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!

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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.

A day in the life

August 31, 2017

Housesitting means we have settled into a bit of a daily routine when we do not have visitors. Roy gets up early as is his usual pattern, that usually means somewhere anytime from 4am onwards, some days it may be even earlier. However, I am not an early riser, I wake at a later hour and would rather stay in bed, read the news, do a crossword and rise for my shower and breakfast once the sun has come up and has started to warm up the day a little. Then the days usual chores are done; dishes, washing, feed the chooks, check the sheep, sort out what’s on the menu for the day. Sometimes we have to venture into Maungataroto to do a bit of shopping, or we have visitors who pop by for a coffee and if they are lucky they may even get a scone or a muffin.

We are not into watching TV these days, in fact we only turned it on for the first time for the rugby on Saturday night. But we have been doing a few jigsaws to keep us occupied, we pick them up from the local second hand shops, do the puzzles and then return them to the shop always noting if there are any pieces missing. Of the puzzles we have done so far, only one had all of its pieces, however, we do have three extra pieces that we hope that we may, one of these days, stumble along a puzzle to put them back into their rightful place. In fact we have just completed another puzzle and we were able to put one of the extra pieces into its rightful place.

some of the completed puzzles.

The tide comes in and out throughout the day and the view is always a little different. This is the view from the deck with the tide out, the remains of an abandoned oyster farm can be seen at low tide.

Fishermen go out in their boats and return later in the day with their catch and we watch to see how successful they have been.

The end of the day routine usually end thus; dinner, dishes, then a soak in the spa, gazing at the stars trying to spot a satellite or a shooting star, such a nice way to end the day before heading to bed.

House sitting

August 21, 2017

It’s been nearly a week since we arrived at Whakapirau to take up our house sitting duties with the handover taking place last Sunday. We quickly settled into some semblance of routine before our first guests arrived. Pat & Sue arrived on Tuesday for a few days stay, they are fellow motorhomers whom we have travelled with over many months the past few years. This year they have wintered over in Kaiteriteri so it was lovely that they flew up to join us for a few days of catch up.

Of course I neglected to take a single picture of us together, I did try one evening when we were playing cards but my attempt at selfies failed yet again, I have figured it is because my arms are too short, and no, I shall not be investing in a selfie stick any day soon. So you will have to be content with a picture of the view from the deck.

view from the deck looking across to Pahi.

We really enjoyed their company especially the many games of cards (girls reign supreme) and getting us back into doing jigsaws which is always a little difficult in a motorhome with lack of space in which to spread out the jigsaw pieces. So far we have done a couple that we have picked up at the second hand store which I shall be returning to in the next few days to swap over the Puzzles.

One of the completed puzzles

We did not get up to much, mainly spending our time catching up interspersed with the occasional bit of farm tending i.e. herding escaped sheep back into their paddock, feeding the hens and collecting eggs, sharing plenty of good food as well as imbibing in the odd vino. All too soon it was time for Pat & Sue to return south and they left on Saturday. We have more guests arriving today but more on them later. In between we have been to evening drinks with the locals at the beach and had one of the locals round for dinner and others for morning tea. All in all quite a social time.

Tokerau Beach

August 12, 2017

We spent a glorious two weeks with Marg & Gary at Tokerau, not doing much in particular but somehow managing to keep ourselves busy and occupied without getting in each other's way.

parked up on the spare section next door. Marg took this picture on one of the fine days!!!

The weather has not been particularly nice, but then again it is winter and it is what we expect. At least we have been fortunate with mild temperatures however that just means it has been very wet and windy.

There was the odd foray out to do a bit of fishing, and a bit of catching as well. As usual I neglected to take any pictures. Note to self, get yourself sorted and into the habit of picture taking again! I did get into some more knitting whilst we were at Tokerau and ended up using up all my bits to make a scarf which I gave to Marg. Just so that you are not disappointed, I kept up my picture-taking-slackness and forgot to take a picture of it!

Marg & Gary had three of their granddaughters visit one weekend and I ended up knitting a couple of bunnies for them, I can't remember the significance of why it had to be bunnies but it was a quick knit up of simple square and sew it up carefully to make a bunny.
Sewing up bunnies….and no, the rum is not mine, it's Roy's.

We left Tokerau Beach to head back down to Uretiti with a short overnight stop in Kerikeri. However, those plans quickly changed to a two night stopover in Kerikeri. One: because the weather was atrocious and we didn't feel like driving through torrential rain and gusty winds and Two: because we came away from Tokerau with a parting gift from Marg….a nasty cold with a hacking cough! Thanx Marg, just what we wanted – NOT!

We have both succumbed to the nasty bug and are doing everything we can to get rid of it as quickly as possible as tomorrow (Sunday) we are due at Whakapirau to take up our house sitting duties for a month, and we do not need to pass on our bugs to Chris before he heads off to join Jacky on their trip hiking the Norwegian fiords.

So another quick wrap up of life with the Vannini's. The blog will become much more interesting soon enough as we head off on another adventure so be sure to watch this space. Meanwhile we look forward to our sojourn at Whakapirau and visits from lots of friends and family.

It’s been a while

August 4, 2017

I know, I know, I've been slack, I have not been posting recently and I have no excuses either. A quick update and summary of what we've been up to and where since the last blog.

Roy had a checkup appointment with the cardiologist in Auckland a few weeks ago so we headed down from Uretiti and stayed with Steve & Les for the night. Roy got the all clear from the cardiologist, so much so that he has taken him off cholesterol tablets as he says "your arteries are clear, valves good and heart is strong so why are you on cholesterol tablets?". Apart from the Atrial Fibrillation which is now under control, all is well. We returned to the van at Uretiti, staying another few days before heading north.

Next stop was Kerikeri where we managed a quick catch up with Roy's second cousin Stuart. We had a lovely dinner out in Kerikeri at the Jerusalem Cafe with Stuart where we shared a lovely Meze platter of Israeli food, and delicious it was too and the company, as always, was very good.

From there we headed up to Tokerau Beach, a particular favourite spot of ours, and where we have been for the past week camped on friends Gary & Marg's spare section behind their house. Here we have not only enjoyed their company, but we have shared meals, the odd drink or two, been out fishing a couple of times – the catching has been a different matter though with only a couple of fish landed – and generally having a very relaxing time. We only have another week left before we take up our house sitting duties at Whakapirau for a month which will then lead nicely into our upcoming 'holiday'.

Speaking of which we have finally sorted our upcoming trip and we are all booked and ready to go. We leave NZ on 27th September for London via Singapore with just a few hours stopover. We then leave London on the 17th January, this time with a three day stopover in Singapore on the journey home to arrive back in NZ on the 20th January at just before midnight. Other plans are still being formulated whilst we are away but we will be in Belgium for the 4th October Passchendaele commemoration, at some stage we will be heading to Switzerland and the Italian border to the town of Mendrisio which is where Roy's family is from originally. We then plan to meander our way back across France into Spain and Portugal. Somewhere in between we are fitting in a trip away with Alexandra & Ian, and Ian's parents, and it looks like we will be heading to the Canary Island of Lanzarote for a week of R&R in a villa on the coast. We shall be back in London ready for a white Christmas when Antony will be joining us all for the festive season. There will be tripping around the UK as well, catching up with a few of my relations and filling in the gaps on a few places we missed last time. All in all we shall be away for 4 months – I know, it's a tough job but someone has to do it!

So there we have it, a quick catch up.

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.