Saturday, 31 December 2005

Four photos

I'm posting four photos which I've taken over the last couple of days, chronicling our current preoccupations (some might say obsessions.)

1. Cats

At last, we've got a decent photo of both kittens together. This wasn't easy. Thank goodness for digital cameras, otherwise I'd have run through at least ten rolls of film on kitten shots already!

Pookie (l) and Mo (r)

2. DIY

We've been stocking up on tools, decorating supplies and gardening equipment from the local DIY megastore, Mitre 10. We must have made about a dozen visits in the last week. I'm not joking - most days we've made more than one trip. It's starting to get embarrassing!

The frantic buyout of Mitre 10 is partly due to our decision to start decorating the living room tomorrow, and partly due to Iain's decision to follow in his dad's footsteps and take up woodworking. To this end he made himself a workbench yesterday. Here he is, putting in the final screws. I'm impressed.

He Did It Himself!

3. Exploring the local area

We think we might have found a beach to replace Whatipu in our affections. It's called Ototoka and is about half an hour's drive west of the city. It has a wild, windswept charm with fine, black sand, lots of driftwood, sandstone cliffs and even a waterfall.

Ototoka Beach

Virginia Lake Park is a beautiful area of mature parkland in the upmarket suburb of St. John's Hill. It's easy to imagine Victorian ladies with their parasols taking a leisurely walk around the paths and feeding the ancestors of the current ducks. I decided to take my shoes off and dangle my feet in the lake, unaware that I was sitting in duck pooh. Oh well, with two kittens to look after, my life seems to involve rather a lot of pooh at the moment!

Virginia Lake, Wanganui

Monday, 26 December 2005

Cemetery Race

Super Moto Race

It's Boxing Day in Wanganui, so it must be time for a bike race! Every year folks come from all over the place (including someone from the UK) to ride around the Cemetery circuit, a street circuit which goes through the middle of the town cemetery. It was great fun, if a tad warm, and to follow it up there's a rock concert in the local stadium.

Sidecars in the Cemetery!

Big boys toys!

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Christmas Day

Primitive Kiwi bloke discovers fire

The weather's been a bit grey and overcast here today, but we went ahead and christened our barbecue anyway.

This morning one of our neighbours called round bearing a card and a fruit cake, which was a really lovely gesture. The cake's pretty lovely too!

After lunch we went for a two-hour walk along the river and around the town, and since then we've just spent some time chilling out and sitting down with our feet up, something we've done precious little of in the last few weeks.

We've given ourselves an enforced day off today, but it will be good to get back to 'work' tomorrow, on our continuing quest to get the house shipshape. Jobs we've pencilled in for tomorrow are sorting both our our hobby rooms and buying some essential gardening equipment. We're also planning on trying to catch the boxing day 'Cemetery Circuit' motorbike race, even though we don't know when it starts. The whole town is closed to traffic and they race through the streets which surround the local cemetery. Sounds fun!

Helen & Iain

Saturday, 24 December 2005

An eventful trip

After lunch today we set off for a forty-minute 'pleasure drive' to the edge of Wanganui National Park. When we'd gone as far as we wanted to we had a bit of a leg stretch, took a few pictures, including the one above, and set off back home. A typical day out for a pair of 'old duffers' in training.

However, about ten minutes down the road, we came across this. A landslide, which must have happened some time in the previous twenty minutes, had made the road impassable.

We eventually got back home four and a half hours later! The diversion wasn't all bad, though. We got to see some beautiful countryside we'd never seen before, including this stunning view of Mount Ruapehu (in the foreground) and Mount Ngauruhoe (the conical mountain in the background). Yes, they are both volcanoes! Mount Ngauruhoe stood in for Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

We also discovered a great cafe called Angel Louise in Raetihi, about an hour and a quarter from Wanganui, where we had a very enjoyable evening meal. Iain plumped for the venison burger, while I had corn beef and kumara (sweet potato) cottage pie.

I started to worry about the kittens as we'd been away so long, but they were absolutely fine. Life's okay as long as you have a playmate, a litter tray and a bowl of food!

Friday, 23 December 2005

More moggie pics

It's only day two of cat cohabitation, but already their distinct personalities are becoming apparent.


Mo is very laid back and soon discovered the laundry basket, where she's been asleep for most of the day.


Pookie is very lively and inquisitive. If she's awake, she's moving. This is the only photo I got of her today that was in focus!

I'll try to find the time to put up a 'proper' (i.e. not totally cat-obsessed) post tomorrow.

Our new kittens

Pookie practises her pounce.

Mo's not that keen on being picked up.

Mo, aspiring Curtaineer

We visited the SPCA today and we couldn't believe our luck - they had exactly what we were looking for - a pair of 7 week old female kittens from the same litter!

We rushed out to buy catty supplies and then rushed back to collect them and take them home. We've named them Pookie and Mo.

The woman at the shelter said for the first few days they will need to be kept in an enclosed space, so we've put them in the sleepout, which is where we're storing all our cardboard boxes from the move. They've been in kitty heaven, chasing each other in, on, around and under the boxes.

We've had a go at taking some photos, but the kittens have been pretty tricky to keep up with!
Will post more tomorrow.
I probably shan't sleep very well tonight - I'm too excited!

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Getting sorted

getting ready to unpack the van in Wanganui

I had planned to take a photo with both van doors open, but everything was balanced so precariously, Iain daren't open the second door without my assistance. I had to lean heavily against the bike to hold it in place while Iain extricated the stuff around it. To make things more interesting, it started to rain moments after this photo was taken.

We had to leave quite a lot of things behind in Auckland for Iain to bring in the car when he comes home on Wednesday because we just couldn't shoehorn anything else into the van. We began to wonder how we've acquired so much stuff, (especially since we arrived in New Zealand with just two rucksacks each!) but we haven't really got that much - it's just that when we've moved house before we've done at least two or three trips back and forth - this time, with an eight hour journey, that option just wasn't practical.

I've spent the last few days getting the house as sorted as possible, and I'm pleased to say I've felt really relaxed and at home here - even though I've been on my own, which I don't like much, and the place has been in a muddle. The only thing that I'm still adjusting to is the toilet being located in the lean-to next to the kitchen. I keep going into the bathroom when I need the loo - I'm sure I'll get used to it soon.

Because it's a single storey building, like most Kiwi houses, and I like to sleep with the window open, one of the first items on our list when Iain and I go to the DIY place on Thursday is window locks. In the meantime I'm taking my chances on getting burgled! Actually, this morning I was woken at 7 am by a banging sound coming from the bedroom window. I thought a burglar was trying to force his way in, so I took a big breath and opened the curtain, ready to confront some spotty yoof planning to make off with the non-existent telly, and came face to face with...the black kitten from across the road. What a great way to be woken up! We had a chat and a cuddle and she had a bit of a purr, and then I sent her on her way. We've met a couple of times before, but she's been too scared to say hello, so I'm glad we've made friends now. Hopefully we'll soon have a couple of cats of our own that she can make friends with.

Saturday, 17 December 2005

The end of a long day

This post is going to be short and probably not very coherent. It's ten past eleven at night and we've just done the move to Wanganui. We hired a van and were our own removal men, which was hard work, but with the help of a sack truck which we bought from the local DIY store, we managed to do it without hospitalising ourselves, which has got to be a bonus. The van was absolutely jam packed - I've taken a photo which I'll post up here tomorrow (or whenever I get a spare minute in the next couple of days).

It took us six hours to load the van up last night, and eight hours to drive down today. We got a bit of a fright about three quarters of the way here when the van started skidding - we would have gone off the road and careered through a barrier and down a hillside if Iain hadn't managed to get the vehicle back under control. We think it was a combination of the steep downward slope, the poor road surface, the wet weather and the heavily laden truck that caused the skid - we virtually crawled the rest of the way. It really put the wind up us.

Having taken six hours to load, it only took two and a half to unload the van, which was a relief. When Iain looked inside our letter box (an external one like they all are here) he found a lot of post (thanks to everyone who sent us a Christmas card by the way! ) and an ants' nest. Sorting that out is a job I'll have to tackle tomorrow. Iain's off first thing tomorrow morning to drive back to Auckland. He'll be camping out in the empty flat, which won't be much fun, but at least he'll have the telly and his computer. He's got three more days' teaching until the end of term, and then he'll be driving home on Wednesday evening.

I'll have to go now - the words are jumping around on the screen. I'm off to try to ease the knots from my aching muscles with some gentle yoga before collapsing into bed. Good night all.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Pohutukawa Festival

This is a Pohutukawa tree. AKA the New Zealand Christmas tree. It blooms, rather spectacularly, around about mid December and in order to celebrate the fact, the good people (hippies) of Whitianga hold a festival.

Carin & Jim won a weekend away, complete with tickets to the Pohutukawa festival, and invited us along. Pretty cool eh? We stayed in a beachside bach just outside the village and had a jolly time at the event, which was a combined food & wine show and a folk concert with the kiwi band Goldenhorse headlining. It was boiling hot, suitable amounts of food and alcohol were consumed and a generally relaxing time was had by all. The Coromandel is a beautiful spot, lots of golden beaches and stunning bush covered hills as a backdrop.

Goldenhorse on stage

Back to work today however - 1 week to go and we've started the packing. We're hoping to move all our stuff to the new house at the weekend, then I'll head back to AKL on my own for the last 3 days of work.

Thursday, 8 December 2005

New concept in diet foods

I noticed these discarded items at the checkout of our local supermarket.
I've heard of portion control, but this is taking it a bit far...

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Morning surprise

We woke up this morning to discover a stick insect hanging off Iain's bedside table.

Our unusual overnight visitor reminded us that we're living in one of the few remaining areas of temperate rainforest in the world.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Picnic on the beach

We went to our favourite beach, Whatipu, for a picnic lunch today.

As it might be the last time we go there before we move to Wanganui, I thought I'd take some photos as a memento.

We couldn't believe the beach was this empty on a sunny Sunday afternoon.



Saturday, 26 November 2005

Party time

Iain & Jim at Jell's party Posted by Picasa

Thanks very much to Jell, a member of an emigration forum that Iain posts to, and her husband Jeff, for being our hosts at a party we went to last night.

They planned a barbecue, so naturally it rained, but the wet weather didn't put a damper on anyone's spirits and a good time was had by all. We got the chance to meet for the first time lots of people that we know from the forum, which was really good.

We went with Carin & Jim, and the four of us were the last to leave, after 1 a.m. Here, for posterity, is a record of the state that Jim and Iain got themselves into. It wasn't pretty, and they were even less pretty when they woke up this morning.

Helen (on Iain's computer)

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Oh frabjous day!

Great news!
Carin has procured* a shower cap for me.

For those of you who don't know Carin, she is a friend of ours in Auckland - a fellow ex-pat who came over to New Zealand with her hubby, Jim, a few months after us. She is ginger and utterly mad.

Carin & Jim went to Queenstown at the weekend, which for those of you who don't know NZ is a millionaires' mountain playground on South Island. Queenstown is also the dangerous sports capital of the world. Not that Carin and Jim are into dangerous sports, like tiger tossing, or anything....

Anyway...they must have been staying in a bloody posh hotel, because the room had real shower caps (not those horrible see-through ones you usually get,) so Carin conveniently put one in her bag and forgot to take it out again. Carin has promised to hand it over on Friday evening, when we're going to a party together. The only problem is, that if I want to keep the shower cap, I have to wear it to the party.

Hey, for someone who once went to a party wrapped only in a bath towel, carrying a sponge bag, and wearing a shower cap and slippers, it'll be a doddle.

I'm hoping Iain will post a blog entry soon. I think people are probably getting tired of my inane ramblings. At least he tends to post 'proper' news.

*i.e. nicked

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Impressions of Titirangi

Today I had to go to the Post Office (or Post Shop as they call them here) to post a parcel. The walk there and back takes about an hour.

When I set off, I looked on it as just another chore to get out of the way, but as time went on I began enjoying the walk more and more, and on the way back home I decided to take some photos using my mobile phone (hence the slighty ropey picture quality).

Here are some of the best pictures.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

Trippin' with Pandacat

Yesterday was a bit weird.

We set off on one of Iain's trademark 'random drives', and ended up on Orewa beach (left).

Although not very hot, the weather was exceptionally muggy and we both developed headaches.

On the beach I met a cat with the weirdest markings I've ever seen. The fur on its body was mottled cream and fudge, and it had white paws and a white bib. Its ears and tail were dark chocolate brown, and it had big blobs around its eyes in the same colour, that made it look just like a panda. I asked Iain to take a photo of the cat using my mobile phone.

After a while our headaches were making us feel so weird that we returned home early for a lie down in a darkened room. The whole day had the otherworldly feel of an acid trip (not that I know from personal experience, of course, but I have taken Benylin, so say no more...)

So I was delighted when I found out that the photo Iain had taken miraculously echoed the trippin' vibe of the whole day. It looks as if it were taken through the eyes of someone in a drugged-out haze.

The question is, did Pandacat really exist or was he merely a hallucination shared by me, Iain and my moblie phone?

I'm off for another lie down.

Thursday, 17 November 2005

Confessions of a would-be novelist

Well, maybe the word 'novelist' is a bit grandiose, but I've long held an ambition to be a 'proper' writer. By this I mean someone who writes fiction.

This doesn't mean I'm not happy with what I'm doing at the moment. I have been amazingly fortunate over the last couple of years - I've managed to 'escape' from teaching, using the knowledge I've gained over my teaching career (LOL) to become an eduational writer. It certainly knocks the socks off doing battle with thirty pre-pubescent eleven year olds every day! But when I was day-dreaming as a kid I didn't fantasise about writing school textbooks and interactive whiteboard CD Roms. I wanted to write story books.

Like most writers I've got several ideas for novels lurking in the cobwebbed corners of my hard drive, but I've never got around to actually starting work on any of them. I've always felt too intimidated to be honest. However, I've recently been thinking more and more seriously of giving the whole fiction-writing thing a spin. Inspired by my friends on The Write Idea writers' forum, in particular my 'real-life' friend Carol, I've started work on a project which I hope will eventually be published.

I won't bore you with the details, because they would...well...bore you, but the book I'm working on is the first in a series of eleven (yes, eleven!) * gulp* fiction books for children based around the scheme of work for history at Key Stage 2. The plan is to write the first one, write a sales pitch for the whole series of books, and then try to find either an agent or a publisher who's interested. The whole thing might take some time...

I have a word count target of 250 words a day. This sounds pathetic, and believe me, it is, but I write extremely slowly. One of the reasons for this is that I rewrite every sentence about six times before I feel happy about moving onto the next one. Then when I've finished a paragraph I have to rewrite the whole thing again.

Another reason why it takes me so long to get the words out is my excessive pruning rate. I can sit down at the computer and write five hundred words, but at the end of the session I often end up with fewer words than I started with. So if I aim to spend two hours a day on the fiction-writing mularkey, an average of 250 words is a fairly realistic target. It might seem like peanuts, but that's 45,000 words over the next six months, which is more than enough to rewrite the whole book several times!

My reason behind telling you this is that the more people I tell about my plans, the more likely I'll be to stick with them. The threat of public humiliation is a wonderful aid to the creative process!

Catch you later,

Sunday, 13 November 2005


As this weekend was going to be my only free weekend before Christmas, I knew it couldn't be put off any longer and I had to ...... (eerie howling noise)............('Jaws'-like violin chords)....fill in my tax return.

Until last year I was protected from the rampaging Dragon of Taxreturn by the gallant Knight of PAYE. But as soon as I became self-employed Sir PAYE got bored and wandered off, leaving me alone to do battle with the beast. Well, not quite alone. The much-maligned Squire Iain of Can't-be-Arsed was with me, so he fended off the dragon with a piece of rolled-up newspaper while I screamed hysterically.

It wasn't a pretty fight. It lasted nearly three hours and by the end my gown was crumpled and my wimple was wonky. Squire Iain's vestments were in disarray, and if he had had any hair, it would have been severely tousled. He was also exceedingly grumpy and demanded payment in flagons of tea.

Despite our frustrations, however, we were ultimately victorious, and the beast now lies supine on the dining room table, ready to be dispatched (in the post) tomorrow morning.

Next year I shall employ a champion to fight for me, and whatever price I have to pay (even if I have to pay with my virtue*) it shall not be too great.


I'm sure that someone who is more analytically and mathematically minded than me (which means pretty much everyone) has no trouble filling in their tax return. Unfortunately I suffer from severe mental retardation in this area. I'm not kidding. That part of my brain just does not work.

To give you some idea of my problem, when I was a child I once had a long and heated argument with a member of my family - I can't remember who it was now - over a 5p coin. They had borrowed 5p from me, and when they gave me my money back they tried to give me two 2p coins and a 1p coin instead, but I wasn't having it. I insisted that they give me back the exact same 5p coin, because although I understood perfectly that two 2ps and one 1p were in theory worth the same, (I'm not actually stupid, you know!) they weren't actually the same, and they had promised they would give me my five pence back. I still think I had a valid point.

I now fully understand Bernard Black's rabbit-in-headlights terror at having to fill in his tax return, and his willingness to do just about anything (including organising the contents of his sock drawer, inviting Jehovah's Witnesses into his home, and getting beaten up by a couple of Millwall fans) to avoid having to fill it in.

*an ancient and long defunct currency, worth approximately 0.0000001 pence

Friday, 11 November 2005

Reasons to be cheerful

1. We've gone 'unconditional' on our house purchase. This means it's definitely all going ahead. Yippee!

2. Our money from the UK has at last arrived in our NZ account, facilitating said house purchase. Getting it over here has been a bit.... hmm.... how shall I put it? Challenging.

3. I've finished a pretty intense few weeks, work-wise, and I'm having a weekend off.

4. The weather is absolutely gorgeous.

5. I'm getting a cat soon.

6. Iain has only got a few more weeks to go of being a stressed-out teacher.

7. Did I mention I'm having the weekend off?

Hope your weekend is a good one, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Monday, 7 November 2005

In search of...

...a motley collection of items.

When you emigrate you accept that you won't necessarily be able to get all your old favourites in your new country. I've got over the trauma of having to substitute Hob Nobs with Anzac cookies, for instance.

However, I'm really surprised I've not been able to find the following items in New Zealand:

1. a shower cap
The concept of trying to keep your hair dry in the shower is one that seems to flummox most New Zealanders. For a while I got by with a flimsy disposable one that was given away free in a hotel we stayed in, but I lost it. Since then I've been scouring the streets of Auckland for a replacement, but with no luck.

2. surgical spirit
(for cleaning pierced ears and earrings.) When I went into a local chemist and tried to buy this, they tried to sell me methylated spirit. I refused, and consequently, one of my ears has got infected. I'm now dabbing it twice a day with Dettol, which seems to be knocking the infection on the head, but has the unfortunate side effect of making me smell like a school nurse's office.

3. ironing water

Okay, call me a big jessie, (or a piece of putty in the hands of the advertisers) but I'm a huge fan of scented ironing water. It prevents your steam iron from clogging, coughing up brown specks, or dribbling brown goop all over your ironing. (Burtonites will recognise the 'Burton brown' phenomenon here.) At first I was a little distressed to find out that no-one sells ironing water here, but after six months of using a steam iron filled with New Zealand tap water, I can understand why. You don't need it. The water here (even in the 'big smoke' of Auckland) must be much purer than the water in the U.K.

Anyway, this post has been good for half an hour's WA (work avoidance) - but I really must get back to work now.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

A funny website

I just had to share this one. My brother John sent me a link to a site called

It shows examples of written English on goods manufactured in countries where English isn't an official language - mainly Japan and other east Asian countries. Apparently English lettering is an exotic design trend in the east - I suppose in the same way that Chinese and Japanese calligraphy can be found on jewellery, tattoos and wall hangings in the west. In Japan, English is seen as particulary 'cool' - yet another disquieting aspect of the immense global influence of the United States.

The problem is, of course, that people whose first language is English are pretty thin on the ground in Japan. While most of the photos seem to be examples of simple mistranslation, I strongly suspect that some of them, particularly those in the 'adult' section, may be cases of vindictive misinformation by native English speakers. All of which makes you wonder whether that Chinese calligraphy pendant you gave your mum last Christmas really does mean 'good luck'...

My favourite photo on the site is the Hong Kong toilet roll in the 'Recent discoveries' section.

Go to

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Poppy and Oscar



I was absolutely chuffed this morning to receive these photos in an e-mail from Peter and Mel, who bought our house in the UK (complete with our cats).

It's great to know that Poppy and Oscar are happy and well, and don't seem to be the slightest bit affected by us bogging off and abandoning them (unlike me), but it's got me even more eager than I was before to get a couple of kittens when we eventually move into our own house. I'm already thinking about names for them - suggestions welcome. (And no, Iain, I'm not going to call them 'Pooh' and 'Wee'.)

I know I'm a bit pathetic, but I don't care. I just love animals.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005


After 13 weeks of waiting we finally got a phone line and broadband hooked up. Just in time for us to have it disconnected when we move!! I think we'll get a month's use out of it max. They've had fleets of Telecom vans digging up the roads in the village and loads of blokes climbing telegraph poles putting in new wires for the last 3 months, and now we're going to tell them to disconnect it. Ho hum. I'm now constantly glued to the computer, having a big techno-binge!

The house purchase is looking good. We got the builders report today (way more detailed than UK surveys - involved plumbers & electricians reports as well) which was all fine. A bit of old wiring needs sorting and the roof is a bit tired, but nothing huge. The last detail is getting a report from the council confirming it's not on top of a volcano or about to have a pylon erected in the garden and we should be all systems go.

The system here for buying houses is very simple - you put an offer in, conditional on reports & surveys, which is binding on both sides unless something major crops up. After that you go unconditional and cough up the money. That's pretty much it. We put in a conditional offer on 22nd October which goes unconditional on 10th November assuming the council report is ok. We've chosen a completion date of 2nd December so we can get down for a few weekends to get things sorted before we move all the furniture down on 21st, when my contract ends in Auckland. The whole process can take as little as 3-6 weeks from advertising your house to actually moving. Folks here tend to sell first then buy so they don't do the whole "chain" thing, which is soooooo much better than the UK. Essentially it's about the same level of difficulty and aggravation as buying a car.

We're really looking forward to the move now, just the small matter of 7 more weeks at school :( Oh, and reports to write :( :(

After the washout of P&S's visit I can report that the Phil weather jinx has passed and it has been gloriously hot and sunny for the last fortnight. We keep sneaking off to the beach which is a fab drive down a long, mountainous gravel road through dense forest and bush. The beach itself (Whatipu) is really spectacular and usually empty (presumably the drive puts people off) and is easily the most relaxing spot I've ever been to.

Whatipu Beach

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

First pics of new house

Here are a few pictures of our new house.

The Living Room

You can just see the patio doors to the left. There is a wood-burning stove on the opposite wall.

Part of the garden

The patio doors lead out here. The larger shed is the sleepout, which I'm planning on turning into a yoga room.

Exterior view of the other side of the house

We're so excited - we can't wait to move in!

Sunday, 23 October 2005

Bought a house!

...subject to contract and all the usual guff, we've bought a house in Wanganui. Hooray! We'll post again in a few days and give you the low-down, but in short, it's an Edwardian wooden 'villa' with two bedrooms and a sleep-out in a lovely English country garden-type setting. It's in a really nice neighbourhood, and is only a short walk to the park and river. We've got some little pics the estate agent gave us, so we're going to have a go at scanning them in later.

Our second visit to Wanganui just served to confirm our first impression of the place - in fact, we liked it even more the second time round. It's a lovely town, with a really laid-back vibe, and a thriving arts scene. We're due to complete on 10th November (things move really quickly here) and take possession on 2nd December. Of course, the blood-sucking lawyers haven't got involved yet, so that could all change!

Bye for now,

I & H

Friday, 21 October 2005

Spirit Visit Part 3

After looking through a huge pile of leaflets from the tourist information office, we decided to spend Tuesday morning doing the ‘DUKW tour’. A Rotorua company has bought up and renovated several amphibious craft from World War II, painted them yellow (presumably to make them look like rubber duckies), and kitted them out with manic drivers and a job lot of plastic duck whistles. The word ‘DUKW’ is an acronym, but none of us can remember what it stands for. Suggestions welcome.

Note added 04/01/06:
My sister Diana has found out the answer for us.

D indicates the model year 1942
U refers to the body style, utility (amphibious)
K for all - wheel drive
W for dual rear axles

Cheers, Diana. :-)

The DUKW did a tour of three of the lakes near Rotorua. The first lake we went on was the largest, Lake Rotorua itself, where the driver told us the (supposedly true) love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai who came from two different tribes – one lived on the lake shore, and the other lived on the island in the middle of the lake.

We then set off a few kilometres down the road to Lake Tikitapu, also known as The Blue Lake. Lake Tikitapu is quite small, with a short, sandy beach, and is surrounded by hills covered in native bush. The lake is extremely deep and its waters are a striking greeny-blue. Legend has it that it got its name, (meaning ‘sacred Tiki’) after a Maori princess accidentally dropped a good luck charm in the shape of the god Tiki into its waters.

The final lake on our trip was Lake Okareka, which is absolutely stunning. The water is crystal clear and the lake is surrounded by gorgeous bush-clad hills. The lakeshore is lined with beautiful houses and exclusive, home-stay-style hotel accommodation. The houses were HUGE and they all had their own jetty and boatshed. Our driver told us that one of the houses rents out for $6,000 (£2,400) per night.

Unfortunately I’ve run out of time to tell the rest of this story; it will have to wait until Tuesday. This weekend coming up is a long holiday weekend, and we’re going back to Wanganui to have another look round and to have a look at some houses. It’s one of the areas we’re considering for the ‘big move’ in January.

Catch you later.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Spirit Visit Part 2 - miscellaneous pics

Phil, Sally and me at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

The Champagne Pool at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, near Rotorua

Phil in 'Little Mermaid' mode at Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga

The motley crew of the Rotorua DUKW
- those things round our necks are duck quackers (oh dear)

Will write more about our trip on Sunday (we're off out on a day trip tomorrow - not sure where yet.) It's sunny now that P & S have buggered off. Typical!

Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Spirit Visit Part 1

Phil and Sally flew back to Sydney on Saturday evening, after an eventful week in New Zealand.
They arrived on the previous Saturday afternoon. Their plane touched down half an hour earlier than scheduled, due to a significant tail wind. A strong wind across the Tasman Sea usually heralds wet weather in New Zealand, and, sure enough, the rain started almost as soon as they landed, and it’s still raining now! On Saturday night we braved the elements and walked to Toby’s, a local restaurant, which we’d heard good things about but had never been to. Toby’s is a small, shed-like building with a black metal cat on the roof. Inside it has wooden floors and low ceilings, and the tables are closely spaced, with lots of pot plants and wooden sculptures wedged in between them. The atmosphere was lively, with live music from a guitarist, and all the tables were full. However, people started leaving early, and by nine o’clock the place was almost entirely empty! I know that most Aucklanders get up early in the morning to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic, but the next day was Sunday, for goodness’ sake! Maybe everyone was hurrying off to a nightclub, but I doubt it.

On Sunday we did a few of the things on our wet weather itinerary. I can’t remember what we did in the morning. Maybe either Phil or Sally could help me out here! We spent most of the afternoon at Auckland Museum, and lost Phil amongst the aeroplanes in the World War II gallery. In the early evening we went to the viaduct harbour, the beating entertainment heart of central Auckland, but the torrential rain, coupled with the fact that it was a Sunday, meant that the usually lively bars and restaurants were almost completely deserted. It was a real washout. Nevertheless, we got to see the ice bar, and Phil took some pictures of the ice sculptures.

On Monday we went to Rotorua for a few days. We stayed at the Prince’s Gate Hotel, where Iain and I had stayed before. Like the Hotel de Wheels in Wellington, this hotel isn’t on it original site. It was built in the 1880s in another town entirely, but was moved to Rotorua during the First World War, where it was used as a military hospital.

We spent the evening at a traditional ‘Maori village’. This is the sort of thing that we probably would never have done if we’d been on our own, but we’re glad we did it because it was excellent. We watched a concert with traditional Maori dancing and singing, and the ‘chief’ told us a few traditional stories and explained some of the weapons, as well as the meaning of his ‘moko’, or tattoos. After the concert we had a meal that included meat and vegetables cooked in the traditional way, in a ‘hangi’ or earth pit oven. After the meal, which was very good, we went for a bush walk. Our guide told us about some of the trees and how the Maori used them, and we saw hundreds of blue-green glow-worms and a freshwater spring containing a family of eels. We had a really enjoyable evening. Here are some pictures of it.

Scary Haka

The Chief gives a graphic explanation of the use of the greenstone club

Beer, puddings and jetlag catch up with Phil

You may be thinking that because we’re updating our blog properly, that we’ve now got the internet at home at last. You’d be wrong. This blog entry is courtesy of ‘cut and paste’. We’ve been waiting for ten weeks now, and Telecom have put our connection date back EIGHT times. It’s getting beyond a joke. Iain rang them yesterday afternoon and managed to speak to a senior manager, who told him he had no idea when we would get connected as they were having technical problems, so it looks like we’ll be making daily visits to Starbucks for a while yet! ☹

I’ll post the next instalment of the visit report some time in the next few days.

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Online soon!

Telecom have told us that we will be connected on Sunday, October 9th. We think it might actually happen this time. As soon as we're connected we'll be updating the blog properly.

We've been having lots of fun with Phil and Sally, who are over here for a week. Well, as much fun as we can given that the weather has been awful - pretty much constant torrential rain!!

Looking forward to uploading the pics soon...Phil beware!

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Connection imminent

Well, the roadworks were completed on Friday, and the other connection work that needs to be done in order to connect us to the new junction box will (probably) take place by the end of the week, which means that some time next week someone might actually connect us up to the bloody phone line! (If they can be bothered.) Watch this space...

Friday, 16 September 2005

Sort of an update

This is a quick one, as we're in Starbucks, but Iain just got off the phone with Telecom who say the phantom roadworks are currently underway, should be finished by the end of next week, and we should be connected by the end of the following week. Which is good news...if it happens!!

We have a few more piccies to regale you with, so we thought we'd put them up.

Normal service (whatever that is) will be resumed in approximately two weeks.

Lake Okotaine, near Rotorua

Beach on the Eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula

Helen in Russian Spy mode

Some squinting bloke