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Nubbin

I was at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market last Sunday when my friend introduced me to a woman.

 “Sorry- I didn’t catch your name,” I said, and why why why didn’t I stop there?

Well, I’ll tell you. I wanted to let the subject know I’d been listening during the critical introductory phase, instead of directing my attention to calculating laundry logistics. (In such situations, I simply assign a random name like ‘Atraxis’ or ‘Lucius’ until corrected.) But in this instance I had genuinely misheard. And so I said . . .

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Nubbin, isn’t it?”

No, you didn’t misread that.

Nubbin.

As in: “Lovely to meet you, Nubbin.”

It turns out her name was not, in fact, Nubbin, but, more accurately, Robin.

I mean, SUCH an easy mistake to make; I’m sure Robins are addressed as ‘Nubbin’ on a fairly frequent basis.

We certainly won’t be calling our imminent baby Robin.

Or, for that matter, Nubbin.

So I consider that incident not so much social suicide, as a social cry-for-help. But just to defy all your expectations, it gets worse. Not this particular scenario, which I salvaged by saying: “Watch out for the egrets. They bite,” and then running away in a loping crouch.

This morning. I was at my wonderful friend Kelim’s house with another friend from my antenatal class, Sinéad. Six months ago, Kelim had a second child, a son and, when she went to the bathroom, I took advantage to whisper to Sinéad,

“Psst! Sinéad! Does Kelim call Lucius ‘Lucius’, or does she- I’ve heard her use maybe like a shortened version.”

And Sinéad looked at me as if I had just made an inappropriate suggestion to her mother, and said, “His name’s Lochlan.”

“No, no I don’t think so,” I said. “It’s Lucius.”

“No-oo,” said Sinéad. “Lochlan. Or Loche.”

“Kelim!” I said as she came back into the room. “We have a question for you-“

“Niamh has a question for you,” corrected Sinéad darkly.

“What’s your son’s name?”

And then Kelim looked at me as if I had just made a simultaneous inappropriate suggestion to HER mother, and said, “Lochlan.”

“What? Are you sure?” I asked.

“I think so.”

“But I have a text message- the one you sent after he- announcing the birth of Lucius- look- wait- when was he born again? May. Here! Oh.”

So it turns out I’ve called Lochlan ‘Lucius’ his entire life or THE LAST SIX MONTHS.

You’d think someone would have corrected me.

I may have progressed beyond the cry-for-help stage.

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There’s a killer whale in the back garden, dear

Brett and Debs are new friends – but not quite.

See, twenty five years ago, I was Brett’s brother’s penpal. If you want to go even further back, Brett’s father went to university with my dad. Although Brett’s family lived in the UK, both families would meet up once or twice a year at orienteering events.

I stopped writing to Brett’s brother shortly after he held my hand and I panicked because I was only fifteen and not ready to settle down and have children. I don’t recall whether I puked on his shoes or not, but it would’ve been close.

A couple of months ago, mum told me Brett and Debs were living in Christchurch. Husband and I called on one of our road-trips back from Oamaru to blag lunch. We were so taken with them and their family that if I were into abducting kids theirs would totally make the top of my list.

Last week, Brett and Debs and family came to stay with us for two nights. Despite three of them being miniature, that was a LOT of people in the house, but I thought we handled it pretty well.

The morning after they arrived, we were in the living room when Debs said, “Hey- what’s that? In the water. It looked like a fin.”

And I’m thinking, ‘Oh SURE; you wouldn’t see dolphins from up here’; until Debs said, ” . . . THERE!”

And just below our promontory were either two dolphins on STEROIDS, or a pair of killer whales. Even from a distance, we could tell they were absolutely he-owge.

Everyone rushed outside; I snapped away with the camera but stopped when I realised I was missing The Experience. After a while we saw the two whales were part of a larger pod; we counted nine in all, tooling around the Bay.

It’s difficult to describe The Experience, but I’ll give it a go. It was, like, AW WOW! mega WOAH TOTALLY AWESOME and way COOL that’s cool with five syllables.

In short: it was real.

There are killer whales in the back garden, dear

Cold blooded

Ever since Helen’s visit, I have aspired to take up alfresco swimming again. Last July, our mutual friend Chantal’s English Channel crossing further inspired me.

This inspiration generally takes the form of occasionally looking wistfully out the window and imagining myself cresting the ocean like a colossus (a little one).

“You get used to the temperature,” Chantal advised. “You build up resistance.”

Now, I would never call one of my best friends a cold-blooded liar*. However, when Chantal said this, she broke out in a light sweat and stuttered slightly, while simultaneously looking up and slightly to the left instead of making healthy eye contact. She also scratched her nose repeatedly and got unnaturally defensive when I said, “Really?” (Admittedly I was pointing in a manner that could have been construed as aggressive at the time.)

So anyway, I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

As the weather has grown increasingly clement, I have been inspired to revivify** my threats to get snappy with a swimming cap.

The sea has looked gorgeous recently, decked out in a dazzling array of shades from kingfisher blue to aquamarine to a shade of green closely reminiscent of nuclear snot – which might not sound that inviting but looks AMAZING. Then, a few days ago, the sun emerged to evaporate any lingering excuses against relaunching my bid to master the sea in a bikini.

My first effort fell short of resounding success – and it’s not as if I was over-extending.

“Just a dip,” I briefed my towel-handler, “to acclimatize myself.”

Although I strode buoyantly into the sea, my confidence faltered when the water reached the crotchline. I spent a good five minutes standing around screaming, while Husband shouted encouragement from the shore (“It can’t be THAT cold!” “What do you need to feel your feet for?” “JED, FETCH NIAMHIE! FETCH IT HERE! GOOD BOY!”).

At least the experience can’t be described as a complete wash-out – if only because that would imply some level of immersion.

The following day, I was determined to make progress. The plan was as follows: get straight in, short and sharp, no splashing about, execute minimum five strokes.

“Face in water?” asked Husband, anxious to establish the project parameters.

“Yep,” I said grimly.

This time there was still screaming, but less of it and more muted; and I swam twenty four strokes (face in water).

The biggest problem – ignoring actually getting into the water in the first place – is a pretty much spontaneous headache when I submerge my face.

Evidently, I don’t have a fat enough head.

I’m not sure how to address that.

However, this morning, I managed sixty strokes AND kicked a crab in the pleopod. At this rate, I’ll be swimming across to Wellington for a light lunch within two months.

* Although the cold-blooded bit potentially explains how Chantal spent six months leading up to her Channel bid training in the North Sea and greater London lidos without succumbing to hypothermia. OR, she may be part-penguin.

** Can you believe ‘revivify’ is a valid word? I KNOW! I can hardly handle such extremes of excitement in one day; it might have to be spread out over the week.

Connoisseur

Dinner at Sherrif and The Bunqueens’:

Me: Mmm, this wine is delicious. What is it?

Sherrif: Well, you should know; you brought it.

Me: I . . . we . . . did?

Me: Well, it’s lovely.

Me: I can highly recommend it.

Sheepdog

We were recently down at Sherrif and The Bunqueen’s farm, basking in the bucolic glow of early spring. Jed was in the garden attempting to eat a grapefruit tree, when we realised there were some highly pregnant/borderline explosive sheep on the farm track, just beyond the garden’s stone wall.

Since I was . . . sitting, Andrew . . . volunteered to go and shut Jed in the car. Sherrif and The Bunqueen politely demurred, but our dog is still extremely enthusiastic in how he greets sheep. 

“No, no,” I said, idly watching Andrew call Jed over to the gate. “It would be terrible if Jed savaged one of your sheep. Then we’d be ignoring each other on the road or setting fire to each others’ sheds. Messy. And unnecessary.”

Suddently, a herd of sheep stampeded down the drive.

In hot pursuit – although we could only see the tops of his ears and occasional white of eye over the wall – was Jed at full tilt, a study of canine muscle and grace.

Three seconds later, in tepid pursuit, Andrew galloped into frame. Relatively speaking, he didn’t seem to be moving that fast, even though he was leaning slightly back, legs pumping.

In fairness, he might have been more a study of muscle and grace if he hadn’t been waving his arms around bawling incoherently at the dog, while wearing oil-stained overalls and unlaced boots.

But I suppose if he’d been running after the dog in a pair of socks and boxer shorts, our neighbours would definitely have set fire to our shed by now.

As it is, we’re all still on speaking terms.

The power of woman

Me: NO!

Me: Sorry. It’s just that, Jed’s not allowed to widdle on cars.

Me: The rule is: he’s not allowed to widdle on anything man-made.

Andrew: Am I man-made? Because I don’t want him weeing on my leg.

Meep: Ahem. Woman-made.

The point may have been arguable, but neither man present was about to take on a woman who has incubated fully formed humans.

Technically in Cork

Recent events have prompted me to muse with delicate frown and pursed lips on my history with transportation. The origins of this tempestuous, codependent relationship can be traced back to:-

  • 1984: Twelve years old, and for reasons that will remain forever obscured by the mists of time, I was required to catch a bus from Dublin to be reunited with the bosom of my family in Limerick. After a long journey, the bus shuddered to a stop. I sat there long after the remaining passengers disembarked, kicking my legs and reading a ‘Bunty’ magazine by streetlight.Half an hour later I was getting cold, so alighted and, keeping an eye on the coach in case it took off unexpectedly, I backed up to the only human life-form present and enquired when the bus would be leaving for Limerick. Which is when I found out the bus was not going to Limerick.

    Also, I was technically in Cork.

    I must be able to blame this on some family friend or relative – I mean WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR A TWELVE YEAR OLD CATCHING A BUS?

    I was gasping for a wee, so I decided my first priority was locating the bathroom. Then disaster struck: I had no money, and access to the toilet cubicles required a 2p piece. (If you think I sound pathetic, really it was WAY worse.)

    Luckily, there was a 20cm gap between the foot of the door and the floor. I stuffed my bag in, thereby committing myself, then wriggled under the door after the bag. It was a tense widdle; I was terrified someone with 2p might creep in and burst into my cubicle and accuse me of weeing for free.

    Afterwards I went outside, sat on my bag in the deserted carpark, and considered my predicament. Luckily, my parents had equipped me to deal with adversity. Back then, what that meant was that I knew how to make reverse charge phone calls, rather than identify perverts. Indeed I wouldn’t have recognized a pervert had he asked me to sit on his knee and waved a flesh-coloured stick at me, but man could I place a reverse charges phone call.

    I rang my mum, who was good enough to accept the call.

    “I’m in CORK!” I sobbed, suddenly struck by the tragedy of being abandoned in a strange land.

    The next bus to Limerick was the following morning, so my parents arranged for me to stay with some people they chose at random from the telephone directory.

  • Circa 1993: On my first business trip, I missed not one but two flights AND lost my passport and ticket along the way. I finally arrived in Switzerland 24 hours late. Thought I’d blogged about the incident, but it seems not, so can’t provide a link. If anyone wants the grisly details I’ll see what I can do.
  • 2000: Job interview in Bahrain. The Interviewer arranged a ticket for collection at Dubai Airport. Even though I arrived a full half hour before the flight, the Emirates representative claimed the check-in was closed and refused to hand over my ticket.“All right,” said Husband during an emergency debrief. “Call The Interviewer, and tell him there was a problem with your passport. No- your residency visa. An issue with your residency visa, and you’re sorting it out, and will get the next flight in two hours.”

    “Ok. Problem with residency visa. Next flight. Check.”

    I dialed The Interviewer: “I MISSED THE FLIGHT!”

    He hired me.

    Can’t explain it.

  • 2000: Fast-forward three weeks to a business trip to Bahrain to meet The Company’s biggest client. My phone rang at 06:00. It was The Floridian, formerly The Interviewer.“I’m at the check-in counter. Where are you?”

    “I’M IN BED.”

    However, not only did I catch the 07:00 flight – triumphantly arriving at the airport 10 minutes later – I even had time to demolish the buffet breakfast in the Emirates lounge.

  • Probably 2005: Róisín underestimated timing from Paddington to Heathrow (so entirely her fault; I have a signed confession). Emirates Airlines – at this stage totally accustomed to me – rescheduled me on a later flight. At the baggage check, I realized I had left my mobile phone in Róisín’s handbag (don’t ask. Just . . . don’t). Located a pay phone and called Róis, who returned to Heathrow to give up the phone.
  • Possibly 2008: Husband and I arrive at Dubai Airport, totally overexcited about our first ever skiing holiday: two weeks in Austria. We had booked a hire car, arranged accommodation; we were sharing the chalet with friends who were en-route.Passports: CHECK! Tickets: CHECK! Luggage: TRIPLE CHECK!

    Bags sorted, we proceeded to passport control. I went to the e-gate, already planning where I should wait for Andrew, who was at the manual passport control. When I scanned my fingerprint, a buzzer sounded and a big, red X blinked on the gate.

    The man on the passport desk beckoned me over.

    “My finger’s not working,” I giggled, wiggling the digit at him.

    I forgot how ineffective charm is on airport security.

    “Your rrresidency visa,” said the administrator. “It is expire.”

    “Oh. Well. No problem. I’ll renew it when I get back. I’m going skiing!”

    Never have I been more mistaken.

    Never has Husband come closer to divorcing me.

    In a vain attempt to conquer the moral high ground I told Andrew to go without me, but he opted to stay. For a while it looked like he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the airport, since he was fully checked onto the flight. He sulked for roughly a year. He still wins arguments on the strength of that ONE LITTLE INCIDENT.

  • Near miss: Once, I got to the boarding gate for an Emirates flight before realizing I had left my passport and ticket in a tray at the baggage check.

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