You've been introduced to The Handbag and to Dora (The Explorer) and now I'm introducing you to Shrek. Why Shrek? Because she's large, green and ugly. She's a Toyota Emina 3 litre 4 wheel drive seven-seater (called a Previa in the UK).
Yesterday I blogged about living in the countryside and mentioned twittering Fantails. Oddly on the way down from the House to The Cottage yesterday morning I met a Fantail who followed me from Jacoranda Tree to Jacoranda Tree down the drive. He (or she) was no more than a 2 metres from me when I took these photos. It wasn't easy, however, because of the poor light in the tree and the constant movement of the Fantail - they just never seem to sit still for a second. They are, however, one of the most endearing of creatures and, like Robins, do not seem to fear human proximity.
The cost of petrol at the pumps has today dropped for the 22nd consecutive time. The all-time high earlier this year was $2.20. Today a litre of unleaded is $1.33. In UK terms at the current tourist rate of exchange today's price is about 52p. According to The AA the UK average price of petrol today is 88.2p per litre. I'll wager that it's a lot higher than that in Stornoway.
Given the lack of public transport in most of rural , and a good deal of urban, New Zealand it is not surprising that New Zealand has one of the highest per capita rates of car ownership in the world. Car penetration in New Zealand ranks third in the world, with 82% of people owning a car. The United States is ranked first with nine in 10 Americans claiming to own a car. Saudi Arabia is second with 86%. Across the ditch in Australia 70% of people own a car.
This morning I stood in the living room with the ranch doors onto the deck wide open. Elgar's Cello Concerto (the Jaqueline du Pré recording) was playing. I like my music reasonably loud which is ok when there is no one to disturb. As I stood and listened I realised that the noise of the countryside outside was greater than the sound of the music. I switched off the music and ventured outside onto the deck.
I'm not very good at bird calls but there are some that I recognise. Nearest to The Cottage a Chaffinch was vying for individual honours with a Blackbird (the clear winner). The flocks of Sparrows and Goldfinches were vying with each other for group honours (no clear winner there). The eerily haunting cries of the Australasian Magpies filled the distance (winners of the eerily haunting class by a wide margin). The screetch of the Pukeko intermittently butted in (clearly winning the scare-you-out-of-your-pants class). Two little Fantails twittered as they chased each other through the trees (winners of the twittering class and the can't-stand-still class as well). The Kingfisher darted around winning the silent class: although they do have a loud and penetrating call and there are many of them around here I'm not sure that I've ever identified it.
I was actually wakened this morning before 0600 by a quad bike in the Orchard. Johnny was inspecting the insect traps to see what pests had to be sprayed today. An hour or so later he was back dressed from head to toe in his protective gear covering all and sundry with insecticide.
This morning there has not been a breath of a breeze and my washing has hung limply on the whirlygig since 0700. In fact it's a very odd morning because the bright sun after the dawn became hazy and then overcast and now it's bright, though, hazy again. There's a very unsettling feeling in the air.
There is just something magical about living in the countryside.
This morning we all went to the local 'market' down on the Marine Parade. It's somewhere between a craft fair and a car boot sale. What one can get, of course, is ice cream, coffee and a whole host of other culinery delights (yeah right) and candy floss! Wendy and I stuck to coffee.
One of the fridge magnets on Wendy and Martin's fridge is of one of the most-heard sayings in New Zealand. It's not really regarded as slang but as a generally understood expression broadly used to describe something highly regarded “This concert is going to be sweet as!” Pronounced sweet aas. But sweet as what? We shall never know.
Sweet can also be used on its own to indicate general agreement, “I can meet you after work if you like,” “Sweet!”
There was a time when blowing bubbles involved a simple hoop of wire or plastic with a handle. Science hadn't really been applied vigorously to the issue of creating multiple bubbles from a single blow. This Christmas we (me included) received a bubble blowing kit in our Christmas Stocking. Not that I realised what it was. Entitled Rainbow Set Hubble Bubble I thought it was bubblegum and was exceedingly amazed at Wendy and Martin allowing such a thing (for the record I don't think they do). What puzzled me, however, was the addition of the words 'Anchor-hold innocuity' on the label. Anyway the science of bubbleblowing having been applied I discovered that the simple hoop had been replaced by a hoop with teeth, the purpose of which is to increase the amount of fluid held and thus allow the creation of multiple bubbles with a single breath. Awewsome.
As I write this Martin is probably landing in Los Angeles (without a shadow of a doubt the worst airport through which I have ever had the misfortune to travel) on his way to Edinburgh. So until 12 January with school holidays, life with four children will be interesting. At least here the sun is shining and the weather is warm. Ah yes. Breakfast on the deck again this morning I think.
Nothing UK traditional about the Christmas Dinner here. The new BBQ was pressed into service and we had lovely steak, corn on the cob cooked in its leaves (corn is just coming into season here), asparagus (just on its way out of season), mushrooms and onions and salad (not done on the BBQ!). Yumcious and no feeling of bloated fullness afterwards. Although later after the coffee and cheesecake....
In New Zealand a man is judged by the size of his BBQ rather than by the size of , well, anything else really. Martin now has a really big BBQ. Wea ssembled it on Christmas Day morning on the deck of The Cottage at 32 deg in the shade. How great was that?
Tuesday saw the arrival in the household of Misty a very tiny Bichon Frise/ Shi Tzu/ Poodle cross. Needless to say she has been the centre of attraction. This morning, however, we discovered that she has a tiny appendage that shes don't have. I think she is now Bertie and he. It's a bit unfortunate to have a sexual identity crisis at 6 weeks old and not even to know about it.
I went out for lunch with friends to Three Doors Up in Ahuriri on Sunday. It's a happy, comfortable bistro-type restaurant serving excellent food with friendly service to which every restaurant should aspire. More importantly, though, is that they serve the perfect créme brulet.
Having blogged a few days ago about the lack of rain since I arrived and the worry about drought, I was chatting on the phone at 0030 this morning (to someone in the UK of course) when I became aware of a strange noise. It took me a few minutes to realise that it was the noise of very, very heavy rain on the roof. Where it is over the deck there is no insulation so it sounded incredibly loud indeed. At 0700 this morning it is still raining, though slightly less hard. Hoorah. So long as it stops for the BBQ tomorrow afternoon that is!
One of the amusing irritations which occurs here is the proliferation, at this time of year in particular, of cobwebs. I've never seen one of the spiders responsible for covering my bike, the veranda and anything else they can spin a web on but they are surely there. This morning the spider which lives in the wing mirror of the car was very enthusiastic as you can see. There is also one which lives behind one of the rear lights who covers that every night as well.
There is already at this very early stage in the summer talk of drought in Hawkes Bay and the Drought Committee met today: apparently the earliest anyone could recall it meeting. Certainly the orchard in front of The Cottage is being watered constantly at the moment. We get our water from underground using our own borehole and pump into our own 500 gallon water tank and, unlike many areas nearby where there is a very high iron content, ours is wholesome water.
The orchard takes its water from the same underground reserves. They've never run dry yet but....
Perhaps 45 minutes South of Napier on State Highway 2 is the small town of Waipawa where they have a very accomplished Music and Drama Club. I receeived a phone call a few days before their Christmas Caberet to say that one of their party couldn't go and would I like to go in her place. I suppose that, for those used to these things, this was fairly ordinary. But not for me. I was reminded of the first occasion that I went to see Joan play Elvira in Stornoway drama Club's performance of Blythe Spirit. Until then I had shied away from amateur dramatics. But that performance was so good that I became quite a follower of the Club's performances. This Caberet has had a similar effect on me. For example one singer sang Pie Jesu flawlessly reaching the highest notes without fault. Impressive or what.
The event was held in the Waipawa's splendid Municipal Theatre and Town Hall and featured a splendid Christmas Fairy greeter: to whom Frank seemed to take a fancy!
Although not strictly speaking a DUKW the Hawkes Bay Wine Country Duck wanders around Napier and, because of its size, is pretty hard to miss. Until recently, though, I'd never actually seen it in the water.
Ships enter and leave the Port of Napier on every tide. Often then come in and go out on the same high tide; measuring their turnaround time in aa few hours. This one with pilot on board and the two Port Tugs in attendance came in on Thursday when we were down at Ahuriri.
Some days are longer than others. That's just how it is. Yesterday was one of the long ones. Not, you understand, because the number of hours I was awake was any greater than usual. In fact it was considerably less. I was up at 0630 but in bed by a very New Zealand-like 1030 - some time before my usual 0100. And it wasn't just long for me.
Yesterday the children (Jamie no longer counts as a child for this purpose) broke up and it was the Leavers' Assembly which, this year, I decided not to attend. Instead I played a doubles croquet match - part of the Club championship. We lost our match. I was then going to pétanque but something made me turn around and I came home instead. I wonder what made me do that.
I was just finishing lunch when Wendy drew up with the children. She was obviously upset. One of our neighbours - she was 41 years old and with small children - had collapsed and died at the pre-school (across the road from Pukatapu School where the children go) earlier. As so many of the parents were at the Assembly it became a very emotional occasion. By the time they arrived here the children were very subdued. We sat down and had an impromptu lunch and chat.
Such an incident happening to someone so young and so suddenly generates so many emotions and so many thoughts. It was decided that we should not be negative and mope but be thankful for every minute that we do have to enjoy time and, particularly, time with the children. So we just set off to Ahuriri (part of Napier on the coast) and for three hours sat on the beach, played, ate slushies and chips and were thoughtful, a bit teary at moments and very thankful at others.
And that was only half of what happened yesterday. It was an emotionally long day. Waking up seemed a very long time ago.
In New Zealand we all expect bare feet. Lots of them. In fact bare feet is a way of life. See That Season from last visit's blog as an example. It is usual, for example, to remove your shoes when you enter a house. It is not unusual in the summer to see people walking barefoot even in the streets. It was, however, a bit of a surprise after the News tonight to see the otherwise impecably dressed presenter run across the screen barefoot.
I've never seen our neighbour on the other side of the orchard and, in fact, I can only just see the top of his house now that the huge high windbreak hedging has been trimmed. Helicopters are a common sight and sound here. They are used a lot for spraying and transport and, of course, hospital and rescue. I was, however, just a bit surprised a few days ago when I became aware of one coming into the bowl in which The Cottage is situated. Apparently our neighbour's other mode of transport is a chopper.
It looks so tiny
Refueling and chat with friends before parking for the night
We may be apart but when I look at the sky and remember that we are standing on the same earth, looking at the same moon, somehow you don't seem so far away after all.
Life isn't about dawdling to the grave, arriving safely in an attractive, wrinkle-free body but rather an adventure that ends skidding in sideways, champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, totally worn out, screaming "Yee-ha. What a ride!!"
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain. (With thanks to shabby girl of A Travelling Fish )
Feeling young is fabulous but growing old is a blessing!!! (A comment on this blog by Jaz of Treacy Travels.)
The trick to pushing 70, GB, is to push back -- hard!!! (A comment by Carol aka Canadian Chickadee)
Like a Godwit I migrate. I live in New Zealand during the Southern Hemisphere's Summer and I live in Scotland's Outer Hebrides in the Northern Hemisphere's Summer (See Eagleton Notes). In both places I also live in Blogland which, for me, is as real a life as any other.
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