Monday, 31 May 2010

I’m no Terrorist!

Earlier this week while still in London I spotted this recycling container for used batteries.  Now we are always being told to be green and recycle, but I have never seen one of these before. New Zealand should take note.New Zealand 075

I received a touch on the shoulder from the Store Manager asking what I was doing.  She politely told me that in this country one is not supposed to take photos in a shop due to the threat of terrorism.  On hearing my accent and explanation she laughed and said one couldn’t be too sure.  It shows how touchy people have become on this side of the world and the threat of terrorism is so real.  How lucky we are to consider New Zealand our home.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Back Afloat.

Great Haywood, Trent & Mersey.

New Zealand 068Night time approaching overlooking the Hutt Valley

After a month ashore in New Zealand, which turned out to be a very busy and fruitful period in our lives, it was time to return to Blighty and Gypsy Rover. We landed at Heathrow on Tuesday afternoon planning to spend a couple of night’s at our daughter’s place in Wimbledon.

New Zealand 072That’s our baby waiting for fuel in Hong Kong

Even though we were both tired and jet lagged after our 26 hour flight via Hong Kong in which we got very little sleep, we still had things to do. Wednesday morning we caught the train out to Cranham, Essex to visit Cranham Caravans and Motorhomes initially just to discuss what was involved in buying a Motorhome to replace Gypsy Rover when we sell her some time this year.

New Zealand 073Resting while in transit at Hong Kong

After lengthy discussions with Ian, the Manager and Paul, his Sales Manager we placed an order for an Autotrail Arapoho. Due to the way Autotrail now operate since the recession, orders must be placed at least 5 month’s in advance especially if you want a model with an automatic gearbox. It’s not the way we would choose to do business but as the saying goes “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. Having taken the plunge so to speak it was back to Wimbledon to reflect upon the days activities.

Thursday arrived all too soon and it was another day on the trains ,this time back to Stafford and Great Haywood Marina. As we had plenty of luggage we caught a taxi from the station back to the marina where we guided the driver to where we had left the boat. Shock horror, no Gypsy Rover, so it was back to the office to find out where she was presently moored. We eventually found her tucked away among the shared ownership boats. Apparently when the workshop lads had finished the blacking last week they were unable to return her to the original mooring due to very strong winds so just left her where we found her. The only problem with this was that we had arranged for somebody to run the engine a couple of times a week to keep the fridge working. At this other mooring they were unable to fulfil this task and after a week the battery was below 11 volts and the fridge shut down. Still we didn’t lose too much, a bit of cheese and spread.

This morning we filled the water tank and then went down to the facilities block for a pump out before we headed back out onto the “Cut”. Being a Bank holiday week-end, moorings are as scarce as hen’s teeth but we managed to find one halfway between the junction and the lock in which we only just squeezed in between 2 other boats. After a quick trip into Stafford to visit the Bank and restock the larder, we will probably stop here for the week-end and start heading South on Tuesday.

New Zealand 077 Two hitch hikers but we're not going anywhere just yet

Saturday, 22 May 2010

New Zealand’s own icon!

Picture [800x600]

“WORLD FAMOUS IN NEW ZEALAND.  There’s nothing like L&P, a little Kiwi classic with loads of fresh taste.  She’s a legend our Lemon and Paeroa…..and kiwi as.  There’s heaps of stories to tell about this favourite fruity drop…..but the important stuff is when it all started.  Take a trip to sunny Paeroa, back in the good old days, where some local blokes found an awesome underground spring.  Yep, right under their noses loads of super  fresh water.  Fact is, water’s water but it ain’t L&P.  It wasn’t until some bright spark had the idea of putting something in it, L&P came to life. C-h-o-i-c-e!  With a little bit of lemon and a sprinkling of magic (the secret formula). the little Kiwi beauty we know and love was born.”

© Coca Cola Amatil (NZ)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Farewell Simba!

Picture 087 Dot and Simba share a moment before his move to Hastings

After nearly 4 years in the UK Dot’s cat Simba certainly had not forgotten her when we returned home. We went to say our goodbyes on Sunday as we thought it was better for him to head north with his step father Richard and have another new life chasing the chooks on the farm. Simba has always been a good hunter but it was not always appreciated when he brought home large rats and deposited them on the floor beside Dots side of the bed for approval.

Picture 116

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Valley Flyer!

Picture 095 One of the many changes in Lower Hutt, new colourful buses.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Family BBQ

Before we return to the UK it was decided to hold a family BBQ where we could catch up with family members we had been unable to see previously. Saturday afternoon the weather was perfect but by the time evening rolled around so did the clouds and occasional showers. Luckily we had earlier erected a sunshade over the BBQ area which kept the worst of the rain off. All the grandchildren apart from the eldest two residing north and south and their parents were all assembled at Brent's home where we are currently staying.

Our home in Stokes Valley was in much disarray with son Richard in the process of shifting out and moving up to Hastings and his new job. Our home is now newly rented to Beverley (Richard’s Partner Andrea’s) mother and we are all happy.

Karen is also shifting to a larger property next weekend too so we were left to field the BBQ.  Brent's home is overlooking the valley and has a deck around three sides and the children had great fun in exploring the large section.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

High Tea at the James Cook Hotel

Picture 108 From the left Eileen, Pamela, Jenny, Dot and Kathryn

On Saturday the girls from the Caravan Club had midday High Tea, at the iconic James Cook Hotel overlooking Wellington and the harbour.  This reminded me of High Tea at the Ritz in London with Tracey, Mark and Richard back in 2004. Unlimited tea and coffee accompanied the lovely array of goodies.  Kathryn was the only tea drinker amongst us  and the others had lattes and cappuccinos and I am sure that we all managed 3 or more cups.  What an extravagance? Would you believe that we couldn't even finish eating it all and even asked for a doggy bag.  Very reasonable it was too and well worth another visit sometime in the future.

Picture 110 Jenny admiring our plate of goodies

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Back with the gang.

Greytown, Wairarapa. New Zealand

IMG_0033 [800x600]Club caravans parked around the central power supply at Greytown Caravan park.

This week-end was our Caravan Club’s rally week-end at Greytown. Saturday morning we were up bright and early for the trip over the Rimutaka hill to the Wairarapa. Now for those unfamiliar with this road it is 13 km of twisty winding road from Upper Hutt to Featherston rising 555m above sea level. This hill has a lot of history with it’s patch, repair and improve policy as and when money was available. They are at present carrying out straightening and widening work on what is known as Muldoon’s corner named after a Finance Minister, later Prime Minister as it was to the right and very tight.

IMG_0031 [800x600]Club members gathered at the park facilities block for morning tea.

Many decades ago a railway tunnel was put through the hill to alleviate a very complex and labour intensive railway system using a type of rack and pinion railway to get trains over the hill but the government of the time claimed a road tunnel would not be cost effective so never came to fruition. So motorist’s wishing to use this route have to grin and bear what can be quite hair raising depending on road and weather conditions. This can be anything from mist, gale force winds or snow and ice but this week-end the weather has been fine and warm.

IMG_0034 [800x600]Graham’s target range. All you had to do was hit a target from 5 feet with a spud gun.

Once at the camp site we were warmly greeted by our club friends some of whom we hadn’t seen for 4 years. The Rally Captain for the week-end was Graeme and Kathryn so we knew we were in for some fun and games as Graeme has quite a quirky sense of humour dreaming up all sorts of mad schemes. Our friends Robin and Jenny kindly offered to share their meals with us as we had no caravan or cooking facilities. Unfortunately Greytown Motor camp doesn’t have cabins or motels so we had to travel 7km up the road to Carterton Motor camp where we booked into a back packers cabin for Saturday night.

IMG_0036 [800x600]Derek in the foreground loading his spud gun for a shot on the target range.

The week-end was over all too quickly as we all had plenty to talk about and catch up on. New caravans and tow vehicles to inspect as well as catching up with what has been happening within the camping fraternity in the last 4 years. It was great to catch up with all our old friends and we look forward to returning into the fold permanently when we return to NZ in the not too distant future.

IMG_0047 [800x600]Judging time for the floral arrangement competition all made with plastic flowers.

Monday, 3 May 2010

That was scary!

On Friday we both went our separate ways, Dot, North to Auckland and me, South to Nelson. Dot flew Air NZ on a Boeing 737 which could easily handle the windy conditions of Wellington which was a stiff northerly with a slight cross wind across the runway. As my trip was a last minute decision the cheapest way I could find was Sounds Air which operate Cessna 208 Caravans. These are 12 seater aircraft originally designed for carrying freight to small airports and air strips. They have a very good safety record and there are something like 1700 of them flying around the world.

photo Auckland waterfront taken from West Haven Marina on Saturday afternoon

I had been watching aircraft coming and going while waiting and noticed that all the planes landing came down with the starboard wing lifting in the wind and the planes port side wheels hitting the runway first. Aircraft taking off were being bounced around but nothing too serious. The earlier Sounds Air Cessna seemed to get away without too much trouble so I didn’t think any more about it.

Once aboard, I sat behind the co-pilot, we had a slight delay due to a back log of aircraft waiting to land and take off. While waiting the plane was bouncing around a bit but this was nothing compared to what was to come. On take off the pilot was having trouble keeping the plane in a straight line on the runway and we had no sooner got off the ground when the plane tipped violently to the left. The pilot corrected this tipping us severely in the opposite direction. This happened several times before we reached 1000 feet above the end of the runway. At this point we were out over water in Evans Bay when the aircraft dropped a couple of hundred feet. Everybody’s hearts were in their mouths at this stage. It wasn’t until we reached 3000 feet that things started to settle down but even then it was still bumpy all the way up to 9000 feet before it calmed down completely.

Landing at Nelson was a breeze compared to the take off and we were all glad to be back on terra firma. The return trip on Sunday couldn’t have been more different with a clear sky and just the occasional cloud and very little wind. It was good looking down on Picton and the Marlborough Sounds with two Inter Island ferries passing by. Passing over the suburbs of Makara with the new Wind Turbine farm now up and running, and Ngaio where I spotted my old home.