Sunday, 30 October 2016

We were sad yesterday

After a lovely birthday celebration on Saturday with Tim and the boys - The Lion King was just great, and dinner at a Thai restaurant in Pimlico was lovely and made more so by two of Tim's friends, Issie and Gavin from Dalry, joining us as a surprise for him - yesterday was sad.

The boys were heading home by train with their babcia Jola to their mum in Dalry, which meant their saying goodbye to Tim for a couple of weeks, and we had to say goodbye to them and to Tim for the next 6 months - until we arrive back here early in May next year.

So a few tears all round.

And today we have to say goodbye to our good friends, Barry and Pauline, who we've been staying with for the last couple of nights.

But wait - we are travelling home Business Class - yippee, we can lie down! And we are short so we fit the beds when we are fully stretched out!

And there's more: we are going home to our wonderful NZ friends and our lovely home (although the garden and lawns have no doubt grown a fair bit in the warm wet spring weather).

But wait, there's more! My work awaits, and I am very excited about that - I have kept in touch and done quite a bit of work during our time over here - jet lag and then general insomnia have assisted having work not encroach on the holiday aspects in the main. So I will be travelling to Hokitika every fortnight, and that place and its people are a pleasure to be around. The team has finished cleaning up the Waiuta Mine site so it can be re-opened for visitors, and now we are planning the clean up of the Alexander Roaster and Battery - all to be completed before May next year. (Note to team: it must be completed before 4 May, as that is the day that I am getting on the plane to the UK - get it? got it? good!)

And David has several more Weaving Memories jobs lined up waiting, so he will be kept busy and won't have time to watch daytime TV (yeah, right!)

And we have friends coming over from the UK who will be visiting, so plans must be made for their Waikanae experience...
  • big Neil and little Neill from Bude in Cornwall are coming in January - big Neil's surprise 50th birthday present for little Neill was/is a trip to NZ and we are on the itinerary
  • Irene and Ian from nb Free Spirit are on their Big OE (Overseas Experience - for the northern hemisphere-ites who don't understand the Oz/NZ acronym for our intra-hemisphere travels). Currently they are in Oz and heading for NZ in the New Year.
And we have our friends Jack and Sarah and their owner, Duey the papillon, coming to visit in December.

And Pete and Warren are moving to Carteron to a HUGE ENORMOUS house and we will have to go and visit them.

And Cafe Rata will be re-opening.

So it'll the time between now and early May will be busy and productive, as well as filled with friends and socialising. Note to self: must get in touch with lovely sister and arrange a getting together, soonest!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Grandparents are exhausted!

Tonight we are ensconsed in a Premier Inn in Woking. We were meant to have the grandsons with us but, sensibly for their dad to eliminate a lot of travelling, they elected to stay with their Aunty Olga in Putney, close to where Tim lives. We are not taking it personally that they want to stay with Olga, Savas and their three children. We know they love spending time with their cousins, and we also know that we are exhausted. Five weeks of constantly travelling, packing, unpacking has taken its toll.

The grandsons are great, well behaved and the most lovely kids anywhere - yes, they are - don't argue. Our grandsons are the absolute best! But we are no longer in our 30s or even our 40s or 50s, and we certainly don't have the stamina we once had!

I said to David one morning this week that I remember when I first realised my dad was getting old - he was 65, had had grey hair with a seriously receded hairline since I could remember (he attributed both to me) so in my eyes he had always looked the same. One day, we were putting up the old canvas tent at the bach and he was puffing, and I thought 'Bloody hell, Dad, you are old!' (Note thought, not said...) This week, I feel the same. Tim keeps saying that David and I do really well, but I have been in bed before the kids a few nights since we've had them with us. How pathetic is that!!?

Tomorrow is Tim's 41st birthday, so it's 30 years since he was Olek's age and 35 years since he was Karol's age.

Was I ever that young? I don't feel old, or, more to the point, I certainly don't feel grown up enough to be 65 (nearly 66). And I try not to grunt or groan when sitting down which is a sure sign of being over 50, I am told.

But I am looking forward to my business class bed on the way home on Monday and my own bed back in Waikanae ...

(David says 'Ditto' in failing tones.)

But first there is The Lion King tomorrow for Tim's birthday, and we are looking forward to that immensely. It is great going to the theatre with kids - their response is so primal and spontaneous.

Another memory: back in 1990 we took Tim and Kirsty to Starlight Express and Miss Saigon here in London. Their reactions to both shows were highlights of that trip for David and me. So tomorrow afternoon, I expect we will both be smiling mightily, even though a few hours later we will be saying a sad good bye to the boys and Tim until May next year.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Karol's blog day

I am Karol, I am six years old and today is my blog day. Grammy is doing the typing and I am telling her what to write.

Olek took this photo - it is a reverse selfie because we needed the flash to go off. It was still dark and we were having a cuddle in Grammy and Grandad's bed in the boat.

We have done a lot of boating today and we have done six locks – 3 down and 3 back up. We are back where we were last night, but we are facing the other way.
We liked this house by the river.

Olek is helping a man go through the lock.
I have to wear a lifejacket when I am onboard.

Grammy says this is the remains of the old Newark Priory.

Grammy was driving the boat into the trees by accident and we all had to duck to escape the branches. There were lots of leaves on the deck after that.

When we stopped this afternoon, I hammered in the mooring pins.

Olek and me had time trials running from the back of the boat to the bridge. 

My time was 3m 59.18sec and Olek’s was 3m 59.33sec, so I won!!!!!!

Then I went back outside and then I got stung by a wasp!!! It hurt lots and I cried very loudly. It was very, very painful.

Grandad cuddled me and Grammy put some vinegar on a paper towel for me to hold on it. And it slowly stopped hurting. I felt better when I watched the DVD of Shaun the Sheep.

I also have a small cut but it doesn’t need a plaster.

Dad is coming to stay the night with us tonight and we are having cheese tart and salad for dinner.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Olek's blog day

Grammy said that I have to do the blog today.

This morning my Dad came and woke us up at quarter past six but I only got up for ten minutes then went back to bed and slept; but I got up half an hour before anyone else and when I did get up I went and grabbed my phone to watch Top Gear until everyone else was up and walking.

For breakfast I had a bowl of corn flakes, an eighth of an apple and a piece of toast, Grammy and Grandad had a bowl of muesli with yoghurt, and Karol had a bowl of corn flakes, an eighth of an apple and a piece of toast.

When we started moving we were right in front of a lock and the gate was open with the water all the way up on our side!
Once we did that lock we went around the sharpest corner in the northern hemisphere, but I was inside for that which annoyed me slightly.

Karol and Grandad working together opening the paddles at the first lock of the day.

A selfie of Grammy and Me going down the lock.

I am steering the boat!!!!!!!!!!!!

Later in the day I spotted a kingfisher! Well. I thought it was a Hummingbird until I realised that it was far too big for a hummingbird and it was blue on the top and orange on the bottom, then as I was going down to tell Grammy until I figured out it was a kingfisher. At the time, we were filling up with water even though we had over half a tank.

Just before we were about to leave two nice people called John and Vicky arrived on the towpath and they were thinking about buying a narrow boat so we gave them a tour of our hire boat which was fun. And apparently John had a Ducati Motor-Bike

After another half an hour of boating we moored up near the town of Woking and it had a mini football pitch so Grandad, Karol and I played a game with me on my own against Grandad and Karol; and near the end Karol left when the score was 4-2 to me but when me and Grandad finished completely it was 4-4 but I was happy with that.

We played the football at a really neat park with lots of things to climb on and over.

I'm climbing on the rock wall.

Karol is swinging in a basket while I have no idea of what I'm doing.
I'm climbing the spider web that links up the two rock walls while Karol squeezes through the hole in the middle.
Grammy thinks we look like tarantulas.

This is the view of the boat from the bridge.
After that Grandad and I went to the shop to buy some more food (milk, gravy mix), a couple of DVDs and a book for Karol at the Charity shop.

Dad came for dinner and we had toad in the hole with mashed potatoes and gravy. (And veges, don't forget the veges!)   

Two nights ago Grandad and I also figured out that the number for the Grammy police is 0800 472 669 and I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves!
(Note from Grammy: Olek started off this morning saying he couldn't think what he'd write about ...)

Monday, 24 October 2016

Holiday snaps from the Yorkshire Dales

On this holiday we haven't taken as many photos as we usually do; and that is surprising as David got a new camera (video and still) for his birthday. I am surprised that it hasn't been in use all day, every day!

But some have been taken - the new camera came out for its first airing when we were in the Yorkshire Dales for a couple of days (10 and 11 October) on our way to Scotland. Seems ages ago but is only 2 weeks ago!

As we approached Austwick, the end of this rainbow was right beside us on the road.
We stayed in the lovely Traddock Hotel in Austwick. It was a beautiful peaceful place to stay in a lovely village - a wonderful old house that could have been overwhelmingly posh and therefore uncomfortable. But the staff were warm and friendly, and the food was great.
The room with bath and basin. There was a separate shower room with toilet and basin and  also a wee cloakroom/kitchenette.

Bruce is the Scotty dog who acted as a doorstop. He and David became firm friends. Not sure what the constant alliance with inanimate animal-types is about with David ...

David with his new friend

The weather was a bit cooler and misty, and that made the walk we did a bit more atmospheric ... Don't be alarmed though, as we didn't venture terribly far and we had instructions for the 2 hour walk.
We were amazed by the stone fences - such a huge amount of work to construct them. Clearly shows the amount of labour that must have been available back in past centuries.

Seemed quite late for calves, and I am pleased the pathway didn't go through the field with them - mothers and babies should not be disturbed!

There are the remnants f an old barn beside the path and a little stone bridge crossing the brook.

David asked me to stand there so I would obscure the car behind me. I think I am offended. I know I have regained some of the weight I lost, but I am sure I couldn't obscure it totally.

Misty day

The hawk is called Titch - he is almost fully grown but is quite small and still young. We saw him on his way back from a demo with some tourists who had booked a flying session with him. He was stripping a rabbit leg as his reward. The young man told us that he had been quick to train. Next time, we will arrange to do that.
Not much left of the rabbit leg ...

The source of stones for the walls and buildings - and they fall down by themselves

Down the hill and on the way back to Austwick.
Another stone bridge - very old and still very stable.
And David crosses the bridge. It is good to see photos of David - otherwise it looks like I am the only one on this trip!

We will be going back to the Traddock - it is a good stopover point on our way to or from Scotland, and it's a lovely bit of luxury. Nick and Clare, who we stayed with in Stroud, suggested it, and it was a great recommendation. We too would recommend it highly.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Being a tourist is tiring!

On Friday I said to Gary and Carolyn (nb Inca) and Meg (owner of nb Jessie which is an airbnb venue at Little Venice) that I hadn't blogged since before we left Scotland. David reminded me that it was less than a week ago. Now it is Sunday - 8 days since we left there, and we have:
  • driven to London:
    • the journey south to Roehampton was quite quick and the kids are brilliant passengers, but the drive from there into St Pancras was fiendishly slow. Well over an hour in rush hour, traffic on a rainy Friday evening down the A40;
  • searched fruitlessly for a curry by following a recommdation to a place with a one hour queue outside it, instead of turning left out of our hotel and walking 200 yards to a whole array of restaurants of the cheap and cheerful variety
  • travelled by Eurostar to Paris on the Saturday
  • made our way through a huge demonstration (to do with education cuts, I think) at Trocadero, with huge numbers of fully armed police in attendance - automatic weapons, pistols, tasers. We were stunned by the number of police they have
  • queued for an hour to go up the Eiffel Tower (well, not me of course)
  • queued for another hour on the second level to go to the very top of the Eiffel Tower (also not me - I sat on a bench at the bottom in the increasing chill, until David phoned and said they were still queuing for the trip to the top, then it was back to the hotel for me, through the diminished crowds but still lots of police around)
  • travelled by metro and train to Disneyland
  • queued interminably for 3 minute rides over 2 days - well, not really but it felt like that
    • the best bit was when I beat everyone (Tim, David, Olek, Karol) in the Buzz Lightyear ride - my score: 129,800 - none of them got within about 50,000 of my score. However, Karol and I did it again the next day and he thrashed me ... Success was shortlived indeed!
  • done a few loads of washing (me) at the hotel while David took Karol to the Aquarium at Val d'Europe and Tim took Olek to the Science Museum
  • travelled by train and metro back to Paris
  • had lunch and dinner in a lovely friendly cafe just down the street from our hotel
  • watched in disbelief as four soldiers with automatic weapons at the ready walked down the empty pavement as we ordered takeaway pizza for the kids
    • needless to say, I did not take photos ...
  • travelled into the centre of Paris by metro to find and board the Big Bus Tour
    • which we had to abandon half way through because of lack of time
  • struggled with all our bags to Gare du Nord 
  • struggled to find the Eurostar
    • which was poorly signposted and only visible by the navy on navy self-embossed logo - quel stupidite (with an acute accent over the final e) 
    • queued interminably and increasingly panic-stricken for security checks, passport control for France and then for Britain (will that change once Brexit takes place - that the two border controls are about 5 metres apart?)
    • struggled on board hoping that we were on the right platform
  • travelled by Tube from St Pancras to Paddington with two kids and 8 bags
  • trundled said 8 bags (4 on backs and 4 on wheels) to Little Venice to nb Jessie
    •  Oh, the peace when we went on board. So lovely to be in familiar territory on a narrowboat for a couple of days!
    • saw Gary and Carolyn and had a chat
  • waved goodbye to David as he set off for a supermarket on Edgeware Road (fish sauce, green ginger, radishes)
    • took a call from him when he got lost
    • sent him directions by text to his phone which had almost no charge left ...
    • welcomed him back thankfully - otherwise it would have been a disaster trying to manage all the bags today ...
  •  had Barry and Pauline over for dinner last night on their return from Santorini
    • Thai Chicken Noodle Salad and Jack's spicy carrot salad
    • 3 bottles of wine among the four of us
    • 2 packs of Sainsbury's baby profiteroles with chocolate sauce, raspberries, and blueberries
  • met Tim at 7.30am today when he returned David's and my two large bags (left at his place a week ago)
  • repacked the bags to fit all the food in
  • trundled the now-10 bags along the towpath to Paddington Station, 
  • collected the pre-purchased tickets,
  • trundled the bags down to the Bakerloo Line (steps, no lift visible)
  • caught the Tube to Waterloo - fortunately using ramps and escalators, or bags would have been abandoned, I reckon!
  • caught the train to Guildford
    • took the slow one which was relaxing
    • grandparents read to Karol
      • Yertle the Turtle (David)
      • the story about Gertrude McFuzz, The Biggest Brag, and Too Many Daves (me)
  • taxi-ed with the most helpful driver I've ever come across to the Premier Inn hotel 
    • he gave us lots of info about the locations of things and was thoroughly charming
  • cup of tea in the hotel
  • I have tried to dump the gideon bible - it keeps being rescued but I will manage it somehow ...
  • a trip by David and the boys to buy a soccer ball (a football to the Northern Hemisphere readers) and then a walk to the park to play with said ball
    • they haven't returned yet so the shopping trip must have been successful
  • since they left I have:
    • done a load of handwashing, wrapped it in a towel and stamped on it, hung it up, draped it around the place
    • written this post.
Now I am going to have a five minute lie down. I think I need it - just writing this and re-living the busyness of the last 8 days has done my head in.

And most nights I have got up in the wee small hours and done between 2 and 4 hours of work. Not this weekend though as it's Labour Weekend at home - celebrating the advent of the 40 hour week way back when.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

To Bude and back to see how far it is

Do you know how far it is down to Bude in Cornwall from the Midlands?

Do you know how far it is from Bude in Cornwall to Austwick on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales - well, I don't know far the former distance is, but the latter is about twice as far!

We are used to travelling into what seems like the back of beyond in NZ, but the trip to and from Bude had a whole different feel. I think that's because we are not used to such long uninhabited distances here in the UK. In NZ, yes - as anyone who has visited there from the UK will tell you, you can drive for miles and not see another car, let alone any houses. And what is marked with a place name on a map often is a crossroads with perhaps one lone house...

Are you getting the picture that it took ages to get to and from Bude? Well, it did. On the way there, the trip was not enhanced by mutual tantrums from driver and passenger. Nor was it enhanced by the GPS directing us down to Exeter, I kid you not, which is on the south coast, for #@*&%# sake, on the A30 (who cares what the damn number is!) and then back up to the northerly side of the ithsmus.

On the way back, because I couldn't see the whole section of the map on the GPS, while I could see the direction of travel (south and south east - GGGRRR!!!) and road signs indicating that Exeter was getting ever closer (AAARRRGGGHHH!!!) as we approached the junction for us to join the M5, my blood pressure was starting to rise yet again.

But wait, David found the function for the very zoomed out screen on the GPS that showed we were heading only slightly southfor just a little while really; and then magically, the GPS started to show a more northerly direction of travel. All was well within the car again**. Breathe, relax. **We had promised not to throw tantrums and we succeeded. Well done, us.

Our time in Bude, well Woodford to be more exact, with Neil and Neill was just lovely. And Enzo is a hoot - a seasoned scavenger with such winning ways he gets away with begging for food.

We (little Neill, David, me and Enzo), while big Neil looked after the bike hire shop) had a long walk from their house across fields, down through the woods, through a village called Duckpool - how lovely is that? Then along a road lined with blackberries which were ripe and juicy, but we only had dog poo bags with us and they are perfumed, so no point in collecting blackberries. Ah well, we just had to eat them and have pudding on the move. As Garfield says "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first."

On we went down to a beach, and a long walk back up a steep hill (avoiding the cliff path of course - for my scaredy-cat sake) and along the road to their village past GCHQ's listening station - easily accessible from the side by the cliff and pathways with only low fences, but by the roadway it was double high fenced with barbed wire and cameras and warning signs about not entering or taking photos or breathing or looking or dawdling or ... Then back across fields to home.

A lovely house by the ford at Duckpool

The stream across the ford

But for those of us who didn't want to get our feet wet, there was a pedestrian bridge.


See? How's that for a village name?
Rocky at mid-tide
Rocky access too, but people were certainly making use of the beach.

Sorry about the shadow, but check out the hillside and road. Neill tells us that in summer, that road is heaving and the carpark is overflowing. And there wasn't much sand on the beach either - mostly rather craggy rocks. Still plenty of people there tho, quite late in the afternoon.

The walk was great and we could readily see why Neil and Neill loved the place when they were looking to leave Oxfordshire. Enzo was suitably tired out and even allowed me to put him to bed in his basket in the lounge and not stir for the next few hours! I felt a bit the same myself, to be honest!

More later - since Cornwall, we have had time in Austwick (the clue was in the first couple of sentences of this post) and are now in Scotland with the grandsons - Yay!! This post has been written after almost a full day's work for me - started about 5am, so now it's time for a lie down!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Desborough devilment with the crew of Unknown No 3

We drove down from Hull to Desborough following a scenic route rather than using the motorways - they are fast but nerve-wracking and not particularly interesting. The nerve-wracking aspect comes from the three or four lanes of traffic and the requirement to have eyes in the back and sides of your head at all times: trucks to the left of me, trucks to the right of me and here I am stuck in the middle ... And drivers of cars who change lanes without signalling and without much room. Spooky!
The GPS is a marvellous invention and we have two in the car - the one the car was born with and our own. Having two is fun, esp in the UK where there are a myriad of ways you can get between two places.

We started off by crossing the Humber Bridge - a very impressive structure

On the southern side the aspect was lovely

I don't remember the village this was in (Sleaford perhaps) but the traffic was at a standstill so I took this from the car. Not a bad place to be in a line of traffic, I thought.

The two days in Desborough were great. We stayed in a hotel (the R Inn - known as the Ritz but not advertised as such or I am sure there would be a storm of protest and threats of litigation - as there were in NZ when the Blackball Hilton had to change its name some years ago - renamed itself Formerly The Blackball Hilton ...)

Dinner each night was at Mick and Julia's. Recipes imported from NZ ... (ooh, sorry, Jack - and from Australia) And brekkie was at Lucy's Cafe in Desborough, juyst around the corner from the hotel. She has a lovely poster which says: A heavy person is hard to kidnap - eat cake and stay safe.
In the kitchen at Mick and Julia's - I think a fair amount of cider had been consumed by this stage. David is sitting on Mick's poorly knee; but not to worry, as Mick is going in to hospital on Monday to have it replaced.

Concentration is writ large on his face - salad prep requires it, you know.
We had a day out on Unknown No 3 - back and forth between Saddington Turn and the bottom of Foxton Locks with the obligatory stop at the Bridge 61 pub.
The galley - time for tea

Doesn't that look peaceful?

I don't think Mick looks terribly anxious that I have the tiller, do you?

Mick and me - selfies are not my strong point but the aim was to get a pic of Mick!

The immaculate engine. Makes a lovely sound. Wouldn't do for us though as it requires more knowledge than we have and far more cleaning rags...

Not sure if he was pretending to be Bluebeard or what at this point. But you see what I mean about cleaning rags? Ours are always oily - that one looks pristine!
In Lucy's Cafe for brekkie before we headed off on our way to Bude. Mick looks charming in a floral headband. Of course, he has the hair for it!