Monday 8 August 2016

A southern hemisphere Burns night

Our grandson Olek tells me that Burns supper is held in February. And he is undoubtedly correct. However our friends in NZ celebrate the anniversary of his death which was mid-year (21 July according to Wikipedia). And it is a more fitting season to have a Burns Night here anyway as summer is not a season for haggis, mashed potatoes and swedes. Actually to be frank, no season is right for haggis in my view, but what the hey!

Jim and Judy combined three events in to one weekend - a Zero Degrees Club get together, a Burns night and early celebration of Judy's birthday.

So Friday 22nd July David and I drove up to Onaero, north of New Plymouth to stay in a motel close to J&J's place. As we had booked a couple of months earlier (I am a project manager after all, early planning is my stock in trade) we scored the only renovated unit at Seaview Motel - the honeymoon suite, which has a view out over the sea. The others in our Zero Degrees Club had two of the other three units - not so up to date by about 40 or so years, but serviceable and clean and a good size, and as I say, within walking distance of J&J's house, even in the rain.

Of which there was heaps that weekend - it bucketed down off and on each day we were there, and at times it thundered and lightninged, just in case you had thought we were having too gentle a winter here in NZ.

As David is a McDonald whose ancestors hail from Glencoe, and as J&J request a bit of tartan for this event, I organised to hire from Mitchell's Kilt hire ( a whole outfit for David - a McDonald clan kilt, the socks, the flashes, the sporran, waistcoat, Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and the bowtie. He wore his own shoes and shirt, but they could have been hired too. Amazing service, esp as I was tardy in organising it (OK, early planning left a bit to be desired in this, but I only thought of it late - OK Marilyn, when you are in a hole, stop digging!)

I didn't call them till the Wednesday and they were very quick. Couriering the outfit to the wilds of Taranaki was going to be problematic, so Helen and Alan stepped into the breach and picked it up from Cambridge, sort of on their way through from Katikati. Such good friends!

I iced and amateurishly decorated the yummy fruit cake that Jenny made - decoration was simple but said what it needed to ... We had bought a few flowers and Helen went scavenging for flowers to add to the bouquet and then did a beautiful job

Cutting the cake with the sparkler candles.

The festivities and formalities of a Burns night had been superbly organised by Jim and Judy, the long tables were set up by Alan and Chris, and the tables were set by Helen, potatoes peeled by Jenny, turnips peeled by David and I know I helped with somethings but I cannot remember what ... Honest, I DID do some helpful stuff (glasses, whiskeys on the table, sautee-ing/sweating the leeks and veges for the cock-a-leekie soup. following Judy's instructions for anything that needed doing).
The table set for all the people - carefully measured using ruler, just like at Downton Abbey, although Helen is nothing like Carson ...

Doesn't he look good? If we did more Scots-related stuff, I'd buy him an outfit for himself rather than hiring.

Jim wearing the Ross tartan, his mother's clan I understand, although he's a Kiwi.

Jim addressing the haggis or whatever the term is. Jim and Judy's daughter Katherine carried it in - there is something significant about that process, but I am not sure what - no bagpipes fortunately ...

I think it's a Burns poem he is declaiming in these photos - he is so expressive. We can tell he used to be a teacher - it's that stage presence that sits with teachers so well.

Is he caressing the damn thing?

A week or so beforehand, Jim had phoned and asked me to reply to the Toast to the Lassies (the whole event is filled with poetry readings, toasts, jokes, etc). He had told me that the man who did the Toast to the Lassies would be giving women a bit of a hard time, so I was to feel free. Well, 'bad move, Jim!!' is all I can say. As soon as he was off the phone, it was out with my feminist tome: Picking on Men (a compilation of quotes about men). Armed with a set of pink stickies, I trawled through for the most appropriate ones. I typed them out with their source and then put them in an entertaining order - well, I thought it was ...
At first they all laughed heartily.

But the men stopped laughing after about 6 or 7 quotes, then the women were the only ones laughing ... But as the men stopped laughing some women got worried about their chaps and their sensitivities. See Judy's body language? Oh dear! Did I go too far?
I did think they were all fair game - well, I would, wouldn't I being Harsh Bit*h #1? But blimey, guvnor, they'd been making anti-Scottish jokes all evening. So I thought if they were OK with racist jokes then a few sexist ones couldn't go too badly wrong, could they?

I did finish off with showing them my softer side - it was obvious to me that the people assembled for this event (four just over 40 and the rest over 60) that we had been through the mill in our lives - we'd lived, had kids, worked, had health issues etc so there were bound to be things we'd all coped with severally. And what was wonderful was that all of these people were married and clearly loved their spouses. So I said that.

But back to my Reply to the Toast to the Lassies: a taster for you:
  • It took millions of years to make men from monkeys. Sometimes it takes only a few minutes to reverse the process.
  • A man who is wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.
  • The trouble with self made men is they quit the job too early.
  • Bigamy is having one husband too many; monogamy is the same.
  • The occasional lacing of my husband's dinner with catfood has done wonders for my spirit.
  • What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set  ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shirez into urine.
  • The daughter of a friend took her first bath with a male cousin when they were both 4 years old. Being well brought up, she was silent about her anatomical discovery, but that night, as her mother tucked her into bed, she said “Mummy, isn’t it a blessing he doesn’t have it on his face.” 
  • Women like silent men. They think they are listening. 
  • I know what a statesman is. He’s dead politician. We need more statesmen.  
  • The American male is the softest and fattest; this might explain why he loves guns. You can always get your revolver up. 
  • The only reason they say women and children first is to test the strength of the lifeboats. 
  • The trouble with some women is they get all excited about nothing – and then they marry him.  
  • Retirement means twice as much husband on half as much money. 
  • All men are NOT slimy warthogs. Some men are silly giraffes, some woebegone puppies, some insecure frogs. But if one is not careful, those slimy warthogs can ruin it for all the rest. 
See they aren't so bad, surely?

Not sure we'll be invited back next year - good thing we'll be on the boat at the requisite time, but if they do want me to to a repeat performance, perhaps I could do it by Skype from the canals ... I will get my technical consultant on to it! And I will keep an eye on the post ...

Winter is here

OK, it has been a while coming but it is official - New Zealand is now having a winter.

Today when I left home at 8am it was 2 degrees C and clear. On the train trip into Wellington the rain/sleet started and it was cold in Wellington and still wet at the airport. On my way south, it was cloudy and starting to rain in Christchurch, but beautifully sunny and clear in Hokitika - I kid you not, Tom on nb Waiouru. Check out the photos for the evidence.

Most of the photos are of the Alps as we flew over to Hokitika, some of the remainder are of the Alps from just along the road (both directions) from the motel.

I am now in the motel unit, heaters are on, electric blanket is turned on warming up to keep me toasty in what is meant to turn into a -2 degrees morning. Good thing I brought and am wearing thermals ...

It's very cold in them thar mountains

And they are very high and spiky

And they go for miles and miles...

and miles ...

A lot of snow down there.

Hokitika's Clocktower with the railway crossing that has no barrier arms and no warning lights ... The trains do cross at about 5kmh with extremely LOUD horns. Very entertaining as tourists don't know what to expect!

Up the street in the opposite direction to the clocktower. Don't those mountains look wonderful in the approaching dusk?
I tell you, the West Coast is pretty amazing, and while it does get a fair rainfall, its good days are stunning and there are lots of them. I love coming down here, and I feel really lucky to be working in Hokitika.