Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: New Zealand (page 1 of 3)

Swimming with the fishes

Paddling at NairnWe recently had a problem with our heating system that meant there was a steady dripping of water out of a pipe on the side of the house. It took almost 3 weeks to coax a plumber to actually come out and take a look which is not only frustrating but also resulted in some very wet children.

You see Henry loves water and given the opportunity he would run round to the side of the house and you’d find him stood directly under the drip with a big smile on his face. Not caring in the least that those clothes and jacket we’d fought him to put on are now completely soaked. Then he’d shout at you WATER and start splashing around in the puddles on the floor until you dragged him away.

Matilda is similarly fish like and during our weekend trips to the local pool has started trying to figure out how to swim underwater. This love of water extends to pretty much all forms from the tiniest Scottish highlands stream to splash in right through to large lakes where they can feed the ducks. From jumping in puddles down the lane to throwing stones into a big river, if it’s wet they’re happy. Something they may well have inherited from their dad who has spent many a happy afternoon on the banks of a lake or river fishing and as a teenager could often be seen disappearing across a lake on a windsurfer.

Matilda also had the unique experience of having been in a hot spring for her first ever swim while we were in New Zealand when she was 6 months old (you can read all about that adventure here). Quite a stunning location for a swim and beautifully warm.

So it may come as no surprise that our holiday planning for next year revolve somewhat around water. I guess they may be a little young yet to go on a kayaking adventure with (sea kayaking with whales near Vancouver is on the bucket list) but we can certainly start introducing them to the sea and also go on some form of boat. Maybe a sailing boat for a cruise around some islands? Although I might be a little scared Henry would try to jump overboard. I bet they’d both enjoy some body boarding in some shallow water too, even better if the waters warm.

I’d love to say we plan to take them for a cultural experience and to see some of the world, but quite honestly that can wait. At their age they don’t care about history or culture, give them some of the activities above, a steady supply of snacks, the occasional ice cream and then a nice comfy bed to cosy up for a story at bed time and they’re happy. Then repeat again the next day but maybe with a milkshake instead of an ice cream. What am I talking about, AS WELL AS an ice cream!

What do you think? Perfect toddler holiday?

I’m submitting this post to Mark Warner in the hope that they pick me to be a #markwarnerdad for 2014, I think we’d be the perfect family to test out one of their holidays. We’re most definitely active and love nothing more than spending a day outside getting wet and dirty. Matilda and Henry are of course incredibly photogenic and always smiling which is of course what you want to see when reading about a holiday. Finally I became a (self nominated) travel reporter for a few weeks and blogged our way around New Zealand in 2011 as we explored that amazing country in camper van with a 6 month old baby, if that doesn’t make me a good candidate I don’t know what will!

The Gallery – Sky

My Instagram feed for the last few weeks has been mainly filled with photos tagged with #skyporn, #cloudporn and #foodporn which judging by Tara’s gallery topic this week is very similar to hers. However when I went looking for photos of the sky I realised that I have already used most of them in blog posts. You may notice a bit of a recurring theme here but I love sunrises, potentially more than sunsets. In either case the beginning and end of the day are great moments and also great times to take photos.

But I do have a couple I don’t think I’ve used before and if I have then they are clearly just so good they need using again! The first is from a business trip earlier in the year, we found ourselves with time to kill in Paris after a meeting finished early so did what every person should do and headed for the Eiffel Tower. A pretty perfect spring day to visit as well.

 

My second photo is from our New Zealand trip last year, some breathtaking scenery and perfect clear skies to go with it. This is one of my favourite photos from the trip, it’s in Greymouth and the beach was right next to our pitch on the campsite. If you’d like to see a few more from that trip then just click here.

What are your highs and lows from 2011?

Keith of Reluctant house dad fame has tagged me in this meme to share some highlights and lowlights from 2011.  The year was a pretty bloody good one all in all and I have to say with very few lows. So here’s my review per the required structure.

What was your happiest event?

As 2011 was the year I became a dad nothing really comes close for happiest event. That moment in the delivery suite when we discovered we had a daughter was magical, the days and months since have been tough but oh so rewarding. The first time she smiled, the first time she clapped, the way she bangs her feet on her chair when she’s enjoying what she eats. These are the moments you remember and the ones that can erase all those sleepless nights and crying.

What was the saddest thing to happen?

At the beginning of the year we found out that the lady of the manors mum had ovarian cancer, which was a pretty tough time. She began treatment just before Matilda was born so we were worried she wouldn’t be able to come near Matilda due to the chemotherapy drugs. But it worked out ok in the end and following a successful treatment is fingers crossed now in the clear

What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?

Hmmm maybe the lady of the manor getting pregnant again? If you’d told me at the start of the year that we’d have another baby on the way I would have laughed in your face.

Who let you down?

There can be only one candidate for this and that’s the England rugby team, I traveled to the other side of the world to watch that joke of a rugby team embarrass the nation. Professional players that didn’t have the balls to stand up and take ownership of their performance. No matter what the failings of the coaches they should have at least had some pride like the French did.

Who supported you?

Family, every single one of them. From gifts and ‘permanent loan’ of nursery furniture to emotional support and baby sitting. They may be 60 miles away but both sets of parents have been more than willing to drive down and help us out. What I value the most though is the non-judgmental support, they may have raised their own children (5 in my mums case) but they didn’t tell us what to do or say we were wrong. They gave advice and support which is exactly what we needed.

Tell us something you learned

You may think a new born baby has finished poo’ing, but it will always save up a little exra for that brief moment when it has no nappy on and then KAPOW, poo is on the carpet, your jeans/hands/jumper/hair and if you’re really lucky the wall behind you.

Tell us something that made you laugh

I was at a dinner party the other night and there was a 7ft penguin walking around, I thought to myself, that’ll break the ice.

Tell us one thing that made you cry

I don’t care what the question says I’m giving you 2 things; firstly watching Marley and Me, no dog owner can watch that and not cry. Secondly when I had a massive back spasm in my lower back in June. Within 10 minutes I couldn’t walk and spent the next 2 days lying on the lounge floor, the only time I moved was to crawl on all fours to the toilet. I have never known pain like it; in fact I think it was probably worse than giving birth. Certainly there wasn’t any gas and air.

Tell us 3 things your child did to make you proud

Firstly she is unequivocally my daughter, blonde hair, blue eyes and tall.

Secondly that she is the smiliest baby you will ever meet, she will flash anyone a smile who talks to her. I love that she seems to be an optimist and positive person like me

Thirdly that she is the noisiest baby in our NCT gang, put them all together and she’s the one chatting away, ‘talking’ to the other babies like she’s directing them. I hope she continues being so forthright and strong as she grows up.

Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself

That we didn’t let having a baby stop us getting out, we didn’t put our life on hold, we got out and had a bloody amazing adventure in New Zealand. An adventure that wouldn’t have been the same without Matilda.

Tell us one challenge you overcame

Trying to not wake up first at night so I don’t have get up to Matilda. It was tough but I beat it, I may even have a little talent in this area I reckon.

Is there anything you would like to change about your life in 2012?

I’ve written a couple of posts on resolutions/plans for the year, the biggest thing we are going to change is having debt. It shall be all gone by the end of the year so we can live comfortably once the sprout arrives and maybe just maybe the lady of the manor can become a stay at home mum.

I also want to try and eat more seasonally, rather than buying the same food all year round simply because the supermarket is able to stock it.

So there you have it and I’d like to tag the following lovely people if they haven’t been already;

It’s a dads life

The Kitchen Mechanic

Cheetahs in my shoes

It was a very good year…

I love Frank Sinatra, it’s my soundtrack of choice when cooking and this song sums up pretty well how I fell about last year. It was a year of huge change, of adventure and new beginnings and I loved every damn second. So if you will humour me a few photo’s from the year 2011.

We finally got the house almost how we want it; we put a new bathroom in, painted the stairs and put a runner on them, decorated the nursery in the greatest wallpaper EVER (Quentin Blake range at Osborne and Little, my favourite item of decoration in the whole house), new carpets in the bedrooms and grew some vegetables in our new raised bed.

Before                                                          After

The bathroom was only half done with a bath installed but no tiles on the walls when the main event of 2011 occurred – the arrival of Matilda on 15th April. In fact the lady of the manor not only helped strip the old tiles while heavily pregnant, but she also had a bath in the half finished room while having contractions!

Having a baby of course changes your life,  more so for your first, but honestly it has been so much fun being a dad. Matilda is a fabulous little girl, so happy and smiley, she sleeps well, eats well and makes me laugh every day. Without wanting to wish her baby years away I cannot wait until she’s walking and talking, we’re going to have so much fun!

Then of course there was our other big adventure, going to New Zealand for 3 weeks baby and all. We booked the trip to go to the rugby world cup before we knew the lady of the manor was pregnant but we would have done it anyway. Sure we were a little nervous but you can’t just sit at home once you have children can you?

It was such an amazing trip with experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life; like sitting in natural hot springs in Hamner Springs and looking up at snow covered mountains, or wading in a hot river near Lake Taupo with Matilda laughing her head off as she splashed, or even having the greatest coffee and carrot cake next to Lake Matheson in the glorious sunshine with Mount Cook in the distance.

An awful lot happened last year and it looks like this year could be exactly the same. The small matter of the sprout being born in May is probably enough to keep us busy all year. We have a family holiday to France booked for September, pretty tame and easy compared to New Zealand! But 2 weeks in a gite with my brother and his wife and baby should be fun.

This year is also going to be the year that we get our finances in order, we’re getting there but with our family set to expand and our dream of the lady of the manor being able to stay home we need to make sure we are as debt free as possible. In 6 months I want to have no credit card, no overdraft and some savings in the bank.

My only other resolution for the year is to finally do the trail races I’ve been talking of doing for a long time. I want to do an off road half marathon and an individual adventure race. 2011 was a lost year for running after I hurt my back in June so I’m itching to make amends in 2012.

Happy New year to you all and thank you for reading my mutterings for the last year, every comment and page view is appreciated and I promise to make more effort to visit your blogs in return.

10 things I learned in New Zealand

I know, I know another bloody blog post about New Zealand, well I’d forgotten that I had started this one so you’re having it whether you like it or not. Here are my 10 top things that I learned in New Zealand.

  1. New Zealand drivers are in no hurry; the speed limit in New Zealand is 100 kmh on everywhere outside towns, this is pretty slow on a quiet open highway but no matter the Kiwi drivers on the whole went much slower. Apart from the lorry drivers who steam around like they’re formula 1 drivers. Not only do the locals drive slowly they will also pull out in front of you on a highway and then ever so slowly get up speed. It’s not as though the roads are busy and they need to grab their chance, but they seem determined to join the road when THEY want.
  2. You soon learn how to manage your activities on a 3 hour cycle; that is Matilda’s time clock and woe betide anyone who tries to change it. Any time we wanted to drive somewhere or do an activity it was finish her feed and then go go go! Maximise the time before her next feed was needed.
  3. How to cook the best 1 pot meal; when you are cooking in a camper van with a small hob and small sink to wash up you soon learn how to minimise the use of pans. I am now a master at making pasta with a tomato sauce and bacon, with just a frying pan and a fork.
  4. Matilda is fascinated with eyes and if you’re not careful will poke you in them; there we were having some quality time at the campsite, rubbing noses, smiling and laughing when WHAM finger in the eye.
  5. How to eat dinner in the dark; Matilda goes to bed at 6.30pm, the van was our home and transport, so once in bed torchlight was our only option. Certainly heightens your sense of taste, although sleeping in sheets covered in pasta sauce isn’t so glamorous.
  6. New Zealand is where old brands go to die; if you’ve ever wondered where companies take old brands to die wonder no more, I have found the place and it is Pack and Save in New Zealand. I’m sure this branding was in the UK in the early 90’s?tea 2Tea 1
  7. Nowhere is open for dinner at 4.30pm; as above having to have Matilda asleep in the van by 6.30pm means if you want to have dinner out it needs to be early. But have you ever tried to find somewhere serving dinner at this time? And no, bar snacks or ‘just starters’ doesn’t constitute dinner. We soon learned to have lunch out and a light dinner in the van.
  8. You realise how much water you use when you have to fill up each day; seriously, all we used it for was drinking and a little bit of washing up, yet we got through GALLONS. It was pretty bloody scary, imagine what it would be like if we had a toilet and a shower in there also? Really makes you think about what you use at home when you have a dishwasher and a washing machine also. No wonder there is a water shortage.
  9. Don’t lean forward on an automatic flush toilet; I learned this very valuable lesson in Singapore airport, if you are sitting for the performance as it were and lean forward for say extra leverage then there is a chance the toilet may flush all by itself. Then really it becomes a bidet doesn’t it? It is also a mighty shock to the system when you have been on a plane for 13 hours with a baby and are knackered I can tell you.
  10. Kiwi’s LOVE venison; or at least I assume they do given that there were miles and miles of deer farms throughout the country. A very odd sight, seeing so many massive deer penned it by big wire fences. My only encounter with deer on the trip was a rather tasty ‘Bambi’ burger in Queenstown.

The great New Zealand adventure – the wild west coast

*wrote this a few days ago but only now have we finally got wi-fi good enough to post.

Well hello, since the last blog we have travelled about 800km from Nelson right at the top of the South Island down the west coast to Queenstown. We spread it over 4 days but even so it’s been more about looking out the window admiring views than really getting out and doing things. The vast majority of this driving is through valleys and forests as far as the eye can see with the occasional small town along the way. DSC_0050There were more than a few scary, windy roads through the mountains with massive drops on one side and the only protection for the car a small wooden crash barrier. These types of road are a particular favourite of the lady of the manor who spends most of the time squealing and telling me to slow down and if the drop is on her side leaning over and almost preventing me steering. It was pretty breathtaking at times though, the sheer scale and remoteness of the area is mind boggling.

Despite the lack of big items to tick off the ‘to be seen’ list it has been a very pleasant few days with someDSC_0015 notable highlights. Sunday night in Greymouth was at probably my favourite campsite so far, we were welcomed at reception with the words “pick which ever pitch you want, we’re so quiet it doesn’t matter” PERFECT! Nothing better than a camp site virtually to yourself, even if it can be a little bit like the shining sometimes, plus this one was situated right next to the beach so we of course chose a pitch as close to the beach as possible. Our van was no more than 10 metres from the beach and although it wasn’t particularly sandy there were lots of crashing waves and a beautifulDSC_0034 sunset. Falling to sleep with the sound of waves in the background is magical and even better given the lack of any other noise in the area.

The highlight of the trip south of Greymouth was passing through the small town of Ross where in 1900 and something they discovered New Zealand’s largest gold nugget, a mighty 2.7kg which of course had a name – Honourable Roddy. This is somewhere close to the amount of gold in the lady of the manor’s second engagement ring (yes 2nd she ‘lost’ the first one). There is a mining museum in the village with a replica of dear Roddy, we didn’t stop.

DSC_0075After another hour or so’s driving south of Ross we arrived in Franz Josef, home of the glacier. A mighty impressive glacier it is too, it can move at a speed of up to 5m a day 10 times faster than the feeble European ones. A glacier isn’t something you get to see every day and you can get pretty close to this one, so we headed for the car park. We loaded the wee girl into her rucksack carrier and headed off for glacier base camp. Now you can sign up with a guide and get higher up the glacier and while Matilda does like an adventure this was probably one step too far even for her.

DSC_0097It was a brisk 45 minute walk to base camp across a dry river bed which if the warning signs were to be believed could fill with flood water any minute. But the Kiwi’s have a healthy attitude to health and safety (see comment above on crash barriers) and let you carry on regardless. It was a very cool experience despite the icy wind in the valley (and yes I spent the whole walk cracking those sort of high brow jokes) and also a bizarre contrast between the lush rainforest vegetation on one side and the massive block of ice on the other.

Franz Josef was also pretty much the midway point in our trip so we decided to treat ourselves to 2 nights in a motel rather than the van. We thought it’d be nice to have a bit more space and a toilet that didn’t involve going outside. Wrong. Big. Fat. Fail. Lovely rooms to stay in and nice bathroom and showers, the only draw back being that the walls and ceiling were so thin that you could hear every word of the conversation the people next door were having, whenever someone walked across the floor above us it sounded like an elephant and to top it all off you could here people weeing. Altogether a perfect environment to try and get a 5 month old baby to sleep and then sit in the near darkness trying to read. Oh and the the mattress on the bed was so crap you spent the whole night trying to stop yourself rolling into the middle of the bed. Unsurprisingly we checked out first thing the next day and in a very un-English manner demanded a refund.

So we were back in our campervan and actually very cosy and happy, perhaps this is the solution to avoiding noisy neighbours? I’m also starting to see the attraction of houseboats….

Lake MatthesonAll disappointment and anger were forgotten within 5 minutes of getting out at our next stop however, Lake Mattheson had been flagged by all the guidebooks as a great place to get out for a walk and a photo. If you get a still day you get an amazing reflection of Mount Cook in the lake water, we had a slight ripple but all the same a picture perfect location. A 1 hour walk around the lake also meant that we had earned our coffee and cake at the cafe in the car park. As I tweeted at the time I don’t think there can be a more beautiful place to drink coffee, plus I had the best piece of carrot cake ever to go with it. Heaven.

DSC_0037We had a stop off in Haast last night and now (Wed) we’re in Queenstown. It’s quite strange being in the middle of a busy town after so long in the middle of nowhere and empty campsites. In Haast there were 5 campervans on the site, tonight there are 50+ on a site that is smaller. I could reach out the window and almost touch the van next to us. It’s also quite odd walking around in a t-shirt and seeing people carrying ski’s! It’s almost the end of the skiing season here but there is still some snow left and plenty of people seem to be taking advantage of that.

This is also the capital of adrenaline activities being the birthplace of the bungy jump, there are even people paragliding off the hill next to us. We however shall be having a far more leisurely day tomorrow taking in the sights and drinking a hot chocolate or 2. Even without having a baby with us I don’t think many of these crazy activities would tempt me, I don’t really see the attraction of jumping off a bridge with an elastic band tied to my leg.

Next stop Dunedin and some rugby.

P.S spotted this en route, kept me amused for hours (The lady of the manor is called Alex)

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The great New Zealand adventure – Abel Tasman

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The end of our first week in the land of the long white cloud (and the flat white coffee) and expectations were high in the fun bus. On Saturday we were scheduled to visit Abel Tasman national park, voted the number 1 thing to do in New Zealand by the New Zealand people themselves. So no pressure then. However what we failed to realise as we left the campsite and headed up there was that the only way into the park is by boat. We thought we could just park up, have a little walk with the wee girl and take some photo’s, oh no, bookings were required. Thankfully being early season this was easily solved and we could catch a 12.30pm boat.

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We headed for the car park and prepared a packed lunch as instructed (no boarding without one) and covered ourselves in insect repellent. As an aside have you ever seen James Bond having to do that? Does he have natural bug repelling skin or something? Anyway, back to the story. We set off on the boat (which also happened to be Matilda’s first boat ride, we’re ticking off the firsts on this trip) and sat mesmerised by the colour of the sea and the many different coves and beaches en route. Quite honestly this was not the coast line I was expecting from New Zealand. You could easily mistake it for somewhere in the much hotter and more exotic. It was breathtaking and the trip had only just started.

DSC_0130Our friendly boat (Pilot? Driver? Chauffeur? Captain? Chap?) dropped us off at Armitage bay, you can see for yourselves that this could be some sort of deserted island, in fact I think we could quite happily live our lives there. We dragged ourselves away from this beautiful beach and did a short walk of about 3 miles up to a look out point and back around again in a loop. Nothing too strenuous but good to get the blood flowing and probably far enough when you’re carrying a budha baby. Matilda amused herself chewing her fingers and blowing raspberries at me, completely oblivious to the scenery around her.

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Then with an hour to spare before the return boat home we sat on the beach to eat some snacks and let Matilda have a play, turns out she quite likes the sand. God help us when she can crawl or run, I think it could get quite tiring visiting the beach. It was amazing seeing the excitement in her face as she felt the sand in her toes and fingers. We had to work hard to stop her eating it though.

 

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We only did a very short walk in one park of the park, but you can do a 3-5 day walk along the full length which would be simply amazing. Or if you prefer you can sea kayak along the coast. There are campsites and huts run by the national park dotted along the coast to stay in. I’d love to come back when we have older children and have a go at that. If the small piece of coast we saw is anything to go by it would be well worth it and one hell of an adventure.

DSC_0160Next stop the west coast and some glaciers!

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