Sunday, July 21, 2013

Earthquakes and the underside of tables.

Moving to NZ has really highlighted the importance of having sturdy dining room tables. Twice yesterday we had to dive for cover under ours and I have become incredibly grateful that when choosing our table two years ago we decided upon one of the largest and sturdiest in the shop.

Wellington has had two of the largest quakes the city has seen in many years. The first occurred on Sunday at just past 7am whilst we sat eating breakfast around the dining room table. It started with a large jolt, at which point we all stared at each other for a few seconds and then when the walls started to shake and the floor began to rumble we dived under the table, along with the dog.

We huddled together clinging to the table legs for a good 30 seconds whilst the dog merrily wiggled between us. I think he was probably wondering what on earth we were all doing getting down to his eye level for once.

The morning quake, although a bit worrying did not feel that scary. It was the one that occurred after five that evening which really shook me up. Quite literally. I was not at home when it occurred and was sitting around a dining room table chatting to four other adults, in an unfamiliar house. When the ground began to shake beneath us we all looked at one another and someone shouted "get in a doorway". So we all ran to the same doorway and tried to squeeze in together. It was a new build, open plan house, which didn't appear to have many doorways!

When the shaking subsided twenty seconds later I think all our nerves were a little unsettled. We all immediately tried to ring our respective houses and had trouble getting through as everyone in the Wellington region desperately tried to check loved ones were okay. 

My other half and the kids had once again all dived under the dining room table but they all seemed unfazed when I finally got through to them. They were more upset that there movie had been rudely interrupted.

The Wellington region has luckily been largely undamaged by the earthquake which had a larger magnitude than the deadly Christchurch event. Wellington city is eerily quiet today and many people who work in the CBD are working from home like my other half. Buildings in the CBD have been damaged and the fallen masonry and cracked roads pictured in all the news bulletins does bring it home just what powerful forces we are dealing with.

I think the emotional toll of this event is going to have more impact than any of the physical damage caused. Wellingtonians are a resilient bunch but people I have met today are still pretty shaken up. Everyone who lives in this region is fully aware we live with an active earthquake risk, but this event has forced people to face exactly how big and how likely that risk is. 

I popped to the supermarket this morning and almost all the bottled water had sold out. According to the chatty checkout lady they had sold thousands in emergency kit and water supplies in the few hours they had been open. This was mentioned as I placed my six litres of bottled water on the checkout.

Discussing yesterdays event with my girls I asked them were they happy still living in New Zealand even with the scary earthquakes. My eldest had no hesitation in saying that the earthquakes were not that scary anyway and she definitely still wanted to live here. My youngest looked at me and was obviously thinking deeply. "I want to live with Nan and Grandad" she announced. "What you don't like New Zealand anymore" I said rather worried that she had been shaken up by the days events. "No I just want to live with Nan and Grandad and all my family, they can live in my room with me". Phew, clearly six year olds aren't that bothered by major earth movements.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Grey and misty walks

We took Ted for a walk in Queen Elizabeth Park today. We have had bright sunny weather for the past two days and then as soon as the weekend arrived the cloud and mist descended.

It did lead to some rather cool colours in the sky today. Everything turned an ominous grey green colour and so I took my camera along and tried to capture the eerie atmosphere.

The tops of the hills remained shrouded in mist all morning. 

I love the colours and textures on these hills. They look almost furry in this photo.

Couldn't even see Kapiti Island this morning.

The girls and I decided that goblins and fairies inhabit this tree. It just has that magical look about it.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The many joys of dog walking.

I had forgotten how much fun dog walking is. Its strange that you can get so much joy from watching a small puppy run at break neck speed from one side of the inlet to the other. Or watching the puppy bury his nose into the sand and jump on all fours whenever we go on the beach just because he enjoys the sensation of sand between his paws and up his nose. He is also rather intimidated by the way the sea washes back and forwards and refuses to get his feet wet, but will happily jump in the deepest muddiest puddle he can find elsewhere.

The weather has improved since my last rather depressive last post, so we have been taking advantage of the winter sun and been taking our enthusiastic puppy on lots of walks.

I am trying to be the responsible dog owner and carry around the obligatory little plastic bags to pick up the numerous and seemingly very frequent deposits the dog makes. Can't say I enjoy that part of dog ownership! We also stick to the rules requiring you to have the dog "under control at all times", hence Ted is still on the extendible lead at the moment.

I thought I had trained him sufficiently to let him off the lead earlier in the week. This resulted in a panicked chase scene as he decided a passing jogger was more interesting than me and my bag of treats, and promptly decided to follow her home instead at great speed. Luckily my eldest daughter gave chase and the kindly jogger stopped and held onto the dog until we were able to catch up.

So until a lot of further training has occurred Ted will remain on the lead.

During our first few weeks of dog ownership in NZ we have discovered a few differences between here and the UK. You have a few more restrictions on where you can take your furry friends for walks. Due to the fragile generally feathered nature of the local wildlife most reserves and country parks require dogs to be on the lead at all times. Also any areas where there are likely to be livestock have similar restrictions. We haven't found that this is too restrictive so far and Ted has had plenty of opportunities to run free and hopefully get tired out.

The other unusual requirement is registering the dog with the local council. Earlier this week I had to pay our council one hundred and fifty five dollars for the priviledge of owning Ted. I recieved a small numbered disc for Ted to wear on his collar and the knowledge that if he gets lost or into trouble the council will know where to find me and be able to charge me for his misdemeaners. Apart from that I am not really sure what exactly I paid for. I assume its all to encourage responsible dog ownership. I shall look into this in more depth and report back!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Winter blues and holidays.

This has been one hell of a term, to put it mildly. At one point I was not entirely convinced we would all survive until the holiday. We have had bouts of flu, falling trees, power cuts, exams and assessments to mark, work trips and many many soccer matches. It just feels like we have all been clinging onto the treadmill in desperation to reach the end of this never ending term.

Okay, that's a touch dramatic. But I am rather tired. It is probably something to do with the weather. Wintry weather in Wellington never gets as cold as it does in southern England but we have had a lot of wet and windy days and maybe the fact that we missed out on the Kiwi summer (we visited a very snowy UK over Christmas) has meant that we are all missing the sun and a good dose of vitamin D.

It does feel like the depths of winter here at the moment. We are all tucked up at home again this Sunday as Wellington is experiencing another storm. I am rather nervously watching the trees in our back garden again and hoping that they all remain standing this time. The Aborist seemed fairly convinced that the large one (over 25ft tall) by our back door would not fall on our house. I am sitting here watching it move at the base and preparing to duck under the table if it decides to go!

This picture was taken in our road. The tree was originally covering the whole road but the council cut it in two so that at least one car could get past.

This post is turning into one long moan. I clearly need a holiday. Well one great thing about being a teacher is that I do get good holidays that coincide with the kids. So I will post later in the week in a much more cheerful tone describing all the fun things we intend to do this week.

A bit of advice for surviving Kiwi winters
  • Get outside on the sunny days. Miserable weather rarely lasts for more than one day so get out and enjoy the sunny ones when they occur.
  • Wear layers of clothing and always something waterproof. Weather changes rapidly and is unpredictable.
  • Tie down anything that is likely to blow away in your back garden. It gets windy in Wellington!
  • Buy marshmallows. Hot chocolate and marshmallows is a must in wintry weather.
  • Pre-order plenty of dry wood for the stove (something we failed to do!). The lack of central heating and no or very little insulation means houses cool down quickly when the southerly hits.
  • Do not go on holiday to a northern hemisphere country and miss the Kiwi summer!

Just to prove that we do actually have plenty of sunny weather in winter, here are some pics taken this week during the sunny cold days.

We have had some great weather for windsurfers.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Frozen Pitches and Freezing Toes

Sport in this country is taken very seriously. Being of an unsporty disposition this has come as a bit of a shock. I attempted several sports as a child but failed to find one that I was any good at apart from Horse Riding. I wasn't particularly good at that either but I was able to generally stay on unless attempting jumping when I normally ended up laying on the arena floor whilst the horse completed the rest of the jumps solo.

My girls have spent the majority of their childhood in New Zealand and so have been indoctrinated into the Kiwi love of sports. They are both already strong swimmers and have become keen soccer players as well.

Saturday and Sunday mornings in winter are no longer opportunities for long lazy lie ins. Parents all over the country appear to willingly wake up at the crack of dawn on the weekend to escort their offspring to a multitude of sports events. Local fields in this area become covered in swarms of enthusiastic kids playing soccer, touch rugby; hockey and netball. All the while watched by parents drinking mugs of hot coffee and stamping their feet on the crisp semi frozen early morning grass.

All these games are organised by volunteers. Normally dedicated parents willing to give up their free time at weekends to coach a bunch of snotty six year old's who could potentially grow up to be the next famous All Black or All White player. These people are amazing and their enthusiasm and effort is really appreciated by the boys and girls in these teams. And their parents.

My girls both play in soccer teams and thoroughly enjoy their weekend games. I can't say that I always enjoy getting up at silly o'clock on a weekend morning and having to stand in a freezing field (often in the pouring rain and gale force winds) for hours at a time. However the skills and experience that the girls get from playing as part of a team and the determination they demonstrate when playing against teams twice their size is worth all the hardship I have to go through.

The coffee van and sausage sizzle helps too!