Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A tribute to Julie Fairey

Once upon a time I was a stroppy child. I told my Dad with confidence that one day I would be prime minister. The daughter of parents with a strong work ethic and a strong marriage, I spent some of my teenage years planning to get out of small town life and to live radically differently to my parents. I assumed I would earn lots of money and sleep on Sheridan sheets. I certainly wouldn't be doing such embarassing things as sewing two old sheets together to make one serviceable one and I assumed that if I had children, they would fit into my career. Which would of course be very successful.

Much later Mum said (maybe not to me, maybe even filtered through my sister) that she thought I looked down on her when I was a teenager because she didn't have a career. Interesting comment. I didn't look down on Mum. Despite her only being five foot nothing, you just don't look down on my mother. She is the strongest of strong people and I have not seen grown men quake in their boots because they have hidden rather than let me (or Mum) see them quake. I believe on last count she is sorting out the bishop, who needed some guidance as to the state and needs of the local church roof. My most vivid memories as a child are of her sorting out the postmaster in the days that postage and telephones were one state owned service. The local telephone service was hopeless, with people waiting 18 months just to get a telephone number. Given we were out in the countryside with no public phones, this was problematic. As a role model for a feminist, she was in many ways absolutely fantastic, even though she would prefer to pour scorn on the term and had no intention of challenging institutions of marriage and norms of wifeliness and motherhood. The telephone system got fixed. For everyone in our area.

Zooming forward to now, it turns out I went to university, got a couple of degrees, lived and worked on the other side of the world, and then chose to come to a small town on the unfashionable side of the less populated island and work in an area which everyone needs and everyone wants to criticise. Every time I read the analysis of women in politics, I feel conflicting senses of pride in the choices I have made (I had alternatives and I would make the same choices again) and a sense that I have let the ship down by my choices. There is a lot of pressure on women in politics to carry a flag and speak for women and from a point of view of female experience and yet I leave it to others.

Which is why I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, Julie Fairey, for all that she does and all that she helps to make happen. Apart from reading her blog posts on The Hand Mirror, I don't know Julie at all. But this morning, after I had skipped exercise class to get Brighid to her kindy trip to Shantytown and to get Fionn sorted with creams and foods for his eczema instead of risking infection from the chlorine of the school swimming trip (not that chlorine creates infections, but it strips precious moisture from the skin and makes it vulnerable to infection and Fionn has hardly any left in places), and before I went to paid work, I made a few phone calls, got some washing on and sat down to eat breakfast and read The Hand Mirror. I loved reading about the buzz Julie gets from working with her constituents on her local board (I don't think we have local boards in Wetville; I think it is to do with the structure of the Auckland Supercity) and I totally utterly truly empathised with her dishwasher story. I love it that in one corner of New Zealand (and I know there are others besides Julie) there is a woman out there in local politics with a perspective which is shaped by having young children and making decisions about the collective good and contribution of her entire household to our society.

Thank you Julie.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Broad bean pesto

Three days ago I had minor surgery to remove two cysts from my back and shoulder. I'm guarding against infection with loads of vitamin C. Apart from the pain, I've loved and appreciated having Favourite Handyman cook the meals and look after me. I've also been spoilt by friends helping with childcare and dropping by with pumpkin pie, biscuits and a meal. It doesn't get much luckier.

I bought a convalescing treat in the form of the NZ Gardener's Homegrown Flowers book. It's a very romantic take on flowers - no strelitzias with cactus here. It's a perfect read for the circumstances, and I've been arranging and rearranging new flower ideas for my garden in my head as I pore over each and every page. I am loving the cosmos which I bought as seedlings and which is flowering now, so I'm most pleased to learn that it is easy to grow from seed. Unsurprisingly, I've had the Kings Seed Catalogue out as well.

Favourite Handyman mowed the lawn yesterday, transforming our front and back sections from a jungle into something much tamer. I cut back all the broad beans which were laying across the lawn (forgot to stake them) and then picked all the beans. I nearly always plant broad beans for the pleasure of watching something grow in winter, and then each spring we prefer to eat other foods. Today though, I made broad bean pesto, an Annabel Langbein recipe. Podding the beans, boiling them briefly and then shelling them from their skins was laborious, but the final product was very yummy. Based on this, and the nitrogen enhancing properties for the soil of growing legumes, I may plant the entire 2m x 5m old chook run garden in broad beans at the end of Autumn. Well almost. I'm pretty sold on having one end devoted to flowers now.

After the big lawn cut, I snipped the long-long-long grass on the edge of my peas-and-roses garden. Now I can see what is inside the grass 'fence' and it isn't entirely weeds. The alyssum seeds which I scattered are now little plants. I could get away with transplanting a third to a half of them elsewhere in the garden. There are sugar snap peas plus more flowers, and new shoots on the gooseberry bush. The jasmine is yellowing though, so my prescription is some dolomite lime. The Dublin rose and an unnamed blousy pink rose are lovely despite aphids on the stems and rust on the leaves. But the yellow rose will have to go. The clusters of tiny flowers lack the impact of the other roses and, frankly, annoy me. I look out at this garden from the kitchen window, so the blooms need to be of a size for distance-viewing pleasure. I am eyeing up Bantry Bay as a possibility, though perhaps a bush is what is needed rather than a climber, and I'll be chatting to our neighbours who are superb rose growers for some suggestions.

Today it rained all day. Fionn's eczema has returned with a vengeance. I'm using the strategies I learnt last time plus trying some new things I've learnt in my minor nutrition obsession of the past few years.

I finished reading The Help and I loved it. I also read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini which was fantastic. In a week when New Zealand politics is in such a stupid pickle, it was great to read writing dealing with grittier and much bigger topics. Afghanistan is in the news so often in grey and impersonal tones and A Thousand Splendid Suns made lives real in a personal and memorable way.

I've done a little more for the C word. I make it both easier and harder for myself by gifting to hardly anyone and simultaneously making the gifts I do give. Nursing wounds isn't conducive to sewing so that is currently stalled. The presents which mean the most to me each year are those I make for our two childminders. Is there more important money ever spent than that which goes on childcare? Robyn and Sharon are very special people in my life and I use Christmas as an opportunity to thank them. Today Fionn and I went shopping and chose a bowl for each of them. Most usefully, they both really like my hummous, so I will fill the bowls with hummous and make a hamper around each bowl. I doubt very much that my idea of a handmade bag to house each hamper will eventuate.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's all about Saturday

Mary K has been central to me feeling part of Wetville. When we moved here almost six years ago, people asked me suspiciously why we'd moved here. They often followed up with "Do you have family here?" At first I said no not really, just some distant relatives. But after an uneasy sense that moving here without family ties could put me in the league of rehoused paedophiles, I started to say, "Yes, I've got cousins here."

I remember the day Mum drove Fionn and I over to Greymouth. Mum filled me in on Mary and Lou, as I could only dimly remember them from large family gatherings, most of them a long time ago. A couple of weeks later, I rang in advance and then called round with Fionn for afternoon tea. It was the beginning of a special relationship. Mary and Lou have lived their entire lives on the coast. The only substantial time Lou was away was during World War Two, and he spend most of that in a Prisone of War camp. The only time Mary has been away is when she has travelled to spend time with extended family. Four years ago Lou died. It took me a long time to adjust to Coast life without Lou's stories to add to whatever news I brought to the kitchen table. He and Fionn used to play with tractors as well as eat Mary's superb Anzac biscuits and peanut brownies. Brighid was only nine months old when Lou died, and it took me a long time to pass on her green trousers he thought suited her last time we visited. I still have the small piece of greenstone he gave me one day, waiting until I turn it into something for Brighid, who was with me when Lou gifted me the pounamu.

Mary was a tower of strength to Lou, and their marriage was one that many have admired. Such love and constant mutual support. I love the story he told me once of being drunk when he met Mary (it's not quite the story she tells!). He then said "I guess it turned out alright." I guess!! Their love was palpable and their commitment tested and found true over many years of ill health and nightmares from the war and of a baby who spent just five days with them before a burial while Mary was still in hospital.

Now it is Mary's turn to get increasingly fragile. We've had the occupational therapist in on several occasions lately and a plan for increased support is in place. I'm trying to visit her as often as possible, even when the visits are short and bit rushed. Her physical health is pretty good, but her memory and confidence with multiple tasks or new things is eroding, almost in front of me.

I don't care about any politician and their tax base stories. While I could be working full time, to be with my kids and also spending time supporting Mary is far more important to me and for my family. I do understand my privilege. If Favourite Handyman was earning $13 per hour on insecure contract work, then I'd be back at work 40+ hours and fitting family work in round the edges.

If we had massive job insecurity and low income and we were living in Auckland or Wellington with lots of dependent family, then we might be burying a child who would have lived in Sweden or the Czech republic, as per the documentary on poverty in New Zealand last night. Given my family's genetic vulnerability to respiratory and skin problems, I am absolutely not being flippant. The money to ensure good food and warm spacious housing is what keeps my kids out of hospital and FH working instead of in bed with buggered lungs and on a benefit. We have to vote for a better future for all of our children this Saturday.

There is a lot of talk about a high wage economy from Labour. I might come back to the issue of what should constitute high wages another time. But toilets still have to be cleaned and tyres changed and supermarkets staffed and we must give dignity to this work in how we pay for it and in the services which we offer to all children to keep them well and full bellied. I'm still thinking about my vote this weekend. I'm unhappy with so many things about the political landscape but not voting is just not an option.

Sewing: slow progress but progress nevertheless. I've made one dress and one bag for one niece. I've cut out and started to sew up a dress for the second niece. I am contemplating a) some adult sized bags for presents and b) making a Colette Crepe out of my church fair curtain fabric after all. Sandra-the-flowery-curtain is a concept I am beginning to embrace.

Home maintenance: that old chestnut. Turns out that repainting the roof will be $600-1000 depending on how damaged the roof is on closer inspection. That's with FH doing the labour. Which tells me a whole lot about how lack of funds to fix a roof is the beginning of a descent for some families into unhealthy housing, as the roof begins to leak and the house gets damp. We'll find a way.

Kitchen: Once upon a time, long ago, there was a woman called Sandra who liked to cook. However, she got caught up in other things, and eventually sausages ruled each day, punctuated by takeaways and the occasional extremely simple foray into fish or chicken.

Books: I'm reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I love it. There was no blog post last night because I wanted to read instead and that's where I'm headed very soon.

Garden: As we are on a hill, we haven't been flooded like much of Wetville this week. Nevertheless, it hasn't quite been gardening weather.

Community: Brighid has had two school visits. She loves it. I love her teacher. She loves her teacher. What's not to like right now?

Community 2: I saw my Salvation Army friend tonight (when I claimed to be going to supermarket to buy broccoli which was a useful excuse for buying more wine) and I've found out more about what they need for the Christmas packages. No tins of fruit!! No tins of tomatoes. But everything else very very useful. I often give the kids a chance to choose three nice things each at the supermarket to give to the collection and then I add the rest.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Goodnight Irene

Last night I went to a play called Goodnight Irene, put on by Kiwi Possum Productions and inspired by the deaths at Pike River 12 months ago. Attendance was by invitation only, and I think that was wise as the media circled Greymouth this weekend looking for a story, us as objects to feed their ratings. I really enjoyed the play and I am so proud that Greymouth has the talent to put on community theatre like this.

There is naught so interesting as compost for a keen gardener. Yesterday we bought a new compost bin. For the first few years I made a pile under the big tree and hoped for the best. It worked okay, but then it got invaded by perennial weeds and I decided there had to be a better way. About this time last year I bought a standard issue type compost bin for our grass clippings and the pea straw/chook poo which I take out of the coop (as mysteriously the chooks no longer want to roost at night, so they poo in the coop instead). It is making compost alright, but it is impossible to turn and aerate it and also we are out of space and need one if not two more. This time we upgraded to a magnificent compost bin which is easily turned and aerated. I'm setting up a new label so I can use my blog as a diary for how long it takes to make compost under our various systems.
I carefully weeded a densely occupied wee section of the herb garden which had given itself over to weeds, buried bokashi deep below it and then sowed bergamot, white sage and evening primrose seeds on top.

The neighbours are chives, feverfew and lovage. I also planted one chilli plant. Only time will tell if it is too cold yet. Lawnmowing didn't get to the top of the list, but lawnmowing can be overrated when what you want is to make flower chains with daisies and buttercups.

I'm enjoying the roses.

This one is Dublin Bay.
I forget the name of the one above, but I always remember that I grew it from a cutting from our neighbour who is a superb rose grower.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pike

We all have the right to go to work in the morning and return home at the end of our shift. Remembering the 29 men who never left their shift at Pike River. We all have to fight to make sure our fellow New Zealanders are safe at their work places. I won't be forgetting next Saturday either.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Coffee table talk

Today I went to Westport. I went to Westport for work at 7.45 and didn't get back until after 6pm, home to dinner just cooked and served by Favourite Handyman and happy children. It was a nice change from the usual set up.

Out lunching in the slick metropolis of Westport, I saw Damien O'Connor meeting and greeting. Funny that, I saw him meeting and greeting at the Camerons Community Market only a week ago. Is there an election on or something? Damien didn't come talk to our table, but Scott Hamilton has a very interesting story on his blog today about when Labour candidate Carmel Sepuloni came to talk at his coffee table. Although to be accurate, she did nothing to deliberately talk to him, only his good wife. It is a disheartening story, though I wish I could feel more surprised.

Things I could do next: read an actual book. Cut out the next C-word dress. Fold more washing. Do dishes. Or read about other people's sewing online in a dreamy and unproductive manner. Just because there is no wine in the house doesn't mean I have to be diligent. Tomorrow night I am going to a play inspired by Pike.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

diy in perspective

The day we moved in, approximately five years and 20 days ago, friends suggested things we could do to the house. Suggestions like knocking out walls and moving fireplaces and generally rearranging everything. I, like the timid wee wuss I can be at times, said I just wanted to do something about the enormous (to us) mortgage first up.

I've told the story of finding our furniture for the lounge at the local church fair too many times already. But only a couple of years later, one of the church ladies, in a valiant effort to engage me in small talk, asked if I'd recovered the furniture or replaced it yet.

No.

A kind person at work asked me only four years after we bought the house what we'd done to it so far. What we've done is create a lot of garden and change almost nothing in the house. The kids ripped a lot of wallpaper off without permission, giving credence to the idea that bleeding heart liberals raise wild children without respect for authority. I ripped some off as well, giving myself permission. But I ripped it off systematically, an entire room at a time, and I didn't draw on it with marker pen, or any kind of pen. Or crayon.

Favourite Handyman painted the lounge last summer. It's awesome. To celebrate, I've been trying to fold washing every day. There is a link. Now you can sit on our couch and look at the yellow walls (Resene Wild Thing to be precise) without sitting on washing that was clean and soon won't be.

We have done quite a lot of insulating. We have spent untold money on washing machine repairs until we spent even more on a decent washing machine. This year we finished the insulation using the grant which National agreed to as part of their deal with the Greens. The Greens get blue-r every day, but gift horses and mouths...

Now I'm on a new project. I'm laying the foundations for cross party (husband and wife) agreement on the need to pay someone to mow our lawns next year. Either that or I change the terms of my contract (I write the contract in my head and no one else sees it but for the past eleven years which may coincide with the duration of my married life, I have given the lawnmower a very wide berth on the grounds that I do too much inside stuff for lawns to go near my list.) and mow them myself. I've gotten a little fussy lately and I fancy lawns which don't go to Brighid's knees more than once every five - seven weeks.

I have this idea that if we farm out the lawns, FH and I could do more fun things around the place on a Sunday afternoon when we don't have to be at work. Like rebuilding the sandpit, painting the treehut, clearing the gutters, turning the big shed into a study, building a plastic house, shifting the side fence, painting the kitchen...

I got a builder in today to check out the dodgy damp smell in the corner of our bedroom and he has identified it as a small problem (thank you all gods of buildings) and will come and fix it soon. I'm farming it out. Last week I got a plumber in to check out the chippy fire in the kitchen. He agreed with the last person I got in five years ago. Hopelessly expensive and problematic. So no restoration of the old wetback for heating the water. It will just have to wait until we can afford solar heating.

When we started this home owning lark, I was in the midst of a serious diy phase. While this phase hasn't entirely died, it is morphing. I'm making more clothes but contracting out other diy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

feeding the soul


Brighid's photography is improving don't you think? Head, shoulders, rose, all in the centre-ish of the picture.
Brighid with the roses I grew from cuttings, the wandering Jew and the jerusalem artichokes.

Sometimes it is an idyllic retreat from organised life, a romantic view through dappled light.

Other times, the lawn needs mowing and everything needs weeding. Jersualem artichokes almost everywhere. I remember when everything was empty and filling any dream involved spending. Now, everything needs weeding but flowers feed my soul and vegetables feed my stomach.

Blog post of the day: Scott Hamilton at Reading The Maps on the significance of the tea party in Epsom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sewing for the C word.

I have almost finished one dress for the C word. Because it is a sundress with a halter neck, I can't get a decent photo until I have an awake child to model it. I need to press it, neaten the side seams (with zig zag; I cannot manage/face neatening by folding under and stitching with this fabric) and then hem it. The facing is an African print from Brixton, London, which I originally bought for babywearing. The lovely Toddy (who is now blogging at Credit Crunch Kitchen) taught me how to wrap Fionn in it in the traditional African style. I loved learning, and in my time I loved a bit of babywearing, but I didn't get confident enough to wear him in this fabric beyond the initial experimentation. The denim fabric is a gift from the also lovely Susan (who I wish would post more of her superb photos here). I think that maybe possibly if the time Gods shine on me (rare), I will make a bag to go with the dress and the bag will be print on the outer and denim lining. Even so, I'm wondering about breaking up the front with some print on the hemline. I looked up making bias binding but I'm not convinced I have the patience right now to make my own bias binding (the niece does have a sister, and one bias bound dress plus one snotty hanky for the other sibling does not make for happiness). I'm more seriously considering making a ruffle with the print fabric. Faffy, but not so far out of my headspace quotient as home made bias binding.

It has also occurred to me that the kindy dressup or bag which I have sort of committed to in my head as a leaving present from Brighid to kindy needs to be made within the next 27 days. She goes on her school visits next week no less.

Also today I planted out the jasmine and the clematis and transplanted my tomatoes and more basil (I am ridiculously behind with my tomatoes again). I told Favourite Handyman about the quash for the slugs and snails. After all, beans taste better to us than slugs and snails and my project is all about beans for us.

Best blog reading for today: Luxuries, Necessities and the Right to Make Mistakes, by Anthea at The Hand Mirror. Beautiful writing for an important message.

The project to make a wider range of meals? What was I thinking on that day? That term time would be like holiday time? Huh. We did have sushi tonight though, which is pretty fast to make if you mix up the veges and salmon and spread it rather indiscriminately over the rice mixture.

I think I'm getting fatter. It must be the lack of wine over the past few days. Body protest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Seed saving

The kale seeds. I recalled instructions on seed saving as involving picking the pods when they were nearly ready to burst and putting them somewhere warm in a paper bag. So that is what I did. I didn't have the inclination to check on whether my reading memory was accurate. Today is clearly a super green day, because the paper bag started out at the fabric shop. Once it had finished carrying my latest lot of interfacing, then it became my shopping list and now it is my seed bag. Although we have a foil wrap around our hot water cylinder, it is still warmer than other cupboards. Those are my socks for the record, though they always make me think of my Dad, a lifelong Crusaders fan.

Brighid is learning to take photos. This is better than the one of my long black skirt beside the water stained cupboard door and the one of the wall where there used to be wallpaper before she ripped it off.
Today I also planted beans. I dug out the old kale plants and then dug compost and dolomite lime to the soil before planting bean experimetn #2 for this season. I opted not to plant them on the graveyard of the last beans because the latest NZ Organics magazine says keep beans separate from shallots, garlic and onions and the bean urupa is surrounded by shallots and garlic. Then on the new site (site of growth, not death by slugs, thank you quash bait), I remembered that they don't like galdioli either. Tough. I kept most of them down the other end to the potentially offensive flowers.

We still have a broody chook. She's not too hard to move on in order to collect the eggs, though she sure makes some indignant noises in response.

I still have a lurgy. Panadol (which I usually avoid) is my friend today. There are worse things.

The bestest thing of all was at the supermarket, where I saw a friend with a baby. Not a usual friend-with-a-baby but a friend who does not have a baby (only big kids) but who has indicated to CYFS she would take a baby if needed. So this is beautiful baby was smiling at my friend and having fun in the supermarket and my friend may get the opportunity long term (certainly short term) to give this wee girl a wonderful upbringing. Bestest bestest. My heart is still singing from seeing them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

garden & sewing

Purple sprouting broccoli gone to seed.
Globe artichoke and borage
Calendulas and red poppies


Peas and roses after the rain.The birthday gift for our wee friend H who turns two this month. I used Tiny Happy's tutorial. I scaled it down to about two thirds (leaving the bag height a bit bigger than two thirds). I used some remaindered curtain samples. The only bit which was difficult was joining the handles at the top and I think that would be easier with different fabric. This kind was both sticky and slippery to sew - yes both of those at the same time.

Yesterday I bought a clematis, a jasmine (a non-invasive cultivar apparently), more beans, more basil, more celery, some quash slug pellets and a funky miniature tree-like succulent. I haven't done anything about planting any of them yet because I am keeping myself and my runny nose inside and sewing instead. After I finished the bag, I cut out the fabric for C-word project number one, which is to make a sundress (New Look 6195) in a size seven. I have cut the facing out in a pattern (the main dress is a plain lightweight denim), with the idea that I might yet make the pattern up in a wee bag with denim lining. Or even put a frill on the dress hemline in the pattern. Maybe.

Slug pellets. Yes. The end of the organic dream? The beginning of marital deception given I bought them against our agreed protocol? Maybe. But hopefully it will mean we get to eat some carrots and beans and lettuces and coriander, not just the slugs and snails.

Fontana number 77

At yesterday's church fair, amidst a groaning table of books, was an old manilla folder of knitting patterns. It was taped up, and I felt sure that the very secrecy of it, the fact I couldn't see what was within, indicated that there would be treasure within. I had to have it.

Most of it will go to the Sallies. If I want patterns from the 1970s onwards, I have access to Mum's stash. But it is this book, which I think is from the 1950s, which has captured my imagination.

Apologies for the photography. The blue is my dressing gown. I am having a dressing gown day, in which I refuse to leave the house or indeed do much more than mollycoddle myself out of my streaming nose state through the use of large amounts of ginger and tissues.

This is the one I first liked best.
The cables on this are even better, but I would want to change the neck to a scoop. In fact, if I could change the neck to a scoop, this would be the perfect jersey.


This is the other good option, but without the hanky pocket.
Although this is a great looking cardigan, it is way too streamlined for me. I think it is the best pose though, with the old style telephone. I remember talking on a telephone like that when I was a little girl at Grandma and Grandad's house. They lived on a farm in an area where the phone service was still the old party line. I was quite proud when I was old enough to be able to run in and recognise the ring and report back to Grandma at the washing line.

So. In reality these cardigans are way too hard. They are sized a lot too small for me, plus with the fitted style I would need to make some kind of full bust adjustment. It would take me a million years to knit one, by which time I could be a different size entirely and only at the end would I know if I liked it. I haven't ruled out taking on such an enterprise though. After all, I have knitted about seven rows of a doll's pinafore this week. Why not take on something requiring a miilion times more commitment?

The clothing table was groaning as well. Five dollars to fill a plastic bag. But that was easy to resist. I could tell from a medium distance that there was nothing in kelly or emerald green, and that is all I am looking for at the moment.

But the curtain table was another matter. I gave it a cursory look, not expecting kelly green curtains. But here were some lovely floral curtains, made of 100% cotton (in England! How old is that?) in a light-ish weight, probably similar to quilting cotton.

Five dollars for the pair. I've washed them and now I'm planning a skirt. Even I, with my ever increasingly ridiculous schemes, can see that the pattern is too big for a dress. It will be a swishy skirt.

So my rules around taking more stuff out of the house than what comes in are broken multiply this weekend. I haven't even written about the garden stalls. Plus the children were the lucky recipients of hand me down bags this week, so they are wandering around looking newly trendy. How useful is it when the mothers of your big kid idols give you their clothes? Very useful according to my kids and according to me.

I've started the little girl bag for this week's birthday party. All the pieces are cut out and the interfacing is attached in the right places.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The weekend light

Today I have looked after people with (variously) worms, eczema, dementia, the first serious exams of their lives looming, sore throat lurgies, sibling rivalry, a need for red wine and a need for me to make a plate for a shared lunch.

The need for the red wine was mine. I looked after it well. I think I did okay on the other stuff, but by evening I was confident I had earned my booze.

Tomorrow is the annual Camerons Community Market. I've been saving my change for it all week as each year there is a wonderful stall by two women who grow lots of plants from cuttings. Last year I bought gooseberries, redcurrants and grapes. This year I'm hoping to get some clematis, as the one I had given up on two years ago is flowering and it has given me renewed hope. The only problem with the clematis which has decided to survive after all is that a big cabbage tree has practically flown up in front of it. The Trinity Church Fair is also on which makes it a double red letter day. Five years ago, at the very end of October, we moved into our own home for the first time and had not a scrap of furniture for the lounge. Around midday our mate knocked on the door with a chest of drawers for us and news that the chairs were going cheap at the end of the sale. Twelve dollars later and we had five armchairs. A few months later our kindly mate and bargain informant sold us the matching couch which he'd purchased earlier in the day. So even though we don't generally strike such gold now, I always think of the Trinity Church Fair (or Kids n Coffee church fair as my children call it) with affection and spend a few dollars there.

This afternoon I slipped into Wetville's poshest frock shop to finger and price the bright green dress in the window - I've pasted a picture below. I've a hankering for something in bright green but I've yet to find the fabric to do something about it. For a very simple dress made of viscose/spandex, they wanted over $200. Which really made the price of fabric on Trademe seem not so bad at all. Of course, thinking about sewing is so much easier than actually sewing. I've a deadline this coming Thursday, as the children are going to a fairy party for a very special two year old whose mother used to be our babysitter. Even if it involves much sewing on Wednesday night, it should/might/could also get me in the groove to do some sewing for the C word.

I'm thinking of more reading and less cleaning as my mantra this weekend. Not entirely sure it will work given we are an adult down in the house health-wise, but a worthy goal for sure. I'm a few pages into The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The right to return home alive

I was immensely flattered to be included in the 42nd Down Under Feminists' Carnival for this post on Food, fear and power. The post is actually from October 2010 and, such is the drivel I have been writing lately, I had to double check it was my work. I've hardly posted lately because I'd like to get back to writing more intelligently. Today I came to the conclusion that this wasn't improving the quality of my writing; rather it was freezing me from writing at all and as I do like to blog and I thought it time to get back in the saddle, low grade musings it is tonight.

The musings might be low grade, but I don't think all of my topics are low grade. I've been thinking about privacy and the poor. With an election just days away, beneficiaries and the working poor are being discussed like so many irritating and sometimes filthy obejcts in the media. High income earners don't get lumped together and discussed as a problem. While even National Radio listeners are often moved to email in and advise poor people to cook from scratch, grow their own food and give up booze, smokes and coca cola, no one asks how the wealthy can contribute better. Yes I do understand about differing tax policies for high income earners, but that seems to me to be a blunt and inadequate tool. It appears to be unthinkable to expect all high income earners to give back to their communities. Their communities? Living in gated communities or on large properties with cars to prevent the disaster of walking in the neighbourhood, not using facilities like libraries and swimming pools, using private health care and private schools, - this is what gives some wealthy people the sense that there is not a community that they owe any debt to. Yet the working poor and those lacking any paid job are dependent on community resources like public transport (which we don't even have in Wetville), libraries and public hospitals and schools. They are overrepresented in police records and womens refuges. Their needs are public and it seems to be a sport for many to judge them. But what is it about significant wealth which confers immunity from community responsibility? Much of that wealth, a significant portion indeed, comes from the sweat of the poor anyway.

I've also been thinking about fat acceptance. This post about the purpose of fat acceptance is excellent. I find examples of fat shaming, particularly very public humiliating of fat people on radios, awful and awfully common. Despite my aversion to all commercial radio in New Zealand, I will insist on venturing out into local shops and local shops will insist on playing commercial radio.

I had a project to cook some new meals a while back. I've made almost zilch progress on that.

I've sewn nothing since I last posted. I have knitted about five rows of a doll's pinafore. I haven't read any books either. Come to think of it, I don't seem to have done much outside of going to work, hanging out with our weekend visitors and eating (and drinking). The house is bit tidier than usual. Although this makes it nicer to live in, not reading or sewing or gardening seems rather a high price to pay.

Life seems to have a particular emotional intensity at the moment. This mostly translates into misty eyes, which I wouldn't recommend for any public situation. It is eight days from the anniversary of Pike River. We had a lovely weekend with my sister in law and brother in law and then after they had gone my daughter suddenly burst into floods of tears for her Nana. I guess the visit made her think of the other very special people who visit her from Auckland and then she realised her Nana won't visit ever again.

Long term readers will know how I hate Christmas. It is the material excess and profligate wastage of low grade plastic and hyper inflation of credit cards which bothers me most. But this year the context is different. We have booked to go to Auckland again and this time connecting through thinking positively about Christmas seems the least I can do for my father in law and his children. I'm not about to turn into the crazy excessive shopping lady, but I think I will prepare with better grace this year. I've got my eye on some books for some science-y people in the house and I'm planning to make lots of shortbread to turn into gifts. If the sun turns on its charm one day soon, then I will get a photo of the kids for some cute Christmas postcards. Typically I get these done and only give about five out and leave the rest languishing in a drawer, but five is kind of nicer than none. I have some bags to make out of sheets and once I have these perfected, then I want to make one each for the little girls of a bag lined with a gorgeous dress once worn by their Nana.

Next year though, I could be making way cooler gifts. Today I discovered (though surely I have known before and forgotten) that there is a night class here in Wetville on mosaics. I could make mosaic mirrors. It is wonderful that there are any night classes left. In fact, any time I despair of Labour's ineptitude and untrustworthyness (more often than I would prefer), remembering what National did to a 100 year old highly sucessful story of night classes sharpens my resolve to get them out.

Last May Day I listened to a beautiful song written by a local woman about a working person's right to go to work and return home alive. I thought I had a copy of the lyrics but I can't find them. I think of that often at the moment.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Patches

I've been cleaning. In order to clean, I had to pick things up. In order to still have space to put feet, bags, even bodies, I had to put the things away. Sometimes opening the doors to away spaces is like opening Pandora's box. Sometimes, when I've been cleaning for more than a few minutes, particularly when it gets up to hours, I become particularly open to distraction.

So I now have a clean wardrobe. The slippers which broke irreparably more than three years ago are now in the rubbish. The broken sandals which happen to date back to my university years are also in the rubbish. The dust is now in the rubbish. The clothes are all on hangers.

I have washed and dried and folded a LOT of washing. I've gotten quite good at folding laundry this year, even if I say so myself. No longer do guests arrive only to be directed to a chair in the lounge as the couch is covered in clean, unfolded washing. There was a legitimate request from a voting age member of the household that visitors didn't have the opportunity to fold personal items.

There is a LOT less stuff in our bedroom, which is where our guests will sleep (if you've been put on the floor in our house, then I can only point out that the criteria for getting my bed is that you are 50 or over). In truth, these are patches of space in a still messy house. But somehow it will work out - it always does - and at least I have a lovely and organised wardrobe for the first time since 2006.

There is beer and wine and fireworks and sausages and barbecue fuel in the house. Shame about the ten day forecast which is solid grey clouds and rain, but that won't get in the way of enjoying the booze.

Should the indelicate details of my day attempting to run a household not prove sufficient procrastination, here are some much better places to hang out: The universal aunts - I love the old pictures. Clearly targeted at a particular class in terms of both clients and workers, but a great little procrastinate all the same. Then the worldometers, which are a fascinating (and depressing) series of live trackers relating to population, world resources, health and other topics.