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.