Time Off and Time Out

I worked eight days in a row after returning from my hols and boy was I glad to have a couple of days off. I love my work, but it can be a bit intense at times, and I definitely needed time to recoup. I am rereading Milkman by Anna Burns for book group next month. However, my recuperation required doing a jigsaw, and having more credits than I know what to do with with Audible, I decided to buy the audio book so I could listen and solve simultaneously. It works really well. I’m switching between the audio book and the print version according to where I am and what I’m doing. It’s a multi-sensory experience.

This afternoon I left both the audio book and the real one at home and headed to Tate Britain to see the Frank Bowling exhibition. I am so glad I did. It is wonderful. I took some photographs once I realised it was allowed, so maybe I’ll post some of them tomorrow. His work is abstract and I found it tremendously uplifting, though I can’t say why. It made me wish I lived in one of those loft places which are murder to keep warm but which have vast walls. There were several paintings I think I could happily gaze at for the rest of my life. Continue reading

Sunday morning

Celia will recognise the scenario: go for a walk that includes a visit to a place with small, independent shops; stop in those shops and see a dress/shirt/cardigan you like; try it on; buy it; return from your walk with a new addition to your wardrobe. However, I have added a new twist. The shop is in Maghera, a small town not far away, so when we returned there to buy groceries, I went back to the shop, Allie Mae, to take a second look at two more items I had seen, and I bought them too. The shop will soon have a website and be selling via shopify, so if you want to look at the stock, sign up here.
Not all walks end in shops. Walks around Cousin’s are entirely retail free. It was warm and sunny this morning when Westie Boy, Poppy and I followed out usual route to the end of the road and back.

Shaded

Blue skies

Fortunately it had rained in the night so Poppy enjoyed a paddle in the larger puddles while Westie Boy drank. I admired the view.

Interesting

Both dogs are now lying on the floor asleep.I may take them for a shorter walk when we come back from hearing Alan Johnson later today. They only had one good walk yesterday, but Poppy was tired by the late evening. She took to her bed while I read the Guardian and was soon snoring, then dreaming, making little woofing noises and moving her front paws. I must have been very quiet when I came to the kitchen this morning as I surprised her sleeping on the sofa. Continue reading

The end of the weekend

I have eaten all three of my meals at home today, not unusual, but either I am being particularly uncritical or the meals have been particularly good, for as I finished the last mouthful of my freekah based salad this evening I reflected that I could not have enjoyed better meals anywhere. OK lunch would have been improved by a side portion of rice, but otherwise it was all perfection. I reckon I have had fifteen portions of fruit and vegetables today, and that includes a rather lovely alcohol free cocktail of mango, orange and something I have forgotten Celia bought me at Sound Unbound this afternoon. It was made by Mix and Match Unlimited if you are looking to try it.

My neighbours B&J who looked after the incomparable MasterB when I visited Australia in 2016 told me about Sound Unbound. They also kept a close eye on him and gave him love and attention when I was hospitalised for a few days at the end of last month. But that’s another story, and yet another post I haven’t got around to writing. If you follow the link you’ll see we were spoiled for choice with music in a variety of venues, all for free. It was eclectic, it was vibrant, it was eye-opening and it was fun. I rather liked Zwarm who performed in St Giles Cripplegate, the church where my paternal great  great grandparents married. I think they would have been quite surprised by today’s use of the space.

Zwarm at st Giles Cripplegate

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Why flavour a condom?

Having a bit of a sofa slump this evening after a good, but long, day at work, and catching up on last night’s tv. First up, Gogglebox which had me corpsing with the reviewers as they watched Fizz, three of the four person line up which was the eminently forgettable Bucks Fizz., then gasping with shock and shame at the terrible crisis walruses are in thanks to man made climate change. Of course of not just walruses, and it was a very sobering moment at the end of a programme which had been light and frothy. Then on to Let’s talk about sex, a programme about sex education down the years, with excerpts of past sex ed films being shown to parents and adolescent and pre adolescent children. Danny Dyer and his eleven-year-old daughter Sunnie, are for me the stars of the show. When Sunnie learns her father and her mother were having sex at fourteen, her face is an oh of shock, swiftly followed by asking him if they used protection. He looks at his hand and rubs his nails against his trouser leg as he affirms. You just know he’s lying. Here’s the clip.This is followed by a discussion on how old she should be before she has sex for the first time. Thirty, says Danny. She bargains, beating him down to twenty-two, he’s ready to get her sign the contract. Another glorious moment is when they see an info film about condoms, and different flavours are mentioned. Again her eyes widen; flavoured? Why would you flavour a condom? Her father’s discomfiture should be bottled. Continue reading

Keeping it Sane

It’s been a busy week and a productive one. No, I am not talking about Brexit, though a new extension has been granted by the long-suffering EU until October. It sounds a good amount of time, six whole months, but once you subtract the days the house isn’t sitting it’s more like three. Mark Francois has made an arse of himself (again) by making threats to the EU and reading poetry aloud very badly, yet some people think he should lead the Tory party. Hello? Theresa May, whose air miles must be enough to get her to the moon and back by now, returned to the house and made the same speech again. Is it obstinacy, lack of imagination, or a plan to just wear people down? She does an aggressive upward look, reminiscent of Princess Diana, across the floor of the house to anyone who dares contradict her. Whatever the question was, Brexit is not the answer. Tonight, when the news was on, I deliberately left the room to avoid seeing the Farago announcing his new Brexit party with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata on side as a prospective candidate. Some huge percentage of the adult population says it is suffering from Brexit related stress and anxiety. Tell me about it. I wake up from dreams about it.
Anyway, it’s Friday night and time for a bit of a break, though I fully intend to watch Have I Got News For You at nine o’clock, and I have already listened to the News Quiz. It’s like a itch I can’t help scratching. As though Brexit anxiety wasn’t enough, I have been worried about MasterB for the last couple of days. He has been under the weather, sleeping hugely, not nagging me much to play, taking only a cursory interest in his food. This morning, before I went to work, I rang the vet practice and talked to one of the nurses, describing his symptoms. If she told me to keep a close eye on things once, she told me a dozen times. Being Chief Litter Tray Monitor, I am well versed in MasterB’s bowel movements. Normally his digestive system functions admirably well, just the odd pungent smell from his hind quarters when he is sitting beside me, or the popping sound of wind breaking in tiny bursts. So I was able to say that yesterday’s deposit was less solid than usual. Today’s was even less solid than yesterday’s, so it seems something has upset his tum. I’m hoping he’s on the mend now as he has just led me to the kitchen and had a few mouthfuls of the wet food in his bowl, and his interest in biscuits has definitely returned. So long as it’s nothing serious, a few days of restricted calories might be just what he needs to shift the stubborn superfluous 500g he’s carrying.

 

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Home is Where the Cat Is

I’m home. Phew. Right now I am feeling very tired and all I want to do is go to bed, but I intend to stay up for a few hours more. Also, I need to finish unpacking my bag.
New Zealand is amazing. Stunning. Beautiful. Pick your own adjective. I need to start saving for a second trip to the South Island. I’m glad I didn’t go there this time because it would have been so intense, and like going through a list, ticking off places seen. That’s not my preferred type of tourism. You can’t see everything. And sometimes the more you try to see the less you appreciate, understand or remember.
MasterB was not quite sure how to react when I arrived home. He was pleased to see me, but he and Birgit have established a different routine over the last five weeks, now he has to readapt to my routine. Right now he’s curled up beside me. He couldn’t be closer. He has also seen Celia who I bumped into on the Walworth Road when I was heading for the mobile phone shop to get a new U.K. sim to replace the one I lost.
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A Last Evening in Napier

There were only five of us on the wine tour on Wednesday, all of us from the UK; two from London, three from Scotland. For four of us, this was our visit to Napier and the surrounding area. Where we have stayed will have informed our opinions, our impressions of the place. Two of the women were staying in very swish hotels in the town centre; the couple from Isla at a more remote place on the Maraekakaho Road. I am at the top of the hill, on a road called Bay View, for fairly obvious reasons.

View of the bay from Bay View Road


While I was walking about yesterday, I met both of the women who were staying in the town. One was about to leave, and the other was planning a visit to the aquarium. It felt nice to be able to hail a familiar face, stand on the pavement and chat for a few minutes, and it also underlined how small a place Napier is. I met a friend of Lyn and Malcolm’s today who told me about the two degrees of separation people experience in Wellington. I’ve experienced that frequently in Northern Ireland, and surprisingly often in London.
Monica and I talked about both Napier and London, about our mothers’ dementia, about poetry, dodgy painful joints (her hip, my knee) and a host of other subjects. We got on. I got my map out and asked her if she could tell me how to get to Bluff Hill, a lookout point Lyn and Malcolm had said I should see. It looked tantalisingly close to Bay View Road but there was no obvious route. I had seen one signpost, but although I had been walking in that direction, not seen another. Monica drove me there. Quite honestly, having seen the up, down, and up again, complete with a twisty road devoid of pavement, I don’t think I could have got there any other way. Continue reading

More Napier

I packed two summer dresses for my NZ trip and I hadn’t worn either of them until today. It’s not that the morning as any warmer than before, in fact a cool breeze was blowing, but having watched the forecast I realised it was now or never. I did accessorise with leggings and a cardigan, but it felt good, and my landlady admired my outfit. However, it looked like it might rain later. Kindly, Jenni offered me an umbrella to take with me. I forgot it. So I was keeping one eye on the clouds, alert to a few drops of rain that fell, ready to dive for cover if necessary. I put my cardigan on and took it off again. My sunglasses were sometimes on my nose, and sometimes dangling from their cord. The sun shone, the clouds scudded over. It is, after all, spring.
I walked past Lyn and Malcolm’s old house when I went into town, but I’m not sure if it was the white one or the dark one. I admit I was distracted by a a friendly yellow Labrador.
Pearl had turned up to see me just before I left. Apparently she can be quite shy, so I am honoured that she let me lift her up and succumbed to a cuddle and a chin scratch with closed eyes and purrs. She is difficult to photograph as she wants to investigate the camera, so I took this one through the window.

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This morning’s Pearl

She reminds me of MasterB, sweet natured, chubby and a bit nervy.
Today’s plan was to do one of the self-guided tours of Napier’s famous Art Deco buildings. Although I was hobbling, taking photographs, asssiduously reading the information and looking at other things besides, I realised I was getting around pretty quickly.
I kept trying to reach Monica, a friend of Lyn and Malcolm’s. We had liaised by email and agreed that I would text her. I didn’t want to use all my mobile data, so I kept turning it off, checking every half hour or so to see if she had responded. We finally made contact mid afternoon as I sat down to watch the film about the earthquake. With luck, we’ll meet tomorrow.
I took lots of photos, far more than I am going to post here. Not all my photos were of the buildings.
Outside one shop was a bench, a pile of wool, some knitting needles and an invitation to contribute to their effort to yarn bomb the bench. Who could refuse? Not I. Only later did I realise the colours were very similar to one of my favourite buildings. If go by tomorrow I shall do a few more rows.

Hildebrandt’s Building

An invitation to knit

Hildebrandt’s Building

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Napier

There’s a cool breeze and out of the sun I am shivering. Which is why although I am sitting outside my room, or rather rooms at this very wonderful place I am staying, I am wearing my warm jacket and drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea. I am not a tea drinker. I don’t mind Lapsang, but I don’t have any. So Earl Grey it is, probably courtesy of a previous visitor.
Here is what I am looking at when I raise my eyes from the screen.

View from my terrace


It’s pretty good, I think you’ll agree. Actually it’s better than good as I shall try to explain.
The coach from Wellington arrived in Napier more or less on time. I had been told I’d be able to get a taxi from near the bus stop. A quick look left and right revealed no taxis, but a fine row of public toilets. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that I headed over to them straight away. I so wish I had photographed them. They were immaculate, and with tiles that would not be out of place in a private bathroom. U.K. councils please note; these are what public conveniences should be like. There was a supermarket near by so I decided to pop in, get some provisions and ask the staff about the taxis.
The first part went to plan, the second seemed to go better than planned when the staff offered to call the taxi company for me. It’ll be here soon, they told me.
After fifteen minutes had passed and no taxi, I was wondering how the company defined soon. The nice staff called again. It’ll be here in a couple of minutes they were told. You can probably guess I am telling this story as two minutes stretched into ten more, then twenty. After thirty minutes, they called again and this time were told the taxis were all at the airport where a number of flights had arrived and they could not say when one would be free to take my fare. I really didn’t want to trundle my bag up a steep hill in what was now night to a place I had never seen in wind and rain, but it was starting to look like that might be my best option. I’d give it a bit longer.
Are you still waiting? asked one of the assistants. I nodded. I’ll call them, he said. I don’t know what magic he worked, but I shall be for ever grateful to him as not much later a taxi duly arrived. I had been in Napier for around an hour and a half. The driver, an Iraqi who has lived in NZ for 18 years, apologised. He told me Mondays are slow for taxi drivers, so most take the day off. Those that were working were all at the airport. On our short journey he told me how much he loves London, but he supports Liverpool FC, so his dream is to visit Anfield. His mother and brothers are also in Napier, though other Iraqis he knew when he first arrived have left for Auckland or Sydney. We found the address, I paid him, he helped me out with my bag and we parted, each wishing the other the best of health and a good future.
Down the steps in the dark to the front door, and Jenni came out to meet me. We each took one handle of my bag to go down a further set of steps to my rooms. A black cat wreathed around us. A cat! I exclaimed, somewhat superfluously. That’s Aeris, she told me. Just shoo him away if you don’t likes cats. We have two. The other one is Pearl. But I do like cats, I said, and I am missing mine extremely.
As I am writing this Aeris has just appeared beside me. He is nineteen, getting thin, has cataracts and very few teeth, but is undoubtedly a still a handsome fellow.
We bonded.
I didn’t meet Pearl until this morning. She’s a young cat, a roll poly beauty.

Pearl


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Petone

There’s a walking trail from near Nadia’s house to Petone which she hadn’t had the opportunity to try out. I wanted to visit to Petone. Thus our plan for today was hatched. The trail follows the Hutt River, and so is imaginatively named the Hutt River Trail.

I have had a blister on my foot which is both surprising as I have been wearing my boots for some years, and painful, but today it was quite quiet. I have run out of Devil’s Claw tincture which I take for my poorly knee and Nadia has sore ankles.

Nonetheless we set out with high hearts. It’s a shared walking and cycling trail. Quite early on I remarked that it would be great to do on a bike. For me the absolute highlight was seeing a Tui in the tree directly above me. I stared at it, then reached for my camera. Too late, it flew away. There was a nice section through bush, but to be honest, as walks go, it was pretty dull, with little variety to keep us interested. Unsurprising we saw my cyclists than walkers. After 16km we called it a day and took the bus into Petone and a latish lunch.

The most interesting bit

The map

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