Archive for July, 2011

Let it snow!

July 29, 2011

Monday morning we woke to a winter wonderland, although we were snuggly and warm in the house, it was not until we ventured outside that it was a little chilly. We must hasten to add though that it was not as chilly as the winter we encountered in the northern hemisphere!

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Helen and Don’s house

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Hazelnut orchard under a blanket of snow

Roy had an appointment in town this morning, so we bundled up and headed off in the Rav4. As we got onto the main highway we both commented at how weird it was as there was no other traffic on the road, once we reached the outskirts of Oamaru we found out why. There was a road block and a very long line of traffic banked up behind it, the main road south was closed until further notice. Well, how were we to know? Being school holidays, it seemed that every child was out playing in the snow making snowmen.

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Awamoa park

Jobs done, we headed back out to the farm. Ever since Monday we have had surprisingly warm weather, on Wednesday it was so warm that we opened up all the doors and windows! We have not had to have a fire since then, although it is looking a little gloomy today. Perhaps we may get some welcome rain?

Wednesday we had to go into town again, and we popped in to see the van. Things are coming along nicely, we did have a discussion with Steve (builder) with regards to our seating arrangements, and in particular the couch which we are moving to the opposite side of the van along the wall behind the drivers seat. On reflection, we thought that maybe rather than a couch we would buy a couple of nice arm chairs and put them in instead. So off to the furniture shops to see if there was anything that met our requirements. And what do you know? the first shop we found the perfect chairs, swivel recliners in black leather that are slimline so they are not too bulky for the van. Perfect. And what is more, they just so happened to be on special, so special in fact, that we got a further reduction for cash. They should arrive next week and be installed then.

Next job is to get invites out for Ma and Pa’s wedding anniversary, organize food, drink, tables, chairs, and people. Should be a good weekend.

The Vagaries of Farm Minding

July 25, 2011

Woke up early on Sunday morning to a beautiful day.  Not surprising really as we have had nothing but since moving out here.

Decided that a good hot shower would set the day up.  However found that the shower and temperature controls were a bit of a mystery.

He: How does this thing work.

She: RTFM

He: Have read it and is still does not appear to work..  it says there should be a yellow light and the only one is green

She: That’s not green it is yellow

He: Oh!

He: Now there is no pressure

She: Pull the handle towards you

He: I have and there is still none

She: Well it was all right yesterday when I had a shower!!

He: ??!!

Mm, perhaps there is a different problem, other than lack of knowledge of the intricacies of the controls.  So on with clothes and out to check the pump etc.  Fortunately Don had pointed out the pressure pump in the shed (along with the comment “you’ll have no problem with the water”).  Check the pump.  It is running, but the pressure gauge is not exactly high, in fact it is well down.  Thinks, possible causes, pump valve gone, no water, leak in pressure vessel.  Oh well start at the beginning.

No obvious leaks around the pressure vessel.  Turn off pump.  Turn off water supply.  Turn on water supply.  Turn on pump.  Still no pressure.  Turn off pump.

Head for water tank.  25,000 litre 2.5- 3 metre tall tank, no exterior indicator of level.  Look for ladder, find one overgrown in the grass at the base of the tank.  Retrieve ladder from grass and stack against tank, narrowly avoiding carefully placed and overgrown narrow ditch in ground.  Climb ladder and peer into tank.  Oh oh, there is about 15 to 20 centimetres of water right in the bottom of the tank.  The top of the water level is just at the lowest level of the outlet pipe.  However there is water entering the tank from the feed pipe.  So there must be a leak somewhere in the distribution system around the farm.   Where to start.  No obvious wet patches around the house nor in any of the ground below house level.  Most logical place would have to be where water is currently being used.  This is a water trough being used for cattle grazing in one of the paddocks.

Find the trough and a nice big lake of water.  One of the joints leading to the trough has burst.  At least this should be an easy fix.  Ring Bill, the owner of the cattle, to confirm my suspicions as to cause of problem, and to advise that his cattle have no water.  He comes round and between us we fix the problem.

By this time it is mid morning, so no showers, no dishwashing, no water.  We have to wait until the tank has at least filled to the top of the outlet pipe before we can proceed.  This will take some time as the inflow is restricted and is a mere dribble.

It is mid afternoon before the level has been reached and we can have the pump on again and continue with our normal water consumption.  Just in time before the snow starts falling to blanket the farm.

Fun on the farm!!

On the farm

July 22, 2011

We handed Pen-y-bryn back to the Jameses on Monday to head out to the Newlands farm for our next stint at house sitting. And it seems that ever since we have been here, the weather has been glorious and the views just breathtaking. We have settled in to a nice little routine which sees us both enjoying the utter peace and quiet. Everyday we see glorious skies, beautiful sunsets.

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View from house

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Sunset

It seems like an age since I was in Singapore and Bali even though it is only just a week. I was surprised on Wednesday with delivery of a lovely bunch of flowers sent as a thank you from Alex. Then to top it off, the Jameses gave me a lovely string of pearls, they look lovely and are just the perfect length so I will get lots of wear out of them.I am very spoilt.

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Flowers from Alex

As we are 20 minutes or so from Oamaru we make sure that any visits into town are multi purpose hence the need for a very good “to do” list. The list seems to be growing longer and longer as we try and guess what we may need over the next week or two.
Wednesday we had Mum and Dad come for a visit and for lunch. I think they enjoyed their visit and to see where we will be celebrating their anniversary next month. Later we headed into town so that; Roy could attend his Drs appointment, get the shopping done and also attend the weekly pub quiz (which we won). Thursday evening we had the quiz team round for dinner as it was J2’s birthday. Then on Friday Mike and Ann joined us to watch the All Blacks rugby game against Fiji.

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J2 birthday lemon tart

This weekend will see us potter around the house and catch up on a few bits and pieces and not go too far at all, particularly as we are forecast some cold weather and some snow.

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Late Sunday night view from dining room!

Hopefully we will get into town tomorrow to attend to a number of chores before settling in to life on the farm.

Back in good ol’ NZ

July 19, 2011

After a grueling flight, why does it always seem to take forever?, made worse by the fact that in the front row were two families each with very young children/babies who seemed to take turns in crying…..constantly for 10 hours! This was after being up since 5.30am to leave Bali, then the 8hr wait in Singapore before the flight to NZ, then there was the three hour drive back to Oamaru. After traveling just on an hour, I called in to see Jason, Erica and the children for a much needed break, cuppa, a bite to eat and of course a catch up. Then it was back on the road with the window down, the radio going full blast and the occasional stop to top up with caffeine in one form or other. Yes, I know Alex, I can hear you from here…you had an 11hr wait in Singapore then a 2 hr stopover in munch before you get home, but I am older (and wiser!) and admit that I cannot hack the pace like I once could!!!!

It was lovely to finally arrive at Pen-y-bryn and of course to Roy. By this time I had been up for over 36hrs and was feeling rather tired and also a little seedy thus an early night for me and sleep for around 12hrs! I woke up Monday morning feeling really rather the worse for wear but as the day wore on, it all became a little better. The Jameses were due to arrive later in the afternoon so we filled up the cars with all our gear and headed out to Helen and Don’s farm to drop it all off. But not before heading down to get my first glimpse of the van since work commenced.

This morning, to our surprise, the blinds for the van that we had ordered from the USA had arrived. We ordered them online, and had them sent to James G’s mother in NY as the company would not send internationally, she kindly organized for them to be sent to us. They were only despatched the previous Wednesday so it only took four working days to get to Oamaru, fantastic service. Why did we get blinds sent from the US? Price, basically. One sixth of the price had we purchased them in NZ. The blinds are double cell honeycomb blinds with thermal and blackout linings which should make a huge difference in the van. So off we trotted to take the blinds to the workshop and to get my first look at the changes made so far. The bed is done – new slat base with lift up to provide storage underneath. The bathroom vanity has been removed, the new smaller handbasin in its new vanity unit is ready to go in once some other minor work is done. Onto the piece de resistance, my new kitchen, the units are in place complete with the amazing new swivel corner storage unit and my new oven. The new (huge) pantry is ready to go in, and bench tops should be ready this week. It is a kitchen that would be desirable in any home!! Then the new seating and table can be done, along with the new office space at the front passenger side of the dash.It is all rather exciting and we cannot wait to have it finished and back in our hands.

The Jameses arrived home late in the afternoon, we quickly caught up before we headed out to the farm which will be our “home” for the next 6 weeks. I must hasten to add here that it is a hazelnut farm with two dogs the only livestock to care for. It will be here that we will be holding Mum & Dad’s 65th wedding anniversary celebrations later next month, when we hope that all the family will be able to gather and help celebrate this major achievement. More info on that later.

Here we are, getting used to the very quiet life on the farm. The views from here are amazing and with the lovely crisp clean air, it is delightful to be here. We welcome visitors……just call first to make sure that we are in residence!!

Culinary delights in Bali

July 16, 2011

Another early start for us as we were off on our cooking course ( some holiday… Where are the sleep ins??). First stop after being picked up was the local Ubud market which was rather an eye opener for some, with people, food, animals and rubbish strewn across every empty space available. Our guide was a sweet young lady who explained all the types of food to us, as well as letting us try some of the exotic fruits including the snake skin fruit and mangosteen, yum!

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From here we were taken up to a village just outside of Ubud to firstly get a closer look at the rice paddies, and be told how the whole rice growing process works. Then it was off to the house where the cooking class was held. We were greeted with a lovely fresh lemon drink, followed by an extensive tour of their house complex, including family temple. We didn’t realize that as well as a cooking course we would be getting a cultural insight into traditional Balinese lifestyle, which is still very much alive.

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Finally it was on to the cooking, after a group effort of chopping, grating, and ‘Balinese blending’ the fresh raw ingredients, we started with a fresh mushroom and vegetable soup. Then for mains had tuna cooked in banana leaf, chicken satay, gado gado salad, chicken curry, deep fried Tempeh, a bean salad, raw sambal, all accompanied with steamed rice. Wow what an amazing lunch! All washed down with a bintang, well for those of the party that enjoy a beer. Dessert was cooked banana (a hard starchy variety), with jackfruit in a palm sugar and coconut cream sauce. So spoilt!

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Once we got back, it was chill time for a while, then Alex headed off to venture into the monkey forest. It was definitely an interesting experience. I couldn’t believe how many monkeys there were! On the ground, climbing the temple, in the trees and climbing on people. I had one obviously thinking my brightly colored dress was food of some description to jump on and attach itself to my dress. Lucky it was just a small one, as I spun round and it stayed clinging on, lucky a guide was close by so he shooed it off for me. Some were a bit frightening as they were fighting for territory, but it was otherwise fine. The temple was stunning, particularly the banyan trees throughout.

Dinner was a very small snack after our large lunch, but on seeing a drink being taken to another table being served in a pineapple, we insisted on two of those. Turned out to be some potent tequila based cocktail, not so yum!

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Friday morning we were off on the road again, back to Sanur. We arrived too early to check in, so spent the remainder of the morning walking around the town having a look in shops. But this was definitely not a shopping trip for either of us, as the only thing we came away with was new sunglasses, no purses, bags, t-shirts or anything! So restrained!

After checking in for our last day on holiday, there was only one thing to do… Hit the beach with our books once more. After a relaxing couple of hours on the beach, we got dressed and got in a taxi to Jimbaran where we met Suzy and Sonia once again for dinner at the most amazing setting on the beach. A stone’s throw from the sea, we had a fabulous dinner of a mixture of seafood with rice and some vegetables. We also had a try of the barbecued corn from a stall on the beach which was lovely. We were serenaded by a quintet of musicians who played us classics such as Hey Jude! Oh, and one musician decided he was in love with Alex and she was serenaded for the rest of the evening from afar! After a magical evening, it was sad to say goodbye, knowing that it was our last night on the island, but what a way to finish it! Thanks to Suzy and Sonia for making it so memorable.

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Today is just one mammoth day of travel for both of us. Getting up at 5:30am to catch the early flight to Singapore, where Bernice has an 8 hour wait for her flight back to NZ, and Alex has an 11 hour wait for her flight to London via Munich. Lucky for us, Singapore airport has free wi fi!

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This is what you do at Changi airport to pass the time!

Sad to end a great holiday, it’s definitely one we will be talking about for years to come!
P.S.

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Sign seen around the streets outside our resort, having earlier cleared the beach during a tsunami alert…………………………..just as well it was a practise!

Ubud

July 16, 2011

We were up early this morning as we had to be at reception at 8.30am for our pick up. After a glorious nights sleep following a late night massage, we were up, packed, breakfasted and ready to go. We had a driver and a tour guide to escort us on the trip to Ubud. Our first stop was to a batik factory where we watched everything from the weaving of the material, through to the batik process then of course into the shop! It was definitely priced for the tourists so we headed out of there fairly quickly.

Next stop on our trip was to watch a traditional dance and story which was quite interesting, although after an hour the senior member of the party did admit to closing her eyes behind her sunglasses!!

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Tiger dance

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Balinese dancer

Off on our journey again, avoiding the traffic, people, animals and everything else that seems to spill onto Bali streets. Here the horn on the vehicle is used not only as a warning device on approaching someone else but also as an indicator! Next stop was at a traditional living set up, complete with the family’s own temple, lovely gardens and animals. Then it was a short walk across the road to see traditional wood carving. Although it must be said that we did ask the question as to why there are so many Buddah images around when Bali is 90% Hindu. We were told that the Buddah are made purely for the tourists!!

Next stop was the gold and silver smithing where we were shown how they processed the silver from the raw material then onto the finished products, although at this stop we thought the prices were too high even tho we bargained. Our tour guide asked us once we returned to the car is we had purchased anything Alex said no, it was too expensive, so he asked what they were asking, when she said 2.1 million rupiah, he said, oh offer then half price, 500,000 rupiah. But, we said, that’s a quarter not half, and he said yes, yes, half half!!! So onto the next shop with that information in mind, where we managed to strongly bargain and both bought some silver.

On from there to a traditional temple, where we donned sarongs to enter, a quick look around before we escaped the heat back to the car.

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Alex at the temple

Then it was off through the winding hill roads to a Plantation..cocoa, coffee, all sorts of fruits, vanilla pods and much more. Yes, Bernice even tried some Luwak coffee (google it to get the explanation!!!!).

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A Luwak.

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A line up of coffees and teas.

On to lunch which we had in the mountains overlooking Lake Penelokan and Volcano. A lovely late afternoon lunch before we then headed toward Ubud.

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Along the way we saw the lovely, picturesque rice terraces before we eventually got to Ubud and our hotel, which was right on Monkey Forest road. An earlyish night as another early start in the morning for our cooking course.

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Bali and Sanur.

July 16, 2011

My first flight with a budget airline, Air Asia, and I have to say it wasn’t too bad, the seats were really comfy although anyone with legs longer than mine would have had trouble (and let’s face it, that would be most people!!!), as my knees were up against the back of the seat in front of me. Just a short 2 1/2 hour flight this time, someone who shall remain nameless slept all the way! We arrived at Bali airport to find that it is not quite like Singapore airport, and after queuing for around 20 mins to pay our US$25 entry visa, we then had to joint the queues for immigration. Over an hour later (in un air conditioned airport too I might add), we finally got through immigration to then head for the customs queue. This queue was at least moving very quickly, then it was outside to queue up again for a taxi.

Through the streets of Kuta and off to Sanur, I must say it was a little of a culture shock after Singapore where everything is so clean, tidy, modern, and very safe (yes Ann, I am living in my bubble again!!). But we made it eventually through the chaotic traffic to out hotel, the Bali Hyatt. What a pleasant surprise, from the greeting at the entrance, the welcome lei, cool drink and cool flannel, the friendly welcoming staff, we were soon off to our room, an ocean view room on the ground floor no less. It is bliss.

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View from our room

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Welcome flowers in our room

We had arranged to meet up with Suzy Lynch (Margaret’s daughter) and her partner Sonia for dinner, by the time we had been through all the queues, fought traffic etc we were pretty well shattered so they came to the hotel to meet up with us and join us for dinner. We had a lovely meal with some traditional Balinese dishes and with the lovely company a very pleasant evening was spent before Alex and I crashed into bed.

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View along the beach

Tuesday morning and after a nice long sleep, we headed off to the restaurant for breakfast, and delicious it was too, before we decided to make our plans for a day. The plans included swimming, reading and lying on the sun loungers under beach umbrellas. I know, a tough life but someone has to do it! By mid afternoon we thought we had best prepare ourselves for tomorrow as we are heading to Ubud for a couple of nights before returning here for one night before we head our separate ways. So we now have a car booked to take us to Ubud, but also to take us on a sightseeing trip along the way. As well, we have booked ourselves a nice spa treatment and massage for tonight, well, it has been a tough day today.

We have both read or finished a book today, now we are onto the next Book in the pile.

The weather in Bali is very warm but not as humid as Singapore so it is a little more comfortable. But thank goodness for air conditioning in our room as I don’t think I would survive for too long without it.

Home from the spa and massage, and oh my goodness, it was the most wonderful, relaxing, delightful massage I have ever had, all 90 minutes of it! Sleep now.

Finals

July 16, 2011

What can we say, the result may not have been what we wanted but it was anyone’s game really. Sunday morning started early for us with a group breakfast as we all had to be finished by 8.30am as we were to be having a Q&A session with Julie Coney, Julie Seymour, Belinda Colling and a “special” Aussie guest which turned out to be Vicki Wilson. For the next one and half hours we listened enthralled and totally entertained to a great group discussion on the ins and outs of netball, teams, personalities, tours, shopping, and even the ins and outs of drug testing!! A fantastic start to the day.

Alex & I quickly got our stuff together and headed off to the stadium for all the finals matches. We arrived to find that the stadium had removed one court and turned it around so for the final day we sat in the very front row, right on the centre third line. We were in great company too with Maria Tuatia’s parents on one side of us and on the other side a couple of ladies who had been umpires internationally in their heyday! all the games were very good, but we had all come to see the final between NZ and Oz. Well, it could have gone either way, but it was still a very good game and I don’t think I have yelled so much, cried, hugged strangers, and had my heart in my mouth for such a long time. It was a torrid afternoon. Never mind, we picked ourselves up afterwards and headed off to Clark Quay to a bar to help ease the pain.

Here we again met up with some of our new found acquaintances, Marion & Joan from Milton, all the West Coast girls, Barb, and many many more. The bar is situated right next to the bungy capsule and the giant swing rides, Alex ended up going on the giant swing ride with Mary a 73yo who said she wanted to have a go, and she thoroughly enjoyed it too singing at the top of her voice when she was asked if she was OK. Bernice left Alex with the young ones again as she shared a cab ride back to the hotel with Marion & Joan, as we head to be up reasonably early Monday morning for our flits to Bali.

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Singapore sling to drown our sorrows.

Monday morning, and a quick breakfast, said managed to catch up with Glenda and Marie from Cromwell whom we seemed to run into everywhere throughout the previous week, final farewells said to all out other new friends, and thank-you’s said to the wonderful staff from Willament Travel who organized the trip. We threw the last of our belongings into our bags, hailed a cab and we were on our way to Changi airport. We had enough time for a quick look at the duty free shops, although nothing was purchased, met up with Lois Muir at the airport too before heading off to catch our flight.

Three days worth

July 10, 2011

After so many days of full on netball, heat, humidity and goodness knows what else, we gave ourselves Thursday off netball watching as it was just the playoff for the minor placings. So with that in mind, Alex went out with a few of the younger members of the touring party on Wednesday night, returning back in time to join me for a quick breakfast before she headed out again with Barb, one of the other members of our touring group, to Universal theme park for the day.

By all accounts they had a great time,

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Alex and Barb

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Zip line

Meanwhile, someone in the party attended to domestic matters such as laundry, as well as having a look around the city and generally trying to keep myself as cool as possible. By late afternoon Alex arrived back for a quick shower and change as we were heading out to Sentosa Island to see a show called Voyage de la Vie. Our first stop was to have a bite to eat. We found a place put near the venue where we ordered a few delights from the menu to tempt us.

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It was on our way out of the restaurant that we came across another group of netball supporters from our group. Only two of the women were going to the same show as we were, after chatting with them for a while the two ladies going to the show asked if they could tag along with us as they were not sure where to go. Off we went to the show, a combination of dance, theatre, acrobatics, gymnastics, magic, rope work, fireworks, light show….a great evening of entertainment.

By the end of the evening, we decided to take a cab back to the hotel sharing it with our two new friends (who just happen to be from Milton). Oh, have we mentioned before how cheap taxis are here in Singapore? For the approximately 30 minute cab ride back to the hotel it cost the four of us $11 in total. By this time it was nearing midnight and the youngest member of the party was rather weary.

Friday morning, and back to the netball, today New Zealand were to play South Africa. We stay at the netball all day, which means that after breakfast with the group, we pack up our backpacks, and head off down the road to the MRT station to the underground train to the stadium.We are usually on our way by 10am. Along the way, we buy provisions for lunch and snacks as well as lots of water. Its off along one line, then change after a couple of stops to another line then off to the Stadium. Then a short walk to the stadium itself where we find our seats and make ourselves comfortable for the day. The first game starts at 11am and the last games start at 8pm so by the time the game ends and we are back on the return train journey to the hotel. Friday night, it’s 10pm and we have not had any dinner so we try and find something on the way, what this means is that it’s another late night.

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The team!

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Just to prove we were here.

Although we knew we would win todays game, South Africa provided us with a good competition which meant the girls had to step it up a level. The following game was arch rivals Australia against a much lesser team form Malawi. The Malawi team played with such heart helped along by a large section of the NZ crowd cheering them along.

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Some of the crowd.

On to Saturday and the semi finals, New Zealand is up against England, a team that has been playing very well all week. Another exhilarating day of singing and chanting and cheering on our team plus providing voice to help along other teams. Our girls did not let us down and we came away with a great win.

Tomorrow is Sunday and finals day. We apparently have to be up early tomorrow for an early breakfast as we have special guests attending……..watch this space to find out just who it will be!

Monday we are off to Bali for some seriously earned R&R. As we are unsure Internet access there we may not be able to post for some time, but rest assured that some of the books we both have piled up beside our beds will finally get an airing, the suntan lotion is at the ready, the togs are waiting……we may even have the chance for a massage or two!

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Sight of the week, the 6ft 10in Sri Lankan player with her opponent!!

Netball, zoo and other things

July 7, 2011

The last two days have been netball packed, and for those of you who have been watching on Telly… Hope you have seen us. Have had a few reports of sightings. Yesterday whilst waiting on the silver ferns to play, a camera crew from ESPN came and sat in a spare seat next to Alex who got interviewed for a tv show of the netball! If anyone saw this let us know how it turned out (was only slightly embarrassed!).
The netball just got better for us yesterday, with another run of the whole team and some outstanding turn outs from some of the newer girls, Anna Thompson was particularly outstanding. She is a different player from the one mum and I saw 6months ago in London that’s for sure.

We had to leave early into the Australian game yesterday as we had a trip booked to go on the night safari at the Singapore zoo. After waiting about half an hour for a couple of no shows for the trip, we got under way. We hopped onto the zoo tram once we got there which took us around all the different parts of the zoo. First stop off was the leopard walk where we saw leopards, golden cats, porcupines and lots of others. There were even areas where we had flying squirrels flying over our head and another area with bats flying almost at us. Fair to say we got out of that area fast.
Then we got back on to continue our tram ride past the giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos and so many more animals. It’s amazing how many are up and about at night time. Great idea Singapore zoo!

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Alex with a friend at the zoo. No other zoo photos as you could not use a flash, and the resulting photos were too dark!

Today was full of netball. The day started off great, at breakfast I got asked what school I go to! Yes the lady meant high school! For secrets to anti aging, please go to alexisawesome.com and place your order for first easy installment of $1,000 for your information and starter pack. (Mum says it’s her anti aging, youth defying genes – yeah right).

The netball started off well with an exciting match Northern Ireland vs Samoa, this is the game that we hear we were noticed on the TV, seated in the stands, which was probably not hard to do as we were the only ones in the NZ supporters section of the stands!!!! It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. The next game was Fiji vs Wales, Fiji managing to snatch victory from Wales. NZ played and again were on fire. It’s good to finally see them mix it up a little with their line up and enjoying playing. It is also great to be part of such a huge NZ contingent and was particularly moving when we got to sing our national anthem at yesterday game.

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Team singing national anthem.

Some members of the crowd are very adept at getting the rest of us singing and chanting which all adds to the wonderful atmosphere. Although it must be said that some of the chants that they get going are just a little too complex for some of the “older” members of the touring party!
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Crowd scene from within the crowd.

Thursday is playoff for the lower places in the tournament so we are taking the day off from netball, Bernice is going to spend the day catching up with a few chores, some shopping, and generally have a relaxing day. Alex meanwhile is heading out to Universal studios theme park with some of the younger members of the tour organisers. Roller coasters and the like are not on the agenda of the more mature member of the party.