In Which Celia and Isobel Go for a Walk in Search of Bluebells

I have so many posts half composed in my head, but unwritten and unposted: stray cats, blogging v WhatsApp, Brexit (again), amazing books, homelessness, climate crisis, MasterB. You get the picture. Maybe in time. But tonight, as we come to the end of Easter weekend, and the sun is shining, the blossom is still blossoming, the air has a gentle, mellow air, quite at odds with the political climate, I want to write about yesterday’s walk in Surrey.

Above the town

Above the town

Farm building

Farm building

Lush

Lush

I was born in Surrey and grew up there. I took its hills, its green fields, its bluebell woods for granted. You still get to enjoy these things in Surrey when your parents aren’t stockbrokers.

Bluebells

Bluebells

In leaf

In leaf

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Keeping it Sane

It’s been a busy week and a productive one. No, I am not talking about Brexit, though a new extension has been granted by the long-suffering EU until October. It sounds a good amount of time, six whole months, but once you subtract the days the house isn’t sitting it’s more like three. Mark Francois has made an arse of himself (again) by making threats to the EU and reading poetry aloud very badly, yet some people think he should lead the Tory party. Hello? Theresa May, whose air miles must be enough to get her to the moon and back by now, returned to the house and made the same speech again. Is it obstinacy, lack of imagination, or a plan to just wear people down? She does an aggressive upward look, reminiscent of Princess Diana, across the floor of the house to anyone who dares contradict her. Whatever the question was, Brexit is not the answer. Tonight, when the news was on, I deliberately left the room to avoid seeing the Farago announcing his new Brexit party with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata on side as a prospective candidate. Some huge percentage of the adult population says it is suffering from Brexit related stress and anxiety. Tell me about it. I wake up from dreams about it.
Anyway, it’s Friday night and time for a bit of a break, though I fully intend to watch Have I Got News For You at nine o’clock, and I have already listened to the News Quiz. It’s like a itch I can’t help scratching. As though Brexit anxiety wasn’t enough, I have been worried about MasterB for the last couple of days. He has been under the weather, sleeping hugely, not nagging me much to play, taking only a cursory interest in his food. This morning, before I went to work, I rang the vet practice and talked to one of the nurses, describing his symptoms. If she told me to keep a close eye on things once, she told me a dozen times. Being Chief Litter Tray Monitor, I am well versed in MasterB’s bowel movements. Normally his digestive system functions admirably well, just the odd pungent smell from his hind quarters when he is sitting beside me, or the popping sound of wind breaking in tiny bursts. So I was able to say that yesterday’s deposit was less solid than usual. Today’s was even less solid than yesterday’s, so it seems something has upset his tum. I’m hoping he’s on the mend now as he has just led me to the kitchen and had a few mouthfuls of the wet food in his bowl, and his interest in biscuits has definitely returned. So long as it’s nothing serious, a few days of restricted calories might be just what he needs to shift the stubborn superfluous 500g he’s carrying.

 

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Dandelion Days

I’m watching the news where we keep switching back to the Commons chamber where a series of votes are taking place. So far the House has voted against a No Deal Brexit, which is fine, but if the EU, understandably frustrated by the situation, decides it does not want to engage with this pantomime anymore we shall leave with a no deal.
I don’t want to leave at all.
However, it is all too likely that a month from now I shall be living in a country unmoored. Prices will go up but income will go down. We are warned of empty shelves in the shops. I can buy lentils and so on, but what of green veg? Well, the answer maybe dandelion leaves. I was doing a spot of weeding on Monday, and as I dug out some dandelion plants I noted their young green leaves. So I separated them from the other weeds, chopped off their roots, brought them indoors, washed them and popped them in the fridge. Continue reading

New Toy

MasterB has a new toy. He likes it very much. It’s a gift from Octavia who read about it in a magazine at the vet surgery where she had taken the Grey Ninja for her annual check up. Normally Octavia would not read the magazines on offer, but she had forgotten her ‘phone. It’s a good thing I was sitting down when she told me: Octavia without her ‘phone? Unbelievable. I thought at the very least surgery would have been involved to achieve such a scenario.
It was a good outcome for the Grey Ninja and MasterB though as, in the said magazine, Octavia read about honeysuckle wood, an alternative to catnip, and something most cats love. As I said before, MasterB’s opinion was positive. It was also immediately evident.

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Winds of change

Nineteen days until the UK leaves the EU and we still don’t know how it’s going to work. Or not. Any pretence at smoothly running government has long since gone. In many ways this is far more interesting, and I do hope the same old familiar party lines will not reappear 30th March. Anyone who thinks that it’ll be over in any aspect is deluding themself. There is no sign of the fat lady waiting to grab the microphone, though quite a few people with megaphones and a lot of flags. The far right have (again) grabbed the Union flag. This does annnoy me. It’s my flag too and I don’t see why a bunch of nationalists should be allowed to wave it about as though they are its keepers.
So while flagged deprived, I have finally filled in my application for my Irish passport, having received an answer to my query about whether I could submit a witnessed copy of my UK passport rather than the real thing.
I am supping with Octavia, and she will witness my signature, sign my passport photos in which I look like the perfect candidate for the post of Rat Catcher in Chief, and endorse my photocopy.
Then it’s a matter of some six weeks wait. Continue reading

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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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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Wellington

99271CF6-8C82-404F-94C7-7CF730C9B97DTwo days into my visit to Wellington, and two days of contrasting weather. Yesterday it rained. When we left the house it was quite light rain, but by the time the train drew into the city station it was gathering force.

Wet weather in Wellington


Fortunately our main goal was the museum, not a stroll along the harbour. Nadia introduced me to some new spots, and then we had an early and d kicious lunch. At Te Papa museum Nadia parked herself in the café and got on with some writing. I joined the queue to see the exhibition about Gallipoli.

Gallipoli, Te Papa

I’m not sure how long I spent in the exhibition, but it was nearer two hours than one. It is very well done, using the stories of individuals to give a picture of the whole. By the time I reached the end I was a paid up admirer of William Malone, and my heart ached for Charlotte, the nurse who followed her brother to Gallipoli, only learning of his death four months after it happened.
Normally two hours is about the limit of my concentration in a museum or gallery, but there was a small exhibition commemorating the 125 years since No women got the vote, and another small one on immigration. I spent quite a while in the exhibition on refugees who have been made welcome in NZ. In these times where refugees are frequently repulsed and demonised by the very societies which have helped to cause the chaos and fear they are fleeing, it is heartening to read of those who have managed to make new lives in a welcoming country.
The rain had continued to fall while we were in Te Papa, and it was hoods up, heads down all the way to the station.

Wellington railway station

We made it home via the supermarket and changed out of clothes that were by now very wet. Continue reading

Awesome

Some rare things merit the very overused adjective, awesome.
Tane Mahuta is such a one. This tree, dating back some 1200 years, reminds you how insignificant we humans are. The trunk is some six metres across, has a girth of 13.8 metres, and the lowest branches are 18 metres above the ground. You might expect a huge canopy of branches and leaves, but there isn’t one. Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, wants plants at its base, but under the ground its shallow roots spread out in a wide circle.

Tane Mahuta


It stands in the Waipoua Kauri Forest. The Forest is threatened by Kauri dieback, so strict footwear hygiene must be observed.

Hygiene precautions

Tane Mahuta


We drove from Doubtless Bay, Mangonui to take the ferry from Narrows to Rawene, where I spotted avocados being sold outside someone’s house for a dollar each.

Waiting for the ferry at Narrows

Malcolm bought two. I took pictures of two boathouses now being used for other purposes.

Boathouse turned café

Then it was onwards and upwards, mainly upwards, to the Waipoura Kauri Forest.

Forest

Lyn was at the wheel. We had a couple of stops where I climbed out of the car to take photos.

Breathtaking


Open air

Stunning

New Zealand was not behind the door when scenery was handed out. Breathtaking, green, magnificent; awesome. On our coach trip on Wednesday we went to Cape Reinga. It was a long way from home.

A long way from home

Lighthouse Cape Reinga

However hard I found the long flight from London, it was much easier than Kupe’s journey here to Aotearoa from Hawaiki. We watched as waves from the Pacific met waves from the Tasman Sea, causing frothing circles.

Where the seas meet

Reaching the lighthouse we passed several information boards. It was very well done, and I felt surprisingly moved. It felt a fitting place for spirits to be leaping to their homes in an ever afterlife. Continue reading