The Secret Diary of Adrian Petford Aged 39¾

You are 4!

Posted in Auckland,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 15th, 2009

Before I left Auckland, I had a very important task to perform – buying Chevelle’s birthday present for her party the next day. On Saturday, I headed off to the cumbersomely named “Westfield WestCity Henderson” mall which is the largest shopping complex in the local area. Being used to the immense Merry Hill centre at home (now also owned by Westfield), I always find it odd how each suburb has its own shopping mall but they are smaller with less choice. Often you have to try two or three before you can get what you want, if you’re looking for something obscure.

I haven’t been back to Henderson for years (I’m thinking it could be as long ago as 2001) so it was interesting to see the mall, which seems to have hardly changed. I had lunch in the food court and went to Whitcoulls (the New Zealand equivalent of WH Smith) to look for storybooks. I thought if I buy one for Chevelle I’ll probably get to read it to her! No self interest there at all then, oh no…

Uncle Adrian's careful preparations for Chevelle's 4th birthday – 08-Aug-2009
Uncle Adrian’s careful preparations for Chevelle’s 4th birthday – 08-Aug-2009

I found something perfect – My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton – so perfect in fact that I thought they’d probably have it already, but it turns out they haven’t as I called Steve to ask. Guess what? Champers, one of their cats, likes to hide in boxes. Result!

I bought the book, a nice pink bag to put it in and a 4th birthday card with a cat on, so was well pleased with those choices. In fact the book was the first I picked up off the shelf, which must’ve been an omen.

Chevelle's playhouse – 09-Aug-2009
Chevelle’s playhouse – 09-Aug-2009

I drove over to Titirangi on Sunday morning for the birthday party. Arriving at Steve and Cherie’s I saw Chevelle’s main present, a large plastic playhouse and it’s brilliant! It’s pink and white with a door and letterbox, swing out seats and a basin and mirror inside. There are even little trays for flowers to go in! Apparently the tarpaulin they had over it began to slide off in the night so Chevelle saw it first thing in the morning and was absolutely amazed. She’s going around pointing at the house saying “Mummy’s house” and then the playhouse, “MY house”! Judging by the amount of books and stuff in the playhouse it looks like she’s already preparing to move out!

She smiled and laughed when I arrived, although with two other kids there as well she was far too busy in the playhouse to take notice of anything else! I gave her my present, which she loved and it was already safely in her bookcase by the end of the day. Tania arrived with Max and then there were four bundles of energy running around at lightspeed! They played on the trampoline and in the house, ran about while Chevelle also rode her bike around. An attempt to feed the ducks was aborted when no one could find the ducks! They’d obviously taken cover (they did turn up later). Then it was time for party food so the kids all lined up as it was dished out. Cherie had done a brilliant spread, miniature spring rolls, burgers, sausages, crisps, cheese, dips etc. which were all delicious. Chevelle’s birthday cake was chocolate with bright pink icing and a silver “4” on top. The wind blew out the candles as Cherie brought it out, but Chevelle still made a valiant attempt to blow them out!

Champers. After a hard day's sleeping, it's time for a quick nap... – 09-Aug-2009
Champers. After a hard day’s sleeping, it’s time for a quick nap… – 09-Aug-2009

In the afternoon I chilled out with the grown ups as the kids bounced around on next door’s full size trampoline. This was hilarious to see. Chevelle was standing up most of the time while the others had fallen over in a heap but were still bouncing up and down!

Around 6.00pm I was called upstairs for bedtime story duty! I got to read my storybook to Chevelle and she enjoyed it so much she asked me to read it again. I also got to read another one to her. She’s very intelligent and imaginative.

A very nice pasta dinner ensued with Steve and Cherie. I talked about my road trip and they gave me lots of good advice. Cherie talked about some of their past holidays and tours of the South Island. Steve has already had to repair Chevelle’s new Barbie fairytale castle! I left around 9.30pm and felt quite emotional as I was driving away; although I’ll be back in two weeks it was sad to leave them. All in all the day was great fun and I was really pleased to be a part of it.

And so the first stage of my trip was over. Next stop Dunedin…

Bethells Beach

Posted in Auckland,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 14th, 2009

Chances are, if you’ve ever enjoyed a film or television production made in Auckland, at one time or another you will have seen one of the west coast beaches in the Waitakere ranges. Piha is the most famous and highest profile, but consequently busiest, so the others are often easier to film on. Karekare was the beach featured in the acclaimed film The Piano and Bethells Beach (or Te Henga to give it its Maori name) was first introduced to me as a very regular location in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys where it doubled for everywhere from ancient Greece to the shores of Ireland! Since then the beach has been revisited by many of my favourite locally produced shows such as Being Eve, Outrageous Fortune and the Martin Clunes film, The Man Who Lost His Head.

Bethells Beach is a really special place even without all these connections to popular culture. It has all sorts of interesting and spectacular scenery including a very distinctive headland, a large cave (only accessible at low tide), a couple of islands and some great spots for sitting, chilling out and just watching the waves breaking on the shore.

The cave, Bethells Beach. This can only be entered at low tide – 08-Aug-2009
The cave, Bethells Beach. This can only be entered at low tide – 08-Aug-2009
The island, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
The island, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009

I’ve been there so many times now I’ve lost count, but just never get tired of it. On the Saturday before I left on my road trip it was time for the obligatory return visit to Bethells, so Chris and I headed out at 3.00pm. We had to “get a wriggle on” (to use a local expression) as there were only a couple of hours of light left. We drove there via Swanson, one of my lesser travelled routes and then up Waitakere Road and Bethells Road.

Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009

The beach was busy that day – we saw a surfer, a kite flyer, lots of dog walkers and even someone flying a model aeroplane. There was also a fashion shoot going on as we arrived – a dark haired model in a long white dress was posing for photos up in the dunes. It was a really nice day with little wind. I got some great pictures of the waves breaking and of the sun above the north end of the beach.

We walked all the way down to the cave and back, although I kept my distance as there were some boisterous youths larking around there who I wanted to avoid. The sunset was largely obscured by cloud but still bathed the beach in a magical light and the walk back to the car at dusk was equally pleasant.

Bethells Beach, looking south – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking south – 08-Aug-2009
Sand dunes, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Sand dunes, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, southern end – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, southern end – 08-Aug-2009
Chris at the cave, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Chris at the cave, Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009
Bethells Beach, looking north – 08-Aug-2009
Sunset at Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009
Sunset at Bethells Beach – 08-Aug-2009

As well as lots of photos, I shot some video on my phone of the beach, something I’m trying to do at all the notable sights this time. The route back was via Te Henga Road and Scenic Drive which is always an interesting journey. Personally, my visits to New Zealand are never complete without a trip to Bethells Beach so it was good to have an opportunity to go back to this old favourite.

Auckland – back in the City of Sails

Posted in Auckland,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 8th, 2009

I have had a brilliant week back in Auckland, the place I regard as my second home. The weather has been amazing; sunny and largely cloudless every day. I’ve been so lucky. You wouldn’t believe it’s winter, apart from the fact it’s colder than normal. On Thursday it was so hot I had to roll up my sleeves and wished I’d brought a hat to shield me from the sun! I know I’ve had it easy and I’m sure I’ll get a rude awakening, weather wise, down in the South Island next week, but it couldn’t have worked out better so far.

Sky Tower, Auckland city – 04-Aug-2009
Sky Tower, Auckland city – 04-Aug-2009

On Tuesday I spent most of the day wandering around the city centre, and shopping. There’s so much to do on Queen Street, Auckland’s main drag. I had lunch with Steve in the IMAX centre’s food court and stocked up on some local DVDs and CDs courtesy of Marbecks, my favourite record shop here. Had a walk along Harbourside, the marina and the former Americas Cup village. Not much has changed in the city; the odd new or altered building here and there but otherwise it’s all very comfortable and familiar ground. It’s nice to be back.

Later on Tuesday I went over to Steve and Cherie’s for dinner and was quickly commandeered for bedtime story duty in Steve’s absence! It was a lovely moment, I really enjoyed it. Chevelle was laughing and giggling all the time. I often can’t tell what she’s saying and just laugh along with her which just makes her giggle more. She’s full of energy even before bedtime! Apparently she loved the story. Phew!

Over dinner they both recommended I stop in Oamaru rather than Timaru as there’s much more interesting stuff to see in Oamaru, including a penguin colony, just the sort of thing I like. It’s also a good base for starting the trip to the lakes. I like this idea and think I might rethink my plans so I can do it.

I drove down to Huia on Wednesday. This is very close to where I am based but, surprisingly, I’ve never been there before. There were stunning views from the lookout at Huia Point, of Huia itself, Manukau harbour and out to the Manukau heads. I also spent some time in Little Huia which is a beautiful, relaxed and peaceful spot.

View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009
View from Huia Point – 05-Aug-2009

I enjoyed a fun lunch with Cherie and Chevelle on Thursday where we had the famous Kiwi delicacy of “fush and chups”! This is a treat in between Chevelle’s swimming class in the morning and kindergarten in the afternoon so it was nice to be part of it this time. I ended up staying for the afternoon so was there to pick up Chevelle from kindy as well which was fun to see. My work colleagues might be envious to hear that there are only twenty kids in the kindergarten shared between four teachers! Chevelle was still bouncing around full of energy. Usually Cherie walks back home to wear her out but this time we were in the car – “hmmm, looks like it should’ve been a walking day”, she said!

Back home I read Chevelle some poems from her book, including a new one she’d stuck in today which was great fun and then it was out to play! She started on her trampoline and bounced up and down like crazy! I got some really funny pictures. After that hour, I’m now an expert in throw and catch, spinning around in a circle as fast as I can, shooting a miniature basketball hoop, running along behind a bike (with stabilisers) and balancing a ball on my head. I was exhausted but it was fantastic fun! Chevelle’s a great little girl. Hopefully I’d worn her out enough for Steve and Cherie to get a peaceful night!

ZK-LAT at Ardmore Airport – 07-Aug-2009
ZK-LAT at Ardmore Airport – 07-Aug-2009

I had a great day out with Chris on Friday. We went to Ardmore Airport first to have a look around. This is a busy general aviation airfield so there is lots to see. Chris told me of his exploits at engineering school here many years ago. They used to build all sorts of fantastical contraptions just to pass the time, that’s when they weren’t chatting up the trainee teachers at the teaching college that was also here! We parked up by the runway and watched quite a few take offs and landings, some better than others as the student pilots were obviously out practising!

Then it was off to Hunua Falls which is always a nice run through the Hunua ranges. The falls were fuller than I’d ever seen them and the pool was noticeably higher. We went down to the bottom to take some photos and Chris, in typical Chris style, charged off climbing up the rocks to get photos from the far side. I preferred to stick to the proper walking tracks that are within my capabilities. We went to the lower lookout and then to a track marked “No Access to Waterfall”. This must be the unacknowledged “abseil track” – yes, people do abseil down the side of the falls! I quickly saw it would be too much for me to climb but Chris set off with the intention of going all the way up. I returned to the lower lookout and waited for any sightings of him at the top of the falls!

Hunua Falls – 07-Aug-2009
Hunua Falls – 07-Aug-2009

I wondered whether or not to do the upper lookout track, but ended up sitting in the lower lookout. It was good to spend some time just relaxing and enjoying this beautiful place. Although there were no signs of Chris at the top of the falls (I found out later he had gone up but didn’t want to risk going past all the fences and warning signs) but we met later by the pool. I gingerly made my way over to the far side from the lower lookout steps (it involved climbing down some high rocks which was a bit hairy) and took some great photos from this close, unusual angle underneath the falls.

After a lunch stop at a rustic wooden building amusingly called a “supermarket” – it’s the only shop for about ten miles – we headed back via Clevedon village and the east coast. We saw the Firth of Thames and the Coromandel in the distance and later Waiheke Island while going through Maraetai. We stopped off at Murphy’s Bush for a quick look around. This is typical of the unusual natural sights you can find in New Zealand – a small area of undisturbed bush, with a cleared section in the middle but right by the main roads. Inside you really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and the bush must go on for miles, the effect is uncanny. Once finished here, we drove back towards the city. It’s always good to go out with Chris as he takes you on very unusual routes and this was no exception.

This week has been really good – totally packed with varied activities. It’s been every bit as enjoyable as my more conventional trips in the summer. I’m so glad to be back here.

Happy anniversary!

Posted in Auckland,New Zealand 2009 by Adrian Petford on August 3rd, 2009

Jet lag’s got me again, 3.30am and I was wide awake! Later I was delighted to see blue sky out of the window as dawn broke. It turned out to be a lovely day and I started in coat and jumper but could have easily ended up in a T-shirt, really warm. This is my first experience of New Zealand in winter. I am finding it much colder here than usual, when it is cold, but it’s very tolerable in comparison to winter at home!

It has been fantastic having my new netbook – a Samsung N110 – with me; in many ways it was an impulse purchase but I absolutely love it. It’s been so useful being able to keep up with friends at home and all the fun and games on Facebook!

Chris and I had some breakfast and then headed out to Manukau to pick up my hire car. I’ve hired from this place several times before and everything worked out really well. I have a lovely blue Toyota Starlet which I was able to get back into driving effortlessly having had them before. So far, I’ve been able to navigate around Auckland without looking at the map once, not bad considering I haven’t been here for four years. We stopped at a shopping centre on the way back. The sky was a glorious blue as an Emirates plane – which I think was EK406 that I was on this time yesterday – roared overhead, really low on approach to the airport. Hope they had a better flight than I did!

After lunch at my favourite kebab place it was time to head over to Steve and Cherie’s as I had been invited to their anniversary party; it’s ten years since they moved to New Zealand. Wow, ten years. I was their first visitor then and now I’m back! It meant so much to me to be able to be there.

It was a great feeling driving in and being greeted by Cherie, Steve and Chevelle. I still can’t quite believe I’m here to do this! They made a huge fuss of me and even Chevelle put her arms around me! What a lovely little girl she is. She remembered me from when I met up with them in Liverpool last year and I can’t believe how much she’s talking! I found out later it’s her fourth birthday party next weekend and I’ll be able to go. We had a brilliant afternoon, great company and full of laughs permeated by buffet snacks and awesome pizzas courtesy of Steve in full chef mode. I met a couple of their friends and their kids, reacquainted with the next door neighbours and it was particularly great to see Tania and Mike (Cherie’s sister and brother in law) again, with Max who was a lump in Tania’s tummy last time I was here! Chevelle had a great time riding her bike and playing with the other kids. There were zombies, monsters and all kinds of things going on! I loved looking at the new photos on the walls, of Chevelle, Steve and Cherie’s wedding and some new family photos, I found it quite overwhelming and emotional. My only regret from today is that I didn’t get chance to take any photos, but I’m sure Chevelle’s birthday party will make up for that!

By the evening people started to go, but I stayed until around 9.00pm. We caught up, watched some videos but I was seriously flagging by this point. Steve said I should go back to Chris’ while I was still able to drive, so I said my goodbyes. They both made a big fuss of me as I left and said how wonderful it was I was here again, especially as it had fallen into place at such short notice. I agree, not least because of them. They’ve done so much for me and bring so much fun and happiness into my life.

Overall this was an exceptional start to my holiday, what a brilliant day! Here’s to the next ten years…