Jon Tucker, AUSTARS member now, but originally from New Zealand has written this great book about children today enjoying an Arthur Ransome style adventure. Lots of nods to Swallows and Amazons, but set within a modern Australian context, this is a great little book, with more in the series to come. Available as a Kindle download from Amazon, or contact the author through his website to find out how to get your foc’sle hands on a copy. http://www.nzmaid.com/
If you live in New Zealand, you can join TARSNZ, and in addition to the papers you will normally receive as a TARS member (Signals and Mixed Moss), you will also receive Furthest South, the newsletter of AUSTARS and TARSNZ, and the glorious TARSNZ news!
For more information, contact TARSNZ Co-ordinator Cheryl Paget at email@example.com.
Membership rates for 2013 are:
senior (65+) $42.00
Sounds interesting! What’s the award?
The award will be presented to the TARS member who has travelled “Furthest South” during the course of the preceding year.
Any TARS member who travels to New Zealand and makes contact with a TARSNZ member, and/or the TARSNZ co-ordinator and meets for a parley (grog optional) is eligible to win the award. In the case of more than one TARS member travelling to New Zealand in any particular year, the member deemed to have travelled the furthest will be the winner.
Photographic evidence of the parley will be required, and sent to the TARSNZ co-ordinator (there is no requirement for the photo to be taken by stealth however – as per The Big Six.)
TARSNZ members want to encourage TARS members worldwide to visit our beautiful country and enjoy Kiwi hospitality, and develop international friendships based on a shared love of the work of Arthur Ransome.
The award will be sent by TARSNZ members directly to the winner wherever they live in the world. The winner is announced at each IAGM, and a short article (to be supplied by the TARSNZ Co-ordinator) about the presentation will appear in the next edition of Signals. The name of the first winner of the award will be announced at the IAGM in May 2013, for the member who has travelled “Furthest South” between 1 June 2012 and 25 May 2013, and thereafter annually at each IAGM.
Who do I contact?
Unless you already know a jolly TARSNZ member, best contact TARSNZ Co-ordinator Cheryl Paget before you leave, either by eel-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org post, 26 Tanner Street, Havelock North 4130, New Zealand, or ring 0064 6 877 5048, or text 0064 2102 774835.
Wellington is known as the windy city, for a very good reason. There is a lot of wind, a lot of the time. Friday 11 January 2013 was windy, but thankfully not as bad as it had been in the days before, when some houses in the city had lost their roofs. My family and I were camping, and the threat of having a flattened tent seem very real, but was a needless worry, as we were very well protected at the campsite by the fence we had pitched hard up against.
We met for a parley at Michael McBryde’s home in Ngaio, from which we enjoyed wonderful views down across the city, as we chatted and caught up on our news, and met up with new members and members we hadn’t met before. Michael had baked a wonderful cake, polished off in no time and washed down with lots of ginger beer. Later on that evening we met up again at the Regal Chinese restaurant in Courtney Place (the very middle of middle earth) for a sumptuous Missee Lee banquet. There really was heaps of food, and we all felt slightly guilty at leaving a huge pile of chicken (being in the middle of the Lazy Susan it was just too far to reach) but we really were stuffed. A lovely evening was slightly dashed for me when I got back to the rattletrap to find a $50 parking ticket, the first (and not the last time) I fell afoul of Wellington’s nefarious parking system over the weekend. If you can imagine the GA, that’s pretty much how I was behaving by the time we left.
On Saturday 12 January we all made our way to the home of Susan Price, TARS member and curator of the Susan Price Collection, a heritage collection of over 20,000 children’s books donated by Susan to the National Library of New Zealand in 1991, but which remain in the home she shares with her mother, Beverley Randall. A collection that is still growing, as Susan adds many books each year, features titles from the 1930’s to the present day. Their home is a book lover’s paradise, with every nook and cranny filled with book, including, we were told, the attic and the basement.
Time stood still for many hours as we perused the books, remembering titles from our childhood and finding hidden treasures. We were treated to the most sumptuous morning tea – Beverley had scoured the Ransome books to find every reference possible to food, and presented us with a table groaning with bunloaf and marmalade, corned beef (pemmican) sandwiches, potted meat, chocolate, pork pie and boiled egg, each plate labelled with an appropriate quotation. We were only allowed to eat after singing a rousing version of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” including a verse about the captain’s daughter that none of us had been taught at school!
In the afternoon, Jan, Fran, Michael and I headed out to the coast to Owhiro Bay to walk to the Red Rocks Seal Colony. At this time of year there aren’t many seals, but we did spot one (George.)
The Red Rocks are actually 200 million year old lava formed by undersea volcanic eruptions, getting their colour from iron oxide. The walk was spoiled by the number of 4x4s tearing along the path. Dubbed hullabaloos, in dodging one of them and in fighting the unbelievably strong head wind, Michael cut his leg. We all endured a full-on exfoliating sea scrub as the wind whipped up the sand on the way home, why women pay good money for this kind of skin treatment is beyond me when, with the right weather conditions you can get it for free!
We headed out from the Red Rocks to the Carter Observatory, situated in the Wellington Botanic Garden. We enjoyed the planetarium, although it was a struggle not to doze off in the warm room with comfortable chairs. The talk, strangely not entitled “Signalling to Mars,” was very interesting though. We really felt we had had a “Dick and Dot” day with books, geology and stars, and were ready for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday 13 January turned out to be a rotten day weather wise. For various reasons, only Jan, Fran and I headed out on the ferry to explore Somes Island that has, variously over time, been a human and animal quarantine station, an internment camp and a military defence position, and had been inhabited by Maori for generations. It even has a dubious reputation as a leper colony. Now a Department of Conservation scientific and historic reserve, this tiny island is packed full of history and wildlife (which was hiding, due to the weather, though we did see karariki (red-crowned parakeet) and giant weta. Despite the wind and rain, we ate our packed lunches and headed back to the mainland… after which the sun came out, the wind dropped and it was a beautiful evening!
Returning to my rattletrap, I found a second parking fine, and then, in going to pick up the birthday cake for our birthday tea, the sales assistant put the cake into a banana box with no bottom. Two steps later, a wet “whump” indicated that the cake, pre-ordered and beautifully decorated with “Happy Birthday Arthur” was splattered all over the shop floor. Great Aunt Maria had nothing on me by that point, I can tell you, and the poor girl ended up giving me another cake for free.
We had our “fiendishly hard quiz” and birthday tea in the cafeteria of Airways New Zealand, situated on the 26th floor of the highest building in Wellington, promptly rechristened High Topps. TARS member Alasdair works there, and after the quiz (winner receiving a jar of Missee Lee’s Oxford Marmalade) he showed us the modern-day navigation techniques used by aircraft crossing the Pacific. A far cry from John’s compass, but fascinating none the less.
The weather forecast for the Monday being atrocious, we decided not to battle the elements again and said “adieu and farewell” until next year, when the birthday weekend will be Great Northern? In Auckland, the city of sails!
Inaugural TARSNZ AR Birthday Weekend 13-16 January 2012.
For more information contact Cheryl Paget email@example.com or 0064 (0)6 877 5048.
Inaugural TARSNZ AR Birthday weekend
13-16 January 2012, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
The region of Hawke’s Bay is situated on the eastern coast of the North island of New Zealand, and as nine plucky TARSNZ members from all over the country congregated on Friday 13th of January in Havelock North, we discovered that we had inadvertently met at probably the only place in New Zealand with a genuine Ransome connection. Dick Kelsall, who as a child lived across the valley from Low Ludderburn, and whose father had developed the signalling system with Ransome that found its way into Winter Holiday, had apparently immigrated to New Zealand in later life and had lived in Havelock North until his death. This piece of news, shared immediately upon arrival was a complete surprise to most of us – how lucky could that possibly be?! It could only mean that the weekend could only be a success, which it indeed was.
The weekend kicked off with a presentation on Friday evening at the Hastings library, attended by around 50 members of the public, enticed by a wonderful article in the local paper. Entitled “Arthur Ransome, story-teller, journalist, sailor, fisherman and suspected spy” the presentation gave an overview of Ransome, his importance in the genre of children’s literature, a brief biography and the was-he-wasn’t-he argument about whether he was a double agent. The library staff had enthusiastically supported TARSNZ making the presentation, and had allowed a fantastic display in the library. In fact the publicity for the event was so good that when the librarians went to put Ransome’s books in the display, they could only find a few – all the others were out on loan!
TARSNZ members went for a great meal and a long parley at a local restaurant after the presentation, where we sat drinking Hawke’s Bay pinot gris (grog) looking out over Te Mata Peak (which looks like a man lying down) that we planned to walk during the course of our activities.
Saturday 14th was a typical of a Hawke’s Bay summer – hot, bright and clear. We started off in Napier, aptly dubbed the Art Deco Capital of the World. Hawke’s Bay suffered a devastating earthquake on 3rd February 1931, with the main settlements of Napier, Hastings and Havelock North utterly destroyed. Napier was rebuilt in the modern architectural style of the day – Art Deco, with neighbouring Hastings developing a mix of Art Deco and Spanish Mission styles. The result in Napier is the biggest concentration of Art Deco style buildings definitely in the southern hemisphere, if not in the world, and a huge tourist industry developed from the result of an 80 year old tragedy.
The TARSNZ went on an hour long guided Art Deco tour of Napier, peering through letterboxes and doors to view the sumptuous interiors of office buildings and banks, and gazing up at the ziggurats, sunbursts and speed lines gracing so many of the buildings. Where better than Napier to find out about life in the 1930’s – the time of the Swallows and Amazons?
We went our separate ways for lunch (long lunches are very much a feature of Hawke’s Bay life) and re-congregated on the coast at Clifton, where we embarked on a tractor tour along the beach to Cape Kidnappers – exotically named by Captain Cook after his Tahitian interpreter was kidnapped by local Maori at this point in 1769.
The tour was a perfect for the Dick Callums among us, with geological information along the way, our tractor-driving guide pointing out fault lines clearly visible in the cliff face, and the different layers of rock. At the end of the beach, we had to embark, and after a short walk to the top of the cliff came upon the largest mainland Gannet colony in the world. It was nesting time, with adult birds caring for their fluffy chicks – many of whom were actually bigger than the parents and taking up the entire nest!
As the mother of two teenage boys, I know exactly how those gannets felt. As you can only access the Cape at low tide, we felt like we really had crossed the Red Sea. After a speedy ride back along the beach, we were all tired out with the fresh air and exercise of the day, so we all went our separate ways for an evening meal and a good long sleep.
Sunday 15th was again a gorgeous day – perfect for a visit to the Hawke’s Bay Farmer’s Market – the oldest Farmer’s Market in New Zealand and the largest, perfect for the Rogers and the Susans.
Hastings used to be dubbed the Fruitbowl of New Zealand as it is the largest pipfruit producing region in the country. 60% of New Zealand’s apples are grown here, so if you ever eat a New Zealand apple there’s a very good chance it comes from Hastings. There are a great many stalls at the market, selling artisan breads, ice cream, cheese and cakes and locally produced jams, chutneys, olive oil, wine, beef, venison and pork, fruit and vegetables, and topped off with a musician playing his guitar and singing. We did wonder if he would do sea shanties!
When we could finally tear ourselves away from the gastronomic delights of the market, we headed to the Osmanthus Garden in Cornwall Park, Hastings. This Chinese garden was created to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Sister City relationship between Hastings and Guilin, a relationship developed due to the agricultural similarities between the two cities, a relationship which actually led directly to the development of the gold kiwifruit, and the pacific rose apple variety.
The Cannonball stall
2011 saw the 30th anniversary celebrated – the first and thus oldest New Zealand-China Sister City relationship. The garden is a fusion of Chinese and New Zealand native plants and traditional design, and includes a large pond and pavilions, and is designed as a giant Chinese puzzle. We almost expected to see Missee Lee walk around the corner of this tranquil garden.
However, our day had barely begun – we next headed off to Kanchenjunga (Te Mata Peak) which we intended to climb. We met two new TARSNZ recruits in the car park – one had attended the presentation in the library and wanted to join our activities, and he brought along his nephew. Both were called Alasdair and both were incredibly knowledgeable about all things Swallows and Amazons, so they were promptly nicknamed Old Billy and Young Billy, despite Old Billy’s protestations that he wasn’t anywhere near old enough even to be young Billy!
We set of at a pace up the track, noting of course that to be truly authentic we should a) rope ourselves together and b) stay off the official track, but we tacitly agreed that given our average age we should not attempt anything quite so risky! By this time, it was midday and the temperature was 28 degrees centigrade with no wind. Luckily, Te Mata Peak rises fairly steeply to 399m above the Heretaunga Plains which is virtually at sea level, so as we climbed the temperature dropped to a very pleasant level.
Four of our group took the rattletrap option to the summit, and met us there with a boot full of picnic – much of the grub purchased at the farmers market that morning. The walkers were jolly pleased to meet the rattletrapers at the top, where we all tucked into our lunch, admiring the amazing view. Sadly, it was too hazy to see Mount Ruapehu, an active volcano in the Tongariro National Park around 150km away as the crow flies.
We followed the goat track down from the summit, where Old Billy proved to be a very friendly native by leading the way. A quick spruce up at our various accommodations preceded another fine meal at a local pub, where we wet our whistles with a glass or two of the local grog and prepared for the TARSNZ fiendishly hard quiz – held at St Luke’s church hall in Havelock North. This fine timber church was consecrated in 1874, which makes it rather an ancient building in terms of New Zealand’s pakeha (or European) history.
On the summit of Kanchenjunga – our 9 members increased to 11!
Much scratching of heads took place over the quiz, where TARSNZ members and the Billies were lulled into a false sense of security with an easy first round where all teams scored 10 out of 10 – by the middle of the quiz one team (who will remain nameless, but you know who you are) were too embarrassed to call out their score as it was, on more than one occasion, a big fat zero! By the end everyone was groaning, and most were stumped by the “Life and times of Arthur Ransome” round. In fact some members were heard to bemoan the lack of time in the pub to get grogged up enough to liberate a few more grey cells! Many of the questions were supplied by the AUSTARS, so the quizmaster takes no credit for the fiendishness of the questions! The winning team – Dolly the Cragfast Sheep – were rewarded with a couple of bars of William’s chocolate.
We took a mid-quiz break to tuck into a specially decorated birthday cake, expertly cut by our very own Captain John, and at the end everyone received a certificate of participation, with a twist – members were awarded certificates for “looking the most like Captain Flint,” “having the squashiest hat,” “being the most like Nancy and Peggy” “Having the most fun crossing the Red Sea” and “the Amazon award for escaping” to name a few.
Monday 16th was another fine day, where we visited Te Mata winery, one of the oldest wineries in Hawke’s Bay, and enjoyed a guided tour. We saw cellars and barrels that would gladden the hearts of the hardest pirates, despite the fact that the picking season hasn’t yet started, so the cellars only contained the ageing wines – the 2012 crop is still growing on the vine. We were also given a wine tasting – as true pirates, of course you can’t throw good grog away, and despite the sun being a long way off the yardarm we managed to knock back quite a few different varieties between us!
For the afternoon we headed over to the Silky Oak Chocolate Factory, where we had a talk about the chocolate making process used there, and tasted a few cunning samples. We had lunch at the cafe (more chocolate!), before heading off in our Rattletraps to our various homes, all thrilled at how well the weekend went.
Considering that on Friday we were virtually all complete strangers, by Sunday we were fast friends, and vowing to make AR’s birthday weekend an annual event. In 2013 we plan to go Away to Rio – Wellington – which has a rich literary history, an observatory, an island wildlife sanctuary in the harbour, a fascinating history and an international airport – just perfect for TARS to fly in from other parts of the world to join us!