Thursday, 5 March 2015

Kia Orana (2) - A Wedding and a Snorkel

On January 10th, 2015, Amanda married Lafoga on a white sandy beach in Rarotonga with a shimmery turquoise lagoon as a backdrop.  All the colours were so intense that afternoon, from the brilliant blue sky and lush green tropical vegetation to the startling emerald of the bridesmaids' dresses. The Samoan men of the wedding party stood tall, strong and proud in white shirts, grey lavalava and beads around their necks.

Amanda, looking beautiful in her traditional white dress, walked with her proud father along an 'aisle' of hot sand, the curved path of which was defined by whole coconuts, still in their husks. Waiting for her, under a white-netting gazebo, was Lafoga, the man she loves and, close at hand, their gorgeous little girl, Amara, big brown eyes taking in all the excitement and happiness.

The ceremony was short and simple with the exchange of lovely vows and, in the evening, we celebrated this bi-cultural union with a delicious meal at Tamarind House, a restored heritage colonial building with a huge expanse of lawn sweeping down to the sea.

Entertainment followed and we were treated to a variety of electrifying Samoan and Rarotongan dancing performances - fast and magnificent to the powerful beat of drums that reverberated throughout the silky warm night sky.

The women, attired in dazzling island costumes, swayed their hips with such speed and energy that they were at times but a blur of colour and exuberance.

Cossack was beckoned forth to dance by an alluring specimen of the female species wearing only a grass skirt, feathery head-decorations and a coconut-shell bra. I did try taking photos of him so he could brag later but he had so well and truly warmed up to the moves by the time I got organised that all I managed to click for posterity was yet another series of blurs, recognizable as my spouse only by the occasional glimpse of his shirt.

The bare-chested island men were impressive too - their dances filled the night-sky with energy, rhythm and fire-throwing. Somehow, the whole universe seemed lit up but of course, we were in fact just partying on one tiny dot of an island somewhere in the middle of a very big expanse of Pacific Ocean.

Into that same night sky we, the guests, were invited to light candles beneath paper-lanterns which we then liberated along with our good wishes and prayers to sail up and over the sea into the horizon.

Two days later we discovered a very different and silent world, this time beneath that turquoise lagoon that encircles Rarotonga. After my clumsy attempts at pulling flippers onto my feet and snorkel-gear over my face, it was amazingly easy to swim over to where a multitude of colourful fish flitted and darted amongst the coral.

It was as if our bodies were effortlessly suspended by the salty water and all we had to do was kick occasionally or gently use our arms to manoeuvre easily from the tiny black and white little striped fish here to the iridescent pink and green lunar wrasse over there to my favourite fish now right in front of me, slightly comical to behold with bright yellow lips and eyes and fluoro-blue headbands.

I wanted to grin at those crazy Picasso Trigger-Fish (later research got me their name) but the snorkel-tube thing in my mouth didn't allow for that. As it was, I somehow got a few gulps of salty water anyway and my mask leaked ever so slightly which meant my eyes stung now and then and I'd have to stand up and empty it out.

But any slight discomfort was so worth it to experience such magic and surely a coconut landing on my head would be way worse?

I remember our last morning on Rarotonga and a friend and I just had to snorkel one more time before getting on the plane back to reality in New Zealand.

In our underwater world, Faye would alert me to an especially pretty fish with the silent pointing of her hands and I would do the same if I thought something special may have escaped her notice.

Of such stuff memories are created.

On the flight home I was annoyed for a few minutes when my in-flight entertainment refused to operate. There was Cossack enjoying some shoot-em-up movie right next to me and my screen offered me nothing at all.

I noticed some other passengers had difficulties as well, so it came as no surprise when, well into our flight, an apology was announced for having to shut down the entertainment system.

You know, it was actually good for me to have nothing to distract me from my own happy thoughts for four hours.

Mr and Mrs Faraimo, thank you so much for inviting us to your wedding. God bless your future.

Jenny and Noel, you have a whanau you can be proud of and we are thrilled to have been able to celebrate with you all.

Aotearoa - my home.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Kia Orana (1) - Greetings from Rarotonga

Kia Orana!

If one gets invited to a wedding on a beautiful Pacific Island just four hours flying from Auckland, one feels duty-bound to attend, does one not?

Upon arrival in hot, steamy Rarotonga, we were picked up at the airport by a real friendly woman with a hibiscus in her hair. As soon as I plonked myself in the van next to her and went to put on my seat-belt she said, "We're in Rarotonga now, dear. No seat-belt needed" and that was my introduction to island-life.

Now, we all know from experience that photos of one's accommodation always look so much better on the internet than when eye-balled in reality but, I must say, the postcard- view over the lagoon, complete with swaying coconut trees, compensated somewhat for the slightly grubby sheets that we are pretty certain saw no washing-machine between the previous backpacker and our turn to sleep between them.

Our friends next door were more privileged than us and got a sponge-thing to wipe their bench with that looked like the spit-out from a shark attack.  The other friend in the hut behind us got a jug but no cord which is funny except if you want a cup of tea.

Cossack's checked shirt got pinched from the washing- line beneath our pole-house but we do not suspect the rather unusual man who reclined in a hammock beneath our quality accommodation and spent hours gazing into oblivion.

"Who am I?", his vacant eyes seemed to implore but I truly think his identity may have washed away with a coconut on the tide.

I got a nasty little burn on the second day. Cossack didn't do it on purpose, I hope, but as I stepped off the back of our hired scooter, he happened to align the very hot exhaust pipe with my left leg. When I heard from another tourist that a scooter-burn is also known as the "Rarotonga Tattoo", I sported it with pride. Pathetic, I know, but that is what I have been reduced to in middle-age.

Our first meal didn't exactly endear us to the local cuisine or standard of service. Worse still, it was me who insisted our group of friends go to that particular takeaway-heaven bang-smack on the waterfront. It was called "The Flying Fish", or something like that, and recommended to me by my friend, Hsirt. (I spell names backwards when I don't wish to embarrass someone in print)

But Trish, we forgive you because that evening provided us with so much to hoot about later. For instance, Dana's hamburger- bun was mouldy and thank goodness for torches, I say, because that is how she detected the problem in the dusk which was settling over our outdoor picnic table.

Dana politely pointed out the dubious blue-greenish spots to the young woman serving us who calmly took her plate away, replaced the bun but returned the meal minus a piece of fish which could well have flown onto another customer's plate, hence the name of the place.

Dana couldn't politely point out the missing fish because it wasn't there to point at, but she did mention that a piece of fish should be there where it wasn't. The helpful young woman took the plate away again and returned in due course with a substitute piece of fish which was happily consumed.

Cossack and I were ever so grateful to have got our fish'n chips right at the beginning of the evening when staff could still see customers. When darkness fell, it was definitely "out-of-sight-out-of-mind" and several of our group didn't get their meals at all. So, when we noticed that the shop was being shut up, they asked for a refund and got it very matter-of-factly, like this was just another part of their bewilderingly amazing service.

The hungry ones amongst us returned to their resort for a feed. Thank goodness I redeemed myself the very next day by dragging us all into the 'Salsa Cafe' which was lovely, clean and efficient. According to Barry, the seafood chowder was delicious and I savoured every sip of an excellent coffee while Coss slurped a fruit-smoothie up a straw.

It was hot over there but not unbearably so - in fact Cossack and I seldom used the ceiling fan at night but our friends next door had theirs whirring constantly, they told us. During the daytime we all got a delightful breeze in the face from zip-zapping everywhere on a scooter and not having to wear a helmet.

Our dear friend, Margaret Mary, got a car to use while in Rarotonga as she, for some reason, didn't fancy being the third person on one of our scooters. She refused to cling to our number-plate RAE 563 with her 75-year old legs flapping behind in the wind so her niece, Fern, kindly organised a rental-car.

It looked like a car -it was black and had wheels and one put petrol into it - but didn't behave like any car I have ever been in. Sure, Margaret Mary loved her new transport because, as the driver, her seat had some padding but when she took us for a joy-ride, our buttocks and the rest of us, bounced up to Pluto and back with every little bump we drove over.

Apparently there were no shock-absorbers and I can vouch for that because nothing in that car was able to absorb my shock and suspension levels.

The windscreen was cracked and any given window would either not wind up or refuse to wind down. Then, one night, this rent-a-dent, rust-to-bust, heaven-help-us vehicle chose to go on strike outside a nice restaurant at a resort.

I was about to pronounce it officially dead, kick it goodbye, and hitch-hike back to our accommodation in the dark but of course it spluttered back into life after some secret lever was discovered and tugged at.

One has to do a few touristy things when on holiday so naturally, we booked an Island night which consisted of a delicious meal - raw fish and sweet potato, papaya and all that - followed by utterly sensational dancing by troupes from several different Cook Islands. The colour and energy was incredible - it made even an unmusical soul like me want to dance or bang a drum or strum a ukelele but I didn't as I hadn't consumed an enormous Margarita cocktail like one woman at our table.

But, even during magical moments like that island-dancing, I was super-alert to all evidence of discrimination. Why, for instance, were our five bottoms plonked on plastic chairs while everyone else in the entire complex sat on beautiful woven-cane chairs? Just to prove we didn't care in the least, we laughed a lot.

Then there is the sad story of the $23 wooden-duck I purchased at a Rarotonga gift-shop for my mother. It was ever so lovely and Cossack had no right to roll his eyes upwards when I showed it to him later.

Of course, I declared my duck to customs like a good New Zealand citizen but how was my honesty rewarded? Yes, you guessed it - my duck got confiscated at Auckland airport despite my flashing a fumigation certificate under the customs man's nose.

"That certificate means nothing to us - look at these roots around the duck's middle here- I detect SOIL!", said the man and he poked mercilessly at my duck with a stick..

Cossack and I refused to pay $33 to have my duck chemically-treated but I must have looked tragic enough for the man to promise me he'd give her a fine farewell. All I could imagine was my duck being heartlessly roasted in a incinerator along with a mountain of other unwelcome flora and fauna.

But, on the way home in the car, we all talked about the good things that happened during our week away like snorkelling in a turquoise lagoon where colourful fish darted all around us and delighted our hearts.

And oh, flip-a-mouldy-burger! I forgot to mention Amanda and Lafoga's fabulous, and I mean FABULOUS, wedding which is the whole reason we went to Rarotonga, for goodness sake!

Next blog, OK?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Time-Zone of my very Own

I got my annual promotion today - please don't bother getting excited on my behalf - for my raise consists of two aluminium platforms which get strapped to the underside of my work-boots thereby making me about 15 cm taller.  These cumbersome contraptions will grace my feet for the next few weeks while I reach up high to squash the tips of the kiwifruit canes to prevent them becoming too long and unruly.

So, there I was thoroughly engrossed in my new task when my little transistor radio beep-beeped for the news and I flung myself free from my stilt-things and raced excitedly to the Smoko-room for a heavenly plunger-coffee and Toffee-pop.

But where is the boss? Where is John?  They are always here at 3pm on the dot. Feeling a bit lonely, I decide to evaluate my appearance from the head down just for something to kill all of 12 minutes. Someone has to take ruthless stock of my forlorn self occasionally and I'd much rather it was me so here goes:

Baseball cap on head.

Sunscreen on face, especially on my nose which my friend, Jenny pa-Lenny, once summed up like this:

"Bernadette's nose", she announced in this very Smoko room, "looks like it is moulded from wax but then she stood too close to a candle one day and the end of her nose melted and then hardened into its current downward drip-shape.  There is nothing at all she can do about it now".

So final and pessimistic a verdict. I was tempted to get all insecure about my nose but then I figured that's just a wasted emotion now that me and it are middle-aged and inseparable. It's not like I can divorce my nose, is it?

Speaking of marital matters, Cossack snipped his wedding-ring off his finger last Saturday night, right in front of dinner-guests, I'll have you know. He just suddenly grabbed a pair of side-cutters from the office and with a huge groan cut right through the ring!

He then waved that vandalised symbol of our eternal pledge of togetherness victoriously in the air like it was the most thrilling thing he'd ever done.

Ok, so maybe a bee did happen to sting Cossack that afternoon and yeah, maybe his finger did swell up to look exactly like a pregnant frankfurter but honestly, you'd think, would you not, that he could endure a bit of severe discomfort to keep his vows intact?

But no, it seems that I am still married to Cossack but Cossack is gloriously single.

Where is my boss? Where is John? Oh well, (slurp of coffee) let's carry on...

My upper half is wearing a black tee-shirt with a picture of two lizards on the front caught in a very romantic moment and the words say, "Ensuring continuation of the Species". When I purchased it at a Thrift Store, I didn't have my glasses on but never mind - I am all for conservation of  New Zealand's endangered species.

South of the tee-shirt are my washed-out black Levi jeans with drips of red paint from when I painted the pruning cuts last winter and the winter before.

And south of the Levi jeans are two pairs of socks on my feet - one Norsewear grey-flecked wool and an outer pair to protect the inner pair.

My brown leather-boots are outside the door obeying the strict rules.

Strange...still no boss and still no John. What has become of them? I sincerely hope they are not pinned beneath a tractor or attacked by a mutant kiwifruit vine that has wrapped itself around their necks... are they out there emitting blood-curling screams while I am absorbed in self -analysis of the most useless kind?

I exit the Smoko room only to be bombarded and almost toppled by a crazed cocker-spaniel who considers it her mission in life to excessively adore me.She leaps into my car and we return to the orchard with radio blaring.

"The time is..", says the announcer at the tail-end of  "Anchor Me" by the Muttonbirds...

...."16 minutes past two..."

I stare at the cocker-spaniel and she stares back at me.

"Oh, dear Lord", I say to the cocker-spaniel, "I was a whole hour too early for Smoko!"

I drive as unobstrusively as possible past the kiwifruit block where I suspect the boss might be working but he sees me and I swear there was that mystified look on his face, the look he often reserves just for me.

I groan for now the afternoon ahead is going to be longer than I had anticipated.

While I am re-attaching my stilts and the cocker-spaniel is running ecstatic circles around my ankles, the sky turns metallic blue-grey so I look up and see a spectacular rainbow stretch itself right across my world.

It was so very beautiful my heart was stunned.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

In Which Cossack Cannot Find His Cheese

One minute I had a heavenly job at the orchard sitting in a sun-drenched shed and leaping up out of my chair only to staple labels on the bins of kiwifruit that the tractor-drivers delivered to us during the most important ten days of the whole year - the harvest!

While the contract-gangs slogged away under the vines picking at a whirl-wind pace, I had more than enough time to record the number of bins coming in and make sure they were not under or over-filled. There was time to laugh with the cheeky fork-lift drivers, time to drink coffee and eat cream-filled doughnuts.

But all good things come to an end and the following week saw me up a high ladder pruning off terribly spikey bits of plum-tree that scratched our arms and mocked us often by remaining just out of reach of our long loppers.

While my knees bruised against the top ladder-rung I wondered whether I should laugh or cry. A compromise seemed appropriate so I smiled as I surveyed my plum-tree world from where a bird might generally perch itself.

I am fully aware that life dishes up both the good and the bad, the fun and the drudge, the tripe and the fudge, so no point grizzling, sister!

And, after all, it's all relative isn't it, because the Bangladeshi woman who sewed the sleeves into the tee-shirt I am wearing up the plum-tree would probably swim a huge ocean to have my life.

Speaking of good and bad, Cossack is both those things, He can be a responsible citizen one day, pacing up and down our country road picking up rubbish, and immoral the next. Oh sure, Coss had an explanation for growing tobacco that had nothing to do with smoking but it shows poor judgement from the pillar of society that he obviously isn't.

"One of my students gave me those seeds and I merely wish to conduct a little horticultural experiment", my spouse said and he must have done something right because the plants grew high and happy with huge leaves but pitiful flowers.

Well, a couple of months ago Cossack was about to chuck the ragged plants, his curiosity having been satisfied but curiosity had only just started smoking away in my head..

I rescued some leaves and pegged them to our washing-line in the shed to dry. Then, today, I borrowed a cigarette-paper from my mother and here in our kitchen I chopped up the tobacco and rolled my very own lop-sided, sad-looking cigarette.

I got the only mildly amused Cossack to light up for me and tried to look sophisticated, even when the cigarette just spluttered and died like I almost died with the terrible taste of doom and destruction.

In church the other day we all got handed these little 'Self-Denial' draw-string purses and the idea is to put the money into it over a three week period that you would otherwise have spent on something unnecessary in your life. You know, like takeaway coffees, chocolate, restaurant meals, videos, wine...

Immediately, I knew what Cossack should give up. Now that winter is here, he has started grilling thick slabs of cheese on toast almost every single night and that is just not good enough for a man with high cholesterol.

So, I've hidden our block of cheese over in my mother's fridge at her house.

I am honestly thinking of Cossack's well-being and the 'Self-Denial' fund but I do feel a tinge of nervousness about when he can't find the cheese for his favourite snack.

He might even holler.

He might demand to know what I am giving up? Am I giving up my mallow-puffs, he will ask? Am I giving up my $4.20 coffees? Or my roasted cashew nuts?

My reply will come swift and sure.

"Cossack, I am giving up two things forever, not just three weeks of cheese like some people. From this moment forth I am never again buying clothes in factories that exploit their workers and I have decided to quit smoking".

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Hollering Damsel in and out of a Kayak

Sometimes the people who claim to love you the most are the worst. Oh sure, their intentions for you might be ever so wonderful but how would you feel if you were say, a chihuahua, and you were accidentally thrown head-first into a fast-cycle in the washing machine?

Would you think, "Oh, this is a wonderful experience!" ?

No? Then read on and I hope I succeed in pressing your compassion button.

In the weeks prior to our little Sunday afternoon adventure, Robyn, whom I shall refer to non-affectionately from now on as Sister-Blister, kept saying, "No, Bern, I will NOT sell your ticket to someone else. How often do I get the opportunity to kayak down a river with my lovely sister?".

That traitor made it sound like she and I would be paddling together side by side down the Tongariro river, smiling at ducks and reflected trees and each other. Yes, pure sibling-love would have our oars and hearts synchronised with the very heart-beat of a perfect universe.

Cossack, the second traitor, gazed at me with genuine admiration for agreeing to go on this trip. Little did he know I only went because he promised we could stop on the way south at my favourite cafe in Taupo.  I didn't give the kayaking thing one second of my valuable brain-space.

The last but not least traitor was a man called Pete, a friend of Sister-Blister. He was a traitor simply by being the fourth person on this kayak trip.

The afternoon in Turangi started out in an acceptable manner, even when we were stuffed into wet-suits so tight my appendix, rib-cage and heart were crushed and squashed into the size of a hamburger-patty.

Cossack looked mighty sexy if he says so himself.

I felt reassured by the life-jacket and the helmet and our young muscular guide, Shannon, who grinned at my middle-aged trepidation but looked a decent sort who would save me if necessary.

Shannon then told us a few handy survival strategies to deal with falling out of our kayak.

I glared at Shannon, "What do you mean, falling out of our kayak?"

That possibility had not occurred to me.  Naive, maybe. Oh, how stupidly I had trusted these three kayaking companions and now this guide was in my bad-looks too. Nobody had thought to tell me that I may not always be in an upright position in my kayak.

"I hate you all", I said stabbing fingers at each wet-suited chest.

Shannon seemed to be summing me up. "Oh, Lord, this one is going to be a handful", is what I think the verdict was.

After some instruction in a serene pool I felt in control and the world was sweet - I was about to paddle right out of my comfort-zone but now wish I had remained well within it.

At the first rapid I nearly tipped out. Sheer terror gripped me and I forgot all my instructions.

In the second rapid, I tipped out, floundered, screamed, yelled and hollered. All the colourful episodes of my 55 years swirled and bubbled around my gasping body, and I promised God I would be a good girl if only I survived.

Oh, why didn't I study that 'Tongariro Kayak Blast'  brochure a bit better? I thought the word 'blast' meant fun but it actually was trying to warn me that I would be blasted beneath the water on three separate occasions with only one frantic hand above water clutching desperately, wildly, blindly for my kayak and paddle-thing, both of which would abandon me.

Whenever my furious face bobbed up now and then, by sheer luck rather than good management,  it seemed to yell a lot and must have looked so ugly. Ugly like a crazed gargoyle spouting forth geysers of Tongariro water and then spluttering like a dying porpoise.

So much for Shannon, our self-appointed Papa Duck, telling us baby ducklings to try staying in a straight line behind him. As we all dispersed in different directions, quite involuntarily I might add, and I was mysteriously turning in circles as well, I couldn't even see Papa Duck let alone follow him.

COSSA....", I called out but it looked like he needed saving too. "Oh no!", I was sobbing underwater, "I don't want to be a widow, Cossie....", but then he bobbed up again so I carried on being mad at him in my head.

The last rapid had me lose the plot, the boat, the paddle and my mind. A horrifying bend in the river had me fly out yet again and I was catapaulted along the boulder-bank crashing, bashing and splashing.

"HELL....!", I hollered to whoever cared but obviously noone did and I submerged mid-word.

"HELLLLLP!" This time I managed to complete the word but then I went under again, bobbed up, went down, bobbed up, went down...and all I saw was swirling white water, bubbles, boulders and the occasional glimpse of our guide's yellow kayak.

"MY BUTTOCKS HURT, SHANNON!", I hollered when I had the chance. They had been bombarded by boulders for turbulent metres of cruel terrain where of course I wasn't even meant to be.

Right cheek. Bash! Left cheek. Smash! Left cheek again. Bruise!

"I'll check your buttocks out tonight"", Cossack, the smart-ass, called out from somewhere.

"SAVE ME, SHAN...!", I hollered, disappeared, bobbed up and then he did.  He saved me!

"Grab on!", he calmly  insisted.

Frantically I fought to do so and when I grasped his inflatable rubber kayak I  blew kisses of sheer joy at my Papa Duck.

I heard Sister-Blister cry out, "Bern, Bern, are you ok?", in what sounded like a genuinely concerned voice.

"DO I LOOK OK?!" I retorted. "I happen to be half- dead AND traumatised!".

But I then couldn't stop laughing which made water spout from my nostrils.

I was alive.

As all five of us group-hugged later, I thanked Shannon, my Hero with a capital "H", for not making me feel ridiculous for my dramatics on an 8- kilometre Grade 2-3 kayak expedition.

And do you know what that adorable young man said?

"Bernadette", he said, "You have some of the most interesting facial expressions I've seen out there. See you next year when you come back for Grade 5"

I told Papa Duck to go get stuffed.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

First World Problems and a Gideon Bible

You would think, would you not, that someone like me who lives a quiet, rural and semi-pious life would anticipate a weekend in our vibrant capital city with huge excitement and, truth be told, my suitcase was packed nights before with a ridiculous amount of clothes which had Cossack eye-rolling because he only packs extra underpants and socks.

As you know, Wellington is very unpredictable - would it rain? would it sun? would it blow? would it shake? would it freeze?  Every scenario must be catered for, in my opinion, and that is why Cossack skipped and I staggered to the car for our long trip south.

Anyway, here we are now, safe and sound in a semi-decent hotel, but several issues have reared their bothersome heads and I just do not know how much sleep to lose over any or all of them.

List of my Hotel -Worries

1) I don't trust the Spy-Hole in our door.

So, I got Cossack to stand out in the corridor and knock on our door. (Room 508 - but no point visiting because by the time you read this we'll be gone ) I peeped through the spy-hole and saw nothing at all except for a grey smudge which didn't resemble my Cossack at all.

The male out there muttered some stuff in a vaguely familiar voice but it didn't contain the right password
( Lindt Chocolate) so I refused him entry.

"If that IS you, Coss", I called through the smudge, "Look through this spy-hole from your side and see if you can see me? Perhaps some sicko in this hotel has turned it around for voyeuristic purposes".

Phew! The man out there could see nothing either but the verdict is sobering.

We have one very useless spy-hole. When Cossack goes to see 'Gravity' in 3-D tonight at the cinema, I am here, alone and vulnerable. I will put the chain across the door and clutch my Gideon Bible all evening.

2) There is only one Coffee-Mug.

There is only one coffee-mug for two of us so it became multi-purpose and, at various times, contained my coffee, tea, muesli and Cossack's toothpaste -water, but not simultaneously.

Should I ring reception and advise them that Room 508 contains only one mug and it isn't me?

3) High-Pressured Shower

The shower was fantastic with enough pressure to almost blast me down the plug-hole but one could not detach the shower-head from the wall so, because I did not want to wash my hair on the first night, I had to arch my head backwards in a most uncomfortable manner.

My concern is - will I ever be content again with our under-pressured shower at home where washing one's shoulder can take up to a week?

4) What Sign to hang on our door???

Before retiring for the night I agonised over which sign to hang on the outside of our door for the staff in the morning.

Should I put up, "Yes please, I would like a newspaper"?

After lengthy consideration, we decided we didn't. ( a mug would be nice though)

Should I put up, "Privacy Requested"?

Maybe, even though that might have the cleaner smirking out there while Cossack and I would actually be innocently sampling all the herbal teas out of one mug while flicking through the room-service menu to decide what we would order for breakfast if only we were richer.

In the end I opted for the sign which said, "We choose not to have our room serviced today", thereby forfeiting the luxury of fresh towels and sheets. The sign said we would be helping the environment so that was noble of us, I thought, except we didn't realise that by not getting our room serviced we also missed out on replacement teabags and coffee sachets.

Next morning, by sheer luck, the trolley that collects dirty laundry and replenishes supplies was right near the lift as we waited to go to the ground-floor so I gazed up at the ceiling to see if I was being filmed by a security-camera but no, all seemed safe, and I grabbed a handful of loot.

In my haste, however, I ended up with four shower-caps, one conditioner, no tea and only two coffees before the lift whisked us downstairs.

My heart is still palpitating and I wonder if my conscience is slightly over-active?

Now, I know there was a reason Cossack and I came to Wellington but it's escaped me. Um...hopefully I will know next time I blog.

Over and out.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Just Another Day in the Life of Me

With one ear full of ear-drops I walk with tilted head to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and almost knock myself out on the door-frame.

"Aha!", I think, "Today is going to be wonderful because look at how well it started".

I go to work and am required to drive the "Power-Pony", this mini-tractor-thing that pulls a trailer that carries eight crates to be filled with the oranges that we pick.

"No way!" I say, "I have never driven that thing and don't intend learning now".

'Get up", says the boss, "and I'll show you what to do". He patted the tractor seat like it was my friend. "Come on. Up you get!".

Hmmmfffff. Up I got.

Turn this key and press that. Push this lever down while letting that go slowly. And oh, don't get stuck in a ditch or go down the wrong row or you will have to take all the crates off and detach the trailer before reversing out and then put the trailer back on...

I made some awful, clunky, grinding sounds but then, to my amazement, zoomed off down the driveway like I was born on a tractor. I wave a royal wave to my boss's wife who hides behind the clothes line. Why is she looking so nervous?

She looked nervous yesterday too after she asked me to weed her very overgrown vegetable garden. I attacked it with this huge hoe-thing, swinging it up and down, back and forth, with huge velocity and brute force.

Some people would have been delighted at my rapid progress but not her. After only ten minutes she muttered, "Good Lord, Bernadette! Go back to the oranges now, please. No offence but I'll do this by myself."

Apparently I had demolished her baby carrots and dislocated some broad-bean plants.

I am now a professional orange-picker. The fruit is huge and our buckets fill up in no time and then the crates fill up and the trailer fills up and Bernadette drives the tractor back to the shed, proud as a peacock at having conquered yet another phobia. Only 43 to go!

With my little spindly arms, I manage to off-load the crates, then help Milly wash and grade the oranges by size and quality.

Grading becomes an automatic process after a while and we are able to fling oranges in this bin, that bin or the one over there while discussing how on earth Dynamo walked on water or why did those surgeons in China attach a nose to that man's forehead?

"You are a good grader now", Milly said. "When you first started here months ago, I said to Piet that night, "Oh, my God, what have we employed? She's not exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, is she?"

"But", she went on to say, "You have got a lot faster, Bern. A lot faster".

I chose to take that as a compliment.  When a statement about your abilities could be perceived in a number of ways, it's kindest on your ego to always choose the most flattering possibility. Besides, it is sometimes a cunning idea to make a terrible first impression and then you can only go on to pleasantly surprise people thereafter.

Oh, I am doing some clipping and tying up of kiwifruit vines too. After hours of doing that, I had to wrap blue-tape around my thumbs and index fingers because they hurt. Also, because my hands are up in the air all the time it looks like I am walking along the row doing 'Praise-the-Lord' actions but in actual fact it is just another of those chores that those of us who failed Rocket-Science 101 are stuck with.

Que sera sera.