Nothing says Christmas like– Pirates!

So, these last two weekends we have been in local Christmas parades. Once again we reprised our roles as pirates, and had a great time. Robert, the guy who runs Westside Studios and organizes the floats for the parade, made us a special new pirate ship this year. We were part of a double float, with the newly refurbished “Black Pearl” hooked up directly behind (and thus chasing and fighting with) the blue “Vicotry”.

The pirates were better dressed than our badly outnumbered English opponents.

The Wellington parade on the 18th was all very orderly, to the point where we were not allowed to hand chocolate gold coins out to the kids for “safety reasons”. Barriers had been erected along the parade route. The day was beautiful, and they estimate 60,000 people turned up, which is pretty good considering the whole region only has a population of 400,000! The waist-high barriers were fine, but towards the end of the parade they were using 7′ barriers, and it felt more like parading through a prison camp.
The Hutt Christmas parade on the 24th was a bit more chaotic. There were no safety barriers. The crowd was mobbed in the street, in places we could barely squeeze through and the ground-based pirates (who were allowed to hand out sweets) could not walk alongside the float in places due to the press of people.  We are lucky some little kid didn’t go under the wheels.

Before the second parade Robert thanked us for our pirating. With our costumes and all we are now one of the flashiest floats in the parade. He offered us the loan of the pirate ship float if we wanted it for a party or something in the future. Pretty cool! I don’t know what I would use a priate ship float for, but the offer is certainly appreciated!

Pirates Ho!

This weekend was the Lower Hutt Christmas Parade- and nothing says Christmas more than a ship load of blood-thirsty pirates! So once again the Amanita Virosa raised its black sail, and set forth to terrorise the peoples of the Hutt Valley.

And what’s better, we got paid to be in the parade! I guess that makes us professional pirates, or something. We were lucky that we didn’t get rained on during the parade, and the cold southerly wind didn’t seem to deter the crowds- we were pleasantly surprised by the masses of people that thronged the parade route though the Lower Hutt CBD. And I made someone shriek like a cheerleader in a slasher film! That’s the christmas spirit! Robert, the guy who runs the prop warehouse and organizes many of these parades, really likes us pirates. We are “good value for money”, as we are one of the most interactive crews he gets out there. Few other floats have ground personnel to work the crowds. Looks like we might get more invitations to be pirates in the future!

The fun farm related thing we did this weekend was release the boys onto the back hill. We have never had ‘paca grazing back there, and only had horses there for the first time this last winter (there is finally enough cleared pasture). The ‘paca were in ferret-shock mode, exitedly exploring their new environment, all the while in belly-deep food. They had a good time. I like this shot of Jim, as llamas and tree-ferns are quite a juxtaposition!

Back to Packed

So, after a breif lull of “free” time, our schedule has returned to normal.

Last Wednesday before A&S we raided some flax from Maggie and Martins place. They have a totally overgrown garden that they are massively pruning back. This involves, among other things, getting rid of a stand of mature flax. We took away 23 plants just that night, and on Thursday I planted them to be the start of a new wind-breaking shelter belt around the house. In future weeks we will take more of them away to finish the belt.

Friday night it was Pirates on Parade! The St Patricks Day illuminated Night Parade went ahead, and we pirates had a wonderful time. We almost didn’t get started, as our float (which was to be first) got stuck behind a telephone pole, and other floats had to go around while the driver tried to get us unstuck. When we finally got moving he had to drive at well above the parade-mandated 5 kph limit to catch up, with Hillary and I running along side the float like piratical Secret Service agents. It was lots of fun, and the crowd really loved our antics– and the occasional screams of shock and alarm were pleasing, too.

Saturday morning I drove into town to pick up Amy&crew. I had met Amy twice before, she used to work at Millennium in the same group as Judy. She and her husband Max (and 2 year old Ari) are considering moving to NZ, and this is their “check it out” vacation. We took them (plus Amy’s brother Jeremy, who was also in-country for vacation and had hooked up with them) up to the farm to play with a kitten, alpaca, and ponies. They all had a great time, as near as we can tell. Though Ari was a bit overwhelmed at times by the rather large and pushy critters Oak and Max in particular). Plus Amy (at my request) brought 3 (!) boxes of Multi-Grain Cheerios. This is my favorite breakfast cereal for which I have not found a local equivalent. I am looking forward to some yummy breakfasts over the coming months (have to ration them out).

Saturday night we had a dinner-party at Stuart and Sibylle’s. Lots of ymuuy food, plus we got to meet their friends Steve and Tam! (Steve with a v in this case, and Tam is short for Tamzin). An interesting couple that met while on a multi-year trip around the world. They moved to NZ as they felt it was the best place to raise their three kids. And after spending months or years in dozens of countries, I guess that says very good things about this place!

Sunday morning we went over to Mike and Lara’s place for instructions in stage fighting (so that the pirates can add to their repetoir). It as fun, though I did find it a bit of a challenge to deliberately telegrapgh my attacks. Over the coming months we will probably get some pirate-like stage swords for the next time the pirates are called upon to abuse the populace. Sunday night Geoff, Beth and Mikhail came over. We didn’t get a chance to watch any Anime, but we did catch up on the Battlestar Galactica episodes we had missed. Fun!

And now the work week has begun. But at least it will be a short one as we are taking Friday off (my birthday) to go up to the Central Districts Field Days in Fielding for some farm-shopping! Woot!

Some stuff we've been up to lately



The first pic is of this year’s “Pirate Camp” at the second soon-to-be-annual Folklore Festival/Medieval Faire/Whatever They Decide to Call It. Like last year, the Faire was not exactly like you’d imagine if you’re used to US-style Renne Fests, because 99.99% of the people involved have never been to one of those, have no idea what they’re like, and are sort of bemusedly playing along with the three or four of us who *have* been to one. Instead, it was a sort of hybrid creature of which about 40% was an assortment of the local Medieval (or Roman (!)) reenactors/re-creationists sort of camped out and taking turns doing demos in the arena, about 30% merchants of arguably not-Modern goods & services (think driftwood sculptures, head shops, face-painting, massage, etc.), and another 30% “other”, that “other” being composed of on-stage entertainment (belly dancers, the local oud/violin/doumbek trio (that being one of the incarnations of Tangerine: Liz, Tim, and Bruce), a couple of singers…), the costume hire place, the Fairies, the Pirates, and a smattering of the People Who Get It dressed up in character and randomly accosting each other and the anyone they could convince to play along with Plot.

No horses in the arena this year, as we were in a smaller park, but they had them around for pony and wagon rides. We had a better setup this year, as we had the boat for the whole weekend and could thus integrate it better into our area. They stuck us right at the front gate, too, so we could accost people coming and going — we’ll never know how many people saw Stephen (AKA Scurvy the Cook) haranguing passersby and turned right around and went back the way they came. Stephen grew a week’s worth of stubble for the occasion, so he was nice and scruffy-looking.

Saturday we actually had to bail halfway through the day, as we’d gotten a call the night before that the stock truck was on its way with our two remaining alpacas, finally coming down from Auckland. The black one (the only one of our girls visibly pregnant so far) is Galadriel, and the fawn one is Concetta. It may be hard to tell from the photos, but they are *quite* a bit smaller than any of our other alpacas (we’ll know how much smaller when the boys are finally shorn), especially Concetta. She’s our expensive, high-end “quality” girl — petite, feminine, cute, and ever ready to spit or kick at anything that comes too close to her butt. Watching her spit off Jim, three times her size, was High-larious. She’s also The Invisible Alpaca, as she’s just about the exact color of the dried-off long grass.

Sunday was back to Pirating, in the scorching, breezeless 77F degree heat. Hah ! I can’t tell if I’m getting acclimated to the point where 80 degrees actually feels “hot”, or if the intensity of the sun just makes it feel like it’s ten degrees hotter than it actually is. I suspect it’s the latter, since it’s always lovely in the shade. Anyway, the sun brought out the crowds (I suspect the fact the the Global Challenge yachts were having an Open Day 100 yards away didn’t hurt, either), and if they all had as much fun as it looked like they were having, we should have no trouble getting the Faire funded again next year. And in the meantime, the crew of the Privateer Amanita Virosa got several offers of hire for various other events, starting with an upcoming Irish parade, of all things.

The last photo is just another bit of summer for you folks oppressed by the Northern Winter. There are many Pohutakawas in Wellington, but this one is ours.

Still alive

So we’ve survived the Folklore Festival, only a little sunburned, and ready to hunker down and do nothing at all (except unpack) for a while. The crowd loved Pirate Camp & we all had a blast kidnapping dancers, singing, fighting off trolls and getting our photos taken with small children and Asian teens. Stephen was in fine form, offering passing children the choice between joining the pirates and being eaten by them (Stephen was “Scurvy”, the ship’s Cook, complete with bloody apron, carrots and garlic hanging from his belt, and three days worth of unshaven scruff). There will be pictures eventually — we supposedly have DSL at the new place, but haven’t managed to set up a computer yet.

BONUS: We found Emily ! We knew she’d moved here a few years ago, but never managed to dig up her address — and there she came through the gate of the Faire, just as I happened to be walking by. (The shrieks of delighted recognition no-doubt amused and bewildered the rest of the crowd.) Turns out she’s living in Auckland, and came down with some friends for the Return of the King Premier. This being Emily, after a quick catch-up, she scurried back to her hotel to return to the Faire in garb — so we roped her to a chair and tried to auction her off to passers-by. Then some trolls came and carried her off. Anyway, good fun ! We may be getting together with her tonight, depending on how the Rings hoo-hah goes today.

Speaking of Rings hoo-hah, Wellington is positively berserk. I took photos of some of the decor earlier this week — will get those up as well. But of course now all the stars are here (several of whom were spotted at the Faire), and there are people (possibly including Emily) all camped out along the parade route. The place is *stuffed* with tourists — or as the Kiwis say, “chocka”. Since we were pretty much confined to the park all weekend, I’ll have to wander out at lunch today and see for myself how nuts things are. Part of me wants to dive in along with everybody else, but part of me is also just as happy that we got out of the apartment when we did (it being pretty much next door to the theater) and can avoid it all.

It’s really amazing up the valley — so… rural. Yesterday evening as we were unloading the truck, it was no nice to just stand there, watching the sunset on the hills and listening to the birds and the distant bleating of sheep. Speaking of which, Stephen tells me we have another addition to the gallop paddock: one of the neighbor’s calves has found its way through the fence somehow. So that’s one horse, five ponies, two sheep, and a calf. None of which actually belong to us. Hee.

Sunday Pirates

We slept in on Sunday, trying to recover from the late night of Rugby watching. One advantage of the current apartment is that our bedroom is buried in the middle of the building with no windows, making it very dark. This allowed me to sleep in until 8:30! Oooh, luxury!

That afternoon we went back to fight practice up in the Price of Wales park, which was fun. More preparations for the Folklore fest were ongoing, including work on some of the monster costumes. They should be a hoot. Tam also got a chance to talk a bit more with Roger, coordinating props and the like for pirate camp. From there we drove over to Shelly’s place in Kingston. Again, the snakes-and-ladders road system turned us around a few times, but we eventually found the place. I think she has one of the best views in Wellington. Instead of looking out over the harbor her place looks west into the uninhabited steep hill country. Way down the valley you can even see the Cook Straight. Perched on top of the hill there is plenty of wind, but its position also means that you cannot easily see other houses out the living room window, just the green hills to the west.

We spent a fun-filled afternoon planning our piratical ways. Costume elements were tried-on, names and backgrounds were worked out, and various scenes we could run were devised. Trying to be “on” for two consecutive 8-hour days will no doubt be exhausting, but it should also be a great deal of fun. The desire to find more of our props and other cool stuff is also going to be a powerful incentive for Tam and I to unpack as qucikly as possible. I fully expect our first week in the new house to be “frenzied”, to put it mildly!

Folk Parade

On Thursday night we all gathered to do a promotional parade for the coming Folklore Festival. This is going to be New Zealands first attempt at a Renn Faire, being run by a fellow from California who moved here 5 years ago, but used to be heavily involved in the Renn Faire circuit back in the states. As he has described it, the Kiwis do not “get” the concept as of yet. They have plenty of recreation organizations down here, but they tend to be closed groups that just play with each other. The idea of recreation as crazy street theater is new to them (apparently). Also, with such a small population base you need to bring in every possible group to hit critical mass for the faire. One ramification of this is that we have a serious hodge podge of periods and styles. Should be a hoot!

Originally Tam and Sybille (a friend from dance class) had wanted to do the “Bellydancer Busking” thing, but as another troupe of dancers were already lined up to do some more formal performances, they decided not to step on any toes (and steal any limelight), and decided to go down the pirate path instead. After a conversation with Roger, the organizer, this suddenly and horribly grew and mutated. Now we have a whole “pirate camp” area with a tent, a ship, props, and all sorts of other stuff. We have a half-dozen priates now (all dancers), and are recruiting more. As they come from the dance class, again I am the token male. Which of course makes me the ship’s cook! With Captain Belladonna Bess, and crew like Die Rote Johanna, Dizzy Nell the Navigator, Mistress Comeaboard our “cruise director”, and Blackpowder Peg, I have obviously learned to be very quiet and careful.

So Thursday evening at 7 we gathered to advertise the festival, which is now less than 2 weeks away. About 20 of us arrived in garb behind a local pub, where The Order of the Dragon put on a live steel fighting demo. I had the only drum, which I played and played until my hand was bright red and quite sore. From there we marched up Manners street to Courtney Place, dropping into the larger bars along the way to spread the message. Hopefully we will have good crowds come the weekend of the festival. I will be doing both SCA fighting demos and pirating, changing back and forth between costumes as the day goes by.

Quick note

Stephen *did* in fact come with us to Full Moon Drumming at Zebos Sunday night — and he shook his jinglies around the fire pit with the rest of us, to the vast delight of many (and the no-doubt horror of a few). We did indeed meet up with Roger and several other Festival organizers, and somewhere in the dancing and drinking got handed the “Pirate Camp” at the Festival. Yikes ! I mean, uh, “ARRRRR!!” We’ll see if we (“we” in this instance meaning most of the Thursday Night Aro Street dancers) can pull it off. We’ve only got three weeks…

In case y’all are thinking we’re just slackers, not updating the blog more often (we *are* slackers, but in addition to that…) here’s what our week looks like:

Monday: Beverley’s dance class. optional: gaming at the Ferryman

Tuesday: TBD, Optional: Huda’s dance class. This week we went and saw the Matrix, which um… well, if you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil you. Very pretty, though, at least on first viewing.

Wednesday: Stephen plays Warhammer; I’ve got an African drumming class. Optional: SCA A&S night — this’ll be our first time going, so it may become regular. Last week of course was Guy Fawkes.

Thursday: Aro street for dancing and working on the show (“The Two Sisters”, written by Sybille, was going to be for Fringe, but we weren’t early enough grabbing a venue) Optional: Huda’s dance class

Friday: TBD, often rugby, until the World Cup wraps (Go Black!).

Saturday: TBD, last week was the A&P show, etc., this week… Stephen, what are we doing this week ?

Sunday: TBD, Optional: Archery, Fight Practice. This week is an organizational meeting for Pirate camp.

Coming up in November: Shearing at Willowbank Alpacas, closing on the house, moving, Thanksgiving — which we, in a fit of insanity, are planning to have at our new place, the day after we move in. Actually, probably two Thanksgivings, as we’ve been invited to another one being thrown by a somewhat larger chunk of the American ex-pat community… — and the Folklore Festival. Whee !

Freaks like us

[In case you’re reading these from the top down, instead of chronologically, Stephen is posting using my login, because his has stopped working for some reason. I’m commenting in brackets like this. –T]

So, after such a long and event-filled Saturday, we looked forward to a slightly slower and more sedate Sunday. The morning started at a reasonable time (7:30 for me, 8:15 for Tam), and after breakfast we drove up to Upper Hutt to meet with a fellow (Shaun) and look at his Ute. [A “ute”, pronounced “yoot” or “yewt”, is a “utility vehicle”, i.e., a pickup truck. –T] This Ute had a little problem, in that he had rolled in into a ditch and buggered up the cab, denting in the top, shattering the windshield, and bending both doors. I will call around to some panel-beaters this week, and see if it can be repaired cheaply. [“Panelbeaters” is the wondrously evocative word for “body shop”. –T] The main reason I wanted to go up was that Shaun was a regular on the lifestyleblock list, a smallfarmer site I have been reading for the last few years. Getting connections into that community is really important, as they have so much skill and knowledge and will be vital in the coming months. Ian (also of the list) and a woman whose name we can’t remember were also there, and we talked for nearly an hour. Ian suggested we get about 30 lambs and run them on the land until we can get around to having some stock of our own. He even volunteered to drive over to the stock sales in Carterton with us, to help us with the whole process. Don’t know if I want to do that, as it may be easier to lease the land out to stock, run horses on it at $10/head/week or something like that. But it was nice to get the offer, and feel a bit of the often discussed “kiwi friendliness”. [Kiwi friendliness in this instance extended to the woman’s new horse as well, which she’d just finished brushing and which contentedly stood there in the little knot of us by the porch, cocking an ear to the conversation and occasionally using my shoulder to scratch its face. –T]

Afterwards we got a bit of food in Upper Hutt central, […stopped for a bit to skip stones in the Hutt… –T] then made our way back down into the city to drop by fight practice. This week all three of the heavy list fighters were there, and we chatted as they took rest-breaks from fighting. All three (Richard, Stephen and Dillan) seemed quite cool, and I very much look forward to getting my gear in a few weeks and joining them. Having such a small community of fighters will be like how I started back years ago in Philadelphia, back when it was only Brad, Len and I fighting in the back driveway week after week. They also do combat archery with 3/4″ blunts, which may get Tamara out there plinking away at us on occasion.

Rodger from the Folklore Fest also dropped by, and he and Tamara spoke of plans for the festival. Tamara wants to dance [Sybille and I want to dance… well, Sybille really wants to dance; I mostly just want to play dress up and mess with the tourists a bit. –T], but another troupe has arranged to do a stage performance, and they are a bit nervous about having other people in their territory, but it sounds like she may be able to swing a “pirate-gypsy” theme [Roger’s idea, not mine, I swear ! –T] that will not cause any conflict, and be lots of fun to boot. I will be participating in some heavy-list fighting being done as demos, which means a high priority upon unpacking will be finding all my fighting gear and making sure it is all ready to go, as I have not seen it in 9+ months.

To our great amusement we also saw the monsters training for some of their events. This folklore fest is structured a bit like a Ren Faire, and yet not. Rodger, who is running the thing, wants it to mutate into a more “Middle Earth Faire”, with a definite fantasy element thrown in. With such a small community of fighters, dancers, and recreationists to choose from, it is going to have to be a blender of different genres to make critical mass for performers. Should be a hoot, though. [The main difficulty is explaining to the locals just what a Renn Fair is. Most of the folks Roger has roped in are re-creationists, and the line between re-creation and street theater can be surprising wide and opaque. –T]

Overall a great Sunday. We met lots of people, and established more connections with freaks like us that will hopefully help us expand our social circle. And that is very useful. Later tonight we go off to do some drumming, as every full moon they have a big drum jam-session at a local club.

[…That’d be Zebos, yes. Sybille and I are heading over together & we’ll hopefully hook up with Roger and chat some more about the festival. Woo ! –T]