Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NZ Immigration - Selected From The Pool!

Esme may have woken me up at 5am but I don't mind so much today ...

Last night Tash told me that the powers that be in NZ would be selecting applicants from 'the pool' to be selected for the next steps of immigration into NZ ... and I'm over the moon to say that WE HAVE BEEN SELECTED!!

So what now!?!?

This is what was posted on an immigration forum;

Your EOI has been selected by machine, on the basis of the number of points you say you have.

Next, officials will look at all the EOIs selected this week, to make sure that IT LOOKS AS THOUGH, with the qualifications listed, those people really have the number of points to be selected. If not, they could be put back in the pool, or refused (for instance, if they turn out to have less than 100 points really). If the officials think all is well, they will send you an ITA. (This
can all take some weeks.)

You send back the ITA, with evidence of everything you said about yourself. Then your Case Officer (CO) will take all the time it needs to check out everything you have sent in. (This can take months.) The CO will send to you for more information any time s/he finds it necessary.

When the CO gets to the point that everything seems to be true, if you don't have a job offer, s/he will set up an interview. In the interview, s/he will be judging whether you seem to be the kind of person who is employable in NZ, and if you could fit into NZ society. (There are many old threads on the forum giving you Interview Questions.) As a result of this interview, the result is one of three things - Approved in Principle for Residence, or a Job Search visa (deferred Residence) which gives the person a nine months visa to find a skilled job in NZ, or refusal.

But before the applicant is told the result, the case is checked over by a different official - there can be quite a long delay till this is done, partly depending on which office is dealing with your case.

Our NZ adventure really begin now!! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bye Bye Bantam, Bye Bye

Another reason we decided to do Dragstalgia as two individual days as opposed to a weekend away was that a few days prior to the show I agreed to a deal that would see a new motorbike coming to FTC on the Sunday morning.

Early in the week I had been browsing the 'Wanted/Swaps' message board on Retro Rides wondering if there might be a motorbike offered.  Tash's 12 mile route to work would be a lovely bike ride, and it would be perfect for her to have the option of cycling when she wants the exercise, riding when the suns out, and taking the car when it p!ssing it down.

I had previously been searching ebay but Tash had kiboshed every bike I thought had potential and would be within budget.  So when I first showed the Kawasaki GPZ500 Streetfighter to Tash I never thought she'd go for it.  Never one to be predictable she grunted some kind of wordage which meant she thought it was OK and so I sent the guy a message to see what he was after and if we could sort a deal.

I mentioned I had the Bantam although I didn't really think I wanted to part with it.  His reply was that the only thing I had that would tempt him would be the Bantam.  I really wasn't sure what to do.  I loved the idea of us having an MoT'd and usable bike, but I also liked having an old British bike.  Tash then commented "if you liked the Bantam that much you'd have done something with it by now" and she was dead right.  I hurriedly sent a reply to the chap and immediately knew I would be doing the right thing.

We agreed a deal that would be a straight swap, with the other guy bringing the GPZ to FTC and taking away the Bantam at the same time.  The deal was done with no problem last Sunday morning and I sorted insurance for us both during the week.

Enjoying time on my bicycle in recent evenings I had struggled to take out the GPZ but it was on my 'to do' list for the weekend and so last night I dusted off (literally!) my boots and checked I could still squeeze into my old leathers.  The ride this morning was perfect.  It was great to be back on two wheels, and its a perfect bike for Tash and I to remind ourselves how to ride properly. 

A few years to build up my no claims bonus and then I'm determined to add that Ducati 916 to the garage that I've been after for so many years!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dragstalgia 2012

Dragstalgia is a festival of historic Drag Racing which takes place at Santa Pod and has a mouthwatering lineup of traditional racing.  It includes Fuel Altered, Wild Bunch, Outlaw Anglia as well as numerous vintage Nitro cars.

The first one was last year and somehow I missed it ... and so I was determined not to this year!

We booked weekend tickets with the plan to make a weekend of it but as the weekend got closer the forecast looked typically suspect.  We'd already been to the pod three times this year and each one had been disrupted by the awful summer we're having.

A call to the Pod on the Friday morning confirmed we wouldn't be camping - they actually recommended NOT to camp with children!  In truth Santa Pod hasn't recovered since Big Bang and with every shower the place floods again.

Still, we were prepared this time and with it being only 30ish miles from home we could easily make it as two day trips.  Saturday had a poor forecast, but it was expected to clear in the afternoon.  Perhaps we might even get some racing?

We arrived in rain.  The dragstrip was being cleared but there were huge bow waves coming out the front of the tractor!

The next few hours were taken up with wandering about the pits and Alfie jumping in puddles. 

But he was having fun so it was all good!

By early afternoon our friends Claire and Jody had arrived and so at least the downtime on the track gave us time to introduce and catch up.  There was also Santa Pod's first ever beer festival! ... with FOUR beers.  Rubbish! 

By late afternoon the rain had passed and the track was dry.  We found some seats in the grandstand and spent some time watching the racing.  Alfie loved it, especially when the cars were being guided back to the startline after their burnout.  He was mostly seen stood up with his hands in the air moving from 12 o clock to 3 or 9 o clock depending on where the Back Up Girl was indicating.

A shower late on in the day put an end to the action and it threatened the end of day Jet Car and Cacklefest.  Thankfully things still went (roughly) to plan and we were treated to the sound of 15 drag cars all simultaneously fired up on the strip.  It was immense!

Sunday was just perfect.  The sun shone, we were in great company, and we had roaring V8's to watch all day! ... oh, and the little bar at the top of the bank opened.  Newcastle Brown never tasted so good!

And Alfie got back onto Back Up duty!

Lunchtime came and we had a wander around the pits.

Before Alfie dragged Claire onto the trampolines!

The afternoon was spent just chilling on the bank watching the racing.  Do Sundays get better? I think not!

Alfie couldn't get enough of it!

Here's a few other shots from the weekend, and the full album (of nearly 100 photos) is here.  I took a load of video over the weekend which hopefully I might find 5 minute to edit and upload.

The quality of the cars and the racing was first class and one things for sure now - we won't be missing Dragstalgia 2013!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NZ Immigration - EOI Submitted

With Tash now working (and particularly because it's just a six month contract) we wanted to take the opportunity to continue with our aim at one day emigrating to New Zealand.

The whole process can be very long and drawn out, and one thing we realised over the past few months was that you really are on the back foot (in terms of looking for work from the UK) if you haven't got a Visa application at least in progress.

The first step is to submit an EOI (Expression of Interest) which you do online.  This 'scores' you and is their system for deciding who to let in.  140 is the cut-off for 'guaranteed acceptance' and we knew we hit that mark.

So finally last night we got round to submitting our application.  Its cost about £250-£275 but it does mean we've finally got the ball rolling down the 'proper' channel!

Very exciting ... now we just need to sit back and see if we get accepted!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What They Say About Girls And Boys ...

Its all true!

The day Tash went back to work I noticed Esme seemed to want the toilet.  But even with breakfast done she still had a clean nappy against her bum though.

Now we'd noticed some time before that she always seemed to poo when in her Bumbo, and with Alfie in the early stages of toilet training we had purchased a Bumbo toilet seat.  It was really so we knew he was comfortable as he didn't seem very comfortable on plastic pottees ... although that might have been because he tends to try and sit on them sideways!

Anyway, knowing we had the Bumbo seat I stuck her on it.  (she's gonna hate me for this photo in years to come!)

Its clearly obvious where this tale goes ... my six month old girl used the toilet.  Amazed at her success I continued to put her on the pan after meals and its worked wonders!  I can count the number of dirty nappies I've had to change in the past three weeks on one hand.  She even wakes in the night (and wakes us) if she needs to go!  Sure, her nappies are still wet, but considering this is a girl with the ability to shit up to her armpits I am over the flippin' moon about this development!

And Alfie?  Sometimes he follows suit, he likes to join her on his pottee in the bathroom occasionally.  Mostly he's still at the stage where he shouts "Dada, pooooooo!" whilst simultaneously launching his now removed dirty nappy down the hallway.

Whilst I''m on the topic of toilets and bums and such I did something quite accidental the other day that I had to photograph.  At some point on the day of Tasha's first day of work both Esme and Alfie ended up wearing matching nappies.  I'm dead against sticking kids in matching clothes but there was something about this that I found quite sweet.

The Day the Torch Came to Town!

This summer sees the 2012 Olympics being held in Britain, and in true 'must build up the hype' style the Olympic Torch is being carried all around the country to give the public a chance to catch a glimpse of this famous flame. 

To be honest the whole thing is somewhat diluted in my eyes.  The torches are bused around the country and there are hundreds of torches being used.  I guess I think there should be just one torch which actually gets relayed all the way across Europe from Greece to then light the Olympic Flame when the games kicks off next month.  Anyway ...

Last Sunday (8th) was the day the Olympic Torch went through Letchworth.  Not ones to miss out on the opportunity for a thorough drenching we decided to head out into the British Summer (also known as monsoon season in more tropical climates) and see what all the fuss was about.

Knowing that the roads were all going to be closed off we opted to cycle across the greenways into Norton which was where the route for the day started.  With the kids loaded into the trailer (and us loaded with waterproofs) we set off on our short cycle.

They may not like it but I bet they were glad we zipped up the front!

And amazingly we arrived with them both looking like they enjoyed the trip!

And then we waited ...

and waited...

And finally it arrived.  Proceeded by so many buses and trucks and Hi-5'ing Policemen.  I actually videoed the whole thing ... but had no idea the whole procession would take nearly TEN MINUTES!

With that done we headed home.  The journey home seemed rather quiet and our suspicions were proved correct when we got back to FTC.  Alfie just will not sleep until he is so tired he'll drop off in the most uncomfortable of positions!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

June 2012 @ FTC.

It became quite clear early on in the month that I was going to struggle to blog and would therefore rely on a monthly roundup to summarise all our adventures.  This came about largely because we've been pretty busy, but also because its been Euro 2012 and so every evening when I would think about blogging has been filled with a football extravaganza instead!

The month kicked off with a four day weekend to celebrate the Queens Jubilee.  Tasha's parents and Ammie visited and to set the tone for the month it rained.  There was a pageant along the Thames with all manner of handraulic and motorised boats making their way along the predetermined route.  I'm sure there was a lovely atmosphere in London but I'm pretty happy that we were sat indoors eating roast chicken watching it on the telly box!  Needless to say, Fred brought his camera although every shot seems to be of one child or the other so I'm kinda lacking atmospheric/family shots ... that said, they would only be of us sat around the TV or table so hardly edge of your seat stuff!

We had plans for the following day (which was Monday 4th) but they were quickly shelved when we realised how grumpy Alfie was!  And so we made the decision to visit Shepreth Wildlife Park, a day out a little more focused on providing kiddie entertainment.  To a degree it worked, and we had a lovely day out with the highlight definitely being the bats who were far more active than the last time we visited.  Esme might disagree, I think her highlight was lunch!

The following weekend Bill and I managed to get a days fishing squeezed in.  It was Bills birthday and we had hoped for a long chug out deep to try and bag us a Tope or two ... but the weather had other plans and we spend the days leading up to the trip watching wind speeds and just preying we'd be able to get out fishing!

Come the morning (an early start as usual) and the sea in Brightlingsea harbour was eerily still.

With the weather looking OK we decided to get a chug on.  Not to go quite as far as we'd hope as we knew the winds were going to pick up, but we wanted to get deep enough to give us a chance of Rays and Smoothies.

It was hard graft when we got out there though, and even with a really proactive approach all we bagged was a single Whiting!  With the winds picking up we decided to head back to get some shelter up the estuary and head to the much fancied 'bass spot'.  Anchor down, we got some baits out and hoped our luck would change!

And how it changed!  All I can say it that is simply 'went off'!  We must have had 11 fish in just a few hours, the icing on the cake being us both finding ourselves with rods bent doubled!

Thinking back, I think that's the first time it's happened since we were about 17 and were fishing the small carp lake in Boreham!

A week later (Sunday 17th) was Esme's Baptism.  And with it being pretty much 5 years since Tash and I got married we took the opportunity to renew our vows and have a bit of a knees up!

We'd booked the village hall in Ickleford, baked a whole load of cakes, organised some ladies to deck the place out, and so we put on a lovely afternoon tea to the backdrop of 50's tunes as recorded by ourselves of Radio Ichiban.  It was absolutely lovely, and now my daughter won't be eaten alive by the devil.  Unlike me.

Esme really did take centre stage, with her and little Anna having a right little conversation whilst all the other young-uns crowded round.

A massive thanks go out to Bill, Michi and Cat who are her Godparents.  I know you will all be wonderful for her!

On the last Wednesday of the month Tash went back to work.  After a few months of being unemployed she bagged a job working for Thomsons in Luton.  Its a perfect location, just 12.5 miles from FTC and uses back roads that no-one else touches.  When we knew she was getting the job I rode the journey on my bike, and then again a few days later in rush hour to see how it was.  With her being keen on a bike for a while and now having secured a job within cycling distance we went out and bought a bike to celebrate.  She's now the proud owner of a Trek Skye SL disc.  Its an awesome bike, I just hope it has the gears to get her up the hills!

Funnily enough on the day Tash went back to work I already had plans.  And that was for Bill to pop up so we could finish the car port!  Mel very very very kindly stepped in and offered to look after the kids whilst Bill and I got cracking.  A foolproof plan until we awake on the Wednesday morning to find Alfie with a really heavy cold and simply far from being himself.  Mel was prepared to give it a go though and so I dosed him up and dropped him off along with Esme.  I didn't think Bill and I would get too long to make progress but Alfie made it through to the afternoon which was long enough for Bill and I to get the remaining framework up, fixed in place, and joined to the back of the barn.

The next morning was my first full day with both Alfie and Esme on my own.  Not something I was particularly worried about.  Alfie was still under the weather and Esme isn't much bother.  It all changed by mid morning though when a routine trip to the supermarket was abruptly halted by Alfie throwing up all over the inside of the Benz!  It was a bit like that scene from Desperado, he threw up "everywhere except in the fucking glass!"  And so it was that I was presented with my first real challenge as a professional Dad of two - how to get both a baby and a toddler covered head to toe in his own vomit out of the car and into the house...

On the whole it is going very smoothly though, although I find moments like this all too rare!

And so onto the last day of the month, Saturday 30th, and it was time for a road trip out to Wiltshire for Nathan and Rhianna's wedding.  We left early, took a pit stop at London Colney to grab me a new suit jacket and trousers, and were still the first ones at the church!

It was another gorgeous day.  Rhianna looked amazing, Welsh didn't scrub up too bad, and even Alfie stayed semi-clean until midday.

The ceremony was at a gorgeous little village church

and afterwards we all made the short trip round the corner for the reception.

It was a gorgeous venue that came complete with children's entertainment/death trap.

We found our table and had a lovely afternoon.  There was even homemade Sloe Gin! - yay!  Tash forgot to bring ours home though - boooo!

And of course, there was a cake to be cut!

As is often the way with these type of events Alfie, now fully fueled and recharged, decided it was his turn to be centre stage.  He took a right shine to a little girl of maybe 6 or 7 years old and decided that a) he must hold her hand and b) he must lead her around at every opportunity.  Poor girl, she was very good and patient with him though.  The DJ kicked off and it was time for the first dance - something Alfie thought was for him.  He belted across the room to grab the hand of this little girl and do his best to drag her onto the dance floor with him!

What else happened?  Well it rained.  Like all the time.  The most rain in June since records began apparently.  I am just hoping it all clears by the time the Gathering ticks around in August!

June was also the month where Esme's character really came bursting out of her.  It is very clear that a) she likes her food, b) she can sure take care of herself and c) she definitely has her mothers temper!

And Alfie has really stepped up to the plate playing big brother.  He has even been know to share toys, do things that he's been asked, and even say the word 'yes'!