The open day was rather like a village fete and walking through the town I was transposed to Ambridge, strolling down the Green towards the Bull, especially as we walked past what could have been Joe Grundy and an aged Jolene Perks playing country and western in the street.....! The Community Centre was full of craft stalls, sausage sizzlers being cooked and sold for fundraising left right and centre, raffles galore, as well as classic cars and bikes driving up and down the high street.
All the shops were open including the Wool Buyers and Saddlery.... After a delicious lunch of breaded scallops and a pint of Speight's we sat and listened to some music on the green.
Peter thought that I should have a special Kiwi style birthday and in cohoots with Lyn he organized a surprise birthday treat - all I knew was that I had to finish my clinic early and be ready to leave the house at 4.30.
As you will know we ended up going to a farm in Otahuti (about 30 mins drive) which belongs to Helen and Terry O'Meara - Helen works as a secretary in the office and was the lady in a previous blog who had to leave early to help with the sheep shearing.
I was meant to start off milking the cows on a neighbouring farm but we arrived a little late for that. However we had a tour of the milking parlour and met the owner (John) who was a great guy, incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about milking and the milk industry. The farm is really a co-operative - the rotary parlour takes 54 cows and each one is milked in under 6 minutes.
I loved his boots which are very similar to my theatre boots, although caked in a different bodily fluid!! Thank God I'm not a Colo-rectal surgeon....
After this came the sheep shearing - one of the most memorable events of my life.
Terry was a great instructor and helper - those sheep are very large and strong and have a hefty kick. I learned there are pressure points on the sheep which calm them down (perhaps I could take up sheep counselling as well) . The fleece came off in one piece and with no cuts on the sheep either.
A quick lesson in farm quad-bike driving and I drove back to the house with Jess and Meg accompanying me on the back.
We had a delicious BBQ in the sunshine with the most enormous glasses of wine followed by a cake with candles and a glass of Terry's NZ malt.
We met the O'Meara's daughter Kate - her boyfriend arrived a little late as he had been negotiating taking 800 sheep from Canterbury, where the weather has been so dry there are problems with grazing for the sheep. The 800 were due to arrive at midight - shades of the Archers again. Then Terry and I took off for a ride round the farm followed by Lyn, Margi and Peter in the car driven by Helen. There followed several close encounters with herds of cows, which Terry assured me were very friendly - I was bit concerned as some of the randy adolescent bulls seemed too friendly and I didn't really fancy being mounted! Making a quick getaway on the quad I had a great time roaring around the fields and fords. Unfortunately it was getting dark and time to leave - but what a day. That's Southlands hospitality for you. I can't thank Peter, Terry and Helen enough for a great day.The following day (actually my birthday) was spent working - Lyn kindly shouted (see below) several chocolate cakes which were distributed to my fellow hospital workers and went down very well. Usual Wed Pub Quiz with usual result - didn't win.Our own private desert island....
The next day Lyn had organized a day-trip to Stewart Island. After the 10 min drive (including parking) to the airport and check-in we took off in the pouring rain in an 8 seater. The pilot was the check-in person as well as the gate controller and checker.
We had a great day - taken by water taxi to Ulva Island - we were on it for about 2-3 hours and were the only people on it. The rain stopped and the sun came out and we wandered round the rainforest and deserted beaches with only the friendly, flightless Weka as company. There are more Kiwi on Stewart Island than humans. Only about 30 live on Ulva.
Apparently, the whole of NZ was like this before the Maori and Pakeha came. All traces of non native flora and fauna have been removed.
After lunch in the only pub, we had a tour of the island on the 12km of road it has. However, beware of Kiwi and Penguins crossing.
We were, again, the only people on the tour and our guide was a 5th generation Stewart Islander called Iona.
We visited the rugby pitch - possibly the only one in the world where you can watch from a boat. There's only one match played each year on Waitangi Day (more of that next year) between the Maori and Pakeha, although there often aren't enough Maori so they are joined by some of the Pakeha. It's further complicated by the fact the teams don't wear different strip. Sausage sizzlers abound again. After the match the whole island (there are only 380 residents) migrate to a beach for an informal Hangi (see later) - Iona's uncle supplies a cow, another relative a sheep etc..
Life on Stewart Island is very rural - there is an aquarium with a 'theatrette' (not sure what this is as it was closed), a small supermarket (who will deliver) and the entertainment centre. There is a beautiful 5-year old community centre which has a full size basketball hall, as well as other halls, kitchen and library and is the heart of the community.
One policeman. No doctor - but there are 2 nurses who run a 24 hour service and have the equivalent of GP surgeries. I have spoken to one of them (Marty) who has sent me a couple of patients. In fact, during our tour we came across a man sitting on a fence holding his left bloodied hand tightly with his right. Iona knew him (of course) so stopped and we found out he thought he had cut his radial artery with a hatchet and was waiting for the nurses to arrive. Lyn gave the good advice about raising his arm but before I could put my vascular surgery knowledge into action Marty arrived in the island ambulance. I spoke to him again a couple of days later and found out it was just a deep cut which he sutured, and he has invited me over to spend a day with him.
At one of the beaches I came across a couple of guys (one was the retaurant chef) Paua collecting (see below).
Our journey back was on a 4 seater plane (clambering in via the wing) in the sunshine but with a hefty tail wind which made for an interesting, rather bumpy flight but ended in a perfectly smooth landing.
The week ended with visit to the cinema to see Quantum of Solace - at least 12 people this time and a Thai meal with Peter.Kiwi-speak number 9 & 10 (I think)
Shout - just like the UK pub-speak - 'it's my shout' but used much more widely e.g. I'll shout you lunch today; or it's my birthday so I'll shout a cake.
'A box of shot' - short for 'a box of shot fluffies' ( see last week's blog) which was said to me when I asked a patient how he was feeling today! Sorry I asked....
Southland life has become very busy - with work being interrupted by Christmas and birthday events. Sunday 23rd was open day in Winton - a small town about 20 mins drive away. Our neighbours, Peter and Margi (Peter also happens to be my manager) kindly took us as our car had broken down. The sun shone and the temperature soared to 32 degrees.