Archives for posts with tag: Auckland


To you and yours, wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Family and friends from home: we love you, we hope you have a fabulous Christmas and look forward to FaceTiming, calling, Skyping you over the next few days. You are ALWAYS in our thoughts. Some of you have had an awful year, our thoughts prayers and hugs go out to you. Do drop us messages or try and call us, we are here until the day after Boxing Day.

Readers of this blog: hey, you’re our friends too, wishing you a fabulous Christmas for you and yours!

And now, a few rambling thoughts…

Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas until we went to church yesterday when we sang lots of carols and the Christmas message was given. It was a lovely service. There was a hilarious moment in the service when the congregation was blasting an adaption of Cappeau de Roquemaure’s O Holy Night, when Mrs. E nudged me and pointed to my left where I saw a little boy sat looking miserable
with his hands over his ears. Oh how we laughed. In my head I am very tuneful, but the reality may be somewhat different, and although I’m pretty sure the little boy was reacting to the congregation as a whole, I chose to turn my volume down a little… We also sang a beautiful Kiwi Christmas carol, called Te Harinui. The carol commemorates the first New Zealand Christmas in the Bay of Islands in 1814, and the coming together of Maori and Pakeha (Europeans) at that time, when the Revered Samuel Marsden preached from Luke Chapter 2, versus 10. “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The congregation sang this with great emotion, you could feel their sense of pride to be kiwis. And we felt proud of our adopted nation too.

We had planned to have a quiet Christmas on the beach, and we were very happy at the thought of having a quiet day, but yesterday we received lots of kind offers to come round for Christmas Day (thank you everyone). So we are now going to friends for breakfast (thank you James and Ruth), and then we are off to the lovely Bendecke’s (thanks guys) for a South African style Christmas lunch (The Spaniel has a personal invitation too). How lovely is that? I love the openness of Kiwi homes. We will be taking a pavlova, because thats what kiwi’s eat at Christmas, right? We are probably going to be indoors, as the remnants of cyclone Evan are due to hit on Christmas Day. Fortuitously we had not psyched ourselves up for Christmas on the beach! Although I reckon if the surf is good, I may end up at the beach boogy boarding at some point! More of our surfing antics will follow in another post…

We have family coming to visit on Boxing Day, Fi and James. We can’t wait. We are off to the Coromandel and Bay of Islands for a week – whoop! Hopefully, once the storm passes we will be able to hit the beaches and relax. I will take lots of photos and blog about it in due course. So don’t feel left out! 🙂

OK, that’s it for now, and apologies as this is a bit of a rambling post. It is my last day of work today, so I need to crack on. If I don’t blog before, have a lovely Christmas one and all!

Twohoomans and The Spaniel


p.s. the lady who took our Christmas pic, was a complete stranger at the time, but we have bumped into her a few times since. In true kiwi style (I don’t know you, but…) she came round yesterday with these homemade Christmas chocs for us. We were touched. Does anyone know what they are, and more importantly, do you have a recipe? They are delicious!




…it sat there stuck to the leaf, and I thought for a fleeting moment someone had been very clever and stuck a garden ornament to a plant. I carried on with the weeding I was doing and then took a second look and realised it was a real, live frog! It was coloured such a bright green it simply didn’t look real. I grabbed my ipad and went up close, literally a couple of inches to take photos and it didn’t move. Clearly a brave little fella.

So I looked it up. It’s the Green and Golden Bell Frog, Litoria aurea. Apparently it was introduced from Australia by the Auckland Acclimisation Society in the 1860s.

They are quite unusual in the froggy world in that they like to bask in the sun and are active during the day, which makes sense as it was a bakingly hot day yesterday when I took this photo.

I am still getting myself familiar with the wildlife here. It is very different as you would expect given New Zealand is an island in the ocean.

I will keep you posted on what else I see…

Not long after we arrived in Auckland, my boss mentioned Coldplay were playing in one of the arenas in Auckland and tickets were going to be for sale. In the UK, I would have passed the opportunity by, partly because I’m not Coldplay’s biggest fan (I last bought one of their albums in 2008) and also because one would have to travel a fair distance to see them. However not so in Auckland, they were playing just down the road (kind of), so we grabbed the bull by its horns and bought our tickets.

I didn’t know what to expect, the last big rock gig I went to in a stadium, was London in the year… [yikes, a while ago…]. Coldplay were awesome, your whole body rocked as the guitar and drums rattled through your body. Everyone was given a bracelet which became part of the show and glowed different colours for some of the songs, which looked like ickle lickle glow worms. Chris Martyn(?) seemed delighted to be in Auckland and really played the crowd well. Seemed like a nice bloke.

I had a brilliant boogie, and loved the fact I could sing along VERY LOUDLY and VERY UNTUNEFULLY to my heart’s content. When I noticed myself doing star jumps (with different poses mid flight) when the bright white lights came on to the beat in one of the rockier numbers, I knew I was having a jolly good time. I was 18 all over again.

Mrs. E and I well and truly ROCKED IT with those Coldplay chaps…

Auckland, yup, again, you surpassed yourself

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Wow, The Spaniel certainly has a bit of a strop on (see pic below).


We wrapped her up in a bit of tinsel to get her in the Christmas spirit, but boy she really wasn’t having any of it at all, look at that face. As a Northerner would say in the UK, she had a reet face on! At first, I was a little bemused by The Spaniel’s reaction, but the more I thought about it, the more I understand why she isn’t in the Christmas spirit. You see, in the UK this time of year, the shops start to get all Christmassy, adverts on the TV become Christmas orientated, and there is talk of Christmas everywhere. Check out the latest John Lewis advert To be honest, it can all get a bit much. After all, is that what Christmas is all about? No…well, not for me and Mrs. E.

Anyhow, I digress, living in New Zealand, one doesn’t get caught up in all the materialistic hype of Christmas. So far I have seen one Christmas-related advert and that’s about it. Also, in the UK it’s probably getting cold and frosty and the fire is on and hopefullly at some point we might get a little snow, which all adds to that Christmassy feel. In contrast, in New Zealand it’s starting to get hot and sunny! See the pics below. So, all things considered, I now understand why The Spaniel isn’t in much of the Christmas spirit.

We don’t have any plans for Christmas Day, yet, other than a visit to church, which is always the focus of our day anyhow. Our first antipodean Christmas may feel a little strange, but fortunately we have family coming over on Boxing Day, which will help. I’d be interested to know of how the natives celebrate Christmas? Answers on a postcard please…

LATER note: it seems the backdrop for the John Lewis ad mentioned above is from New Zealand (see the story here). How ironic.









In the UK, I was a passionate gardener. Here, hey guess what – I am still am! We have been in our apartment now for 6 months, and it seems like we are meant to be here, on so many levels. But today, it’s the gardening I want to talk about…

Our landlord is a busy chap, and I think he realised I was an avid gardener through the conversations we have been having, like…(me), “I love growing veg…”, or (me), “Check out my sweet peas…”. Then out of the blue one day he suggested we did some gardening for him, in exchange we wouldn’t have to pay for our electricity bill. Without hesitation, we of course, said yes. When someone offers to effectively pay you to do something you love, how could you refuse?

So, we have a garden of mainly native plants to look after, tree ferns, silver ferns, even a Kauri tree (check out the big tree in the pic below).

My passion is vegetable gardening, and we have started growing veg on our decking: strawberries, swiss chard, rocket, coriander, parsley, courgettes, cucumber, tomatoes, peas, sweet peas, thyme, basil, lettuce, mint, and I am sure there are more that I have forgotten. I’m used to working on a large allotment, but it is surprising what you can grow in a compact place, when you put your mind to it, with a little bit of organisation (this is where Mrs. E comes in).

A few observations so far:

1. Things grow VERY quickly – I guess it’s the rain and sunshine combination. I’m interested to see how things are in the summertime here when the UV levels will be very high, and whether we will need to use shade clothes

2. Strawberries ripe VERY quickly, from white to ripe in 2/3 days (see below)

3. Tomatoes, chillies, and cucumbers thrive outside (no glasshouse required)

My thirst for gardening is being quenched by a free horticultural course, which I am starting in February, and I have located a local dahlia group, which I am hoping to join. Sure, the dream is to have a field full of sweet peas growing one day, but for now, this is all good.

I’m a happy, contented gardener…

One of The Hoomans









During settled weather, there is an early morning calm on the isthmus, when the sea looks like one big massive duck pond. According to Wikipedia, it was described as early as 1853: “In all seasons, the beauty of the day is in the early morning. At that time, generally, a solemn stillness holds, and a perfect calm prevails…”

Many Aucklanders used this time of day to walk and run in parks. The Spaniel and I use this period for some sporting activity, before the sun gets too hot. We keep going until The Spaniel sits in the sea to cool off (a sure sign we’re done). There are lots of words one could use to describe this phenomena (the isthmus, not The Spaniel playing…): awesome, magical, breathtaking, and so on, but why use words? Just be…

Photos are taken on my mobile…





Dancing on ice, in Auckland, in the Spring? Mad I may well be, but it’s true we did in fact go ice skating in Auckland today, courtesy of ANZ bank (thanks guys).

We drove to Devonport, and hopped on the ferry to downtown Auckland, which incidentally is one of my most favourite journeys to take in the city. It was a mild Spring day, and started to warm up when the sun came out. Our sole purpose was to have a little bit of fun, and we did…

The ice skating was free, thanks again ANZ bank…, we registered for our 3pm slot. Had some sushi for lunch, and then went back to the rink for some ice skating fun! Now, as a kid, I used to go to Lockerbie ice rink (yup, the infamous Lockerbie…), and was a fairly decent ice skater. So, I put on my skates and literally jumped onto the rink and expected to go flying – well, I did, but not in the way I anticipated. Hmph, I appear to have lost some coordination since I last went skating… Mrs. E was more sensible and gently floated around the rink. It was good good fun. There were a few belly laughs, a few laps of the rink, some more belly laughs, and then we were done!

We got an ice cream and then headed back home.

A crackin’ afternoon – thank you Auckland, thank you ANZ.

Twohoomans (not The Spaniel)


p.s. it was a proper ice rink, not one of those plastic efforts… the real McCoy!








So, this could be weird… our first Christmas in New Zealand is coming up, and it will be summer!

We are used to holing ourselves up with mulled wine and a toasty fire burning away, so being by the beach and having a barbecue might take a little getting used to. To help with the transition to an antipodean Christmas, we have family coming to stay – yay!

Christmas in New Zealand is when the schools are closed for summer, and most Aucklanders head out of the city. So like lemmings, we’re also following the crowd and heading out south east from Auckland to the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, and then on to Eastland.

We’ve booked a sleeper van with Fresh NZ campers. We tried to get a proper camper van but they’ve all gone, which is a shame, so book early if you want one! The staff at Fresh NZ campers were very helpful and for that reason I am sure we will use them again. We’ve got the van for two Hoomans and a tent for the other two Hoomans (and The Spaniel). So, we in theory we can go anywhere… right?

Well not quite…the next challenge is to get a dog-friendly campsite. Dogs are subject to lots of bylaws in New Zealand, and you can only exercise them in certain places at certain times (see here:, and lots of campsites simply won’t allow dogs at all. I emailed about 40 campsites, and got positive responses from a small trickle. Nonetheless, they were positive and based on these, here is our proposed trip:


Part 1 – Auckland to Whitianga, staying at the Harbourside campsite the owner, Kim, seemed lovely. Here, we expect to go to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach

Part 2 – Whitianga to Matata. We are staying at the Department of Conservation campsite, which is a little bit more basic – but does have a shower! Just ONE shower in fact, there can be a queue apparently… The manager was lovely, eccentric even, but willing to hear me mutter on about dogs and beaches and such. Dogs are allowed on the beach too – whoop! This campsite is close to Whatakane and all the activities it has to offer, and of course White Island, a live marine volcano, which I can’t wait to visit .

Part 3 – freedom camping in Eastland (see here: Again, dogs are allowed on the campsites and in the beaches – whoop, whoop.

So that’s THE plan… Thoughts? Advice? Top tips?

Ta, very much.

The Two Hoomans and The Spaniel. 😉

p.s. I will probably write another post at some point listing all of the dog friendly campsites, which will hopefully be helpful for others.

It’s Saturday afternoon, and it has been a glorious today. Warm sea breezes and temperatures of 21 degrees or so, have accompanied us all day. We went to a comedy show last night, and we are off to another gig tonight (more to follow in another post), so today is all about the R & R. And that is exactly what’s we have done, R.E.L.A.X.E.D…

The day started with coffee and a natter with our landlord on the decking outside our flat, followed by a munch on The NZ Herald (our local rag) and Natalie Merchant warbling in the background. The Spaniel and I had a walk to the beach, but given it’s a 1-minute walk away, I spoiled her, and we walked along the beach too… (lucky dog). I wore my shorts for the first time since last autumn, treating the locals to my bleach-white legs, and had a paddle in the sea.

And that is all. We’re just relaxed, and all is good.

Two Hoomans And The Spaniel





I’d better not get the two confused though, having a little jig while an earthquake was kicking off, would not probably be a good idea. Drop, Cover, Hold, is the mnemonic used to help one remember what to do in an earthquake, and is exactly what The Spaniel and I did this Wednesday 26 September as part of the New Zealand ShakeOut earthquake drill. Apparently over 1.3 million people in New Zealand participated. It was helpful for us, as coming from the northern hemisphere we really didn’t have a clue what to do in an earthquake. Run out of the house? Probably. All didn’t go swimmingly well though, The Spaniel first got her head under the table but not her butt, so I had to swivel her around, and then she assumed the correct position – good dog.

So, we all know what to do in an earthquake? Well, not quite. Not wanting to miss a good photo opportunity, I asked Mrs. E to take pictures of us, so there might be a few more practices going on in the English household. I have a whistle, I might just blow it one day and shout, ‘earthquake!’, and see what happens. Hopefully, Mrs. E and The Spaniel will dive for cover, I’ll let you know.

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