Wednesday 26 August 2020

Bread is the staff of life

While we were down in Hokitika, I tried once to make sourdough - as it was the weekend Salvi and Ann were staying in the motel and spending lots of time with us, I couldn't keep the motorhome at an even temperature and just bludgeon David into accepting the even and rather high (like the airing cupboard) temperature inside. So the temperature fluctuated and so did the performance of the starter when I fed it and so did the leaven when I set that going. In the end, the bread was not in a fit state to bake until I went to work on Monday, so it was left to Ann to shepherd it through the cooking process. It came out well enough, but it was such a tedious process getting to it that I left the starter to hibernate in the fridge until we got home.

A hibernating and unfed starter is interesting because it develops alcohol on its surface and looks decidedly evil, grey and scary, and I have in another life (pre-sourdough competence) biffed it out! But when I poured off the alcohol this time, (as I have another time, given Bernice had left her starter un-nourished and neglected for 4 months while in the UK last year) and fed it, it bounced back with amazing vigour within a couple of hours!

So I am back on the sourdough production. While we were still in Hokitika I had decided to revert to the bread I used to make, which is foolproof and simple. However I found it gave me indigestion, the slices were small and it was nowhere near as yummy. Then on our way home when we stopped at Salvi and Ann's place, he had made the simple ciabatta that was just scrumptious. So I thought that I would stick to that recipe - after all, I gave it to them! But once we got home, I realised I was yearning for some good sourdough. So on to it I got. What a good decision!

We do like a dark and crunchy crust! One of these is in our tummies and the other is in the freezer to go to Dee and Murray's on Saturday.

Yesterday afternoon, I started the second batch, by feeding the not so malnourished starter and then before I went to bed, I made the leaven and put it in the airing cupboard. At about 2am today, when I couldn't sleep, I decided to make the leaven, having forgotten I had done so before going to bed ... Straight to the home, I hear Kirsty saying!

Today I did the mixing and stretching etc. As I was putting the flour in and squidging it with one hand, carefully keeping my left hand dough-free, I was momentarily expecting a call from Tom, the guy I am doing the work for at DOC. Fortunately, he called just as I finished the clean up after squidging ... Dough on a phone is not a good look!

Then I had another meeting by Microsoft Teams and by the time that finished I was late adding the salt and stretching and turning. But all seems to be well after three more stretch and turn sessions - it is now in two containers in the fridge, molded ready for baking first thing tomorrow morning.

I am on the home straight with this work assignment although there may be some additional tasks after the original stuff is done. I do need a lie down though, so I will be pleased to get this bit done and blob for 24 hours before starting again. Working for DOC is a pleasure - great people, interesting work, and have I mentioned that we love Hokitika?

Now that we are home, we cannot have people around for dinner because the dining table is covered in papers, laptops, notebooks, a ream of paper, tissues, two glasses, usually my tea mug, pens and highlighter markers, my pencil case, paperclips, the hole punch and stapler, bulldog clips. I CAN see that there is a deep red tablecloth on the table, but not much of it is showing! Fortunately when I am having Microsoft Teams meetings on video, none of the table shows - all people can see is me and my lovely lounge behind me...

I was about to run a workshop remotely, so I dressed in my best schoolteacher, don't mess with me, outfit! It worked - brilliant workshop, fabulous output, great participation, and no one was scared at all, honest! See, lounge looks lovely, table hardly visible ...

Saturday 15 August 2020

Home again in Waikanae

 Most of you will already have caught up with the news that NZ has some more COVID-19 cases - I understand the link with cases of returning NZers within isolation and quarantine facilities has not been established, but it is also extremely unlikely that the virus has been underground and undetected over the 102 days we had no new cases. Another possibility that is being thoroughly investigated is that the virus may have come in on frozen imported goods - this is being investigated because, at the moment, the earliest known case in this cluster and a number of others within it, are workers at Americold, a cold storage facility.

As soon as we knew about the first 4 cases late on Tuesday night (when a loud blaring alert sounded on both of our phones - we both were asleep and there was no chance we would not hear it, given our phones were beside the bed, one each side ... Yikes, it was a rude awakening!) we started thinking about what would be most sensible to do.

At first we thought we would stay in Hokitika for another week, while I pretty much finished off the assignment I am doing. But in the course of an hour or so at work in the morning, we moved to thinking we had best head back to Waikanae asap, as a couple of the 4 people had travelled to Rotorua before they knew they had COVID-19. Given Rotorua is a tourist hub and given people from all over NZ have been holidaying there, including people from Hokitika, we thought it was likely that the country as a whole may be put in lockdown, not just the greater Auckland area. 

So I finished out the day at work on Wednesday, and on Thursday morning we headed away northwards in sunny weather. We were very sad to be leaving - we both love Hokitika and I love working in the DOC office there - they are a fabulous bunch!

We spent a very enjoyable night with Ann and Salvi again - a lovely coda to our time in the South Island - as David said they were the bookends.

The drive to Picton on Friday morning was also good - the scenery is breathtaking, and the weather was lovely until we got to the Rai Valley where the drizzle settled in. We were early at the ferry terminal, but once we were in the queue we turned on the gas, made cups of tea, had lunch, phoned Bruce and Gary and made tentative arrangements to breakfast together the following morning, depending on Cabinet's decision regarding Alert Levels for the country.

The trip on the ferry was very relaxed - don't tell anyone, in case everyone wants to do it, but the money spent on the Plus Lounge is a bargain - food and beverages are included in the entry price and the lounge is extremely comfortable with sofas and armchairs, and table service - especially now that social distancing is required (Alert Level 2: 2m distancing, no handshakes or hugs). Just as we were about to diisembark, the post-Cabinet press conference started and we were delighted to learn that while there were more cases, they were all connected with the same cluster, and therefore Auckland would stay on Alert Level 3 and the rest of NZ would stay on Alert Level 2, both for 12 more days, with an update in a week's time.

So we could have stayed on in Hokitika but, hey ho hindsight...

Yesterday, when we came back from breakfast with B&G (great to see them again after 6 weeks!), I went around the garden taking photos of the flowers we almost never see - because usually at this time of the year, we are in the UK.

I cannot remember when I last saw this rhododendron in flower!
Fabulous colour!

I am not sure if this bush has ever flowered before
Another view of it. Considering it gets a modicum of early morning sun before being shaded by the camellias, and then late afternoon sun filtered by the trellis, it is doing very well!

The three daphne bushes, with low ferns in front, in the corner between the lounge and dining room.
A late bud on Caitlin's rose

One of my camellias - a lovely creamy white

There are a range of these osteospermums below the cabbage tree

One of the camellias on the driveway

A hellabore in the garden outside the bedroom

Alstromeria - these seem to flower constantly and are great as cut flowers.

We have three of these pittosporums along the south fence between us and Jillian. Given they started as spindly little things and get only late afternoon sun, they are thriving - how big would they be in full sun, I ask?!
A couple of the carpet roses on the driveway are still flowering or flowering again - weird!

A camellia on the driveway

The tui in the cabbage tree

Today I constructed the garden wind ornament that we bought last here in Owaka in/near the Catlins, and we both erected it in the garden next to the bedroom, carefully positioned so we can see it from in bed! The thing to note though is that I started the positioning and left David to finish it as it wasn't plumb, and I lost interest and enthusiasm. I'm a driver/implementer and David is a finisher - a good combination, methinks!

The box is unpacked, the first two bits are fitted together. You can see the instructions on the floor - being consulted, have no doubt!

Showing my crappy haircut from this morning - not a stylist I will use again ... The tube in my hands is locktite and apparently it is required to make sure the screwed together bits stay together!
On its way to its new home beyond that planter box

Less than plumb - but don't worry, the finisher among us will sort that out ...

The finisher trying to look taller - it's not working because I can see he is on his toes!

We were both disappointed that we had to come home from Hokitika because apart from loving being there, we had planned a week or so of touring around on the east coast before heading back, catching up with a few friends. 

But now we are here, we are loving being back in our cosy warm house with our lovely garden. There are only two things to get used to again - that the toilet door is not one step away from the bed, and the kitchen is not two steps away from it! David has already gone the wrong way down the hallway here aiming for the kitchen and ending up in the bedroom ...

Monday 10 August 2020

No jury would ever convict me

Well, no jury of women anyway ... 

We have come back to the Beachside Motel motorhome area after a night and a day and an early evening away: 

  • we spent the night out at Lake Kaniere staying with Vicki and Allan Hurley - they used to run the Heritage Highway Motel that I stayed in all the time I was working down here back in 2016/17. Wonderful to see them again - they had been coming to stay with us on board Waka Huia this year, but no go for either of us!
  • we drove back in to town quite early this morning and parked in the DOC carpark for the day. David loved it! He went out two or three times during the day - twice shopping and once on a walk across the bridge south out of town. I think I may start taking the motorhome to work a bit more often, so he has the variety of routes to walk and better access to the shops.
  • after work today, we drove into town (it's on the way back to the motel) and stopped at Stumpers for an early dinner.

On the way back after dinner, David asked if I could cope without the stabilisers** installed. No, I said, please do get them into place. It is much more comfortable.

As he had them to put in place under the back of the chassis, and had the water tank to fill so I can have a shower in the morning, and the power cord to plug in, the mat and the step to put out, I said I would do the dishes which started being collected but not washed from about lunchtime yesterday ...

So off I go to do that chore and come back and he is nearly finished with the stabilisers and the other tasks are done. We are both tired - a bit too much wine consumed last night (I blame Vicki) so not the best night's sleep for either of us. He declares that he is going to go to bed shortly as he cannot wait to put his icy cold hands on my warm skin.

And it will be the last thing you ever do, sez I, cos no jury would ever convict me ...

** We ordered stabilisers from Burnsco in Nelson after we arrived here in Hokitika, and Salvi and Ann collected them and brought them down when they came to stay two weeks ago. There was much discussion between the chaps about where they would go and then a decision handed down that they needed to be returned as they wouldn't work. Bugger! So I innocently asked if they could go under the rear of the motorhome near the bracket for the spare wheel. No, I was told by two people with penises. Are you sure? I said, I have looked and it seems to me there is some metal there that would be fine to have the stabilisers nestled up against it. No, I was told with much mansplaining about why I couldn't possibly be right.        A couple of hours pass and one person with a penis went out and was seen lying on the ground looking upwards to the rear of the motorhome.    In he comes and says to ACP (the one who formerly was an ACP - you know who I mean!) I think it would work, David, as there's a piece of metal that would be fine to have the stabilisers positioned underneath. OK, says the ACP, and off they go to do the thing. Success!

And I, not in the least grumpy (no, not I!!) said to Ann What a very good idea Marilyn, let's wait for a man to suggest it. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! (As I said, no jury of women would convict me ...)

Anyway, the stabilisers are magic - they stop all the rocking that occurs from just walking in around the motorhome. It isn't so noticeable when sitting at the table or in the driver's seat/captain's chair, but when you're lying in bed, it is uncomfortable because it's disconcerting.

Update: David is now in bed beside me - he is safe from being assassinated because he took so long doing the other puttering around bits and pieces that he has warmed up and his hands are no longer blocks of ice. Lucky for him, I think.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Hokitika life continues

 So here we are still in Hokitika and I am still working, ACP is working on his insurance claim (the eye operation and associated costs from last year) as well as being in charge of all motorhome-bitching tasks. He has listed them on a small whiteboard that he purchased (without a business case, I might add) and then stuck with velcro (also an unauthorised purchase) on the pantry door - I say pantry, but it used to be the wardrobe until we put shelves in it so there was room for enough food and ingredients.
I don't think the list is there to remind him of what needs to be done, after all, they are things that are obvious. I do think they are there to notify me that he is not inactive and that he is overwhelmed by the load - and to give me the information that he certainly doesn't have time to be cooking dinner every night ...

Just so I know how arduous his day is ...

The weather app on my phone (NZ Metservice) said it was going to be pants over this last week - exaggeration, or otherwise they get their forecasting info further inland where the weather is wetter, closer to the foothills of the mountains. But it did rain off and on, so it has been a bit of Russian roulette about whether I will get rained on walking the 20 minutes or so to and from work. On the only day it was persisting down at home time, the lovely Fiona drove me back. She is a gem!

But boy, the rain on the roof of the motorhome sounds very very loud - just like it does on the narrowboat. 

However, to prove that, even though the forecast said rain, rain, rain, here's what the walk to work looked like on a couple of days this week. (I have stopped biking for the moment - even though it's quicker, I am not a confident cyclist anymore and I find I am more relaxed if I walk. Perhaps I will get over myself in the next couple of weeks and start cycling again, but at the moment, by foot is good.)

It was actually dark when I took this photo as I was leaving for work, but the flash was automatic and I couldn't be arsed trying to change it ... Remember that patience is my middle name, folks!

Getting lighter as I walk down Revell St.

The forecast said it would be raining all day but no, it didn't. Note to self: Make sure the phone is level before taking photos otherwise it seems as though we are in Pisa ...


Nearly at work, and those mountains are just spellbinding.

We went out for a walk that Sunday in between showers, so we weren't feeling totally cooped up. The motorhome is lovely, but you can either be in bed or at the table, unless you are in the bathroom or the galley ... So down Revell Street we went and then through a little open arcade to Beach Street. Then back around Gibson Quay, down Tancred St and on to Weld St.

Next stop Australia - we cannot see the lovely Kirsty though, dammit!!

Well, sometimes people don't respond to the official warning signs about there being lots of rips and no lifeguards, and therefore need multiple messages ... I wouldn't swim where there are crocodiles -would you, even if you were in your 20s and 10 foot tall and bullet proof?
This beautiful seat is in the shape of feathers and is down by the beach.


This bench was built and installed in the pedestrian arcade to commemorate a local engineer, Mort Cruikshank - I remember Jim talking about him. Mort always had lots of projects on the go and was ready to lend a helping hand to anyone who asked. He apparently kept copious notes in shorthand.
Hokitika Clocktower at the junction of Weld and Sewell Streets. A lovely structure, I reckon.

This week we went to the play Daylight Atheist, by Tom Scott. I hadn't read anything about it before we went - mistake! It was autobiographical and very very confronting. Not because of the title - that barely featured. But because of what I saw the theme as being: the effects of abandonment, how they are lifelong and affect everyone in an abandoned person's life, if the person doesn't consciously and constantly choose to respond differently.

On Thursday night the week before last, we went to see a movie about the town of Waiuta - you probably won't remember, but it was the abandoned gold mine site at Waiuta that first brought me to Hokitika back in 2016 to project manage the clean up of the site which was one of the NZ's most contaminated sites - extremely toxic arsenic abounded all over the place, in the soil, in the swampy area adjacent to where the buildings had been, in the abandoned timbers from the destroyed buildings. 

The movie is called Whispers of Gold and it is being shown around NZ. Eventually it may end up on TV here, and hopefully eventually on or some such. If it comes to a town near you or if it appears on TV or on the net, do watch it. It is pretty good.

There is a group called Friends of Waiuta who will not let the place be lost to memory - they hold reunions, they make movies (Whispers of Gold is the third one), they publish books. 

Many of the members of Friends of Waiuta were little kids living there when the mine was working and the township was a thriving community of ˜600 people. The Waiuta Prohibition Mine was one of the richest producing gold mines in the world - it produced 750,000 ounces of gold, and much of its gold is still in the ground - once a part of the mine collapsed, the whole town closed down and emptied out in weeks. In the next couple of years, mining of the area will commence again, but this time they will be going in from about 3kms away and tunnelling in on an angle, rather than opening up the old mine. Apparently there is far more gold left in the seam than was taken out in the years the original mine was open.

One of the aspects of the film that I loved was that it showed the mine site as it was before we started the clean up and had drone shots of when it was cleared and cleaned. And the lovely Jim Staton featured talking about the place. There were also lots of photos of Waiuta Town during its heyday - courtesy of Jos Divis, a miner who was also a photographer and was assiduous in recording all aspects of life there - in the town and down in the mine! You can read more about Waiuta and him here.

So on the Thursday, at the showing there were 5 people who had been involved in the mine clean up: Jim S the DOC Historic Ranger who had originally wanted to get it done before it even got on the Ministry for the Environment's radar, Mark N who handed the task of project managing to me when he was reassigned to developing the Pike 29 Memorial Walk (Paparoa Great Walk), Dean Burwell who was the project manager of the site clean up, and me who did the overall project management and dealt with DOC, MfE, the regional and district councils, managing the budget etc, and Fiona who kept her finger on the pulse of all the administrative tasks that inevitably go with it. It would be safe to say that we were all pretty proud ...

Well, I thought it was funny ...