Saturday, 31 December 2011

Meet Esmerelda

One of my Christmas pressies.  She's quite a porker - those specs are life size (ok, child life size).  I wonder how long it will take to fill her with $ pieces.

Friday, 30 December 2011

On Drinking Tea

In my Thankful Thursday post yesterday I mentioned my lack of ability to taste.  Dawn Treader commented that given that it was rather odd that I liked my tea weak.  That made me wonder.  Why do I like my tea weak?  So today I set about finding out and the conclusions so far have been rather startling.  I would always have said that I drank it weak because I don't like the bitter taste of tea when it's strong.  I can now confirm that I can taste the bitterness in strong tea and that I don't like it.

I have also discovered that I cannot tell that the Green Tea with Lemon and Ginger that I drink in the morning has ginger and lemon in it although I can tell that it's not 'ordinary' tea and not plain Green Tea.  I can tell that the Earl Grey is what it is and that it's different from 'ordinary' tea but I can't tell the Lady Grey apart from it.

I can tell the Lapsang Souchong apart from the others.

The Red Bush tea is quite different from everything else and I can actually drink that stronger.

So I have come to the conclusion that my tea drinking habits are exactly that - habits.  I've been drinking the tea that I do in the way that I do for so many decades that I hadn't even realised  that I couldn't taste them properly.  Monica what have you done?!  Life will never be the same again!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Thankful Thursday

I'm struggling this evening.  It's not that I haven't got lots and lots of things for which to be thankful it's just a question of trying to get my brain to organise itself.  

I've just been reading Fiona's blog post on fine dining in Christchurch.  It made me think about food and the ability to enjoy it.  I really enjoy my food.  However Fiona's post made me re-visit the senses through which I achieve that enjoyment.  Many years ago I lost my sense of taste after a bout of 'flu.  The ability to taste returned in part and then in 1999 I had another bout of 'flu and lost it again.  Again it returned in part but there are now many things which I can neither smell nor taste.  The strange thing is that it doesn't stop me enjoying my food and I wondered why.  

I enjoy my food very well flavoured with spices and herbs and I enjoy savoury things (like Marmite!) which are more in my taste spectrum.  I cannot, for example, differentiate the taste of a raspberry from a blackberry.  I can taste wine (which is probably one reason I enjoy it!) and certain things like Heinz salad cream (but not mayonaise).  However you'll be glad to know that I'm not about to give you a comprehensive list.  For the most part, though, I rely on appearance and texture to supply my enjoyment of food.  That's how I differentiate the raspberry from the blackberry.  

So today I am thankful, not for the first time on a TT post, for the fact that I have food on my table.  In addition I am thankful for the fact that I can enjoy that food. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Until now I have used an NZ Telecom T Stick over the cellphone network for my broadband.  For that I get 4Gb/month allowance for $81.  As I have to pay for 12 months even though I only use 6 that really means that I pay $162 a month for my broadband.  The 4GB limit means that I can't use YouTube or the full benefits of Skype and even updating my computer and iTunes etc can take me uncomfortably close to my limit.  I can, however, use my laptop when I travel which is useful.

Now an enterprising self-confessed computer geek/nerd has set up rural microwave broadband in our area and it's absolutely fantastic.  The basic allowance of 6Gb is less than $50/month and for the $80 I used to pay I could get 20Gb.  Not only that I also have WiFi so I can use my UK smartphone here too.  So I am well pleased. 

The receiving dish on the fence
The hill with the microwave transmitter in just to the left of the fence line
There it is!  That tiny feint post on top of the hill just under the wires under the branch of the nearer tree. Amazing.

More Bubbles

Each year the children (adults are children for this purpose) get a bubble blower in their stocking.  Last Christmas I posted on the developments in the bubble blowers.  Well this year we all got small bubble blowing kits as usual but there was also one huge development in the field this year:

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Very Satisfactory Day

I'm sitting in the Study watching the news out of one eye (well it would be given that I can only see properly out of one eye anyway), eating cashew nuts, drinking a glass of a rather passable red and counting my blessings as I type this post.

This morning I played croquet with a friend from Palmerston North and The Girls with whom I go to tournaments.  For a few years I was the most successful Golf Croquet player in the Club but over the last year or more Sandra has knocked me into second place.  Today for the first time for over a year I managed a fairly decisive win against her.  She's still the best in the Club but perhaps....

Then we all went for lunch at the Ahuriri Café which is one of my favourite lunching places.

It was so warm that when I got home I changed into my swim shorts and got the pressure washer to de-bug and de-spider web the deck area and also clean the deck so that I can seal it.  I also pressure washed anything and everything I could see that might need it!

So today has (and it's not over yet) been a blend of fun, fellowship and achievement. A Good Day.

I'm very easily satisfied.

The Dangers of Vegetarianism in France

Many years ago when my vehemently vegetarian surrogate step-daughter was about 9 her non-meat-eating Mum and I were talking about being a vegetarian in France where I had just been.

Some years later when her Mum and I decided to go to Paris, SSD was very distressed.  We hadn't been away without her much but when we had, had not had any problems and despite her assurances that she didn't mind us going away we couldn't get to the bottom of her distress.  Until...  Until she said that she was afraid for us.  It then took more coaxing before she told us that they ate vegetarians in France.   They did what?   And then I remembered.  When her Mum and I had had that conversation those years ago I had made the comment that it was difficult being a veggie in France and that they ate vegetarians.

I should have known better because when I was young my Uncle Eric made the comment that he would never teach anyone to drive again because when he'd taught X to drive she'd lost her head.  As a toddler I worried about this headless lady for ages. 

Lesson 1: Be careful about making throw-away comments in front of children.

Lesson 2: If you are a committed vegetarian there are easier places to live than France if you dine out a lot.

PS I had a feeling that I'd already told that story but assuming that it had been in Eagleton Notes I didn't check this blog.  So many of you (but not SP who made me think of it) will already have heard it.  It's come to something when even my Blogland friends are hearing my stories more than once.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Swimming Pool: Inauguration

By later in the afternoon on Christmas Day it was decided that the water was clear enough and all the correct pH and chlorine etc boxes had been ticked so the children were let loose.  First in was Catriona who had been dangling on the edge all day.

Catriona - the true Water Baby - first in to the new pool
After that it was a free for all for several hours.  I have to admit that although the children said that it was warm (and it felt warm when I put my toes in) I chickened out and availed myself of the spa (usually called a hot tub here) instead.  I'll go into the pool when the surrounds are all finished - or the weather heats up too much, whichever comes first.

Martin takes the plunge
That's the no jumping, no diving and no mucking about rules broken in the first few minutes (the last one was never a starter anyway!).
The spa/hot tub - bliss.

Christmas Day

Well what a great day it was - in so many ways. Perfect weather, a typical Kiwi holiday day with the family with lots of food starting with almond croissants with farm-cured bacon and farm-made sausages with plenty of coffee and bucks fizz. Lunch was a BBQ of course. Supper was glazed ham with lots of left-over salads etc from lunch followed by pavlovas, brandy baskets and trifle home-made by Wendy's Mum. Of course there was present opening and games and the children had their inaugural swims in the swimming pool. The cares of the world seemed so very far away. 

The deck - the alterations are almost complete ready for Christmas and the new year
Ready for The Opening
A bemused Misty - her fourth Christmas!
After The Opening
Martin doing the Kiwi Man thing
One of the pavlovas!
A moment of quiet reflection after lunch

Sunday, 25 December 2011

The Swimming Pool: Day 8

The retaining wall for the bank has been built and the plumbing completed apart from the solar heating connections on the roof.  The concrete hasn't been done because of the poor weather but the base is done and it's beginning to look as though the end is in sight.  Even the chemicals are in the water turning it a rather muddy green.

Happy Christmas

It's Christmas morning here in New Zealand.  I was woken at 7.30 by the phone ringing.  I'd left it in the Study so had to gallop across The Cottage to get to it before the answer machine cut in.  "Happy Christmas.  I knew that I could phone you because you'd be up."  I'd been sound asleep since about 11pm.  We'd had Christmas Eve dinner very early by my standards and it had thrown my clock out so I had been tired.  I must have sounded asleep as the voice said "Gosh.  If I didn't know better I'd have thought that I'd woken you.".  I said nothing.

After the exchange of greetings and agreement to catch up during the week I surveyed the day.  Glorious blue sky with not a cloud to be seen.  Not, I gathered from my next phone conversation with Pat on Lewis, exactly what it's like back in Scotland.

So today we shall, as usual, be opening our stockings and presents with all the doors wide open and will be having a traditional BBQ lunch up at The House on the deck.

I do love life in New Zealand.

I wish  for all my friends and readers a happy, peaceful (particularly for those of you in Christchurch), and fulfilling Christmas.

Christmas Eve in Emmerson Street, Napier.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christchurch Hit Again

Within the last hour or so Christchurch has been hit by two more severe earthquakes.  Ironically I saw the information on the BBC and then got an Facebook message from Fiona in Christchurch.  There do not appear to be any serious casualties but the physical, psychological and financial damage to the City and its people must be horrendous.   Fiona said "Armageddon has come back".  I feel sick for the people who have suffered so much in the last year.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I started this morning thinking about the very simple things of life starting with driving with the roof down soaking up the the warmth of the sun. 

By the time I came to write this post this evening so much has happened during the day and yet, at the same time, so little has happened.

A few days ago my right eye (the only one I can see out of properly) started giving me some trouble.  A visit to the Doc determined that there was nothing in it and no visible sign whatsoever of anything untoward.  She prescribed an anaesthetic eye drop.  It's still giving me trouble but not so serious as to impair my vision.  My eye just feels as though it has a boulder in it.  

That made me think of my brother, CJ, of Jaz and of Friend Whom I'd Trust With My Life and all their much more serious vision problems.  It's made me think just how very precious our eyes are.

So today I am very thankful for something so many of us take for granted, our eyesight.

More than that I hope beyond hope that CJ and Jaz's sight improves quickly and that Sue never has to go through more operations.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Useful Momento

One of the most useful tools in my kitchen armoury in the UK is a utensil to hold an onion while you slice it.  When I was undergoing radiotherapy a few years ago I was part of a great group of people including Junior and his wife Marlene.  During a conversation one day the subject of onion chopping came up and I mentioned this wonderfully simple but effective gadget and also said that I'd been unable to find another one for my life in New Zealand.  So Marlene went on the hunt and found me one.  So every couple of days when I use it I think of that kindness and of Marlene and Junior.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Better Than Shears

Today the hedge was cut.  Actually that's rather an understatement.  At 0730 a tractor arrived with the most lethal looking piece of equipment I have ever seen.  The hedge needed somewhere around 1.5 metres lopping off it.   Boy did this baby achieve its objective.  The Cottage is probably 30 or so metres away and was showered by the debris.

The Next Step

About a year ago I saw a Cinnabar Moth but didn't manage to photograph it.  A few days ago I saw one and managed to get my camera to it....almost.  In fact I photographed it and it is sort of identifiable.  Perhaps next year I will get the opportunity to get a proper photograph.  

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Swimming Pool: Day 7

Well today was cutting an laying day for the surround tiles and the plumbing progressed to the filter and pump.  I'm not sure what's happened to the pump shed though.  

A finished surround for Christmas is looking unlikely to my eye but the if there is any work between Christmas and New Year then.....

Snowing Again

Well actually it's not snow at all as you might have guessed and those of you who've been following this blog for some years might have remembered.   It's Poplar blossom time again.  The massive Poplar trees  in the paddock let go of all their pollen when the conditions are just right to cover my carpet with the seeds.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Eleven O'clock and All's Quiet

The dishwasher is quietly (well, rather noisily actually but it doesn't create the right ambience for the post) purring away in the background as I listen to Elgar's Sea Pictures (Just for a change I'm listening to Della Jones instead of the definitive Dame Janet Baker recording from, I think, 1965 or was it 1968?  It was a long time ago anyway.) and take stock of the week that's just passed.  One way and another the 44 days 19 hours and 50 mins that have gone by since I landed in Napier have been some of the busiest at a stretch in this country that I can recall since the first time I came here in 2005.  And the last week has seen the busiest of those 44 days.  It's been  wonderful but I'm now looking forward to a quiet week in the run up to the Christmas weekend.

Today I woke with a start rather late at 0722.  Within a few seconds I was up and the kettle was on.  I was due out at 8am with Wendy and Martin to the Farmers Market in Hastings.  The odd thing about getting up so rapidly was that I had absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the dream that I'd woken from except to know that it was deeply unpleasant.  Perhaps that's why in the past I remembered so very few dreams because at one time I always rose within a few seconds of waking.  Now I often turn over and doze for a while.

The weather for the Farmers Market was cold but the rain had stopped for which we were truly thankful.  Unfortunately a combination of time spent actually looking and buying and the miserable weather meant that I took only a handful of photos.

Superb smoked fish - that's a couple of meals catered for.
A huge selection of artisan breads.  I didn't need bread today.
There's nothing better than carrots with their tops on and organic carrots are one of the few organic foods where I can taste a difference.
Note the wheelbarrow on the extreme left of the picture.  The clever ones were shopping with a wheelbarrow.  We had to make four trips back to the car.
All in all it was a successful morning and I think it may well be the start of a trend.  What I had not realised, because I'm never in Napier on a Saturday morning 'cos I play croquet then, is that there is a Farmers Market in the centre of Napier on a Saturday morning.

We got home around midday and I set about preparing a buffet for friends from Napier who had visited me in Scotland last year and The Family - a total of 12 to be fed. 

After a really wonderful, relaxed evening catching up everyone left and I'm now writing this and musing on how lucky I am.  Not only have I had a fabulous day, week and month but, given my propensity to over-cater I will probably have nothing to cook for the next four days anyway.
So now it's time for an early night - I should make bed before 1230!   Life's pretty good.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Swimming Pool: Day 6

The pool has now been filled with water and the concrete has been poured into the gap between the earth and the pool lining wall.  The base for the pump and equipment shed has been laid.  Getting there...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Thankful Thursday: The School Prizegiving

Yesterday evening was the Puketapu School Prizegiving.  All the children from The Family are or have been pupils there.  I am privileged to have been to the Prizegiving each year since the youngest of The Family, Catriona, first went to the school on her fifth birthday in 2006.  This year the format was substantially the same but considerably shorter than last year.

The school's band entertained us before the 'formal' proceedings
Girls perform the Maori Poi
The first year Merit Awards (3 per Room)
My teachers never wore shoes like that!
The seniors demonstrate many modern dance types over the last decade (Fraser in the centre with green spectacles)
Aiding the Head Teacher in his speech
Fraser (penultimate offspring) receiving the cup for the most dedicated gymnast.  He's represented the school and performed in the NZ Nationals.

Frazer and his joint House captain receive the shield for the best House.

Senior top pupils about to leave giving their memories of their teachers over their times at the school

All in all it is a very different occasion from any Prizegiving that I ever experienced:  the air of formal recognition of achievement being combined with a wonderfully informal atmosphere (in which there are no school uniforms being worn) with lots of fun and performances.  

I've been very proud and very thankful for the privilege of being part of it over the last six years.

Mark's Blog

Some of my readers have noticed that there have been problems with Mark's Blog "Tales From and English Coffee Drinker" and comments that he has made on my Blog which keep disappearing.  SP and I have also been having problems as in Bloggers and Followers.

This morning I received the following email from Mark.
As you may have noticed from one of the recent comments from Fi on your blog about followers my blogger nightmare continues. It looks as if not only has the comment I posted on that post been removed, again but Google have disabled my entire account. This means all my blogs have gone and I can't access my gmail account either. I've completed the contact us form but goodness knows what I did to have my account suspended,

Hopefully it will get resolved soon but....
I"m beginning to get worried/paranoid.  I do keep a back-up of my blogs but......

More Experimenting

This looks like an ordinary photo of the scene from The Cottage's deck.  Doesn't it?  Well it's not quite what it seems because it was taken at 0153 yesterday (Wednesday) by the light of the silvery moon.  

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Blogger and Followers

I'm not sure what Blogger's up to these days but as I mantioned earlier SP and I were having difficulties following each other's posts and kept disappearing from each other's reading lists.  That seems to have been sorted.  Then yesterday Mark wondered whether I'd upset him and removed one of his comments from a post.  It was a perfectly innocuous comment, he's never upset me (how could he, he likes Marmite) but, nevertheless, despite me having the email to say he's commented the comment had disappeared.

Today I saw that I had an extra follower in that the number had increased by one.  However when I tried to find out who the new follower was I realised that, in fact, I was now followerless.  Come on Blogger, raise your game.

A Year's Supply

What sort of drinking habits do you have?  I'm referring not to alcohol because I have a feeling that  that would be courting disaster.  Just your ordinary daily beverages.  For example I usually drink green tea with lemon when I get up in the morning.  Sometimes I get a bit rash and have Lady Grey (black tea scented with oil of bergamot, lemon peel and orange).  At lunchtime I drink Red Bush Tea.  At other times I drink Earl Grey or Lapsang Souchong (Lapsang is distinct from all other types of tea because lapsang leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, taking on a distinctive smoky flavour).  Sometimes I mix Lapsang with mixed with ordinary tea.  Why am I telling you this?  Well I like my tea weak and am frequently made fun of for that preference.  My dear friend Anna's New Zealand son yesterday decided to give me a present of a year's supply of tea.    I thought he was being a tad cheeky.

PS I never take milk or sugar in tea or coffee and when I'm not drinking tea I drink coffee.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Cottage and The House

The Swimming Pool posts have led to some comments which make me think that some of my more recent readers and not aware of the circumstances of my life in New Zealand and also think that I live in The House.  I don't.  I live in The Cottage.  Over the years I have done many posts involving The Cottage but I think that if you follow this link you will get a better picture of the situation.  There are more pictures and stories to be had if you follow the label The Cottage.

The situation is that my New Zealand family, Wendy, Martin and the four children are my surrogate family.  They live in The House which is on a 5 acre (2.2 hectare) Lifestyle Plot.  You are limited to one house on a lifestyle plot but you can have a 'granny house' so in October 2007 a 'granny house' was put on site and that is now my New Zealand home.

At the moment The Family is making substantial alterations to The House including putting in the swimming pool.  Because I use this blog partly as a means of keeping in touch with friends and family, partly as a sort of diary/reminder of things I have done and the chronology of my life here and partly as a way of meeting people in Blogland I sometimes blog on things as a matter of record rather than general interest.  The swimming pool is an example of that.

So I hope I haven't given anyone the wrong impression.  Your comments are all pertinent of course in that I shall certainly be there swimming in it!

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Swimming Pool: Day 5

It doesn't really look as though much progress has been made but it has.  The bank at the back has been removed to make way for the patio and the pool's pump and equipment shed.  Bushes and overgrown undergrowth have been removed to enable people once more to see the view and the more plumbing and pipework has been done.

Living gets in the way of Life

For the last three days I have risen early and planned to spend at least a reasonable amount of time in Blogland both posting and reading.  However it's not worked out like that at all and here I am at 4pm on the third day and, apart from a few short posts and reads I've been absent.  I've got lots of things done,  fed lots of people, been (I hope) a good host to my visitor and enjoyed those days but my 'other life' has suffered as a consequence.  I'm not ignoring anyone.  I'll be back.  

In the meantime every time I get an email from my old friend David aka Marcel I read his footnote which is a quote from Spike Milligan "We don't have a plan so nothing can go wrong!".  Of course you can then get sidetracked by the hundreds of funny Spike Milligan quotes.  After that the world of quotes is your oyster and the day could pass without you even noticing.  So I plan.  Which guarantees that things go 'wrong'.  C'est la vie.  Ce qui doit ĂȘtre meilleur que l'alternative.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Peas in a Pod

When did you last have fresh peas straight from the pod and eat them like sweets/lollies/candy?  Well for me the answer (before a few days ago) was many years ago - perhaps even as long ago as my youth because I don't think we ever grew proper peas on Lewis and the other things of that ilk that we tried were usually destroyed by the wind almost at birth.  I love them.  Why I have never bought them I have no idea.  Wendy gave me some a few days ago and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  There were none left to cook.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Is Coming

I have two concessions to Christmas decorations:  The Christmas Tree that Catriona made for me when she was 5 and about which I blogged last Christmas and the Father Christmas which Friend Who Knows Too Much gave me one year as an accompaniment to my Christmas gift.  This year it is standing on my table with the first Christmas card to arrive this year.  Don't you just love him?

Up at 6am

I'm very happy getting up at 6am as a rule but if I happen to want to get up at 0800 .  So how is it when I have to get up at 6am I don't like it?  Is it some deep psychological desire not to be compelled to do something?   At the moment I'm playing in the Golf Croquet National Championship Doubles which are being held at 'my' club and the Te Mata Croquet Club 30 minutes drive from The Cottage.  Yesterday was the ideal day for playing: full sun out of a cloudless sky, warm and just a slight breeze.  Today has started off very cool with drizzle.  C'est la vie.  I also have a friend from Gisborne staying.  He's playing too.  It means early starts and long days.  

I'm only playing for two days out of the six and shall be helping set the lawns and hoops at our Club for the next four days.  That means being at the club at 7.15 am instead of 8.15 am.  And I do this for fun! 

Mind you the way things are going in the Doubles I'm not sure that I regard croquet as 'fun' at the moment.