Newsletter – New Zealand Chapter – 2002

New Year 2002.

Kia ora,

Happy New Year and our humble apologies for the long delay in writing. We have had quite a hectic season and just never managed to get down and write.

We have just celebrated our second Christmas and New Year in New Zealand and this one was a lot more fun. Last Christmas was just the three of us and was rather depressing. This year we have some very good friends and our family is bigger now that Darren is here.

Brad joined us on the 6th Jan for 10 days holiday and Darren’s little friend, Mandy, was with us from 31st Dec also for about 10days. Darren celebrated his coming of age (21st) on the 9th Jan, so it was great that he had his elder brother with him as well. On Wednesday the 9th, we all went to the Orbit Restaurant on the top of the Auckland Sky Tower for dinner to celebrate Darren’s 21st. We had a great evening of good cuisine, fine wine and fantastic views of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Did I mention that the restaurant revolves? On the following Saturday we had a little get together at our house for some of our and Darren’s friends where we did the usual toast, speech and handing over of the key and presents. It was a lovely evening and at midnight all the youngsters went off to a “Techno rave” in the city.

Irene and I clubbed in with Brad to buy him a set of turntable decks and mixer which he has had his heart set on for some time. He is delighted with his new toys but I am not too keen on the noise (how’s that for pure poetry?)

Evan finished his first year at Corelli with flying colours; He passed the Royal School of Music Grade 4 Flute and Grade 2 Theory with distinction and Grade 2 Piano with a merit award. He was also awarded a lovely floating trophy for the most “Consistent effort & Commitment in Musical studies”. At prize-giving night he played a solo, which was the showstopper of the evening. He played a Grade 8 piece by Debussy called Syrinx and almost brought the house down. Of course, father, being the softy that I am, had a HUGE lump in my throat.

Darren has bagged himself a great new job, started on 14th Jan. He saw the job advertised on the Internet and sent in his CV. They were impressed and asked him to come in and do a job for one of their clients as a test. (They also paid him for the job.) They liked what he did and after reading the great reference from his ex boss in the UK offered him a permanent position with the company, not only with an excellent package but assistance in obtaining a two-year work permit, so he can now take his time in applying for residence. We are, of course, all over the moon about it.

My job is going fine, my long awaited promotion has finally come through and I now have the distinguished title of Master Scheduler. With the new title comes quite a nice increase in salary so all things considered, everything is going well for us. The new position entails a lot of forward and lateral thinking as well as learning a completely new computer system, so the company flew me down to Christchurch for a day last year for training. It was really great being in Christchurch again; both Irene and I think it must be one of the most beautiful cities in the New Zealand.

Our plans to convert the house into a B&B have been put on hold for a few months as Darren is currently using the downstairs flat until he saves enough to get his own place, we are just too happy to have him here so are certainly not chasing him. We do, however, plan to purchase another house within the next six months. We want to rent it out and pay the mortgage from the rent we receive. There are a lot of tax advantages to this type of investment. You will recall in our last Newsletter, that we were planning to build a two bed roomed cottage on the property, well the red tape involved in this venture makes it too much of a hassle, hence the decision to buy another property instead. Having said that, this does not mean that we can’t put any of you up if and when you visit NZ. We would be delighted and Darren won’t mind moving upstairs during your stay.

Guy Fawkes in NZ is big and they have an abundance of home fireworks displays.

Our house has the added advantage of a wonderful suburban view from the deck (stoep) so we invited some friends over for drinks and a fantastic vantage point for the pyrotechnic display over Browns Bay. The usual Guy Fawkes rain did little to dampen our spirits and all had a good time.

Another big event in NZ is “Halloween”, with kids coming to the door shouting “Trick or Treat”. We had to stock up on “lollies”(Kiwi for sweets) for the occasion. Even Evan was swept up by the fun and dressed as a vampire and hit the streets “Trick-or-Treating”.

Summer is slow in coming this year; apart from a few warm, sunny days (Christmas day, Boxing day and New Years day included) we haven’t had a descent summer at all. Lots of rain and wind. Even the Kiwis are complaining, and they are used to rain. However, the Met office is predicting a dry and warm February and March, we are certainly looking forward to it.

Economically, NZ is booming. Because we are so remote from the rest of the world, the events after the September 11th catastrophe have not yet affected us and things could not be better. The interest rates have dropped and property prices are soaring, job opportunities are plentiful, the NZ government encourages entrepreneurship and has a host of programmes geared to help the one-man business. But most importantly, NZ is a very safe place to live. This has become well know around the world and particularly in SA, as there are literally thousands of South Africans and others coming into NZ every month. It can only make for a stronger economy.

Irene’s job is going well. Her boss has decided to allow her to work from home. They are going to install a high-speed Internet link and video camera for her and will allow her private use after hours. There are a lot of advantages to this and she is very happy about it. We will keep you all informed.

Irene and the boys send love and kisses; please write soon, we love getting news from you.

I’ll end with a few little laughs (Thanks to Graham Shuttleworth)

Love

Alf, Irene and Boys.

What is the quickest way to clear out a men’s restroom?

Say, “Nice Dick.”

Why does Mike Tyson cry during sex?

Mace will do that to you.

What do you call a smart blonde?

A golden retriever.

Why did OJ Simpson want to move to West Virginia?

Everyone has the same DNA.


Easter 2002

Greetings from the City of Sails

Well, Easter has come and gone – we trust that you had a good one. We went down to Lake Taupo for the Easter long weekend and had a great time. Lake Taupo is the largest fresh water lake in NZ and lies in the centre of the North Island. It is about a three and a half hour drive south of Auckland. The lake was formed after a HUGE volcanic explosion some 250,000 years ago. The eruption spread debris and ash across 2,500 sq km of countryside and material from the eruption has been located in the waters of Antarctica near South America. This monster explosion is the largest known in the southern hemisphere. About 26,500 years ago another vast blast spread ash over most of the country, and in the most recent eruption, 1,800 years ago, pumice and ash buried everything in the surrounding region. The lake covers 606 sq km and has an average depth of 110m. A dozen or so streams and rivers flowing down from the surrounding snow-capped mountains feed Lake Taupo. Its only outlet is the Waikato River. Needless to say the water is freezing and swimming without a thermal wetsuit could be hazardous to the health. However, it is a haven for trout fishing and boating and there is quite a unique phenomenon in that, the area is full of volcanic thermal activity and the water from a number of the streams feeding the lake is hot, so one can often find a rock pool of warm water on the beach where the stream runs into the lake to relax in.

Now for some other news:

Irene now works from home. Her company has installed a high-speed data line in our house so we are on the Internet 24 hours a day; rather good as we are free to use it for private use. She really enjoys working from home and it is nice for Evan during the holidays to have someone at home with him.

Evan is still excelling at Corelli, his teachers; both music and academic say that he is doing really well in all subjects. He, as part of the Corelli orchestra, is going on tour to Norfolk Island in a month’s time. The Orchestra has been invited there to participate in a music festival which they have every year. (Norfolk Island is an Island off the East coast of Australia and is administered by Aussie). Also, he has been chosen to perform as soloist in a concerto to be performed at the end of year concert together with a combined Corelli and invited guest’s orchestra – all very exciting.

My job is going well. The firm I work for has been sold to an engineering company and as luck will have it I have been given another promotion. I am now production manager as well as master scheduler. Again, with the promotion comes another increase. I am quite thrilled with the new challenge.

About a week ago, I received in the mail a summons to report to the Auckland regional court for jury duty. It is the civic duty of all Kiwis to serve on a jury at least once in their lifetime, so I feel quite privileged to have been summoned to serve my new country so soon. Unfortunately, with the promotion at work and because I am involved in the integration of the new computer system, my employer has written to the court to request an exemption from this session. I am a little disappointed but there will be other times. Irene was very jealous, as she would have loved to serve on a jury. Anyway, her time will come too.

Darren is also doing very well at his job and seems to be enjoying it immensely. He has found himself a very nice circle of friends and they do quite a bit of “jolling” together. He is currently planning a trip down to Mount Ruapehu and the Tongariro National Park in June and September to do some snowboarding and skiing. We celebrate the Queen’s birthday on the 3rd June, which is a public holiday and gives us a nice long weekend, so we will probably also head on down to the ski fields for some winter sports. The trip only takes about 4 hours.

The winter approaches fast and the BBQ has been packed away for the winter. We have already stocked up on firewood for our lovely fireplace and are quite looking forward to the lazy evenings in front of the cosy fire watching the Super 12 on TV. What has happened to those Sharks? However, autumn is so beautiful in NZ, with lovely warm days and cool nights, not too much rain. If anyone wants to come over, now is the time, airfares are cheap

The property market has exploded in Auckland and the prices have sky‑ rocketed. Our house, which we bought in October last year has already increased in value by between 10% and 15%, with mortgage rates only increasing by a mere quarter percent in the same time. We continue to look for another house to buy as a rental. I think that I did mention that there are tremendous tax advantages with this kind of investment.

At the risk of sounding boring, there is so many beautiful places to see within a short driving distance of Auckland so we try to get away as much as possible, On April 25th it is a holiday here in NZ, (ANZAC day), which commemorates the Aussie and NZ troops who lost their lives in the battle of Gallipoli in the First World War.

(Irene’s interruption):

During the war the Australian and New Zealander women at home used to knit frantically and devised a recipe for hard, delicious biscuits that could travel well and last. Called, would you believe, Anzac Biscuits? These are not available all the year round, but surface round this time at the supermarkets. They are so simple to make and last forever. Like at our house… Lasted exactly one cup of tea each and about half and hour! What is nice about them is that one can serve them and have a conversation piece at the same time.

ANZAC Biscuits

This is a traditional biscuit (cookie) recipe. They are absolutely yummy and a perfect treat.

  • Approx. 3/4 cup (125g) Flour
  • 3/4 cup (150g) Sugar
  • 1 cup Coconut
  • 1 cup Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 cup (100g) Butter
  • 1 TBS Golden Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 TBS boiling water

Mix together flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats. Melt butter and golden syrup. Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup. Make a well in the centre of flour and stir in the liquid. Place in spoonfuls on a greased tray.

Bake 15-20 mins. at 180° degrees Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit.

Back to Alf.

The holiday falls on a Thursday but Irene, Darren and I have all got the Friday off and we are off to Tauranga for the long weekend. If Evan’s school does not close he will come down with friends on Saturday. Tauranga is a seaside resort in the Bay of Plenty, which is on the North East coast of the North Island. It is about an hour and a half drive from Auckland. Tauranga is the busiest export port in NZ, while the surrounding region produces an abundance of sub-tropical fruit, with opportunities for a wide range of adventure sports and nautical activities. We are looking forward to the break.

Now back to Irene

When a South African pulls out his potjie here, the Kiwi looks very much as if he is about to witness a scene from Shakespeare…. You know: Double, double, toil and trouble….

A couple of weeks back we had some buddies over for the “Potjie” experience. Unfortunately the potjie took longer than we expected. Alf and I were busily feeding coals, adding herbs and stuff – too busy to notice that a couple of our guests had ambled down into the garden and were surreptitiously stuffing themselves with apples from one of our trees. (We have two). Needless to say the potjie kos was well worth waiting for.

The use of English here has a crude edge to it. On radio, when discussing the future of NZ airlines it is nothing for a news presenter to wax forth in his prissy accent that “The airline shall have to take serious steps to get more “bums on seats.”

Dear Helen Elizabeth our prime minister has a favourite turn of phrase. “I’ve had guts full of…” The Queen of England visited recently and Helen had the old biddy to lunch. And horror of horrors, Helen chose to have no Grace said before the meal. Someone on TV casually said, “I wonder if the prime minister told the queen that as we are a secular country she felt that grace was unnecessary and in any case she has had a guts full of religion.”

The queen is head of the Church of England, I do believe. The point I am trying to make is that life here is casual, generally. Not too much emphasis is placed on things cultural, unless of course you happen to have the slightest hint of Maori blood. Then you will be amazed to see just how important culture can be!

Another common phrase one hears here on National Radio is: “Tits in a tangle.”

WINS (Work and Income New Zealand), the Unemployment Department, found that 28 staff members had been involved in the theft of a million dollars. The MP for WINS was asked about recouping the funds. He said it would take quite a while, because when these people are released from jail, they would not be able to work, so would go on the benefit (WINS sponsored) and would take quite a while to return the loot. Now something is really weird about that, to me. I keep getting a clear picture of snouts in the trough. (See we are truly New Zealanders…. We are worrying about our tax dollar!

Just a few stats, for interest sake – on how the tax dollar is dispersed:

Defence 3c

Law and order 4c (Pronounced lore and order, here)

Education 18c

Health 19c

Social Welfare (The benefit) 36c.

The other twenty cents got lost somewhere. Probably Maori affairs.

Just a one-liner: Children’s hospital in Auckland is called Star Ship.

Interesting place names: Pekapeka and Hokitika.

Funny news – Herald

Auckland doctor: A woman presented herself to his rooms with a sore throat. He promptly had her remove her clothes and examined her breasts. No photo of the woman was published but the court case has been scheduled.

Headlines for about five days

Helicopter used to remove wasps’ nest. (I tell you something – I think every hearing, seeing person in New Zealand knows how to remove a wasps’ nest hanging off a chopper.

This is a fact. Scientists in Britton did research and found that the decreasing sperm count is due to the fact that more woman are taking the pill and this has caused too much oestrogen to infiltrate the rivers and dams and therefore affect the drinking water – giving the okes too many female hormones. Interesting, hey? Just underlines what I say…. DRINK more beer!

Swedish research reveals that convicted male speeders have smaller than average penises. This can be checked out. They are required to drop ‘em when arrested for speeding.

That’s all from Irene. Keep smiling!

And Alf continues:

Anyway, we’ll end off with a few laughs, thanks to Graham Shuttleworth.

“What with all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person which almost went un-noticed last week.

Larry La Prise, the man who wrote “The Hokey Pokey” died peacefully aged 83.

The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in……………and things just started to go downhill from there….”

“Three sisters ages 72, 74, and 76 live in a house together. One night the 76 year old draws a bath. She puts her foot in and pauses. She yells down the stairs, “Was I getting in or out of the bath?”

The 74-year-old yells back, “I don’t know. I’ll come up and see.” She starts up the stairs and pauses. Then she yells, “Was I going up the stairs or down?”

The 72 year old is sitting at the kitchen table having tea, listening to her sisters. She shakes her head and says, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful.”

She knocks on wood for good measure. She then yells, “I’ll come up and help both of you, as soon as I see who’s at the door.”

“Got a letter from Grandma the other day.” She writes…

The other day I went up to a local Christian bookstore and saw a “Honk If You Love Jesus” bumper sticker. I was feeling particularly sassy that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting; so I bought the sticker and put it on my bumper. Boy, I’m glad I did!

What an uplifting experience that followed! I was stopped at a red light at a busy intersection just lost in thought about the Lord and how good He is… and I didn’t notice that the light had changed. It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus because if he hadn’t honked, I’d never have noticed!

I found that LOTS of people love Jesus! Why, while I was sitting there, the guy behind me started honking like crazy, and then he leaned out of his window and screamed, “For the love of GOD! GO! GO! JESUS CHRIST, GO!”

What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus!

Everyone started honking! I just leaned out of my window and started waving and smiling at all these loving people. I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love! There must have been a man from Florida back there because I heard him yelling something about a “sunny beach”… I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air. When I asked my teenage grandson in the back seat what that meant, he said that it was probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something.

Well, I’ve never met anyone from Hawaii; so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign back. My grandson burst out laughing… why even he was enjoying this religious experience!

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking towards me. I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but this is when I noticed the light had changed. So, I waved to all my sisters and brothers, grinning, and drove on through the intersection. I noticed I was the only car that got through the intersection before the light changed again and I felt kind of sad that I had to leave them

After all the love we had shared; so I slowed the car down, leaned out the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time as I drove away.

Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!

Grandma

Well that all for now folks, our love to all.

Alf, Irene, Darren and Evan.


Christmas 2002

Hello all,

First, we must apologize for the lack of correspondence, but a lot has happened since last we wrote. We will try to fill you in on all that has happened.

Well, it has been a long and wet winter that just didn’t want to end, but at last it has started to warm up. According to the experts it has been the coldest spring in 24 years, with temperatures only averaging 12 degrees. (By the way, spring in NZ is from 1st October.)

Even though it has been a long winter we have made the most of it and have taken to winter sports. Darren is mad about snow boarding and spent quite a few weekends down at the ski slopes. Evan too has taken to skiing like a duck to water. I must say, that although quite useless at the sport, I certainly enjoyed myself, albeit on my bum most of the time. The nice thing about skiing here is that New Zealand’s premier ski resort is a mere two and a half hour drive from Auckland, so skiing is possible on ordinary weekends not only on long weekends.

Health wise we are all well, although I had a little bit of a scare in June when it was thought I might have prostate cancer. Anyway after tests and a biopsy I was given the all clear, which was a huge relief for all of us. I also had a touch of depression, which surprised me, as I have never suffered from depression in my life. Thanks to the support of my darling wife and family I have managed to kick that too.

Evan continues to do well at school and was again awarded a trophy for consistent effort and commitment to musical studies. He also has just received his results for 6th grade flute from the Royal Schools of Music and 5th grade theory from Trinity College he got distinctions for both. He has grown so much in the last year, both physically and mentally. He is now principal flautist with the Corelli Orchestra and is also doing well academically.

Darren is also thriving at his job and has been promoted to accounts manager. He works very hard but seems to be enjoying himself. He has found himself a lovely Kiwi girlfriend and is extremely happy. He leaves next Sunday (15th) for South Africa for a month’s holiday, so if you are lucky you actually may get to see him. (Smile)

Irene is still working from home and enjoying the convenience of it immensely. She has to attend a meeting at the head office every Monday so does manage to get a bit of outside stimulation.

I have changed careers completely; at the end of July I left Modempak and took a job with a company making vinyl binders and chequebook wallets. Well, that was a huge mistake and after three months I resigned to go back to school. I enrolled in a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, which I completed on Friday 6th December. I now have a CertTEFL qualification and will be teaching English to foreign speakers, mainly Chinese, Korean and Japanese immigrants and students. This has become a multi-billion dollar business in NZ and, I believe, in the rest of the world. My qualification is recognised worldwide and will allow me to work almost anywhere in the world. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I am just sorry that I did not do it long ago. Irene wants to do the course as well and as soon as Evan has finished school and is in University, we want to go to China or Korea for a years to teach English. There is a huge demand for teachers and they pay a fortune.

I don’t know if you have heard, but we are to become grandparents. Brad and his partner, Maxine are expecting a son in March next year. Needless to say we are all extremely happy about it, Darren and Evan included. The only down side is that we won’t get to see much of our first grandson with Brad, Max and baby living in the UK and us in NZ. Anyway they will have to make regular trips down under to keep Granny and Gramps happy.

As you probably all know Auckland is hosting the Americas Cup Yacht race. The city is overflowing with tourists all keen to be part of the Americas Cup experience. I must say it is all very exciting and they have pulled out all the stops to make Auckland a desirable and enjoyable destination for this summer season. The preliminary races started in October with the Louis Vuitton cup and ends with the final of the Americas cup at the beginning of March next year. There are multi-million dollar yachts moored in our harbour and it looks like a scene from the French Riviera.

We were very happy to see Terry Watson in NZ; he has been to see us a few times and is now in the process of finding work. Don’t worry Roni; we are looking after him when we see him. Another good friend, Angela Cooper and her partner will be arriving on Wednesday 11th December and will be spending a few days with us; we are looking forward to seeing her again. Mary and Bob, we will also look after your daughter, so don’t worry.

Anyway, I’ll now hand over to Irene for her news, views and humour about NZ.

All the best for the festive season.

Lots of love

Alf

Hi All,

I kept this specially. This was printed in our Herald on 5 November.

I swamp-dwelling taniwha has halted work on part of the Waikato expressway near Meremere after IWI pointed out its presence. (Iwi is the term for Maori elders).((Alf says, IWI stand for “I Want IT” “Chuckle”))

Transit New Zealand has ordered a stop to work on 100m of the highway project until a meeting can be held with the north Waikato hapu Ngqti Naho, a sub tribe of Tainui.

The taniwha is said to live near Springhill Rd, between Meremere Township and Champion Raceway.

Taniwha are spiritual creatures regarded as guardians of the Waikato River. In Tainui legend a taniwha or chief is at every bend of the river.

Meremere resident Brenda Maxwell, who is not Ngati Naho, said she warned about taniwha during consent hearings over a nearby landfill.

We’ve been screaming out for two years about this. What they’re doing is trying to cut costs.” M Maxwell said. “In order to do that they’re willing to trample on our culture. Get away from the swamp. It’s as simple as that.”

Maori believes fatal crashes common on State Highway one was linked to the taniwha….

It goes on – says that work has stopped. I heard the other day that they are going to have to loop around the swamp area.

Well all I have to get back to work.

We hope that you all have a lovely, safe Christmas. Ours will be a quiet one, with a few friends coming round to our place.

Kisses,

Irene