Family time in Auckland.

Monday 21 January 2019 – Auckland, New Zealand.

We had a total of eight nights in Auckland, not long considering how far we flew and how bad the jet lag hit. Five nights staying with mum, two with my sister and one at an airport hotel the day before we left. Not a lot of things were done, but not a lot of things were planned to be done. It was a pretty successful trip really. The only regret was not getting time to see friends, a quick drink on Friday afternoon with a couple of friends was it. We did get to celebrate my youngest sister’s birthday which was an added bonus.

I never get too excited about going to New Zealand, I love seeing family and friends and getting outside, but I have limited holiday to use each year and a list of a 1000 places I want to experience, If only I had the will and the courage to go to them. New Zealand was good this time though. El came along this time too, and I am enjoying seeing her develop a relationship with my family. Not planning on doing a lot meant getting to spend more time doing family things, seeing my grandson and son, hanging out with mum and my Auckland based sister. yeah, it was a good trip.

Highlights;

The weather was nice for virtually the whole time we were away, including Brisbane and Singapore. There was the odd shower but not one that impacted or made us change our plans at all. This has to be a first for me on a holiday.

Spending some time with my son and grandson. Mason is four now, we have spent time together before so he is quite familiar with me. He was a lot of fun to spend time with, very engaging and engaged. His family do not want him on social media, so just a sneaky photo of him unwrapping the Lego we bought him for Christmas.

I got to go for a swim in the sea with Mason and my son, Aiden. We drove up to Orewa Beach, just north of the city for a swim and an ice cream. I love the sea, and do not get to swim in it that much, though perhaps moving to St Leonards will fix that. The sea was remarkably warm, it has been a warm summer in NZ. There were no gasps when the water hit the goolies !!

The first time El and I came to Auckland we took a day trip to Waiheke Island, about 40 minutes away from the city in the Hauraki Gulf, and one of its many wineries. We had a fabulous lunch (and a few glasses of wine), and it was one of the highlights of that visit. We decided to repeat the trip this year, taking my sister as a birthday gift. Like the visit four or so years ago we had magnificent weather, another fabulous lunch (and a few glasses of wine). Waiheke is certainly an Auckland region gem, and one I highly recommend taking a day to visit.

There was a nice view of the iconicRangitoto Island from the ferry.

A key part of a every visit I make is taking a drive up to Muriwai Beach with mum. Walking to the cliff tops over the gannet colony, looking back up Muriwai to the north and over the spot where we scattered dad’s ashes. Muriwai was always one of my most loved locations, made even more so now that dad is there to. It is not a maudlin trip, and we never talk about dad when we go, but it is always on my trip plan when I go back. It was a blustery Sunday, probably the worst weather of the trip, but the rain held off, eventually clearing to sun over lunch. There were a number of gannets nesting in the colony, and I managed to get a photo of a mother feeding a small fish to her chick, wishing, not for the first time, that I had a better camera on me.

We stopped for lunch at the very busy Hallertau Brewery on the way home. The food, wine and beer we had in NZ was fantastic, even the risotto I cooked one night at mums!

Mum and my sister, Sarah.

On the day of my sister’s birthday we (mum, El, my sister and I) went to the botanical gardens for a walk, where it did actually rain for a few seconds. I haven’t been here for decades, and while I am not really a plant person I really enjoyed walking round looking at things. You cannot really tell from my photography that I am not a plant person, as there are a lot of photos of plants, and here are some more!

I enjoyed New Zealand this time, more so than usual. I didn’t have expectations and I didn’t plan on trying to fill every minute and see as many people as possible. I was really jet lagged, so lots of early nights, and the occasional afternoon nap. I think I needed the rest. Not being able to work while I was away due to not be able to take work equipment out of the country really made a difference to.

For our last night we had decided to sleep in a hotel at the airport, primarily to avoid the morning traffic that could add stress to getting to the airport at 6:30. There is a mini-golf course nearby so Aiden and I decided to have a quick round. He thrashed me.

I can confess, and didnt mention it to him at the time. After sneaking off for a quick wee behind a bush in the carpark, I jumped over the low fence to get back in I took a tumble, landing heavily on  my shoulder. I was in pain for the last 9 holes. That was really why I lost !

Singapore next!

Brisvegas.

Sunday 13 January 2019 – Brisbane, Australia.

I am going to strike while things are hot. Having just written my first post in over three months I am going to start and will aim to finish, this, a second.

When I was in New Zealand in May I committed to mum that we would come over for Christmas. Come October when I finally got around to booking tickets the intention and desire for Christmas was still there. I knew it was going to be expensive to fly either side of Christmas, but wow. It was a lot, a very large lot. Made infinitely more expensive and complex by our desire to go to Brisbane, then Auckland, finishing in Singapore. Our original thinking had also included a week in Japan, but we soon gave up on that idea. With added work restrictions on timing and duration I ended up having to call mum and tell her we could not afford to be there for Christmas, but would come over in early January. Which is what we did.

Fast forward to Friday 11 January, and we were finally off. British Airways to Hong Kong, then two hours later Qantas to Brisbane, Australia. Arriving at 6:00am on Sunday. We completely lost Saturday somewhere.

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We had 29 hours in Brisbane. A very quick trip, here to spend a little time with my son Dom and my granddaughter Cadence. Unfortunately things had conspired against us and Dom and his partner had to finish moving house this weekend. They were moving from south of the city to Murgon, a town three hours north. I wasn’t willing to make that drive after 27 hours of flying and little sleep, and then repeat the drive back to the hotel a little later.

It was convenient in the end, we met Dom in a park as they were passing through town, and I only had a short drive to make to get there. It was great to see Dom, his partner, Tabithe and their daughter Cadence again. Cadence was very shy this time, and was not very interactive, and very unhappy with me taking photos. She is two years old now, and more self aware. The move has been a bit disruptive for her, but she did enjoy the late Christmas present we brought over with us.

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After an hour or so with them in a quite warm park El and I drove back to the hotel and had an afternoon nap. We needed it. It was late afternoon when we arose. I had booked us in a hotel that was close to the Brisbane River, on the northern, city side. The South Bank is quite a popular tourist destination, similar to London’s version, there are numerous eating places and things to do, alongside a relaxing river side walk.

The sun sets really early in Brisbane, and with no daylight saving to extend the day, getting out for a walk early was important, I had a bit of a plan in mind and wanted to get the first part done in daylight. We walked through the botanical gardens (a recurring theme for the holiday), though just along the riverside path. Thankfully it was a bit cooler on the riverside and in the late afternoon. Crossing over on the Goodwill Bridge we stopped at the first restaurant we came across that had a free outside table. Even though we had been eating pretty much non-stop since we left London, I was still hungry!

After eating my bodyweight for the second or third time in the last two days and supping a couple of very nice Australian wines we set off into the early evening dark for a walk along the river.

It is a very busy place, and there were a lot of walkers, riders and electric scooter users wizzing their way along the path. Even the beach and pool was still busy.

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The most bizarre thing on the South Bank is this Nepalese Peace Pagoda. It was assembled in 1988 for the World Expo after having all its component pieces made in Nepal. It is quite lovely.

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Crossing back over the river we walked back through the downtown area, past all the closed shops and surprisingly closed restaurants. It was a Sunday night I guess, and we certainly did not need any more food. Back at the hotel we stopped for a glass of wine in the river side bistro, before heading off for more sleep. Day one of our holiday was complete.

Monday morning we were up early, I think I woke up about 3:30 am. Lying in bed until a reasonable time to get up. Yesterday we had found quite a nice cafe up the road so went there for breakfast. 

Our flight to Auckland was at 13:00, but we headed to the airport at hotel check out time, got checked in early and waited for a third flight in three days. On our way to Auckland.

When mum came to stay.

Friday 06 October 2017 – London.

We had the great pleasure of mum coming to stay for a few days over the past month. Mum turned 80 in May and my sisters and I conspired to buy her return ticket from New Zealand as a present. Mum had not been here for (I think) seven years, and was not sure if she would come back, so our birthday present was a welcome surprise!

In 1973, mum and (my late) dad emigrated to New Zealand, taking me and my sisters along for the ride. I am very glad to have mostly grown up in NZ, a fabulous country to be boy and young  man in, and something I will be for ever grateful for. Mum has two brothers and other friends and relatives in the UK, some of dad’s family are here too.

Mum stayed with El and I for half of her time in London and was out and about with her brothers visiting friends for the rest. If I had not recently started a new job I could have spent more time with her. I was lucky enough to be able to take a few days off here and there, and have the odd ‘work from home’ day.

Mum arrived on Saturday 2 September after 27 hours of travel with Singapore Airlines, she was glad it was over! I took a couple of days off work so Tuesday mum and I went for a drive out to Southend, a place mum had been to a number of times over the decades. After faffing trying to find a place to park we stopped on the west side of Southend and decided to go for a walk towards Westcliff, before turning back for a traditional fish and chip lunch on the waterfront, followed by a gentle post lunch leg stretch and then a Rossi ice cream.

I parked as close to the centre as I could, near a tiny section of virtually empty sand.

We headed westward, towards Westcliff, and view on to London. It was not a hot day, nor was it cold, some where irritatingly inbetween. It was windy and quite cloudy. A bit grim, bit not terribly so., which probably sums up Southend.

Soon after starting our walk, it started to rain, not heavily, though the drops were big and solid and the promise of a windblown downpour was strong. We had coats but chose to turn back, skip the walk and go for lunch instead.

By the time we were half way back the threatening rain had been blown away and while the sky stayed heavy and full, it did not rain on us again. We walked along the seafront, past the pier and the entertainment area.

We were looking for somewhere reasonable for lunch. Somewhere on the sea with a view over the water; and somewhere selling fish and chips. We found that somewhere, and lunch was excellent, we chose the right place. It was full, with small groups of retirees also eating fish and chips, if is full then there has to be a reason. After a large lunch we waddled back to the car, stopping for a famed Rossi ice cream on the way. It was good day out.

On Saturday we took a trip in  to central London to visit the Tates. None of the special exhibitions were of interest to mum at Tate Britain so we took a walk around and perused the general galleries. There are no photo restrictions in the free galleries which was fab.

I am not sure who painted this massive piece but I really like it,  you will have seen similar in some of my photos; A tiny stretch of beach/land and a massive sky taking up most of the frame. The colour reminds me of Turner.

Speaking of JMW Turner, Tate Britain has an exceptional collection of his work. For a long while I was not a fan, art is very subjective, and I just did not get him. Even though he was active during my favourite artistic period and certainly has a lot in common with the impressionists I love, I just did not get him. Over the past couple of years that has been changing and the more I look at his work and think about how it could influence my photography the more I have come to appreciate what he has done. This work from Lausanne from 1841/42 is a great example of what I want to be able to do with my camera. I am not quite there yet.

It was a nice day so mum and I took the opportunity to stroll the south bank of the Thames to Tate Modern. I love the Thames, it is such a nice walk;  history, space, views, city, what more could you ask for; though there are places where the crowds are just maddening. We were lucky in that it was still not too busy, yet…

The office building next door but one to mine!

I took mum for lunch in the members lounge in the new extension to Tate Modern, the view over south London, and up and down the river is just lovely, and worth the members fee alone. The extension is magnificent, a wonderful concrete and steel construction on the side of an already brilliant space.  They should offer afterhours photography tours of the building. Though having the odd person in the shot does give the scale of the building some perspective. 

We had a walk around the Giacometti exhibition, it was really busy and quite hard work, being able to stand back and read the signs and take  a decent, broad view of the pieces was impossible. I am not really a sculpture person, but I do love his mid-period tall skinny people work, fabulous. Hopefully El and I will get an opportunity to go back and take a longer look; at a members only session Smile

Mum stayed with family for most of the next week, coming back to stay with us for a few days when Meliesha was visiting on her way from Bristol to Austria. It was great that mum and Meliesha could hang out for a few days together in my neck of the woods. 

Mum, El and I had a weekend away in Edinburgh, and I will write about that next. On the way back south Mum stayed ‘oop north’ for a few days with one of her brothers and visited some old friends. All too soon it was back to us in London for a few days and then off to Heathrow and back to New Zealand.

It was great having mum over to stay, hopefully there will be at least one more visit before mum does not feel able to travel such long distances again; though maybe we could meet half way for a catch up some time! Love you mum xx

We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity.

Saturday 3 December 2016 – Auckland, New Zealand.

I have been back in London for six days now, and am suffering immensely from jet-lag induced tiredness. I have been struggling to find the motivation to knock this post off, and am doing so just as a sense of completeness. I was anticipating not having any work until the new year, but am starting again on Monday, at least in a temporary capacity. I am still looking for something more long term. I will miss having the days off to get more self organised and motivated for 2017 – but it is so good to have some money coming in!

I arrived in Auckland on 21st November, had a day in Auckland before heading off down to Nelson, at the top of the south island, to see my sister’s family and stay with friends for two nights. My son, Aiden came with me on the trip and it was really good to spend a couple of days with him. I wrote about that trip a couple of posts ago.

I had no plan for my time in Auckland, stay with mum and just hang out. Maybe catch up with a few of the friends I did not see when El and I were here earlier in the year. I deliberately did not hire a car this time, which meant I was more ‘home’ bound than I would have been if I was more mobile. Mum does have pretty good access to public transport, which was also a factor in that decision.

After that big walk I did up Ben Nevis on Thursday I was a little concerned about going mountain bike riding on Saturday morning. I have not been on my bike since November 2015, so this was going to hurt. Hurt it did… I was so unfit, my riding buddies destroyed me! We went riding at my old stamping ground of Woodhill Forest, except it is totally different now. All the trails I rode, including the ones I made have been logged and there is nothing left. A new area of the forest has opened up and the trails there were really good. The trail builders have done a brilliant job. It was just a shame I was not up to it, slow riding up and slow riding down… I need to get fit again!

I went back to my friends place that night for dinner and a catch up with other friends, we went to the local supermarket for wine and beer and I was amazed at the huge range of pinot gris available in New Zealand. Heavenly ! We do not get much of it in England, all Italian pinot grigio, not to my taste. I am a New Zealand wine snob.

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Over the next few days I made quite a few trips into the city, sharing the journey between bus and train. I had family Christmas shopping to do plus I was keen to visit Auckland Art Gallery and the museum.

I love the art gallery, and visit every time I go to Auckland, there is always a change to the main NZ gallery and the special exhibitions are worth checking out. One of my favourite spaces in Auckland.

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This piece certainly has resonance in this weird, politically messed up year.

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I was really lucky with the weather while I was in Auckland, there was a little rain, but not on any of the days I was out, from the gallery I walked up to K’Rd and bought myself three albums from the Flying Out record shop; another thing I do whenever I come here. It was then on to the museum and the New Zealand music exhibition. I was not happy having to pay $25 to get into the museum, I am used to museums being mainly free, and that price is really expensive.

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Though the music exhibition was really good, documenting some of the bands I loved, and still love. It was great to see Martin Phillips’ from The Chills Leather Jacket, which was left to him when their drummer tragically died far too young from leukaemia, as well as the infamous 4-track owned by Chris Knox that recorded so many of those brilliant early Flying Nun records.

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I am not a huge fan of Auckland, it is a fairly dull city; the beaches and coastal parks being a massive exception, though unusually apart from the trip to Murwai I made with mum I did not get out to the sea at all. 

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I do love the central Britomart train station though!

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The rest of the time was spent catching up with family and friends. Drinking and eating were a feature of the rest of the trip, I had some excellent dinners, lunches, coffees, beer and wine and left the country a few pounds heavier than when I arrived, and I was only there for ten days!

It was fabulous to catch up with my grandson Mason, he is two and a half now and a real character, loves his Duplo, cars, trucks and anything else with wheels.

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It was a good trip, lovely to spend a few days with mum, great to see friends and family, but by the end I was looking forward to going home. My mum, son, grandson and me. Four generations in one room.

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Baby Cadence – grandchild no 2.

Monday 21 November 2016 – Beenleigh, Queensland, Australia.

My eldest son, Dom, has lived in Australia for a couple or so years and his partner has recently given birth to their first child, and my second grand child and first granddaughter. Yay Smile Cadence was born on 10 October and was quite small at 5lbs, she is now five weeks old and has just hit 7lbs; the birth weight of my three children. Like her father Cadence was born with a cleft lip, though unlike her father she also has a hole in her soft palate. She and her parents are going to have to face a few rounds of surgery, and I very much feel for them. Though if the surgeons are as good as those that Dom had 25 years ago, in the not too distant future you would never know there was anything wrong.

Cadence’s birth was the reason for this trip, I did not visit Dom in Australia when El and I went to New Zealand earlier this year, so I promised to come over when the baby was born. Same as I did when my first grandchild, Mason, was born in New Zealand two and half years ago.

Much as I love Dom, Queensland, especially around the South East, is not really my sort of place; it is not a place I  rush to, and when I do go I do not stay for long, so this was a quick trip. I arrived at 1:00am on Saturday and left again late afternoon on Monday. My sister had a conference in Sydney on Monday so came out for the weekend from New Zealand to see Cadence as well. She arrived on Saturday morning so I picked her up from Brisbane Airport at the same time as I collected my rental car and we drove straight down to Beenleigh, on the southern outskirts of Brisbane.

We arrived just after lunch and I got to have my first cuddle with my new baby. She is very alert and gave me a few (probably windy) smiles. She is lovely and I was quite happy Smile

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On Sunday morning Dom and I dropped my sister back at the airport and then we drove into Brisbane to look at the building site he is working on. He is an apprentice plumber and was very enthused and engaged in showing me the work they are doing on a newly finished block of flats, and a new site next door. I learnt a lot about plumbing; and am very proud of him 🙂

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After lunch Dom, his partner, one of her other children and myself went up to the Daisy Hill Koala Sanctuary for a walk around and to look at the koalas. Unusually they were awake; they are fabulous looking creatures.

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There was also a very domestic looking kookaburra as well, I am assuming it was a live one !

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After a quick feed we went for a walk in the trees, though it was really hot and quite draining. Not good for Cadence to be outside too long !

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Dom had the day off on Monday, Cadence was having her first round of immunisation shots in the morning, so I went round there early so I could see; she was very upset by it all; and I do not blame her one little bit!

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Though she did settle down soon after. She is a very placid and calm baby; well she was when I was there…

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My quick trip was then over, I left at lunch time and drove back to the airport to return the rental car and catch my flight to New Zealand. Stupidly, very stupidly, I tried to carry a load of stuff from the front seat of the car to the boot; my cell phone slipped from my grasp and smashed on the ground. Shattered screen and dead…. I was very annoyed with myself! I had been planning on buying a new phone next year; once I was back in paid work. I really didn’t need this right now. So I ended up buying a very expensive phone in duty free in Brisbane airport. More expense I didn’t really want. I know I could have gotten a far cheaper model than I did, but I knew I would not be happy with it in the end. At least this new phone has a really good camera….

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This photo of a photo of Dom from the same age shows that Cadence’s cleft lip is quite similar to his, though a mirror image.

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Both beautiful babies.

To New Zealand. (Warning – this post contains gratuitous grandchild photos.)

Thursday 24 March 2016 – Auckland, New Zealand.

It has been an interesting few weeks since I last mentioned looking for a flat to buy, or made any visits to Folkestone, the main location I was looking at flats in. It has been a slow start to the year at work and I have been a little nervous about getting a mortgage I could not afford to pay if I was suddenly out of work. I have taken a break from flat hunting until things become more certain. I am a little disappointed that I have had take a break from finding my own place, but it has also been good to take a break. My three day weekends are my own again!

Earlier in the year El and I booked return tickets to New Zealand, it has been almost a year since I was last there and 24 months since we were there together. Like all visits this was to be short, and hopefully sweet. We had 12 days in New Zealand followed by three days in Hong Kong on the way back to London. It is a lot of money, but it will be good to see family and friends.

With so much on at work we have employed a contract applications analyst who will cover for me while I am away, and then do the grunt support work when I return, so I can concentrate on some projects that are coming up. It has been so busy these last few weeks I have been really looking forward to the break!

I have also been looking forward to some nice weather too, we have had a pretty mild winter in London, no snow (yet), so it has not been too cold, but it has been grey and damp and the thought of 21 degrees in Auckland was very exciting. Naturally, the day we left London was glorious.

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Our flight left London on Tuesday evening, we had a day at work to contend with, which is never fun, and even less fun was lugging big suitcases on the tube through rush hour traffic. We left home at 7:00, hoping there would be less people than 7:30. There seemed to be more, oh well – at least the walk to the station was nice.

We flew Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, it was a full flight, and unusually for me I slept for four or five hours of the 11 hour flight. I was quite happy with that outcome. El has a much worse flight than me, poor girl. Mine was aided by a couple of red wines at the Heathrow before the flight. I watched a bit of inflight TV – most of season 6 of Archer, and one movie. The entertainment options were not too bad. We had just under two hours in HK airport, we stay here for two days on the way back to London and I am really looking forward to that – especially after my last ill fated visit to the city. It was all looking rather grey out of the airport window.

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I didn’t realise the flight on to London was code-shared and on an Air New Zealand plane, I may have planned differently and grabbed a few more Air NZ air miles for next time. I recently found out I am going to be a grandfather again, my oldest son and middle child, Dom’s partner is expecting in October. He lives in Aussie and sadly I will not see him on this trip. I will come back to NZ and Aussie once the baby is born, hopefully using some air points to either improve the flight or reduce the cost.

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We were seated over the wing on both flights, which meant there was no spectacular view out the window – a waste of a window seat really ! I put the camera away after taking this picture, didn’t seem to be much point.

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We left the terminal slightly late and missed our take off spot, this ended up with a massive delay in leaving and we were in the plane for over an hour before take off. It really adds to the joy that is long distance travel ! it was another very full plane, El had a better flight than me this time, so I guess we were even !! The 10 half hours to Auckland seemed to take forever, possibly because we lost a day – we left on Tuesday and arrived on Thursday morning. Wednesday failed to exist for us. We did watch the movie Wild, which I have been wanting to see, I also watched the final Hunger Games movie, the second Divergent series movie and four episodes of the TV series Blindspot. Got them all out of the way, though none were on any particular must watch list.

We landed on time fortunately and ever more fortunately had a quick trip through customs and out in to the arrival hall where my mum was waiting. It was really good to see mum again ! We haven’t Skyped for a while, and of course we have not seen each other since I was last here almost a year ago.

Unlike London, Auckland was grey and warm – 21 degrees and quite humid. We were, apparently, very lucky to have just missed a really bad storm that blew through over night. With heavy rain and high winds it would have made for a lousy approach and landing, and I really hate those !!

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We are staying at mum’s place for a few nights, and not long after we arrived my youngest son, Aiden arrived with his son, and my grandson Mason who is about 20 months. He was a little cautious about these strangers for about the first two minutes, but soon settled in to playing and interacting with us. It must be unusual to see me face to face when he would normally only see me on the computer screen, I was very much out of context.

He is a delightful wee boy, and very hard to take a photo of…. he loves cars, bikes and trucks. Like most boys his age I expect.

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Mason takes his food very seriously.

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Aiden is teaching him to pull faces, a skill that he will obviously need later in life.

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Aiden and Mason left soon after an early dinner, I was falling asleep on the couch by 7:30 and ended up being soundly asleep in bed by 8:30. I had a great, and very unexpected sleep too!

Lovely to see mum, Aiden and Mason today and looking forward to seeing my daughter, Mel and her partner, Dickie tomorrow.

A quick family catch up in New Zealand.

Sunday 21 June 2015 – London.

I have been back in London from my quick trip back to New Zealand for over four weeks now and this is my first attempt at writing about the visit. I have been busy again with work, and we have had some lovely English summer evenings that have been perfect for an after dinner walk – but really it has just been a hard post to write. It is not getting easier with time either, my feelings towards the country in which I was brought up are very mixed now. I loved seeing my family and friends, but I hated the central part of Auckland, was ambivalent about the rest and felt very disconnected from the place. It was as if I did not belong in the city anymore.

Maybe it was the fact it was a short trip, that I was jet lagged and tired for most of the time I was there, who knows. I knew it was not going to be a ‘fun’ trip before I left, but I found it far more draining than I expected.

I arrived on Friday 12th at 5:00 am, after three mostly reasonable flights via Dubai and Melbourne. I would not normally elect to fly with an airline that makes two stop offs, but I had old air points with Qantas which were slowly disappearing with age so thought I would use them to get an upgrade to premium economy on the trip to NZ. It made a huge difference and I really liked the leg to Dubai, great flight. I witnessed a sad experience at Melbourne airport security as one of the officials was screaming at (I think) an Indonesian couple who obviously had limited English as they tried to take a stroller through the security gate. He was a miserable prick, and a classic example of what I hate about Australia.

It was great to see my mum as I walked out into the arrival hall, I was very appreciative of her coming out so early on a Friday to collect me! I spent the morning with mum and after a brief rest went in to Auckland city to do my shopping and visit my daughter at work. I was staying at a mates place near the centre of the city and was lucky to have a car again for the entire time I was there. You have to have a car in Auckland, much as I want to use public transport, it is a bit shit – especially compared to London.

It is early winter in NZ in June, though the weather for the trip, in the main was pretty good, though Friday was miserable, windy and wet, and I was miserable with it. I really hated the city centre again, no soul, no spirit and not the place I enjoyed. The shops I frequented over many years, like Whitcoulls on Queen St and (tears) Real Groovy Records are closing, Real Groovy so another hideous, unnecessary and stupid tower can be built, though fortunately it just moving. I did get some great second hand records though!

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Though not all was changing, I was after a couple of books and managed to get both of them at my favourite Auckland book shop Unity Books, and I was so pleased it was still there on High St.

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My daughter works in a lovely new organic cafe on Victoria St, and I was very excited to be able to go and see her for lunch on my first day, wonderful to see her smiley face.

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I walked up to the top of town to visit a new record shop Flying Out records, I was after some new NZ music, but ended up with two English albums Smile Loved the store though.

And back down again through Myers Park, one of the few highlights of the city centre.

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It was way too early to turn up at my friends place for dinner, so I stopped at Mission Bay on Auckland’s beautiful, glorious, wonderful waterfront for a glass of pinot and to catch a traditional photo of Rangitoto Island.

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I stayed the night at my friends place with the plan of going for a mountain bike ride on the Saturday morning. I awoke with a mild hangover and to some lousy windy and rainy weather. Mountain biking was off, not sure if I was happy or sad with that.

Once the weather had settled I decided to head out to Piha just to get sand between my toes and to enjoy a brunch at the Piha Cafe. The cafe was full when I arrived so I settled for some lovely cold sand between my toes. Living in London I don’t get to visit the beach that much, and I do miss the easy access to these lovely wild beaches I had when I lived here.

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My little red car.

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I stayed at my sister’s house over the weekend, she moved here last year and has a really nice small growth of young kauri trees out the back. Lovely!

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I also managed to spend lots of time with my family, including my grandson Mason. I see him on Skype fairly regularly,

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I spent the rest of the trip staying with my mum and seeing my family as much as possible. Apart from a day out walking on Monday, which I posted about previously the rest of the trip was busy with jobs and organising things.

I have finally committed to moving the last of my stuff from New Zealand to London, there was not a whole lot of stuff left, and the cost of shipping all of it versus shipping most of it was negligible so I organised for a shipping company to come round and pick up the lot. I will finally have my records and my turntable in the same country as me.

On Thursday night I went out for dinner with some friends and my daughter and NZ based son, the kids and I then went to Whammy Bar and the Wine Cellar to see my nephew the drummer in the band ‘Heroes for Sale’. I have never seen them play so it was awesome to get to go to a gig while I was here, they were pretty damn cool.

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Friday the 19th was the reason I came to NZ, it is Mason’s first birthday, and my oldest son is coming over from Australia for the weekend. I didn’t do too much during the day, final organisation and a last bit of shopping before going to pick up son from the airport to take him to my daughters house and for the first time in a couple of years I got to see all my children together in the same place.

Saturday we had a family party for Mason, firstly at my daughters and then at my mums. I think he had a good time! I am not sure about those dodgy moustaches though !

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And then Sunday, it was brunch with the family, before taking my son to the airport and then heading their myself. 8 days and my trip was over.

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My journey home was the reverse of the trip out, with stop offs in Melbourne and Dubai. I had another mini-drama in Melbourne when I left my glasses on the plane after they fell out of my pocket. I was in a mild panic in the airport as I had visions (blurry) of 20 hours of flights to London not being able to read or watch movies, but fortunately Qantas managed to reunite my glasses with me before we left. Well done Qantas !

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I loved Dubai airport.

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It was good trip to New Zealand, really busy, so no proper holiday – I look forward to that at the end July.

It was great to see my family, especially to have all the kids and my grandson together in the same place at the same time. I was disappointed in NZ, I don’t like the politics there and I was disappointed in what I read in the papers and saw on TV news about the state of the country and the attitudes of some of the people. Auckland seems lifeless and desolate and will only get worse as they build more flats and apartments for overseas buyers who leave them empty, driving more people out of the centre of the city. Thank God for the west coast beaches, the Waitakere Ranges, the bush and my friends and family.