The wedding rehearsal was last night so Jasmine has been married 3 times already and everyone knows how slow to walk to match the music. Some of us have bets on how far she'll get into the church before she has a cry. We retired en masse to the Cock & Bull afterwards for nourishment. John had a specialty called Yorkshire Beef - a plate sized yorkshire pudding stuffed full of roast beef, onions and gravy. I thought about it but went for the snapper with garlic mash and salad instead.
Jaz moved in with us on Weds for her last few days & nights of singledom. She seems very calm and focussed and her phone keeps beeping to remind her of preparations that need actioning. Most of these require ribbons, bows and glue of some sort.
This news item about a Japanese man who released thousands of worms on a train so he could see "women shake their legs" has to be one of the most bizarre stories of the week, along with the kangaroos found smuggled across the Polish/Ukraine border.
Noodle's behaviour has improved since we started using Feliway, a plug-in vaporiser that distributes cat facial pheromones that humans cannot smell. It has really calmed her down; she's now coming downstairs, socialising with strangers and playing with a ping pong ball.
Last night we had a working party to prepare wedding related items. There was a lot of hot glueing, printing, guillotining and stuffing chocolates into organza bags. A fair few chocolates were also taste tested along the way. Despite a ribbon emergency all went well. Today I located the required packets. I am amazed that there are so many kinds of ribbon in the world - its all news to me.
Typical of Auckland, yesterday was cold, windy & wet and today is hot, sunny and humid. But I'm not complaining. The temperatures in Queensland where Dee & Bruce are living have been getting up in the 40's - too hot to go outside much at all - and Europe seems to be plunged into snow and ice already.
Friday I went to the gym where I am being punished for having three weeks away by the keen young staff trying to get me back on track, they are increasing the weights until I can barely manage 10 reps per machine. Feels good afterwards though. I also had a sudden spurt of spring fever and cleaned all the windows, which if you know our house is quite a feat, as its almost all windows. It makes a big difference when the sun is out to see clearly and not through a layer of grime and cobwebs.
Saturday, to the garden centre and bought some flowering plants and shrubs and we did a major overhaul of the pots and planters on the decks at front and back. I'm not a plant expert but the gardenia smells amazing and the frangipani looks beautiful. It is so much tidier and welcoming now - ready for a round of summer barbecues and social behaviour.
I left John hosing off the decks and went to Jaz's bridal party. It was a very civilized version of a hen party with lots of lovely ladies in their summer frocks, bubbly and punch and snacks and silly games, but none of the rude stuff like throwing up in the street or tying the bride-to-be to lamposts. I took some pics but came home with someone elses camera that looked like mine. (I only had 2 glasses of punch). Anyway, I'd better not post their photos here! One game involved a prize for whoever had the oddest item in their handbag; someone had a capo and pick. All I could muster was some eyedrops and rice paper. Next time I go to a bridal party I'll make sure I have a jar of pickled herrings in my bag.
Today the weather looked variable but we risked it and drove north to Wenderholm for a walk around the estuary and beach. It was beautiful up there. Hardly anyone else around and lots of birdlife and fish jumping.
Deirdrie called and we had a nice catch up. She & Bruce moved 'across the ditch' earlier this year and are in a small mining town called Cloncurry, about an hour from Mt.Isa (Queensland). They are planning to do a couple of years there so we may go to visit next year.
As the afternoon grew dark and overcast I tried to read Obama but fell asleep on the sofa. Last night was interrupted with strange dreams, but not as strange as those I had almost every night in Vietnam. I don't know if it was the diet, the heat or something else but the dreams there were vivid and memorable. I spent each morning regaling others with my nightime adventures.
Only just over a week to Jasmine and Mark's wedding. I wore the sparkly shoes to work today to try and break them in. Not too bad for comfort. Had several comments from work colleagues on the sudden upgrade to my usual boring footwear.
Noodle is still sad and lonely but she's a bit more normal and no longer hiding out in the guest bathroom at the top of the house. We've decided to go to the SPCA after the wedding to look for a wee brother to keep her company.
Have finally gotten around to reading Barack Obama's 'Dreams from my Father'. It's interesting, honest and revealing. A better insight into him than I got through reading the Biography 'From Promise to Power'.
The engagement was this time last year at One Tree Hill ...
Several people have asked me what the stir fried snake was like, so here is my easy 6 step guide to snake eating. Bear in mind the dish was offered as a special treat and 3 of our group agreed to try it whence the snake was specially purchased and charged for in addition to our pre-arranged all-inclusive (bar snake) Mekong homestay.
1. Try and avoid eating snake whenever possible
2. Failing step 1, if politeness or curiosity get the better of you, it is better to have it made into soup rather than stir fry. Even the locals told us afterwards that stir fry is not a good way to eat snake.
3. Make sure there is something to eat apart from the slithering kind. Plain rice and clear cabbage soup will suddenly appear exceedingly attractive propositions.
4. Peel the skin off the snake chunk. Even after cooking the skin will be tough like leather and stripy with snake patterning.
5. Nibble the bones you have revealed, suck them if you like. Don't worry there is no real meat to get stuck between your teeth.
6. Smile politely. Say 'delicious' thank you, and pass the plate to the left while tucking into that rice and soup. Later you can sneak into the packet of coconut covered peanuts you bought at the service station.
Been so long since a strange woman has slept in my bed. Look how sweet she sleeps, how free must be her dreams. In another lifetime she must have owned the world, or been faithfully wed To some righteous king who wrote psalms beside moonlit streams.
I and I In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives. I and I One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.
Think I'll go out and go for a walk, Not much happenin' here, nothin' ever does. Besides, if she wakes up now, she'll just want me to talk I got nothin' to say, 'specially about whatever was.
Saturday saw a sudden burst of activity as we hired a carpet cleaner (wet-vac thingy) and shampooed all the living areas and hallway. We traced the unsavoury smell to a dead mouse that had climbed to the top of the curtains and expired on the wooden pole - probably a relic of Noodle's foraging. The weather has been superb since we returned. Summer is here.
We have been amazed at the neighbourhood reaction to the loss of Zappa. Following the mass delivery of the letter on Friday, we've had 10-12 phone calls from pet owners with messages of sympathy, a card, a rose, and several visits from neighbours who we didn't know at all, including a family with young children who gave us their drawings of cats and flowers.
We've also been given information that we believe identifies the dog, although of course we have no proof. At least the whole neighbourhood is alert to the fact that there is a dangerous dog being let out on its own.
Noodle is hunkering down 95% of the time in the top bathroom where she feels safe. She ventures down for food and goes out a little during the night but she is obviously feeling the loss of her big brother, like we are. Silly things keep reminding us of Zappa's presence, or lack of it.
After 2 days of grieving we wrote this letter. I delivered it this morning to 130 houses in ours and adjoining streets. I've just been back 2 hours and already had 6 phone calls from concerned neighbours. One has given us a strong lead as to the location of the dog. We are hoping this never happens again around here.
I couldn't bring myself to write this yesterday. Writing it makes it seem real and it feels like a bad dream.
Zappa was not here when we got back from holiday early hours of Monday morning - and didn't show up all day Monday. On Tuesday morning John searched all around the nearby bush and then found his body on the beach.
Piecing together what friends and neighbours heard, it seems a stray dog chased him towards the beach on Sunday night and he drowned. He had bite wounds on his legs. We were on our way home at the time it happened.
He had such a wonderful personality and was a big part of the family. We have buried him next to BotBot. We are all devastated.
A few pics - more later.Saigon traffic before the rush hour.
This reclining buddha rests a few hundred steps below the 'large' buddha that looks over the town of Nha Trang. A local demonstrates how to get in and out of a small entrance to the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Vietcong to hide from the US soldiers.
Back home (just - thanks to Qantas)! A 'ticketing error' on their part led to a missed connection in Sydney and we didn't get home until the early hours of today - I am not going to work.
Plenty of stories to tell but I just want to sleep and wonder around the house zombie-like, revelling in the joys of a large cup of earl grey tea. Vietnamese tea mostly came in thimble-sized cups or was served with sweetened condensed milk.
The final few days were spent exploring Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City). A friend had warned me it wasn't as interesting as Hanoi but I really enjoyed it. It wasn't as crazily disorganized as the capital but had plenty to see and do and an air of sophistication that escapes Hanoi.
The War Remnants museum (previously known as the War Crimes museum) had a gruesome display including bottled remains of infants disfigured and deformed due to agent orange exposure. I was shocked that some were born as recently as 1996.
We also had a boat trip up the Mekong which involved a night in a traditional riverside home. The evening passed relaxing in hammocks on the porch, chewing on stir fried snake, slatherin on mozzie repellent. Then came time to sleep: imagine seven people in one room on agonizingly small stiff camp beds, boats thundering past, muddy water sloshing under the gappy floorboards along with a cacophony of outboard motors, snoring, farting, coughing and nigh time mumblings - oh and a baby crying, a dog barking and roosters crowing all night. Everyone got up about 5am and wandered around looking shell-shocked. The next night back in a 3 star Saigon hotel we didn't complain about the impossible to stand up in shower - it was heaven!
More blog catch ups when my sleep-meter is back to normal.
P.S. I am elated about Obama and slightly depressed about John Key.