Monday, February 27, 2006

Cycling, Creole, Casino, China and Chilling....

That pretty much sums up our weekend!

We spent Saturday wearing Summer out down at the Waimakariri Gorge (5 mins down the road). We loaded up the mountain bikes and sun-cream (28 degs) and set off on a mission to tire out the dog as we planned to leave her in the house all evening.

After much gravel skidding, sinking in sand and general mucking about by and in the river, we headed home and got ready to head into town.

We had decided we would go to the casino. We haven't been there for a while and I was craving a live poker game and wanted to check out the scene before I decided whether to enter the New Zealand Poker Champs being held in Christchurch in April.

Beforehand we ate at a restaurant directly opposite the casino entrance, Zydecos. It's a Cajun/Creole restaurant. The food was fantastic, I suspect it will become a regular stopping off point prior to playing!

Back at the casino, we both sat in on a $4/$8 Texas Holdem Pot Limit game. Pleasantly surprised by the poor playing, and even more pleasantly surprised at the great company, we were asked if we wanted to play in the regular Friday night game, we may just do that.

We both left the table, 2 hours later, up on $$, to the point where we effectively had a free evening out in town.

After we left, it was dark, and time to visit the Chinese Lantern Festival being held in Victoria Square. Very surreal to see the centre of Christchurch decked out in lanterns, the wailing of the Chinese singers (sorry, but it did sound like a cat in pain!) and the smell of MSG in the air! The lanterns were lovely, some extraordinary subjects, the cow, sheep and sheepdog being my favourite! They even baaaaa'd! Unfortunately, whilst I can play a mean game of poker, I'm crap with the camera and only after I'd shot several unsuccessful photo's with the wide angle lens in place, did Woz realise that said lens was blocking half of the flash - hence the big black areas on the photos!

Luckily I managed a couple of decent shots!!

Spent Sunday in the garden mowing, pruning, weeding and generally chilling out.

What a great weekend!

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Helen Gets Published....

Finally, a break.

Next week my first column appears in the local paper! "A Brit in the Boonies" will be a fortnightly column appearing in the Malvern News, a very small local paper, with a 4500 circulation, but it's a start!! I have also had interest from a national paper who are too wussy to give a newbie a go and want to see how it is received locally first!

What is the column about? Here's a taster.....

Why is it, that despite the plethora of information available, thousands arrive in NZ daily believing it to be the land that time forgot, a land of milk and honey? Where houses are ten a penny, it’s warm all year round, there’s no crime, the roads are safe and it’s “just like Britain in the 50’s”?

I think someone forgot to update the “What to Expect on Arrival” leaflet handed out to the passengers of the Charlotte Jane.

And just what is it that makes a pale-faced I.T geek from Slough think he is Farmer Barleymow and can easily make the transition from terrace house with postage stamp garden to a 10 acre lifestyle block on the Canterbury plains? And exactly what lifestyle do you get from a lifestyle property?

The Brit in the Boonies, a new fortnightly column, reveals how immigrants see NZ and how NZ sees immigrants. Follow an immigrant’s observation on everyday life, their cock-ups and successes, misunderstandings and steep learning curves. From housing to hoons and jam to jandals, even the mundane can be a hurdle for a Brit in the Boonies!

My two year Journalism and Feature Writing course with the London School of Journalism ends in July and by then I hope to have a couple of columns on the go. I may even get around to finishing the two books I have started!

Watch out Bryson, here I come!

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Hotting Up in the Garden

With temps in the 30's, and a few days of rain, the garden is rocketing! Despite our very late plantings, the corn that Mia planted is above my head and the tomatoes are finally going red.

Warren and I spent Sunday putting up the nets on the vineyard. This prevents the annoying habit that birds have of pecking a hole in each grape. We intend to make wine this year, if we enjoy it we'll keep the vineyard, if we don't we'll dig it up and do something more useful with the land! Brutal eh!

Putting nets on vines is pretty easy really - we used a hoe and broom handle and eased the nets over! Voila! No divorce either!

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