House Hunting

Anna decided that we had too much spare time on our hands, and not enough stress, so she decided that in addition to studying for her exams, planning and wedding, my studying for the CCIE lab, and my changing to a new job (more on that in another post), we should look for a new house.

We live in a very nice part of the city, with a peep of harbour views, surrounded by houses that start at $1m. Walking distance to the city, plenty of parks around, just off Ponsonby Road, a well-known road in Auckland, lined with restaurants, bars and eclectic stores. Obviously we don’t actually own our house here, I work for a living. But no, we definitely need to move. After all, my new office is walking distance from the house. Can’t have that. So we’re moving.

It turns out that right now is not the best time to be looking for a place to rent in Auckland. Rents have gone up, and there’s a lot of pressure on rental properties. Large numbers of people turning up to look at places, and your references must be up to scratch. That in itself shouldn’t be a big deal for us, as we look presentable enough, we have very good references, and Anna has been in her current property for 5 years. There’s just one problem. A very hairy, 45kg problem, named Samson. We were very close to getting a place in Ellerslie that would have been perfect, but we got turned down because of Samson. Other places wouldn’t even consider a dog, even though dogs do less damage than children.

So we had a few tough weeks trying to find a property. Plenty of places being snapped up as soon as they were listed, plenty that were nasty places you wouldn’t put the dog in, and plenty that just wanted far too much for what they were. You start out with a certain budget, and that creeps up and up as you can’t find anything decent. You start thinking about what the minimum you need is. No more than <x> km from the city, 2 bedrooms plus study…or do we really need a study? What about parking? I want a garage….ok just off street parking…ok on street, as long as there’s space.

It’s hard to say if the Rugby World Cup is having an effect on rentals. What I can say is that I think that it may have helped us in the end to get a property. We have finally been accepted for a place in Sandringham, about 3km away from Eden Park. The open home was an hour before the Fiji-Samoa game kicked off at Eden Park, and it was raining. Because of various road closures, there was a lot of traffic around, and it seems that hardly anyone came to look at the property. It’s not a pretty house, and it is in need of some love, but it’s got the space we need, with a double garage(!). Finally I’ll be able to put the bikes inside, and maybe even the car too. We’ll need to add a small amount of fencing, but it will work well for Samson, giving him more room than he has now, and a few shady spots for him in summer.

For the first time, we’re engaging professional movers. Anna has accumulated a large amount of furniture over the years, and I really don’t fancy moving it myself. Apparently I will be installed in the study, and told to, well, study. CCIE study has been taking a bit recently, with various other things going on. Down to 2 months to go, time to seriously knuckle down.

I’ll post some stuff about the new job soon – so far it looks like it’s going to be very, very interesting.

Party Time

Back in 2005, when I was working in Scotland, New Zealand put together a superb bid for the Rugby World Cup, doing everything they could. We were competing against the likes of South Africa and Japan, and we just don’t have the money or resources to compete against the big boys. So we got all the heavy hitters we could – the Prime Minister and the All Black captain of the time made a presentation to the IRB, Colin Meads went out drinking with his old rugby buddies, twisting a few arms in Dublin bars in the wee hours.

We last hosted the World Cup in 1987, back when it was a small event, where you could go and buy a ticket to final the day before the game. Times have changed, and people didn’t think this little country could cope with the changed expectations. Not enough money or people, small stadiums, timezones don’t work well for Brits watching the games, etc…

But  somehow, we just managed to sneak in. Everyone knows that this  is the last time a country this small will host the tournament. Wouldn’t matter if we won every RWC for the next 30 years, the best we’ll get in future will be a handful of matches if Australia hosts it. So bugger it, we’re making the most of this chance.

There’s been plenty of arguments over the years, plenty of bureaucrats engaging in pointless arguments, silly decisions being made about not building a decent stadium down by the waterfront, endless roadworks around the city…but it doesn’t matter anymore.

Because things have finally kicked off, and in superb fashion. New Zealanders tend to be a reserved lot, but this time we seem to have lost some of that – people were out in hundreds of thousands, flags and decorations are everywhere, everyone’s wearing black jerseys, everyone is out there celebrating.  Last Friday most of Auckland seemed to knock off early, and head down the recently revamped waterfront. What was an industrial liquids storage facility – i.e. a tank farm – has been partially overhauled into a park, play area, and strip of restaurants and bars, linked to the existing Viaduct area by a bridge that can be raised to let yachts through.

Normally the weather in Auckland in September is not up to much. Cold, blustery, showery weather would be par for the course. As indeed it has been this week. But last Friday even the weather played its part – clear skies, warm temperatures, mild winds. So the play areas were full of kids, the bars and restaurants packed out early, and those that couldn’t get in just lined the waterfront. Mostly dressed in black, and everyone having a great time. Yes there was overcrowding, and no, not everything went well – vis. the train meltdown – but it didn’t really matter. Auckland has probably never looked better.

My father always told me that “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.” This proved very true for Anna and I. A friend just so happened to be organising an event near the top of a tower building right beside the waterfront. His company was moving out of the building, but the lease hadn’t quite expired. No furniture left, but fabulous views…and they’d trucked in a heap of free food and drink. Perfect. They even had a couple of TVs so we could watch the opening ceremony and game. We live quite close to the city, so all we had to do was walk down.

Here’s a few shots of what it was like:

It was a bit of a long afternoon and evening, so by the time we were walking home through the Viaduct, it was carnage. Had to make a stop at the petrol station on the way, pick up a 2L bottle of chocolate milk for the next day. Very much required.

Sick as a Dog

A few weeks back we went mountain biking, taking our dog with us. It’s a bit hard taking him in summer, as he’s a long haired dog, built for living in the snow. He still wants to come, but he has to get told No, you’re not coming today. He doesn’t understand, so just looks morose, staring longingly at the gate.

But it’s winter here, so he can run along with us, and not die of heatstroke. He sees the bikes getting loaded onto the car, and he’s very happy when he gets the call to jump in. He’s in like a flash, in case we change our mind.

Woodhill Mountain Bike Park is about 45 minutes drive from home, out in the Woodhill forest to the west of Auckland. As soon as we got there, Samson leaps out of the car, and does a runny poo right next to someone else’s car. Hmm, that’s not good. At least it’s not as bad as someone else’s dog that crapped under the picnic tables.

We head out for a good ride, stopping at a stream along the way, where Samson lies in the water, drinking it up. Later he also stops in a small pool of muddy water, drinking some of that too.

Back at the carpark, we wash the bikes down, and give him a bit of rinse off. He drinks up a bit more water. The sign says the water’s not suitable for drinking, but that doesn’t apply to dogs, right?

We get the bikes loaded up, dog installed in the back of the car, and start to pull out. Wait a second. Samson makes a bit of a funny noise, and we turn around to see he’s gone and thrown up an enormous amount of liquid. He’s a big dog, and it turns out he can hold quite a bit…looks like half of his volume has been expelled, and is covering him and the back of the car.

Luckily there’s always a blanket and a tarpaulin that he sits on in the back of the car. Very useful when he’s been at the beach. Just didn’t think it would be needed for him throwing up. Not much actually got on the car, it was mostly him that got it. Poor old fellow. He got rinsed off again before we set off. Didn’t seem to worry him much!

We then had to drive back, on a warmish day, with a lovely dog-sick aroma in the car. I managed to make myself scarce when we got home, doing something with the bikes, while Anna cleaned it up. When he’s good, he’s my/our dog, other times he’s very much Anna’s dog.