Cheerful Conversations

Ever get the feeling that you step outside the social loop for a few seconds and suddenly everything goes wild? This happpened to us this week.

On Monday Tam ran into our friend Fiona downtown, and Fiona handed over an invite to a dinner get-together. Seems she is getting married to a young Turkish fellow (Emrah). (Married?!? She was dating?) We were a bit gob-smacked, as this really seems to have come from nowhere. We get to the Istanbul cafe last night and discover that they actually got married that day, and this was the after-ceremony celebration! Ahh! No card! No present! Oh, well, no warning either!

Over dinner we had many conversations, and one of them was not so cheerful. A friend of ours who is a government lawyer has been flying to Auckland regularly for meetings of a committee to discuss and formulate plans for a bird-flu pandemic. Apparently they have already selected the mass-grave sites. Eeek. We also discovered that the are pretty much going for the “we are an island, use that advantage” strategy. They watch possible human-human transmissions cases verrry closely. The cases they just had in Indonesia almost resulted in a border closure. I think they want to try to minimize the spread within NZ and hope to ride out the storm until mass-vaccine production can start. The estimates is that this will be about 8 weeks. Grim possibilities. But, it is good to know they are thinking and planning, which is better than getting caught with your pants down if a worst-case pandemic starts!

In other news I have spent the last 2 days helping a new friend from Australia search for an apartment here in Wellington. Robin and her SO Selwyn were over here back in November for Crown Tourney, and enjoyed Wellington. But they both had jobs/careers in Sydney. Then both their jobs started to go belly up, so they decided “what the heck”, and are moving over here. Selwyn will be over ina few weeks, once he packs the house and ships the cats (sounds familiar). Darton (the local SCA group) continues its “expansion by stealing the best people of neighboring baronies” policy!

Or so they say

After one of Stephen’s scrummie pancake breakfasts and a long-distance chat with Mom, I dropped Stephen off at gaming and went into town, aiming for the Affordable Art Show on Queen’s Wharf. By “affordable”, they mean “under $5000” — so, affordable by some standards anyway. The schtick is that everything is “cash and carry”. If you see something you like, take it off the wall, haul it over to the checkout, and take it away with you. Show staff are constantly scurrying around filling gaps with more art. The show runs for three days, so even if you come the first day, there’s constantly new stuff to see.

What it was for me, though, was tremendously educational. I tend to be a “like that; ehn, don’t like that” sort of art consumer, but getting to see so very many different pieces by different artists all jumbled together, I couldn’t help but expand and refine my categories.

— That’s a good idea, but clumsily executed.
— This is derivative, AND clumsy. When you see fifty different mountains-reflected-in-the-lake, and twenty-five different pohutakawas-by-the-sea, you start to be able to tell the difference between skilled and not-so-skilled, even when the style is meant to be somewhat primitive or impressionistic.
— I really really like that, but wouldn’t want it on my wall.
— I’ve seen better work in SF con art shows, done by 13-year-olds. Do they seriously expect to get $700 for that ?
— That’s really very very good, but I don’t like it at all.
— This person should be doing X (comic book covers, childrens book illos, trading cards, etc.)
— This would be very suitable for a Y (motel, office, cafe, etc.)
— I would hang that on my wall, if I owned it, but will forget about it five minutes after I walk out of here.
— If I had $4500 and a living room big enough for it, I would walk out of here with that right now. Damn, but that’s cool.

There were only a couple of pieces that fell into the last category, one of which was a bench/sofa/thing made out of a hollow driftwood log. Overall, I would have liked to have seen a wider variety of media; there was a ton of flat art, but not very much of anything else. A bit of sculpture, and maybe two mosaic artists. No fibre arts at all, with the exception of one person doing mediocre soft sculpture of little tigers and dogs.

So I wandered around and had a look at everything. I found that when I passed the same wall for the second time, I’d notice pieces I hadn’t the first time by, so with that in mind, I got my hand stamped to go out and get lunch, planning to come back and do a second pass later, while I waited for Stephen to call for his pick up.

For lunch, I planned to head down to the new Mexican place in the Wellington Market and continue working my way down the menu. Outside, the weather was stunning — sunny and warm (nearly 60F, which is pretty nice for mid winter) with just enough breeze to get the sailboats out in droves. The waterfront was bustling (it was the last day of this round of school holidays, too). On the low wall in front of the Odlin timber “forest”, the really good Maori guitar busker had turned his microphone over to a pair of eight-year-old girls and was playing along while they sang “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star”. Hee.

I detoured to check out the frigate Wellington, which is tied up outside the museum. They’re stripping it in preparation for turning it into an artificial reef and dive attraction, and in the meantime, they’re letting folks tour it, and they’ve even got a little bar set up in the helicopter hanger. They’ve had neato period-style posters up all over town (check out and they’re selling the stuff they get out of it on TradeMe, and in a trailer-museum parked out front. Want to own a torpedo tube ? Or one of the consoles with all the switches and little lights ? I bought the key to the Gyro Room — how cool !

I also got a pretty macrame necklace with a hunk of turquoise and little bells from a nearby blanket-seller. Much cheaper than any of the art !

Stephen rang just as I was finishing up my tacos, so I grabbed some bubble tea (ooh, there’s a new Korean place in there… must drag StephenR out for bee bim bap…) and went to pick him up. There was still plenty of afternoon left, so after giggling at Jason (the palomino pony) and his new haircut, Stephen revved up the chainsaw and we did a little gardening. Woo !


Sunday was a nice day, the forcast rain held off till evening. For our morning activity we took Jim on a walk. We wanted to take up up the back hill and through the gate to Stuart’s side for walk along the ridge line. I tried calling, but he wasn’t home. Since it is not good form to take animals onto his side without permission, we decided to walk down the road.

We went quite far down, about 2 km. This brought us to John and Michelles place. They raise horses. The yearlings in the near paddock were doing the usual goggle-eyed stare at Jim (you could see their little though baloons of “what the &*$% is THAT?”). Then in the small yard by the house we encountered their minitaure horses. Jim was pretty darn freaked. He did not know what to make of them. Five meters was plenty close enough, and any movement on the part of the nearest wee pony would send him leaping back.

So after that trauma we headed back up the valley, and ironically ran into a woman who had come to take her miniature horse (a 9 month old colt– very cute) for a walk, both to exercise it and to help wear-down its little wee hoofs. That walk was most entertaining, as Jim would try to run for it every time the curious little pony approached. Finally we got him going, by letting him follow behind (where he could keep a keen camelid eye on the little devil!). All in all, probably good for Jim. He has to get used to weird and wild stuff if he going to be a good pack llama to take trekking.

Good Neighbors

We have mentioned our sheep-farming neighbor to the south, Stuart, before. He is a Character. He is also one of those people that apparently you get along with, or you Don’t. I though we were getting along well, and yesterday had a very amusing moment that confirmed the fact.

Phone rings….
“Hi Stephen, Stuart here, how are you doing?”
“So, anyway, the clue is ‘Archemedies’, and it has six letters.”
“Yes! That’s it, thanks!”

Didn’t know he did crosswords. 🙂

Later that day I ran into him and the grocery store, and we blocked the onions for an hour while chatting. Discovered that he DOES have machine guns- and the licence to own them. He has a “special weapons exemption” gun licence, allowing him mavhine guns, assault weapons…. just about anything. Apparently there is an antique arms auction in Wellington this weekend, with a mint-condition M-60 (never fired) up for sale, along with some other toys. Too bad you need an E-class gun licence to even participate!

But, should civilization colapse and zombie-cannibals start coming over the ridge from Porirua (where else?), at least we are only a few hundred meters away from a friendly face with a basement full of guns!


Someone has apparently decided to quietly set up a brothel on a yacht in Chaffers Marina, which for non-locals is adjacent to the Park Formerly Known as Chaffers Park, near our old apartment (they used to have a farmers market there on Sundays, but it’s all being torn up now, to be replaced by what promises to be a much nicer park). Brothels are, you’ll recall, legal here. However, the residents of Chaffers Marina reckon it’s a family neighborhood (in that there are several families living on boats there), and the people who have their boats there but don’t live on them are also concerned about “the sorts of people” whom the brothel will attract, and who will then be hanging around their unoccupied boats at all hours.

How do you “zone” a marina, I wonder ? I mean, it’s zoned for boats, right ? Interesting question. I wonder if I can find out more trawling through the Council website.

Bad Schedule, No Cow

So, on Saturday we drove up to Palmie for a meeting on alpacas hosted at Thief of Hearts. Jennifer, who is quite interested in alpaca fiber and colors, and Kerry, who was really bored, elected to come along. We went up a bit early so we could look at Hettie, a cow just up the road for sale. Hettie was a 1/2 highland freemartin. Freemartin is the term for mixed-sex twin births, where the mixed hormones in the womb make both offspring sterile. We were considering a cow-beastie as a way to help with pasture management, especially during the spring flush.

After looking at the cow we had a few minutes to kill, so decided to drive to “the end of the road”. The map we have is obviously not entirely accurate, as 20-minutes later we were heading further and further out into the wops. Fascinating, really, as a lot of work had gone into that road. One day we will have to go back and find out where it goes. We did discover a nice plateau in what looks from a distance like steep hill country, a plateau with a sheep and beef station on it, no less.

We were only a few minutes late for the meeting- where we discovered that both Tam and I had botched out intelligence tests- the meeting was Sunday! Doh!!! So we drove home, feeling really guilty about dragging Kerry and Jennifer along. When we got back Steve came over and we managed to get the front gutters hung on the shed, which was a good thing.

Sunday Tam drove back up to Palmie for the actual meeting, while I went off and played war-games. She learned a good bit about estimating dry-matter content in pastures, and generating feed budgets for animals, especially in winter. Useful stuff.

We also decided that Hettie was not for us. I talked to Lloyd, our neighbor who raises beef cattle, and he suggested against a single cow. Lots of maintenance issues for an animal that will not be able to do much about the lush spring growth. They figured with break-fencing the horses are a better bet. Oh, well, no Kew-Beastie for us, for now. Tam would have been happy enough to bring her home, but as the animal-wrangler on the place, her large size (500kg) and big horns made me a bit nervous.

Rainy Days

So, getting some rain today. Not a bad thing. Tam is also home sick today. But with bad weather, I have a perfect excuse to stay inside and tend to my poor, snotty sweetie. Once she gets up, that is. I can only figure 12+ hours of sleep is what she needs right now.

I also don’t mind the time off from farm work, as by Friday I am usually so physically exhausted that I can’t get much done anyway. That and one of my main tools is in the shop. July is the “brushcutting month of doom”, but my brushcutter broke! Nothing serious (not an expensive moving part), it was the aluminum handle- it snaped in half. They should have a new one by early next week, then it is back to cutting. I have an ambitious goal to get lots and lots done by November, both because it marks the second anniversary in the house, and my parents will be visitng. Must get stuff done! That and I am getting sick of brush cutting, so I better finish it off soon, before I lose all will to attack the rampaging gorse monsters.

Lion Slayers

Last weekend the BIG event was the Lions Tour coming to Wellington. For those who don’t know (do you live in a cave!?!), the Lions are the four-nations rugby team of England, Ireland, Wales and Sctoland, made up of the best players of those nations, coming to tour around NZ and play footie (rugby). This is the first Lions tour for 12 years, and everyone is very excited. We have also been facing the “Barmy Army”, tens of thousands of British rugby fans who have saved for years so they could come to NZ, hire a campervan, and follow their team around the country.

The tour has consisted of games against the local/provincial teams during the week, and three tests against the All Blacks, NZ’s national team, on the weekends. The All Blacks were looking for victory, after loosing the World Cup in 2003. And now was their chance, as England is the current reigning champion.

So, last Saturday night was the second Test, here in Wellington (the first was last week in Christchurch, the ABs won 21-6). The city was crawling with people. Not just the Barmy Army, ex-pat Brits had flown over from Australia, and plenty of Kiwis had come in from around the country for the test. They had giant screens set up around the city. Courtney Place, one of the main drags of the city (all buses go to Courtney Place, or so it seems) was closed off to handle the crowds. The police reckon that the crowds were larger than for the Return of the King premier back in 2003. Tam, Kerry and I took the train into town, and watched the game on the big screen in the Michael Fowler center. Lots of fun. The AB’s had the Lions for lunch. The first seven minutes of the game were pretty frought, as the Lions scored a quick try, and then some penalty points. That seemed to wake the ABs up, and the rest was a romp. Final score, 48-18. We then had to make our way out of town, working our way like salmon upstream through the tide of red coming out of the stadium as tens of thousands of Lions supporters hit the street.

But everyone was in a good mood. Unlike US fans, who regularly loot and burn if their team wins (or loses), this just turned into a huge street party. Apparently 40,000 people crammed into Courtney Place after the game, and the party went until dawn. A friend of ours who works for a major rail/freight company told us of the massive logistics effort that went into bringing in enough beer for the party. A really startling amount of beer was drunk. Really, more than that. And for these tens of thousands of fans there were only 90 police officers. And at the end of the night there were only 37 arrests for minor offenses- which is typical for a regular Saturday night. Remarkable. No bad behavior. No fighting. Everyone just there for a good time. It is nice to see when sporting events bring out the best in people. Kudos to the British fans, who kept good spirits and didn’t get grumpy, even after flying around the world to watch their team lose! 🙂

We have heard that the Barmy Army has been very impressed by the friendliness of the Kiwis. Good to see it going both ways. Tomorrow night is the final test in Auckland. Hopefully the ABs can make the series 3-0!

Farm-y stuff

Last week we had a fun farm moment. A bad southerly sotrm was prediected for the next day. No problem- I would be there to take any needed action. Then the storm came a few hours early. We were awoken at 2:30 AM by the sound of a howling wind dirving rain and hail against the windows. We couldn’t just lie there and do nothing… so 10 minutes later we are out there in our rain gear, moving the girls and cria down into the shelter. Well, step one was finding the girls and cria in the middle of the night. I am glad we have at least 1 white animal! And the little grey crias’ white head could be spotted, bobbing along in the darkness. After not-too-much effort we got them down and in cover, all but Galadriel and grey boy who bolted away. But they ended up in a well sheltered place alongside the fence with the boys (who were in the next paddock), and we were content. I look forward to having a winter when we don’t have 3-month old babbies running about, so we can sleep through the nasty storms. Or maybe the storms will be nice and come during the day when I can move animals about at my convenience.

Glad we have the shed, though!