failing to settle!
The shuttle to the airport was late, the flight was late but we were still in LA with plenty of time and sat around for a bit longer yet for the flight to NZ. It actually feels quite good to be getting on an NZ flight and almost belonging somewhere. It’s a very long time since we’ve belonged anywhere so perhaps it will be ok. Lots of the people in the airport and on the plane talk real funny! The flight was really comfortable and its one of those airlines that still does things properly (although probably only on long haul flights) – we got free meals and drinks including wine, free blankets, pillows and headphones and movies and sweeties when we came in to land. We didn’t get very much sleep though because we were both a bit stressed and starting to wonder what we’ve done. Any sense of belonging fled when the flight landed and we went into duty free and I discovered I don’t understand the money at all and had to convert everything to pounds to understand it. The people look different as well as talking funny although I can’t quite explain how – they just don’t look like Scottish people. We had another 3 hours sitting in the airport for the flight to Palmerston after clearing customs and giving them the half a Belizean beach form our tent and using their shoe cleaning service(!).
Over the last week or so we’ve been starting to panic a bit about the return to NZ and have been changing plans a bit. Last Thursdays plan was to settle in NZ and build the new house, Fridays plan was to move to Barrow in northern Alaska (I found a lead on a job there on Alaska airlines), Saturday it was to move to Vancouver then back to Scotland, Sunday was to just keep travelling and moving across the world every couple of years, Monday was to settle in the house in Petone, Tuesday was to just go straight back to Scotland, Wednesday was undecided (we slept for most of its 3 hours across the pacific) and Thursday was just very confused. Poor Steve had a hard time keeping up but was feeling as confused about what we’re doing so just went along with the plan of the minute although he wasn’t quite so keen on the Alaska one!
We finally arrived in Palmerston North at nearly 1pm a bit exhausted. Lucy met us at the airport and we just spent the rest of the day relaxing and catching up. By 6.30pm I was convinced at was nearly midnight and having already fallen asleep in the bath gave up the fight and went to bed. Steve lasted till 9pm. I was wide awake and ready to start the day (having had a very solid 8hours sleep) by 2.30!
Friday was a day of getting chores done. We went looking for cars without a great deal of success and I spent the afternoon having my hair cut and coloured. Then we just had another nice quiet and short evening with Lucy. On Saturday Ross came round and we all had breakfast together. He is a fully grown man now and a very very nice one and is just great with his mum. Lucy drove us round to more car yards and by lunchtime we were all exhausted and I was very depressed. What we can afford is not what fits with the idea of having a better lifestyle in NZ. We stopped in town for a very nice lunch at a café which is a bit more like an improved lifestyle. Certainly they can do some very good food here (we had pumpkin and chilli soup and potato wedges) – although it was not cheap. We stopped at one more car yard after lunch and things started to look up. We found a wee 4wheel drive with roof rack and room for a bike rack so we took it for a test drive and I really liked it. It did rattle a bit but otherwise seemed like a pretty good deal and is going for a service on Monday so we’ll look at it again on Tuesday. So things started to feel a bit better. We got fish and chips for our dinner and drank wine and had another fairly early night (still waking up at 2-3am).
Steve and I went into town on Sunday morning while Lucy went out to breakfast with Ross and saw him off on the plane back to university. We looked at kayaks and gear (not cheap although we’re not actually planning to buy new) and got a few more chores done like conversion plugs for our US and UK appliances and my nettle tea. Palmerston North is really a pretty happening place now (it used to be a sleepy wee backwater) and the town is really dynamic and there are lots of great cafes and the central square is very nicely landscaped. Robin and David drove up from Wellington to have lunch with us and Lucy at the same café we went to yesterday and we had another very nice meal. Then we went back to Lucy’s and loaded most of our stuff into their van as they had very kindly offered to deliver us to our house in Petone. The drive south was really pretty and the landscape here is quite spectacular although very different to anything we’ve seen in a very long time. There are some pretty funny shaped hills because they haven’t been eroded over millennia by glaciers but only pretty recently by volcanoes, earthquakes and rivers. That means the shapes of the hills are much sharper and more jagged. Its also very green and there are trees everywhere and the fields are really green. The pretty wooden farmhouses look quite rustic and the whole effect is rather nice actually. We stopped at Steve’s mum’s at Plimmerton to collect her car because she’s away for a week then got to Petone late afternoon. Going back to the house was very interesting. We were expecting it to be a wreck and its pretty untidy on the outside but you can still see where the gardens are – they’re just a bit overgrown but the yard is otherwise fine and the house just needs a good coat of paint. Inside its very tidy and almost exactly as we left it except for a few scratches on the paintwork that will be very easy to touch up. However there was no fridge, no bed, no desk and the washing machine has had its electric cord cut and we’re not sure what’s happened to all those things. The carpet is also pretty worn and actually got holes in it in a few places upstairs. The fridge and the bed were the most immediate problems and we managed to find some old foam squabs in the store cupboard in the garage. They are a bit mouldy but actually made a very comfortable bed. Looking through our mail we found my university fees which were a lot more than we expected and including a late fee because they were sent out while we were travelling with only 2 weeks to pay which of course has long expired. We went to the supermarket and got something to heat up for our dinner and found that food is comparatively much more expensive than in the UK. So we felt like our lifestyle idea was rapidly going down the tubes. The oven also appears not to work properly as only one element works and it took over an hour to heat up to warm our quiche. We sat on the floor in the lounge and discussed our options and going straight back to my job in Scotland looked pretty appealing. Both of us had walked through the house and our first thoughts had been to sell it. We don’t seem to have any emotional connection to it at all.
The first thing that had to be done on Monday morning was to get me to the hospital for my occupational health screen and I had been told I couldn’t start till that was cleared next week which was a bit of a financial crisis. However the lady there told me I should be able to start on Wednesday although she wondered if I really should (she had made the mistake of asking how everything was going and I’d burst into tears). Steve went to Robin and David’s to get our old phone and the keys to the storage unit and then looked at cars. He found a fairly good looking and reasonable car which would be cheap to run but still had a roof rack that we could put kayaks on, so we took that for a test drive. There were a few things wrong and they said they’d fix them so we’ll look at it again then. The financial crisis has forced us to abandon the 4wd in Palmerston as well as the fact that Robin and David’s van is actually very much quieter although bigger so the noises were more than just being a fairly open vehicle. We spent the afternoon doing trips to the storage unit collecting boxes and anything that would fit in mum’s tiny car. We were quite pleased to find a hoover (although it took another 2 days to find the hose and attachment for it). We were hoping to find pots and cooking implements but that also took another 2 days. Dinner was the instant variety from the supermarket again and pretty late by the time the oven heated up after we did our final run from the storage unit just as it got dark. It gets dark here about 6pm and light again at 6.30.
Tuesday was more runs to the storage unit, cleaning of the house and a trip into Lower Hutt to get phones and a few other things sorted out including renting a fridge and a washing machine. We also got pets – 2 tiny little goldfish – because the one thing I had found was a fishbowl and at the same time Steve was looking at a page in the paper that was offering a free fish. We named them both Bob (if you’ve ever asked a fish what its name is, it just says ‘bob’) and by the end of the day they were happily swimming round in a bowl in the kitchen amid the chaos of boxes everywhere and the bench covered in things waiting to go through the dishwasher. The fridge and washing machine were delivered in the afternoon so we could finally keep some yogurt for breakfast and get some clean clothes. However dinner was still instant because there were still no pots and also we were pretty tired.
We realised in the morning that clean clothes had been a little overly optimistic because we had forgotten that the absence of central heating in most places in NZ means things don’t dry overnight on a clothes horse and really have to be hung outdoors (and it had been damp for a couple of days). Steve took me in to work and my day was fine. It is not as great a job as I was expecting because all the things that were in place last time I was here and that I was involved in setting up 8 years ago, have all fallen apart and we need to start from the beginning again with a set of fairly new and some old and disgruntled nurses, fairly inexperienced therapists and fairly limited leadership. However the people are very friendly and the department is great and it was great to catch up with some old friends. The really traumatic thing of the day was finding out that one of my friends on the community rehab team had resigned. That not only means I won’t see so much of her but also that’s a job I’ve been saying for 4 years that I wanted so there was some soul searching to be done. I sat on the internet and looked at land in the evening and found that we probably could afford some land in the south island. Our theory was that if there was any possibility we would stay in Wellington I should apply for that job but if we were going to leave fairly soon I’d just stay where I am and not rock the boat. We did a couple more runs to the storage unit (Steve had already done some during the day too) and then the supermarket which was a little less depressing because we started to find some things that are cheaper than the UK so I guess we’ll just have to spend a while looking at what things we should and shouldn’t buy.
On Thursday at work I got to treat some patients and that was much better. Then it was another couple of trips to the storage unit and an evening spent polishing furniture. All our wooden furniture has survived really well and its actually rather nice to polish it because it looks so beautiful afterwards and it definitely needs it before we use it. However there is rather a lot to be done with 8 chairs, two small tables, a large table with 2 extra leaves, the bed, bedside cabinets and 2 dressers. We do have some really beautiful stuff and its starting to be rather fun unpacking boxes and seeing what we’ve got. I guess that means I’m settling in a little bit too and don’t feel so out of place. I still have no desire to stay in this house but feel that we will be ok in NZ. Everything we’re organising around the house is with a view to selling it although it will probably be at least 6 months before we put it on the market. We had fish and chips for dinner which was very tasty and pretty cheap – it cost about the same for both of us as it would for one in the UK so perhaps we should live on fish and chips!
Friday at work was fine and Steve had a productive day and bought our car so we went up to Lucy’s in our own car after dropping his mothers car back at her house. The car is a Nissan Pulsar and is a silver 5 door hatchback. The traffic coming up the coast was terrible and ended any ideas we’d had of staying in Wellington but moving up the coast. Steve had also been to the wine cellar and got some of his wine out so we had a nice bottle in the evening with lucy and another 4 dozen very nice bottles that need to be drunk in the house. I’m now managing to stay awake till 9 or 10pm and not waking again till five so am starting to feel a bit more rested – aside from the exhaustion of a new job and spending evenings carting boxes and cleaning. It took me about 5 days to get over the jetlag and start sleeping reasonably – I must be getting old.
Saturday was a nice sunny day and we had a nice lazy start with Lucy.