Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Back to London and a show

October 15, 2017

We left our lovely apartment in Langermark late in the morning and headed off to Lille, I have to admit that I was ready to hand the car back although the driving had become easier as we went along. Funnily enough I found the roundabouts the easiest of all to handle and I have to admit that my co pilot was excellent at guiding me and making sure I was OK, and as well the roads are easy to drive on and well maintained.

We got to the Lille train station in plenty of time, however, we missed the entrance to get into the car park building so ended up going around in a grand circle to get back to where we should be, it only took an extra 30 minutes of driving through central Lille with blood pressure slowly rising, sweaty palms, and a dry mouth before we got to where we should have been. We got into the parking building only to discover that we needed to be in the next building to return the car….with a lump rising in my throat at the thought of more driving, we made the move to the next building and returned the keys.

Whilst at the station we saw a couple of things which were memorable. The first was the free charging station for devices, to power the charging you sat at the desk and cycled!

Right next to this was the lounge with plenty of plugs and USB charging sockets, guess which one we used?

Once we got through immigration – and we did get the third degree at immigration too…..why were we away so long? When are we going back to NZ? Where were we staying in the UK? Where did our daughter work? What does she do? Why were we in Europe? What was our connection to Passchendaele? Did we intend to work in the UK?…..and so it went on. Once through we met up with a couple of crazy but ever so friendly Scotsmen who were raising money for Cancer research by standing for 24hrs and travelling from Edinburgh to Paris and return. They were really lovely and were having a great time and were raising lots of money too.

The trip back to London was a breeze with Alex picking us up at Ebbsfleet Station which is much closer to her home than St Pancras in the city.

We had a lovely weekend in and around London. Sunday, Alex and Ian told us that they had organised a surprise for us for the day, so at about midday we headed off on the train into town then a walk through to a lovely rooftop bar overlooking St Paul’s cathedral. Ian, Roy and Alex with St Paul’s dome in the distance

panorama from the roof top

From here we went off into Piccadilly Circus where we were to go to a the show ‘A comedy about a bank robbery’. It was fast paced, hilarious and well acted play, I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. It was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

After the show we took a London black cab

Passing Trafalgar Square along the way

To near Victoria Station for dinner where the fellas tried a beer or two

Then it was a train back home to end a fabulous day, well done Alex & Ian.

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Meeting the other half’s family

October 4, 2017

After a couple of days of catching up on sleep and getting into some semblance of a sleep pattern, it was time to meet Ian’s family. It seemed rather fitting that we do the “english” thing and meet up to have dinner at a curry house or as we know it in New Zealand as an Indian Restaurant!

We first met up at an old English pub for a drink before dinner. The pub was built in the 1600’s and I am sure I was the only one who didn’t have to duck to get through the door, with low beams and of course full of character as well as characters. We met Ian’s parents, Barry and Christine, his two brothers Matt and Hen (I think his name is Michael but everyone calls him Hen), Hen’s partner Sam, and Ian’s cousins Brian and Julie. They all made us feel so very welcome and at ease, it was really lovely.

We wandered off to the curry house for dinner where we had a fantastic spread laid out for us. The conversation was flowing, as was the beer & wine, all in all a great night out.

Ian was meeting up with some mates later in the evening as a couple of them were celebrating birthdays, as Ian and his brothers prepared to head off to the pub it somehow transpired that Roy went along with them. We all know what happens when Roy + Rum = a bit of a laugh, and so it was. I am sure Ian was attempting to lead him astray but I think Roy may have a little more experience at these matters! Alex and I got a ride home with Sam, I am not sure what time Roy and Ian got home as I was well asleep by then.

We are now looking forward to our break in Lanzarote with Barry & Christine, and Ian and Alex next week, but first we have a trip to Lille and Ypres for the 100th commemoration of Paschendaele.

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.

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.

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!