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

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Hungry Mouths and Keeping Warm

With winter in full swing there are many hungry mouths to feed.  It was time to visit the local grain and seed shop to purchase some more wild bird seed.  (Much cheaper to buy here than from a pet shop, we found out).  The bird feeder was filled and hung from a hook on the shed.  We don’t know how these birds do it, but before too long the sparrows were crowded all around, trying to get a toe hold on one of the perches.  Just how do they know we’ve hung the feeder out, I wonder?  The birds are such messy feeders and they tend to spill a lot of more seed on the grass underneath.  Not that it matters - all the birds who can’t find a place on the feeder are happy hopping around on the grass picking up all that dropped seed.   Or wait on the now leafless grapevine till they get a turn at the feeder.

DSCF2047 A bunch of hungry sparrows

The busy little native Silver Eyes like to climb all over the bird pudding hanging up in the tree in an onion bag.  It doesn’t take the birds too long to get through one of these so I’ll have to make sure I have another couple all ready and waiting.  They also quite like to peck away at half an apple strung in the trees, and it it lovely to see the birds come visiting.

DSCF1952Silver Eye on the bird pudding

There’s hungry mouths to feed inside the house as well – the wintry temperatures seem to increase the appetite.  So the cook  has been busy making things like pots of soup, nourishing casseroles, roast dinners and steamed puddings to keep the man of the house happy and well fed.  (It’s a hard job being the ;perfect wife, but I try).

Muffy seems to need extra warmth, we’ve noticed, now she is getting elderly.  She never used to like sitting right in front of the gas fire, but if there is no handy lap to sit on, that where we often find her these days.


Made Bed AroundBut nothing beats being tucked up in a warm bed.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Passed with flying colours

A regular medical certificate is required here in New Zealand to renew an existing Passenger and Heavy Trade Licence and, and Robin passed his with flying colours today.  These endorsements hark back to the days when he was driving a passenger bus for a living, ferrying school kids, workers and the elderly around the city at all times of the day and night.  He finally left bus driving behind him as it interfered with our plans for caravan weekends away too much!  Then he moved on to truck driving for several years, a much better option with working only Mondays to Fridays.  Now retired, he decided to keep the licences up to date “just in case”.  Just in case he needed to work for a few months, just in case someone made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, who knows?  The bases are covered for the next couple of years.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

70th Birthday at Otaki

It wasn’t much of a day yesterday for a drive up to Otaki, it was wild weather indeed.  So much so that Robin deliberated about driving our more economical small car, and decided that the heavier 4WD would be more sensible in the wind and rain.  We set off in bad driving conditions, with the local hills shrouded with rain clouds.

DSCF1989 It’s rather wet out there

The rain was still around when we drove up the coast road.  Kapiti Island was hard to see against the cloudy skies, but take our word for it, it’s hiding there somewhere.  The waves came roaring ashore to break against the rocky coastline.

DSCF1996Kapiti Island in the  clouds

We joined the other guests at Jan’s 70th Birthday lunch at “Traffic”, a very busy cafe/restaurant in the centre of Otaki.  Our group had reserved tables in the back part of the cafe, and we all spent some time perusing the menu.  After a bit of umming and ahhing, we finally decided.  It was a stack of big meaty mushrooms, bacon and black pudding for me, and a large BLT with fries for him, just delicious.

Then it was back to Jan and John’s home for birthday cake, coffee, and bubbly.  We were all impressed to learn that John had not only made the birthday cake (with a little supervision), but had also iced it himself.  Good on you, John, guys can do anything these days!

DSCF2002 The birthday cake – made by John

Jan and John are members of our SLG of friends, and as she was celebrating a major birthday, Yvonne presented Jan with our joint gift.

DSCF2001 Yvonne passing over our SLG gift

The weather had cleared as we made 70km journey back home.  But the respite didn’t last long.  Luckily we were safely tucked up at home when the heavens opened again, we could hear the rain beat down on the roof, while the wind was howling.  Thank goodness we weren’t driving home through all that!

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Shortest Day

The shortest day (and longest night) slipped by when we weren’t looking – a day or two ago, we think.  By our reckoning, the shortest day should be in mid winter.  Not that you would know it was mid winter today, the drizzly rain has stopped, the sun is shining, and a gentle breeze is blowing through the laundry hanging on the clothesline.  And talking of laundry, Robin had a little job to do today.  There was quite a collection of plastic spring pegs which had snapped on one side, could he fix them for me?  No problem – out came his handy set of pliers, and he set to work, using the fold down tail-gate of his 4WD as a work bench.  The pliers were necessary to lift up the wire spring and fit it over the plastic. 

DSCF1984 Fixing my pegs

In no time at all, the job was done.  What a handy husband!  But with a wife who has a bit of a “thing” about keeping the laundry up to date, he knows that a little job like this will win him some brownie points.  Some more home baking, perhaps?

DSCF1985 All the  broken peg pieces  now fitted together

And getting back to the shortest day and mid winter, the good news is that the days will slowly start to lengthen again, so “Roll On Summer!”

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Over the hill to Wainuiomata

Wainuiomata (affectionately known as Wainui) used to be called  “Nappy Valley” in the 50s and 60s, being an affordable housing area popular with young families.  The Maori name Wainuiomata is made up of the words WAI – water, NUI – big, O – of, and MATA – which could refer to a woman’s name.  A 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.  We drove up and over the hill road to have lunch with our caravanning friends Geoff and Pauline.

DSCF1961 Nearly at the top of the hill
DSCF1962 Arriving at Wainui

Geoff and Pauline were part of our group when we holidayed around the South Island recently, although they had to return home a little early for a visit to hospital.  Now sporting a new hip, Pauline is moving around very well with the aid of her crutches.  She has to be careful to take things easy in these early days, and not overdo things, not an easy task for someone with Pauline’s energy.  Here she is checking out the greenhouse, wondering how soon she can get in and put things to right.

DSCF1973Pauline can hardly wait to get gardening again

The family chooks were happy pecking about in the garden and a handful of feed made sure they were all in the same place while I snapped a few photos.
DSCF1970 Here, chook, chook

Robin and Geoff were busy loading “points of interest” on another caravanner’s GPS system.  This took some time to do, and then they took it for a test run in the car to make sure it called out “Club Parking” in a loud voice as they drove past the local RSA club.  Mission accomplished – and they arrived back feeling very pleased with them selves.

DSCF1965 Loading info into the GPS

After our epic South Island trip Geoff has been doing a few jobs on their caravan – including replacing the tyres!  That shows just how many miles we travelled, loaded up to the gills.  I presented Pauline with a “get well” gift of a New Zealand themed cushion I had stitched, for their caravan.  It doesn’t look too bad on the couch, does it?


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Snow on the Hills

We woke up to snow on the hills today – no wonder it’s so cold. Our local hills are nowhere near as majestic as those that we saw on our South Island holiday, but they certainly look pretty with that sprinkling of snow.

DSCF1927 Snow on the hills this morning

There was another surprise for us this morning.  We live in a river valley and mist was swirling all around the river and the stop bank running alongside.  Many people were up and about in the morning walking their dogs along the bank and they seemed to disappear into the mist.

DSCF1931 Mist covering the western hills
It was such a lovely morning, but the snow and the mist didn’t last too long.  The wintry sunshine soon sent them packing.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Wettest and Windiest

It’s been a rather “blah” sort of day today, extremely wet, cold and miserable.  In fact, the TV weather report tonight said that here in the Wellington Region we won the prize for being the wettest and the windiest part of the country.  With one of us suffering from a bad throat, and the other from a gout attack, we were feeling rather sorry for ourselves.  Just as well the cook had a big pot of soup bubbling on the stove for lunch, and roast pork with all the trimmings for dinner tonight. 

After the evening meal Robin relaxed in front of the TV and watched the second All Blacks versus Ireland rugby test – that cheered him up no end.  But with 10 minutes to go, the score was 19 all.  Those last minutes of the game were full of tension, but then a Dan Carter drop goal right at the end and All Blacks won 22 to 19.  Rugby mad Robin retired to bed a happy man. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

“Marigold Hotel” warmed a wintry afternoon

What’s a group of Brits to do when they have trouble stretching retirement money to make ends meet?  The newly restored Marigold Hotel offers an exotic  life of leisure in less expensive India.  Of course, things don’t go to plan, and this group of OAPs  arrive to find that reality does not match up to the glossy advertisements of the brochure. With a cast containing great actresses  like Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, in my view, it couldn’t fail.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel StillsPhoto By Fox Searchlight Pictures

The weather outside was atrocious, a typical wintry Wellington day, but inside the theatre our own little group of OAPs (me, Robin, our friend Kathryn, and a few assorted strangers), were transferred to a world full of curries, colour, and crowds as life in India swirled around the new arrivals.  Some embraced their new place of residence, coming to terms with life in a different country where things are done so differently, while others couldn’t wait to get back to “good old Blighty”  This film certainly brightened a cold miserable day, and went on to show that just because one is elderly, you can still live your dream, even if that dream is not quite what you originally envisioned.   

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Morning at the Market

The Riverbank market is always a bustling affair.  Parking is at a premium as everyone arrives to get a bargain or two.  We watched as the early birds tried to back their cars out of the parking spaces while the later arrivals were driving slowly past, keeping an eye out for a spare space.  Some drivers had trouble manoeuvring in the crowded conditions, while all the time a steady stream of pedestrians wandered to and fro.

DSCF1898Riverbank  Market car park

With our 4WD safely parked, we joined the throngs to check out the vegetable stalls.  Market gardeners bring their produce down from Otaki and the surrounding growing areas, and business is always brisk amongst the dozen or so stalls.  We wandered slowly past each one, checking the prices of the goods we wanted to buy.  The trick is to remember which stall was selling the best looking produce at the very best prices and then find our way back!

DSCF1900   Busy market stalls

Once you have made your purchase, it’s no good getting upset if you happen to see the same thing a bit cheaper at another stall.  That’s just the luck of the draw.  We were soon laden up with carrots, parsnips, yams, brussell sprouts, silver beet, leeks, a big pumpkin and a whole pine-apple.  That should keep us going for a while, I should think. 

What else – perhaps some free range eggs so we can have our Sunday morning bacon and eggs breakfast.  As well as eggs, these vendors were selling bags of chicken feet and heads.  Yuk, who would want that, but I guess someone must buy them, or else they wouldn’t bother offering them for sale.
If we are honest, perhaps the cost of driving there and back rules out any savings we make.  But that is not the point, is it?  Going to the market is fun as we hunt for the best buys.  It’s interesting to see what is on offer, and those food stalls selling all sorts of exotic snacks seem to call our name as we walk by.  On the way back to our car, we came across someone being pro-active as he looked for work.  Let’s hope he gets an offer or two. 

DSCF1901 Work wanted

We drove back home, well satisfied with our bargains.  Muffy decided that the nice warm bonnet was just the best place to be for a bit of R&R.

DSCF1903  Muffy is keeping cosy on the warm bonnet

Friday, 8 June 2012

You can’t beat Wellington on a Good Day!

What a difference a day makes.  After battling with wind, rain, and freezing temperatures one day, the Wellington region then puts on a day to be proud of.  We drove into the big smoke to do a couple of chores, and passed through Oriental Bay.  The sun was shining, and the fountain was playing, and everything looked well with the world.

DSCF1884 Oriental Bay fountain

Oriental Bay is a stone’s throw from the city centre, and is a popular lunch spot for office workers, attracted by the crescent of sandy beach.  But it wasn’t always like this, ballast sand from ships has been added to the beach to make it the attractive place it is today.  The sand arrived as ships ballast in vessels from England, found a new use and was tipped over the sea wall.  The ships would then make the return trip  full of frozen meat for Britain.  The beach was later restored in the early 2000s, when over 22,000 tonnes of sand was barged over Cook Strait from Golden Bay.

DSCF1886 The beach at Oriental Bay
DSCF1887Expensive real estate at Oriental Bay

Our travels took us around the coast line to Evans Bay, overlooking the marina full of pricey boats.  If you look really hard, you can just make out the large white letters on the opposite hill, spelling out “All Blacks”, installed by Wellington Airport to show its support for the team during the Rugby World Cup. 

DSCF1891 Evans Bay

Wellington Airport is close by and as we sat enjoying the view, several planes dropped down low as they started their descent  as they came in to land.  The passengers would have enjoyed a glorious view of Wellington City on such a fine day.  You certainly can’t beat Wellington on a good day!

DSCF1897 Coming in to land

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Down on the Farm

The family at Kiwitea love horses, and have eleven on their small life style block.  We drove the 70kms north after our weekend away at Otaki Beach, up SH1 to spend a couple of days with them, and catch up after our long trip away, to find the house deserted.  Patch the farm dog didn’t make so much as a “woof” when we arrived.

DSCF1871 Patch watching the new arrivals

With a bit of manoeuvring we tucked the caravan close to the garage and plugged into the power.  With the TV satellite dish connected, the gas turned on, and the waste water set up, we were good to go.  That will do us nicely for the next couple of nights.

DSCF1840 On site at the farm

Everyone was out and about, doing their own thing, and then we spotted a small figure in the distance.  Who was that riding the farm trike in the far off paddock?  It was grand-daughter Megan, and she was harrowing the paddock, pulling chains along behind the trike.  It took her a while to finish this job, before driving back to greet us.

DSCF1832 Megan, pulling the harrowing chains behind the trike

Grand-daughter Emma and her Mum (daughter Nicky) arrived.  Before we knew it, Emma was parading her horse Zodiac around for us to admire.   Zodiac was a rescue race horse, and at the end of his racing career was unwanted, and the owners had decided to shoot him.  Emma and her Dad took the horse under their care, and Zodiac is now thriving and has a happy home.

DSCF1839 Emma with Zodiac

Son-in-law Robert arrived home after a hard day riding in the local Hunt.  He was a “whipper”, he told us.  This means he is one of two people who direct the hounds from each side to get them going, as required,  in the correct direction.  There are no foxes here in New Zealand, so the hunters chase after hares.  Two hares were sighted and chased, Robert told us, but they cleverly made their escape through drainpipes.
DSCF1843Tally-ho!  Robert dressed in his “Hunt” clothes

Henny Penny was a battery hen in a former life, and has happily made the change to rural living without too much trouble. She runs the place here and doesn’t let anyone forget it, and has been known to send full grown German Shepherd dogs running home after a quick peck on the nose.  So she wasn’t the least bit intimidated when our cat Muffy crouched down on her haunches and attempted to sneak up closer.  Henny Penny kicked out with her sturdy chicken leg and Muffy let out a yelp and made a dash back into the caravan.  Just hope Muffy is not too traumatised after this brush with this no nonsense chook!  She probably won’t want to leave the safety of the caravan again.

DSCF1866 Henny Penny on the rampage
DSCF1867 Luckily the sheep aren’t dangerous

The rain set in on our final morning we waved the family goodbye as they made their way to work and high school.

DSCF1877 See you next time

The closer we got to home, the more wet and windy it became.  It’s no fun unpacking the caravan in this sort of weather.  The weather forecast tells of snow falls down in the South Island, where we were recently, and the temperature is now so cold we wouldn’t be surprised to find snow on the hills overnight.

DSCF1878Nearly home, and it’s chilly outside

Monday, 4 June 2012

Queen’s Birthday Rally at Foxton

Foxton is located between Levin and Palmerston North, and the smaller coastal settlement of Foxton Beach (where we are camping) is located six kilometres to the west, close to the mouth of the Manawatu River.  Foxton was named after Sir William Fox, and has a history of flax stripping, which was used to make wool packs, matting, and rope. These days, the flax industry is long gone, and Foxton is just another small town – albeit one with a whole lot of history.

DSCF1807 Welcome to Foxton

There was not much sun over our three day weekend camping at The Manawatu Caravan Club grounds at Foxton Beach, just plenty of rain to fill the town water tanks.  Luckily there was a hall available for us to gather in over the course of the weekend.
DSCF1814 Parked up at Manawatu Caravan Club grounds

During morning tea a fellow camper who has a permanent caravan on site came in wanting to know who had the Birman in their caravan.  “That’s us”, we told her.  Pam was a breeder of these lovely cats and has a personal number plate on her car to prove it “KAT 2 NV”, (cat to envy).  We invited her back to meet up with our Muffy, and she gave her a good going over, pronounced her fit and healthy, and even clipped her claws for us.  But……she told us, Muffy’s tail was a little on the short side, so it was just as well that she wasn’t a show cat.  Never mind, we think she is lovely, short tail or not.

A “Pot Luck” meal was planned in the hall for Saturday evening, and as usual on these occasions, a fine assortment of tasty dishes arrived to grace the table. 

DSCF1811 Pot Luck meal

To celebrate “Queen’s Birthday” there was a competition organised on Sunday evening.  The men had to make a crown for their queen and place it on her head.  The four ladies sat still as as consorts fluttered and fluffed about, with varying degrees of knowledge and finesse in the art of crown making, and at last all four crowns were duly completed and reverently placed on the heads of their own particular queen. 

DSCF1827 Aren’t they a picture of regal-ness?

We called on resident Pam, the Birman breeder who we had met earlier, to be the judge.  After a lot of deep thought, she declared Barbara the winner.  Barbara’s hat was festooned with their collection of National and Regional Rally ribbons.

DSCF1826 Barbara with her crown of rally ribbons
DSCF1813 Foxton is the place to be

Meanwhile, in between the showers, another glorious sunset was colouring the western sky.

DSCF1815 Sunset at Foxton Beach

Rally over, we are now heading a little way northwards to stay with family on their rural property of Kiwitea.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

How NOT to park your van on site

Here we are, in (usually) sunny Foxton for Queen’s Birthday Weekend, celebrated in this part of the antipodes on the first weekend in June with Monday being a public holiday.  Just look what we spotted on the road as we drove down to the camp.  It looks like something has gone seriously wrong with the locals trying to join in the space race – the red rocket just never made it! 

DSCF1808 Rocket Man has come to a sticky end in Foxton

We are spending the weekend at the Manawatu Caravan Club’s grounds in Foxton.  This club is one of only two clubs, we are aware of, in New Zealand who own their own grounds.  Members lease their own site and many have put up permanent awnings, sheds and fences to make their little spot more homely. 

DSCF1810 This way to the Manawatu Caravan Club Grounds

The club has 10 casual sites for the public to use and three vans from our club arrived in good time for lunch on Friday.  The new caretaker Neil came to meet us and welcomed us to the grounds.  Don and Pamela were the last of our group to arrive and he had a spot of bother trying to back his caravan onto the site.  Putting his foot down hard on the accelerator, he took off down the adjacent road, to go around the block and have a go from a different angle.  “He won’t get far down there”, Neil commented, “it’s a blind end”.  We waited, and waited some more, then finally Bill walked down to see if Don needed a hand .  What’s this we see coming barrelling down the road? 
  DSCF1803 Watch out – caravan running free

My goodness, it’s Don’s caravan, and it’s certainly going at a fair rate of knots!  Seems he had unhitched it from the car and with Bill to help, they were pushing it back down the road and onto the site.  Just hope it stops in time before it reaches that boundary fence at the back.

DSCF1804 Nearly there, watch out for the fence

A quick twist and then it is finally lined up and safely on site.  Luckily the Sprite caravan was not too heavy to push, but we all really worried that it would get away on them and take off by itself.

DSCF1806 Finally in the correct place

As an old hand after many years of caravanning, you can be sure that Don has been called to account for the unorthodox way of putting his caravan on site.  We have never had anyone from our club take their caravan for a walk before.  No doubt his driving and backing skills will be questioned at length and many times over as we spend the weekend camping together.