Thursday, 27 October 2011

Dear Giacomo Puccini

Dear Giacomo
A few years ago living in London my cousin and I went to see the Tosca at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.  We shuffled in amid glances at our scuffed trainers and ripped jeans and found a spot on the floor in the bar to sit and drink our Cokes.  I don't know what your expectations of decorum were in the early 1900s and I apologise if our dress and giggly behaviour didn't quite meet the mark but we felt silly and end of term-ish as we were fish out of water.  I couldn't believe my eyes when we looked through the programme and saw that a boy we went to school with, Toby Stafford-Allen, was in the performance.  I'm sorry to have to tell you that our skittishness continued as I regaled my cousin with stories of snogging Toby Stafford-Allen in the laundry cupboard at a party when I was fifteen.

Sitting in the rather grand seats at the Royal Opera House we dug out 50p for the opera glasses and gazed round at the navy velvet and gold.  Luckily the sense of occasion got to us and we managed to exercise some self restraint, calming down to watch the opera you had scribbled down in your villa in Torre del Lago some hundred years previously.

I have to say, we were both overcome with tears during the gorgeous duet Qual Occhio al mondo.  We walked out at the end wiping our faces and attempted to haul ourselves back from being bathed in a beauty of such magnitude I didn't really know existed before to the reality of 10pm on a Saturday night in London.  My cousin and I have always been very close friends but we felt so much more connected to each other by your music.

A year later my highly adventurous cousin decided to cycle from John O'Groats to Lands End.  A mere 1188 miles or so, she wanted to raise money to fund an upcoming trip to Nepal were she'd live in a village and help set up a school (yes, I know, she is an absolute twinkling star).  She told me that within a day she was crying and complaining about some fictitious ankle injury as the vastness of the task ahead sat like a mammoth monolith in her mind.  She listened to Tosca on her walkman all the way as she cycled.  She arrived in Lands End in, I think, 13 days.  I can't tell you how proud of her I was.  I can feel my heart swelling like a balloon as I tell you.

I spent much of my time in my tiny 1 bedroom flat on Gloucester Road singing at the top of my lungs along with Maria Callas and when the opportunity to see Tosca presented itself again, I jumped at the chance.  I went with a friend and spent the entire time aching with emotion.  My friend told me I had ruined the performance for the man in front, I hadn't noticed but he kept turning round and tutting in annoyance as I hummed along.

This morning I dug out the CD and felt that love and passion steal into my body like smoke.  Thank you, Giacomo Puccini for giving me some of my most cherished memories with my cousin but I really, really just cannot thank you enough for the beauty of Tosca.  I wonder what you had experienced in your life to be able to express such love in that way.

Love Jenny Rudd

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

First day at school

Today lad started school.  He scampered off to his teacher very happily so fingers crossed it's a smooth transition for him.  Change has never bothered him and although he prefers to observe before trying out new things like big slides, swimming and games with children, he has always happily gone to new places: friends' houses, new countries, school and kindergarten.  I felt very proud of him this morning, chatting to his mates in the class and informing his teacher of his weekend activities.  He barely turned round to say goodbye to the husband and I until the last minute when he gave us both a big cuddle and a huge smile.  It's a wonderful, sunny day and I'm so excited for him.  I hope school is as happy a place as it was for me.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Taking clothes off with one arm

I have always been hard wearing on my clothes - like most people I wear the same stuff over and over again.  Jeans and t shirts fall to pieces within 3 or 4 years.  Being able to use only my left arm means that the stress on clothes is quite specific.  My jumpers have little holes just below the label on the back where the threads have worn thin.  This is the place my left hand grabs to yank jumpers over my head.

Shirts and jumpers end up with a patch on the left elbow.  I often steady my hand by resting my elbow on flat surfaces.  The newest area of weakness is on the seam at the back of my knickers.  I had a look through my undies draw this morning and found 4 pairs had suffered the same fate.  The seam has detached itself from the rest of the material.  I thought it was a manufacturing fault until 10 minutes ago.  I stood up from the sofa and my jeans were sagging slightly so I hooked my fingers under the waist band at the small of my back and hitched them up.  This rather unsophisticated and slovenly adjustment was accompanied by the sound of ripping material.  Another pair bites the dust.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Old and young

The children are all in kindy and I have 5 minutes before interviewing a seriously fascinating lady called Judith Bell who wrote a book called I See Red.  She changed her name to Steven Tindall - the owner of a huge company in New Zealand called the Warehouse which sells everything under the sun very cheaply.  She makes all the costumes by hand for a vintage costume catwalk show every two years and looks like a movie star from the 1920's.  Extremely graceful and clever, it will be an interesting way to spend the morning.

Then it'll be back to kindy to pick up the troops plus a friend of lad's who is staying over tonight.  I really love that sharp contrast between the energy created by different people and by the hormones rushing round us at varying stages of our lives.  Little children tend to inspire you to be a bit more interested in simplicity.  "Mummy what's rain?" and "why don't we lay eggs?"

Spending time with someone older than me starts off all sorts of questions in my head.  I especially like the questions which challenge my opinion and start off a completely new chain of thought.

Here's to variety.  What's not to love?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fuel those removing Rena's fuel from our beach

Clearing up the oil on the beach is a bit tricky with the children and my gammy arm so instead I'm helping Larry's Tea House coordinate the feeding of the masses of determined, cheery volunteers who are generously giving their time to clean up our beach.  If you are handy with an oven glove and a kilo of flour, or even just adept at throwing a bag of apples into your supermarket trolley then this is how you can help.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The worst environmental disaster ever seen in New Zealand and it's right here on our doorstep

One of the many wonderful characteristics of New Zealanders is their love for the planet.  They treat the earth we live on as a beautiful being with a soul all of her own.  I first noticed it overhearing a knowledgeable conversation about the weather and the physics behind its effect on the ocean's swell.  All this went on between two sun kissed teenagers in board shorts as they stared out at the waves, discussing the potential for surfing over the coming days.

A few days ago the container ship Rena struck the Astrolabe reef a few kilometres off our coast.  If you walk to the end of our road and look out at the ocean you can see the ship.  Hundreds of tonnes of toxic oil have been pouring from the ship killing animals and coating our beautiful, beautiful, precious beach.  Watching the devastation unfurl is so awful.  Knowing how New Zealanders feel about the earth it is heartbreaking to see the effect this is having on them.  Locals are on the beach all day scooping oil into bags, desperate to do whatever they can to help.  The oil is sticking on boots and being traipsed all over pavements, through shops and houses.  The nauseating oily fumes have permeated our whole town and its impossible not to well up with tears when you go to the beach and see the black smear stretch for miles.  In the last few hours a large crack has appeared down the side of the ship as it lists in the stormy weather.  Containers have fallen into the ocean.  One leaves a trail of chemicals in its wake as its potentially hazardous contents react with the water.  It looks like the ship may break in two.  This horrifying environmental nightmare is just beginning and its effect will be with us for years.

That love and respect this spiritual nation have for their country will stand them in good staid.  They know how to look after nature and I know they will nurse our little corner of the world back to health with strength and tenderness.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Jurassic festivities

Although we have always thrown birthday parties for the children, they have involved parents, booze and barbeques so end up being more of a family shindig.  Yesterday lad turned 5.  We went for the full blown childfest.  A dinosaur themed party complete with games, face painting, pinata, party food and no parents.  My mum made three fantastic dinosaur outfits.  Lad and twin1 refused to wear theirs.

It was such a joy to watch the children rush madly around, cheering and chasing each other, blowing bubbles and laughing.  They were all so pleased to be together and hugged themselves in delight at the sweets and cakes on offer.  They threw themselves into each game, some with a more developed sense of competition than others but all in good spirits, keen to get as much enjoyment from the festivities as possible.  Glorious.

Goodness knows what kind of chemical reactions went on inside lad's body between the spurts of adrenaline and globs of refined sugar but he slept badly after his party.  Sobbing, wandering round the house and asking to watch TV at 2am he eventually drifted into a restorative sleep.  This morning the three of them are slightly hungover.  I am feeling pretty deflated too.  My parents leave to go back home to the UK tomorrow.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

No hole too big or too small to emit stuff

The twins both have florid patches of weeping pox all over their perfect little bodies.  Twin1 was in our bed crying and and scratching all night.  The husband slept in twin1's bunk to tend to the equally itchy twin2.  Twin1 insisted on cuddling up close to me which meant poking and jabbing my bad arm to the state where it feels like a shredded flutter of palid, useless flesh held together by its hyper sensitive coating.

My parents have taken them out for a walk, tucked up in their pushchair so I can get some work done.  If my parents weren't a) here and b) as generous as they are, I'm sure my fingernails would be the only things keeping me attached to the crumbling cliff by now.  Since my return from the UK 3 weeks ago the children have lost liquid from orifices and pores in a steady stream of matter not suitable for print.  Their absence from kindy and the mess this stream produces would have sent me over the edge but ma and pa have hosted sleepovers, provided countless park and beach trips for the children and helped keep my house in some kind of order.  Grateful isn't the word.

This weekend lad turns 5.  I had a quick scan down the invitees to see who I need to call and tell of the girls' pox but all the children coming either have chicken pox at the moment or are recovering from it.  Perfect.  Let the games commence.

Monday, 3 October 2011

same, same but different

This morning I crept out of the house at 6am and flew up to Auckland for a meeting.  Mid morning I rang the husband who'd taken a day off work to step in as duty manager.
"Hello darling, how's it going?"
"I don't know what all the fuss is about.  I've hoovered everywhere, am just going to finish folding this washing then I'm off to Tay St to have a boozy lunch with the girls."

I spent a magical couple of hours chatting to the editor of the kind of magazine I'd love to write for.  I saw tulip skirted girls in opaque tights and matt red lipstick march through busy offices with self confidence and furrow browed concentration, neatly stepping round the table football in strappy platforms to grab a coffee.

There was an equally high level of industriousness at home when I got back - the husband cooking tea, twin1 lifting up her t shirt to show the fresh little pox which have popped up on her chest since last night, twin2 swatting twin1 over the head and whooping with laughter and the lad screaming at the girls to be quiet so he could concentrate on cartoons.  Same, same but different.


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