Sunday, 25 September 2016

body language

Says it all really ...

Food parcel distribution - two down, two to go

The main reason for coming to the UK this time was to deliver food parcels. Yes, really. Well, OK, not the main reason, but an important one.

So gingernuts have been provided to Lesley (the aforementioned ODS), plus a stone fridge magnet with a kiwi (painted) on it - from Hokitika, you understand. But more importantly, we gave her a hoodie.
ODS has been threatening to come back to NZ for a few years now, but hasn't made it yet. And she is sadly in need of a break. The hoodie says it all really. Although therapy probably wouldn't be a bad idea ...

And a loaf of Vogel's gluten free soy and linseed bread has been given to Pauline. It is pretty yummy and a huge number of steps above GF bread that I have found over here. It is strange: there is a huge range of yummy GF foods here in the UK, lots more than at home, but the bread isn't comparable. I brought over one for her and one for me, and if I'd had room I would have brought more. As it was the two loaves had to travel in a plastic container so as not to be squashed in transit.

Last two food parcels for distribution are pineapple lumps for my lovely Aunty Molly, and perky nana bars for Tim. As neither of them (the people) are within cooee at the moment, they will have to wait. The perky nanas are not in danger, but those pineapple lumps are being eyed up menacingly ...

Will Molly know if we only give her one bag, instead of the two purchased?

Saturday, 24 September 2016

La Perla is closing down!!!

Good grief, is nothing sacred?

La Perla:
  • which opened in 1976
  • introduced to us by John and Adair back in 2003, where John and I spent several long weekend lunches (vegetarian fajitas and one or two bottles of the house white) while Adair slept after night duty and while David languished back in NZ before making his way over here in Feb 2004
  • our favourite eating place in Maiden Lane near Covent Garden and just behind The Strand
  • our daughter Kirsty and friend Tomai's regular haunt during 2005/06 for wonderful cocktails
  • where David and I were planning to take Tim and the grandsons for dinner after seeing The Lion King on Tim's birthday.
Damn it! Is nothing sacred? We ate there yesterday with Pauline and Barry, and the waitress who has worked there for 20 years (must have started as a child) told us it was closing down in a couple of weeks - it has been sold and it to be remodelled as an Indian restaurant. Aren't there enough Indian restaurants in London?

Bah humbug!
See that? Since 1976. Aha! I see it says Paris. Perhaps we will investigate it there. Must look on the net and see if it is still in business ...

I'm pointing to something for Kirsty, and David is pointing to the year before she was born ...

Flying away

Well, I am clearly getting older and less travel-fit. Or maybe because it's more than a year since we last flew to the UK (16 months in fact, but only 11 months since we returned from there). But I'm going for the getting older and needing more comfort for my body...

We had made the decision that it was time to join the SKI Club in earnest - you know the one: spending the kids' inheritance. So we had booked to fly over to the UK Premium Economy and back Business Class - in the interests of investigating which was preferable (can you hear David's boffining in this reasoning? I was all for jumping straight to KNOWING that business class would be better. But David likes to be scientific and conduct proper trials...

So Premium Economy it was. But wait! I had been awarded a free international upgrade on one leg of the journey. So I got to travel Business Class from Auckland to Hong Kong. Well, any scientific investigation was over as far as I am concerned.

David however was in Premium Economy just 3 rows behind me - so near yet so far! And Air NZ's PE looked to be pretty good - same meals as BC, but served in trays, not on plates, a good wide seat with two armrests apiece, and a good leg/foot rest like on a lazyboy chair, but without the same level of elevation.

But BC was amazing.

Dinner on a plate! On a table with a tablecloth!
The first course of breakfast - cereal with fresh fruit salad and yoghurt and a decent sized mug of tea! That is cream in the little jug at the back ... Went back unscathed, by the way
The second course of breakfast - sorry, I had started to eat it before remembering to take a photo. Coconut and lime hotcakes with banana, cream and maple syrup.

The food was yummy and served on plates, as I may have mentioned and as you can see in the photos above. The seat was great and extremely adjustable. But the best was the bed - a lie flat, stretch out (well, for me, but not so long for anyone tall). Being able to lie down to sleep was a gift. The service was lovely and attentive but not fawning, and the staff were really helpful. They even make the bed up for you, even tho it is a push button job. Did I mention that lying flat was wonderful?

So I was sold.

That was confirmed on the Cathay Pacific flight to London where we were both in Premium Economy. David could do a proper comparison of PE quality between Air NZ and CP. I just knew that CP's PE (keep up!) was not up to scratch. There WAS more legroom than in Economy, but the footrests were foot rests, not leg rests, and my seat didn't recline properly - but the woman's in front of me did almost into my face. And my legs hurt.

The lunch when we boarded was lovely, to be fair - Australian beef fillet. But dinner was dire and I only ate dessert.

So as far as I am concerned, the jury is back, and it's going to be Business Class all the way from now on. Oh, by the way, David agrees. So thank you Cathay Pacific, for not being up to scratch. You did my job for me. Well done, you!

PS Now that we have been here in the UK for 30 hours, the body-memory of the discomfort is receding. So I will have to keep re-reading this post to remind me!

David and I have always told people to harden up when they complain that they cannot come to NZ because they cannot cope with the long flights (2 of about 12 hour duration). So, OK, I am no longer a hard woman, much as that will surprise some people. David is made of sterner stuff than I am, and he could continue to cope. Wait till we travel home though and both in Business Class - he'll be won over completely!

So, kids, we're sorry, but there will be very little left for you when we kark it!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Excitement is building

Since I posted earlier this week, I have done some of the aforementioned planning: emails have been written, the calendar has been filled in and I have discovered that I can print out the details for each event, if required (booking references, post codes, etc). I do need to find a way to increase the font size or otherwise we will have to take a magnifying glass as well.

Yesterday David got all the suitcases down from the loft, so we can sort out which ones are best to take. It should be an easy choice, but there are things to consider in the decision making process:
  • firstly, are our bags travel-worthy? We have had them for a while and they are looking a bit weary - zips may not stand another round the world trip
  • in the UK we will be driving so size and space won't matter; however we don't want to be carting a big bag each to France for 5 days, so we need an appropriately sized travel bag each - David suggested we share a bigger bag between us on that part of the holiday, but that is a recipe for contretemps as
    • his part of the suitcase gets messy very quickly and expands in size
    • he therefore takes ages to find what he wants, and I have to wait (and I am not sure if you know that patience is not my long suit)
    • we'll argue over who is responsible for trundling it along - he'll want to do it, and I will feel like I should share the task (I am not sure if you know that I am decidedly a feminist)
  • we have things to bring to the UK for family and friends - NZ gingernuts (best in the world, like our rugby team ...), a couple of bottles of NZ Pinot Noir, a few books, some Taranaki Hardcore clothing, things from David's parents' place for the grandsons, and a few bits to be dropped off at the boat.
  • and we have to fit our clothing in and we know it is unlikely to be hugely balmy weather in late September and October, but we don't want to bring too much - we always find that we wear, launder and wear the stuff on the top and bring the rest back untouched - so some discipline is required in the packing department.
    • we have both bought merino long sleeved tops from the Kathmandu shop - warm, and very light to pack
    • apart from that it is going to be jeans, jerseys in the main, and not many of them - I do hope that the places we are going to be staying will have laundry facilities ...
  • we will be staying on a narrowboat (an airbnb venue) in London for a couple of nights and we are hiring a boat on the River Wey for a few days with the boys, and as the boaters among you know, big suitcases with rigid sides do not fit well in narrowboats.
As I write this, the decisions are being made. I will inform David of them when this post is published (I am not sure if you know that I am decisive and cannot be bothered faffing about - apart from on this blog ...)

I am off to Hokitika tomorrow for my last week there before we head away. There's a lot to do this coming week, so I won't be thinking of international travel much over the next few days.
As I have to leave home by 5am tomorrow, I will pack today. and that will involve completing the washing and ironing, as well as making a batch of scones and muffins for the guys up at the Waiuta site. I am visiting there on Tuesday and it has quickly become a tradition that I take morning tea. As my best (read easiest) baking outputs are Ministry of Food Cheese scones and Alison Holst's crunchy blueberry muffins, those are what I will bake today and pack up to be re-heated on site. Usually I bake at the DOC office in Hokitika, but I won't have time tomorrow night.

And apart from the site visit, I will be running a planning session for the next remediation project that we are getting underway at the moment. Then it's making sure I have all the back-up in place for while I am away and working remotely from the UK and France.

Next weekend, David (my trusty IT Support Manager) has to load the Parallels Desktop on my Mac and then load Microsoft Project, so I can keep the schedules updated while I am away.

OK, yes, I am going to be working while I am away on holiday, but I want to. And What's App, Skype and email work wonders for staying in touch with the team. There's a few documents to draft, and I can do them as easily in the northern hemisphere as the southern.

My biggest concern at the minute is that my left ankle is playing up - not sure what it is but it is a bit crippling temporarily when I stand or twist or step the wrong way. Have had one session at the osteopath which helped a lot, and am now replicating some of his treatment when the agony strikes. The most effective technique, and I kid you not, is for me to waggle my leg ferociously from the hip - I can hear the ankle click ...

Next appointment is already made with the osteopath as I cannot afford to be limping around on this holiday - not being able to jump from a narrowboat to bring it to a standstill will be dire! Good thing I have a lovely osteopath in London too!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Not long now ...

It is two weeks today until we leave for our holidays in the UK - just a short trip of 5 weeks this time, instead of our standard 5 months. We are excited and do need to get our ar*es into gear to get some visiting organised. Strange how thinking about it, and deciding it will be fun doesn't actually make it happen...

We have booked to visit Les and Jaq a couple of days after arrival, a trip to Disneyland near Paris with the grandsons, a few days on a hired narrowboat on the River Wey, a couple of nights accommodation on a narrowboat in London, tickets to The Lion King for our son Tim's birthday with him and the grandsons, and accommodation for the first few nights when we arrive, and a trip to Cornwall to visit friends. So there are just the arrangements to make for the time between seeing Jaq and Les, and going to Cornwall. Easy peasy!

We have both been extremely busy with work - not too busy to socialise of course, but busy enough that some of the holiday organisation has yet to be completed. This weekend, I promise!

My work on project managing the mine remediation is absorbing and wonderful - it is such a treat to be working on a project that is about doing something good for the environment and for people, instead of running a project with the aims of saving money and cutting people's jobs.

Work on the first remediation is well underway and the team are going great guns, even though the weather is cold and wet at times. Today though it is snowing up in them thar hills. I gather snow is more pleasant than rain for the work they are doing (graders, excavators) so I am not worrying now I know they are all well kitted out for keeping warm. (I am working from home so am warm and dry ...)

As the work on Waiuta progresses, I am working with the team on planning the next remediation which is due to be carried out over the coming summer - different site, different conditions.

That'll keep me busy until we are due to leave for the UK in May next year for five months at least - tickets are booked already, and this time, I won't let myself fall in love** with a piece of remediation work ... NB Waka Huia is calling!!

** David is not holding his breath on that one ...

Monday, 8 August 2016

A southern hemisphere Burns night

Our grandson Olek tells me that Burns supper is held in February. And he is undoubtedly correct. However our friends in NZ celebrate the anniversary of his death which was mid-year (21 July according to Wikipedia). And it is a more fitting season to have a Burns Night here anyway as summer is not a season for haggis, mashed potatoes and swedes. Actually to be frank, no season is right for haggis in my view, but what the hey!

Jim and Judy combined three events in to one weekend - a Zero Degrees Club get together, a Burns night and early celebration of Judy's birthday.

So Friday 22nd July David and I drove up to Onaero, north of New Plymouth to stay in a motel close to J&J's place. As we had booked a couple of months earlier (I am a project manager after all, early planning is my stock in trade) we scored the only renovated unit at Seaview Motel - the honeymoon suite, which has a view out over the sea. The others in our Zero Degrees Club had two of the other three units - not so up to date by about 40 or so years, but serviceable and clean and a good size, and as I say, within walking distance of J&J's house, even in the rain.

Of which there was heaps that weekend - it bucketed down off and on each day we were there, and at times it thundered and lightninged, just in case you had thought we were having too gentle a winter here in NZ.

As David is a McDonald whose ancestors hail from Glencoe, and as J&J request a bit of tartan for this event, I organised to hire from Mitchell's Kilt hire ( a whole outfit for David - a McDonald clan kilt, the socks, the flashes, the sporran, waistcoat, Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and the bowtie. He wore his own shoes and shirt, but they could have been hired too. Amazing service, esp as I was tardy in organising it (OK, early planning left a bit to be desired in this, but I only thought of it late - OK Marilyn, when you are in a hole, stop digging!)

I didn't call them till the Wednesday and they were very quick. Couriering the outfit to the wilds of Taranaki was going to be problematic, so Helen and Alan stepped into the breach and picked it up from Cambridge, sort of on their way through from Katikati. Such good friends!

I iced and amateurishly decorated the yummy fruit cake that Jenny made - decoration was simple but said what it needed to ... We had bought a few flowers and Helen went scavenging for flowers to add to the bouquet and then did a beautiful job

Cutting the cake with the sparkler candles.

The festivities and formalities of a Burns night had been superbly organised by Jim and Judy, the long tables were set up by Alan and Chris, and the tables were set by Helen, potatoes peeled by Jenny, turnips peeled by David and I know I helped with somethings but I cannot remember what ... Honest, I DID do some helpful stuff (glasses, whiskeys on the table, sautee-ing/sweating the leeks and veges for the cock-a-leekie soup. following Judy's instructions for anything that needed doing).
The table set for all the people - carefully measured using ruler, just like at Downton Abbey, although Helen is nothing like Carson ...

Doesn't he look good? If we did more Scots-related stuff, I'd buy him an outfit for himself rather than hiring.

Jim wearing the Ross tartan, his mother's clan I understand, although he's a Kiwi.

Jim addressing the haggis or whatever the term is. Jim and Judy's daughter Katherine carried it in - there is something significant about that process, but I am not sure what - no bagpipes fortunately ...

I think it's a Burns poem he is declaiming in these photos - he is so expressive. We can tell he used to be a teacher - it's that stage presence that sits with teachers so well.

Is he caressing the damn thing?

A week or so beforehand, Jim had phoned and asked me to reply to the Toast to the Lassies (the whole event is filled with poetry readings, toasts, jokes, etc). He had told me that the man who did the Toast to the Lassies would be giving women a bit of a hard time, so I was to feel free. Well, 'bad move, Jim!!' is all I can say. As soon as he was off the phone, it was out with my feminist tome: Picking on Men (a compilation of quotes about men). Armed with a set of pink stickies, I trawled through for the most appropriate ones. I typed them out with their source and then put them in an entertaining order - well, I thought it was ...
At first they all laughed heartily.

But the men stopped laughing after about 6 or 7 quotes, then the women were the only ones laughing ... But as the men stopped laughing some women got worried about their chaps and their sensitivities. See Judy's body language? Oh dear! Did I go too far?
I did think they were all fair game - well, I would, wouldn't I being Harsh Bit*h #1? But blimey, guvnor, they'd been making anti-Scottish jokes all evening. So I thought if they were OK with racist jokes then a few sexist ones couldn't go too badly wrong, could they?

I did finish off with showing them my softer side - it was obvious to me that the people assembled for this event (four just over 40 and the rest over 60) that we had been through the mill in our lives - we'd lived, had kids, worked, had health issues etc so there were bound to be things we'd all coped with severally. And what was wonderful was that all of these people were married and clearly loved their spouses. So I said that.

But back to my Reply to the Toast to the Lassies: a taster for you:
  • It took millions of years to make men from monkeys. Sometimes it takes only a few minutes to reverse the process.
  • A man who is wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.
  • The trouble with self made men is they quit the job too early.
  • Bigamy is having one husband too many; monogamy is the same.
  • The occasional lacing of my husband's dinner with catfood has done wonders for my spirit.
  • What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set  ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shirez into urine.
  • The daughter of a friend took her first bath with a male cousin when they were both 4 years old. Being well brought up, she was silent about her anatomical discovery, but that night, as her mother tucked her into bed, she said “Mummy, isn’t it a blessing he doesn’t have it on his face.” 
  • Women like silent men. They think they are listening. 
  • I know what a statesman is. He’s dead politician. We need more statesmen.  
  • The American male is the softest and fattest; this might explain why he loves guns. You can always get your revolver up. 
  • The only reason they say women and children first is to test the strength of the lifeboats. 
  • The trouble with some women is they get all excited about nothing – and then they marry him.  
  • Retirement means twice as much husband on half as much money. 
  • All men are NOT slimy warthogs. Some men are silly giraffes, some woebegone puppies, some insecure frogs. But if one is not careful, those slimy warthogs can ruin it for all the rest. 
See they aren't so bad, surely?

Not sure we'll be invited back next year - good thing we'll be on the boat at the requisite time, but if they do want me to to a repeat performance, perhaps I could do it by Skype from the canals ... I will get my technical consultant on to it! And I will keep an eye on the post ...