Wednesday, 26 April 2006

One year in

Today is the first anniversary of our arrival in New Zealand. As always whenever you look back, it all seems so long ago. The UK is a distant memory, in fact even living in Auckland seems a bit hazy!

We've achieved most of our goals in the last 12 months in terms of settling in, getting jobs and buying a house and it's been a pretty hectic and stressful period at times. It's only recently we've felt like the whole immigration process has been completed and we've started to feel more settled. This emigrating lark is harder than it looks! It's a pretty expensive thing to do - we've deliberately not kept track of what we've spent but it's in the tens of thousands of pounds. The majority of the stress comes from the uncertainty of the process - will the house sell? Will we get residency? Will I get a job? Can we find somewhere to live? etc. Since February 2005 we've moved 6 times! That on its own is a bit too much like hard work. However, unlike other immigrants we've heard of, we've had no regrets or 'down' times - it's been a very positive thing and I think we've cleared all the associated hurdles now.

We'd never been to New Zealand before, so moving here was a gamble but it's not disappointed us. NZ lives up to the hype and is a lovely country to live in. The lack of crowds, the stunning landscape, the friendly, upbeat people and the sunshine all mean we have to pinch ourselves to make sure we aren't dreaming.

Our next major goals are :
  • Helen to finish her book (coming along nicely at the moment) and find a publisher;
  • To buy a plot of land somewhere and get a house built;
  • To tour South Island;
  • To visit some of the South Pacific Islands & Australia
If we manage 2 out of those in the next 12 months we'll be doing OK.

Now we just need to figure out an appropriate way to celebrate - I think it may involve alcohol and chocolate!

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Anzac Day

Today is Anzac Day - a public holiday, and the closest thing New Zealand has to a national day. It's a bit like Remembrance Sunday and St. George's Day rolled into one. Iain's got the day off work, so we were planning on going out somewhere, but it's been tipping it down solidly since 6 am, and it looks as if the rain's settled in for the day.

Here's a piece giving the background to Anzac day, taken from the official Anzac Day site (the footnotes are mine).

On 25 April 1915, eight months into the First World War, Anzac* soldiers landed on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula**. They and other Allied troops were there as part of a plan to open the Dardanelles Strait so that the Allies could threaten Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of Germany's ally the Ottoman Empire. This, it was hoped, would force a Turkish surrender.

But the Allies encountered unexpectedly strong resistance from the Turks. Both sides suffered enormous loss of life and after nine months the Allies abandoned the campaign and withdrew their surviving troops. A total of 130,000 Allied and Turkish soldiers had died. Nearly 3000 of them were New Zealanders.

The anniversary of the landings has been commemorated in New Zealand since 1916 and Anzac Day has been a public holiday since 1921. On this day New Zealanders acknowledge the sacrifice of all those who have died in warfare, and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.

* Australia and New Zealand Air Corps
** in what is now Turkey

After the Gallipoli campaign, the 'soldiers' biscuits' that mothers used to send their sons in the army were renamed 'Anzac biscuits'. Because they don't contain any eggs they keep for several months if kept in an airtight container. You can buy commercially produced Anzac biscuits here and they're delicious. They're certainly much more appetising than the 'hardtack' biscuits the UK army and navy used to get. I tried one once on a school history visit, and it tasted like sawdust.

As you can't buy Anzac biscuits in the UK here's a recipe in case you fancy trying them.

Anzac biscuits

125g flour
1 cup coconut
100g butter
1/2 teaspoon Bicarb of Soda

150g sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons boiling water

1. Mix together flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats.

2. Melt butter and golden syrup.

3. Dissolve Bicarb Soda in boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup.

3. Make a well in the centre of the flour, stir in the liquid.

4. Place spoonfuls on a greased tray.

5. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

P.S. A 'cup' is a measure of volume and is approximately 235 ml.


Sunday, 23 April 2006

Random wibblings

a fruit tree in our garden

Until a couple of weeks ago we had no idea what this tree was. We didn't even know whether its fruit was edible. So we asked around, and someone from one of the emigration forums told us that it's a tamarillo and yes, you can eat the fruit. When they're ripe they turn bright red, so this week, as soon as one of the fruits looked ripe enough, I tasted it. Tamarillos have the nickname 'tree tomatoes' and while their skin is red and they're full of soft pips, that's where the similarities end. They taste very bitter and unpleasant, so I think we'll be giving them away in a shoe box at the end of the drive. Our forum friends gave us a link to a website with lots of tamarillo recipes, but I can't see how any of the recipes will make the tamarillos more appetising (unless of course you substituted the tamarillos for another fruit entirely).

Since taking up running in February I've been in training for the Round the Bridges Fun Run, and with only two weeks to go before the race, I decided to run the actual course for the first time this morning. The course is 4.7 km (2.9 miles) and it took me 31 mintues to complete it. That's an average speed of only 9 km/h or 5.7 mph! Still, eleven weeks ago I couldn't even run for one minute without getting out of breath, so I'm still pretty pleased with what I've managed to achieve. The organisers have taken the bizarre decision to start the walkers and pram-pushers first, thus creating a potential bottleneck for the runners when they catch up with the pedestrians. At the speed at which I run I'm unlikely to be overtaking anybody, so getting caught up in the crowd shouldn't be a problem for me!

Iain has joined the local Community Patrol. It's a voluntary organisation which works with the police to make the town a safer place. The patrol has an unmarked car in which pairs of volunteers patrol the streets at night, alerting the police if they see anything suspicious. The police often ask the them to keep an eye on specific trouble spots. The patrols work on a rota basis, with each volunteer going out on an average of two nights a month. Iain went out on his first patrol last night, from 9 pm to midnight, and it sounds like he had a pretty interesting time. I'll let him describe it for himself because accounts are so much better when they're written from direct experience (and also because I was half asleep when he got back home last night and I can't remember what he told me!)

Next weekend, as part of the Maori language course Te Ara Reo Maori, I'm off on a Noho Marae - a 24 hour stay at a marae (Maori meeting house). Iain's not going, as he's dropped out of the course. It reminded him too much of being at work, and a three hour session once a week plus a couple of hours' homework is a pretty hefty time commitment, which he wasn't prepared to make. I'm keeping going with it, at least for the time being, because I'm enjoying it. The marae stay is bad timing, as it coincides with a yoga workshop I really wanted to go to. It also coincides with Pookie and Mo's 'big op', but I'm sure Iain will manage to cope with two groggy kittens for twenty-four hours. They'll probably cause a lot less trouble than they normally do!


Sunday, 16 April 2006

A few piccies

Our blog entries have been a bit short on pictures lately, so here are some photos we've taken over the weekend.

U.C.I. (unidentified crawling insect)

We found this insect crawling around on the firewood that's drying out on the porch of the sleepout. It's about five centimetres long. Does anyone know what it is?

Iain chilling on the patio yesterday

my 'office'

The last three photos could be the first pictures in another occasional series entitled 'Our House'. The room I use as my office is a small lean-to extension built onto the side of the bedroom. It's got lots of windows which means it's lovely and bright, but consequently it gets very hot in summer, and I'm expecting it'll get chilly in winter, especially as it's completely uninsulated. As you can see, it overlooks the washing line. We don't have a tumble dryer because there isn't room for one in the kitchen, and there's nowhere else to put one. Getting the washing dry on rainy days can be a bit of a challenge. We've not decorated in here yet, and we're a bit short on ideas. Please let us know if you've got any suggestions for a good office scheme.

Friday, 14 April 2006

Mutant bushes prompt climate research

We were eating our lunch on the patio today when Iain mentioned how much he thought the shrubs we planted have grown since we planted the borders.

I thought it would be interesting to take a photo so that we could find out exactly how much they'd grown. The results surprised us.

Less than eight weeks separate the two pictures below.

The weird stick-with-leaves on the left was already in the border but had been choked by an overgrown lavender bush. Since we've exposed it to the light it's absolutely exploded, and it's started flowering, too. We have no idea what it is.

But the rampant growth prize has to go to the purple number on the right. It's one we planted ourselves, but we've lost its label so we don't know what it is either. It's earned itself the nickname Audrey II.*

mid February

mid April

We think the rapid rate of plant growth here is probably due to the combination of nutrient-rich volcanic soil, generous rainfall and lots of sunshine.

This thought got me looking up average weather data for here and the UK. I found the following statistics and found them interesting enough to share. I chose Birmingham because it was the nearest city to Burton on Trent (where we used to live) for which I could find data.





Average annual rainfall (mm)



Average annual sunshine (hours)



Ave. max. temp. (Summer)



Ave. max. temp. (Winter)



As you can see from this data, the climate here is warmer, with a milder winter. It's also much sunnier, yet at the same time, significantly wetter. This may seem like a contradiction at first, but we get very few dry, overcast days here. It's either sunny or tipping it down - sometimes both at the same time. Iain and I have a standing joke that a mac and a pair of sunglasses are both essential every time you set foot outside, whatever the time of year. No wonder the plants love it!

Wanganui is one of the drier places in NZ. The highest daily rainfall ever recorded was in Hokitika on the West coast of South Island, which once got 682mm............. IN ONE DAY!!! Where we used to live, in Titirangi, the average annual rainfall is about twice what it is in Wanganui. (As Phil & Sally can testify!)

*Come on, you must have seen 'The Little Shop of Horrors'.

Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Just checking up...

...on the hit counter.

Blimey, we've had 22 hits in 24 hours! That's far more hits than I thought we'd get. This blog isn't public - in other words, it's not on the listings, so it's effectively 'ex-directory'. That means 22 of our family, friends and acquaintances have read our blog since yesterday.

If I'm going to be totally honest I have to admit that Iain and I have accounted for about six of those hits. So that means 16 people we know have visited the blog since yesterday lunchtime. Either that, or one very forgetful person has visited it sixteen times. Yes, I think that's the more likely explanation. ;-)

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Got a hit counter

We're getting so few comments on the blog that I've been getting a bit despondent of late, so I tracked down and installed a hit counter today. Hopefully having a hit counter will reassure us that at least some of our friends and family are checking up on us from time to time and haven't forgotten about us entirely.

Installing the counter was a bit complicated, and there's a screw left over that doesn't seem to fit anywhere. I'll just throw it in the bin. Hopefully it doesn't do anything important. ;-)

Monday, 10 April 2006

In need of a title

Forgive me, Blogger Father, for I have sinned. It's been over a week since my last post. We haven't been flattened by an earthquake or invaded by hordes of giant spiders. We've just been very busy.

Last Sunday night we met up with Ian, a friend of ours from the UK, and his fiancee Carol. They're planning to emigrate to New Zealand in twelve months' time and were over here for a two-week fact-finding tour. Ian spent a big chunk of his childhood in New Zealand, in the nearby Taranki area, so for him emigrating will probably feel like coming home. He and Carol met during a tour of New Zealand a few years back, which is another reason why New Zealand is close to their hearts. Wanganui is currently on their shortlist of possible places to live when they get here, so they came to have a look at the town and check out what's on offer in the local estate agents. It was great to see Ian again (and to meet Carol for the first time) and we had a very convivial evening. I'm hoping that, wherever they end up living when they get here, we can make a habit out of meeting up.

Iain has had a really hectic week at work. One of the childcare tutors has left, so as well as taking his usual Teacher Aide lectures he is having to teach some of the early childhood modules. Those of you who know Iain will no doubt be rolling around on the floor laughing by now. The stress has got to him so much that he's had to buy himself an X-Box 360 to compensate. He was very good about it, though. He waited until I'd given him a permission slip first. The terms of the agreement stipluate a major revamp of my yoga room, so I'm on the lookout for a TV, a DVD player, a storage cabinet, a friendly floor restorer (the room has the original floorboards and apart from an inexplicable coat of green paint they're in good repair), wall coverings and an 'ethnic' looking blind for the window. The great thing about it is, we both think we've got the better end of the deal!

I had some exciting news the other day. I've had one of my poems accepted for publication in 'Poetry Monthly' magazine. Many thanks to my friend Caroline from the writers' forum for a) cajoling me into submitting it somewhere and b) actually doing the submitting for me. I'm 'stoked', as they say here.

Pookie has earned herself a new nickname this week. Like all good pussycats, our two bring anything they've caught into the house for our approval. During the last week Pookie has started bringing home litter, which we think she's probably been collecting from the 'reserve' (area of common land) on the hill above our house. Tonight I heard a loud meowing from outside the kitchen door, and saw a pair of paws scrabbling at the cat flap, but no cat followed. It turned out Pookie was trying to force her way through the cat flap carrying a McDonalds paper bag in her mouth. I'm now calling her 'Womble'. (Apologies to Roy.)

On Friday night we went out for a meal with Dave and Judith who are originally from the UK but now live in Wanganui. We met them via one of the emigration forums that Iain posts to. Dave had very generously dropped off some firewood for us earlier in the week, taken from a tree on his land that came down in a storm a month or so back. During our evening out Dave revealed that he used to ride for Cradley Heath Speedway in the 1970s, which impressed Iain immensely, as he used to be a big speedway fan as a teenager, following the Stoke Potters. The thing that impressed me most about the evening was the ice cream I had for dessert. It was the best ice cream I've ever eaten. Even better than the gelati I scoffed by the bucketful while we were in Italy. I have to find out who the restaurant's supplier is, and I have to do it soon. I think I'm already addicted after just one hit.

Saturday, 1 April 2006

Skiving off

We set ourselves the task of blitzing another bit of the garden today, but it was such a lovely day, we skived off half way through the afternoon and went 'beach hunting'.
We found a great place called Turakina Beach just a few kilometres down the road.

It's fairly typical of the beaches in this part of New Zealand. The approach to the beach is through grass-covered sand dunes, the upper part of the beach is a crazy jumble of driftwood, and the sand is made from black volcanic rock.

We thought you might enjoy looking at a few of the photos we took.

where does it all come from?!

enjoying the warm autumn sunshine

getting chilly - time to make our way home