Friday, 31 December 2010

My Christmas Tree - Update

On Christmas Day I blogged about my Christmas Tree.  Whilst looking through some of my early digital photos for something I found an image of the tree that I'd put up for Friend Who Knows Too Much and her children.  Just to sort of prove that I have actually had a 'proper' tree on at least one occasion.

Splash Planet

Yesterday I took the four children to Splash Planet.  I'd never been before.  I will doubtless go again.  Not because it has lots of things for me to do - for most of the 7 hours we were there I sat in the sun by the 'river' and read and did crosswords although the youngsters did take me for a game of crazy golf at one stage - but because the children thoroughly enjoyed it.  They had, of course, been many times before. 

I think it's the first time I've been tagged- we had passes for everything but you can get passes for just swimming or just this or that.

Although it's very much a local theme park it does provide a good day for the children.  I would have liked to have taken some photos of the slides and water flumes  but I was very reluctant to take my camera out with so many children around although some people were videoing their children quite freely.  It's still not such an issue in New Zealand life is relatively less paranoid than in the UK and US.   I did however photograph David and Fraser and their large pile of floats going round the outside 'river'.  David is the one on the top of the pile.

New Followers

Last night I decided to acknowledge those who have signed up recently to follow this Blog.  At that time the latest person was Doreen of My Reflections as I Shutter Along... .  Welcome, Doreen.  I did recall your blog from the time when CJ aka Scriptor Senex admired your photographs as well as your being a member of Soaring.  This morning, however, another follower arrived and, for the first time, I used the block facility.  

The new follower had a blog entirely in her own language - Greek - of which I don't speak a word.  However she would have been very welcome but for the fact that her blog was purely a commercial one advertising, of all things, curtains.  Somehow I can never see me buying curtains from Greece for use in New Zealand.  

I do sometimes wonder who some of my followers are and why they follow.  I would like to know who Prince Arief is, for example.  Unfortunately I can't even work out which country he's from or which language his blog uses.

Ah well.  

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Playing With Images - Follow Up

Last Tuesday I posted on image manipulation after I'd photographed a weather front coming across the country.  Various comments indicated a divergence of views on the results and Adrian offered to give a lesson in the techniques involved in achieving various results.  He subsequently posted a tutorial and the results on his blog Seeing to Pictures

The original image he used was 

and the final result was:

Adrian made the point "I have exaggerated the editing but for folk to see a difference I have to".

Thankful Thursday

Scene: 0730 Christmas Day morning.  I had been awake and up for a while and had just read and replied to an email from Pat.  As I send my reply the following email came through:
Sorry to be the bearer or (sort of) bad news on today of all days BUT ----

I went around to yours to see about the post, and to turn the radiators up for Sue and Brian and NO HEATING.

This was at 4.30pm.  I rang Fergusons, and spoke to a gentleman who said there was nothing they could do until after the holiday BUT I was so female and so polite and so charming that he said he would try and contact "one of his boys" who had all left for the holiday.  He told me not to hold my breath. He did not think he could find anyone. I said I quite understood.

I was just about to leave Christine's (David had finished running your car by now), and Ferguson's turned up.  They had contacted this Polish (I think) man and he was soooo nice.  I thanked him over and over again and he said he could not have someone without heating over Christmas.

I think you owe him a bottle of whisky as a thank you - don't you?  If he had not come out it would have been next Wednesday.
Just as I read the email Catriona rang to say that everyone was up and ready to open presents.  I'd just had the best present I could possibly have had and from a complete stranger.  A bottle of whisky doesn't begin to say how thankful I felt that morning. 

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


The news this evening is full of the floods and all the results of the storm yesterday in the North of NZ's South Island - so big that it's changed the course of rivers and swept away major road bridges on the State Highways.  Some of the cherry crops which had been hailed as the very best ever have been devastated.  It's hard to equate the storm - reckoned to be the worst in over 100 years - of a single day with the wonderful weather before and the calm, pleasant weather today.  The rest of the first 15 minutes of TVNZ's One News was about the aftermath of the Christchurch Earthquake.  Then came the news that large areas of Queensland in NE Australia have been declared official disaster zones in the worst floods for 150 years.

So you would think that the news that England had retained The Ashes by an innings and 157 runs would be irrelevant and of little consequence.  Wrong!  Australia is in mourning.  I think (but am open to correction) that it's the first time in 24 years that England has retained The Ashes.  The really telling thing was that on the last day the ground contained almost no Australian fans.  Ricky Ponting the Australian Captain was less than the happiest bunny in the warren.  It was Australia's biggest defeat for 98 years and England's best win since 1986.

Part of me says that all the troubles in the world render such frivolities inconsequential.  However that would mean regarding sport nothing as compared with the wars that are being fought and the natural disasters that are occurring around the world.

But life's not like that.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


I was just watching TVNZ One News at 6 when a mobile phone text alert sounded.  'Odd' I thought 'that sounded like the phone in my pocket'.   But it must have been the phone on the table.  No.  The phone in the bedroom?  No.  The one in my pocket?  No.  So presumably it was from someone in the Newsroom on the television.  How many times has that happened to me recently in shops, at the school prizegiving and even on the croquet lawns where, in a tournament, you can get a warning and even have a game awarded against you?  Many, many times.

How many other electronic noises does your house contain and your car and the supermarket and just about everywhere else that you frequent?

The Cottage is the minimal place in my life.  It is the place where I live a simple life when compared with my Eagleton home.  However the longer I've lived here the less simple the life has become.  This evening's electronic moment made me think.

Even in The Cottage when the power fails an electronic alarm sounds; when the fire alarm battery runs down it beeps incessantly until the battery is changed;  when the washing machine finishes its cycle it plays an electronic tune;  when the dishwasher finishes it beeps every minute;   the  house phone  beeps  when the battery is low or there's a power outage;  my cellphones beep;  my computers beep at the drop of a hat;  my car beeps when the door is opened and the key is in the ignition;  the alarm beeps when the car is touched and the alarm has not been deactivated.  I am surrounded by beeps. 

Comments - I Always Appreciate Them

A while ago I started a post on the comments on blogs.   I never finished it.   Like most people I assume, I love getting comments.   It tells me that there are people out there reading our words and looking at our photos which is, I guess, the main reason we blog.  I know there are a quite a few people who don't comment for one reason or another but whom I know read my blogs at least some of the time and that's great too.  

Presumably, too, people who comment like to know that their comments are appreciated.  I always assume that if I've commented on a post then the author will have seen the comment.  A while ago I decided to follow Adrian's example and acknowledge comments.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don't.  I'm going to try and do it more often.  Whether I do or don't though please know that your comments are always read and (almost always!) enjoyed. 

Playing With Images

Last evening the weather front came across from the Ranges to the West of Hawkes Bay.  As the front moved towards here I decided to photograph it.  (Now there's a surprise!).  However when I looked at the photo it was rather poor.  OK I'm still not quite sure why it was slightly out of focus.  I think I'd left the camera on manual focus when I changed from automatic.  The result was:

Please ignore the focus because this is actually about manipulation.  I'd bracketed the exposures and the above was the middle exposure unadulterated from the camera.  So I decided to adjust the shadows slightly in iPhoto with what I would accept for myself as showing you what I wanted to show ie the weather front:

However as I had bracketed the exposures I decided to unleash Photomatix on it with the following result:

Hmmm.  I'm not sure about that if for no other reason that the front has lost its foreboding darkness.  But at least it's a start.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The News: Today in New Zealand

TV One News at 6 pm was rather strange this evening.  The first thirty minutes seemed to be devoted to weather problems around the world and earthquakes and tsunamis and the like.  

It seems that the US is having snow in places that have not seen snow for over 100 years, the UK having managed to open its airports after the worst snow and freezing temperatures for decades now can't send planes to many places because they are now in the same situation.  There are hurricanes, cyclones, floods, mudslides, and, would you believe it, the hottest temperatures for the time of year in many places including Perth, Western Australia, where friends from Glasgow are spending Christmas.  Here in Napier we have had a lovely day:

Unfortunately tonight there is a severe weather warning for most of NZ as a cold front moves through bringing gales and torrential rain to many places.  

When they weren't talking about the weather they were talking about the earthquake in Christchurch.  Over 5000 buildings have been damaged over the last two days.  3000 have already been inspected and another 2000 will be inspected tonight and tomorrow.  Many businesses in the Central Business District are  closed.

OK so we are a developed nation and, unlike, Haiti no one is camped in a tented city and no one has cholera.  So we have much for which to be thankful.

And at least there are no riots.

A Thousand Posts

I've just realised ie I've just seen the counter on the Blogger Dashboard, that the penultimate post - Bubbles - was my thousandth on this Blog.  Wow.   That seems like a lot of posts.   There are 2848 photos in my Picasa Web Album associated with this Blog.  

Interestingly after Dawn Treader and Adrian both coming towards the limit of their free allocation of space for photos with the Blog I'm only on nearly 29% of the allocation of 1024 Mb.  I find that a bit odd but all my photos are limited to 800 px max dimension which may account for it.

I decided that I might even look at the statistics for the Blog.  I haven't looked at all the  stats pages before.  These are some of the stats for this month and they exclude the times that I have accessed the Blog.  I bet we'd all be quite surprised if we knew who had been looking at our blogs.  The other stats pages told me, for example, that the vintage cars that I had shown came up on Google searches quite frequently.

Christmas Meals

On Christmas eve the family came to me for dinner.  I've told you that because I thought it was quite amusing that a) I had used a prizewinning Chardonnay with the butter to cook the scallops (starter of green pea mash topped with black pudding and scallops), b) I then did a lamb curry (they eat curry in hot countries but we all tend to eat curry when it's winter), c) the children, who normally demolish pasta with prawns, all demolished the curry (as well as pasta and prawns).  The chardonnay was a gold medal winner at the NZ International Wine Festival and when I tasted it I had to agree that it was very very flavoursome.  I just didn't happen to like the flavour.  Neither did Wendy or Martin. It was good with scallops though!

Christmas breakfast was warm croissants with bacon and scrambled eggs and maple syrup all washed down with bucks fizz of course.  Dinner was a BBQ.  Wendy and Martin share some cattle with a friend.  They spend their lives on the paddocks here and are slaughtered on the paddock by a local licensed home-kill slaughterman.  So they are never stressed nor pumped full of anti-biotics.  The meat is therefore wonderfully tender.  Do you know I'm not even sure if you can but turkey in NZ.  I've never seen it in a butcher.  There are wild turkey but they can only be hunted and eaten at certain times of year because what they eat flavours the flesh and at certain times they eat things unpallatable to us.

Dinner was also eaten outside.  I bet no one in the UK ate outside.  And later we all had some bubbly in the spa.  It's a hard life but I'm not complaining because somebody's got to do it.

Sunday, 26 December 2010


This Christmas the children, as usual, had some pretty expensive presents including a season's access to the ski slopes of Mt Ruapahu.  However the presents that seem to have claimed the most attention on Christmas Day have been simple ones.  Not the least of these are the bottles of bubble fluid and blower that everyone received in their stocking (including me!).  So following on from the science of advanced bubble blowing equipment upon which I posted two Christmases ago in Bubbles I have discovered that considerable advances have been made in bubble blowing equipment in those two years.  The new bubble ring design is as demonstrated by Catriona, right.

Wendy, in particular, seemed to be having a great time perfecting the bubble shower and speculating on how high bubbles can and do rise into the air.  Certainly some disappeared from view before, presumably, bursting.

I was fascinated by the fact that in a shower of bubbles some appeared to reflect a spectrum of colours and some appeared completely clear and colour free.  Chasing the perfect picture of a bubble occupied many happy moments on Christmas Day.


 Pre-bubble bubble sausage

 Bubble shower

 Thought bubble

 What can I say?

 You have to look very carefully


Can you see me?

Canterbury Earthquakes

On the 4th September I was in the middle of rural France when I learned via the internet of the huge earthquake near Christchurch in New Zealand's South Island.  As readers of this blog will know Napier was devastated by an earthquake in 1931 and I was therefore very aware of the implications for the people of the area.  Since then there have been around 4000 aftershocks and today the centre of Christchurch was hit by more quakes right under the CBG (Central Business District) and very shallow.  There was more damage to buildings and some that had just survived the Big One on 4 September may now have had their fates sealed. (Photo from TVNZ taken by Dean Jones).

Fi at Four Paws and Whiskers lives in Christchurch and her blog gives her readers a feeling of what it's been like to live through it all.

Winter on Lewis - 2

I've just posted some more of Pat's photos of Stornoway and the Lews Castle grounds on Eagleton Notes.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

My Christmas Tree

Those of you who know me (and, I suspect by now those who don't will have realised) also know that I am not a Christmas person and the one and only time I had a Christmas tree was when Friend Who Knows Too Much said she would only bring The Girls (her two wonderful daughters) if I put up a tree.  So I did.  I also put three sets of lights on it (it was a reasonably sized tree) and plenty of decorations.  About half an hour before they were due the first set of lights went out and then the second.  I can't recall if the third managed to survive.  Anyway none of the spare bulbs I had would fit any of the sets on the tree and they were all different from each other so I couldn't even pinch from one to mend another.  So the tree sat there in a shadow of what should have been its glory.  That was the last time.

Actually no.  That's not correct.  The first Christmas I spent in New Zealand Catriona was only just 5.  She made me a tree.  Each year that tree has come out and, with the aid of Blutac, has been on display:

Now that's my kind of tree:  lots of love and memories.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Thankful Thursday

I've had a week of feeling a bit someting or other than my usual self  Don't know why.  I don't have any sort of a reason.  But there we are.  Life's like that.  Anyway today I am feeling particularly thankful because the feeling has lifted and life's been pretty good.  I decided to go and play Golf Croquet this morning and couldn't do anything wrong.  There is something very satisfying about doing something you love and doing it well.  This seemed to set the trend for the rest of the day.  

Whilst we were in the middle of a game a Cinnabar Moth decided to befriend me.  I don't recall seeing one before but I'd never bank on it.  It was however an exciting experience.  I don't carry the camera with me on the lawn (now there's a surprise) and my cellphone camera didn't manage to catch it.  Shame.  

So tonight I'm thankful for very insignificant things which are, nevertheless, of great importance to me:  playing well and being excited by seeing a moth.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Winter on Lewis

For the last six or so weeks I've been constantly reminded about the unusually early cold and snow in the UK, Ontario and elsewhere and, in particular, about Lewis where snow and freezing temperatures are rare.  So today I posted some photos by friends on Eagleton Notes of the townsips around where I live on Lewis.

Absence Not Apathy

I know that I've told you this before.  I used to have a saying on my kitchen notice board "Love is a wheelchair.  Happiness is dancing naked in the warm rain."  Well today the temperature started at 28 ℃ at 0630.  And climbed.  It's been a hot and very muggy day.  The weather this year is really bizarre.  We don't get 'muggy' in Hawkes Bay.  Nor do we get day after day of cloud and rain at this time of year.  Nor does the UK get snow in November and December in the quantities and to the extent that they had this year.  It's a funny old world.  I played croquet this afternoon with Zoe's Grandmother Judy whom I am partnering in an Association Croquet tournament at the start of January.  I'm fortunate in that I don't mind the heat although I prefer it without the intense humidity we had today.

I say 'had' because a short while ago the heavens opened and I could well have danced naked in the warm rain.  Indeed it would have been a wonderful relief.  However courage failed me.  Or apathy won the day.  I'm not sure which.  After all it'd be a pretty unusual if anyone actually saw me at The Cottage unless there were people working in the orchards.  Mind you one of the family could have come down and got rather a nasty surprise.  The temperature dropped 8 degrees and the humidity dropped too.  It's now very pleasant.  I still have all the doors and windows open though.

I called the posting 'Absence not Apathy' but I'm not sure that's really accurate.  Since last Friday I've been unable to get my brain to blog and indeed it's been a bit reluctant to do anything involving mental effort so I've concentrated on physical things. 

Soon Christmas will be over and life will return to normal and I'll be OK.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Simple Pleasures

A few days ago a friend asked how I managed to do so much.  I don't think I do achieve much but I replied saying, amongst other things, that I rarely sat and watched TV or movies without doing other things because I felt guilty if I did.  Yesterday Heather posted on Simple Pleasures.  So yesterday I got some DVDs to watch.  Early evening came and I had a lot of ironing to do so I watched the film The Painted Veil.  I am a great admirer of Somerset Maugham, have his collected works and have read most of them.  The film is beautifully shot in China and although I can't recall the book the film certainly reeks of genuine Maugham.  This seems to have given me a taste of relaxation and later in the evening I sat and watched Wall Street, a rather good 1987 film about the corruption of industrial espionage and insider trading on the Market. 

Today has been a very simple day culminating in The Family (less David) coming for dinner and afterward watching the film Mao's Last Dancer which Wendy brought downI had been recommended to read the book by some friends and was keen to see the film.  

During the film Catherine - a friend from Scotland to whose wedding Wendy and I and the two youngest children had gone last June - rang.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal.  After the nibbles I'd done Kumi Kumi - a sort of pumpkin - stuffed with  a meat  sauce with cauliflower cheese for the adults and meatballs in a tomato and herb sauce with pasta for the children.  Children never cease to amaze me.  Fortunately there was enough of everything to feed an army.   Everything, that is except the cauliflower cheese which I'd decided to go easy on because I 'knew' the children wouldn't want any.  Wrong.  The children who a while ago wouldn't look at cauliflower now wanted it in large measure.   They also ate the Kumi Kumi.  Anyway no one starved and the fridge will supply me with meals for the foreseeable future!

So the simplest of evenings turned into the most pleasurable of evenings.  In fact it's been a couple of days of appreciating very simple pleasures.  Thank you Heather for making me aware.

A family relaxing watching the film and talking to Catherine 12000 miles away - amazing!

A Brief Update

I'm writing this at 0910 on Friday morning.  It's now rained solidly for about 16 hours and there's no let-up in sight.  And it's 'proper' rain.  If I were in the UK I'd have the central heating on.  As it is here one just puts more clothes on again.  The forecast is for more of the same for the next few days.   I hope that Northland is getting some too - the farmers there desperately need it.   Here in Hawkes Bay, however, I may have to supplement my solar water heater on the roof by using the electric heater.  I think I only had to do that 3 times in the whole of my last stay here and I haven't used it at all yet this stay. 

Today is crunch day for me.  I have to finish my Christmas 'card', make phone calls to friends in the UK and elsewhere who may be away for Christmas,  and sort out many of the other things which Christmas thrusts upon us.  Hopefully I'll manage some time in Blogland too.

Then the family are coming for dinner.  That'll be fun.  I love it but I'm glad that I don't have to think up the food for 7 every night.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thankful Thursday

Last evening I attended the Puketapu School Prizegiving for the fifth consecutive year.  When I first went to the School's prizegiving Wendy and Martin had all four children at the school.  Now just the two youngest are there and Wendy is on the School's Board of Trustees.  

The whole playground area is in an amphitheatre and there were probably over five hundred people present to watch the prizegiving and performances by the children:  in the above photo the youngest children are performing a Kapa haka

 Fraser - on the left - holding the Orton Cup for the most improved performer in Year 7.  By a remarkable coincidence the Cup had been donated by friends of Wendy and Martin.

So today I am thankful for the privilege of being part of the Geddes family and to have seen the children develop and flourish at such a wonderful school in such beautiful rural surroundings.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Meet Lola

You may remember Jayne's van Lucy who used to take us to our croquet tournaments.  Well Lucy's gone to the place where old vans go and Jayne has a replacement who took us to Whakatane a few weekends ago.  Her name is Lola.  She's not got Lucy's character nor is she such a capacious lady but she's certainly more refined.

Here we are pulled off the road waiting for a house to drive by!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A New Home For a Vermont Teddy

A few days ago a package arrived from Vermont.  Who do I know in Vermont?  Only one family.  Heather's Family.   What was in the package?  A Vermont Teddy.  OK.  I hear you saying "What is a mature (I prefer that definition to 'old') man doing getting a teddy bear?"  Well I assume that Heather thought that it was a good idea otherwise she wouldn't have done it.  Me?  I may be a rather cynical aging male but I'll tell you something.  Teddy bears (well little stuffed toys) are some of the most important reminders of the good things in my life and I have no hesitation in admitting that.  

The Koala in the picture was brought back to the UK from Australia for my Mum and sat on the top of her settee (couch) until Mum and Dad went to live with CJ when it was re-homed to Lewis with his pal the little white Christmas teddy.  A number of my female friends over the years have seen fit to give me similar reminders and they all sit in the house in Lewis.  

True story:  Arriving home from California years ago with a friend whose wife wouldn't step on a plane Teddy Neric (given to me by my then fiancĂ©) fell out of the overhead locker together with my rather expensive camera.  I saved Teddy Neric.  My friend saved the camera.  I don't think that he's yet recovered from traveling round California with a man with a miniature teddy bear attached to his camera bag.

Anyway the Vermont Teddy has been resting on the deck this afternoon surveying his new (wet) domain:

A Most Peculiar Sky

A few nights ago I was just about to wander up to The House just before sunset when I realised that the sky and the countryside had a heavy golden tinge to it.  I knew that taking a photo in such light would be difficult and this doesn't really do it justice but it's the best I could achieve:

An Ominous Heavyness

It's lunchtime.  The temperature is suddenly plummeting.   Ten minutes ago it was over 30℃ and now it's 27℃.  This morning I played croquet and the air was still and heavy down on the  coastal plain were the lawns are.  When I got back to The Cottage for lunch it was hot and airless and the cicadas were in full throat for the first time this year (ok full abdomen as that's where their noise emanates).  The sky was sending mixed messages with patches of blue in an otherwise broken clouded sky.  Then the thunders started rolling around in the distance.  Then the trees started 'snowing'.  In fact it was almost to the day that I blogged about them 'snowing' last year.  Now the rain has started, heavy clouds are coming over from the South behind The Cottage and the temperature is dropping further.  The ranch sliders are open - oh! BIG lightning flash - and the thunder is getting nearer.

I have just spent the last 15 minutes on the deck, camera in hand, to try and photograph some lightning and record some thunder.  Well I had the perfect opportunity to record a magnificent and long roll of thunder but I was in photo mode and there was no lightning to be had.  Now it's just raining.  Ah well.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A Night Out

Wendy and Martin went out to the annual dentists' get together at a fashionable winery on Friday.  It may be midsummer and I may be typing this in 27 ℃ (81℉) but they got dressed up in their Scottish garb for the occasion:

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Sunday Just Happened and I Nearly Missed It

That's not to say that I blinked and it was over it's just that it happened so quickly; dans un instant; im Augenblick; in het knipoogje van een oog.  I apologise but I know no Swedish.  

This morning I went to watch the finals of the Golf Croquet Silver Badges at Te Mata.  Our people, by that I mean members of the Marewa Croquet Club took the primary and middle grades but, unfortunately, as always our representative in the Championship grade was beaten by Te Mata's indestructable Tony Stephens - one of NZ's top players who has been at the top of his game for the last 50 years!  Says it all really.

I returned home and decided this afternoon to write my Christmas cards.  Having Christmas in the middle of the summer is hopeless for getting motivated.  Christmas does not come in the hot weather!  So I did some Christmas cards which will be posted in the morning but which stand little chance of arriving before Christmas.  I think that  for the remainder I will have to adopt a more imaginative approach.  That'll buy me a few more days.

Later in the afternoon I popped up to The House to see what was happening in their world.  A visit by friends and a BBQ just being cooked was a good excuse for a glass of wine.  Three exceptionally pleasant hours later I found myself back at The Cottage in time for the end of a programme on The River Nile with Joanna Lumley (sigh) and then a programme on how Coronation Street came into being.  

Now it's time for bed.

The Croquet Club Christmas

Yesterday the Croquet Club had its Christmas lunch and afternoon tea.  There were no unusual croquet games as there usually are- just ordinary ones, a buffet lunch (of considerable portions) and afternoon tea comprising the President's Christmas Cake, strawberries and New Zealand sparkling wine.  By the time I started taking photos the bulk of the participants had left leaving the die-hards who had played in the afternoon to partake of afternoon tea:

 Frank, the President, advancing to cut the President's Christmas Cake

 First things first - get into the bubbly

The serious part of the day

 The even more serious part of the day

Helen is still a formidable golfer and croquet player and maker of President's Christmas Cakes.  And former Headmistress (it's amazing how many teachers play croquet!).

Sisters - and teachers - Chris and Karen!

The Club President (Frank) tops up the Club Captain's glasses (the Club Captain, Jayne,  doesn't have to drive to the Club!).

Actually there is an argument for the provision of the bubbly before play commences at 10.30 am.  After imbibing a reasonable number of glasses Jayne and Karen challenged Frank and I to a game of Golf Croquet (Jayne refuses to enter the Dark Side and play Association).  Granted Karen had not been imbibing, nor had I.  However after Frank and I had been slaughtered we sought a re-match only to be further defeated even more comprehensively.  Ah well.  It's only a game.  Yeah right.

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Kea

Adrian in a comment on my previous post asked "Have you still got those Parakeet type birds that trash cars...if so rent a car and get some pictures."  The answer is in the affirmative.   The bird is the Kea.  We don't have them in the North Island but on the West Coast of the South Island they are plentiful enough even though they are an endangered species.   The problem with the Kea is that it is a loved and hated creature.  (Just like the rest of us then.)  Loved because it is an endearing and comical figure which is curious and unafraid and 'befriends' tourists.  Hated because it has been known to kill even healthy sheep and has a rather unendearing habit of removing the rubber from around car windscreens and generally causing damage to anything that can be pulled off a car.

The following picture was, I think, taken by the Homer Tunnel on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound in South Island in early 2007.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Thankful Thursday

I was going to say how thankful I was to be able to hear a Morepork this evening.  Then that post grew a life of its own.  It wasn't hearing the Morepork itself which was what made me thankful, it was the fact that I was free to hear it, that I was here to hear it and that I have ears with which to hear it.  They are all things which we take for granted.  For so many these things are not available: the freedom, the  opportunity and the ability to hear. 

For those things I am thankful.


It's just after 9.30 pm and I heard a car and a door shut.  It has to be a car arriving at The Cottage or The House because there is nowhere else close.   So I opened the ranch sliders and stepped onto the deck.  There was no car in my drive so I just savoured the cold air for a minute or two.  As I stood there a Morepork started calling.  It is the first one that I have heard since I returned to New Zealand  nearly six weeks ago.  

The Morepork is so called because its call is 'more pork'.  For those who don't know a Morepork is a small owl also known as the Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae)  or Ruru.  It's found all over New Zealand and across most of Australia.   They are mainly nocturnal, but are sometimes active at dawn and dusk.  The main hunting times are evenings and mornings, with brief bursts of activity through the night. On dark nights they often perch through the middle hours and, particularly if the weather is bad, may hunt by daylight instead.  Although their main hunting technique is perch-and-pounce, they are agile birds with a swift, goshawk-like wing action and the ability to manoeuvre rapidly when pursuing prey or hawking for insects and small birds.  

The morepork lends its name to the fictional city of Ankh-Morpork (is a fictional city which prominently features in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of fantasy novels) and appears on its coat-of-arms.

Coat of arms of Ankh-Morpork
A shield, quartered by a river (the Ankh) and tower (the Tower of Art). The quarters bear two moneybags,  a field of cabbages and the unmarked black field of the Vetinaris.
The shield is supported by two hippopotamuses and crested with a morpork holding an ankh.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Moving House

I've blogged before about moving house.  When we were coming home yesterday we came across a house being moved during the day.  They are usually moved in the early morning when traffic is at its least.  However out on the main highway in the ranges the move presumably is made during the day because it would simple be too dangerous at night. 

PS Please note the shorts being worn by the hardy roadman in the last photo.  Perhaps my dark raspberry shorts which I've been forbidden to wear are not so bad after all.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Wairaka and the Saving of Mataatua - Updated

Last evening in Whakatane we went to have dinner at the Sportfishing Club which overlooks the harbour.  It was a very enjoyable meal.  Karen, who hadn't been to Whakatane before,  wondered aaboutthe significance of the statue at the harbour entrance.  I had blogged about it last year when we had come to this same croquet tournament.  However the links which I had inserted are no longer valid.  So this is an update. 

The statue of Wairaka with Mount Manganui on the Bay of Plenty in the background

 The Statue of Wairaka

 Wairaka close up

Whakatane (to act as a man) - This story springs from the 12th Century Great Migration. The women of the Mataatua Canoe, left to themselves when the men went ashore for the first time, found a waka (canoe) drifting out to sea again.  The paddles were tapu (the English word "taboo" derives from this) to women, but a high spirited teenager, Wairaka, who was the daughter of Chief Toroa, boldly seized one of the paddles and paddled the waka back to shore. As she did this, she shouted "Kia Whakatane au i ahau" (let me act the part of a man) and her actions saved the women but also coined the name of the town.

Wairaka is also part of Maoris legend for other reasons.  Wairaka of the Cave makes interesting reading.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

A Successful Day

Well it's a funny old life.  Here we are in Whakatane.  Last year the rain poured down and the lawns had to be squeegeed.  Today the sun shone.  Today I - or we in the 'top' group of players - played six of the best games we have ever played in a single session.  I can truthfully say that even if I had lost all six matches they would have been 'good' losses.  Almost all the matches we played ran to 7-6 or 7-5 (or 6-7, 5-7 depending on whether you were a winner or a loser).  As it happens I was fortunate enough to be a winner in 5 out of the 6 games I played.  The result was that I won the top group of the tournament.   So this evening I am a happy bunny.