Monday, 28 February 2011

West Coast Kayak Challenge

This is not a reference to the west coast of New Zealand  but to the west coast of  Scotland so this post will appear on both this blog and on my Eagleton Notes Blog too.  It would be so much easier if I had just one blog!  When I started this blog, however,  I had no idea that I would end up living here for more than just one or two summers.

This is about a journey to be made by a friend of Andy, our son who died of cancer on the 4 June 2006.  Bruce Jolliffe starts today,  Monday UK time, on a 313 miles by sea kayak from Largs to Stornoway where Andy was brought up.   The aim is to raise lots of cash for the Royal Marsden in London, (where Andy was treated), the Beatson in Glasgow (where, coincidentally I was treated) and RNLI, (The Royal National Lifeboat Institution) in Andy's  memory.  The expedition is self funded. All donations go to the causes. The expedition will update via Facebook, Twitter and website - West Coast Kayak Challenge (with GPS).

A New Week

It's almost 9am.  It was good not to have to get up at 6am today.  I slept solidly until 0558 (yippee no nightmares) , woke and turned over until 0700.  Wonderful.  Now the sun has come up over the rim of the bowl in which I live and the temperature has reached 20℃ on the deck.  I've had a chat to a friend in the UK.  I've been watching the breakfast TV programme for the latest updates on the earthquake (another 4.1 aftershock less than an hour ago - more property affected, more lives affected, more nerves frayed even further).  This morning I shall take stock, do some housework, meet a friend for coffee and take the car to the garage to have an annoying squeak I can't get at put right.  This afternoon I shall play croquet.  

On Wednesday we all set off for another tournament.  This time at The Mount (Mount Maunganui near Tauranga).

I sometimes find it hard to believe how lucky I am.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Earthquake: A Personal View

I, and those who know me well, know that I'm a rather emotional person and even though that may not be regarded as one of a man's most manly and desirable qualities I really don't give a damn.  That's just how I am.  So I am quite ready to say that when the TV or Radio News brings us interviews and comments and news from quake-stricken Christchurch I sometimes have difficulty holding back the tears.  After all I, like hundreds of thousands of others,  have walked down those streets, have been in that Cathedral, have been in that Mall.  My last visit was less than a year ago which, in geological terms, is a mere fraction of a second in time.  I could easily have been one of those who lies beneath the rubble.  As could many people I know and some I love.   It nearly was!

One of the problems with television, as I have commented before, is that it anaesthetises us.  We are taken right into war zones whilst the bullets and bombs are whizzing and falling.  We are taken into the 9/11s as the fires rage.  We are taken into the horrors of the genocide of Rwanda and the Congo.  We are in the midst of the horrors of Christchurch and, for once, for us in New Zealand it is personal.  Very personal.

But the television and radio views are brought to us by people we don't know personally.

The photos, the words and the emotions on Fiona's blog are, to me, personal because Fiona is a real person who is part of my Blog world and also part of my Facebook world.  So when I see her pictures and read her words I am seeing and reading things which are real and believable and which have no anaesthetic qualities.

Paul Holmes is a New Zealand broadcaster.  I have to admit that I have no liking for him.  He is, however, the consummate wordsmith.  Yesterday in the New Zealand Herald he published the following letter:
Dear Christchurch,
I'm writing to you as an Aucklander, to my Christchurch cousins and brother and sister Kiwis. And I just want you to know how much we're all thinking of you and how much we love you and how much we feel for you in these impossible days.
Your city is on its knees. Our eyes fill with tears at the sight of it. We watch the TV and listen to the radio all day and we hear your emptiness, your loss, your dismay, your shock, your disbelief. We see that ubiquitous bloody silt from the liquefaction, that weird up-thrust of clag that fills your back yards and covers your roads and buries your cars.
We look at you and we look at it all and we know what it means. When we hear that the CBD will be closed for weeks, we know what that means for business. We know what it means for your kids, for their state of mind, for their health, for their next pair of new shoes with winter coming.
We know.
So many of you are involved in the tourism business. We know what those pictures going round the world will do for tourism. We know what it's going to do for the insurance premiums. We know some of you, after this, won't be able to afford insurance.
And we know what your cathedral means to you. I heard someone say the other day on television that the cathedral is a Christchurch icon. No. It's a New Zealand icon. All our lives we've had the Christchurch Cathedral.
I know you think we Aucklanders are up ourselves. I know you bang on about bloody Aucklanders. But really, we're just the same as you. We're Kiwis, before we're anything else. We're strugglers, like you. We get up and go to work and do the best for our kids, just like you. We help our neighbours, just like you, and we've watched you helping each other this week and we've all been deeply moved. We just want to walk up to the television screen and hug you and hold you.
Of course, that is something in itself - we've been able to watch what's been going on. So many of you in Christchurch, lacking electricity, haven't been able to see television or listen to the radio or plug your computer in or charge your cellphones. And you may have loved ones missing as well and heaven knows how you're getting your information and how lonely and isolated you must feel. I hope you have someone to put an arm around you.
John Key was right this week. No act of kindness is too small. That was very homespun of him, wasn't it? That's why I suppose he's so good when this stuff happens.
And I know from September, when I went down for a look, that television might show the bricks lying in the street and the great crumpled buildings in their hideous forms. What it doesn't show is the minute damage, the cracked floors, the broken pipes, the destruction of so much of everything you've built and so much of what you hold dear.
Anyway, the TV coverage has been very compassionate, very graphic, very real and wall to wall. I must say how well I think TV3 did on the first day. Hillary Barry had just the right tone. Then I flicked on Sky News. There was Hillary across Australasia. Then I flicked on CNN. There was Hillary, right around the world.
The most vivid report, and one of the briefest on the first night, was from my former colleague John Sellwood in Lyttelton. He painted a brilliant word picture of the destruction down the main street of the town. It was a lesson in voice reporting. It was passionate but precise and you could hear all the shock of the day in his voice.
On Wednesday, at Hawkes Bay Airport on my way to Auckland, there was a flight due out to Christchurch. In the packed Koru Club every eye was on the television screen. I spoke with Stu, who just wanted to get home to Christchurch. He talked to his wife on Tuesday morning, an hour and a half before the earthquake. She was heading in to Cashel Mall to get her hair done. Cashel Mall was pummelled, of course.
Stu couldn't get hold of her all day. After the quake she and others were trapped in the mall. When they got out, it took Stu's wife three hours to walk home. Stu finally got through to her about 6 on Tuesday night. He said he'd just been through the worst day and night he'd ever had.
Then, just before I got on the plane, I spoke to a woman who works in Lyttelton. She told me that on Tuesday, about lunchtime, her staff ran her to the airport. By the time she landed in Napier, Christchurch was in ruins. She told me that if she hadn't taken that flight, she would have been killed. She has a desk right next to a great brick wall. The entire wall fell across the desk.
What we're seeing this week, Christchurch, is the way you carry on. That's one of the qualities we love about you. You keep going. Everything you rebuilt after last September has been ripped up and torn apart again and you keep going, and we cheer for you and we cry for your pain and heartbreak.
And as each day has gone by this week, we've seen more and more clearly the enormity of the human and infrastructural destruction.
You've got the right man as your mayor, though. Bob Parker is a face and a voice of competence and reassurance. On Wednesday night, I worried about him, so tired and careworn did he look, and I wished he'd simply head home and get some sleep. But there he was on Thursday, fresh as a daisy, the world's media hanging on his every word, talking up the city he loves, willing you to survive.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know how much we're all thinking of you and watching you and praying for you and hoping for the very best for you in your dark hour of worry, longing and sorrow.
Whatever views I may have of Paul, his words brought tears to my eyes.  If I had been born or brought up a New Zealander I would like to think that I had been blessed with the ability to craft those words and bring forth the emotions they evoke. 

As it is all I can do is feel helpless and realise just how lucky I am.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


Books in New Zealand are very expensive.  A new paperback novel in a bookshop is about $40NZ (about £20 UK).  In the UK that same novel will be about £7 or £8 but the bookshops sell most new novels on a bogof basis (buy one get one half price or three for the price of two).   In the UK bookshops appear to be still flourishing despite the competition from Amazon (where the same paperback will probably cost £4.50) and electronic books for use on the Kindle and iPad and so on.  It is generally cheaper in NZ to buy a paperback from in the US and ship it here or from an on-line bookshop here.

I like books.  I am not sure how I would react to a Kindle but I'm pretty sure I will end up buying one.  Why?  Because these days when travel by air means less and less luggage in and out of the cabin two  medium paperbacks weigh more than a Kindle which can hold about 3500 books and takes up less room than a paperback.  

So the threat to bookstores in NZ is considerable.

In Tauranga I noticed that the chain franchise Poppies store was closing:

"Instore" On the facade of a book store - ugh
In Napier the Dymocks Book Store has closed and the Whitcoulls group which has been around since 1882 when it started up in Christchurch is in Administration.

This leaves a Paper Plus (which is a general stationers etc which sells books) and the privately owned Beatties and Forbes Book Shop. 

What happens now?

Friday, 25 February 2011

Thankful Thursday

It's actually just after 0600 Friday.  I forgot yesterday was Thursday until I was just getting into bed and  I wasn't inclined to switch the computer on again.   As I lay down I wondered just what this week had brought which could possibly make anyone here in New Zealand thankful about anything.  After a night broken by nightmares and cramp I woke finally earlier than I'd intended and realised that there are still so many things about which I (and, after all, this blog is my view of life) should be thankful.  The first, and most insignificant, of these is that such broken nights and cramps are fairly rare for me.  I have friends who rarely get a good night's sleep for a multitude of reasons.

I'm thankful that Jaz will soon be coming home.

I'm sad beyond words for what is happening in Christchurch but even in that situation one has to be thankful that we live in a country which can cope with such a disaster and be thankful for the huge amount of help which has arrived from around the world. 

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Just To Let You Know

that I have been helping with a Tournament at the Croquet Club today and will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  This means me being out at 0700 to get lawns ready and set the hoops.  Then I'm at the Club all day as a referee and gofa.  I also have Mike staying with me.  He's playing in the Tournament but at the Te Mata Club. 

I shall be taking the laptop with me but today I had little opportunity to do anything.  

So I'm just letting you all know that whilst I shall try and get emails written I may get a bit behind.

Hopefully I'll manage a quick blog or two just to make sure you all know that I'm still here.

In the meantime if any of you were wondering what had happened to a certain Grand Prix driver then ....  No, surely it can't be!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Morning After

It's 6am.  At midnight last night I received a text from Christchurch and my friend there and she's ok.  Thankfully she was not in central Christchurch and is staying in part of Christchurch where I have acquaintances with whom I've stayed when I have been there.  So I slept albeit fitfully. I woke occasionally with the horror still in my mind.  This morning the television is back on and the media are now beginning to get to that stage when they have to fill every minute.  This leads to questions such as "What do you think the final death toll may be?"  As the Mayor said questions like that apart from seeking totally speculative and unavailable information verge on the tasteless at this stage.

I'm out today at 8am.  I'm glad because I would be unable not to watch the television or at least keep it on.  As it is some of the questions the media are asking of the people who are trying to effect rescues are just infuriatingly inane.  Questions like "It's getting light now.  Will that help you?"  Pardon.  Did he really ask that?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Happy Birthday

One of the beauties of texts is that if someone is on the other side of the world you can't be sure that they will receive their birthday card on the correct day.  In fact last time I sent Steve a card it took several months to arrive and I'm sure he thought I'd forgotten.  So this morning I sent a text to a friend to wish her a Happy Birthday.

She is visiting Christchurch.  If ever a wish didn't turn out the way it was intended then that was that wish.

Memorable it may well have been.  Happy?  I doubt that very much.

Christchurch Earthquake

Just after 1400 hrs today I received a text from a friend who is visiting Christchurch to say that there had been another large earthquake in the City.   It immediately became obvious that the quake was significantly more serious than the larger quake last September which was further away from Christchurch, much deeper and, most importantly, instead of being in the middle of the night when CBD (Central Business District = City Centre) was empty it happened just before 1pm when the buildings and streets were full.  Communication with the City had been temporarily cut off when power and telecommunications lines were disrupted or destroyed.  It took a short while for the television and radio networks (which were themselves damaged) to get up and running with their independent satellite equipment.

Reference Number3468575[View event in Google Maps]
Universal TimeFebruary 21 2011 at 23:51
NZ Daylight TimeTuesday, February 22 2011 at 12:51 pm
Latitude, Longitude43.60°S, 172.71°E
Focal Depth5 km
Richter magnitude6.3
  • Within 5 km of Lyttelton
  • Within 5 km of Diamond Harbour
  • 10 km south-east of Christchurch

Living in New Zealand one is constantly aware of earthquakes which, generally speaking, do little serious damage.   If one lives in Napier the effect of the 1931 earthquake which destroyed the City with huge loss of life and very significant geological effect in the area one is even more aware of what can happen.

However I cannot explain the feelings of anxiety knowing that someone you know and care about is involved even when you know that they survived the initial quake unscathed.  I cannot even begin to imagine how people with relatives and friends who are missing are feeling at this time.  At the time I'm writing this 65 have been confirmed dead but it is expected that that number will rise.

A State of Emergency has been declared.

The television and radio have been on the air with updating news since the quake.  The friend who texted had no idea of the seriousness at the time because they had no power and therefore no TV or radio.   See TV NZ.  

Monday, 21 February 2011

Here, There and Everywhere

I now have so much material for blog posts that I could bore you for months.  As it is most of it is likely to remain unused in my iPhoto bank for eternity (ok, for a few years anyway).  I shall try and distill some of the more compelling and/or less boring photos from the last month and get them onto the blog before I eventually leave for the other end of the globe (in 63 sleeps).  I think that I said that once before either on this blog or on Eagleton Notes and then never managed it.  I'll try harder this time.

They are a sort of hotch potch.  Rather like this suit walking down Emerson Street last week:

Or looking out on a wonderful world through a window:

Or just being together:

Or perhaps being alone:

Or this curious pink shop (which had just been flooded up to the mark on the black-board by the door) at Kaiaua near Miranda on the Firth of Thames:

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Art Deco Sunday

This weekend is Art Deco Weekend.  I have just discovered that I have done 36 previous posts with this label.  Anyway I shall plough on regardless of the fact that I may have told and shown you all this before.  The Veronica Bell was given to the City of Napier after the HMS Veronica was  decomissioned.   I shall not repeat the story which you can read on my previous post:  The Earthquake: The Role of HMS Veronica .  However I shall post some new photos.

The hanging of The Veronica Bell in The Soundshell
The re-dedication of The Bell
The ringing of The Bell.  The ringer was a Napier man serving on RNZN Canterbury.
So that's what you lug around, Adrian.  At least you don't have to wear the uniform!
The NZ Defence Force treats this event seriously

Looking For Wendy.

Visualise a man walking into a good ladies clothes shop in Napier's Emerson Street.  Perhaps I should have said a good clothes shop for ladies.  I can't actually vouch for the goodness of the ladies who shop there although I'm sure they are beyond reproach.

Anyway, after that digression, I will continue.

I walked into the shop and was immediately asked if I was looking for my wife.  Not my wife, no.  I looked round.  There were two customers visible.  Neither of them was Wendy.  "Is there a customer in the changing rooms?"  Affirmative.  Lady with blond hair.  Promising.    Manageress to invisible person:  "Are you expecting your, er,  husband?"  Voice from the invisible blond "Is he good looking?"  Pokes her head round the curtain.  "Yes, he'll do."  Raucous laughter from the assembled multitude (ok the assembled five ladies present).   The previously invisible blond put her spectacles on.  I beat a retreat.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Back at Miranda

I'm afraid that I'm going to be to-ing and fro-ing in time and place  through Blogland for a little while as the present and the past weave their way through this blog.  These photos were taken when I was back on the foreshore at Miranda on the Firth of Thames.  As with the last set of photos these were taken from a considerable distance away.

A flight of Spur-winged Plovers (not Pied Stilts as I originally said during one of my brain-farts)
Pied Oystercatchers.  And is that an albino Pied Oystercatcher?  I believe it is.  Now that's something I've not come across before.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today, when I read Fi's posting today on on Four Paws and Whiskers I was reminded all too starkly of the incident in February last year when the 4x4 I was driving lost power, including steering, when I was in Northland.  Although the roads in Northland are now vastly improved over their state a few years ago there are still some metalled (gravel) roads with exceptionally steep gradients and very long tight bends and very steep drops with no barriers.  If the car  had lost power on one of those bends I would have been unable to steer her and we may well have ended up going over the edge.  Had it happened in the very far north there would have been no cell-phone coverage.  Had it happened on a steep bend we could have been a severe hazard blocking the road (passing places are scarce).  Had it happened at night everything could have been so much worse.  Had it happened on Sunday or Monday we could have been caught in torrential rainstorms.  Sometimes when I think about it my blood still runs cold.

So today I am reminded of how thankful I am that it happened on a straight section of road with an (almost) convenient place to pull off without having to steer the car significantly, on a clear, sunny (but not too hot) late afternoon in a place with cellphone coverage only just over an hour from the nearest town. 

Word Verification

Following a comment from Adrian on the previous post I have decided to remove word verification on this blog.  I will review it if I get any unwanted comments.  Here's hoping.....

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Bits and Bobs in Tauranga

I can't believe it was only last week that I visited Tauranga and Miranda.  It seems as if my visit was an age ago but perhaps its just that so much has happened since.   Certainly the visit has been imprinted on my mind as enjoyable and memorable.  We seemed to do so much and so far all I've blogged about is kayaking, some of the Miranda experience and the eels.  So here are a few more bits and bobs.

A bookshop closing down - always a shame  
Eclectic Friend took me into Tauranga CBD (Central Business District and what would at one time have been called the city or town centre).  I was astonished by the lack of shops when compared with, for example, Palmerston North and the fact that many were closed or closing down. 

Then I discovered that Tauranga has a huge out of town shopping complex.  There is, however, a large café culture which I always find warming and a modern, airy art gallery which I was shown around.  It's good when you are with a guide who knows about a subject.  I was very taken with some abstract three dimentional pieces but I can't recall the name of the artist nor can I identify him (I'm sure it was a him) from the gallery's website.  I'll try and remember to come back to that one.

Perhaps the most fascinating and enjoyable thing I saw that morning was The Elms.  The Elms historic house museum, the oldest European heritage site in the Bay of Plenty, is an essential stop for all visitors to Tauranga. From this traditional English home, Maori were given the opportunity to learn about Christianity, and were educated in reading and writing, as well as agricultural and domestic skills.  Unfortunately photography inside is forbidden.  Why, oh why?  Flash need not be used these days.  So here are a few of the outside which, frankly, give only a tiny idea of the place.
The Elms, Front view

The Elms, Rear view
The Library - the oldest surviving mission building on the property - has changed little inside or out since it was built in 1839.
Also in the CBD was this restaurant which I just couldn't resist:

Intrepid, addictive dining!?  Hmmm.

For What We Are About To Receive

You are sitting in a world-famous Nobu Restaurant.  Now for those who don't know Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is one of the world's most famous fusion chefs.  This particular restaurant is on board an exclusive cruise liner.  The clientelle (or whatever the present PC term for a customer/diner is) changes frequently.  The menu, apparently, does not.  Several of your fellow diners comment that it has become too predictable and you know what you are going to eat and why can't they change the menu and......  You tell them to get real and stop moaning.  They are eating (at no cost to them) in one of the world's most famous restaurants and all they can think about is the variety of the menu.  They suddenly realise how silly they must have sounded.  

Next time you think there is something wrong with your meal remember somewhere in the region of 925 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition.  If you are able to worry about your meal then you are not one of them.  Be thankful.

One For Adrian

I sighted this cutie at The Mount, Tauranga, and I immediately thought of you, Adrian.  Then I thought of Molly and Alfie. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A Perplexing Day

I've just spent a day with Kate, a beautiful and charming lady and daughter of my dear friends Pat and Dave on Lewis.   She was in Napier on board the Crystal Serenity, a luxurious cruise ship.  Now a cruise is about the last sort of holiday that I would choose and I found the experience of being shown round quite bizarre.  However if I ever were to go on a cruise I'd love to be able to afford that sort of cruise.  

After I'd been shown around Kate and I went to lunch.  I had intended to go to the Black Barn winery but when we got there we discovered that they don't serve lunch on Tuesday.  However the nearby Te Mata Cheese Company do a splendid lunch and we enjoyed a splendid cheese platter.  I discovered that, despite the top class restaurants on board, American cruise liners do not consider fine cheeses a priority so Kate was well pleased.  On second thoughts I'll definitely give the cruise a miss.  No proper cheese!  I don't think so.

The only irritation of the day is that the brilliant sun and 30 deg temperatures of yesterday were replaced by grey skies with some drizzle and a cool 22 deg.

Deck 6 - where it all happens
No.  It's not a London Club.  It's a cruise liner bar
The retail experience
The centre of things
This is huge and very popular.  I just can't believe it.
The larger of the two theatres
From the top of that hill it seems much bigger than it seems from this deck
The library - part of it anyway
Fine dining
Just another restaurant - heaven knows how many there are, I suppose someone has taken an inventory of them.
Under the grey Napier sky
Deck shoes?
The Palm Court Deck
The Reception Area

A Close Encounter

with Short-finned Eels Anguilla australis  in the river at the Flip'n Bear Café near Katikati:

A spectre from the deep
The Methuselah of the deep (well the shallow actually but it doesn't sound so dramatic).
See, even eels can rock climb
Biggest wins
Some people will do anything for a photo

and some will do anything for a piece of bread
Here's looking at you, kid

Methuselah again with his crown
I think this is one too many eel photos
Electric eel?