GETTING THE KIDS OFF TO SCHOOL
SGT Ian Sharp is looking forward to getting his two boys, 13 year old Alex and 9 year old Andrew packed off to school before he can feel completely at home in his adopted country. ‘We took them out of school in the UK in the last week of October so it’s been a while since they’ve had that sort of structured routine. It’ll be good when they start to make friends and play sport and won’t be under my wife Christina’s feet. ‘
SGT Sharp arrived on 18 November 2005 along with two RAF mates SGT Paul Chadwick and CPL Robin Illingworth. The IT expert used to look after IT systems at Bentley Priory (the famous base for Fighter Squadron control during the Battle of Britain) in North West London but is now working for OCIF and is responsible for IT training within Base Auckland.
He says arriving just before Christmas was a bit frantic. He’d just settled into work and it was time for the Christmas closedown. It’s better now that people have come back from holidays so I can get on with routines and scheduling training.
For Christmas Day he, Paul, Robin and their families had the novelty of a b-b-que on the beach at Muriwai. ‘We phoned the people at home and it was surreal – it was snowing there. We’d been sitting on a white sandy beach and they’d had a white Christmas.’
While he’s currently in Base married quarters he says he and Christina are 99% sure they will eventually settle somewhere on the North Shore. It’s not too far to commute and we’d like to find somewhere near the beach. The boys are both good swimmers.
He says he is surprised how little impact the UK has on New Zealand. It hardly rates a mention in the news. The communication link is very good. When we ring our parents the line’s so clear you’d swear you were talking to someone in the next village.
As a keen football (the round variety) fan the only thing he’s missing is the football coverage. We haven’t got Sky installed so on a Sunday morning I’m up about 5am listening to the radio’s World Service for the results. His team second division Hull City (the ‘Tigers’) languishes at number 18 on the table.
‘GRAB THE OPPORTUNITY’
SQNLDR Stewart Watson’s advice to any serving or former RAF personnel offered a position with the RNZAF under its UK Recruitment project is to grab the opportunity with both hands and come to New Zealand. ‘Life i s n ’ t a r e h e a r s a l a n d t h e r e ’ s a l w a y s t h e o p t i o n o f g o i n g b a c k i f y o u d o n ’ like it,’ he says. t
Formerly stationed at the RAF’s Boscombe Down RAF Test and Evalu- ation Centre SQNLDR Watson says he has no regrets whatsoever about taking up his new job with the RNZAF’s P-3K2 Wellington-based project team. In his old job he was testing and evaluating new technology and aircraft upgrades so the new position isn’t too far removed from what he was doing before. He had already officially left the RAF and was working as a civilian so he was able to move to New Zealand soon after being offered the position.
He was also one of the first to sign on and arrived in New Zealand on 3 October 2005 with his family. The big difference is that New Zealand’s smaller Defence Force size means a greater emphasis on the individual with more scope to develop his initiative. He still works as part of a strong team but feels his voice, opinion and value is less likely to be lost in the smaller kiwi set up. ‘There’s a lot more freedom to operate which is neces- sary in the job I’m doing. The UK and especially the RAF had become too impersonal. You were just another cog in a huge machine,’ he says.
There was also the attraction of raising his family in a more secure and benign environment. For sure there’s crime in New Zealand, just as there is everywhere but it’s still better here.
And he hasn’t wasted time settling in. He’s bought a house in Para- paraumu on the sunny Kapiti Coast north of Wellington and joined the ranks of daily commuters who take the train to work. The house is a style and size he simply couldn’t afford back in the UK.
HAPPY FAMILY: Gemma (10), Shona, Stewart and Bethany (7) in their new home at Paraparaumu.
One of the big differences between New Zealand and the UK says SQNLDR Watson is the openness of people. ‘People in the UK tend to keep to themselves but there isn’t the same cynicism of people’s motives here. It’s much more egalitarian. For example soon after we’d arrived we were introduced to various Air Force personnel. I was most impressed to see the DCAF taking the time to chat with my seven-year old daughter. That simply wouldn’t happen in the UK. Even the Air Force driver who picked us up the airport was friendly and welcoming.’
A natural adventurer he’s begun exploring the countryside north of Wellington and roamed the back roads of Taranaki during the Christmas holidays. ‘We often used to travel to Europe on tramping trips but there’s plenty to discover on your own doorstep here,’ he says. He lists his inter- ests as playing ‘bad’ golf and taking his family on long beach walks. His wife, Shona, is happy to be a full-time mother and plans to be involved in their daughters’ (Gemma,10 and Bethany,7) education as a school volunteer before considering a return to the workforce.
And as for missing friends and family he says today’s technology – the Internet and phone systems – allows him and his wife to keep in touch. ‘We use Sky-P which allows us to communicate by voice over an IP and the 12 hour time difference is no big deal. In fact we have more contact with some people than we ever did.’
His only other bit of advice is to bring as many of your electrical goods as you can fit into a container. ‘They can be a bit expensive here so pack whatever you can and come.’
AFN67 FEBRUARY 06