Te Awamutu Street with tree.jpg

Te Awamutu Street with tree.jpg

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Kids on bikes

Took the boys to a mountain bike track in Hamilton at the weekend (well they took me really!) Lachlan shouts back “The next bit’s easy, Dad”. One slope and three steps (who the puts steps on a bike track??) later, I’m under the bike with just the one sore shoulder and one painful leg, oh and just the small amount of blood leaking from the grazes! Here is a vid that I’ve put on Flickr to test their new video capability.

Tamahere Fire

On Saturday, the kids went out on their bikes in the park. At the back of 4 o’clock, they came in and said that there was a lot of smoke at the back of the park. Anne and I went out to look and there was a plume billowing up into the sky. It looked to be about a 1/2 mile away maybe to the left of Gus’s school. We were busy still sorting boxes in the garage and taking bits into the house. I noticed on the computer that my Twitter had popped up with a Tweet from a workmate to say that it was a cool-store at Tamahere that was on fire. This is 5kms (2 miles) from us and I went to take another look at the smoke.

Smoke plume as sun was setting

Smoke plume of Tamahere fire

Smoke plume of Tamahere fire

Smoke plume of Tamahere fire

It was billowing well up into the sky and flattening out at some altitude where there was some wind and being carried west. I took some photos of the plume and stuck them on Flickr.  Some of them have since appeared on a NZ TV website.

We caught up with some news later and the place was a cheese store which exploded just as the first firemen arrived to investigate an alarm. Several are seriously injured and one died overnight from his injuries. It’s a pretty devastating event to the community and I know that our friends in CRO would understand the enormity of this sacrifice.

The fire is still burning although should be out in the next 24 hours. It’s in a rural location with poor water supplies, not helped by the summer long drought that Waikato has been experiencing. The melted cheese, foam and water along with by-products from the burnt polystyrene insulation, refrigerant, etc also have the potential to mess up the environment and Environment Waikato have been working to prevent such a disaster.

Anne’s Birthday

It’s Anne’s birthday today and somehow she is still younger than me 🙂

She is an April Fool baby and I don’t think that her Dad believed it when he was told that she was on her way!

AnneWe haven’t really had a chance to celebrate as we’ve both been working today. Then this evening we had to take Lachlan to register for his school rugby team. That was happening at the local rugby club that Gus will play for. Once kids get to secondary school they stop playing for clubs and just play for the school. We met some folks there and then had to rush back for a PTA meeting at Aonghas’s school. Anne’s been there ever since and the tea that I’ve cooked for her is slowly going soggy! I guess that the wine will still taste OK though 🙂

Lachlan’s Sport

Hi there, this is Lachlan speaking. I’ve been doing lots of sport. First of all I did a swimming sports day at the Victoria Street Municipal Pools. It was the school inter-house competition where I had great fun and I came 5th in my race in Breastroke! I also competed in the school sports Day on Monday at Porritt Stadium. I came 2nd in my 80m hurdles race and 2nd in my 2000m steeplechase. I had a good time because I like doing sport, I was with all my mates and it was a great atmosphere and there was a water jump in the steeplechase. I also entered the javelin, long jump & 100m sprint, I was going to enter the 300m hurdles but the bus didn’t get there in time so I missed it. This week and last week I went to Hamilton Hawks Athletic club which is at Porritt Stadium. I have learnt how to use starting blocks and today I did a 2,000m run in 9 minutes.

Car

Spent another Saturday searching for a car. Not our favourite activity at all 😦

Anne had gone round some yards during the week and had found one with a reasonable selection of stuff and a guy running it who seemed OK (well for a car salesman anyway!)

The problem when there is a wide choice is it makes it harder to choose – bit of a paradox really! We had gone with the intention of driving some Mazda MPVs and Honda Odysseys and had done a fair bit of online research as to what years etc to go for. After climbing through various ones, sitting in seats, working how the back seats rearranged themselves, we ended up taking out a Toyota Estima! Fortunately we had also researched this, just hadn’t come across any on our previous weeks foray round the yards. The Estima seemed to have more room all round and a reasonable seating arrangement.

Like lots of the car yards, this one had two other sites within 2 or 3 miles (there are lots of car yards in Hamilton) so we went for a drive over to one of them to see what else might be available. We weren’t too happy with the Estima as it seemed to pull to the side a bit and was a bit ‘used’ inside. At the second yard, however, was another Estima, slightly different model, slightly older but $2000 cheaper. Decided to take that for a spin to compare with the one that we had just driven. This second one was much better, no pulling, tidy inside, even has electric curtains!!

Had a good drive about in this and by the end were happy to sign the dotted line. Most second hand cars go in for an AA service before purchase so ours was booked in for Monday. Main note from the examiner was that the air conditioner fan was a bit noisy! Our new car!This was at the end of Monday when the guy from the yard phoned up. He arranged to come and pick Anne up on Tuesday morning (today), took her to the bank to get a cheque and then to pick the car up. It’s now sitting in the drive so Hooray! we can drive off somewhere this weekend.

Barbecues

Our landlords – Colin and Judith – asked us round to their house for a barbecue on Friday evening. Not often that your landlord will loan you their car and invite you round for food! Kids were impressed as they could watch the telly! That’s a luxury that they are learning to do without at the moment.

On the Saturday we had a lazy day at the house then Liz – our relocation consultant – picked us up go for a bbq at her house. Liz has been excellent in everything that she has helped us with and has gone way beyond what her employer would expect her to do – thanks Liz!

Liz and Chas moved to NZ about 4 years ago from the UK so had lots of helpful hints about the transition. Liz has 2 boys, the eldest is Gus’s age. All 4 had a great time in their pool while we lazed about keeping refreshed on NZ white and Mac’s best bitter.

Sorting Schools

Went for a tour round the local schools. It was easy for Lachlan as we are about 150 metres from the local high school, Hillcrest High. It seems OK and has a reasonable reputation. The folks living next door to us actually moved here so that there kids could go to it.

For Aonghas, there were two options. Silverdale primary was at the end of the road, about 5 minutes walk away. We went there first and met the deputy head in charge of his year range. Aonghas has just come out of a UK Year 3 class and we were a bit non-plussed when it took her several minutes of leafing through a booklet to work out what class he would be in. She wanted him to start year 3 again, in a mixed class with year 2’s. Seemed a bit strange to us but we carried on and let her show us round. The school seemed alright-ish but perhaps a bit dated. The telling thing for us, though, was the fact that she never talked to Aonghas the whole time that we were there. She never once said anything to him, she never asked us his name and she just said “He will do this” and “He will do that” all the time.

In the afternoon, we walked over the park at the back of the house to Hillcrest Normal School. It’s a bit further away but we timed it as a 12 minute walk. As soon as we walked in, the receptionist asked Aonghas what his name was and when his birthday was. “You’ll go into year 4 then” was her comment, as she continued to talk to him while we arranged to see the deputy head. We walked away with little decision to make!

One thing that we did discover is that state education in NZ is, on the face of it, more expensive that the UK. We have to buy all exercise books as well as pens, pencils, glue sticks, scissors etc, etc, from a fixed list, plus contributions for photocopying, computing, the school in general and various other bits and pieces. Fixed uniform for Lachlan too and that’s only available through the school. Makes a request from QES for a £10 or £20 contribution pale into insignificance.

Moving In

Moved into our new house. Feels pretty spacious as there is no furniture in it! Fortunately my uncle near Wellington has relatives who only live 20 minutes or so away from here. They’ve been out and dropped a lots of goodies off to help us live – like a bed and bedding, table, chairs, pots, pans, plates, etc. That’s been really helpful so a big thanks to Lorraine!

Have attached some piccies of the house, including our orange tree! Just click on any to enlarge.

Masters AvenueInside houseMasters AvenueMasters AvenueOrange Tree

Friday

Well it is time to prise the boys out of the pool and head down town. Hamilton is the fifth largest town in NZ – quite provincial and trying to lose it’s reputation as a bit of a “hicksville”. As you go in there is a statue of a typical farming family which some of the locals want removing as they see it as a symbol of the agricultural history of the place. What we have seen so far seems really nice, pleasant, wide avenues, not too much traffic, rolling green countryside around, a few mountains to the North (I think), a beautiful river – the Waikato which is the longest in NZ – lots of parks and gardens. However we have to go to the Inland Revenue office to get our IRD numbers which allow us to work, the boys need them as well so a rather mundane but essential task. Also getting a bank account and then we need to get some food for tea so off to Pac’n’Save on the way back for essentials (a few bottles…).

Thursday

Phone Liz and tell her we are a bit stuck on which of the two houses to choose. She phones the vendors and it turns out one has already gone so that makes our mind up for us. Arrange to meet the owners of the other one that evening and sign our rental agreement so now have somewhere to live – probably the best way round as although it is a bit smaller than the one that had gone, it is in a much better position. It is 2 minutes walk from Lachlan’s school and 10 from Aonghas’s. It has just been done up with new carpets, paint etc. Although it is a little smaller than some we saw, it has a garden with orange and grapefruit trees, a small swimming pool and a gate through to a park with rugby pitch and playground. It is in a green, leafy suburb, local shops at each end of the road with a library, doctor’s surgery take-aways etc. All we need is within walking distance until we get round to buying a car. We move in on Tuesday as soon as the various relatives who are lending us bedding, crockery and general household bits and pieces to tide us over until our stuff arrives can bring it to us. Unfortunately it is a holiday weekend here – a bit like August Bank Holiday – different regions of NZ have “anniversary” holidays and this is Auckland and Waikato’s.

Don’t know how long we will be in this house as the owners are looking to sell it but we have at least 3 months. However it gives us an address to get the boys into schools so that is the next job. They are all closed until Tuesday so visiting starts then.

So we now have a bit of time to explore – the owners of the house we have rented are going to lend us a car for the weekend (how many landlords do that??) so that means we can go a bit further afield. The bus system here is pretty rubbish and the train network is just about non-existent, though at least it doesn’t pretend to be otherwise!

Tuesday – Arrival

Hong Kong was great but now we were taking the final step to NZ. We landed slightly late in Auckland on Tuesday due to a delay to the flight from Heathrow – apparently they were still clearing up the debris of the BA flight from China that had missed the runway. We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of a cyclone so it was chucking it down with rain and blowing a hoolie! Very warm though!

[A couple of days of hot, muggy weather and now it is 28 degrees and beautiful sunshine, dare I complain about it being too hot to bear? (I’ve had to come inside to write this, partly because I can’t see the screen for the sun but also because I can’t sit in the sun as it is too hot!) The University of Waikato have put us up in a Motel for a week which is quite pleasant – not up to the standard of the Hong Kong hotel but there is a small outdoor pool which the boys are loving, so that keeps them happy.]

Sunday

Took taxis, buses, trains and then a 5.4km cable car ride up to see the “Big Buddha” – very touristy but, hey, why not? This is supposedly the largest seated Buddha in the world and yes, it is big! We sampled the “delights” of the Buddhist vegetarian food in the Monastery. As the Chinese New Year is soon upon us, the monastery was busy with people giving thanks for the year past. Huge incense burners smoked everywhere – you could buy incense ‘sticks’ 6 inches across and 3 or 4 foot long!

Had a demonstration of the proper way to make Chinese tea. Think it explains why I was never too impressed in the past when I had bought some and tried to make it pretty much in the western fashion.

Saturday

Went in the funicular up Mount Victoria. Pretty hazy unfortunately but still the views were impressive – especially the building that was still as tall as we were most of the way up the hill.

Came back and toured round Kowloon. Every time we went out Nigel was harangued by Chinese tailors offering to make him a suit – not sure what that says about his style – but it became a bit of a joke, especially to Lachlan who found it highly amusing!

Friday

Besides the stunning skyline, there is so much jammed in between the buildings roads, tramways, elevated roads, elevated walkways, huge escalators. It’s actually possible to get about on the island. without hitting the roads at all. Saw all the sights in Hong Kong, the boys loved it as we travelled by Star ferry Star Ferry across the harbour and then rode the tram from one end of the line to the other. Wandered about shops on the island and jostled our way through the melee of people in the narrow streets – the noise of street vendors, car horns, mobile phones ringing, the smells of street corner food stalls, the bright colours of the neon signs and shop displays as well as all the Chinese New Year decorations everywhere was quite overwhelming but also exciting.

Thursday

Well we have got here! Gus and Luggage

After all the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks a few days of luxury in Hong Kong are really welcome.

What an amazing place! We weren’t quite sure about going to a big city but the skyline is terrific and we have a great view from our 20th floor room in the Harbour Plaza Metropolis Hotel. Got bamboozled into a “package” when we arrived which meant that we had access to the “Club Lounge” where we had an even better view of the harbour, buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails and free internet access plus a pile of other extras that we didn’t really use! It was lovely to be pampered for a short time!Hong Kong at night

Saturday Eve

Have arranged a going away party at Ingleton Community Centre for Saturday evening. Not been very efficient at getting invites out. Did a joint mail with our Christmas cards but harder to get in touch with folks whose addresses we don’t have. The old caving grapevine doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to so apologies if you didn’t hear about it in time. Lots of you did make it though and it was lovely to see so many folk and we hope you all had a great time too and had a safe journey home. We’re really sorry if we didn’t get the chance to talk very much to you all. We have sat and played back the evening in our heads and think that one or the other of us spoke to everyone, so we hope we didn’t miss anyone. Thank you also for all the kind gifts both for us and the children.

Have uploaded some pictures from the evening to http://www.flickr.com/photos/easegill/sets/72157603851691832/show
If anyone has other photos from the night please send to easegill@gmail.com or add links here in the comments.

We do hope that it’s not the last time that we see all our friends. I’m sure that at some point we’ll come back for a holiday but NZ is a really cool place for a holiday and we’d love to put any of you up if you visit. The only problem you’ll have is not having enough time to see it all!

Saturday Day

House empty, work finished – seems like a good place to start writing this. First of all thank you to everyone for all your kind words, messages, help and meals over the last few weeks We’re staying in a caravan at Silverdale for our last week in the UK. The weather has been pretty wet but there have been some excellent winter sunsets over Morecambe Bay.

Sunset over Morecambe Bay from Silverdale

Today I’ve been spending some quality with my brother while we drive up and down to the tip all day getting rid of the piles of junk and rubbish that even we’re too embarrassed to take with us! Also need to get ready for tonight’s party – and collect some balloons!