Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Handsome Lad

This handsome chap was lying in wait at a layby on the road out of Whangarei.  Apparently he tries to beg, borrow or steal food from passers by.  Not soft you would think.  But I think he's got it wrong.  If he fattens up too quickly his life will surely be a short one.

A Misty Morning

I woke up this morning (eventually) to find that some of the distant hills and  trees were shrouded in mist.  It reminded me of pictures from my childhood. Were they Japanese pictures?

Argh, Internet Access is Problematical

It's 9pm and it's been a Good Day spent mainly relaxing by walking on beaches and exploring.  I've not had internet access this evening until now and I may lose it at any time.  So I'm posting this just in case and then I'll try and post some photos of the day's events.  If you don't hear from me again you'll know that it's not because I've abandoned you but because I'm isolated by technology.

Actually after I wrote that it took me ages to re-connect to the internet.  Hopefully if you read this I've managed it!

Back at The Uppity Downity Mountains

I'm back in Northland.  My first close views yesterday of the Uppity Downity Mountains - actually the Tangihua Forest - again. 

Thankful Thursday

A few years ago Gaz and I climbed the Clisham on Lewis.  This is Gaz (you can tell it isn't me 'cos I'm a bit older and have a beard and my stomach isn't quite as flat!).  I'm thankful that Gaz is our son.  He's a great son to have and a great friend as well.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

In Northland

Well surprises never cease.  Here I am in Northland and I have a signal on my T-Stick.  Well I sort of have a signal.  It comes and goes.  But any signal at all is welcome because there never used to be a signal where I am staying and the satelite wi-fi here is not working either.  Another six days without internet would be a bit too much with which to cope.

I've already had enough computer issues for one day.  When I was backing up this morning (Eve - remember the Macbook's name? - automatically backs up every day) the hard drive I bought last year decided to throw a wobbly and started clicking.  This probably means that the heads are hitting the drive stops which would be the click of death.  So when I arrived in Whangarei I immediately bought another external 1Tb hard drive which is completing the back-up as I type this. 

So hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to post something a little more exciting.   Night night.

Misty and The Mysterious Piece of Driftwood

I brought a piece of driftwood back from Mahanga Beach.  Misty came down with Catriona yesterday evening.
Hello.  What's this then?
Come on say something!
I wonder if it bites.
Let's have a sniff.
Oh, it seems to be ok.  What's next?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


I'm not a great fan of jellyfish and I am probably far from alone.  On the Mahanga Beach there were lots of tiny blue jellyfish.  I've not managed so far to identify them.  However the last photo is a singularly unpleasant little creature which packs a considerable punch.  As we had all been walking barefoot on the beach and there were a lot of these there was probably an element of luck involved in our pain-free enjoyment.

Blue Bottle Jellyfish or Portugese Man of War

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Weekend Sans Internet

Friday 25 March

We arrived in Mahanga (which is near Mahia) at lunchtime after a drive of several hours and a coffee stop at Wairoa.  The first thing I realised was that neither Telecom nor my Vodafone had a signal.  My only internet link is via my Telecom dongle so I realised that I was incommunicado until we returned to the big wide world on Monday.  Three days or 72 hours without access to my mobile/cell phones, emails, Blogworld, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia and all the other things I take so for granted!  Will I survive?  Well if you are reading this the answer is obviously in the affirmative. 

I am actually sitting in bed at 11pm on Friday writing this and wondering when I was last out of communication for three days.  I think that the answer may be many many years ago.  Even when I was in the outback of Australia in 1998 I think that I managed cellphone coverage often enough never to miss more than a day or so in what were then usually daily phone calls to my parents.

I had my first cellphone over 20 years ago when they were actually the size of a brick with a battery and main unit separate from the speaking part which was, like the ordinary telephones of the time, attached by a cord to the main unit.  I’ve never been without a cellphone since then and in fact although the numbers have been extended by the addition of suffixes as the total available numbers became inadequate I still have the same mobile/cellphone number as I had all those years ago.

At Mahanga: out of the front door and onto the beach - before the rain!
This beach is getting crowded - who's the chap coming to invade our space?
Saturday 26 March

We all got up late around 8am this morning.  It turned out to be a pretty miserable day.  It didn’t  start raining properly until lunchtime but once it started it persisted for the rest of the day:  not hard constant rain but the sort of constantly intermittent (if you’ll look past the grammatical non sequitur to the reality) sort of rain that drenches you before you’ve noticed it.  So apart from a drive to the village for the newspaper and a walk on the beach before the rain set in we didn’t do much outside today.  We spent the afternoon and evening doing crosswords, reading and playing games.  I’m not a great lover of games but I did rather enjoy Blokus and Monopoly Deal. 

Reggie Perrin - Don't do it!
I had hoped to get a really symphony in green but the sun never shone on the hillside of native bush.
Sunday 27 March

Got up very late this morning (about 0745) after a rather broken night with fairly torrential rain.  We had a very relaxed morning and then drove over to Mahia and dropped Colleen off to visit friends whilst Sandra took Jayne and I exploring the peninsula.

Mahia Beach.  There was a storm recently and this was the result.
Home and lunch was followed by an afternoon walking on the beach and exploring the area.  Another day of miserable weather although the rain stopped mid-morning.

Spray obscuring the 7 ks of beach between where I'm standing and the Mahia Peninsula
On a sunny day this looks like the Bahamas - I've seen the photos 'cos this land's for sale!
This evening we played more Blokus and Monopoly Deal.  By this time even Jayne had decided the latter was a Good Game and had become hooked.

So now at midnight (about 2 or 3 hours past everyone else’s usual bedtime we have all finished chatting and putting the world to rights and have retired to bed.  I don’t actually feel tired and am typing this listening to piano music on my iPod.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Into The Unknown

It's Thursday night and I'll soon be off to bed.  I'm off first thing up to the Mahia Peninsula on the East coast a couple of hours North of here.  The Tournament Girls and I are off to stay at the bach (pronounced batch) of one of our number, Sandra.  A bach is a country cottage.  Usually by the sea.  They range from the original fairly basic wooden cottages to some quite palatial ones these days which are not really baches but are still called that by their owners in wonderful understatement.  The 'bach' we stayed in a few weeks ago slept 19 and was certainly not basic. 

The weather forecast for tomorrow is reasonable but the rest of the weekend is supposed to be pretty miserable.  Ah well.  I've never been to the The Mahia peninsula but it is, by all accounts, an idyllic place.

It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere and I have absolutely no idea whether there will be cellphone signal to enable me to get the internet.  If not I'll be out of communication until Monday evening.
Whatever happens I'll hopefully have lots of material for blogging by the end of the weekend.

Thankful Thursday

I think today I'm going to be a bit reflective.  Not in a particularly serious way although given half a chance I could be.  Shabby Girl posted photos of the wildflowers of Texas on Tuesday and it brought back to me one of the first things that blogging did for me:  it made me more aware of the minutiae of my surroundings and the simple things of life.  My brother CJ and my niece, Helen, are both very knowledgeable about flora and fauna of every kind and have also been a major influence on my appreciation of those things.

Yesterday I managed to take a video of three Fantails cavorting on the clothesline.  It was a most rewarding experience.  I've edited it in iMovie (eventually) and managed to export it into this post but when it was the small YouTube size you couldn't see the Fantails and when it was screen size the pixel size made it indistinct.  So, guess what?  It's not included.  Which is a shame because you'd have loved it.

So today I'm thankful for the awareness that blogging has given me.

Actually I'm thankful for the whole blogging experience.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

On Being a Vegetarian

On Facebook this morning Fi of Four Paws and Whiskers asked if anyone had heard of 'meat glue' being used here in New Zealand.  To understand you may need to watch the link from the Australian Today Tonight programme.  As some of you will know I was brought up in a household with relatively little red meat being eaten and in an era when chicken was an expensive luxury but fish was plentiful.  My Dad had been diagnosed with crippling rheumatism at 18 and had been told that there was no cure but that if he cut out red meat it might help.  He died at 94 never having had rheumatism again.  Mum just disliked meat.

During the course of the 'conversation' another Fiona commented how difficult it was being a vegetarian in France.  That reminded me of a story.....

My wife was a meat eater and an absolutely superb cook and hostess and during the years of our marriage I ate meat until one day when we were in France at a ferme auberge I was faced with a poussin for the meat course (the French tend to have the meat as a separate course).  It sat there on the plate sans feet and head and feathers and I couldn't eat it.  It was many years before I could face anything that actually looked like meat again.

My second partner and her daughter were vegetarian.  It was during this time that I learned how wonderful and varied vegetarian cooking could be.  When my partner's daughter was about 9 I said in conversation that in France it wasn't just difficult being vegetarian but that they ate vegetarians in France.  

Some years later when my partner and I were talking of a visit to Paris for the weekend her daughter became very agitated.  We didn't leave her very often and her reaction was very unusual.  Eventually it transpired that she was frightened that we might get eaten if it was discovered that we were vegetarian.

That taught me a lesson I should have already learned.  When I was a wee lad my Uncle Eric had said that he wouldn't teach anyone to drive because someone he'd taken out had lost her head when she drove.  I took his words as fact and the thought stuck with me for years. 

Although I am by inclination a vegetarian I now eat meat especially when I'm in New Zealand (I use a lot of Quorn in the UK but it's not available here) but am easily put off if it's identifiable as belonging to a particular creature.  C'est la vie.

And I tend to be careful what I say in front of children!

Monday, 21 March 2011

I'm Back in Eagleton - or Am I?

It's just before midnight and I'm just off to bed.  After having the air-con on for a few minutes a few days ago I've now got my electric blanket on.   The lashing rain is pounding on the roof of the deck (where there is, of course, no sound insulation).   There is something wild and wonderful about the wind and the rain and the comfort of a warm bed.  Night.  Night.

On Being a Small Thing

What I want to know is what I was doing when the mosquito stabbed the back of my hand and why I didn't see it.  If it wasn't a mosquito then I would like to know what it was.  The 'bite' didn't look like one of the bites I usually get and it has reacted rather more irritatingly too.  Anyway you would never have had the opportunity to read about my wound (I'm a man - it's a wound!) if it hadn't been an opportunity to lead into a pavement sign I saw this morning:

The Moon

The Full Moon: Saturday 19 March 2011 at 1940 NZ time taken with my Sony DSC-HX1 on 20x optical magnification (approx equivalent to 600 mm)

In the darkening sky, if you cast your eyes,
You will see the silver lady rise,
Bathing the world in a steely blue
Edged with a haunting, silver hue.
Higher and higher she rises with grace,
Shrouding the trees in a cloak of lace,
Sending her rays to the waters below,
Casting reflections in ripple and flow.
Oh, such a majesty gracing the sky,
Passing a twinkle to stars riding high,
Oh, what a magickal sight we purvey
From dusk, till the night gives in to day.
And so, she sinks in horizons west,
Content in the knowledge that we saw her best,
She'll return once again when the sky turns black,
And if you should whisper, she might whisper back.

A Mishmash of Thoughts

This morning in the car I heard some of Gounod's St Cecellia Mass.  I enjoyed the snippet enough to look it up when I arrived home this evening and put it on my Amazon wish list.  In the process I found some more sacred music that I'd not heard before.  I already have more music than I'm ever likely to be able to listen to before the end of my days but I find exploring new composers and new works is a wonderful experience.

Today's been a Good Day in almost every way.  I enjoyed the croquet.  I enjoyed the friends and acquaintances I met.  I arrived home at around 1830 and have spent the evening catching up with friends and family.  After Mike's visit and my provision of Kiwi hospitality I'm going on a diet.   That'll last until next Friday when I'm off to a friend's bach with the croquet crowd for the weekend!

As I walked down from The House after catching up with The Family the moon shone out of a clear sky and it was brilliant enough for me not to need a torch and for the sky to be almost denuded of stars by the amount of light emanating from the moon.  It was also remarkably warm.

When I got back to The Cottage the phone rang and I spent the next half hour on the phone to the UK either on the deck or in the living room with the ranch sliders wide open.  Until, that is, a friendly mosquito decided to buzz in my ear when the Raid was sprayed and I retreated to the study which had had the door closed.

Now it's after midnight and I'm about to go to bed.

Tomorrow I'll try and write something  interesting and perhaps even find a photo or two.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Trivialities of Success

Today was the second day of the 77th Hawkes Bay Association Croquet (AC) Handicap Singles Tournament.  This year it was held in two divisions.  I played in the second division.   For the record I won all my games and therefore won my division despite being the person against whom all the free shots were being given.  However that wasn't the high point.  AC is a game played as much against one's self as against one's opponent.  Today I made from hoop one to the peg in one turn without using any free shots.  It was the first time I'd done it.  I was fair chuffed. Chuffed enough, in fact,  to make it a matter of record.

I wonder how I'll get on tomorrow and Sunday when it's the Championship or Levels Tournament (ie with no free shots against or for anyone) where the competition will, in theory at least, be much stronger.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Actually it's a  Pukeko in an Apple Tree.  I've never seen one perched on a tree before - these are quite big birds: the size of a domestic hen at least.

Thankful Thursday

I was woken at 2am this morning by a phone call from the UK.  Phone calls in the middle of the night rarely bring good news and this was no exception.  The call was from the friend whom I've mentioned before who, in January, was given three months to live.  He was alone.  Needless to say I didn't sleep much after that.

I had to be out at 7.45 for the tournament that's on this week in which we (Mike from Gisborne who's staying with me, and I are playing) so this morning I had no time for the Thankful Thursday posting and this evening it was nearly 9pm by the time we finished dinner.

Looking back on the day I could have been very thankful for nearly 8 hours play on the lawns in the beautiful warm sun.  Even more so because I won all my games.  But somehow I hadn't got the heart after the way I felt this morning.  My good feelings seemed outweighed by the personal tragedy on the other side of the world.

To be honest the horrors of Japan and the Middle East are so awful they don't even enter into the equation because they are not personal enough any more.  Christchurch is closer to home but even that isn't personal enough although after reading Fiona's latest post Frustrations and Changes - Looking for Silver Linings I did rather selfishly thing thankful thoughts that I wasn't there.

So I almost didn't do a Thankful Thursday.

Then a wonderful thing happened.  I looked at the blog postings today and Jaz, who started Thankful Thursday, had posted.  And suddenly I felt thankful; really, truly, wonderfully thankful.

If you can read her Thankful Thursday and not be moved then you are made of harder stuff than I am.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Every Picture

Mike - who won the game and the championship tournament - played this shot which, as a rule, would have been a very straightforward running of the hoop.  But....... 

.... every picture tells a tale!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Views From Sugar Loaf Reserve, Napier

Looking west to the Island's centre from the top of the Sugar Loaf Reserve, Taradale, Napier.
Looking East over Napier to the Tasman Sea from the top of the Reserve.
Looking East and South to Cape Kidnappers.
A closer view of Bluff Hill - centre distance - in downtown Napier
The famous Mission Winery just below the Reserve

Saturday, 12 March 2011


A tiny ladybird.  Probably a Steelblue Ladybird - Halmus chalybeus - introduced from Australia.
What struck me about this photo is that the insect is so small that before the photo was enlarged I had no idea that I actually had those tiny hairs on the back of my finger! 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Hills of Hawkes Bay

Ever since I saw Katherine's posting of her interpretation of a Hawkes Bay landscape I've been intending to do my own photographic interpretation because her painting was exactly as I see the landscape.  So today I spent the afternoon climbing the hill at the Sugar Loaf Reserve in nearby Taradale and then went to Te Mata Peak in Havelock North.  There is one small caveat:  the hills this year are much greener than they often are - there's been a lot of rain in the Bay this summer.

Sugar Loaf Reserve covered in wild thyme.  Napier and Bluff Hill in the background.
The wild thyme was bee-laden and the hum was reminiscent of hot summer days.
Looking towards the Kawaka Ranges from the top of the Reserve.
Looking towards the Ranges.
From the top of Te Mata Peak looking South and West towards the central Ranges in the middle of the Island.
The Hawkes Bay Hills
And again
And the faithful Handbag waits for me in the shade.

You Know You Are From Christchurch When....

As usual the source of much of my Christchurch information is Fiona from Four Paws and Whiskers.  I have just spent a while reading the following from DUTCHCORNER

You know you are from Christchurch when …
... you can see irony in claims about houses made of “permanent materials”
... your 4 year old says "that was another cornflake"
... you know you haven’t taken any drugs - but life is sooooo distorted you might as well have!!!
... you can pick Richter scale numbers more easily than Lotto numbers.
... you have written a list of at least 40 songs that should never be played on radio during earthquakes. Such as "We built this city on rock and roll". "I feel the earth move under my feet..."
... when spring cleaning actually means cleaning the spring that has appeared in your yard!!
… you call her your "Mother Nature Inlaw" coz she causes you stress and shakes things up
… Geonet is your homepage
… looking over the fence, you discover that the grass isn't always greener on the other side
… you work at a bottle store and have a new shelf system; the most expensive bottles are now on the bottom shelf rather than the top
… you have no idea what the value of your house is!
… when Civil Defence is text spamming you
… your filing system reverts to the 'volcano principle' - a huge pile over the floor, with the most important papers rising to the top
… a doctor recommends having a few stiff drinks before bed to help you sleep
… they close all the welfare centres except the one closest to the epicentre of the after shocks
… when you fly out of Christchurch you see a psychologist, when you fly in you see a psychiatrist
… "Rainy" is the best weather for cycling you've had all week!
… you can spot the recent arrivals by seeing who stops what they're doing during aftershocks
… rather than use the word “God” you replace it with “Bob”. In Bob we trust.
... your partner squeals and squirms in ecstasy again, even more energetically than yesterday. Then you realise its only because the hot water cylinder in now full and hot for the first time in 12 days.
… when fast food is anything that takes less than 2 days to purchase prepare and gather at the table long enough to eat it
… when a Portaloo in the street as your main loo is aspirational
… when you are happy two policemen came for a visit
… it has become the home school capital of the world
… the answer to where anything is ... it’s on the floor
… our 3 year old can say "liquefaction" clear as a bell but couldn't tell you their own address!!!
… when you currently live in London (hence “munted” doesn't enter conversation much) and both your parents have said it at least once to you on the phone (having never heard them use the term before EVER)
… your friends and family want you to move back to Invercargill....and it sounds like a good idea!!!
… you've only shovelled silt for an hour or two but you fully expect to end up with Michelle Obama arms.
… half the population of children in your city come from 'broken homes'
… the roads home are bumpier than a 13 year olds face
… instead of rushing to the clothes line to get clothes in when it rains, you put dirty washing on the line in the hope that it will rain enough to clean them
… you build your wooden balancing elephants into a DIY seismometer and cheer when it comes down
… Metservice includes a graph for dust
… a group of students turn up at your place and leave it in a better condition than when they arrived
… you look up and see your neighbour and realise that he's taking a leak on the same section of fence that you are
… “nothing major” is how you describe losing your chimneys, half your foundation cracking, your tv smashing, most of the contents of you cupboard ending in small pieces on your floor, your white ware relocating itself and making odd noises they never used to and no longer being able to open or shut any door in your house, in fact not even being sure if your house is still liveable … you know, “we got off lightly, nothing major”!
… thoughtful dinner guests bring a bottle of water instead of a bottle of wine
… you find you start 'talking back' to the earthquakes (in a rather impolite manner)
… you've mastered the wide legged brace and surf position with out ever having had surfing lessons
… a bucket with a lid is a new 'must have' item
… the aftershocks have aftershocks
… you have tied the pantry, liquor cabinet and all the cupboard doors closed and its not to keep kids out
… you feel guilty because you have power and water
… you're so happy to get mail, it doesn't matter it's all bills!
… "Christchurch rocks" is a pun
… you go shopping and your trolley fills itself
… you realise this is the first time you've seen inside that church and you're actually driving past it at the time
… you think "It's the weekend, I must get my water boiled for the week"
… when a digger arrives you hear cheers of madness like the Crusaders are scoring a try
… you visit places like Tripoli and admire what they have done to the place!
… you tell the kids off for flushing the toilet
… Hubby can finally say to all and sundry "see told you it would come in handy one day!"
… you don't get out of bed for anything less than a 5
… when Mellow Yellow doesn't make you think of an old Donavon song
… please don’t remain seated – your instructions are under your table mat and helmet under your seat ( new restaurant regulations)
… you're actually JEALOUS when your friends go to work
… discussing toilet habits with total strangers is an everyday norm
… the census forms arrive but you have no address to put on it
… rather than moving house, the house moves you
… your teenagers are only too happy to sleep in the same room as their parents
… when going for a chocolate mission actually is a mission
… the top party game is guess the magnitude of the last aftershock
… you're in the pub for a 4.8 and everyone's main concern in holding on to their drinks!
… you take a plastic bag with you when you go for a walk, even though you don't have a dog
… you know that wheelbarrows come in two basic designs - metal ones which are heavy to lift when filled with silt, and plastic ones which break under the weight of silt
… the new fashion accessory is a spade
… you don't think twice when friends come round and ask “Is it ok to go toilet anywhere or do you have special place to do it?”
… you know how to spell "liquefaction" and "seismic"
… the little pre school boys don't get excited when they see (another) digger or a dozer
… you can’t decide whether to finish doing number twos or just get off the loo and run!!!!!!
… you find the price of wine has gone down but the price of wine glasses has gone up!
… you have a full length mirror in the garage so you can see if your gumboots match your outfit
… you’re about to have the best lemon harvest ever
… using a Portaloo is one of life’s luxuries!
… you never fill your hot drinks more than three-quarters full
… you think electronics that have "shock proof" should say to which earthquake magnitude
… you start considering aftershocks as exercise - anything that raises your heart rate that much must be good for you right?
… you suddenly realise what would be the perfect modern "urban camouflage" look for Doctor Who's Tardis: a blue Portaloo
… you've learned the difference between at least six incompatible types of propane/butane cylinder and where you can't use each one - and it's only 11am
… you would prefer to sit under the table instead of at it
… you think the earthquake house in Te Papa sucks
… “munted” and “buggered” are official technical terms
… your 3 year old's latest new words are liquefaction and miracle
... you recognise food immediately because it's all on toast
... the news has become your favourite tv viewing
... you sleep in one suburb, shower in another, collect water from another, go to the toilet where you can, and still smile and greet people like you are one big family
... you know what that extra gear leave in your 4 x 4 is for
... you don’t blame your local council for bad roads, paths or drainage
... liquefaction has become a saying or slang. “That guy is full of liquefaction.” “ I had some takeaway last night which gave me a bad dose of liquefaction.”
... you know and actually understand the terms and conditions of your House and Contents insurance policy
... having a third person under a door frame is no longer an invasion of personal space
... you invite the crew from Mythbusters to challenge the theory of “wet sand or dry sand?” and which is easier to move
... you carry toilet paper and handwash in your car, your handbag, your backpack, or anywhere else you can, and you don’t care who sees it
... you’d rather live in a house made of straw than a house made of bricks
... you stopped joking about turning your undies and socks inside out to get another days wear
... you now understand the hippy lifestyle and all its quirks
... cross dressing is now accepted city wide
... you stop using the term “built like a brick sh*t house”
... its normal to greet people with “do you need a shower?”
... everybody starts to look like that dirty dodgy person that wanders around your neighbourhood
... your en suite has a vege garden, dog kennel and grass
... a self cleaning toilet is a bucket upside down on your garden sprinkler
... choosing your next stable career option, you consider Portaloo technician
... you DON’T call the police when there is a massive group of students in the middle of your street
Thanks Marja
Too good not to share!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A Walk on The Beach at Mount Maunganui

This is the second day that I have intended to read and write blogs and emails and generally catch up.  This is the second day that I have been struck with a massive dose of ARADD.  I have achieved a lot.  I must have because I have been very busy.  To be fair (to myself) I have spent more than a few hours on the telephone and Skype catching up with family and friends and I've been out to town and shopped and had coffee with a friend.  I've done a bit of child transportation.  I've done several hours of ironing whilst watching TV and being on the phone.  Now it's nearly midday and I'm due out for croquet.  But before I go I'm determined to show you some of the results of the walk I had along the beach at Mount Maunganui on Monday morning.

Walking in parts was difficult because of the large number of shells
As large as my hand this Green- lipped Mussel must have been well into its old age