Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lunch with cicadas

Today's LDL cholesterol-avoidance lunch

Following the sad and untimely death of an employee last year, my employer has recently taken a number of steps to support employees more in terms of lifestyle, health care and insurance provision. The onsite caterers provide a good variety of meal choices (though they still cater for those Kiwis who love their stodge and cakes), the company has introduced death/disablement in service cover and now are providing wellness clinic health checks. At 0800hrs last Monday and having fasted since 0400hrs (not including the obligatory morning cup of tea), I went before the 'company nurse'. After a chat to see if I was telling porkies in my health questionnaire, she measured and tested and prodded and drew blood.

The results are interesting and not unrelated to our emigration, hence baring my soul here. Whilst lugging 22 suitcases half way round the world might have stretched my arms and played havoc with my RSI, it didn't compact my vertebrae because I remain 184cms tall. Sadly, the same cannot be said of my weight which has crept up by 2kgs to 87kgs since we left the UK in September of last year. The lack of routine, the increase in take-away food and the generally unsettled life of living in temporary accomodation and travelling for interviews certainly took it's toll on my diet and the amount of exercise. These two measurements were used to calculate my Body Mass Index (BMI) by squaring my height then dividing my weight by the height squared or, for those that want the lowdown, 87 / 3.38 = 25.73. In general terms and ignoring the all-important family health history and lifestyle considerations that should always be taken into account, most folk's BMI should be between 20-25. By exercising less (laziness through lack of routine) and eating more (easy to do in New Zealand), I have let a two kilogram increase in my weight nudge my BMI from just inside (24.81) to a little too far (25.73) outside the healthy range.

My resting pulse rate, at 64 beats/min, is well within the ideal band for my age and indicates that running at lunchtimes and in the forest at weekends over the last month or so has helped me regain some aerobic fitness. Furthermore, I can use this information to better inform myself as to how hard to push myself when out training by calculating . Using my resting pulse rate, I have calculated my minimum and maximum training heart rates (i.e. 60-90% of my maximum heart rate) as 106 and 142 beats/min respectively, which will help me train more effectively. Likewise, my blood pressure is pretty good at 125/80mmHg against the quoted national ideal of 130/80mmHg though, with 1 in 5 Kiwis suffering some form of hypertension, I'm aiming for an optimal of 120/80mmHg.

With a low 'estimated heart event risk' score (a murmur-inducing phrase if ever there was one), my main target is getting my LDL cholesterol down. Like my Dad, I like a bit of cheese with brown bread and butter most days but I suspect that my main downfall has been a few too many take-aways and lack of portion control with my own home cooking. My alcohol consumption is pretty fair considering our home is amongst vineyards and wineries, not to mention the boutique brewery down the road. I think, all in all, I am very happy with my wellness check. Already being aware that I'm still getting back into my regular routine and that I have some way to go yet, the 'no worries but keep a watching brief' result from the nurse is as good as I could hope for I think. All the above is a very long-winded explanation for the low cholesterol lunch you see above, which I have been munching whilst writing and listening to the sound of the chirruping cicadas in the grass and trees beyond my window. These noisy creatures seem to be celebrating an all too brief gap in the rainclouds now sweeping in from the West after two days of stormy North Easterlies.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And they say it rains in England

Widespread heavy rain can be expected through to this evening [...] 50 to 80mm of rain is possible,especially about the hills north of the City [...] STRONG WIND WARNING AUCKLAND: Northeast winds are expected to rise to gale this morning, with possible severe gale gusts of 120 km/h in exposed places between 11am and 8pm today.

They are not wrong. Having bailed from work early die to ill-health brought on by budget forecasting, I was hoping to get home early. I hadn't factored in the four-car smash on the North Western motorway that required me to spend another hour stop-starting through Auckland in an effort to make my way home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lining up the second hurdle

I can hardly believe it myself. About 30 minutes ago, I willingly and without menaces, voluntarily read out my credit card details to SWMBO, who was seated at the family PC. That said, this was not your common or garden run of the mill internet shopping session but more of your landmark fingers crossed and hope for the best moment.

We have just coughed up $300 dollars in order to submit our Expression Of Interest to the New Zealand Immigration Service. If you follow the link, you will see that this process is not for the faint-hearted, the poor or the ill-prepared. If you are not up for being honest, spending many hours doing research, even more collating documentation and then having every aspect of your very being scrutinised, then emigration is probably not for you. It will test the strength of your marriage just as much as your resolve, it will provide opportunity for self-doubt at every turn, it will rob you of the time to enjoy your new surroundings and it will cause you to question just why you wanted to embark upon the journey in the first place. What is more, this is just the process to signal your desire to remain resident. We now must wait to hear whether I am selected from a bi-weekly draw from the pool of applicants, with the likelihood of success inexorably linked to the number of points attributed to one's skills, qualifications and experience. If you have significant experience but no degree (like me) and you only just make the minimum number of points required to express interest, this could be the start of a long drawn out cycle of six-monthly submissions (with the attendant fee, of course) and bi-weekly draws. Whilst I am usually the half-full foil to the half-empty SWMBO, I am not holding my breath in this instance. New Zealand quite rightly attracts a lot of bright and highly qualified folks and I do not expect to have the same luck I had with the extraordinarily quick turnaround of my work permit application.

Having anaesthetised myself with half a bottle of our neighbours Pinot Noir, I am now off to bed. I will leave you with a mildly humourous but true work story. Next week, I shall be heading off to my first overnight business trip in my new position, on a two day management strategy and team building session with my peers. I scanned the email for the venue details, lobbed them into the NZ equivalent of Google Maps and, lo and behold, it is exactly 5.7kms from my home. I can't decide if this is good (short drive home afterwards) or bad (was hoping for Pacific island resort).

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Easy like Sunday morning

Our Sunday mornings are beginning to take on a semblance of normality, or at least what passed for normality before we decided to up stick and moved to the other side of the world. This means that SWMBO and the sprogs head off for church and I take the opportunity to try and get a couple of hours quiet writing under my belt. Sadly, the theory is great but, in actuality, what happens is that I invariably get diverted by email or checking out an interesting web site and before I know it, the family are back and baying for lunch. Another diversion has been my frankly pathetic attempts to settle back into running every other day, a simple enough programme but one which I have yet to accomplish. Compounded by a back strain earlier this week, my current sweat-drenched efforts are woefully inadequate considering that, in just four weeks time, I shall be taking part in an 18 hour, 160 kilometre relay race around Lake Taupo. All of which is my way of recording that I am finding it hard to get back into writing regularly and have found procrastination all too easy to embrace, even when I have house to myself and peace and quiet reign throughout. Not content with finding reasons and excuses for not being able to write here right now, I have also resumed my more geekish jottings over on my long-standing blog bignoseduglyguy, where I can get a shameless instant gratification fix by posting short and snappy comments rather than the longer, more considered pieces I have been posting here.

Teacher's Note: Must try harder.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

An after dinner walk

This picture, taken a few hours back, exemplifies why we came to New Zealand. Halfway through supper, we simply decided to go for a walk on the beach instead of doing chores or watching the television. Thirty minutes later, we were wandering barefoot on the black volcanic sand, watching the sun slide from the sky whilst the Tasman washed around our ankles.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Run, forest, run

This track and the forest beyond has become a regular haunt for me over the last week or so.

Whilst I was running regularly back in London, I have lapsed severely since leaving the UK and have managed just one run each in Los Angeles, Rarotonga and Foxton. As we are now more settled and I'm no longer tearing around chasing interviews, I have started to get back into the groove. Thanks to the endless takeaways and a little too much beer and wine in this land of plenty, I guess that I am about about 5kg heavier than I was when I was in London. Add to this the usual Christmas and New Year festivities and you'll appreciate that it is proving to be something of a hard slog. However, I am now able to run amongst the tall firs of the local forests, swapping the pavements, car horns and fumes of London's East End for the birdsong, chirruping cicadas and pine scent of Riverhead. The difference is incredible, allowing me to enjoy the experience and focus on my running rather than watching traffic or teenage gangs out to hassle the unwary.

All this is just as well because, somehow in amongst all the frantic activity of starting my new job, I have managed to sign up for at least one leg of the Great Lake Relay 06. The thought of driving down country in six week's time with a bunch of colleagues to spend the night running 160kms round the country's biggest lake has had a certain sobering effect, I can tell you.