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.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sounds of Silence


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.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Horizontal Thai - Boxing

As you all know, Cossack snores now and then. You know this because a previous blog explained to you in totally unnecessary detail how my sleep-life is adversely impacted by his nocturnal chain-sawing.

You would think then, would you not, that revenge in the form of a swift kick now and then should be sweet? Alas no, in my case it isn’t because I suffer just as much as he does.

You see, over the last few years I have developed ‘Restless Leg Syndrome’, which causes an infuriating need to jiggle and wiggle my legs when they are stretched out in bed in the evening. Sometimes I have to kick out very hard indeed because the twitchy sensation is so bad.

Of course this limb-lashing can sorely test a bed-mate’s unconditional acceptance of you, literally and figuratively.

Picture this – one minute I am laying there quiet as a dead grasshopper and next minute I am kicking like a horizontal Thai-boxer. Blankets and duvet get violently dislodged and Cossack’s laptop computer at which he is quietly working while sitting up in our bed, is suddenly hurtled sideways as if by a massive earthquake from the bowels of the mattress.

“YOU MAD HORSE!!!”, he cries out.

I know it is just Cossack’s inner and outer pain momentarily speaking for he really does understand I have a special condition to contend with. He actually thinks I have had many special conditions over the years but I remind him that he was personally responsible for a couple of them - take my pregnancies for instance.

Apparently ‘Restless Leg Syndrome’ can be somewhat alleviated by consuming three Brazil-nuts a day. It hasn’t worked as yet but my Portuguese has improved dramatically.

“Cossaco! Por favor, pare de nevar!”

Oops! That means, “Cossack, please stop snowing” – One letter can make so much difference on Google-Translate, can it not?

OK, so I am effluent at Portuguese but I am a very accomplished mandarin – snipper and so I should be after two months of snipping each and every mandarin from hundreds of trees with little secateurs so that no stalk remains to stab the other fruit in the crates.

When I first started at this orchard you could barely see the glossy green foliage, so laden were the trees, but we have almost finished taking off that brilliantly orange sea of fruit.

Sometimes I work on the same tree opposite the vivacious Lupin Crawford and we talk our heads off like there is no tomorrow because amazing women like us can exchange mandarins and snip words simultaneously without our brains getting addled.

Other times I work with the deaf and silent Barry and that is good in a different way because I can either listen to my radio or slip into one of the many colourful worlds that insist on residing in my head.

But where on earth was I when I snipped my thumb instead of a mandarin-stalk? Who knows, but it hurt! How the blood spurted as I ran up the hill to the boss’s house, not screaming, but waving my injured thumb high up in the air as martyrishly as possible.

You should have seen me trying to apply plasters to my own thumb but I clumsily managed and as I skipped back to work I thought how wonderful it was that I didn’t cut off my whole hand or my nose or my ear, just to spite my face.

Anyway, back here at home, Cossack is fast asleep and his nostrils are revving up…

Time to kick…kick…kick….

End of snorey.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Get Thee to a Nunnery!

I wasn't quite sure what expression I should have on my face when I entered the Tyburn Monastery to embark on a bit of silent contemplation but decided that demure might be appropriate so I practised that look in front of the mirror for several days beforehand and also ate my meals in utter silence with downcast eyes. Cossack loved my nun-rehearsals because they gave his ears a real nice holiday.

Never in my wildest dreams or even in my tamest ones did I ever think I would end up in a monastery with real nuns. Never before have I considered renouncing all worldliness including cappuccinos, cherry-liqueur chocolates, movies and idle chit-chat.

Sister Bernadette is what I prefer to be called now, thank you very much, and I texted Cossack after only an hour at Tyburn to inform him that I was becoming a nun. I waited a few minutes for the shock-factor to subside then sent a second text to advise him that, because he and I have well and truly finished having children, we will have to go totally celebrate ( can't remember the exact word ) from now on.

Apparently I don't get the full nun-attire until I've passed the postulant and novice stages and, of course, there is an enormous chance I get expelled before then because there are some good behaviour clauses to be very afraid of.

My spirituality was only briefly diverted to more commercial matters when I found myself in the little nun-shop. Let me re-phrase that in case you think one can purchase little nuns there because you can't. There is however an intriguing array of goods for sale like miraculous medallions, rose-scented soaps, lavender lotions, quince jam and the coolest postcards ever of a nun swinging a big bell. I got eleven of those.

There was no eftpos machine or nun there so I had to count out all my coins on this little table and put the correct money into a wooden box. I accidentally left my purse there and my dear friend, Sister Minette, noticed it about an hour later, silently pointed it out to me and nothing was missing from it at all so she and the nuns are very honest people which is reassuring...

Did I tell you about the chapel? No? Well, out of curiousity I tip-toed in as quiet as a monastery-mouse, sat there in a carved wooden pew and was captivated by the sweet singing of scripture from the nuns in a little alcove around from the main altar. I thought they might be lip-synching at first but I studied them intently and their mouths moved in perfect unison to the words so they are the real deal.

The heavenly scent of candles wafted all around me and I felt transported  to a world much nicer than the one I generally inhabit.

The nuns around this place float around silently and gracefully doing their chores. They radiate serenity and kindness which sounds so mushy but I swear they do. Even the doves and quails here seem extra tranquil like they know the rules but they do not have to wear veils and robes. All the birds fly around naked, except for their feathers of course, just like they would in your garden or mine.

The focal point of the property is a large white cross perched on top of a small hill from where you can't help but marvel at the glorious view over a small sparkling lake and rolling green paddocks. It is easy at Tyburn, even for a pogo-stick like myself, to slow down, contemplate my Creator and give him a chance to say something to me while my mouth is shut for a while.

It is a little odd walking past my friends in the corridor and not talking or, harder still, sitting there at meal-times excruciatingly aware of every scrape of my knife or clunk of my spoon or gulp of my throat or beat of my heart. The other seven women on this retreat seem so composed whereas every little distraction ruffles me so I try to think of sad and serious things like amputation of legs and seagulls choking on plastic. That way I feel less inclined to laugh nervously.

Speaking of laughter, my preconceptions about nuns being a bit staid and pious were shattered by the vivacious Sister Serah whose humour took flight at the end of our compulsory silence and had us in stitches. Well, thought I, if someone like her can become a nun then why not me?  True, the Pope doesn't know me from a bar of soap but I'm assuming he flies wannabe nuns over to Rome for an interview? I'd love that.

One little incident during the retreat unnerved me a bit. After 20 whole hours of silence I longed to be noticed by my dear friend, Sister Minette,  in whose company I am usually such a chatterbox. She was in the kitchen and doing an amazingly good job of ignoring me when I walked past the window outside and pressed my nose very hard against the glass so I looked like a pug-dog.

If she smiled it was hard to detect and then, would you believe, at my very ugliest moment, the fire- alarm went off and a calm but firm pre-recorded voice asked us to "PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING...PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING... PLEASE EVAC..." and so forth.

Two friends staggered into the lounge in their pyjamas as well as a fully-robed nun who calmly assessed the situation after looking at the wood-burner and then at all of us. Oh the guilt that consumed me - was my flattened nose a give-away? Could this lovely nun sense that my flippancy had triggered the alarm?

Well, thank you God, the culprit wasn't me but eight pretty little tea-candles alight in a circle on the coffee-table. That overly-sensitive smoke-alarm needs some counselling!

Anyhow, I've decided not to become a nun after all because I didn't realise that I would have to give up Cossack - I thought that maybe, as I got married to him before deciding to take my nun-vows, that I could have him tucked away down the corridor - in a separate room of course - but I was told that isn't how it works at all.

Apparently, one cannot always have the best of both worlds so goodbye, Tyburn! I will stay longer next time for you are a gem of a place.

"COSSACK!!! I'm back! Put on the jug! Let's have coffee and sorry, but a lot of pent-up words are about to tumble forth...Bear with! Bear with!"...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Digging the Dirt

I was duped into a job way worse than white-washing a fence by someone way more cunning than Tom Sawyer. Yes, Spike, I am referring to you. This is how you sold it to me over the phone- true or true?

"Bernadette, do you want to work with us again for a couple of days? Remember last time? Bern, think Sally-Lunns and real coffee. Bern, think lots of laughs and the perfect comradery you have with the totally irresistible Spikey and Wolfey"

"Oh, and what precisely is involved, Spikey?", I asked suspiciously.

"Bernadette, we are on our hands and knees digging in the dirt - yeah, sounds bad, I know, but it isn't. It's easy - we just scoop out all the dead leaves and loose soil from around the roots of Tim's kiwifruit plants - only the diseased ones so the roots get sunlight. Say yes, you know you will love it!"

Of course I was riddled with doubts when I said, "Yeah, OK Spike".

By morning smoko at the Tauriko orchard the awful truth was totally apparent but I was geographically stranded many miles from home and it was obvious that Spike and Wolf didn't even mind their crippled up knees and backs if my body underwent the same fate. Sure, the coffee was amazing once we had staggered back to the shed for it. Sure, our team-work was incredible but my last jungle-bashing job was a picnic compared to this.

"Mmmm....Who do I dislike more right now? You, Spike?" and I poked an angry finger at him, "Or you, Wolf?" and turned on him.

They just grinned and washed down big slabs of Sally Lunn with coffee.

The rows seemed endless.

"Do I come back tomorrow?", I asked the dirt as I flung handfuls of it behind me faster than a fox-terrier after savaging a steroid-spiked bone. "Don't be stupid!", it replied.

Stupidly, I turned up next day because the job needed doing and, to be honest, when I work with Wolf and Spike I do indeed get to laugh so much that I almost topple into a hole of my own digging.

Mercifully the job finished at 4pm, just when we thought we could carry on no longer.

So, apart from earning a few dollars what did two days of grubbing and poking and soil-flinging do for me?

Well, for another two days I hobbled like the Hunchback of Notre-Dumb but an insight did manage to weave itself into the flabbergasting fabric that is my cerebral-gortex.

Here it is. When you or I are plagued by faulty thinking that makes our spirits want to wither up and die, we need light to shine into the very root of the problem for nothing is achieved by a cosmetic touch-up.

And, if we can't dig away the dirt from our own toxic thinking because we lack the necessary tools, get someone to dig with you so you survive.

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, 6 March 2013

Twigs In my Cleavage

When I undressed for my shower yesterday after work about a hundred and two tiny twigs fell out of my bra onto the bathroom floor, probably because I wore a wider-necked tee-shirt at work that invited all this unwanted debris to drop into my cleavage as I chopped out the jungle-vines above my head.

I always feel so much better once clean and love my bed when tired.

At 5.30am my alarm sounded sick and faint because the batteries are running flat. I only just heard the pathetic beep-beep-beep but luckily didn't need to get up yet. You see, I deliberately set my alarm-clock stupidly early so I can roll over, press the alarm button off  and reset it for an hour later.

"Shut up, Clock!", I say "Just shut up!", and then sink back into a satisfying sleep. It is a sad state of affairs perhaps that such a child-like game is a high-light in my day.

The Shropshires stampeded me as soon as I got to the orchard and one of them was particularly annoying. That moronic sheep dived between my legs to get at some kiwifruit leaves I had just lopped causing me to end up on a very short and undignified rodeo-ride!  After just seconds I swung one leg off but toppled sideways and grazed my legs.

At times like this I thank the Lord profusely that no-one is around to capture me on video and put me on 'Youtube'. Seriously, all I needed was a cowboy hat to complete a truly ridiculous spectacle of myself.

Speaking of spectacles, my $2 reading-glasses are strung around my neck on a thin cord as I need them to see close-up canes every few minutes. What frequently happens of course is that the cord gets entangled in a   piece of jungle and my throat gets a severe jolt.

I am a walking comedy but not everyone perceives it as such.

"Look at your legs!" said my mother aghast when I went over for a cup of tea after work. "You look like a rugby player!"

See ya!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

From Shropshire to Shakespeare

I am now attacking the unruly male kiwifruit plants on the 'Orchard of Luxuriant Growth' as they have become a dense canopy of old, hard and horribly tangled vines.

Strangely enough, I enjoy a physical challenge like this in small doses and hack away with my loppers like a frenzied serial-killer on the loose. Beads of sweat fly from my forehead and I leave a thick carpet of dead canes behind me along with some fresh foliage felled from way up near the sky and that is what the sheep pounce on and devour.

Those Shropshires just don't understand the rule of giving a woman some space and that is how I came to almost kill one of them.

There I was a sweatin' and a sloggin' and about to say a string of bad words because a whole curtain of old vines refused to tumble to the ground, held in place by numerous stubborn tendrils.

In the end I whacked the top of the vines with my loppers and finally managed to dislodge them from the wires. Down crashed the vegetation.

How was I to know that a Shropshire was underneath my carpet of fallen vines and that I had donged the poor animal on the head?

He emerged from the debris looking stunned and dazed.  I stared at him in horror and checked for blood or signs of concussion.

"I am soooo sorry!", I groaned and went to cuddle him but the Shropshire jolted back from me as if I were an electric-fence, then continued to look vacant. I asked him a few questions like name, address and occupation which I learned to do at a First Aid course to ascertain if someone is concussed.

The stunned animal knew nothing, nothing at all, but just stared at me like I was a monster which I most definitely am not because guilt consumed every fibre of my being.

Does one administer CPR to a sheep, I wondered? The thought was nauseating. Do I take its pulse or just shoot it dead?  What on earth was I going to tell my boss?

"Shroppy", I said in my sweetest voice, "If you come to your senses I'll give you a Bobby-Banana".

Next minute the dazed sheep was contentedly grazing again and I was so relieved but suspicious too for how did he manage to recover so rapidly after I resorted to bribery?

I like a bit of culture in my leisure time and Cossack is equally enthralled by DVDs like 'Bleak House', 'The Life of Pi', 'Les Miserables' or  'Little House on the Prairie' with Danish sub-titles. Occasionally he expresses his appreciation by shutting his eyes and lolling his head sideways with mouth ajar with the sheer bliss of it all.

That's how I knew Cossack was ready for the Bard himself so I invited him to an outdoor performance of 'Twelfth Night' with a group of our friends at the Riverbank Ampitheatre.  I looked forward to being his literary mentor, patiently explaining  things to his bamboozled brain once the Shakespearean language started to flow.

But I didn't count on Cossack having swotted up on a googled synopsis of 'Twelfth Night' before we went to the play. Smartie-pants knew everything so when I lost the plot yet again I swallowed my pride and asked:

"Um. Coss, that man over there with the blonde ponytail - that's a woman, right?
"Yip, Bern, that is Viola slash Cesario"
"And that man over there with the blonde ponytail - that is a man?"
"Yes, Bern, that is Sebastion, Viola's twin".
" So they're identical twins, Coss?"

Cossack gronned ( a word I concocted to combine 'groan' and 'grin' when they occur simultaneously) and seemed to be scanning my head for a ponytail that just might happen to be blonde.

Such a lovely night - good friends silhouetted all around me as the sun went down and Cossack asleep on the way home after the exertions of being a cultural mega-star.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Abdul Doesn't Reply

I can't believe I'm back with the Shropshire sheep with their evil marble-eyes. They follow me around the orchard like I'm a pied-piper and devour the small, hard and horrible kiwifruit I fling to the ground in this process called thinning which definitely does not require a university degree or even a diploma.

This is how my day went:

I got out of bed and organised chilly-bin, thermos, coffee, sandwiches, two bobby-bananas and three 'Tim Tam' biscuits for my lunch and snacks.

Then I got dressed in my scruffiest clothes and baseball cap.

Then I put sunscreen on my face, neck and arms.

Then I ate muesli and yoghurt.

Then I went to the orchard and opened the gate and closed the gate and worked for a few hours and then sat on my camel for a rest. My camel is an old antique foot-stool with a leather cushion from Egypt but its head wobbled off years ago and is somewhere in our shed staring at nothing in particular - certainly not pyramids.

Then I pondered on my life and came to the conclusion that this decapitated camel I sit astride on while sipping a 'Moccona' under the vines may well be the nearest I will get to exotic for some time to come.

"Abdul", I asked, "Do you believe that I can reach for higher stars?"

 My camel didn't reply, probably because his ears are on his head and his head is in the shed.

I poked my tongue out at a newly-shorn Shropshire who just stared at me like I had no right to ask lofty questions.

Then I got back to thinning, thinning, thinning... and wondering where another talent may be hiding and would it be flamboyant or significant enough to nurture should I stumble upon it?

Then I sat on Abdul again for another coffee and felt sheer contentment in my here and now.

I then (see, I do variety!) tossed Abdul upside down into the back-seat of the car, four wooden legs stuck up like he's dead and I suppose he is.  Most of us need a head to be alive.

Then I got back to work and listened to my radio while thinning, thinning, thinning...

Then I opened the gate and closed the gate and drove home.

Then I sat on our back porch and spent ten minutes pulling all the grass-seeds from my socks before putting them to soak in a bucket. The evening was beautiful and some of my sunflowers are about to open - maybe tomorrow.

Cossack was at the outside tap washing out his brushes after a day of painting one side of our little house.

"Coss! I like thinning!", I announced when he came in to fry the steaks while I arranged salad on our plates and drank half a cool berry-cider.

"It's so peaceful out there, Coss, and the pine-tree shelter-belts have been trimmed and the orchard has this beautiful smell - just like the Christmas trees our family had when I was a kid."