Friday, 19 October 2012

Christchurch - the Final Frontier (of my Ancestors)

(Some Christchurch humour)
Monday 17/9
Continuing from last entry, I had gotten the bus from Dunedin, got off at Hornby and picked up by Erika, my workmate from my time at Corrections. Had a good catch up that evening.

Tuesday 18/9
I spent the day doing my washing and planning the rest of my week, including organising my flight back to Auckland on Sunday morning. I booked a flight using my air points generated from the trip to London in 2009.
(This is the new mall, constructed from cargo containers)
Wednesday 19/9
I went into Christchurch with Phil, Erika's husband, on his way to work. I eventually worked out the maze that is now the CBD and got to the i-Site. I organised a red zone tour and booked a cheap rental car for Friday to go to Oxford in North Canterbury (where my ancestors had come from). From there I went to Archives New Zealand to do some research. Came back to i-Site and did the red zone tour. I had been warned that some people didn't think it was worth doing. For the price it wasn't too bad, although it certainly wasn't as dramatic as I imagined - I guess because all the images I had seen were from the day after the quakes, and of course now everything was demolished and/or cleaned up. I was feeling rundown after that so I sat about for a while, before dragging myself to the Christchurch hospital (not for medical reasons, but because it was where one of the few BNZ banks still stand in Christchurch, and I knew there would be a cafeteria. My overall impression of Christchurch in 2012 was that it reminded me a lot of Belfast, less the murals and bomb-proof trucks.
(The Christchurch Cathedral)
Thursday 20/9
Went into town again with Phil and attended a Genealogy Society meeting, I had rung them on Tuesday and mentioned my Christchurch ancestors in the hope someone may've researched them already, unfortunately no one had, but they did prepare some books for me to look at, and were helpful in general, although one lady kept giving me things that may have related but in the end were just more things to sift through - info overload.

Friday 21/9
Got a ride into town with Phil again, and went hard out around some car wreckers in the CBD looking for a particular part for my car (an internal plastic panel - I want one from a better spec car, as  they come with a rear speaker and grill) I predicted that Christchurch may be the place to find some, as it is about 3 times bigger than Hamilton, and of course had been through an earthquake, potentially writing a few more cars off.

After that I went and picked up my rental car, and headed back to Archives New Zealand to complete my research there. I had done the hard yards the night before, and got all the things I wanted sourced into a list, so I could just give it to them and they could go get them. That worked well, especially considering how much I had to look through. I had an interesting chat to someone else researching there, but in the end wished he would just let me get through what I had. At closing time, about 1pm my new friend had left, and the Archives staff said I was free to finish off looking at what I had - they just couldn't tell me that when the other guy was around as he was hard enough to get rid of at closing time most days. As it was I didn't require much more time there, and I was eager to get to Oxford.

On the way to Oxford I stopped to get some petrol. While I was in the shop paying for it there was a huge BANG. I thought it was just a truck going past, but apparently it was an earthquake.
I got to Oxford and spent about an hour at the museum before it closed at 3pm. I then had a quick look at Pearson park next door, and the cemetery down the road, where some of the Pearsons were buried. From there I decided to go and see Burnt Hill - the station where Joseph Pearson (my 3 x Great grandfather's brother) had farmed. On the way there, just off the main road I had to cross a small ford - with all the gravel I got stuck for a little bit, until a guy in a ute came the other way, and I asked him for a small push, which he humbly obliged. For a moment there I was a little worried, especially being a rental car and all.
At Burnt Hill there was this long drive, and I didn't think it right to drive down and have a look at the house - as I'm not sure how cool my story of how "My 3 x great grandfather's brother was Joseph Pearson" would be received.
From Burnt Hill I headed to View Hill - where Joseph's first house was. Unfortunately it wasn't as clear where exactly it was, I found View Hill School, but there are plenty of hills around there.
From there, I figured I may as well head north and find Lake Pearson, despite it getting late in the day. The journey took me through Springfield, pictured here with the Doughnut - given to the community when The Simpsons movie came out, as apparently they gave every town in the world called Springfield one.  This other picture shows how some cheeky person has capitalised on the landmark.
It also took me into the Southern alps, which of course looked beautiful with the sun setting.
Eventually I made it to Lake Pearson, it wasn't the easiest trip because it wasn't a location of note on my GPS, so I did have to guess a little bit to work out where it was. Unfortunately as you can see it was dark so I didn't get to appreciate it in it's full daylight splendour. Never mind, now I know where it is, and especially that you can camp there, I may very well be going back. Coming back to Christchurch was also an adventure in itself, driving in an unfamiliar car, on unfamiliar roads.
Saturday 22/9
I got up and made a quick visit to a couple of wreckers before dropping off my rental car. From there I went to the Christchurch library and went through all their genealogy card files (with the surnames of my ancestors) and photographed any that were relevant. About lunch time Erika, Phil, and the boys came and picked me up and we all went to the heritage village - a museum place with old trams and houses, set up how they would have been in Christchurch's early days. Erika had a joke by telling her kids that this place showed how things were when Phil was a boy, and the kids believed her.
Sunday 23/9
Got up and Phil took me to the airport. I flew back to Auckland and was picked up by my old school mate James. Some of James's friends were having a cook breakfast together, so we went along to that as well, which was great.

Mum and Dad then picked me up before lunch and we went to our old friends the Manson's, and had a two-family reunion, ie with all the kids and grandkids, not too hard a feet with our family (now we are all back in NZ) but the Manson's have four kids, all married, and three of them have had children. It was nice having a good catch up.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Dunedin - Edinburgh of the South

Saturday 15/9
Got up and sorted situation with room (they had put me in a room temporarily for the first night, as the person who took the booking hadn't written me in). I then went and sorted out breakfast and then sorted out my sightseeing in Dunedin, and the bus to Christchurch on Monday. My watch seems to have defaulted back to 12am 1/1/2000 - probably needs new battery. From the i-Site I went to today's sight- the Taieri railway, on the way to the train station I Saw Martin Tasker (broadcaster) and Buck Shelford (former All Black captain) within a minute of each other.
The Taieri gorge train trip was awesome - great views, and informative. Only downside was all the noisy kids in my carriage (makes me question my desire to have kids soon, but then I'm only wanting 2, and then I'm tying it off...) but the nice conductor guy allowed me and another young couple respite for the 1st half of the journey by allowing us to sit in the other part of the carriage (on the return journey those seats were taken).

After arriving back at the train station there was someone from the tour company there to meet me, and he dropped me back at my hostel. I hadn't really had lunch, so I went in pursuit of dinner on my way to the pub to watch the All Blacks play South Africa. I settled on lamb biranyi for $12. I went to the closest pub, an Irish pub - it was full inside, but it had an outside area with a screen but had to put up with annoying smokers. Bring on 2020 when NZ will be smokefree.

Sunday 16/9
Got up and was picked up from my hostel by the same tour company, and they took me out to Larnach castle. I had feared that it would be a glorified house, and in some ways I guess it was, but it was an interesting house/"castle" all the same - I enjoyed it, far more than I had enjoyed Buckingham Palace, and almost as much as I enjoyed Neuschwanstein castle. I don't know what it was, perhaps it appealed to the history I have been getting into with my family history research, or perhaps it was that for an hour or so I felt like I was back in England or Europe, minus all the B.S.

Anyhow, once we'd done Larnach castle, the driver was dropping one of the couples off at the train station (so they could go do the Taieri gorge trip), so I hopped out there too, and went and checked out the NZ Sporting Hall of Fame, which was housed in the upstairs of the train station. It was kind of interesting, spotted the odd name of sporting heroes from the time of my childhood - wasn't so much contemporary stuff naturally, as they have to have been retired for a certain amount of time, however of course, Mark Todd seems to come in and out of retirement every Olympics, and he was in there.
Just down the road was the Chinese gardens, so I had a quick look in there as well. Apparently "The Dunedin Chinese Garden is the only authentic Chinese Garden in New Zealand. It is one of only a handful outside China." according to the Dunedin council's website. I know Hamilton gardens has a Chinese garden, but certainly not of that size, from memory I believe it has a wall, and a tree... Anyhow, on first look it might seem weird to have a Chinese garden in Dunedin, a "Scotch stronghold" (Dunedin is gaellic for Edinburgh, and a whole lot of Scots came there - and hence why Otago Uni has the cross of St Andrew in its coat of arms, and the Super 15 team is the Highlanders...) but on second thoughts, a lot of Chinese came out for the Otago gold rush, and ended up staying and forming a lot of Dunedin businesses. On an aside note, recently I heard someone saying something interesting - apparently a key ingredient to assimilation is children, going to school with children from other races, however, in the case of the Chinese, back in the day, there was a poll tax and Alien laws, which prevented men from bringing over their wives and kids, and so the Chinese have missed out on several generations of assimilation for that reason.
A little later in the day I caught up with Laura, and her boyfriend Kriton, friends from my time at The Listening Company. Afterwards they dropped me off at the Forsyth Barr stadium - I wanted to have a look, as it is New Zealand's only covered in stadium.

Monday 17/9
I got up nice and early, and headed off. I wanted to check out a book I had come across mentioned in an another book, that I had discovered the Otago University had - basically it was a book of all the Brands used by run-holders in Canterbury - which of course my 3xGreat Grandfather's brother, Joseph Pearson was one. I had enough time to go and have a look, so I did, and took a photo of the relevant page, the brands of Joseph Pearson weren't anything special, one was simply "SP". I have no desire to get a tattoo, but admittedly for a fleeting moment had toyed with the idea if the brand was particularly cool. It wasn't, so there goes that hard decision.

From there I went and dropped off my big pack at the bus station, and went around the corner to CadburyWorld, where I had booked a 10am tour. The tour was OK, got a decent amount of free chocolate out of it, but wasn't particularly interesting. I was surprised however at how people-intensive it still was to make/package the chocolate.
After that I went and hopped on my bus to Christchurch.

Stewart island - How Low Can You Go?

Tuesday 11/9
Got up, and went down and sorted out accommodation on Stewart island (we'd tried, but couldn't get hold of them by phone) and the bus to Dunedin on Friday. We had just enough time to find out accommodation in Dunedin for the weekend would be hard to find, due to an All Blacks match being played there. Anyhow, went and caught my bus. In Queenstown it had snowed over night, and as we left it began snowing a little. As we got further down Lake Whakatipu, the snow got serious.
At a place called Athol we had to stop for a while as the road was closed, so I had a toilet stop and hot chocolate. All of a sudden we got going again, albeit slowly. It seemed once we got out of Otago and into Southland, the snow totally cleared up, and made the last hour seem like another lifetime.
Even with the delay due to the snow, I had the best bit of 3 hours in Invercargill before I had to catch my transfer to the ferry terminal in Bluff. So the first thing I did was sort out some accommodation in Dunedin for the weekend, thanks to the help of the lovely i-Site staff. I then went about looking at the attached museum, which was totally awesome, they had tuatara, art, a couple of things on local hero Burt Munro - of the Fastest Indian fame, including a video documentary, some Victorian era exhibits, and also a section on the southern islands, such as Auckland Island, Campbell Island, the Snare Islands, etc.
After doing all that I had about half an hour left, and thought maybe I should grab some milk and more cash, and lunch, as I hadn't really thought about it due to the loss of my appetite after the food poisoning in Wanaka (and it was now 3pm). In the end I just grabbed some milk and 2 slices of bacon and egg pie. I ate 1 slice of the pie, which was beautiful, but now wish I had held off until after the ferry trip, as I threw it back up on the rough ferry ride.

Anyhow, once I checked in to my hostel on Stewart island I went to the pub and had fish and chips.

Wednesday 12/9
Woke up full of a cold at about 6:30am, stayed in bed reading until about 9:30. Got up and had some breakfast, and then casually walked towards the i-Site. I passed the museum, and thought I may as well check it out. I did, didn't take long as only 2 rooms but well worth the $2 fee. I had to laugh as there was a picture of a woman who had two daughters that married two brothers. Later on that woman then married the father of the brothers (ie doing little to dispel rumours of inbreeding on small islands). I had a good chat to the woman on the desk, and she mentioned Ulva island which I intended to do, she rang the water taxi company and informed me I could catch one in 20 minutes, so I did.
Ulva island was awesome, birds, beaches, trees, and seals. Again had to laugh when a pamphlet on birds mentioned that one bird ended up mating with his great great granddaughter. Ulva is pest free, so it is used by D.O.C. to protect and breed species. Broke my southern most record again (southern most place in the world I have been). Funny story - I had been reading a book I had picked up in Wanaka, which happened to mention something called Ambergris, which I had never heard of. Anyhow, as it always is, once you learn a new word, or learn a new fact, you happen to come across it several times relatively soon. As I walked along the above beach I came across something grey and clay looking that I thought may be some ambergris, but got quickly convinced otherwise when I saw the blowfly in it and the proximity of some more, and of course the close proximity of the seal pictured below.
When I came back I walked around to Thule bay, and then through another bushwalk, up to a lookout, and then along another bushwalk, in the hope of seeing some Kiwis or the Southern Lights.
Came back, had a quick lie down, had some soup and checked out the kea/kakapo that were hanging about the hostel then went back to see if the kiwis had come out (hadn't) with some others. I then come down to have a look to see what the story with penguins was. Sounds scarce. Since it started to rain a bit I decided a pub meal was in order. Instead of $16.50 on eftpos they put through $61.50, which actually worked for me as it gave me some cash. Had another look for kiwi, no luck. Went to bed and read for a bit.

Thursday 13/9
Stayed in bed for a while, read. Got up, had shower and then turned on tv to watch while I ate breakfast. Saw Hamish Blake (as in Hamish and Andy - Australian comedy duo/ radio djs) and Bret Mackenzie (Flight of the Conchords) were to be on Good Morning a bit later on, so sat through all the advertorials (Suzanne Paul and some annoying enthusiastic Aussie dude) and finally they appeared. Once that had happened I decided I may as well have an early lunch - so I had a sour cream and chives pasta packet I have been carrying with me. It seemed bland, but that might be my cold.

Anyway, went to the i-Site, and from there decided to walk to a lighthouse. I think the lady made it sound easier than it was. It was nice and peaceful, and I saw an old stone building which is one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand apparently. The lighthouse was a bit budget, I was hoping for a old concrete one, where this was a new small glorified beacon. I decided while I was at it I would check out a monument on the way back. Unfortunately the map was a bit misleading, and lead me to make some wasted effort, but in the end I got there, albeit I was over walking by the time I got back to the township. I had a crayfish for dinner as I figured when in Rome... I'm not sure if it was because I have a cold, but I thought it was bland. I checked my emails then returned to the hostel to read and watch tv for a bit. I would have liked to go out again to see if I could see kiwi, but I was just too stuffed.

Friday 14/9
Woke up just before 7am, decided I would try and see some kiwis, so walked up the bush walk behind the hostel, and through the park, gave it about 10minutes then left. Thought I'd go and look at the waterfront for a bit, bought something at the shop and then visited the information centre again, I decided I would do the van tour, as I might not see the rest of the island if I didn't, and I could face walking again, especially as this other way is more hilly. Besides, I figured it would give me a historical insight as well. Sorted myself out at hostel, including having some breakfast, and did the tour. It seemed to be hosting a Maori group of some kind, so it was quite humorous. Went to the pub for lunch - trying to manage my stomach for the journey across the straight again.

Got talking to some of the group on the way back, they were from a rugby club in Manukau, and have come down to see the all blacks game in Dunedin the next day. Got across ok, and on to Dunedin.
This was in the pub at Stewart Island. I thought the humour was good.

Wanaka - Wa Wa Wa Wa Wanna Car?

Friday 7/9
I caught the bus to Wanaka. Once I dumped my stuff at the hostel etc, I walked to Puzzling World, which I had seen in a magazine prior to coming across it (but not going into it) in 2003. There was an outdoor Labyrinth, which was ok, I did the 4 corners, but didn't bother trying to get back to the start, as it would have doubled the amount of time. The other part (illusion rooms) were interesting, but it didn't take long to go through, and it mucked havoc with my sense of balance. I walked back to hostel and slept.

Saturday 8/9
I got up and got a "bus" (it ended up being more of a shuttle service) from the i-Site to the Toy and Transport museum - which was good, huge and reasonably cheap. I had lunch in the cafe at the Warbirds and Wheels museum, before walking back to the Wanaka Beerworks, which was in the same premises as the Toy and Transport museum and partaking in a beer tour and tasting. Subsequently I checked out the Warbirds and Wheels museum - there wasn't a whole lot there, I managed to see it all in the 1/2 hour I had left, which is one of those things, it makes you content that you haven't missed out on anything, but at the same time disappointed that it wasn't all that fantastic.
In the evening I came down with the worst food poisoning I have ever had. The positive was I asked for and was given a bottom bunk in a less full room for the rest of my stay, which was a relief, as it would've been hell otherwise, especially as I got up at least 5 times that night.
Sunday 9/9
Recovery, and since I had done everything I had wanted to do in Wanaka anyway, I went for a walk beside lake. Beautiful white mountains. I went to the supermarket and bought my Paris speciality of croissants, cheese, and salami. More sleeping, and missed dinner again, I believe it was after the kitchen had closed, so I couldn't access my croissants, so I was weak and hungry still.

Monday 10/9
Woke up, checked out, walked along waterfront, and checked out the millennium project they had - basically 2000 paving stones representing 2000 years with notable events marked out eg 1066 Norman invasion. Some cheeky people had written on blank ones "Rufus and Jemima were here 2012...

Once I had accomplished that, I sat around at the backpackers until about the time of the bus.
I got back to Queenstown late afternoon, so I sorted my bags (I had only taken the bare-minimum to Wanaka in my little backpack) and the next few days travel plans out and did my washing, so nice to have clothes clean again.
Had a soup and the remaining croissants to soak it up (as well as using them up - similarly chewed on the salami to use it up too.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Getting Down in Queenstown: The Long Awaited Holiday

So I finally got my act together, made a decision, (Free choice is a privilege of the modern capitalist society, but sometimes life would be so much easier without the need to make choices) and packed my bags and got off the North Island. I decided on doing a trip around the South Island, and doing the things I didn't manage to do the first time - when I went around with friends in Summer, January 2003. I decided against anything international, simply because it would cost 10x more, and I didn't have a job/income to come back to, and it was adding another level of difficulty to the decision and planning.

I wrote most of the next few entries on my iPhone, on the Notes app, and then transferred them here. I am currently going through and editing them before posting, but you may notice the style being very "note-taking-like"

Tuesday 4/9
Dad drove me up to Auckland domestic airport, I hopped on a plane and viola! Queenstown. Plane didn't rev up like usual, disappointed, but when I got off the plane it was totally awesome - had to walk across the tarmac to the terminal - but with mountains with snow on the top as the backdrop - nice, and I'm not even a snow-bunny (I'm more of a water-baby, and it seems as though I have had 3 straight winters in a row at the moment.) I had done my research and saw that it was only 6km into town (and I had 2 hours before the hostel would let me check in, so I had contemplated hiking it, but then discovered it was only $6 for bus to town (I had a paranoia that Queenstown was going to be a tourist trap) so I took that option.

Dropped bags off (couldn't Check in until 1pm) at my hostel and proceeded to get lunch - across the road at Ferg burger, world famous in Queenstown apparently. I had the Big Al, and it really was big.
Afterwards I went for a walk and went to the underwater viewing room on the waterfront, which I remembered from 2003. It was still worth it, you get to see trout swimming around and every now and then a duck dives down for food. What surprised me (in 2003) is when the duck rises to the surface again, it tucks it's head into it's chest, I imagined it would have gone up nose first, but then I guess they would do it different to us as their nostrils are on the top of their nose, whereas ours are on the bottom.
That night I did a pub crawl. I saw they had one that went to an ice bar. You may have heard me mention that I have being wanting to visit an ice bar ever since 2010 when Merinda and I first stumbled upon the Absolut Ice Bar in London, which we never quite got to, and I missed out on going to the Auckland one. The pub crawl (and Ice Bar especially) was awesome. On the pub crawl I met some girls, including one from Hamilton, so will probably catch up again.
Wednesday 5/9
Got up and got the gondola up the hill and did the luge, always good fun.

On Monday night I had come across someone on Couchsurfing wanting someone to join them on a wine tasting thing - essentially as one of their mates pulled out. When the time came, they were too hungover, but I proceeded anyhow as the girls from the above mentioned pub crawl were apparently doing it too - but they never showed up either, so I was all alone, tasting wine in a shop (initially I assumed it might be in a nice winery or something,) I'm not a huge wine drinker as it is.
Thursday 6/9
There were 3 English guys in my room, and we'd gotten on on fairly well - they asked me if I wanted to join them climbing the hill (with the gondola and luges) so I did. Not an easy mission, but the luge rides were worth it. I was quite stoked on one of the runs I started at the back of the pack, but ended up winning. Once we got back down the hill we played a little bit of soccer, and had a beer.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Chiefs, Clans, and other Family Ties.

So, since my last entry, I carried on at the Mount for a few more weeks, twice having to pop back to Hamilton for cardiologist appointments at the hospital (in short I was born with a heart condition which was fixed when I was 6 years old, but they keep tabs on me every 2 years or so, however, I fell out of the system it seems when I moved up to Kaitaia, and then went to London, so this was my first appointment since late 2006.
One weekend before coming back home, I did get the chance to go to a career's expo at the Tect Arena - which is behind the Baypark stadium. That was informative, albeit surrounded by high school kids. Thankfully I didn't pass any of my cynicism onto them.

The last couple of weeks were OK at the beach, unfortunately it rained most of the time, but on the positive, Suzanne started her new job at the Mount, so we got to spend some time together, which was nice.

Other highlights included finally making contact with one of my maternal grandfather's cousins, who had the McDonald family bible in his possession, and has lent it to me for my perusal. It appears to have been given to my Great great Grandfather Donald McDonald in 1897 at Opunake, Taranaki. I had hoped it would contain some answers to some questions, but it ended up creating more questions - it appears Donald may have been adopted, which vaguely rings a bell from something I remembered hearing as a child. It also mentioned someone who at this moment in time I can only assume is his sister-in-law, (as she married a James Alexander McDonald). But it's all good information. Donald's daughter (my Great Grandmother) Grace McDonald is pictured below

The other family tree progress that I made was in regard to the Pearson side (also maternal Grandfather) - I had come across a post on a message board from 1998, and basically was trying to track this person down to see if they found a link and what information they did have (they were referring to Joseph Pearson of Oxford, who was the brother of John Pearson, my 3 x Great Grandfather (the grandfather of Ken Pearson pictured above, and the father of Thomas Pearson in the below picture - the same Joseph Pearson has verified the likeness of the photo- you will see that if you click on that image.) Anyhow, this person had changed his email twice since 1998, and he would be 86 I ascertained, so it was a possibility that he may have died, however turns out he is still alive and well, albeit, probably not related. He did however give me something to look up.
Other than that, well there was the little incident of going to the stadium and watching the Chiefs win the Rugby Super 15 final - my mate Scott had hooked me up with a ticket, $22 was well worth it. I was conveniently free on the Monday as well, so I got to go and see the victory parade down the main street - and as you can see, I made it onto TV. My picture has made it into the paper several times (The North Waikato Tatler when I was a kid, and more recently the Northland Age for the couple of plays I was in, in Kaitaia) - but this was my first time on screen.
Other than that, I went to a Vietnam evening put on by Calder & Lawson Travel (the people I bought my ticket to the UK with) - at some point I want to see South East Asia, the bits I didn't see while I was in Japan. A friend of mine told me she had made a goal to travel somewhere once a year, which I think is a goal I will try and adopt myself.

For the past week and a half I have been working at Waikato Cleaning Supplies, while Mum & Dad are away in Raratonga. I'm slowly trying to sort out a trip to Fiji and plan to return via a trip through Australia catching up with some good friends from various times of my life, as well as taking the opportunity to do some family tree stuff, and then fly into Christchurch and check out Oxford (re the Pearson's mentioned above).

Monday, 6 August 2012

10 Things I Love about London

I was going to start off by saying that this post might seem weird coming from me at the moment, but the truth is, you don't live in my head or feel my hurt - so that won't make much sense to you.

To give you a basic understanding, right now I should be back in London. But I'm not, cos I got dumped. So naturally, having radio stations going on and on about "London Calling" and then the Olympics on 24/7 is just rubbing salt in my wounds.

Admittedly I have started to feel a bit better about it all this last couple of days, and had this random thought that I should write an entry remembering the things I loved about London (rather than the irritations), kind of like a travel piece, like you might find in the New Zealand Woman's Day, written by Sarah-Kate Lynch (- which I find mildly entertaining especially because the readership of that magazine aren't as into travel and stilettos as the magazine thinks they are). The other reason is, I know I did a similar thing when I came back from Japan, but I don't think I really did a London one.

So, in no particular order -

1) I would go to the all-you-can-eat Pizza place in Bayswater, next to Hyde park. Specifically for breakfast, because it's all you can eat breakfast, hash browns, bacon, sausages, eggs.

2) The Belvedere - £2 dinners - I'm not really sure now why I bothered cooking... and the bangers and mash were divine...

3) Morrison's, about 9pm - just before closing time - when I could pick up some food for half price - such as bacon hocks etc

4) Public Transport 24/7. As much as I would bitch about the Underground being out of service, it really was forward thinking, having an underground train network that is 100 years old is pretty impressive, and there would always be some bus going near to where you needed to go at any time of the night.

5) Underground trains - in principle. Tunnels, maps, bridges, and obsolete train stations and stuff are cool.

6) My Acton flat. My room was small and cosy, and upstairs, not unlike a tree hut.

7) Some good people that got me through the hard times, Scott, Luke, Adrian, Campbell, Suzanne and Bevan, to name a few.

8) Magical Tours - without them, I wouldn't have had the funds or motivation to see some of the places I saw.

9) Pound shops. Anything for a pound.

10) Touch rugby - oh how I loved playing you. And you gave me the best body I have had in ages.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Live Now

Today I happened to come across this speech that I originally wrote in either 2003 or 2004. To be honest it was one of the best speeches I did at Toastmasters - and I can probably safely say that it was probably the one I put most effort into. I thought I would share it here, because as of late, this blog has just become a list of stuff I have been up to, not particularly interesting or profound stuff - but then if I was any more honest, I would probably be spilling out my broken heart to you all, and that probably isn't great reading either.

I'm not sure where I fit on the scale at the moment - as I think I have been pretty good in recent years just doing it, possibly to the detrement of  my career and moving forward. Anyway, may be this will inspire someone.
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.

Good evening fellow toastmasters, contest chair, judges, and distinguished guests.

TIME - Too often we take it for granted, we will do something tommorrow, we will get around to it at some stage, or “One day it will happen”.

Something you probably don’t know about me is that – I grew up in a place called Naike - a small rural community out west of Huntly in the mighty Waikato.

At high school, when asked where Naike was, my friend & I would jokingly reply “next to Reebok”. However it is spelt different from the shoe brand. Despite this minor detail, I like the shoe brand’s slogan “JUST DO IT”, and tonight this is what my speech will be about.

Several years ago now there was a CanTeen ad on TV that ends with the point that the one thing worst than getting old is not getting old?

Unfortunately it is a sad fact. We won’t all live to be 70 or 80. We may die tomorrow, or 2 years from now, or when we are 45. This fact hit me the hardest 8 years ago, when one of my childhood friends died in an avalanche, a month before he was going to turn 19. It simply hurts to think that he didn’t even get to celebrate his 21st, he will never get married, he won’t have children, and he won’t get to develop a successful career – because he is dead. What I can take comfort in is that he lived a 19 years to the full – he didn’t hold himself back, he gave everything a go, adventure was his middle name – Unfortunately his sense of adventure on this occasion lead to the mistake of getting caught in an avalanche while snowboarding – but at least he died doing something he enjoyed.

Something I had been guilty of was putting my life on hold. I had lived by the theory that when I finished high school things would be so much cooler – and I would have heaps of free time to do all the things that I had put off.

Then I discovered that Tertiary education was actually quite full-on, and that I didn’t “have the time” – but no worries I thought, when I get a job I will have heaps of free time and also an income to use.

Fate of course drew me another cruel blow, and 5 months after Graduating I found myself back at tech, on top of working a full time job. My mistake was not making time. What if it was me that had died? I spent a good 10 years of my life pretty much not enjoying it, and possibly not achieving much more than an education.

Think about this. And remember that Time waits for no one. You should treasure every moment you have.

So what is there to gain? As much as it is a clich̩ Рit is true NO REGRETS.

There must be nothing worst than looking back on life, and realising how little you have achieved, or how little you have done. On the other hand, think of the contentment you would feel knowing you had done your best, achieved your goals, and made your mark – and enjoyed it. Old age is a time when you should be living on the fruits of your youthful successes, and not getting bitter and twisted because of your regrets.

Similarly, if you still have things left undone, there is no time like the present. I like the saying “it ain’t over till it’s over.” - Don’t let age, or any other barrier hold you back. Remember also that if there is something fun, do it today rather than leaving it until tommorrow – because if you like it today you can do it again tomorrow.

I was listening to a tape not long ago, and there was a 68-year-old lady who decided to do a degree at University. Her friends told her that she was silly, because it would take three years, and she would be at least 70 before she would finish it. Her reply was “well in three years I’ll be 70 anyway…”

Don’t you love that attitude? She lived and did, rather than just existed for those 3 years.

Like the Nike saying “Just do it”. Don’t let fear get in your way. A lot of lives are limited because of fears.

Fears of failure. Fears of rejection. Fears of enclosed spaces, spiders, or heights.

Some people choose to live within their boundaries, whereas others climb over them. A good portion of us here may’ve started coming to toastmasters because we had a fear of public speaking.

If so, congratulations, you have taken the first step of jumping out of your comfort zone.

Fears are enemies to your life. They are preventing you from being what you could be – and from what you could give the world.

Lets face it, you may not always be successful, you may not achieve as much as Edmund Hillary, but in the end you are only competing with yourself.

Tonight’s Thomasism is “If you’re going down – go down with both guns blazing”. Basically what I mean by that is, that you may be struggling, but give it everything until you hit the ground, and that way you may succeed, but giving up means definitely failing.

So, Congratulations everyone – by being here you are one step closer to bettering your life

To finish tonight’s speech, I want you to go away with this:

Life is not defined by how many moments you live, rather the moments that take your breath away. You may not get as many moments as you think you will, so make them count.

M.I.A. in the B.O.P.

So last you heard was me at mum and dads work. I ended up helping out there for most days of 2.5 weeks. I had an interview in that time. One day Dad and I did some deliveries to Tokoroa, another day I went with him to Whangamata where he was sales repping. That was quite nice, he showed me the Waihi mine - a huge hole in the ground, probably the best part of a kilometre deep. We also went to Opoutere .

One night I went to the Trade day at Gilmours - unfortunately I was too late for the freebies.

However, I happened to stop next to a Zm truck one day and got some freebies - soup mixs and tissues and a ticket to the premier of Rock of Ages at the movies- pretty cool, funny and well done.

I also went to the Field days again, which was interesting again. On the way home I stopped at the Scottish shop in Melville and picked up a McDonald crest badge.

On the 18th of June I started another temporary assignment - this time at Familyworks, at Mt Maunganui. As it happens, I had only recently dropped into my agency (Kelly Services) to ask if they had any work coming in, my agent mentioned something about some in Tauranga, so I mentioned that I would keen for work in Tauranga if any came up, as I could always stay at our house in Papamoa. So I have been here for about a month now, and have a couple of weeks to go.

The first week I was here, I went to The Dictator at the movies, - which was good - and not too cringe worthy, like Borat, and especially Bruno were. That weekend I came back to Hamilton and went to a YouTube night, and caught up with Scott who is back from Kuwait. Suzanne and Bevan came home from their trip also.

The next weekend I came home as well, and went to see Dads Army at the Riverlea theatre (where I was in Don Quixote earlier this year. The acting was good, but it ended up dragging a little, probably because I wasn't so familiar with the show.

On the Wednesday I caught up with my mate Baz and watched a DVD. We were going to have a couple of Pizzas for dinner, but Baz told me Pak'N'Save was having their trade day - so I went down and checked it out - and they were very generous with their samples - I got 3 sausages, amongst some soup, cheese and cracker samples.

The weekend after that I went to Flight of the Conchords on the Friday night - I had to leave work early and drive up to Auckland - I hadn't realised until I researched it how far it is to Auckland from Tauranga - I had always just assumed it was a similar distance as it is to Hamilton, instead it is double that - which is probably why the couple of times I have done that trip that it feels it takes forever - it is actually because it is forever. Anyhow, they were great - not as exciting as when I saw them in London at the Wembley Arena, but still good. I particularly liked their rendition of I'm Not Crying - they had a guy accompanying them on a viola, so instead of being humorous, it was genuinely sad.

The following Thursday night I decided to walk around the Mount to wear in my new hiking shoes (one Sunday a few weeks before-hand I had gotten frustrated with my lack of waterproof and decent shoes, so I went and spent $600 on 5 pairs of shoes - 2 x work shoes, 1 pair of hiking shoes, 1 x gym/running shoes, and 1 pair of skate shoes - this has then led me to discard old holey socks, because if I don't it will just ruin the shoes, which in turn will ruin more socks...) Unfortunately by the time I got down there it was quite dark, however I did it - the first time in 3 years, I realised. On the way home I stopped at Pizza Hut and picked up a couple of $4.90 pizzas, and then dropped in to watch some of the Boxing at the Pap tavern. Seems as though people were drunk before they got there looking at the parking.

On the Friday I decided I would have a night in Tauranga as I wasn't going home. I also worked out it was half the price (and far more convenient) to book a night in a hostel rather than catching a bus and then a cab back to Papamoa.

The next morning I got up, and went and had a Wendy's breakfast and headed to the Karangahake Gorge. For forever I have had it on my list of things to do. I got there at 11.30, grabbed some quick lunch at the Waitoa railway station, and then just started walking. At the start of the walk was some buildings related to gold mining - kilns etc, and a museum, so I checked them out. Anyhow, I kept on, it seemed to take forever before I got to the tunnel through the hill - but it was worth it - the tunnel was really long and came out further along the gorge. The return walk didn't seem to drag as much which was good. All up I would have walked 14kms, not a bad effort. I texted my Uncle on the way back, as I would be passing where they would staying - so I ended up having dinner with my cousins which was nice - and rather entertaining, especially as they are now teenagers and wind their parents up like me and my sister to do ours, and as you can imagine - get similar reactions "You are just showing off because XYZ is here".

The following weekend Mum & Dad came to stay over here which was a nice change.

Tuesday I went to the movies again and saw Ted. Good, but not laugh-a-minute.

Friday I went to see Raybon Kan perform (stand-up) in Tauranga. He was good, but he started off badly I thought - I think he wanted to theme his show attacking religion, but didn't get the positive reaction he was hoping for, so he had to change tact. Near the very end he was getting good, but then it finished.

Today (Saturday 21/7/12) I just did Rock'N'Roll things like doing the washing, and sorting out my stamp collection - not a five-minute job unfortunately.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Trench Warfare

So where the last post left off was bang on middle of April - the 15th.

The following couple of weeks were nothing much to write about, albeit I was finally told that I wasn't required by the my work anymore, and Susan my partner in fighting crime also left - the week before I did, on the 4th of May. In between this there was Anzac day, which really was "help Anne & Wayne around the house day".

Once I finished up at work I decided I really wanted to get away for about a week, as I would soon be house-bound in the role of custodian of Jordan & Jess (J-Dog & J-Cat). I decided I would brave a trip back up to Kaitaia and visit some old friends after 3.5 years.

So on the Wednesday - I hopped in the car and headed to Tauranga, probably shouldn't have bothered with Tauranga, but I wanted to take my wetsuit up north in case I got the chance to have a swim. Nothing much to report Tauranga-wise, except for the fact that someone near the house has unsecured WiFi, so I made use of that.

Thursday - I headed to Auckland. Decided once I got to Sylvia park that I would stay the night in Auckland, as I could casually do stuff, rather than drive some more and then have to find some dinner, and set up a tent etc possibly in the dark. I walked down Queen Street and decided to take part in a Pub crawl that was advertised at the hostel. The downside was everyone else on it was probably in their early twenties, so I felt like a real old man. I gave up on the last free drink and bar because I wanted to check out the Ice bar (bar in sub zero temperatures)- I would have gone earlier in the night, but at about 6pm when I was down that way no one else was there - Awesome if I was with someone else, but would've been lame just by myself. Unfortunately when I got there at 12.30am (they are advertised to close at 1am) they were shut, and someone said they'd closed at 12.

On Friday I got up and headed north, and got to finally check out the new bypass road and tunnel - that they had been building the two years I was up north, but not quite finished by the time I went to London. I stopped in Whangarei for lunch, and then headed on to stay with my old workmate Peter.

Saturday & Sunday - I picked olives for Peter in his olive orchard. It was a relatively easy task, almost like milking a cow. The worst bit was the hidden trenches/drains that were hidden in the long grass between the rows - hence the above title. For my work I got 10.5 litres of organic olive oil which was pretty choice. It was also nice staying at Peter's - out in the country.

Monday, I left Peter's and went down the road to Mangonui and visited a distant Bruntlett relation, shared information, and had lunch with them. From there went to Kaitaia. I kept my eyes open as I cruised down the main street to see if all my favorite haunts were still there - yes to the roast shop (albeit with a different name and owner) and the 2nd hand book shop. Nero's had closed, and my former workplace has changed it's name and one of the partners.

I stayed the night with the Brott's, who were essentially the chairpeople of the Puriri Park village where I orginally lived when I first moved to Kaitaia. I had a great time with them, in some ways they remind(ed) me a lot of my maternal grandparents, albeit a lot more youthful. Pam even made a Nek Minit joke - how she knew about that I don't know. It was great catching up, reminiscing, and telling them the stories of my travels.

While I was in Kaitaia I also went to visit the Little Theatre, where I had performed several plays in my time up there. It was now part of the Te Ahu complex that had been proposed around the time I was up there. It combined the museum, community centre, information centre, Little Theatre, and library into one building, and looks totally awesome. Probably way over-budget though...

I had to come back to Hamilton for a WINZ appointment, which really was a waste of time as it simply was a hoop to jump through.

Suzanne and Bevan went to Europe, so I am currently in charge of their house. Jess shows me lots of affection and sleeps with me (too bad she is a cat), and Jordan is a dog, he has just learnt to bark (at everyone and everything) and seems to want to chew everything. In the few quiet moments I get, I have been getting London-sick by watching 'The Only Way is Essex' and 'Who Do You Think You Are?'
I had my graduation day for my "Advanced Certificate in Te Ara Reo Maori" the other week. It was alright, but most of my classmates weren't there, so I didn't get to catch up with them, which was a real shame. The food was alright, and the sash I got to wear looked pretty awesome. It seems to be a painful coincedence that I always seem to be unemployed (or at least underemployed) whenever I have a graduation, which just goes to show that a million letters after your name doesn't make you anymore job secure.

Last week I spent helping Mum and Dad out at their work, picking orders and going out in the van to help on deliveries.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Act Two: Who do You (I) think You Are (I am)? Taranaki & Wellington

So, I stayed with Cheryl for a couple of nights in Waitara. The first day I went and caught up with a distant relation, who also happened to be the convener of the local Genealogical Society in Waitara and compared notes and photos. She was also a descendant of my Great-Great Grandparents John Reardon and Sarah Ann Bruntlett (pictured - you may recognise them from an earlier post).

Following that I mucked around for a bit, and then nipped down to New Plymouth, to check out where Puke Ariki was (the local museum, which also has a great archive). Admittedly it ended up mostly being a recon & use the free Wi-Fi mission. That night I had a small walk down to the beach (in pretty much stark darkness) and then watched a bit of TV and slept after a call to one of my mother's cousins who knew a bit about my mother's mother's (Nana) side of the family, the Melvilles of Kaponga.

The next day I went to New Plymouth and did my research - looking up all my Taranaki ancestors (of which are the majority). Unfortunately, I only found good information on the Melville ancestors, however that was better than nothing.

I had intended to do a bit of a drive around Southern Taranaki once I had finished there, to see some of the places my ancestors had come from, unfortunately it had decided to rain quite heavily, so I cut my losses and headed straight to another set of distant relations - Alan & Annette Reardon - who are related to me as John Reardon (pictured above) my Great Great Grandfather, was the brother of Alan's Grandfather William.

Alan & Annette had recently come back from a big trip around the British Isles - including spending some time investigating our ancestors and exploring where they came from - they managed to find Ballyriordan (The Valley of the Reardons) and met some O'Riordans, so they had some good stories and some extra information, including a map if I ever make it over there. We also had a fantastic feed of corned beef that night, which topped it all off nicely.

The next day I did most of the looking around Taranaki that I had intended to do the day before, first starting with Kaponga (Melvilles), then making my way to Hawera and then around the coast through Patea (Bartz), stopped in Maxwell (Reardons), and then spent some time at the Aramoho cemetery in Wanganui (various - Reardon, Bruntlett, and especially as apparently my elusive ancestor Edwin Valentine Westerby is buried there, but in the row where he is supposed to be, there is no headstone - probably not surprising when you desert your wife and kids, even if they do find out when and where you die, they might not be so keen to fork out for one.)

From there I hightailed it to Wellington, checked into my hostel, and caught up with Campbell - my mate that I worked with at the CPS in London.

The next day was Friday, and I had several things I needed to do on a week day - unfortunately the hostel didn't have it's own parking, so every morning I had to go and move my car before doing anything else. Anyhow, I wanted to visit the consulate offices of Spain, France, and the U.K. and go to Archives New Zealand. The Spanish consulate was very helpful, the French ignored me, and the British were closed by the time I got there.

At Archives New Zealand I mucked around a bit as I figured they wouldn't be so useful, being a bit cynical and jaded from other institutions I had visited so far, however, once I got into the swing of it I found they had a whole lot of my ancestor's wills - which I got them to photocopy for me, and have made very interesting reading.

Admittedly the rest of my time in Wellington was fairly low key, Friday night I did my washing, Saturday night I went out, but otherwise the only thing of great interest was on the way out I visited some more distant (again second cousin, twice removed) relations (Clemoes side) and chatted and shared information with them for several hours, which was great.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Whakapapa Hikoi - Act One - Rotorua

So finally I made it to my holiday without dying of exhaustion, or insanity. I haven't had any time off bar a week between assignments in July, since March last year.

Thursday night once I escaped work and had packed my car I got the hell out of Hamilton and headed for Rotorua.

On the way into Rotorua I noticed they had Wendy's restaurant, so the first thing I did the next day was go there for breakfast - which was awesome. While I was there I got a text from a family tree contact (who we have worked out is the partner of my second cousin twice removed) saying come over when your free - I texted back and said 'I'm free now - coming over'

The rest of the weekend involved a bit of family tree work, but mostly getting to know them through food and a road trip to Ohope (in which I managed to get my first ever speeding fine)

I had booked two nights in the hostel in Rotorua, and ended up being able to stay in two different houses the other two nights as my 'new-found' relations owned a business renting out holiday rentals. One of these houses was especially flash - spa pool on the back deck - and both of these houses backed onto Lake Rotorua. On my last night I went to church, and then found a place where you shoot an airgun (slug gun) at targets for prizes. For example I had to shoot an aluminum can until in fell in half to win a can of drink (which I did). It was fun.

The next day after a cooked breakfast, I headed off - I was heading first to Piopio, to meet and catch up with a Scottish girl I met in December in Hamilton. I got there eventually despite technology failing me - my SatNav was being a dick and not finding satellites, and then my iPhone had no reception until I turned it off and back on again.

From Piopio I carried on down to Waitara - to stay with Cheryl - who I stayed with back in May last year - and was the Director of the plays I was in 2007 & 2008 in Kaitaia.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Little Quixotic

For work We had our Christmas celebration as a breakfast at a local cafe. Christmas was spent at Papamoa with Mum, Dad, Suzanne, Bevan and Nana. Christmas day at Bowentown with us and my cousins. The weather that weekend was fairly average- I only had the statutory holidays off. New years went to the Papamoa tavern and saw the Feelers and Zed- two of NZ's popular bands of the early 2000s. The Feelers were the headline act, but I went more to see Zed, as they had broken up a while back. I had seen the Feelers in London for free not so long ago, so it was almost sad having to pay to see them here.

The middle weekend in January I made use of a birthday present from Adessa and went to Waitomo caves and went through the footwhistle cave after a nice lunch. The cave was good-interesting and well presented, but not too touristy. I had noticed when I looked at a map that the Waitomo caves road becomes Te Anga road, and I recalled that my great grandmother had lived there at one point, so on the trip home I did a big detour to check it out, as well as anything of interest on the way such as the natural bridge and the Marakopa waterfall which was huge and pretty cool.
The following week I managed to catch up with Campbell my workmate I worked with in London at the Crown Prosecution service. We had a couple of beers at home then had tea in town and finished off with a beer at a local pub called the Londoner, which seemed fitting. I was expecting it to be a 'London' pub in name only, but it turned out to be just like an east London pub.The next weekend I used another voucher to kayak along the Waikato river from Cambridge to the narrows.
 That was quite cool- peaceful more than anything. once that was over I had to rush to my first rehearsal of Don Quixote of La Mancha at the Riverlea theatre.The next weekend was Waitangi weekend, and Christine, a girl I grew up with got married to her welsh boyfriend now husband. Therefore we had a weekend in west Auckland, I got to catch up with a couple of girls I'd travelled around the south island with, so that was good, and my family and I went out to Piha to check it out at sunset. Since I had hardly swam in the last 3 years I decided to have a quick dip. The wedding was great, they made a lot of choices that I liked as ideas for my own future wedding. On the way home we dropped mum and dad off at the airport to go to Sydney. The following weeks were fairly similar, a lot of don Quixote rehearsals with the occasional other thing for variety such as a travel night put on by Calder and Lawson- the travel agency I used to go to London. The other thing was an Irish ancestry research day at the society of genealogists in Auckland- mum  and dad were going out fishing with one of their suppliers so we shared the ride, but meant I had less time. On the Sunday my mate Ron had his birthday and celebrated it the usual way- with a KFC party.In the following weeks I had a couple of interviews at our area office for a couple of jobs, and then I did two weeks on another team to cover someone. During this time we started performances of the play. In all it was good, we had pretty poor audience turn outs but admittedly it was competing with st Patrick's day and the balloon festival which were free events. Also I think with the economy and the price of the show people would be quite discerning with their cash.
I'm now just about to embark on an epic road trip... watch this space...