3 more years

Looks like i am staying in New Zealand for the next three years as i just got my work permit! Praise the Lord!!

Im going to be the Student Dean and Communications Manager for Vineyard College.  It wil be a challenging and stretching role, but one i am very much looking forward to!

My first task will be helping promote the College at Parachute 2010.

A bonus of this, is that i get to see Switchfoot in concert!

Caught in the crossfire

There is a right old set to brewing in the media here …

It’s no secret that the NZ SAS together with their British and Australian counterparts are actively engaged in the war in Afghanistan.

Now images have been published of the New Zealand Special Air Service on patrol in Kabul shortly after they were involved in a battle in the centre of the Afghan capital.

The New Zealand Herald and its website, along with Fairfax owned sites Stuff.co.nz and dompost.co.nz have all published the photo.

The Prime Minister John Key has said he is very disappointed the image had been published unblurred.  He has conceded that the Taleban and al Qaeda would know the New Zealand SAS was in Kabul saying; “There is no secret that New Zealand SAS were in Kabul because we made it clear because it was quite obvious with such a high-profile destination that at some point if we didn’t say they were there, somebody else would. What we don’t want them to know is the names and identities of the members of the SAS because of the nature of some of the operations, it puts them at greater risk if they could be identified.”

NZ Herald assistant editor John Roughan defended his decision to publish the images saying the troops were in a public place; “The soldiers were in a public street, in a major city, visible to anybody, wearing their uniforms, carrying their guns, photographed as the New Zealand SAS”.

Now all this argument would not have been such a big deal if it wasn’t for the man on the right of the picture.

He is Victoria Cross recipient Cpl Willie Apiata.

Apiata became the first New Zealander since the Second World War to be awarded the Commonwealth’s highest military award for his actions with the NZ SAS in Afghanistan.

Because of that, he has been one of the most widely photographed soldiers ever, possibly the most recognised NZ soldier ever and there are thousands of images of him in the public domain already, so in one sense it doesn’t appear such a big deal to publish another picture of him.

It’s also true that the NZDF have pictures of Apiata on their website (including pictures of earlier deployments). However the key here is that they relate to previous deployments; the NZDF do not publish pictures of current deployments, for obvious reasons.

I think it would have been simple to blur or black out the faces in the photo, but the media didn’t. The fact that the media didn’t even realise it was Corporal Apiata, until revealed by the Prime Minister at a press conference yesterday, speaks volumes. Well done John Key!

 John Roughan said about Apiata: “When you’re on patrol in Kabul we don’t think he’s preserved from being photographed. It was the prime minister who confirmed Corporal Willie Apiata was one of those photographed in Afghanistan. We don’t believe media have placed corporal Apiata or any of the other SAS members at any greater risk than they already are. It was well known that the NZ SAS was in Kabul.”

The Dominion Post editor Bernadette Courtney said she made the decision to publish Willie Apiata’s photograph on the newspaper’s website, dompost.co.nz, because it was the first picture of the New Zealand Special Air Service troops in the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, after they responded to a Taleban attack. 

Coming from a military family, i have some understanding on these things. Its very unhelpful that specific units are identified in specific theatres of operation but its not an open scret the NZ SAS are in Afghanistan. What irks me is that there are long recognized protocols about not identifying specific individuals currently deployed in conflict situations ;especially if they are special forces soldiers.

It’s best for all concerned that we not know about the operational activities of the SAS and John Key needs to learn to keep his gob shut and not identify individuals!

So, while i agree that the papers shouldn’t have published it, i don’t think this will be news to the Taliban or encourage them to make more of an effort to go after the SAS.  A uniform is a uniform to them, and they clearly have a desire to kill any member of the coalition forces operating out there.

I also don’t think that it puts Apiata and other SAS soldiers in any more danger than they are probably already facing on a daily basis.

And if this picture is anything to go by, Apiata and the boys look more than equipped to deal with whatever comes their way!

What’s in a name?

On our return from Hawkes Bay, Ingrid, Rochelle and I decide to stop in the World’s Longest Place Name which is on Route 52.

It is the Māori name for a hill, close to Porangahau, south of Waipukurau in southern Hawke’s Bay.

It has gained a measure of fame as it is the longest place-name found in any English-speaking country and at 85 letters, it has been listed in the Guinness World Records as one of the longest place names in the world.

It also has the longest sign for a place name; 33ft long just to spell it out!

The name is given by the local Maori people, Ngati Kere to the hill to celebrate the eponymous ancestor Tamatea Pokai Whenua.

Tamatea was a famous chief and warrior of his time. His son Kahungunu was the founder of the Ngati Kahungunu tribe which extends from Gisborne to Cape Palliser.

Tamatea acquired his long name through different happenings in his life. Turipukaka-pikimaunga-tahu was given through his many raids and wanderings and he was such a huge muscular man that his name suited him.

It appears that while travelling through the back of Porangahau, Tamatea encountered the Ngati-Hine tribe and had to fight them to get past. The battle is known as the Matanui battle and during that fight his brother was killed.

Tamatea was so grieved over the loss of his brother that he stayed for quite a long time at that place and each morning he would sit on the knoll and play his lament on what is called Koauau or Maori flute.

Hence the name Taumata-whaka-tangihanga-koauau-o-Tamatea-turi-pukaka-pikimaunga-horonuku-pokai-whenua-kitana-tahu, which means ‘The hilltop where Tamatea with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his koauau (flute) to his beloved.’

Unsurprisingly, the name is often shortened to Taumata by the locals for ease of conversation!

Other forms of the name are longer still:

Taumata-whakatangihanga-koauau-o-tamatea- ure-haea-turi-pukaka-piki-maunga-horo-nuku-pokai-whenua-ki-tana-tahu has 92 letters.

An even longer version, Taumata-whakatangihanga-koauau-o-Tamatea-haumai-tawhiti-ure-haea-turi-pukaka-piki-maunga-horo-nuku-pokai-whenua-ki-tana-tahu, has 105 letters and means The hill of the flute playing by Tamatea — who was blown hither from afar, had a circumcised penis, grazed his knees climbing mountains, fell on the earth, and encircled the land — to his beloved.

Oh, and before you ask, no, I can’t pronounce it!

Hill Road, Black Barn and Te Mata

The house that we had hired in Hawkes Bay was wonderful.

Situated in Bay View, just 10 mins north of Napier, it sat on a ridge with great views.

Looking out from the front you could see past the orchards and olive groves to the Pacific Ocean.

To the rear you could see across pastureland, stud farms and farmhouses to beautiful rolling hills.

The house slept 8 but with some logistical planning we got 12 people in.

As well as Ingrid and I and our good friends Nikki, Rochelle, Josh and Kara, we had Emily and Ben, Joe, Scottie, and Nicola and Stephan and Johanna.

Nearly everyone came form the Street church in Welly apart from Stephan and Johanna from Grace Vineyard in Christchurch.

As well as having great views, the house had a wonderful deck and patio areas which we put to good use in having a few bbqs (ably supervised by our token Aussie Josh) .

Itmade for great way to end each day sitting out with a glass of wine and good food in hand, watching the sun set.

Apart from one cloudy day and the temperature only being 25c we had brilliant sunshine and 30c weather for most of the time we were there.

We visited a few wineries, some local cafes and hops, went to nearby Ocean Beach and popped into the beautiful art deco city of Napier. Everyone pretty much did their own thing, but we all made sure we had dinner together which was always good fun.

Considering I didn’t know most of the people there, I got on well with everyone and it made for a great atmosphere. It was a good to meet new friends and to find out what God is doing in different people in different places.

The god weather and wonderful scenery encouraged me to go for a couple of early morning runs. I worked out what I though was a short circular route over the nearby hills and joining up with SH2 to come back to Bay View but it turned out to be a 10km route!

Still it was worth it for the early morning stillness, the light shining through the vineyards and the hawks wheeling lazily in the updrafts. Everything seems right with the world at 7.20am on a morning like that.

We hadn’t planned what to do to celebrate New Year’s and although we all though about going into Napier for the fireworks, we decided to have a wonderful meal and some good wine and watch a movie.

At midnight we let off some party poppers and shouted across the valley just to mark the occasion…

We then had some worship led by Josh and Stephan, shared in communion and then prayed for the forthcoming year. It was a wonderful and reflective time.

After a lengthy lie in, we decided to celebrate the first day of 2010 and the first day of the new decade by doing something special.

After driving up Te Mata Peak to take in the amazing view, we headed over to Black Barn Winery.

Black Barn is not only an excellent location for grape growing it also provides stunning views, a warm sheltered micro-climate and is perfect if you want to spend an hour or two, a night or two or even a week or two! 

You can taste their wines, have lunch at the Bistro, a Summer Saturday morning at the Growers Market, an evening at a concert in the amphitheatre or all of the above by staying in one of their 12 properties!

Black Barn certainly lived up to its reputation for world class food and wine. We had a lengthy exquisite lunch under a canopy of grapes  in a courtyard and looked out over the vineyards below.

It was a real treat, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that most of us don’t frequent such establishments on a regular basis. I will certainly have fond memories of the first day of 2010.

Ingrid and I then decide to walk up Te Mata Peak after lunch. Te Mata Peak is at the western boundary of the wine-producing Heretaunga Plains and stands nearly 400 m above sea level.

From the summit of the peak we enjoyed panoramic views of the Ruahine, Kaweka and Maungaharuru Ranges and Cape Kidnappers. The volcano Ruapehu, in the centre of Tongariro National Park, was also visible as it was such a clear day.

The Te Mata hillscape has an amazing story to tell.  Many centuries ago the people living in pa (fortified villages) on the Heretaunga Plains were under constant threat of war from the coastal tribes of Waimarama.

At a gathering in Pakipaki (near Hastings), a wise old woman (kuia) suggested that the leader of the Waimarama tribes, a giant named Te Mata, could be made to fall in love with Hinerakau (the daughter of a Pakipaki chief) and turn his thoughts from war to peace. This mission was quickly accomplished, and Te Mata fell under the spell of the beautifully Hinerakau.

However the people of Heretaunga had not forgotten the past and wanted revenge. They demanded that Hinerakau make Te Mata prove his devotion by accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks.

His last task was to bite through the hills between the coast and the plains, so that people could come and go with greater ease.   Te Mata died while eating his way through the hills. His half-accomplished work can be seen in what is known as The Gap or Pari Karangaranga (echoing cliffs) and his prostrate body forms Te Mata Peak…

The walk up was worth it as the view was immense. We treated ourselves to fish and chips in Napier on the way back to the house.

As we stopped there was a stunning sunset, which seemed a fitting end to a wonderful first day of 2010…

On yer bike in Hawkes Bay

The day before New Year’s Eve saw Ingrid and I heading to Hawkes Bay for 5 days of sun, wine and good times with a few friends (13 to be precise). We had hired a beautiful house in Bay View just north of Napier and apart from one cloudy day it was perfect sunshine and 30c weather.

On New Year’s Eve, Ingrid and I did a bike tour of 8 wineries with our two friends Josh and Kara. We hired some bikes through On Yer Bike, and armed with some old school mountain bikes, plenty of sun block and a packed lunch, we headed off for a 28km ride.

In doing so we tasted some of Hawkes Bay’s finest foods and wines, while at the same time, taking in the superb scenery of the world-renowned Ngatarawa Triangle grape growing region on the scenic Heretaunga Plain.

We cycled past vineyards, olive groves, orchards, horse studs, and farmland – all on flat terrain with wonderful vistas. Having said that, it was still a good workout!

We started at Triangle Red (representing Bush Hawk and Bridge Pa), who are red wine specialists and grow only Syrah, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc on their single 13 hectare vineyard.

From these grapes they produce a reserve and estate Syrah and to date an estate level Merlot blend. From the 2004 vintage – both the reserve Louis Syrah and estate Hawke’s Bay Syrah have been awarded gold medals and show trophies.

Then we went to Ngatarawa, which was established in former racing Stables in 1981. When Alwyn Corban and Garry Glazebrook converted the Stables and planted their vineyard, it was one of New Zealand’s earliest boutique wineries. Ngatarawa still remains a key pioneer of grape growing and winemaking in the Bridge Pa Triangle on the western edge of the Heretaunga Plains.

We carried on to Salvare. Steve and Bev Nathan created the new Salvare brand with zero experience in the industry. 

Salvare is the Latin word from which we derive the word salvation.

Salvare Estate’s latest accomplishment has been at New Zealand’s oldest and most revered wine competition in the Royal Easter Show where they have picked up a silver award for their Syrah and a bronze for their Merlot Rose and Unoaked Chardonnay.

They also recently won a bronze award for their Syrah at the Air New Zealand awards in November 2007, a great win considering their first vintage was only released in September 2007.

Salvare Estate also produces two cracking olive oils, a Picual and a Barnea grown locally in the Puketapu valley. The Picual recently won a silver medal at the Hawkes Bay Olive Oil awards.

Off we went to Te Awa, which was established in 1992 by the Lawson family.

The vineyard is located in the renowned Gimblett Gravels premium wine growing region. The land had traditionally been used for grazing sheep and growing vegetables.

We then stopped for lunch at Trinity Hill which has an award winning and distinctive building.

Trinity Hill is a partnership between John Hancock, Robert and Robyn Wilson (owners of London’s Bleeding Heart and The Don restaurants) and Aucklanders Trevor and Hanne Janes.

It is famous for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot as well as Tempranillo, Syrah and Viognier.

Onwards we went to Sileni Estates (which has the biggest building and longest drive of any of the wineries!)

Sileni Estates is a major vineyard and winery and the first vintage was in 1998 and since then the wines have won world wide acclaim. Sileni Estates is named after the Sileni who featured in Roman mythology alongside Bacchus, the god of wine. They celebrated good wine, good food and good company.

Our penultimate stop was at Alpha Domus which was my favourite place (plus they had a comedy dog!) Alpha Domus winery was established by two generations of the Ham family. The vision began in 1989 with the purchase of bare land and planting began in 1991.

Alpha Domus winery produces world-class wines from a wide range of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Syrah.

The name Alpha Domus was inspired by the first initial of each of our first names from the father through to the youngest brother; Anthonius, Leonarda, Paulus, Henrikus and Anthonius (ALPHA); Domus is Latin for house.

Alpha Domus is in the vicinity of an historic airfield (Hastings), important for training pilots throughout New Zealand’s aviation history. The aircraft used was the de Havilland Tigermoth which is depicted on the Alpha Domus labels. Henri has a passion for flying and holds a commercial pilot’s license. The Tiger Moth also has connotations of romance, history, lasting design, beauty and passion; all elements found in great wine. The Tiger Moth and other colourful vintage planes are often seen in the skies above the vineyard.

Our last stop was at Abbey Cellars. Situated on red metal soils Abbey Cellars is a new boutique single estate producer owned and operated by the Haworth family. They also have an abbey style cellar door building which was quite stunning indeed.

Not only did we get some excellent information on the wines and some good tasting experiences, but Ingrid and I managed to pick up some great wines at the cellar doors. Needless to say that all of our wine was produced from Hawkes Bay grape!

At Ngatarawa we picked up a 2009 Stables Late Harvest Riesling, at Trinity Hill we got a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Gold Medal and Trophy Winner 2008 Mercedes Benz Wine Awards).

At Salvare (that had just won the Hawkes Bay Cellar Door Award) we picked up a 2007 Chardonnay (Gold Medal 2009 Air New Zealand Wine Awards and Gold Medal 2009 Mercedes Benz Wine Awards).

At Sileni we got “The Cape” 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and we made our last purchase at Alpha Domus by getting a 2008 “The Wingwalker” Viognier (Gold Medal 2009 Mercedes Benz Wine Awards).

It was great day all round and we are looking forward to enjoying the wine at some of Wellington’s fine BYO restaurants in the near future…

Catching up with old friends

Between 1985 and 1995, Calvin and Hobbes became one of the most successful comic trips of all time. The characters created by Bill Watterson became household names.

The crazy adventures of the boisterous 6 year old and his stuffed toy (but not to Calvin) were syndicated daily from November 18, 1985 to December 31, 1995 and at its height, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in over 2,400 newspapers worldwide.

Over 30 million copies of the 17 Calvin and Hobbes books have been sold.

The pair was named after John Calvin, a 16th-century French Reformation theologian, and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English political philosopher.

Always funny, frequently thoughtful and occasionally provocative, Calvin and Hobbes was more than just a comic strip to me; they were close friends!

I collected all the books, starting with Calvin & Hobbes and then Something Under The Bed is Drooling, Yukon Ho!, Weirdoes From Another Planet!, The Revenge of the Baby Sat, Scientific Progress Goes “Boink”, Attack of The Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons, The Days Are Just Packed, Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat (the best title and my favourite!), There’s Treasure Everywhere and ending with It’s A Magical World.

From the outset, Watterson found himself at odds with the syndicate, which urged him to begin merchandising the characters and touring the country to promote the first collections of comic strips. Watterson refused. To him, the integrity of the strip and its artist would be undermined by commercialization, which he saw as a major negative influence in the world of cartoon art.

Rather than take the money and watch his creation meander for years into long running and unfunny strips (like Peanuts and Garfield), Bill Watterson rejected their offer and the 3,160th and final strip ran on Sunday, December 31, 1995.

It depicted Calvin and Hobbes outside in freshly-fallen snow, revelling in the wonder and excitement of the winter scene.  “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!” Calvin exclaims as they zoom off on their sled, leaving, according to one critic ten years later, “a hole in the comics page that no strip has been able to fill.”  This is something i totally agree with.

Imagine my delight and joy then, upon opening my biggest Christmas present from Ingrid to find she had given me something I had wanted for ages; The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. She is such a wonderful woman!

This collection includes all Calvin and Hobbes cartoons that ever appeared in syndication, a personal introduction by Bill Watterson, a history of the strip as well as unseen poetry and artwork.

Its beautifully presented but very heavy (22.5lbs!)) and consists of 1,440 pages in 3 hard bound volumes printed on professional artists paper. It is a real collectors item and something to treasure and keep for years to come. If I ever have kids, I will ensure that they get to know Calvin and Hobbes.

I look forward to working my way through the books and re-acquainting myself with their antics. After all, its good to catch up with old friends…

Out at Otaihanga

Its back to blogging after an extended Christmas break!

After a low key Christmas Day in Wellington, Ingrid and i headed up the coast to Otaihanga to stay with our good friends Mark and Kirty who were over from Minneapolis. They were staying at a fabulous house loaned to them by friends and it came complete with a heated pool, hot tub, outdoor sound system and plasma screen TV.

Despite the patchy weather, it was a wonderful 3 days to just kick back and relax and spend some quality time with them.  Mark and Kirsty head up the Salvage Yard church in Minneapolis and it was great to be with people who are so on fire for the Lord. It’s a reminder for me to be intentional about spending time with people who desire things of the Kingdom and not the things of this world. 

I really don’t care much for endlessly talking about houses, holidays, cars and what people just spend excessive amounts of money on; i’d rather talk about God stuff and spend time pressing into Him alongside other people who have the same desire. I always feel so uplifted and energised by peoople like that.

As well as Mark and Kirsty, our friend Andrew was with us for a couple of days and it was good to pick his brains about the film Avatar (as he was one of the people who had worked on it) and also about his forthcoming project Yogi Bear! We also had vists from Suzie, Jemma and Andy and we enjoyed good food, wine and fun times. We even managed to get into the pool on one sunny day which was awesome but then the rain came back. No matter though, as where we were heading off next for a few days was guaranteed sunny weather…