Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Praise of Fluffies!

One of the best things about New Zealand for kids is the invention of the Fluffy. This is a drink that you can get in most of the cafes and coffee shops in Wellington. It consists of frothy milk in a cup and saucer and is often drizzled with chocolate sauce or powder. It also comes accompanied by two or three marshmallows in our local cafe, this makes it irresistible to the girls. Its so popular with my youngest I can use it as a bribe to get her to help Mummy do the shopping (which is normally absolute torture!). This Sunday prior to our walk on the beach we warmed up with Fluffies and coffee first.

It was a bit of a grey day but the views on Paraparamou beach were still stunning.

Despite the grey weather the girls loved paddling and searching for shells.

The Brunt women.

Lots of birds!

We were followed by a lot of gulls and I was quite surprised that my camera managed to get this shot.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

TV in New Zealand

The weather has been awful this last week and the girls have both had snotty noses and nasty colds. This has led to us all being in the house a lot more than usual and we have ended up watching far more telly than I would have liked!

I can now officially say that I really miss the BBC. One of the most annoying things is the fact that you can't watch a programme for more than 10 minutes without it being interrupted by adverts. To be fair we only have the TV channels available on Freeview, as we used to in the UK, so I do not know if there are some amazing programmes that we are missing available on the various subscription packages such as Sky.

We have the Television New Zealand (TVNZ) channels that are free to air. These consist of TV One, TV2, TVNZ6 and TVNZ 7. We also receive the fully commercial channels TV 3 and C4. TVNZ is a government owned corporation television network. Around ninety percent of its funding is from commercials and merchandising and the rest from the government. This makes it rather different from the BBC and it offers far more commercial and rating grabbing content (light entertainment, overseas programming and reality TV shows). The schedules are full of American sitcom repeats (Friends and Two and a Half men), soap operas (Shortland Street and Coronation Street) and reality TV (Grand designs and Shipwrecked). Some of the programmes are unbelievably old and things I haven't seen since I was a child. I remember watching the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" when I was a growing up and "Home Improvement" which is shown at 5pm on weekdays must be over fifteen years old.

However having discussed this with my other half he concludes that he would much rather watch TV on a Saturday night over here than what is likely to be on BBC1 and 2 in the UK. They do have some good new films on in the evenings and they have many American shows like "Lost" (how I hate that programme!), "Greys Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives". They also show some other good dramas and mini-series from overseas but very little made in New Zealand.

There are some documentaries and I was really pleased to spot Louis Theroux's Wierd Weekends is being repeated, and some of the local documentaries and arty type programmes are quite interesting. There are also a lot of the more sensational documentaries made by Channel 4 in the UK reappearing over here. Programmes on "Extreme Plastic Surgery" and the child preachers in America

I honestly never thought I would admit this but I really miss Cbeebies. It was a nice safe channel I could put on for the girls and not worry about it. There are no adverts and the programmes were vaguely educational. Over here on TVNZ 6 they have children's programmes until 4pm everyday, which unusually don't have any adverts in between them. A lot of these programmes seem to have originated in the UK, like Postman Pat and the Numberjacks for example, but they clearly do not have as much money to spend on kids programming as the BBC. There is one particularly annoying programme called "Party Animals" with 4 alien teddy bear creatures and a very annoying theme tune which the girls inexplicably love. But then I have to remember that the programmes are not aimed at thirty somethings!

There is only one poor bloke presenting the children's programmes daily from the early hours of the morning until 4pm. He obviously does not have any sort of life and spends his days pretending to be a robot and various animals in between introducing the programmes. Actually it looks like quite a cushy job!

There is very little home grown content and I don't understand why this is. There is plenty of Kiwi talent out there. Flight of the Chonchords is a good example of this but I can't see any sign of them or many other home grown shows on the Freeview channels, and this is a great shame. I can only conclude that people in New Zealand don't watch as much TV as we do in the UK. Which really is not such a bad thing!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Zealand driving licences and smashing the car up - yet again!

In New Zealand you are legally allowed to drive for up to a year on your UK licence. So I was not worried about sorting my licence out until later in the year. That was until I found out that I had a $800 excess on my car insurance whilst I still had my UK licence. This would be reduced to $4oo as soon as I got a New Zealand licence.

So last week we searched out the local "driver licensing agents" which turned out to be our local AA shop. The AA (Automobile Association) unlike in the UK, doesn't just operate over the phone and from their mobile fleet of yellow breakdown vans, but has shops in most towns. These shops seem to operate as driving licence agents and a general centre for AA products.

We made a memorable entrance to our local AA shop when I went to pick up the application form for my licence. My two year old daughter managed to get herself tangled up in the rope separating the queue and brought down the two metal poles onto her back. She consequently screamed the place down and gave me a heart attack at the same time. I managed to extract her from the poles and despite my imagination picturing her being in a wheelchair for life, it turned out there wasn't a mark on her. I think we rather disturbed the people who appeared to be filling in theory tests in the booths and I felt like asking if they could get a few extra marks for having the distraction to deal with!

Anyway despite the embarrassment I was very brave and returned to the AA shop again this week to hand in my completed form and get my licence. This time however we had to wait in the queue 40 minutes before being seen. Thankfully a miracle seemed to have occurred and my two girls were extremely well behaved and sat quietly for the entire time.

You don't need to take a theory or practical test if you have a current UK licence but what I didn't realise was that you have to have an eye test to get your New Zealand licence. They have a machine on the desk which looks like a cross between huge binoculars and a magnifying glass. You have to look through the top and read the letters appearing in rows, just as you would in a normal eye exam. I looked through the top and found that I could see the letters OK, at least I could see the general outline, but I was unable to see which letters they were. All very embarrassing as I had to admit I couldn't see a thing, and once again there was a huge queue behind me. I had to trudge back to the car with the girls and collect my glasses and take the test again.

I must be having a run of bad luck when it comes to cars as only a month ago someone backed into me and today I managed to back into a post and break my back light. Its going to cost me $200 to replace. When I phoned my husband to let him know the good news he responded by saying "don't worry, I know you were feeling a bit dopey this morning". Not patronising in the least!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cost of food comparison - UK v New Zealand

Having been talking to my Dad about the Farmers protests that have been going on in France (they have been burning shopping trolleys in supermarkets - their blog is at the bottom of the page if anyone is interested) it has got me thinking about the cost of living over here. Since there are basically only two big chains operating the four main supermarkets, there is a bit of a monopoly over here. So does this mean that we are paying over the odds for our weekly shop, and was it cheaper in the UK?

I thought I would do a cost comparison on the main products a family of four uses during a week. This is not a very scientific study as we tend to shop at Pack n Save and New World and I have used Tesco prices to represent the UK, but it does give an idea on what things cost in New Zealand.

All the things shown below show the price in New Zealand first followed by the price in the UK. Its just a selection of some of the stuff we buy as an average family of four.

Fruit and Veg.

Cucumber NZ $3.68 UK £0.70

Cheery Tomatoes Sml Punnet NZ $2.84 UK £1.49

Potatoes 2Kg NZ $4.98 UK £2.00

Carrots 0.5Kg NZ $0.80 UK £0.70

Bananas 1Kg NZ $2.84 UK £1.49

Apples 1Kg NZ $3.78 UK £1.75


Flora Margerine $2.48 UK £1.28

Edam cheese 250gr $3.98 UK £1.50

Milk 3L NZ $4.64 UK £2.98


Beef mince (750gr) NZ $5.80 UK £4.00

Lamb Chops NZ (Approx 1Kg) $15.33 UK £10.00

Chicken breast (Approx 1Kg) NZ $20.00 UK £8.49


Watties Baked Beans NZ $1.50 UK £0.63

Tinned tomatoes NZ $0.98 UK £0.59


Colgate Advance NZ $4.48 £2.60

Nappies Pck 15 NZ $6.98 UK £5.94

Toilet Roll Pck 18 NZ $4.98 UK £6.25


Finish dishwasher powder NZ $6.45 UK £8.00

Surf Powder concen. NZ $1.98 UK £2.24

Cost of total shop in the UK = £62.63

Cost of total shop in NZ = $96.84 (Approx £34.45)

This, admittedly rather rough survey, seems to indicate that it is cheaper to shop in New Zealand. Of course everything is relative and the average salary over here is a lot less than in the UK. This is a quote from an article in the NZHerald today;
"The average salary in New Zealand was $28,427, compared with $65,841 in Britain, but the average cost of a home was only $293,000, compared with $592,000 in Britain."

We have come across to New Zealand earning about the same amount as we did in the UK and we do find it financially a lot easier over here. However we have found a few nasty surprises such as the fuel bills for gas and electricity are certainly no cheaper and with the lack of insulation in the houses over here, tend to be on the high side.

Another quote from the NZ Herold - "New Zealand has been described as a "paradise" by British expats who moved here for a warmer climate and cheaper cost of living.". I don't agree with the bit about a warmer climate as its bl**dy cold here in Wellington at the moment. However I do think people from the UK move over because Kiwis have a better more relaxed approach to life and the work life balance is much better!

On the general theme of food - here are some gratuitous shots of the girls planting some rhubarb and beetroot in the back garden. Its the start of our self sufficiency dream!

If anyone can identify the herbs growing next to the girls we would be grateful as there is masses of the stuff and it could just be a weed. It has small purple/pink flowers and we think it might be thyme.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Paddling in Porirua

We were determined to get out of the house today and get some fresh air and exercise. So even though the sky was rather full with grey ominous looking clouds, we decided to head out for a walk around Porirua Harbour. We drive by the harbour daily and it often looks stunning as the water can look like a mirror reflecting all the coloured houses around the edge. We kitted the girls out in wet weather gear and gum boots (wellies!) and promised them a McDonald's on way back if they didn't moan to much. In the end the bribe wasn't needed as they thoroughly enjoyed splashing in all the muddy puddles and paddling in the harbour.

This is the commuter train into Wellington. It has slightly better views than some of the commuter trains into London.

Its a serious business searching for trolls under bridges.

Even on a day like this you can see the reflections in the water.

Looking across the harbour towards the highway.

It might have been raining but the girls didn't seem to notice - they were too busy spotting all the suitable puddles to paddle in.

Heading towards the Pautahanui Inlet and the marina.

We spotted this bird and think its a New Zealand Kingfisher. It dived into the water and came out with a tiny fish. Amazing to watch.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grass is not greener.........just more fun to mow!

From what you see on programs like "Wanted Down Under" you would think that when you move abroad life suddenly becomes amazing and you never have to deal with the mundane everyday business of work, washing up and wiping snotty noses. Well of course its not like that. You still have to go to work, you still have to get the kids up and washed and scrubbed in time for Kindy, and you still have to pay the bills.

It has been a reminder this week that life can still be, at times a bit of a slog, even in New Zealand. I have had some kind of sore throat, coldy type thing and generally feeling like I don't want to get out of bed in the mornings. The girls have also been feeling under the weather. My youngest has been waking up at three in the morning and climbing into bed with my oldest and waking her, and us up in the process. My husband has had to work late several times this week and is tired and grumpy. I blame the weather. It very hard when you are sitting watching the rain thunder down and 12000 miles away in Brittany your Mum and Dad are describing how difficult it is coping with the heat wave they are having.

This week has been hard and it has highlighted the fact that when I am feeling less than 100% there is no one here who can give me hand and there is no family to lean on. Its also difficult and hard work making friends in a new country. People are extremely friendly here and go out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome. It can still take time however to form friendships where you feel fully at ease and don't worry whether the joke you make might be taken the wrong way or whether they will understand a reference to Dr Who (it comes up a lot in conversations, honestly!). It could just be me who worries about things like this, but it can take a lot of time to form good friendships and networks of people you can turn to when things get tough.

However, having had a good moan, I think I should point out that I have no regrets about moving here. I just have to look at how happy my two girls are. My oldest has made so many new friends at Kindy and is desperate to get there every morning. My youngest loves exploring the countryside and beaches. We all get to see a lot more of my husband who we barely used to see in the UK as his commute was so horrendous. I am slowly but surely beginning to make friends amongst the other Mums in the area and should be able to start back at work soon. The other thing I should mention is how lucky I feel every morning when I look out the window and see the sea.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Searching for Seals

I was woken up this morning by a very wet lick on the nose. This wouldn't have surprised me if we still had our dog, but as she was unable to come to New Zealand with us it was a bit worrying. It turns out our 2 year old had decided that she was going to be a dog this morning and thought the best way of getting Mummy to wake up was to lick me on the nose!

This Sunday we are all rather tired, as we decided yesterday to yet again try and find these elusive seals which apparently can be spotted off the coast of Wellington. We ended up at Tuarakirae Head on the other side of Wellington Bay. Its a beautiful spot and the sky was so clear you could see across to the South Island and the snow capped mountains. We had a great walk all the way to the marine reserve but failed to spot any seals. I imagine that my two girls loud and repeated renditions of "Wheels on the bus" might have scared them off!

It was the start of winter on the 1st of June so it was surprisingly warm and sunny.

Lots of sheep!

Arty sheepy shot!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Peaceful Nation of Kiwis

New Zealand has been named the "Worlds most peaceful nation" in a survey carried out by the Australia based Institute for Economics and Peace. In contrast the UK was back in 35th place out of the 144 countries ranked. This survey places NZ alongside countries like Denmark, Norway and Austria.

I have noticed that NZ feels a lot safer than the UK. Kids are out walking to and from school on their own and out playing in parks. The kindergarten and schools have none of the security measures and checks that you have to get past just to get collect your own child back in England. I have never felt the need to switch on the central locking on my car when driving in Wellington. I used to automatically back home ever since my laptop was taken from the back seat as I slowed at a junction.

As I walk back from kindergarten with the girls its often feels to me like I have stepped back in time. The area in which we live reminds me of England 15 or 20 years ago when I was growing up. The kids out playing and people stopping to say hello and have a quick natter about the weather. Its a nice friendly, peaceful place. Long may it stay this way!