Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Friday, September 4, 2015

Scam Savvy Seminar

This sounded like a good idea – so we went along to see what it was all about.  The seminar was held locally in historic Thompson House, which was built in 1922 as a doctor’s residence and surgery for Dr John Gow and his wife Maysie, also a doctor.  Dr Gow retired early due to ill health,  and Dr Jim Thompson took over the practice and bought the house, living there from 1926 until he passed away in 1973.  The property was then purchased by the Levin Borough Council in 1974 and is used by various groups in the community for meetings.  Several volunteers were busy tending to the large garden when we arrived for our meeting.

P9020003 Historic Thompson House

The Scam Savvy Seminar was run by Bank of New Zealand staff members, including a couple of members from their Fraud Investigation Branch.  Scams come thick and fast in several forms, by e-mail, post, telephone, over the internet and door to door.  Scammers promise great prizes, easy money and even true love. But before they deliver anything, they will ask for money to be sent, or bank account and credit card numbers to be provided.  The aim is to steal money and personal details. 

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The speaker gave us one example after another how their bank customers have fallen for various scams and lost money to various scams.  Sadly, it seems that the elderly seem particularly vulnerable, probably because they are more trusting and believe what they are told.  It was interesting to learn that the BNZ have a dedicated Fraud Investigation Branch which work 24/7, so presumably the other banks have similar teams.  There are a whole lot of baddies out there in the big wide world, and the scammers are well versed in using the latest technology to do their work.  Like the police, the fraud teams seem to be playing catch-up with the crooks, and lagging one step behind. 

It was a very interesting seminar, and we got to check out some counterfeit bank notes – it’s hard to tell the difference at a glance.  So perhaps it is just as well that the  Reserve Bank has just announced that new bank notes will shortly be in circulation.  New security features include a colour-changing bird, a holographic window and a puzzle number - coloured irregular shapes on the front and the back, which combine like puzzle pieces to show the note's denomination.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lord of the Dance - Dangerous Games

Based on Irish folklore, Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is a classic tale of Good versus Evil, expressed through the universal language of dance. The story is of the Little Spirit who helps the Lord of the Dance protect his people from the evil threat of Don Dorcha, the Dark Lord.  His aim is to rule the world and take the title, and the jewelled belt,  of Lord of the Dance for himself.  St James Theatre in Wellington was packed full of people keen and eager to enjoy the best of Irish dancing.
 
P8300055 St James Theatre, Courtney Place, Wellington

We had managed to secure excellent seats in the Circle, and waited, full of anticipation, as patrons filed into the theatre, looking for their seats.  I took a quick snap of the stage before the show started.  Then a disembodied voice requested that everyone put their phones and cameras away, as the show was about to start.  It was pleasing to note that everyone heeded the request, and not a single camera or cell phone flash disrupted the whole performance.

P8300062 Looking down onto the stage

Who needs movable stage backdrops when you can have fantastic back projection these days.  And it is all done by “Holo-Gauze”, a 3D display solution.  The show started with a giant clock ticking down the minutes, before exploding, and being replaced by a giant evil head with glowing red eyes – surely the embodiment of the evil which is coming to terrorize the world.  The backdrop changes to waterfalls, butterflies, unicorns frolicking in green pastures, pretty girls start dancing, and we can see that all is fine with the world and the evil ones have not yet arrived.  But arrive they do – a band of black clad warriors looking for all the world like aliens from outer space, intent on causing chaos and destruction, and the backdrop changes to burning forests, fire and brimstone.

One memorable moment was when the troupe of pretty girls were dancing clad in their Irish costumes, and the Evil Lord’s girlfriend arrived on the scene to mock their very proper dancing – her own dance was full of sexy moves and innuendo.  The theatre gave a collective gasp when the girls whipped off their costumes, and danced  a spirited dance clad in their black underwear.  Take that – bad girl!

The fight between the two sides took place with much posturing and high energy tap dancing duels – wonderful to watch.  We watched in awe, wondering just how they could move their feet and legs so fast! And I must admit, I had never seen baddies going push-ups on stage before – trying to intimidate with their power, I presume.

Image result for lord of the dance dangerous games castFace off between good and evil

The two young violinists were excellent, full of energy as they strutted their stuff around the stage, playing their hypnotic tunes.

Image result for lord of the dance dangerous games castDuelling violins

The Lord of the Dance looses his belt to the Dark Lord, and all seems lost.  But good always triumphs over evil, and the Dark Lord was finally vanquished, thank goodness.  The grand finale was a wonderful tap dance of the whole cast, which drew hoots and hollers from the crowd.  More please!  And they repeated it all again for us.  The cast left the stage, no doubt to have a little sit down and take off their shoes, I expect.  Then the show finished with a  dance battle featuring a holographic triptych of Michael Flatley on the screen.  He may well be older, but his feet can certainly move with the best of them.

Though the girls dancing in their soft shoes was very pretty, it was the raw noisy hypnotic  speed of the  tap dancing which got the blood flowing and the heart beating.  It was easy to get caught up it it all -  I may well have Scots blood in my veins, but perhaps I’ve got a little Irish blood too?   Yes, we loved it, what a wonderful show!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Family Time at Palmerston North

It was daughter Nicky’s BIG 50th Birthday and we gathered for lunch at the very poshly named Orlando Country Club.   As well as a cafe and function centre, (just the place for weddings, we were told) it also runs a golf driving range.

P8280032 Orlando Country Club

The interior was rather like stepping into a giant barn, a timber lover’s dream of exposed rafters and we were surrounded with the golden hues of natural timber. 

P8280033Orlando’s Cafe

And here is the birthday girl herself, showing the elaborate fold out card given to her by her Dad.  She can’t really be 50, surely?  Where have all those years gone?

P8280038  My little girl Nicky

It was a small family gathering, guest of honour Nicky, her hubby Robert, and grand-daughter Emma.  Robin and I of course, and Nicky’s Dad Barton with wife Daphne.  And last but not least, Nicky’s dear friend Heather.  Our meals were huge, but that didn’t stop most of us ordering a big squishy piece of cake from the cabinet.  And why not – it was a birthday party, after all.  There was plenty to talk about, and fun times remembered.  I had organised one of those “photo books” online and it was great to see Nicky’s face as she flicked through the pages looking at all the long forgotten photos from years gone by.  Especially the one of her with her and her class mates all dressed up as trees for a school play.

P8280034 Heather and Nicky looking through the photo book

And then there was the birthday quilt to admire.  Nicky had requested a new quilt in greens and pinks, and was getting a little anxious that it wouldn’t be ready in time.  But Mum’s do their very best to oblige, and although I was stitching the label on the back the previous day, it was all wrapped and ready for the big day.

P8280037 Nicky admiring her new quilt

P8280042 Three generations, g-daughter Emma (I don’t like photos so I’m not going to smile), Nicky and Jenny

After a long lunch we all went our separate ways, with Nicky and Heather continuing with their day of indulgence as they went off to have a massage each.  From the car park we could see the wind turbines away in the distance going about their business as they produced power for the grid. 

P8280045 Wind turbines

Driving back home it was evident that Spring had sprung with lots of new lambs in the paddocks.  There must be something in the water as twin lambs seemed to be in abundance.   There they go, wagging their tails behind them!

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lovely Spring Day

It’s been a lovely Spring day today, and looking out over our back fence there is not a hint of snow to be seen.  Just clear blue skies with the jagged peaks of the ranges looking a little hazy in the distance.  Now that a couple of trees have been removed from the beautification strip along the busy road behind us, we now have a clear view of the ranges from our property.

P8270011 Our view over the back fence

Our New Zealand flag has been fluttering in the light breeze.  There are plans afoot to change the design of our flag with plenty of debate for and against.  With the Australian and New Zealand flags being so similar in colour and design, our flag is often mistaken for the Australian one – by those who can’t spot the difference.  The “will we – won’t we” debate will be decided by not one but two National referendums. 

P8270018 Flying the flag at home

We have a few cheery yellow daffodils in flower, and these pretty primulas are making an appearance now it is so much warmer.  Spring has arrived – roll on Summer!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

A Fall from Grace at Paekakariki

Oh dear – just look at that nose!  Poor old Selwyn took a tumble as he was on his way to the ablution block in the dark and fell off a ledge.  Crack – right down onto his nose, and his knee didn’t fare too well either.  But with a whole lot of TLC, a few painkillers, and tucked up in his cosy bed overnight, he had recovered enough to laugh about it the next morning.  It could have been much worse, with a broken ankle perhaps, but we won’t even think about that.

P8220023 Shaken – but not too stirred up after his fall from grace

The good weather continued all weekend and it is always so nice to be able to sit together outside in the sunshine.  Our Rally family, Geoff and Eileen, had set us the task of a “do it yourself quiz” over the weekend.  Each couple had to compile a short list of 5 general knowledge questions, and we had to go from van to van to get the questions, and hopefully write down the answers.  Some questions were decidedly more difficult than others.  But you know how it goes -  if you know the answer, the question is easy, if you don’t know the answer, it is too hard.  Barry and Diane were the clear winners. 

It was announced at Sunday Morning Tea that we were having our own version of the “Chocolate Éclair Rally”, and a plate of mini éclairs were handed round.  Several of us had planned to attend the original Chocolate Éclair Rally in Ohakune last month, but due to bad weather and road closures this rally was deferred a month, but the new date clashed with other commitments.  Thank you, Geoff and Eileen – since we couldn’t get to that rally, the chocolate éclairs came to us!

P8230033 Chocolate Éclairs for morning tea

Paekakariki Holiday Park where we were staying is set in 11 acres of rolling grounds with beautiful mature trees, and is a bird lover’s paradise.  Many bird varieties kept us enthralled and entertained over the weekend.  Large groups of Californian Quails appeared in the late afternoon feeding on the grass in front of our caravans – their head plumes bobbing away as they busily pecked away, feeding on the grass and any insects they might find.  I crept up towards them with my camera, only to frighten them away.  They took to the wing and flew away to hide from sight in a large tree.

P8210006 Californian Quail

Some pretty little Goldfinches came calling too.  These are rather attractive birds with their black and tan faces, and bright yellow wing stripes.  They joined in with  the quail on their late afternoon feeding expeditions.  Sorry for the poor quality photo, but I had to hurriedly snap them before they flew away.  We do not see these birds in our garden at home, so it was lovely to spot them at Paekakariki.

P8220024 Two Goldfinches

We sat and watched a large Kereru (New Zealand Pigeon) high up in the trees.  These heavy birds are rather clumsy on the wing, and crash about from branch to branch.  Believe it or not - they have been known to gorge themselves on fermented berries and get drunk! Then we saw a Starling perched up high on a bare branch, with the sun shining off the iridescent feathers.  Starlings were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s and have successfully made themselves at home here in this country.

P8230035 Starling perched on high was watching us having morning tea

We practically had the whole camp to ourselves, but once the summer holidays roll around, families arrive with their tents and caravans and to enjoy fun times at the nearby beach.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rally Weekend at Paekakariki

We were the last to arrive at Paekakariki Camp on Friday afternoon, despite being 20km closer to our destination because we had stayed overnight at Otaki.  Robin was busy all day attending a refresher driver’s course with other volunteer drivers from the Cancer Society – that’s our excuse anyway.  There was a bit of discussion on what particular site we would take – camping too close to large trees means that the TV will not pick up a signal from the satellite.  Eventually we were in place in a more open area, and with the help of a long lead were soon plugged into the power box. 

P8220008 All parked up at Paekakariki

Saturday morning was warm enough to sit outside in the wintry sunshine for Morning Tea.  Then we took a quick trip down to the thriving metropolis of Paekakariki to purchase a few necessities.  Most of the shops are of the vintage variety including the grocery store with it's creaky wooden floor – our old friend Arkwright would not look out of place behind the counter at all.

P8220011   Paekakariki Shops

The unmistakable sound of a steam engine had us hurrying down to the station.  And sure enough, there she was, the Passchendaele engine herself, from Steam Incorporated, huffing and puffing in all her magnificent glory.  The day’s trip was from Paekakariki to Otaki and return, and as the train pulled away from the station, we waved back at all the happy day trippers.  There is certainly something quite magical about a steam engine, isn’t there?

P8220014 All aboard for a day of fun

We took the sea view drive back to camp along The Parade to check out the beach.  The tide was right in at there wasn’t a great deal of sand available for a beach walk.  But we got a good view of Kapiti Island, which is about 5k off the coastline.

P8220019 Kapiti Island from Paekakariki Beach

The rest of the day was spent with our caravan buddies in camp, and then we pooled cars and drove back down to the village for an evening meal at Finn’s Restaurant and Bar

P8220010Finn’s Restaurant and Bar

The twelve of us sat around the large table, and we pondered the options for dinner.  Decisions made, the friendly young waitress took our orders, and  the chefs got busy in the kitchen.  They did very well, as the meals all came out together – and they were huge!  Choices made were burgers, fish and chips, pork belly, and sticky pork ribs.

P8220030 Caravan Club members ready to eat

P8220032Pork belly for me, and a large platter of ribs for Robin – both equally delicious

Friday, August 21, 2015

Over-nighting in Rural Otaki

As we pulled the caravan into the driveway at rural Otaki, it was rather like a moment of déjà-vue.  We had previously stayed at this property (in the caravan)  for 3 months while we waited for our new home to be built.  With cow paddocks on one side, and a commercial rhubarb growing enterprise on the other, it really does seem to be in the heart of rural farm life.  But in reality, it is only a a couple of minutes drive to the Otaki shops on SH1.

P8200002 Late afternoon in Otaki

We were heading south for a weekend caravan club rally at a little further along SH1 at Paekakariki, and had planned to go a day early – just because we could.  Instead, said Geoff and Eileen, why not stay the night here?  So we did, thanks very much.  The weather is glorious, lovely blue skies and nice and warm – perhaps Spring is not too far away?  Whatever the weather, it is always great to catch up with our caravan buddies, we are looking forward to a great weekend.