In 2012 I retired again and we are traveling in Europe. In 2009 Ron and I retired and we volunteered at Quaker Meeting House in Wellington, New Zealand for a year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


It has been a fairly quiet month, but I will bring this blog up to date now because for the next month we have various family members visiting, so there should be lots to write about. I also find the digital camera very helpful in remembering what we did when, and making these entries more interesting. Full credit goes to Ron as the primary photographer.

Our main outing this month was another train trip up to Carterton in the Wairarapa valley to visit our friend Craig from Meeting. The weather in Wellington had been windy and rainy, but Carterton, only an hour and a quarter away, was lovely that day. Craig drove us out to Castle Point, a little more than an hour due East on the coast through some pretty farm land and coastal hills. There is a small village of summer houses (called baches, short for bachelor pads) facing a lovely curved beach, a lighthouse, a lagoon and then the very tall headland of Castle Point, named by Captain Cook. On the drive back we got caught up in a flock of sheep being moved back to their paddock after shearing. One guy was on a small tractor at the barn end, with his dog persuading one recalcitrant sheep to join the flock. Most of the sheep seemed to know the gate they were supposed to head to, but there was one other fellow, also with his dog and also on a small tractor, at the far end, just in case. We had a nice late lunch in Masterton and then caught a 4:00 train back home.

I don’t have pictures of it, but we had fun going down to the harbor on Guy Fawkes Day (Nov. 5) for fireworks, a well done 20 minute show. It was nice having fireworks without the nationalistic overtones, even Ron liked it.

Our premier musical event was going to a performance by a Sumatran couple at Victoria University. Their group is called Suarasama. They have been artists in residence there for 3 months. We had seen them perform at Te Papa, and then they had also come to do a concert for the local primary school because one of the teachers there plays in the University’s gamelan orchestra. It was through her that I found out about their farewell performance, otherwise it was not widely publicized. We took these pictures while they were setting up. The concert was a very fun and interesting fusion of a lot of music. Two pieces were done in combination with Celtic musicians, a couple with different Indian musicians, and one with the gamelan orchestra. Gamelan is not a Sumatran tradition, it is Javanese. There were also some modern piano pieces played by some other artists in residence. It was a wonderful example for the value of this kind of program for both the guest artists and the local ones because of all the cross cultural fertilization. They also were clearly having a lot of fun! We bought one of their CDs.

Just recently, Wellington was host to the New Zealand premier for Peter Jackson’s latest film, The Lovely Bones. We had other commitments, so we didn’t stand around to watch the stars arrive, but we did enjoy watching the preparations. A major street and those leading up to it were shut off for the day and a red carpet laid for a couple of blocks. Apparently Susan Sarandon thought it was supposed to be summer, so she walked down barefoot in a sleeveless black dress, and had to cut short her autograph signing because she was shivering from the cold wind.

Christmas preparations are going on all around us. It very nice being half a world away from any responsibility for present exchanges! There are a few lights up and the occasional Salvation Army band. The main natural phenomenon associated with Christmas here is the blooming of the pohutakara trees. They can grow to be a large spreading, multi-trunked tree, and they become covered with red blossoms. It is a bristly sort of flower close up because they are related to the bottle brush trees. We know that the first Maori arrived in December or January because the story goes that they were so astounded by what they thought were all the red feathered birds in the trees that at least one chief threw his feather cloak into the bay, figuring that he could make a new and better one here. The story goes that some lesser member of the crew fished it out, but refused to return it when the chief realized his mistake. There is a Maori folk saying along the lines of: a cloak gone is gone, a cloak found is found.

The city has set up a 7 story Christmas tree of lights which constantly change pattern. They positioned a mass of bean bag chairs underneath it so that you can sit looking upwards. It is surprisingly neat.

Finally here is a little random sampling of pictures. A chard harvest from the over-winter garden, called silverbeet here. I considered whether they would make a good Christmas tree but decided against it.

A view from the second story of a waterfront pub.

And a picture of members of the Wellington Quaker Meeting gathered to celebrate the 8oth anniversary of the Meeting House.