Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The ears have it

We frequently joke that when there is quarry to be had (pheasant, rabbits, hare, chickens, hedgehogs, garden birds), there is not a moggy to be seen; thank goodness! But I really wonder sometimes if our cats are REALLY cats, or just overfed townies with a penchant for warm beds and comfy laundry baskets. The princess is currently guarding the apple mint on the back verandah.

The boys are snoozing, a corner each, on our bed.

Meanwhile, I'm watching wild rabbits play on the driveway, long ears poking above the grass and hedgerows, greenfinch hop on the lawn, and three fledgling blackbirds on the verandah hollering at me to throw out more food.

It would appear, that bar rats and mice, New Zealand's wildlife is safe on our two acres. The ears have it!

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Ginger theologian

This morning I had occasion to use the guest bathroom/laundry (aka Mango's room). He loves to sit on the sink and watch birds out of the window. He also has a secret passion for clothes pegs, which can be found on top of the washing machine (which also has a bird viewing platform behind it). So this morning when I heard scratching and a thud, thud, I realised I was going to have to get out of the shower quickly before he sourced a battering ram to access his play room.

I'd closed the door, but could hear the handle rattling. Now, the ginger is tall when he stands on his hind legs, but I'd never seen him try to turn door handles before.

When I finally dried myself and dressed I was ready to see what mayhem had ensued on the other side of the door.

Big boy had climbed a bookshelf next to the door and was busy peering at birds in the paddock through the hall window. He had tried the handle, but as it is a round knob rather than the push down variety, he'd given up and decided to make himself comfortable on the books. He had picked a row of theology books which wobbled because several had been removed from the top shelf. By the time he had greeted me with a head bump, his back legs were crammed between a book on Talmud and another on the Tabernacle.

Alas, I doubt he will ever be a student of any lofty subjects, let alone a theologian, but in the affection and silliness disciplines, he has no equal.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Phone home

In 1972, I moved with my parents from one part of the north of England to a county even further north. The novelty of the house that was to become our family home for 46 years was that it had a phone. Our previous house didn't have one. The phone was a huge novelty for me. In my teens we would call to hear the Top 10 records in the charts, call to hear the weather report, or thrill of thrills, the Talking Clock.

Our phone was a standard GPO rotary dial phone in ivory. It felt very glamorous to be able to call friends and we called my grandparents weekly to check they were OK. Two years after we became phone owners, there was the terrible call that my grandfather had died suddenly. For the first time I associated it with something bad and brooding and avoided it for a while after that.

I wish I had a dollar for every kind of trashy Chinese push button phone I have had since, as well as the dreadful multi-line phones of work with their infinite number of extensions and horror of horror the intrusion of mobile phones. Don't get me started on that one.

So it was with a bucket full of nostalgia that today we installed a reproduction GPO rotary dial phone from a local interiors shop. It is not an authentic colour I don't think, but has the REAL ring tone, so evocative of the 70s. I am thrilled.

Me calling home from a friend's house 1976.

The new turquoise rotary.


Friday, 4 January 2019

When a cat is not a cat

This morning before it was too hot, I started to tackle and tidy the mess under our Empress tree; we lost a lot of branches in a recent (and rare) heavy storm. They were impeding the mower so it was definitely time to chop and sort them ready for winter.

As I huffed and puffed away I heard a sound I thought I recognised coming from the boundary with our neighbour's driveway. It was loud and remarkably like the sound our tabby cat makes when he is about to throw up. As I hadn't seen him since late last night I was a bit concerned he might be ill, so started to pull and tug the forest of tall grass and weeds where the noise was coming from. The noise changed to a snorting, gurgling sneeze and wheeze, again quite loud and definitely not the sound of a slumbering moggy. There was no sudden rustle of startled cat or streak of grey stripes flying out of the undergrowth. Then it went silent. I pulled away yet more grass, but couldn't see what it was.

I went back to sawing wood.

A few minutes later the same sound, but more urgent. I tugged away again at the direction of the sound, but no sign of anything feline. I became alarmed as I thought perhaps I was about to disturb a grumpy and fierce possum.

Then I saw the movement of a prickle, then a paw, then a pair of nostrils. Miss Tiggy Winkle was having a bad dream and was rolling herself in a pile of dried grass cuttings, obviously fleeing an unknown enemy.

I tucked her up again and she snuffled contentedly, not missing a somnambulant beat.

Friday, 21 December 2018

A birthday experience

When I was a child I could never understand why adults "didn't bother" with celebrating birthdays. As I have got older, I still don't understand it. Today was my birthday and it was a quiet affair, but this evening was joyous. I got to go berry picking.

Now I picked bush berries as a child. We went brambling at our caravan on the N. Yorkshire moors, and dad had gooseberry, blackcurrant and raspberry bushes. He also planted redcurrant, which are a real pain to pick. So, I know how to pick berries, but as a child, it was a little bit under duress; I would have preferred curling up with a book or playing with friends.

This evening, I picked blueberries, which until recently were only in my memory box marked "Canada". My great aunt, who emigrated there before WW1 was making blueberry pies for 70 years. I still remember being knocked over by how different they were to the berries of my Yorkshire childhood. They definitely like a warmer, drier climate than could be provided in soggy Yorkshire!

Our neighbour grows organic berries. He has about 2000 bushes and he and his wife tackle them all themselves. But this evening a neighbour invited me and about a dozen others to pick for lunches over the next couple of weeks. It was wondrous.

It is such a privilege to live in this valley amongst friendly neighbours and delicious items for pies!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Salad days and sweet clover

Our lawn is cut once a month by a man with a ride on mower. I love the short back and sides grass cut, but in the summer I also love the shaggy mullet of wild flowers which appear a few weeks later. In summer, we lie in bed at dusk and hear the grass and the weeds growing.

This year, as well as the regular wide leaf flowers like Queen Anne lace, hawksbeard and lesser hawkbit, and their bobbing cousins daisies and buttercups, we have clover, the white and the purple varieties.

As a child, I remember plucking each tiny petal of the clover and chewing the base for the sweet nectar it gave up. A milligram here, a milligram there. It was supposed to have magical qualities, and I dreamed that it would turn me into a princess. Dad kept a lawn worthy of a bowling green; his tiny daughter eating the clover which occasionally deigned to appear was not discouraged!

This lunchtime I threw together a quick salad and had to smile at the 1960s simplicity of the ingredients; lettuce, radish, tomatoes and cucumber - an assemblage which my dear uncle would only eat if it was smothered in Heinz salad cream. I recently found a bottle of this iniquitous dressing in a local supermarket and bought it purely for nostalgic reasons. It turned out to be half decent and I have found myself occasionally wanting to drown cold boiled eggs in it.

The memories are very healing for me. I miss my dad every day, and mum is so far away, physically and mentally that I feel I have lost her too. But there are so many wonderful memories jogging around I'm so very thankful and realise how blessed I have been. Thanks dad for letting me eat the lawn and mum for making simple salads. They made me who I am today.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Meatballs and reindeer

The weekend started with a mammoth meatball making session (from lamb, not mammoth). I made them for us and an elderly lady we know. This morning we headed to a local market which was also Pouch Central. I personally had conversations with a Beagle, a Toy poodle and a Rhodesian ridgeback. We picked up all manner of goodies, including a beautiful copy of Claudia Roden's Arabesque cook book, a Russian long handled kasha spoon, basil and rosemary for my herb box and a lavender plant. This is the beginning of my AirBee and Bee project; luxury food and accommodation for the honey making friends.

The market sells local produce, baking, soap makers and hosts various crafters including Mrs Teapot Cover maker

And Mr Flat Pack Reindeer maker, who assured us that Rudolph and crew would only take up a small part of the garage once dis-assembled!

What we didn't tell him was our frightening lack of ability to use screwdrivers, flattening instructions, or read Swedish.

So back to the meatballs. I'm off to attempt some cranberry sauce to bring back happy memories of IKEA, which I had to go all the way to Israel to visit recently.