Wheel alignment

Saturday 23 December 2023

2023 - a mixed bag review

Tropical cyclones and lesser storms, a change in government, significant surgery, spending more time out and about in our classic car, a major time-consuming project of Jennie's and a host of other things made for an unusual year in New Zealand.  However, there was still much to be thankful for.  In this review, I've used photos wherever possible which haven't been previously posted. 


Our region got hit by a series of tropical storms which caused widespread flooding and landslides, including a major arterial route which has only just reopened.  This caused significant economic damage to the Coromandel Peninsula because of access difficulties for visitors.  Fortunately, the direct impact on us was relatively small as we don't often need to use the roads with the biggest damage.  Here's an excellent video of the area since it reopened in December, courtesy of Deano's Motorcycle Rides:

The crappy weather actually offered a serendipitous opportunity for a black and white photo early one Sunday morning.  We get very little in the way of fog where we live but the wet, warm conditions had created a fog bank across the harbour.  I thought that a photo with the fog behind one of the locally moored yachts would make a good composition so I walked down the road and blazed off a few shots.  It wasn't until I got home that it was apparent that I'd also captured a gull flying past which added to the interest.

Long Bay Road, Coromandel

February and March

Jennie's sister Sue arrived from the UK for a couple of months.  That's quite a bit of time to have someone else under the same roof but Sue is so easy to get along with that the time just flew by.  Mind you, it didn't get off to a good start with Cyclone Gabrielle making landfall just a few days after her arrival.  We were all booked to attend a British classic car festival on the other side of our peninsula, which was really touch and go.  The first couple of days were in perfect conditions but we decided to cut and run at the end of day 2.  Just as well as  the roads we needed to get home became impassable not long after we got back.  Mercifully, no damage to our property apart from broken branches but a lot of local infrastructure damage.

Jennie and Sue, overlooking Coromandel Harbour where we live

Fortunately, the rest of Sue's stay was in pretty good weather so we were able to act as tourist guides around the upper north island.  During a trip to the Rotorua area, we visited Wingspan, the national bird of prey centre where they are rehabilitated and also bred to release back into the wild.  Watching birds being taught to hunt is quite an experience and having a NZ native falcon (Karearea) perch on your arm is surprisingly emotional.

Sue with a NZ native falcon


The more settled weather meant I could get out more on the e-mountain bike to maintain fitness in readiness for a knee replacement, whenever that may be.  I'd covered about 2500 km on the bike, mainly on the off-road trails in our area and as a bonus; had shed just over 10kg.  Good for overall health and less load on my dodgy knees!

Some local off-roading fun without face plants

April also signalled 12 months since retiring from riding - an opportune time for reflection as to whether I'd retired in a timely fashion or pulled the trigger too early.  Not too much reflection required - still love bikes but preparation for eventual riding retirement over several years means that my fall-back interests offer new and interesting pathways.  I think I got it right!

The start of the very last ride - April 2022

One of the fall-backs was joining the Whitianga Classic Car Club.  I'm quite happy just driving with Jennie on our own but the members of WCCC are a delight to travel with to a lunch destination somewhere round the Peninsula.  A great mix of vehicles from Ferrari through to Morris Minor Countryman but there are absolutely no egos on display with everyone down to earth.  There must be some deep pockets though.  The Ferrari 355 shown below requires regular cam belt changes - every handful of years.  To replace it, the engine has to come out.  How about something in the region of $10,000 for the job?  In a similar vein, 10 year old XK Jaguars and similar are really going to hit you in the wallet when things go wrong, hence the very modest purchase price thanks to massive depreciation.  I'm happy to have chosen an MGB GT!

MGB GT, Ferrari 355 and Daimler Sovereign at a lunch stop


May saw the first "proper" maintenance on the MGB GT with a complete flush of the cooling system.  The previous owner was meticulous with record-keeping of the restoration but there was almost no information on what routine maintenance had been carried out.  Flushing the system and adding a long-life coolant was surprisingly easy and something I shouldn't have to do again for a few years.   The purchase of  an infra red heat gun to check the temperature of various components triggered a bit of eye-rolling in certain quarters but eye-rolling is a common occurrence in our household anyway!

Yet another toy, sigh.....

I also became involved in the design and construction of a school science experiment chosen by our  granddaughter Georgia. She wanted to build a power-generating waterwheel and test power output against a number of variables.  It was all a bit of a panic due to time constraints but raiding the local transfer station and working with Georgia on building it was an absolute privilege.  Her work ethic couldn't be faulted and we had a huge amount of fun together.  Her experiments all worked and she achieved an "exceeded expectations" grade in her accelerated learning class.  Her work was also submitted to a regional science fair and was awarded a silver rosette.  Enormously proud of that young lady and the future is in good hands with young people like her.

Waterwheel spin test


The winter month of June sees a lot of bird life in the garden, both drinking nectar from some of our flowering plants, plus seeds we put out.  Here are some photos I took.

Native pigeon (kereru) in a palm tree

A flock of California Quail waiting for a feed


A quiet month apart from it being our 51st wedding anniversary.  Hopped on my MTB for an off-road ride and was no more than 10 minutes from home when I realised the significance of the date.  Jennie hadn't said a word about our anniversary which I took to mean that I was in deep poo.  Turned the bike straight round, rode home and planted a big kiss on Jennie.  "What was that for?", she said.  Both of us had forgotten the date - a lucky escape!  In our defence, we had already organised a trip to Rarotonga to celebrate a couple of months beforehand but that wasn't due to actually happen for another couple of weeks.  We did go out to a local restaurant that evening!

July 1972, Kent, England

There was a bit of domestic activity having commissioned a stained glass window for one of our bedrooms which was based on a photo I took in the garden of a nectar-eating Tui on one of our succulents.  Perched on a ladder whilst lifting the window into position wasn't for the faint-hearted and I was glad to complete the job without incident.

A nice bit of stained glass work

August and September

The long-awaited surgery to replace a knee suddenly got serious with it being scheduled for the last day of August.  We'd already booked a vacation on the Pacific Island of Rarotonga which only left a few days to get organised when we got back.  

The surgery took place at a private hospital in Auckland and the all-female surgical team were outstanding.  I'd elected to just have a spinal block to avoid the downsides of a general anaesthetic and it worked out well.  I was able to have running banter with the team throughout the procedure and also listened to music through my earbuds and phone.  The surgery was completely pain-free but rehabilitation has been hard going.  Jennie enjoyed making me walk up to 1 km a day on crutches as soon as we got home from hospital, the slave driver!

Part of rehab by walking up and down our road!

Four months after surgery and diligently doing flexibility exercises on a daily basis, I've regained about 90% of my original movement and it's wonderful to have a stable and pain-free knee.  The pain comes from doing the exercises but that's only a short term inconvenience.  I'm spending up to an hour a day on my old mountain bike in a resistance frame and I should be good to get out on the off-road trails on my e-MTB in early 2024.  A little way to go yet before being 100% but it's nice to feel reasonably active again.  


Although I could drive our modern automatic cars within 2 weeks of surgery, it was October before I could drive the MGB with its manual shift, but mainly due to it being difficult to get in and out of!  It was also a busy month supporting Jennie.  She's president of our local School of Mines Museum and was project managing the installation of a mid-1800's building on the site - a substantial job. A date was set for the district mayor to formally open the building, along with invited guests.  The pressure was on to complete various renovations so yours truly volunteered for that and it was completed in the nick of time.

The opening was an outstanding success with plenty of great feedback.  I was enormously proud of Jennie's tenacity over the many months of planning and execution.  It involved dealing with government departments controlling heritage building rules, the local council, applying for grants, coordinating tradespeople (shudder) and a zillion other things.  She got plenty of positive coverage in our regional news magazine and even made the cover along with the mayor!

Cover Girl Jennie!

With spring well underway, it was a good time for more bird life photography.  I was particularly pleased with the photo of a Tui in our kowhai tree, which is the national flower of NZ.

Tui getting nectar from a kowhai tree

I also turned 76 but that's irrelevant as I stopped counting years ago.  Jennie maintains that it's like living with a 5 year old which is further proof that chronological age means absolutely nothing!

October also saw a change of government.  The major parties in NZ don't tend to have the huge ideological gap which is often seen overseas and quite a few policies overlap.  I try to avoid politics and concentrate on the things which I can have a degree of control or influence over, apart from voting of course.  However, it's really disappointing to see the shortage of politicians who behave in a statesmanlike manner and with integrity among any of the parties.  Much the same throughout the world, I suspect.  Sigh......


We had another outing with the Whitianga Classic Car Club to sample lunch at a newly-opened cafe on the peninsula.  A great turn-out and we weren't disappointed with the venue and food quality either.

Some of the assembled classic cars

In the photo above, the nearest car is a Triumph TR4A.  The owner and his wife were really nice people and we chatted about cars for some time before going our separate ways.  He wore a club name badge and on the way home, I said to Jennie that his name, Keith Skilling; sounded familiar but I didn't know why.  A few days later, I Googled the name and there it was!  Aviation enthusiasts will know that a NZ company has restored a number of WW2 Mosquito fighter bombers to flying condition. It turns out that Keith was the test pilot for the very first one! 

He's also a senior Warbirds pilot and has flown a Hurricane 

Also a Corsair  

It was a privilege to meet someone so exalted in aviation circles, particularly so humble and ego-free in real life.  

The major blog post in November was to catalogue all the bikes I'd owned since starting motorcycling in 1964, together with the memories which each of them still stir up.  Looking back, it's not hard to figure out that retirement from riding wasn't that hard after the sheer variety of 2-wheeled adventures.  It's simply not possible to find a single photo which sums up motorcycling spanning 58 years but perhaps the following one comes close.

It was taken in late May 2003 in the Central North Island with the active volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park dusted in snow.  I'd got up early for a day ride and there was virtually nothing else on the route I'd chosen.  Solitude, me and my thoughts, the Blackbird and majestic scenery.  Says it all really about why we ride.

Tongariro National Park, NZ


The good weather is here and all the pohutukawa trees in our region have come into bloom. Great weather, Christmas reunions and BBQ's with the extended family and friends are all genuinely good for the soul. Celebrations with our kids and grandkids are only a day away and we'll catch up with our Melbourne-based daughter and husband in January when they return for a flying visit.  We even managed to take the boat out fishing again for the first time in 2023.  Uncharacteristically, I also caught the biggest fish!

Here's wishing all readers of this blog a spectacular 2024, lots of happiness and good health.  May the world be a better place than it has been in 2023.

Wicker picnic hamper and tartan rug - how very British!

All the very best from Coromandel, NZ!



  1. Wow! What a year it has been.

    Merry Christmas!🎄

    1. Thanks and the same to you guys Richard. I would be happy to have avoided some of it! I 😄

  2. Another busy year Geoff. Glad to hear you are healing up and will be soon "kicking arse" with that new knee. 😄
    Merry Christmas to you and Jennie. Hope you both have a great holiday break.

    1. You only get one crack at life Dave - might as well fill it up with good stuff, eh? The same to you and the family!

  3. What a great recap, Geoff. You had fun, met cool people and were unharmed by storms and flooding. Despite the knee surgery it had been a happy and and overall good year for you both. Take care and best wishes for 2024. Cheers from the other side of the pond, SonjaM

  4. Thanks so much Sonja! Yes, more plusses than minuses I think. Likewise, all the very best for 2024!

  5. Orange has to be the best colour for an MGB GT!

    Friends of mine back in Blighty - The Beers - have been avid racers of the GT for many years and still restore them. Always trying to convince my father to upgrade his Ford Escort but he never does. Maybe I can encourage him with a nice wicker hamper and tartan rug for a Christmas gift!

    1. Thanks Dave! I love the colour, my wife doesn't but she lives with it because the car is in such good nick. Merry Christmas!

  6. Hi Geoff
    Hope you and Jennie had a great Christmas and New Year. Wishing you a prosperous new year and health.


    1. Same to you Steve. Another year older but not necessarily wiser eh? All the very best mate!


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