Thursday, 5 May 2016

Westport and those Southern Alps

A few weeks ago I had to go to Westport for a meeting. It's a fairly long drive from Hokitika, but what amazing scenery I went past!

I have been to Westport a couple of times before, once with David, Mum and my aunt Molly when we brought her out to NZ for Mum's 70th birthday, and once with our friend Jo Brownie when she and I drove to Blackball to deliver Melita's cat Spike to her mum's place.

I had forgotten how stunning the drive is along the coast. It is amazing and it is no wonder that this whole coast is such a tourist destination, even though it is pretty remote by the standards of NZ and other small countries.

Anyway, it was a good thing I had left Hokitika with plenty of time to spare on the drive up to Westport - I had to keep stopping and looking and taking photos. It's not a fast drive by any means, and I took it quite slowly so I could drink it all in. And I was clear that I want David to come down so we can travel that route and enjoy it together in a relaxed fashion.

The day wasn't particularly sunny, and the sea-spray is evident.

Just so you know, I did pull over into a layby to take these photos. That is a cyclist coming up the hill - gives an idea of the height of the cliffs alongside the road.
The view inland up Fox River

I remember this bridge from our trip with Mum and Molly back in 1993/4. Had to stop for the sake of reminiscing.
Can't remember where this is but it looked pretty impressive - I did wonder how it all stays in place in heavy rains ...

These flowers are apparently a weed, but they do look lovely along the sides of the road. I had seen them on the way to Westport, but they were on the wrong side of the road for safe photography.

And they are rather beautiful close up.
Then on my flight home a couple of days later, the Alps were starting to get some snow on the tops.
See what I mean? Looking impressive, eh?

Funny how it settles down in the valleys.

That big one is Aoraki Mt Cook, NZ's highest mountain.
Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Its height since 2014 is listed as 3724m, down from 3,764 metres before December 1991, due to a rockslide and subsequent erosion.

How lucky am I to be working in a place where I get to see such amazing sights? I truly understand why so many DOC rangers love working for the organisation - they get the legitimate work-based opportunity to spend time out in the mountains, in the ranges, up the rivers as part of their daily life. I feel fortunate enough to fly over those mountains and visit stunning parts of this beautiful country.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Goodbye, Mary

On Saturday, David's mum Mary died at home, with David and Ginny holding her hands. They had been with her for almost five weeks, since she had been diagnosed with pancytopenia - her bone marrow had stopped functioning, so she wasn't producing white or red blood cells or platelets. For the first 4 weeks she was fine but got slower and tireder. She still tottered around using her walker, and laughed and joked with them. It is only in the last week or so that she was bedridden and slipped in and out of consciousness. A few days in a row David would ring and say they thought today would be the day, but she hung on - her incredibly strong little heart just kept on beating.

But on Friday the Kahukura nurses who provide in-home palliative care in the Wairarapa told David and Ginny that the end was nearing. And on Saturday at 12.45pm she died peacefully and calmly with her two favourite people there, one each side, loving her and gentling her as she left.

She has been a lovely mother in law - I have always reacted strongly against mother in law jokes as they are such a crappy stereotype. And for me they could not have been more wrong or cruel.

David came home on Sunday, Ginny is staying with friends for a couple of days before they start the inevitable clearing the house - Mary was no hoarder, and most of John's hoarded papers were disposed of in an orgy of skip filling a few years ago. So it will be an easy task this time - easy in terms of there not being much, but hard as it'll be the memories of particular things that will get them.

Mary is being cremated tomorrow with no fuss (she is of the generation that did not like a fuss), and on Sunday next week we are having an At Home for friends. I am facilitating the event and will do most of the catering - Mary loved my cheese tart (as do Ginny and David), and she loved sponge cake, lamingtons and custard squares. Even though she won't be there eating them, we will have some of her favourite foods - I do draw the line however at grated cheese and celery salt on crackers ...

My lovely sister Dee has been here with me since Thursday (she had to look after herself for a few hours till I got back home from being an earner) and she is still here - together we have been looking after David, the newly orphaned.  We have been very kind and loving, with the occasional pis*-take - our thinking is that he needs to know that life continues, that we will treat him lovingly as we always do ...

This morning some dear friends came for breakfast, which if I do say so myself, was spectacular. (Dee and I are a damn fine team in the kitchen - we've had lots of practice over the years.) But the main purpose was for them all to be with David and give him their support. Two bottles of bubbly appeared with the guys for toasts to the newly orphaned (and his entree into the Orphans club) and to his lovely Mum.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Happy birthday, dear husband

Today David is 67. He is now sitting up in bed working out how to make his new video camera work. That will keep him occupied for a couple of hours, so I guess there is no chance of him doing the vacuuming before guests turn up for his birthday lunch. Damn, should have made the present ceremony conditional on the vacuuming being completed - poor project management, I say!

No worries, guests are coming to see him, to eat food and drink wine, so a slightly messy carpet isn't a problem.

Update: Quote "My first job is to learn how to get the power on." And guess what? He is reading the manual!! That IS definitely a sign he is aging, even if it wasn't his birthday today!

I have to get up and get things underway. As well as roast beef and the accompaniments, I have to re-do the apple and sage jelly that I did last weekend - it didn't gel because I put in too much sugar, so I cooked up some granny smiths yesterday and left them hanging in a muslin bag overnight. That juice will be added to the un-jarred non-jelly, boiled up (and I am going to add pectin just to be sure as well as some lemon juice to cut the sweetness), skimmed and then bottled again.

Just added two to the guest list for lunch, so more potatoes to be peeled!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Hokitika Gorge

A few weeks ago when David came down to join me in Hokitika for the weekend, one of the places we went was Hokitika Gorge - it is a must see when you come down to the West Coast. The drive out to it is wonderful and the gorge itself is pretty amazing.

The baby mountains - only foothills really - on the way there.

Some slightly bigger ones - toddler mountains perhaps

The bridge was originally built for a farmer whose farm was both sides of the river. His cows used to cross the bridge each day.

The blue of the water is something to do with ice and rock - see below for an explanation I found on-line.
The water is turquoise because finely ground rock is present. We are able to observe the blue light produced by the water’s absorption, because light is scattered by suspended matter and so returns to the surface. Such scattering can also shift the spectrum of the emerging photons toward the green, a color often seen in water laden with suspended particles.

There you go - educational or what?

A picnic down by the river. Clever David set up the camera on the timer and managed to get back and look relaxed with his sandwich. Still pretty speedy for a nearly 67 year old!

The bridge is a marvellous feat of engineering, but I didn't like being on it much, especially when the two guys behind me were coming across marching in time - the bridge swayed alarmingly then. David tells me it's the harmonics - same as what caused the Millenium Bridge in London to have to be fixed just after being opened. It seems that people in groups naturally fall into step. By the way, I am not sure what effect holding on to the sides would have had if it collapsed  but it seemed not to be optional for me.

On getting back to the old hire car, I discovered the battery was flat - I had left the lights on. The car is so old that it doesn't beep to let you know the lights are still on when the key is switched off and the door is opened. (And I am the one who complains about the appliances talking to me at home - the washing machine tells me it is going to fill with water to rinse, and then tells me when the cycle is finished, the stove tells me when it's up to temperature, the induction hob tells me when I have put something on its controls, the fridge tells me when I have had a door open too long ...)  OK, back on topic - I always drive with the lights on on the highways, esp in the South Island which has heaps of tourists most of whom come from weird places where people drive on the right hand side of the road instead of the correct side of the road, ie the left.

Anyway, it was a damn and blast moment, given how far away we were from any town and the lack of cellphone coverage in the area to phone for assistance from the trusty Automobile Association.

But to our rescue came the guy in the photo below. We had seen him down at the river - he'd jumped in off the bridge as we were making our way down and was bemoaning the fact that he'd forgotten he had his go-pro camera on him when he jumped. He lost it as he landed in the water. We were unsympathetic and and scoffed privately about his idiocy ...

However when I went around the carpark looking for someone with jumper leads - he was the one who had some. He is from Sweden and was touring NZ in an old car that he had bought and very sensibly stocked with things he might need to keep it going. So who was the idiot - me, not him!

No trouble to start the car - we gave him $20 for his help and suggested beers. He thought he might put it towards a new go-pro camera. Much more sensible than we had given him credit for.


Last Tuesday I flew to Christchurch for a meeting. It was the most beautiful flight - the weather was lovely, there was no wind and the views of the South Island as we headed south were just amazing. I hadn't realised just how mountainous much of the South Island is - no wonder it has fewer than a million people living in it!

Two mountain ranges visible in this photo with the alps a long way over in the background. The visible ones are the Seaward and Inland Kaikoura Ranges.

And the peninsula and isthmus that make up the town and area of Kaikoura. Back in 2001, David and I had a lovely walk from the motel we stayed at on the northern side, around the coast and then up over the hill and back down to the motel.
NZ is beautiful, but don't get it into your heads to all come here and live - there's not enough room!

Boatie visitors

Last year while on the Grand Union near Cassiobury, we met Pat and Roger from nb Cat's Whiskers. We saw them again (well, I did with Olek and Lesley) at Napton.

Today they came to lunch here at Cafe Rata.

The common denominators in this are these:
  • I have been present at each meeting
  • David has not. 

Well, to be strictly honest, he was present at Cassiobury but Barry and I had banished him from the deck or the locksides as he was suffering badly with plantar fasciitis and had to stay off his foot as much as possible; and when we met at Napton, David was in Scotland; and today he is up in Masterton.

Like us Pat and Roger do summer in each hemisphere - their daughter lives in Karori in Wellington and they come out here for 5 months or so.

It was lovely to catch up today over a few hours - often the interactions in locks etc are only a few minutes long. Enough to have a quick conversation and make a snap judgement about whether it's an acquaintanceship worthy of being developed into a friendship.

This one was. And lunch was fun.

Dessert was omega plum sponge pudding, cream with passionfruit and a chocolate. We had started with soup (pumpkin, kumara and celery), followed by prawn salad with rocket for them/ avocado for me.

They look like they are well fed and happy, don't they? I note my glass is empty ...
And we had a lovely but short walk along the beach, a coffee in one of the cafes nearby, and I managed to get lost twice by turning into the same wrong street - doh!

And then home again to chat some more. And in popped John who is heading to the UK for a holiday next week - he is borrowing our UK map book. I'd made an extra dessert for him - much better than just being offered a cuppa, don't you think?

Roger and Pat left with a bag full of perpetual rocket from my vege plot and two cuttings - a pelargonium and a geranium. And I've just realised I forgot to give her a piece of the tree fuschia - dammit! OK, next time ...

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Productivity is up

This guy was riding his pennyfarthing  as we drove around the Pauahatanui Inlet on our way to Masterton yesterday. There were numerous cyclists around but this was the most remarkable.
Today I have been quite well occupied:

When I got back from staying at Bruce and Gary's overnight, I did my High Intensity Training - 11 minutes on the rowing machine that includes three 20 second bursts of going absolutely flat out.

After breakfast I prepped the the dado rails in the toilet and bathroom - the paint job on those was uneven so I needed to re-do it. The first job was to do a bit of sanding, followed by putting the masking tape on - that took longer than actually doing the painting.

Masking tape on

all around the room, and on two walls in the bathroom.

Two loads of washing and then it was on to wallpapering one of the bathroom walls. While I waited for the paste to go off, I reviewed a document for work and sent off my comments.

I finished the wallpapering in a few hours, but will need to re-paste some bits in the morning. The paper is so absorbent that the paste dries out really quickly and the thin shiny parts don't like to stick! I had the same problem with the wallpaper in the bedroom, but when that was being done I had Dee with me and she was in charge of additional pasting and pressing the reluctant bits to the wall. Where is she, I ask!

I am sure that I will be able to get them to stick down ...
First drop is up next to the wall that has had one more coat of paint above the dado.

Second drop done.

All finished, towel rail re-installed, light switch and powerpoint screwed back in. Floor swept and washed. It's looking pretty good.
It was 3pm by the time I finished and I hadn't eaten since brekkie, so decided to make today a fast day.

Then I made soup from the 3kg of tomatoes I got at the market yesterday.

Half of the tomatoes are still in the sink

and half are in the pot

Ready to cook, with sugar, salt, pepper, onions, cloves and parsley added.

I hadn't put away the fruit and veges before we went to Masterton yesterday, so that was the next task, but that required clearing the hydrator drawers in the fridge. Aha, a piece of pumpkin, half of a big kumara, and two bags of carrots with another bag waiting to be put away. So another pot of soup prepared.

Veges prepared

Onion and garlic sauteeing

In go the vege, add some parsley, water, chicken stock, grated nutmeg and yummo!

Two pots of soup attacked with the stick blender and ready to freeze tomorrow.

The second coat of paint above the dado was next and then I made a salad for my dinner.

Just the dressing and the toasted walnuts to be added.

When I went out to get the washing in, I saw that Joy and Grahame had tossed a rhubarb crown over the fence, so it was out with the trowel and a bit of horse poo to plant it.

Dinner eaten, I watched a Netflix documentary about Tig Natoro - a lesbian comedienne in the US who had a double mastectomy. She is very deadpan and really funny - even about her cancer.

Now I think I am ready for bed, so I have a cup of chamomile tea ready and the yawning has started ...

Just did a tired count up from the top - 8 tasks completed today! Yippee! Now I've checked that number from the bottom and it's 5 - what is going on? Time for bed obviously as my numeracy has faded away.