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 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.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sounds of Silence

Good evening Bernadette

Allow me to shine a light on your thoughts as I peer over your shoulder and read what you are tap-tapping into that keyboard there. Perhaps I should mind my own business but I rather like analysing what people in this room read and write. Heaven knows I have nothing better to do.

Besides, I cannot switch myself on and off at a whim.

So, here you are at yet another silent retreat looking very much the part - contemplative and determined - but I agree with that very self-aware sentence you just wrote about how no reputable nunnery would take you on.

I have been here at Titoki Retreat Centre for about three years now (my predecessor burned out)  and have effortlessly managed silence the whole time. You, on the other hand, just texted your daughter to inform her of your incredible spiritual progress after only two and a half hours. Words fail me as they are supposed to. you are writing about all those years you worked at the Cafe.  Hang on, I will wait until you finish that sentence...turn the laptop a bit more this way...thanks...aha...insightful...that's good, Bernadette, very good...

You just admitted that for eight years you had more bubble and froth than a cappachino! More bounce than a beach-ball! More smile than a Cheshire cat!

But there was a price to pay. Each evening you were a wrung-out dish-rag from the sheer effort of being nice to customers all day.

You're on a roll now, Bernadette. One light-bulb moment after another! ( I love light-bulbs, by the way ) You've just concluded that nobody should invest so much energy in others while neglecting their own needs and that the best thing you did was quit your cafe job very abruptly one day.

In hindsight you even thank the boss who made your life difficult, for the very next day you stumbled into a new job where silence awaited you under the kiwifruit vines.

Oh, so at first you didn't cope very well? Silence was too silent for you, was it Bernadette?  You listened all day to that little transistor radio in your pocket and felt lost and desperate if you left it at home? Peace was there for the taking but you opted for a bombardment of music and current affairs?  Uncomfortable with something, were we?

Hurry up and finish that sentence...oh, you got tired of being the hokey-pokey of jokey-jokey...and you've been consciously re-claiming your quota of silence ever since...

So, I guess you really do mean business here at Titoki, Bernadette. The last three people who slept in this room couldn't resist peeking at Facebook but you have not been tempted ...yet...well done.

What!!! Unbelievable! Here am I, so impressed by your spirituality one minute and then the dinner-gong clangs and you're stampeding down the corridor like your pants are on fire.

Unbelievable, switching me off like that! Bernadette, there is way too much power in your hands but no doubt I'll see you later.

Over and very out,

Your bedside light.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

An overly-familiar Shropshire forced me to eat lunch in the car today. When he lunged at my ciabatta bread-roll (it had peanut-butter and squished banana in it), I fled from under the vines to the passenger's seat of my car and wound the window right up.

While the sheep snorted miffed nostrils against the glass I grinned back, munched on black jelly-beans and contemplated the life-lessons I learned in the last seven weeks while I sawed and lopped and tugged at those three rows of shockingly entangled kiwifruit vines. My leather gloves fell to bits, my arms ached, my legs bruised, my forehead perspired and an inner-voice often taunted me with, 'Dummkopf!'.

Yes, there were times I almost gave up the mammoth task.

But when the last cane fell and sunlight danced where darkness had reigned for so long, well, what an incredible sense of achievement!

So, while imprisoned in my own vehicle, here are the principles I came up with:

1)  When life is just a long dark tunnel of tangled-up problems even the tiniest determined action to improve things lets in a tiny pinpoint of light.

2)  When enough tiny pinpoints of light gather together they become a sunny patch.

3) When enough sunny patches merge we dare to hope.

4) When we feel hope the necessary energy seems to well up within and we find ourselves chopping away with increased gusto!

5) Even if there is still plenty of problem to tackle, glance back now and then to enjoy how far you've come.

6) At a certain stage we do indeed see the light at the end of the dark tunnel so be sure to pay yourself a compliment or three about how determined and resilient and amazing you are.

7) If the going gets tough and your progress seems pathetically slow ask a friend to remind you how determined and resilient and amazing you are.

8) Be sure to do the same for them when they struggle with something. Only the dead are burden-free.

9) Take breaks when fatigue strikes and make mini-celebrations of them whether your coffee  is poured from  an old thermos flask or dripped from the finest Italian espresso-machine.  Both brews are beautiful if you decide they are.

10) Mission accomplished? Rejoice! Sure, another wilderness will challenge you again one day but is there any harm in being happy and relieved in the meantime?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tangelos and Tears 11-11-11

For several months I have wondered what today - the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 2011 - might bring. Would a mini-asteroid hurtle itself right between my eyeballs in some kind of cosmic baseball game or profound words appear written in the sky at exactly 11 minutes past 11am?  Neither happened.

When all those number ones lined themselves up so obediently in a row, we were busy picking tangelos, standing on wooden-benches to get at the higher ones. My senses were bombarded by nature's loveliness. The fruit glowed brilliant orange against a bright blue sky and zillions of pretty white blossoms filled the air with a heavenly scent. As I reached up to snip each tangelo my face was warmed by the sun that shone gently through the branches.

When I got thirsty all I had to do was pierce a large ripe tangelo and squeeze the sweet juice straight into my mouth. It trickled down my face and arms and I was a grubby little toddler for whom life is simple and good.

But life isn't always simple and good. Sometimes it is confusing and unfair.

This afternoon the same gentle sun shone down on a group of us as we gathered at the cemetery to farewell a baby in a tiny white coffin all covered in yellow flowers. He had never even taken a breath or cried or gurgled in delight because he was still-born last monday.

There is something so wrong in this scenario where a baby, so eagerly awaited, is lowered into a hole in the ground as we all shed tears and wonder why. I watch as the mother and father toss rose-petals over their son and then step softly and sadly aside to let the rest of us do the same.

Back in 2009, Kristen insisted that our family go to the Simon and Garfunkel concert to be held in Auckland because, as she correctly pointed out, "They are incredible and they might never ever perform together again". She was a poor university student at the time so, of course, the idea was that Cossack and I pay for the very expensive tickets which would provide an evening so special and beautiful that our family would be bound by the memories thereof  for ever and ever, Amen.

Those of you who were at that wonderful concert on the 13th June at the Vector Arena will remember that during, "Bridge over Troubled Water", the sound system mucked up leaving just the stage sound and a confused-looking Simon and Garfunkel.   The crowd took over and sung the words until the sound came back on.

"That was the nicest thing an audience has ever done for us", remarked Garfunkel.

And tonight, by beautiful planning on the part of Radio New Zealand, they played a 1969 Simon and Garfunkel concert at 11pm while I sit here tapping out this blog on 11/11/2011.

"Feeling Groovy" was followed by "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "Homeward Bound" and the others that stir up our souls.

When you're weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, let us carry you through. And after however long it takes, we can one day get back to kickin' down the cobble-stones, feeling loved and feeling groovy.

Rest in God's peace, Ethan.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

In Which Loppers Hack at my Mid-Life Crisis

Armed with a make-belief sense of menopausal power and a large pair of loppers I have been pruning kiwifruit vines over the last couple of months and, with each cane that I flung to the ground, came the intense satisfaction that comes from seeing order emerge out of chaos. Neatness from a tangle. Sweetness from a wrangle. Each particularly difficult hunk of wood that I lopped and then had the pleasure of kicking into the middle of the row for mulching came to symbolize my last boss whose  sarcastic words and withering glances caused me to quit a job I really liked. 

I departed that cafe job there and then before my ego could be minced any more  like flour, eggs and spinach in a pasta machine and then boiled of course. So, with head held high and any would-be-runaway-emotions tightly corseted to my chest I calmly but fearfully walked out.

My grin started out in the car-park and got as wide as  a banana while I contemplated my freedom.  I have a life to live. Things to do. Sensational moments to stumble upon. 

It wasn’t until I got home that I doubted that very much. "So much for your  magnificent bravado today, Bernadette!", I sighed to myself. "You have cast yourself upon the rubble heap of unemployment.  You are a middle-aged, impulsive and incredibly stupid woman".  I was about to thump my forehead several times in succession against a very hard wall when the phone rang. 

Thank God for our orchardist friend who said, "See you at 8 am, Bern, and not a minute later". He didn't ask. He instructed. He had obviously heard about my self-inflicted predicament and felt either sympathy or intense amusement.

And so I turned up next day at 7.46am looking like a scarecrow in clothes so old that even the Op Shop where they came from once upon a time would never consider taking back.

I threw my peanut butter-sandwiches and banana into the Smoko Room and thus began the new chapter of manual labour mentioned above.  And if it has proved to be a little harsh on my scrawny body, it has also been a little bit good for my soul that thirsted like crazy for a breath of fresh air.