Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Not sure where that last week went - I think I blinked and missed it!

We had a brilliant Board Gaming session on Saturday - I even managed to win one of the more strategical games (but I think that was a fluke!) as well as one of the easier tactical ones.

Hockey was not quite so good on Sunday - both sides ended up sending people off injured, and if I was able to see the barging (from the opposition, of course...), half way up the field *after* one of my contact lenses had fallen out, I'm not sure how the ref missed it... The 1-1 draw was respectable - I'm cross about letting the goal in, but conversely, our attack had many more missed chances to score.

But at least I got to see the Dr Who finale afterwards as consolation (I still haven't seen the first half of that, but never mind...). Not sure what we will do for Sunday evening entertainment now, though - both the Dr Who and the history of NZ TV which followed it have now finished...

Monday's orchestra was a good chance to practice counting - the Shostakovich begins with a slow string section, and a lot of time was spent on that before we got near the woodwind! (Poor John was a lot worse off - he had 187 bars rest before his first cymbal crash - he brought a book...)

Tuesday's evening in was filled with watching The Space Museum, a Billy Hartnell 4 part Dr Who story, which John had managed to get the Hutt City Library to buy in for us (they are incredibly accommodating in their requests, and have bought the three things that John has requested very quickly!)

And now we are at Wednesday, and I've had another hour of TKD. I am still playing catch up and trying to shake off six months of inactivity, but it is slowly coming back (I hope!). I'm still making plenty of mistakes, which is a little embarrassing, but I will get there, and as I'm not anticipating doing any grading for at least the next six months, I've got enough time to get back on form!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Catching up!

I'm aware that it's getting later and later in the week when I finally manage to get a post up - I'm having to juggle quite a few nights out, and when I have an evening off, it is usually difficult to get my brain together to get my thoughts down on screen. (I write plenty of blog posts on the train in my head that are gone by the time I get into Wellington!)

So apologies for the delay this week - I've got Thursday off from hockey as I've just finished a two day training course, and decided that I couldn't get in later than I normally would on a Thursday, with a dead brain, eat, get changed and get out in under an hour!

It has been another busy week - the hockey match on Sunday was late (7pm on the other side of Wellington), which meant that I missed Dr Who (booo!) We didn't play particularly well, either, which was very disappointing, and we lost 1-0. This means that we have to win all of our remaining games in order to have a chance of getting to the finals (tricky, but not impossible; I am a bit sad that I am going to be missing the semi-finals, though - it clashes with the orchestra Shostakovich 5 weekend)

We started rehearsing the Shostakovich this week - we are preparing for a weekend long workshop with tutors from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - I'm very excited about it (and only a trifle miffed that it means that I can't go to Au Contraire, the NZ national Sci-Fi convention. John has opted to go to Au Contraire instead...). It is an interesting piece of music, and ranges from very difficult chromatics and jumps to some lovely, much easier and more tonal, sections, often within a few bars of each other.

Tuesday we had the Upper Hutt Sci-Fi film night, and this time we watched a film which John had had recommended to him, called "Man from Earth" by Jerome Bixby. It was an amazing piece. Almost the whole play is set in one room, and it is essentially the same 8 actors talking, for 87 minutes. The premise is very simple - a university professor has resigned unexpectedly, and his colleagues (all scientists/professors with different backgrounds) show up to throw him a goodbye party. When they press him for a reason as to why he is leaving, he tells them that he is actually a Cro-Magnon man who has lived for 14,000 years and who has to keep moving to stop people realising that he doesn't age. The rest of the story is his friends reactions to his revelations, both professionally and emotionally. It is a really simple premise, but the execution of it is just absolutely beautiful. I would really recommend it to anyone - it brings Sci-Fi away from special effects and big budgets, and pulls it back to the cerebral (some of the light hearted parts of the film felt a lot like some of the Sci-Fi chats that we had, particularly at university - throwing an idea into the air and seeing where it would land).

I had another TKD session this week - I've actually managed to have two in a row now! Last week's was very intense, and the instructor was away, and the assistant instructor took the class instead. He has a very different style to the instructor - I did a lot more press-ups last week! This week's session was very focused on form - we spent half the lesson practising circular blocks. I still have a long way to go just to pull myself back to the standard that I was at in November - I have fallen into some very bad habits :-(

I've even managed to do a bit of knitting this week - at this rate, my cardigan will be finished by midsummer!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

More relaxed (photo heavy!)

This last week has been a little more relaxed than the previous, not so much at work (though I was able to take Friday afternoon off in lieu of the time worked on Sunday; however, when I totted up my hours for the week, even without working Friday afternoon, I was still only 20 minutes off working my contracted hours for the week anyway!), but in my non-work time, I unexpectedly found that I had more time to spare than normal.

Monday we didn't have orchestra, as we are in our 'post concert holiday' (coinciding with the school midwinter holiday when a good number of people go away skiing), so I took the opportunity to make a large batch of pumpkin curry (and washed it down with an even bigger gin to knock away the effects of the all day meeting!)

Tuesday was our Upper Hutt main Sci-Fi meeting, which was great fun. We had a round table discussion of the books we'd read and TV/Films we'd watched over the past month, and I was able to join in a bit more this month thanks to the number of sci-fi books I'd got for my birthday, plus, having been lent the fourth book in the Foundation series (Isaac Asimov), I really had to read the first three (I'd only ever read the first, and that was a very long time ago) to get myself up to speed. (the same chap who lent me the fourth has passed over the fifth, and I've devoured that one as well - twenty minutes in each direction on the train every day is sometimes not enough when the train pulls into the station at the cliffhanger point of the chapter!) We then had a discussion of series and serials within Sci-fi (using the Foundation as a starting point, as Asimov started writing it as a series for a magazine) - very interesting!

The Wednesday evening was supposed to be TKD, but, after walking 25 minutes with the wind and rain soaking my back, I got to the hall to be met by the instructor who said that the school was doing some electrical work, and there was no power! So - 25 minutes walk back again, this time with the wind and rain in my face - I was very wet when I got in!

Then Thursday, I had a text whilst at work from the hockey coach saying that as it was so wet and windy, he was cancelling training for the seconds team. As I train with the firsts as well (staying in goal the whole session), I had a lot of backwards and forwards with my contact on the firsts team, trying to find out whether there would still be a session for me to go to with them. After being reassured a number of times that it was definitely on, the training was cancelled as I was about to walk out of the door to get the train! (Could have been worse - it could have been cancelled when I got *on* the train!)

Friday was our normal evening in, and the relaxation for me was extended by having the aforementioned afternoon off. I spent some of it browsing the Wellington shops (going into the more upmarket clothes shops is a fun way of spending some time, though I wasn't so sure about the children's entertainer who was singing off-key with a slightly out of tune guitar!), and then about half an hour having a lunchtime soup whilst staring out at the harbour

Our hockey match was on Saturday this week rather than Sunday, so poor John was left to do the food shopping by himself as I headed up to Silverstream, where I was then picked up by the coach and taken all the way up the Kapiti coast to Paraparamu. The match itself was an absolute nailbiter. We took a while to get into our stride, and the opposing team managed to score (though the penalty/short corner that they were given shouldn't have been given against us, and the goal wasn't technically a goal, either (it was too high over the backboard), but we aren't allowed to complain about the ref's decisions - we'll leave that to the footballers!) reasonably early into the first half. We had so many chances to score throughout the game - it kept on skimming past, bouncing off the post, or being saved by their very able goalie - as I didn't have a huge amount to do in the second half but watch the team playing up around the opposing goal, my blood pressure kept on going up as the minutes ticked by - we couldn't afford to lose again, as our position at second in the table is only held by one point. Then, with 15 minutes to go, we equalised with a brilliant goal, and I'd resigned myself to a draw. Because it was cold, our coach was doing a lot of regular substitutions, and one of these ended up with our sweeper playing a lot further up the field than she usually did. And, with less than a minute to go before the final whistle, she managed to score - an absolute thwack of a goal, too! So - almost the opposite of last week's game, both in score-line, and in the timing of the goals, but we definitely deserved to win this won. Not many games left before the end of the season now - and our position is definitely not secure - we are one point below the team at the top of the table, and the rest of the matches have not yet been updated, so I don't know how closely the rest of the pack is snapping at our heels!

But, with both Saturday and Sunday activities taking place on Saturday, we had a nice clear day stretching in front of us, which is a real novelty at the moment. We had already arranged to Skype a friend, which was brilliant (it is just as surreal to see bright evening sunshine in the UK now as it was to see snow outside when we were basking in 25+ C heat in the middle of winter!), and I was also able to catch my aunt online just before she headed to bed.

It was a glorious day - almost springlike in feel, with clear blue skies and a sun which was warm once you got into it (though the shade was a very different matter!), and as I'd not been up to the scenic reserve since before I started work, I decided that it was the perfect day for a walk.

One of the big differences between the UK and NZ winters isn't the cold (it is actually warmer than the UK winter, but due to the lack of insulation both at home and at work, feels a lot colder), or the wind and rain (I complain about the necessity for starting to build an ark, but again, it probably isn't as bad as a typical UK November), but the trees. New Zealand does have its share of deciduous trees, which have shed their leaves:

but far more evergreens

and, even in the depths of winter, some bushes and trees are still flowering

This meant that the walk through the Reserve had a very different feel to it than going through a UK woods. Yes, it was wet and muddy

and the mini waterfalls that run through most of the lower levels were a bit fuller than they were over the summer

but otherwise there wasn't a hugely different feel to the Reserve than when I'd been walking a few months earlier. The birds were out in force, enjoying the sun as well; the Kerukeru, the Tui, the Piwikawa, the Silvereye and the Grey Warbler, all filling the air with their different songs. There wasn't the "quietened down for the winter" feel at all. In fact, the Reserve was actually busier with walkers than when I was walking over the summer - possibly because everyone was determined to get out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasted!

I made it up onto the fire break, which was actually nicer to walk on than by the end of the summer - the path wasn't as slippery underfoot thanks to the rain dampening down the dust. In fact, it was clear to see where the rain had fallen and gouged out deep ruts in the path.

The air was incredibly clear from the top of the hills, and in one direction, I could see all the way across to the Rimutakas

(sadly, the zoom on my camera isn't as good as my eyes - you will have to imagine the snow topped mountains in the distance there!)

and on the other, I could see all the way across Lower Hutt and over to Wellington

(I get to go round the curve of that bay every morning on the train)

I even managed to stop and watch a couple of Silvereyes feeding on the flowering gorse - they were very intent on what they were doing, but still managed to hide themselves away from the camera (this was the best snap they let me take!)

My round trip up the Reserve and then back down the firebreak took me about 2 1/2 hours, and I was still home before 2:00 - I had time to make some cookies for our neighbours (who had sent round a fish pie earlier in the week), and we went over there for a late afternoon chat. When we got back, I was able to make a chicken pie for supper, some jam tarts for after (with the leftover pastry and some of the jam that they sent us back with!), and still had time to watch Dr Who. A very relaxing end to the weekend!

And - as a final couple of photos before I sign off for the week - I managed to finally remember to take my camera in to work on a good day, and can give you a couple of snaps of the view that I see every day (bear in mind that the camera has issues focussing through glass)

This is the Interislander ferry coming in to port - the building in the foreground is the central train station, and you can see the Rimutakas with their snow in the distance.

This is the sunset - the sun going down behind the office sets the hills in front of it alight with a pink glow.

There are worse places to work! Though I have to admit that I jealously guard my desk that has this view - most other people in the building are not this lucky!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Busy week!

It seems like I haven't stopped since I last posted - really a week ago?

It has been a manic week - fortunately with no lasting effects from the health scare (apart from slight jitters any time my head itches!). I haven't had a chance to get the doctor's appointment sorted out - I still need to send off the forms to sign up to the surgery, but I need to give them a call before I do, to make sure that if I do sign up, they will actually be able to fit me in reasonably soon to do the allergy tests, otherwise I'll look a little further afield!

Work has been insane, preparing for a major meeting which happened today (and all went as well as could be expected). I've put in a lot of extra hours, and am hoping to be able to get some time off in lieu for it all!

The Sci-Fi group had a Mini-Convention at the weekend, which was brilliant fun - a great chance to get together and chat about anything and everything (and occasionally a bit of Sci-Fi) - a really relaxing afternoon. (and the idea of going out to Dominos and getting 20-odd boxes of pizza for lunch was just pure genius!)

We couldn't stay for the whole event, though, as we had to get back up the train tracks and out to St James' Church for our second orchestra concert. The repertoire for this was really wide ranging - as well as "The Unanswered Question" (which I moaned about a few weeks ago), we had various bits of jazz (including Gershwin, plus a solo singer), light music (including a rather fun piece called "The Parade of the Sandwich-board Men" (sadly, no links on YouTube, or anywhere else that I can find, but it's definitely worth listening out for), and a medley from "Chicago".

We also had a surprise sprung on us - at the end of the sound check, our conductor announced that we were going to add a new piece to the concert, which we had not rehearsed, and which was not in the programme.

Whilst it was originally a piano piece, he had it scored for orchestra, and was sure that we would be able to play it just fine.

This piece was 4'33".

I really enjoyed it as a piece - I'm not sure whether the audience was quite as appreciative (though they did all clap at the end!), but it made me realise how little we actually stop to listen and to think (probably the only other time we actually have that level of enforced silence when we are in a social group is during the Remembrance celebrations). Interestingly, there was very little shuffling, coughing or whispering during the performance - it really did feel still and quiet.

And, of course, the fact that we could play the piece perfectly helped! ;-)

Sunday was equally busy - our hockey game didn't go as well as it should have done, as the opposing team scored the winning goal with less than 30 seconds on the clock. A great shame as we were dominating the match for most of it, and were just unable to get past their excellent goalkeeper. It didn't help that one of our wings got sent to hospital 15 minutes before the end, either (suspected broken finger), as, understandably, our concentration was broken, and we were also a person down on the field! (I don't know whether she is ok yet, though - have to wait till Thursday). So, a moral victory (we really *should* have won!) even if we don't get the points for it! Unfortunately, the loss means that we are now firmly placed at second, with three teams tied in third place snapping at our heels! If the tournament continues through the second half in the same vein as this, then it is going to be incredibly close!

The one thing that did make the losing a little more bearable was that the weekend was absolutely gorgeous, weather-wise. The sun came out, and, once the chill of the morning had worn off, it was really warm. When I got back from the hockey match and had my shower, I ended up putting on shorts and a t-shirt to potter round the greenhouse in! I did have to put a jumper back on after about 3.00 when the sun started disappearing off the house, but for those few hours, it was just lovely. The Tui were out in force around the hockey pitch, almost drowning out the refs' whistles with their song!

The good weather isn't going to last, I know (nasty front moving down from Auckland!), but it was wonderful to have just that one weekend where we were reminded that the sun is still there and it will be bringing the Spring with it one day soon.