|Getting ready to catch a float plane over to Vancouver Island|
Yes, chums, relatives and boaters, we are back in the UK. After almost six months away we arrived back last weekend. Funny that: the abbreviation `UK’. Before we started travelling backwards and forwards to New Zealand, I would always say England or Britain, but it seems the rest of the world calls Blighty the UK, and I’ve just slipped into it. So “hello again UK, we’ve missed you”, despite all the appalling things that have been happening to you since we left in January.
Pat has been nagging me as to when I was going to blog again. I used to keep a comprehensive record when we were cruising a lot, but our life in NZ, while far from dreary, has a repetitiveness about it, which would have been pretty boring to write about, let alone read.
So we are back in Mercia Marina, in Willington Derbyshire, and currently battling the wind and rain on board the good ship “The Cat’s Whiskers”, Ah it’s good to be back and enjoy the British summer. We both love New Zealand, especially our adopted second home of Wellington. Most of our Kiwi friends though think we are nuts settling in a city whose weather can be several degrees cooler than that of 50 miles up the coast but we are very happy there. The home we share with our daughter and James her hubby is in a very leafy suburb, just minutes from the city centre, with a great bus service, but we do have a little car as well.
|View of Wellington harbour from the top of Mount Victoria|
We know the city really well now, much better than say, Derby, which from the marina here is only a few miles away. While we were in NZ this time there was much excitement in the local and national media when Wellington was voted the best city in the world to live in. Praise indeed. It is said if you crossed Vancouver with San Francisco and Hobart in Tasmania, the result would be Wellington, proudly `the coolest little capital in the world.`
In fact I like it so much, I am 50,000 words into a historical novel about the place as it was the first planned settlement. There is bucket loads of intrigue and skulduggery surrounding its founding so I don’t have to embroider it much. Whether it will ever see the light of day is another thing, but I am enjoying the experience of writing prose again and researching the story. It’s been a long time since I had anything published , but I think I’ve still got it.
This year’s summer in Wellington left a lot to be desired, and most of the country had odd hot and sunny days but no consistent warm spells. We did a couple of road trips and finished off the bits of the North Island around the Taranaki area we had never been to. As usual we hit the Art Deco weekend in Napier and stayed with our Kiwi boating pals John and Diane, though the weather was wet for much of the weekend, and that is unusual for Hawkes Bay. And there was our usual pilgrimage to Nelson, on the South Island, to visit our pals Vic, Val, Liz and all the Bafico tribe that grows every time we visit.
|This year's outfit for Napier's classy Art Deco weekend|
|Normally on the beach, this years `Gatsby Picnic' session was under a shop awning in the city centre|
I now play in three local ukulele groups around Wellington and enjoy them all. I reckon I now know every `Crowded House’ song they ever made though. I’ve got some good pals there, and look forward to see them all after Christmas again. They certainly push you a lot harder than the UK clubs and there are some very good players there.
|Justin's fab Wednesday night ukulele group at Lower Hutt. |
Southampton Steve on the far right plays a Brian May replica uke
Because we had a bit more time on our hands this trip, we thought we would take up some summer pastimes and joined a croquet club and a local bowls club soon after we arrived. I was surprised how many younger players there were at the Bowls Club, whose chief sponsor apparently is the local Funeral Home!
But croquet was nothing like I imagined (Not a cucumber sandwich in sight) and we were just getting into it when it all stopped as both sports are seasonal and finish in May.
|Pat gets some one-to-one instruction from another Roger at the Croquet Club in Khandallah|
Erica and James had a short list of jobs for me to do around the house, and after a spot of heavy-duty gardening and painting we put a new kitchen in our `Garden Flat’. I say we put in a new kitchen; what we actually did was convert the laundry room, which is barely big enough to squeeze two into, but we have everything we need to be self sufficient if we choose to be. Damn expensive though, compared to prices in the UK. There is still a bit of building work to do, but that’s for next year.
The other joy, of course, is spending six months watching the grandkids grow and develop. We now have defined jobs around the house. I take on the cooking from Monday to Friday and Pat tackles the washing and cleaning.
|Granny and Pops bed makes a great camp|
|Work starts on our new mini kitchen in what was the laundry room|
|The family on Livi's first day at big school|
|My Friday morning job|
|A half-asleep Pops gets his nails painted|
|I thought Ben was the smaller one|
It’s an old house in the scheme of things in Wellington, and was built in the early 1930s. We both felt that the house might have some history and Pat was keen to discover how many owners it had had and if any old photos existed of the area around that time. We booked in to see the archivist at the Wellington’s Record office and he was most excited when we arrived. He was very proud to tell us that at one time the house had been the home of John Reid. “Who”? I asked. Well, if you are a Kiwi and you like cricket then Mr Reid is a cricketing legend. Still alive, just, he was NZ’s cricket captain in the 1960s, who broke all sorts of national cricketing records, and lived in our house in Hatton Street for several years after his international career was over.
|John Reid, NZ Cricket Legend|
We broke the trip coming home by stopping in Vancouver to see Pat’s relatives and our pals Norm and Sue. It was a great week and the weather behaved itself for the most part. Pat’s sister Monica and her husband Garry live on Vancouver Island, and this time we caught the float plane over from the harbour in central Vancouver. I was really looking forward to this, and while we both enjoyed the experience I don’t think we would do it again, unless we were in a hurry. Norm and Sue took us up to Whistler to visit the Winter Olympic ski resort and we got to see Pat’s nephew Brian and his wife Terry-Lynn, who have just bought a fabulous penthouse apartment near the beach at White Rock. Terri loves her beers and had prepared a programme of food and drink that started at 4pm and finished, I think, around the fire pit at midnight. We flew home with Air Canada. They make a big thing about being voted the best airline in North America. I thought they were poor. Poor staff, poor food, poor entertainment. The flight was on time though and it was a comfortable enough.
We are going to be on the boat for the next few weeks at least. There is the normal routine for us of dentists, GP’s, opticians etc. We have leased another car. It’s a Volvo V40, which I only picked up yesterday and am still discovering what all the switches and buttons do.
|Whistler Olympic Park BC|
|Our nephew Brian, reveals his `Beer Butt Chicken'|
|With our Canadian family, Terry-Lynn, Brian, Monica and Garry|
We have booked out three weeks on the calendar to go cruising at the end of August. We plan to go down the Coventry and then cruise the Ashby Canal towards the outskirts of Leicester, hopefully joined by our boating pals, Dave and Angie, who have just bought a new narrowboat `Annie’.
As usual there’s lots going on in the marina, with a big new extension to The Boardwalk, called the Piazza. It’s a big three-story structure and luckily we have missed most of the noise that goes with it. I was hopeful we might get a decent pub moving in, but that looks unlikely. We will get an `art gallery` though. Just what every boater wants!!!!
Our lodge is just a few yards from the boat, and there are guests in there at the moment. In general the occupancy rate has been about the same as last year, so we are both delighted with that. We are not planning to go back in again until the end of October, when we will stay until early January, and then we are off to NZ again.