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

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Visit to Government House

No caravans were involved in our caravan club visit to historic Government House.  Just twelve keen and interested members who gathered outside the imposing gates, waiting to be let in by the policeman on duty for our pre-arranged tour.  Most of our group had never been to this lovely historic building before, although we can admit to a couple of visits over the years.  Staff member Owen welcomed our group and ushered us into the recently opened Visitors Centre, where we looked at the interesting artefacts on display and learnt of some of the history.

We watched a video of welcome from the current Governor General, Lt Gen Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparea, GNZM, QSO, our 36th Governor General.  Then we went through to the small theatrette to watch a film.  This historic little building was the former squash court, specially built for the the Earl of Liverpool, the 16th Governor General, (1912-1920) who declared that he really couldn’t take office without having a squash court on the premises!  With our heads full of all sorts of interesting facts and figures, we then took the short walk up to Government House.
 P9290010Group photo in front of Government House

Government House was designed by John Campbell, and completed in 1910, on a prime plot of 54 acres.  It contains eight guest suites, a self contained apartment for the Governor General and family, as well as a ballroom, conservatory, sitting rooms, service rooms, kitchens, and a wing of offices.  After almost 100 years of use, the House was closed for major strengthening and refurbishments, at a cost of $40 million.  It reopened for business in 2011, and Robin and I joined the huge crowds when we attended one of the very popular Open Days to admire the make-over.

Owen took us through the house starting at the Ballroom,  which is used for receptions, concerts, balls, investitures and other award ceremonies.  Most significantly, it is the room where the Prime Minister and his or her Ministers as sworn in as members of the Executive Council by the Governor-General after a General Election.  At one end is the dais on which stand the two thrones. Above these hangs a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, painted by Denis Fildes in 1960.   The two beautiful  Czech crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling were completely disassembled and rewired with energy-efficient bulbs as part of the Conservation Project during the refurbishment.

P9290015 The Ballroom

P9290013 One of the pair of chandeliers

I loved the airy conservatory with it’s black and white marble floor tiles, and the pretty outlook over the extensive gardens.  From here we entered the adjoining Blundell and Porritt rooms, carpeted in a pretty pale blue and silver fern design.  We were told the story of how Lady Freyberg lamented the fact that she did not have a sea view from any of the windows.  To put things right, a folding screen by Peter McIntyre (official New Zealand war artist) was commissioned, depicting Wellington Harbour by day on one side and by night on the other.

P9290020 Folding screen painted by Peter McIntyre

The House is a treasure trove of paintings, silver  and objects d’art carefully displayed.  Cabinets full of treasures glittered under the lights, and we gazed in awe  at diamond encrusted goodies and golden objects, gifts from very important people from exotic lands. 

P9290028 Anyone for a cigar?

The Norrie State Dining Room is a very grand room indeed and features a long, extending table that dates from about 1880 and can seat up to 26 guests. It is where State Dinners for visiting Heads of State are often held. The room is named after Sir Willoughby (later Lord) and Lady Norrie (1952-7) who donated to New Zealand and Government House the remarkable royal portraits which are a feature of the room.  In presenting the paintings to Prime Minister Holland, Lord Norrie said he was presenting the collection to thank New Zealand for the five happiest years of his life.  Beautiful pieces of silver are on display, polished and glinting under the lights.  The dining chairs are rather special,  38 tapestry chairs were created by branches of the Country Women’s Institute in the 1950s, for the cancelled visit of King George VI.   The design on the back of each chair is the coat of arms of a New Zealand city or borough.  And yes, we found the chair made in our new home town, Levin.

P9290041 Dining table and chairs

P9290037The Levin ladies with “our chair”

P9290040Spanish galleon presented by King Juan Carlos of Spain when he stayed in the House in 1989

We were all very interested in the collection of 20 carved panels in the entrance hall.  The panels display the full “Armorial achievements” of the last Governors, Lord Islington (1910-12), who was the first resident in the House, and the Earl of Liverpool (who was also the first Governor-General), and all subsequent Governors-General of New Zealand. This collection is believed to be unique among Commonwealth Government Houses.

P9290029 Some of the carved panels

Our tour finished with a walk in the gardens.  With so many kowhai trees in full flower, it was no wonder that there were tuis everywhere.  This was the former site of the Mt View Lunatic Asylum, and a remnant from that era, known as "Convict's Wall" still exists. Owen related that the bricks were made at Mt Cook Prison and as well as featuring arrows to show where they were made, the prisoners often added their own little touches to the bricks. 

 P9290052 The Convicts Wall

We walked back down the hill to the car park, and there was the lovely House peeping through the trees.  It was such an interesting tour, and the elegantly refurbished  House was a delight to see.  We appreciated our informative guide Owen who related so many interesting stories throughout the morning.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Spring Forward

It’s that time again down here in New Zealand – when we have to move the clocks forward an hour for Daylight Saving.  I must admit that when we woke up groggy eyed this morning and looked at the clock and saw it was 7.00am, I had a senior moment.  Was it now 6.00am, or 8.00am?  Robin soon put me right.  “Spring Forward and Fall Back”, he quoted. 

He took himself off to the Hot Rod Show today, so that he could drool over all the brightly painted and chromed cars.  He joined the throngs of thousands of people, all admiring the many cars on display.  There were all sorts of cars inside the hall and out on the grass, plus a number of drag racing cars some of which fired up their engines.  They were not in his price range at all, but he could dream, couldn’t he?  Here a couple which took his fancy.

Blue Camaro A beautiful blue Camaro

Vandal Hotrod Lime green Vandal Hotrod

Meanwhile, I was taking advantage of the lovely weather, pottering about with a few gardening chores.  We are not great gardeners, by any means, but I had a few plants to re-pot, and a couple of shrubs to trim (should I be trimming my lavender bushes – it’s too late now, I already have). 

There were some iris corms that were sprouting away all by themselves in a bucket, long overdue to be planted.  These irises have a bit of a history, as it turns out.  Quite some years ago we went with our SLG friends to New Plymouth to see the Rhododendron Festival where we visited all sorts of gardens.  Rex had purchased some irises and gave each household one each as a token of our trip.  Our iris was duly planted in our garden when we lived in Upper Hutt, and had a few flowers, but nothing spectacular.  When we moved to our new home, I dug up a few corms to take with me.  They went berserk, multiplying like crazy and taking over the garden in front of our new house.  They have been dug up again, split up, some have been given away to new homes, and I still have heaps left.  Guess the moral of the story is that our iris plants prefer Levin to Upper Hutt!

P9270021 The iris corms were sprouting, and now finally planted

With the warmer weather arriving, the rhubarb plants have had a growth spurt too.  There is nothing better than rhubarb crumble for dessert, or stewed rhubarb with our breakfast cereal.

P9270020  The rhubarb patch

Roll on Summer – we say!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Turn Left at the Rocket

We have often driven past the mysterious rocket on the corner of Jackeytown Road and SH56 on our way to and from Palmerston North.  Finally we decided to turn left at the rocket on our way home recently and see what there was to see in Jackeytown.

P9050077Let’s explore Jackeytown

The small settlement of Jackeytown was settled in a natural clearing in the densely forest covered Manawatu. It is named after the area, Tiakitahuna, but that was too difficult to say, so the English settlers changed the name to  Jackeytown.  In 1878 Jackeytown consisted of only about twenty houses.  There was also a general store, and a single room primary school was erected in 1882.  

The road ended at the Manawatu River, and the area seems to consist of farms and life style properties.  On our recent visit to the Te Manawa Museum we read how the early residents of Jackeytown hoped that their new settlement would become the hub of the Manawatu,  and that the Manawatu River would become the super highway of its time, transporting goods to other towns.  That didn’t happen, and Jackeytown practically sunk into oblivion.  We stopped to look at some shaggy Highland Cattle who didn’t seem to mind having the photo taken.


P9050073  Highland Cattle in Jackeytown

The Tiakitahuna Rocket was placed on the corner of SH56 by locals wanting to mark the locality after the the Foxton Branch railway was closed and uplifted leaving the area bereft of identification.  The old Tiakitahuna rail station existed just over SH56  but now nothing is left.

Old Tiakitahuna Station circa 1955

The original rocket was made of 44 gallon oil drums welded end to end.  The rocket was rebuilt about the 1980’s with the assistance of a local brewery and painted bright red. The centenary years of 1864-1964 were painted at the top while the district name was painted down the barrel.   Right from the day of its construction the rocket has become been a familiar and valued land-mark at the intersection of two alternate road entrances to Palmerston North City.

Then, horror of horrors, the rocket disappeared,  taken away, it was reported, by men in high-vis vests.   It was found that Stevensons Structural Engineers, of Tokomaru, were behind the disappearance.  Thankfully, the rocket has now been returned to it’s place on the corner, earthquake strengthened and repainted blue, with new dates painted along it’s length to commemorate the 150-year anniversary. The landmark rocket proudly proclaiming that travellers are passing through Tiakitahuna is back doing it’s job, and all it well in this part of the world.

P9050078 The Rocket on SH56

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Who doesn’t love Cinnamon Donuts?

Now and again we find that there are  some benefits of being in the older age group.  Such as the special offer for seniors at Donut King in Palmerston North.  We had been visiting the shopping mall to collect Robin’s new glasses (spectacles) recently and commented how we really dislike these crowded and busy shopping malls.  Not our favourite place to be, by any means.  But then as we walked past the Food Hall, the delicious smell of cinnamon wafted by.  For the price of a cup of coffee we could get two delicious freshly cooked cinnamon donuts each as well.  The donuts were delicious, and even better, the coffee piping hot.  And served in a real china mug – we can’t stand drinking out of those take-away cups.  So we were doubly happy.

P9070079 Great offer for us oldies!

And just to show how well brought up we are, we didn’t even misbehave on the “travelators”.  After all, the sign was warning us against it.  Robin now has his new glasses, and fully fed and watered, we wended our happy way home.  Taking care not to run or play on the travelators, of course.


Monday, 21 September 2015

“Offshore Guardian” at Foxton

On our way to the caravan rally at Foxton Beach on Thursday,  we joined crowds of interested locals and visitors alike who had descended on this sleepy little place to check a huge catamaran plonked down on a large grassed area beside the Manawatu Marine Boating Club.  The 34m catamaran Offshore Guardian had just been transported to Foxton Beach in two pieces, where she will be joined and have her final electrical and interior fit out completed.

P9170034 The Offshore Guardian in two pieces

P9170036To give some idea of the scale - it really is a big boat!

We found out that this large craft was constructed by Profab Engineering, not too far away in Palmerston North.  Profab Central Engineering Ltd was created in 1996 by Carl Ferguson and Tony Drysdale. Originally Profab serviced the local dairy industry with their primary focus on stainless steel fabrication, but in a quiet period they decided to build an aluminium boat and they have been building them ever since.

P9170042 Robin checking out the mechanics of moving such a monster

Work was also going on at the boat-ramp to enable the massive craft to be launched.  There were interested people wandering around with cameras, snapping away at all the action.

P9170044New concrete on this end

P9170046  Making it wider on the other end

We came back the following day to find that the top half had been lifted by crane and carefully put in place.  It will be several weeks until all the work will be completed.  Seeing the Offshore Guardian launched would be rather exciting, don’t you think?  Once on the high seas it’s job will be to service offshore oil rigs, we understand.

P9180054The two pieces fitted together

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Weekend at Foxton

We stayed somewhere completely different for our caravan rally during the weekend – Foxton Boy’s Brigade Camp, down at Foxton Beach.  Two caravans arrived a night early, just because we could, and we spent a pleasant evening in Charlie and Lorraine’s caravan.  One by one, the other caravan club members trickled in on Friday, it was to be a smallish contingent this rally.  By late afternoon all six vans were on site.  Dot and Derek caused a little excitement when they arrived with their new purchase, a Swift motor home, and those who hadn’t yet seen it had the chance to check it out over the weekend.


With bad weather forecasted, we received our share of rain over the weekend, most of the heavy  stuff at night, as luck would have it, and more gentle showers fell off and on during the day.  Robin shared his birthday celebrations (from the previous week) during our Saturday morning tea get-together and offered everyone slices of yummy chocolate log.  Freshly baked at the local bakery just up the road, but it took us three trips to the shop to complete the purchase and transaction.  Never mind, it was worth it – and don’t tell anyone, but we collected a couple of our all time favourites, chocolate ├ęclairs, during one of our trips as we called in to  see if the chocolate logs were completed – and they weren’t.  Come back later in the afternoon, we were told.

P9190058 Robin with a plate full of chocolate log, for his birthday celebrations

We dined out in style at the  Manawatu Marine Boating Club on Saturday evening.  It was just as well we had booked for our group as the restaurant was quite busy with locals and families gathered for an evening out.  The roast pork meals proved very popular, and Robin declared his Scotch Fillet steak cooked to perfection.  The meals were so big that none of us could do justice to a dessert, so we just didn’t order any - that doesn’t happen very often!

P9190060 Manawatu Marine Boating Club

I stepped out onto the upstairs patio at the restaurant to get a good view of the Manawatu Estuary in the twilight.  This is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the southern part of the North Island, about 250 ha,  comprising sand banks and a large area of salt marsh, home to rare birds and a good breeding place for native fish.  The Manawatu Estuary was designated a Wetland of International Importance in July 2005, one of six wetland areas in New Zealand to have gained RAMSAR status.  The Ramsar Convention (or Convention on Wetlands) is a treaty signed by over 150 countries where they agree to be part of international cooperation regarding the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

P9190063 Looking over the Manawatu Estuary

Welcome Swallows were visitors at the Boys Brigade camp and these busy little birds were not at all happy as we went to and from the hall during the weekend, passing by their nest.  These birds are relatively new to our country, and are classed as “a self-introduced species”  from Australia.  They were rare before the late 1950s and increased greatly through the 1960s and 1970s.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t get a decent photo of them, as they flitted to and fro, waiting for us to move away from their nesting area – but Mr Google helped me out with an image.

 Welcome Swallow

The Boys Brigade Camp was a new venue for our club, with large grounds for parking.  The buildings were getting a little tired, we felt, and the facilities were overdue for some TLC.  And I was interested to read this sign, which has proudly been displayed on the hall since the 1950s, had a glaring spelling mistake!  But I have since discovered that “stedfast” is an alternate spelling of “steadfast”, so perhaps it wasn’t a mistake after all!
 P9190059Boys Brigade Motto

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Good Old Brucie

Our friendly neighbour Bruce is always ready to lend a hand with anything which needs doing.  He is one of these blokes who likes to keep busy, and he came to help out recently when we had a little mishap in the bathroom.  Bruce arrived armed with his power drill, other assorted tools, and lots of helpful advice.  There was a lot of wall tapping going on as the pair of them tried to find where the wooden dwang was, then Robin remembered that he had one of those “stud finders” which solved the problem.  Then the towel rail was screwed firmly in place – just a little higher than it used to be.

P9120045 A study in concentration

With that job done, Bruce then decided that they should make sure the other towel rail was fastened securely and the screws weren’t coming loose.  The rail came off, the screws holding the fittings in place were given the once over and declared fit for purpose, and it was reassembled again.

P9120047 Checking this rail too

Bruce returned this morning to put plaster over the area on the bathroom wall where the towel rail was originally screwed on.  Once that is dried, it will just be a matter of sanding it back, a little touch up with the paint brush, and job done.  Now………where did Robin put that left over paint tin that the tradesmen left behind when we moved in?  Somewhere in his shed, he thinks.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Hello, Birthday Boy!!

Today was Robin’s birthday, and what a lovely Spring day for a birthday it was.  The sun was shining, although the wind was a little chilly.  And no wonder – it was probably picking up the cold, blowing straight off that dusting of snow on the hills behind us.  The snow slowly disappeared as the day progressed and the temperatures warmed.

P9120041 A sprinkling of snow on the hills

The birthday boy received lots of attention in the morning, the postie came bearing cards and he received phone calls from friends too.  Plus an “All Day Peppermint Lollipop” – that will take him a while to get through.

P9120039 The Birthday Boy

In the evening we went out for a birthday meal out at the local Cossie Club.  Robin’s brother Gary and his wife Debbie joined us too.  We met in the bar, and Robin enjoyed a cold beer, courtesy of his little brother.  Thanks, Gary.

P9120049 Cheers!!

It was just as well that we had booked a table, as the restaurant was rather busy.  What to order – the menu was quite extensive.  Finally we settled on Pork Belly for the ladies, and steak for the blokes.  Robin was the only one who could tackle a dessert after our rather large meals – his old favourite, Chocolate Sundae.  Happy Birthday, Robin.

P9120051Debbie, Gary, Robin and Jenny

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Time Cinema

It was a step back in time when our 60s Up group paid a visit to Time Cinema, a private cinema in Lyall Bay, Wellington.  Our big white bus had a little trouble with some of Wellington’s notorious narrow streets and tight corners so the driver had to let us off at the corner and we walked a little way to our destination.  Some of us more energetic types walked on ahead of the slower ones and I let our hosts know the group was on it’s way.  We knew we were at the correct address when I recognised the film reels attached to a post on the driveway.

P9090011 This looks like the right place

Time Cinema is found down the driveway and at the back of the property.  It is part museum, part theatre, and cafe too.  Our hosts welcomed us with morning tea which gave the less nimble time to sit down and catch their breath before we started our film adventure.  The vision of a private cinema was born over 35 years ago when an already fast-growing collection of cinema memorabilia and films arrived and was housed in what is now Time Cinema.

P9090002Time Cinema

You won’t find any modern or arty films here – everything is strictly vintage.  That didn’t matter, as the 60s Up group is decidedly vintage too.  The small theatre was full with a few having to accommodated down the front on extra seats from the dining area.

P9090003 Cosy little Time Cinema

The programme started with old news reels, one especially chosen for our group as it showed Levin when it was a hive of industry in earlier years.  Factories producing nylon stockings, shirts and knitwear, even brushes and brooms produced many jobs which made Levin a very desirable place to live in.  We laughed at the antics of Tom and Jerry, and got to stand up for the Queen, (that doesn’t happen these days).  At interval lunch was ready to be served and we all filed back to the dining area for a finger food lunch, hot savouries, chicken pieces, and sandwiches.  Then the cream cakes made an appearance, and we couldn’t say no to one of those each, could we?

The feature film of the day was “You were never Lovelier”, starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.  A 1942 Hollywood musical romantic comedy film set in Buenos Aires, it told the story of Bob, a dancer looking for work, and Maria, the daughter of a wealthy man, taking a dislike to each other.  The family keep interfering, Bob (Fred) shows his dancing skills, and the pair finally falling in love.  (We have to admit that the pair of us had never seen a Fred Astaire film  - a bit before our time).

Image result for rita hayworth and fred astaireFred and Rita

We had time for a quick look around the huge collection of movie memorabilia before we left.   This has grown with the years, aided to a great extent by enthusiastic visitors who have felt that their old cameras and other gear should be turned over to the care of Time Cinema as custodians.


P9090010Plenty of interest at Time Cinema

We walked back to the corner to board the bus where our driver Peter was waiting patiently. Our drive back home took us around the bays, and doesn’t Oriental Bay look wonderful in Spring sunshine?  Then it was a quick drive through the city, with a short comfort stop at Te Papa, joining the motorway and homeward bound.

P9090013 Oriental Bay, Wellington

P9090016Our trusty big white bus

A few nodded off on the long drive home, (shall we admit we were probably amongst the snoozers?), and a nasty road accident led to a diversion.  We arrived home a little later than expected, so fish and chips were on the menu for an easy meal.  It was a great day, interesting and full of nostalgia, another great 60s Up day out.  We were pleased to come back for a return visit, as we remember celebrating Robin's 50th birthday at Time Cinema with a private family booking.  That's a long time ago!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Exterior Caravan Plug Installed

It’s good to have talented friends, who are happy to do the odd job as required.  We wanted to have a caravan plug wired up to the outside of our house, and fellow club member Selwyn, a Registered Electrician, was happy to oblige. He came ready and armed today to do the job, carrying an assortment of tools and supplies.  It didn’t take too long at all.  First we had to clear the bench and he went to work and disconnected the existing hot point, testing to make sure that the power was turned off.    Then he drilled a hole through the outside wall, and poked some wire through it.


Back inside again, everything was wired up neatly and a new power switch put in place, this one has an extra on/off switch for the outside caravan plug.  Then the caravan plug was screwed firmly into place.

P9080090 Job almost done

Prior to taking our caravan away, we move if from it’s allocated parking space into a car park outside our home, plugging it into power overnight to get the caravan fridge cold.  Previously, the power cord was hanging out the kitchen window.  But now, thanks to Selwyn, the power cord will be plugged into a “proper” outlet.  Now, when are we taking the caravan away again?  Not too long to go, according to the calendar.