Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A little on the late side

So, I never quite made the time to compose a Christmas letter. This will have to do as some sort of missive for me to sum up the year & wish you all happy holidays. 2011 was separated into distinct thirds for me. The first of those was the end of my year living & working in the Canadian Rockies. That spur of the moment decision to go & bike & ski in the mountains for twelve months still rates as one of the best of my life - I had a great time with fantastic friends; the snow was good too & my skiing could do nothing but improve with all those consecutive weekends on the hill.

The middle of the year - the end of a long winter & the first of summer - saw the completion of a long held dream. That was, a roadtrip around the West (USA) with a bike in the trunk/boot visiting many of the famous riding spots & national parks. My aunt, Valerie, joined me from Australia & we managed 22000 km (almost 14000 miles), 13 states & 2 provinces and an awful lot of quality mountain-biking (for me). Scenically, the highlights were Bryce Canyon & Crater Lake National Parks. As always when I visit the States, spending time with old friends & making new ones stays on top of the many memories.

Naturally, it was tough to leave close friends & the beauty of the Bow Valley; the last part of the year sees me finally starting to get around to what I left home for two and a half years ago. That is, to get a job & settle in the UK for a while and take full advantage of the proximity to Europe. I'm back process engineering for the first time in four years at a small rubber factory on the edge of the New Forest (not far from Southampton at the south of England). Mum's been over here for the last three months at university, so it's been great to see her every so often. The hospitality of extended family (some of whom I'm still only meeting now) helps to lessen the distance from home - as does Skype & 1p/min phone calls.

That's this year - 2012 will not be nearly as well planned out or active for that matter. I'm down to have surgery sometime on my shoulder (to tighten it all up - two dislocations this year), so that will curtail the biking & skiing a lot. That will just mean I have more free time to explore this part of the world. I've finally got an invite to a wedding (first since leaving), so I'll be back in NZ for a couple of weeks near the start of September for what will be a flurry of visiting much-missed family & friends.

Best wishes for the new year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

London trips

For the first time in my life, I've finally been able to start biking to work. But a five kilometre round trip is not all that much & is especially helped by it being a lot flatter than it seems in the car - which is quite the reverse of what I was expecting. So it may be closing in on the longest day of the year, but if it's not raining & I get up early enough to get organised, a ride to work (even if it just one or two degrees above freezing - thanks Canada for not making me avoid the "cold") is a nice little start to the day.

Last weekend was a trip up to London for Levi & Marki's Christmas party. Always good catching up with them & there was plenty of food too. Also pretty fun catching up with a buddy from high school who I hadn't seen about twelve years - I thought I'd got away from Canadians telling me to watch Trailerpark Boys, but it turns out Jeff is a bit of a fan too. There was no playing football on the deck with an offcut from the woodwork shop, but then the deck at the apartment is a little small & had more important duties as the beer fridge. Somehow I managed to walk out (just managed to walk onto the last train too, thus avoiding my first ever night-bus) with a huge ham - apparently I was the most worthy cause as Levi & Marki weren't going to get the chance to eat it with travelling on the cards.

A photo of me in it not on a bike
Around Sidcup on the weekend was pretty relaxing, on the way to visit Ray & Jill on Saturday morning Trish & I paid a visit to Rudolph's buddies & their spindly looking antlers.  I'm sure they would still do a bit of damage.

Even after a big sleep in, Sunday was looking pretty grey so Trish & I decided to head out to another little Kentish village - Westerham - to check out Quebec House. After a nice lunch in one of those great English pubs that look like they're doing a commendable impression of a drunk trying to stand up, we strolled through the village to check out the house. It was the birthplace of General Wolfe - who was apparently the first English military figure to be a popular hero. The name of the house comes from the name of the victorious battle that won him his fame & took his life. All very Nelsonesque - except Wolfe pre-dated him. I'd learnt a little about the battle that saw the British defeat the French in the war for control of Quebec City & Canada when I was at Buckler's Hard a couple of weeks ago - some of the ships built there sailed to Quebec before the battle. Always interested to get a bit more Canadian history, the museum above the coachhouse had great displays & was very informative. The house was pretty dark inside, but had some interesting period pieces - muskets are pretty heavy it turns out.

I was back in London three days later for yet another appointment about my bung shoulder. So I'll get keyhole surgery sometime next year - I asked for after-February so I can go skiing at least once this winter. As it's been three months to get this far, I'm hoping that's a safe request. I'll be out of action for a while (six weeks in a sling) with no driving & definitely not biking - but it'll be nice to get it fixed up & hopefully avoid the agony of the last dislocation repeating. So 2012 doesn't look like it'll be so active - but perhaps I'll finally get around to seeing some more of Europe, which I think was the whole idea of leaving NZ two & a half years ago. Oops.