Tag Archives: Holidays

Welcome Another Year

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

2014 was a busy and traumatic year for most of the world.  Terrorism seems to be gaining the upper hand.  We saw all those schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, uproar in the middle east, riots and protests across the US, aircraft lost either vanishing into thin air or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So we hope that 2015 will be a better time for all of us who inhabit this wonderful world.

So now it is the beginning of the second year of my new life.  I have been so lucky to have a second chance at love – I almost said life and love but I need no second chance at life.

I have always said I have lived a blessed life.  A long and mostly happy marriage, two adult children and four fantastic growing up grandsons, who could ask for more?  And then some 18 months ago into my life sailed this new love.

I have written about 2014 and what a busy year that was.  My sister came from London for five weeks, we went to Hobart to visit the Museum of New and Old Art.  We went to Europe for three and half months and saw so many things that if my partner hadn’t taken 18,000 plus (yes in excess of eighteen thousand) photos I wouldn’t remember half of what we saw and did  Then we moved house with all the attendant hiccups that brings.  And then suddenly it was Christmas.

Our plans were for a quiet Christmas but the best-laid plans and all that.  We had visitors for the weekend before Christmas, friends with three of their adult daughters, then on the 30th my daughter and her two boys came for a prolonged lunch and then it was Christmas Eve.  The other two grandsons visited and exchanged gifts and stayed for lunch and a friend who was to spend Christmas with us arrived.  That day we heard from my partner’s son that they “were all looking forward to spending the day with you”.  So what was to be just three of us and my partner’s aged (99-year-old) father in law turned out to be a celebration of 10 people.  But it was fun.

And it didn’t stop there.  Friends for lunch, friends for dinner, dinner with partner’s son and family for New Year’s Eve, a visit to friends at the beach and in the middle of all this, the 99-year-old fell and smashed his face and ended up in hospital.

And of course, Christmas is in the summer here.  Most people are on holiday and we have had a constant stream of visitors since.  But hey – who’s complaining!  We are having fun and the weather is co-operating so barbecues are the order of most days.

So I am going into 2015 with a happy heart and full of excitement for the year ahead.  We are planning a less eventful year but anything can happen to change those plans.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
― Douglas Adams,
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Writing 101: A Character-Building Experience


Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.

Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

This year has been so full of new experiences and new people that I hardly know where to start. From moving in with my new partner to travelling with him to Europe, to returning to an almost completed new house and moving in, etc etc. Many and varied are the people I have met not least the tradesmen who have populated our lives for the past year. Builders – two here every day except weekends, plumbers one at a time but often here; electricians sometimes two sometimes only one; roofers; heating installers; equipment installers etc.

My partner’s family have played a large part in my life this year. His father in law who will be 99 in a week’s time and for whom we are throwing a party; his son, partner and their two delightful little girls, his sister and her grown children, his brother and family and his brother-in-law.

The family in Lake Como Italy who welcomed me, a complete stranger into their lives and their homes making me an instant member of their family – mother, father, 2 grown children with their own families.

And my own family have played a large part too.  My four grandsons who are growing up and making their own mark in the world.  They are my joy and delight.

But in this post I am going to concentrate on just one of the people whom I have met this year….

We arrived in Milan after a long flight from Hong Kong to be met by these two smiling Italians. I had never met them and was slightly apprehensive as they had been longtime friends with my partner and his late wife. But I didn’t have to worry. They immediately welcomed me, both to Italy and their family.

Paolo is a large bluff Sardinian. He is highly educated, has worked in many parts of the world and speaks several languages including French, German and some English.

His sparkling eyes tells you immediately that he is ready for some fun, or mischief as his wife puts it. He is quick to laugh, ready with a funny story from sometime/somewhere in his life and ever ready to help whether it be his wife or another member of the family, either extended or close, who needs help.

He has a white close-cropped beard, trimmed by his wife who also trims his hair so he is always tidily if slightly eccentrically presented.

He has an obsession with clothes and watches. He has been collecting watches for years – he says he started collecting as soon as he could afford to do so and now has some 200 plus watches. And he is always looking for more. When we were in Spain he would keep calling me to “Judi quick look watches”.

He has more clothes than his wife. Each time we stopped anywhere in Spain he bought a shirt.  We all went to Freiburg, Germany to visit his wife’s mother, and while she was visiting her on her own and we had an hour or so to fill in, he took us to his favourite department store where he bought two more shirts. And what bright coloured shirts they were. I should add one can always see Paolo in a crowd. He is big and has on these wild coloured shirts; easy to spot.  Incidentally, he couldn’t convince my partner to buy a similar shirt.

His voice is as big as he is. One day in the supermarket he couldn’t see his wife and called her. Movement in the huge supermarket came to a standstill while everyone looked to see who was calling and who he was calling.  Incidentally, from the time they first met and living in different countries, he called her Cherie and still does.

He is a coffee-aholic. 10.30am and everything stops for Paolo’s espresso which he drinks in one gulp while standing up at the counter and then he is ready to go. Not for him the leisurely coffee culture we are used to in New Zealand. Here coffee time is a social time when we meet friends for a catch-up, there it is a matter of swallowing the coffee, not wasting any time.  In deference to us, they occasionally sat down for coffee but as is usual in many parts of Italy if you take a seat it costs more. But coffee is a political thing in Italy – the price is incredibly low and we looked on in amazement as four coffees cost only 5 Euros or the equivalent of $NZ7.80. This wouldn’t buy you two cups of coffee in NZ.

“We do not live by coffee alone; order a danish.” Judith Baxter

He is a diabetic who has to inject himself regularly and he makes a joke of this while seriously following the doctor’s instructions. He loves “sweeties” but can no longer eat them. This doesn’t stop him from encouraging us to buy and eat them. Many times when we were with him he would see a shop selling cakes or sweets and call my attention to it. In Freiburg there is a shop that sells the most amazing selection of chocolate that I have come across. Paolo stood at the window pointing out those that appealed to him and suggesting I buy some to taste.

He is a photographer of note and hauls his photographic equipment around with him even though he has a bad back and something wrong with a leg both of which make walking difficult for him. This doesn’t stop him entering into the spirit of things. The Alhambra set on a hillside with many steps left him physically tired but happy, as did Toledo.

Just occasionally he would need to sit down but after very few minutes he was up again ready for whatever was planned.

He is an atrocious driver and so his wife does most of the driving,  But he is a loud backseat driver, giving her instructions even though she knows where she is going, and yelling at drivers who don’t respect the road laws or those drivers he thinks are “idiota”.

During our sojourn in Europe, we used their home in Lake Como as a base, taking off for a couple of weeks and then coming back to spend time with my new Italian friends, then going off again and returning once again.  We had a splendid time with them in Spain although they had to leave us before we went to Barcelona, we had fun with them in Germany and Switzerland.  It would be fair to say they enhanced a holiday of a lifetime.  So thank you, Paolo and Marion, for putting up with us.

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 won’t 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!

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 the 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.

Gift Time

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say “thank you?”
William A. Ward, American writer 1921–1994

We know that Christmas is only 39 days away as I write this.  And by the time you read it, it will be even closer – click here to see just how close.

Image via Wikipedia

The shops here are full of decorations and Christmas carols are being played over their sound systems.  For those who work in those stores, I guess that this will all quickly pall.  And we have Christmas in the summer so the scenes of snow, sleighs and houses with firesmoke coming out the chimney make even less sense.

Here in New Zealand nature has given us our own Christmas Tree – the Pohutakawa that blooms from November to January – so it’s nickname is the NZ Christmas tree.  It survives all around New Zealand, is  evergreen and has these amazing bright red flowers that shout out Christmas! to us.  By the way it is pronounced just as it is written po-hu-ta-ka-wa.  Try it.

Pohutukawa tree

Image via Wikipedia

Of course the reason for the music and decorations is to get us to spend our hard-earned money on gifts that we (possibly) can’t afford and the recipients (probably) don’t want and (also probably) don’t need .  But year after year we continue with this mad gift buying, giving and exchanging.

Man with gifts

In our family we have cut down on a lot of this giving.  We give to children but not adults, except in my case as I just can’t ignore my children and their spouses.  But I have been given a strict limit of how much I can spend on each person (adult or child)  by my daughter.

I have also cut down the number of friends to whom I give gifts.  This number is now down to only two or three.  See comment above about recipients of gifts.

And of course, for those of you in the US you have Thanksgiving looming. Do you exchange gifts on this day?

So I began to think about some gifts that cost nothing but are well received whenever they are shared.


    • The Gift of Listening-  But you must really listen.  Don’t interrupt, don’t daydream, don’t plan your response.  Just listen.
    • The Gift of Affection- Be generous with hugs and/or kisses (where appropriate) and pats on the back.  Let these small actions demonstrate the love and respect you have for family and friends.
    • The Gift of Laughter – Share funny articles and stories.  Send cartoons that have a meaning.  Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”
    • The Gift of a Favour – Every day, go out of your way to do something kind.  This is one of my favourites.
    • The Gift of a Written Note – A  simple “Thanks for the help, dinner or whatever” note.  A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a long time.
    • The Gift of a Compliment – A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,”  ”You did a super job,” or “That was a wonderful meal” can make someone’s day.

Gifts don’t have to cost the earth; they don’t have to add to our credit card debt; they don’t have to be big and fancy; they just have to be well thought out and given with love.  No doubt you will be giving gifts to your nearest and dearest family and friends this Christmas, but think about these six gifts that you can give at any time during the year.  No special occasion.  Just a gift of sharing.

The only gift is a portion of thyself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
American essayist,
lecturer, and poet. 1803 –  1882