Thursday, December 15, 2011

RIP Carmen

Although I haven't spared Carmen a thought for years, her passing requires a moment of respectful silence.  And some memories.  Not that I ever met her.  But back in the late 60s, my then boss told me how, while in Wellington, he'd gone into a nightclub, and got the surprise of his life to be greeted by one of the lads he'd gone to school with in Tauramunui, looking - well - not as Keith had expected!!  Trevor Rupe had become Carmen, larger than life, and a successful business person. 

Over the next decade, Carmen spearheaded human rights campaigns and wherever her name was mentioned, there was always the comment about how kind she was, how she looked out for vulnerable people to protect them, how she was savvy, witty, intelligent and a good friend.

Many of the issues she fought for have now been passed into our human rights law.  
New Zealand - and particularly Wellington - of the 1960s was apparently (I was too young to be involved!) a much better and more colourful place because of her and her friends.

Rest in peace Carmen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Eating up the highway

The most delicious lunch has prompted me to meditate on the excellent eating-places between Hastings and Wellington, and to share my recommendations for the edification of other travellers.

Firstly, starting in the middle of the map, and elevated thereto by its excellence, is my newest discovery. The Windfarm Bakery and Cafe, Woodville, make their own pies and bread, and the most exceptional Pork Spareribs rolls. These are on a fresh, soft, cheese roll, with salad and generous amount of spareribs pork, and tasty sauce. A lovely pot of green tea, and one is set up for the rest of the trip. I've stopped there twice now, and it's my new Woodville stop.

So now back to my starting point, and let's travel up the country.
For quite a few years now, my favourite first stop for refreshment after leaving Wellington, has been The Olde Plum Duff Cafe in Shannon. This has a wonderful sunny garden, with plenty of wooden benches and tables, and many is the time I've relaxed in the sun there. Excellent clean toilets with baby-changing facilities, and most importantly, all their yummy food being made on the premises. However, these hardworking people need one day off a week, and if I happen to travel through on a Monday, then I am forced to look for sustenance elsewhere. (With thanks to Kete Horowhenua for the pic)

The Horseman's Cafe is my second choice, again great food and a loo, but somewhat uneven flooring means it's a good idea to keep one's eyes on where one's walking! Outside tables in the sun and horsey things which would indicate that it is in fact, the cafe of a horseman, give it a point of interest (even for one such as me who thinks horses are way too big and their teeth positively scary...)!

Up the Island, through the Gorge, and that deserves a break. Woodville. Cafe 88 at the northern end of the town has been my stopping point for some years. It's a busy place, I've been there when tourist buses have pulled up outside and been glad I'd already got my food and a table! Again, outside tables and indoor loo make it attractive.
But as I noted earlier, I've found a replacement for 88. The Windfarm Bakery and Cafe is only a couple of doors south of 88, and for some reason seems "undiscovered". Excellent, pleasant service and fabulous food mean it probably won't stay that way for long! Public loo is only on the other side of the block.

If you can make it past Woodville, then you could feel completely justified in stopping for a cuppa at Matamau Diner, seven kilometres north of Dannevirke. I actually had to look up the name of this place, because I'd always thought of it by its banner "all day breakfasts". It's a popular truck stop, which is always a good reference for food and service, and I'd be very happy to stop here again any time. Nice friendly family people too. And of course, a loo.

Heading through Central Hawkes Bay and getting close to Hastings, there are two places definitely worth a stop. The township of Otane boasts two lovely ladies, who make a steak pie that's worth travelling there especially for! Certainly worth a detour off State Highway 2 - McCauley's Store and Cafe on Higginson St, you can't miss it!

On another trip (because you truly won't want to be enjoying all this delicious food in the time it takes you to get from Shannon or Wellington to Hastings!) you might like to stop at the Paper Mulberry Cafe, at Te Aute. Just across the Highway from the famed Te Aute College, is an old church of purplish hue, where the most delicious food, again, made on the premises can be found. You'll want to linger here - in the winter there's a lovely fire, and arts and crafts for sale adorn the walls. The whole place is eclectic and artistic, and a wonderful way to while away a few hours in the winter!

Hastings, and home. But - gosh it's almost dinner time! We've lingered over food enough today, so now we want to pick up something yummy and nourishing, quickly. Whip into Cafe Anatolia for the very best Turkish cuisine, carry it home and enjoy it with your feet up. It's been a busy day after all!

P.S. - Oh I can't leave out a mention of Benedict's at Maungaraki. Lower Hutt! I've never seen such a child-friendly place! Probably a third of the floor space is a play area for the kids, with exciting play equipment and room to run. They serve "fluffies" - frothed milk in miniature cups and saucers for the little ones, and jolly delicious cakes and other food for the big ones. A roaring fire, and room to spread out the paper or breastfeed the baby, makes this a meeting place par excellence!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In laws

In-laws and the state of being one have been on my mind of late. Met up with a sister-in-law for a coffee (or in my case green tea) and tapped her wealth of experience of being a mother-in-law to a daughter-in-law. Sons-in-law have proved delightful, and am sure the soon to be DIL will too. But it's quite a different relationship, and one I'm just learning about.
Being a MIL is the fodder of stand-up comics and Reader's Digest jokes, because in truth, the state of melding with another whanau brings its own joys and difficulties. Often it's the differences between the way one family did things and the in-law family's customs, especially in families where the customs and traditions are strong, for it can be easy for her to think of her way as the right or only or best way, while the "new addition" to the whanau just sees strange or different - or wrong! - ways.

Mothers-in-law have long endured bad press, surely much more than warranted. But I guess where the matriarch is the keeper of the customs, the one who hands down the flow of traditions to the next generation, she can easily feel threatened by the fresh current diluting the power of shared history and way of doing things. And if she had any control over her son, she can kiss that goodbye as well. It's been many years since I've had that, so not one of my losses!

Having been a DIL myself, (my MIL was a lovely loving lady with whom I got on famously) I'm conscious of the need not to appear critical - there are things I could say to my own daughters which might sound fault-finding to someone brought up in a different family, used to the dialogue being - well - different.

So I guess it's live and let live, even if I think things might be better done a different way, bite the tongue, avoid racing into e-print on fb, and pray that she feels as truly welcome in our whanau as she is.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Heading for adventure...

I've booked a flight to Brisbane - and return. That's pretty big for me. In fact, so unusual is it that I've booked it in stages, not realising I could make one booking from my provincial airport internationally, as I know the big planes don't fly out of Napier. However, next time I'll just book Napier-Brisbane. So it's a learning experience already and the booking hasn't even hit my credit card statement online yet.

I'm in the process of renewing my passport, I figure that shouldn't take too many months as I've already had one, but it's been extinct for about eight years. I'm not sure what colour I put down last time for my eyes - and I think it's meant to be the same. I'm really not sure what colour they actually are! As a child I remember Dad telling me they were "hazel" so I've always used that, and in fact probably did on my original passport application, but to be honest, I don't think they are. But I don't know what I'd put if it wasn't that - grey/green? - so I'll probably go with hazel.

It's exciting! I'm going to have an adventure! (if I don't get lost at Auckland airport getting from Domestic to International and get left behind!! Not that I've booked the domestic flights yet, I'll see what comes up on grabaseat!)

And next on my fairly short list of adventures to be planned is Whanganui. I want to go up the river to Taumarunui - a four day trip which involves pole-vaulting (well nearly!!! - poling anyway!) the boat UP rapids! I'd also like to do the three day trip back down again, but it probably won't be in the same week. Unless I win lotto...

And I'd like to go back to Stewart Island and stay for a week. The Foveaux Strait crossing is a fantastic boat trip, and I was very happy to do it twice in a day when I went last time, but next time I want to spend more time there.

So, not a bucket list, but just some adventures in the pipeline.
First up - Brisbane in an NZ winter!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bizarre shopping

I've never been to a Mumbai bazaar, but I expect it's a little like shopping at Spotlight in Hastings. I've had so many experiences of taking things up to the counter only to be told their price is different from that on the sign (which is fine with bathmats or zips which you can just walk away from, a little trickier with fabric they've cut specially for you) that I now approach it like an overseas shopping adventure. I'm honing my haggling skills for the day when I find myself in a genuine street market.

All the fabric in Spotlight lies on tables, and you have to heft the bolts and lug them round the shop and stand in one of the slowest moving queues in the universe, while the two or three assistants discuss curtains and their fabric requirements (or patterns or children's clothes - all good stuff, and necessary, but more assistants would be extremely helpful) with other shoppers.
Today's fun went like this.
I start off at the SALE table. Big signs declaring: "All suitings $1 a metre" "All shirtings $2 metre" "Dry knits $5 metre"
And you know, you just know, that most of the fabric on those tables will not show up on the scanner at those prices.
How seriously do I want this fabric?
Can I be bothered haggling for the price that the sign tells me it is?

Yep, for $1 a metre (only 1.5 for a pair of trousers for me) I can be bothered.

But I've learned to start the dialogue before the cutting begins. Just in case you get an assistant who seriously doesn't care what the sign says.

Me: This was on your sales table.
Her: This one isn't on sale.
Me; How much is this a metre?
Her: (scanning it) $19.95
Me: Right, I won't have that one.
She's had a win, this will make her more surprised and less certain when I dig my toes in for the one I really want. I'm aware that I could insist on the signed price.
I heft up another bolt. Probably weighs about ten kg. I think of it as weight training.
Me: How much is this one?
Her: (scanning it) It's reduced to $8 metre
Me: The sign said $1 metre for suitings, and the label says it's a suiting.
(Meanwhile the queue of people hefting massive bolts of fabric collectively shifts from one foot to another. Men sigh audibly. Women slouch against the tables of upholstery fabric. This is the only fabric shop in Hastings, a city of around 70,000 people.)
Her: (scanning it again) It says $8.
Me: It was on the $1 table.
Her: Would you like me to check? (I'm not sure if she's being sarcastic. The shop is busy. Does she think I'll say Oh no, don't bother?)
Me: Would you? That would be great.
(Interminable minutes pass. Has she gone for a coffee?
No here she is, bearing the sign! Why, I'm not sure...)
Her: Yes, it's $1 metre. How much do you want?

And so on.
I stand in that queue with my several bolts every few months, knowing that it won't be too many years ahead that it will all be physically beyond me.
I guess then I'll just shop online.