Sorry for the silence over the last few days - I didn't want to jinx things when they seemed to be going so well (having heard of people who had got to reference stage and then been told that the interviewer hadn't actually got approval for the job!)
I had a few problems with taking the tests for the Ministry job; the outsourced company did not believe that Linux was a valid operating system; whilst I could take their practice tests without a problem, as soon as I tried to start the real thing, I got a splash screen telling me that as I wasn't using Windows or a Mac, I couldn't proceed. Unfortunately, all the library internet computers are also Linux as it is a free system which has a much lower virus risk than either Windows or a Mac (and is therefore preferable for a system where anyone could download anything!). However, when I talked to the HR lady, she did not have a problem with them setting up the tests for me to do in their offices.
So on Monday, I headed into Wellington to take the online tests. This was in a different building to the one where I had had the interview, which is a good job, as the interview building was right in the middle of the area where Prince William was visiting and the crowds were heaving! The tests themselves were a lot nicer than the practice ones, and, although I didn't finish the numerical one, I was a lot happier with how they went (and, despite what I had been told at interview, they were just numerical and reasoning, there wasn't a psychometric test there at all). I left the offices in glorious sunshine about an hour and a half later, and the crowds for William were still there (his flight had been delayed due to fog at Wellington airport). However, I decided not to hang around - I'm not the best person in a crush, and it's not as though I'm that fanatical about the royal family!
By the time I got home, the test results were waiting for me - I got 54/60 for the verbal reasoning (and all six were ones which I wasn't sure about on the check-through), 37/40 for the numeracy (but I ran out of time after doing question 37...). When I spoke to Kerry on Tuesday (he'd been off sick on Monday), he actually opened the email with the results in whilst on the phone; his reaction - "54 out of 60? That's good. Numeracy? Well now, that's just showing off!"
He's been talking to my references (both of them were from my previous company - it's been quite tricky having two references from the same job, but as that was over 5 1/2 years, and I've not the foggiest where to direct people for Sure Start (particularly as the DfES has significantly changed over the last few years!), I didn't have much choice...), and then had to get final sign off for the job. Which is why I've been waiting to let everyone know how it was all going!
But I got a phone call from Kerry this morning - the formal offer letter is now in the post. I'm not going to start until the 9th Feb (or that week), but I'll be meeting up with Kerry and Kevin, who is taking over Kerry's role and who will be my boss, for coffee next week. The icing on the cake is that he has got a significant increase on the salary - his reasoning is that no-one in the department was allowed a pay rise last year due to the recession, and so he wanted to get the raise in early in case it was the same situation next year! It's far over and above what I was expecting, even after he said that he was going to try to get me a bit more, and will definitely allow us some significant spending and saving money on a monthly basis. The joy is that my first payday (they pay fortnightly) will be just before the money runs out in our NZ bank, meaning that I won't have to transfer the rest over from the UK until the exchange rate is back in my favour (it seems to be getting better, but then it's had little rises over the last couple of months, and then slumped back down again!)
In other news, we have also had the delivery of our goods from the UK - the delivery men arrived half an hour early, and, even with having to turn the lorry round and come back as they'd missed the house the first time, they were still gone in 40 minutes! So far (touch wood) we've only had three significant damages, and all were mildew related - one of my coats, John's leather boots and one of our holdalls. We've still got a couple more things to check, but *touch wood* we should be all right. We're still unpacking - I thought we'd packed a lot more coat hangers than we did, so we are going to have to go and find some more. We've also got to earthquake proof our big book-cases before we can load them up (just bracket them to the wall), and probably pick up a few more cases to replace the ones we couldn't ship. The one little bummer is that the mattress that we had borrowed (and were going to buy off of our friend) is actually about half a foot too big for the bed! So we are going to be heading to the Salvation Army to get a second hand one to tide us over (a little bit icky, I know, but even with the higher pay, we'll have to wait a few months before we can afford a new one - I hadn't appreciated how expensive they are!)
I also had another walk yesterday; with some glorious sunshine instead of our promised rain, I wanted to see if I could get a bit of ridge-walking done. This walk was definitely one for appreciating colour. The sunshine filtered through the trees, highlighting particular details, like the huge buttresses on this tree, which I had to scramble over to avoid falling off the edge of the path on the other side
The tree did need the buttresses - it seemed to go upwards forever
When I got out to the ridge, I headed back towards the radio masts, and took one of the paths that headed down the other side of the hill. The contrast between the two sides was amazing, even in just a short space of time; the air was cooler, and the breeze that little bit stronger. Rather than the scrubland on top of the ridge, or the dense forest of the reserve, this road had a mixture of trees,
including this amazing manuka tree in full bloom,
bushes and flowers
I also came across a phenomenon that I have never seen before. Whilst heading up the hill back towards the ridge, the sun was eclipsed by a particularly bushy tree
Now, what isn't particularly visible in this photograph, and I believe that I only really saw it because I was wearing my sunglasses, which have a dark green tint to them, is that along the high cloud, the light was refracting off the crystals, and the cloud was striped electric blue and pink. I've tried to crop the photo down to the specific area of the cloud and then had a bit of a play with it to try to get the same effect as if you were looking through my glasses:
It isn't quite the same (the colours that I saw were more delineated and crisp), but I hope that you can get an idea of the vision, and can understand why I was standing there for about five minutes with my jaw hanging open! I haven't been able to find anything similar to it on the Google images, so if anyone can tell me what causes this phenomenon (and therefore whether I'm ever going to see it again!), I would be very grateful!
Back up on the ridge, and as the clouds passed overhead, they cast their shadows on the hillside, deepening and emphasising the folds in the land:
The route back home was interesting to say the least. I had spotted a path that I'd wanted to follow (at the up or down decision on the walk I did on the 4th Jan), and so happily took it this time. The path forked a few more times, and I started to get a little bit concerned that I'd gone wrong (I wasn't lost. Just directionally challenged...), particularly when every path that I tried to take to get me back to the entrance did an Alice through the Looking Glass and just led me further and further away, on the wrong side of the "V" shape of the reserve. Any sensible person would have retraced their steps at this point and gone back along the familiar path, but I never make any claims for being sensible! I was getting a bit more worried when I started going through land that was obviously being used for logging; had I strayed onto private property without realising it? Fortunately, I bumped into an elderly Scottish gentleman who was taking his English pointer for a walk. He asked me if I knew where I was going, and I confessed that I thought I'd taken a wrong turning. He very kindly directed me to his garden, and said that I could get out to the main road that way. After startling his wife (who obviously wasn't expecting to see a rambler appear!), I was out on the main road, and headed home. Lesson obviously learnt - I shall be a bit more careful next time I'm exploring!