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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Another Move

The cats...doing what cats do best.

I had a phone call from the property manager last week.  As I mentioned a few posts back, my place has been sold and I had until September to find somewhere else.  Not any more.  The phone call was to say that the owners want to move in earlier and I now have to be out by July!  So...the hunt begins again.

Of course, I want a place where I can have the cats and hopefully, a sunny balcony.  As you can see from the photo, they love sunning themselves and also just sitting watching the world go by.  I have a small wrought iron table with a couple of chairs and it's most pleasurable sitting in the morning sun with a cup or coffee or in the summer evenings, with a glass of red.  Fingers crossed something suitable comes up.  I've just seen a lovely place in Labrador which is about 1 km away from here, with views of the Broadwater. It's $10 per week more but...what the hell.  I've sent off an email asking about pets are permitted and also asking if it has its own laundry.  I hate shared laundries!  I've only had one place like that but I found some of the other tenants used my washing machine and of course, my power!  So, no more shared laundry facilities.

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It's officially the start of winter tomorrow, or what passes for winter here on the Coast.  May has been the warmest on record according to statistics.  Apart from the first two days of May when the temperature dropped drastically, the days have been warm and sunny, certainly nowhere near cold enough to don winter clothes.  Today is overcast with showers and is about 23C which is closer to the average daytime temp for winter.  Apparently it will be warmer again (about 25-26C) later in the week.  According to the Bureau of Meteorology, we're heading for another El Nino effect so that means drought.  Not a good forecast, especially for the farmers out west, where rainfall has been sparse anyway.  Poor souls.  The last cyclone didn't make it very far inland at all.  How demoralising to plant crops and have them do really well because of some relatively good rain, only to have everything die because there has been no follow up rain.  It's not only crops, either.  Cattle and sheep starve and if it wasn't for the generosity of folk in the cities and other farmers not so badly affected, a lot of station owners would be up a certain creek. Some people, unable to take any more, just walk away from the land after their families have been there for generations; some commit suicide.

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As I wrote on Facebook yesterday, I made a huge pot of pea and ham soup.  I found a large meaty hock in the supermarket and that, along with a packet of split peas, leeks, carrots and celery made a delicious meal last night.  After saving some for lunch today, I was able to freeze four meals for the future.  It has to be my favourite soup and I think it's because I always remember my much loved grandmother making it.  Being in a warm house on a cold winter's day (this was in New Zealand), with a steaming bowl of pea and ham soup made and served with love is a memory I've never lost.

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It's just started bucketing down once more.  Actually that turn of phrase reminds me of a funny incident two or three years ago.  I was at the small shopping centre not far from where I used to live before moving to the Coast.  It had begun to rain lightly but was becoming heavier.  I heard a little boy of about three years ask his mum if it was "buh-kuh-ting" down and his mother replied yes.  The tot then called out to his brother (I forget his name, say Jake), "Hurry up, Jake. It's buh-kuh-ting down!  Come on, Jake, it's buh-kuh-ting down!"  I was walking along giggling to myself when a woman, coming from the opposite direction, snarled at me, "What are you grinning about!"  I was astonished to say the least but ignored her and kept walking, smiling to myself as, in the distance, I could still hear the little one admonishing his brother to hurry up because it was buh-kuh-ting down!

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Book Review:

With All My Love:  Patricia Scanlan (Simon & Schuster GB 2013)

This is a beautiful book filled with laughter, love, revenge and forgiveness.  

Briony inadvertently finds a letter written and addressed to her by her grandmother whom she hasn't seen since she was about four.  Now with a daughter the same age, the letter has opened up a Pandora's box of questions for Briony for which there appear to be no answers.  For three generations, actions and harsh words have affected families and caused a rift which appears too big to heal and Briony, shocked to her core over what she has read, blames her mother.  She and her mother have always been close but will Valerie's perceived lies and selfishness drive her and Briony apart?   Briony is determined to find out the truth but...will she make the same kind of decision that caused the rift in the first place?

Patricia Scanlan is, along with the late Maeve Binchy, one of my favourite authors of this genre, nowadays called "chick lit".  Her stories resonate with compassion for the foibles and dynamics of families and I can't help wondering if she's experienced some of these passions herself.  She writes so convincingly that one is drawn into the story to the point of laughing out loud or grabbing the tissues to mop up tears.  A lovely story which I couldn't put down and which I wanted to keep on reading after the ending.

Rating:  *****

It's the weekend here and I hope you're all enjoying lovely weather wherever on the planet you may be.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Book Reminds Me.

 Bella attempts to masquerade as one of the cat ornaments on the bookcase.  It works...kinda!

Whereas Mitzi is in her favourite place in the whole world...on my bed, complete with shedding fur!

I meant to write a post a couple of days ago but became totally engrossed in Nelson Mandela's book "Long Walk to Freedom" which I've reviewed below.

Reading it took me back to my misspent youth (actually I was somewhat older), and the anti-racism protests when the South African Springbok rugby football team visited New Zealand to play the All Blacks.  New Zealanders were pretty tolerant of people of colour, although there were exceptions. There were those who felt the Springboks had nothing to do with their country's laws and others who vehemently disagreed.  I was in the latter group.  There were worldwide sanctions against South Africa for their appalling practice of apartheid and like many others, I felt the rugby tour was wrong.  Consequently, a group of us joined the protest which was noisy but peaceful until the police moved in with force.  The atmosphere changed and people started attacking the police.  I was shocked to see one of my friends hit on the head with a baton and the photo of him lying on the road was front page news that evening.  It was a tumultuous time and looking back, I feel rather sorry for both the All Blacks and the Springboks...all they wanted to do was play rugby! 

There was an incident 20 years earlier in 1960 which made a big impression on me and to this day I've never forgotten it.  I was 16 and on my very first date with a boy I'd met at a church camp I'd attended a week earlier.  After he was vetted by my mother and brothers, I was allowed to go to the movies with him in the city on Saturday night.  I also had strict instructions to be on the last bus home!  After the movie, we were walking to the bus terminus and holding hands as we walked.  I thought I was the cat's whiskers having this tall, good looking and well dressed boy by my side.  As we walked down town, I noticed a middle aged couple coming towards us and saw the woman looking me up and down, an incredibly contemptuous look on her face.  I wondered what was wrong and looked down to see if there was a mark or something on my coat or if I had a ladder in my stockings, although from her face I felt it was more than that, however, I had no idea what it could have been.

I never forgot that look and a few years later while watching the race riots in the USA on the news I saw the same look on the faces of some of the national guard...and the penny dropped.  The boy I was with was Samoan and to anyone who didn't know me or my background, I was white and to this day, I can still see the disgusted look on that woman's face.

I was brought up to be open about my heritage as were others like me.  As I said above, New Zealanders generally weren't racist and no one thought anything about different coloured skin.  At school, Pakeha and Maori kids were in the same class and we all played together.  When we were a little older, boys or girls "liked" someone of the opposite sex regardless of their race and it was quite acceptable. 

I remember my late ex father-in-law, a small minded, bigoted racist if ever there was one.  During the news, coverage of race riots in the US were shown and he sat there making the most disgusting and derogatory remarks while I seethed.  Things came to a head when he used the N word and I exploded.  I tore a strip off him, responding that it was people like him with that attitude who caused so much hate in the world.  My ex sat there and didn't say a word...I think he was too shocked.  Needless to say, the old man didn't like me very much at all after that little outburst, but I didn't give a damn.  From that time though, he was very careful about what he said when I was around and we managed to strike an uneasy truce.

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Book Review:

Long Walk to Freedom.  Nelson Mandela, pub. 1994, Little, Brown & Co (Abacus imprint)

Nelson Mandela was one of the most well known and familiar faces of the 90s and into the millennium until the time of his recent demise.  A charismatic and forthright speaker, he and the African National Congress managed to demolish the vindictive class system which had been in place in South Africa since the Boer War.  It was not without setbacks, betrayal and punishment nor was it easy and Mandela tells it how it was.

It's a big book but compelling reading, written simply and unemotionally.  Mandela tells of his childhood, the opportunities he had for education and of course, his time on Robben Island.  The overriding theme throughout the story was his goal for all people to be equal, whether Black, Coloured, White or any other ethnicity.  He fought for and eventually was successful in getting the right to vote for everyone, regardless of their skin colour.

He spent 27 and a half years imprisoned with only sporadic visits from his wife and daughters due to the bans and difficult travel arrangements deliberately imposed by the police as well as the long distance they had to travel from their home.  It would have been a heartbreaking time but Mandela never gave in to self pity instead making sure he kept his mind occupied and his body fit.  I was amazed at the ingenious ways he and his fellow ANC prisoners found to communicate and get messages out to their supporters.  He was able to befriend some of the wardens who were sympathetic, enabling him to communicate with the outside world.  

I'm sure his time in prison was a lot more unpleasant than what he wrote about but I also had the sense that, in Mandela's case, it wasn't about him but about his people.  His people and South Africa were first and foremost, even over and above his family and he had plenty of time in prison to regret that.

Altogether an amazing story of fortitude, courage and determination; anyone who reads this book couldn't fail to be affected by it.

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Enjoy the rest of your week...the weekend is close!


Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Slothful Week.

Rather dull today and somehow the water doesn't look as inviting as it usually is!

I've not done a lot of writing this week, in fact, I haven't done any!  This post is the first time I've set fingers to keyboard for a number of days.  However, I've not been wasting my time...not at all!

Our weather turned very cold at the beginning of the week and although it's now warmer, I think I can safely say summer has gone.  I've been busy cooking soup...pumpkin, potato and leek last weekend; yesterday a huge pot of chicken soup, enough for eight servings.  During the week I also made vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise and a large cottage pie.  My freezer is now full of ready made meals plus I have a bowl of chicken soup in the fridge.  Just as well, it turns out, as I forgot to get something out of the freezer for dinner tonight.'s chicken soup and crumpets!  I can live with that.

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I made a very sensible decision some weeks ago and that was to start doing my grocery shop weekly instead of once a month.  Because I now have stairs to climb to access my place, the once a month shop meant untold trips up and down carrying bags of groceries.  I became heartily sick of that and decided on the once a week jaunt instead.  It's taken a little while to become used to not buying in bulk but I've found over the weeks that I actually end up finding more specials.  As I like saving money, this has made me very happy, as you can imagine.  Plus I only have one or two trips from the car to take everything inside...much better!

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Book Review:

Alibi by Sydney Bauer (Pan Macmillan Aust, 2008)

If you like reading legal suspense, you'll enjoy this book.  David Cavanaugh, a sought after criminal defence lawyer, becomes involved in the defence of Jessica Nagoshi's murderer.  Jessica was being groomed, along with her brother, Peter, to take control of Nagoshi Inc.  However, she was brutally murdered with no clues as to the perpetrator of the crime.  Plus, Jessica had a secret her brother and father knew nothing about.

Set in an elite ivy league college setting and involving three highly intelligent law students, this well written novel has more twists and turns than the most extreme roller coaster.  I can usually work out whodunnit, but in this story, I had no idea until I reached the end.   This is a real page turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the ups and downs, ins and outs that kept me guessing all the way through.

Rating:  *****

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That's all for now, folks.  Enjoy your weekend!


Sunday, 4 May 2014

After a Protracted Wait!

The book...finally!                                                                            Packed cat...or is she?

Yes, finally after a lot of faffing around on my part my book is available on Kindle. As yet, the hard copy isn't ready but when it is I'll let you know.

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Winter has struck, literally overnight.  A couple of days ago, I was in shorts, T-shirt and bare feet.  The last two days, I've been in winter woollies, socks and slippers and it's still only May!  Yet we already have the chilling westerly winds which we usually get in August.  They come straight off the desert and are very dry as well as cold, meaning I use a lot more moisturiser than usual!

Though to my delight, my flat is lovely and cosy and that's without having any heating on.  The two external doors have large gaps at floor level so I blocked those with a couple of old towels thus cutting out any drafts.  As you can imagine, I'm very happy.  It's lovely and sunny on the balcony and normally I would be sitting out there but being on the end of the building, as well as facing north, it's also exposed to the westerlies making it too cold to sit outside.  However, I shall take full advantage when the wind eventually swings to the south.

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Last Wednesday, I met a friend for coffee at Harbour Town, which is a large shopping complex filled with factory outlet stores.  After coffee we strolled around in the sun and looked at winter clothes, shoes, etc. My friend picked up some bargains but I wasn't so lucky.

On Thursday, another friend came for lunch and we spent a lovely couple of hours catching up and having a lot of laughs.  She's also an author who has self published and has given me a lot of advice on the matter over the past few weeks.  Such as the other day when I messaged her because I didn't know how to find out whether my book was "live" or not.  Thanks to her, I could check it out for myself.  It was live but I tweaked it a little and held it up for a couple of days. Now it's all go!

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I hope you are all well and that those of you who live in the northern hemisphere are finally having milder weather.  Those of us in the southern hemisphere are heading towards the colder months of the year, and I'm not fond of those.  Give me summer any time!