Thursday, December 11, 2008


" We Wish You a Merry Xmas, We Wish You a Merry Xmas, We Wish You a Merry Xmas

and a Happy New Year "

Believe it or not the weather has been unusually mild for this time of the year around 11 to 13 degrees for the past week, so I do not think a White Christmas will occur, at least not in this part of England. As it is almost Christmas Eve and you will be closing down everywhere to enjoy the festivities of the season, so we would like to wish each and everyone of you a Very Merry and Safe Christmas and New Year. So remember take care of each other and when you are having that tot over Christmas lunch give us a cheer as well, as we will do for you.

The period of this blog is from 1oth December 2008 to 23rd December, 2008. I will start this off by describing our daylong visit to Portsmouth, one of England's most famous ports and lovely coast which faces into the Solent some 50 odd miles southwest from London. It is easily accessible from London using the M 25 ring road motorway or as we did via a hook up through the A3. Both allow excellent travelling times and the journey down is very pretty really particularly when you reach a few hills which allows views over the countryside like via (The Devils Punchbowl) rather than just the seemingly endless tree rows and thickets which envelop the roadsides allowing only very fleeting glimpses of what lays hidden behind.

Rhonda's Comment: No we are not in Dubai!!!!

Along the way we did see the world famous Wisley Gardens which are huge but not worth visiting in the winter I wouldn't think plus small cities like Winchester with its renowned cathedral and so on. All at once you seem to flash out from the trees and there is the coast and in this case when we travelled down, it was sparkling in the sunlight. We spent our few hours at the Old Portsmouth Docks really as there is so much history right before your eyes. From museums containing such things as the remains of the Mary Rose, a Henry VIII ship, then on to the Lord Nelson flagship, Victory, still maintained in magnificent condition to the Warrior built in 1860 as the first steam driven inter continental ship and so on and so on. There are museums and artifacts galore hence our promise to return to soak up some of this wonderful area of our history. Obviously, the area is scattered with pubs with amazing names relating to history and right in the middle is The Lady Hamilton Hotel from which our original family name was derived from (Lord Nelson's whore) as we are recorded descendants of her. We decided that we would have to go back again before we leave these fair shores and stay at least a couple of days in any one of the multitudes of B&Bs which are found everywhere along the coast line so we can visit so many of the displays as well as look into the D-Day Operation Overlord exhibitions which are so much a wonderful part of our history as the stepping off place for the re-invasion of Europe by the Allies on June 6 1941.

Rhonda's Comment: This sign says in case you can't read it,
"No Bathing Here at Low Tide". Who would want to
besides the water being to bloody cold you might also
be swimming around old relics.

All of this is of course surrounded by the Royal Navy bases which are huge and to be able to look out to sea sure shows why the area has for centuries made a wonderful port. It outs to the Solent and on to the Atlantic thus giving England its great position from where to launch attacks from or protect itself from marine attacks from the great seas which meet the coast here. We will offer much more in detail on this fascinating area when we re visit next year and to those of you who have already visited or are familiar with this piece of coast will well know how fascinating it is.

Our next big outing was as we had promised ourselves, a trip to stay for a couple of nights in London to see the lights and hear the choirs and bands playing Christmas songs etc so on the following Friday we drove to our old marina base where we left the car and caught the bus to Staines from where we caught the overland train to Waterloo then transferred to the Underground to travel to Holborn near Covent Gardens where we had our hotel booked.

It was quite an adventure as we were loaded with a roll wheel suitcase, a backpack, a camera bag, a plastic shopping bag and a large umbrella decked out in our winter clothes of 5 or 6 layers plus Harry. Yes,we always travel light when we move, just ask Daphne who chuckles about our inability to make do with small requirements of clothing etc. Harry was great even when faced with those huge escalators in the underground and all the new noises, but he like us, was glad to get to our hotel and to be able to rest in peace and quiet for a while.

After a short nap the navigator had us up and off to walk to Covent Gardens and then on down to Trafalgar Square to see the huge Christmas tree which is shipped from Norway each year and decked in white only lights as a symbol of peace and a token of thanks to the English people for their support in WW2. In front of the tree the choirs took turns to sing, however, just as we got there it started to rain steadily so while we watched from the sheltered steps of the National Art Gallery these poor kids did their best to keep a cheer in their voices while the temps fell to about 3 degrees.

We then moved off down passed Piccadilly Circus and down to Regent Street where we had been told the lights were great to see. Well to be honest they were poor so after about 10 mins we went past the top end of Oxford Street where we later found out that the lights further down the street were really good but of course we missed them in the rain and gloom. On we walked up through Soho just as businesses were closing and thus emptying a million folk out onto the streets as they made their way home or off shopping or out for the last evening of the working week. I have never experienced such crowds and as you can imagine in the rain and dark we were just hustled along by the throng like sardines swimming with the tide. Poor Harry, still at foot had to endure being soaked to the skin and black from his belly to his topsides due to the filth coming off the footpaths but he was wonderful in avoiding being stood on and was great really.

One of the things that stuck out was the huge numbers of people who still smoke here with so many of them being elder or seniors and as a result some 2000 people die of smoke related diseases per week in the UK. So sad isn't it when you think of the cost to health and finances. Many of these people huddle in the doorways of work having a fag and even more so at places of entertainment like when they go to the pubs as smoking indoors at pubs, restaurants etc etc has been banned since July last year. It is sad really to see them all standing in the rain like groups of lepers trying to enjoy themselves.

We eventually got back to the hotel looking like wet rats and calculated we had walked for about 10ks so as you can imagine we were knackered so it was baths all round for us including Harry, a take-away tea from next door and a big crash out for the night.

Saturday morning was no better weather wise but Rhonda took herself and Harry off to The Old Bailey(Courts of Justice) and then found the famous church where the Bells Of St Clements song and story originated from and she picked up a printed history sheet on how it all came about including the full song sheet. (If anyone is interested please let her know and she can scan the paper and send it to you, It is quite fascinating).

After viewing the Waldorf Hotel where the rich were breakfasting in the widows of the breakfast room and they watched us having our poached and scrambled eggs plus the obligatory baked beans out on the footpath at an open air eatery. Gee it felt good at about 2 degrees. Even Harry froze his bum off on the cold concrete but we soldiered on and then went to Drury Lane where all the West End theatres are situated. I still can't believe that she could walk so far over the two days but it just shows you how much fitter she has got and having lost 6 kgs like me is feeling the benefits of being able to walk Harry so far and to walk to do all the sightseeing.

Just across from our hotel was the biggest and most interesting Hobby Shop I have ever seen. Gee it was busy too with kids and dads buying Christmas gifts of all sorts from helicopters to soldiers to planes and ships to all the space invader stuff and so on. Just as well that I couldn't afford to buy some more train stuff as I could have gone quite mad.

Along with some long walks around the streets which run out from the hotel area, via the legal area with endless rows of buildings occupied by lawyers including the Law School which seems to be occupied 24/7, we found new parks which were open from 7.30am to 4.00pm where Harry could run off the lead and chase the squirrels and meet new dogs etc. This would have been great if the weather had been kinder, however, those are the breaks of a northern winter.

As you would know it, Sunday arrived with no rain, just cold and overcast so we packed up and trundled down to to the Thames to Somerset House and watched the ice skating and then on to Waterloo Bridge and then along to Westminster Bridge. Another good trot and while we enjoyed looking at the river traffic I have to say that most of the charter ferries which run and back over a set range don't seem to get started until around 11 am or so as people sure like having their mornings in bed rather than getting out and about. They love late lunches up to 3.00pm and it is not uncommon to see the eating of main evening meals well after 10.00pm.

We wended our way back to where our car was parked and safely got back to the boat around 3 pm so a good weekend was had really. I think we all slept for a good 12 hours that night but of course the memories will stay with us for so much longer.

Because of the very heavy rain which had fallen west of here, the Thames rose to a very high level and we were advised that travelling on this river until further notice was banned until the level dropped so we will be here are at Shepperton Marina at least until the end of the week while the level is still high and the current is very quick, up to about 13 kms per hour so the only things doing well are the big white swans which seem to handle it so well. Talking about the swans draws to mind that here at Shepperton Marina is a reserve next door where the swans are bred and raised so we get so many coming over here to the marina to make their pickings of scraps etc. They are truly magnificent particularly while taking off as they need about 50 meteres to get off the water when there is no breeze. They really are the jumbo jets of the bird world. You may be interested to know that while there are lots of birds around the hedgerows etc there is a a national concern over the loss of the common sparrows and to be honest we have not seen one in our time here. I don't know why they are vanishing but when you consider how well they do in New Zealand one wonders what is going wrong here.

The work on the boat is almost finished so we are glad about that. Just as well the weather has prevented us from moving on, however, we have enjoyed our stay at Shepperton Marina for a change as there are some great little shopping centres nearby so it will be Tuesday or Wednesday before we get back to Penton Hook for Christmas.

I have to tell you about a real win we had yesterday. We had been looking for a dehumidifier but they were all very expensive and not many stores had them but yesterday in Woolworth's while looking at the last of the stock before they close their doors for good I saw a dehumidifier, same model as we had borrowed from the old owner when we first came on board. It was labelled at 50% 0ff the old price of 140 pounds but I noticed a wee sticker saying a further 30% off, however, when we took it to the cash register to check if this was correct, it came up as being only 16 pounds total so needless to say we grabbed it and got out real quick and felt really smug. I felt like our mates the Cantelos really who seem to always strike on deals like this. The streets of Staines and Chertsey as you can imagine were very busy and already a number of High Street shops have started having post Christmas sales which has meant even more bargains for those who know their prices etc.

Last Friday night the navigator insisted we should go into Windsor to the castle gates on the hill to take part in the Carol singing etc. The Band of The Life Guards were playing and it was quite a sight as they were dressed in bright red full length winter weight woollen coats and all their regalia and about 3000 people turned out to add voice to the music. It was a very pleasant evening but I noted that while Queenie and Dukey were in residence neither of them bothered to come down to say Hi or to invite us in for a cuppa but that is the way things go I guess.

So once again in closing, Rhonda and I would like to wish you all and your families and wonderful Xmas and love to all.

Kindest regards
Ken Rhonda and Harry

Thursday, November 27, 2008


(It's actually 8th December, 2008 9.25pm)

Well, you can only imagine what it is like to see thousands of naked stripped beings all around us which I refer of course to the trees and shrubs which have dropped everything they can so where as you couldn't see through the hedgerows a month ago, now they are just thickets of stripped branches with the odd bush carrying a few rose hips so the red stands out among the grey surrounds. A true sign that winter proper has arrived in London.

On Wednesday morning we awoke to find a good 1/2 inch of snow covering the boats, docks and park lands and any vehicle which was left outside. It was of excitement to Rhonda who had never experienced anything like this so for the first time she was up and dressed ready to accompany Harry and I on our walk through the park land opposite. Unfortunately, within an hour it had rained and so the snow disappeared but we are assured there will be more as it is colder than usual for this time of the year apparently but the bookies aren't buying into this and in fact have dropped the odds of us having a white Christmas from 8 to 1 to 6 to 1 so we will see who is right.

We are still waiting on the right time to go into the city to see the Christmas lights but have joined a couple of local boats who have set up lights with a display in our wheel house etc which looks really good as they reflect across the water of the marina. I am sure others will do a similar thing as we near the festive season in full.

As the recession bites even deeper here, it is amazing to see the post Christmas sales happening in vengeance right now and chain stores are attacking each other with supposed stats that say that they are giving bigger discounts than their competitors and actually name them and the better discounts outright. Last week Woolworth's pulled the plug and went into administration which is like receivership along with MFI, a big furniture chain of stores. Both of these companies have been trading on the High Streets of the UK for 99 years and have just decided they can't keep going on which effects about 30,000 staff at Woolworths alone who will lose their jobs right on Christmas which is a tragedy for so many families. It sure won't be the last either by the sound of things and the talk is sure all doom and gloom.

We have been doing a bit of Christmas food shopping but as we have reported before, even allowing for the discounts the prices compared to the Kiwi dollar are sure pricey. I know everyone at home says you have to just go with the prices and forget the conversion but it is not easy when prices that we are so familiar with at home just stand out and we go " Look at that".

We have also found the guy who must be the best meat slicer in the world as we have marvelled at the thickness or should I say lack of, as you buy a packet of 12 slices only to find that the total amount would equal a kiwi slice. They are so thin that you can see daylight through them. It is amazing really and Rhonda and I laugh about it as we scramble to get a layer for our toast.

On Monday as the day was fine and still, Rhonda and I took the boat out on our own for the first time, weaving very carefully through the narrow waterways within the marina and out onto the main channel and on to a nearby lake which is an off shoot of the Thames where we were able to get the boat doing turns and backing up etc etc. All went well, so we decided to have a go at coming alongside the pump-out wharf which is very congested and has very limited space. As "Somehwere" is 45 tonnes, she does not answer the helm all that easily and can slide due to the round hull and absolute flat bottom typical of all barges here, but we did well and slid into our possy very relieved and even more so when we pumped out at 8 pounds a go. We then weaved our way back to our own berth without hitting anybody or anything so it was high fives all round, well between Rhonda and I. She did well on the mooring ropes throwing them to catch the wharf cleats which had been concerning her on other occasions when we had gone out with help on the boat from the old owner. We felt we had accomplished a real step forward so hope it continues when the weather allows.

On Wednesday of last week we took ourselves off to the Earls Court London Boat Show which is held inside this huge exhibition centre which is nice and warm and where a part of the floor comes off to reveal a great freshwater pool about 200m x 100m x 3m deep. It is amazing to see large yachts and launches plus runabouts and so on bobbing about plus they had a wake board machine set up which towed these kids from about 6m up on ramps onto the water and they then wake boarded across to the other side. Like new Zealand Boat Shows the number of exhibitors and attendees are down this year but one boat sold while we were there for 175,000.00 pounds.

It was really good to see all the new brands and styles and to note how many boats are now made in China and surrounding countries plus all the Northern European brands, many of them from old communist block countries and the quality looked pretty good from what we could see. The finishing work looks extremely fine so it is look out, for local builders here and elsewhere. Some of the photos will give you an idea of how this Show looks.

Rhonda's Comments: Sign of the Month

I think I will get this sign made up for Ken for the boat as a Christmas present. What do you think - very appropriate?

On Saturday we awoke very aware that the final All Blacks versus home unions was to take place just down the road really at Twickenham against England so as it was to be only shown on Sky unlike the three previous games against Scotland, Wales and Ireland which were on BBC TV, we needed to find a pub which would be showing it, so off we set on a mini pub crawl to our nearest main suburb and eventually went into a run down establishment. The publican said yes, I will put it on for you so we settled down in the "lounge" with a pint of Fosters shandy and a glass of Lindemans" no Kiwi beer or wine was available. He pulled down a large screen from the ceiling and away we went cheering and shouting as the Poms got dealt to. The publican only showed an interest for about the first 20 mins then retired to read his paper over at the bar.

We sure enjoyed the result and hi-fived and celebrated a clean sweep but felt a little let down when the lights went up. We had been the only two in the whole pub. Nobody else was even a bit interested to call in so I suppose the 20 pounds we spent on food and drink for the afternoon was better for him than nothing. It was a great effort on the AB's part and we were very proud of them for sure and then for Wales to deal to Australia just added to the great feeling of the weekend because as you know I only support two teams, New Zealand and anybody playing Australia.

Rhonda's Comments: Ken and the old owner Ross taking Somewhere up to Shepperton Marina.

As we have mentioned earlier in our blog, we have been unhappy with some of the way the boat has been wired and the capacity of the batteries so it was decided that the simplest way to get the work completed would be to take the boat down the Thames some 3 hours to Shepperton Marina (this suburb was famous as being one of the UK's great movie making centres, Shepperton Studios, for many years after WW2 making some of the great English classics until the mid 70s). So on Tuesday morning with the guidance of the old owner we set off down the river including 2 locks to complete the journey without incident to the marina base where the engineers have been working to get things changed so we can be worry free when we are away from shore power for long periods of time etc. It has almost been completed but the change of venue has sure been interesting and on top of that as usual at this time of the year, I got some bug or other so have been laid pretty low for about 7 days and only today have been out for a drive around the local area etc.

Rhonda's Comments: Harry keeping Ken company while he was feeling unwell.

As the days are still drawing in, so lights are on at 3.30pm each afternoon the nights have got colder particularly over the last two days which have been crystal clear and sunny with no breeze but temps only reaching 7 or 8 degrees and the nights dropping to -2 to -7 so as a result the lagoons which link on to the main marina here have become completely iced over so to watch sea gulls and ducks trying to land and or take off is fascinating. We have had to stop Harry from chasing out onto the ice after them as well. To give you an idea of the thickness, today I threw a rock about the size of a golf ball up into the air expecting it to break the ice but it only skidded away to a stop. Amazing for us to see, however, I am sure the kiwis living in the south like Maureen and Stephen Stock who live and work in the Lake Te Anau area are pretty familiar with this sort of condition.

Rhonda's Comments:

Even Harry is feeling the cold but of an evening he snuggles into his sleeping bag and cuddles up to "Pinky".

While here at Shepperton we met up with a couple from Sydney who had their Dutch Barge of around 18 m arrive on a transporter ready to be lifted onto the water for their adventures after having it built up north so they were pretty excited as they had actually lived on it while it was being finished for the last 5 weeks as their builders were behind schedule. If you think that is reasonable, how about this. The husband, Stewart is confined to a wheel chair as he suffers from that dreaded disease MS so they actually worked around him. He could not get off the boat apparently as the hydraulic lifting ramps were not hooked up so his chair could only be moved around in the cabin. I tell you we will moan and complain about our own lot from time to time but we don't have a problem when compared to Stewart and the amazing efforts that Lesley, his wife have to make to overcome all the difficulties of boating/barging both here and in Europe which is what they are off to do like ourselves over the next few years.

Their barge is designed beautifully to be as user friendly for disabled folk as is possible but as you can imagine they have to be able to berth at ideal locations to get Stewart off in his wheel chair and then without car or other travel assistance they must make their way around and if you think they see this as being difficult, not so, they are looking forward to it and already tackled many obstacles which would stop fully abled folk from doing things. We hope that we can keep in contact with them as we both make our way around Europe next year.

At this time we will say cheerio and send special thanks to those of you who have responded with your comments about the blog page. Particularly to those who have added their photo to "Our Followers" above as we get quite excited to see another photo added.

Kind wishes to all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Was the BBC call to the world particularly during WW2 and on from that terrible time. I referred in our last blog to the Armistice Memorial Services which were starting throughout the country and I have to expand on the wonderful services carried out in all cities throughout the country. While based on the end of WW1 signing this period is used to honour all dead, wounded and serving and those who have served this country in its participation of wars and or military activities. To see the wonderful concerts of the highest standard imaginable attended by royalty and all sides of the political benches plus sports and community leaders honouring our glorious dead etc is a wonder and a privilege to witness.

The parade and march through the streets to the main war memorial in Whitehall near Westminster Houses of Parliament and being fronted by three WWI veterans being pushed along in their wheel chairs, clutching their wreaths of Poppies to be laid at the Cenotaph was a bit of a tearjerker I have to admit. These three were 107, 109 and 112 respectively with one being the last man alive who had fought in the trenches of France those many many years ago. God only knows what goes on in the mind of someone who has witnessed so much and just the thought of being the only person on earth to still be alive who saw and did so much must be mind boggling.

The respect and tributes along with some of the best military music you could ever hear just stilled the crowds who had assembled for miles to witness this procession. As it is 90 years since the end of WWI, it is presumed a number of the groups who were marching will not be at the next one so we were privileged. The whole period of this memorial time is like our Anzac Day activities only on a much larger scale and just so professional. As an attendee at the Browns Bay RSA dawn service over the past few years, we have often commented among ourselves how wonderful that service could be if only the combined North Shore RSA's got someone to organise it and allow the attendees to honour our services properly, not just for a 1/2 hour service once a year. Perhaps I am becoming too emotional as I get older so will drop the subject and get on to other matters.

All around us the thousands of trees have almost finished dropping their leaves so you can imagine with the oaks, willows, silver birches, plane trees and numerous others shedding the old coat what a sight it is in the forest floors etc. Unfortunately we just missed the best of the colours so can't show pics of that at this time.

We have enjoyed a couple of weeks of mild (for here anyhow) weather with temps up as high as 14 degrees. It makes it so much nicer to get out in jumpers only without coats and over-jackets for a change, although we are advised a real cold blast is due here this coming weekend so the All Blacks will certainly feel it I am sure. Just to give you an idea of how people are effected by the weather, the other evening I was taking Harry for a walk and saw this fellow walking ahead of me also walking his dog and it was only after catching up a bit I realised that he was bare chested. I nearly froze just looking at him.

I have taken these pictures to prove that we do have some beautiful fine days and thought you might like to have a look at what our marina looks like and some of the other boats we have for neighbours. If you look closely you will see "Somewhere" - try and pick her out.

Talking about night time walks with Harry, Yes, he fell into the marina again while trying to jump from the dock onto the boat so it was another mad scramble to get him out before the very cold water took over. I think he had not realised that the boat had stretched out on its moorings as the wind was blowing us out. Perhaps he needs glasses like me but we have set down a new regime for him to follow upon our return. He has to sit on the dock until we have the door open so his jump allows a full entry into the wheel house. It seems to be working fine for now.

I think I told you that we were looking for a car to rent long term or to buy. After all the hoo hah over trying to rent one for 6 months, we gave that up and went out and bought a Toyota Carina which is like a Corolla. It has done 130 thousand miles but seems ok so at least we can get out and do a decent shop etc. The only real bug bear is the bloody parking machines everywhere and I mean everywhere including just down river from here is a parking area on the banks of the Thames and it even has parking machines set in the middle of what is little more than a paddock near Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. This is a famous document set up by the powerful English barons to protect their legal rights and limiting his royal powers which to this day is the basis of all legal systems.

Anyway, back to the parking machines as I said they are everywhere and free parking is like winning lotto. They are robbing b****** too as they say 0.90p or 1.70p for an hour but the machine will not give change nor add the extra to your time limit if you have used a pound or 2 pound coin, so you loose the change you are entitled to, so I guess we will have to get used to carrying a bag full of smaller coins etc. One good thing you can get done while parking in supermarket car parks etc is get your car cleaned by Hand Washers who have little trolley's loaded with cleaning gear and are licenced so they give your car what appears to be a very thorough clean for 4.95 pounds and I am surprised just how well they do it and the number of people who take up the service too. I suggested to Rhonda that it could be a good part time job for her. I won't describe the terrible abuse I received. By the way even the shopping trolleys are chained together so you have to put in a pound to free them so you can shop then when you put them back you recover your pound. Not a bad way of stopping trolleys being left all around the car parks for sure.

Rhonda's Comments: My main argument for not doing this job was can you imagine what my nails would look like!!!

During the week, we went for a beautiful drive out through Virginia Waters which is just gorgeous and is one of London's top suburbs with homes like you would die for and the trees that surround them are magnificent. This is the area where a lot of airline pilots buy homes due to its close proximity to access to Heathrow etc. There is also a huge American School/College which is top class as you can imagine. From there we went on to Eton which you will know as being one of England's best and famous public school which has a record of commencement from 1440. I looked to see if I could identify any of the pupils but they all looked to be the same and wouldn't have fitted into our gang at high school I am sure.

The Royal Standard Flying at Windsor Castle
From there we had to go to Windsor as her ladyship saw the royal standard being flown so knew that this signified HRH Queen Elizabeth and all her hangers-on would be in residence. It seemed like a good idea to take Harry up to see if he wanted to deal to the Corgis or similar but all he did was pee on the fence while Rhonda gawped at all the comings and goings. Gee, it is amazing to see how security has been beefed up since we were here in 2005 with police all carrying exposed Glock pistols and sub machine guns as they patrol the area. We were just reading that the original Windsor Castle was built in 1070 but of timber by William the Conqueror and rebuilt in stone by Henry II in 1170 and it stands today in all its glory and is really well worth a good look around. It beats a whole lot of other castles as it has easy access and is really pertinent to modern history as well and you get good access to lots of the rooms and banquet areas etc. including St Georges Chapel where Sir Edmond Hillary's life was commemorated as a Knight of the Garter when he was alive which was a wonderful honour as there can only be 12 Knights at any one time.

Rhonda's Comments: Standing there I felt very close to Her. I could almost feel a song coming on "God Save Our .............................."

En-route to Windsor we called in to the Windsor Farm Gardens Shop and Xmas Marquee which is a sales outlet for many of the Duchy produce from the royal farms in the area. Just like a mini supermarket really and as you will see from the photos is stocked with a wide variety of plants, vegetables, jams, pickles, meats, game and poultry, breads and all sorts of desserts and puddings and all beautifully packaged and presented which may go someway for the exorbitant prices they were asking yet people seemed prepared to pay as there were two check outs going flat out with the usual queues waiting to pay. We looked to buy 4 small jams in about 2oom bottles I suppose on a small wooden server priced at 14.95 pounds = roughly $35.00. I could almost hear our good friend and excellent cook Daphne, exclaiming that one would have to be mad to pay that sort of price as she could make a whole bottling in around 12 quart jars for much less than that. No bread was under 2 pounds and the meat was priced like gold. I threatened Rhonda with severe medieval torture if she paid out for anything at those prices despite them packing your purchases in pretty plastic bags with the royal insignia printed on it. Despite the sign saying no dogs and no walking on the grass Harry blessed the site with another big pee against the focal tree so along with the photos we took which is also prohibited, we felt we had done our best.

Well that is enough of English history for today, so hope it wasn't too much to take in.

On the way home, we called into the Thorpe Park Water Ski World which we felt would probably be just another quarry hole but were surprised to find it is the biggest Water Ski park in Europe and is where the British Water Ski Team is based. The lake which was once a quarry but is huge and is in the vicinity of a mile long by 1/2 mile wide and has an overhead cable-way around the perimeter so skiers just hook on and get towed by this. If it is anything like the smaller set up on the Gold Coast it must be amazing with jumps and rails set up ready for the exponents to test their skills. While no one was using the facility while we were there, it was open and I guess it must be amazing to see it all going in better weather as there was parking for several hundred cars etc, so we have promised we will call back on the weekend to see who is going to brave the cold weather and water.

Part of Eton College

Gee, we have enjoyed so many great emails from New Zealand and Australian folk giving us details of family activities and goings on. Thanks go particularly to Michelle, Judith, Smithy and to Bob who have kept us fully informed and amused with the funnier side of life. We sure do welcome your great news guys. Keep up the good work please.

By the way, as Coronation Street is about 18 months ahead of New Zealand here, feel free to ask Rhonda for up-dates if you are interested, but let me warn you it is still a whole load of rubbish just like it was 19 months ago. Here it is East Enders that has gained the supreme levels and it seems to be a bit better scripted in my humble opinion which of course counts for nothing really for the Coro fans.

Well, we will away for now and have another red wine before dinner. Keep smiling and good luck to you all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Winter Edition

As it is now 1st November and the clocks have been set back an hour so daylight disappears about 4.30 pm and the cold is getting colder, we are knuckling down to face it head on. Well head on is hardly the right term as we get snuggled down with every opportunity really. We have had temps down to -2 only with highs of 9 and on Wednesday it snowed in the area. The first time snow has fallen here since 1935. Even the ducks are hidden in the riverside bushes and we haven't seen a squirrel for about 3 weeks. One dresses with as many clothes as one can fit on then adds jackets, beanies (not a pretty sight really) gloves and scarves and that is just to get out of bed.

No, I am stretching it a bit but sure need all those items when out in the breeze when it comes up but it doesn't stop the hundreds of kids attending the huge fun park, Thorpe Park, which is situated down the road a bit from here where all the rides like Ferris Wheels and Roller Coasters etc etc seem to be outside and goes until 9pm and the squeals from the kids shows they are not too cold or it may be the age gap perhaps.

People seem to still use their boats to get out on the Thames etc for a day out or a touch of fishing. The fish they catch is called Blink which about describes the size, but the anglers maintain they are ideal for bait for the bigger fish which are yet to be seen although there are some very large carp around the marina I am told which they do need to catch and get rid of.

I just wish I could show them pics of my mate Kerry Andersons very recent afternoon fishing in northern Hawkes Bay. where he caught 2 large crays, 3 snapper and a couple of gurnard I can imagine their eyes would have gone to water. Boat owners are now winterising their boats if they don't intend to use them over this period and we will have to do some of that ourselves so need to find out just what we need to do.

I know we often poke fun at our English cousins about how slow they are getting things done and it is easy to be critical but I have to tell you that from what we have seen the adage is correct. No one seems keen to get anything done quickly if it can be done in twice the time. We have had two instances which just made us note in awe. Firstly, three weeks ago we asked the local ship chandlery/repair shop to come and have a look at our wiring system to see if anything needed to be changed to make its use simpler (for us anyhow) and he wrote it in his diary along with our mobile phone number and you guessed it, to date nothing, zilch so they can't be too short of work or money.

We had another company come aboard to set up a Raymarine TV satellite dome so we could watch TV wherever without having to change the aerial position etc, here and in Europe. This was done under Rhonda's instruction so she could watch Coronation Street at all times when it is on. Well, the install took two full days due to the tradesman not arriving until 11.30 am and then having to go back to his base a couple of times for 10 mins which turned out to be 3 hours both times so we will see how all this pans out when it is time to pay the bill as they said "A day should be ample". Some of the local boat people say this is pretty normal really so I guess we will have to get used to it. Even in food shops there can be long, long queues as often there will be only one person serving while 4 or 5 others potter about making food up etc ignoring customers wants and needs. I am amazed how patient people can be. It sure wouldn't be tolerated in Kiwiland. Pretty much the same practice follows in the department food stores so we are practising our standing in line every day.

I have mentioned before about our proximity to Heathrow Airport and at any time of the day or night it seems we can see planes coming and going. The sky gets criss-crossed with vapour trails and it is not uncommon to have up to 7 sets of trails or lights in the clear night skies, however, the other night I counted 10 sets of lights as the big birds were taking off or circling ready to land. Quite a sight really.

While we are waiting to sort out a deal on a car, we are using public buses and trains and the services offered are quite marvelous as when you ride the buses they weave through the smallest roads in some of the suburbs which appeals of course to the elderly in fact some times you think that it is only the elderly who live here but then take a look at the cars and the parking lots and shopping centres and you realise just how many people of all ages are on the move at any one time. Parking is a nightmare with free parking almost out of the question and the parking areas charge a lot really and god help you if you over park. It is heavily fined and then towed in the blink of an eye. Most cars are the smallest models available due to parking and taxing plus the narrowness of many of the secondary roads. Gee, when you are riding a bus you just have to shake your head in amazement when you look ahead and see how narrow the road or lane is with cars often parked on one or even both sides and the bus has to manoeuvre through with other traffic coming towards them. It sure makes you appreciate the skill of the bus drivers and can understand a little better why the authorities are so tough on double or miscreant parkers.

Rhonda's Comment: A furry, woodland creature just to make a move on Ken's wallet.

Today as the weather was fine but overcast with temp of 12 degrees we decided to go to Staines and went to the movie Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond thriller. Cost to get in to a matinee session GBP 6.65 so it is not cheap entertainment as you can work out, however, it was a good laugh and the special effects and stunt acting was amazing. Home to a very excited Harry as you can imagine then off for a walk in the big park which neighbours on to here where you can go fishing if you buy a licence, however, dogs are allowed to run loose so with a pathway of about 1 km it gives one a good bit of exercise.

There has been some rain further up stream over the past week and as a result the marina level has risen about 300mm or more so at least the ramps down onto the fingers are not so steep. The Thames has gone a bit muddy in colour too but I am told that this rise can drop as quickly but to expect this to happen over the winter months which may well restrict barge travel during this time.

Yesterday the city held it's official turning on of the Christmas lights in Regent Street and surrounding areas with thousands standing in the streets awaiting some obscure boy band, well it was to us, to count down from 10 to zero (a real achievement I would say judging by the look of them). The display on TV looks great and we hope to bring you pics of it in the next few weeks when we visit the area at night armed with our cameras.

Well to not be out done by all this excitement, Harry and I went for a night walk as the evening was clear however, upon our return back to the boat somehow when doing his usual jump from the dock onto the boat he slipped and fell down beside the barge and the jetty and momentarily disappeared below the water. When he surfaced I could only see a bit of him (thank goodness for his white colour) as he tried to dog paddle away from the boat but luckily he turned back when I yelled at him so by falling to my knees I stretched out and grabbed him by the collar and threw him back on the dock. So much for my crook shoulder but it worked and he was safe. Gee what a picnic with Rhonda issuing me with a hundred orders of how to ensure he never does it again etc. I must admit the old adrenalin pumped for a few hours. Today we watched him getting on and off the barge without any problem so it must have been a lazy jump last night, one which we hope he will not repeat, ever.

Today we heeded that famous saying by Lord Nelson "England expects every man to do his duty" and while that was in one of his famous sea battles, we followed suit to do our bit by travelling into the city to New Zealand House to cast our votes for the election of which the results will probably be known before you get to read this blog.

We could not help but notice all the preparations in the city for next Wednesday's memorial services for the 11th hour of the 11th month, 1918 when the armistice was signed to end the so called Great War ( World War 1 ) when over 9 million lives were lost in just 4 years and in which I had an uncle fighting and returning to new Zealand as a wounded and ruined man and Rhonda's grandfather's service in Gallipoli, Ypres and the Somme. As it is 90 years since that date, only about 5 old Tommies still live and they are aged from 109 to 112 which is amazing in itself.

We are looking forward to the commencement of the Rugby proper with New Zealand playing Scotland tomorrow and Australia and South Africa also touring, so our interest will be high. So sincere thanks again to those folk who have emailed our blog efforts, it would be great to see a few faces appear on The Followers section if you can manage it. Please keep that Kiwi and Australian news coming through and wish New Zealand well for the election tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Well here we are at the going down of the sun in the west or is it the east. I am confused daily by being in the northern hemisphere but as Rhonda says I am always confused anyhow.

Rhonda's Comment: When did I ever say that!!!!

The skies are clear blue today after a late storm yesterday which arrived about an hour after we had unloaded a truck with our 17 tea chests and wheeled them down the marina ready to lift on board. What a mission, glad we are a bit fitter with all our walking etc. Just got the stuff onboard when down came the rain. Never mind, we cracked a real bottle of champagne tonight to celebrate our efforts and it sure seems more like home I must say. Rhonda is attempting to make real spaghetti tonight after several glasses of champers so who knows what we will get.

Thanks to those good people who have responded to our emails and blogg page as it makes us feel so much closer to home as they say. To those who have put their pics on the blog page, a very special thanks.

We look at the Herald on-line and the news in Kiwiland is about as dark as it is here re financial matters except we don't appear to have so many rascist attacks or comments but that might only be a feeling at this time. I can't believe some of the rubbish which is printed, however, I am sure we will get the same here.

Just to let you know what marina life is like, we have a South African family here with two small boys who are being schooled aboard boat with some lessons being given by a blind man called Thomas who is amazing really, he lives on a nearby boat. He has a seeing eye dog, black labrador called Magic who is wonderful to watch guiding Thomas around the marina fingers. Thomas sails his large dutch styled ketch with the help of his wife. They have two small children whom will also be home schooled. This fellow has amazing hearing and other non sighted skills, so much so, when Rhonda was introduced to him this morning with Harry he asked if all was well on our boat so she replied that we were concerned about the water pump and he said yes it has been sounding off colour for some time so needs attention. His boat is about 30m away from where we are berthed so it just shows you. One of the other people who were in the discussion pointed out that he has these amazing skills to hear when mechanical things are not right, tell you what needs to be done but cannot do his own. There is an amazing mixture of folk living aboard their boats so look forward to meeting them as time goes by.

There is a Club at the marina, The Penton Hook Yacht Club (very toffeee nosed), however, as they will let Harry in we will probabaly become members so we can buy a meal from time to time and get a drink. The other day, I had a pint of Fosters and Rhonda had a small scotch and coke. GB 6.50 which we reckon equals NZ$ 15.50. How does that sound to you kiwi drinkers who know the prices?

We have also been asked to join the local community club nearby who operate on some nights only and then on the weekends however, we have been warned if we go there on a Monday night which is Bingo night to be sure we don't sit in someone elses place as it can turn quite nasty so we will have to arrive late to see what seats are left over I guess. Most of the locals have little or no knowledge of New Zealand but are slightly ahead of the Americans who thought New Zealand was part of South Africa. or Greenland and so on. We as a nation still have a lot to do to bring the world up to date eh.......

A couple of days ago we visited another marina who have a larger chandlery than Penton Hook. Well when I say it is larger it is rated as the biggest on the Thames but would fit in the rear corner of Smart Marine, Burnsco or Sailors Corner. However, they did come down here yesterday to tell us what we needed in water pumps and TV set ups so $10,000.00 later we are somewhat ready to get organised we hope. After taking two buses and then walking 20 mins from the last bus stop and then repeating it to come home, we have decided we may look for a small runabout car for the winter but we will have to see what the market is doing. While prices have fallen here like in new Zealand, MOT, Insurance and Road Tax is heavy, so we will have to weigh it all up. Just the thought of walking the streets in the winter frosts which have already started on the odd night is not appealing but we will see. It is possible to rent a car long term for about GBRP 1600.00 for 6 months with free monthly mileage of 2000 miles and all we have to do is pay for petrol , so that is looking tempting at this time so we will have to do our homework.

Rhonda's Comment: We had to stop for numerous cups of tea on this mission to Shepperton Marina and back.

Last night, Saturday, some folk who have similar barge to ours invited us over for drinks and nibbles which was just great. Their barge is so well set up and was finished off by a special bespoke company so it is quite magic inside. I will get some pics when the opportunity arises. The wife is a semi retired school mistress and he is a full time excec winder upperer as he calls it liquidating companies throughout Europe for the big company he works for. In addition to our selves they invited another couple from another boat. He was a big striking fellow who sure enough turned out to be a retired Bobby. One of the old school I would think and then another fellow came along who is employed by airlines to work on cabin crews training with the new hand held computers which records all the inflight sales of drinks etc and automatically re-orders from base scource etc. At this time he is with Easy Jet so is really busy. He related some great stories to when he was working out of Auckland for Air New Zealand on several 3 month stints and what a great time he had. He is a great rugby follower so we got on well. He chooses to live on his boat here as it is so convenient to London central and to Heathrow. A couple of the fellows were relating when they had the big floods here a few years ago when instead of walking down to your marina you had to climb up steeply to get onto your boat. They also recalled when the marina iced over for a couple of days and also when they had over 5 cms of snow over everything. None of these things we are looking forward to, but will have to grin and put up with it if it happens.

Rhonda's Comment: Just check this Bread and Butter pudding made by the clever hands of me - really, truly.

As promised here are some local supermarket prices for food so you can do you own homework doing conversions etc

15 Panadol tabs 1.53
100gms honey roast ham 1.69
2 pork chops( small) 2.50
onions 305 gram 0.28
potatoes 800 gram 1.19
bananas 640 gram 0.54
table salt 400 gram 0.29
nestle kit kat 0.42
wholemeal bread Vogels UK Made 1.29
50 w light bulb GE 2.00
house white chardonnay M&S 3.79
pkt tea bicuits like(griffins wine biscuit) 0.49
For those of you who have complained about your winter temperatures, just spare us a thought as the forecast for tomorrow morning is down to -2 so the pontoons will be as slippery as a butchers to say the least. So the heaters are full on in preparation as there is sleet and snow promised to follow.
Rhonda's Comments: Yeh, I can't wait to see snow.