Sunday, August 17, 2014

City Scapes and history trails.

World War one has weirdly been on my mind recently. I have taken a trip to see a rather brilliant play about New Zealand's role in WWI (An Awfully Big Adventure) with the year 10s at school and have found myself having to teach a brief section on the topic.

My Great Grandfather's fought in WWI and having lived in Belgium for a brief period I have visited some of the haunting historical sites involved. However my knowledge on New Zealand's involvement was limited. My adopted country suffered significant losses as many countries did. However it's remoteness and willingness to get involved and support the mother country makes the sacrifices of the families involved even more poignant.

At the time the population of New Zealand was around 1 million. One hundred and twenty thousand New Zealanders enlisted and 18'500 were killed. Over 2700 died in the tragic and ill-fated fight at Gallipoli.

I discovered this weekend that New Zealand actually made preparations and plans in case the country was ever invaded. Walking in Mirimar we came across gun posts and monitoring stations set up during the first and second world wars to protect and monitor Wellington Harbour.

The remains of these gun emplacements still stand on the headland and stare out across the Cook Strait keeping a watchful eye out for enemy boats and submarines. We found them a particularly good spot for a picnic.

The site also contains the remains of an important Maori Pa. It was used (in a similar fashion to the World War buildings) as a way to guard the entrance to the harbour from enemies.

You can see why the location has been repeatedly used as an observation and defensive post. It has unbeaten views across the harbour entrance and out to the Cook Strait.

We were also rather impressed with the outline of the Waka built into a memorial at the site.

I can see why Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fame) chooses to live in this area. It is stunningly beautiful and only a few minutes drive from the centre of Wellington.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Weekend Coffee Culture

Weekends are precious when you have kids. Weekdays disappear in a blur of quick conversations, periods of rushed work deadlines, speedy car journeys from school to sports clubs and frantic searches for vital school equipment two minutes before your due to walk out the door.

So Saturday and Sunday have become vital havens for doing stuff you actually want to do. We tend to spend ours dog walking, playing soccer and messing around in the garden. With the occasional visits to browse round shops and picking up the occasional food shop (but only when there really is no alternative!).

Most weekends involve eating out at least once. I hate cooking, or rather I do not have the patience to spend more than half an hour constructing anything in the kitchen and so if the opportunity arises I will get someone else to feed the family. So most of the time this involves visiting one of the many great little cafe's in the local area.

We only ate out occasionally in the UK but over here there is an abundance of great little independent cafés and restaurants and all of them tend to be family friendly. Café culture is big in Wellington and you will always find a choice of great little coffee places on any shopping street of a reasonable size.

We were lucky enough this weekend to visit Petone and went to a great little café on Jackson Street. Like most of the little independent cafes it did a great selection of pies, slices, open sarnies and soup. All of the food tends to be made in house and is healthy and fresh. My girls had tomato and basil soup and a salmon bagel. And of course the obligatory hot chocolate and marshmallows.

It's still winter and the weather is unpredictable and unreliable. However since it's New Zealand it is not long before we get a beautiful sunny day to break up the spells of wintery downpours.

Sunday afternoon was cold but bright and sunny. So we headed down to the seafront for a late afternoon stroll. Along with lots of other people who had the same great idea.

The air was so crisp and clear you could easily see the South Island and as the sun began to set the sky became quite spectacular.

I think even the dog appreciated this view.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sunny Spells and Wet Weekends

This Saturday it is wet and blustery. I bravely ventured out this afternoon and was caught in a downpour with the dog. He was not impressed with my timing. The sea was a dark greeny grey and looked rather ominous and threatening. I tried to get some good pictures but my camera (or rather my skill as a photographer) was not up to really capturing the mood.

Thankfully last weekend was much more cheerful. We actually managed to get some work done in the garden. Or rather my other half did. I spent the afternoon messing around with my new camera lense.

This little guy sat and posed for a good twenty minutes. Very obliging of him.

Think we might be fighting rather a loosing battle with the undergrowth.

And this is how sunny it was in Wellington last weekend when we were lucky enough to go and watch a couple of soccer matches at Westpac Stadium. Worryingly my other half and the girls enjoyed it so much he is now considering buying season ticket to the Phoenix games.