Showing posts from November, 2010

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…


The ground is cracked. After weeks of rain compacting the soil, the recent warm dry days have merely split the surface into fractured plates of hard earth. Tonight I mounded up the spuds some more and then encircled them with pea straw. I dug over a section of earth, added some blood and bone and dolomite lime and turned it some more. Then I planted a zucchini, surrounded it with pea straw and watered it in. The pea straw should make a lot of difference to the quality of the soil. While I was fossicking in the garden shed, I found citrus fertiliser and put some on the lemon.

The first arm of the purple cardigan is done. Next step turn round and do it all again. Tomorrow or the next day will be soon enough. Then I did some more twirly skirt sewing. Tomorrow night is writers' group and I haven't written a thing. I do like this poem on chocolate. Today's library visit yielded poetry from Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Fiona Kidman's Songs from the Violet Cafe and Rob…

What do you do?

At 6.00am I woke. I was a kitchen worker, a mother. At 8.30am I dropped the last child off and became a paid worker. Sometimes I worked with people, sometimes with paper, sometimes with a computer. There were no fancy schmancy things like breaks, or cups of tea or lunch until I left at 1.55pm. At 1.55pm I became a housewife. A housewife in the supermarket, buying things for a repeat of today, tomorrow.

At 2.10pm @ home, I was myself. Eating chicken and mayo and artichoke sandwiches all by myself.

At 2.20pm I got in the car to drive to kindy to become a mother again. In the blur between 2.20pm and 5pm, I was a cricket taxi, a cook, a placater, an errander, a husband taxi. The blur from 5pm until 7.15pm was intensive mothering, though not of the kind which means I remembered to make the short people clean their teeth. They treat teeth cleaning as an occasional event, and make comments to visiting family members which reveal their parents' lackadaisical approach to Essential …