Monday, 31 January 2011

The Handbag

I sometimes forget that I've been blogging since 2007 but that many of my readers have not followed the Blog for anything like that amount of time.  So some of the historic posts will have been forgotten by some (including me!) and never seen by others.  Adrian asked if it was my car in the penultimate post.

Before I went to New Zealand in 2006 I decided that I had to have a car.  For years I (like many men as they grow older) had hankered after a rag-top. I'd had one as a youngster but this was my second chance. I decided on a Mazda MX5: fun, seriously good to drive, superb quality and not too expensive to run. As luck would have it I managed to find exactly what I wanted before I went out. It was in Auckland - a 'new' car. In New Zealand many cars are considered 'new' if they come in from Japan when they are 5 years old. Japan's motoring laws make it very expensive to keep a car after it's fifth birthday. The Company delivered it to Napier for me.

Wendy was to pick me up from the Airport. I was foolish enough to mention that I had two cases and that the MX5 wouldn't be big enough. Wendy's response was that the MX5 wasn't big enough to hold her handbag. From that moment forth the car has been known as The Handbag. Napier's climate is such that it is the ideal car for one person most of the time. When I am transporting the children I swap The Handbag for one of the Geddes people carriers. It goes without saying that a young blond looks a darn site better driving an MX5 than an old baldie. But wotthehellarchiewotthehell.

In actual fact the MX% is also an antidote to the staid long-distance touring car I drive in the UK which is affectionately known as The Nighthawk because it is Nighthawk Black or by one neighbour as The Hearse because it has black security glass in the rear windows.

The Land of The Long White Cloud

Yesterday, Lisa aka Shabby Girl said that she had been reading a short article on New Zealand a few days ago, and it said that NZ is called "the land of the long white cloud." and that it said you will get wet!  

Well you won't necessarily get wet.  Most of the North Island and Nelson and Blenheim in the South Island get lots and lots of sunshine and good weather and, in fact, the last year or two has seen serious drought conditions.  However it has to be said that the last few weeks have seen and end to drought in most places!  After all on Australia's Sunshine Coast they have just had flooding affecting an area the size of France and Germany after ten or more years of absolute drought conditions.

New Zealand is known in Maori as Aotearoa. This is now accepted in both languages and appears in the official title of many organisations.  The usual translation of Aotearoa is The Land of the Long White Cloud (from Ao (cloud), tea (white) and roa (long)). However as with many place names the origin cannot be certain and is bound up with Maori mythology.  I had always assumed the simple explanation was answer.  New Zealand is made up of two long relatively narrow islands with a spine of mountain ranges.  Those ranges are often topped with cloud: a long white cloud.

There are two good articles on the name in Wikipedia and The 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand .

Sunday, 30 January 2011

That Was The Week That Was

It's been quite a week in many ways.  I'm not going to go into details but I suppose the weather has been a barometer of the week: rain storms, floods, gale force winds and hot sunny days mirroring days of despair and days of hope in everything from the serious (friends' situations) to the inconsequential (my ability to hit a croquet ball properly!). 

Flooding at Rotowhenua Road - it has been right over the road.
Morning mists over the orchards in front of The Cottage
Friday evening contentment:  Catriona and Comet after dinner

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Thankful Thursday

Many of you who read this post will never have used one of these: a solid wringer or mangle as they were called.  My grandmother had one like this in the washing cellar under the house.  The one in our house was smaller and I seem to recall that it was green and had narrower rubber rollers.  This example was in the Waipawa Settlers Museum

It reminded me how thankful I am for a modern washing machine and, particularly on Lewis, a tumbledrier.

Thankful Thursday

This Thursday I found it hard to continue with the Thankful Thursday post which was started by Jaz of Treacy Travels.  Jaz lies in a hospital bed after an attempt to remove a brain tumour did not go to plan.  I have not felt particularly thankful this week if I am honest.

However I think that to give up on the posts would be to deny the positive attitude that Jaz brings to life.  So I shall continue to post Thankful Thursdays until Jaz is back in harness and doing them again herself.

As it happens the next post was done last week and pre-posted - something I rarely do.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


It's the time of year again - I seem to blog about this every year - when the crops are sprayed. In this case it's the apple orchards in front of The Cottage. There are choices: spray against pests with chemical insecticides, spray with Bacillus thuringiensis (a spore forming bacterium that produces crystals protein which are toxic to many species of insects and used in organic farming) or do nothing. Doing nothing is not a commercial option because we, the consumer, just won't buy insect damaged products (and they wouldn't last long anyway).   Each year I am reminded, however, that when I eat an apple I am probably eating some residue of the insecticide used:

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


I recently commented on new followers.  A few days ago a new follower joined but I couldn't identify which one it was because it didn't add on at the usual place.  Not a problem.  Then today there was one less follower.  Curiosity made me try and find out who had left the fold.  No luck.  Ah well.  I suspect that many of the followers don't actually follow anyway.

All over the area at the moment are these beautiful flowers.  They are bulbs.  Can anyone put a name to the for me?

Monday, 24 January 2011

It Has Stopped

raining.  63  hours!

Sixty Hours

I live in hope. If you said that in my family when I was a young man you might well get the response "and Caergwrle"  It was one of those silly things that become family jokes.  When we used to go into North Wales from Liverpool where I lived as a child we passed a sign to the villages of Hope and Caergwrle.  Mum and Dad had spent time in the latter village - camping, I assume, although they may have taken a house there for holidays in their early days together.

Oh.  By the way, I live in hope of it stopping raining later this morning as forecast by them that know about these things on the television.   Why?  Because it's now Monday morning here and we have just passed the 60 hours of solid rain mark.  That's a lot of rain.  The soft fruit growers in Hawkes Bay will not be happy as their fruit swells and splits.  The Apple growers and dairy farmers will be delighted.  I'm just irritated by the fact that I can't get out onto the croquet lawns and get some practice for the Nationals which are next week.

Anyway I thought that, instead of harping on about the rain, I'd post some photos from The Rose Gardens in Palmerston North's Victoria Esplanade where I was last week - or was it the week before?  Tempus fugit.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


It started raining over 40 hours ago.  The birds have been taking refuge on the deck under cover and even the Kingfisher looks miserable.

It's All in The Face

Well a lot of it is anyway.  Moustaches were popular then!  I found the body language fascinating too.  It was the human aspect that first took my interest but after that I wanted to know more about the them.  The Rough Riders were New Zealand's Mounted Riflemen in the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902).  I had never heard of a Rough Rider until I saw this picture in the Waipawa Settlers Museum last November.  The picture whetted my appetite and I have since discovered that there are quite a few books and much reference material about them including some that have been digitised by Google and made available to Kindle etc as well.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Says It All Really.

The Power of a Touch

A friend, Julia Cornes, made the following statement on Facebook recently "too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring all of which can turn your life around.".   What prompted her to make that statement I know not.  Of course I agree with the statement - who could not.  However for some years now I have been only too aware of the power those seemingly small things can have on others. and have attempted (not always successfully) to do those things.  However I would turn the statement around and venture to suggest that too often we underestimate the power of an unkind word, flattery (flattery is a Bad Thing and corrupts both the giver and the receiver whereas a compliment is a Good Thing), and the smallest act of neglect all of which can turn someone's life around.  If we can do the former things and not do the latter then we can become better people.  More importantly we may help to make someone else a happier person.

The Church at Otane

The Church of St James The Apostle was consecrated an Anglican Church on 21st January 1894.   Although I can find no references to dates on the internet the last Vicar of Otane ceased to hold that office in 1982.  The church is now an inter-denominational church (which seems quite common in rural New Zealand).  The church is attractive and appears to be well looked after and the  attractive but unremarkable stained glass window's provenance is recounted inside.  However what struck me was the window at the opposite end of the church which I thought was one of the most beautiful windows I have ever seen in a church.

Unfortunately it was difficult to photograph and describing it is even more difficult.  By using the tress outside for contrast the content of the window appears.  The pattern is shown by raised material which appears to have been applied to the glass in the way one would apply something like building sealant!  The opaque areas may have been acid etched.  I shall have to do some homework on this one.  In the meantime I thought I'd share it with you.  If anyone does know the process used I should be glad to hear.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Very Appropriate

Very appropriate name I thought!

Argh! I'm a Man

I keep forgetting that I'm a man.  Bugger.  I was quietly sorting my pills, making chocolate crunch for the children, working out what I was going to feed the family this evening, ironing things in between, answering the phone ('No, I'm not Simon!'), answering a comment on Facebook  and sending a text about this morning's arrangements for croquet when I wondered what the odd noise was.  The chocolate, sugar, syrup, butter mix was boiling!  Oh dear.  I should just remember that I'm a man and do one thing at a time.  But then that involves thinking.  And I'm a man.  Catch 22 really.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Thankful Thursday

As I drove home from Palmerston North on Monday I made a mental note to include the drive in my Thankful Thursday post.  As I drove with the lid down on a beautiful, hot, sunny day stopping at various places for coffee and to take photos here and there I realised that I was able to do just that.  Something which is so hard to do in the UK any more.  I used State Highway 50 which leaves SH 2 just after Norsewood (where I stopped for lunch) and goes for about 60 k to Bridge Pa.  Whilst on the highway I passed a farm vehicle and was passed by about 6 other vehicles.  I just moseyed along at a nice easy pace enjoying the fabulous scenery and wondering where else I was ever likely to be where I could do just that without being hassled by traffic.  I certainly felt very thankful.
Gaz got news yesterday that he is now a crofter.  The Crofters Commission approved his application for the croft in the village of Grimshader on Lewis.  So I am very thankful indeed that Gaz will now have a base on Lewis.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Escape From The Heat

It's just after 10am and I'm about to do the ironing on a fabulous, sunny morning.  Why?  Because it's 36 ℃ (97℉) on the deck.  I hope it cools down this afternoon because, although I don't mind the heat, many of the croquet players won't venture forth in that temperature.

On the way home the other day I came across this scene.  Tough on the ones with no shade.

What's Going On?

Once again I woke up this morning.  Obviously that's nothing new.  But I'm getting fed up of waking up to night stallions.  I've been having them for a week and they are beginning to get on my wick (as we used to say in Liverpool).  I rarely recall dreams but some of the one's I've had recently have been very unpleasant and stay with me.  Two particularly unpleasant ones about being in the middle of a massacre and about watching a large helicopter crash just won't go away.  

This morning I had become a young  person again starting off in life.  I'd lost the privilege of a stable, loving parental home and had nothing.  That is a situation I have been fortunate enough never to have experienced.  I'll be looking at the victims of the floods in Australia with a new understanding this morning.  There are many worse disasters in the world from the life loss point of view including the floods in Brazil but they are too remote for me to comprehend.

The Rotorua earthquake I mentioned yesterday was felt over most of the North Island even as far as Wellington.  Anna in Rotorua didn't feel it.  In fact the News this morning has said that there were no reports of it being felt in Rotorua.  How strange is that?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A Day I'll Remember

Today is nearly over.  In fact by the time I finish this it will be but it will be posted today anyway.

Today Carol's and my son and Gaz's brother, Andy, would have celebrated his 38th birthday.  But he died in June 2006 on my birthday.  He had lived for 33 years and just over 4 months.   Inspired by the memory of Andrew his very close friend, Bruce, is undertaking a long and not inconsiderable 313 mile sea kayak journey in March from Largs on the west coast of Scotland to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides where Andy was brought up.  His Blog is West Coast Kayak Challenge.

Today, RAC,  a friend of 45 years woke to consider his future after being told yesterday that there was likely to be no more than three months of it. 

Today, Sarah, otherwise known as L'Archiduchesse from Les Chaussettes de L'Archiduchesse who has been 'missing' for 6 months or more and about whom I had blogged my concerns has turned up safe and well and in, of all places, Dunedin, having arrived there on 12th January to study.  Her new blog is Year of Two Summers.

For those reasons and for others I shall not mention, today is not a day that I'll forget.


I was just typing a comment ion Adrian's blog when the desk and chair and plant on the desk started to shake.  Another 'quake.  I filled in the on-line report and submitted it.  A few minutes later the official data came up on my screen.  The quake was near Rotorua.  That's 223 ks away by road.   A friend Anna from Scotland is in Rotorua this evening.  That'll have rattled her teeth.
Magnitude 5.5, Tuesday, January 18 2011 at 9:45 pm (NZDT), Within 5 km of Rotorua.

Quake Details

Information about this earthquake:[View event in Google Earth]
Reference Number3449463/G
Universal TimeJanuary 18 2011 at 8:45
NZ Daylight TimeTuesday, January 18 2011 at 9:45 pm
Latitude, Longitude38.12°S, 176.18°E
Focal Depth150 km
Richter magnitude5.5
  • Within 5 km of Rotorua
  • 190 km south-east of Auckland
Widely felt in the North Island.

Sarchasm and Other Words

Anyone who has read my blogs for any length of time probably also knows my brother Scriptor's blogs too and also knows that words are important to us both.  Recently shabby girl had a wonderful post entitled Funny... .  One of the many words quoted was  "Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it."  I think it's one of the cleverest and funniest sets of words I've read for a long time - perhaps that I've ever read.

I'm Home

In fact I arrived home yesterday mid afternoon and, because we were (are still) due some very wet weather for the rest of the week as a result of the tail ends of two tropical cyclones, I decided to get two loads of washing done and dried before the evening.  That having been done (ablative absolute) I went to the supermarket.  Dinner and then I went to The House and there I remained until I came home to bed.  This morning I played (well that's perhaps going a bit too far - I attempted to play) croquet despite the showers.  This afternoon I decided to make a concerted effort to read and write emails and blogs.   I received several phone calls too - wonderful.   All that's quite surprising given that the sun is shining and the wind (now getting up to gale force) is so hot that the temperature in the shade is 30℃ (86℉).  I should be down on the lawns practicing for my Silver Badges match at the end of the week.

The journey home was sunny once I'd got through the Manawatu Gorge (about which I have previously blogged) but even with no sun the temperature was in the high 20s so I had the roof off.  Looking back at the photos I posted in December 2008 none of them really show the precariousness of the road which carries massive lorries on the main East-West route through the central spine mountains of the Country.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Thankful Thursday

I'm a bit late this week.  I was too busy being thankful yesterday that I didn't have time to write about it and this morning I'm still in Palmerston North but have another full day even though the Tournament is over.  So today I'm thankful for the life that I'm able to lead and for the fact that Jaz (who's done a really lovely Thankful Thursday post this week) started me reminding myself to be thankful.  I'd be even more thankful if I had a few spare hours to spend in Blogland but I'm off to another tournament today for the weekend.  I should be home on Monday evening and then I'll be back to 'normal' for a few weeks.

The last tournament?  Well, I'm thankful for the fact that Judy and I won the Consolation Competition, that I came fourth in the Open Championship (and I was, according to my handicap, the 'worst' player in the event) out of 12 and, finally, I'm thankful for the fact that Mike and I played off for the first place in the Open Handicap and I didn't disgrace myself (Mike is a -2 handicap and I'm a +10!) because I managed to lose 15:18.

So I'm a very happy and thankful bunny.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Croquet in Palmerston North

If you think that croquet is for wimps then think again.  On Saturday we left the house for the lawns at 0745 and arrived home at 1915.  We spent 8 hours and 15 minutes actually playing on the lawns and then there was all the important bits like morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea!  We  repeated that yesterday (Sunday).   A day's croquet can involve walking 10 ks or more at a fairly brisk pace so this weekend I've probably walked over 20ks.  

This tournament  is an Association Croquet (AC) tournament and has seen a lot of new players who, like me, have taken it up after playing Golf Croquet and now play both codes.   Judy, my partner for this tournament,  had never played a full game of AC before. However in two days we played six games  of fairly average croquet it has to be admitted but we only lost one and managed to come top of the Consolation group.  So we celebrated last night.

Fortunately we the celebrations were not too excessive because I'm playing sixteen singles games over the next four days.  By Thursday night I'll either be wrecked or very fit.  Time will tell.  I'll let you know.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

A Wandering I Shall Go

Tomorrow I shall be off to Palmerston North for yet another croquet tournament.  This time it's an Association tournament over six days.  I shall be taking my trusty - and still un-namend - MacBook with me and hopefully before I fall into bed each night I'll be able to keep up to date with Blogland.  

In the meantime I'll leave you with a picture I took this morning when walking along Marine Parade in Napier:

Have a wonderful day.

Thankful Thursday

One thing I'm not so thankful for is that Thursdays keep coming around so fast.  That's not implying that I don't want to write these posts (if I didn't, I wouldn't!) but the fact that life is passing so quickly.  
Nor am I thankful for the fact that a friend of 45 years or more who has cancer has not received good news this week.

Anyway this week I am particularly thankful for the re-emergence of certain people in my life.  Circumstances largely, possibly, of my making and in my mind had meant that I hadn't been in touch for a long time.  Pat read out a message in one of the Christmas cards which had been sent to Eagleton.  It said that it would be nice if the writer could hear my voice again.  So for the New Year I rang him and then I rang his Mum.  He is  one of my God-children (or was 'cos he's long since ceased to be a child) and his Mum and Dad were two of my closest friends many many years ago.  As an aside they lived in Penny Lane (the one made famous in the Beatles song of that name).

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Everything is a Point of View

Fresh Eggs

I don't know how many times I have driven past a farm and seen the sign "Fresh Eggs".  The 'for sale' is generally assumed.  It's always seemed to me rather a silly sign because no one is actually going to advertise stale eggs for sale.  I had to buy sliced bread the other day because I was making sandwiches for me and the children when we were going to Splash Planet for the day.  When I read the packaging it struck me as being even sillier than the eggs:

After all you cannot actually bake stale bread.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Lucky Bamboo

A friend who plays croquet and his wife from Gisborne were staying with me just after I arrived back in NZ and, when they departed, they gave me a Lucky Bamboo.  I assume that they are trained to go round in circles because some are straight.  If so that must have taken a lot of time and effort.  Whatever it is a fascinating and pleasing addition to The Study.  Fraser just looked at it and said "Awesome.  That's really cool."  So I guess it must be good.  Apparently they have been known for centuries under the laws of Feng Shui as a symbol of good luck and is said to enhance positive energy.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The First Day

My first waking day of 2011 has dawned and it's a beautiful, warm, calm day so far.  The birds are making an incredible racket.  I must try and record them one day.  A Blackbird even came into the house through the open ranch sliders.  When there is so much food around outside I'm not sure what he was looking for.  Anyway when he saw me he kicked up a great fuss and flew off making out that it was I who was invading his space.

My partner for next week's Association Croquet tournament at Palmerston North is driving over from there for some practice  together this afternoon.  This evening The Family's coming for dinner.

The only blot on my otherwise perfect landscape is the currency situation.  The $NZ has strengthened and the £ has weakened and I will now get less than $2 to the £1.  When I first came to NZ I was getting $3 to the £1.  Living two lives is becoming very expensive.

But, hey, play the Glad Game.  I'm alive and I've still got food on the table and wine in the glass.  That's a lot more than many people in the world.

2011 Has Arrived!

I'm writing this at 0200 1 January 2011 NZ time, 1300 New Year's Eve UK time and 0800 New Year's Eve US Easter time.  In California it's probable that at 0500 you are still in bed!  

I'm eating cheese and biscuits and downloading 287 photos that I took this evening.  At about 2100  I went out and 'climbed' the Sugar Loaf Reserve at Tiranui not far from here and overlooking Napier.  In fact from the top I had a complete 360 deg panorama from the coast to the central ranges of the Island.  Then the family and friends and I all went to the beach at Napier waterfront and watched the midnight firework display.

Drinks to toast the New Year in at friends and then home.  Now, as I've had almost nothing to drink this evening, I'm treating myself to a glass of wine and some cheese and biscuits before bed whilst I blog.

 Napier City from Sugar Loaf Reserve, Tiranui, Napier

 Everyone starts to gather on the foreshore



 And again

 Lots of 60s songs

 Outside the Soundshell

 It's getting busy

Twenty minutes of fireworks

OK it's nearly 0300.  I'm going to bed.  Sorry, Adrian, I wanted to post them tonight before bed so I haven't even had time to de-noise the images.