Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Too tired/lazy/unmotivated/something

For the time being I'm resigning myself to being a weekend only blogger. Have to admit that by the time I get home from work I am too stuffed mentally to write a blog. Who wants to hear about the mind blowing monotony of data entry, 11 digit serial numbers? Numbers have never been my thing and I find entering the same digits over and over just too boring for words. We need more basic digits to break the monotony!

We were meant to be moving premises tomorrow but that plan has been shot so far out of the water we are now looking at a week from today. And something tells me that is being a bit ambitious. So our stock, which I have been watching like a hawk, keeping just enough on hand to get us through till tomorrow so there wouldn't be too much to move, is now frightfully inadequate and the next orders will be arriving at the new premises, so someone will have to go to retrieve them - and who has the time?

And I stopped smoking a week ago so the first technician to have a crack at me about lack of stock is likely to loose his head. Today I felt a dreadful urge to rip someone's head off and drop kick it to hell! Fighting such urges requires a lot of energy. There's not much left for blogging.

Never know, I might surprise myself and come home with a spurt of energy one day!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Brush with a cyclone

Back on 8 March I was thinking about my friends in North Queensland as Cyclone Hamish threatened them. I said then I might write about my near cyclone experience the next day. Promptly forgot about it. 20 days later I have remembered. That's how my memory works these days.

The weather here today can only be described in one word - calm. A half hearted sun shining through light cloud, not a breath of wind. A thoroughly pleasant day. Like a mid winter day in North Queensland, only slightly cooler.

Mid summer in Nth Qld is, if course, the opposite. It had been hot, hot, hot in the days before the event I am going to talk about. Maybe I hadn't been listening to the radio, although that seems strange because I always had the radio on when going to and from work. Anyway, I hadn't heard any cyclone warnings. Then mid morning the wind got up and it started to rain - very heavily. Around 3 pm one of the engineers I worked with who lived out my way, came bursting into my office saying, "Cyclone coming. If we want to get home tonight, we better get going or we won't get past Hamilton Plains. You better follow me. If it looks like you won't get through we can bring your car back here and I will drop you off at your place." He drove a big utility truck, I drove a little Ford Laser, so his chances of making it through flood water were greater than mine.

There was a steady stream of cars pulling out of the carpark, everyone who lived out in the country heading for home. Another guy who would turn off along the way (in another big ute) was in front of Keith, with me and my little red car tagging along behind.

Hamilton Plains is just out of town, so it wasn't long before we saw the water across the road. I've found it always pays to watch the locals in these situations. Traffic was stopped at either end of the flooded stretch of road, one car heading east would go through the flood water, then one car heading west went, all driving on the east bound side of the road. A funny sort of relay. And all of them were bigger cars than mine!

But I'm nothing if not game. I observed very carefully, noting how far from the fence sticking up out of the water along the side of the road I should be, trying to imprint in my memory what path I was to follow. Keith's turn came and he went through and as soon as the next west bound car had gone through, I said something encourageing to my little car, took a big breath and pressed "Play" in my head for driving through floodwater. Second gear, keep it steady, do not ease the foot off the accelerator, keep going, keep it steady, you can do it, steady does it. Nearly there. Oh yay! Through!

Keith was waiting for me on the other side to give me the next set of instructions. We'd be right from here until we got to another little creek with a bridge. He'd wait for me on the other side of that. I was more scared about this crossing than getting stuck out there on the plains where there were plenty of people around to rescue me. We'd now turned off the main road and it was just Keith and me on our road. At the approach to this bridge was a sign warning against swimming as it was an estuarine crocodile habitat. Oh, oh, oh.

I kept Keith in sight and was mightily relieved to see the water wasn't as high here as it had been on the plains. And not very high at all over the bridge.

Plain sailing now till my place, then Keith had another 10km or so to go but I knew he would be OK in his local knowledge and monster vehicle.

He stopped when we came to my drive and yelled something about giving him a call if I had any trouble, did I know how to tape up my windows? goodo then, good luck, and he was on his way.

I had to cross a drain to access my driveway and it wasn't until then I realized how deep the water was over the drain. The culvert was blocked. I grabbed my umbrella from the back seat and headed on foot up to the house to get a shovel to clear it. After about 10 paces I realized I was getting soaked, the rain was pouring through the umbrella! What the hell, I'm gonna get soaked before I'm done so just walk in the rain and enjoy it.

Luckily I had to wear steel capped boots at work so I had on sensible footwear. And even dripping wet it wasn't cold. Clearing that culvert was pretty scarey, I had to keep shaking my head to clear the water from my eyes but also to rid myself of thoughts of what could be in that drain. Got it cleared eventually and drove the car up to the house. Very proud of my little car I was!

The small drain in front of the house was a raging torrent, gurgling along happily. I cleared another culvert it ran through and walked all around the property checking if there was anything else I should be doing. I couldn't have been any wetter but I was quite happy. An early darkness was falling and the thought that the power might go out drove me inside to make my preparations while there was still some light.

As I'd been wandering around, I had been thinking about which room of the house I should spend the night in. It should be the smallest room but my bathroom only had walls to about shoulder height then was open to the weather so I'd decided it would have to be my bedroom. I stripped off and had a shower, then went to my bedroom only to discover my bed was soaking wet. A piece of iron on the roof must have come loose in the wind. Oh bother! I wasn't going to get up on the roof in that wind, I'd just have to leave it to fate. At least the decision was made for me about where I would sleep. The spare bedroom was probably the safest option anyway, as it was the only room in the house that wasn't predominantly glass.

The power conveniently didn't go off until have I'd had my dinner and made a flask of coffee. And it was more peaceful without the TV and it's constant interruptions of the blaring whoop, whoop, whoop cyclone warning siren. I had plenty of batteries for the radio so went to bed early with the radio for company. By bedroom opened directly on to an outdoor passage so the sooner I got myself in there the better was my way of thinking.

I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't a bit scared and concerned. If I needed help I knew I'd not be able to get to my nearest neighbour as the drain between the properties had been pretty high even before dark and the water was pouring down out of the hills at the back of our places. I just had to keep worrying thoughts out of my head and concentrate on the beauty of the power of the storm. How it raged, how lucky was I to be laying in bed with all that fury unleashed outside and not able to get at me! I listened to the cyclone warnings and the dire predictions until around 1 am when sleepiness came to my rescue and carried me away.

Just after 4 am there was a frightfully loud crash and the house shook. I got up and was nearly blown off my feet when I stepped into the outdoor passage to go inspect the rest of the house. Everything was OK. It wasn't till morning that I saw the fallen tree which had missed the house by about 2 feet. No wonder the house shook enough to wake me!

The morning news on the radio told me the cyclone had headed a bit further south (but just off the coast) and then headed out to sea. No chance of getting to work though. And the power was back on. A few people had drowned just to the north of us.

That was the closest I ever came to being in a cyclone.

The worst part was the wind that followed. There was a lot more rain, of course, but it was the wind that got at me. The sugar mill building was quite large and clad in corrogated iron. There was an alley way about 10-12 feet wide between the mill and the building where my office was located. The wind tore through that alley like a tormented soul, making a high pitched whistling, howling, moaning sound. After three days of it I swore I was going insane - and I wasn't the only one.

I think I could endure another experience like the one I'd been through (in a way it was quite exciting) but I never, ever want to be subjected to that sort of wind noise again.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

The fairies have invaded the workplace

Working in the real world for a while has it's advantages. Like pay day! And the mental challenge. I'm working where I have worked before (and not all that long ago) so it should not be such a great challenge, right? Wrong! I've discovered it only takes about 6 months to forget a whole heap of stuff. And three weeks to remember (not discover, remember) the best way to do the simplest of things.

One day last week the cogs dropped into place again. While sorting the paperwork for the day I automatically sorted in "old" way. These go front right of the desk, these front left, these behind me beside the keyboard, these in the bin. I felt positively joyous! Lots of positive inner talk - "You haven't lost it yet, old girl!"

Such joy can be shortlived. An hour later I was once again wandering around in search of my glasses. Muttering to myself, of course.

"I know I had them on because I was using a sharp knife and didn't want to cut myself when there is no-one around to come to my assistance should I be bleeding to death. I put the knife down here, hey where the hell has that knife got to? I'm sure I put it down here! No, don't worry about the knife for now, you have to find the glasses. Then we'll worry about the knife."

Muttering may have been an understatement, the muttering may have turned into something else. What is a loud mutter? When a voice spoke behind me I jumped in a way I should be quite proud of these days, I swear my feet left the ground and they are not in the habit of doing that of late.

The youngish technician was implored to help me find the specs and to persuade him to do so I said the silliest of things.

Still a bit embarrassed about it. My only explanation was the frustration.

I said, "Shane, it has never been easy being me and now it's just getting bloody harder!"

It's true but I shouldn't have said it out loud, should I?

PS The glasses were sitting on my desk, the knife had been returned to its rightful place in the workshop. Did I forget to put my glasses on before using the sharp knife? Maybe I should be more worried about that!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Welcome, baby tuatara

Driving home from work last night thinking my usual happy Friday night thoughts, I was distracted to listen to a radio interview about a baby tuatara that has been born on mainland New Zealand, the first confirmed birth in over 200 years. One of the few things I know about tuatara is that they are like crocodiles, alligators and turtles in that their sex is determined by the temperaturs of the soil in which they are incubated. Males comes from warm soil (males aways need to be more pampered so that bit is easy to remember), females from cool soil, and
soil where the temperature changes produces both males and females.

I’d say the temperature in Wellington soil would change quite a bit in the 12-15 months it takes for the eggs to hatch, and they didn’t say what gender this little blighter is. I’ll refer to him as a he.

Here's the new arrival - look male or female?

He was born in New Zealand’s first fenced mainland conservation sanctuary. In 2005, 70 animals were taken there from offshore island refuges. Another 130 arrived two years later.

So what’s taken them so long to reproduce?

Well, first of all they don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re 15 – 20 and then will only breed every two to four years. Then, the female will carry the eggs (up to 12) for 9 months. When she lays her eggs she buries them, hangs around for a few days to make sure other females don’t dig up the nest, then wanders off to carry on with life. The eggs have to survive for over a year before hatching. Luckily the young have an eye tooth for freeing themselves from their eggs. Then they are on their own.

And their mating habits sound a bit hit and miss. A male sits outside a burrow and when a female walks past he will circle her. If she is interested they will mate. Surely there is something else going on there but not according to what I’ve read.

The tuatara is a reptile, although it looks more like a lizard. They are very ancient – the only survivors of a large group of reptiles that roamed the earth at the same time as dinosaurs. It hasn't changed its form much in over 225 million years! Its relatives died out about 60 million years ago. How special is that? Another thing that makes them so special to us is that they only found here in New Zealand.

Tuatara is a Maori word meaning "peaks on the back". It is easy to see why.

I think of them as beautiful little prehistoric monsters. The male tuatara grows to an average length of 60cm (23.5 inches), weighs around 1kg (2.2 pounds) and has an obvious crest of spines along its back. The female tuatara is smaller; they grow to an average length of 50cm (19.5
inches) and weigh about 550grams (1.2 pounds). There’s nothing monster-ish about their eating habits though. They have teeth designed for crunching their way through tough backed insects, like the native weta.

The recently born baby was caught briefly for a photoshoot and then released back in the spot he was found. He faces a tough journey to adulthood. Not only will he have to run the gauntlet of cannibalistic adult tuatara, he would also make a tasty snack for species like my beloved ruru (native owl) and kingfisher.

A spokesperson for the sanctuary said, "Like all the wildlife living here, he'll just have to take his chances."

Good luck, beautiful little monster!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Don't distract me

Sometimes my head is just too full of too many things and I just can't sort out which one to give priority. And I always thought I was good at sorting my priorities.

Today is one of those days. I was trying so hard to concentrate on winning tonights Lotto draw, being single minded about sending my message out to the Universe. I have a concrete plan for what to do with the winnings and it is the worthiest of causes. I've even got my head around how I could fly south to prove my possession of the winning ticket and fly from there to Oz for the weekend and set the wheels in motion for my plan.

And I stuffed it up, didn't I? Allowed myself to be distracted from the positive Universe messages to play drug dealer detective.

Right, this shall not happen on Saturday. From now till then I shall think of nothing else.

I am going to prove that every clarevoyant over the years who has told me my physical and emotional daily needs will be met but I will never be rich, has been wrong, wrong, wrong. No wait, they could still be right. My plan is not about making myself rich, except in the emotional sense. I will emotionally richer than ever I could have imagined.

I cannot be distracted to write about anything else!

Monday, 16 March 2009

The Finish of the Queen of Sicily

Cheryl's herbal remedies "Bible" suggested the following:

500 mls of high quality olive oil
6 - 8 lemons

Starting early evening when you have no work or other commitments the next day, every ten minutes take 50 mls of olive oil at a time followed by two tablespoons of lemon juice to wash away the taste.
Continue until the whole 500 mls is gone.
If you vomit, don't worry, just carry on taking the doses.

When it is all gone go to bed and lay on your right hand side.
Place a bucket inside your toilet bowl to collect the stones as you pass them, so you can count them.

If the gall stone attacks continue, repeat the exercise once a month until they disappear.

Now, a smarter person would have guessed they were in for a night of horror.

Didn't Gran regard olive oil as the best laxative available? As children, weren't we routinely given just a teaspoon of olive oil (followed by a drink of black tea) just to keep our little bodies regular? The consequences of 500 mls should have been very, very evident.

It did, indeed, become very evident to me that night.

I gagged a few times on the last few doses of oil, had about a glass of straight lemon juice left after I took the last dose and gulped it down with appreciation. Oh, the taste of oil in my mouth was repulsive.

Sleep came quickly...but not for long. After the first couple of rushed trips to the toilet I started to throw up at the same time and was permanently parked on my throne. It was winter and I grew cold. My little house was a warm house, I had no heating whatsoever, not even a little one bar heater. I chanced a quick trip back to the bedroom to grab a blanket to wrap around myself. Some time later, after I'd nodded off for a few minutes, and nearly fell off my pedestal, I scurried back again to get a pillow. I discovered that if I propped the pillow up against the wall on my left hand side and leant against it I could achieve the closest to comfort I was likely to come that night. In the early hours of morning, shivering with exhaustion, and growing increasinly cold I had to once again drag myself away to find another blanket.

Daylight came. I heard the farmer next door bringing in his cows for the morning milking. Morning came and I was still firmly ensconced. Tired, tired, tired. Exhausted. Finally, around mid morning I stumbled back to my bed, dragging my blankets behind me. And slept till after dark. Got up, had a drink of water and went back to bed.

Sunday I remembered I had a dog, poor creature.

I didn't think I would ever see the funny side of all this but when I saw Cheryl during the week, we laughed and laughed. I think it was about this time that I remembered the last line of 'the cure", about repeating the exercise once a month. That was when I vowed I'd rather face the surgeon's knife. Which I did eventually and to this day I think it was the easiest of the options.

PS Stone count: there were literally hundreds, all green, and they ranged in size from little ones the size of a pea to big 'uns about half the size of my thumb in length and diameter. Impressive!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Queen of Sicily

A friend who I sometimes amuse with my misadventures has suggested I tell all about my ill fated foray into herbal medicine.

It happened about six years ago while I was living at Tapora. It had been established that I had gall stones and I had been on a waiting list for an operation at North Shore Hospital for about a year. I read that hospitals now have a criteria for gall stone waiting lists. If a patient has two or more attacks in a six month period, they go to the top of the list. Had that been in place when I was on the list I would have been at the very top. The attacks happened every couple of months, on the odd occasion within weeks of each other. I didn't bother reporting each one to my doctor, just told her how many there had been since my last visit when I saw her. She would mutter how we must do something about this and fire off another letter to the specialist but might as well have saved her energy for all the good it did. Such is the public health system, there were so many others more in need than I.

The attacks were bad, very bad, as anyone who has suffered them will tell you. The first sign one was on its way was a pain behind my left shoulder blade (never could figure that one out!) and they usually arrived mid evening. I got to the stage where I was almost philosophical about them. Make sure the phone was beside my bed, put on presentable nighwear (in case I had to call for help, wouldn't want to shock anyone with my usual night attire), go to bed and hope to get in a little sleep before I was gripped. Then tell myself over and over, "It will pass. It will pass."

There are times when I think it's best that I live alone. Or maybe I just don't like anyone fussing over me when I'm in pain because I'm not used to it. Anyway I always got through the attacks without lifting the phone until the night I was sleeping over at Danny and Heather's place, babysitting the twins, Krystal and Shayde. When I felt the first pain I checked the time and figured it would be OK, I'd be fine by morning, whacked but able to function enough to take the girls down the road to our friend, Cheryl and she would look after them for a few hours while I grabbed some sleep.

But right from the start this attack was different. Usually I felt nauseous but this time there was a universal purge happening. Rather than just sweating like a pig I was drenched in sweat. Then I became delirious for a while. Passing in and out of delirium would describe it better. I remember the sound of my own voice telling me not to wake the girls. And I snapped out of it enough to think The Girls!! Little three year olds. What would they do if I couldn't get up to them in the morning or worse, if they couldn't wake me? I knew for sure they would set out for the cow shed looking for their mum and dad. To get to the cow shed they would have to walk down the road (no grass verges on this dirt road), over a little bridge (with no side rails) and without an adult around, there was no telling what they'd get up to along the way, what could distract them.

Feeling increasingly alarmed because this attack was so different and I didn't know what to expect next, at 11 pm I rang Cheryl. She, of course, knew about my gall stone history, and said, "Put your knickers on, I'll be there in five minutes." A few minutes later she came bursting into the house calling, "Nurse Manu here" (a reference to a funny early episode of a local TV soap). My memory is a bit hazy for the next couple of hours. I remember her ringing her husband and saying, "Stoke the fire, Dr Raupati (same soap show) I'm bringing her in." (I only seem to remember the funny bits, that good!)

Cheryl must have bundled up the sleeping girls, gathered some clothes for them for the next day, and got us all into the car because the next thing I remember is sitting in front of her blazing fireplace with a hot water bottle held to my tummy. Cheryl asking why I had my hand like that over the area above my waist, right hand side, fingers spread? Does it hurt there? And me replying no, I just feel easier if I do that.

My next recollection is hearing Peter get up the next morning to go to milk the cows. I was snug and warm in a guest room with one of the twins in the other single bed. I knew the other twin would be in the next room and that they were safe and I drifted happily back to sleep.

The following day I made the trip to Auckland to see my doctor and tell her about this 'different' attack. She was quite alarmed and chastised me for not calling an ambulance. Explained that a gall stone had escaped the gall bladder, travelled and got stuck somewhere on it's way to the kidneys and shut them down. (But the little blighter was a fighter and got free again!) I was astounded, blurted out something like, "You mean these stones are dangerous?? Hell, I thought they were just painful!" After that episode I started to regard the attacks in a new light.

And I started to wonder (out loud) if there wasn't something I could do to get rid of them. I mused in this fashion to Cheryl and a few weeks later, as we were sitting at her house having a chat and a coffee, suddenly Cheryl jumped up to retrieve her "Bible", her book of herbal remedies. Passed it to me and said she's seen a cure for gall stones in it.

Tomorrow.....the cure!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Magpie Chortle

Have I told you before how I love living here on the farm? Probably ten times. It doesn't take much to renew my love of the place.

Yesterday evening I was feeling a bit dismal; it could have been simply because I was tired after my first full week back at work after six months of laziness.

I takes me a while to come fully awake at the weekend. Might be up and functioning but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm really awake. By the time I was hanging the laundry out on the clothesline this morning I was in a semi normal state, at least my ears were functioning well.

Then I heard the magpies in full throat down by the creek, chortling like crazy. I'm pretty sure a chortle is the best word to describe the song of the magpie. My gran called it that and I think she had it right.

I love magpies. I realize I am in the minority. They are not generally loved in NZ, in fact they are more often than not regarded as pests. I feel sorry for any animal that has been introduced from another country (Magpies were introduced to New Zealand in the 1860s from Australia to control pastoral insect pests) and then they are despised and hunted when they don't assimilate with the native creatures and habitat. It's not their fault! The possum is a better example of this but the magpie has its share of detractors too.

My son is a major magpie hater. He gets upset when he sees them attacking native birds but I argue they do far less harm than rats and cats do.

From early July through to Oct/Nov, during their breeding season they often attack (dive bomb) children, cyclists, farmers and runners. I've been a near victim in the past but I just moved as quickly as I could away from that area and avoided it for a month or two afterwards. I say they are only doing what comes naturally, defending their young and their territory. The fact that they can get a bit aggressive makes them a pest.

Magpie attack

I found a website this morning dedicated to magpie control and elimination. I have no objection to shooting or trapping birds that become pests but, honestly, poison!! How could anyone do that?

I don't want this post to turn into a rant, just wanted to share my love of the magpie chortle and this little bit of nonsense with you:

When Dan and Heather bought the farm
they said this is where we lay our head,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

Dan's hand is strong to milk the cows
Heather keeps the calves fed,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

Year in, year out they work
While the girls grow strong, well fed.
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

All the beautiful grass is turned to cream
even when the new bridge was swept down the stream,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

The magpies live down by the gate
They dive at the girls, attack their heads
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

The farm's still here.
With the trees, creek and hills not far away.
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say.

Friday, 13 March 2009


Lugubriosity - now that's word I just love the sound off. I don't think I've ever said it out loud, would probably get tripped up and make it sound like an ill fated trip to the toilet.

But I hate the feeling.

Especially when it hits me and I know not why. Bloody hell, it's Friday night, the workaday week is over and Rove (my favourite Aussie light relief comedy show) is awaiting me in a few hours.

As always when a strange mood takes hold of me I try to analyse from whence if came. Perhaps I caught it from someone at work? It might be one of those contagious things! Yikes!

I did my best to shake it off after I left the office, exchanged smiles with everyone who met my eye in the supermarket, service station and hardware store. But, no, it persists. A weird feeling of gloom.

Having typed the word 'gloom' I'm going to give thanks it is not a feeling of doom that hangs over me, cheer up and have my dinner.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


About 2.5 years ago my daughter Justine and her Canadian husband, Bill were my first guests in this house. I say "my' guests but in fact I hadn't yet moved here. I'd moved my household goods into the house in June and then gone off to look after the Coastal Cow backpackers at Mangawhai for the winter (http://www.mangawhaibackpackers.com). It was Justine who first referred to my home as "the paddock". When they left, she left on the dining room table a self made guest's questionairre in which she rated different aspects of the accommodation. I thought I'd kept it but, having just spent half an hour looking for it, I now know that if I did, I don't know where I put it. Bugger! It was very funny.

She referred to the sound of cows softly chewing their cuds in the paddock outside their bedroom window as keeping them awake at night. It's not that long ago but back then there was no fence or trees around the house, so the cows could be in the paddock less than 6 feet from your head as you lay in bed. And, in the absence of any other noise, you could hear them pulling the grass and munching it. I liked that but realize it's not the sound others might enjoy as they wait for slumber to take them. And I wanted trees to give me some privacy from passing traffic. Hell, there could be 10 vehicles a day going by!

Justine has just spent another two nights here with an old friend of hers from her time living and working in Canadia. Lovely girl, she seemed to appreciate the things about living here that I love! Thanks for your company, Jodi. It's nice to be able to offer visitors the opportunity to see what life on a real Kiwi dairy farm is all about. To sit on the deck at night to hear the call of my favourite bird, our little native owl, Ruru (commonly called the morepork because that's what it sounds like it is calling) floating down from the forest. To me it is calling "all's well" and when I hear it's call I feel happy, I know all is well in their little bit of bird heaven.

Strangely enough, in Maori mythology, Ruru is associated with the spirit world and if their call is high and piercing it is thought to herald bad news and their ordinary call indicates good news is on the way. So obviously I'm not the first resident of this land to think as I do.

Guests may come and go but little Ruru is a constant of my life in the paddock.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Cyclone Hamish


After I went “out west” to Richmond to work in a pub at the tender age of 19 (as mentioned yesterday) I returned briefly to Brisbane and even more briefly resurrected a romance with my first love. But he didn’t ring me on the day he’d said he would and I decided I had finally had enough of his crap (I never have been known for my patience), searched the papers that night for another job “somewhere else” and within a week was on a train to Proserpine, in North Queensland. Knew absolutely nothing about the place except it was on the coast and the Sunlander train went through it. What else do you need to know when you are 20 and eager for all life can throw at you?

I certainly didn’t know I would return to there three more times over the years. In those days sugar cane was cut by hand by hardworking, fit young men – it was gruelling work and most of the canecutters not only worked hard (nearly always 6 days a week) but played hard too, especially when it rained and work was off for a day or so. About 2 weeks after I arrived it rained for four days straight. By the time the sun came out again I had met and was dating the man I would marry about 6 months later. The cane season lasted from June/July to Dec/Jan depending on the size of the cane crop. We wanted to be together and I didn’t want to “live in sin” (such was the attitude of the time) so it was either get married in June or wait till the end of the season. As I said, I’m not known for my patience.

Bryon joined me back in Brisbane and we both worked there until our wedding, then it was back to Prosperpine for another cane season. By the end of that season I was pregnant (let’s be honest it happened on the honeymoon) and we decided this seasonal life would not be the best of futures for our child so, as friends of ours had lived and made a lot of money in Mt Isa we headed out there.

Seven years later, in May, we felt we had saved enough to pursue Bryon’s dream of a farm in NZ. I may be impatient but I’m sensible when it comes to my bodily comforts and there was no way was I agreeing to moving to NZ in winter. Not after living in the heat of Mt Isa. I knew for a fact I would die.! What to do till summer then? Do another cane season back in Proserpine, of course.

Having settled in NZ it never entered my head that I would return to Proserpine. 21 years later I found myself separated, my youngest child about to finish school and Aussie was calling me. By then I was working in Human Resources and knew little about Australian HR law so had difficulty securing a job. But, finally, I was offered a good job….guess where? Yep, at the Proserpine Sugar Mill. I’ve always felt that if we have to repeat our life experiences it’s because there is a lesson we didn’t learn the first time around and my circle kept coming round to Proserpine. I decided this time around the lessons I needed to learn was tolerance (associated with patience, yes?).

Proserpine Sugar Mill

Geez, why did it take me so long to say I’m thinking of my time in Proserpine as Cyclone Hamish approaches the area? Hamish is a big brute, a category 5, which is the top of the scale and is being described as one of the most powerful storms ever to threaten the Queensland coast. South Molle Island and Long Island resorts have been evacuated, Hayman and Hamilton islands are in lockdown.

Hamilton Island

The Whitsundays are the third most popular tourist destination in Australia and there are always heaps of tourist there, even during cyclone season.

Daydream Island

Good luck, you guys!

Tomorrow I may write about my near cyclone experience.

Saturday, 7 March 2009


I wrote the following about my lifelong friends shortly after I turned 50. Those friendships have been very much in my mind lately and I think may have had something to do with yesterday worry attack (no, it wasn't a panic attach!) about my failing memory.

History tells us that 1945 was a momentous year in world events, but there was special reasons for rejoicing in the Brisbane suburb of Nudgee. Frank and Kath Conway welcomed a baby girl, Marie after two sons; Mick and Margaret Tanner already had a boy and a girl, so were happy with the birth of beautiful Tricia. Not far away at Laidley in the Lockyer Valley two prominent families were also rejoicing in my birth, the first child born to Andy and Lilly Ward. When I was five our family moved to Nudgee and the three little girls who lived in adjoining streets became firm friends. We were in the same class at St Pius’ Convent and walked to and from school together, along with another Nudgee girl, Pat Fleming.

By the time we were in our last year at primary school we had formed what the parish priest most disapprovingly called a “clique” and despite the very public condemnation (from the pulpit, in front of the whole school) about the evils of cliques, how their exclusion of other little boys and girls amounted to meanness and cruelty, the friendship grew stronger. Each was a member of the other’s extended family, familiar with each others parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents.

As we grew older our interests varied but our friendship remained. I went to swimming training with a young man who, upon introduction to my friend, Tricia, fell in love and later married her. Marie and I played tennis, squash and badminton together. With Tricia in love (and married from an early age, happily to this day I might add) and Marie being of a more conservative nature, I became firm friends with another girl who had been in our class at school but who lived on the other side of the hill in Banyo, Denise Smollen. Denise and I surfed and partied together. As we met and were courted by young men we each cast aspersions on the other’s choice, but luckily we had different taste and never competed for affections.

I was the first to leave the fold, heading out west to Richmond at 19 to work in a pub. Shortly afterwards Denise went in search the bright lights of Sydney, but our trips home to Brisbane coincided with holidays on the Gold Coast. I then went to Proserpine in North Queensland where I lost my heart to a young Kiwi cane cutter and six months later was married and moved to Mt Isa. A year later Marie married Les who had been her constant companion for years but it was quite a few more years before Denise met Barry and finally also “settled down” in Sydney, returning to Brisbane about five years later.

In late 1973 I moved to farming life in NZ but we friends always stayed in touch and every holiday home I spent time with my friends.

Now each is proud of (and known and loved by) each others families - Marie and Les, 5; Bryon and me 4; Tricia and Rob, 3; Denise and Barry, 2. And now, of course, we are all grandparents.

The last time we were all together had been Marie’s wedding and it took the reaching of 50 to bring us all together again at the same time. I was always the one who was missing, so it was fitting that the occasion was my and Marie’s birthdays which are three weeks apart. To help
celebrate the occasion we were joined by Joyce, who had worked with Denise in her first job and become part of the friendship, and her husband Col.

What a night of nostalgia! How many memories were revisited, toasts drunk? How much alcohol was drunk for that matter! It was a hot February night but Denise’s front verandah overlooking the peaceful bush and the Glasshouse Mountains was the perfect, relaxed setting. The pool was visited many times.

Next morning instead of early morning showers it was into the pool again, now sober, to laugh at lost youth (and young bodies) and to rejoice in being together again. And to look forward to the next 45 years of friendship.

Now here we are damn near 15 years later and I feel as if one of those bonds is slipping from me. Denise, my best mate through my teenage years, the one I partied with, my bridesmaid, the most confident (read outspoken) and self assured of my mates, has Alzheimer's Disease.

I spoke to her and her husband Barry on the phone last week, it was Denise’s 65th birthday. For a few minutes I thought I may have over-reacted to the reports I’d had from Marie. Denise sounded exactly the same! But went off track as she was telling me I should come home more often, not to worry about clothes, she had plenty she could give me although she has lost a lot of weight due to her medication for a “condition” she has caught from somewhere, didn’t know where but it had caught her. She then tried to explain what this condition was and got very confused, then upset and insisted on handing the phone back to Barry.

My chat went back and forth between Barry and Denise with Barry helping her out with words but then degenerated quickly with Denise growing more and more angry and aggressive, and Barry finally saying he would have to go and calm her down, that what I’d just witnessed was a daily event. But the dear man wanted me to know she wasn’t angry with me, she was pissed off with him because of a word he’d used (but he wasn’t too sure which one it was).

As I write this I am becoming upset again. My mate as I have known her for nearly 60 years has gone. My heart is breaking for Barry and their beautiful boys.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Lack of Supermarket Memory

It takes me roughly 40 minutes to drive to or from town. This afternoon, on my way home, I spent practically all that time worrying about my memory. I wasn't distracted by crazy drivers, road works, flooded stream (it did rain heavily last night) anything.

This isn't the first time I've given a bit of thought to my bad memory but it's the first I've spent such time dwelling on the matter.

On an almost daily basis I will spend time looking for something I've just had in my hand. I can get quite cross with myself and have conversations with the fairies - "I had it here a minute ago - where the hell has it got to?" The fairies remain silent. Usually I just shrug and tell myself the fairies moved it and it will turn up again, don't worry about it now. And sure enough most times the missing item will reappear and then I will remember putting it there. But not always, sometimes they re-appear in the strangest of places.

This is not a new thing. One of the reasons I don't worry about it is I can honestly say it's been happening since I was in my 40s, so no need for panic. Justine may remember the time I lost a pair of pantyhose I had bought that day and intended to wear out that night. She was about 15, so over 15 years ago. I searched the house high and low, I knew I had made the purchase because I could visualise putting them on the checkout counter.

I involved Justine in the hunt and when our joint efforts failed, I accused her of taking them to wear herself. She very indignantly went off in a huff, not that I blamed her, she was always honest about "borrowing" anything of mine. (Oh, the good old days, when there was someone else around to blame!)

The following night Justine called me to the kitchen, highly amused about something. "Mum, I've just found your missing pantyhose." And showed me the tub of icecream with my stockings frozen to the top! Who would have thought to look in the deep freeze?

At the time I would have blamed my genes. (What's with the blaming thing?) What is commonly known within my family as the "defective Ward gene" and my brother Peter calls the rough gene. Maybe it could be more simply called a "vague" gene. Most of my siblings and I can be a bit vague at times. Then I tell myself it is that gene that makes most of us such good natured, casual creatures. And I'd rather be forgetful than a grumpy sharp tack.

But today I visited the supermarket that, for over a year and until nine months ago I had frequented roughly twice a week, once for my groceries and at least once a week on an errand from work. I could zap in and out of that place in no time. (I do not enjoy any kind of shopping with grocery shopping being at the bottom of the list.) But today nothing was familiar! No, I lie, the fruit and vegies department, the first area you come to upon entering, and the frozen goods, the last you come to, were where they should be.

I had eight items on my list and I was in that store for 35 minutes!!

Is that reasonable? And, honestly, I only spent about 5 minutes talking to a lady I nearly ran over with the trolley when I didn't notice her bending down to the lowest shelf right in front of me.

I've been so concerned because my memory usually works on the visual. I've learnt how to read a map but I usually find my way around by recognizing landmarks. I never remember street names but I will remember the name of the store on the corner or the tree outside the white house. I have dreadful trouble every time I return to Brisbane because they will keep changing roads , taking out trees (or maybe they just grew old and died - my memory, like me, goes back a long way) and although I set out confidently to go somewhere I've been before there will be a new road, or even worse, an expressway, the landmarks will be gone and I'm done for.

So, for someone who remembers how things look, shouldn't those supermarket isles be imprinted in my memory? How could they be gone so quickly?

I came home convinced my memory is deteriorating rapidly. I searched the internet for help.

One article said that taking a 6 minute nap during the daytime would give my memory a quick and easy boost. The nap can be longer (thank heavens for that, there is no such thing as a 6 min nap in my book) but the benefit occurs after just 6 mins. Daytime nappers outperform non-nappers on memory exercises. They said that falling asleep triggered a neurobiological process that gives your brain a boost. I'm not sure if I buy that. Aren't older people the ones who nap most often? And isn't failing memory most often an age related thing?

Another article listed foods that can help. So if I treat that as gospel the only things I should add to my diet are nuts and seeds and Microalgae. Algae? There's no way I'm getting into that! Oh, and 2 cups of green tea. To wash down the algae?

Then, a wonderful thought occurred to me and I gave up the quest.

Maybe, just maybe, the supermarket has been rearranged. I read somewhere that a chain of stores is standarising their stores throughout the country so that no matter where you go into one of their stores, things will be in the same place.

Now, my memory is in overload trying to remember what the chain was!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Back to work

Today I began 8 weeks work, back where I worked until last July (when I was made redundant). It was interesting to see what had changed, what was the same. Good to see the old faces again.

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I gave a vague thought to how much I could remember of the programme most of my work is done in, and decided it had all gone. I had about half a minute of panic thinking perhaps I would have to learn the whole process all over again.

But no, most of it just came back as I went along and what I couldn't remember my dear old self had written up in a manual. If I'd remembered the manual I wouldn't have lost that half minute of sleep.

Wasn't going to make a post tonight and was idly looking through Facebook at Leone's photos from Pouto when it dawned on me that there was an awful lot of backwards and forwarding with a tractor past my house. At 8.30 pm!

When you mind is elsewhere you don't notice what is happening right under your nose, do you?

There's a severe storm warning out for tonight and I put Lewey (the dog) away and fed him early so I wouldn't have to go out in the rain later. So I have been aware of the strengthening wind and the fact that it was darker earlier than usual.

I've figured out what all the activity in the dark is about. Danny must be bringing in silage in a race against the elements.

Hope he doesn't get all gung ho on the tractor like he did on his daughter's little 100cc motor bike at the weekend.

I know it is mean spirited to laugh at another's mishaps (especially when it is one of your dearly beloved children) but for those who witnessed it, Danny's demonstration of how to ride a motorbike in the sand was the funniest thing that happened all weekend. And I just HAVE to share!!

Danny shows how it is done.

And undone!

And Leone did get a couple of shots of me and my exhilarating buggy ride! A bit blurry but I think you can see how much fun I was having!

How can the hill look so small in a photo?

"That was such fun!"

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Till next time, Pouto

Baches gather at the end of the road

Who doesn't like watching happy children? Has to be one of life's great joys I reckon.

Our lot of kids plus their cousins and friend joined three other laughing, happy water babies on the beach closest to the bach on Sunday morning. They spent a few hours dipping and digging. Danny and Joe (the only boy amongst all those girls) went for a walk along the beach intent on dragging a log we could see from the water close to shore. A few minutes later Joe came running full tilt back along the beach to spread the word it wasn't a log but a seal. Mass exodus from our spot on the beach!

Watching the antics of the seal

Around that time an old, old friend came along the beach in his dune buggy. He offered to take me for a ride and, knowing from days of old, that he was a responsible type I leapt at the chance. Responsible yes but still fun loving, definitely. I'm so disappointed no one got a photo of us whizzing up and down sand dunes. My niece's daughter had told me how Jock now takes tourists who find their way to Pouto for rides around to the lighthouse and the louder they scream, the faster he goes. No screaming from me but plenty of shrieks of delight. Oh, it's so good to feel young again with the wind in my hair (and to survive a pounding hearbeat)!

Returned from doing the wild thing with Jock.

After much pleading from the kids he agreed to let them all pile into the back and take them for a little ride. He set out very sedately but we suspect that he livened things up a bit once he was out of sight of the parents.

More beach action. We heard them coming, must have been 10 or so people of varying sizes on bikes of varying sizes (including one little person, in a little helmet (so cute!) in a back pack securely attached to its mother), they erupted on to the beach and headed off up the coast. A local family of several generations on a Sunday outing.

Saturday afternoon my niece's husband offered to show us around the old family farm, now split up among different family members. Thank you, Andrew. It was terrific to drive over those hills again and the stock looked wonderful, glossy coats and well fattened. Where sund dunes once stood on the far side of the lake there are now acres of pine trees which changed the aspect a bit but they are there for a purpose (to consolidate the sand) and if they help to save this glorious peninsula I'm all for them.

Joe, Bill and Danny (with Andrew obscured) inspecting the lake at the back of the farm.

Danny and Leone remembered how we once had a Christmas picnic lunch with family on the shores of this lake.

Pouto is a place of extremes and contrasts with the wild Tasman Sea pounding its beach yet in harmony with the stillness and silence of the lakes and bush. It's constantly resurrecting itself with its seemingly endless mobile sand dunes. In all its moods I love the place.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Place of Hidden Treasures

A sign at the entrance to the beach at Pouto Point proclaims it as The Place of Hidden Treasures. No other phrase could describe it so perfectly. One of the treasures is the local people and we are lucky enough to be related to a lot of them (and having lived amongst them for a few years) so have plenty of help in discovering the bounty.

The forecast for heavy rain on Friday night, did not dampen our spirits and when the storm hit we felt more relief for the local farmers who have been struggling with dry conditions than concern that our weekend would be ruined. Son-in-law Bill and I went for a short walk Friday evening in light rain I was so keen to see what had changed, what remained the same.

We woke Saturday morning to no power. Shrug! What do you expect in remote areas after a storm! I read in survey results a few years ago that Pouto is the fourth most remote area in New Zealand. But the power came back on before we starved and kids had cereal and milk to keep the hunger pangs at bay. And with good rain overnight we didn’t have to worry about the 6 adults and 5 kids using too much of the tank water.

Our tally of kids increased by two as my niece Christine lives just over the road and her two, Jessica and Joe joined us for most of our activities, and acted as our tour guides. (We were staying in Christine’s husband Andrew’s family bach). I was fascinated by this word ‘bach’ when I first arrived in NZ and am now a lover of the authentic old family baches you still see at holiday spots. The word originated from ‘bachelor pad’. One humorous definition of the bach, is "something you built yourself, on land you don't own, out of materials you borrowed or stole."

About 5 years ago the Department of Conservation threatened that all baches on their land were to be dismantled and moved but that didn’t come to pass. I give thanks for that! Anyway, the baches at Pouto are on privately owned land but in all other ways this one is typical of what I think a bach should be. Modest and loved, the furnishings mismatched and way out dated, cast off from a former life or picked up cheaply at garage sales. A place where you don’t have to worry too much about sand on the feet.

Fed and watered, we set off for a walk, not straight down to the beach but via a track Danny and Leone remember running along as kids, that takes you out on to the beach past where there are any houses or people. And, as these things tend to do in our family, idle chatter turned to a plan to go around to the lighthouse now rather than wait till the tide turned and maybe more rain. It was grey and overcast, still looked a bit threatening.

Now, as in most outdoor pursuits there are rules. And the Pouto rules that had been instilled in me decreed you do not try to get around the beach in vehicles at full tide. But the thinking of the group was what’s the worst thing that can happen, we can get stuck but if we have 3 modes of transport one of them can be used to go back to get a tractor from one of the relatives and we won’t have to worry about the tide coming in and claiming our stuck vehicle. And we were in adventure mode. So some of the party went back to pack lunches and get the vehicles.

We had Danny’s four wheel drive, a trailer, a quad bike and a little 100cc motor bike.

Words cannot describe the beauty of Pouto, and a ‘picture tells 1,000 words’ so I will let our photos tell the story.

Little farm girl Georgis decides we should dig it out!
With everyone pushing we backed it out,
let some more air out of the tyres
and took a different path.

Danny announced a prize of $4 (negotiated up from $1)
for the first kid to get to the top.

Heather and Georgia show Danny how much easier it is
coming back down.

Girls shrieking as they spot the sandhills up ahead.

The lighthouse is a speck at the top of that sandhill.
There's got to be an easy way to get up there -
or at least part of the way!
Justine got me a bit further than the truck
on the back of the quad,
but it was still a hard slog.
The younger folk went straight up
but I zig-zagged all the way.
And I made it!

The girls made the ascent quickly,
then went running off,
with only their footsteps in their wake.

The girls make their second ascent -
a bit slower this time!

Top picnic spot.
The ever shifting sand has gouged out a moat
around the base of the lighthouse
and it has filled with overnight rain.

The weather was a bonus, I think. Had it been hot and sunny the sand would have been too hot to walk on without shoes and I don't think I, at least, would have managed the climb. And what is better than running barefoot in the sand?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Memory Lane

It was memory lane all the way this weekend. So many memories flooding in as we ventured down to Pouto. Justine and Bill met me in Maungaturoto and I went the rest of the way with them. Justine was conceived in Pouto but has never been back there except for two days as a 10 day old baby (useless information) so she was interested to learn what all the talk of this place over the years was all about. From time to time I would be telling her and Bill about something we were passing and before I could finish another memory would be shouting in my head for attention. It’s a wonder I wasn’t hoarse by the time we got there.

Because Justine is the photographer in the family I didn’t take many photos. But I couldn’t resist a couple of shots. My Pouto blog will have to wait until she and Leone send me their photos from the weekend. I hope one of them got a shot of me doing the wild thing in a dune buggy with an old, old friend who we established I haven’t seen for over 30 years. Funny, how time changes nothing. We were like the 30 somethings we had been back then.

But this is the lovely little Pouto School where Danny, Leone and Bernie all started their education in NZ – it was Leone and Bernie’s first school. (And it's grown since they went there!)

And, anyway, I'm a bit tired now.

Till tomorrow!