Guernsey and Sark

Whilst in the UK we took a short side trip to Guernsey to visit my uncle Clive. It's only a small Island just of Normandy a world away from the UK and one of the worlds financial centre's although you wouldn't know it to look. Part of the British commonwealth its neither part of the UK or the EU and this I guess is for tax reasons.

For such a small island Guernsey has a rich history dating back to the stone age 5000BC, the Roman Empire, through the middle ages, Napoleonic wars and even during World War II. It was actually part of the Norman conquest of England back in 1066.

During our stay Clive showed us around the key spots and we even had time to swim in the English channel although it was very fresh.

Much of the natural landscape reminded me of the New Zealand's east coast but the narrow streets, old buildings and walls were of a European village.

On Guernsey we took a day trip to the Isle of Sark not too far away in terms of the boat ride but quite a different story in terms of culture. The island is still governed by the feudal system, so what the Lord says, goes.

No vehicles are allowed except for tractors, horse and carriage and bikes so we found ourselves exploring the islands nooks and crannies by bike. At one stage we came across the combined ambulance and fire station and both we appropriately painted trailers to be towed by tractors and they are actually used.


Only a four needed for a century

Ryan Air needs to be seen to be believed and for 20 euro return to the London I'm not complaining. Everything is extra including priority seating and putting your luggage in the hold. It's literally a race to grab a seat as you don't have an allocated seat. Onboard the plane the seats are plastic and don't even have seat pockets. The safety instructions are printed on the headrest of the seat in front of you. Advertising lines every overhead locker as they even sell lottery tickets and rail passes on the planes. The worst part is the landing which the pilots are still trying to master.

I was last in the UK five years ago when my brother got married so it was about time I went back especially being so close.

It was my grandmothers birthday on my fathers side and Nan was turning 96 and just as cheeky as she probably was as a young lass. Just imagine what those eyes have seen from 2 world wars, countries coming and going like the tides and of course space exploration and new technologies like mobile phones.

One evening we popped across to Hyde Park as Crowded House and Peter Gabriel were playing. Minutes before we stocked up on picnic food and wine at the local organic supermarket only to have the wine taken away at the entrance. Its amazing how many people can read the back of a ticket and come up with their own view of what is/is not allowed. Crowded House was great live but immediately after the skies opened flooding the area. We managed to find a spot under a closed beer tent to watch the remainder of the concert.

Seeing all the family and friends again was great as this was the main purpose of the trip however I was able to educate Renate on the Prince Albert . I'm sure we also put on a bit of weight with all the eating.


For real?

Strange but true, a New Zealand couple decided to name their child to be 4real. For some reason the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages decided this wasn't appropriate.

I guessed there must have been rules for names but never really thought about it. Along with numbers, a name cannot be Satan, Adolf Hitler or other offensive names.

I can probably guess this was the talking point of the country for a good few days making a change from the usual politics.

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Wild nights in Nijmegen

The last couple of days have been very muggy with the temperature topping out at 31. On Friday night Renate made it home just in time before the skies lit up with a thunder and lightning show.

Fork lightning so close that the building shook and children down stairs started crying. Everyone was at their windows watching natures performance.

Part 2 of the evening started shortly after with the slightly different sound. The Rolling Stones were in town for the night playing at the Goffert Park next door. Everyone got completely soaked at the concert but luckily no one was struck by lightning although the bolt in the photo above looks like its striking the stage.

Shortly after the rain stopped we headed across to check it out. A double fence system separated those with tickets from those without. Similar to the Berlin Wall with a no-mans land in between (except for the mine field and automatic weapons). People were queued up sneaking a peek and listening to the concert. Some people even bought step ladders along and they were selling drinks and food.

The storms have continued over the weekend with another massive show last night. We would have left the curtains open except that it gets light at 4:15am.


The Kiwi's are the next America's Cup challenger

Congratulations to the New Zealand America's Cup team for taking the Louis Vuitton Cup 5 zip over Luna Rossa. They needed to win 5 of the 9 races but in the closest race of the finals, the New Zealand team won their 5th race in a row by a mere 22 seconds.

It was a bit of a challenge to get a live feed and most are pay-per-view services. TVNZ's Desktop TV service requires viewers to be in New Zealand which didn't help (anyone know a free NZ proxy server?). In the end I was able to listen to the race on

For those who don't know the America's Cup is a rich mans sailing race which also happens to be the oldest sporting cup still in use in the world. Since it started in 1851 the cup has been fraught with controversy but the yanks managed to hold onto it until 1995 briefly losing it to Australia in 1983. We lost the last defense with our boat almost sinking to Switzerland's Alinghi (a land locked country). Most of the previous Kiwi team had jumped ship (no pun intended) to sail for Alinghi of which 10 Kiwis still sail for.

Black is back (or should I say black and red, the colours of the sponsor Emirates). Good luck guys and bring it on home.


The Big Donor Show was worth watching

Follow up to my previous post The Big Donor Show.

It's all over. The show was aired this evening starting with all the news headlines across the world and a montage of the networks founder Bart de Graaf. Bart was on dialysis for 13 years before having a kidney transplant. Before he died in his 30s his founded BNN (Bart Nederland Network) with fun shows.

The audience was filled with transplant survivors and they covered the donor crisis in the Netherlands. The number of donors is actually decreasing whilst more than 200 people die a year waiting for organs. Most European countries have a policy where you are a donor unless you opt-out but Holland has an opt-in policy.

Lisa (the donor) firstly selected from 25 compatible recipients removing those over 50, the very young and both smokers and ex-smokers. From there she whittled the list down to 3 possibilities who appeared on the show. She then asked the possible recipients questions about how they live and what they would do after their transplant. In the end it was a difficult decision and she wished she has 4 kidneys.

Despite the media's best efforts to discredit the show it was in fact a deliberate attempt to draw attention to the donor crisis. In the end they played Bart's laugh, the recipients were real but Lisa was a healthy actress and everyone was in on it. What a brilliant marketing campaign and obviously the government wouldn't have given the go-ahead if it was for real.

Last year there were only 25 organs donated in New Zealand. If you are willing to receive an organ you should be willing to donate. I'm a donor are you?

If you wish to be a donor tell your family and the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) so it appears on your license. Dutchies, you can download the donor form from the Donor Register site.

You can watch it online tomorrow on


The Big Donor Show

Next week the Dutch broadcaster BNN will broadcast their new Big Brother style show named "The Big Donor Show". You have probably heard about this as I first heard about it from a kiwi.

A 37 year old woman dying from a brain tumour will decide from 3 contestants via SMS voting who gets her kidneys. Normally cancer patients cannot donate organs but the exception is brain tumours.

I don't know what the legal aspects of this are but certain in NZ people cannot sell their organs but they can donate their kidneys and bits of liver to whom they choose (relative, friend etc) providing they are healthy.

As I see it there is one major advantage of airing the show and that is to perhaps highlight the lack of organ donors around the globe. However I doubt this is their message.

I can't stand these sorts of shows so we don't plan to watch it.

Update - The Big Donor Show was a hoax.