Tuesday, 31 May 2016


I thought that I'd tough it out until late July before lighting the fire but today was just so bloody cold that I folded. I lit the wood burner in the lounge to cheer the place up. It was OK during the late afternoon with the sun coming in via the kitchen area but as it got darker the cat started complaining (true) and so I loaded up the wood bins and got it going.

I must admit that it makes a real difference.

I read Richards latest post on his blog. He sounds a bit cold and miserable today and has taken to the ideal remedy - wine.
He calls it vino (spelling's not his strong point). I was rude and called the stuff he drinks 'plonk' when I posted a comment. I know that it sounds a bit elitist to say this. At least Richard drinks wine, usually chardonnay and not that concocted shit that Robert drinks from the bottom shelf in Pak n Save. What I do, and they should, is buy my wine from reputable on-line suppliers like 'blackmarket' where I seek out wines, usually chardonnay and pinot noir, that are half the normal retail price. I probably don't spend much more than Richard (but three times what Robert spends) spends on a bottle but am sure that the quality is a lot better.

I wasn't going to drink any wine tonight as I've had wine every night for the last four but, after reading Richard's post and lighting up the fire the situation sort of demanded it so I'm enjoying a pre-dinner chardonnay.

Saturday, 28 May 2016


Here are a few scenarios.

1. You are driving along in your car and it drops out of fourth gear, then into third gear, then second gear and lastly putters along slowly in first gear.  A warning message flashes on the console "your engine is old and needs to be upgraded"

2. You put dishes in the dishwasher and start it up. It whirrs and groans for a couple of hours before stopping with the dishes only half clean. A message on the display panel says "your dish drive is out of date. Please upgrade"

3. Your television gets stuck on TV Three with endless loops of Paul Henry. A warning message strolls across the bottom of the screen saying "Your television is out of date, please upgrade"

Would we put up with this? Hell no. We buy electrical and electronic machines to do the sort of job we paid for at the time we bought them. Sure every year newer and smarter models come out that do things quicker and maybe better but our original machine still should be doing the same job as when we bought it. Shouldn't it?

So why does my Apple computer, bought in 2008 suddenly decide to run at about the tenth of the speed as when I first bought it. I haven't loaded up any fancy programmes and still use it for the same things as when I bought it. I get messages saying that my operating system is 'unrecognised' and when I check on-line to see what I can do a host of 'helpful' websites announce that all I have to do is buy expensive upgrade programmes or, in the case of my shamefully 'old' computer - buy a new one.

Bloody arseholes. The Apple Mac I have is big screen, was expensive when we bought it and has, up until now, done an excellent job.
Reading up on this I discover that smart phones, software providers, and other computer companies all play the same game. As the products they make are generally so good then the only planned obsolescence that they can get away with without actually arranging for the things to blow up (although I wouldn't put that past them) is this little rort.

Why isn't this illegal? Is it because everyone has been duped into having to have the latest, flashest, smartest model? Where does the Consumer Guarantees Act come into this?
I should check but know that it'll take an hour or so to download.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016


As it's a miserable day here I thought I'd sort out a few bills and work out my tax liability.
Well, what a gloomy exercise that was.
It's not until you put on a spreadsheet what's coming in versus what's going out that you realise that all those little things add up to be as big as the big things you sort of knew about.

I have a hefty tax bill to pay. I'm self employed so not on PAYE so the slippage is going to be a bit worse over the next few months.

So, like Mr McCawber I've got to find a way of getting expenditure to just come in below income.

Either that or we accelerate the plan to downsize.

Monday, 23 May 2016


A spin off from the temperature drop over the last couple of days is that shorts and a t-shirt are no longer appropriate when going out of doors.
I've got away with this for ages, even in York as I usually rode my bike when out and about but today it was a tad nippy here in 'the winterless north'.

I had to go into the shed and unpack some suitcases and boxes to find jeans and other long trou. The problem was though is that I've lost some weight over the last year or so and my favourite jeans, chinos, mole skins and underpants are all a bit loose. Not a good look.

I contacted the Old Girl and asked her to alert me to the next Smith and Caughey sale (like Ballantyne's in Christchurch and Kirkaldie and Staines's in Wellington (but hasn't 'kirk's' disappeared like DIC and James Smith's?).

Smith and Caughey in Auckland still have, I hope, a decent winter sale so I'm off to Auckland this week and will do a big shop for underpants, t shirts, a jumper or two and ..... some nice fitting jeans.

Sunday, 22 May 2016


.... sounds a bit like the Crowded house song I know but it seems that in Northland, at least recently, this is the case.

Summer  just goes on and on with little regard for the Autumn marked on the calendars. We were swimming last week, walking around in just shorts (well The Old girl had a top on) and generally enjoying warm sunny weather. Over the last few days - bang - it has gotten colder. It's still been nice during the day but the evenings are bringing a definite chill.

Winter officially starts in just over a week.

Tonight I've just returned from taking The old Girl to the bus station for her weekly return to Auckland.
The house is cold so I've turned on an oil heater - one of those low heat steady jobs that take the chill off. If it hadn't been dark I'd have brought in some wood from my woodshed (built for me by the tenants when we were overseas) -

 - but I think I'll get up on the roof tomorrow to check the chimneys to make sure there aren't any birdnests in them.
I had the chimneys cleaned and checked last year so there won't be any problems on that score but I don't want to incinerate any of our beautiful and diverse endothermic vertebrates.

Stay warm. Stay safe.

Saturday, 21 May 2016


Kim Kardashian's bum, breasts, social life, sex life, parenthood status, shopping habits and latest fad predilections dominate most of today's media.
When it's not this short and big arsed bint being featured it's likely to be one of her siblings or parents sticking their useless and untalented noses in front of a camera (usually their own) to regale us of stories of what they ate, threw up, drank, gobbled (off), bought, travelled to .....etc.

OK, that's a bit trollish but I'm sure you know what I mean.

I've taken up buying The Listener again.

We used to subscribe but for the last few years have missed out on this excellent publication.
I'm buying it because I like reading it but I'm also buying it because I want to support it so that hopefully it doesn't go the way of all print media today. Away.

Print media has taken quite a beating over the last decade with many fine newspapers and journals going under. It doesn't seem to matter how august the publication is or how worthy the content, if the circulation targets are not being met it's 'Goodnight Nurse'.

Most of our newspapers have gone this way, either totally buried or becoming free issues which just means becoming an advertising vehicle. (Evening Post, Christchurch Star  etc.
Two of the remaining strong struggling newspapers, The Dominion and The NZ Herald, via a partnership agreement from their Australian (!) owners will soon be linked. Good news for their viability but most likely bad news for informed criticism, political debate and quality journalism.

Quality journalism in the alternate media, the digital winner, has pretty much disappeared.

When, in the 1990's the big newspapers recognised the threat and bought in to the alternate channels, observers (or at least the optimistic ones) believed that all would be good and that it would just be progress. Unfortunately not so.

Just think about the last digital media, news or otherwise you read or viewed. The chances are that the 'report' was poorly crafted, had appalling grammar, was infested with confusing spell-check spelling (American) and seemed to be written by a gushing 20-something. Am I right or am I right?

I have, on my iPad, the apps for Yahoo news, The NZ Herald and Flipchart.
As you'd expect Yahoo news is pretty much all crap but The NZ Herald, surprisingly, is not much further behind. Sure it (Herald) sorts out articles by current, latest, sports, social etc. but the predominance is 'social' and consists in large (pun intended) of Kim Kardashian's arse.
(Flipchart is pretty good but, being American features pretty much all American news.)

What concerns me about this (and not just Kim Kardashian's arse) is that these 'news' providers are increasingly resorting to social media inputs to back up their reports. There are an annoying number of 'feeds' from Twitter, Facebook and dare I say it - blogs to support the 'essays' that the now social media newspapers publish. What's worse is that television news programmes are resorting to the same lazy crap.

Now television news (not only in New Zealand) has gone downhill at record speed. The tradition we had of well educated, dedicated and earnest reporters and presenters has been pretty much smashed. Gone are the well researched, produced and presented news reports, special reviews and investigative programmes and welcome to the "ha ha, funny aren't I"  rubbish from the likes of Hoskings and Henry.
Staff have been decimated in sacrifice to the overpaid bubble heads so that there are no longer enough reporters and cameramen on the ground to cover events. More and more we are seeing, when there is a major accident, shooting, catastrophe or any newsworthy event some pithy and frankly fucking useless input from 'Dorothy of Cambridge' who said that she thought she heard a loud bang or something from somewhere or 'Craig of Oamaru' (one of those idiots with a drone and a go-pro camera) who sends in an indistinct and irrelevant video clip of cars parked in a field or something.

So that's why I've returned to The Listener.

(It also has a better cryptic crossword than The NZ Herald).

Friday, 20 May 2016


As I haven't posted for a week I thought it would be best to explain what I've been doing.


As I had some good news this week re a breakthrough in UK and Australia with some wine listings I've been busy chasing up the orders, arranging wines to be bottled and labelled and organising shipments. Whew! Or at lease whew for someone who only works part-time.


I decided to trim a couple of branches off the trees at the back of the property. A couple of branches resulted in almost totally stripping the feijoa and other trees at the fence-line, giving them an ugly scalping. Three trailer loads to the recycle centre were required. I hope they grow back in an orderly fashion

Note to self: "That creeper needs sorting"


I moved the TV out of the lounge and put it down the back of the house in our second lounge as we hardly ever watch it.
This meant moving around the furniture so it's now much better not being dominated by the goggle box.


Yes, swimming and kayaking even though officially winter is only a week away. Today, like the last few weeks is sunny and lovely. We haven't had an Autumn. I think we will go straight from Spring to Winter as I note that the last couple of evenings have been cooler.


I've been helping a neighbour paint his house. I hope he's either partially blind or not too fussy as I'm not the best painter.

Important notice!

No Italian language was mangled in the making of this post.

Saturday, 14 May 2016


Today when getting the mail out of the mailbox there were a couple of letters and circulars that were a bit worse for wear.

I've been in Auckland for a few says and hadn't emptied it.

Some sort of creature, probably a snail, had chewed away at the mail.

This is one of the pieces it had a go at.

It's ironic that this bit of mail, not completely unsolicited as it had my name and address on the reverse, was exhorting me to use their services to get rid of insects and pests including the little guy who decided to chew them up.

Good on him.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


Friend Rod who lives in the street up back from our property is painting his house including the roof.
Rod rented our house while we were overseas for a couple of years and looked after it well.
I was pleased when he found a house to buy nearby.

Rod is a couple of years older than me chronologically but seems a couple of decades older than me in attitudes. He is a bit of a fuss-pot and was telling me that: he was scared of getting up on the ladder; frightened of the scaffolding; and terrified of getting on the roof.

What to say?

Heights haven't ever worried me in the past and I don't really understand other people's fear.
The Old Girl and I have parachuted, parapented, hang-glided, mountaneered and sat on ledges with our feet dangling. 

Anyway, I went around to Rod's place last week and helped him to prime the outside of the house, concentrating on the eaves and hard to reach places at the top of the scaffold.
Over the last weekend, starting from Thursday I had a very debilitating migraine so didn't get a chance to go around to see how he was getting on. The funny thing was though that on the weekend I had a very strange dream.
I dreamt that Rod was flying to Australia or somewhere but not in an airplane, no, he had developed a way to fly on a motorbike! It was a dream after all. I was in a small plane beside him and after take-off I was watching him 'flying' along but he overcompensated his height trajectory and headed up at too high an angle and the bike sort of slipped backwards and down. He fell off and plummeted to the ground. Somehow I got the plane I was in to land and rushed to see him. He was in a hospital at this stage, in bed and thankfully alive. I woke up.

This dream concerned me and so on Sunday I called around but Rod and his wife were away. I checked around the side of the house and the wall had been painted and there were no obvious signs of a fall.

Today (Tuesday) I called around again and Rod was on the roof finishing off the last bits of roofing iron. Luckily the pitch of this roof is gentle and he had been able to paint it OK but he was very visibly relieved to declare it finished.

I didn't tell him about my dream.

Monday, 9 May 2016


I was amused listening to Checkpoint (with that godawful John Campbell) this evening. He was interviewing Winston Peters regarding the New Zealand Overseas Trust scam that is set to set back this country's international reputation for honesty and fairness to way back before the rest of the world knew we existed (a decade or two at the most).

Now old Winston is now a bit of a laugh and I kind of like the fact that he irritates the big boys like a stone in a shoe, sand in swimming togs, Samuel Taylor Coleridge or double bass players but, when he fancied himself as 'Kingmaker' a couple of decades ago he was a pain in the arse. Never mind. He's amusing now.

When he was describing Shonkey's latest position in the media, having been outed and embarrassed over the Cook Islands/New Zealand/Mossack Fonseca connection, Peter's said that Shonkey was ...

"... like the little boy who widdled behind the sofa and, when accosted said "Mum, if I did it I'll clean up"".


I like the way that he winds up (and exposes Key).

Shonkey unsuccessfully auditioning for the role of villain in 'Despicable Me'

The producers wanted a villain with some heart

Maybe Shonkey is going to get caught (widdling behind the sofa). God knows it's long overdue.
It's understandable that the usual National voters and run of the mill capitalists and opportunists vote him in but it's been inexplicable that the mums and dads and potentially liberal and even socialist leaning voters (including young people) have supported him as well.

"Such a nice man" they say, conveniently ignoring or not knowing his background as a corporate raider and his unusual liking for pony-tails.

The fact is I don't trust him.

Sure it's a personal position I'm taking but there a lot of others who agree with me.
It hasn't helped in keeping him out of power and loading the decision-making positions with acolytes who will bend to his will though.

Let's hope that the scenario doesn't play out in the US of A.

* What Winston Peter's suggests Shonkey is telling the New Zealand public.

Friday, 6 May 2016


No Robert, don't get excited, it's nothing to do with that arcane service held in catholic churches.

I've just finished reading, watching and listening to John Le Carres Smiley's People.

This outstanding novel is the third in Le Carres 'Smiley' trilogy (even though the character George Smiley appeared in several of his earlier novels) - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 1974, The Honourable Schoolboy 1977 and Smiley's People 1979.

How I came about ingesting the novel in 3 forms is that I've recently been doing my reading on iPad, downloading for free novels from the library via the app Overdrive. This is excellent and there are so many titles available.
I downloaded and read Le Carre's The Night Manager while watching the series on replay TV.
I'd not long since re-read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Honourable Schoolboy so decided to do the third in the trilogy.
I had re-read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in UK and, not at the same time but thereabouts watched the 1979 TV series and the later 2011 film based on the novel.

This time, as I had the novel in hardback form, I downloaded the talking book version of Smiley's People and watched the  1982 DVD of the 6-part series of the same - all virtually simultaneous. I would try and keep roughly to the same chapters of each so that a common thread was running.

The Old Girl thinks I'm potty but hey, I liked it.

With Smiley's People, as with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the directors and script writers of the TV series and talking book didn't deviate very much at all from the original novel (unlike The Night Manager). This made it much easier to keep the 3 forms of the novel going.

I've finished all 3 now on the same day. Bloody good.

I'm pissed off that the TV producers who created that excellent 6 part series of Tinker tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People, didn't produce the middle one in the trilogy - The Honourable Schoolboy.
From what I've read it was down to cost as most of The Honourable Schoolboy is set in Hong Kong, Laos and Cambodia with Italy and England as an add-on. Fools. They had all the original excellent cast (Alec Guinness as Smiley), and appreciative and waiting audience but they were too parsimonious. If they'd made it they would surely have recouped the expense.

At least the third in the series was excellent and made only a couple of years after the first.

The film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which was made only a few years ago was also pretty good (not as good as the TV series) and had Gary Oldman as Smiley. I was hoping that the producers would have had sense to make a trilogy but there' been no sign of that yet.

Monday, 2 May 2016


Over the last 3 years, because I've been travelling back and forth a bit I've experienced two Canadian winters, one Scottish one, an English one and two New Zealand ones and now going in to a third New Zealand one.

The New Zealand winters have been in Auckland which are hardly winter and the one I'm going in to soon is in Northland which is a bit like Spring in other areas.

Winter in Canada was an experience with daily temperatures at the minus 15 to 20 degrees and with a wind chill up to minus 40. Being a continental climate though the seasons were much more noticeable and correctly turned up when they were supposed to.

Spring melted the ice and snow. Summer was very hot. Autumn was aglow with the colour of the trees. Winter again was clear, crisp and extremely cold.

The Scottish and English winters were not as exhilarating tending to be rainy or sleety, cold (at zero or just below) and generally dreary. They reminded me a bit of winters in Wellington which were always grey, windy and cold.

We lived in Christchurch for 4 years and I remember liking the winters there. The seasons were also more noticeable, turning up on time with clear demarcations between spring, summer, autumn and winter - a bit like Canada.

Anyway, back to Northland. It's the 2nd of May and should be winter but the weekend we just had was great and today was glorious. This afternoon I kayaked out in the bay and, at about 3PM went swimming.

I've got a woodshed full of seasoned wood and lots of kindling but doubt if I'll use any of it this side of August. The HRV system we put in the roof a few years ago and the ceiling and underfloor insulation we put in has made a tremendous difference to our old house. We don't get condensation and the house never gets to be arctic. 3 years ago when we last used the wood burners (one at each end of the house) we really only did so when guests were staying or for atmosphere when visitors came to dinner.

2016 is said to be going to be  the warmest year in New Zealand for some time.
I may just have to sell that firewood.


I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...