Saturday, December 17, 2005

Seeing is not always believing

Ah well, today is the day of our second attempt to convince the immigration authorities that we are worthy of a visa.

Having trawled through mountains of paperwork, I am now convinced of the following:

a) we are married,
b) I bear all the financial risks

Despite that realisation, and the trauma of knowing that today was THE DAY, I did manage to get some sleep last night.

So, everything went in to the High Commission today and finally I got the call I was waiting for

"Your applications are being processed, and you should hear back within a few weeks.......but there is just one thing"

Why do these things never run smoothly? Turns out there's something funny in our medical reports that the visa people might, only might, refer to their specialists, but they won't say what. A quick call to the surgery where we had the medicals and I learn that the radiographer/radiologist (can the experts out there explain the difference to me?) has eyes like a shithouse rat. He's detected a shadow on Mrs C's X-ray that is approximately 0.3cm big! It could be a blood vessel but is more likely to be a scar from a chest infection.....or mild TB!

So I phone Mrs C....."There's good news and bad news, the visas are being processed, but you've got TB!"

The thing is, she tells me she doesn't recall ever being treated for either - the irony of this is that she relays this information whilst coughing down the phone like a Victorian workhouse consumptive! I'm thinking, if NZIS ever phone our house and Mrs C answers the phone, we won't need a medical second opinion! Just my luck to marry a lass from 'Oop Valley' where the summer sun rarely penetrates and the weather forecast on any one day can be summed up with the word "DANK"

Today is also Chipshaker Jr's last day at school, so this morning was a little bit hectic, trying to get together Christmas cards, e-mail address cards to pass on and an extra shirt to get signed. Anyway, we eventually get into the car, and have a chat whilst we are on our way.

Isn't it amazing how your heart breaks for your kids?

We are driving along happily and he suddenly says "[horrible scrote in my class] says I'm only going to New Zealand because you aren't rich enough to pay the school fees and I'm not smart enough to stay at this school"

This from a 10 year old, and one that, at best, struggles to get grades anywhere near my lad's!!

This particular kid is already known to me for regularly expounding publicly his views on how well off his family are and how poor some of his classmates are, but this comment in particular stopped me in my tracks a little bit and brings home the fact that, despite paying a small mortgage in school fees to get a decent kid a decent education, you still get insensitive and arrogant scrotes, no matter how good the school is. I can't begin to put into words how strong was the urge to stay in the car park and wait for this particularly nasty little turd to turn up with his mother, but I eventually dismissed it, knowing I'd only be rising to the bait. I advised Chipshaker Jr to do likewise, and make the most of his last day.

But let me put this into perspective, another boy yesterday gave Jr a very inexpensive compass and said "With that, you will always know where you are going, and which direction to take if you need to find your friends in Bolton". I have to say, that very nearly brought me to tears. How do you explain to a 10 year old that five minutes with a friend like that is worth a hundred times more than a lifetime with the first vicious little tosspot?

Now people have told me that kids in New Zealand aren't nearly as vicious as British kids. I can't begin to tell you how much I hope that is true! If there is only one thing that kids deserve, it's the chance to be kids for a while without rushing headlong into the nasty cesspit that is society in the North West of England.

I so look forward to joining a society that apparently isn't nearly as nasty and self-centred as ours.

Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei tiki mai

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Winston, if I were married to you I'd put poison in your coffee...

...Nancy, if I were married to you, I'd drink it!

And after a really bad night of vomitus velocitus frequentis I'm beginning to wonder if Mrs Chipshaker hasn't been getting ideas from Lady Astor.

Several times during the night, I made the dash to shout for Huey down the big white telephone - an affliction I'm sure in this instance came from my darling wife's attempt to poison me. At least I've managed to convince the kids that was the case anyway. Chipshaker Jr is now watching every move Mrs C makes. Seems reasonable to me, and, for a 10 year old, he has a remarkable grasp of the concept of circumstantial evidence - I ate the same food as everyone else, but I ate it two hours later and I was the only one chucking up all night, ergo, it must have been tampered with.

Admittedly, he was doubtful at first, and rightly so - no 10 year old should think such things of his Mother, but I managed to convince him eventually

"Who came to see if Dad was okay when he was being sick at 4am son?"

"err me Dad"

"That's right, you're a grand lad, and where was your Mum?"
"err asleep in bed Dad"
"Exactly son, she hasn't even got a guilty conscience - keep an eye on her for me eh?"
It's really rather amusing now to see him taking such an interest in his Mum's culinary skills, and even more amusing when I get the dark looks for corrupting the kids - even the most unpleasant of illness can have a humorous side!
But joking aside, a bit of further research has led me to take my initial jest more seriously than I perhaps did at first......
After an evening of traipsing through mountains of paperwork, the visa applications went in yesterday, only to be promptly rejected. Turns out that, despite me sending in a marriage certificate, a joint bank statement and all the passports, those nice people at the High Commission want more evidence that we are living in a sustained marriage. Fair enough, there are some very dodgy people about these days. So, I dig out all the paperwork I can find to prove that everything is in joint names. Bank account number 1 - statement shows joint names, bank account number 2 - statement is in joint names, same goes for account number 3. Things are going well so far and it's on to the utility bills. Gas bill - statement is name. Electricity bill - statement is in....err my name, Council tax - statement is name. Telephone bill - statement is name! I can see a pattern developing here. Television licence, water rates, cable TV.....everything in my name!! Even the joint credit card is in MY NAME!
Turns out, all the money coming in is in joint names, but everything you can be blacklisted or go to prison for not paying is in my name!! So not only am I being slipped the odd dose of hemlock in with my spinach and ricotta pasta, but I'm also in danger of going to debtors gaol if it all goes badly wrong on the money front!
You have to admire that kind of subtle ingenuity!
Anyway, you can imagine I wasn't especially gruntled this morning to find out that the Immigration people weren't overly happy with the applications made. As well as the marriage thing, it seems my complete lack of any professional qualifications, and only having A Levels to my name isn't particularly impressing them at the moment. Dear me, I can remember the days when not everyone who worked in the accountancy profession had a degree in microanalytical zoology, or other such irrelevant subjects awarded simply for spending three years drinking copious quantities of dark mild and smoking roll ups!
Then there is the question of references - they want some of them as well, particularly from my current employer, to testify that I have obtained a little bit of specialist knowledge after spending in excess of half my lifetime doing the job. Quick call to the faceless minions in the dark underworld of HR and I find that 17 years only entitles me to a two line letter stating my start date, my leaving date (which hasn't come around yet) and my current position! Mad Frankie Frazer got better references than that after serving 20 years in HMP Parkhurst! What price loyalty eh?
Not a good day really - it kind of came home to me today...if I don't get the work permit, I don't have a job in New Zealand.....and I no longer have a job in the UK either!
Haha te whenua, haha te tangata

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Education is the progressive realisation of our ignorance

.....or so said Albert Einstein.

Now when I landed this job in New Zealand, I took great pains to point out that I had neither a degree, nor professional qualifications. However, what I did have was a wealth of practical experience from doing the job for nearly 20 years. I think that qualifies me as either "time-served" or just bloody lucky to have never been found out! to be honest, the only letters I'll ever have after my name are R.I.P.

Imagine my surprise then when the employment contract arrived and the conditions of employment stated that I had to have a degree and recognised professional qualifications in the field. A quick telephone call and we agreed that this was just standard wording, and that I'd never misled anyone. I annotated the contract and sent it back. Anyway, that's all in the past now, but the reason for mentioning it is that I now have to submit my work permit application. After reading through the forms, it became very apparent, very quickly, that I'm missing some important stuff from my prospective a supporting application form and a letter testifying that, after a thorough recruitment search, the best they can find is me, and they'll have to make do!

So, another quick phonecall to New Zealand and I am assured the necessary paperwork will be completed and couriered to me urgently...apologies for forgetting and all that, so no real harm done. Yesterday, I came into work to find copies of the relevant documents had been e-mailed to me in advance.

"The minimum requirements for this position are a Bachelor's degree, a recognisable professional qualification and X years' experience. We are employing Chipshaker because SHE fulfils all of these criteria"

Er, I think not!! Something tells me it might not be a good idea to send that letter with the work permit application. If the immigration Service doesn't question the sex change being omitted from the medical reports, they'll almost certainly query the overly inflated claims my prospective employer is making to my educational achievements, particularly when I don't back it up on my application form!

Is it me.....?

A upane kaupane whiti te ra!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A brief excursion.....

Well, more a diversion from talk of New Zealand really.

We've never quite worked out whether Chipshaker Jr is terribly forgetful or just plain lazy (although we suspect the latter). Whichever it is, he is forever leaving taps running, lights on and the toilet unflushed. So, not long after I'd got in from work today, I heard Mrs C upstairs, getting ready to go to work. Next, I heard her go into the bathroom then shout in that weary voice parents know so well..... "Junior, come here now please!" - He trots upstairs and I'm vaguely aware of the conversation

"You've not flushed this toilet again?"
"Yes, I'm sure I did this time, I swear I did Mum, honest"
"Well what's that then?!"

then I heard



So I abandoned my warmed up evening meal, dashed upstairs to be confronted by the toilet absolutely brimming with not totally liquid, and not very clear water...and I do mean brimming - it was very much in danger of overflowing. For the scientifically minded of you out there, never before had an upper meniscus looked so threatening! After 10 seconds it became very clear that the bowl wasn't emptying, not even fractionally. At that point, like the faithful wife she is, Mrs C announced that she was late for work and was leaving!!

I then spent what felt like a lifetime, but was probably only 30 seconds, looking at it, and being bombarded by a rapid series of thoughts along the lines of.....

"Jesus, we are trying to sell the place and the bathroom looks like a Calcutta backstreet"
"As if I'm not spending enough money at the moment and now I'm about the fund the Dynarod Christmas party"

and, most terrifying of all

" the hell are we going to solve this without resorting to the unthinkable?"

I tried everything - jabbing a stick around, getting a piece of hosepipe up round the U-bend, I even (very carefully) blew down the hosepipe....I only did that once, for fear of backwash, or eventually forgetting which end had been submerged!

Sadly, there was nothing else for it other than to don the old yellow marigolds and go hunting. Having fished around a little, it became very apparent that the water was very full of .....lets just say....solid matter! The water level wouldn't go down and putting my hand in any deeper would have taken the water over the top of the gloves. So, there was nothing else for it but to start baling.

Once the pan was empty, it seemed safe to get my hand right under the U-bend but there was bugger all there, except the biggest collection of turds I'd ever encountered. I was retching heavily by this point but nothing was shifting and I couldn't believe that it was just the obvious blocking the bog. Something else had to be down there, so it was time for the heavy questioning.

"Right, what have you dropped down there?"
"Nothing Dad, honestly...nothing. I've just been to the toilet that's all"

Now either the kid has some weird bodily functions or there's a bit more to this than meets the eye. Time for the sink plunger. Initially, plunging just got the turds zipping around in the water, making the stench even worse. Then toilet paper started to come up. Thinking I'd cracked it, I flushed again.....and the pan brimmed once again! After at least four repeats of this process - bale, plunge, flush, brim, panic, bale, I finally got an almighty GLOOMP, and the whole lot shifted, nearly taking my arm with it.

Then the inquest resumed and, after some careful questioning, I got to the cause.

Turned out, Junior had had a really bad cold for most of last week, with Friday being particularly bad. Rather than sniffing, he'd at least done as he was told and spent most of the day blowing his nose. Unfortunately, after each blow, he'd left the toilet unflushed. Then, whenever he or anyone else went to the toilet for the usual, it would get flushed but he'd carry on blowing and blowing, eventually getting through two toilet rolls by using the juvenile dispensing method known as 'The Virtuous American' (ie a damn good yank), as opposed to the measured "two sheets" methods used by most adults.

To make it worse, it appears that, being inexperienced in the laws of work, the youngest had eschewed the time honoured method of "going on the boss's time" and had waited till she got home from school before undertaking her daily ablutions. Consequently, the loo had seen a lot of traffic that day. To make matters worse, Young Ms Chipshaker is more of a master of the Virtuous American method than her brother. She yanks as hard as she can, then gathers it all up from the floor and chucks it into the pan without even worrying about whether there's an Andrex puppy in there somewhere.

In effect, they'd spent most of the day filling the toilet with wadding in a way that a veteran gunner on HMS Victory would have been proud of, only for them to crap like the very devil on top of it and then compact it with more toilet paper on top.

Turns out, Junior hadn't left it unflushed as such, but rather the last flush had compacted it so much, it blocked solid and the last deposit had made a reappearance for Mrs C to discover.

So, after a long and dull week at work, I spent most of Friday evening up to my elbows in shite and fighting a losing battle to retain my evening meal. I didn't feel much like a drink after that!

Ringa pakia, Uma tiraha

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The wonders of modern medicine

So, more money spent to confirm what I already know. First of all I pay out £10 to Her Majesty's Constabulary for the privilege of being told I've never been caught, and now it's £25 quid for an optician to tell me I can't see out of my left eye...something I was vaguely aware of in the first place.

Mind you, it is amazing to realise how much methods have changed over the years. It seems now that they can judge the level of your eyesight from sound alone! At least that's what I am assuming - the optician in question covered my right eye, the good one, and asked me to read off a chart reflected in a mirror. Standard stuff you might assume but apparently she couldn't quite judge just how defective that eye was, so she asked me to stand up, walk three paces, turn around, and read the letters off the lightboard. She then deduced from the clatter of expensive instruments as I fell over a table that I really can't see anything at all out of my left eye. An innovative but slightly expensive technique I would have thought!

Then there's the report my wife had to get from the doctor's to testify to a minor operation she had 18 years ago. Another £10, this time just to press the print button on a computer it seems, to produce a copy of her medical record. Having dropped the request into the doctor's surgery last Friday, she was informed by Attila the Receptionist to "phone on Monday and check if it's available".

On phoning on Monday as instructed, she was politely informed that they had been too busy to deal with the request as they had "lots of NHS patients and they come first". Oh aye? Firstly, as a contributing member of the British population, I thought she was an NHS patient, and secondly, doesn't paying money then elevate you to the ranks of the private patient, who jumps the queue merely by virtue of the fact that you are paying? Seems like double standards to me, but then again, even Ivan the terrible wouldn't offend this receptionist!

Anyway, the medical history was duly picked up this morning and read with interest....particularly the bit that stated that Mrs Chipshaker had had her varicose veins removed last June. Now this is remarkable for two reasons......

1) she's only 38 and therefore perhaps a little young for the condition, and
2) she has no recollection whatsoever of anything leading up to the diagnosis, or of ever having been present whilst the operation was done!

Isn't it amazing what they can do with keyhole surgery these days!!

For some reason, on hearing of this remarkable and somewhat improbable event I immediately thought of the Monty Python sketch set in the Zulu wars, where the frightfully British bloke was lying on the bed, minus his leg, and the doctor says "Well, this is nothing to worry about, there's a lot of it about - probably a virus"

A upa ne ka upa ne

Friday, November 25, 2005

Wide-eyed and legless....

Well not quite, but an interesting day nonetheless. Today was the day of the long awaited medicals, or nearly not quite. Started off pretty well, with a lie in until 8am! Then the usual mad rush of trying to get four people ready to go out at the same time, two of whom aren't really that keen on the idea. The morning was spoiled somewhat by a phonecall from the doctor's surgery just before we left, to tell us that the doc wouldn't be in, and the appointment would need to be rescheduled again.

Arrrrrrggggghhhhh!! I don't need this. A bit of quick talking and the receptionist agrees to get us in for the X-rays and phone around to fit us in somewhere else for the medical bit. So we get there, and get a bit of good news - we can have the X-rays straight away and the doc feels so bad about cancelling our appointment to deal with his wife's broken dentures that he agrees to come in at 1pm to sort us out.

So, we get called in for the X-rays and everything goes without a hitch....then a commotion breaks out - turns out we are the first ever people to be X-rayed on the new digital machine, and the radiologist is a bit chuffed with himself. "Would you like to come in and see the pictures?" Well, I'm not one for watching other folks' home movies but it seemed such a shame to spoil the we all four troop in to look at my perfectly formed ribs and clavicles. I was even reassuringly shown the shady outline of my heart, lungs and other assorted grillocks......"That bit there is your Dad's diaphragm"

We got a bit of a tour round Mrs Chipshaker's insides too. She doesn't half look thin when you take the outside bit away.

Anyway, now we have a couple of hours to kill, but it's chucking it down. So we nipped into Manchester's biggest toyshop for a couple of verses of the "Can I Have" song and a brief period of shelter in Waterstones (where we saw David Attenborough, who had the same idea it seems), before dashing across for a swift bratwurst at the German Market, .

Then it's back to the surgery, to meet an elderly chap who is probably Britain's most eccentric and funny doctor! I'm not quite sure it was worth 600 quid, but it certainly was entertaining. Kids out of the way quickly - not too much hassle there. Then Mrs C gets the full attention. "Any mental disorders or psychotic behaviour? No?"......looks at me.....frowns......"Women always lie about that one - they think school holidays don't count!"

Next we try three different sets of scales because both Mrs C and the Doc think they are faulty!

Then we move on to his obsession with my wife's breasts, after she reveals she had a minor operation as a child.

"Ah right, which jug was it m'love?"

"And do you have them checked regularly? No no no, not a mammogram, does he check em fer yer?" (looks at me and they both start laughing)

Then it's my turn - weight, height, no problem...he even has the good grace to skip over the revelations about my drinking habits....I probably wasn't totally truthful about the 6 pints and 15 glasses of wine a week but even this lesser amount I confessed on the form seemed excessive when you see it in black and white!

"Right young man....kit off.....oh my word, posh underpants!" (I'm thinking "It's like having a medical with Trinnie & Suzanne!)

"Okay kids...who wants to stick sharp needles in Dad?"

Until this point, they'd been sat quietly playing with a couple of toys but, all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose at the prospect of exsanguinating Dad - they are falling over each other to get there first and I'm beginning to thing "Jesus, he can't seriously be going to let the kids have a go?" Fortunately, he didn't but I'm sure I looked anaemic at that point! Mind you, he did let them watch whilst he took the blood. "See all that coming out? We use that to make Raspberry Ripple ice-cream for our tea"

Then he whips out his tape measure, and measures both my legs from hip to ankle and mutters "Hmm, same size...good job"

Turns out, "good job" meant 'a tidy piece of work', rather than 'fortunate' - he'd noticed I'd put on the form that I'd broken my leg a few years back and he was checking whether I had one leg shorter than the other. I still can't work out why that should be relevant but it is strangely reassuring to know that my legs are both the same length.

He was also very interested in an eye problem I'd had since birth (only one of them works) and told me to get an opticians report.

I have to say, all this leaves me wondering just how rigorous New Zealand Immigration criteria are. Seems to me that if you are a pirate, you're buggered - you'd trigger every alarm bell on the eye, dodgy leg - you've got no chance and that's before you even mention the parrot.

Nevertheless, not a bad day all in all - rather entertaining and a medical reassurance that Mrs Chipshaker's jugs are in fine fettle!

Uma tiraha, Turi whatia

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ships...? I see no ships!

So, I come home from work and find that the present Mrs Chipshaker has been surfing the net, looking for temporary rentals for us, and she's left some stuff on the 'puter for me to look at.

Now the subject of the Hibiscus Coast came up a few weeks back, but my thoughts were that it was waaaaaayyyyy too far to commute to the Auckland CBD. Seems that isn't a factor though, and if anyone is to be inconvenienced, it's most definitely me!

Mind you, I have to say, the little two bedroomed apartment she's found in Gulf Harbour does look I check the transport system out and you know what? It doesn't look too bad - the ferry sails out at 7.10am and back from Auckland at 5.35pm. Now I'm thinking....THAT'S the way to commute to work!!

Not to sure about the winter time though...can't see the Weetabix lying comfortably when a storm blows in!

A upa ne ka up ane

You shall be taken from this place and hanged by the neck...

Except I won't you hanged that is......because the police report came back today and confirmed that I am an upstanding citizen, with an unbesmirched character. Ten quid and a month's wait to find out what I already knew - I've never been caught! I could have told them that myself and saved me ten quid and the State a load of time and hassle.

Unlike Mrs Chipshaker of course - she submitted her report before mine and we are still waiting. Doffing my proverbial cap slightly to the late, great Jake Thackray, I'm beginning to wonder if Mrs C isn't big, bad, Norman, fifteen years on the run. Admittedly, her hands are big and hairy, and embellished with a curious tattoo. Her voice is on the deep side, and she shaves more often than other women do!

Anyway, next step on the Road to Rangi is the rigorous medical examinations next week. Not looking forward to that one bit. As if it's not bad enough worrying about the prospect of having some stranger shove their thumb up my backside, I'm beginning to thing it would be a good idea to give up the hooch for a few days beforehand, just to make sure my blood doesn't register an ABV percentage. Then again, at my time of life, and with all my experience, it could be dangerous putting my body through that kind of sudden trauma.

And urine samples? How does that work then? Whenever I've been to the GP, they just take one look at it, make sure there are no stringy bits or wriggly things in there, then chuck it down the sink. But these medicals are a bit special I'm thinking. Well, they'd bloody better be anyway, they are costing me £600!! I think as a minimum, they are duty bound to take a sip, gargle noisily and pronounce on the vintage. I suppose only time will tell........

Tenei te tangata puhuru huru

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thou shalt not sell........

So........after five days the estate agent who promised us a new way of marketing properties, based on internet listings on all the main UK property websites, has still failed to list anywhere other than on a small portal site used by a handful of independent agents around the country....and used significantly to list all of his properties.

But what's this, look carefully and you see that the portal site is owned by the same software company that powers his agency's personal site and provides all the market research software he proudly demonstrates in his sales pitch. Turns out, it's all his set up.

So, I do a bit more digging around and check out the agent listings on the two national websites he claims to use. Surprise surprise, after wading through pages and pages of agents, I can't find his company listed anywhere. So I called the very helpful people at one of the national websites, who go through their own agent listings and tell me they've never heard of him or his company.

Hmmm, interesting........might be worth asking him why he can't seem to list our property when all the other agents in the town have no trouble listing their clients' houses. So I call him. Apparently it's a software problem. Not his software problem, but a problem with the national websites, which apparently can't cope with his advanced software. There is no problem listing the property on the third site he mentions....but then why would there be? It's owned by the software company that he owns, which he uses to drive his own website. Nevertheless, he assures me they are working furiously to convince the national websites of their inadequate software, so that they can "reinstate" his listing. At this point, I thought it might be interesting to mention that one of the websites he claims to use has never heard of his company.

Now we change tack a little and he points out that it is unfair of me to direct the pressure I am facing on to him. So, it's not fair of my to question why he can't do the very thing he claims makes his business so different to competitors? It's different alright, I have to agree with that.

He points out that he doesn't like my comment that "I am concerned that, five days after he confirmed the successful upload, our property still isn't listed on the websites he'd promised". I'm puzzled by this, as it didn't strike me as a particularly inflammatory statement, merely an expression of concern. However, in the nicest possible way, I explained that I find it a little difficult to believe that his agency, which claims to specialise in maximising web-based techniques to sell houses, can sell my house if it isn't listing on the sites people use to find new houses. It seems I'm being a little unreasonable. Apparently, "the 'For Sale' board does all the work and the internet hasn't always been there you know". At this point, those of you who were paying attention will cast your minds back to the last blog entry....cul-de-sac? lack of passing traffic? Er, no, I struggle with that one a little too. Besides, in the days before the internet, didn't people use newspapers, and agency offices? (Neither of which he uses).

So then we move on to the next stage, where he very quickly suggests that he would be happy to tear up our contract, without enforcing the 14 day notice period. Seems reasonable to me, we'll go for that. Within the hour, the house disappears from his website, never to be seen again. That's very accommodating, at least I'm now free to list with "one of the other numpties that are out there" (his description of the conventional estate agents that seem to do revolutionary things like....list your house on the major property websites in the UK!)

Sadly, what also disappears with the listing on his website is the progress log that shows that he has uploaded our house three times on to a certain national website. Good job I thought to print off the progress log before making the phonecall that ultimately led to our house being deleted from his records. You never know when that information might be well as the letter accompanying the contract, which clearly states the websites he claims to list on.

Never before has the chilled bottle of white wine waiting in the fridge been more welcome

Ka ora! Ka ora!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Day why am I here?

So, why am I here then? Not in the Biblical sense of course, but why have I suddenly decided to write a blog? Well, back in August, I landed a couple of opportunities to ship the family out to New Zealand. Not on their own you understand, I'd be going with it seemed like a good idea to tell them.

They all took it fairly well, although the 4 year old is convinced it's a holiday. Technically, I suppose she's right, and who am I to mess with the mind of a four year old? Mind you, I'm not sure she can come to grips with why strangers are tramping around the house from time to time, looking in her bedroom.

Anyway, things have moved on apace now and we are off in January. It therefore seemed a good idea to start documenting the trials and tribulations that would invariably come along as we go through the process - selling the house, shipping our possession, making a 27 hour plane journey, turning up in a new country on the other side of the world, with no home, no car and not a lot else.......

So I guess the starting point is selling the house - what a nightmare that is turning into. We turned up this estate agent who offered what seemed to be a good proposition - a new way of selling houses, based predominantly on using the main property portals on the internet. For some reason, our property still isn't listed on the internet, some three days after it should be, but that's just a minor distraction I'm sure..

I'm being told not to worry, because we have a 'For Sale' sign up in the garden.....but I'm not sure I can get my head around that concept - we live in a cul-de-sac where the only passing traffic is a mixture of kids on skateboards and geriatrics out perambulating to make sure their plastic hips don't seize up. Obviously we get a few more people going past at weekends, but I'm not sure your average lager-bloated, pill popping chav is going to take much interest other than to sling his ale can in the garden and spit onto the kerbside. (Not that it's not a nice area - if any of you are interested in a four bedroomed, semi detached, it's a lovely area!)

Anyway, Mrs Chipshaker tells me I have to look on the bright side, because it will all come good in the end. So on that note, I was heartened to see that my 10 year old had been doing the homework I set him, and had memorised the first four lines of the Ka Mate Haka, complete with rather dubious movements and facial expressions (although I'm puzzled as to why he seems obsessed with the bit where you pass your hand backwards and forwards in front of your groin). He seems to be getting quite good at it too. He gave his four year old sister a demonstration yesterday and managed to get her to run away in floods of tears after one particularly effective rictus. Funny though, I never realised farting was an integral part of the performance......

Ka mate! Ka mate!