Wednesday 23 November 2016


We have tickets to one of her concerts in Auckland in March!


Travel and accommodation booked as well.

Good old David - he missed out on booking for the first two concerts and then just happened to see that an unadvertised third concert was open for bookings.

So that's my birthday present sorted.

Sunday 13 November 2016

I am staying put today

After the big earthquake overnight and the multiple after-shocks.

We felt the big one but went back to sleep, and only woke when Tim phoned from London to check we were OK.

I was meant to be up at 4.30am but my boss Kevin said no, that travel by road into Wellington would be dicey (we texted at 3am-ish), so I have re-scheduled my flight till tomorrow.

But we shall see.

In the meantime, we are having friends over for brekkie to give and receive support.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Tomorrow I am off to Hokitika!

I have been working steadily since leave Hokitika back in September, and managed to clock up enough hours to count as about a third of the number of working days while we were away in the UK.

Since we've been home, I have worked most days and officially started back at work last Monday.

But tomorrow I am back off down to Hokitika - can't wait to see the team down there again! And this week we are going up to Waiuta to see the finished site. All the remediation work has been done, so the Governance Group, the primary contractor and I are taking a trip up there to have a look at it.

I am excited, even though there is a weather warning in place that there may be snow that day. Thermals are ready to go in the suitcase, along with heavy duty socks, gloves and scarf. And I am planning on borrowing David's possum hat.

Later that afternoon I am running a Lessons Learned Workshop with the team, and then we are going out to celebrate the success.

Getting this project completed has been a long time coming - it was conceived years before I came on the scene. So it is great that it is finally done.

Photos at the end of the week.

And in the meantime, it is on to the next mine site to be remediated. Planning is done, design is being reviewed this week. It's all go go go.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

I am trying to work but the technology is stymying me

So instead I will update the blog - it is a far more relaxing thing to do than what David is doing, i.e. watching the US election results ... I am metaphorically burying my head under the blankets and pillows about that...

Firstly I wanted to post a couple of photos of us in Business Class, otherwise I will never see them again. Not sure about you, but we have so many photos (in the thousands) in electronic format that the blog is my best hope of seeing at least some of them in the future.
Now don't I look relaxed? And David is engrossed in the iPad.

And here he is sound asleep, lying down, flat, on a mattress, with a proper pillow and a duvet. How lovely is that?
So there you have it. I am planning on spending even more of the kids' inheritance by always flying BC to and from the UK - but, never again through LAX. In spite of how much he enjoyed BC, David is happy to do Economy, and while I would rather travel sitting together, the lie flat bed is a bigger draw card for me. So it isn't both parents who will be depriving their kids in the future, just the maternal one.

And now to being at home. It is lovely. Jetlag has been conquered again - always takes us about a week. and we are back in the groove of our Waikanae lives.

The weather has been mixed - some rain (it's spring) and some lovely warm sunshine (it's spring). And the garden is looking pretty good.

While David managed to mow the lawns the other day, I pulled out the forget me nots that had gone to seed. Evolution is a wonderful thing, folks - the FMNs seed prolifically and have a couple of  extremely effective seed distribution systems. One is by wind, if the primary method doesn't work, i.e. distribution by animals/mammals/foolish people.

I made the mistake of wearing a fleecy top while I was pulling the plants out and look at the result:

It took me 3 minutes to brush them off my jeans. But getting them off the fleecy was a different story. I tried to brush them off with my hands but the little b*ggers are the precursor to velcro and they stuck just as hard.

I was losing steam by that stage so I hung the fleecy on the washing line and left it out overnight while I considered the options.

In the morning I decided to try the tweezers. Well, they worked sort of, but were painfully slow - one seed pod at a  time. Do I look or sound like a woman with that much patience?

So options were:
  • throw fleecy out - a bit of a wasteful option, so discarded
  • see if they came off in the wash - could be bad for the washing machine and incur repair costs, so discarded
  • attack them with something as harsh as me - mmm, an option worth further thought
    • so what do we have?
    • aha! a hard scrubbing brush.
In fact we have two, so they both came out to be tried.

Success! However, it still took 20 minutes to get them all off.

Note to Self: Next year:
  • leave pulling the FMNs to Rob, or
  •  do it before they seed, or
  • don't wear a fleecy!

OK, back to work, Marilyn

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Home again

and jetlagged, so we're awake at 2.30am NZ time, after both having an unavoidable afternoon/evening sleep.

It is nice to be home, even though the weather in Waikanae was drizzly when we got here. And Joy and Grahame, the lovely neighbours over the back fence, tell us it has been cold and wet a lot while we have been away. So we definitely got the best of the weather then, given most of the warm clothing we took over to the UK wasn't used at all, and I had to buy T-shirts!

A good trip home in Air NZ Business Class - beautifully comfortable reclining seats, lovely food and wonderful friendly service. And the seats turn into beds, real beds! Bliss!

The only fly in the ointment, and it was a blowfly of absolutely gigantic proportions, in fact a swarm of them, in fact millions of swarms of them, was LAX.

Los Angeles International Airport is aptly abbreviated to LAX, because lax it is, with the most appalling arrangements for getting people into the country.

And we didn't even want to go in; we were in transit - with a two hour stopover. Well, not really two hours ...

Firstly we got off the plane (good thing I had a pee as soon as the seatbelt sign was off), collected a bright blue Transit card, and followed signage (sorry, Neil of nb Herbie) along extensive corridors up, and down escalators, round corners, until we reached the Border Control Processing area.

Then the queuing started:
  • for the computer terminals to check and register the ESTA - 
    • and then the ESTA system went down, 
    • and a couple more flights of people came in so there were well over 1000 people waiting
      • with no information being provided
  • after half an hour of nothing, no action, no info, 
    • the ESTA system came back up, so
    • we waited another half an hour for our turn, with no apparent rationale for some parts of the queue being shuffled forward ahead of other parts of it - AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
    • we finally got to the terminal and registered our ESTAs and our fingerprints and photos
    • and were told by the woman assisting that we were done and could exit back to the transit area;
    • but no - AAARRRGGGHHH!!! - we were told by an official as we were close to freedom (i.e. the doorway that would lead us back to the plane and out of Trumperyland) that we now needed to line up in another queue and get our ESTAs, passports, photos and fingerprints checked again by the Border Control officials.
  • so another hour of waiting in a randomly selected queuing system where the barriers seemed to be moved at whim by officials but not by any passenger/s
    • all the while Air NZ representatives were coming past checking that their passengers (us and several others) were progressing, albeit at glacial pace, and reassuring us that we would not be left behind
  • eventually, after a time of wonder and much frustration, which cannot be loudly expressed or we run the risk of being delayed further for behaviour unbecoming to those who want to get in and out of the US without touching the ground,
    • we were 'processed' by a very nice chap (honestly, no sarcasm or irony) and sent on our way to Security
  • getting to Security, to re-enter the terminal and get back on the plane 
    • having had no opportunity to shop/buy inappropriate things/take possession of a firearm (would they care?)/buy drugs/smuggle in an illegal alien/participate in acts of moral turpitude (forbidden if you want to enter  the US, we don't want to enter, but are not sure what moral turpitude entails, so maybe cursing under my breath or not so under my breath counts ...) 
  • as I was saying, getting to Security entails 
    • leaving the building
    •  re-entering the building
    • following several signs
    • going up escalators
    • getting our boarding passes stamped TRANSIT by an Air NZ rep for the purpose she said of making sure we got fast tracked through Security
      • ah, no it didn't.
      • we were able to go down the Business Class lane, and that shortened the wait to HALF a BLOODY HOUR
  • then at a run, to Gate 131 and back on the plane, apologising to the air crew as we came on
    • not your problem they said and do not worry and would you like a drink
      • chardonnay in a pint glass, sez I, and I wasn't joking ...
  • We weren't the last ones back on the plane - it was a full 20 minutes before the last people made it back
  • And then we had a 20 minute wait for a take off slot.
AirNZ were great: kind, helpful re-arranged connecting flights in NZ. But LAX? Crap, crap and more crap.

We are going to write a review of the LAX experience, as requested by the AirNZ crew, as they are powerless in the process.

One staff member at Border Control Processing said it is like that every day. To me that is a sign of a system that is broken, not just a computer system, but a whole system - policy, process and procedure.

For a start a simple change that would save airlines in transit a lot of money (as there is a cost to delays) is to set up separate queues for
  • visitors entering the country
  • passengers transferring to connecting flights
  • passengers in transit on the same bloody plane 
Instead of which, they have all three of these categories of people in the same endless interminable infinite extensive humungous excruciatingly long queue. AirNZ has apparently offered to pay for a fulltime Border Control person to alleviate this and process Air NZ transit passengers - the offer has been rejected.

They could make another tweak and have just one check - if your passport is new, like ours are and the ESTA hasn't been used in it before, then go into a queue that goes straight to a person for checking and registering.

I don't want to sound unsympathetic, but the person who had a seizure in the BCP hall while we were there had it easy - she got into the country faster, using the ambulance!
We loved our AirNZ Business Class experience (fully lying down to sleep is such a blissful thing to be able to do!) and will be doing BC-ing from now on. But we will not be travelling via LAX ever again.