Friday, 22 May 2009

The exhibition is moving to Dunedin early June.
The Otago Settlers Museum is the place to be to see our exhibition in the South of he country. Tim, Tim, Sean, Linda, François, Jo and the rest of the team are hard working to be open from 05/06 on. Do not forget, 2 days later - on 07/06 - but in 1917 was the Battle of Messines. This was the prologue to the Battle of Passchendaele.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Monday 27/04/2009 - Tuesday 28/04/2009

Ingrid and Els are staying one day in Christchurch before going home to do some shopping and visit a farm.
We, the rest of the delegation have a meeting with Mayor Adrienne and Don Staples about the exhibiton who will open at 16/07/2009 in Featherston.
With the plane we are heading for Wellington.
A quick visit to lay a wreath at the National War Memorial were the first venue of the exhibition was.
Tim was playing the Carillion especially for the delegation when we arrived.
It was a bit embarrassing as there was no wreath amongst all the countries who had laid them on Anzac day from the Belgium community. We thanked Paul Riley for his sterling work for the Wellington exhibition and Tim took us up to the top and again played the Carillion for the delegation.
We then invited both Rowland Woods and Don Staples to lunch at the Belgian Beer Café together with Tim and the delegation.
Then off to Featherston.
We all stayed at Mayor and Don Staples beautiful home…what a wonderful treat…..a fantastic home cooked meal consisting of crayfish, lamb and wonderful deserts, all served with the most exquisite Martinbourgh wines. Together with us was invited Wim Julicher ( from the Netherlands who could speak his mother tongue) with his wife Sue Darling and Solitaire, a councillor from Wairarapa.
A typical kiwi breakfast followed by a visit to the Museum, the Anzac hall, cemetery and the memorials.
Mayor Dirk Cardoen and Rita his wife then left for there private trip on the North Island and after lunch Don drove Jo and Freddy back to the airport.
Jo and Freddy had a debrief (as much as we could do as tired as we both were) and then they both departed………Jo to Waikuku beach and Freddy back to Belgium.
New Zealand we are still grateful, to your country and to the people. We made very good contacts to maintain the twinning and friendship between both districts.

Sunday 26/04/2009 End of Official Visit

The delegation was all packed, ready to leave their host family’s
We visited the Waimakariri River, where Gavin (Lieves husband) took all for a jet boat ride. Again the weather was beautiful. We had a champagne toast to good health, lasting and enduring friendships.
We then went to Lieve’s and Gavin’s for a coffee and to look at her artwork.
What an amazing coincidence took place….It is hardly possible to explain but it is certainly a small world…. See the posted message on Sunday 12 April for an introduction. The surprise connection with the artwork Lieve made is that she used the same soldier for her art work as we have adopted here in Belgium without knowing of each other. 5000 soldiers were victims in Belgium and we took the same unkwown young man!!!!! The surprise is even more... Maria Vander Meiren who had placed the flax cross on his grave had bought that artwork about Ewen Taylor when she was there with the first delegation in March without knowing anything about the identity of the soldier mentioned in the art work.

We went to the people from Kaiapoi - Don and Carol Fairbrother the great neice of Ewen Taylor , we visited last year from who we received some personal memorabilia for the Museum - to tell them this incredible story.
We then headed to the award winning Pegasus Winery for wine tasting and a superb farewell lunch………we dropped the delegation to their hotel had a last drink and said our farewells.

Saturday 25/04/2009 ANZAC DAY

Jo picked up a splendidly uniformed Freddy (he had to get special permission to wear his uniform and looked amazing), Mayor Cardoen and Rita at 4.30 am….dark but surprising warm..into Christchurch for the Dawn Service….Over 10,000…..Mayor Ron Keating/Mayor Dirk Cardoen/Councillor Ingrid and Freddy matched with the wreath bearers. Michael Petterson marched with the flag bearers holding the Belgium flag and both Mayoress”s, Els, Lieve, Gavin and I marched with the rest. The exhibition was mentioned as was the invitation to attend after the service (we had requested it to be open at 7 am)
Lots of introductions made to the dignitaries, we then caught the special tram to the breakfast at the Christchurch RSA. It is a big venue, absolutely crowded. Again the opportunity to speak….Freddy presented a gift and used the opportunity to invite them all to the exhibition. He went to the officers club with Micheal and we ate and had a beer (something the delegation felt was quite strange) with the assembled community.
Then off to Kaiapoi for the march down the street…over 3000 in attendance. Mayor Cardoen gave a great speech that was interpreted by Freddy. Wreaths were laid including the poppy signed by the Zonnebeke primary school. At least 3 people in the public came to congratulate Mayor Cardoen for his speech in Flemish because they were of Dutch descendance and they heard their language for the first time during an official function.
Onto the Rangiora Parade…again a large crowd (over 3000) a longer march to the Town Hall, service and speeches in the Town Hall, then marching back to the cenotaph to lay the wreaths.
Back into Christchurch for the Anzac Remberence Concert. It will be very hard for me to describe the unbelievable impact this concert had on us all.

The concert was a combination of the Woolston Brass Band and the New Zealand Army Band. Michael Petterson has organised our attendance and had Freddy prepared to read the ode during the concert.
We were meet by the Music Director of the NZ Army Band Leanne who looked after us all. After the first half comprised of popular war time music and a general sing a long,we moved into a spellbinding second half.
Dwayne Blooomfieds specially composed piece “Passchendaele 12 October 1917” was having its world premier. What transpired here was so very emotional,so powerful, so very personal - I cannot describe how it was. The tears that flowed ( from everyone) from this simply stunning piece of music befitting of its impact…….silence followed its conclusion, when Freddy arrived on stage to read the ode, followed by the last post, reveille and then the lowering of the flag……the crowds reaction ( 2000) of the impact of what they had just heard very significant. Freddy was then presented with the Music score and in his thankyou speech, replied the Belgium’s gift to New Zealand was the touring exhibition and invited them all to attend. He also mentioned the first Dawn service in Zonnebeke and the opening of the return exhibition.
We all went on stage to meet the band and to especially thank Dwayne for his professional musical brilliance in his music score.
It would be fair to say that when we all left...some of us still very emotional , it was a very quiet reflective drive back to Tuahiwi…where we visited the graves and to show the delegation the wreaths that had been laid on their behalf. Again a very moving experience.
A very tired delegation arrived at the dinner specially arranged by the delegation to thank their host families and some special invites. Again some very moving speeches, with Freddy capping off a very emotional day with his personal gift to Michael Petterson.
A very long day but one I think all of us will remember for a long time
It was interesting to note that the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech, the shared agreement and the exhibition…

Friday 24/04/2009 The Maori Experience

Again an early start off to Okains Bay for a special welcome to the local Runanga. Elizabeth Cunningham and Jo work together on the Health Board and Jo had asked her to help with this day and she did a fantastic job of incorporating all the elements I specially wanted, knowing Freddy’s special interest in the Maori perspective. We were accompanied by 6 Waimakariri Councillors, What was quite funny was we knew we had to sing a waiata after each of our speakers, so Jo had handed out song sheets and we all practiced in the vans and at Little River we all got out and had a combined practice in the carpark, much to the curiosity of the locals.
The welcome was started with a challenge put to us “the visitors’
Watching the young warrior descending down on Mayor Cardoen with his spear and the challenge ritual was quite frightening for those who were unused to this…….but a tremendous turnout from the Runanga (40 people)
Again excellent speeches including from there side by Nigel Hampton QC , Chairman of the Museum Trust ,and a very well known and respected Cantabrian who had already visited the exhibition …fantastic insight to what the exhibition and this visit meant to this community. Our waiata’s were very well received too.
After the Hongi, exchange of gifts, and the Mayor was presented with a special carved mask. Lunch was followed by a tour of the Museum by Murray Thacker…we were also given a special viewing of some cloaks including a one made of Kiwi feathers including the albino…simply beautiful.
I think the relevance of this visit was that this is a living Museum … we have seen the Waka at the Auckland Museum but to see the waka that is actually used often, made it special.
Jo made them all pile out of the vans at the hill top for a photo and a beer despite the very windy conditions and cold..not popular !!!!
A quiet trip home, then onto the meet and greet at the Kaiapoi RSA, well organised by President Kevin Brown. A very good turnout as it was Poppy day….

Thursday 23/04/2009 A Day Off

A very early start for the long drive to Kaikoura.. But a beautiful day and so the scenery on the day, much admired by the delegation.
Onto the whale watch boat…we had hardly started the tour when we caught up with the Orcas(Killer Whales) this was truly special as they are not often seen and we witnessed a very special display by a large male and a female…we were so close……... very very special. We then headed off to see the large sperm whale and again got lucky with him staying up for over 10 minutes before his dive. We also saw the royal albatross and many species of seabirds, went back to the Orcas, saw the seals….a magnificent experience (even for New Zealanders). This was an very special experience.
We had 20 minutes spare, so we went to the Kaikoura Marae, this is a very special marae with very colourful carved panels… we also got lucky in that a friend of Jo Kane was able to give us a very quick interpretation of them (It usually takes 2 hours… Jo gave him 5 minutes) This was an added bonus.
Then down to lunch with Kaikoura Mayor Kevin Heays.
Back down the plains to meet the Hurunui Mayor Gary Jackson and President and Secretary of the RSA at the Charles Upham VC Statue for a quick meet and greet before arriving on time at the Rangiora RSA.
Well what a night…very simple format….a typical New Zealand Sunday Roast and a sing along. They enjoyed the presentations but not as much as we enjoyed the honour given to Freddy and Mayor Cardoen of Life Membership to the Rangiora RSA

Wednesday 22/04/2009 Special View for the Belgians

Off on a tour of the District, from the top…Oxford where Jo introduced them all to the hot pie ( kind of national dish in New Zealand) … the idea of this day was to give the delegation a snapshot of the Waimakariri District, from the top (by the mountains) down to the sea (Waikuku Beach) It was a beautiful day and we got round to see all the main towns and some emerging issues for the Council. After lunch …a quick change saw us back in Christchurch for the special viewing for the Belgium Community. Despite the very mixed messages (no less than 4 different invitations) that the Belgium community received, Lieve did a very good job in resurrecting this evening. Freddy again gave a very good tour and explanation of the exhibition, we then all retired to the BBC, for a very enjoyable reception with lovely finger food and good Belgium beer. Mayor Cardoen was even allowed to break the rules(only New Zealand food, wine and beer). We were joined by the Amercian interim Ambassador .
We then enjoyed a late dinner, with some very good speeches…
Mark who runs the BBC is very supportive of the work the Trust is doing and they look forward to working further with him

Tuesday 21/04/2009 Official Opening Exhibition

the official welcome /Powhiri by Waimakariri led by Kauamata Johno Crofts, a very good introduction ,with singing a Waiata and we the delegation responded with Pokarekare Ana. The gift is an art work from Rik Ryon made of copper from the battlefields and it will be placed in the Marae of Tuahiwi.

A luncheon followed, then onto a tour of the Christchurch Canterbury Museum, Michael Petterson meet them at the Henry Nicholas Statue, whilst Jo was trying to sort out what turned out to be a problem but a good problem with the Canterbury Regiment Band. We had been expecting a 5 piece band but what actually turned up was the whole band ...25 in total..Freddy took a large number of the guests for a tour of the exhibition which was very well received.
Then the opening.
The Master of Ceremony was Pat Duggan (Canterbury RSA President) he did such a good job. Good speeches by Mayors, Ministers Clayton Cosgrove and Kate Wilkinson..Ingrid and Jo read the poem “The Poppy and the Puhutakawa”, the Band played the specially commissioned piece for the Unknown Soldier...very moving...good food ,good wine and then the exhibition opened. It was a good night….We had a good mixture of dignitaries including Colonel Tracey, the Captain Director and Dwayne Bloomfield (Conductor NZ Army Band) RSA, Councils, community and family’s.
One of the things Jo got wind of here was the visiting interim American Ambassador was giving a special lecture at Our City on the same night and a quick invite went via his staff and Shelly Johnson (Christchurch City International Relationship manager) for him to join us for the special viewing the day after and at the BBC for the reception and the dinner that followed.
Dave Adamson who has been the main driver at Christchurch City Council (and retires this week) presented the delegation with a book of Christchurch. His knowledge of intercity relationships is simply outstanding and Jo has invited him to join the Trust

Monday 20/04/2009 Official Start Twinning Visit

Mayor Keating and Jo kane meet the whole delegation at the airport and transported then onto the meet and greet at the Waimakariri District Council. This was informal. The delegation then refreshed at home hosts and then arrived at the home of Jo Kane for an informal evening meal and some seriously good New Zealand wines....also in attendance Michael and Lesley Petterson, Gavin and Lieve Birque,Alan & Gay Marriott, the Councillors and the Hon Kate Wilkinson. This set the scene for the rest of the time we would spend together and proved a good start to the twinning.
The delegation was pleased with the warm welcome, the good food and the splendid wine.