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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Museum of Aviation

We had a double dose of museums on Sunday, leaving the Otaki Museum to drive down to Paraparaumu. Our second museum visit on Sunday was to The Museum of Aviation at Paraparamu Airport, which is housed in the former Meteorological Office. Their aim is to preserve and display the local aviation history. Paraparaumu Airport was the hub of commercial aviation in New Zealand, until the construction of Wellington International Airport was completed in 1959.

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We were welcomed into the museum by the President, John Kennedy who took us through the emerging history of air transport in New Zealand. The museum has a time line display of the various companies which started business in New Zealand and models of all the planes which flew in our skies over the years, with names from the past such as Union Airways, Cook Strait Airways, and SPANZ. We all remembered the early airlines Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) and National Airways Corp (NAC). Ansett has come and gone in New Zealand, and these days Air NZ rules the domestic market.

P6260881 Models of aircraft

A very large wall full of gadgets and dials turned out to be a calibration flight instrument. This is used on board an aircraft to check the calibration of airport landing aids. I’m not quite sure how it all worked, but it looked very impressive to me. Men being men, the blokes in our group all seemed to understand the function of all these dials and gizmos.

DSCF3805 Calibration flight instrument

On display were all sorts of memorabilia from early aircraft menus and pieces of beautifully designed crockery, and photos of Air Hostesses in extremely short skirts and hats perched nattily onto of their heads. This NAC transfer had a more personal story. John related the story of being an NAC rep based in Napier in earlier years. When he changed jobs the company cut the piece of glass holding the transfer from the glass door and presented it to him. What better place to display it than the Museum of Aviation.

DSCF3815 Part of the glass door

There are several wooden propellers displayed on the walls of the museum. In pride of place is the propeller from the Will Scotland aircraft which flew at Otaki in 1914 and became the first aircraft to make a commercial flight in New Zealand. Aircraft enthusiasts from the deep south were delighted to find that the museum had such a treasure on display. As they were planning to build a replica of this aircraft, they came up to take photos and measurements to ensure the replica is exact.

DSCF3811 Will Scotland propeller

Paraparaumu Airport home to “Air 2 There” which offers flights between Paraparaumu and Nelson and Blenheim. Air New Zealand is set to start up local commercial flights again shortly. There are plans to resurface the runway, and build a temporary terminal. 50 seater flights between Paraparaumu and Auckland will mean that local people will not have to take the long trip into Wellington Airport. The downside will be quite an increase in airport noise so that will perhaps upset some of the local population. Such is progress.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Road North

We rather take roads and motorways for granted these days, don’t we? It wasn’t always so easy to travel around this hilly bush covered country of ours. The early settlers certainly had it tough out here in the colonies. This was brought home to us when we visited the Otaki Museum on Sunday and saw the current exhibition called “The Road North”. This describes the building of the road over the Paekakariki Hill from 1846 to 1849. It was constructed under the command of Lt Elliott and the men of the 58th and 99th British Regiments, together with Maori workmen.

DSCF3797 Native bush covering the hills

Prints of original paintings and old photos showed the bush cover and how hard it must have been for the surveyors to put a road through in these early years.

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The road began in Johnsonville, through to Porirua, then followed the path of the Kenepuru River to the Porirua and Paremata Harbours. It then travelled east along Paremata Road (now State Highway 58) to Pauatahanui, then over the Paekakariki Hill ending at what is now State Highway One near Paekakariki. The Paekakariki Hill Road is still rather narrow and winding, and we would certainly not consider towing our caravan over this road.

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It is hard for us to imagine just how long and uncomfortable this trip would be, swaying on top of the wagon as it jolted along. We read how the passengers had to get down and help push when the wagons became mired in the mud. The next section of the road, the Beach Road, was much easier, and ran along the beach from Paekakariki to Foxton. The horses and wagons moved along much quicker on the shoreline. It is certainly a different story these days as we hop in our cars and travel along State Highway One at 100kms an hour.

P6260871 Upstairs in the Council Chambers

The museum is housed in the historic 1918 Bank of New Zealand, which was restored from a derelict condition. The building has handsome white painted pressed metal ceilings, (the downstairs ceiling mimicked a plaster ceiling) and stained glass windows. After viewing the exhibition we walked up the elegant wooden staircase to the Council Chamber which displayed further memorabilia. We posed for our group photo around the Council table.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Morris Dancers at the Market

It’s always fun to visit the Paraparaumu market to stock up on freshly grown local vegetables, and pick up a little something for lunch. As usual, the market was full with locals and visitors alike, all looking for a bargain or two to take home. We can vouch for the locally produced sausages, and the rather tasty Eccles cakes.

DSCF3765 Paraparaumu Market

What’s this I see – a troop of Morris Dancers and musicians walking through the market. I love to watch this sort of thing, there must be a bit of Pagan blood coursing through my veins, I think (Like a moth to a light says Robin). So there I was, quite enthralled, snapping away with my trusty camera, while Robin waited, and waited, then waited some more. The dancers were in fine form, and danced gaily around waving their handkerchiefs in the air, stamping their legs to make those bells tinkle.

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Then they did a couple of dances clacking their sticks together with great gusto. The strips of loose cloth on their costumes swirled around in a riot of colour as they danced around. I don’t know who was enjoying this spectacle more, me or the dancers.

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The ladies were up next carrying garlands of flowers as they moved around in formation. You could certainly imagine all this taking place in Pagan times in all the rural communities to welcome Spring after a long cold Winter.

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All this brought back delightful memories of the Morris Dancers we saw on in Stow-on-the-Wold a couple of years ago on our UK trip. Morris dancing is obviously alive and well in New Zealand too. The origins of Morris dancing are lost in the mists of time. It survives today as a form of folk dance performed in the open air in villages in rural England. It is felt that the dances have a magic power and serve both to bring luck and to ward of evil. The performers certainly enjoy themselves, and speaking for myself, the onlookers do too.

DSCF3778 The musicians

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We were Mobbed

The birds were making quite a racket in the large tree a few houses away as they started to settle down in the late afternoon. They were chirping and chortling away, nineteen to the dozen. We could just image them saying: “Did you have a good day Mildred? Hope you got your share of the crusts from that house over the way. Watch out for their sneaky cat, though, it hides in the trees.” Mildred of course would be talking her head off to all the other birds too.

We went out on the back deck and threw our own offering of crusts on the lawn. All chirping stopped and the birds instantly went silent. They must have a great view from that tall tree and obviously keep their birdie little eyes open on all the neighbourhood comings and goings. They started flying closer, perching on our clothesline and landing in our trees. Then it was a mad scramble as a large mob of assorted birds fluttered down to the lawn and gobbled up the crusts. They were certainly hungry – perhaps it’s time to make the birds another “Bird Pudding” for winter. They will really enjoy that.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Here in New Zealand's we are celebrating the Winter Solstice today, with the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The Sun is at its most Northerly point in the sky. At the middle of the day, it reached its lowest altitude from the Northern horizon, for the year. This is what we see in the night sky tonight.

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We may be half way through the year, but that doesn’t mean that the winter is half over. July and August are generally the coldest months of the year. However, the days will now slowly start to get longer, and then it will be “countdown till Summer”.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tongan Tapa

The noise sounded like the rhythm of beating drums to us as we entered Te Papa Museum. A closer look showed us that it wasn’t drums at all, but strips of bark laid over a wooden block, and beaten out thin with a grooved wooden mallet. A Tongan church group were demonstrating the ancient art of making tapa cloth. The commentator told the crowd of fascinated onlookers all the steps that needed to be taken to produce this highly revered and labour intensive cloth. The village men plant and tend the paper mulberry trees, and then cut the branches to strip the bark. These long thin strips are first dried in the sun, then soaked. Bang, bang, bank, the 3 inch strip of bark was beaten to twice it’s width in no time at all.

DSCF3742 Beating the bark with a wooden mallet

When the strips are thin enough, several are butted up and beaten together into a large sheet, with starch rubbed on to the joins to help them stick together. Tapa cloth is made up of two layers, with one large piece on the top layed over the lower sheet. More starch is rubbed on to help the two sheets stick together. The women worked competently together and the spokesperson kept up a running commentary. We were shown how the designs were made by laying stencils underneath then rubbing dye all over the cloth. The stencils are simply made. Thin smooth sticks are laid over sacking in the required pattern, then bound in place.

P6190841 Prepared stencils ready to be placed under the cloth

The first lot of dye is then rubbed all over the tapa cloth. The pattern from the stencils underneath start to stand out clearly.

DSCF3748 The first stage of adding colour

Later the tapa cloth is repainted in several colours to bring the designs to life. A trio of Tongan youngsters were enjoying themselves as they knelt together on the floor painting a piece of cloth. When they saw our cameras they asked us, “Would you like us to look up?” What beautiful smiles they had.

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These days, tapa cloth is still often worn on formal occasions such as weddings, and given as gifts for weddings and funerals. It is also highly prized for its decorative value and is often used as a wall hanging in Tongan homes.

P6190853 Colourful tapa cloths

The work was still taking place later in the morning as we looked down from the balustrade above. The sound of the wooden mallet beating the bark reverberated up the stairs, and the women were singing softly as they worked together. These sounds of the Islands reminded me of a trip I took to Tonga many years ago, when I heard the villagers working on their tapa cloth every day.

P6190854 Looking down from above

Friday, June 18, 2010

That’s good service

Robin kept checking the letter box. Caravan friends had received the latest copy of “The Motor Caravanner” a couple of weeks ago, and our copy hadn’t arrived. Where had it got to? Finally, he phoned through to the office and asked them if there was a problem. We were sure our subscription was up-to-date but maybe it had expired. The office lady assured us that our membership was fine, and that all the magazines had been posted out several weeks ago. However, she would gladly pop another one in the post for us. It arrived in the letter box a couple of days later. That was excellent service, and Robin can now settle down to read the magazine. I’ll have a chance for a peek when he’s finished.

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The Motor Caravanner is the magazine of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA), and is full of interesting reading. There is an article and photos about the large and extremely well run Easter Rally we attended in Hastings. With 874 motor homes and caravans, 1678 people, 179 pets plus assorted children, it was the largest rally we had ever attended. The magazine features travel stories, both in New Zealand and overseas, “how to” articles for handy husbands, reviews of great cafes for the wives, and news of upcoming events. We look forward to taking advantage of the low cost parking options on offer when we stop work and travel the highways and byways of our beautiful country.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What World Cup?

It would be true to say that Robin is only mildly interested in the World Cup football games taking place in South Africa. He will be taking an interest in the New Zealand team, and will no doubt watch the occasional game. He will certainly wish the All Whites well, and hope they play their very best. After all, the hopes of the football fans of whole country are over there with them.

Robin is a rugby fan through and through, and this is the game he is closely attuned to. He played rugby as a boy, with none of this sissy stuff such as wearing rugby boots. The boys are tough in Taranaki, and his primary school team used to play barefoot. When he came down to Wellington as a young man he joined the prestigious Petone Club and spent several seasons with them. Give him a rugby game to watch on TV, and he is happily occupied for hours. Provincial games are good to watch, but the mighty All Blacks are better. The team played Ireland last weekend in New Plymouth and won their first game convincingly. Rugby is in the blood, you know, and part of the Kiwi psyche. Robin is currently enjoying reading about the playing career of the legendary Colin Meads.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

First snow on the hills

Away in the distance there is a glimpse of the first snow fall on the ranges, gleaming sparkling white in the winter sunshine. The snow fall came after all the rain finally stopped last weekend. We have been promised yet another wet weekend, so we expect the rain will wash the snow away. But there’s sure to be more before the winter is over.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Parrot Ranch

To say that parrots are noisy is an understatement. The raucous calls of the young parrots reverberated around the nursery at the Parrot Ranch. We were doing a tour of the Parrot Ranch at Levin during the weekend and scurried from our cars through the torrential rain to get inside. The babies are all hand reared and were noisily greeting these dripping wet visitors who had come to see them. They clambered up and down the cages, calling at the top of their noisy parrot voices, all seeming to say, “look at me, look at me”.

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DSCF3681 Young parrots in the Nursery

Next stop was the Reptile House. The animals here were oblivious to the bad weather outside as they basked under their heat lamps. Those who were interested were allowed a hands on experience with the baby Blue Tongued skinks. Both Robin and Peter had no trouble handling these little lizards, but I certainly was not interested – I noticed that most of the ladies did not want to touch these reptiles. Mum and Dad skink were in another cage and seemed huge. They grow up to 2 feet in length and with their little legs tucked underneath they look rather like fat snakes. A Bearded Dragon was brought out of the cage and sat very still on Peter’s hands.

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Blue Tongued Skinks and a Bearded Dragon

With everyone holding umbrellas to keep the heavy rain off them, we followed our guide to view the many outside cages. We saw many exotic parrot species from South America, including lots of varieties of McCaws. Then there were the Australian species, with cockatoos, Major Mitchells, and many more varieties. There was also quite a selection of native New Zealand parakeets. Pretty little Tamar wallabies hopped up to meet us and followed us around the zoo, no doubt hoping for more of those food treats that our tour guide was giving out.

DSCF3701 Tamar Wallaby

We paddled through the puddles to see the new Capuchin enclosure, which housed several of these large agile monkeys. They scampered around the enclosure in the rain, and they seemed almost as wet as we were. One of the monkeys kept well away from the group – our guide told us that this poor animal was bullied by the others.

DSCF3707 Capuchins hoping for a handout

And still the rain kept falling. Our tour around the Parrot Ranch was at an end so we drove back to the motor camp to change out of our wet clothes. Robin commented to our caravan friends that they went well above the call of duty, to plod about in the atrocious conditions on our outing. We heard on the news that this had been the wettest Queen’s Birthday weekend in 35 years – we can certainly vouch for that!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

One fine day was all that we got over the weekend while staying at Playford Park Motor Camp, at Levin. On Saturday night torrential rain came down, and by Sunday morning the camp grounds were sodden. The Tararua Ranges, so clear the previous day, were hidden behind low lying rain clouds. The weather forecasters certainly got it right, they promised us rain on Sunday, and we got it in buckets.

P6070834 Playford Park Motor Camp on a wet Sunday morning

We had arranged for a bit of fun on Sunday evening. Everyone gathered around the table in the hall, and took turns trying to roll a six with a dice. There was a bit of a rolling dice competition between the last two competitors, and then we had our 7 lucky people. Then they then had to pick a number between 1 and 7. Little did they know what we had in store for them. They were each handed a numbered verse for a song, which they had to sing at the appropriate time.

The song we chose was one that we had enjoyed at the recent Foster and Allen show that we attended a few weeks ago. Just right for our crazy bunch of campers to harmonise together, we thought. We started with singing the chorus together.

“Oh dear, what can the matter be, seven old ladies were locked in the lavatory

They were there from Sunday to Saturday, and nobody knew they were there”.

Then we went around the table with each singing their verse, and all of us joining in with the chorus. Old Mrs Humphrey, old Mrs Draper, right up to Abigail Flynn – we sang about what had befallen these unfortunate old ladies. Goodness knows what the rest of the camp thought with our rollicking rendition of this humorous song. There was a prize awarded for the best singer of the evening, and Geoff took the honours. What could be more appropriate than his very own supply – just in case he is unlucky enough to get locked in himself one day!

DSCF3712 First prize to Geoff

Monday, June 7, 2010

Surprise 300th Rally

It was Queen’s Birthday observance here in New Zealand over the weekend, so all the workers looked forward to a nice long three day weekend, with Monday off work. We travelled 100kms up to Levin on Friday afternoon after work to meet up with our Caravan Club buddies at Playford Park Motor Camp. The weather started off nice and fine, but deteriorated as the weekend wore on. We woke to a good frost on Saturday morning, which promised a nice fine day. The Tararua Ranges in the distance looked so clear without any clouds to obscure the view. Usually at this time of year we could expect to see these hills topped with a sprinkling of snow.

P6050832 Tararua Ranges

The nice sunny weather during the day gave us a chance to relax and unwind after a hard week’s work. There is a dovecote situated in the middle of the grassed area of the campground. The doves looked so pretty as they fluttered around in the sunshine.

DSCF3666 Resident doves at the camp

There was a special celebration on Saturday evening. The pair of us arrived at the hall early to put some goodies on the table and cover it up before the guests of honour arrived. Barbara and Bill had reached their 300th Caravan Rally and the club wanted to celebrate with great achievement with them. Everyone arrived at the hall at the appointed time and it seemed clear to us that Barbara and Bill were not aware that they had reached their 300th rally. As President of the club, it fell on Robin to make the presentation. After a short speech recalling special moments and fun times, Robin presented Barbara and Bill with their 300 Rally bars. We were right, they hadn’t realized that this weekend was such a special one to them – it certainly was a surprise to them both.

DSCF3672 Presenting the 300 Rally bars

Barbara and Bill, helped by daughter Jacquie, then cut the celebration cake. “Pop”, the bubbly was opened, the glasses were filled, and we all made a toast for many more caravan rallies. Sipping on bubbly, we soon made short work of the chocolate gateaux and then nibbled on chocolate coconut balls.

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DSCF3675 The Celebration Cake

Then rest of the evening was spent reminiscing. We had asked everyone to talk about their most memorable rally, and the memories certainly came flooding back. Barbara and Bill talked about their very first caravan from many years ago, nicknamed the The Hindu Bus because of the colour scheme. Kathryn and Graeme remembered their first rally with our club - they were required to make a horse out of driftwood from the beach then take part in horse races. As the club members seemed to be a bit crazy, they thought that they would fit right in! Robin reminisced about a very early rally where a trip along the beach on the back of a tractor had a very expensive outcome. The tractor became bogged down in the sand, and two tides covered it before it was finally pulled free. You can imagine the damage done to the motor. My story was about the rally when the club members were taken up on a helicopter ride - what an exciting time that was. Each memory triggered others, and the stories kept on flowing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bright and Shiny Pantry in the Caravan

The new version of Leisureline caravans now come equipped with a flash new pantry fitting, and we decided that we certainly needed one too. Our current pantry is made of timber and rather heavy, so why not get a nice new up-to-date modern pantry, we thought.

DSCF3611 Our old timber pantry

So we ordered the fittings from Wards RV Accessories. Same brand of caravan, same style of pull out pantry – it should be a breeze, shouldn’t it? You’ve guessed it, nothing is that easy. First problem was the shiny new baskets, they were just a smidgeon too wide to go in the hole! How could that be? Lex and Noeline from Wards RV Accessories offered to come up and help Robin sort the problem out. Lex brought up his router to shave the little bit required from the existing opening. This was a two man operation. While Lex worked the router up and down, Robin was in charge of sucking up all the shavings with our trusty vacuum cleaner.

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Just take a little bit off the side, please

Right, that’s stage one done. Now those baskets should be able to fit through the opening. So we had a test run, to make sure that everything would work as it should, once the fitting was screwed properly in place. The baskets slid in through the newly enlarged opening, but then the pantry door wouldn’t close. What’s wrong now? It was another unseen problem. The oven is situated right next to the pantry, and is fitted at an angle to the pantry cavity just enough to stop the baskets sliding fully in place. “No problem”, said Lex, “we can get the baskets modified. They only need a little taken off the back back corner”. Job over for the day, we all went inside for afternoon tea.

Robin had a bit of homework to do, he had to add a pine support to hang the new upper slide fittings on. That was a job on a wet Saturday afternoon. The next problem was that the bracket to hang the front panel to the metal frame of the pantry interfered with the pantry catch. Another modification was required however this only needed a hacksaw to shorten the bracket and everything then fitted “Sweet As”

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A few days later Robin collected the modified baskets from the engineer and could hardly wait to get them home and try them out for size. Success at last, they are a perfect fit. He hung them in place, refitted the cupboard door, and made sure the lock worked correctly. Then he called me to come and have a look at the new pantry. Here it is, all bright and shiny. You can see the modification on the lower left edge of each basket, just a little bit was angled off to make it fit.

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Everything fits at last

Our bright and shiny new pantry is now all stocked up for the caravan rally this weekend at Levin. We just hope that the weather clears up by then.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Two Buckets of Balls

Practising our golf swings was on the agenda for our group of SLG friends on Sunday, over at Solway Golf Driving Range in Masterton. Anne put the money into the machine and the golf balls came tumbling out into the buckets. Two buckets full gave us 200 balls to have a hit with. No golfing for me though, I was in too much pain to be doing any strenuous exercise due to a pulled muscle in my side. It was a bit strange how it happened. There I was the previous day, leaning down into our chest freezer. I was stretching down to look through the meat at the bottom to choose something for our evening meal. Then I felt something “ping” in my side, and I had this terrible pain. Luckily I didn’t topple up and over right down to the bottom of the freezer with fright.

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Everyone else selected their clubs, lined up a few balls, and had a go. The driving range has individual booths, and looked out over the driving range littered with plenty of golf balls from earlier patrons. The idea of course, was to hit the ball as far as possible, and the green had distance signs up to show how far the balls went. Bang, bang, some of our people couldn’t aim straight and the ball hit the wall of their booths. A local family down one end were doing great, hitting one ball after the other, and they were all going in the right direction. I think some of our group could have done with a bit of coaching from them.

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Robin practising his golf swing

Robin soon got into the swing of things and the balls went flying out, he used to play golf some years ago and it soon came back to him. The ladies all had a go too, and everyone had some laughs at their own efforts, and those of all the others. Don’t think Tiger Woods has anything to worry about with our lot though.

DSCF3650 The happy golfers

After all that exercise we were more than ready for our lunch. The golf clubs were returned, we gathered up our belongings, and we stepped inside to the adjacent Cafe. There was plenty of hot tasty choices to warm us up on such a wet chilly day. Our group may not be experts at golf, but there is no doubt we excel at eating and talking. The noise at any of our get togethers has to be heard to be believed.