White gold, opera &oysters - an udderly good time!

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
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Trip End ??? ??, 2009


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, June 7, 2009

Firstly a quiz - who knows who this oyster seller is? See below for answer.

Well the time has come for us to leave- tomorrow in fact. Our last few weeks have been as good as our first few. We flew up to Wellington to see the NZ Opera performing 'The Italian Girl in Algiers' which was excellent. Whilst there we had a tour around the 'Beehive' and Parliament. It's obvious why the Beehive (which houses offices etc. for Parliament)  is so called. It looks suprisingly modern but was built in the 60s and designed by Basil Spence (which didn't go down well with a lot of New Zealanders). Wellington lived up to its reputation as windy but it is still my favourite NZ city (apart from Invercargill of course).  Can highly recommend the breads and dips in Mac's Brewery and a visit to the Wellington Museum on the harbour front.

Having heard I had been to a sheep farm one of the theatre nurses (Leanne) thought it only fair I paid a visit to a dairy farm and did a bit of rounding up and milking. She kindly arranged for Lyn and myself to visit a farm run by her brother-in-law (Andy) and his wife (Kim). As always, the hospitality was remarkable. On arrival we were treated to a cream tea with home made scones - delicious! Then off to bring one of the herds in for milking - at this time of the year they are being 'dried off' and so their udders are not so full. The cows really have personalities and some of them have names and some just numbers. No. 119 is the naughty girl of the herd and always lingers, so is the last out of the field and dawdles, rather like a stroppy teenager, making Leanne have to chivvy her on all the time. She always ends up last in the milking as well, no matter how early she gets in the pen!. I'm sure they realised we were strangers as they kept stopping to have a look at us.The automatic milking parlours are amazing - the cows all know what to do and when to reverse out after the cups come off their teats. Then they turn around and make their way back home.It's a hard life being a dairy herd farmer - it wasquite pleasant on a cold autumn afternoon in the light but would be quite different at 5.30 in the morning in the dark. Luckily most are dry from June to August, which is, of course, winter here.

Last week was the Bluff Oyster Festival - a day for sampling local fare in particular the famed Bluff Oyster.  There was much more on offer than just oysters, all local of course - huge scallops, fish chowder, venison or lamb burgers etc.. etc.. One local  'delicacy' is Muttonbird, which I have mentioned in an earlier blog. These can only be collected by one of the Maori Iwi (tribes) from the Titi islands close to Stewart Island. They are actually Sooty Shearwaters (a type of Shag - come on, don't be childish!) which are taken from the nests, plucked, gutted, boiled and salted. We did try some - an acquired tasted I would say. The taste is actually much better than the smell. The oysters are certainly very good and come both raw and cooked - frequently in batter which are quite delicious.

May has been a busy month with an Arts Festival in Invercargill - plays, jazz, chamber music, World Hip-Hop competition, modern dance, art & sculpture exhibitions - including one on 'White Gold' = milk - and more. Who said there was no culture here???

Final thoughts on our stay. The whole experience has been amazing and more than lived up to expectations. So much so we are returning in September for another stint. What have been the highlights? So many! For me it must be the sheep shearing on my 60th which is an experience never to  be forgot. It summed up the hospitality and friendliness of Southland and it's people. Similarly the milking day. Another was flying over Mount Cook and landing on the glacier - awesome. There are also simple things like my first day walking across the road to the hospital and hearing the unfamiliar call of the Tui (which I love now) and the Bellbirds and seeing half a dozen thrushes on the grass just outside the hospital doors. Some of the wonderful phrases such as 'like a box of fluffies' and 'sweet as' will be in my vocabulary for years to come! Walking down the estuary and seeing the black swans, a flock of Royal Spoonbills and recently the rare White Heron (I'm not a keen bird watcher by any means, believe it or not, but I do now get quite excited about seeing the birds). The Easter Bunny Hunt and Duck Shooting weekends, the A&P Shows with the logging and sausage sizzles - all great example of Southland life. The hospital - Southland is very lucky to have such a well equipped place with fantastic staff - you are immediately made to feel welcome and part of the teams. Working in outpatients with Emma has been a joy - would that all outpatient clinics were so well organized. If anyone wants a change of scenery, a good work-life balance and a friendly environment  I would highly recommend coming to NZ and Southland in particular - they are a bit short of O&G and Anaesthetists as well as theatre nurses at the moment. Invercargill was described as the 'friendliest arsehole' and it certainly lives up to the adjective but not the noun!
Finally, our time here has been made especially enjoyable because of our relationship with David and Jane Tulloch and Peter and Margi Bramley. As well as being great colleagues they are now good friends and we have shared many an entertaining, hilarious evening after a good meal and wine playing Taboo or Pictionary and will never forget David's drawing of God - Michelangelo has no worries!
Answer to the question - Prime Minister John Key. He paid a vist to the festival and unlike the UK, wandered about speaking to all and sundry with minimal security. I even got to shake his hand and had a brief, if rather surreal, discussion about vasectomies! Can you imagine Gordon Brown or David Cameron in that situation??? Big ups to New Zealand, as they say. Good on ya'.



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