Monthly Archives: September 2011

Pricks up one’s ears

We have been doing quite a bit of driving over the past three weeks.  We’ve driven in cities, towns, hamlets and cross roads, across alluvial plains, through mountain ranges and forests, up hills, down dales and to and from a number of airports.  So far, fingers crossed, touch wood, salt over the shoulder etc., etc. this has been without incident.  But it has, at times, been very, very stressful.

I have always told people coming to New Zealand that kiwis are the worst drivers in the western world.  I am not exaggerating.  Remember, this is only my opinion but remember also, before scoffing, that my sample includes: NZ, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Greece, Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA and Canada.  I have also told these same people that travelling times can be tricky as many so-called highways, are, in fact, little more than narrow, winding donkey tracks; you can comfortably forget the schedule while stuck behind a logging truck crossing one of the countless mountain ranges creasing the landscape.  But having some terrible roads and a challenging geography does not explain why kiwis are such bad drivers.  And I am not sure that the relative age of the car fleet, a function of low incomes and cheap imported second hand cars, provides the answer either.  Let me share some of the examples of the driving that rankles.

Kiwis have a strange relationship to speed limits and the speed advisories you see just before some large bend in the road.  In urban environments, it is not unusual for people to travel well under the 50km/hour speed limit notwithstanding fine weather, good visibility and the fact that they are leading a 1 km tailback.  I just don’t get this.  And around scenic highways, a ton of people seem to think it is perfectly OK to hold everyone up as they pootle along at something less than 80km/hour viewing the scenery but speeding up to over the limit when catching sight of someone wanting to pass them.  As far as I can tell, speeding up when someone is passing you must be a road rule in NZ.  Kiwis also seem to take the speed advisories as something of a challenge.  You can almost hear them scoffing at the soft cocks advising 35km around a hairpin bend and seeing it as a challenge to take it at twice the speed and over the centre line.

The other thing that has gotten me all roiled up is that kiwis drive up your arse.  I’ve had some people following so closely I could feel their rancid breath on the back of my neck.  I’ve had to pull off the road a number of times to let these arse bandits past; and they include all kinds of drivers.  This must be a problem in NZ because there are safety advertisements on hoardings on the side of the road telling people to leave a gap.  Hear that dummies; LEAVE A FUCKING GAP!

The third area getting my goat is the ‘brown’s cows’ sale yards that are supermarket car parks and other uncontrolled intersections.  People are simultaneously hesitant and aggressive.  I know this doesn’t make sense but it is as if they get confused by the heavy traffic and are not sure what to do but they are bloody sure no other bugger is going to be allowed to do anything either so they sit and wait and nudge aggressively at any other moving cars.  These places are temples to an incompetent kind of bloody-mindedness.

So, a bi-polar attitude to speed limits and advisories, a desire to get up one’s bum and a stubborn stupidity, why?  No, I’m serious, WHY???

A capital idea

After the silent treatment on arrival in Wellington on Thursday 22 September, we were much luckier with our dining venue that night, The Eating House.  Here we were greeted like old friends and granted the very great privilege of a plate of Jonathan England’s perfectly cooked lambs (where does that possessive comma go?) brains with remoulade.  They are like so much creamy loveliness in light-as-air batter.  They are simply the best.  I was then nourished by deeply flavourful coq au vin while my dining companions were knocked out by the sticky, crunchy pork belly and the lambs (again with the possessive?) liver.  We concluded with our traditional short blacks and the most generous glasses of lemoncello we have ever had; it was more like a glass of wine.  Thanks to Jonathan and the team for a simply stunning welcome to the beating heart of the nation.

The following day, Friday 23 September, was a stunning sunny day perfectly well suited to a ‘drive up the line’.  We headed to the Hutt Valley before hacking west via a delicious breakfast at Pauatahnui to arrive at the top of Paekakariki Hill.  It was here my vertigo rendered me unable to drive.  I stopped the car in the middle of the narrow road and then walked behind the car down to the lookout where we debated whether some clouds to the north west were Mt. Taranaki or some rogue clouds.  (The dispute is still not settled.  My travelling companion is wrong, it was the mountain.)  I had to lie down in the back seat as I was driven down the hill to Paekakariki.

You can see for yourselves from the following photo, what I am talking about in terms of this view.

How great is Paekakariki?  A lovely collection of shops and several streets running parallel to the beach.  There has been a lot of development since I last visited but it seems to me to have retained a fairly down-to-earth character.  Just fantastic and less than an hour away from the big smoke.

We continued ‘up the line’ as far as the chilli fields of Otaki.  Purchases of fresh walnuts and chilli-related items made, we headed back to the city via the Kapiti Cheeses Shop at Lindale; I have to say that their hokey pokey ice cream was a terrible disappointment – my single scoop cone was totally without any of the crunchy nuggets that give the ice cream its name – and not a patch on the white chocolate and raspberry nor the port wine cheddar.

I know it is a long time ago but I remember family holidays at Raumati Beach in the 1970s when it was a small place of traditional kiwi bachs.  The most sophisticated thing about the place was the hot bread shop where we went every Saturday morning.  And there was a clear break and distinctive character to Raumati South, Raumati Beach and Paraparaumu.  Not any more.  We came off the highway at Raumati South and each of the three places blended one into the other.  We also came across some startling high-rise developments and several large big box retailers.  I guess this is progress.  Nostalgia properly belongs in the past; it is a foreign land.

Back to the present and the city for a much needed night in with our lovely, chubbly friends in Churton Park to see the dear old Wallabies hand out an old fashioned thrashing to theUSA ‘B’ team.

The silence of the lambs

You may be familiar with the film where Agent Clarice Starling is haunted by the screams of said animals.  You may also be familiar with the constant sheep-related references to people from New Zealand.  Well, I have a variation on these themes.

On arrival in Wellington from Nelson on Thursday 22 September, we presented ourselves to the Budget car rental concession on the ground floor of Rongatai Airport.  (We had previously rented a car from the same company in Nelson and found their representatives at Nelson airport to be extremely helpful and charming.)  Because of regulations we do not really understand and have never had fully explained, it is not permitted to take a rental car between NZ’s North and South islands.  As a result, the good people at Budget in Nelson amended our three separate rental bookings (one for Nelson, one for Wellington and then on return to Nelson, a third rental at that stage) to make one booking covering both islands and the three previous renting arrangements.  We were told this would result in a saving og around a 100 bucks, so thanks Budget in Nelson.  But back to arrival in Wellington.

I presented my copy of the booking and was met by nothing, not a word, by total silence.  The woman I handed over the document to whispered to a colleague and passed the document to him.  This new person spoke not a word to us.  There was much silent tapping on the computer, a creased brow and repeated detailed scrutiny of the booking document but nothing said to me.  After a couple of minutes of silent tapping, brow creasing and document scrutiny, my partner joined me at the counter and asked what was happening.  I had to admit that I had no idea and so said, sotto voce, that I was still waiting to know what was happening as no one had said anything to me.  This was enough for the unspeaking man to look up and glare at me.  But it was a silent glare, as much a challenge to my daring to speak but still no words were forthcoming.  Not to be intimidated by the silent treatment, I looked the man in the eye and asked if there was a problem.  I was told no.   I said that as no-one had actually spoken to me and there had been much tapping on the computer keyboard I had assumed there must have been some problem.  The man then assured my partner, not me, that there was no problem.  I was now to be ignored and for the remainder of the transaction I, the uppity, assertive, wanker wanting some level of customer service, was ignored and the man’s attention was given only to my partner, despite the rental being in my name.

A big thumbs down to the silent treatment at Budget in Wellington.  But there must be something in the water in Wellington striking some customer service staff mute.  At the Johnsonville Countdown supermarket on Friday 23 September, my check out person made some kind of cock up with the till and had to be assisted by a supervisor.  I, as the customer, was clearly peripheral to this cock up as both the check out person and the supervisor did not think it necessary to tell me what was happening.  For a couple of minutes I was kept waiting in silence while the mysterious cock up was fixed by the two staff.  I didn’t mind the cock up but I really would have liked to be spoken to.  As the silence wore on it was excruciating.

The silence of the lambs indeed.

A whine for all seasons

Having read my post from yesterday complaining about toilets and other things, I think this post should be positive.  What to write?

On our first night in Nelson (Monday 19 September – pension day for a very good friend) we turned to our copy of the small-sized Cuisine booklet promising 150 of the best NZ restaurants.  One place in Nelson got its own page, Hopgood’s Restaurant and Bar, a finalist in the casual dining, regional, award.  We had previously been to the joint winner of this category, Riverstone Kitchen, just north of Oamaru, for lunch on Friday 16 September, but only had a cafe style lunch menu to choose from and so can’t really appreciate the Cuisine judgment.

But back to Nelson, well back to Nelson via a quick detour to Woollahra.  One of our favourite, ‘big occasion’, restaurants in Sydney is Bistro Moncur in leafy, lovely Woollahra; one of my friends, originally from Canberra, suggests Woollahra is so polite, discrete, subtle and comfortable to warrant having its own independent Grand Duchy status.  And one of our favourite dishes on the menu is the twice cooked goat cheese souffle.  So, we both fell upon the Hopgood’s menu offering a twice cooked souffle.  It was superb, light and fluffy while simultaneously pleasingly moist.  Just lovely.

For our main course, I opted to go vegetarian and was duly rewarded by half a dozen fat, sloppy, pillows of spongy ravioli.  What attracted me to the dish in the first place was that it was served with broad beans, a personal favourite.  These were rather small but packed a big nutty, buttery taste.  My dining companion went with the lamb served with roesti and baby carrots.  He is a bit of a lamb afficcionado; I rarely cook it at home and so he usually orders it whenever he can to make up for my meanness; I don’t cook lamb at home because I grew up in New Zealand and the smell of roasting lamb (or more usually something stronger like smelly old mutton) haunted most Sundays, stinking out the house.  He reported the lamb as just perfect; on the verge of changing from deep pink to soft pink.  Our main was accompanied by a lovely wine recommended by our star of a waitperson, a pinot gris from Rimu Grove Winery.  

For dessert we shared a densely packed nugget of goats cheese and a perfectly set panna cotta.  (I once spent a winter trying to perfect panna cotta.  Looking at the usual recipes for panna cotta it does not look too difficult to pull off.  However, like the perfect scone, panna cotta is a deceptively simple dish demanding a set of skills I struggle to demonstrate consistently.)  We finished the meal with icy, tarty limoncello and hot, sugary short blacks.  If you don’t know the pleasure of having these two sensations chasing around your mouth, get on with it.

What made our dining experience so enjoyable was the combination of straightforward, good quality food, brilliantly executed and the perfect service of our waitperson, a recent arrival in Nelson.  We are returning next Monday for more!

Trafalgar Park Blues

We are fresh from seeing Italy beat the Russians on a crystal clear and cool night in Nelson.  Italy ran away with the game 53 to 17.  Not sure who the man of the match was.  It is usually announced shortly before the final whistle but not tonight.  This was not the only strange and annoying thing tonight.

The toilets at the Trafalgar Park venue are makeshift and pretty unpleasant.  There were around 20 portaloos perched on uneven ground behind the beer tent at the north end of the park.  20 loos for around 10,000 people!  I missed a fair bit of the start of the second half of the game in the toilet queue.

There is no direct lighting around the portaloos, which for games taking place at night (when it is usually dark RWC organisers) makes negotiating the low hanging branches of several trees somewhat risky for those not wearing protective eye-wear.  There is also no lighting inside the portaloos.  I just cannot begin to describe the floors….all very third world.

The final strange thing tonight was the positioning of the bus station.  The bus station was to the east of the main exit route for the dispersing crowds but our bus had to head west across the flow of people leaving.  We sat on the bus for some time watching the flow of the people before sneaking through at the direction of the police.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the buses going west to leave from west of the dispersing crowd?

It really is not good enough Nelson/Trafalgar Park/RWC….who is responsible or accountable?  Not good enough by a long, long shot.

Would you wear a white dress to a wedding?

For at least half the population, this question must be re-phrased to what would you say if, just as you were about to head off to a wedding of a good friend or beloved relative, your female partner emerged from her dressing ritual wearing a white dress?  For the other half of the population, the question needs no further elaboration.  Well, would you?

Those of you who are on top of the ins and outs of RWC preparations may guess why I am putting this question.  It flows from a decision by some inbred, chinless wonders in English rugby to make an attempt to engage in a primitive psychological battle to unsettle the hosts of the 2011 RWC.  I guess some purple-faced, hyphenated colonel blimp must have thought that having the English team don a black jersey would upset those tiddlywink players who usually don the black, namely our beloved ABs.  But if it were only this, then I suppose it could be dismissed with a laugh.  To some extent, psychological warfare is entirely legitimate and an interesting part of the game.  Goodness knows Ted Henry is made for it.  But the real issue raised by the English appropriating the black is that it is incredibly disrespectful of the traditions of the game.  England has a proud tradition appearing all in white, garnished with a touch of red.  The ABs are the ones in black.  The Wallabies in variations of gold, the Scots in their blue, the French in theirs, etc. etc.  It is an arrogant and contemptuous decision to change one’s colours to that traditionally worn by an opponent.

One of the things I like about the game is the way that teams with similar colours, say the Scots blue and the ABs, agree to change their jerseys so some times the ABs play in colours other than black and sometimes the Scots are not in their blue.  All good fun, which decisions add to tradition.  But what the blimps have done is not part of this tradition, rather it is about trying to secure some kind of underhand advantage.  That the blimps failed to appreciate the real meaning of their decision says much about their connection to the summer rioters robbing stuff from high street stores throughout much of England.  Both the blimps and the rioters respect no tradition nor values; both are only after an immediate effect, ‘stuff’ for the rioters and a short-term needle of the All Blacks.  Both are diminished by their conduct.  The blimps would be outraged by the connection I have made, they have no idea.  QED.

An Australian TV commentator asked the question I have posed as the title for this entry.  I don’t know exactly who because if I did I would honour him for such a great question.  I read about it in a New Zealand newspaper that did not attribute the question to a named person.

Sitting in the penultimate row in the Otago stadium last Sunday 18 September to see England v Georgia (Georgia was brave and admirable, as they had been against the Scots in Invercargill), surrounded by English fans, some of whom talked through the playing of the Georgian anthem, I wanted to lean across to any of the English fans wearing their black, particularly the women, and ask the question.  It does bring it home nicely.  Well would you?

A city on drugs?

After seeing the Australia v Italy game in Auckland on Sunday 11 September, we had a day at leisure in Auckland before catching an half-empty plane directly to Dunedin at 7pm on Monday 12 September.  I mention the fact the plane was half empty because our return flights (Dunedin-Auckland-Dunedin) set us back almost A$1,300 or around $650 per person; a friend in Auckland who had done the leg in reverse had been charged almost NZ$1,000 for his flights.  It beggars belief that Air NZ can be charging like a wounded bull and still have half empty planes; or is this the reason?  But enough bitching about Air NZ; they really are the biggest and slowest moving of targets, it is just too easy to find fault; on to something entirely and utterly positive.

Because those games scheduled for Christchurch had to be moved to other places there were some knock-on movements of games scheduled for other places.  One of these was the transfer of the Wednesday 14 September Scotland v Georgia game from Dunedin to Invercargill.  I had last been in Invercargill as part of a family holiday touring the lower South Island in the 1970s.  I learned to ride a bicycle there; I had been using a bicycle with those little training wheels and one night my father removed them without telling me.  The next morning I got on the bike and was away without realising what I was doing.

I have to admit to being unenthusiastic about the trip to Invercargill, not negative, but not positive either and yet something less than neutral.  I suppose it was just resigned acceptance, that was where the game was and so we were going.  How bad could it be?

We broke our journey to Invercargill at one of my favourite places on the planet.  Curio Bay  is home to a petrified forest, a dozen or so yellow-eyed penguins, lots of seals and sea-lions and about 100 people.  It is magnificent, but can also be terribly cold; one Christmas Day we went for a walk along the beach after lunch in a bracing 13 degrees with the wind howling in from the great southern ocean.  And on Tuesday 13 September 2011 at 4pm, the lookout at Curio Bay was being assaulted by intermittent hail and driving rain.  We had intended to stay for the dusk parade of penguins coming ashore for the night but the weather drove us away and back on the road to Invercargill, the weather and the knowledge that Curio Bay is one of those places we will return to again and again.

Once we knew we were going to be travelling to Invercargill, we found a ‘luxury’ B&B on the ‘net.  Very often, images and rhetoric from the ‘net do not match observed reality.  However, in our case, the Safari Lodge exceeded the promotional blurb and photographs.  It was completely what it purported to be.  Moreover, the hosts, Trish and Ray, are just exceptionally able at what they do.  This was to be our first experience of the super-friendly people of Invercargill.

At dinner that night at a place called Buster Crabb, the portions were astonishingly generous (for those of us used to Sydney restaurants) and the service warm and helpful.  It is a remarkable thing to feel that the waitress actually wants you to have a good time and will do everything in her power to make it so.

The following day, wandering around the town centre, shopping at the impressive H & J Smith department store, going to the i-Site in Queen’s Park, driving on Oreti beach (of Burt Munro fame), dining at a cafe/restaurant called Ziffs, and generally mooching about, we ran across a number of locals who took an acute interest in our welfare.  People were incredibly welcoming and keen to know how they could help us, so much so, that I wondered aloud to our hosts at the Safari Lodge whether the whole town was on drugs????  Places like Invercargill are a panacea to cynicism.  They remind those of us who tend to suffer from self-inflicted big-city ennui that all of that is so much posing.

The rugby that night (Scotland v Georgia) was a game that was described by a visiting Scottish journalist we met as “one for the purists”.  Indeed.  But dull rugby aside, Invercargill and its people shone.  Our thanks to them for their warmth and we’ll have whatever you’re on!

Punctuality is the politeness of princes

The delightful woman who was secretary to the headmaster at my secondary school in the 1970s told each of the boys who spent at least one day during their schooling in the office helping out, that punctuality is the politeness of princes.   We had a lesson on punctuality, if not politeness, at North Harbour Stadium on Sunday 11 September.

Fresh from the gloomy England v Argentina game the day before in Dunedin (for countries that have given us Stephen Fry and the tango, how can their rugby be so thoroughly unentertaining?), we flew to Auckland for the match that had originally been scheduled for Christchurch, namely Italy v Australia.  It was a mad scramble to pick up our tickets at the New World in Freemans Bay straight from the airport (again only one person serving a very long queue of well-behaved Wallabies supporters) and then on to catch a bus outside the what was once the glory of the Civic to North Harbour Stadium.

Like thousands of others essentially doing the right thing and getting to the game early, we stood outside the gates until they opened a minute late, one hour and fifty-nine minutes before the scheduled kick-off.  I don’t understand the disconnect between free public transport to a venue that is not open.  How does this work?

From the moment we arrived in Auckland around 10am there had been intermittent violent downpours of bone chilling rain and, as we stood outside the stadium, silently cursing those managing the opening of the gates, it struck me that a nice person inside the stadium, a prince of a person if you like, would have said to themselves, gee, we’ve got a ton of people outside and the weather is crap, let’s see if we can get the gates open a little bit earlier to get people out of the rain.  But no.

Italy held the Wallabies to a creditable 6-6 at half time but those princes in yellow danced away with some dazzling moves to run in four tries in the second half.  Something all of us All Blacks supporters could chew on moodily as we crawled along in awful traffic chaos on our way back to the city.

Trusting airlines and architects

It has been almost a week since we set off for our 6 and a half week adventure.  Last Friday (9 September) we left Sydney to fly to Dunedin via Christchurch.  There were no problems leaving Sydney and none getting through customs and immigration in Christchurch.  In fact, the failure of the automatic booth to read my passport and pre-qualify me for the face recognition gates meant I bypassed all queues and was ushered to a human immigration officer ahead of my partner and all others who had been pre-qualified.  Our first problem arose when we transferred to a domestic Air NZ flight in Christchurch.

In a move designed to cut costs and diminish customer service, Air NZ has abolished the personal check-in.  The whole process can be achieved without involving human contact; you scan your e-ticket at a kiosk and then plonk your bags on a conveyor belt.  I was a little flumoxed by the process and asked a passing Air NZ representative stomping past in her colourful drag-queen frock, why there was no human being to check my bags for the onward leg of the journey to Dunedin.  I was told by this person, in their best Air NZ who farted manner, to trust them.  It would work.  Well, on arrival in Dunedin, no bags.  So much for trusting Air NZ.  I guess Jim Collins also trusted Air NZ.  I know bags go missing in transit and I guess we all have to have this experience.  But what made me angry was the snarky, smarmy Air NZ attitude that, on questioning their slim-line procedures, I was made to feel like an idiot asking an illegitimate question.  Well, the proof is in the pudding and no bags in Dunedin suggests Air NZ is still very much in the hubris business.

Dinner on Friday night at Plato was fine but there is something about being at a long, thin table next to the servery hatch that suggests more of a canteen than a fine dining experience.  The food was adequate, not startling, and it was let down by our party of ten being at the worst table in the restaurant.  It was hard not to feel the restaurant was more interested in revenue than in providing an outstanding meal.  Overall, I’d say it was disappointing and a far cry from previous experiences.  I’d be confident in suggesting the owners are bored.  It shows.

Indifference seemed to be the order of the day in Dunedin.  We arrived 15 minutes early to collect our tickets at the newly minted Otago stadium.  There was a substantial queue.  We had been told that the box office would be open three hours before kick-off.  We were glad to see the staff inside the ticket cabin were true to their word; they waited until exactly 5.30pm to open a single window to serve the queue.  We in the queue were relieved to see that the single person serving customers was ably supported by two supervisors who stood behind the single serving person to ensure their service was accurate if somewhat slow.  GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!  As a friend from Auckland in the queue with us commented, we are surrounded by scores of volunteer ushers and security personnel but there is only one person tasked with issuing tickets.  It was a strange joke.

What was not a strange joke was the new Otago stadium.  I understand that Dunedin rate payers will still be paying for the stadium when NZ next hosts the RWC sometime in the 2030s but hell, it is magnificent, from the inside.  And what a difference perspective makes.  Great inside but on the outside the stadium, which dominates the northern part of the Dunedin CBD, could conceivably have come from the big book of police station designs recovered from the archives of the Stasi.  Given its dominance of the built environment, the stadium’s lack of architectural merit is a gigantic lost opportunity for the city.  Not for Dunedin an iconic and beautiful stadium; rather, a big, off-white to grey box with a couple of lean-to sheds attached.  I want to know why there could not have been a better marriage of functionality and form; something attractive both as a sporting venue and as a monument to the city. Based on my experience sitting a dozen rows back from the sideline half way between the 22 and the 10 meter line, the stadium works.  But its lack of beauty and sheer stupendous ugliness says an awful lot about the complete lack of imagination at work in the city.  It is an opportunity squandered.

Tomorrow, Auckland and the importance of keeping people to time….

The grand tour

Well, the time has almost come; we’re off tomorrow to begin our RWC 2011 adventure.

Friday 9 September, we fly from Sydney to Dunedin via Christchurch.  Dinner has been organised at one of Dunedin’s (and NZ’s) best restaurants – Plato (see: http://www.platocafe.co.nz).  We are being joined there for dinner by family who live in Dunedin, a friend from Auckland and some South African-supporting friends who now live in Sydney.  Should be a good start to the tour – a dozen of us enjoying some wonderful food and, most importantly, some outstanding Central Otago wine.

Our first game is Argentina v England on Saturday 10 September at the new Otago Stadium.  My brother, who went to a match there a couple of weeks ago, reports that the new stadium is breathtakingly good.  I wonder after all the carping about it whether it will do Dunedin proud.

It is a very early start on Sunday 11 September as we leave Dunedin for Auckland to catch our second game, Australia v Italy, on Sunday afternoon.  This game, along with the Arg v Eng game, was transferred from poor old Christchurch as a result of those terrible quakes.  But could the organisers have made things any more difficult for those of us with tickets to the Christchurch games?  One gets transferred to Dunedin and one game at the other end of the country.  I hesitate to criticise but really????? (And the game we had expected to go to in Dunedin on Wednesday 14 October, Scotland v Georgia, is transferred to Invercargill.  We’re still going and will drive to Invercargill via the Catlins on Tuesday 14 September.)  After the Invercargill leg, we’re back in Dunedin in time for my birthday on Friday 16 September, a family dinner of my current favourite home-cooked meal of roasted chook stuffed with lemon, rosemary and a head of garlic accompanied by crushed potatoes and peas.  My mother has promised not to make a banana cake.  I hate banana cake, hate bananas, something my mother forgot on my 40th birthday when she served it up after dinner.  Instead, I have asked for her meringues.  She has a way with egg white and sugar like no other.

Our Dunedin idyll is brought to an end on Monday 19 September when we head to Nelson for three nights to see the Italy v Russia game on Tuesday 20 September.  Then it is off to the city of my birth, the glorious Wellington on Thursday 22 September; on a fine day can there be a more gorgeous little city in the world?  (Hush to those who say that a dozen days a year can’t make up for the lashing rain and lacerating wind on the other 353 days of the year.)  We are going to the Scotland v Argentina game on Sunday 25 September but not before taking full greedy advantage of what will undoubtedly be one of the gastronomic highlights of our tour of NZ, several meals at The Eating House, on the Terrace in Wellington (see: http://www.theeatinghouse.co.nz/).  I loved chef Jonathan England’s work at Two Rooms, where the food provided perfect nourishment and comfort during the difficult time after my father died.  I am flighty with anticipation.

On Monday 26 September we are back to Nelson for the week to catch the Italy v USA game on Tuesday 27 September and the Australia v Russia game on Saturday 1 October.  After that, it is back to Dunedin for what may well be one of the surprise results of the 2011 RWC, Ireland v Italy on Sunday 2 October; I’m picking an Italian upset!

We hit Auckland for the second time on Friday 7 October for quarter-final 2 (on Saturday 8 October), most likely England v France, and quarter-final 4 (on Sunday 9 October), which will be the All Blacks against either Scotland or Argentina.

After the two Auckland-based quarter-finals we will have a week in the Hawkes Bay, enjoying the sunshine, food and wine, before coming back to Auckland for the semi-finals.  My predictions for the participants and results are: semi-final (1) on Saturday 15October , England v the Wallabies, which the Wallabies will win; and  for semi-final (2) on Sunday 16 October, the All Blacks will beat South Africa.

We will have a week off, probably in the Bay of Islands, or at least in Northland, before coming back to Auckland for the final on Sunday 23 October, between the ABs and the Wallabies, which I think, is anyone’s game.  GO BLACK!!!!

We fly home to Sydney on Tuesday 25 October.  That’s the end of it; 14 matches in six and a half weeks; 15 Air Nz flights; visiting Auckland four times, Dunedin three times, Nelson twice, Wellington, Invercargill, the Hawkes Bay and Northland once; and hopefully plenty of delicious kiwi food and definitely lots of top kiwi wines.  Cheers!

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