Sunday, April 27, 2014

Learning curve

The new job isn't bad. The possibility that I might achieve something there, at some point, does exist. On Wednesday (day two) I attended a project management meeting that I didn't understand at all, then went on a manhole tour in the afternoon. I'll be entering all sorts of manhole and pipe data into the various systems, and I'll need to know how the symbols on the screen relate to the real world, so the excursion was pretty useful. I'm also becoming acquainted with GIS (that's geographic information systems) which I last dealt with in 2003. Two months ago I never would have imagined I'd be dealing with Wellington's drainage networks, but here I am. It'll be a steep learning curve for me, and the biggest challenge (as always) will be fitting in. My boss, who's an Aussie with an American-sounding name, seems a bit full of himself.

I got a surprise call from Julie on my birthday. She was very civil. I popped over to see her yesterday at her rest home in Newtown and we went out for a coffee. Mentally she's in better shape than a few months ago when things got out of hand and I sent that letter. She plans to move into her own place, for fear of being institutionalised as much as anything. I'll try and keep in touch but will have to tread carefully.

I saw Mr Peabody & Sherman on Friday (pre-2007, when I last had flatmates, I'd see movies by myself all the time). I only found out about the film by accident after using the internet Wayback Machine. It's well worth watching, even for adults, as long as you can handle the (deliberately) terrible puns. For kids it would be very educational. In the evening I met up with the anxiety group for the first time since January for a Mexican meal.

Last Monday the autism group didn't run because of Easter, so one of the facilitators (a swimming teacher) arranged a session at the pool in Tawa. I enjoyed it although she could have cut out some of the silly games - you know, we're not kids. Gah. I realised I'm not nearly as good a swimmer as I should be. She said she'd be happy to give me a lesson some time. There used to be a pool on my street. My cousin's two eldest boys learnt to swim there. But they knocked it down in 2008 to build a supermarket that still hasn't been built. As if we needed more supermarkets.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


This was always going to be a tricky time. Finish my old job, start my new one, and in between a four-day weekend stuck with Kevin. He was going to spend the long weekend with his family in Masterton, but as soon as he knew his sister would be there he decided to stay here. They don't get on at all.

My (very soggy) last few days in life insurance crept up on me quickly. I got more attention on my last day than at any time in the previous three years. They had an afternoon tea for me and drinks afterwards, although not for my benefit. There was a sense of relief but also some sadness - I'll certainly miss my immediate colleague, and we'll try to meet up for lunch from time to time.

Easter can be a lonely time for me, and having a flatmate (or this flatmate at least) makes me feel even more lonely. I'm sure a lot of it is just me, although the TV drives me nuts. In the morning, in the hours between when I get up and when he does, I get a welcome break from it, but the rest of the time it completely takes over. Last night I finally asserted myself when I had music playing and Kevin wanted the TV on.

All sorts of weird and wonderful subjects and questions came up at Rhiannon's place last weekend. One of them was "Where in the world is directly opposite Wellington?" The Map Tunnelling Tool has your answer. It happens to be a town called Alaejos in Spain. I can even see what street in Alaejos is directly opposite (or below) my street. It's fairly unusual that you'll find land on the other side of the earth, and even less likely that you'll find inhabited land. (Tunnel down from Auckland instead and you'll come out at Setenil de las Bodegas in southern Spain.)

I've spent a fair chunk of this weekend wishing I was in Alaejos. Yesterday I drove along the coast to Eastbourne (the car is great - it's my own space), stopping at a few places along the way. Even Petone, which has a long and quite interesting high street with lots of places to drink, gamble and eat fatty food. I've managed to get a few chores done this weekend, which has so far turned out to be less wet than predicted. Last week was a shocker. There was a lunar eclipse last Tuesday but the cloud cover made it impossible to see.

Today is my 34th birthday. I'm getting old. On my seventh birthday I asked Grandma whether she wished she was still seven. "No, but I wish I was seventeen." When I was 17, half a lifetime ago now, I wished I was seven. I think I still do. It's the second time my birthday has fallen on Easter Sunday (my 23rd did too). So will my 45th if I get that far. As well as being Joe Bennett's and Adolf Hitler's birthdays, it's world pot-smoking day.

The next time I write (whenever that is - it's harder now) I expect I'll have started my new job. I'm naturally nervous - it's an opportunity and I don't want to waste it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The unknown...

Mum and Dad were here for three days. They could have got luckier with the weather. To avoid the awkwardness of being around my flatmate all the time (even though there's room for them here), they stayed at a bed and breakfast on Brougham Street. The B&B was run by a very strange chap, easily strange enough to cloud your impression of Wellington, or even New Zealand, if you'd never been here before. They saw William and Kate on Oriental Parade - the royal couple were on their way to the airport. It was good to see Mum and Dad - again - and it'll probably be September or October the next time I see them.

There's a relatively new member of the autism group I haven't mentioned yet. I'll call her Rhiannon. Towards the end of last year I said I was teetering on the edge of madness. Rhiannon doesn't teeter. She's only 27 but she's careened off the crazy cliff several times already. She lives with her boyfriend, who has just had major eye surgery, in a flat in Aro Valley. They rarely leave the flat, and they have a flatmate who hardly ever leaves his room but somehow consumes gallons of Mountain Dew. It doesn't add up. Rhiannon is very interested in nature, even if she is rarely amongst it, but her main talents are cooking and sewing. On Sunday morning I picked up some bedside tables that she'd bought off TradeMe. For that she baked me a chocolate cake. Tom arrived soon after I did. I stayed at their place for eleven hours which, despite the interesting and sometimes hilarious conversation, was way too much for me. Rhiannon cooked a roast dinner for us all.

Thinking about the last autism group meeting, that was yet another example of what you might call Aspie arrogance. The new bloke really liked talking about how awesome he was. And as for the ear-removal episode, if it was true it probably would have been all over the news. He said that because the student signed a waiver, the ear removal was legal, but I didn't think a waiver gave you indemnity against a deliberate violent act.

I've said in the past that I don't really get weddings, but that Irish priest who gave an impromptu rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah at a wedding (and went viral on YouTube) was pretty amazing. What a voice he has.

I've had quite a lot of anxiety in the last few days. That's not just because I'll soon be starting what is almost a mystery job. It's the flatting situation, the realisation that I might just not be cut out for living with other people, the growing older (another birthday - it's on Easter Sunday this year) and so forth. Over the long weekend I'll move the bed from the small spare bedroom into storage and try and carve out a "safe" space for me there. I'd like to learn Mandarin, and maybe do a drumming course, although I wouldn't be able to start either of those until late July. And I still haven't given up on my puzzles and phone apps.

Two more days in insurance. Ever.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ear bashing

We had the autism group last night. Sometimes I wonder if I should carry on going. We had a new bloke turn up - he would be about my age. He's got a high world ranking in the "hands" version of StepMania, something I'd never heard of before, and I never knew you could get a world ranking in what is basically an arcade game anyway. He also practises martial arts - he nonchalantly told us about a time when he was learning a type of martial art involving a stick, and the instructor cut off the ear of a supposedly disobedient student. "I had a lot of respect for him." What?!

It hasn't stopped raining all day. I got drenched, waist-down only, on the way to work today. It was like this when I arrived in Wellington three years ago.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Southern excursion

I got back from the South Island on Saturday. Only eight passengers were on the flight from Timaru to Wellington - I hope under-half-full planes don't become a trend; we know what will happen to the Timaru service then.

I arrived on Wednesday. Dad had lost a fair bit of weight. He bit his tongue in the night and couldn't eat properly for the next week. Not much happened on Wednesday although I did get my hair cut in Temuka for just $14. On Thursday we visited my aunt and uncle (who has survived with cancer longer than anybody expected, and isn't getting any worse) in Hampden. On the way we stopped off at Riverstone Kitchen near Oamaru, a really weird place with a castle and moat. Attached to the restaurant, there were a few barns piled high with more gifty junky stuff for sale than you could imagine. They also grew their own fruit and vegetables - that was pretty cool. We then drove down the coast and stopped off for lunch to see a school of dolphins and several seals. We went as far as Moeraki and had a drink there before having fish and chips (which came from the "world famous" shop in Hampden) with my aunt and uncle.

Mum took me out for golf on Friday. I don't know why she bothered - I'm completely hopeless. On some holes I lost count, and I'm normally OK with counting. On the ninth hole - the last we did - I got a par three that came out of nowhere. In fact I wasn't far off a two. Some family came over for dinner.

On Saturday morning we saw my cousin's eight-year-old son play rugby - it was his first time playing with proper tackling. He played for a team called Celtics, against teams from Geraldine and Temuka. There were four mini-games going on at once, and they must have been doing that up and down the country. Both my dad and I felt a bit out of place there, but really everything happened with the right level of seriousness given the age of the kids. It's not good when you see parents get too emotionally involved, living vicariously through their kids. Grass-roots sport, both for adults and children, still seems to thrive in South Canterbury. The sport section of the Timaru Herald is full of things like Maureen McClutchie winning some golf trophy with a score of 92-23-69 (I just made that name up, but it's usually McSomething or O'Something), and presumably all those scores are important to somebody.

With the mystery of MH370 (my dad thinks the pilot committed suicide), an early candidate for word of the year is "ping". When I got back home, it was more of a case of "pong" emanating from downstairs. That aside, things are working out OK with Kevin. I do nearly all the cooking, but at least that way I control what I eat (I'm not sure I'd trust him). I met up with Tom yesterday; I still find him hard work at times, and I'm glad I didn't take him on as a flatmate.

Guess what - my parents are coming to Wellington for three days on Wednesday (they'd forgotten about my trip when they booked their flights; they could easily have booked to come up here at the same time as I was going down there). After that I doubt I'll see them for a while - they're going on a big overseas trip in early June.

Eight more days at work.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Counting down...

As usual I woke up to National Radio this morning. Since the agreement to trade the NZ dollar directly with Chinese currency, we're now hearing stuff like "5.38 renminbi" when they read out the exchange rates. It sounds funny, and I'm pretty sure they should be saying "yuan" instead. "Renminbi" is analogous to "sterling", and you'd never say that something costs five sterling. Today was Geoff Robinson's last day, after almost forty years of presenting the programme. He signed off on a very good news day, with Japan being ordered to stop whaling in the Antarctic.

Today at work I did my monthly calling analysis for the last time. It's the only task I do that allows me to say anything. March saw record call volumes, surpassing 300 calls a day for the first time. I tried to make a bit of a point of it being my last report, especially because the figures were striking, but I'm not exactly Geoff Robinson and nobody really cared. I've only got nine more days in the office - I'm really counting down now.

I played board games at Tracy's place last night. Her dad was there - it was the first time I'd met him; he and her mum split up some time ago. He'd just got back from an Antarctic cruise and he showed us lots of photos of penguins and fantastically-shaped icebergs. He'd only just got back from Tahiti. I wonder where all the money has come from. The four of us (Tracy, her had, Tom and I) played two games: Blokus and Ticket to Ride. They were both enjoyable games and, unlike last time, at a level of complexity that I can handle. Any skill-based game we play has an unwritten rule: in all probability Tracy will win. Last night was no different. She'd be an extremely good poker player if she had the inclination; she could make way more money than I ever did. Her self-confidence would be greater, and at higher stakes that counts for a lot.

I'm flying down to Timaru in the morning - I'll be down in South Canterbury (and Otago, I think) for three days.