Final countdown

Do do do do, do do do-do dooo… sorry, accidentally segued into bad 80s music there.  But I’m all packed, the house is tidy, I’ve left a note for my house-sitter, and in an hour or so Lytteltonwitch will turn up and we’ll be off to the airport.  And about 35 hours and 5 airports later, we’ll be in Greece!

I could definitely do with a holiday, because this week has been even more chaotic than usual.  Work was super busy, of course, trying to get everything completed and/or handed over to colleagues before I disappear for a month.  Plus I had to try and write sufficient notes for myself on the data coding I’m in the middle of for my thesis, so that when I get back I’ll remember what exactly I was doing and will be able to pick up where I left off.

And then, just to add to the long list of “things I must get sorted out before I go”, I developed a minor toothache on Monday, which by Wednesday had developed into a “no, you can’t just ignore it until you get home” sort of pain, which meant I had to get an emergency appointment with a dentist.  Where, after x-ray, it turned out I had an abscess, and was given the option of either a very expensive root canal that the dentist warned might not last more than a year because of previous work done on that tooth, or an only mildly expensive extraction.  So I opted for the extraction.  Which of course means I’ve had to fit salt-water mouthwashes into my schedule multiple times a day to try and get it reasonably healed before I leave (which doesn’t seem that bad, except that the kitchen and bathroom are on different floors in our building, so for the rest of the week I spent a large proportion of my work days going to the kitchen to make up a cup of salt water, then taking it downstairs to the bathroom to rinse out my mouth, then back up to the kitchen to clean out the cup… and repeat every couple of hours).  The good news is that it seems to be healing well – I can’t quite eat on that side of my mouth yet, and my jaw still feels a little bruised, but there’s no real pain now, so I should be fine to fly without needing to resort to my emergency stash of painkillers.

I finished work on Friday, but didn’t exactly spend the weekend relaxing.  Ages ago I’d arranged for Dad to bring the boys up for the weekend, because there were some jobs that needed done around my property that I couldn’t handle on my own (most important being chopping a large branch off a tree in the back yard, which had grown too close to the chimney and become a fire hazard, and the branch was big enough that it would need multiple people hanging off ropes to stop it damaging the roof when it was cut down), and this weekend turned out to be the best option because the boys would be on school holidays, and I wouldn’t be studying (I’m officially suspended from the Masters programme for the next month).  So they arrived on Friday night, with the surprise addition of Niece (who I think had been a bit upset to hear her brothers were coming to visit and she wasn’t, so Dad let her come along too – which led to some very complicated sleeping arrangements trying to fit four extra people into the house – luckily Niece is still small enough that she could sleep on the recliner armchair, but the boys are pretty much adult sized now, so the days of making up beds on couches are numbered…)

It was great having them here, and they worked incredibly hard (even Niece helped out occasionally with little jobs, but mostly I let her just play on my computer to keep her safely out of the way).  We got the offending branch removed, cut back or removed entirely a whole load of other trees and bushes, painted the window trims (rather badly – I let the boys do the first coat, which was a mistake, because I think more paint ended up on the surrounding bricks than the woodwork… they’re great kids, but no practical skills* at all!), cleared the gutters, and seriously cut down my long “when I’ve got some of this mythical spare time” to-do list. I wish I’d thought to take before and after pictures, because the transformation of my jungle of a back yard is incredible.

*Or common sense: Nephew #1 was loading up the trailer with green waste to take to the dump, and left the rake lying in the bottom of the trailer.  So when they got to the dump and needed the rake to pull everything out of the trailer, it had half a tonne of branches on top of it…

As well as being good to get all that work done, I really enjoyed getting stuck in to some physical work myself – after so many months spending virtually all my time sitting at a computer or behind a textbook, it felt almost restful to just be using my body instead of my mind.  And because I’d have felt too guilty letting Dad and the boys work on my garden without helping them, there was no temptation to head into the university and try and squeeze in just a few hours more work before I leave.  Given how good I felt after it all (well, apart from a couple of aching muscles today), I think I should schedule a couple of similar visits over the next year or so, to ensure I get a break from studying occasionally.

They left at lunchtime yesterday, and the rest of the day was spent frantically cleaning (it’s amazing how much mess three children can generate in just a couple of days!) to get the house into an acceptable state for the house sitter, then the evening was spent packing (not quite as last minute as it sounds – I had everything I wanted to take organised, so it was just a matter of throwing it into the suitcase), so this is really the first chance I’ve had to sit down and relax.

But everything is done now, and very soon we’ll be on our way.  I’ll try and post occasionally if I get wi-fi access, but you’ll have to wait until I get home for the full trip report (assuming I don’t do what I so often do and never get round to actually writing it up…). And lots of pretty pictures of course!

So much news

And the DD site has been down for days, so I couldn’t post anything. And of course I wasn’t so sensible as to just write my entries up in Notepad and copy and paste them in, so I’m sure I’ll forget some of the really cool and important stuff I was going to tell you about. And I don’t really have time to write very much anyway, so this will just have to be a quick summary of the most memorable important stuff, in no particular order:

  1. I have a thesis topic! For a while there this was not the case, when it looked like my proto-topic was going to be completely unviable, but one of my lovely supervisors (in related news, I have supervisors!) came to the rescue and pointed out how my ailing proto-topic could in fact be resurrected into an actual topic. So all I have to do now is expand my topic into a proper proposal, and submit it for approval before the end of the month. And then the real hard work starts…
  2. I have a woodburner! Of course, I can’t actually use it yet, because the building inspector hasn’t been round to sign off on it (hopefully that should happen later this week), but at least it’s been installed. It’s not as pretty as my old one (I miss my nice purple tiles), but it will keep the house warm in winter, and that’s the important thing.
  3. I have tickets! Many many tickets, and bookings, and other important documents. Lytteltonwitch came round the other night, and (after being distracted by the lure of games at the Gwilks’) we spent several constructive hours planning our trip to Greece and Italy, and booking all the things. So we are now confirmed for 6 nights in Athens, 6 nights in Venice, and 7 nights in Rome, and various planes and trains to get between them. So my credit card is cowering in terror, but it’ll be worth it. Athens Convention, here we come!  (Hmm, better learn some Greek, I suppose (and some Italian, but I know enough Spanish that I can at least puzzle out some Italian words. Greek, on the other hand, is quite literally all Greek to me.))

Welcome back DD, and please don’t die again!

How to lose a sale

Dad was in town yesterday, so I took advantage of having access to a vehicle to go round a few places over on Blenheim Road and investigate wood burners (as my one has been declared too old to live by the dreaded ECAN, so I need to replace it before next winter or face a fine).  All went well at the first place we visited – the guy there was really helpful and gave me lots of good advice, and I left with a stack of brochures and useful information.

At the second place we visited, the woman was equally helpful, and equally forthcoming with advice and brochures.  Except that she directed absolutely everything she said to Dad, not to me.  Even though I was the one who’d approached her and said that I was looking for a log burner, and even though Dad was hanging back letting me do all the talking, she still kept talking to him and ignoring me.  Every time I asked her a question, she’d turn to Dad and tell him the answer!  The single time she directed a comment to me was when she demonstrated a feature on one of the fires and said “We girls like this, because it makes lighting the fire so much easier.” GRRRR.  I’ve just been asking you intelligent questions about kilowatt outputs and clearance requirements, and you somehow think I can’t even figure out how light a fire???

So yeah, guess which company I’ll be buying my new log burner from?

A piece of history

Went to the Whole House Reuse auction last night with two of the CEISMIC team. It was a bit of a last minute thing – we’d talked about going to the auction way back when the project first started and we were archiving the catalogue of parts, but only realised yesterday morning that the auction was actually last night.  So it was a bit of a rush to get tickets etc, but we made it.

There were so many beautiful pieces in the auction!  Everything from large pieces of furniture down to delicate jewellery, all created from materials salvaged from the demolition, and all unique works of art.  Because there were so many pieces, they split the auction between a live auction and a silent auction.  Some of the major pieces in the main auction ended up going for thousands (and were probably worth it, but definitely way outside my budget!), and even some of the smaller pieces ended up in the hundreds (the auctioneers were very skilled, plus the charity aspect got people bidding a lot higher than they normally would), but the silent auction stayed more in my price range, so I stuck to that.

There was one thing I’d had my eye on since I’d seen them in the museum exhibition – Emma Byrne’s End Stacks (it’s lot 41, about half way down the page) – a set of stools/end tables made out of stacked wood. I was really hoping they’d sell them individually (I doubted I could either afford or find space in my house for the entire set!), and almost got my wish, because they had four lots of two stools each in the silent auction. I decided as long as the bidding didn’t get too high I could find a home for two stools, so I picked a lot at random to put a bid on, and spent the rest of the evening checking back as the bids crept up, and trying to keep my bid on top of one of the four lists. As the deadline for the auction got closer, there were four of us hovering around the stools, outbidding each other by a dollar or two at a time. Which would have been fine, except that one guy was obviously wanting four stools, because he kept bidding on two lots at a time. The bids were getting very close to the limit I’d set myself, so I was resigning myself to the fact I’d probably go home empty-handed, when the woman who’d just outbid me turned to me and said “Did you want both stools, or just one?” We quickly established we’d both be happy with just one stool, so decided to team up and split the cost. Which meant that suddenly demand exactly matched supply, all four people were going to get what we wanted, so the bidding stopped (though we all remained hovering, just in case any sneaky last-minute outsiders came in with a new bid (I offered to “accidentally” sit down on the bidding sheet (which was sitting on top of one of the stools) so nobody else could bid :-) )). But at last the auctioneer’s assistant came round to collect up the sheets, and we could all celebrate our collective win.

So I got my stool, the one thing in the exhibition I really wanted, and because we’d split the price I only had to spend $121 to get it, so stayed well within my theoretical budget for the evening.  Serious win!

Ok, so $121 might seem a wee bit expensive for a stool, but it’s almost solid rimu (and you can tell when you lift it – it weighs a tonne! Carrying it back to Lucy-Jane’s car was a bit of an effort), and as a unique(ish – the other stools in the set are similar, but each was slightly different depending on the pieces of wood used) artwork, and a really cool part of Christchurch history, I reckon it’s well worth it.  I’m very happy with my purchase :-)

Experimenting again

I’m at home this morning while the painters finish off the repairs to the ceiling, so, having run out of work I can usefully do from home, I decided to return to my experimental quilt and practice some more free-motion quilting.

The pattern is called Nikki’s Jigsaw Puzzle, and was a nice easy one to get back into FMQ again (even if I did create a couple of puzzle pieces which would immediately break in real life ;-)), especially after I actually drew out the straight lines in chalk first, rather than trying to sew straight lines by eye (which I’ve proved many times I’m not capable of).

Ok, sounds like the painters are finishing up, so I’d better start getting myself organised to go into work.

Plumbers and earthquakes

As promised, the plumber came back this morning and replaced the newly-leaking pipe.  He showed me the pipe he removed, and I’m surprised it hadn’t leaked a lot sooner – it looked like there was only a thin coating of rust holding it together.  He said when he cut one end of the pipe to remove it, the other end basically just came away in his hand.  I got him to have a look around the other pipes while he was up in the ceiling, and he found another one that was looking near failure, so I got him to replace that too, just in case.  I’d rather pay now and get all the possible problems fixed than wait until they actually fail and have a much bigger problem.  The total bill for all three repairs was just over $600, which wasn’t quite as horrific as I’d feared it might be, and totally worth it to know that no more pipes are likely to suddenly spring a leak (touch wood!)

The good news is that my insurance is going to cover the damage to the ceiling (well mostly cover, less the excess and a further reduction of my no-claims bonus – in other words I’m going to end up paying for almost all of it).  I don’t quite understand the logic of why when a pipe bursts insurance won’t pay to repair the pipe, but they will pay to repair the damage the water does, but as I hadn’t even thought of it as being an insurance claim until the plumber mentioned it, I’m not arguing.

The dramas of the day continued this afternoon when we felt a decent-sized earthquake.  The earthquake (which was a 6.2), was centred up near Kaikoura, so it didn’t feel all that strong down here in Christchurch (it felt like about a 4) but it went on for a really long time.  Our office was a good illustration of the Cantabrian attitude to earthquakes these days – while Alex (who only moved to Christchurch a year or so ago) was looking quite nervous, Lucy-Jane and I were just making guesses at the magnitude and distance even while our building was still swaying back and forth.  Our estimates were pretty close too – I’d guessed it was Seddon again, and that it was about a 6 (just from the length of time the shaking went on for – bigger quakes shake for longer).

From the sounds of it there was no serious damage or injuries, but my sympathies are still with everyone up in the top part of the South Island who’ll be having a sleepless night from aftershocks tonight.

Why are these things never simple?

I thought I’d be sitting down to write a blog post tonight about how happy I was to finally have my leaking pipe fixed.  After all, I rang the plumber this morning to remind him that he’d promised me about a month ago that he’d come back with the parts to fix it in a week or two (it was only a slow leak, a drip every hour or so, and the damage to the ceiling was already done, so I hadn’t been too concerned about the wait), and he was very apologetic and came right round, and he and his assistant went up into the attic and there was much sawing and banging and they replaced the faulty pipe, and checked that there was no longer a leak, and away they went with a promise to email me an invoice.

So I went back to work thinking all was good.  And then I got home tonight and heard a dripping noise.  Not from the original leak, but from the hot water cupboard.  I opened it up, and there was water running down the back wall of the cupboard.

Sorry, slight pause there because the plumber just turned up – I rang him when I saw the water, and the poor guy had to leave his dinner to come round (don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll charge appropriately).  He’s been up into the ceiling and had a look, and the leak’s coming from a completely different pipe than the one he repaired.  He of course said that these things often happen, that pipes of the same age fail around the same time, but I suspect that all that banging to get the old pipe disconnected this morning may well have contributed.  But of course he’s not going to admit liability by suggesting anything like that!

Anyway, end result is he didn’t have any of the right parts left to fix it, and the shops are all shut now, so the best he could do was promise to come back first thing tomorrow.  And in the meantime he’s shut off the hot water which has at least stopped the leak.  Means I’ve only got cold water for now, but I’ll survive – I can just go back to earthquake mode and start boiling water if I need hot, and my shower in the morning can wait until he’s been back to fix the pipe (or if all else fails, I’ll nip over to the swimming pool at Jellie Park and use their showers).

Seems like a good excuse to go and get takeaways for tea tonight though, so I’ve got fewer dishes to wash :-)

Ok, anyone want to bet how many times in the next 14 hours or so I turn on a hot tap and am confused by no water coming out?

Plumbing report

I managed to find a plumber who came with good reviews, and he was even available to come and look at the leak this morning.  Wonders will never cease!  He had a look at the leaking pipe, and confirmed that yes, it is leaking, but that it needs some parts that he didn’t have, so he’ll have to come back later in the week (or maybe next week… usual Christchurch problem of the few decent tradespeople being booked out for the foreseeable future).  So the leak isn’t fixed yet, but by the look of it it’s been slowly seeping for quite some time, so a little bit longer won’t hurt.

I talked to him too about some other plumbing work I was considering getting done, of the future-proofing variety, and was impressed when he told me not to get it done, because it wouldn’t actually be worth it.  I always feel more trusting of tradespeople when they give you advice that means they’ll miss out on work :-)

Good and bad

Things that were good about today:

  • I had lunch with Harvestbird, which is always enjoyable, and had the bonus today that she came bearing gifts: leftover birthday cake and a bag of blackboy peaches (terrible name, excellent peaches).
  • My cold is, if a long way from gone, at least beginning to reduce in intensity.
  • It isn’t raining.

Things that were bad about today:

  • I have a new leak in my ceiling.  This time it’s not the roof, it’s a leaking pipe.  Anyone know any good plumbers? (On the plus side, it’s a pipe I was intending on having replaced anyway (because it’s an old steel pipe that’s starting to rust, and the rust was getting into my hot water cylinder, so I was going to get it replaced with copper), and had budgeted to do so, so at least it’s not an unexpected cost.  Replacing the damaged ceiling, on the other hand…)
  • My cold is at that exhausting stage where I just want to sleep all the time, but I have to do annoying things like go to work.
  • QuakeStudies is still down, and it seems like everything I want to get done at work is something I really need access to the database to be able to do.


My shiny new YHA membership card arrived today. It is shiny, in fact, because when my membership expired last month the reminder came with an offer to upgrade to a lifetime gold membership for a reduced price. And when I did the calculations, I worked out that over the years I’ve renewed my membership enough times that a lifetime membership would have already have paid for itself. And I stay in YHAs often enough that having a membership is definitely worth it, between the hostel discounts and free wi-fi. So I took the plunge and upgraded.

Now I just have to plan lots of exciting trips over the next few years to justify paying all that money for my new shiny gold card.  Lytteltonwitch and I have a wee road trip planned for Easter that will give it a bit of use, so that’s a start…

Harvestbird and I actually managed to have lunch together today, for the first time in what seems like forever. She’s been teaching summer school, so hasn’t been able to get in from Lincoln in her lunch breaks. But now that we’re into first semester, her schedule has freed up a bit, so we went to our favourite yum cha place today and enjoyed much steamed bun and fried squid goodness.

Oh yeah, and some good conversation too. But really it’s all about the food 😉

In the ongoing saga of the eaves, theoretically the work is all finished, because the painter came and painted the repaired section a few days ago. The building company (that is project managing the repair) sent me a form to sign to say the work was complete, so I thought I’d better have another look at the repairs before I signed it off… and I discovered that the new section was painted cream, while the rest of the soffit (which I’ve learnt is the proper name for what I’ve been calling “that underneath part of the eaves, you know what I mean”) is white. So much for colour-matching the paint. So I emailed the administrator at the building company and mentioned this (in a really nice “I was just wondering” sort of way, because I feel a bit guilty complaining about it at all, given that I’m going to have to repaint the entire thing sometime soon anyway, because the paint is starting to flake in another area (and it’s probably 20 years since it was last painted), but the scope of works did say that the paint was to match the existing colour), and she replied with a rather weak excuse that the painter hadn’t been able to take a paint sample to do a proper match because of the asbestos danger (yeah, right – I reckon he just had half a tin left over from another job and thought he could get away with it. I know when it comes to paint there’s a lot of shades of white, but surely you don’t need to take a sample to tell the difference between white and cream), but they’d be happy to send the painter back to try again. So I suggested just good old fashioned “brilliant white” would be an acceptable match.

So it’s back to waiting again now to see how long before the painter comes back, and if he manages to get a closer approximation to white this time… (Harvestbird and I were contemplating at lunch what the painter equivalent of a waiter spitting in your food if you send it back is – maybe “accidentally” dripping white paint down the brickwork?)

I can’t remember if I mentioned this the other day, but my call for Friends of CEISMIC volunteers has already paid off!  I got an email the other day from someone who works as an archivist and wants to get some experience in digital archiving, asking if she could come and volunteer with us!  It’s very exciting, because we’ll be able to learn just as much from her as she does from us (none of us have any formal archiving background), plus it’s a fantastic endorsement of the project that someone like that would be interested.  So I’m feeling pretty proud of my wee idea :-)