Jumbo Jet


My search for a poem to suit our homeward journey didn’t find what I was seeking.

But I did discover Jumbo Jet  by Spike Milligan.

                                     Jumbo Jet

I saw a little elephant standing in my garden
I said ‘You don’t belong in here’, he said ‘I beg you pardon?’,
I said ‘This place is England, what are you doing here?’,
He said ‘Ah, then I must be lost’ and then ‘Oh dear, oh dear’.

‘I should be back in Africa, on Saranghetti’s Plain’,
‘Pray, where is the nearest station where I can catch a train?’.
He caught the bus to Finchley and then to Mincing lane,
And over the Embankment, where he got lost, again.

The police they put him in a cell, but it was far too small,
So they tied him to a lampost and he slept against the wall.
But as the policemen lay sleeping by the twinkling light of dawn,
The lampost and the wall were there, but the elephant was gone!

So if you see an elephant, in a Jumbo Jet,
You can be sure that Africa’s the place he’s trying to get!

            – Spike Milligan –

Rushing and waiting


It’s hard to travel without rushing or waiting and today we’ve done both.

We couldn’t get a seat on a plane home from Milan in time for the National Party conference and the next best option our travel agent came up with was leaving from Zurich.

We left Verona at 9.30 this morning and were due in Milan at 10.55 with 15 minutes to catch the connecting train to Switzerland.

The train from Verona was late, leaving us with just 5 minutes to get off it, run with cases to find the platform for the next one and board, which we did with two minutes to spare.

That train was supposed to take us all the way to Zurich but about a third of the way in to the journey it stopped at a station and we were told to get off. Several announcments were made in German which didn’t help us and we had an anxious wait until a train arrived three quarters of an hour later and we were told in German, French and English that we should board it.

It was bound for Lucerne, and we were told we had to change for Zurich but not at which station. We found out in time but had only a couple of minutes to catch the connecting train which got us to Zurich Central Station.

It was just a short train ride from there to the airport however, we were too early to check in so had to hang round for nearly two hours with our cases.

Still, better too early than too late and at least we were able to wander around which was easier to deal with than the hour wait on the tarmac which Cactus Kate faced.

We’ve a flight to Singapore ahead of us now, four hours in the airport there then the final leg home. But I won’t relax until we get to Christchurch because we’re scheduled to land at 9.30 on Saturday morning and any major delay will mean we’ll be too late to vote in the election of directors  at the National Party conference.

July 31 in history


On July 31:

1856 Christchurch was chartered as a city.

1956 Jim Laker set a record by taking 19 wickets in a cricket Test against Australia at Old Trafford.

1976 John Walker won a gold medal at the Montreal Olympics.

Sourced from Wikipedia and NZ History Online.



Turandot is probably not the easiest of Operas for people who don’t know much about this form of music but the performance at Verona’s Arena was a wonderful introduction to it.

Sitting in the world’s biggest arena where people have come to be entertained for hundreds of years made it a special experience from the start.

Even if you didn’t appreciate the music it would have been difficult to have remained unimpressed by the visual spectacular. Some of the scenes are on YouTube  here.

Then came Nessun Dorma which earned an encore and provided a wonderful finale for our holiday.

A performance of that song from the Arena a month ago is also on YouTube.

Too safe can be dangerous


We’ve wandered along castle parapets and Roman mule tracks, climbed hills and walls and not once in Spain or Italy have we seen a sign like this:

09 various 032

It was on Rob Roy track in Mount Aspiring National Park just before a bit of a slip that was so old the many feet which had walked over it since had worn a new track.

Near the start of the track was a newer, bigger slip which did require considerable care but it was too fresh for anyone to have put up a sign.

No doubt some time someone who is responsible for such things will discover the slip and provide a sign, but is it really necessary?

Is the motivation for such warnings safety or just to preclude any blame being laid?

And do warning signs and other precautions make life safer or more dangerous because it encourages us to stop looking after and taking responsibility for ourselves?

Exchange rate woes


Travelling in Europe we might have welcomed a strong New Zealand dollar, but it’s difficult to consider the dollar is high when it takes more than two to buy a euro and if it costs a dollar at home it usually costs a euro here so everything is twice as expensive.

Besides anything we gained while here will be more than cancelled out by the impact of the exchange rate on sales of meat,wool and milk.

The $NZ was at 59 US cents when Fonterra announced its forecast payout for the season. It hit a 10 month high of 66.9 cents this week.

The forecast payout for this season hasn’t changed but MAF economists are prediciting next season’s payout will be lower before recovering a bit in the 2011/12 season.

Seven days computer free . . .


. . .  and I didn’t even miss it.

We left Milan last Thursday morning and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to write a post since then.

Posting will be erratic for the next few days as we start our trip back to New Zealand tonight, arriving (providing everything goes according to schedule) in time to cast our votes for the National Party Board at the annual conference on Saturday.

Thanks to everyone who popped in while I was wandering in the sun – Milan to Verona via Lake Como, Switzerland and Lake Garda.

July 30 in history


On July 30:

762 Baghdad was founded.

1818 Emily Bronte was born.

Portrait by Branwell Brontë

 1930 Uruguay won the first Football World Cup.

1979 carless days were enforced on New Zealand motorists.

1980 Vanuatu gained Independence.


 Sourced from Wikipedia and NZ History Online.

Mid-week Music


We’re going to the opera in the Arena DiVerona tonight.

I’m not sure what we’ll be seeing/hearing, but because Placido Domingo made his debut here, today’s mid-week music is The Three Tenors, Domingo, Andrea Bocelli and Jose Carreras singing O Solo Mio.

July 29 in history


On July 29:

18 36 the Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated in Paris.

1848 the Tipperary revolt took place in Ireland.

1981 Police used batons to stop Springbok tour protestors marching up Molesworth Street.

1981 Prince Charles and lady Diana Spencer were married.

Sourced from Wikipedia and NZ History Online.

Tuesday’s answers


Monday’s questions were:

1. Who said “Clever and attractive women do not want to vote; they are willing to let men govern as long as they govern men”?

2. Who wrote The Uncommon Reader?

3. What is manchego?

4. How many countries have won the FIFA World Cup?

5. Who was the first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic gold medal?

Tuesday’s answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

July 28 in history


On July 28:

1821 Jose San Martin declared Peru’s independance from Spain.

Flag Coat of arms

1866 Beatrix Potter was born.



1893 The third suffrage petition in three years was presented to the New Zealand parliament. Signed by nearly 32,000 – almost a quarter of the adult European population of the country, helped pave the way for granting votes to women a few months later.

Sourced from Wikipedia and NZ History Online.

Monday’s quiz


1. Who said “Clever and attractive women do not want to vote; they are willing to let men govern as long as they govern men”?

2. Who wrote The Uncommon Reader?

3. What is manchego?

4. How many countries have won the FIFA World Cup?

5. Who was the first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic gold medal?

July 27 in history


On July 27:

1866 the Trans-Atalantic cable was completed enabling Transatlantic telegraph communication.

1940 The character Bugs Bunny was introduced in an animated short film A Wild Hare.

1953 The Korean War ended.

1963 New Zealand’s pioneer aviator George Bolt died.

Sourced from Wikipedia & NZ History online.

Happy birthday GBS


Some quotes in honour of Geroge Bernard Shaw’s birthday:

* A fasion is nothing but an induced epidemic.

* A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.

* A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

* Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men.

* Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.

*A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

*England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

* Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.

* A little learning is a dangerous thing, but we must take that risk because a little is as much as our biggest heads can hold.

* Gambling promises the poor what property performs for the rich–something for nothing.

* If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.

* A veteran journalist has never had time to think twice before he writes.

* If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.

* Beauty is all very well at first sight; but who ever looks at it when it has been in the house three days?

* Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.

* Lack of money is the root of all evil.

* Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.

* The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed but that he cannot believe anyone else.

July 26 in history


On July 26:

1856 George bernard Shaw was born.


1865 the New Zealand Parliament moved from Auckland to Wellington.

1939 former Australian Prime Minister John Howard was born.

John Howard

1965 The Maldives gained full independence.

Flag Coat of arms


Sourced from Wikipedia & NZ History online.

The best chocolate cake in the world


That’s a big claim, but this is the recipe for the cake referred to in Thursday’s post and I defy you to find a better one.

It comes from the Australian Women’s Weekly Chocolate recipe book.

Mocha Truffle Cake 

3 eggs                          ½ cup castor sugar

¼ cup cornflour          ¼ cup self raising flour

¼ cup plain flour         2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tablespoons Tia Maria or Kahlua (optional)

2 tablespoons milk

600 ml cream

100g white chocolate melted    200g dark chocolate melted

  For the icing

200g milk chocolate melted         

90g unsalted butter melted


Beat eggs until thick and creamy.

Gradually add sugar & beat until dissolved between each addition.

Lightly fold in sifted flours & cocoa.

Spread mixture into 23cm round springform tin (greased or lined with baking paper).

Bake in moderate over for about 30 minutes or until firm. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

Split cake in half and brush with combined liqueur & milk (can omit this if don’t want cake to be so rich).


Beat cream until soft peaks from. Divide into two bowls.

Stir in melted and cooled white chocolate into one bowl of cream and melted, cooled dark chocolate into the other.


Place one cake half back in tin you cooked it in, spread with half the white chocolate cream, all the dark chocolate cream then rest of white chocolate cream. Top with remaining half of cake.

Refrigerate several hours or overnight.      Remove from tin & spread with topping.



Combine hot melted chocolate and butter. Cool to room temperate, stir occasionally until spreadable.

 (If you don’t have a springform tin, line your tin with strips of tin foil which cover the base and extend over edges before putting cooked cake back in to assemble cream layers so you can get it out again easily.)

dairy 10007

The photo is from the book, but it usually looks nearly as good as this when I make it.

July 25 in history


On July 25:

1603 James VI of Scotland was crowned the first king of Great Britain.

James I of England from the period 1603–1613, by Paul van Somer I (1576–1621)
James I of England from the period 1603–1613, by Paul van Somer I (1576–1621)

1837 the first commercial use of electrical telegraph was demonstrated between Euston and Camden Town in London.

1981 Anti-Springobk tour protestors derailed a rugby match in Hamilton.

Amazing Grace


It’s English hymnist John Newton’s birthday which is a good excuse to feature his most famous hymn:



It is Robert Graves’ birthday which prompted the choice of 1915, for this Friday’s poem.


I’ve watched the Seasons passing slow, so slow,
In the fields between La Bassée and Bethune;
Primroses and the first warm day of Spring,
Red poppy floods of June,
August, and yellowing Autumn, so
To Winter nights knee-deep in mud or snow,
And you’ve been everything.

Dear, you’ve been everything that I most lack
In these soul-deadening trenches—pictures, books,
Music the quiet of an English wood,
Beautiful comrade-looks,
The narrow, bouldered mountain-track,
The broad, full-bosomed ocean, green and black,
And Peace, and all that’s good. 

    – Robert Graves –

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