Wednesday, 10 December 2014

You Learn Something New Everyday

Seven things I learned last week: Or is that learnt? Shit I’ll never know. But I do know ‘earnt’ is not a word, it has a red squiggly line under it.

Thing one -

Tea bags, like plastic should never have been invented. Take yourself back to the joy of a cup of leaf tea, brewed in your great granny’s silver teapot and poured through a tiny strainer into a pretty china cup and vive la difference. Every morning. Recent convert. A reformed smoker of the tea drinking kind. Leaf tea of choice - Dilmah 100% Pure Ceylon, grown and packed in Sri Lanka.


Thing two –

When I was small I used to leave saucers of milk and bread for the lost hedgehogs in our garden. Did you know hedgehogs eat the eggs of ground nesting birds? Well you do now. I no longer think hedgehogs are cute. Despite their black button noses. And wobbly walk.

Thing three –

Politics and the endless empty promises of politicians bore my best Brazilian hipster Myla silk undies right off. However, much awarded kiwi journalist, Steve Braunias’ latest book Madmen - inside the weirdest election campaign ever – , wittily crochets what could be tedious facts, with pin sized observations into cleverly nuanced prose that bounces along and entertains like no politician door knocking ever could. Buy it. From a bookstore. Read it. Then buy another copy and give it to a friend for Xmas. You’ll be RFLOL whether you voted or not. Believe me.
ps. Steve B said it’s the best shit he’s ever written. Actually he said book not shit.

Thing four –

It is possible to catch a wild duckling in your bare hands. If you are determined enough. This boy managed to by swimming around our spring fed lap-pond and nabbing the unsuspecting critter in the long handled net used to scoop out pond scum. The young duckling, from a raft of six was later released; after its Instagramification was completed. Young duckling appeared to suffer no lasting effects from the close contact with a human screaming as though he’d just won the first-minute-mile. It was soon back swimming, diving and pooing foul smelling green blobs around the pond and environs along with the resident duck dynasty.

Thing five – 

It is also possible to catch a baby rabbit in your bare hands. If your are a boy and 11. Then have your photo taken with it. Disclaimer: a large 7.2kg  male cat might have been involved with this bunny-napping stunt. Might have.

Thing six –

It is possible to experience all, some, or none-of-the-below when taking hay fever medication:

Dry mouth
Difficulty urinating
Sore throat
Runny nose
Abdominal pain
Agitation, aggression, depression or hallucination
Weight gain
Blurred vision
Tingling or numbness on the hands or feet
Movement disorder

This list covers the wide variety of ‘feelings’ I have on any given day. Well, except for the toileting bits. Not that I’d tell anybody. Though I might stick this list on the fridge. For future reference. Or for when I’m hallucinating and feeling quite aggressive towards my butt which has definitely got a movement disorder ie saggy since I broke my rude finger and stopped running 4 weeks ago. I know it’s fifty and I should cut it some slack. But come on butt do me a favour. Note to future self: never read the small 5000 word neatly folded over and over leaflet inside generic chemist bought pharmaceuticals. Again.

Thing Seven:

It sucks to turn 81 in hospital when you have just flown off a 30 metre cliff and broken 7 ribs, two vertebra and your shoulder plate. It sucks more to have the aforementioned along with cuts and bruises the size of T-bone steaks blotted over your already frail body. But what is worse is your brain being further reshaped into the seven year old child you once were. 74 years ago. Politely. With Alzheimers.

This happened to my Dad 4 weeks ago and I suspect that is why my blog has been neglected. He’s doing okay and strangely has felt more confusion than pain. He’ll be moving into a rest home soon. Five star compared to the possible hospital dementia ward. And that’s just how it is.

So apologies to all my faithful, new and sometimes readers. There are plenty more stories inside. Only they may not be getting out till after Christmas.

In the meantime, enjoy the festive season with your friends and family. Play safe, be generous with your time and that handmade gluten free nut fudge you're planning to make.Soon. More importantly, remember if you experience any insomnia, weight gain or tremors – it wasn’t anything you ate.

ps.aforementioned boy child busy on a carpentry job, aged three
pps. peonies are my own

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Twitterati Xmas Party

I received my first blind-twitter-date last week. Set for some time January. Venue unknown. I may hold a white rose. Although, I probably won’t need to go that far. I’ll just wear my sunglasses. My Ivana-up-do. And a smile.

Anyways, this twitter turnabout gave me courage. Courage to reveal my plan…

My plan, to host an imaginary Twitterati Xmas Party. 

Just because. Round about this time of year, when I’m sitting in my tower office after picking peonies, trying to conjure up words on the page. All alone. I imagine holding a kick arse Xmas party. A party more Bruce Lee than Bruce Lee. An end of year shindig of a different kind. This year it's invite via satellite. Strangers only. 

Mostly. We’re actually pen pals of a futuristic kind. We’re Twitter-ettes. We talk only in 140 characters. Sharp. Quick. Direct.

We already belong to a dating club of sorts. I’m just pushing the fibre optic boundaries a little further. I’m saying come out from behind your avatar smoke screen for one frivolous afternoon. You witty, amusing, intelligent, provocative lady-minds come on. Let’s do lunch. 

I’d wear my new pink Kathryn Wilson sandals ($300 worn once #crapnzweather). And perhaps the blue flowery dress I wore to my little sister’s wedding. I’d want to look my best at our table for 26. 

Sorry, sorry-a-lot, in advance for overlooking to invite any femme fatale(s) who might fancy attending my twitterati party. However, in order to make a sensible sit-down-lunch-number, the only fair prerequisite I came up with was – IF WE READ EACH OTHERS SHIT, FOLLOW EACH OTHER (3 not) & I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY MET YOU, IN THE FLESH, YOU ARE YOU ARE ON THE LIST. Apologies again. Party planners lament.There will be stuff-ups. Best to start big.

@beckeleven                                @doesnotdoit
@radiomum                                   @mlle_elle
@TheBloggess                              @caitlinmoran
@megrosoff                                   @Kiwimrsmac
@irihapeta                                     @UpsideBackwards
@ZoeMeager                                @angew
@SonyaCisco                               @HonestMummy
@eehbahmum                                @_wideeyedgirl
@naomiarnold                               @suecopsey
@nickypellegrino                           @lucymk
@MumsnetBloggers                       @WriteOnTime
@Shellface                                     @AliLeonardMC
@AimoCronin                                @JessHelicopter

I think everyone would, sort of, know someone else. Possibly recognize them, even those whose headshot is an orange square or a picture of their cat. Or rabbit.

Some of you in tweepsville might think I am completely bonkers. Slightly pervy. Predatory. Definitely weird. Stalkerish. To take it this far. Okay, but it would be a group blind date. Not a romance novel conference. We’d get on like a bunch of i-phone 6’s at a concert. Swag. Swag. Illuminati. 

We’ve already chatted. On-line. Followed each other. Favourited. Goaded. Outwitted. Out worded. Congratulated.  Retweeted even.  I admit some of the above, live on the other side of the world and are famous people, but you never know they may be on a book signing tour to Godzone. Or not.

Imagine us fueled by a crisp Malborough Sauv Blanc or elderflower cordial and first date nerves. We’d be positively on FIRE. It would be like those Friday lunches of the ad days. Back in the pre-crash 80s. If you staggered back to the office you were a LOSER. Or the receptionist.

We’d eat kale caviar and organic duck breast on quinoa compote. Sip fizzy water from Fiji. No we wouldn’t – we’d rock our own cool. We are not posers. We might play word games though. Quick ones. Like who can make the worst personalized plate. MUDDER. KOCANE. OARSYM  (actually that’s taken). STORNCH...

Things could get out of hand, as our order is delayed and we wait for herbed bread and dukkah to arrive to soak up the liquids on our empty late morning stomachs. We might do gelfies (group selfies) and tweet them. FB them. Snapchat and Instagram them. People at other tables would have bad FOMO. We’d be loud. Probably annoying.

I’d take no responsibility for later on. Twitter-only-knows what might happen. A mélange of young and middle aged (speaking for myself here) women out on the town. Auckland. Wellington. Christchurch. No mind. Where. We’d find a nightclub that rocked cool tunes. Dance in groups around our hand bags. Stayin Alive. Doubled over by giggling fits. She’d be a good time. Letting our perms down. Imagine.

Maybe we’d let some boy ‘@s’ come later. To amuse us. Then again, maybe we wouldn’t.

Tweeter-esses for life. 

At least until, December 2015. And our next year imaginary Xmas Party. 

Disclaimer: I live at the bottom of the south island, and the aforementioned ‘@’ persons are scattered all over the country and the world, so the likelihood of ever pulling this XP off are as low as a Limbo pole. However, stranger things have happened. And imaginary Xmas parties are free.
Seasons Greetings – it’s nearly December.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Hand Bags & Cervixes

I was thinking how-lucky-I-am on Tuesday morning. I’m fifty. I’m fit. I can run for forty minutes without keeling over. I have my health. More so - isn’t it a flippin miracle I can run down this steep track without my left knee (with its ruptured ACL) dislocating. Fabulous old body. Charging.

Then boomfa. One Nike-d sole slipped on a tyre step (odd kiwi invention) and I fell backwards onto outstretched hands. FBOOH. I’ll just keep walking down till the pain stops, I thought, as I clutched my throbbing left hand to my bosom. I did not cry. I stopped to take a photo of a fern family and posted it on facebook. Weird. I’ll carry on to the river, look at the water. Throb throb. Then, the other more sensible person in my head told me it was timely to turn back. I had a hair appointment in half an hour.

Silly hand. I took two Panadol and told my digit story to anyone who asked. Enjoying their sympathy. By that night my flipping-the-bird finger was indigo violet. The next morning, the knuckle as puffy as a profiterole. Silly naughty finger.

‘You better get in seen to,’ warned my 95 year old Gran, when I called her. ‘Your Uncle Jack did that to his finger. It was always fat and bent.’

I felt chided, like a selfish child ignoring a new pet. I went to A&E on the way to work. 

‘You have a volar plate avulsion fracture, we’ll refer you to the Hand Physiotherapist,’ said the Doctor, pointing at my compromised metacarpal on the light-box.

‘Hands are very complex, you need to make sure they heal correctly,’ said the nurse as she fashioned my metal splint and wrapped it neatly with self-adhesive bandage in an attractive foundation brown. ‘The doctors call this the driver’s finger,’ she giggled. 

Bondage, up yours. I love flipping the bird. But not ALL the time. I wondered if SA bandages came in black. LBB. 

At reception I paid and booked in for the Smear Test (I keep getting reminder letters for) the following day. Needs must.

Cervixes have pretty much fallen off the radar of late. I know I haven’t given mine much thought since I padlocked the gates to my womb. It’s retired. GONE. Nowadays, as far as cancers go it’s all about breasts in October, prostate Movember. Cervixes don’t get their own month. Or do they?

I did a quick check and discovered – September is ‘Cervical Screening Awareness Month.’ Who knew that. It’s free if you’re under 22.

The medical profession purports early detection is your best protection, for all cancers. But it’s a lot easier copping a feel of your lathered up mams in the shower when on the hunt for possible irregularities, than it is fronting up for a smear test.

160 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer a year in New Zealand. 50 of those die from it. “…cervical cancers develop slowly over time….Usually taking many years.” Hmmm.

There you lie on a narrow sheeted gurney, your bare bum carefully parked on the blue absorbent pad the size of a table-mat that says place bum here. If only. Knees bent. Ankles together. Flop apart. Hope she’s looking okay. Down there. Stop tensing. RELAX. Bit of banter. More banter.

At least the speculums are plastic nowadays and room temperature. Remember those metal nasties that made a terrible grinching sound when they were expanded and screwed (couldn’t find another verb for this action?) ajar. Icy cold. Though sometimes thoughtfully warmed under the hot tap down at Family Planning, K-road.

Anyway, my eyes watered and I tried to… breath through it. Silly hurting tunnel, leading to cyclinder-shaped-neck-of-cartilage-covered-with-smooth-moist-tissue. Silly protracted cervix. Hiding.

Flipping you the bird. Pain. Check this out. Flipped. 


Afterwards. Cells scraped.And test-tubed. I wondered I might sit in the car and have a wee cry. Instead, I went to a nearby café, sipped mint tea and buttered a warm cheese scone while waiting for a friend. Then I went to work.

The majority of cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) virus. The most common of all STDs. Thankfully our daughters can be immunised against HPV, as part of their free childhood immunisations, at 12 years old. It’s my hope that boys will be brought into this programme in New Zealand, as they are in Australia and the US.

Back in 82, aged 18, I listened to Joe Jackson sing, Everything gives you cancer, there’s no cure there’s no answer. Over and over. No caf-feine, no pro-tein, no booze or ni-co-tine. Joe was definitely on to something. 

Medical science has come a long way. However, we still need cures and answers. And early detection. "Three yearly cervical screening is recommended for women from 20 – 70 who have ever been sexually active".

Someday in the future they might even have jokey bum mats.

Friday, 31 October 2014

For The Love of a Cold Climate

I love spring  way down country at 45 degrees south. When winter shrivels and dies and Grand Dame Mother Nature comes a creeping out of every crack and cavity of the underworld, gradually carpeting winters browns and beige in a tidal wave of GREEN. In a massive UP-You. Take that. Dull EARTH. No mind what crises are going down over the globe, Ebola, a molten lava river in Hawaii, Robbie Williams having a viral-kid, Ms Nature forges on.

Not even,bi- weekly polar storms billowing up her under-skirts can hold back her verdant takeover. Her lush pasture, her leafy  hay-fever inducing tree tips, her scented blossoms, her lamby  lambs born of mutton, her busy bees, her courting birds, her Watership down worthy rabbit populace. Etcetera. 

She's the mother of all mothers. 

I bought a pair of gorgeous summer sandals in October. Kathryn Wilson, Olivia Heels. Hot pink.  I’m wearing them now. Pair No. 33 of 254 limited edition beauties. I spoke to shoe designer and mummy-to-be KW in store. She was charming. It made for a happy parting of cash. There’s nothing like the feel of your feet in supple ruminant skin, while at home, by yourself. WRITING.  As soon as I put them on and walked to my desk, I looked into one of many forgotten file folders, by way of procrastination and knock me over with a new suede shoe, there I found a crisp fifty dollar note. A note I promptly  HID in my rainy day shoe purchase piggy bank. And continued writing…

Minutes before the sun had come out, the newly resident Tui couple lobble lobble lobble click croak clicked in the kowhai tree below my window and the daytime temperature rose to at least 14 degrees. So I’d walked over to pick a spring onion from the greenhouse and guess what I found on the pond? I’ll tell you in case you can’t work out from this snap, taken without the appropriate lens. It’s a family of ten. Mum and Dad, Paradise Ducks with eight fluffy ducklings. Never seen before. But must have hatched nearby.

The joys of spring continued because earlier in the day I received a package all the way from Barcelona. I’d been expecting it. BIG thanks to my birthday twin. I couldn’t open it straightaway. I wanted to savour its much promised arrival. The packaging was exquisite. All nouveau stylish. Not hipster, but beyond. Inside was a pair of Malababa gold earrings. I fell in love. This is what they look like on. Delicate.

I’ve been over-thinking things of late. It was stifling. Me. It wasted time, like all those people who over-thought pop star Robbie Williams and his wife, Ayda, live-video-tweeting the 24 hour birth of their second son. (8 lbs 1 oz FYI). Some feminist were up in arms at him singing his hit song, Candy as wifey panted her way through another contraction. Kind of showy weird. But so what. I thought.

I sang a song to The H when I was experiencing a very nasty rapid fire 3 hour 45 minute induced labour with our second daughter. The lyrics were not particularly well thought out and screeched in high falsetto - ‘don’t come near me or I’ll cut your cock off’. He just dabbed a rough soggy hanky on my brow, not that I was sweating. He can’t sing.

The last time I heard Robbie Williams talk about childbirth was on The Graham Norton Show. When asked what it was like being present at the birth of his first child, he replied candidly, ‘it was like watching your favourite pub burn down.’

Call me crass, but I actually thought that was quite a sweet and honest comment coming from a bloke. The H kept well away from the business end with number 2, after a 29 ½ marathon down at the fun park with the first. I’m just glad my neck is short and I didn’t have the option. To watch.

Although, I did make myself watch ONE of the Robbie live-birth-tweet-videos (by way of research). It was the post birth edit. Thank goodness. Proud dad, still slightly drugged mum, both elated, ecstatic, over joyed and overcome at birth of their son and the fact they’d been able to SHARE it.

Mother Nature at its vainest primal best. 

Bring it on.SPRING.
ps. Thinking is not writing.
pps. Thanks to Sonya Cisco for her stream of consciousness prompt this week.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

I See Red - How Not to Be a Travel Writer

Setting yourself the task of writing an award winning  travel article complete with a stunning photo essay while on a five day romantic child free SURPRISE holiday on a remote island in the middle of the Bali Sea is nigh on near impossible. I’ve discovered. I only wanted to earn my keep. Bank a few bob, so’s I could skive off and write some fiction. It wasn’t MY fault some small human person flicked a switch on my camera and set the photos to SQUARE. Ratio 1:1. Photographer credit: 0.

I gathered 6,000 words of research, experience and wonder. Trying to turn it into a compelling 1200 word magazine story that would catch they eye of bored women drinking gin and tonics while flicking through its glossy pages as the spuds boiled and the other half watched the TV News, was like writing a thesis on snail poo. Boring, got stuck a lot and I couldn’t find any. Story angles that is. That worked. Over six (I really hate to admit, six, I repeat) WEEKS, I hacked about with numerous dead end versions.Non cliched, tropical island paradise essay with a twist. No worries.

I’ve wanted to be a travel writer since my dad took me on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya circa 1990. Upon my return, broke but incredibly enthusiastic, I sat at my sunny kitchen table in Milford, Auckland and enrolled in a correspondence Travel Writing course. For which I paid over one hundred bucks. What a waste of money. My tutor was half hearted. I learnt FA and I quickly realized I would not be selling any travel tales nor my grainy shots of rhinos in the distance anytime soon.

Upon my blog, undeterred by previous failures I write happily about holiday weekends and the like. So why this task I’d set myself was so painstakingly impossible I do not know. I even started to wonder, as I sat at my blank screen and learned a lot more than I needed to about tropical bird life, the island's nutty Cat Lady and how Bio Rock systems are improving damaged coral reefs, whether it was time? Time to go along for the do-I-have-THE-menopause blood test? Just to see IF there was a reason my brain had left its normal habitat. Between my ears.

My first attempts sounded like a Holiday Shoppe brochure. Stiff. Factual. PR ridden. Write this article in the free and easy, informative upbeat way you write your blog posts, but with normal GRAMMAR, I chastised myself, as I perspired over my keyboard. Lady writers do not sweat.I like reading of first hand experiences offered an author friend.

Here is my first Title and opening paragraph:

Destination Unknown – Bring Your Bikini

It was a magical mystery tour, a 50th birthday long haul surprise printed on a faux boarding pass – “Destination unknown, bring your bikini”. I covered all bases during the three month build up and bought five.

Here’s my second:
My Treasure Island: Gili Trewangan

 We cruised onto the brilliant-cut aquamarine welcome mat of Gili Trewangan, on a sun kissed day in June. Gili T (as the locals call it) is one of three tiny coral atolls, dotted ellipsis like in the temperate Bali Sea, on the northwestern tip of Lombok.

Yada yada.

I wrote descriptive scenes of arriving at our luxury accommodation. How the bathroom was actually a walled garden and offered a birdwatcher and bathers paradise in one. How the only taxis were hauled by pint sized ponies. How I was massaged in the garden beside a giggling french woman. How the surprises kept unfolding and our hosts kept delighting.

 I had conversations with locals. And studied the wildlife.

Girlfriends arrived from the other side of the world.(Yeah try writing a concise sentence about that!).

I had an amazing time.I have a digital album of photos.

Before I started (my article) I contacted my journalist mate Steve B and asked for his favourite travel writers. I would become them via reading-osmosis (it’s a new thing DA). I hoofed it to the library. And read weighty tomes in the bath. I left the ones that bored me and tried to absorb the ones that delighted. At the same time I read every travel article I could find. In newspapers. Magazines. Online. I read ‘tips for travel writers’. ‘Do’s and Don’ts’. You name it I read it.

I was prepared. Yet I wasn't.

I had an amazing time. I repeat. I just wanted to write about it. In a saleable format. No matter, I will go back to it. One day. And you’ll read it here. Love letters are like that. They turn up in odd places. And often they’re free.

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