Pohutukawa in bloom

It’s that most wonderful time when the streets and hillsides of Auckland light up with the white buds and gold-tipped red brush flowers of the pohutukawa trees.

Let us give thanks

… for the bounty of the earth by trying to eat everything. Everything!

Here we are at Martha’s Backyard, the funny little American grocery store, posing proudly next to a tower of pumpkin pie filling.

And here’s the turkey, a nice sized bird from the local butcher that came out really good thanks to Lee’s dry brining technique. (We’ve had a few good experiences at the butcher shop, and every time we resolve to shop there more. But then we’re in the supermarket which is open late on Sunday and it’s just easier.)

We were 10 at table, drawn from four different communities: Lee’s former workmates, my ocean swimming buddies , my pool swimming buddies, and a Facebook group for expats. It was the biggest NZ Thanksgiving gathering yet. Mostly American, or at least with ties to the good ol’ USA, we enjoyed a great meal and each other’s company.

The best part was that when the discussion inevitably turned to “American is going to hell in a hand basket because of Trump & Co”, we were mostly in agreement and even on the points of disagreement it didn’t matter so much cause it’s not your actual family.

Everything you need for a fun night in Maramarua

On the way back from hot water beach, we stopped off for lunch at the pub in Maramarua, which is really just a wide spot in the road.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of these men’s room vending machines, but I thought this one seemed particularly thoughtful… cologne, a toothpaste and toothbrush combo, and of course a condom. Six bucks invested and you’re ready to make an impressive entrance at the Met Gala or wherever life takes you… hello ladies!

Barrels of fun

Last year at this time, the whiskey barrel planter in our shared driveway played host to Auckland’s weirdest costume contest.

This year, neighbor Claire planted lovely foliage instead.

Sadly, the little phone company protrusion that the barrel protects is still there, because the neighbors at the top of the hill have been unable to get their new optical fibre connection put in. The company that does all that fibre stuff is called Chorus, and even before the pandemic gave them an excuse to say “short staffed” they were one of the most hated businesses in town. It must be tough to be in that kind of business, because despising them seems almost universal.

Hot water beach

(Edited following comments from an eagle eyed reader)

Those feet in the middle of the picture are obviously less dainty than those of our friend Leslie who visited from Florida a couple weeks ago. Nonetheless, they are indicative of her hot water beach experience. We were among the last to leave the hot pool as the tide came in.

Hot water beach is a funny little place… just a quirk of nature that “hot springs “ and “beach” come together as they do. In my experience, people at the beach tend to sort of be alone together… you do your sunbathing and I’ll do mine. Hot springs are maybe a little more convivial. But put the two together and it’s a wonderfully social experience. From cooperating on diverting the hot water just enough into everyone’s little sand nest, to the loud Texas tourist lecturing everyone on the Second Amendment, to some subversive ladies telling the Texas tourist’s kids not to listen to their father’s crap (don’t worry, said the kids), we were all in the soup together.

And on the way home the following day, we stopped off at a roadhouse for lunch, and got to see these cute little lambs.

Just another brick in the wall

That mosaic along the retaining wall , designed by neighbor Nick and executed by other neighbor Kristie (and little Georgia who mostly likes the bright colors), was originally imagined to be the work of an afternoon.

Not quite!

It will look really cool when it does get finished.

November 13

Without the bulwark of Thanksgiving to dampen their appetite, retailers in NZ are free to get the party started right after Halloween.

Semi tough

We already had plans to go out for dinner with our recent friends Emily and Brian when she called and said “what about going to see the rugby?”

It was the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup, NZ (defending champions) vs France (who beat NZ earlier this year). $20 for upper deck seating that was perfectly fine. We’re in!

For the second time in our quixotic search for good Mexican food here, the supposedly great taco truck we were aiming for was not at its appointed spot. Grrr! We had fried chicken which was ok.

Entering Eden Park was exciting. Even though it’s the biggest and best stadium in the country, it’s also just in a neighborhood a few train stops from home. So it’s like being transported to this magical world of spectacle without any fuss.

Once inside, although we were in the cheap seats, it was fine. The weather held, and even if we couldn’t really see the action at the far end, there’s a giant screen, and we had a closeup on our side.

As a Francophile and a Kiwiphile, it didn’t much matter who won, I’d have something to cheer about either way. I always feel a big stir of pride or patriotism or something when the national anthem is played at sports events… some silly sentimental thing. I still don’t know the words to the NZ national anthem in Te Reo Māori, but it was fun to belt out La Marseillaise.

And the game itself was was thrilling, with the lead going back and forth the whole time. The French fans are always out in force, and the shouts of “Allez les bleus!” sometimes drowned out “Let’s go Black Ferns.” It came down to the last few seconds… up by one point, NZ only won because the French team missed a kick. Whew! And admittedly I’m glad the Black Ferns won.

We play England next weekend in the finals… but tickets were already sold out when I went online to look.

At halftime, I took this picture of the sky looking out over the practice field. Beautiful colors.

A glass act

There’s the new windows, which make all our secondhand furniture look better, don’t you think? And more importantly : All the leaks that led us to this point are fixed.

After a series of delays and more cost than we really wanted, we’re all cozily buttoned up with actual double-paned windows that open to a nice amount (two down, all the rest to go). We’ll remember fondly the idea of having what a window repair guy with the gift of the gab called a ‘small conservatory’ (just a bay window in fact), but actually the new arrangement is nicer and more functional.

Now… what’s the next project going to be???

Aura Hotel Wellington

Last week was busy in Wellington, such that none of the hotels on the Ministry’s approved list were available. Not wanting to cancel the trip, I pushed a bit and got them to approve a stay at the Aura.

Fantastic location, cheap price, but many bad reviews…

Above is the nice-enough view from my window on an early drizzly morning. Well, not my room exactly, but the common area shared by my pod of six rooms, whose only windows gave onto the corridor and were therefore worse than useless… they let in unwanted noise and light and for what?

The Aura lives inside the James Smith Corner building, which was a big department store for most of its life. There were still some original 1930s details here and there.

So why and how does the Aura exist? There were too many little problems and weirdnesses to list here, but I can see why they had vacancy when all the other places were full. I’m glad I got to make the trip as planned, and nothing actually bad happened at the hotel, but I wouldn’t choose to stay there again.

Commonwealth Walkway Wellington

Although it’s the unexpected flair seen on manhole covers and other kinds of ‘utilitarian’ street furniture that first caught my eye, I’m not immune to the more intentional charms of plaques like this one.

It’s part of the Commonwealth Walkway project, which hopes to get people out walking more by commemorating important sites around Wellington and other cities, installing some plaques, and infusing the whole thing with a spritz of royal patronage. Although I’m generally in favor of this sort of feel-good project , I know that one of the many reasons political life doesn’t appeal to me is the thought of so many such efforts, all needing (and deserving to whatever extent) to be Taken Quite Seriously.

Ika Rere Electric Ferry

Wellington’s new electric ferry, the Ika Rere (which means ‘flying fish’ in Te Reo Māori).

I just snapped this picture hurrying by on the way to the pub, oooh look at the cool new boat!

But will the Eileen Duggan poem on the plaque — or at least the sentiments that led to its emplaquification — have a longer-lasting impact on the city than this fancy new catamaran? Is windy Welly a city of writers / readers or a city of fancy green tech? Or maybe a more important question is: can you make the improbably difficult and expensive decision to adopt green tech if you’re NOT a city of writers and readers?

Artichauts chauds

Apart from some chives and herbs, here’s our first garden produce of the year… Artichokes!

From the single plant given to us last year, three sprung up this winter. And there are another 20+ fruits where these came from.

Yay! since this is a food we love but we’ve never seen for sale here.

Not where you’d expect it

We’ve been taught to believe, thanks to our exposure to Hollywood movies, that in order to find platform 9 3/4 you have to bash yourself into a brick post and hope that the magic works for you.

But in the Wellington train station, things are slightly easier. There’s a big sign. You still have to pay attention, because platform 9 3/4 is not where you expect it, but rather tucked somewhere between platforms six and seven. Even so, I find it quite generous of the Wellington Wizarding community to be so helpful.

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