Autumn 2019

Autumn 2019 in New Zealand

Harmonieii


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Pohutakawa at Pauanui

March 1st was the first day of Autumn here in Tauranga, New Zealand. The Super Rugby season is into the 3rd round and the weather continues hot and sunny in the mid 20's. This is the first time we will have experienced a Kiwi Autumn and Winter. Sue, being a resident Kiwi 50 years ago, remembers cold weather but had never seen snow living in Palmerston North and Wellington. Of course here in Tauranga the climate is warmer than in those places and the locals tell us they don't wear coats.

The NZ Bush is evergreen so native plants look the same apart from the flowering ones. The deciduous trees, which Kiwi's call "exotics", are not native and will give a splash of the Autumn gold we are more used to.

Kiwisms:
"Slow Down!
Rug Rats and Old Biddies
all over the road".

Road sign in Nelson

All our worldly goods are on the container ship Rio Bravo which will dock in Tauranga tonight (2nd March). Our container will then be transhipped up to Auckland to our removal company's bonded warehouse where it will be unpacked and inspected by NZ customs for which service we must pay up to $300 extra according to what inspection they require. After clearance the removal company will then truck our stuff back down to Tauranga, unpack it and take away the packing materials.

Gary the cat continues to survive his cancer. He is eating well and leaping around the property including climbing up onto the house roof then jumping down over a metre and landing on a balustrade 4cm wide perfectly balanced. I reckon he could get a job with Cirque du Soleil. His mouth still bleeds when he scratches it, he is on daily pain killing drugs and we are monitoring him closely to try and gauge the right time to end his life so he does not suffer.

 CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST RUGBY UPDATES.


88 Devonport Chinese Restaurant

We sampled what is reckoned to be the best Chinese restaurant in Tauranga at 88 Devonport Street which is also the name of the restaurant. They specialise in Dim Sum so we went there for lunch and were impressed.
The place was full of Chinese which is always a good sign and were asked if we would mind sharing a table which we didn't so were seated round a big circular table with two Chinese ladies and their mother. Mum was given a bowl of soup and one dumpling while the ladies tucked in to many dishes.
You fill in a form from the menu Hong Kong style with your choices which range from $5 to $12. We had Sui Mai, two types of Prawn dumplings, Spicy Wonton and Roast Duck. Sue had a glass of wine, I had Chinese Tea and the bill came to $46.50. It was authentic Cantonese cooking. I have had better but only in Hong Kong and this place will certainly be on our regular list.

That evening was another first when we went to the Rialto Cinema in Devonport Street to see Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem in the Spanish language film "Everybody Knows" which was very entertaining. The cinema consists of three small theatres, very modern with comfortable airline style seats. It was a Sunday evening and there was only a handful of patrons. We actually parked outside in the street opposite the cinema which was deserted when we emerged.

Whisky and More

Spirits are not sold in Supermarkets in NZ so there are specialist shops who are licensed to sell spirits who are generally more expensive. I discovered a specialist on-line retailer whose slogan is "Distilled by Craftsmen, priced by idiots" which appealed to me so I thought I would give them a try. I purchase a bottle of Glen Grant single malt whisky and a litre bottle of Tanqueray gin delivered in two working days for just over $90.
Admittedly you can buy a bottle of Glen Grant for half that price in Europe but the gin was about the same price and the total was about $6 cheaper in total than the cheapest local store would have been and included a delivery charge of $5 which is waived if you spend $200.

Gardening

The photo below of Hibiscus D J O''Brien is one of the plants we bought from Growers Direct and are growing in pots around the place. I am learning by experience what grows best and where in this climate and Hibiscus seems to like it here. I do not know how long this warm weather will continue but the Hibiscus is only a few months old and is blooming with several buds.

Hibiscus D J O''Brien

I have also planted in the garden a Bouganvillea which is growing strongly against a fence and a Passion Fruit which I am training along the fence. Caterpillars cut off the growing climbing shoots soon after I planted it and Growers Direct advised I should give it plenty of feed. I have used Phostrogen which my father used to swear by and the plant is now recovered.
Another climber planted to grow over the front porch arbor is a Jasmine which the nursery said was not good for a pot as it would quickly become root bound but the only ground near the arbor was completely shaded. They said that Jasmine would grow well anywhere so I planted it there. It was slow to take off but has now sent out new shoots.

We returned to the Nursery this month for a couple of young Fejoas and selected the hybrids "Appollo" and "Mammoth" on their recommendation. You are best with two plants for good pollination and different hybrids also helps. Fejoas are a type of Guava and have an attractive pink and red flower which you can also eat if you don't want to wait for the fruit which might even be next summer. We also bought a Hibiscus "Pearl Harbour" and a Fig tree which I have planted next to the deck as it will eventually give us some shade.


Shipping household effects to New Zealand

The container with our household effects arrived in Auckland on 5th March and will take 10 to 14 days to clear customs which is five months after being collected from our apartment in Cheltenham, UK. Future emmigants should beware of removal companies such as Doree Bonner giving you estimates of 12 to 16 weeks door to door.
The removal contract was placed based on an estimated volume of 450cu ft. Any volume greater or less that 450cu ft would be charged extra or reduced according to actual volume. In the event when we received the shipping documents the volume was only 350cu ft so we claimed a pro rata reduction. Doree Bonner said that the reduction would not be pro rata as the removals cost at each end remained the same and only the shipping cost was pro rata.
We disputed this and said that in view of the long delay between collection in October and shipping in January we thought they should pay our claim in full which they eventually agreed to do.

So would we use Doree Bonner again? The answer is probably yes. The pro's were:

  1. Their detailed information and professionalism during the sales process.
  2. Allowing us to arrange our own marine insurance.
  3. Quoting us on an adjustable volume basis.
  4. The quality export packing of our effects by their Bath team.
  5. The excellent response of their NZ Agent, The Moving Company
  6. Their eventual acceptance of our full claim.

But they need to improve the following:

  1. Marine Insurance quotes need to be competitive.
  2. Faster response to emails.
  3. Estimates of transit times need to be up to date and more accurate.
  4. Regular updates on shipping status.

We were warned by some of the removal companies that in the event of a claim on our marine insurance we might find out why their prices were higher, the inference being that you only get what you pay for and the premium was less than half what the removal companies wanted. Well we did have a few breakages and had a claim of over £400. This was dealt with speedily and efficiently and paid in full with no quibbles. I would therefore commend anyone wanting marine insurance to contact Letton Percival for a quote and you will not be disappointed.

 CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST RUGBY UPDATES.


BREXIT

I have steered clear of comments on this subject since we left the UK but I watched the UK parliament live this morning, it being a statement by the deputy PM at 10pm UK time (11am NZ time) on Brexit.
He said that Mrs May had secured agreement with the EU in Strasbourg on a legal form of words which will be a codicil to the withdrawal agreement which she hopes will allow her Attorney General to confirm it will not tie the UK to the EU indefinitely.

MP's will vote tomorrow on wether to accept Mrs May's agreement. Several of those on both sides of the house suggested a postponement of the vote to give everyone time to digest the political and legal ramifications of this revised deal but were advised that they had voted on the timetable and firm decisions must be made. Of course when they voted on the timetable they were unaware of any revisions.

 CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE OF THESE COMMENTS ON BREXIT.


NZ Fantail or piwakawaka



Fluttering around our garden is the delightful little NZ Fantail or Piwakawaka. To us this bird seems exotic but it is very common throughout New Zealand and seems to have no fear of people, fluttering around within feet of us.

Here is a recording of the male's song:


Fantails feed on small insects and I suspect they might be eating the exoskeletons of cicada's which cling in abundance to the trunks of our Yucca trees. I would certainly prefer to have lots of fantails eating the insects that munch the new shoots on the various plants I have added in recent weeks rather than using insecticide.

If you are interested in finding more information on the feathered variety of New Zealand birds then I commend New Zealand Birds Online which is a digital encyclopedia where you can find detailed information about all 467 species.

New Zealand has hit the world headlines for all the wrong reasons; the actions of a violent so called "white extremist" psychopath who walked into a mosque in Christchurch and killed over 40 people, injuring as many more. The police arrested him and charged him with murder plus three others who may have been involved as six other victims were shot and killed at another mosque across the city.

In Britain we are used to such violence but Kiwi's are shocked, not so much by the violence which was excessive as he streamed a live video of his executions, but that such a thing could happen here in New Zealand. PM Jacinda Ardern has announced that there will be changes in NZ gun laws as a result but she has not said what.

The perpetrator of this atrocity is a 29 year old Australian who had a legitimate gun license granted in 2017 and subsequently purchased two semi-automatic AM-15 rifles which he used in the attack. Why any civilian NZ resident would want such a weapon is beyond me and in my view should be illegal. You can never legislate for the odd raving idiot but without such weapons the death toll would have at least been much lower.

We have learnt that violence by racist skinheads against Muslims was well known in Christchurch for some time and that was a shock to us who reckoned we knew this country pretty well. Here is a nice picture to cheer you up after all this horrible news:

Keyboard problems!

Now for some good news at last. Our household effects have finally arrived in Tauranga. They were collected from Cheltenham in the UK on 18th October 2018 and delivery will be on Monday 18th March 2019, exactly five months later. It is just in time as the garden chairs and table we bought and have been using for dining meanwhile have collapsed and will be returned to the retailers under guarantee.

The news on the Six Nations Rugby was good and bad depending on which Nation you support. The actual standings at the end of the competition I did predict correctly but the results of the games themselves were entirely unpredictable.
If you wish to read more on this subject then see here....

Sue developed a debilitating condition which had her literally crawling around the house. She had pain all down her left side from shoulder to leg. The doctor diagnosed a rotator cuff problem causing the shoulder pain and suspected an arthritic hip was causing the pain lower down. He prescribed some anti inflammatory medication, sent her for a hip x-ray and recommended physiotherapy. The results of the x-ray showed no evidence of arthritis and after three visits to a physio we are no further forward in diagnosing exactly what is wrong.

Her mobility has improved with the medication and she no longer needs crutches to get around. She did some exercises in the the hot pool at Fernland Spa just down Cambridge Road from us in Judea and said it seemed to help. The pain is now just below her left shoulder and she will continue with the physio and spa exercises.

Sue's mobility and the arrival of our furniture from the UK has certainly stopped any other activity at the moment but as you can see from the slideshow above we have managed to unpack everything and make the place more like home.
We did experience a few breakages of some valuable glassware and our Queen Anne Writing Desk had one of it's legs snapped off but otherwise everything arrived safely.

Watching the BBC we see that you Poms are being treated to an overdose of Brexit. Here in NZ the media have similarly been transfixed almost exclusively on the Christchurch massacre. It turned out that it was just one nutter who was responsible for all the attacks and who went on the kill more at a second mosque bringing the total killed to 50 with as many injured in hospital, some seriously.

I said at the time that gun laws here needed to be changed and give Jacinda her due, she has shown leadership qualities sorely missing in the UK at the moment. She promised to change the gun laws and has been as good as her word with military style semi-automatics and assault rifles banned.
"The actions announced today are the first step of the Government's response. We will continue to develop stronger and more effective licensing rules, storage requirements and penalties for not complying with gun regulations. It is the Government's intention that these amendments will go through the full legislative process," Jacinda Ardern said.

New Zealanders in general are too laid back for their own good in my opinion. There is a complete disdain for political correctness among most Kiwi's which I applaud but these latest events might tip the balance in the opposite direction so it was with some concern on my part that Jacinda thought fit to dress up in a Hijab to show solidarity with the Muslim victims. The press in general applauded her actions but I judge it as playing politics. Why not a Niqab or even a Burka? Because then she would not have been recognised and I am reminded of Tony Bliar and the way he used national events to his advantage like the death of Princess Diana. Perhaps something rubbed off when Jacinda was a senior policy advisor to Bliar? She also has the problem of most modern politicans of never having had to hold down a proper job!

So what has been happening in English Premiership Rugby and Super Rugby. Of course Barf was well beaten by Executer as predicted down at Sandy Park and in Super Rugby Auckland Blues actually managed to win a game after 20 straight losses but you don't have to read about it if you are a soccer fan. For those more intelligent types you can read more here....


BREXIT

We do get regular updates here in NZ but opinions tend to be somewhat dated, for example some commentators are still pedalling the idea that flights might be grounded and Brits could not go on holiday to an EU country.
Britain is rapidly becoming a laughing stock with the current antics of their politicians. The EU told them they needed to know what they could agree on and not what they disagreed on so they took control of the parliamentary process from the government and staged a series of votes on eight Brexit alternatives. They then proceeded to vote every one of them down!! You couldn't write a better comedy script.

Brexit Quote:
"Many Britons who backed Brexit believed - and believe still - that a U.K. 'freed' from 'Europe' would be able to recover and re-establish its historic destiny as an independent global trading nation".
Linda Colley - British historian.

I heard one Kiwi farmer say on the radio that the Brits dumped NZ 45 years ago and now they realise they made the wrong decision. They made their bed and now they can lie in it he said.
I must say I do have some sympathy with that point of view but also think that Brexit could be a potential boost for NZ agricultural exports which are over reliant on China just as Britains food imports are over reliant on the EU. New Zealand is really one big farm the same size as Britain but with about a tenth of the population.

We see that a million people turned out in London to support a "peoples vote" according to the Peoples Vote Campaign. Read more here....


Two weeks after the Christchurch shootings it is still the main news item each day. As I write there is a national service of remembrance in progress for those who died at Hagley Park in Christchurch. They have an enormous sound stage with performers such as Cat Stevens appearing who was a Moslem convert years ago and changed his name and his appearance in the process.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is here tweeted, "Today we are all joined together as Australians, beyond politics, to grieve with, and for our NZ whanau (family) #christchurch". I didn't know he spoke Maori and do not accept what he was saying was "beyond politics".

Sue's mum who is the same age as the Queen uses Taxi's a lot and says that most of the drivers are Muslim. They tell her they suffer a lot of abuse particularly from those of an ethnic Maori and Pacific Island background. Another surprise in a country we had thought was an example to the world on how to manage race relations.

Now the NZ government has said you could be sent to prison if you are caught in possession of the Christchurch shooter's so called manifesto of hate. The Bavarian government banned Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' after the war because they thought it might turn Germans into Nazis. Does the NZ government think we are in danger of turning into extreme white supremacists by reading some nonsense written by a nutter? It is only a short step from here to a mass book burning!


SKY NZ provides me with a surfeit of Rugby Union. I do not subscribe to the Rugby Channel as it is impossible to watch all the games I get on the Sport channels which include all the Gallagher Premiership games, the Guinness Pro14 and Investec Super Rugby. Strangely they do not cover the European Cup so when those games are played I only get to watch Super Rugby so if you want to keep abreast of that competition you can read more here....

Low level rainbow from our Tauranga house.

Gary the cat has finally had to be put down. He stopped eating and slept most days so we called his previous guardians Christine and Jacob who agreed. We all met up at the Vet and spent half an hour giving poor old Gary much love and affection. There were a few tears shed and we all decided that it would be appropriate to bury him next to his house in his garden so Jacob and I dug a grave and we buried him with a toast to his memory in Glen Grant single malt whisky.

Gary the cat. R.I.P

Every cat we have been privileged to live with has had a unique character and Gary was no exception. From what Jacob and Christine tell us who inherited his company when they bought the house, he must have been well into his dotage but he defended his domain to the very last, seeing off a big grey cat only a few days ago.
Gary just seemed to love human company and would rub around the legs of just about any visitor. We will miss him and I will plant a weeping Acer near where he is buried to remember him.


We discovered another gourmet grocery store alternative to the Gourmet Trader at Gate Pa called Vetro, hidden away on Third Avenue which is unknown as a shopping area. They specialise in Mediterranean foods and have branches all over the North Island.
We stocked up on things like fettuccini and gnocchi as supermarkets here only stock the better known shapes like spaghetti, linguini and pene. We had not been able to find passata and it was in Vetro in abundance. We also found sherry vinegar, porcini, carnaroli rice and an extensive range of Bonne Maman jams including Apricot, arguably the best of it's genre.

Whilst on the subject of food I should just mention the Black Forest Butcher at Gate Pa who produces some excellent German meats like their Kaiserfleisch and Smoked Speck which tastes just like a good pancetta. They also do middle bacon which they part cook to remove excess water and it tastes like bacon should. Their black pudding is a big no-no as NZ regulations mean they can not use raw blood so have to use dried. The result is tasteless.

Black Pudding Quote:
"I do very much like black pudding. I would recommend chucking it into a stew. It thickens it up quite nicely".
Chris McCabe - Totnes Butcher.

By comparison I am reminded of the German publican of the Moorcock Inn near Burnley on the Lancashire Yorkshire border who served us with a good Thwaites bitter to go with his black pudding, sauteed potatoes and sauerkraut. Ee it were Reet good! but the best black pudding in the world is Clonakilty from Ireland and you can get it in Oz but not in NZ.

The Black Forest Butcher also does a passable fresh pork sausage they call Nürnberger Bratwurst and a Tauranga Griller which is coiled up like a Cumberland. Finally they have a good, if expensive, cheese counter where they have German Emmentaler, Swiss Gruyere, French Raclette, Dutch Gouda and Spanish Manchego amongst others.

While at Gate Pa you should seek out Bakers Delight for their sourdough bread which is as good as any we have found yet and a couple of dollars cheaper. Being Easter next week their Hot Cross buns are not bad either!


Tauranga has a jazz festival every year over the Easter period and this year is its 57th. Preceding it is the 42nd National Youth Jazz competition and at Tauranga Farmers Market we were entertained by music from pupils of Avondale College in Auckland who were in town for the competition.

Avondale College has one of the biggest music departments in New Zealand but is unique in having a particular focus on jazz, with a full time Head of Jazz teacher, a Big Band and Jazz Combo groups.

Avondale Jazz Combo

The above photo is of the Avondale Jazz Combo at Tauranga Farmers Market. The tenor saxophonist who looked about 12 decided to go walkabout round the market for his solo which he did with great aplomb and had everyone laughing. We missed their big band who were playing as we arrived and sounded great. .

Sue often complains that classical concerts we attend are full of grey haired oldies like us and it was nice to see competent young musicians evidently enjoying serious music. The college also has a full symphony orchestra which won the ASPIRE International Youth Music Festival competition in 2017 and that link takes you to a video of part of their performance.


My Barf Rugby boys did the business on Saturday against Brissle at Twickers and moved them up in the table to potentially contest a top four place for the semi final play-offs. Of course some of my readers have absolutely no interest in rugby so they do not have to wade through loads of comment on the UK and NZ results but those of superior intellect can read more here....

silvereye
A little bird tried to fly through the sliding glass door on our deck with an almighty thump, landed on our deck and sat stunned for several minutes before eventually flying away uharmed.
I identified it quite easily using the New Zealand Birds Online website and it was a Silvereye which colonised NZ from Oz around 1850 and is now found in abundance.
They are similar in appearance to Bellbirds but have the distinctive silver ring around the eyes, are about half the size and can be seen all over NZ to an altitude of 1200m. Pretty little thing who now needs an HIA (Head Injury Assessment).

Sue is still hobbling around in some pain and the doctor predicted it would take at least six weeks for the injury to heal. I have my doubts as it is already four weeks since the pain started but she is walking a little better and we managed to attend a concert by the Tauranga Civic Choir which featured music from the Opera.

The concert was in Otumoetai Babtist Church which is more of a modern concert hall than a church and began with the works of Handel and Purcell. The Choir's director of music, Nigel Williams claimed Mozart did not write much for Opera chorus although I can think of quite a few, however, this was an excuse to introduce two of his aria's sung by Jessica Wells, a mezzo soprano with a fine powerful voice and Angus Simmons, an even more powerful baritone.

The concert continued with excerpt from Bizet's Carmen, Verdi's Il Trovatore and Aida. They chose to sing much in English despite Nige' claiming that the Italian language was important to opera but I particularly liked Jessica's interpretation of Saint-Saens Mon coeur s'ouvre which thank goodness was in French. Angus also sang the Toreadors song in French and invited the audience to join in the chorus.

Wagner's Bridal Chorus was followed by the Polovtsian Dances by Borodin which we mostly know as A Stranger in Paradise and I as A Strange Little Parasite!! The link takes you to a video of the Bolshoi performing the work and is a fine example of how it should be done.

The concert concluded with excerpts from Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado and was more suited to this choir who seemed to be struggling with the high notes in the earlier pieces and did not impress as much as the carol concert we attended just before Christmas. Leon Gray the accompanist was playing a concert grand which tended to dominate the choir rather than accompany it. He reminds me a bit of Michael Gove when he puts on his glasses!


I predicted Barf Rugby might do well at Kingsholm and they started well going 17 points in front until just before half time to the abandoned disgust of the whole goddam shed but of course some of my readers have absolutely no interest in Barf Rugby so they will never know the outcome of this important game or the other UK and NZ results but those of you who have can read more here....


This is Sox. She was found at Growers Direct, the plant nursery we use at Te Puna who took her to the vet. The vet scanned her and found she was microchipped so they rang the owner from the vet who said she was not interested in having the cat back which means they probably dumped her as her address was in Matua which is 11 km from Te Puna and over a river so it is unlikely the cat walked there.

She seems to have settled in fine and Paul, at Growers Direct, said all you have to do is feed her and she will never leave you alone. The vet reckoned she was only about 5 years old. She did not like his new Alsatian so he was keen to find her another home. We offered her a walk around the garden but she preferred to stay indoors and she even jumped up on Sue's lap so it looks like she approves of us.

We plan to take her to the vet eventually to get them to scan the microchip for the number so we can claim ownership and register her to this address. Oscar, the cat from next door, has shown some interest in Sox, peering through the cat flap but he doesn't like cat flaps and so far has not come through.


At last Brucie baby has recognised the sterling work Tod Blackadder has done for the last three years at Barf Rugby and fired him. No actually they have let him go before his contract expires at the end of next season having extended his contract at the start of this one. He is going to Japan as head coach of Toshiba so if you are a Toshiba supporter please accept my condolences. Tod said he was "incredibly proud of what we have achieved" which was precisely nothing!

After that piece of good news, those of you who are completely disinterested in Rugby Union will not be subjected to any further news of Super Rugby but the intelligentsia can read more here...


The Tauranga Jazz Festival was over the Easter weekend and we were both looking forward to attending. There was a New Orleans style parade in town on the Saturday and sound stages along the Strand plus bands playing in the bars. Unfortunately Sue was still not mobile enough to walk far and we were worried how close we could get by car so we called the whole thing off until next year. She is making very slow progress but is still in a lot of pain.

ANZAC Day

New Zealand and Australia do not have their remembrance day on 11th November which marks the signing of the armistice at the end of the Great War. Instead they have their day on the 25th April which was the first significant ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) casualties in that war at Gallipoli.
When we cruised on the Somme in 2006 we visited the site of the Australian National Memorial in France and if you follow that link you will discover quite a bit about the ANZAC actions in those times. In Villers-Bretonneux you will find many Aussies at this time of the year.

The New Zealand National War Memorial

Nowadays the day is a patriotic ceremonial occasion to also remember all the soldiers from both countries who have died in the various conflicts since. The New Zealand National War Memorial is at Wellingtom, the capitol city. It consists of a memorial hall, the tomb of the unknown warrior and a huge bell tower containing a carrillion of 6 octaves.

One thing that has survived from the war are ANZAC biscuits. They were originally known as Soldier's biscuts and were sent over to serving soldiers by their wives. They are a bit like a hard flapjacks but there seems to be various recipes. I am currently eating some flavoured with apricots which are soft, more like cakes with icing on them, but the pak-n-save ones nearly break your teeth!

Girl Guide Biscuits

Another national malt biscuit that has just ceased production was Girl Guide Biscuits which they used to sell every year to raise funds. They have been doing it for 60 years and Sue can remember selling them every year when she was a Guide. They say they have stopped because they want to concentrate on their core values?

NZ Super v UK Pension

After we sorted our NZ pension in a couple of hours back in February I emailed the UK pensions office advising them of our change of circumstances. They then wrote to us asking for further information and we replied by return. We have recently received letters from them with Malta postmarks so it seems that even the UK pensions service outsources its work overseas. Just fancy; here is the UK leaving the EU while outsourcing its civil service work in the EU. Hard to imagine and no wonder our civil servants are mostly remainers.

Civil Service Quote:
"It is essential for men of science to take an interest in the administration of their own affairs or else the professional civil servant will step in - and then the Lord help you.".
Ernest Rutherford.

Part of our pension was from us living for 4 years in Australia and it turns out that the reciprocal agreement between Australia and the UK ended in 2004 and that we were only entitled to that part of our pension while we were resident in the UK which was a condition which the government put in place in 2004 by act of parliament. So we have not been entitled to it since we left and must pay back almost £700 which they say has been overpaid by them plus they have fined us £100 for not notifying them promptly.
One does tend to think that once the state pension is agreed you can rely on it but that is obviously not the case. Here in NZ we all get the same amount whatever your previous historic income.

Civil Service Quote:
"Admission into the Civil Service is indeed eagerly sought after, but it is for the unambitious, and the indolent or incapable, that it is chiefly desired".
The Northcote Trevelyan Report of 1854.

Of course UK Pensions insist on corresponding by snail mail and it takes a month for their letters to get here extended by the diversion via Malta no doubt! We knew that our pensions would be fixed when we left but nobody bothered to tell us they had ended the agreement with Australia and that it was dependent on our UK residency so how could we know? What a difference in attitude to the NZ pensions service who backdated our NZ pension to when we first applied and this is the date we have suggested the UK pension service should use as the end of our UK residency. Watch this space.

Not only do I have a very poor opinion of civil servants but an equally poor one of politicians, particularly the current crop. If you are interested in politics then you can read more here...


Political Correctness

There seems to be no limit to the extent some will go to to ensure we all follow their dictates. Now we have a bunch of idiots who believe in gender neutrality and think we all should, going round the Scottish Maritime Museum scratching off any reference to gender in the vessel signage.

Even worse, the director of the museum in an effort to stop this vandalism has declared that all signs will now be gender neutral and claims to understand how referring to a ship as a lady must offend some people. I don't expect the poor dears are able to sleep nights! So we can no longer refer to a ship as 'she' and must refer to 'it' instead. Well my ship "Harmonie" was a dear old lady and always will be, as will all the beauties I have ever sailed on.

It occurs to me that this lot are from the same camp who brought disruption to London streets because they want us to do more about climate change. Britain is one of the 20 cleanest countries in the world. I know we all need to do better but perhaps they should go and glue their tits to Tianamen Square where the real pollution is. If Dame Emma Thompson wants to burn a few more tonnes of carbon she could join them.

Here in New Zealand we even had kids taking a day off school to protest and their teachers supporting them because some 16 years old Swedish girl says all kids should break the law. New Zealand is also among the top 20 lowest world polluters. Of course we all know that most 16 year olds know best. I know I did when I was 16!

In my opinion the gender neutral vandals and the Extinction Rebellion lot should be prosecuted for criminal damage. The Director of the museum is a wally and should be fired or at least suspended and both episodes are a load of bollocks which are certainly not gender neutral. Britain is already regarded as a nation who has taken leave of 'her' collective senses with 'her' inability to resolve BREXIT and this further confirms it. Rule Brittania or should it be Rule 'It'?

Now to more important matters. This weekend was round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby and Week 11 of Super Rugby. Now I know that most of you are busting a gut to read my comments on both these competitions and you can do so here...


2018 Foreign Investment

I am guilty of criticising our politicians for being unable to organise a piss-up in a brewery but they must be doing something right or perhaps just keeping their sticky fingers out of the mix.
The OECD has just announced that foreign investment in Britain during 2018 totalled £1.4 billion. This was a 5% increase year on year behind the USA and China but the highest in Europe above Germany who came fourth on £920 million.

Now I could crow a bit here that certain people had predicted doom and gloom and I will, but it does go to show that it is almost impossible to predict even 12 months ahead and those who try are usually doing so for political reasons unless they are paid to do so. The OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) have yet to get any economic forecast correct since it was set up by George Osborne in 2010.

Economic Quote:
"An economist is a man who knows a hundred ways of making love but doesn't know any women."
Art Buchwald.

George himself does not have the best record of predictions either although he and his mate Mark Carney are still making warning noises. They would both love those dire predictions of theirs eventually to come true as their economic reputations are more important than the future of the country.
Remember us all being £4,300 per household worse off if we left the EU, that the government would be between £20 and 45 billion worse off in tax receipts and he would have to raise the rate of income tax by 8p. He said we might lose up to 820,000 jobs yet we have gained about half a million since. He said the economy would shrink by 0.4% in the year after the referendum but it actually grew 1.4%.

George predicted that after the vote inflation would soar to 2.7% and he was right due to the drop in the value of the pound which made imports dearer but helped our exporters and improved the profitability of those business's (and my shares), many of whom earn more in dollars and euro's than in sterling.

Economic Quote:
"There is no harm in being sometimes wrong - especially if one is promptly found out."
John Maynard Keynes.

House prices were forecast to fall by between 10 and 18% which many London first time buyers would have welcomed but they have actually risen 5.6%.
Public sector borrowing was forecast to rise by £12.2 billion in 2016-17 if the UK just voted to leave the EU let alone actually leave. It fell by £20 billion.

Most economists told us that investment would collapse but it didn't and the Treasury experts and big business leaders continue to tell us that if we leave the EU without a deal there would be economic catastrophe. They could be correct of course but on past experience should we really believe them this time and would it be even worse if we tied our hands for future free trade with the rest of the world in a deal that ties us to the EU?

Fiona Onasanya

Do you know who I am talking about? Probably not so let me remind you.

She is the MP who is a lawyer and was sent to jail for 3 months in January for perverting the course of justice when she lied to the police for her brother saying another person was driving a speeding car who was not in the country at the time. Her brother subsequently pleaded guilty and was also jailed but Ms Onasanya continued to plead her innocence, refused to resign as a MP and continued to vote as an independent after being slung out of the Labour Party.

Replete with with electronic ankle tag for early jail release, she voted for a bill to block BREXIT which passed by one vote, a sad indictment of the depth to which UK politics has sunk.

Jeremy Corbine and Fiona Onasanya

When UK politicians were first exposed as the dishonest lot many are during the expenses scandal, a new recall rule was introduced as a result in 2015. If a MP was convicted of a criminal offence which resulted in a jail sentence of more that 12 months they would lose their seat but if the sentence were less, a petition of the electors in that constituency would be called to vote if they wanted to recall that MP which for a 3 month prison sentence would mean that 10% of electors would need to vote for a by-election. A DUP MP narrowly escaped recall recently when he accepted perks but only 9.7% voted to recall him.

Onasanya was MP for Peterborough so about 7,000 people needed to vote to remove her. In the event almost 20,000 (27%) voted so she is no longer a MP and can no longer collect her £77,379 salary. Her brother was also employed by her and is now in Jail for 10 months so the taxpayer is currently about £130,000 a year better off until the election next month although we still have the cost of his imprisonment. She can stand again for the seat but would be unlikely to win, however, this is a marginal seat which voted 60-40 to leave the EU in the referendum so the new BREXIT party will contest the election as will this new CHANGE party who want to REMAIN in the EU.

SKY Sport have not said yet what TV channel they will screen the English premiership finals on and I fear they may do so on the Rugby Channel. They screened all the Super Rugby for week 12 on the sport or pop-up channels but only two of the penultimate premiership games so the signs are ominous, however, you can of course read my reports here...


The doc sent Sue for an ultrasound scan as he suspected she had torn a muscle and such a scan could detect any damage to soft tissue. The scan showed nothing amiss but the doc still suspects some muscle damage is causing the pain which did not show up on the scan. He was going to send Sue to a sports injury specialist but she has shown some improvement this week so he has held off doing anything more so long as she continues to improve but if there is any regression he will do so.
She is still hobbling round, moving slowly and sleeps sitting up to relieve the pain, taking several paracetemol and codeine a day plus strong anti-inflammatory pills. I am of course waiting on her hand foot and finger!

One of the things I like to do when I visit a country is to research it's history so coming to live in NZ that was high on my list. I remember worrying on my last visit to Ireland that they had destroyed monuments and I was reminded of what I said at the time when listening to Historian Vincent O'Malley complaining that the NZ education curriculum does not include NZ history as a required subject.

My Quote:
"All over Ireland you find statues demolished and place names changed from the time the republic was part of Britain which is a shame as it is a legitimate part of Ireland's history which has been destroyed. You wouldn't dream of destroying a Viking relic but they were invaders just the same as the Normans and the English."
Roger Biddle.

He said that when he was at school he remembered asking his history teacher why they could not learn about NZ history as well as European. His teacher told him it was because it was boring so he was best to forget it and that attitude was still prevalent today. Sue was educated here and was never taught the subject but was interested in history.
He said it was dreadful the way NZ had neglected its historic battlefield sites and cited Tauranga as an example with the main street named after Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in New Zealand at the time, which runs through the battlefield site at Gate Pa, one of the biggest battles fought and one the Brits lost.
It could be argued that there has been a conscious effort to hide NZ history.

Vincent will deliver the 2019 Michael King Lecture at the Auckland Writers Festival this month on the New Zealand Wars which is the title of his new book on the subject.

Bath Rugby have confirmed that Stuart Hooper will take over from Tod Blackadder as Director of Rugby and Neal Hatley will return to the club as Forwards and Defence Coach when he relinquishes his position as England's Scrum Coach after the World Cup. Welsh Barf lock Luke Charteris will join the coaching team and visit New Zealand to gain experience with the Crusaders and other Super Rugby sides. If you would like to know more about the new coaching set-up at Bath then you can read more here...

EU Elections

We have not registered to vote in the forthcoming EU election as yesterday was the last day we could register and it seemed to us a complete farce. Why vote for something when the government said they had no intention of sending any MEP's to the EU parliament? Why vote in an election where only 10% of MEP's represent Britain? Why vote when historically only 35% of Brits vote? Why vote for a parliament that has little or no power and even if it did we could not change its direction?

Many may not be aware that us ex-pats can vote in UK and EU elections for 15 years after we were last registered to vote. I suppose that because of the greater interest this time they might get a few more voting, in particular those who want a second referendum who see this vote as a means to show their enthusiasm but it looks like the two main parties are going to get a bloody nose just like they did in the local elections.

I see Mr Junker has now said the EU were wrong in not pointing out the lies that were told during the referendum as Mr Cameron told them not to interfere in British politics.
I suppose Junker meant the lies told by the leavers and not those told by Mr Cameron. If that is true then 'Call me Dave' surely ignored his own advice when he introduced President Obama to British politics.

Cannabis Legislation in NZ

Over here in NZ the latest subject for discussion is the legalisation of cannabis. Uruguay legalised it in July 2017 and Canada followed suit in October 2018. Apparently Uruguay's main markets for the stuff are Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Germany. Now that Canada has legalised it I suppose New Zealand wants a bit of the action as well.

Canada pot flag

The NZ Green party who are part of the government coalition has proposed a referendum and by the end of next year we could all be voting on if and how to legalise cannabis as well as euthanasia. Proposals being discussed are for simple yes/no votes some binding and some non-binding on the government but Jacinda says that she intends it to be just an opinion poll.

It has been legalised in some US States. Washington says it has increased tax revenue by $1 billion since 2014 but California says there has been no increase in a State where most of them seem to be permanently stoned!

I have a son in the UK who is schizophrenic. He was known to be a cannabis user in his teens. I have a friend in Panama who has a son of the same age with the identical problem. Chronic cannabis use in early adolescence can make some people up to 11 times more likely to develop schizophrenia, the New Zealand Drug Foundation's Cannabis and Health Symposium in Auckland was told back in 2013.

Professor Richie Poulton, Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit, said; "For people that use cannabis heavily before the age of 18 the risk of schizophrenia increases by 10.3 percent. For those who use heavily after 18 the risk increases by 4.7%." So be very careful with your legislation New Zealand.

Rugby Union here in New Zealand is just called Rugby and is considered to be the National Sport. Rugby League is called Rugby League. SKY NZ broadcast all the Super Rugby franchise games, some school games and all the French, Pro14 and English premiership club games but now Spark, the NZ equivalent of British Telecom, has started Spark Sport copying BT Sport and begun to challenge SKY NZ.

Oscar
Now you might think a bit of competition is a good thing but Spark have deeper pockets than SKY and have already grabbed the rights to broadcast European Champions Cup Rugby, the European equivalent of Super Rugby, but also the Rugby World Cup. Not that the latter matters much as most of the games will be broadcast on free to air channel TVNZ but the only way I can watch the Champions Cup games is to subscribe to Spark for another $20 a month.
If Spark are successful at getting more Rugby at the expense of SKY it could mean that the poor old viewer is forced to pay two subscriptions instead of one. This is why I was unable to watch Sarries become the European Champions Cup champions once again but the Super Rugby provided some fine games and you can read my reports here...

Rugby Union has been in the news here and in the UK recently for all the wrong reasons. Israel Folau the winger who plays for the NSW Waratahs and is a Wallaby (The Australian national team not the animal) is a committed Christian and, quoting the Bible, said on social media that homosexuals will go to Hell. Just for the record the bible says worse than that (see the quote below). If you believe everything the bible says that is your privilege but does Israel really think that all Homosexuals should be put to death?

Bible Quote from Leviticus:
"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."
Chapter 20 verse 13.

Our own Billy Vunipola also publicly supported what Israel had said and was booed every time he touched the ball in the European cup final on Saturday. Some of Israel's fellow team mates have said that they do not wish to play with him. The Tah's have sacked him and the Wallabies have said his contract might be terminated. Some Pacific Islanders playing here and in Oz have said that you might as well sack them as well as they all believe in what Israel said.

I have several thoughts on the subject as you might expect:

  1. Israel has previous when it comes to opening his mouth in public. He was on a written warning so if he wanted to continue his employment as a professional rugby player he should have kept his mouth shut.
  2. Rugby Union has always been above politics and religion but should respect all lawful beliefs. There is a limit though as the All Blacks found out when they ignored Apartheid. Public opinion must also be kept onside as they pay for us to indulge in the sport.
  3. Most countries have laws which prohibit inciting hatred and if you say a particular group of people will "go to hell" that to me is much the same thing.
    If you said that about Jews for example you would be accused of anti-semitism for which you might also lose your job.
  4. Israel broke the terms of his contract so whether you agree with him or not his employer is entitled to dismiss him. There is a difference between believing something and breaking the terms of a contract.
  5. Those who booed Billy at Newcastle ruin our countries reputation as a tolerant society. Billy is a great number eight, possibly the best, but he must learn that he is public property and must keep contentious issues to himself.
  6. There are plenty of homosexuals who play and support rugby, they are accepted as part of the sport as they are in all parts of society, even most churches, and those who feel so strongly about them must chose between rugby or their beliefs.

Here endeth the first lesson!

And have you noticed when watching a premiership game that the commentator will often apologise for the language. I have never yet actually heard the use of this abusive language and am unable to believe that well brought up Nigel's would lower themselves to such common parlance when handbags are being thrown! Kiwi's, Wobblies, Jarpies, even Sweaties yes but surely not Nigel's?

Rugby Quote:
"Don't swear, now, you're on telly, mun."
Nigel Owen to Dan Carter.

The final English rugby premiership round 22 featured crunch games for 4th place Northampton Saints and 5th place Quins who both had a realistic chance of making the play-offs. The top six qualified for Europe. Barf, Wasps, Sale and Brissle all had a realistic chance of qualifying but the permutations are mind boggling. It depends not only on results from the premiership but also on results from the French and PRO14 leagues and there could be an extra place so a premiership 6th and 7th place would then qualify. Barf needed 2 points from their Leicester game to secure qualification but could have lost and still qualified! You can see what happened in the premiership plus the Super Rugby results here....

We went a concert at the Baycourt given by the Bay of Plenty Symphonia which is our local community orchestra. Considering the relatively low population in the region I think we are fortunate to be able to support a full symphony orchestra and give local youthful talent an opportunity to play. The orchestra also organises a competition for young performers and the finals will be at Baycourt at the end of next month.

The concert began with Verdi's Overture La Forza del Destino to get the musicians fingers loosened up before tackling Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 2 in C Minor, the soloist being Hamilton based Noelle Dannenbring.

Noelle Dannenbring

Noelle grew up in Rotorua and completed her Master's degree in music with first class honours at Waikato University. Rachmaninov always inspires strong feelings in young performers and this interpretation by 24 year old Noelle was no exception who received a rapturous reception from the audience who rather spoiled the romantic atmosphere by a large section persisting with this Kiwi habit of applauding every movement. I would however forgive them applause at the end of the first movement which ends in a fast crescendo that feels like the end of the concerto.

Kiwi's don't tip unless the service is exceptional so why applaud at every break in the music? Sue says it is because the locals have not been exposed to classical music but I say they must see that the conductor and soloist do not acknowledge the applause so they should learn. I have only ever experienced this once in Vienna where a Hungarian violin soloist was applauded and cheered after an exceptionally passionate rendition of the first movement of Bruchs concerto No 1.

In centuries past audiences often applauded during a performance but they also boozed talked, smoked and perhaps even indulged in acts of a sexual nature during concerts. Audiences here certainly booze in the auditorium which was a surprise but don't talk, smoke or perform other distractions as yet thank goodness!

There's a tradition in classical music that you only clap after a piece has finished and never in between movements. It is a tradition I would like learned here but there can always be an exception. Jazz is one genre where it is the tradition to clap every solo and jazz musicians would be pissed off if you always ignored their improvisations. But in classical music silence is part of the experience and can be golden.

The concert concluded with Brahms Symphony No 1 in C minor. It replicates Beethoven's 5th in the use of it's ta-ta-ta-dah rhythm throughout the first movement and most will recognise the hymn like melody in the last movement.

I reserved seats at the back of the hall so Sue could hobble in with minimal effort but she seems to have regressed with her muscle pain so it looks like she will be going to a sports injury specialist.

Here is a litle something to cheer you all up:

Prime Minister May has now presented the revised version of her Withdrawal Agreement which MP's seem determined to vote down for the fourth time. She protests that she has done her best to try and deliver Brexit against intractable opposition but in reality whenever she has met opposition from the EU or MP's she has often just caved in to their demands. This she calls compromise but I call it weak leadership and an inability to even understand how to negotiate.

In "compromising" she has gradually given away all the leverage she had after the referendum. If you are interested in my views on this subject you can read more here...

Just a few days ago we were at a symphony concert at the Baycourt Theatre and were treated to yet another one, this time by the New Zealand Symphony.
We arrived early and attended a talk on the programme which included works by Schumann, Beethoven and Mozart. The conductor for this concert was Tomas Søndergård who is Danish and Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Tomas Søndergård

The final composition to be played was Mozart's Symphony No 36 which is known as the Linz, so called because he composed it during a visit to that Austrian city. The speaker told us that he was invited to present one of his compositions at a concert in the city while he was there and as he did not have one suitable with him he decided to write one specially.
This he did in four days which I am at a loss to understand how. Not so much the actual composing but it had to be scored by hand as did the parts for each instrument and then surely the orchestra had some sort of rehersals prior to the concert. It would take me a month of Sundays using a computer program!

The concert began with Schumann's Manfred Overture which he wrote based on a poem by Lord Byron in the early days of his mental illness. After an attempted suicide he put himself into a mental asylum where he died aged 46, possibly of syphilis.

Denis Kozhukin

The NZSO's next offering was to my mind his greatest work. Schumann's Piano Concerto received its premiere in Leipzig in 1841 with Schumann's wife Clara for whom he wrote it as the soloist and the orchestra conducted by none other than Felix Mendelssohn.
On this occasion we were treated to the Russian pianist Denis Kozhukin

As you would expect from such a renowned pianist, his performance was flawless as was the orchestra. When you hear professional musicians in the same hall as you heard even good amateurs a few days previous, you really do appreciate the difference.

During the interval we discussed with fellow audience members the way the Baycourt staff allow people to walk in late in the middle of the performance and not wait until an interval when the local audience clap as usual! We all agreed it should not happen but also that we were very lucky to have such good musicians in our midst. Another strange Kiwism was when they announced we were welcome to take photographs but to please wait to the end of each piece.

Mr Beethoven began the second half with his Coriolan Overture then came Mozart's four day masterpiece Linz Symphony to finish a great night of musical entertainment.

Not only do we get great musicians here in Tauranga but there are so few residents that you can park right opposite the concert hall which we needed to do with Sue's current imfirmity.
The latest development involved a further visit to the doctor ($43 a visit) who sent her off for a blood test. He then texted her to say she had high cholesterol which she knew already and wants another blood test. He has also referred her to a sports injury specialist who is away in Dublin at the moment so she has to wait until July for an appointment. He also prescribed stronger pain killers and she is now sleeping better but still hobbling.

Eurovision Song Contest

I see that the UK came last once again with onze points in the recent Eurovision Song Contest in Israel who is not even in Europe. 95% of Turkey is in Asia while this year they even had an entry from Australia which is about as far away from Europe as you can get?

Ireland won it so many times that they eventually lost it on purpose as they could not afford the cost of continually staging the event.

Those mainland continentals have always had a unique taste in popular music and were never any good at geography. There have been very few continental European artists who have become popular outside that continent, Abba being one of the few exceptions.

Political Quote:
"Or for our entry just have Nigel Farage backed by an Army brass band singing Land Of Hope And Glory while sticking two fingers up to the world."
Rod Liddle.

The UK song may well have deserved only onze points but Eurovision is blatently political in the way they vote which has nothing to do with the merits of a particular song. You vote tactically for the country you think will vote for yours. Terry Wogan was a past master at commentating on and riduculing the competition and his humour was really the only reason for watching it.
I think that Rod Liddle's idea for the UK's entry next year is perfect!

The semi-finals of the English rugby union premiership took place this weekend as did round 15 of Super Rugby and you can read the results here...

EU Election Results

I see that Nige manage to get his six week old Brexit party elected as the biggest single party in the European parliament. They will all take their seats on 2nd July and will get around £5,900 a month after tax plus a tax free allowance of €320 per day for each day they are present in the parliament so a nice little earner.

Officially the UK is supposed to leave the EU on 31st October, the date delayed by Mrs May before she resigned, the second Tory PM to do so in succession. 37% of the UK electorate bothered to vote and punished the Tories who lost 16 MEP's and Labour who lost 9 so now the Tories have only 4 MEP's out of 73 in the EU parliament. The Fishy lady (first minister Nicola Sturgeon) says because 37.9% of Scots voted for the SNP out of a 39.7% turnout that means Scots want to remain in the EU but want to leave the UK?

We now look forward to a by-election in the marginal seat of Peterborough on June 6th which may give us a clue of what effect this huge political realignment will have on a future Westminster election. This will be followed by another election of a Tory leader sometime in July.
Of course the Tory Hammondites show no sign of having learnt anything from the recent happenings and may well try to bring down a Brexiteer PM by supporting a vote of no confidence in anyone who fails to agree on a deal with the EU and decides to Brexit without one.

Should Spreadsheet Phil and his mates have that death wish then a general election would almost certainly result in both the current main parties losing votes from both sides of the EU debate among the electorate as neither party could be trusted to resolve the issue. If a new party can garner as many votes as Nige did in such a short time then we may see British politics entering a period of instability never seen before.

But if a new PM believed he or she could not survive a vote of no confidence from the Phil-is-tines there is another option. They could simply resign thereby forcing yet another Tory leadership election. This would take up a further six weeks and would not leave enough time for a general election before 31st October. Belgium went over a year without a government and the country functioned perfectly without politicians interfering. To me a no-deal Brexit looks certain unless the EU backs down.

The latest in the Brexit saga is that dear old Boris is being taken to court for lying to us by saying we send £350 million a week to the EU when in fact we get about £100 million of that back. Boris did point out when challenged that the UK government has no control over the money we get back as the EU decides where it will be spent, however, strictly speaking Boris is a lying toe rag but £250 million or £350 million, who's bothered, it's still a lot of dosh whichever figure is correct which surely is the point.

I wouldn't mind a quid for the number of lies told by politicians every day, especially those told by those in government and other leave and remain campaigners during the EU referendum. If our courts of law had to decide if an MP was telling porkies they would be overwhelmed and most of them would be banged up. On second thoughts that might not be a bad thing!

Oh no not more rugby!

Those of you who have no interest can avoid this bit but it is the final of the English Premiership and approaching a crucial phase in Super Rugby so for informed comment and all the results click here...

Sue is no better or worse with her muscle pains. The Doc tried her on different painkillers which were supposed to be better for muscle pain but they were worse so she has asked him to try again. I generally have a poor opinion of the medical profession as a whole who I think do things increasingly by rote and less using grey matter but then I am a grumpy old man!

The official start of the New Zealand winter began on June 1st so I need a new page and here it is. The weather did change suddenly from the low twenties to the middle teens where it should be at this time of the year and it snowed in the South Island.

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