Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas at the Proms at Southwards

There’s something terribly British about a night at the Proms.  Or in our case, a daytime concert.  The theatre stage at Southwards Car Museum was decked out in red, white and blue and we were presented with flags and a song sheet as we filed in to take our seats.  The theatre was full, with our Probus group helping to swell the numbers.  Looking at the heads of those seated in front of us, it was just like looking at “fifty shades of grey and white".  It was fair to say that most of the audience were those of retirement age.  All determined to thoroughly enjoy themselves too.

PB200021 The stage at Southwards

As a variety concert, the programme had a bit of everything.  The show opened with everyone belting out God Save the Queen, and the New Zealand National Anthem, while we waved our flags gaily in the air.  The singers of “Operatunity” then  served up a few opera classics.  The mood was lightened with some humorous items, such as Whispering Grass from the show, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, and Nobody Loves a Fairy when she’s 40.  And being a Christmas show, we joined in with some of the lovely classic Christmas carols.  But the noisiest items of all were those great Prom standbys, such as There’ll Always be an England, Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule Britannia, sung with gusto and much flag waving.  Most Kiwis have some combination of UK blood in their veins, and the concert certainly had the blood pulsing.  It was a great show.

The Operatunity concerts provide a light lunch as part of the deal, so we played follow-the-leader as we all trooped upstairs.  Sandwiches, Christmas mince pies and tea or coffee were on offer, with the performers helping to serve the lunch.

PB200024 What a cheeky Santa

While we were eating our lunch, we had great views looking down onto the Southward Car Museum, chock full of classic cars, motor bikes, and even an aeroplane or two. Leonard Bingley Southward, an avid motor enthusiast, automobile collector and motor sport legend first started in the motor industry as a messenger boy with a Wellington based firm. He later branched out on his own repairing motorcycles and by 1935, Southward Motors, which specialised in repairs to the very popular Austin Seven, had opened in Kent Terrace, Wellington.


PB200023 Part of the Len Southward collection

During a trip to Britain in 1956, Len Southward and his wife, Vera, watched the finish of a veteran car run in Birmingham. On their return to New Zealand, he bought the car which started his famous collection, a Model T Ford,  for which he paid £40.  The car collection continued to grow, and finally a purpose built  facility in Otaihanga and opened to the public on December 22, 1979. The Model T, still in the condition in which it was bought, has pride of place in one the largest privately owned collections of classic and vintage cars in the world.  This museum must surely be a petrol-head’s idea of heaven.  And rumour has it that there are just as many cars (in various condition) tucked away in the basement as there are on display in the museum.

His work in the motor industry was officially recognised when he received his knighthood from the Queen during her visit to New Zealand in 1986. Sir Len died on February 19th, 2004 at the ripe old age of 98
PB200017 Sir Len Southward


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Computer Geeks to the Rescue

It’s a fact of life that some people understand computers more than others.  In our household, I work on the computer on a “need to know” basis.  I’m perfectly happy with my limited knowledge of e-mails, blogs, writing letters, and accessing Google and Trade Me.  Anything more technical is Robin’s domain.  He can tackle spread-sheets, internet banking, fix printer malfunctions and run clean up operations to take nasty things off our hard drive.

Our caravan buddy Bill was having problems with his computer, so Robin and Dot, (friend, neighbour, caravan club member and fellow computer geek) rode into battle to help him out.  I went along for the ride, which took us up and over the Wainuiomata Hill.  Known in earlier years as Nappy Valley, Wainuiomata was the place to be for young families wanting affordable housing.  Dot and I had owned a home here in previous lives.

PB170001 Driving down the hill into Wainuiomata – Nappy Valley

Huddled around the computer, Robin and Dot made a few changes while Bill looked on.  Bill then did a couple of test runs to make sure he was happy with what they had done, and could access the programmes he wanted to use.  All this took a couple of hours, punctuated with a working lunch.  At last the computer geeks declared their work was done, and the computer was deemed ready for service. 

It was time to head home.  As we drove down from the top of the hill we could see the Hutt Valley and hill suburbs laid out before us.  The Hutt Valley is where I was born, grew up and did my schooling – I have many happy memories of this place.

PB170005 Hutt Valley

The tide was out as we drove around the Pauatahanui Inlet, and we commented on the recently built walking track – we really must come and walk it’s length one of these days.   The inlet is a very important place ecologically, being the only large area of salt-marsh and sea grass in the Wellington.  It is home to many species of migratory waterfowl and wading birds, and there are hides dotted about for bird watching.  We often see  grey herons quietly going about their business on the water’s edge as we drive around the inlet.
 PB170011 Pauatahanui Inlet

For whatever reason, it always seem much quicker on the homeward drive.  Luckily we were early enough to miss the commuters driving back home along SH1 so we made good time back to Levin.  The computer geeks can pat themselves on the back for a job well helping out a friend with his problems.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Combined Rally at Koputaroa

It took us no time at all to drive to Koputaroa School on Friday, to take part in a combined rally hosted by the Wellington Caravan Club.  As it was a school day, we had to wait till after 4.00pm till we could gain entry to the school grounds. Koputaroa is a small rural school seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  You would think it would be a quiet peaceful place.  But no - the Main Trunk Line runs close by and long freight trains roar and rumble as they trundle along the tracks – usually in the dead of night. 

Extremely strong winds kept us company all weekend.  Wind makes quite a noise too, whistling around the vans, shaking and rattling our TV aerials so much we wondered if they would be safe, and moaning through the large trees surrounding the school.  I never feel safe in strong winds like this, and we heard news item stories of a motor-home blown over, and roofs lifted from homes.   Luckily members from the three clubs, (Wellington, Heretaunga and Wairarapa clubs) attending the rally all arrived safe and sound without any horror travel stories to relate.  

PB150027 Combined rally at Koputaroa School

Asparagus season is in full swing in the Horowhenua region so on Saturday morning we took a trip to Tendertips Pack house to buy ourselves some of this freshly picked delicacy.


The pack-house was a hive of activity, with about 40 staff working away at various stations along the conveyer belt, as a never ending stream of asparagus was washed, graded, sorted and packed.  We prefer the “skinnies”  and a kilo pack will give us several succulent meals.  What can be nicer than fresh asparagus served with cheese sauce, or even just a knob of butter and freshly ground black pepper? 


Tendertips Asparagus Pack-house

Luckily the rally organisers had arranged to have a large room available for us to gather in for morning teas, 4zees, and the evenings, or else we would be a very sorry wind blown bunch indeed.  Saturday night entertainment was a trip down memory lane – we had some vintage movies to enjoy from the Mavtech, Museum of Audiovisual Technology of Foxton.  The museum has a wide range of cinematic equipment and old films, and two of the volunteers brought along a selection for our viewing pleasure. 

PB150036 Setting up the film show

We laughed at the antics of Abbot and Costello as cave men as they went about looking for a wife.  Wonder dog Rin Tin Tin saved the day as he helped the troops fight off those dastardly injuns, and the Lone Ranger once again rescued a damsel in distress.  We were also intrigued with the 1940s film about the Palmerston North Caravan Club and their antics.  Back then, most of the caravans in New Zealand were home made, with commercial production still some time in the future. 

PB150042 Palmerston North Caravan Club members in 1940s

Our club members Selwyn and Kath had recently suffered the trauma of a stone through the front window of their caravan.  Not such a big deal, one would think.  But it is when the window in question is a double skinned laminated window on an imported  English caravan, with no such item to be found in New Zealand.  In fact, this particular window was no longer stocked back in good old Blighty.  The only option was for a mould to be made, and a one-off window manufactured here.  Quite an expensive job, as it turned out, so it was lucky that the insurance company was footing the bill.  All this only took a couple of weeks, so Selwyn and Kath are very pleased with the outcome. 

PB160043 New laminated window in place

As often happens, the weather started to clear up by Sunday, and although still windy, it was not quite so strong.  We said our goodbyes, thanked the host club, visited the dump station to get rid of the waste water, and before we knew it, were safely home.  The caravan is unpacked and cleaned, the washing is done, and Robin is now wondering when we are next going away!

Friday, November 14, 2014

No Wonder it feels Cold

We can certainly feel that “wind chill factor”  lately blowing around.  Although it is late Spring, with the Summer season due to start just a few short weeks away at the beginning of December, it seems unseasonably cool lately.  And the reason seems to be that covering of snow that we can see on the top of the Tararua Ranges.  (Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve had to turn my electric blanket on lately).  It does look pretty though, doesn’t it?

PB130019 Spring snow in Levin

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wellington SPCA Trip

The Wellington branch of SPCA (Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was invaded by a busload of our members of our 60s Up group yesterday.  When the early settlers from England came to New Zealand, they brought English laws with them, including the Protection of Animals Act 1835. Canterbury opened the first SPCA in New Zealand in 1872 and the Wellington SPCA was formed in 1884. 

The Wellington SPCA have recently moved to the old Fever Hospital situated on Mt Victoria.  This was originally built to care for WW1 soldiers recovering from influenza, and went on to nurse patients suffering from TB and Scarlet Fever.

PB120022 New home for Wellington branch of SPCA


Our group gathered in a former hospital ward, where the original light fittings and call buttons for each bed were still in place.  As a condition of renting this property from Wellington Council, a proportion of historic features are to remain in place while renovating the building to suit the needs of the SPCA.

PB120005 Original fittings still in place

Educational Officer Matt gave us a slide show presentation outlining the work of the SPCA.  As well as dealing with a multitude of kittens and puppies, the society also cares for smaller species such as guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, hedgehogs and mice.  The Wellington SPCA cares for about 6000 animals each year.  Volunteers are the heart and backbone of Wellington SPCA - dog walkers, those providing foster homes for puppies and kittens, and adoption assistants, they all give up their time to help the Society care for animals in need.  All cats and dogs who pass through are desexed before being offered up for adoption.

As we left the conference room to look around the centre, one of the staff members showed us a three week old puppy which had just been found abandoned in Porirua.  At such a young age, this snuffling little darling will need constant care for some time. A big handful at only three weeks old, he's going to grow to be a big  a huge dog, I think. 

PB120011 Just arrived at the SPCA

Matt showed us one of the cats they are caring for, who happily lapped up all the extra attention from our group.

PB120013 Education Officer Matt and one of his charges

We then checked out the dogs, some of whom were enjoying play time in the newly built roomy dog yard.  They get taken out of their indoor enclosures for some fun and games each day.  Sadly, most of the dogs we saw seem to be staffie cross dogs, not always easy to rehome.  I spoke to one of the volunteers working in the dog area.  “Hello, you look familiar”, I told him.  It was none other than Mark Sainsbury, a  veteran TVNZ journalist who used to present the TV programme Close Up until it was axed last year.  The end of an era after a broadcasting  career of 31 years.

Mark SainsburyMark Sainsbury (SPCA Volunteer) on his last day working on Close Up.

PB120014Puppies having fun

Our tour over, it was back on the bus, and off to the Petone Working Men’s Club for lunch.

PB120023 All aboard

Peter the bus driver took us through the newly opened Arras tunnel, which runs under the National War Memorial park, named after the French town where New Zealand soldiers dug tunnels to lay explosives during WWI.  The tunnel is adorned with decorative poppies, which symbolise the 2721 New Zealand citizens killed during the Anzac campaign - the poppies were the idea of Sir Peter Jackson.  Sadly, the photo does not do the poppies justice, as we quickly whizzed by. 

PB120024 The Arras Tunnel

After an enjoyable lunch, there was just time for one more adventure.  Climbing aboard the bus once more, Peter drove the bus around the narrow and windy road around the bays to Eastbourne.  It had been a long time since most of us had been here.  And even longer since I used to bike around the bays as a teenage – those were the days!

PB120034 Eastbourne, looking back to Wellington

Our fun day out was made even better when we stopped for ice-creams at  Lindale.  As we were seated at the front of the bus, we were first into the shop.  “There’s a bus load coming in for ice creams”, we told the shop owner.  That caused a bit of panic, but they soon got into a good system.  One took the orders and rolled the ice creams, then the customers settled up with the assistant at the cash register down the other end of the shop.  Everyone happily sat in the sunshine and savoured their ice creams.  Another great day out with the 60s Up group.

PB120042 Peter the bus driver with his ice-cream

PB120039 Plum for me and strawberry and cream for Robin

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunny Sunday in Paradise

We may well have been enjoying a lazy day Sunday at home, but Robin jumped out of bed at 6.00am today.  Must have had something to do with the All Blacks versus England Rugby match being shown on Sky TV, I suspect.  But it kept him happily occupied while I slumbered on a little longer.  Happy that the All Blacks had another win, he then set to and cooked up his Sunday special, his version of a full Kiwi Breakfast.  We had bacon and eggs, I got the double yolker this time, black pudding, and tomatoe.  It smelt great and tasted even better.  So that got the morning off to a good start!

It’s been a lovely day, the sun is shining, the New Zealand flag is fluttering on the flag pole, and Robin has been busy pottering around all day.  So he really enjoyed a cool beer sitting outside at the picnic table under the shade of the sun umbrella, while I sipped a shandy.  The garden is growing well, and our recently transplanted rhubarb is almost ready to cut, cook up and enjoy.

PB090023 Rhubarb almost ready to enjoy

We don’t have a huge garden, by any means, but the little seedlings of tomatoes, green peppers, peas, beetroot and lettuces are starting to grow and thrive.

PB090024 Small veggie garden

And we are most excited to discover flowers on our passion fruit vine – lets hope we get some of this tasty fruit later on.  And our small lemon tree is covered in flowers which hopefully will lead to a bumper crop of lemons. For a pair of unenthusiastic gardeners like us, we seem to be doing fine.  So everything is well in our own special part of paradise on such lovely sunny Sunday.

PA310044 Flowers on the passion fruit vine

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A busy old day, and an Anniversary Meal

We had quite a busy old day today, with visitors calling this morning.  This meant a flurry of activity earlier doing some baking for the guests, and running around the house with the vacuum cleaner and duster.  With everything clean and tidy we could sit  back and enjoy their company when they arrived.  Alan and Lis are on holiday here from UK and were keen to check out our new caravan.  

After a quick lunch we drove up to Palmerston North to visit Robin’s Mum who has been in hospital for the last couple of weeks.  While we were chatting, I mentioned to the mother-in-law that it was our 31st anniversary today.  One of the nurses joined in the conversation and said that we should make sure we go out somewhere nice for a meal to celebrate.  That wasn’t really on the plan after our busy day, but then again, we though, why not?  By the time we returned to Levin it was after 6.00pm, just in time for dinner at the Avenue Restaurant. 

PB050088 Selfie taken at Avenue Restaurant

The meals were delicious, salmon steak for me, and sirloin steak for Robin.  Followed by lemon meringue pie and apple and raspberry crumble.  When the chef found out it was our anniversary, he gave us our garlic bread for free.  This is the first time we have been to this establishment, and I’m sure we will be back – I’m quite keen to try the Sunday roast.

PB050089 Yummy anniversary dinner

So it is Happy Anniversary to us - we got married all those years ago on Guy Fawkes day.  Which means all the crackers will be let off tonight now it is getting dark.  We can hear a few pops and  bangs already through the windows.  Luckily our old cat Muffy is getting a bit deaf so the loud noises don’t upset her too much.