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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Beer and a little bit of Culture

With plans to meet for lunch at an establishment called “Brew’d”, it was obvious that beer was involved.  Not a brewery, as I thought, but a bar specialising in serving boutique brewed beers.  It was Rex’s turn to organise our monthly SLG get-together, and he was keen to take us there to try it out.   This art deco looking building on the corner of Boulcott and High Streets just across the road from Hutt Hospital had previously seen life as the rather posh Timothy’s Restaurant, and then became Mr India for some time. 
  
PB260017  Brew’d Bar and Restaurant

The interior would have to be called “distressed”, a mixture of rough concrete, exposed rafters, patchy walls, and large posters.  We noticed that the doors and windows were finished with picture framing, and the wall by our table had quite an eclectic display of metal trays on display – obviously not the best family silver!   The meals were tasty, and snitzel, Spanish omelettes, fish and chips, and Caesar Salad were all delivered to our table.  Robin enjoyed sipping his Founders IPA beer, while Les and Rex enjoyed a Carlsberg each.  The ladies were happy with their choice of tea or coffee.

PB260016 SLG friends out to lunch

After lunch, our next port of call was the Dowse Art Museum for a bit of culture. 

PB260018 The Dowse Art Museum

Just inside the main door was a pair of beautifully carved panels (poupou), carved by Rangi Hetet to mark the 5th anniversary of the museum.  The upper figure represents Chief Te Puni, who welcomed the first organised arrival of settlers in New Zealand when they landed in Petone.  The lower figure represents a woman holding out branches of friendship to welcome strangers, symbolising friendship between Maori and Pakeha.

PB260019 Carved panels, by Rangi Hetet

The main exhibition transported us back into the 70s with a mixture of clothing.  I wasn’t a fashion icon in the 70s by any means, my life was busy with two young children and a full time job.  Poor old Rex was discovered nodding off in the middle of one of the displays – he was so tired he didn’t even know I was taking his photo.

PB260039 Clothes from the 70s, with Rex nodding off

Les found the adjacent children’s activity area irresistible, and tried his hand giving us a bit of a show.  He couldn't find Punch anywhere, so made do with the dolly instead

PB260040Les playing with a dolly

There were various other displays downstairs, and Karl Maughan’s Hydrangeas had a gallery to itself.  This large colourful oil painting must have been at least 20ft long and just glowed with colour.

PB260041 Hydrangeas at Wellington Botanical Gardens, by Karl Maughan

PB260042 Close up of Hydrangeas

Our day finished as we sat down to sip a coffee at the Dowse Cafe, finish catching up with everyone’s news, before heading off to our respective homes.  Thanks to Rex for organising a pleasant laid-back SLG day out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shades of The Shadows

It’s a busy time of year lately attending all the functions of the groups that we belong to are winding down for the year.  As it was for our 60s Up group yesterday when we went along to the last meeting of the year.   After a few notices were read out we were served a special morning tea – hot mince savoury, scone with jam and cream, and a Christmas mince pie, to get us into the festive spirit.  As we munched our morning tea and chatted away, the musicians were busily setting themselves up.

The trio of JNX Reverbnation from Masterton kept us entertained with toe tapping music from the 60s, just right for the members of our 60s Up group.  John Rowe leads the band and has been playing for over 50 years, he told us.  Partner Sheryll was on the keyboards and son Stuart was the drummer.   John's particular love is the music of Hank Marvin, and this shone through with his brilliant guitar skills, as he played a medley of instrumental hits from the Shadows.  Robin was in his element as he sat there with his eyes closed, completely absorbed as he listened to the music from his youth.  I noticed that others around the hall were tapping their toes and nodding their heads in time to the music.  “Time is Tight”  was another of Robin’s favourites, a great, catchy tune.  Being our Christmas meeting, we had a few Christmas songs too, with everyone joining in with “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.

PB240004 JNX playing their music

Nothing beats the music you grew up with, I always think, as it transports you back to those far off teenage years.  All too soon the entertainment was over, and we said our goodbyes.  The committee had one last surprise for us all, and we were each given a wrapped up slice of Christmas cake to take home.  It was delicious too, and it joined our sandwich for lunch that day.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas at the Proms at Southwards

There’s something terribly British about a night at the Proms.  Or in our case, a daytime concert.  The theatre stage at Southwards Car Museum was decked out in red, white and blue and we were presented with flags and a song sheet as we filed in to take our seats.  The theatre was full, with our Probus group helping to swell the numbers.  Looking at the heads of those seated in front of us, it was just like looking at “fifty shades of grey and white".  It was fair to say that most of the audience were those of retirement age.  All determined to thoroughly enjoy themselves too.

PB200021 The stage at Southwards

As a variety concert, the programme had a bit of everything.  The show opened with everyone belting out God Save the Queen, and the New Zealand National Anthem, while we waved our flags gaily in the air.  The singers of “Operatunity” then  served up a few opera classics.  The mood was lightened with some humorous items, such as Whispering Grass from the show, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, and Nobody Loves a Fairy when she’s 40.  And being a Christmas show, we joined in with some of the lovely classic Christmas carols.  But the noisiest items of all were those great Prom standbys, such as There’ll Always be an England, Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule Britannia, sung with gusto and much flag waving.  Most Kiwis have some combination of UK blood in their veins, and the concert certainly had the blood pulsing.  It was a great show.

The Operatunity concerts provide a light lunch as part of the deal, so we played follow-the-leader as we all trooped upstairs.  Sandwiches, Christmas mince pies and tea or coffee were on offer, with the performers helping to serve the lunch.

PB200024 What a cheeky Santa

While we were eating our lunch, we had great views looking down onto the Southward Car Museum, chock full of classic cars, motor bikes, and even an aeroplane or two. Leonard Bingley Southward, an avid motor enthusiast, automobile collector and motor sport legend first started in the motor industry as a messenger boy with a Wellington based firm. He later branched out on his own repairing motorcycles and by 1935, Southward Motors, which specialised in repairs to the very popular Austin Seven, had opened in Kent Terrace, Wellington.

PB200022

PB200023 Part of the Len Southward collection

During a trip to Britain in 1956, Len Southward and his wife, Vera, watched the finish of a veteran car run in Birmingham. On their return to New Zealand, he bought the car which started his famous collection, a Model T Ford,  for which he paid £40.  The car collection continued to grow, and finally a purpose built  facility in Otaihanga and opened to the public on December 22, 1979. The Model T, still in the condition in which it was bought, has pride of place in one the largest privately owned collections of classic and vintage cars in the world.  This museum must surely be a petrol-head’s idea of heaven.  And rumour has it that there are just as many cars (in various condition) tucked away in the basement as there are on display in the museum.

His work in the motor industry was officially recognised when he received his knighthood from the Queen during her visit to New Zealand in 1986. Sir Len died on February 19th, 2004 at the ripe old age of 98
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PB200017 Sir Len Southward

PB200019


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Computer Geeks to the Rescue

It’s a fact of life that some people understand computers more than others.  In our household, I work on the computer on a “need to know” basis.  I’m perfectly happy with my limited knowledge of e-mails, blogs, writing letters, and accessing Google and Trade Me.  Anything more technical is Robin’s domain.  He can tackle spread-sheets, internet banking, fix printer malfunctions and run clean up operations to take nasty things off our hard drive.

Our caravan buddy Bill was having problems with his computer, so Robin and Dot, (friend, neighbour, caravan club member and fellow computer geek) rode into battle to help him out.  I went along for the ride, which took us up and over the Wainuiomata Hill.  Known in earlier years as Nappy Valley, Wainuiomata was the place to be for young families wanting affordable housing.  Dot and I had owned a home here in previous lives.

PB170001 Driving down the hill into Wainuiomata – Nappy Valley

Huddled around the computer, Robin and Dot made a few changes while Bill looked on.  Bill then did a couple of test runs to make sure he was happy with what they had done, and could access the programmes he wanted to use.  All this took a couple of hours, punctuated with a working lunch.  At last the computer geeks declared their work was done, and the computer was deemed ready for service. 

It was time to head home.  As we drove down from the top of the hill we could see the Hutt Valley and hill suburbs laid out before us.  The Hutt Valley is where I was born, grew up and did my schooling – I have many happy memories of this place.

PB170005 Hutt Valley

The tide was out as we drove around the Pauatahanui Inlet, and we commented on the recently built walking track – we really must come and walk it’s length one of these days.   The inlet is a very important place ecologically, being the only large area of salt-marsh and sea grass in the Wellington.  It is home to many species of migratory waterfowl and wading birds, and there are hides dotted about for bird watching.  We often see  grey herons quietly going about their business on the water’s edge as we drive around the inlet.
 PB170011 Pauatahanui Inlet

For whatever reason, it always seem much quicker on the homeward drive.  Luckily we were early enough to miss the commuters driving back home along SH1 so we made good time back to Levin.  The computer geeks can pat themselves on the back for a job well helping out a friend with his problems.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Combined Rally at Koputaroa

It took us no time at all to drive to Koputaroa School on Friday, to take part in a combined rally hosted by the Wellington Caravan Club.  As it was a school day, we had to wait till after 4.00pm till we could gain entry to the school grounds. Koputaroa is a small rural school seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  You would think it would be a quiet peaceful place.  But no - the Main Trunk Line runs close by and long freight trains roar and rumble as they trundle along the tracks – usually in the dead of night. 

Extremely strong winds kept us company all weekend.  Wind makes quite a noise too, whistling around the vans, shaking and rattling our TV aerials so much we wondered if they would be safe, and moaning through the large trees surrounding the school.  I never feel safe in strong winds like this, and we heard news item stories of a motor-home blown over, and roofs lifted from homes.   Luckily members from the three clubs, (Wellington, Heretaunga and Wairarapa clubs) attending the rally all arrived safe and sound without any horror travel stories to relate.  

PB150027 Combined rally at Koputaroa School

Asparagus season is in full swing in the Horowhenua region so on Saturday morning we took a trip to Tendertips Pack house to buy ourselves some of this freshly picked delicacy.

PB150034

The pack-house was a hive of activity, with about 40 staff working away at various stations along the conveyer belt, as a never ending stream of asparagus was washed, graded, sorted and packed.  We prefer the “skinnies”  and a kilo pack will give us several succulent meals.  What can be nicer than fresh asparagus served with cheese sauce, or even just a knob of butter and freshly ground black pepper? 

PB150028

PB150030
Tendertips Asparagus Pack-house

Luckily the rally organisers had arranged to have a large room available for us to gather in for morning teas, 4zees, and the evenings, or else we would be a very sorry wind blown bunch indeed.  Saturday night entertainment was a trip down memory lane – we had some vintage movies to enjoy from the Mavtech, Museum of Audiovisual Technology of Foxton.  The museum has a wide range of cinematic equipment and old films, and two of the volunteers brought along a selection for our viewing pleasure. 

PB150036 Setting up the film show

We laughed at the antics of Abbot and Costello as cave men as they went about looking for a wife.  Wonder dog Rin Tin Tin saved the day as he helped the troops fight off those dastardly injuns, and the Lone Ranger once again rescued a damsel in distress.  We were also intrigued with the 1940s film about the Palmerston North Caravan Club and their antics.  Back then, most of the caravans in New Zealand were home made, with commercial production still some time in the future. 

PB150042 Palmerston North Caravan Club members in 1940s

Our club members Selwyn and Kath had recently suffered the trauma of a stone through the front window of their caravan.  Not such a big deal, one would think.  But it is when the window in question is a double skinned laminated window on an imported  English caravan, with no such item to be found in New Zealand.  In fact, this particular window was no longer stocked back in good old Blighty.  The only option was for a mould to be made, and a one-off window manufactured here.  Quite an expensive job, as it turned out, so it was lucky that the insurance company was footing the bill.  All this only took a couple of weeks, so Selwyn and Kath are very pleased with the outcome. 

PB160043 New laminated window in place

As often happens, the weather started to clear up by Sunday, and although still windy, it was not quite so strong.  We said our goodbyes, thanked the host club, visited the dump station to get rid of the waste water, and before we knew it, were safely home.  The caravan is unpacked and cleaned, the washing is done, and Robin is now wondering when we are next going away!

Friday, November 14, 2014

No Wonder it feels Cold

We can certainly feel that “wind chill factor”  lately blowing around.  Although it is late Spring, with the Summer season due to start just a few short weeks away at the beginning of December, it seems unseasonably cool lately.  And the reason seems to be that covering of snow that we can see on the top of the Tararua Ranges.  (Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve had to turn my electric blanket on lately).  It does look pretty though, doesn’t it?

PB130019 Spring snow in Levin

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wellington SPCA Trip

The Wellington branch of SPCA (Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was invaded by a busload of our members of our 60s Up group yesterday.  When the early settlers from England came to New Zealand, they brought English laws with them, including the Protection of Animals Act 1835. Canterbury opened the first SPCA in New Zealand in 1872 and the Wellington SPCA was formed in 1884. 

The Wellington SPCA have recently moved to the old Fever Hospital situated on Mt Victoria.  This was originally built to care for WW1 soldiers recovering from influenza, and went on to nurse patients suffering from TB and Scarlet Fever.

PB120022 New home for Wellington branch of SPCA

PB120007

Our group gathered in a former hospital ward, where the original light fittings and call buttons for each bed were still in place.  As a condition of renting this property from Wellington Council, a proportion of historic features are to remain in place while renovating the building to suit the needs of the SPCA.

PB120005 Original fittings still in place

Educational Officer Matt gave us a slide show presentation outlining the work of the SPCA.  As well as dealing with a multitude of kittens and puppies, the society also cares for smaller species such as guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, hedgehogs and mice.  The Wellington SPCA cares for about 6000 animals each year.  Volunteers are the heart and backbone of Wellington SPCA - dog walkers, those providing foster homes for puppies and kittens, and adoption assistants, they all give up their time to help the Society care for animals in need.  All cats and dogs who pass through are desexed before being offered up for adoption.

As we left the conference room to look around the centre, one of the staff members showed us a three week old puppy which had just been found abandoned in Porirua.  At such a young age, this snuffling little darling will need constant care for some time. A big handful at only three weeks old, he's going to grow to be a big  a huge dog, I think. 

PB120011 Just arrived at the SPCA

Matt showed us one of the cats they are caring for, who happily lapped up all the extra attention from our group.

PB120013 Education Officer Matt and one of his charges

We then checked out the dogs, some of whom were enjoying play time in the newly built roomy dog yard.  They get taken out of their indoor enclosures for some fun and games each day.  Sadly, most of the dogs we saw seem to be staffie cross dogs, not always easy to rehome.  I spoke to one of the volunteers working in the dog area.  “Hello, you look familiar”, I told him.  It was none other than Mark Sainsbury, a  veteran TVNZ journalist who used to present the TV programme Close Up until it was axed last year.  The end of an era after a broadcasting  career of 31 years.

Mark SainsburyMark Sainsbury (SPCA Volunteer) on his last day working on Close Up.

PB120014Puppies having fun

Our tour over, it was back on the bus, and off to the Petone Working Men’s Club for lunch.

PB120023 All aboard

Peter the bus driver took us through the newly opened Arras tunnel, which runs under the National War Memorial park, named after the French town where New Zealand soldiers dug tunnels to lay explosives during WWI.  The tunnel is adorned with decorative poppies, which symbolise the 2721 New Zealand citizens killed during the Anzac campaign - the poppies were the idea of Sir Peter Jackson.  Sadly, the photo does not do the poppies justice, as we quickly whizzed by. 

PB120024 The Arras Tunnel

After an enjoyable lunch, there was just time for one more adventure.  Climbing aboard the bus once more, Peter drove the bus around the narrow and windy road around the bays to Eastbourne.  It had been a long time since most of us had been here.  And even longer since I used to bike around the bays as a teenage – those were the days!

PB120034 Eastbourne, looking back to Wellington

Our fun day out was made even better when we stopped for ice-creams at  Lindale.  As we were seated at the front of the bus, we were first into the shop.  “There’s a bus load coming in for ice creams”, we told the shop owner.  That caused a bit of panic, but they soon got into a good system.  One took the orders and rolled the ice creams, then the customers settled up with the assistant at the cash register down the other end of the shop.  Everyone happily sat in the sunshine and savoured their ice creams.  Another great day out with the 60s Up group.

PB120042 Peter the bus driver with his ice-cream

PB120039 Plum for me and strawberry and cream for Robin