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

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Goodbye and Safe Travels, Happy Feet

After being close to death and rescued from the beach at Peka Peka on the Kapiti Coast, after two months in care the young Emperor penguin known as “Happy Feet” is finally well enough to go home.  With a satellite tag glued to his lower back, the penguin’s home for the next few days will be a purpose-built crate on board the NIWA research vessel Tangaroa. The ship will be undertaking an acoustic survey of southern blue whiting fish stocks in the vicinity of Campbell Island, approximately 1100 km north of the maximum extent of the Antarctic pack ice. This is at the northern edge of the at-sea range of immature emperor penguins.

Tangaroa – the pride of the NIWA fleet. Photo: NIWA
The penguin is in great condition, weighing in at close to 27 kg.  It could be a rude shock for him to return to catching his own food after 2 months of being handfed young salmon!

The emperor penguin at Wellington Zoo. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa.
Wellington Zoo gave Happy Feet a “Farewell Party” on Sunday, giving locals a chance to come and say goodbye.  Lots of excited youngsters dressed up in black and white, had their faces painted penguin style, and signed the farewell card.  He has been a real crowd pleaser during his time at the zoo.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Century of Images – National Film Archives

Eighty or so members of the Wellington branch of Historic Places Trust gathered at National Film Archives for a special 1 hour screening.  “A Century of Images” was a compilation of New Zealand films, news items and advertising features, showcasing historic moments in time of our country.  This was an opportunity to see films which are not normally available for viewing.
DSCF7246 National Film Archives building
The theatre was very comfortable, with tiered seating, and most important, plenty of legroom.  The manager welcomed our group and gave us a short talk telling us a little of what to expect during the show. In addition to the main theatre, there are two small viewing rooms which run continuous features.
DSCF7248  The main theatre
The showing started with the very grainy (and silent) footage of the 2nd Contingent leaving for the Boer War.  We watched highlights of sporting successes such as the unbeaten Invicibles Rugby team touring Britain in 1924-25, so named after the team won all 32 matches.  And Jack Lovelock winning gold in the 1500 metre race in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  As the years rolled on we saw film of ordinary people taking to the streets in protest.  First to protest against New Zealand’s involvement in the Vietnam War, followed decades later 1981 by those protesting against politics interfering with sports teams.  The country was divided on this sporting question, and families, workmates and neighbours were pitted against each other in their views.  All this caused very strong conflict between protestors and the police force, and were very dark days indeed in our sporting history.  Who amongst us can remember Prime Minister Norman Kirk sending two New Zealand frigates to protest against the French testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific at Mururoa Atoll?  This was done to showcase our country’s position on nuclear testing and  the nuclear arms race.  To this day New Zealand is still “Nuclear Free”, and we will not allow nuclear powered shipping into our country .  We were treated once again to seeing David Lange at his articulate best during the Oxford Union Debate in 1985 – and receiving a standing ovation for his efforts.  (Do check out the You Tube link).  There was a little bit of comedy thrown in the mix too, such as John Clarke playing Fred Dagg, and the iconic Barry Crump in yet another Toyota Hilux Ute ad.  There were so many interesting historical moments, some we had long forgotten, some we remembered easily,  and a few obscure ones that we were not even aware of.
At only $8.00 a ticket, with a cuppa and biscuits thrown in to enjoy in the cafe, it was extremely good value.  And really great to relive some of those important times in the history of our country.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Daffodil Day 2011

For more than two decades, the Cancer Society of New Zealand has brightened up the last Friday of wintery August with a burst of yellow flowers.  Daffodil Day is now celebrating 21 years of fundraising for the society. Our household is one of the many which has been touched with the cold finger of cancer, and I underwent treatment almost 5 years ago.  These days, Robin likes to help out as a volunteer driver taking local people into Wellington Hospital for treatment and appointments.  So he was more than happy to give an hour of his time this morning manning a stand with collection buckets, daffodils and balloons.  The table was set up in “The Warehouse”, in the Upper Hutt Mall, and many others were similarly dotted around the local shops, all manned by volunteers.
DSCF7242 All for a good cause
The Cancer Society is a not government funded so it relies on fundraising events like Daffodil Day to continue offering support to those who need it.  The society runs support groups, holds public lectures, and has a well stocked library for patients and their families to use for research into their particular problem.  All the money raised on Daffodil Day goes to medical research funding.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Rescuing his Cromer Cap

Robin had lost his favourite cap, his nice blue cap all the way from Cromer, a coastal town in Norfolk, UK.  It seems he had left it behind on our recent trip to the Wairarapa a week or so ago.  But where?  We had stopped at several different places and no doubt his cap had been off an on his head numerous times during the day.  A couple of phone-calls later, he had tracked it down.  The cap had been left behind at Aberdeen Restaurant in Masterton, while we were enjoying our two-for-one lunch deal.   Robin decided to get in the car, drive over the hill, and rescue his cap.  It might well be a long way to go, but after all, the Cromer Lifeboat cap is one of his favourites, and we have very happy memories of our time there.  With his cap back on his head, Robin was a very happy man. Sadly it was not the crab season at the time of our visit so did not get to taste Cromer Crabs.  Oh well maybe there will be a next time!
DSCF7227 Reunited with his favourite cap
Way back in 1999 as we travelled around the UK we spent a very happy few days with my penfriend Janet and her husband Alan in Cromer.  They were very much involved with the  Lifeboat Trust, and took us to visit the famous Cromer Pier, from which the lifeboats are launched.
Cromer Pier The Cromer Pier
The Trust runs a shop to raise extra funds and Robin got his cap there.  As we were visitors from the Antipodes, we so got a “behind the scenes” look at the lifeboat and it was explained to us how this craft was launched down the ramp, with the motor revving at full throttle.  This particular boat in the photo has since been replaced with a newer version.
Cromer Life Boat Cromer Lifeboat – circa 1999
As one of the crew said in a newspaper interview:  “Years ago, the retired fishermen would work the lifeboats. Now they are butchers, bakers, bricklayers, all people from the town. We can go months without any calls, then get three or four in a month. You run along the pier to get to the lifeboat as quick as you can, your adrenaline is pumping, you never know what you are going to be doing in that boathouse. It could be to retrieve someone from the water, a ship run aground, a collision of tankers, a lost diver, anything. It's a little bit more exciting when you run along in a gale by the light of the moon and you are wondering what sort of night are we going to have?”.   That’s certainly the spirit of volunteering dedication, isn’t it?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Bottles and Birds

We are still going for a walk most mornings, and I always like to take my trusty camera with me.  After all, who knows what we might come across?  The bottle bush in a garden around the other side of our subdivision is still growing, and looked quite colourful with the sun glinting off the coloured glass.  I wonder where they get those little bottles from?
DSCF7177 Bottle bush
Further on we spotted a whole lot of ducks resting under a large tree on someone’s front lawn.  They all looked quite content so it seems that the householders must feed them quite regularly.
DSCF7180 Lots of ducks visiting
A Pukeko over the fence
Our Australian readers may recognise this bird as I believe that it is also wandering around over the ditch but under a different name.
Then we saw a pair of Paradise Ducks.  The male and female of this species have quite different plumage.  The male is tan with a white head, while his mate is dark grey with tan and white wings.  They decided we were getting much too close for comfort and quickly walked away.
DSCF7191 A pair of Paradise Ducks
On the homeward stretch a man popped out of a hole on the grass berm next to the road.  It’s OK, he was meant to be there, and just look at that happy smile.  He and his workmates are working hard to install fibre optic cable which will give us ultra fast internet broadband to the local area.
DSCF7193 Work man down a hole
Muffy gets a little time outside when we go for a walk and is only too happy to get back inside where she belongs on our return.  She almost trips us up as she hurries to be first in the door while she waits for it to be opened up, squawking to let us know that she is in fact “an inside cat, don’t you remember, so why put me outside?”
DSCF7172Muffy first in the door

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Wellington Fault line in our backyard

Like a lot of  people of a certain age, our doctor tells us to “go walking and get more exercise”.  So that is what we are trying to do each day.  Our walk today took us through a local reserve (park) and we came across this sign.
DSCF7174 Not far from where we live
New Zealand is known as the “Shaky Isles” as our country straddles the rather romantically named “Ring of Fire”.  What this means is that we get a whole lot of earthquakes.  And the main Wellington Fault runs right through our housing subdivision.  Movement of the fault over time means that the land on the right side is higher than that on the left, forming the scarplet.
DSCF7176 Grassed area is the fault line
The fault runs along the central grassed area of this road, and back through the reserve.  There are monitors in place to measure any movement of the fault line.  Like most Kiwis, (and like those who live along the San Andreas fault in California USA we presume), we tend not to dwell on earthquakes too much, and just get on with life.  But in saying that, New Zealand is riddled with faults, and the main Wellington fault line is massive, joining up with others further up the North Island.

Fault lines in the lower North Island


According to Wikepedia “The Wellington Fault is an active seismic fault in the southern part of the North Island of New Zealand. It is a dextral (right-lateral) strike-slip fault with variable amounts of vertical movement causing uplift to the northwest, as expressed by a series of ranges. It forms part of the North Island Fault System, which accommodates the transfer of displacement along the oblique convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and Pacific Plate.”
But is is not all doom and gloom, as we live in a beautiful safe country with a stable government, most important, when we see all the turmoil that is happening around the world these days.  So what if the earth shakes every now and again?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Music for all Seasons

We were having a Saturday night out with our SLG friends.  “Meet in Paraparaumu for dinner”, we were told, “followed by a show”.  That certainly sounded like fun.  We arrived early after our drive up to Paraparaumu, which gave us time to visit the adjacent shopping mall and buy a Lotto ticket.  There was over 10 million up for grabs.  If we win a big Lotto prize, we always said we would buy ourselves a brand new Winnebago Campervan.  And go over to Australia to collect it, as they are now assembled there for the Australasian market.  So it’s fingers crossed and here’s hoping!
DSCF7160 Is he buying the winning ticket?
We were meeting at the Cobb and Co Restaurant for dinner.  We were still a little early, so settled down to wait for the others to arrive.  Jan, who was organising the evening, had been a little worried earlier in the week in case  some of us could not make it with the snow causing major road closures.  Our friends who live in the Wairarapa were doubly hemmed in during the Polar Blast – not only was the Rimutaka Hill road closed for several days, but the road at Mt Bruce at the other end of the Wairarapa  was closed too, so they were trapped with nowhere to go.  Luckily the snow eased as the week wore on, and everyone could attend the outing.
DSCF7159 Cobb and Co Restaurant, Paraparaumu
Seated at our table we had not one, but three menus to peruse.  There was the original menu ( a bit pricy), then one featuring all the specials (even more pricy), and finally a “Seniors” menu.  You’ve just got to love these senior prices, two courses for $19.90 seemed very reasonable to us, especially when the ordinary  prices were well above that for just the main course.  Most of us chose the roast pork, with a dessert to follow, all very tasty with excellent service.
DSCF7166 Two senior meals please
Then it was just a short drive to our show.  We were attending the Coasters Musical Theatre, to see “Music for all Seasons”.  Much to Robin’s embarrassment, I took one sneaky photo inside the hall before the show started. 
DSCF7169 Seating was cafe style inside the theatre
The show was dubbed “A musical look at a year in the life of an American Hotel of yesteryear”.  Set in an American hotel in the 20s and 30s, with the cast clad in the elegant costumes of those times, it was an evening full of song, style and elegance.  There were bell-hops and maids, men in well tailored suits with beautifully attired ladies on their arms, and even a trio of good time girls looking for their next meal ticket.  As in most of these amateur productions, the singing is very good and enthusiastic, but there is always a smattering of a few who fall into the professional category.  All the items were very well done, but I particularly enjoyed  the very spirited “Master of the House”, followed later by the more subdued and sad “Empty chairs at Empty Tables”.  These small local theatre companies fill a great need bringing a little culture and music to the local communities and should be encouraged and supported so that they can continue in the future.
PS:  We checked the Lotto ticket and are sad to announce that our Winnebago will not be ordered anytime soon.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Snow - going, going, gone

What a week we had.  First the snow came and blanketed everything, a sight not seen in the Wellington Region for almost 40 years.  Then came the rain, which washed most of the snow away.  And now we have sunshine, with just a little snow left clinging to the tops of the ranges.  We needed a walk to stretch our legs so off we went alongside the river bank for a stroll in the sunshine.
P8200174 Not much snow left on Mt Climie
Further away in the distance, the snow covering was much heavier on the Tararua Ranges.  What a lovely sight it made glistening in the sunshine.
P8200175 The Tararua Ranges away in the distance
On our way back we came across Mojo, a mixture of poodle, maltese, and miniature snauzer.  “One of those designer dogs with a high price tag”, his owner informed us.  Robin muttered, rather unwisely I thought to Mojo’s Dad, that these sort of mixes used to be known as “mongrels”.  Mojo’s owners had a caravan parked in their driveway, so perhaps we can persuade them to come along with our caravan club sometime soon.
DSCF7152  Mojo, the designer dog
On our final leg home we heard the distinctive whoosh, whoosh as a kereru (woodpigeon) clumsily landed in a tree in front of us.  These large native birds are not at all elegant fliers and crash through the forest from one tree to another as they look for berries to eat.  There was nothing to eat on this particular tree, only bare branches.
P8200176 Kereru (native wood pigeon)
The weather report promises another fine, but windy day tomorrow, so that should help to dry the wet soggy ground out.  It looks like the bad weather, like the snow, has finally gone.  But there is sure to be some more winter weather on the way before too long.  It is still winter, after all.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Don’t forget the Birdies

We like to put food out for the birds in the winter, and with the current extreme conditions that we are experiencing, they probably need the food more than ever.  The birds were squabbling over the last of the bird pudding and there was just a tiny bit left hanging up for them.  The mesh onion bag was looking decidedly empty.
DSCF7132 Just a few crumbs left now
Luckily I had another bird pudding all mixed up and ready in the fridge.  “Something I prepared earlier”, as the TV cooks like to say.  It doesn’t look terribly appetising to us, but the native birds love it.  It’s chock full of dripping, crusts, wild bird seed, oatmeal, honey, raisins and chopped apple, so it’s got to be good for them.
DSCF7134 Yet another bird pudding all mixed up
The back lawn was particularly soggy now that the snow is finally melting.  Robin carefully climbed up the small step ladder and hung the replacement from the hook on the tree branch.  Once he had moved away, the tree was full of hungry little birds running down the wire to the bag of food.  Guess I’ll need to mix another batch up and have it ready to go when needed.
DSCF7135 Robin up the ladder
We still have some snow on the back deck, patches in the gardens, and it is slowly melting on the roof.  This snow is slipping down from the neighbour’s carport next to our driveway.  It won’t be there long, at this rate.  Let’s hope it doesn’t fall on our heads as we are walking by.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

De-Icing the Caravan Roof

First job of the morning was quite unusual for us, when Robin had to shovel a path through the snow from the steps to the garage.  We have never had to do that before.  And another first for us, Robin had to de-ice the caravan roof, removing 4-5 inches of snow that had settled there after a couple of days.  Luckily he could reach most of the snow from the front deck, and used a telescopic mop with soft bristles to sweep the snow away.
As he reached further onto the roof he kept extending the handle, again and again.  The extra length made the mop fairly unwieldy to use and wobbled around like crazy.
Eventually, he could not reach any more of the roof with the mop, and had to bring a step ladder onto the driveway to climb up on to ply the mop.  The rain was coming down by then and I had ventured inside to the warmth, leaving Robin to wobble dangerously  on the ladder without my supervision.  He came inside soaked through, and freezing cold, but the job was completed.  The weight of all that snow certainly wouldn’t be doing our caravan roof any good.
Robin was relaxing in front of the TV after all his exertions watching a game of rugby when the TV started crackling.  More snow had settled in the satellite dish again, no doubt, interrupting the picture..
DSCF7129 Half filled with snow
Out came the mop again and the snow was dealt with, and the picture returned.  No doubt he will have to remove it a time or two during our evening viewing.
DSCF7130   Clearing the dish – again!
The weather reports a “Severe Weather Warning” with more snow falling in Wellington, Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Kapiti Coast and Horowhenua.  As expected, the Rimutaka Hill Road and the Desert Road are closed.  But local roads are closed too or classed as icy and dangerous, such as the Akatarawa Road, Wainuiomata Road and Stokes Valley.   Some of this snow will end up on our caravan roof again, so he will probably have to repeat his trick with the extension mop again tomorrow.  Guess we will be having a couple of days home in front of the gas fire, so it’s just as well we are well stocked up.  I think it’s all getting a bit much now, how about some sunshine for tomorrow?
DSCF7131  Trees covered in snow in the back yard

Monday, 15 August 2011

White Out!!

We thought that yesterday’s snowfall was great, but today’s was even more spectacular!   The Wellington region has not had a snow fall like this for almost 40 years, we were told on the news.  Muffy wasn’t at all impressed with this white stuff.  She took her early morning trip outside, ran across the deck leaving little pussy footprints, and didn’t seem to know what to make of it all.
DSCF7085 My feet are cold!
I walked carefully around to the front of the house to get an early  morning view of all the snow, not knowing if the paths would be slippery or not.  After all, we are not used to snowy conditions.  Yes, the snow was still there, but the roads were clear.  That changed during the day.
DSCF7087 Our house at 7.00am
DSCF7088 Ngati Tama Park, just around the corner
Robin drove up to Waikanae, about a 50km trip to visit his Mum and do a few jobs for her.  You know what it’s like when a son comes calling, there is always something that needs attending to.  He stopped at the top of Haywards Hill on the return trip to take some photos.  The views from the top had quite an alpine look to them.
P8150152 Views from the top of Haywards Hill
Robin commented that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Haywards Hill road closed for the evening.  The snow had been falling all day and the conditions were getting worse.  He wasn’t really worried as 4WDs are easier to handle in bad conditions.  As for me,  I was just so pleased when he returned home safe and sound.
P8150160 Here he is, home at last
The snow falling all day certainly made things look quite different  from our morning’s photo.  This is what our house looked like at 3.00pm today.  The snow was all over the footpath and road.
With these conditions being such a novelty to us, it all seems very pretty to watch the snow falling.  Just as well we don’t have to brave the elements to go to work these days.  Luckily we can stay snug and warm at home, and just enjoy the snow without venturing out too much.
P8150161 Looks just like a Christmas Tree

Sunday, 14 August 2011

And then the snow came down

The Polar Blast brought cold temperatures and snow fall in the early evening, after travelling up from the South Island.  It started off calmly enough, with a flurry of soft wet snowflakes gently falling.  This is a sight we seldom see in our part of New Zealand, so out came the cameras to capture this event. 
DSCF7060 The first snow flakes arrive
An hour or so later we were sitting nice and cosy in the sitting room, eating our evening meal on our laps while watching the news on TV.  Crackle, crackle, went the TV and the picture started breaking up.  “It must be rain fade”,  I commented.  But no, it was actually snow fade.  The  satellite dish had filled up with snow, so it was Robin to the rescue to clean it out.  Luckily the dish was within easy reach and he performed this duty several times during the evening. 
DSCF7071 Clearing the snow off the satellite dish
By this time, the back deck was covered in snow.
P8140140 The back deck
DSCF7074 Snow covered pot plants
Wonder what the front of the house looks like?  Our caravan, Romany Rambler, had it’s first ever coating of snow.  Lucky we aren’t camping in the middle of nowhere tonight.
DSCF7082 Looks like Yeti footprints to me!
It’s like living in another world, everything seems so soft and calm.  Brrr, let’s get back inside and make sure our electric blankets are turned on and warming up the bed for tonight.
P8140148 A winter’s scene