Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Rarawa part one

November 6, 2019

Nearly caught up!

We’ve been coming to Rarawa now for a good many years, and we still never tire of the place. We’ve been here on our own and with various friends over the years making each visit memorable for one reason or another.

The route

We’ve set up camp in every part of the park, never parking in the same place twice, and this time is no exception, although we did move after a couple of days to hunker behind the flax to give us some protection from the cold southerly winds.

Three in a row and one across

We are on the right, Keith & Deb further along and Jim furtherest away with Carol & Glen facing toward the camera. Jim arrived a day or two after we had set ourselves up otherwise we may have set ourselves up slightly differently. But after a couple of days parked where we were initially parked, Jim too moved to be in the spot nearest the camera. Now we are perfectly fine and sheltered from most winds.

Set up in comfort

The fishing off the beach has also been very fruitful, with again Roy showing the others how to catch fish successfully! Something he has been reminded of frequently, all in good humour of course.

Keith taking out Roys line

I haven’t many pictures of the fish caught, I’m too busy helping to haul them all in to have time to take pictures.

The largest snapper (top) was 11lbs.

Besides, by the time they are ready to bring in the lines I am usually soaked after being in the tide collecting tuatuas. The fish go straight into the chilly bin packed with salt ice to keep the fish nice and cool ready to be filleted after a few hours of chilling, or even overnight, which them makes them much easier and nicer to fillet.

As I mentioned previously we have collected tuatuas. Tuatua (for our foreign readers) and according to Wikipedia are Paphies subtriangulata a species of edible bivalve clam known as tuatua in the Maori language, and are endemic to New Zealand. It is found on all three of the main New Zealand islands, buried in fine clean sand on ocean beaches.

The large shell is asymmetrical, with the hinge at one side. Its closest relative, the pipi, has a symmetrical shell.

Tuatua

If we go at low tide then you can pick them in shallow water, but with waves rolling in and splashing over me as I’m bent down scratching around in the sand for the shellfish, I usually come out fairly well soaked. The latest effort had me being completely bowled by the surf ending up either on my knees or on my bum, a sight greeted with much hilarity by all. Roy wasn’t immune, he too got bowled, and lost his grip on his shorts, mooning onlookers. But I did win the wet t shirt competition!!!

Ready to be shelled

After collecting them, we leave them in a bucket of clean sea water over night so that the shellfish purge themselves of any sand, then open them the next day with a blunt edged knife to prise open the shells. Some people steam them open, but I prefer to open them with a knife so they don’t get cooked twice. A slow process but many hands make light work as we sit around the bucket opening the shells and chatting away.

Job done

I then chop up the tuatua to make into fritters, and use very little else to make up the fritters apart from egg and just a tablespoon or two of flour to bind them, plus a few other flavour enhancing ingredients. Delicious.

Tuatua fritters

It’s not all plain sailing though, line has been broken off and sometimes it comes in tangled, usually when an eel has been caught.

Roy and Keith untangle a line

There have been some stunningly beautiful days, with the weather finally coming right. The evenings have been lovely for fishing the change of light, I have to admit I haven’t dragged myself out of bed to accompany the guys on their early morning forays.

Fishing the evening change of light

And the freshest have been especially good …..for some!

Nice one ROy

A bit heavy are they?

Yes, I think he measures up!

Plan B and another little task or two

October 1, 2019

We had intended to be heading on out of Auckland long before now but sometimes life just throws a curve ball at you. Actually it feels as though the curve balls have been coming at us in a continuous stream over the past year or two, and I can tell you that we are getting pretty good at batting away those balls.

So to plan B, to cut a long story short, Roy had to have a few tests and the like done which meant we had to stay around Auckland at Ardmore for an extra couple of weeks. The upshot is that he is all good and we can soon get back to plan A.

On the positive side it has meant that we’ve spent a bit of time with Antony, well, that really means that we have been heading around to his place most nights for me to cook dinner for us all, not that I mind at all and I’m sure he doesn’t either. And it’s been great to watch the rugby with him as well.

We’ve also managed to catch up with Simon, Anita and Maria and spend some time with them. Maria turned 3 the day after we returned from the UK so it was lovely to catch up and spend some time playing games that only 3 year old girls like to play! She is a delightful young lady and a pleasure to be around.

So to keep busy whilst we wait, there has been another couple of tasks that I’ve managed to get underway whilst at Ardmore.

Many years ago, my lovely sister-in-law Ann made us a beautiful quilt. Ann loved her quilting and over the years made many heirloom keepsakes for family and friends. As well, she was involved with quilting guilds on a local and national level and she loved going off with friends for weekend retreats and workshops.

We love our quilt and had been on our bed just about ever since it was gifted to us. It is made even more special since Ann sadly passed away just over 7 years ago, aged 59, but we remember her every day that we look at the quilt. However, the quilt has started to need some repair as the batting that she used inside the quilt has shrunk with washing and some of the material has started to fray.

The last time I saw my sister Sue (also an expert quilter), she said that if I unpicked all the quilting she would repair, reback, and rebuild it for me. A huge task in itself but the unpicking is not an inconsiderable task either.

Not one to back out of a challenge, I started on the incredibly laborious task of unpicking the tiny machine quilted stitching this week. With quick unpick in hand, I carefully started on one side of the quilt. After many many hours with not much to show except very sore fingers and bits of cotton everywhere, I had managed to unpick one small edge side of quilting. I was quite proud of my efforts.

See all that tiny tiny stitching in the pale coloured material? Yep, I have to unpick a queen sized quilts worth of this!!!

To give you an idea of scale, each one of these little squares is approximately 4cm…that’s an awful lots of stitching to undo

I was sitting in the van doing a bit of unpicking when some fellow motorhomers called in for a cuppa. We’d only met Debbie & Chris the week before but we enjoyed chatting with them so invited them in for morning coffee. Debbie noticed my unpicking and asked what I was doing, she said she was a seamstress/dressmaker (ok, what IS the difference between the two?) and could she show me a quicker way to unpick? Oh yes please, said I. First I needed to go and buy some one sided razor blades and she would show me what to do.

Later that same day, with a pack of razor blades in hand I was knocking on their door asking for a quick lesson in fast unpicking. Debbie showed me the method; cut the stitching with the razor blade between the backing material and batting pulling it apart to expose the stitching and cutting the thread. As we are replacing the backing material there will be no issue if I have a wee oops!

Well, now there is no stopping me. What was going to take me a month of Sunday’s before even making a dent with the unpicking, after three days I have the bulk of it done and another week should see it all finished. Thank you so much Debbie for showing me the way!

Some of the fabric is pretty fragile, I just hope that somehow Sue will be able to work some of her magic on it for us.

During the week I also got another task done, that is making my Christmas Cakes. I went round to Antony’s to utilise his oven, as one of the cakes has a 3 and half hour bake time .

Christmas cake one underway

This recipe is the one my mum used to make not only for Christmas but also for our wedding cakes. We love this cake with a slice of cheddar cheese – a Yorkshire way of eating fruit cake. The recipe is actually my grandmothers and contains just sultanas, raisins and currants (1.75kg – nearly 4lbs) and no nuts. It’s supposed to have a dash or two of brandy in it but we didn’t have any but I did find a good alternative.

Found this substitute for brandy in our stash.

We brought this Armagnac back from France some time ago so I thought it is a good swap as it is a style of brandy, and I carefully measured it in exactly the same way Mum did….a good glug or two poured straight from the bottle into the cake mix is a measure isn’t it?

Ready for the oven

and the end result

Baked and cooled

Time to wrap them up and put away in the tins for a month or two.

Then it’s onto the next cakes, these ones are a recipe I have developed over the years and is basically all fruit and nuts, some call it a stained glass window cake as when the cake is sliced it resembles a stained glass window. This time Roy sacrificed some of his rum to go into these cakes, rationed nip measures of course.

Ready to go in the oven

Once the cakes were cooked and cooled, I wrapped them tightly in tinfoil and went to put them in the tin, but guess what? each cake was just a little too long to fit into the cake tin so a sliver had to be sacrificed off each end.

Trimmed

Of course we had to sample the trimmed slices, with a cup of tea, as it would have been a waste otherwise 😉. We can report it is delicious!

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig.

September 10, 2019

There’s no place like home said someone, once, and it’s so true. Although I have to quickly add that we do feel at home in England as well, especially at Alex & Ian’s.

I remember in one of my tutorials at University we were asked to define where is home…is it where you live now? or where you were born? or where you were raised? or where you went to school? You hear immigrants in particular talking of ‘home’, I remember my parents talking of ‘back home’ meaning England. Is home defined by place, people or thing? There is no right answer, everyone has a different viewpoint.

Getting over jet lag, opening mail, sorting out stuff were the order of events over the first days back. We made appointments for Doctors visits for checkups, sorted out bits and pieces and in between tried to get body clocks onto NZ time.

We had a very pleasant surprise in the mail from England. A spice kit that Alex Ian and Callum had organised for us. It’s a monthly spice kit which arrives with all the spice mixes to make delicious meals. With full instructions on the meal preparations as well as a little history on where the meal originated, a list of how to remake the spice mixes for a repeat of the meal all included.

The kit and the note from Callum

It’s something we had seen in England as Alex had bough Ian a subscription for his birthday. You receive an email notification of what is coming up in the next months kit and options to change for another kit of your choice if you so desire as there are up to 5 choices each month. You can also put a hold on receiving it for a few months if you wish and restart when it suits.

We just love the curries in England, it’s always our first choice when we arrive and it’s our choice of farewell meal as well.

Of course we were keen to give the kit a go, with the shopping list in hand (included in the kit) it was off to the shops for the main ingredients.

We were cooking this

Tonight’s dinner

it also required us to make a dum aloo, potato dish, and a spicy tomato chutney to accompany the main dishes. We had only arrived back the previous day, I should have thought a bit more about that before embarking on cooking the meal. I got 9/10ths of the way through preparing it all when Jet lag hit me, I just had to go to bed right there and then before I fell over. Roy and Antony finished off the cooking and reported that the meal was fantastic.

The result

Really flavoursome and tasty with the only chilli heat coming from the tomato chilli chutney that accompanied the meal.

We had the rest of the meal the following day and I can attest to how deliciously flavoursome it was and plenty for all of us so a generous 4 servings as per the leaflet. We really look forward to receiving the next parcel.

We had to get a WOF for the car as well as register it, that was done the afternoon of our arrival. Then we both needed a WOF for ourselves at the Doctors, that done we then could head off down to Whakatane to be reunited with our van.

The trip to Whakatane was via Hamilton so we could call in to see Wayne Hunt, a motorhome solar expert, to sort out a time to have a new charger put in that would trickle feed the van battery off the solar so that when we sit still for any length of time the van battery will be fully charged negating the need to start the engine every other day. That done we then called in to see our dear friends Wade & Lindsay for a quick catch up and lunch before heading off to Whakatane.

We arrived at John & Jude’s late in the afternoon and then spent the next few days sorting ourselves out. John had kindly sorted out our RUCs and van registration whilst we were away so we just had to take the van in to get a COF. It was all done very quickly and efficiently without any hassles at Ted’s Testing Station in Whakatane. We can highly recommend them and we will definitely use them again.

We made a day trip up to Papamoa to see friend Estelle whose husband Bill passed away whilst we were overseas. It was then on into Tauranga to see my 3 nieces and great nieces to catch up with them before we leave the Bay and make our way north.

We can’t thank John & Jude enough for looking after our home on wheels whilst we were away, it was great to know that it was safe and sound in their care and well looked after.

Family BBQ

September 2, 2019

Our last weekend in England and we were having a family BBQ at Brian & Julie’s (Ian’s Dad’s cousin), along with the rest of Ian’s family. This was a bank holiday weekend in the UK, a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday, and the BBQ was planned for Sunday afternoon, with the weather playing a large part in the planning. We needn’t have worried though with the hottest August Bank holiday weekend on record being recorded and the days temperature set to reach at least 32C.

We arrived at Julie & Brian’s and made our way out to their lovely garden where the gazebos were set up providing much welcome shade.

Brian was manning the charcoal BBQs with Roy giving a hand. Charcoal BBQs are a rarity for us these days as most people in NZ use gas fired BBQs mainly because of fire restrictions for NZ’ers over the summer months.

Brian and Roy manning the BBQs

Comparing notes behind a smoke screen

All sorts of fun and games were had by all generations.

Grandad Barry and Callum

I forgot to take any pictures of the table set out for the main event but needless to say it was all delicious and there was plenty to eat, it was some time later in the day before we got around to having dessert and cheese.

Panoramic shot

I had said I would make a dessert and thought I should make a pavlova as my homage to all things kiwi, but decided an ordinary pav would be a bit boring so instead made a brown sugar version with dates, almonds and chocolate. Topped with fresh whipped cream and raspberries it was rather delicious. Roy put together a cheese board and even made radish mice with the radishes grown in Alex & Ian’s garden, and it too also went down a treat.

Cheese board

Dessert and cheese….yes, I forgot to take pics of the main event!

Group photo

It was a wonderful afternoon and evening with lots of fun and laughter.

Thank you to the Denny family for making us feel so welcome and part of your family. We shall miss you all, until next time x.

Afternoon tea

August 30, 2019

We’ve been waiting to go to Danson Park for some time now. It’s a local park (local for Alex) that includes a large historic building, a water play park, mini golf, lovely large park grounds with lots of gardens and large trees as well as a small lake but we were going for afternoon tea at the 1766 built stone homestead.

Danson House

We had been putting off a visit until Alex was back eating dairy again and with normal transmission having been resumed, we headed off to partake in some goodies.

Roy and Alex

Bernice and Roy

Afternoon tea including scones with clotted cream

Coffee and walnut cake

We had a lovely afternoon, Callum slept the afternoon away so Alex could enjoy an uninterrupted tea as well. And just so you don’t feel left out, here are a few pictures of the handsome young man.

Callum

Date night

August 25, 2019

We had a booking for dinner at Melucci’s in Bexley, just the two of us. We were told it was our date night?! Really? It’s been a while since we’ve been on a date! Do we remember what to do? What do we talk about? We were under strict instructions not to talk to each other for the day beforehand so we would have something to talk about over dinner, and we were even sent a list of possible chat topics which covered everything from North Korea Politics, Origami, Brexit, the best Nursery Rhymes to who would win the Rugby World Cup!!!

But before dinner we were also going out for lunch, Roy with Ian’s Dad Barry and his cousin Brian and me with Ian’s Mum Chris and cousin Julie. The fellas were off to a pub whilst us ladies were meeting up at a tea room in Bexley. However, when we got to the tea rooms, they were closed for the day so it was off around the corner to another tea room where we enjoyed a very nice lunch and an afternoon of chat. Apparently the fellas had a nice lunch and sorted out the problems of the world. And you guessed it, neither of us took pictures.

Back home on our respective buses (I’ve got this bus lark sorted) where it wasn’t long to wait before it was time to go out again.

Off we went, actually we were dropped off by Alex, and we rocked up to the restaurant in the Main Street of Bexley. My brother John & his partner Jude were here last year with Alex & Ian, we had been given rave reviews from them all so we were hopeful of a good meal. And we were not disappointed, we got good, honest Italian style food cooked with love and passion with great local ingredients. It’s not everywhere where you can go for a meal and they can give you the provenance of the meat; as in which farm the animals come from, how they are raised etc etc. and they obviously care about where their produce comes from. But it was the service from the owner and chef that really made the night, Christo does front of house and his wife Maria is the chef and they really make you feel welcome.

Roy’s bruschetta with the yummiest mozzarella

My arancini – simply delicious

We were well entertained by Christo, Maria and other staff and as well other customers who picked that we were kiwis and they chatted away with us over the course of the evening with no mention of Brexit!

Roy’s slow cooked beef short rib

My pork belly with the best crackling ever (half eaten).

Apparently John had the pork when he visited and he enjoyed it so much he ordered extra crackling! I can attest to the fact that it was the best crackling I’ve had in a very very long time.

All in all we had a great evening and yes even held hands as we walked back to the bus stop for our journey home! Enough said.

Worcester, Herefordshire and a little bit of Wales (Part 2)

August 22, 2019

We continue on our journey on the trail of Black & White timbered villages.

After we left the church in Kinnersley, we meandered though some beautiful countryside, coming across this house which the owner obviously did not want to conform to the Black and White theme

Red and Black House

Next we came to Eardisley, which is a village on the border with Wales.

Eardisley

Then it was onto Kington which is just 3km from the Welsh border. However it is to the west of Offa’s Dyke so we presume that at some stage it may have been part of Wales. Offa’s Dyke is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after an Anglo-Saxon king, Offa, who it is believed to have ordered its construction in the mid 700’s.

We meandered the Main Street, a sad looking Main Street that needs a bit of revitalisation with some shops and cafes rather than the multitude of charity shops.

Main Street of Kington (top) and the covered market in the lower picture.

From here we continued on to the pretty village of Presteigne where the road signs are also in Welsh as the town lies just inside the Welsh border.

Beautiful ornately painted building in Presteigne

There are many interesting buildings in Presteigne including this one which had a Green Man (a pagan symbol of fertility) carved into one of the posts, well hidden from general view.

12th century building with green man carved in the wood

We paused for a cuppa in one of the cafes in the high street before making our way around the town.

This row of houses were obviously built at different stages looking at the roof lines.

Multi level roof lines

On our way back to the car we came across another church so we wandered in for a look around.

Martin, Roy and Sue on our way into the church

Saint Andrews church is primarily a product of the 13th century however it incorporates remains of a much earlier 9th century Saxon building. The most interesting historical feature is a Flemish tapestry woven in 1510, now hanging in a frame on the north wall.

Tapestry (sorry about the reflections)

Showing the original colours.

In the Lady Chapel is a 15th-century Italian oil painting and a worn 13th-century coffin lid is set into a recess in the north wall.

Stained glass window

It was back to the car and off to the next town on our list, expertly navigated by Sue, via a few more of those typical English narrow country roads with high hedges on either side.

A wide section of road!

Our next stop was in Pembridge, again with a lovely collection of interesting and very old buildings.

Not all the building were painted white

Information board

Alms houses 1661

Above the Main Street we walked up to another church, St Mary’s, with original parts dating form the 12th century however a loose Romanesque pillar piscina remains from the Norman church. This church had a very interesting bell tower which is separate from the church, built in an unusual shape and open at the top. Martin could fill us in on all the interesting details, as we discovered, he is a bell ringer of some 40years experience.

Bell tower

Information board on the Bell Tower

Inside the church were more beautiful windows.

Inside the church

Outside there are lovely views over expansive lawns

Views from the church

We walked across the lawns and through the gardens and came out onto another street where there is the old market hall.

Market

Markets have been held here since 1239 when it was granted a royal charter.

Sue making her way to the market with its well worn and undulating floor.

Time to return home, again through Eardisley where we came across a thatched roofed Black & White building

Thatched roof

Have you ever noticed that the trip home is always quicker than the trip to wherever you are going? It seemed like we were home again very quickly where we set to organising dinner of Raclette.

Me, trying to take a selfie, missed taking it of me, missed Roy and got Sue who was fishing around for an implement in the cutlery drawer……but I did get Martin!

We had purchased the Raclette cheese from the cheese shop earlier in the day (see previous blog entry). Of course someone was particularly happy with Raclette……who doesn’t like hot melted cheese??!!

Cheesy crawl

August 15, 2019

Roy has a bit of a reputation for his love of cheese, cheeses of all varieties, styles and types but he is particularly fond of a good blue. There is a running joke about not letting him near a fromagerie however I’d read about a cheese crawl, something like a pub crawl that involves cheese rather than drinks, that takes you on a walk around London, trying different cheeses at all sort of establishments. That sounds as though it was a perfect thing for us to do.

We had originally booked it for a Saturday in July but we had to postpone that one as something else cropped up. Then the next time it was booked, Roy had a dodgy tummy so we made a third attempt at the trip this last weekend.

First we had to get there. This involves catching the bus to near Erith Train Station then a walk to the station, catch the train into London as far as London Bridge station, then make our way to the underground, find the Jubilee Line (heading in the right direction) and catch the tube to Green Park Station and then make our way to the meeting point in Green Park itself.

The train and tube route

We arrived with perfect timing at the allotted meeting point and with around 15 others we set off on our Cheese Crawl.

The first stop was not too far away, walking past the Ritz Hotel, shops and Arcades taking in the sights. As well as a cheese focused walk, we also had a bit of history explained to us about particularly interesting sites along our route.

One such interesting point was Burlington Arcade. It was built by Lord Cavendish (later Earl of Burlington) supposedly for his wife as she didn’t like shopping in the weather or amongst the general riff raff so he built the covered arcade with 72 shops, mainly for the sale of high end goods such as jewellery, lace and walking sticks. The arcade is probably best known for the Burlington Beadles, basically it’s own Police Force, dressed in their black frock coats embellished with gold buttons and gold braided top hats. These Beadles enforce a strict code of behaviour which includes no running or hurrying, no riding bicycles and no whistling. It was a connection with prostitution that lies behind some of the rules of the arcade. Pimps used to burst into song or whistle to warn prostitutes who were soliciting in the arcade that the police or Beadles were about. The prostitutes working on the upper level would also whistle to the pickpockets below to warn them of approaching police. Therefore a strict no whistling or singing policy is in place, however, there is just one exception. And that exemption is for none other than Sir Paul MacCartney who apparently frequently walked through the Arcade on his way to and from the studios located behind Burlington Arcade.

Burlington Arcade

From here it was into the iconic Fortnum & Mason store where we were lead through the shop to the cheese counter where our first tasting took place. It was a very nice Welsh Cheddar.

Fortnum & Mason was established in 1707, it was founded as a grocery store dedicated to supplying quality food which saw its reputation particularly take off during the Victorian era.

My attempt at a selfie outside Fortnum & Mason

From here in Picadilly, we walked further along the road, stopping occasionally to view interesting architecture and shops and then onto Paxton & Whitfield, the oldest cheesemongers in the UK having been established in 1797.

Paxton & Whitfield

The shop holds two Royal warrants, one from Queen Elizabeth and one from Prince Charles. Here we looked around the shop before having our tasting plate.

Delicious array of cheeses

It was here that we tasted Stilton, and oh my goodness, it was delicious. We were told that last year the shop sold 7 tonnes of Stilton over the Christmas period alone! A staggering amount.

Our next brief stop was to explain to us why Piccadilly is named as such.

Original Portugal Street

Originally it was named Portugal Street until a tailor Mr Baker bought in the area, enclosed the street and made his fortune making and selling piccadils which are those frilly neck ruffs that were predominantly worn in the Elizabethan era. Hence the road and then the area became known as Piccadilly.

Our next stop was at the American store, Wholefoods, which gave us a tasting of a truffled mascarpone filled Brie along with Parmesan crisps and a nice chilled rosé to wash it down.

Outside the Wholefoods store

Inside Wholefoods store

I should add here that there are opportunities to make purchases on our journey and a few purchases may have been made. On to our next stop

Lina Store

Here at Lina’s we tried a Prosecco soaked cheese and a Red wine soaked cheese. Apparently this tradition came about by the Italians who hid cheeses in their wine barrels to avoid theft.

From here we wandered to Neal’s Yard, but along the way found this Bambi artwork on a side wall.

Interpret as you like

Bambi is a contemporary street artist who focuses on female identity in a patriarchal society as well as political and social injustice. Interesting.

At Neal’s Yard we were to try goats cheese in the very picturesque yard.

This building in Neal’s Yard was famous for being the headquarters of Monty Python for many years.

After a session of cheesy jokes, we made our way to Covent gardens to try some amazing hot baked camembert with French bread. I think this was one of my favourites of the whole journey, probably because I had far too many helpings!!

What could be better than cheese and champagne?

Mmmm, hot baked camembert

Our next stop was just a short walk away,

Cheese and sparkling red wine

Here we enjoyed a glass of very nice sparkling red wine with our cheese.

By this time we had been walking for quite some time, one of us had developed a blister and we were both feeling quite weary. It was just a 15 minute walk to Charing Cross Station to get the train home.

Our walking route

Time to retrace our steps for the train journey home, however we were not having to change trains this time as it was a direct trip. But it was not all to go to plan, it was a very windy day and trees were down on some of the tracks so our train was not going to stop at Erith, we had to continue on to Slade Green, the next stop after Erith or alternatively change trains at an earlier stop and wait for a connecting train. However, it was not going to be a mission as we were in contact with Alex and she was able to pick us up from the Slade Green station.

We had a quick rest at home before we all headed out for dinner with Ian’s family for Alex’s birthday, and you know what happened don’t you? Yes, none of us took a photo!

Visits, visitors and a birthday

August 11, 2019

It’s hard to believe that just 10 years Alex arrived back in NZ bringing with her a new friend from the UK. Jennifer (aka Beanie) had not travelled at all before these two ventured on an epic trip through SE Asia then onto NZ. They joined us at Pen-y-bryn for a bit of a respite before continuing with their travels. We even went camping with the girls, joining them for a couple of days in Central Otago before we lent them our car and tent to continue on their trip around the South Island of NZ. So it was lovely to be told that Beanie was coming to visit us this week.

Beanie and Callum

It was fantastic to hear of her news and what she is up to these days. Beanie is a chef, she and Alex met when Alex worked at the Middle House in Mayfield when Alex first arrived in the UK. Beanie now works at an all girls school in the village, where she works 5 days a week with regular hours and no split shifts, and no stress!!! It’s so lovely that they still keep in touch and see each other occasionally and of course it was just lovely for us to see her again.

Roy and Ian were off to football that same evening so it was a girls dinner at home for us, and a very nice roast chicken with a pile of roast veges with a ratatouille to complete the meal. For those who are unaware, Roy doesn’t eat chicken so we take every opportunity to have our fill when he is not around!

We bade farewell to Beanie later that evening and look forward to seeing her again next time we are over.

The following day Roy and Barry (Ian’s Dad) went off to the Docklands Museum for a visit for which Roy assures me that he will write up a blog ….one of these days!! Meanwhile, Alex and I took ourselves off to Melucci’s in Bexley for lunch.

We both have double chins? Oh, I thought you said double gins!!!

Anyone for cake?

We had a lovely lunch, so much so that Roy & I are off there next week for dinner. Alex Callum & I had to sit in the cafe for a while after lunch as the heavens opened and it just poured with rain, and as we were catching the bus home, we didn’t fancy standing out in the rain getting soaked particularly as it is such a narrow road the gap between the shops, footpath, and road are all within a few feet of each other and there was a small river of water running down the road for the vehicles to go through and soak us even more. The rain soon passed and we were on our way. Even though Bexley is just a few short miles from home, we were surprised to get home to find that there was no evidence of any rain and the washing was dry on the line as well.

Later in the week Roy and I were meeting up with cousin Jackie & her husband Hossein in London for lunch as they were coming down from Milton Keynes for the Van Gogh exhibition at the Tate. Funnily enough it took us just as long to get into town from Erith as it did for them coming from Milton Keynes. We met at the OXO tower as we had a booking for lunch.

Oxo tower

The view over the Thames

Roy, Bernice and Hossein

Bernice, Jackie and Hossein

Fish sandwich for the girls and Pasta with mushrooms and hazenuts for the boys

After a lovely long lunch we bade our farewells before going on our separate journeys, our initial destination was the Borough Market for a quick visit.

Paella Paella Paella

Fish selection, and yes we did buy a gurnard

Friday also happened to be Alex’s birthday, so it was straight home to get dinner sorted for everyone. Fortunately I had done lots of prep the day before so there wasn’t much to do.

Birthday dinner L-R Alex, Ian Roy, Bernice, Vicki, Jen

Elaine getting in her cuddles

Birthday cake – dairy free!!

This was not the end of the celebrations though, the following night we went out for a family dinner in Bexleyheath with Ian’s family. We had a lovely dinner and it was great to catch up with everyone as well. Unfortunately I neglected to take any pictures, we were all far too busy talking and eating however I am sure that there will be another opportunity for a group photo soon.

Family are friends

July 29, 2019

There is an old saying that goes something like ‘you can choose your friends but not your family’ which has some negative connotations about family relationships and all that goes with that. However, we have yet again experienced the absolute opposite of all those implied connotations when we went to stay with Jackie & Hossein in Milton Keynes. To put our relationship into context, Jackie’s Great grandmother and my Grandmother Alice are the one and the same incredibly strong, amazing, formidable woman who gave birth to 19 children. We are in awe of Alice’s energy and fortitude as we piece together more and more information about our genealogy and in particular Alices story.

But back to our visit to Milton Keynes. We were met at the train station by Hossein and Jackie on a very hot day and were whisked away to have lunch at a local community charity facility where we had a very nice relaxing lunch.

Lunch in the garden, Willen.

From there we went to a local park where we went for a walk around the park grounds. We were surprised to find a Japanese Pagoda in the middle of the park.

Peace Pagoda

Further along we came across a Japanese Pagoda. Why the Japanese connection you may ask?

Japanese Temple

A peace pagoda is a Buddhist monument built as a symbol of world peace and is meant to promote unity among all the peoples of the world regardless of race, creed, or border. Peace pagodas have been built all across Asia, often in places that seem to need the most healing such as the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where American atomic bombs took the lives of more than 150,000 people at the end of World War II. There are now more than 80 peace pagodas across Europe, Asia, and the United States, but the first of the Western temples was built in the town of Milton Keynes in England.

From here we walked to the nearby Tree cathedral, a lovely leafy avenue of trees with its cathedral shape becoming more evident from an aerial view.

Centre of the tree cathedral

Aerial view borrowed from the park trust web site

Margherita’s for the ladies

Cheers boys!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai for dinner made by Hossein

Unfortunately Roy had come away with a bit of a dodgy tummy so it was an early night for him, without any dinner!

The next morning Jackie and I headed off early so I could get a haircut before returning for a late breakfast with the boys. Roy was still not feeling well and Hossein had a few things to do so Jackie and I went out for a look around and also to visit a couple of shops. I have to add here that we have been quite taken with Milton Keynes, I like the layout, the trees and green spaces laid out in grid patterns and the of lack high rise buildings.

A couple of purchases may have been made

A few tea bags may be coming back to NZ with me!!!

An ice cream at IKEA, and no, it was not the only purchase made there

The other good reason for heading to the shops was to be in air conditioned comfort, with England experiencing its hottest July days on record, it was pleasant to be in air conditioned surrounds.

The Grand Union Canal Milton Keynes

Jackie and I visited the Grand Union Canal for a look around.

Another return to their home where dinner this evening was to be an Iranian meal of a Celery Lamb stew ( Khoresht-e-Karafs) followed by Sholesh zard, a fragrant and very light rice pudding.

Sholeh Zard

The temperatures did not abate with Thursday bringing with it record temperatures hitting 40C at some stage during the day, debilitating, oppressive heat with no escape from it. Roy, Jackie and I were heading out to go visit Jackie’s mum Hilda, my cousin, via a little village called Earls Barton where we were going to visit a little museum called the Jeyes museum, yes dedicated to the pharmacy renown for Jeyes Fluid.

Roy perusing the exhibits

I have to add that this museum was upstairs in rooms that were quite small, and with record temperatures it was a very hot experience.

But not only was the museum dedicated to all things pharmacy, one section was dedicated to the business Divine Shoes, made famous by the film and stage show Kinky Boots. The original factory was in this village and one part of the museum was dedicated to the boot manufacturer.

Your size?

These boots were made for walking!

We were back to the car ready to continue our journey in air conditioned comfort when we got the message that Ken & Hilda had decided to visit us. So we turned around and returned to their home, calling in on this property further along their road.

Chichely Hall

As an aside, this property was used as the film location of the movie Enigma, which as a coincidence when Roy & I owned Pen-y-Bryn Lodge in Oamaru, we hosted two of the stars from this movie, namely Dougray Scott and Saffron Burrows.

We were soon back at the house and hadn’t been home long before Ken & Hilda arrived for an afternoon of reminiscing, memories and catching up on their news.

Family

L-R: Ken, Bernice, Roy, Hilda, Jackie and Hossein.

After a lovely afternoon it was soon time for Ken & Hilda to return home and time for another wonderful meal courtesy of Hossein.

Pulled Lamb with coleslaw and wraps.

The following day it was time for us to return to London, another trusty train ride to London Euston, then to the tube for London Bridge and then the train to Erith.

Waiting for us was this wee man

The Thinker!!

Oh, and his parents too 😉.

A lovely time spent with family in and around Milton Keynes. Many many thanks to Jackie & Hossein for making us feel like we were at home with friends where we could relax with them. We look forward to the next time we meet up which will hopefully be soon.