Monday, 25 January 2010

Off To Northland - Again

Well, folks.  I'm off to Northland in a few minutes.  Dora is packed and, hopefully, everything is loaded - except The Dongle with which I am connected to the cyber world.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep blogging whilst I'm away.  It's raining and misty and the chance of me stopping for photos every few minutes seems remote so it may be a reasonably quick journey and I may reach my destination 600 k away by this evening, avoiding an overnight stop.  It has to be remembered, of course, that this is a journey on NZ state highways and not the wide long highways and motorways of the US and UK. 

Bye for now.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Friends Who Are More Like Family

In her blog Exquisite Juncture, Jen used a term in a posting Shenanigan-izer that I just have to plagerise.  But before I go into detail of that term I should give a little background.

A number of the blogging family to which I belong use terms to define people who may or may not be anonymous.  CJ/Scriptor Senex uses various ones for family members.  For example his wife Jo is Partner-who-loves-tea also known as Partner-who-hates-being-photographed and I am Brother-who-blogs.  A person who has the use of such terms down to a fine and entertaining art is The Archduchesss in Les Chaussettes de L'Archiduchesse.  I refer to a very dear and precious friend who saw me through some Bad Times as Friend Who Knows Too Much.  You will, no doubt, have heard the saying "You will always be my know too much."

Anyway I have always had some difficulty describing to true relationship that I have with 'The Family' who have adopted me and who are the reason that I now live six months of the year in New Zealand.  Jen has given me the answer.  They are Friends-who-are-more-like-family.   Thanks Jen.

I Do Love My Tilley Hats

In February/ March 2004 I was in California with a friend whose wife wouldn't fly and therefore he had no one with whom to explore that wonderful State.  It was the sunniest March since records began - so the radio said.  It was quite a holiday one way and another.  A dear friend asked me to marry her (on  29 February: it being a Leap Year when ladies can do that) and I agreed.   (For the record she later withdrew the invitation!).  But, as usual, I digress.

It was hot and sunny and I needed a hat.  We were in Carmel

 and I went into a store not too many yards from where this photo was taken and there I found a hat which suited my needs down to the ground.  It was a Tilley hat.  It is the hat that features on my photo on the profile of this blog.  That photo was taken on the Franz Josef  glacier in South Island, New Zealand in 2005 when I was still a young man - yeah right!

That hat is now my croquet hat.  In that capacity it spends more time on my head that any other but I do like my croquet badges on it.  I know.  Silly but there we are it's croquet and that's my weakness.

Last year Gaz gave me another one.  It's great for the very hot days but for everyday wear and in the car - bearing in mind it's an open topped car - it's not quite right.

So I sent to Canada (where they come from) for another one.

So what is so special about Tilley hats?  Well, where does one start?  It's ok I'm not going to bore you but if you really want to know then I suggest that you visit the Tilley Hats website.

Just imagine.  I'm now the owner of three Tilley hats. And do you know, I don't suppose a single soul in the world cares a jot.....except me!

So now you know!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Strange Times

I'm sure that this is by no means the first time that I could have used that heading but this week has been a strange one.  Perhaps that's accounted for my strange, and very unusual, mood.    About half an hour ago before I was sidetracked and hung a picture I had been given for Christmas where I have at last decided it shall reside, I was standing on the deck looking at a Harrier circling looking for its next meal.

Whilst Northland is having severe drought conditions we have had storms and flash floods.  An acquaintance recorded over 4 cm  rain in about an hour yesterday.  I was on my way out when the thunder started and then the hail - as big as my thumb nail - and just as got to the car and got my camera out the heavens opened and I could not dream of of getting out to photo the hailstones on my deck without getting me and, more importantly my camera, soaked to the skin.  I had to stop driving.  This picture was taken with the windscreen wipers on full speed!  And no there is no mist on the windscreen - the air con was on full blast.

I'm just hoping that Northland gets lots and lots of rain before I get there and not when I go to admire the views and take lots of photos.  Although even if it pours (as it did one day I was there last time) I'm sure the company will be excellent even if the photos are not.

So this week I have had two croquet matches cancelled because of heavy rain.  This morning Colleen and I were due to play an Association match.  We went for coffee instead!

Before I started this post I had a clear idea of what I wanted to say. Now I have no idea what that was.  Bummer, eh?  Old age cometh not alone.  But it was an innocuous enough ramble wasn't it?

Ah well, Wendy, Catriona and Jamie are coming for dinner (Martin's taken the other two boys to do Sea Scout things this weekend) so I'd better get my skates on.

A Grand Old Girl: Lucy

In December 2008 I introduced you to Lucy.  Lucy is Jayne's trusty 22 year old 'van' with about 230,000 k on the clock.  I use the term in quotes because she is not what would be called a van in the UK because she has windows all round and rear seats.  I have no idea what she would be called in the US.  Anyway she usually transports us to our croquet tournaments because she is the only vehicle we have which will carry us all and our gear.   I occasionally use one of the family's larger vehicles but that's not always convenient.  In any case we love Lucy.  It was Lucy that Jayne and I went to Thames in last weekend.  These photos, however, were taken in Whakatane.  This is a tribute to a grand old lady.

She's beginning to lose some aerodynamic qualities due to her fascinating growths.
I thought CJ might like them.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Rapaura Water Gardens - 2

A few more photos from the Water Gardens:

Most people just use an arrow for directions.


Amazing the things that leap out at one

A Hidden View

I was walking down Emerson Street in Napier a few days ago and I happened to look down a side alley between tow buildings.  It's quite amazing what one can walk past for years and never see.  But that day I saw it.  And it was really charming.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Rapaura Water Gardens - 1

When Jayne and I went to Thames Pauline had suggested that we should go and see the Rapaura Water Gardens which is about 20 minutes drive North of Thames.  So after play on Saturday we toddled off to see what we could see.  I am glad that we did.  There was a great deal to see.  So much in fact that I shall show you over several postings.  This is the first. 

There is nothing auspicious about the entrance but you can see the typical vegetation in which the gardens are set.

The café and shop

For me this was the most attractive and inspiring water feature in the gardens.  I would love to re-create it in my garden in Lewis

All through the gardens there were sayings

One for Jen

I was just about to leave the Taradale shopping centre a few days ago when I saw a little old blue Mini.  One of the most iconic of European cars.  From the grill I would think this is a MkII which was produced between 1967 amd 1973.  So it's at least 37 years old.  But it was the registration plate which struck me!

An Evening in Ahuriri

I went to a friend's for dinner last week.  The house is on the seafront at Ahuriri.  Watching the sky change during the evening from the grey of rain to a golden sunset was very pleasureable.


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Another One For Heather

Tirau is a small town in the Waikato region of New Zealand at the junction of State Highways 1 and 5.  It is an interesting place for a blogger and there will be more postings on this blog.  But today's posting is just for Heather.

The sign for Tirau School

Lunch At Café Ahuriri

We had lunch again at Café Ahuriri today.  When I first came to live in New Zealand I used to cycle right around the seafront of Napier from the first place I stayed to Ahuriri and there I used to have coffee and do the crossword before cycling home again.  It was a good distance but a 6am start would see me home and showered ready for croquet at 0930.  I was fitter then!!  At that time the café was in the 'village' centre.  Last winter Cheryl who has the café acquired a largeish old property out of the centre (which I have it in my head used to be a cinema but I must check that) and converted it into the new Café Ahuriri.  It has lots of shelter and an outside walled area as well as inside space.  It's lost none of its old homely character and home cooking but it now also has a lunchtime chef and new dishes for lunch each week.  It's also about the least expensive place to eat in Napier.  I absolutely love it.

The café with Bluff Hill (Napier Hill) behind it

 At Christmas each table had a tiny tree of its own

Wendy's latte came in a bowl today

Flowers To Welcome Me Home

I've said this many times before: I love flowers.   Often when I come home Wendy has been down and there are flowers on the table.  They are all from the garden.  After all you can grow a lot of flowers in 5 acres!  Anyway when I came home yesterday the first thing I noticed was the flowers.  The second thing I noticed was that the flooring people had been and removed the kitchen flooring.  It had been laid after a seepage of water and had obviously not dried properly before the flooring was laid and it had bubbled.  It has to be left for a couple of months.  Ah well. Glad Game.  I may have no kitchen floor covering but I do have lovely flowers on the table.

 Agapanthus and lillies from last week

Agapanthus and roses from yesterday

Monday, 18 January 2010

A Weekend in Thames

Thames is about 5 hours driving from Napier.  With stops it took us a day there and a day back.  Because of the relatively short amount of time spent playing croquet we had time to see various other things and I'll blog about them over the next few days.

I can't recall when I last saw a public telephone box.  This one is in Thames's main street

One of the many Churches.  At one intersection we counted 5 within a stone's throw.
The band stand is over 100 years old
The trees are not!

Top right is our motel and bottom right is a public BBQ
The sign and house just took my fancy

A Tournament At Thames

Well it's been an interesting weekend.  And I use the word 'interesting' advisedly.  I shall probably do a short article for the croquet news but as it would mean little to most of you who may read this I shall confine myself to a summary.  The first thing was that the very late start of 0930 turned out to be 'time for a cup of tea' with a start of croquet at 10am!  Most tournaments are on the lawns at 0830.  We could have gone to the country market after all.  Like most we arrived half an hour before the advertised time and kicked our heels for an hour!

Then we discovered that the format was a melée and Jayne and I wouldn't be partnering each other but would play 5 games (one would expect at least 6 - the last tournament was 8) with 5 separate partners.  Three of us ended up with an equal number of wins and to determine the winner we had to each stand at a separate corner of the lawn and on the gun see who got their ball nearest to the centre.  I didn't!

At least on Sunday I was lucky and drew 5 good games.  Two of NZ's senior players cleaned up first and second but I really enjoyed the day and came away with a net plus on my index card.

I don't think we'll make the journey next year!

However I have now seen Thames and a little bit of the Coromandel Peninsula.

The Thames Croquet Club itself is excellent and even if the lawns were less than perfect the other facilities were first class.  The club was started in 1906 on that site as an addition to the bowling club (which is no longer there) for the wives of men who bowled.  

It's hard work this croquet!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Can You Sleep At Night?

t's been an interesting journey from Napier to Thames at the Southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula.  In Taupo Jayne and I stopped for coffee and met a fellow croquet player and his family travelling from, coincidentally, Thames to a Tournament in Wanganui where we were last weekend.  We stopped in Tirau and had lunch and then stopped in Te Aroha to have a look at their croquet lawns (we won't be going there for a tournament that's for sure!).  We arrived in Thames just before 5pm.  After booking in to the motel and having a look round the town we settled down outside with a glass of wine and some nibbles.

Jayne was recounting some of the travels through Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran and many other places that she and Norman had visited in the 1970s.  I found it all fascinating because I had visited none of those places.

But an incident she related which cured in Ghana when she was visiting her sister, Hilary, who was working there at the time, stuck in my mind the most.

Jayne found herself talking to a Ghanaian lady who was selling items in the street.  The lady said to Jayne "You white people you don't sleep at night.  You white people worry.  You have too many things.  I have nothing.  I don't worry.  I sleep at night."

Jayne never forgot that conversation and when she wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about some, usually relatively inconsequential, matter the words return to her.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Not That I'd Ever Use it In Space

My Goddaughter and her partner bought me a Fisher Space Pen for Christmas.  Why would I tell you that?  Well it's rather odd because over the years I've bought a few for people and have always wanted one but have never bought one for myself.  Every time that awkward to write on surface presents itself I used to wonder why I hadn't got one.  Well this morning I was trying to write on a plastic surface which wouldn't accept any of the usual pens so I tried my new pen which I now keep on the desk and use as and when it's needed.  It worked!  Not that I expected that it wouldn't.

Most of us probably know the joke about NASA spending millions developing the Space Pen whilst the Soviets used a pencil so I decided to ask Wikipedia what it had to say on the matter.  Apparently NASA programs have used pencils but because of the danger that a broken-off pencil tip poses in zero gravity and the flammable nature of the wood present in pencils a better solution was needed. NASA never approached Paul Fisher to develop a pen, nor did Fisher receive any government funding for the pen's development. Fisher invented it independently, and then asked NASA to try it. After the introduction of the AG7 Space Pen, both the American and Soviet (later Russian) space agencies adopted it. Previously both the Russian and American astronauts used grease pencils and plastic 'slates'.

Another rumor (which I hadn't heard) has it that the Apollo 11 astronauts accidentally snapped off a switch which was necessary to permit them to fire the engine to return to Earth, and that a Fisher Space Pen was used to press this button. While the incident did occur, Buzz Aldrin has stated that, in fact, he used a felt-tip pen for this.

Whatever, I now have a Space Pen and it works for me.

Thanks guys.

Off For A Weekend With Jayne

In 9 hours I shall be setting off to Thames for a weekend Croquet Tournament with Jayne.  When she asked me to go to this tournament I was still in Scotland and I assumed at first that we were all going as a gang as usual.  But in this case Jayne's usual partner, Colleen, couldn't go and Jayne's husband wasn't keen (he doesn't play croquet regularly) and no one else was keen - it's a day's journey away.  So Jayne asked me.  'Is Norman happy with that?' was my first question.  'Oh yes.  It's just Graham!' was the response.  I'm not sure that was a particularly flattering sort of remark but, hey, I suppose it's something.  So Jayne and I are off for a long weekend together.  Should be fun.  It'd be a bonus if we could add another trophy to our list.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

It Just Took My Fancy

Wendy and I had coffee at The Starving Artist Café in Napier's Emerson Street on Tuesday.  There were several paintings on view which took our fancy but one of them spoke to me in quite a strong voice and said "You are attracted to me and I will hang on your wall in Scotland one day."  The flowing lines were, I had to admit, very attractive and the New Zealand Flax combined with the classical Art Deco was a very tempting combination.  I looked more closely and the face had a curious quality which puzzled me and drew me to it.  I resisted temptation.  Then.  But all that night I thought about it.  Next day I wandered back into the café and the owner said to me "Ah.  So you've come back for it have you?"  Nothing escapes her, obviously.  And now it is hanging in its temporary home above my bed before it begins its journey to Scotland.

The picture is called Flowing Flax and is by Vida Gardiner from Tauranga.