Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Testing out the NZ Health Care System

Hmmm - it has been an interesting few days! Whilst the usual bits and pieces were going on (more of which later...), I've also managed to suffer a fairly nasty allergic reaction to *something*. I have mutated from human to Klingon to doing a passable impression of Odo from Deep Space 9.

It comes to something when you can look like an extra from a sci-fi series without any sort of makeup!

After trying over the counter antihistamines (from a lovely pharmacist who really took the time to explain what she was selling me, and why it was the best one - and the fact that it was the cheapest had nothing to do with it!), and waking up the next morning with the swelling *worse* rather than better, I decided that it was probably time for me to visit a doctor.

Unfortunately, one of the jobs that I had been putting off was signing up for a GP! It meant that at 7.30 this morning (after letting my colleagues know that I wasn't going to be in), I had to try and work out which Health Board our area of the Hutt Valley falls under, and then try to find the closest doctor to us. And then see if they had spaces. Unfortunately, unlike the NHS, you can't be certain that when you need to go to a doctor, that they will have space to see you (they are only funded for a certain number of patients - when they reach that limit, it is at their discretion as to whether to take you on).

Fortunately, the closest doctor to us also happens to be the newest, and they are only about half way to their quota.

Unfortunately (this is turning into a game of Good News/Bad News, isn't it?), what they didn't have was an appointment for today for me to actually see the doctor. So, the very helpful receptionist (who called me back five minutes after I left an answerphone message for them - the one and only time I left an answerphone message for our doctor in Bristol, it took them over a day to get back to me!) gave me a freephone number for a nurse, and also the address of a walk in centre in Wellington which I could just go to without an appointment.

After a brief chat with the nurse (who did a check that I wasn't suffering anaphylaxis), she suggested that I did go to the walk in centre (a bit of a pain given that it is a train and a bus ride away, and I wasn't especially happy with appearing in public!) so that a doctor could check that it wasn't serious.

So - off I trekked - wearing a very low brimmed hat - and made my way over to the emergency drop in centre. In NZ, you have to pay for your appointments - when you are registered, that price is reduced, but for the drop in centre, it is $83 (without any sort of benefits card). Which is the equivalent of a week's groceries for us.

Whilst this is bad news in that we could have done without the hit to the wallet (Good News - the tax office had given me over $400 refund for my overpaid taxes, so we had the money to cover it. We had also known about this system of paying for doctor's visits, so it wasn't an unpleasant surprise when I turned up at the surgery!), it was good news in that the knock on effect is that people do only go if it *is* an emergency, and the waiting room was empty when I arrived.

So I went in to see the triage nurse (when it does get full, then they see you in order of medical urgency, not waiting time, as the large notice on the wall told me), and as I walked out of her room, the doctor showed me straight in to his one - I was in and out in under half an hour, and that included the time it took to get me onto their computer system and for me to get my prescription afterwards.

The doctor was very thorough in his consultation, and concluded that I may, indeed, be allergic to *something*. What it is, though, he really couldn't say - I have now got to make a list of everything, animal, vegetable and mineral that I have come into contact with over the last 5 days or so, and use that as an elimination tool, in conjunction with my regular GP when I get that sorted out. He also prescribed me little pink pills (very cute!) which I can already feel have helped reduce the swelling.

So, overall, for a first go at the NZ Health System, I am very impressed - it is efficient and gets the job done - yes, I may have to pay for it, but for the service I got, I don't begrudge them the money.

Other news this week - we won 2-1 in our hockey - we are still hovering at the top of the league (not the very top - the teams above us also won (though the table still hasn't been updated properly, so I'm not sure whether we are second or third...). We had a great PIG SIG with Phoenix - we're still meeting new people, and I had a great long chat with a fellow Time Team enthusiast, which was great fun. We are in the final week before our concert with the orchestra - we had our first full play through of the Unanswered Question - I still don't like it, but I don't think it is going to scare the audience away as much as I'd first thought!

We also had fun at work - it being the 25th June, our CIO decided to have a Mid-Winter Christmas get together - she provided the cold meats, and each floor was given a different food to bring (we had breads and spreads, other floors provided salads, cheese and biscuits, desserts etc.). Then we all got together for an hour in our lunch-break - it was a great chance to relax and socialise with other teams who I don't normally get to meet up with. Very enjoyable, and a lovely way to celebrate being half way through the year!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Evening off...

Well - I've just been called by the hockey coach, and he has said that he isn't able to get the goalie gear to training, so I have an unexpected night in!

This is a good thing, as I am starting to feel very sore from my first evening at TKD in over six months. Thanks to the generosity of my parents, who have given me the money to cover the fees, I have started training again at my local TKD group. It's a great group - so far they have been very friendly and welcoming. There are a number of significant differences in UK and NZ TKD, mainly around step sparring, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of them. I'm also sure that *next* week, I won't forget all but the most basic of patterns - incredibly embarrassing! The group is small enough that Juniors and Seniors train together for an hour, and then the Seniors stay on for a second hour to continue training - 2 hours a week will help lift my fitness (sadly I can't train on their other day as orchestra clashes - exactly as it did in the UK!) I think it will be a while before I am either competition or grading ready, but that is probably a good thing, and it just feels so great to be training at all (today was the first day in ages that I didn't find myself getting wound up at work, even with bureaucracy frustrations).

We had a Sci-fi Board Gaming meeting on Saturday, with the biggest turnout since we joined. Fortunately it was in a house which could accommodate everyone - if it had been at ours, we'd have really struggled! We had three sets of games going, and it was a brilliant atmosphere.

Hockey went fantastically on Sunday - despite the hideous weather (it rained stair-rods for the whole first half) - we won 5-1, which would place us at 2nd in the league if they ever updated the league table! So all definitely to play for in our last two matches (I don't know if we have another set to go - we've not got any more scheduled, but I don't know if they get half way and then do a second draw)

Orchestra is on the downhill run to the concert - we had a good rehearsal on Monday, and, even though I'm still not confident about my ability to play a number of the pieces, I think that overall we are making a good sound (hopefully, the audience will, too!)

We are now past the Midwinter Solstice, as well as Matariki (the Maori New Year) and the days are getting longer (theoretically - I'm still mainly leaving the house in the dark and coming home in the dark, but I can't really expect to see much difference in the light levels just yet!) At work, we are having a "Mid-Winter Christmas" tomorrow, organised by our CIO. This is a pot-luck lunch (in case anyone thought we were having a free meal at the tax-payer's expense!), but should be a good get together at lunchtime, and a nice way of celebrating the turning of the year.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Another Year Older

Yup - I had my birthday middle of last week - my first Winter birthday! Fortunately, the weather, which has been lousy for about the last fortnight, cleared up spectacularly - the sky was bright blue, the sun was warm (hot enough for me to go and sit by the sea for fifteen minutes at lunchtime), and the air was so clear that I could see all the way to the Rimutakas, which are a range of bigger-than-hills, smaller-than-mountains at the far end of the Hutt Valley, and were glinting with fresh fallen snow (the road around the Rimutakas had been closed due to snow overnight). Just a shame that I didn't have the camera with me - I realised later on that it was the clearest that it had been since I'd started work! And the weather has been downhill again ever since - the gas fire is on pretty much all the time we are at home now.

There are three of us at work who have our birthdays around the same time, so we have each had a little mini-celebration, with everyone on the team bringing in things to eat. I've made good use of the building's oven, and I now make my bite-size cheese scone mixture at home, cut them out, pack them up, and then take the raw pastry to work to cook. This works really well - having the scones warm is just glorious!

As we had our Phoenix sci-fi meeting on my birthday (so the usual meal out couldn't *really* be termed as a celebration itself - that's my excuse), we also had a takeaway on Friday, which involved us going over and trying our local Indian. The CurryStar is just the other side of the train tracks, so about a ten minute walk door to door - reasonably priced for a curry house, and with a really good range of dishes (all, aside from the traditionally spicy ones, with a range of heats; mild, medium, Kiwi hot and Indian hot...). The dishes were a brilliant size, and the Peshwari Naan was so full of fruit and chopped nuts that it looked a bit like a bready mince pie! I definitely think we will be going there again...

Hockey has been interesting this week - I caught the ball on my knee in training after the ball was flicked at close range (I blame the coach who was telling me to run out towards the attackers!). Fortunately, after an initial "is it broken?", I was able to get an ice-gel pack on it, and, whilst it did swell up that evening, it had gone back down again by the morning, and I only have some reasonably spectacular bruising for my pains (not nearly enough given how much it hurt, but better than none at all!) It was definitely ok for me to play with on Sunday, which was a good thing, as we won 4-1. We've finally got a positive goal difference, and we are sitting at third in the league after four games (with only one point between us and the leader). Unfortunately, we haven't yet played either of the teams who are ahead of us, so we've still got a way to go!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Long Weekend

It is nice to see that New Zealand has the same tradition of public holidays as the UK - it's a long weekend here, and it has rained pretty much steadily for Sunday and Monday (so much for my plans to head back out to the reserve to see what has changed since I was last there four months ago!) We have managed to celebrate the Queen's Birthday, though - we had some of our sci-fi friends over on Saturday evening for an impromptu board gaming and socialising session, and yesterday I cooked my first roast dinner in ages (the kitchen still smells faintly of roasted chicken).

It has been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote properly - only having a couple of nights in a week does help the time pass quickly at the very least!

As briefly mentioned, I went out to a Ceilidh the Saturday before last with some of our orchestra friends. Sadly, John wasn't able to go, as he'd fallen in the rain and taken the skin off his knee - not too badly, but enough that he wouldn't have been able to dance on it, and he decided that he'd rather go to the PIG SIG that was happening at the same time, where he wouldn't just be sat on the sidelines watching everyone else have fun. The Ceilidh itself was great fun - unlike most ones we'd been to (at birthdays or weddings), where the dancing was secondary to the celebration (and therefore the eating and the drinking), this one had the chairs laid out in a 'no nonsense' ring around the outside of the dance hall, and very few people actually sat out any of the dances. There were a good proportion of the dancers in kilts, reflecting the number of people who have Scottish ancestry. The dances themselves were a mixture of ones which I already knew, others with familiar moves, and some which were completely new. Everyone was incredibly friendly, particularly given that I'd come without a partner, and only knew a few faces around the dance floor. It did help that the first few dances were of the type where you swap partners on a very regular basis, so I got to know the faces, if not the names, of a good number of people there. It was a very enjoyable evening, and I'm already looking forward to next year!

Hockey has been interesting these last couple of weeks - we've had a very poor turnout at practice, last week because it was throwing it down with rain, and this week because we didn't have a game yesterday, and so a lot of people decided to take the night off. Whilst this is very frustrating for me in terms of teamwork (if we don't practice as a team, it makes it a lot harder to gel together in matches, it is very good when one of the people who doesn't turn up is the first team's goalkeeper - I've had two weeks of very intensive workout!

John and I went up to the Upper Hutt Sci-fi meeting on Tuesday - a new set of people to meet and get to know (although one of them is the husband of one of the flautists, and another is one of the violinists at orchestra (who very kindly gave us a lift there and back), so we didn't feel like we were stepping completely into the unknown! It was a good fun evening, if a little bit cold (the temperature on the heater didn't get above 16 all evening), and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Work has been very busy, too - I definitely feel that I've earned this day off. It's still "good" busy, but it would be nice to stop having quite so much piling up!

We've had a couple more encounters with NZ wildlife - a small hedgehog nosed its way round our lawn last week, and this week, on our way back from the shops, we spotted a praying mantis crossing our path. I'm sure that drivers going past must have thought we were very odd as we crouched down to look at the tiny insect!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Placeholder post....

Ok - it's been busy. Work and social life are getting incredibly heavy at the moment! So I hope you will forgive a lack of bloggage for this week, and I'll put up a double length one at the weekend, when not only do we have an extra day off (huzzah for the Queen's birthday) to make up for the fact that we didn't have any in May whatsoever, but I also don't have any hockey so won't be dashing out for a good chunk of Sunday...

In summary, though:
Ceilidhs = fun
Hockey = 3-3
Orchestra = mild panic as we realise we have a month till the next concert
Upper Hutt Sci-fi = more new faces and names and insanity
Income Tax IR3 tax return forms = evil