Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thankful Thursday: Every Cloud

has a silver lining.

It's over five months since I wrote the last post on this blog and today is the first time since I wrote it that I have re-read it in full.  I don't think that I appreciated at the time just how much I would miss New Zealand and my life there.  In fact from the moment I arrived back in Scotland the idea of not going back was banished from my mind.  I think that I must have been having a severe dose of reality when I wrote the post and that my optimistic me was on hold for a short while.  In fact I think that until last week I was actually sub-consciously more concerned about my cancer than I've been since 2010 and, perhaps, since I was diagnosed in 1998.

Today's reality is that I shall not be returning at the end of this month as I usually do and, indeed, it may well be that I shall not return this summer (New Zealand's summer that is). But then again I may. For many reasons it seems unlikely that I shall be able to resume my Godwit existence but I'm more optimistic now about a return to my other spiritual home.

My cancer treatment has been under close review since I returned  and a couple of weeks ago I had a complete set of scans which confirmed that no prostatic cancer tumours have developed in my abdomen or chest.  So the situation is that my blood count is increasing rapidly but is still low enough for hormone treatment to be delayed for a while in order to achieve maximum benefit.  Apparently that is because I am quite fit and the treatment has not had an adverse effect on me in the past.  So it looks like taking any decisions about returning to NZ for the time being are still on hold.

However who knows what will happen in a few months and I am now back in an optimistic enough frame of mind to believe that I shall be seeing The Family again in their own setting and that I shall again play croquet on the hallowed Marewa lawns: perhaps not this summer but certainly the following one.

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Last Time

'The time has come,' this blogger said,
      'To think of journeyings:
Of shoes — and clothes — and luggage-bags —
      Of cameras — and things —
And how the sea is to be crossed —
      And whether planes have wings.' 
(With many apologies to Lewis Carroll)

Like the Royal Standard this coaster, a gift from Friend Who Knows Too Much when I first came to The Cottage, comes out as soon as I arrive and is put away when I leave.  Today I put it away in my luggage and not in The Cupboard.

Tomorrow I set sail (metaphorically) for Scotland and my 'other' home and my 'other' life.  The sad news is that I shall be leaving The Family and The Cottage and my New Zealand life for the last time as a place that I call home.  My Godwit days are over.

Unfortunately the blood counts of the cells that are my cancer indicator have trebled in each of the last three three-monthly blood tests.  A doubling in six months is apparently regarded as a Bad Thing.  The oncologist will want to keep an eye on me so that he can decide which is the optimum time to re-start the treatment.  It can't cure but can delay but is only efficacious for a limited period so timing is all important. 

I shall miss:

The Family: Wendy and Martin and Jamie, David, Fraser and Catriona.  They will always be my Family now but, like so many blood families, we will be apart and next time I come it will be for a visit and not to live.  I have been fortunate to see Catriona (who was 4 when I made the promise to her to return for her 5th birthday) grow into a young lady and attend all her school prize-givings.

My New Zealand friends who have grown in number over the years.  Many have been as a result of croquet my love of which came from a chance bout of curiosity when I poked my nose over a hedge at the Marewa Croquet Club and Jayne called me in, put a mallet in my hand, told me to hit a ball and hours later was praying that I would go home.  Many of those friendships will endure the separation and some will just fade into the graveyard of time.  This is Colleen and Jayne (whose face is hidden by her brolly) playing a serious game of croquet in the rain.

 The Cottage.  It has been a haven and a heaven.

Constant summers.  I haven't seen a winter since 2005/6 in Scotland.  I really do not like the cold.  So next October when I would be planning my usual journey to the warmth of New Zealand I shall be putting on my winter woollies and cranking up the central heating.

The Handbag.  I bought the Mazda MX5 in 2006 for 6 months of open topped fun in the sun.   Eight years and many thousands of kilometres later it has today been handed over to a dealer to sell for me.

Croquet.  From that day in 2006 when I first held a croquet mallet until today I have had the most wonderful and rewarding time.  I've had moments at tournaments when I could have seen  the game far enough but they have been rare and ceased after a 'good talking to' one day by one of the Croquet Ladies.  They are a bunch of friends with whom I have travelled all over the country to compete.  I shall miss the camaraderie and the fun.  I shall miss the trips to to the Veterans Tournament at Dannevirke and the week of AC at the Palmerston North Clubs each year.

The hills of Hawkes Bay.  There is something about the shape and light of these hills that will for ever be etched on my soul (for want of a better saying).

Of course nothing in life can be allowed to be completely negative and playing the Glad Game:

I shall see more of my blood family and my friends in the UK and the mainland of Europe (including Braigha):

 And Gaz is getting married and building a house on the Island:

I shall see daffodils again.

A friend and I hope to spend more time going to the theatre and concerts in Glasgow.

There will hopefully be opportunities to see snow.  I never thought I would miss it but I do.  I long to replicate some of the fabulous photos I have taken many years ago of places like the Lake District and Scotland in the sun and the snow.  It's an idyllic view which has little in common with the reality of trying to get around and the problems that snow creates.

Living in six-monthly periods in two countries has given me a wonderful life with opportunities that few could dream about.  They have been amongst the happiest of my life.  However there is a certain strain in living this way and in particular the last month in each country seems to be geared around the next departure.  Okay I appreciate that it's a strain many would be happy to have to achieve the life-style but doing without it will be good. 

I started writing this weeks ago in the hope that it would be honed and complete by today.  In reality when I rose just after 6am this morning there was just a few notes and the rhyme.  So I will doubtless think of many things that I could have said and added to what will hopefully not be the very last post on this blog but perhaps would have been a more fitting tribute to its demise.  I hope that I shall eventually do a post to summarise my life in a country I was very happy to call my home.

In the meantime I hope that those of you who have become such a part of my life over the last years will continue to join me at Eagleton Notes.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Stop The Possums!

Last month Bill from Bill's Ponderings who lives in Brisbane posted on yet another case of fried possum and an electricity outage as a result.  Apparently the possums climb up the power poles onto the lines and short them.  They will do that with monotonous regularity if they are not prevented.  In New Zealand when I first came I couldn't understand why every - and I mean every - pole had an aluminium or alloy sleeve.  It is to make it impossible for possums to climb them.  It's such a simple thing but 100% effective.

A band of possum preventers.  A band.  Gedit?
Simple but effective

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Thankful Thursday

I've been a bit tardy recently in the Thankful Thursday posts.  I've got all sorts of excuses.  I've not had anything to be thankful for (completely untrue).  I've been away (true).  I've been doing lots of other things (true).  I've forgotten on the day or been travelling (true).  One or two things have happened to friends around me which temporarily made it a bit difficult to be thankful all the time (true).  I'm sorry Jaz.  I should have more faith and perseverance.

Anyway I've decided that it's about time I pulled my socks up and got on with it.  Why is it, by the way, that when people one knows are having a Bad Time it makes one feel a little guilty for being thankful?


It's a while since I mentioned croquet.  I think at some time I probably said that I would give it a rest before I became even more boring than I am already.  Well, for reasons you will appreciate before I leave for Scotland next Tuesday, I'm going to do a review of my croquet year for which I am exceptionally thankful. 

Enough!  You don't really need to read the rest of this: it's here for the 'diary' aspect of my blog.
 I didn't win the Golf  Croquet Club Championship this year.  My GC partner, Judy, (we won the GC Doubles together) did.  Today.  I was far more nervous for her than I was when she and I played in the semi-final and she beat me making it, I think, the first time I've not been in the final for, I think, six years just after I started playing croquet.  I played well and she played better and beat me fair and square.  Today she beat the Club's pretender for the Championship.  No, she annihilated him in the second game (best of 3): 7:6, 7:2.    We (Judy and her granddaughter, Zoe, whom I used to coach) went out for lunch to celebrate.

So this year I've not won any of the three GC club championships.  However I have won the Association Croquet (the 'original' and 'thinking' croquet) A Grade and the Intermediate Grade Champs.  However I let my partner down and we were only runners up in the AC Doubles.

In the greater scheme of things amongst the goings on in this world of ours all this is very shallow.  However today I am very thankful for my successes this year.  It may never happen again and I shall return to Scotland with the rather shallow thought that my name is etched in gold on the hallowed A Grade championship board at the Marewa Croquet Club.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

More Welcome Swallows

Although the birds of New Zealand do not generally compare in brilliance of hue as those of, say, Australia there are some very beautiful and exceptionally interesting ones.  For me one of the loveliest is the Welcome Swallow.  I have blogged a number of times on this joyful bird: see this list at Postvorta.

They are exceptionally fast and not in the least bit afraid of coming within a few feet of a person to catch some tasty insect morsels attracted by the carbon dioxide emitted in our breath or perhaps the blood on which they like to feed!  I've only managed to capture them in flight on one trip to Miranda.

When I was at Pauline's there were some youngsters nearby and I managed to get one sitting on a post not far away (but through a window).  They may not be my best Welcome Swallow photos but they are close runners in the cuteness stakes.

Picture Size: Update and iPad Comment Tip

Nephew-in-Law and computer programming whiz, Mark, has worked his magic.

Anyone with any equipment, platform and browser (which, for the most part amongst my readers who had problems seems to be iPad users) should now see my photos fitted into the available space for the blog.

If you return to the post Picture Size: A Test the top picture should appear on your post the same size as the second one.

Thank you Mark!

Most, perhaps all, iPad users, and that includes me some of the time, have problems when making comments on blogs if they make a mistake.  Carol in Cairns explained to me why and how to solve the problem.  I can't remember why and I can't find Carol's email with the instructions but here is the how:

When you make a mistake and the program will not let you make any alterations to a draft comment  simply touch the 'keyboard remove' key in the bottom right of the on-screen keyboard.  Then touch the comment box to re-instate the keyboard.  It should then work.

Toilet Art at Kawakawa

Some people have flowers and bushes and even trees in their garden.  Some people have lawns.  Some have garden gnomes.  Some have whimsically amusing toilets.  'Though not, I suspect, very many.  So these may have  rarity value.   May have......

Monday, 21 April 2014

Picture Size: A Test

I was looking at my blog on the iPad last night and I realised that I couldn't see the whole of any of my pictures.

For many years now I have set all my images to a maximum dimension of 800px which is what the template width allows.  I do this partly because it saves people clicking on an image to enlarge.  How many people do?  And partly because when I have the blog printed the pictures come out at the correct size.

So I thought that I would ask how many of you can see the following test card images in full.  It would be useful if you can't if you could tell me whether you are reading it on a tablet, iPad, laptop or whatever and the browser you are using.  I have used two test card sizes.  The top one is the size of my usual pics and the one below is a smaller one.  The chaffinch is just there for the ride.

800 x 600 px
640 x 480 px

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A Northland Miscellany

Pauline's and my Northland safari seems an age ago but I still have a few pics I would like to share with you before I set off for my other life in the Northern Hemisphere.

 I think this might have been a major 'oops' moment.

 The beautiful Whangaroa Harbour at Totara North

 I just love old sheds (okay this is a bit bigger than your average shed)

 Sailing out of Whangaroa Harbour

 Old boatshed at Whangaroa Harbour

Continuing the 'shed' theme: old boathouse in the mangroves of the Whangaroa Harbour

 This 'old shed' is, if I remember Pauline correctly, an old smithy and is now a conference facility down at the Kerikeri Harbour

The Kerikeri River, at the Wharepuke Falls tumbles over basalt lava fields, which flowed into the river valley following volcanic eruptions some 200 million years ago.  The pool is a popular diving and swimming place.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A Moment of Bliss

I lay in bed writing this post in my head and now I can't even remember the three brilliantly witty titles I thought up never mind the one of them that I decided to use.  I said in a text to a friend yesterday that I was reaching muddle age.  I meant to write 'middle' age but I left it because muddle age seemed so much more appropriate.

Anyway the subject of my thoughts was ribs.  Not in the sense of BBQ ribs but of cracked or broken ones in general and more specifically those belonging to the body that I inhabit.  It's over 6 weeks since the incident when they were injured.  Everyone said it would take at least six weeks for them to heal sufficiently not to cause discomfort.  At around 5.30am this morning I sort of woke and turned over and suddenly realised that I had not let out a yelp which has been the case until then.  At last perhaps I could lie on my 'proper' side?  I could!  It's a small thing in the scheme of things but a very pleasant one.

The view from The Cottage deck
A bit closer.  Is that a car there?  Never seen that before.
Not only is it a car in a strange place but they are pointing at The Cottage.  I wonder why.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Joys of Travel (or Not Being Able To).

It's Friday evening.  The Family has left The Cottage having been fed and watered.  The decks have been cleared.  The dishwasher is on.  The place is tidy.  

Martin and David are on their way to Wellington accompanied by Wendy who will share the driving and drive the car back tomorrow.  Martin and David are supposed to be setting foot in Scotland sometime on Friday UK time.  As it is they will be leaving Wellington around 0700 tomorrow for a 7 hour stopover in Sydney airport.  They will all get about 4 hours sleep tonight.

Over the last few days I've started half a dozen posts.  Then something has happened that has altered everything.  Of course if you haven't got internet then you can't publish the post immediately and other things can come along and make that which you said irrelevant or completely out of date.  This week has been very much like that.  I had no internet (other than a weak signal on my iPhone insufficient to be of use for tethering the laptop) from Wednesday afternoon until this afternoon.

Yesterday the storm raged:  the continuation of Tropical Cyclone Ida which wreaked havoc up the north coast of New South Wales before wandering out to sea again and making a nuisance of itself over here.  We got away lightly with no damage although the wind and rain was the worst I've experienced here.  Some have had severe damage and the West Coast of the South Island has had lots of damage and Christchurch has had more flooding to add to its woes.   However Martin and David’s flight to Auckland was cancelled last night because of the weather.  The knock on effect was that they were still at home when they should have been on the flight from Auckland to Scotland.  There isn’t another with the same airline until Wednesday.

However after a full evening and a full day today negotiating with the airlines and the insurance company and with the help of their travel agent, they have booked seats on another airline in the morning.  The downside is a 5 hour drive this evening in the dark down to Wellington and a return journey for Wendy tomorrow.

It made all my irritations look unimportant just as the disaster in Korea put their travel disruptions into perspective.

On the plus side yesterday I managed to get a replacement small plastic lever for the recliner chair and fit it.  

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Rain it Raineth on the Just

And on the unjust fella
But mainly on the just because
The unjust has the just's umbrella.

CJ and I were brought up with this witty ditty which is attributed to Lord Bowen .  I was going to say that I had absolutely no idea who he was but when I read the Wikipedia article I realised that I did.  I knew him simply from the quote in one of the legal textbooks I read more years ago than I able to remember.  The quote, however, like many from those books stuck with me because they were usually far more interesting that the subject I was supposed to be learning.  The quote was "When I hear of an 'equity' in a case like this, I am reminded of a blind man in a dark room - looking for a black hat - which isn't there".  Ironically I am not sure that I can recall what an 'equity' is although I think it had something to do with the courts being able to interpret or modify common law.  Didn't you just want to know all that?  Actually it's just me showing that I haven't forgotten everything I learned.  Although what good any of that ever did me or the world escapes me. 

Anyway it's been raining here for over a week with the exception of Saturday morning and afternoon when the sun shone and we had the croquet club BBQ.

 A prediction of things to come: and they did with even more drops

The apples were ready for harvest a week ago I believe.  
When they will be harvested is anyone's guess.

Saturday late afternoon and we had a splendid double rainbow most of which I would have to have climbed several fences and moved several large trees to get in frame.

 The pot of gold should be beneath this tree

 There are two young olive trees at The Cottage.  They are full of fruit (I was going to say 'olives' but that would have be stating the obvious).  If I had realised they were going to be so prolific I suppose I could have learned what to do with them.

 Just to the right of the base of the tree at the foot of the rainbow is a paddock with two alpaca. They were screaming fit to bust when I was photographing the rainbow.

 I must try this more frequently
 That's the cable from the micro-wave dish carrying my internet signal to the Cottage.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Northland: Boats and Things

New Zealand has one of the highest boat owning per capita ratios in the world.  I know that because I read it on Pauline's boat-bottoms post a couple of days ago and even my memory stretches that far back.  When we were doing our latest Northland safari Pauline decide that we would go and explore a bay on the other side of the hill from Russell about 5 minutes away by car.  It turned out to be fi=ull of surprises... and boats:

 The traditional gaff-rigged schooner R Tucker Thompson operated by a trust of the same name which has as its mission: Learning for Life through the Sea

 I had photographed this vessel in Paihia back in 2010 and it was only when I got the photos home that I realised that it was following a pod of dolphins.

Not everyone is in it for the speed

 Although I do wonder how people manage this and travel very long distances in rough seas doing it.

This took me completely by surprise

and when I used the long focus lens  have to say that it didn't appeal to me at all.

This little craft on the other hand spends its life up and down the Northland coast checking moorings.

Whilst this one is out for the sheer exhilleration of the speed (I'm sure that on the News tonight it said that some of these jet boats can travel in calm water up to 80kph!)

Friday, 11 April 2014

TWOO and a Big Mistake

Apparently there are 55 million Twoo users worldwide.  How could it be, therefore, that until last night I'd never even heard of it.  When I got up just after 0530 this morning I wished very fervently that I was still in a state of blissful ignorance.  

As it was I spent the first 3 hours of this dreich morning in a damage limitation exercise.

I had assumed that the contact list in my computer had been compromised but in fact I've now discovered that Twoo actually had access to the contacts in one of my Google accounts: the one from which the email was sent and only one, ironically, that had any contacts in it because I had previously deleted and ceased to store contacts in the other Google accounts.

How did it all arise?  I received an invitation from someone I know to join them and, being curious at that moment, instead of just declining as I usually do for social networking sites (except Facebook), I decided to see what it was.  To quote the line from one of my favourite scenes in any movie "Big mistake. Big. Huge."

Well I won't make that one again.

Doubtless, though, I'll find some other mistakes to make.  Life's like that.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Northland: Russell

The first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand was in the Bay of Islands.  I last went there by passenger ferry from Paihia in February 2010 on a very cold and damp day.  (I cannot believe that it was so long ago!).  The place was originally known as Kororāreka and developed as a result of the trade between visiting European and American ships in the early 1800s and the indigenous Māori.  It soon earned a very bad reputation as a community without laws and full of prostitution and became known as the "Hell Hole of the Pacific" despite the translation of its name being "How sweet is the penguin", (korora meaning blue penguin and reka meaning sweet).

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 the Governor of New Zealand, General William Hobson decided that the capital of the new colony would be inappropriate at such a lawless place and decided it would be at Okiato 7 kilometres away from Kororāreka and that it would be called Russell after Lord John Russell the British Prime Minister known for his liberal views.  In the event the colonial powers in Australia (from whence New Zealand was in effect governed in those days) decided that the new capital would be in Auckland.  So Kororāreka became called Russell instead.

Looking at it now it seems impossible to believe that it was once (only 150 years ago) such a hell hole and den of iniquity.  It seems now to be the very epitome of middle class middle New Zealand full of middle class tourists.  Perhaps appearances are deceptive.

I posted more pictures and information about Russell back in October 2010 than I think I've posted about any place that size (population 810).  It's interesting to compare these taken then on a bleak, cold rainy day with these: