Friday, 30 November 2007

Millennium Arch - Ecliptic

Almost all my cycle rides include at least part of the cycle/footpath built by the Rotary Club of Napier along Marine Parade. There are so many beautiful manmade things which I see every day in addition to the fantastic works of nature that I thought I would start sharing them with you.

At midnight on 31st December 1999 a crowd estimated to be 30,000 and the biggest crowd ever to assemble on the Marine Parade watched $25,000 (about £10,000) of fireworks herald in the New Millennium.

The Millennium Arch (Ecliptic - by David Trubridge) situated on Marine Parade situated just to the North of the Dolphin Pool was erected to commemorate the first sunrise of the New Millennium. To find the point where the sun rose that morning follow a line from the rock in front of it through the centre of the arch to the horizon.

The cliffs in the far distance are at Cape Kidnappers.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Moving House

The phrase 'moving house' in New Zealand can mean something rather different to the phrase when used in the UK.

A friend recently sold her house and at 0300 hours one morning the owners took it away. Many houses are built to withstand earthquakes and that often means a wooden frame and no bricks. So the building is often a selfcontained unit resting on (and bolted to) the ground. Buildings like this can usually just be jacked up off the ground and a lorry can be backed in underneath. The jacks are lowered and the lorry drives off with the building. 0300 is a popular time to move house because there is less traffic around then.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Croquet Tournament

For the last two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) I've been playing in the Marewa Open Golf Croquet Tournament. Yesterday my partner (Jayne) and I came equal second on wins but third on points.

Today was the singles. There were two divisions. I won my division. I cannot pretend that it's not a really good feeling.

Now to go home and have a libation and a rest. I have to be fresh for guess what in the morning.

Monday, 26 November 2007


Sometimes there just aren't witty or interesting headings one can use. Today is one of those days.

CJ pointed out in his comment of "What's in a Name" that my Laptop too has a name. I called it Palin because it spends it's time roaming and telling people about far away places. Henry (my PC in Lewis) on the other hand is, as the name implies, a reliable stay at home type.

On the assumption that the cable isn't laid and the phone connected today (might fly pigs - rearrange into a well known phrase or saying) I shall probably not be blogging for a few days because I have a two-day Croquet tournament tomorrow and Wednesday. The start is 0830 and apart from being tired by the end of play everywhere will probably be closed.

So normal service will be resumed shortly.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Landscaping Begins

When I think of the years and years it took me and a barrow and rake to move tens (how many tens I have no idea) of earth to landscape the garden at Tigh na Mara it makes one wonder why one did it that way and only used a small digger to move stuff towards the end of the project. A few days ago a Big Boys Toy came and moved many tens of tons of clay and topsoil and landscaped the area round the Cottage. It took a day.

Yesterday and today Wendy and Martin have been raking, sewing seeds, planting plants, putting in irrigation, putting back the paddock fence and working so hard to finish the area off. The change compared with the area as it was four days ago is almost unbelievable.

Hopefully by the end of the summer it will be unrecognisable.

What's in a Name?

The Cottage has a name. It was named before I arrived here but the plate has just been varnished and I put it up last evening.

So why HeeBeeGeeBeE's? Well apart from the very obvious GBE and the terrible pun the H B is for Hawkes Bay hence Hawkes Bay GBE's.

So the car has been named The Handbag, the Cottage has been named HeeBeeGeeBeE's. What next?

Saturday: A Very Good Day

I played my first Singles Croquet Tournament (The Dorothea Sweetapple Tournament) match of the season at the Club this morning. I won the match 7:2, 7:4. It felt better because my opponent played well. Getting into the second round is a pleasing feeling.

I played a further four games (one double and three singles) and won them all.

For someone who has never had a competitive spirit so far as games was concerned (even in my fencing days) I have discovered a real desire to win at Croquet. My problem is that I don't like other people losing! How contradictory is that?

By this time it was 1300 hrs and I popped into Town to send my emails. There is something very comforing about walking in and everyone being so pleasant and just asking if you want 'your usual?'

Back to Croquet where there was an Open Day for people interested in learning or playing. Two families turned up and Jayne and I took them for a few games. It will be interesting to see if any of them come back.

I then had some tuition in Association Croquet. By which time it was welll after 1600 and I had been in the open since 0845. Despite being slathered with sun cream and the hazy sun my legs and forearms burned. Reminder to me: put more cream on at lunchtime! I'm fairly sure that it's the first time I've ever been burned out here. Hopefully it will be the last.

I arrived home to find everyone working industriously in the garden planting etc.

All in all a very Good Day.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Esquires Coffee House

A few years ago Napier, like much of the rest of New Zealand, was not a place where coffee shops abounded. I'm not sure how many there are now but 'a lot' will certainly be an accurate assessment. From excellent privately owned one-off establishments to the inevitable Starbucks.
For the American there is nothing more comforting than turning up at the other end of the earth and pretending to be a tourist (their greatest aspiration) to find that McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks and Amex offer their services. None of this having to feast on the delights of local cuisine or read a menu (albeit that it might, as in New Zealand, actually be in a reasonably recognisable tongue). They can honestly say that they disembarked from their Cruise Liner, visited the City or Town Centre, ate in a local cafe/coffee house and having discovered that the local food was just like theirs and therefore civilised, re-embark and enter once more unto their search for new and exciting places in which to be a tourists again.

I added Amex even though it has absolutely nothing to do with restaurants or coffee shops because it is the one financial institution which, so far as I can tell, really does look after it's customers. Lose your card, leave home for 6 months just before your card runs out or forget to pay one month and incur a charge. A problem? Certainly not. You will have a card in your hand or your charge cancelled before you have had time to blink. I hate to say it but it's an American instution that can teach our Banks a very great deal about service.

Anyway I digressed. Many of the coffee shops in Napier have WiFi internet access for Laptops. I suppose because there are so many visitors and so many people here have relatives abroad Internet communication is even more a way of life than in the UK. Anyway Esquires (which is an international chain or franchise) offers free WiFi access if you buy something. I don't know how much business it generates for them but I should think it's a fairly significant amount. So I spend quite a lot of time there using the WiFi and drinking their excellent coffee.

Friday, 23 November 2007

The Cottage: Living Room and Kitchen

I thought it was about time I started introducing you to my living quarters. So here is the first instalment. The central room in the Cottage off which all others open is the integral lounge, dining area and kitchen.

Lessons and Big Toys

My day started at 0556 when a text arrived to tell me that a friend would not, as I had hoped, be coming to live on Lewis. Bummer.

By 0830 a large digger (of the earth moving type rather than a macho Australian) arrived to landscape round the Cottage.

I went to Croquet having made the serious error of leaving my mallet on the ground where I had put it when clearing the boot of The Handbag. Fortunately I wasn't playing in a competition because I had to play with a borrowed mallet. Then I had lessons in Association Croquet (the game that 'everyone' usually associated with Croquet) but without my own mallet practising the shots was rather pointless.

Then a quick visit to Esquires for a cheery greeting, coffee, a sandwich and a quick communications session.

Arrived at Petanque on time and played three games in time to get back to the Croquet Club to learn how to play with a seriously big lawnmower with which the Club's six lawns are mowed. A terrifyingly responsible job although I'm sure that after the first few times everything will be OK.

Arrived home to find that quite a lot of the landscaping had been done but, more importantly to me from a practical point of view, the drive and car parking area had been completed.

I promise not to mention the weather too often but today Hawkes Bay was the hottest place in New Zealand. Officially it was 30 deg. My veranda registered 34 deg. The funny thing is that, because it's not humid, it feels very pleasant.

Still no news of the phone though.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

A Sore Bum? and a Birthday Party

A quiet day. A lovely day. A hot day. Pottered into town this morning and did my emails etc at Esquires Cafe where purchasing a coffee (and excellent coffee it is too) also purchases an hour on the Wi fi Internet. I take the Laptop. I'm becoming an hourly fixture there each day. Went home for lunch. Put the bike on the back of the car and went to Ahuriri. Rode round the coastal cycleway for nearly 6 kilometres past the centre of Napier. Turned round and rode back again. My first cycle since my return. I wasn't puffed and I had no sore bum. OK so it was only 12 k but that's a pretty good start and I can't wait to get back onto the saddle.

It was Wendy's Birthday. Wendy and the children came down whilst Martin cooked dinner. Then Martin came down. Then we all went up to the Big House and had dinner. Afterwards until well after the children's bedtime (I wonder what they are like this morning!) we partied. I shall not be so cruel as to put anyone else's photo on the Blog. Suffice to say that the photo of me was representative of the mood of the evening!

We thought that the 'phone problem had been sorted but life is never that simple. The ground is so hard that digging the trench manually is nigh on impossible (100 metres with a pickaxe - I don't think so). It's made more difficult because the electricity supply is there too and there has to be a separation of at least 300mm. The verge isn't wide enough. A solution has yet to be found. In the meantime......

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Phoenix Palms (Phoenic canariensis)

One of the main roads into Napier from Tarradale and Hastings in the South is Kennedy Road. Around 1925 (at a cost of about 25/- per tree) it was planted with Pheonix Palms (Pheonix canariensis).

Another of the main roads into Napier is Prebensen Drive. It is on the North side of Napier coming in from Auckland in the far North and the Airport. It passes the industrial and commercial area. It too is lined Pheonix Palms. It is only since I looked at writing this posting that I realised that the Palms were the same; the former set being considerably more mature versions of the latter.

Because no-one to whom I spoke could remember what the palms were called I popped into the iSite (Tourist Information Office). I have always found the staff there exceptionally friendly and helpfull. There I got the answer.

I also found a wonderful book entitled "What's in a Name: The Streets around Napier". I thought that it would give me the meaning of Rotowhenua Road. Alas it does not. I'm not sure why but perhaps it's something to do with only one side of the road being in Napier! The other side is technically in Hastings. What the book does give is a mass of information on names and about things such as which streets have the best examples of which trees. (Kennedy for Pheonix Palms will be no surprise).

The hill behind the trees is Napier Hill.

That Season

It's back into the Summer routine. Not a lot of difference to the usual routine except for one important step. Get up, shower, shave, and then cover all the bits that will be exposed during the day and which you have just got clean with factor 30 (thats a minimum at this time of year). The UV factor in New Zealand is very high indeed and one can burn very seriously in a few hours.

The incidence of skin cancer is very high amongst the older Pakeha who had neither the products to slather all over themselves nor the knowledge of what the long term results could be if they bared themselves to the sun.

Many children go to school either without shoes or discard them when at school. Bare feet is a way of life here. But go to school without your sun hat and you are confined to inside. Factor 30 and sun hats are compulsory at school.

We done bad

I wrote this posting just after we lost the Netball World Cup match. For some reason it didn't get posted. So here it is. Slightly less topical but no less relevant - particularly the way the Black Caps are performing at the moment.

I always thought that we in the UK (sic) were very good at bemoaning our fortunes when we perform badly (or perhaps I should say less well than the opposition) in sport. As I said in the posting yesterday here in New Zealand we are not on top of the world at the moment with our sporting performances.

Well I've discovered today that the UK has no concept of how to feel sorry for itself and make such a public display of flagellation. Today every news programme, every sports programme, every conversation and, doubtless, every newspaper tomorrow has trawled over the failures of the Black Caps (who are being slaughtered in South Africa at the moment just to give some topical soul searching), the All Blacks, the Silver Ferns (who might have got off more lightly but for the fact that if they'd held it together at the end they could have won) and the one I forgot about yesterday, The Americas Cup Team.

I'm not suggesting the UK takes lessons but it does rather indicate that Norman Vincent Peale has not quite managed to get his message across.

Thinking about it though it is interesting how we view things as individuals or as nations. New Zealand is used to winning (just as Welsh Rugby was in the days when Gareth Edwards played) and it comes hard when they don't. I've just spent a day playing in my first Petanque competition which was not just a Club event. My partner and I didn't do well. Having said that we did 1 point better than two of the Club's players who play at national and international level. But that's not the issue. I didn't really expect to do well. In 10 days I will be playing in a major Croquet Tournament. I expect to do well. If I don't I will be truly pissed off. But I've not been pissed off to date and my mindset echos that. I know that I can't always play good Croquet - few people at my level can - but I do expect to. At the moment it seems to me that New Zealand has temporarily forgotten that it expects to do well.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


No I haven't been given an expensive floral arrangement by an admirer or anything like that. Wendy was just picking a few flowers for the house and put some in a vase for me too. Good eh?

Ramblings about Rhythms

Today is the third cloudless, beautiful day in a row. I've not much mentioned the weather since I arrived, partly because it's hardly been worth mentioning, partly because I'm rather conscious that some who read this Blog will be 'enjoying' pretty poor weather and partly because despite hardly mentioning it I've already been told off by one reader for mentioning it 'too much'.

So why mention it this morning? Well simply because I'm puzzled. In Scotland in the summer in particular and all the more so (I should say 'a fortiori' for those who used to be in law or local government) when the sun shines, I am up by 0600. Well I woke this morning at some time after five and turned over and went back to sleep, then I woke just after six and did the same. Then I woke just after seven and lay awake thinking (an unusual event by itself) before eventually persuading my body to get out of bed and get on with the day.

Is it because my routine has been upset - I don't have to be out for Croquet this morning at 0845? Is it because I was up too late last night? No. I was in bed before midnight. Is my life too strenuous? No. I had a pretty relaxed and easy day yesterday. The previous night I had a solid eight hours sleep. So am I having to face the fact that my body just ain't as young as it used to be and needs some extra rest occasionally? Well perhaps so or perhaps, harking back to a posting a while ago on being in tune with nature I have to adjust. Here people as a general rule go to bed very early by UK and European standards and get up early too. People never ring you after 9pm but will happily ring you at 7am - and do (which is fine by me!).

This is much more in tune with the rhythms of the day if one talks in terms of dawn and dusk.

One thing that the European visitor notices about New Zealand (probably not to the same extent in Auckland) is that restaurant's are closed by 9pm more often than not except sometimes at weekends. If one is in Spain or Italy in particular meals don't start until then. The day has a natural rhythm very different to New Zealand: probably explainable by temperature rather than dawn and dusk.

In the UK we seem to have just bucked any notion of natural rhythm.

All this is very interesting for me to ponder upon but probably rather less interesting for the reader. It also demonstrates rather well my pleonastic abilities.

This posting could probably have read: In New Zealand people follow a different rhythm of the day to most of Europe. We get up early, we go to bed early and if you want to eat in a restaurant don't get there late or you'll be gulping your meal. I got up late. I wonder why.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Pukeko (Purple Swamp Hen) Porphyrio porphyrio

About half a metre tall this abundant native bird is iconic and very much in evidence wherever there is water or marsh for it to live. They wander everywhere and, although when disturbed they can run or fly for cover, the ones round here seem completely unphased by humans and their contraptions. They fly high at night with a loud harsh screech, the surprise factor of which is quite disturbing if it happens to be near you.

Rather curiously I've never photographed one without something in its beak - these photos were not all taken at the same time. It looks as thoug they have been harvesting bulbs of some sort.

I had intended to post this yesterday but on Rotowhenua Road (where I've taken all the photos) on the way into town I came across the Pukeko and chicks. I'd never seen chicks before. So I thought I'd add the 'ahh' factor.

Maori and Pakeha

In the first half of the 19c most Europeans referred to the native inhabitants of New Zealand as New Zealanders. How Maori referred to themselves was indicated by the Maori text of the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840 (of which more on another day) which used the expression 'tangata maori' - ordinary people - to describe them. In official usage, however, the word Native was used to describe the Government Department responsible for Maori affairs and the Land Court until 1946.

The Treaty of Waitangi used the term 'pakeha' to refer to Queen Victoria's non-Maori subjects in New Zealand. This word was used by Maori in the Bay of Islands to denote Europeans at least as far back as 1814 and was in widespread use among Maori by the 1830s.

Pakeha probably came from the pre-European word pakepakeha - mythical light-skinned beings.

The words Maori and Pakeha are in common usage by all New Zealanders today.

Although not relevant to the subject of this posting it is interesting to note that the number of Pakeha living in New Zealand in 1830 was just over 300. By 1840 it was just over 2000. By 1858 Pakeha outnumbered Maori by approximately 3000: 59,000 to 56,000. By 1881 there were around 500,000 Pakeha.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

South Island

Now for the South Island map. I still haven't had time to experiment but it seems reasonably ok in it's present format.

Premier Sport

Which sport can displace any other programme on New Zealand Television? Football? I've not seen any football on TV here. Rugby? Well it's certainly very popular and, yes, it makes prime time TV. Cricket? Of course it's popular and, again yes, it gets good TV slots. But what takes precedence over everything? Netball!

Tonight (Saturday) the pride of a nation rode on the final between New Zealand (the World Cup holders) and Australia. The Black Caps had lost at Cricket, the All Blacks had lost the Rugby. Everything rested on the (incredibly high) shoulders of the Silver Ferns.

All seemed lost after the first two quarters. Then the Ferns recovered to within 2 points only to miss three opportunities in the last five minutes or so and eventually lose by 4 points at 38 to 42. A nation went into mourning.

England had earlier been knocked into fourth place. I suspect that not only did the match not make UK TV but that the result probably didn't make the TV News.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Pot Pourri

So far my bike has remained in the garage because cycling with a bad cough is perhaps not advisable. Yesterday I brought it down to the Cottage where, over the next few days, I will give it a bit of a service and have a few trial runs. All I then have to do is decide on a strategy for getting my daily cycles in.

When I was coming out of the Library one day I passed the display of newly acquired titles. One leapt out at me. "The Rainhill Trials" The story of the "Greatest Contest of Industrial Britain" and the birth of commercial rail . Of course I had to read a book which dealt with events so close to my birthplace. I'm glad, so far, that I picked it up. And with Mark's and CJ's Blogs both mentioning locomotives recently I thought that I, too, would give them a mention.

We seem to be no nearer having the trench dug so that the phoneline can be laid and the phone connected.

Twa Craws

A new take on the Twa Craws sat upon a Wa these 'craws' being Black Shags (Kawau, Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo). It's a common sight to see one perched on a lamp but I can't recall seeing three before.

Pohutukawa v Rata

No it's not a netball match.

New Zealand is not short of spectacular trees many of which burst forth into bloom giving the landscape a much brighter and more varied canopy than is found in Europe. Perhaps one of the most spectacular and certainly one of the best known and best loved trees in New Zealand is the Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree. In its natural range the Pohutukawa grows round the northern coasts and coastal forests of North Island as well as round the shore and islets of Lake Taupo and some other North Island lakes. It is quite a large tree and can grow more than 20m tall and may spread more than 38m. In a good flowering season the mountainsides can be aflame with the brilliancy of the flowers.

When I was introduced to the trees examples of which I have photographed I was introduced to them as Pohutukawa. However we are not in the natural area for them so I assumed that they were Rata (also known as the Norther Rata) (Metrosideros robusta) which is abundant throughout North Island and some of South Island. The wood is extremely hard and dense and consequently has many uses.

I have pored over my tree book and cannot match the flowers to the Pohutukawa, Rata or Southern Rata (which appears in North Island too). So I leave you with the photos of just another flowering teee.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The Power of Advertising Vans

When I went to the Western Isles I met a man called ND: N D Macleod who had the electrical business of the same name. He ran a fleet of yellow vans. There was no one on Lewis who didn't know that ND ran an electrical business out of Church House in Stornoway. He told me many things but one that stuck in my mind more than most was that the best free advertising is your vans. I don't think, many years later, that there were too many people in Stornoway who didn't know Coll Pottery's yellow vans.

A couple of years ago a hair dresser in Napier bought a couple of little distinctive vans. She parked one on either side of Kennedy Road (one of the main roads into Napier) and anyone using that road knew that there was a 7-day unisex hairdresser there. That's how I started going there. Apart from anything else parking was easy. But because it is a main road and the original premises were quite inauspicious many people who travelled the road daily (myslef included) wouldn't usually have noticed it

This year I came back to find that the business had flourished and moved to very smart new premises.
More than that there had been an explosion in the number of little advertising vans from one-man businesses to The Mad Butcher.

A Life More Natural

When I arose this morning I felt cold. The temperature outside was 14 deg. I'm not sure what it would be inside but as it was dull and overcast so I don't suppose it was much more. There didn't feel much difference when I stepped onto the deck. Since I caught 'The Bug' I've tended to feel cold most of the time anyway. At Petanque yesterday a Scot by birth but a New Zealander for much of her life remarked that I was letting the side down showing that I was cold (I was wearing a sleeved fleece on top of my body warmer) and that, coming from such a cold place (she was an East Coaster), I should be finding this weather very mild. The odd thing is that she should be correct but she isn't. And I think that I have now worked out the reason.
New Zealanders are much more in tune with their environment. Few houses have double glazing. Few houses have central heating as we know it in the UK (I've not come across a single one). The Cottage has double glazing and air conditioning. It was the first ever made by the Company to that specification. At the Hawkes Bay Show it was a source of considerable interest.
It is not as if New Zealanders are not conscious of insulation and saving the planet. In many ways they appear far more aware than we are in the UK. But it's not that that makes me think they are more in tune with their environment. It is the fact that they live nearer to it. I will try and explain.

In Lewis my house is well insulated, has double glazing as a matter of course and central heating and the inside is generally kept at around 20 degrees in the living areas during the daytime and warmer in the living room in the evening when I am relaxing. That is almost always warmer than it is outside. I would consider my house far too cold if the temperature were to be 14 deg during the day.

Here, if the outside temperature is 14 deg (ignoring the wind-chill factor) then generally speaking it appears to me that the inside temperature will be 14 deg or perhaps a little warmer. If it gets much colder then people put more clothes on. If it gets hotter then they take clothes off or use different clothes (shorts rather than long trousers for example). Obviously in the UK we do the same to a certain degree but to nowhere near the same degree.

We don't adjust to the environment. We adjust the environment to suit us.

Last year I had absolutely no problem becoming a 'New Zealander'. I'm finding it harder this time but now that I think I've found the reason adjusting should be easier!

Thursday, 15 November 2007


There is so much to say about the birds here. Which is not the opening sentence of a 1950s post card from the seaside. I was wondering how many interesting birds I might see here that you will not see in Europe. In fact many birds here were introduced from Europe. I hope, over the next six months, to show you some examples of the native species. Generally speaking because of New Zealand's equable climate there is no major migration although the native cuckoos migrate to the Pacific Islands and there is evidence of altitudinal migration and movement to good food sources.

Obviously the Country's National Bird is the Kiwi.but there is little chance of me seeing one in the wild, never mind being able to photograph it in the wild. However there are lots more which are interesting too.

The highlight of my bird sightings last year was seeing Albatrosses on the trip between Invercargill and Stewart Island at the very South of South Island. I wonder what it will be this year.

There are, as one would expect, lots of seabirds and I shall probably deal with those separately. Despite living so close to the sea I've never developed a close interest in seabirds. Perhaps this six months will be an opportunity to change that.

I shall keep a list in the sidebar of the Blog of the birds which I have seen and where I have photographs or a Blog posting I'll add the date.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

North Island

I was writing a post this morning about the birds of New Zealand when it ocurred to me that many of you will not know much about the map of New Zealand. Of course everyone knows roughly where we are and most people could pick out a map of the Country from a choice of maps. It is probable the, like me before I came here, most do not know much about where everything is. So I thought that I would experiment by posting a map of North Island.

If you double click on the map you should get a larger image.

I shall do some work on this at home later and try and refine it.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

From Cold to Hot

It's after 3pm in the afternoon (where, in fact most 3pms are) and I'm sitting in the Cafe where I can use my Laptop free if I buy something. As I've just had lunch I qualify. Today I have nothing prepared for the Blog and was going to wait but, hey, dear reader(s) that would mean depriving you of some reward for the effort of logging on.

I played Croquet this morning on a beautiful cloudless day wearing long trousers, a bodywarmer and a long-sleeved fleece. As the morning progressed the fleece came off. By lunchtime it was hot. I went straight to Petanque and changed into shorts and a divested myself of other outer raiment except the poloshirt. It was hot - very hot. Perhaps summer has arrived.

I have discovered that old age (sorry, later middle age) has dealt me an odd hand in the memory department. Ever since an incident in 1965 I have had terrible problems remembering names. It is a good job that Carol was outwardly tolerant because soon after we were married I was introducing her to someone and forgot her name. I digress. I have now been back in Napier for a week and a half and have slotted back into Croquet and Petanque and life here and have remembered almost everyone's names. How odd is that?

Hopefully tomorrow I will have something more interesting to post.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Purple Drive

Looking down the drive from the House the entrance to the Cottage is at the end of the Lavender bushes and on the left.

On 7 November I posted an entry entitled "A Roof over my Head: Part 5" and showed the drive with were lined with some purple shrubs. CJ asked what the shrubs were. The shrubs were Lavender.

Looking at the above photograph you will see trees and two sorts of shrub. On the left hand side the shrubs are Agapanthas. There are also Agapanthas down the right side as well but there are also lots of Lavender shrubs. The trees are Jacaranda Trees.

The Jacaranda trees are magnificient but have now finished flowering although there is still some bloom left on the trees. So I have cheated and the photo below with the Jacarandas in full bloom was taken last year. The Lavender bushes (which grow as tall as me) are just getting over their best. The Agapanthas, which are almost all purple although there are a few white ones in amongst them, have not yet flowered. All in all a walk down the drive is one to lift the stoniest of hearts (and do wonders for the hay fever).

Paper Wasp

R. I. P.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Good Wholesome Countryside

They sprayed the orchards in front of the Cottage yesterday morning. Fortunately such slight air movement as there was was away from the Cottage. OK I realise that it's only spray. And they only do it once every two weeks. I wonder what it is. PS remember to wash apples before you eat them. Perhaps I should move to a barren Island somewhere where no one sprays anything much because there is, generally speaking, no agriculture requiring it.

A Different Perspective

Sunday morning and just after eight o'clock. "What" I ask myself "am I doing sitting in bed with my second cup of Green Tea with Lemon, writing emails and now my Blog posting?" The answer is partly that I'm still not 100% and sitting up in bed should make me feel that I am looking after myself and helping the healing process, and partly curiosity. I will elaborate on the latter point.

I you are reading this and you are married then you probably sleep in a double bed and on the same side as you have always slept with your current partner. The chances are too that if you are not living with someone you still sleep in a double bed. I bet that unlike Diane Keaton in a film she made with Jack Nicolson (the name of which at this moment I cannot recall) you do not sleep in the middle of the bed. And, finally, whichever side you sleep on I bet that it is always the same one.

Why is this? Anyway it has one big advantage. Last night in trying to shake off this bug I went to bed early and woke just after midnight in a pool of perspiration which, had I been in a single bed would have necessitated a change of bedclothes. Sleeping in a double bed meant that that could be put of until the morning because I had a 'spare' side to which to move. Which is, of course, what I did. But when one wakes again in the night and stretches for the box of tissues it's not there. In fact nothing is where it should be. I don't know about you but I find that very disorientating (or is it disorienting?). Of course if there is no moon or it is overcast there is absolutely no light here. The bedroom is pitch black and absolutely silent. Even the red figures of the digital clock are dimmed and in the distance and, as it happens, were obscured by a pillow in line of sight.

So when I got up this morning and made a cup of tea I realised that if I came back to bed I would, of course, be on the 'wrong' side of the bed. Would that be significant? Well, no, nothing in my world would be likely to alter. But curiously that's not proved to be absolutely correct. I am sitting here with the 'French' window onto the deck wide open and the sun streaming in at floor level. (The deck itself gets sun during parts of the day even though the roof overhang prevents the sun actually hitting anything other than the bottom part of my bedroom window first thing in the morning). The birds incredible calls (and this is just ordinary morning chatter - the dawn chorus is long past) are vying with Elgar's Piano Music for the attention of my brain's aural receptors. But what is significant is that I am looking at a view that I have never looked at before because I always look at the view outside the Cottage from a different perspective. And I can now see things which I can't see from the living room or from the other side of the bed or even from the table out on the deck.

There is always another perspective on life.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Paper Wasp

Generally speaking I don't go round killing things. I do, however, make exceptions and will trap mice when they try and infest my property which they did with very great success in my garden shed in Lewis when I was here last year. They had a real ball. All the wellington boots became nestboxes. The grass seed all disappeared into mice stomachs or into wellington boot stores - a whole box! The mess was indescribable. Well that's probably putting it a bit strongly but my powers of descriptive writing are not good. Probably the most adventurous phrase I've ever used was in my GCE when I managed to get in "stentorian reverberations". But I can think of no way of relating that to mice.

Anyway to get back to not killing things. One of my neighbours (right outside the kitchen window in fact) is a Paper Wasp (identified as such by CJ, of course). Now one of the creatures that I will kill without any compunction is a wasp. A wasp building a nest outside my kitchen window is sure to die. Unless he/she is a Paper Wasp. CJ pointed out that they are not social and don't sting. So he/she continues to live in front of my window, thanks to CJ.

Cuculus non facit monacum

And neither does the fact that for the second day running I am sitting in bed with my cup of Green Tea mean that this is a habit. I'm sorry. That has to be one of the worst punic analogies ever. (Cuculus non facit monacum = a coul does not a monk make. I hope I have the spelling correct. If I don't CJ will soon post a comment correcting me). Please put it down to the state of my health.

It is another beautiful morning with no wind. Hopefully there will be no wind on the Croquet lawns either. They are nearer the sea and get the cold winds off it.

So I shall sit here and compose Blog postings and emails until the spirit moves me and I go and get a shower.

As I still don't have a phoneline in the Cottage this will not get sent until after Croquet and you (with the probably exception of CJ) will almost certainly all be in bed and, hopefully, asleep.

Friday, 9 November 2007

For want of a can opener

One of the lovely things about being here is that The Family Geddes is so near. Catriona came down to see me last night at about 7pm. In my experience children, when (with permission) raiding fridges and food stores look for for biscuits, sweets and anything which is not the healthy option. Not so with the Geddes children. They raid the larder for lettuce leaves, carrots and apples. OK so I've never known a biscuit refused but first choice a lettuce leaf?!

A little later Wendy came down with Fraser. We had a blether and perhaps a glass of wine (we have learned to eschew the healthy option) passed our lips. After they had gone I decided to have some dinner.

Frankly food has been at the bottom of my agenda over the last few days since I've had this bug and nothing in the larder came forward as it would have done to Ford Prefect and said "Eat Me". A tasty salad? I have no ability to taste at the moment and a salad is effort. I decided upon soup or a tin of beans. That is until I discovered that one of the necessities which had been overlooked in the kitchen was a tin opener. Guess what I'll be buying today.

Early one morning (Friday to be more specific)

It's just after 0600 and I'm doing something I have very rarely done in my life: I'm sitting in bed having a cup of green tea with lemon. It is not, you understand, the having of the green tea with lemon which is unusual. That is frequently my beverage upon waking. No. Rather the sitting in bed drinking it. For me bed has only ever been for two things. Sitting up reading and drinking tea was not one of them.

I have just taken this picture of the view. The sun is well up and promises a wonderful, hot day. The last few days have been cold because, although the temperature on the deck window in the shade has clawed its way up to 20deg, the wind has been from the sea and has been very cold indeed. Cold enough for me to wear a sleeved Berghaus fleece on top of my windproof fleece lined body warmer. There have been moments when I wondered whether this was really the weather I'd come for.

I was going to start this posting off by saying that I was sitting here feeling somewhere between death and death warmed up surrounded, as I am, on the floor by at least one box of tissues used and discarded through a night of coughing and spluttering and generally feeling very sorry for myself. But, of course, when it comes down to it I realised that I may have a stinking cold, feel shivery, be coughing fit to bust and just want to curl up and hibernate until it's all over but the reality is that there is nothing wrong with me. If there was I wouldn't be sitting here with the Laptop on my knee writing this.

I am tucked up in a warm bed in a warm cottage in a warm climate in summer with the sun shining and the birds singing. I have food so I am not hungry. I have drink to quench my thirst (and if it's lemonade I have enough to quench the thirst of all my friends too!). I have friends of immeasurable importance to me (even if I have come far away from most of them). I have a body that, once this cold goes, should serve me well for a little while yet. There are many who do not.

I hope one day my Friend and Brother posts one of his typical days on his Blog. Those who read it will stop complaining when they have a cold and not think, as I did when I woke this morning, that they felt like death warmed up.

Well I have indulged myself long enough. At 0900 the Pest Control Company is coming to spray the Cottage and Wendy and Martin's house. This leaves a film on all the surfaces and nooks and crannies which kills all the flies and bugs which attempt to co-habit our dwellings (heaven knows what it does to us). Living in the middle of the countryside in a climate like this certainly means that you have plenty of them. So I have to rid the living spaces of anything that I might come into contact with such as bedding and food which might get sprayed. Then I'm off out for morning coffee. Then I have to be back to let the Sky TV man in to wire up Sky. We thought that a phone line was needed but they are adamant that it is not. We shall see.

No. I can't have felt like death warmed up. There isn't time for that.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

A Roof over my Head: Part 6: The Cottage

When European settlers came to New Zealand they built houses with verandas. Sometimes they went right round the house and sometimes they just covered the front. Houses were, following the European tradition, usually built facing South where possible. They were usually built of wood. However, because they were built facing South the front of the house rarely got any sun. This is very noticeable with houses in Auckland which have survived from that period.

Wendy's idea for this Cottage was that it should look like the original homestead on the land with their house being the later addition as the family fortunes increased. This is not an uncommon pattern. The colour of the Cottage was likewise chosen to replicate the early rural houses.

In this case there is one big difference: the Cottage faces due North and therefore gets the sun all day. This, of course, is predicated on the Sun actually being visible - which it certainly was not yesterday morning! It gets the sun on the East end (which is my bedroom) in the morning and it sets on the West end (spare bedroom and study). The deck (veranda) is covered by the roof and in midsummer when the sun is hottest it is also at its highest and the deck is largely in shade for most of the day.

The land is due to be landscaped over the next week or so and a lot of the soil mounds which are visible will be moved around and the drive will be levelled. At the moment a vehicle with high ground clearance is needed. Whatever assets The Handbag does have ground clearance is not one of them.

So that's the outside. Soon I'll give you a tour of the inside.