Sunday, 29 December 2013

To e or not to e? That is The Question

Why do you send Christmas cards?

I used to send well over a hundred Christmas cards.  Gradually the number has dropped.  A few years ago after I'd been in NZ for a couple of years I decided to drop them altogether.  Sending Christmas cards is not a Big Thing in NZ.   However that never quite materialised and this year the number has risen again to somewhere around 40.   I still like sending them as a way of keeping in touch and letting people know that I'm thinking of them but I don't see the ones sent to Scotland until May (although Pat opens them and emails me the details) but they have dropped off each year (in fact I may not have any this year).  All the cards I send go overseas.  I don't know of anyone in NZ who sends cards apart from the occasional one to overseas relatives.  The thing is that the number of cards I've received has dropped significantly.  I'm sure one reason is that we keep in touch a lot more by other means: emails, texts, Skype, Facetime, Facebook and all these means of communication mean that if we want to keep in touch we generally do.  If the only communication is a card at Christmas I think one has to ask 'what's the point?'.

This year, for the first time, I received a significant number of ecards (I'm going to call them ecards and not e-cards to keep them on a par with emails):  Jacquie Lawson cards.  I've always wondered about them.  You look at them and then what?  I'm not sure that you can keep them but then why would you want to?  Mind you I have Christmas cards from some people going back to the year dot but then I'm a sentimental creature underneath this bluff exterior.

Anyway it seems that ecards are now acceptable to quite a lot of my friends.

Of course Christmas cards are not the only cards.  There are birthday cards too and all sorts of other cards although an ecard might be pointless to many people in hospital and I really can't see anyone sending an ecard for a bereavement.

Another problem I foresee in relation to Christmas cards is a problem someone sending me a card doesn't have.  I am me and only me.  What about couples and families?  Is the person who opens the email going to call everyone over to view it?

So do you still send Christmas cards (and if so do you send ecards) and what would you think if you received an ecard? 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Day: Part 3

Christmas dinner with The Family this evening:

Only another 364 days and 36 minutes and it'll be Christmas.

Christmas Day: Part 2

Christmas day with The Family is quite a traditional day.  Not in terms of the traditional Christmas Day but in terms of how it is for The Family: a tradition I have been fortunate to have been part of for the last eight Christmases.  There is always the Christmas stocking.  Carol in Cairns happened to mention a Slinky in her post a few days ago. I had a Slinky.  My children had a Slinky. When I have
grand children they shall have a Slinky.  What did I find in my stocking?  You guessed it: a Slinky.  All I need to find now is some stairs down which to let it run.

After the traditional breakfast (which for various reasons turned out to be at lunchtime but no one cared) of freshly baked croissants with bacon, eggs, bananas and maple syrup we embarked on a game of 7 Wonders.  It is somewhere between a card game and a board game and is very complicated.  Although I'd never heard of it is a very popular game.  Jamie seems to have played it around the world and did the tutoring and the count-up at the end which seemed even more complicated than the game.  The scores were pretty close which was understandable given that I don't think a single one of us (bar Jamie who was too busy explaining things) understood what was going on.

After all that I came back to The Cottage for a respite (and to make, by popular demand, a version of a prawn cocktail for starters before a huge lamb roast).

The rest of The Family enjoyed the pool and the spa:

Catriona is now the proud owner of a sewing machine.  Now I know where to go when I need my sewing done.

And now for Christmas Dinner.

Christmas Day: Part 1

0623 and I woke after sleeping the sleep of the dead since I put my head on the pillow at 0047 this morning.  What is it with this digital age that has robbed us of 'around twenty past six' or 'just before 1 o'clock this morning'?

I had switched off the 'do not disturb' on my phone so that I could hear when any emails came in.  The last thing that I did before I went to sleep was reply to an email from Spesh on Lewis.  Her news was that despite the world creaking around them they were safe and sound and had electricity.  Gaz's news was pretty much the same.  No ferries and the Braighe (between the Eye Peninsula where my house is and the rest of Lewis) was closed because of the storm.

I woke, picked up my phone and there was an email from Spesh saying that all was well and the storm was abating although it was predicted to pick up again at the high tide.

This year as I look out at a fairly chilly (for us) morning and drink my first cup of hot water and lemon I have been reading and watching the BBC news on the laptop and thinking about all those who have had their Christmas - and sometimes their lives - turned upside down.  It would be just as bad to me at any time but somehow being Christmas it adds a new dimension to it.  

To all my friends who believe in celebrating this day as being special in the calendar for religious purposes I wish you the peace to do so.  For those of you who do not celebrate Christmas because it's not part of your culture I wish you the peace to carry on as normal.  For those of you who are just hoping to have a good time with family and friends and eat too much and indulge far too much in the excesses of wanton materialism then I wish you a happy day nonetheless.

In the meantime spare a thought for the millions in our own countries across the world who would like to celebrate but who have nothing at this time (or any other time come to that): those who have no one with whom to share Christmas; those who are too poor to indulge in the rampant materialism; and those who have no food on their plate (indeed no plate even).

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Am I Being Paranoid?

Red often comments on my posts but why, I wondered, is he not posting at the moment.  So I went to my dashboard and saw that his last post on the reading list was four weeks ago.  In fact he had lots of posts four weeks ago. ?  What it didn't tell me is that he has written many posts since then.

Somewhere, I would guess, around 1964 I read Joseph Heller's Catch 22.  At that time I was deeply into the Russian novels and so Catch 22 was a refreshingly different type of satire and I can recall even now that it made a big impression on me at the time.  I've read it once since - perhaps in the '70s.  

So when I was wondering why Blogger seems constantly to ignore posts from my friends in Blogland or post them to my reading list at seemingly random times Yossarian's words from Catch 22 came back to me:  'Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you'.

In fact I think that Catch 22 probably has more memorable quotes in it than any other book I've read. I've just been reminding myself of some of them.

So Red or anyone else who wonders why I am not visiting (bearing in mind I don't always comment) if you happen to read this you will now probably know why.

Monday, 23 December 2013

I Know

that there has to be an explanation.  I just don't know what it is.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The First BBQ of The Season

It's been late coming this year when many Kiwis will have been BBQing for several months (and that's not counting those who BBQ all year around) but this evening Martin cooked a BBQ.  It's been a fabulous day - I played two croquet matches: one this morning and one this afternoon.  After we'd eaten The Family and Misty went for a walk.  I came as far as The Cottage and then retired to watch an episode of Midsomer Murders and have a wee brandy.  Tomorrow is another day and I know it will be busy with a trip to the farmers market and then visitors in the late afternoon.

Today is the longest day.  Although at the solstice the sun actually stands still for a moment in astrological time before reversing to all intents and purposes our days will get shorter from now on (scary thought in that I've only been back here a short time) and if you are living in the Northern hemisphere your days will be getting longer.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Sunny Napier

We've had our fair share of sun this spring and summer so far.  I was in town a few days ago and some of the old vehicles were sitting down on Marine Parade.  It's a happy place.

Late afternoons most days last week we had thunderstorms to clear the air and leave the evenings nice and cool.  This photo doesn't really tell you how dark the clouds were but they were very, very dark.

I should add that it's just been on The News that Napier was the hottest place in New Zealand today at 31℃.

Friday, 20 December 2013


What was the greatest thing before sliced bread?

Marcel wants to know.

I've been racking my brain. 

To help you if you come from somewhere unfamiliar with the saying, here is Wiki's opening on the subject: sliced bread is a loaf of bread that has been pre-sliced with a machine and packaged for convenience.  It was first sold in 1928, advertised as "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped".  This led to the popular phrase, "the greatest thing since sliced bread".

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Would You Do This?

I was puzzled recently by a helicopter buzzing around for a good bit of the day.  I couldn't see it most of the time just hear it.  Then when I happened to go up to The House I saw it in the distance hovering with a line below it.  It struck me as being odd because it was above high voltage power lines.  Later I saw it quite high up travelling quite quickly with something dangling below it.  It turned out to be two people.  Apparently they were power line workers suspended below a helicopter and working on the lines.  Not a job I'd want methinks.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Do you dislike the term 'Xmas'?  Do you know why you dislike it?

I disliked it because I thought it was a lazy abbreviation which avoided the reason for the term Christmas with the emphasis on Christ and popularly associated with a trend towards materialism and non-observance of the particular cultural and religious ritual.

As I have come to realise in life I was, once again, wrong.

The history of the word “Xmas” is actually more respectable — and fascinating — than you might suspect.  Apparently it was first used in the mid 1500s. X is the Greek letter “chi” the initial letter in the word Χριστός which, much to my surprise, means “Christ.” X has been an acceptable representation of the word “Christ” for hundreds of years. This device is known as a Christogram (symbol of Christ). The mas in Xmas is the Old English word for “mass.”  
I think I still prefer Christmas though.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Spirit of Christmas

No I don't mean a good malt whisky either (although........).

Back in 2007 I wrote a post Christmas Comes But Once a Year.  I'm not sure anyone other than family and a few friends who wanted to keep up were reading my blog back then.   I've just re-read the post and it's a pretty good description still of my view of Christmas.

In 2010 I posted about My Christmas Tree.  That was special and it still comes out each year.  It's out this year.  However this year it's been joined by another one.  So I now have two Christmas trees and my Christmas decoration on show.

My new Christmas tree arrived with Catriona by special delivery a few days ago.  You can give me all the gold in the world and it would not mean as much to me as this:

Thank you Catriona.  You've made my Christmas.

Monday, 16 December 2013


It is six years since I posted about the Pukeko or Purple Swamp Hen: one of New Zealand's indigenous birds.   There's a lot around here and quite a few in the orchard in front of The Cottage.  A few days ago I saw one feeding its young.  It was some distance away and in the long grass of the paddock.  When standing erect they are about half a metre tall.  I did post about one in an apple tree here.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thankful Thursday

It's getting late.  I'd almost forgotten that it is Thursday.  When one is retired one day is very much like any other.  So what have I got to be thankful for today?  Lots obviously.

I don't usually go with these answering questions things on blogs but Jenny did a very interesting post (all her posts are interesting actually) a few days ago and invited her readers to answer some questions (you'll find out why if you read her post - those of you who haven't already done so).  I thought that I'd share the questions and my answers:

1. If there is one candy left in the box, do  you have to eat it, or can you leave it sitting there all alone for the next few weeks?
A. I'd probably eat it if I was in the mood simply so that I could dispose of the box and have one less thing cluttering the fridge or cupboard.

2. What do you want to remember most of all, if you survive to be very old?
A1. I'm getting to the stage when I'd be very happy to remember anything when I get very old.
A2. I'm really not sure that I want to get very old although my parents both lived full and happy lives into their 90s. They both had excellent memories at the time of their deaths.  I've never had an even half decent memory.

3. Would you enjoy being a very rich and famous celebrity? ( after all you don't HAVE to be like the unedifying Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson and pay someone £1,600 a week to clean your silver and gold collection....)
A. Rich perhaps. Famous definitely not.

4. Which of the photos in this post is your favourite and why do you like it?
A. Learning to ski.  I have no idea why but it touched my heart and my eyes.

5. What piece of music do you personally find most emotionally moving?
A. That is an impossible question to answer.   I listen to music most of the time and what I listen to depends upon the mood I'm in although it's mostly what is referred to as classical.  I can be moved almost to tears by a piece of piano music or by some of Gounod's Mass to St Cecelia: the list is endless.  On the other hand Laura Branigan and Bonnie Tyler also sing songs with great emotion.

6. How do you deal with anxiety, depression and bad times?
A. Once you've been told that you are going to die and that it's likely to be sooner rather than later anxiety, depression and bad times just don't exist any more.  If I wake up in the morning then it's a good day.  It really doesn't matter what shit is delivered it's likely to be small stuff and there's no point in sweating the small stuff.

7. What do you love doing that bores everyone else stiff?
A. Hopefully not blogging.  I've learned not to mention croquet to The Family.

8. Did you ever encounter an inanimate object that seemed to have a will of its own?
A.  Not apart from my croquet mallet.

9. What is your very favourite hotel or restaurant? (This blog does have "travel" in the title, after all)
A.  I've thought long and hard about this and I just can't answer it.  There are just too many I really enjoy or have enjoyed for various reasons: some very expensive and some very simple.  I feel very at home though having coffee or a simple lunch at The Woodlands Centre on Lewis.

10.  Do you think prisoners who have committed particularly vile crimes should be segregated in jail for their own safety?
A. Perhaps many of them should possibly be segregated for the safety of others.  I suspect, though, that you were thinking of vile crimes perpetrated against children and so on.  That's a more difficult question to answer.

11. What do you wish you had known when you were 18? (if you are under 18, ignore this question
A. When I was 16 I was a teenager so I knew everything.  By the time I was 18 I realised that there were things I didn't know. Now at nearly 70 I can't remember what they were.

The funny thing is that looking back I'd answer some of the questions differently even though only a few days have passed since I wrote those answers.

If you feel like answering any of the questions I'd be interested to know your answers.  

So what made me think of this for Thankful Thursday?  Question 6.  I woke up this morning.  It's been a very good day.  For that I'm thankful.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Happiness is

getting a punnet of cherries at a roadside stall, putting them on the passenger seat and then eating cherries whilst driving with the hood down on a beautiful day on country roads (and disposing of the stones by shooting them out of the car with a u-shaped tongue - but I wouldn't tell you that).

I can never see or eat a cherry without thinking about the series of posts that Katherine wrote here which started with a punnet of cherries and ended with a painting .

It was another of Katherine's posts a few days ago which pointed me in the direction of a recipe here on Cro Magnon Man's blog.  It was for bread which looked rather tasty and easy to make.  This evening I decided that I was going to have a dinner of fresh bread and cheese and tomato and lovely things like that.  I make most of my own bread in Eagleton but I use a breadmaker.  I got this one decidedly wrong.  Firstly I made it a bit too moist and secondly I discovered that my oven's 200℃ and a real 200℃ are quite far apart.  The bread tasted good but was decidedly overdone.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Ford Zephyr and Zodiac Mark IV

Was this one of the worst cars that Ford ever produced?

This is one of the first of the Mark IV Ford Zodiacs that I can recall having seen for decades.  About 102,000 of the Zephyr and 49,000 of the Zodiac and Executive were made.  The three-litre model (which I don't think was available in the UK) was quickly adopted by Ford New Zealand which had originally launched the Mk IV Zephyr assembled locally from knock down kits with the 2.5-litre V6.  They had received complaints it was underpowered for a country where towing boats and caravans was common. Ford New Zealand also introduced optional floor shift and bucket seats as an alternative to the standard column shift and bench front seat and a large number of Zephyrs were built in this form, with other modifications, for New Zealand's traffic police.

I'm not short of stories about Ford Zephyrs and Zodiacs but you'll be glad to know that I shall spare you most of them although I did reverse a Mk III into a lamp post in Keswick one day in broad daylight.

When I married in 1970 I did so from a friend's house which was much nearer to the church on the Wirral than my parent's house in Liverpool.  My friend - a larger than life character both physically and mentally (he became a judge) - had a new Ford Execitive Mk IV.  It was not particularly reliable but was very impressive.  To Dvorak's 4th Symphony on the sound system, we eventually managed to get to the church in reasonable time.  Later, at the time of the birth of our first son I had influenza and collapsed at the hospital.  I vaguely remember the same friend carrying me like a child (I was 5'10" and 133 lb (60 kilos) at the time), putting me on the back seat of the Ford, taking me home and putting me to bed.

Monday, 9 December 2013


Well I think it is.  This photo is taken from my deck with my Canon SX50 HS with the lens at 4.3 mm (35mm equivalent 24 mm):

This picture is taken of the sticker in the rear window of the car at 215 mm (35mm equivalent 1200 mm) in indifferent light.

This picture was taken a few days previously in good light.  The Pheasant was to the right of the furthest away Highland Bull in the first picture where there is a large clump of vegetation by the fence.  Again it is taken at 215 mm (35mm equivalent 1200 mm).

 All these photos were taken with the camera hand held with no support at all.

I accept that the quality of the photos is not magazine or professional quality but then this camera cost less than some professional lens filters or a reasonable carbon fibre tripod.

I think modern technology has achieved wonders in this field.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

It's Sunday

I recall some while ago that there was a general consensus among some fellow bloggers that weekend posts were less read than weekday ones.   On that basis I shall do my Oxford Comma post today.  Frances wrote a post entitled The Essential Colon recently.  Frances likes colons and semi-colons.  So do I.  Flippantly I commented "Let's eat Grandma. Let's eat, Grandma. Punctuation can save lives. I love colons and semi-colons. I use the Oxford [I actually said 'Cambridge comma' silly billy that I am], though, so perhaps, to some, I'm not a purist."  Actually my brother CJ (aka Scriptor Senex wrote a piece on the Oxford Comma entitled, with his usual pithy directness 'The Oxford Comma' in August last year.

To be honest I don't have any strong views on the Oxford Comma (and as I get older on fewer and fewer other things either).  However, whilst I may not use it when there is no particular need for it I do use it when I feel that there is.

The Oxford Comma' is an optional comma before the word 'and' at the end of a list: I like coffee, chocolate, and budgerigars.  Actually I'm not that fond of budgerigars but I thought it might make you sit up and take a bit more notice.  I probably wouldn't use a comma between 'chocolate' and 'and' in that sentence.

However if I were to write I like coffee and chocolate, bread and butter, and cheese and wine.  Then I would always use a comma between between the penultimate pairing and the 'and' before the last pairing.  That is an Oxford Comma.

Does anyone really care?  I would hazard a guess that if you were to ask all the children under 15 that you know very few, if any, of them would have the slightest idea how to use a colon or a semi-colon and that 99.99(rec)% of the English speaking population wouldn't know what an Oxford Comma is.

I have to face things though: I even split infinitives and end sentences with prepositions sometimes these days.  I don't put commas in addresses on envelopes.  And I sometimes start sentences with prepositions.  All is lost.  Woe is me. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Songbirds a Plenty

Here in New Zealand I've noticed - and I'm not alone - that there are a lot more songbirds around this year than usual: a very lot more!  

My Dad always said that one should never hate anything and I used to pass that advice on to my partner's young daughter.  One day when she said that she hated something (probably Marmite) and I gave her 'a look' she immediately said "Oh very well Graham, I don't like it a very lot".  Since then 'a very lot'  has become part of family usage.  I digressed.

There are a lot more song birds and they are building nests in the bushes round The Cottage as if it was about to go out of fashion.  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps they know something I don't know.

This is the first nest from the olive tree just outside The Cottage deck/verandah

and this is it's occupant

I can't say that he/she is the prettiest little baby I've seen.  In fact 'fearsome' is more how I'd describe the visage. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Modern Technology

I'm a self-confessed technophile.  I love technology: most of the time.  Sometimes, of course, technology and I have a falling out.  We almost always kiss and make up though.  Which is what happened last week.  Ever since I arrived back in New Zealand my iPhone had refused to connect to the internet via the mobile 3G network.  I have had to use a wifi connection.  I only noticed the problem when I went to Dannevirke and had to use the mobile network because most places I've been before then have had wifi.  Various phone calls and visits to NZ Telecom produced no results nor did a trawl of the internet.  Then one day when I had an hour or so 'spare' I decided to take the bull by the horns and sort the problem.  I suddenly remembered that I had a 'special' number for NZ Telecom that I'd been given once before when I had a difficult problem.  It was in my contacts under NZ Telecom and labelled "Complex Problems".  I rang the number.  Immediate reply: no waiting in queues nor long multi-option menus to go through.  I explained the problem and was given an instant solution.  A young lady made an old man very happy.  I'm so easily pleased these days.

On a completely different matter why is it that drug companies supply tablets in packaging that is so difficult to open?  One of my tablets comes in a comparatively easy to open blister pack (as opening blister packs goes that is).  The latest packaging I have been supplied with it in is almost impossible to open without scissors or a razor-sharp hard set of finger-nails.  W H Y ?!?!

Returning to computers and phones and so on I admit to enjoying exploring new aspects of the operating systems of my Apple Macbook and finding and using new apps for my computer and my phone.  Having grown up with computers since I bought my first  Amstrad PC1512 in 1985 which was the first Amstrad introduced I'm fairly au fait with their operation despite their increasing complexity.  It's quite a thought that the first Sputnik that went into space (and many subsequent to that) had less computing power than the average non-smart phone has today.  The Amstrad had no memory to speak of and the programme software was loaded from one floppy disk and the programme data was stored on another.  Ah those were the days.  Long gone thank heaven. 

For those who are interested in smart phones but who find the technology daunting New Zealand Telecom does a wonderful set of short videos on it's catchy website Techinasec.  It's worth a look.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Thankful Thursday

My partial absence from Blogland has meant that I've not even posted a Thankful Thursday post for several weeks.  Today I shall remedy that.  In fact today has been a most enjoyable day so far.  It's been a day of utter mundanity (okay there's no such word: I knew that before the spillchucker threw a wobbly).  I woke and looked out.  It wasn't raining.  Odd.  The forecast had been for torrential rain.  I'd already decided that I was going to have a non-croquet day and, as my Christmas lunch with a friend had been cancelled because of a doctor's appointment - not mine, I decided to go and see if I could get my Christmas cards and a load of other things I needed in town.  Firstly, though, I did some more catching up in Blogland.  I'm almost up to date.

I viewed the sky and trundled into town with the lid on The Handbag. After lots of walking, shopping, coffeeing and crosswording and a trip to Tarradale for things I couldn't get in Napier (and another coffee) I arrived home nearly five hours later by which time the rain had well set in.  

Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you that I also visited the library.  I love soup and today was an ideal day to think about it.  A friend in the UK knows a teacher of drawing with the right side of the brain so I thought I'd try and learn a bit about that too.  I couldn't resist a book on modern manners.  That should be worth a blog post or three. 

One interesting thing I did find out today is that everywhere I had coffee and the New World supermarket in Greenmeadows all had free wifi.  Now there's a real bonus I hadn't been aware of before.

This evening I'm getting ready to make some soda bread mentioned in Katherine's The Last Visible Dog and spicy roasted chickpeas done by Monica in Beyond The Lone Islands before I pop up to The House for a catch-up.

All in all it's been a very satisfactory day and one which makes me very thankful for the life I am able to lead and the health that allows me to make the most of it.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why Am I Here?

No.  This is not a question relating to esoteric wondering about our existence on this planet.  It is simply about why I am here in New Zealand.  It is a question asked by several people arising out of my recent posts.

Catriona aged 4 (2005)
In 2005 (a very difficult time in my life) long-time friends Wendy and Martin who had moved to New Zealand some years previously had repeatedly invited me to visit.  On the spur of the moment one day I accepted the invitation and went on what I expected to be the holiday of my lifetime staying with The Family and touring New Zealand for 6 weeks.  [At that time my cancer was rearing it's head again].

In New Zealand when a child reaches his or her fifth birthday he (or she) graduates from Pre-School and starts attending Junior School on the day after the birthday. When I first visited The Family, Catriona was just four.  I promised to return for the ‘graduation’ on her fifth birthday. I’m not quite sure why but I decided on the spur of the moment when I was booking the plane that I would stay for six months: the whole of the UK's winter.  In September 2006 I set out for what was to be one of the most wonderful and life-changing things that I have ever done.  I have never regretted a single moment.

Now Catriona is a young lady and a weekly boarder at one of New Zealand's premier girls schools and loving every minute of it.  Not yet having any grandchildren it has been a wonderful privilege to watch the children in my adopted family grow from year to year and, in particular, to watch Catriona, to whom I made the original promise which brought me back here, blossom.

Of course it's not all about one person or even about The Family although without them I would not have come in the first place nor returned year after year.  I have made many dear and important friends here in New Zealand and also have the sport which has dominated my life more than any other sport since I gave up fencing and being a fencing coach.  In fact, truth be told, they are the only two sports that I have ever really enjoyed.

[The two recent photos of Catriona are taken from her Facebook page.]

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

I'm Back! So is Jamie.

Not that I've been physically absent from my home; just from Blogland (apart from the occasional visit).  All this living the 'real' life can be very frustrating.  I keep wondering what my Blogland friends are up to and what I am missing.  Of course croquet is to blame.  There was a national tournament taking place at the two local clubs (the one I play at and Te Mata in Havelock North - and, no, there isn't a Havelock South or East or West for that matter although there is an unadorned Havelock down in South Island).  I also had a croquet friend staying which took care of the evenings.  By the time we'd gone over the day's play, eaten and so on it was time for bed and a 6am start for another 9 hours on the lawns (and, in my case over an hours travelling time too).  All in all it was 7 full days and yesterday was housework and catching up.  Today was child taxiing and more housework.  

Well that's me up to date.  Wasn't that exciting?  How did I play?  Don't ask!

On Sunday, though life was quite exciting.  I was on the lawn playing my last (and exciting) game before 8am because at midday I had to collect Jamie (The Family's number one son) who was, unbeknown to them returning from his gap year in Europe and working and learning Chinese in China.  In fact for the two days prior to leaving China Jamie had only had Chinese speaking friends and colleagues to talk to.  The return was to be a surprise for The Family.  Which is exactly what it turned out to be.  For Jamie the sudden return to a relatively unpopulated, quiet, organised sort country which spoke English was quite an experience too.

Air New Zealand's ATR 72-212A on the Auckland Napier flight touches down in Napier

First foot on Napier soil
Home : "You're not due for another two weeks?!"

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

It's Wednesday

Nothing unusual in that.  In fact it's usually Wednesday once week. I've sort have got used to that even though they come much faster than they used to.  

I was expecting to be playing in a tournament today. In fact I will not be playing until Friday. I have, however, spent the last two days and a couple of hours first thing this morning setting out lawns.  I will be doing the same tomorrow morning at crack of dawn.  Assuming, that is, that of the dawn actually does crack.  After five days of fabulous weather at the tournament last week in Dannevirke yesterday evening the heavens opened and they have been open ever since. I am really surprised that our lawns are playable. However I am at The Cottage up in the hills and the lawns are down near the sea where it's often drier even though it's not far away as the metaphorical crow flies. After the warmest November on record so far in New Zealand the temperature has now dropped here at The Cottage to 15°C.  The end of the nice weather was celebrated by a very spectacular thunder and lightning storm last evening.

I was out of Blogland for most of the time during the last week so I thought today I would catch up while I have the opportunity. I have done very little reading and might not get much opportunity because I have a visitor staying for the week playing in the tournament from today until Sunday evening. 

We had five glorious days in Dannevirke.  The Rangatira Croquet Club is a very hospitable place with 6 good lawns.  I managed a third in the Golf Croquet Level Singles.

One of the members has a Triumph 2500 TC vintage 1973.  It's still used as an everyday car and that day was being roped in to pull the trailer of grass cuttings.

On Saturday evening we ate at the RSA and Citizens Club (RSA = Returned Services Association = UK equivalent of the British Legion) and a few of us played snooker.  Judy and I played and one of us won on a black ball game.  It says something (though I'm not sure what) that I can't actually recall which of us it was!  It was a high scoring game though.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Riotous Oldies

It’s 1030 pm.  This, you understand is New Zealand 10.30 pm.  All self respecting 60+s are in bed and asleep.  I’m in a motel unit with three croquet ladies.  The next but one unit is occupied by another 4 croquet ladies.  This is the Veterans Tournament so all are over 60 and anyone in their 60s is probably on the young side.  But these are fit people able to play for 8 and 9 hours a day on their feet concentrating and walking many many kilometres during the day.

And in the evening they ‘relax’.  A small libation may be taken…..many times. A large libation or two as well perhaps.

So picture the scene.  A group of six or so an hour after everyone’s usual bedtime sitting in a unit making enough noise to keep the rest of the smart motel awake.  Croquet person turns up from another motel.  It’s his first ever croquet tournament tomorrow.  He’s forgotten his handicap card (golfers will understand). He’s come to see what he should do.  As if anyone can sort the problem at this hour of the evening.  But... he’s taken a sleeping tablet and is half asleep already.  It’s decided that he should be taken back to his motel.  He’s a teetotal, good-living retired methodist minister and he’s being shepherded down the hight street by an extremely ‘happy’ gang of veteran ladies (some in their night attire). 

Who says the over-sixties are dull.

Oh and by the way I retained my Veteran's  Association Croquet Handicap Singles title.  So I'm happy too.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Sleep, The Great Healer

I was fortunate enough to spend most of my life needing around 5 hours sleep a night.  It meant that I could go to bed late and get up early and maximise my day.  If one takes the years from, say 16 to 56 ie 40 years and adds up all those extra hours - say 3 per night over the average 8 hours/night sleep most people seem to require - I have possibly gained somewhere in the region of 5 years extra waking time.  That's quite a thought.

Of course there is a school of thought that says having less sleep shortens your life.  If that is true then, as Billy Connolly has pointed out,  it will be knocked off the end where I'm least likely to be able to use it to the full.  Did I use those 5 years to the full?  We will never know.

This last week when I was less than on top of the world with a bout (thanks Carol in Cairns) of bronchitis I slept and I slept.  I cannot recall when I last had so much sleep.  Even last night now that the bout is, hopefully, coming to an end I slept for 9 hours.

So tonight now that we are in Dannevirke for the Veterans Croquet Tournament I am anticipating a really good night's sleep too.  It's 9.30pm and two of the girls (a rather loose term) who are proper Kiwis have gone off to bed.  Self-respecting Kiwis go to bed early and get up early.  That's why coffee bars are open at 0630 and close at 1530 (as a generalisation) and why you never ring a Kiwi after 9pm. 

Monday, 18 November 2013


Why, I wondered, was this thrush not just taking the food to the nest? My next wonder was 'where is the nest?' I could see why the bird was trying to sound an alarm call which is difficult with your beak full but her pose said a lot. Comet (The Cat) was on the deck with me. The nest, I discovered later, was in the olive tree which has now grown considerably near the front of The Cottage. 

I'm Back, Sort Of

Sorry but I've been away.  Sort of.  I managed to get a dose of bronchitis.   Does it come in doses or is there another word for it?  Anyway I spent a few days completely comatose between bed and couch.  I'm now trying to get back to normal (with me that's a relative term anyway) so that I can go off to my first tournament tomorrow.  I have a title to defend.

I hadn't had bronchitis since my young teenage years so this bout came as an unpleasant surprise.  The doc's approach was refreshing though.  He gave me a thorough going over and then gave me a prescription for antibiotics but with the proviso that the bronchitis was to run for 7 days first and then if and when the fever broke I would either definitely need them or I would be able to do without them.

On the sixth or seventh night the fever broke whilst I slept.  It was just like the 'good old days'.  The next morning I felt human enough to be able to change the bedding.  I didn't need the antibiotics.  Good call doc.  One thing I have had over the last week or so, though, is a lot of sleep.  And a lot of lethargy.  Hence the lack of blogging and the reason for this apology post now.

Tomorrow I'm off to The Veterans.  A tournament for the over-sixties (I just crept in - well nearly a decade ago actually but it's been a very fast decade) which is held in Dannevirke.  The tournament ends on Sunday and the next one starts on the following Wednesday.  It's all go.  

Hopefully I'll get some posts done during the next few weeks.  If I don't at least you'll know why.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Tale of Two Homes

In my 8 November post Frances posed the question "What do you miss about one home when you're living in the other? Or do you just adapt immediately?" and Julia suggest a post on the subject.  So here we are.

The short answer to the second question is "Yes, I do adapt pretty much immediately" or at least I have this time.  The sort of things that catch me out wherever I am are the small things like trying to remember where that particular tool or kitchen implement is only to remember that it's in the 'other' home.  Adapting from one car (a large, fast, comfortable tourer) to another (a small, nippy, rather cramped fun car) is instant but I've always been used to driving several vehicles.

The way the question was worded would suggest that in order to adapt immediately one should not be missing things.  I do, however, find some big differences and also miss some things very much indeed.

Hawkes Bay is undeniably very much warmer and overall has far better weather than the Isle of Lewis especially as I am here in NZ's summer whilst Lewis languishes in the wind and rain which characterises its winter.  However, and it is a very big however, when I return to NZ I always feel very much colder than when I left Scotland.  Why is that?  It's because when I am outside here or in Scotland I dress according to the weather and temperature.  When I am inside my Lewis house the temperature in the living areas during the day rarely falls below 22℃ because I have central heating and like that temperature: I am my Mother's son and feel the cold terribly (CJ on the other hand is his Father's son and feel the heat terribly).   When, however, I get to NZ the temperature inside The Cottage is more closely allied to the general temperature which, since I returned, has been around 16℃ much of the time during the morning and evening.  In NZ people are more in tune with nature than in the UK and if it gets chilly they put more clothes on.  Simple.  It's also much healthier.

Another thing about NZ is that, as a general rule, fresh food is eaten in season and, usually, produced in NZ.  In the UK few people think about seasonal food.  The supermarkets have everything in all year round sourced from any country in the world that produces what is needed.  The NZ way means that when a food comes into season it is appreciated more.

Of course I miss friends and family when I am away from the country they are in but modern communication makes contact on an almost daily basis a possibility and I know that it'll never be that long before I see them again. 

On the whole, though, I live two very different lives in the two homes.  Here I play croquet, go away to tournaments and socialise a more than I do in the UK.  In Scotland I spend a great deal of time in my garden although I also spend a lot of time away visiting friends and family.

The big problem for me will be when I have to give up my New Zealand life which, eventually, will be inevitable.  I love my two lives.  I can not imagine what it will be like returning to one alone.

Oh, I nearly forgot.  The one thing I do miss in both countries is early spring and daffodils.  I do love daffodils.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Was I Away Somewhere?

I've been back in my Napier home for 96 hours as I start this post.  During those hours I've slotted back into my New Zealand life as if I'd never been away.  There was a time when I walked back into the Croquet Club, for example, and people welcomed me back as though I'd been away for half a lifetime.  Having been back to play my first game this afternoon there were some "welcome back, stranger" comments but it was almost as if I'd not been away during the previous 6 months.  It was the same when I had my hair cut.  Then there is the television: the same programmes; the same adverts.  

What is different is the centre of Napier.  Many buildings have been torn down and are being re-built.  The new Farmers has opened and the old shop has, fortunately, been taken over by another company and is not lying vacant.  A lot of shops have closed and a few new ones opened.  Like everywhere though the signs of the recession in the retail trade seem to be showing.  How so much change can take place in 6 months is amazing.

Friday afternoon was special.  I collected Catriona from Woodford House where she is a weekly boarder.  She had no idea that I had returned or that I was collecting her.  Her welcome was to drop all her books (carefully!) and rush up to give me a huge hug.  We then stopped off at The Strawberry Patch for an ice cream which we ate sitting in the sun.  I took her back to school early this evening (Sunday).

It's 124 hours as I end this post and time for bed (said Zebedee).  Ermintrude would have been very happy with the last few days.

Cloud mass in the deep low over the North Island that greeted my return
First priority: make cornflake crunch
A rally of several hundred motorcyclists this morning at Ahuriri where I was having coffee with a friend
I'm not sure what it was in aid of but most of the riders had teddy bears with them
The Ahuriri boardwalk forms part of many kilometres of foot/cycle path around Napier
Lots and lots of these wild flowers made a wonderful contrast with the azure waters of the Bay
Kiwis doing what Kiwis do
Modern mixes with traditional on Bluff Hill.
All overlooking a friend's house (in the foreground) down on the waterfront
And in front of The Cottage the wonderful scent of Honeysuckle
in full bloom