The deadliest, jelliest site ever. Brought to you by Niamh Shaw

Posts tagged ‘oamaru’

Flesh eating fish

Two weeks ago, I was the MC for four days at the LIANZA Conference in Christchurch.

You think it’s a bit random? Sure; I’ll give you that. My credentials were assessed on the basis of a 20 minute presentation I gave at a Southland Librarian Convention over a year ago at the Oamaru Opera House. My speech was standing room only . . . well; no it wasn’t, but only because the Waitaki District Library put out a plethora of chairs . . . but I got a standing ovation. Ok ok OK, I was the last speaker and people had to get up to leave . . . ANYWAY.

After my presentation, a lovely Maori woman approached me and asked if I’d speak at the LIANZA Conference. And then a few months later, I got an email from Joanna about being MC. And Joanna and I corresponded for the better part of a year, before I finally met her at dinner on the Saturday before the conference kicked off. She said, “Do you remember me?” and I roared, “Of course I do! Great to see you again!”

Halfway through the same evening, another lovely woman came to me and said, “Hi, I just wanted to see how you’re getting on and are you comfortable?” I had no idea who she was and no recollection of ever meeting her; but I thought I was doing a pretty good job of blagging it, until she said, “Do you recognise me?”

Whenever I’ve doggedly persisted in (my preferred strategy of) complete ignorance, it tends to turn brutally swiftly into a global train-wreck, so I said: “Look, I’m so sorry; I don’t.”

She said, “I’m Joanna. Joanna Matthew.”

And I was all: “Are you SURE?”

I realised that who I’d thought was Joanna was someone else completely; in fact another person entirely called Tilapia. And happy that I’d finally sorted out who was who, I addressed her by her name – Tilapia – for the rest of the dinner.

I noticed her eying me a bit funny; but since I get that a lot I didn’t fully register it UNTIL about five o’clock the following morning when I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking: “OMG tilapia’s a fish! IT’S. A. FUCKING. FISH!”

For those of you not literate about fish, it is a freshwater, pleasant tasting fish which originated in the Middle East and in 2016, tilapia was the likely source of an American woman’s flesh-eating bacteria infection.

When I checked, I realised her name was – and probably still is – Te Paea.

Beautiful name, Te Paea.

Much better than Tilapia.

For anyone who thinks this story can’t possibly get any worse, well you obviously don’t know me AT ALL. So hi there! Thanks for reading, and let me assure you: it absolutely can.

So I tracked down Te Paea on the Sunday, and said, “I’m soooo sorry, I called you a fish.”

She said, “Oh that’s ok.” And then she said . . . “Actually, I thought you called me Labia.”

So obviously I’d prefer neither, but if I HAVE to choose between calling someone a fish or a vagina, I’m just so glad I went with fish.

Even a flesh-eating fish.

Since I once addressed someone as Nubbin, as in a small lump or residual part of bone or cartilage I could argue that I’m not culturally insensitive so much as GENERALLY insensitive . . .

. . . but it’s probably better I stop here.

  

 

Video link to Mistress of Ceremonies: Day 2 (Registration required with name and email address)

Titivating the shed

So as soon as we decided to move to Wanaka in late 2015, Husband and I swung instantly into action. By which I mean: we prepared for action by reflecting on how we could best achieve maximum outcome with minimal swinging as such.

 

It was a really very thorough, measured and definitive thought-process.

 

Ideally we wanted to sell our house in Oamaru in summer 2015, but Husband wasn’t ready because he hadn’t titivated the shed. Or if it wasn’t that, he wanted to weed-mat the garden; or replace some panes of glass; or repaint the deck; or finish the garden folly.

 

(By the way: oh yes it is, ‘titivate’ is TOTALLY a word.)

 

Our beautiful old 1890s character villa with 2000sqm of landscaped cottage gardens may have been glorious and rose-scented and redolent of frilly parasols and croquet and cucumber sandwiches, but it was an absolute fucking motherfucker to maintain. Although we loved it, all our spare time was diverted to gardening or renovating or gardening or trying to convince the kids that pruning was fun or train the dog to differentiate between weeds and flowers.

 

 

I’d asked my unfairly talented mate Maxine to shoot the house, because her architectural photography is ‘jaaast stanning’ as the chick herself would say (not usually about her own work, although she could without risk of false advertising).

 

Eventually she just turned up with her camera. “Look, I don’t care- I don’t have time for this shit- no, I can photoshop in the garage door- fine, I’ll photoshop in the fucking HOUSE, ok? Get out of the frame. And take that fugly sofa with you.” (Only joking; Maxine’s a professional and would never swear on the job.)

 

By this stage – practically winter – we’d pretty much run out of time to list our house, which ideally needed to be sold in late spring / high summer / before the trees completely shit themselves in the autumn. However, being now engaged in full, actionable swing (see above), I went ahead and contacted four of the five RE Agents in town for valuations.

 

My history with RE Agents is somewhat tempestuous and honestly, I haven’t missed them at all since my last torrid affair back in 2011. We were all set to go with online real estate company 200 Square, but despite tracking the local weekly property listings we had no idea what the value of our house was. There was no consistency and nothing even vaguely comparable to our home. Trademe listings with photos featuring heaps of unfolded laundry and dead animals with an unfocused bit of shack in the background stated offers over $500k; some gorgeous character homes appeared to be in the region of less than $250k.

 

We figured industry professionals would know.

 

We figured wrong.

 

They didn’t.

 

I mean, they really, REALLY didn’t.

 

The range of estimates issued by RE Agents varied $90,000 in value.

 

That’s $90,000; or ninety thousand dollars; or FUCKING NINETY THOUSAND FUCKING DOLLARS.

 

(To add some context: we paid $242k for it in 2011.)

 

After looking around, they’d say: “Yaaas, weeell, it’s beautifully presented, but it’s not a great location and you know what we say: ‘location, location, location’ hahaha ahaha! South side of a hill *meh* . . . no view of the sea *meh squared* . . . and *meh to the power of 10* who wants to maintain 2000 square meters of garden?”

 

Well, apart from Not Us, I’m sure um lots of people specifically gardeners and – I dunno – outdoorsy types would like to . . . but WTF DON’T COME INTO MY HOME AND TELL ME IT’S SHIT! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

Since I lived in the house for five and a half years, I figured I knew its limitations better than a RE Agent who’d spent only half an hour in the place staring mainly at their checklist. And I was fairly confident that someone would fall in love with the house: its charm, its privacy, the inspection pit in the garage.

 

(Well, that was what sold Husband.)

 

I’ve never liked the local branch of LJ Hooker’s approach to supporting the community, specifically taking out full page adverts in the Waitaki Herald congratulating themselves on donating thousands of tax-deducted dollars to local non-profits and charitable community organisations. However, we originally bought our house from the fully delicious Claudette, and she was the first agent I contacted.

 

I’d always suspected my feelings for Claudette were unrequited and was devastated as she struggled with commitment issues and grew increasingly emotionally distant.

 

An RE Agent from The Professionals suggested the house was worth only $18,000 more than we paid for it six years ago. So according to her dystopian proposal (and disregarding the thousands we spent on improvements and renovations), we would have ended up with a roaring profit of approximately $5,000 after she skimmed her commission.

 

“Well, I don’t think you exactly got a bargain when you bought this place,” she sniffed.

 

WTF don’t come into my house and tell me it’s shit AND THAT I’M STUPID! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

When challenged with a moderated version of the above, she said, “Over the last month we’ve sold all our properties within days.”

 

“Um . . . does that not . . . kind of . . . suggest you’re undervaluing them?” I asked.

 

“I’ll have you know our clients are very satisfied,” she said defensively.

 

One RE Agent even kicked the dog (although admittedly it was after Jed had spent a good five minutes checking their crotch for contraband, and then worried their pleather folder on the floor . . . he also munched their biro a bit).

 

I was reluctant to go anywhere near Ray White after our experience with the company six years ago, but my To Do list had five items and I’d only ticked off four. However, I was lucky enough to be put through to Leona Stretch. When she came to visit, she patted the dog and loved our house.

 

“But what about the view- sorry; I mean ‘aspect’?” I asked suspiciously. “And locationlocationlocation?”

 

“I suppose it might be worth more if it were on South Hill, but it’s a beautiful home,” said Leona. “Great big section, overlooks the Gardens, minutes from town. It’s fabulous.”

 

When Leona returned with the estimate, she brought presents for the kids and the dog. I’d decided to list with her even before she said she believed our house was worth $350k. I know: I’m a whore. But we were in no particular hurry and um well her valuation was greater than anticipated, so we thought what the heck? We decided to list the house for a proscribed period, sale on offers over $350k.

 

I knew we’d made the right decision when the kids and I went to her office to review the contract and Saoirse applied crayon to everything except the thoughtfully-provided paper; then flooded the place. Leona was unfazed; even Saoirse couldn’t break her.

 

We were fully prepared for Leona to recommend dropping the asking price after a couple of weeks – not that she ever gave that impression, or indeed any impression other than being responsive, professional and striving diligently on our behalf – but evidently I have trust issues.

 

Her assessment of the market (for our home: out of towners), recommendations on how to present the house, and regular reports were all bang on. It took a couple of months, but Leona sold our house for pretty much exactly what she said she would. She could have negotiated a longer settlement than three weeks – but now I’m just struggling to find something to get my bitch on.

 

What I can and GODDAMN IT I WILL get my bitch on like white on rice on a Styrofoam plate in a snowstorm, is that had we gone with any of the other industry professionals’ recommendations we would now be up to $90k out of pocket. WHY DON’T YOU JUST BREAK INTO OUR HOUSE AND STEAL ALL OUR ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT AND . . . um . . . WHATEVER ELSE WE OWN THAT’S WORTH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ALREADY? (My combination oven? Husband’s sound system? Finn’s lego collection?)

 

And before you point out that grossly undervaluing our house doesn’t involve malicious intent: you might not have meant to kill the frog, but it’s still fucking DEAD.

 

Here’s the promo video for the house set to 70’s porn music.

 

And since you got this far: here’s a picture of Jed sitting on the swing:-

 

Is it five years yet?

Ok, where to start? Another coffee: yes, great plan. Right, let me just push aside the dark mists of Time – there we go – wait; oh that’s Weather not dark mist – and revisit 2011, when we decided to move to Oamaru.

When I say ‘we’, alright alright FINE it was mainly me. Although when Husband points this out (admittedly not as frequently as I would were our positions reversed), in all fairness: I have no idea what he was thinking, letting me get away with it. I was foetus-afflicted and hormone-riddled and in a penultimate stage of epic broodiness; clearly in no fit state to be dictating such momentous life-choices.

The only condition Husband imposed on relocating was a term limit of five years. At the time, I huffed:

“OMG why do we have to put a timeframe on it? Why can’t we live there as long as it works out, vis a vis indefinitely? This just sooo doesn’t align with my free fucking spirit. Pass me that croissant – yeah just brush the coffee grounds off it – that’s grand mmm.”

Fast forward to 2015, and I’m all: “Say Husband, is it five years yet?”

And so we started thinking about where we wanted to bring up our children. For a while we considered Picton, but rejected it as too far away from Her Goatiness and Agent of Death; we also spent some time skulking around Queenstown but decided it was too . . . you know . . . too . . . Queenstown.

I’m not sure why Wanaka wasn’t an obvious choice; maybe because Agent of Death frequently and apropos of nothing growls, “Who the fack would want to live in Wanaka?” I’m not sure what I’ve ever responded, but given my cultural imperative to please, probably something along the lines of, “Yeah, Wanaka with its stupid lake and stuff, hurhurhur”. Until instead the answer was, “Um, maybe us?”

Towards the end of 2015, we started scouting real estate in Wanaka. We spent several weekends looking at pricey and vaguely preposterous properties before realising there was little to nothing that accommodated two people working from home. My job is part-time and flexible and, although I can work leaning against the kitchen bench with a spatula in the other hand, I’d prefer to gainfully employ myself at a workstation in between the scary parts of Turbo The Snail.

However, since Husband runs his business from home, he needs an office which can accommodate Excessive Technology™ (a recent upgrade from Enough Technology™), and nothing we viewed offered anything appropriate for Husband’s office that wasn’t acoustically compromised; or tucked under a stairs; or didn’t feature a stunning vista of the neighbour’s bathroom.

The situation was further complicated by Husband not liking any of the houses I did.

Eventually we decided if we’re going to ransom our children’s education for a house, it needs to tick all the boxes, and the only way to achieve that is to build our own. Coincidentally this plan aligns with Husband’s life-goal to build a house, which he presented in detail supported by a feasibility study, strategic case and realistic contingency plans on our second date. You can see how I knew he was A Keeper.

So last year we bought a section in Wanaka.

Christmas 2010

La Leche

She invited me to the monthly meeting and said there would be snacks. Obviously, as a committed snack-whore, I was fully IN. I was so busy wondering about doughnuts that I didn’t think very hard – or even at all – about what format a La Leche League meeting would take.

Since Saoirse was born, she had problems nursing. She suffered from reflux, a condition aggravated by taking on air during feeding. For the first six weeks of her life, she existed in two states: asleep or roaring, punctuated with epic chunder. Saoirse’s feeding didn’t improve after treatment for level 4 tongue-tie, and when the Plunket Nurse finally referred us to LLL it seemed less drastic than asking my father to exorcise her.

We met up with the local LLL Representative – let’s call her – Bess half an hour before the meeting.

Oh, she was LOVELY. Much prettier than she sounded on the phone. She gave me a mini shoulder massage, and you know the way most amateur masseurs attack you like they’re trying to beat bears out of a bush? They don’t feel they’ve demonstrated their credentials unless you’re in agony for two weeks afterwards and your neck makes a strange ‘click’ whenever you walk up stairs? Well it wasn’t anything like that; it was WONDERFUL: light but confident.

And- AND! Bess was HELPFUL. She observed Saoirse nursing and suggested that since the latch looked fine and Saoirse was happy slurping away like a trainee alcoholic, that I should just go with the flow, as it were. Which may sound simple, but effectively vaporised the mental block I’d been banging my head against for weeks.

It was the first time I’d ever entertained a girl-crush on someone who smells of ylang-ylang and I was just reflecting on the mysteries of the human heart and where the snacks were stashed, when the rest of them arrived.

Now, honestly, I wanted to like these women. I mean: free food, including an insanely delicious cake with the perfect distribution of moist, sharp rhubarb glowing greenly against a backdrop of rich butter sponge DROOLZ.

And at first they seemed nice.

No, wait; don’t get me wrong; they WERE nice. Certainly much, much nicer than me.

Also, worthy.

But then I made the mistake of talking to them.

I’m not sure how we got on to sleep training – you know: establishing good sleep habits and teaching your baby or infant to fall asleep by replacing negative associations with positive ones. Yeah, I read a book. Can you tell?

Anyway. I wasn’t trying to be controversial – no, really – but I might as well have suggested they vaccinate their children.

“Well, I think it’s cruel,” bristled one woman, defensively cuddling her son as if she feared I might traumatise him by proposing he take a nap.

That’s probably only one of the reasons her three year old still co-sleeps with her and her partner.

Ok, right. Let me just flex my fingers and I’ll tell you what’s cruel: when Finn hasn’t had a mid-day nap, he turns into a two-year-old terrorist skilled in the arts of interrogation and psychological warfare. Seriously: when he’s sleep-deprived, my child could give Damien lessons on how to ride a tricycle. (I suspect he takes after me in this respect.)

Also cruel: Husband’s armpit variation on a Dutch oven. It’s ghastly; he waits until you’re fast asleep before snapping his pit over your face like a vice, and I would NEVER subject my child to that level of abuse.

But what the fuck do I know? I’m cruel.

I’d kind of run out of words anyway, but suffered a state of severe speechlessness when I noticed that several of the women were nursing their children. And we’re not talking about babies here; one was hotwiring a tricycle in the corner before he came over and demanded milk.

Let’s be fair: these kids looked rip-snortingly brawny. In comparison, Finn looked a bit, well, runty (sorry Finn! Thank goodness you can’t read yet! But you’re very clever! And great at roly polys!). But regardless how much boob juice I squirt at him, Finn is never going to be an international weightlifter.

I’ve spent a lot of time since the meeting contemplating why I am so actively uninspired by someone breastfeeding her toddler. ‘Repelled’ is too strong a word – I mean, I’m not about to come around and set their garage on fire or anything – but my feelings are approaching that general neighbourhood.

It depresses me because I want to be encouraging of fellow women and mothers, but in this instance the only support I can offer is recommending a good maternity bra.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve nothing against mammaries. In fact, I think boobs are brilliant. They’re fragrant, squishy and accessorised with buttons: what’s not to like? I’ve loved nursing both my babies. I still feed Saoirse on demand, often in public.

But there comes a point when breastfeeding is not ‘beautiful’ and ‘the most natural thing in the world’, but just a whole world of hell no. Or more specifically: WHAT and EW NO and WHAT ARE YOU- STOPPIT- MY EYES MY EYES! in various combinations.

When a child can walk and speak in whole sentences with complex grammatical constructs, they’re too old for nursing. They’re not babies! They’re little people!

And if you want to infantilise your child in the privacy of your eco-friendly wattle-reinforced home, then knock yourself out – but why do you need a meeting to do so?

There is rarely any reason to nurse a child in public after the age of (I’m feeling generous) one. “I’m hungry”? Here’s a banana. “No! I want miiiiilk!” Well, you’ll have to wait. When Finn wants raisins, he doesn’t always get them. I appreciate that setting boundaries might be trickier if I could fire raisins out of my nipples at will – but perhaps even more necessary. Put your boobs away! It’s been fun, but they’ve had their time in the sun!

I don’t think I’ll be attending the monthly La Leche meetings. Here’s how one of the women introduced herself: ‘I was a member of La Leche in Dunedin and I’m looking for a new tribe.’

And I thought: YES, that’s EXACTLY IT.

Although I think she might have meant ‘cult’.

I just don’t understand the whole attachment parenting thing. Personally I think bringing up children is challenging enough and anyway, I don’t  have time for the free-range yoga and weeing on apricot bushes. Well, I used to wee on my apricot bush.

It died.

Even my widdle is cruel.

I’m confident my children know the vasty reaches of my love for them, without wearing them on me. And despite calling Finn runty – oh, and referencing The Omen and The Exorcist in relation to Finn and Saoirse respectively.

“Here at La Leche,” said Bess during her welcome, “we put our children first.”

As opposed to me, who worships my dark lord and master first.

Oh no; wait; that was a phase I went through and I’m pretty sure I’m over it now.

You know, for an organisation that puts children first, some of the kids were dressed in savagely hairy jumpers. I mean, those things must have been fucking itchy.

I’m just saying.

Filthy spirit

Making mischief

When Finn was 3 months old, I enrolled us in SPACE: a playgroup recommended by Angela.

You know? Angela. Lovely woman. I regret our friendship was so fleeting. It started auspiciously enough, when I bought some cloth nappies from her at the Oamaru Opera House. Unfortunately the second time we met – at the inaugural meeting of the Book Club – I hugged her inappropriately. My excuse – actually, I have two – were: 1) pregnancy hormones; and ALSO 2) she looks cuddlesome.

Angela never invited me to any subsequent Book Club meetings – which was actually fine by me because even still I’m vaguely traumatized by Monique’s recounting how she explained menstruation to her five year old son. Shortly after Finn’s birth, Angela visited the house with some lemon cake and we conversed awkwardly. I couldn’t stop thinking about hugging her, and I could tell the poor woman was terrified I might fling myself on her at any moment for snuggle time.

I never heard from Angela again.

I still miss her.

Anyway, playgroup. Around the fourth session, I discovered SPACE starts at 1:00pm, not 1:30pm. Of course I’d noticed Finn and I were the last to arrive, but had assumed the other mothers were unusually – in fact, retroactively – punctual.

Finn and I had been missing the singing. SPACE kicks off with ‘The Welcome Song’ in Maori. I’m convinced the words change every week; after the first line, ‘Te aro ho(?)/ha(?)’, it’s an organic jumble of ‘wha’, ‘ka’, ‘pa’ and ‘po’ noises.

The rest of the songs – in English – generally involve actions. I never realized how difficult it is to simultaneously sing and mime. In particular, ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ makes me almost appreciate Justin Bieber. (I have no idea why Incy Wincy couldn’t have been a possum – or a seal. I can do a wicked seal impression.)

Singing is followed by a ‘thought for the day’, which generally places a sinister emphasis on ‘fun’ and ‘play’. For example: ‘Your baby will remember having fun with you, not whether the house was tidy’.

Quite apart from the fact that I’m pretty sure Finn will remember neither for quite some time; but, where is a child supposed to learn a work ethic? The sense of satisfaction, achievement and self-worth derived from welding, or preparing tasty snacks for his mother?

Here’s another: ‘the most precious gift you can give your child is time.’

Well, there are 86,400 precious gifts in any given day, and frankly I don’t want to spoil him. Or, you know, bore the shit out of him.

Then we have activities. At first, these were about refining our motor skills, e.g. making mobiles out of ice-cream containers while trying not to drop the babies or stab them with scissors.

Now our crotchfruit are a little older, activity time appears to be geared towards generating the greatest mess possible. Because ‘messy play is important’ according to Ailsa with no supporting rationale.

I try to enter into the filthy spirit of it all, but honestly: every time one of the coordinators says, ‘Yay! Next week painting!’ or, ‘Slime! Yay!’, my heart sinks. It was only when pregnant that I noticed how many people interject ‘yay!’ with the same enthusiasm I apply to swearing; I presumed it was a symptom of morning sickness and would wear off, but if anything it’s getting worse.

Three weeks ago they brought out the pits.

“A few babies try to eat the sand,” said Ailsa.

“That’ll be Finn,” I said, grimly. “If he poos rocks, I’m holding SPACE directly responsible.”

Sure enough, Finn munched through half the sand pit. Otherwise everything was fine – until Ailsa added water, when it turned into the sort of footage you see on the evening news when a landslide has taken out an entire city e.g. Toronto.

Then Ailsa built a sand ‘volcano’, adding vinegar to red food-colouring and baking soda so that it frothed and bubbled over. Swept away in a paroxysm of joy, Finn flung himself on the volcano and licked it.

The week after, the coordinators made up vats of foam (Lux soap flakes whisked with warm water and some food-colouring) and slime (cornflour mixed with water and the playgroup staple: food-colouring). For half an hour, I held Finn literally at arm’s length, between my index finger and thumb.

The coordinators had supplied a bucket of warm water for the purpose of washing the babies’ hands. Well. I had to strip Finn down to his nappy and basically bathe him in the bucket. I even washed his hair, which was covered in pink goo.

Of course Finn loved it. But to put that in perspective, he also loves when I click in his ear – or shake my head. That’s the latest thing; it’s as if my purpose on this planet is to say ‘no’ for Finn’s exclusive entertainment. I should enjoy it before he realizes I say ‘no’ to RUIN HIS LIFE.

Thing is: Finn is a boy. There are already holes in the toes of his socks and muddy fingerprints on all my clothes. Before too long, it’ll be skidmarks on the lintels and slugs, snails and tails in my crockery. What I’m saying is: it’s innate. He hardly needs my endorsement to be messy – never mind ENCOURAGEMENT.

Sharing the drool: You’re welcome, Mama

Your fly’s down

Finn’s 8-10 week Plunket appointment was this morning.

The Plunket Nurse immediately established a tactical advantage by enquiring whether I needed a breast pad – which I assume is the Plunket equivalent of saying your fly’s down when it’s not. Because I wasn’t leaking.

At least, not much.

When I demurred, she swiftly pressed home the advantage by asking whether I was clinically depressed.

“Who- you mean- ME?”

I actually looked around to see if some lank-haired dead-eyed twitcher had crashed the appointment. I mean: my jeans fit; it was a beautiful day; Finn and I had just strolled through the Oamaru Gardens; I had only a suggestion of dribble in my hair, which was perfectly straight; and just for a change I had remembered to apply mascara to both eyes. Quite frankly, I was positively brimming with bounteous motherhood, the fucking epitome of relaxed, ruddy-faced mental health.

In the face of such a vicious onslaught, perhaps it’s no wonder I let slip that during mealtimes we sometimes placed Finn in his bouncy chair on the dining table.

“I would question the safety aspect of that arrangement,” said Nurse Plunket, menacingly swiveling her steel eye.

Now, being Finn’s mother has opened up whole new avenues of anxiety for me. Sorry; did I say avenues? Make that motorways. I worry about him falling down a well, or becoming allergic to polyester, or being unpopular in school, or doing drugs, or his ears growing disproportionately large. Recently I had a nightmare that he went blind. In summary: I have anxiety covered without the Plunket Nurse’s assistance.

But the LAST THING I worry about is a baby who’s not even aware he has ARMS undoing both clasps on a bouncy chair’s safety harness, then propelling himself up and out and over the side. Or bouncing so energetically that the chair springs past his parents and onto the floor. (That’s the second-last thing.)

And even my imagination does not extend to our solid wood dining table developing a sudden and alarming tilt that defies the bouncy chair’s non-slip grips.

She’ll have to do A LOT better than that to alarm me.

Amateur.

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.

Shock value: high

For months – years, even – the only thing we’ve been required to schedule are mealtimes. Although the thought of missing lunch fills me with a chill, clammy dread, in this instance my stomach is more reliable than a Swiss-precision timepiece.

However, I doubted I could rely on hunger to remind me of our first ante-natal class three weeks ago, so I made an entry in my diary along with a note the day before; and set two reminders on my phone supplemented with alarms.

OF COURSE I forgot. Early that afternoon, I brought the dog for a walk along Kakanui Beach and, after he swallowed most of the sea, some starfish and a piece of driftwood, Jed’s arse was a danger-zone. I didn’t want to drive back to Oamaru immediately in case he pebble-dashed the interior of the car, so I sat a while on the tailgate waiting for Jed to get it out of his system. I was reading an article on the importance of mulching and I’m not sure what nature of mental leap made me think, ‘THE ANTE-NATAL CLASS FUUUCK!’

I flung Jed and his volatile backside in the boot and stormed back into town. As I charged into the house, I roared up the stairs to Andrew, “The thingy! Class! The ante-natal class! It’s today! In fifteen minutes!” Whereupon we wasted a large portion of that time bumping into each other and swearing, until I leaped into the shower.

By 17:55, I was standing by the door waiting for Andrew, who was putting away some screwdrivers. Or whatever.

(In fact, we haven’t missed any of the classes so far – although not for want of trying.)

Naturally, we were the last couple to arrive, which meant we got the hard chairs. The other attendees were arrayed on an eclectic selection of furniture: a leaning lazy-boy, a sagging sofa, two pouffes with backs, and a number of hard chairs with no arms. The walls were decorated with some laminated posters depicting cross-sections of pregnant torsos and/or gimungous mammaries. While the prospective mothers sat around expectantly, the men sat and fidgeted and avoided eye-contact – or looking at the pictures.

I was immediately distracted by two plates of biscuits on the table – which basically meant I couldn’t concentrate on anything said during the first hour of the session.

I can only consider myself lucky, judging by the material presented in the remaining classes (six so far). Although I’m about twice as old as every other prospective mother there, I’m invariably the one slumped in her chair giggling helplessly whenever the instructor says ‘vagina’.

During a debrief the morning after the first class, still vaguely traumatised, I said to Andrew, “So we spend our entire lives trying to avoid saying the words ‘nipple’, ‘breast’, ‘penis’ or ‘perineum’ in polite company, and suddenly the conversation gets all pelvis-centric . . . and we’re expected not to laugh?

“Well, yes.”

“Oh my god, I am WAY too immature to have a baby.”

“Um-”

“So be honest: when the instructor lay on her back on the floor with her legs in the air like Invasion of the Giant Alien Beetles, did you not choke back a chortle?”

“Not especially. No!”

“I see. How about when she drew two dots on the whiteboard and said, ‘This is the vagina and this is the anus’. Seriously: are you trying to tell me you didn’t feel even remotely like sniggering?”

“Ok, maybe just a little bit.”

Here’s the thing: when I drop the word ‘vagina’ into a conversation I’m aiming to shock – which, you’ll no doubt agree, is understandable; even worthy in select circumstances – but when Sandra the instructor does it she’s in ABSOLUTE EARNEST.

Frankly, it’s freaky.

Also, just plain wrong.

Sometimes Sandra kicks off the class by asking, “Right! Who’s been practicing their perineal massage?” and, while I’m busy trying to hide under my chair, some of the girls actually RAISE THEIR HANDS.

I should be marginally more resolute after being subjected to a barrage of horrifying birthing videos featuring a plethora of fanny flaps. Particularly noteworthy was the very first video, with footage of a woman’s waters breaking. The slow-mo was a nice touch.

By far the most disgusting, appalling birthing video was that featuring the mother with hairy armpits. I mean: if you know you’re going to be on camera, surely you’d make an effort to shave your pits? At times it was hard to tell which was her head, the baby’s head or her armpits. There’s simply no excuse for that degree of hirsute.

As far as I’m concerned, whoever goes on about the beauty and miracle of birth has obviously not observed one: the mucous, the sweat, the blood, the throbbing neck-veins, the labouring women trying to rip their husbands’ heads off with their bare hands.

Actually, I don’t see why I have to be pre-informed in graphic detail about what’s going on down there. It’s not as if I’ll SEE it; and anyway, I’ll be preoccupied wondering how to rip Andrew’s head off with my bare hands. And I hardly need persuading via visual evidence that pushing a fully-formed human being out the vaj will likely sting a bit.

Just to mix it up, Sandra showed us a video that wasn’t called ‘Mutant Babies’, but could have been. Instead, it was titled ‘What Newborns Look Like’. Bless her, the new mother made every effort to look thrilled with her purple, mustachioed baby, but she was obviously dejected. There followed a gallery of newborns with giant gentalia, cone-heads, bruised foreheads, rampant zits, club feet, and one that looked like Mussolini.

And then there are the practicals. During the first class, Sandra lectured us on the importance of pelvic floor exercises, demonstrating the pressure a baby’s head exerts on the perineum with a sack of salt. Then she had us all practice pelvic floor exercises. Thankfully, she didn’t check to see we were doing it right. I was very proud of Andrew who really put his back passage into the exercise – I could actually see him clenching. Also, his gums turned white.

Thank goodness there are only two more classes to go – I just- I don’t think I can take much more

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.

ORCHARD!

We thought the house-hunting trip to Oamaru might afford an opportunity to shift some of our possessions.

We asked Sheriff if we could borrow his trailer – the official reason being that ours wasn’t big enough for the sort of Extreme Relocation Husband had in mind.

Unofficially, only two days before our extremely unpremeditated and totally disorganised trip, we realized our trailer’s warrant of fitness had expired. We considered renewing it on the way through Blenheim, except Andrew feared it would fail due to the condition of the wheels.

I suspect this officially qualifies us as Bogans.

Andrew wasn’t sure whether Sheriff had a trailer, because ‘he has a tractor’.

I really had no idea why possession of one precludes the other; so, “What the fuck are you talking about?” I snorted. “Of COURSE Sheriff has a fucking trailer. He has EVERYTHING. I’d stake my life and that of my unborn child and this delicious caramel slice on it. Oops. Too late.”

Admittedly an aggressively anti-dainty response, but I’m basically trying to spend my surplus swearing credit for the next 13+ years before the baby arrives. That’s a LOT of execration to jam into four months. My language is absolutely filthy. I’ll go back and attempt to edit it out of this post. (Note: this translates to a roughly 75% depreciation on wordcount.)

Of COURSE Sheriff has a state-of the art trailer that features its own braking system probably with anti-lock and hydraulics; it has four wheels, a jockey wheel, twice as much bed area as ours and a built-in spa pool.

Instead of merely touring our possessions around the country, we relocated my purple fridge, Andrew’s dirtbike, coolbox, a crate of Andrew’s junk oily man things, and two boxes of my crap beloved literature for storage at The Outlaws’.

Then we started into the property search, with a grand tour of all the open houses in and around Oamaru. This was equally uplifting and depressing. Uplifting from the perspective that there are some entirely habitable houses in Oamaru if you have a spare $200k and don’t mind strange, unidentifiable smells. Depressing due to the accumulative psychological effect of our standards imperceptibly rising with each property visited.

We visited pretty much every house for sale in Oamaru. Amongst the quite respectable family homes, we viewed places that would have been perfect had the garden extended further than the bush in a pot; houses with stunning views of the local landfill; houses with stunning aromas of the local meatworks; houses with State Highway One two paces from the front door; houses with patches of wall boarded up with plywood; places featuring grubby tenants in the front room preoccupied with snorting spliffs and erectile dysfunction.

Now, I’m not sure about Andrew, but I was expecting – perhaps it was naïve – or idealistically romantic for Oamaru – but I thought. Well.

I imagined Andrew and I walking into a house and our eyes meeting in an instant of perfect, piquant accord, our excitement swelling as we trail after the real estate agent until she leaves us to “talk it over”; barely containing myself until she closes the door softly behind her, then giving a shriek that somehow manages to be sexy and charmingly girlish rather than making the nerves spasm in cramp and leaping into Andrew’s arms and him twirling me around, laughing joyously. Then we’d both start talking at once and there’d be more joyous laughter and possibly more twirling.

So that didn’t happen. Didn’t come close. Possibly because I’m not sure Andrew’s given to anything more excessive than an enigmatic smirk. Also, of course, the social twiggle he issues to acknowledge someone has gone to the effort to make a joke although they’ll have to try MUCH harder to evince anything in the vicinity of joyous laughter.

He’s also not the twirling type – although I live in hope. Once – admittedly a LONG time ago – at least 10 years – also Andrew was really quite lopsided – we were at a nightclub and he treated me to a Dirty Dancing moment. You know after “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” Patrick Swayze throws Jennifer Whatsherchops over his head and then everyone starts dancing and he lifts her up in the air. That bit. Frankly, it was quite uncomfortable about the pits and after – ooh, I don’t know – four seconds, I felt a bit of a pratt poked up there. I know I was supposed to be carried away by the moment and Andrew’s strong, manly arms, and oblivious to anyone but him, but I ended up looking around thinking, “I hope he puts me down soon and nobody steals my vodka and ginger ale in the meantime”. But all said and done, it’s a nice experience to have shared together and I remember it fondly.

ANYHOO. It soon became apparent that Andrew’s and my preferences are – astonishingly – completely contradictory. Basically, the problem is that I prefer tasteful houses, while Husband doesn’t.

I fell for a gorgeous 1890 house in pristine condition about 25 minutes out of town with an orchard. ORCHARD! Everything I loved about it, Andrew hated: the walk-in larder off the kitchen (“That would just annoy me, having to walk down two steps to the fridge”), three bedrooms (“Too small”), original wood paneling (“Feels dark”), woolshed (“Eyesore. We’d have to tear that down”), a log burner and a destructor (“SNIFF!”), brass fittings (no comment), fully self-contained and largely self-sufficient (“Lots of maintenance”).

Andrew’s flat refusal to be swayed by the ORCHARD! makes me seriously question the foundation of our marriage if not our entire relationship.

Thankfully, whenever I struggle with doubt, I have that Dirty Dancing moment to fall back on.

The property Andrew liked didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. It had a roof, walls, driveway, whatever. View of the sea – but really, EVERYWHERE in Oamaru has a view of the sea. It also, admittedly, had lambs – but in my opinion lambs are overrated. I’ve just never understood their popularity/appeal.

It is probably just as well both properties are likely beyond our means at this point in time.

We will have to compromise between my search for a home that might sate my violent nesting instinct, and Andrew’s interest in investment potential and sale value.

I’m looking for a haven where I can hang mobiles and paint the nursery while considering the benefits of terry-cloth nappies over disposables. Andrew’s looking for a shack he can do up and make a killing on – preferably a massacre – in five years time.

I have visions of me going, “Honey, we need to go; contractions are 10 seconds apart and also: FU-” and Andrew saying, “Yeah, look, can you just give me two minutes until I finish plastering the fireplace.”

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.

Iceland is easier to spell

Before leaving Oamaru yesterday morning, I checked the newspapers and the Emirates and Christchurch Airport websites to see whether Husband’s flight had been cancelled due to the volcano in Chile. Not Iceland. I really feel the media could have been a bit clearer about that.

Thankfully, the ash cloud appears to have blown over.

Agent of Death and The Welsh Giant loaded the trailer while I supervised i.e. criticized Agent of Death’s knots. Due to a previous blog entry, wherein I lamented the quality of send-off staged by the in-laws when Husband was not around, a full complement of in-laws presented to issue hugs, kisses and trailer adjustments. Couldn’t fault them. On the one hand, balloons could have been a nice touch, but on the other they might have suggested celebration at the prospect of my departure. In retrospect, a sound decision.

After gleefully slagging off my in-laws in my blog, I suppose it is appropriate here to mention how overwhelmingly grateful I am for their hospitality and care over the last two months. Evidently I chose my in-laws well and feel privileged to be part of the family.

They were stunned when I left ten minutes before stated, at 09:50hrs. Somehow, I seem to have a reputation for being completely disorganized and eternally tardy. Which is a mystery to me.

The weather on the drive to Christchurch was miserable; grey and rainy. I took it easy with the fully loaded trailer. This included Andrew’s KTM dirtbike and a coolbox full of an ice-cream maker, a bread bin, three freshly sharpened knives, and a set of fish-themed coasters. There was also a tin trunk containing biking gear and tie-downs, and another full of partially-digested tennis balls. 

I reached the airport with plenty of time to spare. Husband rather optimistically/foolhardily/manfully strode out of the airport wearing a t-shirt. I have to say his welcome left much to be desired; Jed got a lot more pats than me. Admittedly, he didn’t snog the dog.

The plan was that Andrew would take on the bulk of 5.5 hour drive north, but after a while I resumed driving because his mach-speed cornering was making me nauseous.

We decided to stop in Kaikoura for a light dinner. For some reason, I absolutely had to have spicy potato wedges and nothing else would do. Since leaving Oamaru, I had been preoccupied imagining the tearful reunion with Husband – and a big, greasy plate of spicy wedges, preferably with sour cream and sweet chili sauce and maybe even some grated cheese sprinkled over the top *slaver*.

Luckily we located a Monteith’s bar; it seemed portentous that there was a double-parking space right out the front. Sure enough, the menu featured spicy potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. I persuaded the Irish barman to throw on some cheese by leveraging his lack of Guinness.

Andrew had spare ribs, or something.

Quick stop at New World for some staples – milk, bread, eggs, coffee – and we got home at about 21:30. It was raining and we couldn’t find the key for the gate padlock; it didn’t appear to be on our keyring. After some prolonged torch-lit rummaging through glove box, centre console, door pouches, and my bag, Andrew eventually hunted it down . . . on the keyring.

We’d planned to collapse straight into bed, but our landlords/neighbours had left a tub of pumpkin soup and some of their freshly-baked white supremacy bread on the sideboard. And I can’t recall ever having seen anything so welcome ever – even that time Andrew got dressed up in . . .

Yes, well.

I suppose it’s all about timing and appropriateness.

Restrictive library snack policy

Time is a valuable thing,
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it tick down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away.

When I stay with The Outlaws, most days I go into Oamaru to write.

There are too many distractions around the farm: the projectile mud, the violent decor, the mice inhabiting the sofa, Agent of Death’s collection of home-made rum. I also find it harder to ignore the magnetising appeal household chores exert on me when the alternative is writing: unloading the dishwasher, sorting out the spice drawer, fishing out lumps of roast potato from under the oven.

Most critically, I can access the kenken.com site here. Mathematical and/or logic puzzles are to me as vodka is to an alcoholic, or laxatives to a model. At home, Husband has banned selected puzzle and game sites at the server level. These include: Kenken, Kakuro, Killer Sudoku, Tetris and the NY Times games page. Ooh- that reminds me: I wonder if The Sun still has its games arcade?

Looks like that’s tomorrow scheduled.

Anyway. I occasionally work in the library in town, but the librarians don’t allow you to eat snacks even if you bring them yourself. This TOTALLY stifles my creativity, which is a fragile, sensitive entity that requires calm, quiet and careful nourishment.

I used to go to The Bridge Cafe on Thomas St, but the staff were too friendly. Aggressive conversationalists, they were undaunted by my headphones and loud humming and hiding behind my laptop pretending I didn’t see them. They all wanted to know how the writing was going? – to which the answer became increasingly obvious. I persevered because the owner used to give me free coffee, but when that dried up I resolved to relocate my custom to another establishment.

I chose The Roost Cafe. Regrettably, The Roost is directly opposite The Bridge on 30 Thames St. I still cross the road to avoid walking past The Bridge; then hide around a corner and dart really fast into The Roost when a truck passes.

The Roost is FABULOUS and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Their food is modern and delicious: tortilla stacks, smoked salmon quiche, spanakopita, mushroom and blue cheese tarts, a variety of open grill sandwiches. The coffee comes with a tiny, delectable truffle; and the hot chocolate is made with real chocolate.

The staff don’t seem to mind that I can make a cup of coffee and a scone last 3-4 hours; or that I plug my laptop into their power point; or that I have been witnessed chair-dancing while rapping aloud to Linkin Park.

The other day, after a successful afternoon’s creative endeavour, I went to pay for my hot chocolate and scone with cream and jam. About five people – or basically, the full complement of staff on duty – were clustered around the point of sale system. They all looked harried; an elderly woman was on the phone – obviously to a technician (I heard her say, ‘Yes, I’ve TURNED it off and on. YES I’LL WAIT.’) – with a finger jammed up to the wrist in the opposite ear.

“I hate to bother you,” I said to the young dude who’d originally taken my order, “but I’d like to pay.”

“Oh. Ah,” he said, breaking into a light sweat. “We have- you see- this- we can’t-”

“Look. I can pay cash if you can access the register, or, you know, I’ll be in again tomorrow . . .”

Evidently I don’t look like the trustworthy type, because he said, “Oh, you can pay cash.”

So he calculated the total on a piece of scrap paper and I handed over $10 and he managed to open the cash register without aid of a screwdriver and he handed me my change.

And then I said,

“Can I have a receipt, please?”

AND NOBODY LAUGHED.

Can you believe it?

I might forgive them, because they do great scones.

Effluent challenge greater than ever

Cozy Dell

We came down to Oamaru to spend Easter Weekend with the Outlaws. Once we were here, it seemed pointless driving home only to return for the opening of duck shooting. Why not stay and kill two birds with one stone and maybe even an Easter bunny? Or better still, use a rifle.

Ok look, unless you’re vegetarian, I don’t want to hear how cruel hunting is, or how ducks probably don’t think it’s much of a sport (which is hardly surprising not having much in the way of higher intelligence). The living conditions of many domestic animals are appalling and the transfer and processing are crueller than a clean bullet through the head. We can duel if you disagree. (Except I don’t shoot stuff.)

While I’m on the subject, wasn’t the Royal Wedding simply lovely?

The Outlaw’s farm is like our second home. Agent of Death makes a terrific gin and tonic. The tangy aroma of fried fish first thing in the morning. A brown dog multiplied by a factor of three. And I’ve never come across a range of reading material in a bathroom more energising to the lower intestine:

  • New Zealand Fishing News – sample articles: ‘Squid tactics’, ‘Attack of the killer bream’
  • NZ Hunter (with a Deliverance-style picture of a stary dude holding up a set of antlers still attached to the deceased stag) – ‘Pimp your rifle: a new barrel in 7mm SRUM and a dial up scope’
  • Rod & Rifle – ‘Chukar NZ’s toughest gamebird’
  • Country Wide – ‘INSIDE: Special report: Irrigation’
  • Inside Dairy: Your Levy in Action – ‘Managing mastitis’
  • Dairy News – ‘Effluent challenge greater than ever’
  • Farm Trader – ‘Drills, slurry & fertiliser equipment reviewed’
  • Guns & Hunting – ‘Fitting a .223 true-flite barrel with an HCS suppressor’
  • NZ House & Garden – ‘Screenprinting made simple’
  • Country Living – ‘Organic tweeds for today’

My bowels have achieved an efficiency and precision that is, literally, moving.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of our dog. The change in his diet – goats milk, deer tongue, putrid rabbits – has resulted in some terrifying emissions from his butt. Sometimes opening the bedroom door in the morning sends a shock-wave sweeping through the house.

The other evening, Husband and I took Jed down to Cozy Dell, known locally as Nooky Cove, to wash off some of his insulating crust of cow shit. The temperature was perky. However, the light was gorgeous, with the late sun slanting low through the trees.

Husband's builder's bum was a bit camera-shy that day.

'Thank you' is Jed's command to give up whatever's in his mouth. For a dog, he has beautiful manners.

Husband builds cairn. Only because he knocked it over in the first place.

Jed waits for the off.

As a bonus, here’s a couple of vids of Jed diving for his water-logged tennis ball. He hasn’t QUITE figured out how to breathe underwater. Yet.

Jed lets Husband know just how cold the water is:

Some obscure title totally unrelated to subject matter

When I was last in Oamaru, Her Goatiness asked me to take some pictures of beech trees.

Agreeing with one’s mother-in-law is generally accepted to be a wise, self-preserving course of action. Naturally, I agreed. I’m not sure why she asked me to photograph beech trees as opposed to, say, oak trees, or pine trees, or dolphins. It may be related to her recently painting a portion of her kitchen purple. Otherwise, it’s anyone’s guess.

Today it was just me and Jed out walking and – crucially – I had my camera with me and – even more crucially – no Husband, who tends to hover when I have my camera out, going: “Are you finished yet? How about now? How about now?”

In a perfect confluence of circumstance, the logging operation impeding the access track up to the beech forest was abandoned. Ever since I returned from my travels, the pine forest has been a wasteland: great scars scored in the earth, splintered trees tossed aside, diggers and generators discarded like giant toys in a quagmire of mud. Today, the ground steamed in the mid-day sun as I squelched up the track, following the ruts left by caterpillar wheels.

When Her Goatiness first asked, I personally envisioned maybe four or five artfully spaced trunks in perfect vertical formation. Unfortunately, it appears the local variety of beech tree don’t grow straight, but kind of sideways and/or curly. There were also a high proportion of dead trees. While I’m on a roll with the excuses, the light was a bit watery.

Actually, that could have been rain.

Really, the most concrete thing that came out of the exercise was the realisation that I had absolutely no idea what Her Goatiness wanted.

I took some snaps anyway, experimenting with composition and camera settings. Back home on the ‘puter, I marginally increased saturation, and cranked up the saturation to 70% and these are the results:-

Beech tree

 

Beech tree

 

Beech tree

Delicate aroma of stewed clutch

It was cold and wet at 07:00hrs in Oamaru. The send-off committee consisted of Agent of Death and Morty. Agent of Death was so unimpressed by the cold and wet he didn’t venture further than the yard.

I have to say, the send-off committee is definitely better when Andrew is (about to be not) present. There was a distinct lack of streamers, bunting and muted weeping. Well, Her Goatiness was at a goat conference, so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of muted weeping. The nearest approximation was when Agent of Death stepped on Morty’s tail, but that was more a strident yowl.

I was glad it was raining on Sunday, as oppozed (what, opposed isn’t spelled with a ‘z’? Oh come on: it TOTALLY should be!) to freezing. If I don’t post this pic now, it’ll wallow on my hard disk forever never seeing the light of LCD; so here’s what Saturday’s crack of dawn looked like:-

Yep, it really was that cold.

It rained pretty much all the way to Christchurch. I was picking up a bread machine in Riccarton at 11:30 and found the street despite my scribbled directions to myself (I can no longer read my own handwriting). I located Number 4 Flat 3, and hammered on the door for a while. It was opened by a student who had evidently just tumbled out of bed. He featured a spectacular quiff and was wearing a scarf and not an awful lot of much else. I had previously thought Kiwi blokes’ aversion to clothes was limited to summer. Not any more.

“Dude, I hope to god you’re not Shamsen from Trademe,” I said, backing up sharply.

“No.”

“Grand, sorry to disturb you.” 

After some frantic texting, Shamsen from Trademe located me and handed over the bread machine.

When the weather picked up a bit, I stopped to give Jed a run. Since the boot was full of Husband’s crap treasured belongings, Jed was creased into the passenger compartment. The novelty of sitting on the seat headbutting the gearstick soon wore off as he struggled to get comfortable in the footwell.

Are we there yet?

Hey! My legs still work!

Snuffle time

Getting to grips with a stick

The rest of the drive was moody, the mountains drifting in and out of mist and veils of rain. I stopped for a couple of photos, although it’s always tricky taking pics along the SH1 which don’t lo0k like a close up of a fence, or a study of a lorry’s radiator grille. I’m not a big fan of landscape photography generally – mainly because the digital representation never looks anything as good as the real thing. These images convey only a fraction of the atmospheric broodiness – (I’m thinking around 2/31. Too generous? 3/92 then):-

Close up of a lorry's radiator grille

Study of a fence

The trailer posed few problems. I guess the main key is avoiding awkward situations where e.g. the car is hanging over a cliff with the trailer at a right-angle behind. But that only happened once.

On another occasion, I misjudged how trailer-friendly a garage was from the other side of the road in pouring rain. I basically cut off all access to the rear yard while I filled up, then had to park nose-kerb to pay. However, at the peak of the park I twiddled the steering wheel so the trailer was pointed in the right direction for reversing, and whatever I subsequently backed over was small, so it was all good.

(All things considered, I would call that garage trailer-antagonistic.)

After negotiating the entrance to our drive in a frankly brilliant five-point turn, I was probably over-confident in deciding to back the trailer into the garage. I approached the manoeuvre with a soupcon too much flair, and fetched up in a tree.

The tree/car was on a fairly aggressive slope. It took twenty minutes and the delicate aroma of stewed clutch before I finally positioned the trailer.

My life in a parallel universe

The last week has been a heady whirl of glamorous parties, premieres, photo shoots, and jet setting off to Monaco to sip truffle daiquiris on a super yacht with Caroline and the lads . . . No wait, that’s someone else’s life.

In mine, Husband returned and we spent the next three days making sweet sweet love when we weren’t enjoying candlelit dinners and floating candles on the balcony. Needless to say, we are not only exhausted, but also several kilos lardier! No wait, that’s not my life either – although it sounds like it should be only without the lard.

I’ve been busy writing my fifth runaway blockbuster, while engaged on an exhilarating schedule of global book tours, tv shows and – woah! Have I stumbled into a parallel universe? Hey – maybe it’s a future timeframe! Ooh, exciting. But in the meantime, I’ve been editing my second novel following feedback from my editor.

Two days after Husband arrived home, we embarked on an exciting round the world tour of many different, exotic locations to experience new things and see sights we had never seen before, like Niagara Falls.

Well, we flew down to see the Outlaws in Oamaru.

Close enough.

Today Jed and I were menaced by a herd of zombie cows.

Sadly, that one is true.

Ducks: a savage species

So the next post was to be an account of the great road trip home from Oamaru. I am pure MORTIFIED to be writing about it so long after the event. At least two weeks’ hindsight bathes the trip in a warm, rosy tint – what I can recall of it.

Although we were sailing the following day, we planned on hitting the road early. At least, that was MY plan. Husband being an off-the-cuff, extemporaneous, free-spirited, spontaneously impromptu, much like a dandelion in the wind sort of type (i.e. completely disorganized), he decided to plaster Her Goatiness’s kitchen around the time we should have been blazing a north bound trail out of Timaru.

Then he and Agent of Death disappeared in the Red Truck, and reappeared with a MIG welder.

For anyone wondering why a MIG welder was required for the journey home, I never quite got to the bottom of this. I asked Husband, and he said its purpose was: ‘to weld stuff’. So now you know as much as I do.

There followed some heated discussion about how to transport the MIG welder, along with three times as much baggage as I had arrived with – and that’s not counting the emotional variety.

Since the welder was roughly the width of the car, Husband suggested lashing it to the roof rack. Then he debated the merits of lashing the cool box to the roof rack – and the dog – or maybe the dog would fit IN the cool box – except the cool box was full of blue cod, lamb chops, abalone and dead ducks.

By this stage, I was all for lashing Husband to the roof rack, but we eventually fitted everything in the boot in a precariously wedged jumble of bags, MIG welder, cool box, camping chairs, and dog.

The journey from Oamaru to Picton was largely unmemorable. In Picton, we stayed in pet-friendly Aldan Lodge Motel (which I would have no hesitation recommending unreservedly but for their website featuring a picture of some slut with savage seventies hairdo in a bathtub. Our studio unit had a shower, which was thankfully accessorized only with a soap dispenser).

The following morning we were up at 05:20hrs to catch the 06:05 Interislander ferry. True to form, we set off later than ideal; tensions flared when I thought Husband was about to drive over a two-foot high kerb and let out a piercing scream; then – and I’m still not sure how we managed this given that every road sign in Picton directs you to the Interislander – the ferry, after all, being the whole POINT of Picton – we got lost on the way to the terminal.

But that was all so much dramatic tension: we made the crossing. We took our time driving up from Wellington and, about 30km south of Turangi, turned west off the Desert Road towards Mount Ruapehu. After driving a few kilometers up a gravel road, we stopped to introduce Jed to snow.

And here’s another, this time without the same extent of puppy talk and insane, spine-chilling cackling:-

That evening, we stayed at Creel Lodge. The following morning, I hauled Husband out of bed at 06:30 for a walk along the Tongariro River. Husband claimed he was still technically asleep, but that didn’t stop him bitchin’ about the hour of morning and how <expletive deleted> cold it was. He was more unimpressed than I’ve seen him in a long while.

His mood lightened imperceptibly with the dawn and my offer of a hat. However, he was cast back into the black abyss of despair when I produced my cream beanie with the cutest little tomato-stalk design feature on the crown. He must have been really very chilly, because he also donned my baby-blue fleece. Regrettably there is no photographic evidence, but even if there were, I would not be allowed post it: Husband censors graphic images and any mention of his entertaining inability to process alcohol.

Later that day, we stopped in Cambridge to take Jed for another walk. Generally, Husband and I pride ourselves on being entirely responsible dog owners, but we let the side down at Te Koutu Lake Reserve, when Jed plunged into the lake and struck out towards a group of ducks. Husband and I were rendered useless with fits of giggles; we couldn’t even gasp a squeaky recall between the pair of us.

Jed’s such a great pussy that if one of the ducks had quacked sideways at him, he would have been out of the lake yelping and trying to crawl up my leg. Thankfully, none of the ducks savaged him – or us. We all arrived home largely intact in mind, body and spirit – although Husband’s sanity was mildly dented

Windburn

I planned on driving until I felt tired, then pulling up beside a lake or stream, cuddling up to Jed for warmth, sleeping like an antivampire, then waking to watch the sun rise over snow-capped mountains.

Husband failed to appreciate this romantic vision. In fact, he really didn’t enter into the spirit of the road trip AT ALL. He suggested that if I slept in the car, I should camp in a populated location like a garage or Mitre 10 carpark. If I was questioned by police, I was to say I felt sleepy,  so pulled over for a nap as recommended by their copious advertisements lining SH1. He asked if I had a torch; when I answered in the affirmative, he asked if I had a 48” monkey wrench to twat all the assailants who would be queuing up to break into a 1992 Toyota Hilux Surf with duct tape over the rust spots.

Husband finally snuffed out the last vestiges of my spirit by pointing out that a guesthouse would be equipped with a shower.

He booked me into Sequoia Lodge in Picton: $27 for a bed in an empty dorm, complimentary hot water bottle, bedlinen, and lashings of hot water.

At 04:00hrs, I woke up feeling cold, and lay there for a while fretting about Jed’s temperature in the back of the car. I got up, pulled on a top and pair of jeans, and went to check on him. Jed was shivering, so I wrapped my fleece around him and put his little paws in the sleeves. I rubbed him for twenty minutes, then added another two rugs to his wool blanket and left him again. However, I was still anxious about my puppy, so I got up early.

Applying makeup at 06:00hrs is a measure of how much I love Husband. That, and how haggard I looked (after six hours of sleep, I resembled two-week-old carrion).

We were past Blenheim when the sun rose over the sea. It was so beautiful – full of golden promise, the sanctity of a new day, a suggestion of redemption – that it brought tears to my eyes. Alternatively, it might have been the knowledge that I willfully passed up another couple of hours in bed, or Jed vigorously licking my left ear, or a combination of all the above.

Pulling off SH1, Jed and I bounced down to a wide, shallow river tumbling over bleached rocks. It was balmy: the sun was warm, the sky a piercing summer blue. I stripped down to a thermal top, long sleeved t-shirt, woolly jumper, fleece and a jacket (it was a lightweight jacket). Jed splashed around a while, then settled down by the water to chew his bone. I sat on a large rock and raised my face to the sun and felt fulsomely content.

After Blenheim there was a garage drought, so even though I still had a quarter tank of diesel left, I stopped to fill up in Kaikoura.

“How much is diesel per litre?” I asked when I went to pay, still mildly stunned at having to fork out the same amount for three quarters of a tank of gas as a full tank in Auckland.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the cashier, fingering his left nipple. “Changes all the time. Goes up and down.”

“I noticed neither you nor the BP Connect up the road advertised the rate.”

“Yeah, we’re too embarrassed. The locals don’t like us much.”

“Well, I’m from out of town and I don’t like you much either. If that makes you feel any better.”

“Oh, ah, no, not really.” Although he laughed, but I wasn’t really joking.

For two days, I had subsisted on a restricted road trip diet of a) crisps b) salted peanuts c) sandwiches d) pies e) chocolate f) whole, solid forms of fruit and/or g) mints. Further down the main drag in Kaikoura, I stopped at Hislops Organic Café to treat myself to breakfast, and had a visceral response to the hash browns served with my eggs benedict. They were a genuine taste sensation. The staff at Hislops also recharged my mobile phone, brought Jed a bowl of water, and scratched his ears. In fact, the service could only have been improved had they scratched my ears, too. Highly recommended, campers.

Although vast tracts of the trip were unremarkable, there are snapshots that stand out with a shining clarity: mist over Lake Taupo; the incredible blue of the sea driving down the east coast – each wave trailing a half rainbow; Jed charming drivers out the back window; sitting by the road with the morning paper in Kaikoura with my dog by my feet. There was something liberating about not being answerable to anyone, with nothing to do but drive and think about whatever popped into your head (admittedly, not that much, usually).

Every time I let Jed out for a break, he went berserk; yet not once did he refuse to get back into the car. I was so proud of my little boy.

We arrived in Oamaru shortly before 17:00hrs. Jed was overjoyed to see Husband again and leapt around doing cartwheels and somersaults, much like myself.

ROAD TRIP STATISTICS

Total mileage
Auckland to Wellington 658km
Picton to Oamaru 583km

Total driving time
Auckland South to Wellington 8 hrs
Picton to Oamaru 7 hours

Percentage of time Jed stuck his head out the window
8

Injuries sustained
Niamh: superficial scarring on forehead from stick wound
Jed: windburn

The Invisible Grotto of the Travel Crate Door

Husband left for Oamaru this day last week to catch the last weekend of duck shooting and partake in some serious alcohol abuse with the Outlaws.

I did not join him because my friend, Helen, was over from Dubai. She had asked me to accompany her on a three-day road trip to visit her friend in Tokoroa, and then to Turangi. Kind of like Thelma and Louise, only without the attempted rape, murder and mutual suicide pact; and if I spotted Brad Pitt I was resolved to tell him to wipe that self-satisfied smirk off his gob, although the gay cowboy theme rather suited him.

On Tuesday night, I returned home tired and grumpy after the 350km drive from Turangi. I unloaded the mountain bikes, fed the dog, unpacked my bag. I was scheduled to fly to Dunedin on the 09:55hrs Pacific Blue flight the following day.

Then disaster struck; although it didn’t STRIKE so much as creep up gradually like tentacles of doom as it gradually dawned on me that the door of Jed’s travel crate was missing. I mean, at first I thought it was just hiding playfully. When it did not respond to my summons, I searched the house and determined it was temporarily misplaced. Finally, I resigned myself to the fact that the door had vanished from the face of the earth without a trace.

Although Husband provided telephone support, he was – and it pains me to admit this – he was of limited use. He had no idea where the door might be. He had no recollection of putting it anywhere in particular. He refused to consider leaving Jed with the Other Outlaws. He was unnecessarily negative about the possibility of hiring a crate at 22:30hrs. He looked up Trademe to see whether there were any large crates for sale with a ‘buy now’ option. He suggested I send him the crate dimensions and he would ‘make a door’ and courier it up to me the following day

So instead of leaning on Husband when the pitch of panic reached critical levels, I called Pacific Blue.

Since I had purchased a budget ticket, they would neither reschedule my flight nor refund the fare.

Bastards.

And so my average success rate with catching public transport has dropped to 42%. I take comfort from the fact that this is the first time I have missed a flight due to a disappeared door. Give me some credit: my usual style is to turn up at the airport and THEN realize there was no door.

At least I didn’t have to worry about packing. I went to bed instead, where I had nightmares about turning up at Auckland Airport with a makeshift door constructed of welded paperclips and chicken wire affixed to the crate with baling twine and hardened Wrigley’s Juicyfruit.

The following morning, I awoke dark and early and formulated a cunning plan.

Well, I did not want to hire a crate because upon his return, chances are Husband a.k.a. ‘Sniffer’ will walk into the Twilight Zone that is his garage and find the missing door lying in the middle of the floor, or surrounded by hundreds of lit candles in a grotto in the center of the bench – in much the same way as he solved the Mystery of the Missing Marriage Certificate, which was not really that mysterious in the end – or, for that matter, missing – although it was indeed a genuine marriage certificate (although issued in Ireland so you never really know).

For much the same reason, I did not want to purchase another crate.

And so I did what any sane, rational person would have decided to do under the circumstances

Frosty morning in Oamaru

Yesterday morning my dog alarm went off at 07:00hrs and, after I had wiped my face, I took Jed outside. It was so cold I would have cried, except I was afraid my eyeballs would freeze.

0905-sunrise

Sunrise

 

0905-paddocks

Frost on the paddocks

 

0905-nettle

Operation Beautification

Operation Beautification commenced the week before Husband’s triumphant return. General follicle extermination, eyebrow plucking and trimming,  intense moisturising, deep conditioning, teeth straightening, moustache waxing.

However, he highlight of the entire campaign was The Hairdo. I have been growing my hair for what feels like several millenia. One of the reasons for this – apart from how long it takes hair to grow – I mean, what is WITH that? – is that hairdressers seem to treat an instruction to trim the ends within a tolerance of half a centimetre like some sort of dare.

Since I did not trust a hairdresser near my voluminous tresses, the long and not-so-short of it is that I had not had a haircut for a good six months.

Mother-In-Law’s hairdresser, Kris, was fully booked and getting married the same day Husband arrived.

“Well, I appreciate that, but this is an emergency,” said Mother-In-Law. Indeed, when she explained the extent of my hairiness including inadvertent cranial topiary, Kris bumped some local celeb to fit me in on Tuesday afternoon.

Bless her, Kris did an awesome job. She thinned it at the ends as per the photo I provided, and funked it up around my face. Now I look like this except without the highlights and self-satisfied pout:-

0904-hair

The day before Husband flew into Christchurch, I decided to test the gorgeousness. Hair straighteners being a relatively new technology for me, it took me half a day to blow-dry and straighten my hair.

Being a responsible dog owner, I still rolled up my jeans and took Jed for his half hour walk across the fields before going into Oamaru to do some work.

Note the walk.

It is relevant.

Because as I sashayed up Oamaru’s main drag tossing my hair around and feeling totally foxy, I attracted a more than fair share of attention. ‘By chuff!’ I thought, ‘you may be skidding towards middle age, but obviously you can still work it BABY!’

Around this stage, I even adopted a self-satisfied pout.

Then I noticed a passerby staring intently in the region of my lower leg, which was when I realised one leg of my jeans was still rolled up to the knee

Nocturnal habits of North Otago

Mother-In-Law has no clothes dryer and only one set of bed linen. Therefore, laundering the sheets is conditional on the weather.

She is specific about her requirements: light south westerly, bright sunshine, little to no cloud cover, 32+degrees, and a cast-iron guarantee that the given conditions will persist to late afternoon. She has to make her decision before 7am, because her washing machine takes about five hours for a cycle due to low water pressure.

I suppose she must wash her sheets about once a year.

In Oamaru yesterday, I passed a shop with a bargain bin full of bedlinen. Standing out amidst a truly startling selection of blood-quickening bedwear, was a set of royal-blue satin queen-sized bedsheets.

Did I mention they were satin?

They were.

Satin.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised with a certainty and conviction atypical for me, that royal-blue satin queen-sized bedsheets were the only possible way to express my keen appreciation and gratitude to the Outlaws for putting me up for the last x months weeks.

I took the sheets – secured with a matching satin ribbon – inside to pay.

“Aren’t they LOVELY?” enquired the saleswoman.

“Um,” I mumbled, humbled by her sincerity. “What, the sheets? Er, yes! Yes, indeed.”

“Was it the colour that caught your eye?”

“Oh yes, it really stood out,” I said, grabbing my purchase and making a run for it.

I called into a newsagents a few doors down to see if I could buy some matching wrapping paper. There was nothing bright enough – but I got something else.

“Is there any chance I could wrap this here?” I asked, reluctantly setting the sheets on the counter.

“Oh, my! Aren’t those GORGEOUS?” breathed the saleswoman.

I can only conclude the good denizens of Oamaru all sleep on bright blue satin sheets – or at least aspire to it

Oamaru – local dialect

At New World Supermarket in Oamaru today, I stood in line behind a man emitting a subtle aroma of beer-marinated nicotine. He was attempting to procure two six packs of beer, but appeared confused by the transactionary nature of the exchange.

Him: This <EXPLETIVE RHYMING WITH ‘MUNT’ APPLIED AS AN ACTIVE VERB DELETED> <EXPLETIVE DELETED>ing government.

Me: Um.

Him: I mean, they <EXPLETIVE DELETED> you in the ASS – half of this is <EXPLETIVE DELETED> tax.

Me: Ok then.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a passionate fan of appropriate swearing. However, I was so shocked by this man’s language I dropped a packet of frozen peas.

After he had shambled off to process his beer before dinner:-

Me (to checkout assistant): Oh my god!

Checkout assistant: He wasn’t very happy.

Me: You think? He used words I didn’t know existed. Or maybe I’ve just had a sheltered upbringing-

Checkout assistant, with indulgent chuckle: Ooh, I think you have, dearie.

Me: ARE YOU <EXPLETIVE DELETED> SHITTING ME?!

It’s either me or The Stick

0904-lake-waitaki

A couple of weeks ago, The Outlaws and I went on a little day-trip to Lake Waitaki. Mother and Stepfather-In-Law, Sister and Boyfriend-In-Law and three brown dogs crammed into the car.

The journey was memorable for two reasons.

The first was meeting The Warrior at a cafe in Kurau, where we stopped for lunch pies. The Warrior punctuates his conversation with intermittent headbutts. Last time I saw him, at Sister-In-Law’s 40th party, he was so inebriated he made serious play (not that someone has to be drunk to put the moves on me – although it undoubtedly helps). The conversation went something like this:-

Warrior: Hi you’re <INDETERMINATE> nice I’m <INDETERMINATE> Warrior but I prefer to be known as <INDETERMINATE>.

Me: Um, yeah, we’ve met.

Warrior: We . . . we have? Oh . . . yeah! You’re the <INDETERMINATE>. From . . . from last night. He-ey! I had <INDETERMINATE> lovely time-

Me: I’m very pleased for you, but I think you have me confused with someone else.

Warrior: You’re . . . not . . . <INDETERMINATE>? From last night?

Me: Er. No. We met at Hampden Pub. New Year’s Eve.

Warrior: Not . . . last night?

Me: No. Oh hey, I’m going to go and talk to my husband.

Warrior: What? YOU HAVE A HUSBAND? I didn’t . . . you never said . . .

Me: Bye now.

In the cafe, I pretended not to notice him: no easy feat in a space the size of your average parking space.

The second reason was that Jed broadcasted nuclear farts the entire journey. By the time we arrived at the lake, my pooch and I were not the most popular members of the family.

I am still blown away (to clarify, I’ve moved on from farting) by how Jed looks at me as if I am the most awesome being in his little universe. I flatter myself this is due to more than just my status as a sophisticated bone delivery system.

My puppy is pretty loyal (although said loyalty is admittedly concentrated by a baggie full of chicken liver). But when it comes down to the wire: a desperate choice beween me and a mouldy old termite-infested stick?

Yeah, it’s the stick.

Every time.

0904-jed-fetches

Jed fetching Stick.

 

0904-speechless-audience1

Jed’s audience, speechless with admiration at his stick-retrieval abilities.

 

0904-wheres-the-stick

Ok: where is it?

 

0904-two-brown-dogs

Two brown dogs: Jed and sister Lottie

My definition of daring

You see? After swearing never to refer again to a single member subset of the genus canid, I have nothing to blog about. Outside Jed – OOPS! – my life is an arid wasteland of tedium, in no way resembling an enchanted kingdom or even an interesting and/or action packed environment.

The other day, Husband abandoned me again to return to Dubai. I think it is a temporary arrangement, although there is some question over exactly how temporary. We agreed three weeks (i.e. I said, ‘Three weeks is about the maximum I can live without your presence in my life, preferably two’, and Husband didn’t disagree. Admittedly, he said nothing at all apart from ‘What did he say?’ and that was much later and while watching a movie, although still falling within the period of time Husband deems acceptable to respond to a topic of conversation i.e. ten minutes).

To Husband, time is a fairly fluid concept, a handy tool he can apply with discretion to bend and shape a given situation. But I am hopeful there is a high probability I will see my husband again before Christmas 2011.

In the meantime, I am flying down to Oamaru to stay with The Outlaws. I can’t remember whether they invited me, or I invited myself. In any case, the result is much the same.

I have not booked a return flight or alternative means of transport home. It is so completely out of character for me that the flexibility, uncertainty and sheer recklessness of this open arrangement blows my mind when I think about it too hard. I feel intrepid, mysterious, daring and really quite anxious

Expect more of the same indefinitely, apologies

090221-jed-and-scrubbing-brush

Jed’s new toy. No, it’s a dish scrubber, not a toilet brush.

090221-jed-shows-brush-whos-boss

Note: scrape marks pre-date Jed; made by Husband. Image taken milliseconds before he decided my camera would make for a much better toy.

At 16kg and 80cm long, Jed’s already a champion heavyweight. He didn’t fit Mother and Stepfather-In-Law’s wooden crate, which failed to meet Pacific Blue’s crate specifications in any case i.e. large enough for the dog to express himself and constructed of metal or a polypropylene material.

Two days before flying to Auckland, I thought it would be a good idea to get a crate for him. Knowing little of the animal kingdom, apart from steering clear of large species with pointy teeth and/or small species with stingers, I thought procuring a crate would be a simple matter. Surely any old pet shop would sell a wide variety of crates? I was mainly concerned with tracking down the best value crate, preferably on special offer.

This delusion persisted until I had phoned all the vet and pet shops within a sixty mile radius of Oamaru, and a guy that ‘might be able to help because he owns a whippet’. Most pet shops do not stock crates large enough to hold an animal of Jed’s mighty stature, but one helpful assistant told me she could order one for Christmas except not right then because the shop had just closed for the weekend.

Pacific Blue does not rent crates, but PetMove does. Although it cost us more than a single flight, Shaune was wonderfully reassuring and helpful and agreed that Jed sounded like the best dog in the world possibly ever.

Before we left, we consulted a vet to discuss whether there was any way we could make the journey more comfortable for Jed. She did not advise sedating him, because there is a risk of putting the animal so far under they stop breathing. However, she sold us a homeopathic remedy to apply half an hour before the flight.

“$30 for a bunch of herbs and spices in water,” muttered Andrew.

“Look, it might be worth it,” I said doubtfully. The vet said it only worked for some dogs – and in truth, even she looked dubious.

Well, I don’t know whether it was the herbs and spices, but Jed went into his crate at the airport and sat there looking not entirely jolly, but certainly magnanimous.

That day – Monday – was a big day for The Jedster. He arrived at Auckland Airport like a dignitary, as if he did this sort of thing all the time, but when he saw us he abaondoned composure to caper around the place charming passers by.

To date, Jed has been driven sitting on someone’s knee, mainly for the purpose of directing vomit into a towel. (His, in case of ambiguity.) By the time we left Oamaru, Jed was pretty good at internalising his stomach acid, so for the drive home from the airport we installed him in the boot with his dog blanket and Ducky. Now he loves car trips – especially when Husband drives.

Our hard floors and two flights of stairs presented a challenge for him. When Jed stampedes down the stairs, he still skids halfway across the living room floor on his arse.

Glass is also a relatively new concept. Husband put tape across the floor/ceiling windows after Jed rebounded off the balcony door. At night, he tries to play with his own reflection, which is terrific fun for the whole family.

It is a fairly steep learning curve for us too: the projectile barf, the spine-chilling scratching in the night, the diarrhea and the accidents – two of the number 1 variety so far. I am not counting the time Husband crept up on Jed and he wet himself, because I can fully understand that.

Curly coats are renowned for being picky eaters; even the Outlaws’ dog Morty, a curly coat/lab cross, is a fine diner. The day after we got home, I called Stepfather-In-Law to fret about Jed’s disdain for his breakfast.

“He seems to be off his food,” I said.

Whereupon Stepfather said the equivalent of ‘No shit’, except that knowing Stepfather-In-Law, he probably said, ‘No <expletive deleted> shit’.

At least yesterday morning, Jed savaged a plate of mince that even Mother-In-Law would consider voluminous

Strictly automatic

I got a Canon 450D for Christmas as partial settlement under the terms and conditions of the Gift Trade Agreement (GTA). Unfortunately it was too bulky to flash on the back of a motorbike, so Christmas Eve was the first chance to use it.

I have only a 55-200mm lens – which means a lot more to me now than it did when my Father-In-Law gave it to me. Since I have a keen interest in micro photography with a particular bias towards bugs, follicles and unusual carpet stains (especially those in the shape of a country or famous religious figures), initially I was dismissive of the long-range capability of my new lens.

After a while I discovered a distinct advantage is being able to hide in a corner and take close-ups of people without risk of sticking the lens to the subject’s tongue.

Despite reading the entire manual – including subnotes and index – on the three-hour ferry crossing, it took me a couple of days to move beyond zooming and focusing in a strictly automatic capacity. Following are some experiments from Christmas, most taken using auto and portrait ‘basic zone’ modes.

NB: Since my Outlaws’ decor induces stomach ulcers, most indoor shots are in black and white for the sake of your health

NB: My Mother In Law hates any images of her, including paintings, sculptures, sand sketches and/or tea leaf art. Certainly any time I pointed the camera at Margaret, her hair exploded. Because I cherish my relationship with my Mother In Law (and she has access to various toxins and untraceable poisons), I have included no photographs of her

1-yers-truely

Photo of Deadlyjelly by Husband

 

2-tomes-teeth1

Husband shows his teeth

 

3-craig-gets-feisty

Stepfather In Law demonstrating a keen interest in seabass

 

4-taff-leaves-guessing-the-present-a-little-too-late

Taffy leaves the present-guessing a bit late

 

5-taff-and-goat

Taff contemplates the beginning of a beautiful friendship

 

6-craig-finds-something-funny

Craig spots another bottle of JD

 

7-craig-tries-out-new-look

Craig tries out a new look (he decided against it due to the logistical and hygiene aspects of false teeth)

 

8-i-feel-pretty

I feel PRETTY
Oh so PRETTY
I feel pretty and witty and GAY!
And I pity
Any girl who isn’t me today
I feel charming
Oh so charming
It’s alarming how charming I FEEL
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I’m real . . .

 

9-lis-and-sarah

Lisa, Sarah and Marie’s groin (partially hidden)

 

10-morty-and-chicken

Morty and rubber duck/chicken mutant hybrid

 

11-morty-the-reindeer

Someone stole my bold

On Thursday, the weather was so balmy we opened the doors and windows and ate lunch on the balcony. It’s been a while since that was possible without being swept away by a tsunami of rain. The temperature has climbed at least four degrees in the last ten days.

But enough about the weather. At the rate I go on about it, you’d think I was Irish or something.

The sunshine was that saucy (last mention, honest), it tempted Husband and I out on our mountain bikes. Again, I’ve written essays on cycling, so I’ll almost leave it there. Except to say this was the first time in over a week we’ve been out biking, since we were visiting the Outlaws in South Island. If that comes as a surprise, well, I’m canny like that.

It’s calving season on the farm, which means there was a disturbing amount of mucous. According to local legend (Craig), one of their pregnant heifers suffered such a build-up of gas that she fired her newborn right across the field. I suppose you might call it an explosive delivery. If the calf wasn’t dead at blast-off, it certainly was by the time it hit the neighbouring paddock.

Since I am chronically afflicted with Pteromerhanoboviphobia (fear of airborne cows) I spent the entire week cowering in the living room. Husband’s family pretty much treat me as one of the livestock, albeit a pedigree. It suits everyone: I get fed and watered, and have even trained the Outlaws to the extent that everyone is horrified when I fix myself a drink.

Mother In Law: Niamhie, did you make that?

Me: *martyred sigh!* Yes.

Mother In Law: CRAIG! Poor Niamhie had to get her own drink.

Craig: Ker-rist.

Don’t ask me how I arranged that; I only wish I knew. [Note: this phenomenon applies only to Husband’s immediate family, not Husband himself.]

It wasn’t an entirely one-sided arrangement. Every now and then I did the dishes, in order to feel useful and moan about how dishwashing fluid dries out my hands. Also, I exercised the farm dogs, albeit inadvertently when they came to round me up at the end of the day. And I am great entertainment value in the evening.

At least the surfeit of sloth gave me time to catch up on some quality TV.

On Oprah, I discovered that apparently, someone has stolen my bold. The pyschologist was regrettably vague about who or when, although it was probably a man (cue earnest shot to earnest woman in audience nodding earnestly). She also failed to specify whether I could retrieve the Bold if I staged a daring counter-raid, or whether it would be a waste of time because shortly after the theft my Bold was traded on the Black Market. Then again, it was difficult to make her out with all the hair patting and gesticulating.

I can’t say I’m happy about the situation because, despite not being entirely sure what it is, my Bold sounds like a useful asset. I’m considering robbing someone else’s Bold. Maybe Husband’s, because he appears to have double or even triple rations of Bold. Even though he heatedly denies it, chances are he was the one who stole my Bold in the first place.

Once you get over how profoundly disturbing shows like The Swan and Wife Swap are, they make compelling telly. On Swan, women who are mentally compromised and/or have deep-rooted issues apply for a makeover, because they believe their earlobes or abnormally large ankles are what is holding them back in life. In a fairly typical overview, Kelly explains how she has always hated her teeth: “Kids made fun of me in school. They called me- they- <sob!> called me ‘Rabbit Teeth’. I kind of nibbled my food. I just know <pause to wipe eyes> if I didn’t have these teeth, everything would be better.”

When I say ‘makeover’, two participants are whisked off to a hotel where they have cosmetic and/or reconstructive surgery, followed by an extreme diet and exercise for three months. Neither woman is allowed see themselves until the grand unveiling in front of a full-length mirror.

“Are you ready?” asks the presenter, gripping Kelly’s hands fiercely. “Are you ready to meet the brand new you?”

The curtains over the mirror swish back, and Kelly’s all:-

“Oh my God! Oh my Gaw-haw-hawd! Is that- I can’t believe it’s really ME! I’m SO BEAUTIFUL! Waah! Waah! Waah!” <fluttering hands>

“You’re a new person!”

“I am! A new person!”

In this case, Kelly was fitted with a full set of glow-in-the-dark veneers. Despite the fake choppers being freakishly large and causing a significant overbite, Kelly appeared to be ecstatic. She proceeded to the Swan Pageant because her competitor was disqualified for smuggling a mirror into the hotel in her anus.

Wife Swap features two families where the matriarchs abandon their families to be temporarily installed with another. Wiccan chicken-worshippers are placed with born-again Christian families, and composting yoghurt-weavers with families who mainline MacDonald’s. That sort of stuff.

I don’t know what the duration of stay is, but the whole exercise is staggeringly irresponsible. I’ve only seen the show a couple of times, but it has never featured anyone I would trust to water my plants. No family members have been killed in the production of this show, but it can only be a matter of time.

In ‘Don’t Forget The Lyrics!’, contestants have to guess the lyrics of a given song. In a nail-biting buttock-clencher, Nicole had to guess the next ten words to Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock With You’.

Girl close your eyes
Let that rhythm get into you
Don’t try to fight it
There ain’t nothing that you can do
Relax your mind
Lay back and groove with mine
You got to feel that beat
And we can ride the boogie-

____ ____ ____ ____ ____
____ ____ ____ ____ ____

There you go folks, what are the last 10 words?

$600,000 at stake, and Nicole tanked.

The Outlaws have viewed me with a new respect since I leaped to my feet, gripped my crotch, and nailed the lines in a dazzling performance:-

Share that beat of looove!
I wanna rock with you-OW!

Of course, they were not to know that I have stored in my memory banks a library of seventies and eighties lyrics, including the entirety of Boney M’s canon. Couldn’t tell you what I had for breakfast this morning, but

Caribbean Queen!
Now we’re sharin the same dreeam!
And our hearts they beat as one
No more love on the run

Tag Cloud