Monthly Archives: January 2014

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so much to do

Yikes, I’m getting rather far behind, telling the tale of our month long visit to New Zealand. I’ve been editing my heart out… which sounds violent, and it is. Cut cut cut those nasty adverbs and all those corny cliches. And whole pages of superfluous faff.

Anyway, I usually do a blog post or two each week, and still keep up with my writing, but just at the moment there is a fire under my bottom because in one month I’m off to London for an Author Fair, wherein I will have a chance to pitch a novel (or two…) to a real live literary agent.

So it might just be one blog post a week for the next little while. And lots of photos.

Starting as we mean to go on:

IMG4384

Rolling a ball, nice and gentle (ahem), with Oma.

We spent Christmas at Luuk’s parents’ place, in the Waikato. Luuk’s brother and his family were due to arrive Christmas day afternoon, which meant a long wait for presents.

computer kids

But fortunately there were plenty of toys. Mind you, who plays with toys when there are computers, stereos and handy dandy spare keyboards around.

all the pressies

Fortunately there were a few presents to do earlier in the day, with my parents and Nana, but not until after church.

waikato (weather)

The view from outside the church, of Mount Pirongia and waikato weather… in the summer…

Elena and great Nana

Elena reading with her Great Nana.

backyard cricketLouis got a cricket bat from my parents, which Uncle David obligingly demonstrated, as the kids haven’t ever seen cricket before…

santa's many helpers

And then the cousins arrived! And then the presents were fair game!

christmas dinner

Fern and I cooked up a feast of a dinner, and managed to wear near-matching dresses… almost like pros.

christmas dinner: roast veg

Golden Roast Vegetables, and chorizo for good measure.

christmas dinner: salad

A divine salad of courgette ribbons, baby spinach, cherry toms, goats’ cheese, and rawhe ham (we happily ate leftovers for days.)

three kinds of pie

Dessert. Three kinds of pie. That’s right. Chocolate, Banoffee and Lemon Meringue. Awesomeness is pie.

christmas dessert

The kids, eating the pie.

saying goodnight to the presents

Elena and her cousins, all ready for bed.

elena and her big cousinElena and Briar, cuddling by the tree.

The next day we hung around and ate slightly less. Walked a bit of it off, trecking down to the Kaniwhaniwha* (say that five times fast) stream and back.

walking off christmas dinner

Walking to the stream, on the road, which fortunately doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

Kaniwhaniwha streem

*Kaniwhaniwha, pronounced, ka-nee-fa-nee-fa.

elena and Mt PirongiaElena walked the last little bit, up the driveway to Opa’s house.

settling catan with Dave

We spent some time settling Catan with Luuk’s brother, who won a LOT.

Santa's hangout in a NZ mall

We spent a little Christmas money at The Base (it’s a mall) and admired this Kiwi version of the universal Santa’s grotto mall installation. (They’re Pukekos.)

the sandpit at the other cousins'

We went to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to catch up with my cousin and her kids, one of whom is in this photo – just. But there was a sand pit! It was like christmas.

rhinos at the hamilton zoo

We went to the Hamilton Zoo and the Rhinos were fantastic.

tuatara at the hamilton zoo

And the Tuatara was… alive. But we saw him!

chilling with opa

Back at Opa and Oma’s we chilled out.

cucumber on Louis' eyes

Who showed him that cucumber can go on your eyes? Fess up.

Elena was nightmarish with food (perhaps with reason, having been carted around the country and cutting several teeth…) but Louis tried a few new things. We have no idea where he learned this trick though.

Louis and me

Lovely chilled out days at in the rolling waikato hills.

Elena and me

I’m a human climbing frame. Also known as a parent. Any prone adult of whom my children aren’t afraid will do the trick.

Getting the belly raspberry revengeThe kids get their revenge: blowing raspberries on my stomach.


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The Christchurch Bit

We spent the first 12 days for our time in NZ staying with my parents in Christchurch. Here we recovered from jet lag.

elena falling asleep before dinnerElena kept nodding off in the high chair.

Luuk went to work the day after we arrived and for the whole following week… which meant our trip around the world didn’t gobble up ALL his annual leave.

Me, my parents, and the kids tried to keep busy, in order to resist four hour mid-afternoon naps. We did a supermarket trawl, for all the kiwi goodies we’d been going without for two years (pineapple lumps, gingernuts, raspberry licorice, rice crackers, yoyos, black forest chocolate, venison sausages…)

And then it was coffee time. A great NZ flat white was just spot-on. And so was the lolly cake.

lolly cake appreciation

 Elena agreed.

ducklings at northlands  And there were ducklings, in case the lolly cake wasn’t joy-giving enough.

On Saturday morning we visited the farmers’ market at Dean’s Bush. This place is just pumping now. It was always lovely, but I suppose there aren’t a whole lot of other places to go while so much is being rebuilt. We didn’t even get to the first stall before meeting more than one familiar face.

bumping into people at the riccarton market

Bumping into people at the Riccarton Market.

It took us probably an hour to get from one end to the other with all the impromptu catch-ups on the way. Luuk and I fortified ourselves with one of the best sausage rolls the world over, about half way along, and there were numerous other tastes and treats before we returned to the cars.

Next stop was the ‘encraftment’ market in the city center.

encraftment market, cathedral square, christchurch 2013

A friend of mine had a stall at this fantastic local craft market, so I was very excited to see her and browse her lovely wares. It was strange, however, to be back in the city center, which has been largely inaccessible to the public since the earthquakes. The cathedral will be demolished, but part of it remained and we had a good last look through the fences.

On Sunday we visited Ilam Baptist, where we used to go to church. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone (well, those who were there) and the kids enjoyed being around so many other kids. Having warned about two people of our arrival, we ended up lunching on our own, but actually it was quite nice to have a little time out.

fish'n chips after church

And some essential kiwi tucker – fish’n chips from Captain Ben’s.

Dad had the week off work, so the kids got lots of time with their grandparents. I took the opportunity to nap each afternoon, to do a little shopping on my own, and to see friends.

christmas cookies with gran

Louis making Christmas cookies with Gran.

christmas grotto, spreydon, 2013

Visiting the Christmas Grotto.

hagley park playground

Playing on the playground at Hagley Park
(after a lovely coffee and scone at the Curator’s House – things NZ does well…)

good ol' kiwis

Speaking of things NZ does well… kiwi fruit!

Elena spent much of the week climbing up and down my parents’ stair case, and didn’t tumble once (though she terrified us all plenty). The kids also enjoyed the piano, when they weren’t clonking their heads on it.

perks of gran's house

On the second saturday of our stay we resisted the market-pull and hosted an open-house kind of party, so that we could catch up with as many people as possible, in one day. It was fantasic, and exhausting, and probably fattening, but hey! it’s christmas.

the joy of stairs

There were lots of kids to play with and we probably neglected our own, talking the day away with friends from so many different circles.

In the evening there was BBQ, and so naturally it rained. Dad has stood in the rain for probably half of my birthdays, ever, cooking our meat. Once again, somehow, that was his lot. We ate our full, and then some, and then some hokey pokey and goodie goodie gum drops ice cream.

Somehow we’d managed to miss people at that one-big-get-together, so on our last night in Christchurch, Eva came over for dinner.

nose-bopping fun

Eva and Louis, nose-bopping.

We were in town long enough to see a few of our closest friends multiple times, to get past the bare-minimum catch-up stuff. Of course it wasn’t long enough, but one day we’ll be back. In the meantime, I haven’t any great certainty or insights into whether or not we want to move back to Christchurch in a hurry. We will most likely be back there sooner or later, but perhaps not forever. The city is changing all the time, and that could be an exciting rebirth to be a part of, or it might just be too difficult, going back. We can only wait and see.


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home comings

Excuse me if I go backwards for a few posts. I’ve been slacking off (ie. tripping around the land of the long white cloud, visiting rallies and all sorts, being actually sociable – and virtually anti-social) for a whole month and so there’s some catching up to be done.

I am starting at the end, which I’m hoping will wend its way into a seamless summary of our New Zealand trip. Except now that I’ve told you about the hidden seam you’re bound to spot it.

paris, land of the criss-crossed skiesParis, land of the criss-crossed skies.

We’re home. Home in France. We arrived back a few days ago and are yet to have a proper night’s sleep, uninterrupted by hunger and ratty kids. We tried not-napping yesterday but were exhaustified rather early in the evening, despite having an impressive line-up of TV shows ready and waiting for us.

So the big question, having just returned from our first visit ‘home’ to NZ, is: did coming back to France feel like coming home?

And the answer: yes. We’ve been here for nearly 2 years and are well set-up, even if it might not be for a lot longer. We have friends, a happily cluttered apartment, a bakery we call ‘ours’. We know our way around, the kids have teachers and friends and schedules, we have work and commitments… all hallmarks of home.

It’s cold and often grey and often wet, but also beautiful. Louis and I walked up to get bread this morning. It was still dark, not raining but wet, and all the lights were shining on the pavement. Lovely.

And then there was fresh baguette. It always seems to come back to the bread. I did miss the bread. Om nom nomeny nom.

Anyway, mustn’t get carried away. Yes, it feels like coming home, coming back to Paris, to the suburb of Antony, to the cobbles and the fromages. But it also felt like going home when we flew into Christchurch.

familiar but different, christchurch

Driving around the city and suburbs, though they’ve changed with all the demolitions and rebuilds post-quakes, was eerily familiar.

There’s a map in my subconscious. I got in the car (first drive in 2 years went off without a hitch) and just wound my way around to where I was going. I got a little confused – came out on Riccarton road one road earlier or later than intended, that sort of thing – but still got to dinner on time.

Mum would give me a street name and I’d know just where she meant, but then couldn’t find it on my mental-map. Things have sunk a little deep into the subconscious, but I found my way around.

We spent 12 days in Christchurch (more about that in a later post) and then had Christmas with Luuk’s family in the North Island (another post on that too). Flying into Hamilton didn’t stir any home-coming-vibes in me but a couple of days later we drove into Te Awamutu and wham! I’ve never in lived there, but Nana has, for as long as I’ve been alive, and we would visit multiple times a year throughout my childhood.

Nana's house, Te Awamutu

Visiting Nana’s house itself is pretty powerful nostalgic stuff. Yeesh.

(I’m always tempted to switch on the ceiling fan in the spare room, turn it up to full-bore and then lie on the floor underneath, and freak myself out, but it wouldn’t be the same without my sister to giggle along with. That fan wiggles around like mad.)

Driving into Auckland, now that always feels like going home. I lived there till I was fifteen and whenever we visit we always pop in on one particular family, who were my neighbours for most of a decade. Their house is up there with Nana’s in how long I’ve known and loved it.

Oh, the games, the sleepovers… we were orphans with magical powers, more often than not. They’re renovating it for sale, sadly, but we enjoyed one long last gargantuan afternoon tea in the downstairs lounge while my children discovered the Disney castle toy (manual elevator included) and freaked out about the cat (Josephine rules the roost now that Napoleon has gone to the happy farm in the sky).

mission bay fountain, auckland

Mission Bay in Auckland, a beloved old haunt.
(Yes, we dipped our toes in the dodgy harbour water, burned our feet on the sand and then ran to the fountain, but of course.)

So those were my many homecomings of the past month. We had a wonderful, if busy time. We got a bit tan, and a bit more confused about what we want to do with the rest of our lives – or the rest of the year, for that matter. We really don’t know where we’ll be a year from now, but stay tuned!