Sunday, January 5, 2014

Keeping my Peka up

First things first, my Android phone app for 15Up (if you can call it my app) is finally out. For a minute there I didn't think it would see the light of day. You can get up to level 6 (of 15) without having to pay a cent, but with the way work seems to be heading, I'm banking on a few people downloading level 7 and above.

I decided at the last minute to "do" New Year's Eve with the anxiety group because I thought it would be good for me. We met at Lazeeza, a Mediterranean restaurant on Dixon Street, at the far-too-early time of 6:30. We were there for an age, and I was unlucky enough to have no-one I could reasonably talk to. I happened to be sitting at the end of a long table, right next to that horrible bloke who played squash a few weeks ago, and opposite a guy who doesn't really talk at all. The squash bloke likes to mock everything and everybody; he reminds me of kids in my class when I was eleven. I had a pasta dish which was fine but not nearly enough to fill me up; the kunafa I had for dessert was delicious. Time dragged, and eventually it was decided we'd go to the beach to see in the new year. A few people had brought their cars, and we made our way to Owhiro Bay. People lit a fire, which you're probably not supposed to do, but they were pretty sensible about it. I tried to help out by collecting wood. It made a nice change to welcome in 2014 in a fairly remote location (no mobile reception) under the stars. It still amazes me how many stars you can see in New Zealand. In the UK  it was never properly dark - there was always so much light pollution. I found out that one of the "stars" close to Orion's Belt is actually a galaxy. There's so much astronomical stuff I have no idea about; I should probably download one of the many apps where you can just point your phone at the night sky and it tells you what's what. It was good to get home: the anxiety group isn't really working for me anymore. The events draw many more people than they used to, and they last so much longer, making me more anxious.

On Thursday (the 2nd), Tracy invited me to the family beach house at Peka Peka, just north of Waikanae and about half-way to Palmerston North. Her mum had the place built in about 1985 when Tracy was a baby, and it's a lovely spot there, very close to the beach. They had another family (of five) staying, whom they were very good friends with. The idea was that we'd kayak or even swim in the sea - it's a lot warmer than around Wellington - but it was a bit too windy and the beach was riddled with bluebottles. We had a good walk, ate some excellent food, and sat down to play some board games: Takenoko (which I'd played, badly, twice before), Settlers of Catan (the king of modern board games but a new one on me) and Jaipur (a two-player card game which I really liked). They had a whole raft of games and puzzles to tinker with, and they got really into Sherlock which they had on DVD. I wondered, were they all Aspies?

I ran much hotter in our four-player Takenoko game than in my previous attempts, but Tracy still beat me into second place by two points. Settlers, which we played with five, was a tricky one for me: so much of the game relies on trading resources with your opponents. All my opponents were either siblings or long-time friends, and I felt a bit uncomfortable asking someone I didn't know from a bar of soap whether they'd trade two sheep for a brick and an ore. At one point someone suggested I was taking too long. Well, what do you expect, I hardly know the rules. Another time I had nine cards in my hand, no-one to trade with, and no idea what to do. I was completely flummoxed. Surprisingly enough I didn't win that game. Jaipur was my favourite - it's a card game with a fairly loose theme where you play the part of a merchant in India, buying and selling valuable goods. The game also features camels, which play an important strategic role. Tracy and her mum walked me through the game, which was over quite quickly, and to my surprise I won by a handy margin - it didn't feel like I'd won at all. Then I found out it it was best of three. It was like those tennis matches I played (such as here and especially here), where I'd win the first set 6-2 or something, but I knew he was in fact better than me. Predictably Tracy won the second game comfortably. The third took longer than the others, just because of the way it panned out, and I unexpectedly won it by just two points despite giving up the "camel bonus".

It was a really pleasant day all round, with easy-going people who I felt I could relax with most of the time. Even just getting in the car and going somewhere made a nice change. Peka Peka was where the Emperor penguin Happy Feet mysteriously appeared in 2011. It also has a reputation for being a nudist hangout, which is hilarious when you consider the name. I suppose you could call the release of 15Up an appy feat.

I've still been feeling yucky, with a lot of dizziness and not much mental energy, but at least I've got my physical energy back. The importance of exercise is enormous. Tomorrow I'll be back to work for a five-day week and so will my boss.

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