Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ah, Christchurch... the Victoria of New Zealand

I woke up this morning eight feet up in the air, warm and toasty in my cocoon of woollen blankets. Out the window, I could see the peach tree waving gently in the breeze, and in the kitchen on the other side of the wall I could hear Penelope moving around, getting some breakfast ready. Ah, moments like that really do make New Zealand feel like a home.

I had just gotten myself dressed and out the door of my room when two men from the Christchurch Earthquake Commission showed up; they spent an hour walking through (and outside) the house with Penelope, noting earthquake-caused damage. They also got a cup of tea with biscuits and crackers; I figure they get fed at almost every house they visit! The Earthquake Commission was set up by the New Zealand government in 1945, and today is a crown corporation that provides coverage for purchasers of fire insurance for damages caused by earthquakes and other natual disasters (which here in New Zealand can include volcanic activity, tsunamis, and hydrothermal activity, along with the usual floods and storms).

This morning I started attacking the weeds in Penelope's garden; due to a back injury she sustained a few weeks ago (she was riding her bike and was struck by a vehicle!), and because she knew I was coming in a few weeks, she let the garden go somewhat, and I was greeted with a not-so-small jungle of unwanted plants. I've started working the far corner by the compost, (which, incidentally, is pronounced "com - pawst", not "com - post" here), and worked my way under the bean plants, down the path, and today finishing off just past the plum tree. After clearing one flat area, I was digging up the soil and turning in fresh compost, when I came across several interesting things: self-seeded potatoes (which were an unexpected bonus), a shoelace, a ceramic jar, and three slightly-rusted tines of a garden hand-rake! Penelope told me they often find interesting things in the ground, owing to the age of the property, but she acknowledged the rake tines, saying, "Oh, I've been looking for that!" I guess it ended up in the compost, and the wooden handle decomposed. No matter; it's still a useful tool, albeit a little harder to hold.

My back and body in general are not particularly happy with me today, owing to the vigorous 1 1/2 hours of field hockey I inflicted on them yesterday. After three hours bending over in the garden this morning, I could barely stand up straight! I have no right to complain, however, especially considering the pain Penelope is in due to her cycling accident.

For lunch we had lentils with pasta sauce and melted cheese on top, as well as rice, cooked beans, and cooked stinging nettle greens (from my weeding). As I was picking the leaves off the nettles, I felt something crawling on my head;  I whacked it onto the counter. It was a praying mantis! I put it in a cup and took it outside. As Penelope and I sat down to eat Ilya at last deigned to join us; he slept (or at least lazed in bed out in the sleep-out) until 12:30pm! He reminds me a little bit of my brother. (Sorry, Arthur.)

After lunch Penelope asked me if I would like to go for a swim; she wanted to try out her new wetsuit before she gets it fitted again (the neck is still too tight). I readily agreed, and we headed out to Scarborough Beach in Sumner, which is about a fifteen-minute drive from their house. The ocean wasn't nearly as warm as Tahunanui Beach or Rabbit Island, but still perfectly acceptable; it was only my aversion to swimming in salt water that kept me from putting my head under. It was a gorgeous sunny summer's day down by the water, and the ocean was a sparkling, clear turquoise; I wish I had brought my camera. Actually, I wish I had brought my camera not just to take pictures of the beautiful scenery, but also of two signs which made me laugh. The first was the name of a little café beside the boardwalk, entitled "Scarborough Fare" (groan). The second was on the back door to Scarborough Fare, which read, "Strickly No Public". "Strickly", eh? I wonder who painted that one.

Refreshed from our swim, Penelope and I headed back to Heathcote, briefly stopping at her friend Prue's place down the road to pick up some offered fresh tomatoes and a cucumber. Once back at the house, I settled down in the kitchen with Ilya, both of us on our MacBook Pros... he entering names and addresses from a physical book into his computer, I researching places for my parents and I to stay when we visit the cities of Nelson, Marahau (bit of a stretch to call that one a city), Wellington, and Rotorua. I definitely would not make a good travel agent, but I'm doing my best.

In the late afternoon Ilya and I went over to the neighbour's property to pick up fallen fruit from the peach tree (they don't want it, and Penelope wants them for canning, anyway), and then I made pancakes for dinner; yes, pancakes! Penelope typically doesn't eat a heavy meal at night, opting to have her biggest meal at lunch, so dinner is a scattered affair around here; she made her own meal, Ilya wasn't hungry (having just eaten his breakfast/lunch at 3pm), and Malcolm and Edward were off at work. As I was cooking the pancakes I met Vaughn, Penelope's oldest son, who came by to visit, drop off some groceries, and eat three of my pancakes. I'm used to cooking in a non-stick frying pan, so it was a bit of a learning curve making them in a regular skillet (oil helped). Oh well, they tasted fine enough, and even Penelope had one (despite her personal dietary decision not to eat anything cooked in oil).

Now it is 10:45pm, I'm yawning away, an Malcolm still isn't home; this morning he was testing a propulsion charge by detonating it into the sawdust in the backyard (he uses a modified model car remote control to set it off; it was great fun to watch), and I imagine right now he's working frantically to get everything ready for the big test rocket launch tomorrow. I may get to go watch! (I'm exited). But for now, it is bedtime, so goodnight.


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