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!