Monday, October 29, 2012

Stress, magnesium and love.

I realise that I do indeed have a privileged first world 1.5 income household with food, warmth and shelter pretty much guaranteed so long as I don't develop a gambling habit.  No one hits me, I'm married to a wonderful person, the kids are healthy and lovely and are enjoying and progressing at school.  On the big scale, it's all pretty hunky dory.

If we could zoom in though, I want to write about my recent strategies to manage stress and get my nutrition intake back on track.  At my work, it is absolutely the most busy and pressured time of the year at the moment.  I'm at work what seems like all the time, despite being paid to be at work half of the time.  It will pass and the pressure will, I hope, ease off significantly in a fortnight or so.

I've been losing massive amounts of sleep, which no one has ever been able to convince me is an optimal way to live.  Some nights I've been awake for hours in the wee hours of the morning when I don't even have alcohol consumption to blame.  It's all very well saying stress is bad and the world should have less of it, but I'm keen to a) learn to handle work-place stress better and b) to look at ways I can support my body.

There is a large body of thought which focuses on exercise for stress management.  I believe them/it.  But on the whole, I'm not very successful at fitting exercise into my life, unless it is gardening, which can itself be problematic when I live in the area which surely inspired the story of Noah's Ark.

What does help me is a focus on nutritional support.  Magnesium is really important for the nervous system and for sleep quality (and quite a few other things).  It's important for me to take supplemental magnesium when I am also taking liver detox tablets which contain green tea and IP6, both of which chelate magnesium.  The liver detox is supportive of a better iron balance, given that I have a genetic disease called haemochromatosis and that I have had symptoms of iron overload this year.  Vegetables also matter.  I'm inclined to eat a lot of bread when I'm busy/stressed.  Not so much what might be described as 'pigging out', but a tendency to eat toast on the run in the morning, sandwiches on the run at lunchtime and a wrap or pizza for dinner.  Bread, I've found by trial and error, is not my friend healthwise.  But it is quick.  We always eat dinner around the table as a family, every night, and that is a great thing on about a million fronts, but also for getting me to slow down and eat.

Last night I started in earnest, taking my magnesium supplements twice per day and vitamin c as well.  I made an epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) foot bath and, in the absence of any camomile tea in the house, made a lemon and honey drink to sip while I had my footbath and read A Life on Gorge River.  It was a bugger that Brighid was in pain and unsettled all night, but when I wasn't getting up to her, I did sleep well.

Today I'm still on the magnesium supplements, and I also started back on my older habit of having almonds on my work desk to snack on during the day.  Almonds are a good source of magnesium and they taste good.  Tomorrow I shall take a bag of apples as well.  Part of my day is not spent at my actual work desk, but jumping around gesticulating, so I'm not overly worried about eating myself bigger with all this snacking.

Tonight I remembered to buy some camomile tea, so I'm supping that now and soon I will run an epsoms salts foot bath.  While I understand at a technical level that an entire bath with epsoms salts in it would be even more beneficial, I can't be bothered.  Plus, last time I did that, feeling most pleased with my positive self care practice, I crooked my neck.  Between the pain and the chiropractor's bill to fix it, I'm not enthused about doing that again.

Lovely things.  When I first started blogging, I was a stay at home mum with a four year old son and a seven month old daughter.  Blogging was my outlet which wasn't about the children, and I consciously chose not to blog about my son and daughter.  Now, when they are away at school most of the day and sometimes I am at work until 5pm, my thoughts on blogging about parenthood and my children have shifted.  This morning was special.  I didn't absolutely have to be at work until 11am.  Brighid had been awake half the night (I plan on getting some extra magnesium into her somehow too), so I got to let her sleep in.  I dropped FH into work early and then had about an hour with just my boy.  I dropped him to school just after Brighid woke up.  Then she and I hung out getting ready.  We went together to the chemist and health food shop for some remedies for her ills.  I took her into school about 10.45am on the most beautiful sunny day we've seen on the coast in at least a month, and watched her with delight as she went off to meet her friends, happy and comfortable in her school environment.  That little window with my kids this morning was the bestest present.

A Life on Gorge River is proving an interesting read, about a man who has been living in the remotest possible part of South Westland for the last thirty years.  Thanks to my brother for recommending it. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Far is Heaven

How Far is Heaven is a beautiful film, set in Jerusalem on the Whanganui river, where the Sisters of Compassion, there for over 100 years, still have a base.  We took the children, mostly so we could spend some more time with them rather than getting a babysitter, and they enjoyed and got something out of it as well.  The comments by the nuns about the meaning of compassion (to suffer with) and their concept of being alongside someone/people, gave me much pause for thought.  Please go and see the film if it sounds interesting, as I know I haven't captured what I felt well in this very brief review.  The cinematography is beautiful.

I've finished one sleeve of my pink Miette cardy and started the next.  I'm really keen to have it finished by early November and my floral curtain Colette crepe dress adjusted to wear with it.  I have a theory that if I take the dress up at the shoulders, it will stop falling off my shoulders and thus fit better.  This fitting malarkey seems to be at the centre of all (clothing) sewing challenges.

Things I've been coveting of late include this polka dot bikini.  I've got my wallet safely away for the meantime, while I watch our budget and construct my argument with myself as to why this piece of swimwear (Pier underwire plunge bikini top by Freya) should make it to the 'buy' of our household wishlist.  I did notice recently that my current togs are transparent at the back, which is an argument for replacing them in the interests of public propriety alone.

But a bikini?  I can hear my mother's gasp from here.  But my sister, who is my guide in all things bra-like, says that bikini tops make great bras in summer time as a double use, and also ones like the one above provide good support.  Having not merely larger than supposedly standard boobs, but also a larger than supposely standard tummy, I don't think the one piece suits at Avokado (which is the NZ retailer of the gorgeous bikini above) would fit me.  Could I pick up some cheap lycra shorts at The Warehouse to go with the top?  Possibly.  I'm also thinking of choosing a plain, cheap one piece swimsuit from The Warehouse or Postie Plus, and then wearing the bikini underneath. 

It's still raining. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

garden colour and produce

The genealogical obsession continues.  Thankfully, the children have two parents, which meant they did get to eat meals in the weekend.  Checking just one more source, and then just one more, isn't conducive to cooking tea.  I did find that my 4xgreat grandmother was a midwife though, a profession I admire greatly.

Below is my Chatham Islands forget me not.  It took over a year before this plant bloomed, but looking at that intense shade of blue, I think it was worth the wait.  I'm going to plant some more.

Our little manuka, which I thought was going to die, is flowering.

Iceland poppies.

 Self-sown borage and calendulas.
 There isn't a lot to eat inour garden at the moment.  There is mesclun, of which the red russian kale and the giant red mustard dominate entirely.  I've been putting it into salads and stirfries. We need to eat this up most vigorously in the next fortnight, as the tomatoes need to go in its place soon.

Broad beans.  Half hearted, interrupted attempts at staking which I must rectify soon.
 Amongst the unweeded wilderness, an artichoke heart.
 A longer term project in the form of garlic, to the right of the irises.
My other great delight currently  is reading Anne of Green Gables to Brighid.  Re-reading it, I see why both Brighid, and I before her, love it so.  All that high melo-drama!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Like Dorothy

I feel like I've been plonked down in a weekend after a storm.  I went back to work after a fortnight of mostly time off, and the kids went back to school and swimming lessons and ballet and kung fu and cubs (spot the lengthening list and laugh if you are one of the people whom I told I wasn't going to 'do' extensive extra-curricular activities with my kids) and then last night I collected various vehicles and people and dropped them all off again and picked them up again and then it was my turn to go out and possibly it was a good idea that I was driving so I couldn't give in to the temptation to drink lots.  Not because my life is going wrong; it's actually going wonderfully, but because I was so tired and shell-shocked from the week that drink seemed a good response.

So I listened to a band called Radius and played a game of working out what instruments they were playing.  One of the band members was no help because she said that after mixing up banjos and mandolins so often introducing songs in the past, she now called one song "manjo music", and thereafter made no mention of instruments at all.  I thought a lot of her beautiful playing was on a cornet, but upon googling this morning, I realise I am wrong.  Still not sure actually, it was like a brass clarinet only higher in pitch. 

I found a solution to my ugly home made blue trousers.  I bought some red jeans instead, online and made of stretchy denim, so although the jury is still out on how favourite they will become, they at least don't add massive wings onto my hips.

Progress continues on my pink miette cardigan.  I've gained confidence knitting with double pointed needles.  I think my prior difficulties may have been because I tried to knit on the inside instead of the outside of the circle.  Also, this time I'd knitted most of a cardigan, so I had an incentive to carry on and make it work instead of giving up.

I've not read much.  A little of the New Zealand Books review and the Guardian Weekly, not enough to comment.  And if you count the Resene Habitat magazine, then I've been spending some time on that.  I sense that the debate on what colour the dining room should be painted is set to resume.  I forget how many years it has been going for.  Favourite Handyman has been talking yellow, and I'm talking Resene Quarter Parchment, because apparently it is a warm white without being a cream.  At least test pots are cheap.  The last shade-of-white test pot I bought to go on the dining room walls, FH and the kids used it up on the tree hut before I'd even opened it.  The debate, you might imagine, has a few more rounds to go.

The dining room walls are varnished wood until half way up the walls.  Style magazines, such that I've read, would have us paint over it, but we aren't keen. Once we paint over the wood, that distinctiveness is all gone.  I'm not looking for fashionable, simply something we will love to live in and which is somehow achieved alongside marital harmony.  The varnished wood will likely be fashionable again before we make a decision anyway.

In a splurge of decadence, straight after we've just bought a new-to-us car, I've booked a babysitter for Sunday so we can go listen to The Johnnys up the valley, a long drive from here.  Don't ever ask me for sensible planning decisions.  I think that means I've blown the money that should have gone to pay my library fines.  Might have to go borrow some books from friends instead, book droughts aren't good for me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

blue irises against the red red fence.

This year I put blue irises in the punga raised bed, and now that they are out, I love the look of them against the red fence.

Back in the term time groove, I think I'm doing okay on the extra-curricular front, an aspect of parenting which I try to support, but frequently do so only with poor grace.  Yesterday both kids went to kung fu with FH, and today we started back on swimming lessons.  Ballet is going okay now I can leave Brighid there and not get told off for talking to other parents during the lesson.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a trial run at cubs. 

There were tears at the dinner table tonight.  Fionn's best buddy moves to Auckland at the end of the school year.  I felt for my boy, and didn't say out loud that there might be several more.  Spring Creek indirectly paid a lot of school fees where my children go to school.

I need inspiration for meal planning.  I used to be better than I currently am.  I think this is for two reasons:
1. I used to be home more, so could set up the slow cooker in the morning.
2. We've consciously moved away from red meat, and red meat was easy.  Sausages one day, mince another, then a roast, followed by shepherds pie, all interleaved with fish, chicken and quiche.

Now it's all fish, chicken, quiche and nachos.  When we are particularly short of time and I want to make some kind of semblance of a home made meal, I buy wraps plus pesto plus smoked chicken and cut up carrots and cucumber to go in as well.  As we end up with bread-based lunches and sometimes I have bread based breakfast, I try to keep dinner wheat/gluten free.  Which means I largely avoid pasta for tea as well.  I'll start doing sushi again when the local supermarket re-stocks pickled ginger.  I've fallen out of the groove of using chickpeas and beans for vege dinners, but if it can be done within an hour (walk in to kitchen to eating at the table), or preferably 30-40 minutes, I'm keen to read and try any suggestions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

agency, crafting & elderly people

Tonight I was reading Steph C of 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World's post on the purpose of sewing for her and her response to greenie interrogation. The response I wrote in her comments section was so long and also threw in some things I'd been intending to share on my blog, that I've pasted a copy of my response here:
"I used to be more focused on living 'greenly'.  I haven't decided that it no longer matters at all.  But I have returned to the paid workforce and now have school aged children and the choices I make are different to the ones I made when they were tiny and I was at home a much bigger proportion of each day.  I see that time I put in when the children were younger as a positive legacy rather than bemoaning that I'm no longer making my own bread and raising all of my plants from seed.  I learnt a lot in the kitchen, in the garden and craft-wise.  We wouldn't have time to build a chook run from scratch now, but we do have the enduring benefits of that chook run in terms of daily eggs and a reusing option for many of our food scraps.

In terms of crafting, the children are in a perfect storm of hand-me-downs, and while I make some nightwear and round-home clothes, I can source these cheaply from op shops or even local rtw shops.  But what I cannot source easily are clothes which fit me, suit me, are affordable and meet my workplace needs.  This is where sewing comes in - learning to make a full bust adjustment has been the single most useful skill in the last two years.  I inherited some pretty dresses when a family member with gorgeous taste and a generous budget died.  Last week I realised that the features of my most favourite two dresses are almost exactly replicated in your tiramisu pattern.  I've got the fabric in the cupboard waiting!  No pressure though, I'm aiming to finish knitting a summer cardigan first.

I have a shelf full of gifted or thrifted fabric, ready to be turned into clothes, or at least used for muslins.  But, like you, I'm coming to the conclusion that knits are what suits the clothing I want to wear best.  And finding knits for muslins in the op shop just doesn't seem to happen!  If I take three attempts at an item to get one which I then wear every week for a couple of years in a winter or summer season, then I don't consider that waste.  Only through practising will I make progress.  I guess I could categorise it as 'slow clothing', if I were looking for categories."

In other news, I felt very keenly today the sadness of elderly people who once had agency over their lives and now have none, or very little.  In between work and school collection-ballet lesson-collecting the new car (yes! really! new to us anyway.  I like how it goes without steam coming out of the bonnet), I had ten minutes to spare, so I popped in to see Mary K, my elderly cousin who lives at a local rest home.

It's a great rest home. The staff are lovely, they love Mary K and they have really good communication with her family.  But today, a decision was made that there would be a separate dementia ward, and that meant moving many people around, including Mary K.  She has moved to a lovely room, but she is disoriented and I know from experience that she will be confused and consequently frazzled for about a fortnight after this major change.

Like our children who sometimes get a new teacher with no say in the change or the timing of the change, elderly people like Mary, who thank goodness have the care they need in a rest home instead of being dangerously unable to cope in their own homes, are pawns instead of actors in their own lives.  Our old people are a gift.  Not cute like babies necessarily, but people still wanting to be people, and how we as a society and as individuals treat old people makes, I think, a massive difference to frail lives.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The season changes again

This weekend I made some trousers, from the Simplicity 1887 pattern.  The sewing part turned out fine - I do feel I am making progress towards sewing competency.  But the fit is terrible.  The trousers bag out enormously in the thighs and then taper in again and I look like an ice cream cone silhouette.  I've just lined up my pyjama pants on top of them and my elastic waist pjs are considerably more flattering.  I have a whole shelf of non-stretchy fabric awaiting transformation (almost all of it thrifted or gifted to me), but more and more it seems that all the clothes that I like on me are made from stretchy fabric.

The sun came out!  I transplanted the asparagus and the cosmos and the sweet pea which so desperately needed it that I would lose them if I waited until next weekend.  But the rest of my many garden projects will have to wait a little longer.

The car project is nearly at completion stage.  Some time later this week, we will have the ability to travel long distance again, without substantial risk of the car blowing up entirely.

I've gone back to knitting, after my sewing interlude.  Now I'm onto the sleeves on the Miette.  The circular needles are too small to knit the sleeves on in my opinion, and the shop is not open to go back and purchase a shorter circular needle.  So I'm knitting on double pointed needles for the first time ever.  Hmmm.  Much slower so far, and I find it a bit disconcerting that needles poke towards me like war heads no matter which position in the row I'm knitting.  I can already see that alterations will be needed to get the fit I want for a Miette.  This one, and there is no way I am undoing it, will be like many on the ravelry site - done up at the top only.  But I would like to knit a blue all wool Miette for winter which is altered so that it will do up all the way down in a mildly elegant fashion (not stretching and pulling and groaning all the way).  As for working out those alterations, I am making progress in my head and I do need to say to anyone who thinks maths is irrelevant, that knitters who are non-standard sizes seriously NEED maths skills!

Back to work tomorrow.  I've enjoyed the break, the time with the children and Favourite Handyman and the opportunity to indulge my latest obsession of genealogy.  I now have some details and stories of all of my Cornish great grandfather's brothers and many other interesting details and continuously evolving questions to boot.  It's remarkable to me how almost everyone left the West of Cornwall after the tin mine industry collapsed in the 1870s.  My Cornish great grandparents had nine adult siblings between them, and only two stayed in Cornwall.  Neither of those two had children, and I wonder if, had they had progeny, they might have left also.  Most went to Australia or New Zealand, sometimes with time in other parts of England or in Wales first, and the widow and daughter of one great great uncle went to Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Our trusty Nissan, 1991-2012.

 It was at Wilson's Hotel, in Reefton, that we had our last supper before the car started to emanate steam through the bonnet.
Looking eastwards at dusk, this is Reefton with its lovely old buildings and a vista of bush leading to nowhere.
But Reefton, like all of the West Coast, has a long history of speculative excitement.  Even the tearooms.

Mercifully, after the big steam and almost bust, we had enough spare water to get us back to Reefton and add lots more water and fill all the bottles to attempt the journey home.

We got home safely and yesterday I left the car with the wonderful JJ and it was early this afternoon that we learnt that our car, the one which JJ had fixed so many times for us and kept it going and warrant-worthy, was not worth fixing.

Before this tumultuous event, I was spending large amounts of my time and headspace, during this school holiday fortnight, in a genealogical bubble.  I lost interest in blogging, or Eliza, or housework, though I did rouse myself to feed the children and spend some time at work occasionally.

Well, I'm never much into housework.  But this afternoon, in need of doing something useful to distract me from the choosing and financing of a new car, I swept the hall floors.  Then I vacuumed the hall floors.  Then I washed the hall floors.  I washed the biggest hall floor twice and peeled bits of chewing gum off to boot.  The water was still dirty at the end of the second wash.

Now I need to decide whether ringing the insurance people to quote on full insurance premiums vs our current third party.  Or clean the bath.  The bath may even win.

Have I gardened during this fair spring?  Why no, not much.  It rains and pelts and buckets down here for days on end.  One day, as I recall from last year, just as I think I need to build an ark rather than buy a car, it will stop. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Eliza # 4

"Crowded" took on a new meaning on the Jessie Readman.  You might have read the reports that it was clean and comfortable and generally a much better ship than some others which my later friends had the indignity of sailing on.  But comfortable is always a relative term.  Sometimes it means hardly anyone died. 

Cleaning, always cleaning.  Perhaps generously paying upper deck passengers had someone else to clean for them, but on our deck we all had to clean everything to a certain standard by half an hour after breakfast.  As you might imagine, in the women and children section, there was no shortage of officious matrons who lead the charge on making sure we all did our bit.  Not that anyone had a large area to clean, but you can still make a mess in the space it takes to swing a cat.

One day there was something of a commotion in the bunk next to mine.  Mrs Doherty was having a tough time delivering her fifth child.  Blood was running everywhere and the women beside her were looking both grim and fearful.  I was sent to sleep on the other side of the room while they tried to give Mrs D as much care and privacy as they could. 

I wouldn't say I was the most popular woman on the ship.  I wasn't given to prayer groups, or discussions of my husband's plans (did I know them to discuss?  Not really).  My escapade following Julia and Margaret had marked me out as someone to avoid for the more carefully pious in the room.  But once settled on the eastern side of the women and children's room on our deck, I began to make a little friendship with a very quiet girl called Annie.  Like me, Annie wasn't in a huge hurry to explain the full circumstances of how she came to be on the ship.  Unlike me, she was quite good at not drawing attention to herself.

When Mrs D and the baby died, some of the women lead a large prayer and Bible reading session before we had the full funeral.  As they assembled, Annie asked if I had a Bible.  Oh yes.  Even if she'd had not a penny to clothe or feed me for the trip, I think my Mammie would have made sure I took a Bible.  I sat beside her and opened the page to where the reading was about to begin.  I was only 19 and I'd already sat at the prayers and Bible readings for far too many woman who had died in childbirth back home.

It was then that I noticed that she was trying to match the words being spoken with the words on the page desperately and, it seemed, probably unsuccessfully.  Maybe I could play teacher on board after all, though more quietly than I'd played follow-the prostitutes.

happy holidays despite usual chaos

One fabulous day, the perfect kind of holiday day, where I get to chat with my friend N while our children play happily.  We went swimming, we ate and we went to the library.  Low cost, high pleasure.

My efforts to streamline our swimming pool visit had dismal results.  I separated my keys so that there weren't so many in the open lockers at the pool.  But, one house key and one car key are not sufficient if I go crazy on the security on our 21 year old, multi-dinged and filthy station wagon and put the clublock on.  FH came over and unlocked it, not even trusting me to borrow his key.  Nice work on the small town front that he was so close.

Next stop, the library.  As seems to be a routine bordering on ritual, this school holidays I realised that a generous but compulsory donation to our local library was going to be necessary if I wanted any more books out.  I'd not found three books for months in the midden, so decided to bite the bullet and pay for the books, a most generous sum.  Only my streamlining of only taking my eftpos card to the swimming pool meant I left my eftpos card in the swimming bag at home.  No generous gift and no library books.

But wait, there's more!  By the time I got home, I decided to delegate the cooking of dinner so I could operate a full scale archaeological dig in my bedroom.  One corner of my bedroom actually.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Procrastinators and Friends, I saved myself the princely sum of $28 in that dig.  One down, two to go.  Perhaps tomorrow I shall deal with another corner of the bedroom.  The third book is Brighid's, but I'm not yet brave enough for her room.  It is clear that she is my daughter when you look at the state of her boudoir.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Eliza # 3

I'd had no longing to cross the seas, become a 'colonial'.  At the time, I thought books would somehow be the saving of me from a lifetime of preparing dull food and destroying my body with babies.  The preacher in the pulpit wasn't keen on women having any thoughts of their own, but he was keen on everyone being able to read and write so they could read the Bible whenever they weren't doing God's drudgery in the kitchen and on the fields.

The Bible has been no saviour for me, and reading and writing hasn't prevented the endless housework and baby rearing.  I've managed to keep my babies tally down compared to some, but more about that later.

The boat trip over to Port Chalmers gave me a chance to learn a little off the other women.  There were many who were very pious - we were on a boat from Greenock to some vision of a brave new world free of sin after all - but by no means everyone.

There were, it turned out, a couple of 'fallen women' on the boat.  Properly fallen and having earnt some money for it, as it turned out.  Mammie thought I was 'fallen' for having kissed George once.  I left the antics of Julia and Margaret out of my later letters home, but they certainly gave me some smiles for their daring.  No knitting baby garments demurely on the edge of beds filled with children for them.

One time I followed them up as they crept through the divide between the women and children's section and the men's section.  I wasn't about to ply my wares like they were; I merely wanted to see what was out there, maybe smell a bit of fresh air, even say hello to George.

We got caught and hustled back down the back, placed beside some Bible reading hens with millions of human chickens around them, and refused dinner that night.  Worth it for a giggle, I thought at the time, but when George heard and got a message to me, I realised we still knew very little about each other, and that George was quite clear as to who should be in charge. 

Still the same right now.  Tomorrow I'll see if I can fit in the story of teaching Jessie how to read and write.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Eliza # 2

It wasn't so bad, the trip over on the boat.  The Jessie Readman, the ship was called.  The boat was indeed full of crying mothers and babies and the kind of iron rules keeping men and women apart which Mammie would have praised if she'd known and requested if it wasn't like that.  I was a married woman now, but not one who arrived at that state the way my parents intended.

They didn't really know what to make of me, the men at the back of the Albion.  Those who knew my family knew that I should be tucked up in bed with my Bible.  Those who didn't and weren't completely drunk, wondered at my high necked grey dress in a place where women either didn't visit or made money from visiting.  The stupid man who made grabbed at my dress to pull me down didn't count on my brothers walking in at that point.

George Mitchell.  He knew of me, though I was a good few years younger than him.  He humoured me while my brothers were gone, offering me a drink and his arm when I tripped in the mud.  He'd no way of knowing quite what he was in for when I, emboldened by the whisky I'd long coveted as a man's treat, kissed him on the lips to say thank you.  My brothers, who thought they had dealth with the worst menace, took the scene rather seriously when they came back.  No need to talk to Eliza of course, Father would be the one to tell and the one to make decisions.

I gather that my father put George right on what he was in for.  In a town where John Robertson, farmer and staunch Presbyterian, had endorsed the public shaming of fallen women, the Robertsons needed me out of our little village and fast.

I don't know how they secured places on the boat for us so quickly, but I do know that I walked on that boat after a month spent indoors and only hours after I'd taken my wedding dress off and thanked my family for a number of extremely dour and practical wedding presents.  When we got off the boat in Port Chalmers, just over three months later, it was time to start life with a man I'd barely met.  A whiskey and a kiss, it turned out, were not sufficient exchanges for us to know what we were in for.

Usual story, time to make dinner if I know what's good for me.  I'll write again soon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Eliza # 1

Mrs Geo. Mitchell to the rest of the world.  Housewife, cook, sometime mother and keeper of the books.  I'll be Eliza in these letters.

I suppose you want to know if I will tell the truth?  Truth, now that is an overused word around here, and seldom does it tell the story from a woman's point of view.  When Albert Jones beat his wife until the blood seeped through his boots, his truth was that she should have had the dinner ready.  I saw her clutching her stomach before he got home.  I'd heard her vomiting of a morning for a few weeks, and wondered what she would do to feed another child.  Now, she is dead, so is the unborn child, and he looks for someone else to look after his brood.

Perhaps you want to know what it looks like where I live.  Dull.  Brown.  Dirty.  Lives spent chasing sheep, scrabbling for long gone gold, and selling bread, gin and God.  Sex and cooking are never in the census, for women are invisible, or perhaps the shorthand of "married" requires no further elaboration.

My name is Eliza Robertson Mitchell, once known as Eliza Kerr.  I was born in Perth, Scotland, and I never asked to come to the other side of the world.  I asked to become a governess or a teacher, to use my brain and not spend my life having babies.  Only to become a teacher, I needed morals of the finest and sternest ilk.  They did not include having a beer at the back of the Albion Inn and flirting too much with the youngest son of a local farmer, called George Mitchell. 

Do I need to spell out what happened next?  The brothers who happily laid with local wenches had different standards for me. The Mitchells and the Kerrs had some heated exchanges and the news of the wedding and a passage booked for New Zealand were delivered to me on the same day.

I don't know how much you wanted from the first letter.  But I've a bottle of gin just delivered and if I don't want a thud to my lower stomach, always where it can't be seen, mark of an aspiring gentleman apparently, then I'd best make some dinner while I drink.


School holidays.  No making school lunches at 7am.  The juggling game stills for a time and we all get to catch up on sleep and time with each other and the garden and the house.

While the sun shone, I set beer traps for the slugs.  Favourite Handyman mowed the lawn and Brighid and I took Mary K (85 and in a rest home) out for a drive.

While the rain poured, I made laundry liquid.  I helped Fionn empty his room of clutter (I think he calls most of it Lego) so that I could vacuum the entire wooden floor.  Favourite Handyman put Fionn's posters up and now the room looks superb. 

Yesterday we all went to the movie Kiwi Flyer.  It was lovely.  A perfect family movie in an old fashioned sense.

This morning I finished Skylark by Jenny Pattrick.  I really enjoyed it, and I'm so pleased that someone has put part of the goldfields story to print, especially since I've still not written up the stories I think need telling yet.  Now that I have five minutes to call my own, I think of writing again.  But last holidays I was like this, and I can't even find any evidence that I wrote a single thing. 

I'm thinking of sharing my ideas in draft written form directly on this blog, as a way of doing something which actually appears outside of my bedroom.  So sometime soon, there will be some letters/diary entries from Eliza Mitchell, an unhappy housewife on the Mt Ida goldfields of the 1880s who puts the bottle in front of her paper and shares the stories of her world.