Swellington

1 May

Our first few weeks in New Zealand have flown by as I started work four days after getting here and Craig started a few days after that. We moved to a hotel near my work from the backpacker’s we were at but given that I booked it at about 3am due to not being able to sleep, I accidentally booked in for the wrong date but the nice receptionist sorted it out without too much bother. We ended up with a massive queen-size room on the third floor and set about trying to find a place to live for the next year.

Craig came home on the first night to say he’d talked to the Indian lady in the shop opposite and her husband had a flat nearby that was available so we nipped round to be shown an “amazing place” according to the landlord. We were ushered into an “architect designed” flat next door to the shop – which was basically another shop that had been emptied and a mezzanine level stuck in. The downstairs was a kitchen of sorts (a standalone sink, a decrepit oven and a standalone workbench, plus a sofa. He turned the light on over the kitchen and said “now you’re in the kitchen!” then turned the light on over the sofa “and now you’re in the lounge!”…then both lights on…”now you’ve got a party!!”. According to him, the unfinished ceiling was the “loft living look”. We went upstairs and saw a toilet, bath and shower and a space for a bed. The same trick: light on over the toilet “now you’re in the bathroom!”…light on over the bed space “now you’re in the bedroom!”…both lights on…”pool party!” We politely asked him how much he wanted rather than running out of the door like we wanted to and he said unfurnished was $390 per week (£214) or furnished was $420. No heating (which in Wellington is ridiculous) but he explained that away by saying he was warm right now because he always wore four layers. That’s alright then! We had already looked at some unfurnished flats for around $250 per week that came with fripperies such as walls round your bathroom and a separate kitchen, so we did the English thing and said we’d think about it and made a hasty exit. Can’t blame him for trying but that was not somewhere we were prepared to spend a year! 

The next place we went to see was lovely in the suburb of Kilburnie. The agent was late and a queue of people had formed (they like viewing in groups here so it adds to the pressure to sign up) so the tenant let us in…after she had put the cats away. At a guess there must have been at least five and they quite clearly went to the toilet wherever they felt like so it stank of cat wee. No one waited for the agent to turn up and trouped straight out again. 

We viewed a few more fairly uninspiring flats – one was alright but didn’t even come with a fridge or other whiteware so we would have had to spend a fortune. The place we eventually signed up for is in Newtown, one of the closest suburbs to the city centre, which is great because it has a mini-town centre of its own, with a Mediterranean deli, a bottle-o, a butchers, bakers, weekend veg market etc and because it’s so close to the city, almost every bus that goes from outside work goes through Newtown. The bus system is excellent and the bus back from work costs around £1.70. I walk to work at the moment which takes 50 mins – through Wellington cricket ground at around sunrise

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past the homeless people packing up their iPods and docking stations (seriously), through the fountains were the seagulls have a morning bath and up to the main street in Wellington which is a nice start to the day. Once Wellington’s winter really kicks in (with 120kph winds) this may not be possible but at the moment it’s lovely. It’s pretty chilly – well everywhere is compared to living practically in hellfire in Broome – maybe 13 degrees at night and 17 during the day, so drastic action has had to be taken during the evenings whilst we get used to it

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Our little flat is up seven flights of stairs which was fun when we moved in with all this stuff after a marathon sales-shopping session

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– although a nice neighbour helped us cart it all up – but it does mean we get great views over Newton and the surrounding mountains

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Ignore my arms in the pic!!

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We landed on our feet a bit with the flat as it was marketed as unfurnished but when we went to look round, we found the previous tenant had left a sofa, mattress, coffee table, vaccum cleaner, washing powder, cutlery, plates and pots and pans and a load of other useful stuff which has saved us loads of cash. It has a separate kitchen (unfortunately painted blood red) and bathroom, with a lounge overlooking Newtown which gets the sun, and a mezzanine level which is our bed.

We’re paying $280 per week plus power, but were amazed to hear that there are no water bills, no tv licence, no council tax…the landlord pays “rates” which incorporate some of that, but as a tenant you just need to pay £1.70 per bin bag in order to get the council to come and pick it up so our money should hopefully go a bit further here. 

We would have liked to live out of the city nearer the beach, but realistically during rush hour that meant nearly an hour on the bus for me and potentially further for Craig as he is doing agency work at the moment which means his place of work isn’t fixed, which we didn’t fancy. Even if the train journey is stupidly pretty

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We’re hardly to the city borne…Craig spends his time in the city centre ranting about how much he hates skinny jeans on boys and the noise skateboarders make, whilst I plan what I’m going to make in my new favourite thing, our slow cooker. However, the best thing about Newtown is that it’s just a ten minute bus ride to places like Island Bay

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where we went for a beautiful four hour walk on ANZAC Day (their Remembrance Day, a public holiday). I’ll put the pictures up for that in a separate post.

So the last week since we moved in has been a frenzy of buying all the necessities – made bearable by the fact that New Zealand supermarkets are ridiculously amazing. They look like you’re the first person who has ever been in there

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Even the mince is beautifully arranged

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Each aisle has a couple of staff whose job it is to tidy up where you’ve just taken something off the shelf so it always looks perfect. It’s like shopping in Pleasantville. The other two things that make it great shopping there is that the quality and variety of the food is spectacular, and half the price of what we were paying in Oz. They also have a British section where we could stock up on Marmite, Bisto, Fray Bentos pies, corned beef, Branston’s pickle and – do a jig of joy – Hula Hoops. Funny what you miss! I have been having corned beef and pickle sandwiches nearly every day now until I discovered that the labourious process of buttering bread was just slowing down getting the main ingredients in my stomach so have now taken to just mixing corned beef and pickle in a bowl and eating it with a spoon. Jamie Oliver eat your heart out…

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