Of visitors and spaghetti and sausages

Today is Tuesday. Today I would’ve been packing my little red suitcase and checking my documentation and making my way to Auckland airport to fly to San Francisco. I promise I won’t tell you where I would have been for the next three months. But, today, I will say that I am very glad that I’m not doing that.

Instead, today I am having breakfast then washing two bathrooms and vacuuming and tidying up my house. Around lunchtime my new house-sharing person will be arriving! She’s not a boarder or a lodger or a housemate, she’s Jane and she’s coming to live with me for a while and I’m very excited about it. I have prepared her room, new linen on the bed, a bedside table and a chest of drawers and a table with a mirror and a walk-in-wardrobe.

This week is Easter and it starts for us on Thursday with a Christian Seder supper, I’ll tell you all about it on Friday. I went last year and it was lovely. The lamb was delicious!

Talking about food, is this clever? You’d want a sauce of some sort, wouldn’t you?

spagetti and sausages

I have bags of frozen figs in the deep freeze and at some stage inspiration will strike and I will think, “aha, that’s what I’ll do with all these frozen ripe figs!” I’d like to think it will be white chocolate and fig ice-cream, but that’s unlikely.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have their last day in Wellington today and then fly to Australia tomorrow. It’s been a wonderfully successful tour, they’ve charmed everyone with their attitude and down-to-earth willingness to ‘have a go’ at stuff. They’ve ridden in a jet boat, coached ripper rugby, batted and bowled at a cricket pitch, sailed an America’s Cup boat, drunk wine and eaten beautiful food and looked at if they’ve really enjoyed themselves. And they’ve been given literally hundreds of presents for “little George”, from a little bike to a not-so-little boat to a greenstone teething ring, a cycling shirt and lots of books. I wonder if they’d like some frozen figs??

Roving Intrepid Royal Reporting from atop a Table

So here I am, intrepid roving royal reporter, reporting on my intrepid day spent waiting to see a green coat and a tall man with an, err, receding hairline. Given the hours I waited, and the end result, it could have been a massive anti-climax and yet, it wasn’t. Such is the magic of royalty.

I walked into town around 9.30am and people were walking across the bridge and milling around the main street. First stop was the post office to post a bottle of wine to a friend overseas. He was lucky I posted it first otherwise I might have been tempted to open it later in the day. I met our lovely MP, Louise Upston, in the Post Office. She was all dolled up and on her way out to the Velodrome to watch the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge open the brand new facility later in the day.

Then I wandered up to Wrights bookshop, my home away from home in Cambridge. Annette and Maree were resplendent in their crown and tiara and they were folding Union Jack flags for people to take out to the barricade and wave. So I accepted one of those and went on my way…across Victoria Street and up to Victoria Park. I met my niece and my great-nieces there who were having a yummy picnic under the trees with some other children. Crowns were the head gear of the day.

On up the street and into St Andrews, my church. I had a wee sit down and a chat to the Verger, Ian, who was on duty while the church was open. It was all decorated for Palm Sunday tomorrow. At about 11.30 I made my way back to Victoria Park and found a place on the edge of a seat at one of the BBQ tables. It almost immediately transpired that if we stood up on the seats we had a really good view over the road to where the Duke and Duchess would ‘alight’ and go into the Town Hall. Stroke of luck! Somewhere to sit and rest my weary feet and, in time, a good viewing possie.

Over the next hour I made friends with my fellow ‘table waiters’ (in the sense that we were all sitting at the table and we were all waiting) and people watching was the order of the day. Little girls in gorgeous white frocks, little boys in tartan suits with matching waistcoats and berets, women draped in flags and lots and lots and lots of flags, crowns and tiaras.

The man and woman on the loudspeaker told us the town was ‘now in lockdown’ and the Duke and Duchess were 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, then a Veeeeeeeeeeeeeeery long five minutes away. And all of a sudden there they were. A convoy of policemen on motorcycles and in police cars, two plain grey cars and the second one was flying a small royal standard.

The convoy drove around the square and down to the roundabout at the bottom of Victoria Street and then up the main street to stop beside the mare and foal statue outside the newly painted Town Hall. I could see a bright green coat, long brown hair, long legs and black shoes. And a tall young man in a suit. Everyone around us went nuts. They walked to the Town Hall and went inside for a short lunch. We stood on our table and speculated on many things, such as what was in the sandwiches and who fed all the policeman and photographers.

Then they came out and laid a wreath at the war memorial. Our view of that was obstructed by some very old and large trees. They met some old age pensioners who had sat for hours under a marquee beside the Town Hall. Then they came across the street and worked the crowd, lost in a sea of photographers and (presumably) attendants and policemen. But we could hear how much the crowd were loving it. A few moments later they got back into the car and the convoy was on the move.

I had climbed down off the table and gone to the roadside on the Alpha Street side of Victoria Square, preparing for the moment the barricades would be opened and we would be allowed to cross to Victoria Street to walk home. What I didn’t realise was the convoy would come that way. Having taken several useless, fuzzy photos with my phone camera of tiny people in the distance…here I was standing right by the roadside when the car swung round the roundabout and the window was down. There she was, sitting up by the window and waving. We waved back but the photographic moment was gone. She was smiling from ear to ear and she is beautiful.

I walked home and all around me were excited people, children and adults, all buzzing with happiness and adrenaline. It was a lovely day for Cambridge, it put us on the national, and the international, map for an hour. Our quaint, English style, warm and welcoming town and I felt proud to live here. Apparently the Cambridge Cricket Club, who play on Victoria Square, has a new patron. I wonder who? Bright move, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

If you watch the news tonight you will see the Cambridges in Cambridge, you won’t see me, but I saw them.

Of Royals, portraits, trees and cars

Every morning at around 7.50am I listen to the “Royal Roundup” on Mike Hosking’s newstalkbz programme. He gives us a tough-in-cheek look at what the newspapers around the world are saying about the young royals. “While you were sleeping Kate wore two new outfits.” And “she changed up her hair for the first time this year.” Apparently “she gave her hair a rest by wearing a ponytail with fullness at the front and she wrapped a strand of hair around the elastic.” One newspaper said, although royal protocol demands that members of the royal family never comment on portraits, the slightly startled look on the face of the Duchess of Cambridge as she helped unveil the portrait betrayed what she thought, and what everyone else was thinking, of the less than flattering portrait.

http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/shows/breakfast/highlights/mhb-royal-round-up-11apr2014

I saw the portrait on the news last night, the Queen looked younger but she seemed to be slouching, she was standing with her hand resting on a chair and she didn’t seem to be standing up straight. The ‘experts’ have said that the hands are ‘not great’ apparently hands are harder than faces. Apart from that, it’s obviously the Queen, which is the point of a portrait I would have thought.

Oh, right...

Oh, right…

They are coming to Cambridge on Saturday and the town is abuzz, the Town Hall has been painted and the shop windows are full of very ‘royal’ displays, lots of Union Jack flags and crowns and photos and little tables set with fine china cups and saucers. Apparently they are stopping at the Town Hall for a light lunch before going on to open the brand new multi-million dollar cycling velodrome.

Over the past few days we have had rain and I can hear that the garden has stopped gasping which is good. The lawns and parks will green up very quickly now. And the annual barrage of leaves will start soon. I live in a town that has almost more trees than people and a fair few of them (the trees, not the people) are deciduous. For a few weeks we become the ‘town of leaves’ and they pile up everywhere.

On Tuesday I was in town and I saw my car. I was wandering down the main street and there was a car that looked a lot like mine. I had a closer look and the registration plate was the same, so I took an even closer look and the plastic shield on the back passenger window had a hole in it where a stone had flown up and hit it several years ago. The panels at the front had been replaced and the scratches on the corners were gone. Inside it looked pristine.

As I stood and surveyed it, the new owner crossed the street and started to put his key in the door. He was an Indian gentleman. I couldn’t help it, I went up to him and said, “Hello. You have my car.” He was somewhat startled. But nothing like as concerned as he became when I told him about the major accident I’d had in the car. It transpired that he’d paid around ten times what I’d been paid for the car, which was supposed to have been sent to the wreckers. I suggested to him that he might want to go back to the man who sold it to him and ask about the accident and make sure the chassis and suspension have been fixed as well.

And now I’m off to make a Union Jack flag and practice my curtsey.

The Trip That Isn’t and The Book That Is

Today is April 9th and in less than a week I’m supposed to be jetting away to exotic places, to spend days exploring dynamic cities like San Francisco, New Orleans, Orlando, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York and Chicago…you get the general idea. Except I’m not. I’m staying home.

Why? Because it is a trip too far, a trip I’m not ready to make. Financially, physically, emotionally and in every other way I would fall at the first hurdle. Yesterday I went for a walk into town and spent four hours doing stuff. By the time I got home my legs and feet were aching and by last night I had ugly red rashes on the inside of my lower legs and they are still there this morning. I was exhausted. Today I feel like crap, I just want to curl up in my bed and let the world pass me by. I miss my Mum. I’ve been sorting out wardrobe space and storing piles of things and I’ve found lots of memories. I feel angry and tired and like hitting something.

This is not a good attitude to have when you’re on the other side of the world and you have to sightsee and write a blog about the lovely places you went to and the things you saw today. I am not ready to do this. It will take money that I do not have, or I need for other things…like clearing out my guttering so I don’t get drowned inside again when the next big downpour comes. Maybe even buying a car?

I haven’t completely dismissed the idea, I guess I’ve put it in the ‘too hard this year’ basket. Maybe by this time next year I’ll be ready. In the meantime, I have a full length novel finished and with my publishers, which will (fingers crossed) be released by the end of the year. “Blood, Wine and Chocolate.” I love it. It’s black and funny and I am madly in love with my main character, he’s flawed and fabulous at the same time.

Today I finished a five page synopsis for my next novel. It’s called “Rachel’s Legacy” and it is a sequel to “The Keeper of Secrets.” Yes, the Horowitzs and the Gomezs and the Valentinos will all be back, along with some very important new characters. It will flow from pre-war Berlin, through the Berlin resistance in WW2, Soviet occupied East Berlin, the fall of The Wall, to modern day Washington D.C. I can’t tell you when it will be available because it’s not written yet, but at least it’s on the board. And I am excited about it.

I’ll be home for Easter and I love Easter at my little church. From next week I’ll have someone coming to stay with me. She and I have been friends for thirty years and she makes me laugh. When we were young we were ‘partners in crime’ so there will be wine drunk and stories recalled. I’ve been nearly two years in this house by myself and it will be such fun to have company again. I love her to bits and my legs love her shiny red car.

The Cambridges are coming to Cambridge!

Yesterday was our first day on Winter time. At 2am Sunday morning the country put the clocks back an hour. I woke up and looked at my phone beside my bed and it said 6.10am. So I got up and turned my computer on and it said 5.10am. It automatically adjusts for Daylight Saving changes. So do I have an extra hour to work or do I go back to bed? Such decisions. Chloe was eager to get started with the day as changes to human timekeeping doesn’t rate large on her radar. I checked the email then opened the laundry door so she could go outside. A few moments later she was back and wanting to get up on the desk for her morning cuddle. I took her into the kitchen and gave her a few ‘treat’ biscuits, then shut the door and went back to bed for a couple of hours.

Our country is abuzz this morning. We have caught Royal fever. In about four hours the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and baby George touch down in Wellington. They are here for around nine days and travel all around the country. The huge pack of travelling media will get the chance to see, and photograph, our lovely country as the background to the Royals ‘doing things.’ I know they’re racing each other on America’s Cup yachts in Auckland and doing the Shotover River Jet Boat experience in Queenstown. Baby George is staying in Wellington with his Nanny for most of the trip and his parents will make day trips to various parts of the country, fortunately it is an easy flight to just about anywhere. And next Saturday they’re coming to Cambridge! It seems only fitting.

Apparently, they’re doing a drive through the town and are ‘alighting’ at the Town Hall for a light lunch and then honouring our war dead at the war memorial outside the Town Hall. I know there will be people from all around the district and the crowd control will need to be pretty fierce, but I think I’ll walk into town on Saturday morning and see if I can find a nice spot to set up camp. It would be nice to get a glimpse of them and if I manage a photo from afar, I shall post it here. I shall be ‘ThomasBrowne, royal reporter for a day.’

Yesterday was the 6th of April and the temperature in the afternoon was around 26 degrees C/82 degrees F. That is insane for this time of the year. We had one of the hottest and driest March months on record. At some time soon the weather will break and turn cold, wet and windy. Let’s hope it is not during the next nine days when we have important English visitors…when he grows up a bit do you think he’ll graduate from Baby George to Boy George? Or has that title been taken?

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful, Cat

That’s the thing about writing, blogging, corresponding with people who read what you write…sometimes it’s easy and funny and entertaining and sometimes, it’s hard. The other day I was sitting in my conservatory watching a white butterfly. Something had happened to it and it couldn’t fly very well. Every so often it would heave itself up and flutter an inch or so off the stone floor, then slump, exhausted, back onto the slate, both wings on one side. After a little rest it would have another go.

Today I have felt like that butterfly. I try for few moments and then I give up. There’s a line from “Vincent” By Don McLean:
“A silver thorn, a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow”
that sometimes haunts me. We had a thunderstorm this afternoon and some very welcome and very heavy rain. My house sprang several leaks and I was busy with towels and bowls as I watched the water cascading from the spouting. It reminded me of my leaky eyes, it’s a by-product of grief, leaky eyes. When things aren’t going well I just miss my Mum so much. The world goes round and tomorrow will be better.

I took Chloe to the vet today and the first thing she said (the vet, not Chloe) as she coaxed her out of the carry cage was “what a beautiful cat!” Chloe is black and white and she has black whiskers above one eye and white above the other and her coat is very glossy. When she came in from the rain storm she was sodden and looked like a cat that had had a bath. Surprisingly, she let me towel her off and then sat, happily, in front of the heater and licked herself clean but she wasn’t keen on going back outside so spent the evening cuddling with me and watching TV. “Outside” is a summer word as far as Chloe is concerned, it goes with ‘warm’ and ‘long summer evenings catching moths.’ The merest hint of cold and dark and rain and she’s curled into a ball on the nearest soft, cosy inside surface. After all, when you’re that beautiful, you have nothing to prove outside and it’s closer for the trained humans to reach the treats.

A Garden Masquerade

Yesterday one of my friends came round and weeded my front garden. I felt I should help, after all it is MY front garden, so we chatted away happily while she weeded and I pulled out the same plants she pulled out. It came to my attention that the leaves of my little lemon tree are turning yellow. So I watered it. And tonight I watered it again, and the camellia tree in the back garden. Then I weeded around the camellia tree. See, I knew it would be the thin end of the wedge. Before you know it I’ll be watering the giant fig tree that is taking over the garden…wait, I did water that. Maybe I’m turning into a gardener. Still, danger will be averted in just under a fortnight’s time when I go overseas and the garden becomes someone else’s problem for three months. I really do like the sound of that.

There is still evidence that we (Chloe and I) have a nocturnal visitor, if not a resident, in the form of a hedgehog. Either that, or she took lessons from the brief visit and has learned to clean her plates better than she ever has before. Another thing I noticed when I was masquerading as a gardener was that there are no birds. I put some stale bread out a couple of days ago and it is still there. Previously it would have lasted an hour at the most, but there are no little birds in the trees or even larger birds stealing the figs. Is it because of the dry? There hasn’t been any rain for ages, the soil is dust and the grass is brown. Have they all flown away to somewhere wetter?

Speaking of figs, I do a pick every day and average around twenty-five. This morning another friend came and picked up around sixty, Monday, Tuesday and today’s crop. She makes fig and ginger jam. They are plump and ripe and delicious so the drought hasn’t affected them.

With a little bit of luck I’ll have royalties in my bank account tomorrow and it will be a day of doing things, cat to the vet, settle with the travel agent, do a rather large grocery shop as part of stocking the house and see the bank about ‘money things.’ Friday I need to see my GP and get a script to take to the chemist who is going to put my pills into little, self-contained plastic bubbles on a roll, one bubble for every dose. Very handy when you’re travelling, no packets or bottles and the important, officious people at the airport can see what they are. At last there will be steps taken along the path that will lead to the airport on April 15th and a flight to San Francisco. After so much preparation and research I’ll set off with my compass and my dice and see where they lead me. ‘Up the garden path’ is not on the agenda.

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