Glaciers one Penguins nil

Sunday 19th Feb

Since we’ve been on this trip we’ve not seen the news and rarely heard the radio. What few events we’d kept up with were through conversations with folks here, messages and face timing the kids and friends from back home and snippets picked up online as and when we can get wifi. Friends and family on the other side of the world knew more about the forest fires raging around Christchurch than we did and we’d driven past it four days ago, plus into it tonight to play the Christchurch Folk Club.

Martin (the very nice man who’d booked us) was telling us how the fire wasn’t very far from where he lived. He’d had to put together an evacuation plan as they could smell smoke and a change of wind direction could have sent the fire his way. He’d already moved some items from his own and his neighbour’s house to safe ground. It seemed, however, that as of tonight the fires were extinguished, although several roads were still closed and large areas evacuated, while the fire brigade continued to monitor hot spots.

The folk club meets in the Christchurch Irish Centre, a big wooden building (the fire talk made us nervous) with great acoustics. As with many of these events, you get to watch a well-oiled machine in action. There was an empty hall when we arrived and then the team got to it. A box-section stage appeared and was set up, the PA system was wheeled out of a cupboard, followed by a lightning rig. Tables and chairs are brought out, the tables are then covered with table cloths and candles are added for effect (please be careful when lighting the candles). All of this done by volunteers for bugger all money, just the love of music.

I (Dave) was chatting with Pete one of the sound engineers (always make friends with the sound man!) about music; he was telling me about bands he’s played in and a project he’s currently working on. He’s playing Bob Dylan in a staging of “The Last Waltz”, the brilliant film about the final performance by The Band. What a great thing to do! The other chap on sound was Steve. He plays banjo in a bluegrass band, so that put paid to all the banjo jokes (never piss off the sound man). Both smashing blokes, a treat to work with and they did a really good job. We were quite pleased with the turn out, it was about two thirds full but Martin was disappointed. He was very kind and said it was a great concert and we deserved a bigger crowd. But as hardly anyone has ever heard of us over here, we’re always surprised when anyone shows. 

They have a Lincoln near Christchurch and Lincoln City are our local football team back home.

(Shit photo but what do you expect at 60mph with a hangover?)

We got chatting to a Dutch guy (Johan) about Lincoln City. He’s lived over here for many years but still follows football and he’s been keeping up with Lincoln’s amazing FA Cup run. He also told us he was going to see Bruce Springsteen in Christchurch in a couple of weeks (Bruce isn’t playing the Irish Centre, I think he’s doing an acoustic set in a local Italian restaurant, followed by an open mic at the YMCA). Johan gave us a bag of plums and bought two CDs. That’s a great night by our standards. (I bet Bruce doesn’t get plums!)

We were packed up and back on the road by 10.15pm and had planned to get a couple of hours driving in toward the west coast before getting our heads down. However it turned into a nasty night for driving; the cloud blew in very low and visibility was bad. We did a little over an hour, found a pull in off the highway and called it a night.

On Monday morning the sun was shining and we set off toward Arthur’s Pass, the road through the southern alps. We live in Lincolnshire where flat is done with remarkable accuracy – we really can make mountains out of mole hills. As such the scenery here messes with our heads; it’s amazing. Every other sentence goes “bloody ‘ell look at that” or “wow that’s incredible” and on and on…..

Taken through a bug-splattered windscreen this photo shows a redirected waterfall and a falling rock shelter. These came just after Deaths Corner. It’s not a drive for those of a nervous disposition.

We stopped off in Kamara for a coffee and the worlds most chewiest (it is a word, look it up) doughnuts. The doughnuts didn’t taste too bad but it took an enormous amount of energy to chew them, which we firmly believe made them a very healthy option (they don’t call us Mr & Mrs FitasFuck for nothing!). We also paid 16 dollars for a shitting little bottle of environmentally-friendly, utterly sodding useless, sandfly repellent. A word of advice dear reader. When dealing with sandflies, stuff the environment and break out the chemicals. The horrible blood-sucking beasties love the shite that that doughnut-baking, musilee-snorting, moccasin-wearing hippie suckered us into buying. It’s rubbish.

“I’ve never seen a glacier before, have you?” said Kip looking at the map. “No” says I. There begins a two hour drive followed by an hour and a half walk to see the Franz Josef Glacier. I don’t know who Franz Josef is or was, but he makes exceedingly good glaciers. It was well worth the drive and the walk as the Glacier was in; it was there in full view (are you reading this Penguins?). It didn’t bugger off for a swim. This was a Glacier that knew its place and fullfilled its duty.

We got back to the van feeling fulfilled, elated and knackered.

(Okay, so they do call us Mr & Mrs FitasFuck for nothing!)

The view from where we’ve parked up tonight.


Was That Moo Cow Wearing a Boob Tube?

Wed 15th Feb

After the high winds of the past three days we were not looking forward to the ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton, but we needn’t have worried as is was pretty much flat calm all the way. We sailed on the Aretere and it took just over three hours to get to Picton. It’s not all open sea much of the trip being in Charlotte Sound, which leads into Picton Harbour. The views were beautiful.

It was about 7pm when we drove off the ferry in Picton. Kip had been onto her camping NZ app and picked out a place to stay a couple of hours down Highways 63, 6 and 65. An alternative route toward Christchurch. The quicker and more direct coastal route (State Highway 1) was still closed due to earthquake damage. Christchurch was having a tough time of it, there was huge bush fire raging at that time also.

We pulled into the car park at Maruia Falls, there were three other camper vans and a car in there parked up for the night. We’ve seen quite a few folks living in their cars. These were a young couple whose worldly goods were packed in plastic boxes and bags stacked in the boot and back seat. They’d unloaded everything from the back seat, stacked it onto the car roof and laid the seats flat for the night. It was dark when we arrived and getting chilly. The next morning the car park was engulfed in cloud and the temperature was down to chuffing chilly (the met office puts this at between 6 and11.5 degrees centigrade) but by the time we’d made coffee the sun had burned through. 

When the traffic quitened down you could hear just enough of the Maruia falls to make you constantly want to pee.


Our next gig was at the New Edinburgh Folk Club, Dunedin on the Friday (please see the next post, R.I.P Paddy Bort), no rush so we pootled along in Queenie, taking in the sights. We parked up close to the beach at Caroline Bay, Timaru on Thursday night.

And on Friday morning we saw the Steam Punk HQ at Oamaru.

The map showed a Penguin colony at Oamaru and, as neither of us had ever seen a Penguin in the wild, we were quite excited. The Penguins were out for the day –  didn’t see one! Don’t know what these birds are but we saw hundreds.

Onto Dunedin. About twelve years ago, our Andy (Dave’s son) came out to Dunedin to play cricket and from that visit we’ve made various connections. This led to our having various Kiwis live with us, which then resulted in our making this trip. We were staying with Rochelle and Michael (and Helen, Rochelle’s mum). We’d never met, but Kip and Rochelle became friends on Facebook four years ago when Geordie (Rochelle’s son) and Jess (Geordie’s girlfriend) lived with us for several months during their stay in the UK. (We had also had Katie, another Dunedin lass, live with us prior to Geordie and Jess, Katie now lives in Perth Australia, so we’ll be reaping those brownie points in a few days.)

Ever since Andy’s visit and with our taking in Kiwi waifs and strays we’ve wanted to make this trip and, since Australia has a decent folk scene, it made sense to try and get some gigs there as well.

It was early 2016 that we set aside January and February 2017 to do it. Dave contacted several Aussie and NZ agents to no avail (who the folk are Winter Wilson?). Undeterred, we got stuck in and bombarded festivals, folk clubs, music bars, Sydney Opera house etc etc for gigs. We were delighted with the response (no thanks to the Opera House), extended our trip to mid March and so here we are.

Michael, Rochelle and Helen were a delight. Michael and Rochelle can swear to an Olympic standard, which brought out the competitive element in both of us. We hit it off straight away, leading to much banter, a lot of laughs and a serious hangover on Sunday morning. Oh and forty three photos of our feet!

Friday night’s gig at the folk club was a treat. The venue was lovely, the audience were into it and we got to meet up with Geordie and Jess for the first time in four years. They were both looking good and Geordie was disappointed that Dave hadn’t got his banjo with him. A good lad; a true friend. 

Mike and Rochelle took us sightseeing on Saturday. The station was pretty impressive.

In the evening Jess and Geordie came round for a meal and Jess had brought some of her home brew. Oh dear.

Ps. As we were leaving Picton on Wednesday Kip saw some cows that were all black except for a black band around their middle. “Those moo cows look like they’re wearing boob tubes,” says she. Strange girl.


R.I.P Paddy Bort

Sunday 19th February 

We were sat in the van outside of Christchurch Folk Club. Kip was looking on Facebook and saw the sad news that Paddy Bort had died suddenly. It was a shock to both of us. Paddy (or Professor Eberhard Bort, to give him his full name) was a stalwart of the Edinburgh folk scene and had been very good to us. He’d booked us for our first gig in Edinburgh about fifteen years ago, at The Wee Folk Club in the Royal Oak on Infirmary Street. No one had heard of us but Paddy took a chance and since then he booked us regularly for various events in the city, the most recent being just three months ago at The Summer Hall.

Isn’t it weird how these coincidences work out?. We played The New Edinburgh Folk Club in Dunedin two nights ago and it was Paddy who’d put us on in the original club back in Edinburgh.

You can read Paddy’s obituary from the Edinburgh News here

His passing will leave a massive hole in the Edinburgh music scene. We can’t claim to have been close friends; our only contact was through the gigs he arranged for us. But he was always a pleasure to deal with and forever enthusiastic about our music. 

Thanks for the support Paddy. We’ll miss you.


So that’s why they’re called Jesus handles.

 Tues 14th Feb

Not a great night’s sleep, the wind hadn’t eased and it was making a hell of a racket in the trees near where we were parked. I stepped out of the van straight into a pile of goose shit. I was then surrounded by a sea of ducks, geese and one seagull (obviously blown off course) all with pleading eyes and quacking for bread. Cue Kip’s favourite duck joke.

We spent a joyous five minutes bouncing dry crusty bread off their heads before climbing back into the van feeling no guilt whatsoever as we trundled off toward Upper Hutt.

The road to Upper Hutt was taking us over the Rimutaka Range. We’d been warned that it’s quite a scary drive. It was a doddle…… comparison. The road approaching the mountains has some wide open spaces and the wind gusting though at several points was genuinely frightening. Several times we were down to about 20mph as the van was shaken from side to side. Kip spent much of the journey clinging to the handle above the passenger door and screaming “Jesus Christ” at regular intervals. A high-top van has its disadvantages as well as its advantages.

Once the road reached the mountains we gained some shade from the wind, a little bit of sanity and some incredible views (not that we got many pics, watching the road was high on our agenda and it was chucking down rain)

Once in Upper Hutt we found the library, you can always get free wifi at the library. We read some pointless drivel on Facebook, sorted out emails (got another gig in Germany in June) and then posted some pointless drivel on Facebook. Int the tinterweb marvellous.

That night we were playing “Upper Hutt Mainly Acoustic” at the Mayfair Cafe. The Mayfair was once a cinema and when it was bought for renovation a load of old equipment was found in there, much of which along with many other old relics (typewriters, cameras, folk singers etc).

It was a great room to sing in, a special mention here to Barry the sound man who really knew his stuff. He listened, he tweaked, he walked around the room and listened, he tweaked again and then sat back and didn’t touch a thing. What a star.

The gig had been arranged by Kev, he and his wife Sue moved out to NZ forty years ago and took root. They clearly work hard at putting on live music in Upper Hutt, a week after our gig there they have that great Irish singer-songwriter and thoroughly nice bloke Colum Sands playing there. As with so many others Kev and Sue opened up their house to us, fed us, allowed us to get cleaned up and waved us off the next day as we set off to catch the ferry to Picton on the South Island. 

Kev & Sue



We met Ruth and Gerard at Derby Folk Festival last year. They live in Palmerston North, NZ, and had been visiting relatives in the U.K. They knew we were heading to NZ and invited us to stay. Nobody has to ask us twice.

It worked out very well, as we’d been booked to play The Bent Horshoe which is a movable music venue in Palmerston North. Steve, who promotes the gigs, uses a couple of different venues depending upon the sort of act he’s booked. We were in the Joseph Street Kitchen, which was originally a boat builder’s workshop and is now cafe selling some of the best food in Palmerston. It also has a cracking grape vine growing around the roof.

Shame they taste like Domestos.

Steve had borrowed a PA from a mate of his for the gig which we helped set up, it had speakers big enough to blow out the back wall of the venue and built in effects that had no effect whatsoever. After a bit of noodling and tweaking we’d got a decent sound. We knew it sounded okay because we both took a turn at going to where the audience were seated, listening and then adjusting the levels as necessary. That, dear reader, is a not very subtle dig at a “sound man” from an earlier gig who, when asked during the interval “Does it sound okay out front?” replied “I don’t know. I’ve been sat at the side by the mixing desk all the way through.” He was a lovely bloke, which had a positive effect on him keeping his teeth. 

The gigs in NZ have steadily improved since the first two (thank you God, they could only go one way) and this was the best yet. There was a good crowd, they were well into it and they sang and heckled with style. As we were setting up a Canadian guy (Dan) was in having a coffee and was telling us how he and his wife have signed up to a house sitting/swapping service. They travel all over the world and look after people’s houses for them for two or three months at a time. They then get other folks to look after their place in Canada. Isn’t that a great way to see other countries on the cheap? Dan later came to the gig along with his wife. At the end of the night he bought a couple of CD’s, gave us some contacts for promoters in Canada and invited us to stay at their place. We are developing a cunning plan.

In this photo Dave is reading the lyrics from the ceiling while Kip is casting a spell to make her body disappear.

That night we went back to Ruth and Gerard’s and got pissed. It was a genuine mistake and could happen to anyone.

We walked into Palmerston the next morning. To us the area we walked through seemed an odd mix of residential and industrial, with tyre depots and builders’ pyards dotted in between bungalows and houses. The Palmerston rugby stadium was also on the same street. 

The city centre is different again; it’s quite arty with a lot of sculptures, theatres and a really nice park area right in the centre. There’s plenty of cafes and bars to sit outside and watch the world go by and they have a Cuba Street. Is it compulsory to have a Cuba Street in every city in NZ I wonder? Maybe it’s to piss off the Americans.

That night we went back to Ruth and Gerard’s and got pissed. It was a genuine mistake and could happen to anyone. (Can I just point out this stage that I didn’t get pissed the second time? I’d banged my head in the morning and was feeling poorly – K)

Next came two more nights of wild camping, that’s WILD camping. 

We’ve discovered that New Zealand does windy extremely well. We were heading to Te Paerahi beach in Porangahau on the east coast and on the way we passed through the Manawatu Gorge followed by the place with the longest name in the world.

It works better if you say it in a Welsh accent.

Te Paerahi is a lovely spot. We were parked up about a hundred yards from the sea. It was sunny, warm and the breeze was getting up. We walked along the beach, made a feeble attempt at swimming in the sea (knocked off feet several times by big rollers, staggered out head down but alive) and then went back to the van and ate. Later on we had a walk around Porangahau and were heartened by the helpful “What to do in the event of a tsunami” sign. 

It basically comes down to “run like f**ck, swim, die” in that order.

It was after we’d got into bed that the wind really got into its stride (not for the first time, but it was Gerard’s curry to blame for the previous night). The van shook and the wind howled and it was only just getting started. 

Our plan in the morning was to head to Castle Point. It’s a bit further down the coast but as there’s no coast road you have to drive well inland and back out again. We’d not been going long when the rain started to come down (I say down, it was more horizontal) and the wind just got silly. We were often down to about 30mph and hanging onto the steering wheel with a vice-like grip. This was not fun; we were on tiny roads on huge hillsides and not enjoying it. After a couple of hours Kip checked the map and we were about five miles away from Masterton, so we thought we’ll get there and take a break. Just then we saw a bloke on a push bike battling with the elements and both of us chimed “nutter” as we went past him. We parked up at a coffee shop (nice carrot cake) and settled our nerves.

As we left the cafe the bloke on the bike pulled up, he must have been pushing seventy, tanned and fit. “Hell of a day for a bike ride” said Dave. “Oh it’s a little wet, but a back wind so it’s okay.” Bastard” we both said through our beaming smiles.

Sod Castle Point, this blog is being written by a lakeside in Masterton. The ducks are hungry, it’s sunny, windy and paradise compared to what we’d been through.


Rupert’s Pirate Hut

Plimmerton is about half an hour from Wellington. We had a drive into the city on Tuesday (7th Feb) to get Dave a new harmonica, as his trusty Lee Osker was suffering from travel sickness. Some folks had recommended Alistair’s Music on Cuba Street, so we headed there. We met and had a chat with Alistair, a Scot now resident in Wellington. Twenty minutes and seventy dollars later Dave came out smiling (that wasn’t just a harmonica, though, was it? – K)

Cuba Street has a nice feel to it, plenty of independent coffee bars and record stores, a nice place to sit and watch the world go by.

We had intended to visit Te Papa, the Maori museum which has a really good reputation for giving a fascinating insight into Maori culture, but after much searching we couldn’t find it (getting to NZ was an achievement, you can’t get it all right!)

We gave up and went back to Jannette and Niels’s house.

As mentioned in an earlier blog one of the delights about this trip as with all the others is the people that you meet along the way and also their pets.

Meet Bertie and Ben 

Niels and Jannette also have a cat called Boris, but he’s camera shy.

That night we played Wellington Acoustic Routes, which was held at the Boating Club in Plimmerton. You play with your back to a floor to ceiling window overlooking the bay, one of the best backdrops we’ve ever had. We’re thinking of insisting that every gig install one.

The next morning we said our goodbyes to Niels. Jannette had wisely flown to Auckland the night before to avoid our gig. It’s one thing providing us with free accommodation, but then having to sit through two hours of our singing and arguing is pushing friendship to the limit.

We were back in Queenie for the night and found a beautiful spot right on the sea front at Otaki beach. We sat and had a drink while watching the sun go down behind the South Island in the distance, it really was beautiful.

As was the moon sinking into the sea in the early hours. (So beautiful, in fact, that he felt the need to wake me up to see it! – K)

It was beautiful and sunny but a bit chilly the next morning and there was just one idiot swimming in the sea. It was Dave “If I can stand the sea at Skegness I can stand anything” Wilson.

The beach huts were not up to Skeg standard though….


Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better…… it didn’t 

We were still on a bit of a high from the gigs we’d played in Australia, we had been spoiled. Gig wise things really could only go one of two ways, they could level off or take a bit of a dip. 

Lets make that three ways, they could also take a nose dive. Our next two concerts were played to just a handful of people. On the The Saturday we played The Nivara lounge in Hamilton 

and on Sunday it was the Cabana in Napier both of which are great venues that put on live music several nights a week, ranging from Rock to Rap to two old folkies from the UK. We still had a good time – you play for those that come and don’t moan about those that don’t. We had great weather for both Hamilton and Napier and although very different they were both lovely to walk around.

We’d arrived in Hamilton early afternoon and had a good walk along the river which really was beautiful.

We also had a lucky escape when we walked across a square close to the venue. In the middle of the square was a collection of tiles with holes in. Just after we’d walked across them they shot water into the air.

Hamilton was also the birthplace of Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien. His achievements are commemorated by a statue and an interactive public toilet (it’s true, honest)

The centre of Napier was largely destroyed by an earthquake in the 1930’s and it was rebuilt in the style of the day which was Art Deco. If you look up from the shop fronts to the roof lines and windows the buildings are really cool.

When we arrived in Napier we parked up on the sea front and Dave went for a swim. He then sat on a bench and began changing his guitar strings. Within a minute he was joined by a young girl carrying a guitar. Gabriella was in town to buy timber for a “Tiny House” she was building (the roof of her van was stacked high) she was then going to meet up with her dad and brother to watch James Taylor play a concert in Napier that night. We swapped a few songs had a few laughs and then off she went to get some more timber.

We had a nice surprise at the gig that night, a couple of ladies came to see us who were on their hols from the UK. They’d both seen us at different times back home and when they saw we were in town they came along. We had a right good chat with them both before, during and after the gig.

The sights you see when walking around NZ