Saturday, 31 January 2009

I'm Going to Gisborne

I set off at about 0830 tomorrow morning for Gisborne which is on the East Coast on Poverty Bay North of Hawkes Bay. I shall take Palin with me, of course, and I should manage to continue blogging. I am staying with friends. Mike stays with me when he plays croquet in Hawkes Bay and I am his partner in the Hawkes Bay Doubles. We won the Tournament last year and shall defend our title in March.

Praying Mantis

Yesterday I cut an agapanthus flower for the coffee table. As I was bringing it in I saw that it had a young Praying Mantis on it. The youngsters will soon be adults and climbing everywhere. I rather like them.

Art on The Beach

When we were at Ahuriri Beach recently the children made a rock stack. They are a popular form of art in this Country.

Changes to Blog Layout

A few days ago I posted on Eagleton Notes about Being Sucked Into Blogland. I altered the layout and mentioned, amongst other things, the blogs that I visited regularly. Well, today I have also added those blogs to the sidebar in this one.

I've Been Tagged

I have been tagged by Scriptor Senex at Rambles From My Chair with a picture tag.

The rules are:
Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures
Pick the 4th picture in that folder
Explain the picture
Tag 4 people to do the same.

Firsly I had to decide which drive to use 'cos I keep my pictures on four drives. Having done that.... Oh just keep it simple I told myself. So here is the photo:

This is a view from the kitchen window, or possibly the Study, of my house on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. However I'd rather have shown you this which was the fifth picture in the fourth folder:
As for tagging I have a real dilemma. I have only just started visiting blogs other than those belonging to the family, so to pass this on could be a presumption that I should not be making. Perhaps I could lose a cyber friend or acquaintance before we have really become acquainted. Oh dear I suppose that I can be a party pooper or upset someone. Ah well, here goes: Simply Heather (because she has such a beautiful smile), and View From The Island (because it's an informative Blog I visit daily) and Ian's Place (simply 'cos I like his blog). Now I'm struggling because other bloggers whom I suspect may visit this site and pick up the tag are either few and far between or (like L'Archiduchesse) just too occupied with other things. Any volunteers?

It's 0200. Now to bed.

Friday, 30 January 2009

The Perfect Morning?

I woke at 0614 (as I have said many times I regard that as a wonderful start to the day) and rose within 30 seconds. I had a long and busy day ahead. Busy is a relative term. Many would regard the day of leisure and pleasure that I was about to have as anything but 'busy'. By 0850 I had completed my morning routine and was on the way to the Doc's to see about my blood pressure.

Here in New Zealand the drugs used in heart treatment (perhaps other treatments too) are quite different from those I have been prescribed in the UK. My Doc here, who has worked in the UK, regards some of the drugs I am prescribed as antiquated and some are just no longer available in this Country having been overtaken by (I am told) more effective drugs. The drugs I've been prescribed in the UK are the same ones I was prescribed when I had my heart attack 8 years ago and have never altered presumably on the 'if it ain't broke don't mend it' principle.

Anyway the point of that is that I happened en passent to mention my nightmares as a possible cause of my morning high blood pressure. Apparently they are not. However nightmares are a common symptom of one of my heart drugs. So that has been changed. It will be interesting to see if the nightmares cease.

After the appointment I wandered into the Taradale high street and got my prescription and moseyed around the book shop and found a title I rather fancied. Now there was a time when I could not have resisted buying the book. However I have realised that when I do that more often than not I store the book and end up not reading it on the grounds that I can do so at any time if I wish. Silly or what?

I then drove down to Napier in the blazing sun - what a fabulous day for a gentle drive with the lid down. Got a few odds and ends and found that the book I'd been looking at was available in the Library. I've started it already over a cappuccino in the sun in a pavement café.

Home and put the washing on the line under a sky with only the wispiest of clouds visible through 360 degrees. It could be very hot today because there is only the smallest of breezes.

And it's only 1030. The rest of the day is family time. It's the last day of the summer holidays. The plan is to take the children for lunch with a friend who also has family to look after, visit the crazy golf, perhaps Laser Force (June and I can 'escape' for coffee) and then to the beach outside June's house. I've got the family for dinner.

Yes. Life in New Zealand doesn't get much better. Well, hmmm, perhaps when I'm on the croquet lawn .....

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Swan Plants

When I went into the Club House (or is it Clubhouse?) in Wanganui on Sunday there was a bowl on the table filled with funny green things that I took to be fruits. When I picked one up it was almost as light as air and appeared to be empty. I had never seen one before. They are, apparently, Gomphocarpus fruticosus or Swan Plant. They are a member of the Milkweed genus. They are a host to the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars.

Is There Anyone Out There?

No this is not a posting on the wonderings about possible life on Mars. It is much closer to home. Seven hours ago I swtiched off Palin (my travelling Laptop for those who don't yet know), did some odds and ends and went to bed. My head must have hit the pillow for that was where it was when I woke this morning. I don't recall it though. The dreams were simply night ponies. I can live with that. The stallions seem to have roamed to another prairie for a while.

I've just been through my usual routine: wake, arise, switch on kettle then Palin, ablute, type in password, make green tea (with jasmine today), drink glass of hot water, settle in front of Palin and see what the world has been doing while I was in another place.

Today's answer appeared to be 'nothing'. For the first time I can remember there was not a single personal email and no blogs from the family nor friends nor ones that I follow daily had been altered.

I repeat: is there anyone out there?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A Personal Landmark

Few of my readers will, I fear, be acquainted with the intricacies of Association Croquet. I discovered Golf Croquet late in 2006 and, when I am in New Zealand, I play enthusiastically and as often as I can. I have a reasonable tally of decent Tournament and Club Competition results and a modest collection of silverware. I also have a much prized handicap of 3 (only one other person in the Club has a Golf Croquet handicap to match.). From this you will gather that I love the game.

Last year I started playing Association Croquet ('proper' croquet as would have been played by the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland). I've had a love hate relationship with the game. Despite that I was partnered last year in the Doubles with Frank who is a sebnior, experienced and very good player. We won the Club Doubles Championship. Despite that I've not managed to shake off my love hate feelings.

A few weeks ago one of our top Association players, John Versey, took me in hand and gave me some coaching. He sorted out some of the complex shots I couldn't get to grips with, refreshed my knowledge of making breaks (going through sequential hoops) but, more than all that, he altered my attitude and gave me more confidence: confidence that I already have in Golf Croquet.

Today I pegged out for the very first time. That means that I went through 12 hoops and placed my ball on the central 'peg' with each of my two balls. I thus had a score of 26. My opponent had a score of 1. OK so I did use 10 of my 11 free shots but then I am a novice with a club handicap of 11.5 and he an experienced .5 player.

As an aside a few weeks ago I decided that if I were to continue playing Association I needed a mallet which was more suitable for that game; my original mallet being more suited to Golf Croquet. So I now have two mallets:
Original mallet on left

Both mallets weigh 3 lbs but the weight distribution is very different. The head of the new mallet (on right) has most of the weight in the stainless steel ends. and the handle is carbon fibre with a sleeve all the way down to make holding easier further down the handle.

Now didn't you just want to know all of that?

On Reflection

It is already three days since Sunday. Time to have let the mind settle. Time to be thankful. On Sunday when I was in Wanganui playing in a Croquet Tournament The Family and other families with whom they are friends were at Waimarama Beach to the South of Hastings. The beach is a favourite for family days out. There was an events day on the beach. which was, consequently, crowded. Later in the afternoon when the children had been playing in the surf for quite a while, one of the children got out of his depth and into danger. Martin went in to save him and got him out of the water but was then left without a body board and the waves suddenly became large and a severe rip started. Martin was dragged out into the waves. Although a strong swimmer he was, by this time, tired and, with no body board, was in difficulty: very severe difficulty. The lifeguards were too far away and, despite everyone on the beach waving they and their three rescue boats remained at station. Fortunately a former lifeguard and another strong swimmer went in and, eventually, brought themselves and Martin out.

This blog isn't the place to analyse what went wrong. Suffice to say lessons have been learned. Whilst the trauma will not be forgotten life will return to normal.

I wasn't there but every time I think about it my blood runs cold.

If ever there was a time to be thankful this is it.

Controversial Beauty?

I came home on Monday from a weekend in Wanganui playing in a Croquet Tournament (about which I'll probably blog despite promising a moratorium on such blogs). I decided that, instead of coming through the Manawatu Gorge, I would come across the Saddle Road slightly to the North from Ashurst to Woodville. It comes over the top of the mountain ridge instead of though the Gorge which separates the Ruahine Range (which runs down from Hawkes Bay in the North) from the Tararua Range. The ranges house the largest wind energy farms in the Southern hemisphere: the Te Apiti Farm and the Tararua Farm.

Looking South to the Tararua Wind Energy Farm (The Handbag in the foreground). The windmills are visible through 360 degrees from the point at which I was standing.

Majestic beauty

Whether one is in favour or against generating energy by using wind farms they are likely to provide an increasing amount of New Zealand's electricity. This Country adheres very strictly to a non-nuclear policy to the extent that warships which are powered by a nuclear reactor are not permitted in territorial waters. New Zealand does, however, have supplies of geothermal energy to tap in addition to plentiful hydro sources: Electricity production by source (2001): fossil fuel: 31.6% hydro: 57.8% nuclear: 0% other: 10.7%. These figures were prior to the establishment of the main wind farms. Wind generation currently provides about 2.5% of New Zealand’s electricity. On an annual basis, this is enough electricity to meet the demand of 145,000 homes.

One For Scriptor Senex

On the North side of the Manawatu Gorge is a town called Woodville. The public library may not be the most splendid of public buildings but I do like their wall decorations.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

I'm Changing My Name

I have a number of Blogs (through nowhere near as many as Scriptor Senex) and use a number of different names to identify myself. My favourite is L'homme Bizarre avec la Barbe Grise. But I also use Geeb and Graham. Leastways they are the one's to which I'm prepared to admit. Anyway I have decided to amalgamate them and just call myself what most people these days call me which is GB. It is either that or think up something short and clever and snappy. And thinking is not really my forté.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Wine: I just Love It But...

I do wish that their PR people wouldn't come up with such such rubbish for their blurbs. New Zealand makes some of the finest wines available today using modern techniques. I won't analyse the above because it is, of course, simple a puff in the advertising sence but real? I ask you. What else would it be? Ersatz? Mind you in wine terms it is interesting that the word ersatz is German.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

I'm Going To Wanganui

to play in a croquet tournament. Wanganui is to the West of the second sun down (or up for that matter) on the East of North Island on the bottom TV image. I'm hoping that the weather will be as good as predicted. I expect to be able to continue blogging but just in case I can't you'll at least know where I am. I'm back Sunday night or Monday morning.

A Victim of The Bug Man

The spraying of The Cottage by The Bug Man has been wonderfully effective in preventing the spiders, cockroaches and many other bugs from living in with me. The downside is that many innocent moths and unidentified insects also die. So far nothing apart from the seriously unwelcome have been left on the deck in the morning by the scavenging birds. Yesterday the above was on the deck and presumably not thought to be a tasty morsel by anyone. I may have seen one before but am not sure. CJ may remember because I would certainly have asked/told him depending on the state of my knowledge. I cannot find it in my Insects of New Zealand but have a sneaking feeling that I decided last time that it might have been an Ichneumonid Wasp and CJ agreed. Am I correct or am I dreaming?

Scary Or What?

This Snake Necked Terrapin lives in the National Aquarium of New Zealand here in Napier. Unfortunately the light and thick glass made pin sharp photography difficult but this fellow was just so scary starey that I just couldn't resist it.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A Most Rewarding Day

I am blessed with a happy life. Every so often a day comes along that takes that happiness to a higher level even if for only a few hours. Today was one of those days.

I have been very restrained this visit but those who know me or have been reading my blog for the last few years will know of my great love for the game of croquet. A youngster joined the club earlier in the year who I felt from day one had a huge amount of potential. I know her Grandmother who plays for another club in Palmerston North (about 3 1/2 hours drive away). I used to be a fencing coach (so feel that I have some coaching skills) but have no croquet coaching experience nor qualification (other than that I am a good - and modest - player) so felt reluctant to offer her assistance. Her Dad approached to say that her Grandmother had suggested that they ask me to help her. So they did. I was just so thrilled.

Today we had our first session. I was able to identify some areas for improvement but, more importantly, I think I was able to show her that she had those abilities and get her to believe in them. After the coaching session we played two games. I had to give her a lot of free shots because of the difference in handicaps. That, of course, brought us onto a level playing field. She beat me 7:5 7:5 with me giving no quarter and playing some very good croquet. Which told me and her quite a lot. If she sticks at it and develops her talent and self belief in two years time she can be better than I am. I look forward to that day.

In the meantime I will bask in the happiness of the moment and the knowledge that in some tiny way I might have helped her on her way.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A Diplomat In The Making

Today was a family day. A lovely day. Wendy had to go to the practice and I looked after the children for the day. Well, not after the oldest; he was staying with a friend. The morning was quiet and I did odds and ends at The House and had Palin with me too. Noon and we were at the School for swimming lessons. Lunch at McDonalds in Taradale. Until I came to New Zealand I'd only (so far as I can remember) been in a McDonalds twice: in Perth in Western Australia and in London (though why I was in the latter I can't recall). I was pretty sniffy about McDonalds to be honest. Now I regard McDonalds as a blessing (so to speak). The children love it, the food is actually not that bad and it's quite quick and inexpensive. But best of all is their ice cream. That will be the subject of another posting, I'm sure.

Anyway the question in my mind was what to do for the afternoon. Suggestions of a playpark were not exactly met with universal joy and rapture. During the children's after lunch session in the McDonalds playroon (another thing that they do well) Fraser (aged 10) came back to the table (where I was doing a crossword with my coffee). I asked him what he thought we should do for the afternoon. He gave me options; with costs! So when the three were ready to go I suggested that we go to United Video and the two older boys choose a game and Catriona choose a DVD. "That's a good idea." said Fraser. Well if he doesn't become a national gymnast then I can think of an alternative career.

Roadside Flowers

New Zealand is a land of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers with beautiful and sometimes spectacular displays. This becomes evident quite often when driving and coming across displays like this one on a main road between Napier and Hastings.

California Quail

One of the more endearingly quaint birds which I have round The Cottage are the California Quails. They scurry around the ground at a great speed and are not easy to photograph unless you have a long focus lens and a sunny day. Get too near and they fly off at a considerable speed. Oddly (I say oddly but it may not be so I'm not really sure why I said it) this is the first time that I've seen one in a tree.

Monday, 19 January 2009

The Hurricane Has Passed

Well the weather reports which said that the wind had reached less than expected seem to have been somewhat misleading. According to View From The Island's posting The Morning After the winds reached 113mph (182 kph) which, though less than 2005, is still rather more than a stiff breeze. First reports of loss of tiles on the house were unfounded and the house seems to have escaped unscathed. Oddly the garage window blew in. The kindness of neighbours, however, meant that by the morning's end the window had been made weatherproof and will await my return. I am such a fortunate person to have the neighbours and friends that I do.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

So Near, Yet So Far away

I know from emails from Pat and friends on Lewis that another huricane was forecast last night. I use the word another because since I went to live on Lewis in the 1970s we have had quite a few hurricanes. None, though, had the strength and longevity of the one that hit the Island on the night of 11-12 January 2005. It has been said that the strongest measured single gust was 146 mph at Ness. It destroyed my conservatory. I was in the house and it was one of the most frightening moments of my life.

The conservatory was re-built and is supposed to be much stronger than the original one.

It is at moments like this that, no matter how small the world has become, I am still a long way from my Lewis home. Fortunately I am not a worrier but I cannot help being happy to read this evening (the UK's Sunday morning) that the winds did not seem to have reached the severity expected. I await emails and news on the blog View From The Island which had posted on the forthcoming storm.

Jigsaw - An Update

It's finished. OK so Wendy and Martin weren't quite ready when friends arrived for a BBQ but they had only just put the last pieces into the jigsaw. My contribution of about 6 hours over three days was the green and yellow bits round the Ugly Sister's dancing legs. It's now back in its box. I suspect it may be a very long time before another jigsaw sees the table up at The House. I should just add that the picture on the jigsaw had to be guessed at. It was a 'what happens next' from the picture on the box. As you can see it's not quite the usual fairy-tale outcome.


Wendy doesn't like jigsaws. Imagine my surprise, therfore, when, one morning a few days ago, I walked into the house and there was a 1000 piecer on the table. Why? So that the children (just to remind readers in the Northern hemisphere that it is the middle of the school summer holidays here in New Zealand) had yet one more thing to keep them amused. With fabulous weather (usually), a 5 acre garden full of fields and hills and trees, a garden pool (I was going to say for the younger members but it seems that even teenagers can enjoy it) and access to a veritable library of books, why is it that children seem, out of preference, just to sit in front of a computer or TV playing games or watching The Disney Channel. And, when they can't do that, announce that they are bored. Now when I were a lad... (said with a Lancashire accent for effect).

Anyway the point of this (says he sitting in front of his computer chatting when he could be out for a cycle or a walk or.....) was that (it seems like) each time I've been up to the house since, Wendy has been trying to finish the jigsaw in which the children have expressed little or no interest after announcing after the first five minutes of its arrival that it was too hard (and, presumably, therefore qualified for the description of being too boring. Or was it vice versa?). Is this the Wendy, hater of jigsaws and other time-wasting things, (so subjective, see What Is Worth Your Time) that I know and love? So, of course, every time I've been up to the house I've sat down with her and got a few more pieces done in what, from the picture, would look to be an easy task but has, in fact, proved to be anything but that.

Thus it was last night. Thus it was that I arrived back after midnight two and a half hours and a glass and a half of red later. Thus it was that I missed a phone call from a dear friend in Scotland. And thus it was that, having read it and opened the comments page, I decided not to comment on And Then There Were None on the blog of L'Archiduchesse until the morning. It is now the morning.

"So what", you might well ask, "has been the point of this ramble?" The point is that when I read Scriptor Senex's comments on And Then There Were None they could have been my very own words. Well perhaps not exactly. After all brevity is not one of my vices. A non sequitur? Oui mais c'est ma vie.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Princess and the Pea

If you are going to spill rice pray that there is an open drawer just below. It is quite astonishing how a small quantity of rice turns into a huge quantity when it hits the kitchen floor.

Fortunately only a tiny amount actually reached the floor. Of course I was in the middle of cooking a meal. That's just the time one is using rice after all. Anyway it didn't take that long to clear it off the floor. The rice in the drawer waited until after dinner. However I discovered something. The chances of getting every grain of rice up first time is small. In New Zealand most of my friends do not wear shoes in the house. Have you ever trodden on a grain of rice in bare feet? You wouldn't feel it would you? Wrong. I now understand the significance of the story of the Princess and the Pea.

A Beautiful Tree

My initial reaction when I saw this was that it was a Willow Tree. I'm sure that it's not a native New Zealand variety. Unfortunately I couldn't get across the ditch in front of the fence so I couldn't get a better photo and the entrance to the field was not on the main road. However I thought it was a beautiful tree and worth sharing with you.

More Painted Walls

This building forms part of the complex near Hastings of the RNZSPCA (Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). When I blogged recently about wall paintings SS asked in his comment if there was a tradition of such art in New Zealand. I didn't (and still don't) have a definitive answer to the question but I will keep on searching. There are plenty of them around and this will certainly not be the last this year. I can't recall how many I blogged about during my 2007/2008 stay here.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

I Woke Up

I always feel good when I wake up first thing in the morning. I always think that it's a lot better than the alternative. Not that I'm particularly afraid of the alternative it's just that I can't be sure that there are croquet lawns there and I'd find it a real bummer if I were to be separated from all my friends and family just now. As I opened my eyes this morning this was the scene that greeted me. In fact this is the scene that usually greets me. From this you can tell a number of things. Firstly that I sleep with the curtains open (they've not been drawn since the first week I ever lived in HeeBeeGeeBeE's (The Cottage's proper name - Hawkes Bay GBE's, see?); that I have a lovely peaceful view over orchards, that it's a beautiful sunny morning; that a camera was at hand; and that I woke on my right side. You really wanted to know that didn't you.

McCauley's Store & Café, Otane.

The main street of Otane - wider than the State Highway off which it runs

McCauley's Store & Cafe with The Handbag outside

One of the many things (in addition to public loos) that New Zealand does very well is cafés. Yesterday I went to Otane to a maker of croquet mallets (of which more in a later posting). In the main street (Higginson Street - to me a seemingly unlikely name for a one street town in rural New Zealand) is McCauley's Store & Café. I had the best Americano coffee that I can recall having. I also finished the crossword whilst I was having it but I'm sure that didn't influence my view. There were actually quite a few other customers although I managed to avoid them when taking photos. I do, however, wish that my Brother had been there to do the crossword with me and enjoy the ambience.

The Princess and the Cherries

Even a beautiful impish princess can look slightly every so, what's the word, not so royal when eating cherries.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Oops. Hot Water Kills Grass.

When I commented on the 11 December 2007 about the solar water heater which The Cottage has I mentioned that the water vented when it got too hot. Subsequently we discovered that the near-boiling water venting onto the roof so forcibly found it's way into places it shouln't have gone. Because it was so hot it also melted the plastic downpipes. They were subsequently replaced by steel ones. This summer the weather has been very hot and the sun fierce and I've been using as much hot water as I possibly can. It doesn't vent now until about 93 deg c which is pretty near boiling point. The problem? It overflows onto the grass: a huge cascade of near-boiling water straigtt onto the grass - presumably because it vents too quickly for the drainage system. It's a good job no-one was underneath at the time.

Christmas Decorations

This was my concession to decorating for Christmas. Not that, to be honest, they were very effective because this is midsummer and the evenings are light and I live in one of the sunniest spots in New Zealand. Unlike my dear Brother I have never been a lover of Christmas decorations. A very dear friend once suggested that when she brought the children round at Christmas it would be a good idea if I had a tree. I always take a mere suggestion from this particular friend to be something that I really should do. So I scrambled around in the loft and found the tree and the decorations and the lights and set the whole thing up. I even used two sets of lights. Half an hour before they were due the first set failed and just before the arrival the second one went too. I did have a photo as proof but it wasn't quite the same. The tree has since been consigned to the great cemetery for dead Christmas Trees and I really can't see me ever getting another one.