A Cracker Birthday

Yesterday I turned 55. Significant for two reasons, my first birthday without my darling Mum and also I’m still here. 50 years after my heart operation, I’m still going strong. A little frayed around the edges in parts, but still here.

I thought about having a party, haven’t had a birthday party for years. But it is a lot of work and I didn’t want my friends and family to feel obliged to bring a present. So, I thought about it and decided that what I would REALLY like is a trip down memory lane. And I would like to take one of my very best friends with me. I met Lynne through my church and she’s a few years older than me but you’ve never know it. She has more energy and spirit and love for life than many I know half her age. She is kind and funny and very, very well read. She reminds me very much of my Mum. We have become firm friends and I consider her to be God’s gift to me to make the passing of Mum easier.

We took off on our adventure after doing Mainly Music at the Church on Thursday morning. All these lovely little children and their Mums or Nannies, singing and bopping around and playing with ribbons and balls and creating organised chaos.

We drove to Rotorua, talking all the way as always, and through Rotorua out to Lake Tarawera. We stopped on the way at the lookout between the Blue Lake and the Green Lake. I remembered how excited that used to make me, because it meant my mountain was just around the corner. There is was, my brooding mountain. The sight that brings the childhood memories flooding back.

We were staying at my darling brother’s lodge, “Rainbow’s Return.” A lovely place on the lake edge. Before we even unpacked we were down to the end of the jetty to look at the birds, the lake and the mountain. On the way back to the house we found a trout in the stream that runs through the property and took pictures of it gracefully keeping its place by waving its tail back and forth.

After unpacking and settling in, having a banana sandwich for lunch and enjoying the view, it was back into the car and into Rotorua. I spent years walking through the Redwoods with Mum. It was one of my parent’s favourite places and it was wonderful to be back there. Majestic, giant trees and soft paths of bark and dirt, darting fantails and the occasional runner or biker politely passing us. The trunks were all individual and we found some that belonged in Lord of The Rings, spirit faces and twisted lines, and one that had an overhang that created a house. Surely a creature from my childhood literature lived there?

Then it was back to the Lodge and time to put the roast dinner on and make a fire in the log burner. Took me a little while to get it going but eventually it was roaring out welcome warmth. We had a Pimms and some nibbles and talked more. Then it was farm-killed roast mutton, veges and brussel sprouts with bacon and almonds and a small bottle of Saxon apple cider each. Followed by fresh fruit salad, lemon delicious yogurt and chocolate mousse with salted caramel and a Baileys, then a very special chocolate. A combined feast and better than anything we’d get in a restaurant! Time for some music DvDs and some singing and a little toe tapping.

Midnight and soft, comfy beds with beautiful linen. I woke around seven and decided to get dressed and go down to the jetty to spend some time remembering. The misty cloud was covering my mountain and I could feel God telling me that “just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there anymore.” I thought about the 54 years of love and devotion I received from my Mum and how incredibly lucky I am. I felt a soft wind touch my tear-stained cheek as she reminded me that she is still beside me…and then less than eight feet in front of me a great big trout leapt out of the water! Again, childhood memories came flooding back.

After a lovely birthday breakfast and little more music, it was time to pack up. We took our time, there were two trout in the stream now and they needed their pictures taken and photos and videos down on the jetty. A lovely selfie video of the two of us laughing our heads off.

The trip home was slow and full of more adventure. First stop was The Buried Village. My goodness, it has improved since I used to save up my pennies and buy tubes of coloured sand and pretty rocks from the shop! We wandered around the museum and then out into the village itself to see two metre high petrified mud and half buried houses and the stream. When we got to the waterfall track I decided “I can do this” so we did it, carefully and slowly and boy, was it worth it!! A thundering waterfall. Lots of photos and video. The climb back up was a challenge but nothing I couldn’t cope with.

After lunch at the café there it was on to the Rotorua Tree Trust to find the Kauri Grove planted for our family, then on to the Polynesian Pools for a long soak. Bliss! 39 degrees was warm enough, how people can soak in 43 degrees is beyond me! Back into the larger cooler pool for some very gentle aqua-aerobic bobbing up and down and then a strawberry, banana and yogurt smoothie.

When I dropped Lynne off she invited me in and she, her husband Gary and I enjoyed a tea of cold roast mutton and veges and some political discussion as we watched the minor party leaders debate. Home by nine and a good long sleep.

What a cracker birthday! I feel restored and my heart feels light. Soft misty rain, bird song, trout waving their tails in perfect sync with each other, my mountain, wonderful food, hot welcoming water to soak in, magnificent trees, gorgeous music and most of all, laughter and great company. I am truly blessed.

A Bit of a B Week

It’s Friday. Friday is the day when someone else comes in to see Mum in the morning and I have time to do housework, washing, writing, thinking, reading and watching TV. I do find that by about midday I’m missing her and wanting to go in and see her and it can be hard to wait until 5pm, when I go in for the evening shift.

It’s been a busy week. Wednesday was my birthday and I turned 53. I’d done some serious baking the day before so I could take food into the rest home staff, brownies, cupcakes, butterfly cakes, queen cakes, eclairs, shortbread robots (don’t ask) and banana bread. All in all, it went very well and was most appreciated. I picked Mum up that day and took her home and we watched some US Open tennis on SKY and some opera off DVD and listened to some music in the conservatory. I got cash and book tokens for my birthday so I was happy, nothing better for me than book tokens. Cooked myself a dozen scallops for tea and they were exceedingly yummy!

Yesterday I took myself off to the craft show in Hamilton, feeling it was time to take up something crafty – if you know what I mean. I got a rug to hook and have done two rows. It’s quite a complex pattern so I need to concentrate and it’s hard to watch TV at the same time. I got a canvas and some paints so will get round to that. Also bought myself some nice glass jewelery and got a few little presents for birthdays coming up.

I’m also planning the next book in my head. My editors at Harper Collins have explained (very patiently) to me that I need to maintain a similar tone and texture and provide the readers who loved The Secret Keeper with something that will satisfy them and not be a complete surprise. After several false starts I think I have a great idea brewing away.

So what else is happening in the world? Some great speeches at the Democratic Convention in North Carolina. I’ve heard snippets of President Clinton’s nomination speech and have the whole thing ready and waiting on You Tube for later in the day and I will watch President Obama live this afternoon. Love a bit of great oratory!! It makes me think of Toby Zigler and Sam Seabourne and all the work that goes in behind the scenes to create the words.

Oh and I have been coping with a bulging  disc which was pinching my sciatic nerve, didn’t mention it earlier because the doctor gave me some lovely painkillers and when I take them I don’t know my back is sore. When I don’t take them it is a little stiff and twinges a bit but it’s healing quickly and, as long as I stay out of the garden (yeah), should be 100% soon.

I had some ingredients left over from the baking and half a loaf of fig and walnut bread that was going stale quickly. So, not wanting to waste good stuff, yesterday I made a bread and butter pudding, with sultanas and lemon rind and eggs and milk/cream and it is just delicious! I have carved it up into chunks and put it in the deep freeze.

So that was my week, back, baking, birthday, birthing a book and being there for Mum.