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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Offwegoagain

“Hello, it’s Bob here” .  Bob who?, Jenny wondered.  Then the penny dropped.  It was Bob and Pam, our friends from Auckland.  They had spent the previous eight weeks or so touring the South Island with a group of friends and were on their way home.   We spent a very pleasant evening catching up with them, plus mutual friends Sandy and Bea, at a Thai restaurant in Paraparaumu.

Bob and Pam proudly showed us around their custom built motor home  which they have named “Offwegoagain”.  Over the years they had owned several caravans and campers.  So they knew exactly what features and innovations they wanted incorporated in their new Prestige motor home.  We wished them a safe journey in “"Offwegoagain” back to Auckland, and hope it is not such a long time before we meet up again.  Below is a similar floor plan to what was built, (couldn’t find a photo of the exact plan). 

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Eight weeks touring the South Island sounds like bliss to us.  That is the sort of thing we are looking forward to doing ourselves when we can leave our working lives behind us.   Guess we will just have to keep buying the Lotto tickets to make it happen sooner, then we can be “off again” too.   

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Remembering Geoffrey

It is one year since Geoffrey lost his life in a boating tragedy. Geoffrey was the boy-friend of our grand-daughter Emma and he died on his 19th birthday. Jenny had been stitching away on two memory quilts made from Geoffrey’s clothing for some time, one for Emma, and the other for Geoffrey’s parents. We went up to Rongatea today to present the quilts on the day before the anniversary of his death.

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Emma with her quilt

Tee shirts, sweatshirts, plaid work shirts , a black ball shirt and ties were all incorporated. As well as jeans, both pockets and holey knees, satin boxer shorts, track pants and various labels. Pieces of all these garments found a place in the quilts. Both Emma and Geoffrey’s Mum had very clear ideas of what they wanted included. Jenny had three bags of garments to work from; one bag for Emma’s quilt, one for Geoffrey's Mum, and the third joint, with pieces to go in each quilt.

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Geoffrey’s Mum & Dad with their quilt

It was a privilege to stitch these very special memory quilts and the hope is that they provide comfort for the sad loss of a very special young man.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Golden Narrowboat

We have to admit that our narrowboat holiday travelling along the Llangollen Canal was a big highlight of our UK holiday last year. We travelled on NB Gypsy Rover as guests of the owners, our friends Dot and Derek, and had a marvellous time.

Jenny was keen to mark this part of the holiday with a charm for her bracelet, but it was impossible to find one. What to do? On our return home Jenny took her bracelet into Berry’s Jewellers in Wellington to get the Singapore and New York charms soldered on. “Bring in a photo and I’ll make you one”, the jeweller said.

Gypsy Rover This is the photo we took in to the jeweller to work from. Note Derek on the back of the boat - somewhere on the Llangollen Canal.

Narrow Boat Charm And this is the hand crafted gold charm. Ian the jeweller told us how the charm was made. He made the hull first, then added the cabin section of the boat. The windows were then engraved on the sides and the ring added at the back. We are really pleased with the result and feel that the jeweller has done a wonderful job. The golden narrowboat is a wonderful reminder of our canal holiday with dear friends. Thanks for the memories, Dot and Derek!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Leonardo and Billy

It was the last day of the Leonardo Da Vinchi Machines Exhibition on Sunday. After lunch we strolled in the sunshine along the Wellington Waterfront to join the queues outside the Academy Gallery. Looks like quite a few others had left it till the last day to see the exhibition too.

We sat and watched an excellent video which explained the ideas behind the designs. Although well known for his famous paintings, Leonardo Da Vinci spent his life studying anatomy, biology, mathematics and physics. His manuscripts show ingenious solutions to practical problems of his time, such as siege machines, movable bridges and lifting apparatus. These are certainly extremely clever. But it was his designs for such things as gliders, flying machines, bicycles and cars that show him to be a man so far ahead of his time. How could he visualise such things unknown at the time, we wondered?

image Most of the models on display were labelled “please do not touch”. But there were a few that we could play with, to see how they worked. We tried the cam hammer, the worm screw, the jack, Archimedes Screw and several variations of ball bearings. Some ideas were simple, some very complex, and detailed drawings accompanied each design.

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After all this contemplation our group gathered outside the Chicago Bar in the sunshine for a cup of coffee. There was a large group of Harley Davidson motor bikes parked up and lots of leather clad bikers enjoying the sun shine too. One of our group spotted a familiar face in the crowd. “Isn't that Billy Connolly over there?”. We all looked over to see. It looked like him, and he certainly was speaking with a Scots accent, but we didn’t want to be intrusive. But….. as our group walked back to the car park we decided to go back and check

P2153142 Billy Connolly outside the Chicago Bar in Wellington

One of the bikers confirmed that it was Billy Connolly. “Go and say hello, you know he’s married to a Kiwi girl”. So over we went. He was nice and chatty and told us that he was here to perform live shows. “So I don’t have to worry what I say”, he told us with a laugh. We wished him well and left him to enjoy his drink in the sun shine.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Terracotta Warriors Exhibition

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The Terracotta Warriors have come to Wellington.  Or, to be more precise, this is a private collection of life sized models, replicated authentic handmade copies of  the originals.  We took out SLG friends to see them today at St James Theatre.  With nine of us, we were just short of the number needed for a group concession entry price.  Robin was sent up to the ticket office to see if we could get the cheaper price anyway.  “Get someone off the street”, was the suggestion.  So we invited the three people behind us in the queue to  join us in the ticket purchase.  Great, we now qualified for group discount.

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As we entered the exhibition our tickets were checked by a  young man dressed in authentic period costume.  We admired  bronze and jade grave goods, including several beautifully carved vases.  There were several warriors on display painted in vibrant colours, as they would have looked originally.  We are so used to seeing the terracotta warriors in their dusty hues that these bright ones seemed rather garish to us.

P2153112 We then went through to the main part of the exhibition to see the terracotta warriors all lined up.  As the weight of these was  more than 10, 000kg the building needed to be tested to ensure it could carry the weight.  They all looked so amazingly lifelike.   Each warrior is unique in size, shape, uniform and face.  There was an exact replica of the Emperors bronze chariot and horses,  as well as swords, crossbows and axes.

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Every visitor goes into the draw to win a trip to China, so we are hoping that one of our group  will be the lucky winner.  How wonderful it would be to view the  terracotta warriors  at the place they were found in China.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day

Who was St Valentine?   There are several different versions of his story.  He was  a Roman in the time of the Emperor Claudius who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity and died on 14th February 269 AD. 

February 14th has come to be known as Valentine’s Day and cards, chocolates and red roses are often presented to the love of one’s life.  We are passing up on the highly expensive red roses and will be dining out tonight at a local restaurant, toasting each other with a glass of bubbly or two!!

“How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach………..”

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What’s Cooking??

The time had come, we decided, to purchase a new stove.  Our one was over 30 years old and we felt it was getting quite dangerous.  It was getting difficult to get the hot plates to reduce heat from “hot” to “simmer” when the switches were turned down.  The chief cook was worried that an accident was waiting to happen.  So we went shopping for a new stove.  The main criteria was that it must fit into the space available.  And Jenny did not want one of those fancy ceramic top stoves either, radiant hot plates are fine for her!!

Stove 1 Snipping off the electric fitting

Our new stove duly arrived on the truck yesterday, a Westinghouse Saturn.  Two young men brought the new one inside.  Then the  electric cable was snipped off the old stove as it had a special wall fitting and we needed to use  it again.  The sad old stove was then loaded up and taken away.

Stove 2  Off with the old

Shortly after, the electrician arrived.  He wired up the fittings, and installed an anti tip bracket.  Then he checked to see that everything was working as it should, and gave us a quick run through. 

Stove 3  Wiring up the fittings

Jenny cooked the veggies for dinner and made cheese sauce.  It was so nice to have  hot plates that behaved themselves.  Robin has read through the instruction book and set the clock.  Guess we will have to get cracking and paint the kitchen now to complement the nice shiny new stove!!

Stove4  Cooking up a storm!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ponderings and Passions

In the early evenings at Kaitoke Regional Park  the gas BBQs were lit all around the camp and delicious smells filled the air.    Our group like to cook together then eat our meals side by side out in the fresh air.  After things were cleared away and the dishes done we gathered under the gazebo for some evening entertainment.

On Friday evening we had organised “Points to Ponder”.   People were invited to bring a question or two to ponder, with the idea being that the collective genius of our group was sure to come up with an answer.  Whether the answer was correct was anyone’s guess.  We pondered long and hard on such topics as why the water swirls down the plug holes in different directions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and what is the speed of dark, in  relation to the speed of light.  As can be imagined, we went off on all sorts of different tangents.

DSCF0705 Still pondering the next day

Saturday evening found us under the gazebo once again and the subject for the evening was “Passions”.  We invited everyone to tell us what they were passionate about in their lives.  Jenny had written everyone’s name down on a piece of paper and placed them in a bowl.  The two grandchildren with us were in charge of picking out one of the folded pieces of paper and reading out the names.  When the girls names were called out they also had to take part, and they did very well too.  The passions ranged from caravanning,  craft work, music, home and families.  The skills of reading, writing, tackling crosswords and keeping up to date with ongoing education featured very strongly with many of us.  The passions in life are what keep us going and we were really pleased that everyone shared their thoughts with the group.

DSCF0683 Wonder what Geoff is pondering about?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fun in the Sun at Kaitoke

The weather was very hot all weekend and people made good use of the river,  paddling, boating, or just jumping in to the deep swimming holes, it was fun in the sun all the way.  We spent some time watching a group of boys climbing up a nearly vertical bank, then jumping 30 foot down into the cold water.  How they managed to clamber up that bank was beyond us.

DSCF0692Boys climbing and one jumping

As we wandered through the camping areas we saw all sorts of “homes away from home”.  Tents were everywhere, in the camping areas and dotted along the river banks.  Someone had made a dining area with a blue tarpaulin as a roof draped over a frame, and weighted down with bottles of water to hold it all down.

DSCF0681 How many bottles weighing this down?

People were flying kites, riding bikes, trikes and scooters.  One little boy  was running along with his kite and and called out to us, “Get out of my way”.  We had to duck under the kite string to save getting caught up.  All the youngsters close by must have brought their trikes and scooters with them, they were everywhere.

DSCF0676 Young bikers

Some of our group went out to Kaitoke Country Gardens for a “coffee break”,   It was nice and cool there as we sipped our lattes, tea, and iced coffees.  This is the life!!

DSCF0701 Enjoying our coffee break

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Kaitoke Regional Park

We camped with the Caravan Club at the beautiful Kaitoke Regional Park for 3 days over Waitangi Weekend.  The park covers 2500 hectares in the foothills of the Tararua Ranges,  and is a catchment area for the Wellington region’s water supply.  The mature native forest is home to many species of native birds.  The park, as it is now, began in 1983, to provide open spaces for recreation.  People come to camp, to picnic, walk the many tracks, or have fun in the river.

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We arrived late on Thursday afternoon (Friday was a public holiday) to find the camping area filling up fast.   There were groups of tents setting themselves up all around the campsite.  One group close by gathered up several heavy wooden picnic tables on a trailer.  They set them up  them up inside a gazebo to use as a dining room for the large number of children in their party.   More and more cars and trailers kept arriving all weekend.  The Park Ranger estimated that there were about 1000 campers, more than they had over the New Year period.

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Our camp site

Tucked away behind our caravans was a nice little sheltered area with shady trees.  Here we set up our gazebo to provide relief from the hot sun.  The trees were full of cicadas and they were “singing” away with all their might, to attract a mate.  In the evenings they buzzed around our lights, as did the large moths, which caused a little distraction to those who didn’t care for swooping insects (like Jenny).  The cicadas caused quite a discussion as we noticed their discarded (outgrown) skins sticking to the tree branches. 

The camp was full of dogs of all shapes and sizes.  There was a husky close by who was watching all the comings and goings with interest.  Jenny chatted to the owner as she passed by.  He told her that his dog was formerly part of a sled racing team, and they trained in nearby Rimutaka Incline Track.

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It was such lovely weather that we ate most of our meals outside.  Robin fired up the BBQ in the morning to cook bacon and eggs.  We had lunch in the shade, followed by 4zees, followed by BBQ meals at night.  We had six caravans in attendance and two grandchildren, these girls were in and out of the water all day, having a ball.  It was all very relaxed and very pleasant, we certainly want to return to this lovely spot again. 

We returned home and did our usual thing of Robin backing the caravan onto the concrete pad.  Nine times out of ten this manoeuvre goes  smoothly.  This time, it must have taken him about five tries to get it lined up correctly.  Never mind, sixth time lucky.

DSCF0712 Put on place at last!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Riding the Rails

One of the down-sides of working as a “Temp” is that Jenny can be put off work with very little notice.  Not much time to plan anything, and of course no work means no pay.  However, on Tuesday she decided to “ride the rails” and have a day out in the Capital City, Wellington.

There was a ten trip ticket tucked away in her wallet with two clips left on it.  So why not take the train for a change, instead of the bus?  This ticket was almost an antique.  It had previously belonged to Robin  when he worked in Wellington many years ago and must have been over 12 years old, if not more!! 

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There are none of those super fast trains here in New Zealand like they have overseas.  The trip from Upper Hutt to Wellington takes 50 minutes.  The train passes first through suburbia, then reaches the  foreshore.  From here the flat land narrows to a thin ribbon and is hemmed in by towering hills on one side and Wellington Harbour on the other.  A quick trip through the rail yards and there we are, Wellington City.

DSCF0663Wellington Station

Wellington Railway Station was completed in 1937 and is registered as a Category 1 Historic Place.  It was designed in Neo-Georgian style with eight columns at the imposing entrance.  It is New Zealand’s busiest railway station in terms of the numbers of services and passenger numbers.

DSCF0668Concourse of  Wellington Station

It was some time since Jenny had  travelled in by train and she noticed many changes inside the station.  Gone were  the kiosk that sold snacks, newspapers, sweets and drinks,  the florist, and the hot dog stand.  The concourse has been renovated and is now clear, light and airy.  There is a Metro Supermarket tucked tidily away in one corner which serves the needs of travellers.

DSCF0665 Ticket Office

Both Jenny and Robin worked in Wellington for many years.  In their youth they travelled on rackety old carriages known as “bone shakers” pulled  by diesel engines.  These had hard wooden seats and gas lights.  Even further back, Jenny can remember waiting on the station as a child and excitedly watching the steam engine arrive puffing smoke.   Travelling by electric units now seem a bit tame!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fig Tree X 2

The Fig Tree Cafe in Trentham, Upper Hutt, would have to be Jenny’s favourite local cafe. She was looking forward to meeting up with her friend Geraldine there on Saturday afternoon. So imagine her delight when daughter Nicky phoned inviting her Mum to join her at the Fig Tree for brunch on Sunday morning. Twice in two days – what could be nicer!!

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The Fig Tree Cafe is featured in the Summer 2008 edition of the “Cafe Culture” magazine – so it must be a good place!! The building was previously a church for about 50 years.  The current owner has restored the stained glass window above the counter, which had been painted over. It is an extremely popular place and is always teeming with customers. There is now an expectation from Robin that Jenny will bring home two of those melt-in-the-mouth Eccles Cakes for supper - after all, he wasn't invited to these girly get-togethers!!

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Geraldine and Jenny on Saturday

Back again on Sunday morning to catch up with daughter Nicky who was spending the weekend in the big smoke with friends Heather and Richard. What to have? The corn fritters and bacon sounded just right for brunch - and they were delicious. Customers were coming and going while Nicky and her Mum caught up on each other’s news. (Isn’t that the ex-husband sitting over there? It was. He popped over to say hello.)

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Jenny, Heather and Nicky on Sunday morning

The Fig Tree Cafe has also been booked for a special occasion in March ……….but that’s another story.