Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Stairway to Heaven.

ANOTHER pothole reminded us that small cars should slow down on metal roads. Hell ... I was crawling along and if I slowed down anymore, I'd be going backwards.
    'Where's the sign? ' I said to my mate. 'The APP said the pathway is by the bridge ... oh, there's the carpark.'
    I pulled off the road. 'Car park,' was pushing it. There was barely room for my car and the car that was already there. Perdy, our ebullient Jack Russell was busting to get out of the car. Her whimpering hadn't stopped since we turned down the side-road. I attached her lead and she jumped out, trying to haul me towards the bush. She wanted off, but that was a no-go. Dogs, particularly Jack Russells are not welcome in the bush ... for good reason. 'There be critters ... endangered ones,  them there hills, girl.'
    Out of nowhere, a couple appeared. They approached. Perdy pulled me in their direction. 'Hi ... did you just come from the tree ... the Square Kauri?'
    The lady answered with an English accent, one very familiar to me. A friend up the road in Tararu spoke in exactly the same variant. 'Yes ... the steps are steep but well built.'
    'But where's the track?'

    'Just past the bridge. It's well worth the short tramp,' she replied, looking at me like she doubted my ability to manage the steps. The birdsong is beautiful too.'
    We chatted for a few minutes, then after they left, we headed towards the hidden track. I had an immediate sense that we were entering another world. The trees and ferns enclosed us, dripping their moisture on exposed skin, dropping the temperature a few degrees and casting an eerie light on the narrow pathway. A distant Tui called to us, interrupted by a more raucous call from an unidentified source. A large drop found its way down the back of my neck causing me to shiver.
    We continued, Perdy leading the way, stopping every few seconds to sniff out unseen life-forms and to leave her 'special 'mark. About ten metres into the bush, the stairs appeared. They were well built, with metal stones filling the step-line, but a lack of handrails made for a somewhat precarious journey, given that  I was being pulled, released and pulled again by a Jack Russell that understood nothing of a steady pressure and a gentle walk.
     'Jeeze, how many steps are there?' I asked, after a few seconds. I turned around. Where was my mate? Wispy tendrils of mist swirled from the canopy of ferns framing the path. My mate appeared, camera in hand. He had been taking pictures of fungi. 'Go ahead ... I'm still feeling car sick, from your driving,' he said accusingly.
    I ignored the barb and continued up the next flight of steps, puffing and hoping that the tree was up ahead. We had seen it standing majestically in the bush, from the road, but the path wound its way in a manner that made me feel like it didn't want us to encroach on its special world. I took a few more steps. I seemed to be stopping every ten steps or so. 'Bugger ... I hate steps,' I muttered to the ferns. One slapped my face, punishing me for my trash-talk.
    Something unnerved me. The bords had gone silent. I heard a rustling sound. So did Prdy. She pulled to the left of the path. I yanked her back. 'I ain't chasing you, girl. You get lost here and I'll have more than the Doc officers pissed off.'
    I carried on, trying to ignore the growing feeling. Looking up, I noticed the patterns formed by the canopy. I heard a heavy flapping sound and a dark shadow passed overhead. Must be a Kereru, I thought, but a bloody big one, I took a few more steps. I was down to five at a time now, before taking a breath. Yet another steep section presented itself. 'Damn ... that tree better be worth it.'
    I looked back. I couldn't see my mate. I felt very alone. Jack Russells don't count. 'Just a bit further.'
    Perdy started barking as the shadow passed overhead. It let out a cry ... a  guttural visceral screech like nothing I had heard before. I considered turning back, to find my mate. I could just about hear him saying that we were in Jurassic Park. 'Nah ... we're nearly there.'
    The steps stopped and we reached a flat section of the boardwalk, this one with railings. A view openned up, revealing distant hills covered in bush, some towering above the tree-ferns and smaller trees. Perdy tried to speed up, dragging me forwards ... to a sight that suggested a past long gone. A square Kauri tree, huge, timeless. I stood, transfixed by a vision. History teaches us that human greed is the main ingredient in our story. Even Perdy knew that we were in a special place. We just stood looking, until my mate came, camera in hand and look of disbelief at the heavenly life-form at the end of the boardwalk.
    The sun broke through the mist and the birds sang again.


Who let the ducks out?!

Life in the 'small smoke' is not without excitement. When you add 'semi-retirement' to the mix, it should not be assumed that life follows a certain pathway, bereft of anything that absolutely challenges.
    Today started like most days ... the usual morning stuff, before taking the four-legged beast for her walk. I fed the Jack Russell, made sure the chooks had their feed and water and collected any early morning eggs because one of them seems to like eating one a day. I have yet to find out which one!
    After breakfast, I decided to process the rhubarb and apples I had left in the slow-cooker all night. My intention was to put the sloppy mix into little bags and freeze them. I had cooked them with home-grown Stevia, to avoid issues with too much sugar in my diet. As I was pouring the mix into the bags, my cell phone rang. The caller was my neighbour, one removed.
    "Neil ... one of the ducks is wandering around Robert Street."
    OK ... the near neighbour was out. "Bring some food," she said.
    I grabbed some Vogel's Bread and walked around to the street. There she was, standing looking at another house. My neighbour appeared with a net on a stick. 'Ah ... that should do it," I said.
    I threw some bread on the ground in the hope that ducky would stay still long enough for us to enclose her/him. Ducky poked at the bread and then discarded it. The bread was obviously way too healthy.
    "This is going to be a bit of a problem," I offered, as Ducky waddled off. We employed our very best rural skills, herding Ducky towards the driveway at the back of our houses. She seemed quite content to let us follow her. We had difficulty getting her to stop long enough to ensnare in the net. Each time one of us got close enough, Ducky employed a burst of wing-flapping speed. You see, she/he has had one wing clipped ... we thought. At least we had Ducky off the road, so there was little risk of 'duck-splatter!'
    My neighbour managed to get in front of Ducky and opened a gate at the back of Ducky's section. Surely, we had solved the problem. NOPE! Ducky took off. Yes ... she flew, above shoulder height and I fell over in a most undignified manner. I almost swore, but the presence of a nice lady, prevented any untoward utterences. Hell ... I thought them, though!
    I got up and we continued to herd Ducky towards the gate. We quickly learned that any fast move would work against our ultimate ain. I thought we mirrored the actions of a dog trial. We hardly moved, spread our arms and ... viola! ... Ducky waddled back into the yard.
    We followed her, where she joined her duck family and ate the food I chucked on the ground.
'These ducks may have had their wings clipped ... but when?" I asked. "If they can fly that high, then I'm a bit worried that they may fly to my yard. You know who is awaiting there ... a crazy rat-hunting, add in Ducks ... little hunter."
    Yes, Perdy is well aware of the ducks next door. She is ready to help, but the results may not be quite the one I or Ducky could live with ... or maybe she just wants to make friends!!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The 'bowl story.'

"I have seen much, heard more and I show a few chips. Life has taught me to be resilient, shown me much. Sure, I no longer look like the day I emerged from the kiln, back in the 1950's, in New Lynn. I was part of a gift, a member of a set ... my family.
I watched my new family grow. I observed their lives, as they grew. I saw their tears when sadness or anger ruled. I watched them laugh, play and yes, disagree with one another. 
Sometimes they took me on picnics or gatherings of other families. I saw a mountain, rivers, lakes and black-sand beaches. I heard laughter, as little ones hopped on one foot, then the other as the sand made it's sun-heated warmth just a little too much. I watched the children fall asleep, finally giving my human parents a break from the constant noises of youth.
I cried when I was taken from the green fields of Taranaki, away from my Maunga, the snow-capped perfect peak that is Taranaki/Egmont. I was bound for the city of my birth ... Auckland.
My life became no less hectic. The children grew and some moved away. Still, I was a crucible for the same old and tried foods: Mashed potatoes, puddings, fruit salad; nothing unusual ... just nourishing basic fare.
I travelled to Hastings, Hamilton and twice back to New Plymouth. Then, I was given to the fourth child. My brothers and sisters from the set had died, broken and discarded. I SURVIVED, with a little discolouration and a chip.
I became the focus of experimentation, new foods, weird and exotic: Spices, herbs and dinner parties. Wine stood by my side along with the laughter and tears of those around me. My new owner never left me for long in the cupboards. There was always something new to hold and give to new friends. I survived several moves.
Now ... I live in Thames. I live a quieter life. I am often licked by a hungry Jack Russell, who loves to clean me before I swim in the sink. Whilst other dishes in the cupboard crack and are discarded, my owner keeps me, chip and all. I am part of a smaller family. I shall not be cast away. I am Crown Lynn. My story goes on ... and on ...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Story Time. Believe it ... or NOT!

 A ‘dogs tail.’
   “Stop pulling, Perdy! Damn … I can’t see where we’re going.”
    Cheeky birdsong faded as we pushed deeper into the mine, a cloistered shaft full of faded dreams and songs sung by the dead and desperate. Maybe they were laughing at me, presuming that I too desired the wealth of times gone.
    I stumbled as my foot hit a rock, sitting dead-centre in the narrowing tunnel. ‘Bugger … that hurt!”
    Perdy looked at me, her eyes barely visible in the diminishing light. My torch held precariously in one hand, and the leash in the other, flickered, casting dancing shadows on the walls.
    I shuddered. Should I turn back? “Nothing broken, girl. Kinda creepy in here though.”
    Perdy’s tail was hiding between her hind-legs, a sure sign that she wasn’t happy. Her little face was transfixed on something just beyond the reach of the weak torch-light. She sat, refusing to move.
    “Come on … I want to get to the end. There’s nothing to be worried about.”
    Perdy started growling … that low ‘big-dog’ sound she employs when she’s made up her mind that I need to reconsider my plans. Then I felt it. A cloying smell, drifting from the interior of the tunnel … and an eerie half-light, dancing, reflecting off the quartz-studded walls.
    A large rock fell from the low roof of the tunnel, causing me to jump back. I banged my head on the wall. The odour intensified, while the light began to diminish. My heart almost synchronized with the flicker.
    Perdy made the decision to start pulling me … back towards the entrance. I followed, casting my eyes back. The birdsong was gone when we tumbled out of the tunnel.

    “How about a beach-walk, next time, girl! Maybe
the beach can tell us some stories, eh.”

Friday, March 2, 2018

Is this how it is going to be?

Should I (We) be a bit concerned? I am in the process of changing my bank. This is because the one I have been with for many years is NOT in Thames. Yeah, I know, one can do what's needed, but sometimes, I like to talk face-to-face with a real person and I wish to be with an NZ owned bank. I contacted the two big banks (Yes, there are other smaller 'bank-like' options) The one I first emailed do not get back to me, which kind of surprised me.
OK, I walked into Kiwi Bank and made an appointment to see a real person. Later that day, I went back ion. The young person who looked after me, spent THRE hours with me, going over all the things I needed to do. I was mightily impressed and if anyone wants to know who she is, just ask. She deserves a medal for her patience and helpful service.
I have to admit to a certain amount of 'change-anxiety,' re this exercise. I don't like changing some of my 'financial or service providers. I am not sure if this is a 'fact-of-life' for people as they get older, but I think I may have been like this, most of my adult life.
Everything was going smoothly. I was in the process of changing my home, contents and car insurance. I spoke to a representative from TOWER insurance and I thought it went well. I was to receive a phone call in a few days, confirming the new arrangements ...but NO..... A few hours after leaving the bank, an Email came telling me that the home insurance was a no go. It seems that my home in Tararu is in a 'Stage 5 Landslide area.' My insurance request was denied. I suppose the car insurance was OK.
Why the hell would I give them my custom for other policies and not the main one?
My house is on the seaward side of Tararu Road, well away from the hills. I wonder what the people on the hill-side of the road would be thinking right now. I suppose I can stay with my current provider, but I would be interested in feedback re my experience, even from insurance agents who think that the representative from Tower is WRONG.
If he is correct, can we expect to hear more stories like this? Is there an issue?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A 'Tail' from Tararu!

By any other name: White Lightning!
I always assume that I have the measure of my little white Terrorist, (Jack Russell, in case anyone thinks I am casting aspersions!) but from time to time I receive a reminder that I should never relax my vigilance around the whereabouts of Miss Perdy.
Take today as an example of Perdy's ability to surprise me. She knows the morning routine, from the moment I arise through to the point where the morning takes a deviation from the norm. She understands the sequence of events that accompany a 'normal' morning. She even seems to know the difference between variations on my attire; be it that I am dressing for my day in Auckland, which is only a tad more formal than my usual beachcombing look.
I dressed in the later and fed her the little breakfast she favours. Perdy waits while I prepare the food for the hens, which consists of a slab of dog roll, mixed lovingly by hand with anything leftover that I am not going to eat, along with veggie scraps, crushed eggshells, chooky mash, milk....the list is endless!
Then I let her into the portion of the yard that she rightfully claims as hers. It is fenced off from the chooks, which live behind yet another fenced enclosure, one that I hope Perdy is incapable of invading. Perdy has another little quirky behaviour at this stage: She just about breaks down the side door of the garage, from whence I gather some chooky pellets to add to their feast.
I have gathered that Perdy loves to spend time in the garage, chasing imagined rats. Yes, there had been quite a large family of the beasts living there, before I resorted to WMD (You can figure that one out) leaving only the occasional visitor and an as yet to be cleaned residue of the former invasion.
Upon exiting the garage with the full complement of the chooky breaky, one rivalling the very best of cafes in far-off Auckland, I headed through the gate to the hen-house.
I turfed their food over the fence in a manner that was quite incongruous to the actual quality of the food. I should have served it on quality 'collectable' Crown Lynn! 
Next, the extremely important matter of water. Chooks will not lay if one does not supply them with copious amounts of clean water and good quality protein. Perdy was happily running around in her usual manic fashion, chasing God knows what in the garage, emitting delightful little happy yelps.
In the meantime, I picked up the blue container for their water and took it to the laundry, where I cleaned it and refilled it with clean pure Thames water (Stop laughing, Thamesites!)
As I headed back to the 'barrier fence,' I checked on Perdy's whereabouts, Yes, I could hear her rummaging through stuff in the garage, so I carefully opened the little gate, balanced the water on the post and...a flash of white, whipped past my feet and shot towards the hen-pen. Perdy...the little sod and escaped. She had watched me, without my full understanding of her exact presence and at the first opportunity had found a gap.
At this point, I have been known to go into AFIB (Go Google!) such is the level of my anxiety. It is more about her using the opportunity to find other holes in the back fence and escaping into the wilds of Tararu, to exploit every chance to enhance her knowledge of the whereabouts of ALL cats, for future fun-times!
I yelled for help and followed her through the gap. She immediately headed for the chooks, safely I hope shielded from Perdy's beyond amorous advances.
This is where Perdy's attempt at partial freedom fell apart. Perdy is a creature of habit, not always learning from past failed experiments. Her 'prey-driven' behaviours are often repeated, a factor that mitigates the possibility of Jack Russells ruling the world.
Perdy slunk around the back of the chooky enclosure, which had serious ramifications for the longevity of her escapade. I used the opportunity to limit her run, to gradually trap her in the small area behind the enclosure. At this point, the realization of her predicament becomes an obvious feature of her demeanour. Her tail lowers, no longer generating enough energy to power the whole of Thames and her face takes on a defeated look. She sits, obediently waiting until I pick her up and return her to her rightful place behind the barrier.
She has this look though, that speaks volumes: 'YOU KNOW I AM GOING TO DO IT AGAIN DADDY!'

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Time for me is a 'feeling.'

Life and time have shifted their focus. When I look back over the last eighteen months, I am struck by this strange feeling re time.
I am no longer influenced by ringing bells, timetables or the ramifications of meetings. Deadlines and budgets, other than those I impose on myself, do not figure in my day.
Time is still part of my life, in a format that flows, gently measuring out doses of surety, nature, conversations and interactions with people met on a stony beach or seat at a cafe facing the street.
Time is not measured in seconds, minutes or hours that relate to real maths. For me, mornings seem to flow like a bubbly stream, disappearing over a waterfall at midday, almost before I have had my share, then settling in afternoon pools that take their time and rest before rejoining the main flow.
Time speeds up mid-afternoon, queuing up to fit the needs of the evening.
Now that we have entered the phase whereby time stretches into later evening, there are more spaces to explore, to take in gentle sunlight, on beaches, bush clad valleys and tranquil backyards, where hens and fruit trees decorate a lawn that may or may not need tending.
Time has become kind, not rushed, just accepted for what it is.