Soya-lattes here we come!

Life for my clan is steadily approaching becoming settled. We have sealed the deal on a house, bought a car and I’m about to enrol Elsie in a pre-school. Next steps find work and friends!

Getting the house was a huge relief. The rental market here in Auckland is pretty bonkers, especially as we timed our arrival perfectly with all of Auckland’s uni students’ return for the new academic year. Houses up for rent have viewing times of 15 minutes only during which tens of people descend on them, barging each other out of the way to get a first look and try to charm the agent. At one viewing of a slightly stained and damp house, some students looked visibly crest-fallen when I walked through the door with my kids – aka proofs of being a responsible grown-up – and tried to persuade me that the vast garden wasn’t big enough for a trampoline, as if that was a household necessity for a family.

I became completely obsessive about checking Trademe, NZ’s version of eBay on which property ads are posted. Having bragged of my reduced smart-phone usage a few weeks ago I was now reloading the Trademe app every ten minutes or so that I could be the first to call an agent the minute the ad for our perfect home had been placed. Finally, after three weeks of looking and several upward reviews of our budget we found a place in Westmere, a central suburb right next to Grey Lynn, which is as much like Stokey as you’re going to get in New Zealand: health food shops, yoga classes, nice parks and hipsters. After our year in the badlands of Seven Sisters there was no way we were being ousted to an outlying area away from our tribe – even if it does mean paying through the nose.

Belle absolutely insists on sour dough with her soft-poached eggs.
Belle absolutely insists on sour dough with her soft-poached eggs.

I want to be somewhere I can take the kids to music classes run by out of work musical theatre actors with ukeleles; where gluten intolerant vegans are catered for; and where I can feel secure in the knowledge that I live close to some really cool vintage stores, even if there’s absolutely no way I can ever afford to shop at them.

So now we’re just waiting for move-date. Out container has apparently arrived and is waiting for custom clearance, so we should get our stuff within a day or two of moving in. The other day we passed the docks and had a moment of excitement wondering if one of the shipments we could see on the harbour contained our things.

Is our stuff in there?
Is our stuff in there?

There’s definitely going to be a few surprises when we unpack it. The removals guys were so efficient, sweeping through the house like a swarm of packing-locusts, that I’m pretty sure a box destined for the charity shop made it in there. I just hope it wasn’t joined by any garbage bags, especially of the dirty nappy variety.

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Hob-nobbing with Tories

This week I learnt how small New Zealand is when I went to a party with New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key and several members of his cabinet. An occurrence which meant I’d achieved a better level of access in three weeks in New Zealand than in over 10 years as a campaigner in the UK.  I’d been invited to the launch of a friend’s new public affairs consultancy – Hannifin de Joux. Kiri (our friend) was a political advisor to Helen Clark’s Labour government, whilst her business partner, Jo de Joux managed four election campaigns for the governing centre-right National Party. Despite the consultancy representing both sides of the political spectrum, the bias amongst dignitaries at its launch was definitely to the right.

When I told my mum what I’d been up to, she asked what was I doing hob-nobbing with a bunch of Tories. This was a fair question. Probably because I still feel like a tourist here. I  wouldn’t have gone to a similar event in the UK, not in a social capacity anyway but these were someone else’s Tories, so it was OK. I don’t have any axes to grind with the New Zealand government (yet!). And what better way for a politics-phile like me to get acquainted with my new surroundings than hear what members of the government were saying over a glass of sauv blanc (!)

This slightly surreal experience (am: story-time at the library, pm: Blockhouse Bay playground followed by drinks with the Prime Minister) was so very New Zealand. This is a country where it’s joked about there being not six degrees of separation but one or two and where people seem to have more time on their hands than back home. (I can find no better example of this than the other day being on a bus where the driver waited so that a passenger could go across the road to a mini-mart to get change and wasn’t even grumpy about it.) Suddenly finding I’m connected to someone who, through her antenatal class forged a friendship, which turned into a business partnership with someone working for the other side,  for whom five government ministers and the PM found time in their schedules to attend a drinks party 400 miles away from parliament and the seat of government – somehow I don’t think that would have happened in the UK. Not that I’d underestimate the collective kudos of Kiri and her partner in bringing the big-guns to their launch but there was still something quintessentially Kiwi about the event and the fact that I was there.