Home is Where the Cat Is

I’m home. Phew. Right now I am feeling very tired and all I want to do is go to bed, but I intend to stay up for a few hours more. Also, I need to finish unpacking my bag.
New Zealand is amazing. Stunning. Beautiful. Pick your own adjective. I need to start saving for a second trip to the South Island. I’m glad I didn’t go there this time because it would have been so intense, and like going through a list, ticking off places seen. That’s not my preferred type of tourism. You can’t see everything. And sometimes the more you try to see the less you appreciate, understand or remember.
MasterB was not quite sure how to react when I arrived home. He was pleased to see me, but he and Birgit have established a different routine over the last five weeks, now he has to readapt to my routine. Right now he’s curled up beside me. He couldn’t be closer. He has also seen Celia who I bumped into on the Walworth Road when I was heading for the mobile phone shop to get a new U.K. sim to replace the one I lost.
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A Last Evening in Napier

There were only five of us on the wine tour on Wednesday, all of us from the UK; two from London, three from Scotland. For four of us, this was our visit to Napier and the surrounding area. Where we have stayed will have informed our opinions, our impressions of the place. Two of the women were staying in very swish hotels in the town centre; the couple from Isla at a more remote place on the Maraekakaho Road. I am at the top of the hill, on a road called Bay View, for fairly obvious reasons.

View of the bay from Bay View Road


While I was walking about yesterday, I met both of the women who were staying in the town. One was about to leave, and the other was planning a visit to the aquarium. It felt nice to be able to hail a familiar face, stand on the pavement and chat for a few minutes, and it also underlined how small a place Napier is. I met a friend of Lyn and Malcolm’s today who told me about the two degrees of separation people experience in Wellington. I’ve experienced that frequently in Northern Ireland, and surprisingly often in London.
Monica and I talked about both Napier and London, about our mothers’ dementia, about poetry, dodgy painful joints (her hip, my knee) and a host of other subjects. We got on. I got my map out and asked her if she could tell me how to get to Bluff Hill, a lookout point Lyn and Malcolm had said I should see. It looked tantalisingly close to Bay View Road but there was no obvious route. I had seen one signpost, but although I had been walking in that direction, not seen another. Monica drove me there. Quite honestly, having seen the up, down, and up again, complete with a twisty road devoid of pavement, I don’t think I could have got there any other way. Continue reading

More Napier

I packed two summer dresses for my NZ trip and I hadn’t worn either of them until today. It’s not that the morning as any warmer than before, in fact a cool breeze was blowing, but having watched the forecast I realised it was now or never. I did accessorise with leggings and a cardigan, but it felt good, and my landlady admired my outfit. However, it looked like it might rain later. Kindly, Jenni offered me an umbrella to take with me. I forgot it. So I was keeping one eye on the clouds, alert to a few drops of rain that fell, ready to dive for cover if necessary. I put my cardigan on and took it off again. My sunglasses were sometimes on my nose, and sometimes dangling from their cord. The sun shone, the clouds scudded over. It is, after all, spring.
I walked past Lyn and Malcolm’s old house when I went into town, but I’m not sure if it was the white one or the dark one. I admit I was distracted by a a friendly yellow Labrador.
Pearl had turned up to see me just before I left. Apparently she can be quite shy, so I am honoured that she let me lift her up and succumbed to a cuddle and a chin scratch with closed eyes and purrs. She is difficult to photograph as she wants to investigate the camera, so I took this one through the window.

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This morning’s Pearl

She reminds me of MasterB, sweet natured, chubby and a bit nervy.
Today’s plan was to do one of the self-guided tours of Napier’s famous Art Deco buildings. Although I was hobbling, taking photographs, asssiduously reading the information and looking at other things besides, I realised I was getting around pretty quickly.
I kept trying to reach Monica, a friend of Lyn and Malcolm’s. We had liaised by email and agreed that I would text her. I didn’t want to use all my mobile data, so I kept turning it off, checking every half hour or so to see if she had responded. We finally made contact mid afternoon as I sat down to watch the film about the earthquake. With luck, we’ll meet tomorrow.
I took lots of photos, far more than I am going to post here. Not all my photos were of the buildings.
Outside one shop was a bench, a pile of wool, some knitting needles and an invitation to contribute to their effort to yarn bomb the bench. Who could refuse? Not I. Only later did I realise the colours were very similar to one of my favourite buildings. If go by tomorrow I shall do a few more rows.

Hildebrandt’s Building

An invitation to knit

Hildebrandt’s Building

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Napier

There’s a cool breeze and out of the sun I am shivering. Which is why although I am sitting outside my room, or rather rooms at this very wonderful place I am staying, I am wearing my warm jacket and drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea. I am not a tea drinker. I don’t mind Lapsang, but I don’t have any. So Earl Grey it is, probably courtesy of a previous visitor.
Here is what I am looking at when I raise my eyes from the screen.

View from my terrace


It’s pretty good, I think you’ll agree. Actually it’s better than good as I shall try to explain.
The coach from Wellington arrived in Napier more or less on time. I had been told I’d be able to get a taxi from near the bus stop. A quick look left and right revealed no taxis, but a fine row of public toilets. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that I headed over to them straight away. I so wish I had photographed them. They were immaculate, and with tiles that would not be out of place in a private bathroom. U.K. councils please note; these are what public conveniences should be like. There was a supermarket near by so I decided to pop in, get some provisions and ask the staff about the taxis.
The first part went to plan, the second seemed to go better than planned when the staff offered to call the taxi company for me. It’ll be here soon, they told me.
After fifteen minutes had passed and no taxi, I was wondering how the company defined soon. The nice staff called again. It’ll be here in a couple of minutes they were told. You can probably guess I am telling this story as two minutes stretched into ten more, then twenty. After thirty minutes, they called again and this time were told the taxis were all at the airport where a number of flights had arrived and they could not say when one would be free to take my fare. I really didn’t want to trundle my bag up a steep hill in what was now night to a place I had never seen in wind and rain, but it was starting to look like that might be my best option. I’d give it a bit longer.
Are you still waiting? asked one of the assistants. I nodded. I’ll call them, he said. I don’t know what magic he worked, but I shall be for ever grateful to him as not much later a taxi duly arrived. I had been in Napier for around an hour and a half. The driver, an Iraqi who has lived in NZ for 18 years, apologised. He told me Mondays are slow for taxi drivers, so most take the day off. Those that were working were all at the airport. On our short journey he told me how much he loves London, but he supports Liverpool FC, so his dream is to visit Anfield. His mother and brothers are also in Napier, though other Iraqis he knew when he first arrived have left for Auckland or Sydney. We found the address, I paid him, he helped me out with my bag and we parted, each wishing the other the best of health and a good future.
Down the steps in the dark to the front door, and Jenni came out to meet me. We each took one handle of my bag to go down a further set of steps to my rooms. A black cat wreathed around us. A cat! I exclaimed, somewhat superfluously. That’s Aeris, she told me. Just shoo him away if you don’t likes cats. We have two. The other one is Pearl. But I do like cats, I said, and I am missing mine extremely.
As I am writing this Aeris has just appeared beside me. He is nineteen, getting thin, has cataracts and very few teeth, but is undoubtedly a still a handsome fellow.
We bonded.
I didn’t meet Pearl until this morning. She’s a young cat, a roll poly beauty.

Pearl


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Petone

There’s a walking trail from near Nadia’s house to Petone which she hadn’t had the opportunity to try out. I wanted to visit to Petone. Thus our plan for today was hatched. The trail follows the Hutt River, and so is imaginatively named the Hutt River Trail.

I have had a blister on my foot which is both surprising as I have been wearing my boots for some years, and painful, but today it was quite quiet. I have run out of Devil’s Claw tincture which I take for my poorly knee and Nadia has sore ankles.

Nonetheless we set out with high hearts. It’s a shared walking and cycling trail. Quite early on I remarked that it would be great to do on a bike. For me the absolute highlight was seeing a Tui in the tree directly above me. I stared at it, then reached for my camera. Too late, it flew away. There was a nice section through bush, but to be honest, as walks go, it was pretty dull, with little variety to keep us interested. Unsurprising we saw my cyclists than walkers. After 16km we called it a day and took the bus into Petone and a latish lunch.

The most interesting bit

The map

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Rest Day

All this culture and sightseeing is hard work, so today I had a rest day. Nadia was working in the garden. She hasn’t lived in this house for long, and it’s a bit of a project. She has lots of plans for when time and money allow, and as it was yet another glorious day, she was keen to get into her gardening gear and get on with it.
I hung out the washing, and performed a few indoor chores, prepared some food for tonight, and once the sun had dropped a little, set off to explore Upper Hutt, a ten minute walk away and a chance to look at the neighbours’ houses.

Garden furniture


So far my knowledge of this neighbourhood has been confined to the walk from the station to the supermarket and then home.
I was surprised to find how big it is. There is lots I didn’t see, but I homed in on a shop selling eco friendly products and second hand vinyl. Then I found the Turkish restaurant. I was hoping for a deli attached too, but it wasn’t to be. However, a few doors down I found the Indian shop which is where I shall head if I run out of lentils. The independent book shop was frankly disappointing, but at the chain store I found an A-Z of London in convenient size for just $5. Bargain.
Not sure about the gun shop though.
The cycle racks are well designed, there is far more street sculpture and art than I photographed on this tour.

Walk this way


Cool bin

Monsters go this way

Spaghetti bike rack

Cool bike rack

Not sure about this one


I shall have to go back. Continue reading

Master Class

I have just watched a master class in feline assertion.

The very cuddly and vocal Manx cat next door whose owner wants him to be an indoor cat was in our garden. Mr Manx is not on the same page as his owner and is making himself known in various gardens.

I didn’t see him at first. I chanced to look out of the window and saw Hartley and his brother Smudge, side by side in identical postures; crouched, focused, silent; watching, I thought, potential prey just out of my sight behind the bike shed.

Then Mr Manx strolled into view. He barely glanced at the brothers, just continued a relaxed perambulation. A game of feline grandmother’s footsteps ensued. Romeo appeared from the direction of my car. Three to one: Mr Manx’s prospects did not look promising. MasterB joined me at the window, and I do hope he took due and careful note of what happened next.  Continue reading

Two Faces of Humanity

I missed the opening minutes of the news on Channel 4 tonight but tuned in to hear that 1300 people of the Windrush Generation have been identified as suffering the effects of Theresa May’s vaunted Hostile Environment. Make that 1300 so far. Think about that number. It’s not small, it’s not insignificant. Imagine 1300 of your neighbours being told they had no right to remain in this country. I used to live in a village with a population of 600. It would have been emptied twice over. I’ve worked in schools with 1000 pupils. Imagine them all gone, and their teachers and maybe all the pupils and staff from the local primary school too to make up the 1300.

What times we live in. Continue reading

Pet Remembrance Day 2018

Since Cat died 20th March 2011 I have invited people to join me the Sunday following the anniversary in remembering our pets. It began the week after Cat died and brought me tremendous comfort. I was overwhelmed by people who emailed me telling me stories of their pets, how much they had loved them, how much they missed them, how much they appreciated those animals’ contribution to their lives.

Often when a pet dies it’s hard to talk about it. Colleagues can be unsympathetic; it’s only a cat/dog/guinea pig is a fairly common response. Yet it is normal and right to grieve, and wrong if we have to hide our grief, be made to feel ashamed, made to feel weak or foolish.
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