Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Safety Videos.... and Air New Zealand

Hi there.    Air New Zealand are so innovative when it comes to their safety videos that they show on all their flights.  They've ditched the Hobbit one which I thought was spectacular.  Prior to the Hobbit video they had a rugby world cup one that focussed on rugby teams, and before that Richard Simmons did a fantastic aerobic video.    I have to admit Air New Zealand are very creative.

Now, they're doing a safety video featuring Bear Grylls from "Man vs Wild".  The link between being lost in the New Zealand bush and flying Air New Zealand is a bit tenuous but, hey, who cares when the video is fun to watch.  You can find it on

And this brings me to habits I find absolutely impossible to break.  Once I get a dud brand product, be it a tin of beans or a plane trip to the States, I will never ever ever eat one of those branded beans or travel on that airline again.

I saw an advert for Subway once.  It showed a veritable feast of chicken piled upon lettuce in a long bun.  I ordered the bun, looked inside and found two tiny slivers of chicken.  I've never been back to Subway.

Some ten years ago another tv advert assured me that there would be a loud crunching noise equivalent to one car bumper crashing into another when I bit down on my piece of KFC chicken.  What I got instead was surely the soggiest piece of fowl on the planet.  Never returned to KFC.

The year before last I flew Air New Zealand to Los Angeles.  The plane was old and infirm.  The seat controls, screen, seat, cushion size, seemed ancient, worn, thin, hard, small, and tired.  I think - though I'm not really sure about this - that maybe there was an emergency and one of the Air New Zealand planes that usually travel the New Zealand-Australia route was substituted (if this isnt true, it means that they have a tired old plane on the NZ-US route all the time!).  As every NZ traveller knows when travelling to and from Australia from, say, Wellington, the flight is true 'cattle-class' practically whichever airline you travel on.  So many of us go to Australia - often just for a long weekend - that this sort of flying is almost like being on a bus.  We don't expect to be pampered for just a few hours, and we're not.  But on a flight that's about 15 hours long?  Heck, I want comfort.

When Air New Zealand sent me a survey, I told the truth.  Back came a reply saying I should take Business Class next time.  Yeah, right, like I can afford that.

I vowed I would never travel Air New Zealand again, even though it's rated as one of the top airlines in the world.  Last year I went Virgin Australia to Los Angeles, even though this meant I was several hours longer flying.  I have insisted on doing the same thing this year when I go to Los Angeles yet again.    This will be three times Virgin Australia, and once-was-too-much on Air New Zealand.  This has also carried through to my New Zealand-wide travel.  It's now Jetstar, thank you very much.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jellyfish at Hataitai Beach, swimming at Worser Bay

Hi there.  J and I went down to Hataitai Beach this morning at 11 a.m. to discover that the sand was dotted with transparent jellyfish.  There were also lots and lots of them in the water.  So, we hightailed it to Worser Bay where we had a lovely swim.

I had Coco, my Wednesday dog today, so I stayed in the house with her all afternoon until her 'mum' came to pick her up and then I was so hot and bothered that I decided to go over to Worser Bay again for another swim.  I was in such a rush I just threw on some swimming shorts and a tankini top.    I added a sarong, hopped in my car, and shot over the hill to Worser Bay.

I proudly made my way across the sand at the beach, thinking that everyone must be thinking along the lines that I was so brave to go in the water and every eye would be on me as I was the only person going near the water instead of just sunbathing.  I puffed out my chest with pride.

Puffing out my chest did feel a bit weird.  My tankini felt very tight. I'd been dieting for three days now.  Surely my bathing top was supposed to feel looser, not tighter?

It wasn't till I got in the water and looked down to find a boob all but hanging out of my togs that I realised I was wearing my top back to front.  The puffy cross-over padded bit was at my back and what was supposed to be a low back was at my front!  Whoops!

I sidled out of the water,  with my arms across my front, hopped in the car soaking wet and was home in a couple of minutes, relieved that I hadn't put on weight but devastated that people had seen me in my back-to-front bathing outfit.  Hopefully, women will have thought it was a new fashion.  Who knows I could end up the stylistic discovery of the season.

Just before I left for Worser Bay the second time, I found out that a swimmer had been killed by a shark today at Muriwai Beach, way high up the North Island.  I kept hearing the "Jaws" theme all the time I was swimming.  I kept very close to shore.  When I got home, my friend J informed me that she'd read some time back of a woman in Australia (?) who was killed by a shark while she was paddling in the shallows.    Oh dear.  I

 We're having such a record-breaking magnificent summer that the waters are very warm.  This must be bringing in the sharks.  Sometimes in February there are sting rays at Hataitai Beach but I havent seen any for a few years now.  Very scary when they suddenly shoot past your legs.

Here's a pic I took of Worser Bay several weeks ago.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Eating and shopping on Waiheke Island

Hi there.  The shops on Waiheke Island, 40 mins away from the city of Auckland, New Zealand, are sort of weird, but in a nice sort of weird getting-away-from-civilisation way.  There are no what I would call 'ordinary' shops.  There are artsy craftsy souvenir-ish shops, and then there are shops that sell sun-dresses, board shorts, beads, and sarongs. And, really, that is it!   There's a tiny 4-square (mini mart) shop at Oneroa and, hidden away in the middle of the island, at Ostend, away from the day and weekend tourists, is a Countdown Supermarket.  And there are wineries, of course.

Oh, and there were  quite a few cafes.  I remembered to take three photos but was so busy chomping down at other places that I'd finished my meal before I thought of my camera.

'Ricky's' on the main road at Oneroa is very popular.  The  burger I had there was excellent and I loved surreptiously feeding this baby seagull who kept coming up to me with begging eyes and a real loud squawk.  I took a bite out of the burger, then remembered to take a photo, hence the chewed-off corner bit in the photo, sorry about that.

I loved the fish and chip meal at '151 Ocean View', Oneroa.  At last I had discovered a place that gave you fish without batter, just plain old pan-fried.  I sat on the deck and watched the goings-on at Oneroa beach.

On another day I thought that I'd go to Ostend and get a steak meal at a cafe I'd found open when I went supermarket shopping.  The buses on Waiheke only go once an hour.  So, I got dumped off, only to discover that this cafe was shut on Wednesdays.  I now had to hang around for an hour.  I hiked up the hill to proper-Ostend where there were a sprinkle of the usual type of shops.  I went into a cafe called "Get Stuffed'.

I didn't.  'Get stuffed', that is.  It was a terrible meal.  I got a bacon panini.  The panini was so tough, and so burnt that - wait for it! - one of the tines on my fork bent as I was trying to hold the panini down and cut it with my knife.

And I'll finish off with one more grizzle.  Why is it nowadays that cafes bring you a knife and fork wrapped up ever-so-tightly in a serviette?  By the time I manage to claw the serviette off the cutlery, it's in scrappy pieces, and I have to get up and beg for a new serviette.  And by this time my meal is cold!

Here's another pic of Palm Beach. There arent really any true 'palms' on Palm Beach.  There are New Zealand palms, ie Cabbage Trees, and also  NZ Nikau trees (see previous blog photo of my hol home view).   I loved it when I was in Torquay in England a few years back on an Agatha Christie pilgrimage and found that Torquay boast like mad about their palm trees - only to see that it was our Cabbage Trees that coat Torquay. 

I swam three times a day on Waiheke and it was like being in a spa bath.   I swam yesterday at Hataitai Beach .... ooooohhh cold, both weather and water.  I'll have to get acclimatised.



Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm back from Waiheke Island

Hi there.  Did you miss me?  I had a lovely relaxing week on Waiheke Island.   30c every day, and not a spot of rain.  Even though 'Waiheke' sounds Hawaiian, it's not.  The island is 40 minutes by fast boat from Auckland (New Zealand) city.  To get there I travelled:  a taxi, a plane, a bus, a boat, and another bus.  I'd never been to this particular holiday home before but I had been to Palm Beach where it was located and I loved the place.  The holiday apartment was excellent.  It was called Seascape, but on getting home I discovered that the place had been bought by someone else and was now named Palm Breeze.  It's  54c Palm Beach Road

 I tied my hiking stick to my shoulder bag for when I staggered out of planes, lifts, doorways, crowds, with my suitcase in tow.  I tended to get the hiking stick tangled between many passerbys' legs.    After about the twentieth apology, I glanced down at the bottom of the stick and noticed that the ferrule (the posh name for the rubber knobby thing on the end) was gone.  What was now showing was a very pointy metal arrowhead.   From then on, I had to really keep an eye on the stick, I was petrified I would do untold damage to a person's private parts.  Worse still, what if I was banned from flying home because of carrying 'a dangerous weapon'.  I'd lost the ferrule once before when I had to travel on the inter-island ferry.  An officer told me I couldn't board without covering the pointy end of my hiking stick.  I boarded the boat with a gayly-patterned yellow and black bedsock pushed down onto my hiking stick which was sticking out from my backpack like some country's flag.  No problem getting past plane attendants, however, returning home from Waiheke, which was a bit scary - what if I'd wanted to use my unferruled hiking stick as a weapon? 

I know that locks were my downfall in Queenstown and, yes, I did have trouble a wee bit with my door key on Waiheke (I left the owners a message to please do some oiling), but curtain rails were my main gripe.     After a shower, I threw the bathmat over the shower curtain railing to dry off.  Boom!  The whole railing, plus curtain and towel, came down on my head.  The railing wasn't solid to the wall, it had just been balanced on wall curves.

Second curtain mishap:  I swished open the long bedroom curtain one morning and, oh dear swished the curtain and the pointy-knobby stopper thingee at the end of the railing right off the entire railing and practically into the next room!

Though I never managed to walk more than 3 kms at a stretch because of my sore ankle, I was determined to walk down a zig zag track at one end of Palm Beach.  I got off the bus at Pope's Corner had a nice walk to the top of the track.  Uh-oh, steps and steepness galore.  I stumbled a few times, sidled down the steps like a demented crab, and finally got to the bottom to discover I was on the hidden away end of Palm Beach.  The nude end! 

Where to look.  Or not look.  Decisions ...  Decisions ...  Should I look straight ahead?  Or at the sea?  Maybe I should nonchalently rake me eyes over to the nude sunbathers (familes, singles, couples), just to show I wasn't a prude?   Except for one quick peek at a middle-aged male's plump rear as he ran past me into the water, I kept my eyes firmly staring at the sand as I made my way over to the non-nude part of Palm Beach.  Oh dear, perhaps I should have shown what a woman of the world I was and taken a nude dip, too....  Only joking.  That much of a woman of the world, I am not!

 Waiheke is a very artsy-craftsy place and I bought a beautiful little ceramic statue of a bather sitting on a towel (artist: Jacqueline Riley).  I broke the 'towel' in half  when I sat the statue down too hard on the coffee table.  $50 down the drain in one not-so-heavy knock.  Maybe I can glue it together.

Here's some pics:  1  my lovely apartment holiday home.  2  view from deck at my holiday home which is just across the road from the beach (and right opposite bus stop from the ferry, great!).  3  A section of Palm Beach - the nude beach is way in the background past that lot of rocks that jut into the water.  3  main area of my holiday home.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wizard's Guide to Wellington Book Launch

My friend, A J Ponder had a  launch for her children's book, "The Wizard's Guide to Wellington" this evening.  At the Rona Gallery & Book Store in Eastbourne.  There was also an art competition with the theme 'The Magic of Wellington' to coincide with the book launch.

A J did a nice reading from the book, and a good speech.  The book is selling like hot cakes.  It can be bought also at The Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie.  Other shops later.

My swimming buddy, J, won a prize for her painting of Oriental Bay at night.

One of my fave paintings - it also won a prize - was by a young man, Brendan Grant.  He did a picture of the Embassy Theatre at Courtenay Place.  It was set two days before "The Hobbit" premiere and even had the 2-days-to-go countdown clock in it, plus the notice above the theatre entrance that also announced "2 days to go".Here's a photo of the painting.  What a lovely painting, Brendan.  I wish I knew how to make it bigger so everyone could all see it much more clearer.

Here's also a photo of my friend A.J. Ponder, taken toward the end of the evening.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stag pranks - pre-wedding hi-jinks

I was at Lake Taupo recently, wandering through the town, and I got a photo of this poor guy who had been dumped by his mates in a cage slap-bang-dab in the middle of the town of Taupo.  He was getting married very soon and it was a pre-stag night prank. 

Wizard's Guide to Wellington

My friend, A J Ponder is having the official launch of her children's book, "The Wizard's Guide to Wellington", 6 30 pm, at the Rona Gallery/Bookshop in Eastbourne shopping centre (end of the street) at 6 30 pm Thursday 14 February (this coming Thurs).  She says anybody and everybody is invited.  I'm wondering how will the shop hold all the thousands of people, but A.J. assures me that not that many people turn up for book launches.  Let's fool her, shall we, and all roll up!

eating in Queenstown

Hi there

When I'm at home I rarely eat in cafes.  My mind insists on telling me that it's all a waste of time and money.  However, when I'm on holiday I positively luxuriate in outdoor cafes.   I love people-watching and scenery-watching while purring over a hot chocolate and a slice of Louise cake.

In Arrowtown I had a nice burger at
New Orleans Pub, sitting on their outdoors deck, in 30c temp but with air conditioning blowing full-tilt behind me.  Lovely. 

In Queenstown, I had a buffet lunch in the restaurant at the top of the gondola.  At Pier 19, on the Steamer Wharf, I had a whitebait omelet (how many times have I told gullible tourists that "whitebait have to be fillited first"!).    Whitebait are prized by kiwis and getting harder to catch every year.

I went on the Million Dollar Cruise (a tiny run-of-the-mill touristy boat) to the Hilton Hotel in Queenstown for lunch.  The lunch was good, as was the boat trip, but I pity the tourists who stay at the Hilton, lovely though the complex is.  The Hilton is a good 20 minute drive from  where it is situated across the bay from the heart of Queenstown.  I would far rather stay in the centre of the town where I could just wander out of my hotel whenever I felt like it and be in the middle of everything happening instantly.   I guess, that the Hilton have courtesy cars and maybe even a courtesy boat...

(It's very exciting -   I now think I have three readers of this blog!  Thank you, Patrick, for your comments.)


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hobbits and second breakfasts

When I was visiting the Matamata filming set of 'The Hobbit" movies, I ruminated on Second Breakfasts.  I differ from hobbits in so far as I could happily put down third and fourth breakfasts.  Sigh, I guess this is why I've always had, well, an ample figure. 
(darn, I'm now caught up with all my typing centred because of the photos.  Sorry 'bout that.  I've been trying a new way of getting the photos onto this blog which is obviously not working very good).
Ever since November when I hurt my heel and, then, three weeks ago when I tore a ligament in one of my ankles, I've not been able to do my daily hike over the Wellington hills.  I've just sat ....and ate!  And not just hobbit breakfasts but also second lunches and second dinners, not to mention morning and afternoon teas.  Plus Eskimo Pie ice creams, creamy lamingtons, and butterfly cakes.
Oh dear, I have become quite rotund.  Okay, more rotund(er) than usual!  Hobbit-rotunded, if truth be told.  For 25 years I have worked out regularly either in the real gym or my gym room at home.  But, now, I've hardly been near any sort of gym since December.  Still swimming though, and that has to help a little bit yeah?
I'm off soon on holiday to Palm Beach on Waiheke Island, 40 minutes from Auckland.  When I booked I had visions of hiking up and down dales.  Now, it will just have to be swimming and bus riding.  Let's hope the holiday goes smoothly with no splotchy allergy rash, locked doors, or ruined ankles.  Altogether now, everyone cross fingers and touch wood for me!   Please ....

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rockin' Around the Clock

This morning when I was out (attempting to) walk, I had my MP3 player on and I was listening to some Golden Oldies, in particular "Rock Around the Clock".   "Rock Around the Clock" is virtually the first song of the rock'n'roll era.  I can remember wanting desperately to see the movie in which it featured - "Blackboard Jungle" - but it was an R16 movie and I was way under the allowed age.  I didn't even look old enough to bluff my way in, like I did in later years when my friend and I went to R16 movies in our school uniforms.  We were hardly ever asked our age because theatre staff figured we had arrived so blatently dressed, we just had to be 16.   If we ever were asked, we looked highly affronted and said, "Of course, we're 16!"

Anyway, I remember when my mother would ramble on about songs like "Cruisin' Down the River", "Daisy, Daisy", then later-on songs from the 1920's charleston era.  As she was wittering on about her fave songs, I thought, "Charleston songs?  She's still on about Charleston songs?  For heaven's sake, this is the 1950's.  It's Elvis, cat!" 

Looking back, there was only some thirty-five years' difference between the mid 1920's and 1960 when I was at my rock'n'roll peak.    Yet it seemed like a forever distance away at the time.  Why was mum still going on about that old-fashioned stuff?  It was before I was even born.

Today, looking back, it's about 50 years' since I was rockin' to Elvis, Bill Haley, Fabian, Dodie Stevens, etc.  50 years!!!  Songs from Elvis through to The Beatles were just released yesterday in my mind.  The music still fires my soul, like .... I can't put it into words.   Fantabulous, baby! 

When I hear  "Rock Around the Clock" I want to break into dance.   Yes, little old me (well, curvaceous, not-so-little me) still wants to rock'n'roll.

Why did I grow old so fast?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Queenstown yet again. Plus more drama in my life!

The temp hit 30c every day for the week I was in Queenstown.  On one day, it was 32c.  But all of the country hit high temps that week.  I believe Wellington was about 26c a lot of the time.

I saved up all my puff and energy for a 'go' on my last day there at walking the Queenstown to Frankton track, a favourite walk that I usually do every morning when I'm in Queenstown but because of my sore feet had not been able to attempt so far on holiday.

I thought I may be able to do half of it.  So, hiking-stick-but-really-walking-stick in hand, I caught a bus to half way along the track.  I would be lucky in so far as if I got tired or my feet hurt, the main road with bus stops ran adjacent to the track and I could pop off the track any time I liked.

But I walked the last half of the Queenstown-Frankton track!  Not jauntily as I would have preferred.  I hobbled slowly, but when I got to the end I felt so jubilant that I wished I'd attempted the whole track.  So ... I caught a bus back to where I'd got off the previous bus, and walked the track's other half.  Triumph.  Here's a picture I took from near the Frankton end of the track.

Now, you know all about my fall three days before I left home for Q'Town?  And having bandaged ankles whilst I was away? And hardly being able to hike?  And the stress of trying to get into my locked hire car?  And being locked out of my holiday home?   Yes, sure, all highly entertaining stuff for a holiday.  More like a sitcom, really.  Well, there was one other tidbit:  I developed a rash!  Big red angry splotches, mainly over my torso, but a few on my neck, and limbs.    Immediately on return from my holdiay, I visited the doctor.

I wondered if it could be sandfly bites.  Sandflies usually hang around me in droves at Lake Taupo.  But, honestly, I hadn't seen any at Lake Whakatipu (Queenstown's lake).

"No," said the doctor, peering at my tummy intently. "They're definitely not sandfly bites."

"I wore a merino wool top?"

"Doesn't look like a wool allergy."

"How abouit fleas?  I tried on some clothes at a thrift shop?  Or the cheap moisturiser and hair shampoo I picked up on my first day in Queenstown?.  Hey, it could be heat rash?   Or Lake pollution?  Scabies?  Oh-oh-I haven't got chickenpox?"

"No.  No.  Nope.  Nah.  No.  No!" said the doctor, ticking the points off one-by-one.  "But It's definitely an allergy."

"To what?"

He shrugged.  "Could be anything.  From something you've eaten to the effects of a spider bite."

"So," ruminated  my swimming friend, J, when I imparted this information to her later, "you don't know what you're allergic to, so you have to cut out everything?"

"That's about it," I said.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Queenstown part II

More of my Queenstown holiday:  

I drove to Lake Wanaka for a day and, goodness, this is truly embarrassing, I turned into a Tourist.  I've always peered snobbily down my nose at tourists who stop off every time they see a highway notice advertising some scenic attraction (I'm trying not to look at you, Americans) .  But, oh dear, I turned into the typical tourist on my journeys to and from Wanaka.  Heavens, a puzzle world?  I love puzzles - I stopped there.  Pan-for-your-own-gold?  Yep, I wanna find a nugget (I didn't).  Roaring Meg hydro river?  Who wouldn't want to see that.  Famous Cardrona Pub?  I don't drink but, heck, that doesn't matter; this pub is Famous!  The great Welcome to Cromwell fruit icon?  I photographed it from half a dozen angles.   Vegie stalls?  Cute dogs to be patted?  Views from plateaus?  I seemed to be out of my car more than I was in it.  I didn't think all that much of Lake Wanaka (a smaller Lake Taupo?) though Wanaka is a good stepping-off place for Milford Sound.  I think because of so much South Island beauty that one gets acclimated to it all very quickly which is so sad.

I've just read that Bear Grylls and his team (they've rented 100 rooms) are going to be based soon at Wanaka for two months. 

More Queenstown stuff to come - well, it fills in a space, yeah?

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Queenstown Holiday

Hi there.  Well, I'm back from Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand.  It seems like 50% of the time was filled up with traumatic stressful happenings and the rest of the time, I quite enjoyed.  Honestly, there should be a sitcom about my life.  I figure it's sort of a cross between "The New Girl" and Betty White.  This holiday episode would be billed as "Keys?  What keys?"  Read on.

I picked up my Ace rental car at Queenstown Airport.  Funny, I thought, I can't get the door lock to activate.

"Hey," I yelled out to the Ace guy as he walked past - "This lock doesn't work."

"You'll discover the knack," he called back.  And I did.  Discover the knack.   Eventually.  But later that afternoon, after my swim in the lake (cold and invigorating), I tried to get in the car again.  Neither actual key nor remote-key worked.

Seven, count them, seven people clustered around me and all had a go at trying to unlock my car.  I felt sort of like a princess in a fairy tale -  whichever stout heart could open the lock got the hand of the king's daughter. 

Finally, of its own accord the door opened, but the following day I went to the company.  They oiled the lock, said everything was okay and I was good to go.  Two days later, in a soaking wet bathing suit, and hastily thrown-over dress, I again stood looking at my car's non-budging lock.  This time a locksmith was called and I hung around for two hours.  Finally, success, and I did get a day's refund from the car company. Good on you, Ace.

Ah, but that's not the end of the key-lock saga:  Different lock, same trauma. 

Imagine a beautiful evening.  It's 8.30 pm.  I went out to sit on the deck of my rental house to admire the view and read my new Kindle (yay, my Kindle!).  I had slammed the sliding door shut behind me.   At 9.30, I discovered that I was locked out - the lock must have snipped shut by accident.  And I'd locked the front door from the inside.

I was standing there in a sarong, knickers and men's carpet slippers (because of my sore feet).  How many times had I seen this situation acted out in sitcoms or cartoons?  Oh dear.

I tried a neighbour. Not home.  I tried another neighbour.  She was in her 20s's, as glam as they come.  I was certainly not dressed for the high life.  It was so embarrassing.  We used the neighbour's phone to call the rental house's caretaker (thank goodness his number was on the key lock-box).   I could only hear the neighbour's side of the conversation.

"No.  No, she can't get to her phone, or credit cards, or key. ...  She's just wearing a sheet...  And slippers. ...  (I felt like I was on a slave auction block the way the neighbour was eyeing me up and down).  I'm telling you, everything is inside."

Thanks goodness, there was a hidden key!

For the next three days and nights I never went out onto that deck, or to the clothesline, or the recycling bin without my phone, my keys, my wallet and wearing my I'm-Going-Somewhere-Special-Clothes.

Here's some Q'town pics:  1)  view from lounge window of my holiday home,  2)  view of historic Arrowtown main street (gold-mining town from the 1800's about 20 mins from Q'town),  3)  view from inside gondola looking down on Queenstown. 

More Q'town adventures in future episodes.  Stand by.