Monday, 12 January 2015

Haeri Mai, everything is Ka Pai

Wake up Pops. Let's read a story.
Kia Ora my friends. Well, it seems like we’ve come home, which is a bit strange, considering we are over 3,000 miles from Hertfordshire and the UK, but that is the definite feeling we both have after a few days here in sunny Karori, Wellington, NZ. In fact everything is definitely Kai Pai (look it up in a Maori dictionary).
After a very pleasant and peaceful two weeks on Vancouver Island with Pat’s family we decamped across the water to see some other pals Sue and Norman, who live above the city in North Vancouver, in a lovely spot overlooking the city. We were only there two days but they gave us a great tour of the city (including a look and a taste at two of the city’s many craft breweries). They certainly looked after us and we hope to see them in the UK later this year, as they are intrepid travellers as well and regularly come to Europe.
Susan and Norm. Our hosts in Vanouver

Pat and I beside BC Place. It's a balmy six degrees.
It’s a 12-hour flight from Vancouver to Auckland and on the way you gain a full day, though I must say, I still haven’t completely got my head around how that works. On previous expeditions I have managed to buy myself an exit row seat, which makes these long flights bearable, but we missed the boat on this one and, although we had an aisle seat each, it’s still a real squeeze when, at  six foot three inches tall, you try and prise yourself into your seat, especially if the person in front has their seat reclined. My eyes have been really sore over the last two weeks, so watching a movie, just inches away from my face was no fun. So it seemed to me a very, very, long journey, and no matter how I try, I just can’t sleep on planes. Just about anywhere else is fine, in fact I can normally drop off on cue, but not on a flight. It’s not fair.
We had several hours at Auckland airport waiting for our connection and the original plan was to dump the cases and catch at bus into the city, but in the end we hung around the airport and grabbed some zzzzs. We have been to Auckland a couple of times, and it was very expensive to catch the bus in and back for just a couple of hours.
So now we are in Wellington:  it’s mid-summer, the sun is shining and beyond the back garden we can hear the clink of leather on willow as the cricket season is in full swing. Amazingly, for Wellington, we have a wind-free day and we have just returned from the city after buying some new ukulele strings, a pay as you go card for my phone and a “Snapper” card for their bus system, which we use a lot. It’s only a 15-minute journey into the centre of the city by bus and they are very frequent.
Livi, our almost three-year old granddaughter, is keeping us entertained and exercised at the same time with a never-ending programme of hide and seek, jigsaw puzzling, singing songs on my uke as we march around the room, playing in the sand pit, watering her plants and flowers, cooking on her over in the garden, etc. She is a real cutie, and quite the little “bossy boots” at times. Her baby brother Ben, is now four months old and smiles a lot. This was our first encounter and amazingly, he didn’t cry when we met.
Baby Ben. Definitely a "Big Time Cutie"
Livi does a bit of tidying up around her garden
So we have now settled down and are evolving a routine that will no doubt include lots of shopping, going to the zoo, and travelling on the bus into the city with its many distractions, including the Botanical Gardens, which is our favourite day out.
A belated birthday Brownie cake. (Half way through it a cap on my tooth dropped out into the bowl)
We also are planning two away expeditions. One, back to Nelson on the South island (I can’t come to NZ and not go to Nelson) to see our old pals Vic and Val and family and we are also heading north on a big sweep of the Cape after visiting Napier and the Bay of Plenty. Not much on the Cape but Maori villages, so it should be an interesting journey. We’ll finish close to Hamilton to see our Kiwi pals Helen and Kevin. Hear huge storm is coming across the Atlantic. Keep safe everybody.

Toodaloo everybody.

Friday, 2 January 2015

An unusual Chrstmas present

Well, what presents did Santa bring you last week?  Something festive I hope. He certainly didn’t forget the Calder household here in sleepy Parksville on Vancouver Island.

He gave me a delightfully debilitating chesty virus, which sent me to bed during Christmas afternoon. Boxing Day was just a blip on the calendar.  I did manage to creep downstairs to say hello to some of Garry & Monica’s pals who popped round during the afternoon, but all I wanted to do was sleep, sleep sleep.

I managed to hang on for everybody to arrive and it was great to catch up with the Calder clan. It’s been around 10 years since we had seen Stephen, Brian and Terry Lynn, and despite asking them not to, we both had a number of gifts thrust upon us. I particularly like my “Canucks” ice hockey  hoodie. That will get some good use when we get back on the boat. Especially when we encounter the Canadian crews who inhabit the waterways during the summer flying their maple leaves from their tiller bars. I was really looking forward to the Christmas spread, but only managed a bit of turkey and a spoonful of Terry Lynne’s Brussel Sprout, hazelnut and bacon dish, which I was really looking forward to. And the glass I am holding in the picture is the only drink I had over Christmas. A tragedy!
The Calder family clan gather on the porch on Christmas morning

Everybody gets stuck into the present opening
I don’t know if I have passed my germs on, or where I got them from, for so many folks are suffering from coughs and colds over here at present. I just can’t get rid of my cough and just hope it disappears before we get on our next flight next Wednesday. Pat has so far resisted the germs. She was a little poorly on the drive up the Pacific North Coast and considering the fall out around us she remains remarkably perky.

So it’s been a low-key holiday season for us. The lull before the storm, so to speak, for when we get to Wellington I am sure there will not be a lot of lazing around with a three-year old to entertain. And despite coughs and sneezes, we have had a very restful time here and it is still a novelty to have so much room to operate in, after the confines of the boat for so many months. Though there are four of us in the house, I can normally sit at the far end and practice on my new uke without offending anybody when I play the same song over and over in an attempt to get the changes fast and slick.

 We had booked a New Year’s Night of entertainment at a local community hall here in Parksville and on arrival, it was fairly obvious it was not quite what any of us had in mind. After an hour or so, an elderly couple sat down with us and we ended up going back to their apartment to see the New Year in. They had just moved south from Fort St George, way north, so the minus-one conditions were positively Mediterranean to them.
Princess Pat wears her New Year crown
We saw 2015 in at this delightful couples condo, Jaye and Cecelia, who we had met two hours earlier.
A feature of New Year’s Day in coastal British Columbia, is the annual charity Polar Bar swim, which many seaside towns run each year. They had 160 participants at this year’s Parksville event and we joined a big crowd at mid-day to watch the spectacle. The girls were threatening to go in for a paddle, but despite a balmy three degrees, they somehow  forgot to bring a towel with them. Funny that!
It’s hard to get our heads around just how busy this town is in summer. There are numerous motels, campgrounds and RV sites along the highway north and come July and August the sleepy population quadruples with the roads jammed  for miles around.

Ready, Steady....

And the annual Parksville Polar Bear Swim begins

Next Blog from down under.
Toodaloo chums