Friday, 29 June 2007

retailers in the mist

A bit of excitement yesterday, just as we were about to leave the shop for the day. I’d just taken a coffee break with two of my staff. As we tried to go back to the shop, we were stopped by security. A fire had broken out in one of the Business Class lounges. Fortunately all the flights had left for the afternoon, so there was no need to evacuate passengers, just retailers. The authorities handled it well, no panic, no sirens. I doubt anyone on the main concourse knew it had happened. But there was a lot of smoke. I don’t know what I’ll return to find today; I know that smoke damage on stock is horrendous. Four years ago, almost to the day, I experienced a fire in a shop I was managing. The air conditioning unit caught fire in the store room full of books. I attribute my grey hair to that day in July.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Tiny visitors

I knew we’d had a cold night when both of the cats were fighting for the duvet this morning. At 7.30am, the barometer had just heaved itself above 1 degree, the frost still dusting all of the plants in our garden. But there was an upside to the turndown in temperatures – a visitation of clowns.

We have numerous dead lavender bushes bordering the deck. As I did the morning washing up, I noticed one flash of colour, followed by another on the dried heads of the plant. A total of 5 goldfinches, having the bird version of muesli for breakfast. They must have been frozen, but their acrobatics were worthy of Circ du Soleil.

I think the Great Creator had a blast when He designed these little fellows. First there was the red face, then the yellow underwings, tail tips black with white spots, cream chest sporting a honey coloured waistcoat. Eccentric dress sense, but real pzazz.

Thankfully Kitty one and Kitty two were still snoozing on the warm bed, oblivious of their alternative breakfast chirping on the balcony.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

In the genes

It has been said that getting older, one becomes one’s mother. I think I passed that milestone a while ago. One summer I started to make large quantities of marmalade from local oranges in great grandma’s copper cauldron. I caught myself thinking, “Yikes, I’m becoming just like mum!”

Today, I think I caught a glimpse of my grandmother Alice Ann surfacing. She loved wildlife. As a teacher, she taught many nature lessons in one room schools during the First World War. When I was a small child she would tell me the names of wild flowers as we walked through her garden or the orchard at the back of her house.

As I chatted with the floristry course tutor today, I got a thrill seeing how much I would learn in the six months course I plan to start next month. Even more so, because the flora of New Zealand is largely unique to these islands, something my grandma would have revelled in. But I shall miss the feeling I have every time I see Rose Bay Willow herb, her favourite dancing hedgerow flower. I have never seen it here.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Icebergs in the bird bath

This evening I sat watching a tv programme wearing thermal leggings and thermal long sleeved shirt, covered with roll neck wool sweater and jeans, covered by a mink blanket and a large, warm, purring cat. The central heating was showing 18 degrees on the dial.

And still I shivered.

The south island is experiencing large snow dumps. The biggest winter festival in the country was cancelled because all roads were blocked to the city that hosts it.

And now I have to take off three layers of clothes and don pyjamas.

I wonder if the cats would mind sleeping inside the bed tonight.

A day of rest

Don’t you love Sundays? Mine included trying to figure out a tax return with ever patient husband, entertaining a lovely friend for coffee, followed by an evening seminar on Bible and Culture. How about that for variety?

A new wind is blowing through my life, which had its origin many years ago. I have a friend of twenty two years standing who has always been a creative inspiration for me. We once went to Russia together in the middle of winter and got up to all sorts of mischief – dodging Intourist guides being the least of them. My friend and I love flowers. She did an amazing job creating all the flowers for my wedding. Just over a year ago, we sat down together in the UK and poured over floristry magazines together. I was in a “what shall I do with the rest of my life?” mode, so we ambled down a few dream alleys together. She pointed out that I love to do things with my hands. I wish I had seen that thirty years ago. Instead, I took an academic route. I hope to have at least 20 years work ahead of me, so why not put my hands into action?

So, the wind is blowing me back to school, to train in floristry. The course is just up the road, and is for 6 months, so I will be packing a lunch and taking an apple for the teacher.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Great and Small

Funny how easy it is to get attached to creatures. I have found myself becoming very protective recently over a crayfish I’ve called Clem. She sits in a large saltwater tank at the airport, tail curled under, waving her antennae around hour after hour. Now I know diddly squat about crayfish; never caught ‘em, never cooked ‘em, never ate ‘em, but I am beginning to get a soft spot for Clem.

There is a selection of fish in the tank from the Straits. We have Star fish, Urchins, Trumpeters, Snappers, Paua, Scarpies, a glamorous Gurnard, a frisky Dog fish, a Blue cod (called Rod) and shy old Clem.

I have to admit, invertebrates are pretty scary. I wouldn’t want to meet Clem in a dark alley, or have her turn up for a night on the town with her brothers. But someone has to love crayfish, and her quirky wink and sweet claw wiggle have melted my heart.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Illogical Captain

I am scratching my head. I don’t know anyone who lives in S. America. I have only given my blog address to friends. So how the heck did I get dots on my cluster map in Chile and what looks like Bolivia?

I can’t POSSIBLY be picking up unknown visitors, SURELY? Mine is a small life, with small ramblings about parochial things.

So who is it that cares in S. America? Please put me out of my misery!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Early morning strategies

I do some of my most strategic thinking in the shower. This morning I planned “How to survive in an earthquake.” This was a particular survival technique related to what would happen if we got a “big one” just as I’d got out of the shower. I got to thinking, in what order would I get dressed? It didn’t take long to come up with the following order/process:

1) Woolly socks and thick sheepskin slipper boots first. Why? Because I have the coldest feet on the planet, and it would be difficult to run anywhere in bare feet.
2) Dressing gown
3) Grab bathroom towel and pyjamas – logic, you can pull things on underneath a voluminous dressing gown without losing too much modesty enroute. The bath towel would be wound round the head to keep the rest of the body warm and to act as a helmet for falling masonry.
4) As I exited the door, I would grab both cats in cat blankets, and stuff them under dressing gown, denying escape for them and adding several degrees of warmth for me.
There you have it. Totally foolproof, except I haven’t practiced yet, and judging by the look I am getting from our sofa bound tom cat, I don’t think it’s likely to happen in the near future.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Green grows the rushes ho

This morning’s walk had the muted sounds of autumn, the drizzle like a pianissimo pedal, softening all the birdsong. It is my favourite season, but I remain disorientated here in the southern hemisphere. The leaves stay stubbornly on the trees, and all around is green and lush. I found myself hunting for a bare tree or a red or brown leaf. I finally found a non-native bush with a circle of pretty leaves around its base, so I scrabbled around and put most of them in my shopping bag. I will dry them at home then arrange them for the table. I am determined to have russets as the temperatures plummet.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

To Life!

Do you remember the song in Fiddler on the Roof “To life, to life, L’Chaim”? It’s been buzzing around my head in recent days. I am a self confessed blogaholic. But only two sit on my Favourites list. It is where I watch the youth of the Middle East talk together. This includes young people from the country that the Middle East loves to hate, the home of Falafel.
I am astonished, encouraged, overwhelmed by what I read there. It is informed, on the spot, intelligent, witty, hopeful, generous. These young folk are critical, politically aware and in one particular case blogged at the risk of their own lives, eventually having to “disappear” from the blogosphere.

It gives me hope that the world according to the BBC and CNN is not representative of what is truly happening on the ground. I think we all know this, but boy, hanging out with the Shebab (young folk) of that region online, sure gives you a different perspective.
I salute you, I trust the region will survive, for the sake of your children, and I say “L’Chaim” to you.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Household appliances

I think our cats are Hungarian. One looks like Buddha, the other is a Pest.

The Pest has figured out how to use certain technology in our home. She wanders on the computer keyboard, causing regular bleeps, and sits on my mobile phone, speed dialling goodness knows who.

I have yet to teach her how to plug in the vacuum cleaner or unload the dishwasher…..but it could be just a matter of time before she figures those out too.

Buddha only knows how to imitate a solar panel, moving around the house finding the last angle of winter sun. Perhaps if I plug his tail into a socket somewhere, we could run something off all the power he has generated.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Hard Copy

I am beginning to realise, courtesy of an internet auction site, the diversity of things people collect or dispose of. It is a memory “super highway”. One person’s memory is another person’s dust collector. My bits and pieces are indicative of a wandering lifestyle and a confused mind. There are bears, books, country magazines, earrings and oddball items for the kitchen; all rather random, nothing valuable. My biggest weaknesses are photos and letters. I have boxes and boxes of them. When I shipped things from England, I finally got to sort through the letters, going back 35 years. Not one had been thrown out. So I returned many to the original correspondents – I thought they may appreciate them as an alternative diary of their youth. It was amazing the trivia we wrote about. At the risk of sounding like an old crinkly, I feel sorry for the younger generation, for whom letter writing is about emails. I doubt that they will be kept 35 years on the hard drive!

Monday, 11 June 2007

Topsy Turvy Day

Today was an “oh my goodness” drop everything and run like a headless chicken kind of day. I had a missed call on my mobile late last night, which I saw only this morning. It was from a friend who is 8 months pregnant. When I finally got the husband on the line, it turns out that their son arrived this morning at 1am after a mere 6 hours labour! So, we dropped everything, ordered a bouquet from the local florist, picked up the new dad and took him to the hospital to visit (after his power nap at home and a carrot for breakfast!). We fed him lunch, went back to the hospital, and I’ve been cooking meals for the wife ever since. It was so exciting. The baby is exquisite with dark, dark hair and green eyes. The dad is totally beside himself with joy; his first son was born 5 days before his birthday. I got to feel like granny. Of course, I have enjoyed all my friends in the UK having babies, but they are all at university now (gosh that makes me feel ancient). It has been a while since I have been able to show up at a hospital bedside and go all gooey over a miniature life.

Prior to picking up the missed call, I had started to rearrange the spare bedroom and overhaul the linen cupboard. I have just cleared everything up.

Now, for the final episode of War and Peace, aching feet up on the pouffe with the cat.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Wither hath thou wandereth?

Courtesy of another blogger, I have visited a site where you can build a map to show where you have travelled. Here is my map

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Not the Norm

Not the Norm

A friend of mine started a thread in a chatroom recently, called “not the norm”. She wondered how many people out there qualified. It got me thinking. There are a lot of folk who probably think they’re weird, whereas in fact they are totally normal and should have the freedom to live in that reality.

So here’s my contribution to being “not the norm”

1) Left handed
2) Blood group A Rhesus negative
3) Married at 42 for the first time
4) Don’t have aspirations to own any designer clothes, let alone wear them
5) Love charity shops (see above)
6) Can’t walk in high heels
7) Weigh more than husband and am larger than the “average” UK size 16
8) Content with 7
9) Never had braces on my teeth - don’t mind having a goofy grin.
10) Buy things for the house that I like, even if they don’t match and aren’t Feng Shui’d
11) Love vacuuming and ironing
12) Think my parents are great and gave me all I needed to be a sane member of the Human Race.

To think there is a whole planet of us out there who are NTN. Perhaps we should run for parliament. I plan to grow old disgracefully and keep parrots that say rude words to polite visitors (tee hee). Can we start a NTN society and elect outrageously marvellous people to run it and challenge every daft "norm" out there? How are you Not the Norm?

Chardonnay Moi Monsieur?

Odd how people have names which fit their professions. Today I took our very salty car to the car wash; several waves hit it last week as I drove around the bay to work. The man who served me at the petrol station was called Finephillin. Would suit a dentist too I suppose! With a name like Smelt, maybe I am doomed to work in a chippie, but working where I do, I deserve a name like Moet – Chandon or Dunhill.
I found my diary of 1977 on Thursday and I looked up the entry for 7th of June. It was my saxophone lesson. I suddenly felt very old. Was it 30 years ago that I was aspiring to be the next Kathy Stobart? At 45, I am beginning to wonder what the future holds when the past seems to be bursting with experiences. Is it possible that the next 25 years will be as packed with life? Watch this space.

Friday, 8 June 2007

That missile shield

It appears that Putin is suggesting Azerbaijan as an option for the US's proposed missile shield. Told you Condi!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Not enough glue Your Honour

I have come to the conclusion that some airlines should simply NOT be let out with aircraft. They are just a jolly liability.

A certain flight each week arrives late with monotonous regularity. The staff of the said airline always tell us that they put the “about to fall apart” machinery on this route. Announcements made on a regular basis about “Engineering Difficulties” appear to verify this.

Today we received a fax to say that the inbound flight wasn’t arriving, and hence there would be no outbound. We all just looked at each other and shrugged. I guess that poor Boeing had to be laid to rest eventually. Mutterings such as “Wonder which wing fell off this time?” and “Bet he didn’t drop his landing gear” were to be heard, as they are heard at least twice weekly.
My comment “Don’t bother with the rivets, pass the sellotape,” met with nods of agreement. My colleague who makes model aircraft as a hobby is threatening to send the engineering department his CV.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

A worrying development

Those of you who know me well, know how I live to vacuum. The second most romantic gift from my husband (last year) was a super duper Swedish Nilqvist vacuum cleaner. It is so powerful, Otto runs from it – the bag is large enough (just) to remove him from the planet.

Last night, the Husband had a very odd dream. He had to vacuum and the cleaner had to be lit, like a gas cooker. It was a very old and strange machine, becoming very hot as he used it. Not long after he cleaned the house, he realised it was nuclear powered and very dangerous.

Er, does anyone know how to dispose of a nuclear powered vacuum cleaner in an enviro friendly fashion? The Husband is very nervous, not to mention the cat!

Zoo Tails (sic)

Last Wednesday, I spent a very pleasant two hours at Wellington Zoo. This was courtesy of a romantic gift from my husband – a one year pass for unlimited visits. It didn’t take him long to realise that his wife suddenly became a nine year old in the presence of any four legged creature.

What I learned:
1) Our cat Otto is distressing larger than the wallabies and only slightly more intelligent than the gibbon.
2) The Australian Pelican would be able to swallow him whole (its beak can hold 13 litres of water or several kilos of fish/cat)
3) Otto’s tail cannot suspend him upside down from a tree like the spider monkey, although he has attempted this trick from above the compost bin, and failed.
4) A red panda will find the sunniest branch in the highest tree and curl up there to sleep in a Force 8 and still be there 3 hours later – Otto would not.
5) Giraffes wait patiently to be fed carrots from a bucket. Patience and food do not appear in the same sentence for Otto. Bucket, however, does.
6) The Sumatran Tiger is allowed to play with a Yellow Pages after he has breakfast. Otto sleeps on the page marked “Restaurants”.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Move over Condi

When the new manager introduced himself, it was brief “I have 27 years experience in retail, and I love work”. Great, I hope that enthusiasm will rub off on the staff.

On a totally different subject, am I the only person who is a tad confused about defence policies from the Kremlin and the Pentagon these days? Russia has appeared publicly unphased by the Iranians enriching uranium, (for heaven knows what), but is always on high alert for any threat to Russia by Muslim extremists. It is understandably concerned about Bush’s latest brilliant defence policy move (can you hear my teeth grinding?), namely the proposed build up of defensive missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic (rewind to Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernyenko and repeat to fade).
This proposed shield is ostensibly to protect the US against attacks from Iran (?), not Russia. Now, when I last looked at a map, Iran was a darn sight closer to Russia than to the US. I have a suggestion. Why doesn’t the Pentagon base the defensive missiles inside Russia, pointing south to Iran, thereby pacifying the Kremlin and erasing any threat by Iran to Russia as well as the US. Uncle Sam and Uncle Vladimir could then resume cosy chit chats at world summits and discuss invasions past and present.

Back to the chalkface

Today we get a new manager at work. Phew. It has been a rough few months without an additional person to look after the second shop. When I took the job, I was only supposed to supervise both shops twice a week, but for at least 8 weeks I have been in charge of both for 5 days. It has been so frustrating, as it is physically difficult to do everything in a 4 hour shift. Due to aviation security, there is no “short cut” between shops, so you walk round a good bit of the airport to get from A – B. I have some great staff, but we have also been at least 2 people short every day, so we’ve been run ragged. The Assistant Manager has done well to hold things together, but he has worked a minimum 10 hour day for the last few months too. So, a big welcome to the new Chief.
Two lots of jewellery arrived over the weekend, from Otaki (the lady dropped them off) and Christchurch. I continue to be amazed how “the store is always full”. I have written four newsletters about our fundraising adventures, and re reading them always brings a smile. It was such a crazy idea, but it worked. I suppose it proves the point that you should always embrace “off the wall” and see where it takes you.

Monday, 4 June 2007

God Save the Queen

Greetings from 41 degrees below (latitude, not celcius). Today is the Queen's birthday - Liz the Second’s birthday. The fact that it ISN'T her Real Birthday, or even her Official Birthday doesn't matter a jot. It is just a good old excuse for us to have a long weekend and dig the garden, visit relatives or watch terrible films on TV. I hope she appreciates the effort made on her behalf by her Southerly subjects. It’s the day to sit in traffic queues and pay surcharges on our latte. But the dear lady is worth it, even if she has never done either on our behalf. I wonder if the Queen has ever had a latte? If anyone out there can authoritatively answer that question, I’d be pleased to pass on the answer. My mum and Queenie are the same age. My mum I suspect is whackier and can make a better Yorkshire Pudding, but she would look daft in a tiara.

We seriously blobbed yesterday, watching the first three videos of “War and Peace” at one sitting. I was 10 when I first saw this series, and I fell hopelessly in love with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre. I think this dramatisation sparked my early obsession with things Russian. It would be 19 years before I visited Russia and the interest has never waned. The BBC has a lot to answer for.

I thoroughly appreciated today, as it is the first public holiday since December 1st that I have had off; I’ve worked all 7 so far. We went out to our local French cafĂ©, tried unsuccessfully to find a kitchen cupboard company and then came home, me to cook up a storm and The Husband to demolish various parts of the shrubbery. Both activities were observed from the sofa and armchair by the cats. They’re not daft our two, having perfected the art of kipping to Doctorate level.
My second huge blanket for a Ukrainian orphanage is almost finished (it will keep a child warm, not the building). I am now starting on The Antipodean Quilt. Ask me in 5 years how it is going…..