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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Day out at Kapiti

We had things to do down Kapiti way.  Most importantly, to check our booking at Paekakariki Holiday Park.  We are rally family at this camp in a few weeks time, and needed to make sure that our booking had been recorded.  As it happened, the office lady was out for the day, and her hubby was busy doing outside jobs and not inclined to check our booking.  “There’s plenty of room here”, he said, “Of course we can fit you in”.   He was right of course, with over 200 sites there’s room for an army.  And the camp is not likely to be full in the middle of winter.

As I wandered around to take a photo of the giant flowering, or maybe it is fruiting, cactus, a voice said hello.  It was fellow club members Barrie and Dianne who were returning their caravan to the secure area.

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Huge cactus bush

Chatting away, we were kept amused by the antics of a mother tui and her fledgling in the trees overhead.  We had never seen a baby tui before, and try as I might, I just couldn’t get a decent photo of them through the branches and the leaves.

Next stop was back to Paraparaumu, and soon attended to our business at the beach shops.  Noon must mean it’s time for lunch, we reasoned, so we went into Fed Up Foods for a fish lunch.   Tasty Bluff oysters were on the menu, but at $38 a dozen (cooked) we sadly had to turn them down.  “Cooee, cooee” called a lady in the café, don’t know who she is, so she surely can’t be talking to us. 

But we did know them – it was former caravan club members Andy and Bev.  Bev used to have a head of bright red hair, and that was why we didn’t immediately recognise her – she is now sports a very elegant steel grey hair do.  We joined them at their table, ate our lunches together, and caught up with  each other’s news.

Lunch over, we had a few more things to do, this time in the bustling local mall.  With the school holidays almost over, the place was buzzing with kids, little ones out with their Mums and Grannies, and plenty of teens mooching around.  With all our shopping and chores taken care of, it was time to relax with a cuppa.  And this looks just the place, Butlers Chocolate Café.

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I went to the counter and ordered a Flat White for him,and a Hot Chocolate for me.  And what chocolates would you like with your drinks, I was asked.  That was a hard choice, for a procrastinator like me.  I looked at the selection in the cabinet, read all the little labels and finally told myself, just choose something!  So we got a double chocolate choccie each, and they were absolute bliss! 

We drove back home with rain all the way until we reached Levin.  Surprisingly the roads were dry, the washing was safe on the clothesline, and no sign of rain at all.  Who would have thought it?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Menz Shed Luncheon

The Secret Society of Menz Shedders allowed their other halves a peek into their secret men’s business the other day.  One of the blokes had organised a lunch, and yes, the womenfolk were cordially invited.  We gathered at The Avenue, a restaurant just north of town.

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The building is an unusual log cabin construction, with exposed rafters on the ceilings.  Our group was seated at two tables, with plenty of chatter filling the room.  And what’s for lunch?  With such a big crowd, we were having a set menu.  Mmm, roast lamb, that sounds tasty.

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Secret Society of Menz Shedders and their spouses

The meals were delicious, tasty roast lamb and plenty of veggies, with apple shortcake for dessert.  And excellent value too, we felt,  at $17 a head for two courses.

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Derek and Dot, Robin and Jenny

Robin has just recently joined the local Menz Shed and is now a fully paid up member.  This is a place where retired men can meet for friendship and fellowship, and practical advice to help with any of their projects.  But they are very clear on one matter – “No Women Allowed”.

Monday, July 18, 2016

No wonder it’s Cold

The cold wind must have followed us home from our weekend at Foxton Beach.  You have to be brave to step outside and face that wind – talk about bone chilling temperatures.  But of course there is a reason – check out the hills.  Covered in just a little more than a light dusting of snow.  No wonder it is cold.

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Snow covered Tararua Ranges

But the weather is a fickle thing, and a short time later the snow had disappeared, and was replaced by a rainbow.  Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful!

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Snow scene replaced by a pretty rainbow

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Then the sun came out

You just can’t escape the wind anywhere close to a west coast beach in New Zealand.  And so it was for our rally weekend camping at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds at Foxton Beach.

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The sun finally came out over the weekend, but the wind was so fierce and cold there was no way we could sit outside.  Unfortunately, the hall was not available for us to use this time, so we fell back on Plan B, and had morning teas in smaller groups in the vans.

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All lined up in a row

Several of the residents in camp enquired about Muffy.  As we go to these grounds a couple of times a years, it seems that we are becoming recognised.  The residents all knew that Muffy was quite elderly, and were sad to hear that she was no longer with us.

As this was our club’s AGM rally, this important piece of business took place on Saturday morning.  Luckily we could use the local bowling club rooms to hold our meeting.  The AGM went well, and a new committee was elected for the current year.  There were two uninvited strangers in the hall, but they kept their views to themselves and we never heard a peep out of them.

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Who were these people?

We continued with tradition and enjoyed an evening meal in the Bowling Club restaurant on Friday evening.  The restaurant is extremely popular with locals and those staying at the camp, and is always very crowded.  Then on the Saturday evening, we decided to dine out again, this time at the Foxton RSA. Some pooled cars for the drive, and six of us climbed into the courtesy van – very reasonable at $2 per person each way.

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Foxton RSA and the courtesy van

It was difficult not having the hall for our group to gather together, and at least we would be all in one place in the restaurant.  The RSA was very busy, with a business award ceremony taking place in another area, and several large tables, like ours, in the dining room.  The large meals arrived with a flourish, chicken, fish, steak and scallops keeping everyone happy.  Some even had room for dessert – not us this time, we were full to bursting.

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Barry, Jenny and Robin

Morning tea on Sunday was split between several vans, weekend rally fees and subs were paid, and most decided to head on home before lunch, to escape from that dratted wind!  At just 28km from home, it wasn’t a long trip back for us at all, with a necessary stop at the dump station.  We unpacked the caravan, put it back on site around the corner, put a load of washing in the machine, and settled down to a late lunch.  Another great weekend away, and it was great to catch up with everyone again.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Wet and Windy at Foxton Beach

At last – time to hook up the caravan and head away.  Although it’s only been five weeks since our last caravan rally, Robin seems to have been experiencing cabin fever and has been champing at the bit for weeks.  We decided to leave home on Thursday, to give us an extra day away.  And here we are, all alone and friendless,  camping by ourselves at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds at Foxton Beach.  As it turned out, none of our caravan club buddies decided to come a day early and join us.

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All alone on Thursday

This camp was badly  battered a couple of months ago when a small tornado blew through in the dead of night.  A roof was lifted off one of the static caravan awning’s and flung about, part of the hall was damaged as were portions of the fence.   It must have been a terrifying thing to go through.     This part of the fence, where visitors like us stay, has been propped up as a temporary measure and the camp is still waiting for the insurance details to be sorted out on all the damage.

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Holding the fence in place

We met up with Life Members Peter and Elaine later in the day, who came up for the AGM rally weekend.  Although they no longer caravan, they found a holiday cottage to rent  close by.  Come over in the evening, they invited us.  So we did, to find all the lights out, and an electrician there in the dark making temporary repairs, until he returned again the next day.  We had a great night reminiscing about our caravan adventures, rallies and safari trips enjoyed together over the years .

The wind gusts kept rocking the caravan during the night, and Friday morning dawned wet, blustery and miserable.  We took a trip to the local supermarket to find that after some time being “dry”  the petrol pumps were being reinstalled.  That would be great for the locals.  With our purchases of bread, milk, newspaper and a giant chocolate eclair each for lunch, we drove down to the estuary to check out the conditions.

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Petrol pumps being installed

The wharf at the estuary was deserted, no boats in sight, and the wet grey conditions doing nothing to make one want to take to the water.

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A grey morning down at the estuary

We settled down in the caravan for a quiet morning and after lunch our caravan buddies trickled into the camp, one after the other.  That’s great – we have company now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

To Palmy and Back

We had a list as long as our arms of things to do in Palmerston North yesterday.  In fact, our first appointment was so bright and early that we had to set the alarm clock to make sure we got away on time.  That brought back memories of those years and years of being workers, with the alarm going off at 5.30am, and us heading away at a little after 6.00am.  We certainly don’t miss those days at all!  We departed at a much more civilised time of 8.00am, with the temperature hovering at a chilly 4 degrees.  It may be mid winter, but the sun was shining brightly, and the temperatures went up nicely as the day progressed.

Our first appointment took us just around the corner from the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, this elegant creamy white building looking absolutely stunning in the sunshine.   It was opened in 1925 as St Patrick's Church and was rededicated to the Holy Spirit as the cathedral when the diocese was established in 1980. In 1988 the cathedral was renovated, added to and reordered. The building was designed by the notable architect Frederick de Jersey Clere, and was designated a Category 1 historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 1990.

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Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, glowing in the morning sunshine

With a bit of shopping crossed off our list, we were a little early for a late morning appointment at the hospital, so relaxed in the upstairs cafe with a coffee and date scone each.  But what’s that I spied out the window?  The cathedral spire is certainly a landmark in the flat city of Palmy.

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Cathedral spire is visible for miles

With the hospital appointment done and dusted, lunch was the next thing on the agenda.  And that was a bit of a run around, I must say.  The plan was to use a birthday voucher from a posh restaurant, a gift from daughter Nicky.  But no, being Monday, this place was not open for business.  Plan B was to have a nice Chinese smorgasbord lunch at Chinatown.  Yes, they were open, but being Monday, the smorgasbord was not on offer.  However, Chinatown was packed with Chinese people, all enjoying their a la carte lunches, so that’s certainly a good sign for future visits.  So we went with Plan C, and had lunch at Subway.  At least it was a healthy option, and we still have our lunch voucher to use another day.

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Palmerston North Square

After lunch, we crossed a few more items off our list, and headed back home.  Travelling along Newth Road we came across a well digging operation on a roadside paddock.  Water was  bubbling up all over the place so we stopped to have a look.  Sadly, with all the H&S protocols in place, I couldn’t really get too close to get a good photo of the water escaping, but a young lady engineer came to chat to me.  (Or perhaps she was making sure that I wasn’t an industrial spy from another company).  Anyway, she told me that the water had been found, and they were just about to cap the well.  How interesting – digging for wells is not something you come across very often. 

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Drilling for water

After out big day out on Palmy, we were pleased to finally get back home, take our shoes off, and have a cuppa.  Most items got crossed off our “to-do list”, the rest will have to wait for another trip.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Home and Away

With no caravan rally again this weekend, we kept close to home.  Robin’s champing at the bit to get away, but it’s not long now.   If he’s really good, we can go away very soon.

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Can we go away soon?

Meanwhile, he has recently joined the Menz Shed, and whipped up a little something for the caravan.  He decided to make a new key holder.  Our current one was too small, and the keys swung around underneath and were starting to mark the wall.  This one, being deeper, stops that from happening.  And being firmly screwed to the wall, it won’t fall off, as our previous one was inclined to do.

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Hand crafted key holder

Robin discovered the Menz Shed several years ago when we were staying at Richmond,  Nelson, while on our South Island Odyssey.  He went off to do some “Secret Men’s Business” at the Menz Shed, which conveniently had a meeting  room in the A & P Showgrounds where we are camped.  He collected Derek, and off they went – to whatever it was they get up to in the Men’s Shed.  “No women allowed”, I was firmly told, “And no, you can’t come and take a photo”.

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First taste of the Menz Shed in Nelson

Meanwhile, half a world way, daughter Nicky and hubby Robert are continuing to enjoy their UK holiday, and they are now in Scotland.  We suggested they visit Culloden, (I found it very moving when we were there)  – after all, Nicky has Scottish blood in her veins, just like her Mum, and we are descended from the Gunn clan.  In April 1746 Bonnie Prince Charles and 5000 Jacobite Highlanders fought against 9000 Government troops led by the Duke of Cumberland.  This was the last battle to be fought on British soil, and the Jacobite soldiers came to a grizzly end.  The battlefield has been reconstructed in memorial to the Jacobites defeat, with burial sites and flags marking out their positions at the end of the battle.  The most recognisable feature of the battlefield today is the 20 feet (6.1 m) tall memorial cairn, erected by Duncan Forbes in 1881, and he also erected headstones to mark the mass graves of the clans.

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We also told them about the fascinating Cairns of Clava, 4,000 year old burial sites dating from the Bronze Age.  There are three cairns here, two with passage ways aligned to the Midwinter sunset, and all with more subtle features, incorporated to reflect the importance of the South-west horizon.  It is amazing to think that these cairns are still around, although without a roof, after 4000 years.

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They also visited Loch Ness, but no sign of Nessie at all, sadly.  As Kiwis on their first visit to UK, they have been blown away by their visits to these historical places.  And we are enjoying reliving our memories of our own trip several years ago.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Wire Happy

Not far from Shannon on the Foxton Road are two farms with concrete foundations in the paddocks. They are the relics of Paiaka and Whitanui, the conscientious objector camps where 250 men were held in detention in World War 2.  We went along to our local library, Te Takere, on Sunday afternoon to find out about this previously unknown (to us) slice of local history.  The lecture was presented by Margaret Tate, of Historic Places, Manawatu-Horowhenua, and she delivered her talk to a packed hall.  Many of the people present had connections with those who had been interred at the camps.

In 2012, Shannon farm owner Mary Bielski began finding remnants of barbed wire, copper pipe and concrete foundations sticking out of her paddocks. Through piecing together bits and pieces of information she discovered that the ruins were the remains of Whitaunui camp, one of two nearby sites that were among New Zealand's largest camps to house men who refused compulsory military conscription.

Mary Bielski with dog Lass, on her Shannon farm, where she has been uncovering a political prison work camp for ...
Mary Bielski with the foundations

Nationally, over 800 “military defaulters” as they were known, were confined during WW11, in 13 camps around the country, with the two Shannon camps at Paiaka and Whitaunui housing 250 men between them.  Conscription began in 1940 for men between the ages of 18 and 40.  Objectors could appeal on the grounds of hardship, essential employment or conscientious objection.  If their appeals were rejected, the camps were the only option for these men, as no other form of service was offered to conscientious objectors in New Zealand.

A historical photo believed to have been taken of prisoners in front of 'public works huts' that housed them, at the ...
A historical photo believed to have been taken of prisoners in front of 'public works huts' that housed them, at the Whitaunui camp, during WWII.  Photo by Warwick Smith/Fairfax NZ.

They worked weeding flax which was a big local industry at the time. There were very large stands of flax, and they spent a lot of time cutting down blackberry bushes growing around the flax.  They also worked in the camp garden. Some library books were allowed, letters were controlled, few visitors were allowed, and prisoners were often moved between camps arbitrarily. The small huts were sparsely furnished, and very cold in the winter.  Being confined for the duration of the war made an enormous impact on the men, and it was very difficult for the wives and families at home who suffered financially, and from the stigma of their husband’s beliefs.  Many of the men suffered from depression, hence the term, “Wire Happy”.  Once finally released, the men were not allowed voting rights for 10 years.

Some well-known New Zealanders spend time there at the Shannon camps.  Rexford Hillary, brother of Sir Edmund Hillary was there, as was Terrence Baxter, brother of well known poet James K Baxter.

Regardless of individual views on war and the men who opposed it, it was very interesting to learn about this unknown to us slice of local history.  There are plans to erect signage or information boards if funding can be found, now that these sites have resurfaced into the public spotlight.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy Campers at Fisherman’s Table

With such a long break between caravan rallies, some of us were suffering from withdrawal symptoms.  If caravanning was not on the immediate agenda, perhaps a mid winter lunch might be a good alternative?  I booked the restaurant, emailed out the details, and the acceptances soon rolled into the computer in-box.  Everyone seemed happy with the idea of a mid winter get-together.

It was starting to feel like mid winter as we drove down SH1 to our destination.  The wind definitely had a “wind chill factor” to chill the bones, and the Tararua Ranges looked lovely with a sprinkling of snow.

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Tararua Ranges

Our group was meeting up at Fishermans Table, Paekakariki, and 19 happy campers soon arrived, chatting away, calling out greetings, and finding a chair at the long table set up for our group. 

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Fisherman’s Table, Paekakariki

Robin and I decided that as this restaurant specialized in fish, that was what we would order.  Although he did toy with the idea of having a big juicy steak for a while.  But fish it was for the two of us, tarakihi for him, and seafood pasta in a rich cheese sauce for me. Plus plenty of variety from the salad bar.  The orders duly arrived at the table, and that kept us quiet for a while as we tucked into our various choices, and sipped on a glass of wine, beer or juice.

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And here we all are

Did we want to order dessert, the waitress asked.  Why not – is was an occasion, after all.  Robin never goes past an ice-cream sundae, and I had spotted creme brulee on the menu, so that was us sorted.

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He's happy with his chocolate ice-cream sundae

The restaurant looks out over the coast line, and guests can sit outside in warmer weather.  The views through the large windows were lovely, and we were nice and cozy inside and away from the cold wind.

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View from the restaurant window

It was good to catch up again with some of our members whom we hadn’t seen for a while, and after the meal, there was a lot of seat swapping going on so people could talk to others at the far end of the tables.  And talk we did, there is always plenty of noise and chatter amongst our bunch of happy campers.  Finally it was time to pay the bill, say our goodbyes, and wend our way back to our respective homes. Now, just how long is it till the next caravan rally?