Memories Travel

First New Zealand Visit

I first visited New Zealand in 1979 and again in 1980 but I’m not sure that I have photos, maybe somewhere. Of course it was a totally different experience then, a long trip too. Returning on BA 001 took something like 30 hours with stops (no getting off) in Sydney, Perth, Bombay and Frankfurt as I recall).

The cars were old and beaten up, “You’ve arrived in Auckland, please set your clocks back 20 years” as the old joke has it.

New Plymouth was the destination and seismic surveys over the Maui gas field. The 6 o’clock swill was still on. I’d never seen anything like it down at the dock bar in NP. The barmaid filling row upon row of pint glasses from a hose.

According to the article it was abolished in 1967 but not at the docks in New Plymouth I’m pretty sure – for the public bar anyway.

Hania and I came first in 2000 to see if it was a place we would like to settle in, hopefully our last move too. July was cold but clear for the most part and coming from Singapore we really appreciated it. We slept 10-12 hours for the most part – making up for the deficits of the previous 2 years – neither of us could sleep well there with the constant heat and humidity.

We were in a camper van and the first thing to buy was a hot air blower.

We arrived in Christchurch and our first stop was Akaroa – I still remember the fish and chips – a massive piece of blue cod and real potato chips.

Akaroa was originally settled by the French and the street names still recall that time – as does the graveyard.

Below is a bit of NZ history. Even in 2000 you could take your empty plastic coke bottle and fill at up with draft beer at the bottle shop.

I’m sure we have more photos from that trip somewhere because we travelled much of the central South Island in our 30 day stay.

Daily posts Memories

Lockdown Day 25

More detail on maybe coming out of Level 4, cabinet to decide tomorrow. Only 9 new cases today and all traced to contacts.

Apart for that it was ice creams and wii dance again

Who let the chucks out?

This puzzle we may never solve, at least it is the right way round now.

Hania reminded me that we bought it in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona when we wandered down a side street. Barcelona was relatively quiet then (mid 80’s probably). Certainly one of our favourites and contender for one of the great cities of the world.

However, there are so many nice regional cities in Spain where you can wander, people watch and eat I wonder why you would ever go to the Costa del Sol.

Wikipedia tells me the El Guernica, the original, is in the Museu Reina Sofia in Madrid.

On a vaguely related note I’m quite happy that they took Franco out of the Valle de los Caídos he didn’t really belong there. I remember visiting with Filipe and thinking about all those descendants of the forced labourers, how they would feel about it.

Ah well, all a long time ago now. The wheels grind slowly but they do keep going.

Daily posts Memories

Lockdown Day 19

Blast from the past.

When WordArt was King and CompuServe ruled the internet..

Easter Monday, a piece of lamb from our neighbours in exchange for free range eggs. Casseroled with apples and turned out well. Also enough left for slow cooking and a good bone for stock.

Cranium to round off the evening.

Daily posts Memories music

Lockdown Day 15

Another busy one today but also a very sad one, one of my heroes died today.

I first heard John Prine on John Peel around 1971 or 1972 when, as a student, I had a lot of time for listening to music. The tracks were from his first album and memorable right from the start for a wannabe hippy. Sam Stone: “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes”, “Sam Stone was alone when he popped his last balloon”, Your Flag Decal Won’t get you into Heaven any More: “while digesting Reader’s Digest in the back of a dirty book store, a plastic flag with gum on the back fell onto the floor”, Hello in There: “We lost Davy in the Korean War, I still don’t know what for, don’t matter anymore, old trees just grow stronger, old rivers grow wilder every day, old people just get lonesome waiting for someone to say “Hello in There, Hello””.

Of course, looking back at this video in particular it’s hard not to see the comparison with the young Bob Dylan (who was a fan and anonymously played harmonica on one of Prine’s gigs).

I never really made that connection at the time, for me John Prine was a country singer with a real feel for injustice and the forgotten in society. Never thought I’d be a fan of country music I have to say.

I only realised later on that Paradise and Muhlenberg country was about the area where he grew up and the Daddy in the song was his own father.

I leave you with what John Prine described as his favourite song, real country but unrequited love or a relationship turning sour is something most of us can relate to. “A question ain’t really a question if you know the answer too”.

Memories Travel

Cambodia 1999


I wrote this after our first trip. It gives some impressions of the country fairlr soon after it was opened up from Khmer Rouge control. The city, the countryside and Angkor had very few visitors at that time.

We started in Phnom Penh where the paranoia was thick on the ground from the moment we stepped off the aircraft, fair enough, we must have brought some of it with us, like those extra pieces of hand-luggage you always seem to acquire even though you had planned to “travel-light”. Even so it was a scary place. Those 3 million or so land mines might have something to do with it.

For me, the first journey from the airport to our respectable, if modest, hotel was alarming. The Highway Code of Cambodia by all appearances would fit onto the back of a postage stamp in Helvetica 12 point. Our driver would pull out into the main road (as often as not on the wrong side) and then start to look for traffic.

The only rule we could perceive at first was “the bigger the vehicle, the stronger its right of passage”. The most common form of transport was the “moto” or motorcycle, usually fairly small but capable of carrying a rider and 2 or 3 other people. The record was a family of 7, admittedly 2 of these were babes in arms but even so it was quite a squeeze. I particularly liked the sight of young ladies dressed impeccably, as for an evening ball, riding sidesaddle on these noisy contraptions through the busy, dusty streets of Phnom Penh.

On that first day we were taken 15 Km south of the capital to Choeung Ek where perhaps 17,000 people were killed (mostly clubbed to death to save bullets), many of these were from the interrogation (torture) centre of Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh.

There was nothing too special about the site, could have been almost anywhere, except for the tower housing shelf upon shelf of victims skulls and the shallow pits all around, some with fragments of clothing and bone fragments. This ordinariness was perhaps the most sobering of aspect of the site for me. I’ve been to German concentration camps in Poland which are horrifying because of the detail – the never-ending columns of names and photographs, the masses of human hair, toothbrushes, artificial limbs, kids toys, eye glasses, suitcases which are from but a tiny fraction of the people put to death there. That made me stop and think how horrible the Nazi’s were but sort of like the Vikings in a way – that sort of remoteness, this made me realise that, for the people of Cambodia, this is not history made before I was born, but life for people in the present (I was in my late 20’s when all this took place).

Tuol Sleng itself was formerly a school, now a holocaust museum showing how the prisoners were kept and tortured. It is every bit as grisly and disturbing as you would expect. I don’t have any snaps of these places, however.

We were picked up at the airport by our hosts from Tabitha, an organization devoted to the task of helping the poverty-stricken help themselves through loans (as little as enough money to buy a some packs of seeds) which they must pay back – thus increasing their own self-respect. It is incredibly difficult for us to understand this degree of poverty, the things we take for granted that these people don’t have would fill the rest this page.

In the evening we met our Tabitha host and organiser Jan Ritskes at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia. This club had balconies overlooking the Tonle Sap River (which joins Indochina’s most famous river, the Mekong at Phnom Penh) and offers western foods such as Pizza and baked potatoes. In fact the food was excellent and Tiger beer (as in Singapore) was freely available on tap. Here we met some colleagues from the American School of Singapore and were given a brief, but pointed, run-down on things not to do in the city. Basically if you went to bed early and kept your head down everything should be alright. More paranoia.

The FCCC in 1999

The next day was Monday and after an early morning meeting at Tabitha we travelled out to the countryside to help build our first house. The concrete foundations and supporting pillars were in place and we had to complete the floors walls and roof by nailing wooden boards into place (corrugated aluminium for the roof). I’m not exactly sure when we started although I believe we breakfasted at 7 am, anyway, the last nail went in at 6 pm so it was a long, long, hot day. Jan made us all dunk our heads in cold water at regular intervals which made me think of John the Baptist.

On the Tuesday we completed a smaller house in the slums of the capital. The first house was out in the country, very rural, they had extensive fields of fruit trees and vegetables with irrigation from the river. It was easy to believe that people (indeed ourselves) could be happy in such a setting and not miss our creature comforts all that much (!). However, you couldn’t possibly kid yourself that living and raising a family in the slums of Phnom Penh would be a romantic adventure of any kind. The family we built for had the clothes they stood up in and that was about it. The average life expectancy in these slums was about 35 and the infant mortality rate was 50%.

Angkor Wat
On Wednesday morning we took a local flight up to Siem Reap which is at the far end of Lake Tonle Sap from Phnom Penh (look it up on Encarta if you don’t believe me). We were met at the airport by Annie who works for Tabitha in the area and a local minibus driver called Seng (hope I spelt it right).

Both these people were wonderful hosts over the next three days and gave us every bit of help that they could to make our stay pleasant and interesting. the hotel at Siem Reap (the Goldianna) was new and well-equipped. Siem Reap is a very pleasant country town and is the gateway to the ruins of the Khmer Kingdom at Angkor inhabited between 802 and 1431 (give or take a year or two).

Nobody is quite sure why this great city was built here it seems, but it is known that this great empire depended upon the Tonle Sap Lake as a source of water for irrigation of rice paddies and for fish. Food was in surplus and this made the empire rich. The lake is unusual in that it occupies a vastly different area in the dry and monsoon season. During the monsoon it fills to the brim and then, when the rain stops, it shrinks to a fraction of its original size, fish are concentrated in the water (as much as 10 tons of fish per sq km of lake water) which makes them relatively easy to catch. Indeed, some fish get caught in the vegetation as the waters recede and can simply be picked up without any nets at all!

Some of the party (including Hania and I) got up at 5:30 am to see the sunrise over the Bayon (above).

What’s left for us to see are a series of truly spectacular ruins of which the most famous are Angkor Wat itself. the building is huge and surrounded by a moat which is, perhaps, the width of the Thames at Richmond and, in my estimation, 2-3 kilometres on a side – all man made needless to say. The three main towers at Angkor along with many courtyards and other buildings still stand are easily the most impressive archaeological remains I have ever seen. Nearby is the city of Angkor Thom (translated as Great City) which is a walled city of 9 sq km and estimated to have held a population of 100,000 people.

This is a magically creepy place (especially by early morning light) of 54 towers, each of which has four enigmatically smiling faces carved upon it – it has to be seen to be believed. We watched the light grow upon its walls and the monks came to tidy up the shrines and get ready for the pilgrims of the day to present incense sticks at the Buddhist shrines and make their devotions. That day we also saw the ruins of the city and several temples including one (Ta Prohm) which is largely overgrown by giant Banyan and other jungle trees.

From a later trip, Hania and Holly at Ta Prohm

Daily posts Memories

Lockdown Day 4

Today is a sad day for us, a Kiwi has died from Corona virus. Our thoughts are with the family.

Following on from yesterday I would like to know who these ladies are with my mother who is on the right. I’m guessing it’s from the same series as yesterday?

Today we started with a jigsaw puzzle (hey Mary Beadle the younger). It ‘s pretty detailed I have to say.

Later more Boules, a strange race track game and a long walk for Vicky and I. Tonight there was a pretty good sunset over the mountain.

Pirongia Maunga or is it Maunga Pirongia I should probably know.

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, ‘Waikato tribes – Ancestors’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 March 2020)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2017

Kia kaha (stay strong) everybody and this too shall pass.

Movie night for the 4 grown-ups tonight, woo-hoo. We are making progress on the jigsaw.

My first real job out of college was as a QC seismologist which sounds pretty grand I suppose. What I actually did most of the time was look at the output of a trace of the 50 odd geophones from a long cable stretched out behind a survey vessel.

The digital equipment was pretty bulky by today’s standards and the seismic recording were made onto 9-track tape – that’s a tape rewinder in the background I’m pretty sure.

Tapes were boxed up 10 at a time and air-freighted to the processing centre. At this time (around 1974) you could probably count the number of satellites on the fingers of two hands and most of those were for satellite navigation (not in geo-stationary orbit I might add, so we sometimes had to wait for them to align before starting a survey line). However, the satellite data was not very accurate so usually shore-based radio systems like Maxiran were also used and a PDP-8 computer onboard calculated the position. Something a modern calculator could handle pretty easily but the PDP-8 took up a whole rack.

This is nav gear I think and the PDP is the one on the right but don’t quote me. I do remember playing moon-lander using the printer output at one point.

Daily posts Memories

Lockdown Day 2

A rainy day so nothing much outside. Went up to the attic (my office) and found the suitcase full of old photos and memories.

The one in the middle is in 1982 just before we went to Portugal. Hania got her driving licence and we hired a Volkswagon Polo and drove to Seaford on the south coast for a picnic – English style. Yes, it was as cold as it looks.

The bottom one with Ewa Paradinska (Ciocia Ewa) is taken in Chybice, the country estate probably in the mid 70’s I would think.

James’ hand.

I’ve got a bored little girl here called Ana. She doesn’t know what to do. So we made a scarecrow too: