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April 19th 2011 - Ness Valley

Ok I have been totally shamed into doing another blog!  I have had snide and derogatory comments from various blogees wanting to know why I haven’t blogged for some time – sorry!


Well, where to start? We have been back at Lindsey’s now for several weeks, in fact I’m shocked to see how long it has been, almost a month!  What have we been up to…..?  Well first of all it was my birthday on April 4th and so on the 3rd we all went out for dinner together to a wonderful Thai restaurant.  I got a lovely card from Philly and Ann with a voucher inside for an hour’s massage with Philly (she is a Therapeutic Masseuse). Also, as we were on our travels when it was Clive’s birthday he got one too.  I got a lovely present from Lindsey too, three beautiful little tiles, about two inches square, depicting very characteristic Kiwi icons; the Koru (new fern frond) the Kowhai (pron. co-fi) a native tree and Pouriri leaves from another native tree.  They are absolutely beautiful and will be displayed on a wall in the boat when we get back, they will look fantastic against the honey coloured bamboo. Anyway, we all had a really lovely evening and I ate far too much!!!


Beautiful tiles


The following evening we had a visit from Mary, who had been unable to come the previous evening as she had another engagement.  She arrived bearing a beautiful birthday cake for me.  Mary makes cakes for a living and she is a very clever lady.  My cake was a deliciously moist fruit cake topped with crystallised fruit, yummy!


Since then, apart from odd jaunts into Papakura to go shopping and of course Wednesday nights at the pub quiz, we haven’t done a great deal.  Lindsey acquired a new double bed and we swapped it for the one we were sleeping in.  That one actually belongs to Philly and is a lovely bed made of beautiful Kauri wood but it was in a bit of a sorry state having shared a house over the years with several very large Scottish Deerhounds and a couple of Whippets who all chose to sleep on it with Lindsey whenever they got the chance!  It had lots of scratches and the odd nibble here and there and needed some TLC so it got it in the shape of Clive and a sander!  He has rubbed down the whole of the bed frame and it is now waiting to be oiled, which is his next job.


One weekend soon after we got back from our travels, Lindsey was doing some gardening and I was chatting to her when I spotted a very handsome insect on a tree next to her. It was a female Praying Mantis and she very kindly sat still for a few minutes so that I could take her photograph. It is when you see exotic insects like this that it brings it home to you that you are in an Asiatic country. The fact that everyone speaks English and drives on the left makes you feel very much at home but even Lindsey says that she has to remind herself at times that she lives in Asia!


Female Praying Mantis

The weather has been very mixed of late and the strange thing is that we had to put the clocks back a couple of weeks ago and suddenly it was Autumn, like someone had tripped a switch!  We have had quite a few dull, cloudy days and quite a few rainy days too but it is the temperature that is most noticeable, it has got quite chilly!  However, we have also had lots of sunny days too and when the sun is out it is still lovely and warm.  The evenings are quite cool now though and we have actually started lighting a fire in the lounge.


We had a lovely evening at Philly’s house last weekend.  Everyone had expressed an interest in seeing the photos of our World Tour of New Zealand so Philly suggested that we all go over to her house, she and Ann would make dinner and then we could sit and look at the photos using her flat screen TV connected to the laptop.  The dinner was awesome!  Philly and Ann had outdone themselves – we had homemade Tapas, there were lots of wonderful dishes and they were all absolutely delicious!  We then retired to the lounge for the photos.  I had done some considerably abridged slide shows, the first one was from our departure from a very icy marina in Cambridge to our arrival in sunny New Zealand and then all our fun and games over Christmas and New Year etc.  The second one was our tour of North Island which commenced on January 9th and took in our return to Auckland and El Caballo Blanco, the wonderful horse show we went to see.  Following that was our tour of South Island, return to North Island and our visits to Wellington, Gisborne and Tauranga and last but not least a few photos which I had taken on our return to Lindsey’s.  In actual fact these slide shows only make up a tiny proportion of the masses of photos I have taken during our stay here in New Zealand but it would take far too long to go through them all.  Mind you, one of our friends told me she wanted to see every single photograph taken during our trip when we get back – OK Shirley, we better book bed, breakfast and evening meal with you for a week in order to get through them all!!!! 


We had a really lovely sunny day during the week and Clive and I decided to take Lindsey’s little dog Radar to the beach.  We had a wonderful afternoon, the sun was really warm and the sea was lovely too, I had a paddle and if I had taken my togs with me I would have been in like a shot! Radar had a fantastic time – he adores Clive and follows him around like a little shadow.  He went into the sea a few times chasing pebbles which Clive had thrown for him.  I have to say I am really going to miss the New Zealand beaches, they are absolutely wonderful.  On our walk back along the beach we did a bit of “chumping” (collecting firewood!) and managed to get quite a good pile of large logs in the back of the van. 


Clive and Radar, pretending to be a yoyo!


Both Lindsey and Mary have been complaining recently about items of equipment that they just can’t get to work!  Lindsey’s is an industrial petrol driven strimmer and Mary’s is a chain saw! Neither of them have been able to get the darn things started for one reason or another so Clive came to their rescue.  He had a look at Lindsey’s strimmer first and soon got that sorted out – she just looked at him in disgust!  (It’s a man thing!).  Then one afternoon I had to go shopping to Papakura so I dropped him off at Mary’s first and left him doing battle with her chain saw.  By the time I returned to pick him up he and Mary had a huge pile of logs all cut up ready for the winter!  I asked Mary if we could borrow the chain saw to cut up all the logs we had brought from the beach and she very kindly agreed, she also insisted we have some more from her huge pile of very well seasoned wood at the bottom of her garden. So we set to with saw, saw horse and ear protectors and soon had a huge basketful of logs to take back with us. The saw also made short work of the logs we had brought from the beach and Lindsey now has two big baskets full of logs, mind you lighting a fire each evening has made considerable inroads so I think we might have to go chumping again very soon!


I have mentioned before that Lindsey’s house is nestled in a beautiful valley and over the years she has lived here she has planted her land with hundreds of native trees and shrubs, which are now very well established indeed and so, with her own personal “bush” she is now attracting all sorts of native birds into her lovely garden.  One of them has been tantalizing me ever since we got here!  It’s a Fantail, a beautiful little native bird which is very, very tame indeed. They are a bit like our own Robins, very curious and tame and will come and sit very close to you in the hope that you might disturb insects that they can feast on.  Just outside Lindsey’s kitchen door is a Ponga (a fern tree) and one particular Fantail frequents this tree and a chirrups to attract your attention then promptly displays and flits about.  The other day he almost came and sat on my hand!  They are really pretty little birds but very hard to photograph because they won’t stay still!!  I have umpteen very blurred shots of Fantails which I have taken over the course of our stay here!  However the other day I actually managed to get some good shots at last!




Fantails aren’t the only native birds to frequent Lindsey’sgarden, she also gets Tui from time to time and Morepork – this is a native owl.  They have that name because that is exactly what they say!  Unfortunately, in Maori legend, they are harbingers of death!!!!  There are also non-native birds like Mynah Birds, which come from India.  These are extremely vocal!  Lindsey told me that a few years ago she kept leaping out of bed in the morning and running to answer her phone only to find that it wasn’t actually ringing, it was a particular Mynah which had learned to mimic her phone and it used to sit on the roof and “ring” first thing in the mornings!!  There are also a couple of Rosella’s, which are very exotic looking indeed, they hail from Australia.  There were a couple in the garden the other day, I managed to get a shot but they were a bit far away!




Another native visitor is the Grey Warbler, which is a really tiny little bird.  I often see them through the window flitting about in the trees outside Lindsey’s kitchen so I decided to make an effort to get some photos the other day and managed to get one or two.


Grey Warbler


Whilst we were at the Pub Quiz last Wednesday (we came 3rd by the way!) Philly suggested that it would be a good opportunity to have our birthday massages this weekend.  So, it was decided that we would go over to her place on Sunday morning, each have our massage, go out for a bite of lunch then, weather permitting, she, Ann and Clive would go and play golf in the afternoon. I suggested that they all then come back to Lindsey’s house and I would cook a traditional Sunday dinner. 



Lindsey decided on Friday that she really needed to go shopping for some new clothes so asked me if I would like to go shopping with her on Saturday – ooh goody, a girly day out! We had a great time – we set off just after 10.00am and she took me to a place called Sylvia Park, a really big shopping mall and we spent hours (and I mean hours!) visiting all the fashion shops that it had to offer and there are quite a few!  It was rather strange seeing all the Autumn stuff knowing I was heading back to Summer in a few short weeks!  However it worked in my favour, I managed to get a couple of new summer tops myself, in the sales!!  Lindsey did manage to find three tops, which wasn’t a bad haul for a day’s shopping. I say day because we didn’t get home until 5.00pm!  The only downer was when Lindsey discovered that one of her tops still had the security tag on it – doh!  Fortunately there is a branch of the shop where she bought it near Philly’s house so she is going to get it sorted out for her.  What I want to know is how the heck we got out of the shop without getting our collar felt!!



Sunday arrived and amazingly it all went according to plan.  We both thoroughly enjoyed our massages and Philly sorted out a few problem areas in my back and neck and Clive too got his aches and pains dealt with – she is one very clever lady I can tell you, she really knows her stuff!


We didn’t actually think the golf was going to be possible as it was raining on and off all morning, however it cleared up in the afternoon so they went off to play a round and I drove back to Lindsey’s to get started on the dinner.  Lindsey also invited Mary and another friend of hers, John, who is a fellow member of the Forest and Bird Society.  I made an Ensalata Tricolore as the starter (sliced tomato, avocado and mozzarella cheese drizzled with basil infused olive oil), then we had roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, roast Kumara (sweet potatoes), creamed potatoes and vegetables and for desert Mary brought the most awesome lemony pudding which she had rustled up that afternoon from lemons which were growing in her garden – it was divine!  All in all it was a really lovely evening, topped off with a Skype phonecall to Pat, Lindsey and Philly’s lovely mum, who was celebrating her 85th birthday over in the UK. 


Clive and I have been into Papakura today to finalise the details for our return to Blighty in a few weeks time.  We decided before we left home that it would be nice to have a stopover on the way back from New Zealand as it would help to break the very, very long journey a bit and give us the opportunity to see a place we have never been to before – Brunei! So we have now confirmed our flight, which departs from Auckland in the early hours of Tuesday May 10th. We arrive in Bandar-seri-Begawan (Brunei) at about 7.30am the same day (flying back in time!).  We have booked into a really lovely 5 star hotel overlooking the sea for the night and plan to book ourselves onto a tour of some sort when we get there so that we can see some of the sights of Brunei, possibly including the Sultan’s palace.  However we also intend to have some R&R by the pool or on the beach, we’re just hoping the weather will be clement.  Ever since we flew out here back in November Clive has had the weather report for Bandar on his iPhone and it has been the same the whole time, 30 odd degrees and thunder storms!  It is evidently their rainy season!  In saying that it wasn’t raining when we landed there nor when we took off again an hour later!  So fingers crossed.  Mind you, at 30 degrees a bit of rain could be quite welcome!


One other thing to mention is that a friend of ours, Stevie Gilson (husband of Helen, one of my colleagues from Addenbrooke’s) has very kindly said he will come and collect us from Heathrow, for which we are very grateful indeed.  He has also been over to the marina to check on Lady Arwen for us and as far as he can tell she is OK!  Just to reassure us he took a few photos of her and emailed them to us! What a sweetie he is.


Lady Arwen nestled in her berth at the marina


I have to say that just recently Clive and I have both been feeling a bit homesick!  We don’t actually want to leave New Zealand but we are really looking forward to being home on board Lady Arwen again and seeing the photos of her just made those feelings even stronger!  Its not long to go now but before we return home we have something else to look forward to, our daughter Vicki and her partner Ben are coming out to New Zealand for a holiday, they arrive on May 1st!  We are really excited about seeing them again. They will be with us for a couple of days then they are going off travelling in the campervan for about a week, whilst they are away we will be leaving!  They are then flying over to Australia for a week to visit Ben’s Granny before flying back to the UK. 


We have heard that the sun is shining in the UK now, make sure you hang onto it, we are looking forward to our second Summer when we get back!  The other thing we have to look forward to is the arrival of our granddaughter, Indeia, she is returning to the UK from the United States to spend a few weeks with her daddy, Gareth, she arrives at the end of May!  Can’t wait to see her again and Gareth too!!


So, that’s it for now, hope this blog is long enough to make up for the dearth of blogs over the last few weeks! Unless there is anything really exciting to report I probably won’t do another blog now until we get home – so no nagging please!!


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