Hello and welcome to this, my 50th column for the Herald. Wow ... listen to those trumpets sounding. Squint your ears and you can hear them, the official New Zealand Heralding trumpets! I'd like to thank you first of all, yes you my readers. Thanks for reading my thoughts and ideas each week.
Sometimes I deliver absurd news from abroad, other times I just tell you how I spend my day. This column has always been about whatever comes to my mind on the day I write it. I can use it as an outlet, I can use it as therapy but mostly I just use it to connect with you, New Zealand, my home.
I'm living in Los Angeles, not by choice of course, I was dragged here by my agents and managers. "This is where you need to be," they said. "Sit in that house and wait till we call you!"
Okay, well ... it's not quite like that but it does feel that way sometimes. Recently I've been sneaking out, you know, with the wife. When our kids are in their schools Rosie and I like to go for hikes in the wilderness.
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It was all her idea to begin with and I must admit at first I was a little suspicious. "You want to take me walking in the woods?" After checking my insurance policy though, I relaxed and decided to go with it.
Last week we hiked through the Solstice Canyon, a delightful walk up in the Malibu mountains. I do enjoy walking but there's got to be a goal at end of it. It's one of the reasons I hate treadmills. All that jogging and going nowhere, it's too frustrating.
So this latest hike came with a goal. We were walking to a destination, a treasure at the end. This came in the form of a burned-down ruined mansion. Built in 1952 by renowned African-American architect Paul Williams, the Roberts Ranch House was in its day a stunning character home set in the base of the canyon among a melange of trees.
It was beautifully integrated with the natural surroundings including a pretty spring and waterfall. In 1982 however it was burned down in a fire that swept through the valley. These days a framework of stone remains along with four large fireplaces and the retaining walls of a former fish pond.
Walking around the remains is like experiencing a life-sized blueprint of the original design. It's a place of mystery all right or so it seemed as I first spotted the site from high up in the canyon. It felt like we'd found the 'Lost city of Z' or El Dorado.
We looked down upon the ruins poking through the trees. "I've found it!" I yelled. "Yes, I've been waiting for you to spot it," said Rosie, "I caught sight of it about a mile back."
Hmm ... well okay, I guess she is always one step ahead. Perhaps I ought to be more suspicious of these "walks in the woods". Anyway next week we're off to explore the Sunset cliffs of San Diego.