Newsletter – New Zealand Chapter – 2005

July 2005

Hi to all my friends and family,

Life in New Zealand still goes on and hasn’t changed much since last we communicated.

I think the last newsletter was before Christmas last year. We spent from Christmas day until 8th January (15 days in total) in Australia. We had an absolute ball. Our trip started in Brisbane and ended in Sydney. We hired a camper and travelled down the coast to various seaside resorts eventually ending in Sydney where we spent 5 wonderful days exploring the city. What a great city. All three of us, Irene, Evan and I have fallen in love with Aussie. Australia is a very organized country, everything works and the people are so friendly, and the weather……just wonderful. All too soon we had to fly back to NZ. As NZ citizens we now have the right to live and work in Aussie and are thinking seriously of moving across the ditch (as the Tasman Sea is known here) when we retire, we want to become “Grey Nomads”. In Australia retired travellers are called “Grey Nomads”. They usually travel north in winter in their campers to catch the warmer weather and return south for spring and summer. Some “Grey Nomads” have sold their homes choosing to travel on a continuous basis. There are many “Grey” employment agents around Australia who help find temporary employment for retired people, employment like: Fruit picking, office temps, drivers, teachers and many other types of work.
Another nice thing about Australia is that it is not far from NZ and is very cheap to travel to, in fact it is cheaper to fly from Auckland to Brisbane or Sydney than it is to fly to Christchurch on the South Island. Now that Virgin (Pacific Blue) has joined the trans Tasman route the fares are really competitive. A return flight to Brisbane, Sunshine Coast or Sydney is under $200.00 NZ, very affordable. One could easily go over for a long weekend. The cost of living is also lower in Aussie than in NZ. No wonder there are more Kiwis leaving than Aussies coming in.

Last summer was late in coming, people were expecting a white Christmas, but when it did arrive in Mid January, it arrived with a vengeance. We had lovely sunshine and warm days and evenings right up until May and even now the winter has been pretty mild with just a few very cold and rainy days. The average temperature is around 13c to 15c which is quite warm for this time of year. After five years here, I am not that naive to expect it to last, it will get colder and wetter before this winter is over.

If I’ve not already told you, I’ve had to give up teaching as the whole language industry in NZ and, I think, the rest of the English speaking world, has taken a dive. I was fortunate in finding a very nice job in an engineering company. They required someone to setup and run their new planning MRP system. So now I’m their Office Systems Manager. It is a nice stress free, cushy job and I’m enjoying it, although I do miss teaching. The company has built a brand new factory in a small village called Silverdale which is about 40 minutes (25 kilometers) North of Auckland and just 12 minutes from my home. It is great, we move in on the 1st September.

We had a good laugh on Sunday 3rd July. We went to Darren and Amanda to fit the new Roman blinds which Irene made for them. Well, with no ladder anywhere in the building, I decided that a knitting machine table on a coffee table would be good enough to get me onto the cupboard which would put me in a good position to fit the blinds to the window. All went well and the blinds were fitted with only minor adjustments needed. It was while doing those adjustments that it happened. I was standing on the knitting machine table when it decided that my weight was not compatible with the knitting machine and slowly split in half. To break my fall I grabbed the cupboard for support. The cupboard, I’m sure, had long ago decided that it was not a ladder and would not support me so it came down with me smashing to smithereens. Fortunately I was not hurt, just a few stiff muscles and a bruise here and there, but the cupboard was a write-off. Needless to say the cupboard has now been replaced with a brand new one and Amanda has banned me from climbing on anything that is not a ladder.

The family here in NZ is well. Darren is excelling at work and has finally been awarded permanent residence. Irene is also doing well in her career and loves her job. Evan continues to do well at his music and school. I am content with my job and have started painting again, it is good therapy.

As always, we send with this newsletter all our love to all of you.

Alf, Irene, Evan, Darren & Amanda

Friday, August 05, 2005 (This was not a newsletter but on my Blog)

It’s Friday again! How the weeks just fly by, the older one gets the quicker time flies. The week has been a relatively good one, it has been Amanda’s birthday week and started with a dinner party at their (Darren and Amanda’s) flat on Monday night and will end with a party tonight (also at their flat).

Other exciting happenings for the week: The family acquired a new laptop computer (Mainly used by Evan and Irene, I’m still happy with my desktop). Evan’s concert band has got into the finals of a secondary school band competition involving schools from all over NZ; they will be performing on Sunday at the Auckland city hall. Talking about Evan, he is a very modest young man; we found out last night, by accident, that his English teacher entered one of his exam essays into a writing competition involving all the secondary schools on the North Shore (12 in all). Well, we are proud to say that he has been placed in the top four. We will be attending a function on Monday when they will announce the winner, we will be holding thumbs. (Watch this site; I may persuade him to let me publish the essay).

It is starting to get light earlier in the mornings now and the sound of the birds singing lifts my spirits. Summer is on the way.

Thursday, August 11, 2005 (This was not a newsletter but on my Blog)

It’s Thursday, cloudy but surprisingly warm for this time of year.

The week has been quite eventful. Last Sunday we went to watch the finals of the KBB music festival competition in which Evan’s school had four bands participating: The Concert Band (in which E plays), The Symphony Orchestra, The Chamber Orchestra and The Big Band (Jazz). All four won Gold awards, which is quite an achievement considering there were 105 groups (Bands) entered, representing 40 schools from all over NZ. Westlake Boys and Girls have excellent music departments and extremely talented students. Evan enjoys school and we are happy that he changed from Corelli.

Monday evening we attended the prize giving of an essay writing competition sponsored by our local Free Mason Lodge. The competition was open to all North Shore secondary schools (High Schools) (12 in all).

Anyway, Evan’s teacher had submitted one of his exam essays for which he won third prize. (A very nice NZ oxford dictionary) We are so proud.

Tuesday evening was another of the school music events; it was a showcase of all the groups from both the boys and girls schools, including all the choirs, bands and Barbershop group. This event was held at the very beautiful Bruce Mason Theatre in Takapuna. A great evening’s entertainment was had by all.

Well, that’s all for now, happily tomorrow is Friday and the weekend beckons. Have a good one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 (This was not a newsletter but on my Blog)

Wednesday, mid-week, downhill to the weekend, I now live for my weekends.

Since our last tenant left the downstairs flat we have been battling to find permanent tenants. We finally found a sweet little South African girl who is very keen on the place but can only move in on the 1st October, she has some kind of lease restraint where she is living now. Anyway we have agreed to let her have the place but need to fill it until then. Well, thanks to a good friend of ours, who used to run a B&B, we have let it to a new immigrant family of three from South Africa. They arrived last night and have settled in nicely. Hopefully they will stay until the end of September by which time they will have found something more permanent.
‘Twas a big day for Evan yesterday, he had his braces removed after two years of being a “metal mouth”, and so handsome he is too.

Had an extra dose of culture last Sunday when Evan and I went to a free symphony concert at the Auckland town hall. (Irene stayed at home and prepared the flat for our guests). The Auckland Symphony Orchestra performed music with a Scandinavian flavour. The music was very enjoyable with lots of light and classical numbers from Scandinavian composers. The highlight of the afternoon was a performance of one Grieg’s piano concertos, the soloist being a young 13 year old Korean lad who played this very difficult movement from memory with no sheet music at all. His performance was incredible and needless to say was rewarded by a standing ovation.

Sunday was also the 60th anniversary of VJ day (the day marking the end of WW2 and the allied victory against Japan, and to commemorate this there was a big parade up Queen Street involving the veterans and present armed forces of NZ. The parade was addressed by the mayor of Auckland, the prime minister and the governor general. The weather was sunny and all in all a pleasant day.

Anyway, it’s back to work for me, lunch time is over. Roll on Friday, until next time, be well.

November 2005

Hi All

The older one gets, the faster time flies. Now ain’t that the truth. Our last newsletter was in July and now it is already Christmas. Our trip to Aussie last year seems like it was just yesterday.

This year we have decided to splash out and spend Christmas and New Year with our son Brad and grandson Ethan in London. We fly out on December 15th and return to Auckland on January 14th. It’s all very exciting, we haven’t been to London since December 1999 and have only seen our grandson once when he was only three months old, he is now almost three years old. It is going to be quite a big family reunion, Darren and Amanda and obviously Evan will be going too and Irene’s sister Gillian and her husband Colin will be coming from the states. We will all be staying with Brad and Tony (Irene’s brother) and his new wife and baby.

I am now well ensconced in the new Silverdale factory which I mentioned in our last newsletter. The drive to work in the mornings is wonderful, no traffic and beautiful country scenery. The factory is huge and the offices are state of the art, very comfortable indeed.

My boss is one of those people who have to have some kind of project on the go at all times. After the new factory had been completed he had nothing to stimulate his active mind. When we were in the old factory we were limited with storage space and had a 6 metre shipping container in the yard where we stored surplus tools, etc. Anyway, one Monday morning he came in and announced that he had an idea how to utilize the now empty container. We would put an ad in the local news paper saying that we‘d like to send the container filled with warm clothing and blankets to the earthquake victims in Pakistan. Well we were inundated with calls volunteering help. We set up drop off points for collection of clothes and blankets and within 10 days the container was filled and is being shipped to Pakistan on the 24th November. What a wonderful gesture from the people of NZ, we even got parcels from as far away as Invercargill, in the south of the South Island.

My painting has been put on the back burner lately; I’ve been channeling my inspiration into a different art form. I’ve been trying my hand at writing short stories, essays, blogging and I‘ve just finished a play which I hope one day to produce both in SA and here in NZ. The writing is not great but I have certainly enjoyed the experience.

The family is well; Irene is still working hard at the same job and enjoying every minute of it, Darren continues to excel in his field and also enjoys his work a lot. He has his own Web developer forum on the net and has a worldwide following. Evan has had a good year at school coming first in his class. He has decided that he is a bit young to go to university next year (only just turned seventeen) so will be staying on at school to do his “A” levels. He is still besotted with all things Chinese and can now speak, read and write Mandarin moderately well. His music is still very important in his life and he will be playing in two orchestras next year, Westlake Concert Band and the Westlake Symphony Orchestra.

We recently had general elections in NZ and the Labour Party under Helen Clark won a third term. She has formed a coalition with two right-of-centre parties which is very strange for a left wing Labour party, anyway we have them for another three years. The nice thing about the Labour government is that they have promised interest free student loans for tertiary education; this will suit us just fine for when Evan starts university in 2007.

Sorry about the South African loss of the 2011 Rugby World cup but at least NZ got it which is good for us. It promises to bring millions into our slowing economy.

Well, that’s all for now folks, we wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy and prosperous New year. Please drop us a line, we are starving for news from you guys.

Lots of love from

Alf, Irene and Evan (Wood) (in case you had forgotten)