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.
An Abbeyfield House for Katikati
What is Abbeyfield?
It’s an organisation that builds home-like facilities for supported living for older people. Abbeyfield was introduced to New Zealand in 1991 by Wakefield GP Dr Ted Bassett, who had encountered Abbeyfield on a visit to the UK to explore retirement accommodation models. On his return, Dr Bassett recruited a small energetic group of supporters and Abbeyfield New Zealand was born.
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.
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.
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.
Taking Fun Seriously
Chatting to Simone Van Kan after church over a cuppa, I was intrigued by her story of being a humanitarian adventurer, journeying to Sarajevo to bring aid and entertainment to children in war-torn Bosnia in the 1990s. I wanted to know more so she lent me the book she’s written about it.
Simone was first enticed by a boyfriend’s vision of doing something special en route to home in New Zealand.
The Famous Tauranga Farmers Market
"Don't forget to take the milk bottle," said my housemate Jenny 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 7.45 to 12 noon in the Tauranga Primary School grounds.
The Eleven-Hour Bus Trip
After reading last month's issue featuring Rita Angus and the exhibition of her art in Te Papa, Wellington, and being an artist myself, I determined I'd get there by hook or by crook. I'd go by bus and fly back to Tauranga. I booked my bus and surprisingly affordable plane tickets. shortly afterwards, pour neighbour tested positive for Covid. Worse, he'd come for coffee the day before. Jenny, my housemate, and I went into isolation.
Backyard 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 around the park, we followed. This is how I found myself at the offices of the Whau River Catchment Trust, wondering what that entity was and why here?
In this delightful Indian summer, I like to site 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 experiences leavened by many delightful encounters. New Zealand is a boatie's dream but we mainly sailed from Auckland up the east coast to as far as Whangaroa, north of the Bay of Islands, and to Coromandel.
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 the job of feeding the chookies and collecting eggs before and after school.
A Sweet Mystery
My friend Jenny and I had lunch recently 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 whiole we waited for our nachos, I googled it on my phone. It revealed a highly entertaining story of lies, half-truths and revenge.
Biodiversity in Decline
The Australasian Brown Bittern/Matuku in the heron family once used to be common throughout New Zealand, its booms echoing over the raupo/bulrush swamps in spring. Now this top wetland predator has joined the critically endangered list, along with the kakapo. When a bird species is secretive, one not 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 provides a challenge to blokes and their beloved bikes, the adventure of the ride, the freedom of a burst of speed on a back country straight. The first ten days of February is when you pack up your bike, round up your mates and head south.
$19m Comeback for Conservation
The Bay of Plenty Manaaki Kaimai Mamaku Trust was recently awarded a taonga of $19 million 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 t he 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.
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 until early 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 built the house in the mid 1960s had a young family.
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 super yachts. The Spanish lifestyle felt so right that when she returned to New Zealand, she was determined not to accept the everyday life that we were accustomed to.
Life on a Strange Island
When you meet someone with charisma, 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 Beverly Vokia-Scarlett later on, what I heard was a love story: for her man, her childre and her family back home on her island - Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands.
A Hearing Journey
It's a common complaint; You're going deaf. No I'm not. You mumble. it tends to happen when age creeps up on us. For John, who had a cochlear implant nearly two years ago, it began when he was only 50.
"It's genetic plus I suffered industrial damage when I worked for a large engineering firm," he told me. "I found I began lip reading naturally as my hearing began to degenerate."
The Joy of Art
For those who paint and draw in the Bay of Plenty, October's an exciting time. In the first week the Tauranga Society of Artists recently held the second of their twice-yearly exhibitions, offering the challenge of the Supreme Award.
Who will be the winner?
Age has Nothing to Do with It (Unless You’re a Cheese)
"I've been thinking..."
Ian Holroyd of Mount Classic Tours, Tauranga, says it's his catchphrase for a new idea. Even if you're past 50 the words might do something to trigger something to spark up your life. 'I've had an idea' could lead to a new business and lifestyle. It doesn't have to be a precursor to a global activity, rather a think local, act local concept.
BE INSPIRED! PARALYMPIANS
We've been binge-watching the paralympians, hooked on viewing the human spirit competing on the world stage, undaunted by personal disabilities. Emotion overcame me the fiorst few times I saw the male swimmers, body exposewd to public scrutiny, and my eyes watered. How can people missing so many parts of their body have such courage?
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
TAURANGA'S TREASURE - THE HOT SPOT OF MOUNT MAUNGANUI
“People think my job is sitting around in a hot pool all day,” grinned Matt Strange, the manager of the Mount Hot Ocean Water Pools. “The reality is different. The lifeguards get up at 4am to start vacuuming and water testing the pools at 5am to keep up our safe, clean and friendly image and we don’t close until 10pm.” The pools were closed for refurbishment in February and March this year, annoying my neighbour Pete, who swims 42 laps three times a week to keep fit. While I didn’t know that soaking in hot salt water is good for your health, as far back as 500BC, Hippocrates recognised the health benefits of warmed seawater for its ability to rebalance and detoxify our bodies.
CONNECTIONS PAST AND PRESENT
The local museum is a taonga that connects us with our forebears, with a way of life that no longer exists. We are the descendants of people who left their own country, braved the ocean voyage and lived and died in the creation of a new country, the Aotearoa-New Zealand we know today. Who were they? What brought them here?
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.
We all think we’re immune until it happens to us. My son, aged 53, had a stroke a month ago. He’d begun relaxing his hard-working routine over the last six months, but we’ve since agreed that years of accumulated stress was the cause. The strain of dealing with this terrible family disruption has brought home how careful we need to be of our bodies. We’re part of a family chain and when one link is damaged it weakens us all.
KEEPING YOUR BODY, MIND AND SOUL WORKING TOGETHER
A New Year marks a time for change. To stay physically and mentally fit, you know you should be more proactive, and need to discover what’s best for you. Sometimes our health provides an insistent reason and motivation enough to develop a regular exercise regime. If you’ve had joint replacement surgery, the hospital gym with set exercises to mobilise that joint can provide an unexpected benefit. You’d forgotten how good it feels to get moving again.
FOUR PARKS AND A CITY
“We can’t come to your party,” said Lynne. “We’re off in our campervan heading south to explore the wilder places of the North Island.” My ears pricked up. I’d lived for several years in Upper Hutt in the lower North Island and had learned to appreciate its wild surroundings. “Do you know about the four regional parks around Upper Hutt, Lynne?”
EASTERN COROMANDEL AND MERCURY BAY
The Coromandel Peninsular east coast boasts an abundance of beaches within easy reach of the cities of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. If your diary has a few blank pages in a row, grab your chance and sneak off. Experience the magical peace of an undiscovered beach or the buzz of coastal holiday towns.
SURPRISING WAIKATO SECRETS
On a visit to an event in Hamilton, I stayed an extra night to uncover some of the secrets south and east of that city around Waipā, a municipality of the Waikato region. The council seat is in Te Awamutu, a prosperous town serving the rich farming countryside. This ‘Home of Champions’ boasts many gold medalists in rowing, horsemanship and cycling, reminders you can see in the Walk of Fame beside the rose gardens. In summer, the flowers perfume the air.