Sunday, December 30, 2012

And so this is Christmas

Christmas has been a fairly quiet affair for my household for the past three years. We had our final one in Christchurch - knowing that we would soon be leaving Christchurch but not yet knowing to where - then two in Mandurah. All were enjoyable but quiet.

This year's Christmas was back to the mad, noisy Christmas days I remember from my childhood. Eight children and twelve adults will do that. Evan came too but we didn't let him put us off launching what my delighted niece described as " the best present ever": an inflatable boat.

A day of food, family, food, fun, food, laughter and food - and finding the spooky Christmas decoration we all hate back on the tree despite repeated annual attempts to send it to heaven.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Get lost, Evan

A couple of days before Christmas my family headed to Raglan and we have been here ever since. We are staying with my five siblings, their partners, their children, my mother and some friends. Our numbers change slightly from day to day as visitors arrive and leave, but there is a core group of eighteen of us holidaying together in two houses, two tents and two vans. Lots of fun. No punchups.

We do however have one uninvited holiday companion tagging along: Evan. Recently he made a jolly nuisance of himself in Samoa and then Fiji. By the time he made it to New Zealand he was tired and spent but he was still very, very wet.

Evan is of course a cyclone and due to Cyclone Evan's remnants we have had a lot of rain this week. But who cares about a bit of rain when hanging out with family in a gorgeous place? Not me.

The world didn't end

The next stop on our trip was a brief visit to Hamilton to see our old cat Topsy, oh and my sister and niece. Then on to the Rose Town of New Zealand, Te Awamutu for a couple of days. Fortunately the world didn't end and while there we got to enjoy a school reunion party hosted by one of my old school friends ... on my birthday. My amazing birthday roses from her beautiful garden are below. At the party my daughter was able to look at school photos of me and laugh at my hairdo. Curly perm. True story.

If you are ever in that part of the world at that time of year then don't miss the chance to go berry picking. I can tell you from experience that berry picking when done all day for weeks on end as a teenager's holiday job isn't the most fun thing ever, but berry picking for an hour with my family gathering bargain priced, unbelievably delicious holiday supplies was right up here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Keeping cool

Everyone warned us that having been away from NZ for two and a half years that we would freeze back in NZ. It hasn't happened so far but I for one had forgotten about how icky high humidity can be. The temperature in Auckland was lovely but the remnants of Cyclone Evan meant the humidity was uncomfortably high. Thankfully the friends we stayed with in Auckland have a pool and on our first slow morning there we nearly wore it out trying to stay cool.

We finally felt refreshed enough to go for a saunter around the corner to our friends' local shops. In the five minutes it took to walk there I saw more interesting architecture than I have in our entire time living in Mandurah. We browsed in Moa, Vanilla Ink, a lovely bookshop and a cool giftshop. I found wares I wanted to buy. My partner bumped into someone he knows and stopped for a chat. We had a scrumptious lunch and perfect long blacks at the Monterey Coffee Lounge, feeling quite at home in that establishment's cute op-shoppy fitout. I did a double take when I paid the bill; compared to Western Australian prices it was incredibly cheap. While we sat there watching the constant parade of pre-Christmas shoppers, my daughter - who a few months earlier told me that I don't dress like the other mums at her Mandurah school - commented that the other women in this neighourhood dress just like me. Yes, I know they do, I said. The way I dress (and the fact that I don't have tats and avoid getting tanned) doesn't look odd everywhere in the world.

On day two of our holiday I remembered what a lovely feeling it is to NOT feel like a fish out of water.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Too stupid

For the past week I have been trying to use Blogger on the ipad. It seems I am either too stupid or too fussy because the results I am getting are rubbish. But I have taken the advice of a friend who says that a certain place in the world should have signs at the airport and at every entrance road saying "Welcome to 'This-place-I-dare-not-name'! Please lower your expectations!"

So here goes anyway because I am in New Zealand ... and it is good. Maybe one photo a day is the way to go. Here we are at Esplanade Busport. To get to the first bed we slept in in NZ we took a taxi, then a train, then a bus, then a plane, then another bus, then another plane, then a ride in my sister's car, then a ride in our (lower your expectations) budget rental car. When we arrived we were a tad knackered but it was worth it. I know I am biased but NZ is fab.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thanks Santa

Much like a department store, my household got into the swing of Christmas way back in September.  Santa went nutso this year.  Here is what he gave us.

Some new animal friends (those koi above and that monkey below), a new sun umbrella, a swimming pool complete with waterfalls, some new chairs and some garden art.

He also very kindly gave us a castle with a moat

and quite a few boats.

Ok, so I have stretched the truth just a little.  Here is what he really gave us.

Santa nearly bankrupted himself buying season passes to Adventureworld for our whole family but it was well worth it; by mid-October we had already visited enough times to get our money back.

Yesterday was a 35 degree day in Perth and we and what felt like half a million other people went to this huge fun park.  It is a real credit to the management of that place how well they cope on the stupidly busy days.  Here are some pics from yesterday.  See if you can see why we like the place.

Our season passes still have several months of funtimes left in them. 

And if some of you are wondering whether my Blogger account has been hacked and this post has been written by an impostor, I can assure you that it hasn't.  One of my very favourite things is that Adventureworld doesn't just cater for people who like throwing themselves off things and being tossed in the air.  I can confirm that it is also just perfect for people who like to find a shady spot, settle down with a good book, then every now and then cool off with a gentle swim - while other members of their family merrily throw themselves off things.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Dark Ages

When we go on holiday to NZ I'll gain great pleasure from various little things, many of which I hadn't expected to have to go cold turkey on when we moved here.

I can't wait to go to a supermarket and buy readymade falafel mix. (WA business opportunity anyone?) I am going to buy a Cookie Crumble and eat it without laughing; here they are called Golden Gaytime. Then I am going to buy WINE at that supermarket like a proper grownup! I'm going to go into another shop and assume it has EFTPOS - and for once, it will. By leaving Australia for nearly a month I hope to get our monthly bank fees down to less than our monthly alcohol spend...for the first time since moving here. I’ll go to a petrol station, put the fuel nozzle in the tank, click the wee latch and fill the tank "no hands". (Can you still do that in NZ? Can't here. Like so many other things it is "a safety issue".) My children can't wait to get back to the land of hydroslides and challenging playgrounds. We all want to sit on grass, or anywhere outside for that matter, without being used as a food source for a myriad of little creatures. I can't wait to get some pleasant, free exercise - something I find impossible here at this time of the year.

But there is one thing I miss more than marmite, affordable icecream, affordable fish and chips, affordable wet fish, proper-sized long blacks, school pools, fast internet, drivers who know how to merge, having a choice of potato varieties, decent second hand shops and meeting other people who understand why green waste going to landfill is a problem ... all put together.

That photo at the top of this post was taken out my front window at 4am yesterday. By 5am the world is fully light and by 6am it is time to slap the sunscreen on. 

Here is that same scene last night at 7.40pm.

That's right. Pitch black.  Sigh.  WA doesn't have daylight saving and I am firmly in the "This is a tragedy" camp.  The only arguement I can get out of people who don't want it is "Just because the Eastern States have it, it doesn't mean we have to too" which makes me think about proper grownups again ... and people who have cut off their noses. 

So when I'm in NZ the thing I'm looking forward to most (apart from seeing friends and family of course) is getting some of that pleasant, free exercise in the form of walks or swims ... in the evenings.