Thursday, 28 February 2008

Grand Designs or Grand Marnier

We are about to have our lives turned inside out. We have building plans sitting with two builders for their quotations. When I wandered into my favourite chocolate shop today, it was enough to make me consider the ones with the vodka filling – at least 6kgs of them!

I don’t know how I’ve managed to reach late middle age and this to be my first building project. I just know that the last time we had a builder near the house, I was like a bird who had had her eggs stolen. He did a magnificent job of making a walk in closet in our bedroom. It took less than a week, and I was a wreck. In fact, I wasn’t even in the country for part of the work, as the builder managed to squeeze in this small project when I was visiting my parents.

The next project will take at least 6 weeks! It involves digging 2m holes, building retaining walls, moving tonnes of earth from one side of the property to the other, building a new side to the house and an extended driveway. Oh yes, and removing deck around most of the property to redirect storm water.

I feel for the cats. Our male cat hides under the bed when the gardener comes to mow the lawn. He is going to need sedatives to deal with all the banging.

Oh and did I mention, we may have someone coming to lodge with us at about the same time?
I have a cunning plan – large quantities of liqueur filled chocolates for me, valium for the cat and a strait jacket for the lodger.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Flower beds

Just in case you thought I was showing favouritism to the “derriere washer”, here is her brother, adopting a very Otto like pose in the lobelias.

Due to blistering temperatures yesterday he flaked out under the bed. I could see the tip of the tail wrapped around the linen box. He emerged at 4pm, strutting like a gentleman toff and demanding high tea.

I admit it, I am their slave.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Ms Cookie and the Lily

My jet lag seems to have been delayed rather spectacularly. The first four days home, I was as fit as a flea, ran around doing everything and nothing.

For the last week, I have been swimming through viscous custard. The heat hasn’t helped. After 3.5 years of living in a cold climate, I think my blood finally thickened. Now I wilt, lettuce-like, at every hint of sunshine.

Cats definitely have the right approach. When hot, lie down. In fact “when anything” lie down and play possum.

The attached photo was more for the lily than Ms Tortie washing her derriere. I have had a random rush of lilies in the garden, which I didn’t plant AND WEREN’T THERE last year.
I suspect I may have fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Pierced body parts

Question: When is a toe nail not a toe nail?
Answer: When the nail is THROUGH the toe.

Yes, I ended up in the A and E department of our community hospital just before lunch. The sequence of events were as follows: Return from Farmer’s Market to discover our amiable tom cat in a part of our property he doesn’t normally frequent. Enemy Cat was abroad. Protective owner of soppy tom cat runs to find the garden hose to eject Enemy Cat with high pressure water. Succeeds, and when replacing hose, loses balance temporarily and stands on hitherto not noticed piece of wood with nail poking out of it.

Thank goodness for Clarks sandals –thick sole. The nail went clean through the sole and into my big toe. Thankfully it only punctured my toe by a few milimeters, but as I think I was pre puberty the last time I had a tetanus injection, we got back into the car and went to the local hospital for a booster jab.

I am supposed to keep my foot elevated to alleviate the pain (some hope). I’d rather hop and get my chores in the house finished. But, given that today is in the 20’s, I think I might take a leaf out of the cat’s book later and flop in shady parts of the living room. I can snooze to the sound of cicadas.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Finding things to do

I knew that I was unlikely to get a “soft” landing after my trip, but it was a bit more manic than I expected.
The day after, I took my swollen legs to an all day fundraiser. Day two, from 3.15am I sat for 4 solid hours dealing with emails and writing a newsletter of my trip. This followed by unpacking, dealing with snail mail. visiting friends and grocery shopping. Day two, late hours, I ended up spring cleaning the larder after finding a recently emerged infestation of weevils. Drat that warm moist weather!
To be fair, between the scribbling and the scrubbing, my husband took me for a delightful Italian lunch at a seaside restaurant – my first taste of clams; and they came with their shells. Fabulous.
So, today another long list of things to do. It includes a hunt for a friendly solicitor to do the legalese for a Charitable Trust I want to set up in NZ.
Just another day in paradise

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Up and Away

At noon I start my journey back to the Land of the Long White Cloud. I have an eight hour dither in Heathrow before I start, so my flight bag contains two Joanne Harris novels (a feast - she's the only popular fiction writer I enjoy - please Joanne, more more).

Hopefully there will be no delays enroute as there were on the outbound trip (two unscheduled overnights in Singapore and London). I HAVE to be back for a big fundraiser on 16th February, swollen ankles and all!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Thug culture

Every time I return to England I am shocked by the violence in the society. Nightly since I arrived, I have listened to news reports of underage drinking out of control, teenagers convicted of murder and wild lawlessness. The town I grew up in is not safe to walk in at night.

It seems we have reaped what we have sown - the highest teenage pregnancy / one parent family rate / divorce rate in Europe and few consistent male role models. Not to mention out of control political correctness and lack of guts to say when something is wrong. And don't get me started on the amount of racist attacks, neo Nazism, football supporter violence and rapes. It's really hideous.

My friends always used to ask me "Don't you get scared living in the Middle East? Isn't it dangerous there?" Er, no. I'll take it over England any day of the week.

I'm relieved to be returning to New Zealand. It isn't perfect, but I have never feared for my life there.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Specialist shops.

We have an illustrious new establishment in my home village - a fishmongers. Bob operates out of a space the size of a large wardrobe, but this tardis like fishshop has taken the area by storm. He buys from the coast the same morning he sells, the fish so fresh you can still smell the sea on them.
His shop is called Bob's Plaice. He has one counter and a domestic size fridge for "samples".
This morning I dropped in on the way to visit a friend. I bought a large piece of haddock for her, and then saw an unidentifiable name on the counter. "What is Baramundy?" Bob whipped out a sample from the fridge "Teck it 'ome and try it. No charge." I tried it tonight and it was wonderful.
I wonder if he does S. Hemisphere deliveries?

Friday, 8 February 2008


At the risk of sounding like a hopeless romantic, I am having a major nostalgia rush here in the UK. Due to relatively mild winter weather (if you ignore a week of snow recently), spring flowers are already sticking their heads up and trees beginning to bud.

Today I have driven through the countryside and seen possibly thousands of snow drops and crocuses, lots of frisky pheasants chasing the lady pheasants and blue tits swirling around our garden in merry mating abandon.

I have driven over the Yorkshire moors and dales, through all the sleepy villages I knew well as a child, and wandered down memory lane at a seaside resort that my ancestors lived in over 150 years ago. Suddenly the Yorkshire Gene running through my DNA was screaming to be heard and attended to.

In an attempt to keep it quiet, we loaded up on Yorkshire food at a farm shop, and I plan to indulge for the last 5 days here.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Incident

When I saw this email heading in my In Box, I didn't know what to expect. I will quote in full, with an Epilogue.

Whilst you were enjoying your pancake party, an incident here at No 13. So far as I can make out, enemy cat chased Cookie. The door was open but Cookie went for the cat flap and either she or enemy cat hit it so hard that the whole assembly came out, breaking the surrounding glass in the process. Praise G_d Cookie seems uninjured (must have a bit of a headache though). No signs of cuts or bleeding and I've stroked her all over without her flinching.
So now we have a broken window. I've sealed it up with newspaper and barricaded it with old cupboard doors and carpet. Actually the surrounding glass came out quite cleanly - probably weakened by the hole made for the insertion of the catflap. Tomorrow, the glaziers come to measure up and patch up.

Of course I phoned immediately. What he didn't mention in the email, was the cat flap was LOCKED when she managed to go through it! "Are you sure she's OK? Make sure she is still eating, she may have concussion". Of course, in humans this is indicated by excessive sleeping - not a good indicator for a cat, as they are prone to that anyway.
My beloved's response was that she must be ok. She had found a box of Roses chocolates on his desk, discovered the lid open and had proceeded to flick the entire contents of the box onto the floor. She discovered she could pat them around easily, and was busy "sorting" them.

Which proves a long held theory for me; when us girls are stressed, we head for the chocolates.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Petrol Prices

I forgot to mention, I was staggered by the price of petrol in the UK; £1.07 per litre (and that is at the cheap stations).

How do people afford to run a car here?


At last, some good news on Breakfast TV this morning.

Last week, a fascinating visitor showed up unexpectedly in a small village in Norfolk. It was so rare, that people have flown from as far away as Australia, Scandinavia and Europe to see it.

Cley on Sea has a very rare sparrow in the garden of one if its residents. The "host" had the good sense to contact the local bird watching fraternity when it saw the little fellow peaking out of his hedge. It looks like a regular house sparrow, except it has a black and white striped crown. It is a variety from N. America, and there has been much speculation as to how it reached our shores. One possibility is that it got caught on a ship and had a free passage that way. I know this happens, as we had a similar stowaway once, sailing from Tanzania to India.

So, there are now rather a lot of Twitchers and wildlife photographers camping out on a B road next to the hedge. An enterprising soul in the village hung a bucket close to the sparrow's residence, requesting donations to the village church, which needs its roof repairing. Donations so far stand at £4000.

There is now a subplot being written as to how this little chap will find a mate this spring. Only sparrows with black and white caps may apply.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Those magnificent men their flying machines.

I feel the need to sing the praises of a group of anonymous men; the helicopter pilots and crew of the RAF. In the last three days they have rescued passengers and crew from three shipwrecks around the British coast, at St. Kilda (the Hebrides), Blackpool (Irish Sea) and the Scilly Isles. When you see pictures of the weather conditions and the fact that two of these rescues were done at night, it is truly miraculous there were no casualties.

All these men should be decorated for bravery. I am so proud of them

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Chilling Out

Since Wednesday evening, I have been snuggly "chilling out" in the NE of England with my parents. Regrettably, I appear to have brought the Jerusalem weather with me, and we are in the midst of a Big Freeze.

So long as a thaw happens before 13th February when I head south again, I'm OK about this, as it is enforced bookreading, cooking and not-doing-much time. Hurray.