Winter in NZ

Well, after my brief sojourn in the English summer (!?) I am back in the midst of NZ winter, which doesn’t seem greatly dissimilar to the English summer!  No that’s not really fair; it has been quite cold and very wet recently and I am sure that now July is here, England will be in the throes of a heatwave, especially since it external exam time and school doesn’t break up for two more weeks yet.  We have just started our two week winter break and the last few days have been a real mixture of rain, wind and beautiful clear blue skies.  It is currently 13 degrees C here in Hamilton and has hovered around that temperature most of the time during the day.  There have been some spectacular thunder storms, though we are told that that is unusual, and the South Island snowfields are enjoying big dumps of snow.  More locally the ski fields at Ruapehu have also had good snow this week so are looking forward to a busy school holiday.  Unfortunately we won’t be joining the throngs as the Salaries Assessment Unit in Christchurch STILL haven’t sorted out my salary scale, and as a result I STILL haven’t been paid!  Never mind, I keep telling myself that it’s a good way of saving and it should be a nice lump sum when I finally get it all back paid!
We can’t quite get our heads round the growth cycle of plants and the seasons – it is curious as the daffodils in our garden started coming out in June and are now looking glorious, the lilies in the pond have flowered and the lavender is in full bloom. Primulas are all out looking pretty and the Camellia trees are resplendent as the Rhododendrons start to sprout. Our oranges are nearly ready to eat (we think) – they are still very tart but very juicy.  The birds are also starting to come back – the sparrows never went away but fantails are around again and we have started to see Goldfinches and tits.  Plenty of blackbirds as well as the NZ magpies.
The boys continue to play rugby – after playing 3 grading matches against some big teams and taken heavy batterings Lachlan’s team are playing in a division 2 league and have so far won all their matches.  He has been playing Full Back for the last few matches and is enjoying it. Picked up Player of the day on Saturday so he was very pleased with himself!  Aonghas’ team have also been doing well though he is struggling a bit with the contact game.  Having spent 3 years playing tag he has gone straight into tackling, hand offs etc and is finding it a bit intimidating.  We’ll see how he gets on as the season progresses.
We have also started to look at houses as we will hopefully complete on our house in the UK soon – (all available fingers and toes crossed that it doesn’t all go pear shaped at the last minute!) Still not sure exactly how many dollars we will end up having to play with – a lot less than we had hoped due to the low price we ended up selling for. It is very interesting seeing how the NZ housing market works – very different to the UK.  You don’t have to use just one Estate Agent to sell – the agents seem to work for a Real Estate company but once they build up a relationship with a potential buyer they will network to get you into houses which are with other agents.  It seems that because the house market is in a dip here at the moment the agents are having to work doubly hard to sell properties. They have “open homes” when the vendor has to vacate the property for half an hour or so on a Saturday and/or Sunday (having spent hours making it spotless!) so that the agent can let prospective buyers look around.  We have spent the last two weekends scouring the papers, compiling a list of open homes to visit and then driving round looking at houses.  It is fascinating seeing the range of houses and really useful as you can see a lot of houses in a short time to make comparisons.  We have seen a couple that we like but are not in a position yet to make an offer so we will keep looking!  As I understand it this is what happens – very roughly as I am still getting my head round it.  Once we make an offer it will be conditional – which means we will draw up a contract and will have certain conditions to meet such as doing searches, getting finance, getting a LIM report, builders checks if you want them, and you also have to pay a 5% deposit. That period usually lasts about 5 – 7 working days and the vendor can’t accept any other offers.  Once you have et all the conditions the offer will go unconditional which means that we will agree how many days to complete and come up with the money etc.  It typically takes about 6 weeks from an offer being accepted to moving in.  It seems quite a lot simpler than in the UK but the best thing is that once you have made an offer (and paid your deposit) it is highly unlikely that the sale will fall through as it can in the UK.  I guess that you have to be serious as the deposit is at stake if you default so people don’t tend to make offers without knowing that they can follow through.
Anyway, the sun has come out and the boys (and I) have been staring at a computer screen for long enough so I am going to try to prise them away and go out for a walk.  Wish me luck!