Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why Kiwis are called Kiwis.

Its been another busy week in the Brunt household and the weather has gradually been showing signs of improvement. So much so that J has to wear a sun hat whenever she goes outside now at school. This seems to be the policy in all New Zealand schools from Labour Day onwards. It appears that NZ is renowned as being a country where you are likely to get sun burnt really quickly - so all the Mums I have met tell me. My two girls certainly caught the sun last weekend when I forgot to take sun cream and hats on our walk.

So I decided to do a little bit of research on the affects of the sun in NZ. (In other words I googled!). I couldn't find a great deal of info, but what I did find suggested that you have to be very careful of the sun in this country as you can get burnt remarkably quickly. NZ has very clean air with very little pollution to filter the suns rays. There is also apparently a small hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica which, at certain times of the year, can affect New Zealand. This can lead to heightened levels of UV radiation in the atmosphere and also means you have to take extra care in the sun. So as a result I have stocked up on sun cream and extra wide brimmed hats in the vain hope that eventually summer will arrive!

I have finally found the answer to a question I have always wanted to know. Why are New Zealanders known as Kiwis. I have been reading "The Listener" magazine this week and there was an interesting article by Sarah Barnett on the Kiwi (the bird) as it has been voted "Bird of the Year". In the article she states that "we became known as Kiwis in World War I, when New Zealand soldiers, cooling their heels in Wiltshire waiting for ships to bring them home, carved a 6000sq m chalk Kiwi on Beacon Hill".

All the time we lived in Wiltshire we never spotted a large Kiwi carved on the hillside so I assume it has now disappeared. I think thats a great shame - it would have added an international and exotic element to the scenery in the area.
I like the response that the author of the article gives to the question of whether New Zealanders like to be known as Kiwis. "Of course we like it - its one of the few birds in the world with two functioning ovaries. In other words, a national emblem with balls. Go Kiwi!"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sunshine and Shows.

We have been so busy over the last few weeks that I have not had much time to do any blogging so I thought I would make myself sit down over this long "Labour Day Weekend" and catch up a bit.

"Labour Day" in New Zealand (according to Wikipedia) is always the fourth Monday in October and apparently commemorates the agreement of an eight hour working day for tradesmen in 1840. For us it is a great excuse for a long weekend of picnics and walks in the sun.

We really need this long weekend and after, what has been for us, a year of winter we are in desperate need of some sun which has finally deigned to appear. In fact it was so warm yesterday that the girls needed sun cream and hats. Our first taste of New Zealand summer I hope! We spent it walking along the beach in Queen Elizabeth Park and eating Ice Cream on the seafront in Paraparaumou.

A writing in the sand - with a very long stick.

All the flowers were out. I keep forgetting its Spring not Autumn!

Its a serious business building sandcastles.

J has been extremely excited over the last week as she has been appearing in the WOW show at her school. This is the World of Wearable Arts show and involved the children making costumes and outfits out of recycled material and performing a fashion show. It was a great way of allowing every single child in the school to take part and be involved. It was fantastic and the kids all thoroughly enjoyed it. The light show and stage production was really professional and A's favourite bit (which she kept reminding us for hours afterwards) was when an Aliens eye fell off and bounced on the stage. This is obviously really amusing and memorable for a 2 year old!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Staglands, Tsunamis and Robots.

My youngest daughter has gained fame at a young age. She was in the local paper this week along with her best mates from next door. Our local playgroup had a Wearable Arts day where we were invited to construct some sort of wearable art work together with the toddlers. We decided to make robots but some of the ideas that people came up with were quite innovative. We were surrounded by mermaids, princesses, aliens and warriors.

The World of Wearable Arts (WOW) show is held every September in Wellington and attracts and audience of 35000. Designers from all over the world submit designs to the Judges and 150 are selected to compete for a prize of over $100'000. I thought our Robot designs were fairly good and maybe next year we will enter the show! First the local paper - then the world....

We awoke earlier in the week to Tsunami warnings on our local radio station following the earthquake in Samoa. It was quite a wake up call in a way as the threat of Tsunamis is not something we have really thought about before. We can see the sea from our house but we are fairly high up and probably not at risk. However P works in Wellington and travels on the train that passes directly by the low lying coastline.

In the end all we saw of the Tsunami was a 40cm wave by the time it hit Wellington, not really that impressive. In parts of NZ people were actually prevented from going near low lying and exposed beaches. There were numerous articles online about scores of people heading down to beaches to see if they could see the Tsunami approaching. Even though I recognise that this is rather a dangerous activity, I have to admit that I would probably be one of those people if the opportunity arose!

This Saturday, as the weather is still frustratingly not good enough to go camping, we went to Staglands. This is a wildlife reserve in the Akatarawa valley to the north of Wellington. Its is a fantastic day out even though you have to drive along another twisting, winding, sheer drop on one side, road. They seem to specialise in these type of roads over here. If you suffer from a fear of heights, New Zealand is not a good place to drive.

The valleys in this area was apparently logged extensively in the past and it still appears to be going on in places. Thankfully it has also been heavily reforested in recent years.
J and A sitting in a replica logging station.

This Ram refused to move or let us pass until he was fed, he then followed us around until we ran out of food.

An amazingly hungry pig.

Spring is clearly a good time to visit as all the baby animals are available for cuddles.