When it doesn’t feel like summer

We are having a very odd summer here in New Zealand. Mid-January should be hot and sunny, weekends spent at the beach, warm BBQ nights, melting ice blocks hastily licked and sun-block ever at hand. Yet for most of us here summer so far has been windy, cold and vaguely dissatisfying.

It doesn’t feel like summer yet even though it is officially half way over.  The deep deep vivid blue of our summer sky is pale and covered with fast moving clouds. The little glimpse I have of the inlet near to our house is a cold greeny-grey with white caps instead of calm sparkling blue.

Last night we had a storm that knocked out power for many people in Auckland, blew down trees and fences, and drenched the ground with heavy rain.Today the sun is out (intermittently)  but it’s very windy, not very warm and grey clouds still threaten. This afternoon I have been sitting in my little office browsing the internet and generally wasting my day. Definitely this kind of weather  makes me feel lethargic and vaguely grumpy.

In  need of something to force myself to change gears,  I picked up the camera and spent a few minutes taking photos of the beautiful bunch of hydrangeas  I treated myself to earlier this week. They are so perfect and their colour is so intense that I decided a couple of the photos were worth putting up here. Taking some time trying to capture their beauty, and then looking at the results has  has brightened this rather gloomy afternoon and lifted my spirits.

I might even get out of my chair again and go for a run in that wind outside!

6174606256_img_1810

6174606256_img_1806

6174606256_img_1807

 

Is it that time of year already?

I have been a little envious of all those people who have managed to blog through the Christmas and New Year period. Finally today I feel like it’s time to sit down in front and write something and it’s January 11 already!

Maybe it’s something to do with our summer Christmas. We have spend most of the last few weeks down at Waihi Beach with our extended family. While there was a rather large amount of lazing round and doing nothing, the beach always seems to make it difficult to sit down and be disciplined!img_3784

We trialled  some new traditions this year (well potential traditions) so our children didn’t have to juggle spending time with both us and the in-laws on Christmas Day which is getting more and more complicated each year, especially now there are grandchildren as well.
I’m very happy to report that we successfully celebrated Christmas down at the beach house with everyone on December 27. It took a lot of planning and logistics (how to fit in and feed 17 people and accomodate 5 dogs and a cat being the most pressing.

December 25 was a little odd. We decided that the four of us already at the beach would treat it as if it wasn’t Christmas yet so just had a delicious breakfast of French toast and then watched Christmas movies and read everyone else’s FB updates.

Boxing Day was when everyone started to arrive, kids, spouses, grandkids, uncles and a great grand-mother and happy chaos ensued. When everyone woke up the next morning, it definitely felt like Christmas Day. We started off with our traditional waffle breakfast which we have not been able to do with everyone for years and then spent the rest of the day opening presents until it was time to attack  a Christmas feast of ham, turkey and smoked salmon. There was a mountain of presents under the tree! I have to say our family is very good at gifts. They don’t spend lots of money and don’t buy stuff that will be thrown away once Christmas is over but make or buy things that are perfect for the recipient. It was a lovely relaxing (if noisy) day and it was so nice for everyone to be able to just go to bed rather than driving home at the end of a long day. So much easier for the grandchildren as well as we just bundled them into bed as they got tired.

We even managed to get a family photo, dogs and all!

img_4148

Most people stayed a few days, and one of our sons and his wife stayed to see the new year in (and we had friends arrive for that as well so the house was still quite full). We had fun letting off some fairly spectacular leftover fireworks.

And then they were all gone. Christian went up with his older siblings to spend time with them before he heads back to the UK later in January so there were just three of us. I did heave a small sigh of relief that I was no longer preparing food for the hoards.

Days for the rest of the break revolved around the weather (sun = swim, cloudy = walks and books); what to eat (very important) and scrolling through various media devices.

But now I am back and at that exciting stage of planning a fresh new year. I have a few things that I am blue-skying at the moment. I think that will be another post though!

I know that 2016 has been a troubling year in many ways but for me personally it has been a very special one. We have welcomed a new grandson and spent 9 weeks on a glorious overseas adventure. Who know what this year will bring?

So somewhat belatedly, but very sincerely, I pray that 2017 will be a great year for you all.

fullsizeoutput_9e6

Christmas Vs. NYC 

A timely reminder  today from BeautyBeyondBones as I rush round ticking everything off on my Christmas planning list while feeling decidedly unChristmassy.

BeautyBeyondBones

Doesn’t matter who I’ve talked to recently — Christian baby boomers, non-religious 20-somethings, an 8-year-old girl, my friends, the cute guy sitting behind me at church, the cashier at the grocery store — everyone’s in agreement about one thing:

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I don’t know if it’s the lack of snow, or all the negativity in the media, or the fact that LED twinkle lights are officially taking over as the norm, but one thing’s for sure…it’s December 12, and people are not in the Christmas spirit.


Living in NYC is so special…especially around the holidays. There really is nothing comparable. The lights, the shopping, the smell of roasting chestnuts, the Christmas displays, the holiday markets, the ice skating…it’s something you’ve got to experience in person to truly appreciate.



But I dunno…this year, it just hasn’t been quite the same.

I’m not seeing quite as many decorations up…

View original post 933 more words

What’s the opposite of home-sick?

We have been home for about three weeks and I can’t settle back into my normal routine. My usual tendency is to enjoy and appreciate the ordinariness of everyday life but I haven’t quite got back into that rhythm yet.

I wasn’t expecting to feel this. I was expecting to have a definite sense of ‘there’s no place like home.’ I was talking yesterday to a well-travelled friend I bumped into at the mall about this feeling and she described it as a yearning. Yearning – ‘a strong feeling of wishing for something, especially something that you cannot have or get easily’ – that’s a pretty good summation.

I know that visiting is not the same as living there. But experiencing the almost physical weight of history and culture for an extended period of time seems to have had a profound effect on me, and  I was overcome by the beauty of so many of the places we visited. Maybe its because we never did the big OE when we were younger so the impact is so much greater now.

I miss so many of the places we visited, especially in the UK. I miss London especially with an ache that I can’t put into words.

I miss the museums, the theatres, the art galleries, the masses of people, so vibrant in their diversity. I miss the Thames winding its dirty way through the city. I miss the Underground (believe it or not!). I miss the pubs with their beautiful hanging baskets. I miss the red double-deckers. I miss the majestic parks. I miss the historic buildings. I miss the sense of tradition, the sense of place.

But I am now home and I have so much to be thankful for now we are home. I need to remind myself of some of these things.

Firstly that I am so fortunate to live in New Zealand. What used to be called the tyranny of distance now looks like an advantage as we watch the news, especially during this eventful US election cycle. Having to fly longer to get anywhere now seems a small price to pay.

Our food and wine culture is as good as anything we experienced overseas (well maybe with the exception of Heston’s restaurant). We have access to amazing fresh, organic produce. I can walk to a farmers’ market in the weekend. Fantastic!

I can hang out with  with my friends who I value dearly.

I get to see our grandchildren whenever I want now I am home. The cliches about them growing too fast are all true.  I wouldn’t want to be away all the time!

Our family  will  be together for Christmas. It will be lovely, loud and messy.

Summer is just around the corner. Christmas decorations are in the shops, BBQs are being cleaned and people, including us, are planning their  annual summer escape to the beach.

My vegetable garden is back under control after 9 weeks of neglect (check out that rhubarb below).

OK, that’s a good list to start with and has helped  actually with the yearning a lot. Home is actually a pretty good place to be!

 

 

img_0857

 

And so it ends…

And so to the final week of our journey. Still behind in my writings as we are now home. I think I have  a theory that if I don’t blog about it, we will still be there somehow. However that is an avoidance technique that is not very helpful so here is our last week of the trip.

A whole week in London! Taking as long to Uber to our apartment by the Tower as it did to drive from Cambridge to the hire car drop-off at Heathrow was a somewhat frustrating experience, but finally we checked into our very cute space late afternoon. What a fantastic spot. Right next to the bustling tourist spot of the Tower and its surrounds, super close to the tube. Perfect.

Quick Wagamama to fill those empty tummies. Then off to the Hammersmith Apollo to see Josh Widdicombe. Formerly the Hammersmith Odeon, this stunning Art Deco theatre has seen so many famous musical names perform, but we were here instead to watch a comedian Josh was filming his DVD which made the night feel a bit special. His gentle Millennial humour gave us a perfect feel-good night out.

Next day we did a mix of touristy stuff. Churchill’s War Rooms –  a long wait to get in but a fascinating look at a space that basically was left as it was the day the war ended. hearing Churchill’s speech while we were down in the bunker gave us a small sense of the hope  and vision of that he carried.

I then spent a very happy hour wandering round St James Park. I am going to miss these stately parks in the middle of such huge cities like London and New York. Despite all our green open spaces, ironically we don’t have a big park in the middle of Auckland.

Wayne went off on a wee adventure by himself for the weekend, a BBC history weekend in Winchester. This meant I could do a sneaky trip to Harrods (just as gloriously tacky and over the top as I remembered it!). Then dinner with the young ones and one of my most anticipated events – Les Miserables at the West End. I have seen this show several times but was not disappointed by seeing it at the theatre where it all started. And it was Les Mis’s 31st birthday and the Queen’s Theatre’s 109th birthday. A really special night to attend.

Hillsong London in the morning – what a great church! Then time to finally say good-bye to Christian (although only for a couple of months) and Sophie (sadly for about a year).It felt really weird and sad walking away, but  I’m so glad they have each other while they are in the UK. And London is much closer to Cambridge than Cornwall so they will have a slightly more normal/less long-distance relationship from here on in. Cute couple xx!

img_3518

The last few days went by in a blur – Victoria and Albert, re-visiting our favourite bits of the British Museum, checking out the Borough Markets and Shakespeare at the Globe – what a privilege to get to see this (even with our seat at the back of the upper gallery).

Then it was our final night and we had decided well before we started the trip that we wanted to do something very special on our last night so had booked at Dinner – Heston Blumenthal’s London restaurant. Perfect food, wine and service made this a night to remember.

And then before we knew it, we were checking in at the airport, and then settling down for the double leg 24 hour journey back. I love Air NZ, especially when I am flying home – there’s something about hearing the Kiwi accent from the pilots and stewards that makes me smile.

On the flight I had the most amazing opportunity to photograph some mountains that were poking through the clouds. I think we were flying over Greenland. I have never seen anything quite like them while flying before.

img_3574

It’s going to take a very long time to process all of our experiences. I have come back changed by what I have seen and learnt about the richness of our shared history and the beauty of our world. But working all that out will have to wait. For now it’s about catching up with the rest of the family (especially the grand-children), handing out lots of presents and boring them with photos and anecdotes.

My  blog will revert back to its more eclectic range of topics from here on!

 

Goodbye Italy, hello UK

Bit of a shock coming from the balmy skies of Italy (although it was raining as we took off) to the grey and cooler welcome of Heathrow.

Loading our luggage into a hire car, we set off on our UK road trip, a month of covering a few few kilometres. We spent a couple of quiet days in Salisbury and its surrounds visiting a few distant relatives and getting used to no longer being part of a tour party. Back to being responsible for everything!

We finally got around to visiting the marvel that is Stonehenge. So much still unknown about this feat of engineering, but we do know it was not used for human sacrifice as people so often say! We made the decisions to become English Heritage members when we saw the cost of entry, which I highly recommend if you are going to be traveling in the UK for more than a week or so. It saved us a huge amount of money and also encouraged us to visit sites we may not have thought about ordinarily.

img_2410

A small detour to the well-preserved Dartmouth Castle was our first one of these sites. Small and fascinating with an excellent tea rooms to boot.

imageimageimageimage

Our first major stop was two nights in a  little fishing village in Cornwall called Mevagissey. A tiny town of stone rising up from minuscule cobblestone roads. No allowance for cars, or pedestrians. We watched  said pedestrians squeeze themselves into shop doorways to let cars go past on that theoretically two way road. (We got quite good at this one ourselves). Eventually we found our way up the hill to our accommodation looking out over the bay.

imageimage

The weather wasn’t great but the views and village were fantastic.

imageimageimageimage

We were in Cornwall to catch up with the boy, his girlfriend and her parents. They had managed to secure tickets to the Minack Theatre, so well-rugged up we set out almost all the way down to Lands End to one of the most unique theatres ever built. We were beginning to wonder if we had taken a wrong turn as we began to manoeuvre down  narrower and narrower lanes, no street lights or road markings and  with only one car following us. Suddenly we emerged into a packed carpark in the middle of nowhere – very surreal. We made our way down the steep stairs to see the theatre literally set into the cliffs of with the  Atlantic Ocean crashing beneath. It is a breathtaking sight.

img_2520

Built into the cliffs 1932 by Rowena Cade and her team of gardeners it remains a thriving venue for drama and music. We watching the Cambridge Amateur Dramatic Society romp through The Mikado, with some brilliant changes to the songs where appropriate for 21st Centre England. Sitting huddled together drinking hot chocolates and hearing the surging surf in between the songs was a truly magical experience and well worth the long drive back.

A Thought-provoking read from J.S.Park

Some great thoughts here – re-blogged from jsparkblog.com

When Life Hurts and God Has Apparently Checked Out: A Mega-Post on Pain, Trials, & Suffering

 

J.S. Park

Two anonymous questions:

– What are you suppose to think when all you can think is God is taking everything I love out of my life?

– So, what do you do when you feel in over your head? One of my best friends is struggling with faith, my husband is struggling with a lot of stress from his job, and my mom is struggling in a relationship with her bf. Then I read the news, and everything looks so dismal. I feel like there is so much hurt around me. I know my prayers are effective, and that God is sovereign. But I just want to stop all the hurting. Any words of advice?

Hey my wonderful friends, I must first say: I’m really sorry about everything that’s happening and I dearly love you both.  I know it can’t help much, but you must know before I turn into…

View original post 1,448 more words