Summer 2018

Summer 2018/19 in New Zealand


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Bronze sculptures on Tauranga sea front

Our first weeks of summer in Tauranga were warm but very, very rainy although the end of Spring when we arrived was almost perfect as the above photo of the sculptures on Tauranga sea front shows. New Zealand is a very green place so it needs plenty of rain but it was excessive and I expect that is down to global warming!!
Auckland received 31.4mm of rain in just one hour on 4th December. It was also the second wettest summer hour on record, only surpassed by a wetter hour on January 8, 1975.

"See gooder, visit us!".
Ad on Optometrist car in Tauranga

Our first two weeks were largely spent searching for a house to rent and you can see the successful result on the previous page. We will move in on 21st December.
Good rental property is in short supply here and we saw lots of properties which were unacceptable for various reasons. We were eventually fortunate to find a 3 bed roomed house owned by a young couple who are renting privately rather than through an agent so we can deal direct with our landlords.
The house is about 5 minutes drive to a big New World supermarket at Brookfield or a 20 minute walk. There is a small supermarket, which they call a "superette" here, a 10 minute walk away with a fish and chip shop next door. The city centre is about a 10 minute drive.

We could get no response to our email requests for the shipping status of our household effects from our removers, Doree Bonner in England, so I contacted The Moving Company who will deliver them once they arrive by container in Auckland. They did get a response and all our worldly possessions are still in Dartford awaiting shipment so it looks like we will be camping in our new home! We have ordered beds so will at least have somewhere to sleep.

The weather finally improved for us to get out walking. Sue Cox took us on an interesting walk through native bush and attractive urban areas of Otumoetai. We walked along the Waikareao Estuary bush track then turned up over Grange Road before dropping down a little valley to Vale Street and along beside the golf course before stopping for coffee in Bureta Road.


We concluded our walk after coffee by walking along the harbour front admiring Phil Collins house in the process of being sold and where I took the photo in the slide show above of a big German container ship leaving port and Mount Maunganui. An alternative would be to join the Waikareao Estuary bush track again at Maxwells Road. The walk took under two hours including the coffee stop.

Big tree fern on Waikareao Walkway.

The other photo in the slide show is of the Waikareao boardwalk which is further along the estuary past the Grange Road turn off which we explored another day.

New Zealand has some different ways of doing things as you would expect and we are in the process of learning. We have to organise ourselves with electricity and gas supplies plus telephone and broadband internet so were please to find Trustpower who can provide the lot. Not only that but if you sign up for a 24 month contract they give you a brand new Samsung washing machine which we needed so we did.

Christmas is of course very different here because it is hot weather and The New Zealand Christmas tree is the Pohutakawa which is just coming into bloom.
They still dress up as Father Christmas and sing carols though and we went to a carol concert in Tauranga Art Gallery where we were surprised at the excellence of the Tauranga Civic Choir.
This time last year we were in Birmingham Symphony Hall for a carol concert with The Sixteen and for an amateur choir this lot would take some beating.
When we left that Birmingham concert our train was delayed and we nearly froze to death on New Street Station and both finished up in bed with bad colds. This time we walked back to our car in 25°C sunshine!

Tauranga Civic Choir carol concert in the Art Gallery.

Tauranga is approaching a population of 140,000 and is currently the fifth biggest city in New Zealand after Hamilton which had 160,000 in 2016. Our last home was in Cheltenham, UK, which had a similar population but is not classed as a city as it does not have a cathedral. Tauranga is expected to soon overtake Hamilton in size and is already the country's largest port both in terms of total cargo volume and container throughput.
60 years ago Tauranga had a population of about 10,000 and it has grown due to port development and as desirable place to live thanks to it's equitable climate, stunning beaches and beautiful scenery.

We drove down to Balmy Palmie (Palmerston North) to spend a few days with Sue's Mum and to celebrate the 78th birthday of the webmaster of this fantastic web site. We took food and wine with us and entertained Sue's stepbrother Jon & his wife Ann. We were also entertained by The Croxons to dinner one night which included the lovely Colleen and much swinging of the lantern by the girls.
The slide show above features Joan's cat Bella investigating a hedgehog in her garden, a waterfall on the Mangawhero River, a Jacaranda tree, Christmas tree shaped Pohutukawa's in Tauranga and two butterflies copulating on our B&B patio!

Lake Taupo from the South.

We finished our visit by returning via Whanganui (now officially pronounced "fonganui" which most locals refuse to use) where we admired Mike & Diane's new property and it's beautiful garden before taking route 4 up to National Park, then around Lake Taupo clockwise to Tokaroa before heading over the Kaimai ranges to Tauranga, a six hour drive including stops.
The picture above is a view of Lake Taupo from the South.


We took possession of our new home in Tauranga on 21st December but we were still cat sitting Sevé for Derek & Glennis at KatiKati so our new landlords Jacob & Christine have agreed to feed Gary the resident cat until we finish at KatiKati on 27th December.

Gary the resident cat.

We had agreed, previous to getting the house rental, to another cat sitting contract in nearby Bethlehem which is only a 10 minute drive away so we will live away in a (rather luxurious) manger and bearing gifts we travel afar (though not very far) to Judea in the Christmas spirit each day to feed Gary for the first two weeks in the new year!
We have ordered a few pieces of furniture that we will need while we await all our household effects being shipped from England and our most optimistic current forecast of delivery is the end of February but we will have beds which should placate the Hockey's who arrive at the end of January and will not have to sleep on the carpet with Gary!

Pohutukawa trees - the New Zealand Christmas Tree.

When I am introduced as a new NZ resident the question is often asked "are you getting an All Black jersey for Christmas?" They still haven't got over Barnsie missing a forward pass by the French which led to their match winning try 11 years ago in Cardiff!! I am also asked how many times England has won a world cup just so they can then point out that the Blacks have won three and next year they are on a hat trick.
They forget that 7 years ago we had each won one and it took them 20 years to win the second at home by one point against France. Also we are all well aware that the Blacks are consistently the best team in the world so it is all the more satisfying to beat them. However they do accept that the Irish beat them fair and square in their last game this year and were the better side.

It would seem that your average Kiwi Rugby fan will never forgive or forget mistakes by referees and seem to have a blind spot when it comes to illegal play by the Blacks but are quick to criticise other sides misdemeanors. English supporters are not like that because we are so used to being disappointed in our national team. We accept the ref got it wrong in his offside decision when the winning England try was disallowed at Twickers last time!! We forgive him as some bad decisions are in your favour and some not but it evens out in the long run.

Christmas Day at the Okerse's began with "bubbles" while we opened all our little Christmas gifts to one another. I got an All Black key ring and a top end spanner while Fred was given a small square wooden block that he could walk around which he demonstrated to Paul and Merle when they turned up for a pre prandial wine or two. That was the only exercise he indulged in all day while we watched the live cricket 20/20 from Sydney on TV.

Sue's sister Maryanne just loves Christmas and reminded us both of Sue Syred who worked for us in our Somerset Deli for 16 years and used to sport flashing Christmas earrings and kiss all the customers. Maryanne takes Christmas a few stages further with a flashing necklace, reindeer earrings and the dinner table set with crackers, scratch cards, Christmas place mats and even a Christmas dinner set.

Then came the food which consisted of "nibbles" of savoury crackers and a cream cheese roulade with smoked salmon, peaches and herbs. The dinner entree was prawns, avocado and lettuce with a lightly curried mayonnaise then the main course followed consisting of Roast Ham and Chicken with stuffing wrapped in Bacon.
Sue and I did the veggies which were runner beans, asparagus, carrots, roast peppers and a celariac and potato dauphinoise. As if that wasn't enough we also bought along a cheese platter of local Mount Eliza Cheddar, a blue and a Brie then Maryanne served us ice cream cake and a fruit salad. We wuz stuffed!

We all sat back and let Fred play music video requests from YouTube on the TV while Michael, Sue's nephew, tortured fat boy Milo the cat!

We began house/cat sitting on New Years Eve in Bethlehem so we are commuting between Bethlehem and Judea like the three kings from the orient to feed Gary the cat twice a day. Flat packs of furniture were delivered so I have been busy assembling those. We now have something to put a cheap 24" TV we purchased in the Boxing Day sales for the princely sum of NZ$138 which was an improvement on the cardboard box it was balanced on before! We also have an office chair and desk awaiting a computer etc. still sitting in England with the rest of our household effects.

The holidays have delayed delivery of our broadband modem and washing machine so we are fortunate to have the use of both at our Bethlehem house. Thank goodness we decided not to ship our UK beds out. The grass at our house needs to be cut so our next purchase will be a motor mower and various gardening tools to maintain our rather large garden. A gas BBQ is also on the shopping list so we will be swelling Bunnings income stream.

Tauranga central.


We bought a motor mower at Bunnings for next to nothing and I mowed the estate lawns in 28°C. It took me three hours and several beers as most of it is on a slope and needs a certain amount of energy to haul the mower up and down the slope.

We discovered Grower Direct which was an wholesale plant nursery in Te Puna but is now open to the general public. Their prices are a fraction of garden centres and we purchased some garden pots and plants plus much free helpful advice about what to plant where in this area where all things grow fast which is why it is called the Bay of Plenty.
We now have Bouganvillea, and Passion Fruit planted to grow over the wooden fence, Jasmine to grow over the front arbour, three big porcelain pots planted with Gardenia, Herbs and a Lemon tree and four smaller pots with a selection of Fuschia of course.

Our UK removals company, Doree Bonner, wished us a happy new year and said they had some good news. That was that our household effects were loaded in a container ready to load on a vessel leaving the UK on 13th January with an ETA Auckland on 27th February.
Their original estimate door to door was 12 weeks maximum, changed later to 16 weeks maximum. Assuming the ship arrives in Auckland on 27th Feb and allowing 2 further weeks for customs clearance and transport to Tauranga we can assume the actual transit time will be 22 weeks from collection to arrival, 6 weeks later than their estimate.
We are not 'appy!

We also have a problem with Gary the cat. He made some strange yowling when he scratched himself and Sue noticed some blood splatter next to his feeding bowl. On closer inspection we thought he may have a cut on his mouth so we took him to the vet. $97 dollars later Gary was diagnosed with a possible cancerous growth in his mouth and booked in for a biopsy. Another $525 later we await the biopsy result with some trepidation.

So, all in all, the latest developments are not the best start to our new life in New Zealand.

Internet Connection

The house was already connected to a fibre cable which was more than we had in Cheltenham where GCHQ monitors communications worldwide yet where most locals still have copper wire!
We had signed up with Trustpower for high speed broadband but they asked us to phone UFF (Ultra Fast Fibre) to ask them make a quick connection which they did before 5pm that day.

After the Christmas and New Year holidays, Trustpower took a bit of pushing to get a us a router which took 12 working days but was free except for a small delivery charge and it eventually arrived left on the doorstep by the courier.

Bethleham cactus.
The fibre cable terminates in a box they call an ONT (Optical Network Terminal) for which we did not have a power cable but were quickly supplied after a phone call to Trustpower. Then you connect your ONT to the router using an Ethernet cable (supplied) from the LAN1 port on the ONT to the blue WAN port on the router, switch on the power to both, and low and behold you are on line.
We also now have a landline phone number but we are not using it yet as our handsets are with our other household effects still in England. There are two phone sockets on the ONT for this purpose.

One thing we have noticed about NZ is the various phone help lines are well manned and staffed by knowledgable people who speak proper English whereas in the UK you usually get Bombay Sid or Cairo Connie sitting thousands of miles from England whose English is often difficult to understand.
Possibly due to the much smaller population here they are also much quicker to answer your call but the courier services need to improve. None of them seem to give you notice of when they will deliver and they either leave the stuff outside or if a signature is required and you are out they leave a card.

They would save themselves a lot of extra expense by informing you of delivery times so you can arrange to be home.
We are now waiting for Trustpower to deliver our free new washing machine and hope they will give us notice as I do not fancy shifting that into place on my own.

Gary on my desk.

Gary the cat loves company and as you can see from the above shot he sits on my desk. He then proceeds to wander around the desk, frequently head butting me while I am trying to type and stepping on my cell phone loading apps in the process!

Unfortunately the result from the biopsy on Gary the cat was not good and the growth in his mouth is a particularly aggressive cancer. The vet gave us three options; to cut away half his mouth to try and eliminate all the cancer cells, to just cut out the growth or to put him down.

We were not inclined to subject him to the first two options irrespective of the additional expense and with the agreement of his former carers have elected to keep him on pain killers until such time we judge he becomes too ill when we will have him put down.

The weather here in Tauranga continues hot day after day in the high twenties but pales into insignificance with those of parts of Australia in the high forties!
We have some strange bugs on the trunks of our Yucca trees as you can see from the adjacent slide show. They remain in the same place day after day and are translucent in appearance.
They never move because these bugs were subsequently identified as the dried "skin" or exoskeleton of the cicada nymph by brother-in-law Mike Keaney who has some previous on this sort of subject!

Trustpower have now said that delivery of our new washing machine will take up to four weeks which is a bit naughty as the original deal was 20 working days from the start of the service on 21st December so we now take all our washing to the Laundromat. It is like being back on Harmonie!

AIS ship location

All our worldly goods are now on the container ship NYK Eagle which, as I write, is now doing 19.2 knots just North of Tunis heading for Suez where she is due on 22nd January. You can follow her progress by clicking the link above as we do daily!! If you click on the green "track" button on the map above you can see her progress in the previous 24 hours. If you put your cursor on the map, left click and move the map to the left you will uncover a +/- scale button so you can increase or decrease the map scale or close the vessel details box.

The vessel location is determined by AIS (Automatic Identification System) which is what we installed on our Dutch Barge Harmonie. Each vessel has a transponder which sends out a VHF radio signal every few seconds giving details about the ship, her speed, course, position, destination etc. Land based tracking stations relay this information by VHF and with the appropriate software on your computer you can see where all the vessels around you are as an aid to navigation.

The VHF signal has a range of about 15 nautical miles so only vessels within this range can be located but there is now also an AIS system which is satellite based and enables you to see ships all over the world. Various web sites display this information free of charge but there is a time lag between the time the vessel sends the data and when it is displayed so it can not be used for real time navigation unless you subscribe for continuous transmission.

Data transmitted by VHF when the vessel is close to land is usually updated on web sites in real time but satellite data can be many hours old so I could track NYK Eagle in real time through the Suez canal but there are few, if any, tracking stations down the Red Sea so she is lost to me until the next Satellite update.

Stogursey Wassail Queen

Stogursey Wassail Queen.

The photo above is of the Wassail Queen of Stogursey in Somerset who also happens to be my number two granddaughter Matilda!
Somerset cider is well known and Wassail was a medieval drinking ritual to ensure a good apple harvest next year. In recent years it has seen a resurgence, principally to promote sales of cider! The name derives from the old Norse dialect "ves heil" meaning "good health" or in old English "hál" meaning "hale".

Kiwi's cooling off at McLaren Falls.

The Orstralian heatwave has now arrived in New Zealand as have the Hockey's and we celebrated their arrival by B-B-Q-ing a chicken on my new rotisserie. Unfortunately I tied up the choock with plastic string which melted and dripped on to the potatoes roasting underneath which were undercooked so all in all a bit of a disaster!

We took them up to McLaren Falls Park on a bank holiday Monday when half of Tauranga was out cooling off in the rock pools of the Wairoa River.

Waterfall at McLaren Falls Park.
The temperature is in the low thirties every day now and we walked up the waterfall track, detoured up the Nikau track to admire the scenic views which were not that scenic then back down the glow worm track which were not visible until it gets dark.

Chris Hockey was soundly beaten at golf by my brother-in-law Fred the last time he was in New Zealand eight years ago so challenged him to a grudge match on Fred's Katikati course.

Two of Fred's golfing mates, Don and Rex, made up a foursome and they all went round in their buggy's while I walked the course recording the highlights on my camera and offering golfing advice which was not always received politely!

Chris managed to lose handsomely so was obliged to buy the beer while our wives were confined to Tauranga awaiting delivery of our free washing machine which finally arrived at 4-30pm. The day concluded with dinner at the Talisman pub in Katikati.

The slide show below features some of the golf match, some frolicking in the surf on Waihi beach and McLaren Falls Park.

Sue with Chips and Wine at Bobby's.
It cooled down to the mid twenties and we walked round the Waikareao walkway where a Heron took an interest in us and we managed to see some Pukeko's, Chris's favourite bird apart from Carol of course.
Gary the cat appreciated the temperature drop and found a new perch on to of the BBQ. He continues to thrive despite his imminent demise.

After our walk Chris insisted on buying us all a round of drinks so we ended up in Tauranga Post Office. This 1906 building has been converted to a boutique Hotel & Bistro called The Clarence so we drank designer beer and ate Hashtag chips (see slideshow below for an explanation) and Chris complained about the price!

Late afternoon saw us eating Hapuku (a bit like cod only better) and chips at Bobby's fish market on the quay. We took a cold bottle of wine and bought enough fish to feed us and Gary but failed to finish two scoops of chips which were a proper job having been cooked in pure beef fat which was NOT gluten free and had NO preservatives!!
On the right is a picture of Sue using two chips to make a rude sign to Chris who is taking the photo.

'Ockey decided he wanted to climb up Mount Maunganui. He did it eight years ago and I did warn him it was a tough climb in these temperatures but he insisted so we drove over and set off up the landward side which is an easier climb. It is only 760 feet above sea level but you have to climb all 760 feet as you start at sea level.

Our ladies gave up just below the water tank which had been painted in 2017 with a Mãori murial to use a Brissle expression which you can see in the slide show below. Graham Hoete, aka Mr G was the Tauranga artist responsible who has painted many such murals around the city.

As Chris and I continued the climb a big German feeder container ship slipped into port below us and Chris also slipped further behind so that I had to wait about twenty minutes at the top before he finally appeared saying he was totally exhausted but in much more colorful language. In fact he had recorded his last message on his phone to Carol saying if he did not return she would know why!

On his arrival at the summit he offered me a cold sausage and I was admonished when I refused as he had carried that sausage all that way for nothing so I had to eat it so I did. He then complained all the way down on the number of steps until a tasty young briefly clad nubile passed us running up the hill.

Finally we were unable to find a pub until we had collected our ladies and driven into downtown Mount Maunganui where we found the inevitable Irish bar. The Irish can always be relied upon to provide sustenance to thirsty travellers around the world. Our day out was concluded with a good Indian meal at Great Spice in Buretta Road.

We drove from te Puna up the Minden Road to Minden Peak where you have a nice view across the bay then we went on up to the Leveret Estate Winery just South of Katikati where we met Judy who had recently house sat in Somerset. She poured us generous tastings of the various wines and we topped up our collection of their Falconhead Hawkes Bay Gewertztraminer which was a steal at $12. They have a range of 14 different brands to suit all budgets and tastes. They own vineyards in Hawkes Bay and Malborough where the grapes are pressed then brought up to Katikati by tanker to make the wine.

Falconhead Hawkes Bay Gewertztraminer.

Outside on the dreaded SH2 main road, traffic was at a standstill due to a serious two car head on collision and the helicopter was called to lift a seriously injured person to hospital. This road is reckoned to be the most dangerous road in NZ due to the number of fatal crashes and on the way back we were diverted about 20 miles when another accident blocked the road. Altogether there were 4 serious accidents and one fatality around Tauranga over that weekend.

I am not surprised at the high accident rate but it is not all down to the state of the roads. The driving standard seems to have degenerated over the years we have been coming here. There seems to be little regard for speed limits and tailgaiting seems to be a national sport! Our friend Byron up in Auckland blames the poor driving on the "little pricks" by which he means the Chinese who he says "do not know how to drive" but I have not noticed instances of poor driving being due to ethnicity!

We all watched the first games of the Six Nations Rugby and were of course very pleased with England beating Ireland 20-32 in Dublin. It was a great test match where England physically dominated and Ireland made too many uncharacteristic mistakes. England's line speed kept Ireland on the back foot who were continually forced to commit too many to the breakdown leaving England to spin the ball wide in attack or kick ahead to a clear field so play was kept in the Irish half.

Wales had a lucky win against France who dominated the first half in Paris but Wales capitalised on many French mistakes in the second half and George North intercepted a poor pass in the closing minutes to put Wales ahead at the finish 19-24. Scotland beat Italy of course 33-20 at Murrayfield, Italy scoring three tries in the last 10 minutes. We now hear Scottish prophesies of a grand slam final at Twickers when they meet England. We shall see but they have to beat Ireland first which might be a bit harder than Italy!

I will not comment on England's cricket in the Windies because it is too horrible to describe but I should just mention that Barf Rugby did beat Glaws 52-0 at the Rec in a seven try-fest premiership cup match with Roco scoring four of them.
The Hockey's left us to drive down to Napier where they will spend a week before motoring down to Wellington and across the Cook Straight to Picton on the South Island. We will see them again in Pauanui at the end of February before they return to the UK.

The Treaty Of Waitangi

February 6 is Waitangi Day in New Zealand and is a public holiday. As a new resident here I was interested to find out more.
It was a treaty between the British colonial government and about 40 Mãori chiefs who signed on 6th February 1840 and subsequently signed by over 500 others when it was circulated around the country in the English and Mäori languages. The problem then seems to have been that the Brits, who the Mãori call Pakeha, had a different interpretation/translation to the Mäori of what the treaty actually said which was supposed to heal divisions.

At any rate over 20 years later they were still fighting each other in a series of pitch battles all over the North Island. I am told that the Mãori represent only about 15% of the inhabitants these days and that there are no true blood Mäori left alive.
Certainly many of the so called Mãori activists you see on the TV seem to be more ethnically Pakeha than Mãori but claim to have been deprived of their land for generations. The local politicians seem to have bought in to the idea that the treaty of Waitangi somehow represents the birth of the nation when in fact to the Brits it meant they were taking over the sovereignty of the country.

Jacinda Ahern, the NZ socialist PM of the coalition government was asked on TV if she knew the first article of the treaty and she didn't. One of her colleagues gave her the answer in the Mãori language which she repeated but there was no attempt to translate it so for all those of you who do not speak the language the latest translation of the first article reads: The chiefs of the Confederation and all the chiefs who have not joined that Confederation give absolutely to the Queen of England for ever the complete government over their land.

To a simple bloke like me this wording would seem to indicate the end of a nation rather than the birth of one but politicians and lawyers are often at odds with those they represent, however, we now have Waitangi Day as the national day of New Zealand and in Tauranga they had a knees up at the Historic Village.

Historic church in Tauranga.

This was a first attempt at a celebration and was not well organised. We had anticipated some nice Mãori singing and dancing but it was more like a village fete with pop music, lots of food stalls and people selling things.
The village itself is a museum of old buildings along the lines of the Black Country Museum in Dudley, UK and we were quite impressed in particular with the church in the photo above.

A feature of the church is the commemoration of the acts of chivalry displayed at the nearby site of the Battle of Gate Pa. Prior to the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864, rules of battle were established by Chief Rawiri Pukirake and recorded by a mission student, Henare Taratoa.
They were rigidly and honourably adhered to by the Ngãiteranginui tribe during the battle. The four basic rules were:

  1. 1) If wounded or captured whole, and butt end of musket or hilt of sword be turned to me, he will be saved.
  2. 2) Any Pakeha, being a soldier and travelling unarmed will be captured and handed over to the direction of the law.
  3. 3) The soldier who flees in fear to the house of the priest even though carrying arms will be saved.
  4. 4) The unarmed Pakehas, women and children, will be spared.

The Brits suffered a resounding defeat at Gate Pa, the biggest in the Mãori Wars but at Te Ranga, about 5km distant, Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in New Zealand took revenge and inflicted a defeat on the Ngãi fighters. The main road along the Tauranga peninsula is named after Cameron who decided thereafter on a policy of not to continue fighting the Mãori who he held in high esteem as courageous warriors and had a poor opinion of the settlers.

Family shot, Gary the cat Roger and Sue.

As you can see from the family portrait above, Gary the cat likes to snuggle up next to my head. His previous guardian Jacob told us that he used to rub his teeth on Jacobs scalp when he was lying in bed. We continue to give Gary a daily painkiller but he sometimes scratches his mouth and it starts to bleed then he yowls. He is still very active and generally eating well but I don't know how much longer it will be before we have to put him down.

We visited Growers Direct for some more pots and plants and met their cat Bam Bam, a ginger tabby Tom who is quite a character. He jumped up on the trolly I was pushing and head butted me before settling down for a ride around. They have another grey tabby cat which was dumped on them called Socks. She had been spayed and microchipped so they called the owner who confessed they had dumped the cat.
The Growers Direct people said they would like to find a new home for Socks and we told them that we might be interested once Gary shuffles off!

Lemon tree on our front deck.

The second round of the Six Nations Rugby saw Ireland win a scrappy game at Murrayfield against Scotland 13-22 putting to bed the Scottish prophesies of a grand slam final at Twickers. Wales predictably beat Italy in Rome 15-26 but by no means convincingly like England did to France the next day. Their 44-8 humiliation put them at the top of the table on 10 points with Wales second on 8, these two teams now the only ones that can win the grand slam. The way they played, France might yet contest Italy for the wooden spoon!
England and Wales meet again in two weeks in Cardiff for a grand slam decider. Win that and England have first Italy and finally Scotland at Twickers and wouldn't they Scots just love to stop England winning the grand slam. Compulsive watching.

The weather here continues warm and is back up in the low thirties as I write. Bush fires are burning uncontrollably down in Nelson in the South Island with thousands evacuated from their homes but we have been lucky so far up here although it is looking pretty brown and we have a sprinkler ban in place.

Mike Palmer sent me a couple of photos in the slide show above which I thought of interest especially the Priddy pub. I do confess to a twinge of home sickness when I see pubs full of lovely British beer.
Mike also gave me some bad news that John Riley had died in Canberra. John was an old caving mate who I caved with in Oz many years ago. My favourite memory of him was when he first arrived in Oz his new work mates took him down to the local for a few beers as is the custom. John had rather too much beer and when sitting in his car at some Canberry traffic lights suffered a fit of projectile vomiting, all over his new suit.
Arriving home his wife simply steered him into the shower fully clothed! A great bloke who will be sadly missed and there will be a wake at the Hunters Lodge on Mendip on 23rd February.


Thirsty Hérisson in our garden.

NYK Eagle, that container ship with all our worldly goods on board is, as I write, anchored off the coast of Taiwan. She is already a day overdue at her next port of Tainan where she is anchored off so she must be delayed either by berth availability or on board technical problems. At any rate, based on her progress to date and an average speed of 17 knots, she will take at least another 12 days to cover the 4,800 odd nautical miles to Auckland which means the best estimate of arrival Auckland if she sails tomorrow is March 2nd, 3 days later than scheduled.

So far on this voyage she has averaged only 11.7 knots but that average will include transit of the Suez canal and navigating Singapore, Hong Kong, Xiamen and Kaohsiung harbour's. Most of her remaining voyage is over open sea but if that average were to continue then she would not arrive Auckland until 7th March, 8 days later than scheduled. Bugger!

We have since been informed that our container has been transhipped in Singapore and has been loaded on the container ship Rio Bravo which will not arrive in Auckland until about March 6th, 7 days after scheduled ETA. Bugger again!
There is another web site which provides more up to date information so Rio Bravo can be tracked here.

The weather continues hot and we have not had any rain for over a month. NZ is looking very brown and they say this is the longest period without rain in a decade. I blame global warming of course but then I always do.

NZ Super v UK Pension

We had an interview today with an official from the NZ Pensions Service and were both accepted for the NZ Superannuation which they call their pension. In New Zealand the amount you get is the same for everybody irrespective of how long you have contributed unlike the UK pension but you are taxed on the first dollar. The amount a couple receives after tax is $616.72 per week minus our UK pension but eventually our UK pension will be paid direct to the NZ government so we will eliminate any exchange rate risk.

At the moment the NZ$ is riding high and the £ is depressed so we will actually be about NZ$170 a week better off at the moment. Of course if the NZ$ were to slide and the £ appreciate in the future we could be worse off but the exchange rate would need to increase to above NZ$2.5 from where it is now at NZ$1.86 to the Pound for that to happen.
The other advantage is that the UK freezes our pension from when we left the country whereas our NZ Super is not frozen and is immune to exchange rate change.

We also get what they call the SuperGold Card which provides free off peak travel on all public transport, buses and trains throughout New Zealand. This is normally between 9am and 3pm and from 6-30pm until end of services on weekdays and no restriction during weekends and public holidays.
Many businesses will offer discounts if you show your gold card for example 5% off at butchers, 10% off spirits and 10% off some restaurants including food and drink. The above link takes you to the Gold Card web site where you can build pdf files of who offers discounts for different categories of businesses in your area.
Discounts can also apply if you are visiting Australia but Poms do not qualify unless resident!

All income from our UK private pensions and UK investments is tax free for 4 years but then we take a big hit when we will be taxed on the first dollar but there is no capital gains tax here although they are talking about introducing it.

NZ Symphony Orchestra

Classical Journey is the title of the series of concerts that the orchestra will perform around New Zealand this year including four concerts in Tauranga.
We went to the first one and it was also our first experience of attending a classical concert in the country. We found it a different experience to what we were used to in Australia and Europe although our Australian experience was somewhat dated back in the early seventies and was restricted to Melbourne which is not noted for keeping up with the times! We hear that shorts and jandals are the norm at the Sydney Opera House these days!

Our first impression was a good one. The Baycourt Addison Theatre is a first class modern auditorium comfortably seating over 500 and certainly an improvement on Cheltenham's Town Hall which is the cultural equivalent in terms of population.

Hamish McHeich.

We were somewhat taken aback by the audience taking drinks from the bar into the auditorium but the main difference between a Kiwi audience and a European one was that many of them applaud each movement as it finished. The conductor, Hamish McHeich, briefly acknowledged each applause and gave us a little talk before each piece. A lady from the Cello section also welcomed us to the concert and gave us a resumé of the programme, inviting us to join the orchestra in the bar after the concert, an invitation we did not take up.

The first piece was the Overture to L'Italiana in Algeri by Rossini played enthusiastically by the ensemble. Hamish explained that all the compositions chosen for the concert had some sort of link with Haydn either indirectly or directly as the second was by the great man himself, Symphony No 104 in D Major known as the London Symphony, the last of twelve he wrote when he lived in London.

After the interval Hamish began by talking about Symphonie Fantastique before the orchestra leader reminded him that he was supposed to be talking about Prokofiev's Classical Symphony No 1 in D Major for which he apologised that he didn't even have the right composer but said the symphony we were about to hear was fantastic and very fast which was difficult for the orchestra.

The final piece was Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn which Hamish told us has since been decided that the beautiful theme was not in fact written by Haydn. Researchers have suggested that the theme was composed by Austrian born French composer Ignaz Pleyel but there is no definitive proof of this.
I personally enjoyed this last piece the best, possibly because I knew it so well.

You will find YouTube links to all these compositions in the above text.
When we left the theatre it was raining, the first we have seen for six weeks.

At the end of February we drove up to Pauanui to stay at the Bently Batch where our friends the Hockey's spent their last week in New Zealand and relieved them of various purchases they had accumulated during their stay which they could not take back.
While Sue and the Hocks frolicked in the surf I made a third ascent of Mount Pauanui. It is just under 1,000 ft high and there is a directissimo which zig zags directly up the steep face or the more gentle walk along the coast to Cave Bay then back up the ridge to the summit.

The Heart of Pauanui.
An anti-clockwise circuit is recommended but I have previously done it clockwise. This time I followed the recommended direction and found it very hard work. I just kept getting out of puff rather than tired and made a slower ascent that the last time 9 years ago. Passing nubiles spurred me on and at the top one was saying that was the fastest she had ever done it. I met a young couple from Hawaii and told them I was going to go down the easy way which they elected to do also but at speed!

Chris had been busy gardening at the Batch and roped me in to do the edging along the paths. He had also done some topiary on a bush and shaped it like a heart naming it "The Heart of Pauanui". I thought it resembled a human bottom and suggested he rename it "The Bently Bum" but he thought that too rude, anyway, I took the above photo of his masterpiece so you can judge for yourselves.

We all had a farewell dinner at J.K's Kitchen Cafe and the next morning they set of up to Auckland to meet up with the Bently's at the Villa Maria vineyard for lunch. They fly back on Thursday Korean Air spending a night in Seoul on the way so in a couple of days will be supping Otter in the Brewers.

The Rio Bravo container ship has now left Sydney bound for Tauranga on 3rd March but our container will continue on to Auckland on 6th where it will be emptied, clear customs and our stuff will be transported by road nearly six months after it left Cheltenham.

The slide show above is a collection of shots from our Pauanui trip.


NZ TV is of course dreadful with a large percentage of commercial breaks compared to content which is why everyone records what they want to watch and then skips through the ads. Most of the ads are uninteresting, lacking imagination and reflect the American type of advertising, shouting repeatedly about unbeatable offers (until next week). Even when you pay SKY for the programmes you still get the ads but not quite so many.
One thing must be said in favour of the free to air channels is their sports reporting. Tune in to BBC World News and all you get is Soccer just like UK BBC News. The NZ free to air channels all report on a wide selection of sports. I had imagined that it would be all Rugby due to 99.9% of Kiwi's being Rugby Nuts but that is not the case and even minority sports are featured regularly as is women's sport, something rarely seen in the UK.

The latest discussion topic here is a proposed capital gains tax. NZ is the only country in the developed world not to have such a tax and most people seem to be set against it. I suspect the reason might be that most of the more wealthy Kiwi's own several properties. Even if they don't have a second or third home for rental they often have holiday homes they call Batches which when they come to sell would be subject to tax.

I can quite understand why the current Socialist government would like to see a capital gains tax introduced. Unlike other developed countries there is no income tax relief whatsoever and you are taxed on your first dollar. This means that the poorer in society on low incomes and who have no property pay the same income tax as the wealthy which is 10.5% on the first $19,050 for a married couple then 15.5% up to $77,400 and so on. Welfare Benefits do seem to be generous but a farer distribution of wealth might be in order.

It is now Autumn here so here is a new page.

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