport.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Would you pay £6000 to transport this lot 12'000 miles? ....Er yes actually I would.

Our furniture has finally arrived. Almost exactly 3 months after we waved goodbye to it in Brussels. All our belongings are now surrounding me packed in cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. Its going to take us weeks to unpack it all but I don't care as I am just so glad to see all the little treasured possessions (read cheap souvenirs we collected at odd times) that make me feel at home.

I unpacked our headless "Wallace and Gromit" alarm clock and sat looking at it. I thought that people would probably think we were mad bringing this 12000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. But I don't think I am. Its items like this that make a house feel like home. Its the tatty teddy you've owned for thirty years and the table that you brought for a £1 on Ebay that no one else wants but mean something important to you. This makes it worth while paying to bring things all the way to the other side of the world. At least this is what I will keep telling DH every time he unwraps another bit of odd "objet d'art" and asks "why the hell did we bring this?".

Living for three months without any of your possessions, makes you realise just how little you actually need in life. We have survived on the clothes we brought with us in our suitcases, some inflatable mattresses, duvets, a set of saucepans, cutlery, a kettle and my laptop. It makes you wonder why it was so important to you to go and spend a couple of hundred on the latest games console or the new picture for the lounge or that coffee maker (with the horrendously expensive sachets). Why do we need all this stuff?

Well I guess I'm back to where I started - we need all this stuff to make it feel like home. Just not necessarily all of it!

Toys - obviously the first thing we unpacked!

The TV - the first thing we got working!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wind, Rain, Aliens and Monsters.

Its been a very wet and windy weekend so we have been unable to take one of our usual treks into the New Zealand countryside. So we decided to "boldly go where no parent of a two year old has gone before" and attempt the cinema with the girls. There is a big cinema in the shopping mall in Lower Hutt so we decided to go there. I wanted to see the new Star Trek movie but the girls were unlikely to be interested in how James T Kirk got the T in his name so we opted for "Monsters V Aliens".

It is a great film and surprisingly I got to see quite a lot of it. Dd2 managed to watch most of the film sitting in her own seat. She only got bored in the last half an hour when she started walking between myself and DH and tipping the remaining popcorn over the seats in artistic patterns.

The girls review of the film is shown below.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kiwi houses are "bl**dy cold"!

Well I guess the title sums up this post really. It has been really cold here the last few days, not cold by British standards but pretty cold when you are not expecting it to be. The sun is out and shinning brightly but the wind is biting cold, blowing antarctic air and its absolutely freezing. The weird thing is we haven't had any frosts but our house at night has been really chilly (It was 8C in our lounge this morning!). People told me that houses in New Zealand were like this but I guess I didn't really believe it would get this cold.

I obviously grow up with nice insulated, double glazed and centrally heated houses and I think this must of made me a bit soft by Kiwi standards. But really I didn't expect to feel the need to put a hat on at night and several layers of clothing on my kids before they go to bed.

I have been moaning about this a fair bit and my husbands kind response is "what do you expect we are living in what is basically a wooden shack". And I suppose he is right. Its a lovely new house with all the modern luxuries and there are no obvious drafts. However it only has single pane glazing and virtually no insulation in the walls of the house. So I imagine that most of the heat is just lost through the walls.

Central heating is unheard of in New Zealand. Some lucky people might have wood burning stoves or fires but most don't have any form of heating other than the electric fires and storage heaters which you can find in all the shops at this time of year. We have a DVS system in our house which is not a heating system but a way of keeping the house dry by making sure the air circulates and the moisture is removed. It does have a heating element which you can switch on and this slightly heats the air coming into the house. We used this for the past month but will not be using it this month as our electricity bill was enormous.

A friend I have met recently has just had a heat pump installed in her house. This sounds like a good idea as its theoretically fairly economical. It works by extracting the heat from the air outside the house (its the same principal as a fridge extracting the cold air) and then circulates it in the house. Apparently it works really well. So when we get our own house we will be buying one of those.

Until then we have invested in slippers from the Warehouse shop. This was very popular with the girls. I am keeping an eye out for thermal underwear and woolly hats!

This is a photo for my Nan and Grandad - to say thank you for the colouring books. As you can see the girls made good use of them.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eastbourne in the Drizzle - Butterfly Creek

We are determined to get out and see as much of our local area as possible, whatever the weather. So this Saturday we headed off towards Eastbourne which is on the opposite side of the bay to Wellington City. We were really curious to see if this Eastbourne bore any resemblance to the one on the south coast of the UK.

Well Eastbourne in New Zealand is by the sea and does have a mini pier like structure where the ferries come in but that appears to be where the resemblance ends. There is no promenade, Arndale centre or Treasure Island on the seafront. However the views across the bay are fantastic and the scenic drive along the coast is breath taking.
We didn't actually stop in Eastbourne itself but headed towards Butterfly Creek which lies in the hills just behind the town.
The photos do not really do this area justice as the climb up gives you amazing views across the bays but unfortunately the weather was a bit dodgy and the clouds and rain obscured the view.

We had to bribe the girls with gingerbread men!

The paths through Butterfly Creek were cut out during the depression by unemployed workmen through the sheer bedrock by the look of it.

And once again it was fairly windy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What do we miss?

It has been another tough week as we still all have colds and to top it off some silly woman backed into my car. This made me rather upset and since I couldn't get hold of DH I ended up phoning my Dad up in France. It was only 5.30am in the morning in France but I think my Dad handled it very well. Having a 33year old grown woman ringing him up in tears from the other side of the world and moaning about, what turned out to be, a minor scratch on the car, is something my Dad can obviously take in his stride!

So I thought it was time we reminded ourselves why we are here. I have asked everyone why they like living in New Zealand and what they miss about the UK.

Things I like about New Zealand.

1. The weather. Very changeable and exciting. (4 seasons in one day - as Crowded House said).
2. The countryside and the accessibility of it.
3. The people. Very friendly, welcoming and easy going.
4. Kid friendly environment. Excellent schools, facilities for kids.
5. Roads/Driving. Apart from the recent incident a great place to drive.
6. DHs commute. We get to see a lot more of him.
7. Potential for me to go back to work. Should be fairly easy hopefully.
8. Earthquakes and Volcanoes - very exciting geography!

Things I miss about the UK

1. Family - Its not quite the same talking on Skype - and it is very difficult when people are unwell and you can't just hop on a plane as the price from 12'000 miles away is just too prohibitive.
2. Friends
3. Doctor Who - OK there are a few programmes that I really miss - the TV here is generally dire.
4. Custard Creams.
5. Radio 2 - Terry Wogan in the morning. Bit young to be a tog really.

I asked the girls what they liked about New Zealand and what they missed about the UK.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Snotty Kiwis at Wellington Zoo

It has been a bit of a tough week in Wellie this week as we have had our first bout of colds and snotty noses New Zealand style and the Autumn/Winter weather has really begun. We have had lots of heavy rain and high winds which has meant we can't get out much and it has been a bit grim stuck in an almost empty house.
Dd2 has been getting her back teeth through and they have been keeping her up at night and both myself and Dh have caught a heavy head cold. No its not swine flue although we have thoroughly checked the symptoms online just to make sure!
The weather improved slightly on Sunday although there was still a cold southerly wind. So we decided to have a stroll around Wellington Zoo. Its located near the centre of Wellington City and is quite compact but is still a brilliant day out.

DD2 and a Terrapin.

It was cold so chips and hot chocolate were a necessity.

The Chimpanzees had a commanding view over Wellington city and appeared to be watching a rugby match going on in the stadium next door.

Giraffes, obviously!

DD2 and some wild dogs from Australia.

You could get some really good views of the animals.

DD2 meets the lizards and the lizards meet DD2.

DD1 and the baby chimpanzee. He was only six months younger than DD2 and we noticed lots of similarities in behaviour!

The highlight of the day was meeting a real "live" Kiwi. They are nocturnal animals and unfortunately rather rare now in New Zealand and so you are unlikely to see one in the wild. They are the most fascinating and bizarre creatures I have ever seen. You can easily see why they are unlikely to have survived or evolved anywhere else other than New Zealand as they have no defences against any mammals and would be easily wiped out if not protected.

They have a nocturnal house in the zoo where you can see Kiwis in there natural night time habitat but they also give people an opportunity to meet a one legged kiwi called Tahi (which means "One" in Maori). He used to live wild in the forests near Auckland but was caught in a Possum trap and lost his leg. The man who set the trap found Tahi and took him to a vet who amputated his leg and he ended up at Wellington Zoo. They made him a prosthetic leg (in the hope this would help him to breed as he couldn't get his balance right) which he used for a while but he prefers to hop around on one leg.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Are you prepared?....Er not really.

The earthquake last week has got me thinking that maybe we should have taken all the leaflets and booklets about preparing for emergencies a bit more seriously. When we moved into our house there were several booklets left in the kitchen draw about being prepared for emergencies and getting an emergency kit ready.

Its easy to forget that New Zealand forms part of the pacific ring of fire. It lies on the active boundary between the Australian and Pacific plates and is one of the most seismically active places in the world. North of Wellington there are a number of active and potentially active volcanoes in the Taupo volcanic zone.

The last major earthquake (magnitude 7.8) in an urban area occurred in 1931 in Napier, Hawkes Bay when 256 people died . Since then there have been earthquakes of just over magnitude 7 in 2003 and 2004 when no one was killed - both these occurred in relatively rural areas.

With all this history and potential for natural disasters perhaps I need to take all this advice to be prepared a bit more seriously. The people who own our house obviously are prepared as there is loads of bottled water stored in the garage and the gas and water off switches are very clearly marked.

This is all a bit different from the UK where the most dramatic thing we had to worry about was a bit of strong wind blowing a few tiles of the roof and a bit of flooding. Dd1 surprised me the other day when she told me about the earthquake drill she had at school when they all had to hide under the table. I think she rather enjoyed the whole thing.

In all the local communities that you drive through there are sign posts to the local "Civil Defence Centre". The following is an extract from Wellingtons Emergency Management Guide.

"In a major disaster or emergency Civil Defence Centres are activated by volunteers. The centres are situated in primary schools or other community locations like community centres.
In an emergency listen to your local radio station to hear which Civil Defence Centres are working.
The centres collect information about the impact of an emergency and inform the Wellington Emergency Management Office. There is very little equipment at Civil Defence Centres, so residents should plan to be self-sufficient.
It's a good idea to keep a note of your nearest Civil Defence Centre location in your home survival kit."

It all sounds very serious and very different to anything in the UK. I particularly like the bit about residents being "self sufficient". I think I had better get prepared.

So next week when our furniture arrives I will be getting a box and putting a torch and radio in there along with a first aid kit and camping stove. I also need to start storing some tinned food and toiletries. So providing a major volcanic eruption doesn't happen in the next few weeks we should be OK.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Our First Earthquake in Wellington

It was brilliant! I was sitting on the floor in the lounge (our furniture has still not arrived) and I thought someone was driving a bulldozer in the back garden and making the wall shake - then I thought it must be a very large underground train. Then I remembered we weren't in Brussels anymore and realised it must be an earthquake. The girls unbelievably failed to notice anything as they were to engrossed in Barbie singing on the TV.

It occurred at 5.16pm and was magnitude 4.1 - so not that big but still noticeable. Apparently there are 15000 earthquakes in New Zealand each year but only 250 are big enough to be felt. So I am looking forward to the next one - as long as its not larger than magnitude 6!