Sunday, June 26, 2011

On the fringes and okay

I had the great pleasure of attending my second cousin's twenty-first birthday party last night and a.) getting to bed well before midnight and b.) feeling absolutely perfectly well in the morning after just one celebratory glass of wine.

This is not as I remember twenty-firsts.  Not at all.

I could blame the fact I drove the 40 minutes to her family's country house and was the responsible driver for the evening.  But the real reason has more to do with the fact I am exactly double my lovely second-cousin's age and my hot date was my eighty-year old Aunt, who also happens to be the birthday girl's grandmother.

I sat on the fringes with several silvered dames and had loads of fun, savoured the dinner and remembered it the next day, and found myself comfortably passe as troops of twenty-somethings filed through the sitting room and living room en route to... well, I don't know exactly.

We had a bit of a giggle about some of the boys, who were seriously out of their depth with the bevy of sophisticated beauties that barely concealed their disdain for said boys' ill-chosen quips.  They were trying so hard to be COOL and the girls were merciless.

There were some interesting moments when my cousin, the birthday girl's father, introduced me as his niece, and the birthday girl introduced me to another as her aunt.

I wonder, does my cousin think I'm immature?  Does my second cousin find me ancient?  What happened to 'cousin'?  Is the whole cousins thing really so fraught they both shied away from it, even though first and second cousins are relatively easy to identify, surely?  It's the extended mess of third and fourth cousins, and beyond, that confounds me.

Does anyone know?  Should we care? (I barely know my first cousins!)

Here's the lovely birthday girl as I think of her most, with her beloved horses - Danny above and Zorro below.

I am completely at the mercy of the old nag who walks me around on the very occasional horse-trek, so I find Miss D's horse-riding acumen seriously impressive.

Mr T used to ride, and quite well, but time and opportunity are against him.  And then there's the slight problem that he tends to over-excite them unintentionally. He has a similar effect on dog and cats.  Now that really doesn't bear thinking about.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I left the building.  Wasn't sure about coming back.  But here I am.  Not much has changed and yet, everything has changed.

Firstly, we have endured more than 7,000 aftershocks since 4 September 2010.  You become so used to them in a way, you don't always take the time to be good to yourself - to acknowledge the enormous impact it has had on our lives, that it continues to have on our lives.

On Monday 13 June we experienced a M5.7 aftershock around 1pm.  I rang the girls' school.  All fine.  More breakages, but everyone safe.  One hour later, a terrifying 6.3 hit - just like February 22.

Master S was asleep in his cot.  I could not run the short distance from the kitchen to his room without bouncing off the walls of the hallway and dodging flying objects.

You see the thing about all these damn quakes is, because we are on a bed of volcanic rock interspersed with marshland, when the ground breaks and rorts, it explodes with tremendous force.  So a relatively medium quake on the Richter scale (a 5 to a 6) is experienced as something much larger.  Ground acceleration is the key.  When the quakes come, the ground is moving at 2 x gravity both vertically and horizontally at the same time.  Depending on the expert quoted, this is globally unprecedented in terms of recorded data.  All I know is it makes for one hell of a ride.

And this one tapped into everyone's primal fear - that they get bigger.  

Miss E, our little five-year old, who is struggling with the aftershocks, was so scared by the 6.3, she wet herself at school, while assembled with the other children like sardines on the astro-turf evacuation point after the first jolt.  She was completely beside herself with fear and humiliation by the time Mr T arrived to sweep them up and home.

Although it has to be said, the school (all schools) are doing a magnificent job of caring for our children.  And of course many teachers have school-aged children of their own.  That they continue to put your child first in moments of absolute chaos is nothing short of amazing.  Gratitude seems entirely inadequate.

Unbelievably, our 100-year old house takes the strain, although the tell-tale signs are everywhere; like ladder-runs in a stocking, the ceiling and wall cracks have gone viral.  In some places, the house has shaken so violently, exterior paint has simply fallen off.

On the small side-board in the dining room is a collection of all the ornaments and photos etc. we have left.

This cupboard was (rather stupidly, as it happens) in the dining-room filled with stem-ware: champagne flutes, red and white wine glasses, shot glasses, sherry and port glasses - even amazing martini glasses gifted to my parents on their wedding day.  It fell over in February, smashing into the dining table.  Every single piece broke.  It has since been moved to the hallway and filled with the children's games and puzzles.

In some sort of desperate attempt to put things right, I have been working on the garden; re-landscaping an area off the front veranda to accommodate the bricks from our dismantled chimneys, and to create a new courtyard space for the family to enjoy.

Here's an indication of the new planting.  (The bricklaying is not finished, so I've concentrated on the new garden bed that went in Thursday.)  The buxus cones are surrounded by buxus hedging plants to make squares, and on the veranda side of the tucreum too.  The roses and lavendar in front of the bay window have just been pruned for winter. 

I cannot recommend Debbie Rimmer Landscape Design and Linda and Matt of Sprout Garden Services highly enough.  They understand the need to tend what you can, while the glaringly obvious waits for another day, when the shocks have abated.
There was other, more devastating news on Monday 13.  But that's for another post.  Tonight I'm off to my second cousin's 21st party.