We are up to our eyeballs in farewells to friends at the moment. Which is to be expected as there is only one day left before we leave the country.
Moving out of our house was exhausting but a lot less stressful that I had thought it would be and we have just spent two weeks staying out in the country at our friend Shona’s house ‘Summer’ where we rented the annexe. The whole place is surrounded by trees and birds and the air smells amazing. The house is closer to the mountains so we even had a snow shower when we had a blast from the South Pole.
We are now staying at Mike and Sue’s, which is in town but also very beautiful as the house and garden are so well looked after and lovingly decorated. They are tree huggers, like many of our friends and it shows in their surroundings.
Our going away party/spring equinox party was Saturday night and so it was lovely to cozy up the next evening with these dear, good friends and watch the first three episodes of ‘Edge of Darkness’ a favourite of us all since it first came out and won awards at the BAFTAs in 1986. Still a fantastic programme but so dated now in the technology they used, coppers using pay phones and rotary dial phones. Watching the rest of the series tonight after enjoying one of Mr T’s curries.
Outwardly I am just dealing with one small task after the other, trying to be organised and trying to get the weight down on my suitcase. Inwardly I am now firmly between two worlds, here and there, sadness and happiness, excitement and apprehension. We drop the dogs at the pet travel place tomorrow at 1pm and then on to the airport for our flight to Auckland – Shanghai and then Heathrow.
We had made the decision to celebrate an early Samhain as this year the 30th April (and Mr T’s birthday) falls on a Wednesday. Mid-week is a difficult time to get people to come out and so we choose yesterday, Friday the 25th to do our thing. Appropriately enough it was also ANZAC day here, the day of remembrance for all New Zealanders and Australians who have died serving in wars (and peace keeping forces) and a public holiday.
This meant that Mr T was home to help with the preparations thank heavens because I was feeling particularly tired and as he was suffering with a cold, the two of us made up about one person work wise.
It did turn out to be quite an effort in fact not the least because we had a few extra jobs thrown in like carving pumpkins and collecting firewood from various kind friends so that we could use the brazier.
Our last gathering at Mabon had been kind of small, with only about 6-8 people and although it was really lovely I thought I would try a bit harder this time and invite lots of people on the basis that most of them wouldn’t come. But then of course most of them did come with the consequence that we almost didn’t have enough seats – but it was so lovely to see everyone.
The weather which we had watched anxiously over the previous days had promised rain and cold and indeed it did rain on and off yesterday to the extent that we decided if it hadn’t got better by 5pm we were going to give in and hold the party inside.
Then a small miracle, it stopped raining.. completely. Not only that but we were treated to a absolutely stonking sunset with such lurid light it turned my t-shirt day-glow. It became so warm that our brazier almost felt too hot. The clouds cleared and the stars did their thing.
Many thanks to Sue for the photos
Thanks to everyone for coming and making it such a wonderful night.
Also, at some stage I am going to add another blog page so that you can read what is said at our rituals. Coming soon..
I don’t know about you all but I am very excited.. I positively love this time of year..the middle of winter, the longest night, lovely cold weather with lights and candles and booze and food and presents and holidays and, and, and, and… Breath…
It has been a lovely week of socialising and getting everything sorted food wise and present wise. I finished work yesterday and do not go back for two weeks. When I do I will be starting an extra day a week which is a real bonus. I will just about be paying our rent and that make things a bit less tight.
Last night we spent at our friends having a little Solstice eve get together, with the weather so mild we were able to sit outside around a fire.
It does not look like we have a chance of snow for Christmas but as we had a small taste of it last weekend I am not dissapointed. Neither are the shop keepers as everyone is able to get out and about to buy provisions and treats without nasty icy paths to manoeuvre.
It was market day today in Hay and I tried to get there a bit earlier as I thought it might be busy, and I was right. I couldn’t get the bread I wanted and Lucretia Wood-Cole who makes and sells wonderful cakes in aid of the Women’s Institute had nearly sold out. But I did manage to get everything else, including the most luscious runny cheese that you can only get at this time of year. It was lovely that they had fine weather for it and everyone was in very good spirits. Toastie had a great time taking every chance she had to snuffle at people’s market bags which must have been emitting wonderful smells. Particularly if they had visited the stall that sells many types of fish, fowl or beast.
As an aside – we were accosted by a visiting lady in Hay the other day who wanted to know if Toastie was a Norfolk Terrier as she had one and Toastie looked exactly like her. We said that as The Toastilator is a rescue dog we had no idea and then rushed home to Google Image it. Sure enough- apart from having slightly longer legs Toastie has found her tribe!
On with the story..
We trundled ourselves home with our parcels and then I set out again to have lunch with my boss/friend Sandra, and two of our trustees – Betty (our Chairwoman) and Karl (vice Chairman). I love these people and feel very lucky to be working with them. I have to say that I never thought I would feel that way about employers! Karl (the first Quaker I have ever met) looked completely appropriate for the occasion as he is in his eighties and has a long white beard which he topped off today with a Santa hat.
Sandra did her usual of trying to confiscate the sugar lumps so that Karl cannot put fifty million of them in his hot orange drink while Karl (who does not have diabetes) did his usual of remonstrating with Sandra for taking the Lords name in vain. I did my usual of surreptitiously nicking the sugar lumps so that Karl can have his fill, and Sandra did her bit again by telling me off 😉
We drunk stupendously good mulled wine and I chomped my way through a frittata which included bits of turkey, bacon, little sausages and brussels sprout – I know that sounds mad but it was nom.
We ate at Booth’s Books cafe, which if you are ever passing our way you must stop and visit. Booth’s used to belong to the King of Hay, Richard Booth, and by the time I started coming to Hay the bookshop was a bit of a mess- damp, cold and smelling of mould. Now it has new owners who have transformed it into the most magnificent, light, airy, warm utterly inviting space. Spread over three floors with loads of pozzies to sit and read, it is a place you can spend hours in. They added the cafe and are also building a small cinema which should be finished in the new year. The food in the cafe is tasty, interesting and the menu varied every week – it also has the bonus of being relatively cheap. And the chips with aioli, and the real hot chocolate are to die for..
If you think I sound like I am happy you would be right.. Certainly compared with December last year when I had lost my job and was still incredibly home sick. I still struggle with depression and the terrible tiredness that comes with it but I am keeping my head well up and am helping myself with the simple things – seeing friends as much as possible, walking this beautiful countryside, sharing our home with a bonkers Terrier, reading good books, immersing myself in crochet and craft, and making myself go to work – of course I’m lucky to have a job that I like.
I am deeply grateful for all that I have.. Thankful for the hard bits of life that make me appreciate all the good. Thankful for all of you..
So – the winter solstice, celebrating the return of the light, new beginnings – new challenges. Hope you are all ok out there.
After all that I ended up watching the royal wedding three times!
I had completely forgotten about it yesterday morning when I bumped into my neighbour. He was cursing because he was trying to get his wife out of the house to leave for their holiday but she refused to go till she had seen THE DRESS.
So whilst I was doing the vacuuming etc, I turned the tv on just in time to see all the crucial bits. Then I hived off up town to do a few jobs (visit Louise in her shop, eat caramel apple cake at the Back Fold cafe, visit charity shop for single sheets for guests beds) and by the time I came back Mr T and his parents were home and had the tv rewound to the bit I had already seen, so I watched it again.
Then I left for Louise’s street party in the Back Fold. A rather pleasant group of people and I finally met the King of Hay Richard Booth and his partner Hope. Lots of good eats and conversation, with Tim the Gardener playing his guitar and singing until it was all bought to a sudden wet halt by a thunderstorm.
Home again where a little later in the evening, Mr T decided he hadn’t watched the wedding properly so we watched it again – bloody hell..
What I thought..
Music – most of it wonderful and mostly the best part of the show
The Abbey – fucking, fucking fantastic – can’t wait to go there
BBC coverage – could they have got any closer? What must it be like to be filmed at what is probably the most nerve-racking moment of your life and know that millions of people are watching? What happens if you get a sudden attack of itchy bottom? On the other hand – the shot from the Abbey roof down onto the proceedings was spectacular.
Stupid hats, and I mean really stupid hats – first prize to Princess Beatrice.
Guests – Posh and Becks, why?
The dress – perfectly lovely darrhhling! BUT – wish it could have been a little bit more exciting, speshly when you’ve got the money to do it.
Public holiday – the best bit. However – many retailers in Hay decided to open anyway. I met up with one of my old co-workers from No 2 who said they had been told they had to work, no tv or radio to watch the coverage and no extra pay. She was just amused because they had no customers all day and the boss’s were going to lose out on that one 😉 . Maybe I should thank them for firing me, I am so glad I don’t work there anymore.
The Really Best Bit – Watching lots of people totally enjoying themselves.
AND YE SHALL DANCE, SING, FEAST, MAKE MUSIC AND LOVE, ALL IN MY PRAISE
The Charge of the Goddess
The carrots were nearly frozen outside Phil The Fruit’s today. It was snowing so hard that all his veges, and myself were covered in it. I have never seen it snow so hard – but then I am a snow novice really. Just about everybody around here is heartily sick of it. The shop keepers especially, no one is going out to shop, I have never seen the town so quiet.
It maybe dark and cold outside but inside our little house is full of light, colour and is toasty. At least once a day I have to run outside with a jug of boiling water and pour it along the frozen boiler pipe to keep the heat going but apart from that all is well. Oh, and I have to gather up the frozen bird food containers and microwave them so the birds can eat their food. The starlings take it in turns to sit inside the containers with their feathers fluffed up and warm their toes whilst all the time fighting off the other blighter’s who try to push in.
Tomorrow is Yule, the winter solstice on this side of the Planet. I will be starting the day by getting up at 6am to watch the total eclipse of the moon, if the sky is clear enough of course.
We are supposed to be visiting the supermarket in Hereford in the morning to do a proper shop – but – and it is a big but – both Mr T and I have the bot and neither of us, I suspect, will feel like travelling through WEATHER to get to absolutely giant, mad shop crammed full of people panic buying. Hmmm.. We will see.
In the afternoon I am going to my friend’s place to eat and drink nice things and give each other little Yule pressies – this will be very, very nice indeed.
I will let you know how it goes – in the mean time, hope you all have a good day tomorrow whether you are celebrating the rebirth of the light or the hight of summer.
Thanks to Nigel Slater, last nights main course went down a treat. I had committed the sin of attempting to cook for a dinner party a recipe that I had not tried before (and then nearly trebling it to account for five people instead of two). But fortunately, it was so simple that even I couldn’t cock it up. A Stew of Mushrooms with Onions and Fennels Seeds will be made again in this household. (scroll down his article to find the recipe)
Another revelation was the accompaniment of quinoa (which I have been pronouncing qui-noa and that is apparently pronounced keen- wha) that my friend Yvonne bought along. She cooked it in veg stock and it was yum. I think I prefer it to rice.
Our craft group was a bit quieter today owing to the school holidays but we had some good nattering as usual. I am in the process of making two spiral scarves, one for my Mum and the other for my friend Miriam who I am doing a swap with. You would think that they would be enough to be getting on with but no, I raced home this afternoon to make a brooch similar to one I had seen one of my craft group friends wearing. It is using up an old piece of lace that I had which I loved but never thought I would find a use for.
I am getting ready to welcome people for dinner so am having a list type day. This just means that I have lots to do and a list is necessary to drive me along.
I need to catch you all up with some photos taken over the last week, starting with one from my friend Kate’s wedding last Easter Saturday. She got married at Zealandia – what used to be called the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and a short walk of about ten minutes was needed to reach the spot where the deed was to be done. Along the way was an area where Tuatara had been released and we were fortunate enough to spot one in his/her home (a hole in the bank).
Easter Monday saw us attending a lunch to celebrate my nephew’s engagement, that was good fun and great to have lots of us together. Especially as we are moving country soon.
And then Friday we landed on my Uncle Mike for his 64th birthday. I had undone the first blokes scarf that I had made and re-crocheted it with three strands instead of four and with softer wool. Much nicer – and he liked it, he is wearing it in the next photo, with you-know-who sitting next to him. I’m pretty sure he would have worn it even if he’d hated it as it was fricking freezing that night! By the way – he doesn’t normally look like a tramp, it is just that he has having a style makeover and is growing his hair long and a beard.
Mike and Sue had been to WOMAD up in Hamilton and my darling Sue presented us with this lovely flag that she had bought for us there – specially to take overseas with us. So if you are passing through our neck of the woods and spot it – you’ll know you’ve found us!
I am in a mood.. it’s a funny saying, reminds me of childhood as in ‘don’t go near Mum she’s in a mood!.
Not sure why I am in a mood, probably hormones again. Anyway, I have two parties to go to tonight and don’t want to go to either, would rather stay home and crochet in front of the telly. Does this mean I am getting old? Probably, or it is hormones.
I have finished the big, chunky scarf I am going to give to my Uncle for his birthday. As my first effort it is a bit wonky but not too bad. It was made with a size 10 hook and four strands of different coloured wools and sits solid on the neck. I am a little proud of it. I also love it because I started it on Thursday and finished it Friday so it gives that instant gratification buzz. However, the effort of making the chunky scarf has meant that I still haven’t sewn my granny square scarf together, so must get on to it.
My seventies crochet book has been a laugh. It’s like the design ‘powers that be’, experienced a collective style lobotomy. Godawfull colour and pattern combinations and the fibre used in almost every pattern is horrible, shiny, plasticy, acrylic – shudder.
It is interesting being a newbie at crochet and finding all these wonderful patterns and examples of work such as Attic 24s spiral cushion and Mrs Jones granny square cushion, and then finding exactly the same thing in the seventies crochet book but in horrendous colours and made of enough nylon to make your hair stand on end and give you a nasty static shock.
I cheerfully admit to being a crap blogger lately, sometimes I am just not in the mood and so busy it just get missed out. I am trying to write in the morning but that is not working out to well – will keep trying.
And then there is the other riveting news that my front tooth has fallen out again. Bit into a kebab on Friday night and tooth just popped out. I think that it wasn’t stuck in properly and am hoping that nice Mr Wong the dentist will not charge me again. So that is where I am off to this afternoon – that and dinner at Yvonne’s house, eggplant casserole, which will be good because pretty much everything I have eaten of hers is. Must be the Italian in her coming out.
Yesterday was spent at Ocean Beach, a rough (unswimmable) beach about half an hour from Featherston. Tons of driftwood to make a shade shelter and we spent the afternoon relaxing, reading books and admiring the lunatics floating off the edge of the small hill just up from us.
I am on to another lot of books now – A Spoonful of Jam by Michelle Magorian, one of my favourite authors. I was late catching onto her, I found an copy of Goodnight MisterTom in a book sale last year and after reading that I had to rush to the library to try to get hold of all the rest of hers, not terribly successfully. Which is fortunate really because it stopped me reading them all at once.
The second book I am reading is called Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. The writing in this is a bit disappointing after my three previous reads but I am bearing with it, purely to see what happens in the end. This novel is about a teenager who is killed while riding her push bike. She wakes up on an ocean liner heading for Elsewhere – the place people go when they die, and the novel so far is the tale of how she deals with being dead.
My third book is The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman, this is a reread because I enjoyed it so much the first time. This is the first scientific study into what luckiness is all about and Wiseman comes up with four principles that people use, without realising it, to create good fortune in their lives.
All good stuff and entertaining, makes me wonder what’s coming next.. So many good books, so little time 😉
Outstanding weekend, so outstanding it would have been impossible to write my blog yesterday even with the threat of a cattle prod. I had been up late for two nights and something had to give..
I love going out to my friends place in the country but when a brace of her siblings decide to descend, one of whose birthdays it is, you know the celebration will go on for some time. Next thing you know the sounds are up, you’re on your forth wee dram of some mighty fine scotch and getting a sudden urge to shake your booty with no embarrassment what so ever.
I did do something healthy on Saturday though – went for a icy cold river swim, just what was needed to clear the head in time for Saturday nights fun. We had beautiful weather throughout with temperatures around 28c both days, and cloudless night skies.
I am remarkably chipper today and have got a bit done in the studio so am feeling pleased with myself. I am also happy because today I have heard really good news from two of my best buddies. One has just purchased the most beautiful house, after losing out on a previous one that she really fancied. The other has just found out that the hugely bad financial problem she has had hanging over her head for the last 18 months has resolved itself. So – it’s all good.. and I am thankful for it..