Meeting a New Zealand Icon

Okay, first bit of good news. I have a job. I’ve had it for almost two months, and they’re a great bunch of people to work with. Second bit of good news is that, as she’s a volunteer at the hydrotherapy pool at the hospital, my mother’s had both of her Covid-19 inoculations. I’m in group four, the low risk group, so I won’t be getting mine until late July or August.

But that’s not what’s exciting. I’m going to tell you about something even more important. Saturday 30th May, I met a New Zealand icon.

One thing I’d like to say here. If you call the brown, feathery fruit with green – or occasionally gold – or now, I think, red flesh, a “kiwi”, you can change your linguists now. That is a kiwifruit – said and spelt with one word – like passionfruit. A kiwi is the colloquial term for a New Zealander; a member of the men’s national rugby league side; our currency; or a bird that is more like a mammal than something with feathers.

At this point I’ll also point out that kiwi is a Māori word, and that, because the Māori alphabet doesn’t include the letter S, the plural of kiwi: is kiwi.

Another fact about the kiwi, is that its nostrils are at the tip and not the base of its beak, which makes it different from most other birds. (“All the better to smell you… erm… worms and other soil-based invertebrates, with.”) Technically, because the length of a bird’s bill is measured from its nostrils to its tip, this gives the kiwi the shortest bill for the bird’s size of any species. Don’t you love science?

Remember that New Zealand is a land largely free of mammalian species, with the only land mammals being two species of bats. As a result, New Zealand’s animals evolved to fill the niches that mammals fill in other parts of the world. They also evolved to be unlike their original, ancestral, forms. The kiwi is nocturnal with a keen sense of smell and whiskers to help it feel its way about. It’s flightless, so its wings are almost non-existent. And its feathers are almost more like hairs than the traditional feathery appendages.

It’s the male that broods the egg. (Do you blame the mum? When you’ve laid an egg that’s equates to 15% to 20% of your body mass; and takes up so much space that you’d fast the last few days before laying because you had no room left for food; you’d want to take a break too.)

Kiwi do have large claws and powerful legs, which, when it’s old enough, gives it something to fight back with.

But, because of its lack of flight muscles and associated strong skeleton, doesn’t have the chest strength to withstand even the most gentle grip – of, say, a pet dog. Chicks are especially vulnerable to predation by introduced mammalian pests like rats, stoats, ferrets, and possums, which means that, without the work of groups like TCKC, the bush was filled with an increasingly aging population.

They are remarkable – and endangered.

Now for a bit of more recent and human history. How did this wonderous day happen?

I’m on the committee of our local branch of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society – aka Forest and Bird. We decided to donate some money to a local group who are doing their best to preserve kiwi on the Coromandel Peninsula – Thames Coast Kiwi Care. They were thrilled; which, when you consider that it costs them $70,000/year to do the priceless work that they do, it’s no wonder.

$70,000. It sounds a lot, doesn’t it? But you’ve got to consider what that goes towards. They do pest eradication, using manual methods like trapping and laying bait. They tag the birds with electronic trackers so they can find them. They retrieve eggs so they can be reared in safety. And then they release the chicks again. And they do all this in a hilly, blush-clad area that covers approximately 2,300 hectares. In doing so, they’ve increased the local population from about 80 to roughly 200 birds, which is an amazing achievement, but depressing when you consider the thousands of kiwi that would have originally wandered the Coromandel Peninsula and beyond.

They have had help from the Department of Conservation, but with literally hundreds of worthy, grassroots, volunteer-run organisations in New Zealand, the government department can’t support everyone as much as they deserve. So, the rest of the $70,000 is raised with grants, sponsorship, fundraising (read raffles, concerts, and stalls), and donations from everyday New Zealanders.

So, Thames/Hauraki Forest and Bird donated several hundred dollars to TCKC and, as a thank you, TCKC asked two of our committee members to join them at their last release of the season on the 8th May. It was decided that the two who should attend would be my mother, in her role as the chairperson of the branch, and the treasurer.

This was a real privilege as very few people get to see wild kiwi. I’ve seen them in captivity, and I remember that one of the cutest things that I’ve seen was a kiwi at Auckland Zoo. It was pressed up against the glass barrier having a snooze, with its bill tucked underneath its wing. I tried to get a photo, but there wasn’t enough light. (Remember these are flightless nocturnal birds), so you’ll have to make do with a terrible sketch.

Arrangements were made and, as my mother doesn’t have any transport of her own, the Forest and Bird treasurer said that he’d pick her up on the day.

He forgot.

We were concerned that he’d been ill, especially when we later heard that he was in the hospital, but it turned out that he’d simply forgotten.

Naturally, my mother was disappointed, but resigned to missing out on this once in a lifetime experience.

Then, on the 27th May, I got home from work and she said to me: “listen to the answerphone.”

It was the Thames Coast Kiwi Care saying that they were releasing one additional kiwi on Sunday and that they’d pick my mother up and bring her to the release site, but that the treasurer would have to make his own way there. So, she emailed back and said that she’d love to take them up on their offer, but, as it was the treasurer forgetting that had made her miss out last time, asked if I, as a member of the committee, could go in his place. They were happy about this.

And I did a happy dance.

I wasn’t sure what to wear on May 30th. The weather forecast was for thundery showers, or else showers increasing in the afternoon. It’s also been quite cool lately, since it’s almost winter, and I didn’t know how far we were going to go into the bush. So, I ended up wearing a merino skivvy, wool jumper, rain jacket, merino leggings, merino socks, and polyester slacks. And took my waterproof overtrousers, and poncho for extra rain protection.

And I was too hot whilst I hung around at home, waiting for the magic moment to arrive.

We were picked up at 2.20pm by Joanne Richards, community relations for the Thames Coast Kiwi Care, and taken up the coast to Te Mata Point Reserve to meet the rest of the group.

And Ollie.

We were originally in three vehicles, but packed ourselves into two for the short trip further on. When we got to the end of the rural side road we all piled out and took a short walk over a small bank (taking care to not trip over the remains of some wire fencing) and into a bit of pine plantation.

Then Neil brought in the man of the hour.

In a box.

Neil pulled Ollie out of his travelling carriage and held him gently as we oohed and aahed and took photo after photo.

Neil John – TCKC’s ONE kiwi handler bringing Ollie out of his box.
ONE = Operation Nest Egg

All the time Ollie sat quietly in Neil’s arms (shivering slightly), but as he wasn’t blowing bubbles nor losing his feathers, those in the know were quietly confident that he wasn’t stressed.

Ollie was supposed to have been released with the others on the 8th, but had banged his bill and developed at blood blister, so they kept him back to ensure that he was in tip-top condition. When he was weighed that morning at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua, he was 1.2kg, which was above the 1kg that they like to release birds at. A weight and size to hopefully be able to fight off stoats and rats.

He’s had quite a journey; this little man. Born on the Coromandel Peninsula, he was taken as an egg to Rainbow Springs where he hatched. After a few weeks, when he was big enough to fend for himself, he was taken to Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

And today, after the detour back to Rainbow Springs, he was going to be released onto his home turf.

Being nocturnal, Ollie spent most of his time with us with his eyes shut, although he did open them on occasion to check what we were up to. Probably wondered what all the odd clicking noises were.

Finally, it was agreed that it was time for him to be left alone, so Neil put him into the nesting box that most of the other kiwi released were put into. This happened that quickly, that none of us saw Ollie take off; only realising that he’d gone when Neil packed the end of the box with brush to keep the light out.

A chance to sleep and recover until it’s time to get up and explore.

And that was that. We wished Ollie good luck in his new (old) home, and returned to the vehicles for the ride back to the reserve.

As we waited for Neil to lock the gate behind us, we could see black clouds raining down on the far side of the firth. It didn’t advance whilst we were having our celebratory chat at the reserve, but started to rain when we were on the ride back into town. We were so lucky. We could have been miserable and damp, and unwilling to get our cameras wet, but, instead, we were warm and dry, and all of us, especially Ollie, happy.

Thanks to everyone involved with the TCKC for a wonderful, memorable afternoon. To learn more about their work you can go to their facebook page and web site:

NO! You can’t pat him, D.C.

I won’t let you.

Rachel Holmes. (With Ollie and Neil John.) Photographer of the above two pictures –

Meeting a New Zealand Icon

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Honouring Our Essential Heroes


Taking a break from my novel writing, I decided to create a picture that honoured our essential heroes in this time of crisis.

web shoppingScott and Virgil courtesy of Big Chief Studios. Gordon and Alan courtesy of body doubles. John didn’t take part as he had decided to take social distancing to new heights.

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Being essential

On the morning of April first I got things ready. FAB-e’s battery back in the bike and FAB-e outside ready to go. Dirty washing in the washing machine, with soap powder and disinfectant. Coat hanger within reach hanging from the rafters in the carport.

All ready for when I went to give blood at 2.00pm.

The roads were quiet. Not totally deserted, but quiet. Even the cop car that drove in front of me around the roundabout was quiet. So quiet that I didn’t originally realise that it had its lights flashing. It pulled over to the side of the road, as I went around the roundabout and down the service lane behind the Thames War Memorial Hall / Civic Centre. I parked in one of the shop’s carpark a) because the shop is now empty. And b) because all the shops are shut.

It was so quiet, that I was wondering if the blood donating was still going on today, (April Fool’s?) but there was a labelled car and a trailer parked in the service lane, so I was able to relax.

Those of us waiting stood our mandatory 2m away from each other (me with my full-face helmet on) chatting. And watching as a “plain clothes” car joined the police car that I’d seen earlier. Then the police took a woman out of the car the police car had been following into the service station on the corner and put her into their police car. Three big police officers and one woman in the car. No social distancing there.

You’ve got to admire the dedication of those poor cops. And all the essential services.

I was the second person at the hall, and I remained in my bikie get up, including helmet. Finally, they let us inside – to stand on the crosses taped to the floor. Then it was one at a time to answer questions. A bloke in front of me got sent away as he hadn’t made an appointment. Hopefully, he’ll be able to book in for tomorrow.

I finally removed my helmet when it was time to answer questions about our potential proximity to Covid-19, before I was given a new Blood Service pen to use whilst filling in the forms. (No cross contamination.) Then it was into the hall proper and a queue of more crosses to stand on.

I was welcomed warmly by the reception lady, who’d remembered me. (How many pink bikies do you know?) I had to toss my ID card onto her table, which I managed to do upside down so she couldn’t scan it. She wasn’t allowed to touch it, so I had to flip it over for her.

Normally when you get there, you’re given a folder with laminated pamphlets which you have to read cover to cover and then fill in the form. This time we were just given the form and a disinfected clipboard to lean on, before being instructed to go and sit on one of the neatly spaced out chairs to do our ticking.

Have you ever had sex with…? No

Have you been overseas in the last…? No

Have you ever injected yourself with drugs…? No.

It’s the same every time. I create two neat columns of no ticks – aside from when I went to England, and had to tick Yes to “Have you been overseas in the last three years?”

As they’d only just opened, I was the second to be interviewed. First question: “Have you read our pamphlets?”

“Not this time.”

“Have you ever…?”


“Any illness?”


“Are you aware if you’ve had any contact with anyone who’s had Covid-19?”

“I’m not aware of it. No.”

My iron levels were 122, when the minimum is 120, so I don’t know if that’s good or adequate, but they were going to drain me anyway. Although, with the amount of blood they squeeze out of your finger after the pin-prick, it’s a wonder you have any left.

I was escorted over to a left-arm chair and greeted by the vampire, sorry, technician who was take my donation. She was great. Bright, and cheerful, and had me laughing. She began to tear off three strips of tape, which she stuck the tape to my blood pressure cuff, and said that that was for taping my mouth shut when I started screaming. I said I’d try not to scream.

Insertion of the needle wasn’t too painful, and then the IV tube (I suppose it’s an IV tube if it’s draining out of a vein?) was held in place by the three lengths of tape.

A few squeezes of the stress ball that they give you to pump the blood and she was happy to leave me to it. Then, as she waited for the next patient to invade her slice of pie (the two donation chairs that she was restricting access to, including mine), she began to dance along to the music the radio was playing. It’s a wonder I didn’t rip the cannula out with laughter.

The process was good and fast as I’d made sure that I’d had plenty of liquid this morning, but my friendly tech had moved onto another donor by the time I’d finished – about five minutes after I’d started. A pity, I could have told her that I needed the tape to stop me from scream as removing the tape from my arm hurt more than withdrawing the cannula. 😉

Then it was sit back and relax for a few minutes, whilst another technician offered to get me something to drink.

This was another change. Previous times, the Thames’ Lions have been on duty, keeping us supplied with drink (OJ, tea, coffee, or water) and biscuits. Of course, things being what they are, this wasn’t possible today – probably as much because most of our Lions are over 70, as for any other reason. So it meant that the techs had to get our drinks on put them on the tables for us.

That was another change. Normally two tables would be positioned with end to end and surrounded by lots of chairs so donors could sit and chat. This time it was four tables, two metres apart (of course), and with a chair at the head of each table. In the past, the bikkies would be supplied in communal Tupperware containers so you could help yourself. Today, my cup, and a little bag of biscuits, was placed for me at the end of table two. (Four biscuits! Two different styles of “plain” with cream filling, one Cameo Crème, and a chocolate bikkie! Spoilt!) While I enjoyed my refuelling, the techs disinfected down the donation chair I’d just been sitting in. (I had had a wash that morning!) They also disinfected the refuelling chairs as well.

Better to be safe than sorry. Even if the refuelling chairs were cloth and not that easy to disinfect.

And if you’re wondering, there weren’t a lot of changes made to the tech’s processes. They already spend a lot of time using hand sanitiser as a part of their job. After all, blood’s just as effective at transmitting diseases. But they don’t have masks of any sort. I didn’t like to ask, but I’m guessing they would like a bit more protection there.

One thing that I noticed was that they had a box of the soft toys that they give to people after their first(?) donation. They’re shaped like anthropomorphic blood drops. The box was called “Dudes”. I never knew that was their name. I’ll have to start calling my three Dude One, Dude Two, and Dude Three.

The last change to the day’s proceedings was the exit. Normally, I would have left my bikie gear with the Lions and then collected it on the way out, walking past the blood donors and reception. This time it was “Exit. Stage right” through another door at the far end of the hall. Once I managed to push it open. I nearly had to ask for help, until I put my shoulder to it.

I did take a bit of a detour home, just to see how busy the town was. That was a detour of one block. The pharmacies were open, as was the vet’s, and the bulk food store, and Organic Co-Op. And there was a queue outside the Four Square. I did see more traffic, but not a lot. It was kind of like a Sunday afternoon, more than a lockdown.

Speaking of lockdown: I was kind of hoping that the cops would pull me over, just so that I could say that I’d been giving blood. 😀

I got home, put FAB-e away, and started disrobing. Bikie jacket onto the carport coat hanger. Helmet on FAB-e’s rear view mirror, and gloves pinned to the carport clothes line. Shoes left outside and socks and outer clothes off and put straight into the washing machine, which was turned on. Then it was to the bathroom to wash my hands. Once I’d done all that, (and indeed, got dressed in clean clothes) I went and said that I was home.

I’m always pleased to give blood. To paraphrase a character in one of my stories, I might not be able to do anything frontline, brave, and dramatic to save a life. But I could still save a life just by spending a maximum of half an hour (if I don’t get talking to the Lions) giving blood. Last time I didn’t even give blood for a transfusion’s sake. My blood type means that I can accept anyone’s, but can only donate to the same blood type as me, but they are able to use my blood to make eyedrops for people who have excessively dry eyes – maybe caused by a side effect of some other treatment.

This was my opportunity to be essential to the essential services. And so long as it can be done safely, with no risk to myself, the technicians, or anyone else, I’ll proudly continue to do so.



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Keep Calm…

Keep Calm covid

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The unknown

Today was the last day of the existence of the company known as New Zealand Wheelbarrows: the company that I work for. Tomorrow I’m working for a new company, but I don’t know how long for. The company that’s bought New Zealand Wheelbarrows is going to continue employing us in the short term, but after that, when they move everything to another town, it’s the great unknown.

So I’m going to step into that great unknown and write a novel. I’m not going to tell anyone what about, but I hope that I find it as easy to write, and people find it as easy to enjoy, as my previous Thunderbirds fan fiction writings. And that’s all I’m going to say.

Aside from: Happy Thunderbirds Day.

Thunderbirds day

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Home again

1 September 2019

I’m sitting here in the New Plymouth’s not-so international airport. It’s basically one building, that’s almost one room, but it does the job. The bad part is that it means that we’re about to leave New Plymouth. In about 2.5 hours. We got here early enough so that we didn’t have to panic and could have lunch in the café here. I wonder if Jim Hickey still owns it.

I got woken up at 3am with D.C. trying to find the light switch to the bathroom. I asked her if she was okay, but I don’t think she heard me. Next thing I heard was a bang. So I put my slippers on and went to see if she was okay. She was sitting on the floor of the shower. Being half asleep, coupled with not being able to find the lights, coupled with the slope oof the floor meant that she lost her balance. She was fine, but had bumped her head on the fold down seat, which had folded down when she fell. Once she was back on her feet, I left her to it.

And then had to use the facilities myself. And couldn’t really get back to sleep.

I woke up again at 6.30 and stayed in bed until 6.50 when I got up and had a shower, leaving D.C sitting up in bed, dozing. She was reading when I’d finished the shower. She then went and had a shower of her own, and I packed away my PJs. I then looked out the window, looking south.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. So I grabbed my camera, Kally, hat and gloves (it was warm enough to not worry about a jacket, but I thought it could be chilly on top of the hill), told D.C. that I was heading back up Marsland Hill, and took off.

It was warmer than yesterday, which I think must have been the coldest day we’d had so far, and I hardly saw anyone. Of course, I had to get photos of the White Hart Hotel…

Then I got to where you turn off Robe Street and take the path up Marsland Hill. Somewhere around here, if the clouds were willing, it was possible to get to see the first glimpse of Mt Taranaki. But I couldn’t see it for that roof in the way…

It wasn’t a roof.

It was something else conical shaped.

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So I pounded up the hill and emerged at the top of the path.

Not a cloud.

I’d told myself that I’d only take one photograph and then return to the motel…

Yeah. Right.

I was also only going to stay at the top of the hill, and not go behind the observatory again, but, obviously, I didn’t stick to that resolution either. But I didn’t take Kally out of her bear bag, so she had to enjoy the view from my belt.

I was going to walk back down, but decided to read about the Carillion. I then stopped the name Bernard Aris. Now Bernard Aris (we haven’t worked out how to pronounce his last name) was a painter and Uncle Fred has a painting of his. He also designed a book plate for Uncle Fred. I discovered, as I read, that he’d also been the patron of the New Plymouth Observatory, and that there was a seat dedicated to him.

I had to find that seat. It was the one that Kally had toppled over on yesterday. I haven’t downloaded today’s photos of the seat yet as the computer decided not to let me do it – possibly because it’s run out of hard drive space. I’m going to have to have a major clean out when I get home. Starting with all the photos of this trip.

I walked back down the hill, with a detour to get a photo of the grave of the bloke who’d been friends with Keats. The return journey (also with more photos of the White Hart) took me:

943 steps, 0.61km, 8 minutes, I burned 36 kcal, 12’45” average pace, and my heartrate was 199bpm.

I made it back just as D.C. had started her breakfast. She’s got a big red mark down her back, which she wasn’t aware of until I photographed it, that looks like it’s the result of last night’s mishap. She also managed to split her thumbnail about 5mm vertically.

We had breakfast (including some left over Turkish garlic bread and baklava) and finished packing up and checking everywhere.

With nothing else to do, and the shuttle (Scott’s Shuttle!) coming to pick us up just after 10, we checked in our key and the review of the motel. (Lower the cupboards and the microwave bay so that shorties can reach them and you’re not cooking your head; and have an extra towel rail in the bathroom, so that one towel isn’t hanging over the top of the other person’s.)

We then decided to go an sit in the sun. It was a chance to dry the toes of my shoes. They got wet walking through the grass on Marsland Hill. I had dried them with the hairdryer, but not totally. We had a chat with a gentleman who’d come out to enjoy a mandarin and then the shuttle arrived with Ian at the wheel again.

There was already a lady on board, sitting behind the driver’s seat, so I sat behind D.C. (who scored the front seat) for what was an easy trip to the airport. We’re still trying to work out why the sign at the end of the road, on the state highway, points to New Plymouth in one direction and Hamilton in the other.

We checked our suitcases in and got our boarding passes, and then read and wrote until 11.40. Then we had lunch – D.C. a beef and mushroom pie, me a roast vegetable and feta frittata. And, of course, we both had hot chocolates. We’ll have to stop this. The Chaos Café had an old set of scales in their ladies’ restroom so I got onto them. Fortunately, I didn’t need to use the penny hanging on my camera strap as a tripod unscrewer. Unfortunately, it told me that I was 8st 7lb. I had to put that into the converter on my tablet to work out what that was in metric. D.C. was 10 & a half stone. Of course, this was with our clothes on… and before having an Aztec hot chocolate and a Santé bar.

It’s really clouded over now, so I think I was lucky to see Mt Taranaki this morning. There were no clouds around it, just around the older extinct volcanoes.

One thing that I learnt at Puke Ariki, (that I had already seen on YouTube), is that Mt Taranaki is the latest in a range of volcanic eruptions (the Sugarloaf islands and Paritutu Rock are the remains of very early volcanic cones). The vent would erupt, form a mountain, and then collapse before, millennia later, the next eruption would occur. What I want to know is: how long did the collapses take – instantaneous, or over centuries? Also, why is everyone worried about Mt Taranaki erupting again (it’s overdue) and not collapsing? I must email Geonet and ask.

I’m sitting here in the window of the café in the New Plymouth airport at 12.25pm, and I think I’ve written everything I planned to. See you this evening…


… Right, so we’re now at Auckland Airport. It was a good flight, left about ten minutes late, but that’s nothing. The take off was point the nose at the sky and let rip, but the landing was smooth.

We spent part of the time in New Plymouth Airport talking to the lady we’d shared the shuttle with. She’s off to Oz to spend a month with her friend.

Opposite us in the airport and the aeroplane was a mother with her baby. We now know how they restrain babies. They have their own safety harness, with the same buckle arrangement as everyone else, but which has an attached loop that goes through mum’s safety harness. It was a very well behaved baby, as mum had sense to breast feed it throughout the flight – keeping it occupied and sucking to prevent pressure build up. It was probably a little unnerving for the man, a stranger, next to her, but better than a bawling baby in your ear.

We were the last ones off the aeroplane, which mean I was able to snap some quick photos of the craft – once I was off the tarmac.

Our bags were almost the first onto the conveyor belt, so I left D.C. minding our luggage and went and grabbed them both. Then we found another place to sit, somewhere a little less hectic, and sat and read (and wrote) for half an hour…


… In Denny’s in Auckland, waiting for something to eat before we head over the road to catch the bus at 6.00pm. This isn’t as flash as some of the places we’ve been eating, but it’s edible… Except that we just find something that we like, and they discontinue it.


… It was a good trip home. I listened to RNZ’s Kakapo Diaries podcasts about this year’s bumper breeding season of New Zealand’s “Owl Parrot”. I’m learning a lot of interesting stuff about Kakapo sex. As there were only 147 adults at the beginning of the season, clearly they weren’t getting enough. Now there are over 200 adults and I hope that number continues to grow.

We walked home from the bus stop at the i-SITE, and entered the house. The first thing I had to do was turn off the security alarm.

Do you think I could do this? I entered the code over and over again. I used the alarm key to turn it off over and over again. And it would not turn off. So we ended up that I kept the alarm key with me and wandered through the house, waving at all the sensors, until the alarm finally went off and I turned it off.

Highly effective, isn’t it?

It was while we were doing this wander that we realised that the door from the room that’s the entrance to the house through to the next was wide open. I had made a point of shutting it before we left last Saturday. Also my bedroom door was wide open – more open than I would open it if I were in there. And, last week, I’d also made a point of wandering through the house to ensure that every door was tightly closed.

We’ve often thought that we had a ghost, but “Humphry” tends to take red objects, not leave doors open.

Our house is old and wooden, so we always, not only close all doors as fire/smoke breaks, but unplug all electrical appliances and ensure that everything is turned off – including the powered fibre telephone/Internet connection.

Concerned about the doors, I plugged the phone back in and rang our neighbours. The security company had just been ringing them because they couldn’t get us. (Because the phone was unplugged.) They’d also been called by the security company last Sunday evening at 11pm. Right before the VOLUNTEER fire brigade was called out. Our neighbours, being rightly unwilling to wander through our house when there could be a fire or something else, let the fire brigade use our keys to check that all was well. (Unfortunately, they left the two doors open.)

So I’ve spent the evening writing an angry email to Chubb demanding that they attempt to fix this system AGAIN (they’ve been back several times); and that if they can’t, they do something that won’t cost us money. I should have been free to upload photographs instead.

And no, it wasn’t insect activity that had set off the smoke alarm. I’d dusted the entire area around the problematic sensor an hour before we left on the Saturday. Then I sprayed the duster with fly spray and dusted again. Then I carried a daddy-longlegs spider outside. There was no way that insect/spider activity should set the alarm off 36 hours after that.

Anyway, as a last point of interested. Today I travelled hundreds of kilometres… and only walked 7344 steps – most of those up a hill to see a mountain.

See you next time. Whenever that is.

When I upload the rest of the photos, I guess.



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This morning…


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Guess what…

It exists!

31 August 2019

Last day of our holiday. Who knows when we’ll get another?

We didn’t really have anything planned today.

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We walked down to Puke Ariki and I felt something fall onto my shoulder. Looking down I could see a bit of plaster that had fallen off a building that was being done up. (But not the area where the plaster had come from.

I was lucky it wasn’t bigger, heavier, or hit me on the head.

As it’s the weekend, we thought that we’d get the chance to check out Richmond House. It was due to open at 11pm and we were there about 10.30, so we went into Puke Ariki – and had our photos taken and a chat with “the Queen”, who was still wandering around. (Today was the children’s party to celebrate the 100 years.)

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D.C., “Lizzy”, Charles the corgi, Sereena, Kally. The photographer was a professional who used my camera. I joked that it would be the best photo ever taken on it and he admitted that he’d put it onto Automatic to be safe.

We went out to Richmond House and it still wasn’t open. So we went back into Puke Ariki (it’s in the grounds. It was originally called Beach House, but when someone bought the land and wanted to knock it down, the locals made a hue and cry and it was shifted to the land next to the museum. It’s only open weekends and public holidays – except for this one because of the 100-years.

So we thought we’d check out the virtual reality in Puke Ariki. It wasn’t going because of the mass of people who were there today.

So we went to the i-SITE and asked what there was to do within walking distance. They suggested hiring a couple of electric bicycles. To my surprise, D.C. was quite keen on the idea, so we walked up to the shop and hired a couple of bikes ($30 each). The problem came when D.C. tried to get on.

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The lady tried to make the seat as low as possible, and I could just mount mine, but D.C. just wasn’t comfortable not having a good grip on the road with her feet. She was also concerned that all our walking had hurt her knee and she didn’t want to put extra strain on it. So we got my $60 back. I don’t think the lady was that impressed.

We decided to head back to Chaos Café just for an Aztec hot chocolate each (and a Whittaker’s Santé bar), but ended up sharing a muffin as well. This lady was pleased to see us… Again.

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Back to the i-SITE for further suggestions, and they suggested the coastal walkway. So we did a gentle stroll in the opposite direction to last time. (With a few minor spits.) We got as far as the Aquatic Centre and had a cheese, pineapple, and onion toasted sandwich each. Which looked very nice on the wooden platter with the little bowl of chutney. The food at the Rock Pool Café was tasty and cheap.

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Back along the walkway to Puke Ariki, in the hope that we’d score some of the birthday cake. I think the multitude of kids had eaten it.

We then went back to the room and relaxed for the next few hours. I should have been sorting out my blog, but I couldn’t be bothered, so I read a few chapters of my latest story I’m uploading to and did some proofing.

I’d just decided that I needed to get with my blog, when I remembered that the i-SITE had a web cam shot of Mt Taranaki. What was it like now? So I checked all the ones I could find and it was relatively clear.

I made a decision

Leaving D.C. relaxing on the bed reading about David Suchet and Hercule Poirot, I took off for Marsland Hill.

Typical. Although I could see the nearby Kaitake and Pouakai (I think. They’re older volcanoes.), I couldn’t see Mt Taranaki’s peak. So I had a wander around (as I was doing so my tracker told me I’d done 10,000 steps), and had a chat to an Australian man, who’s currently working in Hamilton and was in Thames last week, who was also hoping to get a photo of the mountain. As it wasn’t coming to the party yet, but could do, he was going to drive out to Te Rewa Rewa bridge and (hopefully) score some pictures there.

He was just leaving when I saw a spot of intense white in the cloud above the mountain. Then as I watched…

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I wondered if I’d get a better view behind the observatory…

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There was an opening in the fence behind the observatory, and it had clearly been used many times as a walkway, and no one appeared to have made any attempts to close it, so I went back there and got a better view.

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It was after I took this photo, that Kally fell backwards onto the other side of the fence.

While I was there I could hear some tinkly music behind me. (Which reminds me of Grandpa, who liked “the tinkley music” of the St Trinan’s series of films.) I couldn’t work out what it was… I didn’t think it was my cell phone. And then I clicked. The carillion was on the hill behind me, and it was playing a tune. The only time I’d heard it.

Kally fell over after I took this photo too. But didn’t fall off.

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I would have liked to have stayed longer, but though it was close to an hour and D.C. could have been getting worried – especially when sirens started screeching along the street.

But it did mean that I missed out on the “golden hour” colouring the peak. But I did get it colouring the Govett-Brewster and White Hart Hotel.

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I checked when I got back and I had done 3191 steps, 2.04km, been gone for 69 minutes, used 115 kcal, 34’05”, and my heartrate was100bpm, which probably wasn’t a surprise when I charged up the hill. It didn’t make for steady cameraship.

But, as I’d found a spot at the bottom of the hill where you could see the summit, I convinced D.C. to come back with me. I made it to the top again, a long time before she did, but she still got to see most of Mount Taranaki. Even if it was getting dark.

It was a good evening, we saw Mt Taranaki, we could hear Tui, and we could smell jonquils, irises, freesias, and daffodils. It was almost a complete sensory experience. The taste came later.

We weren’t sure what to have for tea. I would have been happy to have gone to Café Turquoise again, but D.C. wanted something not exotic. So we found the Marinovich’s Seafood Restaurant. Nothing really appealed to me, but I had the crumbed chicken with aioli and sweet chilli sauce entrée and two side dishes – seasonal roasted vegetables and baked potato with garlic butter. It was very delicious. (The cook even came out to check if I wanted garlic or rosemary and garlic. I said so long as it had garlic…) D.C. had the entrée crumbed scallops and roasted vegetables. She enjoyed that too. The desserts looked very tasty (we were eyeing up the table next to us), but decided against it.

So we came back and I packed my bag.

I did a total of 15,342 steps today. A record!



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A Topp Day

30 August 2019

Isn’t funny how when you do two totally dissimilar things in one day, it feels like the first thing was done days earlier? Like this morning we were picked up at 9.00am by Ian of Taranaki Tours’ Toyota mini bus. This was nearly as good as FAB1 as Ian could control, not only the windows from the driver’s seat, but also the doors. What was also good was that we were the only ones on the tour. He had had someone else booked in, but they got a cold overnight and had called their booking off. This meant that D.C. had the front seat and I had the central seat behind so we were both able to see straight ahead.

The weather was threatening rain today, but that largely held off – except when approaching Mount Taranaki, but that was later on in the piece. The tour usually included the Wind Wand, the Brooklands Bowl and the Gables, and Marsland Hill, but as we’d been there yesterday with Jenny (Ian had seen us) he skipped those locations.

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Someone has a sense of humour

Instead we went to the port, and saw the swimming pool complex (most vehemently opposed by the older members of the community, most frequently used by the older members of the community) and the port with the chimney and the breakwaters. Then it was to other points of interest, like the views over the city, driving through the various housing styles and prices, and out to Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, which we hadn’t seen before. Its style is based on a breaking wave.

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And, if you’re lucky, a view of Mt Taranaki. We weren’t lucky.

We did get out here for a short walk and a chance to get some photos. Most of the rest of the tour was spent in the bus.

From there we were heading out to the DoC North Egmont Visitor Centre, when Ian asked if we wanted to see Uncle Fred’s house at Sentry Hill. So we went the “long way” to Mt Taranaki stopping off at the truck stop. I recognise the exterior, but the interior has majorly been renovated.

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Still, they had a cat, which Uncle Fred would have approved of.

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He would approve

The mountain still wasn’t playing ball when we got to the visitor centre. But we did get to see this…

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The temperature dropped about seven degrees between where we left sea level and the 950m (if I remember correctly – my ears and the pressure they were under could probably tell you) North Egmont Visitor Centre. It also started to rain. Not heavily – the Toyota didn’t have automatic windscreen wipers, but enough to shove Kally into my pocket.

Following that all too short visit, (and having passed the Volca No View Restaurant) we stopped off at Lake Mangamahoe, where we could have also got a spectacular view of Mt Taranaki – if it played ball. Which it didn’t.

But we did see a mallard(?) drake with a fluffy pom-pom topknot. So I asked if I could get photos – of the duck, not the lake – which was man made and has a dam at the end.

From there it was back into town, and Ian asked where we wanted to be dropped off. As by this point it was well past midday (when the tour was due to end), I asked if he could recommend a good café.

He dropped us outside the Chaos Café.

Oh, well. It must be good food if both locals recommend it. So, after thanks and a hug goodbye,  D.C. had a salmon cake and I had a chicken, brie, and cranberry filo. I ordered us hot chocolates, but should have asked for the Aztec Hot Chocolate with the chilli and cinnamon. But we still got the Whittaker’s sante bar to stir it with and suck on.

Lunch finished, what were we going to do?

It was slightly rainy, so we headed back to the Bella Vista and offloaded the gear we didn’t need. Then was popped over the road and past the Monica’s Eatery to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. D.C. got in for $10, whereas I had to pay $15.

The first exhibit was a large; very, very large; plastic bag, which D.C. automatically touched (it was pretty much hanging in the doorway) and caused a staff member to come running over telling her not to and that if she wanted to touch something, here was a sample of the plastic.

Still don’t know what the plastic bag was supposed to represent.

Like a lot of the exhibits. “What on Earth and why…?”

We did learn that the exterior of the Len Lye Centre is made of concrete cast in Wellington, covered in steel from somewhere overseas – and, if you know the secret, it is possible to look into and out of the gallery through clear panels.

One exhibition space (where Ann Shelton had displayed her Library to Scale artwork and which must have shrunk since 2007 with the number of layers of paint that would be on the walls) had Len Lye and Elizabeth Thomson. Her stuff I could get (once it was explained to me and I got to touch samples of the cast bronze). His…

We were excitedly told that the “Universe” was going to be set in action. So we went down to the exhibition hall where the Universe was in action. Imagine a large hoop of steel. Imagine that hoop being rocked side to side by electromagnets. Imagine something (that reminded me of an apple, but probably wasn’t) dangling above this hoop and occasionally hitting it with a clang. Imagine that it means something.

Yeah. I can’t either. As an example of Newton’s laws of physics, I got it. As a work of art…


The shaving brush made out of fine steel rods at least had some aesthetic value.

Elizabeth Thomson’s artwork appeared to be based around nature. One was a serpentine line of individually cast bronze lancewood leaves – each one precisely larger or smaller than the one next to it. Then there was the individually cast school of fish – different species working together as one. One piece I saw as the pores of skin with hairs sticking out – it was actually the hairs on an ant’s head. And there were giant moss spores made out of glass. Once explained, these pieces made sense, and had an aesthetic quality.

Everything else in the place?

We went back to the motel and uploaded my photos of the morning.

Just after 5.00pm I ironed my slacks that have been rolled up in my bag since I packed it and got dressed in the clothes I’d brought with me for tonight. About 6.00pm we went back to Puke Ariki.

We went in and sat down. It was due to start at 7.00pm, and D.C. wanted to ensure that she got a seat. There were only a couple of soft ones for day to day use. We sat to another lady who explained to us that she was undergoing chemo for cancer, and couldn’t stand outside for ¾ hour. One of the staff members went away and checked, and then came back and said we all could stay. So we stayed, hanging onto her coat tails. We had quite an interesting conversation.

Everyone was treated to a free glass of champagne, but I had to buy our orange juice. We didn’t get a ticket for a $500 jewellery voucher either. It didn’t matter. We would only have tomorrow to spend it anyway.

We hadn’t had any dinner so I went outside and got six pork dumplings. D.C. only ate two, so I scoffed the rest.

The event was started by the CEO of Puke Ariki, welcoming and acknowledging everyone. She then said that it was traditional for people to receive a telegram from the Queen on their 100th birthday, but we were better than that. The Queen was here to act as compare.

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Down the stairs came a lady in a very regal coat, gloves, tiara, carrying a (soft toy) corgi, and wearing sandshoes. She was entertaining to listen to, attempting to do the posh accent but slipping in the odd word like “loo”.

Then we had the first lot of entertainment. A group that sang songs from the 20s. Mostly jazz style, which I didn’t enjoy, but they did move on to a later period, including “Bring Me Sunshine.”

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There was a break in performers, during which time a young lady gave a hoola hoop display.

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Following her was the act everyone had come to see. Some had already met Ken and Ken as they’d wandered around, but now Lizzy introduced two woman who were untouchable. “They are about to come out…” (I said to the lady next to me: “They already have, haven’t they?”

The Topp Twins came out to the strains of Poi E. It’s probably just as well that I can’t upload video to the blog as you had to put up with me beating time to it as I filmed.

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Slinkies and a black light form the backdrop

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Camp Mother twirls her imaginary poi as Camp Leader plays the guitar. (The poi had been left at home.)

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As always expected, the Topp Twins were funny and musical. For those who don’t know them, I once heard New Zealand’s comedy scene as being yodelling, lesbian, harmonica and guitar playing twins. And they are funny. And talented. Check them out on YouTube.

These two did a dance to YMCA.

After the Topp Twins ahd done their set Puke Ariki did the draw for the jewellery vouchers, leaving two very happy ladies, and then they had more jazz style music. We had a look around the museum, said hi to Laura, who was the only person we recognised, and then left. As had a lot of other people after the Topp Twins had performed.

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We came back home and had a cup of tea.

We only did about 2500 steps today.

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More photos

As I probably won’t have time to write up my blog today, here are today’s photos of our bus tour, the Te Rewarewa bridge, what was originally 55 Gill St and is now a truck stop at Sentry Hill, a cat that Uncle Fred would have approved of, a duck with a pom-pom topknot, and some snow!

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