Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Virtual Walk.

August 24, 2007

I’ve thrown the morning paper down with disgust and despair and retreated to the study. The two main stories concern Dubya’s latest blathering on the hopelessly complicated Iraqi situation and the happy news that new pandemic-potential diseases are now developing and spreading at the rate of knots. Happy breakfast, everyone.

As I sat down, I realised that this is possibly the last time I will write from this desk because tomorrow we move the furniture to the storage unit and the house will be bare and empty, awaiting the arrival of the new people. I will miss this place terribly and up until now have scarcely allowed myself to think about that aspect of leaving. Twenty-one years of living, loving, hating and growing are embedded here and you don’t leave all that without a backward glance. When we arrived, it was to a large grassy paddock, protected from the cold southerly blasts by a large row of lawsoniana. There were no other trees, except for a huge old-man pine, which was felled to make room for the house. There were no gardens, no shrubs or bushes, no flowers, no vegetables.

If I raise my eyes just a little and glance out of the window, I can see a row of raised beds running along the length of the house. One is full of primulas and their glowing jewel colours defiantly light the grey morning and provide a contrast to the flowering quince above them. Its pink flowers cover the bare branches which are alive with waxeyes who are there for the tiny insects that live among the petals. They visit every morning around this time and are deft little acrobats, navigating with ease through the sharp thorns and hanging upside down by their strong little feet. They are not in the least bit shy. At first, you only see one or two, their green and grey blending with the bark, but watch for a moment, and you will see that there are six, eight, ten, dozens, moving in the tree and on the ground beneath. Suddenly, they are done and rush away, flying in little swoops to their next destination.

Look a little to the right and the stately deep purple heads of a winter rose rises up from its low lying leaves. It seeded last year and its children, still in miniature, are growing up around its feet. Further on, Grandma’s pinks are just starting to put out their spring leaf tips. If you could come back later in the season and see them in flower, you would be met by a wonderful fragrance. Grandma’s pinks have been with me since our girl was two years old. And speaking of our girl, there is the David Austin rose that shares her name. I chose it because it is just like her – the flowers are a warm deep pink with peach and gold tones at the centre and the scent is heady, rich and voluptuous.

Walk along a little further and you will come to a large bed filled with variegated flaxes, cabbage trees, kowhai and a blood-red rhododendron. This garden really was created with blood and sweat. It once housed three huge lawsoniana whose branches reached out so far that they almost touched the house. Higher that the roof at the two story end, the trees loomed and menaced, their cold shadows blocking all sun and light. The year after H. died, we felled them and the transformation to the backyard was instant.

I could walk you right through the rest of the garden, but I know that I’d lose my blaudience long before we got right around, so we’ll just stop one more time and that is in front of Mum’s kowhai. This is a very significant tree for me. It was grown from seed taken from the huge tree that grew in the backyard at Belmont, my last childhood home. That was a stately being, rising up in beautiful form beside the house. The Wahine storm took it, smashing it and splitting the trunk right down the centre. Mum collected seed from its felled branches and grew a bonsai which lived for years in a pot on the back porch. That bonsai was admired and coveted by many and when Mum died, I whipped it away to the farm and planted it. It has since grown into a beautiful tree. When it flowers in late spring, tui, bellbirds and kereru flock to it’s golden flowers, drinking the nectar and bickering among themselves over territory and mates. Last week, I collected seed from its branches. I plan to sow them in various safe places as we travel around, but I will keep some in reserve. One day there will be a new garden and I’ll sow that seed and maybe in the far off future our grandchildren will lie in the grass beneath a kowhai tree, looking up at tui feeding in the spring.

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Great release leads to frantic activity.

August 21, 2007

Yeah – I know that it’s usually the other way round, but after two years of being on the market, the farm has finally sold. You may wonder why it took so long, so I’ll back the bus up a bit and explain.

Around twenty-three years ago, three families decided that they wanted to give co-operative living a shot. Not in hippie everyone-loves-everyone-but who-does-the-work style, but more of a co-living; a sharing of a commonly owned land and possessions. We searched for a year to find the land, and found a bare block of 116 acres/46 hectares in a beautiful spot not far from the capital city. This was purchased and as we very much wanted to retain our individual family identities, we designed a large house that comprised three completely separate living areas, each of which could access the others, but all under the same roof.

We lived a pretty basic life in on-site caravans for a few years while we built, this being done with our own blistered hands, mainly at weekends. Eighteen months into the building process, one of the families decided that they no longer wanted to be part of the co-operative and moved out, leaving the remaining two couples and their collective four children to complete the task.

Eventually the house was completed to the stage that first one, then later the other family could move in.

I won’t attempt to describe the dynamics of co-operative living here, except to say that it was an extremely challenging time, physically, financially, socially and personally. The challenges were only exacerbated by the cultural mix of differing Kiwi and German attitudes and expectations and by the complex and somewhat individualistic characters of the adults involved. Throw injury, illness and death into the mix and the challenges went through the roof.

The original intention had been that we would gradually expand the community, eventually building a self-sustaining mini-village system, where a wide range of ages would live co-operatively, providing a safe birth-to-death haven. We were young and very idealistic and not very realistic and the challenge never really got off the ground.

The years rolled on. One of us departed for the spiritual world, the kids began leaving home and eventually there were only three of us, knocking around in a vast ten bedroom, three living room, two kitchen house. We decided that we had to sell. Easy peasy, you might think.

But wait. There’s more. One of the remaining three has been told by a friend that the property is worth *$insert astronomical number.* In reality it is worth *$insert much less.* Emotional price has nothing to do with it. A property is, after all, only worth, in dollar terms, what the market will pay. It took two years to talk him down to a realistic view. The other factor in the long sale time is simply the size. Many came to see, most loved it and wanted it, few had a reason to buy such a huge place.

Eventually, someone came with an acceptable offer, although it was a close-run thing. Much fast talking was required on the part of yours truly and the Manpet to convince our partner that this really, really was the time to take the money and run.

And so – great release and much frantic activity – the time from going unconditional to settlement gives us only twenty-four days to pack up the detritus of twenty-one years of collective living and move out…….

Dear Lord, please send more…

July 27, 2007

Whether it was Intelligent Design or random chance, the forces that originated our world fell down in one area.

Twenty-four hour days are just not cutting it. Please sign my petition for thirty-six.

And a safe arrival….

June 30, 2007

In brief, for those who read here, she has arrived. Last night (Friday NZ time) at 11.33pm, a most beautiful baby girl.

Yeah. I know…they all say that about their own babies or grandbabies, but it’s true. She doesn’t have that squashed up, wrinkled new-baby look, but is smooth of cheek and….just perfect. The new Daddy rang us about half an hour before she arrived and invited us down to see her. Who could refuse that offer? We went, we saw, we were totally conquered and if I appear to rave a little here, I make no apologies whatsoever.

We shot down to the hospital, arriving about ten minutes after she was born. And there she was, snuggled in her Mum’s arms, so like Little Pea, but so unlike as well. The contrast….I can’t really express what I feel here. Our girl looked simply radiant – I haven’t seen an expression of such joy on her face for so long. She said she would never be able to sleep again, as she wouldn’t be able to stop looking at her child; she asked if she was really theirs; she just gazed with delight. And her Dad, too – holding her close in his arms, on his face a look of such tenderness, I thought my heart would burst.
We got to have a cuddle as well and who knew that one look, one touch, could lead to such instant love? She fitted my arms as if she were made for them, gazing up with blurry eyes at this strange, new world.

I’m totally over the moon.

Baby Day

June 29, 2007

Today is baby day – the long awaited moment when our new grand-daughter will be born. This day, although two and a half weeks preterm, has been chosen because of the previous loss.

Mothers who have had an early still-birth are known to stress increasingly once the comparitive time of the previous pregnancy is reached and these stresses can affect the foetus, so when this is likely to happen an early elective is often chosen, so long as the new baby is of reasonable size and development. Just to add to the mix, the new little one is still doing her internal flip-flops and changes position from breech to normal almost daily. Because of this, it won’t be known whether the elective will be natural or sugical until the very last minute.

Because of the circumstances surrounding the birth of the first child, everyone is in a high state of anxiety. Schmootle is a bundle of nerves and although her rational medical mind tells her that all will be well, her heart responds differently and as a result she has frequent and escalating emotional meltdowns. With her, everything is seen at the surface; what you see is what you get. Her man responds differently and although he has a double burden of grief for his lost children he hides this under a veneer of slightly irritable “Oh, for heaven’s sake, what now?!” The Manpet and I respond in our ways, too. Although I’m certain that the past will not be repeated, I’m most concerned for Schmootle’s mental state should anything go wrong. And birthing is always an anxious time anyway.

Coupled with this is the on-going stress of the property sale. We have recently listed with a new agent after two unsuccessful years of marketing, and while some would think that our previous agent was lax, this was not the case. He worked hard for us and spent a great deal of money on advertising and a huge investment of time in showing the property to a whole string of potential purchasers, but to no avail. The whole nature of the property means that it will appeal to a very small sector of the market and this naturally has its consequences. So we are re-tendering with new agents who will re-brand it and hopefully swing a deal our way.

The new tender process begins on Monday and the preparation time coincides directly with the baby’s arrival. You could argue that we should have waited, but in all honesty, we are getting near the end of our tether here. Some study has shown that the three most stressful events in our lives are the death of a close family member, separation and divorce, and selling a family home. Generally, selling a family home takes a maximum of three or four months, so our two years on the market puts us right up there among the experts in the field.

One of the main stresses of having the property on the market is having to constantly have the house and gardens in perfect condition. I never was a devoted housewife and dust balls have always been close acquaintances, so the constant dusting and vaccing and tidying away to invisibility of all extraneous personal possessions goes totally against my natural sloppiness. Same with the gardens; I would much rather give in to my inner eye that says “Hey… a wee garden here would look just wonderful!” than maintain those already here, so over the years, a great sprawling conglomeration of beds has sprung up all over the big house paddock.

When we first put the place up for sale, we worked like demons to get it all clean and tidy, spick and span, both inside and out and even managed to keep it that way for quite a time. But you can only do so much and still lead a nearly-normal life so over the two year time span, things have gone back a little, especially outside. In preparation for the latest tender-thing I’ve spent the past weeks in a frantic spring clean of the house and a very cold and wet re-vamp of the gardens, which are at their winter worst. I tore out yesterday and bought a whole lot of colour spot plants to whack into the bare patches. Petunias were the choice of the day and their wonderful colours glow brilliantly in the dull winter light. I’ll put them in the raised beds outside the kitchen and study windows where the plant-eating critters seldom intrude and hopefully they will still be there when the punters come to view.

And this post, rabbiting on as it does, is something of a distraction. If I put my mental energies in here, I won’t have to think about what is going on down the road.

Gruntled

June 25, 2007

We have had a steady history of old, dodgy PCs ever since our first one, around five years ago. I certainly can’t complain about the cost, as they have almost always been courtesy of other people who no longer had a use for them, usually because they were upgrading to a squeaky new machine, but there has been a cost in terms of frustration. In its old state, our current PC ran like a flat-tyred wheelbarrow being pushed uphill by a blindfolded snail – mind-numbingly slow and constantly falling over. Quite apart from the time wasted sitting here waiting for some app to load, the many crashes resulted in lots of lost work, causing naughty words to flow in an almost non-stop stream from my sainted mouth, which then caused various bouts of giggling or distress in the family circle, according to their individual temperament, disposition or species.

Part of the problem was that the tiny hard drive, all of 9Gb, was crammed to the utter brim, mainly with a great influx of digital photos as well as all the old stuff hopped over from previous incarnations of a lineage of PCs from years back. So crammed that I could no longer induce the thing to even do a decent defrag. It doesn’t help that I’m a gatherer of often useless clutter – the inside of my HD looks something like Steptoe and Son’s yard on a bad day – that I just can’t bear to delete. After all, you never know just when you might want a picture of a cow licking a dog, or a dissertation on Open Source versus Microsoft. And the 128Mb of RAM was barely enough to wake the thing up, let alone do anything much else. Even the normally speedy Firefox had became a laggard.

The nasty brown stuff finally hit the whirling blades the other day when even Notepad was having trouble keeping up with my typing speed, which is certainly nothing extraordinary, relying on a mere two fingers and an occasional thumb for most of the time. The low, sustained roar with which I expressed my frustration was enough to cause the windows to rattle and left me with a rather nasty sore throat. However, it was enough to make the Manpet realise that I was, at last, coming very near to the end of my much stretched tether and that it was probably about time something was done.

You may wonder why we don’t just bite the proverbial and go out and get a new computer – after all, a reasonable desktop is not beyond most middle-class Western aspirations, but there is a reason for our hesitation. Buying a desktop at this point in our lives would be pretty much a waste. We are going to be living in a bus just as soon as our home has sold and a desktop is simply not a suitable contender for life in a bus.

Power and space constraints mean that a laptop is the only option. and because I’m wanting to delve more into the intricacies of photo manipulation, something big and fast will be needed. But here in New Zealand, a top-end laptop is still a costly item, so we are putting off the moment of purchase until we have a little more cash in the bank. Also, the longer we wait, the better the specs will be, as laptops are improving in quantum leaps.

So we have come to an interim that will hopefully last the distance. A friend of a friend very kindly agreed to give the old horror a birthday and upgrade some of the hardware. So while this is still a somewhat elderly Pentium 111 machine, it now has a 232Gb hard drive and 384Mb of RAM. Wow! Digital bliss! A-a-a-nd a new and unexpected OS to boot!

So, lots of re-loading of old favourites and a few new ones, now that I have the space, then some tweaking and primping to get back to something that looks like me again. I’m still getting used to the new OS, but so far, so good.

Yeah, I’m gruntled.

Days in the sun.

June 6, 2007

We have just returned home from four sunny days away in the bus. The bus, you ask? Ah yes, the bus. I will write about that one day soon when I have more time to spare.

The main reason for the break was to spend a weekend with Schmoo and the Man – in all probability the last weekend we will have with them as an unencumbered couple. Because in four short weeks, their baby is due to be born. Talking and even thinking about this child is still a little like walking on cracking ice, because although we are all so much looking forwards to this new little one, there is a lurking feeling of what I can only describe as guilt hovering somewhere in the background. Quite why guilt should be present at this time is a bit of a mystery, but there you are. There is no explaining the human heart. I try not to explore too deeply in that painful area but I can only imagine that, deep within my psyche somewhere, there is a feeling that things might be different if only I had….what?

And there my mind sticks. Because my logic tells me – as it rightly should – that there is not a single thing on god’s green earth that I or anyone could have done to prevent the awfull consequences of March 2006.

Schmoo blames herself. She denies it, but little hints creep out sometimes, little words that indicate to me, the ever vigilant mother, that she feels responsible for the death of little Pea. She even admitted to feeling guilt over being pregnant again, which must be a horrible thought to blight a new pregnancy with. I do my best to reassure her, but I know how the mind works, niggling and sniping at un-guarded moments.

This baby, like the last, is stubbornly presenting as breech. And the one thing that Schmoo will not countenance is turning her, because it is thought by her ob-guy that that is what may well have set off the whole disaster last time. And you know, I know, he knows and she knows, that thousands upon thousands of breech babies are turned, completely without any negative consequence every single year. If the wee one doesn’t turn, a Caesar will be flavour of the day.
You could say that she is being un-necessarily cautious, but in this, I support her to the hilt. To encourage her to do otherwise would simply make her re-live those horrible days all over again, even if this time all goes like clockwork.

And it is still a possibility that she will turn. After all, her mother was also stubbornly breech. Her other prefered position was transverse – she would lie like a giant lozenge, right across the width of my belly, roundy head at one side, roundy bum at the other, little feet kicking strongly at my stomach. She was turned but had reverted to her head-up bum-down position by the time I got back home from the hospital. But on the day of delivery, there she was, head down, ready to go. And this baby may well do the same.
I tell Schmoo this and she looks at me, hope shining tentatively in her eyes.

“Really?” she asks.

“Really.” I say.

All you can really do is to hope. And, if you have a mind for it, to pray.

Oh, the goodness!

May 23, 2007

Generally speaking, the Manpet and I are not big spenders. For a start, we don’t have the dosh and secondly, we both seem to have a somewhat limiting Calvanistic work ethic that says save…save…save and don’t spend a cent that you don’t have to. Well, slight exaggeration, but compared with, say, Paris Hilton, we are definitely at the thin edge of the spending wedge.

So to get not one, not two, but three items of life-bling all within a twenty-four hour period is nothing short of spectacular.

Yesterday, we visited Schmoo and her Man, who is in IT and he provided us with a beautiful wide screen LCD monitor to replace our old, donated 15″ CRT monitor. The new one, 19″, isn’t huge by todays standards by any means, but it will be ideal in the bus, as anything larger would be too big to put on the narrow, wee desk that we use there for our computery stuff. We did consider a 22″, but it would have been a little overwhelming from close distance.

This new monitor, one of the very few new things we have had in this line apart from some RAM, is an LG Electronics Flatron Wide. Not a common make in this neck of the woods, but apparently used by some of the local graphics guys, who swear by it. Certainly it is clear and bright – my digi-pix display perfectly, including all of those out-of-focus ones that I couldn’t really see before, even when zooming in Firefox or Photoshop. Clearly, my technique needs some tweaking! Using Photoshop is so much easier on this, as it allows me to see the photos without having all the clutter of palettes sitting over the top of them. There is room for them all to sit nicely off to one side. DVD’s display very nicely, thanks, compared with the 15″ that we used to use to watch them with. And, to top it off, it was insanely reasonable to buy. We did get a bit of extra help on this, as it was part of a bulk buy for the Man’s business, but they seem to be a lot cheaper than comparable models in other brands.

The other two bits of bling are lenses for my somewhat elderly Nikon Coolpix 4500. We have had it for around four years now, and paid an astounding $1200(NZ) – that’s around $870(US) for it – a huge lump of money for us at the time. Of course, nowadays, you can get a lot more bang for your bucks camera-wise for much less money, but I’m really happy with the excellence of the macro on this little camera, as well as it’s unique swivelly body that allows me to take pix in stealth mode. You can just have the thang sitting in yer lap with the swivel…er…swivelled and whack off pix of people totally unobserved. To the onlooker, you just look as though you are reviewing your pictures. Little do they know…

One of the disadvantages of the camera is that it only has a four times optical zoom. The experts say “Just get closer to your subject.” but that ain’t always possible, is it? A distant mountain is always going to be a distant mountain unless you walk a very long way and a wee bird in a tree is going to take flight right now, if you take one more step.

It also has a somewhat narrow feild of view in certain circumstances and this has been a disadvantage a few times. Panoamas and clever software stitchery are generally the answer to that, but sometimes, distortion puts paid to that.

I had looked at the price of wide-angle and converter lenses, but the new ones bought locally were collectively going to be just about as much as a whole new camera, so I was very happy to be recommended a website in Usa that sells secondhand, new and near new camera goodies. The guy who recommended them had bought from them a number of times and said that he had always been very happy with the quality and condition of their second hand stuff, so I went ahead and ordered a 2X teleconverter and a wide angle lense.

They just came today after much anxious waiting and chewing of fingernails. I like to be able to see what I’m buying, to hold it in my hand and take it away when I hand over the $$$, so inline shopping is a bit of a biggie for me. I’ve done a couple of books before, but never a big item that would sting if it failed to turn up. But yeah, here it is, beatifully packed and protected with extra cushioning as requested. I still have to try them out, but they look to be in great condition with clear, unmarked lenses.

Wow!!

Dear Diary, Yo Blog.

May 22, 2007

Dear Diary,

I’ve been thinking about you and me quite a bit lately – about how much we have both changed over the years. I can clearly remember your first incarnation. I was nine years old and you were a little square book. You had a lovely soft leather cover in green and a little gold lock with a key that worked. I wrote in you every day. You were not so much of a “what I did” sort of a diary, more a “what I felt” one. I poured my heart out into you. You lived under the mattress and your key lived in the drawer under my knickers and I thought my secrets were safe.

One day, you had moved while I was at school – just a little, and your key was in a slightly different place. I was no longer sure that my secrets were safe. You were nearly full of writing by then and I was finding that your pages were no longer big enough to contain my thoughts, so we said good bye and you were re-born a couple of weeks later. Your new hiding place was harder to find. You now lived behind the big hard-backed books on the bottom shelf of the bookshelves in my room. You had no key, as you were a discarded excersise book from school. I never did have much time for spelling.
I was more cunning by then and in your old, green self, I wrote occasional short, dummy entries – boring “what I did” notes that meant nothing. Your green self moved fractionally on occasions, but your new self never did, so I thought my secrets were safe.

Then one day, I came home from school and the world was in an uproar. Unbeknown to me, we were moving house and my parents had spent the day packing up. My room was nearly empty, a row of sealed boxes the only evidence that it had ever been lived in. When we unpacked at the new house, you in your excersise book form were nowhere to be found. I dared not ask about you and I never saw you again.

For a long time after that, you were physically absent from my life. I still wrote to you, but only in my head – long, detailed entries that explored and explained my life as I saw it.

Now, you have arisen in yet another way. You are both much bigger and much smaller than you were. Bigger in that I need all this wizz-bang machinery to produce you on, smaller in that you are, in your raw form, invisible to human eyes. You live in binary form, translated byte by byte from my mind to your memory, pixelating your way across the screen, there for all the world to see – if they know where to look. You do have a key and it is much harder to find, but I know my secrets are never safe.

Eyes at half-mast.

April 24, 2007

I am tired today. Really tired. We have averaged a mere four and a quarter hours sleep per night over the past four nights and it is beginning to tell. Friday night, we caught up with two friends who are moving out of the area. They stayed late and we certainly didn’t discourage them, but the early rising the following morning to deal with a pile of tasks and a meeting didn’t help. Saturday night we visited Jane and Henry. It was the first time we have been invited to dinner there, but they are not the type to rush you through the courses and then politely hold the dor open. We left at around 11pm, drove home and were in bed with the light out at 1am-ish.

Toss.

Turn.

Toss.

Turn.

Toss-turn-toss.

Eyes wide open in the dark, mind hamster wheeling. Somewhere between three and three-thirty I finally drift off, but vivid and disturbing dreams accopany me.

Sunday and another 7am arising to a task-stack, then a quick run over the hill to visit a workmate of the Manpet, who has recently had a knee replacement. While awake. His witty and colourful description of the operation and subsequent admission to intenstve care for complications had us laughing and cringing by turn. By the time we had swung by the kid’s place and caught up with Shmoo at the top of the Rimutakas, it was getting dark. Home to an early beddy-byes – lights out at 10pm.

12.30am. Eyes wide open. Hamster mind mode.

Toss.

Turn.

Etc.

3.15am.  Alarm rings, as the Manpet has to go to Sydney for the day and the latest check-in time for the 6.30 departure is 4.30am. 1.40pm, the Sydney-Wellington plane finally arrives almost one and a half hours late. By the time the Manpet has gone through customs and we have driven home, it is 2.30am. We finally hit the pillows at 2.45, almost twenty-four hours after we arose. 8.30 am, and it is time to get up again.

I’m getting too old for this.

A Short One Act Play

April 19, 2007

The Scene: A street in very small-town Foxton, New Zealand. A hedge separates the footpath from a backyard.

The Characters: In the backyard, two adults. On the footpath, two early teenage boys dawdle, one on a bicycle, one on a skateboard.

Curtain rises.

Skateboard boy: We can go back if you like.
Bicycle boy: Unnnh…
Skateboard boy: You could talk to her.
Bicycle boy: Mmmm…
Skateboard boy: You like her, don’t you?
Bicycle boy: Yeah, but…
Skateboard boy: So why don’t we go back and you can talk to her.
Bicycle boy: I dunno what to say to her.
Skateboard boy: Just say “Hi.” Ask her how she is.
Bicycle boy: I’m too scared. She might not like me.
Skateboard boy: She does. She’s been watching you all week!
Bicycle boy: You think so?
Skateboard boy: Yeah! She does! I’ll come with you.
Bicycle boy: Well, mmm, I might, then.
Me: (from behind hedge) Go on! Go back and talk to her! You know you want to!
Bicycle boy: Arrrgh!!!
Skateboard boy: Shit!
Bicycle boy: Who was that? (Pokes head around hedge)
Bicycle boy: Old people!
Skateboard boy: Old people? What would they know?
Bicycle boy: Yeah, what would they know. I’m going home.
Skateboard boy: Me too! Play Station?
Bicycle boy: Yeah! Come on!

As curtain falls, two “old people” grin at each other.