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Posts tagged ‘Opanuku Road’

Monsoon bucket of suck

In the weeks leading up to the move, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Well, ok, maybe not EVERYTHING. I suppose Husband could have succumbed to a critical mid-life crisis and left me for a pole-dancing accountant. But strictly speaking, that’s more deviant than ‘wrong’. So I stand by my original statement, as long as I don’t have to defend the position or address any pointed questions about it.

Three weeks ago, we were driving down Opanuku Road when we heard a strange noise coming from the back of the Hilux Surf.

At first we ignored it, because it was virtually indistinguishable from all the other strange noises coming from the general vicinity of the car. However, within a short space of time/distance, an expensive ‘CLONK!’ could be clearly heard – and felt – reverberating joyfully above the cacophony of mechanical acoustics.

After we pulled over, I tramped back up the road in my three inch heels in search of mobile reception. Then we all – my parents, Husband, Jed and I – milled disconsolately around the deceased car until rescued by Flame Haired Titan.

While the Surf flirted with the scrap heap, the parents magnanimously gave up custody of the MR2 during the last week of their holiday. Yet the 2-seat MR2 was not ideal for salvaging packing boxes, nor even transporting two humans equipped with 35kg dog. I was also anxiously conscious that the Surf was scheduled to relocate us and a trailer to South Island in less than 10 days.

Andrew discovered that, by disabling the rear differential, he could operate the Surf in modified four wheel drive. We coaxed the car to a garage; later that day, someone called to inform us that – as suspected – the rear differential was poked; he could replace it with a second hand part for $1000; and he had just got a limousine in for an emergency service so could we collect the Surf because there wasn’t room to store it – oh and he closed in 10 minutes, so before then.

Andrew decided to do the job himself. When he extracted the differential with a lot of swearing, two of the teeth on the cog were completely snaggled, shards of metal in the surrounding oil.

He managed to source a second hand rear differential for $275 on Trademe (when we turned up to collect it, there were about seven Hilux Surfs parked outside this dude’s house; according to his business card, he was a ‘South Auckland Toyota Surf Parts Consultant’).

Then Andrew spent two mornings rolling around under the car covered in grease and oil. I maintained a continuous supply of coffee and occasionally handed him a spanner. There was a tense moment when he removed a section of engine to facilitate the fitting of the 55kg diff, then couldn’t figure out how to get the complex and rather-crucial looking piece back in. With my assistance (I inadvertently hit him with it) he eventually manoeuvred it into place.

That crisis narrowly averted, I received the proof of About Time from my editor, who required a response within a week. For Smart/Casual, this stage of the production process was a soul-sucking, energy-sapping, time-consuming, will-to-live diminishing, hive-scratching, panic-attack inducing suckfest unrivalled in relentless tedium.

Proofing About Time was no different, except for the added frisson of packing crockery between adverbs. Also finalising the moving company, booking the ferry, changing address, cleaning the house, selling items, cancelling accounts, and setting up electricity at the new place. When I called Telecom to request a new landline, there was already a request pending for that address; this took another half a day to sort out.

Three days before we were due to move, the radio reported a fire had broken out 200m from our new house. People evacuated the area, the main power lines between North and South Island were shut down, and helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets were brought in.

For a while, we weren’t sure whether we even had a house to move into.

Rapid incontinent pterodactyls in vests

Had I not listed the house on Opanuku Road on behalf of my landlords, my life would have been poorer. Because then I would never have met Keith and Don.

Now, I felt a bit sorry for Keith (note: although not to the extent that I wouldn’t slag him off on my blog). He was the interested applicant and had obviously made a real effort to put his best foot forward. He wore his best tracksuit, and had brought along a wing-man for the occasion.

“Come on in, lads,” sez I. “So, this is the garage-”

“AW WOW!” said Don, gazing in rapture at the garage. “This is a REALLY NICE GARAGE!”

I looked doubtfully at my garage, trying to see it through a fresh pair of eyes. I mean, I haven’t done much with the place – it’s more Andrew’s domain – and to be honest, it has an oil infestation and a build up of testosterone in the corners (although nothing a good water-blast wouldn’t fix).

“Um, ok. Well, if you would like to come upstairs-”

“Upstairs,” repeated Don, and sniggered suggestively. Mid-thirties, in case you have a mental image of a pair of thirteen year olds. “I have four kids,” he informed me. “No, I mean five. No! Four.”

“Oh, I can believe it,” I said. “Now, this is the guest bathroom . So, what can you say, really? It’s a bathroom-”

“AW WOW!” Don again. “This is a REALLY NICE BATHROOM!”

“Really?” I said, rather intrigued by this point. “I’ve never thought it was that flash to be honest. What is it about it that, er, grabs you?”

“It’s the toilet. You know the thing- the flat thing- on the top of the- the-”

“The cistern? The toilet seat-”

“YES! That’s it, the toilet seat. I really like the way it’s DOWN.”

“Ho-kay then,” I said, subtly steering them into the living room.

“This place is great,” said Keith, making his first real contribution to proceedings beyond turning up. “You know, if I lived here I would plant vegetables.”

“Where?” I said. “There’s no garden with the property-”

“Aw, you could just clear half an acre of bush . . . by the side of the house here.”

“Well, I think the neighbour might have some issues with that, since that’s his land.”

“I’d plant spotty dog. You know spotty dog?” I shook my head. “It’s this plant- like a bush- it’s got these leaves, which are green with pink spots, and they- the leaves- they look exactly like that dog, the one with the spots . . . what’s it called again?”

“Er, a dalmation?” I suggested.

“No. It’s a white dog with black spots. What’s it called? Think! Oh yes! A dalmation.”

Must have been my dodgy Irish accent.

“You know herbs?” Keith asked.

“Herbs . . .”

“Like basil?”

“Oh, right.”

“I buy all my herbs from The Superb Herb Company.” This is a farm on Henderson Valley Road, but I wasn’t aware they sold cannabis. “It’s really cheap, because, like, you buy herbs- you know, in a little pot- in the supermarket, and it costs $7 or $15 for a pot of herbs!” He looked outraged. “But The Superb Herb Company- you get this pot of herbs and it’s, like, TOTALLY AWESOME, because they come wrapped IN CELLOPHANE!”

“That’s pretty cool, all right,” I said. I mean, that’s very least you can say about cellophane without coming across as ungenerous. “So, what is it that you do, Keith?”


That was all he said about his line of occupation, but he did reveal that he has a three year old son (I am frankly astonished a woman allowed herself to be impregnated by him) who lives with Keith’s nan, while Keith – assuming his application was successful – would move into Opanuku Road with his mum.

All this time, Don had manoeuvred to position himself in front of me, standing with his chin propped on one fist and rotating his arm infinitesimally so that I could catch an eyeful of his gold watch.

“You know, this house has LOADS OF SPACE,” he said. “Plenty of room for my GYM KIT.”

“Oh, would you be living here? With . . . Keith?” I asked.

“NO! I’m just saying. I have A LOT OF KIT,” he informed me. “I’m in training for THE BODYBUILDING CHAMPIONSHIPS.”

“Oh . . . really?”

“Yes. COULDN’T YOU TELL?” he said. He stopped just short of cracking out a front lat spread, instead contenting himself with a thrilling little wiggle of his pecs.

“Um, see, the thing is Don, generally I don’t go around looking at other men’s pecs, because the thing is: I’M MARRIED. See the bloke sitting on the stairs over there fingering a steak-knife? That’s called a husband.”

“HEY! You can LOOK-” Don held out his hands, as if warding off an attack, “but you CAN’T TOUCH.”

“I’m glad you clarified that, because I was about to lose all self-control and touch willy-nilly.” *CRINGE!*

As I showed them out, Keith – who had evidently been told the way to landlord’s heart is to tell them you’re in the market to buy – said, “By the way, will you tell the owners that I’d be interested in buying this house. Not right now. After six months or something.”

And bless him, I was looking at him thinking, ‘Dude, you can barely afford to buy a litre of milk and have enough change left over for your weekly ration of dope,’ but I said, “Sure.”

I regretted not endorsing a man whose definition of TOTALLY AWESOME was herbs wrapped in cellophane.

Realistically though, I wouldn’t rent the guy a trailer, never mind a house.

Blobs of flobber

Two years ago, when Husband and I first saw Turanga Road listed on Trademe, we knew without even seeing the house it was where we wanted to live.

I sincerely hope I come across as enthusiastic rather than calculating when I say we treated the application process much like an interview. We launched a full-scale charm jihad against our potential landlords.

At least: we turned up on time; fully clothed (which we considered a basic pre-requisite but apparently NOT NECESSARILY); we were fragrantly aromatic with base notes of fresh skin cells and top notes of soap. I wore a pair of walking boots to visually support my claim that I was a robust, rugged, outdoor type, ready to machete a blazing trail through the bush at the slightest provocation.

We didn’t massage the truth, so much as shine a rose tinted, warm fuzzy light on it – but even had we lied, we would at least have MADE THE EFFORT to come up with compelling, vaguely plausible lies.

While we were viewing the house, The Competition turned up. Grimly, I considered sneaking out and telling them they had the wrong place, or pretending to be a neighbour and smashing in their windscreen with a dead possum.

But when I saw them, I realised these measures were unnecessary. The man looked like someone had conducted chemical experiments on his head; the exploding tufts of facial hair would most accurately be described as ‘green’. His partner was so obese she could not get out of the car. Great blobs of flobber blotted up against the windscreen. (The real mystery was how she got in there in the first place – there must have been heavy machinery involved.)

Two years ago, I thought that couple was an aberration.

Not any more.

Freshly painted house

A very brief window of tidiness opened up today, and I seized the opportunity to take a few pics of our freshly painted house featuring Husband’s recently installed lights.

The kitchen from the balcony


Dining area at the end of the living room


The living room. Our furniture looks much bigger here than it did in Dubai


My office off the bedroom

Perhaps we should mow the lawn

Here are the results of a toxic buildup of creative juices:-

Me in my stylie boots at the bottom of the garden

A New Zealand bush trail

Husband’s garden shed

The guesthouse

Hobbit alert

How to squirm under a tree

Our house in the middle of the bush

A hard day’s work

I’ve considered setting up a blog for some time, especially after my monthly email list hit the 30 mark. Although the idea is appealing, the reality is that I’m an irregular writer who spends more time trying to locate her wasted muse than writing. It will be interesting and/or depressing to see whether I can muster the discipline to post daily.

Ok, let’s not be too ambitious: weekly.

One problem is that, now that Husband and I have settled into Turanga Road, we rarely leave the house. My working day looks roughly like this:-

08:00 Get up

08:01 Shower

08:15 Chew on Husband’s ear a while

08:20 Turn on coffee machine

08:27 Open garage door and walk down the driveway to check post

09:00 Go to office to Write

09:01 Check email, write responses to incoming

09:40 Pick fingernails

10:20 Look up waffle irons on Trademe

11:09 Read new threads on discussion board

11:55 Research (MacGyver on Wikipedia)

12:04 Secondary research (methods for defusing nuclear warheads, the melting point of iron, Clayton County, entomophagy, online radio stations, balloon fetishes, symptoms of anaemia, the Piri Reis map, pictures of facial boils, Gothic cemetery art, squirrel hazing)

12:30 Is it lunchtime already?

13:10 Digesting

15:00 Go to office to Write

15:01 Return to kitchen to make coffee

15:15 Go to office to Write

15:16 Think up excuse for not Writing

15:20 Return to living room to rearrange sofa cushions

15:30 Go to office to Write

15:31 Check out the time in Adelaide, Ireland, Albania, London, Spain, Dubai, Jordan and Auckland

15:39 Definitions of the word ‘harrow’ on

15:50 Look up exchange rates: US$ to NZ$, AED to NZ$, Euro to NZ$, Euro to US$

16:30 Go to kitchen, look in fridge

16:47 Return to office, look up recipes including ingredients: red cabbage, dark chocolate, blue cheese, crackers, sherry

17:00 And we’ll call that a Hard Day’s Work

Kung fu spider

I love living on Turanga Road. The bush is green and gorgeous and the only things I can hear (apart from, occasionally, the Scottish bagpipes tuning up) are the birds and cicadas and Husband pounding away on his keyboard upstairs, which sounds a bit like rain. Except when he’s repeatedly thumping the delete key, which sounds more like him wrestling a very large bug (I’ve had several opportunities to quantify this).

We share the house with a wide variety of mini crawly beasties, winged terrors and dermaptera. There’s a spider that practices kung fu in the bathroom after dusk, and a beetle that hangs out on the kitchen windowsill flexing his antennae and threatening the moths.

Some of the less welcome creepy crawlies are mosquitoes. Kiwi mossies tend to be the size of small dogs. Traditionally they make a bee-line – or mossie-line if you prefer hahaha – for me. While they still occasionally sink their proboscis in my person, Kiwi mossies seem to find Husband more nutritious.

I’m pretty sure it’s one to two degrees colder up here in the ranges than down in the city. Even though it’s still summer, Husband has some major competition going on with my hot water bottle. The house features no insulation or double glazing, so chances are it’s going to turn into a cryogenic chamber in winter. We already have issues with humidity, but leave the windows open most of the day and have acquired a couple of dehumidifiers which will – in theory – give us a mould-free winter.

The bare necessities: kettle and wireless modem

Husband is still putting in a full working day and more for ADT and has only four hours free from 12pm-4pm. It took 40 minutes to drive to Turanga Road from The Outlaws’, which left about two and a half hours for working on the house.

We weren’t getting anywhere so, after accepting delivery of a newly purchased sofa bed, we moved in. Our seats are paint cans, and we have a box as a table. At least we have the bare necessities (these being a kettle and wireless modem, in case you were wondering).

Husband tries to talk up the experience: “Hey Niamhie, isn’t this a bit like camping? Don’t you find it exciting having to improvise? Isn’t it like a big adventure?” And I’m all: “Oh, just fuck off.”

Mind you, there was a sense of achievement when I put together a five course Valentine’s dinner with a saucepan and plastic knife (in this instance, coffee and an After Eight = two separate courses – but hey! Cut me a break)

No mutant teddy bears

After days of viewing shacks we were almost resigned to living in someone’s garden shed for NZ$ 400/pw with $3 knocked off if we mowed their lawns. We had registered with every Real Estate Agent within a 100 kilometre circumference of Auckland, since Husband nurtures some idealistic theory that the real estate industry is in the business of sourcing the perfect property and matching it to the ideal tenant.

Having had more exposure to Real Estate Agents in my short-to-medium life I know their business is actually to test your reserves of patience and restraint. Therefore I continued to browse daily, conducting preliminary searches on rental property with keywords: ‘private’, ‘quiet’, ‘not in any way a hovel’, and further narrowing the search with ‘3 car garage’, ‘no mutant teddy bears’ and ‘cow-free’.

Trademe turned up a wide variety of options and after a while I became adept at deciphering the adverts. You might think a property listing featuring a single photo of a bathroom is simply bad marketing. So did we, until we viewed a couple of these places and found it was in fact good PR. ‘Fully furnished’ = a rusty toaster and range of three-legged chairs. ‘Incredible views’ = but the house is a squat. ‘Good TV reception’ = there’s a transmitter in your backyard.

One morning, I stumbled across the advert for Turanga Road. The pictures looked wonderful – not one toilet shot among them. As we drove through Waitakere, I knew the house would have to be a hole in the ground to turn me off (and if it was an insulated hole in the ground, I was in).

The house was about 4km up a dead end road surrounded by bush. Although on the edge of the Waitakere Reserve, it was only 20 minutes from the centre of Auckland. Husband remained non-committal until he saw the garage taking up the ground floor. He was so touched he barely even noticed the yellow and maroon colour scheme.

The landlord/caretaker, Darren, informed us three couples had offered on the house, with another three viewing it that evening. Obviously we were going to have to turn on the charm. This wasn’t a big issue for me, but Husband has a daily charm ration, which is finite within half an hour and better applied in short, intense bursts over extended periods.

Considering we spent three and a half hours conducting a xxx-rated full-frontal Charm Crusade, Husband did exceptionally well – I was very proud of him. My techniques involve tossing my hair around and blatant flattery. Husband goes for bribery and lashings of manly mirth (he also tucks his hands in his armpits, but I think that’s more nervous tension than charm specifically).

We had one fumble, when I asked Darren whether his friends/owners would have any problem with our repainting the house. I thought he’d be delighted, since the paint job was about ten years old and looked a bit patchy. And the colours were psychologically abusive.

Instead, Darren looked at me as if I were in the process of biologically propagating a horn in the centre of my forehead.

“Paint it?” he said. “Why- well, I- I hadn’t really thought about it. I mean, if you wanted to- you know, as long as you don’t paint it something horrible like- like black and purple. I suppose it would be all right.”

I’m thinking, “DUDE, it’s flaccid maroon and egg-yolk yellow,” but Husband stepped in firmly and said, “No problem, we love these colours. Don’t we Niamhie?”

“LOVE them,” I confirmed, nodding vigorously. “Sorry I even asked; I was deranged momentarily.”

After a couple of hours of chat, Darren agreed to let the house to us, which thankfully meant we didn’t have to resort to a headlock. We stuck around another while to sabotage the remaining hopeful tenants, and meet his wife, Ingrid.

Apart from the brawny colour scheme, the house is intelligently designed and eco-friendly. A self-contained water supply derives either from the roof or the nearby creek. There is a deck off the living room opening onto bush and glorious views of the Henderson Valley, and we have our own waterfall by the front drive! The encroaching bush and a colossal tree that must be over a hundred years old is held back by a retaining wall out front, which cost $75000 and apparently nearly finished the owners.

It is about as far from Dubai as you could imaginably get

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