La Dolce Vita in the Bay

Carello del gelato, which opened in Oriental Parade last December, has as its slogan ‘la dolce vita’. The sweet life, for founder Nathan Meyer, is his large range of ice creams, now sold throughout New Zealand.

Nathan’s working life had always been in hospitality – he used to run a café in Cuba Street before setting up Carello’s. But a business trip to Italy in 2003 totally changed his focus. He discovered, and relished, the creamy more intensely flavoured Italian ice cream. He also discovered that Italy – Palermo in Sicily in fact was the birthplace of his great, great-grandfather who had emigrated to Christchurch in 1860.

The two discoveries gelled and he made the decision to bring gelato to New Zealand. He based himself in Newtown on his return and went about gathering the best local and Italian ingredients for churning handmade batches of gelato. When it was ready, he built a ‘carello’ or cart to sell it on the streets and at events and festivals.

Carrello’s gelato was a hit at Wellington’s 2004 Italian Festival. In 2011, Nathan entered it in the New Zealand ice cream awards for the first time. Its mango sorbetto won gold. (Gelato comes from the Italian word for frozen. The word sorbetto is said to be derived from when fruit was blended with snow!).

Carello’s range is wide. Italian classics like stracciatella are included. So are the berry variations, sourced locally where possible – berries from Te Horo, for instance. Unusual combinations, like honey and thyme are offered. Others are green apple sorbet, liquorice, gingernut and hokey pokey – the last two being traditional Kiwi favourites.

Carello ice cream is now sold throughout New Zealand and Nathan estimates that there are some 50 outlets in the Wellington region alone. In the Oriental Parade store, pizzas (following the Italian theme) and coffee are also served. Children enjoy the beanbags that are a feature in part of the café with more traditional table and stools in the main area.

 JCD, Bay View newsletter 68, November 2016

The “Wanganella”

The ship we know as the Wanganella had a long career, but it was not without its setbacks; and indeed she was not even built for the service in which she spent most of her life, but was rather a by-product of a maritime scandal. Owen Cosby Philipps [1863-1937] began his entrepreneurial career when he bought a tramp steamer. By 1903 he had become the managing director and chairman of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, and he set about a policy of purchasing a range of shipping companies, including the major line on the West African service, Elder Dempster (which he bought in collaboration with William Pirrie, his opposite number at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard, in 1909). Along the way Philipps acquired two knighthoods in the Order of St Michael and St George and, in 1923, a barony as Lord Kylsant. This further fuelled his ambition and he set his sights on the prestigious White Star Line, which he bought, with borrowed money, for £7 million in 1927. The following year he set about having Pirrie (himself a viscount by now) build a new Elder Dempster flagship for him. But, with the Depression looming, he found his loans impossible to service, and a Government investigation revealed that the financial situation of the Royal Mail Group, as presented by Lord Kylsant, was highly fictitious. He was tried in 1931, was jailed for a year and stripped of his knighthood.

Lord Kylsant

Lord Kylsant

Harland and Woolf found themselves with a new 10,000 ton motorship (named Achimota after the first university college in what is now Ghana) sitting idle in their fitting out basin, awaiting a buyer. Their salvation proved to be an Australian company, Huddart Parker, founded at Geelong in 1876, which was seeking a replacement for the coal-burner Ulimaroa, of 1908 vintage, on the trans-Tasman service operated jointly with the Union Company – and now under threat from a couple of heavily-subsidised American Matson liners. Huddart Parker had had previous dealings with Harland and Wolff, and to the relief of both parties Achimota, now renamed Wanganella, changed hands (after modest alterations to make her accommodation more in keeping with Antipodean standards and climate) for a sum of £420,000.

Wanganella Pre-war

Wanganella Pre-war

She left Belfast in November 1932; came out by way of Suez, paused in Sydney long enough to be photographed with the new Harbour Bridge as background, then made her first trans-Tasman voyage in January 1933. This was prolonged with a short cruise to Milford Sound: the cost, first class £8; second class £6. Thereafter Wanganella settled into a routine in which she made Sydney to Auckland or Wellington crossings (and occasionally one to Melbourne) in tandem with the Union company’s Monowai, and later Awatea, with sufficient success to blunt the Matson threat in the years between the Wars. She was a popular ship, but no ocean greyhound, and had a service speed of 14 knots.

The reality of war came in 1940 when, on 19 June the Union company’s Pacific veteran Niagara struck a mine, laid by a German commerce raider in the Hauraki golf, soon after leaving Auckland en route to Suva. Wanganella was in the vicinity, and was able to pick up a number of Niagara’s people from their lifeboats, but was forbidden to come closer in case the raider had laid a row of mines; and indeed two more were gathered in by minesweepers. A year later both Australia and New Zealand had large numbers of men serving in North Africa, and a series of hospital ships were needed to carry wounded to their home countries. Wanganella became AHS 45, carrying mostly Australian wounded, but did the occasional voyage for this country, when NZHS Maunganui was under repair after breaking a tail shaft.

Wartime Wanganella

Wartime Wanganella

Her most futile exploit would be in mid1941, when one of her early tasks was to take the staff of a military hospital to Singapore where, like the Australian troops they were intended to care for, they became prisoners of the Japanese when the island was overwhelmed. That apart, she was a valuable workhorse for the remainder of the war. She was handed back to her owners late in 1945 and refitted in Melbourne; she was equipped to carry 316 first class and 108 second class passengers, and her crew accommodation was improved by raising, by one level, the small deckhouse at the stern.

She made one trans-Pacific voyage at the end of 1946, before resuming her trans-Tasman activities. Amid great rejoicing and with a full load of passengers, she set out on 16 January 1947 in good weather, which continued for the entire voyage. On Sunday evening, 19 January, she was approaching Wellington in calm conditions, her Master (Captain Robert Darroch, who had commanded her throughout the war) being on the bridge, keeping an eye on the Fourth Officer, who had the watch, while below the passengers celebrated the success of their voyage with a Ball. Their rejoicing was premature: at 11.35pm Wanganella impaled herself on Barrett’s Reef, Darroch having mistaken the flashing light on the reef for the first of two leading lights that marked the channel into the port.

Wanganella aground

Wanganella aground

A flotilla of small craft gathered: the coaster Gale, the Day’s Bay ferry Cobar, and assorted tugs and pilot launches, to help transfer passengers ashore; and the first were landed just before Monday’s daybreak. They included some elderly and eminent figures, including friends who had come out to visit the recently arrived governor-general, Sir Bernard Freyberg VC. Sir Noel and Lady BeresfordPeirse were old friends of the Freybergs; he had been a corps commander in the Desert in Wavell’s day. And Lord Nuffield, who built both cars and benefactions, was an equally old friend, whose gift of a residential college as part of the rebuilding of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (sorely damaged by the Luftwaffe in 1941) would be opened by the then Lord Freyberg in 1957. Another eminent passenger was Admiral of the Fleet Lord Tovey, who commanded the British force that dealt with the German battleship Bismarck in 1941.

And then there were the Butt girls. Their parents were close friends of my wife’s parents, and it had been arranged that the two daughters, having lately finished school, would enjoy a first visit to New Zealand. Being judged fitter than many of their fellow passengers, they were among the last to leave the ship, minus luggage, of course – but their luggage was not in the pile that reached the wharf. Nor had it reappeared when the party were due to leave on their tour; and clothing coupons were still required before garments could be bought! – so the Butts, being well-built Australian girls, travelled round New Zealand in the more roomy of the Clarke girls’ spare gear.

(End of Part 1 ― Part 2 will continue in the May 2017 issue)

 Wyn Beasley, Bay View newsletter 68, November 2016

Try a Plant Terrarium

In our series on gardening in small spaces, we first looked at gardening on decks and patios. Then we wrote about windowboxes. Now we go even further down the scale and talk about planting a terrarium.

What is it? A terrarium is a glass container, often in the shape of a globe, which can be used for growing ornamental plants that require a high level of humidity. With tropical plants, the containers can be sealed. It is left open for other plants.

What you need:

A sizable glass vessel is needed. It could be either a fishbowl, cloche or large jar. Choose a container that's wide enough to get your hand into easily — mine was a bit too narrow making it awkward for placing the plants. Low maintenance plants such as baby ferns, ivy, cacti, succulents generally are the plants that work best in a terrarium and you need to have pebbles, course sand, all-purpose potting mix and charcoal.

Putting it all together:

1) Large pebbles look attractive at the base of the vessel.

2) Then, for drainage purposes, put about 5 cms of gravel, sand, small pebbles.

3) Mix about 1/4cup of charcoal (pinch some from your BBQ. Otherwise it's stocked by some nurseries and pet shops). This keeps the soil fresh but is not absolutely essential.

4) A layer of moss will soak up excess water. It also looks interesting too. Again not essential.

5) Next comes about 9 to 12 cms of soil. All purpose potting mix can be used.

6) Make a hole for your plants and poke them in. Since I used a tall not very wide glass jar, this was tricky and I only had room for three plants — two ferns and one little plant with multi-coloured leaves.

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   Frances, of California Garden Centre, Miramar, demonstrates growing plants in a terrarium

Frances, of California Garden Centre, Miramar, demonstrates growing plants in a terrarium

Watering guide: A spray bottle is best but tiny watering can with rose attachment will do. You're aiming for dampness, not wetness. Because condensation on the inside of the glass plays a part, spraying once a week or even less should be enough for an open jar. Every 3 to 4 weeks with a closed one.

Care guide: Place near a window where it can get some sun, but not all-day sun — it is easy to roast plants living in a terrarium. Avoid putting too close to a heater for the same reason. Be punctilious about removing dead or dying leaves or the whole plant if it looks diseased — plants are at close quarters and can be easily infected.

Bay View newsletter 67, May 2016

Have a Wish at Our Wishing Well

The wishing well in Oriental Bay is one of the Bay's well-loved features. Tucked into the hillside below Oriental Terrace, it's a favourite spot for children to lean over its edge and examine the tiles depicting fish, crabs, starfish, sea snails, shells of many sorts and seagulls.

It was originally the gift of the Wellington Jaycees (this club no longer exists). Members built it themselves in 1960. A literary lot those Jaycees, as they commemorated the event with a Shakespearean quote in a plaque beside the well: "Sweet health and fair desires/Consort your grace,/Thy own wish—wish I thee/In every place."

But 36 years after it was built, the wishing well had holes in the fibreboard walls; water pipes that weren't working and rubbish had collected in the base. So in the mid-1990s, Oriental Bay Residents' Association undertook the challenge of renovating it. The project was led by Jane Aim, a committee member at the time and now a life member of OBRA. 

The original concept had been designed by a local resident Belinda Reburn who then worked with the Wellington City Council but now lives in Nelson. The tiles were all handmade by Neville Porteous of Khandallah who had — and still has — a 'bolthole' in Oriental Bay. He is internationally renowned for his tiles, especially for those using art nouveau motifs. For the wishing well he portrayed Wellington's coastal marine life in exquisitely sculptured tiles. Half of them have a blue background and the other half sea-green.

Some of the tiles are flat and these were painted by artist Helene Carrol. The water flowing down one wall adds to the scene.

With the exterior of the wishing well transformed, the underground water system renewed and the wishing well lit at night, it has become a beloved part of the Bay again and will be, hopefully, for many years to come.

Renovations were possible thanks to generous donations from Jack Ilott and the Community Trust of Wellington. OBRA contributed but the main cost was borne by Wellington City Council under Peter Hemsley's direction. He said that the council undertook to clean the tiles recently — they tend to acquire a brownish stain over time — and that was a tremendous improvement.

With thanks to Jane Aim for the above information.

Bay View newsletter 67, May 2016

Oriental Bay Walkers’ Mystery Walk

Seventeen members of the Oriental Bay Walkers set off for the annual mystery walk and lunch on 7th December, in brilliant sunshine with no wind. There is great interest each year as to just where we are going to walk and where the lunch will be held, always highly secret. This year it was held at Percy’s Reserve in Petone followed by lunch at La Bella Italia.

Fifteen of us set off from Oriental Bay towards the station, a little early so there was plenty of time for a cup of coffee at the station. Two of us set off in cars to set up the festivities and be ready with bubbly and Christmas nibbles when the others arrived by train. There was another short walk to the reserve.

On arrival there was much frivolity, nibbling and drinking of bubbly. There was a very noisy Secret Santa game with varying ideas on the rules -a great time was had by all. The presents were to be unusual and fun ones, which they certainly were.

Walking around Percy’s Reserve, there is a lot to see, duck feeding, glow worms that didn’t glow that day, and lots of nooks and crannies to check out. Afterwards we walked up through the Reserve to Stanhope Grove and down London Rd looking at the view of our sparkling harbour then headed off to La Bella Italia. The lunch, with Christmas crackers, was very good indeed; the staff at Bella had been very helpful with sorting out a very good and delicious menu. The magic time to leave was 2:30pm to all get back to Wellington using our Gold Cards; after all if you’ve got them one must use/flaunt them.

Once again a wonderfully successful day all round.

Bay View newsletter 67, May 2016

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   Pictured on the mystery walk (in no particular order) are Julie O’Connor, Kay Austad, Catherine Kennedy Good, Viv Callender, Linda Graham, Elizabeth Ellis, Sandy Jackson, Annabelle Leask, Linda Cowley, Susie Clarke, Philippa Larkindale, Marg Hogg and Yvonne Bacon. By Jillian Allen

Pictured on the mystery walk (in no particular order) are Julie O’Connor, Kay Austad, Catherine Kennedy Good, Viv Callender, Linda Graham, Elizabeth Ellis, Sandy Jackson, Annabelle Leask, Linda Cowley, Susie Clarke, Philippa Larkindale, Marg Hogg and Yvonne Bacon. By Jillian Allen

Unusual Career is Out On Its Own

There must be lots of Oriental rugs in Oriental Bay! If you have one that needs repairing then the name Anna Williams probably springs to mind.

For many years she lived in Grafton Road between Oriental Bay and the Iranian Embassy. This was a convenient location as she regularly went to the Embassy to get a visa to travel to Iran. Oriental rugs, Persian particularly, have been her passion — she has worked at the art of repairing them for 24 years.

05 Anna rugs.jpg

"Iran is one of the world's best-kept secrets. I feel safer there than in many places in New Zealand," she says. "The hospitality is astounding. I can be in a teashop and have invitations from the people, on both sides of where I am sitting, to go to their homes. They are often disappointed if I refuse!" She knows many New Zealand Iranians which helps a little to ease her urge to go back to Iran as soon as possible, she says. "Some have gorgeous family rugs which I have been privileged to see."

ut there's one disadvantage to her career as a repairer of Oriental rugs. "Not having other repairers here is professionally lonely and I miss comparing techniques and seeing what finishes they are now using."

She's moved from Grafton Road now, but still lives close enough to the Iranian Embassy to apply for a visa in person which she hopes to do again very soon.

JCD, Bay View newsletter 67, May 2016