Archive for the month “December, 2015”

Happy 2016, everyone.

Today is a big day.

Not only is it the start of the New Year, which we got to celebrate long before the rest of the world, but it is also the day when we can stop taking the doxycycline tablets that have protected us from malaria for the past three and a half years.  Yippee!


Episode 4: Wellington, North Island

Perhaps it wasn’t Wellington’s fault.  We were only there for one day, so maybe we didn’t give it time to impress us, but the long and short of it was that it didn’t seem a particularly exciting town.

There’s an attractive harbour area, which we explored, finally chancing on a theatre!  Yes, a theatre!  For all of the months leading up to our departure from Madang we had been promising ourselves two things.

  1. To go out and walk aimlessly around a town in the evening, even in the dark.  You have no idea how important just being able to stroll can be when that simple pleasure has been denied to you for so long.
  2. To see some live theatre.

So perhaps I shouldn’t be too unkind to Wellington.  It provided both for us.

There were, in fact, two theatres in this one building.  One was showing the Christmas pantomime which, after much debate internal, we decided we could forego.  (It would have been a bit too bizarre to go from the land of painted faces, scary headdresses and stone axes to the world of Christmas pantomimes in the space of a few days!)

The other theatre, an auditorium that could have been described as ‘intimate’, having less than 100 seats, was featuring a one-man show based on Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.

We had journeyed to the other side of the world to watch a one-man show based on the writings of a poet from the town where Linda was born and I was brought up.


Adding to the irony was the fact that the actor, Ray Henwood, who had devised the evening, piecing together bits and bobs of several of Dylan Thomas’s essays, had lived within half a mile of the house where Linda had first seen the light of day and where she had spent her first eighteen years!  He had attended the same school as Linda’s father, a school that I also attended some years later, albeit on a different site and, by that time, renamed from “Swansea Grammar School to the rather more grand “Bishop Gore Grammar School, Swansea”.

All of the stories were based in Swansea, “an ugly, lovely town” and Dylan described it.  Growing up in Swansea it was difficult to avoid being familiar with the work of Dylan Thomas  but although I hadn’t read or listened to any of his writings for a long, long while, certain phrases echoed down through the years.   For example, his description of the various, undistinguished statues of long dead dignitaries with which the town is dotted.  Dylan called then the “blacked monuments of civic pride’, and his cryptic dismissal of Swansea Museum, which he said “…should have been in a museum.” Anyone who has seen Swansea’s museum will appreciate how apt this comment is.

Our story-teller, Mr Henwood, a man well into his seventies, was excellent and we just revelled in the experience of being in a theatre and watching live entertainment.

(Actually, this was our second foray into live drama since reaching New Zealand, but the least said about our first experience, the better.  It was an amateur group performing a sort of musical based, loosely, on a robbery on the Orient Express.  Now I am a fan of amateur theatre.  I actually think theatre, even amateur theatre, is important and worthy of support.  But this offering was truly awful!  A litany of popular songs strung together with no particular theme and performed with no particular skill, combined with dialogue that featured a lot of infantile racial stereotyping, laced with numerous references to farting.

The audience, most of whom were local, were seated around tables, bistro-style, were having a wonderful time, which made premature escape difficult.  This situation was made even more embarrassing when two large ladies, dressed entirely in Victorian costume, who were obviously well-known to the cast and seemed to be enjoying the show no end, joined our table.

Then, mercifully, Providence intervened on our behalf.  During the interval an announcement was made that a white Toyota in the car-park outside had its lights on.  We seized our chance.  I was absolutely certain that I had not left the lights on our hire car, but my own amateur dramatic skills came into their own as I played the part of the flustered old bloke who fumbled for his car keys before blustering out of the theatre to switch his lights off. Indeed, as it turned out, it was the car right next to ours that was draining its battery, but by the time anyone discovered that, we had made good our escape and were on our way home.

So perhaps I should not be too quick to judge Wellington.  We’ll go back in a couple of weeks and give it another chance to impress us before we leave for Australia.

We might just go and see what’s on at the theatre!

…and on the walls.

Even in the back alleyways, Art Deco adorned Napier’s walls.  Some of it weird, all of it wonderful.

wall 2           lamp 3

wall 1

28          lamp 1

And then, there was this.  I have no idea what it represented.  I’m not even sure that it would qualify as Art Deco, but it was magnificent and covered an entire alleyway wall.  (For the best effect, click on the pictures and, hey presto, they get bigger!)

picture 7    picture 6

picture 3   picture 5

picture 4     picture 2








And, for the full effect, click on this.

picture 1

A morning in Napier very well spent, I would say!

The good burghers of Napier are certainly to be congratulated on turning the disaster of the earthquake into a fascinating town full of interest and quirkiness.

Now then, Christchurch.  What about you?  Watch the blog for the next, but one, exciting episode!

It was in the windows…

window 5    window 3

window 1

window 2     window 6

sunburst    sunburst 2window 4

It was in the doors and on the floors

door tob






Art Deco everywhere.

Art Deco – it’s all in the detail.

Wandering around Napier was a feast for the eyes.  The architecture from the age of jazz was everywhere.

P1090915       ship

The more you looked for the Roaring Twenties, the more you found it.

jazz    lady 1

It seemed that every building was displaying its own symbols of belonging to the style of the age.

detail 11     detail 6

detail 1             detail 2

detail 5         detail 4

The signs were everywhere.

Amazing what you see in Napier

statue 5

statue 3

statue 4But what is she waving at?













statue 1

Ah, yes.  There he is.


Episode 3: Napier, North Island, NZ

At precisely 10.47am on Tuesday 3rd February, 1931, an earthquake of the magnitude 7.8 on the Richter scale ripped through Napier.  It lasted for 2½ minutes and killed 161 people, injuring thousands more. The quake itself and subsequent fire destroyed almost the entire town centre.

The Ahuriri Lagoon, which included the town’s harbour, actually disappeared as the land rose by 2.7 metres and 40km² of sea bed became dry land. 2230 hectares of new land appeared.

The only good luck around on that day was that there happened to be a Royal Navy warship, the HMS Veronica, just off the coast at the time, and within minutes of the quake, radio messages were being transmitted to Wellington, telling of the disaster.  Within 24 hours, two more Royal Navy ships carrying relief supplies, medicines and, more importantly, doctors and nurses had arrived to help with the rescue effort.

When the dust had settled and the town had time to consider the various options for reconstruction, some visionary thinking took place.  Four architectural firms combined their expertise and decided that, given that there was nothing left standing, they had the opportunity to build something new and fresh.  Since Art Deco was all the rage at the time, that was one of the styles that won though.  The architects decided that if the town was going to be rebuilt, then it might as well be beautiful rather than just functional.  An Art Deco town arose.

roaring  design

In the 1970s, when the world was overtaken by the desire to tear down anything that wasn’t made of pine and didn’t look like G-plan furniture, several of the buildings in Napier were ‘redeveloped’ and rebuilt in glass and concrete.  Then a group of enthusiasts got together to form the ‘Art Deco Trust’, in order to try and resist the barbarism of the developers. 

They were remarkably successful.  Today people flock to Napier to see what is left of the Art Deco town centre.  Once a year the town is taken over by a festival when everyone dresses up in 1920s gear and all the vintage cars come out.  If you don’t take part, you are the unusual one in the crowd.

lady 2

While we were there, I spent a morning just wandering around the town photographing anything that took my fancy.  The next few blog entries are the result.

front 14

front 8

front 7

front 17

PS  There will be a period of radio silence on this blog for the next week.  We are going down to the Otago peninsular to spend Christmas in a Blue Boat House and, guess what?  No internet.  Arghh!  The next instalment of our odyssey will be just before New Year.

Happy Christmas everyone, wherever in the world you are reading this.  Thanks for following the blog.


An oxymoron is a phrase that contradicts itself, like “Parting is such sweet sorrow”.  For many years, my favourite has been Linda’s concept of an ‘economical holiday’.

Today I read the BBC news headlines and discovered another one.  “The FIFA Ethics Committee”

In an effort to fill those long empty hours that always come with Christmas, I am inviting all of my faithful readers, and even the unfaithful ones, to offer and share their favourite oxymoron via this blog.

Just post a comment.  Go on.  I dare you!  Consider it part of the joy of Christmas, which to some of the more ‘Bah humbuggian’ amongst us is, in itself, an oxymoron.

Il faut sortir les dimanches…

When I was young and charming and about ten years old, my Mum and Dad used to go to the cinema almost every week.  Every week I used to ask if I could go with them.

If the film was unsuitable for a ten-year-old, they would tell me straight away that I would be staying at home, but quite often they would put me through an infuriating game whereby I would ask my Mum if I could go with them and she would tell me to ask my Dad.  When I asked my Dad, he would tell me that I would have to ask my Mum and so it would go on until they finally they took pity on me and agreed that, yes, I could go with them.

One of the treats, that were part of going to the cinema, was either an ice-cream or a plastic carton of ‘Kia Ora’ orange juice.


Anyone of my generation, who was brought up in the UK, will remember the brand.

Fast-forward fifty five years and I travel to the other side of the world in order to learn that Kia Ora is not a brand of orange juice.  It’s the Maori for “welcome”.  You see it everywhere here.


Just goes to show that you are never too old to learn…!

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