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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I’m not really hungry thank-you…

“Mum, you better have a word to the kids about being grateful for someone making dinner, even if you don’t like it.” Monie called out to me when I came in from the garden. I called the children to me downstairs and told them Femi was coming to stay tonight and she had offered to cook us dinner. How lucky we were! They were excited. “But what if someone cooks something and you don’t really like it? Should you say you don’t like it?”, I asked. They looked at each other knowing the answer but unsure what to say, until finally agreeing that wouldn’t be nice.

“So what could you do?” I asked, they looked at each other for confirmation. “You should try it,” they agreed. “And what if you don’t like it after trying it?” I mused. After a bit of thought they had a few ideas….

You could say, ‘I’m not really hungry thank you’, or ‘Im so full, if I ate any more I might pop!’ or ‘Its delicious but I have already eaten thank-you’, or…. and the possible excuses ran off their tongues excitedly.

Femi and Ben arrived and what a delight they were. The children warmed to Femi especially and quickly trotted her out to the garden to show her the pond we had cleaned, down to the vege garden they showed the greatest enthusiasm explaining how we grew the seedlings and whose beds were whose. How they weren’t allowed to pick the peas or beans, tomatoes or strawberries yesterday or today as Femi was coming and we wanted a decent amount for dinner.

They took her by the hand and escorted her over the glasshouse step to count out the chrysalis. Sixteen in total now and still more caterpillars to turn. Femi was just as excited, exclaiming over each one in turn.

They were here to run a marathon and Femi decided she might take a quick run around the block before cooking dinner if that was alright. “Ohhh you’re gunna love it I tell her. It’s about six kms and a great mix of challenges. Some hills up and down, Through the village where I usually insist on stopping for coffee”. Not that I have ever run it mind you. I decided a long time ago that was bad for your health. There’s a girl that used to run for miles from around here. I’ve seen her all over the show over the last twenty years. Lean and fit looking with a pony tail swinging from side to side behind her. Now when I see her I shake my head. “See that? I said to Monie. That’s a good reason why you should only run if somethings chasing you.” She now has a funny hop walk thing going on in her running style. Her pony tail now swings in a haphazard lopsided way and her body is wrecked, yet she can’t stop. Her mind is pushing her past all good reason. No. I walk briskly and stop for coffee and cake. Sensible, you see. Sensible. 

But I don’t tell Femi this story. I already know she runs ridiculous amounts of miles and there’s no telling people who are gripped with mad obsessions. It would be like someone telling me not to turn my compost. I might hurt my back, but see the difference is turning compost gets you something. So it makes sense. Running makes no sense at all. But each to their own and it must’ve been a walk in the park cause Femi’s back, showered and in the kitchen in the blink of an eye. 

Dinner was soon on the table as Ben and Femi served up a delicious vegetarian risotto. Laced with olives and a salad on the side. “I hope you like it, Femi kept saying, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. I won’t be offended” she declared. “If we don’t like it, one of the children butted in, we’ll just say ‘I’m not really hungry, thank-you'”. Oh I see Femi smiled. “Or we could say, ‘I’m so full I couldn’t eat another thing!’ Another butted in, or we might say, ‘I’m so full if I ate another thing I might pop! ‘ “Tai ended with a smile. “Oh, yes you could,” Femi agreed throwing her head back laughing hilariously. She must have wondered why they seemed so practised at politely refusing seconds!

“…and so what do you think Ben does for a job?” I asked the children when we started eating. Hmm they looked at him, studying his clothes and glasses and thinking hard. With quite a few clues we got there in the end. A statistician. It was hard to say the word let alone understand exactly what he did. He works with numbers and counts stuff. Geez. I could see they weren’t very impressed. Tried to talk it up but you know however you looked at it it seemed kind’ve boring. Not something they might aspire to I didn’t think. Haha! 

I swung around to Femi. “Guess what Femi does for a job now!” The ideas were flowing thick and fast. We ended up with she ‘draws stuff’. Ahhh, the kids nodded. Got it! As they wove their way through the risotto bypassing the olives. “Well yes, kind’ve right Femi explained. I communicate, or convey messages through pictures”, she expanded. The kids looked at each other blankly. “Like that picture, she quickly pointed to a logo. I work on things a bit like that”. Okay. 

Do you like your dinner? Femi enquired a little timidly. Yep, they agreed it was good. “Except for these, Tai said holding up an olive and adding it to his little stock pile. These are yuck!” 

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The Pond Clean

Tara looked at me strangely when I said I wanted to clean the pond out again, but as I explained it needs a complete empty and refill yearly. Last time was about eighteen months ago and the pump fell over at some stage and was now just pumping the water around in a swirl on the bottom. Perhaps still deterring the mosquitos? Maayyybe….

Not wanting to waste any water I bucketed out as much as I could of the green slimy stuff and watered around the garden, tossing it on the thirstiest looking, until I got it it down to just over a foot deep. I donned Gilbert’s beach shoes and climbed in. Acutely aware that there might be fish still there, I began to scoop up buckets full and pour the water over the rocks. I asked the kids to watch after I threw it to see if there was any flapping, which meant I would have got a fish in the bucket and I’d have to quickly scoop him up before he needed resuscitating. The kids weren’t sure how that would work, but Tai would yell out at random times. “Flapper!” which was code for “I’ve seen a fish” and when I’d straighten up quickly and look he’d yell out ” Nah, just kidding!” Little monkey did that a few times…Grrrrrr.

I wasn’t even sure if there would be any fish in there but a couple of times thought I might have felt something around my legs which was starting to freak me out a bit. Then I saw something quite big and the kids did too and they were getting a bit excited. “It might be a big fish or an eel,” one of them yelled. I stopped and got the mesh scooper and started to try and scoop up rather than bucket and then I got a glimpse of him and now the kids put the idea of an eel I began to think it might be. I wasn’t too happy about being a foot deep in water that an eel might be in, and began to think through how I might get myself out quickly if I suddenly wanted to, when he spun around my legs and did a couple of fast swirls in front of me. I screamed and Wheri started screaming and Kahu started screaming, so we had a reverberating crescendo while I flapped around trying to launch my self outta there, but ended up just sitting on the edge and lifting my feet up.

Nice clean water bubbling on the surface and a tangle of barbed wire

We ended up laughing like anything once we had finished screaming. “Why did you scream Wheri?” I asked. “Cause you screamed,” she laughed, “and it made me scream,”added Kahu. “I didn’t scream, Tai said matter of factly. I was just watching”. I wasn’t really sure if I could put my feet back in now but I sure as hell needed to get this finished tonight as I had one day off and a list a mile long of stuff to do, so steeling myself, back in I went scooping till I got him. A very large goldfish, I plopped him into a bucket of old pond water I had prepared earlier. A slightly smaller one soon followed and then five tiny babies, ‘flappers’ as Tai called them.

By the end I had both Kahu and Wheri in there scooping up the last bits of green water and then a quick clean of the pump and re set it up while the water was filling when I decided to check the pump was still going so climbed out. As I moved towards the shed I caught my leg in the barbed wire I had set at just a foot high around the pond to keep little ones out and immediately fell flat on my face. Both feet were caught and I landed with a thump on the rocks. I just lay there for a few seconds to see if all was well when Kahu asked quietly. “Are you OK Nanny?”, just as Tai began to giggle. I looked to the left of me as I spat out the bit of grass I had managed to bite and right beside my face was a big pooh from Paddy the dog. “Sheesh, that was lucky, I said to the kids, I just missed Paddy’s pooh.” Still completely flat face down I began to laugh out loud at which the kids joined in, imagining me face first in Paddy’s pooh.  

Monie, no doubt hearing the uproar, came out to see if I was alright and I marveled at how well I had fared as I extricated myself from the barbed wire which had torn down the back of my calf superficially. I put the barbed wire there to keep the kids out and in ten years, I’m the only one been hurt by it! I brushed myself off and we continued with our task. By nightfall I had refilled the pond, reset up the pump and potted up four tomato plants that I hoped would take us into winter in the glass house this year.  

Returning to the pond we gently scooped up the fish to return them to the water but we were gutted to see the biggest fish had died. Damn! The others were OK and we slipped them into the water with squeals of delight from the children as they quickly swam away. We turned back to the dead fish and I looked at it wondering what to do with him. “Is it a boy fish Nanny?” The kids wanted to know. I admitted I had no idea. “I hope it’s a boy,” Wheriko said. “Why darl?” I asked. “A boy is kind’ve useless but at least a girl has babies,” she explained. Hmmm I think I’ll leave that for your Mum to expand on, I thought smiling.

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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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