Archive for February, 2015

AL and son, F, arrived on Tuesday night about 7pm.  I had takeaway curries at the ready, not feeling in the mood for cooking anything, or actually having no idea what to cook in readiness.  AL had brought a wine and I finished my bottle of white.  F had a beer.  Talked of this and that, can’t actually remember.  She did mention that they were going to Womad this year and had organised a house nearby.  She suggested I join them.  They would be picking F up from uni, so would be here anyway.  I agreed.  It meant I didn’t have to worry about accommodation or driving there, which is a bonus.  I haven’t been for a few years, so it was a good opportunity.  So on Wednesday I bought a ticket and applied for leave for the Friday and Monday of that weekend.  It was something to look forward to.

Wednesday night, AL bought some Thai takeaways and another wine and brought them back.  She had deposited son at his hostel, had lunch with him and seen him off with a friend of his who was also starting uni this year.  She was a bit teary-eyed, saying goodbye to her youngest – an empty nester like myself, except that she has her husband to keep her company.  She left early the next morning on the train, leaving F’s car at the station.  I gave F a lift after work to collect his car.

During the week a work colleague mentioned that the road to Rangiwahia from Ashhurst was now fully sealed and she had expressed an interest in driving it.  (She’s also interested in driving the “Gentle Annie” and “Forgotten Highway”.)  I thought about it and decided to drive it on Saturday.  It gave me something to do.  I find the weekends a bit tedious if I have nothing interesting to do.

The forecast was for morning showers (and the cloud looked threatening) but on checking the forecast again, it said showers in the afternoon.  It didn’t matter.  I prepared lunch and decided to head off about 11 am, reaching Rangiwahia about lunchtime.  I had found out that there was a wetlands area on the way, so figured I’d stop by there and do some birdwatching.

The road being narrow, there was nowhere to stop and take photos of any views, so I did my blind drive-by shooting – i.e. hold the camera up with one hand, vaguely aim in the direction I want and click, while my eyes are still on the road and with one hand on the steering wheel – takes about three seconds.  It’s very hit-and-miss…

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mostly miss.  However, I don’t do it on windy bits, for obvious reasons.  Some of the views were stunning.

I arrived at the wetlands about an hour later.

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I had originally thought of having lunch there but thought I’d take a look first.  A tranquil place and quite well set out with a couple of ponds and islands.  One one side were water lilies and on the other lots of swans, mostly black but a couple of white.


Unfortunately, on seeing me, they all scattered to the far side of the pond, so I couldn’t get any decent shots of them, even with a long lens.  There were a lot of decoys, so I’m thinking a farmer built this primarily for duck shooting.  I saw a few ducks, but not many, and no other birdlife.  I wandered back to the car and continued to Rangiwahia.  Not much to see there – nothing really to stop and photograph or look at, so I kept going (heading south towards Kimbolton), eventually stopping at a “rest area” next to an “historic place” – the site of a former village called Pemberton.  I ate my lunch there under some large trees.

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A couple more drive-bys on the way to Kimbolton,

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but I also found a couple of places to pull over.

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I reached Kimbolton and stopped briefly.  It was starting to drizzle.




From Kimbolton, it took about half an hour to reach home.  It had been a very pleasant drive.  I’m glad I did it.  Later that evening I’d decided to go to a movie, and decided on seeing “Kingsman, the Secret Service”, mainly because Colin Firth played a cool spy in a suit (better than James Bond, I thought).  Quite good.

Today, I’d planned on going to the Esplanade Open Day, which is just a lot of activities and entertainment in the city park.  I hadn’t been for a few years, so decided to go.  I first went to Briscoes to buy a new kettle.  My current one kept leaking, which was annoying.  By the time I reached the Esplanade it was about 11.40.  There was some sort of circus act on near one stage and some idiot trying to get a kid to do a magic trick near another stage.  Lots of people, lots of kids’ activities and quite a few fairground attractions, which I hadn’t seen before at this event.


There were, as always, the Morris dancers.  Three of the six dancers were Asian, which I found interesting.  I’m guessing Morris dancing is regarded as such a joke that no ‘normal’ European would seriously contemplate doing it.

IMG_7749I wandered back the way I’d come.  The stalls were uninteresting, except for some rather nice bird paintings.  The circus act was still going.  It finally finished and a band was ready to play on the stage.  I waited, and waited but they didn’t seem in a hurry to start, seemingly just tuning their instruments.  I got fed up and left.  I’d been there less than an hour.  Did some grocery shopping on the way back, so not a wasted trip.  It did remind me though, that I should be prepared for such crowds at Womad, but at least I’d see some quality musicians.  Really looking forward to seeing Buena Vista Social Club.

So that was the week that was.  Another tedious week of work coming up.  It makes me feel depressed, but then the music I have playing at the moment doesn’t help.



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I was eager to pick up Jasmine the next morning.  It was great to have her back (although quiet anyway, the house is too quiet without her).  She miaowed and miaowed while wandering around the inside and outside, reacquainting herself with home.  She wanted cuddles and to lie on my lap.  Eventually she settled and was a very contented, purring cat.

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I didn’t do much over the weekend.  I did the necessary grocery shopping and that was about it.  I felt drained.

It took a while to catch up with work, once back on Monday.  I decided to have Friday off as a day-in-lieu for missing out on Waitangi day (as mentioned previously), so was glad to have just a four-day week.  The weather had cooled, so I was back in trousers and jeans instead of skirts and dresses.  I felt tired the whole week.

On Friday I went into town to look for a new bag.  My old black one had become ragged, so I’d started using C’s old one in January that she didn’t want.  However, that was on its last legs as well and lasted about a week.  I then started using one that C’s boyfriend’s mother gave me a few years ago.  Unfortunately, the inner zip on that one broke during the week and the shoulder clasp kept coming undone, which was unhelpful.  (It even came undone as I was getting my wallet out to pay for a new bag.)   Anyway, I looked around Farmers, Strands, K-Mart, and Warehouse without finding what I wanted.  I wanted a bag that was big enough for a book and small lunchbox, but not too big.  How difficult was that?  They were all either too big or too small or too expensive.  So I went to Barris, the “$2″+ shop, where I’d got the cheap umbrella.  Sure enough there was one that was suitable.  Job done.  I dropped into a nearby clothes shop which had 50% off but didn’t see anything I liked, and came home again via the supermarket and fruit/vege shop.

Yesterday I did washing and mowing the lawn.  Today I dusted, vacuumed and tidied, ready for AL and her son, F, who are staying overnight Tuesday and possibly Wednesday.  F is starting a vet course at the university.  I prepared the spare bed for F yesterday and later today (or tomorrow) will get the airbed out for AL.  I did some weeding and clipped back the pesky jasmine plant out the front.

I haven’t taken any photos.  I don’t feel inspired.  I feel like I need a holiday.  The girls are keen on a trip to Sydney, so I think I’ll organise with them to return to Sydney for a proper holiday and hopefully meet up with at least one cousin.  (I should have contacted my other cousin while in Sydney.)  C wants to drive from Melbourne to Sydney (probably with an overnight stay on the way, it’s such a long trip).  I would love to join them, so could fly into Melbourne and out of Sydney.  We could stop at Canberra or Goulburn on the way.  I would love to visit the cemetery of my great-great grandfather who came to Australia from Hampshire in 1859.

Anyway, I hope that goes ahead, as I have nothing else to look forward to, and could easily fall into depression with winter approaching.  Already some mornings are feeling autumnal.  I hate the cold.

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I woke up early again (my body still thought it was New Zealand).  I managed to eat something, which was good. Instead of whiling away the time in the tedious hotel room without a TV (I couldn’t get it to work), I decided to follow A’s idea and go for a walk in Hyde Park.

It was a pleasant morning and I felt better.  It felt good to be among trees and birds.

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I could hear many parrots in the trees but only got a glimpse of one flying.  There were a few ibis wandering around and the ubiquitous joggers.  I saw some flowers placed near the reflecting pool by the war memorial.

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I crossed the road to wander the other half of the park, towards the fountain (which wasn’t on at this time of the day).

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I returned the way I came.  The flowers had been removed.

I still didn’t feel 100% but the walk had done me good.  I attended the conference sessions I wanted to, although none were outstanding, and talked to some exhibitors.  I had a full two hours free at lunch and was determined to walk to the waterfront (and hoped I could do it without feeling ill).  I love Circular Quay and couldn’t possibly have visited Sydney, work or no, without going there.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the Hilton.

I saw a poor little rat-like animal which at first looked dead, although it was still upright.  An Asian girl had pointed it out to me.  We got closer and it did move, although it was in a very bad way.  On closer inspection it appeared to have been hit with something.  I later saw a workman with cutting tools to clear vegetation and can only assume he’d inadvertently hit it.

The poor little thing was bleeding

The poor little thing was bleeding

I didn’t see the blood at the time, and had no idea what to do, so I continued on.   A huge cruise ship was in, so I didn’t bother walking towards the bridge and The Rocks, as I normally would’ve done.

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Instead, I walked past the ferry terminals towards the Opera House.  I looked fondly at the Circular Quay railway station.  How many times had I been on trains from the western suburbs with my parents over the years?  I almost wanted to go up and take a train.

I don’t like the line of apartments and restaurants on the way to the Opera House.  I remember what it was like before, which was much more pleasant.  Anyway, there she was.

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It was quite warm despite the cloudiness and the sun came out as I tried to figure out how to work the camera in my tablet.  I couldn’t see a bloody thing on it.   I found free wi-fi and posted a photo of the bridge on Facebook.  Later, I tried to take a selfie with the Opera House in the background but I had such trouble seeing what I was doing, that the result is half a screwed-up face and a blob of white in the background.  Selfie-fail.

I walked around the Opera House and sat on the steps for a while (where I attempted the selfie – my first).

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Some school kids were singing a Queen song very loudly, so I left.  I hate Queen.

I wished I could’ve stayed longer, taken a ferry somewhere, but it wasn’t a holiday trip, so I reluctantly made my way back to the Hilton.  I stopped at Martin Place on the way back, not because of any recent news items, but because my grandmother once sold flowers there.

Flower seller in Martin Place

Flower seller in Martin Place

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Martin Place

Back to the conference.  Another couple of sessions, including the last keynote which was not fantastic.  I think we were all eager for everything to be finished.

A and boss left together to do some shopping at the Queen Victoria building.  I, in the meantime, had organised to meet a cousin, who I hadn’t seen in about 30 years.  Unfortunately the cellphone number she gave me didn’t work, so I left a message on Facebook for her.  Also, unfortunately, once I left the conference, I no longer had free access to the internet, except 15 minutes’ free at the hotel.  Cousin had acknowledged receipt of my message and asked which type of restaurant food I wanted – Japanese or Italian.  Satisfied that all was well, I continued back to the hotel and waited at 5.30, the time I said I would wait outside the hotel.  I waited for about half an hour then checked Facebook.  No messages.  I continued waiting but by 7 pm I was starving and she hadn’t turned up.  I wandered over to the supermarket but didn’t know what I could eat which didn’t require heating up.  I didn’t want to eat in a restaurant by myself, so in the end just had a quick burger at Hungry Jack’s.  I returned to the hotel just in case, but knew by this time if she had turned up she would’ve given up.  Obviously my cellphone number hadn’t worked either.  What a disaster.  I was disappointed, but didn’t want to return to that ghastly hotel room, so went for a wander down to Chinatown and across to Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour’s changed.  It used to have a nice open feel to it, with Chinese gardens and some lovely pools and fountains.  Now a couple of flyovers have been built, making the area dark and enclosed.  I wandered down past the many restaurants, to the aquarium (closed) and back.

In Darling Harbour

In Darling Harbour

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Back to the hotel, reluctantly, although my feet were a bit sore.  It wasn’t until I got back home to reliable internet, that I found out cousin had sent me a message on Facebook saying she was at a Japanese restaurant in Pitt Street.  Why the hell didn’t she walk past the hotel?  Disastrous.  I really wish all hotels would have free wi-fi ffs.

We checked out early the next morning, allowing an hour to get to the airport, although the first taxi driver said to allow half an hour.  I was very glad to say goodbye to the hotel room.  I never want to stay there again.  The taxi ride only took about 10-15 minutes so we had plenty of time at the airport.

We checked in, then went through to immigration and found, to our disgust, that we had to wait in a very long queue just for the bored officers to look at the passport and wave us through.  What’s the point of smart passports if you can’t use them to leave the country?  Why should there be a huge wait and hassle to leave?  We weren’t impressed.  Once through that we had to go through the screening.  They’re not satisfied with just the walk-through detector.  They had one of those fucking x-ray things, which I was chosen to go through.  You have to put your arms up and let the fucking machine scan you, like you’re some sort of vermin.  I despise it.  Fuck “anti-terrorism”.  It’s all bullshit.  I expected a sign on the way out of there to say “Now fuck off”.  That’s how bad you’re made to feel.  The anger didn’t stop there.  We were bombarded by constant announcements that ricocheted off the hard, shiny surfaces of the “refurbished” terminal.  It was difficult to have a conversation and was not relaxing for shopping at all.  Departure lounge was quieter, thankfully, because of carpet.  We were early there so got a good view.

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Our plane arriving

An uneventful trip back to NZ (thankfully, as we were sitting by the exits) and arrived at the land of the long white cloud (which it was) and a cold Auckland.

Our flight back home was delayed by about 20 minutes.  It had been a very long day and we were all eager to be home.

I got glimpses of the land below when cloud parted.

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We arrived at a surprisingly sunny Manawatu, although it was bitterly cold outside.

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It was great to be back home.  I had the space of a whole house, not just a poky little room.  I could relax, browse the web, and watch TV.  Such simple pleasures.


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The next day was the start of the conference held at the Hilton hotel.

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The first keynote was very good but a couple of other sessions I went to were so-so.  I also had meetings with exhibitors.

At lunch I sneaked across the road to the Queen Victoria building (how could I not?).  It’s a gorgeous old building.  Photos never seem to capture its grandeur.

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So the evening.  Boss and I had been invited to dinner by some vendors.   It was a half-hour walk, more or less, from the hotel.  Apparently the restaurant was quite exclusive and “in”.  We were downstairs and immediately plied with never-ending glasses of Veuve Cliquot.  I know I should not have let them refill the glass.  Normally, as I’m not a huge fan of champagne, I would have said no, but noticing that it was an expensive brand of bubbles, I thought why not.  Mistake.  The glasses were constantly refilled, and after a whole month of no alcohol I was probably more susceptible.  Another mistake, I think, was to eat the oysters.  Once seated, it switched to constant refilling of white wine (or red if you chose in huge glasses).  The food was a mix of western and Chinese.  I would have preferred to choose from the menu, but this was easier for the hosts no doubt.  Some of the food was very nice, some of it a little strange or rich.  I drank too much, then as they had the bar open offering free cocktails, I followed the friendly Australian from the night before to the bar.  Mistake number three, but by this time, I was pretty much already gone.  I remember walking back to the hotel with the boss and trying to walk evenly.  We arranged to meet the next morning at a certain time, which I also remember.

The next morning was not too bad.  I didn’t have a headache at all, but did feel rather queasy.  I met boss and we headed to the conference venue for a meeting with one of the exhibitors.  I then attended one of the sessions but could not concentrate.  I felt the urgent need to go to the toilet (again).  I thought it might ease, but I was not feeling great.  I didn’t want to be at the next one-and-a-half hour meeting feeling the constant urge to go the toilet or the constant nausea.  I returned to the hotel.  Any food I smelled on the way made me want to vomit.

To cut a long day short, I spent a lot of it in the hotel bathroom with vomiting and diarhoea.  I felt cold and got into bed.  My insides were churning.  This wasn’t an ordinary hangover.  I suspected food poisoning.  I slept, then woke up hot.  I was determined to get back to the venue but was too late for a session I had wanted to see.  Instead I aimed for another exhibitor meeting with the boss.  I felt fragile, however, and hot and cold.

I thought I’d feel better by the evening for the conference dinner and made an effort.  I looked dreadful but had left behind some of my newer makeup and had to make do with crap.   I couldn’t eat, however, and my insides were still churning away.  I certainly wasn’t enjoying being there, which was regrettable.  I had looked forward to the evening, buying a new dress and jewellery.  Very disappointing, to put it mildly.  I left, and headed back to the hotel to sleep.  I felt ashamed that my boss would be disappointed in me.  (She believed it was simply a hangover.)  I was quite pissed off with myself, and with the hosts of the previous evening.




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I arrived back from Sydney a week ago and it seems to have taken that long to recover.  I took today off as a day in lieu for missing out on Waitangi day last Friday, and slept in til 9 am, which is rare for me, so I must’ve been tired (and have felt so this past week).

It’s the first time I’ve been to Sydney as a non-holiday visit and I must say I prefer holiday mode!  Walking every day between the hotel and conference venue isn’t the most exciting of things to do and little time was left to even wander a shop or two.

Anyway, overall not too bad, although I missed out on a whole day of conference thanks to falling sick, which was annoying to  say the least.  Yes, I’d drunk too much the night before thanks to (in my opinion) irresponsible hosts, but it was more than just a hangover, but I get ahead of myself.  First things first.  I’ll break it up into several blog posts, I think.

We flew to Christchurch Sunday morning (1st February).  It was quite cloudy to begin with and the cloud appeared to be on the western side, but approaching Christchurch we had sunshine.  It looked very dry but the water around Banks Peninsula was a gorgeous turquoise colour.  It reminded me of my trip the South Island, already a year ago.  We had four hours to kill in Christchurch.  It was helped by an interesting gift shop and a leisurely lunch, with my first glass of wine in a month.  However, we felt exhausted by the time the flight to Sydney was due to board, and we hadn’t even left the country!

The meal on the plane was “dinner”, even though we’d only had lunch a couple of hours before, so I wasn’t particularly hungry, which is just as well.  The choice was chicken curry or some sort of pasta (beef or lamb?).  I chose the pasta, knowing the chicken wouldn’t be free-range.  It was so salty I couldn’t eat it.  For “dessert”, there was vanilla icecream.  As I don’t have a sweet tooth, I found it too sweet, and left it.  I had a glass of wine.  The stewardess didn’t collect my or my colleague’s tray until we were nearly landing.  I had to mention it twice before it finally got taken away so we could go to the toilet.  Not impressed.  I’m not sure why Air New Zealand gets awards.  The food is always shit (but most airline food is) and some of the staff (not all) are unsmiling and begrudging.

The approach to Sydney was very cloudy – the cloudiest ever in my experience.  I did get a glimpse of my beloved Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, however.  The plane landed on an airstrip headed south to Botany Bay.  I can’t remember landing on it before.  I seem to remember facing east/west, not surrounded by water.  A new runway since 2008 or just that the planes I’ve been on faced the other way?  No delays on arrival, using our smart passports.

We got a taxi to our unpreposessing hotel, the Ibis on World Square in Pitt Street.  We each had a separate room on different floors.  The room was very basic, south facing – quite dark and dingy really.  By the end of the trip I’d had a gutsful of it.

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That evening we had a wander through World Square across the road and bought a few supplies for snacks and breakfasts in Coles.  I just got some fruit, crackers, and juice.  I was amazed at how cheap many items were.

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World Square

Boss and I had an all-day meeting at the Radisson Hotel about a block away the next day.  We didn’t really see sunlight the whole day, stuck inside with no access outside from the room.  In previous years, we’ve had the meeting at venues where we could go out onto a balcony during breaks and lunch.

That over with, boss prepared for a dinner at Sydney tower, while colleague, A, and I went to cocktails in Macquarie Street.  It tried to rain, but didn’t, but was quite gloomy, and by the time we got to the venue it was quite misty and the view from whatever floor it was, was disappointing.  However, we did see the Opera House.

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I enjoyed the evening, and we met some interesting and funny Australians.  We walked back to the hotel with two of them, via Hyde Park.  By this time the threatening cloud had gone and it was very pleasant.

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War memorial, Hyde Park

I had mentioned to A, that I had seen bats in Hyde Park on a previous evening visit in 2008.  She didn’t seem to believe me but I was gratified to see three flying over the reflecting pool.  We also saw an ibis in a tree.

That night I did not sleep well, thanks to the noisy airconditioning and a rattly fridge.

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