Saturday, 25 April 2009

Four years and four lists of four things

On Sunday it will be four years to the day since we arrived in New Zealand. To mark our four-year anniversary, here are four lists of four things Iain and I have put together.

The 4 best things about New Zealand

New Zealanders. The people here are laid-back, open and friendly. They're enthuiastic and self-reliant but at the same time pretty liberal-minded and accepting. Generally, people have a more positive attitude to life, which they call 'Kiwi can do'.

The weather. There's a hell of a lot more sunshine hours per year here than in the UK. Even in the depths of winter, we rarely go for more than a day or two without a blue sky day. It really lifts the spirits, and makes winter a breeze to get through. It also helps that winter only lasts for two months, instead of six! Summers here are long, but not too hot, which suits us just fine.

Space. No, not the final frontier, but the room to swing a very large cat! With a landmass 20% bigger than the UK and a population about 1/15th the size, crowds just aren't a problem. There's no overcrowding, so everything feels that much calmer and less manic.

Milford Sound

The Landscape. We're sure you don't need us to tell you that New Zealand has some of the best landscapes in the world. Alpine mountains, lush rainforests, crystal clear lakes, volcanoes, stunning beaches and wide open plains. We've got all these and more besides. On a more personal note, we reckon the view from our soon-to-be-built cabin is going to be pretty spectacular too.

The 4 worst things about New Zealand

A typical Kiwi house

Kiwi houses. We read somewhere that New Zealand has the worst housing stock of any country in the OECD, and we can believe it. Almost without exception, the houses here are cold, damp, and look as though they were last decorated in the 1950s. Double glazing and central heating are only just starting to arrive here, and insulation of any kind has only been in the building code since the late 1980s. The poor quality of the housing is one of the factors that has led us to build our own house.

Boy Racers. In New Zealand you can legally drive at 15, you don't need insurance and Japanese muscle cars are cheap and easy to come by. As a result most Friday and Saturday nights in town are blighted by the sound of boy racers doing burnouts and donuts. This is one of the reasons why we've decided to move out to the country!

The 'She'll be right' attitude. The flip side of 'Kiwi can do', and the reason why the houses are so shoddy, is a 'bodge it and make do' attitude, which Kiwis call 'she'll be right'. There is a common belief that everything can be fixed with a piece of number nine fencing wire, which is probably a spin-off from the first European settlers. Often, tradesmen here use this attitude as an excuse for not doing a proper job.

Kiwi TV. We're clutching at straws here for number four, but the TV is probably the strongest candidate for this slot. In the UK we were used to watching the BBC, which is advert-free. Over here, all channels carry adverts, which are monumentally bad, and far more frequent than the adverts on the commercial channels in the UK. Combine this with distinctly amateurish TV programmes and the outcome is that we'll be selling our TV when we move into our cabin.

4 highlights of the last four years

The Arrivals hall at Auckland Airport

Making a success of emigrating. The process of emigrating halfway around the world was time-consuming, extremely expensive and very, very stressful. However, having come out the other end, it has given us a new perspective on life. We're now far more pro-active in steering our lives in the direction we want them to go.

Exploring New Zealand. The place we now call home is such a beautiful country. We've thoroughly enjoyed the exploration we've done so far, and look forward to discovering even more in the future. For me (Helen), studying the Maori culture and language has been very rewarding, too.

Establishing our new careers. We've both made a clean break from primary school teaching, and we're both loving what we do now. Iain gets a lot of satisfaction from his job, and I relish being self-employed, and spending all day mucking about with words!

Buying a 'lifestyle block'. As soon as we 'got over' emigrating, we started looking around for a fresh challenge, and found one in July 2007, when we signed a contract to buy 8 acres of farmland out in the sticks.

4 things we're looking forward to

Establishing our new home. This will be our biggest challenge yet. We've got to learn how to build a house, design a garden, grow fruit and vegetables, manage 8 acres of land, look after livestock, and adapt to living in the country.

The 'Good Life'

Changing our lifestyle. Even though our quality of life is much better than it was in the UK, our lifestyle is still basically the same. We live in the suburbs, and do all the typical townie things. By moving out to the country we're going to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Mind you, Iain's more than happy to swap his lattes for home brew!

Travelling. Once the house build is out of the way, we're planning on spending most of our spare cash travelling around this part of the world, visiting places that always sounded very exotic when we lived in the UK. Australia, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands are all on our list!

Becoming New Zealand citizens. We haven't got long to wait for this one -- our citizenship ceremony is on May 8th. After that we will apply for NZ passports. Iain plans to call himself a New Zealander from now on, whereas I'm happy to have a foot in both camps.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Did the earth move for you?

Carlo the concrete guy has been a busy bee this week - he's just finished the track and has now downed tools while he waits for the plumber to do his stuff. The power guy has buried 300m of very expensive cable somewhere under the site. When the phone guy came to lay his cable, like all good workmen, he sucked in his breath, shook his head and said, "You'll be needing another pole for that." He did manage to get the cable in though, so we won't have to resort to two tin cans and a long piece of string.

The next step is for the plumber to do his bit and the inspector to come and check it over.
Whenever I hear the word 'inspector' I can't help thinking of Blakey off 'On the Buses'. Hopefully he remembers his clipboard!

Carlo's little digger creates some parking space

Our deck and veranda still need a bit of work.

Friday, 10 April 2009


Easter kicked off with an office Easter egg hunt, which involved hurtling around foggy country roads and doing a range of dares in order to earn our Easter choccies! A fair amount of alcohol was consumed and I suspect there were a few sore heads this morning. Somehow we conspired to leave all our Easter eggs behind!

Our Easter egg team Dean, Helen, Nicole & me

Over the last few days our concrete guy, Carlo, has been very busy digging out a track and boxing up the slab ready for pouring sometime next week. The electrician and phone company are coming to lay their cables before the hardcore goes down on the drive and the plumber is pencilled in to come and stick bits of pipe into the foundations before the concrete gets poured. It's all getting rather exciting now - hopefully it won't be long before we can get stuck into the building proper. I've booked 3 weeks off work in anticipation of the slab being finished, so hopefully it all goes according to plan.

The partially excavated drive

Carlo's mate, Eric, using subtlety and precision to place the boxing for the foundation slab

Me testing out the drive