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!