Saturday, December 31, 2011


Geraldine Cinema changed hands 18 months ago and it no longer seems to show the best movies. The flip side of this is that live bands now play there. Last night I saw the Shot Band with my parents. The band hail from Wellington, just like many of New Zealand's best singers and musicians. They were joined by some local acts including a young woman of about twenty who sang in a dark, almost medieval style. It was a good evening's entertainment, exceeding my expectations, and if anything the dilapidated old cinema added to the ambience. At just $15 each, it was exceptional value.

Last week we watched the Royal Variety Performance on telly. A real stand-out performer for me was Sam Wills, a mime artist known as The Boy With Tape On His Face. His act was simple but very clever at the same time, and showed me how some blokes of my age make a living. Not everyone applies on Seek for the privilege of pumping out pointless pieces of paper. I Googled him and was surprised to find that he was a Kiwi. Not only that but his performing career began in Timaru, just like Hayley Westenra who was also a Royal Variety performer. I know who I would rather see. The subject of Miss Westenra came up at work recently; we all agreed on one thing: none of us could stand her.

A few hours from now another year will have slipped by. I get on quite well with the head of our department at work but he's very much a product of last century. He's never quite sure what to call years in the modern era. He normally comes out with "two-eleven"; I can tell he longs for the simplicity of "eighty-two".

Two-eleven, or twenty-eleven as I call it, hasn't been a bad year but it took an unexpected path for me which was at times very stressful. My decision to take the Wellington job was without a doubt the toughest decision I've made in my life. For the first time ever I drew up a list of pros and cons of staying and going, assigning weights to the outcomes. It was a close race which staying won with a score of exactly nil. So I literally couldn't win. I recently learnt a new word - zugzwang - which describes a situation in chess where every possible move puts you in a hole, so to speak. My decision was a zugzwang - I was choosing between two undesirable options; I'd rather have stayed where I was. While waiting for my offer (or not), I had another interview with a company called One Path, aptly named because after ten minutes of the interview there was only one path I was interested in and it was marked Exit. In the end it was probably the possibility of regret (if I didn't take the job) that swayed my last-minute decision to accept.

My first six weeks or so in Wellington were tough. I was in a strange town where I didn't know anybody (I still don't really), in a job I basically didn't want. I was depressed so I saw the doctor who nearly doubled my Efexor intake. Things improved, but whether it was the drugs or just getting used to my new home I don't know. A real turning point was the trip I made to Auckland in July. It was great to catch up with Richard and some of the others at the autism group but I found Auckland a depressing place and was glad to get back.

I don't plan to be in my job twelve months from now but plans rarely work out. Getting up in the morning with precisely zero chance of doing anything meaningful in the coming day gets to me after a while. If my job wasn't supposed to have any meaning in the first place, I could handle that a lot better, but the fact that it's built up to be something of vital importance, and I just don't see it, makes me think there's even wrong with me than I originally thought. The whole corporate thing will always be a struggle for me. When it comes down to it, I've never been a team player, and the bigger the team the more difficult it becomes. I feel a sense of guilt when I compare myself to a teacher or a mental health worker or even an artist, who gives something to the world almost on a daily basis.

I'd love to feel that I was good at my job. I did get that feeling in my earthquake work. That boost to my self-esteem meant that I cared what I looked like when I left home in the mornings. I tried to look like me. In my current job I just try to look vaguely presentable, putting on the first shirt that I can find.

A year ago I'd never have imagined I'd be a property owner. I'm very glad I did it - I think my purchase was a sensible one - but I'm not excited about it as perhaps I should be. That word has been used by various relatives in the past week: "How exciting!", "You must be so excited to have bought a house!" But really I'm not. I'm relieved, I think I've made a good financial decision, and it will be "nice" to have my own space, but that's about it. It does bother me that excitement is an emotion largely consigned to the past. Is it the job or the drugs, or both?

Tonight we'll be going to the Caroline Bay Carnival for New Year's Eve. I'll probably be forced to sit through a concert with music from Barry Manilow or Daniel O'Donnell before throwing a few dollars at the chocolate wheel.

Friday, December 30, 2011


A few months ago my cousin said that Jan Cameron doesn't get enough credit for founding Kathmandu, a successful outdoor clothing company. I wholeheartedly agree with her. Walk down any Wellington street between April and November and you'll see that a big black Kathmandu puffer jacket is almost compulsory attire. You do see other brands but Kathmandu - who admittedly picked a excellent name, evoking images of trekking through the Himalayas - is clearly the dominant force. Their market penetration is impressive it must be said. And why does everyone need to dress like they're about to scale K2 anyway when it's a positively balmy 15 degrees?

Kathmandu have a BIG 60% OFF SALE! on right now. I'm actually not certain about that, but given that they have such a sale virtually all the time, and it is just after Christmas, it's a fairly safe assumption. They have a store almost opposite my office. I did pop in there once to see what I was missing. Big black jackets were reduced from $649.90 to $259.90, or something like that, but they were still well above what I was prepared to pay for them. I suppose most people are paying for the brand. That makes no sense to me. If I'm going to be a walking billboard for you, shouldn't you be paying me?

It's amazing how susceptible people are to advertising, branding, pricing, the shopping experience and everything that goes with that. I like to think I'm immune to branding but of course I'm not quite. I'd think twice before buying a Yang Song car, mainly because the brand name would be unknown to me so I wouldn't trust it. But I'm less susceptible than most and feel qualified enough to provide some anti-consumption tips:

1. If you think it's a rip-off at two hundred and something, the fact that it's reduced from six hundred and something doesn't make it any less of a rip-off.

2. If you have to buy A to get B free, then B isn't free at all.

3. It doesn't matter whether it's $39, $39.90 or $39.99. It's forty bucks.

4. Those ads where you can buy make-up "worth $250" for the special price of $50. If it was really worth $250 they wouldn't be selling it so cheaply.

5. There's nothing wrong with loyalty cards, so long as you don't change your spending patterns to pick up more points, which is of course what the shops are trying to get you to do.

6. Are you still at school? If so, it might be worth buying one or two brand-name items, if you (or your parents) can afford it, to fit in with the other kids. Otherwise be yourself and save some money.

After telling Mum I wanted to join a tramping club in the new year, you can imagine what she bought me for Christmas. Not one but two items from Krapmandu, sorry, Kathmandu: a thermal shirt and a lightweight waterproof jackety thing that folds up to occupy the same amount of space as your undies. Handy for trekking and despite my misgivings about the company I will wear them.


For the last few months I've been meaning to post some handy money-saving tips. Christmas - well, one Christmas present in particular, served to remind me of this. But in this post I'd like to write about my catch-up with Phil before it all slips from my mind. My next post will be on the subject of money-saving I promise.

Mum and Dad came into Timaru with me on Wednesday as I met up with Phil for lunch at a place called Zest. I'd much rather have gone on my own. He's back in Auckland, in his old job with the navy in Devonport after spells in Denmark and Dunedin. He'd like to move back to Dunedin. He studied at Otago and likes the Wellington-style bohemianism that exists in the city. At forty he'd quite like to buy a property but thinks he'd be throwing money away in Auckland even though he could put down a large chunk of the purchase price. He asked me for advice on real estate, as if I somehow had a clue. It made a nice change to talk about something other than job applications even if we're both far from thrilled about our current jobs. The story on the mini golf course also took a different twist this year. Instead of losing by a semi-respectable six shots, I was thrashed by fifteen.

When I'd said goodbye to Phil I got a text from Mum asking to meet in the Loop Road. This didn't make any sense to me - they can't be in a road - so I texted her back asking her to be more specific. I did eventually find my parents, and my aunt and uncle who they had since met up with, and they had a good laugh at my expense. "You know, in the car park, inside the Loop Road. Do you not know where the Loop Road is?" Oh I see. I guess the car park is technically in the road, but that's not how my brain works, and if you'd just let me go into town by myself you could have saved me all that hassle.

Yesterday we went south to Moeraki. Dad took a few photos of views to paint - his stock of paintings is depleted following his successful exhibition. Until yesterday I didn't know that a cormorant and a shag were the same thing. In Stephen Fry's book he recounts his time as a yound schoolmaster at an English boarding school where the dormitories were all named after seabirds. A particularly troublesome dorm was called Cormorant. It's just as well they didn't call it Shag.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A level-par Christmas

I survived Christmas. About a dozen of us turned up at Mum's sister's place. I had a sore tummy before we even started eating, so was glad when we eventually got away. Christmas Day is always stress-inducing for me even though I'm never involved in the cooking. Heaven knows how you're supposed to talk to all those relatives and concentrate on not overcooking the Brussels sprouts.

Mum and Dad bought me Stephen Fry's autobiography. He really is an amazing bloke. I watched a documentary a few years back about his bipolar disorder; he said he wouldn't be "normal" for all the tea in China. That wasn't the only present my parents bought me - I'll talk about the other one in my next post.

I played six holes of golf with Mum tonight. I did them in level par. That's my par which is twice the figure shown on the card. On the first hole I sunk a 20-footer for a bogey eleven. I did the rest in 7, 7, 10, 5 and 8, hitting just about every tree imaginable.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting Phil in Timaru, just like last year and the year before. We've been hopelessly out of touch in recent months so I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

No let-up for Christchurch

Just what Christchurch residents needed for Christmas: more quakes. They copped a bunch of them yesterday including a 5.8 and a 6.0. I was outside for the first of those, and didn't feel it, but I was in the living room with Mum and Dad for the second one which we certainly felt. I'd never felt a "proper" shake prior to this month but I'm now almost getting accustomed to them. I was lucky that I flew into Christchurch the night before.

Some good news for Dad - he has sold four more paintings at what has been a very successful exhibition for him in Timaru.

This morning I hit a tennis ball for the first time since April. Mum used to play a lot - this season she's joined the local club. This morning we knocked up for an hour at the Woodbury courts. I enjoyed it more than I imagined I would. We were both rusty - and Mum couldn't run down as many balls as she used to - but maybe I'll look at joining a club in Wellington next season. I remember playing - and losing - on those courts in '89 for St Joseph's, the school I briefly attended in Temuka.

We'll be off to church in half an hour. Dad and I only "do" church once a year. Tomorrow we're having Christmas dinner at my aunt's house in Timaru.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Today is the longest day. It's also the day my purchase went unconditional. There were no surprises in either the LIM or the builder's report, so I gave my solicitor the go-ahead. Tomorrow I'll hand over $35,000 as the initial deposit. I'll be able to move in on the 43rd day from today, which by my calculations is 2nd February. I guess I should be over the moon, but it still feels like a leap into the unknown.

I popped into Moore Wilson's for the first time last night. It's what you might call a "high-decile" supermarket which is why I'd never shopped there before. But the range of meats and cheeses on show there (that was the only section I visited) was mouth-watering - it felt like I was in Parma again. I bought a variety of cheeses as a Christmas present.

Every Tuesday I have a catch-up with my boss. He didn't mention exams this week, and I sure as hell wasn't going to. Maybe if I don't talk about them they'll go away.

The (staged?) outpouring of grief shown on TV following the "dear leader" Kim Jong Il's death would be laughable if it wasn't so scary. Millions are starving to death in that nuclear basket case.

I've never been able to solve the Rubik's cube. At least two of my cousins can. At the weekend I was at my cousin's house, getting nowhere with her cube. After half an hour I'd completed one side. I asked my cousin if she could finish it off, but what I'd done was no good because the colours of the edges weren't lined up. C'mon! That took me half an hour! She did solve it from my position but she prefers to start with white, not the blue that I started with.

Here's a flashback to 1992. Anyone remember Tasmin Archer's Sleeping Satellite? Great song, with quite deep and meaningful lyrics.

My next post will be from Geraldine.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What's wrong with me?

OK, I already know the answer. It's "a lot". But my biggest flaw is a complete inability to handle most social situations. My only real coping strategy is to take myself out of the situation entirely but sometimes that isn't possible. On Friday we had our staff Christmas party. It was during a work afternoon so I couldn't exactly just vanish into the sunset after we'd all eaten. The food was good but having to talk made it a lot less enjoyable. I hardly drank anything because I was babysitting my cousin's kids that evening, giving me a good excuse to miss the after-party. Four hours were more than enough for me. I'd have much preferred four hours stuck at an airport - yes there are lots of people at an airport but you don't have to talk to any of them and you can at least pass the time by reading a book or staring at all the Rolexes you'll never be able to afford. I just wish I could get something out of these sorts of events, or at least not find them hellish, but it's been this way for nearly twenty years.

The Auckland autism group had its Christmas party last Saturday. It would have been a far more enjoyable (and meaningful) occasion for me than the party I did attend the previous day. I was delighted that they introduced an annual Emma Foster Award to be given out to somebody who has shown a number of positive qualities such as courage, perseverance, initiative, helping others and helping the environment. Fittingly Richard won the inaugural award. I suggested to Jen Birch that they name something after Emma to ensure that she is never forgotten, and this is a wonderful way of doing just that.

I've still got plenty to do to ensure that my offer goes unconditional before Christmas. Some of that will depend on the council getting the LIM done on time (and that the results are all OK). Going unconditional pre-Christmas would enable me to can move in three weeks earlier than otherwise (and crucially before the lease on my current place expires). Then I'll have to finalise the terms of my mortgage, which is where the title of my blog really comes into its own.

On Wednesday I'll be going a meeting at the local tramping club with a woman from the autism group. Hopefully I'll get to see a bit more of Wellington (and the rest of NZ) in the new year while meeting people and burning a few calories (which I need to) at the same time.

I'm flying down to Christchurch (unfortunately I couldn't get a flight to Timaru) on Thursday evening. The break should do me good.

Edit: Kim Jong-Il isn't just ill, he's dead.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Here we go again

My offer on the flat was accepted on Monday evening. The vendors had come back to me at $358,000, eight grand above my initial offer. I then split the difference and they accepted. The haggle stage was quite painless. First and foremost, I just wanted to get it all sorted. Some people lose sight of that and instead of thinking "I'll try to buy this property at a reasonable price" they think "if move my bishop to this square then I'll back him into a corner and ... gotcha!" I wasn't in the mood for games, talking of which New Zealand dramatically beat Australia by seven runs in the Hobart test match that day.

Eleven turned up to the autism group. One of the older members wasn't feeling 100% and had to be taken home. This was our last meeting with the current facilitator who is moving to Auckland - she must be nuts! (Her husband has got a job up there, but still.) It's a shame to see her go, but if she gets involved in the autism scene in the Big Smoke she'll do an excellent job I'm sure. We made tentative plans for the group after Christmas - I'm hoping we can start meeting up socially outside the fortnightly sessions.

I should have been really happy after the third-of-a-million-dollar deal went through. But there are still several hurdles to negotiate and I've been bombarded by property-related phone calls and emails throughout my work days.

My mental state has been fragile since the weekend; yesterday it took a sharp nosedive. Work, life and everything became impossible. As for work itself, it was 2009 all over again. I locked myself in the loo and banged my head against the wall and the sink. I didn't hurt much at the time but I certainly felt it later. Work has definitely become trickier since my new boss arrived. Until then I was getting by, never really achieving anything but never letting that get me down. Work was just there. But my boss is very switched on and highly motivated at work, i.e. the exact opposite of me. The nuts and bolts of the job matter to him, and he expects them to matter to me, so I've been getting feelings of total inadequacy. Buying property, which makes staying in employment even more important, probably sent me over the edge.

I nearly didn't go to work today - I was going to take two days off including tomorrow's Christmas party - but I heaved myself out of bed eventually.

Putting any problems I might have into perspective, a journalist was murdered last weekend just yards from my work. He was a good man, just walking home after his night shift at Radio NZ. After a gruesome killing like this, I wonder whether bringing back the death penalty wouldn't be such a bad idea, if only you could guarantee that they get the right person. And there was I thinking I was safe in Wellington.

On a much lighter note, Birmingham play their eighth and probably final European match of the season, needing a miracle and the dodgy head-to-head rule to progress. But it's been fun.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

House-hunting - getting serious

It was nice to have Mum and Dad here for a few days. We got on well - in fact I've been getting on better with Mum than I've done for ages. My parents spent a fair bit of time eyeing up properties for me; I was very grateful for this because I'm pretty clueless in that regard. On Tuesday they took a look at an apartment I found a month ago (and was still up for grabs) and to my slight surprise they really liked it! It's five minutes walk from where I live now, on the other side of the Basin. The block of flats is hardly a thing of beauty. It was built in the late nineties and looks like a behind-the-goal football stand (which is sort of appropriate because it is right next to a sports ground, just for a different sport). But inside it's spacious and well looked after. It's got 2½ bedrooms on two floors with, to be honest, heaps of space for one person. Talking to my brother, he would definitely say it was a place he "wouldn't want to rattle around in". All the fittings are modern and it's been well maintained despite being tenanted for several years (I could take on tenants if I buy it). Its asking price had been reduced by $16,000 and on Friday I put in an offer for a further nine grand less. It's a complicated business, this whole house-buying thing. I really hope my offer is accepted, not because I'm emotionally wedded to the property but because I want to get it over and done with. If it falls through, there's one (possibly two) in Brooklyn that I'm interested in. Tomorrow is the big day when I expect to find out.

I've been in New Zealand eight years and two weeks and there's still plenty of stuff I haven't figured out yet. Like why all real estate agents, solicitors, insurance salesmen and mortgage brokers are ex-All Blacks. Or Black Caps. What is it about kicking a football that instantly makes you knowledgeable about financial products or legal matters? Precisely nothing, but of course in NZ being a highly successful international sportsman (or woman) elevates you to God-like status. What's more, people trust you. It's completely different in the UK where no-one in his right mind would buy a house from Wayne Rooney. Over there you've got an Etonocracy running the country; here you have an Allblackocracy. I don't know which is worse.

The house-buying process (at least I hope that's what it is) has in some ways been a nice distraction from my other big decision - whether to do more actuarial exams. My new boss is trying to twist my arm. I almost hope he could the whole hog and break it so I wouldn't be able to write the exam. It would feel like the ultimate backward step after the decision to quit my job two years ago. The thought of it - that there's no way out - has made me feel quite down today it must be said.

My boss is five years younger than me. He had told me he was 28. For some reason the subject of weight came up at work, and to show how many pounds he'd lost he dug out an old passport photo with a late January 1985 date of birth, making him 26. However he comes from China where you're considered to be one at birth and a year older at the turn of each Chinese year. He was born just before the turn of the year so by Chinese rules he is indeed 28 and will in fact turn 29 before his "real" 27th birthday (because it's an early start to the next Chinese new year). You get old quickly in China.

On Wednesday night (the night before my parents flew home) we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant on Majoribanks Street. I had beef noodles which were appetising without feeling full. We then played Scrabble again. I won but had far more than my fair share of good letters. Until the end, that is, when I had four I's on my rack. Mum and Dad both had an "I" each, and with no place to put them (no QI allowed in our game, folks) the game ended with only three of the nine I's having been played. I wonder if that's some kind of record. I should point out that Mum consistently took an age to put down a word - she's actually pretty competitive - and we didn't finish till after eleven. I must get an egg timer before we play next.

We had another quake on Thursday morning. A mere 4.2, it was certainly noticeable from my elevated position. I'd call what I experienced a "double wobble".

Bought the flat or fallen flat? I'll find out tomorrow.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rock 'n' roll

Mum and Dad are staying with me for the third time in four months. They'd only just got off the plane on Saturday evening when we had to go a barbecue at my cousin's place. It was a long way from a party, but we had some unexpected rock 'n' roll as I felt my first ever proper earthquake. I was surprised by the loudness of it, and for a split second I thought it might turn into the big one. It was big enough for me anyway; as a wild guess I said it felt like a 5.8 - I overestimated by just 0.1 as it turned out.

We visited four open homes yesterday. Three of them were out of the question - one had a serious damp problem and you had to hold your nose. I'm eliminating lots of properties and not finding many suitable ones. Still, there are three currently in play.

The three of us played Scrabble last night. Mum is pretty good at Scrabble really - she's got a good brain and (not wanting to criticise) could make better use of it. I won a nail-biter by three points, 240 to 237. Those scores aren't bad for a three-player game involving none of those silly but useful two-letter non-words. Dad's 164 wasn't to be sneezed at either. Mum went first and got FoRAGER straight away for 64; I responded soon after with ENTRIES (lucky to have that combination) for 63.

I found this article (well, survey really) from the Guardian today. It paints a bleak picture of Britain's future, and probably the future of Western society as a whole. I've been thinking for a while about how technology is killing jobs. Check in your baggage at the airport, or even do your grocery shopping, and you'll see man increasingly being replaced by machine. Jobs are vanishing. "Get a job" is something you hear a lot, but when there are fewer and fewer jobs out there, what do you do? Find something you're good at and "create" a job yourself I guess.

I followed bits of a cricket match at the Basin yesterday. I could only really see the scoreboard from my flat, and there weren't many people in the stands, but the match was almost as close as last night's Scrabble - Wellington lost to Otago by six runs. By the way there's a flat for sale four floors above me in the same apartment block; that's one of the properties currently in play.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Family matters

Yesterday I caught up with perhaps my favourite cousin. She lives and works (as an accountant for one of the "big four") in Christchurch but had some kind of course or conference in Wellington. Tonight I've been babysitting for my other cousin - I enjoyed reading two chapters of James and the Giant Peach to Tim (son number two).

Mum and Dad are coming up on Saturday and will be staying five nights with me. They must really like Wellington! Dad has done surprisingly well at an exhibition in Timaru so they might be feeling quite flush when they get here. I'm really pleased for him - although they're in good financial shape, he still feels a certain amount of pressure to sell his work (some of which has been applied by Mum I think). I guess the only way he knows his paintings are appreciated is if people buy them. No doubt we'll look at some open homes on Sunday.

Unfortunately my football predictions came true. Blues were a bit unfortunate to lose 1-0 in Braga after being on top during most of the first half in which they missed a penalty. And to cap it all off, Brugge came back from 3-0 down with 17 minutes to go to win 4-3 in Slovenia. You couldn't make it up. Now Blues have to beat Maribor at St Andrews and hope that Braga somehow win in Bruges. Well, for Blues fans it's been blissful escapism from the grind of league football, and don't we all need to escape occasionally.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

E for excruciating

I got my hair cut yesterday during my lunch break. I had to talk which I really wasn't in the mood for. It was also the most expensive haircut I've had in my life.

I went swimming last night and will take a break from it for a while. I've got a skin condition - it seems to be dyshidrosis (awkward spelling). Lots of tiny bubbles appear under the skin of my hands, mostly around the base of my fingers and in between my fingers. The bubbles burst, the skin cracks, peels and sometimes bleeds. The Wikipedia page mentions chlorinated water, which seems quite likely given how much worse it has got since I started swimming, so I'll give it a rest and see if it improves.

My new boss mentioned the dreaded E-word - exams - in yesterday's weekly catch-up meeting. He recommends that I resume them sooner rather than later. Oh no. At Monday's autism group I said I'd like to be my own boss one day; some people there thought that would be very stressful. My dad has been his own boss since 1977 and has never been unduly stressed by it.

Tomorrow morning (our time) Birmingham play Braga in Portugal in the penultimate group-stage match of the Europa League. Win and Blues are into the next round, but that's a very tall order. My prediction is that Braga beat Blues while Brugge beat Maribor in the other match. Then Blues thrash Maribor in the last round of matches but it will all be for nothing because Braga and Blues play out a draw that sees them both through. Blues would miss out despite an impressive haul of ten points. Let's hope I'm wrong.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My two seconds of f(l)ame

Yesterday was election day and it turned out to much more exciting than I expected. Not because of the election, although that certainly had its moments, but because of the fiery publicity stunt in Cuba Mall. I was sitting on a bench outside Matterhorn, trying to do the crossword, when a car pulled up (it's a no-car zone there) displaying some message about fractional reserve banking. The driver, wearing an orange high-vis jacket, got out and spray-painted a dollar sign on one of the benches and "What is fractional reserve banking? Google it!" on the ground. He then asked the handful of us who happened to be there what fractional reserve banking was. I made a reasonable stab at his question. Next he said he was about to do some magic trick to make his car disappear, and offered to pay $1000 to anyone willing to record it. Nobody had a camcorder handy and I got back to the cryptic. Then BANG! and the car was suddenly in flames. I must have shouted an obscenity or two, then dashed into the comic shop where I watched the car go up in smoke. The stench was terrible. A couple of shop owners tried to extinguish the flames before the fire brigade and police came. The man made no attempt to get away; I think he wanted the publicity and chose election day to pull off his pyro party trick. I made a police statement and even gave a statement to some student journalists. I have since Googled "FRB", yes I can see problems with it, but setting light to your car in a public space isn't how I would choose to raise awareness.

On last night's news, there I was! My first ever TV appearance, as far as I know.

I've always quite liked elections even though I switch off from a lot of the political machinations that take place in between. The first election I clearly remember was the UK election of 1992 when I was twelve. You had more charts and graphs than you could possibly shake a stick at, and boy did I love that! Peter Snow was very excited by his swingometer and so was I. Unlike Kiwi elections, the polls in the UK don't close until 10pm and the bulk of the results aren't known until after midnight, which was well past my bedtime. Mum and Dad let me watch for a bit, but it was only the next morning that I learnt that John Major's Tories had won a close race. We happened to live in Major's constituency of Huntingdon. It's true blue there, so under FPP your vote is rendered pretty much meaningless.

By the time '97 rolled around, the Tories had been in power my whole life, and I have to admit it felt good to see Labour sweep to power in a sea of red, a landslide win largely brought about by the disproportionality of FPP. In 2001 I was old enough to vote but was living in France; I could still have voted if I'd wanted to but in that particular election I couldn't see the point.

So I voted in a general election for the first time at the age of 25, and as I was out of my electorate I got to cast a special vote. Boy did I feel special. For some reason I found the NZ election of 2005 fascinating. Just like in the UK, urban areas tend to go red while rural electorates vote blue, but the way the votes are counted means the story plays out very differently on the night. In the UK, the votes for each constituency are pooled together and counted in one location, so the very compact urban (left-leaning) areas are counted quickly, while remote areas (the Orkney Islands being an extreme example) take all night. So Labour tend to sprint out to an early lead only for the Tories to come back strongly at the end. In NZ, each polling station counts its votes separately; some booths in the back and beyond in Canterbury may only get a dozen (probably National) voters, but in urban electorates like mine some stations will take thousands. This all means that the pattern you see in the UK is reversed in NZ. This wasn't something I'd thought about, so when Labour overturned a big deficit to sneak home, it took me by surprise.

Three years ago we had a change of government but everything played out almost as expected. This time I found the whole thing a lot more interesting. The biggest highlights and lowlights for me:
  • The Greens. It'll be 11% when the specials come out; maybe a 14th MP. Both Turei and Norman are highly intelligent people, they ran a great campaign, and I think the party will continue to do well until green policy becomes so "obvious" that such a party no longer needs to exist. In Wellington Central (yes I know we're all hippies here) the Greens trailed Labour by just twelve votes (in the party vote) on the night.

  • Winston First. I didn't see that one coming. He will add some flavour to the next three years even if I wouldn't trust the man as far as I could throw him, and he come with the nice little side benefit of preventing National from getting an overall majority. John Key's asset sales just get that little bit harder.

  • John Key himself. National didn't really score a resounding win in this election, but Key sure as hell did.

  • The badly-designed referendum. If you answered yes to the first question, do you answer the second? Who knew? And how many people had the foggiest idea of what all the other voting options were? I've got a maths degree and STV messes with my head (despite that I still thought it was the best non-MMP option).

  • The tied vote in Christchurch (specials still to come). What are the odds of that? And it goes to show your vote really does count - who would have thought that?

  • The TV3 coverage. Really good I thought, even from Paul Henry who I haven't always had much time for. Just one thing - I wish they'd stop saying "60% of the votes have been counted." No, 60% of the polling places have been counted, which is a totally different thing.
It's been another glorious day in Wellington (even if it's blowing a gale now). This morning at the waterfront market there was some march involving drums and bells. I had no idea what it was about. But I love the fact that Wellington people care about stuff and like to express themselves. That's the sort of place I want to live in.

We've got the autism group tomorrow night. No doubt the election will take up a fair old chunk of proceedings. If you're autistic, I'm guessing a big National win isn't quite what you want.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Congratulations to Winston First. Not only have you got back into parliament (dammit), you've invented a new word!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chinese whispers

It was a strange day at work today. It seemed to be dominated by two hour-long conversations between my boss and one of my immediate colleagues, in Chinese, just a few feet away from me. I found it all a bit unnerving. What are they saying? They both speak good English so what is it that they don't want me to hear? I heard more Chinese spoken in the office today than English. I didn't like it, but apart from learning Mandarin (which is something I'd actually like to do one day) there's not much I can do about it.

A phrase I've heard a lot during this election campaign, especially from National, is "getting ahead", as in "if we raise tax rates for higher earners, hard-working New Zealanders will find it harder to get ahead." The phrase is bandied about as if everyone can get ahead. Well I'm sorry, but for someone to get ahead, somebody else has to fall behind. Then when you put in the hard yards and overtake a few people, guess what, there are a whole bunch of people who are still ahead of you! The thing is, hard work absolutely should be incentivised, but for many people, whether they get ahead or fall behind is due to circumstances as much as anything, and a lot of people work their butts off just to stand still.

It might be breaking the law if I were to post election predictions on voting day, lest I influence the thousands of swing voters who frequent my blog, so I'd better do them now (two hours before the deadline) just in case. I'm picking National to have enough seats to govern alone, despite getting below 50% of the vote, due to a fairly large proportion of "wasted" votes (I don't think either Winston First or ACT will make it).

National................64 seats
United Future..........1

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Election - keep MMP!

Some news for all you who have followed the fortunes of Fixed and Floating since 2009: Andy got married last Saturday. It's all happened fairly quickly but good for him I say.

Last night I spoke to Julie, who also figured fairly prominently in the early stages of this blog. She has had what you might call an annus horribilis, but the good news (for both of us I think) is that she'll be moving to Wellington before long.

I also went swimming last night; it was even busier than usual. If you weren't careful you could have lost an eye.

On Monday I woke up to a force nine gale and the weather hasn't got a lot better since.

It seems National, or should I say John Key, is nailed on to win this election. I struggle to see why he's quite as popular as he is. Politics goes in cycles I suppose - the timing is right for him - but more than anything he's cultivated a brand, and in 2011 brands are, well, Key.

I've been thinking a little more about MMP and electoral systems. MMP isn't perfect but in my opinion it's clearly the best of the five options on the table (the second-best being STV). The biggest flaw with MMP (but please, still vote for it!) seems to be voters' lack of say in which representatives from a particular party make it into parliament. It's all down to the party list; us voters have no input into its make-up. But how about this? Instead of getting two votes at the election, you get just one, which goes towards choosing your electorate MP and the number of MPs each party gets. There are still top-up seats (like the current list seats) but these go to the best runners-up. Say for example National get half the votes throughout the country, that will entitle them to 60 of the 120 seats just like it does now. Say National also win 45 of the 70 electorates, then the 15 best runners-up from National also make it into parliament, although unlike the winners, these MPs don't represent their electorates - they'd be called "additional" MPs or something like that. How you determine "best" would be up for debate, and the current 70-50 split might need looking at, but it's fairly easy to understand and (I hope) better that we currently have. The BRU method - it has a certain ring to it; Kiwis tend to like a good BRU.

I've also been thinking about the whole concept of electorates. The world is smaller, so where we live is less important now than it used to be (which means first-past-the-post, which is totally geographically based, gets gradually worse over time). Why not carve people up using some other variable such as age or occupation? Where we live is often down to chance, and there can be huge differences even within electorates (especially in big cities - I always find the results by polling place the most interesting of all, and it wouldn't be stupid to use to those figures to help decide which suburb or street to live in).

Finally on the subject of the election, whether the winning party is blue or red or green or pink or yellow, or some combination, for most of us it won't make a lot of difference.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All sorts of crap

I went swimming tonight as I usually do on a Tuesday. I continue to be amazed by the number and variety of tattoos on show. I've got no problem with them but I've never come close to even thinking of getting one myself. Am I missing something?

We had the autism group last night. Ten of us turned up; we now have a "topic" to begin the meeting, just like in Auckland. This perhaps helped the evening follow a more positive course than the previous one. However there was one bloke who talked about crap rather a lot, and when I say crap I actually mean crap. A real positive to come out of the meeting from my (selfish) perspective: I'll be meeting one of the women for lunch tomorrow. There's also a woman who goes tramping regularly; that's something I wouldn't mind getting into - it has all kinds of benefits: exercise, meeting people, seeing parts of the city and country that you otherwise wouldn't, exposure to vitamin D, and much more besides.

When I got home I gave my brother a ring. He's about to go away on a two-week trip for his new marine security job. He'll be paid handsomely - £4000 - danger money I suppose.

Yesterday I acquired a new boss at work. He's originally from China - for some reason the Chinese gravitate towards these kinds of professions - and has a two-letter surname that, despite its brevity, I'm unsure of how to pronounce. Friday was a particularly weird day at work. We had our elevenses at 11:11 on 11/11/11, while my actual work was the financial equivalent of deciding which games and goals to arbitrarily exclude to make a football team's league table position look semi-respectable. I was more than happy to publish the real data but my boss and his boss clearly weren't.

The weekend was one of contrasting weather - a vile Saturday followed by a gloriously sunny (and verging on hot) Sunday. The pleasant weather continued into yesterday. The highlight of my weekend - if you can call it that - was my attempt at house-hunting. I looked at three places, but none of them were really suitable. The last place needed earthquake strengthening.

A got a text from Phil about the annual pétanque tournament on Waiheke. He lost in the final for the third year running! I don't know who beat their team in the final but I bet it was Patrick, the dreadlocked Frenchman whose teeth are a mixture of yellow, brown and non-existent.

Berlusconi has gone. Hooray! (even if it did take a debt crisis to get shot of that megalomaniac).

The general election is a week and a half away. It doesn't seem long since the last one. To be honest I don't think it matters much who wins, although I will vote nonetheless (for whom I really don't know). Since I've lived in New Zealand I've felt gradually less attached to the political process, even if I've moved to within a stone's throw of where it all happens. As for the referendum on our voting system, that's a much easier decision for me. I'll be voting to keep MMP. Sure it needs the odd tweak (some restriction on defeated electorate candidates remaining in parliament through their party list would be nice, and I'd no longer allow parties who win an electorate but gain less than 5% of the party vote to get their full allocation of seats). But a return to first-past-the-post (which looks like the only alternative in the running) where some votes are vastly more important than others, and a party can govern with fewer votes than its defeated rival, would surely be a step backwards.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Tomorrow is 11/11/11, a rather striking date when you see it on the page. We'll see nothing like it again in our lifetime. What's more, it's one of those rare occasions when the crazy date format they use in America works just fine. At work we'll be celebrating this once-in-a-century event with a morning tea at 11:11 (when else?); the Brits might call it elevenses.

Life has been fairly uneventful since my parents came to stay. Last Tuesday I felt a bit down after work because it seemed I was locked into my current job for ever. My low mood didn't last long.

I guess the only news of any significance is my first real attempt to buy a house. I put in a tender for that Lego-style place in Hataitai. Expecting to be miles short of the accepted offer, my tender of $325,000 was "only" $10,000 shy.

Monday, October 31, 2011


The world population has reached seven billion, give or take a few New Zealands. It's still growing scarily quickly, although not exponentially (a lot of people use that word without knowing what it means). To give some idea of how fast it has grown:

If you're 10 today, there were 6.22 billion people in the world when you entered it
If you're 20 today......................5.41 billion
If you're 30 today......................4.56 billion
If you're 40 today......................3.79 billion
If you're 50 today......................3.11 billion
If you're 60 today......................2.59 billion
If you're 70 today......................2.33 billion
If you're 80 today......................2.10 billion
If you're 90 today......................1.89 billion
If you're 100 today....................1.76 billion

Mum and Dad spent the weekend with me; they flew back this afternoon. Just like last time we were lucky with the weather. We looked at a couple of open homes (for me), visited Te Papa briefly, had dinner with my cousin, ate at a Thai restaurant the other night, did a lot of walking, and played two games of Scrabble, neither of which went well for me. My parents seem to enjoy Wellington - they'll be coming up this way again in early December. Overall it was a pretty good weekend.

Both the places I looked at are up for tender, with the same deadline day (this Thursday). They both had serious promise. The first was a three-bedroom flat in Aro Valley; it was the first time I'd been to that area which has a slightly bohemian feel. It had a lot going for it but two problems - it's probably out my price range and it doesn't get a lot of sun. The second flat was a smaller (and more affordable) two-bedroom one in Hataitai, part of a rather bizarre-looking Disney-style complex built in the sixties. I didn't expect much but was pleasantly surprised when I ventured beyond the weird exterior. It was actually very nice inside and I might be tempted to put a conditional tender in.

We had the autism group tonight. A turnout of nine including two new people. There was a wide range of topics as always. One young woman there was an exceptionally good French speaker, far better than me. The pronunciation of "vase" somehow came up: this poem tells us all how we should say it:

Some greet with lusty “Rah”s
A reference to a vase.
Another bares his claws
At folks who don’t say vase.
But many use the phrase,
“Please put these in a vase,”
While still a stronger case
We now can make a vase.

I discovered Foster the People today. I really like Pumped Up Kicks. With one YouTube view for every 200 people on the planet, it must have had a lot of airplay, but I hadn't heard it until today. Which planet have I been living on?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I can't say I enjoyed the final - it was too tense for that. Things didn't go according to the script at all. Something must have been wrong with Piri Weepu - he would have struggled to hit a barn door from ten feet - and when Aaron Cruden had to go off I knew we were in for a nail-biting evening. Then up stepped Stephen Donald (who had never played in a World Cup match before!) to kick his penalty two inches inside the upright. The French played an absolute blinder and scored almost immediately after; the All Blacks somehow clung on to their single-point advantage for the next half-hour. The match could so easily have slipped from their grasp but considering how well they played throughout the tournament, they deserved the win. I was hugely impressed with the French for how graciously they handled such a close loss after being the better side in the second half. Dusautoir was a worthy man-of-the-match. As for the IRB fining the French team for their challenge to the Haka, that's serious overkill but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

Overall the tournament has been a real success, helped greatly by Kiwis' passion for rugby, their willingness to get behind some of the smaller teams, and the Pacific Island population who supported their teams with such fervour. On one of my lunch breaks I almost got crushed in a Samoan sandwich in the central city. My only regret from the final is missing out on some betting opportunities with the TAB. I haven't bet on sports for years, and would really think twice before betting on a sport like rugby where my knowledge is pretty sketchy. But $3.80 on a close All Black win - by twelve points or less - looked overpriced to me. Another one that stood out was a "race to ten points". The ABs were clear favourites to reach ten points before France did. However the third possibility - that neither side would ever get to double figures - paid a whopping $50.

Good news - I got my lease extended until 18th February. Tomorrow I'll be taking a look at a flat in Mount Cook.

Last night I spoke to my brother - he's currently based in Poole on the south coast but has just bough a one-bedroom apartment in St Ives, where we grew up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's been a long week at work...

so it's just as well we've now got a long weekend.

The World Cup has almost reached its dénouement. Kicking off soon is the Bronze Final, which is a contradiction in terms really. I'd just call it a third-place play-off, but it has to have a snazzy name these days, even if it makes little sense. It's a bit of a meaningless game (and why does it have to be at Eden Park?) but there seems to be slightly more riding on it than usual. I'll watch it and hope it's a good game (that Wales win).

As for the big one, well I think France are extremely lucky to be there. I've heard some people say, "they're in the final so they deserve to be there" but I don't subscribe to that view. That's like saying the guy (or girl) who nicked my car in early 2010 deserves to have it. Tonga beat them in one of the all-time great upsets (which I was privileged to see in person), and if the schedule had been fairer on the less-fancied teams they might also have beaten Canada, in which case France would have been on the plane three weeks ago. Before the tournament I talked to one of my work colleagues (who unlike me actually knows something about rugby); we estimated the All Blacks' chances of lifting the trophy at 45%. Now I'd say it was twice that. The ABs look very businesslike in their approach; they're taking nothing for granted. There's always the possibility Les Bleus will pull something out of the bag, but I don't see it happening. The French theme tune to this World Cup is "On ira tous au paradis". I think the ABs will send France à l'enfer in a 28-10 win.

In other sport Birmingham had a sublime win in Bruges last night. Pablo Ibáñez, one of Blues' defenders, suffered a nasty head injury and was stretchered off after a lengthy stoppage in play. Then in the 100th minute (how often can you say that?) up popped Chris Wood to give Blues a famous 2-1 win, the first ever by an English club in Bruges. Several thousand Birmingham fans made the trip to Belgium; they would have gone crazy at the end of the match I reckon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Compatibility issues

I went swimming tonight at the Freyberg pool as I now do every Tuesday. As mentioned at last night's autism group, the Germanness of the pool's name is apt: ve vill not haf fun in ze pool. All the lanes were busy, right from the aqua-jogging (a.k.a. swogging) lane to the slow, medium and fast swimming lanes to the swim squad lanes. I stuck firmly to the slow lane of course.

Last night's group was great actually. There were two very nice new people and a lot of very enjoyable (and at times quite amusing) conversation. It's a real joy to see someone's face light up when they are excited about a particular topic, as happened on a few occasions last night. I'd really like to get to know some of them better, preferably by meeting up outside the fortnightly sessions.

The meeting came at a good time for me. Yesterday was a bit stressful with the realisation that I might have to be out of this flat soon. My lease expires on 15th November; the flat has just been sold, the new owners still want tenants but, as I found out yesterday, on a one-year contract. That's a hell of a long time. Far too long for me. If I can negotiate something in the coming days, great, otherwise I'll have to be out of here pretty sharpish. A pain in the butt really because I was happy to stay here for the time being, just without the inflexibility of being locked in for so long.

Also increasing my stress levels was a phone call I got on Friday with a potential offer of an actuarial job, subject to an interview. In February following my can-we-just-get-this-over-with actuarial interview (not the one for my current job) I promised to myself I'd never have another such interview. Declining the offer (which I did today) was the only sensible option, for a whole raft of reasons. Today, by the way, is the sixth monthiversary of my job. When I started I had serious doubts as to whether I'd survive that long. I should however mention that I achieved absolutely nothing at work either yesterday or today, so I'm surviving but that's about it.

On Thursday I met somebody I hadn't seen since I was nine. Rose came from Temuka - her parents were friends with mine when we lived there - but now lives in Wellington. She's single and works as an art teacher. My mum and her aunt (I think) swapped our phone numbers. It was funny meeting up with someone I hadn't seen for 22 years and wouldn't know from a bar of soap. We were in the café on Cuba Street for a couple of hours - longer than I'd planned. We had a coffee and a small meal; we got on OK but I ran out of things to say. We agreed to meet up again some time, probably to see one of the many live bands in Wellington. Then on Saturday Rose rang me to say that it was good that we met but that "nothing romantic would come of this - we're not that compatible". This was a bit of a surprise comment because I'd never suggested anything like that, but I think she was concerned our families were trying to hook us up.

As I was writing this, I got a call from my parents; they're coming up for a quick visit the weekend after next, having snagged flights from Timaru through Air New Zealand's reverse auction for a very cheap $78 return for the two of them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's crunch time!

A few hours from now, Australia and New Zealand will square off in their eagerly-anticipated clash. When it comes to trans-Tasman rivalry, it doesn't get any bigger than this. At about 8:30pm our time, Nigel Richards of New Zealand takes on Andrew Fisher of Australia in the final of the World Scrabble Championship in Poland.

If you think Scrabble is a frivolous activity compared to that other game taking place at the same time, think again. At the elite level, Scrabble is War. And what could be a more natural basis for war than the English language? I use the English language every day without thinking about it. When it comes to putting my head up some poor bloke's bum in a scrum, on the other hand, that would require very serious thought on my part. In actual fact, competitive Scrabble bears little resemblance to the English language as we know it; I think the game could benefit from a cull of so-called words like QI and ZO from its official dictionary. I enjoy Scrabble, on the odd occasions that I play it, but I'd never consider playing it competitively because learning long lists of words (or more accurately, combinations of letters) leaves me cold.

Nigel Richards won the biennial event in 2007 (from over 100 players) and was runner-up two years ago. So that's three successive finals for the Kiwis (in contrast to that odd-shaped-ball game in which NZ haven't made the final since 1995). They play a best-of-five-game final, having finished first and second after 34 games over five days (Nigel had 25 wins; Andrew 23). I note a Kiwi actuary finished in the top third of the final standings with 18 wins and a draw. As for tonight's final, the ABs (that's the Alpha Blacks) surely have the upper hand. New Zealand contains a ten-point letter while Australia consists solely of measly one-pointers.

Update: It's one game all in the big final, while New Zealand will be playing in another final next weekend after the All Blacks convincingly beat the Wallabies. There was a big fireworks display in central Wellington during the rugby match.

Update 2: Kiwi Nigel Richards is the world champion for the second time after winning the final by three games to two.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Allez les rouges!

I hope Wales beat France in tonight's semi-final (kick-off is forty minutes away). I tried calling my Welsh grandma after they beat Ireland last weekend (even if she wouldn't have a clue about rugby any more) but couldn't get through.

Score predictions for the two semis:
Wales 21 France 17
New Zealand 28 Australia 10.

Edit: Wales didn't make it. That match was proof, if you ever needed it, that the best team doesn't always win. France were second best by a long way in that match, but benefited greatly from that controversial red card in the opening twenty minutes. Let's hope the ABs win tomorrow and give Les Grenouilles a good hiding in the final.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I don't get it

I've never been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and I don't plan on getting a diagnosis, but lately I've been pondering a few of the things so-called "normal" people do that I find quite baffling:

1. Dancing.
I can't remember when I last danced. It was definitely in 19-something. Unlike some of the other items on my list, I really wish I did get dancing because some people really seem to enjoy it. In a way I do get it - music is extremely evocative; hear a song on the radio and I'll be transported back to where I first heard it, possibly ten or twenty years ago. Sometimes I'll involuntarily tap my foot to music I like, and dancing is just an extension of foot-tapping. But the bit I really don't understand is when everyone decides to dance in a big group at a nightclub or somewhere similar. Why there, why not at Pak 'n' Save or any of the other places you hear music? Someone once tried to explain it to me along the lines of "Pak 'n Save is shopping, nightclubs are social" but that didn't cut any ice with me.

2. Buying clothes.
This could be a man thing as much as an Aspie thing, but why do people keep buying new clothes to replace their perfectly good "old" (but really still quite new) ones? I understand that clothes serve various purposes - to keep you warm and to express oneself being two obvious ones - but buying the latest style achieves very little by way of self-expression. Plus getting rid of perfectly good clothes is very wasteful. I do buy clothes from time to time, mostly from second-hand shops or on TradeMe. On the odd occasion I buy something from a standard clothes shop, it's usually for work purposes.

3. Leaving someone's house.
When I was growing up, I could never understand why someone would say "right, I'd better be off now" at 8:30 and still bloody well be there at five to nine. It still confuses me now. What is it, some kind of game? If so, how come nobody explained the rules to me.

4. Watching sport on TV.
I watch less sport than I used to, but the rugby World Cup has made me think of this. I've never seen the attraction of watching sport on TV in a large group, such as in a pub, when I can do so from the comfort of my home where I can see the screen and hear the commentary but can't smell other people's bodies.

5. Weddings.
Do I really have to elaborate? One of the (male!) presenters on breakfast TV recently said "weddings, they're just so much fun" and I had to switch over. However, if a really close friend of mine were ever to get married, I'd be so happy for that person that I'm sure I'd find the occasion a very joyous one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Six hundred to one

On Saturday I saw the game between France and Tonga with my cousin, her husband and their three boys. It was some game, and quite an upset, with Tonga the deserved victors. There was a great atmosphere inside the ground, perhaps helped by the unexpected path the match took. Despite living almost a year of my life in France I was more than happy that the Tongans won; what a shame they lost to Canada earlier in the tournament - three wins would have seen them qualify for the quarter-finals at France's expense. A quick Google search told me that Tonga's population is just over 100,000 while France have 600 times more people and it's not as if they don't care about rugby there. That gives you some idea of the scale of what Tonga achieved.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Turbulent times at Timaru airport

I'm back in Wellington now after recharging my batteries on the South Island. Yesterday when I arrived at Timaru airport, it was all rather confusing. I couldn't even find the international terminal and it wasn't at all clear which zone to check in at. My flight was due to take off in half an hour; would I make it? I searched for a long snaking check-in queue, which would inevitably be for my flight, but I couldn't find one. I did however see what looked like a check-in desk and tried to attract someone's attention. Eventually a bloke came out and took my piece of paper while I dumped my bag on a set of glorified bathroom scales. He then handed me my boarding pass: I would be seated in 1F. Wow. The front row! Is that business class? No, the very front row is first class, surely. That must be what the F stands for. I saw a few other planes take off and land, mostly with no passengers, then I fancied a coffee. There was a coffee machine but no information as to how I was supposed to pay for my beverage. Credit card or cash? Which currencies did they accept? Maybe if I put one of the paper cups under the nozzle and press the flat white button, something will flash up on the screen. Would you believe it? Free coffee came out!

It was soon time to board the plane. As it turned out, the F didn't stand for first class, and it wasn't even business class. What's worse (on a sunny day like yesterday), I didn't even get a window. But boy what a stress-free way of flying it was. If only all airports could be like that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rugby World Cup thoughts

Mum and Dad have Sky so I've watched a few games since Saturday, and to my slight surprise I've enjoyed at least some of what I've seen. I'm pretty clueless about rugby - it seems a very unnatural game to me - but I've got some idea about formats and scheduling of competitions, and in that regard the World Cup could do better.

1. One of the Samoan blokes (the coach?) said the schedule discriminates against the less-fancied teams, and he's dead right. It's particularly tough on the better less-fancied teams like Samoa who have a realistic chance of progressing to the knockout stages. The best sides play all their games at the weekends, giving them nice seven-day intervals between matches, while the weaker teams face four-day turnarounds. They should follow their football World Cup where they play two games from Pool A, then two from B, then two from C...
Admittedly five-team pools make matters more complicated (one team will have to finish their pool games before the other four) but the current schedule, which heavily favours the best teams, could be vastly improved upon.

2. Why did they make the draw years in advance of the tournament? So much can change in two years; good teams can become average and vice-versa. For instance Argentina, who were ranked fourth when the draw was made, are now (I think) ninth! In the interest of fairness (to avoid a big imbalance in the strength of the pools) they should again take a leaf out of football's book and do the draw eight months or so prior to the competition.

3. Yes I know Christchurch had a series of catastrophic earthquakes that meant they couldn't play there, but shutting the whole of the South Island out of the knockout stages of the World Cup is, in my opinion, shocking. They spent serious money on the stadium in Dunedin, which has so far been a big success, so why aren't they playing one of the quarter-finals down there? OK its capacity is "only" 40,000 but for just one quarter-final I don't see that being a problem.

4. Once again there have been too many blowouts. I'm not a big enough rugby fan to appreciate all the amazing play involved when South Africa thrash Namibia. Cutting the number of teams to sixteen could help (and would certainly help some of the scheduling issues) but a better solution would be for the "lesser" sides to become more competitive by playing more matches at an international level.

For all that, the World Cup has clearly been a big success so far, and any criticism or advice that I offer should come with a big "I don't really understand rugby" disclaimer.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fiddling the fudge factor

On Saturday afternoon I took a 19-seater plane from Wellington to Timaru. It made flying seem so easy. I didn't have to arrive at the airport three hours early, take my shoes and belt off or have all my deodorant confiscated. In fact, to my surprise, there was no security at all. Wellington looked stunning from the plane but then it clouded over so I couldn't see much, but we flew right over Temuka - and the cemetery where my grandparents are buried - as we came in. It was noisier and more jerky than a 737 but a pleasant enough flight and so much more convenient than flying to Christchurch, to say nothing of international air travel.

That evening we went to Woodbury for my uncle's 70th birthday and to watch the All Blacks take on France. There was a big crowd, big enough to make watching the rugby a less than enjoyable experience for me. There was considerable variety in how much people cared about the game, from life-or-death All Blacks fanaticism to "it would be quite nice if France won, actually." When it became obvious that the men in black would win comfortably I sidled off to the next room which acted as a chill-out lounge.

Yesterday Mum, Dad and I drove to Moeraki, or close to there, stopping off at Oamaru with its quite spectactular stone buildings, Kakanui for a tasty lunch, and Timaru to drop in on family. Last night we watched a cracking rugby game between Argentina and Scotland (getting excited about rugby, whatever next?), Argentina scoring a late converted try, the only try of the game, to sneak home 13-12. So far (to my mind) there has been an inverse relationship between try-scoring and excitement. The game was played in the driving rain of Wellington; a wonderful advert for the city.

I'm grateful for these three days off work. Things got a little awkward last week. My boss seems to have it in for me regarding our draconian clear-desk policy. Sometimes I'll arrive in the morning to find everything, however innocuous, has been whisked off my desk by my boss, into a locked cabinet somewhere. It's annoying and embarrassing having to ask him for it back every time, particularly as my next-door colleague leaves more (and more sensitive) paperwork on his desk than I ever do and nobody bats an eyelid. I've now set up a daily alert in Outlook to remind me to lock everything away before I leave for the day, otherwise I'll keep forgetting: at that time of day all I think about is going home. As far as my actually work is concerned, it gets more bizarre by the week. If things don't add up, I'm required to introduce a fudge factor, and if I have to change something so that the fudge factor no longer works, I'm then required to fiddle the fudge factor. Before long I've lost track of what's real and what's imaginary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care

That's a quote from Office Space - great movie - when Peter has a meeting with the two Bobs, and it's a quote that applies to me in my job. Another quote which applies to me is " only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job." Sometimes even the fear of being fired isn't enough to motivate me. Not only does what I do on a day-to-day basis not matter to me; I can't quite fathom that there are other people in the office for whom it clearly does matter. People who think about work outside work! It's a weird situation I'm in, just going through the motions in what is supposed to be some big spiffy career job, although it doesn't seem that weird to me because I'm so used to it.

It would be really cool to feel that I was good at my job. I did get that feeling when I worked on the earthquake claims, and that made me feel good about myself. Because the quakes had caused so much mayhem I felt I was helping somebody somewhere, and it was obvious what I had to do when I turned up in the morning, so I went ahead and did it. In contrast in the last two weeks (and the rest if I'm honest) in my big spiffy job I've been all at sea. I don't know what goes where, I can't seem to remember a damn thing (not caring probably doesn't help there) and most of the output I have produced has been somewhere between dodgy and hopelessly wrong. My boss is partly to blame - he isn't a great communicator so I'm often left in the dark - but mostly the problem is me, and recognising that isn't great for my self-esteem.

One fringe benefit of my job is that I got to see a World Cup game on Saturday - South Africa against Fiji. On Friday an email was sent around the office; six free single tickets were up for grabs. I got my hands on one of them; I benefited from the lack of demand for single tickets. On Saturday I wasn't really in the mood for watching rugby, but I took a longish walk to the stadium and got there as the anthems were playing. The atmosphere was good at the start - all the non-South African fans were behind Fiji and for the first twenty minutes it was nip-and-tuck, but then the Boks got a try, then another try, then another try... In the second half I lost interest but I was glad I saw the game - it would have cost me $120 had I bought the ticket. I got the shuttle bus back to Courtenay Place, got a very tasty butter chicken from Taste of India, and watched Ireland's shock win over Australia on telly. Gee whiz.

On Friday they had drinks after work, taking in the All Blacks match with Japan which kicked off at eight. I went home for dinner then joined my colleagues in town as the game started but I wish I'd stayed at home. Being in a crowded pub with work colleagues who have been drinking for three hours is a recipe for stress.

Last night we had the autism group. I really enjoyed it; we had a smallish turnout (five?) which actually helped my enjoyment of the session I think.

This Saturday I'm flying to Timaru and will be taking three days off work. I'm looking forward to both the flight (which in such a small plane will have some novelty value) and spending some time with my parents.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hail Mary (and some Grand Slam miscellany)

Wellington was pelted by a hail storm this lunchtime; the stones were the size of peas and quickly blanketed the street outside my work. Apparently this was a once-in-a-decade event, which means I can pencil in golf-ball-sized hailstones for next Wednesday.

Two drama-filled finals rounded out this year's US Open. Yesterday Serena lost it (her temper and the match) against Sam Stosur. She told the umpire she was "unattractive on the inside", among other things, after making a (correct) ruling against her following an ill-timed "come on!" before the point was over. A shame because it took some of the attention away from Stosur who played an absolute blinder by all accounts to pick up her first grand slam title. Serena was fined $2500 which is a bit like fining me a fiver.

This morning Djokovic outlasted Nadal in a four-hour-plus breakathon. It would have been a joy to watch I'm sure. Djokovic had come back from the brink to defeat Federer in the semis - two sets and two match points. Since the turn of the century, a remarkable number of grand slam champions have won their titles having been a solitary point from elimination. Here's the list, which took a fair bit of Googling for me to come up with (and I hope I haven't left any out):

Roland Garros 2001: Gustavo Kuerten saved one MP in the 3rd set of his 4th-round match against Michael Russell. 
Australian Open 2002: Jennifer Capriati saved four MPs against Martina Hingis in the 2nd set of the final – one at 5-3, two at 6-5 and another in the tie-break. 
Australian Open 2003: Serena Williams came from 5-1 down in the 3rd set of her semi-final against Kim Clijsters, saving two MPs at 5-2. 
US Open 2003: Andy Roddick saved one MP in the 3rd-set tie-break in his semi-final against David Nalbandian.
Roland Garros 2004: Anastasia Myskina saved one MP at 6-5 in the 3rd set of her 4th-round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Roland Garros 2004: Gaston Gaudio saved two MPs against Guillermo Coria at 6-5 in the 5th set of the final.
Australian Open 2005: Serena Williams saved three MPs in the 3rd set of her semi-final against Maria Sharapova.
Australian Open 2005: Marat Safin saved one MP in the 4th-set tie-break in his semi-final against Roger Federer.
Roland Garros 2005: Justine Henin saved two MPs in the 3rd set of her 4th-round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Wimbledon 2005: Venus Williams saved one MP against Lindsay Davenport at 6-5 in the 3rd set of the final.
Wimbledon 2009: Serena Williams saved one MP in the 3rd set of her semi-final against Elena Dementieva.
US Open 2011: Novak Djokovic saved two MPs in the 5th set of his semi-final against Roger Federer.
Australian Open 2014: Li Na saved one MP in the 2nd set of her 3rd-round match against Lucie Safarova.
Australian Open 2016: Angelique Kerber saved one MP in the 2nd-set tie-break in her 1st-round match against Misaki Doi.
US Open 2016: Stan Wawrinka saved one MP in the 4th-set tie-break in his 3rd-round match against Daniel Evans.

(Last updated 12/9/16)

An honourable mention goes to men's Wimbledon 2001: Rafter was two points from defeat against Agassi in the semis, Ivanisevic was two points from defeat against Henman in their semi, and then Goran was again two points from defeat against Pat before lifting the trophy.

In other sports news, Kiwi Chris Wood scored a hat-trick for Birmingham as they beat Millwall 3-0 on Sunday night.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I've just watched the World Cup match between South Africa and Wales. Really good game, just a shame Wales quite get over the line, so to speak. When Wales had a penalty kick bizarrely ruled as a miss when it looked perfectly good to me, they were destined to lose by three points or fewer. The match was played in Wellington; I saw plenty of supporters of both sides in town today. "Wales have the wind at their backs, no South Africa do..." Ha! Welcome to Wellington.

The terrorist attacks on America happened ten years ago today. I remember that horrific Tuesday afternoon (as it was for me) very well. I'd had a pretty dreadful summer with the panic attacks and had just got things back on an even keel; I was working nights sorting mail to the tune of Kylie Minogue's I Can't Get You Out of My Head so I was at home during the day. At about 2pm my grandmother called to tell Dad and I that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. We switched on the TV and saw the second plane hit. It was mindblowing to see that live and the world changed for ever because of it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Life in the slow lane

After work on Monday (83% blokes in our team), I attended the Wellington autism group where there were 100% blokes. All eight of us. You could pretty much cut the testosterone with a knife (not really). It was a good session though and we were graced my Matt Frost's presence. So he does exist in real life after all!

I felt I hadn't been getting enough exercise so on Tuesday I swam for the first time at the Freyberg pool. It was very different to anything I was used to. No lilos, no kids, definitely no fun. The pool is roped off into lanes for every one of the 15 hours a day it's open; the lanes are marked as fast, medium and slow. I swam in the slow lane most of the time, sometimes moving to medium. Even though it was hardly relaxing, I liked the 33-metre pool and will try and go once a week from now on. I'd definitely had a workout but man was I hungry afterwards.

I've lived in New Zealand nearly eight years and still haven't got my head around Kiwis' attitude to physical pursuits, especially swimming, cycling and running, the disciplines that make up the triathlon (and boy do they love their triathlons here). In the UK I used to ride a bike to, heaven forbid, get from one place to another. That's almost a foreign concept in New Zealand; here everyone is dressed in their Lycras, primed for Serious Exercise. OK, some people ride their bikes to work, but it still seems to be more an exercise thing than an A-to-B thing. I noticed this week, advertised in big letters in a shop window, a sports bike that was reduced from about 2½ times what I paid for my car to only 1¾. I remember when I lived in Bayswater in 2004 I used to drive along Lake Road (on the North Shore) in my '84 Bluebird, amazed at the speeds people got up to on their bikes.

Last night some kind of World Cup thingy started in Auckland. There was a great sense of occasion there - the rugby was almost a sideshow as far as I was concerned - but all the public transport issues helped confirm what I've thought for some time, that as a 21st-century city Auckland doesn't function.

Last Saturday I had a look (from the outside only) at one or two houses in Hataitai and Miramar. I still need to get a bit more serious.

Friday, September 2, 2011

We need to talk about it

Suicide. More people die that way in New Zealand than on the roads, and the deaths are just as preventable, but it's almost a taboo subject. Our attitude needs to change, otherwise we'll continue to see over 500 people a year taking their own lives, as it appears a member of the Auckland autism group did last month.

One theory I had for our high suicide rate was high gun ownership rates, especially for men who live in remote areas, but some figures I saw last week - yes, the topic is finally receiving media coverage - did not include shooting as a common method. Here's an article I saw yesterday, suggesting a link between antidepressants and youth suicide.

In other disturbing news, an 88-year-old man from the Wellington suburb of Newtown - not far from me - was found in his apartment, having been dead for a year. It's a shocking indictment of the society we now live in. If and when I buy a property, I'll make sure I pop in on my neighbours from time to time.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lacking motivation - and business speak that drives me barmy

I need to look at places to live (my lease runs out in ten weeks) and I need to get out and meet new people, but for whatever reason I can't get my butt into gear. And as for my motivation at work, the less said about that the better. It all seems gloriously pointless, and it could really get me down if I let it.

On Monday our replacement for the six-foot-five Samoan bloke arrived. I can't quite pick her age but I think it starts with a two. She's worked at half of the Big Four and doesn't lack self-confidence. The way she was talking today, you'd think it was her fourth year at the company, not her fourth day, but that's Gen Y for you.

Now for some words and phrases I hear all the time at work and wish I didn't:

Touch base: as soon as someone says this (which for some of my colleagues is every other sentence) I totally switch off from whatever else they might be talking about. I don't let anyone touch my base. Ever. Where does this phrase come from? Some say baseball. My knowledge of baseball is sketchy but I don't think the phrase "touch base" is actually used in the game, and when a player does touch a base, he does so alone, not with anybody. My theory is that the phrase comes from expeditions, where you would make contact with base camp.

Migrate: a good word describing something quite exciting. Birds, animals, and sometimes people do it. But computer data doesn't, goddammit! "At close of play on Friday all the TFI data will migrate from the ABC system to the XYZ system." No it won't. It'll move. Or shift.

Populate: this one's very similar to "migrate". The word comes from the same root as "people", although there's no reason why you shouldn't apply it to rats or even trees. But populating the cells in a spreadsheet?! Ugh.

It is what it is: what does this even mean? I'll hazard a guess that it means precisely bugger all, apart from maybe "who cares?". People use this phrase to sound deeply philosophical, but to me it just sounds bloody annoying.

Chillax: this isn't business speak, but I've heard it at work a few times so I'm including it. This "word" is real fingernails-on-a-blackboard stuff. And what's more, unlike "chill" or "relax", it doesn't sound particularly soothing. In fact it sounds like a weapon that could do serious damage.

K: in writing, K is a handy abbreviation for "thousand", but it's people talking about K that I don't like, and I can't quite put my finger on why.

FYI: again, a useful abbreviation, sometimes employed by Inuit who've had enough of the whole eskimo thing and proclaim: F*** Your Igloo. Most often you see FYI in an email, used in a similar fashion to "NB". Occasionally you see it used as a noun: "just as a quick FYI, stop touching my base." But yesterday I heard someone use it as a verb: "I was eff-why-eyed into that email." Eww.

Birmingham have Chris Wood - a Kiwi - playing for them. He's now scored in two consecutive matches. Take a look at this goal, the third in Blues' win over Nacional last week. It's just like watching Brazil.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rampant Redmond!

Rampant is a cool word. I remember Norwich had a street called Rampant Horse Street, which is a damn good name for a street if you ask me. Anyway, rampant is a word that's been used to describe Birmingham's display in their 3-0 win over Nacional, in particular 17-year-old Nathan Redmond (airborne in the picture below) who scored the opening goal.

Blues have now qualified for the "real" stages of the Europa League, and will play six games between now and Christmas, two each against Brugge (or Bruges if you prefer), Braga (of Portugal) and Maribor (of Slovenia). If they somehow come through all that (by finishing first or second in the four-team group), a knockout stage will ensue. This is Blues' first foray into Europe in half a century and to be making these trips from outside the Premier League makes the experience arguably even more special. Birmingham will now play a minimum of 56 matches this season, while the maximum is a (totally pie-in-the-sky) 82!

By the way I visited Bruges once, when I was seven. The last time I saw Blues play was in 2002 - they beat Watford 3-2 after leading 3-0. They won promotion that season, beating Norwich on penalties in the play-off final.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sod the Blacks, come on you Blues!

I've got my hands on a rugby World Cup ticket. France v Tonga on 1st October with my cousin, her husband, two of their boys and a friend of theirs. Even though I'm not big on rugby (at all), I can't imagine New Zealand getting the World Cup again for a very long time (and even then it'll probably be as some joint effort with Australia) so I'd like to at least say that I went. None of the others are big rugby fans either, so we sensibly avoided the overpriced All Blacks tickets. We didn't fancy forking out three figures each to watch them thrash Canada 76-7 or whatever.

Changing to the spherical ball, Birmingham City (a team I saw play a handful of times and probably my favourite team) are playing in Europe this season. They won last season's Carling Cup with a fine 2-1 win over Arsenal in the final, only to get relegated from the Premier League a couple of months later. But lifting the cup got them a place in the Europa League play-offs. Last week they travelled to Madeira to take on Nacional; the game finished goalless after Blues hit the woodwork three times. The return leg is in Birmingham early tomorrow morning (my time). It's really a toss-up (Blues have home advantage but the away goals rule means that any score draw would send Nacional through). If they do make it through, Blues will be guaranteed six more games in Europe. Some fixture congestion perhaps, but a lot of fun. I hope they do it.

Some Wellington pictures

Wellington's winter wonderland has at last disappeared, making way for a mild, sunny last few days. Here are three pictures taken (on a grey day) very close to where I live. The first is a view of the Basin Reserve, probably the most famous cricket ground in New Zealand, snapped from the ninth (and top) floor of my apartment block. I can see the scoreboard from my flat, so if an exciting situation appears to be brewing I'll be able to watch the action for free (with the help of binoculars) from the top floor. That's if I'm still living in this flat when the cricket season comes around.

The other two photos are of graffiti, street art, call it what you will. There's no shortage of it in Wellington, and if you can get past the mindless tagging, some of it is actually rather good. Both of these examples are by BMD whose fantastical animals make him (as far as I'm concerned) the man. The second "arms race" piece is fifty feet across.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Too young

It's been a strange week. First the weird Wellington weather just got weirder as snow fell in the city for the first time since 1976. None of it settled where I live or work, but some of my colleagues, who live higher up, got a fair old coating of the white stuff. It was pretty cool actually to see it fall from our office window on Monday - it was like being a kid again.

On Tuesday I got an email from Mandy, my ex-colleague from Auckland, telling me she'd had a decent-sized win on Lotto. She didn't give a figure at first, so I replied asking if she'll let me drive her new Aston Martin the next time I'm in Auckland. In all honesty I expected her prize to be in the hundreds or lowish four figures, but in fact she won $40,000! While not exactly life-changing it'll be a huge boost to her, especially after everything she and her family have been through. Her prize came from a must-be-won draw of Bullseye, a game where you have to pick a number from 0 to 999,999. Nobody won the top prize (for getting the number spot-on) and the second prize (for getting within five) wasn't won either. So the jackpot was split ten ways among the third-division winners of which Mandy was one.

After receiving such happy news the previous day, on Wednesday I found out that one of the younger members of the Auckland autism group had sadly died two weeks earlier. He crashed is car into an oncoming truck at Dairy Flat, north of Auckland. It is likely that he did so deliberately. He had a number of quite complex conditions that certainly made life difficult for him. On that one day earlier in the month, he perhaps decided it was all too much. He also attended the men's depression group from time to time. I met him several times; I never got to know him that well but he always seemed a pleasant enough chap to talk to. He just needed some help. As Richard said to me in a text, perhaps he is finally at peace. He was just 23.

At Saturday's autism group they remembered him and also Emma who would have turned thirty last weekend.

Life most certainly is precious. I have the utmost admiration for those who help people with mental health and other problems. They have a very challenging job and for some reason society doesn't recognise this; most mental health workers are badly paid. Although I'm hardly coining it in my job, when you consider how little of any consequence I achieve, my pay is obscenely high.

This afternoon I rang Bazza for his birthday. He doesn't have a lot of friends so it's important that I stay in touch with him.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's snow joke

I'm hunkering down in my Wellington pad (what a great word "hunker" is) with the temperature hovering at just one degree. We had a few flurries of snow this afternoon - not an everyday occurrence on even a once-a-decade one. The sun did come out earlier in the day but since then it's felt like England in February.

Great news: Common sense has finally prevailed in the Arie Smith-Voorkamp case (the Asperger's chap who "looted" those two light bulbs after the Christchurch quake). The police have "dropped it". Thank heavens for that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My parents' stay and one ring to rule them all

Mum and Dad spent four nights in Wellington last week and flew back to Timaru yesterday morning. We got on really well, maybe because I was at work all day and only saw them in the evenings! They really liked Wellington - it was the first time they'd spent more than a day here - and they said what I've been thinking in the last few weeks: all things being equal (which they rarely are), Wellington is miles better to live/work/eat/sleep in than Auckland. You can be yourself here more easily, it's got a soul that Auckland desperately lacks, and everything is far more convenient: the waterfront, shops, markets, eateries, bars, cinemas, theatres, etc.
Now I just need someone to experience all that stuff with. There are two problems I face: (1) people are scary, and (2) when I'm depressed I don't give a damn about "stuff". However I'm currently in my longest non-depressive spell for months.

We ate out twice, once at a tasty Thai and on Friday at an even tastier Italian. Those would be two of my three eating-out choices, the third being the rather bog-standard fish and chips. On Thursday we saw Soap at the St James. We were in the "cheap" seats (which at $50 they hardly were) at the front of the back section, if that makes sense. But as the show started everyone gradually moved forward to fill any gaps in the rows in front of them. Apparently it's tradition at the St James to do that; in my (limited) experience if you've got tickets for row J or whatever, you have to stay there. We did advance a few rows once we'd figured out what was happening, then it was on with the show. I didn't know what to expect, but it wasn't what we got. I guess I expected more water, some bubble bath, you know, soap. What we did get was an enjoyable mix of comedy and circus. We wondered if the performers were Russian gymnasts who didn't quite make the team. My favourite part (there were many contenders) was the woman who lay on top of a bathtub and juggled various objects with her feet.

After telling Mum and Dad how bad my flat was, they were pleasantly surprised. I think lowering their expectations (to almost zero) was a good move on my part. On Saturday I took them to the airport - a seven-minute trip which impressed them. Hopefully they'll be back fairly soon, and I can get a not-too-expensive flight to Timaru in the near future.

At 3:30 yesterday, disaster struck. I shut my front door behind me, and instantly I knew what I'd done. Shit. I'd locked myself out. After some serious fannying around (making phone calls, leaving messages in desperation, wondering if there was a caretaker with a master key, thinking of ways to force my way in, and finding out how much a locksmith would cost) I found one of the property managers' landline number in the White Pages. Some more farting around ensued but she got the spare key out of the office on Courtenay Place. I met her there; she charged me $50. A locksmith would have been about $250. I still had my car keys and was tempted to spend two nights in my car if I was locked out until Monday. I got back into my flat at sixish. That was a drama I could have done without but it was an accident waiting to happen. Having my car keys and my arsenal of house keys on separate rings, I was asking for it. I'd nearly locked myself out several times before. I've now got one ring (to rule them all) - a lot of keys to carry around but it's the only sensible option.

This morning we had blue sky and bright sunshine, the temperature was well into the teens and people at the waterfront market seemed to think spring was on its way. By afternoon the temperature had nosedived and it was horrible out there. Despite the weird Wellington weather, I think the move to my new(ish) home will be worth it in the long run.