Here’s a picture of a nearby cemetery from one of our recent walks. We got a suitably lowering sky for a Halloween shot, but actually it isn’t a very spooky place… up on a hilltop with palm trees etc.
Lest we forget…
What a difference a year makes. In 2020, we stood on the little balcony at our old house in Parnell and listened to the dawn service on the radio. We were ‘together, apart’ with all the other people on the street, in full lockdown. COVID-19 was still new. We didn’t know how many of us might die in the coming year.
But then we were spared… lockdown worked and COVID is mostly a thing that happens elsewhere. Last Monday we all celebrated ANZAC Day with big crowds, military drills and parades, bagpipes and fly-overs. After my morning swim, I listened to the service in Devonport and wandered along the beach a bit. Then we went for a nice lunch.
Even if just for a minute, the holiday demands/allows a moment to consider all the possibilities we face as humans. Here we are in this life in this peaceful time in this healthy place with this much comfort. But other places, other times, are so very close, and so very different.
In much of the world, we humans have a lot of control over those circumstances these days… it is possible as individuals to not shoot each other, to wear the masks when there’s a bad virus in town, to vote for one candidate over another. In other places, poverty and propaganda make it harder to exercise those choices, which I guess means it’s even more important that those who can, do.
It’s the 171st anniversary of the founding of Auckland, which is mostly important because it’s a long weekend.
We had a quick road trip to Tom’s place in Tutukaka with Astrid before the gravitational pull of her Massachusetts home place pulls her away from all this NZ ease and beauty.
We started the trip with a pie, which is becoming a ritual. Pioneer Pies is a very good pie shop but not as good as the one in Kumeu we’ve been to before.
Next stop, also comfortingly familiar, Eutopia Café and the Dutch cheese shop.
Then on to Whangarei Falls, where they’ve added a grove of trees commemorating the lives of the Christchurch shooting victims since our last visit.
And then to the bach (that’s Kiwi for beach house). We made a quick jaunt to a nearby beach, then cooked supper and watched a spectacular moonrise.
On Saturday we did the Perfect Day charter out to the Poor Knights islands. After a ride out that the skipper described as “sporty” and which had half the boat puking into the little emergency bags, the clouds cleared and we enjoyed a few hours of snorkeling and other activities. The shot of me on the paddle board is a marvel of journalism, because I spent about one second standing up and the rest falling off.
We capped the whole day with a soak in the new cedar hot tub overlooking the ocean… very nice… and another moonrise and stargazing session.
On the way home we took the scenic route to Langs Beach and passed through Waipu, which was having its big summer market and festival. Ate mussel fritters and ice cream cones.
Home and unpacked, we drove down to the foot of our own road to watch the Harbour Bridge light show and of course the Anniversary Day fireworks.
And there’s still a Monday holiday left!!
Before setting up for our amazing Thanksgiving / housewarming / election celebration party.
One of the two turkeys we made for the day.
The artsy idea was to get the turkey / palm tree juxtaposition to contrast with pictures of autumn leaves and frosty pumpkins but it wasn’t so great… if I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t have noticed.
This bird was done on a beer can chicken holder gadget in the smoker and came out superbly. Turkeys here aren’t as big as in the 🇺🇸. Of course a good cook can make do with any old setup, just like Chris Froome could beat me on any old bike. But my new BBQ gadget (the Char-Broil Big Easy if you’re in the market) really has made me into a star despite my lack of innate talent or formal training in the grilling arts.
Almost unbelievably, that’s the last picture. We had 60-70 people from several unrelated contexts (other than knowing one or both of us). I went into full mingle mode and didn’t pick up my phone till it was over.
It was a great party though!
For so many reasons, it’s gonna be a weird Christmas this year. There are plenty of reasons to be happy of course, and hopeful, and plenty of ways to make merry in our bubbles. But still. Weird.
Putting up the tree on Lumsden Green in Newmarket.
Our full size tree because we now have a full size living room.
Getting used to the idea of summertime Christmas.
Last weekend we went to see David Suchet, the inimitable Hercule Poirot, in his one-man show Poirot and More. In the first half, we were treated to a bunch of witty anecdotes following the friendly prompts of an interviewer, but honestly it was a bit underwhelming. His life before becoming an actor was comfortable enough, and he made a decent career right from the start, and then found a role that millions of people loved…. including me.
In the second half, he gave us a sort of acting masterclass for laymen… notes about how he prepares, how he looks at and listens to a script, that sort of thing. He knocked out a bunch of speeches and that was pretty good, but I did doze a bit I’m afraid.
Maybe my evening mirrored my biggest criticism of the evening… i was pretty comfortable when I walked in, and nothing really happened to change that. Makes for a less interesting blog.
So, I went out looking to see what other people thought and found a great review. This writer achieves a much richer emotional experience than I did from pretty similar source material (except our seats were really comfy). So, enjoy the ride with her, it’s more interesting!
Chuffed! NZ has its own Google Doodle celebrating Waitangi Day today, yay! The Prime Minister would have made this announcement herself, but she was busy cooking breakfast for the people gathered at the Treaty Grounds for the annual celebration. Because she’s awesome like that.
This woman had a great set of pipes and a good sound system, so you faintly heard the music a block away. I couldn’t tell if she was a truly good singer or not, but she was certainly good at tugging on the heartstrings!
That, my fellow Americans, and my formerly European friends in the still for the moment United Kingdom, is Action Man.
Action Man was G.I. Joe in other markets and has quite a history. How he ended up wearing this rather unconventional collection of accessories (outside of the highly sought after Action For Men Rainbow NightClub play set) is unknown.
We met him on the way in to tour an open house that we were already leery about… would a large complex of townhouses we can afford be a bit too noisy and full of kids for us? Yes, said Action Man, it will. It most certainly will.
We rang in the New Year with sparklers and actually stayed awake long enough to see the fireworks from the Sky Tower. Here’s hoping for literal and metaphorical 20/20 vision in the coming year.
Auckland’s Christmas decoration capital did not disappoint on Christmas Eve…
From minimalist modern…
to full-on Griswold…
to a really eerily lifelike Rowan Atkinson…
And some residents who only do the minimum required to stay on the street…
And finally there were the houses that tried to remind us we’re not in the northern hemisphere any more…
Merry Christmas 2019!!!
This past weekend was the annual Parnell Rose Festival. Although this is our third year living just up the street, we hadn’t made it to the festival before. One detail I’d never noticed before was how the big container ship unloading cranes loom in the background. It’s kind of cool about Auckland that a lot of things are close like that, but it manages not to feel crowded.
Anyway… back to the festival. The roses are at their peak, which was just lovely. The festival brings out dozens, maybe hundreds of people smelling, photographing, and enjoying the flowers.
And hundreds more bring their kids for games and face painting and so on.
And thousands more who crowded into the food truck area to stand in line for overpriced and dubious quality eats. Go figure.
This giant Santa has been threatened with retirement for over 20 years, but they say this is really positively his last season.
It has been voted “creepiest Christmas decoration ” in numerous polls.
New Zealanders love their fireworks, and there are lots of big civic displays. But private fireworks is a different story. You can only buy them one week a year, leading up to Guy Fawkes Day on the 5th of November. You can set them off anytime, but most people go big on Bonfire Night, as it’s often called.
While Australia and California and the Amazon burn, Auckland’s wet climate means that this is about as bad as it gets… reason #423 to live here.
It was a treat to join a bunch of my team for Diwali celebration the other day. Lots of people dressed up, as you can see. We ate at the same restaurant I ate at my very first day of work here.