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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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I have packed my first box!  I listed everything, which took up half a page of foolscap-sized paper and took photos, so it took a while!  I started with little knick-knacks and my parents’ silver cutlery, and piled a few old table-cloths on the top.  It felt satisfying taping it up and setting it aside.  Hopefully the rest won’t take quite so long (except perhaps listing DVDs and CDs).  My back was up to kneeling on the floor and wrapping things, then pushing the box along the floor with a foot.  I still intend taking things easy for a week or so – there’s no way I want more pain to restrict the huge job of packing.

I also took the final move of booking my last ticket out of NZ on 11 December.  Huge sigh.  Now I have a definite date and time to work towards.  It’s all rather overwhelming.

So anyway, instead of driving to Hamilton on Saturday, which would’ve been a literal pain, I chatted with bro and drove down to his place in the afternoon, stopping briefly on the way to walk around.  I was still taking painkillers to ease the slight ache.

My bro had two French girls staying there – “Wwoofers” (their property is listed on the Wwoof website, so they get foreign travellers working their way through NZ, which is a good way to get the weeding done!).  Bro wasn’t impressed with this lot with their painted nails.

On Sunday morning I decided to do without painkillers to see how I went.  Sleeping had been ok and I got up alright.  Sis-in-law was selling her wares at a market at Riversdale.  Bro and I took the girls down to the beach and wandered along for a while before having a look at the small market.

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There were thousands of little shrimp-like creatures lying on the sand.  We wondered why and what had killed them.

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On our return, bro’s neighbour came round and asked if we wanted to join him on the boat down the river to his bach where he was going to mow the lawn.  I was a bit unsure about the state of my back but jumped at the chance.  Bro told French girls what to do while we were away.  The dogs came too.  Neighbour’s dog was brother and son to bro’s dogs.

I clambered onto the speedboat with no problems and was glad that the seat was supported.  I had envisaged holding onto the seat and hoping I’d stay upright.  Dogs piled in on top of us, but neighbour’s dog jumped onto the bow and faced the wind – he’d obviously done it many times and loved the wind in his face.

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We disturbed quite a few birds, including paradise ducks and a heron.  I can imagine that river boat trips would be great for bird photography.  Unfortunately I only had my little point-and-shoot.

Parked the boat at the river mouth (managed to jump off ok, bending ze knees) and walked along the sea front to the bach.

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Neighbour’s bach was fantastic.  He’d built it himself and towed an extra little old building, landscaped it, built a deck.  It was perfect – the good old Kiwi bach.  None of this fancy mansion stuff with all mod cons.  Bro and I loved it and could imagine a weekend staying there reading books and playing Siedler.

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There was not a another soul in sight.  Fantastic.  What a great place for a getaway.  You wouldn’t want to go back.

However, we had to, after they mowed the lawn and it looked like paradise.  Hopped back on the boat and headed back.

Sis-in-law was back home and immediately berated bro for not telling the girls to do things properly.  Neighbour quietly slipped away instead of taking up the offer of a cup of tea.

I wandered around the garden for a while before we had a late lunch.  Spotted some quail.

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There was bird song all around and it was so peaceful.  I would miss that.

Bro and I looked at Melbourne maps for our upcoming trip.  They were staying an hour’s train ride away and I showed him where H and S lived and where to go for NGV and Botanic gardens, etc.  I still had photos from my April trip on my camera, so showed him those.  He, in turn, showed me photos of their Adelaide trip last year.

Headed over to another neighbour’s place for the woman’s 66th birthday drinks.  Lovely verandahed house and beautiful ‘roomed’ gardens.  Returned, and after a quick dinner of pizza I drove back home.  Lovely moonlit night.

I’m glad I went.  It was just what I needed to get me back on track.

 

 

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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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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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On Saturday morning I headed over to my bro’s place.  He had some freshly killed lamb to give me.  It was a very pleasant drive.  The countryside around my brother’s place is brown, or rather, the colour of straw.  Bro thinks they may run out of water.

We sat in the shade of a tree and had cold drinks and talked.  He had been playing his football manager game, and before he shut down the computer I showed him the video H took in October.  The video was of a day at their place, feeding lambs, playing Siedler, wining and dining.  H had set it to music.  Bro loved it and laughed at the way she’d captured everything so well with the camera angles, people’s expressions, etc.  He copied it over and then we had lunch.

After lunch we headed over to visit G who was working at the Tinui shop.  We had a look around then left her to it while we headed to the pub and had a beer.

G returned home after 4pm.  I stayed for dinner, retrieved some lamb from the fridge and headed home.  Again, another very pleasant drive, and I got home before dark.

On Sunday I was to pick up H from Wellington airport.  I’d decided to make a ‘day’ of it and visit the zoo.  I arrived about 11.45 am, later than I had intended, but it was just as well.  I had allowed myself about 2 hours at the zoo before heading to the airport.  The zoo is small, but it’s even smaller now with fewer animals to see and most of them hiding from the midday sun.  I had to admit it wasn’t a good time to visit.  I saw chimps, giraffes and baboons and that was about it.  I’d seen the whole place in an hour and felt cheated of my $21.  I sat in some shade to have lunch and shared crumbs with a duck, then basically went round the whole zoo again in the hope of seeing some animals who may have come out from their hidey-holes.

On my second ‘lap’ I caught a glimpse of a cheetah and a glimpse of the tiger in its cave.  The sun bear had come out so I took heaps of photos of it.  Part of the zoo pictured on the map was blocked off but I eventually found my way to the meerkats.  The poor things looked like they were trying to dig their way out of the enclosure or look for an escape route.

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The chimps looked completely bored.

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On the whole, I was disappointed.  There wasn’t much to see.  They’ve dismantled many of the horrible old cages, but the shells have been left and there’s nothing in its place.  They seem to have spent time and money making the zoo into a sort of theme park for kids, with the animals merely being incidental.  There were a lot of themed props – huts galore, a jeep, a tuk-tuk and other props, and an area next to the lemur where kids were banging on lids or drums.  I felt really sorry for the animals – having to put up with that din all day.  It pissed me off.  I also hated the fact that music (singing) was playing constantly near the sun bear and tiger.  Give the animals a break!  Instead of spending money on kiddifying the place, they could have invested in non-reflective glass so you can actually see the animals instead of your own and everyone else’s reflection, and clean the glass regularly!  I saw no birds or reptiles.  They did have a brief show with a parrot flying around, but that was the only bird I saw.

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Just before I left, I saw the lion.

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They are working on new areas of the zoo, including a walk-through aviary (about time).  Until they’ve finished that, I don’t think it’s worth another visit.

 

I still felt sorry for the animals.  Although their enclosures are bigger than what they used to be, they’re still tiny when you compare it to what would be their natural habitat.    And I don’t think a zoo should be an entertainment area for kids.  More education about the environment and endangered species would be better.  When you hear kids calling monkeys chimpanzees and lemurs monkeys, and the parents not correcting them, then you know there needs to be a hell of a lot of education.

I left for the airport and saw the plane descending as I drove down the hill.  By now, I was sweltering in jeans.  The forecast had been for cloud and 23 deg.  It was a blue sky and closer to 28 degrees.

H was tired and hungry but I had some food for her.  We stopped at Pukerua Bay for her to stretch her legs and get some fresh air.

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Homeward and H cooked some fresh lamb chops with salad.  🙂

 

 

 

 

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H and I planned to leave earlyish on Saturday morning for my brother’s place in the Wairarapa (earlyish means about 9am – very early for H).  We had a couple of things to do in town, mainly return the 5 DVDs we had rented.  Out of the five, the two French ones were the best.  I found ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ disappointing.  Great actors but hard to follow.  I haven’t read any John Le Carre books but they must surely be easier to follow than the long and disjointed movie.

Anyway, by the time we’d returned the DVDs, bought some beer, and browsed curtains at The Warehouse, it was about 11.50am by the time we were on the Pahiatua Track.  We ate a sandwich on the way.  The forecast had been for gale-force winds.  There were none.

It was sunny but with a cold wind at my bro’s place.  If it weren’t for the cold wind lately, we’d be having really nice weather (when it’s not raining).  We met the orphaned twin lambs.  The mother died about 4 days after the birth so they’d had to bottle feed and fight infection in a sick lamb.  They looked happy and healthy now and were like dogs, following us around.  We fed them, then had a look at bro’s new ‘man shed’.  Now my brother’s man shed would be, and was, totally different to the stereotypical one.  He had cleaned out a room in one of the outbuildings, carpeted and painted and placed my father’s big old desk in there, complete with computer and sound system.  One of my parents’ bookshelves was on the wall with a few old books and nick-nacks.  He also had a cheap two-seater couch.  All he needed now was a bar fridge.  It was his haven from G, my sister-in-law.  I was pleased to see some old paintings on the wall as well.  My grandmother had painted two of them, one from the cottage where she lived in North Wales.

That afternoon and evening we played a few obligatory games of ‘Settlers of Catan’ with beer and snacks.  (It’s a tradition every time we visit.)

The next day, while G was selling her jams and chutneys at a beach market, bro, H and I headed to Greytown to check out their Labour Weekend events.

We wandered up and down the main street admiring some of the architecture.  Bro tried out his new camera he’d recently bought, so we looked like tourists.  H, for once, didn’t have her DSLR.  She didn’t want us all to look like we were on some photographers’ road trip and felt rather embarassed, I think.

Apart from a couple of art exhibitions (art which was not my cup of tea), there was really nothing happening.  We ate a couple of pies and took the long route back, via a winery for some wine tasting.  There was some lovely scenery on the way back, through country roads I didn’t know existed, including a gravel road which ended up at a village on the way to bro’s place.

H and I headed home after an afternoon game.  Just before we left, a cheeky pukeko was in G’s garden.

I went to bed quite early.  The winds had been blustery that day and it had tired me out.

Yesterday morning I did some spring-cleaning and put up a new curtain, replacing a rather ragged-looking one over the sliding door.  Unfortunately some of the rail loops had become brittle and broke as I tried to take the old curtain down.  A trip to town was in order.

We first went to the Briscoes sale and bought a new shower curtain.  It appears that all ready-made curtains, shower or normal, only come in shades of black, grey, white or dark blue this year.  We had managed to find a ‘beigey’ colour for the sliding door but ended up getting a grey shower curtain.  I bought some new rail loops, only to find them much cheaper at the next place we went to.  H was excited about us getting a new larger chopping board!  You can tell she’s fond of cooking.  We went to the next stop to look for more curtains.  Our lounge curtains also need replacing.  Again, black and grey were the predominant colours, and they were expensive.  Finally, we headed to two hardware stores.  At the first we bought a couple of test pots of paint for the hallway and H’s bedroom.  At the second I bought a couple of wardrobe door knobs for my room.  Only one of the two built-in wardrobe doors has a knob.  I never got round to getting new ones.  We also looked at replacing the kitchen cupboard knobs but it would’ve worked out too expensive, so we didn’t bother.

Home, and I replaced the broken plastic loops on the curtain rail and hung the curtain properly.  H made a yummy Thai soup with pumpkin in it.  An end to a pleasant and fairly fruitful weekend.  However, I have today off and have made a list of things to do, so I’d better get off here and do them.

Yesterday I created a spreadsheet of all the things that need doing in each room (along with what I need in order to do it) – it turned out to be a long list.  I’ll shade in a row when a task has been completed.  I included ones I’d already done, like painting the inside of the bathroom cupboards, to encourage me.  There’s not much colour on the spreadsheet….  Last night I rang up the friend who had said he’d pick up the new kitchen counter for me and he assured me he’d pick it up today and come over next week to install it.  Yay!  I look forward to shading in another completed task.

After years of not doing much around the house at all, it’s going to be a long, slow process of renovating, with H’s much-needed encouragement.  If it weren’t for her I’d be reading a book or mucking around on the computer…..

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