Monday, 31 March 2008


Hail Mary

I was invited out for lunch today by friends who are returning to Scotland after a six month holiday here. We went to The Old Church Restaurant. They use the image on the right on the napkins they use for the plates.

A Spectacular Hedge

On the way into Napier there is a stretch of road with hundreds of metres of fabulous red-flowered hedging and shrub covered bank. Unfortunately I can't identify it. Perhaps CJ will be able to identify the family and then, hopefully it can be identified either on the New Zealand Native Plants website (which I have searched without success) or somewhere else - I know not where - if it's not a native plant.

In amongst the shrubbery is another plant

Magical Moments

Every now and then we are privileged to experience something magical.

Early evening yesterday as it was getting dark there was a chattering twittering outside the Cottage. I went to investigate. Two Fantails were using the washing whirligig as a base from which to catch insects and having a very lively conversation. Fantails can be quite friendly birds so I'm not sure whether they were so intent on their food or just didn't care that I was standing on the deck watching. Either way it was a masterful performance as they would espy an insect and then indulge in some rapid aerobatics to catch it. The most magical moment was when an insect visible to me flew in front of me on the deck. One of the Fantails flew to it and snatched it in its beak about a yard from my eyes.

Happiness is Dancing Naked in the Warm Rain

I have returned from Wendy and Martin's. It is nearly 0140. Late.

It has been a wonderful evening. Wendy came down at around 0830 just as Boston Legal was finishing and I was about to go up and see them. She had come to collect me because they were going to go in the spa and catch up with the week's news. We chatted for an hour and then went up to the house.

We all chatted about the week's events and enjoyed a glass of wine in the warmth of the spa on a beautiful warm evening in the open air. For a while we sat on the edge of the spa as a warm shower passed by and we tried to work out how to tell the world just how unlucky it was not to be sitting with us. To be honest we couldn't think of the words. But if heaven is like this then I would be well satisfied.

Cheese and biscuits - and perhaps a little more wine - followed with more chat.

And now for bed.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

A Croquet Week

Well I know that I've been a bit occupied over the last week but it's all over now. The event was the Hawkes Bay Croquet Association 74th Annual Tournament. It was supposed to take up the whole week. For those who haven't already sussed out the vagueries of croquet there are two sorts of croquet generally played in the UK and New Zealand (as usual the USA has an entirely different croquet format): Association and Golf.

Association Croquet is what would have been played by the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. It is a game for the purist who is not interested in the sociableness of the game but in the game itself. A game is generally timed out at 3 hours. The loser can sit out and watch for all but a few minutes of those 3 hours whilst the winner makes his or her 24 hoops and then pegs out the two winning balls. It is a game of strategy and execution largely against oneself.

Golf Croquet is a sociable game. It requires skill and it requires strategy. The players are always on the lawn and each shot counts and every hoop is a new game.

Way and by far the majority of the players now play Golf Croquet but the sport is and many clubs are still largely controlled by the old guard of Association players. I am fortunate in that the Marewa Club to which I belong and the Te Mata Club at which I often play are both largely Golf Croquet clubs. Having said that, although I am essentially a Golf Croquet player I am enjoying playing Association too.

Anyway the Handicap Singles for Association that I was due to play in was cancelled because of the sparcity of entries. Quite the converse for the Golf Croquet Doubles and Singles.

My partner for the Doubles was Mike from Gisborne. We played and enjoyed ourselves and won the event.

I played in the Handicap Singles yesterday and today and managed to come second.

All in all a very satisfactory tournament.

Daylight Saving

The clocks went forward in the UK at 0100 today, Sunday 30 March for daylight saving (British Summer Time) so the UK is now at GMT + 1 hour. In France and Spain the clocks also went forward 1 hour. Both Countries are usually 1 hours ahead of the UK and now they are on Central European Summer Time (CEST) which is GMT + 2 hours.

In New Zealand we are still on Daylight Saving Time (DST) until Sunday, 6 April 2008 at 03:00 and are on GMT + 13 hours. When we come off summer time next weekend we will be on GMT + 12 hours.

All summer we have been 13 hours ahead of the UK. Now we are 12 hours ahead. After next Sunday we will be 11 hours ahead.

All summer we have been 12 hours ahead of Central Europe. Now we are 11 hours ahead. After next Sunday we will be 10 hours ahead.

Until it starts all over again next September when 'winter' starts in the UK and Europe and 'summer' starts here.

Isn't life complicated.

See The World Clock

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Still Here

I'm sorry that there hasn't been a posting for a day or two. I've been out all day from 0745 until late for the last two days and it's another early start tomorrow. It's been a good couple of days so far with plenty for me to bore you with. In the meantime I'll make do with a cloud formation over Napier from the Croquet Club this lunchtime.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

A Very Satisfactory Day

Thursday 0800:
Various things keep making me realise that I'll soon be back in Lewis. Usually it's people asking me when I'm leaving/arriving depending on the location of the asker. This morning it was the re-filling of the fortnightly pill organiser (see I Feel Sad). I realised that the supply of pills left to take was very small indeed. One less thing to carry in the luggage - they are soooo heavy!

As I write the sun is streaming into the Cottage. As the sun gets lower in the firmament (whatever that is) the deck gets the full sun for quite a lot of the morning and possibly the day (but I've not been here to witness it). It's good because the body gets it whilst sitting at the table doing the crossword but the top of the head is shielded.

Becaise I and the few others from our Croquet Club who go away to Tournaments are often offered accommodation I offerred to billet someone for the present Tournament. I was allocated a chap called Mike from Gisborne who is an excellent Association and Golf Croquet player..

Since Mike left this morning I have managed to get lots done: washing out, some more of the car polished, blog, kitchen cleared up and I'm about to do some more cornflake crunch and possibly start the cheesecake - that's a bit of a poser actually because I have to have it done for Saturday but am out all day tomorrow playing in the Doubles at Te Mata. I don't have a regular partner for doubles and all the people who do partner me are playing with their usual partners. So Mike has been allocated to me (or me to him) by the Tournament Director.

I went to watch the final part of the Association Championship this afternoon. Mike won.

Then we had a couple of hours of games with Jayne and Colleen to famialiarise ourselves with each other's play for the Doubles Golf Croquet Tournament tomorrow.

Mike took me out to a Laos/Thai restaurant this evening. Very enjoyable.

All in all a very satisfactory day.

Wall Art

One of the big stores in the centre of Hastings has a large blank wall facing a public area. So they have painted two large murals on it.

Vintage Cars - Second Instalment - Chryslers

One of the beautiful things about these vehicles is the detail. The bonnet emblems are quite fascinating too. But what is most wonderful is that so many of these vehicles spend quite a lot of time going round New Zealand to shows and events and don't just (or even in most cases) live in museums.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Old Tractors Never Die: Revisited

A few days ago I did a posting about tractors. CJ wondered why front wheels on one of the tractors were under the nose and so close together.

Having consulted the Antique Tractor Bible and an acquaintance who was a farmer and one who has an orchard. The opinion is unanimous: they are row tractors ie ones which made it easier to go over the rows of whatever had been planted.

They are known as tricycle tractors (even though they may actually have four wheels!).

What's in a Name: Tutaekuri River

One of the rivers near here is the Tutaekuri River. When I first went over it in 2005 the children were very excited to be able to tell me that the name meant "dog shit river" and know that they could not be told off because that's what the name, taken literally, does mean. Tutae is Maori for excrement and kuri is dog.

The river flows down from the Kaweka Ranges out to sea near Napier and is a fairly long and substantial river. So how did the river come apparantly to be called dog poo river?

Well about 400 years ago the people of Ngati Kahungunu from Wairoa heard that there was heaps of food to be had near Porangahau. They set off on the trek to the coast but when they got there they found that there wasn't much food to be had at all so they had to turn round and go back again. They were starving by the time they Hikawera's pa which lies between Waiohiki and Omahu. Hikawera decided to have a feast and make sure that his visitors didn't leave for home hungry. He ordered his people to kill 70 dogs in order to feed the travellers.

There's a spot on the river that's now called Te Umukuri whic denotes the ovens where the dogs were cooked. Once they had been eaten the Ngati Kahungunu set off for home and the offal from the dogs was thrown into the river. Hence the name Tutaekuri - the offal of the dogs.


I acknowledge the fact that the information for this posting was obtained from the book Whykickamoocow by Nicola McCloy

Monday, 24 March 2008

Fantail - Piwakawaka (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

The Fantail is a beautiful little bird (16 cm of which half is tail) but rather a hard one to photograph with a digital camera. Why? Because it never sits still. It is very restless twisting and jerking on a perch, usually with its tail fanned, flying out to seize flying insects. Sometimes it hawks erratically over trees or scrub or flies into insect swarms. I have photographed them on many occasions but with little real success so the latest attempt yesterday counted as a happy moment.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Steam Engines

Art Deco Weekend is such a splendid occasion for so many things. One of the events which goes on for the week is trailer rides round town drawn by various steam engines. Here are two of them.


Situated in the high country north west of Ashburton is one of New Zealand's best known sheep farms - Erewhon Station. The story behind the name begins in England in 1835 with the birth of Samuel Butler.

Many people have heard of the novel Erewhon. Many people know that Samuel Butler wrote it. I suspect that few people who have not read it know that its alternative title is Over the Range. It was published anonymously in 1872 and was a satirical work based on a fictional country named Erewhon or nowhere written as an anagram. The first few chapters of the book were in fact based upon Butler's experience of exploring Canterbury in South Island.

Butler emigrated to New Zealand after going to Cambridge and deciding not to follow his father into the Church. Just ten months after his arrival Butler had traversed Canterbury in search of good sheep country and bought several land leases near the upper reaches of the Rangitika River and set up the 55,000 acre Mesopotamia Station. There he established himself as a writer. He returned to England after four years having made enough money from those four years to support him for the rest of his life.

The owners of Stonechrubie Station, one of the runs that bordered Mesopotamia, decided to commemorate Butler's novel by renaming some of the land that had inspired him to write the book.

Vintage Cars - First Instalment - Local

There are many many vintage cars in New Zealand. There were over 250 in the Art Deco Weekend Rally. These are a few of the ones that were part of the Rally but which are in daily use round the town. There are lots more to come.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

One for Gaz

When I was in Taupo this was a common site. I can't remember what you call the sport of being suspended from a kite and being towed by a speedboat.

The Rotary Cycleway

Yesterday I did something that I did almost daily on my last visit but have done only occasionally this time: I cycled the Marine Parade Rotary Cycleway. I parked the car at the port end (North end) and cycled to the factory and back. It was the perfect day for cycling, walking, rollerblading, child buggy pushing and anything else really. This is a selection of the views taken whilst I was actually cycling so perhaps lacking somewhat in composition.


I said earlier this evening that today had been nearly the perfect day. Well tonight is nearly the perfect night. I say 'nearly' because nothing can be quite perfect. I learned this in 1961 when I worked in the Establishment Office of Liverpool Corporation's Town Clerk's Department. The Boss was Harold Dottie the grandly named Establishment and Organisation Officer and one of the most powerful men in the running of the Corporation. His secretary was Ivy Moreton, Spinster and, as his Secretary, one of the most powerful women in the Corporation. I was unwittingly in the right place to hear an exchange between them one day when Miss Moreton called Mr Dottie "A perfect sod" (pretty strong language for 1961 I would have thought) to which his response was simply "Ivy, nobody's perfect". But I, as usual, digress. Tonight is nearly the perfect night.

As I walked down from the house to the Cottage the moon lit the world almost as if it were day although it does make one realise the difference in colour temperature between the sun and the moon.

Here are two photos. The first is from the deck and the second is from my bed.

It's really as good as it gets.

Friday, 21 March 2008

The Morepork

Last night when I was standing on the deck I heard the cry of the Morepork. It is one of the bird calls which is not mistakable for anything else. The call "More pork" is exactly that. I mentioned it to Wendy this evening. Wendy heard it too. We think it was in one of the huge trees to the North of their house and the East of The Cottage.

The Morepork or, in Maori, Ruru (big eyes) is a common New Zealand native owl about 29cm long.

I don't have a photo but a splendid one can be seen on the Wingspan website.

Shop Opening: No longer a Conundrum

Well I discovered today that most cafés in Napier were open and even at 0930 very well patronised: pavement culture ruled. All dairies and superettes (corner shops to those of you in the UK - and Menorca!), petrol stations and the like were also open. What they could (in theory) sell was in some cases limited but there was no indication that there was any practical effect.

In Napier no shops were open in defiance of the law so far as I could see. In some other places stores just opened and paid the $1000 fine and regarded it as a running cost.

Apparently it's a standard debate every Easter with no definitive outcome. A poll today however showed that a significant majority of those questioned wanted the status quo.

So there we are. It'll be interesting to see how long it stays like that.

Another Day in the Life of un Vieux Pet Ennuyeux

0730: It's very autumnal although the days are very warm and sunny and wonderful. Long may it last - well next week anyway because it's the Hawkes Bay Croquet Tournament from Monday to Sunday. Actually what made me talk of autumn is that, apart from the heavy mists in the morning, the mornings are getting darker quite quickly. Sunrise today is 0715 and sunset is 1923 just 12 hours on this side of the horizon. Not that it's ever like it is in the summer on Lewis.

I have a 'free' morning. It will be interesting to see what I do with it.

1145: It's nearly midday. I actually wrote this with a pencil on paper on the back of the T2 Crossword I've just done (almost - I don't know the French rococo painter of The Swing). I've been out on the bike for a few hours and have returned for a shower and lunch before heading out to the Croquet Lawn for the semi-final of the Dorothea Sweetapple Memorial Trophy. It's a beautiful day with enough breeze to make the 26 deg on the deck very pleasant indeed and it's absolutely perfect for croquet.

As I cycled this morning round one of the large parks in the area and along the cyclepath of Marine Parade the feeling of pleasure of being alive was one which defies description by me.

1730: I'm home after playing two very enjoyable games of croquet against one of the most delightful opponents (and an exceptionally good player) one could have. By a stroke of luck I was on form to a greater degree than she was. I won the match (best of three) in two games. Popped into a friends for a cup of tea.

I've been asked out to dinner with 'the Family' and friends but I already have mine prepared so I'll pop up later and perhaps have the odd glass of wine or two and share in the convivial company.

What more could any soul ask for in life than a day like today?

The answer is that it would be so lovely to have my UK friends here but, hey, play the Glad Game I'll soon have their company again.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


Night has fallen. The doors are wide open. It's still warm. The only light is a desk lamp above my keyboard. There are no moths although the other flying beetles and cockroaches attracted by heat rather than light may well fly in. The moon is bright and the stars are beginning to fill the cloudless sky. There is not a single light visible from the Cottage. All is still. Except for the cicadas whose persistent 'call' fills the air there is not a sound. Their chatter, however, goes on constantly all night. If it were not for the fact that I have double glazing I would hear it all night (when I was awake that is). Somehow the noise of the wind and the sea is more elemental. I sometimes miss it.

Shop Opening: A Conundrum

There are 3 ½ days when almost all shops are required to be closed under the Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act 1990. These days are:

  • Christmas Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday; and
  • Anzac Day, until 1.00 pm
I didn't venture off the policies (the estate for non Scots who are reading this) on Christmas Day so was not aware of whether everything was closed or not. Having said that I know of many people who went to restaurants for Christmas Dinner.

So I am really puzzled. I have been told that on Good Friday and Easter Day New Zealand closes down: no shops open, no cafés open and everyone holidays. Nothing wrong with that then. Well no, except that New Zealand is one of the few officially secular states in the world and Easter is a Christian celebration.

One of the Christian Church's senior representative in the Country said on the News this evening that 56% of New Zealanders profess to be Christians. OK so is that an argument for closing shops on Christian festivals? His view was "Yes". If the number became significantly less than 50% would that still be an argument? "Yes, because people need a day when they can 'chill out.'" Not attend church then? Somehow it didn't all stack up with me.

Not that I have any problems with shops closing if the law says so. It's just that it seems a bit arbitrary and definitely not secular to me. The Government is refusing to comment because a recent consultation document has left a hung opinion with many of the Labour Party's supporters working in the retail sector.

I have read the Government's web page on the subject and I can't make out exactly what the situation is for cafés. A café may sell "prepared or cooked food ready to be eaten immediately in the form in which it is sold". I haven't worked out what that means. I'm told all cafés close. What happens to the massive tourist industry on which the Country relies?

Well I shall be venturing forth tomorrow because I have a Golf Croquet match in the afternoon. It is a semi-final of the Sweetapple Competition. I'm playing one of the best players in the Club. If I were to win I would be playing one of my Doubles Partners in the Final. We shall see.

Tomorrow's Blog will reveal all.


Not only was it misty this morning but there was a very heavy dew which emphasised a spiders web and reminded me of morning walks in Borrowdale in the Lake District when I took photographs of uncountable numbers of webs on one autumn morning. It also hung on the clothes line and made a rather attractive pattern.

A Misty Morning

It's been a wonderful day - it still is although it'll soon be dark as the evenings draw in. But this morning was very autumnal. At 0520 when I woke briefly the kettle was clear and the remaining stars were peering out of a clear lightening sky. I went back to sleep. I should add that I don't have any curtains closed and you may recall that one side of my bedroom is completely double glazed and overlooks the orchards. By 0720 the kettle or whatever it was I had decided to call the bowl in which I live had completely filled with mist

which eventually dispersed as the sun came over the horizon giving way to another warm day with clear blue cloudless skies. Actually I suspect that grammatically saying it was cloudless after saying that it was clear blue may be unnecessary and I suspect that there is only one sky. But wotthehellarchiewotthehell.