There’s me, and two dogs, Louie aka Monster, and Kala Littledog, no goats or chickens any more, all on three and a half hectares of native bush. Both daughters have left home, and the eldest has already delivered two awesomely energetic grand-twins (now 14 years old!!)….
We live under the shadow of three active volcanoes (yes, really!!) which give the house the odd shake from time to time (ironically, when we moved moved here in 2004, we decided that if the Mountain played up, then we’d move to Christchurch because ‘nothing ever happens there‘), but we’re well upwind from the prevailing pyroclastic tanty ash clouds.
Our home is just below the snow line and surrounded by the scenic bush beauty of the Central Plateau, within cooee of the 8th Engineering Wonder of the World, the Raurimu Railway Spiral…at night, the headlight on the trains lights up the main bedroom (kick-butt lights as they are some two kilometres away!)
Our land here is relatively extensive (a little more than the traditional 1/4 acre section) but overgrown with toitoi, blackberry and other parasites. Over the last few years we have pushed these weeds back to let the native bush regenerate and also to have some space for gardens and walking through the bush. There’s a track down to the mountain stream that forms the eastern boundary and someday will have a picnic area by the water. An immediate result of clearing the toitoi and vines around the Lodge has been the return of the native birds and we have a growing population of kereru, tui and others…
Edit 2019. Following the unpleasantness with ANZ New Zealand, we rented in National Park Village while we looked for the perfect property to buy or build on. That programme was accelerated when our rental property sold in six days not the expected six months. Fortunately we were able to buy a vacant property in Owhango and that’s where we are now. Not quite the same views but only a short walk from Tongaririo Forest park and the Whakapapa River on one side and the Kakahi Stream on the western side.
I was brought up in Oamaru on the east coast of the South Island and attended Oamaru North School and St Kevin’s College. I had always wanted to join the Air Force but, after learning that my eyes were not good enough to fly, didn’t see the point. The Army leapt into that breach and encouraged me to finish high school so I could attend the Defence College at Duntroon (Australian, not North Otago, version) but things didn’t quite work out that way.
Early in 7th Form (Year 12), I thought that having a job and money was way more important that 17th Century England, algebra and studying the flood patterns of the Waitaki River. I left school around Easter 1981 and spent a couple of years in a local fibreglass factory. In 1983, I started an apprenticeship as a Telecom lineman in Invercargill, which also introduced me to the local Territorial unit. From there, it was but a short leap back to the Army which became a full time career at the beginning of 1986. From there, I’ve had a very broad range of roles, responsibilities and challenges and seen a good chunk of the world.
After retiring from the Army at the end of 2009, I spent a few months studying and working around home. That was a great break but, after six months, I was starting to go a bit feral so I happily took up a role with the RNZAF (finally!) as the National Programme Manager for the Air and Space Interoperability Council (ASIC). That ended at the end of 2012 although I continued my Force Application (the cooler side of launching weapons from aircraft) and NATO engagements for another year. 2013 was my last year at Massey University, culminating with the co-development and delivery of its inaugural Irregular Warfare paper. I also potter around in areas like unmanned aircraft which occasionally manifest themselves in the blog…
At the end of 2013, I took a casual job in Tongariro National Park, thinking it would be nice to spend a summer being paid to wander around the Park. To my own immense surprise – never really considering myself a ‘people’ person – I loved working there and that was the start of my journey with the Tongariro community. The other big surprise for me was how much of the COIN concepts I had been working with for the military translated across to conservation, albeit without quite so many loud noises or helicopter gunships!
In 2016, I completed the Pre Hospital Emergency Care course, joined the local volunteer fire brigade and successfully ran for the local community board: each offers new challenges and steep learning curves but I love learning new skills and applying existing ones in new environments: who would have thought all those night time patrols in the jungle or hours duck-walking around the gym would be great preparation for wearing breathing apparatus in a smoke-filled room or rolling hoses…? Transferable skills indeed…!
Then one night, I walked into our local pub – it was busy as, and a friend behind the counter asked if I knew anyone who might want to work there…”yeah…me” Which is how I go to where I am today…I loving working with the people who come in, locals and visitors and it’s great having most of my days to do other stuff before work in the evening. A few months later, a local guiding company asked me to lend a hand and that got me out and about in the Park again…all smiles here…
I’ve always had an interest in history, and if I hadn’t got busy with real world stuff, might have developed more professionally in that direction…it also would have helped if Waikato hadn’t folded its extramural Defence Studies masters programme in the mid-90s…in fact, it’s quite likely my interest would have faded away if I hadn’t picked up a doctrine-related job in 2004 which got me thinking in a more intellectual manner again, spurred along by both very tolerant and persistent mentors, and osmotic absorption of many of the concepts and material that crossed my desk . Starting to engage in discussion on these topics in international forums was a massive confidence booster (…or created a monster, depending on your point of view!) and my involvement in the Interbella project took me to a whole new level…
My interests are pretty diverse but I’m starting to slow down a bit now – I’m well over travel overseas and preference now is to spend more time pottering around home (Lord knows, there is enough to do!!). I used to be right into computer games but have trouble finding the time now + I also find most modern games more bling than style and tend to favour the old DOS games like Megafortress, SWOTL, Tornado etc (Dosbox, GoG.com and D-Fend rock). Summa-summa for modelling, so many of the new kits now are so complex and trying to be shake’n’bake, my favs are still the old Renwal, Aurora, Revell, FROG etc models from the ’50s and ’60s…
More and more I have been drawn into the art of paper models: the creation of a detailed 3D model from 2D sheets of paper and card fascinates me…I enjoy cooking and DIY but make absolutely no claim to any skill in either area but still like to dabble at the lower end of the scale. I love to read and my treat when we moved here was being allowed to convert a bedroom to a permanent study with a floor to ceiling library…
As long as I can wangle it, I’ll avoid the big smoke and continue to live and work from this scenic paradise…
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Nice read Simon – always a pleasure to read a little about the real person and not the person we think we know in uniform aye. Take care mate. Niz:)
Aaaaahh…yes…the Godzy motivation factor in our case…
Came here from papermodelers.com… I have always envied people who live in NZ, it must be the most beautiful country in the world. I loved every bit of it when I visited it some years ago. I’d move there in an instant, if only there was a job for me… 🙂
Hi Matt…a couple of good sites to check out for jobs pre-emigration are seek.co.nz, http://www.trademe.co.nz/jobs and jobs.govt.nz…
Our living room is walls of bookshelves from halfway up to the ceiling and boxes of “to be read” as well.
You need to fill the halfway down with shleves as well and get those books out of those boxes…!
Best “About” I’ve read on any blog. Coincidentally, my mum has lots of family in and around Oamaru, and we were both born in Dunedin. Thanks for all your interesting comments on my blog. Come back again soon!
Thanks, always easy to write about my favourite topic!
I finally replied to one of your comments on my post about books that would make good movies. I would have tweeted it to you, but I wasn’t sure if you’re on Twitter. I’m @tericee if you’d like to set me straight.