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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Signs of Spring

It was “Spring Forward”  on Sunday, reminding us that Daylight Saving time had arrived, and to turn the clocks forward one hour.  Robin is in charge of this job, although we haven’t a huge number of clocks.  Mustn’t forget to change the clock on the stove, and the cars too.  The evenings will start to lengthen, and it is almost time to start thinking of barbecues. 

Blossoms cover two large trees over our back fence.  Our end of the village backs on to a very busy road and the there is a long line of trees planted which act as a buffer to the road noise.  It doesn’t seem too long ago when the trees were quite bare.  In a matter of days baby green leaves appeared, quickly followed by the white flowers.

P9290001  Trees in flower – a sign of Spring

The snow cover on the Tararua Ranges is glistening in the sunshine – so pretty.  A few neighbours were out and about enjoying sunshine too as I snapped a photo.

P9290007 A little snow in the sunshine

Our New Zealand flag is flapping in the breeze, and everything is fine in our little part of paradise.  That’s not to say that Winter has finished with us yet – there could still more bad weather on the way just to teach us not to get too complacent.  We will deal with that if and when it happens, and just enjoy today’s good weather.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What – no Trains?

Our “big day out” plans to  travel into the big city onboard a bright yellow train was derailed.  Buses were replacing trains on all the rail lines to allow for necessary track maintenance to be done, we were informed.  What a shame, travelling by bus has none of the romance of rail travel.  We were joined by Geoff at Waikanae and we climbed aboard with a bus load of other disappointed customers, who wanted to go by train as well.  The bus was the same colour as the train, and we got to travel free, courtesy of our Gold Cards.

P9270051 Buses replace trains

Our trip to Wellington was two-fold.  I wanted to visit a quilt show at Shed 11 along the Wellington Waterfront, and the two blokes checked out hi-fi stores, and looked at new mobile phones, and whatever else took their fancy.

P9270052 Quilt show for her

We caught up by cell phone tag after a couple of missed calls and arranged to meet for lunch at the former BNZ Centre, now the State Insurance Building.   A trade dispute with the Boilermaker’s Union delayed it’s construction by a decade, with just the steel skeleton in place for all those years.   It remained the tallest building in New Zealand until 1986, and is currently the second tallest building in Wellington.   This building is still known as Darth Vader’s Pencil Box by Wellingtonians.

P9270093  Let’s do lunch

We met for lunch at the underground food hall.  Call me paranoid – but I like to check out where the exits are when I’m eating underground here, after all we are in Earthquake Central and you can’t be too careful, can you?  Geoff brushed aside my concerns, and said we probably wouldn’t make it out alive anyway!  The next decision was what to order for lunch?  Geoff didn’t fancy the Big Breakfast on offer, so it was two plates of Chinese for him and me and a Burger for Robin.

P9270094 Lunch time

It had been some years since Geoff had been for a ride on the Cable Car, so off we went, another free ride with our Gold Cards.  That’s one of the benefits of being an oldie!  This service runs every 10 minutes, one up and one down, so there is never much waiting.  It’s a great little ride, but old timers like Robin still hark back to the early days when passengers could sit on the outside seats of the carriage.  But not these days when Health and Safety is taken so seriously.

P9270096 All aboard

A couple of tunnels on our ride

It was just a short trip to the top and as we got out the cable car filled up again with those wanting to travel back down.  The new terminal which was still under construction on our last trip has now been completed, and offers great views and plenty of room for passengers to shelter from Wellington’s wind and rain.  It was officially opened in  February 2014 by the Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown.

P9270100 The new Kelburn Terminal

Just look at those views!  No wonder Wellington has been called “The Coolest Little Capitol in the World”.  Surrounded by the harbour and the hills, Wellington is small and compact and certainly a beautiful city.  Don’t know whether those two in the photo would be called “cool”, just a pair of fun loving Kiwis perhaps?

P9270101 Looking out over Wellington Harbour

P9270104 Time to board the cable car for our return journey

We caught a bus down to Wellington Station, and walked along Platform Nine where all the replacement buses were waiting.  Things were a bit more organised for our return trip back to Waikanae, and we were guided to a bus making an express trip, first stop Paekakariki.  That’s good, we won’t be pulling into each and every station all the way home.

Delivering Geoff safely home, we had been invited to join them for the evening meal.  Eileen had been busy all day in the kitchen and produced a veritable feast.  Toad in the Hole, now that’s very British.  According to Wikipedia, Toad in the Hole is a traditional British dish consisting of sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter, served with onion gravy. The origin of the name "Toad-in-the-Hole" is often disputed. Many suggestions are that the dish's resemblance to a toad sticking its head out of a hole provides the dish with its somewhat unusual name.  This tasty main course was followed by Sticky Date Pudding, so yummy.  What a great finish to a great day out.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Police Museum revisited

After learning all about wallpaper, and revived by a tasty lunch in one of the local cafes, our next visit was to the New Zealand Police Museum in Porirua.   It has been quite some years since our last visit and the museum displays have been updated.  A class of local schoolchildren were visiting and they sat enthralled as the officer showed how fingerprints were lifted for identification.

P9240018Entrance to the Police Museum

There was a whole wall of shifty looking characters and we wondered why  most had their hands on display.  The helpful officer in charge told us why.  These were people arrested in the early days of colonisation, well before fingerprinting had made an appearance.  The size and shape of a person’s hands remain constant, unlike hair and beards which can be easily changed to alter one’s appearance.  Luckily none of our group recognised a long lost great-great grandfather amongst these photos from the police files of long ago.

P9240040 The wall of shame

The Serious Crash Unit investigates and determines the cause of serious road crashes, and the car on display is a reminder of just how badly a trip can end up, especially when speed and alcohol is involved.  Crash investigators have a balancing act to work quickly to gather the evidence they need, and ensure that any road closures are kept as brief as possible.  The SCU investigators are highly trained, and are constantly evaluating new technology to ensure the most efficient tools and methods for gathering and recording evidence are used at crash scenes.  There has been a very interesting series about the SCU shown on TV recently, which showed the steps the officers take to gather evidence and reach their conclusions.

Serious Crash Unit investigation scene

The Dog Handlers are an important part of policing.  The use of police dogs in New Zealand has grown from a single fully-trained dog and some puppies brought over from England in 1956. It now has over 100 teams of patrol and detector dog teams. Many of the police dogs on duty have been born and bred at the Trentham Dog Training Centre, some have been gifted by the public and some purchased from breeders.  The dogs go through a strict assessment process before being accepted for training.  They must have a good temperament, be in excellent physical condition and show  a strong retrieval instinct.    Police dogs respond to more than 30,000 incidents each year. 

All police dog handlers are officers with about five years policing experience behind them before they join the Dog Unit.  All patrol dogs are German Shepherds and are mainly used to track and search for people.  Many of them are also trained for search and rescue work, victim recovery, and deployment with the Armed Offenders Squad.  Detector dogs include a variety of breeds including German Shepherds, Labradors, Springer Spaniels and cross breeds.  Detector dog teams are trained to detect narcotics, firearms, currency and explosives.  Sadly, many of these brave dogs have been killed in the line of duty.

P9240024 Police dogs and their handlers

Wonder if I have what it takes to make a good policewomen?  I donned a hat and a jacket, and clambered up onto a police motor bike to try it out.  Luckily the bike was firmly bolted onto a stand so I didn’t fall over.  The school kids were still in the museum and word soon got around – they rushed around the corner to see “Granny on the Bike”.  Oh dear, I think they found it funny.  Just as well they didn't see me trying get off again or they really would be laughing! 

P9240029 My new career?

P9240037A whole bunch of offensive weapons on display

The Policeman’s Prayer reads:  “Give me the unfailing courage at all times and under all conditions.  Let me look into the face of death with unblinking eyes and no sense of fear”.  The Memorial Wall at The Royal New Zealand Police College lists the names of fallen officers, commemorated annually on Police Remembrance Day. There is no doubt that this is a dangerous, challenging vocation, and all law abiding citizens thank them for their dedication.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

All about Wallpaper

Our monthly outings with our Super Leisure Group friends are always a bit of a mystery trip.  We are told when and where to assemble, and once all the noisy meeting and greeting has taken place, the first instructions for the day are given.  Yesterday Calvin arranged for our group to be given a tour through a wallpaper factory in Porirua.  None of us even knew that there was a wallpaper factory tucked away in the industrial area.  Now called Aspiring Walls, once our elderly brain cells were given a nudge, we could all remember locally manufactured Ashley Wallpapers from years ago.

P9240017 The tour started here

Once inside, we were given the very necessary Health and Safety talk, then split into two teams to look around the factory.  Large rolls of paper were fed into the huge machines and came out the other end as patterned wallpaper, after the automated processes had been applied.
P9240002 The process starts here

P9240003 Finishing up here

P9240004 Then cut into rolls and sealed

As one of the largest wallpaper manufacturing companies in the southern hemisphere and the only manufacturer in Australasia, Aspiring Walls currently employs around 75 staff, with many of them loyal and long term workers of many years.  The factory manufactures three key brands; Vision, Ashley and House of York.  All are sold in New Zealand and exported to Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Tahiti, Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.   With a turnover in excess of $220 million, the group employs around 600 people nationwide.   We were told that the company has the contract to supply wallpaper in rebuilding many of the damaged houses in Christchurch after the devastating earthquakes.

Many in our group could remember using Anagyplta wallpaper when decorating years ago.  For those who don’t know, Anagyplta is a plain, heavily embossed paper which was then painted over, giving a lovely texture.  We stopped to look at the embossing dies rolls used to manufacture this paper, and Jan recognised one of the designs that she had in a previous home.

P9240006 Embossing dies used for Anagyplta paper

Our tour took us around the vinyl area where great big pots of vinyl and colour were mixed.  Some of our group found the fumes a bit much in this area, and we quickly moved on.   Past the storage area full of huge rolls of paper, and various pots of glue and adhesives.  Then on to a wall full of further embossing dies and screens  used to put patterns and colour on the wallpaper.  There is a lot of money tied up in these metal cylinders, we were told.

Tour leader explaining how the colour is applied

It was a certainly  a very interesting morning.  Robin caused a bit of a stir when he admitted to the tour guide that he had never owned a house with wallpaper.   Our Lockwood home had interior timber walls and our new home has painted walls, which seems to be the norm these days.  The receptionist stepped in to take a photo or two of our group and the two tour guides.   By this stage we were all ready for a hot  drink and a sit down to rest our weary legs, let’s do lunch.


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Ukulele Ladies of Levin

The hall was full for our monthly “60s Up” meeting today.  After the usual announcements and the raffle draw (the story of our lives - unlucky again)  the names of members celebrating a birthday this month were called out, Robin included.   All the birthday people received a scratchy ticket as a token gift, but try as he might, he couldn’t uncover the winning formula.  Members celebrating their 80th birthday are especially honoured, and one lady was presented with some lovely flowers at the meeting.

Our entertainment was provided by the Ukulele Ladies of Levin, known as the Ukuladies.  This fun loving group was formed in 2011 by Rona and are often found entertaining local clubs and rest homes.  Ukuleles are not necessarily the simple instruments from childhood days.  Amongst the standard type were musicians playing on a banjo ukulele, together with bass, baritone, tenor and 8 string ukuleles.  Attired in their colourful printed tee-shirts of pink, blue, yellow, purple or green, they kept us entertained as they sang songs from the past.

P9220014 Ukulele Ladies of Levin

The group numbered about a dozen, but we were informed that they have about 30 in the group.  Some were working, but the large number of members means that they can always muster up a group to perform as required.  And perform they did,  I particularly enjoyed listening to the lovely, haunting song “Blue Smoke”.  This song has quite a Kiwi connection. Ruru Karaitiana wrote Blue Smoke on the troop ship Aquitania, in 1940 off the coast of Africa, when a friend drew his attention to some passing smoke. During the war he served in the Middle East with the 28th New Zealand (Maori) Battalion. He led the battalion concert party, and he was one of the few survivors of its original 17-member choir. Although it was performed at troop concerts during the war, the song was rejected by London publishers.  Back in New Zealand, he assembled a quintet in 1947. In October 1948, in Wellington, the quintet recorded a version of Blue Smoke with singer Pixie Williams. The backing music was Hawaiian-style, and the instruments included guitars, ukulele and a lap-steel guitar  It became the first record wholly produced in New Zealand from composition to pressing.  The song topped New Zealand radio hit parades for six weeks, and it sold more than 20,000 copies within a year.  Quite a feat back then.

Our feet were tapping as the songs from the 50s and 60s came thick fast.  Blue Suede Shoes – the Elvis lover in our household enjoyed that, then a Beatles song, she enjoyed that too.  It’s strange how you can remember all the words of the songs which were around when you were growing up.  Those were the days, simple tunes, a strong driving beat, and lyrics all about teenage angst.  They don’t write songs like that anymore.

Our friend Robyn was one of the Ukuladies on stage and we caught up with her later.  As well as a member of this group, Robyn is an accomplished country and western singer.  We go way back, and Robyn and her hubby moved to sunny Levin a couple of years before we took the plunge.  Like her, we have never regretted it.

P9220016 Robyn – our Ukulady friend

It was an interesting morning, full of fun and laughter.  Check out the Ukuladies on UTube here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Election Fever

We get to do our democratic right tomorrow and vote in the General Election.  The weather forecast is for rotten weather tomorrow and that can often impact on voter turnout.  Early voting seems to be gaining in popularity lately, and I did suggest that we go and vote a couple of days early.  But no….. in Robin’s view it should be done on “the day”.  Fair enough.  Did you know that New Zealand women were the first in the world to be given the right to vote?   Kate Sheppard is recognised as the leader of the fight to win the right for New Zealand women to be allowed to vote. She and other pioneering women campaigned so effectively that in 1893 New Zealand became the first self-governing nation in the world to grant the vote to all women over 21.

It’s not just in little old New Zealand that has electioneering fever.  I’ve always maintained that we would never go for a holiday in Fiji since the Military Coup in 2006 overthrew their government.  Perhaps I’ll have to rethink any future travel plans now that people finally got a chance to vote.

And on the other side of the world Scotland is in turmoil while the population decide whether to go for independence or remain as part of the United Kingdom.  I have Scottish blood in my veins, courtesy of my maternal grand-dad who was born and bred in Glasgow. Travelling through Scotland some years ago felt just like coming home to me – just loved it all, the stone buildings, the landscape, and the history.  Grand-dad Wilson emigrated to New Zealand as a young man, ending up in Martinborough where he met my Grandmother, a young widow with three daughters. 

So there is a lot going on, the numbers will start rolling in soon, and all kinds of experts will be giving their views and analysis on TV and the newspapers.  Then we can all get back to normal. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

What happened to the Sunshine?

The heavy rain came down on Saturday night while we were tucked up inside our caravans at the Levin Holiday Park.  Some of the sites were awash and we did wonder how Selwyn and Kath would get out of their van and over to the hall for morning tea without sinking up to their ankles in muddy water.  It was such a damp and squelchy  morning (but not too cold) that there was no reason to hang about the camp for lunch, we all just wanted to get on home.  I braved the rain to snap a couple of wet misty morning photos.

P9140021 Parked up at Levin Holiday Park

P9140018 Looking towards the Tararua Ranges

It was just a short drive home and we quickly unpacked the caravan – we will do the cleaning later in the week.  It was a lovely surprise to find that a couple of our beautiful purple iris bulbs had burst into flower in the front garden – it was almost like they were welcoming us home.  These bulbs have a bit of a history.  Some years ago we went with our SLG friends for a trip up to New Plymouth to see the annual Rhododendron  Festival.  The famous Pukeiti Park with it’s beautiful flowering rhodo bushes was the star of the show, but many other private gardens were also open to the public.  Our friend Rex purchased some iris bulbs at one garden and presented us all with a bulb.  Ours was duly planted in the garden when we lived at Upper Hutt and multiplied over the years, as they do.  When I knew we were moving house, I dug up a few plants, leaving some behind.  They lived in a bucket for quite some months before I finally transplanted them into our new garden.  I love that beautiful rich purple colour.

P9140023 Rex’s iris bulbs in flower

Poor Robin was starting to feel a bit poorly when we arrived home and took himself off to bed.  Just hope he isn’t  coming down with the same dreaded lurgey that D & D can’t seem to shake off.  I’m doing my best to play sympathetic nursemaid and make him feel better.  Must be just about time to make him a nice hot cuppa.