My politics

I’ve been gardening and as I pulled weeds, I’ve been thinking about my politics.

I grew up in a household of National party activists and I remember politicians sitting around our dining room table planning campaigns with my Dad and in later years, Mum. I remember going to meetings with them, being in the car when they picked up voters and delivered them to the polls, in later years scrutineering and going to election night parties.

A couple of weeks ago I was stopped by a Labour party supporter who was campaigning on our main street during the monthly Trash and Treasure market. When she learned I was a National voter she said, “why?” I replied, “why not?”

She accused me of voting the way I had learned as a child and not thinking about it. Actually the opposite is true, I think deeply about my vote and I treasure it. She said, “I can guarantee you’ve never voted for anyone other than National your whole life.” “Not true either, I voted for Act once.”

Now I know not to give my party vote to anyone other than the party I want to govern. The party with the leader I want to be Prime Minister. It’s a personal thing, politics. It’s about your philosophy, your values, the country you want to live in. But it also about personal experiences, policies that affect you and people you encounter. I have no children and that colours my views but I have had up close and personal experience of the public health system and as a cardiac patient, and the caregiver of an elderly woman, I can say it has never ever failed me. I did work in the film industry and I joined many of my colleagues and cried with happiness when The Hobbit movies were saved, some of us sent John Key a collective email to tell him how much he ‘rocked.’ I did some television work that overlapped with the Tourism department and encountered him again, his positivity was critical to our success. So many of the National party ministers really impress me and our local MP is so hard working and so dedicated to her constituents.

So I bleed BLUE, it’s in my genes, but it is also my choice.

Of Mothers, cars and elections

Ah, so many things are afoot in my busy life, it is hard to keep up. Today I have pruned large trees and small shrubs and prepared for a Japanese pebble garden…long story, but I think it will look cool and I’ll take a pic of it when it is done.

Last week I went up to Auckland in my new little blue car (of which I am inordinately fond). I had lunch with my fantastic publisher, Finlay Macdonald at Skycity. We discussed the cover of my next book and how to make it sexy and clever and blood thirsty. I will be intrigued to see what they come back with, given the ideas we had! Then I went and stayed with my Aunt who had turned 91 on Wednesday. It was her first birthday without her sister and my first ‘Mum’s birthday’ without Mum. We had some great catch ups and watched some gold medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. We were both rather reluctant to part company.

I found this little poem the other day and I put it here in honour of my dear old Mum.

mother poem

The writing is going well and I’m combining it with regular gym and aqua-aerobics, church and preparations for the upcoming election. Those who have subscribed to my blog since 2011 will know that I am a ‘political animal’ and I love being involved in an election campaign. Our local MP, Louise Upston, is superb, one of the best MPs I’ve ever had and it is a pleasure to work for her. On a broader note I am a ‘Key person’, I think John Key rocks and I admire what the National party have achieved during the last six years. So, counting down to the scrap!!

There is some great TV on at the moment, real quality writing and it is maintaining the pressure as the series progress. “Resurrection”, “Under the Dome”, “The White Queen” and of course one day my very favourite, “Scandal” will return. Happy Days.

A letter to My Muscles

Good afternoon muscles

Didn’t we have fun this morning? We went for a walk. Down the hill and past the pet shop where we dropped in some roasted mutton bones for the dogs and swooned over a Shitzu-Sidney Silky puppy that wanted to come home as much I wanted to take him home. Then on past the roundabout but not over the bridge. Were you starting to get worried at this point? The next building was the….drum roll…horror music…the gym!

Yes, it was the day of the first gym workout in three years. Encouraged on by the lovely (and polite) Josh you pedalled for 12 minutes then did some resistance weight machines with some grinding machine cardio in-between, some Swiss ball crunches and some triceps curls using a strange blue band. Cardio, resistance and core. It was quite impressive according to Josh, you haven’t lost as much fitness as you thought you had. And then you staggered home.

Josh suggested we do it again on Monday, today is Friday and I don’t want you to think you have the whole weekend off, oh no. Once the music starts on the ipod and the endorphins start to rush, you’ll feel as good as I did on the stumble home. I promise. Now where is that very good dark chocolate?

With love from your masochistic, but loving, master
My brain

Agatha and I

Agatha’s just taken me for a ride down the road. I would like to be able to say I’ve just had a bike ride, but at this point in time I am not the one doing the taking, I am the one clinging on for dear life. What possessed me to think that it would be, well…just like riding a bike? I think the last time I rode a bike I was around 10 maybe 12. Once I started going to St Cuths I went by bus and the bike became redundant.

So the other day I strode into the local bike shop and pointed out the shiny new Avanti Metro with 21 gears. That was the one I’d sat on and that was the one I wanted. I took it for a very wobbly ride out the back and turned a corner, sort of. So the nice man sold me a metal basket for the front and a racy grey helmet.

I pushed it most of the way home, tried a couple of wobbly runs and decided it was too dangerous. I knew nothing about gears or front brakes and no-one had given me any instruction. Finally I turned into Wordsworth St and thought, “this is ridiculous” so I got on and pedaled. When I turned into Chaucer St I had to do a massive U-turn to get to my house, hit the concrete and flew through the air.

A neighbour who lives diagonally to me and who I had never met, happened to drive past, stopped and came to my rescue. “Oh, so you’re the writer, I’ve been wanting to meet you.” Fantastic.

One knee has an interesting shaped bruise that looks a bit like a chain and the other has a bruise and a great big graze. Nothing else was dented, except my pride and my inclination towards bike riding. I put it in the conservatory and glared at it for a few days. Then yesterday I had a conversation with my ever helpful (and only slightly amused) brother who explained how the gears work and how to use the brakes. My main problem is my steering is not great and when I get any speed up I am literally, terrified. I’m hoping practice will solve that. I’ve also taken the basket off for now and I suspect the next time I take it out I will find steering easier. I’m still very tempted to put the whole thing on Trade Me.

This Saturday I can leave my transport problems behind and fly to Melbourne!! I am so looking forward to it. My notebook is full of lists, one page for museums, one page for other things to see, four pages for shopping and five pages of themed bars. Oh yes, I have my priorities right. I haven’t had a break since 2009 and this one will be enjoyed to the hilt and back again. If I’m a bit tardy about letting you know how I’m getting on, look for me in Madam Brussels, 1806, Berlin Bar or the Sherlock Holmes Inn…I am intrigued by Berlin Bar, apparently the room is split in half and West Berlin is luxurious and East Berlin is grotty and industrial. I wonder if I could sell a slightly used bike (with a despotic temperament) to anyone in the Berlin Bar??

Going On a Holiday and a Bike

Today is another one of those days when I realise how much I love my life.

From the big things…I get to spend my days writing the books I love and have a wonderful publisher who understands me and supports me…to the little things, I can have a steaming hot shower on a cold winter morning and my dehumidifier means I wake up to a house that is warm and dry.

Another thing is making me excited today, I’m going on a holiday! I haven’t had a holiday since 2009 and life has been pretty rugged at times since then. In a couple of weeks I am going to the beautiful city of Melbourne. Yes, I’m visiting three museums that are important for the book I’m currently writing. And as I wander around the city I’ll imagine what it was like in 1950 for an immigrant family from Germany, but most of my time will be spent sightseeing, shopping, eating magnificent meals and drinking adventurous cocktails, a day spa treat and catching up with a dear dear friend I haven’t seen since 2009. We laugh, a lot.

Over the last few months I’ve nearly gone to the USA and then nearly gone to Germany and now I AM going to Melbourne. My frazzled brain can hardly wait.

I’m also buying some new transport. No, not a car, a bicycle. I am going to fulfil my dream of riding a bike with a wicker basket on the front, although it will also have 21 gears and a very comfortable seat. I’m hard at work thinking of an appropriate name for it, something suitably refined and literary. Agatha is in the lead at the moment, but these things take time.

So, on this glorious day, I am off into Cambridge, the rural town I am proud to call home and which I love so much. It is very possible I shall set out on foot and come home on a shiny new bike. If this does happen I’ll take a photo and put it in my next blog. If you have any ideas for a name, please feel free to let me know. Happy, happy day.

Gardens, books and winter

I know, it’s been too long, hasn’t it? Sorry. Life has just been busy.

A couple of weeks ago I went to New Plymouth for a weekend conference and gave a speech about my writing. It was great fun and I got to go to the New Plymouth Cathedral. What a glorious church! The oldest stone church in New Zealand, it is so beautiful and the service was lovely and funky and modern and not at all what I expected. I also got to carry a banner into the Cathedral and that was a rather wonderful experience too.

Jane has been attacking the garden, with a little help from me. Many plants have been removed, along with all the weeds. Now we are planning what to put in and the discussions have included a Japanese garden with gravel and stones, a chilli garden, a garden that will reflect my current literary project and some fruit trees and lovely smelling plants. It will be a joy once again.

Yesterday I finished my first rewrite of Blood, Wine and Chocolate. It is now much darker and funnier than it was and I’ve invented a new ending. It made me laugh as I was writing it and Jane roared with laughter, so hopefully this new ending works. The book will be published May 2015 and we have some great plans for the launch. Plans that involve copious quantities of wine and chocolate and, maybe, some fake blood. I’ve loved writing this book, it has brought light and joy and laughter back into my life and I hope my readers enjoy it too.

I’m 10,000 words into “Rachel’s Legacy” which is the sequel to Secrets and it is also going well. At some stage before the end of the year I’ll go on a research trip to Germany but it is looking increasingly likely that it will be October/November. I need to be ready and to know exactly what I need to research and at the moment I am far too involved with my thriller (see above) to rip myself away and travel.

It was the first heavy frost this morning and the garden was white. The house was cold and the people huddled around the heater. So winter is upon us, the time of year I love. The bed becomes a snug cave and the food reflects the temperature, creamy mash and steaming bowls of soup, pudding and custard and hot chocolate. Happy days!

Popcorn called Fluff

There’ve been some really enjoyable events over the last few days. Last week Jane and I went to Auckland and had a meeting with my publisher, Finlay Macdonald at HarperCollins. We chatted and sang all the way up in her shiny red car, had a great meeting and finalised details of Blood, Wine and Chocolate and the sequel to Secrets, with a working title of Rachel’s Legacy, stopped on the way home for an ice-cream at Pokeno and at the The Base (big shopping centre at Te Rapa) and found some stunning handmade chocolates.

We have some projects on the ‘go’ at the moment, one being planning the launch of Blood, Wine and Chocolate. This has meant we’ve spent a few dollars on a giant wine glass at a Saturday garage sale and yesterday we went to the monthly Trash and Treasure market and found some stunning fake bunches of grapes (I guess you had to be there). We are planning on making chocolate truffles and purchasing some commercial ones. Consequently, we’ve been trying a few yummy ones and rating them, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

Speaking of food….I have tried a remarkable array of food lately. Not just the magnificent chops, sausages and mince from the home-kill meat that now fills our deep freeze, but everything from homemade figs and feijoa crumble with homemade custard, homemade Nasi Gorang while visiting Dutch friends of Jane’s, stuffed wraps for lunch, and the Hamilton night market on Saturday night – dumplings, plump beef satay with the most delicious satay sauce, BBQ pork steamed bun and these Spanish crunchy long things dipped in melted chocolate.

Last night we went to Te Awamutu to our lovely local picture theatre and saw “The Monuments Men.” This is based on a true story about men who went into the European war zone and saved over five million pieces of precious art. It stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchette etc. I loved every moment of it. I was on the edge of my seat drinking it in. It was so “on topic” for the book we are working on, the sequel to Secrets. (When I say “we”, I’m writing it and Jane is illustrating it) It was the last showing in a picture theatre and it was a wonderful cinematic experience for me. On Wednesday we are going to see the last showing of “The Book Thief” which will also be right “on topic.” Yet another example of how much I love my life!!

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I guess it was my first Mother’s Day without Mum. I posted a picture of her on Facebook and I spent a little while thinking about her. She comes up often in conversation every day, as does Jane’s late Mum who died around 15 years ago, and we talk about our childhoods (mine in New Zealand and hers in Scotland) and the surprising amount we have in common in our past. I am still grieving and of course I still miss her, but having someone in the house again has made a huge difference. Jane and I have been friends for thirty years and we are both easy to live with. And we laugh, a lot. Last night we wandered into the right cinema for the film to find there was a movie showing, the end of the film before ours. The lovely young man at the counter had to come and ask us to leave, much to the confusion of the four people watching that film. When we bought popcorn and he opened the glass door, there was a sign that read “Fluff the Popcorn”. I couldn’t help it, “OH look, they’ve named the popcorn! It’s called Fluff.” Everyone dissolved into puddles of laughter including the lovely young man who was still laughing when we finally went in to see that movie. That’s the way we roll!!

Rachel’s Legacy

I started a book yesterday. It is the sequel to The Keeper of Secrets and it is called Rachel’s Legacy. So far I have written 2500 words and four much-loved characters have popped back up. It is flowing really easily and I am loving being back in the company of these ‘people.’ Once again this book will sprawl from pre to post-war Berlin, to East Berlin, reunification and to modern-day Washington D.C. Instead of the horror of the camps we will learn about the incredible bravery of the resistance in Berlin.

What else is happening? The kitchen has been cleaned and the pantry scrubbed and restocked. The deep freeze is full of home kill meat from farmer friends of Jane and I used some of the mince to make Spag Bol last night. It was some of the most beautiful mince I’ve ever cooked with, lean and rich and delicious.

Winter is coming and the temperature is dropping, especially at night. The drought has broken and the grass has greened up everywhere, the leaves on the trees are changing colour and the figs are nearly finished. I gather one or two a day and I suspect the little ones will shrivel up and drop, rather than grow big and plump up. Between you and me, I will be quite glad to not see a fig again for a few months. I still have a huge bag of frozen ripe figs in the deep freeze, underneath all the meat, and from time to time we discuss what to do with them.

We are trying to trap the family of mice that have taken over the house, they never come in ‘ones’ apparently, so, although one was kind of cute and I fed him, he is now legion. We tried mouse traps with peanut butter but they managed to retrieve the peanut butter and not set off the traps. It is war. We need a better mouse trap.

Today would have been my parent’s seventieth wedding anniversary in St Andrews Church up the road. Mum in her cousin’s dress and Dad in his fighter pilot’s uniform. A wedding breakfast on the farm, a spread the Aucklanders couldn’t believe because it was war-time and they weren’t used to farm butter, cream, meat, veges, eggs and fruit. They went to a local hot water spa for their honeymoon but I seem to remember Mum saying that all Dad’s Air Force friends invited themselves along. Happy anniversary folks, I trust you are celebrating it together again at last.

It is also my niece’s birthday and I hope she has a happy day. She’s a great girl, a wonderful Mum and a strong, loving, intelligent, funny, beautiful human being. Well of course she is, she’s a Thomas.

So, time for lunch and a break before I throw myself back into WW2 Berlin and the excitement and terror of being a spy. I love my job.

Easter Talking

It’s been a week since my last blog and a very busy one. Last Tuesday Jane arrived and I have been helping her to settle in and talking. And talking. And talking. I suspect there are several donkeys around that are minus a hind leg…if you don’t get that, don’t worry. It’s an old saying.

I have to say it has been wonderful to have someone to talk to. It has been a long time. We also celebrated Easter. Jane, like me, is a Christian. Maundy Thursday we went to church for a Christian Seder supper of traditional elements of the Jewish Passover, including lots of delicious lamb, and then we all went into the church for a sombre communion and to strip the Altar.

Good Friday was a 9am service ‘at the foot of the Cross’ which was simple and lovely. We had lunch in town with some friends of Jane’s and then went to the last 90 minutes of the three hour service, which was the “Stations of the Cross.” Very emotional and I had a few tears. Friday night she took me to Hamilton Gardens to see the art installation of “The Stations of the Cross.” Jane is an artist and she has worked on this community project in the past. Each installation talked about a different stop on the path to the Crucifixion and some were very challenging. I really enjoyed it.

Saturday we talked for a large part of the day and Saturday night we went to the lighting of the Pastoral Candle and the Easter Vigil. We served each other communion, which was lovely. Sunday morning was the great big Easter celebration, with a party and chocolate and lots of happiness. Sunday night was the 70th birthday party for one of my dearest friends and we went to a hum-dinger of a celebration.

The last couple of days have been back to work, writing, emailing, planning and doing little housework projects. Tonight I have an AAW meeting (Anglican Association of Women) so I shall make something for supper. I have some very ripe bananas, so I feel a banana cake coming on, or maybe banana muffins with chocolate icing. Over the weekend we stewed a big pot of figs and feijoas from the garden and added spices and ginger syrup and it was delicious!

I have started “Rachel’s Legacy” which is the sequel to Secrets and it is all going to plan. It is very satisfying to be working with characters I know and love. Watch this space! Less talking and more writing.

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??

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