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The rest of my visit to NZ was spent at my bro’s place. I had missed him the most, missed driving to his place for a weekend of peace and tranquility.

I had breakfast with H before she went to work, and said goodbye. I would miss her and kitty. I left just before 9 am heading over the Pahiatua track (more memories). It was cloudy when I left but sunny once I got past the Mt Bruce hill.

It was fantastic driving the usual route. Unfortunately, I had no music as the rental car didn’t have a USB port for my music. I didn’t bother with radio as reception is not great in the hills. It was great to see K and G again. We played several obligatory games of Siedler.

The next day we drove the back road to Gladstone. G had mentioned a reserve to go walking but it was just a carpark by the river. We had lunch at a local pub.

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Returned for more Siedler (visits to K were always about food, Siedler and trips to walk the dogs) and watched more of Hellfjord.

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Next morning, K and I visited a beach between Riversdale and Castlepoint. I’m glad K had an SUV – it was quite a narrow, windy, hilly gravel road but spectacular views.

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Castle Rock, looking north towards Castlepoint

It was a lovely day, if a little windy.

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We returned to more Siedler (yes we are addicted).

I had given K scanned copies of the old family slides, so we went through those, reminiscing, then K showed me video from his snorkelling near Cairns, and his visit to Goulburn, our father’s birth place. We had a glorious dinner of free range pig with roast veges. We watched a bit of the winter olympics.

Another storm was expected over Wellington, but thankfully the day after my flight home.

K left for work the next morning at 7.45 and I left half an hour later. I chose a different route to the usual one but got held up by sheep!

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I stopped on the hill for one last look at the region.

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And a pic of the rental.

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I had enjoyed driving it. I had thought that if I bought a car I wanted something like it, but it was a bit basic inside for the price and I couldn’t open the boot while the engine was running (pretty stupid).

I had confused the time that I was supposed to be at the airport with the actual departure time so I was very early. I had had time to visit H and C’s cousin who lives near the airport. It was great to see her. She offered me something to eat but I figured I should get to the airport after dropping off the car.

The car rental people didn’t even look at the car and so the new aerial wasn’t noticed. I heard nothing from them after that so either they didn’t notice or didn’t mind the replacement. Relief.

I won’t talk much of my usual negative experience of Wellington airport. I did not have a beer (at $10 a glass) but did get something small to eat. The queue to go through customs was so long it wound past the eating places in the main lounge. (The airport is too small!) Once on the plane we taxied to the runway, stopped and returned to let off someone who had behaved inappropriately (apparently – I saw and heard nothing). The already late flight was another half hour late. The video screens didn’t work properly for the first third of the flight. The “Thai beef curry” was more like a stew. The “dessert” (an icecream) was too sweet.

The plane reached Melbourne at 7.40 pm a lot later than it was supposed to. The bag took ages to come through which was unusual for Melbourne. However, after getting the bag it was straight through to catch the Skybus (unlike ****ing Wellington).

End of. I’m still planning to travel to Sydney this year but have yet to organise things. I want to visit two cousins and two others, if poss. We will see.

 

 

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A week later and I’m again heading off to work soon. I worked for 10 days straight and only had a day off yesterday. But I’ll start the account of my NZ trip and then perhaps, one day, I might get around to blogging about my Myanmar trip – nearly two years ago already. I cannot believe how time flies. I’ve been in Melbourne 2 1/2 years already.

I was asked by some why I took a trip to New Zealand as if it was an odd thing to do if not actually “holidaying” there. Naturally, I wanted to catch up with friends and family. Perhaps it’s weird to spend a week in a place you used to live in but if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s people more than places that matter.

So, I had a reasonably early flight, I thought, and was up before dawn to catch a tram (there being no trains at that hour) to Southern Cross station in order to catch a bus to the airport. Melbourne is still backward in having no train link to the airport – really stupid. I got to the airport in plenty of time to check in, only to be told that the flight had been delayed by four to five hours, thanks to fog in Wellington! Thanks, Wellington! Thanks for your lousy weather. I swear that city hates me. Ninety percent of the time I visited that city the weather was absolute shit – just for my benefit, it seemed.

Five or six hours is a very long time to spend in an airport where there’s not much to do, except eat overpriced shit food or drink overpriced alcohol, or shop for overpriced ‘things’ that I don’t need. Luckily, I had a book, but you can only read for so long before needing a break.

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At the appointed ‘new’ hour of departure, the plane still wasn’t there. Wonderful, just wonderful. I had had to call the rental car company to tell them I would be there after hours which incurred an extra fee. I was delighted – not. Any plans for a civilised dinner with H had gone out the window. I was driven to drink.

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Finally, finally! we were permitted to board the plane half an hour after it arrived.

I watched a movie (Three Billboards…) which was ok then half an episode of “Top of the Lake”. The meal was salty salmon which I did not enjoy and left mostly uneaten. The other choice was fried chicken or eggplant and rice, both of which sounded unappealing.

It was pouring with rain in Wellington but unusually warm. We waited forever at immigration then another 20 minutes for the baggage to come through – why, I have no idea as we were apparently the only flight to have arrived at the time. I despise Wellington airport. Every single time I pass through it I have a negative experience. It didn’t stop there. My bag, when it finally arrived, was absolutely saturated. I was not impressed to say the least. I had declared, so had to go through bag screening. On previous occasions I was just asked what I had (chocolate and/or tea) which is usually the case in Melbourne. Once through (about an hour after landing), I called the car rental company who was to pick me up. I waited outside in the rain but no sign until I got a phone call by the driver to say the van was parked nearby and was waiting. How the hell was I to know?

The driver took me and two others to a shed on the other side of the airport and said keys were on the counter. Not exactly talkative. We wandered over towards the shed and saw someone behind the counter. The cars were parked opposite. Got into my white Mazda 2 (aka Demio) and began the journey towards Palmy. It was still raining heavily.

I had barely left the airport when I had to take a detour and was stuck in a traffic jam for 10 minutes. You can imagine my mood. This trip had been a nightmare.

Finally, I got on the motorway and headed north. I drove the new stretch of motorway with no idea where I was in the dark with pouring rain and wind. It was nice to get on familiar roads.

I actually drove past H’s place as I didn’t recognise the frontage. A garage and fence had been built in front. But she’d seen me and come out. It was great to see her but so late that it was time to go to bed almost immediately. The top layer of the inside of my bag was damp. Fuck you, Wellington.

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What do I mean getting. I’ve always been cynical (it runs in the family) and I am getting older (who isn’t?) but I do wonder if it’s getting worse.

Of four books I had out from the library recently, none of them were gripping enough that I had to get to the end. I didn’t finish two of them. One by Ben Elton (and I should’ve known because I haven’t enjoyed any of his books) “Dead Famous” I found totally boring. Another “Goodbye Vitamin”, an American book which I thought would be funny, didn’t capture my interest at all. It read like a collection of totally random diary entries. I gave up on that one. A third “Headlong” was interesting but had verbose in-depth analysis of Bruegel’s paintings that read like a thesis. And the fourth, a collection of short stories by Roddy Doyle, is enjoyable enough but only something to pick up because I had nothing else to read. Disappointing overall.

My cynicism continues with the TV series “Mars” a so-called documentary, recommended to me by a friend. I think it’s dreadful. It has two parts – the present (2016) and the future (2033-37) dramatisation about a base on Mars. Neither is well done for the following reasons:

1) 2016 Random ‘experts’ drone on about human exploration, past achievements, the difficulties, ad nauseum, but don’t actually talk about technical issues. I think it’s more of an advertisement (‘how great are we’) for Elon Musk and his SpaceX venture.

2) 2033-37 Professionals, such as captain and botanist do not behave professionally. On landing, the captain refuses a medical examination. What? The ‘botanist’ spends his time spraying water on his plants, fingering their leaves, whispering to them, and breaking down because some of them die. Not once does he use any technical equipment (computer, microscope, etc) – ie there is no research. He’s just an overemotional gardener.

3) They go from finding a cave to build their settlement, to suddenly being up and running without explaining the technical aspects – how they did it, where the materials came from, etc, etc.

4) An engineer uncouples his safety line in a dust storm and wanders off to find the machinery he’s supposed to fix (how he would without getting very fine dust in it, was not explained). Oh miracles, he finds it and all is well, and presumably finds his way back to the rover despite not being able to see anything. The power comes back on and all can continue as normal. (Never mind that the person responsible for rapid expansion argued that plants needed power when they barely had enough for essentials. Oh please.)

5) The “botanist” opens the door to the unprotected outside world because he’s hallucinating. Why would there be a door to the outside world from the plant lab? Come on!

It’s all utter bullshit. I got more information from five minutes of googling, and you’d learn more from watching the movie “Martian” than this piece of garbage melodramatic “documentary”.

I live alone, so have to rant sometimes.

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Among the biggest mysteries to me, which I truly fail to understand at all, is why I get “likes” and “follows” from obscure “businesses” or individuals on Twitter and Instagram. I don’t get it. Included in this social media bewilderment is LinkedIn. Why do total strangers from the other side of the world in a totally different industry want to connect with me? I just do not understand. Then there are the random comments on blog post entries which bear no reference to the blog entry they’re commenting on. The same comment is posted on numerous totally different blog entries.  Why??? What are they getting out of it, these people? Do they think they’ll get followed back or that someone will click on a link to their “business”? Just bizarre. I’ll never understand people.

I was disappointed in a movie I watched last night “Drive”. I had read good reviews but I came away with the same puzzlement as to why people rated it so highly. For a movie called “Drive”, there is very little driving. It started off promising but after the first ten minutes it went downhill. This statement on the SBS website “When the job goes dangerously awry, the only way he can keep Irene and her son alive is to do what he does best – drive” is total bullshit. The seemingly harmless driver goes around bashing people’s heads in, etc. Fuck-all driving. Then there were the slow-mo scenes with his love interest and lame music, which was all very sickening.  Why a typical “all-American” waitress let a silent stranger into her life when she seemingly loved her husband (in prison) is beyond me. None of the pathetic plot made sense. Why are American movies so clichéd, predictable and ultimately boring? I’ve been spoiled by European and Australian dramas which are realistic, unexpected, gripping, and totally enjoyable.

Another disappointment is Duckduckgo as an alternative search engine. I’ve tried to veer away from Google, and Duckduckgo is my default on Mozilla, but so often I’m dissatisfied with the results and head over to Chrome where Google is the default and try again. A shame.

I’m sure there was something else I was going to comment on or complain about but it’s gone – obviously not important. Such things never are.

I’m looking forward to a week in New Zealand in a couple of weeks’ time, specifically seeing K and H, and driving! (I miss driving but don’t need a car here and wouldn’t want to drive in the city.)

 

Listening to: Niyaz

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I need to make a list of shit I should do when I’ve got free time instead of idly browsing the net. To be fair I was trying to get ideas for Xmas but am no closer to knowing what to get either of the girls. They’re adults with pretty much everything they need. More personal stuff is so subjective I’d be scared of getting something they don’t like. It doesn’t need to be much for H. I shouted her a DNA test. I did the same for C for her birthday. (The results will be interesting.) I’d like to get bro to do one as well. I think it’s like an addiction really. I’ve just bought myself one at Living DNA because I wanted the mitochondrial DNA test. I’m excited about that.

And now my mind is a blank again. I’ve been thinking of scanning some more ephemera. I should get back to my old book blog and continue that. Hmm. Then there’s my grandmother’s diary that I didn’t complete. Yeah, where is it? In a box somewhere.

I’ve been reading and watching stuff. The Belgian TV series Salamander is very good as is Riviera. I started watching a documentary about the development of babies in the womb last night. Can’t recall any decent movies watched lately. Ghost Writer was a disappointment. I wish I could watch some of the British Why do you think you are? but they’re nigh impossible to view if you’re not in the UK (not every episode is on Youtube) and they no longer release them on DVD. How fucking inconsiderate.

Ho hum. Did I mention something about organising my genealogy files? Yeah, I haven’t done anything about that. Useless.

Still making my way through the collection of music bro gave me. Just started playing a mix and what comes up but a Rory Gallagher song “Do you read me?” I haven’t heard that song in DECADES! Ah, brilliant.

Yeah, rambling again. Must do something productive!

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Recently I came across a DVD set called The Hollow Crown, which turned out to be collections of Shakespeare’s plays. I haven’t seen a Shakespeare play in a long while, so grabbed this. Some good actors and none of this modern adaptation shit.

1st So I watched these and thought of my father who was a huge fan of Shakespeare. I followed along bits of Henry V in his 1923 copy of the Collected Works of Shakespeare (and discovered a fair bit of dialogue had been cut, so it wasn’t so easy).  I returned that DVD and saw another – from Henry VI to Richard III. Brilliant.

2nd More good actors. Excellent. As I watched, I looked up wikipedia, realising how little I know about this period or at least about the kings before Richard III.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead”

Coincidentally, Melbourne has a pop-up Globe theatre showing a few Shakespearean plays for a limited time in the King’s Domain. I saw this with interest on the news, but was put off by their adaptations to make the plays “less stuffy” – dancing to Polynesian music, for example. Yeah, na. I’m a traditionalist. Having said that, it would be worth going but I could only afford the cheapest ticket. Shows are so expensive here (I miss Summer Shakespeare in Palmy).

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I had this thought while walking to the train one day, that I wanted to try creating an online “newsletter” in a grid format with thoughts, pictures, events for friends and family. Apart from the fact I couldn’t find a suitable website for that (and I couldn’t get a WordPress format to work), I later thought would I really want to share that with people on Facebook, for example? My answer was no, and that I had a blog I never updated. I guess it’s the feeling that something is missing from Facebook. I do visit it (but mostly to look at genealogy pages) but don’t feel like sharing anything, and I still hate scrolling through heaps of shit (including the “suggested posts” which are just advertisements for dubious products or points of view – one a Christian one against gay marriage which I marked as offensive). I’ll mull on it.

 

Currently listening to: Gotan Project – Lunatico

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I could’ve sworn I wrote a draft about my trip to Brisbane, but it appears not.  I won’t split this up, so it will be a long post.

It was a wet day when I left home.  I caught the train to Southern Cross, arriving about half an hour before the bus I had planned to get departed.  My original plan was to have something to eat at Southern Cross.  Instead I just bought a ticket and caught the next available bus – a double-decker one.  I had allowed an hour to get to the airport, but we were there in 30 minutes.  This meant I was even earlier than I needed to be.

I printed out my boarding pass (I had checked in online), and went in search of food.  I ended up having a muffin and a ginger beer.  Then slowly wandered down to the departure gate, idly looking in book shops.  I was pulled aside for a scan to see if there was an “explosive residue” on me.  For fuck’s sake.

Waited for the Virgin airline flight, gazing out at the rain.

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I had been able to choose a window seat for free, but all I saw was cloud – featureless white cloud as far as the eye could see.  It was so featureless that there was no sensation of movement – just the noise of the plane.  It was as if we were stationery.  Quite weird.

Finally we descended into Brisbane, beside what looked like a huge cloud statue of an elephant lying down.  Brisbane was grey and threatening rain, but it was warm.

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I wish Melbourne had trains to the airport.  It would make things so much easier, and there wouldn’t be the worry of traffic jams.

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My cousin, H, was arriving from a work trip to Sydney, so I waited for her.  Together we got a taxi to her place in Chermside.  I was introduced to her lovely cat, Molly.

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After a meal and long chat, we headed to bed.

Saturday was a bit grey and windy, but we walked to the local mall.  H bought a few things at the supermarket, then we had a coffee.  Thankfully, we share the same views on politics and religion and could chat away quite happily.

H rang her mother, J (my father’s sister) at the retirement village to let her know we were coming, then drove round to see her.  She’s 95 and recently recovered from a fall and mild stroke, but she was as active and talkative as she was at her 90th birthday.  Amazing.  It was good to see her looking so well, and the only medication she takes is a blood thinner.

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We only stayed an hour, but I hoped I would be able to see J again.

We returned to H’s place and made lunch, then set off for the beach at Sandgate.  It was very windy.  The seagulls just hovered.

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We sat on a park bench and ate our rolls.  There were quite a few parasurfers, if that’s the right term.

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Lunch finished, we went for a wander along the beachfront to the pier.

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Shorncliffe pier, image from Flickr

We walked to the end of the pier.  The waves were very choppy.  Quite a few fishermen were trying their luck.  On the way back we saw what looked like blue plastic bags floating in the sea.  They were jellyfish.  I didn’t take a photo as I was afraid of dropping my mobile phone into the sea in the strong wind.  This is what they looked like.

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I can’t find a name for them, other than “blue jellyfish”.  A kid showed off a few fish lined up on the boards.  A few were quite small – too small I thought, and I felt sorry for the fish.

We returned to H’s place.  There was a loud thunderstorm which continued for some time.  We watched “Beck” on SBS on Demand on H’s TV.

For dinner, we got an Uber ride to Nundah and ate at a pub which served Italian food.  I was amazed at how quickly the car turned up.  It was raining but we sat outside the pub under cover.  Lovely meal, cooked and served by real Italians (a rarity in NZ).  It was wonderful to hear the accents.  After dinner, we headed across the road to a small bar called Village Social.  There was a band called Heads Hands and Feet playing – a three-piece band made up of a bearded guy in dreads on keyboard and vocals, a Maori from Chatham Islands on guitar and vocals, and an old English guy on drums.  They were good.  I enjoyed their music.

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H used her app to get another Uber ride home and it showed up almost immediately.  I was impressed.  H said that the drivers are much more polite, and if you lose something you can contact them.  This contrasts with an experience that a friend of J’s had – an elderly woman with a walker trying to get into the back of a taxi and the driver not getting out to help at all.  If taxi drivers are complaining about Uber they need to up their game.  If I ever need a taxi, I’ll download the Uber app.

H likes to go to bed early (and gets up early) so I headed to bed and watched episode 3 of “Southcliffe” on my mobile.  I didn’t sleep well that night (not as a result of the programme I might add).

Sunday dawned bright and sunny.  H headed off to her gym.  When she returned we drove to Nundah to check out the market.  Lots of stalls but H didn’t seem interested in any and walked past them all.  We sat and had a coffee (she loves her coffee), then walked back to the car.  A pointless exercise, I thought.  Not that I was interested in buying anything or watching the entertainment, but even just a browse…?  Oh well.

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It was nice not to have to wear a singlet or jacket.  You can see from the photos that all you needed was a short or sleeveless top.

H’s idea was for us to go to Southbank and meet her son who was going there with his wife and young baby.  However, he was unsure when he was going to be there and sounded reluctant to meet us, so instead, after lunch, we drove north to Bribie Island.

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It was a very pleasant drive.  It was wonderful to see the countryside.  I had never been north of Brisbane before.  I spotted a pelican as we crossed the bridge to the island.

We found a carpark by the beach and wandered down in barefeet.  It was so pleasant and seemed like summer.

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In the distance is Moreton Island (and a container ship)

H and I walked south along the beach, me careful to avoid stepping on the many bluebottles washed up.  No-one else seemed to care about them.  I spotted some seabirds and later found out they were greater crested terns.

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I had taken a camera but didn’t have a zoom lens on it.

We returned from our walk and went into the surf club for a drink.  I had a nice cool beer and H had a lemon, lime and bitters.  I found out later that there was a bush walk nearby that we could have gone on, but H seemed keen to head back.  Her son wanted her to babysit but hadn’t given a time.

So we drove back to H’s and waited for him to drop off they baby so they could go to the gym.  In the meantime, H made roast vegetables with lamb, which we ate in a bowl for some reason (and without gravy).  Eventually, H’s son and his partner turned up about 7pm!  They said they’d be an hour but it was more like two.  The baby slept for a bit, cried for a bit and H fed it some milk.  Then it cried again.  H put some kid’s programme on TV and it watched, fascinated.  Unfortunately, we had to put up with the “Wheels on the Bus” song about four or five times.  It was just after 9pm when H’s daughter-in-law showed up to collect the baby.  You may be able to tell that I don’t particularly care for babies.

Monday was another sunny day.  Unfortunately for me, H had decided to go to the gym again, so I was stuck at her place without a key.  I think it a little selfish if you have a guest (surely you can forego the gym for a day) but that’s my opinion.  We could’ve spent the morning at Southbank or something, or I could have gone for a walk.  Oh well.  I ended up watching the last of “Southcliffe” and thought the last two episodes were a complete waste of time.  H returned about 11 am and we talked for a while.  Then she took me to the airport about 12.

The plane was delayed for half an hour after we’d boarded, so we sat waiting, looking at the blue sky.

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The flight was full and I had been called to the desk for a new boarding pass.  They had changed my seat to a window seat, which suited me fine.  At least this time I would get to see something.

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As we neared Melbourne the temperature dropped and the clouds got thicker.  It was ten degrees colder than Brisbane – not a surprise.

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I sat upstairs in the double-decker Skybus this time.  I tried to get a photo of the CDB as we neared it, but the bus was too bumpy.

At Southern Cross I waited for a train back home.  Again a delay but I finally reached home about 6pm, to a very happy cat.  She purred non-stop on my lap.

Back to the cold and wet.  Roll on summer.

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