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

Monday, August 31, 2009

That elusive Fence Post

We received a really strange e-mail last week. The subject line said “Ever wondered what happened to your fence post?”. It looked rather like a spam e-mail to me and I was all set to delete it. As it turned out, the message was from the Karori Sanctuary. We are founder members of the Karori Sanctuary and when the time came for a predator proof fence to be erected to enclose the land, we sponspered one of the many fence posts in the construction. The sanctuary comprises 225 hectares of regenerating lowland forest and wetlands protected by a unique 8.6 km predator-proof fence, specially designed to exclude non-native mammals ranging from hedgehogs to possums. The fence is made of a tight wire weave mesh, with a curved top, wire mesh wall and underground mesh skirt, which has proved to be an effective barrier to all burrowing animals. The Sanctuary is the most accessible of New Zealand’s celebrated mainland conservation islands and is a safe haven for some of our most iconic and endangered native animals, including tuatara, little spotted kiwi, saddleback, hihi and giant weta. At just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Wellington, the Capital City of New Zealand, this little piece of paradise is just delightful. There is a huge new Visitors Centre under construction, due to be completed next year.

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Last weekend was the opportunity to find out exactly where our very own fence post was. So we turned up shod in our sturdy walking shoes,with Robin carrying a back-pack containing our parkas in case of showers, a drink bottle and lunch box. We thought that our fence post number was the same as our membership number, but that is not the case, we were told. The friendly volunteer lady wrote our fence post number down on the map, advised us which of the many tracks would take us to the closest point of the fence line to our post, and sent us on our way. The Valley View Track was quite steep to start, and it wasn’t long before we were puffing and panting. Then we came across the fence line and followed this ever upwards, checking the numbers as we went. We were looking for 689 and before too long there it was. But what’s this? That plaque on the post doesn’t belong to us, it has someone else’s name on it. We checked the numbers all around just in case but there was still no sign of our own post. Out comes the trusty cell phone and Robin rings down to the Sanctuary to tell them of our problem. “We’ll get back to you”, was the reply. There was only one thing for it, we decided. We would walk the fence line until we came to our membership number, checking each and every post as we went. It was a long hard slog as we climbed higher and higher up the hill. Then at last, “I’ve found it”, called Robin. There at last was the fence post bearing the plaque with our names on it. It had the same number as our membership number, as we had thought. Out came the cameras to photograph our elusive fence post.

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We walked down the rather steep Pylon Track, meeting up with the Fantail Track. We were thrilled to hear the call of the Saddleback, and were rewarded for our patience when two of these black and tan endangered birds appeared in the trees by the track. Moving on to the Beech Track we came across the new Suspension Bridge, at 43 metres long it gives a good view of the surrounding forest.

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Moving down towards the valley floor we came across what appeared to be a cage. This was in fact a feeding station for the hihi and bellbirds. Their nectar diet is supplemented at these feeding stations. As we watched, a hihi (stitchbird) appeared, hopped through the mesh cage and sipped at sugar water before flying away again.

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At last we reached the information centre and approached the volunteers who were helping with the fence post discovery, and told them the trouble we had experienced. We were then told that the posts were numbered on the outside of the fence so that the numbers can be seen by the fence walkers who regularly check the fence line for damage. That wasn’t much good to us or anyone else for that matter, who were walking along the inside perimeter trying to find their number. All this walking up and down hills really ensured we slept like logs that night, in fact, we were so tired we needed an extra early night to recover!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Four Flat Whites in Italy

We had a little bit of culture last night when we visited Circa Theatre.  Circa Theatre staged the first production way back in 1976, and moved to the current building in 1994.  Circa is one of Wellington’s most popular theatres and is run on co-operative lines.  This is a system which promotes the pursuit of theatre of the  highest professional standard.  We travelled in to Wellington with a bus full of eager theatre goers ready to be entertained with a night of comedy.

DSCF1795  The Circa Theatre building

The play we had all come to see was “Four Flat Whites in Italy”, by Roger Hall.  Roger Hall is one of New Zealand’s best known and successful playwrights.  We like to claim him for our own, but he is actually English born, and emigrated out to New Zealand in 1958.  This play tells the ups and downs of the trip overseas shared by two incompatible couples.  Mix up a retired pair of librarians, short on cash but with a love of art and history  with a retired businessman with his brassy blonde second wife who loves shopping.  The holiday is doomed to failure and is anything but happy. As Roger Hall says, “It is hard enough to travel with one’s nearest and dearest, but add other people into the mix causes all sorts of stress, which I hope leads to entertaining theatre”.  Yes, it was certainly entertaining and had a nice little twist at the end.  A  most enjoyable evening.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Daffodil Day

Today is Daffodil Day.  The daffodil is one of the first flowers of spring, whose bright yellow blooms remind us of the joys the new season will bring.  Daffodil Day is a major funding source for the Cancer Society of New Zealand.   The “Kindy Kids” came visiting at work today to help raise funds for this worthy cause.  These pre-schoolers all had a bright yellow daffodil pinned to their jerseys.  Some of them very importantly carried baskets of the fund raising daffodils to offer to the workers.  Two of the children were getting an introduction into the world of high finance; these were the ones who had hold of the buckets to collect the coins, and they took this job very seriously. 

DSCF1792 Collecting for the Cancer Society

Unfortunately, in this country, cancer affects 1 in 3 New Zealanders. I had my own brush with this horrible disease a couple of years ago and I am very thankful to the care and treatment I received from the Public Hospital.  The  Cancer Society also offered support and care.  We made use of their drop-in centre which has an extensive library, and continuous coffee and snacks on offer.  A big bonus is the free parking while attending appointments and receiving treatment at the Hospital over the road.  Thank you, Cancer Society, for all the help we have received.

DSCF1794 Our daffodils in the garden, just in time for Daffodil Day

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Finches come calling

We have hung a seed holder from a tree in the garden, and wondered what kind of birds would be attracted to our latest offering.  No, not the pretty little Waxeyes.  They are quite happy with the bird pudding made from dripping, honey, crusts and seeds, together with half an apple hanging up close by.  Our latest visitors are Greenfinches.  These birds are a olive green colour, with bright yellow flashes on the wings.  The Greenfinches just love to land on the perches on the seed container and gobble up the mixed seeds.  The humble Sparrow often joins in too and together they can empty out the seed container in just a couple of days.  Mind you, they seem to spill as much as they eat.  We have noticed lots of Sparrows too on the lawn eating up the dropped seeds.

 DSCF1737 Greenfinch on the bird seed holder

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Watch out Tiger Woods

We met up with our SLG friends on Sunday and after a nice leisurely lunch at Petone, which was the first European settlement in the Wellington region and still has many historical buildings and landmarks. The first settlers arrived here in January 1840, on the ship Aurora. After the arrival of a second ship, a settlement was planned on the site.  The swampy land made life difficult for the earliest settlers, and a new site was chosen around the shores of what is now the city of Wellington,  New Zealand's capital.  Petone is now a very trendy suburb, with it’s early history, old buildings  and these days, many cafes and shops.

After lunch we went around to the Mini Putt course at Hutt Park Golf Club.  They don’t offer senior prices at this establishment so we all had to pay full price.  There were eight of us so we split into two teams of four.  Robin and I ended up in the same team and he was full of helpful advice of how to go about each shot.  But did I listen?  No way – this was my game, and as far as I was concerned, just a bit of “hit and giggle” . Robin played golf many years ago before we met, and it certainly showed in his attitude to the game.  Just check out the form of these two golfers.

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Some of the holes had quite an alarming slope on them.  We hit the ball towards the hole, only to watch it roll back time and again.  According to the rules, if we didn’t manage to sink the ball in seven shots, we had to admit defeat, write down eight strokes on the score card, and move on.  Must admit that I had a couple of eights.  But then, I got a “hole in one”, and Robin didn't.  I really don’t know how managed that!!  Watch out Tiger Woods.

P8233468The “hit and giggle” group

We finished our day out with Afternoon Tea at Rex’s home.  Here we did the annual draw, where we all took a turn to select a piece of paper out of a bowl.  Each slip of paper had the name of a month – so each of us must organise an outing for the group during that month.  It is all rather like an AGM, without all the hassle.  My month for my next outing is January 2010 and Robin got July.  So we had better get our thinking caps on and come up with some ideas.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Perhaps it’s Spring????

We have noticed that the early morning darkness is starting to lighten up a little now as we leave at 6.30am on our way to work.  It is still dark, I hasten to add, just not as pitch black as it was a couple of weeks ago.  Now, we don’t have to fumble with our keys in the lock, or trip ourselves up negotiating the steps since there is just enough light to see what we are doing.  It looks like Spring is starting to make a bit of a show in our garden too.  We are not very good gardeners, we would rather be away in our caravan, to tell the truth.  Luckily some of the plants appear to flourish quite unaided without any help from us.  The Daphne bush is bursting out in flower – I just love the smell of Daphne and like to have a vase of these fragrant smelling flowers inside.  And, we noticed these daffodils too, if this isn’t a sign of Spring, I don’t know what is!!

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What do you think of this lovely lizard lurking about in the garden?  This is a hand-crafted mosaic lizard made by my very clever daughter Nicky a year or two ago. 

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And lastly, not our own tree, but seen on “the street where we live”.  Not quite sure what it is, but this pink flowering tree looks a picture.  So is Spring on the way?  Or is there another Winter storm or two still waiting in the wings?  Guess we will just have to wait and see, won’t we.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Petrol-Head Heaven

Robin was in petrol-head heaven in the weekend. We visited Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, our wonderful modern museum which is situated (very conveniently for us) on the water-front in Wellington. On show were Formula One racing cars, so it was a “must see” exhibition for Robin, he just loves motor sports. I did my wifely duty and tagged along too. Even before we entered the Museum there was plenty to see. Lined up on the courtyard were a whole collection of racing cars and replicas, built by the enthusiasts of the Constructors Car Club. These all seemed very low slung to me, and Robin spent quite some time drooling over them all.

DSCF1754 Robin pondering which of these he would really like to have – the blue or the yellow?

We collected our Senior tickets and entered the Platinum Gallery. This exhibition traces the development of the Formula One racing car from the 1950s to the present time. Each of the iconic cars were well set out on a platform, so bystanders could walk right around and view the cars from any angle. There were cars from each decade on display; from a Cooper, Lotus, BRM, McLaren-Honda, Williams, Ferrari and a McLaren-Mercedes. Looking at all these wonderful cars of racing history had Robin entranced.

The display walls told the story of how design and technology changed how the cars were built as the years went by. Film of various races played continuously – handy for people like me who wanted to sit and rest those weary feet. We were permitted to take photos of the cars, but not of any of the display walls, trophies or memorabilia. Tucked away at the back of the exhibition was the newest car on display, a bright red 2006 McLaren MP4-21 dressed up in 2009 livery. All red, silver and black, this seemed quite a different design to the older cars, and drew a very appreciative crowd of admirers. This car is one of only 7 produced. It was interesting to note that 90% of the car components were changed from the previous model.

DSCF1758 The 2006 McLaren on display, 1 of only 7 made

New Zealand produced three Formula One drivers in the 1960s and 1970s; Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon. The 1967 Monaco Grand Prix was New Zealand’s most successful race. Denny Hulme won first place driving a Brabham, Chris Amon came third in a Ferrari, and Bruce McLaren took fourth place in a McLaren. Memorabilia belonging to these great drivers was on display. It was interesting to note how basic the fire retardant clothing and helmets were in the early years, nothing like the high-tech articles around today.

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1966 Brabham BT20

I needed a coffee break so left Robin to listen to a “Floor Talk” by three experts. This talk walked us through the evolution of the formula one cars. In the beginning F1 cars were really only planes with wheels and the cars in each of the decades represented had design improvements over those before. The big jump in design came with wind tunnel testing and 3D CAD system design which made for better aerodynamics. When explained these dramatic changes were very evident. This is illustrated by the McLaren MP4-21 which looks so very different to all the others.

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It was an interesting display with many men intently studying all these racing cars. And no wonder, Formula One is among the world’s most popular sport.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Last Night at the Proms

Yes, that’s where we were last night, at the Proms. We went last year, and enjoyed it so much that we just had to go again this year. The concert was held in our local theatre and gallery, Expressions Art and Entertainment Centre. Both the Union Jack and New Zealand flags hung above the stage to provide the right atmosphere. As the patrons seated themselves we noticed that many were carrying flags to wave, as well as the hooters and whistles that seem to be such a very big part of these concerts. The Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Club Brass Band looked very smart in their light blue blazers. All the highly polished instruments reflected the light as the musicians started playing through the evening’s programme. The guest soloist, Riki McDonnell, delighted us with his skill in playing the Euphonium. He is the only player in New Zealand Banding to have won Champion of Champions on four different instruments.

DSCF1748 Expressions – our local art gallery and concert hall

As the second half of the programme came to an end, all the audience were eagerly awaiting the tunes that we could sing along to, such as Rule Britannia. Out came the whistles and we all happily tapped our feet and blew loudly as the songs progressed. Then we pulled on our Party Poppers and with a “bang” the streamers went everywhere. A whole swag of balloons were released from a net slung over the audience and these were gaily batted about the hall. It was great to see so much fun and hilarity at a concert full of grey haired patrons, us included. It was a fun night out, and close to home.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Farewell to a Friend

Sadly, our friend Pam passed away last week.  She had joined our SLG several years ago and really enjoyed all our outings.The family invited our group around to an “Open Home” and afternoon tea on Friday.  Even though we wish the circumstances had been different, it was so nice to meet Pam's extended family, and put faces to names.  The daughters asked me to say a few words in memory of our friend.  We lit a candle for Pam, and told of her involvement with our group.  It was a lovely afternoon, and gave us all the opportunity to say our last goodbyes.  

 

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Pam was petite, but that didn’t stop her from doing anything.  Over the last couple of summers, she single handedly painted the outside of her house.  Pam’s house was on a hillside, and we used to cringe when she regaled us with stories of putting blocks of wood under the ladder feet to make it even.  Then she blithely ran up and down the ladder, paint tin and brush in hand, to get on with the painting.  And we remembered the day when we were all lunching out at a cafe, when the opportunity to take a ride on one of those huge Harley Davidson motor bikes came up.  There was no stopping Pam. She put the protective gear on, a helmet on her head, then climbed up behind the young man.  Away they roared down the road, and when they finally returned half an hour later, Pam was bubbling over with excitement.  Rest in peace, Pam, we will miss you.

 

 

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Pam all ready to ride!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A visit to the Vet

It’s that time of the year again, when Muffy has to go and see the Vet.  Nothing to worry about, we hoped, but just a general check-up and vaccination for Feline Enteritis.  First thing to do was to get the carry cage out.  That always causes Muffy to get a bit worried.  Getting put in the cage can mean two things;  a trip to the Cattery or a visit to the Vet.  We loaded Muffy and the cage on the back seat and secured it with the seat belt.  Then it was just a short drive to the Vet Clinic.

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Waiting for our turn at the Vet Clinic

The waiting room was busy with people and pets coming and going.  Several people were collecting their pets after surgery.  Then it was our turn and we were ushered in to the clinic.  Muffy was lifted out of her cage and placed on the table.  She behaved really well and just stood there as the Vet ran his hands over her, poking and prodding as he felt for anything out of the ordinary.  Then he gave her the vaccination in the scruff on the neck.  Muffy didn’t even flinch at that, what a good girl.  Nothing wrong, we were told, and she is in excellent condition for her age.  Muffy is now 14 so she is certainly getting on a bit now.  But as Robin says, there is not much stress in her life.  She eats, then sleeps, and is certainly pampered.  But that is what being a pet cat is all about, isn’t it?

 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Totara Park

 DSCF1716 Totara trees at the entrance to our suburb

For those of our overseas readers who haven’t visited us at home, we thought it was time to let you have a look at where we live.  Our suburb is called “Totara Park”, developed in the late 1960s after the completion of a new bridge across the Hutt River.  The land on this side of the river was originally the Whiteman Farm.  The subdivision was named Totara Park, after the many large totara trees growing here.  These slow growing native trees can reach a height of 25 metres and the tree trunks have a great girth.  There are several totara trees on the round-about at the entrance of Totara Park, and others scattered around the area.

 

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Totara Park bridge

The Hutt River is a steep alluvial river that starts in the Tararua Ranges and enters Wellington Harbour at Petone. The river drains mountainous terrain in the southern Tararua and Rimutaka Ranges and streams and rivers from the Eastern and Western Hutt hills. Our river is very important, supplying most of the municipal water supplies for the Wellington region, held in two large storage lakes at Te Marua, north of Upper Hutt.  The lakes are filled from the river when  there is plenty of water available. Stored water is pumped back to the treatment plant when there is not enough water in the river to meet public demand, when the river is too dirty - after heavy rainfall - or when it is in flood and the intake is closed to prevent rocks and gravel from entering the intake pipes.

 

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The Hutt River from the Totara Park bridge

Heavy trucks and trailers laden with logs rumble down from the Akatarawa Forest in the hills and cross over the bridge.  Saw milling has been going on for over 100 years in this area, firstly cutting down native timbers.  Plantations of  “exotics” such as radiata pine are now milled.  I had my trusty camera with me and I just managed to snap a heavily laden truck as it turned on to the bridge.

 

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

An apple a day

Those pretty little silver-eyes continue to delight us in the garden.  I cut an apple in half an strung it up from the tree, to see which birds, if any,  would take a fancy to it.  It didn’t take the silver-eyes long to find it.  Soon we had a whole group of them fluttering around.  Some were on the bird pudding, and some were daintily pecking away at the apple.  What busy little birds they are, they fly here, there and everywhere, through the tree where we have hung these goodies.  They don’t seem to like to share though.  One will be pecking away at the bird pudding, while another climbs down the string.  Then the first one flies off.  These sort of antics were repeated with the apple – one eating, a second arrives, the first flies away.  We had expected that they would all gather around and eat the food together, but this doesn’t seem to happen.  Until we hung these food treats in the garden, we had never spotted these birds flying around.  So we are really pleased that they are now regular visitors.

 

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Silver-eye pecking away at the apple

 

But who is this lurking in the tree, watching our pretty little visitors with a predatory glint in her eye?  It is Chardy, short for Chardonnay, the tabby cat from next door.  Robin isn’t having any of this bird catching nonsense, certainly not in our back yard.  So he fills up the water pistol, creeps up to the cat, and gives her a good old squirt of cold water to send her on her way!  Our cat Muffy is too busy snoozing away on the bed to waste her energy chasing the birdies.

 

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Watch out Chardy, the water pistol is coming!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No work today

One of the down sides of working as a “temp” is that our services are not required from time to time.  Yesterday our new Team Leader told all the temps that there was no work for the next couple of days.  “Come back on Friday”, we were told.  That means no pay for the next couple of days.  So I was not working today.  Or……. as the Tui beer ads say, “Yeah, right!!”  While not at work today I: made a big pot of soup, did the laundry, vacuumed the floors, cleaned the bathroom, washed the kitchen and bathroom floors, did the ironing, prepared and cooked the evening meal.  Oh, that’s right, I also groomed Muffy’s coat and got the tangles out.  We have invited friends over for a meal in the weekend – there is nothing like impending visitors to get the house all tidied up, is there?   As usual, Muffy had a nice relaxed day, she didn’t bother with any work at all.  She snoozed on the bed, on the couch, took a short turn or two outside, then came back inside for more snoozing.

 

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Muffy, keeping an eye on that noisy vacuum cleaner

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Red-Back on the Dunny

We had a bit of a situation in the caravan bathroom while we were away last weekend which reminded me of the famous Australia song written by Slim Newton. The first verse goes like this:

“There was a red-back on the toilet seat, when I was there last night

I didn’t see him in the dark, but boy, I felt his bite!”

 

What we found however was a white-tail spider sitting on our caravan toilet.  Just waiting……….  White-tails are Australian imports who have made their presence felt here in New Zealand over the last few years.  They do not build webs and are active hunters, specializing in catching other spiders.  They have a very nasty bite and the puncture wound sometimes necrotises.  So they should be avoided at all costs, especially on visits to the loo.  Imagine what would have happened if one of us had gone in there late at night and not bothered to turn the light on.  It doesn’t bear thinking about now, does it?  Luckily Robin spotted our unwelcome visitor before either of us sat on him.  What to do, that was the question.  He grabbed the can of fly spray and after several strong blasts the spider turned up his toes and expired.  Thank goodness for that, crisis averted.  Then with a flourish, Robin flushed that nasty white-tail spider down the loo.  A fitting end to it, we thought!!

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It’s may be small, but it can bite!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mini Rally at Te Horo

  DSCF1660 Only two caravans at this mini rally

There was no caravan rally set by the committee  in August this year.  So we arranged to visit our friends Geoff and Eileen at their property at Te Horo and have our own small mini rally.  Fellow caravanners Don and Pamela joined us there as well.  The lawn was quite wet so we parked in the long gravel driveway.  Their house, known by us all as “The “Manor”, is surrounded by farmland, so is in a lovely rural setting.  Several horses grazed in a side paddock (field) beside a rustic looking red shed, and black and white cattle were away in the distance in a back paddock.  Although it seems that we are in the middle of no-where, the main road State Highway 1 and the main trunk railway line to Auckland are only a short distance away and cars, trucks and trains go rushing about their business.

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Rural delights

Friday night was very wet and blustery and the rain poured and poured.  Don and Pamela arrived on Saturday morning and brought up some home made savoury muffins for morning tea.  After lunch we had a film afternoon.  Robin plugged our lap top in to our hosts large TV and we showed the slide show of our recent overseas trip, complete with music. The segment of our canal boat trip was of particular interest as Derek and Dot from Narrow boat Gypsy Rover were fellow caravan club members before they changed their life style to explore the canals of UK.  “Lets not cook tonight” was the consensus so off we went to the local RSA club for our evening meal.  Most of us had the roast beef option, very good value at only $12.00 with dessert included. 

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Although the sun tried to make an appearance on Sunday morning the showers soon came back.  Well, it is the middle of winter after all.  We decided to make a real weekend of it with not doing too much cooking and took ourselves off to the Red House Cafe for brunch.  Just as well we made it before mid-day as crowds of people had the same idea and the cafe was soon full.  One large party arrived and took over several tables, this was for a 90th birthday celebration, complete with a large birthday cake and presents.  Our table ordered bacon sausage and eggs, eggs Benedict, and black pudding and bacon.  Followed with a rather large cake for dessert and all washed down with a couple of cups of coffee each.  What a nice way to finish our weekend away.

 

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