Just finishing another weekend at home - planting shrubs on the hill side above the house and clearing/attacking some of the blackberry, clematis and honey suckle on the very steep slope at the front of the house (one cannot really call it a garden!), altering rooms (adding a mezzanine floor in one, and converting another to a bedroom for a second flatmate), digging a trench for stormwater drains, and doing all those numerous repetitive household chores....
We've been here a year now - have done heaps to catch up on the years of neglected maintenance and upgrade all those irritating things that usually don't get fixed until time to sell. We however don't intend selling this place for a long time yet - so we're getting it all fixed up now so that we can enjoy the benefits now.
Most weekends during the past year seem to have been spent here in Wellington - doing house maintenance type things - as we have a long list of house maintenance things to do - ranging from fixing roof leaks (for which Roger Walker houses are infamous for) , through to cleaning windows - and it has a lot of windows - and they haven't been cleaned for about eight years either..... The grime is really quite difficult to move. We suspect we need to attack them with some toxic substance. "Windolene" just isn't up to it.... Like the windows the garden hasn't had any attention for the past eight years. It was overgrown with weed trees and half a dozen climbers or vines (clematis, honey suckle [smells nice though], Cape ivy [stinks], climbing wild rose [pretty, but thorns not nice], jasmine [gone rampant], blackberry [fatal thorns]) - all of them smothering the trees and bushes. Early in the year hired a large waste skip over a long weekend. Expected that we'd take the whole weekend to fill it - but filled it on the first day! We'll have several more - and it's $95 a pop..... Fortunately the exterior was renovated and repainted by the previous owner - so that, at least, is one thing that doesn't need to be done on the long list! Chris has installed five more telephone sockets, bringing the total in the house to nine! (We have five phones also!! - but with the house being on five (or six - depending on how you count them!) different levels we think this is justifiable). We've also installed path lighting (which automatically comes on at dusk). Two sets of neighbours were so impressed that they persuaded Kris to install path lighting for them also! - Chris has now banned Kris from doing any more light installations as each path takes most of a weekend to do....
At the beginning of winter we had gas heating installed. When we signed up in March for gas they told us it would be about two weeks - but it took a three months wait! The heater has been installed in the "Barrel Room". The idea was that the heat would flow up the stairs and heat the whole of the upstairs part of the house, but there has never really been exactly a great rush of hot air coming up the stairs! - so we plan to install gas central heating in the top section to heat the living areas and two (or three) bedrooms. Part of the heating problem is that the house wasn't designed with energy efficiency in mind! Acres of glass, and minimal insulation as far as we can gather. Despite those grizzles it is a warm house most of the time - it catches the first rays of the morning sun and warms up fast. It certainly grows the largest spiders we've ever seen - so it must be a pleasant environment!! Big fat hairy things that scuttle about. We leave them alone on the basis that they must be eating plenty of other things!
Also had gas hot water connected - a Rinnai Infinity which will give continuous hot water at a constant temperature. It is excellent not running out of hot water in the mornings - the old system was a mains pressure hot water cylinder - and it only had limited capacity. Part of the plotting in getting the new system is that we can install a "spa" pool out the back, and then just fill it up when required with hot water. A friend done some landscape plans for the back yard to incorporate all our long term visions for the place. So far the only thing that has happened on that front is the planting of the shrubs and the moving of the compost bin!
The house is in a really interesting part of town - and all the neighbours are really friendly. One of the neighbour is a Hungarian refugee from 1956 and is renowned as being the neighbourhood eccentric - he has grandiose plans to build a monorail to serve about six properties on the steep hillside, along with building underground carparks. He has a heart of gold however. The neighbour over the back from us is in a situation that you only think you hear about in suburban fairy tales. The owner of the house was a Buddhist woman from India, who died several years ago. In her will she has left the use of the house for up to ten years to Miles, who lived next door, on the condition that he feeds her cats, the seagulls, and various feral animals - and for which he receives an allowance from her estate. In the meantime he has rented out his house!!
Besides all the house things we have been doing lots to sample and enjoy all the things on offer in Wellington. We really enjoy city living - are "regulars" at several of the plethora of inner city cafe's which have sprung up over the past several years and which have changed the face of Wellington. We also enjoy the range of plays, dances and films - most of which are excellent and always several new ones appear every week.
Kris abseiled Harwoods Hole on Takaka Hill in May. It's one of the deepest holes in NZ - 176 metres straight down! He was the first person down, and as he went down the person who rigged the rope said that he thought the rope would reach the bottom! Unfortunately it didn't!! - so he had to "jumar" or "prussic" all the way back up from almost the bottom to get more rope - took at least 40 minutes to get back up - and when you're prussiking at the bottom of a 100 metres of rope there is a lot of bounce generated - which can be a bit disconcerting!!! You hope that the rope is very securely fastened at the top!!!
Last New Years we went caving on Mt Owen for about eleven days. Initially there were about twenty of us, but this was whittled down to four by the end of the expedition. Had all our gear helicoptered in - which is an absolute necessity, as caving gear tends towards the bulky and heavy. Food for up to 200 person days also tends towards the bulky and heavy!!!! It takes about three or four hours to walk in. The track follows up the Owen River and Bulmer Stream, then seems to head straight up a bluff. You clamber up a steep scree slope, then onto a ledge that zig-zags a couple of times up the bluff before coming to a steep valley. Along the bluff there are several spots were the cliffs over-hang above the route (one really can't call it a track) and below it drops off for a hundred or so metres. It's certainly spectacular. The campsite next to Bulmer Lake was as beautiful as ever - but for some reason the "onion weed" wasn't in flower except for the odd plant - so the great swatches of yellow that had been there the previous year were missing. Unfortunately the lack of summer persisted (the rain persisted instead) for the duration of our stay - except for one brilliantly sunny day and a couple of afternoons. Either way putting on cold wet caving overalls was difficult!! - but once underground it was always enjoyable - despite being only 3.5oC!! One stays remarkably warm as long as you keep moving - but once you stop for any period of time you have to layer on the polypropylene. One of the interesting things we were doing was placing and retrieving radon (a radioactive gas) sampling pottles - one of the people on the expedition (Ruth) is a physicist at Auckland University and one of her projects is to measure radon levels in caves. Fortunately the levels she was detecting were relatively low. Kris celebrated his birthday by being the radio operator for a helicopter rescue of one of the cavers who'd broken his shoulder blade in a fall several hours into one of the caves. From the time the alert was raised to the time Greg got out of the cave and helicoptered off to Nelson was only three hours. Quite amazing really from such a remote place. Chris went into the cave as part of the rescue crew while Kris was designated as the base camp radio operator - he had to relay messages to the police through the Mountain Radio Service . Coming out from Bulmer also proved to be interesting as we'd had quite a lot of rain the day before - so all the streams and rivers were up. We managed to get to the confluence of the Bulmer Stream with the Owen River - having had several "exciting" crossings of the swollen stream - only to discover (not unexpectedly) that the Owen was too high to cross. With dusk falling we found a campsite and broke into our emergency food supplies - before cramming three people into a two-person tent (and it was the only time that I felt claustrophobic!!). Fortunately it had stopped raining so the fourth person was able to use their bivvy-bag - and the river went down sufficiently to cross the next morning. We then returned to civilisation. In light of the previous two wet New Years the Bulmer Expedition has been postponed to the end of January - hopefully it will be sunny and dry!
Pam and Tama return to Wellington just before Christmas - having spent the school year up at Kaeo in Northland. They're moving back to 5 Hungerford Rd now all of Jonathan's extra flatmates have conveniently moved out! Tama's looking forward to be back in Wellington and going to Wellington High School - where he was the previous year. Tama's still really into sport, playing cricket for the local men's team in Kaeo. He also had a few games of hockey, but as with a small dispersed population, and therefore no local team, it was a long drive for Pam to take him to Whangarei for games and practices.
Tama's also learnt how to shoot possums, but, video games are definitely still very popular. He's got a Sega megadrive, and when he's here, heaps of PC games - the most recent development being a real noisy full stereo sound system - which connects to the main stereo amp. system. However he's also been making scenery, and painting/setting up amazing futuristic war machines for playing strategy games - a modern version of "dungeons and dragons". They are very complicated mind games, seemingly along the same lines as some of the video games, but at least they don't involve just sitting at a keyboard/screen.
Tama's done very well out of the year in Northland school-wise. They decided to put him up a year, into the 5th form classes to do his three main school cert. subjects (Science, English and Maths) i.e. a year earlier than if he'd been here in Wellington. He got really good results in all of them, and now has the option of doing extra subjects next year, including doing sixth form subjects. He's coped really well with Pam and I separating, and has been coming down from Northland and staying with us for the school holidays. He's keep in touch as a result with all his old schools friends, so fitting back into the Wellington social scene shouldn't be a problem.
We didn't do the overseas trip this year - caving friends we were planning on caving with in Europe couldn't make it, so it never really took off. Hopefully in 1995!
All the best for the New Year.