Spring 2019

Spring 2019 in New Zealand

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Magnolia in Quarry Park

The meteorological start of Spring in New Zealand is on 1st of September and the season is well advanced already here in Tauranga. The wild cherry blossom is already over and the magnolia and camellia are in full bloom. The orange trees are laden with fruit and I picked a couple of ripe figs for breakfast. Then, being as we live in Judea, there are lots of Judas Trees (cercis siliquastrum) whose new leaves are mostly out having given us a splendid display of pinky red blossom throughout August in the streets and gardens.
Whoever was responsible for the street planting in Tauranga as the town developed deserves a medal as there is colour throughout the year and we can look forward to the jacarandas and pohutukawas at the end of spring. It is about 20°C outside, the sun is shining and a Tui is singing his sonorous notes from a nearby Kowhai tree as I write with just a whisper of a breeze to dry the washing here in the godzone! It was Winter Jim, but not as we know it.


Tui feeding on the Nectar of a Kowhai tree

While waiting for Sue on one of the many times she has had her insides photographed, I picked up a copy of the NZ National Geographic magazine and found a piece on the Tui. This songbird has two voice boxes and is fond of mimicking other bird song. Some of its notes are of a frequency indiscernable to the human ear. The Maori used to teach them to talk and they can imitate sounds such as car horns just like parrots. They are honeyeaters and will take over possession of a Kowhai or Pohutakawa tree for its nectar, defending it aggressively against other birds.
Like many of the human Kiwi species this bird is known to be randy. Researchers have found typically over 50% of eggs in one nest have been fertilised by other males! The birds have been observed flying in an erratic fashion after eating flax nectar which has fermented so they are heavy drinkers which might be why they named a NZ beer after it!

September is a big sporting month. We will have the fourth and fifth Ashes Test Cricket matches. The series is tied one all. England have to win one and at least draw another to regain the Ashes. Having charge of this insignificant little urn can stir huge emotions in Orstralian and Pommie hearts. Then we have the Rugby World Cup (RWC), the biggest prize in International Rugby and one which the NZ All Blacks are hoping to win for the fourth time.

Kiwi joke:
Two Kiwis, two Aussies, two Welshmen and two Irishmen were marooned on a desert island.
The two Aussies got together and started a bank;
the two Welshmen got together and started a choir;
the two Irishmen got together and started a fight;
The two Kiwis never spoke to each other - they hadn't been introduced!

In the UK it is Autumn and the big thing that might happen is that they might leave the EU at the end of October if Prime Minister Boris Johnson gets his way. Despite the country voting in a referendum to leave by a substantial majority the politicians have been arguing for three years about how to do it. They voted down the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May three times. They voted the UK must not leave without a deal to leave. We all know what they don't want but they can't agree what they do want?

The EU for their part are refusing to renegotiate the current deal and Boris says that if a deal can not be done we will leave without one. Those opposing him are largely in favour of remaining in the EU and are trying to disrupt proceedings against the wishes of the people who voted to leave which Brexiteers say is undemocratic. Boris will now suspend parliament to restrict but not prevent further debate which Remainers say is also undemocratic and are getting their knickers in a right old twist.

What I am certain about is that it will not be a no deal result that will cause the most economic harm to Britain but continued uncertainty about the result as our parliamentarians may never be able to agree. The longer the delay the more economic harm will be done so I do hope we leave in October with or without a deal. We had a similar situation a few years ago but for different causes. They called it the English Civil War.

Summer Rugby Internationals and Mitre 10 Cup

Wales played Ireland in Cardiff and will meet them again next week in Dublin for their final warm up games before the RWC. Scotland travel to Tiblisi to play Georgia before there return match at Murrayfield next week. If you are interested in the Rugby Union Internationals and the NZ domestic game then read on...

Travel Plans

Now that Sue has regained some mobility after her radiation therapy we plan to visit Palmerston North for a few days shortly. It is a six hour drive which is a long time sitting so we plan to stop at Taihape on the way there and back and hope the ice and snow keeps away from the desert road. It takes a bit of planning but we found one motel in Taihape which has wheelchair access and has walk in showers so we have booked.

Next month we look forward to welcoming No 1 granddaughter Eliza who is visiting Australia and New Zealand with her friend Emily as part of her Masters course to get experience in Antipodean hospitals and she has somehow managed to get a week working in Tauranga hospital. She will be with us for two weeks so on her week off we will hire a SUV that will give us the room to take luggage and Sue's wheelchair plus the four of us and show them a bit of the Godzone.
Once again we have trawled the net for holiday homes that have wheelchair access and walk in showers.

Sues Progress

The search for the primary cancer cells continues. A cystoscopy gave her the all clear in the bladder and urethra but she will have a specialist scan to see if there is anything in the tubes between the kidneys and the bladder. The doctor did not think this would be the case but it was a precaution.
Apart from a slight discomfort when the probe first went in and Sue squeezed my hand, she experienced no serious pain but she was very nervous and had been dreading the experience. As the doctor said, "don't worry I haven't lost one yet!"

It is looking increasingly likely that the primary is either in the breast or is so small that it can not be located. Another CT scan is scheduled for 26th September and we will meet with the oncology team shortly after when we should have more to report. In the meantime Sue is making good progress with increased mobility and reduced pain although she still needs a walker to get around.

Brexit

The way our parliamentarians are behaving is beyond belief.
A Tory theatrically crosses the floor of the house in the middle of the PM's speech and sits next to LibDem leader and Scottish person Jo Swinson having filled in his membership form previously. Some LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) LibDem members have resigned because of it so it seems the LibDems are split on what constitutes an acceptable LibDem.

Diane Abbott
Tory rebels handed power to Jeremy Corbine as 16 of Mrs May's ex-ministers voted against their own government.
The 21 rebel Tories who defied the whip and voted against their government have had the whip removed and are in a state of shock that Boris could do such a thing. What did they expect?
Tony Bliar says Labour should not vote for a general election if Boris calls for one and Corbine says Labour might not vote for it until the bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit or delay withdrawal is put into law despite asking for one for three years.
70 of the opposition party MP's are trying to get the Scottish courts to stop the government terminating this session of parliament as is Gina Miller in the English courts with a little help from her Tory friends, in particular John Major who was also fairly useless as a PM.
A group of Labour leavers now want another Commons vote on Teresa's deal having voted it down three times before.

I know that many of you are heartily sick of Brexit as am I so of you do not want to read any more about it then do not click here...

4th Ashes Test

Manchester is renowned for its rainfall and the first day of the Test match at Old Trafford was no exception as there was very little play after lunch and was eventually abandoned before normal close of play time.

Quotes 'wot I like:
'Horny Warney begged me for spanking session'
Tinder date on Shane Warne.
Shane Warne was in the commentary box and was in the news between the cricket matches for different sort of games for which he has an extensive reputation.
According to The Sun newspaper which I am ashamed to say I do read occasionally on-line, Warnie entertained his current girlfriend and two escorts in his North London pad into the early hours, keeping his neighbours awake in the process!

For the more discerning amongst you England's exploits on the cricket field are recounted here....

Summer Rugby Internationals and Mitre 10 Cup

This was the final weekend of the international warm up games before the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England played Italy in Newcastle at St James's Park with over 50,000 spectators, (h'away the lads) and Wales played Ireland in Dublin after being beaten in Cardiff the previous week. Scotland played Georgia at Murrayfield It was also the fifth week of the NZ regional Mitre 10 cup games so if you have no interest in Rugby Union do not click here...

Sues Progress

Sue had another CT Scan to investigate the tubes between the kidneys, liver and bladder which showed nothing sinister, however, it also showed that the bone tumours nearby had actually grown rather than shrunk since before radiation treatment. The decision was therefore taken to start chemotherapy straight away so we had to cancel our planned trip down to Balmy Parmie.

She started a course of GemCarbo chemotherapy today. This is a combination treatment used to treat many different types of cancer. The reason for it's use is that they are unable to find the primary source of the bone cancer which does not seem to have responded well to the radiation treatment even though physically she is in less pain and more mobile that she was before the treatment.

The chemo consists of two drugs which are given through a drip. It goes in cycles of 21 days with 8 days between the first two treatments then you get 13 days off until the next cycle starts. We don't know yet how many cycles to expect but it could take up to 4 months to complete.

The drugs work by attacking quickly dividing cells like cancer cells but they also weaken resistance to other infections in the process and there are a myriad of side effects which may or may not occur, most of which can be controlled. Hair loss is usually minimal.

The suite where they administer the treatment is very comfortable with recliner seats, more like an Airport lounge. There were 20 separate stations for treatment which surprised us for such a small place as Tauranga.
The first treatment was a long one of three hours. To precede the chemo Sue was given Dexamethasone which is a steroid used to decrease inflammation and nausea. Sue calls it a miracle drug as she was given it previously before radiation treatment and felt good right through the treatment. This time it worked its miracle and she had her first cup of tea for a week. Yes they even serve you tea and a biscuit during treatment.

Sue must provide a blood sample on each day before treatment as they monitor the levels of red and white blood cells which can be affected by the chemo. We hope that after the next course of treatment, provided Sue is feeling well enough, we will be able to resurrect our trip down South.

5th Ashes Test

The final match of the series is at the London Oval. Although England have already failed to regain the Ashes from Orstralia, winning this match would draw the series for England but a win or a draw for Oz would win the series so a certain amount of pride is at stake as well as avoiding a lot more stick from my Ozzie ex-friends!

Quotes 'wot I like:
"...the fundamental difference between English and Australian cricketers since their first encounter in 1877: the English cricketer plays cricket to earn a lovely living, the Australian to beat England."
Scyld Berry - Telegraph Cricket Correspondent.

The Oval has the best record of Test wins for England against Australia of any English ground. Of the 37 games we have played Oz there we have won 16, drawn 14 and lost only 7 so the stats favour England to win or draw. Steve Smith has scored over a hundred on each of the Tests he has played there.

The weather forecast is good for the whole 5 days so a draw is unlikely from that perspective but my prediction is that, barring another miracle with the batting and bowling skills at our disposal, Oz will win and probably win well. The match started on 12th September and you can read my comments here...

Firefox Bugs

With the latest release of Firefox 69.0 the bug that stopped all the slide shows working on this site seems to have been fixed as all are now running correctly.

Brexit

The LibDems have now voted at their conference to rescind Article 50. In other words they will cancel Brexit as a condition of any coalition agreement with another political party in the event of a general election or if a another government was formed without another election thereby ignoring the wishes of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU.

You may believe what they say or you may not, particularly after former LibDem leader Nick Clegg (who is now earning megabucks with Facebook) broke his promise to cancel university tuition fees after they formed a coalition government with the Tories.

For many years my MP in Somerset was Paddy Ashdown. I never voted for him and only ever saw him at election time when he and his wife used to come into our Deli and pretend he was a regular customer! Never the less he was a popular local MP, often talked a lot of sense and was for some years the LibDems leader.

It may be of interest to the current leader of the LibDems to recall what Paddy said about the Brexit referendum just after the polls closed and before the result was known which I repeat verbatim now:

"I will forgive no one who does not accept the sovereign voice of the British people once it has spoken whether it's by one percent or 20 percent.
"I've heard Mr Farage say tonight, 'we're coming back even if we lose'. He's the person who complained about a lack of democracy in Europe.
"If he will not accept the sovereign voice of the British people when they vote, whatever they say, then I think he does not have the national interest at heart, he's got his own interest at heart.
"For all of us, in or out, when the British people have spoken you do what they say, they command it.
"You put the national interest first, either you believe in democracy or you don't.
"When democracy speaks, we obey. All of us do. If you put your nation first then you make the best of it you can from the decision you've got.

There speaks an Irish ex-soldier. Paddy was getting at Nige (Mr Farage the then UKIP leader) but his remarks apply equally to all politicians and perhaps that Scottish person Ms. Swinson, who is now the LibDem leader, should be getting into bed, figuratively speaking, with that fishy lady running the ScotNats except that they also decided not to allow the Scots to hold another independence referendum.
They think it is fine to have another referendum on the EU because they think we will all change our minds to suit their policy of remaining in the EU but not the Scots in case they vote to leave the UK which is against their policy. And even if some of us did change our minds on leaving the EU it would solve nothing.

Quotes 'wot I like:
"It appears that the Liberal Democrats are neither liberal or democratic."
Alex Orr - SNP activist.

Then there are those who say only a third of the electorate voted to leave the EU. Absolutely true but guess what; less than a third voted to remain and those who were left couldn't be bothered to vote. Hardly anyone voted for the LibDems and they are rapidly aquiring more MP's who were not elected on a LibDem ticket who will probably loose their seats at the next election or will not stand again.

Historian David Starkey calls the LibDems "undemocratic extremists" as he says they are trying to prevent a majority government ever being elected like in Europe where the electorates majority views are rarely represented with so many different political parties in coalition governments. He has a point. If we had a strong government in power now we would not be in the mess we are in.

Mitre 10 Cup Rugby 6th Week

Fa'asiu Fuatai dots one down for the Steamers

The Rugby World Cup (RWC) begins next weekend so I will have so many games to watch and comment on that the Mitre 10 competition will have to take a back seat after this round but I will tag on an update at the end of each RWC report.
The Japanese are big AB fans and they are being given a fantastic reception with kids doing the haka.
The Welsh also seem to have a load of supporters among the locals, even singing the Welsh national anthem which is in Welsh unless you are English and singing the whales version.
Nobody loves the English team who are universally disliked of course!
This week saw our Bay of Plenty Steamers travel to New Plymouth to take on Taranaki who they managed to beat handsomely 17-31.
If you are interested in all the other results you can read about them here...

Rugby World Cup 2019

The tournament opens on Friday 20th Sept with the host nation Japan playing Russia in the opening game.
For those interested I have listed all the games in date order with the times that the TV programmes will start here in New Zealand. I do not know how you will watch the games in other countries and one rich Aussie bastard I know called Andy will be attending some of the games in person. He is actually a Pom who has become converted to an Oz and as we all know it is the converts who become the most fanatical!

Here is the link to the game schedule...
I suggest you bookmark it if you find it useful. The only way to watch all the games live or on demand here in NZ is if you subscribe to Spark Sport. You can watch the AB games delayed by one hour and some other pool games live plus the finals on free to air TVNZ.
NZ is a Rugby nation yet we have to pay to watch the RWC live here while England, who is a soccer nation, can watch all the games screened live by ITV free to air.

TV here is diabolical. The adverts are twice the length of those in the UK and most repeated again and again ad infinitum. We are subjected to American style long ads which offer you fantastic deals on exercise machines, folding ladders etc at unbelievable prices except that they never tell you the price. How anyone can be so gullible to fall for such suspect sales techniques I can not understand.

Most of the major retailers have a succession of continuous sales which "must end by Monday" then next week they have another. Most Kiwi's record all programmes then skip through the Ads but I am fearful that in future they will stream everything to prevent recording so you have to watch the Ads. We really do miss Aunty BBC and would willingly pay a fee to have them removed.

Sue's Progress

With the impending arrival next month of No 1 granddaughter Liza and her friend we were faced with the problem of transporting the four of us plus wheelchair and wheeler around in our little Mazda Demio. I had thought of hiring an SUV for a fortnight to do the job which would have set me back around $1,000 then I had another brainwave. What about a bike carrier?

Most of the inexpensive bike carriers require a towbar down here in the Godzone and I was particularly impressed with a Swedish one from Thule called the Xpress 970-47 which folds flat and can be easily stored but can be fitted or removed from the towbar ball in seconds. It cost $149 and was delivered from Christchurch FOC within 3 days.

Now I needed a towbar. No problem except it was going to cost $455. I called the Towbar Guy who popped round and fitted one within a few days. I found it hard to believe that only fitting towbars could employ anyone full time but this guy came down from Auckland because the Tauranga guy was so busy and told me that he could fit as many as 30 in a week and there were five guys working in Auckland!

There remained the final test to determine if my measurements were correct and a bike carrier could become a wheelchair carrier. As you can see from the above slide show the wheelchair and wheeler fitted perfectly thus avoiding the need to hire a larger car while providing future flexibility for transport in the future.

Sue has completed her first cycle of chemotherapy and apart from some nausea which she now has under control the side effects have been slight. Her appetite is also improved although she has become very finicky which sometimes taxes the chef!

RWC 2019 Sat 22nd Sept

Well here we are at last at RWC 2019 in Japan which is becoming more like a Rugby Olympics with all the razzmatazz of an opening ceremony which was a high tech "Son et Lumiere" show. The only thing they couldn't do because of the geographic split of the venues was to have all the teams march in with their national flags so they had a bunch of Japanese schoolkids duplicate the teams.

The opening ceremony concluded with Bill Beaumont making a speech that was too long followed by the Japanese crown prince making a much shorter one which in Japanese which most worldwide viewers did not understand and which nobody at Spark Sport thought to translate. All over NZ there have been problems with receiving the internet stream by Spark so that half way through the AB game they began to broadcast it on free to air TVNZ much to the disgust of most fans who have paid a subscription to watch it.

RWC opening ceremony

Bill Beaumont and his merry men must take a share of responsibility for selling the broadcasting rights to Spark to stream the competition over the internet and not to a proper experienced TV company. Just like the official RWC crap beer they sell at inflated prices, they must have accepted the highest bid irrespective of the ability of that company or the quality of the programming. Rumour has it that SKY are looking to outbid Spark for the next RWC in France.

Graham Henry was interviewed pitchside and said something about people "shitting themselves"! The main presenter then admonished Sir Graham, asking him to remember this was a family show which must have embarrassed most of us watching including the great man himself. You should just apologise for the language which often happens in rugby broadcasts.

If you have absolutely no interest in rugby union then please do not click here....

White Pines Scenic Reserve

I looked on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website for places in the Bay of Plenty region that were wheelchair accessible and there was only one down near Whakatane so, together with Sue's sister Maryanne, we set off down there.

The first thing to report is that what the DOC thinks is wheelchair accessible is not what someone who has to push the wheelchair thinks. The path was reasonably level but rough and stoney and impossible to negotiate for any distance but we did manage to visit the most impressive trees.

Sue and Maryanne at White Pines Reserve

Around the car park is a fence of gumboots. Kiwi's have a peculiar fascination with this style of footwear and seem to regard them as a fashion statement hence this tribute to them where you are invited to add to the collection!?

The White Pine (Kahikatea) is endemic to NZ and is its tallest tree growing to a height of over 65 metres. The trunk can exceed a metre in diameter and it grows dead straight but the wood from it is not long lasting so it was used to make wooden boxes in which to export butter.
This reserve is the only part left of what was a vast forest of these trees which was cleared in the late 19th century for agricultural use and as you can see from the slide show the trees are very impressive.

Also growing in profusion under the canopy are Nikau Palms, also endemic to NZ they flower in the summer and produce red fruit which is the favourite food of the native pigeon (kereru). The reserve is home to many native birds such as the Tui and Bellbird.

We travelled down on SH2 which follows the coast and is fringed for much of the way with Pohutakawa trees and must be a picture around Christmastime.
White Island was smoking away out to sea and it was a perfect clear and sunny spring day.
On our return we followed SH30 and found a little Swiss chalet for afternoon tea in the sunshine then on up around the 'Lake District' finishing around the Northern side of Lake Rotorua then back to Tauranga on SH36.
The trip took a little over 4 hours and was a good test of Sue's ability to sit in the car that long for future trips. We celebrate her birthday tomorrow.

RWC 2019 Sun 23rd Sept

This was the day of the first England game. It was also the day that Kiwi's became very cross with Spark Sport as all over the country people experience so many problems with reception that Spark had to broadcast some games on TVNZ. Subscribers received an email from Spark as follows:

While our team has been working hard to fix things, in order to provide all our customers with the best viewing experience we will show all RWC 2019 matches this evening on both Spark Sport and free-to-air on TVNZ DUKE.
If you were unhappy with your viewing experience on Spark Sport for last night's match between New Zealand and South Africa, then Spark Sport is offering the choice of either a partial refund or alternatively, a full refund if you wish to cancel your Tournament Pass.

I did experience problems of vision and sound synchronisation but was able to fix them eventually by restarting the stream. I do think that Spark have been commercially foolish to think that with the considerable technical problems involved and with so many rugby fans wanting to watch games, many of whom are not geeks like me, they were asking for trouble to stream the RWC in a country which has so many remote communities which do not have good enough broadband for streaming.
Providing a feed via Sky in pubs and clubs was not the answer as you do not really want to go out to the pub to watch rugby at 10-30pm.

Even when we lived in Cheltenham we would have had problems with our slow broadband connection but if you want to know what happened on the rugby field then please click here...

Sue's Birthday

Sue's Birthday

Greetings came from all parts of the world. Sue thanks everyone for thinking of her on this occasion.
We celebrated with Fred and Maryanne having lunch at Elizabeth Cafe in Tauranga. I ordered eggs rancheros but what came did not resemble that dish at all. Piled on a hard stale tortilla was a load of refried beans and chopped tomato, a dollop of sour cream, mashed avocado and cremated chorizo crowned with an over-fried egg. I managed to eat most of it but wished I hadn't as I spent most of that night on the toilet.
Fred had the all day breakfast which he enjoyed and the girls had the pea & ham soup of the day which they praised but I drew the short straw.

A Blast from the Past

Back in the last century the Bids and the Hoks jetted off to Puerto Vallarta on the Mexican Pacific coast. Here I first discovered Eggs Racheros which were soft fried eggs floating in a spicy tomato salsa served with black beans and soft warm tortillas. It bore no relation to what Elizabeth Cafe served me in Tauranga where the ingredients were basically correct but the execution bore no comparison.

The Bids and the Hoks at Cafe Oya, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

On that trip we travelled around the country for 10 days before returning to Puerto Vallarta where we discovered Cafe Oya and you will see from the photo above that we even bought the polo shirts. I think they might have changed the name since to Cafe de Olla as Cafe Oya now seems to be a Gay hotel and you will be aware that we are not of that persuasion!? Mind you there was a Gay convention on while we were there so there were a lot of them about but back then Cafe Oya served some of the best food we ever found and we ate there most nights. It was always busy and the waiters told us they did not get a wage but lived off the tips.

My mention of Gays and Hoks bought another memory to mind of when we were in Portugal with them and Chris was trying to get us a free round of golf at a timeshare resort. They insisted we could only get a free round if we bought our wives along to see the timeshare properties and Chris then tried to kiss me claiming I was his wife! That guy will do anything to save money.

Views from my window

The views from my window are continually changing and you can see the latest in the above slide show. The spindly trees with what looks like pink blossoms at the tips of the branches are actually fern like leaves which will turn green later in the year. The trees are called Cedrela which are natives of China and will have long drooping perfumed white flowers later.

The second slide is of the cherry trees in the garden across the road. They are all over town at the moment as are huge red rhododendron bushes.
The weather seems to have reverted to Winter temperatures after the Spring equinox but when the sun does shine it is pleasantly warm.

RWC 2019 Fri 27th Sept

Since my last report there have been a few more pool games played including Wales v Georgia and England v Canada but if you are not interested in Rugby Union then do not click here...

RWC 2019 Mon 30th Sept

The weekend saw some of the high tier nations back in action including Argentina, South Africa, Ireland, Australia and Wales and there was one huge upset. Those of you who have absolutely no interest in what that huge upset was should certainly not click here....

Sue's Progress

The day before each cycle of chemotherapy we have to trot along to the Path Lab for a blood test. This we did on Monday, the day before the second cycle was due to start and within hours the Cancer Centre was on the phone saying that the blood test showed a low red cell blood count of 77 (100 or higher being normal) and did Sue feel unwell? The answer was no and that she felt perfectly well. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body and a low count can cause anemia reducing your ability to fight infection. The chemo as well as destroying the cancer cells can also destroy healthy cells.

They rang back later to say the oncologist had been consulted and he wanted Sue to have a blood transfusion which they had organised for 8-30am on Wednesday and we should again visit the Path Lab on Tuesday to provide more blood for a special test called a crossmatch to ensure the correct blood is used for the transfusion. At this rate Sue will be needing a transfusion to replace all the blood provided for testing!

So we both spent a relaxing day in the Medical Day Stay department of Tauranga Hospital on Wednesday, lazing on comfortable recliners and being fed numerous cups of tea plus sandwiches for lunch as Sue's blood was replenished with a half litre of red blood cells which took about 6 hours. I have read that a blood count of 77 indicates only mild anemia and transfusions are usually only given when the count drops below 70 so the oncologist is being cautious but providing more evidence of the excellent care that Sue is being given.

We now await a new appointment to begin the 2nd cycle of treatment a week later than planned. I have since discovered that a low red blood cell count in addition to being another side effect of chemo is not helped by yet another side effect of loss of appetite which means you are not eating enough of the foods that increase red blood cell counts. It is like a Catch 22 situation for the body's immune system. Sue understands that she must fight her loss of appetite and eat more iron rich foods like Patricks Steak and Kidney pies!

Brexit

Depending on which paper you are reading there is either pessimism that the Boris proposal for a deal to leave the EU will succeed or optimism. It is actually possible just to read the headline to know which newspaper it is. So the Grauniad (the Guardian) says "Dismay in Brussels as Boris Johnson finally reveals Brexit plan" and the Torygraph (the Telegraph) says "Labour MP's suggest they will help it pass through Commons".

The Independent says "EU concerned over Boris Johnson's 'problematic' Brexit plan" while the Express tells us "Juncker reacts to Boris's Brexit plan -Boost for PM as EU gives green light to proposals". Meanwhile the Sun who does have a political editor of some repute in Tom Newton Dunn as well as Rod Liddle who is always worth a read says "Jean-Claude Juncker agrees to open talks on 'determined' Boris Johnson's 11th hour Brexit plan" while the Times says "Brussels keeps Johnson guessing on Brexit deal".

If you are confused, as I was, at Rod Liddle's membership of the Social Democratic Party then see here for more on that subject...

Sue has me reading Philip Kerr. She has read all his books. Kerr, a Scot from Edinburgh, wrote over thirty books and I am reading one of the last he wrote before he died last year of bladder cancer. His famous fictional character was Bernie Gunther, a German detective from East Berlin, but Kerr must have been a Brexiteer in real life from what he writes in 'Greeks Bearing Gifts' his last but one novel about Bernie.

But if Konrad Adenauer was anything to go by, it was really a coup d'état by a group of politicians who did not believe in democracy, and we were being guided towards a Soviet system of Europe without anyone understanding what was planned. Hitler could have certainly taken a lesson from the old man. It was not the men with guns who were going to rule the world but businessmen like Alois Alzheimer and Philipp Dietrich with their slide rules and actuarial tables, and thick books full of obscure new laws in three different languages.

The foregoing extract is set in 1957 when the EEC was in the process of being formed. Bernie has a new job as a claims adjuster for big insurance company and he is philosophising about the enthusiasm for this new system from the company's senior management.
Kerr was educated at a grammar school in Northampton. He studied at the University of Birmingham from 1974 to 1980, gaining a master's degree in law and philosophy. I know I am reading fiction but it could be fact.

RWC 2019 Mon 7th Oct.

A lot has happened since my last comments a week ago but if you are interested in my take on the tournament and the Mitre 10 Cup games here in New Zealand then please click here...

As I write it has just been announced that the England v France and the NZ v Italy games are cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis on Saturday. This will have no real influence on the quarter finals outcome for France and England other than to ensure that Australia will almost certainly play England and France will play Wales. The only drawback might be that England and France might not be as 'properly cooked' as Oz and Wales but then New Zealand is completely undercooked after their pool games.

A decision will be made on the Scotland v Japan game early on Sunday morning local time after the Typhoon has passed through Tokyo. Cancellation of that will mean that Scotland will not progress further in the competition and Japan will end up qualifying with 16 points. They could end up pool winners depending on the result from the Ireland v Samoa game on Saturday.
Ireland will need a bonus point win to equal Japan but the tournament rules state that "the winner of the Match in which the two tied Teams have played each other shall be the higher ranked". As Japan beat Ireland in their pool game then they will be top and Ireland must be runner-up whatever the result unless they were to lose when Scotland would go through. The likelihood now is that Ireland will play the Blacks in the quarter final and what a game that will be.

RWC 2019 Mon 14th Oct.

The tournament will progress next weekend to the knockout stage quarter finals and we now know the teams that will contest those for a place in the semi finals. We can also hypothesize as to who is likely to make the final. There have been some surprises in the final pool game results but if you have no interest in the contest for one of the finest sporting trophies in the world the please leave this web site and do not click here....

International Visitors

We drove up to Auckland to collect No 1 Granddaughter Eliza and her Welsh friend Emily off a plane from Melbourne. On the way we stopped off at Terri and Byron's place for a catch up for a couple of hours. As we left Terri presented us with a veggie quiche (not a 'quicky' as President Bush once pronounced it) for Emily who is a vegetarian as well as being Welsh.

We had pre-booked the car park at the airport and quickly found a disabled spot near the international arrivals, sat for half an hour waiting and failed to spot them emerging. Fortunately Liza spotted us so all was well and we drove back to Tauranga on a nice sunny evening.

Liza is doing a medical science Masters degree at Newcastle financed by the NHS in Bristol where she works and had to get experience of other hospitals as part of that course. She and Emily decided to gain that experience in the Antipodes. Liza has an Australian passport as my daughter Rebecca, her mother, was born there but had never used it in anger. After emailing over 100 hospitals she managed to obtain placements in some Oz hospitals but also here in Tauranga which was dead handy as Grandad could provide accommodation and was only 5 minutes drive from the hospital.

When Liza completes this Masters (her second) she hopes to obtain a position as a Cardiac Physiologist. She has to work at the hospital for the first week here but Emily is now on holiday. She is a Vascular Scientist and already has a Masters but is doing this other one to obtain more knowledge. She has already been offered a position in Sydney which she is considering. New Zealand is short of Cardiac Physiologists so Liza might be offered a tempting position as well.

Emi and Liza

The weather has been crap for the first two days but the forecast now is for a few days good weather so we can show them both some of the Bay of Plenty attractions.

The sun shone again on Thursday and Liza arranged an afternoon off from the hospital so Grandad and Emily joined her to climb Mount Maunganui. The slide show below contains photos taken during the day.

I climbed it last with Chris Hockey who recorded his last will and testament on his phone on the way up. This time I was with two fit birds and I must admit I struggled a bit to keep up especially as the most physical activity since then was mowing the lawns which I had done that morning!
We left Sue in the car then after the climb we collected her and all walked along the seafront boardwalk. The girls dipped their toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time followed by hokey pokey ice cream.

On Friday I dropped the girls off at the end of the Strand in Tauranga and they both went out on the town returning in a state of inebriation in the early hours so that they were both suffering various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects on Saturday which I suspect these two trainee physiologists completely understood. Never the less they managed to overcome the experience for a visit to the Tauranga Farmers Market before we all went up to Katikati. We left Sue in the care of her sister Maryanne while the rest of us went on to Waihi Beach and walked the 2.2km to Orokawa Bay where we picnicked underneath the old Pohutakawa trees (we were still eating Terri's quiche).

Liza took loads of photos on the walk and a few of them are in the slide show above. They have hired a car and have gone off to Taupo for a couple of days. In the meantime a very important event took place on the Saturday evening. England met Orstralia in the quarter finals of the RWC.
Unfortunately Emily is Welsh (otherwise she is a lovely girl) and she point blank refused to wear an English jersey for the occasion so I lent her my Lions jersey which at least was red and had a quarter Welsh badge! In return I told her I would barrack for Wales when they play France who I would always support unless they are playing England and expected no less from her! She agreed but feared her father would never forgive her!

Emi, Roger and Liza ready to cheer on England Rugby

Sue took our photo of us in our rugby gear before the game started and managed to get us all in the shot! I will be commenting fully on all the games later but suffice at this stage to rejoice as a patriotic Englishman that we stuffed they Ozzies in right royal fashion and that our Oz friends have gone very quiet. I have a lovely warm feeling every time we stuff they Wobblies which we have done on the last three occasions and particularly when we knock them out of the RWC. It sort of makes up for them retaining the Ashes.
Poor old Cheika was almost weeping as Ozzies do tend to do when they lose but our Ozzie Eddie could not keep the smile off his face!

RWC 2019 Mon 21st Oct.

You now have the option to read my comments on the quarter finals of the RWC but if you are Orstralian or Irish or French or Japanese you may not wish to click here...

RWC 2019 Mon 28th Oct.

I predicted that if the All Blacks continued to play as they had done so far that England would lose the semi final against them. Well England prevented them playing their usual attacking game with a rushed defence that completely overwhelmed them and put them on the back foot from the start.
Eddie Jones decision to bring back George Ford at fly half was a master stroke and he kept the action almost exclusively in the AB's half. His drop kicks and place kicking were faultless apart from one failed attempt at a drop goal. Beauden Barrett at full back kept clearing his lines by kicking the ball out giving possession back to England while George just kicked it back to his forwards in the AB's half who were magnificent.

England challenges the Haka

Maro Itoji was the man of the match, dominating the lineout and wreaking havoc in the midfield along with flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry.
England began by forming a 'V' for Victory formation in front of the Haka then kicked off and sliced through the Kiwi defence like a knife through butter putting Manu Tuilagi over for a try in the first couple of minutes. The AB's hardly managed to get the ball and when they did they were quickly turned over. England had two tries disallowed by the TMO or the final score might have been more and the only score the AB's managed was a converted try which was the result of Englands only line out mistake on their 5 metre line when Jamie George threw to the tail and Courtney Lawes couldn't reach it. Ardie Savea caught it and dived over.

Brodie Retallick v Maro Itoji - no contest!

The Blacks were still chasing the game and giving away penalties which England converted into goals so at the death England won it 19-7. Graham Henry was interviewed at half time and thought England would tire in the second half and the AB's would come good but he was so wrong. All our friends and rellies here in NZ were texting and emailing before the game with confident predictions of big score margins and they were right except they had the wrong team. They have now gone strangely quiet and are enduring a period of great sorrow!

I managed to watch the other semi between Wales and the Boks until the break and almost fell asleep from boredom. Could have been at Wimbledon and I hate tennis. I went to bed saying to Sue "it doesn't matter who wins that game they won't beat England in the final". I woke to discover Wales had lost by 3 points thanks to a penalty kick from Handré Pollard in the closing minutes.

In 2007 I was in Paris and watched the Boks beat us in the RWC final so they probably think they can do it again in Japan. That 2007 English team bears no resemblance to this one who have just beaten the worlds best and have the ability to take over that mantle. Most of the English team are young and have yet to reach their peak so we should be able to look forward to a few more years of repeat performances like yesterday.

International Visitors

Emi and Liza hired a car from Rent-a-Dent and took off to Rotorua and Taipo for a couple of days. On their return we set off for Raglan where we had rented a little Batch. On arrival we found our way to Bridal Falls which after some heavy rain was in full spate as you can see from the adjacent slide show.

The plan was to visit the Waitomo Glowworm Cave the next day then drive a circular scenic route back. On arrival the girls booked a trip which took 3/4 hours including a boat ride through the cave which Sue and I had seen some 40 years previous.
When we were last here the glowworm cave was the only show cave and had just a ticket office but now has a modern visitor centre and they charge you $55 for the privilege of visiting! There are also several more show caves which charge you an even bigger arm and leg to visit!
We waited for them in the visitor centre cafe which was semi open to the elements. It was cold with driving rain blowing in so we retreated to the car until they returned and cancelled the scenic trip which would have taken three hours for the hour and 20 minute return drive back the way we came.

We ate out both nights at the Orca Restaurant in Raglan which was excellent and catered for Emi's veggie diet while the beer battered fish and chips were quite the crispiest I have yet eaten.

Our next destination was Auckland where we rented an apartment in a delightful old weatherboard property in the suburb of Ponsonby within walking distance of the city centre. We all went out to the Food Court which has a selection of mainly Asian street food at very reasonable prices.

Auckland CBD from Ponsonby Road

The next day the weather was fine and sunny so while the girls explored the town I pushed Sue in her wheelchair up and down past the fleshpots of Ponsonby road and in the evening we indulged in a New York style pizza pie from Opolitos just around the corner from our apartment washed down with some sparkling Rosé our hosts had provided before once again donning our rugby shirts and watching England gob the All Blacks!

The girls had a 6am flight to Sydney the next day so they took a taxi to the airport as we slept before travelling back to Tauranga rejoicing! Not only did England beat the AB's but our Barf boys managed to beat Executer at the rec so all is well. Oh and I nearly forgot the Steamers who did the business on Hawkes Bay in the final and won the NZ Championship so will be promoted to the NZ Premiership.

RWC Final 2019 Sat 2nd Nov.

Most of the rugby world expected England to win the World Cup. I thought the Boks would be no match for England in the form they were in but the Boks completely outplayed them. I can still not understand how the same team can play so differently from one week to the next. I suppose the game against the AB's was the mirror of this one as the Kiwi's are still trying to understand why their team played so badly against an admittedly better England team on the night.

Such is the attraction of the game of Rugby in that you are never quite sure who might win. Eddie Jones was also mystified with his teams performance. Last week England won all their scrums and lineouts. This week they lost most and the Boks capitalised big time. I lost count of the number of England scrum penalties within kicking distance of their own posts from which Handré Pollard kicked goals. Then you had bad passes from Ben Youngs et al, kicks out on the full from George Ford, knock ons from Daley et al and turnovers galore, things which rarely happened the previous week?

England were still in with a chance after 60 minutes until two tries in the last quarter from the Boks sealed their victory 12-32, perhaps that score not reflecting the closeness of the game for most of the time. The Boks deserved their victory and did not play aerial ping pong like they did against Wales but physically beat England to a standstill and excelled at the set pieces.

As Bro Phil texted me after the game that is 8-1 to the Southern Hemisphere and we must wait 4 years for another crack at it in France. I have also lost my $20 bet with Bro Fred that a Northern Hemisphere team would win it this year and expect even he is scratching his head to understand why. And to cap it all Barf lost to they Waspies 30-22!

Chris Hockey

UK Election.

You may have read that the UK is having an election on my Birthday. As a New Zealand resident I can vote in UK elections and referendums for 15 years after leaving so as I am approaching 79 years of age that should do me!

For any other ex-patriots who would like to get their mother country out of the political mess it is in you can apply on line for a postal vote which is what I did. The Cheltenham Borough Council, where I was last registered to vote, responded by email and suggested I appoint a proxy to vote for me thereby saving time in posting forms overseas.

This I did and my mate Chris Hockey, who I hope can be trusted to record a vote for the person I select, has agreed to do the business.
You can see a photo of Chris adjacent who is now much older and rotund than the photo. Wasn't he a nice little boy!

Palmerston North

At last we made it to Balmy Palmie and for the most part it was exceedingly balmy. We motored down in the record time (for me) of five hours including a stop for lunch at Waiouru. Mount Ruapehu, the highest in the North Island at 2,797 m, was snow capped as usual and in bright sunshine. We enjoyed the journey and took Sue's sister Maryanne with us on this occasion.

Sue and I stayed with our friends Mary and John Croxson who have a wheelchair friendly house but we didn't use the chair or the wheeler as Sue has graduated to using two sticks to get around. Maryanne stayed with her mother who is now 93 years of age and still living alone in her own house.
We went shopping with her for our Christmas presents of Possum Merino cardies from Manawatu Knitting Mills as at this time of year they sell much of their stock at half price.

Maori carved rock at Hokowhitu Reserve

I joined John on his morning constitutional every day and discovered places in Palmie I didn't know existed like the Esplanade which is really a big botanic garden alongside the Manawatu River and the Maori carved rock at the Hokowhitu Reserve.
The Esplanade has a miniature railway running through it and play areas for kids. Sue used to live quite nearby in Botanical Road and remembers picnics, swimming in the river and playing here. She also used to train back stroke swimming every morning in the Lido swimming pool which is unheated and could be knackers cold some days!!

The Manawatu River is 180km long and rises on the East side of the Ruahine range, flows South then cuts through the Ruahine to flow past Palmie and out to sea on the West coast, the only river in New Zealand to cross the dividing ranges. It has a flow second only to the Waikato river which takes all the water from Lake Taupo. The Manawatu River has flooded many times in the recent past so there are now huge dykes to protect the city.

The Ruahine range has hundreds of wind turbines along the tops which the Palmyites seem to love whereas I think they spoil the view of the only range of mountains in sight.
We spent a day with Mike & Diane over in Wanganui where we relaxed in their lovely garden and were fed royally.
The Wanganui city and river which rises on Mount Tongariro has been spelt that way since 1854 but in 2009 the NZ Geographic Board recommended it be changed to Whanganui much to the disgust of the natives. To confuse things even further there is a Wanganui River spelt that way on the South Island and still is.

Mike, Diane, Maryanne & Sue

Four of the ten board members of the NZGB quango are nominated by Maori organisations and it seems to spend its time changing place names at the behest of the Maori who have decided it is the wrong name as they were here first - so there! I expect they were responsible for naming New Zealand 'Aotearoa' which means 'the land of the long white cloud' and Mount Cook ' Aorangi or Aoraki'. Even the Maori are unsure how to spell it as different tribes pronounced it differently. All Sir Edmund Hillary was concerned with was "knocking the bastard off"!

Anne's Xmas Tree

In Wanganui's case the government said you could spell it either way but the problem is that 'Wh' is pronounced like an 'f' so to a foreigner you could be talking about two different places. They have the same problem in Scotland. In Aberdeenshire even the pronunciation of words spelt exactly the same in England can not be understood by sassenachs (The Scottish and Irish Gaelic name for Saxons) when spoken by native Aberdonians. In NZ they even give you a choice of spelling and pronunciation.

The government in their wisdom also declared that although we could spell it either way, all government agencies must spell it 'Whanganui' so if you are parsing a government document for 'Wanganui' you might not find it!
It took until 2017 to change 'Wanganui District' to 'Whanganui District' and most locals still refuse to use the new spelling or pronunciation.
I have no objection to changing existing Maori place names to what is conceived as the correct spelling but if the Pakeha want to call it something different like in Wales where you have Welsh and English place names then why not?

Our final day was spent with Jon, Sue's step-brother and his wife Anne who is a Christmas fanatic and already has her house in the first stages of decoration. The adjacent photo is of her Christmas tree which has a thousand flashing lights and God knows how many baubles. Then there are all sorts of other Christmas objects around the house and she has yet to start on the hangings! That's Maryanne behind the tree who is also a Christmas fanatic but Sue and I are still unable to get into the Christmas spirit due to it being summertime next month and we have been here nearly a year.

We all went out to a Thai restaurant on our last night in Palmie. The drive back the next day was good as far as the Desert Road but then the rain came down in biblical proportions. Once down to Lake Taupo the sun came out again and we had lunch there, arriving home late afternoon.

English Premiership Rugby

The Gallagher Premiership began almost unnoticed while we were all still absorbed with the RWC. After three games Northampton Saints were unbeaten at the top and my Barf lot were festering at the bottom. Saracens meanwhile were found guilty of exceeding the salary cap, fined millions and docked 35 points which should take them to the bottom!
To make things worse Barf had to play the Saints at the rec in the fourth round so if you are interested in the result then click here...

England v New Zealand Test Series

The first game of the two test match series was played for the first time ever at Tauranga. The Bay Oval is at Mount Maunganui in a picturesque spot adjacent to an industrial port area. If you look beyond the port you do have a backdrop of the Mount itself with cruise ships coming and going. It is a lovely ground in the early stages of development as a test venue with no grandstands and just a sloping grass embankment all round for spectators so a camp chair is required for comfort.

Mount Maunganui

The weather turned nice just in time for the match with low twenties for the first two games and hotting up to the high twenties as the match progressed. New Zealand is currently ranked 2nd in the world with England 3rd. The former have been unbeatable at home lately so began as favourites but if test cricket to you is like watching paint dry then do not click here...

44 years Wedding Anniversary

Sue and I were married in Edinburgh 44 years ago on 24th November 1975 and we are still together so you could say we have made a success of it. We tied the knot in Queen Street register office with John and Jill Manchip as our witnesses then retired to a little Spanish restaurant in Rose Street for our wedding breakfast until the restaurant threw us out when they closed for the afternoon after several bottles of Cava. We then retired to my office in George Street for a wee drammmie poo with Jeanette, my secretary, before moving on to our house in Corstorphine.

Sue, Roger and Jill Manchip at the wedding breakfast

The adjacent photograph is of Sue, me and Jill Manchip at our wedding breakfast.

Sue was going to prepare a meal for us all so John and I decided we needed further refreshment at the local where we downed a couple more pints. On our return home we found both girls in bed together asleep. Sue had cooked a stew with dumplings that were hard as rocks and inedible so I began to wonder if marriage had been the right decision?!
After the meal we set off back into town where we met all our friends in the Golf Tavern in Bruntsfield where much ale was consumed. I then drove home as you did in those days with little or no blood in my alcohol stream.

I remember when Goon (Alan Jeffries) was married at the first wet wedding ever in the Waverly Hotel I drove down Princes Street well over the limit with the sun roof open and 4 passengers with their heads out of every window singing the 23rd psalm in harmony. Those were the days of police pointsmen at every intersection and they all knew that Goon, who was a fellow officer, was just married so they stopped all the traffic for us.
I know it sounds irresponsible today but it was common practice in those days and I always seemed to drive better and more carefully with a skinfull! Every accident I have had I have always been stone cold sober! Nowadays I do not drink and drive and shudder at the risks we took then.

Anns quilt

Ann Asmus who we visited in Balmy Palmie sent Sue the lovely quilt which is pictured above. This was just a nice present after Sue had admired her quilts but it will do nicely as an anniversary present.
We had a quiet day at home here in Tauranga apart from a visit from Maryanne and Fred who delivered a nice cake. It was 28 degrees here and and we celebrated with nice big fillet steaks from the Bethlehem Butcher in defiance of those vegans who have added a poster saying "eating animals" to the stop sign at the end of our road.

A Blast from the Past

Via Ferrata suspension bridge

I was rifling though some old photograph albums recently and came upon the one above. Mike Palmer and me were quite partial to the Italian Via Ferrata back in the 70's and 80's. The name means literally 'Iron Way' and they were constructed by the Italian mountain troops during the first world war, mainly in the Dolomites, of which there are over 200.

The one pictured above was on the front line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops in WW1. It is called Via Ferrata Brigata Tridentina which was an Italian army infantry brigade specialising in mountain warfare. Soldiers would live permanently on these exposed mountain ridges so guns had to be hauled up and the men provisioned with food and amunition. We often found the bunkers and dinkum dunnies where if you looked down between your legs while defecating you might get vertigo but building this suspension bridge certainly required engineers with a head for heights! At the highest point on the ridge you reach about 2500m.

Since our Via Ferrata exploits many such assisted climbing ascents have been constructed in many other countries and routes such as the Via Ferrata Brigata Trindentina have been commercialised for tourism and upgraded with modern attachments so that so long as you have a head for heights anyone can do them. In our day this route was graded fairly difficult for the initial ascent with the second part technically demanding and extrordinarily airy. It was only for mountaineers really free of vertigo and accustomed to rock, in good weather from mid July. We did it after being turned back on another route by heavy snow.

I never failed to be amazed on these high level routes at finding groups of kids singing, parents handing toddlers up and down vertical faces and Nuns traversing glaciers in full regalia plus climbing boots and ice axe of course!

TECT Trust

It was twenty-six years ago that the sale of a Bay of Plenty power company sparked the formation of TECT. Today there would be few people in our region who haven't been positively impacted by the funding decisions of the trust. As clients of power company Trustpower who provide our electricity, broadband and phone service and as residents of Tauranga we qualify for a yearly rebate from our trustpower account funded from the trust current investment portfolio.

The rebate for us this year is $553 which is our share of the $30 million being shared among approximately 56,000 eligible beneficiaries of TECT. It is paid from TECT's capital and therefore is not taxable. The amount varies according to your total spend with Trustpower. Considering we were given a free washing machine when we signed up with Trustpower and the rates for the various services are roughly equal to most other providers I reckon we have done alright.

TECT is now a diversified investment trust with $1 billion of funds at its disposal, one of the largest in the country, and has a 26.8% shareholding in Trustpower. TECT also funds events and projects in the community and has so far funded a total of $115 million of grants to the community since its inception. For example it granted $2.5 million towards the development of the Bay Oval so we now have international cricket in Tauranga. How brilliant is that!
If you are interested in learning more about TECT then here is a link and if you are a Bay of Plenty resident, here is a link to Trustpower.

English Premiership Rugby Round 5

There is one round of Premiership Rugby squeezed in between the European Cup games which begin again on December 6th with Bath v Clermont Auvergne at the rec. Barf have had some success in previous games at the rec against Sarries so if you are an optimist, and you have to be to qualify as a Barf supporter, you can discover the result here...

It is officially summer now here in New Zealand so here is a new page. where you can read something of the 2nd test between England and NZ at Hamilton and my take on the UK general election.

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