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.