Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

This has absolutely nothing to do with New Zealand but a friend in Scotland who figures in my Eagleton Notes and has blogged as Le Jardinier Écossais during his visits to France sent me a photo he had taken of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.  Those of you who follow Adrian know that that is no mean feat.  I've never achieved it (but then I'm rarely ever in a position to - there are none in New Zealand nor on Lewis).  This was taken through a window but I think it's a cracking picture:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Sleeping Beauty

On Saturday evening we put on our finery (well as far as finery goes in provincial New Zealand) and went to the Napier Municipal Theatre to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty.   The tickets were bought last March so we managed to get just about the best seats in the house.  The first time I can remember going to the ballet was in 1965 during the Commonwealth Arts Festival (to which I'd been seconded for a few months to help with all the protocol arrangements - some very good stories from that experience).  I think it was Swan Lake at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool.  What struck me then was the noise from the shoes on the stage.  Oddly now that I've seen ballet many times my mind filters out that noise.  It's like recording a mealtime conversation.  All the mic picks up (amateur recording of course) is the cutlery clanking on the plates.  In real life we hardly hear it because our minds filter it out.  It's like that with so much of life don't you think?

Anyway, back to the ballet.  The RNZB is a young, fresh and exceptionally talented company of world class standard.  They lack the classical finesse of the Bolshoi (hardly surprising) and the flamboyance of the 'American' style but, to my mind, strike a wonderful middle ground.  They are certainly very enthusiastic and that comes over to the audience.  This production of Sleeping Beauty was three years in the making and the demanding choreography, the soaring Tchaikovsky score and the truly magnificent costumes and the innovative and seamless set design left the audience spellbound.

Obviously photography is forbidden and images of the production seem few and far between but I've taken the liberty of reproducing their advert page from the brochure from which you will see that there is a Facebook page and it has some photos and YouTube references.  

Recently SP wrote a post on Fry's Chocolate Cream and I, despite being a long-time recovering chocoholic, was moved to go and buy some at the local supermarket which, although we are on the opposite of the world, actually sells some 'British' products including Fry's Chocolate Cream.  Unfortunately they had temporarily sold out. 

I'd taken Gaz and Carol to The Silky Oak Chocolate Company near Napier last week where their daily quote was on a sandwich board outside. 

I started this post days ago with a specific point in mind but I've forgotten it!  Age cometh not alone. 

Anyway it gives me the opportunity to show a few chocolate pictures.  I can tell you that these apparently small goodies were very very large in flavour and, unfortunately, waist increasing properties.

Monday, 28 November 2011


I've posted about Cicadas on several occasions previously including last year entitled Jiminy Cricket.  The last couple of days the Cicadas have been appearing.  Fraser appeared yesterday morning with one attached to his shoe and, despite the fact that he was walking around, it refused to leave its perch.  The next one appeared this morning in The Cottage.  Unlike the Ladybird I posted about recently this was not in the least bit camera shy.  They are both New Zealand native Chorus Cicada/Kihikihi Wawā (Amphipsalta zealandica).

Sunday, 27 November 2011


In November 2010 I posted a picture of an Elevenspotted Ladybird.  These are common throughout New Zealand.  The Twospotted Ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) is, according to Andrew Crowe common in Southern New Zealand.  This was taken at The Cottage so it would appear to have spread its wings so to speak.  I've discovered that trying to hold a camera completely still and focus the macro with one hand when an insect is on the other is not easy especially when, as in this case,  it kept turning away and wouldn't keep still.

Camera shy

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Haste Ye Back

When we visited the Moana Park Winery Gaz and I both boght a bottle of their 10 year old port.  We started on mine before Gaz and Carol left for the South Island.  They are leaving for the UK from Christchurch in about 5 days.   Gaz left his bottle of port here with me - to be drunk next time they visit New Zealand.  Yes, it's that good!  Haste ye back!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thankful Thursday - Oops

I have, as I mentioned, been to the Veteran's Croquet Tournament.  As always we had a great time although the weather was the worst it's been in Dannevirke since I've been going to that tournament.  Sometimes the wind was so strong and hot that it was shorts and poloshirt and others it was cold and full rain gear.  The only fairly consistent constant was the very strong winds.  Few of us like playing in the wind.  Few of us like playing in the rain.  However I played the Glad Game - warm rain and warm wind are preferable to cold wind and cold rain!

Weather over the Ruahine Ranges
The tournament was mixed for me given that I have hardly played any croquet for 6 months whilst in the UK.  However after two days of Association Croquet where I played some really good stuff and even more superb crappy stuff I played Golf Croquet today with Margaret who has partnered me in The Vets for four years and we won the doubles tournament.  The best we'd managed previously was 2nd.  So all in all a Pretty Good Day on the lawns.

John Wall a senior player and in this case Tournament Manager, Margaret and me.
So it was only when I woke this morning in the motel and put on NZ TV One's Breakfast Show and they said it was Friday that I remembered that I hadn't done any posts whilst I was away and hadn't done my Thankful Thursday post either.

So today as I drove home in the hot sun along the same traffic-free state highways that I'd driven down on and thought how wonderful this land is:

The Ruahine Ranges  of New Zealand's North Island covered with The Long While Cloud which gives the country its alternative name

I felt that all was as well in my little word as it possibly could be.

This evening Wendy came down for a chat just after 7pm and Martin came down after 9pm and we had a good old chinwag and catch-up and the odd glass of something with some cheese.

What could be better in my world?  So today, even thought it's Friday (or it was when I started this post!) I am very thankful for croquet and the enjoyment it gives and for the privilege of living - albeit only part of my life - in this wonderful land called Aotearoa - The Land of The Long While Cloud.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Another Tournament

Tonight I am in Dannevirke for the annual Veterans Croquet Tournament.  This year the entries will be reduced because The Croquet Women's Worlds is being held in Tauranga at the same time. 

I drove down (Dannevirke is about 90 minutes South of Napier) on a road made in heaven for The Handbag.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the road is winding, hilly and almost completely free of traffic.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Wine Tour

I've been on a number of tours of the wineries of Hawkes Bay of which I understand that there are about 172 in Hawkes Bay and I've visited less than 10 of them (some more than once).  On Friday Gaz, Carol and I went on a tour run by a company, Vince's World of Wine, which I've not been with before and it's a company I will certainly recommend to visitors in future.  The wineries were very well chosen and the wines of a very high standard.   Vince drove one mini-bus but our driver/knowledgeable guide/good-fun-person was Lynn, Vince's wife.  We visited 4 wineries and ended up at Moana Park, a winery just by the Pukatapu School where all Wendy and Martin's children have gone and the younger children still go.  Despite its closeness I had never been into the winery.  I am ashamed because as a package the wines were far and away the best we tasted.

I think Gaz and Carol were enjoying themselves
Lynn looked on with a typical Kiwi smile
Pedro, Moana Park Winery's chief rabbit hunter

Moana Park's Cellar Door

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Quare Tempus Fugit

After Gaz and Carol left this morning before lunch, I decided that I would devote the rest of the day (apart from possibly a trip into town and two lots of washing to be ironed) to Blogland and emails and catching up with phone calls.  Despite not going to town and sticking to my plan I still haven't managed to get through all the blogs and so on although I think I've probably managed most of the emails and some of the phone calls. 

And now I've run out of time.  However I've had an epiphany (you can get them on the NHS these days!) and now know why time passes so quickly.  It's because there are only 30 seconds in a minute when you get to my age.  It's OK for you youngsters out there because you have 60 seconds in your minutes.  Just wait until you get here and find out what it's like.


Gaz has been taking photos of the sky whilst he's been here.  There are lots of reasons why this is a good place to do that.  Primarily because there is a lot of sky with a lot of stars and very little light pollution.  So I decided to try some too.  I have taken the occasional night-time shot in the past but without any attempt at taking the sky at night so this is going to be a big learning curve.  My first shots are of The Cottage with the night sky behind.

ISO2500 30sec f3.2  Lots of noise despite noise reduction.
ISO1000 30 sec f3.2   Less noise and less stars.
There's lots more fun to be had with this lark.  Hopefully I post something better in due course.

All Gone!

Gaz and Carol have gone on their way.  Wellington next stop and then to South Island.  It seemed such a fleeting visit and yet now The Cottage seems empty and strangely lonely.  I've never felt quite like this before.  But, hey, we've done lots, seen lots, eaten lots and drunk some excellent wines.  It's been quality time.   The two halves of my life have been fleetingly joined and now when I talk to Gaz and Carol about this life they know where I'm talking about. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Thankful Thursday

It's been a long day.  Gareth (Gaz) and Carol arrived last evening and it's been pretty full on relaxing and showing them the delights of Napier that I've come to accept as my life.  It seems to be that when one lives in a place all of a sudden it becomes quite ordinary even though one knows that it has so much to offer and so much of interest.  Of course I had to show them the delights of croquet this morning and the ladies of the Club in particular delighted in taking them under their collective wings.  At least when I am talking about croquet they now know what it is that I'm rambling on about it.  I think they quite enjoyed it too.

Carol and Gaz with the camper van in which they are touring New Zealand
Don't ask!
So today I'm thankful that I have my son and his girlfriend visiting.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Large Hole

I went to croquet this morning. This was what the remains of the bit of the garden (and as the garden is 5 acres this is just a bit!) looked like before I went.

This was the scene when I arrived back:

And this is the finished article an hour or so later. All it needs now is the rest of the work - Christmas?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Helen, Fiona - Don't Look

The Garden Orbweb was tucked up under the roof today but I did manage to get a picture of her in the typical 'knees' drawn up posture typical of their daytime inactivity.  The other 'thing' in the picture is, I'm pretty confident, her egg sac.  Alternatively it's something she has put into storage for a snack later if she falls on hard times.

Spiders, Spiders Everywhere

On the deck on Friday night was what I think is a Garden Orbweb Spider Eriophora pustulosa (it was Araneus postulosus) spinning her web.

And I think, though am open to correction, that this may be a clutch of Orbweb Spider's eggs which had been laid on the rubber of the ranch slider.  Unfortunately it had to be removed because if they had hatched when the slider was open they would have hatched into The Cottage. [This paragraph is incorrect - see comments]

Monday, 14 November 2011

At The Cottage

In truth I've so little to post about that even I, never mind you dear reader, would find interesting.  So I'm struggling.  However I've emptied the camera of the few pictures I've taken over the last day or two when not even a wisp of sunlight has made its way through the clouds here on the East coast of sunny Hawkes Bay - possibly the least sunny part of North Island at the moment.  So here's something to be getting on with.

It was warm enough to have the lid of The Handbag - for those of you who haven't been introduced
Catriona and Comet after Friday Dinner - a typical pose many of you will have seen before
And again

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Greedy Washing Machine

I've lost a pillow case.  Hardly the subject of a blog post, surely?  But how does one lose a pillow case?  This is not a large cottage after all.    The pillow case was taken off the guest bed and put, along with the sheets, into the washing machine.  When I came to do the ironing there was no pillow case......anywhere.  OK so washing machines and tumble driers eat socks and handkerchiefs (or is it chieves?  For some obscure reason my dictionary doesn't say.) but a whole pillow case?  That's one step too far!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Most Unusual Ordinary Week

I have been in my New Zealand home for 6 days.  I can't believe it.  

I haven't taken a meaningful photograph for 6 days.  I can't believe it.

I haven't made some phone calls that I should have made.  I can't believe it.

I made dinner for The Family and 7 of us sat down last evening as if there had never been 6 months since we had last done so.  I can't believe it.

Until this evening, apart from One News at 6pm, I've not watched any television.  Now that I can believe because on the whole New Zealand television has precious little that I find worth watching.

So this evening I watched two television programmes - Ice Road Truckers recommended by Anna before I left Glasgow and 50 Greatest Harry Potter Moments originally shown on UK TV of which Monica at Beyond The Lone Islands would, undoubtedly approve.   It was also Monica who mentioned that she wanted a DVD of, amongst others, Bright Star: a film about the relationship between Fanny Brawne and John Keats.  Now, as it happens, I fell in love with Keats' poetry when I was a young teenager and have never lost that love.  So I had to watch Bright Star.  I have just done so and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is an intensely emotional and moving film. 
Bright Star
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Thankful Thursday: Croquet

I was sitting in the Study here in The Cottage trying to decide what I was thankful about which could be bloggable and which I hadn't already blogged about.  Then an email came in with a comment which Jenny Woolf of An English Travel Writer had put on my post Home in New Zealand: The First Day Back in which she asked if Croquet was a popular game in New Zealand.  

The answer in short, Jenny, is in the affirmative.  I have just looked it up and I have mentioned croquet in 203 posts so far on this blog.  But then I am rather addicted to it.

So today I am thankful for the huge part that croquet has played in my life over the last few years:  for the friends I have made through it; the places I have seen travelling to tournaments; the hospitality I have enjoyed at tournaments; and the incredible personal satisfaction I have had playing such a wonderful game.

Wearing My Other Hat

Some of those of you in Blogland whom I follow have wondered why I appear twice.  In case there is any one of those whom I have started following more recently is wondering why I have just started to follow again the answer is that whilst I am in New Zealand I follow using this blog and whilst I am in Scotland I follow using my Eagleton Notes blog.  Simple really.  How can you tell which persona I'm using.  Well it's the hat I'm wearing.  On the left (my photo for this blog) is my first Tilley Hat bought in Carmel in California in 2004 and, in this photo, shown when I was on a heli-hike up the Franz Josef Glacier in South Island, New Zealand.  On the right is a similar but newer one photographed when I was playing Pétanque in France last year which I use for my Eagleton Notes blog.  I bet you can't tell the difference.  Well, actually, there is no difference.  I do love my Tilley Hats.  In fact I should really use my latest one for Eagleton Notes because it's distinctive and more appropriate to the Hebridean climate.  Perhaps next year.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tidy The Blogger Reading List

I decided that there were a number of blogs on my reading list which I no longer had an interest in and, as the list was getting a bit unmanageable, I thought I'd remove them together with a number of blogs which no longer exist.  If anyone has succeeded in achieving that aim please let me know.  I went through all the steps (and in the process was rather puzzled how I could do that for blogs which came up as being non-existent) with absolutely no success.  However many times I removed a blog it simply re-appeared. Blogger can be very irritating at times.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Friends are what make life.  Of course I include my family - families 'cos I'm lucky enough to have two: a blood family and a surrogate family - because they are friends too.

So when I said in the last post that Lewis was another world, another life, I was referring to the obvious physical and a certain mental change that occurs when I move from one life to the other.  I assume that it's the same for anyone living two separate existences.  What never changes, though, is one's friends.  All that changes is the physical proximity to those friends.

Having lived more than half my life on Lewis it was to be expected that most of my friends would be there.  But life's not quite turned out like that.  Many of my friends, even those who were Islanders (as compared with incomers like me who were not born nor went to school there) are leaving the Island to retire on the mainland - often Glasgow.  My friends and acquaintances are, in fact, scattered across the world.

However the reality of the present day is that communications are so good and so immediate and relatively affordable that we may be far from our friends but we need never be out of touch.  In fact, in some ways, we are often more in touch than we are with people who live not 7 miles away.

So just because I'm on the other side of the world and can't go for coffee in The Woodlands or The House for an Art Lover or Linghams (for another 6 months) doesn't mean that I think about you any less.  'Cos I value my friends.

Home in New Zealand: The First Day Back

Standing on the deck of The Cottage when I arrived was like I'd never been away. 

Lewis might have been another world, another life.  Oh yes.  Lewis is another world, another life.  Physically and mentally this life is completely different from my Lewis life.  My life in New Zealand is, ironically, much more ordered and I'm tied to the routine of commitments which I don't have in Scotland.  For a start there is the routine of croquet which occupies at least four mornings and three afternoons a week assuming that I play on every occasion.  Then there's all the tournaments to be fitted in which usually involve travelling and staying away from Napier with 'The Girls'.

I used also to play pétanque on three afternoons but in those days I didn't play afternoon croquet to the same extent.  Now my pétanque has been abandoned.

A friend, Mike, had been staying at The Cottage for the weekend playing at a tournament at the croquet club so Sunday night was spent catching up over the odd glass of red or two.  

0514 Monday morning and I was wide awake.  Why?  The dawn chorus: definitely not a Lewis phenomenon.  Started emptying The Cupboard and getting The Cottage back to my normality.  Played croquet on a perfect afternoon.  It's a shame the croquet wasn't quite so perfect but then I haven't played for 6 months so I will give that excuse for my rustiness.

I tried to do this post but Blogger wasn't cooperating.  In fact it's not cooperated until this morning - Tuesday - when I not only was woken by the dawn chorus but decided to get up and get on.  After all it's croquet at 0930.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Coming Home - The Other One

In an hour or so I shall be leaving Anna's for Glasgow airport.  I shall fly to London Heathrow from there and this evening I fly with Air New Zealand to Hong Kong (where my son Gaz and his girlfriend Carol are at the moment) where I shall avail myself of that lovely airport's showers to freshen up before the flight continues to Auckland from whence I shall fly to Napier and my New Zealand home.  The first leg from London to Hong Kong is about 5700 miles (9170 Km) and the Hong Kong to Auckland leg is about 5900 miles (9500 Km).  I should manage a bit of reading over the next 48 hours!