From home - first light 2021
My first inclinations were not to write anything about 2020 for obvious reasons. I also felt a bit of guilt because NZ dodged a bullet compared with most of the world, thanks to prompt and decisive action by our authorities following good science advice which allowed us to resume a pretty much normal life from mid-year. Nonetheless, there was much to be quietly thankful for and in hindsight, it did provide an opportunity for a mental re-set with respect to the things which are truly important in one's life. There were actually a surprising number of positive things which make for good memories.
Thinking back, our story started in mid-2019 as we found ourselves in Wuhan to start a boat trip up the Yangtze river as part of travelling through China (HERE). No hint of things to come of course although we both developed head colds shortly afterwards.
Moving through to February, 3 mates and I did a 2100 km "Green Badge" tour of the north island, combining it with attending the Institute of Advanced Motorists annual conference (Part 1). What a grand trip that was, sticking to the back roads as much as possible with minimal other traffic about. The Duke 790 proved to be a competent tourer with minimalist luggage and its light weight and razor-sharp steering really reduced riding fatigue.
The Forgotten World Highway - Moki Tunnel with Tony, Lloyd and Rex
It wasn't long after the tour when all hell broke loose. Jennie had just flown halfway round the world to visit her sister in the UK when NZ announced the intention to close its borders, then go into lockdown. A couple of days of panic ensued to get her home. It was extremely close but thanks to our travel agent, she got home with no dramas, apart from it being a very expensive 6 days away from home!
Lockdown itself wasn't particularly difficult as I behaved myself and Jennie didn't end up sticking a knife in my vital organs! The main project was to digitize 35mm slides, negatives and old photos that we've had sitting about in boxes for multiple decades. We bought a high quality scanner and some imaging software and have digitized about 2000 images to date. It's been great fun although some of the fashions were cringe-worthy and have provided endless merriment for our kids. The only consolation was that we all looked fairly similar in those days!
1976 - Jennie expecting our first child. Least said about the fashions the better!
1971 - me (right) at a mate's wedding in Wales. Oh dear.....
There are still undiscovered slides lurking somewhere in the house which I'm very keen to find. One set is from the 1969 Isle of Man TT and the other is from the 1970 UK-USA Transatlantic Match racing series with legendary names like Cal Rayborn, Gary Nixon and Paul Smart taking part. Those photos really will be a blast from the past!
Post-lockdown, it was back into fishing from our runabout with Jennie still catching more than me! Motorcycling also resumed but interestingly during lockdown, I wasn't jumping up and down waiting to get on the road again which was slightly worrying. However, when the time came, the first long solo ride in sunny winter conditions was absolutely wonderful and great for the soul.
Jennie waiting for the big one just outside Coromandel harbour
Unfortunately, a cataract in one eye had developed, arising from emergency surgery I had at the end of 2019 for a retinal tear. It wasn't bad but was distracting when riding the motorcycle. Further surgery to replace the lens was necessary. It took just 20 minutes with no discomfort at all and I now have great vision again.
Part of our garden was in dire need of attention and we took to the foliage with saws and slashers. That part sloped quite steeply and was also pretty slippery so we decided to get a tradesperson in to build steps. That plan backfired big time as it was impossible to get one so we did it ourselves. The downside was that took a solid month of hard work to do all the landscaping and put in new plants, plus being completely stuffed every evening! The upside was that we saved money by doing it ourselves and it was really satisfying to learn new skills!
The first photo below is before we started the rebuild, having just cleared some of the foliage. The second photo is how it is now.
Before the landscaping
How it is now
Back into regular riding, the slightly "snatchy" KTM front brakes which had manifested themselves from almost new had got worse and made slow speed handling rather tricky. Some measurements were taken and both disc rotors had warped. Fortunately, both my dealer and the KTM importer supported them being replaced under warranty and they're now as they should be. Actually, better than they've ever been because the EBC HH pads fitted in lockdown really give them some bite!
Brand new rotors being bedded in
Taking out a couple of serving police officers for their advanced assessments was a personal riding highlight. One was a car-based Highway Patrol officer who was an ex-UK Class 1 bike cop. Following him "making progress" on his big Honda ST1300 down tight country lanes was an utter privilege. He'd lost none of his skills and made riding at pace look easy, which it certainly wasn't.
Officer Trevor having sailed through his Advanced Test
Another delight was that our 15 year old Jacaranda tree has flowered for the first time. Patience had worn a bit thin and the bloody thing was edging closer to the chainsaw every year. Perhaps trees can pick up the vibes as one morning, there it was covered in blue blossom - amazing. A new gardening technique - waving a chainsaw at plants that aren't living up to expectations!
Jacaranda in full bloom
With Christmas having come and gone, it's worth mentioning a "Santa" present I got from Jennie which typifies her wicked (warped?) sense of humour. I spent much of my working life as a professional engineer. Jennie thinks that all engineers are socially awkward, bordering on AS or OCD. Indeed, in her more exasperated moments, she has remarked more than once that it's like living with a 5 year old. Personally, I think that says more about her school ma'am background than about me but however....
Anyway, unwrapping one of the Santa presents, this is what appeared:
The Engineers Activity Book for Children
It's from a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics series encouraging young people to follow one of the sciences as a career. She clearly thought that it was pitched at my level and that's why I love her to bits - she doesn't take prisoners!
Overall and despite the horrors that Covid has inflicted on the world, there has been a good amount of normality and high points for us. Hopefully, a travel bubble will soon open between NZ and Australia, allowing us to catch up with our daughter and her husband. They moved to Melbourne at the start of 2020 and she now holds a senior psychologist position in the Department of Justice. Not bad in less than 12 months.
Wishing everyone everything that you'd wish for yourselves and may 2021 be a whole lot better for all of us!
Jennie, granddaughter Molly and me, Christmas 2020