Wednesday, 26 May 2010

And in other news...

As far as the weekly round up has gone (which does seem to be getting later and later each week - sorry!) - our hockey match this week went really well - we had a full squad (though not enough for subs as well), and played a really close game. There were multiple chances for both sides to score, but we managed to get in the only goal of the game (there were certainly a couple where I couldn't work out how I'd managed to save it, as I'd not actually seen the ball coming in! And one amazing one that one of our defenders stopped when I'd got pulled out of position - she was almost on the goal line, and then managed to get most of the way back up the field with the ball).

We hosted Board this week, which was brilliant, as always. We had pretty much a full house, with ten people around two tables (we could probably squeeze in a couple more people, but we'd start running out of seat space, even with being loaned chairs!) Didn't learn any new games this week, but consolidated a couple that I've learned recently (even if I have a very long way to go before I have a hope of winning!)

Orchestra was good (no "Unanswered Question" this week!), and we are out this weekend with a group from orchestra who are hosting a Ceilidh on the other side of the hills - really looking forward to it!

Work is still incredibly busy, with a number of projects on the go, both major and minor, I'm definitely putting in more than my alloted hours in the week!

After my weather post last week, it has definitely taken a turn for the worse - cold and wet, though not as bad as elsewhere, particularly on South Island, where roads have flooded and towns have been cut off due to the amount of rain that has fallen. It was a bit amusing yesterday on my way home, after hearing on the news that one of the sea-front roads in Petone (one of the districts between us and Wellington) had flooded, to listen to the forecast, and, after a summer of glorious days being described as "Fine", the evening for Wellington (which ended up being rain so hard that it woke me up) was described as "Changeable". Our forecasters definitely don't believe in wasting words!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

"Typical" Sci-Fi meeting?

WiseWebWoman asked in the comments to the last post what a Sci-Fi meeting is like - I'll do my best! The Phoenix group here in Wellington is divided up into the main monthly meeting, which is held in a central Wellington venue, and Special Interest Groups, which include the Board gaming group, a video group, a writers' group, Bibliophiles (a book discussion group) and "PIG", which is a social get together, eat and chat group. The SIGs are mainly held in members' houses, rotating around the main members of the group.

NB - John and I go to the main meeting, Board and PIG, so I can't really comment on what happens in the other SIGs.

Since we've joined, I don't think there has been a "typical" main meeting. There have been presentations (on "sci-fi" weaponry which is being used or developed now; on the manned space missions); discussions (on "Speculative Fiction" and whether it is just another form of "Science Fiction" for people who don't want to be labelled as Sci-Fi writers); silly games (limerick writing; "20 questions" with a Sci-Fi theme), and, of course, the all important post Christmas pub get together and then last month the AGM.

PIG is very social, and seems (in my experience), to have the greatest turn out in terms of numbers. Everyone brings along food (there seems to be a baking challenge going on at the moment, with some fantastic cakes being created, and devoured!) and drink, and just generally chats. Conversations are wide ranging, and certainly not Sci-Fi limited.

The Board tends to run along the lines of everyone gathering over the course of half an hour or so; some bring along their evening meals to eat, and everyone brings snacks and drinks to share. After general chit-chat, we decide what games to play, depending on who is there, and what games have been brought along. Then we split into groups (there is usually enough people for two sets of games) and get playing. Usually a bit (or a lot...) of wine is consumed, and there is a lot of laughter and fun.

I think that the atmosphere is what typifies the various groups that we go along to. The tendency is towards openness, friendliness and a genuine welcoming attitude, whether the meeting is in a "paid for" venue, or in someone's home. There is a real community feel which comes with having a common interest (I also get this feeling with the orchestra, both here and back in the UK), even if this interest ends up being a the periphery of what we chat about during the course of an evening. I know that this warmth and acceptance has gone a long way in helping me to feel at home here.

I hope this has answered your question, WWW!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Seasonal defiance

With winter very much on the way in, rain and chill mornings now a certainty, I was delighted this week to find that there are some areas where there is a last ditch defiance against the encroaching season

We haven't yet put the heating on (to the amazement of a number of friends and colleagues), but I don't think that it will be long before we start, particularly as we are hosting the board gaming group for Phoenix Sci-fi this weekend, and it's probably not fair to ask friends to sit in the ice-box all evening...

The birds are starting to gather for their migration - I don't know which birds here are seasonal and which brave the winter through, but there is a definite congregation on the roofs of the office towers around where I work - not only does the block opposite ours look like it is auditioning for a Hitchcock film, but they are also gathering on the roof of our building. Right over my head. The squeaks and chirrups are at just the right pitch to trigger my sensitive hearing, and I think I will be glad when they have taken off for warmer climates!

Work and social life are busy in equal measures - we have also joined the Hutt sci-fi group, who do a video evening locally to us once a month, and also have a monthly "presentation" evening. There is a small "cross pollination" from the Phoenix group, but we actually were persuaded to join by the husband of one of the flautists from orchestra! We had a narrow loss in hockey, but given that we were a person short, had three players who hadn't played in a long time, and our star centre forward got concussed by a bad tackle mid way through the first half, I think we did very well to only lose 1-0. The pitch was all the way out in Paraparamu, which is about an hour's drive north from here, right at the end of one of the train lines. The coastline was spectacular - the bay round Hutt is so calm that I'd forgotten how stormy the sea can be. I'd definitely like to visit the area properly, but it may wait for the spring or summer (possibly even a train trip on the free Christmas train...)and the certainty of a nice day.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

It's a quiet week in politics...

Well - following the British election from the other side of the world was interesting, to say the least. Although John and I didn't get to vote (we didn't sort out our proxy/postal forms in time), we were in good company, as nor did the rest of the ex-pats on this side of the world - the volcanic ash cloud also stopped all air mail (including postal votes) from getting through until it was too late. For myself, I have mixed feelings about not voting - when the election started, I really didn't care, as I didn't think I could make much difference, and it didn't feel right in voting when we are no longer living in Britain, and don't have any intentions to return (at least, for residency purposes) However, as it got more exciting (and we love the BBC Radio I-Player - we aren't able to access the TV version from outside the UK, but the radio is fully available - we listened to the News Quiz and the Vote Now Show, which kept us fully informed of the more interesting parts of the campaign), there was a small twinge of regret that we wouldn't be part of probably one of the most gripping UK campaigns to grace the political theatre in recent years. But, hey, we may still get a chance if there is a re-election in the next year or so! It was nice to be able to watch the results unfolding in real time (I was not alone amongst my colleagues in having the BBC Live website open on my PC throughout the day), even if the end result wasn't as decisive as the build up would have suggested.

The rest of this week has been pretty quiet - a draw in hockey (fortunately, a friendly, so it didn't count), but I did manage what has to be one of the more spectacular saves of my career, managing to knock the ball out of the air with my left (padded) hand as it whizzed past on a very acute angle. Even the opposing coach was impressed (as was I - I hadn't even consciously seen the ball move!).

We're starting to delve into the pieces for the next concert - we are doing the Shostakovich Jazz waltz, which I'm really pleased about. We've also got a very mixed bag of pieces, some of which are nice, and some which are less fun, both to play and to listen to - the most extreme of this is the Unanswered Question:

in which the woodwind, trumpet and strings are playing at different speeds, in different keys and with different bar lines. Not sure how well it is going to go down with a paying audience - it isn't going down well at all amongst the woodwind!

Winter is starting to grip Wellington - the temperature is definitely dropping in the evenings and mornings - however, it is still sunny and warm during the days (just a shame they are spent in an office!). I have been assured that the fine weather won't last, and we will get our share of wind and rain, but I will be happy if the depths of winter stay away for a wee while longer - I am enjoying the spectacular sunsets and the ever changing colours of the sea too much :-)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Six Months!

Well, six months ago today, John and I left the UK. The time has flown by, and yet it also feels like we have been here forever.

I've gone back through my old blog posts, and it amazes me how much happened in our first month or so - I had forgotten how quickly the various job "incidents" had happened. And, after all that, I think I've landed in the best job for me. It may have its ups and downs, but the downs don't last that long, and the ups are very good. So it all worked out for the best!

I still absolutely love it here - we have a gorgeous house in a perfect area, my commute to work is amazing (every time I get a window seat, I get to spend 10 minutes staring at the sea, with colours which range from deep grey, though all the shades of blue you can think of to a salmon pink this evening as the sunset reflected off the near-still waters), and we have got a fantastic social life.

I do occasionally have wobbles where I wonder whether we have done the right thing in uprooting ourselves and moving so far away. However, those wobbles don't last long, though I do still miss friends and family, and wish that the distance wasn't quite so far for those home visits! All in all, happiness is the overriding emotion, tinged with a little bit of disbelief that we are actually here!

We had another excellent win at hockey this week, with a very early start (9.15 meet up for a 9.45 whistle) - 6-1, with a moral 7th goal that was disallowed after the other team claimed that we'd done something wrong beforehand that the ref had missed. I was too far away to see what happened (I have difficulty in picking out anything detailed past the halfway line), so I don't know whether they were correct or not. Though the scoreline seemed quite heavy our way, I didn't get to rest for the game, as they had a number of very good players who came very close to scoring on a number of occasions. However, our defence has clicked in a brilliant way - I knew where both of the backs were the whole time, which meant that I was able to really push out to stop the attackers becoming a threat. A good game all round! There was a Tui singing away in the trees behind the pitch, which, combined with the warm sunshine (after a very chilly start, a reminder that we are actually in the depths of autumn and heading into winter, though you wouldn't know it to look at the blue skies) made it a lovely start to the Sunday.

And, finally, NZ has started broadcasting Dr Who! We've now seen the first episode, and are therefore only four behind the UK. Enough for me to still have to avoid spoilers at all costs, but at least not too bad - we aren't going to have to resort to filesharing to get our fix...