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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekend in the Country

It was a caravan club rally with a difference, a weekend travelling  not too far away from home to stay at Lutz Farm in Otaki. Most of us hadn’t been there before so first we had to find the correct property on the narrow country road (look for the orange balloons we were told).  Then we drove, and we drove, past paddocks and farm buildings, and equipment lying here and there, round past the bee hives, all without seeing a soul.  And finally, turning a corner on the farm track, there they were, some of our caravan buddies who had arrived a little earlier and were getting themselves organised.  Camping on a farm paddock was a test to find a nice flat area.  Although the dips and hollows weren’t really huge, it certainly made a difference to where to put the caravans. Admittedly, there was a big power pylon sharing the paddock with us, but we weren’t under the power lines, and only staying a couple of nights anyway, so we shouldn’t come to any harm.

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Romany Rambler at Lutz Farm

It was a very pleasant site, bordered on one side with a lovely area of protected native bush, with paddocks over the fence and hills away in the distance.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the cicadas were doing their noisiest best to attract a mate.  Only male cicadas “sing”, to court females. The sound is made by membranes known as tymbals on each side of their abdomen. The tymbal is pushed out, causing a burst of sound, then it pops back in. By rapidly repeating this, the cicada makes its song.

The rally family had brought along a large gazebo for us all to use in the evenings, and Barry offered to help assemble it.  He worked away on his own for quite some time, putting this pipe into that one until it was almost done.  It all looked a bit of a mystery to me.  Then others came to help put the roof on and attach the sides.  The blustery wind didn’t help matters at all, as the light plastic walls fluttered this was and that as people were trying to attach them to the poles. 

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Barry and others putting up the gazebo

Ever milked a cow?  That was to be our test on Friday evening – this was a dairy farm after all.  We had visions of poor old “Bessie” being led into our camping area, tied up safely with a handy stool for us to perch on, and then man-handled by a bunch of townies as we all tried to milk her!  Luckily our Bessie was a little different, and Dennis brought her out and introduced her to us all with a flourish!

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Dennis had cleverly made his own version of a milking cow.  Our Friesian cow may well be headless, but she had lovely markings, a nice tail, and an interesting udder!  We all got to have a go for one minute, and the results were measured and diligently recorded.  I should mention that this cow only produced water, which was regularly topped up during the competition.

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Robin milking the cow

And the winner was – surprise, surprise – me!  Goodness knows how I achieved that, as I hadn’t milked a cow before.  Although I did get up close and personal to a goat several years ago.  Our ladies took 1st, 2nd and 3rd placings, with Derek getting the best male result.  Poor old Bessie came in for quite a bit of rough handling during the competition from one of our members in particular, and if she was a real cow, she would have required some veterinary care after her ordeal!

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The winner of the milking competition

It was certainly a fun activity, and one we had never done before.  Who knew life on a dairy farm would be full of laughs.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Table for Two, please

With a list as long as your arm to deal with, we spent the day in Palmy (Palmerston North).  Finally, most of the items had been ticked off the list, including a trip to the Mall to see the optician.   Lunch time was looming, and we were going to the rather posh Gallery Restaurant, thanks to the generosity of my daughter,  Nicky.  She had presented me with two meal vouchers at my last birthday, so today was the day to eat out in style.  We followed a group of well dressed elderly ladies into the restaurant, and duly requested a table for two.

The restaurant had an impressive collection of “New Zealand Beef and Lamb Excellence” awards hanging on the walls.  Not just one or two – more like 8 or 10 it seemed.   Now – let’s check that menu out – after we’ve taken that selfie, of course.

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It’s always a dilemma to know what to choose, as everything sounded so delicious.  Finally the choices were made, and in due course our meals arrived.  It was Thai Beef Salad for him, and Seafood Pasta for her, both dishes declared delicious!  And many thanks to Nicky for the Gift Voucher -  we will returning to the restaurant to cash the second one in at a later date.

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Ready to eat our lunches

There was another appointment after lunch, which dragged on for some time, and by the time we headed for home, we were caught up with the local workforce in the rush hour traffic.  Travelling home through farmland we noticed paddocks of corn, or possibly maize, (they both look very similar to us) edged with giant sun flowers.  Why, we wondered, just to look pretty to passers-by?  Or perhaps the sunflowers help with pollination?  Maybe some one can enlighten us.  Whatever the reason, the giant yellow sunflowers  gave a lovely splash of colour as we drove by.


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Sunflowers at the road side

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Life on the Canals of England

It was our 60s Up meeting, and Robin’s duty as a committee member was to arrange for guest speakers for each meeting.  And what a great morning we had, our friends Dot and Derek  related the story of their time living aboard their narrow boat, Gypsy Rover. 

Friend and fellow caravanner Selwyn kindly provided the technical know-how with his projector.  It was just as well that he has remembered to bring along a heavy duty power cord, as there wasn’t one to be found in the hall.  The bright yellow cord snaked across the carpet and Selwyn hoped that none of the members would trip over it on the way to collect their cuppa.  (Luckily no one had an accident).

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Selwyn was the projectionist

Dot had done a marvelous job of selecting and arranging the photos of their five years or so as they travelled around enjoying life “on the cut”.  The lights were dimmed, and Derek’s talk got underway.

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Derek ready to begin his talk

The canals were the highways of their time, with heavily laden narrow boats pulled by horses who walked along the adjacent tow-paths.  These days, although there still are some working narrow boats, most are used for pleasure.  Individually owned, as Gypsy Rover was, or part of a hire fleet for tourists to indulge in a taste of canal living for a week or so on their holidays, the canals are full of people and boats slowly travelling this way and that.

Derek showed examples of the many different types of bridges over the canals, and the ingenious locks which take the boats from one level to another.  They experienced all sorts of weather, including being held up with flooding in Oxford for three long weeks, to snow on the towpaths and ice covering the canals in winter.

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They were happy years, with good company from fellow boaties, seeing the country and wildlife at a peaceful pace, exploring little out of the way places, and travelling by canal through big cities, such as Birmingham, and also travelling along the River Thames in London.

We were lucky to spend a little time as guests aboard Gypsy Rover way back in 1999, and will always remember our week travelling along the picturesque LLangollen Canal.

Gypsy Rover travelling across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct 

The highlight of our trip was travelling over the magnificent  Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This is 1000 feet long structure was finished in 1805, passes 127 feet above the River Dee and is supported by 18 stone pillars. We glided gently across the canal, appearing to float in the sky.

The aqueduct in the distance – with a narrow boat crossing over

Crossing the Aqueduct was such a thrill that we took several trips across it – just because we could!  Robin had the experience of a life time when he took charge of the tiller on one of of trips across.  Just look at that study of concentration on his face!

Robin’s in charge this time

It was a very interesting talk indeed, and gave the 60s Up members a little taste of what living aboard one of these 7 foot wide boats was like.  Many thanks to Dot and Derek for such an interesting talk, and to Selwyn for his technical help.   

Sunday, February 21, 2016

“Spectacular Car Show” at Shannon

The Shannon Progressive Association spent many a month behind the scenes making sure that this year’s  Supercheap Auto Spectacular Car Show was the roaring success it turned out to be.  Last year the annual community fundraiser had 400 vehicles on display, with even more on show this year.  The Domain was jam-packed with vintage cars, their proud owners and supporters, and swarming with Joe Public and his missus, kids and dogs in tow, ready for a good day out.  And at only $2 entry, it was exceptional value for petrol heads like Robin.  We climbed up into the grand-stand to get an overview of the cars on display.

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So what was there to see?  All kinds of cars from big, American beauties with their long low lines, and fancy fins, English Zephyr and Vauxhalls, minis, American trucks, hearses as well as vehicles we grew up with such as the Aussie muscle cars from Holden and Ford that were raced around such places as Mt Panorama.

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A very nice looking Chevy

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A row of MkII and MkIII Ford Zephyrs

The Dragsters doing rev ups created a lot of interest.  The noise those engines made as the revs were cranked up had most people standing around looking at the car with fingers in their ears!

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One of the Dragster Cars which did a very loud Rev Up

There was also a representation of replica cars such as the icon AC Cobra the bodies of which were made in our old home town of Upper Hutt.

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As a community fundraiser, the Progressive Assoc provided free stalls for local Shannon community groups to fund raise.  The Shannon School, Shannon Play Centre and the Volunteer Fire Brigade all had stalls selling food.  We joined the queue at the Fire Brigade’s stall and enjoyed a large “Firemans” sandwich for lunch, cooked for us by those dedicated volunteer firemen.

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We listened as the raffles were drawn, with all prized donated by the main sponsor, Suercheap Auto.  And no, we didn’t win one.  Then awards were presented for some of those great looking cars.  We were footsore and hot and sticky by this stage, so it was time to call t a day and head off home.  And just outside the Domain we saw the owner climbing into this beauty, with the same idea as us,  go home and put our feet up.

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A rather classy looking motor.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

My Old Man’s a Dustman

Danny, our village handyman/groundsman is taking a well deserved holiday this week.  He has a busy time in his working week, keeping everything looking good, cutting lawns, weeding gardens, washing windows, and collecting the rubbish.  Danny asked Robin if he wouldn’t mind collecting the rubbish this week while he is on holiday.  No trouble at all, was the reply, and with Danny’s trailer hooked up to our 4WD, he was all set to go.  Friends Bruce and Graham helped out too, and the three of them made short work of collecting everyone’s rubbish bags and recyclables.  Good job, guys!

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Bruce, Graham and Robin, rubbish men for the morning

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine’s Day Earthquake

The quake struck just eight days short of the five year anniversary of the 22 February 2011 Christchurch magnitude 6.3 quake, which claimed the lives of 185 people.   At 1.13pm on Sunday, centred at 15km east of the city, at a depth of 15km,  Geonet reported.

The biggest concern is a cliff collapse at Whitewash Head near Sumner which engineers are assessing to establish its stability. There has also been considerable cliff collapse at Godley Head.

A huge dust cloud follows the collapse of a cliff near Sumner.
A huge dust cloud follows the collapse of a cliff near Sumner.  Photo: Carl Devereux

The magnitude 5.7 earthquake was a huge setback for the confidence of the city, Mayor Liane Dalziel reported, but luckily there was no major damage this time.  Meanwhile, safe at home here in Levin, we never felt a thing.  Mind you, I was quickly on the phone to son Michael to see how he fared during the shake.  Luckily, he was fine.

Our Valentine’s Day was a lazy day spent at home.  As usual on Sunday morning, Robin did the honours and cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast.  A small gift of Whittaker's chocolates for the pair of us made an appearance, nuts for him and my favourite coconut for me.  If we just have a little taste in the evening, the chocolates should last a while – that’s the theory, anyway.

We were really looking forward to our evening meal, it was time to try cooking a leg of lamb on the Weber.  It was a complete success, brown and yummy on the outside, and lovely and tender in the middle.  (Next time we are going to try  cooking a whole chicken).  This was served with cheesy courgettes also cooked on the BBQ, with a creamy potato salad, and lettuce and tomatoes from our garden.  With boysenberry and blueberry trifle for dessert, and a glass of sweet dessert wine, it was a lovely way to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home.  And then we got to nibble on those choccies later in the evening.

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Doesn’t that look yummy!

Hope your Valentine’s Day was just as nice as ours, and spent with your special someone.





Sunday, February 14, 2016

60s Up Bus Trip to Masterton

Billed as a “Mystery Trip”, this day out had people wondering just where we were going.  With the early departure time of 8.30am, it was obvious we were ranging far and wide.  But in what direction, everyone wanted to know.  Our favourite bus driver Peter was taking us out for the day again, and unusually for him, was a little late arriving.  It seems that he was getting ready to pick up another bus load at a later time, when he was informed that plans had changed and to get down to the 60s Up pickup point pronto. 

When everyone had clambered on board, and the walkers stowed away, Peter drove us southwards along SH1, eventually pulling into a rest area at Paremata Estuary for a comfort stop.  This is such a pretty area, looking out over the estuary.  The adjacent coffee cart was doing a roaring  trade, and a group of school kids were lined up at the sailing club ready for a morning of instruction.

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Paremata Estuary

The bus then travelled around the Pauahatanui Inlet, much to the surprise of the passengers, who were sure our day out was to be in Wellington.  Not so – as it turned out.  Next stop was at Aston Norwood Gardens, (formerly Kaitoke Country Gardens) for morning tea, and a walk around their gardens, for those who could manage it.

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Dot and Jenny walking off their morning tea

The next part of the trip was a trial for some of our group, travelling in a big bus over the steep Rimutaka Hill.  Some of our older members probably wouldn’t have travelled this hill road for some time, and there were a few mutterings to be heard.   Those on the left hand side were a bit concerned at the steep drop outside their windows, while the passengers on the right hand side of the bus has their hearts in their mouths as one big logging truck after another came careering around the corner, to pass agonising close to their side of the bus.  But Peter, of course, was a professional driver, and took us up and over the hill without a scratch.

Our destination was Masterton, to visit the Aratoi Museum ans see the exhibition about the Featherston Military Training Camp, the largest continuously occupied military camp during WW1.  Together with the nearby camps of Tauherenikau and Papawai, Featherston Camp prepared more than half of New Zealand’s total fighting force, around 60,000 men, for war.

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Tent City at Featherston Camp

Planning began in July 1915, following deaths at Trentham Military Camp due to outbreaks of measles, influenza and meningitis due to overcrowding.  The area just north of Featherson was considered ideal for the purpose, with plenty of space for large scale training activities, bracing weather conditions, and ready access to fresh water.  By September, 150 civilian tradesmen worked on the site, with the numbers increasing to 1000 at the height of construction.  It could accommodate 4,500 soldiers, 1,000 instructors and administration staff.  Sadly, influenza struck the camp in 1918, killing 160 and infecting thousands of other men.

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Camp food was filling but monotonous, with mutton featuring heavily on the menu, supplemented with beef.  Breakfast was a conglomeration of the previous evening’s meal in the way of curries and stews, while lunch consisted of “dry rations only”, bread, jam, cheese and tea.  The troops trained hard for their imminent departure overseas, and the “Rimutaka March” was regarded as a rite of passage.  Starting in the early hours of the morning, the route took them through the main street of Featherston where local people would often gather to wave them on their way.  They would then ascend the steep road towards the summit, where a delegation from the Wairarapa Patriotic Association would welcome them with food and tea.

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The Rimutaka March

From here it was on to Wellington to board the troop ships and head off to the horrors war. Some of them had time for a little sightseeing – Egypt must have been an exciting exotic place for a little R & R.  Many of course, never made it back home, nor did the thousands of horses which were sent overseas with them. 

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This was a very interesting and thought provoking exhibition and when we had seen it all, we wandered outside to wait for the bus to come back and collect us.  

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Waiting for the bus

The drive back home took us northwards to Woodville and through the Manawatu Gorge, coming back down SH1 to Levin, sparing some of the more nervous passengers a second trip back over the Rimutaka Hill.  Not many would have been looking at the sights out the window, as many were fast asleep, grey heads nodding gently with the movement of the bus.  It was another great day out with the 60s Up group.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A very Special Day

It’s hard to believe, and we weren’t sure we would get there, but our beautiful cat Muffy celebrated her 20th birthday over the weekend while we were on our caravan rally at Kahutara.  Sunday was a very special day, and we wished our lovely cat “Many Happy Returns”.   We shared a birthday cake for morning tea with our caravan club members, who all wished Muffy “Happy Birthday”.

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Happy 20th Birthday to Muffy

We can remember when we first got her, all those years ago, a beautiful bouncing kitten who was full of energy.  At such a grand old age, Muffy is now getting stiff and sore, and walking is getting to be an effort.  But she is well loved, and likes nothing better than a lap to curl up on while she snoozes the day away.  You can be sure we are making the most of her remaining time with us, giving her all the attention and care she deserves.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

BBQ King

A BBQ cook-off took place on our last evening at the rally at Kahutara.  The men set up their barbecues for the evening meal, trying to find the best place to shelter from the hot Wairarapa wind.   Before too long the BBQs were hot, and the steaks, sausages, kebabs, and whatever else was on the menu were cooking away.  After threatening to do a “taste test” and eat a goodly portion of everyone’s dinners, Bill and Val did the rounds and checked out each chef was producing.

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Robin cooked lamb chops, cheese topped mushrooms and corn on the cob

There was a quiz night in the evening to keep our brains sharp, and we didn’t do too badly.  Not a perfect score, by any means, there are always a few questions which tax your power of recall.  If you know all the answers, quizzes are easy.  If not, they are frustratingly difficult!  People were asked to wear their funny tee shirts and Bill and Val were attired in an interesting selection.  And can you spot “Mr Grumpy” coming through the door?

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Bill, Val and Don

The weekend finished on Monday morning, Waitangi Day, with our final morning tea.  Chocolate bars were handed out to the quiz winners, the best kite fliers, the best tee shirt, and all sorts of other reasons, so that no one missed out.  Robin was declared BBQ King and duly presented with a red BBQ apron.  Older readers may recognise the cheeky figure on the apron from “Four Square” grocery chain advertisements from long ago.

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BBQ winner of the weekend

Everyone packed up and headed for home.  We didn’t get far at all, as parked up in front of the hall across the road were Joe and Sandra from the Akarana Caravan Club, who we hadn’t seen for quite a few years.  It was great to meet up again with them after all this time, catch up with all their news and reminisce about friends in common.  The Karutara Hall is quite an historic building and was originally part of the Featherston Camp during WW1, in use as Soldiers Clubrooms.  It was moved on to this site in 1921.

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Historic Kurutara Hall

After the very necessary trip to the dump station, we started on our home wards journey, up and over the Rimutaka Hill, and along the coast road.  There were plenty of caravans and motor-homes on the road, all travelling home after the long holiday weekend away.  Time was getting on, and we were getting peckish, with still a fair way to go, so we stopped off at “Wendy’s” in Paraparumu  for lunch.  This fast food outlet has a huge car park, so there was no trouble parking up with the caravan in tow.  And with a special lunch time deal of burger, chips, ice cream and a drink, all for the sum of $5 each, we thought we did very well.

We joined the traffic again and headed off for the last part of our drive.  The traffic was much heavier coming southwards towards Wellington, and practically came to a standstill at the notorious part of the road just north of Otaki.  This happens on holiday weekends when the passing lanes are closed off.  Oh dear, it will be a long, hot, slow drive home for those folks.  We moved past on the other side of the road, with nothing to slow us down and were soon safely home.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Picnic at Lake Ferry

Remember those picnics from days gone by?  All good fun, sitting around on camp chairs and eating picnic lunches in the blazing sun?  It was about time we had another one, it was decided, so Sunday was declared picnic day by our rally family.  So we duly packed up our picnic lunches, filled the thermos, gathered our fold up seats and tables, (no sitting on picnic rugs for oldies like us, we wouldn’t be able to get back up again), pooled cars, and set off for Lake Onoke, at the Lake Ferry settlement.  This is a small fishing and holiday settlement on the eastern side of the outlet of Lake Onoke, 35 km south-west of Martinborough, and was once the site of a ferry service that operated across the lake outlet.

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We set ourselves up under some shady macrocarpa trees beside the domain.  It was a lovely spot, with views out over the lake behind us.  Youngsters were busy playing on the various apparatus in the adjacent playground, and one or two decided to have a go climbing a large tree close by – oh, to be as flexible as young children are.

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Lake Onoke

Out came our lunches, and we spent a happy time chatting, munching, sipping on drinks, and generally just enjoying the company and the lovely fresh air.

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Enjoying our picnic lunches

And just over the fence was this rather rustic looking motor home, complete with a huge flowering cactus plant.  No, we decided, it’s not quite what we would be looking for as a replacement van.

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Home on wheels over the fence

Some of us went for a walk after lunch.  The Lake Ferry Hotel was busy, and we had previously enjoyed some great meals there on earlier visits.  Lake Ferry Hotel was established in 1851 primarily as a base for a ferry service, the publican also being the ferryman. It is the oldest licenced hotel in the Wairarapa and one of the oldest in New Zealand. Although the original building has long gone the current bungalow structure is very suitable for today’s conditions having withstood many a spectacular coastal storm.

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Lake Ferry Hotel


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This stretch of coast is very dangerous so must be treated with caution. 

Onoke Spit is a sandbar between the sea and the foot of Lake Onoke, where the Ruamahanga River enters Palliser Bay. It is a popular recreational area for off road drivers, motor bikers and recreational fishers, as well as walkers, botanists and bird watchers.

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After our walk we moved from the shade of the trees into the sunshine, then back again to cool down again.  Finally it was time to pack up and drive back to Karutara School again, stopping off to buy an ice cream at the historic Pirinoa General Store, still going strong after more than 130 years in business.  The building still has the original timber floorboards, shelving, pelmets and counter, so it really is a step back in time.  The shop has been serving the rural township continuously since it opened in 1882, only about 40 years after European settlement of Wairarapa began.

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Pirinoa General Store

Monday, February 8, 2016

Kahutara School, Wairarapa

The Wararapa farmland looks dry and parched over the summer season, and Kahutara, approximately mid way between Martinborough and Pirinoa, is no exception.  Last time we stayed at the school, the wind, as we remembered, was relentless.  So strong that several caravan fridges running on gas had their pilot lights blown out, and it was rather difficult to relight them.  When we arrived the hot dry wind was much less severe, thank goodness.  Six caravans and two motor homes parked up on the school playing field for a fun weekend.

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Kahutara School

A group of bobby calves over the fence kept crying for their mothers.  Such cute little faces looking back at me, as they posed nicely for the lady with the  camera.

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Over the fence

50 years of wedded bliss is certainly something to celebrate, and Selwyn and Kath had just returned from Auckland where they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  Our club wanted to acknowledge this milestone on Friday evening, and Val read out a poem she had written, all about the ups and downs of their caravan adventures with our club.

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Poetry reading by Val

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This is your life, Selwyn and Kath

Saturday morning was hot without a breath of wind, and several car loads of campers drove off bright and early to the very popular Martinborough Fair.  People come from far and wide to attend the fairs, held a month apart on the first Saturday of February and March, with stalls crowded in shady Martinborough Square.  Streams of traffic clog the normally sleepy settlement as people search for a car park close to the square, and then jostle with the crowds of shoppers looking for bargains.   We relaxed back at the school, and welcomed Life Members Peter and Elaine who were visiting for the day.

Kite flying was on the programme for the afternoon and we lamented at the windless conditions and wondered if it would go ahead.  But the kite gods must have been listening and by mid afternoon the wind started up and the kites were airborne.  Rally Captain Bill had brought along kits and instructions for those who didn’t have their own kite, and several black plastic sheet variations were soon flying alongside the colourful commercial kites.

Saturday evening was fun and games in the hall, and they were certainly quite a laugh.  Have you ever held a tennis ball tight against you and your partners forehead and tried to walk down the hall without dropping it?  Some couples shuffled sideways very slowly, Dennis and Glenys were much more energetic and held their heads together while their bodies were turned sideways as they strode along the hall. We managed to make it, but found out that you mustn’t turn your head to see where you are going or else the ball will get dislodged.  Just a shame no one was filming all these high jinks!