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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As I stepped from his warm embrace, I hoped this wasn’t goodbye. 

What does it mean when the man who repairs my sewing machine throws his arms wide to give me a kiss and a hug when I collect Tara’s repaired machine? In some ways I hardly know him, and it felt rather strange to step into his circle and receive it. It’s never happened before. He wished us all the best and waved, watching us as we drove away.

“That was weird”, I said to Gilbert, but reflected as we drove home I have known Les since I was about 18. Forty odd years. I had watched Nana sew on her treadle and had even been allowed to make a handkerchief. I had seen Mum do necessary repairs and I had sewed a bit at home myself as a teen but I had never had a formal sewing lesson past making an apron at Intermediate when I was about eleven years old. In true form however when Gilbert and I decided to get married, we wanted to escape to a romantic Island for the honeymoon of our dreams. This meant some serious budgeting as we were covering most of the costs, with both sets of parents of moderate means.

Gilbert asked me if I could sew my dress. “Hell yes! I replied, I could even make your suit I reckon. How hard could it be?” I reasoned…so Gilbert gave me $200 and I went down to the sewing machine shop and bought my first machine. A Bernina. I had a lesson in using the machine and took it home. Mum had some light blue suiting fabric she had bought off a traveling door to door salesman, and we laughed about our good luck. I bought a suit pattern and made a start cutting through the fabric with the confidence of youth.

I was still at teachers college and just before term break we had a week of chosen leisure activities, and I chose sewing. With a sketched picture of my desired wedding dress and a bolt of cloth I had purchased at the local fabric place under arm, I was ready.  

“…and what are you wanting to do?” the sewing mistress inquired going around the room as we introduced ourselves. “I want to make my wedding dress”, I answered smiling. Her smile faded rapidly once she realised I had no pattern, no skill and no time. The wedding was in two weeks. She suspected, I’m sure, this was going to end very badly. “Go home, she said, and cut very, very, carefully.”

I made the dress, finished the suit and on the morning of the wedding made a shirt for Gilbert while he was working. Gilbert came back from work and slipping on his shirt, found the sleeves were at least 6 inches too long and the suit perhaps one size too large. Hmmm we stood there looking at him before bursting out laughing. We were to be married in a few hours. Gilbert grabbed a couple of rubber bands and one on each arm he gathered up the excess sleeve of his shirt to hold it up. “That’ll work,” he smiled before packing it all up and was off to his rugby game.

My dress however fitted like a glove…hehe, but the wedding and honeymoon is another story.

The house we bought before Damen was born was next to the guy who owned the local dry cleaners and he asked me one day if I could sew. They needed someone to mend and repair, replace zips, hem up, darn. Pretty much anything in that line. Nothing too hard, he assured me, but he could drop it in and pick it up when I had it ready. I could do it in my own time working around baby.
How hard could it be? I thought and so began ten years of mending and repairs. The best training you could have as I took apart and reconstructed all manner of things. I became an expert and soaked up anything I could learn about sewing. I made almost all the kids clothes including wet weather gear and could pull apart something discarded in adult size, and turn it into something else for the kids. We even remodeled our tent adding in zippered mesh and windows.

When I had a sewing problem I took it down to my sewing shop and Les or the lady working there inevitably helped me. I never sewed a man’s suit again, but I did sew lined jackets, wedding, bridesmaid and ball dresses for others in between repairs on thousands of mill worker overalls. During that time I upgraded my sewing machine to the latest electronic version costing over $2000, paying it and an over locker off with money from my sewing repair work. I’d put the children to bed and sew until the first one woke up. Sometimes that was midnight and sometimes it was two am!

If I was feeling a bit down about having to repair forty pairs of ripped and torn overalls, or hem, or replace zips, I would take the newly delivered stack and pick each one up and calculate what I would get paid and neatly fold them into their job piles. Then I would have a dollar figure in my head and I would get stuck in pleased about earning that money. With little ones I had no other way of earning and was indeed grateful for the work.  

When we had Simone we had moved out of town and I gave up mending. Five babies in nine years was keeping me busy enough. And so even after he sold his shop and retired, Les has continued to look after my machine. I was constantly in his shop buying thread or whatever I needed. Pregnant or next baby in arms, he was sometimes a weekly visit and always smiling.
Though I hardly ever see him now, he’s probably in his mid eighties and being about Mum’s age knew our family, and us his. I stepped from his warm embrace and hoped this wasn’t a sign of him saying goodbye, as that’s what it felt like. I turned to watch him head back down his path as we drove off. Now an old man. I’m grateful for being in a small community where people have long lasting and positive relationships. These people we will miss. Their skills in maintaining and repairing will be lost in this throw away world if we are not careful, and they do make a difference. 

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Best Wishes for 2017!

Four to six weeks ahead of the big day I poured over magazines thinking even tho I work right up to 3pm Christmas Eve, I could still plan an amazing Christmas feast as all the kids would be home except one. Just Ren missing as she was back in Cuba for Christmas. That’s ten adults and eleven little ones eight and under.
Magazine pictures at the ready. I wanted it to be glamorous and special and all pre prepared. A week before the big day I decided it was better to be simple and easy with all the little ones, so ditched all the fancy recipes and table decorations and decided on salads, hot ham on the bone and fresh bread rolls followed by Pav with strawberries and cream and fresh fruit. Real simple and easy. Picked up the ham a couple of days before and asked the girl if I actually had to cook it, as I was feeling very time poor. “Nah, she replied, just cut it cold and tell them to help themselves”. I laughed, but was seriously considering it!

Tara had bought around an old gazebo a couple of months ago and asked me if I could think of a way to reuse rather than landfill it. I laid out the fabric on the lounge floor and mulled over making a tent fly that could be strung up for shade on hot days, or pencil cases, or rain ponchos…when Simone said “…if the fabrics waterproof, what about swimming bags?” Perfect I thought. Plenty of fabric to make eleven bags and I could even reuse the velcro and the cord. I imagined how they would look and was excited at getting started. I found some fun children’s badges that would be perfect for differentiating whose was whose and some came from Nana Maureen’s stash which was a nice addition for the kids too.
It got closer and closer to Christmas and I ended up sewing the last bits on Christmas Eve while Gilbert collected Chee and family from the airport and Damen and family drove in soon after. I only had to throw a towel in each to complete the packs. I had made a little secret mesh bag with a drawstring toggle to hold it closed for special things like money, watches or keys that wouldn’t be seen as it was attached at the corner and slipped into a bigger pocket and each one had a gold coin weight for an extra surprise. You would think I had given them a million dollars. So cute seeing their faces as they found the coin.
Another long skinny pocket was designed to hold goggles or even togs and the whole thing was reversible so if the badge became childish it could be on the inside. The whole thing with the drawstring attached in bottom corners to make them into back packs. I didn’t gift wrap as I hate the waste of paper but pulled them with much fanfare from a big Christmas bag, reading a little note I had written to each child so they had to guess who it was to. Unbelievable that I had months to do these and it was all a mad rush right up to Christmas Eve. Crazy!

The kids seem to love their swimming bags and Aneeka and Piper looked super cute with everything matching.

By Christmas Day with everyone there, it was a rowdy fun filled place. Children were squealing and screaming. Mats laid out with sun umbrellas for shade. I did dress and roast the ham. Threw together a couple of salads that were yum and dozens of bread rolls and we ate outside. Pretty damn easy. Just as it should be. Remainders were thrown on the BBQ with a few sausages and beers that night as well which was yum.

The kids went camping to Awhitu Regional park for a couple of nights and Gilbert and I wandered out for the day with batches of warm scones and thermos flasks of coffee. My tent and ground sleeping days are over I’m afraid and glad to be coming home that night after baked beans on toast.

It wasn’t long before we were snatching last photos, waving goodbye, gathering and folding blankets, and tucking extra pillows away. Over so soon.

Damen reading stories to settle the mob before bed. 

Little did we know how precious that hug goodbye was going to feel less than a week later as Damen had a cardiac arrest and was resuscitated. Luckily now home and well. How important is making time and the most of each and every opportunity we can snatch. Life can be seriously too short.
Best Wishes for 2017!

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It’s like being on another planet.

Been to AnE and hospital more times than I care to count, and more for our eldest son than the other four put together. Not that I mind. If there’s a problem. I want to be there. It’s just what it is, and you do what you have to do. As we head up I’m hoping this visit will be for something trivial, but that doesn’t stop the scenarios playing out in my head. It’s been life threatening too many times before.

Just the other day Tara and I found a letter I had written about an accident when he was just nine years old. We thought we’d lose him as he was ambulanced to hospital after being hit by a car. With head injuries, broken hip, ribs, and internal bleeding, we were beside ourselves. With Gilbert already with him, I drove up by myself that time and the feeling of fear and hope was replicated with this trip, but that’s another story.

The boat ambulance brought Damen from the Island and all his details were being popped into the system as we came around the corner. He looked terrible. Pale and his long, long hair sticking every which way. He could barely acknowledge us as he began to vomit. The two staff looked at him and turned back to their computers…’and vomiting’ they added to the list of symptoms on arrival. He was soon settled in a cubicle as we waited assessment. He’d had an excruciating headache for two days. He described it as a nine out of ten and the Dr decided to send him to hospital. Details taken, bloods and X Ray’s done. We waited. We were closeted in the smallest of spaces and privy to each other’s most private of times, with just a curtain to separate us.

“Do you need anything?” Tara texted. “A nighty perhaps,” Ren teased. I’m not going to get any sleep here, I answered. Got 6 cubicles. Girl beside us has pelvic pain. Just heard all her sexual activity answers. Menstruation answers. Poohs n wees answers. 😳 la, la, la, laaaaaa. The old Pacific Island lady across from us can’t breathe. Stopped her meds because she didn’t like it. Next lady sounded like she had been drinking but possibly head injury? They kept asking about what happened and inferred someone had pushed her or knocked her about. Turned out her partner had been taken into custody, but she wouldn’t say so. Kept insisting she fell. They decided to take her to a private room.

Next old guy insisted he was fine and wouldn’t use a wheelchair but wouldn’t let nurses trolley go. So she had to push the trolley slowly so he could move and she made out that was where she was going anyway. Awwww.

Then the old Pacific Island lady’s husband pushed the code red button instead of the green button and seventeen people rushed to her side ready to resuscitate. They tried to explain to him, “…you push the green button if you need us. You push the red button if you really need us”. “So I push both buttons when I need someone?” He clarified. Ummm no. That’s a hard one to explain when English is the second language.

People come and go and we hear new stories we don’t really want to hear. No faces as curtains are drawn so you can only imagine ages and faces. Then Pacific Island lady’s children and grandchildren arrive and some upset ness that erupts from time to time like a station where a train is rushing in noisily and then eerily quiet.

We discover Damen has pneumonia. That’s crazy with no symptoms, but Ok. Gee. “You guys should go, the Dr tells us at 1.30am. He’s going to be admitted for a couple of days. No point in hanging around.” We kiss him goodbye and are thankful. Pneumonia is fixable. THATS why he had such a bad headache! I was worried about brain tumours. He’s been there and had that. I was worried about brain aneurism. Not so easily fixed. Pneumonia is better. We head home and snatch the next four hours of sleep.

I got up to spa but it was raining when the phone rang. A distraught and garbled message from Amy that we needed to get to the hospital ASAP as Damen had a team around him and had needed resuscitating after his heart stopped. I remained calm. “It will be okay Amy, it will be okay. We’re on our way” I hung up and burst out crying as I told Simone, who immediately burst out crying and called Tara, who calmly confirmed she could collect Amy, hung up and then burst out crying. As Amy said later ‘Team Joe’ swung into action.

Gilbert and I drove to the hospital, Amy and the girls collected by Tara from the ferry and we were all soon at his side. Relieved that despite his cardiac arrest and the heart being in an irregular rhythm of the sort that is difficult to snap back into rhythm, after eleven minutes of the team performing CPR they were able to bring him round. Fear, relief, exhaustion, understanding, disbelief, all washed over us through the day as we came to realise how close we were to losing him.

Some of the resus team and nursing staff came down to check on him before finishing their shift and re-lived and marvelled over what had happened. How hard it was to bring him back. That’s why he was sore in the chest after the compressions. “You know how on TV they have the stand back and shock and the paddles and the whole big drama of a resuscitation? Well that very rarely happens, she continued, but it happened with Damen today. You guys are very lucky to have him with you still.”

As Gilbert bent down to hug him the tears of relief were still wet on his face. Damen looked up at him and said “I’m sorry Dad. I’ve been such a trial for you”. “No, no mate, Gilbert started to cry again. You have never been that. We are just so glad you are still here.”

We sat at his bedside while monitors were plugged in and the long week really began. In a vacuum like we were on another planet. Unaware of the weather or the news or anything outside of our bubble.

Tara arrived with day 1 Emergency kit hastily thrown together containing snacks, toothbrush and paste etc, notebook and pen. She’s been to hospital with her children enough to know.

“He’s like a cat with nine lives” I joked with Chee on the phone later and we started to count. “Stop!” I said, it was getting scary as we ticked them off.

The tests began and possible problems ticked off. Angiogram- Heart plumbing is excellent, ultra sound-looking good too. Day five MRI showed an infection causing inflamation around the heart had caused the heart to stop and when they tried to resusciatate his heart went into a chaotic rhythm.

It will take a few weeks to regain strength and the heart muscle to repair and the pneumonia to clear. We returned him to the island this afternoon and it was hard to say goodbye. He’ll be fine, I know but every now and again something reminds me how close we really were.

Talk Soon, Tricia

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Two Princesses, A party and Lucy Brown has no idea what’s about to happen. 

Damen and Amy give us their bed

We traversed the Waiheke waters and slept in a magical bed where I didn’t awake from peaceful slumber until 7.30am each day. Last one up! We breakfasted on sugar free berry pancakes with bacon, yoghurt and coffee, made by someone else…definitely Spoilt!
We had come laden with sand and all the stuff to make a hen run to help Damen and Amy reign in their way ward hens. Like teenagers they were stretching their wings, disturbing the neighbours peace and laying eggs wildly nilly. Saturday night however was earmarked for a barn dance. Have you got a square dancing skirt ready? Amy enquired the day before. “Ummm, no”. I answered and went first to the dress up box. Putting on an elastic waisted red number I resembled the plump top twin before I remembered my operation skirt. Kept during the recent declutter for its elastic waist but tiered, it was what Mum used for her knee operation and again later after her hip operation. Easy to slip over your head when leaving the hospital, I used it when I had my toe operation, it has since been dubbed my ‘operation skirt’.

Dancing  dresses on and ready to party. 

I hunted out some tulle and found a nice long length left from Johny and Sarah’s wedding after making the wedding parties dresses. Lucky I’m a hoarder I mused, as I gathered and stitched it to the hem of a petticoat. A quick change after we arrived and a bacon and egg pie into a calico bag and we were ready. The two little girls a picture of princess-ness in their finery. They looked just gorgeous. It was a little like stepping back in time as families arrived with salads and casseroles, dressed in their hats n boots and in true Waiheke style, some looking like they might be wearing pyjamas. They gathered together, shared dinner, laughed a lot and danced, barn dance style.  

Take your partner and doe see doe…

Sunday however was set aside for a garden safari that raised money for a Jassey Dean trust. Set up after Jassy Dean, a young girl, passed away the trust raises money to support families with children facing illness. A wonderful thing to support, but buying a ticket was no hardship. Giving us a whole day of visiting gardens open for the weekend so the public can sticky beak their court yards, expansive sea views and BBQ areas. Some quaint little cottages been in the family for 35 years, and some fancy new builds that blow you away with the size and money spent on landscaping alone. The generosity of families opening up their private spaces is heartwarming. From Granny and Grandpa, to rich listers just invested in an expansive winery with a house to match your lotto dreams.
My favourite by far was a garden without lawn. Every inch of the hill with coastal winds was planted. Micro climates achieved with clever planting and winding paths that take you past stakes and stakes of bean tepees and a citrus grove, a kumara patch and row after row of tomatoes along with every other kind of vegetable you can imagine. 
They had made a glass house out of pre-loved Windows and it was the stuff of a Gardeners dream. I sent Tara a pic and could imagine her drooling over it. It housed stacks of seedlings just peeking from their seed raising trays ready to be snipped for salads or let grow on into adulthood. The glass house extended into trellising of peas and grapes and ended in a fig tree. In the centre section of the glass house was a rocking chair and an old wood burner with a book, waiting for someone to return and simply sit on a day too cold to garden. 

My dream glasshouse Gilbert’s going to build. Ahem…

Looking up the hill we spied a sixties caravan complete with blue flagged awning and comfy deck chairs. Further up still, a pergola, with built in and cushioned seating. This was surrounded by the delicate perfume of jasmine and grasses that would catch the passing breeze to sway gently. Oh these guys had it all and they knew what they were doing. I could have stayed there all day. “I love it, I gushed. I want it! Gilbert? Do you hear me? I want it!”Hmmm, is he listening to me?

Lucy Brown has no idea she’s about to be reined in. 

The next day the boys hammered in harmony and before long a new hen run was ready and as we pondered how to get Lucy Brown in, the most difficult of the three, she wandered in to lay an egg! Wow. That was lucky. No.2 followed soon after and no.3 was lured in with food as easy as pie. I gave hen whisperer secrets which included, ‘don’t let them out for a week’v as I dug up a cubic metre of compost and turned into a new area with instructions on setting up the veg garden. My hand is strapped and digging is no fun as the brace makes sure I don’t misuse my hand while the tendons are healing. “I’m only on half speed”, I apologised as I stretched my fingers and contemplated removing the annoying thing. 
A quick shower and on the ferry home I said to Gilbert. “I want the garden, and the pergola, and the glasshouse. Actually I want several caravans, then when the kids come to stay they can sleep in the caravans. It will be so cool. We can site them around the property”. Hmmm, we tossed that idea around as we rode the ferry home. “You know what will happen, surmised Gilbert. Some of the kids will go to bed early and they will have to go sit there in case they wake up and if they only get slept in twice a year they will be filled with cobwebs, white tails and cockroaches and everybody will come screaming back to sleep inside and the bloody things will rust away in the paddock and be a pain in the arse to get rid of”. He’s got a point there… “OK. I conceded. So what about the glasshouse then?”

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