Birthdays and toffee treats

With a birthday on the horizon, I received a delightful card with a treat enclosed and unexpected results. 

Dear Gavin, I’m being formal here because its important.
I am about to celebrate a significant birthday. They all are these days, actually.

I opened the card I received from you, and Melanie and Sarah and all my friends at Arnet Law, and what joy to see not one, but TWO toffee bars! Not any old toffee bars either, but exactly the kind we used to buy when I was at high school. A rather long time ago. 

I tucked them away as we have six others sharing our household and four of them are children so after extolling the evils of sweets I was not about to let them see me eating them, and pretty sure I didn’t want to share them. On this point however I relented, as after the children were all tucked up in bed, I handed one to Gilbert and said rather smugly…”My friends at Arnet Law sent me these in a card, would you like one?” 

I had an ulterior motive, I have to admit. Gilbert’s birthday is after mine, and while I didn’t know how friendly he is with you all, there was a possibility he would also get two toffee bars sent, so I hedged my bets that I might get one of his, if I shared one now. Besides its not nice to be greedy.  

And now to the point of my letter, apart from a thank you of course.Thank you! I popped this toffee bar into my mouth and it snapped, just they used to in the old days. I closed my eyes as the chocolate melted to leave the softening toffee in all its glory and all the while, I kept thinking. Don’t chew, don’t chew, don’t chew. However, I found my mouth responding to that toffee as you would expect, and I began to chew. It was absolutely delicious. Until, you know don’t you…You know what I’m going to say. 

Until I noticed it became terribly crunchy. Now I was pretty sure toffee bars are not crunchy so I gently tugged it from my mouth to find half a tooth had tagged along for the ride! Damn, damn, and a lot of other words that are not polite.
So I did what you would do when you shouldn’t waste good things. I popped that lump of crunchy toffee right back in there and sucked on it, so as not to waste a single bit of that deliciousness until I was left with just crunchy bits. 

And now here’s my thoughts. I know I can’t blame you or Melanie or Sarah or the others who shall remain nameless, for chewing, when at my age I should definitely not have chewed, but maybe for people born after say 1950, you send something softer. Something we can reach into the envelope and be equally surprised and delighted and not fear the loss of our teeth. 

I know you are not near this age Gavin and were born wellllll after 1950, but there ‘WILL’, to quote your words, come that day. 


Gavin’s reply

Hi Tricia,
Thanks so much for the lovely email. We have all loved reading it! We often get calls or thank yous – but nothing quite as fantastic as that!

Soooo sorry to hear about your tooth though! A few people have commented that we should be careful! We might get sued!! (and Im not suggesting that you do that!!) We did consider the marshmallow bars – only they don’t arrive in once piece… or looking anything like what left the office!!!!!

I will take it as my mission to work through all the possible options for a replacement!!!
Talks soon!

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In Sickness and In Health

 When we got home Gilbert showered before going straight to bed, refusing any more pills. He reckoned they were making him feel sick, but an hour later he woke me and said he needed me to take him to the Dr, who promptly shoveled us to hospital after hearing the word ‘Thailand’. I explained that the children at home were all sick with the same symptoms and its possible it was the same thing, as he had become unwell just 24 hours after arriving in Thailand. The hospital Dr’s all agreed, but felt they needed to rule out all other possibilities, which I guess is just as well. So testing for every tropical illness began, followed by almost anything known to man and two days and nights later he was discharged with a three day medical certificate. Something he’s never had in almost fifty years of working. He actually had a second week off. I think if someone had come in with a gun Gilbert would have stood up and asked to be shot.   

As I was about to visit our South Island babies I asked at the chemist…”The whole household has been sick. According to the hospital he had Influenza B followed by a chest infection. I have been embarrassingly well. Is it possible I could be a carrier? Could I take Influenza down to them?” 

“No, he assures me. You usually shows symptoms 2-3 days after contact. So you either have it or you don’t. If you have it you are usually pretty sick for around seven days. If you are still unwell after that, it has often developed into something else, as it did in this case”. So I ask why I didn’t get it? “You could have come into contact with it last year or before and fought it off”. Basically my immune system has recognised it and kicked it to touch. Well, not his exact words. “Would you like to get a flu shot now?” he asks. “No thanks, If I have been in a household with seven other sick people and not caught it, I don’t need that ta”. “It would be a good idea to take some Vitamin C and some probiotics,” he continues. “Doing that thanks,” I reply. 

As I usually park in a car park a good distance away from where I am going, to fit a brisk walk into my day, I pass another chemist and decide to ask there too. Just to be sure. I tell the same story and she gives the same answer, except she tries to sell me something that if I take every day ‘just in case, I come into contact with something’, It will find the bug and surround it and suffocate it, or something. Ummmmm, No thanks. 

Later on I read stuff about flu shots and Influenza and I remember each time Mum got a flu shot she became very ill, which they said was a co-incidence and nothing to do with the flu shot. I have never had one and pretty sure I never will. I think I have proved to myself that its so much better to get a little sick every now and again. My immune system updates the bugs I have been in contact with, and I get recharged, and then when something really nasty arrives on the doorstep, my body is in a much better position to fight it, than if I had a flu shot for what was here last year and made into a vaccine. Not happy to put some man made poison straight into my system. Thank you.

Lindy and I board the plane after a relaxed wine and can’t manage to take a selfie that includes us both fully…I know…ready to go. The sunset is amazing as we land and Evon is already there to collect us. We are wined, dined and treated like Princess’.   

We have a great weekend. We walk around the Red Zone and Chee explains the proposed developments, while the girls are threatened by the swans when attempting to feed the ducks. The girls explain the Red Zone is there because of the earthquake as they collect sticks. Lindy and I attend the Trade Fair and still find time to go shopping. 

Watching these two cuties who are typically best buddies and enemies at the same time, like siblings should be. We celebrate Piper’s birthday with a yummy cake 

..and I enjoy reading the same stories I read to Chee when he was little.   

“When’s the last time you guys slept together?” Chee had texted me before we headed down. “About 50 Years ago. No problem unless she wets the bed or farts, then I’ll push her out”, I texted back. “Good he replies. You’ll be sleeping together. Lets hope neither of those things happen” And before we know it we are snuggled under two layers of duvet and sleeping soundly. Lindy had warned me of her snoring before we dozed off. “Did I snore?” she asked as soon as my eyes opened in the morning and stretched. “Well if you did, I smiled. I never heard a thing”. “Did I? I asked in return. “Not really” she answered. “You kind’ve purred.” “Pardon?” “Aha, she nods, it was like a purr”.

I’m home just 24 hours and come down with a nasty head cold that leaves me full of snot, a headache and tucked up in bed sipping hot water and cider vinegar between violent sneezes. After crowing like a fool about my fantastic immunity, here I am with possibly the South Island strain of the flu. 
I tell my hairdresser, and we’ve never discussed anything like this before so I don’t know where she stands, but she tells me she would never have a flu shot and believes in personal responsibility and good holistic health. However, she tells me she had a sound dressing down from a client recently when she was asked if she had had her flu shot yet and she had replied no. This woman berated her over the next twenty minutes for her selfish attitude and poor community spirit. People relied on those who worked in the public arena, like teachers and shop assistants, hell anyone that walked out their front door basically, who should all get their flu shot to protect everyone else from getting the flu. Hmmm…

She shook her head and said, “I didn’t berate her, because it would be unprofessional of me. Turned out this woman was a public health nurse who advises others on better health outcomes for themselves and their families.” My hairdresser made eye contact in the mirror to make her point as she held her arms out. “Not only was she hugely obese, she is one of the most unhealthiest looking woman I have met. I could have given her some suggestions on fitness and healthy eating…never mind a bloody flu shot!”  
Haha…I had to laugh and I had to agree. I do most certainly believe in holistic health. I also believe in personal responsibility and do not expect the Dr has all the answers, I do believe in not pumping our bodies with drugs to take care of what we are not giving it or doing. These are short term solutions and our bodies won’t thank us for it.       

I leave there and I can’t stop thinking about this and remember that there was a time that the Dr’s and priests and indeed many others, were in positions of authority. Never to be questioned. Drs not only said it was OK to smoke, in my grandparents day they encouraged it, and women were told it would help them have a smaller baby. Less birth complications. Lets be honest, The medical profession didn’t and doesn’t always get it right.
When my mother had babies, bottle was definitely touted to be better than the breast. They didn’t bother with colostrum as it wasn’t worth it and in fact my Mum received an injection to dry up her milk after at least one birth. The medical profession do a lot of amazing stuff but they got this one very wrong. 

As I look up vaccinations I am shocked to see the current vaccine recommended schedule. My grandmother had one vaccination as a child. My mum had around four vaccinations. As a child I apparently was offered around fourteen vaccinations. This year in 2017, we are recommended around thirty nine for our children starting at just six weeks old. Then four, for our teenagers, and annually for our elderly. But wait, there’s more coming on line this year. Something doesn’t feel right about this. For me in fact, a lot doesn’t feel right and the more questions I ask and the more info I have gathered over the last fifty years, the more things don’t stack up for me.
I’m glad I am in a time where we can question. We don’t have to accept what ever the Dr says. We can choose what we think our family needs and we all need to be ‘thinking parents’. I have a great Dr who not only welcomes my questions, he aids my learning and respects my decisions. I can decide what I will take and when. I can make an informed decision. You can too, and it doesn’t have to be the same as mine. I respect your choices. 

Sunset on the wing

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Bangla Rd

Being a work conference we are with a bunch of people whom are all, but one, younger than us, and whom we don’t know very well. Gilbert and I are fairly sedate, while some are leering up every night. Down Bangla Rd bars till morning, and most of them looking like death at a late breakfast.

Two of them arrived a couple of days early and hit the bars. They warn us of the scams. The barmen play games and it’s probably very cleverly rigged so you win some, you lose some. When you win, you get free shots and there’s a lot of fun in sculling the drinks as the victors are urged on. When you lose, its added to your tab. When you finish a drink, as soon as you put the glass down, warns Aaron, they replace it with a full one. If you touch the glass, you have to pay for it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. Of course most will pick the glass up…and the bar staff very kindly keep a bar tab. It was 20,000 baht in no time, getting up to $1000 NZ, explains Aaron, which is bullshit, but by then you’re legless and in no state to argue. Given the drinks are cheap here, it’s unlikely they have drunk that much, or lost that much. You would think that warning would suffice, but no. It’s like all the men turned into brainless morons.

Two other men go down a few nights later and they tell us the next morning, with quaking voices, a very similar story, only they refuse to pay at first. They argue with the bar staff. It couldn’t be 20,000 bah!. The barman’s friendly disposition changes. He summons someone over and says they refuse to pay. The slightly aggressive man who comes over, lifts his lapel and shows the men his badge. He’s a police man, but is he? And do you really want to question that? He threatens them with a taser. One of the men took one look and ran, actually ran to the ATM and duly handed the 20,000 baht over. They breathed a sigh of relief, told us who knows what they were putting in our drinks. Could have been spiked. They considered themselves lucky and headed back, arriving at the hotel at 4.15am. We listen to their voices and serious faces and as I retell the story back in the room to Gilbert, we are shaking our head and chuckling. Oh, could have been worse. Could have been Bangla lock up! 

We have seen enough of the Bangla Roads of this world to know it is a heaving cesspit, where the locals lighten the tourists load. Not a nice place to be and we are not interested at all. 

From where we have our final dinner in an open air restaurant overlooking Patong Beach. The sunsets reflection on the water through the Palms is absolutely stunning. We can see the light pollution over the streets. It appears above one area almost like a halo but its throbbing makes me think an electrical storm is hitting the area. The guy across the table leans back to take a look and tells me “no, that’s Bangla Rd”. 

We ready ourselves for a banquet


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Getting sick in Thailand is not funny

A group of us are scheduled for cooking lessons and we have chosen Pad Thai, Penang curry, Black pepper beef, Tom Kha Gai soup and Mango sticky rice. As I know you are now licking your lips, I can confirm it was amazing and I’m looking forward to making this at home.

Our teacher shows us the different fruits and explains the durian on the end here is loved by locals, but it tastes like heaven and smells like hell.  Quite similar to the Chinese cooking I know but the subtle spices are something else. We are taken to the markets first and compared to where we shopped in our Village while staying in China these are clean, airy and well organised. I suspect she has taken us to tourist friendly markets but still my companions haven’t seen anything like it before. 

We go to the culture show and are shown to a table and I end up next to the company CEO. Hmmm, not my preferred seat I have to say. I order a whiskey and sip it as we all are back and forward choosing from the biggest smorgasbord I have ever seen. There are about 30 different tables of food from every country imaginable. 

We soon start chatting and he asks me about our Croatia visit. I already know he is descended from an Island close to ours. “How was your visit?” he asks. “Fantastic!” I say. We share similar stories and his eyes twinkle with delight when I tell him about Maree phoning me to say there was a competition on. My writing the story about Grandpa and us winning the ten thousand dollars. He loves it! He tells me about his grandpas arrival here and a bride being chosen for him from the village and her delivery of fourteen children in a raupo hut at the rivers edge. We both admire the strength of people in those days. I tell him the trick Grandpa played played on Nana, a Lebanese to win her agreement to marry him. He thinks it’s hilarious as he throws his head back to really belly laugh about that. “Lebanese?, he says. How did they get on?” Well I say the Lebanese fought amongst themselves until it was time to have dinner and then it would all be blown over and be friends again. I always remember lots of screaming matches. By contrast, The Croatians would argue over something and depending on how bad it was, a grudge could transcend generations, and indeed did in our family. “Yes he agreed, saying that has happened in his family, hundreds of years in fact.” 

We had an hour before the show and were encouraged to visit the ‘Thai Village’ which was pretty cool. I lost Gilbert in the first ten minutes as I chatted to actors who were demonstrating life of a hundred years ago, when the heavens opened up and I was stuck in ‘Northern Thailand’ in a pole house, with a ‘river’ to cross. I was wondering what to do when someone arrived over with an umbrella especially to rescue me. He walked me back to the main building safely. The Thai people are such beautiful people. In our hotel complex we are greeted beautifully by all the staff, and we go out of our way to smile and greet them the same. 

We all ambled over to a the theatre so huge it could seat 2-3,000 and even had a couple of elephants on stage. It told the story of Siam and included waterfalls, rain and a river running through the stage with hundreds of cast and multiple scene changes. 

By the end of the show Gilbert is feeling pretty miserable and by morning is sick sick sick with headaches and body aches and a general very ill feeling. I try to tell him about over lapping the paracetamol and the ibruprofen, but apparently he knows all that. For two days he is miserable. Mostly holed up in our room with room service lunch and dinners delivered. He could go to all the activities but then with his cough, he could spread it around everyone else, he rightly reasons. While he’s incubating his little malady, every other man and his dog in our group is going down. Their symptoms are more tummy, where Gilbert’s is more flu like. Not the women surprisingly. On day three I tell him if he overlaps paracetamol and ibruprofen he will get better cover. A revelation apparently…

The room cleaners are aware he is feeling unwell and left a lovely note and flowers 

The steamy hot atmosphere makes him feel much worse and I manage to coax him to the pool just twice. He’s a lot happier watching movies in the room with the aircon on full. This is our third trip to Thailand and while it’s a shame and it’s never fun to be sick, there’s nothing we need, so don’t feel we are missing anything at all!

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Via Singapore

One of our suppliers has kindly provided an all expenses paid conference in Phuket, Thailand. I say conference, but with just one two hour ‘update’ in the whole week, it can hardly be called a ‘conference’, and they very generously encourage us to relax after a busy year. We are spoiled with cultural shows, boat rides, spa treatments and much more, interspersed with cocktail hours and sumptuous buffets. Even the breakfast is almost more than I can bear, though I try very hard. Day one I sample a good deal of what’s on offer but day two I realise I can get omelettes any time and revert to the delicious subtle curries and naan breads, while day three sees me with yum char. Dim sums, dumplings and finishing with Chinese tea. Yep. This is me and that’s my breakfast preference. 

Yum Cha every morning!

We were pretty excited at an upgrade which gave us better rooms in a Villa complex with its own pool, bar facilities and each room looking over the pool had a fully stocked free mini bar. Umm excuse me did you say ‘FREE’ mini bar? Yes the girl enthused. It will be refilled each morning at no charge. At this point Gilbert was imagining chips and chocolates while I had visions of bottles of Jameson’s whiskey and absolut vodka. There had to be a catch to this so I asked, “was there also water and lemonade and coffee?” “Yes yes, said the girl, and a coffee machine so you can make you own coffee how you like it but also sachets for you”. Wow! It’s no brainer, we said looking around at each other laughing as we scrambled for the front desk to sign up. 

Mini bar, but not as we know it…

We are shown to our room and it’s a lovely room overlooking the villa’s pool. I go straight to the mini bar. I could do with a drink right now! I look around check all the cupboards and there’s no chips or chocolates, no whiskey or vodka. In fact there’s only a fridge full of soft drink and heaps of water! Haha! How crazy is that! She wasn’t lying. Just our perception of what a mini bar contains. On top of the mini bar is a coffee machine and it’s a little ripper. The coffee is strong and rich and velvety and sits on my palate delighting me. I LOVE this coffee. I restrict myself to one each morning after breakfast. A sweet, short black. I balance this with a gorgeous Chinese teapot that I make a pot of green tea to sip on each morning before we go to breakfast. And actually we are at the pool side bar from 4pm with the others, so seriously, we do not need a mini bar. 

One of several pools in the complex

The women are pretty excited about the shopping, with most not been to Asia before. It’s fun watching them as they take in the street sights, sounds and smells. They think they are being intrepid crossing the road around tuk tuks and Sherrie told me she found two handbags she loved, when her husband began bartering, much to her horror. She begged him to stop. Eyes wide, she told me it was embarrassing. I laughed and said it was completely OK and even expected. “I’ve heard of it, she said, but I couldn’t stand it, and had to move away. Oh it was horrible,” she said shaking her head and looking down. 

Everything inside is serene and beautiful. A very different picture just outside our gate

Nikki on the other hand has been to Thailand five times and is a veteran. She has a calculation she uses to barter with and is lovely but assertive. They were here in just October she tells us as we make our way down to her favourite shoe shop. She stops uncertain for a second, gets her bearings again and continues, listing what she’s bought so far. Two pairs of Adidas for her and now she wants two for her Mum, little bags and handbags and several iPhone cases. She stops again as we are weaving through crowds of shoppers. She’s peering up at the shops overlapped signage with blinking lights thrown haphazardly over. She then looks at the man sitting at the edge of his wares. He is bored and looks up at her now she has stopped. “Please Madam you wish to buy?” He asks half heartedly. 

“Are you the man I bought off before?” She asks peering closely at him. “Yeees, he says unsure himself, yes I am, please come and look again”. Nikkies eyes are squinted looking down the dingy interior for something familiar. “Did you take me to the back of the shop yesterday?” she asks. “Yes I did”, he assures her. He is now standing, smiling encouragingly and starts to walk down the shop beckoning her to follow. Nikki steps in a tad and looks around. “Please come” he nods. “I will take you out the back and up the stairs again”.

“Stairs?”Nikki repeats, “Stairs?” “Yes, he nods, I will show you shoes and handbags at the best prices. Please come” At this Nikki steps back and pulling her shoulders back she barely turns to us as she says, there were no stairs. Not this place, must be further down”, and continues her ‘dos and don’ts’ of shopping rules with barely a pause. 

A little further on she spots it and smiling, she nods at the door keeper, the introducer, the man who hands us over to the seller and we are led down a dusty alleyway where someone steps from the darker space as our eyes adjust and asks if we want tailor made suits. “No thank you, we answer. We’re just here for shoes”. Up one step, through a door and we are in a brightly lit space of floor to ceiling adidas. Nikki quickly chooses three colours and tells him she will come back as these are for her Mother and she will ask what colours. “I have wifi”, he tells her and in the blink of an eye the decision is made. She tells him what she will pay for them and he nods in agreement and the shoes are purchased. “I will give you something, he smiles bowing his head, as you are my ollld customer”, and he reaches in and grabs a brand new pink plastic bag and gives it to her as if a gift, on hands outstretched. “Thank you”, Nikki responds with a lovely smile. “I will see you again,” he says as he turns to open the door, just as two more women step up to the door, eyes quickly taking in the multi colours and we step down as the door is closed behind us. 

“There’s a lot of knock offs”, Nikki continues chatting as we walk away pausing at the entrance just long enough for her to point out the Phuket Travel sign and tells us “to make sure you come back to this one. These are the real deal. I’ve worn mine to death since October. I go power walking, tai chi, the gym and they are in perfect nick still! She looks back at Sheryl and I to reinforce this. I’ll take you where there are some dress shoes. Really cheap but no bartering in this shop. I’m crazy about shoes, she confides. My husband says we will have to add on another room for all my shoes, she almost squeals with laughter. I really have enough now, but I’ll show you.” Sheryl wants to buy some for dinner tonight. We are going to a cultural show and she only has jandals. “What about you?, Nikki asks me. Do you like shoes?” “Well, I have funny feet, I admit. I only have one place where I can buy shoes that fit and are comfortable, so not sure I’ll find any here”. “I’m sure you will, she says, they have heaps”, as she turns and steps into a big bright store with floor to ceiling glass. 

We step up and it’s big alright. Sheryl is off. She is tiny. Possibly a dress size woman’s four to six. She is probably going to go to a tailor later as she has trouble finding clothes small enough. What a problem! She is slipping her perfectly beautiful little feet into exquisite heels and viewing the backs in the many mirrors. Nikki meanwhile is complaining about her feet still being puffy from the flight and is dismayed her feet puff over the straps of some. She is confident they will be okay once the swelling goes down. I wander up and down the rows and find the biggest pair of sandals I can find. The salesman is close behind me. “Do you have any bigger sizes?” I ask. He shakes his head and looks down at my feet. “They will fit, he assures me. Try them”. I drop them to the floor and my gigantic feet can’t even get under the straps to get in. I look up at him and laugh. He looks quickly at my face, shrugs his shoulders and moves to the next person. “Any good?”, Nikki asks as I catch her up. “Nah, nothing big enough here”, I answer fingering the wallets in every shade and hue. “Did you ask for a larger size?” she asks as she bends down to do up the straps on a different pair. “Yep. Apparently I’ve tried on the biggest size they have”. Looking down at my feet, Nikki is perplexed. “They don’t look that big, she says turning back to her own feet. Oh well, we can find another shop and ask.” Her and Sheryl take their purchases to the counter and are sad for me. “Hey, don’t worry about me, I laugh, I never normally go into shoe shops. I’m well used to it.” Off we head again but in this heat quickly decide to head back for a swim. 

We are instructed not to finger these as they are destined for a Buddha

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Forty years on…

“Shall we go out for lunch?” Gilbert gingerly asks. Menopause is a bitch and sometimes I am too….

I can’t recall many wedding anniversaries we’ve celebrated, except for one that wasn’t the right date! I’m transcribing my diary from a time we took the children to China and stayed in the village Gilbert’s Father came from. I’ve just read in there that we spent our wedding anniversary in a hospital room lying on stretchers side by side. But that’s another blog all together! 

Life has been busy, with anniversaries many times slipping by unnoticed. This year the kids all texted, after no doubt reminding each other. I suppose forty years is a significant milestone with some couples having trouble staying together four. Not that it’s always been an easy ride.

In those days courting involved the girls wandering up and down the main street, looking in shop windows at things we could never afford to buy. While the boys hooned up and down the down the same main street in their cars looking at the girls. Sometimes we would meet in the milk bars where we had milkshakes, never coffee.

We lived just five kilometres apart and were a couple before I even left school. I guess we have grown up together. After five years we decided to live together. My Catholic parents loved Gilbert, thought it was a great idea and fully supported it. Gilbert’s Dad, in his broken English and with tongue firmly in cheek, constantly asked when he would be going back to China to get a wife, while Gilbert’s Mum, with a new strong Christian faith, had a blue fit at the idea of living together before marriage. To appease her we became engaged with plans for marriage soon and I chose a simple ring. We decided something simple would suit us for the wedding too, rather than a whole lot of drama costing a fortune. We had seen many thousands of dollars spent on what we thought was unnecessary palava.

It made much more sense to buy a sewing machine, rather than spend a lot of money on froth that would be completely useless the next day, so Gilbert handed me $200 for a sewing machine and the plan was I would sew our wedding outfits. I drew up a picture of the simplest of dresses and bought some fabric. Mum had some suit fabric she bought from a traveling salesman who also sold insurance. She bought insurance too by the way! I bought a suit pattern for Gilbert and started to sew. I made a very average job of his suit but a pretty good job of my dress, if I may say so myself. I wore a pair of sandals I had owned for some time. Well, who sees them really?

Gilbert and I on the big day

My dress was trotted out several times after in fact. I wore it at the end of the year at our teachers college graduation ball, after cutting the ‘train’ off it. I wore it again at a ball the next winter. If anyone else thought it was just a little weird, they never said so. I didn’t really care I suppose, and thought I looked amazing. Perhaps they were too polite. They were probably like ‘Jeez is she wearing her wedding dress again? That’s weird….’ and our girls have worn it to a number of ‘dress up affairs’. I talked about the making of these in my blog January 18 2017 if that interests you. 

Gilbert refused to marry in the church, so our wedding service was held at Gilbert’s brother’s house. The Catholic priest presided on the condition we did the Catholic, pre-wedding six week sessions with him. I can barely remember what we discussed for an hour each time, but vaguely it was about love, respect, contraception and God. We nodded at the right places and he agreed to marry us.

I sewed Gilbert’s shirt on the morning of the wedding which was a bit mad. Mum, Dad and Lindy arrived as I slipped my dress on. Fluffed up my hair myself and just as I was about to walk out, virtually make up free, our lovely neighbour popped in and handed me a shot glass full of whiskey. “One for the road”, she smiled. We had shared many a BBQ and drink with her and her husband, and a few nights earlier when we laughingly told them the wedding was going to be in a bit of a hurry, for not the usual reasons, and the budget couldn’t quite stretch to a ring for Gilbert. Jeff immediately took his ring off his finger and handed it to Gilbert and said “it’s yours for the day mate. You can’t get married without a ring”. When I had told Mum and Dad we were just going to use my engagement ring like a wedding ring, Dad went to a draw and plucked out an 18ct wedding band. Someone had left it behind years before and never came back for it. Perfect. We now had two wedding bands.

Dad, Mum, Lindy and I. Lindy can still fit her bridesmaid dress! 

We had a couple of photos taken just before leaving for the wedding. Actually…. just a couple. Dad drove Lindy and I to the wedding like a silly bastard in Tony’s red camaro. That must have been a tense moment for Tony. Haha! And just as we pulled up I spied Gilbert arriving through a side door, fresh from Rugby. Now that would have been embarrassing…

I spy Gilbert arriving out of the corner of my eye

The Catholic priest was ready and Don, Gilbert’s brother who was a Jehovah Witness, took his opportunity to stand up and preach about his God, as he was wont to do at any occasion. Oh well. We had written our own vows at a time when nobody did that. We had a couple more photos taken outside the house but never thought to take any gorgeous garden shots. We just lined all the family up and snapped before heading to the reception.

Gilbert’s family

My family

I was just 18 and Gilbert was 21 years old. The wedding reception was at the Puni hall, just across the road from where we were renting, metres from the primary school we had both attended, and a few kilometres from where we had each grown up. Gilbert’s rugby team and mates had put a hangi down earlier. A bit like a roast dinner cooked on hot rocks underground. After a couple of speeches, this was served out in the supper room, so you had to go and help yourself. Mum must have been having kittens. She knew nothing about hangis, so I’m guessing it was nerve racking for her. Dad had organised a whole lot of alcohol and Dad’s mate had offered to be DJ for the night as he had a turntable set up.
No complaints from us, we spent all night on the dance floor. I didn’t even go and change into a ‘going away’ outfit as was usual in those days.

1) we weren’t going away till next day and

2) I thought I looked gorgeous in my wedding dress. Why would I change out of that!

At about 2 am we staggered across the road to our house and fell into bed, only to be woken by stones being thrown onto our roof. ‘Bastards’ Gilbert muttered as we drifted off to sleep.

The next day we grabbed our bags and while most couples went to Whitianga or Northland for a honeymoon, thanks to Graham, Gilbert’s brother loaning us some cash, we flew to Fiji and what a great time we had. We swam and sunbathed and partied up with other guests. It was unbelievably hot and I kept getting blood noses which was a bit of a pain, but an old Chinese man went and got a eucalyptus leaf, rolled it up and motioned for me to stick it up my nose and it stopped immediately. I went off with a little stash of leaves and one up my nose and continued shopping.
This was where we first experienced cruise ships coming into port, when prices would be tripled for the time of their visit. That was an amazing trip and our first away from New Zealand. The year was 1977.

Today to celebrate, we wandered up one side of our town’s main street and down the other, chatting to the locals and enjoying the sunshine. We had a leisurely lunch and later movies and dinner. Life can throw out many challenges and marriage can be a roller coaster all on its on. Sometimes the troughs are deep and dark, while the highs pull you through. As long as we can recalibrate from time to time, we should get through the storms, one by one. 

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Survival, we all need a helping hand sometimes. 

As we begin to sit out Cylone Debbie fresh from Aussie, we are told to keep our survival kits handy and be ready to evacuate. I’m sure many people are thinking…’gulp, yeeah’. We all have great plans…or maybe we’ve done it and stolen from it and never restocked…or the tins have rusted and the biscuits gone mouldy… or the water leaked and everything got wet. All these things happened to our survival kit after starting it way back even before the Christchurch earthquake, and each major event has me thinking, I must restock it.

Right now I’m also thinking about those living in war torn countries for whom survival has been years long, no town council or relief aid to help them ‘get thru’. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of stress some families endure. Lauren and her friend, Nadia have started a fundraiser called ‘The Goodness Gathering’, bringing people together for one day and for one charity, because ‘good CAN be built in a day’. Google this and it will work no matter where in the world you are. 
Take a look, The Goodness Gathering, because good CAN be built in a day! because like me, you will be impressed.

The children of Syria

That’s the beauty of technology and the other amazing thing is that when a lot of people come together with small amounts, they can make a massive difference to those who need it. The last one the girls organised funded wells in two Indian villages. That’s massive any way you look at it! I’m so proud of two young girls who are not just globally minded, but who are making a real difference. Now you have clicked on the link and know what its about, perhaps you can pop a few dollars in the kitty and watch that basket grow!

A little while ago I decided it could be a little exercise for our home schooled grandchildren almost 4, 6 and 8 years old, to get our survival kit sorted. I thought this would make me start it… and hopefully finish it.

We first sat and talked about what might happen if there was a disaster like an earthquake. The kids had been to the museum the week before and experienced ‘Earthquake house’ so it was fresh in their mind. We practiced dropping to a turtle, making ourselves as small as we could and covering the back of our heads to protect from falling debris. We started to look at places that were good to drop down to. An interior wall is good, under or beside a big piece of furniture could be good but is it under a big mirror or painting that might be hanging on that wall ok? You might not have a choice.

I told the children a story a lady told me. She was outside hanging out the washing when a big one came rolling through her property. The earth moved so much she could hardly stand and dropping down she grabbed the clothesline, but it too was swinging madly with the centre pole lifting and falling. We imagined how hard it would be to walk when the earth did this. We practiced what this would be like.

The lady said she in fact couldn’t walk. So if where you were wasn’t safe, we talked about crawling rather than walking. Then we practiced dropping where we were and crawling to a safer place and if we couldn’t crawl, then we stayed curled up like a turtle, just where we were. The kids took it very seriously. Its a drill they practiced at playcentre regularly enough that it wasn’t strange or silly. Annie and Chee told us their two little ones have never commented on the earths movements down in Christchurch. They have grown up with it and it’s just what happens. The Earth moves.

We talked about volcanic eruptions, after all this is most likely for us here and they knew about this too. They told me about lava flow and dust. They had seen it in the Earthquake house. We talked about tsunamis and flooding. Having no power, no toilet, no house! What would we do? We brainstormed. We could dig a hole for a toilet. We could sleep under the trees. We could make a fire to cook, We could catch rabbits and eat them. We could dig up stuff from the veg garden. How resourceful they were. Aaand what if we see someone who needs something? We share. So nice to see some of what we say goes in. 

Interspersed through the serious thought was nearly four year old Tai. “I know! He would shout. We could get a helicopter to take us away.” But what if the man with a helicopter doesn’t know we need help…”Hmmm, I know” his eyes all lit up like his answer was so going to work. “We ring the man with a helicopter and tell him to come and get us” But what if the phones don’t work. “Hmmm, I know! We could go to the fire station and tell them we need a helicopter.” But what if the roads are broken up? “Hmmm, I know! We run to the fire station and tell the man we need a helicopter”. But what if there is big flooding and we can’t even run on the road. “Hmmm, I know! We go to Koro’s and get his waka and go to the fire station and tell them we need a helicopter.” Pretty simple really…and where exactly is this helicopter going to take us? I didn’t ask but isn’t it cool that nothing is insurmountable. Young children are so solution focused. We should foster that, I think to myself.

We decided we needed to get some stuff ready and a couple of booklets were there to help as we made lists of things we needed. They say plan for three days but we decided to plan for five as we are in the countryside we can manage a bit longer perhaps and maybe the people in the town will get help first. I gave everyone areas to be in charge of. Tai, You’re in charge of toilet paper. We need enough for three days but maybe five, “Right!” He dashes off. Haha!  

Kahu you can be in charge of the medical kit. We went through the list and figured we had everything we needed, except eye wash and dust masks. In a volcano they might be needed. We lay all our medical stuff out before checking off a suggested list. Wheriko, you’re in charge of food. We all discussed what needed to go into these different bundles but one person was in charge of the final selection and pack. Baked beans are good. Pasta may not be so good, firstly it needs water to be cooked. We included some pasta, but where my last pack was almost all pasta stuff, this was mostly canned goods.

Wheriko checks out the bandage supply

We needed a minimum of 72 litres of water for 8 of us. I googled water storage and figured if we buy some which will be specifically for drinking, and bottle some of our own, the other will be for cooking and hand washing etc. Still need to buy some more for that quota!

Then we went shopping. OMG it was crazy trying to keep everyone on task. Checking use by dates. Deciding on sizes and amounts and best options. I couldn’t wait to get to the car. Exhausting business grocery shopping!

We packed into our click clack sealed containers, checking as we went. Last things to go is a torch and radio that doesn’t use batteries and dust masks. You’re in charge of that I told Gilbert over dinner. He smiled as if I was being a little over the top when I said dust masks. “What do you want dust masks for?” he asked. Volcanooooeees! we told him…and you won’t think its very funny if it happens.

“We’re coming to your place”. Tara told me when I told her what we were doing. Well I hope you’ve got a helicopter Miss. Just in case the roads are broken or flooded!

So……Ummmm, Our survival kits OK. Hows yours?

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