Category Archives: family

Moving Countries is Hard

but pretty amazing! We’ve been here now for almost six weeks and it’s finally starting to feel like home. Things have gone pretty smoothly. Ollie’s family have been great, without them I don’t think it would have fallen into place as quickly and as easily as it has.

Our original plans fell through a bit when we realised we’d have to rent, and move into a place very close to the city in order for the girls to be able to attend the school they want to go to. House hunting was starting to look really bad. Everything in our price range was terrible. Old, falling apart places rented to students for years…or just totally not at all what we wanted or needed. And add to that, we were bringing our cats over, places willing to take pets were hugely limited.

Then we were told about another site to check, and the first place we saw was the house that we eventually rented.

As soon as we saw it, we fell in love. It’s so cute and on the cutest street in the cutest neighbourhood where all the houses look just like this one. And at the end of the street is a chocolate factory!  No kidding! It was totally love at first sight. There are definitely pitfalls though. Like the fact that it has no airconditioning, and a day after we moved in, Adelaide was hit by a heatwave that rocketed the temperatures up past 40 degrees celcius! (that’s in the hundreds for you Americans). And we were DYING! The hottest Christchurch ever really got was 32. Ten degrees and more above this was devastating. Particularly without any air conditioning!

The house consists of two bedrooms and a loft. Ollie and I took the loft, but during the hot days, we’re sleeping in the lounge because it just bakes upstairs. It’s not so bad though, it’s a little like my idea of camping. In a room with a sofa bed and a proper bathroom right next door. 🙂

It’s hard to take photos that do this place justice, but here are a couple more:

This is our backyard. This is what truly won me over when we came here. I just love that view so much. The doors all open up so that it’s just a big flow indoors outdoors. There’s not a lot of it, but there’s enough for us. Behind the Buddha is a small shed, which is currently packed to the rafters with empty boxes. Every time I cook, this is my view. It makes being in the kitchen far less of a chore, I can tell you! We haven’t really spent much time out in it though to be honest. It’s far too hot! I found this lovely outdoors chair though that I really want. It’s a hanging basket and I plan to curl up out there when everyone goes back to work and school and write (this is assuming it’s going to cool down some).

My lovely little kitchen, which has far more bench space than I have ever had in my life! This is obviously not too long after we’d just moved in. We do have a fridge now, courtesy of family members who generously decided to upgrade their existing fridge/freezer and sold us their other one. You can just see my first kitchen purchase – that orange jug completes my entire life! You have no idea just how much I love it. I have also managed to acquire a stunning food processor and an amazing blender. Being able to go shopping for an entire new house load of things has been really great and also, really tiring. We are still not done yet, but the house is starting to sound a little less echoey and look a lot more homely!

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That really is a floor to ceiling wine rack. 🙂 This view, I think, totally encapsulates why this wee house was made for me. It currently has a whole two bottles in it. This is the space underneath the stairs which lead up to the loft. Everything about this house just feels peaceful and welcoming and I really love being in it. Particularly when it isn’t too hot to move.

Our cats arrived on the hottest day we had – 44 degrees. It was terrible, and they were so uncomfortable. I’d never seen a cat pant like a dog before, it was cute and sad all at once.

I missed him too! They were both so glad to see us! And the heat was a blessing in disguise really, because they certainly did NOT want to go outside at all. Even now when we let them out they stick very close by. Lily has started to get a little more adventurous and has jumped the front fence a few times to investigate the houses across the road, but they haven’t really attempted to go far. Greebo found himself a spot under our bed and comes down for food and to go to the toilet. He’ll sometimes curl up under the bamboo, but he prefers to be inside. There are possums that hang out in the neighbours big trees and they freak the cats out.

Although I think the entire world should be scared of Buddha riding laser eyed Lily!


I’m writing this now because in two days time we will be on our way to Australia and I wanted to make sure I wrote this down before then. We’re moving into a motel today and I doubt I’ll have access to wifi.

My baby is about to turn 14 years old. I honestly don’t know where the time went. I still remember the first time I held her in my arms, after a whole four hour labour. Aleeya was born in a birthing house here in Christchurch on the 19th of December. I went into labour at 4am and we had to race across the city. Luckily there was very little traffic around at that time of the morning.

I had a water birth, and had to stop pushing after her head emerged because she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice. She is lucky that they were able to remove it without hurting her, and I am lucky to have been able to hold my second daughter in my arms not long afterwards.

She was born facing the wrong way and my hip bones squashed her poor little face. She was bruised and swollen and had this adorable pink little face and the darkest blue eyes. She was silent for the whole 24 hours we were at the house. It wasn’t until we got her home that she really showed us what an amazing pair of lungs she had, and she never stopped!

Aleeya is one of those amazing people who observes the world first and acts later. She has always been far too intelligent for her own good, and was never happy unless she was active and awake and able to do things.

When I look back on my own childhood and remember myself at her age, I’m always really blown away. She reminds me of me in so many ways – stubborn, argumentative, cheeky and sarcastic but in other ways she’s totally different. She definitely has far more sense in her head than I did. She’s confident and beautiful and stylish and knows who she is. Aleeya always had amazing style. She started dressing herself when she was about two. And unlike most children, she didn’t just throw on anything and everything – she matched her clothing beautifully. I’m not sure even I could have picked the clothing that she did.

She’s sensitive and artistic and so funny! Her sense of humour is amazing and best of all, she’s not totally bored and annoyed with us yet. Hanging out with us isn’t a chore (most of the time).

I always remember my mum laughing and telling me that I was in for twice what I put her through. I’m still waiting! haha!

I’m very blessed to have these kids in my life. They have made me a better person, and their ability to be such incredibly tolerant, brave, beautiful individuals is an inspiration. She’s so forgiving and kind, I couldn’t have ever hoped to have spent my life with better people. I love the young woman she’s growing into. Even if she won’t let me bite her bum anymore!

Happy fourteenth birthday my wee baby girl. You’re an amazing girl and I love you more than you love me! Like, way! Don’t ever change, I’m so proud of you for always making the right decisions and for never letting us down. You always choose the brave route and I’m inspired by your strength every damn day.

Love you! OMNOMNOMZ! xoxoxo

Christmas Parties

Ollie’s work function was last night. It was at the Christchurch Casino, which is somewhere we’ve been maybe twice in our lives before last night. It was very different to any other of his Christmas parties I’ve been too.

The last one was several years ago and I had to be taken home early. Here’s a piece of advice you’re likely to hear from many people: don’t mix your drinks. It’s really not pretty.

I was a little nervous about this year’s one to be honest. And when we arrived, it was a strange feeling. I looked around and barely knew anyone. It held the same sort of surreal quality as everything that I associate with the earthquakes does. We have been to ten years worth of Christmas functions and I spent some time working there when they needed 839574895 files organised. I knew those people really well, and I cared about a lot of them.

Only one of those faces was there last night. One woman and her husband. A couple I have always adored. We sat down for dinner and Ollie said “so how many faces do you recognise?” I took a look around and remembered about five. It was like being at someone else’s Christmas function.

I still don’t really think of those ten others who won’t ever celebrate a Christmas party with either their workmates or their families as being dead. So young, many just new parents with small children. The group that we would often sit with at those functions and laugh with. All of them gone. As I looked around at the new faces who replaced the ones that I had known and laughed with for so many years, nostalgia hit me, and I realised how good it will be to move on.

I’m starting to feel a little sad about leaving Christchurch with it’s 31 degrees one day, it’s 12 the next, and the torrential downpour that we’ve had today along with strong winds. “You can never be sure what the weather will do in Christchurch” people say. It’s true. You can never be sure. You can never be sure what mother nature will do either. She has been unkind to my city. It will take a long, long time before Christchurch is anything like it once was.

We both enjoyed ourselves last night though. I left lipstick on people’s cheeks. I drank a wine and a half too many and ate beautiful food. I laughed a lot and was really glad to get to sit with the couple we were with, and also to talk with a few new faces. It was nice to talk about moving on and to be given best wishes, and it was nice to leave it behind too.

We wandered into one of the casino gaming rooms afterwards. Ollie thought he might like to try his hand at gambling. But we walked in, and the tables were full of serious faces, and numbered tables and little plastic chips and walking through them felt like walking through some kind of human zoo. People looked up from their games like animals in cages, it felt invasive and private – like we’d just walked into their living room and were watching them live their lives for an evening.

“Do you want to try one?” I asked my husband and he shook his head. “It looks really confusing.” He said, and we walked out again, past the old ladies playing the slot machines and out into the cool for summer night. The streets were quiet and there’s still so much empty space. It’s a strange city these days.

Packing Up

The girl who packed our stuff for shipping had the biggest thickest false eyelashes and two cute little diamond jewels next to her eye. I think that they’re just stick on and not piercings, but I can’t be sure. She’s adorable and did such a freaking GREAT job. It’s SO HOT here today, and she packed everything away like a champion, by herself. I was really worried about how she’d manage with the boxes of books that we had already packed, because Ollie couldn’t even lift them and complained when we were both carrying them out, but then a guy arrived to help.

Anyway, everything is happening today. The new house owners had a valuer come through to value the property for their bank, and he was so freaking weird! He started talking to this girl, asking her about packing and does she often have to wrap furniture etc – it’s only our coffee table – and then he noticed her lashes and he goes “you have very big eyelashes!” And she made the embarrassed noise girls make when someone notices something about them, and she said “It’s just lots and lots of mascara.”

It so is not lots and lots of mascara. Those things are dragqueen length falsies! I kind of loved her for lying about the length of her lashes.  Besides them and the two wee diamonds, she is entirely make up free. I wanna take her photo to show you, but I think that might be even weirder for her than having some random guy ask her about her lashes.

This has got to be one hard job, especially in this heat. And she did it all by herself! I wish I could say that I wasn’t surprised to have a girl turn up to pack our stuff, but I really was.

I totally dig her. Getting up and here before 9am ready to pack peoples stuff with falsies on is to be admired, I think.

The Salvation Army turned up a couple of hours later to take away a bunch of stuff we’re not bothering to take or sell. The house is starting to feel so empty now. We have been selling everything using online auctions and some things just go that day. Like our TV which was very depressing. Now my desktop computer is gone too, which means the house is painfully silent – as I play all my music through that machine.

Anyway, we were able to give them a lot of stuff and hopefully we can get them back the Monday we leave to take the beds and couch and chairs. We’re spending the last two days in a motel, so that we can have everything gone and sold and not have to sleep on the floor.

I’ve been at Ollie for a couple of weeks now, to list our car. It is old and crappy and some of you may remember when I artfully managed to tear it open . So yes, I was not expecting much at all. It has given us and our mechanic years of amusement – particularly Ollie’s amazing bog job. We had talked about what price we’d consider selling it for, and he FINALLY put it up today, with the stipulation that we would need it up until the 17th. Thirty seconds later, I kid you not. We get our first call.

The guy buys the car on the spot and asks us to drop it off on the 17th for him at an address which just so happens to be just down the road from the motel we’re booked into. Success! While Ollie was on the phone, there were six missed calls waiting for him. People are strange.

I’m quite surprised and pleased at how easy people are in terms of purchasing things and picking them up when we’ve asked them to.

As stressful as all this has been, it’s also falling together really nicely, and with two weeks to go, we’re pretty much all sorted out on this side of the ditch. On the other? Not so much, but we’re getting there!


I wrote this story for a competition, it wasn’t placed which means I can now share it with you. 🙂

There are sandcastles being built here under the instructions of a stern blonde four year old and a solemn, two year old perfectionist. I look up from our work to watch as a giant black and tan sea beast pounds up the wet sand towards me. Her jowls flinging saliva and sea foam. My husband laughs as she gallops by at full speed, the stick he threw into a choppy ocean all but forgotten in her unbridled joy.

Her paws are too big for her, she’s only a year old and already weighs 60kgs. Bum wiggling excitedly as she leans her weight against me and drops her tailless wet rump into my lap. “Be careful Mabel!” My oldest daughter scolds. “You’ll break the castle!” My youngest girl breaks one apart with her plastic spade, a sly grin on her cheeky round face as her sister turns to shout at her.

Pushing the wet dog out of my lap, she races back down the beach like a battering ram. Terrifyingly huge and as gentle as a lamb, while my husband calls her name and races her back towards greengrey waves, rolling in and sliding down wet banks of ochre sand.

I’m reminded of our youth. Desperate to catch one another’s attention, singing and laughing as waves break over a darkened beach. He’s showing off for me, doing handstands, holding himself up, falling down again. By the time we’re ready to go home, his mother’s car keys are lost in the sand. We spend hours searching on hands and knees before a chagrined walk home to explain what happened to my future mother in law.

He’s running through the waves now with a giant puppy hot on his heels. Keys are firmly entrenched in my bag, and not his shorts.

Where have the sand dunes gone, I wonder? The beach is eroding. I remember running through them as a child, sharp dry grasses stabbing bare feet, leaping from dune to dune. Stopping as I spy a nest, three blue eggs abandoned within. We take them carefully into our hands and home to nurse the babies inside. They will never hatch, and the stench when they crack open will remain with us forever.

I look back at my own babies, our hands buried deep in wet sand moats. Perfect bucket-made sandcastles make our kingdom. The little one is solemn again, her greenblue eyes wide and earnest, drinking in every word her sister says. Only speaking herself when she knows the words are right.

Their father is wrestling with our Mabel over the entire bough of a fallen tree. She is never as happy as she is here. I understand completely. On the long the trek from Christchurch she sits between my feet, looking up at me with patient eyes.

I remember these moments as I take that walk back down the beach of my childhood, releasing handfuls of her ashes as I go. My daughters are tall, beautiful teenagers now. My husband walks a little ahead of us, we are silent. As the water laps our toes, we take handfuls of our beloved girl and release her into the ocean. Freeing her to the wind, the sand, the sea she loved.

Her last walk, and a quiet, sad return for us back to the car. This beach holds all my best memories, and on the trip back to Christchurch, I can see her again as she runs back from the water to drop her heavy wet doggy weight into my lap so she can lick my face, and tell me she too, loves my beach.

11 October 2012

All This And Heaven Too

So I guess I was a bit too hasty in expressing my hatred of DIY and painting in my last post. It was definitely hard, and there were times when I really wondered what on earth I’d gotten myself into, but now that I’ve given it a second go, I have to take that back again. It’s not so bad, internet, and it really is very rewarding.

I’ve been waiting for Ollie to get into the bathroom, but he’s even slower than me! So while he is fluffing around with the tiny toilet area, I figured I’d get started on the shower. Those of you who watched my terrible vlog will have got some sense of how crusty my shower really is, but I needed a better camera to be able to show you it fully. What you didn’t see was exactly how dark and how grotty it is. It’s like a wee cave in the wall, with a horrible old door and damp and mould and ugh! It’s awful!

Ollie had started sanding a little in there, but it wasn’t happening fast enough for me, so I got in there last week and decided I’d just go for it. I unscrewed the door (with the help of Siobhan who got that last and very stubborn screw out) and we both struggled with the weight of it until we got it outside! It was incredibly liberating! I stood there being completely pleased with myself and wishing there had been an audience around to see how awesome I am.

The doorframe was a complete mess. It just looked so awful, so I got in there and sanded it back, and then filled in the gaps – which I am quite good at (better than Ollie, ha!) and then left it. It’s hard to do the shower, everyone needs to have one you see. I debated not letting anyone have one until we got a shower curtain put up, but then that seemed like another thing that would take forever, so I relented. It’s so lovely to shower in there now! It feels so open and light! Not as much water escapes as I imagined it would either which is good, because Ollie and I went to a hardware store to look for a shower curtain rail, and then I wondered out loud about whether or not you could get a glass door, just the door to fit in a shower. You can internet! Did you know this? I did not! I was SO excited to find this out, that we nearly bought one! I still partly think we should have, but the shower curtain will still make it look lovely in there. The glass door was pretty expensive. I’m really amazed at all the great bathroom and kitchen things there are in the world that you can just, purchase and get put in! I did not know any of these things. Had I, we might be very poor right now.

Anyway, we are waiting on the curtain rail, because when we went back after mulling over whether or not a glass door would fetch a better price than a shower curtain, and had gotten a mixed range of responses from friends, they had none left. So I spent the last couple of days painting the skirting boards, door frames, the step and the ceiling of the shower.

My mum told me about this amazing invention called the ‘speed brush’. I bought one and then gave it the side eye when it came time to use it. It looked difficult and I am not at all sure of myself with any of this painting business. So I just picked up my paintbrush and undercoated with that. With much the same feeling I felt painting the laundry. It was slow and boring and difficult. By the time I was done, my arms were aching and I was feeling like giving up.

I figured it couldn’t be any more difficult than that, so I sucked it up and gave it a go for the first layer of paint after the undercoat was dry. Oh my god! What a freakin’ revelation!!!! I heard angels singing.

It was done before I even realised I was painting! I do find it a bit messier, and I had paint all up my arms, but I was done so fast that I couldn’t wait for it to dry so I could do it again and have it finished!  It was a complete turn around in the hatred stakes. I now have a renewed interest in painting things. It just looks so fresh and clean and wonderful! Tomorrow I’m going to scrub every square inch of it until it gleams.

I think, if we work really hard this weekend, we could get the whole bathroom close to, if not completely finished. I’m pretty excited to show you how it looks when it’s done.

Everything else is plodding along nicely. We are slowly selling off all our stuff – and there is a LOT of stuff. I’ve spent a long time sorting through old kids school work, paintings, home made cards and other kept memories, and I have got it down to two boxes worth. It’s amazing what I found. Old letters, teenage writing, beautiful kindergarten paintings the girls did, hilarious stories they wrote in primary school. It’s been really lovely having the time to be able to sit and pour through everything and purge what we don’t need.

I think I am still keeping far more than I need, but two boxes is pretty manageable.

Tomorrow we have gardeners coming to straighten up our yard. I am really excited about this! I can’t wait to see all the pieces of dead trees and branches and stuff that we have just left lying around gone and the trees cut back and the gardens tidied.

Only about two and a half more months to go! I can’t believe how fast it’s going! And then I’ll bore you all with the talk of the new house, and all my plans for life across the ditch.

Somewhere in between then and now, I hope to have my first book in the beginning stages of publishing. Of course, I need to get into it and finish editing so I can give it out to my test audience and see what they think needs fixing, but it is coming along slowly. I’m not sure when life decided to become amazing, but it really is quite stunning at the moment.

Kelly x


I am officially allowed to start talking about the fact that in three months time, we will be moving to Adelaide! I’m both terribly excited about this, and horribly terrified! We made the decision a year ago, with the help of some of Ollie’s wonderful family members – many of whom live there, and who have been encouraging us to go.

It has been a strange couple of years, and I am still working on writing up my account of the Feb quake that almost took Ollie from us. I’m thinking that I will get it written and posted for the two year anniversary.

I’m looking forward to the change in scenery. Adelaide is so beautiful, and it’s looking very likely that we’ll end up living close to the beach! I’m a Nelson girl originally, the beach is my soul. There is nowhere else I’d rather be, than walking along a beach, in ALL kinds of weather. I am very partial to overcast, cooler days – a love that has been born from my 16 years of living here in Christchurch.

For such a long time, it felt like we had forever before anything was going to happen, and now I realise that very soon, we’ll be putting our house on the market! I think I’ve been slightly in denial when it comes to how long we have left. It hit me the other day, and I had a complete meltdown! Nothing was happening! We still have so much stuff to get rid of! An entire household of stuff! It seemed like we were getting nowhere fast and that we would never get it all done.

But the weekend just gone has been great. We managed to do quite a few things and have started progressing forward again. My laundry is complete, although I am not at all interested in continuing on with the bathroom. I had this idealistic dream that it would be loads of fun and really relaxing for me to get into it and paint. You know, meditative. Yeah…no.

Deep down, I knew I’d secretly hate it, but I had no idea just how intense that hatred would be. Painting SUCKS. It’s messy and slow, and BORING and even plugged into music I couldn’t wait until it was over. It looks lovely in there, but good god it sucked!

I would love to be one of those people for whom DIY was fun and exciting and achievable. The problem is, I have the concentration skills of a two year old and I get bored so easily. I also hate hard labour.  My hands were made for looking pretty, and for writing, not painting. It’s a bit depressing to realise just how much I detest the whole painting thing. I had wonderful fantasies about painting our house when we move; 0f self decorating and being great at it, and making it my job.

My enthusiasm reached epic levels and my lovely, encouraging husband said “maybe you’ve found your passion. Home decorating and writing.”  Yes! I thought. Yes, that’s exactly it! This is what I was supposed to do! This is what makes me happy! This DIY, this home decoration, this painting and fixing and doing stuff! This will fulfil all my deepest desires!

Yeah, no.

It’s nothing like that at all. It’s boring, and lonely and depressing and hard. Painting is really HARD! My arms were screaming for mercy! I could hear them begging me to stop, but I couldn’t stop, because the laundry still needed ANOTHER COAT.

Three coats of paint later, I could quite happily have squirted lighter fluid all through that damn laundry and set the place on fire.

And yet….I still have to do at the very least, the skirting boards, cupboards and windowsills in the bathroom and the toilet. I had set myself the task of doing them in the kitchen too. *snorts* Then EQC said they’d pay to get it all fixed up – because there was more damage in the December quakes, which was really exciting news for me! They said we would get money to fix up the broken wall under the kitchen sink and to fix a few small cracks in the laundry, plus the garage including having that repainted too. And then we find out that there are also around 35,000 other claimants in the queue, which of course means, by the time we leave this place in December, we won’t have been paid to fix it.

Conundrums internet!

Anyway, it has been many weeks since I finished the laundry, and while I would like it to be many weeks before I have to start on the bathroom. Time is running out! We’re getting the place valued soon, and then we’ll be putting it on the market, and then people will be coming in to view it! ARGH!

Must somehow get rid of pretty much everything we own and make the house presentable in the next three or so weeks! I just don’t know how all of this stuff works!

In the meantime, Ollie and I are heading to Adelaide in late October to check schools and areas to live in. It will be the first time he and I have gone anywhere for any real length of time together without the kids! I’m pretty excited about that.

Sharp Things Are Sharp.

I cut off the tip of my finger on Sunday. It was terrifyingly awful and I didn’t know what to do. I put it under water, then thought maybe that would make me bleed to death, so squeezed a paper towel over it and fled outside to my skipping husband, like a 4 year old child going “I cut my finger!!!!”

He made me show him, and I couldn’t stop looking, and it just kept bleeding and bleeding and then I got the cold sweats and shakes and felt like I was gonna throw up, or pass out, or do both at the same time. It’s just the tiniest of wounds, I swear. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think that because it didn’t hurt and because there was lots of bleeding, I just couldn’t handle it. I am not good with blood, and haven’t been since I had babies…but I never thought my own blood scared me.

We had no plasters, so he had to go and buy some. In the meantime, Aleeya did not pay me any mind at all thank you very much, and Siobhan came racing out of her room to rub my back and promise me I wasn’t going to die. She is such an awesome caretaker! She brought me water and talked me through it and I was all “I’m such a BABYYYYYY!” I am.

Ollie came back and wouldn’t let me look at it while he pulled the paper towel away, but I had to look! And then he gave me a plaster in the shape of a wizard’s hat which hurt a lot to have put on, and they both giggled at my whimpering.

Afterwards, he salvaged the piece of flesh from the pile of cabbage I had been unsuccessfully trying to turn into coleslaw, and came out with it on his fingertip gleefully showing me. Siobhan was all “OMG! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!” And I turned green and almost cried. He said “and you call yourself a zombie fan.” The shame in his voice was crippling!

I think I should change the plaster, but he says it should be okay for another day or two…and I’m willing to let him be right, because I am nervous about looking at it! It’s ridiculous and I understand the ridiculousness of it, but omg! I can’t help it! Typing is hard, everything is difficult, although it doesn’t hurt unless direct pressure is applied, and I am being very careful about not doing that. I banged it yesterday and saw stars.

The worst part is…it wasn’t even my day to cook! I was just being helpful!

Anyway, it’s now Wednesday and so I decided that I needed to be brave and take the plaster off, which I did. I had to be very careful with more sharp things and cut it away. I did this with much braveness all by myself alone in the bathroom. I may have whimpered a lot, but that’s only because it was stuck to the wounded bit! Oh the inhumanity!

I soaked it under cold water and carefully, carefully peeled it off, to reveal a white and wrinkly fingertip underneath. It really is not the prettiest thing in the world. I can see now that I also shaved off part of my fingernail. With much sucking in of breath and steeling myself with words of encouragement, I managed to put a little antiseptic cream on it and have just left it out in the open for the day. I might have also taken pictures.

Good lord internet! Why on earth would anyone cut the tip of their own fingers off? It’s so revolting! It looks hideous, typing is a massive chore, and I feel very sorry for myself. I wonder if my finger will round out or heal with a dent? 🙁

We’re Looking For The Whales!

Several months ago, one of the girls from Ollie’s work who was also hurt in the quakes started a charity event where she ran a silent auction to raise money for the kids here whose families have been badly effected by the quakes. She helped send them to Auckland for a weekend where they got to go to Rainbow’s End and just enjoy themselves, which is something a lot of kids here haven’t really had the opportunity to do much of. Stress of losing loved ones, of losing their homes, their schools, their favourite places hasn’t been easy on anyone. She did an amazing job, especially because of the fact she had been in hospital for around six months and to learn how to walk again herself. One of the things on offer was a family trip to go whale watching in Kaikoura!

We won!

Ever since then, we’d been trying to get out there to actually GO whale watching, but the weather was just never right. It was always too rough on the seas, which was a little depressing. I have always wanted to see whales but was slowly giving up hope that we would ever get to see them. We called them up last Sunday morning to see if it might be possible, and they told us the weather looked promising, so we bundled into the car and off we went.

I love Kaikoura. It’s one of my favourite places in the South Island. It’s always slate grey and cold – even in summer, but the sea is turquoise and rough and almost everywhere you look there are seals sunning themselves on the rocks. It’s rugged and beautiful and the township is just far too cute for its own good. I love stopping there. I love that it smells like the sea and that nowhere in Kaikoura are you without a sea view.

Every time we pull in, I imagine having built a house with floor to ceiling windows against the side of the hills. Nestled in there, surrounded on three sides by trees and facing out to that amazing blue sea. It’s a writer’s paradise. Although to be fair, I’d probably get far less written there than I do right now, facing a blank wall. My degree used to be on it, but the earthquakes have made us take down most of our pictures. It’s just easier that way.

It was FREEZING! But not even that could dampen my mood. I don’t think Siobhan was ready for my exuberance. When we got there and the weather was still perfect, I was far too excited for my own good! We had spent two other days waiting in Kaikoura all day while they continued to tell us that the weather might be better later that day, then later again, then apologising when it just wasn’t going to happen, so to actually have fine weather and good seas? Bet your arse I was excited!

Seriously. I’m on a boat! My kids are cool as, man. Me? I’m on a boat. You all know the song.

Look at how ridiculously beautiful that child of mine is! No matter what we do, the both of them just continue to get more and more adult and stunning. Let’s not even talk about how tall they are. Yeah, EVERYONE is tall next to me, but I was sort of hoping that my girls wouldn’t betray me with their Amazonian willowy status and remain little girls forever. It’s not happening though, those beasts plan to tower over me by the time they finally stop growing.

Anyway, we went out on the sea in a super fast boat which took us over the shallows which dropped off into sea that went deeper than the Grand Canyon in a very short time. It’s a little strange to think of that much water underneath you when you can still see the shoreline. He said that the Grand Canyon would fit into the shelf below us twice. I haven’t seen the Grand Canyon yet, but I am assuming that’s an impressive amount of sea.

This is how you find whales. You insert a rod into the water and listen through your iPod headphones for them to start talking to one another. They do this as they’re coming back up to the surface. Did you know that whales can stay under the surface for up to 2 and a half hours before they need to come up for air? Did you also know that the sound they make when they stun their prey can turn your insides to liquids? Yeah…I did not know this.

Anyway, it didn’t take as long as I’d imagined before he heard a whale. We saw three in total, but the one below is the first one we saw. They’re all boys. Apparently the girls don’t come here often, it’s a boys only club. I don’t blame them. It’s COLD.

There he is! Look! The boat was full of tourists, and I swear I was still the most excited person onboard. Every time he blew water I celebrated his cleverness. I am lucky that I’m blessed with such an understanding family. I am sure I’m terribly embarrassing with my “OMG! LOOK! IT’S A WHALE! LOOK HE’S BREATHING!!!!! LOOK! HE’S SO CLEVER!”

The guys who run the trip know when a whale is getting ready to go back down again. It’s amazing, he talked us through it beautifully. It was a little like giving birth but without the pain. You sort of just hold your breath and blam! Awe inspiring beauty. Perfection. He was my very own creation and I was the only person on board who got to experience it. Shut up, the two of us were having a serious moment together right before he said goodbye to me forever. As soon as his tail came up like that? I cried.

I did. I admit it. It was so beautiful that I actually sobbed. “Did you…*sob* see that?” Apparently, everyone did, but no one else seemed moved to tears. No one who knows me will be surprised to hear this news though. After all, I cry at everything. It’s okay though, I wasn’t wearing mascara.

We also got to see an amazing array of seabirds, including Albatross! And, hundreds of amazing little dolphins, who were so precious and so thrilling. They zip under the boat and burst out of the water right in front of you. They threw themselves all around the place, and many of them did full 360’s! It was very impressive. Especially when they did it in pairs. Like synchronised swimmers but awesome.

no one can replace you

About ten years ago, we owned a rottweiler. She was the biggest, sweetest, kindest dog in the world, and I called her Mabel. She was a backyard bred dog, and I know you’re not supposed to buy them, but if we don’t, then who does? The dogs are born, someone needs to love them. And I truly did. When we went to get her, she was the last one left, and they told us, she had also been the biggest in the litter.

She was a real teddy bear. Round and soft with huge paws.

I had always wanted a big dog. I loved rotties. I loved everything about them, their size, their colouring, their loyalty and their beauty. Mabel changed a lot of people’s opinions on rottweilers. She loved the girls deeply, and we spent a lot of time teaching her and them to be gentle with each other.

Mabel outgrew the girls incredibly fast. She outgrew me! By the time she was fully grown, she weighed more than I did, and wanted desperately to be a lapdog. She settled for having her head in my lap, or if I was on the couch and would lay across my feet for the rest of the night.

There was not an agressive bone in her body. She loved to be close to us, and every night before bed, she would make her rounds from Siobhan’s room to Aleeya’s, making sure the girls were safe and tucked into bed before she’d stop and finish the cat food and then take herself off to the kitchen where she slept.

She loved everything and everyone and everyone loved her too. Her favourite place in the world though, was Nelson beach. Every time we went there, she was just in pure bliss. It was always so great to see her charging out of the sea towards us when we called her. She was probably a terrifying sight for some people. But this face still makes my heart ache with happiness.

Mabel had a lot of health problems, due to poor breeding, but the worst of them showed when she was two years old. She got hip dysplasia and severe arthritis. She was in agony, and so were we. We kept her for another few months, until we knew it was time.

I couldn’t even get out of bed that day. I remember hearing her feet on the floorboards as Ollie led her to the car, and I just couldn’t face it. It’s making me cry again just thinking about it. He was so brave. We just held each other and cried when he came home. We had her cremated and I have kept her ashes for the past ten years. Every so often, I’d open the box and touch them while I talked to her.

We’ve been talking about getting another dog. I haven’t been able to truly even consider this before now. It was time however, to let her go. I took her with us to Nelson a few months ago when we went up to visit and we drove down to the beach and I let her go in small handfuls as I walked down to the water. Her last walk. She loved that beach. We all took the remaining handfuls and scattered her into the waves. I cried.

That’s her. The lighter trail of sand you can see. I really didn’t think I’d cry when I let her go. It’s been ten years after all, but I did. It was hard walking back up beside that trail. She’d have wanted to be there though. There was no better resting place for her, than the beach she loved the best. She would have been twelve years old now and I had always expected her to have been with us for at least that long. I felt good too though, to let go finally. Sweet Mabel. She was my big beautiful nursey girl.

Free now Mabes. I’ll never forget you.