Jul 29, 2008

Song, Birds

Corellas The new level of music lessons is pretty radically different to how it used to be and Eloise is taking some time to adapt, which is interesting to watch.

It's much more formal with the kids sitting in a row with chime bars at the ready while an actual lesson with teaching and so on happens.

It's taken Eloise three weeks to come to terms with the format. Last week she absolutely hated it, very shy when she was put on the spot and not happy about sitting still and paying attention. She found it quite distressing, and probably I didn't help as I became quite frustrated at her unwillingness to concentrate, in retrospect a mistake.

This week she was very much happier, and I was much happier too as I let her get on with what she wanted to get on with and just filled in for her where she didn't want to participate and I think that she's getting used to the format much more.

Another part of the problem I suppose is that we've joined the class weeks into the term - there were no other classes that were convenient for us - and the other children have been doing it for three months more than Eloise has. But their progress is quite impressive, even the young siblings are singing along when they have to and are very attentive, apparently with very good concentration.

So I expect that if we persevere that it'll be really beneficial for Eloise.

On the way home, after a stop at the playground, we saw a flock of corellas - tropical birds to you and me - roosting on a telegraph line at the bottom of the road. A sizeable flock of probably fifty birds has been hanging around for weeks now, there being a house locally with a comprehensive bird-feeding facility, and they make a hell of a hullaballoo.

We went down a little bit later and as the sun went down and their wire fell into shadow they flew away, probably seeking out some warmth somewhere as out of the sun it's pretty chilly.

Jul 27, 2008

Matilda Catches Fish Shocker

Matilda Reflected In an unpopular move with she who must not be obeyed we went to the beach this afternoon under still grey skies which obscured the horizon though the air was so clear that Moreton Island and the Glass House Mountains were stark across the miles of water.

Maybe it was the weather conditions that allowed Matilda, after years now of constant practice, to actually catch one of the little fish that flit around in the shallows and hide just beneath the sand.

A lady we met said that it was a Toadfish, a worrying development for Neighbours characters, so called because they inflate themselves when distressed. We thought it was a Puffer Fish.

Who knows, we may both be right.

Anyway whichever one of us might be correct, we both suspected it might be at least mildly poisonous so it was a good thing that Matilda, never having caught a fish before (one unconfirmed previous incident aside), and totally against type, didn't seem to know quite what to do with her catch, and left it on the sand for Eloise to play with.

Washing Bicycles

Washing Bicycles It's bike maintenance weekend what with Nicole noticing my back tyre was flat precipitating an outing for the puncture repair kit, and a bout of bike cleaning this morning.

Eloise threw herself into it wholeheartedly buffing and polishing her little pink pushbike while Nicole degreased every cog and chain she could find. Eloise wanted to go the whole hog and clean her chain too but not much investigation didn't reveal a way to remove the chainguard so she had to make do with purely cosmetic cleaning.

Jul 25, 2008


Eloise I think that's Scottish for wet. Which it has been for the past couple of days. Continuous light to medium rain. And cold too. But obviously not cold enough for you-know-who to actually put on a jumper, not without a fight.

So Nicole got a lift into work yesterday and a lift home too. You might have thought the lift home would be implcit to the offer of a lift there I suppose.

And at swimming we were treated to the sight of indoor fog as the heated pool evaporated and condensed two feet into the air making for a very strange swimming experience.

It's been bad dog days with no walk yesterday and a brief one today while Eloise was dancing creatively. We went to the forest, and in the midst of all this damp and chill, would you believe the forest is flowering.

And in pursuit of indoor activity, we've been shopping and to a Picasso exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art. Which was fun, but not as good as the Warhol one.

But the forecast is looking up, it should be 20 degrees tomorrow, according to the weatherman,. Shorts weather eh!

Jul 22, 2008


I applied for a Clinical Nurse post before heading off to Auckland. I think I spent 30-40 hours writing the five selection criteria. I was shortlisted and had the interview today and was told unofficially this afternoon that I was successful. Hurray.

I have also been offered a place for the Master of Advanced Practice degree. I am busy applying for scholarships and research grants.

We went out for a celebratory meal this evening at Ragazzi's in Grange which was very nice.

Jul 21, 2008

Tis a Chill Wind

Dog's Best Friend Tis a Chill Wind that blows from the South, in this case.

We thought, after an attempt to go to an exhibition that ended a month ago, mercifully aborted before we even left home, and after some playing at picnics in the garden, to have a bash at the beach.

What was a lovely warm day inland chez nous turned into a somewhat chill one at the beach with a brisk wind blowing across the bay.

And what with the Little Un dressed only in her Sunday Vest, the females retired to the sheltered playground whilst I walked the dogs across the windswept sand flats.

A brisk walk - to complement the brisk wind - and I met up with them at said playground where some good-natured frolicking was done prior to the arrival of a Greensleeves-tinkling ice cream van, from which we availed ourselves the local equivalent of chocolate Mr Whippy, which, whilst tasty, left us even colder and soon on our way home.

Jul 20, 2008

Make Up

Make Up Imagine Nicole's face when she saw what Eloise had surreptitiously perpetrated upon herself, in permanent marker (well, freezer bag marker, next best thing).

Jul 18, 2008

Pedal Power

Pedal Power I was resigned to hours of hell when I reluctantly agreed to allowing Eloise to bike to the brook today at about 3.30 with 2 hours of light left in the day, after all she normally makes it about a quarter of the way there before abandoning her transportation.

But today, not only did she make it all the way to the brook, but she did so at reasonably high speed, requiring only intermittent assistance. And my resignation did add to my patience.

Her speed was due to her having discovered the brakes on her bike and the fact that they work so much better when travelling quickly.

It would be a lie to suggest that it was an unbridledly joyful experience, but it was so much more pleasurable than it might have been.

And we were home only shortly after dark too.

Back to Swimming

Swimming Lesson Back to swimming yesterday and I admit I had to have a quick think in order to remember what time we were supposed to be there after what seems like quite a long time off.

Eloise's regular teacher Fiona was ill so it was back to Sarah who was her teacher for a whole week when she went back into the big pool, but she made a big impression on her that Eloise was pretty happy to go back to her. Hopefully this hasn't burst the Fiona bubble.

So I sat by the side with my large Flat White whilst the class of three did there thing, jumping in and swimming around and generally having a good time.

In fact she did very well, swimming around some of the time without any flotation, but she needs to work on lifting her legs and derriere whilst doing this in order to maximise her kicking efficiency.

Afterwards, back up to the mountain as per usual where Her Nibs ordered milkshake and mango cake which she then point blank refused to eat, prior to being untempted by baked beans and somewhat reluctant to put it mildly to sleep, even though without realising it she was actually completely knackered....as was I.

Jul 16, 2008


Meteorological Tempting the weather god in writing has precipitated (no pun intended) rainfall last night and today, so when Nicole was getting ready to leave for work this morning I good-naturedly offered her a lift into her orifice, which snowballed into a somewhat rushed first-thing runaround fiasco.

Still we got her there for eight o'clock before coming back home to have more breakfast and to watch the latest children's TV rubbish (Go Yabba Yabba or Yo Gabba Gabba or something is the new one that Eloise quite enjoys) - today was a Pinky Ponk day in the Night Garden, if you're interested.

Although the rain was somewhat gone by the time it came to leaving time, I drove Eloise to Nursery today, then to College where I found a free all-day parking spot which was a result. The rain, of course, re-started soon after arriving.

Today was a theory day at college and we learned how colour slide film works and how the development chemistry works. It's really fiendishly clever. I don't want to explain it to you though.

The rain had pretty much cleared away by home time so I took the dogs out for a quick walk before picking the ladies up again, and as we were coming back from nursery the overcast began to clear away and the sun poked its little head beneath the clouds to perform some meteorological magic for us as we chatted in the road with Val, prior to Eloise having a play with her guinea pigs.

Guinea Pig play today involved driving Cherry Pie around in a little pram. The pig didn't move an inch; she must have been terrified. Still as Val said, "That's what they're for."

Jul 15, 2008

Back to Normal Again

Gum Tree Not much going on, pretty much back to normal.

We had a very cold spell with brasso nights and very chilly mornings for a few days, but now it's back to balmy days and warm nights, at least for the moment.

I've been trying to make up for the Bad Dog Week by taking them out a bit more, and we had a nice walk down at Bunyaville Forest which Eloise tramped around very spiritedly for several kilometres, which was very impressive. She even wore her jumper for part of it; but the sun came out and it warmed up and soon enough she was back into her T-shirt only.

Back at college, they have moved premises and the new place is quite bright and shiny, so we're getting back into the swing of things there too, with new assignments and lots of Black and White stuff going on.

Eloise has moved up a class in Music too and is now at the stage of tinkling - or attempting to tinkle - real tunes on chijme bars and the piano, would you believe, although today was the first day so we'll see how we go.

Other than that she continues to push away at boundaries which generally ends in tears. Maybe we're being a bit strict over the old getting down from the table lark and for god's sake listen to what we're saying and don't make us repeat ourselves endlessly jape, but it's intensely annoying and it can be quite hard work at the moment.

So life goes on as usual.

Jul 14, 2008


Morning Tea As the only person in the house who can convince Eloise that it's winter, it's cold, and wearing a jumper might be a good idea, I'm the person who convinces Eloise that it's winter, it's cold, and wearing a jumper might be a good idea.

Jul 9, 2008


Traveler Ugh. Up at 3.30. No problem. Eloise even woke up without too much fuss.

Taxi at 4am. No problem, except the minor detail that it parks outside the wrong building.

Airport by 4.45. Checkin within five minutes. Breakfast. Coffee. Hang around.

6.30 (ish) Board plane. All going reasonable well. But people are tired.

10.30 (ish) Eloise burns out, falls asleep, much to our relief. She wouldn't sit still, she was running on fumes.

11.00 (ish) Eloise wakes up. Plane starts descent. Eloise decides she wants cuddles. This can't be done. Eloise gets upset. Eloise remains upset. Volubly upset. That is, upset with volume. Until we land... and beyond. Tempers fray and frazzle.

Customs no problem, Eloise cheers up soon after we get off plane. We get the train back, Paul picks us up from the station, soon home, ready for collapse. Weather cold, miserable.

But nice to be back...

Jul 8, 2008

Tick List

The Dizzy Heights Last day in Auckland, so tick list: Sky Tower, Art Gallery.

Which we accomplished in reverse order: Auckland Art Gallery was OK, its cafe was better.

Sky Tower was very very tall and quite stomach churning. But the views were most excellent. Eloise walked fearlessly over the glass floors and leaned fearlessly against the heavily tilted windows. I walked gingerly over the glass floors and leaned fearfully against the heavily tinted windows.

The Sky Tower wobbles, and frankly it felt like being on a ship, a feeling that refused to wane even after we got off of the thing.

But we went up as high as we could go, where the gentle wobbling is sensually enhanced by the creak of the structure around, and we looked at all the places that we have been from afar: Mount Victoria, the Museum, the Zoo, and Waiheke Island in the distance, and watched the gently pulses of rain creep across the landscape, as the city bustled in its lazy quiet way beneath us.

Early to bed, as we had to be up at 3.30 in the morning to hop in a taxi at 4 to be at the airport for 5 to get on a plane at 7 to be home by 9 (local time).

It seems like we've been away; we want to see the dogs. And get out of the claustrophobic apartment. And to where it's nice and warm... hopefully.

Jul 7, 2008

Waiheke Island

Tide Marks I'd been trying to get in touch with Tom for days. We'd been swapping emails and missing replies and hadn't got it together but he phoned on Saturday night and we arranged to meet up on Waiheke Island for some coffee and a Maori protest march about local government changes.

When in Rome....

We got on the ferry for the forty-minute crossing and it hurtled across the Hauraki Gulf (probably) and docked in a beautiful cove, sheltered from the wind and as quiet as a quiet thing.

A bus ride up to Oneroa and we had the Lazy Lounge, our rendezvous, scoped. We were deliberately two hours early, so we went down to the Beach and sauntered there for a while before embarking on a tour of the underwhelming high-street experience that the village had to offer.

Then to the Lazy Lounge - which was closed - but we met up with Tom, his wife Marijke and offspring Oliver and Esmee (no accent) and adjourned for pizza and coffee.

Then down to the march. It was supposed to kick off from the Marai (sacred temple of the local Maori) nut we were late... the protocol for getting into a Marai is to wait to be noticed and to be called in, and Tom didn't want to break the rules, so were on the horns of a dilemma and thinking of knocking it on the head and going to a playground when our problem was solved by the sight of thrity or forty people marching up the beach towards us, big red banner flying in the wind, singing Polynesian harmonies.

And so we watched a ritual play itself out in the Maori language before we took our shoes off and entered the hall for a political meeting.

The situation is this: the Auckland council is proposing local council amalgamations and the Waihekians want to take the opportunity to improve there situation, convinced that they can given more autonomously with greater efficiency. The council has appointed a Royal Commission to look into the possibilities and asking for input, and the meeting was to keep the grass roots informed and to suggest how they might conttribute most effectively.

Which was all well and good and very nice, and quite entertaining in its own way, and it was nice to have a cup of coffee afterwards.

But I won't say too much, after all it's probably a hot potato for Aucklanders at the moment and I don't really want to get myself into hot water via Google.

Afterwards we wetn back to Tom's place which was very nice if a little unfinished (they've bought a shed and pretty much built a house around it) where we chatted and nibbled and got treated to pasta and pesto before catching the ferry back home after dark.

I'm glad we got it together to meet up; I hadn't seen Tom for probably twenty-odd years and he hadn't changed much really. We had a nice time with them and Eloise got on really well with their kids.

Scary Volcano

Auckland From Mount Eden By way of background, Auckland is built on an area that has been formed volcanically, and in the not so very distant past either.

At the museum, when we went, there was a whole section devoted to volcanoes which was loud and graphic and which scared poor little Eloise somewhat.

Nicole was ill on Saturday, feeling tired and headachy, so to get her some rest time I suggested to Eloise that we go and see a real volcano, which in retrospect was a poor persuasional tactic and she was convinced that if we went to one it would explode beneath our feet and render us extinct.

But I made some enticements, probably to do with sweeties, and we set off catching the bus up to Mount Eden which is the tallest volcano in the area.

It was a pretty tough climb for me, because I had to carry Squeaky up for most of the way, but eventually we lost the path and decided just to head straght up the slope hand-in-hand on the slippery just-rained-on-grass to the top, which we then discovered wasn't the top at all.

So we climbed down into a saddle-bole which may or may not be the correct term, then up an even steeper slope to the rim of the volcanic crater where we were harrassed by Japanese camera-bearers with an unhealthy fascination with little redheads. You just can't get away from them.

"it's hotting me" said Eloise shivering in the biting wind. "There hasn;t been hot rock down there for an awfully long time" I replied. "Are you enjoying yourself?" She looked at me and said "Yes. I want to go home now. I need the toilet."

So we followed the path back down, got down in fifteen minutes flat and were soon emptied and waiting safely for the bus when, you guessed it, the heavens opened.


s3alsurfer The next day, if I recall correctly, which I think I do, was Zoo day, on which we decided to go to the Zoo.

We managed to negotiate the buses successfully and made it to the zoo, though it was a bit of a walk from the bus to the front entrance and tempers got a little frayed on the way for one reason and another, mostly related to progress or lack thereof.

The meerkat enclosure was done very originally with a swet of tunnels underneath which we crawled through to find ladders which went up to poke out through plexiglass domes so you could see the little meerkats messing about, although only one was actually obliging due to it being bleeding cold.

Along the the meerkats we saw lots of other beasties like a hippo, some rhinos, elephants, zebra, giraffes etc all of whom were underperfomring due to the aforementioned chill.

The elephants were a catalyst for conflict. They were in a shed having a hose down. Another family was there and the little boy insisted that the ephelants (sic) were having a shower, whereas Eloise was of the opinion that it was actually a shower, and neither would give way from their entrenched position despite the interjections of the elder sister who was wondering if it really mattered.

Eloise was reluctant to go underground to see the sea lions though she loved the penguins, but was persuaded eventually and loved it in the end.

There were "ginormous rabbits" that were as big as rucksacks and Galapagos Tortoises that were bigger than the ginormous rabbits and orang utans and all that stuff.

So it was good, if cold, and we had a nice time.

Jul 5, 2008

She Liked to Ride My Bicycle

SunRising So the other day, completely disregarding the dire weather forecast - after all they never get it right do they - we rented a couple of bikes to go on a dog-free-a-thon bike ride up the south side of the harbour as far as our little legs would carry us.

And, rather than get a bike seat for Eloise, we got one of those bolt-on bikes that bolt on to the back of my bike in this case, with its own pedals and gears and all that, and bolted it on to the back of my back, and proceeded on our merry way.

And a jolly merry way it was as we toddled along through an admittedly bracing breeze, getting to Kerry Tarlton's Underwater World in about twenty minutes then on through Mission Bay where we taunted a flock of seagulls (note the lack of capitals, predictable pop-band gaggers) and past St Helliers Bay and up as far as the flat road would take us, where we stopped for lunch at a playground.

We passed by marinas full of yachtery and piers overlooking the bay, dappled if that's the right word by milky "cloudy-bright" sunshine, beaches backdropped by Victorian fountains and little rows of shops cafes and restaurants and rocky outcrops hiding little recreational reserves (probably).

And the Ginger One had a very nice time imagining she was actually riding this bike along and managing to go really quite fast with no need for significant pedentary effort on her part. Although at one point she did proclaim that the bike was tired which we took to mean that she had a sore bottom.

And this, here at the playground, was where it all kind of started to go a little but wrong, as Eloise went playing with some kids on the rocks and fell on her arse in a rock pool. So, dungarees swapped for replacement clothes, we debated what to do next.

We decided to head up round the headland since we'd only taken an hour and a half with stoppage time included to get this far.

And on we went up a jolly steep hill to find our path blocked by a construction project, and not very far up the diversion, I ran over some glass and my tyre started hissing.

So, cursing our luck but with half of one of my eyes on the weather forecast, we hot footed it back in the direction we'd come from as we didn't have a puncture repair kit.

The wind was a bit stronger going in the other direction and we made it as far as Mission Bay by the time the tyre was too flat to ride any more.

So Saint Nicole rode back to the bike shop to get a repair kit while Eloise and I stayed behind at a playground, though we snuck off to a cafe as soon as Nicole was out of sight - luckily as the sky had greyed over and starting spitting portentously.

Coffee and smoothie consumed we made it back to the playground just in time for Nicole to get back, and I got cracking on repairing the tyre whilst Nicole befriended to local ex-pats.

And pretty much as I got the tyre back on the bike the heavens opened and sheltering underneath the tree we cursed our bad luck.

Our friendly ex-pat lady berated the Kiwi weather and general pace of life and gave us a raincoat for Eloise for whom she was abviously feeling sorry. We explained that we now hail from sunnier climes and obviously have no need for these "rain coats" which are so popular here.

And when the rain relented we were on our way, battling the rising wind and occasional bitterly chilly rain, slowly soaking and with very miserable looks on one little face in particular.

Still spirits soon picked up as we took our commiseration presents of takeaway coffee and fluffies and cakes home and sat next to the heater and before long we were warm, hale and hearty again.

Jul 2, 2008

The Atrium

Atrium After several hours we decided it was time to fly and went to fortify ourselves with coffee in the Atrium, which was a pretty amazing place with a massive wooden globe of uncertain purpose towering over an open courtyard whose black tiles reflected the skylights above.

Then we walked home carrying Eloise most of the way.

And a good time was had by all, etc.

Auckland Museum

Maori Hall Eventually we found the museum, a huge edifice at the top of the hill.

It was actually really very good, very entertaining for the small one, and for us too, what with all the Maori stuff and displays about Kiwi childhood through the ages. It was very interactive and done in a very tiddler-friendly way.

There was a massive Maori Hall in there, which we had to take our shoes off to go into. Eloise immediately decided that, due to the no doubt historically and ethnically accurate laminate wood floor, that this Hall should henceforth function as her Ballet Room and Nicole had the devil of a job getting the little jiggler out of there while I looked on wryly smiling.

She then decided, after spotting a projection of stars on the floor, that we should play Ring-a-Roses in the middle of the Gallery. I'm sure I say some onlookers giggling behind their hands whilst our dancing errors were forthrightly corrected.


Wintergarden Whilst trying to locate the museum we stumbled across the Winter Garden, a formal courtyard with a hot house at one end and a cold house at the other and a fernery off to one side.

It was most civilised, really, and we had a nice time ogling huge waterlily pads and monster treeferns.

The Auckland Domain

Sparra Today I got up early with sore legs... I had sore legs yesterday too, I think I strained them on the archaic seesaw at Devonport the other day. I don't think it's gout anyway.

But I couldn't sleep and woke up to find myself in a wet bed, after twenty clear nights young Eloise had snuck into our bed and relieved herself in it. Oh well.

Anyway I saw the sun rise over the industrial docks we have the privilege to overlook, and cranes aside it was very pretty. Then back to bed for a snooze.

When we were all sorted out we headed out, having decided to go up to the Auckland Museum.

The only drawback was that we (I) didn't know the way, so we hopped on the free bus and failed to get off at the right stop.

Second time around we were older and wiser, and got off at the right place and sauntered off in what was probably the right direction, and in the Auckland Domain, the ambitiously titled park which contains the Museum, we fed some ducks and sparrows with our lunch.

The sparrows were a bit cheeky, stealing bread out of our hands, which we found highly amusing, but we retired when the geese came looking for their share.

Immigration Again

Porcupine Puffer Yesterday we got down to Immigration and it wasn't so bad, we only had to wait around half an hour which I roke up nicely with a toilet trip.

Nicole had had an email the night before so we were confident that things would be there for us but we suspected we might have to wait a few days while they sorted out our passports, but in the event we gave them our passports and then they gave them back with the permanent residency visas.

"Congratulations" the lady said.

"Thanks" we said.

We celebrated by going to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, which was OK, and along similar lines to the Underwater World in Mooloolaba but not really a patch on it in terms of scale or variety though some amusement was had when the stingrays were fed and some amusement was had as the sharks were fed.

There was a novelty ride where a "Snowcat" was ridden through some floodlit Antarctic wasteland populated by various penguins.

A plastic Killer Whale murdered a plastic seal, which scared the bejesus out of Eloise, but you really needed to be a child to appreciate that one I think.

We celebrated by doing the unthinkable and going out to the Chinese downstairs for a meal. How entertaining are we!