Friday, 30 November 2012

Frantic Friday

When I write emails I occasionally use completely nonsensical or random headings: a habit that gets some people trying to work out what went on in my head at that moment.  The answer of course is usually 'very little'.   Sometimes, like the above heading, the reason is obvious although completely untruthful.  Today I have a whole day with no need to go out so that I can catch up with some things and prepare tonight's family dinner which is a special one: The Family's Son One, Jamie, leaves on Sunday for his gap year.  His first stop will be Scotland to see family and then to work in Switzerland for the ski season before going to China to stay with his aunt who teaches there and take a Chinese language course.  Chinese is considered an important language to learn in this part of the world.

Actually this week has been so busy I've not blogged (yesterday's Thankful Thursday was done a while ago) and I've only played one croquet match.  It was an exciting one though.  It was a handicap match with me giving the other played 7 free turns (called bisques).  At the 3 hour time limit I was in turn with three hoops needed to win. I broke down after two hoops leaving the game level pegging (I wonder if that's where the term came from because pegs are used to mark hoops made in croquet).  That means that you play on until someone makes a hoop.  I eventually had an opportunity to fire at the hoop with a shot from a few metres away which, if I had missed, would have given my opponent an almost certain win.  My ball hit the hoop quite hard, rattled around and just trickled through ending up where you see it in the photo.  Results don't come much narrower than that.

Yesterday I went to a fitness studio (a gym by any other name) where they tailor a course for you and then monitor you right through the session (a sort of poor person's personal trainer).  The purpose is to strengthen my leg muscles so that they are fitter when I get my knee replaced and also to do some cardiac work.  I haven't been to a gym since the cardiac sessions after heart attack 12 years ago.  I was fully expecting to ache all over this morning but I don't.  That presumably means that either I'm fitter than I thought or that the initial workout was not challenging or both.  Next session could well be a different matter!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Thankful Thursday: Wikipedia

Do you know?
Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project operated by the Wikimedia Foundation and based on an openly editable model. The name "Wikipedia" is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning "quick") and encyclopedia.

The founder, Jimmy Wales, decided that there would be no advertising and therefore no distractions and no perception of influence by advertisers.

Google and Yahoo have thousands of servers and staff. Wiki has about 800 servers and 150 staff.

Wikipedia is the #5 site on the web and serves 450 million different people every month – with billions of page views.
Anyone can contribute or edit Wikipedia.
How often do you use Wikipedia?

Have you ever contributed or edited Wikipedia?

Oddly whilst I was drafting this a while ago Mark wrote two interesting blog posts on the subject of Wikipedia:  In Wikipedia we trust and The Apocryphal Cow .

Anyone using Wikipedia at the moment will see a banner:
Dear Wikipedia readers: We are non-profit, but also the #5 website in the world. With 450 million monthly users, we have costs like any top site: servers, power, rent, programs, staff and legal help. To protect our independence, we'll never run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations averaging about $30. If everyone reading this gave $5, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. If Wikipedia is useful to you, please help keep it online another year. Thank you, from the Wikimedia Foundation.
Last year when the banner appeared it occurred to me that I use Wikipedia a lot and I often use quotes and occasionally pictures from it too.  So I decided that instead of seeing advertisements come to Wiki I would pay for the use I had made of it.

This year I did the same: The response was quite enlightening:
Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation.
It's easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I'm really glad you didn't. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills --- people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it's not perfect, they know it's written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody's PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that's not true. We aim to tell the truth, and we can do that because of you. The fact that you fund the site keeps us independent and able to deliver what you need and want from Wikipedia. Exactly as it should be.

You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who’s teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who’s just discovered Carl Sagan.

On behalf of those people, and the half-billion other readers of Wikipedia and its sister sites and projects, I thank you for joining us in our effort to make the sum of all human knowledge available for everyone. Your donation makes the world a better place. Thank you.
So this week I'm thankful  for Wikipedia.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Vets

Yesterday I won the Veterans Association Croquet Handicap Singles.  I could have made that a Thankful Thursday post but for the fact that when we returned to the Motel we invited several lots of  croquet people staying at the motel to join us in our (very spacious) unit for a wee libation and  some nibbles and after that a croquet friend staying nearby in his campervan joined us for dinner and by the time he departed it was bedtime and I was far too tired to do as I am tonight and sit up and write a post.

This morning when Judy woke me with a cup of tea at 0545 I wondered how it was that I could have had all that sleep and still feel so tired.  

As I surveyed all the wine bottles I wondered what on earth the person cleaning the unit would have thought of us so I decided to write him/her a little note.  The motel owner said this evening that he's heard the story!  The cleaner just left us a little addendum to our note.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

It's 10 o'clock in Dannevirke

I'm in Dannevirke.  It's 10pm on Tuesday which means that it's 10am in most of Continental Europe,  9am Tuesday in the UK, 5am Tuesday in Georgetown,  4am Tuesday in Sarnia/Toronto and 1am Tuesday in California.  How informative and how boring is all that?

The Girls are asleep and I'm tired and will soon be asleep too.  We will all be up at the crack of dawn for the start of the Veterans' Croquet Tournament at 8.30 in the morning.

It's been a strange day (so what's new?) starting with the expectation of ferrying a sick child to the Doc for a certificate to say that he couldn't attend school for an exam (he went to school anyway) and being the NZ call centre for dear friend Pat on Lewis whose computer had disengaged itself from the internet and her lifeline to the real world - er, cyberworld.  It's one of the few ways I can repay her for all that she does for me looking after my affairs in Scotland while I'm swanning away into the New Zealand sun (well that's the theory).

Bye for now.  More soon.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Be Careful

Despite being attributed as an old Chinese Proverb (which it may well be) and to Goethe and W W Jacobs the imprecation to be careful what you wish for because it may come true is actually difficult if not impossible to attribute to an original source.  In fact it has probably come from so many independent and different sources there is no one origin.  In any case so far as I am concerned I said it - albeit I was not the first.  "And what" may we ask "are we to be careful about?"  Actually in this case it is a warning from me to me.  

I haven't written a blog post a for days (why oh why does the spillchucker not recognise blog and Blogger?) and I am really missing it.  I have been in Blogland reading though.  Why have I not posted?  Because life back in NZ has been busier this time than ever just as my last summer in Europe was one of the busiest I can remember.

I almost found myself wishing that I wasn't so busy.  Then I stopped myself.  Just think if I couldn't play croquet; if I couldn't drive and travel and see all my friends; if I didn't have all those friends and family; if I were housebound; if I didn't have the money to travel to tournaments; and so on.  The list is endless.   The lifestyle I enjoy so much may have its frustrations but those frustrations are born out of a lack of time to do everything that I want to do.  How much more frustrating it would be if I had all the time and I didn't have those things to fill it.

One day I may well not be able to do everything.  One day time may be in such plentiful supply that I will look back on my life at the moment and be very, very grateful.

In the meantime I shall be very careful what I wish for.

On a lighter note here are a few titbits for you:

A female (possibly immature) Chaffinch 2 metres from me on the deck watches me as she clears up the night's bugs
"I'm watching you."
The Honeysuckle is doing well this year.
Life's good and I'm going to tell the world
And who are you looking at?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Thankful Thursday

Alzheimers Disease or dementia is a condition that scares me more, far more, than the cancer that was supposed to have claimed me some years ago.  

I once worked doing 'foreigners' driving for an undertaker.  It's a long story involving me doing a favour for a friend.  One day - perhaps - I might blog about it.

Whilst I never tell jokes about dementia and whilst I have a healthy respect for people at a time of bereavement I am also aware that caring for people with dementia and being an undertaker require one to have a well-developed sense of humour if one is not to succumb to mind-numbing heaviness of heart and even depression.

A few weeks ago I posted on Eagleton Notes about Kestrels on Lewis.   The reason that has stuck in my mind - indeed preyed upon it - is that I was so sure that I'd never previously seen a Kestrel on Lewis despite having posted about one a few months previously.  How could I have forgotten?  What else had I forgotten?

Now, unlike my Brother CJ, and my Uncle who had a photographic memory, I have never had a good memory.  In fact I have always had an appalling memory.  I have to make lists of everything especially things I may need when shopping.  Then, of course, I have to remember that I've made a particular list and in the case of a shopping list I have to remember to take it with me [I now use my iPhone for shopping lists which partly gets over that problem].

I was thinking about all this this evening when I put on a DVD whilst I was having my dinner only to discover that it's the umpteenth DVD I've put on that I've already seen.  Of course I can't recall the ending any more than I could recall the endings of the others.  So I can at least watch it again with a degree of enjoyment.

When I started this post I had some idea in my mind of where it was going and what it was supposed to lead to and how I was going to tie it into being thankful.  Now I've forgotten.  

Ah well at least I can be thankful that I've always had a bad memory so I have less concern about the possibility that not being able to recall things now is related to age or illness.

For that I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Little Mouse

I saw this Italian Fiat 500 nicknamed Il Topolino in Napier yesterday at the garage where I have my car attended to.  Unfortunately I didn't pop in and ask what year the car was from.  I shall try and find out but I know that this particular Fiat model was one of half a million manufactured between 1936 and 1955.  So that narrows it down a bit.   Actually having said that, this particular shape finished in 1949 and I would hazard a guess that this is an earlier rather than a later model citing in support the lack of thin chrome bumpers on a 1938 model.

Topolino means "little mouse" in Italian.  It is possible that the name came from Micky Mouse who was also known by that name.

The car was one of the smallest cars made at the time and was also one of the most popular cars around that size.

Presumably I have seen one before but I have to confess that if I have I can't ever recall it.  Despite the number made and it's popularity, information I've gleaned from the web would suggest that it is relatively rare.

I think it is one of the prettiest cars I have ever seen.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Don't Read This Fi!

Actually, Fi (of Four Paws and Whiskers) almost certainly knows more about the book Time to Eat the Dog (written by Robert and Brenda Vale of Wellington University here in New Zealand) than I do.  It would seem that the book has not received universal acclaim for a number of reasons.  However it's given lots of people a bone on which to chew and people like the motoring press have had a ball as demonstrated by the following article from the Auto Express:

I thought that I'd share it with you.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Postman's Block

I've always known that my life in New Zealand is more organised than my Scottish life because I have croquet and Family and other commitments apart from anything else.  However I hadn't bargained on the fact that my first week back would be so full on and fully occupied.   Today I took the day off and caught up with The Cottage and Blogland and now all I have to do is conquer the inertia that has overtaken me as far as actually writing a blog post is concerned.  

I wondered whether my six months without picking up a croquet mallet would mean that I lost my rhythm and ability.   The answer would seem to be that I should take six months off more frequently because I have played ten games since I got back and won 9 of them.

In many ways it's as if I haven't been away:

Jacquie Hudson is still presenting her live Countdown (Supermarket) morning slot

Thursday's weather forecast.  Of course it wasn't like that today - it was warm but cloudy all day.
My first Christmas Card (from the UK) arrived the day after I did.
The first lot of cornflake crunch has been made and devoured already

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Thankful Thursday

I cannot believe that I have spent five nights (albeit only four days) back here at The Cottage.  The time has flown by with hardly a second to spare.  Indeed I still haven't put all my clothes on their hangers in the wardrobe yet.  Usually I have emptied The Cupboard and put everything back where it belongs before I go to bed on the first night.  I arrived too late on Saturday this time and by the time I went to bed the bedroom was a chaotic mess.  Since then somehow life has overtaken me.  

The living room clock changed earlier in the year when the last one ceased to function but the reminders of friends and, in particular a friend in a far place, welcomed me back.

As did Comet:

Then there was wine and chocolates and a note from the lady who had rented The Cottage for the last few months and Wendy had put in flowers from the garden

So today I am thankful for the welcome back that I have received from everyone.  There are few things more comforting and reassuring in life than a sense of belonging.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Journey

I know many people for whom the journey is the enjoyment: it is better to have travelled and not arrived than not to have travelled at all.  Generally speaking I travel purely as a means of moving myself from one place to another.  I travel as a means to an end and not as a means in itself.  That doesn't mean that I cannot and sometimes do not enjoy the journey or at least parts of it and occasionally, of course, I do travel for travel's sake but not usually by air.

So on my travels from Lewis to Napier there were some good moments: over the Scottish Highlands in late afternoon as the light fades on a cloudy and cold evening:

The picture from the camera on the tailplane of the Emirates Airbus A380-800 flying at 39,000 feet over Australia

and over the Tasman towards  a rather cloudy New Zealand

Seating around 500 passengers these babies are BIG but very comfortable with excellent facilities on board.

The one irritation was in Auckland.  Air New Zealand have now automated their check-in system.  The Domestic Terminal is about 10 minutes quick walk from the International Terminal or there is a 15 minute bus service.  Transfers are easy though because you just exit International arrivals, walk a couple of yards and book in and leave baggage at the transfer area.  Unless you are later than 60 minutes from the domestic flight.  I had 5 minutes to spare but by the time I'd fathomed the system had managed to get it to read my ticket (which it initially refused to do) I was 1 minute late.  Human beings allow for that (I've started so I'll finish) but machines don't.  So I had to walk my luggage (I just missed a bus and the next bus would mean me missing my connection) to Domestic.  It's that part of travel I don't like.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Life So Different

Here in New Zealand I'm starting to write this post at 0530 on Sunday the 4 November.  In Scotland it will be 1630 on Friday 3 November and by the time you have had a night's sleep I will be thinking about Sunday dinner.

There is so much to tell and so much to read that I could spend the day in Blogland but realistically it will be a while before I can catch up.  Today will be spent re-adjusting to my Antipodean life: a life so different in almost every way from my life in Scotland.  Today I will empty The Cupboard and put all my Things where they belong and the wardrobe, chest of drawers and cupboards will no longer be empty, the study will have all my paraphernalia in it and The Cottage will once more be My Space instead of being either unoccupied or someone else's space.  Today I will catch up with my friends here and back in Scotland.  Today I will go into Napier and get some odds and ends but really I will go in to feel the wind in my face with the lid off The Handbag and to see what changes have taken place since I was here last - it is only 6 months yet already I have seen huge changes.

I arrived back in Napier just before 5pm last evening to 23℃.  After having said hello to The Cottage and The Handbag I went up to The House and we all had a swim in the pool (water 31℃!) before some time in the spa (water 39℃), a shower and then up to The House to catch up and have dinner.  Conversation ranged from catching up with all our foreign trips to current topics of interest ranging from the impending US Presidential Election to gay marriage and Scottish Independence. This was not typical of an evening back on Lewis!

At around 1030 I wandered back to The Cottage in pitch darkness happy and tired, got into bed put the laptop on my knee and fell fast asleep. After about an hour I woke - still with the laptop on my knee - and horrendous cramp in both feet.  Oddly I notice that I had excruciating cramp first night back in bed here last year.  After that I slept until I was woken by a great deal of noise at around 0520.  The dawn chorus being led by a blackbird about 2 metres from my head (but on the other side of the wall, of course).  Despite the clear sky and thus the 7℃ of the dawn morning I threw open the ranch sliders and listened: blackbirds, thrushes, tuis, bell birds, pukekos (they don't have a song but their screech can waken the dead) and every other bird in the area seemed to be celebrating the new dawn.  Tweny minutes later and silence reigned - almost.

This morning, though, I have had to make a conscious effort to chill and just take things as they come.  I'm writing this sitting in bed, on my third cup of Earl Grey (note to check if there are lemons on the trees in the orchard - it's handy having a 5 acre 'garden' - and, if not, get when I'm out).  I'm sitting in bed because the temperature in The Cottage is probably around 16℃ and for indoors that's cold for me.   Here we tend to put on more clothes, in Scotland I just turn up the central heating.  The telecom cellphone signal has disappeared and I've spent ages sorting out the changes to my cellphones, computers and so on necessitated by the semi-permanent change of home. Everything is different from where I keep things to my 'favourite' mug, my clothes, my eating habits and just about everything else.  It has always been thus when changing from one place to another although the real difference is that here I have to re-establish myself because everything was put away so that The Cottage could be let whereas when I return to Eagleton everything will pretty much be as I left it when I walked out last Wednesday afternoon.  In the scheme of things though all this is small stuff and as Marcel taught me years ago I try not to sweat the small stuff.

So without further ado I shall post that which I have written so far and I shall try and post some photos and some more about the journey and so on before bed tonight because by tomorrow it will be croquet and my New Zealand life will have started in earnest.

Friday, 2 November 2012

I'm on my way

I'm in Glasgow.  In a few hours time I shall be on my way back to Napier.  This time though I shall not be traveling via Los Angeles or Hong Kong but via Dubai and Australia.  I've been quite lucky given the chaos that transatlantic air travel is in as a result of Superstorm Sandy.  My loyalty to Air New Zealand has been interrupted by the fact that ANZ wanted almost twice as much as Emirates to get me from Scotland to New Zealand.  So in a few hours I shall set off for Napier on a different route to usual:

Leave Glasgow Thu 2045 Arriving Dubai Fri 0815 (local time) Friday 0415 (UK time)
Leave Dubai Fri 1010 (Local time)
Arrive Auckland Saturday 1345 (local time) Saturday 0045 (UK time)
Leave Auckland 1545 (local time) 0245 (UK time) Arrive Napier 1645 (local time) 0345 (UK time)