Thursday, March 31, 2011

This moment : Fri 1st April.

.."A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section..


Travel Photo Thursday; Mar 31st. Dacha, Lystvyanka

A favourite picture of mine, of a Dacha taken up a side road in Lystvyanka, on Lake Baikal, Russian Federation. While the rest of our group took a boat ride, we wandered around the town, enjoying the rustic settings, the overgrown gardens, glorious wild flowers, and lilacs flowering profusely. It was the height of summer, and no better time to visit. The houses often had the slumped ridge line, as foundations had moved over the years seasonal thawing and re-freezing of the peaty ground. That just added to the photographic attractions though.

At Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox she's got a brilliant photo of Buddha's head, enveloped in tree roots at Ayutthaya, Thailand's world UNESCO site.
Take a look, you'll love it.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Cobbler Friends:

I am a custom shoemaker with a pretty good reputation, even if I say so myself, but the truth is I wouldn't have lasted in business if I did not make quality, durable and well fitted designs. Shoe making is relatively straight forward, but crafting a pair to fit is a completely different matter. It takes a high degree of intelligence, (yeah I know- the arrogance, but stiff! Ask Jimmy Choo :-)) and an ability to visualise at the outset how all the various components and variables will come together for the desired end result-  a comfortable smart looking product. I am often asked to make for extremely difficult challenges. It is a very demanding craft to be successful in these days, and to earn a living, given that cheap Asian-made footwear has flooded the market. But I not only survive- I prosper. Not so much monetarily, but in the sense of fulfilment I gain from working with my own hands and mind, and for myself. To tell someone I am a custom shoemaker often elicits an appreciatively interested response. We are respected. Shoes are dear to everyone's hearts after all. Ask Imelda!

So wherever we travel, I will always look for and show an interest in how other craftsmen shoemakers or repairers are faring, the work they undertake, the tools they use, the shoes or sandals they make or are repairing. I'll stop and chat, ask for a photo, and leave a few dollars because I know that in the undeveloped countries we travel, their life is a hard one, their earnings meagre; the craft perhaps only just keeping their family fed and clothed. Often their social position is at the bottom of the heap, as in India, where leatherworkers or shoemakers will be the work of Dalits or Untouchables. It was their lot in life to deal with dead animals: skinning, disposal and tanning. But I have the greatest respect for them, because they are making a living from their hands and their skill. Using their ingenuity to create an income, however little.

They are me- in another lifetime, another society, another age.

My shoe repairer friend in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Crippled, he works on the street outside the entrance to Holy Trinity Church. Wife and child begging. But their family dog looks in good condition. Note the shoe repairer has a very dignified air about him.

Addis Ababa, Merkato Market. These tyre sidewalls have been strip cut and will be turned into basic rubber tyre soled sandals as below.


These rubber tyre sandals are custom fitted to your size. The straps adjusted then nailed together. Selling for around $2.50US a pair you'll get plenty of mileage out of them!

In Khayelitsha township, Cape Town, South Africa, my cobbler friend is painstakingly hand sewing a child's sandal together. His tools- a needle and nylon fishing line. The tin shack is his family's home. What will his son's future be?
When I retire, I'll throw my tools in my bag and give them to someone like this. I couldn't think of a better way of passing on my craft handtools.


A village stop on the drive down from Kruger to St Lucia, South Africa. This shoemaker made a good range of basic sandals. Business was good; he actually had a shop to work from. He was rightly proud to show me his work.

A shoe repairer's lock up shop in Shimla, India, in a side street leading from the central square. Most days he'll be working on the pavement, but rain was in the air. His tools were few, and business was slow. India now has a thriving footwear industry, but the cheap flood of mass produced product will have impacted on his trade. Often cheaper to throw away than to have repaired.

These craftsmen remind me that I am indeed privileged to be a custom shoemaker in an affluent society. It is an honorable craft. I take pride in my work and I admire my fellow craftsman, where ever I meet them. There's a great sense of pride to be able to create something with your hands. Artists and craftspeople know the feeling well.

So spare a thought for them, and open your wallet.

A few pics of my work.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

This Moment- A single Photo : March 25

This moment – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

A moment you want to pause, savor and remember.

“This Moment” is a ritual I found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama. And hijacked from almost there

Here's my moment-


Travel Photo Thursday, Mar 24: Precautions When Driving!

After the hectic past week with Blog4NZ I need some light relief. Always thought these roadside signs in South Africa whilst amusing, carried a very serious message. I still chuckle though.

On Budget Travellers Sandbox, Nancie has a great shot taken from a mountain top just outside of Daejeon, Korea on a beautiful spring day in 2009. Take a look. Well worth it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Zealand's Bush: Ferns, Flowers and Feathered Friends.

Here is why I love our New Zealand bush walks.The trick is to remember to look up. Above you there is so much to see in the patterns Nature weaves with fern fronds and the play of light through them. A few photos showing the beauty of our foliage, flowers and our birdlife.

Young Ponga frond

Pohutukawa and blossoms

Kevin Brown of Simple Signs

Photo of Brown Kiwi from Nga Manu Nature Reserve.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prehistoric Reptile: New Zealand's Tuatara. My Land.

That little guy above is one of the world's most unique creatures- a tuatara. Not a lizard, nor a surviving dinosaur, that reptile is in a class of its own that predates dinosaurs, and incredibly still survives today. New Zealand separated from the ancient Gondwana land mass long before it broke up and all the jig saw pieces moved around, eventually billions of years later to create the continental layout we see on our world map today.

Tuatara, or sphenodon are thought to date back over 200 million years and predate dinosaurs. Mother Nature surprises us when huge dinosaurs have died out but a much smaller and older reptile survives, making them a very special creature.
Tuatara bear their young in eggs with a flexible outer covering rather than a hard shell. Thought to live for around a hundred years, the one pictured is a juvenile male. Fully grown he'll
mature to about 60cm length.

Human settlement, and the introduced predators, have wiped out their mainland population, and now they are considered endangered. Restricted today to some 30 islands around New Zealand, those populations remain at threat should rats, ferrets or even hedgehogs become introduced to their island sanctuaries.

Holding one in my hands recently was a special occasion at Nga Manu Nature Reserve. He was still very placid, having come from a cool dark cage, but as he soaked up the sun, he became more lively and I had to hand him back to Reece, Nga Manu's Ranger, as they will bite when active. In the meantime, my mind raced, thinking of dinosaurs and Jurassic Park.
Thank goodness this is our largest remaining reptile of those times!

Nga Manu Nature Reserve is located at-
281 Ngarara Road , Waikanae, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.
Open every day (except Christmas Day.) 10am- 5pm.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Land: Taking the Oath Amongst Maori Hospitality.

I have published this article to support our Blog4NZ promotion. Hope you all enjoy what was a wonderful time for us.

Our friends are of diverse ethnicity, and we have attended citizenship ceremonies before as some elect to become New Zealand citizens, and not just residents. To gain full citizenship status is a long process, and many boxes have to be ticked to qualify. Some years ago, we sponsored the immigration of friends from UK to New Zealand, so we proudly accepted their invitation to attend their ceremony where they would finally receive their citizenship papers.

But this ceremony was different; rather special in factas our Kapiti Coast District Council had partnered with one of our local Iwi, or Maori tribes to hold the full ceremony at the Raukawa Marae in Otaki township, just north of Paraparumu. We looked forward to this event because we had never been on that marae, and to enter into the whare runanga or meeting house was a special event and an honour for us. We were going to support our friends, and also be able to experience Maori culture and take a look at the intricate carvings and tukutuku panel work that adorn the whare runanga or meeting hall, built in 1936.
Outside the entrance to the Marae. Monica Fraser, Iwi Liason Officer greets us.

If you have the opportunity to enter onto a marae, get to know a little about custom or protocol so you will better understand what is happening. This site- korero maori protocols for marae gives very good info. We read this before the event.

We timed our drive to Otaki to arrive at the Main Street entrance prior to the formal welcome call or karanga . A group of around 100 had gathered; soon to be citizens accompanied by friends or relatives. While waiting outside, we chatted with KCDC's Kaumatua Rakau-o-te-ora ( Don ) Te Maipi and Council's Iwi Liason Officer Monica Fraser. I asked if it was appropriate to take their photos.

The karanga, the traditional welcome delivered in a high noted singsong style was called by the hosts on the Marae, and answered by a similar call by women who had joined our group outside. We filed through the gate and into the whare runanga. Women normally would sit towards the back, men in front, although for this ceremony couples or families that were part of the ceremony were seated towards the front so they could be called forward easily.
Filing into the Whare Runanga.
A welcome to the proceedings was extended by Council's Communications Officer Then the opening prayer was lead in Maori by Kaumatua Don Te Maipi. Followed by Whakatau- a personal welcome in Maori. Our Mayor Jenny Rowan then welcomed all guests and began calling forward each recipient in turn, taking their Oath of Allegiance and presenting to them their Certificates of Citizenship.

Our friends Pauline and Bill accepting their Certificates of Citizenship.
Flanked by Jools Joslin, Mayor Jenny Rowan and Kaumatua Don TeMaipi.

I was really fascinated by the interior.
All the rafters and beams are patterned with kowhaiwhai  You can see them as a border across the top of the photo and running along all beams.

These patterns are courtesy  of There are many designs which may be symbolic or purely decorative.

Upright pillars are decorated with whakairo carvings. Each one different and symbolic of the tribes history.
In between are tukutuku woven panels. Each Iwi or tribe's women would weave these, symbolic of their connection to the land, the sky, the trees, water and wind, even to time; all depicted in the various patterns created.

The closing prayer was read by Kaumatua Don Te Maipi.

Kia tau, kia tatou katoa                                     May the blessing of Lord Jesus Christ,
Te atawhai o to tatau Ariki a Hehu Karaiti,          And the love of God, be upon us all,
MeTe aroha te Atua,                                        And the fellowship and the Holy Spirit,
Me Te whiwhingatitanga,                                 Now and forever,
Ki te wairua tapu,                                            Amen
Ake, ake, ake,

Kay and I, and our friends were very impressed by the intimate and colorful ceremony, and truly loved the whole atmosphere of cordiality extended by our Maori hosts.
We came away buzzing. Truly an amazing experience.


Friday, March 18, 2011

This moment – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words .... Fri Feb 18

This moment – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

A moment you want to pause, savor and remember.

“This Moment” is a ritual I found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama. And hijacked from almostthere
Here's my moment-



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Travel Photo Thursday Mar 17. Rangoli: Patterns for Good Fortune.

Painting Rangoli

We loved the colorful designs and graceful swirls of geometric patterns we came across in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu State, India. Rangoli represent spiritual beliefs or values and are painstakingly drawn in brilliant coloured rice flour on the pavement outside peoples doors where they will ensure good fortune to the home. Each morning they will be redrawn to renew the spiritual energy.
One of the pleasures of travelling India is the sheer exuberance of colour everywhere. I couldn't resist photographing the designs, and also the markets where plentiful supplies of various dyes are available.
Feast your eyes on these photos for my Travel Photo Thursday. And fill your minds with positive energy and good thoughts.
Various Designs

The markets are a blaze of dye supplies.

On Budget Travellers Sandbox, Nancie has a striking photo posted of  The Great Torii (Shinto gate, the sea entrance to Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima, Japan. A very good composition, stylish, colorful and a tribute to Japan during its dark times of earthquake, tsunami and possible nuclear catastrophe.
I would have liked to have posted something to tribute Japan also, but can only find video and not the photos we took when visiting Osaka for our nephews wedding to a lovely Japanese girl. Our thoughts are with them and all our Japanese friends.

I felt the best I could do was to post these Rangoli photos to wish all Japanese good fortune.


Blog4NZ gathers steam.

Further major news released today Mar 18.

New Zealand travel industry announces support of Blog4NZ by huge travel packages for prizes.


or here-

Register for Blog4NZ here-


Radio interview with co-organiser of Blog4NZ Craig Martin from

Stop Press!
Tourism NZ announces support of Blog4NZ initiative.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Land: Get out fishing New Zealand's coastal waters.

Our women await their hunter-warriors return. Kapiti Island in the background.
   New Zealand is surrounded by a bountiful larder in its coastal waters. So grab any chance you can to get out on the waters and spend a day fishing. Nothing more relaxing than taking a day off, heading out early, and getting horribly sunburned while everyone else is enjoying their work immensely. I mean, wouldn't you chose to go to work rather than getting all fishy smelly, and seasick, and burnt, and running the risk of getting gobbled up by sharks, or orca?
Our son and I have half shares in a 5 metre runabout. Sits on the backyard most of the time, hardly gets used because his work commitments means he is on call so much.
But now and again it's "Come on Dad. We're off tomorrow!"

We head out early morning. Those fish will be too sleepy to realise the breakfast carries a wee surprise!
A flock of seabirds circling around and diving into the water showed us where the fish were. They were feeding off schools of herring or mullet, and in and turn they are followed by larger fish such as kahawai. And the big kingfish will be feeding off them both. Really is exciting if you can bag a big kingfish. They can be over a metre long and that is huge! That would frighten the women...all that cleaning and gutting!
I was first to haul in a kahawai. Well I managed to get it into the scoop squiggled violently for one last chance of freedom, and threw the hook which flicked back past my eye!
And that's when I caught my hat!

My second catch of the day.

Kapiti Island   is separated from the mainland by Rauoterangi Channel, part of which is now a Marine
 Reserve. Reserves are great at protecting areas from over exploitation. More should be set up, but instead of large areas, it would be better for many small reserves interspersed with unrestricted fishing areas so the reserves act as incubators restocking the fishing areas.

There is good fishing at both ends of the island depending on weather and tides. The birds on the rock in the photo know the shoals of fish will be heading their way

On herring guard duty.

Often more than just shoals of herrings come through the channel. Imagine the thrill when you're out there in your puny boat and you look up to find you're in the middle of a pod of orca or killer whales!  That day they were just a few metres off our boat, surfacing, blowing, diving again- stripping all the fish off our set line. After that incredible experience I always take a camera with me. Such wonderful photo opportunities and I missed it.

Seagulls always accompany us, diving at our chum trail, grabbing any small scrap released as the frozen bait block melts. The variety of birds we saw on our last trip was encouraging - seagulls, terns, skuas, and 1 lone gannet, well off course- they normally nest way further north around Cape Kidnappers.

Our beautiful companion.
 After a hard day's fishing, and missing out on any kingfish we head over to retrieve our set line. A buoyed and weighted line with 25 baited hooks: our failsafe. Always a fish on that, even if our big ones have got away. We haul in a tangled mass of lines and dogfish, a small shark which is good eating. But the snapper we hauled in which had tangled our line was HUGE! What a fish! 14lb.
Have you ever seen a guy hopping around a boat in joy, trying to hang on to such a monster?

When Tim calmed down we managed to get this pic.

     The biggie that didn't get away! 
Although the women wished it had. Fish has got to come from the supermarket for them. But after I cooked fish pie that night from the kahawai, my wife changed her tune. Delicious.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

This moment- – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words ....March 11

This moment – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

A moment you want to pause, savor and remember.

“This Moment” is a ritual I found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama. And hijacked from almostthere

Here's my moment-