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

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Spring Forward

It was time to change the clocks on Saturday night, as “Daylight Saving” was starting.  We turned the clocks forward one hour before we went to bed, hence the saying, “Spring Forward” to remind everyone which way to alter their clocks.   Getting an hour’s less sleep wouldn’t necessary be a bother on Sunday morning, but we had to be up and out the door for our trip over the Rimutaka Hill to Featherston. 

Featherston is famous for being the home of the last remaining Fell locomotive in the world.  In it’s time, engine H199 shown in the “First Stop Featherston” sign was one of six engines especially designed for use on the Rimutaka Incline railway.  The locos climbed gradients as steep as 1 in 13.   Englishman John Barraclogh Fell designed a system of using four grip  wheels on a raised centre rail for added traction, and the centre rail was also used for braking.  For 77 years these plucky little engines laboured up and down the steep gradient, pulling passengers and freight behind them.
But we were not in Featherston to visit the Fell Engine Museum, but to catch up with our SLG friends for a day out in the Spring sunshine.  After a leisurely lunch in a new local cafe, we piled in our cars and drove to Martinborough.  The town was named after Irish immigrant John Martin, and the central square and streets were laid out in a Union Jack pattern.  The surrounding street names such as Venice, Suez and New York were inspired by a world tour taken by John Martin.

DSCF2918 Martinborough Square and the Memorial Gates

Just across the road from the square is the historic Martinborough Hotel.  This grand old building has been around since the 1880s and I was very keen to take a peek in the doors.  No, not to sip an ale, or a glass of one of the award winning Martinborough wines, but because a photo of my great-grandfather James Green hung on the wall of the bar.  But sadly it was no longer there.  The young bar maid told me that the rooms were being repainted, and all the photos of old local identities had been taken down.  Could I see the old photos?, I asked.  No, they were safely stored away, was the reply.  Perhaps they were, or perhaps they were deemed to old fashioned to hang back on the walls, who knows.

DSCF2919 The historic Martinborough Hotel

The town was busy with people out and about lunching, checking out the shops, or enjoying an ice-cream in the sunshine.  Some of the shops had these handy “dog parking stations” to keep the pet dogs safely tethered while the owners were inside spending their money.

DSCF2914 Dog parking in Martinborough

We came across a three wheeler motor bike which was attracting a lot of envious glances.  This BRP trike was brand new, we were reliably  informed, and quite different from the one front wheel and two back wheel version that comedian Billy Connelly likes to ride.

DSCF2916 BRP 3 wheeler motor bike

We had a very pleasant day’s outing and finished up back in Featherston at our hosts home for afternoon tea, before heading back home over the hill again.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Clean Up New Zealand Week

It was rather opportune that “Clean Up NZ Week” was taking place.  “Here’s your chance to get rid of some domestic rubbish”, the advertisement in the newspaper told us.  After living in our house for more than 30 years, there were all sorts of unwanted and forgotten items hiding in and behind the garage, and lurking in the shed.  All sorts of things that we couldn’t even give away.   The rubbish collection was very well organised, with six drop off points in our local area, and presumably the same was happening right across the country. 

DSCF2895 That’s handy for us

We had a whole pile of rubbish, and Robin had been contemplating going to the tip.  However, now we didn’t need to, and this saved us about $25 in tip fees.  He spent several hours on Friday afternoon packing up the back of the 4WD. 

DSCF2898 Loaded up and ready to go

There was a hive of activity in the car park when we arrived at the drop off point.  The rubbish had to go in a huge skip about 10-12ft high – now just how we were to manage that, we wondered?  One of the helpers was standing right on top of the rubbish, and people were throwing their stuff up for him to catch.  There were a couple of near misses as lengths of wood whistled by his head, we noticed.  Robin decided it was easier to stand on the tail gate and practise his over arm throws, rather than stand on the ground.  That’s the trouble when you are vertically challenged, he says. 

DSCF2902 Up it goes
The guys from the Earth Link organisation were taking any metal items, old fridges, TVs and the like  back to their warehouse where they recycle the metals and strip out any copper wire from old appliances.  They do a good job, and I told them that we dropped some items down to them last week.
DSCF2904 Earth Link trucks loading up goods to recycle

Thank goodness we offloaded all that rubbish in the morning.  We are doing very well with our downsizing, but we are not quite there yet.  After our busy morning the cook spent the afternoon slaving over a hot stove to get our energy levels back up.  How about roast leg of New Zealand lamb and all the trimmings for dinner,  followed by apple crumble?  That will keep Robin motivated to keep on tidying up, I think.  

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Plans Afoot

Just in case you are wondering why we have been labouring long and hard tidying up the garage and getting rid of unwanted stuff, it’s not because we have decided to become minimalistic in our old age.  No, it’s because we have put our house on the market, and hope to move shortly.  More details to come later as our plans progress.

We are still getting rid of unwanted things.  Disposing of old electrical items can be a problem, as Op Shops won’t usually take them.  But we dropped an iron or two, a toaster and an electric heater to an recycling organisation called Earth Link.  They have an electrician on hand who can verify that the items are safe and sell them in their shop, or else they strip out the wiring etc for resale.

The local paint factory took all those old half used pots of paint safely off our hands for a minimal fee, so that was one problem solved.  All of the drop cloths used for painting were gladly received at our local garage, they rip them up and use the fabric to wipe their greasy hands on! 

Robin has declared that he has just about sorted out the garage now, and will start on the garden shed.  In the meantime, we have been selling things on Trade Me, and have sold off several lots of unwanted garden furniture, a ladder and even an old radio turn table.  Now, who wants to buy a trailer, or even a house!
Check out the house for sale picture at the top of the left hand column. Just click on the picture to see the listing.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Scallops for Dinner

Bluff oysters are our favourite shellfish, with scallops coming in close in second place.  So when one of the supermarket chains offered fresh New Zealand scallops on special, away we went to buy some.  And as everyone knows, two dozen of the succulent morsels equate to one dozen each, we might as well buy enough to enjoy a decent meal out of them.

DSCF2877 On the menu tonight.

Half a can of Tui beer went into the batter mix, and Robin got to finish the remainder, just enough for a taste, he said.  I cooked up the scallops while Robin took a quick trip down to the fish shop to buy some chips.  Now, what could be nicer that this, scallops cooked in crispy beer batter and hot chips?

DSCF2878 Scallops for dinner tonight.

With a sprinkle of salt and pepper, it was delicious.  We didn’t bother with cutlery, the very best way to eat a meal like this is fingers only! 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Those Wild Men from the Bush

Saturday afternoon in Masterton was lovely and warm and we enjoyed a walk in the sunshine.  This took us past the “Welcome to Masterton” sign of a pair of golden shears.  The World's premier Shearing and Wool handling Championships takes place in Masterton, and the Golden Shears logo has become an internationally recognised trade-mark that symbolises both quality and excellence in the skilful art of shearing and wool handling.  This three day event encompasses novice, junior, intermediate, senior and open competitions and the coveted triathlon award.

DSCF2829 Welcome to Masterton

Shearing has progressed from being a physically demanding and arduous farm task to being recognized as an elite sporting pursuit.  Competition shearers use the New Zealand  developed Bowen technique, to efficiently and speedily remove the fleece from the sheep without double cutting the wool fibre or causing injury to the animal.  All under the critical eyes of the judges who are  closely monitoring  and assessing  the competitors on these key aspects.

Competition shearing

We were on our way to visit to the Aratoi Museum which had an exhibition featuring the prolific drawings of local man Neville “Stag” Spooner.  He kept an illustrated diary while working as a young 22 year old deer hunter during 1939 and 1940 titled “Those Wild Men from the Bush”.    Neville Spooner grew up in the Wairarapa during the Great Depression and started keeping records of his daily life as a child.  He recorded life in the bush, shooting rabbits, angling and stalking deer, and the camaraderie the deer cullers shared during his time away in the hill country. 

DSCF2835 Neville “Stag” Spooner with trophy heads and some of his art work

Stag Spooner

This remarkable young man kept drawing and went on to create another highly individual body of art during the war, a series of decorated envelopes that were sent back to his family and friends.  He survived his war years but sadly died of hypothermia on a hunting trip in Fiordland at a young age of 28.  We can highly recommend this interesting exhibition of a very talented young man, if anyone is in the area or passing by.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

300 Rallies!!!

We had something to celebrate at the caravan club rally at Mawley Park, Masterton, over the weekend.  This was the occasion of our 300th rally, and Vice President Derek did the honours and presented us with our 300th rally bars sent down from the parent body, Camping and Caravanning New Zealand (CCNZ).

DSCF2841 300th Rally presentation

It had been many years since our club had stayed at Mawley Park Motor Camp, which has recently received a major face lift.   The new kitchen, TV room  and ablution blocks are sparkling clean and a delight to use, and work on the grounds is in the pipeline.  The new managers Jelena and Rodney were very welcoming, and set up the TV room for us to use for our “Pot Luck” meal on Saturday evening, bringing in extra tables and chairs for our use.   And what a great meal we had, the cooks amongst us produced a wonderful assortment of mains and desserts for everyone to share.  As well as our geriatric lot, the managers also had 110 school age hockey players and assorted adult helpers in the adjacent motel units, so the camp was very full.

DSCF2828 On site at Mawley Park

There was no TV in Geoff and Eileen’s caravan over the weekend, much to their disgust.  Something to do with the power supply not working in the automatic television aerial.  With the help of Robin’s ladder Geoff climbed up and wiggled the wires around to see if that would help, but no, still no TV signal.  The other men all came to lend their support and offer helpful suggestions, as they are apt to do.  Looks like this will have to be a job for a professional.

DSCF2824 Geoff and his support crew

There was another celebration over the weekend.  Selwyn turns 70 during the week, and we all shared a slice of chocolate birthday cake to help him celebrate. 

DSCF2843Would you like a piece of cake?

Our cat Muffy had quite a lazy weekend at the camp.  She was quite comfortable sleeping the weekend away inside the caravan.  The new camp managers were quite interested to meet her, and Jelena had such a nice long cuddle with Muffy, I was worried that she might not give her back to me.

DSCF2844 Camp manager Jelena with Muffy

We had a great weekend, very laid back as usual, with lots of relaxation and chat.  The company was convivial, the weather was nice and sunny,what could be better than a weekend away with our caravan buddies.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Engine Malfunction

It must be a motorist’s worst nightmare, happily driving along up a hill without a care in the world, and then bang! The 4WD lost all power, the engine became very noisy, and Robin noticed smoke billowing out of the exhaust.  So he stopped the car at the crest of the hill and thought “Bugger, I’m in a spot of bother here”, or words to that effect.  What on earth was wrong?

Of course, this would happen on one of the few days when he forgot to take his cell phone with him.  Luckily a helpful home owner loaned him a phone to call home.  After giving me directions, and double checking that I knew where to find him, (I sometimes have navigation  problems), I was instructed to bring the cell phones.  The AA was called, and we awaited the tow truck.  Finally, after nearly an hour, it arrived.  It was arranged that the towie would take our 4WD to our local garage for repair. 

DSCF2776 Help has arrived

The front wheels were soon lifted onto a plate.  But as the Toyota runs on permanent 4WD, the back wheels had to be lifted off the ground as well and on to a dolly.

DSCF2778 Fitting the back wheels on to a dolly

Our sad broken down 4WD was then delivered to the garage.  But it was Saturday, and the garage was closed for the weekend.  Luckily the boss was contacted and agreed to come down, open up his workshop  and put our vehicle safely under cover.

DSCF2780 Towed to safety

The damage wasn’t as great as Robin had first thought – he feared an engine rebuild.  The problem was caused by the exhaust return valves (they recycle exhaust gas back into the inlet manifold for re-burning) had malfunctioned and stuck open. So the problem was easily fixed and we are back on the road again.

While in the garage a drum was placed under the front to keep it out of the way. However one of the mechanics did not know it was there and drove over it damaging the left front tyre requiring the garage to replace it with another of a similar amount of wear. If you are superstitious that is three events in a row, leaking radiator, faulty return valves and ruined tyre – should be good for a while now!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Busy Morning with the Garage Sale

“Spring Cleaning Fever” reached new heights today when we ran our first ever (and last) garage sale.  We had spent the last few days sorting through items that we no longer needed, checked through the shed and the kitchen cupboards.  The alarm clock was set to go off at 6.00am on Saturday morning, and after a quick breakfast we were busy putting things on tables.  Although the sale was advertised to start at 8.00am, friends had warned us that people often arrive an hour or more early.  And they certainly did, although we suspect that most of the early arrivals were dealers.

After the dealers came the family groups, and most were looking for a good bargain.  People haggled over a dollar or two, and we found that we had to drop our prices to get a sale.  We finally said goodbye to our “white elephant”, the mini camping washing machine which travelled all around the South Island with us earlier in the year.  This was sold at a loss, compared with what we had paid for it, but it didn’t really matter as I was pleased to see the back of it!

DSCF8956 Mini washing machine went to a new home

Robin cleared lots of “stuff” from the garage, buyers were happy to take home old cameras and flash unit, cables, car books, a camping lamp and even a George Forman grill.  All sorts of bits and pieces changed hands for small amounts of money.

DSCF2765  Come and see my wares

I had a couple of tables on the deck set up with crockery and assorted kitchen stuff, vases, a box of books, baking tins and plastic-ware, and that sort of thing.  People came to look, pick things up, and haggle over the price.  Our water pistols used at a caravan rally water fight were gleefully carried away, and one customer even looked through the kitchen window and wanted to buy my pot plant!  So I sold it to her for $5.
DSCF2766 More stuff on the deck

A couple from England came to check things out and told us that the Brits don’t have garage sales, because they don’t (usually) have garages.  Instead, they have “car boot sales”.  That was interesting, we didn’t know that.

By late morning the people coming through had slowed right down, and we were happy to sit down and rest our weary feet.  We took stock of what had sold and what hadn’t.  Some of our customers scored real bargains, but no one was interested in any of the outdoor camping furniture.  We concluded that people seemed to like small items they could easily carry home.  Interestingly, the most requested items were tools especially garden tools. In our garage is a large three tier cage which we put Muffy into when went to work (so she would not get stolen), and Robin could have sold it three time over, he said.

The left over stuff was packed in cartons and will be donated to the op shop during the week.  So that’s our experience of running our first ever garage sale.  Would we do it again?  No way, Robin declared, and I agree with him.  We did make a few dollars, but it’s a very stressful way to spend a Saturday morning, we decided.  We are just not the “wheeler and dealer” type of people.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Happy Birthday Hat

“Do I really have to wear that silly hat?”, Robin asked plaintively.  Yes, he most certainly does, it is his birthday, after all, and quite a major one.  Robin has turned 65, so he is officially an O A P.  Surely reaching this milestone deserves a photo in a silly hat!

DSCF2739 Happy 65th Birthday Robin

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Polar Blast coming through

The weather is all over the place lately.  After days of gale force winds, the next prediction was for a polar blast, travelling up from the Antarctic.  We had a lovely mild sunny morning, then the skies darkened, the temperatures dropped dramatically, and down came the hail.  It was short, but very dramatic.
DSCF2731 Hail stones on the back deck

DSCF2732 Front deck and path

It may well be Spring, but the weatherman reminded us that Old Man Winter hasn’t quite loosened his chilly grip just yet.  We have to expect more bad weather before it gets better, we were told.

DSCF2734Hail arrived from the south

A cold snap has swept up the South Island bringing snow and closing some roads.  But it is the South Island farmers and their stock suffering the most, with many new born lambs and calves arriving in the middle of the bad weather.  Up here in the North Island both the Rimutaka Hill Road connecting Wellington and Wairarapa and the Desert Road in the central North Island could receive a dump of snow.  Brrr, we will be switching on the electric blankets tonight, that’s for sure.

Monday, 10 September 2012

They came, they saw, they carried it home

We had a visit from the rellies in the weekend.  They came down in their empty horse truck, looking to see what they could take home.  We’re cleaning out the garage, and son-in-law Robert’s eyes opened up with delight when he was told he could have “first dibs” on any unwanted tools and other items we no longer require.  He soon gathered up an assortment of tools into a cardboard carton or two, and quickly stored them in the back of his truck.  They will be helpful with his contracting business.  He was thrilled to take ownership of several metal storage cabinets.  Just think of all the bits and pieces he can store away in those cubby holes.

DSCF2716  Loading up a storage cabinet

What else took their fancy?  A picnic table and chairs, that will be great for when the family is away in the horse truck.  And how about that large plastic chilly bin – just the thing for Robert to take on a fishing trip to keep his catch in.  He loaded up the wheelbarrow with several lots of field drainage pipes and carefully stored them in the truck.  He can use them on his property, he told us.

DSCF2717 One of several wheelbarrow loads of pipes

After a hearty lunch it was back to the garage to have another look around.  That set of old car air horns, yes, I’ll take those, and are you sure you don’t want those car speakers, he asked.  No, you can’t take those plastic storage bins, we told him, we need them ourselves.  With everything safely stowed away, it was time to wave the rellies goodbye.  They were taking a whole heap of stuff home, and doing us a favour at the same time, helping with our garage clean-out.

DSCF2720 Homeward bound

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Wild weather warning

Bad weather was promised, and it has now arrived.  Winds gusting over 100 kilometres an hour have been causing havoc in Wellington.  A Fire Service spokesman says they have dealt with a string of weather-related calls this morning, including to trees and power lines down in several places.  Most flights into and out of Wellington Airport were delayed this morning.   Just as well we are tucked up safe at home this weekend and not towing the caravan out in this rough weather. 

Weather map courtesy Met Service

The wind gusts have been battering the house but luckily not causing us any damage.  Not so in the garden though.  A dead branch has been ripped from a large tree and is lying on the lawn.  Guess we are lucky that the whole tree didn’t come crashing down. That will give Robin a job to do when the weather clears.  He will have to get out with a saw to cut it up into manageable lengths to dispose of it.
 DSCF2713 One branch down

The birds aren’t worried about the wind though.  We have hung half a coconut shell from a tree, packed with a mixture of fat mixed with bird seed and chopped apple.   The birds hang on for dear life as the shell is whipped around in the wind.  The bossy sparrows has discovered this tasty bird treat and keep the smaller native birds at bay while they eat their fill.

P9087530 Cock sparrow on the coconut shell

As soon as the sparrows have moved away, the pretty little silver eyes come for a feed.  They have to eat fast, before those bossy sparrows come back and chase them away again. 

P9087527 Silver eyes sharing a meal

Let’s hope that the wind blows itself out overnight and we can look forward to mere settled weather soon.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Camping out at Home

We are definitely getting into the “spring cleaning” mode this week.  Our lounge suite and dining chairs were looking decidedly grubby – covered as they are in a light coloured wool fabric, it was time to get them commercially cleaned.  A couple of phone calls to local operators showed us a huge variation in prices.  There is no surprise that we went with the cheaper option, after all, the extra cash is better staying in our pockets!  The workman arrived on time, filled up his machine and got to work.

DSCF2708 A man and his machine

He worked steadily for over two hours, and the furniture certainly looks much cleaner and fresher.  But it will need some time to dry out completely, we had the gas fire on, and the dehumidifier going all afternoon.  However, there will be no relaxing in our favourite “Lazy-Boy” chairs watching  telly tonight.  The furniture is still damp, so we are camping out  inside the house.  It’s not quite the same, but a couple of assorted deck chairs will fit the bill tonight!

DSCF2710 Camping out at home

We’ll close the room up tonight and leave the dehumidifier chugging away, and hopefully the furniture will be all dried out by tomorrow.  Otherwise, we’ll just camp out again.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Gas Man came Calling

Our small gas heater in the hallway wasn’t working, so the serviceman came calling.  Mmm, seems our hall heater is no longer made, so therefore parts are not available.  The serviceman advised that the best option would be to remove the old heater, and  to cap the gas line.  It took no time at all to unscrew the heater from the wall.  Then the serviceman had to climb under the house, find and isolate the gas pipe.  “They always send me to these jobs”, he said, “as I’m the only one on the staff who can fit through these small trapdoors”.

DSCF2693 There he goes, crawling under the house

A few years ago,  we had installed an electric “Night Store” heater in the hallway, which uses cheaper off peak power.  So we still have the means to keep cosy over the colder months.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Remember when blokes serviced their cars?

Many years ago, in simpler times, good keen kiwi blokes liked to potter about under the hood of their cars.  Cars were different back then, and Robin used to check and adjust the timing, clean the spark plugs, do his own oil changes, and goodness knows what else.  Cars were cars, and with a bit of knowledge and lots of enthusiasm, young working men could save a lot of money by attending to these chores. 

Over the years Robin had been dipping into his red tool box which was originally put together by a motor mechanic before being passed on to him.  Inside this treasure trove were the various nuts, bolts, screws and bits of pieces, all in the old Imperial sizing.   He also had a timing light and a dwell meter, used often in the old days, but engines on modern cars are electronically controlled these days.  What to do with all these old bits and pieces?

DSCF2679 Tool box full of interesting bits and pieces

Our friendly motor mechanic John specialises in servicing older cars and was delighted to receive Robin’s big red tool box and the tuning tools.  Yes, he can definitely use them, John assured him.  And Robin was delighted to find a deserving home for his treasures, where they will be used and appreciated.  Alls well that ends well.

DSCF2694Handing over the goodies at the garage

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Spring is in the Air

There is definitely a change in the air, today is September 1st, and Spring has arrived down here in New Zealand.  That is probably why we have been spending some time outside doing a few chores over the last couple of days.  Robin has been wielding a paint brush again, doing a bit of “touch up” painting.  The back and front doors needed painting so off they came.  Robin ran his sander over the old yellow paint, to prepare the doors for the next step.

DSCF2670  Sanding the old paint

We were changing the colour to white and the doors needed one undercoat and two top coats of paint.  Robin was using water based paint which dried quite quickly between coats.  He left the doors outside in the sunshine for several hours to make sure that the paint was completely dry before being re-hung.  And what a difference it made – fresh white paint instead of the old yellow.

DSCF2671 Applying the white paint

I’m the first to admit that I’m no gardener, but the Spring weather called me outside to pull some weeds out.  After two afternoons down on my knees, the back gardens really do look more tidy, I’m pleased to say.

DSCF2675 I hate gardening!

On our second stint working outside today Robin decided that the weather was warm enough to ditch his long trousers and change into shorts for the first time this season.  Out came the loppers and the overgrown bushes all got a good trim.  What a couple of busy bees we’ve been!