Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Spring tide

Another fabulous day in Nagden, bright sunshine reflected all around by the very high Spring tide. The weather changes so quickly at the moment and by the early afternoon it was snowing, not enought to settle though. I managed to go for a lovely long walk with Mouse today and then, energised by that, got lots more done in the garden. had to stop for a while to watch this wonderful boat being tugged out, Stan was asleep but woke up to see the tug on its way back to the wharf. I have taken some pics of the garden to remind myself how it looks at this time of the year. Perhaps this year I can plan some more plants to form an interesting winter skeleton?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Gardening begins

There's nothing as grounding after a long trip away as taking charge of the garden again - for me anyhow. For the first few days I have felt so like a zombie and the dreadful February state of it was really pulling me down, so yesterday- not withstanding another atrocious night and then up at 4 with Stan, I decided I had to plant the tree which Dad had given me for Christmas.

It is the kind of job which one could focus on and achieve in an afternoon - unlike all the weeding mulching and clearing up that seems so insurmountable. The wind has been blowing and North Easterly gale for two days and nights but the sun shine broke through and wearing about 20 layers and Michael's beanie - as I said to him I was 'dressed for warmth not fashion'! I dug a hole a meter wide and just over a spades' depth, forked over the base and prepeared my stake. Along the way my trusty assistants Georgia and Raff helped with the excavations and the dog obviously thought that such a big hole must be for playing in - let's just say ot took a little longer than planned! With a stop to make and eat lunch I eventually got it in the ground by the end of the afternoon and I feel great. It is a 'pendulous pear' and I hope will screen the chicken run a little and provide a new shape in the garden - now I just have to move the Cotinus, beech sapplings, contorted hazel........

Friday, February 24, 2006

Down with a bump

I now understand sleep deprivation as torture - and this is after having had three kids! Last night neither Stan or I could sleep - although I reckon that by 2.30 am with out Stan wriggling next to me I might have managed some shut-eye! So today I felt worse than a zombie and I am sure I shouldn't have been driving a car. I woke Michael early because I wanted an hour's sleep before the day really started but my mind was still racing and I just ended up bursting into tears and being generally very glum - you were right again Sasha - re-entry is pretty tricky! So now, a very quick bite of Friday night curry with the Roti Chanai I bought in Wellington and then hopefuly some sort of rest - Stan willing

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Home again - a new adventure

The journey was long, uncomfortable and boring and my seating arrangements were so dreadful I cannot bore anyone anymore about them, suffice to say that when we got to Heathrow to find it was 6am, freezing, dark and wet, I sent Michael a text that said, "we've landed, it's horrible we're just hopping on a plane back again"! There were pretty big queues at Passport contol so I thought I would take the opportunity to go and get freshend up, change into clean clothes and sort out Stan, when we came out the queue had trebled!! AAAGH,

I saw fellow parent of small children who had been on my flight and she seemed to think we would be able to get fast-tracked so we tried that but no officials were interested, then a man took pity and let me join him near the front of the queue, very kind man! Then an elderly lady said that her husband had gone to plea my case - we were now at the start of the zig zag section. Anyhow, he came back and pointed out a customs official who was waving me through - I felt like a celeb - albeit a not very galmorous celeb! News had obviously got through to the baggage handlers too, as my suitcase was one of the first to fly down the shute and then the buggy swiftly followed. So in the end I shot through in record time! Unfortunately no-one had told the M25 that such a VIP was in town, so there was no movie style, romantic, emotional greeting from husband and family, just a sad trudge along the line, realising that they weren't there and trying to be chipper!

Stan and I settled down to a grotty Starbucks breakfast, called them up and then bought the kids some Pain au choc - how do Starbucks make such a yummy thing so turgid and chewy?! and then, after a bit of a wait, they arrived, everyone beaming - G and R at me, Stan at Michael and at "Raaaf and Jer jer". We sat and ate breakfast and all spoke at once! The kids looked great, Michael too, they all seemed to have survived their mother's/wifey's absence, in fact I would say they may even have thrived on it, perhaps I should go away more often!

Home again - it's still standing and one expects much to have changed but really life has carried on at a normal pace and the garden looks as muddy and hopeless as ever, but there are a few signs of Spring with bulbs sprouting and a lovley clump of snowdrops and my garlic is doing well. Raff seems to have moved his fasciantion with train track onto Lego and spends most spare minutes crouched over it on the living room, it's very sweet. Georgia seems delighted to have me back and I just need to cope with the battery of noise that emanates from 3 children all demanding my attention plus Jambo! They are all in a pretty high state of excitement, which is lovely but when your body is still so weary, it's hard to practice all the calm positive parenting one hopes to! Stan woke at 5 am this morning and demanded to "see Raff, see jer jer" I tried to persuade him it was dark and sleeping time, but after 10 minutes I accepted that he was in fact wide awake and it wasn't too early in the scheme of things, so we came downstairs for tea and toast and I caught up on some of the weekend papers - as Sasha and Rich would agree, the quality of the papers in NZ is not great. Georgia appeared at 6.30. very sleepy and bewildered -"what ARE you doing downstairs?" she asked in a very funny role reversal!

Last 24 hours

Monday morning was spent pootling around town picking up a few presents for Michael and the kids and packing, quite glum, but Sasha and I kept reminding each other that really I had a whole day left and we shouldn't watse it moping!! Not sure how well we convinced each other really. We went to Cafe L'Affare http://www.laffare.co.nz/caffe/main_caffe.htm since I had enjoyed drinking their coffee at home every day, it was another great place, full of character and atmosphere. A combination on one site of cafe, roasting business, shop and offices. I had bought Michael their rather beautifully designed book all about how to make coffee from Te Papa so it was good to see where it was all from . They have wonderful branding and design which I also thought he would love. We collected Oliver from school for my last time and I dropped in to say hello to a great friend of Annie's who teaches there - I think she was somewhat taken aback!

On Tuesday morning I got rather tearful and introspective and Sasha and I headed out for a walk around Ngaio, looking at various houses and chatting, but there was a real sense of sadness hanging over us. When Richard got back from a meeting we jumped into the car, said goodbye to the house and went for a quick lunch at the Maranui Surf club which I wanted to visit again. Rich commented that it was becoming a place with rather bittersweet memories for them because they always take people there before the airport, but the promised sea fog which would have delayed my flight and which had affected them twice before didn't materialise so off we went to the airport - not before Stan and Pippa had quite a passionate embrace - pics to follow! On the way out Sasha signed me in as a life member, the food was lovely again so I'll be back!

And so began our journey home, where as I write it is snowing!!! Big hugs all round and a few tears, but having gone through security and waiting for the plane I looked out over the carpark and saw Sasha and Rich drive away and it really hit me and I understood how hard it must be for Sasha to do it every year with her Mum and Dad and I wondered if I could really bear to put that much distance between my family and me?- Sasha you are a superstar! I love it there, it's a fanatstic country but it will inevitably be a while before we will be there again. I sat listening to the ipod on the plane from Wellington full of emotion because it was all music so tied up with Michael and the kids and I was so thrilled to be going home to see them, having missed them all and yet .....

Sunday, February 19, 2006

THE best table

What a day, glamorous, jet set and big treats! We started with lunch at Shed 5 http://www.thenourishgroup.co.nz/shedfive which is a harbourside restaurant on the jetty where all the 'World Boats' are moored. They have outdoor tables right on the water and we had been given the best one! People were crowding in on all sides to look at the boats and kept being shooed away by the waiters asking rhetorically "are you dining with us today" (if not go somewhere else!) So we had a ringside view of the action as each boat was interviewed by the TV crews and then set sail! We then had a delicious glamorous lunch whilst the children were pretty amazingly behaved. Stan really enjoyed his starter of freshly baked bread with a white truffle oil and marscapone spread, followed by wonderful fish and chips with almost tempura-light batter. I tucked into a fabulous piece of grilled fish (bream or snapper we couldn't decide) served on Nori and wasabi rice with fresh spinach and a spring onion and ginger sauce - I think I may steal this for the dinner I have to cook for the school auction when I get back. Accompanying all of that was a lovely Martinborough pink wine and I really felt like 'this is the life, long live summer and how lucky am I!!'

After lunch we wandered over to an indoor rock climbing centre for a long promised treat for Oliver, he had a chalk ball in a special bag which needed an outing! He was a superstar completing 3 climbs in no time much to the amusement of all watching - including Stan who was desperate to get up there too.

The next stop was a 'quick' drive round Oriental Bay to watch the start of the race, we wanted to be far round enough to see them close up without too many crowds - I think we weren't the only ones to have that thought, so we had 20 nailbiting minutes in the car, stuck in traffic willing it to move, but with our luck today there was a space to pull over just where we had been heading - superb! We scrambled out of the car with minutes to spare and Oliver was thrilled to hear the canon and see the smoke and we all got very excited as they raced away out of the bay, then it was back in the car and a dash to Breakers Bay where the harbour meets the ocean for a last look at them. It's a beautiful bay, rocky headlands and patches of sand with a mixture of trad beach houses called Bachs (pron. batches) and really modern pads, all with the most beautiful outlook. We waited for 10 minutes before the first two boats appeared flanked by 3 or 4 helicopters flying around at incredibly low levels, seeming at some times to be at or below the full height of the masts. Over 20 minutes or so all of the boats appeared and sailed off into the great blue yonder and what a picture they made, clear blue sky, gentle breeze and beautiful scenery. I could live here!!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sunny Saturday

The restaurant was fab! Great service and lovely food - some of the best Prosciutto I have had in years and a superb salted cod with tapenade and truffle oil. Didn't think I had had much to drink, glass of fizz, two glasses of red and a 'stickie' but feel a little jaded today! Maybe it's the late night?? I have rediscovered my natural sleep pattern since I have been here, going to bed at 10 and waking around 8 - many thanks to Stan for his good sleeping and very quiet morning behaviour. He stands up in his cot, chucks out all of his sheets, blankets 'Raddit' and whispers to himself as he does so, when my head is raised off the pillow to peer over my toes, his smile is as broad as can be and then he climbs in to bed with me for a cuddle. I will miss those morning cuddles when he goes back to his normal morning routine of leaping around in his cot shrieking and giggling with Raff!

The morning was spent out and about looking at the boats and climbing on the Volvo lorries and diggers which were all around the race village. The boys were also climbing on and off the sandsailing buggies, pretending to steer and race them. I was jealously admiring the diners in several of the waterfront restaurants and imagining how amazing it must have been when the boats had arrived when Richard told me he had booked in at one of them tomorrow when the boats set off again! How cool!

There was a wonderful atmosphere and we headed over to the main stage to listen to speeches by various big chesses and watch all of the skippers come up to sign a pledge to save the Albatross. The kids sat patiently through it before we headed back to the car to go round the bay to Kaffee Eis on Oriental Parade for possibly the best ice cream ever! I indulged Stan's request for 'Chyocot' ice cream - god knows why because he would have been happy with anything and he did end up wearing a good deal of it and it's a nightmare to get out of clothes - not to mention his tummy button!! But hey, he's on holiday too and we managed to persuade him to have a lovely paddle when we went down to the beach afterwards. It was the first time I have seen lots of people lolling about on the beach in the sun, most people are extremely cautious here and my two week tan is darker than many locals!

Home then for a relaxing evening, stories and cuddles with Pippa, a barbie and me cooking a Bill Granger tomato ricotta tart yum yum. This is the life!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Pools and boats

Another beautiful day, a few clouds in the morning gave way to a stunning summer day. Stan and I went off to an outdoor swimming pool in Khandalla - free if you please! in a wonderful park at the base of a gorge leading up to Mount Kau Kau. I said to Sasha later about something else, but it could have applied to this too, that one of the striking things about Wellington is how civilised it is, and this was yet another example. Charming staff - not your usual surly lifeguards; loads of free toys and floaties in the kids pool, wonderful surroundings and did I mention free already!! It was a bit chilly in the main pool for us to swim but the kids pool was fine for Stan to splosh about in for a hour, whilst I lapped up the gorgeous rays. Sasha came to get us after Pippa's gym class and we tootled home for lunch, not before Stan had fully investigated the playground with a wonderful wiggly slide - he is fearless and hilarious!

After lunch a fab adventure to collect Oliver on the ferry across the harbour to Days Bay, so another opportunity to see the 'world boats' as Oliver calls them up close. On the way over we sat on the top deck, open to the elements which was great fun, but rather scarey at times as Stan wanted to peer over the sides as I said, he is fearelss. On the way back we all sat down below and he loved watching the wake streaming out behind us. After a quick look at the boats, Richard wants to bring O down for a proper look tomorrow, we all walked up to the staion to catch the train home again - Stan feels like a proper commuter now. The kids had a fantastically messy supper, pasta with sauce - most of which was in hair or up noses, then finished off with home made orange lollies which added to the 'creativity with food club!' so a much needed bath with lots of bubbles and off to bed prompltly as Sasha and I are off out.

So the girls are off on the razzle - or something! to a rather nice looking place http://www.arbitrageur.co.nz/ I found online when I was in the UK - we'll see if we can chat up any of those lovely sailors!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Top day!

When we woke up this morning the sky was blue and there wasn' t a breath of wind - and it said one thing to me "beach!" So after a quick visit to Pippa's weekly music group, which Stan took totally in his stride, we packed up our swimmies and buckets and headed out to Scorching Bay. Sasha took the long and scenic route all along the coast and it showed once again how beautiful that stretch is. Some of the houses along the shoreline are truly magnificent, a particular favourite has a wooden dingy hanging off the roof, ready to go at any moment! Stan and Pippa dutifully fell asleep. When we got there Pippa woke and sat in the shade of her buggy whilst we set a shady spot up on the beach under an umbrella for Stan to continue his snooze . The sea looked fantastically inviting and I did think I should take advantage of his snoozing to have a swim but BRRRRRRRR was it cold - I did have a paddle later and think I could have made it in, but was a bit chicken to say the least! After a wonderfully lazy sunbathing session and having made a short sortie to the cafe to get coffee etc we packed up and went for lunch at Chocolate Fish, under the awnings with views of the sea - as we were packing up the first of the two boats from the Volvo Round the World Race accompanied but lots of support boats and spectators came round into the harbour. We watched a very exciting race between them, one in front then the other and also watched the red helicopter swooping unblievably low to get it's footage. The picture is, clearly, not mine and was taken almost as they crossed the finish - just 9 seconds beteween them.

So, lunch at the Chocolate Fish, what a place, the food was yummy, the service friendly and the location to die for. They have a wonderful collection of artworks - the chairs, each one has been painted differently and this one is just for Georgia!

Time caught up with us as we got back to the car and realised it was time for Sasha to head over to Eastbourne to pick up O. She dropped Stan and I in town and we went off to explore the race village and see the boats. It was very exciting and buzzing, the two boats we had seen were safely berthed and the crew were doing their media interviews. Having spent many late nights when we lived with Paddy in Alexandra Park Road, staying up to watch the race highlights I felt very lucky to be on the jetty. We went to look at the helicopters which land on the harbour which Stan loved! Then on to the awards ceremony for the 2nd place boat and narrowly missing a Champagne shower before heading off to catch the train home - but we intend to go back at the weekend to show Oliver and then head out to watch the race restart on Sunday for the challenging leg through the Southern Ocean.

Walking to the station with Stan was great fun, sometimes on my shoulders and sometimes tottering along at my side - he seems very small in the big city. We had fun looking at the boats, at our reflections in the windows of the offices and shops, giggling and chuckling all the way. The station is a fabulous building, really easy to use and we bought our tickets from a friendly man who forgave my (mis)pronunciation of the station we were going to. The train leaves the city with the docks on the right and we could see containers and ships and loads of other trains, Stan was thrilled as we climbed up into the gorge and disappeared into one tunnel after another, looking down onto the road we normally drive up with Sash. Soon it was time to hop off and walk the short stretch back to the house, I took lots of pics of Sasha's road and the house, to follow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

'mmmmm hic' wine tasting

Having stayed at home yesterday morning with the babies while Sasha and Richard took O to his first day at school, today I joined the school run. We planned to head off to the wine area afterwards and it made sense to carry straight on from Wellesley. So today we all took him into class, a wonderful airy space with a wonderful teacher, Mrs Ormon who knew all about me " are you THE godmother?" because Oliver's school start date had been postponed a week so he could spend time with me, I am honored. It's a wonderful school, set on a bay - Day's Bay which has a jetty from where the bigger boys swim, not to mention catch the ferry home across the bay -what a way to go to school! The grounds are beautiful, lush and manicured with boys knocking about on the tennis courst before school, grand colonial buildings and new buildings to match. Oliver has to take his swimmies to school every day and in the summer they swim every day in the school pool - how cool!

Onwards to the wine area, over the amazing Rimitauka hills. What a drive, oh and I was driving, which was fine but...... I had warned Sasha the other day when doing a quick jaunt, that being an automatic I would probably at some point whack my left foot on the brake thinking it was the clutch, and I apologised in advance. The other day it was no problem but today approaching the first roundabout the unconscious brain took over and I came to a very sudden halt whilst the rest of my brain tried to figure out what the hell I had done and tried to instruct my left foot OFF the brake! Luckily no-one was behind us or it would have been a horribly expensive mistake! Anyhow, with left foot firmly stapled to floor we continued the rest of the journey without any mishaps!

Coming down from the hills you drive into a whole new landscape, fantastic wide open plains with huge skies, surrounded on nearly all sides by mountains. Lush grass, cows grazing for miles - just like the Anchor adverts! Farm properties, space and more space! First stop was Greytown http://www.greytown.co.nz for coffee and a pastry at the posh french bakers, just one very stylish place in a stunning town in the bush. We wandered down the main street looking into the lovely shops and boutiques, eyeing up the colonial and eastern antiques - don't worry Michael they wouldn't fit in my luggage
Such a different landscape, huge plains with grazing cows and sheep, farm properties and space!! On the way out of town a quick pull over to visit Schok - a fantastic chocolate shop - kind of makes Madame Oiseau look a little limited, there was a fabulous chinese chest of tiny drawers, each filled with a different flavour chocolate to taste - we made our way through several flavours - as did Stan, he liked Ginger quite alot! We may have bought a few to take home...?

Then onto Martinborough to visit just a few of the many wineries there, quite an impressive number and we managed to get to three, you would have to stay in the town and walk around if you wanted to make the most of it and learn to spit out the wine - I felt woozy after the second!
I bought a few just to remember where I had been - honest!

Once back over the mountains we had a brief stop at Kaitoke Regional Park to look at wonderful place to camp and walk, amazing river with awesome rope bridge, no camera but luckily someone has taken a picture for me! I really felt then that it was unfair not to have Michael and the kids as they would have loved paddling in the river, building dams and swimming, definitely on the list for a re-visit! The babies were asleep in the car so I just had a quick peek and was smitten.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Maranui surf club

Olivers first day at school, his birthday and an early start - I slept through his special birthday breakfast and just about surfaced in time to look after Pippa and Stan, They enjoy each others company now and - mostly - he treats her with the respect she deserves.

Sasha and I headed out to another new (to me) suburb for some temple food in an awesome setting. The top floor of the existing surf and life savers club on the major surfing beach has been converted into a trendy cafe with fantastic food, so healthy, fresh and delicious you could almost feel it doing you good with every mouthful! We sat in the bay window looking out to sea and over the airport, views of the planes landing, you could imagine coming for lunch there before you met someone off the plane and timing it so you could see them taxi in then whizzing round to get them. It's striking that although the airport is so central you just don't hear the planes or get disturbed by them. I remember noting when I landed that one control tower nestles in amongst the houses! Lyall Bay itself has golden sand and a gently arching bay but it was too windy today for playing on the beach!

After lunch a drive to the highest residential street in Wellington where some of the UGLIEST houses are and beyond to the top of the hill where a solitary wind turbine is. Fantastic views over the city from a new angle. Next door somehting akin to the Great Wall of China - a possum proof fence protecting a reserve from which they have been eradicated and are no longer welcome! Then off to pick up O from his first day at school, full of excitment and home for the rest of his presents.