Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Sunset

Am working at the dining table, and even though it's getting darker and colder, I still have the blinds up.

I was thinking thinking thinking about what to write about rolling out a park and ride solution at a tourist spot, and as I thought thought thought, I saw through one of the dining room windows that the sky was a lovely colour.

Ever mindful of the need to take micropauses in my work (yeah, right!) I took photos. A couple of them even involved going to stand outside the back porch! Such an adventurer I am!!

Looks lighter than it was - over to the east above John and Jenny's place and over the lovely hills

To the north, over Peter and Margaret's shed and house, and over our little shed ...

If you look closely, you can see the buds on Joy and Grahame's magnolia.
OK, on with some more work!

Saturday, 30 June 2018

And THAT assignment is done and dusted

I have just sent off the last email and the work is done - hopefully I will now be able to get back to sleeping as normally as I ever do (not very), and after the next couple of weeks where I have one last assignment to do, I will be on holiday (flying Business Class, of course) in the UK on the boat, and for the time being acting like a retired person. How long THAT will last, I am not yet sure ...

The work since 9 April has been done at a frenetic pace, which has not been a bad thing, so much as a sleep-loss-inducing thing with the occasional stress upheaval. One thing it has meant though is no exercise to speak of and a reduced capacity to moderate tiredness eating ... It'll be back to fasting for a couple of days a week for the next few months, I think.

I am really pleased with the outputs of the work - I've prepared a Programme Management Plan (150-iah pages) for a large piece of work, and pulled together about 22 Workstream Briefs (about 300-ish pages).

But as is always the case in such endeavours, I didn't do it alone. I had a great deal of input from a group of people from the five agencies for whom the programme is being developed - I called that group my Virtual Programme Team (VPT) - they came to workshops that I ran, allowed me to run the workshops in a style somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, and put a great deal of thinking into scoping of the workstreams, what the risks are for the programme and what kind of skillsets are going to be required to get the work done.

As I pulled the Workstream Briefs together, the VPT reviewed them and provided comment and corrections, so I could finalise them. Then my trusty friend Sarah who I have worked with off and on, for 29 years, did a marvellous job of:
  • drawing up the pictures we sketched to show how each set of workstreams fitted into a particular project as part of the Programme
  • constructing the Programme Roadmap and made lots of changes to it progressively as our thinking about the Programme matured
    • which projects workstreams should sit within
    • what order workstreams should start in and with what time lags
  • putting together the spreadsheets (AAARRRGGGHHH!!!) showing the estimated costs for each workstream, then aggregated them up to Project level and then up to Programme level
  • formatting all of the documentation so it all looks fabulous and consistent throughout
  • doing a copy edit, and getting it all ready for a final print for checking (and that includes such things as inserting pages (marked as 'Page intentionally left blank') to make sure that the component documents started on the correct side of the page opening - who knew? ...
As well as working at her home, Sarah has also come and stayed with us for two separate weeks in June working on this stuff with me as I wrote, edited, swore, made cups of tea and left them to get cold, reheated them and left them to get cold ... and we worked together at our dining table. David let Sarah have his office chair and there we worked, barely stopping for lunch, and never stopping for morning or afternoon breaks.

To put it succinctly, it has been a mission! On the last night, Thursday, we were up until after midnight getting the final things done so it could go to the print firm, and be sent to a few people for them to reassure themselves they were happy for it to be distributed more widely.

Then Friday was spent making tweaks and a few cosmetic changes and repairing typos. Just as I was to get in the car and drive Sarah to Paraparaumu Airport late on Friday afternoon, we got the call that it could be sent out, so back inside to send the already prepared email about downloading it all from Dropbox (all 535 pages of it) and sending the already prepared accompanying email.

Phew! 


So then, off to the airport in a more rushed fashion, dropped Sarah off with giant hugs and thank yous - I think I was in bed before she landed in Nelson - and it's only a short flight ...

So we delivered on time! My contract ended yesterday (30 June) but I was determined to have it all delivered on the Friday. But to be honest, yesterday I worked too - I put together and sent out all of the stuff for the first Steering Group meeting that I am attending this coming Friday in Timaru.

It has been a frenetic time as I mentioned above, but a very satisfying piece of work and very satisfying to get it done on time - I am sure I have overspent the budget, because I have worked at least 6 days a week since early April, and I think they only calculate actual weekdays ...

Amid the hard work though, there has been a lot of laughter - Sarah and I are good friends, and all the work we do is creative in its own way, and I find creativity is always enhanced by being off the wall and laughing.

One morning (well, several actually) we started work still dressed in our night attire - that is one of the benefits of working from home. The other is the time saved in not commuting! It is so efficient being able to walk from the bedroom, via the kitchen to turn on the kettle, to the dining room to start work. And finishing work off at the end of the day is an easy segue to eating dinner.

4 Macs and a Heyward, hard at work

Sarah was an NZ Argentine Tango Champion and used to teach tango. So one night as an avoidance activity regarding doing the dishes, she taught David how to lead when dancing ...
Apparently the secret is in making sure that you dance close so you can feel when/where each other wants to move to. I think Sarah called it 'lead to initiate' - I will check, and get back to you ...

So, it was across the kitchen, and

past the freezer and into the laundry pantry.
One night Sarah's daughter Izzie came for dinner with her husband Bevan. Izzie renewed her friendship with Mel. Kirsty used to babysit Izzie so she had to be sent this picture.

One day we did escape the dining room and the Apple Macs and went for a quick walk up to the village. We saw this as we came back into our street.

And one day it was very cold first thing in the morning before the heater kicked in, so it was on with the burhka ...

We gave David a night off cooking and walked in the very cold evening air (so lovely and refreshing!) up to the local Indian restaurant. Yummy!

And outside the dining room window was a tui feeding from the camellia. This photo is a bit of a lucky fluke as I had to take it through the insect screen - that is why there is fine cross-hatching visible if you look closely.

David has also been a star during this time - he took on almost all dinner cooking duties, made innumerable cups of tea, delivered breakfast, did the supermarket and vege market shopping. About the only things he didn't do were sweeping and washing the kitchen floor and dusting - I am not sure what has to happen for him to look upon that set of tasks as 'must do' in the same timeframe as I want them done ...

Last weekend, while David was away in Brisbane, seeing his sister Ginny and being visited by our wonderful daughter Kirsty, Luke came around with Mr Chainsaw. I moved the motorhome out on to the street, and Luke and Mr Chainsaw got to work - the maple has had a very severe haircut. He also cut down a dead kowhai at Grahame and Joy's place over our back fence and trimmed the kowhai out on our berm - no where near as severely as the maple - it only needed shaping.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Working, sleeping, socialising

What I didn't tell you in my post last week about being in Timaru and Christchurch for workshops was that I caught up with Lucy and Rob - we have not seen them for many years - in fact since not long after they moved to Mapua. That must have been over 20 years ago. So in touch with them I got, now they have moved to Christchurch (before the earthquakes) and I had found Lucy on Facebook a couple of years ago. We met for drinks and while Lucy may have been concerned we'd have nothing to talk about after so many years, we could have talked and listened all night - so no change there then! It was wonderful to see them and next time I am in CHC I intend to press-gang them into another get together.

I haven't been in CHC for many years except for transiting at the airport between Wellington/Palmerston North and Hokitika when I was working with DOC on the West Coast in 2016/17. So it was a bit of a humbling experience to drive into the city and see how much remains to be done since the earthquakes devastated the place. In places it looks like nothing has happened, but the central city, what I saw of it, is very very different. It didn't seem to me that any of the Victorian or Edwardian buildings remained, and there are a number of empty sites where buildings were so damaged that they have been demolished and removed. It reminded me of places we saw in Kent where it was clear that WWII bombs had taken out older buildings and were replaced by newer ones (at the time of reconstruction - crass 50s/60s non-aesthetic, non-architecturally attractive buildings). The replacement buildings in CHC don't look like that, but it's the gaps that touched me. And the main streets are wavy, narrow, with lots of witches hats, still being worked on. However drivers seem good natured and apart from one person who hooted at me loudly when I had to change lanes because of ambiguous lane markings, everyone has seemed very tolerant. Of course, the GPS software hasn't caught up with some road changes - or maybe David hasn't got the latest version of the maps. I will check with my IT Helpdesk.

The early part of last week was spent with the lovely Sarah here, doing a lot of work together on diagrams, templates (her), typing up Workstream Briefs (me). Since Sarah left on Wednesday lunchtime, I have been working alone, making headway on more workstream briefs and other planning stuff as well as a briefing for the CEOs. In drawing up the progress I've made in the 4.2 weeks I've been on the assignment, I am a bit stunned at how much I have got through - of course, I need a lie down about how much there is to go and only 6 weeks in which to do it... No wonder I am working at least one day in each weekend!

Working at the dining room table is great as I can hang A0 sized post it notes (with sticky piece at the top) on the window in front of me and transfer the contents into the templates, and I can spread out across the full width and along the full length of the table. However the downsides are that
  • the dining room table is not available for dining
  • the dining room and lounge look like a draughting office
  • the desk in the bedroom is a secondary storage area, so that is a mess too, and
  • the typed up papers are folded and left in a (tidy-ish) pile in the hallway, ready to be taken into the office for secure destruction, so the hall isn't clear either.
Another upside though is that even though I am working from home, David is still on dinners and dishes, as well as breakfasts and some lunches. This is not a bad lark - no wonder men have always liked having a wife! As Marilyn French is quoted as saying 'Every working woman needs a wife'. David is getting there! He has even made tomato soup from 20lbs of tomatoes over the last few days - with my help making sure any gungy bits of tomato had been cut out. This evening he DID try to get me to do the chomping of it up with the stick blender seeing as I took a break from working yesterday (yes, Sunday) to blend the first lot. But he was soon persuaded that it was a piece of technology that he could manage.

Dinner tonight was leftovers - a yummy beef stroganoff with rice and a chopped fresh tomato. Now it is time to blob in front of TV and then off to bed - I am ignoring the dishes ...

Ooh, I forgot the socialising update:
  • Joy and Grahame here for dinner on Wednesday - dinner was prepared at speed after 5pm by Sarah and me
  • dinner at a neighbour's place on Friday - I took chocolate puddings and came home well before David did as I needed to sleep
  • Saturday brekkie at Jan's Cafe in Paraparaumu with Bruce, Gary, Derek and a couple of others - yummy food
  • long long nana nap on Saturday until time to go to
  • the movies at 4.30pm - saw The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - wonderful. GO and see it, and if you haven't already, get the book and read it. It's about the time of the German occupation of Guernsey.
  • then straight down to Bruce and Gary's for roast pork dinner
  • and on Sunday I socialised with my laptop and work stuff.
OK that's it - all caught up.

And the weather has been quite pleasant in the main - it was meant to be raining all this week, but the sun was out and the washing got dry outside today.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Holiday photos

I promised in the post that went up about 30 minutes ago that I would post photos, so here are some of the ones we took:

The Kokoaahi Band at the Hokitika Wildfood Festival - they are a fixture and I think they have played at every one of the 29 festivals. Some of the band members look like they have been in the band since its inception (probably not ...) and others have joined over the last 29 years.You can read about them here.
Vicki with one of her daughter's dogs who has just destroyed one of the toys - and doesn't look dismayed about that at all ... Considering the bag of toys was huge and overflowing, the loss of one is not a biggie!
The jetty at Lake Mahinapua - this is where David and I decided back in 2016 that we needed a motorhome to explore this beautiful country of ours. We had a lovely night here in the CROW. We had intended to stay longer but I needed to see a doctor and so we headed off to Greymouth. We did stay in a great motorcamp there - very good facilities, so we will have to return!

After a night in Ikamatua where we caught up with Dean and Phaedra we headed to Nelson Creek for a couple of nights. There is a neat walk through an old gold mining area - best to keep to the track as there are deep declivities all over the place and many of them are hidden by undergrowth now.


Parked by the river at Nelson Creek - more people arrived later in the day. Dinner at the pub was fun, but no chardonnay so I had to drink fizzy wine instead, dammit.

Through the short tunnel on to the swing bridge at Nelson Creek - David took this as I could not go through the tunnel and I definitely would not have done the bridge if I had been able to get through the tunnel. Total wuss!

The bush walk at Nelson Creek. Some of it is quite open, like this, and other parts are very dense bush.
Down in Ross on a Sunday morning, we went for a ride with Suzie. Here we are rejoining the main highway so we have taken care to give way ...
Suzie driving Breeze and Chico with me reclining in the back of the gig. David had leapt off to take photos and was allowed back on a bit further down the road.

Carrots for the ponies after their hard work of pulling David and me around Ross. CROW is in the background. David went back to the ponies after lunch to give them more carrots and he broke them up for them - doesn't seem to think their teeth can cope, silly man! And they don't mind picking up the bits they drop on the grass either.
CROW down by the Totara River - after our lovely time with Suzie, Breeze and Chico, we had thought about going down to the beach at Ross, but the carpark looked a bit dodgy with sand - and we didn't want to get stuck. The side road down to the river looked interesting and we decided this would be a good place to freedom camp next time we are down this way.
Seawards at the Totara River

Now this bridge is more my style! Not a swinging section in sight. The new bits have been constructed over the old rusting away bits and it is steady and sturdy.
The view from the former railway bridge at Totora River - it is now part of the cycle/walkway trail which extends from south of Ross up to Greymouth, I think
Told you its name, now didn't I?




Back in Westport before we headed up to Murchison, Blenheim and Picton then home. Paul and Leonie's house - a beautiful home that Leonie designed. CROW is visible outside.

I am working again!

You will have noticed that I have not posted about much of our travels down on the West Coast. I haven't written about spending lovely time in Hokitika, my favouriye place down there, or about all the lovely people we caught up with there. People like
  • Vicki who runs the Heritage Highway Motel and who let us park the motorhome (now definitely called CROW) on her driveway for several days
  • Fiona whom I worked with in DOC for 18 months and who is an absolute treasure as a Project Facilitator, and the most amazingly community-engaged woman I've ever met - she is one of the driving forces behind the development of a Chinese Memorial Garden in Kumara -and she runs a shop in Kumara as well as working 3 days a week in DOC, and she's building a house truck ...
  • Mark and Di whose house we stayed outside in the CROW down near the beach and joined them for drinks and a meal out in Hokitika with their regular Friday night crowd
  • another Mark and Di who live up on the hill in Hokitika - we stayed on the roadway/verge outside Di's house and had a great meal after work (them) one evening
  • Jim and Paula who we caught up with after the Wild Food Festival
  • Shane and Glenda who we caught up with on the street after the WFF as well
  • Suzie who took us out in Ross in her gig behind the two lovely ponies, Breeze and Chico - that was a big thing for her to do, as while the ride was for about an hour or so, the prep for it was much longer - and we had a great time and I will post photos soon, I promise (done - see following post)
  • and the lovely Katrina who we caught up with for lunch in a carpark in the middle of Greymouth - she was coming back from a meeting and heading for Hokitika and David and I were heading back to Westport in the CROW - back to stay with Leonie again.
Clearly our speedy gonzales (not!) narrowboating progress has rubbed off on us for our motorhoming as well - we spent almost all of our time on the West Coast and not even its full extent! The furthest south we got was to Ross (the pony experience with Susie) and the furthest north was to Mokihinui where we stayed a night and watched several kids and a dog having a great time racing back and forth across the rugby field in (and beside and behind) a kids' 4 wheeler - two kids riding at a time and multiple kids and one dog self propelled.

So the distance between those points is 209km, i.e. 145-ish miles. The journey from Picton (where the ferry docks) to Westport is about 360kms, i.e. 245-ish miles, so we did travel a fair bit, but nowhere near as far afield as others do when on a four or five week trip! When I consider that some people come to NZ for 3 weeks and 'see' the whole country, we practically dawdled ...

But anyway, that is all over now and life has taken another unexpected turn. hence the title of the post, that I am working again. Rest assured, it is only short term - and given the pace at which I am working, I wouldn't be able to sustain it for long!

I am helping to scope up quite a large programme of work which has several projects within it, each with multiple workstreams. So my task, given I know very little about the actual work involved, is to bring together the people who do, and artfully get them to do the work of giving me the info during workshops, so I can take all the input away and draw up the required documents (programme management plan, workstream briefs, stakeholder management plan, risk register, issues register, ...) Simple really - but running workshops is tiring business for a 67 year old ...

The week before last David accompanied me on a journey to the South Island so I could interview some of the key players to get an understanding of how they see the programme. (That's why David's birthday dinner was in Fairlie - a beautiful place that we need to bring the CROW when we come back from the UK.)

And then this week, I came home from the South Island on Thursday night after being away since Sunday lunchtime, and thought I would sleep in the next morning - but no: the brain will not stop, dammit! And the same this morning - I went off for my flu shot and took a notebook with me - after all there is an obligatory 20 minute wait after the jab to ensure no ill effects. So that 20 minutes was used to draw up diagrams showing the relationships between some of the workstreams. (And I had started drawing up the diagrams before David delivered a cup of tea and brekkie to me in bed.)

This is a serious affliction I am suffering from, people! Currently, I am meant to be having a rest - and can I relax? Nope!!

However things may improve tomorrow - Sarah, who has worked with me lots previously, is on board as my documentation specialist, and she is arriving tomorrow so we can start hauling together a first draft of the Programme Management Plan - it'll be skeletal, but the skeleton will show where flesh is needed and what form the flesh needs to take.

I still have lots of the output from the workshops to type up so I will do more of that tomorrow and hopefully break the back of it. The participants do note (but not in a complaining way) that I work them very hard in the workshops. Silly me! If I pushed them less, I would not have so much to do afterwards. Note to self: ease up on the Attila the Hun style ...

OK, now I had better release David from the exile - I put a big note on the bedroom door for him not to disturb me as I was sleeping. Seeing as that is not true, best I let him know!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

David is into his 70th year today!

It's his 69th birthday and here we are in Fairlie.

Carnegies (Old Library Cafe) is the best restaurant we have eaten at for a long time.

An Allan Scott sauv blanc or two appeared to be most welcome for the birthday boy. (I had a couple of glasses of the Sherwood Chardonnay which was lovely too.)

A 300g fillet steak with seasonal veges - apparently very yummy.

My pizza - only managed half, but I am sure that a person who is 69 and one day can manage to consume the rest for lunch on the first day of his 70th year...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Part 2: Staying with the Averys - Being tourists

 While staying with Leonie and Paul, we did a few touristy things for which the West Coast is renowned. If you haven't already travelled and looked at this part of the country, it is time you did! The Coast doesn't have the same serene beauty as do Wanaka and Queenstown (outside of the town of course) but it is wild and amazingly scenic. It's the juxtaposition of the mountains, then the hills, the narrow coastal plain, and then the sea: it is magical, and the people who live here are too. They are hardy, self reliant and fiercely loyal to their part of NZ, and rightly so.

So, the touristy things:


  1. We drove up to Denniston and Burnett's Face to the former coal mining area. 
    Up at Burnett's Face, looking over to the ranges. Quite a brooding place with the clouds.

    We didn't tell Leonie, but David had to borrow one of Paul's new hi-viz jackets that was left in the Landcruiser we were using - he'd left his own raincoat on the floor inside the front door at the house. He did try to make that my fault, but no way, Jose!
          
    A memorial to some of the miners who had lived up there and died after the mines closed.

    At the old school, now an information centre and small museum, there was a vast array of rusting equipment/machinery/mining accoutrements that had been gathered up. Even though it is decaying, it still gives an indication of the amount of technology that was in play in the mining industry, even way back then.

    What an impressive job DOC and the local councils have done on restoration of the area and in setting up the interp. (That is what us DOC-ers call it, by the way. As you've no doubt guessed, it is short for interpretation.) The people who lived and worked there were particularly hardy - it was a rugged and lonely place in the ranges, with all of the weather that the geography would dictate - high in the hills (which would qualify as mountains in the UK as being over 2000 feet high), close to the sea, with the next landfall Australia.    
    This is what NZ used to be like - and some West Coast people still operate this way ...
    I did walk on to this platform but couldn't stay out there. It looks steeply down the former incline.
    We were already about 2000 feet above sea level - but look at the range in the background ...

    An example of the pylons and buckets that brought the coal down the hills from the mine down to the Incline.
     
    Picnic lunch at the information area at Denniston

    The view from the front window back down the coast as we drove back down to sea level.
      There used to be two schools in the area, and one of them was the highest school in the country. If I remember correctly, one piece of the interp quoted the school inspector back in the 1870s saying he wouldn't be returning until there was a proper road up there - he'd had to travel in a wagon on the incline both up and down. A bloody scary prospect! The work in and around the mines and the conditions were dangerous. If you want more info, check out this link:www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/west-coast/.../denniston-area/
  2. From the main road further on from the Denniston turnoff, we saw the railhead for the Stockton Mine which still operates. 
    Stockton railhead

    The cable car with the buckets of coal from the mine back in the hills.
      There is a cable car system that brings the coal from the mine entrance out to the plant at the coast - it was that that caught my eye at Ngakawau. So we went over to find out what it was. It is a large operation that I think used to belong to Solid Energy but is now owned by Bathurst - I have a feeling they are an Australian firm, dammit!
  3. As Mohikinui was not much further on, we headed there next and at the lovely pub/cafe, we had a late lunch (well, the picnic of crudites and hummus at Denniston was yummy, but a toasted sandwich and chips had a certain attraction ...) It has a lovely campsite and several baches. Access to the beach is a bit difficult right now as I think the locals have formed a stopbank of rocks and gravel between the sea and the dirt and grassed stopbank - I need to check, but I think it was done as a defence against the two recent cyclones.
    The double row of stopbanks, complete with my lovely husband.

    Then it was back to the Averys' place for more wine and food ...