Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Shipping outta Loserville

If I've learnt anything in the past 29 years (and between you and me, sometimes I do wonder just how much has sunk in) it is that nothing goes the way you think it will.

Now I'm not sure if this is the case for everyone. There are probably plenty of you out there who are doing just as you always imagined. Whatever that was. But I'm just as sure there are at least a few of you who, like me, every now and then, look around and go 'What the hell happened here then?'

And it is not to say that I would take back any of the things I have done; or choose to do anything differently. Well, maybe I would have been a bit more careful when I was following that brand new Audi in my 1984 Suzuki Alto, but that nasty woman deserved it in the end anyway. And perhaps I could have given a bit extra in my first year maths paper, but how much further would have a bit of algebra gotten me? (Rhetorical question thank you).

It has been an interesting journey revisiting my old life in New Zealand. Seeing my family again; properly meeting baby Beth; laying eyes on the shining faces of my wonderful friends who constantly amaze me with their strength and life, in every little way.

But for a while there I had a bit of a loser rain cloud hovering above my head.

I don't know if this was always the case, but my funny little country of birth seems to be obsessed with weddings, babies, buying houses, and DIY television programmes. And it kinda makes it hard when you're not doing ANY of these things. Don't get me wrong - I love a good bit of DIY as much as the next person. I had a great time installing the dishwasher at work. But it isn't the same.

Sometimes when you are different, you feel like you are somehow not doing things right. But the other day, as I was driving a country road which bordered a great big blue canvas of sky, with Kings of Leon screaming out of my half wound down window, I realised something.

Just because I don't have a mortgage.... Just because I can't e mail around the most recent baby photos..... Just because there isn't someone out there that thinks I'm the best thing since sliced soy and linseed.... Just because I'm not spending my weekends deciding whether eggshell or terracotta would go best in the en suite... None of this makes me anything less than the next person.

And maybe it will take me a little bit longer than that 'next person' to find my hermitage by the seaside; and a Ted Hughes to go inside. A DIY proficient one.

But whatever happens (and we all know it wont be what we imagine) I'm certainly planning on having some great adventures along the way.

And so I fought the doubt monsters and won. Again. Of course I'm the one that creates them, so they are smart, tactical and a wee bit devious, but they have a terribly short attention span. Bless 'em.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Bramwell Zoo

Over the years, the Bramwell family has had quite the menagerie. I don't know many others who grew up surrounded by such a wide variety of animals.

There was Squawk the magpie who imitated the telephone so well, visitors were led to believe we had phones all over the farm. He would sunbathe on his back on the lawn, and curl up with the cats in the evening. Rocky was our next magpie. Mum, to this day, takes great joy in telling people about the time Rocky followed me to my new primary school after we moved off the farm, and how I pretended not to know him even though he was sitting on the back of my chair. Mum eventually answered a plea over the local radio station.

Steve was a farm dog who went blind. Fortunately Steve had Quackers the duck who became his 'guide-duck' and led him everywhere he went. Steve is not to be confused with Sam, the Labrador. Sam ate the lounge suite one rainy night he was allowed to stay inside. Sam was conceived in a police cell, but that and the letter to the Police Commissioner concerning that act is a whole 'nother story.

My sister Nicki once had a total of 16 guinea pigs at one time; she also had a male basset hound called Kimberley; I had a rat called Richard (named after my boss at the time) who had a penchant for eating my clothing and wandering off for days; and even now Mum and Dad have a pair of ducks who every year take their ducklings for their first swim, in our pool. Mum rigs up a complicated ramp of corrugated iron to ensure they can waddle their way out again.

But apart from the seasonal visitors, the zoo is now down to one full-time resident. Not counting Mum and Dad of course.

Lunar Module spent his early years with Chris, but when she moved to the city, Lunar took up residence at the Bramwell ranch. He now lords over the plains, just as his Siberian ancestors once did. Or so Chris tries to tell us.
Should you ever meet Lunar, don't pick him up. You'd be brave to pat him for prolonged periods; and don't whatever you do, scratch his tummy. Especially when he assumes what is well-known at the ranch as his 'gin trap position'.

When myself or Chris are in residence, Lunar likes to sleep on our beds. He will jump in the window at night time and stay until he decides he's hungry. Then he sets about waking you up. Over the years he has mastered various techniques of doing this including: repeatedly batting the dresser handles; slowly shredding your favourite Japanese paper balloon puffer fish; or spilling the odd bedside glass of water if you were really sleeping heavily.
Lunar spends a lot of his time hanging out in and under the bus now. Whenever Mum and Dad go away in the bus, they leave him to be fed by some poor soul - quite possibly my long suffering auntie who, you could say, doesn't see eye-to-eye with Lunar (he has drawn blood numerous times). I just hope she can now laugh about the night Lunar sat in the doorway of her bedroom, not allowing her to pass to go to sleep.
On Mum and Dad's return, Lunar will give them a fierce bat around the ankles to tell them that he didn't appreciate their absence. Or the company.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

My Dad likes to build things

My Dad likes to build stuff.

A few years ago, he bought a teal coloured bus called 'Rosa'. He ripped all the seats out and turned it into a house on wheels.

Now it looks like this inside:

And so Mum, Dad and Rosa go on trips. Like when they went to welcome migrating godwits back to NZ, from their summer holiday in Siberia.

Since I moved away, Dad has been very busy.

First he built a shed.

Then he bought another bus to go inside the shed.

Then he built three vegetable gardens from the leftover shed bits.

And now that he has ripped all the seats out of bus #2, he is turning it into a home for some other lucky person. So they can go and say hi to the godwits.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

In Pursuit of the Trivial crown

My parents' house has a wealth of board games of all persuasions, collected over the past thirty years or so; but none of them has stood the test of time quite like Trivial Pursuit.

For years and years we had a version which was circa 1980. Despite my protests of it not possibly being fair for me to have to try and answer questions all based on facts that occurred before I even existed, it wasn't until 2003 that the upgrade came about. Now there is a little bit less Frank Sinatra and a touch more Michael Jackson.

So when nine of the extended Bramwell clan converged on the ranch for a weekend, it was only fitting that in between general over-consumption and getting the occasional plastic farm animal stuck between your toes thanks to the recent introduction of babies, a Trivial war be staged.

Three teams of three were formed. 'The Oldies', 'The Parents', and 'The Child-Free'.

The game ended up going on for about two hours longer than it should have because 'The Oldies' would spend fifteen minutes deliberating every single answer before they got sidetracked and had to ask for the question to be repeated. In fact they took so long that 'The Parents' had to go to bed, despite being in the lead. 'The Child-Free' eventually took out the 2009 title thanks to sheer stamina, outstanding general knowledge (despite their youth), and not having to get up at 6am every morning to feed a mini-person weet-bix.

The next showdown will be held at sunset, on the kitchen table. Just me, Dad and a pack of cards. Everything around us will fade for a good hour and a half whilst we battle it out at Gin.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Very special new beings

When I left New Zealand 14 months ago, baby Beth was a little, pink, wriggling thing constantly swaddled in blankets who didn't do much but sleep and eat.

Today she is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.

And this morning I got to feel her little brother or sister wriggling about; slowly preparing to meet the world in a couple of months time.

It is all just a little bit like the film 'Alien' but truly amazing all the same.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

A day at the beach

There is nothing like a bit of sun, beer, surf and stunning scenery to help you get your head in order after a long, dark end to 2008.

Especially when it means spending time with one of the best people ever invented - my friend Kate.

All the while being in the knowledge that it is -8c and snowing at home.