Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Four Little Bigs & The Surprise Visitor - A Read-Aloud Fairy Tale

Given that it's the second week of the school holidays in my neck of the woods, this post is for the kids. It's a frivolous twist on one of my favourite childhood fairytales, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks was such a gutsy gal, marching right on in to those scary bear's cottage and making herself at home. I longed to have hair like her and to be so bold. She was my perfect heroine.

(I wrote this text as a picture book. The Big Family are fox terriers.)

Happy Read-aloud!

The Four Little Bigs & The Surprise Visitor

Once upon a time there was a family called, The Bigs. 

There was Mummy Big.

Daddy Big.

Toddler Big.

And Baby Big.

They all lived happily in Big Cottage. Until one day there was a knock at the door.

‘Ratty tat tat.’

‘I’ll get it,’ said Daddy Big. Mummy Big was busy making a big pot of hazelnut porridge.

‘Ratty tat tat,’ went the door again.  

‘Hold your squirrels?’ said Daddy Big.  

But when he opened the door, no one was there.  

‘Strange?’ said Daddy Big.

‘Porridge?’ said Mummy Big. 

So Daddy Big, Mummy Big, Toddler Big and Baby Big sat down to breakfast.

‘Ow!’ said Toddler Big. ‘My orr-idge oo ot.’

‘Wa me oo!’ cried Baby Big.

Let’s go into the orchard to check our rat traps and gather some more hazelnuts,’ said Mummy Big. ‘While our porridge cools down.’

A silly mistake that had been made before.

Daddy Big, Mummy Big, Toddler Big and Baby Big all put on their little coats and their little boots and trotted into the orchard.

While they were out, that rat you saw banging a nut on the front door earlier crept into the house. Miss Ratty, made herself quite at home. 

First of all, she ran upstairs and tried on Toddler Big’s dress-up tutus. But they were way too big and scratchy.

Next, she tried Mummy Big’s lipstick. It was awfully bright pink and sticky.

Then, she tried Daddy Big’s hair gel and terrier-ized her hair.

Finally, she found Baby Big’s brand new onesie. ‘Ah perfeck,’ she sighed to herself. 'Well mostly.'

By then Miss Ratty was STARVING. So she slid down the bannister and tested each bowl of porridge.

‘Ew, this porridge has no brown sugary sprinkles on top.’

‘Arghhh, this porridge is too glue-ey and gloopy.’

‘Oi, this porridge has too much milky.’

‘Mmmm, what’s in this porridge? A dollop of gooseberry jam swimming in a pool of thick creamy cream. Yummykins! I’m going to eat it ALL up.’

Just then Daddy Big grabbed Miss Ratty by her tail.

‘Oh no you won’t you little vermin. I think I’ll eat YOU up. On toast, after my porridge. Mouse traps anyone? Ha ha ha,’ boomed Daddy Big. 

‘I’m a rat actually,’ squeaked Miss Ratty.

‘SO? You must have been the cheeky thing knocking on our door this morning. I don’t like practical jokes,’ shouted Daddy Big. ‘Or pesky rats.’

‘Nice rat Daddy. Nice pet Daddy?’ said Toddler Big. ‘Pease Daddy. Rat fink. My fink.’

As Daddy Big turned around to answer Toddler Big, Miss Ratty’s tail slipped from his claws. 

Miss Ratty wasn’t sure what would be worse, being Toddler Big’s pet or Daddy Big’s mouse-trap. So she ran as fast as she could out the front door, through the nut orchard and into the woods. Getting Baby Big’s onesie really grubby on the way.

But as she was never going to be seen again, that didn’t really matter. 

She wasn't going to try and sneak back and eat that delicious nutty porridge just one more time. The porridge with the creamy jammy fruity bits that she’d fallen in love with.

However, there are always two sides to every tail. A hairy one and a smooth one in this case.

And Toddler Big may have still been a small Big, but she was the cleverest Big of all. And when she wanted something, she made sure she got it. 

Right at the back of the garden, Toddler Big made a lovely cosy nest of nutshells for Miss Ratty behind the compost bin. Then every day she delivered Baby Big’s leftover creamy jammy fruity porridge. 

And eventually, after a time, Miss Ratty and Toddler Big became best of friends. 

Together they set OFF the rat traps, played dress ups and invented new ways to crack hazelnuts and make Nutella. Keeping well out of Mummy Bigs and Daddy Bigs’ hair, all summer long.

And thankfully to this day, Miss Ratty has never had to steal porridge again.

(picture book text by Jane Bloomfield, 664 words) 

For some REAL classic kiwi fairy tales you should check out Peter Millet Books.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Diary of a Wannabe Royalist

‘There aren’t many royalists here,’ complained one royalist while we waited for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, commonly referred to as Will and Kate, to drive by. One sunny Sunday afternoon beside a lake in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A burly policeman, nicely togged out in various shades of blue, gave us a running commentary of the royal entourage’s progress. As we stood. Still. And Politely. Behind an imaginery line beside the road as instructed. 

‘They’re 20 minutes away,’ he announced, flashing his walkie-talkie and the Nicole and Tania tattooed on his forearm. Daughters perhaps? His bullet proof vest was tight. His arms hairy. And his moustache trimmed. He was your typical kiwi copper. Doing his job. Containing the crowd. And getting excited.

Just like the small elderly gent to my left who spat a little as he tweaked his wife’s elbow and said smiling, ‘twenty minutes.’ 

‘Yep, 20 minutes before they land. They’re still in the air.’ 

And so we waited. Patiently. Mum. Shoulder to shoulder. Guarding our front row positions. A neighbourhood watch. Behind the line. At least 2 hundred of us with our copper, opposite Amisfield Winery where Will & Kate were set to sample the region’s best. Pinot Noir. While the British media they’d brought with them recorded the moment. 

I began to twitch, I wished I’d driven straight home from the rowing regatta. My car was now blocked in. Even worse, some plonkers had parked their campervan right on the corner. The lumbering white whale hogged our view of the motorcade’s approach. A couple sat inside glumly, watching at the window, sipping tea. They could at least have invited people in. Made an afternoon of it. Funny folk. Royalists.

Finally. A plain clothed cop car with two coppers turned into OUR road. The flashing lights of three police cars followed. Then two silver BMW saloons with bullet proof glass. We peered in through tinted windows as best the high sun would allow.

Next a coat of arms flag. A toothy white grin. I snapped the Windsor chin. On quick frame. It only took one hour and thirty five minutes. All up. Kate was in the shadows.

When I got home the telephone rang. 

‘They’ll be on the river soon.’

Off the H and I raced. Spurred on by what exactly I’m not sure. The excitement? Or royals, acting more like celebrities on the seemingly never ending red carpet in my back yard? 

Across the paddock I trotted, down the bullock track, along the first river terrace, through the gate down through the forest to the mighty Shotover river.

It was crowded. A melee of young and old and girls on ponies acting excited. The ponies not the girls. 

‘Who are all these people?’ I said, in a low voice with loud eyes. 

‘Yeah really’ the girls exclaimed, wrestling their mounts.

There were SUVs, quad bikes. Royalists. 

One boisterous group had come over by boat and taken the SPOT. Imposters; drinking champagne, some dressed especially like Zara Phillips or was it Princess Ann?

Then we heard the drone of jet boat engines reverberating up rock canyon walls. 

‘They’re coming,’ we all cried. 

And there they were. Will and Kate. Wiping icy river water from their hair and sunglasses. Right there. Smiling. Will patted his life jacket as though it might have come off. 

‘Kate. Will.’ I shouted. They turned and waved. I clicked like the paparazzi I’d become. Most cameras were on the other side of the river. The wrong side.

They sat there for all of five minutes. Not an SAS man in sight. It was as though they’d left all the pomp and security at home. This was a relaxed tour. Kiwi style. 

Next thing they gunned the twin V8 engines, clasped their white knuckles over the heated hand rail and sped off for more thrills. And a night away from hand shaking, bouquet accepting crowd waving duty at a luxury lodge. Without their nine month old baby George.

If you want to see what, Will and Kate experienced. Watch this video. Squint while you’re doing so because you may just recognize me. In it. Yep a few years back I agreed to sit in a Shotover Jet boat for two days while they re-shot their marketing videos. For one part a helicopter with a camera on the boom flew above us through the narrow the canyons. It was a great ride. If a little too long. And just like the royals I had to smile all day.

I won’t mention what they paid us. If I did I may never work again in this town...

For the lowdown on my acting life click HERE!
Brilliant blog posts on

Monday, 14 April 2014

I Was a Heifer Once


In light of radio host, Rachel Smalley weight-ist gaffe on air last week, calling average  kiwi women ‘heifers’ and ‘lardos’. I’d like to explain what a heifer is. 

It’s a young cow, one that has not yet had a calf. A sweet, teenage pregnancy free innocent bovine animal. I’m a farm girl, I like heifers.

A ‘lardo’ on the other hand is a less pleasant turn of phrase and not to be confused with the French word lardon: a chunky piece of bacon which adds flavour and calories to many dishes. A lardo according to the urban dictionary, is an insult describing an extremely fat person who cannot wield their habit of overeating.


This on-air, but thought to be off-air, throw away remark arose when Smalley discovered the average kiwi woman weighed 72kg, indicating a popular morning after pill would be ineffective for them. She has since apologized profusely.

I feel bad for all the insulted healthy 72kg women in New Zealand (and the world). And for Smalley; it sounded all the worse coming from a slim woman. If this is our new norm we better get used to it. Just as soon as the heifer jokes stop, she’ll be right.

Over history improved diet has made nations heavier and taller. It's a feast or famine out there.

I lived in Singapore for a short time when I was six in 1970. My Dad worked for the New Zealand High Commission and we lived in a huge house with a cook named Chin Foo. Chin Foo was a diminutive man who nuggeted his white hair black and fed my sister and I like the princesses we thought we’d become. He also had a son. A son he’d raised on huge portions and vitamin supplements. And it showed. Francis towered over his proud father. He was a strapping lad. Plumped on prosperity. Giant size.

Every time I walk around the Arrowtown museum I am alarmed by how teeny the intrepid early settlers of Otago (and all of New Zealand) were. There are displays of women’s dresses and boned corsets with waists so minute it’s hard to imagine a full complement of internal organs fitting inside them. When Captain Cook arrived on our shores 1768-1770, Joseph Banks naturist and botanist travelling with him noted, 'maori women were rather smaller than European woman', who averagely measured 154-155 cm in height. Petite.

In 1976, I learnt to ride side saddle for the Takapau Centennial. I was quite thrilled with the lovely leather saddle I was loaned along with the Victorian black woollen riding habit, until I had to put it on. On my 12 year old girlish frame its 17inch, whale boned waist pinched. You can see below that I was quite thrilled to don the outfit again for this photo. I think it was due back and mum wanted a snap for the album. I must have been sucking-in big time. Crikey my head is even too small for the top hat. Not a body part governments seem to record statistics of. Heads.

I recently purchased these wine glasses from my new favourite antique shop in Milton. I gave a set of ten cut crystal gems to my little sister Poppy as part of her wedding present.

‘Are they sherry glasses?’ she asked, bemused. 

‘No they’re 70’s wine glasses,’ I replied.

Stood alongside this enormous naughties goblet taking on fish bowl proportions, they do look wee. I did the test.

The cut crystal on the left holds 100ml, your average standard drink. Actually, wine-timers I hate to tell you that if your fermented grape juice of choice is 13.5%, 750 mls equals 8 standard drinks or 93mls. That’s these little babies with the tide out. Quite a long way out.

I don’t believe my parent’s generation drank less wine. They just had to get up to fill their glasses more often. We all know size doesn't count and drinking out of quality crystal is divine especially with the added incentive of in-built exercise. 

In 1970 the average kiwi women weighed 57kg (9 Stone).

Strange things have been happening in my garden. My silverbeet has turned into a gunnera (that man at the top is under one). And take a look at this William Bon Cretian pear grown on a hearty diet of horse poo. I turned it into a pie with Pam’s sweet short crust pastry on Saturday night and downed it with lashings of vanilla ice cream and cream, shortly after a dinner of roast fillet, potatoes, kumara, broccoli and mushrooms. It was a wintry evening in autumn.

Talking of kumara. (You can do the small penis signal at me right now. Tips of thumb and little finger together flick up and down.) For the first time ever, here in Middle Shotover I tried to grow my own. I poked my sprouting tubers into my new no-dig-pure-horse-poo-over-turf garden. The turf beneath was impenetrable by fork. I didn’t lay the corrugated iron sheet one foot under my kumara patch as instructed. There was no way these babies were going to scuttle down to Peru. Their soft green oval shaped leaves emerged lush and healthy and I left them to it. Last week, I tentatively, yet eagerly pulled them up. Hoping for a horticultural miracle. Pathetic. I added my haul; two thumb width tubers to the spuds that night.

‘What are these?’ asked son 11, of my boiled grey-brown finger lumps.

‘The first kumara I’ve ever grown,’ I replied. ‘Want a bite? Butter?’

‘Nope,’ he said.

‘Not to worry,’ I said. ‘One thing's certain. They’ll be BIGGER next year.’

(Statistics thanks to: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

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