Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Adele

We have tickets to one of her concerts in Auckland in March!

Yay!!

Travel and accommodation booked as well.

Good old David - he missed out on booking for the first two concerts and then just happened to see that an unadvertised third concert was open for bookings.

So that's my birthday present sorted.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

I am staying put today

After the big earthquake overnight and the multiple after-shocks.

We felt the big one but went back to sleep, and only woke when Tim phoned from London to check we were OK.

I was meant to be up at 4.30am but my boss Kevin said no, that travel by road into Wellington would be dicey (we texted at 3am-ish), so I have re-scheduled my flight till tomorrow.

But we shall see.

In the meantime, we are having friends over for brekkie to give and receive support.


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Tomorrow I am off to Hokitika!

I have been working steadily since leave Hokitika back in September, and managed to clock up enough hours to count as about a third of the number of working days while we were away in the UK.

Since we've been home, I have worked most days and officially started back at work last Monday.

But tomorrow I am back off down to Hokitika - can't wait to see the team down there again! And this week we are going up to Waiuta to see the finished site. All the remediation work has been done, so the Governance Group, the primary contractor and I are taking a trip up there to have a look at it.

I am excited, even though there is a weather warning in place that there may be snow that day. Thermals are ready to go in the suitcase, along with heavy duty socks, gloves and scarf. And I am planning on borrowing David's possum hat.

Later that afternoon I am running a Lessons Learned Workshop with the team, and then we are going out to celebrate the success.

Getting this project completed has been a long time coming - it was conceived years before I came on the scene. So it is great that it is finally done.

Photos at the end of the week.

And in the meantime, it is on to the next mine site to be remediated. Planning is done, design is being reviewed this week. It's all go go go.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

I am trying to work but the technology is stymying me

So instead I will update the blog - it is a far more relaxing thing to do than what David is doing, i.e. watching the US election results ... I am metaphorically burying my head under the blankets and pillows about that...

Firstly I wanted to post a couple of photos of us in Business Class, otherwise I will never see them again. Not sure about you, but we have so many photos (in the thousands) in electronic format that the blog is my best hope of seeing at least some of them in the future.
Now don't I look relaxed? And David is engrossed in the iPad.

And here he is sound asleep, lying down, flat, on a mattress, with a proper pillow and a duvet. How lovely is that?
So there you have it. I am planning on spending even more of the kids' inheritance by always flying BC to and from the UK - but, never again through LAX. In spite of how much he enjoyed BC, David is happy to do Economy, and while I would rather travel sitting together, the lie flat bed is a bigger draw card for me. So it isn't both parents who will be depriving their kids in the future, just the maternal one.

And now to being at home. It is lovely. Jetlag has been conquered again - always takes us about a week. and we are back in the groove of our Waikanae lives.

The weather has been mixed - some rain (it's spring) and some lovely warm sunshine (it's spring). And the garden is looking pretty good.

While David managed to mow the lawns the other day, I pulled out the forget me nots that had gone to seed. Evolution is a wonderful thing, folks - the FMNs seed prolifically and have a couple of  extremely effective seed distribution systems. One is by wind, if the primary method doesn't work, i.e. distribution by animals/mammals/foolish people.

I made the mistake of wearing a fleecy top while I was pulling the plants out and look at the result:

It took me 3 minutes to brush them off my jeans. But getting them off the fleecy was a different story. I tried to brush them off with my hands but the little b*ggers are the precursor to velcro and they stuck just as hard.

I was losing steam by that stage so I hung the fleecy on the washing line and left it out overnight while I considered the options.

In the morning I decided to try the tweezers. Well, they worked sort of, but were painfully slow - one seed pod at a  time. Do I look or sound like a woman with that much patience?

So options were:
  • throw fleecy out - a bit of a wasteful option, so discarded
  • see if they came off in the wash - could be bad for the washing machine and incur repair costs, so discarded
  • attack them with something as harsh as me - mmm, an option worth further thought
    • so what do we have?
    • aha! a hard scrubbing brush.
In fact we have two, so they both came out to be tried.

Success! However, it still took 20 minutes to get them all off.

Note to Self: Next year:
  • leave pulling the FMNs to Rob, or
  •  do it before they seed, or
  • don't wear a fleecy!

OK, back to work, Marilyn

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Home again

and jetlagged, so we're awake at 2.30am NZ time, after both having an unavoidable afternoon/evening sleep.

It is nice to be home, even though the weather in Waikanae was drizzly when we got here. And Joy and Grahame, the lovely neighbours over the back fence, tell us it has been cold and wet a lot while we have been away. So we definitely got the best of the weather then, given most of the warm clothing we took over to the UK wasn't used at all, and I had to buy T-shirts!

A good trip home in Air NZ Business Class - beautifully comfortable reclining seats, lovely food and wonderful friendly service. And the seats turn into beds, real beds! Bliss!

The only fly in the ointment, and it was a blowfly of absolutely gigantic proportions, in fact a swarm of them, in fact millions of swarms of them, was LAX.

Los Angeles International Airport is aptly abbreviated to LAX, because lax it is, with the most appalling arrangements for getting people into the country.

And we didn't even want to go in; we were in transit - with a two hour stopover. Well, not really two hours ...

Firstly we got off the plane (good thing I had a pee as soon as the seatbelt sign was off), collected a bright blue Transit card, and followed signage (sorry, Neil of nb Herbie) along extensive corridors up, and down escalators, round corners, until we reached the Border Control Processing area.

Then the queuing started:
  • for the computer terminals to check and register the ESTA - 
    • and then the ESTA system went down, 
    • and a couple more flights of people came in so there were well over 1000 people waiting
      • with no information being provided
  • after half an hour of nothing, no action, no info, 
    • the ESTA system came back up, so
    • we waited another half an hour for our turn, with no apparent rationale for some parts of the queue being shuffled forward ahead of other parts of it - AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
    • we finally got to the terminal and registered our ESTAs and our fingerprints and photos
    • and were told by the woman assisting that we were done and could exit back to the transit area;
    • but no - AAARRRGGGHHH!!! - we were told by an official as we were close to freedom (i.e. the doorway that would lead us back to the plane and out of Trumperyland) that we now needed to line up in another queue and get our ESTAs, passports, photos and fingerprints checked again by the Border Control officials.
  • so another hour of waiting in a randomly selected queuing system where the barriers seemed to be moved at whim by officials but not by any passenger/s
    • all the while Air NZ representatives were coming past checking that their passengers (us and several others) were progressing, albeit at glacial pace, and reassuring us that we would not be left behind
  • eventually, after a time of wonder and much frustration, which cannot be loudly expressed or we run the risk of being delayed further for behaviour unbecoming to those who want to get in and out of the US without touching the ground,
    • we were 'processed' by a very nice chap (honestly, no sarcasm or irony) and sent on our way to Security
  • getting to Security, to re-enter the terminal and get back on the plane 
    • having had no opportunity to shop/buy inappropriate things/take possession of a firearm (would they care?)/buy drugs/smuggle in an illegal alien/participate in acts of moral turpitude (forbidden if you want to enter  the US, we don't want to enter, but are not sure what moral turpitude entails, so maybe cursing under my breath or not so under my breath counts ...) 
  • as I was saying, getting to Security entails 
    • leaving the building
    •  re-entering the building
    • following several signs
    • going up escalators
    • getting our boarding passes stamped TRANSIT by an Air NZ rep for the purpose she said of making sure we got fast tracked through Security
      • ah, no it didn't.
      • we were able to go down the Business Class lane, and that shortened the wait to HALF a BLOODY HOUR
  • then at a run, to Gate 131 and back on the plane, apologising to the air crew as we came on
    • not your problem they said and do not worry and would you like a drink
      • chardonnay in a pint glass, sez I, and I wasn't joking ...
  • We weren't the last ones back on the plane - it was a full 20 minutes before the last people made it back
  • And then we had a 20 minute wait for a take off slot.
AirNZ were great: kind, helpful re-arranged connecting flights in NZ. But LAX? Crap, crap and more crap.

We are going to write a review of the LAX experience, as requested by the AirNZ crew, as they are powerless in the process.

One staff member at Border Control Processing said it is like that every day. To me that is a sign of a system that is broken, not just a computer system, but a whole system - policy, process and procedure.

For a start a simple change that would save airlines in transit a lot of money (as there is a cost to delays) is to set up separate queues for
  • visitors entering the country
  • passengers transferring to connecting flights
  • passengers in transit on the same bloody plane 
Instead of which, they have all three of these categories of people in the same endless interminable infinite extensive humungous excruciatingly long queue. AirNZ has apparently offered to pay for a fulltime Border Control person to alleviate this and process Air NZ transit passengers - the offer has been rejected.

They could make another tweak and have just one check - if your passport is new, like ours are and the ESTA hasn't been used in it before, then go into a queue that goes straight to a person for checking and registering.

I don't want to sound unsympathetic, but the person who had a seizure in the BCP hall while we were there had it easy - she got into the country faster, using the ambulance!
 
We loved our AirNZ Business Class experience (fully lying down to sleep is such a blissful thing to be able to do!) and will be doing BC-ing from now on. But we will not be travelling via LAX ever again.




Sunday, 30 October 2016

We were sad yesterday

After a lovely birthday celebration on Saturday with Tim and the boys - The Lion King was just great, and dinner at a Thai restaurant in Pimlico was lovely and made more so by two of Tim's friends, Issie and Gavin from Dalry, joining us as a surprise for him - yesterday was sad.

The boys were heading home by train with their babcia Jola to their mum in Dalry, which meant their saying goodbye to Tim for a couple of weeks, and we had to say goodbye to them and to Tim for the next 6 months - until we arrive back here early in May next year.

So a few tears all round.

And today we have to say goodbye to our good friends, Barry and Pauline, who we've been staying with for the last couple of nights.

But wait - we are travelling home Business Class - yippee, we can lie down! And we are short so we fit the beds when we are fully stretched out!

And there's more: we are going home to our wonderful NZ friends and our lovely home (although the garden and lawns have no doubt grown a fair bit in the warm wet spring weather).

But wait, there's more! My work awaits, and I am very excited about that - I have kept in touch and done quite a bit of work during our time over here - jet lag and then general insomnia have assisted having work not encroach on the holiday aspects in the main. So I will be travelling to Hokitika every fortnight, and that place and its people are a pleasure to be around. The team has finished cleaning up the Waiuta Mine site so it can be re-opened for visitors, and now we are planning the clean up of the Alexander Roaster and Battery - all to be completed before May next year. (Note to team: it must be completed before 4 May, as that is the day that I am getting on the plane to the UK - get it? got it? good!)

And David has several more Weaving Memories jobs lined up waiting, so he will be kept busy and won't have time to watch daytime TV (yeah, right!)

And we have friends coming over from the UK who will be visiting, so plans must be made for their Waikanae experience...
  • big Neil and little Neill from Bude in Cornwall are coming in January - big Neil's surprise 50th birthday present for little Neill was/is a trip to NZ and we are on the itinerary
  • Irene and Ian from nb Free Spirit are on their Big OE (Overseas Experience - for the northern hemisphere-ites who don't understand the Oz/NZ acronym for our intra-hemisphere travels). Currently they are in Oz and heading for NZ in the New Year.
And we have our friends Jack and Sarah and their owner, Duey the papillon, coming to visit in December.

And Pete and Warren are moving to Carteron to a HUGE ENORMOUS house and we will have to go and visit them.

And Cafe Rata will be re-opening.

So it'll the time between now and early May will be busy and productive, as well as filled with friends and socialising. Note to self: must get in touch with lovely sister and arrange a getting together, soonest!


Friday, 28 October 2016

Grandparents are exhausted!

Tonight we are ensconsed in a Premier Inn in Woking. We were meant to have the grandsons with us but, sensibly for their dad to eliminate a lot of travelling, they elected to stay with their Aunty Olga in Putney, close to where Tim lives. We are not taking it personally that they want to stay with Olga, Savas and their three children. We know they love spending time with their cousins, and we also know that we are exhausted. Five weeks of constantly travelling, packing, unpacking has taken its toll.

The grandsons are great, well behaved and the most lovely kids anywhere - yes, they are - don't argue. Our grandsons are the absolute best! But we are no longer in our 30s or even our 40s or 50s, and we certainly don't have the stamina we once had!

I said to David one morning this week that I remember when I first realised my dad was getting old - he was 65, had had grey hair with a seriously receded hairline since I could remember (he attributed both to me) so in my eyes he had always looked the same. One day, we were putting up the old canvas tent at the bach and he was puffing, and I thought 'Bloody hell, Dad, you are old!' (Note thought, not said...) This week, I feel the same. Tim keeps saying that David and I do really well, but I have been in bed before the kids a few nights since we've had them with us. How pathetic is that!!?

Tomorrow is Tim's 41st birthday, so it's 30 years since he was Olek's age and 35 years since he was Karol's age.

Was I ever that young? I don't feel old, or, more to the point, I certainly don't feel grown up enough to be 65 (nearly 66). And I try not to grunt or groan when sitting down which is a sure sign of being over 50, I am told.

But I am looking forward to my business class bed on the way home on Monday and my own bed back in Waikanae ...

(David says 'Ditto' in failing tones.)

But first there is The Lion King tomorrow for Tim's birthday, and we are looking forward to that immensely. It is great going to the theatre with kids - their response is so primal and spontaneous.

Another memory: back in 1990 we took Tim and Kirsty to Starlight Express and Miss Saigon here in London. Their reactions to both shows were highlights of that trip for David and me. So tomorrow afternoon, I expect we will both be smiling mightily, even though a few hours later we will be saying a sad good bye to the boys and Tim until May next year.