Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Auckland: taking the plunge

I had a good long weekend in Auckland. It wasn't exciting but that was hardly the point. Actually, when I think about it, there was some excitement on Friday night. I arrived at the All Seasons Hotel in the city at about 10:30 that night. My room was on the 15th floor of 18. On the stroke of midnight, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I got a knock on the door. It was the police. Someone had jumped (or fallen) from the floor above; I hadn't seen or heard anything so I wasn't much help to the cops. Remarkably, as I later found out, the man survived after landing on the corrugated iron roof of a four-storey building.

The next morning I woke up to read about the shooting in Denver - the so-called Batman massacre. Yet another mass shooting in America. Sadly, unless they amend the Second Amendment, there will be many more.

I caught up with Richard on Saturday; we attended the autism group along with about thirty others. It was good to see some of the old faces again as well as a few new ones. The specialist subject for July was "memorabilia". I talked very briefly about my great-grandfather's writing desk which I recently inherited. Of course for some people at the group "briefly" is an alien concept. One guy always had a habit of talking at serious length no matter what the topic; he didn't disappoint this time.

My hotel wasn't far from Skycity; that evening I wandered into the casino. The bloke from the depression group had planned to fly up and play poker so I thought I might meet him there. In the end he gave it a miss but I hung around there anyway, not putting a brass razoo on any table or in any slot machine but just watching. There's something eerily fascinating about the place. From a balcony I watched a popular game involving three dice that I hadn't seen before. The dice are placed in a kind of bell and shaken up by some Shake-o-Mat machine while people bet on an array of combinations and totals. Shake-o-Mat stops, the dice man announces "two double-five" say, he presses some buttons and the winning sections of the table (in this case "even", "big", "12" and a few others) light up. I tried to calculate the casino's edge on the various bets and saw a pattern: the bets that offer the prospect of a big win tend to give the house the biggest edge. This makes sense from the punter's perspective - he turns up with $100 for a night out and some excitement, and who knows, maybe he'll get lucky and leave with $500 or $1000; he's happy to pay a bit extra for that possibility. Taken a step further, people play Lotto because they might win life-changing amounts even though they face an "edge" of maybe 40-50%.

Sunday was a horribly wet day. I met up with the Wellington autism group's previous facilitator (she moved to Auckland six months ago); we had lunch and an interesting chat at one of the bars around Britomart. Her time in Wellington was quite a stressful one; she seems more relaxed now. I haven't got as much out of the Wellington group since she left.

That evening I had dinner at Richard's flat, a ten-minute walk from Mt Eden village. He made a tasty soup and mostly we just chatted. I'd really like him to come down this way - I offered to pay for his flight.

My hotel was just opposite the place where I worked on the earthquake claims, and I half-wished I was still working there. Sure enough as I checked out on Monday I bumped into my old boss who was on a fag break. We didn't have much of a chat - he didn't seem in the mood for it.
Later that day I caught up with Mandy, my former work colleague. She bought a property a couple of months ago. She's in a relationship with a manager at work; they must have a lot of disposable income between them. When we worked together we found solidarity in our dissatisfaction with work, but while mine was with that whole working environment, hers was specific to the company. She's since found her niche I think.

I met Richard once more before catching the 7pm plane. I took yesterday off work. In the morning I took my car into VTNZ. Some of the faults they picked up at the other place have been replaced by new ones. I might simply have to bite the bullet and pay for the repairs: not having wheels is a bigger inconvenience than I imagined.

On Friday I've got an appointment with Massey - an initial consultation before possibly getting CBT. In an attempt to make up the time I stayed late at work today (smashing my PB for the number of letters sent out on one day) and will do the same tomorrow (apart from the PB bit).

Talking of PBs, the London Olympics is almost upon us. I'll tune in for the opening ceremony - I hope that, and the rest of the games, are a resounding success. My favourite Olympics so far would be Barcelona. Perhaps that's because I was only twelve so I followed it all enthusiastically. Even now I remember who won Britain's five gold medals. (I also remember who won Britain's only gold in the following games in Atlanta. I find it laughable that the Aussies fear they might only win a dozen golds this time around.)

Here's another great song by Amadou & Mariam. Knowing a bit of French helps I guess, but it's far from mandatory.

In other news, my five-month-plus cold (which never really went away) is back :(

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I've been really tired all week. Getting out of bed has been a struggle. On Tuesday when the news came on the radio (that's supposed to be some sort of cue for me to get up) I just rolled over and next thing I knew, the red digits showed eight zero zero.

I'm not planning on doing anything strenuous in Auckland. I met the six-foot-five guy, for the first time in a few weeks, at last night's depression group. It wasn't much of a group - just him and me. He suggested that I play in the $2/$3 no-limit hold 'em game at Skycity (he sometimes flies to Auckland specially for that). I might take a look at it (apparently you can watch) but I'd want to have a much better idea of how it operates (mostly around the rake) before jumping in. Besides, live poker is probably more stressful than anything I'll want to do up there.

I'm looking forward to Saturday's autism group a lot. It'll be good to catch up with Richard and the gang.

Monday, July 16, 2012


My brother has got engaged. I saw it coming but didn't expect it quite this soon. He and his fiancĂ©e will be coming to live in NZ (in Christchurch I think) in late September; they're bringing their cat with them. My future sister-in-law's line of work involves providing equipment to hospitals (I don't know the ins and outs of that, so to speak); she's got herself a similar job over here. So I'll soon be seeing my brother rather more than twice every nine years.

On a loosely related note, there was a new face - a 23-year-old woman - at Wednesday night's depression group. Every time someone new turns up I hear the same thing. They talk about their anxiety, depression and difficulty in dealing with social situations. Then in the next sentence they mention their wife/husband/fiancé(e)/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner. If meeting people is so damn hard, how come they're all in relationships? I've got three theories:
1. For some (most?) people, they need sex almost as much as they need food. No matter how severe the barriers are to finding a sexual partner, they'll overcome them somehow.
2. The mental health of the people who attend the meet-up groups isn't that bad, otherwise they wouldn't go.
3. Compared to how they were one or two or five years ago when they were the life and soul of the party, they've seen a marked increase in their social anxiety. They've noticed a decline relative to their reference point, but they're still not all that bad.

Last weekend was very much an indoor one. I went round to my cousin's place on Saturday (I did invite them to come to my flat but they declined). They've now got Sky (in time for the Olympics) and we ended up watching the Crusaders play the Force. I couldn't have cared less about the outcome (which, after a couple of dodgy video referee decisions, was never in doubt).
I should mention Andy Murray's defeat in the final of Wimbledon. He gets very emotional after a big match, win or lose. Unfortunately, in his four grand slam finals to date, it's only been lose. I've heard plenty of people say he'll never win one. I think he's more than capable of winning a couple. I'd put him in a different league to Tim Henman (Britain's last big hope); he's just that much more versatile. Henman used to need five sets in the first round, then four sets, then five again. By the second Monday, Britain was a nation of fingernail-free tennis fans. That he so often survived to make the later stages says a lot for Henman's resolve, but Murray in contrast gets through the early rounds with ease.

My car failed last week's warrant in style. Supposedly both front shock absorbers need replacing as does the driver's seat belt; also a patch of rust on the roof needs looking at. I was handed a four-figure quote - I certainly won't be paying that. I'll try taking it in somewhere else (VTNZ?) next week but until then (and quite possibly after then) I'm sans wheels. Bugger.

So I won't be popping over to see Julie tomorrow - I normally see her every Tuesday. A lot (but my no means all) of her conversation is pretty negative; sometimes she talks about doing herself in. I try to cling onto the positives but I'm no counsellor so I feel hopeless at times.

I'm flying to Auckland on Friday night. I must say I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm flying to Auckland on Friday night.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Planet Dinosaur is on telly. The commentator used the word thagomizer - which is a word for a spiky weapon that some dinosaurs had - and after hearing it a few times I thought, hey, that's not a real word! I Googled it and turns out it is a made-up word.

After staying up to watch Wimbledon two nights in a row, while still recovering from a cold, I feel like I've been thagomized. On Friday I watched Federer's upset four-set win over Djokovic who wasn't at his best. Still Djokovic looked the likely winner until the end of the third set; the last point of that set was absolutely huge for Federer, and boy did he have to work hard for it. I sensibly went to bed at half-two before Murray's win over Tsonga, but watching last night's women's final was the real killer for me. The good news I suppose is that I've rekindled my interest in a sport that was once passionate about. I'd like to watch Murray's bid to become the first Brit (OK, he's Scottish first, British second) to win a grand slam for over seventy years, but I don't think I will.

There's now a programme on telly about smart phone addiction. I just don't understand this need to be connected all the time. I really don't.

Friday, July 6, 2012

In recovery mode

I haven’t been well the last week, physically rather than mentally, although they are intertwined to some extent. I’ve had a cold – runny nose, chesty cough, sore throat and very little energy. I probably caught it at work. I’ve always been quick to pick bugs up and slow to shake them off. It's worth noting that during my job-free spell (most of 2010) I was also entirely bug-free.

Last Saturday I joined five other members of the depression group to see Rock of Ages at the movies. For something with so much potential I found the movie a disappointment, and frankly I wasn’t in the mood anyway.

I took Monday off but worked the rest of the week even though I didn’t get much better (if at all). Today I really had to drag myself out of bed. Work itself, on the four days I turned up, wasn’t too bad. It’s been a pretty uneventful week apart from the excitement of Tuesday night’s tremor.

The big news has come from the other side of the world. My brother’s girlfriend has landed a job in Christchurch and they’re both planning on making the big move to NZ in the next three months.

This weekend I’m planning to see Phil who has come down from Auckland for a brief stay. That’ll be more than enough for me as I try to get better. I might also watch some of the closing stages of Wimbledon. The men’s semis are tonight, with Federer taking on Djokovic and Murray playing Tsonga. I think the Murray–Tsonga encounter is almost a 50-50 match-up but as much as I’d like to see Murray do it, I only put his chances of lifting the trophy at 10%. As for the women, she struggled a bit in the earlier rounds (as she so often does) but after slamming down 24 aces in her semi (that’s an enormous number for two sets), Serena looks nailed-on for a fifth Wimbledon title.

Djokovic to beat Federer 3-1
Murray to beat Tsonga 3-2
Serena Williams to beat Radwanska 2-0

Djokovic to beat Murray 3-0.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Half an hour ago, as I was perusing the earthquake-related bumph in the LIM and visualising a big yellow sticker being slapped on our apartment building, we had pretty significant jolt here. It was a magnitude 7.0 (yes - I was way off the mark with my guess of 5.5) but 230 km deep, centred over South Taranaki. So it was felt over a wide area. It was a slow rumbling shake that seemed to go on for half a minute but was probably ten seconds at the most.