her majesty’s park

today we went for a tramp at queen elizabeth park along the western shore about a hour north of wellington.

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we didn’t see the queen – but i’m guessing that she’s a bit harder to spot in her tramping gear.

we started in the middle of the park, walking north along the beach, then heading south on the inland path, before finishing with a walk north along the shore back to our starting point.

in the early days the shore was the primary highway for north-south travel in the region.

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recently i’ve been using a gps receiver to tag the location of my photos. you can also get a great map of your tramp.
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happy birthday liz

today is the queen’s birthday. and we joined other members of the commonwealth in taking today off in celebration

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best thing is that today is not really the queen’s birthday. her actually birthday is april 21st. but april is not the best time of year in england for a day off – so it’s celebrated on the first monday in june. i always thought moving washington’s birthday to a monday (back before the invention of president’s day and the disappearance of washington’s birthday) was a bit lame, but this is a whole other league.

whilst looking for an image of the queen eating birthday cake (i gave up – kudos in a future posting to anyone who can find one – must not be viewed as appropriately regal) i found that the british monarchy has it’s own youtube channel. seems that whole internets thing that W talks about is really catching on.

an afternoon in saint petersburg

this afternoon we went to a concert – an afternoon in saint petersburg – hosted by his excellency the governor-general, the honorable anand satyanand.

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the governor-general is the queen’s personal representative with in the realm of new zealand (new zealand, the cook islands, tokelau and niue) and has all the powers of the head of state (quite limited) during the queen’s (Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith) absence.

the concert by the wellington orchestra was held on the grounds of government house, the official residence of the governor-general. quite an impressive place. built in the early 1900s the main house is 4,200 sq m (over 45,000 sq ft) on 12 hectares (30 acres) of prime wellington land. the concert was held on what was originally the vegetable garden.

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we knew the end was sold out (the governor-general used ticketek to process the responses to his very exclusive invitations) and with the concert scheduled to start at 2 and the gates opening at 1200 we thought we were plenty early when we arrived at ten of twelve. guess not. the lines already stretched more than a block in each direction. at noon the lines started moving and we were soon through the gates and making the long walk through the property. the place oozed old colonial charm. local actors in 19th century russian outfits greeted the guests along the path. after picking up our hamper of food and drink we were soon on our piece of lawn. not the best spot but we’ll know to arrive sooner next year.

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(note how many folks are wearing big floppy hats. you have to get over looking like a dork or you will fry)

the opening performance was troika – a new zealand based russian folk music group (who woulda thunk!)

before the orchestra took the stage they asked for volunteers to join a local dance troupe in a demonstration of russian dancing. the russian ambassador who was in attendance joined in and no surprise was quite good. the ambassador seemed very nice, but in keeping with the everything-here-is-like-the-50s-timecapsule he seemed like someone you would see greeting kruschev as he toured a soviet tractor factory.

the main performance was some of st petersburg’s finest including tchaikovsky, prokofiev, stravinsky and rachmaninov. the acoustics were ok (tchaikovsky likely did not expect his works to be blasted out of concert speakers that were probably last used at ozziefest) but the day was great. the mc was kate mead of new zealand public radio. she did a great job providing background on the music in a very witty way. impossible to describe her personality but if i were hosting an event she would be someone i would want to be there.

the members of orchestra were dressed practically given the heat and sun – in simple black and most wearing sun glasses. both the jboss and me noticed one seemed a bit different that the rest. “xylophone girl” is in her 20s, hip sunglasses and she’s bopping her head to the music. we’re guessing that she went straight from the concert to her job as a barista at one of cuba street’s funkier cafes. “like my new tat?”

the day ended with tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture featuring real canon fire. the canons provided by a local canon enthusiasts club. i guess there is a club for everything almost everywhere.

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3 things i like about this photo.

– the red cross using the great old land rover complete with extension ladder. a small nod to the old colonial days but with the nz terrain you need something that can get you anywhere.

– the land rover pulling the camper. this is a classical british moment. they have just traveled over mountains, through forests, forded rivers to rescue a family in need. pitch black out with pouring rain and gale force winds. everyone is now huddled under wool blankets. “right then. time for a spot of tea don’t you think. biscuit?”

the soprano who has just performed sitting in the lawn chair enjoying the rest of the performance. no dressing room. no attitude.

a kiwi hero is gone

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sir edmund hillary passed away last friday.

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i haven’t been here long enough to fully appreciate how much he meant to new zealanders but it is clear that he meant a lot to a lot of people bridging many cultures.

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(the governor-general on the left, in the centre maori performing a haka created for the event)

when hillary and tenzing summitted everest new zealand was just 2 million having just been made fully independent in 1947 by the statue of westminster. overnight (figuratively only since news traveled slowly in 1953) new zealand was in the news with a kiwi accomplishing what so many others had tried and failed to complete. he then soon went on to the south pole (first since 1911 and first on motorized equipment) and to establish new zealand’s claim to the antarctic with the founding of scott base – in continuous use ever since.

[for the saint louis crowd here’s a small world tidbit – marlin perkins of stl zoo and mutual of omaha’s wild kingdom fame was also the zoologist for hillary’s second expedition in 1960 to climb mount everest. perkin’s job was to investigate the abominable snowman. he found that the footprints were those of smaller animals such as foxes. these were melted together from the heat of the sun making them look larger and subsequently identified as the foot tracks of the snowman.]

after his adventuring days were over hillary focused on improving the lives of the sherpas through the himalayan trust that he founded. this was his focus until his death. despite all his accomplishments and honours he was very humble, including insisting that his name and number be listed in the local phonebook.

hillary was given a full state funeral with much of the country watching on big screens setup around the country

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there has been quite a bit of discussion of who can fill his place. the consensus has been no one.

in 1992 new zealand redesigned its currency and despite global conventions of not featuring the living there was widespread support for having hillary on the new $5 note. sir ed agreed but insisted that new zealand’s mount cook (not everest as most assume) and a ferguson tractor (bottom left, a bit hard to see) like the one used on his polar expedition be included on the note.

they took a bit of chance putting someone still alive on their currency, but sir ed did not disappoint.

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for reasons unknown the queen and her family decided that it wasn’t worth the trip to pay their respects. quite disappointing as sir ed was one of only 24 members of the order of garter – the highest honour available to members of the british empire first established by king edward III in 1348. this seems a particular snub since the news of hillary and tenzing’s summiting of everest on may 29th, 1953 was delayed 3 days to coincide with the coronation of a young queen elisabeth II.

a large group from monks from nepal made the journey.

tenzing norgay’s son was here.

total snub from the royals.

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let me now offer my humble unsolicited advice to the windsors. if you want to be a monarch you have to act like one. if you want your picture on our money you have to show up for the funeral of the world’s most famous, decorated and beloved kiwi.