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The ups and downs of our planned new life to NZ, warts and all!

End of week one - I'm shattered!Fri 6 March 2009
The new graphic design company have sent through some awesome designs which capture the image I'm trying to get across.  It was tough picking one to lead, but after much consideration, I now finally have the image - my image!  I also shot down to the post office to buy a post box, to save keep using our residential address for business.  Although its a shoddy look in the UK, over here its just a formality to use a PO box.  We did ask for alterations to the design, which meant the costs went up, Steve was infuriated that he was able to mock up some designs in 30 seconds using paint.  There's no comparison on quality!  But of course, as these alterations occur, there's a jump in costs.  Adament we didn't want to a loan and to keep our overheads down, I've already gone past the anticipated $2k on the design alone.  Stage 2 is the design of the business cards and stationary, which will add another approx $1500k to the cost.  Steve's starting to bleat about it, which makes me nervous.  On the big plus I've already had my first family!  They saw me advertising for nannies and I went and met her today.  She's lovely, and her requirements are similiar to mine, so I felt confident.  I've trawled through all the cvs I've received and started to familiarise myself with some of the nannies I've not spoken to before.  We've set up Access with a database to include information about the nannies and easier search facilities.  Its all coming together.  Tomorrow I'm off to Rotorua in preparation for my 10km fun run!  I've not had too much time to train this week, so I'm a little anxious.  I'm not back until Monday lunchtime, so this of course poses a delay on my business.  I'm getting used to this from having to chase the damn designers all the time!  I know they think I'm an annoyance, but I need to get on!  My phone rings a lot and I've got people chasing me for enquries I made two weeks ago in relation to advertising.  Its very full on.  Steve's put the eeby jeebies on me more this week with the pressures of mounting costs.   Anyway, aside from this little worry, things at home are grinding by.  My parents are out everyday in the rental car now, sometimes coming home for dinner, sometimes not.  We never get asked and they don't offer any help with the children.  I've asked them if they want to take Pip with them for the day, I always get a resounding 'no,'  It strikes me as rather odd that my parents have not seen my children for 2 years, and yet they barely see them while they're here.  I was so embarssed to get home the other day and find the nanny holding Egg, and helping the girls, while my parents sat in the garden reading books and not offering any support to her.  We'd only been out for half an hour getting a computer and I knew we had to rush back to help the nanny, because I knew she'd not get any other help.  Its really quite sad how the girls seek out their attention, only to get rebuffed for making too much noise.  We're basically just running a hotel at the moment for them, they don't ask me about the business or my studies, instead I ask them about their day and tell me about all the wonderful things they've seen and done.  Hmmm, bit strange really.  OK, time to chill out now...maybe!
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Mummy/student/business womanTue 3 March 2009

Flicking between my aliases is actually a little daunting! - Albeit a bit fun as well!  Monday saw me put on my suit, buy a briefcase and with my new PDA head into the city for a meeting with this graphic design company.  Steve thought the PDA was a good touch because I can manage my email (supposedly), and manage my diary.  Week one and I finally learnt how to lock the keypad!  I'm using a good old fashioned desk diary, I just keep double booking myself.  Steve nags me about using the diary, but I just can't get my head around it.  I'm not even sure I'd know what to do if I needed to make a call!  Anyway, I turned up at this meeting - early, but couldn't find the door.  It was a warm day, I was in a suit and I could feel myself getting stressed out.  I kept ducking into the stores asking what number they were.  It seemed the number I needed didn't exist.  Eventually I called Steve (with my trusty old phone that I've dropped a hundred times so its a bit tempremental) and told him in a panicked voice to have a look on his phone for the location (he's got a GPS system) - I may have - god knows.  Anyway, he looked it up and told me I was on the wrong street!  I took my heels off and ran like a fool through the streets of Wellington - thank god for those gym sessions!  I arrived at the offices sweaty and disshevelled.  A professional woman greeted me and then got straight into this formal presentation.  I felt disorganised.  I had decided to give a verbal brief, so it could be openly discussed.  Her ideas and reiteration of my concept were fantastic.  I had no doubts about her company's capacity to do this for me.  She also showed me some of their other work and its just so awesome.  They were the ones behind the Edmund Hilary stamps here and do some work for the Wellington City Council to promote the city.  After that, I met with a really nice nanny in the city over coffee and saw these guys in suits, one with a bag advertising employment law.  I asked them if they were lawyers and got talking to this really nice guy about Steve's employment situation in the UK.  He gave me his card and told me to get Steve to call him.  Turns out he's a partner in one of Wellington's more prestigious law firms - so he's not cheap!  But he was kind enough to give Steve half an hour over the phone, and offered to look through his paperwork and come up with a game plan that wouldn't cost us the size of a small island.  We feel confident that whilst we don't want Steve to work for this company again, we can seek some compensation from the theiving bastards.  Thank god he's got a lawyer to do this, I don't fancy swatting up on employment law, in fact, I don't fancy anything of that nature for quite some time!  When I got home, Egg puked up all over my suit.  I didn't care though, I wanted Egg cuddles, and so there I was, Mummy again, talking to stuffed toys and making marmite sandwiches.  Yesterday I headed into the university, desperate to get this book that I've been waiting for since Jesus was born, and I thought if I went in there, I might be able to borrow a short term loan for an hour to do some photocopies.  So, Tuesday I was student, with my daggy clothes, folders and The Body Shop lip gloss.  I felt out of place there as well, who'd have thought a library could be so complicated!  I got my next exam result yesterday and it turns out I got an 'A' this time for the sociology paper.  It means I must have done well in the exam, I did wonder when I saw it if there'd been a processing error.  In fact, I still wouldn't be surprised if I did discover that was the case!  I'm working really hard on my two other papers right now, Critical Thinking and Social Pollicy and its really doing my head in.  The live in has gone on holiday and her temporary replacement is this American girl who is just incredible.  Although she's American, she defies all the stereotypes, she's intelligent, witty and well travelled.  She doesn't drink coffee and is cynical about the media!  She is just awesome and without her to cover my back, I couldn't have achieved everything I needed to these last few days.  The house is clean, the laundry is done, the kids love her, and they're always clean!!  There's not many people I trust with Egg, but I trust her implicitly.  I've received LOADS of applications from people looking for nanny work and they're of such a high calibre and really support my business idea.  Its lovely how people can be so encouraging.  Although I'm still blanketed in self doubt and still have a panic mode that says, 'what the hell am I doing?"  Anyway, back to the books...

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The first partFri 27 February 2009

Thanks for all the comments I've received from my recent entry.  I certainly don't mind negative comments - as long as they're intelligent and not petty.  So I spent all of Thursday interviewing nannies, for us and for my books!  I met a great array of people, with some great experience.  What I found interesting about the experience is that most of the 'good' nannies that get regular work, do so by word of mouth, most families have had bad experiences with agencies and continue to have needs, but advertise privately.  I love meeting new people, I met people from all over the world and I enjoyed hearing about their experiences.  I think that's one thing I could really enjoy about this, the people!  Being in my home as well and taking a less formal stance encouraged people to be more natural, as opposed to trying to say the things they think I want to hear.  I found it quite easy to quickly assess who would fit better in our family.  I whittled down so many applicants so only the ones with the strongest experience I interviewed and from there, it was gut feeling and personality all the way.  I chased up the graphic designers, feeling eager to throw myself into the task ahead - although still trying to study my critical thinking paper (and for the sake of one of my commenters - be there for the girls' classes), oh, and juggle a miserable, teething Egg on my knee!  Tidy up after my parents, help our live in with her visa paperwork - which she'd left to the last minute, chase up the insurance company over the laundry room and answer a continously ringing phone!  You know when you have a gut feeling not to do a certain thing but you go against it, and you do it anyway, and then you're even more pissed off when it predictably turns to custard?  No?  Maybe I'm the only one!  Anyway, the guy from the commerce implored me to use this graphic design company.  Their business card was crap, the posters in their office were crap and their website is crap.  Despite these clues, I wanted to use local businesses and wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I received three design ideas today, and oh my god!  One word...clipart.  I'd given them a full brief, and lets be honest, I'm not one to mince my words or needs or expectations!  The images were poor quality and in some cases, not clear!  I decided to search for other companies, sticking to Wellington, but not so local to me!  I found this awesome company with excellent marketing campaigns for big names here.  Its not trendy or abstract, its just clean, modern and fresh images.  I worried I'd be small cheese for them, but I sent off an email anyway.  I didn't get a reply, but decided to follow up with a phone call.  A woman answererd, I didn't even say my name and she knew who I was!!  She remembered some of  my brief in the email because she'd been interested by my idea and had forwarded it to an Account Manager.  She apologised profusely that I'd not heard back sooner.  I assumed she was the receptionist and told her about my recent experience with a local company.  She asked to meet me on Monday.  Towards the end of the call, I asked for her name and to quallify her role.  She's only the Managing Director!!  I'm nervous, excited, nervous, sick!  Actually, its Friday night and I'm shattered!  Eggy is in our room and she doesn't like it as much as we don't!  She sleeps just as badly and Steve and I bumbling around like zombies.  Anyway, this week has been full on of big ups and downs.  Yesterday, I was in the bath reading a crummy gossip magazine and seeing about these famous celeb chefs who's businesses are failing and I thought, christ, if they can't do it, what the hell am I thinking?  I'm a mum of three, a student, struggling to lose the baby weight, often smelling of babysick, not having time to brush my hair and I'm thinking about starting a business?!!  I'm a FAKE!  Steve's faith in me has stayed strong and he's gently pushing me along in this.  It'll be interesting to see how Monday goes.  I told most of the people I met on Thursday about my idea and they were very enthused.  I've identified a need, a gap here and my premise generates interest and enthusiasm, but the question is - can I pull it off?  Oh christ and I've got this 10km fun walk next week!  I need to prepare more!  Busy head.  Busy head.

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And so, the birth of my company!Wed 25 February 2009
I mentioned in passing a couple of times that I had a business idea.  Steve has been all over it.  I shall announce now that my idea was...to create a Nanny agency!  HAHA!  No surprise really considering all of our experiences.  It came about because this one agency here, have been really scatty.  Not returning calls, not keeping on top of things.  I've been telling her to rewrite her ad, etc.  I mumbled to Steve a couple of weeks back, I could do a better job.  And so, that ramble turned into a concept.  As my last Nanny just disappeared down the back of the sofa, I've been running adverts and I've been absolutely amazed by the response!  I've got a day of interviews tomorrow with some great candidates - so really it became a case of now or never with the company.  I went off to meet the director of the Chamber of Commerce with my business plan and he was very encouraging about my ideas.  I'm viewing this as a hobby on the side.  I don't want to invest loads, and potentially lose loads!  Its something that I'm quite passionate about, and feel able to prioritise the needs of families, unlike other companies that are quite complacent.  I met a guy from a graphic design firm and they started the branding.  But then Steve went to register my company online and we discovered that name already existed in Christchurch!  Whoops!  We sure are learning as we go!  So we've reserved another name and Steve has already sorted out the IRD number and we've incorporated it, its a Limited company.  Yesterday, I telephoned the local press, and I've been slogging away with other business promotion things to get my name out there.  I must say, its all gone a bit nuts!  Its happened very quickly.  Steve has been very positive and tells me over and over that I can do this, he doesn't doubt by capacity at all.  I'm honestly not so sure.  My studies are, and will continue to be my priority.  But as I've got these great nannies 'on my books' it would seem silly not to pass them on to families.  I know - its like a windstorm over here!  There is always something going on!  I guess its something that will definitely help pass the time here!
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Parents. Sigh.Mon 23 February 2009

Where to start?  Well, my folks are here and I'm ran off my feet!  Most people, when their family visit talk about how great it is, they help around the house, look after the grandkids and people seem to be relaxed.  Its so hard to imagine!  My parents have been rooted to the seats in the garden while I run around looking after the girls, tidying the house and playing chauffeur. They haven't rented a car, which means Steve and I are driving in convey all the place site seeing.  The end of the weekend and I was so tired from driving!  On Monday, the live in is sick, so I 've been trying to study for the new semester, whilst driving Moons to school, Pip to her dance classes, bouncing a miserable, teething again Egg.  All the while my mobile is ringing with requests and questions about everything.  I wouldn't  mind, only my folks sit there watching me!  Yesterday evening I escaped to pilates and as I was walking out the door, there was this big dicussion about dinner, uh-oh, I've gone - whats everyone going to do.  I simply don't care!  They can fend for themselves!  Back when Steve and I stayed with my parents, we weren't in a position to contribute financially, but we made sure the house was clean and there was never thing anything of 'us' lying around.  It was a stressful time.  Don't get me wrong, I'm really pleased to see my folks after two years and I will miss them when they go.  But its so strange!  My Dad has always believed that a woman's job is to look after the house,kids,husband, etc.  So he's never changed a nappy.  And my Mum likes watch to see how I'm coping - the mark of a good woman who can juggle everything without cracking a sweat.  So I'm aware my performance is being judged, although I can safely say my marks will be low!  Then Steve comes in from work - the hero!  Been busy at the office all day, I should have the kids cleaned and in bed and dinner on the stove.  Still, I knew how it was going to be, we wanted to make sure we were completely set up and prepared for their arrival - unfortunately two things have happened that I didn't preempt.  The live in is sick and the other Nanny, the part time one that I've mentioned before has resigned!!  It came out of the blue and I was gutted.  She wrote me a letter, refuses to take my calls.  I found out on Saturday - I was at the time devastated, but I'm over it now.  She never got on with the live in, and when we went to Auckland last week for the Top Gear thing, they were forced to work together.  I don't know what happened - no one's told me!  On the first day, apparantly she left extremely early, I only found out later.  I saw her on Saturday afternoon when we returned and for the first time ever I had to, in effect, 'tell her off.'  She was driving the girls around in my BMW, not the landrover.  She's never driven that car before, she's not named in the insurance documents, she wouldn't even have known if it was mechanically sound.  I was surprised that she'd just taken the keys and gone!  I reminded her that the landrover was my preference for the girls - its more safe.  Besides, Egg's car seat doesn't fit properly in the landy, so the live in, who had Egg should have been the one using it.  By all intents and purposes, I wasn't angry.  I just reminded her.  The agency called me to say that not being able to use the BMW was one of the reasons cited for her quitting.  Also, not getting on with the live in.  If its a choice between the two, I'd choose Austria every time (the live in!).  She's really warm with the girls, they adore her.  So, I'm on this recruitment drive again to find someone one day a week.  Its a really bad time because I have a lot of study to do, its hard enough to study with Egg, let alone the others!  Steve keeps droning on about my business idea.  I'm really happy that he's so supportive and has so much faith in me, but at the moment, I just feel it'll be a launch away from my comfort zone.  He's keen for me to work again, but I'm only interested in part time.  He knows that I find living here extremely hard and I guess he figures a job will keep me distracted.  I did apply for a position that would complement my degree.  I was rejected.  Ouch!  I know it happens, but it was my first application since having my third child - Big hit!  Still working hard on the fitness thing, to date have lost 14 kilos.  I do feel fit, but I don't think I look any different.  Grrr!  I completed that 7km in under an hour, it was in the paper!  So I beat my training time!  Hope I can do the 10km next!

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Christ, what a week!Sun 15 February 2009
Following the exam on Tues, the court case on Weds, Steve lost his UK job on Thurs.  The benefit of this means that his evenings are now his own.  He no longer has to have midnight conference calls, meet weekend deadlines.  He's quite happy about that fact.  However, the way in which they did it was completely unfair.  Denying him contractual obligations because the company has merged?  We have no choice but to hire a lawyer in the UK to work on our behalf.  We did have a good referral in NZ but unfortunately, he felt that it would be easier and move cost effective to hire someone based in the UK.  I'm not concerned with yet another pressing legal issue, I appreciate that these things will take a lot of time, but at least, it can tick away, with the only annoyance being the time difference.  I realise that times are hard, but Steve worked damn hard for this company and I felt towards the end, he was becoming a scapegoat because of his removed position.  Clearly, others are facing the same, and where Steve was concerned, it was very much a case of last in, first out.  The meeting left him drained and both of us wishing that the week would end!  Friday saw us fly up to Auckland for the Top Gear show. The humour was a bit more low brow for their antipodean audience, but on the whole, it was a good evening.  We went to my favourite restaurant in Auckland, a Dikouku (sp?) place, where you all sit around a table, which the chef cooks on and various pieces of food are thrown into the air as part of the cooking performance.  Although being fed like a fish is not the most ideal part, the food is incredible.  We indulged in a couple of bottles of red to ease the stresses of the week.  I made some guesses about the people that were sat with us, and in the end, with the red wine diminishing my inhibitions, I decided to simply ask them what they did.  I got 2 out 4 right!  One guy in particular was fascinating, a lecturer in Egyptian history.  Currently on an 'acadamic break' we spoke with him all evening, it was wonderful to meet someone so interesting and so open.  His group looked a little pissed off though!  Steve and I left and ambled back to our hotel, the Sky City, for a dabble in the casino.  I must say that despite going into the casino in Monaco and even visiting Las Vegas, I've never fancied giving gambling a go.  I started at the so called, 'pokies' otherwise known as the one arm bandits.  They were so boring, god knows how anyone can sit there for hours on end.  I didn't have a clue what I was doing.  Steve and I both started with $20 and when he went to change the coins into notes, it turned out that between us we had won $400!!  I had no idea how much money had accumulated, all from a poultry $20!  We moved onto the roulette table, but by this time, I was a little worse for wear and I kept placing my chips only to spend the next few minutes asking everyone which chips were mine!  I think I lost a lot on that table!  On a return from a toilet break, I saw Steve telling a new guy at the table that he was taking my seat.  He was pretty intense and quite rude.  Steve took insult to this, and I barely made it back before I noticed a security guy in a suit discreetly looking over and reading the situation.  This guy was really intense and obviously really desperate for a win.  Steve was unforgiving about the whole chair situation, so I decided to remove us from the table.  This is one of the reasons that gambling has little appeal for me, some people don't take it as a bit of fun, they're desperate to win and the environment creates the same aggression as a bar.  I was happy with the evening though, despite that little incident.  Although I'd sobbed in the car earlier because I was leaving Egg for the first time, I'd forgotton what it felt like to be childless for the evening.  My god, we slept in!!  No bottles to sterilise or nappies to change!  I must say, I felt bloody awful the next morning and it served as a prudent reminder why I don't really drink anymore.  We took a dreadful drive back to the airport and took one of the most uncomfortable flights back I've ever done!!  Being in Auckland was great, the traffic was dire and it took hours to move anywhere.  I've kind of missed some aspects of Auckland, but now I remember why we left.  The traffic was at a standstill on the motorway - crikey!  As it was Valentines Day on Saturday, we decided to go out for an early dinner.   We went to one of our favourite Cambodian places and Steve surprised me with a beautiful eternity ring.  Bit naughty of him!  Today, Sunday has seen me take part in the 7km fun run in the city as part of the Round The Bays half marathon.  I was dreading it, wondering if I'd make a big fool out of myself, but I ended up really enjoying it.  Being amongst crowds was quite difficult compared to being on my treadmill.  It got a bit pushy in places.  Seeing my little family at the finish line though was all I needed to spur me on!  I did a combination of walking and running and finished in just over an hour.  It was an extremely hot day which didn't help.  Considering I've had my third child only just six months ago and I've only been training since December, I'm quite proud of myself.  I'm looking forward to the next one in Rotorua.  So, after everything that's happened this week, you'd think I'd be passed out in the bed refusing to move.  Actually, I've been toying with the idea of starting my own business.  Its just a few ideas being chucked around at the moment, but I'm going to look into it and just see what's involved, calculate risks and just see how it would all work.  Luckily with Steve being a Business Analyst, he'll be able to help me decide if this could be a viable option.  It will certainly be an early night tonight though!
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I fought the law and the law won!Wed 11 February 2009
So, finally got my exam out the way.  I revised full on all day Monday day and night, barely slept and couldn't wait to the moment I sat down to start the whole thing.  I was fortunate in that although the exam was surprisingly packed (its Summer school), everyone was the quietest I've ever heard - no sniffers or coughers, yay!  I drove myself back to pick up Moons for her swimming lesson and got a rush of pride when my little four year old daughter confidently put her head under water as she was bring pulled along by the instructor.  One of the other girls in her swimming class was terrified and started crying.  Boy, did her Mum blast her!  She was so angry at her, it took everything I had not to speak up for the little girl.  Imagine being an adult, unable to swim, being told to stand on a platform in deep water and put your head under water.  Christ, talk about out of comfort zone.  Her yelling did not nothing to install courage into the little girl, who I suspect may never get into a pool again.  Moons on the other hand tentatively followed instructions, with me clapping proudly on the sidelines.  My girl sure is growing up. We then and picked up Steve and finally by the time I got back I was beside myself with exhaustion.  No rest though, time to prepare for the following day's court activities.  We arrived at 10am, didn't leave until 4pm!  And we couldn't leave, we had to wait IN the court room, listening to everyone else's cases while we waited for my case to be heard.  My head was pounding under the glare of the bright court lights and my confidence was slowly draining.  When the cop arrived, he looked older than I'm remembered.  He swanned up to this blonde woman and opposed to flirting, started schmoozing all over her.  His arrogance sickened me.  Anyway, he swore on the bible and promptly lied in answer to my cross examination.  I was so shocked, I just gasped, 'he lied!' as I pointed feebly across the room.  I knew I was going to lose.  I started to get flustered and the cop made a real show of rolling his eyes at me and looking bored.  I realised that he was nothing more than an egomaniac bully and I would definitely lose, he's a lying cop!  I was given the option to give my testimony under oath as well, or just stand before the court.  I didn't hesitate, I was going under oath.  I gave my version of events and I looked direstly at the cop, he looked smug.  I felt pathetic.  I felt really tired and like a complete fool.  The judges deliberated for ages.  Finally I was called back in.  I'd lost my case.  The judge was almost apologetic about it and explained that essentially it came to the word of a uniformed police officer, vs, a soccermom in a big 4x4.  There is no conviction, not even any points on my license, just a fine.  I don't care about the fine, I just care about the principle.  Although the charge is so minor, the fact that this cop was able to get away with lying about something so trivial really upset me.  I held my head high until I was able to leave the room, and then I cried.  All the way home, and periodically throughout the evening.  It doesn't help that Steve's been called into an 'important' meeting tomorrow.  His company merged with an international company and his job has been a little shaky.  We've been prepared for this, but still, the feeling that this office in NZ has arranged to meet Steve in person is a concern.  We thought that Wednesday evening would be the time to relax until the next stresses of this long, ongoing month.  Instead tomorrow evening will mark, possibly, another defeat.  I feel so drained, but I know that my problems are so trivial compared with that of what's currently going on across the ditch in Aussie.  The situation is just heart wrenching and I just can't move past the fact that someone did this intentionally.  Well, that and that the houses are being looted.  What the hell is going on out there?  I'm in my pajamas for the evening, enough said.
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Yes, I'm having a bitch! Complaint letter added.Sun 8 February 2009

Just to elaborate a little more on my perception of NZ.  For a holiday, its great.  Breathe in the fresh air, have a walk around, maybe camp out.  No more than three weeks, its a great destination.  Live in NZ?  Turn your watch back to the 70s, lower your expectations and you're away.  Some people like that, and who am I to say they're wrong.  Being in this 'bubble' has its plus side.  The recession?  Its just a bad word that floats around periodically, but Kiwis couldn't define it for you, they don't understand what it means to them, or the world.  Businesses tick along, the government holds us all tightly and protects us from the big bad world.  In NZ, there are only two places in the UK, Scotland and London.  They don't care for world affairs, history or geography.  People don't talk much to each other here anyway, so why the need to extend their knowledge.  I didn't come here niave.  I never wanted to live in NZ, who wants to relocate to a place similiar to your home anyway?  It was Steve that brought us here (he's a Kiwi).  Its the same as it was back in 2002 when we backpacked around.  Exactly the same.  However, I an trying to embrace what NZ has to offer, which I've indentified as 'outdoorsy' activities.  I'm utulising our time here so I don't leave empty handed.  Its working for us.  But every now and then, I get really fed up and crave a different scene.  Last week, I had a phone call from the MD of Avis New Zealand in response to my letter.  I was amazed that I'd get a response.  She was apologetic and has reassured me that they're changing their customer service protocol so that this crap doesn't keep happeneing. It remains to be seen of course.  I don't often write these sorts of letters.  The frustration of being treated like crap by a major company just got to me on this particular occasion.  I appreciated the gesture from Avis.  I've always maintained that if you're not happy witha service, you should always stand up for yourself.  Even when I'm extremely happy with a service, I always let the manager or whomever know, its refreshing when someone's efforts can be recognised.  In NZ, of course I spend most of my time battling it out, because its not in the Kiwis nature to offer feedback.  Ask any Kiwi, about any experiences they've had and they'll have a good grumble.  Ask them, what did you do about it?  Nothing.  Always, nothing.  Its too much hard work, so everyone continues getting the same treatment.  I'm particularly more fed up than usual.  I have an exam tomorrow morning, which I just don't feel too well prepared for (my own fault of course) and then I have the court case on Wednesday and I feel so queasy thinking about it.  What was I thinking?  Small town Pom questioning the decision of a jacked up cop?  I'm tired.  I've taken on too much recently.  In two weeks my parents arrive as well.  Thus I shall be judged and commented on.  There is so much more I need to do.  Anyway, if anyone is interested here is the letter I sent out to Avis....

To Whom It May Concern

 The motto of Avis is, ‘We try harder’ allow me to complete the sentence for your company.  ‘We try harder to provide the worst customer service possible than any other company.’

 My family and I rent cars for business and pleasure frequently.  Both within NZ and internationally.  Our first time renting with Avis in New Zealand ended up in a complaint.  On arrival at CHC airport, we discovered the Toyota Prado we had prearranged to rent, was dirty inside and outside.  A staff member looked over the vehicle, agreed and subsequently offered us one day free rental.  Not overly happy, but with no time to secure another rental, we took the Prado.  The end result saw my husband and I making several calls to your company to chase up the ‘credit’ we were given because we’d been overcharged.  We only know that because of our credit card statement, Avis neglected to send out a receipt.  Of all of the phone calls to the operators, not one person was the slightest bit interested, even though the blame was on your company.  Although a frustrating experience, we decided to rent with Avis again because we felt that Avis had the better fleet of vehicles.

Our next experience turned out to be even worse and cemented our belief that Avis simply does not try harder to care, does not try harder to listen and does not try harder to rectify any problems.

Rental agreement number: 

We arrived into the Picton Ferry Terminal to collect our prearranged rental car.  After being issued the key, we discovered that the car didn’t operate.  A staff member confirmed that the cleaners had left the lights on, thus the battery was dead.  The staff rushed around to arrange a different car for us, although interestingly most of the cars in the carpark were dirty.  Incidentally, our party consisted of our three children (4 months, 2 years and 4 years).  Tired and fed up, we were finally presented with a new vehicle.  A Toyota Camry. 

On our return from our long drive, we had adequately planned our drive back to Picton to be relaxing, stopping off for lunch, etc.  Just North of Kaikoura, some rocks had slid down onto the road and because of oncoming traffic, I had no way to avoid them.  This resulted in a flat tyre.  My husband in his (own car) and myself in the rental pulled over to the side of the road to change the tyre as quickly as possible.  If you’re not familiar with the road, it’s extremely fast, rather dangerous to be messing around on the side of the road.  On this particular day, it was also extremely hot.  Despite our best interests, we couldn’t remove the tyre and conceded that we definitely didn’t have the correct tools for the job.  I made a call to the roadside service number provided in the Avis pamphlet.  On hold for 30 mins, I felt it was too dangerous to waste time, so I called the office in Picton for help (as this is where the car was supposed to be returned).  Their response was, ‘what do you expect me to do about it, we’re in Picton.’  To which I reminded them that this was where I was trying to get the car.  They rather begrudgingly agreed to call the AA for me.  Deciding that it was too hot and too dangerous for our three young children, who were at that point, extremely unhappy and uncomfortable, I took my husband’s car, while he waited alone for the AA.  We knew at this point that we’d missed the ferry back and faced the grim reality of waiting for the 10pm ferry.

On his arrival, the AA man confirmed that we did not have the correct tools, so he used his own.

Arriving at the Picton Terminal, the office was unmanned and I left a voicemail stating that I didn’t expect to see any charges added to our credit card and they were to call me to discuss my complaint.  In all the times we’ve rented a car, we’ve never left it without fuel, but on this occasion, we were desperate to get onto an earlier ferry and didn’t have time to refuel.  Fortunately, the staff on the ferry took pity on our dishevelled state and allowed us to board.

I never heard from the office in Picton.  Instead I called them to query charges on my credit card.  That was the only time I learnt of the charge for the damage to the wheel trim.  I expressed my unhappiness at the service and the Manager responded by informing me that she would respond to any subsequent complaint letters. 

I called the customer service line, a rep informed me that an investigation would be conducted and I should expect a ten day turnaround.

The letter is included with reference to a complaint about the time it took for the AA to arrive.  Indeed that is clearly NOT my complaint.  I’m staggered by the fact that the correct complaint hasn’t been even been investigated.

This experience has left me in no doubt that Avis has little regard for their customers. 

If anyone has bothered to read to this point of my letter I would like to summarise my complaints

-          The initial arrival at Picton.  The sole role of Avis to provide rental cars, and yet a battery was allowed to get flat because it was left on?!

-          The nonchalant attitude I received from Picton when calling for help

-          Not providing the correct tools to change the tyre

-          Picton not having the courtesy to respond to my voicemail

-          Picton not have the courtesy to inform us of a subsequent charge for the wheel trim

-          The fact that it takes 10 days for a complaint to receive a response

-          The fact that I didn’t complain about the length of time it took the AA to respond – only the call to the Avis roadside assistance, the AA responded in a very timely matter

The letter from Andy Patel is a brief overview of my own conversation with the manager at Picton, although it’s not even as in depth.  I can’t see why it took ten days to bang out a brief and barely apologetic acknowledgment.  My other complaints had also been noted by the customer service rep, which Mr Patel hasn’t even bothered to review.

We will not be using Avis rentals again for business or pleasure, and frankly doubt we’ll have the courage to try again internationally.  It’s extremely frustrating when large, international companies had no regard for their customers.  I have never experienced anything quite like Avis before.

Regards

 

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A little fed up with NZ - struggling to stay positive!Mon 2 February 2009

To date, I have lost 10 kilos, got my second grade 'A' for my sociology assignment - easing the pressure of the upcoming exam and continued to remain focused on being positive with our stay in NZ.  In our aim to have one evening of 'us time' Steve and I indulged on Friday night at Martin Bosley's restaurant, fine dining in NZ - hard to believe it exists!  Absolutely divine.  This weekend saw us all visit the pacific island festival in the city and then do the teddy bears picnic in the city.  I forced the whole family to walk everywhere and although I had moans of tired legs (mostly from Steve!) it was great for the whole family to be active and to do things a bit differently.  The laundry floor still presents a minor problem.  But I'm less concerned about that now.  Any professional we've had has reinforced the work of the landlord's builder/plumber as being 'shoddy.'  Nothing feels better than being continually proved right!  I'm beyond caring, I'm actually really fed up at the moment.  Despite my best efforts to keep busy and keep focused, I do find myself pulled into this despair that we are still in NZ.  The other day I went to the mall, I drove along the motorway, the same old cars.  Beaten up old 80s cars that clearly aren't roadworthy, exhausts making more noise than the trains (I'm told its 'cool' - its like a right of passage for young men in NZ, they must drive crappy cars and they must make the exhaust noisy and the gear changes make whipping noises before they become...er...well, join the line for the benefits payout I suppose).  In the mall, some bloke parked next to me and drove his car right into the metal fence, BANG!  He simply reversed, didn't even check the damage - couldn't care less.  And that really epitomises the culture here.  All people care about is what's for dinner and whats to drink.  I can't get used to this society where women aren't recognised either.  For example, a man will never leave a door open for you, he'll never ask if you need help.  I am always shocked when a man lets me walk first, or holds open an elevator door for me while I struggle with the pushchair - its such a rarity.  Steve gets extremely angry when he rides the train to work not one person offers their seat to elderly or pregnant women.  Yes, I know this happens everywhere, but its harder to swallow when there's not many benefits to make it worth baring.  One of the books I just finished reading was about a Dr that works over in Africa, I won't drivel on with the details, but it makes me yearn to see somewhere else.  To be part of a world where there is rich history and an interesting culture.  I am so thirsty for a holiday.  I just can't understand people that claim NZ is their home.  Its so isolating.  I keep reminding myself that there's a big wide world out there - not that I'd know from the news of course.  Big story was about some guys being attacked by bats.  Even the wildlife is sick of the people!  Oh, my other bugbear - people here are so uneducated.  I'm SICK TO DEATH of reading professional letters that don't make any sense.  People write here like they talk.  Its so infuriating.  Following a complaint I sent to Avis, I received a letter back which was barely legible.  In my fury, I sent it back, I scribbled all over it like a maniac English teacher.  Yes, I know my blog contains mistakes, but I don't palm it off on letterhead.  Yes, NZ has some pretty scenes, yippty dee, but its hardly enough.   As dramatic as it sounds, my soul is empty here.  This is a souless country.  The end.

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The laundry floor room saga continues...!Sun 25 January 2009
Sunday saw me struck out with a migraine, which I only get when I'm really stressed.  The whole day was wasted, as I lay in bed.  Steve had to rush out to get my prescription, leaving me with the three stooges.  Hell hath no fury than three demanding kids and Mummy with a migraine!  I was stressed all weekend about the laundry floor.  So, this morning, I dropped the leaky landrover off to the mechanic and I shall not give it a second thought until I get the bill.  I then telephoned a building inspector to come and asses the damage.  At an exorbitant cost of $95 + gst per hour (min 2 hours) he came straight out and turned out to be worth his weight in gold.  I had previously called the landlord whom was incredibly pissed off that I had got this expert in to 'her house' without her permission to assess the 'structure in her family home'.  I said that whilst I understand she's upset, the reality is, Steve and I need to know if we really are liable for the bill and if so, will replacing the tiles be aqaduate or is it likely to happen again.  Furthermore, she had told me that I was responsible for the property, therefore I was doing something that I felt was necessary.  She told me I better me 'picking up the bill' for this report.  It have never occured to me that we wouldn't.  The assessor idenitied two major causes of the damage.  The washing machine was certainly not at the top of the causes.  In fact, he pointed out where he was surprised the  building work had been signed off, as some aspects didn't meet the legal minimum.  Yet another indication of how shoddy the landlord's plumber/builder come-jack-of-all-trades.  He's taken lots of photos' and we'll get the report today, with his suggestion of a further investigation.  Unable to catergorically pin point our washing machine, means the burden of proof is now on the home owner and we cannot be forced to pay until evidence tells us to.  On the basis of what the assessor had to say, there is some serious work needed to the drainage system, which has been affected by rain, not the washing machine.  Its somewhat of a relief that we have new information to hand.  However, I'm now staring at the barrel of a gun.  A pissed off landlord and no doubt, forthcoming legal battles.  Feb is really going to be a stinky month.  If anything can be learnt of anything in my blog, its the importance of knowing all of your rights, having all of the information and good record keeping.  To be continued....
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Ah, sh*t!Fri 23 January 2009
Always when we're ticking along, something just pops outta nowhere and knocks the stuffing right out of us.  Just before Wellington Anniversary day, I went into the laundry to see the floor had started to dip and the tiles began cracking.  It looked dreadful and I thought, 'uh-oh.'  The landlords' plumber came to look and this guy is as dodgy as a nine bob note (as my Mum would say!).  He's done a lot of work around the house, and its all pretty shoddy.  We just banked it up as something we could negotiate on if we bought the house.  The deck, the retaining wall, the bathrooms, he's got his mark all over these things.  He took one look at the laundry floor and said, this is an insurance job.  It'll cost thousands.  He said that our washing machine hadn't been installed correctly.  He may right, but I was surprised that a whole year has passed with no other signs until now.  The landlords insurance won't cover it if it is the washing machine because it's a gradual thing, and I'm well versed on tenancy laws, Steve and I will have to cover the cost of the repairs.  We can then take the company that installed the washing machine to court to recover some of the costs.  According to a lawyer we checked with, we would have a case.  However, the prospect of another legal battle, time and energy and money being sunk into something that we won't have anything to show for is too much to bear at the moment.  A friend of ours came over and suggested that the problem could be the concrete underneath, as the house is built on clay.  Thank god the laundry, while upstairs is on concrete with no rooms underneath.  We are going to seek an independant assesor to examine it, as the plumber also happens to be the guy who built the laundry room!!  Anyway, in a foul mood for the day, I drove my ill friend around to help her out, all the while thinking about this sodding floor.  When I finally got home, I couldn't believe my eyeballs when I saw my Landrover (which the Nanny uses) was dripping out onto the driveway.  No, not from the air con, a full on water leak.  This happens to tie in nicely with it being due its WOF (MOT), so automatically the car will fail.  The leak is not coming from an easily accessible pipe, its coming from somewhere beyond the manifold.  And if you don't know what I'm talking about, in short, thats a huge labour bill for the mechanic to basically take apart the inside of my bloody great big V8 landrover engine.  I said 2009 was going to be busy, I had no idea it was going to be so expensive as well!  The next few weeks when I need to revise/prepare for court with the police officer/prepare for my parents imminent arrival/train for the Rotorua marathon, I'll be driving around my daughters' to all the classes I've previously talked about.  Grrr!
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Action all around!Wed 21 January 2009
My fitness is improving and I'm starting to see a real difference in my endurance.  People tell me I look great, but I can't see any obvious changes of weight loss.  I'm quite critical of myself, so I just feel like a blimp!  Even in pilates my capacity to balance is starting to improve, I thought I might prove the instructors wrong and be the only person ever in the world not to improve.  I'm pretty repulsed at myself for getting into such a state in the first place.  For all this work and diet change I should look like a millon dollars, but I'm still chipping away at my accumulation of poor diet, and that's one hell of an accumulation!  I did my 10km in 1hr and 40 mins comprising walking and running, so I'm pretty confident about Rotorua in March.  I've also realised that I've been denying my girls some really important additions to their lives, so I've sorted out dance classes for them both.  Moons will do ballet and Pip will do 'Baby Boppers.'  My walking has seen me encountering so many kids in the sea in little dingys without life jackets on.  It really annoys me, there is a temporary sand bar on the coast at the moment, and strong rips.  I'm a confident swimmer, but I wouldn't dream of getting out there on a kayak without a life jacket on, so how can parents let their kids paddle out there.  Am I supposed to believe that if the sandbar disappears and the currants are strong, the kids will have enough endurance to make it back?  Judging by the size of the Mother's sitting on the beach, they sure as hell wouldn't get out there in time.  I realised in my annoyance, that I've still not got around to getting the girls into swimming lessons.  Such a fundamental need here in NZ.  So I've get them enrolled in that to.  Their social calender is getting extensive!  Over the holidays, I've had a few Mothers call inviting Moons to various get togethers.  I don't know who the parents are, or even who the kids are!  Moons is a pretty popular kid.  Its important I tap into her energy and confidence and get it directed into something valuable.  Since I began this overhaul of my lifestyle, its had a fantastic ripple effect over the whole family.  Steve is looking better and healthier by the day.  Our Canadian residency application is at another block.  We now need passport photos of all of us!  Grrr!  Well, I better get back to study, something tells me 2009 is going to be a busy year!
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Canadian visa delay adds to a bad week!Sat 17 January 2009
Since Jan began, Steve's been talking constantly about the residency application for Canada.  Apparantly we were supposed to receive an acknowledgment letter, with some sort of info on accessing status details online.  I wasn't fazed by his concern, noting that NZ mail is bad at the best of times, with the holidays, we wouldn't see any mail again for at least a month.  Well, actually, bills always seem to make their way pretty quickly!  Anyway, he just couldn't relax about it, so I told him to call.  No matter what option you press (In Australia), they cut you off, pulling any possibility of talking with an immigration officer.  Ever positive, I reasoned that was great, the immigration people have more time to dedicate to processing than dealing with eejit Brit expats asking silly questions.  He sent off an email and we received a response within 24 hours.  It was being sent back!  Steve was like a child waiting for a letter from Grandpa the way he checked the mailbox daily.  Finally, we got the whole thing back, including the bank cheque.  Sydney, Australia are NO longer processing residency applications.  Instead it needs to be sent to Sydney, Canada.  Its a little frustrating of course, Steve had been speaking with the embassy last year and nothing was mentioned, not even on the website.  So while we thought we were one step further, in fact, we were actually no closer at all!  Unfortunately, this weekend is another public holiday, there are a lot of random ones here in NZ, so we'll have to wait until later in the week to get it all off.  Again.  The usual pattern of bad luck continued through the week.  Most notable, I finally got the guts together to sack the cleaner that I threw money at because I felt sorry for her.  The final straw came after a couple of things got broken, I casually asked about them on our return from the holiday, only to receive a torrid of abusive, drunken text messages.  I kept my cool, stayed friendly and reasoned that it would be of mutual benefit if our professional relationship ended.  Thus, I began receive daily personal insults.  Despite being the 'better man' and ever curteous in my responses, I started to panic that I had yet another unhinged person in my midst, and had images of the plasma screen tv being boiled in a pot on the stove one day.  To be honest, I'd like to say I'm pretty hardcore, but in reality, I'm a bit of a softie at heart, so although I seem unfazed, I actually found it quite hurtful.  Sometimes I know I can be a bit to blame, if I don't handle things properly, but in this instance, my conscience was completely clear.  I had been more than fair, very patient and often turning a blind eye.  I tried to call her to arrange to meet, offering her 'closure' on the basis that she seemed unable to let it go.  My attempts proved futile.  I finally received a telephone call from her, with an apology.  She sounded drunk, she admitted to being drunk when she'd text, and she promised she wouldn't text again.  I was so happy that she'd taken the time to call, and had the guts to do so. I guess my being calm and friendly throughout really paid off.  I'm sticking with an agency now, so I need never get dragged into anyone's problems again.  No sooner had that call finished when the Nanny that was arrested text me for help because her partner was cheating on her.  It all happened on a day when I felt tired to the core and for lots of different reasons, hadn't been able to sit down all day.  Egg's nights have gone a bit awry, so I'm up most of the night, I'm aware that I have an exam breathing down my neck (of which I'm not prepared for at all), and I've got such a busy few months ahead with dates coming out of my arse, that I have little energy for anyone else.  The live in Nanny and the part time Nanny are wonderful and I love them both dearly, but they don't get on with each other.  Each wanting to 'tattle' on the other.  Moons has been a bit off the wall of late, so most of the time, I'm intervening with her behaviour, whilst trying to care for Egg.  The plus side of all of this, is that my attention to getting fit is more focused than ever before.  Time at the gym, time on the treadmill, is the only time I get to myself, so I relish every second of it.  I've enrolled at pilates twice a week, because it makes me feel really good and relaxed.  Whatever can give me some time away from shopping, nappies, study, arguments, dinner prep, awkward staff issues, etc is very welcome!  I've registered for the 2009 Rotoura half marathon, which happens to be on my birthday.  I booked my flights and the hotel and I'm off!  Steve was a bit upset, but as he initially poured scorn on the idea of me doing something like that, I decided to eliminate him from what has become 'my thing, for ME.'  But its your birthday..Was he response.  Well, waking up in a quiet hotel room, doing my thing with just my ipod for company, and returning to my hotel room, with my already made bed, not worrying about making dinner for anyone, not worrying about cleaning up after anyone, going to bed when I want, is quite possibly the best birthday present I could ask for!  It also happens to coincide with when my parents are here.  Having them critique me all the way around the course doesn't appeal much either, so everyone can just take care of themselves!  Before I can begin to look forward to that, I have two major pressing issues.  The exam and the pending court case on Feb 11.  Yesterday I received the 'jobsheet' from the Officer that I'm taking to court.  It was so badly written, most of it doesn't even make any sense, and whilst I don't consider myself a wordsmith, I certainly don't think I would have responded to him in such broken sentances that make no sense at all.  It does worry me though, that a police officer is capable of such rather unintelligent babble.  Ah well, at least in NZ they're only after tasers and not guns! 
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Kayaking and everything else!Sun 11 January 2009
I've just had a bloody marvellous weekend kayaking.  I went on a course to allow myself to join the kayak club of New Zealand Yakity Yak  We were taught basic skills in a pool - capsizing, getting back in, and then out on the open water, paddling skills.  By the end of Saturday, we were all tired and cold and fed up!  Fotunately, I was with a fantastic group.  There were only four us, plus the instructor.  On Sunday I returned to discover we all felt the same.  We set out for the day in our kayaks and it really was laugh a minute.  I've not laughed so hard, so long for a long time!  We stayed local to where I live, so at least I'm more familiar with the waterways, and I even met the coastguard.  I'm going out with them again on Tuesday night.  They do lots of tours around NZ on kayaks, I'd like to be part of that.  Steve already knows what I want for my birthday!  I've been working hard to get fit.  I had a 'weigh in' at the gym last week and have lost 6 kilos in 5 weeks!  I've also lost 2-3 centimetres off different parts of me (legs, arms, abdo, etc).  I've been told that's impressive - but I want more results more quickly!  I don't think I look any different, but I feel fantastic.  There's no way I could have done all that kayak training before I started working out.  Steve and I did a couple of tramps last week.  One of them we didn't know anything about but we discovered it was up a mountain!! It was a real leg burning hike, but we kept each other and I'm incredibly pleased to say we did it!  The view was pretty amazing from the top.  I've still not had the urge to drink or order takeout. Even when we've been really tired and the girls have been playing up, I've just pulled out the electric wok (best kitchen purchase in the world ever!) and stir fried up some chicken or beef and steamed some brown rice.  I'm just in the process of enrolling for the Rotorua 10km fun walk.  There is a half marathon as well, but I'm worried that I'm not up to par, so I'm happy just to walk the 10km.  That's quite an accomplishment I think for me.  That's on March 8, my birthday!  So Steve will meet me afterwards and we'll go for a very deserved bathe in the spa pools.  My parents have booked their flights on Feb 18 and they've told me they're staying for a month!  Eek!  Ah well, I've got so many exams and so much work ahead of me, I hope I won't have time to get bogged down in criticisms!  Operation embracing 2009 whilst stuck in NZ is well and truly underway!
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Kayaking, hiking, studying - all in day's work! (pic:Egg in her bag!)Wed 7 January 2009

Steve decided to 'work from home' yesterday (a-hem) which in the old days would have seen us lying in bed all day, only leaving for the toilet or more food!  However, I saw this as a great opportunity to try out some of the local walking routes.  In my enthusiasm, we drove straight to a Kathmandu store, purchased one of these cool baby carriers, popped little Egg in, nappies, wipes and water and headed off.  We picked a trail in a place called Wainiuomata.  The town itself is something of a hick town.  Kind of isolated, pretty rough around the edges, looks like it should be a mining town, if you get the drift.  Anyway, it also happens to have sprawling forest and mountain walks.  With Egg on my back, we took off rather gallantly on a two hour hike.  It was bloody awesome.  Well, for the first 40 mins Egg screamed like a banshee in my ear.  Fair play of course, I'm pretty unsteady on the old feet, not sure if I'd have been happy on my back!  We had to take an obligatory break which saw me changing Egg's nappy on a bloody great big branch on a narrow track - how close to nature!  This walk of course followed my 6.30am workout at the gym.  I had also booked a pilates class in the evening!  WOW!  Following the walk, we were both felt, well, tired for one, but invigorated.  We were seeing scenery that we hadn't noticed before and doing something completely different.  On the way back I saw a Canoe and Kayak shop.  I sat with Egg while Steve popped in.  He came out brandishing for my information, a kayak magazine, info about their club and info about a weekend course.  I was so excited!  Turns out there's quite a movement here in the old kayaking lark.  Yes, I'm already booked on the course which is THIS weekend!  Yikes!  I'm excited to find something that I'm so interested in.  Something that according to the guys in the shop is an awesome interest to have in Canada.  Anyway, in the evening I went to the pilates class and when it started I had to stifle the urge to laugh out loud.  The warm up was waving my arms like a tree!  However, the instructor had a body to die for, so I figured I'd stick around and see how it went.  Christ!  I wasn't breathless, but I was sweaty and my muscles ached and BURNT like buggery at the end!  that was one hell of an arse whipping!  Afterwards the instructor asked what I thought and I said it was hard, but good.  She apologised to me, apparantly all the others are regulars, and she'd forgotton about little old me, so there I was killing myself trying to keep up!  I don't think I did too badly though.  I'm going to keep going once a week.  Might help relax me.  My brain is back in the saddle again now, studying for my sociology paper, which is such a load of old bollocks.  I've never read so much drivel in my life! (except for reading my blog entries!!)  My first assignment I actually did quite well in, I'm hoping to get a good mark for my next assignment, so the pressure for the exam is slightly less.  Feb sees the first exam.  Then I've got an extremely busy year with a multitude of papers.  I have to say that, for the first time, I really feel like I'm embracing the new year.  Its so easy to sit and mope about being bloody miserable all the time.  No, I don't like it here and yes, at times I'll get upset and feel desperate to break out.  But at least I've got my distractions now, and these opportunities have only come about because of NZ.  God, my legs ache!! OUCHIE!

Here's pic of tired, hacked off Egg!

 

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Best holiday ever!Sat 3 January 2009
Xmas was fairly sedate.  I didn't make a full on dinner this year.  Sticking to a healthy lifestyle, I wanted to make wise choices for me and the family.  No selection packs, lots of healthy nibbles and minimal alcohol.  Sounds boring, but honestly it wasn't!  There was no hangover to tend to, no heartburn to complain about, and no one complained about putting on weight!  I was a bit concerned about our planned week holiday to the South Island, being so removed from a gym and a treadmill, I was concerned that my old habits may surface.  Actually, it turned out to be the best thing possible.  After I woke up at 6am for a brisk treadmill workout, followed a visit to the gym, left rather hurridly to get to the Interislander.  We took the live in, so Steve and I might enjoy some 'us' time and we all cramped into his car to collect another car on our arrival in Picton.  I won't go into what a nightmare experience we had with Avis for the second time since using them, but suffice to say, I wouldn't recommend them and neither would I return to their business again.  Our first stop was Lake Takepo.  Once we parked outside our previous haunt, The Residence we didn't use the cars again.  Instead we walked everywhere.  I had a go at kayaking and enjoyed it so much.  Had it not havebeen for my continued gym regime before our trip, I might not have been able to do it.  I took off around the lake, exploring to my heart's content.  Had some close calls because the woman didn't tell me how to steer!  But got lots of advice from passing boats!  It was so much fun, I think I'll do it again locally.  Then Steve and I hired mountain bikes!  Its been  a long time since I did that.  I was pretty wobbly, and by christ did my arse hurt the next day!  Well, and thighs for that matter!  The girls really enjoyed our frequent strolls into town.  Although we took the live in so Steve and I could have some together time, I think on the whole the girls had a much more enjoyable time with us because we were always out and active.  Steve and I got to have dinner out to the best sushi place in NZ, Kohan.  It was so tasty.  It was weird for me and Steve to be out after so long, and yes, our conversation consisted mostly of the girls!  After three nights in Lake Takepo, we drove on to Hanmer Springs.  We booked a three bedroom Villa at the Heritage.  It was bloody awful!  Again, I can't be bothered with the details, but to suffice to say, it was a great disappointment and not worth the hundreds of dollars we paid.  We really wanted to go all out on this holiday, with Steve working so hard and me completing my first semester and passing exams, oh, and having a baby!  On this trip we saw more of Hanmer then we've ever seen.  We did mountain biking through the forests, quad biking around the moutains and I even went horse trekking up the mountains!  Again, something I've not previously done for years.  Christ, my arse REALLY hurt after that!  We did so much walking as well and really, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  We took a well earned soak in the private pools at the springs, but the whole place is pretty shabby.  It resembles something of a Butlins resort, not aided by the people of course that visit.  We decided to book the private pools so we could escape the masses of people.  Its got nothing on Rotorua, but putting aching bodies in a warm pool is sheer bliss.  This is going to sound really cheesey, but on this holiday I really did feel much closer to nature and it really revived me.  For the week, I didn't complain about NZ (well, maybe just once or twice!) and I could actually, dare I say, see the appeal of summer here.  Everyone gets out on their boats, skiing, bbqs, hiking, etc.  Its great to be part of that lifestyle and enjoy the scenery and opportunities to do it.  So much to do, why are Kiwis so bloody sullen?!  Ah well.  I know I really enjoyed myself this week and so did Steve and the girls.  Unfortunately all these things cost a lot of money.  Not to mention there were 3 kids and 3 adults, so when Steve and I were out, the live in was racking up a rather unhealthy room service bill!  YIKES!  But at least we really enjoyed ourselves and I would love to repeat the experience, but perhaps take more care on the budgeting side of things.  This is the first holiday we've come back feeling totally refreshed and not fatter and more sluggish!  Here's hoping 2009 continues like 2008 ended!
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Investment property with international salary and contracting in NZTue 16 December 2008

As I mentioned previously, we've decided against a family home here in NZ simply because we hate it so much.  However, with house prices ever dropping we can't sit here and not invest in something tangible - as Canada will take so long.  Steve visited a mortgage broker today to discuss our options.  As he earns an English salary and contracts here in NZ we wanted to discover whether a bank, in this day of age, would give us a mortgage.  The simple answer is yes.  With Steve's UK salary alone, we're pretty much guaranteed a mortgage of around $300k, which is exactly the amout we want to sink an investment.  If we did want more, then Steve has to show consecutive contracts for a year, to prove he can effectively get the work.  On his contract salary + the British salary, the bank would easily give us, well, whatever we ask for quite frankly.  However, unlike the Americans, we certainly won't be biting off more than we can chew.  We just want to get a smart 2/3 bedroom place in a new, middle class suburb, rent it out to a nice couple or family and then just let it sit there, while we decide what to do next.  We figure being property owners should satisfy a bank in Canada,  where we know they're incredibly strict.  In fact another option we're looking at is also purchasing much later in the year, a small holiday home somewhere rather nice in Canada.  It would depend on how easy it was to invest in Canada without residency, etc.  Something to research later on.  An investment property sounds fairly sterile to me on paper, but I tend to get attached to bloody hotel rooms, so I'm not sure how I would fair buying a house here and then leaving it to someone else!  In other news, I've been attending the gym daily and also running on the treadmill daily.  I have to say that gradually I'm feeling the difference.  I had hoped to step off the treadmill a few kilos lighter, straight away!  But I'll just keep trucking.  I ditched the drink, the coke and stick to water.  I've also switched to wholegrain bread and I snack on fruit during the day.  Its not a hardship actually.  Being summer the fruit is fresh and tasty, and all my working out means I like the water more anyway.  Wholegrain bread is delicious.  The only thing I thought I would struggle with is cutting out booze.  Well, I decided I would have a glass of red when I fancied BUT only when I fancied, not just habit.  I was drinking at LEAST one bottle of red a night.  I've gone cold turkey and fully expected shakes.  Seriously, some days I actually looked forward to the evening when I could drink!  Nada.  Turns out I'm not an alcoholic afterall!  YAY ME!  Which is weird because I'd thought this bloody country could turn anyone to drink!  Getting healthier, finances in check, residency off, bloody good stuff! And as Steve smugly says, its all down to NZ!  How ironic!

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Exams passed and Canada residency in!Tue 9 December 2008
I have officially passed both of my exams, so I have acquired my credits for one semester.  I'm growing increasingly alarmed though at the amount of work that's being delivered by courier on a daily basis!  Crikey!  I've not had the guts to open it all up, so I'm just really hoping that its all for 2009!  And not for the next couple of months!  We've also completed another one of my goals before the year is out.  We've officially sent off our docs for Canada, specifying Edmonton or Calgary as our preferred location.  Egg's passport arrived, so its all gone - to their Sydney office.  Coming in at just over NZ$3k for all of us and then there'll be another NZ$495 each once the visa is approved, which is currently looking to be around 2 years.  Beating the UK's estimated time of 3-4 years.  I've just joined the gym down the road, Curves.  You're supposed to do half an hour at a time, its a circuit thing.  I'm a little put out that I'm only allowed to do half an hour!  I just had my induction and tried to beg for more time in there, but she quite rightly warned me to take it easy - after just having a baby and all.  I'm definitely at my heaviest now - there is no bouncing back after baby number 3 and I'm accutely aware that this may affect my application to Canada.  My short term goal at the moment though, is to lose weight before my parents arrive in Feb.  I'm pretty thick skinned, but I don't think I can bear three weeks of comments about my weight amongst other things.  At least if I work towards a healthier goal, they can't bag me too much!  I've asked Steve for a gastric bypass for Xmas, he's not keen!  I'm not one of these people that complains about not being able to lose weight while I munch on a mayo filled sandwich, no, I'm realistically lazy!  If there's an easy way - GIVE IT TO ME!  I like the idea of being physcially unable to eat a toblerone, as opposed to trying mentally to control myself.  I have no willpower!  Still, I shall muster on with Curves and I've also hired a treadmill!!  I was going to buy one but I know that Steve will give me hell for spending thousands on one, only for it to collect dust in the garage.  I went a bit nuts though and had the guys set it up in the living room, figuring if I could see it everday, it would force me into submission.   However, despite my best intentions - it just looks bloody ridiculous, is a safety hazard for the kids, and its placed between two large sun catching windows.  See, I'm not into this get fit marlaky - just positioning the treadmill gives me heart palpatations!  Anyway, by the time the Canadian authorities review our application I could have the arse of Jessica Simspon as opposed to Homer Simpson!  The mental breakdown woman came and collected her jacket, she was all bright and breezy and considering her whole behaviour over the last weeks, I have to say it wasn't a show for my benefit.  I actually think I may have fallen foul to a con artist.  Thank god I didn't let her watch the kids like she kept on about, that would have been one hell of a Nanny diary!  GULP!  Things are coming together and its great to know that Canada is ticking away in the background while I get a brain and physical workout!
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The end resultWed 3 December 2008
The woman with the mental breakdown didn't call me back.  In fact, despite leaving several messages, she didn't return my calls.  This was just the fuel I needed.  Finally she called me on a lovely Sunday lunchtime and told me, blubbing down the phone that she was an alcoholic.  I told her that whilst I felt bad for her, ultimately she had a daughter that needed her, she was old enough, and it was time to get her shit together.  At the end of the day, I'm all for helping people that genuinely need it, but she has just basically ruined her own chances of getting herself back on her feet.  I told her that if she got serious about helping herself, she could call me and we'd chat.  Otherwise there wasn't anything I could do at this point.  I stayed firm despite her drunken babble and hung up the phone.  Only to get all teary with Steve and wonder if I'd done the right thing.  Steve reasoned that I've got three children, study and other things that need my attention and enrgy and it wasn't my place to step in with this woman.  I can rid myself of guilt when I think about how she doesn't want to help herself, so I literally would have to do everything for her, only for her to fall back flat on her face - probably literally.  I do think of her periodically throughout the day and hope she's making a real effort to get back on track.  In other news, Steve lost his hearing in one ear.  I just kept growing more and more concerned about him.  He is a raving hyprocondriac and moans at the slightest thing.  But when he's really ill and stressed, he doesn't say anything.   I had noticed he was loosing weight and he looked so pale.  He's got a scan on Thursday, but I'm pleased to say that so far, tests have come back indicating a non-serious and easily treatable infection.  He also got his ear syringed and happily returned home telling me he could hear again.  Also, work stresses have calmed down, he's had some good telephone conferences with the UK company, whereas just a week ago, he wanted to discuss plans for losing that income.  With the economy the way it is, nothing is certain, but at least its better then he was starting to fear.  I have also found out that I have passed one my exam's, thus I have completed that paper and acquired my credits.  It was the politics one, which I dreaded most.  Thank god I did it!  There's hope in the old gal yet!  I'm still waiting on my other paper, which I should receive in the next few days.  Egg is pretty much sleeping through the night now.  Wonderful!  At worst she wakes up at 1am, then again at 5am.  Otherwise its just one wake at 5am now.  Its doable!   I'm really not in the Christmas spirit I must say.  I am lost in the stress of buying presents for people and I hate that its gotten like that.  Its become such a pain when it should be about the thought, etc.  I have decided I want to go away for xmas.  I would like to enjoy the holiday aspect of it.  Egg's passport still isn't back, so I guess it'll be an NZ holiday - grrroan! 
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How much is too much?Wed 26 November 2008

I'm so annoyed as I write this.  Nothing new there I suppose!  I've always for some god forssaken reason been the sort of person that attracts these emotionally unstable types.  The words, 'I wouldn't normally tell anyone this but...' haunt me on an almost weekly basis.  It seems that people feel 'safe' with me, despite the fact I'm actually quite a bitch, they want to divulge personal atrocities and life struggles.  Often I am left uncomfortably peeling someone who's heartbroken off my floor after an hour of some sort of breakthrough I suspect therapists would charge quite a few bob for!  Steve is left dismissed and frankly quite annoyed at the amount of time I have spent with people.  Giving what is essentially my 'all' to this stranger that 'needs' a shoulder.  I suffer with this guilt syndrome you see.  If I don't listen, no one will, and I should act on this private heartbreak and help this poor vulnerable soul.  Or maybe, some may argue, its a hero complex, where I need to solve these problems.  Either way, its become a life hazard for me, and the payout is pretty bloody slim!  Mostly in fact, it brings a lot of burden to me.  As I get older, I'm not bloody learning either.  I struggle and continue to struggle with this simple question:  How much is too much?  I don't want to be cynical and closed off, but I am tired of being treated like a fool.  Like the last Nanny for example, who proclaimed her innocence about the theft allegations.  I stood by her and sure enough, she had been hoarding stolen items in her room - in our house.  I was devastated, but I still stood by her.  I've realised her pattern now though, she gets all sickly sweet with me and then BOOM I'm hit by some 'favour' request.  It usually happens when she's down in Wellington for her court sessions and needs a place to stay.  I have happily grown wise to this now, but it didn't stop her most recent attempts at manipulating me that saw me sat up writing a character reference for lawyer to show the Judge.  Steve stood there, 'what the hell are you doing?' but again I felt this guilt syndrome, if I didn't help her somewhere, no one else would.  I pay this cleaner weekly, who does a god awful job, but I felt sorry for her story about becoming single again late in life and her struggle to get 'back on track.'  Of course, there have been many more examples, far too many to count, but on this occasion my anger is with this someone recently.  I wrote only recently in my blog about how humbling her situation was, she's been down on her luck and where I can help her, I do.  Its come to the point where I've basically been throwing money at her .  I've had my suspicions that she's been using me.  Perhaps I have exhibiting my doubts about her without actually verbally communicating that.  She's started to become aware of this and perhaps realised she's erring incredibly close to losing a good thing. Sure enough, I found her this morning, lying on my kitchen floor in tears.  Swearing and cursing the world, all the people in it and the bible??!!  Luckily the girls weren't around.  And no, despite my recent experiences, its not the new Nanny!  Unforunately, she had picked rather a bad time for her nervous breakdown, as I had to drive Steve to drop his car off.  It was hard to make her leave, but she did.  This woman is 57.  She has a 15 year old daughter.  She has responsibilities.  I accept she's had a bloody difficult time of it, about 5 years ago and relied very heavily on those around her.  But that's a lot of time, her daughter needs her and she's been given so many chances and help by people around her.  But still she continues to effectively ruin her chances of ever getting herself anywhere.  I can only help her so much.  I can't live her life for her.  I can't carry her.  I barely know her and I have a family that need my energy and my time.  She called about an hour ago, in tears.  I explained I had just made dinner and will call her back.  So here I am, tired and dreading this call.  Now the guilt syndrome.  Am I the only one to help her right now?  Possibly.  But then how can I help her when she can't help herself?  I know that I'll find myself continually in this situation.  I don't know what it is about me that makes people think I can heal the world!!  I would struggle to burden friends when I'm having a hard time of it.  Let alone the first person that looks in my direction.    Anyway, in MY News, which I will write freely about my blog, but wouldn't talk about in person, is my concern surrounding Steve's health.  He's had some 'problems' recently - healthwise.  A few months ago we had a scary possibility thrown in our faces which shook our little world.  But after some tests, we seemed to be in the clear.  Unfortunately, we find oursevles back to the original fears.  Now we have more tests to face.  Its been a busy few weeks, we're both tired and run down.  That is hopefully all it is.  Ah bugger. 

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