Our 4WD tow car is in the garage, and has been there for a week now. It went in for a Warrant of Fitness, plus a service. But, as often happens with cars, something else was wrong. Seems that the left front wheel bearings collapsed and damaged the axle housing, and had to be replaced. However the collapsing bearing meant the wheel was rocking around and the brake disk had eaten into the brake pad which required those to be replaced as well But, when replacing things like bearings and brake pads it is good policy I believe to have both sides of the same age, so the other side should be changed too. Getting the parts took time, and they finally arrived late yesterday. Come back today, we were told, and it should be all ready and waiting for you. And there our car was, parked up outside the garage, looking like it was just waiting to come back home with us. But nothing about cars is ever simple, or easy, is it? After the mechanic had replaced the bearings, brake pads and damaged parts, given it the necessary service, checked it all for the new WOF, he took it for a road test. But then he noticed that the fan belt was trailing under the car on the ground! Oh no, more expense. So tomorrow fan and steering pump belts will be replaced, and the car should be as good as new. Just as well that this latest problem didn’t happen when we were towing the caravan in the middle of nowhere. John, our mechanic came in on his day off to work on the car, and we really appreciate that. Hopefully, with all these new parts, the car will be in tip top condition once again. Then we should finally be all set to travel away in the weekend on our upcoming caravan rally. We will keep our fingers crossed!
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Sunday, 29 May 2011
We took a trip to Wainuiomata to visit our friends Geoff and Pauline. The name of the town is made up of the words WAI – water, NUI – big, O – of, and MATA – which could refer to a woman’s name. The origins of the word are disputed, but one commonly accepted translation refers to the women who came over the Wainuiomata Hill to evade marauding tribes from the north, and who sat wailing by the stream after the slaughter of their men folk.
There are three chickens in residence and they clucked happily to themselves as they pecked around the garden. The pretty black and white chicken is a Houdan, a French breed of chicken, and lays little white eggs. I love chickens, it is very homely watching them as they go about their chooky business.
The other two brown chooks are the Hyline breed, and are excellent layers. “What are the chickens called?”, I wanted to know. “They don’t have names”, was the incredulous reply, “they are just chickens!”
Geoff had to do a little “chicken wrangling” to get them all safely back inside their run for the evening. Two went in happily and the other one ran the other way, and had to be bribed with a handful of wheat before she relented to be caged for the night.
The reason for our visit was to make some further travel plans for our upcoming “South Island Safari Trip” early next year. We discussed the pros and cons of the two Interisland Ferries which cross Cook Strait. After deciding on which company will give us the best deal the next question was the exact date we plan to travel down. Another decision finally made! Now all we have to do is make a phone booking when the Ferry office opens for business on Monday morning. We have lots of plans for our trip, with a great many places of interest to visit, so we just hope we can fit them all in. Other friends will be joining us too for some of the time, so we are looking forward to a great trip. We then drove up to the Wainuiomata RSA Club (Returned Servicemen’s Association) for a meal out. How about this interesting sign on the front doors?
The meals were tasty and quite reasonably priced. Three of us had sweet and sour pork, and Robin ate his way through two huge pork chops. Our dessert choices were divided between the banana fritters and crème brulee, and both were declared delicious.
After an after dinner cup of coffee it was time to head home.We stopped at the top of the Wainuiomata Hill and looked down at the lights of Petone and Lower Hutt. Large petrol holding tanks in the industrial area of Gracefield can be seen in the bottom left of the photo. It was a lovely clear evening with perhaps the hint of a frost promised for the next morning.
Thursday, 26 May 2011
We have a couple of handy reference books which we regularly delve in to when we travel around our great country. And now we have added another one to make our travels even more interesting. It is called “Museums to visit in New Zealand”, by Alison Dench, and lists 150 public and private museums. The museums are grouped into 13 provinces, from Northland to the deep South. Big city museums are listed as well as small provincial ones. A quick flick through the local ones show that we have visited all but a couple of them, so we will have to put these on our list of things to do while we are at home.
The listing for each entry book tells how to get there, what each museum has on show, and even where to go for coffee after your visit. There is a museum dedicated to butchery, another to taxidermy, one showcasing lace, and especially for the men folk, a collection of 13000 beer cans. Truly something for all tastes. The author goes on to add that there are over 400 museums throughout New Zealand, and many of them are listed on the website of the National Museum of New Zealand. We are sure to get a lot of use out of our new book on future travels.
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Robin holds two great British engineers in high esteem, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and Thomas Telford. We viewed several pieces of their great engineering feats a couple of years ago on our UK trip. Robin’s engineering exploits will not challenge these great men, or those who presently deal in this area, but he was rather pleased with his solution to our problem.
It was time to make some grape jelly, and as every cook and her husband knows, the juice from previously cooked up grapes must drain slowly through some sort of sieve. But how to achieve this when there is a huge amount of hot grapes bubbling away in the preserving pan? The quantity was just too much to make use of our sieve or colander. As it happened, we had one of those splatter guards which are used over frying pans and the metal gauze had previously been damaged and removed. Robin stitched some mutton cloth around the edge, then fashioned a wire handle around the top. Attaching rope to the handles, to the bath tap, and a handy hook on the wall above the bath, the sieve was suspended in place. Of course, the test came when the hot liquid was carefully poured into the suspended sieve, with the preserving pan in place to catch the grape juice. Eureka, it worked!!
And this is the final result, lots of jars of tasty grape jelly. It is so tasty on a piece of our breakfast morning toast.
Sunday, 22 May 2011
Autumn and Winter means rugby season here in New Zealand but cricket was in the air. We went to The Studio to see their current production, “Outside Edge”. This comedy is all about the members of the Hambledon District Cricket Club in the English countryside trying to win their game while sorting out their various marital problems.
Roger, the captain, panics at the slightest hurdle as he tries valiantly to keep his team together as they come and go at the pavilion. His wife Miriam is the rock behind him, but of course he can not see that. “Chop, chop”, he chivvies her along as he lurches from one crisis to the next. Then there is Bob, married to Ginnie but always sneaking away to do odd jobs for his previous wife. Nothing is a secret for long and when Ginnie arrives at the game the others try hard to keep her from discovering that her husband is absent. This is Maggie’s first time at the pavilion to watch her new husband Kevin spin a ball or two. When Kevin gets a blister on his spinning finger, Maggie cuddles her diminutive husband while the rest of the team nearly falls apart. Added to the mix is ladies man Dennis, whose wife has had enough of him and sets his new car alight in the car park, and upper class young lawyer Alex, the best player on the team and makes sure everyone knows it, and his latest girlfriend who feels so out of place at the game she spends her time locked in the toilet.
This funny play was first staged at Hampstead Theatre, then spent some time at the West End. Finally, the play enjoyed success as a TV play starring such greats as the late Paul Eddington, and Prunella Scales. All in all it was a very amusing play about this beloved English game, and a great night out.
Friday, 20 May 2011
In an effort to help keep those winter chills at bay, we recently installed some under floor insulation. Then the other day we had glaziers come and double-glaze our high windows in the sitting room. Mind you, this took quite a bit of arranging as they had to wait until we were home and not traipsing off somewhere in the caravan. We had already had several conversations about a suitable date, as the men could not work in rain or high winds either, and at last we found one which suited both sides. Two workmen arrived, each in a separate work van I noticed, and started unloading supplies. The existing glass channel had to be removed and new type put in. This came in one long length, packed around a length of timber to keep it from bending. Up went the ladders on the front deck and the men started removing the existing glass panes.
Once that was done, the new channel was cut to size, and put in place. Then the new double glazed windows were fitted in place. These have argon gas between the panes, and come all cut to size ready to install.
All this took quite some time and the men were up and down the ladders, calling out measurements then cutting the channel to the right size, and bang, bang, bang as it was nailed into place. Muffy was not at all pleased with all this noise and wandered down from having a snooze in our sunny bedroom to see what was going on.
Once they had finished the last window they packed their tools away one of the workmen came inside to clean all the finger marks off the inside of the windows. This young man was from Salisbury, UK, and we chatted about our visits to his country. He commented that whole house double glazing is the norm in UK and wondered why it is only just happening here, especially as our climates are similar. If we are ever lucky enough to buy another new house, (keep buying those Lotto tickets) we would certainly get double glazing installed.
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
What is a Solar Decathlon, you may well ask? It is a competition run by the US Department of Energy and university teams throughout the world are invited to design and build energy efficient houses powered exclusively by the sun. The Victoria University team from Wellington is the first ever finalist from the Southern Hemisphere. The team designed and built the Meridian First Light house, a reinvention of the iconic Kiwi bach (pronounced batch) powered entirely by solar energy. The bach is a casual dwelling usually built at the beach and used for holidays and weekends mainly in the summer. The house is currently sited in Frank Kitt’s Park on the Wellington Waterfront, and we joined the crowds for a guided tour.
We were led in groups through the house and all the various aspects were explained. The competition is judged on ten points, architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort, hot water, appliances, home entertainment and energy balance. Led by students from Victoria University's School of Architecture, the team is made up of students right across the University. The students were supervised by University staff, and industry partners have donated their time and expertise to the project.
The house has 28 solar panels that provides power to run the house throughout all the seasons. An innovative drying cupboard was developed for the house, using energy from the solar heated water which is pumped through a heat exchanger, and a heat pump warms and cools the house as required. The concrete slab floor stores heat during the day and releases it at night, and the house uses wool insulation in the walls. Add triple glazing to the mix, and this timber house is as attractive as it is eco-friendly. We found it surprisingly warm on a cold afternoon even with all the doors and windows open for the tour.
Teams from New Zealand, China, Belgium, Canada and USA have spent two years creating their solar powered houses for the competition. New Zealand’s entry will be exhibited with the other finalists in West Potomac Park, Washington DC. We certainly wish them luck.
Monday, 16 May 2011
It was my month to arrange the outing for our SLG this month, and the decision where to go was easy, as I had long wanted to go and visit the Carter Observatory. We had been there many years ago, but the Observatory had changed and expanded since then, so it was time for a return trip. We all met up in the car park on a wet and wild Wellington morning, and walked the short distance down to the Observatory.
I had booked our group in to the 11.00am screening of the film “Dawn of the Space Age”. As we sat back in our recliner chairs and looked up at the theatre screen on the dome above us, the images travelled across the dome and we looked up in wonder. The film told of the early space race between the Russians and the Americans. Those of us with enough years under our belts will remember the wonder we all felt when the Sputniks were launched, followed by Nasa joining in with President Kennedy’s promise to “put a man on the moon”. The film played for about 45 minutes, and the graphics were amazing. Then the presenter showed us pictures of the current night sky over Wellington, and pointed out the planets and constellations.
We can remember Peter Read and his popular TV show “Night Sky” from 1963 to 1974. On his death the family donated his telescope to Carter Observatory. This instrument had quite a chequered past and had many owners. It was commandeered during WW11 by the New Zealand Army and taken to Lyttleton Harbour in the South Island where it was used to observe approaching ships. Peter Read brought this telescope and mounted it in his backyard observatory in Miramar, Wellington, where he used it until his death in 1981.
There was plenty to see as we wandered around. Look at that, moon rocks! Imagine the astronauts collecting the rocks from the moon and bringing them back to earth, it is quite mind boggling to consider, don’t you think?
We read about the Big Bang, and how the world as we know it was presumed to be created, and how it all might perhaps end. Who really knows, and we won’t be here then. There were 5 minute films to watch on the stars, black holes, constellations, and planets, and plenty of interactive screens to keep us busy and informed.
The library was amazing to behold. Most of the Carter Observatory book collection were gifted by Leslie John Comrie. In 1941, when London was under air attack, Leslie Comrie feared for the future of European civilisation. He decided to send thousands of books to Carter Observatory in case Britain's libraries were reduced to ashes. If the worst did happen, he hoped that the astrology knowledge his books contained would be resurrected here in New Zealand.
The Cooke telescope is used on “Star Gazing Evenings”. This magnificent telescope was made in York, England, in 1867. In 1905 it was shipped to Marist Observatory, Napier, and then purchased by the Wellington City Council in 1923. It would certainly be very interesting to come back and for an evening session at the Observatory.
This is a most interesting place and well worth a return visit to learn even more about “Space, the final frontier”.
Friday, 13 May 2011
We saw this veritable mountain of scrap iron on our trip back home through the Wairarapa. Car bodies were heaped up on top of all the other bits and pieces.
“Look at that”, I said to Robin. “It’s been there for years”, was his reply. I never noticed it before and we often drive this way. Just goes to show that sometimes you don’t see what is right in front of you! (especially when one is driving from the passenger seat!)
Wonder what happens to all this old scrap iron?
Thursday, 12 May 2011
We said our goodbyes to my sister and her family and hooked up the caravan. I was on “tree watch” as Robin carefully towed the caravan along the drive. On our arrival at Hastings the large tree leaning out over the driveway came off second best when it tangled with our caravan. Just hope it didn’t scrape any of our paint in revenge. We had an easy and uneventful run south and pulled into a lay-by off the road just south of Pahiatua for a lunch stop. There is a memorial to the former Polish Children’s Camp which was previously on this site.
This piece of land has seen many changes. It was once part of the Pahiatua Racecourse, established in 1902. Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the racecourse was converted into an Internment Camp for foreign nationals, who lived there for two years. The campsite was once again utilised when New Zealand offered hospitality to Polish children made homeless by the effects of WWII. Over 700 Polish children and 105 accompanying adults arrived in 1944. They had previously lived in forced labour camps in USSR, before journeying to Iran.
The children attended primary school at the camp and were taught in the Polish language before attending New Zealand Secondary Schools. They then took up apprentice training or entered the workforce. The Children’s Camp was officially closed in 1949 and was then converted into a “Displaced Person’s Camp” for people who became stateless as a result of the boundary changes in Europe after WWII. When this camp closed in 1952 the buildings were sold and the land reverted to farm land. In 1971 the former residents of the Polish Children’s Camp wanted to mark this part of their lives with a memorial. The land for the rest area was donated by the Balfour Stud Farm and the monument was unveiled in 1975. It is wonderful that the NZ Government changed the lives of so many children from the ravages of war by offering them a new home out here in New Zealand.
We arrived safely back home and began the task of unloading the caravan. Two loads of washing later, with the fridge and tiny bathroom cleaned, and the floor vacuumed, things were ready for our next trip away.
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
We left dreary and damp Pahiatua behind on Sunday and travelled up to Hastings, where the weather can almost be guaranteed to be fine and sunny. This area is not called “The Fruit Bowl of New Zealand” for nothing. When we arrived, Robin had to carefully back our caravan down the long driveway of my sister Kathleen’s house. Ooops, I wasn’t watching that tall tree which was growing out over the driveway, a couple of small branches won’t be the same again. Once we were safely in place, with the legs wound down and the power plugged in, we went inside to meet the rest of the family and enjoy a cup of coffee. As it was Mother’s Day, Kathleen suggested that we all go out for the evening meal to celebrate. We agreed, what a good idea! At the appointed time, we piled into two cars and drove over to Napier.
Breakers Restaurant was full to bursting with lots of families out celebrating Mother’s Day. There were three mothers at our table, myself, Kathleen, and her daughter Lisa. Robin and brother-in-law Dennis, plus Lisa’s children Adam and Kate completed our family group.
The meals were very generous and several of us enjoyed the rolled stuffed roast pork meal. Adam had a huge burger to munch through, and young Kate enjoyed her smaller child’s meal. But why oh why do we always think we need to have a dessert as well? Probably because everything sounds so nice on the menu, and then we struggle to eat it after our big main courses. We never learn, do we? The restaurant decorations lean heavily towards a surfing theme, and Robin was pleased to see a poster showing just the sort of surf board he used in his younger surfing days. He was a member of the New Plymouth Old Boys Surf Lifesaving Club at Oakura Beach, New Plymouth, for several years. There were none of those motor powered boats that are available these days. Way back then the boys had to paddle out the heavy fibreglass canoe or swim out with a lifebelt attached trailing a line behind them and then those on shore would pull the lifesaver and patient back into the beach. Today they use a inflatable motorised boats.
After our meal we drove down Napier’s Marine Parade to look at the lights. The fountain was playing and looked beautiful as the lights kept changing colour. Couples were cuddled up close on the seats as they looked at the romantic display, and there was a posse of photographers (us included) lined up to capture the ever changing colours.
Marine Parade is lined with Norfolk Pines and they were strung with colourful lights. The evening air was warm and mild and the lights made everything look so nice. I had received Mother’s Day phone calls from my children Michael and Nicky earlier in the day, so everything was fine in my world. Hope everyone else had a Happy Mother’s Day too.
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
A bit of rain didn’t dampen our spirits at the Combined Rally at Pahiatua. A total of 13 assorted caravans and motor homes from the participating clubs of Heretaunga, Wairarapa and Wellington Caravan Clubs arrived for the weekend. One kind camper had gathered up a large bag of nice fresh feijoas from trees on his property for us all to share.
We gathered in the camp dining room for morning tea, 4zees and in the evenings. It was a bit of a squash, but we all managed to squeeze ourselves in and find a seat. A few games of Housie was organised on Saturday evening, with David from the Wairarapa Club calling out the numbers.
We all entered into the spirit of the games and it was “eyes down” as the numbers were called out one by one. Not necessarily the numbers that we had on our cards, we noticed. The lucky winners were rewarded with a chocolate bar.
Supper was served later in the evening. Everyone was asked to provide a plate of supper to share and most of the ladies had brought along some tasty home baking. The marshmallow shortcake was particularly delicious, and I reminisced with the other ladies about making it myself for my young children’s birthday parties in earlier years.
The weather was still very damp on Sunday when everyone was packing up and heading home. We were not going home though, we were heading north to Hastings for our next stop.
Monday, 9 May 2011
The fog rolled in, then the rain kept falling, from drizzle, to unrelenting rain fall, and back to a light drizzle again, which made for puddles everywhere and piles of wet squelchy fallen leaves underfoot. Even the sheep down the driveway to the camp were sodden as they tried to shelter under the large trees.
Perhaps we should take a little sight seeing trip? Robin was keen to check out a freedom camping site at Ballance that he had read about. Even small, out of the way places like Ballance have their share of interesting history. As we drove through the rural Ballance Valley we came across a plaque commemorating the site of the first Butter Factory. It didn’t actually say if the factory was the first in the area, or the first in New Zealand. The factory was built for the cost of 400 pound in the late 1800s and used water from the adjacent creek to turn the water wheel, turning the separators and butter churn.
The freedom camping site didn’t appeal to us al all as it was just a pull-off area on the side of a busy road. There were toilets and water available, but no protection from traffic. The adjacent Ballance Bridge spanning the Manawatu River was well worth checking out and much more interesting.
Sadly this bridge was the place of a tragic accident not too long ago. An adventure tourism operation was taking place, where young people swung under the bridge. One young girl leapt off the bridge for her swing ride but her harness was not properly attached to the bridge and she died when she hit the river bed. The operation was quite rightly shut down, and it is a much more peaceful place these days.