Showing posts from 2010

button necklace

Most taxing, this holiday lark. I began today with the button necklace project. I had thought a fish buttons necklace would be wonderful as below, but abandoned it when I saw how tricky it was to get them all facing the right way.

The completed necklace below, is all blue buttons. I remember when R's mum and I were pregnant and planning our home births and now R is four tomorrow. May the sun shine on you always, R, and especially tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the day gardening and bossing my children around. No. They bossed me around and we all argued until it was time to go see our friends and have tea with them and then we were all very well behaved. Something like that. I weeded around the spuds and strawberries and FH and I discussed changing the garden around completely. We could of course do it with very little effort, by buying these kitset gardens, but look at the prices!! When you factor in buying the soil on top, that is a lot of vegetables to grow to pay the inv…

On chocolate goo & timing

I have learned today, on the anniversary of a day of joy (at my gorgeous son in my arms) and dismay (on being inside the dispiriting hell of an NHS London hospital), that it is not a good idea to make a birthday cake from a new recipe barely more than an hour before the boy and his friends come home from the movie and McDs.

Not a good idea at all. The recipe looked fantastic, and was written and endorsed by no less than Elizabeth David (I'm slightly in love with her after reading her biography by Artemis Cooper) and Joanna Cary who is my favourite UK foodie blogger. But I put it in a loaf tin and forgot that in my experience, no matter what the recipe says, eggy concoctions such as this should be spread low and wide, not deep. It all fell apart when I removed it from the tin, and goo oozed out. Very nice tasting goo I might add, but not the kind you can ice and put candles on and cut up for eight year olds.

So when they came back, FH encouraged them out the back to play while I …

Blowing in the wind

My artichokes in blown disarray. I notice that already new shoots are growing at the base. I plan to harvest all the flower heads tomorrow then chop back the branches and let the new baby shoots become the main plants for next year.
I have no shortage of herbs, but given their vigour, I have a shortage of path to walk on beside them.
Ah, compost success. This is the old compost plot, where I was concerned at the absence of worms before I went away. But tonight I turned it over with the fork and there is a wonderful abundance of red worms. I have it earmarked for the chook grave garden where the calendulas and alyssum and dill are bedraggled and past their prime.
This wind has blown over the garlic, which I cannot remember happening before. I probably should harvest the bent garlic as soon as the sun shines. The kale on the right has grey aphids. I am grateful for any suggestions on how to deal with this. We had it two years ago and it rendered the leaves quite yucky and not wort…

Back in Wetville

I admired the vegetable gardens and orchards at Kemp House and the Stone Store in Kerikeri and at Pompallier House in Russell. I ate local red peppers and we all admired the views at Pagoda Lodge where we camped. We spent time at the marae and the Treaty House at Waitangi and walked part way to Haruru Falls. It was all superb and I recommend it.

In Auckland we had a marvellous time. It became apparent rather quickly that we could not all see and do and visit everything and everyone we dreamed of. We stayed with family in Albany Heights which was lovely so long as you didn't go near the soulless hell which is the Albany Mega Centre. We spent a lot of time on the motorway it seemed, but also managed to enjoy lots of friend and family visits and time at the zoo and Kelly Tarlton's. My favourite place of the Auckland trip was picnicking at Bastion Point.

Christmas itself started most pleasantly. It ended with a nightmarish event of present giving, not so much a ritual as a …

links love laundry

I'm not packed. The laundry mountain is reducing though, and slivers of couch cushions can now be seen. The celery and the passionfruit and the rocket seed and the basil went into the garden today.

Some things to read or listen to in the absence of my wittering:
1. An interview with the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, youngest of the Mitford girls. She is fantastic, with dry observations which I loved. Radio Four has been a wonderful salvation at times recently when I have felt like some radio but definitely not the wall-to-wall Pike River coverage which continues on New Zealand media.

2. The 31st Down Under Feminist Carnival. Self explanatory. I'm only part way through, but it's good.

3. Life on the latte line. Megan is also a coaster, one of the first people I met when we moved to Wetville. She is a talented mother, crafter, writer, teacher and all round fun person and I am thrilled that she has started blogging.

I better go back to the laundry pile... Thank you to al…

How to sandbag a community?

Today Lou would have been 92. Lou grew up down the road from where we live in a little rental cottage. A child of the depression, he started school at six and finished just at the end of primary school. His father was out of work for some of the 1930s and they were adept catchers and eaters of rabbits. In World War Two Lou was captured in Greece and spent several years as a prisoner of war. The nightmares of what he had experienced never left him and became particularly menacing in his later years.

Lou came back to Greymouth after the war a changed man, the cliche which is only a cliche because no one was lucky enough to come back unscathed. He married a lovely young woman called Mary, the daughter of a sawmiller father and a strict Methodist mother. Mary is also my Dad's cousin.

Mary and Lou made a new life, a life which they wanted and which the country desperately wanted. The sorrow was not over - they buried their first child only five days after he was born. Only, Mary…


I had aims to write something more extended and reflective about gender, class and dangerous work this week. The debate about extractive industries is so often framed around corporate interests (I'm talking about from a supposedly left wing perspective here, not just from the right), and does not, in my opinion, look at the opportunities and costs from the perspective of men looking for manual work. I think the concerns of the 'green' movement often arise from people who earn their living at quite some remove from that basic need to find something raw that can be sold for quite a lot of money. On the West Coast, danger money is a feature of all well paid manual work and the days of strong unions are largely gone. The strongest was/is the miners' union. The contractual nature of much logging at the moment seems to leave workers very vulnerable. Women are a strong presence in manual jobs on the coast, but the hours required by logging, mining and fishing deter peop…

Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham is the most fabulous movie I have seen in ages. I think it might be the only movie I have seen in months but that is beside the point; it is fantastic. I loved the storyline and it was so uplifting to be involved in an exciting quest for justice which was successful. Voyeuristically of course, but it is quite a contrast to the impotency we have felt in our town as our men lay buried down the mine.

Back to Made in Dagenham, the story of women machinists fighting for equal pay, a fight which went all the way to Westminster and prompted equal pay legislation. The movie sexed up the story no end, with the workers mostly young and super sexy and with fabulous wardrobes. The footage of the estate looked just like where I worked in 2002, most likely because I was working in Dagenham. Some of the class and bullying stuff in the film didn't seem to have changed nearly enough 20 years later. There is a part of my heart which will always be in England and I loved that …

We will live

It was a beautiful service today. Thousands of people and scarcely a sound, even before it started. I loved Helen Wilson's poem, We will live. She captured our feelings perfectly. I hope it is publsihed somewhere as I would like to keep it, to read it again and again.

It was hot. A hot hot day and it has scarcely rained (in West Coast terms) since the second explosion, and no proper rain since the first. I thought about Hone Tuwhare's poem Rain tonight as I watered the garden. Part of me longs, paradoxically given the season, for rain. Gallons and buckets and at least a whole day of heavy rain. It feels like it would be cleansing, though we've not sinned or sullied as such. The rain of the West Coast is what produces the lovely ferns which were shared and placed today. It is the fire in the heart of the mine which burns our men up even now and the persistent sun is an echo.

I had held back from visiting, fearing to overload an already burdened family and then gi…


Quarantine continued today. My daughter was not impressed. She wanted to go to kindy and paint pictures. So she sourced some aqueous cream and painted this on the cupboard door:
She also painted aqueous cream all over her body but I declined to photograph that.

I used the vacuum cleaner. She ran away and although I would have preferred to run also, I held onto my adult self and vacuumed.

Weeding, planting, mulching. Brighid planted a tomato by herself. Watching her carefully take the seedling from the pot and plant it correctly from through the window, I think I might be raising another gardener.
Dill. Especially for the beneficial insects. I think it is beautiful.
My ANZAC poppies. Tomorrow we will remember our 29 men trapped beneath the Pike River Mine.
Tonight the supermarket was full. Only without the festivities usually associated with extra people stocking up. Our town is not full for a forthcoming wedding or musical concert or sports game. Our town is full and our hearts…

fewer buttercups, more sunflowers

About three weeks ago, I got stuck into this stretch of garden. I weeded and weeded and pulled the invasive flower bulbs out and planted tomatoes and freed up the lemony-yellow rose to actually grow and bloom. I got as far as the red rose, starting from the left.
The remainder looked like this three weeks ago, and since then the buttercup and dock and tobacco and grasses have got a lot bigger.

Today, home in quarantine with the shortest child (the bug I'd been warned about but not escaped it seems, though she was perky enough to garden with me), we weeded and weeded and weeded and then planted and now it looks like this:

In the background is a Red Russian sunflower, I think and in the foreground is a gooseberry bush. Another superb tasting fruit which is never available in the supermarkets.
Lest I consider the mountain of housework awaiting me inside as a priority, here are some photos of other parts of the garden also in need of hard work. The picture below is out the front and w…

He knew I loved him and I knew he loved me

Just two days before the mine exploded at Pike River, I wrote this post, where I reflected on the process of stocking up wood for winter in our small wet town. I've chosen, since the mine disaster, not to reflect here on individual men who died. The connection which saddens me most is one I am still choosing not to publicly reflect on. Even for a girl who has been here not quite five years, the connections are multiple, these men of our town who are loved and mourned and lost.

But I've just seen the interview with my favourite wood merchants, originally broadcast on TV3 and now online where I found it via facebook.

There are not words, but also words are all we have.

red & purple

Lurgy day. So instead of doing anything of practical use, I lay about trying to rest and thinking about making a special bedspread from our heirloom purple blanket. Well, I'm defining an heirloom as something old and precious and I think this one counts. FH's Nana sent two lovely, deep purple blankets down to us, looking like they'd scarcely ever been used, when she moved out of her own home about three years ago. In an age where New Zealand practical wool items are rare, I'm particularly fond of the label:
I like the imagery on the label of the crown with the 'princess' label in the centre and the tiki on either side. When I first met FH, I was living in Onehunga (Auckland), in a done up house with a tense feel to it which had once been a gang house (pre-makeover). Not quite the scene the purple blankets conjures up to look at.

So I fancy turning this into the bedspread for our bed and I spend a good part of the day googling blanket art and wool dyeing and…

Supporting our rescue workers

Nice reflective piece from Amy Glass in today's Press. It is online here. You can also read the Press tribute to Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn here. I found both of these articles in the paper version this evening as I waited for dinner in town and it was a nice antidote. I've been upset by some people, including bloggers, deriding the rescue operation. When I heard the news of the first explosion, I asked to use the phone immediately to know that my friend T was alright. I was so relieved when he answered the telephone. He has been doing long hours ever since, using every ounce of his geologist training to assist in a dangerous situation. All across our district and with national and international assistance, people are putting their very very very best and most skilled feet forward and I am grateful and proud to know them or know of them.

If you discovered this blog in the last week, you won't be expecting details of a local girl's clumsy but improving se…


I drive through town, a mum slipping away between taxi duties. Our little streets, never hot spots of night time excitement, feel a little restful again. The man with his camera by our feature rock (don't you have a feature rock in your small town? You should) has the tripod packed up and slung over his shoulder, ready to leave. I am, as you know, one of the lucky ones. My friends, neighbours and menfolk are all above ground and alive. The guilty living clamber to do something and I remind myself that my opportunities to help, to 'do' something, will come over the months and years, long after the media has gone, but before it recedes enough to become the stuff of school social studies projects, like Brunner and the Wahine.

At the Blackball Museum of Working Class History we will find a way to make a permanent tribute. In 2009 on May Day a CTU representative gave a speech on workplace safety and the idea of a wall of tribute to those who lost their lives in workplace …


Thank you to everyone who has posted comments of support on this blog and to all my friends who have emailed or sent messages of support on facebook. This morning I thought I was hoping for two miracles. The first was for the men to come out alive. The second was for the media to leave town.

We don't have the first miracle. That dream has gone and it wasn't until I heard the news of the second explosion this evening that I realised I still had real hope of that miracle.

The second miracle would be a wonderful thing. That one is physically possible.

In memory of the 29 men who died down the Pike River Mine, and all their mining brothers who went before them, at Brunner, at Strongman, at Dobson, and throughout the world, I am taking the children for a drive now, to find a church or a beach where we can remember. Lest we forget.

frontier country

My Dad tells a story about going to Greymouth with his Dad, when he was about ten years old. They stood on the bridge over the Grey River, the one which connects Greymouth and Cobden, and watched as the Barber (the dense, cold fog which marks the start of a day in the colder months of the year where we live) swept down the Grey Valley. Despite hailing from Canterbury, my father said he had never been so cold in all of his life.

On that holiday, he went out on the boats once with his Dad and the local fishermen. He liked the boat but the boat didn't like him - our shores are choppy at the best of times. Another day he and his father went up to the forest and sawmill to see where Uncle Eddie worked. Many of the men were missing limbs from workplace accidents. My father swore there and then that he wouldn't be a forestry worker when he grew up.

Forestry accidents are relatively rare now for the simple reason that forestry and sawmilling activity is relatively rare compared t…

Acting like normal

Today was all about acting like normal, at work, at Fionn's school, at Brighid's kindy. Mostly, it worked. When a call came through to our office at work to say that the names had been released mid morning, spirits took a plummet.

So things like normal. Things to like and be proud of. I am extremely proud of the young people who have been part of the Red Cross response team.

A feature of our tragedy in Wetville is how little we can 'do'. I felt like doing something for someone and our beloved elderly relative, Mary K, is always a great choice. Brighid and I took her shopping and are planning something special for her birthday next week.

At school pickup, every single dad there was a particular blessing. Every single one, I thought when I saw them "there's a kid with a dad who is alive'. Despite the media hamming up the presure to go down the mine with dangerous gases and very poor safety indications, I don't actually think anyone in our town (that…


We stayed home today, treasuring our time together as a family, resting before the week ahead of us. I made a dress for Brighid, who begins morning kindy tomorrow. As you can see below, she likes it. The kids were both healthy and happy today, not so surprising when their Dad is playing with them, when they know their uncles and grandads and cousins are all safe, not trapped down a mine. We've not told the children about the Pike River mine situation. There are several miners' children in Fionn's class and although I think they are all at Spring Creek, I don't want to say anything until I know they are safe.

I ironed and mended, jobs with a bit more long term currency than cleaning the floors or picking up the children's mess. As the weather improved, I weeded in the garden and planted the grape seedling which I bought at a local market recently. I also have a red currant , a gooseberry and a rose to plant from the same market expedition.

I'm not looking f…

In solidarity with my town

I would like the media to piss off.

They do not need to swarm around our town, vultures in search of a product to sell on their 'news' programmes.

I too, am desperate for news of the Pike River miners. I too, checked the internet and the radio about a zillion times today, hungry for word that the rescue team can begin their job. Like everyone else in Wetville, I appreciate the messages of support from all over New Zealand, all over the world.

But none of this requires news crews to be in our faces, prodding our pain, trying to get names of miners despite a request from the miners' families that they retain privacy in this time of hell. I missed the service for the miners at our local Anglican church this evening, asleep after a long night shift mothering my vomiting son. But I have since heard that it was something of a media circus, with about 8 tv cameras and 6 photo people there.

I have heard just a little by word of mouth about the names of miners, and just from that l…

waiting, hoping, praying

In our small town tonight are families waiting to know if their husbands, dads, sons, friends are alive.

The Pike River Mine at Atarau appears to have suffered an explosion and 27 men are unaccounted for. There are concerns about ventilation for those trapped inside.

I could talk about other stuff, but right now nothing else really matters.

Longer than a pregnancy

I went into the local wool shop today as they rang me to see if I still wanted my purple wool kept aside. The date on the packet of remaining balls was February. February. I've grown babies to the point of them breathing all by themselves in less time than this damned cross over cardigan is taking. I did a few more rows this evening.

I was looking at this article on the WAPF conference earlier this evening. Great for the blogger that she was sponsored in return for writing it up on her blog. I recalled a recentish post from Sally Fallon wants to soak my nuts in which it transpires that the blogger's wife (and the blog is all about the food they make for each other, in their private life) is the publicist for the WAPfoundation. Something is ringing alert bells in my head. I do understand that I am a small town hippy who doesn't have the balls to go head to head with the big guns like Monsanto and play them at their own marketing game. Maybe the war of marketing of i…

moments of gentleness

The wood pile. Not currently a work of art as it is the remainder of this winter's wood and many pieces have been removed (and reluctantly returned) to make obstacle courses for biking around (over, through). The pea straw will go on the garden soon. On the ground to the left are the flax flower stalks and on top of the wood pile are cabbage tree leaves. I keep bringing these back from our beach walks for kindling for next winter.

Preparation for winter fuel is a serious topic of conversation in Wetville. This leftover wood represents a milestone for us on our goal to be an entire year ahead with our wood. One colleague proudly tells me he has pine which he has aged in his garage for seven years. Burns very nicely, as you'd imagine. Raffles (central to much that moves in our community) which offer a trailer of wood or coal are always popular. We tried out a few different suppliers in our first few years. One guy gave us some venison with the second delivery of wood. …


It's less than four weeks until we take the children into another country. Not in a legal sense, but across water, the first plane journey for Brighid and the first for Fionn in almost five years. Indeed it is almost five years since we got on a plane at Heathrow with the son we grew and nurtured alongside the District Line and then the Central Line, on the borders of East London and Essex. We took him to my parents' place in Hanmer Springs, a place he thought of as "New Zealand" for some time (Wetville was not NZ, it was another country altogether to him). I will never forget day three of our new life, when he said he had had enough of being on holiday and wanted to go home.

There is no home.

That's what we did to you, my child, we took away your home, everything outside of your parents that you knew and before you could write or facebook or email your little buddies, and created another one. Thankfully it worked.

We came to the South Island for several reason…

Learning to be a reflexologist

This weekend I was part of a wonderful class in Hokitika, taught by Laksmi (who is one talented goddess) and it was such a gift to be there. Gorgeous food, wonderful fellow students and an opportunity for me to learn through my hands, not through a book. Next step is lots of practise, and a series of classes a month apart. I am not at the point of articulating my thoughts about the actual reflexology learning into words, but I can comment confidently that I now want to learn to make inside out sushi rolls. We had some with the nori on the inside and sesame seeds on the outside and they were divine.

Laksmi had giant red mustard in her garden and it is so beautiful that I have to grow some, whether I eat it or not. I've been telling Favourite Handyman about her raised beds built of river stones set in cement. They are in long curves and I would love to build some like that myself.

We also had guests for the weekend, favourite friends of mine called Jen and Hamish. That was wonde…

How marriage made me soft

On Sunday Favourite Handyman had the loan of a motorbike for the day. It was a heavenly treat for him and I wasn't surprised to hear he was having a great time when he rang mid afternoon. Only that wasn't all the news. The accelerator cable had broken and he was a long way from anywhere. He gave me the names of three friends who would be able to help. "If I can't get hold of any of them, then I guess I hire a trailer and come and get you?" He didn't sound hugely convinced but then three friends is a good number to try.

No one home. Not one or two or three. It's been a long time since a drove with a trailer but indeed I have done it before. It has been a very very long time since I've backed a trailer and I'm thinking about avoiding that bit. I pile the kids in the car and we stop at the Mobil shop and I pay for and hook up a trailer. I concentrate carefully on hooking it up properly, ignoring that we don't have the wiring for the lig…

flower love and twirly skirts: Saturday in suburbia

Dublin Bay on ochre corrugated iron. My poor photography skills don't do this beautiful plant justice. I found it languishing and super-cheap at the Warehouse a few years ago. The first season in the punga raised bed did not go well and last year went okay, but this season it is a stunner. One day it will be all along this fence-line. In autumn I shall take cuttings.
A couple of years ago we grew tobacco. In the absence of specialist equipment, we dried it on a clothesline in the shed and hey presto, cheap tobacco. Favourite Handyman, after the lung infection, thought the home grown was wetter than bought and worse for his lungs. I canned all tobacco growing from that moment onwards. The stuff is dangerous enough in packets. But these nicotiana flowers are from some self-seeded tobacco from that crop two years ago. Pretty flowers. I am pleased to note that the chooks don't care for the leaves.
The first skirt for the out law niece is finished. Brighid models it abov…