Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Back In Blighty

The indigenous Maori population of New Zealand often refer to their country as “Aotearoa”, or “the land of the long white cloud”. On checking our e mail, when we touched down at Heathrow last Tuesday morning, one of my pals had texted me “Welcome back to the land of the long, grey cloud.” And he had it about right. It was belting down, dark and overcast.
So endeth our 2014 excursion to warmer climes, and we are now very much back in Blighty, after twenty-something hours in the air, which with all the hanging around airports for connections took the journey to almost two days.
The last two weeks of our stay were rather spoilt by the weather. The aftermath of a large cyclone that caused havoc on the Solomon Islands and Australia’s Gold Coast, gave NZ a good dousing over several days and curtailed our planed outdoor adventures with our granddaughter.
Getting to the bus stop had been easy up to that point. Three stepping stones behind the house took us into the park and the bus stop was a couple of minutes away. But with all the rain, the stones all but disappeared, and we had to take the long way round, adding 20 minutes to our journey. Livi didn’t seem too bothered about the rain, and would have gone on the swings, whatever the weather, and we did get a few good days, especially Good Friday, which was warm and sunny.
Crossing the stream in good conditions

The Easter weekend coincided with Pat’s birthday, and we celebrated at “The Crab Shack” on Wellington’s Waterfront. It went very well, and we all had a good scoff, though none of us wrestled with their famous crab claws. Livi came face to face with a shark though. See picture.
Livi tries out the shark at "The Crab Shack"

Pat's birthday candle

I also got my final taste of ukulele, NZ-style, at the “Ukes Of Wellington’s” Sunday Strum. Being Easter Sunday I thought there would only be a few folks there, but it was standing-room only. My playing has improved quite a lot since we have been away, as I have had more time on my hands to practice and there was normally the opportunity to lock myself away somewhere quiet, especially late at night, where I would not disturb anyone (something almost impossible aboard “The Cat’s Whiskers”).
Pat is returning to Wellington in August, when Erica has her second child and for me it will be next January. We have already planned and booked our flights out for next year, and arrive mid-January after having spent Christmas on Vancouver Island, with Pat’s sister Monica and her family. We are really looking forward to it. Prior to our arrival in Canada, we are flying to LA, and then hiring a car and driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco and then on, up to Seattle, where we will board a float plane for the island. The weather is a bit of a gamble in December, but it should be fun.

Spotted in Welwyn Garden Library. A rare first edition which I haven't even got
 So we had mixed feelings leaving NZ, and the kids, for we have come to embrace that crazy country that hangs on the edge of the map of world and quietly minds its own business. They may have to live in the shadow of Australia, but New Zealanders have a strong national identity, and they are rightly very proud of their country, their economy is not bad either. They are forecasting a surplus this year. When was the last time the UK was in the black?. And most important of all, their beer is improving in quality and choice every time we visit.
So we are now back at Mercia Marina, in the East Midlands, where the sun is shining, and the Canada geese are noisily going about their business, as courtships develop. Christ, they are noisy. The back doors and side hatch are open, and I am waiting for some paint to dry, before I apply some more, touching up the paintwork, before we leave here on Thursday. We had drinks last night with Ian and Irene on “Free Spirit”, who are moored in the village, up the road. We seem to bump into them (not literally) all over the network. They are sort of heading in the same direction as us, so no doubt, there will be more opportunities to visit the pub/restaurant, and swap boating and holiday stories.
We have a small diversion on Saturday though, for we are off to Stoke to see them play our team, Fulham FC. An old drinking pal of mine is a big, BIG, Stoke City fan, and he is picking us up in Burton and taking us to the ground for lunch, before the match. Poor old Fulham look like they may well be playing their football in the Championship next season. Bad news for them, but at least we will be able to see them down the road at Derby and Nottingham.

So our next post will probably be from somewhere in Staffordshire. Toodaloo chums.

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