Saturday, August 21, 2010

Straw Bales and Soccer.

I first discovered Whitemans Valley last Christmas when I brought my daughters bike through Trade Me from a lady that lived there. In order to reach the valley you have to climb up a very steep and somewhat dangerous road from Upper Hutt. Your passengers will tell you all about the amazing views which you can't look at because you are too busy gripping the steering wheel and trying to stay on the road around the scarily narrow and sudden bends.
Once you reach the top you turn a corner and find yourself dropping down into a beautiful green and enclosed valley. Its only a 10 minute drive from Upper Hutt but it has the feel of a small rural hamlet surrounded by agricultural lifestyle plots and woodland. Its the kind of place we want to live eventually. Somewhere we can have a small plot of land with a few Shetland ponies to keep the grass down, some chickens and a pig called George (yes I have already named him!).

This weekend we visited the Short Straw Cafe which is in Johnsons Road. I was not aware that this cafe even existed until I mentioned my fascination with Whitemans Valley to a friend of mine and she told me about this great family cafe.

The cafe itself is one of the first buildings built out of straw in New Zealand. Obviously not just straw. I think the girls were somewhat disappointed when we pulled up to a building that clearly didn't look like the straw house built by one of the three little pigs. However the thickness of the walls gives you a good indication that the building was indeed constructed out of stacked bales of hay. This must give it great insulation but is probably let down by the fact that like all buildings out here it doesn't have double glazing.

It is a great family cafe. The food is delicious and clearly home cooked. The garden out the back is perfect for kids with a slide, swings, big building blocks and plenty of space to run around in. We loved it so much that we have booked J's birthday party there.

J has been having soccer skills lessons at school and so is now convinced she has a future playing for the All Whites. So this weekend we purchased the Brunts first ever football and had a game in one of the parks in Upper Hutt.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A sense of not quite belonging

I have been getting a bit homesick this week and it has all been down to one particular song that they keep playing on the radio. The lead singer has a distinctive English accent. Its the accent that I was surrounded with for the first 20 years of my life and the song is very Brit pop-ish. It just reminds me of sitting on the pebble beach in my home town and eating fish and chips late at night. We used to sit and watch the storms roll over from France. It also reminds me of getting the train from Charing Cross Station and the smell of coffee and bored sweaty commuters on their way home from another boring day in the office. It has been making me nostalgic for afternoons in country pubs nursing a glass of diet coke for hours on end. Listening to the Eagles repeatedly on the Juke Box and watching the children run riot in the pub garden. So generally just missing English stuff this week.

Its not that I want to go home, I love it here! I have just been feeling like I don't quite fit in. I have been working with a lot of people who every now and then will swap between English and Maori. Obviously my knowledge of Maori is non existent and so this has left me out of the loop somewhat. Everyone is very nice and friendly but it is obvious in so many ways that I have only been in New Zealand for 18 months and so I don't understand the traditions and language of quite a large percentage of the population. It feels like its going to be a very steep learning curve.

My eldest daughter can actually sing in Maori and is being taught all about the history and traditions of the original settlers of these Islands. Her Kiwi accent also means that she will always be automatically accepted as a New Zealander. My (apparently quite posh) English accent is unlikely to ever go away so I will always be identified as a non Kiwi.

We visited Te Papa again yesterday and ended up in the section about immigrations to New Zealand. How people in the Nineteenth century were brave enough to get on a ship to the New World knowing that they would probably never see home or their family again is unbelievably brave. New Zealand is a country that has been populated in relatively recent history by a series of immigrations. Firstly the Maori about 1000 years ago and then far more recently with European settlers. So I guess I could count myself as being amongst the newest wave of immigration. So essentially I am not that different to everyone else in New Zealand. I just happen to have arrived only a relatively short time ago!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Re-entering the world of paid employment

I have been too busy to blog again. At least I have a decent excuse this time. I am now gainfully employed and have spent the last few weeks arranging childcare and starting my new job.

It has been about four and a half years since I was last part of the paid workforce so this has all been a bit of a shock to the system. But it has also been great fun and I think I am going to thoroughly enjoy my new job.

Arranging childcare was a nightmare in the UK and used to eat up the vast majority of my wages. In New Zealand you are entitled to 20 hours a week free childcare which is great. However you are only allowed 6 hours of free care a day so this can restrict you a bit.

I decided that I wanted my youngest to continue to go to Kindergarten and so needed to place her with a child minder (or Home Educator as they are called here) who could take her to and collect her from Kindergarten. I went straight to "Porse" who are a large organisation which will attempt to match you with a Home Educator in your area and who matches your child's needs and parenting style. You can then go and check them out in their own homes and see if you like them. We have been unbelievably lucky and A is now going to be looked after partly by a lovely lady just up the road from us and the rest of the time by an equally lovely friend of mine.

So far I am really enjoying going back to work. Its great to be able to do something I love that appears to fit in with family life. However as soon as you start back to work it is almost guaranteed that one of the kids will get sick. And sure enough on my third day of work A comes down with a bad case of the flu! So I had to phone up and explain that I couldn't come in. Not a great start but luckily they seemed to understand. Hopefully this coming week will run a bit more smoothly.