Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Racing Cars and Sixties Stars

When  we made plans to spend a New Zealand summer in Wellington, we knew it was never going to be a “scorching” experience. It’s generally three or four degrees cooler here than the other main cities in NZ and can often be significantly more, depend on the prevailing winds.
So we have been surprised at the amount of sunshine that has beaten down on us since our arrival and this coming week looks like much of the same. So hooray for that.
Young Livi was a bit under the weather at the beginning of last week and got a bit ratty on our excursions out and about, no doubt due to her feeling a bit poorly though we did get  back to the zoo on Friday and managed to get very close to the giraffes, which are her favourite.
New Zealand’s capital city attracts the usual mix of touring acts from the US and the UK, and when we were planning our stay, I checked on line to see who might be coming through Wellington while we were here. I noticed” The Hollies” were in town during our stay, and having never seen them, thought they would be worth a punt, having had a dozen top ten hits in the 60s and 70s. James and Erica bought us two tickets as a Christmas present and the concert was last Saturday night. On our way into the city we wondered if we would be among the youngest there, which proved pretty accurate. There were a number of the audience clutching walking sticks and the odd wheelchair was in evidence.
The Hollies catch us not clapping!
The two remaining Hollies, Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott, are now in their very late sixties, and the various group members leave the stage and re-appear throughout the performance to give them all a break. However, my other prediction, that those in wheelchairs imbibing oxygen from the bottle by their side would overdose when they sang “The Air That I Breathe” was unfounded. The band were OK and played all their hits proficiently, but they do miss Alan Clarke to give them that “Hollies” sound. The audience were very enthusiastic and were on their feet for the last 20 minutes. I guess I’ve just seen too many top groups over the years to be impressed. "Long Tall Woman" was fab though. 
Earlier that day the kids took us over to the suburb of Island Bay where they were having a bit of a festival, a feature being “The Ribble Street Races”. This suburban street is cordoned off once a year and all sorts of un-powered carts race down it, against the clock. I had organised a similar event for John Lewis several years ago so was keen to see the comparison. There were plenty of thrills and spills, though the day started quite sedately with a lego racing competition over a shortened track. Different ages raced there home-made machines down the track, and it got very competitive.
The line up for the "Eight-Year-Old " Lego Racing Final
The Lego Racing Route
The Ribble Street Racing machines await their drivers
On Sunday I joined “The Ukes Of Wellington” for the first time. They are a big group – about 40-strong, run by Shane, a  very charismatic Kiwi, and they have a very eclectic repertoire. They meet for a Sunday strum  in the lobby of a centally-based Wellington hotel where the guests seem very bemused to hear songs such as “Ring Of Fire” belted out with Kazoos playing the Mariachi trumpet part. We finished with the NZ National Anthem sung in Maori and English. Now if they did that in the UK with "God Save The Queen" we would have to sing it in about 14 different languages!
The Ukes Of Wellington during their Sunday Strum
One thing I failed to mention in last week’s blog, was that while we on the South Island, I finally got a proper leather, wide-brimmed boating hat, to wear when it rains. It’s Kiwi made, and I am delighted with it. I did buy a replacement for one that I lost overboard on the Gloucester & Sharpness last spring, but its cotton-based, and not waterproof. This one is.
My new Kiwi leather wide-brimmed hat
The only downbeat piece of news at the moment is that we will not be able to meet up with either of our UK pals who are in NZ at the moment. Brenda leaves on Friday and we can't get up to Hamilton this weekend to see here. We thought she had longer here and Sue and Geoff, who I also worked with at John Lewis, will be Queenstown on the weekend of Livi's second birthday party, and we need to be here in our "Gruffalo" costumes. 
Oh well. Toodaloo chums

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