A New Year in India
After leaving Sai Baba’s ashram near Bangalore on December 26, I flew on my own to the northern city of Delhi. I was joining a tour group with a guide, a bus and driver and a general assistant; Rajasthan our destination. Excited and nervous, I shouldn’t have eaten that irresistible melon for breakfast. Homeopathic pillules I’d been given by a resident at the ashram averted disaster on the plane. I was to find that the saying of ‘Go to India to lose weight’ was about to come true for me.
A Christmas in India
Doing this just for myself was a first for me. School holidays were an opportunity to organise a trip from Upper Hutt to India and find a person who’d been to Puttaparthi before to be my guide. Then I arranged a follow-up trip with a tour group around Rajasthan.
Tauranga’s Garden and Art Festival
“Don’t forget to take the milk bottle,” my housemate and editor Jenny Argante reminded me. It was Saturday morning and the Farmer’s Market was on, held every Saturday from 7.45 – 12 noon in the Tauranga Primary School grounds. We watch passers-by wander up to the market with empty bags and walk back with leeks and celery bulging from their bags.
Queen Fever and the Worst Christmas Ever
The year was 1953 and the young Queen Elizabeth was touring New Zealand. This was the first time a reigning monarch had set foot in New Zealand. My family caught the fever of wanting to see her again and again. The Queen and her Duke arrived in Auckland on December 23 to a punishing six-week itinerary. They visited 46 towns, large and small and attended 110 functions.
Eastern Playground of Auckland
Maraetai is the easternmost suburb of Auckland, one I’m not familiar with. To my delight, I discovered a series of pretty beaches, gorgeous bushwalks and green fields between suburbs containing the necessities of life. My bedroom window looked across the Motuihi Channel to a completely different view of Rangitoto than the familiar North Shore view, yet the island looked just the same!
Whangarei’s Extraordinary Hundertwasser Art Centre
Imagine a public loo as a tourist destination! Yet the Hundertwasser-designed toilets in Kawakawa draw 250,000 visitors annually. Obviously, they must be something special, and when I was in Whangarei last year, I spotted an unmistakeable Hundertwasser creation going up behind walls. In February 2022, the unique Hundertwasser Art Centre was opened by a group of the main supporters of the project.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
An array of goods was temptingly displayed in front of him; lavender products, olive oils and tasters, olives in bottles, culinary herbs preserved in jars, skeins of alpaca wool. Each one, I learned later, represented a win over an obstacle in life. He had a modest manner, a pleasant smile and was easy to chat to. When he said he’d previously been a CEO of a kiwifruit packhouse, I wanted to know more about his journey before becoming a stall holder at the Tauranga Farmer’s Market.
The First Family Bach
In 1950 my family acquired a beach section on Whangaparaoa peninsula with a safe beach and a very small bach on it, for holidays. Dad bought it at an auction for one thousand pounds, a large sum in those days. Mum said he had to have a sit-down and a whisky afterwards.
To us kids, me, my younger brother Bill and little sister Mary, it seemed to take ages to get there. It began with the drive from Mt Albert to the car ferry terminal in downtown Auckland.
The Famous Tauranga Farmer’s Market
Don’t forget to take the milk bottle,” said my housemate Jenny Argante that Saturday morning. When we go, alone or together, to Tauranga’s Farmer’s Market we get the bottle filled again with creamy, delicious milk. Nothing in supermarkets can beat its rich, fresh taste.
The market is held every Saturday from 7.45am to 12 noon in the Tauranga Primary School grounds.
Taking Fun Seriously
Chatting to Simone van Kan after church with a cuppa, I was intrigued by her story of being a humanitarian adventurer, journeying to Sarajevo to bring entertainment to children in war-torn Bosnia in the 1990s.
Simone was first enticed by her boyfriend to do something special en route home to New Zealand.
Because She Had No Choice
Marissa took her two eldest children out of school because she had no choice. She couldn't afford the fees. She couldn't afford the rent of their small shack either since her husband abandoned her. Her greatest fear was that they'd be evicted, even greater than hunger.Four small pouches of rice, curry powder, salt and a few tea leaves were all she had in the house.
In this delightful Indian summer, I like to sit outside with a cuppa, lean back and reminisce about the exciting things I've done. I feel particularly grateful for my sailing experiences. My first husband Fred was a keen sailor, a yachtie. We had some frightening and dangerous adventures leavened by some delightful encounters. New Zealand is a boatie's dream, but we mainly sailed from Auckland up the east coast as far as Whangaroa and across to Coromandel.
Backyards Streams – Friend or Foe?
Who could guess where following Pokemon might get you? My granddaughter Zara and I walked down the road to the blockhouse Bay Public Reserve. Zara played Pokemon on my phone and wherever a Pokemon was to be caught, we followed it. This is how I found myself at the offices of the Whau River Catchment Trust, wondering what that entity was and why here.
A Sweet Mystery
My friend Jenny and I recently had lunch in the Med cafe in Tauranga. Written on a wall menu was a neenish tart milkshake option, Chocolate and vanilla flavoured. Piqued by the word and while waiting for our nachos, I google it on my phone. It revealed a highly entertaining story of lies, half-truths and revenge.
The Chicken Dance
In the days of a house on a quarter acre section, many families kept chooks to supplement the family food budget. Breakfast was kitchen scraps mixed with mash and warm water, wheat in the afternoon. Organic chicken and eggs were the norm. Children had t he job of feeding the chookies and collecting eggs before and after school.
Biodiversity in Decline
The Australasian Brown Bittern/Matuku in t he heron family once used to be common throughout New Zealand, it's booms echoing over the raupo/bulrush swamps in spring. Now this top wetland predator has joioned the list of critically endangered birds, along with the kakapo. When a bird species is secretive, not one many people know exists or experts know much about, then its plight is a serious problem.
The Burt Munro Challenge
When motorcyclists travel from one end of the country to another at the same time, what draws them to Invercargill? The legacy of Burt Munro and his racing bike provide a challenge to blokes and their beloved bikes, the adventure of the ride, the burst of speen on a country backroad straight. The first ten days of February is when you pack up your bike, round up you mates, and head south.
In our garden is a plum tree with wide spreading branches offering generous shade. A tree whose delicious fruit ripens at exactly the wrong time of year as far as I'm concerned - the end of December when I'm with family from Christmas Eve to early in the New Year. When I moved here two years ago, it was my first encounter with a true Christmas plum tree. I imagine it was planted when the couple who bui;t the house in the mid-1960s had a young family. to have a tree producing such bounty at that time of year would have seemed like another Christmas gift.
$19 Million Comeback for Conservation
The Bay of Plenty Manaaki Kaimai Mamaku Trust was recently awarded a taonga of $19 to be spent over the next four years. Now, I've lived in Katikati, the towering skyline of the Kaimais defining home, written poetry on the moods of the range and painted the crepuscular rays of the setting sun finger-pointing between the jagged peaks. I'm a volunteer with a conservation group working to deter predators such as rats and possums. Naturally, I had to find out what was going on.
A Teacher in the Paddock – Really?
From managing a cleaning business to driving trucks, Kevin Powell with his wife Jane, now runs an educational social enterprise where schools bring children to them. Jane had been based in the Mediterranean for ten years, working on superyachts. The Spanish lifestyle felt so right that when she returned to New Zealand, she was determined not to accept the everyday that we're accustomed to.
Life on a Strange Island
When you meet someone with charisma, who bubbles with happiness, is culturally different and in charge of an umu for a group lunch, it's likely you want to get to know them better. I did, anyway. When I talked with Beverley Vokia-Scarlett later on, what I heard was a love story: for her man, her children and her family back home on her island - Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands.
THE JOY OF ART
For those who draw and paint in the Bay of Plenty, October's an exciting time. In the first week, the Taurangs Society of Artists held the second of their twice-yearly exhibitions, offering the challenge of the Supreme Award.
Who will win it?
THE MELTING POT OF PONSONBY
Ponsonby Road, also known as The Strip, is lined with a delectable mix of shops, cafes and restaurants and populated with an equally interesting mix of people, all giving the Strip an exciting vibe. I walked 4 km along both sides, wishing my budget was bigger (maybe it’s time to ask for a raise) until my feet were sore. Refreshed by a designer sandwich in the newly-opened Fat Belly Deli, I decided to drive to the Catholic area of St Mary’s Bay, bordered on one side by New Street.
PONSONBY - AN URBAN VILLAGE
Like all villages, there’s a sense of connectedness between individuals, making Ponsonby a community of people who care enough to get out and create their own solutions for the problems of the time. Cultural differences are accepted and valued, and sharing becomes the norm. Ponsonby, Freemans Bay and, to a lesser extent, St Mary’s Bay have been and still are a crucible for social change.
Though everyone said cataract surgery was a painless, simple procedure, I remained dubious. What if something went wrong? I put a high value on my eyesight, cloudy though it was. I’m no stranger to operations, with so many metal plates screwed to bones to hold me together that I do occasionally set off alarms at airports. But though I might be Bionic Woman, I still didn’t fancy any doctor, however highly skilled, messing around with my eyes.
AUCKLAND'S LIVING TREASURES
How long is it since you went to the zoo? If you have grandchildren the right age it might be fairly recently. Or it might be something you put on your someday list. Don’t leave it too long. Things are happening at the zoo at a faster rate than you think. Animals age. Conservation values change. Technology offers new opportunities. I went with my family, wheelchair and all, on a beautiful winter’s day, sunny, calm.
WHY DO PEOPLE CHOOSE AUCKLAND?
Target - being in Auckland’s North Shore to start work at 7am on a workday. From Huntly. The 5am departure should provide ample time, but the traffic even at that time of day made our editor taking the trip once wonder why anyone would choose to live in Auckland. He asked me to find out, and what they loved about it. As an ex-Aucklander who visits with family often, I have the perspective of an outsider and the memory of what I used to love about the city 30 years ago.
LOCAL CRUISING - IT'S GOOD FOR THE SOUL
As I watched Kewpie Too sail up the river, I knew I wanted another trip. The last time I’d sailed in her was 1962 in the Bay of Islands on the iconic tourist trip to Cape Brett and through the Hole in the Rock. I remember marvelling as we gently made our way through the stone archway, water dripping on us like a maritime christening.
EXPLORING AUCKLAND - PARNELL : A PLACE FOR PEOPLE
‘Parnell Village for Sale’ read the advertisement in 1841. From that time, Parnell, a hop, skip and jump from central Auckland has nearly always been a desirable place to live. Many heritage homes are in this first suburb. To get there, catch an Inner-City Link bus or train to Parnell Station or walk to this plush suburb from the CBD.
THE ONE-STOP-SHOP, TAIAO ORA, WARD 51
When disaster strikes in the form of a stroke as it has in my family, there is only one place to be: the new integrated stroke and rehabilitation ward of Auckland City Hospital, the only one in the country. The project was initiated in 2019, with an investment of $30 million from the government and opened in November 2020. (This was in both issues but on different pages if you need to even things up)
A NIGHT WITH ROBBIE BURNS
Scotland's national poet Robert Burns is recognised the world over for his work focusing on universal themes of love and nature and a national day named after him. Each year on January 25th Burns Suppers are held in celebration, with pipers, traditional dishes of haggis and whisky and recitals of his best-loved work.
The auditorium in the Aotea Centre is filling up. Families and friends allotted precious seats settle and find a place for that awkward bunch of flowers their graduate has given them to mind during the ceremony. The programme titled ‘Convocation For the Conferment of Degrees and Award of Diplomas’ is perused for the graduate’s name. Out back, highly excited young people are being marshalled into that critical order that must match the names on the list to be called out.
QUALITY TIME WITH YOUR MOKOPUNA ON A CHEAP BUDGET
Finding free and cheap holiday fun that grandparents can enjoy with their mokopuna requires some diligent searching on your computer. It will also involve DIY trips using personal travelling equipment – your legs! And part of what’s free is the enjoyment to be had from planning your trip together.
SCHOOL HOLIDAYS FAMILY VISIT IN AUCKLAND
Following two cataract operations, I can now see properly to drive. A visit to Auckland, my family and grandchildren, was long overdue, with only two days left of the holidays. Zara is four and goes to day care. Dad and Mum run a cybersecurity business from home. Alex, seven, and I enjoy quality time together. I run a list of options past him: up in the sky or underground, east or west, to a forest or the harbour? He chooses Sky Tower.
BEATING THE BLUES
Have you ever gone to bed and realised you haven’t spoken to a person since yesterday? Or felt lonely in a crowd? We’re part of a world-wide ‘loneliness epidemic’, a situation that is certainly not helped by the current coronavirus restrictions. We live in a hyper-connected world, and yet we’re lonelier than ever before.