Amazed by the Avantidrome – Cambridge, New Zealand

A cycling velodrome wasn’t on the list of “must sees” in New Zealand, but when our friends from Puketurua suggested we take a drive to Cambridge and visit the newly built Avantidrome, I got a bit interested.

P1070827As a road cyclist (and MAMIL), I enjoy getting out on my bike, so any novel cycling experience doesn’t require a lot of persuasion to get me on board. I didn’t know what to expect before arriving at the Avantidrome, New Zealand’s home of the National Cycling Centre of Excellence, but I was very soon in awe!

I have often enjoyed Continue reading

More than a family barbeque

P1070662My niece Melissa was born when I was 19 years old and working in Queenstown, just before I headed to Australia. I remember queuing up to use the pay phone in downtown Queenstown so I could ring home and find out whether my sister’s baby had been born. That’s how you kept in touch before mobile phones. I was very excited to be an aunty for the first time. I had been diligently knitting a baby jacket and booties in a soft mint green. In those days you had no idea of what sex the baby would be so mint green was a safe colour, appropriate for either a boy or a girl. For some reason I thought that the beautiful and delicate layette should be finished with a hard dark brown ribbon. Maybe this was my clumsy gesture towards hoping that Continue reading

The Kindness of a Sister

P1070804 (3)I value kindness, that old fashioned virtue of helping out another human being in a gentle and unassuming manner. Simple acts such as picking up a toy dropped unnoticed from a pram, giving directions to a stranger, checking on a neighbour or giving a heartfelt compliment can make such a difference to the recipient’s day, way beyond the magnitude of the act. More profound acts of kindness take time, effort and commitment. As a psychologist I have heard many sad stories where small acts of kindness would have made a significant difference to someone’s life. Kindness can be contagious and I like to imagine that even the smallest kind act can Continue reading

Galleries, Go-Getters and Gut Busting


When I think galleries, I generally think art – paintings, sculptures and photographs. Poetry is not something I associate with a gallery, but it was poetry that surprised and amused us at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts on Wellington’s waterfront. I’d never heard of Ben Stokes, but his “Place to Be” hip-hop-rap style poem bought a smile to our face. Ben is New Zealand’s 2014 National Poetry Slam Champion, and in this poem he describes exactly what makes New Zealand such a fantastic Place To Be. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Go on….hit the play button.

Wellington hosts numerous other private and publicly funded galleries peppered along Continue reading

Touching the ghost of my childhood

Yum - Fairy Floss
Yum – Fairy Floss

I left New Zealand when I was 19 years old, my first experience of running away. Since then I have tried to come back every two or three years to see my family. Each time I feel compelled to reach out and touch the ghost of my childhood and wonder whether others have similar experiences. I devour chocolate fish and pineapple lumps, (New Zealand confectionary delights), candy floss, mixed lollies sold in paper bags, hokey pokey ice creams, spearmint milkshakes which must be served in an icy cold aluminium container and for a savoury dish, bacon and egg pie with sliced tomato on top. I could buy these in Australia but somehow it would be traitorous to eat them there.

Then there is the drive past the family home, sold when my mother died 15 years ago, Continue reading

Akaroa, Hanmer Springs & Kaikoura

Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura are both towns on the South Island of New Zealand that we have visited previously, but Akaroa was new to the itinerary. We can thank another of our friends, also named Ann, for that suggestion. Each of these towns are unique in their own right, and they are towns that will remain on our list of places to visit again.


Akaroa is situated on the coast, about 80km southeast of Christchurch. It was New Zealand’s only French Settlement, with 60 of the first emigrants arriving in August, 1840. Whilst retaining a French flavour with a few French flags flying and French street names, it was the quaint village atmosphere and scenic beauty that attracted us. Although we didn’t do it, swimming with Hector’s Dolphins, one of the world’s smallest and rarest breeds, is the unique attraction of the town.

The highlight of our day was a picnic by the bay, where we Continue reading

New Zealand – the Legend


Standing at the lookout on the most easterly point of the Kaikoura Peninsula, you can see forever……….well, maybe not forever, but you can see a very long way. They say you can even see the North Island from here on a clear day.

Maori legend talks of the demi-god Maui, who landed an enormous fish from his canoe and used what is now the Kaikoura Peninsula to steady his foot.

The fish became Te Ika a Maui (New Zealand’s North Island), his canoe Te Waka a Maui (the South Island) and the strong seat of his canoe became Te Taumanu o te Waka a Maui or “the seat of Maui’s canoe” (the Kaikoura Peninsula).

Source: Story board at Kaikoura Peninsula lookout

Weeping for Christchurch

Christchurch Cathederal
Christchurch Cathedral

I never expected to cry while standing in the square at Christchurch. The ugly jagged scar of the earthquake four years ago in February 2011, when 185 people died, was so apparent that it took my breath away and I wept. This is a city which has experienced an intense trauma, and its everywhere you look.

I’d followed the news reports when the earthquake happened. As a New Zealander I was concerned but if I’m truthful I really didn’t take the time to understand the scale of the disaster. Even when I spoke to my friend, who had been home visiting, and driving in the city of Christchurch at the time of the quake, I still didn’t get the enormity of the devastation.

As a child in Wellington I’d lived through minor earthquakes Continue reading

On the (Slow) Run in Queenstown

When you take the panorama of Lake Wakatipu, and contrast it with the towering peaks of the Remarkables mountain range, you are provided with an amazing backdrop to this thriving hub of business, retail and tourism.


Anne and I have just spent a relaxing five days in and around Queenstown with three members of  Continue reading

Moeraki Boulders


In Maori legend the Araiteuru canoe (one of the large ancestral canoes that came from Hawaiki) was wrecked on Shag Point while on its way south in search of greenstone. Food-baskets and kumara on board were washed ashore. The kumara became irregularly shaped rocks and the circular food-baskets became the Moeraki Boulders, called by the Maori Te Kaihinake (the food-baskets). The reef at the mouth of the Shag River is said to be the petrified hull of the canoe, and a prominent rock nearby to be the mortal remains of its navigator, Hipo. Names of passengers are given to hills in the area. The legend is an example of how a colourful story would be woven around the physical features of the landscape to perpetuate a knowledge of geography in a culture without a written language.