Sunday, August 28, 2011

Four Seasons In One Week

I know this is a bit late as the snow disappeared over a week ago now. However I have once again been "snowed" under with work and life in general. So here are some belated pictures of the snow in Whitby.

Not sure if Whitby has ever looked this cold and white.

It snowed during the week and on Sunday we had this glorious spring day. Time for a picnic and walk at Battle Hill.

Finally getting the hang of my new camera and the fast shutter speed. I managed to get an unposed photo of A!

A quick rest looking down onto Transmission Gully where, I think, they are eventually going to relocate the SH1. It will be a very sad day when that is done.

Some cows and the forest behind. A beautiful spot.

I have just put this picture in because I love Pukekoes. They are one of the weirdest birds I have ever seen and I loved they way they were all strutting snootily along this fence.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Continually Increasing Cost of Living.

Just been around our local New World (the equivalent of Waitrose or Sainsburys, likes to think its a cut above the other supermarkets) and was shocked that I managed to spend over $110 on just "a few little bits" that I needed to pick up.

 I had been watching the news reports complaining about increasing prices and had filed it away in the part of my brain labelled "things I'm not very interested in". However today it hit home that food prices really have gone up and perhaps I should be looking at the prices of the items I am blindly chucking in the trolley. Its not just the food prices that are going up over here. The price of petrol has been steadily increasing since we arrived and our electricity and gas direct debit has been sneakily going up each month. Although that is more likely to be because I have been having the heater in the lounge on constantly the last month or so, as I resent the fact that if I don't I have to wear so many layers of clothing it becomes difficult to move.

So I thought it would be a good idea to do a bit of a review of food prices in this country. Well over a year ago I posted a cost of food comparison between the UK and New Zealand. I think this now needs updating. So here is my shopping list from this morning and how I managed to spend $110 in about 10 minutes.

ACT popcorn. 1 packet $2.35
Toilet Duck $3.99
6 Eggs Free Range  $3.05
Friskies Cat Biscuits $7.06
30 Sandwich bags $3.44
2 loaves of sliced bread $8.52
Listerine mouthwash $8.77
Pack of 4 Cup of Soups $2.67
Porridge Microwavable Packets $6.84
Toilet Tissue 18 pack $9.99
Tinned Pineapple chunks $1.29
Raspberry Jam $3.25
Ricies Cereal $3.68
Twisties crisps $1.99
Cheerios Cereal $5.36
Whiskas cat food $8.33
Lean diced beef 0.350kg $5.95
Beef mince 0.378kg $6.42
Meadow lee margarine $ 4.14
Butter $5.99
Grapes 0.334kg $3.34

Please don't judge me on my healthy eating habits! Based on this we live on a diet of beef, grapes and cereal. I can assure you we do eat a reasonably balanced diet and I stress this is a just a few bits I needed to pick up. Honestly!

Anyway I hope this proves useful to anyone out there looking for information on prices and cost of living out here. At the moment it seems to be increasing and I think I need to start keeping a closer watch on what I am spending whilst going round the supermarket. Instead of trying to think what would be the quickest dinner I could produce so that I can stop the kids moaning at me and proclaiming that I am starving them.

In order to save some money we opted to do our own baking, which is much more fun than simply buying cakes from the bakery. Even if it does make a lot more mess.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Absence of Loneliness

It was great and unusual this half term to have time to read and surf the net. I came across this article about how loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions in the UK. It is rarely talked about and people are often unwilling to admit that they feel that way. Apparently it is particularly common amongst women with children and it brought back many memories for me.

When my youngest was born we had just moved in to a new estate in Wiltshire. We were one of the last houses to be occupied and the estate was full of young families like ours. I went to all the local play groups and library groups in an attempt to make friends. I met a few people I could chat to whilst the children played but the friendships never went beyond that. It never extended to a suggestion of coffee or a play date for the kids. I feel I must point out at this point that I am (honestly!) not weird or smelly and I don't have any noticeable bad personal habits that would prevent people from wanting to be near me.

I am however reasonably shy and so would be unlikely to make the first suggestion or invitation for coffee. However I was friendly when approached and was a bit disappointed when not one of my neighbours commented or congratulated us when we arrived home from hospital after the birth of our second child!

Since moving to the other side of the world I have strangely, not felt lonely once. Even though I am about as far away as it is possible to get from all my family and friends. In this country, or possibly in this particular area, it is impossible to feel lonely. I think expats can often feel isolated, homesick and alone in a country with a different culture and sometimes a different language. New Zealand has a very similar culture to the UK and apart from getting frustrated and continually being corrected when trying to pronounce Paraparamou and Paekakrikie, I have not felt any sense of isolation.

People in this country are very friendly. We cannot make a visit to the local shops without meeting someone we know and having a conversation. It is lovely to be invited to meet friends for coffee and have a conversation with neighbours. I can't help thinking that the UK has lost some of the community spirit and openness, that thankfully, New Zealand seems to have held onto.

We visited the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park this weekend. So I was testing out my new camera again.

It was a bit windy!

But very sunny.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cold, Cold, Cold!

I am sitting typing this with two jumpers and a large pink and extremely fluffy dressing gown on. It is freezing. We were warned on the news last night that a wintry blast was due to travel up the country from the south and it has well and truly arrived this morning.

The girls are very excited as you can see snow on the hills across the valley. Its just cold and wet in Whitby itself but it does look a bit like a winter wonderland across the top of the Puatahanui hills.

We are no longer equipped as a family to cope with this level of cold. When we first moved here from Brussels over two and a half years ago now, we left behind a foot of snow on the streets of the Belgian capital and arrived in New Zealand to the last rays of a hot summer. We have since had little need for our multitude of woolly hats scarfs and gloves. However every now and then the wet wintry weather suddenly surprises with a particularly cold blast. This is why the other half was getting very agitated this morning at his inability to find the other half of a pair of long lost thermal gloves and any woolly hats whatsoever.

The climate in this part of New Zealand is not that much warmer than most of northern Europe. Don't get taken in by the local populations ability to continue wearing shorts and jangles even though the temperature is in single digits. It can get cold and the houses are extremely chilly, as I have repeatedly stated many times before!

I was having a chat with a group of friends a few weeks ago when the subject of "Earthquake weather" came up. Now having gained a Geography degree many years ago I was adamant that the weather has absolutely no influence on earthquakes whatsoever. However the locals where unconvinced. They began to swap stories  from childhood ,when they knew earthquakes would be more likely to occur in wet windy and blustery weather. Hogwash, rubbish and just plain nuts. These were the thoughts that went through my head. But I was far to polite to voice them!

But...several times now we appear to have had earthquakes in just this weather. Last night, as the house was being shaken repeatedly by gusts of wind, Indiana Jones and the the last Crusade was rudely interrupted by a magnitude 5.2 earthquake. Perhaps there is something to this "earthquake weather" theory. However when you google "earthquake weather" it seems to suggest that they should occur in calm, clear days not blustery cold windy ones. According to that theory, we should be fine in Wellington. I can't remember that last calm clear day we had!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Photography in the winter sun

The girls and I headed out to test out my new camera at the Pautahanui Wildlife Reserve this morning. The light is amazing in this country. The clouds and colours of the vegetation were combining to produce some beautiful landscapes.

The girls brought their own cameras and enjoyed messing about taking hundreds of photos of each other.

We hid in the huts and searched for wildlife.

A is clearly a dedicated and determined photographer.

If only this picture was not at this angle it would be great.

I love the colours in this one.

The one and only bird shot I was happy with.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Six Months of Big Changes

If anyone out there in the world wide web is still reading this blog I feel I must apologise for the lack of posts in the last six months or so. I have been unbelievably busy and not had any time or energy to post anything online.

It has been a year of big changes and it feels like real life has just caught up with us down under. Work, school, money, kids and all the extra baggage that comes with being an adult has just been snowing us in as a family and I have had no time for life's luxury's. Like having five minutes to read the paper or an hour or so to mess about blogging on the net.

Anyway, half term is here and the kids have friends round, so are occupied pretending to be fairies and monsters. So I find myself with an hour to sit down and have a look at my long lost blog.

This blog was originally set up to inform people about what it is like relocating to New Zealand and to keep my family up to date with our day to day life. Well, we have now fully settled in and this place has now become home. I couldn't imagine living anywhere else at the moment. Both my girls have broad Kiwi accents (or "kay-weay eksent") and I spend most of my time trying to decipher what they are saying.

I have found a job which is just ten minutes down the road and seems (more or less) to fit in just right with family life. For those that have not read this blog before I am actually a teacher and have managed to get a job teaching in New Zealand. It seems that there are an awful lot of British teachers out here. In my school alone there are four. Clearly there is something about the Kiwi lifestyle that appeals to them. It certainly is not the pay as teachers in NZ are no better paid than they are in the UK! However I do love my new job and hope to be there for some time to come.

The girls are loving school and Kindergarten and enjoying the outdoor lifestyle. My youngest has now spent more than half her life in New Zealand and has no memory of the UK. Neither of them realise just how lucky they are to be living out here. I will be very interested to see what they make of the UK when we finally do make the visit back.

It is the middle of winter over here at the moment and we have woken up several times to a white out. Not snow (as that is almost unheard of in Wellington) but a very heavy frost. Since houses over here seem to have almost no insulation and double glazing is unheard of, this has meant is has been a chilly 7 degrees in our house some mornings. I am considering investing in thermal underwear. I am that desperate.

My other half has just brought me a very snazzy new camera which is another reason for me resurrecting my blog. So I thought I would post some pictures of a sunny winters day in Whitby.

One of the indicators that we are well and truly settled here is the new member of our family. Carrot arrived in February this year and is now considered to be just another Brunt sibling. Cats appear to be very popular pet in New Zealand despite the devastating impact they have on the local bird life. Carrot is proving to be very adept and catching the mice that live under our house and so far seems to be ignoring the local flying wildlife. Hopefully it will stay this way!

I am hoping that I can now get back into blogging regularly as I have missed keeping an online diary and my new camera will help me keep motivated.

One thing I love about this country is that even in the depths of winter you still get bright sunny days and it is always green.