Christmas is Coming

Crumbs. We’re already a third of the way through December. Funny to think that tomorrow it’ll be two weeks since I left New Zealand for home. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago; in others I still feel in my head that I am there. A sort of bicultural existence. I think it’s called processing. Most days I find myself thinking about Lyn and Malcolm, about Nadia. Nadia and I exchanged a few WhatsApps about a book I gave her; Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. Nadia and I became friends when we attended the same mosaics class, but there is more than mosaics to our friendship. Nadia writes. One of these days I am going to be crowing about her novel, which will be published after she has edited it for the millionth time. OK I exaggerate, but the draft I read years ago was pretty polished in my opinion, and I am getting impatient too see it in Waterstome’s. We share an interest in literature. Good books inform our lives, improve our lives. There was a moment on the train into Wellington when I was telling her about the book group I belong to. Nadia has resisted book groups. Like me, she has felt they are not necessarily A Good Thing. I explained how our book group works, and told her it is particularly good when M, a respected novelist, attends.She is extremely knowledgeable, never patronising, and keeps us on task. Nadia’s eyes widened. It turned out that M is one of her favourite writers. If only she still lived in London she could join us. On the other hand, I shouldn’t have seen Wellington with her and through, to some extent, her eyes.

I am still percolating my New Zealand holiday. Odd things come to mind to be examined and considered from a distance in time and place. Nadia introduced me to a police drama series that one of her friends writes for. It’s called Brokenshaw. It’s dry, well written, funny, but not comical. I loved it. It turns out it’s on here too, on the Drama Channel, a channel I have never watched. So I settled down to enjoy an episode, only to find it was one I had seen in Wellington. It doesn’t seem I can watch others on catch up. Darn. Lyn and Malcolm like a programme called The Chase. It turns out that it’s a British programme, broadcast here on daytime tv. Since coming home I have seen several trailers for it. Funny I had never heard of it before visiting NZ. Continue reading

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Dunes

I have over as thousand pictures from my NZ trip. While I was there I posted, but there lots of places we went to that I didn’t mention. These photos are from our trip to the misleadingly named Ninety Mile Beach.

sea and sand


We were on a coach, driven along the sands at low tide. We met quite a few people walking in the opposite direction. They were embarking on a long distance walk. I became somewhat obsessed wondering how they got supplies of fresh water.

sand and green


Also, beautiful though it undoubtedly was, it wouldn’t be my idea of a great walk. I like variety, shelter, shade, greenery.
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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 Backward Glance

I go home in two days. Last night I arrived back in Auckland and was reunited with Lyn and Malcolm. The coach journey had been long but not particularly eventful. We left Napier over half an hour late as the driver had to wait for the coach from Wellington to arrive. So one delay lead to another. I had to change coaches at Taupo. More delays as there was a cycle race around the lake, so we stood in the drizzle by the two portaloos before finally boarding. The coach was pretty full. I got a seat next to a young woman and sat down. Unfortunately there was a woman with two young children in the seats behind us. I say unfortunately as the children cried and kicked our seats. Thank heavens for noise cancelling headphones.
When the woman and her children got out some two hours later, the young woman beside me turned to me with relief. Apparently the children had been swearing for most of the journey.
Auckland toady is wet. It may be wet tomorrow. I don’t know. But it is fairly safe to assume most of photos have now been taken.
I haven’t written about everywhere I have visited, nor have I posted pictures of all the places I have seen, though you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
So I thought today and tomorrow I might put up some of those pictures. Not necessarily the best, the most carefully composed, they are snaps, things that remind me of different stages and people I have met on this journey. I’ll try to put up some more tomorrow.
First up the miracle worker who prepared my fabulous lunch when we visited the Hundertwasser toilets.

The miracle worker


This panel was close by.

Remembrance of animals past

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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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Wine Tour

No pictures tonight. Aeris has claimed my knee, and my bag, with my camera inside it along with other useful things like my phone is out of reach. The tv remote is in reach, as is my iPad. I have an old rerun of QI on, whuch features Barry Cryer which is great, but unfortunately Jeremy Clarkson is also on, which isn’t. Into all lives some rain must fall.
I can also reach my glass. Water, in case you are wondering.
Today I went on a Wine Tour. New Zealand is famous for wine and this is the main wine growing region of New Zealand, so not to imbibe would be almost st rude.
My guide, Greg, collected me from my accommodation which saved me a walk down into the town. We were a small group, just five of us, all from the U.K.. there was a couple from Isla which I guessed has a small population. I asked the, 3000 they said. So there’s a chance you know my ex neighbour Adam S, I said. Yes, he is a good friend of our son Alan, they got up to some mischief together when they were boys. There you go. Continue reading

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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Last Day in Wellington

As the last phase of my holiday approaches my thoughts are increasingly turning towards home. I think that’s natural. I was just talking about it with Nadia, saying I was quite looking forward to it, and we agreed that is a good thing. You should want to go home at the end of a holiday, however good it is. If you don’t, it probably says something about how you feel about where you live. A holiday is a break, a chance to experience unfamiliar places, catch up with friends in other locations, not an escape.
However, my NZ holiday is not over yet. Tomorrow I leave Nadia and Wellington and take the coach to Napier. I’m hoping a day sitting with as many leg stretches as I can manage is going to ease the pain in my right knee. I foolishly did not bring enough Devil’Claw tincture with me, a herbal supplement endorsed by the Arthritis Society. It is not known why it works, but it does. I have tried rationing it, but ran out completely the other day. So today, a return trip to Petone included trying to track down some capsules. I prefer the tincture, but the capsules are more easily available. No joy in Petone, but I was told I might get them in Lower Hutt, which by luck I was planning to visit later. I limped slowly around Petone, and made it into the museum.

Petone Settlers’ Museum

It is small but beautifully formed, and I recommend it.

Welcome

Foyer Petone Settlers’ Museum

Petone Settlers’ Museum

The guy on duty, or ‘host’ as he described himself, was friendly and informative. We stood by the window looking out at the beach where the European settlers had landed. A couple with a rather lovely chocolate Labrador walked by.
I was trying to decide if I had time to revisit the Cat Adoption Café, but at this stage of the day we were planning to go to the cinema this evening, and my walking was very slow. As left the museum I saw the same couple with their chocolate Labrador coming back. Naturally, I had to have a cuddle. It turned out I was cuddling a celebrity. Ollie (the dog) has been on television, the first dog to work in a hospital helping with the rehabilitation of people who have had strokes.

Ollie

You can read about him here. Hats off to him and his OT owner Kerry for innovative good practice.
The day had started cloudy. Rain was forecast. But by now the sun was out and the temperature had risen. I had not brought sunglasses (though I had their case), sunscreen or hat. Mistake. I walked along, shielding my face, hugging the bits of shade. So when I saw a bus stop and bus due in one minute for Lower Hutt, I waited and climbed aboard. Phew. My reason for visiting was the Dowse Art Museum, but I had an added incentive. My search for Devil’s Claw in Petone had failed, but I had been advised to try Health 2000 at Lower Hutt’s Queensgate Centre.
I shall spare you all the details. Suffice it to say the shop was out of Devil’s Claw. The assistant kindly checked if the Napier branch had any. No. But I did come away with an alternative so fingers crossed.
Nadia doesn’t rate the Dowse Art Museum, but even before I went in I saw something I liked.

Metal monster

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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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