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April 15 2012 1 15 /04 /April /2012 12:50

Is it really 3 weeks since my last piece? Doesn’t time fly when you get old. Yes I have managed to survive thus far. The conditions in the office haven’t really altered much save for the fact that at least another 8 playmates were sacked or had returned home following the completion of their tour of hell. The sackings were for indiscrete liaisons between the Adjusters and the very attractive lady Thai Interpreters. This is now frowned upon so most of the boys now have to find some solace in the seedier parts of the city – they tell me 2000 baht gets you quite a lot!


My memory of the last 3 weeks is somewhat befuddled. My colleagues decided that they needed to take me under their wings and drag me screaming to dens of inequities as they felt that I needed educating in the Bangkok method that they had themselves in all innocence discovered. The loosening of the Bush demeanour was started by the application of copious amounts of G&T, beer and wine. I understand that this resulted in my behaving completely out of character.


On one such sojourn, we ventured to Nana Plaza which honestly bore no resemblance to anything my Nana ever spoke to me about….. but before I go into much detail, I should perhaps take a step back and recount the events that led to this sordid evening of disgrace, apparently just for me!!


At lunchtime (Saturday) Rod, Stewart and I decided that we should make a visit to the local super market to purchase supplies. 3 bottles of gin and several cans of tonic and we were well weighed down I can tell you. Having finished work at 5:30 we returned to our apartments with our booty and agreed to meet up at Stewarts apartment as he is on the 12th floor - according to him it’s about midway between those of us on the 33rd (Rod & Colin); 25th (Gary) and 14th (Rollo) floors. I should mention here that Simon and Jeff were on their visa runs so were not around to take part in this gathering of us Cathars who clearly were ripe for the burning.


We all met and glasses were suitably charged with free flowing G&T, the glasses never seeming to be empty and within the 2 hours the gin and tonic was exhausted and the Thai food – ordered via room service by moi (an excellent choice of dishes) – had been completely devoured by all and sundry. The time was now. The Cathar Gentlemen (I think that has to be used loosely) were to take to the backstreets of Bangkok and to experience all that was on offer at Nana Plaza. See I managed to get back here eventually.


Now Nana Plaza is well known as an area of debauchery and obscenity where absolutely anything goes. I felt ill at ease about this. I was already wobbly (I am trying to lose weight but that was not the reason) and my head was spinning so my friends/colleagues guided me to various the shows on offer. There was dancing, table tennis, drag artistes and all manner of themed parties going on. The place was alive and buzzing – me I was dead on my feet and frankly didn’t know what the hell was going on. Nevertheless I was sat on a chair in one of the bars, where I promptly fell asleep much to the mirth of my compatriots. I awoke and really wasn’t feeling well and needed a pee. I managed to find my way somewhere to relieve myself but I cannot even remember that. I staggered out of that place and ended up somewhere, where some kind soul placed a bucket beneath my head – the rest you may guess. A search party had been dispatched as my absence had been far longer than was expected and concern was raised when no-one could find me. Standing on the balcony overlooking the seething masses below me with a bucket was not what I had imagined on this special night out. I was found and it was deemed that I should be taken home and tucked up in bed to sleep off the effects of the heat……...  Thanks to Gary who took charge and ensured that I arrived safely back home.

 

A loud knocking on my door at 6:45am the next morning found me wide awake, suffering with a bout of light headedness – I put that down to the height of my room and the vertigo I have suddenly developed. There was Stewart smiling broadly and oh so chirpy making sure I was up and ready to catch the taxi.


My previous evening of shame was nought but a fuzzy memory. I could only remember that a light reprise had been arranged by our employers in the form of a fully expensed trip to Singapore today (Sunday 01-April). Fortunately, I was not so befuddled as I remembered this and myself preservation kicked in. I had already showered, dressed and was ready, much to the surprise of Stewart who expected me to be dead to the world. There’s still life in this old boy I can tell you.


Our visit to Singapore takes 2.5hr from Bangkok and is known as the VISA run. We International troopers hold tourist visas!! As a tourist it is a requirement of Thai Law that at the expiration of 30 days, tourists have to leave the country and when they return (even on the same day) the Visa will be renewed for another 30 days. We were collected from our suites at 7:30 and driven to the airport where we spent a leisurely 2 hours mooching around the airport lounge before taking to the skies. We were settled in cattle class and had a meal on-board Singapore Airlines. It was pretty mundane food stuff frankly – but it was something. We arrived in Singapore to discover that our return tickets only allowed us 2 hours before we had to make the return journey to Bangkok. We passed through passport control got our stamps and then sat around the airport taking in the splendour of this lovely airport with its lovely water fountains, lovely statues, lovely shops, lovely banks, lovely carpet, lovely food and ugly people. Have you ever watched the world go by in an airport and decided who the ugliest race is – we did and it was unanimous.


The return flight was similar to the outward flight. We arrived back in Bangkok got our visas renewed and knew from that moment we would more than likely be here for another 4 weeks. Singapore beckons in 2 Sundays time. We are really looking forward to yet another thoughtful trip arranged by our employer!!!!!!!!!

Last week, Rods family arrived in Bangkok – Pauline his wife and Matthew his 13 (soon to be 14) year old son. Now Rod had been looking forward to this visit as he would breathe some fresh air into his self-imposed hermit existence that he had endured up to now. He had told us all along that when the family arrived, we would see the real Rod – happy go lucky husband and caring Father. The rest of the gang decided that Rod should have the pleasure of his family on the first night. At work the next morning, Rod, bleary eyed - apparently from lack of sleep - told us they had gone shopping!!! Rod informed us later that the luggage had been left somewhere in Manchester and Pauline and Matty only had the clothes they were wearing. In this heat and humidity the humming would surely not take too long to become noticeable hence the shopping expedition.


I am going to skip a few days and move onto the following Saturday evening. The Stitch clan and a few invited colleagues met at the Restaurant Arun Residence that sits conveniently on the River bank overlooking some temple or other. It’s a beautiful spot and the food and company was very good. Thanks to the Stich clan for such a lovely evening. During dinner a thunderstorm decided to make its presence felt and whilst the lightning, thunder and rain rolled across the sky, Matty, who had been charged as photographer for the evening, took some shots of the lightning seconds after it happened. Typical, timing has never been the preserve of the young. Some of his work can be seen in the blog picture gallery. The evening was most pleasant and after dinner had been eaten and all were replete we made our way into Bangkok central where several sights for the young Matty was somewhat interesting. The usual teenage blaise attitude was shown, but we knew he was intrigued really. Stewart and I left the family to enjoy the teenage question and answer session and went in search of some fun of our own.


Stewart has this knack of getting me to drink when I really don’t need any more. I ended up completely sozzled (I am not normally like this honest) and we went from one seedy bar to another to another. I think we ended up at the Kangaroo Bar. The evening descended into nothing more than a blur and I have no idea what we did and even less do I remember returning to my apartment at about 2.30am. But it was a lovely evening – what I can remember of it.


Sunday, the boss had agreed to lend us his 7 seater car and a driver and Rod, Pauline, Matty, Stewart, Jeff and me were taken on a trip somewhere to the North of Thailand to a place called Kanchanaburi, better known as the Bridge over the River Kwai. 2.5 hours of driving and we arrived at the bridge. Boy was it hot. The sky was blue with not a cloud. The sun was shining and the temperature was well into the 40’s. We all gathered by the bridge and photos were taken (see Thailand album). The history of the bridge is well known and has some historic World War II coverage with even a film about it. We visited the mock-up of a prisoner of war camp and read some of the harrowing events surrounding the building of the ‘death railway’ as it was officially known. Letters from prisoners who survived give some idea of what it was like.


We left this museum and travelled the river Kwai until we came across the British World War II Cemetery. This is a UN controlled cemetery and is beautifully kept. The first thing you notice is how straight the headstones are lined up. Vertically, horizontally and diagonally, all precision laid out – stunning. The names of most of the dead are shown along with their age. Most were around the early 20’s. What a rotten life they must have endured to preserve our freedom. We must not forget.


Returning to the longtail boat, we travelled down the Kwai until we met with the Mekon and travelled to Khao Poon Cave – the cave of WAT. We passed floating boats that after dark become disco and brothel heaven. It would be good to see how these actually operate but it’s too far to travel for that experience. At least we have seen them and all you really need is a little imagination for the rest….


We arrived at the pier for the cave and alighted. It was still so hot and we struggled to walk up to the mountain top. When we eventually arrived, we descended the cave. The air inside was dry and arid. The place was hot. Figurines and the golden Buddha were to be seen in the main cave area with several other religious artefacts dotted throughout the cave complex. It was oppressive and we really needed to get some water into ourselves so we made our way through the labyrinth to the resting area above ground. It was still hot. We strode up to the main Buddha statue. He overlooks the river and evidently provides succour and comfort for the river people.


We returned to Kanchanaburi where we had lunch under the bridge at the floating restaurant. There was nothing special about the food, just a moment to relax in the shade and to refresh. We decided that we would like to have a go at elephant riding.


We walked outside towards the car park and came upon a Leopard. I asked whether it was ok to touch and was rewarded with a good few minutes, stroking the beast and being licked. I was feeding the Leopard with some chicken when he decided he preferred my hand and it took a little persuasion to get his teeth to let go. Undaunted by my experience, Matty had a go himself. He liked being licked – Rod you need to talk to him. Bangkok has done something to him…….


Our driver took us some 40 kms northwards to an elephant conclave. These are really beautiful animals – generally docile – but with fearsome strength. Pauline decided that she would watch as Rod & Matty got on their mighty steed, Jeff and Stewart onto another and me on another. Never have I been so uncomfortable on a ride before. I began to regret suggesting this. Eventually I got the hang of it – just stand up. We travelled up glen and down dyke at which point my driver asked if I would like to become driver. He hopped off and I straddled the elephants head. Now this was much more comfortable. At the drivers command my steed moved on into the river and then stopped. On command heffalump put his trunk into the river and swung it side to side causing the water to spray all over me – the little tyke. Now I was wet we moved on getting deeper into the water before clambering out at an appropriate exit. My knees were clamped tight round heffalumps head as I kept my mount steady and rock like. No way was I falling off this ride. We returned to base and dismounted. Another box in the life of the Bushmaster ticked off. Only another 30 years of adventures to do but I am getting closer.


Hometime. Our driver loaded us wearisome travellers into the luxurious surrounding of the car and whisked us home. 3.5 hours later we arrived at the apartments having had probably one of the best days ever. The day had not ended. We had been invited by the boss to have dinner with him and the rest of the International Team at the Secret Garden. We really didn’t want to but as they had waited for us and also the boss had provided his car and driver we felt obliged to show our faces. A quick shower, change of clothes and we met in the bar for a quick snifter and then ventured to the Secret Garden. Sat outside on a long table, more drinks were ordered and as the drinks arrived a gust of wind heralded the storm and within seconds large droplets fell from the sky. We were ushered inside and spent the remainder of the evening watching a terrific lightning display with huge thunderclaps and torrential rainfall. After dinner it was time to retire. I was exhausted from a day and a half of fun filled frolics with a great bunch of people who I am more than delighted to call friends.


I think that I have said much more than I expected and perhaps this is a reflection of the hectic lifestyle that is Bangkok. Its frenetic attitude clouds the fact that you have actually done an awful lot in the space of a few weeks. Let’s leave this blog here. Next episode I will tell you about the Thai massages, Songkran and whatever other things that I am led into by my crew of abborhents.


All photos are uploaded so feel free to have a look – Folder Thailand and then other folders within that.

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Published by colinbush
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March 25 2012 1 25 /03 /March /2012 10:41

Well I have managed to survive 3 weeks of what I can only describe as office hell. 10 hours per day sitting in an air-conditioned office staring at a laptop computer screen surrounded by colleagues doing the same thing. The silence is deafening as everyone is so frightened of upsetting the boss. We all walk on eggshells – what a way to run an office. Not really sure that I want to do my 3 months and even if I do, not sure I would agree to extend even if I was asked.


I suppose that opening sets the tone of this blog and whilst I really don’t want to make it a morose offering it may well turn out like that.


Today is my birthday and here I am stuck in my apartment as I have work that must be ready for tomorrow. This is just a break in my labour of love as I feel I needed to write something more lightweight than jackanory reports.


My days of woe begin at 6:00am when I get up shower and dress and then go down 33 storeys to the restaurant for breakfast. The Thai’s set a breakfast that we would have for an evening meal and whilst initially it was great having a curry for breakfast, I soon tired of that and have reverted to toast and marmalade with the occasional streaky bacon and fried eggs when that is served. We leave the hotel about 7:40am to walk to the office. By now the sun is quite high and the heat oppressive.


The office is entered by using a code card that registers when you come in and go out. That includes when going to the loo, for lunch or anywhere else. All movement is recorded. At 8:00am each morning (not Saturdays) we all have to stand to attention at our desks whilst the Thai National Anthem is broadcast. Then it’s down to the grind of the daily routine. At about 6 to 6:15pm a few of us make moves to leave the office at the close of yet another day. One more day ticked off the chart. By the time we get back to the apartment, night is falling (we are on the equator) and darkness descends. Now that’s when Bangkok really comes alive. If only I wasn’t feeling my age, I might actually enjoy the nightlife but age has a habit of reminding you of your years!!!


I have already written about our River boat trip on the first Sunday I arrived. Since then I have been so tired – through a combination of the office regime and the heat (it varies between 36 to 39 degrees 24 hours a day) that I haven’t really been out and about. I occasionally venture down to the local area to walk amongst the stalls that line the main road and enjoy the thrust and bustle of these market areas whilst avoiding the constant harangue of the traders to buy their wares. We have often ended up in the sex trade areas and whilst we get accosted to try the merchandise it really is more out of curiosity for me and my colleagues to be walking around in these areas. Now most of you will know that I am no prude and never will be and I really don’t mind the openness of what is on offer and whatever your predilection there is something to suit every ones preference if you are so inclined. It is an interesting place to wander amongst. Being careful is the watch word. I was informed that selling your body is the only way some of the indigenous population can actually improve their lot, especially when you realise that the average earning is 200 baht per day (£4.00).


Apart from electronics and audio and visual equipment, everything is extremely cheap. You do have to barter to get a good deal and so skills in that area help. We are learning as we go along.


Sundays, we usually go to Molly Malones Irish Bar as they have a carvery available. Beef (normally rare), lamb, ham and pork are always on the menu along with all the trimmings you would usually find back in the UK. OK I know what you’re going to say when in Thailand eat Thai – as nice as it is, the curries are pretty hot (chilli hot) and I have to be careful about eating too much spicy food. Well that’s my excuse anyway. The great thing about the carvery is its 3 course – starter, mains and pudding and all for 490 baht (£9.00) and you can go up as many times as you want for starters and mains. It’s actually very good as well.


Well last Saturday – Paddys Day – the boss took all us International Adjusters and a few select Thai staff to the Secret Garden for dinner and drinks. This was paid for by the company. Sitting outside in the heat eating authentic Thai food – the best dish for me was the crab curry. That was a good evening.


On Sunday, 3 of decided to go to the Kings Palace. We called Manoon our taxi man and he took us there. The sun was high overhead and it was hot and we were all wearing shorts. When we got to the Palace, we were informed that we had to cover our legs as a mark of respect and the only way to do that was to buy a manskirt. Lime green, heavy material and put on us by the vendor and at 40 baht (80p) it was a bargain. We did take some photographs of us dressed up but I took mine back once we had finished our visit to the Teak Palace and exchanged it for a less conspicuous skirt that was also lightweight and all for an extra 60 baht. You are not allowed to take photos inside the palace so unfortunately there are none of the interior or of the artefacts – mind you you are not really missing much!


We did manage to visit the Royal Elephant Museum and there are photographs of that. Elephants are considered Royal and are also revered here in Thailand. Royal Elephants also have a dynasty line. It really is all very interesting and cultural.


On Thursday I went for a 2 hour full body Thai massage. Now that was an experience! Once you’re through the doors, they get you ready by taking you to a shower area and then remove your footwear before washing your feet. Here in Thailand the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body. Once they had completed that task I was led to a private room where there was a mattress on the floor. I was told to strip – now I don’t know Thai but I can understand when I am told to undress by a lady (not a ladyboy for those of you with a more wicked sense of humour). Having divested myself of my shorts and t-shirt I had to put on pyjama bottoms and a top and then was asked to lie down on my back. For the next hour my lady massaged my calves, thighs and groin. It was obvious she could tell I needed that time as my calves in particular were as a tense as anything and needed firm hand treatment. Once that was done I was told to lay on my front. Then she got on top of me and started walking up and down my back, digging here heels into parts of my back and thighs doing her best to relax my muscles. That was fun. The sensual bit came next with her hands feeling my back for the knots and then sticking her elbow in to the knot area to release the tension. Once that was completed and she was satisfied that I was relaxed enough she got behind me and pulled my head into her lap. That was the start of the shoulder and head treatment. I could have fallen asleep but felt I needed to remain in control of my faculties as you will be imagining. The final part of this 2 hour extravaganza was when she wrapped her legs around my neck and shoulders and pulled me this and that way into positions that I hadn’t ever tried to be in before. She was laughing, I was laughing and I don’t know why, but it just seemed funny at the time. I am going again – as many times as I can. How wonderful was this experience and all for 390 baht (£7.80). I gave her a 100 baht tip for being so good!!! and to ensure that I get similar treatment when I return.


On Friday, the company entertained us at the Thanni Dusit Hotel – on par with the Ritz/Savoy - where we had every conceivable fare you could imagine and lots of it. Truly a feast of food. This was supported by all the alcohol you wanted to consume, be it Beer, Gin & Tonics, Sambucas - you name it, it was available. The whole evening was free to all the local and International staff as it was paid by the company. Actually it was a bit of an eye opener as there must have been over 80 staff and most of us International guys didn’t recognise at least 50% of them! Good evening though, but as I had been up since 5am - I had to go to a site meeting with owners of a flooded business - I was really shattered and returned to the hotel earlier than some.


Now it’s Sunday 25th March 2012 – my birthday - so here I end this article – somewhat sombre I know. All I can do is apologise for the timbre of this piece but it probably reflects my mood at the moment. Well I must get on and finish those reports!!

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Published by colinbush
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March 12 2012 2 12 /03 /March /2012 16:26

I need to go back home.

 

You’ve only just got there I hear you cry, is it that bad? Well no, it’s about a part of a week that is of such importance that it deserves recounting here and now.

 

During one of my slobbing weeks, I was invited, no cajoled, nay forced to support my dear friend AK as he was subjected to a barrage of Zumba invitations by some very discerning females. He needed both moral and physical support. Now those of you who know me well, will appreciate that I am always there for anyone who has need of my largesse and benefaction.


Now some of you may be asking what is Zumba? I too wondered and although I had heard of this peculiar fad before I left the UK bound for New Zealand, it hadn’t tickled my fancy and thus was a mere blip in the corner of my periphery. There were Zumba signs attached to the front of various buildings in Christchurch but I dismissed them as mere religious cultist movements – was I wrong!


Now back in the UK, I was summoned to attend a Zumba experience in support of AK, but it was at least tempered with the bribery of homemade curry. Who could resist such an offer. Neither of us knew what to expect nor what we were letting ourselves into. Whilst we both listened to the jibes of our female consorts, we feared for our reputations – would we become the laughing stock of a nation? For a few days, AK and I discussed our dress code. Should we dress to the right or left? Would it be noticed? The fateful evening arrived. In trepidation we garnered our senses and entered the preserve of the Warrior race of Amazonian Women.


At the head of the tribe stood the Queen weaving her tailored magic with pulsating sounds of latin vibrators – enticing her loyal, faithful and fanatical subjects to follow her every move and to thrust at her behest. The tribe moved as one with 2 exceptions!


The curdling cry of the warm up assailed our ears. The sound of ‘Tres Vueltas’ – the Amazonians started walking forward, changing to a march, walking back, adding the warrior hand shake, bringing in the arms, adding out-out/in-in then thrusting the hips and moving onto the cowboy moves, lassoos waved in the air and with a spine tingling chant of Yeee-hah war was declared – good grief. Our worries were increasing, were our bodies in danger from these marauding warriors of the dance floor – we hoped in anticipation and bated breath.


The tempo increased, “Volares” – they swayed forwards, the warriors moved side & back to the sound of the salsa, then came the cross stepping with the warriors chanting, ‘Torreador’. The beat got faster, forward/salsa/back. It was infectious, it was exhilarating, it was majestic in a kinky sort of way.


These Amazonian Women know how to parade and preen. They followed the ritual of the ‘Un Mes’ (a Reggae tune) foot scraping invoking the impression of the down trodden male.


Then came the Taboo (J-Lo song 'on the floor') 3 heel digs forwards/backwards diagonally, forward/wards back whilst the Amazonians chanted “oh-oh-oh”  - then a little side lunge and hip circles – AK and I feared the worse.  Would we be devoured or better still become the main attraction!

 

Bounce (Merenge) as the warriors chanted 'bounce baby' whilst AK and me merged into the shadows merenging on the spot but going down when the chant 'bounce baby’ cried out.


It was frenetic, it was pulsating, it was carnal. En Sus Marcas, Listos, Fuera – the chants more vociferous - ‘meuve se bum-bum’ they extolled - 'jeez; as those Amazonians stormed the kneelifts and ended with a body roll. The paratroopers would be impressed, not least for the garb worn by those warriors of the frontal lobes.

 

It was too much, the lines of the thronging warriors moved in unison, precision formed ranks of collagen mesmerised by the Queen of the clan - La Nina Fresa (a Quebradita); Feel Like Dancng – the sounds just kept coming – there was no respite. The Beto shuffle - the Zumba anthem roared out as the warriors shouted 'hey' and then 'ho'. What language, what command of military might. Who could withstand this army of levanthians.


AK and me, we could see the signals, the danger was looming – the Taki Celtic/Bluegrass came rolling through and then it was here – our swansong – our anthem the Great Balls of fire. We swung them we hooked them over our shoulders and we were kings – rock on!!!!


Then it was upon us, everything before had led us to this moment – it climaxed in a wave of pure unadulterated pleasure as the Hava Nagila ripped the very essence from us, leaving us breathless, exhausted, satiated in the knowledge that as men we had held our own……..


Phew!!!!!! I’m exhausted just writing about it. My wrist is tired and I need to lie down. Til next time then dear reader……………Back in the UK

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Published by colinbush
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March 9 2012 6 09 /03 /March /2012 18:27

Well here I am globetrotting the world in my pursuit of harmony and happiness and where do I end up – Bangkok, Thailand – land of the Ladyboys and allegedly the most promiscuous sex trade in the world. Now you might say that I should be enjoying myself in such a liberated society and believe me I would if I could find this so called place of sin. Where is it – can anyone tell me?


So without venting my libido, I have nothing more to do than work – boring I hear you all cry – talk dirty that would be so much more interesting. Well hard luck – nothing has happened so this will be about my work and whilst it may not tickle your fancy, it is the theme of this blog.


As you know, I spent a lovely 6 months in New Zealand and was very sorry to leave, but my time had run out and I would have been cast out by the authorities had I not left of my own free will. I travelled from Christchurch, where I had returned, having had a spell in Tauranga after I had been sent to Auckland for 12 days after I had been sent back to Christchurch Christmas time after my 3 weeks in Tauranga – are you following me. Don’t worry if you’re not, I aim to finish my New Zealand blogs and you can read about my New Zealand adventures again. Anyway back to Christchurch. I flew out on Saturday 28th January 2012 to Auckland where I stowed aboard my transport to Hong Kong and then to Heathrow. I arrived on Sunday 29th January having travelled for umpteen days.


Returning to the UK brought me feelings – feelings that I can’t actually recall at this moment. I bussed it – yes you read it right – bussed it to Stansted. Daniel & Rebecca met me and we had a good long chat before Daniel had to fly back to Dublin. Rebecca then drove me home – how good is that.


A good nights sleep and feeling refreshed I cast around to find my next work assignment. There wasn’t one. Despite having been promised a contract to work in Thailand, that opportunity had disappeared. Oh well back to the UK grind mill I thought but first some well-deserved R&R. I was just getting into the swing of doing nothing and looking forward to a prolonged stretch of nothing when that call to arms came bounding out of the earpiece of my phone – book Thailand – get on your bike – your needed now – move your arse boy – don’t dilly-dally – shake a leg – all those boyhood comments that I loved hearing enthusing me to action and encouraging me to act in all haste. Well as you will imagine – not being one that takes orders too well, I dillied and I dallied, booked my fare to the land of the King & I and well here I am.


Once I arrived at Bangkok airport (called some ridiculous other name that would take up this entire page to write down) I had to queue at passport control, in the searing humid heat, for 2 hours – an absolute disgrace. My driver who had been sent to collect me was nowhere to be found and I didn’t have the office telephone number to arrange an alternative mode of transport. Oh what was I supposed to do. Me an innocent abroad, lost in the melee of Asian indifference. British resolve came to the fore. I marched down the stairs back into the arrival hall and lo – there be my saviour, my driver. He took me warmly by the hand and led me like a naughty schoolboy to his waiting transport. Now remembering where I was (Bangkok), those memories all came flooding back about the fact that I shouldn’t go with strangers – so what should I do. To heck with it, I was man for anything and anyway I was shattered and couldn’t care less.


My apartment was located on the 33rd floor overlooking the sprawling mass of Bangkok City. What a climb up those stairs with my suitcases. I was breathless – dead on my feet. Still this is Bangkok and all I needed was shower and the thought of something awaiting me spurred me into action. Suitcase unpacked. Me lathered, showered and smelling oh so good and ready to slay the Bangkokians with a night on the town. Who should turn up in this 2 bedroom apartment but my Welsh roommate Simon. Now Simon didn’t know that he was sharing this luxurious apartment and was somewhat surprised to see this handsome, elegant and frankly all too charming personage going by the name of Colin Bush. Well I liked him and he liked me and so a beautiful relationship has blossomed. We went out on the town looking for food, fun and drinkies. A small local Thai café beckoned and we enjoyed some real Thai food (no idea what it was but hey I am still alive so couldn’t have been dodgy – could it). Next stop the local bar. Well knock me down with a feather and call me Irish Molly Malone, well perhaps not me but it was the name of the pub. Well Simon and me had a few bevvies before we were joined by another colleague and after several more we staggered back to the apartment.


Sunday dawned hot and sticky. Having showered and got ready for some serious sightseeing, we first went down for some breakfast – Thai style. Spicy rice, fish, bacon, eggs, French toast, soup, salad, fancy cakes, fresh fruit, cereal and a host of other delights assailed our noses. We partook as only an Englishmen knows how.


Satiated, the sun bearing down, we commandeered a tuk tuk and went for a hair raising ride ending somewhere in the back of beyond. Undaunted and like 2 intrepid explorers, we found a taxi and a driver who confirmed he would be ours for the rest of the day for 100 baht per hour. Now that took some thinking – a 100 baht – well that’s like £2.00 an hour including the car, fuel and the driver. Were we being ripped off? Now being seasoned International travellers we haggled and of course got nowhere and we reluctantly agreed to his outrageous demands. ‘Onwards and upwards’ we cajoled our Monty – he took us to the River, where he arranged for us to hire a boat to take us along a funny named river full of catfish. The water was a murky muddy body of fast flowing river where the boats vied for supremacy of the waves caused by the wash of the other boats all vying for the supremacy of the waves. An hour of motorised sailing and our trip was soon over. Monty was waiting at the quayside ready to transport us to another tourist delight. The sun rose ever higher, the heat bearing down like a flame-throwers flame getting closer and closer. Englishmen and the mid-day sun!


The Golden Temple of Buddha. A sacred place – one of countless thousands in this city of Bangkok. It was nice – ostentatious in its own way – a mark of religious power and business. A lesson for you all then – Buddhism is not a religion - it is a way of life. Parts of Buddhism have been hijacked and turned into a religion. Oh soothe my fettered brow……… My Maltese buddhist friend Chris would never forgive me if I did not impart his outrage to you my fellow readers.


Well that took about an hour and a bit. Simon was flagging. This was his first tour of duty since leaving the army. He seemed to forget his basic training (cover up, black up) and his head was cooking like a prawn – white to pink. Stoically we returned to Monty who then took us to another Buddhist Temple up the side of a humungous mountain. We climbed. We stopped to admire the view but more importantly to get our breath back – sip warm water and then begin the ever increasing trudge up the side of Katmandhu. Once at the top – we saw Golden Buddha again – how did he get here so quickly? Is he a God?


By now Simon was swaying around grasping at images of thin air. Hurriedly we descened the heavens to Terra Firma to be met by smiling happy Monty. Come come he said, I take you to see Buddha at another sacred spot. Bog off we said in unison – we are all buddhered out – take us somewhere we can refresh ourselves with a large G&T and a slice of lemon. Downcast, crestfallen Monty. How we had just spoiled his afternoon. Simon was suffering – as a kind hearted human being I relented to his misfortune and commanded Monty to find me an off-licence so that I could purchase beer and then take us back to our suite. Beer was found at 50p per bottle. Oh joy of joys. Perhaps Bangkok won’t be so bad after all.


Tomorrow we work. Dear friends think of me whilst I suit up, with long sleeved shirt and tie and venture to my new employers offices. I did wear trousers in case you’re wondering……


The next instalment will be winging its way to you shortly. Be patient, be thankful……….

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November 13 2011 1 13 /11 /November /2011 12:17

Weeks 13; 14 & 15

It seems that I am becoming a regular KIWI, laid back and taking life as it comes no matter what’s happening all around me. I quite like that feeling as it means that I am not taking life that seriously and just enjoying the moment.

 

Talking to family and friends on SKYPE keeps me in touch with all that the UK has to offer which actually doesn’t differ too much from what goes on here in New Zealand. As it happens the news here always features the UK as well as NZ so I am pretty much up to speed with UK events. Not sure that I really want to come back as the UK sounds so depressing. Still I have at least another 10 weeks here in New Zealand so I will put that thought to the back of my mind for the time being.

 

The longer I am in New Zealand the more I have discovered about its culture. New Zealand has a lot to offer the world by its attitude to work in particular. I have personally benefited from the way they treat their employees with caring and consideration. Why do I say this, well as you will know from my previous blogs, I am due to look after the Tauranga office in the North Island up by the Bay of Plenty for my current employers and I leave Christchurch on 1st December. Until now they have had 2 to 3 senior adjusters looking after the office but when I take over I am actually on my own. The office in Tauranga will be closed for Christmas for 2 weeks and I would have been moping around on my own so they have booked me a flight to return to Christchurch for Christmas & the New Year where my colleagues will be and have asked me to look after the Christchurch Office during the Christmas period. I then fly back to Taurange on 3rd January to finish out my stay in New Zealand.

 

Getting to the underbelly of New Zealand is an interesting experience. The KIWI’s love their drink and the drinking culture is bad if not worse than in the UK. The government has introduced a nil alcohol level for anyone under 21 or younger and the penalties are quite harsh. I haven’t worked out whether that is taking effect. I have harped on about obesity here. It’s quite alarming to see the fat bottomed girls and beer belly men. The news is now full of how the population need to tackle this especially as the kids are as fat as some of the adults.

 

Christmas is in full swing here. It’s a little difficult to take it so seriously as the evenings do not get dark now until about 8:30pm and as the weeks progress that will become later and later. It’s also nearly summertime and when the sun shines it is hot. Winter seems so far away (sorry UK).

 

I am still very busy with earthquake claims and I am still seeing new claims from September 2010. I am now the only first response adjuster left here in New Zealand as all my colleagues have returned home. My trips into the Red Zone are less frequent at the moment but I expect these to gather pace as the more dangerous buildings are demolished and it allows us to gain entry into those where access was previously prohibited. That may not affect me as I will not be here in Christchurch for much longer… but who knows.

 

I have a new circle of friends and we have had several evenings out and about. Nothing extravagant just the odd beer and curry. I have been to Kaikoura to go jet boat riding on the lake and to take in the sights. It was a nice day but nothing special not after the Shotover jet ride.

 

Last Sunday we decided to go to Hanmer Springs and sample the delights of natural hot springs. The drive to Hanmer is something else. It’s quite obscene that New Zealand has so much spectacular scenery and I am now becoming so blaise about seeing it. They really should export some of this land to say the UK. Hanmer was great fun. I am not used to seeing temperatures at 16 degrees and getting badly sunburnt but that’s what happened last Sunday. I am informed the ozone cover is so thin that the sun really does burn your skin when it shines. I’ve learnt my lesson and once my skin stops peeling I will make sure I cover up with some sunblock. I took advantage of a full body massage after my dips in the various hot spring pools. That was really so relaxing.

 

The weeks are now flying by and it will soon be Christmas. I will not be sending any cards in the post this year so accept my apologies now. Those of you on my mailing lists will get an electronic version so look out for that.

 

This Sunday my colleagues and me travelled to Hanmer to do some quad biking. Once I got the hang of the machine it was truly an exhilarating experience. The landscape here lends itself to some terrific quad bike terrain. The tracks are narrow, deeply rutted in places and full of muddy water. Most of us ended up covered in mud and soaking wet. All I can really say is was a good job the sun was shining and it was hot. I sort of expected quad biking to be bad for my back but in reality it didn’t really affect me at all …. At least I don’t seem to have any after effects at the moment. Perhaps tomorrow will deliver a different story………….

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October 24 2011 2 24 /10 /October /2011 12:49

Again I have been remiss in writing my blog. I don’t have any good excuses to impart so I will just accept that I am becoming tardy as the weeks roll on and perhaps becoming complacent with my lifestyle here.

 

New Zealand offers a fantastic lifestyle in that the scenery is breathtaking no matter where you visit. The people are, for the most part. Friendly, jovial and laid back. There doesn’t appear to be any airs and graces with most of them. They just accept life is what it is and if you get a knock they just accept that and get up and get on with it. I quite like that ethos.

 

There is a downside though. The food is…… fattening. Nearly all of it is fast food and in every town there will be McDonalds, Burger King, Domino’s. Pizza Hut, KFC, Wendy’s et al. Every other shop is either a coffee shop or pie shop. They have food halls that will have Robert Harris Café, Muffin Break, Coffee Worx, Yellow Rocket Bagel and the list just goes on and on. Food is almost a god to the Kiwi’s but……. It is all fast food. Very little home cooking goes on from what I’ve seen.  There is quite a lot in the newspapers about obesity and it certainly shows in the size of the kids. I’ve explained the foregoing as I need an excuse for why I’ve put on weight………….. Just thought I would get that in early.

 

Well most of my friends and colleagues have returned to their respective countries and my buddy Robert has gone off to Tauranga in my place until I take over on 5th December for my last 2 months and I am left with only 2 colleagues about my age with whom to socialise.

 

As most of you know I only have Sunday as a day off. I had been pretty busy during the past weeks and had fallen behind with some reports I had to write so I decided to stay in on Sunday 9th to catch up. I am pleased to say that I did. Note did. I need to try and catch up again now. That Sunday the Prime Minister John Key was here in Christchurch at Hagley Park enjoying watching the the rugby with Cantabrians on the giant TV screens. Just as the match was about to start we were hit with a 5.5 earthquake that rolled on. Most people were worried thinking that something more was on its way. During the Saturday afternoon for a period of about 20 minutes we had experienced over 10 shakes culminating in a couple of 4.8’s. I was in the supermarket during that Saturday and the racks were swaying backwards and forwards. It was quite surreal really. Anyway John Key hadn’t experienced an earthquake and now understood why Cantabrians were leaving in such droves. He found the earthquake quite interesting.

 

Last Sunday (16th October) 3 of us – me, Chris and Sue -  decided it was time to try out the Tranz Alp Railway and travel from Christchurch through the Southern Alps to Greymouth. The train journey was long – 6 hours but the scenery was glorious. We travelled through Arthurs Pass and onto Otira both high in the mountains and thence to Greymouth. There is an open sided carriage that allows the passenger to take natural photos as the train hurtles across the tracks. The only trouble was the Japanese hogged that carriage all the way so we had to barge our way through to get even a smattering of au natural photos. The train, as I said earlier, is travelling the Southern Alps and every time I had framed a good photo we entered a tunnel. I gave up eventually and just took in the surroundings. We had a real laugh and my acerbic wit was met with much enthusiasm as well as encouragement I might add. My cohorts who had participated in the mirth accused me of calling a spade a spade and that they needed to be careful in my presence for fear of what I might say to and about them. It was of course said with much love. For my part I say it as I see it – with a modicum of humour thrown in so I will just carry on doing what I do in my own sweet way – no offense meant and none taken. The first part of the journey ended at Greymouth a non-descript place and we spent a short interlude having a hot drink and a sandwich before returning to the train and enjoying the return to Christchurch. It was a really relaxing day. Only pictures can give a flavour of the scenery and these are in the album ‘Tranz Alp’ attached to my blog. If you are interested have a look. The photos are mainly scenery based.

 

I’ve had a varied caseload to deal with and its all been very interesting. I have had squash clubs, tennis clubs, cricket clubs, abbatoirs, manufacturing plants and all sorts to deal with. When I get back to the UK it’s going to be very different.

 

This weekend I decided to fly down to Queenstown to enjoy the andrenalin rush that is Queenstown. The place is about white knuckle activities, music, people and beautiful scenery. I left Christchurch and flew into Queenstown arriving at 8:25am. My accommodation was at the Hilton Kawarau Hotel right on the banks of Lake Wakatipu. I had pre-booked to have a ride on the Shotover River Jet Boat Saturday morning so took a quick taxi to the hotel to get changed before returning to Queenstown to make my connection.  We travelled by bus down to the Shotover River where we were given our briefing and wet protective jackets. The boat called ‘Big Red’ holds 16, travels at upto 85km/h in 10cms of water. The boat turns on a sixpence. Its powered by 2 V8 jet impeller engines that shoots out water at 760 litres a second and that gives its power and speed. Lesson over – the ride was fast, bumpy and furious and highly enjoyable. For those of you on FaceBook and part of my friends circle you can watch me in the boat enjoying the ride. That over I returned to Queenstown where I was due to go on a Lord of the Rings tour. I had an hour or so to kill and down on the marina they were hosting a jazz fest so I ventured to it. The weather was beautiful, hot and sunny so I sat on the grass and listened to the music (if you can call jazz music).

 

There were only 2 of us on the Lord of the Rings Tour and our guide basically said we could do what we wanted. The tour is about scenery and where certain of the action took place. It was actually quite revealing and shows the imagination of Peter Jackson in getting the scene he wants for that part of the movie. The tour was most interesting and we stumbled on the next chapter in the making of the Lord of the Rings – The Hobbit. We couldn’t get close to where they were building the sets but there was a lot of action going on for a Sunday. As I said the scenery was stunning and probably can only be truly appreciated by doing the route in real life. I have put my photos on the blog site under album LOTR. Enjoy and be envious.

 

I returned to the hotel by 7.30pm. Had a few minutes to repose and revive myself and then went down to the lake restaurant for an evening of indulgent eating and drinking which is what I did – and without any regrets.  It was gone 11 pm by the time I fell into my room and got myself ready for bed. Sunday arrived and I went in search of the massage clinic where I had booked for a sports massage treatment. It was good and I felt rejuvenated after it.

 

 

My flight back to Christchurch was at 14:30 so I had an hour or so to enjoy the Hotel surroundings and the Lake. What a cool place. The grounds and vista are truly spectacular. Photos are in the album Kawarau Hotel. The weekend was all too short and over far too quickly. It wasn’t long before I was back in my motel room and back in the swing of it.

 

Next weekend I am going on another jet boat ride along the Waimakariri River over by Springfield.

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October 3 2011 2 03 /10 /October /2011 10:20

My Sunday injury left me with a dodgy arm that stopped me from having a good night’s sleep and that meant that I wasn’t at my best for the start of the work week. I was only able to drive 1 handed and my car the mighty beast that is the Falcon XR6 being an automatic was very forgiving. Nevertheless, I wasn’t able to do more than the one drive and decided that I should continue to rest the arm for the remainder of the day.

 

I listen to a lot of Kiwi Radio and my favourite station is MoreFM with Gary and Si who do the morning show. They are so funny and say the most outrageous things. The language is a little colourful at times with ‘bolloxxx’ being the most profane. Some of the stories they recant are hilarious and it really is worth having a listen just to get a flavour of the show. Bear in mind that we are 12 hours ahead of you in the UK. Gary & Si are on from 7:00 until 10:00 (your time 19:00 to 22:00) – here is the link - http://www.morefm.co.nz/Portals/0/player/can-playerControl07.htm - just click on it and make sure that the station is tuned to Christchurch.

 

My colleague informed me that a flight to Queenstown had been reduced by Jetstar so I quickly booked that and will be flying down to Queenstown to take part in jet boating and white water rafting over the weekend of the 22nd October. Queenstown is the sporting capital of New Zealand. Its about 600kms from Christchurch. http://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/index.cfm

 

Over the last couple of weeks I had heard rumours that my employers here were trimming back on expenses. This was reinforced when a number of my colleagues had or were returning to their home countries and were not being replaced. The International contingent here has been reduced in the last month from about 30 to 15. My contract expires on 28th October 2011 so I was expecting to be home this month. I received an email from the boss here asking me to stay on until 29th January 2012 which took me by surprise. I of course have concerns about being away from home for so long especially bearing in mind my parents are elderly. I took a couple of days to reflect and to discuss it with family. I have accepted the offer. Mind you if the work flow slows significantly I know that my extension will be reduced to suit the needs here so you never know I might be home earlier.

 

It is so frenetic here and much to my surprise, following my acceptance of the extension, I was sent an email from the boss stating ‘’we have a need in Tauranga for a consistent commercial adjuster familiar with earthquake claims who can get on well with a team. We think that you are the man for that – an opportunity to try out another of NZ’s beautiful cities. We want you to take over as a guiding adjuster to the lesser experienced claims support officers. Any chance you can get there for next Monday 10-Oct’.

 

Tauranga is in the North Island by the Bay of Plenty. It is a sub-tropical paradise and hot. Whilst I am flattered by the request it is a desk bound job and I am not comfortable to be a desk jockey for the next 4 months. I have asked that someone else be sent to Tauranga for the next 2 months and then I will then undertake the last 2 months. Most of my colleagues think that I am stupid refusing the position and I may come to regret that decision but…… At the moment I haven’t heard whether that compromise is acceptable. It seems that I will be on the move although I am not sure when.

 

I cooked dinner again in my apartment for 3 of my colleagues. I was a bit over adventurous as I did Mexican fajitas with all the trimmings. It was a lot of work. Everyone enjoyed it including the vegan!

 

The week has been………….different. Saturday I went to the Redwood Tennis Club to have a look at their clubhouse that had been damaged by the earthquakes. It was a lovely sunny and hot day. When I arrived they were coaching tennis to a group of about 40 youngsters and it was great to see. Cricket coaching is also in full swing and as I passed Hagley Park, there must have been at least 100 youngsters, including girls all training. I am really looking forward to the cricket season it will be a change from the wall to wall rugby!!! I have heard that Stephen Fleming and Brendan McCullum are both coming to Canterbury cricket to give a master class. I think I might venture down to the club and offer my services.

 

Sunday Robert and myself had booked to go whale watching in Kaikoura. We drove the 186kms and to say the scenery was stunning would be an under-statement. The views are beautiful. See the photographs in the Kaikoura album. Having got to the whale watch station at about mid-day we were informed that the weather was closing in and the sailing might be cancelled. That would have been disappointing as in the last couple of days they had discovered a pod of 4 sperm whales and several babies. The weather did close in and the sailing was cancelled. We knew there was some interest to be seen at the bay so we went there and met up with some seals. The signs say that you must stay at least 10m from them so naturally I didn’t as you will see from the photographs. Seals are notoriously unpredictable and we had to be careful when walking past them on the esplanade. One of the seals had died and its Mum was watching over it, albeit from about 2m away – it was a sad sight. We had a walk over the lava flow and in the distance we could see a goat. It was quite small and appeared to be following a young couple out for a stroll. As they and the goat got closer we noticed the goat had a collar. I asked the young couple whether the goat was just following them and was surprised to learn that it was their pet and they were taking it for a walk. Having had lunch we returned to our motel in Christchurch. The day was good despite missing out on the whales. My arm began to ache quite badly and I had to stop driving. I need to keep an eye on this injury.

 

 

What surprises will await me next week?

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September 30 2011 6 30 /09 /September /2011 12:31

Week 8 – New Zealand

 

Following on from blog week 7 in my haste to write and publish that, I forgot to mention that on our journey along the 75 to Akaroa driving past Lake Forsyth, the car windscreen was suddenly spattered with dead midges. There were millions of them swarming like a low flying cloud. We couldn’t go round so had no choice but to drive through them. The window washers were going two to a dozen just to keep the screen clear.  It took at least 3 miles before we were clear of them. I had never seen anything like it.

 

Monday started off normally, going to work looking at earthquake claims in the red zone. I had just exited through the army check point at just about 4:30pm when the area was rocked with a 4.2 earthquake, followed an hour later by 2 further quakes of 4.1 & 4.3 (see grid below). It seemed like we were in for a big one. Thankfully it settled down after that. The news was full of it with lots of Cantabrians calling in to the radio stations, many in tears thinking another big quake was on its way. The theme was the same – when is it going to stop.

 

20/09/2011

05:31pm

103.89

4.3

V

38 tonnes

20/09/2011

05:31pm

7.96

4.1

V

23 tonnes

20/09/2011

04:30pm

6.96

4.2

V

34 tonnes

 

There is no sign of that happening yet. I am writing this on Friday 30th Sep and in the past 24 hours we have had 11 quakes – not large but more than the usual 4 a day!!!!

 

Some of my colleagues were returning to their home countries so we decided to have a good night out at an Italian Restaurant called Tutti Benne. The place was packed out and we had to wait until 9:30 before we could be seated. Having enjoyed a really good meal, we were sitting around chatting when a lady in her mid 50’s from the table behind us leaned over and said “there are 30,000 more women than men in Christchurch – you 4 handsome men must either not be looking or your gay” and then promptly left the restaurant with her circle of friends all laughing. We were dumbfounded but at least we knew were handsome……..

 

Wednesday morning I had a claim in Amberley about 50kms North of Christchurch round Pegasus Bay towards Kaikoura. I mention this as most people only think that Christchurch was affected by the earthquakes but in fact it was widespread across the South Island. As an aside it was a beautiful drive to Amberley. I had arranged for my colleagues to come to me for dinner later that evening. I have said in a previous blog that my apartment has a pokey galley kitchen. A two ring gas burner and a microwave. I had to work reasonably hard to put together a half decent meal. I created my world famous seafood cocktail and made the sauce with only half the ingredients I would normally use. Went down well though. I followed this with chicken yellow thai curry and rice. All in all a pretty good effort.

 

The weather here in Christchurch has been changeable but on the morning of my visit to Oxford another drive of some 50kms I drove through the beautiful Waimakarri Gorge along the Waimakarri river. I have taken some photographs and these are in the album on the blog site. Oxford is a really quaint town whose population is 80% English.

 

Rugby is the dominant event – other than the earthquakes – at the moment. Every bar, every TV is showing rugby. We watch most of the All Blacks (New Zealand) and England matches at the open air pubs where I have to say the atmosphere is electric. Any match against the Aussies or French where they are on the receiving end of a point score is met with loud cheers. It’s great to see that the Kiwis think the same way as most English people.

 

Last Saturday I went down to New Brighton as I had a claim at the Subway sandwich bar. The roads leading to New Brighton are badly damaged as are a number of the houses. There are signs that ask drivers to slow down as ‘your speed is shaking our houses’. I thought I would have a look at an aerial view of New Brighton following the earthquake. I was staggered as the whole place was under water and silt (liquefaction). Pure devastation. Mind you, you wouldn’t think that now as most of the roads have been cleared but the evidence of the scale of the earthquake damage still remains.

 

Sunday was meant to be a horrible day – the forecast was for rain and wind. Rather than go somewhere far we decided to venture to the Ferrymead Heritage Park a village of old Victorian buildings that is really a glimpse into the past. This place wasn’t immune from the earthquakes but the damage is not so noticeable. There are a number of photographs in the album on the blog site. Many of you will remember ‘On the Buses with Reg Varney’ and of course Blakey. Well the bus they used on that show is here at the Heritage Village. They also have a really fabulous music museum that houses some of the oldest music/record players. They also have a collection of vinyl records all catalogued and all donated over the years by local people. These records are regularly played on the Ferrymead radio station. We spent a good few hours exploring the village, riding on the tram and browsing through the record collection.

 

We went off to Sumner for something to eat. Having parked the car we walked along the beach to Cave Rock. I climbed up, missed my footing and fell backwards ending up with my back arched over a rock. I really thought I had done myself a serious injury. I lost the use of my left arm, had scratches and bruises over my back leg and hands. I couldn’t drive and all in all I was feeling a little sorry for myself. Nothing a good curry wouldn’t cure I said and we marched off to the local curry house. Trouble was it had served last orders but the waitress seeing me in my plight relented and we were allowed to sit at a table and they served us. Now that’s what I call service. One of the guys drove back and I went and laid down still with a gammy arm and wondering whether I would be fit for work the next day……………………………… 

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September 18 2011 1 18 /09 /September /2011 11:01

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my last blog for week 4. It’s now week 7 so what have I been doing that’s made me so tardy in my blogging. Well, I could say that I’ve been hard at it and I really just haven’t had time, and whilst that’s got some truth, it’s not the whole story.

 

The RED ZONE has taken up some of my time. Climbing to the 14th and the 17th storeys in a couple of the high rise offices is not fun when they are in a structurally precarious state and you have to be so careful where you put your feet. There’s no electricity in these buildings so my colleagues and I have to work by torchlight. We have a safety man who remains outside the building and his task is warn us of any shakes that may cause problems to us. We have to have one ear tuned listening for his whistle. 1 warning blast – crouch down and look for a safe area (under a table or something like that. 3 warning blasts- run like hell and get out of the building as fast as you can. So far I haven’t heard any whistles and frankly if I am above level 5 I don’t honestly think I could hear the warning blast anyway. Nevertheless you are so conscious to be aware.

 

My colleague and I had to enter the Price Waterhouse Building and it was quite evident that the building had suffered traumatic stresses. At the time of our visit no determination had been made about its prospects. Now we know it is structurally unsafe and will have to be demolished. I believe I have about 3 or 4 more visits into this building with the various tenants to get a handle on what needs to be removed, whether it is worthwhile and/or economical and how we achieve the logistics in doing that with no electrics, no lights, no lifts and not so safe stairways. What sane person would want to be a loss adjuster?

 

The workload is now drying up and several more of my colleagues (those that are in my photos) are all returning to their home countries over the next 2 weeks. The company, for whom I am working is bringing in their own employees (we are now probably too expensive to hire) to take over from us International Catastrophe Adjusters – or as I call us – International Rescue – Thunderbirds are go!!!

 

Having said that, myself and 2 colleagues have been informed that we will be undertaking work for the major loss unit – claims over $500k up-to $30million so who knows what the future holds for me.

 

I think that’s enough about work. At the end of August I moved motels – from the Classique to Tower Junction. My room is on the 1st floor. It’s quite a nice apartment with lounge, galley kitchen and separate bedroom with en-suite. Kitchen is a bit naff as it only has a double burner hob and a microwave. I got a bit brave and invited my colleagues for dinner. 3 courses I prepared and it went down a storm with seconds for everyone. Not bad considering the facilities.

 

The earthquakes continue unabated and over the past week or so the intensity of the quakes has got bigger. Nothing to spectacular thankfully but locals are still fearful of the next ‘big one’ and it doesn’t help when even the news says there is an 80% chance anytime soon (what does that really mean?).

 

We can’t let earthquakes worry us so during our days off and some evenings, we have been going to various places here in and around Christchurch. 2 weeks ago we drove to Arthurs Pass high in the Southern Alps (http://www.arthurspass.com/). The drive was long and interesting. Having arrived at Arthurs Park we were attacked by Kea birds – ugly looking things. One of the birds was an interloper from Sweden – an Ikea bird (hic!!) Once we managed to get away from them we trekked the steep slopes to have a look at the Devils Punchbowl waterfall. It was a steep climb and once we reached the summit we felt very light headed. It was certainly a worthwhile trek though.

 

Culture is not a strong point here in NZ and we all felt we wanted a dining experience where tablecloths were evident. Tiffany’s – the only high class restaurant here in Christchurch was our venue. It certainly proved a worthwhile visit and we certainly enjoyed the night.

 

We followed that with a visit to New Brighton in the Sumner district. Unfortunately this is one of the areas that has been so badly affected by the earthquakes otherwise it would be a lovely place. The roads are lined with containers 2 storeys high to prevent houses and boulders from sliding down the mountains onto the roads. The summit pass is closed owing to on-going rock falls.  The day wasn’t very nice – cold and windy but at least it was somewhere different. We lunched at the Pier and had a reasonably good meal.

(http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Australia_and_Oceania/New_Zealand/South_Island/Canterbury/New_Brighton-1882594/TravelGuide-New_Brighton.html)

 

Some of you may be aware that there is another major event being played out here in NZ –the Rugby World Cup. It is everywhere. On every TV channel in every bar on every ones lips – you cannot get away from it. I am not going to say anything about it until England win the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Listen to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQS2RriUzVk its quite funny.

 

Today we went to Akaroa. The drive is spectacular as is the resort. We had a walk around the coastline of this water filled volcano. The weather was delightful, sunny and hot and we spent a pleasant couple of hours at a little waterfront bar having lunch. I had seen a programme on Tv the night before about a property called the Giants House.

(http://www.gardenstovisit.co.nz/garden.aspx?gardenid=75) We discovered where it was and visited this most unusual place. Have a look at the photographs. All the work is done by one woman. Amazing.

 

That’s it for now. I will try and keep up to date with blogging. Have fun as you enter Autumn and here in NZ we begin spring.

 

Be good. Be safe til next time. Photos are uploaded to my blog site at www.colinbush.com

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August 29 2011 2 29 /08 /August /2011 13:19

Week 4 – New Zealand

Only a few days until the end of the month and I will have been here for the whole of August. Its been an adventure - so long, may it continue. The RED ZONE was my calling this week and I was passed up and entered into the Central Business District (CBD). The devastation is extensive. We walked around to get a feel of the area. It’s a ghost area. All the shops, restaurant’s, offices and residential housing are empty. Following the 22nd February earthquake the CBD was evacuated and only politicians’, the emergency services, army, contractors and people like me have been allowed into the area. It’s like a war zone. Quite a few of the most dangerous buildings have been demolished so there are some very large areas of wasteland. I have an all area pass that allows me access everywhere except zone 10. This where the Chancellor Hotel - a very high rise building - has partially collapsed at one of the corners and any significant shake/tremor will bring it all tumbling down. Zone 10 is called the drop zone and if the Chancellor Hotel falls it will take a number of other buildings with it (ground zero). I have posted a number of photographs on this blog but I understand from talking with some of you that the pictures cannot be viewed in full detail. I am working on that. If you have a facebook account you can see them there (just add me as a friend) and I will provide you access. I am back in the red zone this week as things are now moving along a pace.

154895-Antartctic Centre (2)Antarctic Centre - Aug2011 (19)

Several of my colleagues are returning to their home countries this week and a few others have been sent to Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga to assist with the snow claims. My role in the Red Zone precludes my being sent to these other areas for the moment. Never mind eh.

During the week I have been out with some of my colleagues to the local pubs. The Kiwi’s have no staying power and generally by 10:00pm we are kicked out so the venue can close. Saturday we went for an indian curry at a place called ‘Corriander’. I have to say it was very good.

We wanted to play table tennis again Friday evening and we duly changed and walked to the stadium only to discover they had converted the venue for a bazaar happening over the weekend. My fitness regime is taking a pounding at the moment, I really do need to do something otherwise I’m going to vegetate.

Yesterday (Sunday) my ‘Buddy’ and I went to the International Antarctic Centre. It’s a superb facility that documents and lets you experience what it’s like to be at the Antarctic. We started off having a ride on a snow Haglund – the tracked buggies they use on the snow. We were taken over a rugged course at speed. We went up steep 70 degree inclines straight into a 5 metre deep lake. The Haglund floated and was steered like a boat – amazing. Inside the facility It has a really good labyrinth of rooms that detail the intrepid adventures of Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen as well as detailing the various scientific works being carried out now. There is a 4d cinema and we were treated to a boat trip (4d means we were virtually on the boat) around the McMurdo region of Antarctica. It really was clever and interesting. We went into a specially constructed room that mimics an Antarctic storm. The room temperature reduced to -20 and the wind was whipped up to 100km. It was blooming cold and the noise was deafening. Thankfully we were kitted out with hooded jackets that kept the body warm. This sort of storm occurs regularly in the Antarctic. Christchurch International Airport is known worldwide as ‘The Gateway to Antarctica’.

Next Sunday we plan to go whale watching off Kaikoura – about 3 hours drive from Christchurch. I’ve had to put that on hold as Robert has been sent to Wellington today (Monday) for the week to help out with the snow claims.

My back and shoulder has been playing up and I have had a session with a physiotherapist this morning. I had to fill in a consent form that had my home address details. The physio and very pleasant lady saw Sheringham and let me know that she grew up in Sheringham before moving to Christchurch about 35 years ago, What a small world our planet really is. I have a few more sessions booked.

Red-Zone Red-Zone  Click here to view photos

Well that’s it for this week.

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