Sunday, 31 August 2008

Back to square one

We had some disheartening news this week.

The first of the builder's estimates has come in for our house, and it's almost 50% above our upper budget limit. It's looking unlikely we'll be able to build the house Phil designed for us. The the other two builders' estimates will probably be pretty similar; if anything, they're likely to be higher, as they're both registered master builders and the bloke who's already submitted his quote isn't.

We'll wait until we get the other two quotes in, then we'll make an appointment to see Phil and discuss our options, but with one third of the total cost needing to be trimmed, and with few frills, only one bedroom, and the fact that we're already planning on doing most of the interior fit-out ourselves, there's not much room to make the radical cuts needed.

As well as being disappointed, we also feel disgruntled with Phil, because his estimate of what the design would cost was so far out. We made our budgetary constraints clear to him when we had our initial meeting, and he assured us he could design something that would come within them, give or take the usual 10% margin of error. We knew we were taking a calculated risk when we employed an architect to draw up plans, but it still smarts a little, knowing we've spent $3,500 for nothing.

So it looks as if we're back to square one with our 'grand design', and we'll need to spend more time re-evaluating all the options open to us. On the positive side, the collapse of our plans may force us down a more adventurous path - of building our own home out of adobe bricks, for example, or of living in a yurt. While neither of these possibilities could be considered an easy option, either of them would give us an exciting change of lifestyle, and an opportunity for personal growth.

Maybe things not going according to plan isn't such a bad thing after all!


Sunday, 17 August 2008

Our neighbours are building an ark...

...not really, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were, because it's been raining incessantly for weeks. It's great news for the reservoirs, which are not only our source of water, but also a major source of power, but it's a bit of a drag for any animal not endowed with scales or webbed feet (or preferably both, like this little fella).
The Lesser Duckodile

Rather frustratingly, we've not been able to do anything related to the house build over the last few weeks. There's nothing else we can do until we get the estimates back from the builders and that's probably another week away yet. As far as being granted title to the land is concerned, we've just going to have to keep on waiting. Part of my daily daydreaming time has been spent thinking up possible names for the house once we've built it, and one idea that came to me this week is 'Manawa-nui' which means 'patience' in the Māori language. The other name I'm threatening to give the house is 'The Hermitage', which is my way of pulling Iain's leg about his desire to get away from it all. Any other house name suggestions welcome.

One of the things we have been able to do in the last couple of weeks is to submit our application for New Zealand citizenship. The process can take a while to complete - up to eight months, apparently, but the application process is ten times easier than applying to emigrate, and when it's complete we'll be eligible to apply for New Zealand passports, which opens up Australia and many of the pacific islands as visa-free destinations. We're not going to give up our British citizenship, but it will be nice to feel as though we really belong in our adopted homeland.

In the last few weeks a couple of the writing projects I've been working on lately have been published. As part of my contract I usually get a couple of free copies of each title, and it's always exciting to see the finished product. Here are some pics:

Boost English - a series of 21 workbooks for ages 4 to 12, for Pearson Education, Australia

Rocks and Minerals Workbook for Dorling Kindersley, UK

In desperation at the end-of-winter downpour, last week we went on a fantasy holiday to the little-known Pacific island of Tongmoaji. In case you were wondering, it was while we were on the island that we took the photo of the Duckodile.

A holiday snap: me doing the hula on the beach

Must dash -- still got to get the sand out of my smalls.


Sunday, 3 August 2008

Whittaker Witterings

Blimey, where have the last three weeks gone? Is it really that long since I last posted to the blog?!

I'm very excited about our new 'Visitor locations' map, which some of you may have noticed on your previous visit. In the last fortnight we've had more than ten hits from the UK (hi Relatives and The Burton Crowd!), at least one from Canada (hi Donna & Doug!), and at least one from Auckland (hi Carin & Jim and/or Ian & Carol!) I know these are pathetically small numbers, but they're tremendously encouraging for us, because if only one other person is reading this blog apart from us two, (and of course Richard D, who doesn't really count)*, then it's worth doing. 

Iain's latest obsession is with learning to play the keyboard, and in recognition of the fact that he's stuck it with for the last four or five months or so (nothing short of a miracle where Iain's concerned), he's treated himself to a Roland something-or-other. Not Orzabal -- he was the bloke in Tears for Fears with Curt Smith -- but a type of synthesizer. A set of headphones was an essential companion purchase for reasons I'm sure I don't need to go into.

If Iain gets a synthesizer for sticking with the keyboard for five months, I'm beginning to wonder what I might be entitled to for sticking with yoga for eight years - I'm sure it must be worth a yoga studio, at the very least! Actually what I'd really like is to have not only the intellectual understanding that I am, in fact, one with the universe, but also the ability to feel it. Think I'd better stick with the meditation.** It's just a shame that it's so bloody hard

As far as the house build is concerned, in the last three weeks we've:
i) received a letter from our solicitors saying, to paraphrase, 'Goodness me, this land purchase is taking a long time!' (It was nice of them to tell us, otherwise we wouldn't have known.)
ii) had another letter from ours solicitors containing a copy of a letter from the vendor's solicitors saying they can't give us an estimate of how much longer it will take
iii) sent off copies of the plans to three local builders for a rough estimate. 

The weather has been pretty bad over the last few weeks. Storm after storm has battered the country, but we've got off pretty lightly here; in other parts of New Zealand there's been extreme winds, severe flooding, landslides and power outages. Nevertheless, the days are beginning to draw out, and when it stops raining long enough for the sun to come out, it's been getting almost warm, so spring, although not here yet, is definitely within sniffing distance. 

I've just realised I've gone rambling on for ages and I've not got any photos to break up the monotony. So here's a gratuitous cat photo (it's my post and I'll put in whatever photos I like! :P)

Right, that's all for now.
Catch up with you again soon.


* Only kidding, Richard!
** Or should that be medication?