Father Christmas and the long goodbye.

There is such sweet tension between the beauty of last night’s sunset and the horror of being eaten alive, again, by mosquitoes.

(Random (but appropriate) photo to improve attractiveness of blog. Not)

Keith showed his true worth (actually worth more than this) by coming to the fore with this, a deceptively tedious booklet with untold qualities of strength and flexibility.

In short this manual helped us massacre scores of mosquitos, clearing the living area. We knew the bedroom was safe as we had thoughtfully closed both the curtain and the door thus making a barrier impenetrable to even the most persistent attacker. A sanctuary.

Not wanting to compromise this oasis of mosquito- free space, I tiptoed in using simply a flash of my iPhone torch to guide the way. I grabbed my night wear and slipped back round the curtains to the main body of the van.

Nothing would persuade us to allow the little £&@££)()& s to attack us in bed.

We crept in and under the covers to be almost deafened:


and so forth. The boudoir was thick with them. More attacks by Keith the Slayer, manfully swashbuckling away with his Wilderness manual in lieu of jewel encrusted sword.

Rather than taking clothes off for bed we put them on. Long sleeved shirt, leggings and socks in my case. A hot and itchy night as we weren’t able to open any windows. Serves us right for ‘freedom camping’ (read being imprisoned within one’s own accommodation) by the sea.

The view this morning was again glorious.

However we were minded to move on ASAP, full bladders and empty stomachs became an irrelevance.

Which was how we met Father Christmas in mufti. In short: we stopped at a cafe. The building was attractive.

The lady in charge offered to show us round upstairs. Then called Gary.

Gary Blick (which we know now is Black with an NZ pronunciation) * is, he says, happily divorced and pleasantly disconnected from his children. He has taken on the challenge of renovating this building, an old saddlers, and the grounds behind, to run as a backpackers’-hostel. A giant of a man he has built some huge bunk beds, and mezzanine double beds. A gentle giant he told us of his mother (94 and has eaten her way through the herd and the implements, now starting to eat the family farm, which father sold for many thousands of dollars, itself: his take on her nursing home fees); a friend who died of throat cancer; his plans for the hostel and the affection he has for his goat, currently eating his way through the scrub.

Asked if we could take a photo he dashed off saying he needed to change his shirt first:

This is with the preferred shirt.

Then he wanted to do his hair.

FC in mufti. He has the twinkly blue eyes too. He runs the Helenback backpackers hostel. Helenback? Yes. Spend a night there and you’ll have been to hell. And back. His opinion.

We spoke a couple of days ago about Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist who spent much of his life in North Island, New Zealand. He designed some toilets (remember he is the enemy of the straight line):

Outside the toilets.

Sign for ‘ladies’.

View from within toilet cubicle.

Changing table.

Commemorative plaque.

Life is different here:

Health and safety. Look at the people standing freely in the truck at the back of this train:

Oooo… they might fall over. Yes. That’s the risk they take. End of.

School children. The three living at tonight’s campsite (children of manager) came home at 2.40 today. All in bare feet. Not ‘carrying shoes’ bare feet, or nervously picking their way along bare feet. Just bare feet on a road with no litter, no dog fouling, and sensible traffic which slows to pass.

And jobs: most people seem to have more than one but this seemed an odd combination:

Cleaner and also qualified for drug screening?

The phone number reminds me – there is a system where numbers and letters are combined for phone calls. Eg: 0305 LAW for the lawyers.

I was tickled by the unambiguity of this septic tank emptier today:


And on that I’ll finish with a picture of our biggest impulse buy mistake this holiday:

Home tomorrow we need to ‘farewell the van’. ….

*wrong again. It actually is ‘Blick’. Will I ever get the hang of this?

Tsunami? What tsunami. And free viagra. The perfect holiday.

The curse/joy of camping, be it canvas or campervan, is that last minute thought as the light is turned off – ‘should I have gone for one last wee?’

I have recently heroically managed to quash this insistent little ear worm by asking myself: ‘can I hear a kiwi?’ And mentally repeating the call, male and female. Each gender calls for 12 calls exactly. The New Zealand way of counting sheep, and up until last night effective in not only supplanting bladder concerns but also promoting sleep.

Last night the tsunami struck. Of course it didn’t but the fear of the tsunami struck, which was, for me, last night, just as destructive. This is how it goes: gerroff gerroff gerroff gerroff gerroff gerroff gerroff gerroff ….. (female kiwi call, in my head). …. wonder if I’ll hear a kiwi, wonder if they’re round here, it’s quite flat and by the sea, wonder if they like it flat and by the sea. OMG! Flat and by the sea. And by New Zealand. We could have a tsunami….(we didn’t, which is why I’ve lived to tell the tale of the three strangers and free viagra).

Today is the tale of signs, mainly. The campsite, whilst lovely, was retro and the showers reminded me of school. I probably weigh two stone less than I did as a teenager, maybe more than that – I was plump – but I still don’t appreciate having a thin, small pvc curtain between me and the rest of the showerees, and particularly dislike having to dive into the central bench to retrieve clothes and modesty as there is no private changing area. So I rose and showered at 06.10. A man was launching a boat.

Along the road, there are high tech road repairs – the road had slipped down the hillside (this happens all the time). They may have been up to date enough to have traffic lights (with a working red/amber combo, not normally seen) but the technique of tamping the road surface down involved the men shuffling along in their boots. The laces weren’t tied.

Round here, public health uses rubbish bins to promote their anti drugs stance – how effective is this?

This sign, at Whangaroa, the infamous harbour where maoris massacred French soldiers (in response to atrocities carried out by them) is more explicit. Seems to involve a required action by the owner of any dog who passes a banana skin.

The harbour is the centre for ‘big game fishing’.

The club house is accordingly macho:

Tries to appeal to the softer side of the machos:

I’m not sure how much response this gets: (same notice board)

But at least they colour code the area where children will be safe with hopefully alcohol free carers:

Further round the Bay:

A plaque to be unveiled? Tempted to take cover off but resisted.

And what’s this? Not able to unwrap it but someone could not resist a sneaky peak (see bottom right)! *

Wild flowers beautiful once more:

The coffee was terrible, made from a packet, like cup-a- soup so a cafe in Manganoui touched the spot:


Manganoui is on the edge of Doubtless Bay so-called as Captain Cook marked that there would ‘doubtless’ be a Bay there (as opposed to Doubtful Sound in Fjordland (quo vadis)). A calm town with much history it still has a real sense of community. These children were having fishing lessons this afternoon.

The harbour lies protected by at least three ‘pas’, ancient Maori homeland /defensive settlement areas:

What a useful thing to learn – to feed yourself! Again some of the children were without shoes.

Watch out on the roads:

One sign advised us to slow down: children/kids. There were indeed children and young goats round the next corner.

And this:

This van collects wrecks:

Well named van : the vulture. Typical wreck?

Plans to find an early campsite and relax were abandoned as we heard tales of green, clear waters, dolphins and other marine marvels on the Karikari peninsula. It threatened rain:

And did rain:

Three heavily tattooed (Maori style) men came ashore with a large hessian sack. Various stories: ‘there’s a good market for these’, ‘we’ve got an event’, ‘it’s FTP (feed the people), man!!!’

In the sack were Kina, a kind of sea urchin, that the three had been diving for.

‘ better than viagra, man’ shouted one as he opened one for my husband. Husband stepped back – ‘each one of these like a whole BOX of viagra, man’ he continues. Husband recoils.

‘I hardly eat these but even so, I got seven children, man,’ the oyster harvester continues. At which point his mate gets out an extremely sharp knife and, pointing it towards his lower abdomen, forces open the spiny shell to reveal a gelatinous black mass with some lurking orange streaks.

‘Eat it, man!’ So inexplicably we did. Two intelligent adults, about to travel across the world and trying to protect their stomachs, knowingly ate they knew not what that had come from they knew not where, supplied by they knew not who. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

We ‘ate’ two and were given six more. We managed to persuade some fellow freedom campers to take these. Although the wife did not look pleased, it seemed to bring a spring to the husband’s demeanour.

Our tea? Clearing out fridge so we had that world famous, non PC dish referred to as ‘one eyed egyptians’.

With creamed corn, frozen spinach and salad. If we have gippy tummies tomorrow I’m sure, absolutely sure, it will be due to the kina!

And so to sunset :

So greatly enjoyed that we did not notice the mosquito invasion. 😦

Gannets and rainbows. Around Bay of Islands.

If there’s a word that accurately conveys the glowing whiteness of a gannet caught in the early morning light just prior to dive bombing for a fish, I don’t know it. But I hope you can picture it.

As I lay down last night, determinedly ‘not tired’ and determinedly accepting ‘lights out’ as I was going to listen for the kiwi call so ably enacted by the warden last night, I drifted rapidly off to the sound of waves and woke to rain and the panic cry of the ‘variable’ oyster catchers, a pair of which have been jealously guarding their young off spring (only one so is it offsprung?).

Vicious beaks.

No electricity, in fact no power on this site, so no need for a shower….quick breakfast and off we went on the 1hour tramp to the headland. It took nearly two.

View from trig point.

Random beautiful tree.

Boardwalk through swamp.

Heading further to the Bay of Islands (BoI), we paused to visit the (hang on while I look it up….) Ngaiotonga Scenic Reserve, the largest Reserve in the Bay of Islands Historic and Maritime Park, to search for the double bole Kauri tree. These trees grow up to 60m and were prized both for their use in waka (Maori boat) building but were also used to extract a gum used for varnish and for sticking in false teeth (appropriate).

Many of the trees have defects such as this at man height, remnants from the old practice of extracting gum, a process outlawed in 1905 – giving you an idea of how long these magnificent trees live.

Russell is a small but very touristy port in the midst of the BoI. A couple of highlights:

Old wooden pier with active passenger ferry service.

Voluntary radio service run by local fisherman volunteers. Everyone going out in a boat is encouraged to leave a ‘flight plan’ and the volunteers will ensure everyone is checked back in at the end of the day.

Fun local charter ship which channels all profits back into development of school children in the winter (bring your parrot! Peg legs welcome!).

Russell School: important presences and absences – all children without exception wear a blue hat, all staff members wear similar but white hat; absence of keep out signs and fences around school – I could easily have wandered in; a lot of the children were not wearing shoes! And it wasn’t PE.

Not great pics as I didn’t want to be caught taking pics of young kids at school.

Waitangi: in bold and underlined as it seems so important as it was here, on the west of the BoI that the Waitangi Treaty between the Maori tribes and the British government was signed in 1840. Of course it’s not that simple, many tribes did not sign, and others reluctantly, and the true intention of it was not clear. The site has the same atmosphere as Muir Woods in California (you’ll have to wiki this).

Elevated boardwalks lead from an enthralling museum to the carved whare or meeting house down to the memorial Waka, built at the suggestion of the Maori princess and launched in 1940 to commemorate the centenary of the treaty signing. The waka, Ngatokimatawhaorua, is 37m long, the main hull being constructed from one hollowed out Kauri tree.

The carvings and details are incredibly movingly beautiful. All different, hand carved and all symbolic.

This picture gives you an idea of the girth of one of these trees.

See small man in background? He is standing v close to the trunk, and is of normal stature. The boat takes 80 oarsmen and is used at least annually on the anniversary of the treaty signing.

Whoops! Forgot the Russell stocks.

This lady posed for her husband. I hoped mine would pose for me. Not keen. Lady proposed I pose, she would photo me. …. I felt, on balance, this was an adequate representation of the stocks!

And before our final smiles: the Rainbow Warrior memorial. Bombed at the behest of the French Government in 1985 as they objected to Greenpeace highlighting and trying to prevent French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, the Greenpeace boat the Rainbow Warrior was sunk, and a Portuguese photographer and campaigner was killed. The boat was sunk and the remains ultimately brought to waters in the BoI where now it is explored by divers.

A memorial has been erected at Matauri Bay, tonight’s campsite, where we have to make the difficult decision of gazing at the sea in front of or behind the van. Here is the memorial.

The marks on the rock indicate the site of the wreck.

It Lies this side of the tiny islands to the left of the headland.

Random thoughts:

Next to us tonight, a perfect example of a caravan being consumed into a shack. V common in NZ. Almost de riguer.

Interesting views prior to and on ferry:

Wild flower: black eyed Susan and (I think) impatiens.

ferry man (and woman). Man beckoned us on despite overhang from superstructure on boat which worried K. I reassured K nonchalantly that the ferry People knew what they were doing – then they looked anxious too.

Wildly imaginative names for chilled dog food:

And the aftermath of the cultural show at Waitangi – just regular Joes doing their job.

Two more days to go so using food up: pasta, spaghetti, dried peas, mixed frozen peppers and pasta sauce with grated cheese tonight. Bleuggghh. With wine. Better. 🙂

Waipu Cove to Puriri Bay,Whangaruru North Head Scenic Reserve, Northland, North Island.

A grand day.

(You might want to make a coffee before sitting down. This is a long blog.)

With heavy hearts we finally packed up and left the beautiful coastal campsite at Waipu Cove. We had been there three nights, and I had had the only vegetarian option on the menu twice, so what choice did we have? Really?

Taking my tongue out of my cheek now….

Passing a man revamping a pizza restaurant – and doing it properly. All window ledges being sanded down before priming and repainting. Made Keith go all squidgy – he’s a man that likes to see things be done just right.

Whangarei, the major city of Northland, looked worryingly comparatively large, but in fact was calm and pleasant, helped by the river and many not-too- posh yachts moored there.

The information centre was democratic with lovely gardens:

And an artist doing murals in the midst of everyone’s refreshments.

This small building:

Is called ‘the seed’ (Te Kakano) and is a scale model for a new art gallery to be built on the site of this building, on the Banks of the river…

A ‘hundertwasser’ building. A

It’s a complex story, but well worth investigating, but essentially Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser was an eccentric artist with Austrian and New Zealand connections. How eccentric? Think Dali, think Gaudi then multiply it together. He was an opponent of ‘a straight line’ and indeed of any standardisation, expressing this concept through building design.

The new art gallery, which will have a large section devoted to Maori culture, will be 100 times the size of the seed which comes with a ‘tenant tree’.

And so, past the tied up yachts, and the groups of tourists, to find Keith.

No, not our Keith, Keith the glass artist:

Keith Grinter. He produces some intriguing work, and had detailed explanations about his use of coloured glass.

The visit was considerably if unwittingly enlivened by this person, Lisa Rego, who is the official artist for the America’s Cup and is half British, half Bermudan.

She showed us some of her pictures whilst meanwhile her friend encouraged me to get to know Our Lord in only 11 minutes, using modern techniques (the internet I gather).


Keith is originally from Ipswich. Greatest concert he attended was Pink Floyd in Brighton in the 70s. He was a uni drop out in the 70s (wasn’t everyone? Well no actually my parents would have killed me, and anyway biochemistry students aren’t that imaginative) (imaginary conversation, obvs). He subsequently was a computer programmer but is now a successful glass artist.

Anyway…. Lisa and Keith chatted things artistic, culminating in Lisa observing that there must be some ‘health and safety concerns’.

Yes said Keith, phlegmatically, it gets hot.

The Clapham Clock Museum, contains the collection of Archie Clapham, a man originally from Yorkshire. It houses over 7000 clocks and watches – and other time pieces, many of which were very entertaining. Worth a visit and I was particularly interested in this one – the clock face says: Gaskell, Knutsford. Mrs Gaskell was a long time resident of Knutsford (Cheshire) and the book Cranford was modelled closely on this small market town which was my home for many years (and is now a draw for WAGS etc). (Hence my own ineffable style).

Random other observations:

Found we had parked illegally in a central car park. Lady traffic warden says ‘ that’s ok, finish your lunch, then when you’re ready, perhaps you could move?’

Cyclist came to petrol station. Came across to pump to put rubbish in bin but no- had a gallon can (like huge baked bean tin) in his pack which he filled.

Beautiful, ancient trees by many deserted beaches:

And also huge mesanbreanthemums (sp??) which I struggle with at Home growing wildly on edge of coast:

Fish pulling funny face on beach (admittedly dead) and husband doing same (despite still being very definitely alive):

Wild parrot: (migrant from Australia, much More flamboyant than indigenous parrot, why am I not surprised?).

It flew to reveal A lime green flash on its rump.

Great valley like England of yesteryear, including mr and Mrs Pig and 10 piglets: sorry such distant pic.

And so to Puriri Bay, a campsite run by the DOC (department of conservation)which has no power, cold showers, long drop (no flush) toilets and is by a safe swimming and fishing beach where there are KIWI.

I did ask the warden about the kiwi (apparently nocturnal, a fact of which I was oblivious) and managed to persuade him to demonstrate the male and female call, a fact of which I may not have been entirely oblivious. Am I wrong?

Tantrums: all sweetness and light today. I drove.

New words: saw gazetteered and riparian used in same sentence. Our comprehension of the native tongue progresses by leaps and bounds.

Kindness? That had to be the traffic warden.

We’re to the right of the tree.

Wales? Whales?

A rare bit of humour this morning. It’s Grey and windy and fellow campers are wrapping their arms about them as they move from tent to car to pull out extra layers.

It looks like Wales. My companion quips ‘ well you wanted to see one’. We ….laugh…… well he does and I think of all the wonderful things we have seen (no live whales yet).

We decide to walk the Waipu Cove Walk. Once again there is a particular specific scent that scratches my brain. I know it but can’t name it. It reminds me of other holidays. Then we find it – a fig tree…

And look at all the other flowers within 20 steps of the entrance to the camp site:

Jasmine I think. Again a wonderful scent.

Are these ‘secretary bird’ flowers? They should be!

Doesn’t everyone’s garage look like this?

There are huge swathes of agapanthus on the point of flowering throughout the north island. You can almost hear the buds stretching.

This white one has made it.

The walk signs do not hold back. ‘Good level of fitness required’ it says, showing examples of the sort of terrain we may well encounter.

Having prepared well: hit (hat for those who haven’t got used to the nz vowels yet, but read later), butties, water, apples, raincoats and last minute liquorice purchase we start confidently only to find we have to Ford the stream at the outset. It’s only about 2m wide. No probs.

First point of interest: New word. Riparian. My companion doesn’t seem to know for sure what this means so indulges me and takes a photo whereupon two men stop to talk. Ah, riparian says one. That’s to do with the access to the coast from the land. Some discussion follows about its precise meaning in English law, one of us having up to date knowledge on this.

The two men are out checking the traps. Part of a country wide ‘crowdfunded’ or rather crowd organised approach to try and rid the country of stoats and rats and therefore encourage the recrudescence of the kiwi national birds including the kiwi itself.

Apparently ‘you guys’, Keith and I, presumably representing the whole of the UK, introduced rabbits to feed ourselves, then stoats to kill the rabbits but the stoats ate the nz indigenous birds’ eggs, and the birds, many of whom were flightless. So ridding the country of stoats and rats should help the native bird population to increase. I get this.

I don’t get it being ‘we guys’ though – the people we spoke to were direct descendants of the early settlers, so maybe the trouble was with their ancestors, not with us? Just a thought.

NZ only had two mammals originally – both bats. The idea is to rid the country of all mammals (except sheep, dogs, cows, llamas, horses – and humans….).

Bruce on the right was carrying a bag of bait – pieces of salted rabbit. Simon, on the left, is apparently great at killing and dismembering the rabbits. They live in Auckland and come to Waipu about once a month.

They spoke at some length about increasing numbers of hicthares. K and I pictured a small rodenty/deery sort of animal and asked further questions to fill in said animal’s sketchy outline. Aha! The NZ vowel again. It’s hectares. They were talking about increasing areas of land thought to be stoat free.

Btw, Bruce needs to get a ‘hit’. Just saying.

A pleasant walk with thoughtfully provided small benches:

On closer inspection we find it’s not so perfect:

A trap.


Warnings of poison.

My fitness wasn’t up to scratch as I managed to walk into low tree trunks crossing the path four times, each time making a loud thwack noise WITH MY HEAD. Maybe that will knock some sense into it?

There were ENTs, too.

The path was every bit as exciting as promised, with fairly precipitous drops to the coast, large rocks to clamber over, huge trunks to scale, and steel hawsers to support us in our endeavours. But the beach was worth it. Great place for a butty.

No-one swimming, and although Keith is better than he was since he got his buoyant trunks (!), I still wouldn’t trust my life to his lifeguardly front crawl. I paddled instead.

And Lordy Lordy when we finished the walk the tide had come in – the stream was several metres wide on our return. Can you imagine? One routinely has to Ford the river before embarking on walk.

It’s said that there are seven versions of ourselves spread around the world. Last Sunday I found my friend Fran living in Clarence as Lynda.

Today I found my daughter’s boyfriend, JC, running a rather excellent restaurant: Newquay JC

Waipu JC

Same mannerisms. Creepy (to find double. JC NOT CREEPY.)

The resto was good last night but was visited during the 26 hour stereo tantrum. Repeat visit tonight to appreciate the food more: hope they’re not too terrified to let us in!

Update: food excellent.

Starter: squid with lemon aioli. And side of garlic bread.

Mains: fish and chips (k). Batter is tempura.

Spinach gnocchi with portobello mushrooms

And home grown broccolini (but they didn’t have enough so had to add asparagus) (shame) and macadamia nuts.

And coffee.

New words: riparian

Endangered species: we both survived the night after the tantrum

Kindness: they let us back into the Cove restaurant. Thanks!!!

Waipu Cove , Northland, North Island.

A quiet day in after a very disturbed night.

Campsite is over the dunes from the sea, which sea is said to offer some of the warmest Tasmanian Waters. I tried them and they’re still pretty chilly. There are families in the water though, paddling, body boarding and so forth.

Much entertainment to be had from watching three men, three women and several babies try to construct a large tent. It’s now up, apparently, although sagging from a frame and two of the men are trying to work out what to do with the spare poles. The other man has laid claim to a seat, and it seems nothing will now move him.

A small naked child regularly escapes to stand in front of the jeep but is scooped up again by the man ‘in charge’ and returned to the ‘marquee’.

I write as I observe, so this is a work in progress. Someone inside the tent is trying to make the roof ‘stand up’ but of course it flops down again as soon as he moves.

See it now has three rather than the previous two peaks. Progress.

We’re about two and a half hours from Auckland, it’s Saturday night and it’s a good campsite so I expect it’s going to be pretty popular. It’s rare for people to have pet dogs, so no free packs of happy dogs, but there are rather wonderful roaming packs of youngish children, wandering purposefully (is that possible), greeting newcomers with curiosity and delight, behaving well and generally having only the lightest touch of parental supervision. Rather lovely.

New Zealand smells lovely. Gardens and hedges full of roses, honeysuckle, and the trees smell fabulous too. Tonight’s restaurant (should have been lovely, by beach) had these flowers. Fairly typical.

Tantrums: going on for 26 hours now.

New words: none

Nz kindness : I forgot my shower 50c this morning and another lady gave me her spare one. Prosopagnosia means I have no idea who she was and therefore can’t repay her.

On the road again….towards Island Bay, Northland, North Island

Day two of shared reading. A great group:

Let me introduce you to them (all happy to be featured):Richard. 78. Just got a PhD in social change. Has been an English teacher and lived in London in the 70s, regularly travelling to Snowdonia.

Kate. She is so impassioned by shared reading she came to Liverpool to train, has set up several groups in Auckland herself, and now has raised funds/interest for this week’s training. Wow!that’s something.

Anna. Works at TAPAC. Lovely calm manner and great facilitator. Michael. Keen reader and enthusiastic group member. Lyn. Vet and supplier of delicious cake. Danny, Judy and Maria (left to right) politics and philosophy student, artist and librarian from Russia.

Megg. Course friend and trainer for Read to Lead course. Originally from NZ but living in Liverpool.

Keith. Official photographer for group shots and all round great help. He want to the motor museum and the aeronautical museum today (MOTAT museum of transport and technology) and said it was the best he’d ever visited. Not bad – as an overseas senior citizen he got in at child rates.

Centre for performing arts where we did training.

So – Auckland, how idyllic must it be? North of north island, built on a series of bays ….

They have the same traffic issues as us:

Heard about the ‘ Nippon Clippon’ Bridge? This is it, on route 1, Friday at 16.45.

Here you can see the extra two lanes they clipped on to increase capacity.

Quite something.

TransPORT is a big issue as one might imagine. I came across a peaceful ‘sit in’ about some plans in Auckland. People sleep here at night to protect the tree. The lady in the pic is Catherine a recently resigned school nurse who offered me a seat and strawberries and explained the problems of communication with the local council.

You can’t see the tree on the island, but it was v beautiful with large red flowers.

And as we travel up the coast, stopping at the 4square supermarket for food supplies, I notice the use by date on the milk is after the date for our flight. I’m saddened.

Tantrums: no….

New words: pooty (=snooty)

Nz kindness: nil specific today.

Shared Reading, internationally

Many of you, dear readers, will know of my passion for work of The Reader Organisation (see.www.thereader.org.uk) a social enterprise based in Liverpool.

Today I joined a group of seven shared reading group members training to lead groups in TAPAC, an art and dance centre by Auckland Zoo.

Ably led by Megg, the kiwi friend from the course, we explored some great poems and literature, and dissected the elements required to make a shared reading group successful.

Coffee in the zoo followed by companion and I taking a trip to Blockhouse Bay completes the day. How lovely to sit quietly by the sea in a city, and watch four kingfishers, and herons and egrets.

But more lovely is seeing the families playing, cycling, eating their tea:

Deciding on a quick curry for tea, I was intrigued by this poster:

Then struggled with an aspect of my iPhone, which said husband shook his head at, sucked his teeth at…. then resolved , rapidly breaking into one of his well known ‘I’m pretty ingenious aren’t I?’ Smiles, which also involves him listing other examples of his abilities in matters electronic and engineering….

I’ll not swap him, or his skills.

Tantrums: there was one about the iPad. No idea why.

Endangered species: must have been close by whilst we coffeed at zoo.

Nz kindness: wonderful bring and share lunch provided by course colleagues.

Past the mountains to Auckland, north of North Island

The distances in New Zealand are generally short, but travelling is on the whole quite slow. On North Island there is much more traffic (over three million out of the 4.3m people in NZ live on North Island), a few more heavy trucks but nothing on the scale of the UK, but very very few dual carriageways. The landscape is undulating, and roads tend to follow the contours. Almost the entire population that isn’t driving seems to be working in road construction, male and female alike. The speed limit frequently drops to 30km/hr. BUT what scenery there is to be seen: (all following taken whilst on the move)Two different but adjacent mountains/volcanoes on the roadside in the Tongariro National Park. Lake Taupo, the caldera of the Taupo Volcano, the second largest freshwater lake in Oceania, drained by New Zealand’s longest river the Waikato, and said to house monster trout On our way we passed through towns with fascinating claims to fame: Bulls. It makes its name by having puns wherever possible: police station = Const-a-bull; pharmacy = dispens -a- bull. I could go on, but won’t. We didn’t stop. Then, what better place to visit than Taihape, gumboot capital of the world? This aspect promotes fun, enjoyment and a serious sporting activity (annual gumboot throwing day) according to Wikipedia. We moved on……To a town famed for its corrugated iron. How exciting could that be? More exciting than puns and wellies. Look at the visitor centre: And the merino shop:Really quite endearing. The cafe had a sense of humour too:Yes. The Bugger Cafe, Tirau. There were many many examples of ‘oh, bugger’ moments, and other examples of folks using the phrase. I include an edited selection: The DoE sure speaks sense sometimes! And that’s more or less our day, many hours of travelling, two editions of the Archers Omnibus caught up on (reached September 10 now), sat in huge traffic jam in Auckland and ate excellent Italian food at a Proper Restaurant. There’s posh for you. Tantrums: why bother?Endangered: not been any of those anywhere near Auckland for quite some time I’d say. It’s very busy here. NZ kindness:Sign on a motorway service station.