Niece, nice!

Mitch and Caroline arrived today for their 10-day tour of NZ… yay!

In an effort to keep them on the right time zone we marched them all over Auckland, but by mid-afternoon it was nap time 😴.

Tower and Inferno

From the Sky Tower today we had a bird’s eye view of the damaged convention centre roof. It burned a couple months ago when a worker left his blowtorch on while he wandered off for a smoke break.

The fire will delay the facility’s opening by unknown months.

Pie-pun’ hot

I often make some sort of a pun in the titles of my posts. ‘Pie’ shoulda been easy material to work with, but I’m traumatized… the New York Times did a little year-end quiz of famous faces, and one of the people I got wrong was a famous YouTuber called PewDiePie. Never heard of him till then, which is apparently a stark OK Boomer dividing line… I’m officially an Old. My first pie pun ideas were Sweeney Todd, the Beatles, something about how pies r round, not squared. Weak stuff.

And how you relate to pies in NZ matters… pies are the national food, along with fish and chips. A politician got absolutely shamed last year for eating a pie with knife and fork at an event. Man of the people my sweet patooty.

Of course, a pie here is a savoury thing, mostly, and of a size to be eaten (messily) with one hand. If you’re a tradesman, you can reasonably eat a NZ pie while driving down the motorway and at the same time explaining to a customer on the phone why you’re a few days late.

Anyway, the pies at the Pie Shop in Kumeu are really good.

What SUP, Doc?

I got to try Isabella’s stand-up paddleboard yesterday. It’s a fairly racy board, therefore less stable than the big ones you can rent down at the waterfront. It was fun! I don’t need another sports hobby so it won’t be something I’m likely to do more of, but I was glad to give it a go.


That is a kereru or wood pigeon enjoying a snack of puriri berries. The kereru looks like a regular city pigeon more or less, but is about three times the size. They’re somewhat endangered because they make a nice meal…

Tutukaka market

The Saturday market outside the only store in Tutukaka caused me to question my assumptions about the ‘authenticity’ of the whole farmers market thing. Specifically, in my mind, the actual farmer is supposed get up early, harvest only the things at the peak of ripeness, wash and bundle it all, load the produce into crates and boxes and drive into town to stand humbly before me hoping for a few dollars. But that model only makes sense for farms at a very particular scale… if “the farmer” is actually a person or a family. But if in fact the work is done by a dorm full of migrant laborers, overseen by professional supervisors, and the landowner is a body corporate of some sort, who’s the farmer anyway?

At farmers markets we’ve been to, I’m pretty sure some of the stands actually operate like I romantically expect them to. In Parnell, it’s the honey lady, some of the fruit stands, the sausage seller. But others are probably retailers who’ve never set foot on the farm in question. Hmmm.

In Tutukaka, a single van full of Indian guys pulls up and unloads crates of every fruit and vegetable you can reasonably imagine. There’s no way it all came from a single field or greenhouse! Predatory shoppers, most of whom are holidaymakers (like me) who would not be uncomfortable at a Junior League meeting in Amherst or Millbrae, wait with carefully disguised eagerness. Money changes hands, and nutritious fresh meals are prepared for all the above-average children.

In fairness, the plastic crates were stamped with something about a growers cooperative… so maybe the whole farmers market concept as I imagine it is actually operating in the background… but it’s a distribution system, only cutting out the actual physical store, rather than a 1:1 connection between a farmer and a market stall.

And in even more fairness , nobody said it was an actual farmers market… maybe it’s actually just a fresh produce market in a town that would otherwise be too small for fresh seasonal veggies… In which case, awesome!!! And we got exactly the fresh herbs we wanted… so the system works!

Bearding bees

At Tawapou farm in Tutukaka where we’re enjoying a couple nights with Tom and Isabella. Honeybees hanging out on the hive in an attempt to keep the interior cool is known as ‘bearding’.

It’s not really that hot, but I suppose in the direct sun it gets stuffy in there.

Franklin Road 2019

Auckland’s Christmas decoration capital did not disappoint on Christmas Eve…

From minimalist modern…

to full-on Griswold…

Fine art…

to a really eerily lifelike Rowan Atkinson…

And some residents who only do the minimum required to stay on the street…

And finally there were the houses that tried to remind us we’re not in the northern hemisphere any more…

Merry Christmas 2019!!!

No. But actually… no. Maybe? Still no.

It has felt a little weird to be renting at this stage in our lives… grownups own their homes, don’t they? And besides, we like looking at houses, and moving, decorating, etc. We should buy. Or should we?

We’ve mostly gotten over the initial sticker shock we felt at Auckland housing prices. Economists will say the market is overvalued, but that doesn’t change the facts on the ground: you gotta pay a lot for a house here.

So this spring we’ve been looking at more open houses, including the apartment in the picture, which is literally across the street from us. It wasn’t right, but on another outing we did for the first time find a place that was both (kind of) in our budget and livable. It had a good layout, enough room, enough privacy, not too far from work… and the price is lower due to a steep driveway… but that’s something we’ve dealt with before, in places with actual snow and ice. Should we make a bid???

Luckily, cool heads prevailed. We put all our MBA powers to work and calculated how much we “throw away” in rent vs how much we would be throwing away in mortgage interest, the cost of selling if we had to do that, and everything else we could think of. Given that we still don’t really know how long we’ll be here, what that overvalued market will do in 5 or 10 or more years, etc., it didn’t actually make quantitative sense. If it were only a few hundred thousand less.

But oh the temptation…

What I learned at the movies this weekend

No matter how scary a time you’re going through, and no matter if your imaginary friend is a campy Hitler or a walleyed old Jedi, you will suffer great loss (e.g., your mother, your best friend, and your innocence) but someone is even worse off than you, and somehow you will get through it.

Oh, and government leaders are evil.

It’s a Tragedy

Last weekend we went to see King Lear at the Pop-up Globe theater. This particular show was actually the class project of the various youth training courses the theater does, and one of my swim buddies’ daughter was in it.

The players ranged from middle schoolers trying to get out out of gym class right up to over-18s trying to make a career out of acting. In order to give everybody a go, they switched actors frequently, so each part was done by multiple actors of various ages… and genders. Awesome idea for the parents, utterly incomprehensible for us.

The weather was unsettled that night, so at first we couldn’t tell if we were hearing real thunder or the kids on stage crew… but when it just kept on thundering, we knew. It’s impossible to not just keep shaking that big sheet of metal. And although the Kiwi accent lends itself to the Bard’s iambs quite readily, the natural limitations of an unamplified theater, the ‘thunder’, and the kids’ developing pipes conspired against us… we might as well have been watching a play in Farsi.

We bailed at intermission.

The theater itself, supposedly a fairly accurate representation of the original Globe, was awesome, and it would be great to go back and see a production where we could hear/understand more clearly.

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