Friday, 28 February 2014

Do You Ever Wonder?

Well perhaps it doesn't happen to you so you've never had to.  Perhaps you are not a curious person.

When I opened my dashboard one morning last week I noticed that instead of 129 followers I only had 128. 

I wondered whom I had 'lost'.  I wondered why whomsoever it was wasn't there any more.

Perhaps it was because he or she took umbridge at a perceived criticism of a couple of Royals.  Perhaps it was because the person was fed up of my blog.  Perhaps he or she is like many, perhaps even the majority, of my 'followers' who don't actually follow at all any more but did at some time.  Perhaps the person was one of those who followed me in the hope that I'd then follow their blog and perhaps I didn't.  Perhaps the person has gone to Google+ or is a Facebook Follower.

Life's full of perhapses. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Rolls Royce or Four

This year there were a lot of Rolls Royces on parade at the Art Deco Weekend.  Whilst I'm sure some of you will switch off at the sight of cars I think that there is something beautiful and timeless about these machines.  Rather like good pieces of music (be it Bach or Beatles) they will be around long after we are gone.  After all the newest of these four is 50 years old and the oldest 91 years old.

1923 Rolls Royce 20 horse power
1933 Rolls Royce 20-25 Originally commissioned for an Australian
1933 Rolls Royce 20-25 Originally commissioned for an Australian
1937 Rolls Royce Phantom V12
1937 Rolls Royce Phantom V12
Original air-conditioning!
1964 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III.  With its twin headlights I thought this car was ugly. RR managed some far uglier designs after this.
1964 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III 6.3 l V8

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Art Deco Weekend 2014

Last weekend was Napier's Art Deco Weekend which is the culmination of a week of art deco related, and many not so related, events.  I've blogged about it many times before.  Here are just a few pictures to give you a flavour of the event.

Harvard Trainer
Air Display
Perhaps not so 1930s?
Picnics on the beach
...with Bluff Hill in the background
A fraction of the Napier Ukulele Band
The Art Deco T & G Building and Marine Parade
There's always a traction engine for Adrian
Probably less unpleasant in the mid 30s Celsius than many of the other uniforms and dresses being worn.
The bike is a match for and fits onto the back of the car she is riding towards.
Fun in Emerson Street
The Soundshell from the new Napier Museum and Art Gallery
Gardens and sea from the Napier Museum and Art Gallery.
Gallery view Napier Museum and Art Gallery.

Friday, 21 February 2014

It Is Enough

Early last year, Caroline, the younger daughter of Friend Who Knows Too Much, and I had a long discussion based upon a statement by American novelist, professor, Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison contained on Caroline's blog.  The quote was from her 1981 book Tar Baby.

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it.  It is enough.”

This arose partly because of my incessant desire to record on camera everything that I see that I feel I would like either to show other people or look at again myself in the future.  That in turn arises partly from the fact that I don't have an ability to hold images in my memory.  If I see something I have to commit it to words and hope that I'll remember them and that they might trigger some recollection.  It always astounds me when people describe scenes in great detail from memory.

I'd not really been able to accept the statement until fairly recently when various things have happened which have been such that I've just stood in awe and accepted the moment for what it was.  Ironically I can remember the feeling of utter joy but I can't recall the triggers.

However the premise was tested again a few days ago when I was standing at the kitchen window and realised that not more than metre and a half away a mouse was climbing up the long stalks of grass, grabbing a head of seeds and falling off and starting up the next stalk.  I grabbed the camera but a combination of the closeness, poor light, the fact that I was shooting through a window and that the stalks of grass were all competing with one another for the automatic focus (which takes too long to turn off and use manually) proved too much for me before he gave up and moved on.  

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Thankful Thursday

I woke up this morning.

That makes it a
Good Day
in my book.

One day perhaps I won't wake up
perhaps I'll just not see the end of the day.

Until then I'll not sweat the small stuff
(and it's mostly small stuff*).

Until then I shall be thankful for the fact that I woke and got through to the end of the day.

*My 'does it matter' test:
Will it matter in a year? No?
 Then will it matter in a month? No?
Then will it matter in a week? No?
Then will it matter in an hour?  No?
Then why does it matter now?

Jacaranda Tree

This glorious Jacaranda Tree stands on the Gloucester Street between Greenmeadows and Tarradale - two suburbs of Napier.  That's not controversial is it?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Opportunism or A Little Out Of Place

I have never used this blog for any sort of controversial discussion and what I am about to say is not meant to be a criticism but simply a critique of the reality of a situation in the UK as reported here in New Zealand (and, I suspect, in the UK too).  I should stress, too, that I am not anti-monarchist.  Nor, for that matter, am I pro-monarchist.  I sit on the fence on this one.  Heredity versus the big money of vested interests is a hard choice.  Queen Elizabeth v President Putin.  Hmmm.

Pictures of the Princes William and Harry helping the troops with the flood prevention measures by humping sandbags at Datchet has made most, perhaps all, of the national news media here in New Zealand and probably in a great many other places around the world.  Though heaven knows why. 

Now everyone knows that both of them have been serving members of the forces and that they are fit and able and doubtless willing to do their bit so to speak.  But was that really the best way of utilising their talents and positions?

I have to say that the very first though that flashed through my mind was that one of their public relations advisers had had a brain fart.

Who knows?  Who really cares?  But was it wise?  I think not.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

It Felt Autumnal

This morning there was a mist over the orchards and the light coming through the trees into the geological bowl in which I live highlighted the Highland Cattle and even the breath showed up in the crisp morning air.


Monday, 17 February 2014

Every Child Should Have This Opportunity

It's amazing how one can fall behind with so many things when one has a really really busy weekend.  Which is what I've just been fortunate enough to have. I was going to say that the highlight was playing association croquet matches and playing as well as I have ever played and thoroughly enjoying every minute (well, perhaps not if I missed a roquet but that would be a fleeting moment). Or doing something simple after dinner on Sunday evening when Wendy and Martin took me to the Globe Theatrette (which I'm ashamed to say I'd never been to) to see Short Term 12 (a low-budget very emotional and ultimately uplifting film) whilst drinking a glass of excellent shiraz in superb comfort.

The highlight wasn't any of that though.  It was going to see Catriona swimming in her school swimming gala.  Catriona is fortunate to have what I would wish for every child in the world: the chance of a superb education at a school most children in the world cannot even dream of because they could not conceive of there being such a school. Woodford House is one of New Zealand's leading girls' schools.  It is a day and boarding school (Catriona is a weekly boarder and loves it) set in acres of greenery.  I think if I had been a girl and gone to Woodford even I might have enjoyed school. (As it was I was fortunate enough to have had as good an education as was available in Liverpool and I disliked almost every minute of it).

The organisation of the 77 races was a precision clockwork event such as I have never seen before.  The parents (and grandparents!) were there supporting their children (and seeing and being seen and taking the opportunity to chat to teachers and other parents informally).

The swimming pool is set in a deep natural amphitheatre.  Catriona's school house is dressed in blue.
Catriona in blue cap just about to start her race
and, by a short hand, winning it. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Why Comment?

Red wrote a post a few days ago entitled Confession.  In it he said that he did not read 'very many comments that are made on other bloggers's (sic) posts'.  Reading the comments made on that post it would seem that few people do.  I know that when I was discussing this with someone last year he surprised me by saying that he didn't because he didn't have time and rarely ticked the 'Notify me' box either.  So what, I wonder, is the point of commenting in those circumstances?  Do some commenters (for those who would correct me and say that I should use commentator please see here) only want and expect their comments to be heard by the person who posted?

The most common reason given for not reading comments was lack of time. 

My Blogland is deliberately small.  I follow blogs for various reasons.  Some educate me (perhaps geographically or artistically for example).   Some challenge and stimulate me by being interesting and perhaps provocative (no, Adrian, your name never even crossed my mind).  Some fascinate me.  Some I follow for purely personal reasons.  A few I follow but am not actually sure why.

I don't manage to read every blog I follow every day and even when I do I don't always have anything to say so I don't always comment.  Generally speaking though if I read a blog then I do commenters the courtesy of reading the comments as well even if only cursorily.

Of course on some blogs the comments (especially on weekly set task posts followed by dozens or hundreds of people) often consist of nothing more than something like 'nice pics thanks for posting'.  Why bother?   I just skim the comments more in hope than expectation.

Almost all the blogs I follow merit a 'proper' comment for one reason or another and many elicit comments which are either controversial (no, Adrian, I wasn't thinking of you again) or really are worth reading.

For me the comments are an integral part of the posting and reading process because blogging is so often an exchange of thoughts.  So if you comment on a post on a blog that I read then you can be pretty much guaranteed that at least one person in addition to the blogger will read your comment.

I wonder if a poll of my readers would elicit the same response as those who follow Red (whose posts are frequently interesting and thought provoking).

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Go On Laugh Why Don't You!

Too many serious subjects around at the moment.  Too many words.

Some years ago I posted about jandal-stripe (leastways I thought I did but I can't find the post).  A friend said that my toes were bandy.   I've had a thing about my toes ever since.  This year I've hardly worn jandals outside because I've spent so much time on the croquet lawns where I have to wear flat-soled sports shoes.  So I now have white feet.  When I was about to go out with jandals on recently I was told most emphatically that that would look really really silly.  So now I can't wear jandals outside.  Now be honest do you think white feet are that funny?

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Not Another Survey

I recently had the windscreen of the MX5 replaced.  The car is insured by The New Zealand AA.  It was all dealt with quickly and efficiently by the AA and the local branch of the repairer who came to The Cottage and did it whist I was out.  However when I wanted to know how long it would be before I could drive the car the staff at the national number I dialled for the company told me that I couldn't drive it for 24 hours or, in effect, it wouldn't be warranted if it leaked.  W h a t?  I knew that if it had been done at the repairer's I could have collected it later in the day.  So I rang the local people (having eventually found the local number).   It had been done several hours previously so I could drive it now.   You cannot put it through a pressure washer for 24 hours.  

The AA sent me a survey to find out if I was happy with them and the repairer.  It won't take more than 10 minutes.  10 Minutes!  Then the repairer sent me a survey asking me similar questions.  However it was all black and white: was I on a scale from 1 to 10 where.... You know the sort of thing.  I was delighted with the local service but if I answered less than happily it would be the local people who got the stick.  The number crunchers can't crunch comments.

Today I got a survey from Flying Flowers whom I often use to send flowers in the UK.  I recently ordered particular flowers for someone.  FF tried to telephone my UK home number to tell me that they were substituting something else 'because the flowers I'd ordered were not available for the area they were to be sent to' so they had made a (completely different) substitution.  W h a t?   I emailed and said that I was not really happy and asking for an explanation.  I've had no reply.  Obviously they don't need my business.  This time the survey allows for comments: I wonder if I'll ever get a response to what I will say about their service.  As for the flowers the whole point for most users of Flying Flowers is that they are sending them to someone else so they will probably never see the flowers and if you send someone flowers are they going to tell you that your efforts resulted in bad flowers?  Perhaps.  But I bet the majority wouldn't.

I have just totted up that this is about the seventh survey I have had in the last week to 10 days.  I ignored all the others.  I'm developing yet another dislike.

Monday, 10 February 2014


Toscany Memories - Mark Arian
Which city do Bill Bryson (author) and Mark Arian (Realistic Romantic Artist) and Ronald Reagan (Former Disc Jockey, Actor and US President) have in common?

It just so happens that I came across Mark Arian on Bas van Houwelingen's website Reading and Art this evening.  The fact that he was born in Des Moines wasn't his fault.  

Any more than it was the fault of Bill Bryson whose dry sense of humour has amused me since I first read The Lost Continent and Neither Here nor There many years ago.  I have subsequently read many of his books although there are still some outstanding.

Ronald Reagan on the other hand presumably went to Des Moines of his own volition to work for RadioDJ as a disc jockey. 

I think that I decided that I would read every word that Bill Bryson wrote when I read the first line of The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America. "I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." He went on  "When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a girl called Bobbie and get a job in the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can't wait to get out and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbie and get a job in the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever." He was equally unsparing about the UK in Notes from a Small Country.  And it was from Down Under that learned that until 1957 (I think) it was still legal to shoot Aborigines in Australia.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Some First Impressions

On Being Aged in Hong Kong

Respect for the aged reminds me of Hong Kong where I offered proof of my age for my Octopus pass only to be told that that wouldn't be necessary.  On jokingly saying that I didn't think I looked that old the young lady said that I didn't look old I looked like someone to be respected for their seniority.  I just love the people of Hong Kong! 

On meeting the German Police

The first time we went to Germany (we being my wife and I and our two sons who were then still knee high to a grasshopper) we went by car.  It was getting towards dusk when we arrived on the outskirts of Braunschweig (Hannover) prior to entering the then heavily guarded transit route through the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) generally called East Germany.  Berlin (our destination) was too far to travel that night and we decided to find a hotel.  Unfortunately we hadn't anticipated that and didn't know our way round once we left the autobahn. So we stopped at a police post.  As we pulled up an immaculately dressed police officer in a 'different' uniform emerged from a police Porche carrying a machine gun in one hand and a brief case in the other and went inside.  Rather apprehensively I followed and was met by a sergeant at the desk.  I told him in my faltering German that we needed a hotel and asked if he spoke any English.  "Nein" came the immediate response "aber ich spreche sehr gut Deutsch.".  And with that he beckoned me to follow and we got a police escort to a nearby hotel where he explained everything, made sure we were settled in and promptly disappeared.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Affect and Effect

This is supposed to be a blog about my life in New Zealand as if life here is inherently different from life in Scotland.  Now that I have lived here for six months every year since 2005 it's become apparent to me that life is life wherever you are.  This blog is really just my notebook on the half of of my life which happens here in New Zealand.  It's not peculiarly Kiwi it's just life.

Did you know (of course you didn't, why would you?) that affect is one of the most searched-for words in Oxford Dictionaries Online.  That is probably because a lot of people are confused about the difference between affect and effect, two words which have almost the same spelling, but very different meanings.

I seem to have lived for 69 year without being confused but recently I have had to stop and think which is which.
The key thing to remember is that affect is typically used as a verb:
  • His time at school had affected his outlook on life.
On the other hand, effect is most commonly used as a noun:
  • What were the effects of your schooling on your outlook on life.
Hopefully my natural instinct as to which is which will now return.  I hope that I haven't suddenly confused you.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Brave and Confident?

When I was passing through Tirau on the way to Tauranga a few weeks ago I decided on a comfort stop and to have a coffee.  This café is sited next to the Information Centre so I decided to see what it was like.  Excellent was my verdict.  What I also liked was their blackboard for customers to leave their comments.  It certainly showed a high level of confidence.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Thankful Thursday: Pain

Frances recently posted Pain: out of ten.  Like many of Frances's posts it has elicited quite a lot of interesting information.  It made me think too about the pain suffered by those around me.  I shall stick to the subject of physical pain: chronic and acute.

I know a number of people who suffer from severe pain: my brother CJ who has a neuropathological (or is it neurological) condition being one closest to me.  He suffers from constant chronic and from acute pain which has in itself become chronic.  Monica lives with chronic pain. These are just two of many whom I know.  Arthritis is so common these days that we almost ignore those hobbling around needing new knees, hips and, worse still, new parts, like backs, that cannot be replaced.

So last night when Frances asked me what had caused me to cut my bladder in half (the aftermath of which I had highlighted as being on the rather painful part of the spectrum) I was thinking just how fortunate I have been.  It's not the first time I've realised this but I thought it was a good opportunity to renew my thankfulness.

I had opined that pain at the high threshold can sort of be measured by whether one remembers it. We remember pain but forget exactly what it was like. That must be the case or most of the women I know would never have had a second baby.   I can recall a Spanish doctor (who spoke relatively little English) sticking a syringe through my back into my lung when I was 16 and was in hospital after a lobectomy (partial lung removal).  He hit a nerve and the poor nurse who's arm had been holding me in front actually swore at him because he just left it there and started asking me what was wrong. Then there was the pain from having my bladder cut in half during a life-saving operation and having a catheter bulb sitting on it for days. That hurt. I said never again. That was 16 years ago. I'm still alive. Would I do it again?  I'm not sure in theory but in practice surely the pain wasn't that bad.

"The point of this is what?"  I can hear you ask.  The point is that the only pain I have suffered (ignoring my arthritic knee which is to be replaced but the discomfort of which I have grown used to provided that I'm really careful and don't aggravate it in which case it's very painful) is acute pain and acute pain by definition is relatively transient. 

So today I am very thankful indeed for a life so far relatively free of pain.  For those of you in constant pain I feel deep sympathy.  For those of you without pain please take a moment to consider your good fortune.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A Wee Story

I happened to do something today which was vaguely absent-minded.  I was told a story of a friend's history professor at university.

I was so taken with this wee story that I just have to share it.

The Professor was a creature of habit.  Whenever he walked to the University from home, halfway there he would light his pipe and smoke it until he entered the University.  One day the pipe wouldn't light because of the wind blowing onto his face.  So the Professor turned round and put his back to the wind.  When the pipe was lit he continued the direction he was facing........until he arrived back home.

I didn't feel so bad after that.

Monday, 3 February 2014

One For Marcel

Taken with the car's video camera as the beast came round the corner towards me.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Pacific Voyagers

I was driving along the seafront at Ahuriri (a suburb of Napier) the other day when I saw this splendid vessel sailing out from the harbour to the sea.   I couldn't read the name and forgot to check with the port authority (or use my Marine Traffic app although it may well not be a registered vessel).  However I think I have traced it to the Pacific Voyagers.  It made a wonderful sight sailing out against the background of the Hawkes Bay hills.