Monday, 30 November 2009

High jinks and tricycles

Cooking dinner and drinking wine must rank among my favourite pursuits of all time (does drinking wine count as a pursuit?). Last night I happily cooked dinner for some friends, then cycled my trike to a friend's house to guzzle icy cold white wine. High jinks ensued and at 2am I tried to cycle my bike with the lock still attached. Detangling it was a job way beyond my somewhat limited means. I abandoned the project and walked home. This morning my lovely friend cycled the trike back home to me and skateboarded back to his house. How kind is that?
I love my trike. The husband gave it to me on our first Christmas in New Zealand. What a cool, cool present. It has been specially customised. It has back pedal brakes and the brake for the front wheel is connected to the left handlebar as are the gears. Last summer I didn't use it much as the twins were newly born so I was confined to two hour long feeding sessions at home with the sun blazing outside and watching endless rounds of Ice Age and Finding Nemo with my son. This summer I'd love to use it more. While our littlies are at Kindergarten this week my sister in law and I are going to take the twins out for a bike ride. We both have child seats on the back of our bikes. They'll love it.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

An increasing understanding of manly pursuits

Yesterday morning I hopped out of my pit (rendered awake by 2 screamers) and set about packing to drive to the west coast of New Zealand for the weekend where my aunty moved to not 4 weeks ago with her Kiwi husband. To have a relative living a mere 2 hours drive away fills me with excitement. After scrabbling around stuffing nappies and several changes of clothes into bags we were ready for the off. It's just me and the littlies as the husband will be spending the weekend drilling 34 holes into our back garden, filling them with cement and wooden poles, building retaining walls and then sometime during the week pouring in tonnes and tonnes of sand followed by top soil and turf so we can have a level garden. Hurrah! Badminton tournaments beckon.

The first half an hour or so of the journey was spent with me navigating through traffic whilst trying to officiate arguments in the back. A friend who is one of four boys told me recently that they used to be crammed four abreast in the back of their car (well before road safety was invented) and would bicker over the very many things worth bickering about when you are six years old. Their mother would hang on to the steering wheel with one arm and use the other to swing wildly behind her aiming at as many bare legs as she could. How hilarious, imagining my friend and his brothers swinging their knees as far to the side as possible to miss the punishment whilst their mother bellowed in irritation at them.

My son asked to try what I was eating. I told him wasabi peas were quite spicy and that he probably wouldn't like them. He insisted they were exactly what he wanted so I handed him one. The relative calm exploded in an ear splitting scream emenating from twin2. A glimpse of her in the rear view mirror showed green, dusty crumbs round her mouth from the wasabi pea my son had so generously offered his 1 year old sister. My inability to use both arms to keep us going in the same direction at the same time as aiming a whack in his direction annoyed me. I'm sure it won't be the first time my dodgy arm situation plays neatly into his hands.

The west coast is so close to us on the east coast but couldn't look more different. Where our Bay of Plenty beaches are of the 'white, golden sands fringed with Norfolk pines and brilliant blue skies' variety, the west coast of the Waikato is a rugged, less populated stretch of land with black sand pressing into the ocean. The people here are different too. The Bay of Plenty has a good sprinkling of California style surfers - blond curls, cheeky grins and expensive board shorts. Towns like Raglan on the west coast house a more alternative dweller. Expensive highlights and truckloads of sweet smelling conditioner might get you far in Mount Maunganui but dreadlocks are what you need to sport in order to be taken seriously in the waves at Indicators - the awesome left hand surf break at Raglan. Although the break to come away for the weekend is wonderful not to mention the joy of chattering to my aunty and her husband, I know it will be lovely to arrive back home tomorrow to our version of the seaside. I'm definitely an east coaster.
Having read back through this post, 2 things come to light. First of all I'm sure many of my friends in the UK will be pissing themselves laughing at my (fairly competent thank you very much) descriptions of the mechanics of levelling a garden and knowledgable surfing lingo. The transformation from city girl to Kiwi wife is well underway.
The second thing is that as I write about being as east coaster, I realise that my feelings about where I live with my husband and three little half New Zealander, half British chiddlers are changing. When we moved here the heart wrenching sadness at leaving home, family and friends transferred itself to an unhealthy dislike of New Zealand (but not of the people I hasten to add). On reflection it was the deep resentment at leaving everything I love which morphed into other negative emotions. Two years down the line and I'm starting, just starting to feel the twinkly feeling of pride in our street, town and area we live in. And, dare i say it, even love.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Jamie Oliver would wet himself with excitement

There are very many differences between life at home in the UK and here in New Zealand. One of the first I noticed when we moved here was the availability in the supermarket or greengrocer's of various vegetables and fruit at any given time of the year. We arrived not quite fresh as daisies on 1st November 2007 in the beautiful Bay of Plenty. November in New Zealand is probably akin to May or June in the UK . It is wonderfully clement , a bit breezy and summer feels like it's about to leap out at you. A perfect time to arrive in a country when you are distraught about leaving your beloved United Kingdom.

Wandering round the supermarket I noticed that most of the vegetables and fruit are grown in New Zealand. I was impressed and was pleased to be able to 'buy local produce' as Jamie and his mates had been urging us to do for the last couple of years. Even more exciting were the swathes of strawberries, avocados and asparagus which all seemed pretty cheap. I smugly congratulated myself on living in a country where these special treats were so readily available.

For the first few months our food bill was pretty high until I realised that produce is priced according to its seasonal availability. I immediately stopped paying $3 for a single leek and waited til autumn to enjoy them. A bag of ten avocados can be bought for about $5 in December but come May, each one costs around $2.50. In the UK, a basket of goods in a supermarket would cost the same in May as it would in December. I have quite a bit of horticultural education to get under my belt.

For about 3 weeks a year in winter every feijoa tree in the land blankets the ground with masses and masses of small, oval, green nuggets. They suddenly appear in the supermarket and are pretty expensive (apparently their delicate skin is easy to bruise and therefore make it tricky to transport). I have never seen anyone buy any though as every third house has a feijoa tree in their garden and the owners happily give the fallen fruit away to absolutely anyone. Before living here I had neither tasted nor heard of the fruit. I'm not competely convinced - it's a bit like eating a rather filling bouquet of flowers. But I absolutely love the mania that goes with them. You can't leave someone's house without having a jar of feijoa pickle or muffins stuffed in your bag and suddenly 'Feijoa and parma ham' seems like an excellent idea for a starter.

It certainly seems natural to take fruit directly from a tree rather than wait for it to be waxed, scrubbed, packed in crates and shipped to a supermarket where you have to hand over cash for the stuff. Clearly that's what my sister in law thinks too as I have, with my own eyes, witnessed her helping herself to a few juicy lemons from the branches of a heavily laden tree a few doors down from her house. Luckily New Zealanders are a generous bunch so I doubt she'll be locked up for it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

This one works but the other doesn't

Just recently my son (3) has started to notice that one of my arms doesn't work. As I fought the daily battle of buckling him and his sisters into the car he chirruped " this arm works Mummy but the other one doesn't."
I was quite surprised. Although our family talk easily about my arm being buggered and the reason why (that's a whole new post but the shortened version is I was riding pillion on a mororbike, we collided head on with another bike and both drivers lost their lives) this is the first time he has ever really mentioned it.
This evening when he got out of the shower, he complained of a scratch on his hand and then told me had had done it in a motorbike accident.
Clearly there are a few discussions ahead. The strange thing is that I rarely think about my arm but a week on Monday sees the 9th anniversary of the death of my lovely friend who was riding the motorbike. This time of year is quite heavy with nostalgia. He would have been 28 years old. That's an adult by anyone's standards. He may have had children. He may have travelled the world. He would certainly have laughed an awful lot. He would certainly have had lots of friends.
Everyone who knows someone who died young says they were special and kind but really, really there was none kinder, more special, more cheeky and full of deeply auspicious promise than my friend.

This afternoon was the kind of afternoon that makes me so grateful for our life here at the beach in New Zealand. By 5pm four of us were sitting my kitchen guzzling Sauvignon Blanc and eating crisps. Our 10 children leapt off the sofa, watched Kung Fu Panda, jumped on the trampoline and popped in and out of the kitchen to top up with crisps. I find Mums fascinating conversationalists. They can tell extremely funny stories about the vile things their children get up to, happily gossip and have clever fingers on all sorts of pulses.
There's a freedom about New Zealand which is so liberating and happy. Roll on tomorrow for more of the same I say.

Monday, 23 November 2009

One arm or two?

As the procession of children and all the stuff that goes with them was being loaded into the car by the husband this morning, I started thinking about how much longer it takes me to do anything using one arm as opposed to two.

Because I know it takes me longer to accomplish most tasks (such as ferrying 2 crawling babies and a toddler down 16 steps from the front door to the car), I wonder if I have become quicker and more able in other ways. Working out the most efficient way to complete tasks has become a common exercise in my little pea brain. Would this have happened anyway as the metamorphosis from drunken, irresponsible, single trader in the city to drunken, less irresponsible mother of three and housewife took place? Everybody changes as they get older and it's impossible to attribute any new behaviour to a particular event or change which happened along the way. Obviously I am more dextrous and able with my left arm than I ever was when I could use both and my right arm was the leading arm. Would I be a different mum if I could use both arms? Would I be better? I'm not sure.

Most people with small children acknowledge that their early years are a strain on your life. The added strain of daily pain which increases in relation to the amount of added pressure on my arm surely adds to this strain.
But, and I feel it's a big but, we have a house big enough to comfortably hold our family, a garden, a garage, a beach down the's a list of things which massively alleviates the strain of having children.

Everyone has their problems don't they? Mine are minimal compared to most. Thinking about my arm doesn't take up much space in the daily ebb and flow of my grey matter but whilst writing this blog I'd like to record some more thoughts on the matter.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Madonna attends 1st birthday party

Weeks like the one gone by are just perfect. Saturday saw all of our friends turn up for our twins' first birthday party to celebrate their parents having kept them alive for an entire year without killing the babies, their son or getting divorced. In time honoured fashion we filled the front garden with a bouncy castle, trampoline and swings and a slide. Wandering round the side of the house to the deck at the back found a lamb on a spit, kegs of beer, piles of ice studded with bottles of wine, sofas and a throng of parents getting lazily plastered in the sunshine watching Balinese flags blowing in the breeze all round the garden.

The 30 or so children had a great time running riot and being given rides on the biggest lorry to have ever driven down our street courtesy of a kind family friend. The parents had an even better time. So much so that by early evening another keg was sent for, the ipod was plugged into speakers outside and we got down to some seriously impressive Michael Jackson/Madonna impersonations. We all thought we both hilarious and very cool. Both of which I'm sure we were not. The husband and I stumbled into our beds at about 1am. We couldn't have been happier.

Another surprise celebration for the husband's birthday this week has put our birthday cake consumption somewhere near risking appearing on Gillian McKeith's 'You Are What You Eat'. All in all just utterly glorious.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Complete nutter

Before I launch into this anecdote, let me just say this. Plunket (in New Zealand) and Health Visitors (in the UK) do a fantastic and necessary job. We are extremely lucky to have these organisations provide the service to our children that they do so well and with such care and passion. However......

A couple of days ago a nurse rang to book an appointment for the twins to be measured, weighed and so on. The conversation on the phone kicked off as follows

Nurse: Hello, it's the nurse. How are you?

Me: Good, thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: Good, thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: GOOD, thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: I'm sorry, did you ask how I was?

Nurse: Yes

Me: I said Good thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: I'm very well, thanks for asking

Nurse: Oh sorry, there was a crackle on the line

I am filled with confidence in this nurse's ability to check the health of my baby daughters. Nevertheless we toddle down to the offices of the nurse. First job on the list is to measure the circumference of the babies' heads.

The nurse sits twin1 on her knee, wraps the tape measure round her head, squints to read it and exclaims "44cm."

We swap twins and she performs the same exercise on twin2. "41cm. Hmmm, maybe I should do twin1 again." She remeasures twin1 whose head has miraculously shrunk 3cm to be the same as her identical twin.

She then tells me "I keep wanting to call twin2 Sarah." I refrain from replying "well I want to call you a complete nutter but I respectfully keep with society's norm and refer to you by your given name. Please do my daughter the same favour."

Friday, 13 November 2009

Calm before the storm

Tomorrow our little girls turn 1. This time last year I was frantically rushing all over the place getting acupuncture and buying premature clothes in anticipation of their arrival by induction the following day. My abiding memory of the day is sitting outside a cafe with my-sister-in law, soaking up the sun, feeling a sense of excitement, calm (as in before the storm) and probably slight dread about going into labour although I have carefully blotted from my memory the bulk of the grisly details. In fact just the other day someone asked me what it was like giving birth to twins. "Yeah, not too bad" was my reply. Upon reflection and remembering the reality of the labour I realised the more accurate response would have been "Yeah, ghastly".
Amazing how nature purposely removes the hideous pain from the memory and in its place leaves a sprinkling of tinkerbell style fairy dust and magical wonder.

On a similar note I can quite clearly remember the thought running through my mind as Twin2 arrived into the world amid a flurry of profanity (me) and shouted words of encouragement (my husband and midwife) which wasn't "are my babies ok?" or "can i see them?" or even "are they girls" but a much more telling"thank fuck I'm not pregnant anymore". The last year has been, well, I won't bore you with the description of the dark days. Suffice to say I'm not really a 'baby' kind of gal, I like my company to be able to walk unaided and have some control of speech (unless of course it's 2am at which point I don't have either tool in my armoury).

Baking their cakes (oh alright then buying the sponge from the supermarket) and decorating them into number '1's will be a glorious, happy way to spend the next couple of hours.


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