Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Fair Warning, "I wish to make a complaint"

Yesterday I was sad. Nothing world shattering or tragic, just personal. I was looking for something warm to buy to wear for work, so I went to a local department store as there was a sale on over the public holiday. I came away about 20 minutes later feeling really low.

Why? Because I was met by a sea of black clothes. Sometimes the black had a splash of colour on it, but I would say 97% of it was black or grey with black. All I wanted was a cardigan. Something to wear to layer for warmth. I found three cardigans in the entire shop that weren't black. One was bottle green (tick) with a large hole the size of a dinner plate in the back (intentional). Great for summer, maybe. The second was apricot paper thin merino (half a tick), with gold spots on it all over (!!). It was also three times more expensive than I could afford, even in a sale. The third was a hot pink cardigan 4 sizes smaller than I admit to.

This is not the first time I have experienced the black tsunami of gloom in the Ladies Fashion department. One retiring French diplomat quipped, on leaving New Zealand, that he thought that Kiwi women dressed as if going to war. A bit harsh perhaps, and lucky he was leaving the country, but I can't help but agree with him. I wish I had a curry for every time I have been told by retail assistants, "Black is fashionable. It is what everyone wants, it is so flattering" Well, I have news for you. Black is occasionally fashionable, but if "designers" for high street stores actually bothered to attend fashion weeks (London, Paris, Milan, NYC), they would note that it only ever makes up a small percentage of collections. Sometimes it doesn't appear at all. It is NOT what everyone wants. It is what everyone gets served up, so it is purchased, for lack of choice. Black only flatters women with olive/Mediterranean complexions or those with porcelain white Celtic ones (ask any colourist). Heck, even my African American / S. African / Caribbean sisters tend to avoid the colour and they COULD wear it. In other news, black doesn't wash well. It fades, and unless the fabric is top quality it doesn't wear well. Also, there are those of us, over 50 who also associate black with mourning.

So, back to my local department store. I genuinely wanted to cry. I asked the assistant at the till "Who is responsible for choosing the clothes in your shop?" I was told head office. I feel a letter coming on to that senior buyer (who is probably dressed in yellow Armani). The national obsession with black has to stop. Not only that, can we please have some affordable items of warmth (not polyester plastic cotton mixy things). New Zealand has sheep for heaven's sake. We have wool in abundance, and I'm told the farmers can't get a good price for it. And now, ironically, we are an entire country in search of a cardigan.

End of Rant

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Beards, spots and wobbles

A piece of land next to the river was sold recently to a young farming couple. They are planning to build a home on the land, but currently it is occupied by a number of very young calves and a tethered goat. The goat has made friends with the horses in the adjacent field. It isn't uncommon to see the three of them having an early morning chat when we drive past on the way to work.

One of the calves however has given us cause for concern. He was tiny and skinny and in the recent cold weather had a waterproof jacket on. We wondered if he would survive. Today it is much milder and Little Spotty Fella is without his bright orange jacket.

I decided to walk along the road to introduce myself. He and his bigger and stronger pal were some way off, so I started to sing near the fence. Initially LSF trotted forward.

It was then I realised he had a wobbly head. I suspect it was a difficult birth as he was very bony and looked a bit fragile. But he was enjoying my singing so approached a bit closer. His pal came with him to protect him from me (and possibly my singing - the only songs which came to mind were folk songs!) They stared, I sang. When it came time to walk away, LSF trotted along with me for a while. The singing evidently wasn't that bad.

Mr Goatee with a goatee, was less hard to impress and was somewhat preoccupied with a nice circle of weeds.

His mates the horses were impossible to coax, even with two pieces of carrot. It was only as I walked away, tossing the carrot into the field that they came over to introduce themselves. Of course then they were looking for a carrot from my hand. I pointed to where I had thrown it. As I walked away they were walking in smaller and smaller circles looking for a piece of orange amongst the clover.

Monday, 28 May 2018

No room at the wing

The pom poms are growing - all six of them now appear to be all legs and attitude. This produces no amount of kerfuffle when Mom Pom Pom is trying to arrange the youngsters under her wings. Firstly she did a quick demo of a dust bath, watched them try to do the same, then she attempted to corral them under the wings. It was a challenge. She is still trying.

Meanwhile, the adult chickens have made several large holes in different parts of the various lawns. It's rather unsightly, but I suppose we could always develop a golf course....

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

First Fire

We have lit our first fire today. More because the temperature is due to plummet later tonight and into the early hours, so it seemed prudent to dry out the atmosphere in the house after last night's deluge.

We got off lightly last night. We had very heavy rain in fits and starts, and lots of thunder and lightning, but by this morning, all was clear again.

In the midst of the storm the cats were fascinating to watch. Our youngest (ginger tom) was enthralled by the light show and cosyed himself inside the curtains in front of our verandah windows to watch the show. Our tabby - the permanently stressed semi wild child, responded to each boom by running out into the rain. He did exactly the same as a kitten, ran into danger rather than away from it. We managed get him inside only for him to rush out again through the front door when I opened it briefly!

The ginger princess was nowhere to be found. I went to bed concerned. She doesn't wander far normally, so I thought she would come in soaked in the middle of the night. By 2.30am, there was still no sign of her. I bundled up and went to the garage, thinking we may have accidentally locked her in. No, no sign, but as I turned back to the house, there she was on the front doorstep hopping around waiting for me to let her in.

So, all was well and I was able to sleep.

I absolutely revel in this time of year. I love the colours and the fall of leaves, so different to Wellington, which is stubbornly evergreen and resolutely non-deciduous!

Roll on winter.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Yearning for gooseberries

Another delightful neighbour dropped me a note this afternoon - would I like some apples and feijoas?

I thanked her immediately, and said "yes please" to the apples, but a "sends regrets" for the feijoas. My excuse, well, they are an acquired taste to someone who wasn't brought up in these islands. My sour fruit of choice is a fat Yorkshire gooseberry.

My grandmother made gooseberry pies all the time, due to a somewhat mutant bush near the orchard which gave a gargantuan harvest for most of the year, which I'm sure it wasn't supposed to do. Or perhaps it was that she stored them somewhere cold to make the season last. She didn't have a fridge or a freezer, so my bet was on the coal house, as it was freezing in there and doubled as a hell coloured food store.

There was a downside to the pies however. They were fine, fresh from the oven, but grandma's pastry was like formica after 24 hours and then like flooded carpet tiles thereafter. Delia Smith was a full 25 years away! But the smell of a cooked gooseberry is enough to make me want to sit in a corner, close my eyes, hug my knees and remember the kitchen coal range, the enamel pie tins and the gelatinous custard that the pie island would float on.

My grandma's brother was a member of the local horticultural society for 54 years. I have the engraved pewter tankard to prove it. His rhubarb and gooseberries won many a prize and heart. Here is a photo of me, about age 11 holding a bunch of the stuff, worthy of a royal wedding bouquet.

I guess I would say "I will TRAVEL for rhubarb" and if Meghan Markle would like an inexpensive floral adornment, I can recommend Uncle Laurence's rhubarb patch to source it.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Bountiful harvests and a thanksgiving.

I wish I could say that this picture represents our own bounty from our property, but sadly it doesn't. The walnuts are from a young farmer (and upcoming politician) who has a roadside stall, and the eggs are gifted from our very generous neighbour on the farm behind us.

It is one of the many blessings of living where we do, plenty of REAL food and delightful neighbours who share. The only thing I can do in return is provide kitchen scraps for the chickens, or occasional baking.

The harvest got me to thinking of other things though. Those who work the land toil for long hours and are at the mercy of the weather (or lack of it), blights of various kinds, rabbits, hungry pheasants, you name it, the work can go in a blink of an eye. Thankfully these days, few starve due to crop failure. It made me reflect on friendships and relationships. Some are worked on for years, some are easy "crops" and just grow and grow, regardless. Others are a bit more tricky and you really have to keep investing with nutrients and be careful that briars and weeds don't grow through or around them. We have been fortunate that our friendships in this region have grown as sturdy crops and we are seeing the benefit of that in our lives. And we are very, very thankful.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Being ruffled

Sometimes things feel out of control. They aren't, but they feel that way. I returned from the UK delighted to have my mum settled in a nice residential care home, but the backstory was the emotional time I had gone through dismantling our family home of 46 years, and not QUITE having enough time to do everything (thank goodness for helpful neighbours) before I left.

Within two weeks of returning the house was sold, so all the memories tucked safely inside the bricks and mortar are now permanently gone. The next time I go to England, I will need to find a place to stay.

The first week back was chasing my luggage which hadn't manage to travel with me, then settling back into a work routine. But we still have the uncertainty about what is happening about the Expressway which is proposed to be built at one or other end of our road. This kind of mutes the usual joy I have in our home and garden; it ruffles my feathers and makes my nest insecure.

Then a friend's husband got really sick.

Then my hubby became ill - nothing serious, but not easy for him or me, and I realised once again how fragile life is.

Part of the grieving process of leaving my homeland this time has been muted by linking with people who know my home town well, and have various History Societies to steward the stories and store the pictures and photos of the people who used to live there. So my heartstrings are tugged again. I'm there in spirit, but here. Learning so much that I never knew about my family, and not having a soul to talk to about them, because there is no family left who also knew them.

I have inherited hundreds of photos of people I have now identified, but I'm talking to myself about them and frustrated that I can't ask questions. Then there are the records I've found of people we thought were lost to our family forever, and my Dad isn't there to tell. And there is no younger generation to pass the history to. I feel this very keenly.

Much wisdom is spoken of youth and old age, but the bit in the middle feels rather neglected. It seems you have to navigate this particular bit of the river the best you can.

More news when I get safely to the bank on the other side.