Sunday 30 December 2018

Christmas Day

We had Kirsty staying with us for Xmas - and she gave us presents which made us a bit teary ...
Mine is the one at the back. The 40MPD stands for how much we love each other: 40 million pachyderms - it started out as 40m elephants, but given both Kirsty and I are pedantic wordies, it morphed into pachyderms. We know pachyderms is one word, but 40mp doesn't have the same timbre (see, pedantic wordy ...). David's stands for kisses on the eyes, which Kirsty has been doing for him since she was a very little girl, and the xxii/iixx and 40mpd are how we sign off emails, texts, cards.
We had a small brekkie because we KNEW there would be lots of food at Xmas dinner at Bruce Gary's. In part we knew that because Kirsty and I prepared lots and lots of vegetables:
  • for roasting: potatoes, kumara (sweet potato), beetroot and pumpkin
  • for steaming: green beans with bacon, garlic and parmesan
  • salad: coleslaw
Kirsty had to do most of it, as I had to take David down to Paraparaumu to the medical centre: he had/has an abscess under a tooth and needed antibiotics. He rapidly got better as the antibiotics started to take effect.

This is Leith serving his own dinner from the smorgasbord of food - note though that this was only for 10 people ... On the conveyor belt this afternoon there were: yorkshires and roast pork (Derek), turkey breast, new potatoes, broad beans (yuk) and peas (Gary and Bruce), ham (Adrian and Errol). The roast veges, beans and coleslaw from the McDonalds. Leith contributed a yummy melted brie with crackers for nibbles, plus chocolates and licorice allsorts between the main and dessert. Dessert was trifle (Gary) and pavolva (Errol and Adrian).
Given the amount of food, it was no wonder almost everyone needed a nap between the main and dessert ...

David and I got a cab home and Kirsty walked over to Paraparaumu to visit friends for the rest of the afternoon and late into the night - where does she get the stamina?

Saturday 29 December 2018

Bread, birds and flowers - update: I forgot the flowers - doh!


I recently made a loaf of ciabatta, just like I did on the boat this last season and last year. The difference was that I used the dough hook on the electric mixer - what a difference it makes to the state of my hands and wrists!

I am not sure whether the dough hooks made the difference to the airiness of the loaf, or whether it was the warmth of the kitchen where I rested the dough, but it certainly rose faster and became more bubbly than it has before.

I did have to send photos to John Knighton who was the catalyst for my starting to make ciabatta back in 2017. The recipe was found and sent to me by Julia, who is always keen to extend my culinary experience ...

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble ...

Ready for baking

And I've started eating it ...
That evening we had Joy and Grahame over for dinner: starter of chicken nibbles cooked on the Weber BBQ (the team liked them, but I wasn't that impressed with the marinade); main of cheese tarts, salad and ciabatta (see photo above); and dessert made by Joy - berries and cream with mashed banana.


While we were eating dinner, we heard a loud beating of wings and looked out of the window at John and Jenny's loquat tree. Here's what we saw:

Two kereru - native NZ pigeons. Just beautiful!

And that evening, the sunset was lovely:
I took this from our bedroom - the view to the west over Jillian's place. Aaahhh!
This beautiful hollyhock is growing against our shed - I love the colour.

Friday 28 December 2018

A walk on the beach

On a hot but a bit blustery day, which happened to be our 44th wedding anniversary, (13 December) we went for a walk along Waikanae Beach. It was lovely to be walking in the breeze, keeping cool while in the sunshine - I am not sure if you know that I do not like the heat much ...

A lot of people go for walks along the beach, and even though there were quite a few people along the span of the beach, it is so long that it almost never feels crowded - in fact, it feels positively spaciously empty. That is a prerequisite for being on an NZ beach - ask any Kiwi that you know, and you will get that same response! Go on, give it a go, and see if I am right.

We met a man who grew up in the UK who has lived in NZ for a long time - he had the usual british complaint about immigrants - Poles this time in the area of Luton shopping centre. Note to self: I MUST remember NOT to engage formerly English people in conversation because of the fear of having to rebut their arguments about how full the UK is of people who weren't born there. What these people don't seem to understand is that they are living in NZ (and other places in the world) as ex-pats, i.e. immigrants. DO THEY NOT SEE THE IRONY???

Anyway, back to the man - we started to speak with him in the main because of his dog - an ageing and totally blind (the most obvious cataracts I have ever seen) labrador. The dog was happy as a sandboy, and as long as she could smell and hear her owner, she wandered around - down to the water and back. When we spoke to her, she came to us - given her blindness, she would walk right into our legs - and therefore on to our feet! Dog claws are sharp ...

So some photos of the lovely Waikanae Beach:

44 years and still together - a testament to the stoicism of us both ...

All day, the forecast had been saying it was going to rain. The clouds were coming in from the east, but it was lovely on the beach. See how empty it is - there is only one other person on the beach, away in the distance!

Part of Kapiti Island - doesn't look far away, but it is really. Kapiti Island is a Dept of Conservation (DOC) sanctuary: no predators, so that means no possums, no goats, no stoats, no rats. Therefore it is a bird sanctuary. We are planning to go there for a DOC accompanied visit this summer.
That evening, we went out for dinner to Maison 8, a local restaurant. Lovely food. By the time we left the restaurant, the promised rain had started - so walking home we got rather wet ...

Thursday 27 December 2018

The last of the parents' generation is gone

We stayed on a couple of days more in Turangi with Judy and Jim, so we could spent some time catching up with Denny and Cheryl whom we had known many years ago when the four of us were teaching in Wanganui. Denny and Cheryl came up in their bus, recently purchased and tidied up by Denny. It is a beauty and I hope they venture down here to park it in our driveway for a visit!

Denny is a dab hand at fixing anything - unlike David and me who do not have that expertise and are daunted by the complexities of any of the tasks involved. So they were able to buy a secondhand bus with the confidence they could make it into a fabulous vehicle - we have to start with the fabulous one and then hope it stays that way!

So we left them after a visit to Tokaanu. We had hidden in a Tokaanu back street (there is only one!) while discussing which way to go - plans were fluid, obviously... We were spotted by the Tulloch/Meyer team so followed them to Motuopa to have lunch, but the prices were too high for all of the pensioners, so David and I spent a night at Taupo Airport at the NZMCA camp while we tried to make up our minds what to do and where to go.

That afternoon, though, we had a call from David's sister Ginny to tell us that his Auntie Georgina (96) was not expected to last too much longer - a few days to a week. As David wanted to go and see her, we decided to make our way home earlier than planned. Overnight we decided we would head down the Forgotten World Highway and spend one more night away from home, but with a message in to Georgie's oldest son, Frank, to find out if her condition had changed overnight.

As we headed out of Tokaanu towards Pukawa, the message came that she was not likely to last weekend. So a rapid U-turn (safely, in a little side road) and we headed back towards Turangi to rejoin State Highway 1.

We got back to Waikanae just after 3pm and I dropped David off at the railway station so he could catch a train into the city and a bus to Karori - I could have driven him, but it was a Friday, and the traffic leaving the city on Fridays is diabolical. So I went home and blobbed with a glass of wine and some nibbles, and left David to fend for himself. Such a mean woman, I am.

David was pleased he went to see Georgie - she was not conscious, but he was able to chat to her and say goodbye, working on the theory that hearing is the last sense to go. Also he had time with Georgie's middle son, Andrew, and was pleased to be able to offer some support to him.

Georgie died a day or so later, so coming home immediately had been a good idea.

The funeral was held in the RC church in Tawa - the place where Georgie went to mass pretty much every day for decades - apart from when it was closed because for earthquake strengthening. Then she used to go to whichever church it was the catholics shared in Tawa. She was a redoubtable woman, Georgina. She lived on top of a hill - a steep street with an even steeper driveway. She used to walk up and down the hill and driveway every day, down to the shops and church and back. Sometimes more than once a day. She had a string - could not be called a rope - attached at various points to the bank down her driveway. She didn't hold it or use it for support, but she ran it through her fingers - I think that was her sop to her sons to show them she was taking care of herself, see?!

I dropped David and Joe off near the church for the funeral, but I didn't attend. My head would have exploded from having to suppress the expressions of disbelief that an atheist feels when confronted with a catholic funeral mass ... it was only out of consideration for the believers in the congregation - honest!

I did go back for the after-match function (the eats, as Frank described them) and to catch up with everyone. She may have been 96, but she had a massive funeral - well over 200 people were there. I didn't realise there were so many catholics around. Stop it, Marilyn!!! Many of the people were locals that she had chatted with on a daily basis as she trotted around the shops - she was indeed a well-known local character.

And then we went to the burial at Whenua Tapu. It is a beautiful spot, on the way to the Kapiti Coast, and it was a lovely sunny day.

L-R: Georgie's sons with my David - Andrew, Frank and David.

Friday 21 December 2018

And I had a birthday!

The second of our trips away in the motorhome was focused around my birthday - a Zero Degrees event, arranged by the lovely Judy.

We all gathered in Turangi at the bach of a friend of Jim and Judy's and celebrated my turning 68.

L-R: me, Adair, Helen, Judy complete with charming sparkly hats ...

Front L-R: Alan, David. Back L-R: John, me, Adair, Helen, Judy, Jim - the foundation members of the Zero Degrees Club from our days in London and Oxfordshire. Lovely feriends

Dinner. Note the very bach carpet ...

Earlier in the day we had a walk in the rain to the township, to do a secret Santa purchase at the op shop. $5 maximum. A huge amount of fun and laughter unwrapping what were some useful and not so useful presents. Some were returned to the op shop to be re-sold ...

On our return, there was a large bunch of beautiful flowers delivered to John and Adair and then re-delivered to me. A lovely gift from our darling son, Tim.
I had a lovely birthday - good friends, hilarious laughter, good food and family.

Next year, it'll be David's turn as he will be 70 - one to be celebrated bigly, I am sure ...

Friday 14 December 2018

I'm forever playing catch up!

This slippage in blogging does not look well on a former project manager whose whole reason for her professional being was to get things completed and delivered on time! I am not sure what has happened since I sort of retired; and somehow I don't seem to have been busy, but time gets away on me. It must be something along the lines that the less I have to do, the more it stretches out. And I am getting repetitive as I am sure I have written THAT sentence before too. (Slippery slope, I fear!)

Anyway, where I got to on the blog, days and days before the urgent post about the highly localised whirlwind at Rata St, specifically in David's office, was when we left Tongaporutu. And since then we have travelled a few hundred kilometres in the motorhome.

From Tongaporutu, we drove:
  • north on SH3 to Te Kuiti, where we had to do some grocery shopping and find David a sunhat as he'd left his at home
  • then south along SH3 back to Eight Mile Junction (known as 8 mile - locally - no mention of junction ...) and down SH4 a few kilometres to a CAP (charges apply property) on a farm with a large garden. We were the only ones there and it was lovely. The wifi was non-existent down in the camp-site, but David was able to go and sit on the porch at the house to use it successfully, while I sat outside the motorhome in the sunshine drinking G&Ts. One of the things we hadn't realised as we wended our way down their long driveway was that we were moving ever closer to SH4. However when we had parked up, it became clear as we could see the road and hear the traffic. Mostly that was fine, except at 4.30am when a truck coming down the hill used its engine brakes for about 500 metres and was SO LOUD. I think I had to listen to a podcast to go back to sleep ...
  • to Taumaranui to stay with our friend, David Robinson. Taumaranui is a small to mid-sized town in the centre of the North Island and used to be a rail and farming hub. As an SMS town, its citizens can be involved in a lot of community activities, and David is an example of this. He is involved in the Amateur Dramatics group, in the museum group (currently they are moving out of the old building and into the old railway station building - lots of sorting, discarding, packing and moving stuff occurring at the moment) and a Dept of Conservation Trap-line Group that monitors the line at Owhango Reserve. There's probably more he is involved in - apart from the Friday night fish and chip group that we had the pleasure of attending - but it made me tired to think of someone a bit older than me being so active ...
This is David Robinson checking to see if the whio (native blue ducks) are upstream at the Owhango Reserve

They were downstream. It was a real thrill to see them, as they are quite rare and are protected. This year the parents had six ducklings, and when we were there, all 6 had survived! Yay!!!

A better photo -  a couple of them were back on another rock. Boaters may have seen two or three narrowboats named Whio on the canals - a sign that the boats were, at some stage, owned by NZers.

I recognise this man - he is looking pensive and content as we are waiting for Dave R to take photos of the whio on our bushwalk by the river.

Mmmm ...

There is a dead rat in that trap. You can see its tail in the left foreground. Rats, stoats, possums are devastating predatory pests here in NZ - most of them were introduced by the British immigrants. Rats probably came on the ships as unwanted passengers and hopped ashore; stoats were introduced to quell the rabbit population (previously introduced as a food source by the British, but with no natural predators and a temperate climate, they bred and bred with devastating effects on farmland), and possums were introduced from Australia to create a fur industry. They eat about 21,000 tonnes of foliage each night, as well as eating birds eggs and chicks, native snails - possums are bastards. That is why NZers say the only good possum is a dead possum, and if you see them on a country road at night (two bright eyes showing up in your headlights) you are duty-bound to run them over! Check out this ad from 1995 when NZ outlawed cigarette advertising: Smokefree rally More info here about the dratted things: whats-the-story-about-possums/  
That is a totara tree we are standing in front of. It is huge and very tall. The timber is very dense and hard. Our original windowframes at Cherswud were made of totara. There is no point in oiling it, because even with a drying agent (terrabin) and diluted with turps, the oil just sits on the surface. By contrast, on rimu that mix soaks in in about 5 minutes.

Crossing the lagoon. Dave R helped build this bridge/walkway.

Lagoon - obviously ...
On the way back to the car down the road, we saw this native pigeon (kereru) sipping on the nectar. He seemed quite happy to stay there as we chatted and took photos. He is quite large - I'd reckon about 38cm from head to end of tail (about 15") and very heavy. When they are flying you can hear the beat of their wings. Actually, I am typing this, there is one flying about over John and Jenny's place - they love the loquats in the tree on our boundary.

The view from Dave R's deck looking down to and across the Whanganui River.
  • to the Waituhi lookout that was up the narrowest, steepest track I have taken the motorhome up - scary! Most scary was thinking about what it was going to be like driving down and hoping I wouldn't meet another vehicle coming up - of course, I did meet another motorhome, but there was room to slither through - and they were on the side with the drop ... I did try out the engine brake control on the downward piece - it works well.
The view from Waituhi Scenic lookout across the hills to Mt Ruapehu (with the snow) and Ngaruahoe (the peak to its left). We were already quite high up terrain-wise, and I climbed up the lookout tower. You can park there overnight, but I would have troublke sleeping because of a) I'd be worrying about driving down the hill in the morning, and b) there was anti-1080 graffiti on the carpark (the blue paint on the tarseal). Some anti-1080 protestors are rather extreme.

You can see I was very brave and climbed a long way up ... Yeah, I know - no one needs to be scared of climbing that structure!

  • to Taupo Airport which is an NZMCA camp - $3 per person, an absolute bargain and a very pleasant place to stay.
When we got to Taupo, we originally parked up at Five Mile Bay, a DOC site which is free. But as it was at a lakefront beach, and it was a fine sunny hot Saturday afternoon, the place soon became jam-packed and not at all restful or peaceful. The view out the front windscreen was great, but it wasn't enough to tempt us to stay overnight as there was nowhere outside the motorhome that we could sit - there was a campervan parked about a metre away from our passenger door ... So we moved about a kilometre to the NZMCA park. Spacious, relaxed, friendly, and almost free at $3 per person.

The Waipunga Falls are just off the Taupo-Napier highway. Pretty spectacular!

  • to Waimarama to stay with Chris and Willie (Wilhemina) for a couple of nights. The Hawke's Bay has been very dry, but while we were there, they had some very good heavy soaking rain. I know we got some photos there, but they must be on David's phone and he is missing at the moment - doing the lawns, I think. Anyway, readers have seen photos of them when they came to stay with us on the boat this year. They haven't aged or changed ...
  • to Tuakau via Waipawa where we were under instruction from Janneke and Nico to stop at the butchers - which we did and then cooked sausages and meat patties on the BBQ, just before there was about 3 hours of drenching rain. Met some lovely people from Wanganui at the camp there which used to be an NZMCA park. Another good place to stay and very reasonable at $20 for a powered site.
I sent this photo to Leonie in Westport for Paul who tells me that women never cut bread straight. What BS - this lopsided loaf was all David's own work ...
Mel has been at the cider ...

  • back to Waipawa to buy more meat and sausages - the pork ones were my favourite and David loved the chilli ones, so 2 more kilos of each got jammed into the fridge for the journey
  • home - the weather was going to be pants so we decided to head back to Waikanae a day or so early.
One reason we came home was that we had Richard, Jacqui and Alix coming to stay with us. They were sort of neighbours of ours when we lived in Church Enstone back in 2006/7. They lived in Charlbury. Richard's dad is our friend Jack Potter. Alix was 6 when we met her and now she is 18, and still just as lovely and bubbly. We had two lovely nights having them to stay with us here in Rata St.
Back in 2011, they had made the decision to come and live in NZ, and then the Christchurch earthquakes happened and that was the end of that idea, dammit!

Jacqui and Alix on the morning they were leaving us for the ferry south, to see Jack and Sarah.

Richard - considering it was only about 6.15am, they were all remarkably chipper. We had made them eat brekkie with us, then I went back to bed after they left ...
 Since the younger Potters left, we have been away again, but that is the subject of the next catch up.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Apparent whirlwind hits in Waikanae ...

He swears he is cleaning up but so far this morning he has procrastinated by
  • updating the Neighbourhood Watch mailing list
  • buying a replacement microwave turntable online
  • watching Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer help Trump score an own goal in the Oval Office
  • read Nancy Pelosi's comments later about the border wall and shutting down the government being a masculinity issue for the dumpster
 One thing he HASN'T done is bring me another cup of tea!

I sent these photos to Mick and he asked if we'd been burgled - my response was partly unprintable but did include the words "Well if so, they didn't ******* take anything ..."

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Tongaporutu - part 3

The front beach is a place filled with memories for me from my own childhood and from taking our kids around there, as well as taking friends there when they visited.

But mainly the river was the focus.

Day two:
After the walk around the front beach - timed to coincide with low tide - we decided to walk down to the former family baches.

Baches are only on the south side of the river. However, on the western side of State Highway 3 (SH3) closer to the river mouth, the land is all leasehold, and people own the baches but not the land. Their baches are perched between the riverbank and the road. The land was originally gifted to the council for roading, and I am unsure when the first baches were established there, but they were all there when we first started coming up in 1954.

On the eastern side of SH3, the land is all freehold, and the sections are significantly bigger. The Hill family who farmed that land and ran the Tongaporutu Store, subdivided it into about 22 sections in about 1956, I think. Most baches were built in the next few years, and many of them have been extended in the years since. One of them is currently being replaced - and the new house (definitely NOT a bach) has underfloor heating and double glazed windows - sheer luxury! I bet everyone will have to take their shoes off to go in there ...

The walk between the bach and the beach is over a kilometre, but doesn't feel that long because it is all so familiar and interesting. There did used to be the danger of crossing SH3 - quite dangerous because drivers see it as a long straight to be sped down and used as an overtaking place. And the access from the steeply sloped but short pathways meant as a pedestrian you popped up right on to the roadside ... So in the last year, a public footpath has been established that goes under the bridge for safety, and gives the public access to the riverbank in front of all the baches on the eastern side - it's the Queen's Chain, a 22 yard strip of land that most bach owners didn't necessarily consider theirs but that they do use and keep mown or planted.

At the junction in the path - to my left it goes under the bridge; to my right it gows down in front of the baches; behind me it goes to Hill's Road and in front of the hall, and Corrick's old bach where the famous fridge was installed 60 years ago ...

To the bridge

(Almost) under the bridge - I feel a Bears in the Night moment coming on ... (look it up if the reference isn't familiar - Berenstein Bears - one of my favourite kids' books ever!)

Through the bridge, looking downstream.

Looking upstream. See the mudflats? Icky, sticky, mud between the toes, little crabs trying to escape under your feet ...
Back to the CROW for a healthy breakfast. Dee, note the tea-cosy!

Tongaporutu - part 4

This is the last blatantly nostalgic post about Tongaporutu, I promise!

Day two, continued:

 It turned out that our neighbours, the Penningtons, (grandparents, grown son and daughter in law) knew my dad from when they are all members of the Taranaki Jetboat Association - very small world this, and two degrees of separation continues to flourish!

Max and Pauline outside their 3rd Autotrail - it's sheer luxury inside.

Carmen and Darin - they have a Swift caravan.
A change of view for us. When the Penningtons left (work called, shame; and Darin and Carmen's kids had to go back to school) we moved to the spot Max and Pauline's beautiful 8.8m Autotrail Landmark Oakura motorhome had been parked.
A heron on the rocks in front of the end bach

The view upstream to the bridge across SH3, with the leasehold baches on the right. The concrete retaining wall is a reasonably recent addition - good thing it wasn't there when we used to use this area as our starting and stopping place for waterskiing, as there may have been injuries if people came in too sharply and didn't let go of the rope in time ...

Looking across to SH3 after the bridge and the cutting

And heading up the hill and northwards
This stretch of the river, very close to the mouth, was always called Rowles's Bend by us as it was Harold Rowles's favourite fishing spot. It became a firm favourite with our kids as it was a great place to swim, have bonfires with driftwood and build houses/huts with driftwood - they would build them over several days, taking spades and rope and anything they could find at the bach that could be called in to service ... They would either transport things by dinghy or by road and then carry them down the steep track from the paddocks above. At one point a few years ago, there was someone permanently camped down on that beach, living off grid bigtime.

Sunset, at low tide, looking out past the river mouth to Australia ...

We left in the morning heading for breakfast at a cafe in Mokau. But I had to stop for David to take these photos back across the river to where we had been.
The channel of the river changes regularly, and twice a day the high tides cover almost all of that expanse of sand and mud.

Our campsite in front of the trees directly across the river.
 OK, that is the last of Tongaporutu for a while. Phew, thank heavens for that! I hear you all saying ...