Past conversations with my cat – 80

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This is Chester. We’re back watching the Maple Leafs.

This isn’t going to be pretty. While they have won a few in the last week or so they have also lost, and by large numbers.

I know this is a mistake watching it with Chester, the eternal pessimist, because his initial statement, ‘You know Anderson’s going to let you down again’ even before the match started, is a sign of things to come.

Yep. There it is 21 seconds into the game the other side scores.

Damn.

He turns his head and gives me the look, “I told you so.”

Double damn.

Nothing worse than a smart-ass cat is there, and especially when he’s right.

The game progresses, and then the internet dies on me, leaving a frozen screen. Bigger fish to fry now, with the internet provider, where we are, the NBN, which is little more than a joke. Try streaming anything…

It’s the same result.

Pixellation, blank screens, endless loading signs and then a seized screen.

Good.

For once I don’t mind because I don’t have to listen to the negativity.

Yes, they score again. And again. And yes, once again we’re looking down the barrel of another huge loss.

“Just what is wrong with your goalie,” Chester asks.

“Too many games and not enough faith in the backup, I guess.”

It’s hard to explain wat’s going wrong. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Toronto team because we’re not there. It’s the lot of a supporter whose 12,000 miles away.

Perhaps our year will be next year.

Chester doesn’t think so. Halfway through the third period, he walks off, the internet giving up the ghost. We all know how this end, don’t we, he says.

Yes. We do. The food you hate the most is in your tray.

Revenge doesn’t sound as good as it did in my head a few minutes ago.

Triple Damn.

Searching for locations: Queenstown, New Zealand, from the top of a mountain

You take the gondola up to the Skyline and get some of the most amazing views.

Below is a photo of The Remarkables, one of several ski resorts near Queenstown.

You can see the winding road going up the mountainside.  We have made this trip several times and it is particularly frightening in winter when chains are required.

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In the other direction, heading towards Kingston, the views of the mountains and the lake are equally as magnificent.

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Or manage to capture a photo of the Earnslaw making its way across the lake towards Walter Peak Farm.  It seems almost like a miniature toy.

Winter is here

Living in a more temperate climate where the days of winter are anything from 18 to 23 degrees Celcius, it can be either sunny or overcast, with or without a hint of rain.

Rarely is it so cold that a combination of wind and rain can chill you to the bone, as it does in the southern states of this country, Australia.

Today is one of those days, sunny and with an almost cloudless blue sky.

Yet I love winter, the real winter where the temperature is so cold your face starts to freeze, an experience I had one January in Chicago, or where the temperature is hovering just above freezing and there is snow everywhere.

New Yorkers I discovered do not like this very much, understandably it interferes with their daily lives and livelihood, but to us tourists from those warmer climes it is manna from heaven.

3-foot snowdrifts in Central Park, a place where a child can easily make a snow angel, these are aspects of winter we may never see where we live.

The same applies for those living in Vancouver, in Canada, whom we were told do not like the snow in their city.  Lucking for us, and unluckily for them, it snowed when we were there, making our stay special.

But here, the closest we are going to get is a classic wood fire, where we can sit by and watch the flames dance while it keeps us warm, is our firebox.  Houses do not have open fireplaces.

Yet, nights here do get cold, and temperatures can drop to 2 or 3 degrees Celcius for a few days at least, giving us the opportunity to light the fire.

But as for a white Christmas, we have to travel to the other side of the world for that.  Good thing then that their winter there coincides with our Christmas here, and generally the hottest days of the years.

And Christmas is generally the time we travel overseas.

The problem is with COVID 19, we will not be going anywhere in the foreseeable future, so snow, and cold will have to wait.
Or take advantage of the snow down south in our own country, when the state borders are finally open again.

Searching for Locations: Waitomo caves house, North Island, New Zealand

A relatively unassuming lane leads to what could be described as a grand hotel, called Waitomo Caves Hotel.

The original hotel was built in 1908, and it was later extended in 1928 it was extended.  Part of it is ‘Victorian’, based on an eastern Europe mountain chalet, and part of it is ‘Art Deco’, the concrete wing, and a feature, if it could be called that, is none of the four corners are the same.

Views from the balcony show part of the surrounding gardens

and the town of Waitomo in the distance.

In gloomy weather, it does look rather spooky, and I suspect there may be a ghost or two lurking somewhere in the buildings.

Searching for locations: Niagra Falls, Canada

We visited the falls in winter, just after Christmas when it was all but frozen.

The weather was freezing, it was snowing, and very icy to walk anywhere near the falls

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Getting photos is a matter of how much you want to risk your safety.

I know I slipped and fell a number of times on the ice just below the snowy surface in pursuit of the perfect photograph.  Alas, I don’t think I succeeded.

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The mist was generated from both the waterfall and the low cloud.  It was impossible not to get wet just watching the falls.

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Of course, unlike the braver people, you could not get me into one of the boats that headed towards the falls.  I suspect there might be icebergs and wasn’t going to tempt the fate of another Titanic, even on a lesser scale.  The water would be freezing.

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For now, it will just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and probably will for some time to come, a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

Mount Ngauruhoe is apparently still an active volcano, has been for 2,500 years or so, and last erupted on 19th February 1975, and reportedly has erupted around 70 times since 1839.

The mountain is usually climbed from the western side, from the Mangatepopo track.

This photo was taken in summer from the Chateau Tongariro carpark.

In late autumn, on one of our many visits to the area, the mountain was covered with a light sprinkling of snow and ice.

On our most recent visit, this year, in winter, it was fully covered in snow.

It can be a breathtaking sight from the distance.

It’s raining, it’s pouring…

It’s one of those grey, dark, wet mornings where you can inadvertently sleep in because the bedroom remains dark for an extra two hours.  That could be a problem if you have a day job, but I’m one of the more fortunate, I am supposed to be retired.

Pity then the rest of the family haven’t quite got it yet.

But, today is Wednesday, and, in retirement, there’s usually no pressing requirement to get up.  It’s one of those times when you are comfortable and warmly ensconced under the doona, somewhere between asleep, and in a sleepy haze.

Time to mull over the latest storyline, marshal my thoughts, write the prose in my head.

Too many storylines, and nothing to do with any of the current projects.

The rain is getting heavier, and is splashing outside; the steady waterfall of overflow from the gutters is taking away my concentration.

And then I remember.  One grandchild is coming over to do schooling from home because both parents are working.

Egads…

 

So, disaster averted by a mere five minutes, and she is ensconced in the schoolroom, actually our dining room, and I’m free to go back to my musings.

 

Rain, rain, go away …

 

I have two different visions.

A cold, grey day in London (is there any other sort of day in my second favorite city) waiting for a train, and seeing the woman of your dreams go past, standing in the doorway, and in that fraction of a second when your eyes meet, a connection is made.

I suspect it has fuelled many a song such as ‘The Look of Love’.

The second is on a desolate section of coastline as for north as you can go in Scotland (yes, I am a glutton for punishment), and she is standing on the cliff top gazing out to sea, hair blowing in the wind.  Silent, strong, resolute.

Hang on, I think that happened further south, Cornwall in fact, and her name is Demelza.  With red hair!

 

The rain has gone.  That degree of comfortability is now gone after a gentle nudge that reminds you, you cannot stay in bed all day.

And the cat is forcefully reminding you that he needs to be fed.  A cat that’s begging to get sent to Siberia on a very slow boat.

Notes hastily scribbled in a notebook for later reference.

And the child has just yelled out that she is hungry.

Musing over, practicality has returned.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise, Canada

I was not sure what I was expecting to see when we first arrived at the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.

I’d seen endless photographs both in Winter and in Summer, and the problem with photos is that they never quite prepare you for reality.

That’s not to say that our first impression was of incredible scenery, it was of the front door if it could be called that, where we pulled up in the car, and then, if the sub-zero temperatures, a mad rush to get the baggage out, and get into the warmth of the foyer, which was almost the size of several football fields, and then some.

Check-in was quick and easy, and then to our room on the first floor.  I had hoped to be higher up but, being a corner room, when we got there, the views could not be more majestic.

I could not believe there were people who were willing to take a sleigh ride in the minus degree temperatures.  Don’t let the sunny aspect fool you, it’s freezing cold, literally, outside.

The lake had frozen over, and a closer look showed there was a skating rink an ice castle, and a hockey rink as well.  People were skating, and walking over the frozen surface of the lake.

No skating, or walking, on thin ice here.

Venturing outside into the cold, you have to be rugged up, and definitely, have both a hat and gloves.  It was minus six degrees.

There’s this amazing hotel, just like you would see in the movies

A frozen lake where you’re half expecting to open up and a huge spaceship, or something else, come out

Mountainsides to climb, but only if you are stark staring mad.  And, of course, if you don’t freeze to death before you get there.

Our room, believe it or not, is on the extreme right-hand side, just above the first roofline.

Tomorrow we will venture further out onto the lake.

Tonight, it’s dinner in the main restaurant.

Searching for Locations: The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

It was a cold but far from a miserable day.  We were taking our grandchildren on a tour of the most interesting sites in Paris, the first of which was the Eifel Tower.

We took the overground train, which had double-decker carriages, a first for the girls, to get to the tower.

We took the underground, or Metro, back, and they were fascinated with the fact the train carriages ran on road tires.

Because it was so cold, and windy, the tower was only open to the second level. It was a disappointment to us, but the girls were content to stay on the second level.

There they had the French version of chips.

It was a dull day, but the views were magnificent.

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A view of the Seine

 

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Sacre Coeur church at Montmartre in the distance.

 

Another view along the river Seine

Overlooking the tightly packed apartment buildings

Looking along the opposite end of the river Seine