Monday, 31 December 2007

New Year's Eve

The car is packed except for the backpack in which I take Palin (my Laptop for those who didn't see my earliest postings) and various other necessities. Wendy's hens have been fed and watered. I shall soon be on the road for Taupo.

Earlier I was reading CJ's Blog and I have to say that I laughed out loud at his posting entitled:

Australian Tourism: Questions Answered

These questions about Australia were posted on an Australian Tourism website. Obviously the answers came from fellow Aussies.....just trying to help:

If you want to read the posting it's at: - It appears under Family Blogs on the right of this page. However a taster (which would be less funny if the question didn't originate in the USA) is:

Q: Will I be able to speek English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

New Year Holiday

As if my life wasn't one long holiday I'm of to Taupo in the morning (Monday) for a few days to see in the New Year and spend some time with Wendy and Martin and the children who are on holiday at their timeshare there this week. I was lucky to get accommodation because Taupo is a major holiday destination (you'll see why in future postings) and this is not only the School Summer Holidays but also the Christmas and New Year break for many New Zealanders ('though not, of course, if you happen to work in a shop when this is as busy as it gets).

Now you may be thinking that you've heard of Taupo before. Well you have if (a) you've been to New Zealand, (b) you've read my postings on this Blog about recent earthquakes or (c) you are interested in motor sport because Taupo is home to the New Zealand A1 GP.

Taupo is about 147 k or 2 hrs 30 mins drive Northwest towards Auckland from Napier on State Highway 5 over (or through) the Maungaharuru Range. Apart from several (three from memory) small settlements once one leaves Eskdale on the northern side of Napier there is virtually no habitation along the road. As the weather forecast for tomorrow is fine except for a few showers around Napier I should have a good journey with the lid off.

Hopefully I'll manage to do a few posting whilst I'm away but if not I'll be off air for a few days - I'm back on Thursday afternoon.

The Mission Winery

Last evening (Friday) we went to The Mission Winery for dinner. It is reputed to be one of the best eateries in Napier. Our experience last evening would confirm that. The service was exemplary being informed, friendly and efficient ie everything that service should be. The menu is varied and perhaps a bit pretentious and, for the quality, reasonably priced and by UK standards for that quality remarkably inexpensive. The quality of the food was excellent by any standards. The wine was, of course, superb. All in all the four of us had a lovely evening.

The Mission Winery is the oldest in New Zealand and has a wonderful history. My understanding is that the main building which is pictured in the black and white image and the colour image was originally built down at Meanee where we ate at The Old Church a few weeks ago. A brief and well worth reading history of the winery can be found at

The Mission Building as it was

And as it is

The Chapel and outside dining

View from The Winery to Napier Hill

Saturday, 29 December 2007


I had waited for a while before doing the Kingfisher posting. I had hoped that I might see the Kingfisher and perhaps even get a photograph. Today as I was leaving this afternoon the Kingfisher flew across in front of me. When I was coming home I got the camera ready as I came up the drive and, lo and behold, as I came round the corner the Kingfisher was going to the nest. She (?) did an about turn and flew up into one of the big trees nearby. I managed some photos of her complete with the food for her youngsters. Thank heavens for the 18X optical magnification of the Olympus.


The Agapanthus plant is wonderfully prolific in New Zealand and particularly around here. There were rumours earlier this year that its sale in New Zealand had been banned because it was becomming a pest but this proved to be just a rumour. The drive is lined with Agapanthus and Lavendar and there are also Jacoranda trees. Apart from being beautiful they bind the ground. This is important around the Cottage where the land was excavated and Wendy has planted lots of Agapanthus to help stabilise the land.

Agapanthus - native to southern Africa - are strong growing perennials, popular for their fine foliage and long lasting flowers. They will grow almost anywhere, whether in deep shade or full sun.

More 'Quakes

Well it's been a fascinating few days so far as 'quakes are concerned. Last year I felt one small 'quake. This year we've had the Biggie which was 50k out to sea but still did about $4m damage in Gisborne (that was the last estimate I heard). A few evenings ago there was a loud bang and rumble and I went outside to see what had happened. I didn't feel the earth move so didn't realise it was an earthquake. It was and was near Taupo. When I say 'near' it was 120k deep so that's quite a long way down. Isn't the earth huge? Taupo by road is 143k from here. Say 120 as the crow would fly if it was minded to make the journey. Using Pythagoras's Theorem I reckon the 'quake was 170k from me. The 'quake was 5.5 on the Richter scale. That's a big noise for something that happened so far away. So when the earth moved this morning with the following 'quake which was .1 on the logarithmic scale larger and only 40k down I was very surprised that there was no accompanying noise.

Considering there are 15,000 'quakes a year in New Zealand I suppose it's not surprising that very few make the news. There are relatively few in the UK. The largest one in the last 30 days was only 2.9 on the Richter Scale and was at Llangollen. Perthshire is prone to 'quakes though and even a very small one makes the news.

Quake Details

Information about this earthquake:

Reference Number 2843195/G
Universal Time December 28 2007 at 18:03
NZ Daylight Time Saturday, December 29 2007 at 7:03 am
Latitude, Longitude 38.78°S, 176.31°E
Focal Depth 80 km
Richter magnitude 5.6
Region Taupo
  • 20 km south-east of Taupo
  • 250 km south-east of Auckland

Felt widely in the North Island.

Well, like the weather, I suppose this topic could become even more boring than sunscreen so, hopefully, that the last of the 'quake Postings on this Blog.

Oh, by the way, the Family has just gone to Taupo for the week to their timeshare. I'm following in a few days. Perhaps I shouldn't have told you all about this!

Kingfisher Nest

In the bank at the side of the drive to the House is a Kingfisher Nest. I have once glimpsed the Kingfisher. The nest is occupied and the chicks can be heard from some distance. In fact if this video works they can be heard even in the UK! You need the sound on.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Factor 30

I've mentioned sunscreen earlier in this Blog. It is such a part of the way of life here that one takes it for granted - almost. My everyday large container of Factor 30 ran out. A replacement was required. Like most things in our modern consumer society one is not spoiled for choice. By the time I thought of which one I might need I was in the pharmacy. A decision was needed. Firstly choose your factor. I chose 30. Family or Sport? The label said that Family lasted for 2 hours and Sport for 4 hours. Why would anyone choose Family when they are the same price. UVA or UVA and UVB (why make UVA only if both are required?). Cream or Milk? Yes really! And so it went on. Price hardly came into it. I chose a 500ml pump action Sport Milk for $29 (reduced from $39. Seemed like a Good Idea.

A few days later something cropped up which made me think that I ought to know a bit more about sunscreens. What, for example is SPF and what is the significance of the Factor number? Apart from knowing that it stood for Sun Protection Factor and that the higher the number the "better", I was totally ignorant.

In the UK we tend to be very blasé about sunscreen and even in New Zealand there s a remarkable amount of ignorance.

The SPF (sun protection factor) gives one a rough estimate of how long one can stay in the sun without burning which is 10 times the time it would take that person's skin to start turning red. For example an SPF 15 sunscreen will protect someone who burns in 10 minutes 15 times additional protection or 150 minutes. SPF starts at 2 and the new sunscreens will offer Factor 60 and will be able to handle both UVA and UVB rays easily.

SPF only applies to UVB protection.

A water resistant sunscreen will remain unchanged after 40 minutes of water exposure. A water-proof sunscreen will remain unchanged after 80 minutes of water exposure.

It takes one ounce of sunscreen to cover the body. Thus an 8 ounce bottle of sunscreen will be used up in four days of total body application. (How old is your bottle of sunscreen at home?).

So now you know!

Three Wise Women

What if there had been Three Wise Women instead of Three Wise Men? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable and brought practical gifts.

Reindeer supplement their diets with rodents, eggs, placenta and shed antlers when greenery is in short supply. A reindeer can pull twice its body weight for up to 40 miles.

These are just three of the titbits in The Christmas Book that was one of my gifts from CJ and family. I like to relax over Christmas: mentally (I lead such a mentally challenging life the rest of the year!) and physically. Faced with some of the information in books like this I find life too challenging and I do wonder sometimes at the facts that are presented to us in such books.

How on earth, for example, does a reindeer catch a rodent - any rodent. Who tested reindeer to destruction to find their pulling limit? (or did they get all this information out of The Laplanders Guide to Reindeer?). How does that person (it must have been a 'he' because no female would do anything quite so loopy) know that he tested the reindeer with the most stamina? After 40 miles what happens? (CJ suggestes that the reindeer collapses and dies... just retaining enough strength before its demise to bite to death the sod who made it do the work.) Can it pull half its weight for 160 miles?

For someone who has one of the least enquiring minds possible why do I ask these questions? Who knows? Who cares?

Ironing: A Chore?

How can ironing be a chore when it's 29.6 on the deck with a gentle cooling breeze and that view?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Another Cheesecake Bites the Dust

Boxing Day morning was Spring-clean time. I knew that many of the friends coming this afternoon would be wanting to view The Cottage. Looking at it I would have said it was pretty spick and spam (OK CJ, origin of that saying?) but you suddenly realise that a hoover and dust would not go amiss. Of course one thing leads to another and three hours later all that has been done and a lot more. How do windows get so dirty when they are sheltered from the rain?

Popped up to the House to get dishes from yesterday which I needed to take stuff for this afternoon's meal. Martin mentioned that Napier's picture gallery, Rembrandt's, which is usually only open on Saturday mornings was open this morning too. Into the car and into Napier to see what was available. It is a large Gallery and picture framing business and despite the huge choice of pictures framed and ready to take away at sale prices, finding ones that appealed to me and fitted into the decor of the Cottage was not easy. In the end I chose one of Jack Vetriano's pictures which is a great favourite and another picture which I thought fitted into the bedroom rather well.

The weather was kind and the afternoon and evening were a great success with good food, good wine and excellent friendship. Everyone was rather repleat so the ample amounts of food looked unlikely to be dented. This looked particularly likely for the sweet things like the cheesecake I'd made. Wrong. Everything was demolished.

The evening ended with more Buzz quizzes. Of course I did very badly. However Wendy, playing on my behalf, managed to win the quiz annual challenge cup: a very dubious achievement.............

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Day

At about 7.30 this morning I was brought out of my semi-awake state (it had been a late night!) by the patter of running feet running on the deck: unmistakably Catriona. I didn't look at the clock. I didn't have too. I knew that present opening was not to be before 0730. After a shower I made my way up to The House in beautiful sunshine.

Presents were duly opened. Afterwards we had breakfast of bacon rolls with bucks fizz for the adults and banana, milk and chocolate smoothies (containing bananas, milk and chocolate!) for the children. By this time the blue skies had turned to grey and showers were coming through. However we braved the showers and went for a walk. Not 50 yards from The Cottage Wendy pointed out bird burrows (which I identified as belonging to Kingfishers).Christmas Lunch was crayfish and steak with mushroom and onion all done on the BBQ and salads which Wendy and I had made on Christmas Eve.
We had a very laid back day which included playing quizes on the Playstation. I managed to come last in every one of them. I was even beaten by David in the General Knowledge who admitted that many of his answers were completely random. It didn't help that I know nothing about films (The Hollywood Quiz) and am hopeless at answering multiple choice questions at speed (first on the buzzer wins) even if I do know the answer. I'd rather try CJ's Christmas Quiz (which I shall do) where I am likely to stand some sort of sporting chance. It'll be interesting to see.

A long languish in the outdoor spa bath for we three adults and Catriona and Fraser (who rather resembled unruly dolphins) passed the best part of a couple of hours and turned us into rather warm prunes. It was so warm that walking back in wet togs to The Cottage to change was almost pleasant.

After a relaxing evening I returned just before midnight to The Cottage and on a balmy evening with the full moon highlighting the few scudding clouds I listened to The Messiah and made a cheesecake (30 to 40 are coming for Boxing Day afternoon/evening!) before making a few phone calls and falling into bed.

Another Christmas Day was over.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas Eve

Well I've had a good start to the day by playing Croquet with the handful of us whose enthusiasm prevailed above the things that we ought to have been doing. Or - as we were all male - perhaps had left partners to do what needed to be done. Anyway it just means that I now have to get a spurt on and get presents sorted and delivered and get home in time to make some things to contribute to the table for tomorrow and Boxing Day.

We are hoping to have a pickathon tomorrow and a BBQ. Today is a real scorcher with clear blue skies and temperatures up in the late 20s already but showers are forecast for tomorrow in one place in New Zealand. Guess where. Hawkes Bay in the afternoon. Ain't life fun!

Have a very Happy Christmas Eve!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas Comes But Once a Year

It just seems like it comes more frequently!

What is it about he run-up to Christmas? Christmas has never been my favourite time of year. I say 'never' because although I can recall some Christmas Days as a youngster (usually at my Nana and Grandpa's when Uncle Eric used to buy me Meccano Sets), they haven't registered significantly in my mind so I can't truthfully say with certainty what my feelings were then.

I think that I am essentially a person who likes order but to do things like give presents spontaneously. When 'the system' tells me that it is time to give a present I instinctively rebel. Apart from that buying presents to order is not fun. For me buying presents is fun but only when I'm not desperately searching for something with a deadline to meet.

Christmas upsets both those aspects of my comfort. There is no order and presents have to be bought for Christmas Day. There are exceptions. I cannot remember when Gareth and I last bought each other a Christmas or Birthday Present (or card for that matter!). That's not to say we don't think about each other or communicate or buy things for each other but we don't do it to order. I suspect that a lot of people share my view but few of us have the courage to see our views through to their logical conclusion.

This year I seem to have managed to get into a colossal guddle. I bought, wrapped and gave (some) presents before I left the UK. I enjoyed that because they were all 'spontaneous' presents. However I have managed to 'lose' those for at least two friends. No doubt I'll find them when I return to Tigh na Mara. Christmas in New Zealand is not something I've managed to catch up with. Few people here seem to send cards so that solves the problem for here. I sent 38 cards 'abroad'. I know that because I used 38 of the stamps I bought. I used the list of names and address that I used last year - which needed a lot of addresses changing - and which is in random order. Somewhere along the line when I was tidying up the table I managed to clear away the list: apparently permanently. The result is that some people (a lot of people because I used to send over 100 cards) will not be getting cards this year. If you are reading this and are one of those who has not received a card you now know why. Please forgive me. If you don't read this Blog and haven't received a card then you will probably never know why.

Right there's only one day to go. I'd better do something about the presents I haven't sent.

It's a funny old world.



to all my readers

Please accept with no obligation, implicit or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with total respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, and their choice not to practice religious or secular practices at all… and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Britain great (not to imply that Britain is necessarily greater than any other country), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, sexual orientation and choice of computer platform of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wishee actually to implement any of the wishes for him/herself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and such warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

With multitudinous felicitations on having survived 2007, insofar as you may or may not have done so to date,

Graham or Barry or GB

Friday, 21 December 2007

The Earthquake: TVNZ One News Report

Quake 6.8 magnitude hits east coast
Dec 20, 2007 9:30 PM

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit the east coast of the North Island on Thursday night sending tremors up and down the country.

Warwick Smith from GNS Science says the earthquake struck at 8:55pm and was centred below the ocean 50 kilometres south-east of Gisborne, at an equidistance between Gisbourne and Mahia.

He says although it was a large magnitude, it was located offshore at a depth of 40km and the effects are not as significant as they could have been.

The tremor was felt as far south as Christchurch but most reports came from around Hawke's Bay.

There were reports of damage in the CBD with roofs caving in but there are no known casualties.

Shortly after the quake the Director of the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, John Hamilton, said that the National Crisis Management Centre had been activated to monitor the situation in Gisborne and assess if government assistance is required.

Police and the Gisborne council are continuing to ascertain the extent of the damage.

Council spokesperson Vance Walker says it appears that damage is light, mainly to roofing columns and interruption to power supplies.

The earthquake was described by Walker as a series of sharp shocks, a lull and then more shocks.

One resident told ONE News reporter Beth Roche that the jolt was so big that her husband fell over.

Here's what others who wrote in to had to say .

Following the quake the roads were reportedly packed with traffic and locals were advised to stay where they were, unless injury, occurred so as to allow emergency services ease of access around the city.

Gisborne Hospital reported minor water damage.

The hospital is functioning and able to receive and admit patients. No patients were injured during the earthquake and all patients are safe.

The hospital has opened a call centre for anyone with concerns and is advising anyone with minor injuries to see their GP rather than go to the hospital.

Phone communications were also severely affected. As of late Thursday night Telecom said its full system was not yet operational, but was working on restoring it fully.

Some cellphone sites are running off battery power, and any earlier overloading problems have eased.

The standby sewerage system has kicked in and the council has advised that water is still working and can be accessed by the public. However, Civil Defence says as there is a likelihood of aftershocks, residents should turn off their electricity, water and gas as a precaution.

Being close to the sea many Gisborne residents were concerned about the risk of Tsunami and many fled to high ground.

However, the GNS Science convened tsunami expert panel has assessed the data received and there is no evidence of a tsunami having been generated.

Thursday night's earthquake follows a 4.1 magnitude tremor which struck 10 kilometres north of Matata in the Bay of Plenty overnight on Wednesday.

This smaller, shallower quake was also felt in Whakatane, and at Lake Rotoma.
New Zealand scientists record around 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which around 20 top 5.0 on the Richter scale.

The last fatal earthquake was in 1968 when an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale killed three people on the South Island's West Coast.

The Night the Earth Moved for Us

Tonight was the first time that I'd ever seen mentioned on television one of the very many earthquakes which we have in New Zealand every year. It was a severe enough earthquake to have moved the earth for most people in New Zealand - even in Christchurch on the East side of South Island. This one merited 15 minutes of the late evening bulletin. There was, apparently, property damage in Gisborne (North of Napier at the North end of Hawkes Bay) and the phone lines and mobile phone masts were damaged or out of action because of power lines being down. So far there are no reported casualties and the incident has not been declared a civil defence emergency. There was no tsunami although there were fears in the Gisborne area that there might have been.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Earthquake - Biggie

I was just finalising the previous posting when the electricity became eratic and suddenly the whole house shook violently and for what felt like a long time - probably about 2 seconds with about another 15 seconds of aftershock. In earthquake terms I think that is a long time. Long enough for things to fall off the bookcase and for us all to feel quite scared for a few minutes. Because the computer was on I immediately filled in an online report. The 'quake was 6.8 on the Richter Scale and the details are:

Quake Details

Information about this earthquake:

Reference Number 2839343/G
Universal Time December 20 2007 at 7:55
NZ Daylight Time Thursday, December 20 2007 at 8:55 pm
Latitude, Longitude 38.86°S, 178.52°E
Focal Depth 40 km
Richter magnitude 6.8
Region Hikurangi Trough
  • 50 km south-east of Gisborne
  • 400 km south-east of Auckland

Felt widely, especially along east coast North Island

The website is

It's Stopped Raining and Other Stories

By 1030 it had stopped raining. It had been raining constantly and heavily for over 30 hours. By this afternoon the sun was out and the surface rainwater in the garden had, for the most part, gone. The legacy at the Cottage was a large hole round the area of the septic tank where the Big Boys Toy had not been able to compress the earth. Anyway there was (and still is) no more rain forecast for the next four days at least. So imagine my surprise at 2030 when the sky went that flat dark grey all over and the heavens opened. I've been child minding since 1600 and Wendy and Martin have gone to the School Board of Trustees Christmas Dinner. Wendy is a Trustee. Unfortunately the mini-bus that brings them home brings them to the end of their drive (it may not be able to turn up at the house) and it's about a kilometre to the house. Could be a bit bedraggled by the time they get home! It's not just the rest of the world where the weather trends are bucking the norm!

I promise that this will not turn into a weather Blog! Here it endeth. I'll just remind you, though, of the New Zealand Met Office Napier weather site

The Other Stories of the heading? Well I'm sure there were some but...........

Well there is one. This morning a parrot or parakeet flew into a tree in front of the Cottage. I'm not sure what it is but it's not native. Perhaps a female Superb Parrot escaped from captivity.
As I was writing this we had an earthquake. A real biggie. Look out for the next posting.

Still Wet

It is nearly 0800 Thursday. It is still raining steadily and very heavily. I thought earlier that there were signs that it might be easing off. It has been raining steadily and heavily now without respite for over 29 hours. The farmers could not have had a better Christmas present. The rest of us are just wet.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Wet - again

At the time of posting this it has been raining heavily and solidly for 8 hours at least. The area round the Cottage is looking rather like a paddy field. It is hard to believe, given the rain we had a week or so ago, that yesterday the earth was hard a cracked and that it will be so again in a few days from now (hopefully anyway). The temperature on the deck is over 20 deg but it feels quite chilly even though there is no wind. I wonder why. I suppose it's all relative, though, because I still have the patio doors wide open.

Puketapu School Prize Giving

We assembled at the school at 1830: about 250 pupils and about 750 parents and assorted other people (like me) to witness the Annual Prize Giving. It's a truly splendid affair and the second that I have attended. The children perform. Dances, songs, drama and music are all part of the evening. Certificates are presented for attendance. Certificates are presented by each teacher for three pupils in each classs who have achieved. They may have achieved academically or socially or in sport but what they will all have in common is commitment to the school, to themselves and, where appropriate, to others. Then trophy's are presented by the current holder to the best of a number of pupils judged by the teachers to be the best of those nominated in various categories. Those categories may be the most improved Canoe Polo Player or the School Dux (being two examples that I can remember).

The Prizegiving is held in the open air. In 2005 for the first time ever it rained on the Prizegiving evening. In 2006 for the second time it rained for part of the time but the show went on regardless. This afternoon it looked as though it would be a hat trick but the gods of weather were kind and the rain held off for the evening. Which is a good thing given that the school hall only holds 500!

Puketapo School is one of the oldest school in Hawkes Bay having been established in 1864. It is also one of the most sought after schools in the area. Housing in the catchment area is scarce (being a rural area) and expensive. So there's no difference in that respect between here and the UK. The school's website is

A 'traditional' school dance

Part of the audience

Fraser presents the Trophy he won last year to this year's winner

Catriona in full swing
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 17 December 2007

The Perfect Night

I'm standing on the deck looking at a clear sky littered with a million stars and a brilliant moon in its first quarter. The breeze is warm and inviting. So warm that even at 2330 (or 11.30pm in old money) all the patio doors onto the deck in the living room and my bedroom are wide open and a breeze is running through the Cottage. Ordinarily I couldn't do that because the Cottage would fill with moths but tonight I have no lights on. The Cottage is lit by the moon and the stars and the moths have sought other places.

I am looking out into the geological kettle on the side of which the Cottage nestles. There is no light pollution. Indeed I can see no lights whatsoever. Yet the apple trees in the orchard across the paddock in front of the Cottage are clearly visible.

All this makes the night one of the most beautiful I have experienced here since last year when I stood on the beach with the waves lit by the glow of the moon on a similar evening.

And it is so quiet. During the day the birdsong is so loud that it could almost be intrusive but tonight there is just the sound of the Cicadas. There is a rustling of the leaves in the huge trees nearby. I am afraid of being near trees in the dark. I always have been. There is nothing rational about such fears. Wendy always offers to walk me the 50 metres 'home' down the tree-lined drive! Tonight I've been wandering round near the Cottage and the huge trees which stand not so far away. It's not pitch dark, of course, because of the moonlight but even so I would normally be terrified to stray away from the Cottage. What is it about tonight that allows that fear to flee?

Often I see shooting stars here just as I do on Lewis but I have just seen a phenomenon which I have never seen before: a flash in the sky rather like a star exploding. Presumably it wasn't that but what it was I do not know. Any ideas anyone?

Jacaranda Trees

Yesterday was Sunday and I played Petanque on a glorious afternoon. We had a Yankee Tournament and a BBQ and then I played a few more ends. Very enjoyable.

On the way to Petanque I passed the Jacaranda Trees in Clive Square in the City. They make a wonderful display at this time of year.

I thought whilst I was doing this I'd also show you how the landscaping at the Cottage is getting on. Bit better than when I arrived although it's difficult to see from the photo just how much planting has been done.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Journey to Town

I have just posted on my Web Album a photographic record of the drive I make when I go to the centre of Napier.

Veronica Sun Bay and Gazing Bowl

The central feature on the seafront of Napier is the Soundshell (1935) with its outer Collonades with its three arches (The New Napier Arch and arches in memory of Robert C Wright and Harold Latham) and the seaward Veronica Collonade or Sun Bay (1934). The original Sun Bay was demolished in 1990 and a replica built in 1991 as a Rotary project. During the Art Deco Weekend (held every February at the time of the 1931 Earthquake) the Veronica Bell hangs in the centre of the Sun Bay and is guarded by the Sea Scouts. I'll tell you more about the Veronica Bell in another posting.
In front of the Veronica Sun Bay there was re-erected on 17 March 1993 a gazing bowl which had earlier (I hate to say it) been vandalised. The first bowl was glass (circa 1935) and the second chromed copper. The present one is polished stainless steel bolted to the ground. It was made in New Plymouth (NZ) and donated by Corinne and Russel Spiller.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

A Lot of Not Very Much

Hi dear Reader

If you have come to the site today expecting a posting then I'm afraid you will be disappointed. I have been so busy either enjoying myself playing some game or another or looking after the children last night that I haven't prepared anything. I took the children to Burger King. Now I never thought that that would be something I would admit to never mind almost enjoy. It's not the place I'd take someone on a first date you understand but the food was actually acceptable and the service was so quick I couldn't believe it. The children thought it was great. It wasn't packed. The fact that you couldn't get into McDonalds must mean something. But, and this is the most important bit, Burger King serve what I used to know as Mr Whippy ice cream. Fantastic. We all had one. And here is the most astonishing part: an ice cream costs 50c ie less than 20p.

We got back and watched the film that Al Gore (the former next President of the United States) has made on the environment. Then a story at bedtime for Catriona (Rapunzel still lives happily ever after) and the children went to bed of their own accord. Are these really the children I know and love? Wendy and Martin arrived home and after a chat and a nightcap I made my way down to The Cottage and at 0100 fell into bed and a deep sleep.

Now wasn't that exciting!

Today was the Croquet Club's Christmas games and lunch and tomorrow it's the Petanque Club's Christmas competition and BBQ. Life is so hard.

Friday, 14 December 2007

McDeco McDonalds

I'm not sure that I've noticed this phenomenon anywhere else but there are some quite interesting McDonalds in New Zealand. The one in Taupo is an old (I think) DeHaveland Dakota. The one in Taradale - a suburb of Napier - is Art Deco. It was formerly the Taradale Hotel and in 1997 it was restored and converted into McDonalds. The decorative plasterwork inside was cast from original moulds used in the reconstruction of Napier and Hastings after the 'quake.

It's Installed!

I arrived home yesterday afternoon and the first thing I noticed as I drove up the drive was the absence of a coil of black wire. Telecom had, true to their word, connected the phone. So my phone is now working!

Today's task is to get an internet provider.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


My Brother's Blog 'Rambles from my Chair' mentioned earliest memories today. Oddly enough Wendy and I had been talking of earliest memories and came to the conclusion that we often remembered very early things because we had photographs of them to 'help' us. That seems to me to be the case because I remember being at Auntie Maude's house and holding my Giraffe that Uncle Eric had given me. I can remember the winter of 1947 when I was 3 years old. Again I'm sure that is helped by photographs. I can remember standing outside Up-the-Steps (the bakery at the Rocket) when I was tiny and Mum was trying to put my mitts on my hands (the mitts were held together by string which went up the arms and joined them - I wonder if parents do that today). I also remember (much later) getting thrown out of the said Up-the-Steps for calling Eccles Cakes 'Fly Cemeteries'.

I cannot tell you exactly where I was when Kennedy was shot (although I can recall a lot of the aftermath) but I can tell you that when Roger Bannister ran his 4 minute mile I was sitting in the front room of Harry Grainger's house at 6 The Lynxway.

I wish that I could remember what I had on the shopping list I wrote this morning and left on the table. I wish that I could not remember the last two games of Croquet that I (allegedly) played in the match against Te Mata this morning. For me playing is a very personal thing. I never worry if my partner plays badly. Therefore it is no consolation whatsoever that I was not the only one who didn't do well and we lost the match to Te Mata yet again.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Phone Update

Well I am one step nearer having a phone. Today (Tuesday) Doug the Digger Man sent a digger with the appropriate attachment and when I got home this evening the cable had been laid. Telecom have said that the line will be connected on Thursday afternoon. I'll then have to set up an internet account to get on line but it's all looking very helpful. Watch this space.

Dining Out: The Old Church

Four of us went to a new restaurant on Monday which is a converted Mission Church. I'll go back and take photos because it was absolutely wonderful. The physical surroundings could hardly have been better for the purpose.

The menu is unusual and very reasonably priced and the food was very good.

However something was not quite right. The service was very lacking in something. It wasn't exactly as though we were not treated well but the front of house was not organised. We decided to go straight to the table rather than have a drink in the bar area first. Our bread and olive oil etc came just as the starter came which was after we'd had time to consume the first bottle of wine. (I was on the wagon because I was the chauffeur for the evening - driving June's car not mine I have to add). The waiter who served the vegetables shovelled them onto the plates. We arrived at 1930 and were waiting for our coffee and dessert at 2315. They haven't quite got that right yet! They were very busy for a Monday night and may not have had the kitchen staff they would normally have had but if it's like that at weekends then they might have problems.

The whole thing is design led. Very attractively designed I have to say. The cutlery was heavy and good to use. It made a big noise when dropped. It was dropped frequently. We put it down to nervous and clumsy staff but eventually realised that it was because the design of the plates made it almost impossible to take a plate away without the cutlery sliding off it. Every dish seemed to have a differently shaped plate. The wine glasses were unusual and not really to my taste but quite different to the norm. The cups at the end were certainly a talking point. The waitress could not put them down on the table easily or elegantly. I didn't have any difficulty holding the cup although it wasn't that easy not to burn your finger because you had to hold the handle in a completely different way to usual. However the left-handed person amongst us had difficulty and had to use two hands.

At the end they brought the account - no plate, no folder just a bill.

And the loos - well I may describe them another time - but if you had a small bum you might just not manage to stay above the plimsoll line.

All in all a medium score. Pluses: very reasonably priced for the quality, wonderful setting and pleasing designs - tremendous potential. Minuses: service, and lack of thought for the end user in some of the design.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Solar Heating

The Cottage has a solar water heating system and very efficient it is too. When I came the system had only just been commissioned and the water temperature was 24 deg. It went up to 29 deg on the first day (which was dull and overcast). I used the electric boost to get it to 45 deg. It now stays between 65 and 75 deg without using any electricity.

Until one day that is when it blew it's top. When I'd left in the morning, despite a very long shower, the water temperature was at 85 deg. Well the system soon gets alarmed at that and apparently - I wasn't here but the digger driver saw it all - it suddenly vented and the Cottage looked as though it was steam driven. I'm told the venting was quite spectacular.

It must have got rid of a lot of water because the temperature was down in the low 50s when I got home and dropped to 45 by late evening and then dropped more over night. It subsequently increased again and now seems to keep between 60 and 80 deg. How often it vents though I don't know.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Pre-cooked Sausages

Every now and then I have a desire for sausages - usually sausages and beans. When I have these pangs I look for some really lovely sausages; the 'Butcher's Choice' type of sausage. I actually found some in the Stornoway Co-op that I really liked but I've forgotten what they were. Anyway there isn't a Stornoway Co-op in Napier so when a few days ago I decided that cauliflower cheese and sausage would be enjoyable, I decided on some sausages which looked rather tempting. They were passable although the description of 'super savoury' was not quite as I would have described them. What I did notice was that they were 'pre-cooked'.

Now I know that some people don't have problems with statements on Amazon and in the shops that things can be pre-ordered. I do. Despite the attempts of proselytisers I still think that something can be ordered or not ordered. I do not think that something can be pre-ordered.

Anyway, as usual, I digress. What I did notice on the packet of sausages was that they were pre-cooked. What, I asked myself, were they cooked before? However that was not the crowning glory in the realms of linguistic or instructional absurdity. Why, if they were pre-cooked (whatever that actually means) did it say on the packet 'Cook thoroughly before eating'?

Wet, Wet, Wet

No. It has nothing to do with a pop group or rock band (whatever Wet, Wet, Wet is). I had decided that this weekend would be a good time to give an update on the landscaping around the Cottage. However I hadn't imagined that the rain would have been so persistent. In fact it's the first real rain I've experienced since I arrived (I have seen the odd showerlet before but that's all).

Anyway, undeterred, I have photographed the front of the Cottage and the Paddock all of which have been seeded and (although it's not immediately obvious) had hundreds of plants planted. It will be interesting to see what it looks like in another couple of weeks.

Saturday, 8 December 2007


I know that my friend Steve, my nephew Richard and possibly my nephew-in-law-to-be (can you have a nephew-in-law?) will know the origin of the heading which is very apt for me today.

Playing a game (Croquet of course and for the information of those who know nothing about Croquet, in Singles each player uses two balls) the blue ball lay in front of the hoop with black a couple of feet away and red and yellow behind the hoop. Somehow I managed to have a brain-fart at that moment and in a blind flash of misguided inspiration stop-shotted blue with my black so that blue ended at the other end of the lawn out of contention. The look on my opponent's face made me think something was not altogether as it should have been. The fact that she wasn't going after the ball alerted me even further to some possible calamity. There is something quite horrible in the realisation that your own ball (blue was my ball!) which was lying in a position to run the hoop was now the full length of the lawn away.

That was not, however, to be my last brain-fart of the day. When I arrived home I had to make a cheesecake to take as a plate to Croquet. Having remembered to put more butter in the base to make it less crumbly I made the cheese mixture. As I whisked it it seemed rather stiff and un-yielding compared with usual but I put that down to the fact that I'd used a different Philadelphia Cream Cheese. After I spooned it onto the base and put it in the fridge I had the terrible realisation that I hadn't put the 8 oz of caster sugar into it. Fortunately the base had hardened sufficiently to allow the mixture to be taken off and re-made.

The rest of the evening passed without further incident.

More Croquet in the Rain

As I said in yesterday's posting Croquet is a game played in any weather when the Lawns are playable. Thursday was touch and go. Yesterday was just miserable. Today (Saturday - this happened today, is being written today and will be posted today!) was quite unbelievable. I woke to constant heavy rain and a pretty sodden area round the cottage (of which more in another posting). What would the Lawns be like? When I arrived at the Club it was obvious that two lawns were unplayable. However the Tournament Manager decreed that play would take place on the other four - we would just have to get wet and miserable and enjoy ourselves!

That was until the lawn my opponent and I were playing became flooded. We ended the game playing a hoop with a good centimetre of lying water. What fun.

We start again at 0800 tomorrow - weather permitting!

The pictures are of the Lawns as we came off them.

So it's not always sunny in Hawkes Bay!

The Problem of Time

Well it's not exactly time itself that is my problem (except for the fact that there never seems to be enough of it) it's the fact that when I do things, when I write emails and Blog postings and when I send emails and post the postings themselves an all occur at times which can be separated by 24 or 36 hours.

Yesterday (Friday 7th) I posted something I wrote on Thursday evening after having played the Doubles in the N Z Croquet Nationals. In the postings I referred to today (which was true when I wrote the posting on Thursday evening). However at the start of the third paragraph I decided to clarify when 'today' was and managed to say that 'today' was Wednesday. It doesn't really matter but it is an indication of the fact that my mind a) is always trying to be in different time-zones at the same time when writing, b) is always conscious of the fact that something may not be sent or posted for ages after it's written and c) has just lost the plot.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Croquet in the Rain

Well I never thought I'd see the day when I'd spend from 0800 until 1830 on a Croquet lawn (or several of them to be exact) in rain which varied between a-tad-less-than-heavy to torrential in wind which varied between Lewis light and almost-gale in temperatures which varied between mild and cold.

Today that is exactly what I did and walked about 5.5k in the process. In fact, until today, I'd never played Croquet in the rain. If it had been a Club day it wouldn't have mattered because only a few die-hards would have turned up. But Tournament Croquet is a game played regardless of the weather until (as happened at Te Mata 15k away where the other half of the Nationals were being played) the lawns flood or become unplayable.

Today (Wednesday) was Doubles and Joyce (my partner for the day) and I had to battle it out to the bitter end. We won three of our six best-of-nineteen games (games are usually best of thirteen). Obviously we didn't win but where we ended up in the rankings I have no idea. Despite the weather we did have a cracking time and all but one of the games were very close. I have to say that most of that was due to me having a partner who played exceptionally well whilst my play varied, like the weather, starting from a base of woefully inadequate. A lesson to people timid of 'big' Tournaments (my partner not I) - never be afraid to play. You may play the game of your life and if you don't then wotthehellarchiewotthehell.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

A Sobering Experience

I was at Petanque today (played passably and had a thoroughly good time).

There is a Netherlander and a Frenchman in the Club amongst those of many and varied Countries of origin. There is a generally a lot of French banter but today there was also some German to which I replied. I was asked how I knew German and mentioned that I had spent many Octobers in Berlin.

The Frenchman said that he'd been born in Berlin.

And now for the sobering bits. I was asked if I'd been involved in Berlin when the war ended! Not when the wall came down or anything like that but WW2.

It had been assumed that I was the age of the Frenchman - assumed by him and by me as it happens. The differences in our understandings of each other's appearance is that I thought he was 63 (my age) and he thought I was 74 (his age).

I feel rather deflated. I think I shall have to apply for one of the TV programme that seeks to get you looking younger (or less ancient anyway).


Spirit of Napier

Most days at one time or another whether I am cycling along the Marine Parade foot/cycle path or driving along Marine Parade I see the Spirit of Napier.

This monument, which is said to represent the rise of Napier from the ashes after the earthquake, was erected in 1971 on the Gilray Reserve at the South end of the Parade. It was sculpted by Frank Szirmay and funded by a bequest by Dr Thomas Gilray.

The Gilray Reserve was developed in honour of the said Doctor who died in 1971 after having begun practice in Napier in 1911 and been Superintendent of the Napier Hospital in 1921-22.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Phone. Progress?

Well the chap from the electricity provider came yesterday as promised and we now have orange lines right down the drive showing where the electricity cable is. For the most part it goes right down the centre of the drive but. of course, it has to cut across the verge where it meets the junction boxes at the side of the road. As the telephone cable has to be a minimum of 30cm from the electricity line (50 cm for comfort) it's going to be hand digging and rather tricky in places. It is not helped by the fact that the ground is so hard Martin bent his spade trying to get it into the ground. I'm not sure that a pick-axe round electricity cables is a good idea either. Ah well.