Challenge – Writing 101

The first Challenge -

Writing 101: Unlock the Mind.

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

So here goes.

If you have followed me before, or if you have read some of my posts,  you will know that for the first two years of blogging I managed to write a blog every day.  Then things changed.  I decided that my life was going nowhere and it was time for a change.

So almost overnight it seemed, the house was put on the market and sold, the Beautiful Miss Bella (my companion Toy Poodle) was found a place to stay while I adventured abroad and then, wouldn’t you know it, Fate stepped in.  I met an acquaintance from some 30 years ago.  His wife had died, my husband had been dead for some 15 years and we started to meet occasionally for coffee, a drink or dinner.

The time came for me to head off to Florence where I had arranged to lease an apartment for 3 months with the plan to learn to speak Italian while there.  I had sourced a school where the learning was intensive – 6 hours each day, dinner most nights and outings at the weekend – all (or as I understood it most) conducted in Italian.

My sister in London was expecting me to come visit her first and it was decided that she would accompany me to Florence for a couple of weeks as I settled into a strange city where I knew no-one and  didn’t speak the language.

This is where Fate took a hand.  I hadn’t really expected the house to sell so quickly or for the new owners to want possession in a couple of weeks.  So that left me homeless and with a few weeks to fill in before my odyssey started, I arranged with a friend to stay with her.  But no, here comes Fate again.  My re-acquianted (is there such a word)  friend suggested that I should go and stay with him for the four weeks before I left for London.  This seemed a good idea and so the decision was made.

My family was used to my popping off overseas from time to time and only finding out when I would come home again on receipt of an email from a far away place.  My new friend was amazed that I was planning a trip to a place I really didn’t know (well I had been there for three days in the past) , on my own, not speaking the language and knowing nobody.  He had been married to the same woman for over 40 years and I don’t think they had done much on the spur of the moment preferring instead to plan ahead.

So I lived with my friend for the next four weeks and it was all very pleasant.  We took the Beautiful Miss Bella to her new home and apart from the first night when I was there she has settled in beautifully.  Well what else to expect when she is loved by her new owner.  This was to be a shared ownership of the dog but it has devolved into her being with her new owner for keeps.

The day dawned when I was to leave and fond farewells were exchanged, together with a promise that my new friend would join me in Florence if and when the house that he was building was sufficiently complete to allow him to leave.  Incidentally this never happened.

My few weeks in London were great.  I revisited all the places of my childhood with my sister but there was a shadow over this – they (the medical fraternity) thought she had a heart attack and refused her permission to fly.  So with much trepidation and wondering what I was thinking about – a 75 year old woman taking off into the unknown on her own, I left for Florence.

New Zealand Calling

After months of not writing a blog, I got up last Friday (04/04) fully intending that this would be the first day of many blogs.

I have had a lovely few months.  We had a holiday at the beginning of the year away from the stresses of an architect building a home for himself; then we spent 5 weeks travelling around the country with my sister from England and sharing with her some of my favourite places in this beautiful land;then more friends from overseas.  We had a few days in Australia visiting 4 artists in their studios and then a trip to Hobart in Tasmania to visit MONA – Museum of Old and New Art.  What an exciting time that was and what an amazing building.  Here’s the link. Please take a look you will hardly believe what has been achieved here.

In February we moved house although the new house isn’t ready to move into and following a series of minor (or maybe major) disasters it wont be ready for another two or three months so we are going to Europe for three months.  We are busy planning our trip with friends in Italy with whom we shall stay and then go to Spain with them.  How exciting!

Fire at storage unit

But the best laid plans – on Friday (04/04) we heard that there had been a major fire in a storage facility in Wellington and yes, all my worldly goods were stored in that facility.  Panic ensued and nothing else was thought of for the rest of the day.  However, the next day we went to the site and discussed the situation with the General Manager and the Fire Chief.  We were told there would be water and smoke damage but both thought it would be minimal.

So there followed a week of waiting to be told that we could go onto site; meeting with removal men to determine where the soggy goods would be stored; going to the new facility and sorting out what had to be removed immediately – boxes that disintegrated as they were lifted.  These mainly held linen and scarves – easily washed so no real problem – and shoes.  This was a different matter as they all had to be stuffed with newspaper and dried at the fire.

Of real concern though was the artwork, prints etc.  Fortunately my daughter has just bought a house with a self-contained apartment attached.  So we moved the pictures into that and set the dehumidifier.  It looks as if we have been really lucky.

Books, photos and papers were in plastic storage bins so again we have been very lucky.  The photos and letters were what I was most concerned about.  Everything else is just stuff.

And now we are told that the fire was arson.  The mind boggles at how anybody could do something like this.  All week we have heard terrible stories of people having lost everything.  CCTV coverage shows a man entering the facility with what looks like a drum of petrol.  Let’s hope they get this man quickly.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The Kiwi Bach

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.”
Jeanne Moreau  French actress, singer, screenwriter and director. 1928 -

Here in New Zealand it’s summer.  Well so far this year it has been so disappointing.  A few good days leading up to Christmas; a fabulous Christmas Day (well here in Wellington anyway) but since then it has been truly awful.  Rain, gale force winds and more rain.  So waking up today to sunshine was a surprise.

Many people are on holiday – Christmas and New Year are when most offices and services close down and families head off to the beach to their holiday homes.

AA sign Kiwi Bashes

In the North Island of New Zealand, older holiday homes are called baches (my guess is because husbands were left as bachelors to look after themselves while wives and children enjoyed life at the beach but Wikipedia suggest it is short for bachelor pad. In the South Island they are referred to as cribs.  I don’t know why this is so.

Kiwi bach

Baches and cribs are generally quite basic.  Many have grown like Topsy.   Our next door neighbours, who are also our close friends, have a batch about 75 kms from home and we were invited for the day. The one we visited on Saturday had started life as an army hut and been transported to the beach. Over the years it has been divided into a living room cum kitchen, one bunkroom, a bathroom and a lavatory.  Recently it has had a lean to added giving it a separate dining room, with one side open to the elements.  One can close it up with a plastic screen that rolls up out of the way when not needed.  Life in those seaside areas off the beaten track is very simple.  Children run free and as everyone knows everyone else, nobody has to worry where the children are.

Saturday, dawned bright without any rain and it just happened to be the annual “Boat Day” at that beach.  It is such a long time since I had been in such a simple yet lovely setting that of course we had to walk the 100 or so yards to the riverbank to sit and watch. We saw people of all ages, and all walks of life I guess, simply enjoying themselves.  The river running into the sea made a great place for canoe races.  Single canoes, two person canoes, blow up canoes and even a rowboat were brought into play to win prizes.  There were races for children, races for teenagers and races for anyone and everyone.  What fun that was to see people enjoying the simple pleasures of being with friends and making new ones.

Ready to go 2

A sausage sizzle had been set up on the far bank, accessed over a rickety bridge, and was doing a great trade with sausages slapped between slices of white bread selling for $1.20.  Well children having fun with each other are not gourmands.

To 04.01.14 002

To 04.01.14 019

We however, were treated to a lovely lunch on a table set up under the trees.  A whole smoked salmon, salads and fresh bread washed down with a cold wine were perfect.  Desert of fruit and ice cream was served following which we all vowed we were too full for coffee and Christmas cake.

A;ong the riverbank

Then it was determined that a walk was in order.  We walked over the rickety bridge where fortunately there were no trolls to scare us, onto the bank on the other side of the river.  Most of the competitors had retired for lunch or to change into dry clothes following a dunking in the river.  So we had an uninterrupted stroll along the riverbank down to the sea shore and then over the dunes back to the bach.

Deserted landscape

The area was the scene of fierce fighting between the Maoris (the indigenous people) and the invading British bent on colonising the land and its inhabitants.  In this the British were unsuccessful.

So another lovely summer day came to a close.  Yesterday Sunday,it rained all day here but today has been beautiful.  Tomorrow’s forecast?  Rain in the afternoon so we have to make the most of any lovely day that comes our way.

And now to all my friends in the US who are being buffeted by strong gales and heavy snow falls, my thoughts are with you.  Love and hugs from the other side of the world.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

That Was The Year That….

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Alfred Tennyson,  1st Baron Tennyson,  Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland
August 1809 –  October 1892

And now this is the last day of the year.  The sun is shining brightly after several days of dreary rain, and we are looking forward to the New Year.

This has been a year that has been very eventful for me and will be long remembered. A snap decision to sell the house and travel, meeting a new special person (again), adventures in Florence, the excitement of melding two families and so much more.

The decision had been made to go away – if I didn’t do it now when would I? And having no idea how long I would be away it was decided to sell the house and put my belongings into storage rather than buy another house.

Sold

Packing up the house to put everything into storage went well.  My son and daughter have their own houses and didn’t want my furniture, except one particular chair that went to my daughter-in-law (she had always wanted it) and a desk and a sofa table that went to my daughter.  All the rest was packed by the removers and taken to storage.  That was interesting.  I had downsized considerably when moving into that house and was very surprised to note that I needed three storage units to house my belongings.

During the decision making to move and go away on an extended trip, I met up again with an acquaintance from years before.  We spent a lot of time together during the sales process and when the settlement took place, I was invited to join him in his house in the beech forest.

House in the trees

Then it was time to start my travels.  Three grandsons and my daughter came to the airport to see me off.  None of us knew how long I would be away although I did have a return ticket for February 3, but my family were used to my going to visit my sisters on the other side of the world and changing return date

Wellington Airport

How fast and how large they have all grown

I had a lovely time spent catching up with my younger sister in London.  The plan had been for her to come to Florence with me but that didn’t work our as she had a health scare that meant she couldn’t fly.  But we had a lovely time visiting friends and family and revisiting museums and places of interest, not as a tourist but as a returning Londoner.

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2013 090

And then it was off to explore Florence on my own.  I rented an apartment out of the centre of town in an area where I appeared to be the only English-speaking resident.  But how happy to help me were the Italians I came across when I used my faltering Italian to communicate with them.  In all the time I was there I encountered only one surly bus driver who couldn’t or wouldn’t help me.

Duomo 2

But as often happens, homesickness or rather the longing to be with friends and family again, overtook me and I decided that it was time to cut short this adventure.  So back to London for another week with my sister and then I returned home to New Zealand.

And what a happy homecoming that was.  I was met by my special friend in Auckland and we drove together down the North Island to Wellington stopping on the way to catch up with friends in Taupo.

http://www.greatlaketaupo.com/new-zealand/interactivemap/

Then a new phase in this long and happy life began.  It was decided that we would spend the rest of our lives together, both having had long and successful marriages cut short by the death of our spouses.  So I moved into this house in the forest and we set about making memories of our own.

House

The new house is almost complete – well the roof is on, doors installed and the glazing is in.  But of course, this is holiday time here in NZ and all the builders and contractors are away.  It’s very peaceful without them but we will look forward to their return on January 6.

Breakfast Pinehaven Style

Breakfast Pinehaven Style

But we are making use of the new house already. G & Ts taken looking into the forest and the photo shows breakfast cooked on the barbecue yesterday and eaten in the almost complete house.

Sisters

To round off another eventful and adventurous year, my younger sister in London has taken up my invitation to come and visit us.  She has never been to NZ.  In fact, none of my family have, and so I am looking forward to showing her where I make my life; introducing her to friends and reintroducing her to her niece and nephew and their families.  So this will be a great start to 2014.

Christmas came and went in a flurry of activities as usual.  Friends have called in for drinks, barbecues etc and on New Year’s Eve we shall have dinner with my Special Friend’s son and his partner and their two little girls.

What a fantastic year 2013 has been for me.  I hope you can all say the same and if not, my wishes for a fabulous, healthy and safe 2014 are sent to you all.

Home Again

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver, 1935 -

Well now a change in lifestyle for me.

I arrived home safely from my European adventure.  And what an adventure that was.  After almost 11 weeks I was happy to be back home and ready to begin the next phase in this life.

I have lived alone for 15 years since my Dashing Young Scotsman died and thought I would spend the rest of my life so.  I was happy with my family, friends and little dog and then into this settled life came another Dashing but older man, to take me to pastures new.  He has a passion for music, for travel and as an architect, for beautiful buildings.   Of course, we plan to go back to Florence together in the New Year.

So lots of pluses to this new life.  But there are some major changes to get used to when living daily with another.  For so many years I made decisions, appointments and plans with no thought for another.  Now there are two of us to consider.  I think when living alone one does become rather selfish and so it’s very good to have to stop and think before I say “Yes” to an invitation.  The other person must be considered too.  I am learning here.

We are very involved in selling this current house (see the garden view into the beech forest as the header to the blog) and building another house.  Daily I am involved in decisions on the new house and it’s very exciting.

And I am so excited.  My sister in London has agreed to come for a visit in the New Year.  None of my family has ever been here so I shall enjoy showing her this beautiful country and introducing her to my friends and my special friend when she gets here.

So much to look forward to and so much to be grateful for.  Each day I note all the things for which I am grateful my health, my lifestyle, my friends, my family.

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks while I become adjusted to this new way of life, but now I am back.  I hope/expect to have more adventures in the future (and at present) that I should like to share with you.

I have been re-reading Mary Oliver recently and so I have another favourite quote to share with you

“….there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

Rainbow

My rainbow

 

Sunday Evening/Monday Morning

It has been a usual Sunday  open homes, walking Miss Bella and some rubber gloving around the house and now I am lying on the bed reading blogs on my tablet and listening to music from the 70s on the radio.  The music being played is the flipside of hits. These songs are as good as the A side in most cases.

Among the blogs I read tonight was this one that really touched a cord – raising5kidswithdisabilitiesandremainingsane.  I am amazed at how this woman deals with the challenges she faces each day and I wonder if I could do as well in the same situation.  Do go and visit her blog I am sure you will be glad you did.

And now the midnight news is on with the pending crisis in N Korea leading the news.  Many commentators around the world have agreed that this demi-god is threatening the peace not only in that region but possibly in the wider world.  Let’s hope that common sense prevails before the situation heads into war.

“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

One Year On

Andy arriving at the Hospice

Checking he is in the right place and looking for his friends

The highlight of the day as always on Thursday is the visit to the Hospice.  Are you all getting bored hearing about this?

This year is the 100th anniversary of the death of the Venerable Mary Potter and many celebrations of remembrance are proposed.

And looking back on last year’s blog I see that on this day Lotte and I were Looking for Andy.  Do you remember the armadillo and the adventures he had (we had) when he was visiting us?  I wonder where the little fellow is now and if he has arrived back home with Lenore Diane.

Well now on to today.  This is my lovely daughter’s birthday.  We don’t go overboard for birthdays in our family which is just as well because she had taken off today with the basketball team she coaches for a competition this weekend.  So there will be no riotous celebrations, she has to keep these young men in control.

Her own boys are spending the weekend with their father.  This all seems to be working out well for the family.  When they are with their father, apart from driving them to the various sports fixtures (they can’t get there easily from his house) he devises all sorts of interesting things for them to do together.

And lunchtime at the hospice today was rather a hectic affair.  Clients/patients choose what they want for lunch shortly after breakfast each morning,  Well today something went wrong and we had the wrong food for a couple of people.  No problem really; it just meant my going to the kitchen and reorganising the lunches.  This of course, takes time and throws the timing out.  So that by the time we got back to the first people with their desserts some had gone to sleep having become tired of waiting.

The lady from the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) usually comes on Thursday with one or two dogs in tow.  These dogs are those available for adoption and most clients are pleased to see her each week.  Well, today she didn’t turn up and one elderly lady asked plaintively where the dogs were.  Obviously they derive a certain comfort and normalcy from the animals.  One man who has been there for several weeks has his wife bring in their dogs – two very large dogs from South Africa.  They could eat my Bella in one chomp but they are very quiet and placid.

Bella is settling down, barking less and accepting my friends and family when they come to visit.  She is still my shadow and doesn’t like me to leave her but today she slept in the car while I was in the hospice.  I do think she prefers that to being left at home, and as the weather is becoming cooler (by the day almost) it is not too hot for her to be left in the car.  She joins us on the terrace for lunch on sunny days and so doesn’t spend too long in the car alone.  Of course her exuberance and delight when I return has to be seen to be believed.  She reminds me of the Energizer bunny jumping up with all four feet in the air.

And from my little book of dog wisdom* :-

“Life is a precious gift.
Treat it delicately and be grateful for it,
but most importantly celebrate and enjoy it”

* dog wisdom to lift your spirits and brighten your day.  Published by Blue Angel Gallery, Australia.

Thoughts on Thursday

MPH Logo

Today being Thursday, Bella and I made our usual trip to the Hospice.  I have said so many times how impressed I am with the total dedication of all the staff, Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, Assistants and cleaners.  They all go out of their way to treat their clients with respect,  and do all they can to make the client’s life more comfortable.

And each Thursday I am joined in lunch duty by a retired bank manager.  He is one of those cheery little men who always has joke, pun or a story to share.  He has apparently been volunteering at the Hospice since his retirement some 15 years ago.  He not only does lunch duty on Thursday but serves on a couple of the committees as the volunteers’ representative.

Today was a Thursday much like any other.  Unfortunately there had been a death this morning so the atmosphere was rather subdued.  But none of the other clients would have been aware of the death.  This part of the operation is handled so well – dignified and respectful in all aspects.

Once again I was approached by a couple of visitors who commented on the great service being offered. Of course, I thought they meant the staff and quickly agreed that we were so lucky to have the free services of the hospice and that the staff was  fantastic.  They surprised me by saying that it was not the staff but the volunteers they were commenting on.  Isn’t it nice when you do something with no expectation of any reward and then receive compliments.

As you know, I always say that I get more out of the 2 hours I spend at the hospice each week than they get from me.  However, it is nice to be appreciated.

There were few clients today and so the lunch service took little over an hour and we were out of there earlier than usual.  So Miss Bella and I went for a walk before meeting my daughter for coffee.

Oh I really do like Thursday.

true, true, true

Easter Sunday

“The day that the rains came down
Mother Earth smiled again
Now the lilacs could bloom
Now the fields could grow greener”
Sung by Jane Morgan, American Sognstress

It has been a very unusual summer for those of us who live in Wellington.  Long,  hot sunny days with no rain.  In fact, it has been about 7 weeks since we had even a light drizzle.  But today was different.

Easter Sunday and the rain came down.  Good news for farmers and horticulturists; bad news for holiday makers.  It rained very heavily for a couple of hours and then passed, but I am sure we are all delighted to have had some rain today.

Easter Sunday is a strange day here in New Zealand.  The streets today were pretty much deserted.  Parking was freely available in the CBD (and yes as it is a Public Holiday parking is free). Trading laws allow some shops/retailers to open but not others.  Why we ask can dairies. pharmacies. Real Estate agencies. restaurants, takeaway bars and cafes and service stations trade but supermarkets, bakers and most other retailers have to close.  There are of course loud cries from retailers to amend these laws but as we have been hearing this for years, we don’t expect there to be any major changes in the near future.

But between the rain and the ludicrous trading laws here in NZ we found we had three very well attended Open Homes today.  So there is a bright side to this.

While I was at the Open Homes the beautiful Miss Bella stayed with a friend.  He really loves her almost as much as he loved Miss Lotte.  Apparently she takes some time to settle down when I leave her and when I return she is like a little wound up clockwork toy.  The excitement has to be seen to be believed.  I am amazed at how very quickly she has bonded with me.

And now as I type this she is fast asleep on the bed in the spare room.  I think she considers this her bed and I wonder how she will react when No 1 grandson comes to stay next week.

And please do take extra care on the roads this Easter wherever you are travelling to.  Last year we had a zero death road toll, but it’s not so good this year.  At 7.30 am today the road toll was 3 and the holiday period lasts until 6am on Tuesday 2 April.  Let’s hope the toll doesn’t increase.

Good Friday

Yes, it’s already Good Friday here.  How do you /will you spend the day?

For many it is a highly significant religious holiday and for others it is a day to catch up with friends and family or else to catch up with those overdue chores.

I’m not religious and so I take the third choice.  That choice because my family members are all involved in other activities and so with the help of a friend  I tackled the long overdue weeding of my very small front garden.   We are in the midst of a drought here with water restrictions in place with the restrictions being heavily policed.  No watering of gardens is permitted even with watering cans.  How then is it, that while our plants both in the ground and in pots suffer from the lack of water and die,  the weeds flourish?

Bella has been in her element today.  She is very good and stays within sight of me but she has been very excited by the comings and goings in the street.  Lotte was not a highly excitable dog; she rarely barked whereas Bella is the opposite.  She barks at the drop of a hat and stops just as suddenly.  I guess/hope she’ll get used to living in town soon.

With the death of the plants due to lack of rain, a visit to the plant shop is called for.  But for two reasons I can’t go there.  The main one is that they are closed on Good Friday although most owners will flout the law on Good Friday and run the risk of hefty fines.  Strangely, they are allowed to open on Easter Sunday.  I haven’t figured this one out.  Those  plant shop owners who do ignore the law against trading on Good Friday say it is more profitable to open and pay the fine than to be closed for a whole day.  Particularly at this time when people are readying their gardens for autumn and winter.  And of course, it is pretty pointless to buy more plants while the water ban is in place but I suppose they will still do well.  And I must admit that garden centres are my favourite places.  I can browse around one for several hours and sometimes even leave without having bought anything – well I must say that it’s a very rare occurrence.

And on Thursday we got new neighbours  They bought the house that my little lady friends used to occupy with their parents.  I do know that I prefer weeding to packing up one house and then unpacking in a new one.  Is anybody else relocating and unpacking this weekend?  I wish you well if you are.  So this might be a fourth choice but  I suspect very few people would choose it.

A good friend, the one who introduced me first to Toy Poodles and then to Tibetan Spaniels commiserated with me on my loss of Miss Lotte and  yesterday I had the unexpected pleasure of receiving a book from her.  It is called The French Dog and it’s by world-famous New Zealand  photographer Rachael McKenna.   It is a lovely coffee table book filled with the most beautiful photographs of dogs accompanied by eloquent writing about French dogs and their owners. But strangely no pictures of French Poodles.

This quote jumped out at me when I was watching the Beautiful Miss Bella today :-

“The dog has no ambition;
no self interest; no desire for vengeance;
no fear other than that of  displeasing”
George-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon
French Naturalist 1707-1788.

So I wish you and yours a very Happy Easter however you choose to celebrate or spend the additional holiday time.  Tomorrow we are off to buy paint for a small area of wall that has been painted the wrong colour.  I wonder how Bella will react to painting.