Extraordinary! The Giant’s House sculpture mosaic garden

27 November 2019

New Zealand is full of surprises, but it’s saved one of the best until the very end of our trip. I’ve never seen anything quite like the Giant’s House sculpture mosaic garden. It is, quite simply, extraordinary!

The Giant’s House is a magnificent two storey villa dating from 1880. It was built for the first bank manager of Akaroa, which probably explains why it’s such a grand affair. However it’s not the house itself that’s brought us here, but rather its terraced gardens adorned with various sculptures and mosaics.

The gardens are the work of artist Josie Martin. Although starting out as a painter, in 1993 Josie turned her hand to sculpture. Her website says:

Ever adventurous Josie is mindful of the larger world and other ways of seeing. Josie’s elegant abstract sculptures are seriously playful and a celebration of life. They are surreal, biomorphic entities, whimsical and flamboyant, organic and eccentric. Constantly changing metomorphosing [sic] forms confronting or circumscribing void spaces refer to her interest in horticulture reflecting the zany balance of nature.

SOURCE: The Giant’s House website, retrieved 10 January 2020

Even though the Giant’s House has been recognised since 2018 as a Garden of International Significance, if I’d read that quote from Josie’s website before visiting, it would have put me right off. To use an inelegant and slightly vulgar phrase that we Brits reserve for artistic pretension, it sounds like a load of “arty-farty” nonsense. Sorry, Josie.

But I know now this assessment is totally wrong, and I regret that it ever crossed my mind. Far from being pretentious and slightly preposterous, we quickly discover that the garden here is a work of quirky, creative genius.

It began very simply, almost accidentally. Josie dug up some pretty bits of broken china while gardening and used them to make a mosaic doorstep. And after that, she just kept on going, using broken china, tile, mirror and glass to clothe and populate her garden with mosaic masterpieces.

Mosaics are everywhere, including paths, steps and walls, benches, arches and seats. And scattered along the winding paths is a host of life-sized sculptures, here a lady seated on a bench eating strawberries, there French mime artist Marcel Marceau resplendent in a blue top hat and waistcoat.

There are animals too: look, there’s an elephant and a giraffe peering over a low-slung hedge, in front of which is a wall decorated with images of kiwi. And have you seen over there, a man-sized blue cat playing a musical instrument? The cat is a member of a four-piece band calling itself Kitty Catch-Me and the Rolling Dice … well of course he is, cool cats belong in jazz bands, don’t they?

In front of the Giant’s House sits a grand piano. Fashioned from mosaic, inevitably. The piano lid is held open by two lanky, naked dancers, and inside the piano are living, growing succulent plants. And why not, this is a garden after all.

The piano bears the legend “sweet patooti”. It means nowt to me (I’m an ancient English fossil, don’t you know), but according to my old pal Professor Google, “patootie” is a North American term for an attractive girl or girlfriend, or is slang for buttocks. The piano stool, which may or may not be shaped to accommodate the buttocks of said girlfriend, is supported by four dog legs, and each of its four corners is embellished with a dog’s head.

Do I understand what’s going on here? No, not really. Do I care that I don’t know what’s going on here? Not in the slightest. Life’s full of mysteries, and this one’s up there with the pyramids. And everyone admires the pyramids, even if they don’t fully understand them.

The piano and stool sit on a paved area carved out of the lawn and inlaid with the legend “You never know”. Yes, that’s it, you never know what you’ll find in this garden, just around the next corner or lurking behind a nearby bush. This place is quirky, crazy … totally bloody bonkers, in fact. And I love it.

Everyone else loves it too. Everywhere we see visitors smiling, chuckling and sometimes laughing uproariously. There’s a spring in their step as they move between the exhibits, pointing out quirky little details and animatedly discussing the sculptures with their fellows.

The essence of art is about how we see the world. Some art is deadly serious, encouraging us to reflect on matters of life and death. The Giant’s House garden isn’t serious at all: it’s about the joy of living and laughter, showing us reasons to be cheerful in the most mundane of subjects and situations.

Nobody other than the world’s unreconstructed misery-guts could spend an hour or two in the gardens at the Giant’s House without having their spirits lifted. This place is truly magical.

The Lost Gypsy Gallery: a 21st century curiosity shop

19 November 2019

Let’s start this post with a confession: I’m not very practical. I never build or make things (to be fair, Mrs P says I’m an expert at making a mess, but that doesn’t count). I have absolutely no idea how, or why, things work, and I can’t fix mechanical stuff when it breaks down. And when I was a kid I never had, nor did I ever have the slightest desire to own, a Mecanno set.

OK, a couple of decades ago I did manage to wire a plug. It’s true I didn’t get electrocuted and the house didn’t burn down, but I reckon that was just beginner’s luck.

Blair Somerville and I evidently come from different planets, maybe even different galaxies. Blair is the creator of the Lost Gypsy Caravan and Gallery, a collection of weird, whimsical and wonderful stuff that has no real purpose other than to intrigue and delight its viewers.

The original Lost Gypsy ‘Caravan’ – a converted Leyland bus

He describes himself as an organic mechanic, and calls his creations automators. He fashions them largely from the odds and ends that other people throw away: springs, switches, bicycle wheels, vintage toys, camera bits, circuit boards, old tins, bones, shells, and random pieces of metal and wood.

So although his work is quirky and quaint, with more than a whiff of a more innocent bygone age – an age when cell phones were simply the pipedream of deranged science fiction writers – Blair’s a committed up-cycler, and therefore bang on trend. Not at all what we’d expected to encounter here, in this remote outpost of New Zealand’s South Island.

The Lost Gypsy Caravan is parked up at Papatowai, halfway along the main road between Invercargill and Dunedin, deep in the heart of the Catlins. It’s not really a caravan, just an old Leyland bus, gutted of its original furnishings and kitted out with all manner of gadgets and gizmos that Blair has built.

As you approach the Lost Gypsy Caravan you’re immediately aware this is an oddball kind of place when you spot the bicycle-riding skeleton on the sidewalk. Mrs P cranks the handle and we watch him pedal, his toothy jaw snapping open and then shut with the effort.

Nearby a two metres long sperm whale, apparently made from slices of galvanised trashcan, waits patiently for his turn. Again Mrs P does her duty, working the handle until the whale’s body begins to flex and thrash, gently riding the waves of our curiosity.

Close by is the Lost Gypsy Caravan’s mailbox, again in the shape of a whale, this time being ridden by a swimsuit-wearing maiden. A painted message on the whale’s side informs those who care to look that this one isn’t a sperm whale, it’s a mail-whale.

The Lost Gypsy Caravan’s mail-whale

Clearly this isn’t going to resemble any gallery we’ve previously visited. We’re venturing into unknown territory, unsure what to expect.

Next to the steps leading into the caravan is a large notice saying “There are many temptations in life, this button is one of them … ” Beneath the notice sits a button, small, white, inviting, oh-so-tempting.

What harm could there be? I ask myself, but before I have time to answer a young lady next to me decides to find out. She presses the button, then squeals with shock and delight as a jet of cold water blasts the back of her head.

And that sums up the Lost Gypsy Caravan experience, at the same both completely pointless and totally captivating, an innocent bit of inventive fun and frivolity in an otherwise dismal world.

Once inside there are more buttons to press (no more jets of cold water, though) and cranks to wind. Each makes something happen: lights flash, bells ring, water gurgles, a tiny pink pig flaps its wings, a row of fabricated chickens peck energetically at imaginary corn.

The walls are plastered with newspaper cuttings and sundry signage culled from god-knows-where. A headline proclaims boldly “Mother of child with pointed ears tells how … I GAVE BIRTH TO UFO BABY.” Sounds like Star Trek’s Mr Spock has been playing away, the lecherous old Vulcan.

Nearby a photocopied notice, done in a vintage typeface, reads “This room is equipped with ‘Edison Electric Light.’ Do not attempt to light with match. Simply turn key on wall by the door.” Makes you think, doesn’t it, once upon a time electric lights were new and unfamiliar, a must-have state-of-the-art technological marvel, the Smartphones of their day.

And to my left, another newspaper cutting warns darkly that “One in two hundred Americans is from outer space.” So few? I muse idly.

I tear myself away from contemplating the celestial origins of my trans-Atlantic cousins, and look up. The ceiling is completely lined with old circuit boards, presumably culled from bits of technology that have exceeded their sell-by date. Why? Who knows? Who cares? It’s quirky, bizarre, totally bloody bonkers in fact … and I love it.

Although as a kid I never played with Meccano I did have a trainset, so I’m delighted to see a track running in a circuit around the inside of the caravan, varying between waist-high and head high. It’s a little steam engine called the Train of Thought. Flick a switch and the Train of Thought does a lap of the caravan, setting off reactions as it goes, ringing a bell here, turning on a light or two over there, blasting its horn as it rounds a sharp bend. This place is crazy.

The caravan is full to overflowing, so Blair’s creations have spilled over into a garden and The Winding Thoughts Theatre (of Sorts) further up the hill. Here are some larger products of his fertile imagination. Wind that handle over there, and the tin tentacles of an unseen alien beast wave at you from the bushes. Or pedal that ancient exercise bike really hard to power up the screen in front of you: if you’re fast enough your grainy image will eventually appear, sweating copiously.

But my favourite of Blair’s creations is back in the caravan. It’s deceptively simple: a model hand – four fingers and a thumb – rests on tiny flat table in front of us. Push a button, and the fingers drum the table irritably. The piece is called “Impatient outpatient.”

As we leave I spot one final, ironic notice stuck to the inside wall of the caravan. It reads “Having fun prohibited.” Blair Somerville’s a joker and this is his ultimate tongue-in-cheek jest, the parting shot of a hugely talented artist who is without doubt New Zealand’s master of mechanical mirth.

New Zealand’s most photographed tree

10 November 2019

We were passing, and simply had to drop in to see New Zealand’s most photographed tree. It’s a willow and started life as a fencepost, simply a branch hacked off a nearby tree 80 years ago with a wire attached to it to keep someone’s sheep in … or out, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

But in the manner of some willow branches it took root, and whereas all its fencepost buddies have rotted away our hero has gone from strength to strength, sitting with his feet in the shallow water at the edge of Lake Wanaka. Not only that, our Willy’s become a celebrity.

The story goes that around 2011 local Wanaka photographers and writers began flooding social media sites with images of the tree as a bit of a joke. It plainly touched a chord, and two or three years later Lake Wanaka Tourism put Willy on its photo trail. Around the same time Christchurch photographer Dennis Radermacher took Willy’s photo on a misty June day, and won the 2014 New Zealand Geographic photograph of the year.

Willy had made the big time, and continues to go from strength to strength. Blogging apart I don’t do social media, but I have it on good authority that the tree has its own Facebook page and Twitter account (#ThatWanakaTree) and is big on Instagram too. Call me a miserable old curmudgeon (many people do, even Mrs P when I go off on one) but I can’t help wondering if the whole world isn’t completely out to lunch!

Mrs P enjoys photography, and snapped away merrily for 20 minutes, relishing the warm afternoon light on Willy’s tender green leaves. You can see a couple of her efforts on this page.

Meanwhile I was people watching. Men and women of all ages and apparently from all over the world were recording their encounter with Willy. Some were plainly amateurs, doing it with cheap cell phones and selfie sticks, but at the other end of the spectrum there were serious looking guys with enormous tripods and cameras that must have cost a king’s ransom.

At least one professional photoshoot took place while we were there, a pretty young lady flouncing and posing and pouting in front of the lens as if her very future depended on it. But on the other hand, pretty young models are about as common as blowflies at a barbecue these days, so it probably did.

And all the while Willy sat there contentedly, with the waters of Lake Wanaka lapping gently over his roots and caressing his wrinkly bark. He’s seen it all before, and no doubt will see it all again tomorrow … and the day after too.

The fencepost done good.

Mrs P lets it all hang out for a good cause

10 November 2019

You know what it’s like: you’re concentrating so hard on the driving that you don’t see interesting stuff by the side of the road until it’s too late. And although you catch a glimpse of something intriguing as you sail on by, you can’t stop and turn around because there’s an idiotic speed junkie in a 4×4 on your tail, threatening to ram you into the nearest ditch if you drop even slightly below the speed limit.

That, dear reader, is how come I didn’t break yesterday’s journey from Moeraki to Queenstown to examine all the ladies’ underwear hanging on a fence line somewhere just outside Cardrona.

Let me clarify “underwear”: it wasn’t knickers you’ll be relieved to know, only bras, but there were hundreds of them. Yes, that’s right, hundreds of bras blowing in the wind for no apparent reason whatsoever. Now that’s not a sight you see every day.

When we got to our destination I told Mrs P what I thought I’d seen and asked if she thought I was going mad.

“No madder than usual, dearest,” she replied, which I took to mean that I was on to something. We agreed that there was nothing else for it, we’d have to re-trace our journey to check it out.

*

There they are, all those bras. I was right: there are hundreds of them. I’ve never seen so many bras in my life, and am baffled. What a waste of good underwear; has New Zealand gone crazy?

But then we read the pink sign, and all becomes clear: this is an innovative way to raise money for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. What a brilliant idea, a fun way to raise awareness and give folk a chance to show solidarity.

Mrs P is pleased to get into the spirit of this initiative by dropping some cash into the collection, and then donating her own bra to the fence, singing a few lines from Chris de Burgh’s Patricia the Stripper as she does so.

I’m very proud of her: we’ve lost friends and family to the disease, and parting with some cash and (in Mrs P’s case) clothing is the least we can do in their memory. Well done, Mrs P, for letting it all hang out for a good cause.

The Tawhiti Museum

25 October 2019

As we leave Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge we stop off at the waterfall after which it is named. The Dawson Falls are 18m high, and pretty damned impressive. Although in the UK we’d go wild over a waterfall like this, here it seems like business as usual, just another day another waterfall. But Mrs P and I aren’t complacent, we love waterfalls and stand transfixed in front of this one for several minutes, in awe of its power and its fury.

And so from the sublime to the ridiculous. The nearby Hawera water tower was built in 1914 as part of a strategy to control the wildfires that were ravaging the area at that time.  Water towers are functional pieces of architecture that are mostly not worth a second glance, but this one is strangely appealing in a brutalist kind of way.  Good job too, because at 55m high, it’s the one building in Hawera that you simply can’t avoid.

But today’s main focus is a visit to the Tawhiti Museum which is, as the saying goes, world famous in New Zealand. That being the case it’s unsurprising that none of our research in the UK had revealed its existence, and had it not been for a suggestion from a helpful staff member at the Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge we would never have found it.

The Tawhiti Museum is the creation of one man, Nigel Ogle. He’s an art teacher by training, but gave it up in favour of creating this unique museum which combines some traditional displays of “old stuff” with the innovative use of life-size scenes portraying rural and domestic life, and a number of intricate small-scale dioramas. All of the models, both big and small, are created by Ogle using the tools of his trade as an artist. This man is seriously talented, and a bit of a visionary.

This museum is a serious attempt at representing aspects of local history, for example the dioramas illustrating the movement of people and the fighting between the Maori and the pakeha (foreigners, Europeans) in the nineteenth century.

There are also life-size representations of scenes from everyday life in another era, such as the grocery store dating from some time in the mid-twentieth century.

But there’s also lots of fun to be had here. Ogle obviously has a thing about Wind in the Willows, and has themed his museum café accordingly.

A human-scale model of Mr Badger lounges in one corner, reading a tattered copy of Wind in the Willows, while various cabinets along one wall contain dioramas illustrating events from the book. It’s magical, in a weird kind of way.

And talking about weird, can you see that man sitting at the corner table, who’s just looked up from the magazine’s he’s reading to glance out of the window? He’s another of Ogle’s creations, totally convincing and indeed even just a little bit spooky.

I can safely say I’ve never before been to a museum like this. It’s a place where one can learn stuff, and also have fun at the same time. Isn’t that what all museums should be like?

Things fall apart

22 October 2019

Things are falling apart.  Today we were due to take a boat trip on Lake Taupo, to see some Maori rock carvings that are inaccessible by land.  However, it was blowing a gale and the skipper decided it would be too risky – or perhaps more accurately, way too unpleasant – to sail, so he cancelled the excursion.   That’s three boat trips out of four that we’ve lost to the weather since arriving in New Zealand. I’m starting to think the gods have taken a dislike to us.

Speaking of things falling apart, my shoes have disintegrated.   I bought them just a few months before leaving the UK, but within a day or two of arriving here they were virtually unwearable.  Luckily Taupo has some decent retail outlets, so instead of visiting the Maori carvings we tour the town’s shoe shops. Thankfully I manage to get a new and comfortable pair of walking shoes without much difficulty, but that’s $137 I’ll never see again.

Newly shod, it’s time for me to take the wheel again and set off towards Tongariro National Park.  On the way we stop off briefly at South Taupo Wetland in the hope of seeing some interesting local birds while we eat our lunch.  Unfortunately the birds mostly keep their distance, but we do at least enjoy the view across Lake Taupo towards a distant volcano.

As we drive on the weather starts to close in ominously.  We park up briefly at the Makatote Viaduct which, when it was built between 1906 and 1909 for New Zealand Railways, was the tallest bridge in New Zealand. 

Our brief photo stop over, we continue on towards Tongariro National Park, which is famous for its spectacular volcanoes.  We drop in at the visitor centre at Whakapapa (confusingly, and somewhat alarmingly pronounced something like Fukka-puppa) before carrying on up the steep, winding mountain road, through dark and gloomy forest, until it opens up at a car park. 

As we look around us the top of the volcanoes are shrouded in low cloud, while the slopes are snow-covered. A bitter wind blows and sleety rain is falling, so we decide it’s time to beat a hasty retreat to a lower and more agreeable altitude.

With the weather becoming ever more threatening we conclude there is no further prospect of spotting volcanoes, so we head off to the little town of Ohakune for dinner.  This area is the self-proclaimed carrot capital of New Zealand, and the town boasts a children’s playground – called Carrot World, or something similar, I suspect – celebrating the orange root and its various veggie cousins. 

Dotted around the playground are large fibre glass characterisations of several vegetables, including a disturbingly phallic parsnip.  In retrospect this is all a bit odd, given how much kids the world over hate vegetables. Or maybe New Zealand kids do eat all their veggies, which could explain why they grow up to be such fearsome rugby players?  

But the most dramatic feature of the playground is a huge (and I mean monstrously huge) carrot on the roadside, announcing to every passing motorist that this town has truly taken the orange root to its heart.  Mrs P’s camera has barely been used all day, so she gets it out and snaps away merrily.

But, on reflection, if the best thing we can say about today is that we saw a big bridge and big carrot, then I must regretfully conclude that it has not gone well for us.  Things are indeed falling apart, and we can only hope for better fortune tomorrow.

Where goats get to be President

It can happen anywhere, I suppose. Ordinary citizens who are quietly minding their own business, living decent lives and doing no harm to man nor beast, go to bed one evening and when they get up next day discover they’re being ruled by a goat.

As I sit at my laptop writing this I can think of at least two great nations with proud histories that are currently each led by someone whose demeanour and behaviour compare unfavourably with your average goat. I’ll leave the identity of the nations and individuals in question to your imagination!

But it’s not just the big boys that make unconventional political choices. Mrs P was telling me the other day that while we’re in New Zealand we’ll be passing close to the tiny Republic of Whangamomona.

Heard of it? Probably not. You could check it out on a BIG map of New Zealand, but take care not to drop any biscuit crumbs or you’ll never find it.

In 1988 the citizens of this unremarkable little town on New Zealand’s North Island showed their contempt for the local council by declaring Whangamomona a republic. Eleven years later, Whangamomonans plainly decided that a further protest was required, at which point local goat Billy the Kid was elected the town’s first non-human president.

PHOTO CREDIT: From Pixabay via Pexels

Billy was followed in office by Tai the Poodle and Murtle the Turtle, although when the latter died in 2015 Whangamomona seemed to suffer a crisis of confidence and elected one Vicki Pratt as president, albeit against her will.

I can’t help admiring free spirits, individuals and communities that don’t take themselves – or life in general – too seriously. For this reason we’ll be sure to take a side-trip to Whangamomona in a couple of weeks, and drop in at the local hotel for lunch and to get our passports stamped.

Stunts like this are harmless fun, and also good for business if they encourage people like us to visit and spend money there. Across the world communities are always on the look out for the big idea, something that will make them stand out from the crowd and get them on tourists’ itineraries. In Whangamomona it’s all about republicanism in general, and goats in particular.

By way of contrast, as we discovered to our amusement a couple of years ago, one small town in Newfoundland, Canada, has banked everything on calling itself Dildo to bring in crowds of curious punters all hoping to feel earth move.

Makes Whangamomona seem almost normal, doesn’t it?

Bringing tears to the eyes

We really can’t put it off any longer, we’ll simply have to pay off the balance we owe on our forthcoming seven-weeks long road-trip around New Zealand.  To be fair, Paul Carberry, head honcho at New Zealand in Depth, is relaxed about it.  He knows we’re committed to the adventure, and obviously reckons we’re good for the money.  But we need to get it sorted.

Queenstown NZ. Photo credit: Ketan Kumawat via Pexels

This holiday has been so long in the planning that it sometimes seems like a fantasy. Stumping up the cash will make the whole thing seem more real, although it may bring a few tears to our bank manager’s eyes.

The drive to New Zealand in Depth’s offices, on the outskirts of Buxton, takes us through the area of Derbyshire known as the White Peak.  The roads are almost deserted, and the hillsides are dotted with sheep. We pass through the occasional village, but for the most part it’s a sparsely populated rural landscape of green fields and rough pasture, all apparently untouched by the trials and tribulations of the 21st century.  A foretaste of New Zealand, maybe?

New Zealand: a sheep-filled landscape. PHOTO CREDIT: Peter Gabriel via Pexels

Paul greets us like old friends, ushers us to an office and sorts out some tea.  Wearing black-rimmed specs, and dressed casually in jeans and a checked shirt he’s friendly, informal and chatty, but totally passionate about what he does, which is enabling his clients to see New Zealand at its best. 

While Paul’s making tea Flinker the office dog pops in to say “hi,” his tail thrashing furiously.  I fondle the hairy hound’s ears and scratch his back. He laps it up, and thanks me by slobbering enthusiastically over my balding head. Flinker’s a lovely lad, and if I thought I’d get away with it I’d smuggle him out with me when we leave. 

File:Huntaway.JPG

Huntaway. PHOTO CREDIT: “File:Huntaway.JPG by Cgoodwin is licensed under CC BY 3.0

I ask Paul if there are any breeds of dog that we should look out for on our travels, and he tells us about the Huntaway.  The Huntaway was bred to support the country’s sheep farmers. It fills a New Zealand-specific niche thanks to its ability to herd sheep by barking, rather than by sight alone.

The Huntaway is a cross between the Border Collie and breeds that are known for their stamina, such as Rottweilers and Dobermans. They sound like real characters, and I hope we get to meet one on our travels.

Mrs P, on the other hand, very much hopes that we don’t meet another New Zealand character, the Katipo spider.  She has a thing about spiders but not in a good way, and was expecting Paul to confirm that New Zealand – unlike neighbouring Australia – has no poisonous spiders. 

File:Latrodectus katipo close.jpg

Katipo spider. PHOTO CREDIT: “File:Latrodectus katipo close.jpg” by Ole is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Paul’s response, that the native Katipo, a relative of the Black Widow of the Americas and the Redback of Australia, packs a significantly poisonous punch is therefore greeted with surprise and dismay.

Mr Google quickly reveals some grisly details:

A Canadian tourist in New Zealand suffered a swollen penis and chest pain after he went for a nude swim and nap and was apparently bitten by a katipo spider.

The 22-year-old “woke to find his penis swollen and painful with a red mark on the shaft suggestive of a bite. He rapidly developed generalized muscle pains, fever, headache, photophobia [light sensitivity] and vomiting,” Dr. Nigel Harrison of Whangarei Hospital in Northland, New Zealand, and his colleagues reported in Friday’s online issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Source: CBC News, accessed 13/09/2019

Paul points out that the Katipo is now very rare, so I could make a bit of a name for myself if I get bitten by one.  In fact, he chuckles, I should make a close encounter of the Katipo kind one of my must-do goals for the trip. 

female katipo and finger

PHOTO CREDIT: “female katipo and finger” by Mollivan Jon is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Well, thanks mate, but I’ll give it a miss if it’s all the same with you. I won’t be rushing to scour the bush for this particular New Zealand ne’er-do-well . Nor does any accidental seaside meeting seem at all likely for the very good reason that, out of concern for the sensibilities of innocent passers-by, I’ve put my skinny-dipping days behind me.

All things considered, therefore, the chances of any toxic arthropod getting up close and personal with my old todger are, thankfully, very remote. This is a relief because although there are probably worse things that could happen to me in New Zealand than an intimate bite from a cantankerous Katipo, right now I’m struggling to name one.

Eventually we get down to business.  Paul hands over a large ring-binder containing a detailed day-by-day itinerary of the magnificent trip he has arranged for us.  In return, I pass to Paul a large cheque containing the proceeds of my hard labour in the months before my retirement.  Job done, I think.

PHOTO CREDIT: Rawpixel.com via Pexels

Honour duly satisfied, we swiftly return to more important stuff, including a discussion of the cricket.  The Barmy Army will be in New Zealand at the same time as us to support the touring England cricket team, but no doubt the Kiwis will be looking to avenge their defeat in the World Cup Final earlier this summer.  Almost certainly, therefore, the Barmies will be sadly disappointed, and there may well be tears before bedtime. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Gerd Altmann via Pexels

Could be worse though, the brazen battalions of the Barmy Army could nip down to the beach for some naked freestyle and get a special welcome from a Katipo.  Now that really would bring tears to their eyes.