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Posts tagged ‘christmas’

Amongst the last photographic evidence of us looking carefree and irresponsible

Our current pride and joy recognises a good photo opportunity


Christmas Day 2010, shortly before I fell into a ditch and giggled. This is also most likely the only and last photographic evidence of me wearing reindeer ears

Oh I wish it could be Christmas every day!

Yep, that one’s still jingling around my skull, which – you might be interested to know – has the same acoustic effect as the shower.

Apart from the cacophony that is my cranium, our Christmas was a quiet affair. No exploding fairy lights, high-volume Slade or heated arguments over pudding portions. There was a bit of crackling, but it was more of the crispy pork fat variety.

For me, Christmas in New Zealand continues to be a surreal experience – and more so with the parents issuing regular updates from Ireland which was in the grip of the coldest winter on record. Of course, the Middle East was hardly a winter wonderland at this time of year – or even any other time of year – but December was the chilliest month. If you turned the A/C right down, it was cool enough to wear a scarf and drink mulled wine.

West Auckland apparently hit 34 degrees on Christmas Day, so the coldest we got was a light swelter.

Generally I have proved hugely adaptable to Kiwi culture, bending like an all-black in a spear tackle to the various concepts of: perky nana bars, boiling mud, black sand, honesty boxes, the right hand rule.

But I’m not sure I will ever get used to celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer.

Biker chic

Two weeks ago, Husband bought himself a roadbike.

It would have been an impulse buy, but for the fact that he has coveted a road bike for the last 10 years. He started lobbying early in our relationship, but there was no way I would let him loose on a motorbike on the Middle Eastern roads.

Upon our return to New Zealand, Husband resurrected the campaign, with new tactics including begging, whining and/or pleading: “Aw, aw, aw, come on Niamhie! We can pick up a bike for just a couple of thousand dollars, and – hey, I know! – we can sell it after summer for three times as much.”

“What’s this ‘we’ all about?”

A few weeks ago, he called me into his office.

“Look, here Niamhie,” he said hyper-casually, but it did not escape my attention that his keyboard was festooned in drool.


“This motorbike,” he said, pointing at a listing on Tradme. “Seller’s just put a ‘Buy Now’ on it.”


“Seems like good value.”

“Right, but it’s a couple thousand dollars more than we wanted to spend.”

“Yeah, but it’s REALLY good value.”

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked, peering at the bike. It looked nice. Grey, two wheels, quite shiny, the CUTEST little side mirrors.

“Well . . . nothing, apparently. It seems in pretty good nick. And similar models are going for three times that much.”

I didn’t believe him because Husband’s existence is based on an alternative reality. But in this particular reality, he appeared to be correct.

“What do you think?” he said, quivering with tension.

“I don’t know! What do YOU think?”

“I don’t know. What do you-”

“Look, do you want the bike?”

“Oh yes,” he slavered.

“How much do you want it?”

“This much <holding his arms out wide (NB bear in mind he uses the span of his fingers to demonstrate how much he loves me)>”

“Well then . . . do it.”

“Ok! I’m going to DO IT!” he shouted, hand twitching the mouse. The cursor hovered over ‘Buy Now’.

“Go on, I dare you! Do it!”


So he did. The deal was closed within three minutes of his showing me the listing. A big, fat smile took over Husband’s face; he rolled his chair away from the desk and roared: “PAHAHAHA!”

He was so chuffed with himself, I couldn’t help feel a bit of that too. Especially when I can call it a Christmas present and come across as a top-class wife. Seriously, we are both winners.

Husband collected his Honda VFR800 the following day. Further inspection showed it to be in extremely ‘good nick’, according to the official terminology. The seller had purchased it two years before for $6000 and felt he had made a fair deal. After updating the listing with a ‘Buy Now’ option, he said he went to fix a cup of tea and returned to find it sold.

A couple of days later I bought a helmet, and Husband talked me into biking across to the beach at Piha. For the first time in my life, I was viscerally aware of the fact that motorbikes have no seatbelts.

Husband provided cryptic instruction:-

1. Always announce when you’re getting on/off the pillion
2. Lean WITH the bike when going around corners
3. Don’t put your face next to the exhaust pipe
4. Try not to puke in your helmet

I am determined to be absolutely supportive of Husband in sharing his passion, so in particular I took #2 seriously.

Me: Have you ever had a better leaner?

Husband: You’re pretty good for a novice, all right

Me: What are you talking about: novice? I have an innate, instinctive talent that needs no training

Now, I’m not sure who suggested it: Husband or me or The Drink. But somewhere along the line, we decided to bike down to the Outlaws in South Island for Christmas.

I have to admit, it seemed like a much better idea two weeks ago. In fact, when it was first conceived, there are not words to describe what an amazingly outrageously tremendously fantabulous idea it was – which can definitely be attributed to drink, specifically margaritas. We were embarking on a wonderful adventure, a Road Trip with merry japes involving missed turns,  exploding livestock, rustic weirdos, and awkward yet hilarious situations involving nudity.

We got kitted out with padded waterproof jackets and tear resistant jeans. We considered buying panniers, but the permanent lockable ones cost too much considering we weren’t – correction: I wasn’t – sure how often we would use the bike for long-distance road trips in the future. Especially if this one involved lots of nudity. In the end, we mailed 5kg of clothes to South Island for $7.50.

As the date approached, Brian was a marvelous source of comfort. “What you’ve got to understand,” he said, “is if you ride a motorbike you’re eventually going to have an accident. Most of the time it’s just a small thing: you break a few bones, burst a kidney or two. No big deal.”

Husband attended a series of lectures I conducted entitled: ‘Motorbikes: Health and Safety’. I sensed the prevalence of his father’s genes in Husband’s response: “Look Niamhie, most accidents are caused by other drivers. They either don’t see you or . . . well, most of the time they don’t see you. So if we do have an accident, it will be someone else’s fault.”

So that’s what I’ll be focusing on as I try to retrieve my head from under a lorry. I’m sure it will make me feel much better about the situation.

The great day dawned and we set off at 07:00hrs (although we had to go back to turn off the gas). We were on Motorway 1 by 07:30.

Half an hour later, I had a splitting headache, but realized it was just my singing – which was easy enough to fix. Burping was also quite unpleasant depending on the flavour. It certainly put me off puking in my helmet (even more).

Husband stopped every hour or so to allow me to creakily alight from the bike and stretch my legs.

I would be lying if I said I enjoyed the first day. In fact, I spent most of the trip composing Husband’s eulogy (which is very lovely and really brings across Husband’s integrity and wicked sense of mischief. I moved myself to tears a couple of times, as much for my noble stoicism in delivering it with melted bits of fuel-tank embedded in my skin instead of arms/legs).

Husband had acquired a pair of Bluetooth headsets for us to use as intercoms/MP3 players. The intercom didn’t work over 20kph, which was largely crap because Husband only ever attains 20kph at warp acceleration.

The MP3 player was also substandard; at high speeds all you can hear is random snatches of cymbal-based percussion. Admittedly, it is fun guessing what song is playing at any given time. Husband said he was belting out Billy Idol when he slowed down for a town and found he was actually singing along to Clannad.

I was a bit concerned about how my bum would withstand the trip. Never again will I moan about flobber-arse – or at least, not when I’m astride a motorbike. Once, upon alighting, I thought I had sprained a cheek. It was a tense moment, but turned out to be a temporarily malfunctioning glute.

I had more problems with my cranium and knees. The helmet exerted skull-crushing pressure on my head. I also developed pains in knee joints after a quarter hour squatting on the back of a bike. These things were generally manageable as long as we stopped regularly.

We caught the 18:00hrs ferry and stayed overnight in the Sequoia Lodge in Picton. We fell into bed at 22:00 and slept right through until 06:30 the next morning.

The second day was much more enjoyable. It is hardly a relaxing experience, but you see much more on motorbike: ‘Disco Dan’s caravan with the glitter ball jiving in the back window; the woman collecting her mail in emerald satin pyjamas; ‘Blazing Paddles’ canoe club; the guy in running shorts doing squat thrusts. And it all feels more REAL – which admittedly was not so great with the guy in the shorts.

Sometimes when writing, I am guilty of compromising modesty for artistic integrity. Well, not this time: I was a MODEL passenger. Husband said that sometimes going around a corner, he would come across a bump and need to adjust his line, but it was difficult picking the bike up because I was swinging off the back by the toes, in a world-class yoga-style lean.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s his problem if he can’t choose the optimal cornering route to begin with.

He also bitched about my flashy dismount (I swing wide in a modified cartwheel to land with arms outstretched). Considering my willingness to balance precariously on a charging motorbike, it’s fair to say some people are NOT ONLY never happy, they are also ENTIRELY UNGRATEFUL.

Unaware that we were traveling by bike, Mother-In-Law had put an order in for raspberries. Just outside Oamaru we stopped for a punnet/chip, which Husband lashed to the top of the rucksack. It flew off somewhere en route. It still makes me giggle to think of a driver copping a kilo of raspberries across the windscreen.

It was one of the most intensely uncomfortable experiences of my life, yet strangely exhilarating; and I am so grateful to Husband for this new experience

Put that tongue away

Pics from Raff and Carol’s Austin Powers party last night.

Raff and Carol



The Christmas wind up

In its usual style, Christmas sneaked up and ambushed us.

For the previous three weeks, we entertained noble notions of getting the Christmas shopping done early. Although we technically ‘shopped’ on three occasions – ie trudged sulkily around a mall – up to yesterday we had failed dismally to actually purchase anything. Thankfully, we now have presents for all our friends and Husband organized a production line last night for the gift wrapping thereof.

Husband wanted to get Danny a set of walkie-talkies but experienced difficulties in the supply thereof. Personally, I can’t understand what Daniel would want to do with a pair of walkie talkies. I asked Husband about it:-

“Doesn’t he have a mobile phone?”

“Yes, but a walkie talkie has different applications.”

“Who d’you think he’s going to be chatting to on his walkie talkie?”

“Hmm. Not sure. I don’t know. But! – he could go down to the beach and pick out a hot girl and slip the walkie talkie into her beach bag!”

“Right. But wouldn’t he have to stay within 500 metres of Hot Girl for the walkie talkie to work?”

“Ah, yes.”

“So why doesn’t he just STALK her?”

“Ok, maybe that’s not the most practical of applications.”

In the end he bought Danny a remote controlled helicopter. Just what every man needs.

Yesterday we threw a Chrismas Eve do and told our guests to arrive any time from 3pm. Four weeks ago, this seemed like a simply fantabulous idea – I mean what else would we be up to on Christmas Eve? I now realize I simply don’t have that enough guff in me for 8+ hours of random sociability and Husband certainly doesn’t.

However, I contrived a Grand Plan, the cornerstone of which was the mulled wine. I figured if I threw enough of it around, everyone would be semi- to totally comatose by 6pm and wouldn’t notice the soggy Brussels sprouts or the turkey which was more in the style of chicken. It worked a treat, given that our crappy gas oven turned itself off halfway through the evening – nobody seemed to notice the fact that dinner was served at 10pm.

After the Great Minced Pie Wars of 2004 which almost resulted in acrimonious divorce (I don’t know about Husband, but I actually consulted a lawyer), we reached an amicable agreement to procure whatever format of minced pie(s) were available in Spinneys. Yesterday morning I finished spackling the Christmas cake with almond paste, formally approved the mulled wine recipe and chose the optimal stuffing for the churckey’s nether regions.

[Just an aside – three weeks ago, I came across an Irish cookbook in the Second Hand Bookshop in Satwa. It’s the second edition of ‘The Ballymaloe Cookbook’, published in 1983. I looked forward to some old-fashioned cooking: serving Hsuband Mussels Stuffed With Pig Trotters, Roast Rabbit with Tripe and making my own vegetable bouillon.

Yesterday I consulted my cookbook for what would no doubt be a tastebud exploding recipe for stuffing which would result in a three day sensory high. I turned eagerly to the recipe for ‘Roast Chicken’.

I suspect I may have missed class 101 in my culinary education. Here is what the recipe states:

Prepare a fresh-herb buttery stuffing. Wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with stuffing. Roast in a good quality dripping. Serve with creamy bread sauce.

I reverted to Paxo’ Sage and Onion Stuffing – comes in a bag. Add water.]

Husband was designated Master of the Fowl. For a man into his huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’, he was surprisingly squeamish when it came to stuffing the chickens. He was heard to say: ‘It goes WHERE?’ and then he pulled faces and squealed like a girl.

This morning we all woke up with headaches, but the excitement of opening Christmas presents chased most of it away (that and Panadol/Brufen depending on the class of drug preferred). Husband got a pair of cufflinks in the form of spirit levels, so he can demonstrate to clients that he’s on the level ha ha ha. David got an 8Gb multi media player and is inexplicably very excited about it. I got a mountain bike – I’ve actually had it for a few days now and cycle around the neighbourhood. I felt like I was eight years old again just without the training wheels. I got some bicycle accessories this morning, including the most irritating bell in the world (the hangovers might have influenced that judgement).

I’m going to go and try it out on the neighbours.

Have a great Christmas!

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