Mothers Day 

May 18, 2017

Mother’s Day rolled round and as usual we had little planned as we are not into the whole commercialisation of the day, however, I was invited to share a Mother’s Day lunch with my sister-in-law Leslie, and her three daughters Sarah, Erin & Frances (they make a reasonable substitute for you Alex! and Antony was coming over later for a visit, for some reason he didn’t want to join all us ladies for lunch?!).  

We headed off to KissKiss in Balmoral for a lovely northern Thai lunch.  A lively bright, colourful setting with quirky touches such as the cocktail menu was in old-school viewfinders…..we all had to indulge in a cocktail of course.  

 Sarah & Fran at the back, Erin and I at the front.

Sarah & Erin on the left with Leslie & Fran on the right.

The food was excellent, the company brilliant and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  As it was such a beautiful day we headed into Mt Eden for a glass of vino, sitting out in the sun enjoying ourselves.  Thank you for inviting me along to share, it was a laugh and a half. 

Ear, hear, ‘ere.

May 12, 2017

A few weeks ago Roy was out fishing with Steve when whilst trying to retrieve a fish off the line with the net, one of Roy’s hearing aids got flicked out and was duly deposited into the sea.  Oh no!   But more importantly they got the fish, a decent sized one at that too!! 

Over the next few days came the task of phone calls to insurance companies, then the hearing specialists with appointments made to have the aid replaced.  After a week or two of waiting to hear from the insurance company we were finally notified that all was ok and to go ahead to have the aid replaced so off we went to the Audiology centre.  Of course regular readers will know what is coming next…….. in true Vannini fashion, it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Roy went to his appointment expecting to be given a new hearing aid but no…apparently the old aids are no longer available as they have been superseded and as well they are “paired”  to each other so a replacement was out of the question instead he now needed a complete new set.  Eeek, this is turning into an expensive fishing expedition!  However, between the audiology centre and the insurance company they came to a mutual agreement, unbeknown to us, that  a complete new set of hearing aids was essential and should be covered by our policy.  Hence a new set of aids had to be prepared and set up which meant another appointment was made to have them fitted.

A week later we trundled back across the bridge to have the new hearing aids fitted.

Roy having the new aids tested and set up correctly….all done by computer!  

Just like his old aids, they are pretty hard to see when he is wearing them as all you can see is a fine, clear tube going into his ear, it almost looks like a piece of fishing line….or a grey hair! with a very small piece which is fitted over the back of his ear and is only obvious if you are looking for it.  

Very close up view of the fine wire disappearing inside the ear.

The new aids are really flash and are very, very, clever.  They are bluetoothed to any or all of our iOS devices which means Roy can have his phone and iPad linked directly to the aids.  The controls for the aids are on his phone as well via an app he has downloaded.  Each hearing aid has individual volume controls for each ear, which can be controlled either by the controls on the aids themselves or via his phone, as well as adjusting bass, treble etc.   This technology also enables him to stream movies/podcasts directly to his hearing aids. He can also change programs and  they have a sound enhancer so he can adjust them for when he is in a crowd, he can alter them specifically for speech by focussing the direction, they have a wind noise adjustment, and even a tinnitus manager!! and a white noise input with noise cancelling ability.  As well he can have it so that when his phone rings,  it rings straight out the hearing aids.  BUT the best thing of all is they have a finder-search function for each individual aid and a last location finder!!!  That will be a godsend particularly when one gets lost as he did in this instance.    I tell you, they are pretty damn clever and his hearing will of course be better too.

His old hearing aids were bluetoothed to a device which was attached to the TV but these days we don’t use the TV.  Rather, we have been watching most things on the iPads by using a splitter plug, with Roy’s headphones plugged into one connection and a small external speaker in the other port for me.   However, this is all about to change.   Currently one device at a time can be attached via Bluetooth to any one device so for instance Roy can listen to something via his hearing aids but I cannot connect to the same device with my wireless headphones.  However, help is on its way as we can get a Bluetooth splitter device.  This has been ordered and is on its way and should arrive any day.  With the splitter Roy can have his hearing aids tuned in and I can use my wireless headphones and we can each have the volume adjusted to our own preferences.  Clever eh?! 

He has had them for a few weeks now with just one return visit  to the audiologist in Auckland to have one of the aid levels adjusted as it was creating a bit of feedback noise.    We have since been at Uretiti enjoying the sunny north when one day Roy decided he needed to change the grommet on the aids.  The grommet is the very small, black, rubberlike device that sits in the ear canal and I do mean small. Combined with large fingers the outcome was not going to be great. 

Yep, you guessed it, next minute we are crawling around the floor to try and find a dropped piece.  And yes, our flooring is black, and no we could not find it.  We even resorted to vacuuming the entire floor and then seiving through the detritus to try and find the elusive little thing.  However, we had no luck in finding it.  This whole scenario repeated itself a couple of days later with the same result.  Obviously he was doing something wrong so as we were heading into Whangarei the following day we thought we would call into the local branch of Bay Audiology to see if they could help.  Besides, he was having a bit of trouble with one of the aids sitting uncomfortably in the ear so they could sort that out as well.

Off we went into Whangarei and straight to Bay Audiology, where on inspection they said, wait a minute, there is a grommet stuck in your ear! No wonder things were not feeling comfortable!  We then had to go to another specialist hearing place to have the offending grommet removed safely.  Luckily they had a free appointment later in the morning so we made our way there.  Yes, he had a grommet stuck in his ear which was easily retrieved with a specialised tool, but hello? What’s this? Yep, you guessed it, there was not one, but two grommets stuck in there!!! No wonder the hearing wasn’t the best in that ear with two stuck grommets and a third in the actual hearing aid making things sound decidedly muffled!  I told you things were never straight forward with the Vannini’s!  

In between all of this, he had to have an MRI on one ear to make sure that there is nothing sinister making the hearing in one ear  deteriorate much more rapidly than the other.  The MRI has cleared that up with the hearing loss being put down to natural deterioration.  However, the specialist has sent us away with brochures on cochlear implants as apparently that is the next step.  But at this stage we shall just wait and see how things go as his hearing as it is much better now with the new aids.

So no longer will you see Roy going off on his walks with his headphones on connected via a wire to his iPhone whilst he is listening to podcasts, you will just see him wandering along……just don’t try to talk to him as he will probably be intently listening to a podcast. 

Canoe polo

May 9, 2017

In between appointments the other day we had a couple of hours to spare, and right outside the Audiology clinic in Takapuna they told us that the Master Canoe Polo event had just started and suggested we wander along to have a look.

We watched for some time, it is a very fast and very competitive sport, with five team members participating at any one time with a referee on each side of the playing area, you can see in the photos the refs walking along the floating board walk alongside the playing area.  The goal nets are suspended a few feet above the water at each end.

It was at times fast and furious with lots of jockeying for position and possession and seemed like a lot of fun.  The sport is akin to water polo and basketball played in kayaks, which can be played indoors or outdoors in a pool. The aim is to try and pass or block the ball to score into a suspended goal. It is suited to people who like rough and aggressive games and players are allowed to ram into each other’s kayaks. The ball can be blocked or flicked with the paddle, but by in large the ball is usually picked up and thrown. People assume that it is a kayaking sport, but it is a ball sport with kayaking thrown in.

There were teams playing from all over the world and it appeared to us that apart from the competitive side of things there was also lots of fun and friendship going on.  On checking the results, New Zealand did rather well as they were on the winning platform  in all classes and won gold in most.  

Little Spotted Kiwi

April 30, 2017

Last Saturday, the little Spotted Kiwi were returned to Shakespear Park.  These are the first Little Spotted Kiwi to be brought back to the greater Auckland Region, the second group to have a habitat on mainland New Zealand and are the second rarest Kiwi so it was with great ceremony that they were delivered to the Park.  Roy and I were privileged to be invited to view the proceedings and it was good timing as we had returned to Auckland for a few appointments the previous couple of days and were staying at our second “home” with my brother Steve & sister-in-law Leslie before heading back to the van at Uretiti. But back to the main event.

According to Wikipedia the little spotted kiwi or little grey kiwi, Apteryx owenii, is a small species of kiwi that in pre-European times occurred in both main islands of New Zealand. Around 1900, a population was trans-located to Kapiti Island for conservation purposes. Little spotted kiwis are the smallest species of kiwi, at about 0.9 to 1.9 kg (2.0–4.2 lb), about the size of a bantam. After they were released on Kapiti Island, they were also moved to Red Mercury Island, Hen Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island, and Long Island in the Queen Charlotte Sound. In 2000, about 20 little spotted kiwis were released into Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. This was the first time since about 1900 that little spotted kiwis could be found on the mainland of New Zealand. Now they have a second Mainland home ie. Shakespear Regional Park.

 The Kiwi were delivered to the ceremony site by selected personnel with the kiwi transported in specially made boxes which had been lovingly made by SOSSI (Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated) volunteers over the previous few months. 

Kiwi being delivered in their special carry boxes

The Kiwi and guests were welcomed by local iwi with a powhiri.

Iwi representative delivering welcome speech. 

Then came the welcoming speeches from various dignitaries inlcuding Auckland mayor Phil Goff

SOSSI chairman Peter Jackson

 NZ Defence Force representative

The Defence Force, namely the Navy, share some of the headland and fence line with the Park and work together with park staff  in enhancing the area.

Unfortunately I missed taking a picture of the very moving and powerful powhiri and karakia given by the Kapiti Island iwi representatives as I was too busy listening.   And why were Kapiti Island Iwi present?  The 10 female birds being introduced were from Kapiti Island just off the Wellington Coast, and the 10 male Kiwi were from Tiritiri Matangi Island which is an island in the Hauraki Gulf just 3kms offshore from Shakespear.  The mixing of the birds ensures there will be genetic diversity in future offspring.

After all of the speeches the birds were returned to their shelter.  We were then told that a few of the birds would be brought out for us to be able to see close up, whilst ensuring they would be carefully handled we were asked to be very quiet so as not to frighten the nocturnal creatures.  We had presumed that the birds would be brought out in the boxes as we knew that perspex lids had also been made for the boxes.  

What a pleasant surprise we had when we saw that the birds were being carefully brought out by handlers, cradling them in their arms like they would a newborn baby.

Each bird had a handler, a volunteer umbrella holder and a Ranger to bring them out to see us.

This bird was brought out by Ginnie.  Ginnie is the organiser for the Junior Ranger programme run at the Park which we are very involved with over the summer months. 

The Kiwi were released into their new habitat later in the afternoon, away from the glare of onlookers.   We look forward to hearing their calls in the night next time we return. 

I can see clearly now…

April 25, 2017

It only took ten days from ordering the windscreen replacement from the USA for it to arrive at Stieger Glass  in Takanini.  

This is how it is shipped from the USA.

Franz doing his thing, removing the rubber before he gets the old glass out.

Highlighted is the offending chip!

Windscreen removed, it’s a bit draughty now.

Old screen looking a bit sorry.

New one in, all tidied up.   The other half of the windscreen was reglued into place in the middle join as the old glue had deteriorated.

All taped up ready for the final seal

We can highly recommend Franz for his workmanship, work ethic and ability to source glass from anywhere in the world for any van, vehicle or caravan.  His Web site is here.  

A flying visit

April 22, 2017

When we get a call from friends Barry & Sandra asking if we will be around to join them for morning tea, we know that it will be a flying visit – literally!

As we are currently parked at the motorhome parking area at Ardmore Airport it was an opportune time for Sandra & Barry to visit from their home at Taupo Airport.  You see they have a plane with which they hop into to make their visits and sure enough just before 10am they landed at the airstrip in front of us!

We wandered down to greet them and spent the next couple of hours at the Airport Cafe catching up on all each other’s news before putting the world to rights.

It’s not the first time that they have visited, there was the time when we were in Takaka, Kaitaia and in Thames.  As well as us visiting them at their base in Taupo and here.

We were interrupted from our chatting by the roar of engines, sure enough there were 5  Harvard planes lined up ready for a takeoff.   These are part of the Warbirds collection that regularly fly at air shows and events around the country.  And with a roar they were all off in quick succession and were soon flying in formation over the city, we presumed as practise for ANZAC Day commemorations next week. 

Soon it was time for Sandra and Barry to head back home to Taupo.  It’s always great to catch up with them and we look forward to the next time.

Sandra, Roy & Barry

Auckland stranglehold

April 19, 2017

We finally managed to escape from the North Shore when the brakes were finally sorted with the new calipers fitted and everything finally completed and tested.  We made it as far as Papakura where we stayed at the Club for a few nights before heading to the NZMCA park at Ardmore.  Roy had an appointment at Ascot Hospital so we thought it would be convenient being here for a few days before we head north.   

Whilst we were at the club Simon called in with Maria for a visit…

Grandad and Maria
Antony only lives around the corner so he called in as well to catch up although I’m not so sure that Maria was impressed!Simon, Antony and Maria

Things seem to be conspiring against us at the moment as we now have a new issue.  There is a stone chip or two in the windscreen, very small ones mind you, however one is in the drivers sightline  and as part of the COF which is due at the end of the month, we needed to get them repaired.  The chips in question are only the size of my little fingernai.  We organised to have the windscreen looked at and hopefully get the chips fixed but guess what?  Yep, the stone chips cannot be successful repaired so we have to have a new windscreen which of course means it has to be ordered and shipped from the USA.  We are told that it will be a matter of just 10 days before it arrives into the country.  Meanwhile we are stuck at Ardmore until that arrives.  Of course to complicate matters there is Easter weekend and ANZAC day in amongst the time frame which equates to lots of public holidays but hopefully it will not hold things up too much. Meanwhile we wait…..patiently?! 

Both Antony and Roy have had birthdays in the past few days which the three of us have celebrated quietly with a meal or two out.  The years keep rolling around and the numbers inevitably keep getting larger, not that we are complaining!

The weather seems to have finally settled although last week we had the predicted storm Cyclone Cook bearing down on an already soaked landscape.  Fortunately the Cyclone deviated eastwards from its projected path and apart from the odd downpour or two we came off lightly.

Plans?  Well we are not making too many as as soon as we do, something seems to come along to scupper them so stay tuned folks. 

In a pickle

April 10, 2017

It’s that time of the year again when it’s time to get pickling.  After visiting the Mangere market garden for beautiful outdoor grown veggies including tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, it was time to get a pickle on.

First up was zucchini pickle, a certain favourite of a London residing member of the family, and yes, I may be able to sneak a jar into the luggage if she is a good girl 😘.

Zucchini Pickle all done

Then it was time to deal with all the tomatoes, Tomato Chilli Chutney and Tomato Chiil Jam were the main ones to get done.

Tomato Chutney done

Then there is the Giadiniera aka Pickled Vegetables that we love

Vegetables in the brine ready to be pickled.

The bottled vegetables ready for winter eating.

And the rain kept a coming…

April 5, 2017

Tuesday and the rain had started, but first we had a couple of appointments to keep which meant fighting the incessant traffic.  For some reason the rain also tends to bring out silly driving habits with drivers not adhering to good wet road driving practises, but the  queues were long and time consuming. 

Back at Shakespear we were safely parked on the hard in the SCC (Self Contained) parking area.  There were a couple of campers in the main campground so we went to see how they were faring and also to warn them of the deluge forecast for later in the day however the Ranger was already there making sure they were OK.  The people in a tent  packed up what they could and decided to leave, the ones in a motorhome said they were happy where they were but at around 6.30pm we saw that they too exited the camp and headed for higher ground.  Another bus joined us in the parking area and we settled in for the night.  

It was a bit of a restless night though with not much sleep happening.  I was up at around 12.30am as I was woken by a noise which I could not quite figure out what it was.  I was up again at 1.45am shining a torch light around to see what was happening – note to self, remember to put on glasses to be able to see what is actually going on.  I could see a large streak of brown along where the stream is at the back of the parking area but in my sleep-befuddled-nonspectacle-wearing state, I could not figure out what it was.  I did rescue our door mats from floating away though as the water was ankle deep around the bus.  Back to bed where I was up again another couple of times before finally giving up at around 5.30am. Roy was already up and about and I could hear him sloshing around outside.  

As dawn approached we could finally see what had happened.  A slip had come down the hill behind us and had completely blocked the stream, with tye stream now re routed to flow out exactly where we were parked. 

By this time our neighbours were also up and as the morning lightened we could finally see that the whole hillside had given way.  

The slip snaking its way down a small valley.  Time to get on out of there.

You can see our van parked over on the right hand side.  We were very lucky that the slip stopped where it did.  

we were parked under these trees just the other week!

We have now left the park as the brake parts have arrived so are being fitted Thursday morning. From there we are not sure where we are heading as yet  as Roy has some further appointments to attend but it won’t be too far away.  Stay safe people. 

Out of the closet

March 31, 2017

Time for me to finally sort out my closet.  We have made many adjustments to the wardrobe space and made many changes over the years but nothing has ever been totally satisfactory, until we finally came up with the solution.  Wanting to utilise the baskets we already have, we finally found a shelving system that we could put together which would fit the baskets we have as well as being adjustable for the wardrobe space plus leave a little room for hanging garments as well.

First we had to put together the racks, cutting the width down to fit the baskets.  That done, a minor adjustment was needed to the wardrobe space to fit it all in easily.

Roy prepping the cupboard.

Next it was time to check and see if everything worked and fitted.

Perfect.  A good time to sort out the clothes and make a donation to the local charity shop.  It may never t look like there is much hanging space left in the wardrobe but it’s just the silly angle I took the picture making it appear as tho there is no room.  

That job finally completed and ticked off the list.  Another job that has been on the list for a while is painting the blocks we carry around to use for levelling the van.  Roy spent a few days applying coats of paint to the blocks and then attaching straps to them so that when the blocks are in place under the hydraulic levellers, they can be easily retrieved by pulling on the straps.

Painting in progress.
Another job has been to repaint the A-frame used for towing the RAV4.  This necessitated sanding it back, applying masking tape to areas not required to be painted then prepping it with anti-rust stuff (technical term that!), before painting it with the specialised paint.  And damn fine it looks now too.

Note the carefully painted blocks it is sitting on! 

 We have a large inbuilt LPG tank which is in an open locker so gets covered in road grime and the odd stone chip.  When the tank was checked for recertification last year, we thought then that it would need a repainting and treated for the odd rust spots where stones have chipped away the paint. So Roy has also done the same to our LPG tank.  He rubbed it down, sanded it, and painted it and now it looks pretty tidy as well. 

Another important task was to sort out an issue we discovered with the brake lights, as the other day when I followed Roy in the van out to the get the brakes repaired I noticed that the lights were only coming on when full pressure was being applied to the brake pedal i.e. when coming to a complete stop.  Apparently there is a pressure type switch thingy (another technical term) under the dash that had come a bit loose but to access it is a little difficult  to bend oneself over the engine cover, around the seat, under the dash…..apparently ‘one’ is not as slim or as bendy as ‘one’ was!!  To make it easier we removed the drivers seat.
Can you see where the seat was??

Switch fixed, tested, seat reinstalled, all done.  Now we just wait for more parts for the brakes which should be here early next week, then fingers crossed they are well and truly fixed and we can be on our way.