My corner of the oval

… thoughts from a Kiwi cricket fan

Close encounters of the furry kind …

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For my birthday last year, I was very blessed to be gifted with a “close encounter” opportunity at Wellington Zoo.

For those who may not be able to figure out what this means, a “close encounter” is the chance to get up close and personal with selected zoo animals, for a fee which goes towards the work at the zoo as well as the conservation fund to protect the animals in the wild.  For my close encounter, I got to meet the Wellington Zoo’s delightfully cute and adorable red panda family!

I have felt an affinity for the red pandas since the day Reka, a former tenant of the zoo, escaped from her enclosure and made her way to my family’s property in the southern suburbs of Wellington, and so I was very excited to be able to feed and pat a red panda in person … or in animal, as the case may be!

We were guided and taught expertly by Anna, who works with the red panda at the zoo, as we first called on Ishah, the eldest male of the group, who at first was rather apprehensive at intruders in his enclosure, but soon warmed to us when he detected the delicious fruit we were holding in our hands for him to jump onto our laps and eat from.

Don’t you just love his black sleeves?

After a short time as Ishah didn’t seem to be very hungry on this day, we moved next door to visit Sundar and Khosi, immigrants from Hamilton and Auckland Zoos respectively, who will hopefully be able to breed (on the one day of the year available for red pandas to mate) and increase the red panda population soon.

Sundar and Khosi were extremely excited and keen to have visitors, and were clambering over our laps even before we had vittles for them to eat!

Despite the red pandas not having too much of their trademark stripey tails, due to shedding their thick winter coats for the “summer” season, it was still a fantastic opportunity to see up close such beautiful and trusting animals.  And to feel their long claws used for expertly climbing the narrowest of tree branches, digging into our legs as they searched our hands for more fruit.

All good things have to come to an end, sadly, and it wasn’t long before the fruit bowl was empty and Sundar and Khosi were checking for any final stray scraps, before saying their good byes and heading back into the trees, to groom themselves after eating and to have an afternoon sleep …

Thanks again to everyone at Wellington Zoo, especially Anna, Ishah, Sundar and Khosi, for giving me such a fun and fabulous encounter with three beautiful and friendly red pandas!

P.S. I did ask if I could take one home, but sadly, it wasn’t allowed!

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Ronan Keating has the Time of his Life in Wellington!

I had been keenly looking forward to Ronan Keating’s visit to Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre since the tour dates were announced several months ago, and this weekend, my anticipation was finally satiated as Ronan brought his Time of my Life world tour to Auckland first, and then Wellington for two nights.

Not even a slight delay between the warm-up set from support act, Ciaran McMeekin in order for Ronan and the band to be able to enjoy the annual Sky Show fireworks display in the adjacent harbour could dampen my spirits, and the band was soon rocking into the opening number, Time of my Life.

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Although at times the vocals were lost within the sound mix of the instruments, the extensive setlist was a journey through the last 23-plus years of Ronan’s life in music.  From the ever-popular Lovin’ Each Day, to the poignancy of Landslide and Breathe, there was something for everyone to enjoy (although perhaps not the gentleman beside me who had clearly been dragged along by his more-of-a-fan wife – heh heh!)

Snippet from Ronan singing “Breathe”

Of course it was also entertaining to be treated to stories and anecdotes which Ronan shared with the audience along the journey through the concert, including joining him “in his kitchen” for a brief break-down set of songs, including a tin whistle solo which Ronan was impressed that after 67 concerts across the world since August, the only audiences that applauded the tin whistle were the New Zealand audiences!

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The “break down” set in which Ronan invited us into his kitchen where he wrote a lot of his latest album, Time of my Life

Of course, the biggest crowd favourite, When You Say Nothing At All, towards the end of the show, brought everyone to their feet with delight, and from there, the concert finished with a crescendo, through Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl and Life is a Rollercoaster.

After a brief pause in which Ronan and the band left the stage after the “fake last song,” and the audience continued to applaud, chant and clap, the band reappeared and, to the delight (and probably annoyance of the two Cantabrians I was seated beside!), Ronan emerged again wearing a signed Hurricanes rugby jersey and holding the Super Rugby trophy aloft (the Wellington based team, the Hurricanes, were the winners of this rugby tournament this year).

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Ronan went on to thank members of the Hurricanes’ team for making his song, When you say nothing at all, so popular this year after he visited with them when their visits to Sydney, Australia coincided earlier this year, before signing off the show with the always-meaningful One More Song, and The Long Goodbye … in which Ronan seemed to promise that he would be coming back to Wellington again soon!

We’ll hold you to that, Ronan, but thanks for making the trip this year and for sharing your music and your story with us in New Zealand again; you make the world smile and that’s what is needed right now!

Short snippet of my favourite song, If Tomorrow Never Comes

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The legacy lives on …

As I sit and watch archive footage courtesy of Sky NZ of the “Max Blacks” playing Cricket Max cricket, with expert commentary from the man behind the idea, Martin Crowe, I wish I could find the words to express just how much I owe to New Zealand’s greatest batsman for just how much I appreciate what he meant to myself, and I’m certain many, many cricket supporters and players around the world. 
Instead, I think I’ll let pictures say thank you for me …

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The noticeboard of the Streetwise coffee cart on my roadtrip this week

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I will treasure this signed copy of Out on a Limb forever!

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The Rememberence Book at the NZ Cricket Museum that I could express my thoughts in

Thank you Martin Crowe for instilling a love of cricket in me and many others!
We shall keep the enjoyment and love going as you would have wanted us to.

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Is it possible to care too much?!

Is it possible to care TOO much about a sports team, or about a sport that you love so much?

I have found myself asking this question a lot lately, particularly lately.  For example, I have been looking forward for SO long for the now-upon-us New Zealand Black Caps’ test tour of Australia, wishing more than ten times (a day!) that I was wealthy enough to be able to follow the team around each of the test venues for the tour, just so that I can drink in the atmosphere and match experience in person!

Is that too much?

Or actually making myself physically sick over the last couple of weeks, hearing stories out of London, and reading daily summary reports from that trial that is currently in process; I even had to talk to a couple of the guys at work about it last week, I was actually getting so anxious and upset at what this all means for this sport of cricket, not to mention this team that I seem to care about TOO much …

Am I caring too much?

Maybe I should really just take a step back, and try and find some other interests to take up my time and mind …

I don’t think I can though; especially when our New Zealand Black Caps play with such determination, and skill, and brilliant attitude – how can anybody not care about that?!

Needless to say, I think I’ll definitely be reaching my data cap on my smart phone over the next few weeks, and finding ways to follow the scoreboards as much as possible as our national cricket team goes up against one of the best cricket teams in the world, if not, the best at the moment.  It’s going to be such a fantastic tour, I reckon, but am I caring too much about it, and this team?!

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Happiness breeds success …

I know they say “success breeds happiness” but as I sat in the seats at the Wellington Regional Stadium yesterday, before the scheduled start of play in the Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and England, our allocated seats gave us a privileged view as the two teams went through their warm-up routines on the field in front of us.

And I was able to observe the New Zealand Black Caps warming up with a riotous game of football … well, kind of football …

NZ Black Caps warm up before play

NZ Black Caps warm up before play

… and the sound of their banter and chat, and every so often, a burst of laughter, floated across the Stadium towards us.  I turned to my friend beside me and simply stated, “Happy team!”

In some ways, a happy sports team is brought about by that team getting winning results and maintaining them, but I think the opposite can also be true!  If you breed a happy environment and encourage and support the team mates to be who and what they can be, that brings about the success as well.

And a lot of the credit for our HAPPY cricket team at present has to be given to the coaching and captaincy styles from the likes of Mike Hesson and Brendon McCullum.  As well as the input and encouragement from Chris Donaldson, Shane Bond, Craig McMillan, Mike Sandle, Bruce Edgar and the others who work tirelessly behind the scenes of what goes on on the field and never seem to be noticed.

And so I say thank you to all of the abovenamed, as well as to the fifteen players in the playing team who are pushing and encouraging each other to be the best they can be … but also, to enjoy and make the most of every moment as they represent our country with pride and respect!

#backtheBlackCaps – heck, yes!!!  😀

We're all in this together!

We’re all in this together!

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Could this year get any better?

It’s funny, you know; we go through day after day, week after week, thinking that all we are ever accomplishing is getting through each day at work before collapsing, exhausted, into bed each night … it’s not until you get to the end of a year that you realise just how much you have actually done with the days and the weeks and the months you have been given!

Like, if my year had finished in February, I would have been happy, after having the tremendous opportunity to meet my cricketing hero, Brendon McCullum, live and up close, as it were:

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(And for that moment, I have to once again thank the awesome people at NZ Cricket for giving me the chance to say what I wanted to say to Brendon!)   It was a dream come true!

But then, if my year had finished in February, I wouldn’t have fulfilled so many other dreams and wishes this year!

Like getting my motorcycle license!  Well, I’m still only on my “restricted” part of my motorcycle license, but it has meant trading up my 50cc scooter to a bigger 125cc model scooter too!

Out with the old …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in with the new!

I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to attend a magnificent operatic performance from Paul Potts, and say hello to the man himself in person after the show!

I wouldn’t have been able to move houses, either, and find myself in a sun-shiney, warm, perfectly situated residential unit that is definitely worth paying $50 more rent a week for (especially when you compare it to my old, mouldy, dingy hole of a flat!)

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see more of my country where I live, and in particular, enjoy wandering through the likes of Hagley Park in Christchurch!

Speaking of wandering through parks, I have had so many walks along beaches and through parks this year, that I have lost count!

If you’d told me at the start of the year that I would have the opportunity to meet my childhood TV hero in person, I would probably have laughed at you, too!

Never would I have ever dreamed that I would have had the chance (even though it cost me nearly all my savings – haha!) of meeting RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON, aka MacGyver, aka Brigadier General Jack O’Neill, in the flesh!!!

And what is more, getting the chance to have my picture taken with him:

My hero!!!

My hero!!!

Imagine – meeting my cricketing hero AND my childhood TV hero in the same year?!!  That seems like it’s impossible, and yet, this year it happened!!

I don’t have enough space to mention all the other fantastic things that happened to my life this year, either, along with more fantastic people that I have had the privilege of meeting … the likes of Neil Wagner for the New Zealand Black Caps, and Cliff Simon, also known as Ba’al from Stargate SG-1 fame … although I am left wondering, how the heck can 2015 top this year for awesomenessness!?!!

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Planting Project

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Operation Avocado stage 1: decided I would like to see if I can grow an avocado tree from a seed. It may or may not work, but it’ll be fun trying!

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Why CDs can’t be lost …

Because if I didn’t have a CD, I wouldn’t have been able to have this momento now of the memory and privilege of hearing Paul Potts singing live this week:

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(Although, in saying that, even a recorded voice onto a CD disc in no way compares to hearing that same voice, live and unaffected by anything manufactured, in front of you!)

But anyway, I was given two tickets for myself and a friend to attend one of Paul Potts’ concerts as he toured around our country.

I was most impressed that we didn’t have to sit through a “support act” as is usually the case with these international artists which visit our shores, and the show started on the dot of 7.30pm as Stewart Macpherson, the promoter, introduced us to Mr Paul Potts!

We did, actually, have a “special guest” joining Paul Potts for the concert, but the setlist was arranged in such a way that it felt like you weren’t left sitting around, twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the headline act to come back out onto the stage again.

And Anna Hawkins was an incredibly able “special guest” too!

She won me over completely with her rendition of “She moved through the Fair” and the duet of “The Prayer” she performed together with Paul Potts will stay in my mind for a long time to come!

I think my favourite Paul Potts solo performances were “Il Gladiatore” and “Time to say Goodbye,” but you can’t go past a good “Nessun Dorma,” can you?!!  And that was a stunning end to a wonderful show!

Thanks to Ticketek NZ for selecting me the front-row seats to enjoy the occasion, and thanks to Anna and Paul for having such tremendous vocal talents and for sharing them with the world!

And if you’re still unaware of who Paul Potts is, join with the other 123,000,000 viewers and enjoy his first audition tape at Britain’s Got Talent 2007:

 

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Disappointment doesn’t cover it!

So, it’s the weekend after Christmas … it’s summer time, which means CRICKET in New Zealand for me … what better way to spend it than road-trip to the Hawkes Bay to enjoy a One-Day international match between the New Zealand Black Caps and the West Indies cricket teams?!

The posters are up ... and everyone's ready for cricket!

The posters are up … and everyone’s ready for cricket!

Sadly, however, it seems if you want to break a drought in the Hawkes Bay, you schedule a cricket match 😦

After arriving in Napier the afternoon before, I awoke on game-day to the sound of rain on the motel roof!  Not heavy rain, mind you, but the persistent, saturating kind … the kind that even the groundstaff of McLean Park, where the game was scheduled to be played, feel disgruntled and helpless against … or so it seemed when I turned on the television coverage half an hour before the scheduled start of play to see an on-field interview by Mark Richardson of Sky TV and the head groundsman at the ground, discussing the current wet situation and just how long it would take to dry out the ground once the rain ceased falling.

It didn’t actually seem like the groundsman really wanted the rain to stop, in my opinion.  He was most defeatist and gloomy about the whole outlook.

And eventually the rain DID stop … much to the delight of the thousand or so fans who had now made the trip to the Park, myself included 🙂

The sun shines on McLean Park!

The sun shines on McLean Park!

The sun eventually broke through the clouds at approximately 4.15, and we waited with much anticipation for the groundstaff to rush to work, pulling the covers from the pitch and surrounding areas, as well as commencing the job of mopping up the puddles of water over the ground.

And we waited some more …

And still we waited, getting rapidly sunburned in the warmth of the sun, noticing the steadily increasing blue sky above our heads … until finally, at 4.53pm, seven minutes before the umpires were scheduled to “inspect the ground” to see if it was suitable for play on, at 5.00, the groundstaff appeared, casually rolling the covers off the bowlers’ run-up areas, and finally the pitch area itself, and then, at 4.58, they were just starting to use the “super sopper” equipment to dry the outfield.

Well it was no wonder then when, at 5.00, the umpires trekked across the Park, to see the suitably for a game of cricket, they decided that the players couldn’t possibly play any kind of cricket on it and called the game off … to the immense dismay of the patient supporters, just dying to see their favourite cricket team play any sort of cricket match in front of them!

I mean, it’s not really surprising that the umpires didn’t find the ground suitable for play … considering absolutely nothing had been done to it since the last time they looked at it 😦

I am not actually disappointed in the fact that I didn’t get the chance to see a game of cricket … well, okay, I am disappointed about that 😉 … I’m more disappointed in the fact that the people concerned didn’t seem at all interested in trying to get any sort of game played at all for the people of Napier that evening!

I found myself wondering if the excellent groundstaff, for example, who look after not only the Basin Reserve, but also the pitch conditions at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, would have shown the same serious lack of urgency or desire to do their best for the players, as well as the cricketing public!  No!  I was imagining that the head groundsman at the Basin Reserve rallying his team quickly and smartly, as soon as the rain had dissipated, giving the pitch and surrounding areas as much time as possible to dry out and be ready to go in the time that was available.  Because, let’s face it, we could have started a 20/20 match at 7.00 that evening, and still had it finished in time, with the excellent light and sunlight that was now bathing the Napier area!

I left the Park feeling immensely disappointed and quite despondent, to be honest … which is not how you should feel when you spend so much time and resources to support your favourite cricket team, at all!  It’s probably just as well I can’t afford to make such a trip again for a long time, as I don’t think I will bother heading to the Hawkes Bay again for a cricket fixture 😦

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I heart the Basin Reserve!

As you probably know, I have had a few temporary contracts over the past year, with a time of unemployment and job-seeking between each one; I was asked, by a few different people actually, if I would consider moving to another city in order to find that perfect job … or just any job!

I actually did consider this on more than one occasion, but every time, the answer would come back as a resounding no!

And I’ve figured out the reason …

It will be really dumb for those who don’t understand … but for me, I don’t think I could live too far away from this place:

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Like I said, if you don’t understand or enjoy cricket as much I do, I don’t really expect you to understand why I would feel this way; but there is no place better to spend Christmas and Summer holidays, lying on the green grass of the Embankment, or sitting back on the eastern Terraces, as you watch either First-Class or International cricket match being played out in front of you!

It’s also a fantastic place to sit and chat with friends, with the back-drop of a cricket match – sharing a coffee, or some other beverage that suits your lifestyle 😉

And speaking of Christmas, is there any better sight in world cricket than the Pohutukawa trees in full bloom, while a Test match is being played on the hallowed turf of the Basin Reserve?!

Nope, call me sentimental, or foolish, or whatever – I love my days spent at the Basin Reserve and couldn’t imagine ever living too far away!

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Best Test match venue in the world!

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