Sunday, December 2, 2012

Windmills of Wellington

With warnings of gales and damaging gusts of wind we headed out to visit the West Wind project near Makara in Wellington. It is a bit of an odd thing to do in such windy weather but we did get a great opportunity to view a wind farm really working at top speed!

This wind farm had to fight a lot of local resistance to get built. People complaining about the noise, visual impact and disruption caused whilst it is being constructed. It has been fully completed and contains 62 wind turbines and generates enough electricity to power 72'000 homes.

I think the wind farm is stunning. The funnelling effect of the Cook Strait makes it the perfect place for a wind farm. It was not so easy to build in this location however. As the surrounding hills are steep and the roads narrow and twisting, the turbines were brought in by boat.

This was my first opportunity to see turbines up close. It was a bit of a shock as they are actually reasonably noisy. The make a dull "whoomp" as they turn. That's the best description I can come up with I'm afraid. I am sure someone could come up with a better descriptive but that is how it sounded to me! This, coupled with the general noise made by the wind through the trees, made the atmosphere up there slightly eerie and unsettling on this particular day.

I also think that the arms of the windmills remind me of Tripods (from that weird 80s TV movie) or the machines in War of the Worlds, as they loom above the treeline.

There is a country park built around the wind farm and I can thoroughly recommend some of the walks in this area. The views across the Cook Strait and of the wind farm itself are breathtaking.

I find it odd to think that you are effectively walking through a Power Station. I regularly passed Dungeness Power Station in the UK (a Nuclear Power Station) and used to swim in the sea warmed by its discharged coolant water. I have also lived near several coal and oil fired power stations and watched the continuous smoke rising from their generators.

I know what type of Power Station I would rather my children are exposed to.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Prison Visiting Rights

"You must visit Wellington Prison this weekend" my mate said to me over our traditional Friday glass of wine. "Erm..well we might if we have the time" was my less than enthusiastic response. Spending your Saturday visiting a prison is not something you would usually do out of choice. However this Saturday this is exactly what we did end up doing along with hundreds of other people.

Wellington's Mount Crawford prison is being shut down permanently; Built using prison labour in the 1930's it has reached the end of its useful life. It is not earthquake proof and the building is apparently not up to the standard required for modern rehabilitation.

I found the touring the prison rather moving, fascinating and somewhat uncomfortable and disturbing. There were loads of other people touring the building and we were all crammed in as it was  only open for a few hours. This meant that the cramped and claustrophobic conditions were amplified.

All the doors  were designed to only let one person through at a time which just added to the confinement and uncomfortably restricted feeling of the building. But I guess that is the point. It was not designed to be somewhere pleasant to live.

The cells were extremely small and prisoners clearly had no privacy. However, as my friend pointed out, they did have very nice wooden floors!

The indoor exercise yard for the high risk prisoners.

The education centre. Not exactly inspiring.

The main indoor space.

Executions were carried out in this area. Three people were hung before capitol punishment was abolished. The bodies were removed through the small door.

The outside exercise yard.

Grim surroundings made slightly less grim by a small shrubbery.

I found this visit eye opening in many ways. Thankfully I have never had to enter a prison before either as a potential inmate or a visitor and so had very little inkling as to what prison life was like. It appears from viewing this building, which up until recently was in use, that life behind bars is very tough. The confinement, restriction of movement and lack of privacy, are things I would find very difficult to cope with.

The best and most intriguing part of the day was listening in on a conversation that two men were having in one of the exercise yards. They has clearly previously been incarcerated in this very prison and had come back to have a nose at their old temporary home. Judging by their respective ages they would have been in prison quite some time ago but going by their smiles and friendly greeting that they gave to one of the guards, I like to think that maybe their time behind bars eventually led to an improvement in their lives.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Middle of Middle Earth

We took a trip into Wellington today or as it seems to be currently known, "The Middle of Middle Earth!" Hobbit fever has really hit the coolest little capitol in the world hard. Everywhere you look there are flags of Golem and big statues of Gandalf - it really is very cool.

The Hobbit craft fair was also packed and full of potential Hobbits and Wizards looking for bargains. We also, almost, came back with one of probably thousands of "the one ring to rule them all". However I decided at the last minute that although it would have been well worth the seventy dollar price tag, I was probably not strong enough to resist the evil influences of the "one ring" and would end up looking like Golem rather than going to live with the elves in their land across the sea. So it was far safer just to get a Gandalf hat instead!

I love this artists interpretation of Wellington. Its a massive poster next to the Embassy Theatre and I think really captures the surreal feeling in the city at the moment.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Propect of Christmas in Transit.

If anyone has been reading this blog over the last few weeks you will have noticed that we have been trying to save up for a trip back to the UK this Christmas. Well us Brunts have a habit of leaving everything to the last minute and when it comes to planning a trip to the other side of the world, it probably is not a good method to follow.

We have been studying the online cost of flights for a family of four online and trying to face the fact that this trip was going to be bloody expensive no matter what we did. Over the last few days in particular we have seen the flights begin to creep up, in one case by just under a thousand dollars overnight!

This prompted us to make the final decision and we have booked flights for the four of us leaving Christmas day, in the early hours of the morning. So we will be spending about 6 hours of the festive morning in Sydney airport. Not really ideal, but when the flights are two thousand dollars cheaper when you travel on the 25th its probably worth it. I have told the girls we will probably see Santa flying on his way home as we fly over the pacific.

We have not been back to the UK since we moved over here almost four years ago, so this trip is really overdue. However when talking to other expats, this amount of time, without a trip back, is not unusual. The cost is simply too prohibitive. For the cost of transporting us all the way back for four weeks, we could be replacing our extremely clapped out and tatty people carrier for a model at least 8 year younger and with far fewer bumps and scrapes. Probably without the many ice cream stains and bits of unidentified vegetation spread over the back seat as well.

Having said that we are missing family and the girls do not have any memories of living in the UK. The youngest left the UK when she was 6 months old and the oldest was only 3. It is about time they found out a bit about where they are from and got to meet their Aunts and Uncles, Great Grandads, Nan and Grandads and all the other many relatives we are lucky enough to have. I think that is probably worth more than the prospect of having a car that is only 8 years old as opposed to 13.

So I am beginning to get excited about the whole trip now that I have got over the shock of having to pay for it! I am looking forward to driving along the M25 again, showing the kids the castles in Sussex and the mountains in Wales. Taking them to London to see the museums, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. Most of all though I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family.

But next time they all have to come to NZ instead!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A spot of Cricket in the sun.

It may be pouring outside but I think we have definite signs that summer is on it's way and it may be a good one this year.

We have already started the morning ritual of lathering on the sunscreen and making sure hats are packed before heading off to school. Something that seems very odd when I compare it with my own summers at school. All we had to do was make sure the obligatory plastic "Pack a Mack" was stuffed in the bag for when the inevitable down pour occurred bang on 3 o'clock.

I love Kiwi Summers and can't wait for the long hot days to arrive. We had a glimpse of summer yesterday and headed out to Kaitoke for a picnic and walk. The air was fresh and the breeze was warm. A perfect combination.

Beautiful Rivendell

Cricket - a very serious game.

Tree climbing.

A sport everyone can get involved in.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Selling Middle Earth

I am a huge Lord of Rings fan and love all things Middle Earth and I guess I am living in the right place! This is the new Air New Zealand advert.

I have to admit that when you get out into the wilds of the countryside in this country you can quite easily feel like you are living in Middle Earth. There are so few people around and the scenery is so spectacular you would not be at all surprised if Gandalf came hurtling around the corner on his white horse followed by a legion of Orcs. Or maybe that's just my imagination getting away from me!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spooky Goings On!

I love Halloween. It was never big in England when I was a kid. I remember one party with apple bobbing and carved pumpkins but there were never many Trick or Treaters and we never really celebrated it as a family.

The only significant Halloween event occurred when I was about 16 when the great BBC in their wisdom transmitted the film Ghostwatch. If you ever see a copy of this grab it! It was a made for TV film which was presented as if it was a real, live documentary investigating a haunted council house inhabited by a single mum and her two daughters. It has only ever been shown once on TV as it caused so many complaints. People took it seriously and believed that one of the presenters had really been dragged into another realm!

It is hosted by the distinguished Michael Parkinson and ends with him becoming possessed. I watched it around a mates house and remember clinging to my then boyfriend for most of the evening. Its very scary and convincing. Unfortunately the 90s clothing takes some of the fear factor away now but its still worth watching.

In New Zealand Halloween appears to be growing in popularity with most of the discount shops becoming full of scream masks and witches hats. So this year I thought I would hold my own Halloween party.

In preparation I painted my nails Thursday night and headed into work with trendy black finger nails. I received several comments on them including one lady who on hearing I was intending to have a Halloween party launched into a description of how it was a horrible tradition involving the burning of bones and the sacrificing of kids. A bit shocked by this I mumbled something about just intending to wrap kids in loo roll and bob for some apples, and I quickly changed the subject.

After some research (or googling and chatting to friends) I have found that there are still people who appear to think that kids running around dressed as bats and witches is dangerous and meddling with the occult in some way. Well I respect everyones views and certainly did not challenge this persons viewpoint. However I do find it hard to see any danger in eating donuts hanging from a piece of string and kids running around wearing false plastic fangs (even though one over enthusiastic five year old apparently did try to suck the blood of the three year old).

We had a great party and I am already planning next years night of horror :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

You know you are becoming a Kiwi when...........

You start wearing shorts as soon as the slightest bit of sun appears ..... even if it is blowing a gale and bloody cold!

Your kids (and occasionally even you!) start going around the supermarket without shoes on.

Wellies are no longer Wellies they are Gum Boots and Flip Flops are Jandels. You also develop the ability to wear said "Jandels" in all weathers.

Your kids can demonstrate how to curl into a ball during and earthquake and point your bottom (or butt as my five year old likes to say) at a window.

Everything is "Awesome" and "Sweet As"!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The cost of keeping in touch.

About three months ago we took a momentous decision as a family. On the spur of the moment we bought the two animals shown below. About a week later, and following many solo trips to feed them in the rain I came to the conclusion that maybe this had been a rash and unwise decision.

Unfortunately by then we had already fallen in love with them and so I am stuck making twice daily trips down the back garden to feed them in all weathers. I am sure standing in the pet shop it was not made clear to me that it would be my sole responsibility - but hey ho this is clearly just one of the many unwritten responsibilities that you take on when becoming a wife and Mum. Personally I think it should be in the wedding vows - to love honour and care for any small animals that may be bought on a whim by your husband when he is ganged up on by your daughters.

I think the addition of pets into a family is one of the most significant indicators that we are in this country to stay. Apart from the commitment to look after the little fur balls (for at least the next two years anyway, as far as the Guinea is concerned) we have had to invest in all the bulky equipment needed and figure out who will look after them when we visit the UK.

We have been planning a visit back for the last two years or so but the cost of transporting all four of us to the other side of the world is proving a huge obstacle. The sooner they invent transporters like they have in Star Trek the better!

To get all of us back for this Christmas it is likely to cost over eleven thousand NZ dollars. Possibly more as we have yet to book the tickets and apparently the cost increases the closer you get to December. I think we need to get organised fast.

So if you are reading this blog and thinking of moving to New Zealand please take into account the cost of visits to family. We will probably be fine to fund trips back to the UK in the future as soon as we sell our house in the UK. This year has been a real trial trying to put money aside each month but we have not seen some of our family for four years and we are over due a visit home. I also missed my sisters wedding as we could not afford the trip back.

I really just want anyone reading this to consider the cost of trips back when emigrating. If you have read the other posts on my blog, you will know that we love life here. Life in New Zealand is worth the cost and distance. Please just plan your visits to family better than we have.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Real Stonehenge!

It's the school holidays over here and since we are currently saving for a visit back to the UK we are rather unusually staying at home this half term. So we are exploring locally and decided to take trip over to the Wairarapa for the day. It poured with rain and having had lunch and been somewhat disappointed with Martinborough we ended up at Stonehenge Aotearoa.

I assumed that this would be an attempt to reproduce the original motley collection of scattered stones as they appear next to the busy A303 in Wiltshire, only in someones back garden in New Zealand. I was wrong. The New Zealand version is truly a labour of love.

Not only is it set in stunningly beautiful (and on the day we visited spookily mist covered) landscape it is constructed to accurately track the stars and changing seasons.

The website below explains it far better than I can. I would really recommend a visit and spending a good hour or so chatting to the owners (providing you don't have a fidgety five and eight year old with you). They are experts in this area and have a wealth of interesting information to browse through. We will be returning for the mid summer solstice which should be quite spectacular.

Stonehenge Aotearoa

Looking up to the heavens - unfortunately it was way to cloudy to see anything!

We will be returning along with the Druids and other fairy folk to see the henge perform in the way it is meant to in the sunny weather.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back with a bit of Spring!

I have not touched this blog for at least a year but I felt that it would be almost criminal to just abandon it forever. It contains a record of, what has been so far, one of the most exciting episodes of this families life.

Life has moved on for us at such a rapid pace that I have not had time to do anything with this blog. I also feel that time is moving so fast that I am loosing track, and every record of, the many changes that are happening in our lives.

So I thought I would resurrect this blog and use it to keep a visual record of our continuing life in this strange new land, exploring strange new worlds and discovering new life forms... no wait that's Star Trek..... oh well I am sure you know what I mean!

We are still living in windy Wellington and still bringing up two little Kiwis. I have a job now which is one of the main reasons this blog has been neglected. The sunny spring weather prompted us to do what we enjoy doing most in this country, exploring and discovering new places. This is Makara Beach.

Great spring weather in a beautiful spot.

There were many people fishing and walking in the great spot. But this chap decided to walk across my attempt at an arty shot!

Great place for a picnic.

And a great place to search for sealife.

The view from above.

I think windmills are great. Clean, green and frankly quite beautiful.

End with an arty shot. x