Moving back home

January 12, 2010 - Leave a Response

people moving a house

From today and for the sake of my sanity, all my blogging will take place back on my original blog, bignoseduglyguy. I have migrated all the posts, pictures, comments and yeasty goodness to bignoseduglyguy for posterity and ease. Please redirect your browsing and feeds accordingly and thanks for sticking with my peripatetic noodlings.

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Friends Reunited

January 28, 2008 - One Response

UK1990no8wire
Me (l), Wendy (c) Paul (r) and John (in coat)
Isle Of Dogs, UK in 1990

Folks in New Zealand look forward to the long weekends that the public holidays bring at this time of year. They offer a chance to pack in another day at the beach, have a longer break at the bach or just mooch around the house and section, doing as little as possible. Unless, that is, you are two old friends who worked together as lifeguards in the UK 25 years ago, last saw each other 16 years ago and discovered last week that you live just half an hour apart on the other side of the world. If that’s the case, then there’s a lot of catching up to do.

A month or so ago, for no reason I can fathom, I found myself thinking about John, one of a group of old friends with whom I’d spent the halcyon days of the early ’80s lifeguarding, going to parties and generally misbehaving. Vaguely recalling that he’d met an Aussie girl and headed down under, I searched the internet and soon found his picture and email address on a sports centre website in Sydney. After his initial surprise, John and I swapped a few emails and he sent me his family newsletter in time for Christmas.

During these exchanges it transpired that incredibly, while John and I were living across The Ditch from each other, another member of the group Paul was closer still, living right here in Auckland. I fired off a quick email and Paul flicked a reply saying he was busy elsewhere but would be in back Auckland in the New Year. We got back in contact last week and arranged to have a long lunch at our place and catch up on a decade and a half of news.

And so that’s how we – not to mention our understanding wives – ended up spending a long sunny Saturday afternoon talking through how they have travelled 12,000 miles from their roots over sixteen years to end up as near-neighbours on the other side of the world. While we feel lucky to have built a new life here and make new friendships and acquaintances, it is hard to describe just how great it is to find an old friend already settled here and another across The Ditch in Sydney.

Hopefully, over time and with understanding partners, the three of us can look forward to more lazy afternoons, telling tall stories, filling in the gaps and catching up on lost time.

NZ2008no8wire
Me, Paul, Yuko and Wendy
Huapai, NZ in 2008

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Feeling empty

January 19, 2008 - 2 Responses

On most Saturday mornings, SWMBO and I enjoy a lie-in. Aware that it is morning, we hover between sleep and wakefulness, listening to the cats scampering on the sun deck outside the bedroom, the interminable chirruping of Playhouse Disney downstairs and the traditional Kiwi weekend chorus of lawn mowers hard at work. No.3 usually makes us a cup of tea which we enjoy while reading a book or chatting about weekend plans before getting up for breakfast.

This morning, however, saw us sitting up in bed trying to read while slowly but surely working our way through swallowing the best part of forty capsules each; a scene so absurd that we turned, looked at each other and burst out laughing. The reason for this unusual activity is that we’re half way through a detox and internal cleanse at the moment, supposedly giving our abused bodies a break in the short breathing space between our Christmas visitors leaving and our late January visitors arriving. It is the first time we have tried this sort of thing so we sought advice from friends who have done a cleansing detox before and have settled on a programme based on herbal products.

The idea is that you prepare for the cleanse over a few days during which you avoid proteins, grains and refined foods. After a couple of days of that, you start taking capsules of four herbal products (anti-inflamatory, high fibre laxative, stimulating laxative and nutritional supplement) while eating meals based on the ‘delicious recipe ideas’ before returning to a normal diet after you’ve finished the capsules.

Though you can spread this programme out over fifty days by taking just 4 capsules twice a day, there’s no way that we can go for a month and a half without bread, pulses, diary products and, in my case, meat. This being so, we decided to go for the ‘power’ cleanse and do whole the thing in 8-10 days. It was only on the fourth morning, when I broke the seal on the containers of capsules, that it dawned on the ‘power’ cleanse option means chugging between 32 and 40 capsules morning and night! Ho hum.

So, for the last five days, breakfasts have been fruit smoothies and lunch and dinner a rotation of vegetable soups and salads. Snacks are made up of fresh or dried fruit or, well, more vegetables. I have to say that I am finding the restrictions of the required diet trying and I have no doubt whatsoever that the lack of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol play a fair part in this. Likewise, the tiredness and the headaches that commonly accompany detox and cleansing only serve to darken my mood further.

However, in the spirit of the venture, we are trying to find new ways to make the allowed foods interesting. Tonight, I made a dish consisting of a bed of cos lettuce, covered with a Roma tomato and onion salad, topped with sliced avocados. I served this with a yoghurt dressing I whipped up to add some contrast and zing to the salad. For the recipe, click over to my food blog, Big Boy’s Brunch, where you’ll find a similar post.

I really miss the texture of freshly baked ciabatta, the snap of a sausage against my teeth and the aroma of coffee so, with the weekend without the distractions of work just hours away, it remains to be seen how many days I’m prepared to go without them.

Sir Edmund Hillary 1919-2008

January 11, 2008 - Leave a Response

Edhillary

This evening, New Zealand mourns Sir Edmund Hillary. While much will be written about him and his achievements in the days to come, I hope that none will be more applauded than the work of the Himalayan Trust he established and through which he worked tirelessly to raise funds for schools, hospitals and infrastructure for the Sherpa people.

Photo: wasibicube

Comings and goings

January 7, 2008 - One Response

A year ago, I wrote a post called Homeward Bound about feelings we experienced seeing friends off at the airport. It fooled those who didn’t read it carefully enough into thinking we were heading back to England. That same trek out to the airport is one we now make regularly to collect and drop off friends and relatives and today was one of those days.

We were offered a sage piece of advice before we emigrated. The advice cautioned us to wait eighteen months before having close friends or relatives visit; the reasoning being that it would take that long to grow enough roots to withstand the homesickness and emotional tugging that such visits might occasion. I couldn’t vouch for whether this is true or not but since the eighteen months past, we have had visitors from Australia, the UK and America and haven’t felt the tug or desire to return to the UK.

As I have pondered here before, there might be any number of reasons for this. Perhaps the fact that we’re not from the closest of families or that we live in country in which we can live a lifestyle that is relaxed and fulfilling without costing the earth. There again, the internet does shrink the world to some degree and makes separations easier. I have a brother and sister who also live abroad so emails and digital photos have been our currency for a while. I have met and made good friends with folks whom I have never met, whether through writer’s groups or a shared love of technology and others I have only met because I moved to New Zealand.

Sitting in the arrivals lounge earlier, waiting for SWMBO’s cousin and her friends to emerge from the customs hall, I looked around and took in the variety of greetings and reunions taking place. Curt bows and handshakes for co-workers, barely perceptible nods between world-weary backpackers, shrieking children spotting a tired and tearful grandparent – a distinct and individual story for every passenger and greeter.

As we scooped up our visitors and turned for the car park, I couldn’t help smiling at the woman next to me at the barrier. In youthful middle age, she was was wearing a bright yellow wig, a bowler hat and a pair of fluffy monster feet slippers. She saw my puzzled look and held up a hand-drawn greeter’s banner that read “Welcome to The Ol’ Boy’ as if it explained everything. ‘I’m meeting my Dad’ she said when I still looked puzzled and then, skipping from foot to foot, added ‘I haven’t seen him for thirty-six years so I’m a bit excited’. I laughed out loud and we left her to her preparations, quietly hoping that her Dad’s heart would take the shock that awaited him beyond the Customs Hall.

Hiatus Interuptus

January 5, 2008 - One Response

After a break of one year and one week, I am once again in the mood to resume writing here again. I stopped because I felt blogging about our life before, during and after our emigration from the UK was becoming a chore. I was tired of feeling guilty when folks asked when I was writing the next ‘episode’ or how I came up with the stories. I just wanted to do be able to do things without some small part of me feeling that I should be writing about it.

Similarly, bignoseduglyguy, my other long running blog has run out of steam and begun to ramble incoherently over the last year. Having revolved around geekery and online activities for a good few years, it suffered when I no longer bought the latest gadgets and work/emigration left little time for distractions.

A month or so back, I referred a colleague and fellow émigré to a post here so that he could read about something that had come up in conversation. Sometime later, he mentioned how much he had enjoyed reading the posts and how it had offered him a different perspective on who I was. Over the Christmas break, I have found myself re-examining my motives, thinking about the positive comments I have received about my blogs and the enjoyment I derived from writing them.

As result of all this, I decided to give Looking for No.8 wire a new lease of life and the primary focus of my blogging activity. I have moved it away from its old sub-domain home and Blogger API to join my food and recipe blog here on WordPress. A new theme with one of my own photos as a header image and a revised byline provide what I think is a fresh look. That’s it for now though I’m sure I’ll be tinkering with a few cosmetic tweaks and adding more links over the next few days.

Homeward bound

December 30, 2006 - One Response

Halfway down the departures board, I could see that Air New Zealand flight NZ39, bound for London via Hong Kong, was now open for check-in. The pit of my stomach was churning with unbidden feelings and the thought of twenty-four plus hours on a plane made me queasy. Not an hour previous, we’d all – friends and family – been sitting round the dinner table over steaming bowls of pasta and sauces, talking ten to the dozen about Christmas Eve barbecues on the beach, walks in the bush, surprise stockings on Christmas morning and how much wine we had drunk.

The easy friendship we had slipped out of focus, replaced by a stilted awkwardness and the quiet dread of parting that we had been carefully ignoring for days. The well-intentioned bonhomie of the greeting staff did nothing to lighten the mood. The baggage check-in was too quick to offer any delay of the inevitable moment. Tears, hugs, promises to write, more tears, make-sure-you-call-mes, hand-holding; the six of us taking turns, making sure we left no-one out. Then, moving quickly as if on an unspoken command, we walked away with pursed lips and lowered gazes, no-one daring to look around for that last glimpse.

Looking around, I checked the family were settled and made sure that, regardless of the tears, all had their belts fastened. Not one of us said a word, for there was really nothing to say; we knew that this situation could arise and now we faced it as best we could. Leaving good friends behind to head home was always going to be a factor but no amount of awareness prepared us for the heartache. With a deep breath, I looked over my shoulder one last time, pulled out into the traffic and headed home. In ten short days, we’d be back at the airport, standing in Arrivals, waiting to spot Granny and Grandad among the weary folks exiting the Customs Hall and starting the whole process all over again.

Job done – except for a door handle

November 20, 2006 - One Response
One of the reasons we chose the home we now live in was it’s potential to expand to meet the needs of our growing family or, more accurately, the growing needs of our family. While the four bedrooms upstairs, the decks and the section around the house provide plenty of room to sleep and move around outdoors, the open plan area downstairs means that we all tends to end up on top of each other in the combined kitchen-diner-living-office area. Unsurprisingly, this lack of privacy and space can lead to frayed tempers, heated debates and the odd slammed door.
Before – utility room and office area
Most Kiwi homes seem to have, either by design, conversion or addition, a second living space variously called a family room, rumpus room, kid’s den or sleep-out in the case of a separate unit. Half the ground floor of the house was taken up by a double garage with a utility area in one corner and, even during our first viewing, we were measuring and planning how we might covert it into another living space. In the months since we moved in, the garage was used as a storage and dumping area while we settled into the house. However, once I had built a new shed next to the house and moved the remaining boxes, bikes, bits and bobs in to that, the way was clear to convert.
After – office area and door to utility room
We called in a local builder, John, who replaced the automatic garage door with a window and ranch slider, rewired the space with halogen lights and lots of power outlets, built two stud walls and relined the ceiling. This neatly divided the space into a large sunny L-shaped room opening onto the front of the house and a smaller laundry/workshop with a door to the side passage. With the building work finished, SWMBO donned her ‘Changing Rooms’ hat and set about painting the rooms to her usual standard – those who saw how she transformed our London flat will know what she can do with a few cans of paint. With the decor sorted, John the builder returned to tile the utility room and last Friday, after I had smoothed and filled the holes in the concrete floor, we had underlay and carpet fitted in the larger room.
Before – the view from the homework/craft area
Not one to let the kettle go off the boil, SWMBO cracked the whip on Saturday to push the project to completion. As she headed off to a business seminar with her direct marketing colleagues in Auckland’s CBD, I juggled the usual ‘taxi’ run to the sprog’s dance classes with picking up a few last minute things to complete the conversion. Once back home, I relocated our home office furniture and family computer to the designated ‘office’ corner of the new space and installed and configured a new wifi network and broadband connection to serve the whole house.
After – the view from the homework/craft area
The last major job on the ‘Honey, do!’ list was to hook up our old UK television/video combo to a budget DVD player that sprog No.3 won in a school competition a couple of years back. Having warned that, as a UK unit, it’d only play region 2 DVDs, I and the kids were pleased to find that it happily plays DVDs from both regions 2 and 4 – a nice surprise in this day and age of locked-down formats and built-in obsolescence.
During – the not-quite-finished snug area, which will double as a guest room when fully furnished.
The next morning brought Sunday, the supposed day of rest, but any thoughts of kicking back and doing nothing were soon banished. In an up-to-date twist of the ancient practice of bartering, I agreed to trade a breakfast meeting spent business coaching friends through the planning needed to expand their business for a three-seater couch they no longer needed. After trailering it back to the house and installing it under several excited sprogs, we all sat down to a brunch brunch of bacon, eggs and homemade baps.
Before – garage door ready for removal
Soon after that, the guy who cuts our grass turned up to repair the damage his wife had visited upon our water tank connection with a brush-cutter two days previously. This is no small matter- like most of rural New Zealand, there is no mains water supply here and precious tank-stored rainwater is all there is to last us the summer, unless we order in extra deliveries by tanker lorry at some expense. No sooner was the repair done than a guy turned up to buy the garage door we’d removed and sold on Trade Me, the local equivalent of eBay. The bundle of lovely green dollars barely touched my skin before they passed to the clutches of SWMBO, who announced that she was off to look at beds for the guest area of the new room. After two days with barely time to draw breath, I was beginning to wane and as the afternoon wore on, the sore throat I’d been nursing all through a hectic week at work decided to undergo its own conversion into a head cold and a raging temperature.
After – ranch slider and window replace garage door
Having decided that a hot lemon and honey would ease my fevered brow, I was boiling the kettle when SWMBO rang the house. From the checkout at the bed store, she announced that they could deliver the bed she had just purchased but it would be an extra $60, so could I kindly hitch up the trailer and go and get it please? As I hooked up the trailer and start the Pajero, I found myself thinking that, should I ever undergo reincarnation, I would inevitably be reborn as a water buffalo – one destined for a life yolked to a plough in a paddy field with SWMBO as the whip-cracking rice farmer. That said, an scant hour later, I was back home with the new twin trundler bed unloaded, unwrapped and installed in the new room.For all the hassles and the ‘drama’, as they say round these parts, the flexibility the new rooms offer us is more than worth the effort. We now have a separate utility room where the laundry gets done, the big freezer sits and I can colonise a small corner for a work bench and tool racks. The main room is now a place that offers a snug hidey-hole where the sprogs can hang out with their friends (and, no doubt, boyfriends in the years to come) and guests can sleep in comfort when they visit; an area from which SWMBO can build and command her growing skin care and supplement empire and a light and airy table for the inevitable homework, crafts and hobbies in the years to come.

I was going to close by saying that the only outstanding task on my list is to fit a door handle to the utility room door but, as is the way in this house, another job has just been added with SWMBO informing me that ‘the new fangled wifi-server-thingy’ is not working. If you are reading this, then you’ll know I have fixed it and am back to just the door handle.

Kapa Haka

November 4, 2006 - Leave a Response

Kapa Haka is the term used for the traditional Maori performing arts. The term kapa haka derives its meaning from two words: kapa (to stand in rows) and haka (Māori dance). Kapa haka requires the performers to sing, dance, have expression as well as movement and combine all these elements into each performed item. In this sense, kapa haka also acts as a sign language, as each action has a meaning that mirrors the spoken words.

Here, our youngest sprog is making the ‘wiri’ hand gesture. The wiri represents the world around us, from the shimmering of the waters of a bright sunny day, to the heat waves rising from the ground to the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

The boys of the Taupaki School Kapa Haka group perform the ‘Ra! Hupane, Ka -upane!’ part of the Ka Mate haka, the original of the two haka used by the All Blacks before their rugby internationals.

The newer haka, “Kapa o Pango”, features the controversial throat-slitting gesture which has received so much criticism – usually from the national press of the opposing team! For more information on the kapa haka and Maori culture, try http://www.maori.org.nz

Just like in the movies

November 4, 2006 - Leave a Response

Click on image for larger versions

An unusual event interrupted my pottering about in the garden yesterday. I was in the middle of cat proofing my ‘square foot gardening‘ vegetable patches, surrounded by chicken wire, tools and the odd sprog, when I heard a sound one normally only hears in films.

Buuuur-bup-bup-bup … buuuur-bup-bup-bup … phut-phut-bup…

I looked up and saw a small jump plane tracking low across the clouds and blue sky above the township and seemingly trailing smoke from one engine. It was making the kind of noise that came from Ginger’s Spitfire shortly before he ‘pranged his kite’ in those ‘how the RAF won the war’ black and white movies of my childhood. A few seconds later, four skydivers exited the plane in close order, opening their canopies almost instantaneously while the plane lazily turned west. Shouting for the sprogs to come and see and grabbing the camera from the kitchen counter, I returned to snap a few shots, rationalising that I had obviously got it wrong and the smoke was simply vapour trail (unlikely at that low altitude in this warm weather) or a skydiver’s cannister that had malfunctioned in the plane (very unlikely but still possible). As I clicked away, I was aware of the noise again.

Buuuur-bup-bup-bup … phut-phut-bup…[silence]

Abrupt silence – never a good thing when flying I suspect, except in gliders maybe. As the skydivers slipped from view and into the paddock behind the local pub, I wondered whether I should dial 111. I didn’t. Well, for one, I wasn’t sure of what I had just seen – was it a plane in trouble or simply throttling back to reduce the prop wash for the skydivers? Did jump plane pilots have parachutes? There’d be a loud explosion if the plane had crashed, surely?

Later, at the school firework display, which the whole township attends, the jungle telegraph was in overdrive – the skydivers were rehearsing for a pre-display jump when the plane got into trouble. The pilot managed to walk away from a landing that left his plane upside down amongst the vines in a local vineyard. Not one to miss a trick, the head teacher raffled some of that vineyard’s latest output as ‘plane crash vintage, never to be tasted again as ten rows of the vines have been totalled by the plane!’

A write up and video report of TVNZ’s version of what they’re inevitably calling ‘The Grape Escape’ can be seen here.

Picture: TVNZ