Thursday, 27 February 2014

Woman Drivers

I’ve been driving badly. If you see me coming, mine’s a silver VW Passat, look out. The power steering in my ten year old wagon imploded several months back. Ever since, it’s been as responsive as driving a tank with a joy stick. One handed.

This week outside the Med Market a blond woman and her daughter looked at me trying to manoeuvre my auto-sans-steering. Incredulous. I thought it best if I explained myself. So I completed my 58 point turn. I should point out, that I basically cannot turn unless in motion. Hence parking is a full upper body workout. I finally drove forward, having broken into a mild sweat and rolled down the window. 

Before I could say, ‘sorry mate-ess the power steering’s shot, she’s a beast to TURN.’ 
The woman burst out laughing and said, ‘I said to her (points to daughter) she’s going to hit that car. Just watch her! ’ 

I laughed at her accurate response and explained the reason why I looked like a Nana with my boobs trapped in the steering wheel. Then drove off to do some more insane parking at Fresh Choice.

The Mums in the primary school drop-off have probably already *555’d (the police Roadwatch number to text if you see BAD Driving or Traffic Incidents in NZ) me. After witnessing my pathetic attempts at parallel parking. I reverse. But I cannot turn. Much. I try again. My arms bulge. My chest muscles flex. I pant. Well, you try moving your car wheels with your car turned off. This is pretty much my steering scenario. Then I give up. And double park.

For someone who has always prided themselves on their ‘first try, parked perfectly parallel parks’ this is a hard nut to grind. All those wusses who want only angle parks  – I’ve laughed at you. Ever since I passed my driver’s test aged 15, in a racing green Mini, with a grumpy long legged copper in Waipawa, Hawkes Bay, I’ve been an expert. Well, until now. The shame.

To say, my VW is overdue for a warrant is a slight understatement. Well I have been away for most of the summer, Officer. It’s only, date-due 13 October, 2013. And I have tried. Honestly. Thankfully for all you other motorists out there, my steerage problem caused me to not pass muster this week. At 196,000kms I really need a new car. Things are continually dying. A new camshaft is also on the, to replace list. I was going to flick it off. As is. But no. Parts are winging their way from the homeland of Volkswagen, Germany, as I write. It will soon be road worthy. Never fear.

Back in my childfree days when I drove a VW Beetle (a 1302s for you Dubbie aficionados) I had a much loved mechanic in Stanley Street who overlooked the rust creeping into my white bubble-o-youth-and-freedom’s doors and floor pan. I’ve forgotten his name, but bless that man who supplied those rubber Warrant stamps every six months. Up until I sold my souped-up-heady-mufflered-dreamboat for $2,500 cash and bought the safe and sensible family wagon.

In the meantime, I’m not safe. So look out. Especially in car parks. Chances are you’ll be in MY way.

It’s a long way away from Germany to Queenstown.

Safe motoring folks.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Hoverboard 50 has Landed

It’s February 20th and I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions yet. Partly because I’ve spent the last two months in the timeless space of travel and exploration. For the majority of that time I existed among a different culture high in a pine chalet in the Haute Savoie, France. 

I consumed way too much cheese and this lovely stuff called, Ruinart, which really is the ruination of any impulsive champagne-sluzzer like me.  I’ve skied like only I can. I’ve talked endless bad franglais and thanked heavens for google navigator and The H, who doesn’t mind driving on the wrong side of the road through Paris and narrow mountain passes.

I’ve caught up with old friends and made new ones.

On touchdown in Godzone last week I flatlined. We all did really, this family of five. 26.75hours of travel, four time zones, five movies, several rectangular meals and boomfa. I felt DEPRESSED. Crabby. Going to bed at 7pm has its merits, but wakeful at 3am doesn’t. We arrived back to summer but was raining. 

The H’s birthday past like Spongebob impatient for a crabby patty. I shan’t go on. Actually, if you’re still here you’re made of sturdy stuff and should pat yourself on the back. Whinge over.

It was my 50th World Tour. And I’m not even 50 yet. Bonus.

My visual receptors are on sensory overload. They’ve literally popped right out of my head. I look like Marty Feldman on a good day. Or possibly bad. My skull is positively crammed with sounds, smells, snippets and sights of cities visited. Art porned over. Tastes savoured. Language grappled with. To write it all down would be to unleash an unstoppable torrent of WOW. Travel is SO cool. It opened even my middle-aged view of things to new possibilities. I love staring. Especially when in a foreign land. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to bump into these fascinating foreigners at school pick up. Is it?

So where to start on my tell ALL?

The architecture of Barcelona in all its Gaudi’d magnificence literally blew my mind. I haven’t been as opened mouthed about something so old and so fresh since my stepmother introduced me to Salvador Dali, aged 18 at the Pompidou Centre, Paris. Dali’s crazy melting clocks on sky blue backgrounds were absurd. Edgy. Timeless. Just like Gaudi’s mushroom shaped recessed alcove with its loveseat a deux and the chaperone seat opposite in Cassa Batllo. I have a thing for Spanish men now. Spanish artists to be precise. 

I ate tapas in Spain. Not Auckland. In a small cobbled square near Santa Maria, I ate the most delicious fried fresh sardines with lemon I could have ever imagined. I sucked those headless bodies dry while fine pale bones tickled my lips. I’ll never look at a tinned sardine again. Catfood. 

In a lofty apartment in the Barreo Gottico, Barcelona, I ate silvers of hard sheep cheese with fresh dates and sipped pink cava with good friends. I hate sheep, but it tasted so good.

I took over 7000 photographs. I probably saw too much through a digital screen, such is the hindrance of wanting to preserve everything; to bore friends back home with lengthy unedited slide shows (and hopefully write a saleable travel piece). She cried.

I trained and planed with my teenage daughters across Europe and did not lose them. While The H and son, turning 11, skied freestyle parks in Gstadd, Switzerland. 

My eldest daughter experienced international travel. Alone. And for the first time middle daughter and I did too. In London we shopped and dropped and visited: St Pauls, The Tate, The Barbican Centre (,Oy luv, vat rain exhibition finished larst year’), The Museum of London, Matilda the Musical. Rave rave. The National Portrait Gallery.  We Boris-biked through Hyde park to The Victoria & Albert on a dry but windy day, then on to Buckingham Palace just to say we’d been there.

I ate more pastries in two months in Europe than I would Arrowntown pies in a year. Spanish pain au chocolat, with hazelnut cream in one tube and hard chocolate in the second were the best.

If you can imagine being of on a hoverboard for two months, well I’ve been on one. 

Thanks to gravity I’m now back down to earth. Thud. Clatter. Crash.

Thank heavens for friends and family to smooth out the landing.

Enjoy your weekend folks. Oh, and if anyone wants a how-to re the above; like how to spend up to 4 hours looking at hotels in London online then not booking one, so you can spend another four hours doing it then book, get in touch. I'm thinking of retraining as a travel-blogger. I mean agent. They do still exist.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Little Red Riding Hood & The Other Wolf, a YA Tale

I wrote this for The 2012 Grimms Fairy Tale competition run by the Goethe Institute Wellington. After the main prize winners were drawn, all entries were posted on their website over the course of 2013 and rated/commented on. The most applauded tales will be published in a collection at the by Xmas 2014. Meanwhile here is my story again...Happy Valentines lovers!


Once upon a time, there lived a wolf, a very strange wolf.
‘Look Mr Wolf, do you really expect me to hand over a muffin every Saturday. Just because you stand on two legs and bare your yellow fangs at me. You really need to use whitening toothpaste BTW,’ said Little Red Riding Hood.
‘Give me one,’ said Mr Wolf.
‘Give me a muffin.’
‘Doubt it.’
‘I’ll tear that awful red hoodie of yours, if you don’t.’
‘What evs.’
‘I’ll bite you.’
‘I’ll bite you back. Well, I wouldn’t actually; I’d get a gob full of fur. You really need to brush yourself. You fur coat is manky as.’
‘Look, I was kicked out of home as a young whelp. No one taught me to hunt. I’m starving. I live off nuts and berries and roots.’
‘How can you? You must have those things…wha da ya call em? Oh yeah - instincts. You’re a meat eater.’
‘My meat eating gene must have mutated. I’m a vegetarian.’
‘Aww hun that really stuffs up this fairy tale doesn’t it. You don’t even want to eat me?’
‘Please Little-hood-red-riding.’
‘My name is Little-red-riding-hood. Red for short.’
‘Look Red. You’re right - I don’t want to eat you. But I’d KILL you just to get one of your muffins.’ At that point the wolf sprang towards Red, knocking her to the ground.
Furious, she kicked and squirmed and somehow managed to get out from under the skinny wolf. Then she jumped to her feet and shouted. ‘Totes inappropes, Mr Wolf.’ Before he could respond she grabbed her basket, thankfully still intact, and ran off singing. ‘Jingle bells wolf-y smells, girly got away.’
Slowly, hungry Mr Wolf staggered onto his feet. Then with his tail between his legs and his nose to the leafy path, he tracked Red’s scent. At least he could follow his prey, even if he had no desire to eat it.
The sun peeked through the high bush canopy. Red, so happy she’d got rid of smelly Mr Wolf, skipped off the path in search of Bluebells. The flowers were sparsely dotted about and she soon found herself deep in the bush. Oopsie. Her Dad (the local firewood supplier), told her never to go off the path. She sat down, plucked a piece of fern and tied it around her posy. Music played loud in her headphones, she leant back against a tree and shut her eyes.
Bad move. It didn’t take long for the now VERY hungry Mr Wolf to find her. As she dozed he helped himself to a muffin. They were still warm. Then another.
Red tensed. She knew Mr Wolf was beside her. His smell was so wolf-y. As he gobbled down one muffin after another, she tried not to move a muscle. She hoped he’d be in a better mood once he’d eaten.
By and by Mr Wolf let out an enormous burp. Then he flopped down beside her. His stomach bulged. ‘Sorry Red,’ he said. ‘I’ve scoffed all the muffins. They were delicious BTW.’
‘Great. This isn’t the story of the big fat pig you know. What am I going to take to Granny now?’ said Red.
The wolf shrugged and burped again. ‘I could be sick,’ he said.
‘Eww. I’m outta here.’
‘See ya. Same time, same place,’ said Mr Wolf, rubbing his tummy and licking his chops.
‘In your dreams, fur-ball,’ muttered Red. She back tracked and finally arrived at Granny’s house. ‘Granny you won’t believe what happened.’
‘Try me.’
So Red told her story. ‘A vegetarian wolf hey? Now I know who’s been raiding my veg patch. And I thought it was Peter Rabbit. Don’t panic I have the perfect solution for bullies who help themselves to fresh goods,’ she said, patting the side of her nose with her forefinger.
The following Saturday Red set off as usual with her basket of freshly baked muffins. Only the top layer of muffins contained Granny’s secret ingredient.
‘Sup Red?’ said Mr Wolf, as Red walked along the path.
‘Don’t try and be young and cool Mr Wolf. It’s tragic. Seriously.’
‘Mmmm, those muffins smell good Red.’
‘Want one? White chocolate and raspberry,’ said Red, in her kindest voice.
‘What, I don’t have to follow you and dress up in your Granny’s nightie?’ said Mr Wolf.
‘I smell a rat.’
‘Why? Do my ears look big?’
‘Do my eyes look big?’
‘No bigger than usual.’
‘Does my mouth look big?’
‘Just pouty.’
‘Well, would you like a muffin or not?’
‘I still smell a rat.’
‘No you smell sweet chocolate fruit muffins. Come on you know you want one.’
Red waved a moist jumbo muffin under Mr Wolf’s snout. Silvery strands of saliva hung from his jagged jaw. His stomach growled as he ran his long pink tongue over his yellow fangs. Next thing, he swallowed the muffin whole.
‘Here have another,’ said Red. ‘And another.’ Chomp. Soon those six special muffins were gone.
The wolf rubbed his swollen tummy. ‘My they were filling. I think I need a lie down.’ He slumped onto a soft fern.
‘Toodles then. I’m off. See you round. Not.’ Red skipped off down the path till she was out of sight, then she sprinted to Granny’s cottage. It wouldn’t take long for the special salts to take effect. ‘Jingle bells, wolf-y swells, girly ran away.’
‘Did he eat them?’ asked Granny when she arrived.
‘Yep. All six of them.’
‘He’ll probably go gluten free after that.’
‘Probably.’ Red started giggling. So did Granny. Soon they were rolling around on the rug holding their stomachs. Until a Fantail flitted into the cottage and dipped and dived above them, like he was giving them a good telling off.
‘Oh dear. I hope we haven’t taken things too far?’ said Granny.
Just then, Red’s dad appeared at the cottage door. ‘Did that pesky old wolf leave me a muffin for morning tea?’ he asked.
‘Have you seen the wolf this morning?’ said Granny.
‘Yes. He was hopping from tree to tree like a three legged cat,’ said Dad.
‘That’s a relief,’ said Granny.
Granny, Red and her dad were enjoying herb tea and muffins on the porch when Mr Wolf appeared.
‘I wouldn’t eat those if I were you,’ said Mr Wolf. ‘Gave me more than a stomach ache.’ Then the wolf’s yellow eyes flickered. ‘Unless that was some kind of payback. It if was, I think we can call it quits now. You?’
‘Quits,’ said Granny and Red together.
‘I have an idea,’ said Red. ‘How bout you drop the creepy following act and be Granny’s guard-wolf. Someone’s been stealing her vegetables. And Granny has special salts for people who help themselves. Don’t you Granny.’
‘I do Red. I do,’ said Granny.
So the old wolf took up residence in Granny’s wood shed. He dutifully guarded her garden day and night in exchange for vegetables. Mostly he looked forward to Red’s muffins on Saturdays. Some days he took a stroll in the bush, but he made sure he never crept up on anyone, ever again.
So Red, her Dad, Granny and Mr Wolf all lived happily ever after.

This is what Steve Braunias had to say about my story: Wonderful story! I love the way dialogue can tell a story and this was a great example. I also loved the "BTW"s and the "totes", the way they set the tone of a modern children's story. The whimsical humour moved the story along swiftly, towards an almost sad ending. 

Thanks Steve
& Thank you Goethe Institute for giving all the many and varied luscious tales an airing.

Featured post

In Conversation with Lauren Child - Part 2

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...