A Magical Visit to Hobbiton in The Shire


My Dear Beloved Reader,

It’s been a while since I sat down to write about our adventures in the antipodes but I must confess we’ve been a tad busy. So, this episode is a sort of pictorial memory of an enchanting day in New Zealand where we visited the film set that was created for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in Matamata in the north island. The set is known as Hobbiton and is about two and a half hours drive from Auckland but well worth the journey.

Hobbiton, was originally going to be filmed by Peter Jackson using 17 locations but when Jackson saw this location with a specific tree by a lake (see if you can spot it in the photos below) everthing was brought to Matamata. So, this is where Bag End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo can be found. You should be able to spot in the following photographs. To see a larger image just click on the image you wish to see.

 

We’re in Auckland New Zealand


My Dear Beloved Reader,

So, Diana and I arrived here a couple of days ago to a wet and soggy Auckland late in the afternoon at:

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and quickly checked in to our hotel:

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The Sofitel. The reception staff and concierge were exceptionally good and we found ourselves in a lovely room overlooking the marina and

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The Sky Tower. You can just make out The Orbital Restaurant through the clouds! It had been a long couple of days to get here and our body clocks dictated it was time for bed. So, we were glad to be in a very comfortable bed and swiftly into the arms of Orpheus.

Sunday morning was a new day but still very soggy with occassional driving rain due to the remnants of a tropical storm which will be hanging around for sometime. After a hearty breakfast, coffee, bircher muesli, fruit, greek yoghourt, spanish omlette, crispy bacon and sausage our driver John took us off for a two hour drive around Auckland. Unfortunately, the weather was still against us but we enjoyed John’s comentary. We particularly enjoyed Devonport mainly because it had stopped raining and we could see the local scenery.

Drive John, Diana, Paul & David

So, here we have John our driver together with Diana, Paul and David admiring the view of Auckland from Mount Victoria Reserve. Mount Victoria is situated above the charming and very pretty suburb of Devonport and Mount Victoria is one of fifty-three exstinct volcanoes that surround this city. We then returned to our hotel having encountered some flood water in a couple of places.

That afternoon Diana, David and Paul decided to take sanctary in the spa while I decided to set forth and brave the elements to visit The New Zealand National Maritime Museum and I’m glad I did. The museum was packed full of exhibits from ancient, large, sea-going canoes that had travelled thousands of mile to the modern day. However, it was just three exhibits that really caught my eye.

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The first was this ancient outrigger canoe of an unusal design. All the timbers were lashed together so it would continually leak and when at sea, the crew would be constantly bailing out water from the hull. The other unusual feature was that when the boat was tacking against the wind the rudder would be transferred from one end of the boat to the other and the sails would be pivoted which would allow the outrigger to always be on the windward side to provide stability. It must have been a tough boat to handle.

The second exhibit that fascinated me was The Rewa.

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This boat was built one-hundred and thirty-six years ago by the family that owned her. This was common practise in those days and the family would use “Rewa” to transort produce fron their farm, wool, meat, vegetables etc to the city and would bring home tools, provisions etc.

The final one had of course to be Sir Peter Blake’s yacht NZL 32 “Black Magic” that won the Americas Cup convincingly (five to nil) in 1985 and was the first team to have beaten America in the one-hundred and thirty-five years of the race. New Zealand has continued to be a winner of this ancient sporting event and Sir Peter was a national hero until his murder by pirates off the Amazon delta.

This, of course, was what all the sailing fuss has been about and still is:

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The Americas Cup, originally called the One-Hundred Guineas Cup (that was the original cost) until the yacht America won the race. Some call it “The Auld Mug” as its the oldest sporting trophy and some would say pretty ugly!

Later that night we dined at The Soul Restaurant close to the museum and had a superb dinner.

Until my next post……. Toodleoo!

 

Travelling To New Zealand – The First Leg LHR to Abu Dhabi.


 

My Dear Beloved Reader,

The title is not exactly true as the very first leg was lugging the luggage that she who must be obeyed has insisted is “absolutely necessary” down the stairs, across the hallway and into our venerated vehicle. It’s been a bitterly cold day with the temperature hovering around 7C and for the benefit of my American friends that’s 46F. I was pleased to leave this:

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which happened last night and provided a slightly amusing skating rink this morning. I digress. We had an uneventful but slightly damp journey to London Heathrow Airport and having emptied the luggage onto a variety of carts I entrusted our velocipede into the capable hands of the valet parking team at terminal 4.

Braving the elements we travailed the one hundred feet or so into the terminal and then commenced the half-mile route march to the Etihad First Class check-in area.

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Having completed the formalities we were duly ticketed by a very pleasant young lady and duly directed to the Fast Track path, where she who must be obeyed successfully held everyone up:

fullsizeoutput_f599 and we were off to the Etihad Lounge.

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This lounge has a somewhat subdued lighting scheme which I suppose is to encourage a restful atmosphere but don’t let the photograph above fool you. A few minutes after it was taken the lounge became quite busy. There is a self-serve buffet bar with an adequate array of food and our waitress was very pleasant. Great coffee!

It wasn’t too long before the appointed hour arrived and we made our way to gate 10 and duly boarded and shown to our seats by lovely Aida who together with her colleagues looked after us in an exceptional manner.

Here’s a short video of our experience boarding the flight to Abu Dhabi;

The First Class cabin was really spacious as you can see from our video

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and Diana was very pleased with the extensive menu,

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that was prepared, with obvious passion by our in-flight chef “Chi-Chi”.

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We were very well looked after by Aida and her colleagues and we soon sat down for a lovely dinner.

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To start with we had Meditteranean Mezze which was delicious

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and I for one had no worries whatsoever with the calorific content! This was followed by a delicious

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loin of lamb. The pudding was so good we scoffed it before we could photograph it. Then we had

our beds made. This was not a seat that recined to a “flat bed” but a proper bed and

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we still had our enormous seats.

We’ve now continued our journey and I’m writing this in the Air New Zealnd lounge awaiting our flight to Auckland so, until my next post…….Toodleoo!

How We Talk To People


fullsizeoutput_1da92I was reminded at a seminar last weekend that when Diana and I started our business together (thirty years ago), our primary communication tool was the fixed wire telephone and having a telephone answering machine was so important. In those days mobile telephony was expensive (75p per minute and billed in whole minutes!). Thus, the aim was to use the telephone to make appointments to get in front of a prospect to present our opportunity.

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Today, it seems to me, that most people seem to talk using their thumbs rather than their mouths using a language best described as QWERTYUIOP. This seems to work as appointments are made, but now the face to face meeting appears to be conducted through Skype or Facetime or Zoom. I’ve no challenge with this as the result seems to be similar in that we end up with new members and new partners, but I have a concern.

At last weekends seminar, I was asked why Diana and I had built a National Network Leader Distributorship so quickly within five years and eleven months? That was a great question and deserving of considered thought. It seems to me that the old-fashioned way (analogue) of communicating is faster than these latest (digital) methods of communication. It would appear to me that it’s quicker, easier and simpler to make contact, build rapport and get a result using our analogue methods or am I old-fashioned and prejudiced? I believe that people don’t join companies, they join people, and in my opinion, digital methods of prospecting and presenting are a tad impersonal and difficult to show that you really care about their future.

However, I’m not against them, and I can see a definite case when a contact that you wish to engage with lives at the other end of the country.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that we should all become Luddites and revert to the analogue way of doing things but I am suggesting that a blend of approaches dependent on location might be a better way.

Please feel free to comment and debate in the comment sections below and don’t forget to share my blog with your team and subscribe to it if you have not already done so.

Until my next post…..Toodle-oo!

Travels With Stanley Episode 3. Leaving Saint-Jean-De-Luz for Toledo.


My Dear Beloved Reader,

This little video says it all as we leave Saint-Jean-De-Luz in the south of France just north of the Spanish border bound for the Toledo in Spain. Indeed from the sea-front of this lovely little town, you can see the Pyrenees that forms the natural border between France and Spain.

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Once we got into The Pyrenees the weather really started to deteriorate and at one point it was snowing quite heavily. We certainly didn’t envy the drivers of the convoy below

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transporting these giant wind turbine blades.

We arrived at our hotel The Eurostars Palacio Buenavista in Toledo at 18:10 after a pretty gruelling drive and we were glad to have an early dinner and an early night in preparation for our last drive to Marbella the following day.

Until my next post……………Toodleoo!

Travels With Stanley Episode Two (Rouen to Saint-Jean-de-Luz).

The Grand Hotel Thalasso in Saint-Jean-de-Luz rolls out the red carpet to welcome Diana Ross!


My Dear Beloved Reader,

Having awoken fairly early at our Rouen Hotel and re-packing a somewhat full Range Rover we sallied forth at 06:37 on a pretty wet morning for a soggy drive to the south of France. Fortunately, the further south we drove the weather improved with each degree of latitude. Our first break occured after 1 hour and fourty-five minutes having covered  98.2 miles, averaging 59mph and achieving 30.6mpg was just outside Alencon where Diana a.k.a. “She Who Must Be Obeyed” insisted that we breakfasted upon cafe au lait and pan au chocolat. Needless to say Stanley was prohibited from such a fine repast and had a delicious tin of puppy food!

After a total stop of 31 minutes we drove for a total of two hours and forty five minutes covering 149.7 miles while achieving 32.6 mpg at an average speed of 57 mph in very wet conditions especially while skirting Le Mans. We broke our journey just a tad north of Poitiers for seventeen minutes for a stretch leg break and to allow Stanley to visit the local lamp post.

Forty five minutes later having covered 49.6 miles at an average speed of 70 mph achieving 35.3 mpg in improving weather but still on the soggy side we stopped for another stretch leg break for a further thirteen minutes.

Now, my dear reader you’re probably wondering why I’m bombarding you with such statistical nonsense? The truth of the matter is that the weather had been so glum that, the only highlights, scenery wise, were various types of  gallic roadworks that, occasionally featured workmen who seemed to be committed to smoking untipped Gauloise cigarettes. We departed our stopping place, Aiffres just outside Niort, at 12:53 and settled in for the next 157 miles which took us through Saintes where we entered the Cognac area with lovely rolling pastures and plenty of vineyards. Skirting Bordeaux we continued and entered the arondissement of Aquitane and broke our journey for a late lunch at 15:25 having averaged 63 mph and achieved 33.6 mpg stopping at Saugnac-et-Muret which is on the east side of the Parc Naturel Régionale des Landes de Gascogne. We enjoyed the view while eating a humble french baguette filled with a rather non descript cheese.Twenty-nine minutes later we were back in the car feeling refreshed and releived that the sun was shining we drove for a further fifty-five minutes covering 64.9 miles at an average of 73 mph achieving 34.1 mpg we made our penulitimate stop some 21.5 miles short of our destination in order to give Stanley some exercise before we arrived at our hotel.

fullsizeoutput_d7bbWe left nineteen minutes later and arrived at The Grand Hotel Thalasso in Saint-Jean-de-Luz where they had rolled out the red carpet in order to welcome Diana Ross and her husband.fullsizeoutput_db42

We were greeted by the most courteous and helpful staff and were whisked to our suite and having quickly scrubbed up we were ready to enjoy dinner in the Michelin highly rated restaurant L’Ocean.

We were not disappointed having had our already healthy appetites tickled by an aperitif we tucked into our first course of fullsizeoutput_db34

deconstructed squid with potato risotto which was absolutely delightful. Then

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we enjoyed some sea-bass over a selection of beautifully prepared vegetables and then our our main course of

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Veal cooked two ways, crispy sweetbreads and St. Georges Mushrooms followed by

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a cheese selection and finally

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Valhrona Alpaco dark chocolate, soustons sugared peanuts but when I broke the crust

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it was just sublime.

We went to bed tired, happy and stuffed!

Until my next post of this saga…………Toodleoo!

Travels With Stanley (Folkestone to Rouen)


My Dear Beloved Reader,

I thought it was about time to put finger to keyboard and attempt to capture our travels from the UK to Marbella in southern Spain. We departed from our home to attend a board meeting at Network HQ in Edgeware some twenty nine miles from home and after having concluded the meeting we departed for Folkestone in Kent in our trusty, somewhat full Range Rover Vogue SE Auto.

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It was a damp and drizzly day and more weather was to come later!

After one hundred and one miles we were on the train and had started our journey through the Eurotunnel.

We landed on the Continent and began our journey of one hundred and thirty-three miles to Rouen. The weather deteriorated quickly and we had an unpleasant drive in driving rain and gale force winds.

We eventually found our hotel which was not too easy as the Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedrale Hotel and its garage are situated in a pedestrianised area of this pretty cathedral town. Fortunately, the local police with their inimitable gallic charm escorted our car (blue lights flashing – see the video below) to the hotel. After a pretty difficult drive we were pleased to flop into bed and start our journey to Saint Jean du Luz the following morning.

Here’s three minutes and thirty-nine seconds of video highlights from Day 1.

Until our next episode of this gripping story…..Toodleloo!