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Monsoon bucket of suck

In the weeks leading up to the move, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Well, ok, maybe not EVERYTHING. I suppose Husband could have succumbed to a critical mid-life crisis and left me for a pole-dancing accountant. But strictly speaking, that’s more deviant than ‘wrong’. So I stand by my original statement, as long as I don’t have to defend the position or address any pointed questions about it.

Three weeks ago, we were driving down Opanuku Road when we heard a strange noise coming from the back of the Hilux Surf.

At first we ignored it, because it was virtually indistinguishable from all the other strange noises coming from the general vicinity of the car. However, within a short space of time/distance, an expensive ‘CLONK!’ could be clearly heard – and felt – reverberating joyfully above the cacophony of mechanical acoustics.

After we pulled over, I tramped back up the road in my three inch heels in search of mobile reception. Then we all – my parents, Husband, Jed and I – milled disconsolately around the deceased car until rescued by Flame Haired Titan.

While the Surf flirted with the scrap heap, the parents magnanimously gave up custody of the MR2 during the last week of their holiday. Yet the 2-seat MR2 was not ideal for salvaging packing boxes, nor even transporting two humans equipped with 35kg dog. I was also anxiously conscious that the Surf was scheduled to relocate us and a trailer to South Island in less than 10 days.

Andrew discovered that, by disabling the rear differential, he could operate the Surf in modified four wheel drive. We coaxed the car to a garage; later that day, someone called to inform us that – as suspected – the rear differential was poked; he could replace it with a second hand part for $1000; and he had just got a limousine in for an emergency service so could we collect the Surf because there wasn’t room to store it – oh and he closed in 10 minutes, so before then.

Andrew decided to do the job himself. When he extracted the differential with a lot of swearing, two of the teeth on the cog were completely snaggled, shards of metal in the surrounding oil.

He managed to source a second hand rear differential for $275 on Trademe (when we turned up to collect it, there were about seven Hilux Surfs parked outside this dude’s house; according to his business card, he was a ‘South Auckland Toyota Surf Parts Consultant’).

Then Andrew spent two mornings rolling around under the car covered in grease and oil. I maintained a continuous supply of coffee and occasionally handed him a spanner. There was a tense moment when he removed a section of engine to facilitate the fitting of the 55kg diff, then couldn’t figure out how to get the complex and rather-crucial looking piece back in. With my assistance (I inadvertently hit him with it) he eventually manoeuvred it into place.

That crisis narrowly averted, I received the proof of About Time from my editor, who required a response within a week. For Smart/Casual, this stage of the production process was a soul-sucking, energy-sapping, time-consuming, will-to-live diminishing, hive-scratching, panic-attack inducing suckfest unrivalled in relentless tedium.

Proofing About Time was no different, except for the added frisson of packing crockery between adverbs. Also finalising the moving company, booking the ferry, changing address, cleaning the house, selling items, cancelling accounts, and setting up electricity at the new place. When I called Telecom to request a new landline, there was already a request pending for that address; this took another half a day to sort out.

Three days before we were due to move, the radio reported a fire had broken out 200m from our new house. People evacuated the area, the main power lines between North and South Island were shut down, and helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets were brought in.

For a while, we weren’t sure whether we even had a house to move into.

Rapid incontinent pterodactyls in vests

Had I not listed the house on Opanuku Road on behalf of my landlords, my life would have been poorer. Because then I would never have met Keith and Don.

Now, I felt a bit sorry for Keith (note: although not to the extent that I wouldn’t slag him off on my blog). He was the interested applicant and had obviously made a real effort to put his best foot forward. He wore his best tracksuit, and had brought along a wing-man for the occasion.

“Come on in, lads,” sez I. “So, this is the garage-”

“AW WOW!” said Don, gazing in rapture at the garage. “This is a REALLY NICE GARAGE!”

I looked doubtfully at my garage, trying to see it through a fresh pair of eyes. I mean, I haven’t done much with the place – it’s more Andrew’s domain – and to be honest, it has an oil infestation and a build up of testosterone in the corners (although nothing a good water-blast wouldn’t fix).

“Um, ok. Well, if you would like to come upstairs-”

“Upstairs,” repeated Don, and sniggered suggestively. Mid-thirties, in case you have a mental image of a pair of thirteen year olds. “I have four kids,” he informed me. “No, I mean five. No! Four.”

“Oh, I can believe it,” I said. “Now, this is the guest bathroom . So, what can you say, really? It’s a bathroom-”

“AW WOW!” Don again. “This is a REALLY NICE BATHROOM!”

“Really?” I said, rather intrigued by this point. “I’ve never thought it was that flash to be honest. What is it about it that, er, grabs you?”

“It’s the toilet. You know the thing- the flat thing- on the top of the- the-”

“The cistern? The toilet seat-”

“YES! That’s it, the toilet seat. I really like the way it’s DOWN.”

“Ho-kay then,” I said, subtly steering them into the living room.

“This place is great,” said Keith, making his first real contribution to proceedings beyond turning up. “You know, if I lived here I would plant vegetables.”

“Where?” I said. “There’s no garden with the property-”

“Aw, you could just clear half an acre of bush . . . by the side of the house here.”

“Well, I think the neighbour might have some issues with that, since that’s his land.”

“I’d plant spotty dog. You know spotty dog?” I shook my head. “It’s this plant- like a bush- it’s got these leaves, which are green with pink spots, and they- the leaves- they look exactly like that dog, the one with the spots . . . what’s it called again?”

“Er, a dalmation?” I suggested.

“No. It’s a white dog with black spots. What’s it called? Think! Oh yes! A dalmation.”

Must have been my dodgy Irish accent.

“You know herbs?” Keith asked.

“Herbs . . .”

“Like basil?”

“Oh, right.”

“I buy all my herbs from The Superb Herb Company.” This is a farm on Henderson Valley Road, but I wasn’t aware they sold cannabis. “It’s really cheap, because, like, you buy herbs- you know, in a little pot- in the supermarket, and it costs $7 or $15 for a pot of herbs!” He looked outraged. “But The Superb Herb Company- you get this pot of herbs and it’s, like, TOTALLY AWESOME, because they come wrapped IN CELLOPHANE!”

“That’s pretty cool, all right,” I said. I mean, that’s very least you can say about cellophane without coming across as ungenerous. “So, what is it that you do, Keith?”


That was all he said about his line of occupation, but he did reveal that he has a three year old son (I am frankly astonished a woman allowed herself to be impregnated by him) who lives with Keith’s nan, while Keith – assuming his application was successful – would move into Opanuku Road with his mum.

All this time, Don had manoeuvred to position himself in front of me, standing with his chin propped on one fist and rotating his arm infinitesimally so that I could catch an eyeful of his gold watch.

“You know, this house has LOADS OF SPACE,” he said. “Plenty of room for my GYM KIT.”

“Oh, would you be living here? With . . . Keith?” I asked.

“NO! I’m just saying. I have A LOT OF KIT,” he informed me. “I’m in training for THE BODYBUILDING CHAMPIONSHIPS.”

“Oh . . . really?”

“Yes. COULDN’T YOU TELL?” he said. He stopped just short of cracking out a front lat spread, instead contenting himself with a thrilling little wiggle of his pecs.

“Um, see, the thing is Don, generally I don’t go around looking at other men’s pecs, because the thing is: I’M MARRIED. See the bloke sitting on the stairs over there fingering a steak-knife? That’s called a husband.”

“HEY! You can LOOK-” Don held out his hands, as if warding off an attack, “but you CAN’T TOUCH.”

“I’m glad you clarified that, because I was about to lose all self-control and touch willy-nilly.” *CRINGE!*

As I showed them out, Keith – who had evidently been told the way to landlord’s heart is to tell them you’re in the market to buy – said, “By the way, will you tell the owners that I’d be interested in buying this house. Not right now. After six months or something.”

And bless him, I was looking at him thinking, ‘Dude, you can barely afford to buy a litre of milk and have enough change left over for your weekly ration of dope,’ but I said, “Sure.”

I regretted not endorsing a man whose definition of TOTALLY AWESOME was herbs wrapped in cellophane.

Realistically though, I wouldn’t rent the guy a trailer, never mind a house.

Infected labia piercing

Within about an hour of listing the house on Trademe, I realised more organisation was required than telling interested parties to rock up any time for a look.

I called everyone back and scheduled people at half hour intervals on Sunday. Then, when all available slots from noon to 6pm were booked, I moved on to Monday.

Husband and I scrubbed the house from top to bottom and chucked all our belongings in the pantry. The place looked pretty spruce by the time Doug and Susan arrived.

I had high hopes for Susan. She sounded quite lovely on the telephone. Indeed, she was equally lovely in person, if not even more so.

Shame about her boyfriend.

I encourage Jed to bark whenever anyone comes up the drive. He charges down the stairs at such speed I wouldn’t be surprised to follow him one day and find a Jed-shaped hole in the front door. I suppose he’s excited at the prospect of fresh crotch, and who can blame him?

I normally restrain Jed in the yard until I check whether the visitor is comfortable with dogs then, assuming the response is positive, release him. Unfortunately, for some reason, Doug was walking up the drive in front of his car – which was even stranger since it was raining like it only rains in Waitakere: with a ferocious gusto.

Unfortunately, Jed took one look at Doug, and decided he didn’t like him AT ALL. When Jed dislikes someone his bark sounds quite chilling, like he took a wrong turn on the way from Baskerville. I was aware Jed was making his “Don’t fuck with me mofo” bark, and he refused to come when I issued a recall.

I didn’t see this, but Andrew – who was watching from the bedroom window – reported later that Jed took a run at Doug.

Now, in my puppy’s defence, I didn’t like the look of Doug much either (not to the extent of attempting to kneecap him with my teeth, but still). Jed’s also been rather unsettled recently with the frenzy of packing going on around him.

“Don’t mind him; he’s very friendly!” I called, completely oblivious to my dog swinging out of Doug’s shorts.

“He doesn’t look that friendly,” muttered Doug.

I grabbed Jed by the scruff and banished him to the garage.

I decided Doug and Susan weren’t suitable because Doug tracked mud up the carpet. Also because he kicked my dog in the head.

(That’s the official version of events, and I’m sticking to it.)

Darryl arrived before Doug and Susan had left.

“Hi!” I said, “Darryl, isn’t it? Niamh. Listen, sorry about this, but these people need to get down the drive and your car is blocking them in. Would you mind just letting them out?”

“No problem, sweet as,” said Darryl – and that was the last we saw of him.

He just fucked off!

(Perhaps he was attacked by a tree on the way down the drive.)

Next up was Johno and Sandra. Johno introduced himself thus:-

“The drive won’t work with a boat.”

“Er, you mean because it’s tarmac not water?” I said, confused.

“No. I mean we won’t be able to get a boat trailer up the drive.”

“Oh, I see. You have a boat-”


“Right . . .”

“But I’m getting a boat.”

“Ok. Well, I don’t suppose there’s much point in showing you the rest of the house, then.”

Bev turned up with Philippe, who came accessorised with a natty little moustache, a briefcase and a cravat.

I started into my well-practiced patter: “Aaand here’s the garage – plenty of bench space. Most important part of the house, right Philippe? <nudge>”

“I don’t think so,” said Philippe dismissively. “I don’t do . . . that sort of thing.”

I’m not sure what Sort of Thing he was referring to, but I decided that regardless what that Sort of Thing was, I would not endorse a man who didn’t do it.

I was surprised how many people were looking for accommodation because their current residence had been put on the market. Many gave off a distinct smell of desperation. Except the girl who turned up with eight nose rings, a stud through her chin, and a tattoo of what appeared to be a hamster on her forearm. I think the smell emitting from her was an infected labia piercing.

There was one no-show, and a woman who called to say the mobile reception was too poor for her requirements. Another woman called to say her teenager had gone on hunger strike at the prospect of living so far from civilisation. For a moment I wondered why she was telling me this – turned out she was cancelling.

The following day, we showed the house to four more couples, including Brian and Kushla, who – mistakenly and regrettably – I called ‘Krishna’ for the duration of the viewing.

That afternoon, a car drove up our drive. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but followed Jed downstairs. It was a skinhead and his girlfriend. The skinhead poked his head out the car window.

“We’re on a mission,” he said by way of introduction.

“Can I help you?” I said.

“Are the owners here?”

“Excuse me? No!” I said, so incredulous I didn’t even try to discourage Jed’s attempts to fire himself in the driver’s window and gnaw him.

“Do you have the owners’ contact number? It’s just,” he continued in the face of my rare speechlessness (and Jed’s slavering teeth), “we heard this house is for rent and we thought-”

“It’s been let,” I snapped. “This is my private residence. Please go away.”

Had he stepped out of the car, I would have ENCOURAGED Jed to bite him. As it is, I hope Jed clawed up his paint work.

But the best was yet to come.

Blobs of flobber

Two years ago, when Husband and I first saw Turanga Road listed on Trademe, we knew without even seeing the house it was where we wanted to live.

I sincerely hope I come across as enthusiastic rather than calculating when I say we treated the application process much like an interview. We launched a full-scale charm jihad against our potential landlords.

At least: we turned up on time; fully clothed (which we considered a basic pre-requisite but apparently NOT NECESSARILY); we were fragrantly aromatic with base notes of fresh skin cells and top notes of soap. I wore a pair of walking boots to visually support my claim that I was a robust, rugged, outdoor type, ready to machete a blazing trail through the bush at the slightest provocation.

We didn’t massage the truth, so much as shine a rose tinted, warm fuzzy light on it – but even had we lied, we would at least have MADE THE EFFORT to come up with compelling, vaguely plausible lies.

While we were viewing the house, The Competition turned up. Grimly, I considered sneaking out and telling them they had the wrong place, or pretending to be a neighbour and smashing in their windscreen with a dead possum.

But when I saw them, I realised these measures were unnecessary. The man looked like someone had conducted chemical experiments on his head; the exploding tufts of facial hair would most accurately be described as ‘green’. His partner was so obese she could not get out of the car. Great blobs of flobber blotted up against the windscreen. (The real mystery was how she got in there in the first place – there must have been heavy machinery involved.)

Two years ago, I thought that couple was an aberration.

Not any more.

True love: definition

I love my landlords. I mean it: I love them. So many things about them: the way they say my name, how they know what I’m thinking without having to speak, the way they run laughing through cornfields with sunlight playing on their hair. You might say Darren and Ingrid COMPLETE ME on a real estate level.

But seriously, it’s just about impossible not to love a man with the names of his children tattooed down his legs, or a woman whose sense of fairness is so highly developed she gave me a gift voucher to cover any gas that might have leaked. Go on, give it a go: try hating them – or start smaller; try simply being indifferent to them.



However, when I offered to list and show the house to prospective tenants, I was unaware how MUCH I love Darren and Ingrid. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t go to that much trouble for Husband, who I indeed love, a lot.

But I suppose there’s only one of him, and two of them.

Within two minutes of listing the house, I got the first enquiry. Then, for the next two days I walked around with a telephone clamped to my ear, getting used to conversations like this:-

Enquirer: Hello?

Me: Hi.

Enquirer: Yes, I’m calling about the house. On Trademe. The pictures look GORGEOUS-

Me: Well, it’s lovely at the moment, but not so much in winter. I won’t lie to you: it’s DANK. You need at least two dehumidifiers going full time. Sometimes it rains for an ENTIRE WEEK straight-

Enquirer: Have many people called about it?

Me: Yes, loads.

Enquirer: I’ve always wanted to live in the bush.

Me: But, you know, there are limitations living in a place like this. The house is pretty high maintenance. You have to clean the water filter on the tank once a month, and if you take runoff from the roof, you have to clear dead possums and shoes out of the gutters-

Enquirer: That’s no problem, I used to be a plasterer.

Me: Um. Ok. So, what do you do now?

Enquirer: Oh, we- me and my wife- work in the city-

Me: You realise this place is pretty isolated? It’s four kilometres up a dead end road and the last bit is gravel. If you’re commuting, the entry point to the motorway is snarled up from about seven in the morning-

Enquirer: We’re used to commuting. We live on Queen Street, takes us at least QUARTER OF AN HOUR to drive to work.

Me: Can you believe it? So, would it just be you and your wife?

Enquirer: Oh no, we have five kids, my parents, a dog, four cats, a kitten and a hyena.

Me: Really, I’m not sure this house is for you. It was designed and built for a couple. There’s only two bedrooms and no garden-

Enquirer: No, no, it looks PERFECT. When can I see it?

Me: I suppose that depends on how long it will take you to travel from your distant planet.


In the litany of injury, Jed’s cracked dew claw went nearly unnoticed.

A couple of weeks ago, Jed and I were walking the Pipeline Track off Mountain Road. Jed skidded after his tennis ball and somersaulted into a rock, finishing up with a yelp. He appeared to limp a couple of paces, so I checked his foot.

There was no damage to the pad; when I palpated his paw, he just licked my face; so I investigated between his toes where he likes to store burrs even though they irritate the sensitive skin. There was no evidence of injury. Whatever the problem was, it didn’t stop Jed firing himself down the track after his ball, or impede his lifelong mission to nibble every blade of grass ON THE PLANET.

Afterwards, I was towelling mud off him and he flinched when I rubbed his foreleg. Looking closer, I saw his dew claw had splintered. Apart from slurping at it every now and then, it didn’t seem to bother him much, so I wasn’t concerned. Husband suggested taping up the claw; perhaps we should have done. But I just figured it would, um, grow out.

On New Year’s Day, we were woken by a high-pitched whine. Jed was obviously distressed; he paced around the bedroom, flung himself on the floor, rose again immediately, whined at the door. It was so long after the dew claw incident it never occurred to us that was the problem – until I noticed it sticking out at right angles. Although the claw was still attached, it was sheared right back to the bone; he must have caught it on something (maybe his teeth).

This is the dog who, after leaping off a six foot high sandbank and landing on his head, barely broke stride in his mission to retrieve his tennis ball. However, this time Jed was in a great deal of pain. He couldn’t get comfortable. A couple of times he attempted to lick his dew claw, but it was too tender. He yelped every time an air molecule brushed up against it. We tried to make him sit to assess the damage, but he retreated under the dining room table and refused to come out.

I have no problem with pain and can take it in my stride – so long as it’s not mine. My POINT is, I don’t get precious about my dog barfing, cutting himself, or peeing blood; but I felt sick at the sight of the gruesome angle of Jed’s claw and his obvious distress.

Husband was all for lopping the claw with our cheap, crappy, largely broken pair of dog clippers. In his defence, this is the same man who punched a hole through his lower lip with his tooth and wanted to put a couple of stitches in. Himself. I had to flush the sewing kit down the loo to deter him. If Andrew’s arm fell off, he would no doubt attempt to staple it back on if the hospital was more than 5 minutes drive away. Also assuming he could find the stapler – or fish it out of the U-bend.

All I’m saying is: Husband would not visit any sadism on his dog that he wouldn’t turn on himself and call masochism.

While The Butcher of Waitakere was distracted trying to locate the dog clippers, I called various local vet clinics. I wasn’t expecting much joy, since the entire country was closed from 1-5 January. However, one of the automatic voicemail systems supplied the telephone number of an out of hours clinic at 348 Rosebank Road (09-8207273).

“Well, a broken dew claw is not really considered an emergency,” said the nurse on the phone. “But it is incredibly painful for the animal. The emergency consultation fee is $125.”

“Hey, this website says the vet just rips it out with a pair of pliers,” said Andrew. “I have a pair of pliers downst-”

“No!” I said, grittily.

Of course Husband was just as concerned about his dog as I. In fact, the Swanson clinic was open the following morning, but Andrew opted to bring Jed to the out of hours clinic. But I have a feeling The Butcher of Waitakere is going to stick – at least if I have anything to do with it.

The vet advised putting Jed under general anaesthetic. He said a local involved an injection right by the claw which would be too painful – although I think he was referring to the possibility of Jed chomping on him.

“Did the vet give you an estimate?” asked the nurse. I was so anxious about our puppy I barely even heard the DONG! When I replied in the negative, she scrawled ‘No estimate provided’ across the consent form; evidently, I wouldn’t have noticed even had she beaten me savagely with the warning bell’s clapper.

When we returned to collect him two hours later, despite being groggy, Jed dragged me into the waiting room. I knew he was ok when we thought we might have to ask the vet to surgically remove Jed’s nose from a border collie’s butt.


That was the total of the itemised bill including five different types of drug: sedatives, anaesthetic and painkillers.

But even though I feel totally suckered, whenever I see Jed bounding after a tennis ball I can’t help feeling it was worth it.

I know, I know.

I AM a sucker.

Preferably rancid

Since the Puppy Biscuit Freakshow, I have fed Jed an essentially raw food diet. He’s a big fan of fish, particularly tinned mackerel; loves chicken carcasses, necks and gizzards; savages veal bones and lamb flaps; and will take your arm off if tripe or offal is on the end of it.

I have been purchasing his food from a variety of places. Chicken necks and gizzards, and lamb flaps from Pak ‘N’ Save; lamb bones and chicken mince from Countdown; chicken carcasses and lamb neck chops from The Mad Butcher.

In the meantime, I have been researching more economical sources of dog food, since it costs more to feed my dog than Husband (although this may be because there is no longer any room in the freezer for Husband’s food). Also, Jed eats anything up to 2.5kg of meat a day.

No, that’s not a typo. He now weighs 30kg. I am concerned he is developing love handles.

Last week we purchased an ancient freezer on Trademe for $50. It came with a fridge, so Husband’s food bill is likely to increase significantly now that he has somewhere to store beer. We installed the two appliances in the garage.

Thus equipped, I spent $100 on approximately 60kg of assorted animal carcasses from Bombay Petfoods. The grub arrived this morning.

Here is Jed surveying a months supply of food:-

0905 Dogfood

The weather was not as soggy today, so we pootled around the yard for a while. Here are some more pics:-

0905 Jed stalks rock

Jed stalks a rock from his favourite spot in the yard: on top of the trailer.

0905 Husband considers a dogs life

So THIS is what a dog’s life looks like: Husband tries out the kennel run.

0905 He is a catch

Husband stalks wife.

0905 Jed and bone

Jed and his favourite type of bone: old, manky, preferably rancid.

0905 Jed shows bone who's boss

Jed gets to grip with bone

Auckland City Walk


Last Thursday we consulted our map for a local walk we had yet to explore. This was how we discovered Auckland City Walk. We set off from Scenic Drive down the Anderson Track and, after a couple of kilometres of relatively rugged bush track (ie the mud came with sound effects) the path emerged into acres of rolling parkland.

We were so impressed that we brought friends back there on Saturday. To distract The Jedster from eating wasps, I took him for a wander to take some photos.


Jed checks out Maori culture.


A rare moment of contemplation for The Jedster; his default setting is warp speed. He spends a lot of time with his ear(s) inside out.


Jed blows a raspberry

Proud to be a library member

Yesterday, I became an official member of the Waitakere Library. It is a measure of how sad/geeky my life is that I was thoroughly over-excited. (At least I’m easy to please.) Did you know you can hire books for FREE!!! Also magazines, CDs, DVDs and audio books; and members have access to online resources such as the Oxford English Dictionary and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Things have changed in fifteen years. Back in the eighties, library books had cards inside the fly cover. My idea of a cracking time was getting out a book that had been checked out so many times the librarian had to replace its card with a new one. Or – even better – checking out a book with a brand new card (there wasn’t much to do in Limerick).

Now it’s all barcodes and plastic membership cards with your choice of any of twenty images and online accounts providing inspirational messages about returning items on time.

But the books still smell the same

Bizarrely random and inexplicable emotional response

It is so good to be home. As we drove up Taranaki Road, Husband said, “Isn’t it funny how this house feels more like home than our place in The Springs ever did?” The sentiment did not make me spontaneously chortle aloud, but I gave him a sympathy laugh. Personally, I would be more inclined to call it ‘weird’ or ‘a bizarrely random and inexplicable emotional response’.

Perhaps ‘funny’ has that covered.

In Dubai, we performed a drive-by on our house. We had attempted to make physical contact with our tenants, but they quite actively didn’t want to see us. Maybe they were nervous about what comprised physical contact. I was referring to a handshake; maybe fingertips brushing around a cup of tea. Certainly not full coitus. I don’t know, maybe they were confused.

As we drove in the security gate of Springs 2, I braced myself for a bitter tide of nostalgia, with eddies of longing and perhaps a vicious crosscurrent of regret.

We had trouble finding the house. Husband couldn’t remember the street number, although he knew how to get there. We used to recognize our villa by the neighbour’s full-size Indian flag hanging over his garage, mounted on an iron brace to deter thieves armed with industrial impact wrenches and a jackhammer. Said neighbour must have suffered a crisis of patriotism in the meantime, because the flag was gone.

The only other thing distinguishing our house from the rest used to be our cars parked in the drive: my GMC Yukon and/or Husband’s Chevy Lumina. Number 66 currently features a Nissan Patrol and a blue car.

I felt nothing. Although this is mainly a relief, it also makes me feel a bit sad

Sniffing the highlighter pen

This was the view out the bedroom window this morning. I’m not sure whether the image fully captures just how WET it is. Does it? Odd that the raindrops the size of teabags didn’t come out in the photo.

There’s something wrong with my Internet connection which, by association, means my landline is poked. Internet access is erratic yet manageable, but when Husband called me last night there was a 7 second delay on the line and it sounded like he had been sniffing the highlighter pen. I mean, maybe he had, but it would be a new development.

Husband spent 40 minutes before he got through to Slingshot‘s advancedly useless customer support. I would have called them, because there are times when nothing beats banging your head off a brick wall, but of course my phone doesn’t work and mobile coverage here is non existent at the best of times. It will take Slingshot up to 48 hours to address the issue, presumably because they’re run off their feet ignoring customers

Lower limb equivalent of a coma

Because Friday was gorgeous, I took the bike to Fairy Falls. Cycling down Turanga Road is always fun; then I cut across a section of bush to Mountain Road.

In the 500m from the bottom of Mountain Road to the Fairy Falls carpark, I figured out why it is called Mountain Road. I’d never noticed the gradient in the car. I’m pretty sure I broke the law of gravity several times.

After my walk, I wasn’t sure the brakes on my bike could handle the descent, so decided it was safer to carry on up Mountain Road. Over the course of the next six kilometers, I blatantly disregarded several biological laws as well as flouting more laws of physics. By the time I reached Scenic Drive, I was exploding sweat and could only wheeze. I still can’t feel my legs. They are in the lower limb equivalent of a coma.

Fairy Falls

Yesterday, New Zealand experienced ‘the worst storm in 10 years’. Newspapers issued dire warnings of power cuts and rogue winds. After battening down the house and storing outdoor furniture, I repaired to the In-Laws. As I drove to Mt Wellie, the traffic lights in Henderson pegged out.

The electricity is still down at the house, but that’s hardly anomalous Captain. We normally lose internet connectivity and/or power if the wind goes above breeze level

Auckland on better days, for example Friday

Husband shaped hole in the universe

Husband left me on Friday.

Sorry to be so megalodramatic. It’s just a three week business trip to Dubai, but I am surprised how aimless I feel. I got a bit soggy at the airport. If the floor hadn’t been dirty, I would have thrown my arms about Husband’s legs and begged him to stay.

If this all sounds pathetically codependent – hey, I’m not about to argue. In my defence, Husband and I have lived and worked together every day for the last six months. He comes grocery shopping with me and entices me into Mitre 10. Joint decisions include whether to put on another jumper. We schedule summit meetings on what to cook for dinner. So is it surprising that my universe features a great, big, silent Husband-shaped hole? Or that I’m a bit chilly?

I haven’t yet resorted to sniffing his clothes, but I have a fleece top on emergency standby. It harbours three weeks of Husband’s skin cells.

(On second thought I might put that in the wash.)

The only way I can fully express myself is via the medium of dance, which is what I did at Fairy Falls yesterday. I think this covers how I feel about my husband, whilst also conveying my longing, anguish and despair:-

Happy birthday to me

Husband claimed that, due to the time difference, my birthday didn’t start until 11:00am yesterday, but he gave me my presents anyway. He took me shopping on Monday and I chose the new book by Marian Keyes and ‘On Chesil Beach’ by Ian Mcewan. In honour of my great and ancient age, I also picked out a knitting book, some needles and balls of wool. These gifts came with a signed guarantee that Husband would wear anything I produced. Foolishly, he failed to insert a subclause that they had the requisite number of holes and were within striking distance of two sizes.

If you are looking for a husband, do try and choose one who gets anxious that you don’t have enough presents. In fact, Husband was so concerned about the scarcity of giftage – despite my protesting that he’d got me more than enough of just what I wanted – he drove into town the day before to bolster the birthday offering with two DVDs, and a bottle holder and mudguards for my bicycle.

After the gift ceremony, the sun came out. Husband affixed my bottle holder and front mudguard and we went cycling. I’ve never been concerned about the skidmarks administered by the back tyre, but the mud and small twigs splatting onto my glasses was always distracting – especially when trying to negotiate a bank or predatory bush. The new front mudguard effectively abbreviated the mud, and is high enough that trees don’t get stuck in it (that much).

We returned home to find my bridesmaid dress in the post from Róis. Over the last week, she has engaged in some alarmingly un-Róisín-like pre-wedding stress over whether she should get my dress in size 10 or 12. The outlet’s size guide on the Net indicated that size 10 was perfect around the bust and hips, but no matter how much I sucked or how tight I pulled, my waist resolutely refused to conform to 68cm. Róis and I had several emergency phone calls about the issue, and eventually I instructed her to get the size 12 on the grudging hypothesis that it could be taken in if necessary. Róis evidently knew I was conflicted about it, because she got the size 10 – and it fits. Perfectly. Well, it had to on my birthday, didn’t it? Lucky it arrived when it did.

My second family all called and the Outlaws in South Island Skyped and sang me Happy Birthday with party hats on. I was so touched I would have cried except I was laughing too hard.

Later that evening, Husband and I went for dinner at The Hangar. We cooked our food on stone slabs heated to 400˚ and didn’t singe ourselves once. Then Husband took me to see The Incredible Hulk (I would like to hastily point out that it was at my request; Husband is not that romantic on his own initiative). It wasn’t the best movie ever but it was fun.

Turning 36 was pretty cool

Auditioning for friends

When we moved here, one of the things I dreaded was making friends. They’re such an overhead of time and money: the phone calls, the constant demands for reassurance, the endless thoughtful birthday presents (I mean how many birthdays can one person have?), the three hour lunches  . . .

No, wait.

I meant to say: I dreaded the process of MEETING people.

The circle of friends we had in Dubai were in many ways the closest thing we had to family. I miss them every day. Now we have to start all over again.

Making friends gets harder as you get older. You look for deeper qualities than an extensive wardrobe to pilfer borrow from, your boyfriends being best mates, a frothy sense of humour, or whether someone will talk to you. Admittedly, I am still drawn to people who talk to me; but these days I prefer a sense of humour that’s crisp and refreshingly dry. As for our partners being best friends? Well, all that indicates is both of us has dubious taste.

Not only is it harder; the process itself takes longer. Teenage friendships were so easy:-

“Polo mint?”

“Yeah thanks. My boyfriend is SUCH a jerk. You’re my best friend.”

“I know! I feel like I’ve known you forever, instead of, like, six minutes.”


Now, with benefit of hindsight and a dash of maturity, I know it takes years. The potential of a new relationship sparkles, but nothing surpasses the lustre of an enduring friendship.

Of course, the effort is worth it. It’s just . . . well . . . why can’t friends just spring into your life fully formed? How long does it take to learn the in-jokes, for goodness’ sake? If you trust me, I’ll trust you. There. Any freaky character traits you want to share? No, me neither.

Ok, I know, I know, I KNOW. *kicks sofa*

I was flattered by the number of people who assumed Husband and I would have no problem Making Friends, that there would be so many hopeful applicants we would have to hold auditions every Wednesday and beat them off with a stick.

The only thing we’ve been beating off is mosquitoes.

Much of this has to do with where we’ve chosen to live. We will move to South Island within two years, so there is not the same imperative to meet people. Socialising is complicated by a half hour drive to civilisation and Husband working evenings.

My first attempt at procuring a friend was an abject failure. At the Christopher Howard Seminar, I met John and Yvette. Many of the attendants I sincerely hoped I’d never come across again – especially if I were alone and unarmed – but John and Yvette were different.

For a start, John’s ‘cynic shield’ (as one woman described my attitude) rivalled mine. He refused to partake in the hyper high-fiving, so I high-fived Yvette across him and occasionally high-fived the upside of his head when he wasn’t getting the message.

Afterwards, Yvette asked for my phone number and we exchanged contact details.

“I have a FRIEND!” I crowed to Husband. “We’re meeting for lunch next week. She’s LOVELY. Do you have a lovely friend? No? I do. Bet you wish you had a friend. We’re meeting for lunch next week. She’s LOVELY. Do you have a etc.”

For the rest of the week, I seized upon every opportunity – and even made up a few – to remind Husband about MY FRIEND and how great she was and how I was really looking forward to lunch.

The day before lunch, Yvette called to say she couldn’t make it for a reason which, at the time, sounded entirely genuine (washing her cat).

“What’s up?” said Husband as I mooched around the living room moodily dodging advancing dust bunnies.

“My er, friend postponed lunch to next week.”

“Never mind, baby,” said Husband soothingly. “She’s probably just busy.”

During the week, my self-confidence returned and I promoted Yvette from Erfriend back to My Friend. I also stepped up the guerrilla tactics, sneaking up on Husband unawares and shouting: “My friend!” into his ear.

I’m sure you can see exactly where this is going.

Yes. She cancelled again (Christmas shopping).

“What a cow,” said Husband, instead of: “Where’s your buddy now, huh? Ha ha HA! Niamhie No Mates! Niamhie No Mates!”

The compassion is all part of his long-term devious scheme to drive me over the edge.

“Maybe you should advertise for a friend on Trademe,” he suggested.

“What? Like: ‘Friend: low reserve, very loyal, never returns books, no funny stuff?’”

In the end, we didn’t have to. Last time we were in South Island, we learned that Husband’s college mate’s brother lives just down the road from us (that being about 8km).

The first time we met MarkJ, we went around to his place. We wondered whether we had got the right house – the entire place was dark – but rang the doorbell anyway. There was a bang, followed by a mechanical hum; then the garage door groaned up and it was like that scene in ET – you know where the aliens stop by to pick up ET and you wonder what’s going to come out of the spacecraft?

When the garage door opened fully it was still pitch black, and I don’t know about Husband but I was holding my breath. Then the light blared on and there was MarkJ perfectly framed in the doorway.

It was possibly the most dramatic greeting I’ve ever experienced. Subsequent meetings can only suffer in comparison, but each has been full of chat, frequently entertaining, and often freaky. MarkJ is a multi-talented, all-purpose friend: he can conduct simultaneous conversations with Husband about cars while discoursing the nature of solitude with me. We will see much more of him.

Some time ago, our Dubai-based buddy JohnM sent an email to me and Shelley, a friend of Sylvia’s living in Devonport on the North Shore. It said:-

Niamh, meet Shelley.

Shelley, meet Niamh.

‘Do Lunch’

So we did. Husband got bored around the two hour point and went to – ok, I’m not sure where because I didn’t notice him leave – but Shelley and I talked for another hour and a half and could have kept going.

Last weekend, we met her husband Greg who is almost as nice (Shelley’s Irish. It’s an unfair advantage, I know), and daughter Victoria. They are an awesome family.

And finally, can we claim John and Haze as new friends? John is less grumpy having left Dubai, and Haze less dusty, so it’s almost like they’re different people.


Contemporary romance

I’m on a roll: NZ Immigration approved my residency visa ‘in principle’. It has been two weeks since Husband and I groveled along to the Henderson branch to submit a rose tinted account of our relationship; more evidence supporting our entirely contemporary frenziedly nibbling romance; and faxed references from friends and family.

Thanks a million to all who summarily supplied letters at such short notice: you rock.

It was particularly stressful writing a description of our relationship that didn’t include the words ‘feckin langered’, ‘champagne goggles’, ‘copped a grope’, ‘tummy burp’ or ‘what can you expect? – he’s a Kiwi’.

Since then, I have obsessed in vibrating 3-D Technicolour about being kicked out of the country (that’s when I wasn’t obsessing about my Little Black Dress contract.) Every time a car came up our road, it was the police arriving to escort me to the airport and see me onto a plane to – who cares? Eritrea – Husband sobbing uncontrollably as I desperately clutch his grasping fingers. The last thing I hear as I am dragged by the heels into the waiting aircraft nursing my broken digits is Husband wailing:

“My darling, wait for me! I swear to you: I WILL FIND YOU! <Get your filthy hands off me Plodfreak; I’m a New Zealand citizen.>”

Thankfully, not many cars come up our road.

Hey! – another idea for my second novel. I tell ya, they’re coming thick and fast these days

Atmospheric conditions

Auckland has a reputation for being soggier than the rest of the country (with the exception of the west coast of South Island, where the rain falls up as well as down).

One of the reasons Craig and Margaret moved from Te Anau to Oamaru was the brutal climate; yet whenever we visited, we were treated to balmy sunshine. It was quite embarrassing; Margaret would insist there was horizontal snow and cyclones until the day before we arrived, and we’d be all: “Oh, SURE,” and wishing we’d packed more shorts.

In fact, on every occasion Husband and I visited New Zealand – including the hoary depths of winter 2006 – we experienced phenomenal weather . . . everywhere except Auckland.

At the end of December, we arrived in the middle of what many agreed was the warmest summer ever (although I am reminded of Dubai, where each summer everyone swears it is the hottest on record).

“I can’t believe how warm it is!” people would exclaim, and then: “not for you, I suppose, coming from the Middle East,” not noticing my face stuck to a glass as I vainly attempted to deflame my facial capillaries. Auckland City was indeed clement.

Then we moved to Waitakere. It is at least 2˚ cooler than the city and everyone warned us of the savage climate up on the range. Yet within a month our water tank dried up and we had to order a delivery of 10,000 litres from the Council.

Inevitably, the day after the water truck came, it started pelting down and didn’t stop for nearly a week.

This morning, we woke to driving rain churning up thick fog. Three hours later, the sun is gently steaming the ground.

There are no half measures here.

Dead tree 30/4 10:02 . . . . and seventeen minutes later 10:19

Freshly painted house

A very brief window of tidiness opened up today, and I seized the opportunity to take a few pics of our freshly painted house featuring Husband’s recently installed lights.

The kitchen from the balcony


Dining area at the end of the living room


The living room. Our furniture looks much bigger here than it did in Dubai


My office off the bedroom

Perhaps we should mow the lawn

Here are the results of a toxic buildup of creative juices:-

Me in my stylie boots at the bottom of the garden

A New Zealand bush trail

Husband’s garden shed

The guesthouse

Hobbit alert

How to squirm under a tree

Our house in the middle of the bush

Kung fu spider

I love living on Turanga Road. The bush is green and gorgeous and the only things I can hear (apart from, occasionally, the Scottish bagpipes tuning up) are the birds and cicadas and Husband pounding away on his keyboard upstairs, which sounds a bit like rain. Except when he’s repeatedly thumping the delete key, which sounds more like him wrestling a very large bug (I’ve had several opportunities to quantify this).

We share the house with a wide variety of mini crawly beasties, winged terrors and dermaptera. There’s a spider that practices kung fu in the bathroom after dusk, and a beetle that hangs out on the kitchen windowsill flexing his antennae and threatening the moths.

Some of the less welcome creepy crawlies are mosquitoes. Kiwi mossies tend to be the size of small dogs. Traditionally they make a bee-line – or mossie-line if you prefer hahaha – for me. While they still occasionally sink their proboscis in my person, Kiwi mossies seem to find Husband more nutritious.

I’m pretty sure it’s one to two degrees colder up here in the ranges than down in the city. Even though it’s still summer, Husband has some major competition going on with my hot water bottle. The house features no insulation or double glazing, so chances are it’s going to turn into a cryogenic chamber in winter. We already have issues with humidity, but leave the windows open most of the day and have acquired a couple of dehumidifiers which will – in theory – give us a mould-free winter.

Balls the Subway franchise can be proud of

Although we signed the rental papers in early February, until recently we were still living with The Outlaws. The female component of our landlords, Ingrid, was sympathetic to our request to paint the house, so we intended to do so while waiting for our shipment.

At this stage, I was having second thoughts about the whole painting proposal. The yellow and pink had grown on me – admittedly, in similar manner to mould or fungus – but I had adjusted to the colour scheme. However, Husband was adamant.

“I’m not living in a yellow and pink house,” he announced.

“But Husband, we’re only renting; we have no idea how long we’ll live there. And have you any idea what paint costs? Well no, me neither; but we should probably look into it. And it’s a huge job – how long will it take?”

“Eh, few days. Hey! – do you think we should get a spray gun?”

Ingrid donated NZ$ 750 towards paint, which eliminated one argument. The Bro and the dog came to help the first day of painting. Kayla was of limited assistance – in fact, six weeks later we’re still picking dog hair out of the paint. The Bro was impressed with the laundry chute extending from the top of the house to the washing machine in the garage.

“There’s an access door on the floor below as well,” I said.

“Hey – is Husband in the garage?” The Bro stuck his head in the chute opening and breathed: “I’m watching you!”, accompanied by several variations of evil laugh.

It was pretty funny – but not half as much as when his retro Top Gun style limited edition Ray Bans flew off his head and straight down the chute.

For the rest of the day, The Bro rollered the ceilings. When he wasn’t splattering the carpet, he dripped paint in his eyes:

“Ow! Dammit!”

“If you did it properly, there wouldn’t be drips,” I said; then, after a pause: “Did you just roll your eyes at me?”


“Not much wrong with them then, is there? . . . See? Perfect working condition.”

At the time I was on crutches – oh, the crutches? Right, yes. I pulled a calf muscle playing squash with The Bro. My mother had warned me about him:- “Niamh, that boy is too young for you!” and I could hear her mouth pursing down the phone.

“Mum, I’m playing squash with him, not DATING him,” I said. “And by the way, you do know I’m married to his BROTHER?”

“You know what I mean,” she said darkly. “He’s half your age-“

“He’s 26!”

“I thought he was 17?”


“Still. He’ll run the arse off you. It’ll come to no good.”

I think she put a maternal hex on me, because the next time I played The Bro I pulled a muscle one game in. It was severe enough to make me think, “Oh, shite” at full mental volume – when I wasn’t thinking: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! OW! OW! OW! DID I SAY OOOOOWWWWW!”

The Bro felt sufficiently guilty to get me an ice pack and compression bandage, and lectured me at length about RICE and how my leg wasn’t above my head in that position and how talking was liable to impair recovery. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel guilty enough to provide on-call margharita.

Three days later I still couldn’t put weight on my left leg, and was getting by with a grunt-powered hop. This was fine for short distances eg from the sofa to the TV or the living room to the fridge. However, it was impossible to perform an effective headless chicken routine on one leg. I leased a pair of crutches for a week since Husband was completely unsupportive.

“Come on – what’s keeping you?” he’d say, five paces ahead.


“Oh, yes. Can’t you go any faster?”

“Why don’t you come over here and I’ll show you another use for a crutch.”

So, that’s how I came to be crippled. As lunchtime approached, I was sent to hunt and gather for The Painting Men. Spotting a Subway outlet halfway to Henderson, I figured that would take care of half the lunch menu. I ordered Husband a 6” Meatball Marinara Sub.

“Excuse me,” I said as the attendant put away his ladle. “Would you mind adding another meatball?”

“That will cost $1.50.”

“You what? For one ball?”

“If you want more meatballs, there’s an additional charge.”

“I see. Let me make sure I understand: the number of meatballs per 6” Meatball Sub is four, is it?”

“Er, I suppose so.”

“Not three meatballs?”

“Um, no.”

“Not five meatballs?”

“No,” he said, more confident now he was on firmer ground. “If you want more meatballs, there is an additional charge-”

“Yes, I got it. Ok, I won’t take the additional meatballs, but can you remove those two half meatballs and replace them with big balls please?”


“Well, if I understand you correctly, a 6” Meatball Sub should feature 4 meatballs. Presently there are two full meatballs and two half balls, which adds up to three meatballs. I want my fourth meatball.”


“Please remove those tragically pathetic excuses for meatballs, and show me balls the Subway franchise can be proud of.”

It’s been a while since I patronised Subway, and I can’t say I was impressed with the service – or the produce.

“You know, I’m not sure those can technically be called ‘meatballs’,” I said, as the attendant slapped another meatball in the sandwich (at least he couldn’t spit in it since I was watching). “Really, they’re better described as large pieces of mince. Does Subway have a complaints procedure?”

Afterwards, I spent three hours driving around Henderson trying to hunt down some booze. When I first arrived, I was under the impression you could buy alcohol everywhere here: grocery shops, doctor’s waiting rooms, school canteens, the local AA centre. Free bottle of wine with every packet of peanuts purchased! Beer vending machines on every street corner!

Apparently, not so much. Eventually, I stumbled across King Dick’s Liquor up a shady alley. After all that effort – and time – The Men were disgusted when I arrived back with a six-pack of Steinlager Light. The Bro threatened to go on strike. It took all my diplomatic skill, three lowfat turkey Subs and half my sushi to persuade him to stay

The bare necessities: kettle and wireless modem

Husband is still putting in a full working day and more for ADT and has only four hours free from 12pm-4pm. It took 40 minutes to drive to Turanga Road from The Outlaws’, which left about two and a half hours for working on the house.

We weren’t getting anywhere so, after accepting delivery of a newly purchased sofa bed, we moved in. Our seats are paint cans, and we have a box as a table. At least we have the bare necessities (these being a kettle and wireless modem, in case you were wondering).

Husband tries to talk up the experience: “Hey Niamhie, isn’t this a bit like camping? Don’t you find it exciting having to improvise? Isn’t it like a big adventure?” And I’m all: “Oh, just fuck off.”

Mind you, there was a sense of achievement when I put together a five course Valentine’s dinner with a saucepan and plastic knife (in this instance, coffee and an After Eight = two separate courses – but hey! Cut me a break)

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