Shall I cut my nose off to spite my face? 

Family quarrels are more intense, last longer and everyone is less forgiving. 

It seems my Dad and his brother quarrelled often and as a child I witnessed some of these. I was blissfully unaware of the whys and wherefores and Mum was careful to not colour our feelings. In my child’s mind they were both silly and I never thought bad of either. I understood more in later life when I questioned Mum, and I really admired her putting events behind her for the sake of family, but when I had a run in with him myself, I was furious. We agreed to disagree. Well that was my words, not his. 

I never spoke to him again and in a childish rant said I wouldn’t go to his funeral, but then I realised he wouldn’t actually be there! I had no quarrel with his family and all my cousins would be there. A case of cutting my nose off to spite my face. 

As I sit and listen to the eulogy I’m reminded that a persons time is many layers of interwoven threads. I remember his beautiful gardens and it’s nice to hear how special he was as a Father and a GrandFather. My memories are just a tiny slice of his life. So much more makes up a person than my brief encounter for sure. Nor do we always know what makes that persons view. Thinking this through makes me see my own short comings. 

Lindy tells me about two old brothers she knows who never spoke for forty odd years. But shared a close and lovely bond for their last ten years before they both passed away and I wonder aloud if people mellow as they age. The intensity of old disagreements fade over time. Perspective changes. The importance of the ‘thing’ diminishes. Blame reapportioned or simply the family bond is so strong it rises above the hurt of past times. Life is so short and we can waste too much on things that in the end are not important. 

In many families adult siblings have friction and as a Mother it would be pretty hard to see that animosity, especially if it runs deep and spills into the next generation, as it often does. 

If our kids fought for any length of time or had hard feelings I would pull them up together and tell them that their brothers and sisters were their best friends. That they need to really treasure that relationship because when times were tough and when others fall away it will be their brothers and sisters who will be the ones who will still be standing. Come hell or high water. These were the people you could depend on. Their angry little faces would be tipped up to me as I dispensed this wisdom they might not have been quite ready to take in. 

Was it these head bangings that made our children close or was it three months in a Chinese village when they depended on each other? There was virtually no English and water had to be bought up from the well and they travelled in pairs to the village market to shop. Was it times spent camping at doc sites where they slept together and shared jobs, or simply that we were out in the country and they didn’t have kids down the road to play with so made games up together? Or was it because Gilbert worked long hours and I depended on the kids to work together and help me? I don’t know, but I’m happy to report that they can laugh at each other’s mischief, forgive short comings and be there when needed. I don’t expect that to change, but will happily bang their heads together if it does! Hahaha! 

You would have loved seeing these gardens Uncle Des as I know you loved your roses!  

Taken in Butchart gardens. Victoria Island. Canada. 

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Another gorgeous wedding 

Every wedding is different in a hundred ways and I love the little things that make a wedding unique.

Holly and Dave picked a venue close to their home called Solscape that had cabooses, teepee tents and yurts you could rent to sleep in, and a cottage for the bride and groom. The site sat high on a hill over looking the Raglan surf and provided a vegan menu. The main reception area needed to be quiet at 10pm but the party could continue in the communal area later. All these things made it quite different to other weddings and there was much discussion about it.

The biggest concern for weddings though is always the weather. When we had Damen and Amy’s wedding here in our paddock, we discussed the ‘rain plan’ with them. No, they didn’t want to be relocated to a hall. No, they didn’t want a marquee, but we were not to worry as they had paid $10 and consulted with Ken Ring online who said the weather was going to be sunny. This was some ten months or so away from the wedding date. 

Gilbert and I looked at each other in disbelief. These guys had more than a couple of university degrees between them and they thought some guy known as the ‘Moon Man’ was going to be able to predict the weather that far ahead? But, the weather was fantastic. It couldn’t have been better and while we put that down to good luck, I purchased this ‘moon man’s’ next years calendar and began to watch his predictions. When our next son was to be married, Chee rang me up and said “We want a date somewhere in October, November Mum. Can you check out that book for a date?” I picked the weekend most likely and while it rained right up to the Thursday, just like my new mate Ken said, the sun burst through the clouds, the paddocks dried up and we once again had the best weather ever!

I used Ken’s weather almanac many times and only once was it wrong. Far better odds than the actual weather people. Ken has been mocked and reviled many times for his predictions but one thing people seem to miss, is that while official weather predictions can be wildly out and can change hourly, right up to the day. Ken has written his almanac a whole year ahead! So when Official weather reports put this wedding smack in the middle of a weather bomb with a week of thunderstorms and the highest rain fall in a hundred years, Ken said it should be fine. 

Right up to Friday night it was torrential rain and on the Saturday morning Gilbert showed me the official reports for Raglan showed a 100% chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms. I decided on wearing jeans down and if it stayed bad I would just leave them on. “Holly must’ve pissed in the Holy water”, Tony observed as we swerved to avoid road flooding, peering through heavy rain. 

We’d driven down in Tony’s original ’55 Chev. No fancy demisters or the usual mod cons, but comfortable and so nice to be chauffeured. People’s heads turned as we motored down. Duane and I in the back seat full of chat and laughter catching up. “Can you keep it down in the back, Tony complained a couple of times. I can’t hear myself talk”. Hahaha! 

Couple of hours driving but soon the skies were clearing. “Look! Tony pointed as we came over a hill. That’s where we’re headed, pointing out a halo of good weather. “Holly must’ve been a good girl after all”… and by wedding time it was sun, sun and nothing but sun. In fact it was sweltering, without a whisper of wind. 

Holly on her way in Tony’s ’55 Chev

We settled in the bach we were to sleep in where the girls were finishing hair and makeup. All absolutely gorgeous and Holly especially, a vision of loveliness when she slipped her wedding dress on and tucked a simple headpiece in her hair. We sipped on bubbles with them and enjoyed being a part of such a special moment. 

Wedding bough n boys waiting

Lindy and I set up the wedding bough we had prepared earlier to take advantage of the stunning view out to the Tasman as far as the eye can see. Manu Bay, Apparently world famous for its left hand breaks. Not that I’d know. Put me on a boogie board and if I’m lucky enough to catch a wave I scream at full throttle all the way in. With joy you understand. Although I did as a youngster have an altercation with the surf on ninety mile beach, where in my book, I nearly drowned. I dragged myself back up the beach after being knocked over repeatedly, dragged under and pulled out. I lay gasping on the sand until I had coughed up all the water I had swallowed, and then made my way down to Dad crying and told him I had nearly drowned. I was about eight I’m guessing. He barely glanced at me as he bagged his toheroas and said, “you’ll be alright”. While I still loved the beach it gave me a healthy fear of surf.

I made it my business to check out the garden and it was huge and fabulous

Down for a quick change and then back up ready for the service, the music was playing and the sun streaming in as everyone arrived, grabbed some liquid refreshments and greeted one another. A wedding is a such a beautiful positive gathering and it certainly helps if the sun is shining. 

Holly was flanked up the aisle with both Mum and Dad, vows made, special words shared and rings exchanged. It was simply beautiful. More photos as family groups reluctantly stood side by side to capture the moment and then we sat happily imbibing in the copious wines on offer, until Cam leaned across to me and said “Should we do the tables now Tricia?” “Pardon?” I looked over. What on earth was she on about. “Aren’t we doing the nibbles table?” she asked. Hell! yes! Couple of drinks in me and I lose track of all responsibilities.  

Nibbles Table was laden  

Dinner was soon served and while Gilbert and I are generally happy to eat almost anything, some people encountered banana and cashew nuts on a pizza and refused to try anything else. I however was in seventh heaven. Four huge salads. One green, one pasta, one spicy kumera and a delicious potato salad. The pizza oven disgorging many variations of vegan pizzas and the flavours were exquisite. Very happy by then, Johny, Sara, Duane and I helped fill the dance floor. Having been sipping since lunch time, I switched to water at about 7pm and felt great next morning, waking up in a king size bed with an unbroken view out to the sea.  

Breakfast was fresh fruit and juice, coconut yogurt, roasted nuts and grains followed by a tomato bean dish, Refried potato mix with tofu sausages, a black and white rice dish. Home made breads with a chia seed berry spread and a capsicum hummus spread option. With fresh coffee and coconut sugar it was just delicious. There were a few long faces who couldn’t eat. In their heads it had to be bacon and eggs or they might choke, and I heard a couple mention Mcdonalds. So much to miss out on when you restrict yourself. The only thing I missed was butter on that amazing bread and a dash of milk in the coffee, but I had no complaints whatsoever. 

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A day off – What normal people do

A trip to the Port and I decided to wear the dress that was too tight for me so I would be reminded of my need to be just a tad smaller for the up coming nuptials of Holly & Dave. It was either a hundred sit ups a day or eat less, neither of which were appealing, or frankly likely. “What you need, Ren advised, is a gut holder thingee Mum. Just to iron out those ripples”, as I waltzed up and down the hall way in my wedding attire options. 

So tight were these ‘thingee’s’, that Xtra Large, or ‘Xtra Lovely as one shop assistant called it, looked like it might not fit someone size ten, of which I hadn’t been since I was about ten. I looked at it and said to Ren, “I’m pretty sure I won’t fit this”. “You will, she assured me. Its supposed to be tight”. In the changing room I tried to pull it over my head but trapped somewhere between my arm pits and neck I couldn’t get the damn thing up or down, and in the end despite muffled pleas for help I had to exit the changing room for Ren to extricate me. One I did manage to get on made my breasts almost kiss my chin and I suddenly had fat rolls on my legs. What they don’t tell you is the fat has to go somewhere, so despite a svelte middle the rest of me looked strangely weird. I chose the least tight available at considerable cost. Just to iron out the ripples mind…  

Tara had stayed over night and she explained a day out was in order. “Ohh. I answered. So where are we going?” “To the markets, and then Uncle Grahams, and then the beach for a swim”. “Ohhh”, I answered. “That’s what you said before”, she said. “What?” “Ohhh…” she imitated. “Well I’m not sure I want to be out all day”. I answered. “Mum its called a ‘day off’. Its what normal people do. They slow down and just have fun. They relax and enjoy whatever the day brings”. “Ohhh…” I replied. “There you go again with your ‘Ohhhs’. “OK we’ll come”. I replied. 

Tara realises the kids hands are not facing the ‘right way’

First stop was the local market day in the now not so tiny town of Pokeno with a new subdivision explosion. Pokeno became famous when I was young for its delicious ice creams and even before we left home Gilbert looked back at me from the front seat with stars in his eyes wondering which flavour he might choose. “Umm some of these kids are allergic to dairy, I whispered, so I suggest you do that in secret somehow”. 

Wandering into the first stop, the markets. I found the local Rawleighs lady also sold delicious looking homemade biscuits. Some market research was in order as Kahu and Wheriko had planned to make biscuits and sell them outside the local dairy as an exercise in budgets and profits. Tai had decided he would make or buy lollies to sell. It seemed blatantly obvious to him that the only thing worth buying in a dairy was lollies, so he would stop people at the door and sell them his, before they even entered. Simple.

Nice smile Tai

We surveyed her offerings and prices and how many in a pack before deciding we should buy them anyway to take to Uncle Graham. The other items on my list to take to Uncle Graham was fresh home made breads, cheeses and salamis, of which there was none. But I did find a magnificent book on one of the old palatial homes of England and another on making the most of your pizza oven for Lindy. 
Further on I found threepence from my birth year made into earrings costing only $5 and a niece selling fresh veg so cheap, just ten dollars gave me two large bags full!  

My weight loss plan of wearing a tight dress doesn’t deter me from an ice-cream!

Gilbert had given me a nod and slipped across the road to the ice cream shop, so we made our way there sometime after him and discovered they had a dairy free sorbet option and a huge single scoop was just $1.50, so of course it was one each before piling into cars again and heading out to Uncle Graham where lunch was scoffed outside so our unruly mob didn’t destroy the place, and then off to the local park where we hung out for a good hour as we reminisced about the bach across the road. 

We had sold it twelve years ago after owning it for about ten years and the kids had absolutely loved it there. The hour was full of ‘remember how we flipped the quad when we raced over the sand dunes’, with kids holding on for dear life to a hunk of ply or an old bedspread or whatever the latest piece tied to the back was.

‘How we could go either one way to the surf or the other way to the river’. ‘How Lai and Willie would come and all the kids would sleep on the lounge floor as it was only tiny with two bedrooms’. ‘How we’d BBQ every night and the kids would dash across the road and play in this very park till dusk or dark when I would come out and scream off the back balcony like a shrew if they didn’t come at first call’. 

“Remember how when you got out in the sand dunes it was really easy to get lost and Mum showed us to look for the heart in the sandy hills and if you headed for that you would soon arrive at the path to the back of the bach”, Monie asked. “No”, Ren replied blankly. “So how did you find your way home then?” Monie asked. “I dunno”, was the reply! 

Amongst these chats was the regular screams of delight as everyone lined up for the flying fox. “Nan ny! Nan ny!” the kids started up the chant that was supposed to make me desperately want to have a go. “Soon, I called. Jesus you want the whole neighbourhood to come out? I shussed. Ok, I will have a go”. Tara held the flying fox seat while I considered how to leap on it knowing that as soon as it took my weight I would be off. “What if I hit the pole at the other end?” I asked Tara. “You won’t, she said matter of factly. I didn’t.” Somehow failing to see that her body weight of almost half mine could make a difference. “Renny didn’t hit it”, she added seeing my reluctance. “OK”, I answered. “Grab it high”, Tara instructed and after a couple of hesitated half jump ons, I was off. 

All elegance on the flying fox

Screaming all the way as the massive pole at the end loomed up so fast I was sure I would just splat against it, let go and fall to the ground in a crumpled heap of broken ribs. “Stooooop meeeeeee!” I screamed at Ren passing her as she swung round, kindly videoing me for the future delight of all and sundry, but just before what I was sure was to be impact, the top snagged on a stopper put there just for that purpose, and I was swung around to madly hurtle back. “Jeez that was fun, I said as I came to a stop in the dust at the centre point. I’m going to have another go”. “Get in line” Wheriko told me. I was now just one of the kids. 

It was now pretty hot and the beach just a few minutes down the road was appealing. With the tide going out however I was glad of the surf life saving clubs flags indicating where we should be swimming as I said, it was possibly the worst time to take city kids to one of the most dangerous beaches in New Zealand, with rips that have a reputation. “Jeez Mum, its only ankle deep, what can happen?” 

We wandered down and stood right back at the edge while the others were in a little deeper laughing and playing while further out the surf rushed in and out in a wonderful display of a receeding tide. One minute ankle deep and the next over their heads, crashing in great frothy rolls of sea spray. “Is that Milan out there?” Monie suddenly asked me. “Where”? I asked peering into the distance. “With the two life guards”, Monie answered. “I can’t tell at this distance,” I answered staring hard to make anything out. “One of them is Tara’s friend’s husband, and another life guard”. “Hmm”, I looked at Tara who wasn’t perturbed at all, still chatting with her friend and the little ones at her feet. 

Turned out Milan had just been rescued! Holy Mary, Jesus and Joseph….What! Yep. He was with Dom who was an experienced surfer on a boogie board when Milan was pulled out into a rip. He went to ‘put his feet down, but couldn’t feel the bottom’, he calmly tells me later as we drive home. He looks up and realises he’s drifted away from Dom, but before he can blink, a lady surf life saver is there beside him who asks “Are you alright?” “No”, Milan says. “Well you really shouldn’t be out here, you’re past the flags. You know you should swim between the flags?” At which Milan looks up and then informs her that they must have moved the flags, because last time he looked they were over there! “Ahhh no, she smiles, you have moved”. “Come on she says, putting on her flippers, we’re going back in”, and she calmly guides him back to shore where Dom meets up with them. He later tells Tara the current was so strong he couldn’t get to Milan despite trying to swim over to him. We look at each other in disbelief. That’s how easy it easy it is. Milan however is quite calm and a testament to how beautifully the surf life saver managed him, so as to teach him something, but not scare the hell out of him. Perfect!

The lady comes up to Tara after and says she needs to record some data about the rescue. Tara nods. “So you’re the big sister, wheres Mum?” “ummmm, Tara says “I’m actually the Mum”. We had a good laugh about what a cool compliment that was. “Nah Renny says, She just couldn’t believe a Mum would stand there and not realise her son was in trouble”. “He was with Dom! Tara exclaims. ..thirty years surfing! I thought he’d be safer with him than me with a baby on my hip!”

The younger kids spent the next hour finding crabs and other slimy stuff in the rock pools while the bigger kids collected rocks. The hardest part was deciding which rock to bring home, as if we don’t have enough here! Fish n chips in the Tuakau park rounded off the day. “Ahhhh, I could get used to this ‘doing nothing business’ I said to Gilbert as we slipped into bed. Today was great. Except for the rescue bit…I just might write a letter and send a donation”. 

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Together Again

I was so excited on the Thursday afternoon I felt like squealing!

We were to pick Ren up at the airport at 5.30 am Friday morning. Damen and his family would arrive that afternoon and Tara and her family in the evening and Chee and his family from Christchurch flying in Saturday morning. With Simone already living here, it would be full house and the first time in two years all our babies would be together. Eleven adults and eleven children. More poignant perhaps as we watched Damen’s recovery by Skype and email and texts. Now we would be together for real. 

Spot the difference?

Simone and I had planned a menu for the weekend, filled the fridge, readied the beds and linen. Simone had filled the cake tins and pre-prepared the snacks. Gilbert had checked the BBQ gas and having been busy purchasing on ‘Trade Me’, was now using every garden tool known to man, for perhaps the first time in his life. “Whats that noise?”, I asked Simone. “Dads weed eating the edges again”. The kids ran to the window. Why is he ‘eating the weeds’, they wanted to know looking for him. “Whats he doing now?” I asked Simone. “Hes got a blower thing and he’s blowing a few leaves off the deck”, Simone laughed. “We should invite people over more often, she said passing me in the hall. He’s replaced bulbs and is now fixing the french door hinges”. Yay! I thought. We had invited extended family over for a summer BBQ and while it had rained steadily for days we were confident it would clear and thank-somebody’s God, it did.

A Sunday walk 

It cleared to reveal an absolutely beautiful afternoon meaning we could sit outside, sip our favourite drink and watch the children play, while Chee and Willie manned the BBQ for a constant roll out of nibbles.People had starting coming in the afternoon and we started the BBQ at five. I had wanted a rolling dinner. Kind of like a tapas selection and I think it was perfect!  

Kids are making a ‘pretend’ fire. 

Waving the last family goodbye four days later and spending the next two hours vacuuming up bits of food and throwing washing down the laundry stairs, we were all back tidy again by eight. It will be another two years I suspect and another couple of members will have perhaps joined the fold.

Finding Monarchs

Lots of laughing and crying, encouraging and scolding, cooking and cleaning and just being family. Each moment savoured, being so very aware that while we are whole now, for a moment in time, we very nearly weren’t.    

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We visit Gwavas – an historical home

Gwavas is Welsh for permanent stead, as opposed to summer pasture. It sits in the Hawkes Bay, originally on 34,000 acres of a sheep and cattle farm. It is now around twenty acres of garden surrounding what was a twelve bedroom, two story home built in 1890 on land that has been in the family for over a hundred and twenty years. The servant’s four bedrooms downstairs walls were removed, making room for the family’s current large kitchen, dining and family space. 
Loving stories of old homes and families, I was always going to be smitten, having already read an article about this beautiful home and garden around four years ago in a magazine, and to get here is such a delight to me. 

We arrive at 5pm and Hannah takes us up a beautiful wide staircase and shows us to our room. With a thirteen plus foot stud and so much space, the four poster bed is almost lost. Our bedroom is very special. Gilbert and I look at each other and laugh. It’s unbelievable to be sleeping here. A huge bay window overlooks the lawn that is dry, dry, dry but all I can see in my mind is a tea party set out and families playing perhaps croquet or lawn tennis on the flat section in front of the house. 

Hannah is sixth generation here. While probably fairly normal in some of Europe or UK, this is pretty unusual here. I find older houses fascinating and just love imagining the swish of long gathered skirts, the smell of lavender coming from steamy laundries and wood or coal from smokey fireplaces. I imagine growing up here, children chasing each other down the large sweeping staircase, playing hide n seek under stairs or in and out of cupboards, and tennis on the grass court. 

Phyllida and Stuart tell us over dinner a bit about the home’s history. We get on well, chuckling over similar stuff as they ask us about our business and we ask about theirs. They run the BnB, cater morning and afternoon teas. Have venue hire for weddings and Phyllida, a kindergarten teacher in another life, runs a very cool little sideline providing natural learning resources for preschools, collecting the natural bits and pieces from the woodland surrounding the home. 

After dinner Gilbert and I take a walk and I promise to do a bit of a rain dance while I’m out there as they are desperate for rain. “Even if you have to get naked, Phyllidda asserts. I hear that’s the best way. Promise we won’t look”, she adds laughing. “I promise I won’t do it naked”, I reply, as we leave the dining room behind. 

Even though it’s the driest summer for fifty years and everything is struggling, it’s still beautiful. The sun is about to set and the evening light is ethereal through the trees. The mown paths are wide, easy walking and the smell of fresh pines needles fills the air. There’s another fragrance thick in the air and smells similar to the silk tree but I can’t see one. We wander past the old shearing quarters, the glasshouse, the one hundred year old caged raspberries protected from rabbits, that are still producing buckets and buckets. We peek into the gorgeous summerhouse, now dwarfed and sitting in the shade of hundred year old trees. 

The families garden philosophy, if you like, is to simply care for the plants rather than manage them. To maintain a woodland setting where trees grow naturally and ground covers come and go in a cycle of seasons without an obvious intrusion of man. I like that. 

Back for coffee as the sun sinks behind the trees, I tell them I’m confident it’s going to rain, besides, Ken Ring has predicted rain so feel sure I’m pretty safe. We all chuckle about what sort of dance actually does make rain but I tell them the secret is the energy, not the actual dance. I’m disappointed we’ve missed the century old family cemetery and the start of three hundred acres of conservation protected Virgin bush with some trees up to six hundred years old and full of the birdsong of many native birds. Perhaps tomorrow? Up to bed and we are soon tucked up in the beautiful four poster bed. I think I’m going to be woken by birdsong well before our breakfast time as we are surrounded by so many trees and though I’m looking out of a second story window they tower above me. But no. I sleep soundly until well after seven. 

We have breakfast and we are all laughing at the very obvious lack of rain, though it’s not that funny for them who have to buy in water and hand water the trees that are most at risk, when Phyllida looks out the window and exclaims it’s raining. OK not full on pelting on the tin roof, but it’s raining. As Stuart explains the family tree and how Phyllida came to be the one to care take for future generations this family homestead, her brother is doing the same on a property in Cornwall that has been in their family for five hundred years. 

He takes us from room to room pointing out the original Belgian brocade curtains placed in 1890 and the original frieze and the heart Totara ceilings and the Matai floorings, and in each room we check out the window and yep, it’s getting heavier. 
We enter the beautiful billiard room with its imported 1899 billiard table and look out the window. I ask Stuart if he’d like to shake my hand. He declines. “It’s not really heavy and probably won’t last,” he drawls. “Ok. Eat your hat later” I laugh. 

We gather our bits and Phyllida offers to take our photo on the steps to prove to Lauren that advertising in magazines does work, after she told me print advertising was a waste of money, time and resources. Here I am Lauren, after reading an article in a magazine about four years earlier. Haha! “So, did you actually do a dance?” Phyllida asks me as we leave. Welllll…I can’t really tell you. You know how when you make a wish you shouldn’t share the wish. Well this is like that, I smile. 

I think I’d like to run a place like this I muse as we drive off waving merrily, promising to come back in spring, when the garden is full of winter rain and summer promise. It’s not really heavy rain but I snap this pic and send it to Phyllida so that if it stops she can appreciate it did actually rain and wasn’t a figment of her imagination. She emails back that ‘given the current circumstances that’s the best pic I’ve ever seen of the front of house’! 
Pretty sure we will be back. There is more to see and know of this beauty and I’m glad I haven’t seen it all. 

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Hot Wire and Bee Stings

Last week of the holidays and the kids came to stay. It’s so entertaining having them here. Haven’t laughed out loud so much for awhile. OK. About a week. Here’s a couple of snippets. 

               My Morning spa was a very different experience with six extra little monkeys!

We sat to lunch with all the kids round the table and Wheriko starting telling us that Milan might have got an electric shock. They had headed down the paddock to check on the hens when Milan leapt back as if he had been bitten. 

“Was it a sting?” we inquired. “Nah. It was an electric shock, he assured us. At first I felt it in my head but it ran all through my body and out my fingers which all turned red, he demonstrated spreading his arms wide, and then I thought somebody had punched me in the back”. “It was me, Lagi said quietly, I punched him”. All eyes turned to Lagi briefly before back to Milan. 

“It was that bad. Milan emphasised with eyes wide and slowly nodding. But then I thought maybe it was an electric fence shock”. “It was me” Lagi quietly said again as he buttered his scone. “Then…Milan continued, I knew I would be OK”. He told this story several times, each time emphasising different aspects as the rest quietly munched on their scones listening intently and probably making a mental note not to touch fences or gates. Nobody commented on Lagi saying it was him who punched Milan in the back. They were there and knew he didn’t. The adults at the table however were struggling to keep straight faces. It was hilarious. 

“Do you know why birds don’t get electric shocks?” Gilbert asked. “Yes, Wheriko quickly shouted, because we have our feet on the earth?” “Yes! Gilbert nodded. “So why did Milan get one then cause he was on the gate?” she asked. “No Milan corrected. I had one foot on the ground. I did. And the gate was steel and had a prong in the ground. Some gates have prongs in the ground to keep rats out”. What? “They do,” Milan, a revered fountain of knowledge knew about that from the history channel. He saw a documentary about it once. “Milan said it might be the Tubicabarrah that’s been worrying our hens”. Wheriko added suddenly remembering why they had been heading down there in first place. Milan had seen that on the history channel too

“Yes, the Tubicabarrah- I saw it on history channel. Its a bloodthirsty, night roaming animal. They attack mostly farm animals. Rips across the body, he demonstrated, opening up the chest to rip the heart out, as he mimicked throwing the heart to one side, so the thing can’t survive and then opens up the rest of the body to get the good stuff out. 

The rest of the children continued eating their scones looking a little concerned now at the thought of a chest ripping, blood thirsty night roaming animal wandering around in the evenings. I was waiting for the question , what’s the ‘good stuff’? but they were transfixed by the descriptions as he went on. “Is this real Milan?” I asked. “Yep he assured us. I saw it on the history channel. It’s definitely true”

After lunch the weather was gorgeous and the air was filled with the sound of birds and insects and children’s laughter as they built huts, jumped on the tramp and just generally ran around. Suddenly screams rent the air stopping both Monie and Tara in their tracks as they deciphered whose child it was and how bad it could be, when Milan flew in the door in full cry holding his hand in front of him. The screams were so bad I expected a serious cut, but there was no blood or a break, it was a sting. 

Milan was screaming so loud Tara told him to go to the next room, while the three of us tried to remember if it was bee or wasp that leaves its sting behind. “Bee is baking soda and wasp is vinegar.” Monie recited. “Sting in is wasp, no sting in is bee no, can’t remember. Google it.” “Sit still Milan, Tara commanded. I have to pull the sting out to stop the Poisin going through your body.” Milan had his head tipped back and was wailing as loud as possible. In fact as loud as if a Tubacarrah had maybe tried to rip his heart out! “Milan, I ordered, shut your mouth”. He pulled his chin up and though still quivering, the noise thankfully eased. 

I filled a cotton swab with vinegar before blotting a little baking soda on it to make sure I covered both bases. “Now sit there for half an hour, as still as you can” Tara ordered calmly going back to her meeting report. And there he sat. Holding his hand aloft and feeling miserable. 

          The kids find the dying bee.  Not sure if this was to make Milan feel better or worse?

“Do you know Milan, once when I was little I got a bee sting in my foot behind the tank stand and when I sat down to pull it out, I put my hand back behind me to support myself and got a bee sting on my hand.” Tara and I were laughing as I turned this way and that trying to lower my poor old body onto the floor and pulled my foot up as far as I could to show him exactly how it happened. Milan was soon giggling with us. “What happened Nanny T?” He asked leaning forward. “I went into Nana Maureen and cried, I said. And I had to stay off school for about three days. Beause I was allergic my leg swelled up to my knee and my hand swelled up to my elbow. Milan’s eyes were wide as he surveyed his own hand worryingly. Yours will be OK I smiled. Just maybe itchy tomorrow.”

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Spent a lovely morning in the garden today. After heavy squally rain lashed the house off and on all night the morning was quieter than I expected, though not quiet enough for a spa. When I stepped out I turned right back around and came in for breakfast. 

Finally the ground was wet and I sorted out planting priorities with thirsty plants baking in their pots waiting for a day of rain so they could be planted out. No matter how much water I gave them, their heads seemed to turn and beg me for more as I swept past doing jobs. Echiums and snap dragons which grow tall, went in the back of the flower beds by the cottage. Others bought at a gala and I forget what they even are but was sure they should be in the front. I got the Verbenas in too and lined up three glossy green leaved fragrant gardenias for pots that can go by the spa. 

A fragrant garden is barely noticeable through the day but comes into its own in the evenings as the night air is denser and heavy, so the perfume sits low where you can really enjoy it. The franjipani outside the front of our bedroom is just finishing its months of heady scent as the jasmine kicks in on the other wall and hot on its heels will be the choysia with a soft scent and creamy white flowers that catch the moonlight coming up to the front door. In the front the sasanqua camellia hedge gives us a showy bouquet twice a year if I get my pruning right. 

By the spa the silk tree stretches its limbs laden with pretty pink tufts and a delicate perfume. A treat in my evening spa, and as it finishes, the gardenias in pots should be in full flush. With different Michelias from the magnolia family popped in here and there it’s been good luck rather than good planning and I enjoy the surprise of it as the sequence of blossoms roll around another year. 

My plan this year is to plant in every tiny gap I can see so weeds don’t stand a chance to take over like they have in the past. As I am super stingy with watering, from a time perspective as well as a limited supply of water, I never normally plant at this time of year and am grateful for every bit of rain. When people grizzle about the rain and what a ‘stink summer’ it’s been I just smile secretly as I celebrate every little drop. I am not adverse to a rain dance in the evenings to keep it up! Sorry folks…. Yep it’s me making the rain. I’m just such a good dancer. Haha! 

I had limited time for planting today though as we were meeting Kate and David from Brać, Croatia at Maree’s for lunch. Kate is a distant cousin on my Croatian side and immigrated to NZ for a few years before returning to Brać and we visited them on our trip there. I decided scones were the quickest and easiest thing and flicked the oven on, on the way to the shower. Two batches were soon in, one cheese and one date and I smiled as I remembered the many years it took me to perfect the art. Not that I’m perfect. Hell no. 
Mum never made scones. Her specialty was pikelets. Stacks of them turned out from an old fry pan that had one leg propped up so it was perfectly level and the pikelets were beautifully round and evenly coloured. I tried and tried but mine were all wiggly edged, too brown and yet uncooked in the middle. Lindy can do a perfect plateful and perhaps even better than Mum’s, dare I say. We used to laugh about having a bake off sometime. Gilbert’s Mum however made scones every Sunday. Hot and buttery they came out a bit more like cakes than scones, and as I watched I realised she put an egg in hers. So every Sunday I carried the tradition on and made scones for our family. 

In the beginning nothing about them was okay. They were hard and dry and had trouble going down sometimes. But every Sunday Gilbert encouraged me to make a batch, telling me they were getting better and better with each making. I tried all different recipes until one day when I was teaching in a kindergarten the head teacher there made scones and she shared her secret. Mix as lightly as possibly so the milk and flour only just joined. Keep the mix fairly wet and don’t knead like you are making bread, she advised. The less handling the better. It worked. I was finally making headway. The children loved them and bounded to the table as soon as they came out of the oven and it was always somewhat satisfying being able to come in and throw the ingredients into a bowl and know for the most part they would be enjoyed. I used to make date ones for Chee who couldn’t have dairy with his excema and a kibbled wheat, parsley and cheese batch as well. Mum congratulated me on this skill she had never managed to master and sometimes we would drop a couple in to her for a morning or afternoon tea treat. It wasn’t this that made me smile today though. 

I remembered an Asian exchange student we had once years ago. I had made scones for Sunday lunch and he told us he had never eaten or seen anything like it. The next day he came home from school and asked me after dinner if I could help him with his homework. “Of course”, I said wiping my hands on a tea towel as I sat beside him. “I have to write about what we ate for lunch yesterday”, he explained. I thought back. Ah yes. I had made scones. I spelled the word out for him as he wrote it down. “Now I have to describe it”, he said. “Aha, I nodded. Well. How would you describe it?” I encouraged him. Not to put words in his mouth but soft, warm, buttery…perhaps even ‘prize winning’ came to mind. I waited patiently as he struggled to find the words he wanted to use. 

“I know the words, he said after a bit of thought, but I don’t know how to write them”. “That’s okay, I smiled. Tell me the words and I will help you with the spelling”. “Ok. Ummm….hard,” he started. I was confused. Did he mean it was hard work? Surely he didn’t mean my scones were hard? “Yes, he agreed, he did in fact mean my scones were hard. “..And dry”, he continued as he got the hang of the words. “And small,” he added. Yes. That’s exactly what he wanted to say. “We had small, hard and dry things for lunch. They are called scones”. I sat there a bit dumbfounded and watched as he leant down with his pencil and then looked up at me expectantly. “How do you write small?” he asked. “Okay, ummmm S. M. A….” It took forever to write it and I went back upstairs and told the others who thought it was hilarious. Thanks guys. I remember thinking how funny it was going to be to have his English teacher mark his work next day and have a very strong impression of what scones were like at the Joe household haha! 

I’m glad to say my scone making improved from there and I got nothing but compliments today…or maybe they were just being nice? 

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