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Archive for December, 2014

Well, I suppose I ought to update my blog.  It’s the final day of 2014 and I’m back at work in too few days.  The last week-and-a-half have gone so quickly.

It took me a bit of thought to remember what I did every day since we got back from our trip north.  I struggled to remember on about three of those days when I was home just doing the usual: weeding, mowing the lawn, washing, etc.  One day is much like the rest.

We’ve been lucky with the weather since the rain of mid-December.  The original forecast of a wet Christmas was, thankfully, wrong.  We’ve had hot, sunny days.

H, L, and I returned from Tauranga on the Thursday of whatever date it was.  H spent a couple of nights at L’s place.  C and W had continued north, exploring the Coromandel and Waitomo.  They returned on the following Monday.

I did some grocery shopping for food and drinks for Christmas, and also joined W on his shopping trip to town to buy something for C.  He drives a hard bargain, asking in two shops if they could give him a cheaper price or include something for free.  He got something for free with his final purchase.  Incredible.  I have to say that there didn’t appear to be enough staff on at both shops.  We had to wait a while to attract the attention of someone.  You expect much more staff at this time of year, just before Christmas, for those last-minute shoppers.

Anyway, that over, we could relax.  We wandered up to Mt Lees Reserve for a bush walk on a hot afternoon.  Always pleasant to be under the trees.

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H used my car to spend a night with L and Xmas morning with his family.  C, W and I headed over to the Wairarapa in their car on Christmas eve.  Bro was still working but arrived soon after we did.  We had a lovely meal of salmon on a bed of spinach with some delicious sauce.  The obligatory game of Settlers of Catan was played in the evening.

On Xmas morning we went for a walk through the neighbouring fields.

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We entered one paddock that had three dead sheep in it.  Three or four others were in the same paddock and didn’t appear to have access to water.  The majority of sheep were in the neighbouring paddock.  We did a rescue mission and herded the waterless sheep through the gate to join their mates, who had water.  They must have got through a fence to get the longer grass, or something.  It’s such a shame that farmers don’t give their animals shelter.  Just one tree would offer shade for several.  The sheep were crowded round the water tank under a sweltering sun.

H and L arrived in my car in the afternoon.  We sat outside with drinks and nibbles, played boules and threw a frisbee around.  It was very pleasant in the late afternoon sun.

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We’d had ham at lunchtime, and had turkey for the evening meal.  A couple more games of Settlers of Catan.  I was on a losing streak, while everyone else won at least one game.

Boxing Day was similar to Xmas day – eating, drinking, and a walk.  We went over to the neighbouring farm to feed ducklings in a cage.  We felt the cage was inadequate – just a frame with chicken wire over them.  No shelter or much room for the mother and her 10 or so ducklings.  There were two dead ones in the cage, one in the water and another as if strangled trying to get out (halfway under the frame).  It was very sad.  I do wish people would give their animals better conditions.

In the evening the “kids” played Settlers of Catan while us oldies watched “The Killing III”.  More drinking, games and in the evening we brought out an old packet of sparklers and danced around the garden acting like lunatics in the dark, “wheeeee”s and “la la la la la”s, skipping madly with sparklers in hand.  Yes, I think we were all a bit tipsy.

On the following morning, us olds checked on the ducklings and were shocked to see four dead and the rest missing.  Obviously a stoat or something had got into the inadequate cage.  It was shocking.  There were holes in the wire and ducklings under the frame with heads bitten off.  It was a gruesome start to the day and we were stunned into silence.  W commented on the look on our faces as we returned “as if someone had died”, he said.

In the afternoon, after a wonderful barbecue of steak and salad, C and W drove off to Wellington and H, L and I headed back home.

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Once back at home, H borrowed my car again and took L back to his place and stayed the night.  I was on my own again.

The following day I did loads and loads of washing and mowed the lawn.  I finally finished the gigantic tome that was Diana Gabaldon’s  “Breath of snow and ashes”.  All the action was in the final little section of the whole book.  I’d waded through a whole lot of nothing happening just to get to it.  I won’t bother with any further books in the series.

H returned unexpectedly that night.  She had planned on arriving the following morning but realised she still  had a lot of stuff to sort through in her room.  She brought back takeaways, then we went for a walk at the domain.

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Swan family in the wetlands

 

I was lucky enough to capture a bellbird with my point-and-shoot.

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And so to the last day of H being home.   She finished sorting through her stuff, leaving some to give away and some to recycle.  We headed off to Wellington, where she’d join C and W for the final day before flying out.

It was another lovely day.  We all walked through the Botanic gardens and had a beer at the Sprig & Fern pub in Thorndon on the way back.  We visited the nearby supermarket briefly, returned to the apartment and said our goodbyes.

Back to an empty house.  I’ll have to get used to the emptiness all over again.

Yesterday they were visiting cousins in Wellington.  I went into town for grocery shopping and dropping off bags to charity bins.  I got the DVD set of “The Killing III” from the library so I could continue to watch it.  I was just watching an episode when bro turned up unexpectedly.  He said he wanted to get out of the house and came over for a trip.  He’d visited a friend and some old haunts in town, including our first family home (now a community centre) and primary school.  It was good to see him.  We shared a beer and chat before he headed off back.

Girls flew out this morning and are about to land in Melbourne.  I don’t know when I’ll see them again.

Tonight will be a non-event.  I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party in Tauranga but I wasn’t about to drive up their again – six hours to reach their house.  Nope.  An early night, and contemplation on the year ahead.

 

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The girls arrived from Melbourne last week.  After some shopping and cafe and library visiting on Monday, we headed north (with girls’ boyfriends) to Tauranga, or Omokoroa to be exact.  It was a sunny day to begin with and we got a stunning view of Mt Ruapehu on the way, with more snow than is usual for this time of year.

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We stopped at the “Prawn park” near Taupo for lunch.  The prawns were unexciting – quite tasteless in fact, and expensive.  Never mind.  It filled a gap.  The sun continued until we were about to hit Tauranga and then the weather turned to shit – grey cloud and drizzle.

The accommodation was a house that the girls had found and booked online.  It would’ve had a nice view if it wasn’t for the shit weather.  The forecast wasn’t looking great for the following day, our visit to Hobbiton near Matamata.  In the evening we got fish and chips from a nearby takeaway and played Settlers of Catan.  We watched a DVD of “Elysium”.  Not bad.  H & C had chosen two DVDs for their boyfriends – “Elysium” for L and “Need for Speed” for W.  As it happens they’d both watched the respective movies.  Oh well.  Good choice for their interests – too good as they’d already seen them.

It rained all night and was still pretty miserable in the morning.  We used W’s car to head over the Kaimai ranges to Hobbiton.  The tour had already been booked and paid for so we went, rain or shine.  It wasn’t quite so miserable on the other side of the ranges and only rained or drizzled intermittently.  It was quite a set-up.  I had imagined some small scale operation but there were several buses which took tourists to the site and the obligatory, over-priced gift shop and cafe.  We were provided with umbrellas although I had my own.

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A wet entrance to Hobbiton (through which Gandalf is supposed to have entered in his cart)

The track led to a communal vegetable garden surrounded by various hobbit holes.

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One of the humbler abodes

The variety and detail of the different hobbit holes was incredible.

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A window detail

A window detail

We headed up the hill to Bag End, home of Bilbo and Frodo.  The layout and views of the whole place were just amazing.

dec17 045And there it was…

Bag End

Bag End

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Incidentally, the tree above Bag End is completely fake, each leaf attached individually.  Apparently, Peter Jackson believed it was the wrong shade of green and had all the leaves repainted.  What a task.  He’s such a perfectionist.

The view from Bag End

The view from Bag End

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Unfortunately, the weather made for a featureless white sky which didn’t make for stunning photos.  H complained but there was nothing we could do about it.  It didn’t detract from the experience in my opinion.

We then headed down to the party field (as seen in the above photo, the large pine tree being the “party tree”).  We passed more hobbit holes…

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and reached the party field.

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Great view of the tree above Bag End.  Sam’s house was nearby.

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All the gardens were lovely.  They have full-time gardeners.  The veges are real and they harvest and use them.

We then headed downhill past the lake to the Green Dragon Inn.

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The inside was wonderful – so atmospheric.  I wish it was a local – I’d go there often.

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The views from the lovely little windows were just wonderful.

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A specially-brewed beer was part of the tour and we enjoyed it with pork and beef pies.  It was a great end to an amazing tour, despite the weather.  We wanted to stay for longer, and H wanted to return for a night tour, when all the windows of each hobbit hole would be lit up and you have dinner at the Green Dragon.  Something to do another time, perhaps.  The tour was expensive but it was worth it to see such an amazing movie set.

dec17 140I wanted to live there!

We returned over the Kaimai ranges and bought Thai takeaways at Mt Maunganui.  Another game of Settlers of Catan, and the other movie, “Need for Speed”.  It was hard not to think of the actor as Jesse off “Breaking Bad”, crying again for losing someone he cared about.

The next day it looked quite a nice day.  A tranquil morning, which allowed for some photos of the views from the accommodation.

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While the others still slept (naturally) I watched the wildlife.

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We were leaving that day.  C and W were heading north to Coromandel.  L had to work the next day, so we headed back south.  Who lays tiles outside a front door of a house?  After all the rain, it was really slippery and I fell and bruised a shin.  ****ing stupid.  It still rained on and off all the way to Rotorua.  We decided to make a detour to see the redwood forest, which we hadn’t been to before.  The traffic in Rotorua was a nightmare.  I would hate to live there.

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H and L

H and L

What a stunning place.  I would love to see mature redwoods.  These were just young trees.

We stopped for lunch at Taupo.  The Desert Road was misty and wet but it cleared up south of there.  I felt tired so at Taihape H took over the driving.  We dropped L off back home and then returned to an empty house.  I couldn’t wait to get Jasmine back from the cattery the next morning.  (She miaowed a lot when she got back and constantly checked that we hadn’t left.  She needed lots of cuddles.)

It was great having had a holiday before most people had finished work for the year.  The traffic was mostly light and there weren’t that many people about.  We’ve done our ‘holiday’ and still have Xmas to come.  It didn’t feel like the year had ended so quickly as it usually does when you work up to Xmas eve.

Next week we’re all off to bro’s for Xmas – more food and drink and, naturally, Settlers of Catan.

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It’s been a week since I headed over to the Wairarapa to stay with bro for the following day’s 4WD “public day” event.

We were up at the usual time – early, and gathered together selves, cameras and food that bro had made for lunch.  The day looked iffy – dark cloud, with the ever-present cold wind, but we headed off.

The start was in Martinborough’s town square.  There was a bitterly cold wind.  While there were lots of 4WD vehicles parked everywhere, there were also a lot of American muscle cars cruising around.  I found out later that they had an event in the square later that morning.  It took a while before everyone was briefed and ready to go – they estimated between 70 and 90 vehicles!  So we set off on the long convoy.  I’d never been in a car event with such a long one.  I’d been in a couple of car orienteering events decades earlier but nothing like the feeling of being in amongst so many vehicles.

We headed out towards the coast, driving through farmland.  Cows, curious as they are, must have wondered what the hell was going on with so many vehicles going past.

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Some amazing geological formations along that coast.

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It was so windy that the sea looked as if it was steaming away in a giant cauldron.

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I’d never seen such a thing before.

Anyway, some shots along the coastal road.

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More amazing rock formations (with the sizzling sea behind).

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There were the occasional stops we weren’t sure about.  Had someone broken down or were they just waiting for everyone to catch  up?  The latter seemed unlikely as we were all pretty close to one another.

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There was one pretty difficult bit during which a vehicle did break down.  We made it through, thankfully.  Here I borrow a photo taken by one of the 4WD club members:

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We were very glad that it hadn’t rained.  Although there were a few slippery muddy bits, they were few and far between.  The whole journey would’ve been a lot slower and a lot more difficult otherwise.  Below another photo borrowed from a club member:

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It was often hard to take photos as we bumped over the rough terrain (and I was sitting in the back seat).

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We stopped for lunch at a sheep station – Glenburn.

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All the women immediately lined up at the block of toilets (the station was obviously a place where a lot of people could stay) – the men had been getting out and peeing in the bushes along the way whenever we were stopped.

We left the coast, heading up over the hills.  A view from the track up.

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A very blurry view of the cars that still hadn’t left the station as we were halfway up.

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We reached the ridge.  The view on the coastal side (our last view of the sea) …

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and the view on the other side…

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The track led through pine forest and wound its way downhill.

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After following a dusty road for some time,

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we reached a civilised tar-sealed one, but turned off to take another farming track over hilly countryside.

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Another borrowed photo from a club member:

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By now we’d left the dark clouds behind.

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There was another stop at the bottom of a hill and we got out to revel in the sunshine.

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A few more dusty roads, a stream to ford, and before we knew it we were back in civilisation.

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The plan was for everyone to meet at a pub (as you do) but at the crossroads some turned left towards the pub, and others turned right.  We turned right, towards Masterton, as it was now close to 5 pm and bro was in one of his non-drinking phases.  At Masterton we stopped where my car was parked at bro’s work place.  I said goodbye to bro and sis-in-law, and headed home, parched.  It was only an hour’s drive from there so no hardship.  It had been a very enjoyable and memorable day.

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DVD watching

I finished ‘Breaking Bad’ a couple of days ago.  Very good series.  It’s not often a series holds your attention the whole way through, keeping you guessing.

I also finished the ‘Who do you think you are?’ series.  NZ should do their own version.  I wonder why they haven’t.  Costs too much, I suppose, to hire genealogists.  Maybe they can’t find enough “celebrities” who would be interested.

Currently watching the last series of “Being Human” which was lent to me.  Not overly interested, especially since the gorgeous Aidan Turner left, but it’s something to watch.  The only thing I’m watching on TV right now is Downton Abbey, the last of which I just realised I missed again last night, and I admit to watching ‘The Block Australia’, mostly because the building is very near my daughter’s apartment.   Series that I’m hoping to watch are the rest of ‘House of Cards’ (the US version) and ‘Fargo’ (TV series!) which I hear is very good.

I was talking to a guy at work who had also just finished watching “Breaking Bad” and we were discussing what to watch next and I gave him a list of good series including  ‘Hell on Wheels’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, ‘The Wire’,  ‘True Detective’.  The list had a good number but do you think I can remember them offhand?  I could probably add ‘Trailer Park Boys’.  I’m not interested in zombies so ‘Walking Dead’ is of no interest to me.  I’ve seen a couple of episodes and it just didn’t do it for me.  Any suggestions for others welcome.

Didn’t sleep well again last night, for the third night running, so will be struggling to stay awake late afternoon once again.  I got pissed off with some stupid bureaucratic nonsense I had to fill out yesterday.  Got me so grumpy I left work early, absolutely fed up.  Must have been the fatigue.

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Not much to write. It’s “party season”. I went to drinks on Friday (although that was to celebrate the new jobs of two colleagues), followed by dinner. Sunday was the lunch with acquaintances. Tuesday was our departmental lunch at the house of one of our staff. The food was brought in from caterers – very nice. The house was extraordinary. I knew it was a more modern house and expected it to be as “flash” as its owner but I wasn’t prepared for the size of the rooms. I couldn’t get over it. The children’s bedrooms were larger than the average (or large!) lounge, the bathrooms and ensuite larger than my kitchen. I thought it was ridiculous: you’d have a toilet in one corner, a shower in another, the “vanity” along one wall and all this empty space in between – just silly. I counted 13 rooms, most of them way too big. It was a cold house (literally as well). It didn’t feel warm or have any character. I was thinking to myself later that if I had made such a house for a Sim, I’d feel it was ridiculously big. Just my opinion, of course.

So anyway, the party season continued with drinks last night and some more coming tomorrow after work, then more next Friday, after which I finish work for the year and welcome my daughters for a few days. We’re going up to Tauranga and Matamata, then will return to head over to my bro’s for Xmas. The time is passing so quickly!

Not much else going on. I’m expecting a book to be delivered. I had initially ordered it through Mightyape in September when I found out about it. I received an email saying it would be delivered late October – a long time to wait. Come October and no word, I emailed them twice and had no reply. I contacted them via their website and finally got an answer. They had cancelled my order because it was out of print, they said, and yet the book was appearing on their website. I complained, and they put the book on order again but after waiting a further two weeks, I cancelled and ordered through Book Depository at half the price! I should get it soon. At least I know it’s on its way. I had better think of gifts for the girls but I do so hate shopping.

This weekend I’m heading to bro’s for a 4WD event on Sunday. I’ll stop at the Masterton Xmas night market on Saturday where my sis-in-law will be selling her jams and preserves. Should be a good weekend, but of course it’s the last weekend before the girls arrive and the garden’s a mess. I had arranged for some men to take away the large heap of garden refuse behind the garage and they’re doing that today hopefully. We’ll see how it looks – should have done before and after photos.

Not liking my new keyboard at work. While it’s shorter (yay), the keys are quite stiff and I’m often missing letters and having to double back. Can’t have everything, I suppose.

That’s my lunch over with. I came back to my desk early because I wasn’t enjoying the book I was reading (“Vile Bodies”). I need a book to read. Preferably one that’s in our library. Any suggestions for a light-hearted or funny read?

All for now.

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