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Posts tagged ‘port underwood’

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.

Puppy love: overrated

We left Port Underwood at 02:00 hrs to make an appointment with our macrobiotic accountant in Christchurch.

While Andrew drove through the night, I slept on a mattress laid out in the back. The dog made it clear he was unimpressed with sharing his boot space by sitting on my face. We argued. Then we kissed and made up. Afterwards, every time I opened my eyes, Jed’s big furry head was on my pillow staring at me soulfully if not downright romantically. Sometimes he burped post-digested possum. Puppy love: over-rated.

I was surprised how well I slept, even though the SH1 from Blenheim to Kaikoura is hardly conducive to balancing on top of a triple-folded mattress. But I was lulled to sleep by the thunder of the tyres on the road and the stars swirling by the window and I was only dimly aware of the wedges of orange light washing across my face in the townships.

We’re staying with the Outlaws in Oamaru for the next few weeks. Normal service will resume next Sunday. In the meantime, I hope you all have a happy Easter infested with chocolate bunnies.

Official fish inspection

Up until recently, I was convinced the waters of Port Underwood were the aquatic equivalent of an arid wasteland. Absolutely swimming with kelpie – but technically they’re more vegetable than fish.

Last weekend, Husband deemed conditions ‘ideal’ for fishing. Well, he says that every time, but the signs were good: it was on the turn of low tide, there was a gentle swell and visibility was good.

Still, I brought my book.

Which is probably why WE CAUGHT FISH! You know, in the same way as ensuring fine weather by packing an umbrella, or minty fresh breath by sucking on a haddock.

See, I don’t understand where that analogy went so wrong.

We caught a terakihi and four blue cod, returning seven that were only 1-2 cm shorter than the legal limit of 33cm.

When I say ‘we’, I do of course mean me. I catch more fish than Andrew because I bait the hook with chunks of finger, which appears more tempting than squid. Also, I practice a form of psychic fishing which involves visualizing the fish trundling around the sea bed and willing them to impale themselves on the hook. It is frankly uncanny the number of fish I hook through an eyeball or gill or the tail. 

Four blue cod and one terakihi

 

Jed inspects the catch

 

When we got home, I called my stepfather-in-law in a high state of excitement to grill him on how to grill a terakihi.

“How big’s it?” he growled.

“Around 29.2cm.”

“Fish that small, bake it whole with salt and pepper and some bloody ginger,” he said and hung up before I could retort, “SMALL? I’m sure it wouldn’t feel that small if you shoved it up your arse, Fishboy.”

I’m so totally lying. I’d never say that to Agent of Death, not even on the phone.

Four days later, Agent of Death went fishing off Oamaru and, in the space of two hours, caught 40 blue cod and 20 sturgeon or something.

Yeah well ah, you know, I’m more interested in quality not quantity.

Seadog

Our young seadog blowing a raspberry.

I gave Husband a fishing boat for his birthday.

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

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

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

On second thoughts, I should TOTALLY have done that.

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

Slavery is WRONG, folks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Husband allows me pilot the boat.

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

Brett and Debs are new friends – but not quite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short: it was real.

There are killer whales in the back garden, dear

To Hector: many thanks

Here at Casa Deadlyjelly, the last month hasn’t been much fun. In fact, there’s no excessive hype or bole involved in saying that it has sucked on the same sort of scale as being drawn into the jet engine of an Antonov An-225.

The details are too unutterably dreary and depressing to go into, but few of these recent events were unexpected. Unfortunately, they were virtually impossible to prepare for.

Now, clearly, I have an awesome life. There’s the husband I love so very much, who happily returns the sentiment (at least he claims to – occasionally voluntarily); we are lavishly adored by the best dog ever in the history of dogkind; we have the good fortune to live in an amazing part of the world; we have our health and as much margharita as we can sink without throwing the rest of the equation.

But when it visits, misery can consume you whole, making it difficult to appreciate the awesomeness. In the midst of this crisis, I’ve struggled to focus on the substantial portion of my existence that is RIGHT.

Although I do appreciate one positive outcome: the opportunity to quote extensively from ‘Tears of a Clown’. Do feel free to imagine me belting this out at top volume, complete with tears rolling down my greasepaint-smudged cheeks:

Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Cos really I’m sad,
Oh, I’m sadder than sad
Like a clown I appear to be glad ooh yeah

Chorus:
Well there’re some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown
When there’s no one around
Oh yeah, baby baby, oh yeah baby baby

To resort to terrible cliché – but hey, I’ve just quoted Smokey Robinson, which you’d think HAS TO BE the nadir of this post – life goes on.

The other day I took Jed for a walk to the beach next to our house. As I descended the track, I looked out over the bay glinting like a jewel in the sunlight. A seagull hovered just above the surface of the water. At first, I thought the disturbance beneath must be a shoal of fish.

When I stopped and shaded my eyes and squinted, I saw it was in fact a dolphin, idly spooling around the bay. Then I noticed a second one about 200m from the shoreline. From where I stood, I could see them quite clearly, their fins sporadically breaking the surface in joyful arcs.

Later I learned they were most likely a pair of Hector’s dolphins which occasionally adorn the bay.

I had no idea how long I’d been there when the dolphins left trailing magic in their wake, but it was only then I realised my face had been hijacked by a huge smile.

It galls me to admit – although EXCEEDINGLY GRUDGINGLY – that life is really rather grand.

Good internet coverage if there are no waves

Husband and I have been to the beach most days recently, taking advantage of a run of gorgeous weather. We stroll along, me throwing the ball for Jed, Andrew checking internet coverage on his mobile phone.
Here are some photos from the other day:

The first thing we do is throw Jed in the creek, in a vain attempt to get him to drink that rather than seawater. At this stage, he is usually too excited about the prospect of charging monotonously after a tennis ball to consider preparatory hydration.

Runaway tennis ball sighted.

Splash study.

This is what you call full stretch.

My men, varying degrees of wetness.

Sheepdog

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

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

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

Suddently, a herd of sheep stampeded down the drive.

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

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

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

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

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

AND there are videos

Jed demonstrates limited interest in kayaking:

Dog vs. Kayak: Jed 0, Kayak 1

Jed gets onboard:

Totally ignoring any double entendre

When Jed and I left the house this morning it wasn’t raining.

That changed.

At times I could barely see the trees at the verge of the road, although that may have been because my glasses were streaming. I was soaked through. Although sectors of me were humidly warm, my extremities were swollen and numb. My hair was plastered to my skull, apart from the occasional strand whipping me across the face. I was experiencing rising anxiety about how permeable my mobile phone was.

Halfway to Hakahaka Bay, Sheriff and The Bunqueen pulled up beside me. Sheriff wound down the window. Their car was warm; they looked dry and toasty and strikingly sane.

“You going to Picton?” I mumbled through blue lips.

“Hell, yeah; it’s Sunday! We’re going to get the papers and read them over coffee.”

Then they were gone in a puff of damp exhaust fumes.

I was just reflecting upon whether my cotton pants could feasibly retain any more water, allied with how much my life completely sucked, when I got a text from Husband: ‘Fancy a pickup?’

At that moment, I viscerally understood the meaning of true love.

Although it was another ten minutes before my life stopped sucking.

How to walk on water in one easy step

Due to where we live, we have found international espionage too impractical a hobby. In search of alternative excitements, we borrowed The Sheriff and Bunqueen’s kayaks the other day to pootle around the bay.

It was one of those glorious winters’ days, sharp and clear, sunlight glinting on the water. From the comfort of our living room, dressed in three layers of dry clothes,  it seemed like a mint idea.

Not so much standing on the shore being frisked by a brisk breeze.

While we paddled, Jed either stood uncertainly on the shore loudly complaining, or balanced precariously between my legs awaiting an opportunity to jump ship. He tipped Andrew in, although I don’t think Andrew actually touched the water; I’ve never seen another human being move that fast. After his performance, I’m pretty sure walking on water would be possible if you just maintained a certain speed.

Definition of Crimelord: please refer to something else

This morning I called in to The Sheriff, officially to blag a bag of paua but unofficially to find out what went down on Saturday afternoon. I’m concerned The Sheriff might have got the two confused.

Never mind.

Of course The Sheriff had ALL the sordid details. The Sheriff knows everything. Also, he has a flair for sord. Also, his paua fritters are absolutely first rate.

My first impression of a pair of cold-blooded killers appears to have been a minor over-reaction. Not so much Crimelords as, sort of, small-time scamps.

It appears the two kids had stolen a car – the beat-up old banger featured in my last blog post; might have been a 1981 Mazda. Somebody needs to sit those boys down with a cup of tea and a plate of chocolate brownies and tell them to jack a Porsche or a limited edition Lamborghini next time. Otherwise they’ll never realise their potential.

But maybe they have to learn the hard way.

Crimelords in Port Underwood!!!

Yesterday afternoon was sullen. Mist pressed up against the living room windows. Atmospheric.

I was quite content partaking of the atmosphere from the leathery embrace of the sofa. However, Jed hadn’t been walked the previous day and was ricocheting off the furniture much like a sprung pinball. So Husband and I dressed in clothes appropriate for close-up atmosphere and set off up the road.

Barely out the gate, we saw the lights of a police car flashing blue and red through the mist. I heeled Jed as we approached.

And it was an ARREST! Three police cars had SURROUNDED this beat-up old vehicle and IMMOBILISED two CRIMS!!! Both were in HANDCUFFS, and one was FACE-DOWN ON THE VERGE OF THE ROAD!!!

I’d love to say the prone perp was headbutting the ground, spitting at the pigs and screaming expletives, but he was disappointingly subdued. Similarly, it would have been great if the policeman had planted his knee in the small of his back and snarled, “Listen up, crimscumbucket, another move out of you and I’ll drill you so full of lead your autopsy will be declared a hazardous waste site. Capiche?” then shot him in the knee and claimed it was self-defence.

I mean, really: I’m sure the police wouldn’t cop so much flak from the public if they just did their job. It’s all we’re asking.

Of course, I was DYING to ask what was going down, but nobody said anything at all, not even, “Move along, move along; nothing to see here.”

The felon on the ground gave me the evils. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to the chilling, cold, flat, dead eyes of a killer or something.

Can you believe it: CRIME LORDS IN PORT UNDERWOOD!!!

Or, you know, skeevy drug dealers. Whatever.

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

Late breaking pics

Sitting here in Port Underwood on a sullen day, with mist shrouding the peninsula and the sea a chilly slate-grey, it is hard to believe that these photos were taken just over a month ago, in Ireland coming into summer.

All pictures are courtesy of the Wednesday Walking Group’s photographer, El Bruno.

I would like to point out that I did not buy the t-shirt, and only wear it for its sentimental value because a dear friend gave it to me. Also because I don't have any more. MarkJ, can you get me another? Preferably one that doesn't inspire strangers to approach me in the street and whisper, "I'm totally with you, that Angerlina Jolly is a slut." In fact, a t-shirt that would compel strangers to buy me coffee would be ideal. Thanks.

In addition to being a photographer, El Bruno is also a Frustrated Rock God - but then aren't we all?

 

Waterfall off the Old Kenmare Road: This is me contemplating the beauty of nature, whether my t-shirt covers my arse, and whether it matters since I'm sitting down.

  

The Wednesday Walkers (subset) L-R: Ann, Claudia, Niamh, Eileen.

I'm not sure I was on this walk, but I like this picture because you see the dude on the rock? The one with the ski-pole and two false hips? That's my dad; and I love the way he's perched up there, because that is so completely HIM.

 

L-R: Eileen, Claudia and Dad

Pathetic

Two days after getting home, I decided to bike into Hakana Bay.

I disregarded the fact that I had done no exercise for the previous month, apart from climbing into bed. It’s a 10km round-trip to Hakana Bay with 800ft straight up or straight down, depending on whether you’re pedalling furiously or frantically braking respectively; I also considered this largely irrelevant.

Apart from a brutal uphill sprint at the start, the rest of the leg to Hakana Bay is more a trade-off between setting your brake pads on fire, or doing a starfish off the top of a cliff. Despite these tense negotiations, arriving at Hakana Bay I felt PUMPED.

Shame I couldn’t say the same about the back tyre.

After a brief stop to inflate and let Jed roll around in mud, we struck out for home. About 200ft up the road, I thought my lungs were going to explode. 400ft on, I understood what dying must feel like.

I dismounted the bike, pumped up the back tyre again, and started pushing. I was averaging a rate of about 2km per day when, at the hairpin bend overlooking the valley, we came across three loggers.

I stopped whimpering and paused for a chat because, you know, I’m friendly. Also because I wasn’t sure whether walking another step was biologically feasible. Also the back tyre was flat again.

Jed tried to intimidate the loggers by barking; the strategy had limited success because they thought he was a giant poodle. He should stick to farting. In a bid to win him over, one of the loggers threw Jed a biscuit.

Watching my dog pounce on the biscuit, I realized I was starving. Ravenous enough to claw that biscuit out of my dog’s jaws and wolf it down myself, except that Jed swallowed too fast.

“Can I have one too?” I asked with barely contained drool.

The Irish amongst you will appreciate how hungry I must have been. In Ireland, asking for a biscuit is a cultural taboo on the same level as pointing at strangers, or necrophilia.

Obviously taken aback, the logger said, “Aw yeh.” He proffered the pack. “Take a handful.”

I momentarily considered snatching the entire packet and making a run for it except that I could barely walk, never mind RUN. Also, there were three of them, and just me and a giant poodle.

In the end, I thought taking any more than two would be rude.

Mad kipper

Helen’s definition of ‘a dip’ involves a couple of laps of whatever body of water happens to be close by. While she was here, she regularly struck off across Ocean Bay in nothing more than a swimming cap and goggles. Oh, hang on, that’s not the end of the list – also, togs and a rash vest.

We usually managed to stop her before she hit the Pacific.

Inspired by my friend’s doughty example (you know, I’m pretty certain this is the first time I’ve ever used the word ‘doughty’ in print. I like it, I like it a LOT. It just popped out of my subconscious with a bunch of balloons and a hint of glitter, all, “Hey! Pick me! How about me?” when I wasn’t even aware I KNEW the word. I certainly didn’t know how to spell it, and then had to check the definition. I’m always impressed when my brain does kung-fu. Shame it generally prefers watching telly), yesterday I relaunched my long-distance swimming career.

Pools are for pussies!

Real swimmers wear Vaseline!

Conditions were optimal. The sun sparkled on the sea. A light breeze ruffled the surface. The water lapped playfully against the shore.

I still brought my wetsuit vest. Husband mocked me as I snapped my swimming cap on over a woolly beanie – as if his standing there fully clothed, dry and toasty warm wasn’t enough.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t want to push it on my first outing,” I said sensibly. “I was thinking that point over there.”

“That one? You’ll never make it,” he scoffed.

Thereby ensuring I either made it or drowned in the attempt. I’m still occasionally depressed by how little Husband knows me after 12 years together. Or maybe he knows me too well, in which case ATTEMPTED MURDER is marginally more depressing than my original assumption.

Anyway, I was wounded. The point was only 200m away. In fact my Secret Plan was to continue across the port, point my toes and do some synchronised swimming, then spear a few barracuda for dinner en route back to shore.

Few obstacles in the shipping route. The main problem I encountered was putting my face in the water; the cold seemed to suck all the air out of my lungs. I was gulping for oxygen, but couldn’t seem to get a breathful.

Eventually I acclimatised such that I could gasp in a mouthful of air every stroke. Halfway to the point I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. My head throbbed with a chill-ache. My face was numb. MY FACE WAS NUMB! I COULDN’T FEEL MY FACE!

On a positive note, I was more in danger of being cryogenically petrified than drowning.

I’ve heard drowning is a horrible way to go.

After I reached the point, I attempted to float back to shore in a manner similar to a giant iceberg. Apart from being right in character, that was unsuccessful, so I mixed up the freestyle with some breast-stroke.

By the time I reached the beach, the only part of my body not numb was my brain, still issuing commands to throw one arm over the other. In fact, the woolly beanie was generally highly effective.

“By wace iz wumb!” I wailed at Husband through purple lips. “Wa can’ eel by wace!”

I’m not sure my blood has recommenced circulation; it certainly still feels sluggish.

“Not surprised,” barked my father-in-law when I related my experience. “That water comes straight off the Antarctic.”

Yeah, HELEN! YOU MAD KIPPER!

Living off the land

Husband and I aspire to being self-sufficient.

Ideally, we would source our water from a spring or run-off; generate electricity via solar panels, wind turbine or hydro generator; fuel our car with potato peels or canine intestinal gas. We would keep some livestock: bees, chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, llamas, a small herd of cows; wear clothes made from flour bags left over from the days we didn’t mill our own from home-grown grains (that’s while we wait to harvest our crop of hemp); and make oil cold-pressed from olives picked by hand.

To this end, I spent the last two weeks researching edible seaweed and how to grow vegetables.

Turns out being self-sufficient is EXPENSIVE.

One thing around these parts is almost free: the other night we went down to the bay at low tide to partake of the munificent bounty of the sea.

Leaving Andrew with the new fishing rod, I hunted my elusive quarry – green-lipped mussels – on foot. Half an hour later I returned with my daily quotient of mussels, to find Andrew ensnarled in the fishing line.

We’re still trying to figure out what’s wrong with the $20 reel we bought from Warehouse.

That night, I baked the mussels on the half-shell with a Parmesan breadcrumb crust.

The following morning, we found out about a warning not to eat locally collected shellfish due to toxins caused by algal bloom. This is apparently harmful to humans, occasionally resulting in Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning. The name is only a partial clue as to the symptoms of DSP.

We fed the rest of the mussels to the dog, who was highly appreciative of the gourmet snack.

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