Passing 4,000!!!

Mind your own business!!!!A few months ago, I overcame my inherent nervousness and general suspicion of anything IT, to start my own blog. My initial intentions were to keep it small and informal, a running dialogue concerning life, writing and everything in between. Quite quickly and despite my best IT efforts, it became apparent that my ‘Daily Hello’ was becoming more of a weekly howdy, which in turn became increasingly more sporadic as life and the pressures of work impinged on my time.

However, never did I genuinely entertain the thought that my humble sojourn into the blogging world, more of a trip stumble splat really, would result in my little blog passing 4,000 hits in such a short time.

As those who know me will attest, I’m rarely lost for words…however on this occasion I am truly speechless!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your support has been truly amazing.

ūüėÄ xx

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New Zealand Odyssey Part IX – Pancakes, White Mountain and The Wonders of the South…

Feeling myself dissolving into the sands of Maraharu, the endless blue horizon before me and the exotic delights of the Abel Tasman rainforest, I felt once more the pull of the road.

Dragging myself away, my heart full of a strange tranquility I had never known, I rejoined my odyssey…afterall, who knew what wonders might¬†lie around the next corner?

I took the winding hill roads and said goodbye to the sun-kissed vineyards of the¬†Nelson and Marlborough¬†regions. Passing through the thick coastal rainforests I joined the main highway and turned south towards the wildness of the South Island’s craggy coastlines and mountain ranges. That¬†is New Zealand’s beauty and its magic…the drama of its ever-changing¬†landscapes. Nowhere on earth, do you have a country only¬†the size of Britain and yet with such varied geology. White sandy beaches and deserted¬†islands, tropical jungles, active volcanoes, mountains, grasslands, fiordlands, moorland, temperate rainforests, huge freshwater lakes, giant sandhills…New Zealand has it all!

Leaving my rental car in Murchison, a small isolated town surrounded by towering hills in the heart of the Nelson Lakes National Park, I took a cheap bus and followed the highway west towards the coast, feeling the temperature visibly cool. With so few roads, dictated by the mountainous landscape, so many places I passed through felt like frontier towns, places completely out of time.

I hit the coast just south of Westport. Here the State Highway hugged the shoreline like a ribboning snake, giving the most amazing views out to sea. Again, with nothing but the wild ocean for thousands of miles, you were instantly reminded of just how remote New Zealand is and just how beautiful.

With the impenetrable forests of the Paparoa¬†National Park on my¬†left and long stretches of wind-blown¬†beaches on my right, the landscape grew evermore wild and evermore spectacular. Not being much of a coach passenger, I stopped off at the suitably named Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes of Punakaiki. A weird and wonderful natural geological formation of…well…pancake stacked rocks, perched right on the water’s edge!

After whiling away most of the day, scrabbling over the rocks and trying not to fall into one of the many gaping holes that opened up before you, I caught another bus and continued south, my eyes inextricably drawn to the far off snowy peaks of the Southern Alps.

Trundling¬†into Greymouth, the largest town I’d seen since leaving Nelson,¬†I managed to find a lovely holiday cabin right on the beach,¬†my base for the next¬†few nights. Named after the mighty Grey River-Mawheranui, whose mouth Greymouth¬†literally straddles, it was a strange sort of town. A mismatch somehow, of grey urban sprawl and border town with a dour kind of feel.

Nonetheless, my little beach hut was just the thing, going to sleep and waking with nothing but the sound of the waves! Utter bliss! Half the time I felt as if I had stumbled into Bronte’s Wuthering¬†Heights¬†or an Ingmar Bergman film, so hauntingly barren was the place!

Doing the touristy thing, I headed for the Kumara¬†Junction and¬†boarded a train on one of the world’s most spectacular train rides, the¬†famous Arthur’s Pass. Linking Greymouth and the west coast of New Zealand to Christchurch in the east, it¬†bestrides the country and takes in the most breathtaking scenery imaginable. What a trip! Following the valley floors, with mountainous peaks rising either side, the train climbed and¬†took us up to the alpine heights of Arthur’s Pass, snaking its way through the lofty terrain, before plunging down to the flat¬†Canterbury Plains surrounding Christchurch.

I spent a few hours wandering the very civilised and surprisingly English feeling city of Christchurch, before¬†boarding the train for the spectacular return journey. One incredible journey I’ll never forget…but the best was to come.

Spending a few lazy days beach combing¬†and exploring the area I set off again and headed for Hokitika, famous for its greenstone or jade, determined to buy some locally carved jewelery.¬†But always, the looming mountains of the Southern Alps were calling to me in a way I just couldn’t explain.

And so, hauling my backpack and picking up another rental car, I succumbed to the pull of the mountains and headed towards the Franz Josef glacier. Taking the state highway once more, as it left the coast and wound its way inland over rushing rivers, valley basins and beside beautiful lakes, I felt myself falling in love once more with the sheer unspoilt majesty of the landscape.

Reaching West Coast, the nearest settlement to the glacier, I found a cheap place to stay and started my next adventure…

It was a bright February morning. The sky was the kind of electric blue you never really believe is real somehow. A perfect day. Cold but full of sunshine and possibilities.

I took my car, a run-down automatic transmission thing, down to this little air field…and then I saw it. The tiniest aeroplane I had ever seen! My banged up¬†jalopy looked bigger!

Without much regard, I climbed into the small seat beside the pilot and off we went! Soaring¬† above the lower slopes of the Southern Alps. Trying desperately not to vomit all over the cock-pit, I stared out of the window, nodding at the pilot’s remarks while I kept my mouth firmly shut! (doesn’t happen often)

Rivers snaked beneath us. As we flew over the snow-capped mountains, Mount Cook loomed in the distance – New Zealand’s tallest mountain¬†and the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. Utterly stunning in its grandeur. Nausea disappeared. I looked on in astonishment as we circled Mount Cook’s flanks. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. All I could think of was…”I’ve found it! I’ve found my White Mountain!”

We left Mount Cook, Aoraki in Maori, and landed on a pristine snow field just above the Franz Josef glacier. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

This was nature at its simplest and purest. Nothing but white and the startling blue above. The snow here had a covering of ice crystals which crunched beneath my feet as I left the plane and went walking. I followed the contours of the peaks around me and looked down to the glacier below with its gaping crevasses.

This was a once in a lifetime moment and the real stuff of magic.

With Mr. Agyk whispering in my head, the story of White Mountain began to unfold…

Weather for ducks and Waterstones!

Alright, I admit that I’m a very lucky girl. Despite living in the rain-soaked capital of the world, otherwise known as the UK, I have a lovely garden that I just adore in all weathers and great family and friends.

Whilst, like the rest of us, I do get utterly fed up with the constant grey skies and incessant rain in what should be our summer, that eagerly awaited and precious window of time when life takes on a wonderful rhythm¬†of its own, hazy lazy summer days. How we all long for sunshine and cerulean above, those halcyon¬†days of our youth when we ran around in jean¬†shorts and bare feet and our skin was naturally bronzed and flecked with sun-kissed freckles. How¬†bitterly disappointed we are by yet another wash out, our fifth wet summer in a row…but, as with all things, there is always a silver edge to that rain cloud.

Peering out across¬†the garden, which resembles a marshy pond at the moment, as yet another violent cloud burst overhead, what did I see waddling towards me? A beautiful wild duck followed in close procession by her equally gorgeous and rather large ducklings! We’d noticed over the past few weeks that the¬†mallard ducks we have flying in from time to time, has lessened, but in their place was one constant rather nervous female. Two months ago, to our utter delight, we discovered why she was so nervous when we saw the fluffy little humbugs tumbling behind her! Seems my love of nature has paid off, all my bird feeders have attracted some rather larger visitors.

Now, as part of our daily routine we go out to the feeders, with Mrs Duck and her brood patiently waiting, and to the soft gabbled sound of quacking, we fill the feeders and sprinkle some on the ground. Breakfast for ducks!

Anyway, today was no exception, except that it was special for one reason…with¬†a break from my job and time to breathe, between the chaos of building work, I found myself looking at two lovely Waterstones emails. Wow! This rollercoaster of a ride to publication doesn’t stop! I cannot describe the feeling…I have two signing dates! My very first signing dates!

After years of quietly writing and writing and dreaming…my dreams are finally coming true. So yes, a huge amount of hard work has gone into getting me in this position, but nonetheless…whether it rains or shines this summer, I count myself as a very lucky girl!

ūüėÄ

Injustice for all? Why does dead wood float?

Listening to a friend recently, as we both collectively joined others in having a damn good moan, the phrase ‘dead wood floats’ was mentioned. It occurred to me, as we all groaned and agreed, that we have in this country such a skewed system of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and that the reason the gap between these polar opposites keeps growing, is that we applaud and even reward failure!

Look at the bankers and banking system. Take the former head honcho of Barclay’s, a man who looked the part, talked the talk, great ‘front of house’,¬†could charm and smarm his way into any boardroom, a man of power and charisma who abused that power dreadfully, took everyone for a ride…looks like he’s going to be given an enormous golden handshake for failing in his job, in addition to his multi-million pound salary!

Words fail.

In such an unfair world, where dead wood floats to the top, while the rest of us work our fingers to the bone for a crumb at the master’s table, all we can do is continue to hope and dream and make our own worlds as beautiful as possible!

ūüėÄ