Tokerau Beach

August 12, 2017

We spent a glorious two weeks with Marg & Gary at Tokerau, not doing much in particular but somehow managing to keep ourselves busy and occupied without getting in each other's way.

parked up on the spare section next door. Marg took this picture on one of the fine days!!!

The weather has not been particularly nice, but then again it is winter and it is what we expect. At least we have been fortunate with mild temperatures however that just means it has been very wet and windy.

There was the odd foray out to do a bit of fishing, and a bit of catching as well. As usual I neglected to take any pictures. Note to self, get yourself sorted and into the habit of picture taking again! I did get into some more knitting whilst we were at Tokerau and ended up using up all my bits to make a scarf which I gave to Marg. Just so that you are not disappointed, I kept up my picture-taking-slackness and forgot to take a picture of it!

Marg & Gary had three of their granddaughters visit one weekend and I ended up knitting a couple of bunnies for them, I can't remember the significance of why it had to be bunnies but it was a quick knit up of simple square and sew it up carefully to make a bunny.
Sewing up bunnies….and no, the rum is not mine, it's Roy's.

We left Tokerau Beach to head back down to Uretiti with a short overnight stop in Kerikeri. However, those plans quickly changed to a two night stopover in Kerikeri. One: because the weather was atrocious and we didn't feel like driving through torrential rain and gusty winds and Two: because we came away from Tokerau with a parting gift from Marg….a nasty cold with a hacking cough! Thanx Marg, just what we wanted – NOT!

We have both succumbed to the nasty bug and are doing everything we can to get rid of it as quickly as possible as tomorrow (Sunday) we are due at Whakapirau to take up our house sitting duties for a month, and we do not need to pass on our bugs to Chris before he heads off to join Jacky on their trip hiking the Norwegian fiords.

So another quick wrap up of life with the Vannini's. The blog will become much more interesting soon enough as we head off on another adventure so be sure to watch this space. Meanwhile we look forward to our sojourn at Whakapirau and visits from lots of friends and family.

It’s been a while

August 4, 2017

I know, I know, I've been slack, I have not been posting recently and I have no excuses either. A quick update and summary of what we've been up to and where since the last blog.

Roy had a checkup appointment with the cardiologist in Auckland a few weeks ago so we headed down from Uretiti and stayed with Steve & Les for the night. Roy got the all clear from the cardiologist, so much so that he has taken him off cholesterol tablets as he says "your arteries are clear, valves good and heart is strong so why are you on cholesterol tablets?". Apart from the Atrial Fibrillation which is now under control, all is well. We returned to the van at Uretiti, staying another few days before heading north.

Next stop was Kerikeri where we managed a quick catch up with Roy's second cousin Stuart. We had a lovely dinner out in Kerikeri at the Jerusalem Cafe with Stuart where we shared a lovely Meze platter of Israeli food, and delicious it was too and the company, as always, was very good.

From there we headed up to Tokerau Beach, a particular favourite spot of ours, and where we have been for the past week camped on friends Gary & Marg's spare section behind their house. Here we have not only enjoyed their company, but we have shared meals, the odd drink or two, been out fishing a couple of times – the catching has been a different matter though with only a couple of fish landed – and generally having a very relaxing time. We only have another week left before we take up our house sitting duties at Whakapirau for a month which will then lead nicely into our upcoming 'holiday'.

Speaking of which we have finally sorted our upcoming trip and we are all booked and ready to go. We leave NZ on 27th September for London via Singapore with just a few hours stopover. We then leave London on the 17th January, this time with a three day stopover in Singapore on the journey home to arrive back in NZ on the 20th January at just before midnight. Other plans are still being formulated whilst we are away but we will be in Belgium for the 4th October Passchendaele commemoration, at some stage we will be heading to Switzerland and the Italian border to the town of Mendrisio which is where Roy's family is from originally. We then plan to meander our way back across France into Spain and Portugal. Somewhere in between we are fitting in a trip away with Alexandra & Ian, and Ian's parents, and it looks like we will be heading to the Canary Island of Lanzarote for a week of R&R in a villa on the coast. We shall be back in London ready for a white Christmas when Antony will be joining us all for the festive season. There will be tripping around the UK as well, catching up with a few of my relations and filling in the gaps on a few places we missed last time. All in all we shall be away for 4 months – I know, it's a tough job but someone has to do it!

So there we have it, a quick catch up.

Passchendaele Pin

July 22, 2017

This year is the centenary commemorations for the Battle of Passchendaele where Roy's Dad (also Roy) was wounded in action on the 4th October 1917. This is one of the reasons we are off to the UK & Europe in a couple of months time. And if any of you are trying to do the maths and match up dates, yes, Roy senior was born in 1897 and yes he was an older father when he had Roy and Karel…..something that seems to run in the family!!! Back to the centenary.

Roy senior was wounded at the Battle of Broodseinde.

"The battle was fought on 4 October 1917 near Ypres in Flanders. The battle was the most successful Allied attack of the Battle of Passchendaele. Using "bite-and-hold" tactics, with objectives limited to what could be held against German counter-attacks, the British devastated the German defence, which prompted a crisis among the German commanders and caused a severe loss of morale in the German 4th Army. Preparations were made by the Germans for local withdrawals and planning began for a greater withdrawal, which would entail the loss for the Germans of the Belgian coast, one of the strategic aims of the British offensive. There were 20,000 casualties and losses which consisted of 1853 New Zealanders, 5000 men were also taken prisoner on 4 October." Wikipedia. More detail can be accessed here.

On her recent trip home, Alexandra brought a gift with her for Roy, it came in this box

Inside is an explanatory note

Along with the following

Inside the box is a commemorative pin

Each pin commemorates a life lost during the Battle, in this case that of a Private JC Robinson. The pins are made from the brass shell fuses recovered from the fields of Ypres Passchendaele by local farmers. These centenary edition pins are specifically a mix of British impact and shrapnel shell fuses. Both the red and green enamel contain finely ground earth recovered from several key locations in the area, representing the essence of the battleground and the very ground the soldiers of 1917 fought and died upon.


The pin will be proudly worn by Roy on the 4th October 2017 at Broodseinde on our upcoming visit.

Time to go home

July 18, 2017

It was soon time for Alex to head back to her home in London, not that we wanted to visit to end as it was rather lovely having her with us.  We left Jacky & Chris’ on Friday after a wonderful few days stay with them, their hospitality is always wonderful and their generosity boundless and we cannot thank them enough for it all. 

 We started our journey back to Auckland in the early afternoon, stopping at the Cider Shed for lunch along the way.  This reminded Alex of her ‘cider fridays’ when she worked in Cromwell during university holidays.  She, Antony, Claire and a couple of other friends would apparently treat themselves on a Friday night with a pizza and a cider or three after working hard in the orchards all week. 

We arrived at Antony’s late afternoon and it wasn’t long before we all were at the train station catching a train into Britomart.  Here, eldest son Simon met us for a drink before he was due out for the evening but it gave him a chance to catch up with Alex and say hooray before she left.  I forgot to take a picture of us all together but I did take a picture of the bar with its interesting lights

Macs Brew Bar in the old Northern Steamship Company Building.

Claire and her husband Matt arrived to join us for the rest of the evening, first they all had a cocktail or two Alex and Antony enjoying a cocktail.

It was time to move on and we all walked to a nearby restaurant,  passing through the lovely lit up dining and bar areas at Britomart.  They really have done a great job in sprucing up this area, we can remember not so long ago really when it was not the best area of town to be in, especially at night.

We went to the Hanoi Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner where we had a fantastic evening, with great food, excellent service, wonderful company, oh and a few more cocktails! 

 The menu is very good and extensive making a decision on what to have difficult so we ended up asking our excellent waitress if she would choose a selection of plates for us all to share which turned out to be the best way to go.  The food was fresh, tasty and came with delicious sides as well.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

L-R Antony, Roy, Bernice, Alexandra, Matt and Claire.
All too soon it was time for us to catch the train back to Papakura.  Have we mentioned before how we love travelling by train?  it makes life so much easier and for the senior person of this touring party of course the train trip is at no cost as those over a certain age can travel outside peak times for free on public transport.  

The following morning we had to get to the airport so that we could reluctantly allow Alexandra to travel back to London. Some of us are not very good at saying goodbye, with just a few tears shed.  She arrived home safely on Sunday evening NZ time. 

We are now looking forward to our trip to the UK and Europe which is less that 2 months away, and for Antony to join us all for Christmas in London.  

Tiki touring

July 16, 2017

It’s not all relaxing and enjoying the smallholder style of life, we have also done a bit of tiki touring around the area.  We headed off for a day trip around the district with our first stop at the Matakohe Kauri Museum which is just a few kms from Whakapirau.  The kauri is a slow growing tree with beautiful timber  

We spent a good hour or two wandering through all the exhibits.

Here are a couple of small sailing boats built of kauri, with a single large plank of timber in the background which stretched the length of the hall.

I was amused to see the following sign inside one of the small sailing dinghys. 

From there we headed to Dargaville and then onto the Waipoua Forest to see Tāne Mahuta, one of the largest living Kauri trees.  Tāne Mahuta is a giant kauri tree (Agathis australis), its age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years. Its Māori name means “Lord of the Forest”.  

It’s vital statistics are as follows: Trunk girth 13.77 m (45.2 ft),  Trunk height 17.68 m (58.0 ft), Total height 51.2 m (168 ft), Trunk volume 244.5 m3 (8,630 cu ft). Total volume 516.7 m3 (18,250 cu ft).



Alex in front of the tree.

A local Maori guide who happened to be there told us that many many years ago when he was assisting to build a track to the tree, 11 men held hands with arms outstretched to surround the tree.  He also told me that there is an even larger tree but that it is is another part of the forest and a long walk to find it.  We will not be endeavouring to find it this time, besides the heavens opened just as we completed the visit to this tree.

Another day, Mike the friendly local who did the killing  execution bumping off processing of the sheep the other day, offered to take Alex for a jet boat ride around the upper reaches of the Kaipara harbour.

That’s them zooming off across the other side of the harbour, viewed from the deck.  

Family and friends

July 13, 2017

It was time to catch up with Simon, Anita and Maria, Alex had not met Maria so it was a lovely morning spent with them and catching up with all their news, and to have some time with them.

Aunty Alex and Maria


Reading stories


From there we headed to Steve & Leslie’s for a bit of a get together with them and their family and to have lunch.  It was a bit of a kiwi themed lunch with all the old time favourites and treats.  And for some reason I forgot to take a single picture but it was lovely for Alex to catch up with her cousins and their children.

From there we headed up to Jacky & Chris for a few nights.  We had intended on then going to the van for a few nights but it was decided to stay with them until we head back to Auckland on Friday.

Alex decided she needed to relax once we got there

It’s a tough life

But then she did get involved with a bit of farm life

Rockin’ the gumboots aka Wellington boots

She wore the boots to help Jacky, Roy and friend Mike kill murder  prepare a couple of sheep for the table and freezer.

Alex, Jacky and Mike skinning the sheep.
Then a day or so later it was time to cut up the beasts.

Happy in their work
And later that evening, guess what was for dinner?

And damn delicious it was too!

D Day

July 11, 2017

Thursday was D Day, yes, Daughter Day.  Alex arrived from London  for a fleeting visit to check up on her Dad after all the excitement he has been giving us recently ….oh and to see Mum too!  The distance between the two countries seeemed larger and larger and a bit of homesickness started to creep in, so she hopped on a plane to come for a weeks visit.  

We waited patiently at the entrance gates for her to appear

The airport was very quiet with very few people around, we presume they were all in town cheering home the Americas Cup and parade.

Three other flights had also recently landed so we thought we may be in for a bit of a wait, but no, she appeared through the gates quite quickly

I’m home!!

A few tears were shed on arrival, but we were soon on our way back to Antony’s place.   A quiet afternoon was spent, with someone having the odd nap and catching up on sleep.

The next few days were spent tripping around Auckland catching up with friends and family

My pathetic attempt at a selfie!

On Saturday we caught the train into town, and very pleasant it was travelling on the train surrounded by very jovial Lions supporters.  We were meeting up with Alex and her friend Claire and friends Colin & Edwina for lunch.  Again, we were met with a sea of red, Lions supporters in town for the final test against the All Blacks.

Colin very kindly took this photo as again, my attempts at selfies were dismal. Antony, Roy, Edwina, Bernice, Alex and Claire.
It was a fabulous lunch at Ortolana, and we all enjoyed a very relaxed meal together.  Then it was back to Antony’s and prepare to watch the game, although someone had a wee pre game nap on the couch.

Tunnel

July 5, 2017

Today we ventured down to Auckland and thought we would try out the newly opened, and very expensive at $1.4billion, Waterview Tunnel.

 Here it is

Getting closer

Inside the 2.4km long tunnel

And the exit

It certainly was much quicker for us to skirt around the central city as we were heading to Papakura to stay with Antony for a couple of nights.  As you can see, there was very little traffic and it was an easy run through.  We shall certainly be travelling the Western Ring Route, as it is called, in future rather than over the Harbour Bridge.  Well done to those responsible. 

Plan B

July 1, 2017

After all the dramas of the past few weeks, it was with some delight that we headed back to the van where we have enjoyed relaxing and listening to the waves crash onto the beach at Uretiti.  The weather has been fine and pleasantly warm for this time of the year and with little or no wind which has made sitting out in the sun rather a rather pleasant activity.

Walking down to the beach
Parked up in the sun 

Looking south (top) and north along the beach.
We are now onto Plan B, or is that C or even D now with Roy.  We had a good meeting with the cardiologist who is happy with the way he is progressing on medication to keep everything ticking over nicely (pun intended).  Then we had a very long session with the Urologist/Oncologist and have come up with a plan.  

Roy is now NOT having major surgery, apparently after playing around with the heart they prefer patients to have a 6 month stand down period before major surgery.  So instead there is plan B.  Now he has had his first hormone injection yesterday, with another one due in 3 months.  This will reduce the size of the prostate as well as the cancer then at the end of the second three month period, the surgeon will probably do a TURP (rebore) of the prostate as this surgery is less invasive and does not require a full anaesthetic.  Then he will have radiation treatment on the remaining cancer.  All in all much less invasive and with better outcomes in terms of possible nerve damage  of full surgical removal.  

This has tied in nicely with our plans to head overseas, the planets are all aligning beautifully.  The second injection is due just a couple of days before our planned departure at the end of September and we can be away as planned with the next procedure not due until after our return in mid January.  Finally things are looking up.

Meanwhile, we are expecting a visitor later this week.  We are very excited about her arrival, so much so, there is a ticker tape parade due along Auckland waterfront just as she arrives!!!  Can’t say that we don’t pull out all the stops……..

Heart throb

June 24, 2017

Just a quick update folks, we have just been to the cardiologist where he is happy with how Roy is tracking and just wants him to continue on meds and he will see him again in three weeks time.  By then he will have discussed with the Urologist the pros and cons of the various types of surgery and options from his perspective and we can move on from there.  

It looks as though the Atrial Fibrillation may have been around for longer than we knew about it and is probably something that Roy will have forever but hopefully it will be kept under control by medication.  It is just getting the balance right, and fingers crossed it appears to be under control now. 

This hiccup is well and truly behind us, and we can move on with more positive things.  

Last weekend I snuck out for a few hours of fishing with Steve in his boat.  It was a glorious day. 

Launching the boat off the beach
We whizzed across to Rangitoto 

Captain Pugwash!
Where we happily fished in the sun for a few hours, and yes we caught lots of baby snapper and only a couple of reasonable size 

You may be able to see the Auckland Sky Tower in the  background, with Rangitoto lighthouse on the left.

As you can see it was a perfect day, Rangitoto island 

Life can now return to some semblance of normality as we head back to the van tomorrow -Sunday.