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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Soap – bath time will never be the same

A visit to the St James Theatre this afternoon had us spellbound, laughing, amazed, amused, and wondering “how did they do that?” in quick succession.  We were attending the Matinee performance of “Soap”, (click on this link to watch U-Tube performances) here in Wellington for a short season after sell out performances at the Sydney Opera House, and the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
DSCF6935 St James Theatre, Wellington
The bathtub in the foyer set the scene of what we could expect.  Rubber ducks balanced on the edge and the bubble machine pumped out a continuing stream of bubbles, to the delight of the youngsters.
DSCF6932  Bathtub in the foyer
The show opened to the music of “Splish Splash” with legs appearing from the bathtubs on the stage.  The eight young acrobats  performed in, on and around a series of bathtubs.  From Chinese pole and straps to trapeze and aerial silk, and with a healthy dose of comedy thrown in, the show had us captivated the whole time.
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The cast performed in water, had water raining down on them, and even squirted some at the audience occasionally, all to the sounds of the suitably loud and energetic soundtrack, aided by strong voice of the attractive diva, Patricia Holtzmann,   Billed as a “slash filled cirque styled spectacle” it was like nothing we had seen before.  And we loved it.   Several of the skits were priceless.  Can you imagine a tall, dark, handsome man doing a strip tease while juggling balls?  Or three hunky guys clad only in towels dancing their version of Swan Lake?  But these light hearted skits certainly did not detract from the power and strength of the more physical acrobatic performances. 
Our seats at this show were gifted to the Cancer Society from St James Theatre and the Soap producers, and forwarded on to local Cancer Society Volunteers and spouses.  We really appreciate the opportunity to attend the show and thank the donors for their kind gesture.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Go the Train - Matangi

I love train rides, even suburban trips.  Today’s trip into Wellington was on one of the new “Matangi” trains.  And thanks to my Super Gold Card, I got to travel “free”.  These new trains have air conditioning, information displays, and public address systems.  I can vouch for that, as a disembodied voice  kept reminding us that “the next stop is….”.  The low floor is designed for mobility impaired passengers, wheel chairs, and pushchairs.  The Greater Wellington Regional Council has placed orders for 48 two-car Matangi units, and the first arrivals are currently running on the Hutt Valley Line. 
DSCF6874 Looking through the carriage
As it was the last day of the school holidays, the train soon filled up with eager kids having a day out in the big city.  Once through suburbia, the Wellington Harbour came into view as we sped towards the city.
DSCF6881 Looking across the harbour towards the Eastern suburbs
DSCF6886 One of the new Matangi trains
Big-city railway stations, such as Wellington, were powerful symbols of civic pride and prosperity. Although road competition had already begun to erode rail passenger traffic by the time Wellington station opened in 1937 (by the Governor General of New Zealand, Viscount Galway), it has remained a bustling passenger hub.  Wellington's passenger rail network is made up of five lines: Johnsonville, Kapiti, Melling, Upper Hutt and Wairarapa, and passengers make 12 million train trips annually.  I have a bit of a soft spot for this lovely old station, and in our earlier working lives both Robin and myself spent many years travelling to and from work on the trains, gently rocked in the carriages as they sped along the tracks.
DSCF6927 The imposing face of Wellington Station
The thousands of daily passengers who pour in and out of the station each day probably don’t even notice these two awards hanging discretely inside the building.   This one declares the building an “International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark”.
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As the station was built on reclaimed land, test piles were first driven to test the quality of soil, and it was decided to use Vibro cast piles to support the structure. The building was the first major New Zealand structure to incorporate a significant measure of earthquake resistance.   
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No trip into Wellington is complete without a visit to John’s Cafe in Lambton Quay to purchase a couple of these tasty pastries.  Lovely flaky Greek Baklava – that’s sure to put a smile on Robin’s face, and take his mind off that nasty gout attack!
DSCF6894 Delicious Greek Baklava for dessert tonight

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We don’t see this very often!

It is not often that the roads around our part of New Zealand get iced up and require grit to be laid on them.  But the ice on the bridge over the Hutt River (the only exit from our suburb) obviously came courtesy of the Polar Blast that passed through the Wellington region yesterday. And today in the sunshine we could see why crossing an ice covered bridge is dangerous – some poor motorist had crashed into the bridge railings!  These have been removed, and replaced with temporary barriers.  We can only hope that the car didn’t end up in the river.
DSCF6860 Sign on the bridge approach
Today in our part of paradise the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the snow on the low hills has gone, while on the higher  slopes the snow glistens white in the sun.  It is our own little slice of heaven. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Polar Blast hits home

We can’t say we weren’t warned – the news had been warning us of the polar blast hitting the southern parts of the country and travelling north.  The  polar blast hitting the country is causing chaos on roads in the south, and has even triggered predictions of a dusting of snow for ranges around Auckland. Temperatures in the South Island are barely above zero today, and the Met Service is warning the "significant winter weather" will hit many parts of the country unfamiliar with the white stuff. We awakened to news that the temperature would not rise higher that 6 degrees in the Hutt Valley, and there would be snow down to 200metres, later amended to 100metres.  Looking out the window across our street, we could see snow on the lower slopes, a most unusual sight on these particular hills.

P7250098 Snow on the lower slopes close to home
Son Michael phoned from Christchurch to tell us that his city was blanketed in snow, and would you believe it, a short time later we looked out the window to see our very own light local snowfall.  It melted away as soon as it fell, but it was certainly a very pretty sight to see.   And at the time of writing this blog, it is now snowing again!  After attending an appointment down town, we drove up to the top of the Mangaroa Hill to take some photos.  A couple of other drivers had the same idea and stopped and joined us with their own cameras.
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P7250107 Views from Mangaroa Hill
DSCF6846Robin checking out the view from the hill top – dusting of snow on the ground
While the weather is so cold, the birds really seem to appreciate the food we put out for them  They are coming in droves to peck away at the bird pudding.  At this rate I will have to mix up another one soon, I expect.  While several of the birds cling on while they peck busily away, another dozen or so flit about from branch to branch before trying their luck to land on the pudding.  
 P7250105Eating the bird pudding
The seed container hanging from the garden shed is just as popular with the birds as well, as they busily eat their fill of bird seed, while the excess spills on to the grass.  So while there may be three or four birds perched on the container, there can be twenty or so hopping around on the lawn gobbling up the spilled seed.
P7250104 Feeding at the seed container
Just as well we are not away in the caravan at the moment as the nearby Rimutaka Hill Road (to travel to the Wairarapa) is closed due to snow ice and will remain closed until further notice. The New Zealand Transport Agency has been urging motorists to take extra care on the roads, watch for ice, particularly in shaded areas, and to drive to the conditions at all times.  A good day to stay home nice and cosy by the gas fire, we think.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Its Winter but Springs the Problem - Final

Well at long last we have been able to find a time that was suitable to both my mechanic and ourselves to be able to get the new springs fitted to the van.
As stated earlier we were hoping to go away this weekend to Marton as Jenny thought she might like to have a look at a Quilt show there.  That was not possible and just as well as the weather has been atrocious this weekend with a polar blast all the way from the Antarctic due at anytime now.
It was decided to fit the springs early yesterday afternoon(Saturday) and Murray of P E Crook Ltd had negotiated with his wife for a time that was suitable to the family.  This company is not normally open on a Saturday so we feel very grateful for the time that he made available.
First  of all I had to tow the van to the workshop and with the front left hand axle able to move around I was very apprehensive that something may go wrong.  However I need not have worried and after backing the van in under the dry, work commenced.
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P7230089  Before and after the right hand wheels had been taken off
The right hand side was done first and it was really a bolt off and bolt on job.  Although some of the nuts and bolts were exceedingly tight but nothing an air wrench could not handle. Please note that axle stands were supporting the weight of the van at all times
P7230090 Right hand Rear is nearly done
The left hand side was next and as this was the side that had the broken spring.  However no problems were experienced apart from a one of bolts being very difficult to undo.
P7230094 Left hand side almost complete.
Once these springs had been removed the problems were clearly evident.  The front left had the main spring broken right through and it was also discovered the the left rear also had a broken spring.  One could have affected the other, we will never know.
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Left Front Broken off
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Left Rear with a Break on the Fourth Spring
For those who are counting the original springs were 5 leaf and the new ones are 6 leaf and looking at the manufacturers specs the 6 leaf are 3000kg whereas the 5 leaf are 2500kg rated which means our carrying capacity has a larger margin of error. While the wheels were off the brakes were adjusted up.  So now we should be all go for the next outing with the van which unfortunately is not for a fortnight, too bad.  One other observation was that the van towed much better, as you would expect, but it was so noticeable I wonder how long I may have had the problem. Once again everything is sweet in the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

After the tornado - checking the damage

A frosty morning always brings with it the promise of a nice calm day.  We were invited to share a Birthday Lunch with old friends up on the Kapiti Coast.  But first things first – Robin’s 4WD was badly in need of more fuel so our  first stop was the petrol station.  Glug, glug, glug went the diesel into the tank, and after paying a king’s ransom the car was full and we were ready to start our trip.
DSCF6792  It cost how much?
We drove around the Paremata side of the Pauatahanui Inlet and on such a calm day the reflections were well worth stopping for.  The tide was out in the estuary, and ducks were paddling around the edges. 
DSCF6794 Reflections
DSCF6799 Another view
P7200078And yet another
The birthday lunch was at “The Winemaker’s Daughter”, Otaki, and we dined in the very pretty sun dappled gazebo with bougainvillea climbing all over the rafters.  We all took advantage of the $10 lunch specials, and very tasty they were too.  At that very reasonable price, we just had to indulge in a dessert to finish our meal.  The husbands were reminded not to expect a cooked evening meal, since we were all having such a big lunch.
DSCF6803 Birthday girl Shirley and husband Lewis
After a couple of hours eating, chatting, sipping wine, and even more chatting we all went our separate ways and headed home.  It had been mentioned over lunch that there was still quite a bit of damage from the recent tornado (two weeks ago while we were staying at Levin) to see so we decided to drive down to the beach and see for ourselves.  The tornado had come ashore at Waikanae beach and travelled up to the shopping area and crossed State Highway One, tossing cars around and  causing a whole lot of damage.  The swathe of destruction was very clear to see in a stand of pine trees not far from the beach and we noticed workmen with chainsaws hard at work clearing up some of the fallen trees.
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Just around the corner the damage was even more severe, with the tops of pine trees broken right off and standing starkly on the top of the hill.
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Across the road on the beach side the damage was all very similar, trees lying damaged and with the area roped off.
DSCF6818The power of Mother Nature when she wants to flex her muscles.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Battle of Boulcott’s Farm

I wonder how many times have we passed the stone memorial on the corner of Military Road and High Street, not too far from Hutt Hospital,  and not given it a second thought?   It is such a busy road, with cars, buses, trucks and the occasional cyclist whizzing past.  Placed on a corner of a road with a name like “Military Road”, there is sure to be a story attached.
P6262223 The memorial
DSCF6640The plaque
Fifty men of the 58th Regiment were stationed under Lieutenant Page at Boulcott’s Farm during 1846, and it was suspected that an attack was imminent.  A stockade of slabs and small logs had been erected and loop-holed for musket-fire. On the morning of 16th May, 1846, 200 Maori warriors crept up on the camp, screening themselves with bushes and branches of scrub.  The Maoris had hoped to surprise the troops; but what they did not accurately estimate was the steadiness of disciplined Regular troops.  Lieutenant Page, having hacked and shot his way to the stockade, assembled his men, and attacked his antagonists. He advanced his soldiers in skirmishing order, with fixed bayonets.  A party of seven of the Hutt Militia, who had been disbanded on the previous Monday, came to the assistance of the hard-pressed troops, and fought side by side with the redcoats. Their arrival was the turning-point in the fight. The rebels, seeing these Militia men dash into the battle, began to retire, and at last were driven away, after a fight  lasting about an hour and a half.  Six soldiers lost their lives
The bravery of two young men stand out on this day.  One of these was William Allen, a tall, young soldier who was the company bugler.   When the first sentry's shot was heard he leaped up, and ran outside, put the bugle to his lips to blow the alarm. In the act of sounding the call he was attacked by a Maori, who tomahawked him in the right shoulder, nearly severing his arm, and felled him to the ground. Struggling to rise, the brave lad seized the bugle with his left hand and again attempted to warn his comrades, but a second blow with the tomahawk, this time in the head, killed him. The bugler's call was not needed, however, for the whole camp had been awakened by the sentry's shot and the answering volleys.
A little later that morning John Cudby, a youth of seventeen, harnessed up in the yard of the “Aglionby Arms,” Burcham's Hotel,  and drove out into the bush to deliver supplies to the troops at Boulcott's Farm .  He was unaware of the fight which had just been waged a short two miles away. The carter and his companion were in the middle of the bush, jolting over the boggy ground,  when they were met by two men in a cart driving furiously from the camp. One of them shouted: “Go back boy, go back! The Maoris have attacked the camp!” But Cudby did not turn his team. “I dursen't go back,” he cried in his broad English dialect, “I dursen't go back; I've got the rations to deliver.” He continued on, in fear every moment of receiving a volley from ambush in the dark timber that almost overhung him, but resolved to fulfil his duty.  When he arrived at the camp he saw the six bodies laid out, and later in the day, took the bodies in his cart to a spot on the river-bank where they were temporarily buried.  
 From a water-colour drawing by Lieutenant G. H. Page (58th Regt.) 1846] Boulcott's Farm Stockade, on the Hutt From a water-colour by Lt G H Page (58th Regt) 1846
The Hutt Valley is a completely different place from those long ago days of the early settlers, soldiers, and Maori attacks.  The valley was originally covered by dense  forest and the Hutt River, which runs from Upper Hutt down to the sea at Petone, regularly flooded the early settlements.  These days, the Hutt Valley is full of housing, roads, schools, parks  and shops, and the Hutt River is lined with stop banks to control any flooding.  The surrounding hills are still covered with native trees, but it is all secondary growth, all the tall old trees have long gone to early timber mills.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It’s Winter but Springs the Problem Part 2

Replacement springs were picked up from Four Seasons Caravans today so all I have to do is talk nicely to our Garage to have them fitted. We were hoping to go away next weekend but that depends on whether the new springs are installed.
Jenny wants to visit a Quilt Show in Marton so here is hoping.
Springs ArrivedSprings as they were received from the Courier

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wonder what Freud would say?

I’ve got a guilty little secret – and I just can’t help myself.  I caught myself coming over all funny today when I drove by the station on the way to the library.  There was nothing for it, I parked the car, took my camera, and went to have a closer look.  I’m sad to say that I just love to watch big machinery (and workmen) doing that tough man stuff!  Wonder what Freud would say about that?  It looked to me that there was some serious pipe replacement going on.  The workman hooked a chain through one of the big concrete pipes and the big yellow digger slowly lifted it up.
DSCF6752 Working in the station car park
“ Ah ha”, I thought to myself, as I snapped a few photos, “he’s going to put that in the trench”.  But no, he didn’t.
DSCF6753 The pipe was swung around
DSCF6754 And right around to the back
Guess the pipes would end up in the trench sooner or later.   After taking several photos  I really felt that I should move on, as I didn’t want the workmen to feel threatened by a camera snapping grey haired granny.  So what I want to know – do I really have a problem with being particularly partial to a nice bit of heavy machinery?  And if so, what am I going to do about it?  Or then again, perhaps it doesn’t really matter!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It’s Winter but Springs the Problem

In the words of the Toyota advert here in NZ  “Bugger”.  We got home on Sunday from Levin where the last rally with the caravan club was held.  We had backed the van into the cubby hole in front of the house and every thing was sweet with the world.
P7050029 Caravan tucked neatly in front of the house
Part of the process of unpacking is to wind down the steadies, lock the hitch, plug in the power and put the wheel clamp on.  Everything was good until it was time for me to fit the wheel clamp.  Well I was unable to fit the clamp between the tyre and the mudguard.  The front left wheel had some how shifted forward.  This required further investigation which brought to light the fact that we had some how broken the front left leaf spring on the left side compensating suspension assembly.
Showing Spring Above Axle Showing broken Spring Above Axle
After a few hurried phone calls to the agent, a request for photos was received.  As is to be expected with this sort of request it was pouring with rain at the time.  However photos have been taken and E-Mailed off to the agent and the manufacturer and we are now waiting for replies on the availability of  replacement parts.  The parts required will have to include replacement of both sides of the van so that suspension integrity is maintained.
Suspension Configuration Suspension assembly. The drum on the left is the front and is fitted with electric actuated Drum Brakes
The front spring is the broken one and the wheel assembly is sitting on the Chassis Brace.
The current situation is replacements have been sourced and this last photo will be used to identify the correct configuration and hopefully they will be on their way to me tomorrow or Monday.  I will add a new posting when more information is known.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sweet Memories of our Canal trip

A new programme showing on TV last night brought back plenty of sweet memories to us.  It is a three part series called “British and Irish Waterways”, showcasing the canals and rivers of Britain and Ireland.  And what did we see first but the Llangollen Canal.  The programme talked about the canal and the world famous aqueducts, built by Thomas Telford, which carries the water high above the landscape of this breathtaking canal trip.
P8211498 The Chirk Aqueduct at 70 feet high and the adjacent Chirk railway viaduct were an amazing sight.
P8221524 Robin at the tiller of Gypsy Rover travelling over Chirk Aqueduct
Even more amazing was the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – 1000 feet long and 127 feet high, supported by 18 stone pillars.   Built 200 years ago, these two aqueducts are outstanding pieces of engineering brilliance, and are still going strong.  The TV programme explained how the aqueducts are drained every 10 years, and each and every nut, bolt, and steel plate are thoroughly inspected.  
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P8221549 Here we come!
There is a tow path on one side, but only the smallest edge of steel keeping us from falling off on the other side.  But we were reassured to note that after 200 years of use, not one single narrow-boat had yet fallen off the aqueduct!
P8221552 Only this steel plate on the other side
The famous man even has a pub named after him at Trevor.  Of course, we had to try it out, and took our hosts Dot and Derek there for a “thank you” meal of salmon, scampi, and home made steak pie.
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Our Llangollen Canal trip was taken on our friends Dot and Derek’s boat Gypsy Rover and we had eight wonderful days criss crossing between England and Wales as we meandered along the canal, definitely the highlight of our UK trip!  It was great to be reminded of our adventures last night relaxing in front of the telly.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tornado strikes Kapiti Coast

The weather deteriorated late on Saturday afternoon during our weekend away in Levin.  Thunder crashed loudly overhead,  lightning flashed across the sky, and hail came down raining down.  It promised to be a wild night.  But we had got off very  lightly in Levin.  What we didn’t realize till we heard a news broadcast was that a tornado had torn through the Kapiti Coast, damaging houses and causing chaos on roads. The twister and a hail storm hit at around 4pm just north of Waikanae, inflicting most damage on three rural houses..
Wellington weather radar at the time of the Waikanae tornado.
MET SERVICE: Wellington weather radar at the time of the Waikanae tornado.
Many trees were uprooted and flung about, onto homes, across the road, and smashed right through a caravan, trapping the occupants inside.  We can only imagine the terror the people inside must have felt as the caravan was smashed like matchsticks.
The damaged caravan on Huia Street, Waikanae, from which an injured woman is believed to have been rescued.
Photo by KEVIN STENT - ( not one of our camping group, luckily)
Those attempting to drive through the storm had a very rough time too.  Vehicles on nearby State Highway One were knocked about by the tornado. One car was found on its side lying in a ditch, and a van was picked up and thrown five metres into a paddock.  It was reported that sheets of corrugated iron were flying through the air and narrowly missing cars.  The Met Service says tornadoes are not unusual during thunderstorms, and stormy weather was forecast for most of the weekend.  As we returned home on Sunday we saw evidence of the many trees felled by the storm, but most had been cleared off the roads.  Strong wind was whipping “froth” off the sea onto the adjacent road along State Highway One.  Thank goodness we made it home safely in all that wild weather. Although the caravan has suffered a broken spring – but that’s another story!.