Sunday, 27 April 2008

Home: The Other One

Following on from the last paragraph of The Journey Home, Fiona reminded me that it is the sign of the true Geminian that he (the masculine includes the feminine - Interpretation Act 1978) can have two lives. And so it seems to be. I was trying to decide whether the lives were simultaneous or parallel or separate or whether some other description better fitted the situation. In fact they all fit in part and yet none of them fit absolutely. So I think I will just stick with having two lives.

There will be a few occasional postings on this Blog over the next few months and then I will start A Hebridean in New Zealand: Notes on my time in New Zealand 2008/2009. One of the things I want to do is a short review of some of the things that I found most interesting on the Blog and see what you enjoyed most. After all, although this is part diary for my benefit, I would like you to be entertained and informed as well.

In the meantime I shall try and continue to post some items of interest on Eagleton Notes. I have decided (I think) just to use Eagleton Notes for everything that I do over the next six months regardless of whether it takes place in Eagleton or the Wirral or France.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Days v Nights: Napier v Lewis

I was considering the weather today. "No" I hear you say "surely not". Well actually yes. Why? Because for the first time for a long time the weather recently in Napier and on Lewis seemed to be similar although it has been rather warmer in Hawkes Bay which has been the warmest place in New Zealand.

But what I was really thinking about was the relationship between the length of the days in the two places. Today in Napier the sun rises at 0651 and sets at 1729 and on Lewis the sun rises at 0548 and sets at 2058. So Napier has 10 hrs and 40 mins of daylight and Lewis has 15 hrs and 10 mins giving Lewis 4 1/2 hours more daylight than Napier.

The Journey Home

This will not be the last posting on this Blog - there are a few more things I want to say before I start on my Eagleton Notes.

This posting is being started in Glasgow Airport where I have a couple of hours to wait for the Stornoway flight and the last flight sector of the journey home. It won't quite be the last leg of the journey because Pat will be there to meet me and drive me home from the Airport. I am so looking forward to that as I write this.

The journey started rather hurriedly. I had all day to finish packing and getting The Cupboard packed. However I was making such good progress cleaning the Cottage that I had managed to get all the bedding washed and dried including the big thick duvet cover - it was the perfect drying weather - 28 deg and breezy. I popped into town and had a coffee with Jayne from Croquet. When I got home I had several hours to finish off and somehow everything got a bit behind. Partly it has to be said because I couldn't access the British Airways website to validate my Stornoway flight.

Martin and the children hadn't arrived back from Gisborne so June took me to the Airport. We arrived and I realised that I'd left my mobile in its place on the window frame which is the only place in the Cottage that I can get a signal. So June set off to get it and was back in good time. The flight was, however, delayed over an hour which meant that Martin and the children did get to see me off and I had only 1 1/2 hours to get from Domestic to International (a decent walk or a possible 20 minute wait for the courtesy bus), pay my departure tax (which usually takes ages), and get though security. As it happens all that took me less than half an hour so I was airside and ready to board well before time for take-off at 2130.

The first International sector to Los Angeles was on a Boeing 747-400 carrying nearly 400 passengers and weighing about 369 tons and flying at a cruising height of 11000 metres at nearly 1000 kph. The 10000 k journey took about 11 hours.

We arrived in LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). Always a joy - not. The occupants of the plane who are transiting through the airport to get back on the plane after it's been refuelled and re-provisioned (why did I not use a hyphen in refuelled?) simply have to wait in the (exceptionally uninviting) cattle - sorry, transit - holding area. BUT first you have to get into that area and you have only two hours before the flight takes off again. This means that the majority of the 400 people on board line up in a corridor whilst ONE Border and Homelands Security Immigration Officer considers your visa waiver application, fingerprints both your index fingers and photographs your iris's. Needless to say this cannot be done in two hours by one person. So after a while they marched the rest of the waiting masses down stairs and along corridors and through the 'proper' immigration control area.

The reason that, until now, I have flown through the USA is to get my 2 x 23k baggage allowance. Other flights only allow 1 x 20k. I have to say that I am glad that I will never have to go through the USA again because I no longer need the larger baggage allowance as I have almost everything that I need duplicated in New Zealand.

I shall probably continue to use Air New Zealand because I can book my luggage from Glasgow to Napier (just taking it through bio-security and customs in Auckland) and vice versa without any need to see it in London. But other opportunities are at least open to the traveller who eschews the US of A. Air New Zealand fly more and more flights through Hong Kong Airport which is a lovely spacious airport with showers and a friendly, fast throughput of transit visitors. That is appealing.

The rest of this is being written on Friday morning (UK time) at home.

The second sector to LHR (London Heathrow) was flown by the same plane and the 8919 ks took about 10 hours.

Heathrow is an Airport which most people seek to avoid if they can but I have to say that I don't really mind it and after 1 June this year Air New Zealand will be using Terminal 1 so there will be no need to transfer terminals between the Glasgow to LHR BMI flight and the Air New Zealand onward flight. The only problem I had in Heathrow (apart from a snag with my BMI electronic ticket which had been 'locked' by Air New Zealand who could not be contacted for nearly 30 minutes) yesterday was Immigration - I didn't go through it! Of course you can't avoid immigration can you? Answer 'Yes, very easily. And you don't even have to try'. I managed to bypass the immigration controls and got as far as the boarding gate for the Glasgow flight. I was asked for my passport. It didn't have a biometric confirmation in it ie a digitised photograph so that they could check I was who I was. So I had to go all the way back to the Immigration Control that I'd bypassed (it's so obvious that I couldn't even find it when I went back!) to be processed. If I'd had a new passport with a digitised image presumably I would have got onto the plane without even passing through Immigration Control. Amazing. As it was I arrived back at the gate just as it was closing. However the plane was over an hour late so it wouldn't have mattered on this occasion.

The Glasgow to Stornoway sector was uneventful and only took 40 minutes with a strong tailwind. The sight of the Shiants and the South Lochs and then Stornoway was remarkably emotional. I felt that I was home. Rather the same as I felt when the plane circled Hawkes Bay on the first day of November last year.

The Cupboard

The Cupboard as featured in the exciting posting on 19 April!

The Cupboard was bare

Filled with my goods and chattels

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

ANZAC Day: 25 April

The 25th April is ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). It commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women. Perhaps more effectively than any other date in the National calendar Anzac Day promotes a sense of unity amongst the people of New Zealand. People whose politics, beliefs and aspirations are widely different can nevertheless share a genuine sorrow at the loss of so many lives in war.

The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.

The Gallipoli campaign was, however, a costly failure for the Allies, who after nine months abandoned it and evacuated their surviving troops. Almost a third of the New Zealanders taking part had been killed; the communities they came from had counted the cost in the lengthy casualty lists that appeared in their newspapers. And the sacrifice seemed to have been in vain, for the under-resourced and poorly-conducted campaign did not have any significant influence on the outcome of the war.

After Gallipoli, New Zealand had a greater confidence in its distinct identity, and a greater pride in the international contribution it could make. The mutual respect earned during the fighting formed the basis of the close ties with Australia that continue today.

In New Zealand Anzac Day is also Poppy Day in place of Remembrance Day. This Country's equivilent to the British Legion is the RSA or Returned Services Association which organises Poppy Day.

Anzac Day is a public holiday and compulsory half-day for the shops.

Gallipoli Statistics:

260 - days of the Gallipoli Campaign

8556 - NZ forces landed: 4852 NZ forces wounded, 2721 NZ forces fatalities

8709 - Australian forces fatalities

33,072 - fatalities from all British forces

10,000* - French fatalities

87,000* - Turkish fatalities

20,000* - total number attending 2005 Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli

*Estimated number

The Ode
A veteran on Anzac Day.

This is the verse of the ode that is said during the minutes of silence on Anzac Day:

They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), For the Fallen (1914), stanza 4

The verse is traditionally concluded with the words "Lest We Forget"


On 20 January I wrote a piece which I intended to put on this Blog but never did:

It's now 0120 and the moon has slipped over the horizon and the air on the deck feels almost tangibly clammy. Which seems a bit odd because it's such a beautiful and clear night. I went onto the deck to think. That in itself is quite an achievement for me. I had a thought once before and look where it got me. Anyway I was having this thought when I realised that in 2005 when I came to New Zealand for the 'holiday of a lifetime' I not only never dreamed of spending so much of my life here I'm not sure that in my heart of hearts I really believed that I had that much more of a life to spend. No, I'm not being negative. I never have been that. I'm being realistic about how I felt when I was told that my cancer had returned and that, although it was not really measureable enough to locate, it was likely to be only a matter of time before something happened.

Of course time is strange. 'A matter of time' could be a month, a year or a decade. In fact a bus could get me first.

What I was really thinking about as I stood on the deck under the vast blackness that is the Universe, was how fortunate I am. How fortunate I have been all my life. I had wonderful, loving parents. I went to (but didn't make the most of) schools which were amongst the best Liverpool had to offer. Liverpool City Council subsidised my higher education and paid me hansomely whilst I undertook it. I've always had a good job and I retired early on a final salary pension.

But most of all I am fortunate above all other things to be rich. No. I don't mean that I have money. As Sue Marshall so rightly said, if we have food on the table, wine in our glass and, above all things, friends to share them with, then we are rich. I have all of those things.

And the greatest of these is friends.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Aircraft: Bombardier Dash 8 v Saab 340

The first time that I came to New Zealand I started and finished my journey on a plane ostensibly run by the national carrier of the Country concerned, operated by a wholly owned 'franchise' operator and running identical Saab 340 aircraft.

The last time that I left the UK I travelled from Stornoway to Glasgow on an identical - it may even have been the same - Saab 340 aircraft operated by Loganair on behalf of British Airways. From Auckland to Napier I travelled on a Bombardier Dash 8: the Saab 340s in the Air Nelson fleet having all been replaced.

An amusing aside is that the operator with the largest number of Saab 340s after Mesaba Airlines (an American Indian name for "soaring eagle") with 49 aircraft is Colgan Air which operates 42 of them out of Logan Airport.

So why is all this of interest? I suppose only really because the Dash 8 is a far more comfortable and quieter plane.

Originally designated as the SF340, the aircraft first flew on 25 January 1983. After Fairchild exited the aircraft manufacturing business in 1985 after about 40 units, Saab continued aircraft production under the designation 340A. An improved version, the 340B, introduced more powerful engines and wider horizontal stabilizers in 1989 and all the later standard 340B's also had the active soundproofing system. The final version, the 340B Plus, was delivered for service in 1994. Loganair operates 2 A series and 13 B series.

The de Havilland Canada Dash 8 is a series of twin-engined, medium range, turboprop airliners introduced by de Havilland Canada (DHC) in 1984. They are now produced by Bombardier Aerospace, which purchased DHC from Boeing in 1992. Since 1996, the aircraft have been known as the Q Series, for "quiet" due to installation of the Active Noise and Vibration Suppression (ANVS) system designed to reduce cabin noise and vibration levels to less than those of jet airliners. Over 700 Dash 8s of all models have been built. Bombardier forecasts a total production run of 1,192 units of all -8 variants through the year 2016

However the really big difference between them from the passengers' point of view is that in the Dash 8 the wings are mounted above the windows and therefore the passenger has a view of the spectacular country over which he or she is flying.

Loganair Saab 340 in British Airways livery

Air Nelson Dash 8 in Air New Zealand livery over Napier

Sunday, 20 April 2008

V8 Supercars

The Australian V8 Supercar series is big in the antipodes - much bigger than the GP. It is powerful, fast and furious and above all very exciting. Well, exciting anyway. I don't usually follow it although I watch the occasional race. There are some names from the European circuit of whom I have heard although I don't recognise any in the current team lists. Because today's races were from Hamilton - the only N Z event in the calendar - I watched the third race. The following images were photographed from the TV.


Wendy went away yesterday to China. Martin took the children to Gisborne today for a while. I may not see them again before I fly off so they said their farewells as they drove off down the drive:


This was a yawn not a cry - at least there was no sound. I didn't know that birds yawned.

Mr Hedgehog was in the paddock in front of The Cottage. I've never seen one there before but what was unusual was not that he (she?) was there but the size. At first I thought it was some other sort of animal because it was by far the largest hedgehog I have ever seen - the size of a small dog!

A Night not so Dark

When I went to bed last night it was amazingly light and I decided to see if I could take some photos. There was a distinct déja vu about all this. Light nights are common when the moon is high but this was one of the exceptional nights. Not a night of a 'big moon' as appeared in midsummer but a bright one nevertheless. The photo at around midnight came out pretty well I thought.

At somewhere around 0200 I was woken by a text message that had been sent to me 9 hours previously: that seems to happen here rather a lot. I was struck by the fact that, when I woke, I thought it was morning until I woke sufficiently to realise it was the 'wrong' sort of light for morning. It was, however, as bright as daylight on a Lewis morning! So I took more photos. I'm sure I've done a post like this before but, hey, I'm doing one again.

The view from my bed

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Hawkes Bay Airport: Napier

The Airport at Napier is billed as Hawkes Bay Airport. Despite the fact that it's in Napier I suppose that's because it's the only one in the area capable of taking anything bigger than a 4-seater aeroplane. It's a very pleasant airport rather in the way that Stornoway Airport is. A bit like home from home. Except for one HUGE difference. Here there are no security checks and no x-ray machines: just like Stornoway was 30 years ago. Mind you in the last few weeks they have actually started checking the tickets before you board. Is this the pre-cursor to more rigorous checks I wonder.

Wendy went off to China from here early this evening. I shall be leaving from here on Wednesday evening.

Never Heard of One

Have you ever heard of a choko (also known as chayote, vegetable pear or mango squash)? I hadn't until today when one of the ladies at croquet brought some in.

Apparantly they are a native of Central America and were taken back to Europe by the Spanish explorers and from there were introduced to parts of Asia. They grow on a climbing plant. Some varieties have spines, others are spineless. Colours range from green to ivory white. They have a very mild flavour, often likened to that of marrow, so are usually cooked with other stronger tasting foods like pesto, ginger, garlic and tomatoes. Choko shoots are sometimes eaten in Asian cooking.

Perhaps you knew all that but, if you didn't, then you do now.

The Cupboard

I have woken to my last Saturday on this stay in New Zealand. Before I know it the last few days will have disappeared and I'll be wondering where they went. So I'd better think about storing and packing. At least I don't have to worry about where everything is going. All the things in daily use such as the DVD player and kitchen equipment will stay in situ. The same will probably be true for most of the books and games. Everything else will disappear into two cases for return to Lewis with me or into The Cupboard to be locked away until my return.
Now that I have most things here that I need I will not be taking things back and forth and will not require the 2 x 23 kilos of luggage that I can get with Air New Zealand if I fly one of the sectors through Los Angeles. Which means I can give a huge cheer and travel with any carrier and avoid the USA. I'll probably stick with Air New Zealand because they are good but I'll travel via Hong Kong. I like Hong Kong airport and I can put my luggage in at Glasgow, collect it for clearance in Auckland then give it back to them for the Napier sector. Going home it goes straight from Napier to Glasgow with no footling around with luggage in Heathrow. In fact from 1 June Air N Z will fly from Terminal 1 so I wouldn't even have to change terminals.

Friday, 18 April 2008


At the end of Hastings Street by the Cathedral is a fountain. "So what" I hear you say. Well the what is that I've walked past it many many times but, until today, I've never been conscious of its existence. How strange is that?

I Thought Summer Was Over

After the horrible weather of the last five or so days I woke to full sun this morning and threw open all the doors to let some air in. By 1015 the temperature was:

By the time I was thinking of going out I had the roof off the car and set of in shirt sleeves leaving behind the following temperature on the deck:

It didn't get much hotter during the day (see Max below) and at 1630 it was still warm enough to have coffee on the deck:

And as the sun went down:

So Far but Yet So Near

The rain has cleared leaving a clear night sky. The moon is almost full. We may be apart but when I look at the sky and remember that we are standing on the same earth, looking at the same moon, somehow you don't seem so far away after all.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Morris Eight Tourer

I just love this little car although putting the hood up would be a fairly major operation I imagine.

Kite Surfing

Kite Surfing is popular in the area in the river estuary by Clive.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Croquet Season 2007/2008: Results Summary

My Croquet handicap 'passports'.

Events Won: Golf Croquet:

28 November 2007: Marewa C C Open Singles: Intermediate
(Lost just 1 match - to Jayne)

28 March 2008: Hawkes Bay Croquet Assn Handicap Doubles
(with Mike Crashley)

15 April: Dorothea Sweetapple Memorial Trophy
(Against Gaynor Robertson)

Events Won: Association Croquet:

Hawkes Bay Croquet Association Silver Badge 'C' Grade

Marewa CC Handicap Doubles Championship
(with Frank Wharton).

Runner-up: Golf Croquet

26 January 2008 Wanganui 7th Annual Tournament
Level Singles (to Colleen Stevens - Marewa CC)

29 March 2008: Hawkes Bay Handicap Singles:
(to Carol Piercy - Katikati)

Hawkes Bay Croquet Association Silver Badge:
(to Don Hambro - Te Mata)

Thoughts on my Croquet Season

I am a member of and play both Association and Golf Croquet at and for the Marewa Croquet Club (MCC !) in Napier.

I'll try not to go on too much and be boring but croquet has become such a huge part of my life and enjoyment in New Zealand that I have decided to write a summary of the season and put down a few of my thoughts on the subject. This posting is as much for me as for you, dear reader. At some time in the future I hope that I will be able to look back at this as though it were a diary summary of entries in a wonderful year.

During the season I have learned a lot about myself in relation to sport.

I have never been very competitive in sports because they have never mattered to me. In any case, apart from my sojourn into fencing (which I loved) and golf (which I really wanted to love but couldn't), my feelings when participating in sport have ranged from hatred (of long distance running) to complete indifference (to almost everything else). In other words I have never enjoyed sports very much. [PS I'm sorry Dad, I know you told me that I should never hate anything in life and perhaps I should have copied Jenni and just said, with a mock stamp of my foot, that I didn't like it a very lot.].

I have discovered, however, not only that I enjoy croquet enormously but also that when I play competitively I want to win. This has rather taken me by surprise because I never had that feeling even with fencing. Having said that I've also discovered that it's not a desire to win at all costs and that I can also lose a match and truly enjoy the game. I've come second in two finals this year: at Wanganui and in the Hawkes Bay Golf Croquet Handicap Singles which was played at Marewa.

The first was against a lady from my own Club who was, for many years, Hawkes Bay's top woman Association Croquet Player but this was a Golf Croquet match and she had the same handicap at the time as I had ie 6. She was a lady in whom I was of considerable awe. When I played in the final all I wanted was for me not to disgrace myself. In fact I lost the match 6:7. It was a superb game and a fair result: I had not disgraced myself but the better player had won.

The second and more recent match was against Carol Piercey, a lovely lady whom I have met on quite a few occasions at various tournaments. It was a handicap match and although we had both started the season on a 6 handicap she had dropped to an 8 and I had risen to a 4 and therefore I had to give her 4 free shots. She beat me by one hoop. She used her shots well and played better than I did on the day when it mattered. However we both played very well and it was neither a disgrace for me nor a walkover for her. It was a good match.

So I would not agree that it is always better to have played and lost than never to have played at all. I would modify the statement to say that it is better to have played a good and enjoyable game and lost than to have won and not to have enjoyed the game. However by far the best is to have won an enjoyable game!

Kiwi Caravans

It is, unless I have had my eyes closed when I've been on holiday in Europe and even in Australia, a peculiarly Kiwi thing to decorate caravans. On my last visit Steve and I went on holiday to South Island. Motor caravans seem to be more popular and plentiful there even than they are in North Island. I hope that in my Blog next visit I'll be able to expand on this but for the time being here are a couple of vans that Mo and I saw at Mt Ruapehu.