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Sunday, 23 December 2018

2018 in pictures

2018 was a crazily busy year, even by our standards and went in the blink of an eye.  The following photos represent various happenings in each month with a few comments and thoughts to go with them.

January
This is peak summer holiday season in NZ.  Living in a region which everyone  wants to visit in the vacations, we tend to hang around at home as the roads are busy with feral drivers who leave their brains wherever they come from.  The garden is a riot of colour at this time of year so that's what the photos are of.

 Bee on a dwarf bottlebrush plant, using the camera macro function

Tree loaded with colourful Luisa plums

February
The Institute of Advanced Motorists annual conference and get-together was held over a weekend at the scenic Taupo township.  For those who arrived on the Friday, there was the opportunity to take part in a trackday at the Bruce McLaren international circuit.  What a fantastic experience in great company.  Pulling 230 km/hr down the back straight then hard on the brakes, hoping I would make the tight left-hander at the end of the straight!

The first photo was taken just after dawn on the way to the circuit.  IAM Chief Motorcycle Examiner Philip on his Fireblade,  Lee on his MV Augusta 675 and my GSX-S 1000.  The second photo was taken by the track photographer of me flying round the left-hander at the end of the back straight.

The three musketeers at dawn en route to the track

Some old geezer trying to recapture his youth

March
A long weekend in NZ's capital to visit old friends also saw me mountain biking on the cycleway on the Kapiti Coast.  As part of the new motorway development, the government department responsible for building a new section of motorway also built adjacent wetlands to attract birds and other creatures plus the scenic cycleway.  Excellent work!

Trying to regain lost youth!

We also purchased a new boat for sea fishing.  Jennie's hip problem meant that the old boat was no longer comfortable.  Delighted to say that the new one does the business.

So-fish-ticated (named by our daughter)

An "arty" shot using the macro function of a plant in our garden after a rainstorm.  Showing off, it's called Dasylirion Wheeleri - a vicious but attractive spiky ball over a metre across which is good for drawing blood from the unwary, especially grandchildren!

Dasylirion Wheeleri from Mexico

The vicious plant in question

Word has also got around the local bird population that I'm a soft touch when it comes to giving them a feed.  If they see me working at the computer and I haven't put food out, they'll tap on the window if the ranchslider is closed or if it's open, they'll come inside and remonstrate with me!  In this case, it's some representatives from the local flock of Californian Quail.

C'mon human, pull finger and get out here pronto!

April
I was hugely proud to be appointed as an IAM Examiner.  Many Examiners are serving police officers with specialist riding and driving roles within the force and it was a genuine honour and humbling to be in their company and the massively competent civilian Examiners.  The photo below is the first rider I took for his Advanced Roadcraft Test and delighted to say that he passed the stringent theory and practical examination.

Chris and his GSX-S1000

We also took our grandchildren out fishing among the commercial mussel beds outside Coromandel Harbour and their parents also came out on their kayak.  Everyone caught fish and a great day was had by all.

Family fun

May
It's not only riders with sporty bikes who join IAM - everyone can benefit.  In the photo below, Trainee Observer (mentor) Tony is coaching cruiser rider Henry. I was mentoring Tony in observing skills and a couple of months later, he passed his Observer Test with flying colours.

Tony and Henry acting the goat

The Coromandel Peninsula is a haven for artisans of all sorts - potters, weavers, painters..... you name it and they're here.  We needed a new bookcase for a guest bedroom and commissioned a local furniture craftsman to make a rustic one for us in solid macrocarpa.  He's also made furniture for our deck and a large bookcase for our lounge and we have a great relationship.  We drop him off fish that we've caught and he gives us organic vegetables from his garden!

Picking up the bookcase from Greg - smells divine

June
Well into winter, although not that cold.  A great social run with fellow IAM members in the Central North Island.  Along twisty, largely empty back roads with freshly made wood-fired pizza for lunch.  Takes a lot of beating!  Also gathering near us for club runs were the local Ford Mustang and Mazda MX5 Miata car clubs.  Everyone mixed in waiting for their respective start times, creating a great atmosphere.

Assembling in the town of Te Aroha

July
Various plants flower all the year round in our garden and all though this succulent has been planted for a few years, it's the first time that it's flowered.  The conical flower spike is about 30 cm long and lasted for about 3 months.  Hope it does it again next year.

Flowering succulent, or maybe a Triffid!

It was also our 46th wedding anniversary, clearly demonstrating how tolerant Jennie is in putting up with me!  Didn't take any photos so it's appropriate to post one from our honeymoon in Croatia and Venice in 1972.

Sigh..... when we were young....

August
Regular readers will remember the 17th August blog post of collecting a Porsche Carerra 4S Turbo and delivering it to Auckland.  That is.... remembering that I made a complete fool of myself adjusting the seat, trying to start it, looking for the parking brake and a whole load of other embarrassing incidents.  Apart from the humiliation, it was a surprisingly underwhelming experience.  The electronics package meant that it didn't require much driver input at sane highway speeds combined with poor rearward visibility.  Over $200,000 in NZ plus an equally frightening operating cost.   Has totally put me off supercars  - give me a 70's muscle car every time, or even something like a Lotus 7.

Not exactly an understated colour scheme

September
Two more central north island Trainee Observers passed their Full Observer theory and practical tests in the past few weeks.  Chris, the middle of the three below had just passed.  Neil on the left ran the test.  Pete, on the right, is the new IAM member who Chris was putting through his paces as part of the test.  Now here's a surprise..... Pete is actually in charge of the Highway Patrol road policing team for our province!  Mainly driving cars in his day job but also a keen motorcyclist, he saw joining IAM as a means of regularly maintaining his skills to a high level.  Great guy and a real pleasure to have in our region.

Neil, Chris and Pete

One evening, Jennie and I were heading into our village to take part in a charity fundraising quiz bang on sunset.  I took the following photo by sheer good fortune on my mobile phone a few hundred metres from home which is on the ridge at the rear of the image.  Often, the best photos come about by blind chance!

Sunset over Coromandel Harbour

October
A busy month.  Turned 71, fitted a new Nitron custom shock to the bike (Jennie's birthday present to me!) and had a brisk social ride with some of the fellow IAM Observers from our region.  The first photo was taken in a town called Paeroa.  The Lemon and Paeroa (L&P) bottle signifies NZ's nearest equivalent to Coke.  Originally made in Paeroa in 1907 from local carbonated spring water and lemons.  Now made in Auckland and almost certainly bears no relationship to the original product!

From left: Lloyd, Rob, Neil and me

October also saw the second of 3 punctures in 4 months, one of which necessitated the replacement of my Michelin Road 5 rear tyre.  All of them happened in out of the way places and I'm glad that I always carry an electric pump and 3 different options for repairing a puncture.  Overkill?  Not when you live out in the boondocks!  The next picture shows me fixing a puncture with "dog turds" during a training ride.  Hopefully, the run of bad luck has finished.

The smile is more relief than amusement!

November
Long-term readers might remember that an adorable, tiny stray kitten just a few weeks old turned up at our place in 2011 and never left.  We called her Annie (as in Little Orphan Annie).  A few weeks after she turned up, my old cat passed on and since then, Annie made it her business to supervise everything I do.  She's rarely far from my side when I'm at home.  Here she is making sure that my computer work is up to scratch and it looks like I've been found wanting by her expression! 

Must try harder, human!

December
Jennie's birthday and took her completely by surprise with a wooden skeleton clock which I'd commissioned a friend to make for her.  All sorts of tricks were pulled and white lies told to throw her off the scent.  The details are mentioned in a recent post but to say that she loves it is an understatement.  Had to laugh when she told me that she'd been monitoring our joint account to see what I'd spent in the run-up to her birthday.  Thought she might so had a crafty way to get round that!

One happy lady....

Whilst in Auckland helping to run a motorcycle course, I stayed with our daughter Victoria and son in law Luke.  Luke is a landscape architect and his design for public seating was chosen as part of the Auckland waterfront upgrade in time for the America's Cup defence in 2021.   The first one has just been installed.  Consisting of computer-cut slats with internal lighting for nighttime, it looks spectacular.  Very proud of what Luke is achieving so early in his career.

Cool public seating at the Viaduct Basin, Auckland

December sees millions of pohutukawa trees in full bloom in NZ.  The photo below was taken from our son's house on Christmas Eve.  The crimson blooms have formed a carpet of red "needles" in the road.  A whole lot better than snow!

Colour me red.....


Looking forward to what 2019 might hold.  The "knowns" are a hip replacement for Jennie which will see her out of pain at last, a visit from old friends from the UK, a trip to China and replacing my Suzuki (Official Permission, no less!) .  I'm sure that there will be many more surprises along the way!

Here's wishing all fellow bloggers and readers a fabulous and safe 2019!



Monday, 3 December 2018

A piece of art and a connection to bikes

I'd like to introduce Graham Christmas.  Graham is a fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists member, Aprilia Tuono V4 and GSX-R owner, keen on trackdays and also enjoys mountain biking.

Graham - trackday on the Tuono

Graham and wife Tessa at the trackday briefing

Apart from our motorcycle connection, Graham is a qualified cabinetmaker and a master craftsman.  Both Jennie and I love all forms of art that uses traditional skills, irrespective of the medium used - painting, pottery, metal or wood etc.  It would a tragedy if these skills die out and we have a few original one-off pieces of art in several types of media.  My pride and joy is the Damascus Steel carving knife shown HERE .

Jennie's birthday is at the beginning of December and back in August, I asked her what she wanted as a present.  "Dunno" she says, "But as I'm buying new bike suspension for your birthday, mine better be good".  The onus was clearly on me with that shot across the bows!

All sorts of things were briefly considered and rejected for various reasons but one stuck.  Graham is multi-talented and makes anything which requires high level cabinetmaking skills.  Ages ago, Jennie had seen the photo of a wooden skeleton free-standing clock which Graham made and fell in love with it.  Why not talk to Graham and see if he would make her a skeleton mantle clock to go on our dining room sideboard which is made from solid rimu timber?

A quick email to Graham and the answer was a very positive "yes"!  Then came the drama of figuring out a design which would please Jennie without raising suspicions.  Fortunately, we've been together long enough to know that she loves clean, simple art, very much in the Japanese taste.  More emails and sketches followed and a basic design was settled on.  The frame was to be made in walnut, the gears from beech and the clock dial from NZ heart rimu.  Graham then got stuck into the detailed design calculations.

Early design sketches (source: Graham)

One problem was that Jennie and I have joint accounts and I didn't want to face a grilling on expenditure so Graham graciously offered to let me make full and final payment on her birthday.  However, I sneakily withdrew small amounts of cash and sent them to him to cover material costs.  Jennie admitted later that she did indeed monitor our accounts to see if she could get an inkling as to what was going on but she failed to spot anything!  Haha - 1-0 to me!

As Graham was building the clock, he kept photos of the construction so that he could put the story of the construction together as an electronic presentation to Jennie as part of its history over the years to come. I also made a booklet of the emails between Graham and me so she could see all the discussions, not to mention deviousness which went into getting the final result!

Cutting the beech gears (source: Graham)

Spokeshave work on the frame (source: Graham)

Ready for assembly, polishing and calibration (source: Graham)

A couple of weeks ago, got a call from Graham that the clock was ready and as he was going to be just a couple of hours from where we lived doing a trackday and some downhill mountain biking, would I like to meet him and pick up the clock?  Going on the bike posed a problem in transporting the clock.  Going in the car needed a story to stop Jennie coming along for a ride!  Not exactly telling lies but being economical with the truth, so to speak!  

Me: "Honey, I'm off in the car to meet an IAM mate (true) to talk about the upcoming training course (untrue)".  Jennie: "Why aren't you taking the bike?"   Me:  "Don't want to risk another puncture on a quick trip and besides, I have all these training course notes to carry" (brandishing a heap of IAM documents lifted from my cupboard in anticipation of difficult questions). Haha, 2-0 to me!

The sneaky handover from Graham

The stunning finished article


A very happy Jennie

Massive thanks to master craftsman Graham for making such a magnificent clock - a genuine piece of original art.  I can't thank him enough for helping deliver the complete birthday surprise for my soulmate.  You can judge the standard of his work from the photos on his website.  His clocks are HERE and his other superb items are HERE

I've already got permission to replace the bike next year so I was simply happy to help make Jennie's day a memorable one as opposed to using up brownie points with a heap of grovelling!