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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pussy in Heaven

My lunch buddy at work had very sad news this week. Her much loved 19 year old black cat Brat had come to the end of his life. Cat lovers everywhere know how hard it is to say goodbye to a family member who has shared your life for so long. I am sure that Brat (he was a bit of a brat when he was younger, I was told), is now in pussy cat heaven. Pain free, I am sure, and doing those things that cats love to do, eat, sleep and play. She brought in a bag of cat food and asked if I would like them for Muffy.

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Muffy is checking out the goodies

We all know that cats are nosy and Muffy is no exception. “Mmmm, what’s this”, she seems to be thinking as she smelt inside the bag. “Perhaps I’ll just get in a bit further to see what’s down the bottom of the bag Perhaps there’s a mouse hiding down there?”

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Brat’s food parcel is much appreciated, many thanks to my colleague for her thoughtfulness. Muffy says, “Ta very much”.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kiwi Gypsy Rovers

It was a wild and stormy night at Wellington Airport. We were there to farewell Dot and Derek as they started the long trip back to UK, and wondered if the weather would delay the first leg of their journey to Auckland. No trouble at all, a bit of wind and rain wasn’t enough to upset the brave Air New Zealand pilots. Dot and Derek had plenty to keep them busy during their 4 week visit, business to attend to, catching up with friends and family, dining out and even attending High Tea. They managed to squeeze in a caravan rally, minus the caravan this time. Dot was determined to take an empty bottle of Lemon and Paeroa (L & P) back with her, to remind her of her favourite NZ fizzy drink, unobtainable in UK. It was great to catch up with them over the last few weeks, and we certainly enjoyed being in their company again.

DSCF3586 All ready to board, but what’s that in Dot’s hand?

Soon they will be back aboard NB Gypsy Rover as they continue on their travels along the canals of England. We think this sums up their life.

The Gypsy Rover cruised down the canal, down through the valley so shady

Owned by a couple from Kiwi Land, Derek and his own lovely lady

Continuous cruising is what they do, four years of travelling all over

They watch the countryside gliding by, aboard their own Gypsy Rover

Locks, tunnels, lift bridges too, many places that they’ve been exploring

At the end of the day they find a nice place, and tie the boat up at a mooring

The boat glides gently into the lock, it doesn’t take long to fill her

Dot’s turning the windlass really hard, while Derek’s at the tiller

The winter weather had kept them trapped, the canals had all iced over,

They keep warm and fill in their days, aboard the Gypsy Rover

Derek and Dot love life aboard, their narrow boat Gypsy Rover

There’s life to live and much more to see, travelling the country all over

Gypsy Rover

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Searching for the Hydrabad

Somewhere along the beach at Waitarere are the remains of the Hydrabad which was caught in a severe storm in 1878. Captain Holmwood ran the ship aground in the hope that passengers and crew would survive the huge seas. Luckily no lives were lost in the shipwreck. The remains of Hydrabad were washed further and further up the beach by later storms, and today the wreck lies well above the high water mark. But where had it got to? We drove slowly along the beach on Sunday searching for the remains but could not spot it. Locals told us that it is now buried in the sand dunes and only a tiny portion remains visible, if you know exactly where to look.

The wreck of the Hydrabad

We remembered climbing over the ship quite some years ago. After searching through the old caravan club photo albums we came across these memories from 1987! There was quite a bit of the ship visible back then as can be seen from these old photos. Goodness me, don’t we look young!

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The wreck of the Hydrabad in 1987

As the wide beach between Waitarere and Hokio is a designated road, traffic is allowed along this stretch of coastline. Robin drove our 4WD slowly up and down the beach while we searched for the missing shipwreck. Huge pieces of driftwood littered the beach with much of the wood half buried under the sand, giving testament to the power of the tides. It is sad that the shipwreck has now all but disappeared from view under the sand hills.

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It was low tide and the beach was dotted with sea gulls searching along the shoreline for titbits to eat. A few people and their dogs were out walking in the brisk salty air. Further along the beach a group of riders were exercising their horses in the surf. It was hazy offshore with Kapiti Island partly obscured.

DSCF3579 Kapiti Island in the distance

There is something quite soothing about being on a wide sandy beach on a nice day. Altogether quite a different sort of day from the storm back in 1878 when the Hydrabad was tossed about in the stormy seas and ran aground – what a day that must have been for those aboard the ship, fearing for their lives.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Coffee @ Ian’s

“Let’s go to “Coffee at Ian’s” if he’s open”, Robin suggested as we approached Paekakariki on Sunday morning. Ian’s establishment was open, so we pulled in and walked up to the counter to get our coffee. The former petrol station is now a drive by coffee shop.

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Robin was greeted as a long lost friend. He has a good business relationship with Ian, and Coffee @ Ian’s is a regular call when the Robin is on his truck run up the Kapiti Coast. Ian chatted away as he made us both a coffee to go. “Oh no,” Ian said, “Robin and I don’t just talk about orders you know. We discuss all sorts of things, sports, world events, even politics. Just don’t get me started on ACC levies.” It is obvious that Ian is a very interesting fellow and enjoys a good discussion.

DSCF3575 Two coffees coming up

Coffee @ Ian’s sells “coffee to go” to commuters and the travelling public. Our coffees were great, creamy and piping hot. They have a great philosophy with their motto: Every Coffee - Perfect. With a business aim like that, they won’t fail, will they. Call in and say hello next time you travel past Paekakariki and say Robin sent you!

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Daddie's Favourite at the Gamekeeper

We dined out at The Carvery last night and enjoyed a very reasonably priced meal of pumpkin soup, roast pork and roast vegetables, and chocolate pudding. Adorning the walls of the dining room were old fashioned posters from days gone by of various condiments, and I spotted the poster of “Daddie’s Favourite Sauce”. This brought back memories of our stay in Caernarfon, Wales, in 1999. “Bryn Helen”, our B & B, was a beautiful listed house which overlooked Caernarfon Castle. We stayed there for several days and a bottle of Daddie’s Favourite always graced the table each morning while we tucked into our “Full Welsh Breakfast”, consisting of bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes.

DSCF3562 Memories of Wales

Although the restaurant has been trading as The Carvery for quite some time, it was previously run as The Gamekeeper, and still has that feel about it. The green and red tartan carpet lend a Scottish air to the establishment, and the frosted glass doors are etched with a pair of pheasants in flight. A stuffed pheasant and a mallard duck are arranged on top of the river stone fireplace.

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Keeping a beady eye on this pair of tasty birds is snarling albino ferret, looking like it is ready to launch itself onto one of these game birds for his dinner. On second thoughts, I’m not quite sure if it is actually a ferret, perhaps it is a weasel or stoat instead? If anyone knows the finer points of mustelids, please feel free to let us know.

DSCF3567 Watch out for those teeth.

Adding to the gamekeeper theme is the head of a large stag hanging above the doorway in the adjacent bar. Not everyone notices him up so high, and the waiter took me there especially so that he could point him out to me. The stag appears to look down his nose at those below as order their drinks at the bar.

DSCF3569 A fine stag head

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Foster and Allen

A Sunday evening concert at the Wellington Opera House – what a great finish to the weekend. A group of Foster and Allen fans boarded the bus to take us in to the big city, all of us in the silver haired age group, out for a night of Irish song and blarney. Going in by bus certainly makes life so much easier, no worries about car parking. Wonder if the drivers ever worry about taking these big buses through the narrow city streets? Robin doesn’t think so, as a former bus driver himself, his philosophy is “Might has Right”. Or in other words, “I’m bigger than you, get out of my way!”

DSCF3551 All aboard

Mick Foster and Tony Allen stepped on stage and then the fun started. “You will have to help us out”, we were told, “singing along, clapping your hands and stamping your feet. At our age we need all the help we can get”. The show started with their earliest hit from 1975, “The Rambles of Spring”. We had fun singing the chorus of “Red Haired Mary” who got up to high jinks with the tinker. And as for those “Seven old Ladies locked in the Lavatory”, have to admit that we all joined in to that song with gusto.

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They sang a range of lilting Irish songs, including their huge hit, “Maggie”. There were a few surprises as well. We weren’t really expecting the Buddy Holly classic of “It doesn’t Matter Anymore”, or Cliff Richard’s “The Young Ones”, but both of these songs were performed admirably. Mick Foster showed he was a master of the accordion with his rendition of “The Bluebell Polka”, which had the crowd clapping and stamping their feet. After 32 years, 25 albums, and 19 million record sales, Foster and Allen are as popular as ever. Their Irish self deprecating humour was amusing, and their rapport with the audience was great. I loved their comment, “We used to be heart throbs”, they still are to all of the sentimental ladies in the audience. Those wonderfully emotional songs were performed with feeling and tugged at my heart. It is easy to see why these two are Ireland’s most famous and successful duo.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

High Tea for Five, please James

It was a girls only get-together for five caravan club members when we met for High Tea at the iconic James Cook Hotel in Wellington. Robin played taxi driver and drove the Hutt Valley contingent in to the hotel. We waited in the spacious downstairs lobby for Eileen to arrive from Te Horo. Guests were coming and going, and taxis were lined up outside waiting to whisk the guests to wherever their hearts desired.

DSCF3521 James Cook Hotel lobby

We took the lift upstairs to the Whitby Room, and were soon settled by the windows, with a view out over central city buildings. There was a large choice of fancy teas listed in the menu, with exotic fruity sounding names. Kathryn was the only one of us who chose tea, and as she said, she didn’t want one of those fancy ones and would stick to “English Breakfast”. The rest of us chose lattes or cappuccinos.

DSCF3526 Eileen, Pamela, Jenny, Dot and Kathryn playing ladies

Two triple tiered cake plates arrived piled high with all sorts of goodies for our High Tea. We had a selection of hot savouries, dainty sandwiches held together with toothpick and garnished with a green olive, and scones with cream and jam. Then there were small cups filled with chocolate mousse, chocolate dipped strawberries, and tiny bite sized cakes. Our young waitress was very obliging and snapped away with one camera after another for us. The hot drinks were advertised as being “unlimited” so most of us managed to down three cups each. We really needed to, it was thirsty work with all that chatter and laughter going on.

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Priced at $19.50 each, we decided that we certainly got great value for money, with excellent attentive service. We couldn’t manage to consume all the food, and most of us had three coffees each. My own High Tea was compliments of a gift card received last birthday from my daughter. We all had a great time, in lovely surroundings. Thanks girls, it was fun.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Oysters for Dinner

It’s just as well that we are gainfully employed and not living on the pension yet, as we would not be able to afford these oysters for our dinner. How divine, we haven’t had oysters for ages. There’s nothing to match Bluff oysters for flavour, they are “World Famous in New Zealand”.

DSCF3518 Bluff oysters, yum!!

We enjoyed every single one, dipped in batter and cooked to perfection with chips on the side. What could be better than that? And no, our cat didn’t get to taste a single oyster, she can eat cat food. Aren’t we mean!

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Oysters and chips for dinner

Thursday, May 13, 2010

And the leaves keep falling down

We’ve got leaves everywhere. They blow up our driveway, underneath the caravan, across the lawn, into the gardens, and right around the back yard. The wind deposits them in piles where they huddle together, brown and crunchy, or damp and wet, depending on the weather conditions. They sit there and wait accusingly for someone to do something about them. The deciduous trees planted up and down our street are to blame for this state of affairs. Our expected dinner guests last night spurred Robin to tidy up some of the leaves in our back yard. He brushed them up into a big pile, then shovelled them into the rubbish bin. Hope he realises that although that’s one lot of leaves gone, but there are plenty more all over the ground.

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It is not just householders waging war on fallen leaves, the city council is joining the fight too. I spotted three men hard at work on my way home today. All they had for protection on the road side were several orange “witches hats” keeping the traffic at bay as they went about their business. They had a huge bag to put all the gathered leaves in.

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One of the workmen saw me taking photos and came over to talk to me. “How about one of the three of us”, he said as they posed for the camera. He hoped I was from the local community newspaper and asked when the photo would be printed. The men were contracted to the council to collect the leaves off the streets, and their next job is at Maidstone Park. That’s a huge area with lots of large trees. Robin thought he had a big job with the leaves on our small property! And still the leaves keep falling down, keeping everyone busy for weeks to come.

DSCF3503 Posing for the camera

Monday, May 10, 2010

Open Season on Gnomes

Duck shooting season has started, but what about the gnomes? They were fair game during our caravan rally at Greytown in the weekend, with everyone taking pot shots at them. Graeme and Kathryn were the dastardly couple who organised the gnome shooting gallery on Saturday afternoon. What do they have against gnomes, anyway?

DSCF3485 The instigators of the great gnome shoot

They provided us with a plastic spud gun, and we were asked to bring along a raw potato. Dig the gun into the potato, we were told, which makes a sort of pellet. Then aim, and shoot. Pellets of raw potatoes were pinging around all over the place, and some gunslingers even managed to hit the targets. Some of our group took this very seriously indeed, out to win at all costs. Others were absolutely hopeless and hardly managed to shoot a gnome at all.

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I just hope that the Gnome Protection Society never finds out what we got up

Things were much more refined on Sunday morning when the men had to make a corsage for their partner to celebrate Mother’s Day, and the ladies made a floral button hole for the man in their life. Artificial flowers were provided to make our task easier. The impartial judge declared that Robin and Eileen’s creations were the winners.

DSCF3493 Everyone wearing their floral tributes

It was a great weekend with lots of fun and laughter, and catching up with everyone’s news.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Welcome to the Wanderers

Who are these old friends at our caravan rally this weekend at Greytown? Why, it’s Dot and Derek, all the way from good old Blighty! They left the joys of canal cruising aboard their very own NB Gypsy Rover for a month to meet up with family and friends back here in New Zealand. You can imagine how noisy it was all weekend, chatter, chatter, chatter, catching up on everyone’s news. I presented them with a little Father Christmas clutching a kiwi to remind them of home when they are back on their canal boat enjoying a British white Christmas. There is a bit of a story about this gift, I had put it away in such a safe place that I couldn’t find it for a couple of years!

DSCF3483 Special Kiwi wishes for Christmas

Greytown is a nice quiet camp surrounded by large trees and has an adjacent stand of native bush. We practically had the camp to ourselves the whole weekend. Pamela and Don arrived with a brand new caravan, so that got everyone talking. We all gave it the once-over and declared it “great”.

P5090819New caravan at it’s inaugural rally

We took a walk on Saturday afternoon, looking at some fabulous homes that none of us would ever be able to aspire to. We can dream, though, can’t we? There are certainly some great properties in this area, and plenty of wonderful old trees. We came across this lovely old oak tree which was well over 100 years old. Lots of fallen leaves everywhere making a carpet of brown and gold all over the footpaths, and the sweet smell of fallen apples from the local apple orchards certainly reminded us that we are now in Autumn.

DSCF3490 Robin and the old oak tree

“Wear a Hat” was the instruction for our Wine and Cheese evening on Saturday night. No problem, we all have a funny hat or two tucked away in our caravans somewhere. There were hats with bells, long dangly bits hanging off them, a couple with flashing lights, and one that would certainly have graced a wedding. And who is that man in the black Afro wig, perhaps it’s one of the Jacksons? The selection of wine and cheese was great, too. It was a fun night.

DSCF3491 That’s us in our funny hats!

After a very full weekend our cat Muffy was plumb tuckered out when we arrived home. She lay down in the hallway and watched while we went in and out bringing multiple loads in from the caravan. After all, she had to do the meet and greet thing herself with everyone over the weekend. All our friends wanted to talk to her, and tell her how pretty she is. It’s a hard life being a caravan cat, sometimes. I think she will be quite happy staying at home again for a while.

DSCF3496 Muffy, all tired out

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Greytown here we come

We woke to a glorious pink and golden sunrise with the morning sun getting ready to appear above the Eastern hills. It looks like it’s going to be a wonderful weekend for a caravan rally over the Rimutaka Hill at Greytown.

DSCF3469 Early morning sunrise

Even though our caravan is well set up, it always takes a while to pack for a weekend away. Clothes and footwear have to be taken in and packed way, and it’s getting cooler so we will need to take some winter woollies. Then there are the fridge items to organise, fruit and veggies, meat, cheese and milk. Mustn’t forget the bacon and eggs for our Sunday breakfast. Our cat Muffy is coming away too this weekend, so I have to make sure I take her cat food, crunchies and food bowl. And I don’t want to forget to take my new library book, I’m looking forward to reading that.

After many trips in and out with armfuls of all sorts of items I felt rather like that character in Ralph McTell’s song, “The Streets of London” . You remember how it goes:

She's no time for talking, just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.

We will be welcoming our friends Dot and Derek, home for a month’s holiday from UK, to our rally weekend, their first in 4 years. While we have been going away on caravan trips every month, Dot and Derek have been cruising along the canals of UK in their boat NB Gypsy Rover. Don’t think they will find any canals in Greytown, but I’m sure they will have plenty of stories to tell us of their cruising adventures. It will be great to have the gang all together again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beautiful Birds and strange People

Two bronze birds have recently been installed locally, designed by Palmerston North sculptor Paul Dibble, to celebrate Upper Hutt’s natural heritage. “Piwakawakawa” (fantail) and “Kereru” (wood pigeon) have been placed on traffic roundabouts on either end of Main Street. They have the look of timber about them, but are beautiful bronzes.

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Bronze sculptures of fantail and wood pigeon

Paul Dibble is well know for his New Zealand Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London. The memorial commemorates the relationship and the shared sacrifice of New Zealand and the United Kingdom during times of war. The work was a major commission involving the New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Defence Force, Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand the English Heritage and the Westminster City Council. We made a point of finding these bronzes in Hyde Park on our trip to UK in 2008. When viewed from this particular angle, white crosses appear on the top of each bronze.

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New Zealand Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London

Also newly installed in our fair city is “File” by Richard Wedekind, of Waiheke Island. This bronze of rather strangely shaped people has received quite a bit of criticism. I think they are “interesting” and bring a bit of humour to the street. What do you think of them?

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All this new art in our CBD adds beauty and interest and is certainly a talking point. Good on the City Council for commissioning these works of art, I say.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Boys night out

Robin enjoyed a boys night out last night at the Westpac Stadium with his workmates. Due to its shape, it is colloquially known as The Cake Tin. It was built in 1999 on reclaimed railway land which was surplace to requirement, and is handily located just a short walk away from the Wellington Railway Station. The stadium's bowl site size is 48,000 sq m., and offers 31,000 public seats, and 64 corporate boxes for those with business connections.

Westpac Stadium viewed from Wadestown

The Westpac Stadium

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

To discourage thousands of people driving into the city when the big games are on, the Railways offer a special low cost “Stadium Connection” return ticket. This saves the commuters looking for those elusive car parks and makes travelling in and out of Wellington a breeze. Robin took the train in and met up with his colleagues to watch the Super 14 game with the home team, the Hurricanes, playing the Waikato team, the Chiefs. The home side trailed for most of the game, but a last minute try gave the Hurricanes the winning score of 33 to 27 and importantly the bonus point (4 or more tries were scored) which keeps their final hopes alive. Honour intact, the local fans happily ambled out of the stadium, along to the station and boarded the homeward bound trains. No doubt they were reliving the game amongst themselves all the way home.

Hurricanes Logo2 Go The Hurricanes!