Monday, 14 November 2011

The Lightbulb of Genius

By Sung-kyu,Nam + Sang-hoon,Lee + Soo-jung,Kim

Camera Light by Transparent House

Ok, so what I'm supposed to be doing right now is writing an illustrated report describing different types of interior lighting and how they can be used to create mood in a room. That is not what I'm doing, as you can tell. Whilst attempting to be interested in my over-due assignment and looking for examples of designers of ambient, task and decorative lighting, I came across far too many outrageously talented lighting designers to keep my head on the task. And most of them Italian; no surprises there! And some Japanese, of course.

The above are a few examples of said talent and their incredibly creative designs.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Our first Goodbye

We took our time waking up this morning, knowing we won’t have the privilege of sleeping in a bed for at least 30 hours time. And, of course, the prospect of leaving the land we love is drawing ever near. Yesterday was blissfully perfect and I felt very blue as it drew to a close.

Akaroa seemed like the most beautiful place in the world to me. And only an hour and a half from the city centre! It didn’t seem to take any time at all to get there. The drive was incredible. Akaroa was formed when two volcanoes erupted and the harbour has been formed in the crater, as the lava burned and ate its way to the sea. Therefore, the drive down is literally on the rim of the volcano, looking down at the crystal blue waters and the doorway to the Pacific. I knew a little of the history from guide books and was aware of its French history, but the full story of the Frenchie’s settlement was yet to be told.

Once we’d parked up and eaten our giant tomatoes on a bench between two palm trees (!), we strolled down the harbour to book ourselves onto a Black Cat Nature Cruise. For $69 each (roughly £35), you get a two hour cruise around the harbour and out to the ocean, taking in the history of the shore: from the massacres of the Akaroa Maori tribe by the Maoris of the North island (apparently tribe leaders made taking offence a pastime), to the arrival of the French and English. The story goes that a French mariner exploring New Zealand took a fancy to the Banks Peninsula and, after handing over several muskets, food and other valuables to the local Maoris, thought he had managed to buy the place. He returned to France and began to prepare for the move down under, taking half his village with him. After two years of preparations and voyaging, he arrived back in the harbour, where the first site that met their eyes was a Union Jack flying high over the town....the English had arrived 4 days earlier and signed a Treaty with the Maori entitling them to the land. Gutted. The French were allowed to stay there on two conditions. 1 = that they abided by English law and 2 = that they didn’t fly any French flags. Take that Froggies.

The main highlight of the cruise was the possibility of sighting the world’s rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin. We were told to keep an eye out for their dorsal fin breaking the water (which looked a bit like Micky Mouse’s ear), but the skipper told us that sometimes they go out and don’t encounter any at all. As we broke out from the harbour and met the Ocean, we started to hear small puffs of air in the water around the boat. The dolphins had come to play. There were about 5 at first, which the skipper told us was still a fairly large group, as they usually expect to see about 2-5 in a pod. Then...a second pod joined the first....and then a third...and a fourth. Suddenly, we were surrounded by at least 20 dolphins, the largest group the skipper had ever seen on a cruise. We thought perhaps he was exaggerating, but we spoke to Roger back at the Motel who has been on the cruise twice and never seen ANY dolphins! So it truly was special. The best way to spend an anniversary.

We moved on, the dolphins trying to keep pace with the boat whilst showing off their skills, and were told if we looked towards the bottom of the cliff, we would see the world’s smallest species of penguin, the white flippered Blue. They really were tiny....we couldn’t see them at all!

After a quick U-turn, we rounded the corner back into the bay, straining to spot the group of grey fur seals, camouflaged amongst the equally grey rocks. We had a couple of sightings of them ambling rather inelegantly towards the water, but as soon as I put my eye to the view finder, all I could see where rocks.

After a complimentary hot drink below deck, we set foot back on shore. We had quick peek at the wonderful array of independent art and craft shops that Akaroa (and the rest of New Zealand!) has to offer. Martin started to feel queasy and light-headed – a feeling usually brought on whenever he is required to stand in a shop and look interested by things – so we headed back to the car and back to the city.

After a lovely steak of NZ lamb (incredible), we started to pack our things ready to leave at 10am the next morning. Martin has just left to go on a tour around some of the sites he will be working on in a couple of months and I’m about to do one last check around the apartment for anything we might have left.

I think the flight will be harder this time around. Last Saturday, we were fuelled by excitement. Now the journey will be tinged with saddest and the thought of returning to work. I am looking forward to seeing our families and sharing our experiences with them. I just hope all the things we have to busy ourselves with now (packing, visa’s, renting the house ect) will be enough to carry us through to January.

Perhaps we will find a nice tree to chain ourselves around.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Conference of the Birds in the Garden of Eden

It happened. By 2.30pm I had crawled back into bed and was attempting to sleep, to no avail. It just felt better to be in a horizontal position for some reason, like I could right the conflict of my mind and body by being physically almost upside down. My mind was saying ‘slow down’ and my body was raring to go, soak up and digest all that was to be seen and done.

When Martin had returned from his morning interview, we ventured towards the famous Botanical Gardens, closest to the city centre we have come yet. We suddenly realised we might never see the city centre while we’re here, which is a strange thought. Martin might occasionally have to enter the Red Zone for work but I would probably never have reason to go there.

I had seriously underestimated the scale of the park. You would think, seen as though it is termed a ‘garden’, this might give some impression of the size of the place. Wrong. We walked a fair bit around the block and I don’t think we even managed to see half of the place. It was the most blissful place I have ever been, a slice of heaven on earth. An enormous sense of calm and peacefulness stole over me and it felt like all the world’s wrongs had been righted. So many different species of plant, flower and tree, all standing side by side, united by their differences. So many vivid colours and wonderful smells.

We encountered a whole variety of different bird life along the way and discovered the fearlessness of fowl here. I could walk right up to them to take pictures and they just stared at me, curious. I even had a baby duckling almost graze my knee as I knelt down to get a better look at it and it’s parents didn’t seem bothered at all, giant and colourful as they were.

All the way round, my only thoughts were that all our family and friends were 12000 miles away and not there to share all these beautiful sights and sounds with us. I am feeling an ever increasing desire to bring everyone with us and show them how amazing it is. I just hope we get a lot of visitors; we have so much to show everyone.

We had an hour left on parking so we wandered into the neighbouring Canterbury Museum and paid a $10 donation to look round at the artefacts of early Maori life, a recreation of a street in early days Christchurch, an exhibition of India and China by a famous Kiwi photographer and the Paua House inside which everything is covered in shells. If anything in the world can ever be described as surreal, it was the shell house. A husband had become so sick of being told off for breaking some of his wife’s vast shell collection every time he tried to hoover, he had taken to nailing the shells to the wall until every inch of the wallpaper was concealed by shining mother-of-pearl. I’d have just been glad of a man using a vac!

We finally managed to cook ourselves something edible that evening, to Martin’s great relief, and dined on Beef Madras with Basmati Rice and a Ginger and Lime bitter. We then headed back to New Brighton to have a drive around the residential areas and check out potential houses. Walking along the pier (a modern, less imaginative version of our own Brighton pier) I realised it was mainly inhabited by giant, over-sized seagulls and a rather large population of Thai people illegally fishing, casually stepping over the concrete on which was painted ‘NO FISHING AREA’. I suppose everywhere you go in the world you will come across people who couldn’t care less about rules and abiding by the culture of the country in which they have chosen to live. Oh well. This was the first time I’ve come across anything that’s wound me up so I guess we’re doing fairly good so far.

After a quick stroll across the sands (it had to be quick as the tide was crawling in fast and even the surfers were calling it a day) we hopped back in the Yaris and set off home, noting on the way that perhaps New Brighton was a little too far from the centre and maybe just somewhere to go in the evening and at weekends.

Today is our four year anniversary and since we have the whole day to ourselves, unhindered by interviews and places to be, we are travelling 1.5 hours south to Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula. The Peninsula was created when two volcanoes erupted and is consequentially built of hardened volcanic lava. It is home to native penguins and seals and the world’s rarest kind of small dolphin....and yet it is a French Colony. They were the first to settle there and as a result the street names are French and it is deemed to be the most Romantic place in the South.

I should probably tie this up now, as we should be setting off! I’m taking my swimwear, just in case! I should be so lucky, Martin hasn’t even brought his trunks.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tired, excited, tired, excited and tired again

Well, our first full day in New Zealand has come to an end and Wednesday has broken here dramatically cooler than yesterday. It rained over night and we awoke at 6.30am to grey skies. It’s now about 8:50am and already the weather has changed, the sky is the bluest of blues and the sun is stretching its rays from behind the scattered clouds. However, with a visit to the famous Botanical Gardens planned this morning, I won’t be going out without my umbrella.

Yesterday was tinged with the weary pangs of jet-lag. Both Martin and I were oscillating between sheer excitement that our plans were actually going smoothly for once and the creeping feeling of needing to sleep for a few days straight. Martin returned from his first interview as I was finishing uploading pictures to the blog yesterday and sat down with the expression of a man who was trying very hard to contain his glee. After a cup of coffee, he explained that the company had offered him the position, pending the receipt of references and the negotiation of wage/expenses package, and were going to be picking him up at 9am sharp on Friday to show him round the sites he would be working on. I literally jumped for joy.

After a quick stroll down Bealey Avenue, me snapping away at miniature wheelie bins and Martin rolling his eyes, he was off again to meet with his recruitment agent to discuss how things had gone.

Upon his return, we drove literally 2 minutes down the road (were didn’t have much time!) to Freights Ale House, which had been recommended by the owner of our Motel. We ordered a couple of cokes - as we can been told beer is about $6-7 a pint - and some Oamaru Skins from the bar menu. Went they arrived, the guy told us ‘They come highly recommended. I think they’re really nice’ which kind of took us aback, not being used to these personal touches from bar staff and waiters back home. A mountain of potato skins with melted cheese, big chunks of bacon and topped with sour cream...absolutely delish.

Martin hurried off to his second interview and I settled down to start watching Friends from the very first episode, trying very hard to keep my eyelids from drooping too much. The urge to sleep was getting stronger and it was only about 5 o’clock.

We then headed out to visit Sumner on the coast at about 7, a drive of approx 10-15 mins from Christchurch central. This is somewhere I had imagined we might live: picturesque and in comfortable communing distance. However, as we approached, it became clear this district may be a little out of our price range. Houses were balanced precariously on the steep cliffs, accessible only by private individual ski lifts from the main road to the front door. Weirdness in the extreme. All the houses were giant architectural master pieces, each unique and quirky, as if designed to reflect the owner themselves.

Sumner beach was lovely. Covered in driftwood (my Ma would have a field day making natural sculptures) and draped in strange looking seaweed that I kept thinking would make very pretty necklaces. There are caves set into the rocks where you can normally venture, if you make it past the crashing waves, which are now barricaded due to earthquake damage. Along the Esplanade barriers had been erected to keep people from going near the damage and someone had created some Wool Graffiti, woven through the mesh in red yarn the word ‘Boundaries’.

As we walked back to the car, I became a little over-excited by everything I was seeing, taking pictures of every little thing and stopping every two seconds to point at something. The plants were incredible, really tropical looking, like they’ve escaped from the rain forest. Giant towering asparagus spears next to fat palms and cactus like heads that reminded me very much of Little Shop of Horrors.

After another quick shop at Countdown, we came home to make sausages and mash (missing English food quite badly) only to discover the Kiwi grown Kamaru Potatoes came out grey and tasted like ash. Yummy.

Bedtime again. Martin was so tired he could barely function so we called it a night. Feel much more awake today but we will see how long that lasts before we start lagging again....

Monday, 31 October 2011

New Zealand: First Impressions

Good morning. Or should I say Good Evening as England is bedding down for the night now...New Zealand is waking up. This is the start of our first full day here. After what was, I have to admit, a pretty gruelling journey, we have had a full night sleep in a very comfy bed and awoken feeling refreshed and raring to explore.

We arrived yesterday (Monday here, Sunday evening in England) at around 4pm NZ time. We are both further than we’ve ever been from home, been higher is the air than we’ve ever been before and, if you don’t count last year when Martin and his Dad drove to Florence in one day, more tired than we’ve ever been in our lives. Having never been jet-lagged before, the feeling was somewhat disorientating. We hungrily accepted about 3 or 4 full meals on the flight, but by the time we got to Sydney, the smell of food just made us feel sick!

As the Captain announced we would be landing in Christchurch in approximately 25 minutes, the plane began to make it’s decent and as the clouds dispersed, we caught our first few glimpses of what will hopefully become our new home: snow capped mountains and ice blue alpine rivers. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t take my eyes off the scenery, literally feasting on what I saw. After nearly 30 hours of air travel, and nearly a year of talking and thinking about the place, we were finally seeing it for the first time. I was feeling slightly emotional due to being over-tired and got quite teary! The whole thing was just a bit over-whelming.

We managed to find the motel no problem as the car rental people provided us with Sat Nav. Our apartment is bijou but has everything you need and the owner even brought us a complimentary bottle of milk and told us the best places to eat nearby. After a much anticipated shower and change of clothes, we hopped back into our little silver Yaris to have a drive around and see what’s about. It seems unlikely you can enter the centre of the city by road as there are many diversions directing you away from the main site of earthquake damage. Every where we went you could see houses and fences propped up with wooden stilts and there are huge mounds and cracks in the roads.

We ended up driving towards New Brighton as this is somewhere I quite fancied living and couldn’t resist pulling up to have a look at the sea. We had to walk up a sand dune to get the beach and I could hear the waves roaring from the other side. I have always harboured a great love of the seaside and couldn’t resist running up the rest of the slope to see the other side. I was speechless. It was half past eight at night and there were still people surfing and jet-skiing, walking casually along the sand. I hardly dare believe that living here is within our reach and capabilities. It just seems so unreal. But amazing.

On the way back, we stopped at a supermarket called ‘Countdown’ (hehe) and got something to eat and some bread ect. Food prices do seem a little higher, about 7-9 dollars for a packet of cheese, but it was hard to tell without working it out. We still couldn’t really eat when we got back and after a packet of crisps and some lemonade, we ended up turning in and feel asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

After being awoken at 4.55am by my padres anxiously enquiring as to our safety (thank you Papa!) the day dawned just as lovely as the last, heralded by peaceful bird song (some slightly tropical sounding!). Martin has left to go for his first interview and I am contemplating where to visit this afternoon. I have yet to see a kiwi, even though we have seen a fair few plump flightless birds. We’re planning to go down to New Brighton pier this evening and visit Sumner on the hill. I am in love with the houses, which I really didn’t think I’d take to seen as though they’re all one storey and a bit dated inside. Each house is different from the last, a real random assortment. They all look a bit care-worn and weathered but I think that gives them character. They don’t seem to own land-mowers here either which I think is great! Even in the parks the grass is allowed to grow long and meadow-like; it’s so....natural. Bushes, trees and flowers grow in abundance, unhindered by pruning and clipping. There are lots of giant Hydrangeas, my favourite, and willow trees line the banks of the River Avon.

I do feel very VERY far from home and everyone I know. It is scary. But we have both awoken this morning feeling strangely full of calm, our minds uncluttered. This is a nice feeling and I could get used to it.