Party Time!

Adelaide’s (Gawler’s) Hewett Centre

It’s now Monday January 30th, 2023. 0Kia ora!

We arrived at Auckland International Airport at around 6:20 am on Wednesday January 18th for our flight which was scheduled to depart at 8:25 am. There already seemed to be hundreds of people there already. An overhead notice advised us to go to Zone A. We duly checked in at a kiosk and printed baggage tags and boarding passes. Then we went to load our checked baggage.  This was trickier, but we eventually figured it out.

Then we went through security, and came across the first duty-free store, a large one, which seemed to sell only alcohol and make-up.  JD didn’t want to carry any more stuff, so we walked until we came to a Food Hall.  Thankfully I had looked up to see what food options were available beforehand, and I ordered ciabatta toast and spreads and a long black coffee from Aroha.  The toast came in a cardboard tray, and I selected butter, strawberry jam and peanut butter sachets, wooden cutlery, and paper napkins.  I had found us a table nearby.  The toast, which I shared with JD, turned out to be a good choice.

Then we walked what seemed like a very long way (with several travellators – perhaps 6), to Gate 18, where we sat and waited, again.  On the way I used a rest room, where the toilet flushes automatically!

The plane was boarded in sections, from the rear of the plane first. We were seated in row 23. The overhead lockers had plenty of room, but our seats had little space, less than the plane we’d flown in the previous night.

The flight time was almost 5 hours. It was very smooth for the most part. They served breakfast, but this took ages to arrive, and I was so glad I’d had some toast at the airport.  Breakfast was chorizo frittata or muesli, a chocolate Danish pastry, and a hot drink. The frittata was very nice, actually.

I tried to watch the movie Mrs Harris Goes to Paris with the lovely Lesley Manville. I’d seen it before, of course, but I was happy to watch it again, especially once I realised the small paper parcel I was sitting on contained headphones! Actually they weren’t very good, and kept falling out of my ears. Also, I couldn’t tilt the screen, and wished I’d been a few inches taller. That was annoying. I could cross my legs, but i did get really uncomfortable.

We had a smooth landing, but it took a long time to get off the plane. Than we queued up for some entry check, I don’t know what they call it here. It took a very long time. The checkers were meticulous. No E-passport swift entry gates here.  On the plane I had managed to find my sister-in-law’s address in my diary in my travel bag, so at least I had that.

We eventually got through, and retrieved our checked luggage. Thankfully it had arrived intact.  Then we queued up for another check, before emerging into the airport proper. En route I used a rest room which was very Hi-Tech, not with a loo that flushed automatically, but with a large sink, where you put your hands out for warm water, liquid soap, and drying. Now the latter I had not seen before.

Our sister was there to meet us, and drove us to her home. We had seen it on our last visit, when she was in the process of buying it, but she has done so much to it since she moved in!

We are in Gawler, which is a rather beautiful and quaint old town, with lots of very pretty older brick cottages.  The local government keeps doing odd things with the roadworks, but that’s no great matter, it’s still charming, for the most part. I had forgotten that in Adelaide and surrounding areas, the sun is the enemy, to be shut out, and the interiors are quite dark. There are lots and lots of trees, many of them very big ones.

When we arrived it was quite cool, by their standards, having just had a heat wave. We joked that we’d brought Wellington weather with us, but without the humidity.  My phone shows me the temperature in Churton Park each day along with Gawler, and it’s sometimes cooler in Gawler than in Wellington.  It’s very comfortable for me. I’ve brought the right clothes, for once! I’ve brought clothes that I would normally take to Napier, perhaps not even wearing them in Wellington. It’s nice to be warm enough, without wearing lots of warm clothes.

The next day we called in at our niece’s house, and then went shopping, again marvelling that Australia has the edge on New Zealand with its ability to offer more consumer goods. We picked up wine from a liquor store. Although they had overseas wines, I did not see a single New Zealand wine there, other than a bottle of Oyster Bay Pinot Gris at $20.

We drove out into the Barossa Valley to have lunch at Lyndoch.  I had the pasta special with prawns, forgetting how messy pasta can be to eat. I hesitated between this and the fish special (snapper), my favourite, but it came with Thai basil, which I’ve previously reacted badly to. Afterwards I asked for a small long black coffee; when it came, it was much bigger than I expected, and I had to take it away with us. It was good coffee, but I should have ordered an espresso, I think.

That evening there was a family dinner, with perhaps 25 people there?  Thoughtfully my sister had ordered platters and had grazing food available, with lots to drink. These Australian homes are great for entertaining with big dining tables and big, covered outdoor areas and lots of comfortable furniture, which absorb a lot of people. JD regaled us all with the family story behind the gift (a painting) we’d brought for his sister. Amazingly, it arrived intact, in my suitcase. We’d considered carrying it as hand luggage, but decided that would be quite problematic to do so. I’m glad we made the right decision.

This is the first family gathering after JD’s mother died in 2019; before that, they met at a nephew’s wedding in 2017. So it’s a significant occasion, where there are a few new faces, a few new children, a few new ailments, but thanks for the opportunity to be together once more. Again, we of my and my husband’s generation marvel at how amazingly well our precious children and grandchildren and great nieces and nephews have turned out, despite their somewhat dysfunctional parents. Our children have turned out to be great parents, too.

The next day most of us gathered for lunch at a restaurant in the Barossa Valley. What a beautiful part of the country this is!  A beautiful, fertile landscape. Having lunch was a great idea. Thoughtfully we’d been asked to send through our orders the night before, so although there were so many of us, there was plenty of room and it was very well-organised.

Later some of us had a barbecue dinner at our niece’s house, which again had plenty of space, indoors and out. There was a breeze in the evening, which had some of us reaching for cardigans and jackets. There were some great discussions about politics both in New Zealand and in Australia.

Amongst all this came the dreadful news that Prime Minister Arden is resigning as our Prime Minister. I first learnt this on Thursday morning. We’d stopped to pick up some wine, and I happened to check my phone. The Guardian headline it came up with was Ardern’s resignation as Prime Minister. Then I looked at the Stuff i.e. Dom post website and saw a photo of National Party Leader Christopher Luxon smiling.

In my email was a message from Ardern, explaining the rationale for her decision.  Of course, I can totally understand it, but it is still a devastating shock. Her “star power” was really something. Some have written about her amazing legacy; others have written about the vitriol and misogyny she encountered as people became more and more sick of Covid-19, and the restrictions imposed became very frustrating. It wasn’t her fault, for goodness sake! The MIQ lottery caused great grief, too, although it protected us all here for so long.  I think perhaps people have forgotten how devastating Covid 19’s impact was initially, when hundreds of people were dying, and health and hospital and funeral services were overwhelmed. Thankfully they weren’t overwhelmed here, although things got quite serious at times.

Many of us greatly admired and appreciated the work of Prime Minister Ardern, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson (and others) to look after us so we’ll, but this turned into some pretty violent protests and campaigns against vaccination and measures to protect us (and the health system). I was not an early fan of Prime Minister Ardern, having become very cynical about politics, but I was won over, especially with her (and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson’s) firm and decisive handing of the Covid 19 pandemic from its outset in early 2020. I turned into a huge fan of her common sense, intelligent appeal.

Now there are no restrictions, but still at least 50 people dying each week, and things are by no means “back to normal”. Or perhaps it’s a new normal. This pandemic has certainly gone on for longer than many of us expected.

I feel very sorry for Prime Minister Ardern having to deal with the Christchurch mosque shootings, the White Island Tragedy, and then the pandemic. She handled them incredibly well.

What a strange time! People are saying Chris Hipkins is most likely to become to next PM.  I guess he’s The Best of the Rest, then, given that Grant Robertson is not contending for the role, but I fear this era is over. Aotearoa/New Zealand was a nation that the rest of the world could look up to, for many things: a good Labour Government that cared about people over business profits.  For a time the NZ government demonstrated sanity as opposed to the governments of Scomo in Australia, Bojo in the UK, and Trump in the US. Now they have gone, and Prime Minister Ardern will soon go too.  Let’s hope New Zealand doesn’t go hard far-right authoritarian in future, where women are subjugated (again), and abortion and being gay are difficult if not illegal. Prime Minister Ardern, thank you for your service, and for being quite wonderful. You are greatly admired and appreciated. In the event, Chris Hipkins is the new Prime Minister, Carmel Sepuloni is his deputy, and Grant Robertson will be a list MP. The handover has gone incredibly smoothly; Jacinda Ardern has stood down gracefully, unmarked by scandal, with her reputation intact, unlike Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson or Donald Trump. It’s really sad that she’s gone, but Chippy (as he’s known) seems to be stepping up to the mark. Perhaps all is not lost.

Saturday January 21st is party day, and the temperature promises to get up to 30 C.  It’s already fine and warm. The party is due to start at 4 pm. We both wash our hair, and, like Kate Middleton, I will do my own makeup. (She’s rumoured to have done her own makeup on her wedding day, an aspect of her character that adds to greatly my admiration of her). JD and I try to stay out of the way. I shower and wash my hair, and blow-dry it, but it doesn’t look great

Already I feel rather dowdy.

Sister-in-law had arranged for a friend to give us a lift to the Hewett Centre, where the party is to be held. The party was great fun, although we knew very few people there other than family. There was a lovely area outside for children of all ages to play cricket. The air conditioner inside is quite cold, but outside there is plenty of room.

Inside the family commandeer one of the perhaps 5 – 6 tables.  We help ourselves to some of the finger food on a table near the entrance.  I help myself to some very nice bread, and dips (tzatziki and hummus?) and some camembert cheese. 

Eventually there are speeches, led off by JD. Then there is the Birthday Song, and cake cutting.  During this time platters of hot food are brought out – pizza, some very nice sliders, skewers with beef and chicken, chicken bites, mini spring rolls and so on.

The cake is cut and slices put on individual plates with forks. It is a vanilla sponge with pink frosting.

At 8 pm we vacate the venue, and return to my sister’s house.  After a while I head off to bed.  There are some drunken forays into my room looking for the toilet, and it gets very loud, but somehow I go off to sleep.

The next day is Sunday, and as we are only 2 1/2 hours behind New Zealand, I dial into Sunday church service on my phone. I have to install zoom first, and it’s complicated, but I manage to dial in without video.

Later in the morning we all gather at my niece’s house nearby. What an amazing set up she has, with a large pool, a hammock, and comfortable covered seating both indoors and out.

We have a beautiful barbecue lunch. There were delicious lamb chops and sausages, but the highlight was a Mexican Salad which worked really well.  I think it would be suitable for vegans with non- dairy sour cream and non-dairy grated cheese.

In the evening we had a quiche for tea.

On Monday January 23rd we went sailing. Most of the family came, plus another friend. I think everyone wore trousers except for me: I hadn’t brought any, thinking it would be too hot to wear them. We drove into Adelaide to go sailing. I was well-equipped with sunhats and sunscreen. It was very hot, but breezy on the water. Our sister had packed an amazing picnic lunch. My only “gripe” was that it was quite difficult to see anything outside. I had thought we were going to do a river sailing, but we just sailed out to the harbour entrance and back.

The sailing was booked from 2 – 4 pm. Afterwards we had an early dinner at the Birkenhead Hotel.  I had a cup of coffee, a glass of tonic water with ice, and salmon on wild rice with salad. On the way there, we drove past our sister’s old house, the one where we’d stayed when we last came to Adelaide, almost six years ago.

People from the extended family were leaving now. The next day, Tuesday January 24th, we drove up the beautiful Barossa Valley again, this time to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. We bought some goodies for our sister-in-law in Geelong, and shared two platters for lunch: a meat platter with pâté, salami, and pear chutney and beetroot chutney, and another platter with olive oil and dukkha. I had delicious coffee -two small cup! I finally got some delicious coffee that I really enjoyed. I thought I had ordered a regular coffee with an extra shot, not expecting too much. It was all very nice.

Afterwards we visited Tanunda, a beautiful small town. The houses are so picturesque! We bought red wine and chocolates.

Then we visited our niece’s house again before ordering pizza for dinner for our last night in Gawler.

Tomorrow: Wednesday January 25th, Melbourne here we come!

Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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