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