Thursday 13 July 2017

Folding Goldies ride – Pukerua-Whitby-Porirua

On Wednesday 5 July, we went for another Folding Goldies ride. The plan was to take the train to Pukerua, then ride down Te Ara Harakeke to Mana, cross to the Camborne Walkway and head to Pauatahanui’s Ground Up Café for coffee/lunch. Then through Whitby and Bothamley Park to Porirua, and home.

It was a beautiful, frosty day – clear and calm, but very cold. So we wrapped up warm – long trousers instead of short, and I had four layers on under my jacket, plus my neck warmer. My body was toasty warm most of the day, but my hands were very cold in my fingerless biking gloves. They did warm up as the day wore on.

It was the biggest group we’ve had so far. Our neighbour Sue met us at Takapu Road station. Luckily it was a long train with two carriages that could take bikes. Alastair, Nigel and Paul were in the back carriage, so we hopped on the front one. Some poor chap with a bike (not a FG) at Mana station missed out. The guard wouldn't let him on, as each carriage is only allowed to take three bikes. We could have folded up one of our bikes, but the train departed before we could negotiate that with the guard.

Waiting for us at Pukerua were people who had come in from Kapiti: Lynn, Doff and Neil, Frank; Colin, who had biked up, and two new people, Heuchan and Richard. Thirteen people in all.

A big group, about to set off from Pukerua Station (photo by John)

Doff on the Pukerua footbridge over SH1 (photo by John)

Down Te Ara Harakeke (photo by John)

It was very cold coming down the hill – in shady areas there were patches of frost still in the grass alongside the track, but fortunately not on the track itself. The ride went well until the Camborne Walkway. On the unsealed, somewhat slippery track that runs along behind the boat sheds, we had to keep well to the left to make room for a couple of women with pushchairs. While keeping to the left, and looking to the right to make sure I avoided the pushchairs, I slid into the gutter, and then into a hole. The bike stopped, I kept going and went flying. Crash! I’m afraid I let go of some choice expletives.

One of the women came to my aid to lift the bike off me. It is quite heavy, and my right leg was folded underneath me and the bike, so I had trouble getting up. I ended up with a fist-sized bruise above my right knee, and bruising all around my left knee as well. But generally, I was OK, and so we carried on.

On the Camborne track – note muddy knees and shoes from my fall … (photo by John)

When we got to Grays Road, we rode for a short distance on the road, before crossing to a new boardwalk through the wetlands. We had seen the flags marking out the proposed track the last time we were there (in September), but it was now completed, as far as just past the bridge.

The proposed track, in September 2016 (photo by John)

On the new boardwalk, coming up to the bridge (photo by John)

The wetlands at low tide

It was great to be able to divert onto the boardwalk, as that bit of road is quite treacherous – winding, no shoulder, and prone to impatient drivers. However, the fun was short-lived as we had to go back on the road for another short distance before we got to Motukaraka Point.

The end of this stretch of boardwalk – and back onto the road

The peloton riding at Motukaraka Point (photo by John)

Riding at the back of the group, I was struck at one stage by the colourful combination of all the yellow, red and orange jackets as they were riding past a tall clump of red-hot-poker flowers (Kniphofia). It would have made a great photo, but the moment was gone before I could get my camera out.

We got to the Ground Up Café at 11:15. Just a bit too early for lunch, but I had soup anyway, and it was very nice. After lunch we headed towards Whitby.

Ready for take-off after lunch (photo by John)

Taking a breather at the top of the steepest climb of the ride in Whitby (photo by John)

Waiting for the stragglers (us!) in Bothamley Park (photo by John)

I was not the only one in the wars that day. John had a couple of mishaps (slow falls, he called them) on slippery ground. His compromised sense of balance does not help in these situations. Fortunately he was not hurt.

John in on the Bothamley Pathway

At the end of the Bothamley Pathway, there is another track that skirts the Kenepuru Stream through Cannon’s Creek. But this track was closed – I believe one of the bridges had been damaged. Actually, I was relieved to find we had to stay on the road instead. This track is quite narrow and can be muddy, even boggy, and I didn’t want either of us to do any more slip-sliding around.

We were lagging behind a bit, and some of the time the others waited for us to catch up. But at the end, I suppose they must have made a run for it so they could catch the train back to town from Porirua. They got there just in time. We arrived at the station underpass just as it was leaving.

We didn't need the train. We were able to just bike back to Takapu Road on Te Ara Tawa. We did 35 km all up.

Saturday 1 July 2017

A book launch

On Tuesday 20 June, John and I attended a book launch at Vic Books – the bookshop on the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University. The book to be launched was entitled “You Do Not Travel in China at the Full Moon: Agnes Moncrieff’s Letters From China 1930–1945”, edited by Barbara Francis, and published by Victoria University Press. 

The cover of the book (source: Victoria University Press)

This wonderful book is a collection of letters by a New Zealand woman, who was posted to China by the YWCA during the turbulent years of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The title refers to the fact that whenever there was a full moon, there would always be Japanese air raids.

The editor, Barbara Francis, who knew Nessie well, spent a decade reading, transcribing and researching her friend’s letters which had been lodged with the Alexander Turnbull Library

Six years ago, I was introduced to Barbara by a mutual acquaintance, when she was looking for someone to help with the copy-editing and formatting of the manuscript, in preparation to having the letters formally published.

I was immediately fascinated by this project, as it dealt with China in the mid-1940s, which was a time when my father was passionately interested in China. In fact, he was posted to China as a Netherlands diplomat in 1948 (along with my mother and one-year-old me). However we spent only a couple of years there, before being evacuated ahead of the arrival of the Communists.

It was a real privilege for me to be involved in a small way in Barbara’s long journey towards publication. John got involved too, when some of Nessie’s photos and documents had to be converted to a suitable format. So attending the launch of her book, was pretty special for both of us.

Waiting for the launch (photo by John)

The book was launched by Michael Powles, former NZ Ambassador to China and currently President of the NZ-China Friendship Society. The publisher, Fergus Barrowman, looks on proudly (photo by John)

With Barbara Francis – getting my copy of the book signed (photo by John)

The following Saturday, there was a very interesting interview with Barbara on Kim Hill's radio programme. Well worth a listen.

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On a separate note, I had not been to the new premises of Vic Books, and I was quite gobsmacked about the changes at Victoria University. After the book launch, we had a little wander around the new spaces.

Of course, big changes were to be expected since I was a young student there half a century ago (really? is it really that long?). But even when I went back there for a course in the mid-1990s, the space between the Easterfield and Rankine-Brown (library) Buildings, was still just a windswept uninviting open space. And all this new development has happened since John retired from working at the university in 2009.

Now the quad has been covered in, a new floor built, the library extended to join Easterfield, and there is a café attached to the bookshop. There are pleasant seating areas, and great study desks – all with power for the students’ laptops, and presumably they have wi-fi throughout. I was seriously impressed.

Library space between Easterfield and Rankine-Brown (photo by John)

View over Wellington from Victoria University (photo by John)