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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A bit of a stink!!!

It all started when a sign appeared on the toilet block door.  “Closed – use the other block down by the office”.  There must be a blockage, was the general consensus.

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In rumbled a large truck from J B’s Septic Tank Cleaners .  We were amused to see the signage which proudly stated: Number 1 for Number 2s.  Then a small front end loader appeared.  The turf was carefully cut and removed and the tractor got down to business, exposing the top of the septic tank.  In went the hose and J B’s started the pump out.

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What a stink.  All the people crowding around to see what was going on beat a hasty retreat as the malodorous odours drifted about the camp.  The kids jumped on their bikes and pedalled quickly away  “Ooh, that stinks”, they called out, “What a pong”.   That certainly  cleared the area. 

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Just another bit of entertainment in camp life!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Builder & his Apprentice

We hate the summer  flies that buzz around inside the caravan.  Our Leisureline caravan is equipped with a very clever two part door that incorporates a fly screen and the ceiling vents are screened as well.  But those pesky flies just come as they wish through the open windows.  So a couple of weeks  before Christmas we ordered fly screens for all the windows.

We collected five large and one small screen from the agent just prior to Christmas.  He had kindly attached the hinges for us and gave Robin a few pointers on how best to install them.  Robin had made sure he packed his battery powered drill to make the job easier, and purchased screws of the correct diameter.

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Putting the Frame into position

First step was to take down the curtain rail.  Zip, zip, zip, that drill soon made short work of those screws.  Then Jenny had to hold the screen in the right position, that was easier said than done.  “You’ve moved it”, she was told.  “No I haven't”.  We had this same conversation many times!!  When the builder was finally satisfied the hinges were screwed up tight, and a catch was attached to each side of the screen.  Then the curtain rail was reattached.

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Contortions

There was not much room to manoeuvre and Robin had to do all sorts of contortions to be in the right position to wield his power drill.  Some of the screws had been inserted at an angle which made it very difficult to undo them.  Add to this the many times he dropped the tiny screws and misplaced his drill bits – it is no surprise that he got a bit heated at times.

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More Contortions

After a few hours the job was finally completed.  We think the design of the screens is quite clever.  They open out into the interior of the caravan, allowing us to open up the window, then handy little clips keep them closed.  So now we can have all the windows open and the flies won’t be able to visit us.  The builder and his apprentice did a really good job!!

Sand, paint and bake

Robin had another little job to do on his Christmas break at camp.  The metal cover over the gas water heater outlet on the outside of the caravan had become a little rusty.  Why this cover was made of rust prone material in the first place is beyond belief.  Peter had offered to help Robin with this little job and the two of them got together one sunny afternoon.

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Adding Drainage Holes

After unscrewing the the two piece cover the first step was to sand them down with wet and dry sandpaper.  Then looking all the world like an overage  graffiti artist, Robin was in his element wielding the spray can of “Hot Engine Paint”.  He had the covers hanging up on wire hooks from a handy tree and the paint soon dried in the warm afternoon temperatures.

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Spray Painting

Once dry the two fellows rubbed them down lightly with sand paper and then repainted them.  Peter then touched up some spots with his special rust inhibitor resin.

To set the paint   it needed to be heated.  How to do that?  Why not heat it in our caravan oven?  Robin preheated the gas oven and Jenny covered the oven tray with aluminium foil.  Once the oven was up to heat, the covers were place inside and the heat turned off.  Hopefully the heat was sufficient to bake the paint.

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Re-assembly

Robin and Peter did their quality inspection check and declared the job perfect.  It was quick work to screw the cover back in place and admire their handiwork.  Thanks Peter for your help and advice.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Life in Camp

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From a quiet camp on Xmas Eve the camp started filling up fast on Boxing Day.  Although everyone is saying that people are staying close to home this year the camp is by no means full with lots of spare sites around.  There is still time for more campers to arrive, time will tell.

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The adjacent “Dog Bay” is full up with dog owners in their tents and caravans.  This camp is one of the few that allows dogs on site which means that pet lovers do not have to kennel their pets over the Xmas season.  Luckily there does not seem to be much squabbling amongst the canine population, all dogs must be tethered on  their own site or on a lead when walking through the camp.

The camp covers a large area with many mature trees including Pohutukawa and Norfolk Pines which encourages a wide range of bird life. We have discovered a black bird nest in an adjacent bush. The mother bird is busy all day long feeding her chicks.  We hear bird song from dawn to dusk and it is a joy to the ears.  One of the more prominent bird songs is our native Tui who are in full voice.  They like to sing their throaty song from the highest point available.  They are also good mimics.

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Tui singing on top of a Norfolk Pine

Friday, December 26, 2008

The New Zealand Christmas Tree

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The beautiful Pohutakawa tree is in full flower at this time of year and is known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree.  The deep crimson flowers are made up of a mass of stamens tipped with yellow.  The Pohutakawa is a large coastal tree and grows up to 20 metres in height.

The Paekakariki Motor Camp has many of these beautiful trees including one of the rare yellow variety.  The camp managers have trimmed back some of the trees including this very special yellow flowing specimen so it will not be blooming this year.

The local newspaper ran a story of an elderly couple at camp showing them sitting under a Pohutakawa.  Jack and Maisie have been holidaying on the same site at this camp at Christmas and Easter for 15 years.  At 80 plus, they say they plan to return each year, for as long as they are able to.

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The first New Zealand Christmas Service was celebrated in 1814 by English missionary Samuel Marsden who said:  “…..on the shore the New Zealand Christmas tree, the Pohutakawa, whose scarlet flowers outshone even the glory of the English holly”.  High praise indeed for the tree which is symbol of Christmas here in New Zealand.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family. Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two sleeps to go

Only two more sleeps to go till Christmas. We took the caravan up to Paekakariki Motor Camp last Friday evening and put it on site, and the awning has been erected. So all the hard work has been done for when we get to camp on Wednesday after work.

Things have been very busy at home today after we returned home from work. Robin has cut the lawns yet again to keep the place looking tidy, while Jenny has been busy preparing food for the Christmas day feast. So far she has made a kumara (sweet potatoe) salad, assembled the chicken breast and bacon roll-ups for the barbecue, and made a yummy chocolate cherry slice. Muffy has been delivered to the cattery for her holiday - not again, she was probably thinking.

The tomorrow after work it us just a matter of packing a chilly bin with the food, remembering to put the BBQ and the Christmas presents in the back of the 4WD, and checking off the lists so that we don't forget anything important. Not to forget some books, the cameras, some sewing for Jenny to do. Then away we go for a couple of weeks R&R at the Motor Camp. This will be a "working holiday" and we will drive down to work from the camp. But we have the statuary holidays off and the lovely long summer evenings to enjoy. Perhaps we will even have a swim or two down at the beach.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Deck the Halls

It’s way past time to deck the halls – not with “boughs of holly”, but with some of Jenny’s Christmas quilts.  Usually she likes to get the Christmas decorations up at the beginning of December, but this time around  the interior decorator seems to be running a little late.  Perhaps it’s a case of post holiday doldrums.  Never mind, there are a few hanging up, bringing a bit of Christmas cheer to the house.

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Christmas Stars Quilt

We went to view the prizewinning decorated house in Upper Hutt last night.  No wonder the home owners were awarded the grand prize, the lights are a joy to behold.  We joined the throngs of people walking up and down the street admiring the display.  Not only was the house covered with a mass of lights, but all the trees and bushes in the garden were twinkling merrily away too. 

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We heard a Mum tell her child, “Keep your eyes closed”, as she  guided her little one over to stand in front of the house.  The child had a hat pulled down right over her eyes.  “There”, said Mum, “that was worth keeping your eyes closed for, wasn’t it!”.  Such is the wonder of Christmas, we couldn’t agree more.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy 85th Birthday Mum

Yesterday was a very special day, it was Robin's Mum's 85th birthday.  Three sons, one daughter, spouses and various assorted grandchildren all gathered at the historic Manukau Hotel for a 85th Birthday Lunch.  It was a very wet day but that didn't dampen spirits as everyone met and mingled.

A couple of helium filled balloons were tied to the back of the birthday girl's seat of honour at the long dining table.  Robin opened the proceedings and welcomed everyone.  Then Hannah, as the eldest grand-daughter in attendance, presented a lovely bouquet of flowers to her Nana. 

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Robin's Mum Bonnie had requested "no presents please", but did anyone listen?  No, of course not.  The family had all pooled together and purchased a digital photo frame, with the various families each contributing their own photos. Robin set this up and it was running throughout the meal. 

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We all enjoyed a tasty buffet meal of ham, roast lamb and fried fish, served with hot vegetables and salad.  The salad had some of the guests confused and wondering if it was in fact part of the dessert as it came with strawberries artistically arranged on top.  Pavlova, fresh fruit salad and Christmas mince pies completed the meal.

"Let's take some group photos", someone suggested.  The trick then was  to get sixteen people of assorted heights arranged on the hotel staircase.  Next, nab a passing staff member and cajole her into taking photo after photo with all those different cameras lined up on the hall table.  "It's all part of the service", we were told.

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Happy 85th Birthday Mum, may you have many more.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mexican Standoff

Muffy, our beautiful Birman, is usually very placid and calm. But she has taken quite a dislike to the adolescent fluffy female tabby who lives in the flat next door. There have been various incidences of hissing and snarling when this intruder dares to come into our back yard. The young couple who own the cat have parted company, with the boyfriend and the cat left behind to console each other on their loss. Sadly, he does not seem well versed in cat care, as the animal is often heard crying outside the door at night.

Up on the roof

Regardless of the woes of this broken family, Muffy is adamant that this young upstart must be kept in her place. Here was "Fluffy" (we don't know her real name) perched up high on the roof of the flat. Muffy had climbed to the top of the fence and was glaring up at her. The message was clear. "You are not coming down till I say so".

"You will stay there till I say so!!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The long trip down south

Son Michael is spreading his wings and is moving down to Christchurch for several months. So of course his cat Pixel had to come too. Pixel is an attractive grey tabby who liked the outdoor life back home in Auckland, coming inside for food, drinks, cuddles and sleeping. She has not had too much to do with cages, cars and travelling in her life to date. Yesterday was all too much for her much for her and she got very distressed. Michael stopped en route at Cambridge and sought the advice of a kindly vet who administered a sedative. A much more mellow Pixel completed the first stage of the long journey from Auckland to Wellington, arriving last night. Pixel spent the night in Muffy's custom built cat motel in the garage, away from strange people and noises and hopefully she got a good night's sleep.

Being quite a computer savvy type of guy, the first thing Michael wanted to do was plug in his lap top and check up on his emails. Michael is a real Apple Mac fan and won't have anything to do with that "other" brand of computer that is on the market.

It's Apple Mac for Michael

The next morning was just like the old school days. The alarm went off bright and early and Jenny called, "Are you getting up now Michael?" No reply. She called him again. "I heard you the first time", came from the bedroom. Grumble, grumble, why didn't he answer then? Some things never change, do they. She cooked him breakfast, made him a nice cup of coffee, guess the only thing she didn't do was make him a packed school lunch - those days are long gone. Then it was time to administer another happy pill to Pixel, and the travellers headed off for the second leg of the journey.

Ready to continue the journey south

Luckily the weather was calm so the Cook Strait Ferry crossing was smooth sailing. Michael and Pixel finally arrived at their destination in Christchurch in the early evening, after two solid days of travelling. Michael is planning on keeping a careful eye on Pixel till she realises that she has a new home. Wonder if the three local pussy cats who live in the house will understand Pixel's Auckland accent?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where are the babies?

Just the day after reading about "Foul deeds on the Towpath" on our friends Dot and Derek's blog www.nzgypsyrover.blogspot.com we stumbled across our very own murder mystery. Guess what awaited us on the front lawn today? A very sad looking empty bird's nest. There was no sign of eggs, no baby birds, no feathers fluttering around, just the lonely sight of an empty bird's nest fallen to the ground. Were the babies murdered and eaten in the nest, we wondered? Did the mother bird dislodge the nest while frantically searching for her babies? Or was it just that the wind whisked the empty nest on to the lawn? Guess we will never know. What we do know, is that we have never seen a bird's nest on the lawn before.

What happened here?

We are not good gardeners, (we would rather be away in the caravan) but we have a few spots of colour in the back garden at the moment. Check out these lovely tiger lilies.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kiwitea - blink and you'll miss it

Kiwitea is a tiny rural settlement between Cheltenham and Kimbolton, blink and you will miss it!! Named after a light coloured Kiwi, it boasts a primary school, a playcentre and a village hall. We went up for a pre Christmas visit to see daughter Nicky and her family who live the good life in the country on their small farm.

Grand-daughter Megan was cutting the grass county style on their ride on lawn mower. This looked like it was more fun than work.

Robert cooked up steak and hamburgers on the barbecue. It was such a lovely day that we ate our lunch outside. The Manawatu region is known for it's windy weather, but Sunday was just glorious without a breath of wind at all. Nicky had made a lovely pavlova for dessert, smothered with whipped cream and topped with fresh blueberries and blackberries. The origin of the first pavlova, or pav for short, has been hotly debated for many years between New Zealand and Australia, with both countries claiming that they made the very first one. It was created in honour of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured both countries in 1926. Whatever the origin, it is now considered a classic New Zealand and Australian dessert.

Megan, Robin, Robert and Nicky

After lunch we checked out the farm animals. The family are keen horse riders and compete in various events and competitions. Robert runs a few sheep for the table and sent the sheepdog Tui out to round them up so we could see the lambs. He is also fattening up three bobby calves. Three dogs and two cats complete the livestock tally.

Tui, worn out after rounding up the sheep

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chop, chop

Last week we had the neighbour's friends offer to chop a few "out of control" branches off an over hanging tree. This tree had been attacked by some sort of burrowing insects which had made rather large holes in the branches and trunk. Once the offending branches were cut down (with absolute ease, we noted, by the chain saw welding fellow) we were amazed to see that the insects had eaten right along the length of the branches.


Today was Robin's turn to deal with all the debris that had been piled up behind the garage for the last week. He hasn't got one of those ever so handy chain saws so had to make do with a skill saw. Not quite in the same league but it did the job a lot more easily than the hand saw he was contemplating using. He cut the thicker branches into short lenghts, and delivered this to the other next door neighbour to use next winter in her fire place. All the small rubbishy bits got loaded up and taken to the tip. After all this hard work he had to sit down and have a cold beer!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Warrant of Fitness

Three months have rolled around and it was hospital appointment time today. Jenny had her appointment with the Oncologist at Hutt Hospital. All the previous check-ups have been fine but she is always a bit of a worrier. We are pleased to announce that she has passed the 3 monthly Health Warrant of Fitness. She had the day off work, and treated herself to a yummy morning tea at her favourite cafe to celebrate the good news.


This lovely rose bush was a "Get Well" gift from the Caravan Club while Jenny was undergoing hospital treatment early last year, and is in flower now. Called "White Romance", the large blooms have a lovely fragrance. The buds come out pale pink, changing to a creamy white as they open up.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Where's Santa?

December is the Silly Season with all the various Christmas get-togethers happening one after another. This last weekend we visited Tatum Park for our Christmas Rally with the caravan club. There are 30 acres of grounds, with a large part of this being in native bush. All this bush attracts a lot of beautiful native birds. The elegant tree lined drive is known as Pilgrims Way and leads a to the large homestead which was built in 1912 for Major Charles Tatum. The locals at the time thought that Major Tatum fancied himself as the local squire and he was often seen on horseback riding around his property and further afield.

The Homestead at Tatum Park

The property later became the National Training and Conference Centre for the Scout Association and has now passed into private hands once more and used for weddings and conferences. There is a large area set aside for camping but the facilities here are a bit tired and need to be updated. Some of the trees need a bit of pruning back and and we noticed a large boat lurking in the undergrowth. Obviously someone's pride and joy at some stage, but it now looks rather abandoned.

Look what's hiding in the trees

The weather was great for our weekend away, wonderfully warm and sunny. The men were busy adding awnings sides to a handy lean-to, just the place, the committee decided, to serve our Pot Luck evening meal. Tables were arranged, Christmas lights were hung, the food was brought in, and we all sat down decked out in an assortment of Christmas hats. We tucked into a varied selection of salads with cold cuts of ham, pickled pork, chicken and corned beef on offer, with some hot dishes too. Delightful desserts tempted the taste buds, and the committee provided wine to complete the gourmet menue.

Building our Dining Hall

After our meal Santa's two helpers, Graeme and Kathryn, distributed gifts to us all, including some rather noisy whistles and clappers which kept everyone amused for some time. Jenny was disappointed that the "Big Man in Red' did not put in a personal appearance, she rather fancied sitting on his knee. Perhaps that is why he didn't front up.

Still waiting for Santa

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What - us read the fine print??

At a recent caravan rally we were lamenting on the fact that Robin's driving mishap with the rental car in UK cost us 600 pound sterling, that's NZ$1675.09. "Check your travel insurance", we were told, "you will probably be covered for the excess".

So, a month or so after returning home, we finally got around to reading the fine print. And yes, our policy did in fact provide cover for loss of excess on car rentals. Our claim was lodged with the insurance company but we had a hitch when we were told that we didn't provide enough information about the cost of the damage. How would we know that, we were only charged the excess. Several e-mails later the details were forwarded to our insurers and the claim accepted, less another small excess, of course.

Many thanks to Peter from the Caravan Club for his timely advice. We had no idea that we were covered for this. The moral of the story is - always read the fine print!!

A happy Robin - with cheque in hand

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Having fun in Horowhenua

Hyde Park Museum

We had a day in the sun visiting several attractions in the Horowhenua region last Sunday, with our SLG friends. First stop was the private Hyde Park Museum at Te Horo. The building is full to overflowing with all sorts of treasures from yesteryear, and the owners Sel and Ngaire are only to happy to chat about the various items on display. We were proudly told that some of their items had been borrowed and used in the film King Kong.

Just the thing while the wives do their shopping

Next visit was to "Loco", a miniature railway set amongst a large 2 acre garden. We ate our picnic lunches while relaxing under the shady trees. Pam decided to try out the hammock for a little snooze and Anne was spotted enjoying a swing under the trees. The trains were started up and we wandered around, admiring the different trains as they puffed along the tracks set amongst the garden. Life like sound effects emanated from some of the buildings. The saw mill, the school yard and the pub were just a few that had sound effects.

Loco Garden Railway

We then drove up to Celtic Winery for a wine tasting. This property is delightfully situated on the shores of Lake Horowhenua. Celtic Winery is the first fruit winery to be fully certified organic in NZ. The wines are made in the old Celtic tradition of patience and working with the seasons and mature naturally without additives. We voted the Black Doris Port a winner and bought ourselves a bottle. We were intrigued with two very large black faced sheep in an adjoining paddock. They were named Bilbo and Pippin and were quite a pair of show offs.

Bilbo and Pippin

Our day in the sun finished with a BBQ at John and Jan's home. The sausages were cooking, the sun was beating down, we were in the company of good friends, so what more could we ask for?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We are the Champions

2008 Victorious All Blacks

The All Blacks have done it - they have completed the Grand Slam of Great Britain. I guess that goes someway towards for not winning the World Cup.

This year they have won the:

The Tri Nations against Australia and South Africa
The Beldisloe Cup against Australia
The Inaugural challenge for the Hillary Shield against England, and
The Grand Slam of Great Britain against Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England.

I knew they were worth sticking with! GO THE ALL BLACKS!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We'll come back as a cat next time!!

Today was a lovely hot summer day, with birds singing away in the trees. What happens in our part of the world on a Saturday? (That is, when we are home and not away in the caravan). Much the same as anywhere else, we imagine. Robin did his share of the housework duty - his part is to clean the bathroom. Then after lunch it was lawn mowing time.


Jenny was busy too. After doing the washing, dusting and vacuuming she prepared and cooked some food to take away for a Pot Luck meal we will be attending on Sunday night. By then, the washing had dried in the sunny breeze so it might as well be ironed and put away. Robin's next chore was that very Kiwi male pastime, cooking on the BBQ. He did a good job of cooking the kebabs, steak and mushrooms. We dined "al fresco" on the back deck. By this time of the day, the sun had moved around to the front of the house, so it was nice and cool with a pleasant gentle breeze blowing.

Robin - the chief cook on the barbecue

Our cat Muffy, however, had quite a different idea on how she wanted to spend her Saturday. Here she is, stretched out on the bed, quite nice and relaxed. We've said it before and we'll say it again - next time around we will both come back as a cat!! What a pleasant life they lead.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let's do Brunch

We met up for Sunday brunch with friends Geoff and Eileen at the Red House Cafe at Te Horo. This interesting old building is full of character and was used as a General Store and a Post Office in former years. These days it is a very busy and popular cafe, just the place for a spot of Sunday Brunch.

Red House Cafe in Te Horo

The main reason for our trip to Te Horo was a request from Geoff and Eileen to look through the digi photos of our recent canal boat trip, so we retired back to their house for coffee. The slide show of the Llangollen Canal brought back memories for our hosts as they had also experienced travelling along this waterway. With locks and lift bridges, tunnels and the two magnificent aqueducts of Chirk and Pontcysyllte, this most picturesque of canals criss crosses between the boundaries of Wales and England. The four of us have both had trips now on Gypsy Rover, owned by our mutual friends Dot and Derek.

Collection of brass plaques

We can only claim one narrow boat trip, but Geoff and Eileen are veterans of several different trips. They have an interesting collection of brass plaques purchased after the many canals and tunnels they have navigated. These plaques are usually attached to the owner's narrow boat, but as Geoff says, he doesn't have a boat. They make an attractive display of the wall instead.