Friday, 31 January 2014

Thankful Thursday: A Day Out With Catriona

Catriona goes back to school next week.  She is a weekly boarder but will not get home for the first two weekends.   I thought it was about time we had another day out together.  Coincidentally her Mum had to go into the practice today so when I asked Catriona last night if she would like to go and see The Book Thief today she was very happy to do so.  So at 9am we set off to play a couple of games of croquet (Thursday is a club day).  Then Catriona suggested lunch at The Groove Kitchen.  This is a place that I pass almost daily and yet have never been into.  I have been missing a lot.  The service and lunch was good and having looked on Trip Advisor I see that I have been missing far more than I realised.  I shall be back.

"If I make silly faces you won't put it on your blog!"  - Got that one wrong didn't you Catriona?
A large milk shake whilst waiting for lunch (taken with my phone in less-than-perfect light).
Coincidentally we met friends at the cinema and watched The Book Thief.  I had tried to read the book on the strong recommendation of a lady at croquet.  I struggled and never got very far.  One of the friends with whom we watched it this afternoon said that the film was better than the book.  I do not think that there was a dry eye in the cinema by the time it had finished. 

Of course there was the mandatory sitting in the sun having an ice cream on the way home.

The day ended at 11.30 at night when Wendy and Martin, Jamie and Catriona eventually made their way from The Cottage up the drive to bed (or for Wendy and Martin to pack for their trip to Wellington after their last patient this afternoon).

How could one be anything other than very thankful for such a wonderful day?

Monday, 27 January 2014

Apple Harvest

Katherine's family is an Apple family!  It's also a family of lots of different and diverse conversations going on constantly.  There is no television.  There are those who say, or at least think, that computers are anti-social.  I would suggest a stay chez Katherine.  Every conversation is likely to involve learning and every bout of learning will involve reaching for an iPhone or an iPad or a MacBook for the purpose of finding information or solving a quiz or learning a language or......the list is endless.  I feel so very at home.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


Last Friday I drove up to Tauranga to stay with a Katherine of The Last Visible Dog for Aftermas and a few days holiday.

Most years at the end of January Katherine has an 'After-Christmas' after-noon party for as many family and friends as she can. It's nice to get together before school and work starts taking over from the summer break. It seems that with partners, melded families, step-thingys and so on often it's just too hard to see all the people one would like to on the 25th December, so Katherine has another one a month later for all the people she missed.  I am privileged to be one of the invitees.  This was my fourth Aftermas.

Interestingly when I wrote about Aftermas two years ago I mentioned that I slept without a nightmare.  So far after two nights here I've had nights of serene sleep.  After a really bad start to the week - even on Friday I woke not being able to tell nightmare from reality - sleep without has been wonderful.

A beautiful day in a beautiful garden with beautiful people
Nat - bubbles
Anne - bubbles
Holding forth
Everyone wants to blow bubbles
Or have their face painted (not just the littlies)
Nat being scary
Nat being really scary

Monday, 20 January 2014

More Than Feeling Blue

I've just read a post by my brother, CJ aka Scriptor Senex, telling his readers that today is Blue Monday.  That followed a post by Meike aka Librarian on the book The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  The subject which links the two posts is depression: the first a fairly light-hearted look at why we are supposed to feel at our lowest today and the second the serious depression from which Sylvia Plath suffered.

I have friends who have clinical depression.  Most of the time no one would know.  Medication assists and years or decades can pass without incident.  When depression does strike then, like any other potentially serious illness, the consequence for the sufferer and those around can be severe.

From what I can gather anyone who has not suffered from the illness has difficulty really understanding it.  In a way it's the same as, say, cancer where the consequences can be serious but someone who hasn't had a potentially terminal illness can't really understand the feelings of being told that you have that illness.

When I was 16 I had most of one of my lungs removed.  The question of dying never even occurred to me.  When I was discharged from hospital I suffered from post-operative depression.  There was little apparently known about it and it wasn't something I could talk about or explain because I didn't understand it myself.  I would walk for hours and hours on my own in an aimless sort of daze.  I walked round the coast of the Wirral Peninsula getting the ferry to New Brighton and walking round to Hoylake and beyond.  I knew the coast from Heswall to New Brighton pretty well then.

It was only when I stayed with my Godfather at his family retreat in a field in North Wales and went for a 'walk' which took hours longer than I'd expected, that I realised how serious things were and the worry that my family were being caused.  There were no mobile/cellphones in those days and my Godfather was beside himself with worry when I eventually showed up.

Then the depression went as suddenly as it came and I never suffered from it again.  But I never forgot it.  The effect it had on me has lasted to this day.  I love going for walks (or did before my dicky knee made it rather difficult).  I am happy with my own company.  However I cannot go for a long walk on my own.  Whenever I contemplate it I am 16 again and it's as if something in me is frightened that if I went on that walk my 'then' state of mind would return.  Of course that's completely irrational but that's the thing about that sort of illness: it's not necessarily rational.

So although it's Monday, this is this week's Thankful Thursday post.  Why should I be thankful?  I'm thankful because when depression is mentioned I can understand what the person is going through but I also know that for me it is an illness long gone and consigned to the history of my youth.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Evening Clouds

On the way home from Palmerston North as we came towards Napier on the Tikokino road we were met with wonderful cloud formations and an enchanting evening sky with a low moon:

All taken from a moving car and mostly through the car windows.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Thankful Thursday

I'm all croqueted out.  Six days of 9 hours on the lawns in weather ranging from very hot (late 20s Celsius) to cold (mid teens Celsius).  Sometimes with the heat has come humidity.  Almost the whole time has been windy ranging from just plain windy to gales.  Sometimes we've had blue skies and sometimes overcast and cloudy.  On the plus side we've had no rain.  The worst thing has been the gales.  Not only is it hard to play accurately in gales but it's also saps your physical and mental energy hour after hour.

I'm writing this during a bye when I don't have to play for three hours.  It's cold and gale force winds are blowing.  When the three hours is up my travelling companions and I will be wending our way back from Palmerston North to our homes in Napier: about 180k/111m and nearly three hours driving for Judy in whose car we came.

It's a lovely tournament and overall I think there were about 80 entrants playing in various events.  I've met some new people and played some very good croquet.  I've also played some very bad croquet.

Overall view of 6 of the 9 lawns being used for the tournament (there's actually more people playing than you can see!)
Doug Van Belle who won the tournament in the game against me playing a hampered shot being watched by a referee
A not-so-warm afternoon
So tonight I shall be in my own bed.  I won't have to be up at 6am tomorrow.  I can have a relaxed day tomorrow recovering and taking stock.  The Family will come down to The Cottage for dinner as is usual on a Friday.  Life will return to what passes for normal.

For these simple things I am very, very thankful today.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Thankful Thursday

There is absolutely nothing more likely to get me out of bed and upright in einen augenblick (just to demonstrate that I haven't forgotten all my Deutsch) than the sound of a mozzie in my ear.  We are fortunate in Hawkes Bay in not having a lot of mozzies and that most of those we do have are not interested in humans (I read that and, on this particular subject the mosquitoes appear to have read the same book) but feed on the blood of other animals and, in fact, tend to be animal specific.

Be that as it may I will not go to sleep with a mozzie keeping me company.  So last night after having had my head on the pillow for less than a minute when a mozzie homed in I was up with the light on and a can of insecticide in my hand faster than, well, very fast.  A spray around and a turn on of the automatic sprayer and I was sound asleep within another 120 seconds: perhaps less, I stopped counting.

I always think of the time in Italy in 2012 when I shared a huge hotel bedroom with full screening which had, unfortunately, trapped a very persistent mozzie inside (and I wasn't opening them to let more in) and I was without insect repellant or killer and in the morning my face was a mass of bites and I had very little sleep.  Blood sucking little buggers they are.

On the whole, though, we are exceptionally fortunate in New Zealand in having few poisonous insects or other creatures which incommode humans unlike our friends across the Tasman who have everything from funnel-web spiders (extremely poisonous) to the venomous duck-billed platypus (which is not the cuddly creature many think it is).  We have three poisonous spiders capable of biting humans (but bites from the two venomous ones are extremely rare and there is an antidote and the white-tailed spider's reputation is much worse than the effect of its bite usually is) and no indigenous land mammals poisonous or otherwise (we have some bats and whales and sea lions and that's about it).

So today I am thankful to a friend for reminding me that I was neglecting my Thankful Thursday posts and thankful that I live in a country where I don't risk death from a mozzie bite and where I can sleep soundly at night without fear (and I'm not just referring to insects!).

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Blogging Haitus

This week has not turned out as I expected.  The International Croquet Test Matches are being held at the moment in three New Zealand locations over three weeks.  This week (week 2) the Tests are being played at the club I play at and the Te Mata Club 20 minutes away.  One of my jobs for the Test at our club (New Zealand v Australia) is to set out lawns and set the widths of the hoops.  If you think, by the way, that it's easy getting a ball through a hoop the Tests are being played with hoops set 1/64" (.5mm) wider than the balls.

I had expected after the day spent putting new hoop positions in that my involvement would be confined to getting up at 6am when I was on duty to put out hoops for the 6 lawns that we have and set the width of the hoops for play to start at 0830.  In practice I have spent most of the days and early evenings since Saturday at the Club partly working and partly watching the matches.  I've also had a friend who came to see two days of the Test staying.

It's now bedtime and I have to be out early again tomorrow so this will be another day without reading blogs.  I have written a quick Thankful Thursday post scheduled for tomorrow though.

Although there is one more day of this Test, New Zealand have already beaten Australia and will play England in the final Test next week.  That Test will be the decider for the series and Australia and the USA will play off for the last two positions.

I go away on Friday to a 6-day tournament in Palmerston North - my favourite tournament of the year.

So until I return I may well only be putting in the occasional appearance in my beloved Blogland.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Who's Doing The Work?

Unless you are prepared to be bored don't read past this paragraph.  It's not quite a rant but.....

This afternoon I decided that I would book my air journeys between Napier and Auckland (Air New Zealand) and Glasgow and Stornoway (Flybe) on my way back to Scotland at the end of April.  Simple.  It took well over two hours.  The UK's Flybe website refused to behave and it took me over an hour to make the booking.   I decided to make the Air New Zealand booking using my airpoints dollars.  Simple.  No.  I have two Air New Zealand persona: my UK one and my New Zealand one (it's much easier and cheaper to book internal NZ flights using my NZ persona).  My airpoints dollars are registered to my UK persona.   If you live in the UK and want to use your airpoints you have to use your UK persona (which is logical) but you can't do it on line (as I discovered and which seems most odd) and you have to use the telephone service (for which there is a fee of $30).  So you do all the work only to discover that at the checkout you can't complete the transaction and have to start all over again talking on the phone to a real person - in NZ and using NZ$.

Sometimes I think businesses make life very difficult for their customers who, after all, are not just paying for the service but are doing quite a lot of their work for them too.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Upside Down and Unhappy

NZ electric socket
I was looking at one of the sockets in The Cottage today and it suddenly occurred to me that it looked decidedly unhappy.  That really is a sad face isn't it?  It's also upside down (when compared with the socket's in my Scottish home).  The UK socket really has no personality at all.  Ho hum.

UK electric socket

Friday, 3 January 2014

A Passion for Peanuts

Fortunately I do not have an addictive personality (least-ways I'm fairly sure that I don't) except when it comes to one thing: a bowl of salted nuts - specifically peanuts or cashew nuts.  Nor am I an instant gratification person.  I like to savour my boiled sweets or peppermints (on the rare occasion that I eat sweets at all) and I don't crunch them.

This evening as I put my 6 o'clock ration of nuts in a bowl (on this occasion with my glass of spicy tomato juice that I can only get in NZ) I suddenly had the thought that someone, somewhere must, surely, have invented the peanut dispenser: something that would drip-feed me my nuts one at a time and slowly.

My friend and fellow croquet player (with infinitely more experience than I) Frank is an engineer and is always inventing things.  I shall not go into detail as to why getting croquet hoops out of the ground when it is dry can be exceptionally difficult and can also damage the lawn.  However for such occasions Frank invented a croquet hoop lifter.  As you can see Frank is not just an engineer but an engineer with a sense of humour:

So what would you like someone to invent?

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Order of the Laughing Horse

Many moons ago I declared this blog to be an award-free zone.  It was at a time when awards seemed to appear every week on every blog.   Some of the awards were well thought out and given with thought too.  My brother CJ (Scriptor Senex just in case there is anyone left out there who doesn't know our relationship) did just such an award.   So far as I can gather the main purpose of the award system was to get like-blog-minded bloggers to read each other's blogs with a view to getting more readers and followers.  There is nothing wrong with that.  At that time, however, my blog world was very small and I really wanted to keep it that way.
Many of the awards had conditions which basically were designed to get people to tell other bloggers something about themselves.  I found that interesting but, on the whole, I prefer to be the decider of what information I give out publicly.

YP at the blog Yorkshire Pudding has, apparently, been giving the Laughing Horse award for whatever reasons he happens to think up for some years.  I have no idea how many.  Although I've 'known' him though Katherine's Blog for several years I've only actually been following his blog for a few months.  Now I wonder what took me so long.  An interesting set of bloggers received awards at a ceremony at Chatsworth House (the Duke of Devonshire's stately pile in Derbyshire - not Devonshire which doesn't exist) yesterday.  As an itinerant blogger (in that I blog from Scotland and New Zealand) I was duly given the Laughing Horse Award for the best Itinerant Blogger.  The only other contender for that category so far as I am aware was Adrian but he was entered in so many categories I was, effectively, unopposed.

So thank you YP.  Despite the scurrilous tabloid description of the Award Ceremony.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year

My new year is now nearly 12 hours old.  For those of you in the European GMT+1 time zone there's half an hour to go to 2014.  For those of you in the UK it's half an hour into 2014.  For the rest of you out to the West you've a while yet to go.

Whatever time it is for you when you read this I wish you

happiness and contentment

and the good health to enjoy it.

The New Year Starts Here

No party.  No wild, riotous evening into the wee sma' hours (as if anyway).  No first footing (neighbours are rather too far away without a good walk and we had all done quite enough walking yesterday).  No going into Napier for the midnight celebrations and fireworks and music down at the Marine Parade and on the shore.  In fact it was, by far, the quietest New Year I can remember.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Gaz rang from Scotland during the evening and we had a catch-up.  Later on we all watched the first two episodes of Still Game.  Just before midnight given that there was not a cloud in the sky Martin lit the brazier and candles and everyone went in the spa.  I couldn't be bothered going down to The Cottage for my togs so I poured the bubbly and toasted the marshmallows and thus we saw in 2014.  As contentment goes that scored pretty high on the scale.

This morning I woke to bright sunshine and this scene from my bed:
I had no lemons for my hot water and lemon morning drink so I wandered off to the orchard:
The Cottage to the right and the drive up to The House and the orchard
Looking down the paddock towards the orchard
A reminder of Scotland
A neighbour was taking her horse for some exercise with the buggy.  Unfortunately it was a long way off and I had a brief, and only partially successful, opportunity for a photo.
Since then it's been a series of phone calls and a really lazy morning.  The Family's Son 1 has gone off to work to earn some money for life at Uni.  Wendy and Martin have gone to collect Son 2 from Waimarama where he spent New Year camping and when they eventually get out of their beds and wander down I shall feed the younger two with some brunch.  All that and this:

Life's pretty damn good.