Heading into winter…

So we’re settled into our new house, started to get to grips with the garden – even bought some plants, a shredder to mulch the prunings and the falling autumn leaves.  We have plans to create a veggie plot and swap some of the decorative perennials for fruit trees.  Aonghas has already planted some carrots and marigolds ( or marlegods as he calls them!) in the boxes outside his window.  The early Camellias are starting to flower and we have a carpet of deep pink petals in our garden.  Roses are still blooming but the trees are wearing their autumnal colours and looking glorious in rich shades of yellow red, red rosethrough orange to red.

Well, what have we been up to..?  Boys have finished summer sports and are training for their chosen winter sports.  Lachlan is continuing with rugby, but has taken up squash and, as he is in Year 10 he is allowed to use the weights room at school.  Aonghas has decided to try hockey this year and is enjoying that – he even scored a goal last week!  Lachlan is also running regularly and still cycling.  Next weekend he is heading to Rotorua to take part in the Moon Ride – a 12 hour mountain biking marathon.  He is riding as part of a team and they will take it in turns to do the 15km circuits from 10amAonghas playing hockey to 10pm.  We were down there a couple of weekends ago and all had a go on the tracks. The Redwoods is a great forest with masses of mountain bike tracks of all levels.  Aonghas coped really well with them and ventured down the Dipper which even I braved, though Nigel decided that caution was the better part of valour and chickened out!  (we won’t hold it against him!)

We were down in Rotorua as I was taking part in a Duathlon, we decided to make a weekend of it as it was the last weekend of the Easter holidays, and our friends Liz and Chaz were also there with their boys, Jamie and Josh.  Liz was competing in the Duathlon too, as well as a couple more of our friends.  We stayed in the Thermal Holiday park – the same one we stayed in when we Aonghas on the "Dipper"were here on holiday in 2005. We rented a self contained unit which, in estate agent speak, made good use of space – compact and bijou!  The advantage of the park are the hot pools, plenty of running around space for energetic boys, a games room as well as a television! After a couple of weeks of glorious weather we had a weekend of rain and wind, so the going was soft and muddy!  We set off with the wind and rain lashing our faces, but once on the way and into the forest, we soon warmed up.  The pressure was off as far as times go because of the weather conditions so we just relaxed and went with the flow.  Obviously a good move because I ended up with a time 5 minutes faster than the last duathlon I did and a top 10 finish!  We hung around in the cold and wet for the spot prizes because you never know ……. that $2000 bike might just have your name on it!  Sadly it wasn’t to be..maybe next time!  But, boy were those hot pools good when we got back to the holiday park!  A couple of hours later and nicely coddled we emerged to head back home!

We stopped off at what has become a bit of a regular, favourite spot for us – the Fat Dog cafe.  Huge portions of scrummy food and plenty of veggie options for Nigel.  Heaps of sald with home made burgers as well as BLATs, fries, wedges ….mmm,  my mouth is watering just thinking of it!

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.

Lachlan’s first NZ rugby match

Hi,

This is Lachlan writing for the Robertson blog about my first rugby match in NZ.

It was a pre-season friendly against a school from south Auckland. When we first saw the opposition we thought we were going to get smashed because they were really big and mean. Unfortunately we lost but it was our first match this year and it hurt! The ground was as hard as something really hard and I now have cuts and bruises everywhere L . My team played really well but got tired at the end and I think I made some good tackles. The holidays are coming up in a week so I can’t wait! We had an after match feed back at the school (we played at Marist rugby club) and we had cake and lasagne J. It was a fun game and I enjoyed my first taste of rugby for a while. Looking forward to more matches now!

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.

We have furniture!.. and stuff!!

unpacking the container

I am writing to you all now in a room full of “stuff!”. Wow! All our familiar bits and pieces transposed from Ingleton to Hamilton – it feels really weird but also very comforting!

New Zealand Vanlines arrived on Thursday morning with our container that I had last seen in the wind and lashing rain of a Yorkshire Dales winter.

container on A65

saying goodbye!

When we waved it goodbye as it set off down the A65 we couldn’t really comprehend what it was going to be like to greet it in NZ. We had no idea where we would be living, what sort of house we would have, what the weather would be like – so many unknowns, but things have a way of sorting themselves out. So, in the scorching heat of a Waikato summer our belongings were carried out of the container which had been their home for 8 weeks by a couple of burly Islanders. Where it took two Englishmen to lift my dining table into the container, it was hoisted single-handedly onto Mac’s shoulder and passed over the fence to his mate on the other side! They made short work of emptying the container and we were left with a house and a garage filled with boxes and packages.

the garage!We have had a busy few days, as you might imagine, unpacking boxes and discovering the delights of our belongings. It has been like Christmas! Mind you, we have also opened boxes and wondered why on earth we spent money on transporting such junk half way across the world! Having lived with the bare minimum for 8 weeks you realise just how much useless paraphernalia we collect as we go through life and how much you can just do without. However, all that extra paraphernalia is now with us and we will just have to work out how we can dispose of it before the kids notice we have thrown out all their toys! It’s a good job that boxes …there is a large garage here as the house is considerably smaller than Mount Pleasant and the attached photos show just how full it is! I think a garage sale is needed! the “al fresco” living roomThe weather here is really conducive to outdoor living at the moment and so we have created an extra room on the patio by the pool with a settee and table. It is lovely to sit out there in comfort and relax with a book and a glass of wine watching the children play in the pool! One of the particular delights of unpacking was finding the stash of alcohol the packers (I didn’t know anything about it, honest!) had deposited in the boxes! Zoco, 43, Champagne, Glenfiddich – (actually we haven’t found that yet!).

Brian & Nige hard at workAny way, many thanks have to go to Nigel’s Uncle Brian for the two 10 hour days he put in moving boxes from one side of the garage to the other (and then back again) to unearth the shelving units, rebuild them and then put all the boxes on them, braving a shower of ants, and still maintaining a sense of humour! Chris and Brian along with George and Barbara were our first real visitors and it was lovely to see them. Hopefully George and Barbara are now enjoying themselves in Bali before heading back to sunny Edinburgh. I say hopefully because their saga of cancelled, postponed and non-existent flights is a definite holiday scare story! (Avoid Quantas!)Lachlan having a break!

Lachlan spent a happy day reacquainting himself with all his belongings – it’s the first time he has voluntarily tidied his room anyway! Mind you he had to keep stopping to admire his work and have a rest!

To escape the mountain of boxes, C, B, G and B took us out for dinner on Thursday evening. We went to a place called Gengy’sGengys’s (Ghenghis Khan) where you pick the ingredients for your meal and then take them to the chef who cooks them on a hot plate. The kids thought it was great especially as you can keep on going back for more – George thought it was pretty good too! Aonghas was particularly impressed because he could have as many pancakes as he wanted for pudding! An interesting place to go if you happen to be in Hamilton (apparently there is one in Wellington too so I guess it’s part of a chain), good food, friendly staff, a pleasant though bustling and somewhat noisy ambiance and reasonably priced too.

By Saturday evening we had a reasonably functioning living room and kitchen – and we had found the Champagne so we duly cracked open a bottle and sat in our “al fresco” living room for an aperitif. Thanks to Chris and Brian for all their help.

Since then we have continued to “discover” all our treasures – Aonghas was overjoyed to be reunited with all his teddies!’ Nigel has got the computer up and running – not without some glitches but what’s new? Lachlan found his kicking tee so has been out practising his kicking in the park and I was pleased to get my bike so now I can get out and about on that.having fun in the pool

We still have a garage full and it is starting to look more organised however I am sure that much of the stuff will stay there until we move again.

Easter weekend coming up and now we have our camping gear (which, along with the caving gear was all passed ok by the man from MAF) we are hoping to get away somewhere, probably to the beach. Because of the organisation of the terms the boys only have a long weekend (Thurs to Tues inc) but it’ll be great to explore a bit further afield. Will let you know how we get on.

life starts to settle down…

Lachlan, Romulus and Remus

Well, we have been here nearly a month now and life is starting to settle into a sort of routine. Lachlan has got involved at school – he has gone to represent his house at swimming today at the Municipal pool in Hamilton. Went on the bus on his own this morning and he’ll roll up home whenever! Paperwork seems to be just about non-existent here as far as school trips are concerned – he came home the other day saying he needed $3 for the bus to go to the swimming pool, no forms to fill in, medical details etc, he then forgot to take the money with him so couldn’t go on the school bus so just went on the service bus (which was cheaper anyway!)

Aonghas is still a bit wobbly but has made a friend called Hong who is coming to play tomorrow evening after school, so he is feeling a bit more confident. He is going to play cricket in the school cricket league on Friday and yours truly volunteered to be the team manager as there was nobody else! Well. it’s a good way to get to know people and I was assured that I really wouldn’t have to do much! Both boys went to athletics training at Hamilton Hawks last Thursday, Lachlan is going to go to the senior session next Wednesday as the junior one was a bit tame for him but they had some fun anyway. We ended up walking home as there was a 20 minute wait for the bus into town and then we would have had to wait another half an hour for the bus out again to our house. I looked at the map and persuaded the boys that we could walk the 5km quicker! We did – just! The bus went past our house as we walked in the door!

one for Dad!
Walking gave us a chance to get our bearings a bit and one section took us through Hamilton Gardens which are beautiful. We had a day out there last Sunday as it is within walking distance of the house and there are no buses on Sundays. The grounds are beautifully laid out with different styles of garden going off from a central courtyard.
The Chinese Scholar’s Garden
The Japanese Garden of Contemplation Each garden leads round labyrinth-wise back to the courtyard and then you can go into the next. Each has its own particular atmosphere and despite there being a lot of folk around there was a sense of serenity and calm in the Japanese and Chinese gardens.
colours in the Indian Char Bagh Garden

A chance to sit and thinkThe Indian Char Bagh garden reminded me of the Alhambra in Granada – the colours were just amazing and a host of butterflies flitted their way through the flowers, there were little corners to sit and just drink in the fragrances and you could almost believe you were in another world.
Italian Rennaissance Garden

Walking through to the Italian Renaissance garden with its fountains and columns the brilliant blue of the sky contrasted with the white and terracotta of the walls and the smell of the herbs in the carefully laid out flowerbeds was lovely.
Cooling off in the American Modernist Garden

Nigel and Marilyn

Contrast that with the modernity of the American contemporary garden with a welcome paddling pool for the children and the clean cut shapes of the sculptures and a huge mural depicting Marilyn Monroe. Deckchairs to recline on and we spent a good half hour there as the children cooled off in the pool.
Nigel and Aonghas enjoy the flowers in the English Flower Garden The Englsih Flower GardenA celebration of garden styles wouldn’t be complete without an English country garden and sure enough there it was, lawns immaculate with sight lines through to a fountain and the summerhouse. Holly hocks and roses filled the borders and shady bowers to shelter from the sun. We used to love going to the Botanics in Edinburgh, there is plenty more to see at the Hamilton Gardens and I am sure we will go back soon.

This weekend saw us trailing round car showrooms looking for some wheels, we test drove a couple but just like in GB buying a car is fraught with complications and worries. It is one of our least favourite things to do but we really do need a car! Which dealer to go to? What sort of car? A small one to tide us over until we have a bit more money but which may not big enough to get the camping stuff in or a bigger, more expensive one that we may not be able to afford to run?! We then spent the rest of the weekend on the internet checking out the makes of car we had seen to compare performance, cost etc. We still don’t know! Perhaps we should just go for the first one we see at the right price and a nice colour!

To make us feel better and as a treat for the boys as they had (quite) patiently put up with trailing round car places, we found a lovely little Italian restaurant in a tucked away alley and ate Italian. It turned out to be a real gem and we will definitely go back there sometime! It was rather an indulgence as Nigel still hasn’t been paid (some cock up in the finance department) and the bank have given us a short term overdraft to see us through this week!

fun in the pool
Well the weather has changed a bit – still quite warm but there has been a bit of welcome rain and the wind has picked up which means the pool keeps filling with leaves – more work for me! What a shame! The boys continue to enjoy jumping in the pool and having great fun though Lachlan has taken to putting his wetsuit on now as he gets cold easily! (Aw, Bless!) The Uni pool is really good – 50 metres so it feels like an age to get from one end to the other! It is unheated so it is a bit of a shock diving in but once you get going it is fine. It’s the pool that Lachlan goes to with school for lessons – he came home after his first lesson to say that they had to run up there in bare feet (about a mile) with their togs under their PE kit, they then had a swimming lesson and ran back to school. No towel, no shoes, no forms to fill in, simple! Just about to head up there now as I plan to try to get fit! It will only be open until the end of March so need to put my time in now. There is a swim in the river called the 5 Bridges swim which I fancy doing – it is about 5km long but downstream – we’ll see what happens!

No more news for now, keep you posted!

PS. Lachlan won his heat in the Breaststroke and then came 5th in the final, he thinks his relay team came 2nd but isn’t sure! He is quite amazed by the fact that he is still in the “Green” team – he started in St Mary’s in Green, then into QES and now in NZ! His house is called Kikoriki.

PPS. Started my training regime with a run up to the pool and then 1000 metre swim. Think I might ache tonight!

..and the wickets came tumbling down!

covers on!Yesterday the boys and I went to see the ODI between England and the Black Caps (Nigel stayed at home as he is a Scotsman and good Scotsmen don’t do cricket!!). We set off on the bus after the boys finished school hoping to get the second half of the match but it had rained properly for the first time we got here, and as we approached the ground people were leaving in their droves! Typical! We come all the way to NZ to see a cricket international and it gets rained off!

super spongeEngland battingBut in true Brit style we sat there and watched the groundstaff working on the rain sodden pitch and the sun started to shine. The PA system boomed out all the weather related music it could find – “It’s raining men…”, “Mr Blue sky”, “4 seasons in one day”, “Here comes the sun”, and so on – you can imagine the rest! Play reccommenced at 6pm with England on 85-2 so things looked promising but in true English style 3 wickets fell in very quick succession and England were on the back foot, the Black Caps were merciless and England were soon all out for 158.

Black Caps supporter!

Aonghas by this time had bought a Black Caps flag and was waving it as each wicket fell! Lachlan bumped into two of his new found school friends – another Lachlan and Abraham. Abraham was sporting a daft England hat as his Dad is English but he soon changed allegiance to the winning side too!

kiwi kids cricketAt the interval there was a display of cricket from the Kiwi Kids cricket schools – loads of Primary aged kids playing which was great to see. Aonghas has signed up to play at school now so we’ll see how he gets on. When play resumed we were treated to a magnificent display of batting from the Black Caps and the banter in the crowd increased between the English and NZ supporters, all good natured but by now quite drunken! More opportunities for flag waving for Aonghas. He was amazed by the vociferous group of young men sporting a variety of fancy dress who heckled every English supporter who went past them! He was particularly worried about the young man who, sporting a rather fetching dress and wig of long flowing locks, made a frighteningly good go at being a woman!!

In the fieldmagnificent batting from the Black CapsThe inevitable happened at around 9pm – a bit earlier than scheduled – when the Black Caps made the run target of 164 with the loss of no wickets in 19 overs! I haven’t been to many cricket grounds but Hamilton seems a very pleasant place – mostly grass banking so everyone sits down with picnics etc and with the sun shining it made a great evening’s entertainment.

sunset over Seddon ParkThere is a full test match here in March so we may have another day out then, who knows?

Aonghas’ ready for school in his hat!
Back to school this morning though and we had to wake two rather tired boys! It is Aonghas’ turn now to have a little crisis of confidence. He was so eager to start school and is enjoying the daily swimming lessons and playing in the brilliant play parks every interval (break) but has realised that he doesn’t have all his friends, and is finding it difficult when the others go off and play in their ready made friendship groups. However, the other boys all seem very kind and are good at asking him to play so I think it will be just a matter of time before he forges some new friendships.

We are now starting to get to grips with the money a bit more and learning to compare NZ prices with each other rather than converting to pounds all the time to compare prices between the UK and here. Looking now to buy a car so we can get further afield at the weekends since there are no buses on a Sunday! Still no news on our house sale so if you know anyone out there who wants a nice house in Ingleton…..!

I am still washing all our clothes by hand as our washing machine is still in a container somewhere on the ocean (hopefully still in a ship!) which gives me something to do during the day apart from writing this, dipping in the pool and reading! The library is a five minute walk up the road so that’s really handy. The sound of the cicadas outside is constant and puts me in mind of mediterranean holidays. praying mantisThere is an amazing array of insects too – loads of grasshoppers, some big black/brown beetle type things about 3 cm long, praying mantis, moths, little green bugs, little bright yellow bugs, spotted shiny bugs and lots of spiders with really long legs. We hear a shriek from Aonghas about once every 10 minutes “Mum, come and look at this….aaaagghh!” He is coming to terms with them but we have to do a bedcheck every night before he will go to sleep! I think I’ll have to get a book from the library to find out what they all are.

Weet-Bix Tryathlon

Today I cycled in the Weet-Bix Tryathlon with Jamie and Mitchell. Mitchell swam and Jamie did the run. We had to get up very early and cycle to the University where we met Jamie and Mitchell. grabbing his bikeAt first it was a bit scary and I didn’t really know what I was doing! There were loads of bikes and I had to wait for Mitchell to tag me after his swim before I could set off. To start off with I couldn’t find my bike but I felt good once I got on my bike and started cycling but then the two people in front of me crashed into each other and I crashed into them! I fell on the grass but I got up and carried on.Gus in Tryathlon

There was a steep hill and I had to get off and push then I got on again and there was another hill – I cycled up it for a bit and when it got too steep I had to get off and push again! When I came into the finish area there was lots of noise and people were cheering the person in front of me but I went faster and overtook them.finishing line in sight

Jamie setting offThen I found Jamie and tagged him so he set off then I ran to the finish line and got a gold medal from Debbie Tanner who is a New Zealand Olympic Triathlete.

Debbie Tanner and Gus

We waited for Jamie to finish his run and then I ran with him to the finish line and had a team photo with Jamie and Mitchell.

all winners! Mitchell, Aonghas & Jamie

Breadhead and Harold the giraffeIt was good fun and I would like to do it again next year but hopefully it won’t rain next year! (It only rained a little bit and was still really warm – Mum!!) Breadhead and Harold the Giraffe were really funny and danced. My number in the Triathlon is 1126C and when they were giving away a bike as a spot prize they said 1127C – I nearly won!!

Aonghas

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.

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

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!