Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Sic Transit Gloria Tuesday

One knows one is getting old when one can remember when air travel was a joy. I'm getting old!

It's necessary, of course, but nevertheless it is frustrating and time-consuming and can be very irritating. Glasgow has updated it's equipment and the process was free of hassle and was speedy. You don't have to remove your laptop from the hand-luggage now in the main departure areas and everyone has to remove their shoes so the randomness is removed. It helped my composure that I didn't set off any bleepers. I have this travel through airports thing down to a fine art. And anyone who thinks that is bound for a fall.......

At Heathrow Laptops have to be removed! Shoes sometimes have to be removed so instead of everyone being ready no one is ready and hold-ups occur. I decided to go through without shoes regardless and with nothing in pockets etc. I set off the alarms. A complete search failed to find any cause and I was eventually released no doubt with a tag which would ensure that, if I ever go to the USA, I will be a marked man.

So here I sit in Heathrow with 4 hours to the flight being called and nothing to do except relax, read, do crosswords and visit all the shops from which I have absolutely no intention of purchasing anything.

Next stop Hong Kong!

The Leaving of Lewis

I left Lewis with a haste which bordered on the indecent. Pat took me to the Airport and we arrived in good time only to find that 35 minutes before the flight I was the last person to book in. That did have one advantage: my two large cases were not hand examined. The idea of having to unpack cases packed for a four-day journey was not an amusing prospect.

The disadvantage was that whilst I was wondering where all the passengers were and Pat was wondering if she could top up her caffeine levels, the last call was made for the flight and Fiona and Ann had not even arrived for the send-off. Fortunately they arrived just at that moment and it was undoubtedly the fastest goodbye I've ever had.

The plane was in the air one minute before departure time and on the ground in Glasgow 20 minutes before it was due.

I managed to get some wonderful photos of Point as we flew off but I can't include them on the Blog just yet because the cable I need to download them from the camera is in one of the cases somewhere (hopefully) in transit. I'll download them later.

A wonderful evening relaxing at John and Sue's in Glasgow set me up for the next leg of the journey.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Time and Date

Napier (in fact for our purposes, all of New Zealand) is usually 11 hours ahead of the UK during the UK summer and 13 hours ahead during the UK winter . This varies to 12 when New Zealand Daylight Saving and BST do not coincide.

For those who do not have a (wonderful) Kybtec Clock on their computer an excellent internet site which will tell you the time anywhere in the world (and lots more information too) is . If you are just interested in New Zealand then click on Time in Napier .

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Leaving Behind

What am I leaving behind in the Outer Hebrides? Most importantly I'm leaving my friends. I'm also leaving the views from my Study window:

Including some spectacular sunrises:

And the occasional interesting passer by:

I could go on and on but, wotthehellarchiewottthehell it'll still be here next year! And anyway it's cold, wet and windy here this morning.

Two more sleeps

One of the things about looking after children is that one gets used to measuring time in sleeps rather than days. So I have two more sleeps until I leave my Hebridean home for Glasgow and then all points South. I decided that I would leave here on Monday even though my flight doesn't leave Glasgow until Tuesday. But Tuesday might start off like yesterday morning. It is, after all, the season of high tides and strong winds. The road into town across the isthmus from the Point peninsula on which I live was closed yesterday early on because the winds were storm force and the tide was high. Had that been Tuesday then even if the plane had been able to land I would not have been able to get to it. That would rather have mucked things up. That is one of the joys of Island life.

My luggage is packed but I now have to sort out the house and empty the freezer and well, there's quite a lot but it's all fairly boring stuff. So this may well be my last posting until I arrive in Napier and sort myself out.

The carpets have been laid and the services are connected up. My bed arrives on Monday! Isn't life exciting?

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Land of the Long White Cloud

New Zealand is known in Maori as Aotearoa. This is now accepted in both languages and appears in the official title of many organisations.

The usual translation of Aotearoa is The Land of the Long White Cloud (from Ao (cloud), tea (white) and roa (long)). However as with many place names the origin cannot be certain and is bound up with Maori mythology.

There are two good explanations: Wikipedia and The 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand .

A Roof Over My Head: Part 3

The Cottage has arrived. It is on site. Just to keep the appetite whetted here is a photo of the back of the roof from the drive to Martin and Wendy's house (off to the left) . The view of the orchards visible over the top of the Cottage is the view from its veranda and main windows.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The Demon Beast of Want v The Freedom of Simplicity

I have a reputation amongst my friends of having just about every kitchen gadget one might ever need. It's not entirely justified but as someone who has both a conventional and Japanese mandolin I suppose there is an element of truth in the statement.

The six months I spent in a holiday cottage during my last stay in New Zealand made me realise that I could easily manage on what was essentially the bare essentials in the kitchen. The one thing I had to buy (apart from a really sharp kitchen knife) was a spaghetti 'spoon'. Otherwise almost all that I needed was in the cottage and I just had to make occasional forays to borrow, for example, a tin in which to bake a Christmas cake.

That made me think. When I then translated the situation in the kitchen into other spheres of my life I realised just how much I possessed that I may have wanted but which I certainly didn't need. So I have spent a lot of time this summer disposing of things (why, for example, did I have two cars in Scotland?). It is very liberating!

Mind you everything is relative and looking around me at what I have retained makes me realise how much I still possess. Perhaps another six months in New Zealand will remind me just how little in the way of possessions one needs to be happy. So long as I still have my croquet mallet and my boules and my computer and my music and my...... Ah well it was a thought!

Monday, 22 October 2007

11200 Miles or 18026 Kms

Google Earth must be one of the most amazing facilities ever to be made readily available free of charge to everyone who has a (modern) computer and internet connection.

It tells me, for example, that in 10 days (or so, allowing for time variations) I should be 11200 miles, 18026 kms, or 1.90531e-9 light years away from where I am at this moment.

One is always taught that if a hole is drilled through the earth from the British Isles one would end up in Australia. Google earth will show that this is far from accurate. In fact New Zealand is nearer but a straight line from New Zealand will end up somewhere between the southern tip of Spain and a point in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Bay of Biscay and equidistant from Lands End, France and Spain.

I though you'd all like to know that!

If you would like to see the locations of my homes click on Google Map.

Earthquakes, Volcanos, Landslips and Tsunami

New Zealand is a land of magnificence and beauty; a land of awesome landscapes, from glaciers, fiords, mountains and volcanoes to plains, rolling hills, subtropical forest and sandy beaches. It is also a land of geological excitement; a land of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslips and tsunami.

I felt my first earth tremor in New Zealand (leastways the first one I realised was an earthquake) last February. Now I know what is meant by the question "Did the earth move for you?" It did exactly that and it was a very odd feeling! Everyone will tell you that the first time is odd. They are correct. I filled in the report on the earthquake website we have in New Zealand. After a while the 'quake appeared on the site: . The funny thing is that it's not the least bit scary. This one was over in a second or two anyway. And houses here are built for earthquakes and are not like UK houses at all.

I'm sure that over the next six months I will be mentioning things like Mt Ruapehu (a 'local' active volcano), thermal springs, earthquakes and much more. I hope that I never mention a tsunami. You can find out more about New Zealand's active geology at GeoNet.

If you would like more information on the geology of New Zealand an excellent site is Geology - An Overview from the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Friday, 19 October 2007


If people were not talking about the weather then it wouldn't be Britain or New Zealand. I've no doubt that when I email I will mention the weather occasionally. However to reduce the boredom factor of me (hopefully) constantly saying how wonderful the weather is in Napier I thought you might like to be able to see for yourself.

The New Zealand Met Office site for Napier is: Napier Weather

You will find other interesting facts on the site and, if the fancy takes you, can also see what the weather is like elsewhere in the Country.

A Roof Over My Head: Part 2

I had a text from Wendy this morning. "Looked like trench warfare yesterday in ur driveway. But electric cable and phone cable in today and trench back filled. Water and sewage in progress. Weather awful. On holiday until Tuesday. R u packed?"

This weekend is the Hawkes Bay A & P Show Last year I took the children. I shall miss that this year. The Cottage is going to the Show as a showhouse for the manufacturers. After the show it will be brought to its new home.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A Roof Over My Head: Part 1

Last year I lived in a cottage on the outskirts of the centre of Napier. It was one of the cottages at Riverbend Family Lodge and had much to commend it: not least of which was Greg and Kendall's friendship and help. It was very handy for Petanque and just a short step from the Croquet Club.

This year Wendy and Martin are having a cottage put in their 'garden' and I shall live there. Mind you their 'garden' runs to 5 acres and is what is known in New Zealand as a 'lifestyle plot'.

The Cottage (the name of my new home will be revealed in due course) is to be built below the house and where the avenue up to the house joins The Paddock:

The Cottage is not built on site but in a factory and brought to the site on a lo-loader and craned into position. The Cottage has been built and will be brought to the site in a week or so. In the meantime the founds have been dug, the piles set and the services brought to the site.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

So Much to do in the Land of The Long White Cloud

When I was in New Zealand in 2005 I did lots of things that I never imagined I would do. I went para-gliding, white water rafting, heli-hiking up a glacier and tramping in one of the most beautiful National Parks in the world. And those are just the activities that spring readily to mind. I decided that when I went back for 6 months in September 2006 I would learn to para-glide properly, play Bridge again (there are excellent Bridge Clubs in the Napier area), see if I could sing and learn to ballroom dance, and so much more.

I'm still not quite sure how everything went quite so differently.

I was cycling through Napier Park and saw the Napier Petanque Club in full flow. I was called in and shown the game and from that moment I was a player of petanque.

A few weeks later I was driving past Whitmore Park and saw a board inviting people into an open day at the Croquet Club. A lady - Jayne who is a most enthusiastic Golf Croquet player - showed me the basics and I was absolutely hooked.

I started learning to sail as well.

Add to those activities my cycling and the general business of living and there was little time for anything else.

It was good.

You can see more of my white water rafting pictures at

Getting Around

Before I went to New Zealand in 2006 I decided that I had to have a car. For years I (like many men as they grow older) had hankered after a rag-top. I'd had one as a youngster but this was my second chance. I decided on a Mazda MX5: fun, seriously good to drive, superb quality and not too expensive to run. As luck would have it I managed to find exactly what I wanted before I went out. It was in Auckland - a 'new' car. In New Zealand many cars are considered 'new' if they come in from Japan when they are 5 years old. Japan's motoring laws make it very expensive to keep a car after it's fifth birthday. The Company delivered it to Napier for me.

Wendy was to pick me up from the Airport. I was foolish enough to mention that I had two cases and that the MX5 wouldn't be big enough. Wendy's response was that the MX5 wasn't big enough to hold her handbag. From that moment forth the car has been known as The Handbag. Napier's climate is such that it is the ideal car for one person most of the time. When I am transporting the children I swap the Handbag for one of the Geddes people carriers. It goes without saying that a young blond looks a darn site better driving an MX5 than an old baldie. But wotthehellarchie.

Last year I was living on the outskirts of the centre of Napier and decided that a bike would be ideal to help me keep fit and enable me to get into the centre easily without using the car. So I bought a bike. And what fun that turned out to be. My favourite route into town was via the seafront cycle path. I could cycle 20 kilometres a day and still fit in all my other activities.

The Handbag and the bike await my return.

Monday, 8 October 2007

The Family

The Family is Martin and Wendy (Dad and Mum!) and (in age order) Jamie (13), David (11 this month), Fraser (9) and Catriona (6). Martin is a dentist. Wendy was a lawyer who gave up law (and a very senior position in Local Government) to become a Mum and then read for a further degree. Wendy now runs the family dental practice in Hastings.

We know each other because Martin and Wendy lived on Lewis for a while in the early 1990s and Wendy was a colleague of mine.

They emigrated to New Zealand a few years ago and have never looked back.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Why New Zealand?

I don’t think that anyone wonders why I should want to spend time in New Zealand. It is, after all, a beautiful place with an equable climate and friendly, hospitable people. But there is more to it than that.

Friends, whom I have known for many years, emigrated to New Zealand a few years ago and love it. So much so that, in 2005, they eventually were successful in persuading me to go for a visit. I fell in love: with the place, the weather, the attitudes, the activities, the outdoor life but, above all, with the people and, in particular, with my host family.

In New Zealand I had no history, no memories, no ties and, indeed, nothing to prevent complete relaxation and contentment. I was accepted purely for who I was at face value then, not what I was because of my known past – because I had no known past.

In New Zealand when a child reaches his or her fifth birthday he (or she) graduates from Pre-School and starts attending Junior School on the day after the Birthday. When I first visited my friends, Catriona was just five. I promised to return for the ‘graduation’. I’m not quite sure why but I decided that if I was going out at all I would go out for six months – the longest period that one can stay. In September 2006 I set out for what was to be one of the most wonderful and life-changing things that I have ever done. And I have never regretted a single moment.