Chelsea Sugar Mill

That’s the Chelsea Sugar Mill, which lives at the bottom of our street. Or I guess we live at the top of its street, since it’s been there 130+ years and we’ve been here a week.

It’s New Zealand’s only sugar mill, processing some 200,000 tonnes per year, 80% for domestic use. NZ never had much of a sugar economy, not hot enough I would guess. Today, most of the raw sugar comes in from Queensland. probably on ships like the one in the picture.

In the 1880s, all the traffic would have been by ship. But today, most of that domestic production goes out by truck. Up the steep road we live near the top of. That’s a fair number of large trucks, a feature the real estate agent entirely forgot to highlight in the brochure… sloppy work I’d say.

Sugar mill factory tours are suspended due to the pandemic, but I’m looking forward to learning more…

Now it’s official

We had the New Zealand ritual meal of takeaway fish n chips, so it’s settled… we have a new home. Although the actual move was last Monday, we’ve taken all week to get (mostly) unpacked, organize our stuff into its new spaces, etc. Lee actually made it to work a couple days, I’m in school today and back to work Monday.

The place wasn’t nearly as clean as we would have liked, and we’ve discovered a bunch of little things that should have been working but aren’t. We’ve also been on a bit of a buying spree to take advantage of more space, especially outdoor space. So between hardware store stuff, tradesmen, and decorating, the budget is blown for the next few months.

Still and all, it’s ours, and that’s a wonderful feeling, if slightly unnerving… who takes on such a mortgage at our age? And what about all the things that might break?

Oh well, as they say here, she’ll be right.

Well blow me down!

Yesterday we excitedly set off to close on and pick up the keys to our new home in Birkenhead. But shortly after we got on the freeway, we found ourselves stuck in what turned out to be a 2-hour-+ traffic jam.

In what today’s paper calls a “once in a decade” gust of wind, two trucks blew over on the middle of the Harbour Bridge. When we finally got past it all, we drove by one of them, pic above.

But it was the other truck that will cause us longer-term problems. It skidded into some vulnerable bit of bridge structure which will result in weeks of lane closures. The bridge will be at only half capacity during that time. Work from home here we come.

We always knew that moving to the North Shore was a trade off between convenient commuting (our current rental) and affordable ownership. But this is not exactly the trade off we were expecting… Luckily the pandemic has sharpened our WFH skills!

And PS, the closing went off without any problems, and we are Kiwi homeowners. The movers come on Monday, although the cost just went up for the time they’ll sit in bridge traffic.

The Pain Cave

I’ve been following a program of indoor cycling using an app called FulGaz, 21 rides in 21 days to celebrate the Tour de France. Two thirds done, it’s averaged about an hour and 20 minutes per day. Not a ton of time in the world of going out for a bike ride, but still a lot of effort since there’s no stopping, no coasting, no downhills. Just pedaling away trying to generate as many watts as possible. I can sustain a little more than two watts per kg of body weight. By contrast, the pros are doing 4.5, and in the big mountains they’ll get over six for a few minutes.

I don’t have a fancy smart trainer, but the app shows me video of the French countryside while I spin along and estimates my virtual speed based on a sensor attached to my wheel. So an effort that might be worth 20mph on a flat road is only worth 5mph on a steep section of alpine climb. That river of sweat is what it took to get up Mt Ventoux last night, the longest stage of my Tour. I don’t have the algorithm set up just right, so it took me quite a bit longer than when I did it four years ago in real life.

Update : Last night I completed the final leg of the series with a painfully slow crawl up the Alpe d’Huez. Proud to have gotten through all the stages, but looking forward to being back in the water tomorrow!!

Who was that masked man?

The mayor went on TV yesterday to ask people to stop chucking their masks on the ground. It was a delicately balanced message… yes always wear a mask, but dispose of them carefully.

Postcards from the edge

Went for a lunchtime hike up Maungawhau/Mt Eden the other day. Construction of a new walkway around the crater rim is well underway.

It looks nice (for a walkway), and I’m sure it will improve the safety and accessibility of this popular spot while also reducing the degradation that comes from lots of people tromping around on a narrow and often muddy trail. But at the same time there’s a small piece of me that wonders about smoothing too many of the rough edges.

A tale of two villages

It will be the best of times or more likely the worst of times…

‘Retirement Village’ is the common term here in NZ for places where old people go to live out their days with various levels of care provided.

This village above is appealing to a certain lifestyle image… I may be old but I’m still fun and in control of my life.

But directly across the street is an entirely different pitch… get thee to a nunnery, more or less.

Interestingly, I looked at both web sites and couldn’t see much difference… small beige apartments with hand rails in the bath, smiling staff, and the promise of activities and opportunities that I suspect don’t actually get used all that much.

Study Buddy

Misty helping me get through today’s Zoom session of my Enterprise Networking class. In theory we’ll be back on campus as of next week. That will mark the beginning of the new normal here, although it’s what the rest of the world already lives with: there’s some disease floating around, but we have to get back to work, so try not to get sick.

Like a Bridge

I went out for a lockdown bike ride yesterday along my favorite road by the beach. One section is closed to cars for a few days while they replace and widen a section of bridge. It will be a real boon for cyclists because the old bridge put us right in the lane with the cars and buses and it was a bit scary.

Smug no more

I took this picture last weekend at school. I’ve just started my second semester, it was a lovely day on campus, and I was glad to be in NZ where even the city is bucolic. That’s not social distancing, that’s just wide open spaces.

But now it’s back to COVID-19 lockdown.


All not-so-good (but cheap and readily available) things

The Warehouse is NZ’s answer to Wal-Mart. Arriving here with few possessions, we spent a lot of time at the Warehouse as we set up housekeeping.

Most of the cheap crap they sell is just that, although we’ve also found plenty of things that we’re perfectly happy with. They’re open all the time, the staff are generally friendly, and the stuff is cheap.

Since we’ve been here they’ve been threatening to close down the store near us. Our new house in Birkenhead is…was… in walking distance to a Warehouse, so we thought we were safe.

But no. General retail trends, an aging building, and finally COVID-19, have conspired and our Birkenhead branch closed even before we got the chance to move.

This closure is part of a bigger move they made, closing stores around the country. The company overall made healthy profits over the past years, and so now some people are angry they’re closing stores. But what are they to do… lose money now because they made some before? It’s sad for people who now have to drive to a Warehouse (in our case about 3 miles), and of course for the people who lose their jobs. I don’t know that there is any answer that makes everybody happy.

All good things

The Spiritualist Society has provided me with a chuckle since I moved here. Now, as we get ready to change neighborhoods, so do the Spiritualists. Most of the block they’re in (for the last 55 years!!) was demolished a few months ago to make way for something bigger and grander.

And so, like all good things (except consciousness, if you’re an adherent of the Spiritualists), their tenancy comes to an end and they’re moving to Onehunga.

We’ll still get to see them, however, because their new place is on one of our favorite thrift store and Saturday lunch streets.

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