Wednesday 23 December 2020


 On December 4th I turned 70 which is a significant milestone, especially as I don't yet feel properly grown up!

We had a party the following day which was just lovely. David cleared out the garage (a not insignificant task as we are both hoarders of one type or another ...), swept and vacuumed the concrete floor, and brought down from the attic the Turkish rugs we'd had at Cherswud and spread them out. He and Salvi carried the outside chairs from the shed and set out the garage as our new party room - most effective.  Ann put out a vase of birthday flowers, and David and Salvi found a couple of lamps to make the place look homely and inviting.  So using the lounge and the garage we had plenty of room for socialising with a wonderfully eclectic bunch of people.

Ann Persico and I had prepared lots of finger food, but we should not have done so - everyone brought food to share and there was heaps. Next time, I will make sure to just have one bowl of nuts or something for early arrivals ...

All in all, becoming 70 has been a good move!

No photos were taken during the party, but Ann did record the speeches that David and I made. However, I haven't yet watched the footage as I am aware that my sense of not being properly grown up, in part, is borne out by my actions during the singing of Happy Birthday. David thought I was conducting the singing, but I had a knife in my hand and was miming removal of appendages ...

Then last week, on Sunday was our 46th wedding anniversary. I thought about arranging a weekend in a hotel for a treat, but realised quickly that it would be an exercise in culinary frustration, as we need to be able to process a lot of vegetables each day into juice - a hotel room is not really suitable for that! And hotel breakfast menus don't usually cater for smoothies made with 6 fruits plus amla powder,  wheatgrass powder, cashews and hemp seeds ...

So we went away in the motorhome and stayed in motorcamps - because we needed power for the juicer and smoothie maker, freedom camping was not an option.

We had two lovely days in Martinborough and happened to be there for their small xmas parade - a lot of people, and 20 x as many sweets for kids... 

The following day, we had an anniversary celebration lunner (late lunch/early dinner) at Crouching Tiger, an Asian fusion place (a mix of Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisine) after a big walk around one of the Palliser Estate vineyards - not a glass of wine seen or partaken, just endless rows of vines...

Lunner was lovely - well, for David it was and my starter was yummy (cauliflower pakoras with raita) but I chose a Thai chicken salad for the main and I should not have chosen food that had once had a face. Two mouthfuls in and I could not eat anymore of it. I have thoroughly lost the capacity for eating meat!

The montage behind us reminded us of the Thai restaurant we went to in Nottingham with Mick and Julia, when we were moored up in Beeston. Julia and I had gone there previously on the bus from Long Eaton and decided the guys needed to experience it too.

A pineapple mojito mocktail - it was very yummy! But I had chardonnay, just for a change...

Cauliflower pakoras - yummy

Ever since David and I have been together, we have driven past the Mt Bruce Wildlife Sanctuary (Pukaha), and every time we have gone past, I have either said out loud or inside my head 'I want  to go there!' So in we went this time - after 47 years, we have been just a tad slow to get our act together!

This kaka was extremely tame - or hungry, like Pavlov's dogs.

Waiting for the 3pm feeding to commence. Many kaka were flying through the trees just above our heads, walking around on the ground very close to the waiting people - they clearly have internal clocks!
At the feeding stations, the kaka were a mix of wild and bred on site.
David on the walkway.

You can learn more about Pukaha Mt Bruce from on their website here
It is a wonderful place to visit where a huge amount of conservation work has been undertaken, continues now and will do so into the future.

Our next stop was an interesting and surprisingly good find - we stayed in the campground at Eketahuna. A lovely spot and the weather was beautifully warm, with no wind, so the awning could be out and we could relax in the shade. 

Look at that blue sky!

Plenty of space to spread out!


We met some new people who we will stay in touch with, and we had a visit from Merril, an old friend who lives in Woodville. Cheese scones were made and consumed.

David and Merril demonstrating social distancing on our clifftop walk from the campsite to the bridge. Merril and I were at primary school together, as well as intermediate and high school. Lost touch until a few years ago when we reconnected on Friends Reunited.

Difficult to see, but that is a kingfisher on that tree stump!

Jack is 15 and 6' 2", Aaliyah is 35 and 6', and I am 70 and 5'1". I sent this photo to our lovely grandson to demonstrate that at 5'11" he isn't the tallest 15 year old. His response was that I looked like a hobbit beside these two ... Cheeky brat!

We had intended to head for the east coast to explore that area and to be beside the sea, but the forecast was for 70kmh winds - which would not be relaxing either to drive a high sided vehicle in or to sleep in, so we abandoned that plan, and chose to head back south through to Masterton.

On the way we stopped at The Pioneer Museum which is a ragtag collection of all sorts of stuff from years ago - people obviously drop off stuff they think may be of interest. And to be honest, much of it is. Quite a nostalgic place to wander through but there is also a lot of JUNK!! It is similar in scope to the museum I remember going to a couple of times at Claydon, near the Oxford Canal - no longer functioning once the old guy got too old or died. I reckon this one could go the same way soon.

 In Masterton, we had booked to stay at the Mawley Motorcamp, which is close to town, beside the river and very clean and friendly. We invited Trevor, an old school-friend of David's for dinner - he is on a plant-based diet too, so he didn't feel deprived at being served asparagus (with a smear of butter and lemon juice), carrot and beetroot salad plus coleslaw, with strawberries and yoghurt for dessert.

The guys did the dishes over in the kitchen, and clearly there was no other way to carry the bowl back ...

We decided then to head the next day to stay overnight at the Tauherenikau Race Course - a pleasant enough place, but probably better to be there with friends. After Eketahuna and Masterton, it was a bit stark and stony, and the touted bush walk is just the short roadway through the bush to the stables and racecourse buildings. Apparently it fills up for the New Year's Race day and becomes party central, and I reckon that would be fun. However David isn't that keen to re-kindle his former penchant for betting on the horses somehow. 😇

Our original plan had been to come home on Saturday or Sunday, but we thought that it was likely the holiday traffic could be building up on the way out of Wellington (yes, we are able to travel freely around the country here in NZ) given Xmas is just around the corner and lots of people will be taking the last few days off work and heading away. So we came home yesterday - and this time I drove in the driveway frontwards and then reversed back on to the motorhome pad. And I have to confess, it is easier than reversing all the way down the drive - but at least I know I can do it both ways now ...

The new fridge was delivered on Tuesday and last night, Tyrone and Robyn delivered the two boxes of veg and fruit we had ordered that we were going to collect at the market last night - it was raining so they brought it to us instead. Such kind people, they are. I had made cheese scones for them and also gave them a bottle of bubbly to say thank you for all their kindness to us over the last year, in particular during the lockdown when they did deliveries.

This is Sam (short for Samsung), David's fridge. The bottom two drawers are filled with carrots... There's a large bag of beetroots just above the drawers next to the lemons, then the apples and more citrus on the next shelf, then the pumpkin and mushrooms, 3 bottles of home made veg juice. Above that are a couple of bags of cabbage, and broccoli and cauliflower, and on the top shelf are his carrot cake blissballs. The door has jars of almond and cashew butter, celery, parsley, turmeric root, garlic, ginger, shop bought juice for emergencies. Is it any wonder we needed a second fridge?!

Friday 18 December 2020

Family, friends and flooring

Regular readers of this blog may remember that we have changed the flooring in our kitchen and laundry twice in the last few years. OK, so now make that 3 times.

The first vinyl we had put down after we re-did the kitchen. (I have looked for a photo but cannot find one as I cannot remember when we had it laid ...) It was a lovely shiny black vinyl that looked like tiles. It looked great, but showed every single crumb or speck - did you know that almost nothing that gets spilt in a kitchen is black? Black sesame seeds or poppy seeds, but not much else! The last straw with that one was that vinyl these days is not as sturdy as it used to be (cue the violins for the grumpy old woman) - a pot lid that voluntarily jumped out of the below-bench cupboard landed on its edge and split the vinyl. Bugger. So that was an insurance job and it had to be replaced.

We chose another one that, on the sample I saw was shiny, non-dimpled but a marbled white that had black lines and small black squares/diamonds to make it look like tiles. It was going to be great ... But what was laid was NOT shiny and WAS dimpled - it was non-slip vinyl, suitable for old people in one way and very unsuitable in another. Yes, it was impossible to slip on, but its dimpled surface made it collect and hold on to anything that got dropped on it or was brought in on shoes/slippers/bare feet. And having grabbed on to said detritus, it was bloody near impossible to wash without using a pig-bristle broom and Handi-Andi in extremely hot water - which, once said washing was completed, needed to be squeegeed off and rinsed. Life is too short for that kind of malarkey, I declared. How on earth any VERY old person would be able to keep it clean is beyond me. And it too was not sturdy - although I did test it severely (it failed) when I dropped an extremely hot lid of the cast iron pot on it when I got it out of the oven, but didn't have a good grip on it ... My bad, I think.

I could have coped with the split, but trying to keep the damn floor clean drove me nuts - I swept twice a day, but still most of the outside came into the kitchen, and lots of what was being prepared on the bench seemed to end up on the floor. And while I could sweep ad infinitum, I could not get the dirt out from the lower reaches of the dimples, dammit!

Accordingly IT HAD TO GO!!!

So after much considering other options, we decided on tongue in groove recycled matai with a couple of coats of tough polyurethane. One of us is now missing an arm and a leg that were required to pay for it, but it looks fabulous! It will dent, the polyurethane will get scratched; however it stays clean, is easily swept (and nothing much appears to cling to it), if it's got grubby stuff on it, it is hard to see. And best of all apart from how fabulous it looks, it is washed with the squeegee mop that has been dipped in a bucket of warm water with about 10ml of meths. Takes about 7 minutes and dries really fast.

The work was done in part while we were here. But we had to relocate to the motorhome because of the toxicity of the vapour barrier that the guys put on the concrete floor after stripping off the vinyl and grinding the glue off. 

This in Finn scraping off the extremely hard-to-clean, dimpled, pain-in-the-arse vinyl.

The concrete has been sanded and the glue removed. Next was a bright green vapour barrier - toxicity unlimited ...


You will note that when we redecorated the laundry a few years ago, we didn't paint behind the laundry tub ... Naughty!

So we decided that we might as well head away because I have found that it is much easier not to need anything out of the kitchen and laundry when you are 200 miles away from it!

Off we went to Taranaki, leaving Barry and Sandra's campervan NZAreandAre parked in the driveway awaiting their return from points south and Wellington city. We stopped on our way to call in on Denny and Cheryl in Wanganui and managed to spend at least 2 hours chatting and laughing before we headed off to Waitara to stay once again at Waitara Holiday Park with my lovely sister, Dee.

The major reason for going there was that Dee and I were both having birthdays early in December, and her work at the camp and church schedule meant she would not be able to come down for my party. I'm not sure what the christian equivalent is of mountain and Mahomed, but whatever it is, we have more spare time available, so early celebrations were enacted up there.

We went to a beautiful Thai restaurant in New Plymouth one night: Siam Thai Fusion Cuisine. Absolutely delicious food, and they were extremely accommodating for David with his raw vegan diet. (It always disturbs me calling it that as I worry that people think he is eating raw vegans ...) And because it was my early birthday celebration, David had a couple of cooked dishes - but all veg, and Dee paid for us. 

I always enjoy spending time with Dee - she is fun, she is kind and she likes me - what more could I want in my sister? So we had a couple of bouts of gentle retail therapy and a sisters only lunch out at a really lovely Indian restaurant: India Today. It was a bonus because Murray doesn't really like Indian food, and at the moment, David cannot have it as there is very little on the menu that doesn't have fat of some kind, even if it's vegetarian.

Of course the other bonus is that India Today is about 2 doors away from one of my favourite shops Taking Shape. (Of course I just had to get some really smart tops to offset the bargains I had got at The Warehouse the previous day on our totally pragmatic retail day - cheap and cheerful T-shirts for me from The Warehouse, cleaning products for the camp, investigating siding for one of the camp cabins at Mitre 10 and lunch there - well, it would have been rude not to, and David and Murray were both gainfully employed, David on film editing, Murray on camp tasks ..)

And our retail session and lunch were just long enough for Barry, who we had dropped at the Fitzroy section of the world famous New Plymouth walkway, to walk into the city taking stunning photos all the way and do a bit of investigating the museum before I phoned him to see if he was ready to go back and interrupt Sandra who was studiously working in the campervan. You can see his photos here on their blog:  He is an amazing photographer!

The weather was pants, to use an English expression. But still that evening Barry and Sandra came to us for a shared dinner. Being carnivores they were allowed to eat all of the chicken they had cooked ... We shared our salads and I did partake of some of their potatoes - hadn't eaten potatoes for absolute ages! They taught us six handed rummy and I lost convincingly! But it is a fun game and we plan to teach Ann and Salvi and then play when we are together ...

Sandra had set the table and was ready for a drink...

A mean photo as everyone was eating ...

That night, the rain just bucketed down and the forecast was for heavy rain, more heavy rain and even more heavy rain in a belt across the country. In the morning, David and I decided to cut and run for home in case there was flooding that would prevent us doing so later. So we cut short our time in Waitara, and headed off.

The first third of the journey was very difficult - the motorhome is great because you are much higher than most traffic and therefore visibility is increased. But between Bell Block and Stratford we experienced the worst and heaviest rain I have ever driven in. It was a boon to be up high as the spray affected us less. However I was astounded to see cars being driven towards us with no lights on even though visibility was poor. Totally nuts!

I had contemplated stopping and parking up overnight if the situation hadn't improved by the time we got to Hawera. But fortunately, although it was still raining, the heaviness had eased, and from Wanganui to home it was damp but not raining.

While Sandra and Barry's campervan had been in our driveway, I had decided I needed to be able to reverse down the driveway and turn backwards on to the pad beside the garage - it had always been my intention, but I'd been persuaded by Derek and by Luke that going down the driveway frontwards and then reversing from in front of the house would be easier. It isn't hard, but reversing in was my preference. So I had done so while the B&S-mobile was in situ, and I was determined to do it again, just to prove to myself that I could do it more than once. Yes I can, and no roofing, guttering, fence or cabbage trees were harmed during the adventure!

We were home in time to stay in the motorhome again while the floor was being completed because the polyurethane is toxic in extremis - but the finished result looks fabulous.

Isn't that just the business?

We had to wait several days to put the dishwasher, washing machine, fridge and freezer back so the finish would not be damaged. The laundry piled up and dishes got washed by hand. No worries. But the most frustrating thing was having to go out to the garage to get anything from the fridge or freezer ... Such a first world problem, isn't it?