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Posts tagged ‘New Zealand’

The Greatness

Here’s how it all came about: it was last Friday, and we were trying to avoid Charles and Camilla. They are apparently atrocious bores so you don’t want to get stuck with them at a party or, for that matter, a Canterbury A&P Show.

We were lurking outside the showground when we bumped into John Key – or more accurately, one of his security detail.

“Quick!” I said, “Get Finn out of his stroller so I can introduce him to John Key.”

Andrew was disappointingly reluctant.

“Come on, Niamhie,” he said. “He’s got better things to do-”

“Like what? Kissing babies is his job-”

 “Running the country is his job,” said Andrew primly.

I snorted. Well, John Key quite obviously wasn’t waiting on an imminent fax from Vladimir Putin; he also happened to be snogging a baby at that moment, which I felt somewhat undermined Andrew’s argument.

“Look,” I said, “I think it’s really selfish of you to deprive your son of the opportunity to meet John Key.”

 “What makes New Zealand great is that celebrities can walk around unmolested.”

HUH?

FIRSTLY, John Key isn’t a celebrity; he’s a politician. Secondly, what makes New Zealand great is bungee jumping and Sauron The Dark Lord. And thirdly, these things make New Zealand really pretty awesome but hardly ‘great’. I’m not dissing my chosen home; it’s just that there are very few countries that qualify as ‘great’. In fact I can think of just two: The USA, due to its size and Davy Crockett; and England, because it says so in the title, but also because, you know, Genghis Khan.

Husband eventually capitulated, mainly because I started whining and threatened to sulk.

Johnny is SUCH a dude. No really; I like him. People were swarming around shoving their children at him – many with chocolaty hands – and although there was a touch of rigor mortis about his smile, it never faltered. He wasn’t that sweaty even though it was a hot, sunny day and he was stuffed into a suit.

I had no intention of foisting my cranky, squirming progeny on him, but Johnny seized Finn and didn’t drop him once. He fully complied with my request to ‘show some teeth’.

This is the result of a photo op that lasted about 3 milliseconds:

Husband says it looks like I am throwing my baby at John Key, which I completely did. You gotta be quick since he moves INSANELY fast

Not only did Finn get touched by greatness, I got in a quick grope so you might say I also touched the greatness

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Love and stuff

Finn and his proud mother

For Mothers’ Day, I got an extra hours sleep, a bottle of Baileys, and a cheese-making kit.

What was that? Oh, a breast-feeding joke. I’m VERY disappointed in you. I dare you – in fact, I TRIPLE DARE you – to come up with a new one. I guarantee you can’t; my in-laws have covered them all. There is no lactation related joke in this universe I haven’t heard before – sometimes multiple times. Evidently I need to be more conscientious in remarking on the deficiency of dickage amongst Husband’s family.

It’s a measure of how much I’ve changed that my Mothers’ Day card made me cry rather than scathe it with derision. Also, that I was only marginally more stoked about pressies and breakfast in bed, than discovering the washing was dry after a week soggily drooping on the clothes line.

Finn’s here; he lives and breathes; he’s a laundry generating machine; you can’t move in the living room without tripping over a brightly coloured toy that rattles; and he occupies (conservatively) 95% of my thoughts and time. Yet even when I’m holding him in my arms with his tiny fingers curled around my thumb, and feel the warmth of him and kiss his baldy little head, I can still barely believe he’s real.

Despite all the years I longed for a child, the concept of ‘motherhood’ holds limited appeal. I used to be young, carefree, full of potential. I disdained Hallmark cards. When I got drunk nobody thought I was a sad old trollop.

All that has changed and I’m struggling to adopt my new identity:

Parent.

Skill-set: accurate prediction of vomit trajectory and identification of several varieties of poo.

However, one thing is beyond question.

I LOVE being Finn’s mother.

Top of Trotters Gorge

Finally got around to uploading the pics from Trotter’s Gorge last Saturday. We only got two because the camera sprang a leak.
 

This is me, after climbing to the top of Trotters Gorge. In many ways, the photo is deceptive. As I recall, my face was throbbing red; also, that shirt evidently covers a multitude of sins. One of them being an eight month old foetus. Which is really more a misdemeanor

 

Places of interest.

Aerodynamically optimal

Three days into our new home and we’re still chaotic. Basically our life can be described in terms of boxes and litres of Jif cleaning fluid.

After the movers relocated the bulk of our possessions last Thursday week, we made one more trip to the container in Spring Creek with a last trailer-load. The container smelled like the gorilla pit at the zoo. Please note it featured this delicate bouquet long before we ever stuffed it with our belongings. I’m not sure whether it seemed more potent due to my enhanced sense of smell or it had actually once contained gorillas.

As Andrew unloaded, “I thought you were going to put your motorbike in the container,” I said. Although phrased as a statement, Andrew recognised it for the pointed question it was.

“Decided not to,” he said. “We’ll have PLENTY of room for it on the trailer.”

I may never learn to decode my husband’s unique blend of brooding pessimism and misplaced idealism.

Container on its way, we set to cleaning the house. I was anxious to leave it spick, since not only are the landlords our friends, but they handed over the house in such pristine condition. Unfortunately, I underestimated the time it would take, allied with how pregnant I am, not to mention pedantic. You might call it a trifecta of miscalculation.

I was still cleaning on Saturday morning, the day we were to drive to Oamaru. While Andrew loudly expressed his astonishment how much stuff was left to fit on the trailer, I desperately wiped down door handles. The end result was three rooms and two bathrooms that gleamed, with skirting boards that could have been declared contamination-free zones. Unfortunately, the living room windows were still smudged with dog snot . . . but at least I got the blood stains off the walls and scraped most of the viscera off the ceiling.

I drove the MR2 the first leg of the trip, while Andrew drove the Hilux Surf towing a trailer that looked precariously volatile but, he assured me, was both stable and aerodynamically optimal.

We swapped vehicles just south of Blenheim and I drove the Surf the rest of the way. Again, I’m not sure whether it was pregnancy or the fact that we haven’t defurred it in a while but sitting into the Surf’s driver seat was a nauseating experience.

We hit Christchurch at around 5pm, where we collected a cot, which posed a challenging logistical problem for Andrew.

In Rolleston, we stopped for a late lunch from BP. I had a gourmet vegetarian pie which, given how hungry I was, should have been a taste sensation. Instead it was rather horrid, tasting of burnt-curry with a strangely chewy texture. It was only after I’d finished it that I realised I’d also eaten most of the wrapping paper.

Poor Andrew had to work on Sunday but I took a day off. On Monday morning, the Spring Creek Container Yard notified me that our possessions had arrived. In a quality effort, Andrew and The Welsh Giant relocated everything to the new house by early afternoon, while I . . . cleaned.

God I hate the smell of Jif.

Terrifying wainscoting

Hindsight has imbued The Great House-Hunt with heroic and epic proportions. When realism catches up, I can acknowledge how quickly and relatively painlessly we acquired a house.

One of the most distressing things about the frequent trips to Oamaru (all two of them) – apart from the WWII documentaries over breakfast, the prolonged psychological exposure to RE Agents, the terrifying wainscoting, and the ever-present fear that it was all futile and we were going to end up homeless and I’d have to give birth under a bridge – was that The Rise of the Asset was completely overlooked.

Being fully gestational is so exciting that I resent any time not productively spent feeling incredibly blessed, excited and/or clever (honestly: being knocked up makes me feel like a GENIUS, despite all evidence to the contrary involving numerous teenagers demonstrating conclusively that it has more to do with stupidity and/or stunning quantities of alcohol). Although I feel satisfied in living a full complete life, pregnancy is undoubtedly the closest I’ve ever been to a genuine miracle.

During those trips to Oamaru, there were whole MINUTES where I completely forgot I was pregnant. Until I tried to leap over fences, or caught myself stealing food off other peoples’ plates, or assessing railway bridges for exposure to draughts. Which are generally not the aspects of pregnancy upon which I prefer to focus.

Now that we’re home – when we’re not dealing with lawyers, booking containers, performing extreme weeding, sourcing boxes, packing, and selling fishing boats – it’s all about The Asset again.

For a long time I hadn’t been sure whether what I felt was The Asset exploring the boundaries, or pickles negotiating the dangerous bends of my digestive system. But recently there’s been no doubt. I’ve sometimes wondered whether The Asset has a bouncy castle in there, or a squash racquet and ball. In fact, the little guy has been extremely active since the start of the Rugby World Cup. Coincidence? I think not. This is, after all, a Kiwi baby.

The other evening, I was sitting on the couch when the prodding got so extreme I wondered whether the effects might be visible to the naked eye. Although I felt a bit foolish – I’m just into the 24th week, which was surely way too early to visibly detect movement – I pulled up my sweater and stared intently at the Homewrecker.

Next thing, my whole belly did a Mexican wave.

“It was AMAZING!” I gabbled to Husband later. “Possibly the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen! It was like . . . like . . . like it’s ALIVE in there!”

“Er, Sweetie,” said Andrew gently, so as not to startle or alarm the pregnant lady. “It IS.”

Unfortunately, Husband has yet to witness the phenomenon. He’s too impatient to sit staring at the Homewrecker for longer than it takes to demand a cup of coffee; and The Asset refuses to perform on demand. Yet.

In any case, Andrew’s presence appears to have an incredibly soothing effect on his child.

Wild Rose House

So by now I hope we’re all agreed that there’s a special annex in Hell reserved for Real Estate Agents. Any place featuring a conglomeration of RE Agents can only be living torture; but I like to imagine this wildlife reserve also features rancid food, lashings of foul-smelling slime, oxygen that causes choking and taps that drip eternally.

It actually distresses me that Claudette is destined for this place. If she is, I fervently and sincerely hope she gets a room with a nice view.

Claudette is a RE Agent with LJ Hooker, and we love her. In a face-off between Claudette and Haemorrhoid, I just KNOW Claudette would so completely bitch-slap Haemorrhoid right back up her own arse.

I met Claudette while Andrew was still in Dubai, after a friend of The Outlaws’ referred me. Naturally I expected someone in a barely legal mini-skirt reeking of expensive French perfume, but in fact Claudette looks like she would take really good care of you if you had a head-cold. She wears a natty red leather jacket and has wonderful, twinkly eyes and round cheeks that you just want to rub because you instinctively know it would be a life-altering tactile experience. (Obviously you don’t, because being arrested would probably be a similarly life-altering experience.)

I was taken aback when Claudette actually appeared to listen to my description of what we wanted; and frankly startled when she processed that data and presented me with a short-list of property from her books that met all my criteria of being private and secluded with a generous garden.

One of Claudette’s recommendations was Wild Rose House. Since access to the house was tricky, Claudette said I was welcome to do a driveby. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the place. I was immediately predisposed towards it. I like things that are confounding.

On our first joint reconnaissance to Oamaru, Claudette took Andrew and me to see Wild Rose House. It wasn’t where I’d thought it was at all – which was why I couldn’t find it, if that makes sense.

The day we viewed the house it had snowed overnight. The garden looked lank and miserable, but Wild Rose House itself embraced us in a snuggly fug of cosiness. Cunningly, the vendor had just baked bread, so instead of stale cigarettes or mouldy carpet or a build-up of dead skin cells mainly comprising feet, it smelled deliciously yeasty.

Despite the fact that we loved the house, there were a number of factors that put us off. For me, it was the vendor not offering me a slice of bread. In retrospect, if she’d given me the whole loaf, I would have put down a deposit right there and then.

For both of us, the main issue was location – not from our perspective, but for its resale potential. Although you can’t see them from the house, warehouses line the main road below. But we were more concerned that the area is renowned for being the chilliest spot in Oamaru. When I describe the house’s location being “in the cold, damp gully”, everyone goes, “Ah, THERE”.

However, we were charmed enough by the house itself that it sidled unassumingly into the number four slot on our short-list.

After this first house-hunt, we were rather surprised to find that neither Orchard House nor Wild Rose House hit the top slot. In fact our first choice was a house on Tay Street, which the RE Agent advised we could probably get lower than the asking price.

The initial viewing of Tay Street was unfavourable, due to the place smelling of armpits and my fear of catching herpes from the carpet. The back of the house was was a bolt-on extension, with a ‘conservatory’ that was effectively a glasshouse chopped in half. However, it was a beautiful old period house with high ceilings and original fittings, in a wonderful location about five minutes from the centre of town overlooking the harbour. It also included a fully contained sleep-out at the bottom of the front garden.

Demonstrating a guilefulness I’d previously unsuspected of him, Andrew suggested we could sell the sleepout to pay for renovating the house. Cosmetic alterations, he hastily reassured me. Coat of paint, rip out the smelly carpets, polyeurethane the floor – that should cover it. Have it done in a weekend.

Her Goatiness and Agent of Death shattered our dreams when, upon our request, they went to check out the house. “Dry rot,” was Her Goatiness’ verdict. “Everywhere. Window sashes like butter. SOFT butter,” she elaborated. “Also the extension at the back needs to be ripped out. Doesn’t have a building permit.”

So. After we didn’t get our way with Orchard House, we moved onto #3 – Andrew’s preferred house on Bushy Bush Road. After his kindly agreeing to bid on Orchard House, the least I could do was pretend to reconsider Bushy Bush.

In the end, even Andrew agreed Bushy Bush was a long shot. It required extensive interior decorating and, since the asking price was significantly higher than our budget, it was clear that in the unlikely event we actually got it we would have to decorate the interior with artistic interpretation of wattle and mud.

Throughout all this, we kept coming back to Wild Rose House. We drove by it on several occasions to gauge the concentration of cold and relative saturation. High on the side of the gully, it enjoys sunlight morning, mid-day and afternoon. Despite our concerns about resale, we both acknowledged that it was precisely the type of house and location we personally wanted to live in.

Our offer was accepted and possession is in early October.

I just know we’ll be so happy living there.

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.

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