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Archive for August, 2009

We’re moved in!  Hurrah  🙂

The broadband didn’t get connected!  Harooo 😦   (that’s the end of the world bit in case you were worried…)

So Pickfords turned up before we did on Friday morning.  We arrived at 8:25am (for an 8:30am start) they were waiting for us.  Six chaps – ready to go!  Josie got nominated commander in chief of box to room allocation and got given a big list of all 192 pieces of stuff that got packed at the other end.  They then worked like the wind – grabbing a box, shouting the number at which point Josie had to tick it off and tell them which room to put it in.

By 10am they were done!  They then spent a while unwrapping and putting together things taken apart by the guys at the other end – beds, tables, shelves, bikes etc.  By about 11.30am we were down to two blokes just doing the last few bits.

I cannot be complimentary enough about Pickfords.  They have been fantastic.  The boat only arrived on 24th and they got the container through customs and maff biosecurity checks and at our place on the morning of the 28th.  Very impressive.  All the cleaning and Jeyes fluid paid off as well – total maff inspection charge only $200ish and everything passed so no fumigation required.

The new house is great.  It’s really big compared to our old place.  Still only three bed, but big reception rooms and the space is more usable.  We’ve also got the huge double garage which serves as a laundry as well.  Talking of which the new washer and fridge also turned up without issues so it couldn’t have gone smoother really.  Only the broadband that really went wrong and a couple of very minor bits of damage that we will report back but literally it’s a bucket that split and a lampshade that got creased.  We also lost the screws to the cot, which may still turn up but probably not.  That’s the biggest learning I’d take away from this – Get all screws/bolts/fixings put in a bag and taped to part of whatever they held together and write on the outside of the box AND the manifest where they are.

So hopefully the phoneline and broadband will be up by Wednesday which is only a couple of days but feels like an eternity.  In the mean time I have used the parts of one of Emily’s electronic toys, combined with an umbrella covered in tinfoil to molish a sattelite uplink.  It all runs off two potatoes and a lemon so it can only cope with small amounts of traffic – no photos yet I’m afraid.  Also – we wanted mash for tea last night so we’re down on power.

Next update – Thursday NZ time.

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Firsts and Lasts

Firsts – Drive-Thru-Cashpoint.

Only it wasn’t.  It was a window into the bank that lets you drive up to the bank and talk to someone without getting out of your car.  The bank was shut so I had to get out of my car to use the cashpoint.  Very disappointing.

Lasts – Driving into our underground lair.

We move out of our apartment and into our new house tomorrow so tonight was the last time I returned to the mother ship.  Having said that our new house has REMOTE CONTROL GARAGE DOOR OPENER!  Oh gadgety rapture.

Firsts – Our first set of NZ House Keys

Up until now we’ve had a plastic card.  Now we’ve got a bunch of jingly jangly metal keys.

Lasts – Sleep in the apartment

We’ve done alright out of her really.  A bit small which really started to become noticeable over the last couple of weeks.  There’s plenty of room in the new place so hopefully they can stretch their legs a bit.

Firsts – Used a central vacuum cleaner

That’s right Catherine and Deborah, the new house has a built in central vacuum cleaner!  Just like we’ve always wanted.  We will benefit from all the features of such a device: powerful, quiet, no heavy bits to lug up and down the steps.  Oh yes – it’s the way forward alright.

Lasts – Being within walking distance of Auckland Central

We’ve really made use of our central location and been into town loads on foot.  We’ve used the library, art gallery, shops, ferry, parks, coffee shops, banks – yup had our monies worth out of this location.  Now onto a new era of things within walking distance, like Emily’s Kindie and the Fush and Chup shop.

Firsts – Got a taste of indoor-outdoor living.

Our new patio doors fold right back to allow easy movement on and off the deck (sorry dick) and offer what everyone talks about over here, indoor-outdoor living.  We should get a lot more use out of our garden table and chairs.  Especially as spring is just round the corner and then the weather really starts to pick up.

Lasts – Last night of being without our stuff

We’re struggling to remember what on earth went into the container.   I want my guitar, Josie wants her pans and dressing gown and Emily wants her lego.  We’re sure we packed more than guitars, pans, dressing gowns and lego…

Pictures of the house tomorrow.

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Grown-up mummy day

Well today Stevie had to revise for, and sit, his psychometric tests. Obviously it is important to assess his personality thoroughly so the best course of action was to remove the ankle biters from the apartment and tackle some fears head on.

Fear no 1. Driving out of our scary car park

Nope failed, dragged Stevie down to drive the car out onto the road for me  – oops!

Fear no 2. Driving round Auckland City Centre without a navigator

Ticked that one off although I have to say it is quite difficult in a strange car and someone in the the back “Nag-ivating”. Not sure about this automatic car malarkey – seems a bit lazy but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Oh and I kept using my windscreen wipers instead of indicators and even flashed furiously at some poor chap whilst attempting to wash the windscreen.

Fear no 3. Finding my way to a friends’ house in a new part of town

Did that too, even with the Nag-ivator. And only took one wrong turning which isn’t bad considering I’d never been there before.

Fear no 4. Parking and reversing the car

To a small girl like me our estate (or station wagon) car is a bit hefty. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to three point turns and general parking type actions. But it is all ok. I went to a few shops and stuff and definitely earned my driving wings. I even managed to fill up with petrol too!

Fear no 5. A day without Stevie

Having had lots of time together I was a bit worried about being on my own with the girls again. So I was big and brave and contacted a new friend to see if she was free. Luckily she was and she invited us round to play. We even stayed there for our packed lunch and wandered down the round to their local swings which is right on the sea front. It was a lovely day and it was t-shirts weather. Pushing both my lovely girls on the swings whilst gazing out to sea was just tops 🙂

Fear no 6. Pain

I finally summoned up the courage to book a session at the gym. I’m all sorted for 10 am on Saturday. Hopefully it will get me back into exercising my body rather than my repertoire of feeble excuses for not doing anything about my wobbly mummy bits……. watch this space but maybe don’t hold your breath!

Fear no 7. Driving back into our scary drive

I DID IT!!! Didn’t even call Stevie to come down and talk me through it. It is a bit hairy as can be demonstrated by the chunks off the walls. Anyway, clever mummy puts that demon to bed 🙂

Fear no 8. All our stuff gets fumigated because the inspectors found a speck of mud

Pah! We are wonder cleaners 🙂 Our container has been emptied and passed by the MAF inspectors so is ready for our move-in date this Friday. All the cleaning has paid off and we will have our things around us this week!

Fear no 9. Psychometric tests

Now Stevie could stand on a soapbox about this topic forever! He finds them to be illogically contrived and struggles to accept their role in modern life. That said, he’d do anything for a job so he has diligently beavered away today with lots of practice papers to make sure he gave it his best. He overcame his prejudices big time on this one!

So that was our day. A day of small achievements and probably one of the closest days to “normal life” we’ve had so far. It was good.

I know it probably looks like we’re having a ball out here and yes, we are getting to do some lovely things together. But it is also pretty stressful living in such a small space, without a framework for the day, under a tight budget and with no grip on what our future will be because we haven’t got a salary. We haven’t been able to settle into real life stuff like going to play groups; sussing out the best veg shops; chatting to people in the play ground etc. We’ve been removed from such simple pleasures and we are craving for day-to-day life to begin. Hopefully, on Friday, it will.

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YES! ish… at least to the next stage, which is a batch of testing.  They test verbal and numerical reasoning , personality and stuff like that.  Al online tests so should be pretty straight forward to complete.  Will do a few practice runs to remind myself how they structure the questions.

To celebrate we had sushi for lunch.  It’s so cheap it’s hard to resist.  We also conceived the Sunday morning food hall challenge.  This is where on a Sunday morning we break our fast by going to one of the international food halls and the winner is the person who manages to eat something from the most nationalities!  Genius.  The food hall we went to today had Sushi and noodles, Indian, Pasta, Burgers, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian, Greek Kebabs and Roasts.  There’s also a McDonalds but that’s not food so I’m not counting that.

We also picked up some bargain clothes for Em.  All her trousers hang at half-mast because she’s growing like a sunflower.  We got two nice pairs of trousers and a top for NZ$30.  That’s about £12 – Asda prices!

We stopped to watch the sweet making people in the sweet shop but they mucked it up because the sugar developed the wrong sort of crystals apparently.  Very disappointing.

We dropped past the docks this morning and based on last nights recon found the best spot to get a pic of the boat!

It's our boat

It's our boat

Other than that it’s not been the weather for pictures… it’s rainy here.  Or at least it was this morning for an hour or so, then it cleared up a bit.  Apparently we’re in for a bit of a storm.

The conundrum of the day is what to do with our cash in the UK.  If we ever decide that NZ housing is a good investment (it’s at the bottom of a downturn at the moment and predicted to go up by 8% in the next year) we’ll need the money for a deposit.  Unfortunately the NZ dollar is flying and the pound is on its knees.  With the Bank of England carrying out quantitative easing the exchange rate is unlikely to get better in the time frame we need it to.  So do we move it now and invest in something else like bonds or high interest account or leave it and hope the rate recovers?  If anyone has crystal balls please let us know.

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Ship Ahoy!

It looks like our ship has come in – quite literally!  The ETA at Auckland harbour for the Maersk Duffield carrying most of our possessions was 8:30pm this evening.  So what else would Fitzhughs do but bundle the kids in the car and go out on a boat hunt or ‘bunt’ as we have christened it.  We’ve done about four laps of Mission Bay, flirted with the boundaries of trespassing on the port authority car parks and dock areas and got talked to by a very nice lady security guard looking after a marina car park we invited ourselves into.  She didn’t seem even slightly surprised that we were there to spot a boat.  She said we were welcome to stay and we could take as much time as we liked!  I think she was just grateful that we weren’t hoons doing doughnuts.

The port at night

The port at night

Finally the watching and waiting paid off and the three of us (Lucy was fast akip by this point) excitedly tracked the progress of the vessel along the harbour until it strangely vanished.  There are three possible explanations for it vanishing:

1) It was conducting experiments along the lines of the Philadelphia Experiment and was suddenly rendered invisible.

2) It sprang a leak and sank without trace

3) It went behind a big stack of containers and we couldn’t see it anymore.

Anyway, it was great to see it come in and we are hopeful that Pickfords will live up to their commitment to get our gear to us on Friday.  Josie is missing her dressing gown, Emily is missing Lego and I’m really looking forward to playing my guitar.  Believe it or not this is our boat.  It’s practically impossible to take a picture of a moving object in the pitch black so this is the best I could do…

It's our container boat - honest!

It's our container boat - honest!

On the subject of the house it looks like the broadband should be switched on by Friday.  The only question is whether the wireless router will arrive in time.  We just need to sort out an electricity supplier now so we have some juice to actually run the computers…

The only other topic of the day is of course my interview at lunch time.  Well I’ve had no official feedback yet, but I’m pleased with how it went.  I answered all their questions with relevant answers and we talked for more than an hour which is good.  Hopefully hear something back in the next couple of days.  Next stage is standard aptitude testing then if I get invited back a second interview and meet with the team.  Then we discuss t&c’s, they make an offer and someone gets employed – hopefully me!  This is an official request to keep everything possible crossed for a positive outcome.

Random photo of Lucy

Random photo of Lucy

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Devonport

We decided that as the weather was nice we’d go somewhere on foot today.  Our feet led us towards the ferry terminal and before we knew it we were heading for Devonport on the North Shore.  There’s a great playground there and we’d heard of some old military sites with tunnels up on one of the hills.

Planning to drop past the supermarket to get some lunch we somehow didn’t make it and ended up somewhere else…

dport_23A fantastic restaurant we’d visited on our recce and recommended in the guide books we couldn’t resist going in.  As anticipated the food and service was brilliant.  Josie had green lipped mussles in a thai broth.  I had a steak sarnie with onion chutney, Em had fish and chips and Lucy had some of emily’s and some nice bread.  We even had a glass of wine each – talk about splashing the boat out…

After lunch we visited the playground and then wandered around the bay.  Halfway round we found another playground so Emily thought it was christmas.  Lucy is really starting to love the swings and slides as you will see from the photos.

We spotted the hill with the tunnels and old guns from a distance and made towards it but decided to head back because it would have taken us a while to get up it and meant we were out very late.  So we headed back to the ferry and grabbed an ice cream whilst we waited for the next boat.

Emily loved the boats which is a good sign for if we get ourselves in a position to be able to get one.

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So our budget is getting dented today because we didn’t realise that rental houses here don’t come with all white goods.  They generally have a cooker and dishwasher but no fridge or washing machine.  They do have a thing called a supertub, which is basically a sink in a laundry area, so I suggested that maybe ‘we’ could do all the washing by hand.  Didn’t go down very well…

So how do you buy appliances over here?  It’s all a bit tricky.  Firstly they have a couple of brands we’ve never heard of.  Secondly everywhere will give you money off if you ask for it.  So the number on the ticket is not what you’ll end up paying.  Thirdly the big chains have different sales and offers all the time.  So one weekend there may be 20% off tv’s then next week there will be a sale on other stuff.  So timing is everything.

We managed to decide on which models we wanted based on a little logic and a lot of ‘cant be bothered thinking about it anymore’ – then got some quotes.  Some people gave us much better discounts than others, but usually if they were cheap on the washer they were pricier on the fridge.

In the end we went to a place that does factory recons and seconds and bought a fridge with two tiny scratches on the side of the door for about 60% of list price. We then met our lovely friends Chrissie and Chris for morning coffee and cake.  Now these were magic cakes.  Between the counter and our table, they grew, by about 50% I reckon but we rose to the challenge and polished them off over a good natter – Hosie in particular has been up and down this week so welcomed the chance to let off a bit of angst in return for some reassurance from people who have done this emigration lark before.

Anyway, I digress, Chris has staff discount at one shop and took us down there to see if they could give us a good deal on the washer. Unfortunately it fell short so we then went back to a different lady who’d given us a better washer quote  by far (only 25% off list) and ordered it from her.  It all arrives on Friday (hopefully when the furniture arrives) so it could be a bit of a mad day!

Unfortunately we forgot that our eftpos card (like a debit card) has a daily spend limit and managed to blow it completely.   This meant we couldn’t use it to buy anything until midnight and have only actually paid for half a washing machine.  And we needed petrol.  Thankfully we had a little spare cash and managed to splash and dash.

Lucy is standing up more and more and has even taken her first unprompted independent step!  Hurrah!

In the afternoon Em watched a film whilst I had a nap giving her a cuddle, Lucy snoozed and Hosie lounged about sunbathing on the balcony before crawling inside for a sleep moaning about how hot winter is here  🙂

All refreshed we jumped in the car and went to see our lovely friends Gavin, Gill, Chloe and Jemma over in Titirangi. We laughed our socks off over there and didn’t even leave until gone 11 – very late for New Zealand where most of the population are tucked up in bed by 10 pm. Emily flew round the house in a manner that resembles a Gazelle which has been recently released from a small crate in which it has been kept whilst circumnavigating the globe five times with only an old sock to play with. And Lucy discovered trampolining, and reveled in the attention of the other kids. Basically it was a great evening for all of us.

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MOTAT

…or Museum of Transport and Technology.  That was where we spent today.

They are running an offer where Auckland City residents get in free.  At the moment we can prove we live in Auckland City (which is not the same as North Shore City where we have rented our house) because at the moment our car is registered to the apartment address.  When we asked the lady for the offer she immediately said “Oh no it’s not for visitors, it’s Auckland City residents only”.  When we proudly produced our letter proving residence she had a most un-Kiwi like grimace as she realised we were getting in for free!  Haha.

So the museum is a strange mix of stuff.  Lots of transporty stuff like steam engines, old vehicles, etc.  Then there is a model railway, a Victorian village, an exhibit on Kiwi-ana (popular culture icons of NZ) .  Then there is a tram that takes you on a trip to the aviation section.

The aviation section has a big old Lancaster bomber which my grandad worked on in the war.  Seeing it made me think of him and how proud I am of him and everyone who fought in the war for us.

Also in the aviation section was a big old flying boat plane which I forget the name of.  It must have been incredible to live back in that era of adventure and pushing back frontiers.

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Tofu in a bucket

I spent an hour this morning talking to a recruiter about a role that I applied for.  She’s going to go back to the client and talk through with them, but I might not be the best match for this one.  No problem with me – she was very perceptive about what roles I’d enjoy and was very complimentary about my skills and background.  Always nice to hear.  Bizarrely the meeting was in a building just across the road from our apartment so it took me about three minutes to walk there!

We had a lovely long play this morning – exactly the sort of thing that we won’t be able to do once I’m back behind a desk.  Emily also sharpened up the crayons and did another picture.  A picture of the harbour bridge this time.  The red blob is our car and the black blob is (new friend) Carl’s car.

bridge_picWe are glad that Lucy is starting to walk because the way she devours food is terrifying.  If I were a sandwich I’d be heading for the hills!  I put her lunch in front of her earlier and the way her hand shot out, grabbed a piece of sarnie and stuffed it in her mouth reminded me of a documentary I’d seen on lizards who catch flies with their tongues.  Maybe a Triffid.  And her senses are so finely attuned to two things: 1) her purple bowl coming into plain sight, 2) the rustle of plastic wrappers that contain snacks…

Following lunch we headed out to do a spot of shopping.  We decided to take an unnecessary trip over the harbour bridge (see pic above) to use our new local shop to see what it’s like.  The local shop is a mid-sized Countdown and in a small parade of shops including a fruit and veg shop, chemist, video store, Chinese take away, post office, liquor store, hairdressers etc.  The veg shop is great!  Much cheaper than the supermarket and a better range of veggies.  It’s run by Chinese people so they also have a load of Chinese cooking ingredients including tofu – in a bucket!  Well a tray, but it’s not individually packed and a ‘normal’ sized block of tofu was $1.20, compared to nearly $5 in the supermarket.

We also dropped in at Takapuna Golf club and driving range to see how much it costs.  Pretty good value.

  • Driving Range – 100 balls is $12 (or 150 balls after 8pm)
  • 18 Holes – Weekends $28, weekdays $25, late start $18

Finally, Josie dropped in at another gym to see what it was like. This one was really different. Basically they have loads of really high-tech equipment that is always supervised and you move round a circuit of all the equipment doing one set of really hard focussed exercise that the instructors make sure you do absolutely correctly to get maximum benefit from minimum time. Three days a week, 30-40 minutes per session only. Interesting idea…

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Laughing like a child

Very exciting.  I’ve been experimenting with new technology and I can now bring you a recording of little Lucy laughing at Emily being a clown.  It’s a lovely sound.  Lucy Laughing

We met another new friend today!  This time it was somebody that Josie had befriended on the internet who sounded like a lovely lady with a lot of similar views on life!  Luckily she turned out to actually be a lovely lady and not a trucker called Bernard.  She had a lovely little girl that Emily played with for ages at a fab playground.  The cafe was a brilliant place. Windsor Cafe.  The cafe was fully enclosed by a low fence to stop kids getting into the car park and within that there was a high fence playground area with great play equipment.  The cafe was big and spacious with a lot of space for kids to play down one end.  The coffee was very good (of course – it’s Auckland!) and the toasted sandwiches were choice!

I’m going to speak to a recruiter about another role tomorrow morning which is great news because it means things are still coming up regularly.

I’ve been trying to sort out broadband access to our new house this evening.  Unfortunately ‘computer says no’ at least for now.  Apparently something is being done with the line (probably the existing tenant giving notice) but the company I’ve selected (Orcon – not from Lord of the Rings, but a service provider that can provide fast broadband and phone packages to Auckland) can’t sign us up because they don’t know what is going on.  Hopefully will be sorted by the time we move in, but there’s a chance it won’t be on from day one.  We’ll feel like a limb has been cut-off, we’re so used to having it now.

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