Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas thoughts

Christmas evening in the garden. The sun has dropped low enough that I don't fear burning. Around me, summer lives in all its glory. The family game of cricket in the distance, hearing the whoops as an uncle or father is caught and bowled. The birds sit and chirp in the rustling trees, tui, kakariki, sparrows and blackbirds, occasionally swooping overhead, flashes of black, brown, green and red filling the air. Our neighbours garden, running the hosepipe over the parched plants, and pruning back the roses. Smells waft over in the breeze; roses, sweet peas, tomato plants and the roast lamb in the oven. The wind is cooling on my skin after the heat of the day.

This is so different to the traditional northern hemisphere Christmas with its dark evenings, frosts and sharp air. Since moving, I have found a different feel to the festival; Christmas is no longer an anticipation of the Earth turning, coming out of the darknes and towards Spring, but a joyful celebration of life around us in all of its glory. It is a reminder that we should not spend all of our time planning and looking forward to the future, but, every so often, take the time to enjoy the here and now.

This is something that I, a pathological planner by nature, am inherently bad at doing. So, my New Year's resolution, made sitting with a glass of wine, and finding the moment, is at least once a day to enjoy the present. What sprang to mind which illustrates this the best are the two verses that I first heard on the Divine Comedy album Promenade:
Happy the man and happy he alone,
Who in all honesty can call today his own;
He who has life and strength enough to say:
“Yesterday’s dead and gone.
I’m gonna live today.”
(from Booklovers)

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
"Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today."
(the end of the album, taken from Horace)

Now, if you'll excuse me, there is a glass of wine and a summer evening to enjoy.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Suddenly... food!

Whilst I was busy, not only did Spring sprung, but Summer a came in (no cuckoos, but plenty of tui, blackbirds, silvereyes and thrushes...). Without a huge amount of effort on my part, the various seeds that I scattered have started to produce food. We've had a couple of meals of spinach, plus enough for me to have in my salad at work every day this last week. We've also had a couple of meals with mangetout in them, and a couple of good size handfuls of strawberries. nothing that would allow us to be self sufficient by a very long way, but incredibly satisfying none the less.

The tomatoes are flowering (though I am using the seedlings that a friend passed over - I only have one surviving heritage seedling left of each of the tomatoes and the capsicum/salad pepper - I wasn't able to get the good balance between too much water and too little. Better luck next year!), the potatoes are growing, and the beans seem to be springing upwards even as I watch. The blackbird loves the amount of weeding that I've been doing - as soon as I'm safely out of the way, he flutters down to see what insects I've overturned this time. He even helps by pecking out the little weed seedlings that I've missed in his haste to find even more bugs. Though he isn't always helpful - he has also eaten a good number of strawberries (bird netting and silver foil didn't deter him, though stringing up old cassette tape looks like it has done the trick), and appears to have attacked some of the potatoes in my planter (they are leaning sideways, with quite a good hole dug down the side of the planter; I don't think it is the neighbourhood cat...).

Our fruit plants, in the main, are doing well - the grape vines have doubled in height since I planted them (though I've now got a book on growing fruit, and realise that I need to do a heck of a lot of pruning with both them and the kiwi when autumn comes), the lemon tree is covered in blossom and baby lemons, and the chilean cranberry has a host of delicate pink flowers all over. Even the olive has joined in, with little white flowers and tiny fruit developing. The feijoa is stubbornly refusing to flower, though it, too, has put on a huge amount of growth since being planted in the soil. I'm hoping the fact that it is planted at the end of the bed that has the peas and beans will help it for next year (and in the meantime, we've been offered plenty from a friend when his tree, currently covered in flowers, fruits)

The flowery areas of the garden are also starting to show their colours; the roses have bloomed, and really loved being dead headed - as soon as I cut the dying blooms, they both put on an extra couple of inches all round, and doubled the number of flower buds! The pansies haven't stopped flowering since I put them in in the winter, the geraniums are just starting to show their pink buds, and, of course, the weeds are all coming out in hosts of different colours; pinks, purples and oranges. It makes it so much harder to pull them up when they are all pretty!

I'm very much looking forward to the Christmas break - it will give me two weeks to relax, and really get into some of the weedier corners of the garden (of particular interest is the point where the compost bin currently is - the weeds have sprung up around it so much that the bin is actually on a tilt from where it is being pushed over!). And maybe even just the chance to sit outside on the lawn and enjoy the fruits of my labours...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Just Resting...

I know it's been two months - life has been spinning out busy. I have two exams next week (if I pass those, then I have the first qualification sewn up), two orchestral concerts - the same programme (including Hall of the Mountain King - just a little bit nerve wracking to have an opening solo in one of the most well known classical music pieces!), work is even more full on than ever (if that is even possible), the garden is calling out for attention (I am that lawn owner that everyone else looks at and tuts about - most of the other houses in the drive have lawns where the grass does not get above an inch long - mine is knee high at the moment and housing small tribes... I do have another garden post planned - whether it ever sees the light of day, I don't know) and I have a reading pile that is threatening to topple, including one review book which has been guilt-calling me for a month (no non-exam serious reading allowed until the end of next week...). And breathe...

I do *think* about this blog a lot, though - I am constantly composing posts in my head - I just need someone to come up with a way of extracting that whilst I'm on the move without me actually having to type it out!

On a small side note - sorry, WWW, but I'm going to have to put the Captcha back on - I'm getting over 100 spam comments a day. Whilst Blogger does dump them before they hit the live posts, I get emails for each one. I don't want to block anonymous posting (as I have friends who don't have blogger accounts), but I do need to do something!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Where do you come from?

We had some friends to stay for a week recently; it's the first time we've seen them for three years, and it was wonderful to be able to show off the country we've adopted, both locally, and also on a road trip up the country to Rotorua. Whilst the weather wasn't as sunny as I'd hoped (it's always nice to see the country in the sun and under blue skies), but we weren't washed out as badly as it could have been given that we are coming out of winter.

We took our friends to see the various tourist attractions, both natural (including getting within a few paces of seals at the Red Rocks colony, who hadn't read the signs saying that seals and humans had to be 20m apart, and insisted on sleeping across the path!), free (we love going round Te Papa - there is something new every time we go; this time, there was an exhibition on Maori cloaks which was fascinating), and paid (both a Maori cultural evening, and Wai O Tapu, which we went round when my parents were here, and was equally good for a second viewing).

A question which gets asked a lot when going round tourist attractions (as well as by people who hear our accents) is "Where do you come from?", and this is a question which has recently given me a lot of pause for thought. Whilst I'm very happy to say that I come from England originally, I now find that I have to qualify it by saying that I live in New Zealand (or near Wellington, or Upper Hutt, depending on who is asking and how well they know the region).

The question was compounded when I was asked to fill out a survey on behalf of a PhD student investigating the way that immigrants settle into New Zealand, particularly (gauging from the questions) looking at the way that culture and values affect how easily people settle and integrate. I feel very lucky in that we've not had to learn a new language to come here, and there has not been a huge culture shift in terms of values or behaviours, but the survey did give me a lot to think about in terms of where my "home" identity lies.

Settling in hasn't really been a huge problem for us (see most of the rest of the blog for examples...), but it does mean that I feel a certain tearing of loyalties when asked where I come from. This particularly came to the front during the Olympics, when the NZ women's hockey team, the Black Sticks were in the Bronze medal playoff against the UK. I wasn't able to watch the match (nasty timezone difference!), but if I had, the question of who to cheer for would not have been an easy one to answer. In the end, the match wasn't particularly a good one, compared to how well the Black Sticks had played for the rest of the tournament, and England won deservedly, but I found that I was disappointed that the Black Sticks didn't get their medal after doing so well against the best in the world in previous matches. England is where I come from originally, but New Zealand is where I come from now.

The word "home" also has similar conflicts; does it mean the house we have bought, where we are paying our mortgage, and where I'm enjoying pottering in the garden (my back is not speaking to me today...), or does it mean where my family and UK friends live? It depends on context, but it raises mixed pictures and emotions when the word gets mentioned.

I suspect that the conflicting loyalties around home and where I come from will remain for a long while to come; the longer we are here and the more we settle, the easier it becomes to say that New Zealand is home, but I think also the larger the emotional split will become when I think about everyone and everything we have left behind.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The inevitability of nature

There have been a few reminders over the last couple of weeks of the face of nature, and how, despite all of man's technological power, nature will win out in the end.

New Zealand has had not one, but three volcanic eruptions. The first was White Island, a highly active volcano off of the coast of Whakatane

Then Mount Tongariro, which hasn't erupted since 1897, in the middle of the North Island

And then a 25,000 raft of pumice was discovered by the navy off of the coast, leading them to suspect that Mount Monowai, an underwater volcano between New Zealand and Fiji had erupted.

All maps courtesy of Google.

, still recovering from the earthquake, has now been hit by flooding caused by a lot of heavy rain on already sodden ground.

Man can try to shape the earth as much as he pleases, to try to bind the world to his will, but inevitably, we are brushed aside by the natural forces which control us all.

In the garden, Spring is arriving, and we have snowdrops.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


I hadn't realised that it had been a month since I last posted - apologies! Life has, as always, been very busy. I sat the second and third exams for my professional qualification on the same day (I don't recommend taking six hours of exam in one day - my brain was absolutely fried the next day!), and have now had the results from the exam I sat in May (I passed, so am 20% of the way to the overall qualification).

Hockey has had ups and downs - we're sitting at fifth in the table, so have to work hard to make sure we are in the top four by the end of the season.

Otherwise life continues apace; we have friends coming to stay in mid August, so I'm hoping that the winter weather has started to warm by then, as it has been a tad chilly over the last few weeks; we've had some glorious days, followed by frost, and we're feeling the lack of insulation in our house. We have definite plans for double glazing for next year!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Another busy week...

Wow - I'm not sure where this week, and indeed this month has gone. How have we gotten to be over half way through the year?

It's been manic at work - end of financial year and a drastically reduced team has meant that I've been running very hard just to stand still. Hopefully things will be a little calmer this week coming.

We've started rehearsals for the annual orchestra workshop - Beethoven's 9th. I am really excited by this - not only because it's a piece that I adore, but because we get to be tutored by members of the NZ symphony orchestra - I'm looking forward to getting some expert advice on the bassoon.

Hockey has been a little better this week - I've played twice, once for the firsts (a 2 all draw) and once for the seconds (a 2-0 win). I'm feeling just a little bit sore now, though - my back didn't appreciate me throwing myself onto the turf quite so much!

I had a go at the garden last weekend - took out the bears breeches
to make way for my peas and beans in the spring; I wanted to sow in some mustard seed as green manure. I think I've won the first battle, but there's a long way before the war is won - the roots that were coming out were at times as wide as my wrist! There's already another bears breeches plant coming through, but it was too wet this weekend (both on and off the hockey pitch) to get back out and have another go. We shall see how this fight goes...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Geek goes Poing!

Well, I was intending this week's post to either be about the NatCon of the beginning of the month, or Matariki, the Maori New Year, which has just happened.

However, last night, we went to see Sir Ian McKellan doing a one man show. He is doing a whole series of them around New Zealand to raise money for the Isaac Royal Theatre in Christchurch, which was badly damaged in the earthquakes and aftershocks, and needs a lot of restoration to return it to its former glory. Whilst the vital repairs are covered by the theatre's insurance, they are reliant on fundraising for the remainder. So, when we heard that Sir I. was doing a one man show in Wellington, and particularly for such a good cause, I didn't even have to stop to think before buying the tickets.

So, we rocked up to the Opera House on a very blustery night (the car door was whipped out of my hand when I got out - fortunately, there were no traffic for it to hit!), and took our seats about 20 minutes early. As the auditorium started to fill up, we were looking round for friends that we knew were going to be there, and I was keeping an eye out for anyone else I know - the joy of being so socially and work-active in Wellington means that I do have a tendency to bump into friend or colleagues in the most unlikely of places. A couple of gentlemen a few seats in front of us caught my eye - I was fairly certain that I knew them, but just couldn't put my finger on it. Until Martin Freeman walked up in a long brown coat and flat cap and greeted them. Then I realised that they were two other members of the Hobbit cast. The geek inside of me started to bounce a little bit - I'm not in Wellington enough to have been able to do much cast-spotting, so was a little excited that a few of them had decided to come and support their colleague in his show.

Then Sir Peter Jackson took his seat. And Billy Connolly. And James Nesbit. And Aiden Turner (who sat two rows in front of us). By this point, we realised that most of the Hobbit cast still remaining in Wellington were sitting only a few rows away, and my inner geek was trying very hard not to start going "squee" out loud!

The show started with Sir I. doing a (from memory) reading of the Balrog scene from Lord of the Rings, complete with Glamdring (Gandalf's sword). It was a fantastic opening, and the evening just got better. He invited questions from the audience, leading to reminiscences which ranged from how he felt about someone else playing Magneto, to appearing on Ricky Gervais' "Extras", taking in how and why he came out as being gay at the age of 49, and what happened when he went to Buckingham Palace for his knightood. The first half ended with him performing a pair of Gerard Manley Hopkins poems, The Leaden Echo and The Golden Echo.

GMH is a poet that I had to study at school, and absolutely hated him when I had to read his work, but have grown to admire more now that exam results do not depend upon me being able to rip the words apart! Sir I. was able to show the richness of the work with the multiple layers of meaning and the musicality of the rhythm and repeating words far better than I was ever able to appreciate at school.

The second half of the show was all about Shakespeare. Between the audience, we were able to name all of Shakespeare's plays, and Sir I. spoke on about half of them, including reminiscences of when he was in them, and also performing roles for us, including both Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Hamlet and Sir Thomas More (not one of Shakespeare's official plays, but one which Shakespeare helped to write).

Finally, he invited the members of the Hobbit cast who were in the audience to come up on stage and collect buckets for more Theatre donations, and audience members to come up and join them all for a bit of staging of live Shakespeare (the "Dead French Soldiers" bit from Henry V)

We ended up the evening joining the queue/crowd to get Sir I's. autograph and a photo taken with him (for an additional donation, of course) - we didn't stay around to meet the Hobbit cast as a number of other friends who were in the audience did, as it was already late, and the crowd was getting a bit much for me. But most definitely a poingtastic evening - I love living in Wellington!

Friday, 1 June 2012

I know, I know...

It has pretty much been a month since I last posted. A month which has been full of incident, mainly work based (and therefore not bloggable about...); suffice it to say that I've been flat tack, and have also sat my first professional exam - the first module out of five which will get my Level 4 of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply. Level 7 will get me my MCIPS which will allow me letters after my name (besides my BA, which I don't really use...) - it's going to be a long road, but will be well worth it in the end. At least, that's what I'm going to keep on telling myself as I trudge through the text books and practice papers! Two more exams in July and two in November will see me through (as long as I pass them all, that is...).

The garden is looking a little bit shabby as winter is setting in, and I have less time to potter during daylight hours (leaving for work and returning in the dark means far less weeding time...), though there are still a few blooms on the rosebush, and the birds are loving our berry filled bushes. We have a large collection of silver-eyes and thrushes who are eating their fill every time I look out of the window; I love having a garden which attracts so many birds! We've had our first significant frosts of the season (bye-bye dahlias...), as well as the first significant (an hour and a half) train delay because the tracks, overhead power lines and train were frozen. Must not grumble that winter happens every year, because by all accounts, even for where we are living now (which is in a cooler area than our rented place), this is pretty cold. The vege box now has a good growing of mustard, which I'll dig in when it gets tall enough (the books all say 50cm, so it has a way to go as yet); I've already started planning what I'm going to put in there (it slightly changes every time I see another cookery show!), and am really looking forward to getting going in the Spring.

The orchestra is nearly at its next concert, On Wings of Song, whilst we are still listening to the recordings of the last! We're performing with a choir called Cantala, who are also led by our conductor - they are a school choir who have won awards in the national school choir competition (The Big Sing), and who are also competing in a competition in Vienna; as part of their European Tour, they are also performing at St Pauls Cathedral and Notre Dame, so anyone in the vicinity, please do go and support them - they are really very good. I am still enjoying playing the bassoon - the pieces we are playing this concert (main ones for the orchestra are Finlandia and Rossini's Boutique Fantasque) really let me get at the bottom notes, which weren't really used in the last one, and there is something really satisfying about hitting a really deep bass note - it really seems to connect the body to the instrument in a way that you don't get with the high ones...

I've been a bit quiet on blogging about hockey this season - we haven't been doing very well! We've gone down a grade, and also lost our first match of the lower grade (though I feel I played a lot better than I did in the higher one, and we only lost by one goal, rather than by 7...). We have to fight our way back up into the higher grade, but I think that we can do it as we all get together better as a team; we have been hindered slightly by the fact that so many of us have come up from the seconds to play in the firsts - the different team dynamics have made more of a difference than I think people had realised.

We're off up to Auckland this weekend for Unconventional, the national science fiction convention. I'm very excited, because the guest of honour is Trudy Canavan, a writer I very much admire, and she is running a writer's workshop. I might have happened to be first in the queue when that one got announced! Full report will (possibly!) be posted after the weekend.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


This picture was sent to me by our conductor - sadly, I can't find it online to give the photographer credit, but it's a great shot. Definitely not how I feel about playing my new instrument!

We had our double performance of Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto and Cavalleria Rusticana over this weekend, playing to a sell out theatre in Upper Hutt, and having to put out more chairs in the school hall in Lower Hutt. We were helped considerably in this by the large amount of publicity we got; not only did we get in both our local papers, but the Wellington based national paper, the Dominion Post, gave us a plug, and Melanie Lina, the piano soloist gave such a good interview on Upbeat (link here) that she was picked to be on the Best of Upbeat (three interviews chosen out of the fifteen done over the course of the week), so we got a double plug, including the Saturday morning.

It was such fun to do - there were obviously bits which we could have done better (I don't think I've ever done a concert where I've been 100% happy with my performance), but overall, the audience was happy, and we enjoyed ourselves. Which really is the main thing! I don't know how our conductor managed to hold his arms up for the whole thing (40 minutes for the concert, then just over an hour for the Opera)...

The bassoon went really well - I didn't fluff too many of my solos, came in (most of the time) in the right place, and am still really enjoying playing it. I just feel so lucky to have been given this chance of trying something new, and that everyone had confidence in me to let me go with it. On to the next concert - in just over a month, we are doing a dual concert with our conductor's award winning school choir, Cantala, who are about to head on their European Tour.

In other news, holy cow, it's May! I'm still not sure where the year has gone. The hockey season is well underway - we're just finishing up the pre-season round robins before the league proper starts. We've not done fantastically - as of last week, had lost two and won one - I'm still waiting to hear how the team did today (as I was playing bassoon at push back...). But, we are a new team, with half of us coming up from the seconds into the firsts, and we are still learning how we all play together, and where people will be at any point in the game. It will be interesting to see how the season progresses.

I've not had much of a chance to get out into the garden over the last few weeks - bassoon, hockey, sci-fi and work (including studying for work related qualifications) have rather taken over... However, we had a day off at the end of April (Anzac Day; the NZ equivalent of Remembrance Sunday), and I got to sit and watch the bird table (part of the house warming present from John's family). One of the blackbirds was having great fun...

(This would explain why I keep on having to refill the bath!)

(The poor silver-eyes didn't get a look-in!)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter Weekend DIY

We've had fun this Easter weekend - we had a couple of house projects planned for the extra days off. Slightly stymied by the fact that in NZ, trading laws mean that shops (barring supermarkets, corner shops and pharmacies) are not allowed to open on a Good Friday. A fact that we didn't know before we set out looking for an open DIY store! Fortunately, our local DIY place was open on Saturday and Sunday ready for us to spend our hard earned cash...

Our first project was building a vege patch for me. I wasn't planning to do this before Spring, but having started reading a gardening blog on Stuff, where the author suggested that I get it in before Winter started and planted a green manure crop to dig in for Spring, I decided to stop procrastinating and get on with it.

So, starting from the back garden:

I dug out four by six foot from the grass and broke up the clods:

We spent a bit of time in the timber section of our DIY store with a very friendly man who helped us pick the right types of boards and cut them for us. The boards were ready cut so that they would slot together meaning that we only needed to nail the corners, and didn't have to spend time balancing (and dropping) the boards on top of each other.

Once the box was put together, I started filling it; beginning with a layer of cardboard and newspaper to try to keep the weeds down as much as possible. Then I added a layer of dead leaves (the magnolia and oak trees have to be good for something!), some compost from the bin (less than I'd hoped - I only managed to get a couple of forkfuls of properly composted food. But at least I took the opportunity to turn the compost over), some grass cuttings (yay - I mowed the lawn, too...), and finally a couple of bags of shop bought compost (plus three more after this photo was taken)

I also had a lovely surprise whilst I was digging - I was listening to a very happy bird singing away above my head, thinking it was our Tui, when I looked up and saw that it was a Bellbird - fantastic to have (at least) one of those in the vicinity, too.

Meanwhile, we were also busy inside. One of the rooms in the house was a very bright green, both walls and ceilings:

(White envelope to show the true colour - the camera was having fun with the block colours)

We played around with various tester colours, and picked a just off-white for the ceiling and an ice-blue for the walls (we weren't sure whether the green would show through so wanted to pick something that would at the very least tone down the green). The long weekend helped us here - we had enough time to paint the two coats each on the ceiling and the walls with gaps between for shopping, building the vege box and visiting a friend.

We're very pleased with the final results - for our first go at decorating, it went really smoothly (only one minor panic where a spot of paint missed the protective plastic - fortunately, the paint rag was handy and it didn't stain. Next time, we're buying a larger dust sheet - we just couldn't find one this time...) We kept the top border in green to slightly tone down the coolness of the blue, and the dark blue curtains (which I took the opportunity to wash whilst they were down...) really help to set it all off.

Added to the DIY, I also cooked a roast chicken and a quiche - definitely feeling the domestic goddess!

One more flower for the gardening aficionados to identify - this was a dead root up until a couple of weeks ago - I've not the foggiest what it is!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Indian Summer

It has been a gorgous March - we may have had a bit of rain during some of the weeks (not so much of a bother when one is stuck in the office), but the weekends have been stunning. Blue skies, slight breeze and warm sun have meant that I've spent a lot of time outside in the garden, mainly making sure I keep on top of the weeds, who have also enjoyed the autumn weather (four bucket loads into the compost today...)

I've also been busy with the publicity for the next orchestra concert (5th and 6th May - Upper Hutt on the 5th and Lower Hutt on the 6th). It's a big concert, so we need to get a big audience! We've now had a run through with the pianist, which was stunning - it helped so much to understand what is going on whilst I'm bumbling away in the bass register!

Hockey season has already started - I'm now in the first team (along with six others from the seconds), which is a little bit nerve wracking, but we won our first friendly match as a team this week. We'll see how the season goes...

Sunday, 26 February 2012


Yes, I know it has been over a month since I last posted; life has been incredibly busy, and (work-wise), just a little bit stressful (two major projects with drop-deadlines in the same week, on top of my day job...). I've not been sitting down at the computer so much on a general basis, as evenings where we don't have our usual social activities have been spent playing with my new toy.

Just before Christmas, the orchestra acquired a bassoon, and spent a month or so using contacts to try to find someone who could play the instrument, didn't have one of their own, and, far more importantly, wanted to come along on a Monday evening and play for us. Unfortunately, there was no-one in the neighbourhood who wanted to join, even with the lure of a bassoon, and so I volunteered. There were slightly selfish reasons on my part; I am one of four oboes in the orchestra, one of whom is ex-professional, so the chances of having anything 'stand-out' in the near future are slim (and, to be honest, the tone that our lead oboe gets from his instrument is just stunning, and there would be no reason for him *not* to have the solos); four oboes is a huge amount for the size of our orchestra anyway (we are not a quiet instrument at the best of times, and four of us does tend to rather unbalance the woodwind section); and, when I was 11 and choosing my instrument, I had originally wanted to play the bassoon, but circumstances meant that I ended up with the oboe instead. Not that I am unhappy about my choice, far from it, but the chance to have a go at the instrument I'd always wanted to play was too much to pass up! So, I have been putting in long hours learning a new set of fingering (fortunately, I can already read bass clef), ready to play Rachmaninov's third piano concerto and a concert version of Cavalleria Rusticana. So - hopefully, I've not bitten off more than I can chew; I've got till May to get it right!

I've also had to spend (oh, the pressure!) a lot of time pottering in the garden. Summer is definitely on its way out now; the days are getting shorter, and the temperature is starting to noticeably drop. But the garden has thrown up a lot of surprises; every time I've gone outside, there seems to be a new set of flowers there, and I'm being very careful not to dig up very much until I know exactly what is already planted (whether deliberate or not). But I am starting to get a picture now of how I'd like the finished garden to look; it's going to take quite a few years to get to that position.

EDIT - Thank you to everyone who has emailed me or posted with answers to the anonymous flowers below - I have updated to show the identified ones :-)

This is the back of the house; there are trees along the back fence, including a magnolia, what I am assured is a young kauri and a kowhai. I am really looking forward to seeing the kowhai in Spring; our neighbour over the fence has said that the bright yellow flowers attracts at least six Tui every year. I'm planning on putting our main vege patch here, too, as a raised bed.

This is looking along the side of the house. There are flower beds all along the fence, and the tree in the background was covered in bright red flowers when we first moved in (I'm still not sure what type of tree it is, either - I've not been able to find it by searching online).

A profusion of the flowers which have surprised me over the summer. I'm aware that people would probably classify all of these to be weeds, but they are far too pretty to pull up!


These bright pink flowers are stunning. The individual blooms don't seem to last for more than a few days, but they keep on flowering.

This is our decking, which gets a huge amount of sunshine. I'm planning on seeing if I can train some grape vines up a trellis against the wall.

This will be the flower-patch. At the moment, it is mainly weeds, and those stunning orange flowers. There's a rhododendron bush, plus a couple of others that I can't name, and I'm still mulling over what else to add. My lemon tree already has its home there.

Crocosmia / Montbretia
A close up of the orange flowers. Again, I know that these are technically weeds (you can see them all along the road embankments at the moment, too), but they are simply gorgeous, and they are attracting the bumble-bees to the garden, which makes them alright in my book!

A different type of Dahlia
Another flower which completely surprised me - the bush that it is growing from really didn't seem like anything much!

The front garden. There are little shrubs planted by the previous owners on the other side of the fence, as well as an agapanthus and a flax (again, more Tuis when it is flowering), so I'm hoping that we'll be able to build up a bit more of a hedge around the fence; good for the birds, and will give a bit more privacy in years to come.

Pineapple Lily
This is an interesting plant - again, completely unprepossessing, then it suddenly sprouted these flowers and actually became quite pinky/purple for a short while!

One of the unknown bushes - it briefly flowered with these very delicate yellow and white blooms.

Japanese Anemone
These are all round the garden, particularly up against the house. Again, they are probably weeds, but very pretty!

Bears Breeches / Acanthus
These, too, are all along the back fence. I already know that I'm going to need to take a lot of these out, as they really are taking over.

So - a brief tour round the garden at least; the inside of the house is a bit messy, so photos of that will have to wait! If anyone is able to identify any of the plants from my photos, please let me know - it's one of the areas where my Google-fu has let me down; there are just too many pictures of flowers on the internet, and as I don't know whether any of them are NZ native or not, I can't even narrow the search that way!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Busy times

Happy New Year!

It has been a busy month and a bit, and I have rather neglected the blog... After moving in, we had a week to clean out the old flat (no issues with the final inspection - huzzah) and then get the house ready for the arrival of my parents for Christmas. The week also included the last orchestra committee meeting of the year, an evening tea with the ex-landlady, the last Sci-Fi meeting of the year and the wedding of our ex-next door neighbour's son.

We had a fantastic time with my parents - we were incredibly lucky to have 10 days of glorious sunshine before we got caught by the tail end of a cyclone. This meant that we were able to spend Christmas Day on the beach as well as do all the tourist sights of Wellington with the sun shining and the sky blue. We started our Tiki Tour on Boxing Day; travelling first to Napier, where we had supper overlooking the harbour,

got to see some fantastic Art Deco

and took a wine tour (no photos of that - the wine was too good!).

We spotted black swans and ducklings at Lake Taupo

We stopped by the Huka falls

and then saw some amazing geothermal pools at Wai-o-tapu, near Rotorua.

(we have a room which is painted the same colour as that last pool...)

We had a slightly damp time in Auckland, as the cyclone was settling in for the long haul, but enjoyed catching up with family, and also introducing my parents to the Parnell Chocolate shop.

New Year's Eve was interesting - we spent it in Te Kuiti, which is just outside Waitomo. It was not the most exciting of towns, particularly if you are looking for somewhere which will serve food (that isn't just a takeaway)... So, we spent the last hours of 2011 at the motel room, eating a microwave supper (the motel rooms only had microwaves, rather than fully functioning kitchens) and playing silly card
games. An absolutely perfect way to spend the evening!

Unfortunately, because of the amount of rain that had fallen, the Black Water Rafting that I had booked was cancelled; instead, we went on a walking tour of Ruakuri Cave, with a very entertaining guide, who on his own admittance had partied very well the previous evening. He certainly needed his flask of coffee!

Our next stop was Mount Taranaki; we were incredibly lucky with the weather, because we arrived there on the first day that it hadn't rained. Whilst the mountain was still shrouded in cloud, we were able to go on a couple of walks, one which was certainly damper than the lady at the DOC site had led us to expect (full blown fording through streams which were now gushing rivers...). But it was well worth it when we climbed the side of a waterfall at Wilkies Pools and saw the cloud clearing above us:

We then headed back to Wellington, a round trip of 1779 km!

Our final excursion was to Kapiti Island - I'd been looking forward to this trip for months, and wasn't disappointed. We got to see loads of birds, and hear even more:
North Island robins followed us all the way round

Saddlebacks were incredibly noisy in the trees as well as popping over to see what we were doing

The Weka were everywhere, particularly when they thought there might be a chance of getting something to eat!

And, best of all, whilst waiting for the boat to take us back, we got to see the Takahe, with their chick; there are less than 250 of these birds remaining, so to know that the conservation work on reserves such as Kapiti is working is fantastic.

Then it was back to earth with a bump as we took my parents back to the airport and got ready for the first day back at work after three weeks off. Since then, we've mainly been focussed on the house; doing DIY (I got to climb all over the roof painting the rusted areas with a solution designed to turn the rust back into iron; I was then supposed to paint it with a primer to stop it rusting again, however, it has either been raining or blowing a gale ever since), fixing the dud battery in the house alarm (we thought it might have been a bit of a bad introduction to the neighbours to have the alarm go off during a power cut, particularly if it was on one of the evenings that we were out) and turning the garden back from a jungle into something that looks a little bit more respectable.

I know I owe photos of the new house - will get them up at some point - promise!