Sunday, 25 April 2010

Getting better...

It has definitely been a quiet week this week. I only ended up taking that afternoon off work - I was feeling well enough on Tuesday to go in (and I knew that the backlog of tasks would just keep on piling up - it is the main issue with being off - you still have to do the work when you get back in to the office!), and just took it easy, trying not to stay too late on any one day.

I didn't go to hockey on Thursday (and I think I haven't endeared myself to the coach as I had the Phoenix Sci-fi Board Gaming evening on Saturday, clashing with this week's match, and I chose Board over hockey...), and have had early nights all week - I think I'm now pretty much back to normal (though it did take my body a couple of days to be persuaded that it wasn't going to get an afternoon nap every day of the week!)

I had a couple more steep learning curves at work (assisting with the evaluation of two quotes), but I think I'm getting better at tackling them, even if I do seem to spend far too much time out of my comfort zone!

I'm getting to know my colleagues a lot better now - I know which ones are likely to respond to emails, which ones will actually listen to phone messages, and which ones will not do anything unless you are face to face with them. I'm also getting a good number of friends across the teams that are based on my floor, not only within my team, but also from different departments. One is another ex-pat - I'm not sure how long he has been in NZ, but he hasn't lost his British accent at all, nor his love of cricket. He was therefore very interested to learn that I am related to Frank Foster (he is my great-great-uncle) - I'm not sure how much of his enthusiasm is his very dry humour, but he has printed off a number of the Crick-Info statistics, and also pointed out that next year will be 100 years since the England/Australia match where Foster and Barnes decimated the Australian batters.

Board last night was good - we learnt a couple more new games, one of which was incredibly easy to pick up, and the other will need quite a few more plays through before I understand all of the tactics involved!

I've also had the first harvest of my broccoli - I've picked two heads, and we had the first yesterday with our lunch. I'm hoping that some of the smaller heads on one of the plants will grow now that I've taken the main one off, but if not, we are going to be having a fine meal of broccoli stem at some point soon! The capsicums are still not big enough to be picked, but were, I discovered, weighty enough to topple the plant into the broccoli - I've now staked it upright, but I don't know if the roots have been damaged at all. We shall see!

Today has been very relaxed - I made cheese biscuits for lunch, and they had pretty much all been eaten before they cooled. They are definitely far too morish!

It's going to be a busy week ahead - there are a number of major projects at work which all come to a conclusion next week, but I'm hoping to be able to get away to meet up with a university friend who has been out here for a couple of months with his job, and is now taking a well deserved holiday.

Monday, 19 April 2010

That's better

Well, after the doom and gloom of last week, this week has been a lot better. A lot calmer at work, and lots of social events to keep me busy.

We had our monthly sci-fi meeting, with a very interesting talk on manned space flights by someone from the Astronautics Association of New Zealand. John and I decided that rather than me coming home to eat, and then us heading back into town, we'd treat ourselves to a pub meal at the Occidental, just round the corner from my office, and on the way to the sci-fi meeting main reason for choosing - they have cheap food nights on Tuesday and Wednesday...). The pub was crowded, but the very helpful bar manager found us a table whilst we were ordering our drinks. We had plenty of time before the meeting, and it was nice to relax, have a chat and watch the occasional Dr Who trailer running on the silent TV behind the bar (the series starts here on the 2nd May - yay!) About 20 minutes after we ordered, the bar manager came out to apologise and say that our food-order had blown off the counter, and they'd only just found it - so to make it up to us, she was going to get us a free drink each! Given that the place was heaving, and we had plenty of time, we hadn't even started to wonder where our food was. But the free drinks were very nice, and our food turned up 10 minutes later - we'll definitely be going back again!

I had a great hockey practice on Thursday - we had a trainer in specifically to look at providing goalie coaching, so it was a very intensive practice, with a lot of diving to get me nice and bruised... That then translated into a very good game on Sunday - with only 10 players, we still managed to win 6-1, which after the disappointments of the last few weeks was a brilliant score, and will hopefully get everyone's morale up for the rest of the tournament.

We had friends round for dinner on Sunday, which was lovely - these were the people who very kindly lent us not only the mattress and bed-clothes whilst we were waiting for our stuff to arrive, but various kitchen utensils, all the stuff that you forget you are going to need. We had a lovely time, but not too late as we needed to get to work in the morning.

Today has been interesting - I woke up with a stinking head cold, and managed to get into work, only to be sent home at lunch time (my first day off sick in over a year). It is annoying as I had things which needed to be done, but as my head was nearly hitting the keyboard, it was the right move - I slept for a few hours this afternoon, and am going to have an early night this evening whilst John is out at orchestra practice (very frustrating as this is our first night back after three weeks off, and I was looking forward to trying out the new repertoire - however it definitely wasn't a good idea to try to play, nor to share my germs with the other members of the orchestra!)

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Well, that was definitely an *interesting* week. Not one that I would wish to repeat if I was totally honest, but one which has pushed the learning curve, both at work and at home, and which I hope has given me enough experience to be able to cope next time!

Essentially, I got my tender launched. The one that was the first job given to me after I was hired, and which has taken me two months to get sorted out (not helped by the fact that crucial paperwork appeared to be missing) and put together. I got it released into the wild on Thursday evening. The first criticisms appeared Friday morning. Including from people who had QA checked it and signed it off! It didn't help that this week also saw a number of other procurement projects getting to vital stages, all of which needed advice or assistance. So I spent all Friday bouncing from meeting to meeting or trying to get messes untangled. Unfortunately, there was still a lot left to do when I finally gave up and decided that as I'd done my hours for the week, I was calling it a day.

Sadly, the stress sat with me most of the weekend - it came and went in waves (I didn't sleep Friday, spent all night at work in my dreams, and then woke up on Saturday knowing how I was going to fix things. That led to a good Saturday until I was dropping off to sleep and remembered about one problem which I hadn't sorted out! That then knocked me out on Sunday...), which didn't do my general mood much good. Being beaten 7-1 at hockey certainly didn't help, either, especially as only one of those was a "deserved" goal - I just wasn't on top form (to be honest, neither was the rest of the team!).

The frustrating thing was that when I got in to work this morning, it took me about half an hour to get everything to a point where I was happy (not completely sorted out yet as I'm still waiting for one response from a colleague), and was even able to tackle a couple of other big projects. So I needn't have put my blood pressure through the roof at all! Hopefully next time this happens (and I'm certainly not naive enough to think that this is going to be the only source of stress for me even in the next couple of months, let alone the rest of my career), I'll know that I can handle it, and not try and work out how quickly I could get a job at the local supermarket!

It also did help getting a phone call from the head of the national contracts unit who spent a little bit of time reassuring me and also pointing out that one of the first criticisms I'd received, although possibly justified, (regarding information in the properties of the tender documents, which, as I don't use properties at all, I didn't even think to check!) did come from someone who doesn't seem to spend much time doing anything else other than criticise (he even knew who it had been without me telling him), so I could therefore not take it too much to heart!

In an attempt to cheer myself up over the weekend, I went looking for Noel Coward songs on YouTube (they'd been mentioned in a Counterpoint quiz that we'd listened to on the I-player). I then found these, which I'd either completely missed when they were first broadcast, or had completely forgotten about (I hadn't even known he could sing!). Whilst "London Pride" did induce a small bout of homesickness (I don't even *like* London, but I adore the song), the rest of the songs definitely helped my mood.

A more positive new experience we had this week was finally getting to see in the market a Feijoa. We have drunk Feijoa juice, but not actually seen the fruit in the flesh. So, of course, I had to buy one to try.

The fruit doesn't look all that amazing from the outside:

however, when it is cut open, it has a small surprise:

The taste is completely new - John didn't particularly take to it - sort of a cross between a smooth Kiwi and bubble gum! Definitely one that I'd like to repeat, but at $7.99 / kilo, I think I'll wait for my tree to start fruiting...

I did find this rather fun website which tells you how to eat a feijoa (very useful for an ignoramus like me who did try to eat the skin first up - not pleasant!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Happy Easter!

I hope that one and all have had a very happy and peaceful Easter weekend. I was definitely ready for the four day long weekend by the time Thursday came around. I'm still trying to get a major project launched, and trying to get people to make decisions is interesting! Still, that's all part of the fun of being in the civil service, and certainly nothing surprising.

We had a very nice lazy day on Friday - it was so good not to set the alarm at all and just wake up when my body had decided it had had enough sleep. I didn't quite lounge as much as I'd expected, and definitely didn't stay in my pyjamas until lunchtime (although part of that was due to someone from the hockey club borrowing the goalie kit, so I really had to be dressed in order to answer the door to him!) I got quite a bit of writing done, and it was good to be able to get my creative juices flowing again.

Saturday was our usual shopping day. I also got some baking done, making coffee and walnut buns to share with our neighbours (although I didn't actually give them to Shirley until Sunday and Gary and his wife until today) I pottered in the greenhouse for a bit - I think I may have got on top of the caterpillar problem with a minimum of fuss (and some very happy sparrows...), as after my mega blitz last week, and a few that I'd missed which I threw out on Saturday, I haven't had any more rear their heads. I've now got four capsicum peppers growing on my pepper plant, which I'm very excited about - I have a vague hope that they will be big enough to eat by next weekend, but it will probably end up being another week just to make sure they ripen.

Easter Sunday was a lovely day - the clocks went back, which meant another hour in bed, and I was fully rested when I got up to Skype my family at 8.30 in the morning. They had been very generous and used the online shopping facility of our local supermarket to buy us chocolate eggs and a lovely bottle of bubbly, so we had chocolate for Easter morning. (which is, of course, the whole point of the celebrations, is it not? ;-) ) Then, after the call, I got out our slow cooker for the first time - this was a wedding present which I'd never got round to using. However, when I cooked our last joint of silverside beef, a number of websites said that this was a perfect cut to put into a slow cooker, and I thought that a lazy Easter weekend would be the best time to try it out! Everything went into the pot (apart from the potatoes, as we both wanted roasties), and it sat on the side in the kitchen for the rest of the day, slowly doing its thing. When the time came for us to have supper, the joint was so tender that it actually fell in half as I lifted it out of the pot. I'm definitely using it again - I'm an instant convert! (now that I google slow cooker and recipes, it seems that pretty much anything that has a sauce element to it can be made in the cooker.)

Staying with the domestic theme, I iced the buns that I'd made, and took a selection round to Shirley - I've not seen a lot of her since I started work (the tendency to come home and either head straight back out again or to veg has meant that I've not been as good a neighbour as I could have been), and I feel a little guilty that she recently had a fall whilst out shopping, and we hadn't known about it (we could have offered to help out with shopping etc for her). Still, she was in a very bright mood, and we chatted with her for over an hour. We had a friend over for supper, too, one of the people we've met through the sci-fi group. He brought wine and board games, and we were eating, drinking, talking and playing through till about 1 in the morning. All in all, a great way of spending our first Easter in New Zealand.

Today has also been successful one in a slightly different way - after an early start for me (my body is definitely in shock from the hour change - it woke up at 8am, and wouldn't go back to sleep, even after the very late night we'd had), and a leisurely morning, we headed out to the slightly more industrial area of Lower Hutt to investigate mattress sales. We'd been told that there were a few shops over there which sold mattresses for slightly better than the $1,000 that we'd been finding, and as there seems to be a proliferation of Easter sales, it was a good time to go and investigate. We've managed to save up enough from the slight excess between our outgoings and my income to cover something cheap, so it was worth going to have a look and see what we could find. And, sure enough, we are now the proud owners of a mattress that will actually fit onto our bed - it is going to be delivered on Wednesday and cost us just over $400 including the delivery fee. I am really looking forward to not sleeping on the floor any more!

So, overall, we have had a very good Easter weekend; I am, however very glad that it is only a four day week this week coming - I think I need another weekend for a rest!