It has been incredibly busy once again; this weekend we had four different 'engagements' happening at the same time; a hockey/cinema fundraiser, a Ceilidh being run by a couple of members of the orchestra, a work social and the monthly Phoenix committee meeting and social. We opted for the Phoenix social - John is on the committee now (and was standing in for the Secretary whilst he was away), so he couldn't really miss it, and it also gave us the opportunity to pop in to see another friend (and give him a lift to the social).
We've had a mixed few weeks with hockey - a couple of draws were a bit frustrating (especially last week's, where the opposing team scored the drawing goal with less than a minute remaining!). We are still bouncing around the top of the league (there are only three points separating top 6 out of 8 teams!), but we're going to have to up our game if we want to ensure we get through to the semis and finals at the end of the season.
We've had our orchestra concert; a gorgeous rendition of Alfred Hill's Viola Concerto (part 1) (part 2 and 3), which has very rapidly become one of my favourite pieces of music. We also played Bizet's L'Arlisienne Suite; most people know the first movement, but the fourth (Carillon) has a fantastic wind section which I got to play the second oboe part for - one of the few pieces where the second oboe part isn't in octaves or thirds to the first! All great fun; and now we have a couple of weeks off before we get into practising for the weekend workshop - the Firebird Suite and L'Apres Midi d'un Faun, which I'm very much looking forward to!
We also had our week away up in Auckland (a few photos in the previous post); a brilliant Sci-Fi convention weekend, where we got to catch up with old friends and make new ones. It is always nice to get to spend a few days where insanity is the norm and conversations are wide ranging from the serious to the silly. We then stayed in the Parnell area to unwind from a very hectic few months at work, and to do some touristy bits and pieces.
We had a superb tourist boat trip around the harbour; it included hop on and hop off on a couple of islands, so we have walked up a (probably extinct) volcano. Rangitoto Island didn't exist 600 years ago, and the lava fields are still very 'raw' (I got a nicely grazed knee from slipping on the clinker on the way back down!), with the vegetation in some areas in very early stages of growth (you can still see the lichen that will rot into hummus, which in turn provides the basis for small seeds to bed on). It does mean that in places it looks very bleak, but in others, particularly right at the summit and down on the shore line, there is an abundance of vegetation. Not so many birds, but, according to one of the signs, this is more due to the fact that there is currently not enough fresh water to sustain significant numbers.
We also stopped off at Motuihe Island, which is in the process of becoming a nature reserve (at the moment, the walking tracks are more hope than anything else - we got our feet very wet pushing through long grass until we got down to the beach and decided to take a short cut back across the sand and rocks!). It was very peaceful, though - there were only four of us on the island for a couple of hours until the boat came back to pick us up! On the way back to Auckland Harbour, we were treated to a pod of dolphins playing around the boat, which was absolutely stunning. It's the first time I've seen them close up, and they were definitely playing, including diving under the boat several times, and doing back flips out of the water. One of my 'must do' items ticked off very unexpectedly!
For my birthday, we went to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, the first aquarium in the world to do a perspex 'tunnel' through the aquarium so that the visitors can see the fish going overhead. They had a stunning collection of sharks (one of their 'extras' is to go cage or free diving (depending on how brave you feel!) with them - another of my 'must dos' but slightly out of our budget range for this holiday!), and even had some baby carpet sharks which had only recently hatched (the mini aquarium that they were in still had one shark in its egg - you could see the shadow of the baby!)
We did also find the most stunning chocolate cafe in Parnell; their cafe menu had about six pages of different chocolate drinks! We only managed three visits over the week - we may have to make further trips back next time we are in Auckland!