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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Foxton Beach

It was great to catch up with friends Geoff and Pauline today – staying just up the road at the NZMCA Drop-In Rally.  With 90 or so vans on site, it was quite a gathering.  We walked around the grounds, peering at the different vans till we found them.

PC300023 NZMCA Drop-In Rally at Foxton School

We were warmly welcomed and once Charlie the Schnauzer had barked a greeting (or maybe a warning?) at us, he settled down nicely.  Until one of the many other dogs at the camp came trotting past – then Charlie got all of a-quiver and he really, really wanted to go and play doggy games with them.

PC300027 Charlie with Pauline

Just like our Romany Rambler, people often name their caravans and motor-homes something quite pertinent and meaningful.  Just like this one – there is sure to be a story in this.

PC300024 Interesting choice of name

With Foxton Beach practically on our doorstep, we felt we really should go down and check it out.  The car park was full with cars, campervans and several large passenger buses.  We never did find out where the buses were from, or what kind of group had been transported to Foxton Beach.
 
PC300035 Sign at Foxton Beach

People were everywhere, on the beach, in the water, walking up and down the pathways to the beach.  Wet swim suits were deftly removed from tiny bodies, followed by a brisk rub of a beach towel, then the kids were helped into their shorts and tee shirts.
  PC300030 Enjoying themselves on Foxton Beach

Rain clouds were rolling in from the north and the big fat drops put a damper on our beach watching.  There was only one thing for it – we purchased a hokey-pokey ice-cream (New Zealand’s number one favourite flavour) from the ice-cream van in the car park and sat in the car eating our delicious creamy treat as the rain came down.
 
PC300029 Dune Conservation Area

Motor vehicles are allowed on the beach, but can access the beach at designated entry points only.  Speed is restricted to 30km and cars are permitted to drive on hard beach sand only.  Going on soft sand or into the surf at their peril, one would think.  Foxton Beach is part of the Coastal Reserves, and the sand dunes are under protection.  Beach Wardens make daily patrols to make this a safe area for all.

PC300033 Signs on the beach

The afternoon weather couldn’t decide if it was going to be sunny or wet, we had first one then the other.  We took a chance on sitting outside at 4zees, that worked for a while until the rain came down again.  Drinks and nibbles were gathered up, tables and chairs were folded up quickly and put under cover, and everyone retired to our caravan to continue with 4zees. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

It’s raining in sunny Foxton

The town sign says “Welcome to Sunny Foxton” but the rain is pouring down.  Not only that, but we had a thunder storm last night, followed by a torrential down pour.  That got the caravanners who hadn’t closed their roof vents up on their feet and out of the hall very quickly!  But to be fair, it was nice and sunny, if a little grey,  when we arrived.  The Manawatu Caravan Club grounds are full to the brim, with all the casual campsites fully booked over the holiday period. 

PC270030 All set for the next few days

It was hot enough to be sun hat weather out in the sunshine before the wind kicked in.  Being so close to Foxton Beach, it can get very windy here.  Our new fun acquisition “Chatter Santa” came outside to meet our fellow campers.  Whatever they said, Santa repeated right back, including some rather rude words!  But then they turned him upside down to check out his nether regions.  Surely the words aren’t coming out of that end! 

PC280001 Wonder what’s up here?

PC280004Oh  no, Eileen can’t help but check too

The Christmas lights strung over the large Norfolk Pine at the entrance to the camp were faulty.  In came a large truck equipped with a cherry picker to fix the problem.  The workman was lifted high amongst the branches, checking connections and such, before coming down to earth.  In spite of repeated announcements that the camp entrance would be closed for a short time while this work was being carried out, a steady line of cars drove up and were stopped in their tracks.

PC280005 Fixing the Christmas lights

In the evening we joined others in the hall for the “Tui Top Quiz”.  Tui beer drinkers know that there is a question (and answer) printed on the underneath of each Tui beer cap.  A huge amount of these beer caps had been collected over the year, and Topsy from the camp committee compiled the evening quiz.  Teams of four sat at a table, and we were given a pile of the bottle tops to help us with the answers.  Not as easy as it sounds, as the printing is so tiny that it was almost impossible to read.

PC280007 Searching for that elusive answer

We named our team the “Heretaunga Wanderers”, and by the end of the evening we were pleased that we had done reasonably well, and didn’t come in last.  We weren’t first either, by a long shot.  In fact, our only real claim to fame during the evening was when Elaine was announced winner of guessing the (closest) number of Tui bottle caps in the container.  And received some fancy chocolates and a bag for her prize.

PC280008 Topsy calling out questions – will we know the answers?

After the earlier downpour the road was full of puddles and the ground was soggy and wet.  But the Norfolk Pine was well lit up so I sloshed through the wet conditions to try and capture the colours against the dark of the night.

PC280018 Pretty colours in the dark

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Time to leave Kiwitea

For such a small place, Kiwitea has a lot going on.  Full of friendly neighbours, who all like to help each other in time of need, or feel comfortable enough to ask for help as required.  Such as when one of the neighbours phoned our SIL Robert with a dead sheep problem.  No worries – Robert drove his tractor (with a digger bucket attached to the front) to the neighbours farm, dug a big hole to take the dead sheep, and covered it all in.  Now that’s a friendly neighbour for you – can’t imagine a townie asking his neighbour to help bury a dog!

There is a pretty little church just up the road.  St Agnes’ Church, Kiwitea was built on land donated by Mr C Levett in 1889, for the sum of sixty four pounds and ten shillings.  The first service was held in July 1890, and in 1895 the Chancel was added and the size of the Vestry increased.  The many old headstones in the grave yard tell the story of the early settlers to this area.

PC260052 St Agnes’s Anglican Church, Kiwitea

Local farmers often make use of the “long acre” beside the road, and we noticed several fine looking young Jersey bulls being grazed.  They looked up quizzically as the car stopped and a strange person got out to take their photo.  The long acre or long paddock is a traditional term for wide grassy road verges. Rural roads are often separated from adjoining paddocks by a hedge or fence and a wide grass verge.  Farmers often add portable fencing and use this extra ground to feed their livestock. 

PC240006 Young jersey bulls on the side of the road

It’s hay making time again and many of the local farms have their hay all neatly packaged ready to feed out next winter.  Like this one, a huge pile, all stacked up, presumably waiting to be moved into a hay barn.  Or maybe it will stay where it is, to be used when needed, a bale or two at a time.

PC260049 Hay ready for winter

As we farewelled Kiwitea we travelled past a very strange collection on a fence.  When travelling we have seen fences decorated with all manner of things, from jandals to hub caps.  But never with a collection like this of sorry looking soft toys which have been left out in all weathers.  The water logged teddies and dolls have taken on quite a sinister look, we feel, as they sit all saggy and slumped on top of the fence.  The overgrown lawn in front of the fence adds to the feeling of desolation.  It would be enough to give a youngster nightmares!

PC260048 Teddy Bear fence

Friday, December 27, 2013

Shearing – a job for a Good Keen Man

Son-in-law Robert is a good keen man and can turn his hand to most rural jobs.  He works as a “Small Block Specialist” and breaks and shoes horses, cuts hay, builds fences, dips and shears sheep, moves cattle around the farms, and anything else the hobby farmer needs doing.  He invited us along to a local farm to get a first hand look at the art of sheep shearing.  By the time we arrived the two shearers and the two rousies had been working for hours.  Shearing is an art, and is a very physical, unrelenting, back  breaking job, done as fast as possible with the least number of blows (strokes)  as the shearer can.

Robert and fellow shearer Gary morning’s contract was to shear 100 young six month old lambs in the small two man shearing shed.  The lambs will then be sent off  to the works.  (They may have been young lambs, but they looked quite big to me).  Into the holding pen, grab a lamb, sit it on it’s rump, and start shearing, while bent over double.  Robert likes to work with a sling, to help support his back.

PC270003 Robert starting shearing a lamb

While the shearers are working, the rousies clear the wool away and put it in the appropriate bales.  Grand-daughter Megan was working with Robert, and the farm owner Ian was helping Gary, the other contract shearer.

PC270005 Father and daughter team working together

As soon as one sheep is finished, it is moved down the chute to the pen under the shearing shed, and the whole cycle starts again.  We were tired just watching.

PC270019 Waiting their turn

Morning tea break rolled around, and the workers finally had time to stop and chat.  Don’t think the farmer was too happy when we suggested he should be paying the shearers time and a half since it was holiday time, though.  Plus a day in lieu.  Maybe we should keep our big city ideas to ourselves.

PC270021 Time for a break

Megan climbed into the wool press to help compress the fleeces down.

PC270006 From this

PC270024To this

Once shorn the liberated lambs happily ran into the adjacent paddock, baa-ing to each other about the indignities they had just suffered.  Little do they know what lays in store for them next, when they get loaded onto a stock truck and get taken away for the last trip of their young lives.

PC270013  The young shorn lambs

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Country Folk know how to have Fun

Yes indeed, people living in the country know all about having fun.  While we have been staying here with the family at Kiwitea, (such a tiny little place you would miss it if you blinked), we have tagged along while they have been visiting the neighbours.  Bringing extra people is no problem at all, and we have been warmly welcomed in various households.  As well as sampling the more usual cuppas and cold beers, several people decided to have a go on a pair of stilts.  Oh, oh, this won’t go well, we thought.  It’s OK for the agile kids to climb up on the stilts, but for middle aged people who may have wet their whistle on a beer or two could well be in for a fall.  Surprisingly, everyone who tried did really well.  The boys in the household showed how easy it was, then my daughter Nicky decided she really must try the stilts out.

PC240010 Nicky on the stilts

PC240011 Quickly followed by grand-daughter Megan

Another fun day was when neighbour Roger turned up in his 1912 Warrick Tricar and kindly offered to take the two townie visitors for a spin.  This veteran car was originally owned by the Christchurch Press and was used to deliver the newspaper from a box in the front.  This was eventually removed and the front seat was added later for passengers.  It felt like dicing with death as we sped along, with me hanging on tight to the arm rests and visions of tumbling out the front onto the road.  With only forward and reverse gears, no brake, (so I was told, but he could have been telling tall tales) and nothing much to hang on to, no wonder I was a little nervous.

PC260038 Roger all set to take me for a spin

PC260046The tiny motor

PC260034  Single back wheel

This car is very economical to run, Roger told us, and he had driven it down SH1 to Levin and back.  That sight would have turned a few heads, for sure.  Robin jumped in for his turn, but didn’t seem nearly as worried as I was. 

PC260042 Roger and Robin off for a ride

Definitely not having fun was Roger’s dog who came to visit with a sweat shirt tied over his chest – he probably felt as silly as he looked, and we all had a good laugh at him.  He’d just had his coat clipped, we were told, and was feeling the cold.  Roger and Christine’s dog was a “Bed Spring”, a cross between a Bearded Collie and a Springer Spaniel. 

PC240002 Neighbour’s dog didn’t like being laughed at

While we were being taken for a ride in the Tricar, son-in-law Robert and grand-daughter Megan were all dressed up ready for a day out at the races.  Don’t they look smart?  Robert has a winning formula, he told us, and more often than not comes home with more cash than he went with.  They are just out to have fun, with their annual trip out to the Boxing Day races. 

PC260036  Robert and Megan

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Never mind the Rain – it’s Christmas Day

Christmas is meant to be fine and sunny in this part of the world, but it wasn’t to be.  There was plenty of wind and the rain came down, but not before we spotted an early morning Christmas rainbow in the sky.

PC250024 Christmas Day Rainbow

We were awakened with a “bang, bang, bang” on the caravan door just after 6.00am.  Come on, we were told, it’s time to open presents and have our special breakfast.  The grand-daughters were  racing around in their pyjamas, but we took the time to shower and get dressed before going over to the house.  We breakfasted on the traditional family Christmas fare of warm croissants filled with freshly sliced baked ham and cheese, hot perked coffee and plenty of orange juice.  That’s a good start to the day.

Another family tradition is for the two girls to get a Santa Sack each, left by their door - these are always filled with an assortment of interesting knick-knacks.  The girls decided that after all this time their parents deserved a Santa Sack too, and a joint one was duly left for them to find.

PC250022 Daughter Nicky with “Mummy and Daddy’s Santa Sack”

So many presents were piled under the tree that it took quite some time to open them all.  Everyone was pleased with their gifts, our included a book each, (just what we wanted)  vouchers and a big haul of chocolates.  We don’t really need the choccies, do we, but no doubt they will get eaten. 

With the rain coming down hard we decided to cook our special bacon wrapped chicken roll-ups in the kitchen instead of outside on the BBQ.  Robin took over this chore and stood diligently, turning the chicken pieces as they slowly browned.  The combination of bacon and chicken sizzling away smelt divine, yum, it was enough to make our mouths water!

PC250029 Robin in charge of the chicken

Christmas lunch was a veritable feast with our chicken roll-ups served with a multitude of lovely fresh salads, washed down with sips of bubbly and grape-juice.  Dessert was a decadent home made chocolate cheesecake, piled high with strawberries and blueberries, and there was no space for Christmas Pudding and custard at all.  We will save that for another day.

PC250031 Plenty of Christmas lunch for all

After eating all day, it’s just about time to put our feet up and relax.  Perhaps an afternoon nap might be in order?  Merry Christmas from both of us and Muffy, to all our readers, followers, friends and fellow bloggers.  We hope you are all having an enjoyable Christmas with family and friends.  Keep safe on the roads and happy travelling. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kiwitea – here we come

After recuperating from yesterday’s 90th Birthday Bash, we spent the morning loading up the caravan for our family Christmas in rural Kiwitea.  So much food was packed inside the caravan, we seem to be preparing for a siege.  That’s usually the way it is with Christmas preparations, wouldn’t you agree?  Mustn’t forget the Christmas presents – they were loaded safely onboard too.  We waved goodbye to our neighbours, and headed off on our trip, just stopping briefly to fill up with diesel.

PC230029 Set up for Christmas at Kiwitea

The family had so much food in the fridge that Robert was worried that there was no room left for his beer.  How was he going to manage to keep his beer cool?  Then he had a bright idea.  He drove the horse truck up to the house, plugged it into the power, and now he could use the truck fridge as a beer fridge.  Problem solved!

PC230034Used for the Christmas beer fridge

Daughter Nicky was busy preparing food in the kitchen all afternoon, and the delicious smell of glazed ham baking in the oven came wafting right outside to the caravan.  I’m sure it will taste just as good as it smells too.  Roll on Christmas day.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Celebrating her 90th Birthday

PC220003

Robin’s Mum had reached the grand old age of 90 years and we had a family lunch to celebrate.  I was dropped off at the Winemaker’s Daughter restaurant to get the table ready and await the other guests while Robin drove down to Waikanae to collect the guest of honour.  The helium filled balloon was tied to the back of her chair,and  the joint gift arranged on the table.  While I was waiting another family group called in to have lunch.  I couldn’t believe my ears  when the young lad, aged about 10 asked, “Is there any technology here?  Like Broadband?”, as he lifted his lap top onto the table.  No there wasn’t, so he just had to play games instead.

Bonnie presumed that just Robin and I were taking her out for lunch, so was pleasantly surprised when other family members came to the table.  Especially her daughter Kaye and hubby Jan who had flown in from Vietman.  Everyone had a good catch-up with news, and we ordered our lunch from the Christmas menu.
 
PC220006 Bonnie the birthday girl

PC220004The Money Tree

Lunch was quite a long leisurely affair, with plenty of the other tables filling up with family groups as well.  Then we drove back to our home for coffee and birthday cake.

PC220016 Cutting the cake

PC220010Gary, Bonnie, Kaye and Robin

The afternoon was very successful, with a nice meal, balloon, cake and gifts, and a lot of talk and laughter.  Bonnie had a lovely afternoon, she assured us, surrounded by family members.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ooops – it wasn’t us!

Oh dear, something's happened to our next door neighbour’s brick letterbox.  We arrived home after some last minute shopping to find the letter box in three pieces, lying on it’s side.  It would have taken quite some force to knock it over, wonder what size dent the offending vehicle has?

PC200038 Neighbour’s letter box in pieces

Mr Nobody must have done it, as none of the neighbours heard or saw anything.  No doubt the story will surface sooner or later.  Robin and a neighbour lifted it up and fitted the pieces back together, but the bricklayer will need to come and fix it properly.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Old and the New

It was a “Girls Day Out” train trip into the big city today for a little retail therapy, and  Dot and I drove from Levin to Waikanae to catch the train.  The electrified commuter service was extended to Waikanae in 2011.   Minister of Transport Steven Joyce and Otaki MP Nathan Guy drove the last spike.  Nathan Guy has a family connection to this part of the rail as his great-grandfather was chairman of the WMR when the last spike was driven in 1886.  The posh new Matangi train was not running for our ride into Wellington, and we were carried by an older EM class train.  These were built by Ganz-Mavag, of Hungary.

PC190005 The old EM class train

Wellington City was very busy, school was out so the kids were out too.  Shoppers were everywhere, as were the city workers, all going about their business.  The Salvation Army Band was playing Christmas songs on the footpath and we noticed one tiny little girl merrily dancing to the music.

PC190032 Salvation Army Band

Once our shopping was completed we headed back to station, passing by  Parliament Grounds.  A set of Pou Whenua, tribal boundary markers, flank a pathway leading up to Parliament Buildings.  This area is known as Wai-titi Landing, (place of shining waters), and was originally a beach, a resting place for waka (Maori canoe).  Reclamation of the foreshore started in the 1850s, and the 1855 magnitude 8.2 Wairarapa Earthquake uplifted the north-western side of Wellington.  This created a tidal swamp, and most of this land was subsequently reclaimed, providing for new rail and road routes to the north.  By the end of the 19th century, the original 1840 shoreline was unrecognisable.

PC190034Pou Whenua, to commemorate the significance of the area

We were pleased board one of the nice new FP/FT Matangi trains for our return trip.  With their colourful blue and lime green furnishings, electronic information boards and voice-overs,  these trains seem very swish indeed.  It was a good day out, and our train travel was all courtesy of our Gold Cards – oldies travel free on off peak services, thanks to the government.

PC190035 Very comfortable new Matangi train

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas is coming fast

Christmas is coming when the Pohutakawa trees are covered in spiky crimson flowers tipped with yellow.  Here in our part of paradise  these are known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree.  We spent a little time at the Paraparaumu shopping mall recently and these trees were opposite the car park. 

PC160006 Pohutakawa – New Zealand Christmas Tree

Another clue to remind us all that Christmas is coming fast (in case we have forgotten)  are the Christmas decorations throughout the shopping malls, and Christmas carols blaring out.  Everyone scurries around, trying to find that elusive gift for that difficult someone we all seem to have in our families.  With their blank, staring eyes, the worried ones look rather like “shopping zombies”.

And it’s only at this time of year that Father Christmas and his clones make an appearance at the malls throughout the country, in fact, across the world.  But not everyone was stressed out with Christmas shopping when we were in Paraparaumu.  We recognised this happy face cuddling up to Santa.  He had given her some lollipops too!  

PC160001 Father Christmas and Julie

It was Julie, one of the friendly neighbours from our village.    Lucky I had my camera handy to record her special moment.