Friday, April 21, 2017

Antler Lodge

Ever feel like you just need a break from the high speed fibre connection of life? That things are zipping by just a bit too quickly to catch your breath or read the signs?

I have felt an awful lot like this since Christmas. So in an effort to give us all a chance to reconnect with each other, before the kids grow up too much to want to spend any time at all with us, we booked four nights at Antler Lodge.

Antler Lodge is only about an hour from us but it is still remote enough and isolated enough to enable you to disconnect from the rest of the world for a short time.

It is nestled in the Rimutakas just north of Wellington and surrounded by forest. You have to drive for a good 10-15 minutes up a woodland track to reach it and the lodge itself is apparently higher than the summit of the Rimutaka hill road. You certainly feel like you are living amongst the clouds.

We spent four nights here, disconnected from modern life for a brief spell. It was bliss!

We explored the surrounding woodland and kept an eye out for deer and wild pigs that are said to roam the area. We failed to spot anything other than possums. I think the dogs noisy exploration of the undergrowth everywhere we went, kept them away. 

The lodge was built by the present owner and is clearly a labour of love. It has obviously seen many happy family holidays. Ours can be added to the list. Despite the expected moans from the kids about having to be disconnected from the wifi for an extended period, they soon began to enjoy the many, many, board games and new books that we cleverly brought with us.

The lodge also has a rather large outdoor bath. If you have never had an outside bath before I can thoroughly recommend it. Staring at the stars on a chilly night from a steaming bath in the middle of nowhere is an experience everyone should have!

But the best thing about the lodge, by far, was the amazing views.

If you are interested in staying at the lodge, the website link is here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cyclones and bugs.

Cyclone Cook has been causing havoc across New Zealand over the last few days and we expected it to reach Wellington last night. I dug out and checked all the batteries in our torches and made sure nothing was likely to freely blow around in the back garden. I even brought the Guinea pigs inside in case they ended up mimicking the cows in Twister.

We woke up this morning to a bit of an anticlimax. The cyclone appears to have completely bi-passed Wellington. We had a bit of rain overnight but nothing out of the ordinary. There was very little wind, and certainly no where near the ordinary Wellington gusts that can take the unsuspecting off their feet. All in all it was a bit disappointing. However I shouldn't complain. Some areas of New Zealand had uprooted trees and flooding again, a repetition of the week before.

So once I had taken the Guinea pigs out of the bath (they spent the night there as it was the only emergency indoor accommodation I could find) and put them back in their hutches we headed into the city to look at the bug exhibition at Te Papa.

This is the last weekend that his exhibition is on, and it is rather cool.

Although I wouldn't recommend it if you have a fear of everything creepy crawly. There are huge models of praying mantises and bees devouring other bugs. It's all rather gruesome. The kids loved it.

I think the bit that really stuck in my mind was this huge model of bees attacking a hornet. Apparently 30 hornets can destroy a hive containing many thousands of bees. However some bees can defend themselves by working together to raise the temperature of the hornet above its tolerance levels so it basically cooks alive. All rather cleverly gruesome.

Although the cyclone didn't cause any problems in our region, it certainly appears to be creating some interesting and rather menacing clouds above the city.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Chainsaws and sunlight

After heavy rain blue sky emerged.

We had the remnants of Cyclone Debbie crossing New Zealand this week. Luckily Wellington really only got the edge of the weather. Other parts of New Zealand were not so lucky. Edgecumbe in particular was hit hard, with roads and houses completely submerged.

The heavy rain also brought plummeting temperatures and we have had to rush out and buy wood for our stove. Next door are clearly better organised than us as the smoke from their fire this morning confirmed.

We still have a few brave roses in the back garden reminding us that we did have a bit of summer this year. Not sure how long they will last.

Our Guinea pigs seem to be oblivious to the weather and I saw Sydney here wondering about in the middle of the rain storm this week. I think he prefers basking in the sun though.

The bottom of our garden is still a bit swamp like but looks good in the sun.

We had to chop down one of our big trees again this weekend. It had fallen 6 months ago and was leaning against the car deck. Worried that it would eventually damage the deck we climbed up it and cut it down bit by bit. At least that was the plan. What actually happened was a bit more dramatic. The other half was sitting on it at one point using a chain saw to cut the main branch in half. He felt it move beneath him so jumped off and the whole thing sprung up raining branches and leaves as it fell. I may have screamed a bit at the point. 
I think we will be getting the professionals in next time.

Our car deck is about 30 feet up in the air as this picture shows. So the tree had quite a way to fall. They certainly don't build houses like this in the UK.

Our house looks good in the sun. I do love living in a forest.

It's just the falling trees I don't like.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tanes Track and Cream Teas

It's a tough time of year. We have two weeks to go until the Easter holidays and it has been a very long term. I'm tired, the other half is tired and the kids are apparently exhausted. Getting them away from their tablets and television on a Saturday morning is proving very tricky.

So this Saturday we decided to head out towards the Hutt Valley and visit Tanes track which forms part of the Rimutuka Rail Trail. It is always beautiful out that way and despite the greyish sky it was still as stunning as ever.

It is a lovely track, winding through lush native bush. Its one of the rare areas where dogs are allowed to run off the lead and Ted makes the most of this freedom!

Someone has painted and hidden stones in various places along the walk. We spent a lot of time searching for these. It added extra interest and fun along the walk.

These stones were clearly a labour of love and were beautifully decorated.

After a walk refreshing walk in the woods we headed to a fantastic little cafe offering cream teas for lunch. 

I can thoroughly recommend the place. My other half had a very interesting chat to the owner whilst he put together the freshly made scones and cream. The little house and barn had been their since the 1860's and he had photos of the original occupants. They took 5 months to travel from England and ended up living in this beautiful location. They must have been very satisfied with their new lives!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Cuba Duba

This rather cloudy Saturday we headed into Wellington to have a look at the Cuba Street Festival (or Cuba Duba as it appears to be known). 

If you have never been to Wellington then one of the must visit places is Cuba Street. Its a pedestrianised shopping area full of weird and wonderful shops selling everything imaginable from vintage clothing, army surplus, comic books and memorabilia. Plus an apothecary, fabulous cafes, bars and art shops. It always reminds me of the lanes in Brighton but is far less painfully trendy.

This weekend the street was full of art and crowds of people. There were many street artists and bands dotted up and down the street. Plenty of stuff to keep all of us happy and amused.

Thankfully, despite the threatening clouds the rain held off and we could still appreciate the art exhibits dotted around and above us.

Outside my favourite chocolate shop we came across a group singing opera. I'm afraid I am not sure exactly which opera they were singing but it did involve this chap attempting to climb the building at one point!

Eventually he climbed the building using the internal stairs and reached what I presume is the love of his love and they sung a beautiful duet.

These guys were my favourite group. The double base and guitar were awesome. Unfortunately by this point the kids were worn out and we had to head home before the evening entertainment started. My eldest is going to become a teenager this year so all the way home she moaned about how embarrassing it is when people over thirty dance in the street. All I can say to that is next year, this forty something, will be going to Cuba Duba again and dancing in the street with the rest of them!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Birthdays, rain and school

It's my youngest daughters tenth birthday this weekend. We had planned on going camping and inviting a group of her friends to come along. Unfortunately there has been some horrendous weather sweeping across the North Island this week and it has decided to hit Wellington at the weekend.

Everything in our garden (including our lovely stone kingfishers) is absolutely sodden.

So rather than going camping we are having a birthday sleepover at ours for Alice and four of her mates. Since its been steadily pouring since about 3am this morning her birthday will now involve copious amounts of fizz, pizza and playing on the X-box. Not as much fun in my opinion as camping but Alice seems thrilled with the whole thing.

Her friends have brought her some wonderful presents and the lovely notice board came with description of Alex's bottom already added!

The flowers at the beginning of this post were giving to me by the Board of Trustees at my daughters school. They were a thank you for being on the board for the past year. The Board of Trustees manage the school in much the same way as Governors do in the UK. They are responsible for hiring and firing staff, managing the budget and the policies behind the organisation. Its an awful lot of responsibility and work for volunteers and I am in awe of all the people who work so hard in these positions. I recently resigned from my Board as I couldn't do the job justice whilst working full time.

It's an odd situation where people who volunteer and are voted into these posts, then have the responsibility of managing huge budgets and making decisions that affect the future of so many children. Often these volunteers have no prior experience in education, running businesses or writing policies. I know its a struggle for a lot of schools to find any Board members, never mind ones that are actually capable of doing the job!

I certainly don't think I was particularly good at the job and only really put myself forward because I was interested in how the school was run and why certain decisions were made. I do question the wisdom of running schools in this way as you are dependent on the right people being voted in, and it not being a popularity contest. I guess its rather like any election - you're relying on the public making the right decision. And as recent events prove, the public doesn't always do that!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Dog walks in the sun

During the week I get up, before the sun does, to take the dog for a walk.

So its nice at the weekend to be able to take the dog out whilst the suns shining. This weekend I took my camera with me to take a few pictures.

It was clearly going to be another hot sunny day - the sun just hadn't quite had enough time to burn off the clouds above this valley.

These guys were making a hell of a racket along the beach this morning. Don't know what they were discussing but it was clearly controversial.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tough week, warm weather

It's been hot this week. So summer has definitely arrived, some would say, with a vengeance.

Its been so hot at work I resorted to taking in a small fan and directing it straight at my face in an effort to look slightly less hot and sweaty. I am not designed for temperatures above 18 degrees.

There are mutterings at the moment of moving the summer holidays into February rather than having them directly after Christmas. I have to say that I think there is something to this suggestion. Its very difficult to concentrate at work when the temperatures are more suitable to swimming in the sea than trying to sit at a desk shuffling papers.

It was way to hot for the dog this week so he has had to put up with early morning walks rather than trying to attempt the walk up and down our road in the searing heat of the day. He doesn't seem to mind as long as he still gets to sniff and pee up every lamp post in our little town at least once a day.

I have been getting very depressed and impotently angry at some of the events in the world at the moment (even in our seemingly remote and safe location). So having gone on a rather inspiring course at work this week, when I came across this quote I was reminded at just how important my job is.

I am lucky enough to be a teacher and this quote, by New Zealander of the year, reminded me just how important it is to teach people to question and empower them with ability to believe they can change the world. This is something New Zealand does rather well. The education system does produce a lot of deep thinkers and an idealistic population that still believe that they can go out and change things for the better. And long may they keep doing so! The dangers of not doing so seem to be glaringly obvious at the moment.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wellington by night.

I think you can really tell the character of a city by exploring it at night. When the stars come out the veneer or daylight disappears, then you can really begin exploring the bare bones of the city and the true character of the area is revealed.

When living in the UK I loved Bristol and Brighton. These cities felt quirky and interesting to me and when wondering around at night (as long as you kept to particular areas) I felt relatively safe and people were good natured and generally friendly.

Swansea is beautiful at night and I spent many nights wondering along the seafront gazing at stars and having philosophical and deep conversations as a slightly inebriated student. However my favourite city at night is now Wellington.

Thanks to our lovely local babysitter (make sure you find one if you move here, they are a vital resource!) the other half and I get to go out reasonably often in Wellington. Its always a lively but fun evening and we often end it with a stroll along the waterfront gazing at the lights of the city and the stars.

Despite the fact that sections of the city are still cordoned off following the large earthquake and subsequent decision to demolish particular buildings, the city is still alive and thriving. People are just working around the streets that are no longer accessible. It also makes for a rather good dramatic backdrop to a night out.

The city comes alive at night with people enjoying the huge number of restaurants, shows and entertainment on offer. For such a small city it packs a big punch entertainment wise. People of all ages wonder through the night markets and the streets packed with a huge variety of restaurants and eateries.

Having done this many times it always feels a safe and friendly place to wander.

We went to The Orpheus, a New Orleans themed restaurant. The food is rich, delicious and plentiful. We haven't yet managed to actually finish everything we've ordered. However the best bit is the live music. Traditional New Orleans jazz. It reminds me of the music from the original Disney Jungle Book. (clearly my knowledge of music is very sophisticated!). It has a lovely lively atmosphere and I could have sat there all evening listening to the trombone and drinking cocktails. Unfortunately I did have to make my way home eventually.