Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Duck

Georgia stood on one leg, hips akimbo, peering at the structure before her. She tapped the toes of one foot , as her head descended almost to her chest and she leaned forward, a frown growing on her face. Her dark eyes grew even darker and her lips, pressed tightly together now, were hardly visible.

Finally she muttered, “Something is wrong here! Where has that duck gone? It was there yesterday. I put it to bed. It needs lots of sleep before our trip.”

Suddenly Georgia collapsed into a heap, tears streaming down her cheeks. “He’s gone to Brazil without me!” she wailed.
Georgia’s granny left her job digging for worms in the garden. “What’s up, Georgie Pie? I have the worms for your duck now. Look, they are lovely fat juicy ones! Come, come now. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Doofus has gone to Brazil without me!” Georgia repeated.

“No, no, I’m sure he hasn’t. He’s a lovely duck, he wouldn’t do that. Who would feed him worms?”

“I don’t know! But he’s gone!” sniffled Georgia.

“I’m sure he hasn’t”, replied Granny. “Let’s look carefully. Is he under the bed? No! Maybe he is in the cupboard. No! Is he sitting in a chair? No! Come on, Georgia, help me look for him. That’s a good girl!”

Finally, when nearly every object inside the big box had been moved aside, looked under and returned to it’s correct spot, Georgia yelped with delight as she spotted her golden duck nestled cosily under Love Heart Bear. With her 5 year old fingers she carefully picked up the little duck and placed him in the palm of her other hand. She stroked it gently, gave it a fairy kiss, curled her fingers around it tightly, lifted her arm and flung the duck into the air. The duck landed heavily on the other side of the garden. “Nope”, announced Georgia, “He can’t fly yet. When he can we will go to Brazil!”

Turn your face to the sun

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadow falls behind you."

Maori proverb

Friday, 30 January 2009

What is it about birthdays?

What is it about birthdays that makes you stop and reflect on life? Do you do that? I don't think I used to, or if I did it wasn't for long. I guess when you are younger you are busier, without the luxury of time for such navel gazing. My birthday was on Tuesday but my family and I celebrated over the long weekend, so the reflective mood has been stretched a bit this year.

As a child growing up in Australia it came as a bit of a shock to me when I learnt that the long weekend was actually for Australia Day on 26th Jan, not my birthday on 27th. Here in NZ I live in the right part of the country as the Monday closest to 29th January is Auckland Anniversary Day. It is observed throughout the historic Auckland Province (the northern half of the North Island) and is now generally called the Auckland and Northland Anniversary Day. On 29 January, 1840 William Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands. Late January must have been a good time for explorers!

The weather is usually good around this time of year and this year was no exception. Oldest son Danny and his family finished their short holiday at Langs Beach on the Sunday and joined the rest of us at Mangawhai where Leone and her two kids were holidaying. Leone's husband, Lez, hadn't been able to join them as he was working during the week and doing the handyman thing, helping his cousin, Goldy, tile a new bathroom at the weekend. Lez and Goldy had done a "I'll help you with yours if you help me with mine" deal when Leone and Lez were renovating.

After all the grandkids had their fill of the beach, youngest daughter Justine was roped into (she doesn't take much roping) helping Jami, Krystal and Georgia prepare a birthday concert for me. Shayde was around but not showing a lot of interest. But when it came time for them to perform she joined in the fun. "The audience" spread themselves on beach towels on the grass under a lovely shady apple tree and the girls danced and sang a song I've never heard before but then I am a bit out of touch with the musical interests of 10 year olds. I think it might have been something from High School Musical. There was something about falling and in a carefully choreographed move Georgia fell backwards into Jami's arms (and someone taught her how to point her toes!). Towards the end of the song the words they were singing inspired Georgia to run forward and pull Michael out of the audience and on to the "stage". And at the end of it the words, "you're one in a million" with the dancers cum singers pointing towards me. Ah, bless 'em.

Cricket had been played on Saturday with a tennis racket for a bat and a large pink squishy ball. By Sunday, however, the players had a tennis ball and a tiny, kid's game sized, cricket bat. After the concert and as the day was cooling down a little, a game of touch rugby eventuated.

I'd been up for cricket but am happy to accept my footy playing days are over. What's more being a spectator is lots of fun. The highlight of the game, for me, was half time when Danny attempted to teach his team of Krystal and Jami a "run around" move and the "scissors", while Michael drew diagrams in a sandy spot, explaining his tactics to his team of Shayde and Georgia.

An early dinner, Danny and family depart for the farm; Justine and Bill pack up the tent and head back to Auckland; Leone, Michael, Jami and I have a quiet night. (I had planned to also return home that night but Leone had presented me with a bottle of merlot. Enough said!)

The next morning I caught up with old friends who live at Mangawhai and we chuckled over a shared memory of the days I kept company with Allan, a lovely man who used to also live there. Maybe I will write about that tomorrow.

So the birthday for this year is done and dusted and now I only have to shake off this reflective mood and all will be back to normal. Well, normal for me.

Sea Worn Man

Sea-Worn Man

Sea-worn man
Eyes that reflect the ocean
Pools of mystery when the tide rushes in
Passions seething, ebbing, flowing
Murky depths – hiding the secrets of the soul.

Surface tanned, weathered by time and winds of change
Spirit adrift
Tested by currents of destiny
Your sea-worn eyes captivated me

Georgia, the All Black

It was Rugby World Cup time and Georgia was becoming a rugby fan.

During one of her usual weekend visits I was sitting on a single lounge chair reading to her and she was perched on the arm of the chair with her arm around my neck, leaning on me and looking at the pages over my shoulder.

The story was about a little train that was learning to stay on the tracks, no matter what. Usually this story is followed by Georgia telling me how she is going to be a train when she grows up and stay on the tracks. But not this time. This time she says she's not really going to be a train when she grows up, that's just pretend, she's really going to be an All Black.

“Oh, you're going to be an All Black?” I respond trying hard to keep a serious face.

Georgia sits up, puts a hand on either side of my face and turns my head to face her. She then tilts my face upward with a finger under my chin, so that I was looking directly into her eyes.

Then she tells me, ever so seriously -

“Now, Granny, you must be very brave! I will get hurt, All Blacks do get hurt!”

I must have looked suitably stricken.

The following weekend when she breezed through the door she announced, “I'm not really going to get hurt, Granny. I'm going to fight - like Tony Woodcock!”
(a story from 2007, just after Georgia started school)

Friday, 23 January 2009

The creek and the mallets

Georgia and summer-time by the creek is as close to heaven as it gets in my book.

One day last summer, as we visited our favourite spot along the creek, Georgia's sharp little eyes spotted something moving in the shallow water. When I, too, saw them I thought my eyes were deceiving me but, yes, there were indeed little fish swimming there. Dozens of them and all in one little area. They seemed to hide in the deeper water and when we stood still and quietly, out they would come over the stony bottom of the shallow water where, once you were used to spotting them, they were clearly visible. None of them was as long as my hand and they had silvery undersides.

"What are they, Granny?" Georgia kept asking. "What are they?" But I had no answer. "Let's just call them our special fish babies", I suggested and she was happy with that.

We spent hours there that first day we discovered them. We walked out on the stones, scaring them away, until we were ankle deep and stood there, hand in hand, patiently waiting for them to get used to our "monster" feet and return. The enchanted look on her face! For a pair of chatters we were surpriseingly silent as they swam around our feet. We stayed there until our feet felt like blocks of ice. Mine, anyway, she is much tougher!

The following week when I called up to Danny and Heather's after work Georgia came running up excitedly announcing, "They are mallets, Granny. They're mallets!"

Mallets? What's a mallet? I'm accustomed to interpreting Georgia's words (and she does love to use a new word) but this one had me stumped. I had no idea she was talking about the fish in the creek and even if I had, I still wouldn't have put two and two together.

Danny came around the corner while she was still babbling about mallets, grinned and said, "Mullet. The fish in the creek are mullet." He'd asked around the neighbours and been told they were mullet. I've looked up mullet breeding habits since and am not convinced. So I am happy to share Georgia's name for them, they are mallets.

As summer progressed we watched them grow until they were 6 to 8 inches long, brown, sleek and beautiful (and not as silver bellied) and on two occasions saw an adult fish, I think Georgia's explanation that they were mother fish coming to see how the babies were doing is quite feasible.

Then one day when we visited, they were gone! We waited and waited but no sign of them. Georgia was very sad, shed a little tear which she brushed away with the back of her hand and plonked herself on the grass, all dejected, her little shoulders slumping the way they do when she's disappointed. I sat beside her and explained how babies grow up and become adults and go off to see the wonderful world, that fish were just the same. "Sometimes they come back?", she asked.

"Yes, sometimes they come back. These babies might come back next year when they are mothers and leave their babies here in a safe place, too."

Until then we visit our Mallet Place and wait.

A lovely place for children to play!

Welcome to the Paddock

Thanks for joining me in the paddock. This is our view to the right. I've never before lived so far from the sea (except way back in the mists of time when I lived in Mt Isa, North West Queensland), always thought I'd miss it too much but no, I love these mountains! And the sea is not that far away, our little creek which starts up in the mountain and flows down through the farm, (then into a larger creek which flows into a larger creek and so on) flows out to the west coast of NZ and if the creek can make it, so can I.