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Posts Tagged ‘Wellington’

After a longer than usual and excellent workout, I’m enjoying a very smooth flat white, double shot, of course, and I’m still reeling at hearing the woman before me ask for a half- strength latte, though she qualified that as a semi-shot, which in Wellington is actually a quarter strength, but maybe I’m just being pedantic. It’s a cold spring day,  and in deference to the month, I’ve refused to wear a winter coat, though I do have a scarf keeping the back of my neck warm. It is sunny, though, and so in spots, out of the wind, it will, in fact, be quite warm, but there still isn’t anyone sitting in the outside seating today, despite it looking like summer out on the water, with some kayakers and a few yachts heading out for Friday afternoon on the harbour in a brisk breeze.

So I’m enjoying my coffee, and the chill music, and the bustle of the cafe, and my book, the recent winner of the Man Booker prize, which is very promising so far. My reading mojo has returned recently, even though Goodreads tells me I’ve only read 28 books so far this year. Maybe I’m reading more know due to the fact that I keep putting e-books on hold at the library, and they keep coming available all at the same time, so I have to adhere to those deadlines. Some of the 28 have been very good, but I haven’t rated any with five stars yet, as I’m quite stingy with my ratings at that level, though generous with two stars ( it was ok) and three stars (I liked it).  Still, I have high hopes for Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, and enjoyed Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen very much, and hope I can get my hands on the other shortlist nominees soon.

Even though the cafe is busy this morning, it is relatively peaceful, as I’m sitting on the quiet side, and so all the conversation from the other patrons is just a hum in the background,  and there are none of the piercing screams from children that I’ve endured previously. Come to think of it, the noise level has improved considerably since the management put up this sign. You’ve got to love their style …

Behave or the Kraken will get you

Behave or the Kraken will get you

* even though I’m posting this on Saturday.

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Out my window, there is a very annoying squeaky bird. Not a tui. I love hearing them. No, this one is irritating.

Out my window, I can see approximately 28 pohutukawa trees in full bloom. They are brilliantly red this summer, all over the city – a reminder I have been out with my camera only once, and I may well be too late.

Out my window, there are agapanthas in flower. These usually appear when the pohutukawa blooms fade. I probably am too late.

Out my window, the ngaio trees rustle in the wind, and their flowers bring hay fever.

Out my window, the first cicadas of the season start calling to each other.

Out my window, though I couldn’t see them at first, two kereru sat on a branch of our tree, resting in the late afternoon.

Sometimes, it’s worth looking out the window behind me, as I sit at my desk, talking to you.

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On Friday I drove for the first time since my surgery. My husband has been fantastic, chauffeuring me around wherever I needed to go. He’s had to come to the supermarket with me, as the baskets are too heavy for me to carry, and I’m not allowed to push the trolleys (carts for North Americans) for another week or so. He’s taken me down out of the hills so I can walk on the flat. We’ve been to the mall just to get out of the house on rainy days. In fact, in the last five weeks, we’ve pretty much done everything together. We’re even cooking meals together – unheard of in the first 30 years of our marriage! And it’s been fine. But let’s face it, it hasn’t been just the last five weeks. This time last year we had arrived in the Middle East, at the beginning of our five month trip away. We’ve been together almost every day since. Our relationship has survived intact. And we have wonderful memories together. But sometimes I do think there can be such a thing as too much togetherness.

So when a friend texted me to ask if I wanted to drop everything and go to a movie with her, I jumped at the opportunity. (Okay, not literally.) The movie was excellent (Two Faces of January), and took us both back to travels in Athens and Istanbul. We headed off to Zany Zeus for one of her favourite haloumi sandwiches for a late lunch and a chat, and then I drove home.

I headed along the Esplanade in Petone, looking out across the harbour. Matiu/Somes Island glowed green in the sunlight, and the pier out over the calm but cold water was back-lit by the low, wintry afternoon sun. The sunshine, welcome after a week of gloomy and rainy weather, was showing Wellington off at its best. As I drove home along the motorway that snakes around the hills right on the edge of the harbour, along the fault-line next to the railway lines – passing one of the commuter trains that enjoy such a fantastic view every day – a plane flew overhead, coming in to land at the airport. I thought of a blogging friend I have never met. (We were supposed to meet in Italy last year, but our plans didn’t work out). An American who most recently was living in Europe, she was returning to New Zealand, to live in Wellington again, her home of choice. And on this day, her first day back, our city and harbour put on a sparkling Wellington welcome home for her. I smiled.  And I’m looking forward to finally meeting her over a Wellington flat white.

Matiu/Somes Island, Wellington Harbour

Matiu/Somes Island, Wellington Harbour

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Simple joys

There is a tui sitting in the tree outside my window.  From my desk, I can see it basking in the sun.  Its shiny green feathers caught my eye, and the white tufts under its beak confirmed its identity.  Thanks to the bird sanctuary a couple of suburbs away, tui are now one of the most common birds in the city.  But each time I see one I get a thrill – I grew up on farmland near the coast, and we only saw tui (if we were lucky) when we visited the bush further inland.  This tui has his feathers fluffed up, and he is calling regularly.  I speculate (I am completely ignorant on their mating habits) that he is a youth, seeking perhaps his first mate for the winter.  I hope he is successful.  He deserves happiness after bringing some to my afternoon.

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We frequently joke, sometimes bitterly, that no-one lives in Wellington for the weather.   Only a week or so ago we were remarking on some of the strongest wind gusts we had ever experienced here.  Yet on a day like today, with blue sky and bright sunshine, warm temperatures yet a cooler wind keeping the mercury at a temperate level, Wellington can be glorious.

Here in Wellington, and indeed much of New Zealand, we tend to romanticise more extreme climates. We are not blessed with the endless hot summer days or romance of snowy landscapes you find in continental climates.  And we occasionally wish we were.  Our summers are fickle, the glorious weather of today can be followed by cold southerly storms.   We think we’re expiring in the heat when they reach 27 degs C.  (I still maintain that 27 C in Wellington is hotter than 27 C anywhere else in the world!)  And last year, summer never even showed up.   Our winters are variable.  This year, winter was mild.  No snow on our doorstep, unlike the year before, and I didn’t even need to wear a hat or gloves.   There is the wind – you can rely on it to turn up eventually, but calm days can and do exist quite frequently.  And it can and does rain at any time of the year.  I remember trying to explain this concept to a group of Thais about to come to New Zealand to study.  They were  accustomed to rainy seasons, and dry seasons, and were appalled at the thought of year round rain.   Weather forecasts mean something here – they tell us what activities we can and can’t do.  There’s no guarantee that a summer barbecue will not be rained (or blown) out, or that a summer wedding won’t end up with everyone shivering in coats.  The weather here is always temperamental, always unpredictable.

But today, when one of my Vermont Facebook friends complained that it is snowing again, and I hear on the radio that much of Australia burns (literally) in the face of temperatures exceeding 40 degs C, I am grateful for our temperate and temperamental climate after all.

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I’ve been thinking recently about people who contribute to society and the world, and their recognition (or lack of recognition) for their efforts.  I may go into that in detail at some future point.  But in the meantime, I want some good news.  I found this in the newspaper.

Some hardworking scientists in the Amazon discovered a new genus of a particular creature. They named it after a friend and colleague, a very hardworking and world-renowned (in his field) scientist from Wellington. I’m smiling, slightly bemused, at the idea of spending your life studying this creature.  You’ll see why in a minute.

The name of the new genus is Palmaellus inexpectatus. Inexpectatus is because the genus was discovered in an area thought to have been already thoroughly studied.  The Wellington scientist, Mr Palma (hence Palmaellus) is apparently quite small, as is the new creature (hence the use of –ellus meaning small). Friends being cheeky to other friends, even when honouring them, is something New Zealanders understand. It makes me smile.

The new creature was a tiny chewing louse found on a previously well-studied Amazon trumpeter bird.  That made me smile too.

And I guess, if you’re an entomologist who is an expert in bird lice, it would make you smile too.

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Feeling shaky

I live in a house on stilts on the side of a hill. Wellington is a windy city, One of the windiest in the world. We get powerful winds about 173 days a year. I also live only a kilometre or two from the boundary of the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates. We frequently experience earthquakes. Residents of Wellington always have, in the back of their minds, the potential for a devastating earthquake. After Christchurch’s most recent major shake, with more destruction and more liquefaction, earthquakes are again top of mind for us all. So today, when the house shakes, it takes a while to realise it is just another wind gust.

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