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Posts tagged ‘marlborough’

Strictly scruple-free zone

If you’d asked me three months ago whether we’d leave Port Underwood, I would have said, “What? Eh? Sorry, I- I don’t understand the question. Why would we want to move? We love it here! There’s FISH!”

Of course we had discussed plans should we be fortunate enough to achieve extreme gestation. Husband and I were fully agreed that Port Underwood was an IDEAL location in which to nurture a baby with its abundance of natural beauty to nourish a child’s soul and herds of feral goats to keep them amused/alert.

Shortly after we got a positive pregnancy test, Andrew left me in the unsafe if not downright hazardous hands of his parents during his month-long business trip. While my defenses were low and coated in a thick slime of morning sickness and jittering anxiety, Her Goatiness worked her dark, bovidae magic.

By the time Andrew returned, I had practically purchased a property next-door to The Outlaws.

At least now, when he says, “I came back from Dubai and Niamhie told me we were moving,” I can respond, “Well, it’s your mother’s fault.”

Me? I operate in a strictly scruple-free zone.

The reality of extreme gestation resulted in a cosmic shift in priorities (along with my intestinal system – which is now more of an anarchic revolution).

Although conception involved WAY too many people, there’s no reason the rest of this pregnancy shouldn’t proceed normally (although I have to say that so far, my experience of pregnancy ridicules all previous definitions of ‘normal’). However, we don’t want to take chances given how far we’ve come to get here.

The idea of staring down labour with a 45 minute drive along a gravel road in a car that’s on its last wheels, as driven by Husband ‘Bite Me Schumacher’, is potentially a challenge too far. At least for me, if not Andrew.

Furthermore, we have little to no support here. We love our neighbours (well, I do; Andrew thinks they’re pretty nice and wouldn’t turn down a beer) – but there are only two of them. We see a lot of our landlords, The Mustachioed Muchacho and Hostess With The Mostest; also Sheriff and The Bunqueen down in the bay – but neither couple has children. While they’re thrilled for us, I can’t see myself swapping stories about episiotomies and mucous plugs with them.

What’s that? Why the <expletive deleted> would I want to?

Well, indeed. I’m not quite there yet myself. However, I have been reliably informed by Those Who Know – i.e. former people incubators – that there will come a time when you will beg me to shut up talking about lactation and just pass the parsley sauce, already.

I’m not sure Oamaru would have been our first choice of home, but it seems logical with The Rise of The Asset given the concentration of family, who originally settled there for the, er. Beets?

But even without the imminent arrival of The Asset, we would have had to consider moving on. Although we live in the most stunning location, we are on the bones of our arse at the end of each month. I recycle tinfoil and gladwrap; Andrew’s not allowed soap because HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MUCH THAT STUFF COSTS? RUB YOURSELF WITH A ROCK FFS.

I am admittedly privileged that my definition of abject poverty is being unable to afford maple syrup IT’S A TRAGEDY. Just as well, because we’re not close enough to rob anyone to fund my P addiction.

This situation has much to do with the exchange rate, since all our income is in US$. Every month for about two years, we’ve consoled ourselves: “At least the exchange rate can’t get any worse”. We’ve tried putting a positive spin on it – “The exchange rate HAS to get better”, but optimism hasn’t been effective either. Moving will significantly cut many of our costs.

Much to my surprise, after three years seeking privacy and seclusion, I’m actually looking forward to getting involved in a community again.

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Cranial topiary

Last week – coincidentally, still my birthday – we went for our daily walk. I’ve been a little monochrome recently and – after two months in Oamaru doing little more than taunt bulls – have only just started back into an exercise regime.

I felt TERRIFIC.

“I feel TERRIFIC,” I announced to Husband. “Where are we going? How about we go up the road and around Jeep and Meep’s track and – hey, I know! Let’s do The Hen’s Beak. In fact, let’s RUN it. No holding back: full frontal assault. Hoo-AH!” I threw in a navy seal style lunge for emphasis.

For some reason, Husband didn’t share my enthusiasm. We were engaged in a tense discussion about the exercise benefits of descending and ascending The Hen’s Beak/pointlessness and authenticity of my mental faculties (depending whose side you take), when I pulled a muscle – halfway up our driveway.

In my defence, our drive is steep to the point of sheer; you practically need crampons to get up it. Still, the situation left no doubt as to who won that argument. You could say I didn’t have a leg to stand on. At least, I had one – just not the other.

While Andrew carried on with the dog, I limped home nursing my pulled muscle and bruised ego.

In the end, I was extremely pleased I wasn’t up for the walk, because Jed kicked over a wasps’ nest (we should train him not to do that) and a swarm of irate insects chased Husband and Jed home. They were pretty sullen when they arrived back, having both been stung several times.

In addition to crème brulee, dinner was roast lamb for Andrew, with marinated tofu for me and rosemary roasted vegetables. About ten minutes before the roast was ready, with the unique logic impenetrable to anyone but him, Husband decided timing was optimal for buzz-cutting his head.

I would have suggested postponing the exercise except I’d been absolutely twitching to get stuck into Andrew’s hair; it was so bushy I wouldn’t have been surprised had a woodland creature or two wandered out of it.

Though honestly, I was surprised when he asked me to do it, after the one and only time I buzzed his head years ago. But look, that’s an entirely different story and has no place here. Nor, for that matter, anywhere else during the remainder of my lifetime.

Andrew installed himself on one of our dining chairs in the living room, with a mirror propped against the table. Unfortunately, the razor kept crapping out in the face of the challenge posed by Andrew’s thatched thicket.

Since he was covered with bristly hair – and still sported a ferocious furze with some indefinite landing-strips up the sides – Husband spent the next half an hour trying to fix the razor.

Although the repaired device was incapable of much more than de-furring the dog’s bollocks, the haircut was going quite well, I thought. However, Husband was obviously anxious about his quiff, the pelt-sculpture that proudly crowns his forehead. He issued several complex instructions on reducing it while still retaining its character.

Eventually I demanded scissors to address The Quiff. I’ve always been confident and adept with scissors. I’m terrific at cutting out paper circles. Also, I regularly barber the dog. Andrew went to fetch a pair.

Unfortunately, I lost concentration for just a split-second and, when I re-focussed, Andrew was stalking around the living room ATTACKING his head with the scissors. I attempted to wrestle the scissors off him, but nearly cut off his ear, so I retreated to a respectable distance to watch him basically Doing a Sweeney on himself. It was CARNAGE. He ended up with a menacing furry overhang, much like mange-ridden badger squatting on his head mooning passersby.

When he finally surrendered the scissors, I evened it up as best I could; but he still looks like Tintin. Hey, a craftswoman can only do so much with substandard raw material.

Then we had dinner garnished with hair.

HI! We’re invading your privacy!

One feature of thing about living in a remote part of New Zealand is scruffy men prowling through your garden with knives and/or rifles, preceded by a pack of wolves.

I’ve spent most of my life in cities, where the automatic response to one or more strangers snuffling around your gnomes is to check the doors are double-locked before calling the police.

However, in a small community, placing a 911 is considered bad form. In any case, you just KNOW the dude with a lazy eye and a claw instead of a hand will turn out to be your neighbour’s son/mother/best friend/beloved family pet or – even worse – the only hairdresser within a 100km radius.

The first time we encountered pig hunters on our premises was a few months ago; Husband and I were in the garden when a dog appeared out of the surrounding bush. While Jed investigated whether he could insert his entire head up his new friend’s arse, two men strolled down our drive followed by three more hounds.

I secured my squirming dog by the scruff while the pack of hunting dogs sniffed my ankles suspiciously. I’m thinking, “this had better be good”.

I expected an opening salvo along the lines of, “Hello- terribly sorry to disturb. We weren’t aware there was anyone here, our mistake. We simply can’t apologise enough. We assure you it won’t happen again.”

Instead, the man I’ll call ‘Claw’ (even though he didn’t actually have a claw), said, “Have you seen a pig?”

My instinctive response would normally be some loud advice based on a solid framework of expletives. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to do that here (see above). They were also better armed than us – even though I’m pretty sure Andrew could have taken Claw’s mate with the trowel.

However, I was so miffed I didn’t even invite them in for a cup of tea. If you’re Irish, you will appreciate quite how VEXED I was.

It’s lucky the situation was contained, because of course Claw turned out to be The Sherriff‘s brother from another mother, and is – according to The Sherriff – a lovely bloke when he’s not skulking.

The other day, our landlord The Mustachioed Muchacho called to let us know he’d given ‘Pail’ permission to hunt their land. The Mustachioed Muchacho explicitly told Pail to avoid our house, but we decided to keep Jed inside just in case. Any pack of dogs has the potential to gang up on one; and I’ve yet to be thrown into an envious rage by the control hunters have over their animals.

We were in the living room when Jed sprang up with the meaty WOOF! he uses to make us spill our coffee. Next thing, two men, a boy and a swarm of dogs trotted past our house. They waved in the window at us. Kind of a, ‘Hi! We’re invading your privacy!’ wave. Which was . . . nice?

They carried on down our track to the promontory. One of their dogs took a crap and I know it’s what dogs do and when you’ve gotta go you’ve gotta go, but NOBODY EVEN WHACKED THE TURD OFF THE TRACK.

On their return, they waved in the window again.

(Even though I didn’t want to I waved back and even employed all fingers.)

All this time and for the next half an hour, Jed paced, groaned, whined, yodelled, barked and howled. He alternated pacing around the living room with trying to scratch a hole in the sliding door.

Some time after that we took Jed for a walk. With Andrew’s permission, Pail had parked at the top of our drive, by the gate. On our return – an hour after the hunters said they would be gone – I thought I heard our gate clink as we rounded the bend in the road.

I grabbed Jed and called, “Hello?”

The van was still there; and so were the hunters, Pail wearing a bloody pig as a scarf.

“Are your dogs friendly?” I asked, but before Pail had even finished saying, “Aw, yeh, friendly AS,” two of his dogs set into Jed with a flurry of fangs and snarling.

Jed tore back up the road yelping, a dog swinging out of his backside by the teeth.

Long after Jed had forgotten all about it – including, conveniently, what a great big cowardy custard he was – I still had my ears flattened against the side of my head.

Queen of Cod

The title ‘Queen of Cod’ suits me on so many subliminal levels that I’m delighted it also applies literally.

The fishing trip last weekend started inauspiciously. Halfway across the bay, boat plunging through the waves, I realized I’d left my book in the car.

I always bring a book fishing. It’s insurance, in the same way carrying an umbrella means it won’t rain, or putting on 10 kilos and wearing ugly boots guarantees you’ll bump into your partner’s ex-girlfriend even if she lives in Angola and really has absolutely no business whatsoever being in New Zealand, I mean isn’t the world big enough?

While I reflected on the probability of my having jinxed the expedition, a sharp yelp from the back of the boat announced the dog had impaled his tongue on a fishing hook. The only surprise was that Jed hadn’t done so on numerous previous occasions, since he appears to think bait is a tasty treat we thoughtfully provide as nourishment on fishing trips.

Thankfully, the hook only nicked him. I don’t relish picking hooks out of fish’s gobs, never mind Jed’s. His teeth are bigger and sharper than a terakihi’s.

We anchored off the island, over our favourite ledge. I was ON FIRE, pulling in fish one after another. On a couple of occasions, I wound in my line to check the dog hadn’t somehow managed to eat my bait at a depth of 10m, and had a fish on. We caught three kelpie for Jed’s dinner and three blue cod for ours.

On the way back, Husband suggested we try trolling for kahawai. Crying gulls swirled and swooped and squabbled over the fish breaking the surface with silvery flashes and splashes.

We followed the flock, circling around them at about 7kph. I took the rod first, since Andrew still doesn’t trust me to pilot the boat. In fairness, if there were one freak rock in the middle of the ocean, I feel pretty sure I’d find it with the outboard motor.

It was my first introduction to trolling or deep-sea fishing.

“Have you got a good hold of the rod?” asked Andrew. “They bite hard.”

He wasn’t joking. When the first one hit, it nearly wrenched the rod out of my hands.

This was when Husband decided to advise me how to reel in kahawai:-

“TIGHTEN THE REEL! KEEP THE ROD DOWN! NO- PULL IT UP! REEL IT IN ON THE DOWNSWING! DON’T DO THAT- YOU’LL LOSE IT! TIGHTEN THE REEL! <EXPLETIVE>! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? REEL IT- HURRY- PULL IT-GAH!”

If that sounds more or less like gibberish to you, it was completely incomprehensible to me. I blame Andrew entirely for losing the first kahawai.

“Ok- you- don’t- what the- don’t shout orders at me! I don’t LIKE IT! Also- and- also, it’s a little LATE to be telling me how to do it when I have a fish on the line!”

Much like having your first CPR tutorial when confronted by a warm, pulse-free body stretched out on the floor in front of you.

I reeled in the second fish like a pro. Almost calmly, I tightened my reel – Andrew having shown me the twiddle – I hauled, I reeled on the downswing. When the fish was within reach, Andrew grabbed the line and swung it into the boat.

The span of my arms is insufficient to demonstrate how big that fish was.

After Andrew took the hook out of its mouth, it leaped out of the boat like Free Willy.

It seems obvious the men in my life are engaged in a conspiracy to sabotage my fishing career.

Seadog

Our young seadog blowing a raspberry.

I gave Husband a fishing boat for his birthday.

I know, I know: love makes you do crazy stuff. Also, I’m generous.

Unfortunately, Andrew had to sell his roadbike to facilitate my generosity. I couldn’t afford to buy the boat for him, since my career as an impoverished author nets me an average annual income of roughly $20 – or a third share in a lifejacket.

Equally unfortunately, I own nothing of value that I could sell to augment the boat fund. Second-hand dogs don’t fetch much on Trademe, and while I suppose there’s a family member or two I could auction, the logistics would be tricky unless I could export them from Ireland to close the deal.

On second thoughts, I should TOTALLY have done that.

But, no. No, no. I don’t want to hector or lecture or moralise, and I’ve never been into using my beliefs as blunt instruments (although I have been known to occasionally tickle people with them if the right moment presents itself); however, in this case I’ll make an exception:

Slavery is WRONG, folks.

Since collecting the boat three weeks ago, we’ve made a number of excursions to identify the optimal fishing spots around Port Underwood – or, more accurately, eliminate the worst. So far, we’ve caught one legal blue cod and various sea vegetables. I’m considering changing my name officially to The Kelpie Queen.

We wondered how The Jedster would take to the boat, since he isn’t a consummate kayak enthusiast. He definitely prefers the boat, demonstrating an impressive knack of always being precisely where you don’t want him.

He’s much more interested in the process of fishing. At least, he’s the only one going for our bait, having developed a keen taste for re-frozen squid. His new favourite game is attempting to impale his tongue on a fishing hook.

Jed has more faith in our ability to catch fish than we do; when we drop our lines, he stands at the side of the boat quivering and peering intently into the water.

It’s touching how excited Jed gets when we start reeling in. He gets pretty peeved when we throw back undersized fish or kelpie; when we went fishing off the rocks, he used to dive in after them. So far, we have dissuaded him from trying the same trick from the boat.

So, we've taught him to SIT! on the boat. Now all we have to do is train him to catch fish, and/or not capsize the boat.

Husband allows me pilot the boat.

Armadillo knees

Solartap:  How are you?

Me:  Great! I’m wearing a wetsuit with armadillo knees.

Solartap:  Armadillo . . . knees? Is that a . . . what is that?

Me:  You might call it the cutting edge of seventies neoprene technology.

Solartap: Huh?

Me:  Yeah, the knees are, like, they have WINGS. You probably need to see it to get the full effect.

Solartap:  For ease of movement?

Me:  Not that you’d notice. I think maybe it’s some kind of retro fashion statement. It’s about thirty years old.

Solartap: Why are you wearing a wetsuit that’s thirty years old?

Me:  It has no arms. I’m going to try it out for swimming. Used to belong to Andrew-

Solartap: When he was EIGHT?

Me: More like fifteen.

Solartap: Thirty years ago he would’ve-

Me:  I was rounding up. Jeez.

Solartap: So you can fit into a wetsuit that fit a teenage boy. What does that say about you?

Me:  Nothing. I think it says more about the sagging nature of neoprene over time.

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

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