Friday 20 January 2023

We interrupt this broadcast

 to bring the news you will no doubt already have heard - that our wonderful World Famous Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is not standing for re-election and is stepping away from Parliament.

To say we are saddened is an understatement. 

However, we are fully supportive of her decision and we can understand when she says she doesn't have enough left in the tank for another 4 years. 

She has done an amazing job over the last 5.5 years as our PM, and she has dealt superlatively with extremely difficult crises - a terrorist attack, a bio-security threat, a volcanic eruption and a pandemic (our death toll from COVID-19 is ~2400 in total - the UK and the US were losing that many people a day; and size of population notwithstanding, proportionately that is a significantly lower death rate than almost all other countries). She and her team are currently dealing well with local cost of living pressures brought on by the global financial crisis. 

After the terrorist murdered 51 people.


She has used her position to further and finalise Free Trade Agreements with the UK, with the EU, with the USA and countries in Asia. 

She has established and delivered on policies to 

  • legislate to make the ownership illegal of semi automatic and automatic weapons - 6 days after the Christchurch shooting with legislation enacted within a month
  • reduce child poverty here in NZ - 
    • Family Tax Credits, Working For Families tax relief, 
    • increased benefit payments
    • increased the minimum wage
    • legislated for a living wage
  • remove food insecurity through the school lunch programme that provides a million lunches a day across the country in the schools where the most need exists
  • address the housing shortage brought about by the previous government selling off most of our social housing (state houses) stock and investors buying multiple houses for renting out (or leaving empty for the tax break on mortgage interest and to build untaxed capital gains) rather than living in
  • put much more funding into health so that District Health Boards are delivering health services rather than servicing debt
    • put significant funding into mental health services to increase access to counselling, psychiatric services, ...
  • create job and career opportunities for young people by restoring the apprenticeship schemes that used to exist and were abolished under previous governments
  • provide for free the first year of tertiary education  
  • supported businesses during the lockdowns so they could keep staff employed and:
    • pay wages, 
    • cover their expenses
    • help cover their own income.

We currently have, under her leadership and with her team, a significantly lower inflation rate than many of the countries we measure ourselves against and we have less than 3% unemployment.

She is extremely well respected around the world for her leadership style.

She is incredibly intelligent both emotionally and intellectually, and has a prodigious memory for facts and their mutuality and interconnectedness. She has been an incisive leader who has built a strong team that uses their strengths to advance the wellbeing on all New Zealanders. What's more she always acknowledges the contribution of her team and shares the kudos while taking on herself the slings and arrows, the vitriol and the misogynistic hate.

And FFS, has she received 1000 times more of those than anyone deserves - from the extreme right-wing that most of us didn't know existed here in NZ until 2021, from the gullible who have swallowed every recent conspiracy theory going without stopping to chew or ruminate. Much of the right-wing extremism has been imported from the USA and was starting to appear before our last election in 2020 - Cambridge Analytica made their presence felt at that time when they wanted to work with Winston Peters to upset Labour's election chances. That didn't work (landslide) but the door was opened, especially as anti-vaccination misinformation, lies and outright nuttery made its way in. 

None of it was helped by the mainstream media who for some reason (probably the agenda of their owners) turned against the government and Jacinda in particular. Almost overnight they stopped being a help in getting information out to people and started being Trivial Pursuits competitors - who could ask the most inane and trivial questions? who could frame complex questions in a simplistic (not simple) way and ask it demanding a yes/no response - they played fast and loose with the truth, asked gotcha questions and all in all acted just like Fox News  - that non-informative channel known by me as Faux Noise... They certainly stopped reporting and increased their opinion pieces dressed up as fact - but only loosely dressed: mostly the nakedness of their deceit was visible. And their editors, always with an eye to the ratings for 'news' as entertainment - not infotainment - were very skilled at leaving the factual stuff on the cutting room floor and only playing the bits that cast the government in bad light - regardless of the effect on the population.

But gosh, the 12 second soundbites were attention grabbing and sounded valid ...

And then there are the Opposition politicians - no policies, apart from if the government suggests it, there is an automatic NO - even if it was previously one of the their own ideas, e.g. the Three Waters legislation for clean and safe drinking water, waste water/sewage and storm water. (Note that the National govt when in power was keen to introduce water safety legislation - however their intent was to make it possible to privatise it ...)

OK, I need to stop - I am getting angry all over again.

I will finish by saying that Jacinda Ardern is the best Prime Minister of my lifetime and probably in the top 3 of all time - and I can't think who the other two are.

A woman of integrity and all it encompasses, a woman of compassion, empathy with a mind and an intelligence like a steel trap. A true leader - a leader who serves rather than dictates, a leader who uses power to rather than power over. 

 An amazing woman - she makes me proud to be a New Zealand woman, and I am privileged to have been living here during her tenure.

Thursday 12 January 2023

Weddings, friends and beautiful places to be

 Since I last wrote, we have:

  • had a night at Alan and Greg's place in Rolleston
    • we had intended to visit them but stay overnight at the NZMCA Park at Weedons. However when we arrived they invited us to stay. So I manoeuvred the motorhome on their sloping driveway - across it with the ramps under the driver side wheels so we weren't anymore off-balance than we already are ...

Greg and Alan with David and me at their place

I sent this photo to Derek in the morning, after Alan had gone to work.

    • such a good night of catching up. I drank some chardonnay - as a test, you understand, to see if it still had a deleterious effect on me. Not so bad as I remembered ...
  • attended Gavin and Deb's wedding at Waipara Adventure Centre near Amberley.
    • a lovely wedding the celebrations (pre, during and post) went from Friday afternoon to late Sunday morning. 
    • Joy Cowan and I did the last minute shopping for food and I didn't buy any shoes, nor did I buy a raincoat (having left all of the 5 that I own back in Waikanae...)
    • we were camped down in the lower wooded and beautifully shaded area with Joy and Jim (he was the celebrant) in their poptop camper plus awning and gazebo, Shane and Glenda in their Swift caravan, while the rest of the guests were accommodated in bunkrooms up at the centre. 

Lovely shade - so necessary on the extremely hot days we've been having.
    • It was wonderful to spend time with Joy who I knew through work at DOC and to meet and get to know her husband Jim. He is a really interesting guy whose current job is men's advocate for Women's Refuge. See why he's interesting?
    • I took on doing the Facetime videoing for people who couldn't attend - Gav's parents and friends in the UK. I do enjoy that role, especially being able to get people to interact with the watching audience...


I'm not entirely sure what Deb was saying to Gav here, however he was very clear about how much he loves her.

    • I drank 2 glasses of chardonnay and one glass of fizzy wine and found that the effects of wine-drinking that caused me to give it up a year ago still prevail, so there will be no more!
  • had a night staying with Dean and Phaedra in Oxford where Dean's parents, Raewyn and Alan arrived shortly after us. I remember attending their wedding so many years ago - Raewyn is a cousin (2nd or 3rd, I think, but the closest relatives on his mother's side in NZ) of my first husband, Lou. 
    • it was lovely to see all of them, including Dean and Phaedra's son Liam who was part of the team on the Alexander Roaster and Battery remediation
    • Dean has some pet sheep - they really are very tame and have established their timetable for being fed sheepnuts. Woe betide Dean if he's late! They are very effective at calling him in concert at 6am and late in the afternoon ...

Dean and the sheep. The one with the mohawk in the back row is a self shedding sheep whose wool just falls off.

  • travelled over Arthur's Pass across the Main Divide on the most gloriously sunny day - such beautiful mountains and valleys that look spectacular in the sun, just as they do when snow-covered under a lowering sky, to be fair. Amazing terrain and a fabulous drive.
    • we stopped just above the Otira overbridge as the phone rang and it was Marta (our former daughter in law) calling from Scotland. Lovely to talk with her, as always.
  • called in to the supermarket at Hokitika for essential supplies and to the bedding shop where I got a new pillow for David who had complained his neck was getting sore. The bedding shop had combined with my favourite shoe shop and I did buy a pair of shoes
  • headed for Lake Mahinapua to stay 2 nights at the DOC site there with Ian and Irene who had made their way down the West Coast to meet up with us.
    • because they had been cooking one pot dinners on their single gas hob for the last few weeks, I did dinner: salmon, feta and silverbeet quiche, salad and new potatoes 

The quiche. I have worked out (after 4+ years) that baking things need to go right up near the top of the motorhome oven - didn't take me long, did it?

Pre-dinner nibbles were coming to an end so David decided to finish off the cheese, it being inefficient to put it away in the fridge...

    • I took David, I&I to the Treetops Walk (I waited and bought t-shirts and a raincoat and had a coffee and a piece of gingercrunch). 
    • Then took them into Hokitika so they could do the laundry while I had lunch with Fiona, Vicki and Hutchy. Fiona and I worked together on the mine remediation projects, Hutchy works in DOC too (not sure what her role is), and Vicki used to own and run the motel I stayed in regularly for 18 months - she and I used to drink oaky chardonnay together ...

L-R Fiona, Vicki, Hutchy, me in Fiona's back garden. Lunch was amazing sandwiches from the Hokitika Sandwich Company - very delicious. I am not sure that I paid Fiona for mine ... Must check up with her!


    • filled with water at Fiona's house while she was at work, and at the Challenge petrol station, we got an issue with one of our gas bottles resolved, filled the other bottle, bought an icecream each (magnums) and headed back to the lake
Once back at the lake, we all stopped Irene going inside to blog - she was concerned that Mary (owner of the little camper) would think something had happened if there was no blogpost. So I sent these photos to Mary to show all was well and that we (they) had been very busy getting the washing done. It still needed airing on our return so out it went on the Seigfried Lines - including Irene's knickers which can be seen if you look closely enough ...

I hung our sheets and pillowcases on a guy rope that doubled as a washing line and the small stuff went on the octopus which I hung on the bike rack.


  • in a convoy the next day, we travelled to the site of the Brunner mine and walked the Memorial path. An amazing place, one of the Tohu Whenua - places of our stories. DOC does a phenomenal job restoring and preserving these sites and making them accessible for people to visit and learn our history.
  • then hugs goodbye as we were heading for Murchison and we had persuaded I&I to go to Nelson Creek, given Shantytown is closed for renovation. 
    • It was a very windy (both long i and short i) drive for us until we got to the Upper Buller Gorge
    • I was driven to distraction by the sandflies in Murchison - probably because I sat under a tree rather than out in the open (smothered in insect repellent which they just had to investigate ...). 
    • Also I was really tired - poor sleep the night before (awake from 2am to 4.30am). I have discovered that zero alcohol beer has the same effect on my sleep as wine with alcohol... Ah well, good to discover these things so they can be eliminated from my diet.
    • I&I complained that it was very windy at Nelson's Creek and they couldn't put the awning up

On Thursday we headed about an hour or so up the road to a POP (ParkOver Property) in Tapawera thinking maybe we would go for a bit of a bike ride (just so the bikes can get down off the rack this trip... (Update: no, the bikes stayed hoist on their own petard - it was too hot for going riding. Blobbing and blogging instead.)

And then Friday we are going to stay a couple of nights with Ann and Salvi  (double yay!!) before heading to Koromiko on Sunday and home on Monday.

Then the packing can start in earnest!

In the meantime though, I will do another post which will be only photos and captions. There are just too many for one post to support ...

Wednesday 4 January 2023

In the South Island

 A week or so before xmas, our lovely friend Melita was in Sydney and caught up with Kirsty. She delivered on her promise to send a photo of the two of them - yay!

Two beautiful women who we love dearly.

In March our wonderful elder grandson, Olek, is arriving in NZ for a 6 week sojourn, mostly with us. Apart from the shenanigans of moving into Parkwood, we plan to be out exploring the upper North Island in the motorhome. To save 18 year old Olek the indignity of sleeping for several weeks in the same space as his elderly grandparents who probably snore and definitely get up at night for watering purposes and who'll wake up early (not teenage hours) for cups of tea, his kindly grandparents have purchased a tent (two person) and a camp stretcher so he has his own sleeping quarters.

One fine (for obvious reasons) morning David quietly snuck out to put the tent up - partly to see if he could and partly to check it was all there. He snuck out so that he got to do it without me interfering/chipping in with advice, taking over helping. By the time I came through the house and then outside to see a) why my plaintive calls for my 4th cup of tea had not been heeded, and b) what he was up to, he had the inner of the tent constructed and the bed put together. I was only nee3ded for two things: a) help get the bed in the tent, and b) help insert the strut that holds the vestibule (fancy schmancy...) up.

Tent inny with vestibule strut in place, bed at the ready ... Bag, bag of stakes, canopy on the ground - discarded as not required for this exercise!

I wonder if I'll be more successful in calling for tea from here?

Only the inner structure - it's a 2 person tent, but that appears to presuppose sleeping on the cold hard ground and we couldn't do that to Olek!

The miracle is that both tent and camp stretcher fitted back into their respective bags - that has always been a hassle. Not that we camp in tents mind you, but the kids used to and the bags their tents came in were always microscopic, as if the tent and poles and stakes and guy ropes had been vacuum packed and hermetically sealed in the bag, never to be re-inserted in their entirety. But these are Kathmandu brand - designed for the fashion conscious who don't have time to do that puzzle. And to be fair, we mostly bought quite cheap tents for the kids based on our income level at the time.

We have actually purchased two tents and two campstretchers because Kirsty has decided she would like to come and spend time with us while Olek is over here. And as she wants to be part of the extended family visiting, we decided to spare her the sharing of the motorhome sleeping space as well.

The other very kind thing we have done for them is to launder the Argos sleeping bags - they are fabulous, double sized, but so large they do not fit in our washing machine. So I dropped David and the two sleeping bags off at the local launderette which has GIANT machines. I'm not sure how much cleaner they are but they spent that very hot day out in the back garden drying and being turned over regularly, and they were sent out for more airing the following hot day. So the burning hot sun will have helped in the cleaning and freshening process.

We are now having 12 days in the South Island - we were invited to a wedding in Amberley, and decided we would take advantage of the opportunity to have a wee holiday. And because the weather here on the eastern side of the Main Divide is purported to be baking hot - suitable for scones and pastry in the open air - we decided to head for the West Coast, where we can go to see friends and not be so overcooked.

In preparation for the 12 days away, David made hummus and falafels. He decided to go out on a very slim limb and use the slap dash method of measuring by handsful, as his wife does... Still and all, he felt the need to divide the soaked chickpeas up before using the food processor.

But he had to check to make sure his slapdash method wasn't too discrepant ... 50gm difference between the lightest and heaviest bowls, in case you are interested!

 We managed to share the bench reasonably successfully - I was baking bread and preparing lunch for guests. I think the two photos above were taken on bread making day because that yellow egg poaching pocket is what I use to measure the starter for the poolish (leaven). Only 6 loaves this time, and I baked it the morning before we left home. I only gave away one - to Jillian in return for a dozen lemons.

When we booked our trip there were not many sailings available - tourists are back and it's school holidays and statutary holidays for the xmas/new year period as well. So it was a late evening sailing. That did mean we had the whole day to get ready - and we needed it, because Melita and her family are going to stay in the house for a few days, and she is a much better housekeeper than we are...

That's Paul and Nigel's house between the two right hand lamp posts. I messaged Paul and we waved while waiting in line.

We arrived at the terminal quite early - it was the last day of the stat holidays and we thought the traffic into Wellington could be quite heavy. But no! We went in on SH59 (the old road in local parlance) and there was almost no traffic at all. Bliss!

When we were lined up I made a cup of tea and a tomato sandwich each thinking we had a while to wait. But no sooner had a I sat down and the vehicles in front of us moved forward about 50metres. We followed and sat eating peacefully but watchfully...

A lovely sailing - we found a table in the bar area (no children), David watched the cricket, I read. But it was a very late night for me in particular! We headed a few minutes down the road from the ferry terminal at Picton, to the Parklands Marina Holiday Park at Waikawa Bay, where we have been a few times. Lovely place. We crept in as quietly as possible and Nick and Hayley had left a space for us pretty close to the entrance which required no manoeuvering (FFS, I can never spell that word!), just drive straight on to it, close doors as quietly as possible ...

I think I posted that on Facebook at about 1.15am or thereabouts - exceedingly late for me!

Yesterday we headed south after a quick shop at Picton. We fetched up here at Donegal House just on the outskirts of Kaikoura. $20 per vehicle a night with power or without. Cheap but eating at the pub was not! Nice food though. The guy who runs the place is steeped in the family history of Irish emigration. You can read about it here: Donegal House

All of the sites have Irish family names. This is the view out behind us - a mountain range of course - we ARE in the South Island


And the view out the door of the motorhome. That is a mountain, not a hill, okay! - I will need to look it up to find out what it is called.

OK, up to date, so I had better go and shower and get ready to head away. 

Today we are going to visit Greg and Alan in Rolleston (we met them in Hanmer Springs when camping nearby each other and found friends in common). And tomorrow we head back up to Amberley to meet up with other wedding guests. Some of them I will know because I worked with Gavin and Deb in DOC in Hokitika and Greymouth when I was doing the mines remediation work. Gavin was the Works Officer who was my customer - the sites were in his bailiwick for maintenance once remediation was complete. I am expecting to see Jim too - Jim was the mover/nagger behind getting the Waiuta work done. I am keen to find out who else will be there that I know.😊😍