Archive for September, 2017

Landed in London

September 30, 2017

Oops I did it again, I accidentally swiped the publish button on the last post before I had finished writing it.

We eventually landed at Heathrow 30minutes later than scheduled, by this time we were both exhausted and restless but ready to disembark. We were one of the last off the plane as everyone else was in a hurry and blocking the aisles for a good 15minutes before we were able to retrieve our hand luggage and disembark. Then it was off on the long walk to immigration and customs, why is it that all our flights seem to end up at the gate farthest away from our next point of departure? I know we need the exercise but by this time we were shattered. Next we were to face the long queues of people lined up at the “other” passport entry, fortunately I travel of my British passport so it was straight to the UK & EU line where there was just one couple on front of us. A cheery passport control man welcomed us to the UK where we chatted about the length of our flight and the prospect of a good cuppa before we were through and off to collect our bags, then straight through the green exit line to where Alex was waiting for us.

It was close to 5pm by this time and the traffic on the motorway was a bit slow at times but it wasn’t that bad and we were soon on our way to her lovely home in Erith.

Erith is circled in red in the above map.

Erith is just a 40minute train ride into central London, and is right by the Thames. A very pretty area that we shall enjoy exploring over the coming weeks.

Alex and Ian have bought a lovely home which they moved into earlier this year and they have already done some decorating to put their stamp on the place. That evening we managed to stay up until around 8pm before bed was calling out for us to sleep. Oh what bliss to be able to lie down. The following morning Roy and I managed to get the bus into the village (well, I say village but the population is around 68,000 people) the bus goes right past the house and even though there is no official bus stop in the street you just hail the driver and they stop for you. Assisted by a very friendly and helpful bus driver, we got into the centre of the town where the bus driver told us this was where we got off then she made sure we knew where to catch the bus home again and which number bus we needed, extremely helpful.

We wandered around the local supermarket, Morrison’s, where we were like kids in a sweet shop as everything was so cheap. To top it all off, we got free wifi in the store so we could chat with Alex about various matters (getting UK/EU SIM cards for our phones tomorrow). We could not believe the price of food compared with NZ, especially the price of fresh produce, the store even has cheaper versions of fruit and veg if they are deemed “wonky”. The wonky veg looked perfectly fine to me, as well as the price the range and quality was good as well. For example, baby gem lettuces were two for 50p, raspberries were two 250gm containers for £1.50, tomatoes were similarly priced. They even offer a pack of wonky veg for £3 which they say is enough to feed a family of four for a week. We had to restrain ourselves from buying too much as we knew we had to carry it back with us so we just got the essentials…….including Melton Mowbray Pork Pies!! Of course essential supplies included rum and gin, all available at the supermarket and at prices cheaper than Duty Free!

and the variety of different brands was extensive and impressive.

We headed back home with our bags of goodies, again with the help of a very kind bus driver who stopped the bus practically outside the door advising us this was where we should disembark.

We have tried to reestablish our sleeping patterns with the time difference, it has taken a day or so but we are pretty well sorted now. I have to admit that I take the No Jet Lag tablets available at New Zealand airports, which does help me as I have suffered jet lag (nausea and disorientation) previously on one long haul flight when I forgot to take them.

Alex & Ian have of course been working all week, so now we have the weekend together to do some sightseeing and some shopping. This evening we are going to a curry house, a typical English thing to do apparently, for dinner and to meet Ian’s family which we are really looking forward to.

PS. The weather has been very good to us so far, quite warm with very still days. Let’s hope it continues.

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We made it!

September 29, 2017

Antony dropped us off at Auckland Airport on Tuesday night ready for our late night flight. Yes, we were leaving at 12.55am, yes, that is the right time as in nigh on 1am. We left on time on our Air New Zealand flight to Singapore with our essentials with us, passports, travel documents, a change of clothes and toilet gear so we can have a shower in our 2hour stopover, a bottle of water each, compression socks, iPads, and neck cushions. The latter we bought at the airport as just about every second passenger wandering through the airport seemed to have them so we thought we would give them a trial. The flight left on time, and it wasn’t too long before we were given a drink and a meal then the lights were dimmed and we settled back to try and sleep, or should I say nap. 10hrs and 45minutes of being cooped up in a long metal tube is not exactly an exciting prospect but it’s part and parcel of getting to the other side of the world. Time seemed to tick on by very very slowly, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch in the movie department either.

By the time we arrived in Singapore I was starting to feel a little weary as we had already been up for over 24hrs at that stage. We disembarked in the transit area and caught the train and then walked to our departure gate ready for our next flight, calling into the check-in desk along the way to see if we could purchase an upgrade as the thought of the much longer flight ahead being stuck in a seat was a daunting. Unfortunately there were no seats available anyway but the price was ridiculously expensive, so stuck in economy it was to be for us. It turned out that there was no time to have a shower as by the time we got to the gate it was time to board.

We boarded our Singapore Airlines A380 plane where we will be for the next 13hrs and 40minutes. I must say that Singapore Airlines really know how to look after you, we were really comfortable and were well fed and hydrated all the way. However, the time seemed to drag, we were constantly checking the tracker to see how far we had travelled.

Here we are on our way toward India.Again we were well fed and watered all the way, we desperately tried to sleep, the odd bit of napping took place in between watching a movie or two, but not a lot. We were both twitchy, restless, exhausted and just wanted the flight to get us there, now!

Here we are taking a turn heading toward Moscow, avoiding flying over some of the troubled hotspots of the world, but still a long way to go. As we finally approached the UK, the pilot announced that even though we had departed Singapore late, they had made up time and we were on schedule to land on time. However, not more than 3 or 4 minutes later we had another announcement to tell us that there was a backlog of planes trying to land at Heathrow and we would be in a holding pattern for a further 30minutes……..NOOOOoooooooo!! It was almost to much to handle!

We’re off

September 26, 2017

Oops, sorry to those who received a half written blog entry yesterday, it was a slip of the finger on the screen.

Bags are packed, passports are at the ready, currency exchanged, what else can there be to do? Yes, we’re off tonight, I can hardly believe that the time has finally arrived for us to step onto the plane for the loooong flights ahead of us.

We finished our housesitting duties last week when Jack & Chris arrived home on Thursday. We really enjoyed our housesitting stint as we were able to catch up with lots of friends and family, plus it was a nice change for us. On Friday we headed to the van, quickly got sorted and made our way down to Papakura for a couple of nights. We caught up with friends Bill & Linda for dinner at the Papakura Club on Friday evening which was lovely to see them and catch up on all their news. Saturday we exercised our democratic right to vote, watching the results come in later that evening but gave up watching after 30minutes or so, pretty unexciting viewing. Sunday we headed off to Kopu to where the van is having some R&M done on it whilst we are away, we stayed the night before returning to Antony’s on Monday. Today has been doing all those last minute chores before we head away, getting the last of the washing done, repacking the bags and taking out what we don’t really need, plus Roy had an appointment with the specialist for his final injection ready for treatment to begin next year when we return.

So that’s about it folks, we fly out later this evening (actually in the early hours just after midnight) for Singapore where we have a short 2hr stopover before the flight to London. We shall endeavour to update the blog on a reasonably regular basis where and when we can. In the meantime, stay safe and well out there!

Final countdown

September 19, 2017

Eek, one week to go until we head off on our next adventures and there is still so much to organise, I don’t know where the time has gone.

This last weekend we were expecting to have a relatively quiet one with no guests due for the weekend, however, that was soon to change. On Saturday evening we were quietly enjoying dinner with Grant whilst waiting for the rugby to start when I got a cheeky text from my brother John asking what was for dinner tomorrow night as he and his partner Jude were thinking coming to stay! Sure enough they arrived on Sunday afternoon, quickly settled in and then went for a quick tour around the area.

That’s them across the harbour at Pahi….can you see them?

No, we couldn’t really either until we got the binoculars out. Here’s a closer view, you can just make out their grey car parked near the end of the wharf!

It was great to catch up with them and all their news, even though we do keep in contact regularly via a monthly family email, it’s always nice to meet up in person.

We had another visitor this week as well, this cheeky fellow came and sat on the rail just outside the kitchen. We are sure he was eyeing up all the skinks that bask on the warm concrete during the day.

The hens have been keeping us in good supply with eggs and we thought that we had a good lot of ducklings hatched with 12 ducklings swimming on the pond, although at the next count it was only 10. But what do you call a group of ducklings? A clutch? A flock? Well, according to Mr Google, he tells me that ducks in flight are called a flock, ducks on land are a brace or balding (I think I will stick to calling them a brace as balding sounds …..well, just bad!). And ducks on the water are called a raft, a team or a paddling. Who knew?

So here is a picture of a paddling of ducklings.

However, today we discovered that there are actually three distinct groups of ducklings in, on and around the pond ranging in size from very new to a few weeks old with each brace numbering around 10 which means 30 ducklings in total. That’s an awful lot of ducks! I tried to get a picture of them, here are some of them on the bank, can you spot them?

They are hiding on the bank under the shadow of the cabbage tree nearest the pond.

A closer view, there are the two groups here but the tiny newly hatched ones are hiding under a flax bush. They will be a nice surprise for Jacky & Chris on their return. As well, there are a pair of herons nesting in one of the macrocarpa trees, and the tuis, wood pigeons and rosellas have been very active over the last week or two as well, anyone would think that it is spring.

Meanwhile we are busy making lists of things we need to get done before we leave, like making sure all our affairs are in order and up to date, inform those that need to know that we are heading away, getting prescriptions sorted, make lists of what we need from the van to pack, oh and have we got suitcases suitable for the trip?, money is organised, passports, insurance, travel plans are all done, the van is sorted for whilst we are away so hopefully we have thought of most things.

After a bit of a fright the other week when it was pointed out to me that I had misread the date and time of our flight 😳 (Well, it is easy enough to do isn’t it?). I read that our flight departed at 0055 on Wednesday so I just had it in my head that we left Wednesday night just after midnight ……..oops, it actually means Tuesday night check in for an early hour departure on Wednesday morning NOT Wednesday night.

I have checked and rechecked the tickets to make sure we will be at the airport on the right day at the right time, now we just have to hope that the air fuel situation does not impact us to badly. Keep your fingers crossed folks!

Weekend of fun

September 15, 2017

It was a bit of a full on weekend as Steve, Leslie, Sarah and the three boys, Ben, Asher and a Finn came to stay. Steve arrived first on Friday afternoon as he had been working in Whangarei for the day. He brought with him his homemade salami and some breasola, an Italian style dried aged beef, both of which were delicious, as well as some yummy cheeses he picked up along the way. Sarah, Leslie and the boys arrived later in the afternoon, with the boys keen and eager to immediately go and check the hens to see if they had laid any eggs. Just as well Roy had left the egg collecting until he boys arrived, as they were thrilled to collect an egg each. Here is Finn with two eggs

It wasn’t too much later that the boys were keen to test out the spa pool,

The weekend was made up of the boys playing on swings, building huts, walking down to the wharf with Poppi and helping Aunty Bernice make Bao buns for dinner on Saturday night.

The hens were repeatedly checked throughout the day and collecting warm eggs was the main achievement, a soak in the spa after all that running around was also enjoyed.

One of the locals, Grant, who we usually have over for dinner most weekends, braved the noise and three inquisitive boys and joined us for dinner and rugby watching on Saturday night. Asher had helped me make the Bao buns to go with the crispy pork belly and Asian style slaw for dinner which went down very well. Asher impressed us all as he managed to down 7 of the buns, an impressive effort as the rest of us struggled with 3 or 4!!

The weather was mainly fine although we did have some wind, rain, hail, thunder and lightening, you could say a little bit of everything. We had hail and wind on Saturday afternoon, with the wind pushing the hail so it appeared to not only be coming in horizontally but at one stage it appeared to be going uphill! The thunder bolts shook the house and rattled windows making it all rather exciting, especially when the power went out. Not only did the power go out once before being quickly restored, but it went out twice, then three times, necessitating finding the candle stash which luckily Chris had shown us where they were easily accessed, put in a handy place for exactly this reason. Fortunately dinner was cooked and ready to go and with just the buns to steam which we could do with the power out as the hob is gas. Luckily the power was restored in time for us all to be able to watch the All Blacks game on the big screen, although we did have a plan B in place. You see our internet modem can be powered by 12v so we thought we could plug that into the car cigarette lighter and then watch the game live streamed on our iPads. But as I said, the power was restored in time for the start of the game so plan B was shelved.

Everyone left by mid afternoon Sunday and our peace & quiet was restored for another week. As of today, Friday, we have just one week left housesitting, then it will be the mad rush to get ourselves sorted before we are off on our next adventure.

Visitors

September 8, 2017

Whilst we have been housesitting, we have had the opportunity to have a number of our friends come to stay with us. And yes, we have approval of the home owners Jacky & Chris to have our friends and family to stay. Over the past few weeks we have had lots of friends come to stay, it’s almost been like running a Lodge!!

We have mentioned previously that we had Pat & Sue visit for a few days. It was a very relaxing time spent playing cards, rummikub and doing jigsaws. After Pat & Sue left, friends from our Tokoroa days came to stay. We have known Wade & Lindsay for a long time, as in since before marriage, children and life took over. It has been great having them to stay and catching up on each other’s news. They were just into their third night with us and we were having such a lovely relaxing time with them when Lindsay got a phone call from France which was to cut short their stay. Her younger brother and best mate Bruce had suddenly collapsed and died at his home near Toulouse. We were/are in shock. It was a quick pack up of all their gear, phone calls made to family, flights were getting sorted, quickly feed them before they hopped into their car for the evening drive to their home in Hamilton. All done within an hour or so, they were soon on their way to collect what they needed and get a bit of sleep before they flew out to France. We wished them safe travels and our sincere condolences to them and their family at this stressful time. Bruce will be sorely missed.

A day or so later friends Skip & Mindy came to stay for the weekend. We met Skip & Mindy at Shakespear as they are very good volunteers on the park, helping out every Tuesday on Volunteer day as well as many other days. This last week or two has seen them helping out with docking of lambs at Shakespear and at least two of the other Regional Parks. They are an amazing couple and we really enjoy their company so it was lovely that they could come up and stay for a couple of days R&R.

Skip, Mindy and Roy sorting out puzzle pieces.

Next we had Ron & Janet for the weekend. Now these folk are some looooooong time friends, as in Roy & Janet started school together as 5 year olds – just a couple of years ago! And Ron & Janet spent a lot of their teenage years at Roy’s parents place where they all spent quite a bit of time together socialising and generally having a good time along with a few others whom Roy is still in contact with. Roy was also best man at Ron & Jan’s wedding, long before I came upon the scene.

concentrating on playing Sequence

This weekend we are due more visitors…..more on them in the next blog.