Hobart

Health warning: loads of pictures today.

Last night we had dinner with some of Beth’s wider family here in Launceston. It was great to meet them all; three cousins and her sister Helen. We had a super slap up meal in one of the local restaurants.

We packed up this morning. The apartments we stayed in here are an historic building which has more recently been converted. It has lovely balconies at the back. I was in the middle one on the left.

We went up to see Graham again this morning, who seems to be in good form. He is due to have his pacemaker fitted tomorrow. Please remember him in your prayers.

After spending some time with him we moved on to our next destination, Hobart, about 150km south. The first half of the journey was across low flat plains.

On the way we stopped half way at Ross. This old village, which used to host a female prison, is quaint, but stuck in the past and economically challenged in our modern world. But it is very picturesque.

It is also the point where the northern plains give way to the southern hills.

There is a famous bridge in the village built in 1830 by the female prisoners.

Beth then showed me a village called Kempton, where her parents used to live. We got to the house they used to live in, to discover that it is a now a distillery. She was thrilled to be able to access it, and I was pleased as I am the Chaplain to the Distillers Livery.

We then drove on to Hobart and up Mount Wellington to see the sunset. More pictures!

And so to Hobart where we checked into the hotel. I have a wonderful room overlooking the harbour. Here are the night shots. More tomorrow in the daylight!

Another amazing day.

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Gorge-ous place

Dinner last night was fun. We found what was billed as the best restaurant in town. Beth deserved no less. It was closed for the week! We found a Chinese which served really nice food. It was what might be called relaxed, but the decor was over-dressed. Beth asked about a fish dish. The waitress muttered the immortal words: I wouldn’t recommend the fish! A brilliant moment which left us in fits of giggles.

We started today with breakfast by the River Tamar. Like so many places the river front has been redeveloped with a small marina and restaurants and walks.

We then went to a huge chaity warehouse which raises money from secondhand goods. Beth is organising a play next week and needed some costumes. The perfect place. Thence to hospital to see Graham.

After that we went to today’s highlight: the cataract gorge. It is a beautiful place and Launceston’s major tourist attraction. More importantly it is a sacred aboriginal site.

We walked along the amazing path high up on the edge of the gorge and past the lower cataracts.

Further up is a wonderful Victorian garden with a bandstand and cafe. Skirting this we went on to the suspension bridge over the upper cataracts.

Then we had lunch in the cafe. We sat outside with an amazing view. We had soup and Beth asked if it came with bread. The guy at the counter made a sarcastic and belittling comment. The rest of our day included lots of jokes about: does it come with bread? That bloke got right under her skin. Or did he get under her crust?

Having walked back down the gorge we dropped into the latest tourist attraction in the town. More hysterical laughter followed. It has a false waterfall and a zip wire, just visible in my picture. But it also had some bizarre plastic looking pirate boats and various unbelievable rides which made the place seem unreal by any standards.

Most odd.

Beth went back to see Graham while I went on a hunt for black paper serviettes. Sometimes, dear reader, you do not need to know why. It turns out the shops in this great metropolis shut at 3pm on a Saturday. New York claims to be the city which never sleeps. Launceston is the city which barely wakes up!

Back in my room I watched some Ozzie footie, as it is Saturday and Beth has been telling me how no one can live without it. Conclusion: I can!

This evening we shall have dinner with her sister and cousins.

Launceston, TAZ

Beth and I travelled to Tasmania today. Her father lives there and she grew up there. She had long planned the trip, so as to add Taz to the list of places I had visited, but her father has been in hospital, so the plan may need to be a bit more fluid.

James got back from working in Sydney yesterday evening, so that was great to see him.

We got into a discussion about my pronunciation. Launceston is not pronounced as we do in Cornwall. It is Launseston here. Later in my trip I am due with Helen who lives new Wagga Wagga. I had pronounced it as Wagga as in wag. James laughed and said it is Wagga as in bog. Strange people these foreign types. The things they do with our language! I can’t think of an English word where the a is pronounced as an o. Let me know if you can!

We flew from Melbourne mid-morning. Landed after only 50 minutes in Launceston. It is odd being on a short flight. After 30 minutes the pilot announced that we had reached our cruising height of 33,000 feet. Would the cabin crew prepare for landing! It all sounded like a swift parabola. The airport reminded me of Derry. A few private jets and just the one plane which we had just landed in! And a pretty basic terminal. It looks very 1970’s and could be a hospital building.

Not surprisingly, we went straight to the hospital (which could have been an airport terminal building. Just to return the compliment) . Beth’s dad seemed in fine form. He knew that he had been very confused when he was first admitted and was hallucinating. I pointed out that he should not tell the staff he had had a visit from a Vicar from London, or they would think he had regressed!

After grabbing some lunch in the best hospital restaurant I have ever come across, we checked into a lovely apartment in Launceston, and Beth went back to sit with her dad this afternoon while I went exploring. It is a lovely town: a little colonial in feel (whatever that means) with a mix of architecture. I walked around the town (City) centre and down to the riverside. More water pics I am afraid.

Now I am back at the room awaiting her return, before we go out to find some dinner. I am sitting on the balcony of my room watching yet another sunset.

Another great day. I wonder what tomorrow will hold…

A gentle day exploring

Everyone is at work today so I had a quiet day exploring Melbourne. I went down to the centre on the efficient tram system.

I wondered around and enjoyed the river and the architecture.

Later I cooked dinner for everyone since I was the only one not working! Vegetable lasagne. Not bad for a committed carnivore.

Tomorrow Beth and I are off to Tasmania to see her Dad.

Melbourne

I travelled to Australia today. I had to get up at 1.30am to pack and be ready to get to the airport. As is not unusual for an early flight from a small airport the instructions to arrive 2.5 hours early was completely pointless. I, of course, arrived three hours early to be sure. The staff did not even arrive to open the check-in desks until 2 hours before flight time. Still, never mind. I got here. I was met at the airport by Beth and Caspian. This needs a back story.

Sue and I met a young couple who were living near us in London: James and Bree. They were over from Australia working, staying in a small one bedroom flat. Bree was expecting their first child and we discovered that their Mum’s, Beth and Helen, wanted to come over to London around the time of the birth. We offered accommodation to them so that they could visit James and Bree and meet Caspian, who was born two years ago (more on that in a few day’s time).

They then appointed Sue and me as honorary grandparent to Caspian. We loved meeting them and seeing Caspian grow in his first year. James and Bree (and Caspian – thank goodness) came back to Australia earlier this year and now I am staying first with Beth (who is a lecturer at a Melbourne University) and later with Helen (who farms sheep over nearer Canberra). You will hear their names in the next few weeks.

We arrived at Beth’s flat in Melbourne in a northern suburb. It is a lovely 6th floor three bedroom flat with a vast open balcony overlooking one of Melbourne’s many parks.

Beth looks after Caspian on a Wednesday while she is home-working for her job. In the spirit of ‘doing something’ we then set off to the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

This small local museum has a long history and is set in extensive grounds. As well as a small internal display area there is art all over the lush green grass of the grounds. Caspian’s favourite was a group of civil engineers digging a bore hole with a large drill. Oh well! We can’t all love art.

I captured a few shots, including the corrugated iron cows.

James is off working in Sydney this week but we look forward to Bree getting home from work and we shall all have dinner together.

Everyone is either at work or pre-school tomorrow, so I shall go exploring.

NZ Parliament

I had a wonderful day today visiting the NZ Parliament. I started with a public tour of the Parliament building. The NZ Parliament is unusual in two respects. First, NZ is one of only three countries in the world without a full written constitution. (The other two are the UK and Israel). Secondly, NZ has only one chamber in its Parliament, having removed the ‘upper chamber’ a few decades ago.

After the public tour I met the Cabinet Secretary, Michael, who gave me and his own church vicar here, a private tour of the parts of the building not seen by the public. What a privilege.

Photos are not allowed in the building, but here are a couple of external shots.

As well as being Cabinet Secretary Michael is Secretary to the Governor General. Only in a ‘Westminster’ based system could one person hold two roles which could from time to time conflict. One of his previous GGs was Sir Jerry Mateparae, who is now High Commissioner in London and comes to SLJ every February for Waitangi Day. So I find myself bearing greeting back to London. I shall not be able to go to the NZSocUK summer do at NZ House on Haymarket, but perhaps the President can pass on the greetings for me!

While we were in the Cabinet Room Michael showed us a cupboard in which they keep the spare insignia for the honours system. It would be sensible not to list what I saw, but it all reminded me of my own bling cupboard (the safe at SLJ) where I keep all my badges of office and have to choose which to wear on each occasion.

Over lunch we chatted about the church which Michael and his vicar, Scotty, are involved in. It is what we would call in the UK a Fresh Expression, trying to work in new ways and focussing particularly on young adults.

I ran past Michael my story about Waitangi Day. I don’t think I have covered this in the blog so far. It goes like this…

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. The Treaty House (see an earlier blog) was given to the nation much later, and in December 1932 and January 1933 it was decided that Waitangi Day (6th February) should be celebrated in a more open way. Alongside this a full renovation of the Treaty House was begun. The first main celebrations in NZ were on 6th February 1934, when the House renovation was celebrated and there have been events and services on that date each year since.

However, in London, my then predecessor as Vicar of SLJ had been a missionary in NZ, and he arranged a service for 6th February 1933. He approached Girdlers to host refreshments afterwards, and the rest is history (including the Girdlers scholarship programme arising from the NZ link through SLJ). So my story is that SLJ was the first place in the world to hold a Waitangi Day service. I have peddled this line to the guide at Waitangi, to the congregation at Auckland and Wellington Cathedrals and to the Cabinet Secretary. No one has yet denied it, so I shall return to London with our NZ claim to fame intact!

With one proviso. This is my last day in NZ and one thing has become clear. When it comes to the socio political scene here nothing is ever quite as cut and dried as it might seem at first. There is more to that reflection, but a public blog may not be the best place to recite my thoughts…

Tomorrow I leave for Australia, having thoroughly enjoyed New Zealand. The flight is quite bonkers: 0605 from Wellington airport. I think it is timed so that people can do a 9am meeting in Melbourne. But I don’t want to do that! I just want to get there and meet friends. So, do I bother going to bed and getting up at 02.30 or shall I just struggle through and sleep when I get to Melbourne? I will tell you tomorrow.

One final thought. After yesterday’s comment about selfies, I received today a picture from one of the people with me at Old St Paul’s. I was allowed to ring their bell! Rarely rung, I gather. The guide was surprised I knew how to do it! So here is the next best thing to a selfie – a picture of me taken by someone else least it proves that I am alive (as AS would say) and that this is not an auto-generated blog.

Girdlers Day

Another fun day here in Wellington. I started by having breakfast in the lovely hotel dining room. They have it on the fifth floor so that there is a panoramic view of the city. I took a couple of pictures of the sun rise. The strange lines are a reflection of the restaurant’s lights behind me. I am sure KB would know how to eradicate such things. My way is to take the picture and then say to you: ignore that bit!

As the sun came up behind the clouds in the second one it was beautiful, but almost impossible to capture without the lines of reflection. They look like some sort of bizarre UFO/flight trail. The aliens have landed, but only in NZ so most of you are OK!

I then did a little research about buses, to avoid another taxi fare. It turns out that there is a bus going just where I needed to go for just $CD2, or about £1. Great stuff!

You will have noticed along the way that there is a certain ‘little boy’ thing going on with the trains and boats and planes. Well today we also have buses and a cable car! I really did go on the bus. Here is the proof!

Yes,,, its the knee photo again, this time showing vital omnibus infrastructure as proof of travel. Sorry folks. I will try to get to grips with the iPhone camera at some stage.

I next stopped at the famous Wellington cable car. The bottom terminal is just off one of the main shopping streets.

The tunnels go through the cliffs up to a high hill above. On the way there are three tunnels. The first simply gets you out of the town centre. Then there are two more, which they have illuminated with LED lights. (There is a bit of a reflection problem again, but this gives you an idea).

My video makes it look like fireworks, and it is indeed impressive, but it is simply LED lights on the concave roof of the tunnel.

At the top there are panoramic views across the city. and harbour and a wonderful museum of the cable car’s history.

Talking of reflections, you will see a picture of me in the next pic. This is as close as you will get to a selfie. I have resolutely resisted buying one of those moronic selfie sticks, which in my experience are even more dangerous to fellow travellers than the ubiquitous Japanese’s tour guide leader in London waving a madly coloured umbrella on a perfectly dry day! I have some standards to keep to, as a gentleman of the City of London, and refraining from selfie sticks is on my list of anathemas. So let’s revert to the reflection theme of today’s blog.

Here is the view from the top.

Next, to the main purpose of today, and the title of this blog. I went on to meet the selection committee of the Girdlers Scholarship. This Livery Company brings undergraduate scholars from New Zealand to Cambridge, and the selection process is run here in NZ. I met the Chairman, Peter, together with two Johns, and an Emma.

Emma was the scholar when I first arrived at SLJ.

John and Peter had fixed for me to have a private tour of the ‘Old St. Paul’s’, the church which had acted as the Cathedral from the mid 1800s until the first section of the new Cathedral (see yesterday’s blog) was opened in 1964. You will recall the Cathedral was not finished until 1998, but they were able to start worshipping there much earlier in the bits that were finished first. The old place is a classic NZ wood built mirror image of a classic Neo-gothic Victorian UK church. All rather odd but the volunteer guide who gave us a private your was lovely, and clearly slightly threatened by me, the vicar from London. Am I that scary? (Don’t answer that).

Then to lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant. We talked about Girdlers and the process for choosing scholars and a whole load of other things. It was a wonderful lunch.

And so I struggled back to my hotel.

Tomorrow: Parliament! Wait and see what that means.

Meanwhile here is the building which the civil servants work in, next to the Parliament building itself (the sort of Whitehall of NZ), known as the Beehive.

Wellington Cathedral

Another Sunday; another Cathedral. I am just living it up over here!

Today I visited the Cathedral at Wellington. It is much older than Auckland Cathedral: it was consecrated in 1998 whereas Auckland was only 2017. I, of course, pointed out that SLJ foundations date from 1180. It’s called ecclesiastical one-upmanship!

Like SLJ, and indeed St Paul’s Delray Beach in Florida, it is the third cathedral in the City. Florida suffers from hurricanes, Wellington from earthquakes and London from fire!

I spoke at the Companions of the Cathedral AGM: a meeting which showed all the passion and focus of any Friends association.

I then preached at the Cathedral for Evensong. It is a huge concrete (quake-proof) building.

The welcome was as ever wonderful. NZ people are so pleased to hear from anyone from London.

Tomorrow I explore the Girdlers link in NZ. More on that when I report to you then.

I’m back!

Just when you thought it was safe to turn on the PC, here I am again!

I have had a good week at Vaughan Park. It is yet another place of great beauty, as I mentioned in my blog on Monday. From my room I watched some amazing sun-sets across the valley.

I have spent time reading, praying and reflecting. It has been slightly odd, in the fact that there was a small group in the retreat centre who were doing some study and they were all well known to each other. At meal times they all closed ranks leaving the two of us who are not part of the group to find a table alone time after time. I always think it interesting how people behave in a sort of communal setting. But there we are.

One day I went for a huge long walk along th beach, and round several bays beyond that which you saw on Monday. In one bay there was a series of trees with the most amazing root networks.

One day I was sitting on a seat by the bay and a bird was quite simply hovering over my head in the on-shore wind for about 5 minutes. What an amazing sight. I am not sure that it is much more exotic than a seagull, but it was fascinating to watch it float on the current. If only all life was that simple!

I got to know a little about the other person who was there, a Hawaiian priest who is on a three month study leave. I also had some wonderful chats with the Warden, Iain, who is a great person to talk to and listen to. On my last day we had communion together. Vaughan Park, like most retreat centres, oozes love and care and hospitality. If you have never taken a retreat you should try it!

So, now, here I am back in Auckland for one night before heading south on the train. I am looking forward to that. It is a 10 hour journey through the mountains.

Anyone want to tell me what has happened in the world while I have been absent?

Vaughan Park

I left Aukland City centre this morning and headed to the very northern suburbs on the edge of the City, 20 minutes drive away. It is apparently where all the rich people live!

I have come to Vaughan Park Retreat Centre where I shall have a few days of quiet reflection and prayer in the middle of my travels. Time to stop and think.

The centre is set at the south end of a wonderful sandy beach which is also a nature and marine reserve, called Long Bay. I booked into my room and looked out of the window. Wow!

It is set on a hill just above the bay and has a series of rooms in chalet style format, and a very nice Chapel.

They seem to have lost my payment, but are very laid back about it. I paid in December. The implication was that no one usually pays in advance, so they had not searched too hard yet. It reminded me of the old civil service joke. If they tell you that a matter is pending, it just means: we have lost the file. If it is urgently pending, that means: we are looking for it!

Having unpacked I knew my first desire was to go and see the beach.

I walked all the way along to that headland and back. Then promptly fell asleep on the bed!

So here I am tucked away in my cell and finding space and time to think. My plan is that I will not blog again until Friday, so that I don’t get distracted. Don’t panic when you hear nothing for four days. I know you will all get withdrawal pains, but I will be back with more exciting adventures in due course.