Friday, September 23, 2011

Drunken Woman Fringed Head

I am not a drunken woman with a fringed head, though I sometimes wish I were (I've never been any good at getting more than mildly tipsy). This is the brilliant full name of the lettuce Ali found for me to plant on Wednesday, when she came to give me my monthly gardening day.

"Italian Heirloom. Attractive bright green leaves with ruffled almost frizzy edges in deep bronze. Leaf lettuce type with dense centre that is very showy and slow to bolt."

Now that does sound like me, at least the slow to bolt part. And here's what they look like now.

They will grow. We put in Cos, too, for Caesar salads, and replaced the one casualty of the snow, the pansies. I know you're supposed to plant everything when it's NOT flowering, Harvey was adamant on that point; but I did that, and after weeks of waiting, when they were just starting to get buds, they were reduced to a sad brown mess. This time I crammed in five little pots in full flower. So there.

I needed them to cheer me up - as I half expected, I collapsed a bit after Harvey's birthday events were over, and wasn't helped by having to go down the road this week to the very nice people at Guardian Memorials and finalise the wording for his plaque. Still, it had to be done, and now it's settled, and I've had a very helpful talk with a friend about the draft of the latest book chapter, I've got through and done some good work. What happens, I think, is that a succession of small upsets accumulate, wihtout you quite realising it, to push you back down for a while. But then it passes and you cope better. And I'm really looking forward to eating the Drunken Woman, leaf by leaf.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thank you

I ran away for a couple of nights this week, to stay with a friend in Nelson, and just got back, so that's why some comments have gone unposted until now. I'll do a proper post later, but I wanted to say how very much I value everyone's responses over the last nine months, it's been such a help and support for me. I'll be feeling down, as I was tonight when I got home (it's always difficult, that re-entry to a silent house with no one here to welcome me back, even when I've been genuinely enjoying myself as I was this time)) - then I find a warm comment in my inbox and I feel better. So thank you, all of you, for finding the time to read, then write.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A birthday

Next week it's Harvey's birthday. He would have been 77. He never thought he'd make 70, even, because none of the three most important men in his life - his father, grandfather, stepfather - had got that far.
             Over his last couple of years, the special days - birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmas and Easter - were always bittersweet for me. Somehow they seemed to bring forcibly home to me how much had changed in our lives because of his illness, and I found it hard to muster up the energy to celebrate them properly. This year I don't know how I'll feel, but I've made sure I've got plenty to do, and people to mark his birthday week with me. We have two very longstanding friends with birthdays close to Harvey's, so we always used to get together around this time, and we're doing it again on Sunday.
               This week, too, I received a kind of gift I've been waiting for: the DVD of his public memorial service, made by the National Library for its archives. I haven't watched it yet, I want to wait until I've got people who were there around me. I wish I had a DVD of him when he was alive.
               At least I've got photos. Strange how once upon a time, no one even had those, and only the well-to-do left any kind of image behind them; it must have made loss even harder to bear. I've just finished reading the excellent  Claire Tomalin biography of Jane Austen. There's only one image of her, a sketch by her sister, which is known not to be a good likeness. Jane was the only member of her family to have no portrait done, not even a silhouette, and of course she's the one we most want to see.         
              Harvey, like me, loved her books - Emma was his favourite, whereas mine is Persuasion, partly because the heroine is called Anne (and has a late happy marriage). He would have enjoyed this account of her life too. The story it tells drives home the iron facts of middle-class women's lives then: absolute dependence on their male relatives for every penny, with only a tiny handful of acceptable ways to earn any money of their own: governessing, running a school - and writing. She was only 41 when she died, but if she had married and been subject to the same almost constant child-bearing as her sisters-in-law, she could well have died sooner, as several of them did. And she might not have written at all.
              Another woman died this year at the age of 41. She was Melissa Neale of Christchurch, and she died in the earthquake on 22 February. Melissa's family chose to honour her memory by asking for donations to the Christchurch Women's Refuge, which has named one of the bedrooms in their safe house in her honour.
               Traditionally the rooms have been named after women who have championed women's rights, including Christchurch's Ettie Rout and suffrage campaigner Kate Sheppard. This month, on 19 September, it will be the 118th anniversary of New Zealand women winning the vote. You might like to mark the day, and think of Jane Austen, Melissa Neale and Harvey McQueen, another Cantabrian, as you do so, by making a donation to the Christchurch Women's Refuge here. It's the kind of birthday present he would have liked.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

No wet pours here, thanks

I tried to post earlier today but my connection was down - it's been very unreliable lately - and of course, I then couldn't post until now because I had to watch Rage on TVOne. It's ironic that just when TVNZ has its charter cancelled, so it's no longer obliged or expected to do anything at all except make money for the government, it suddenly comes up with a superb Sunday night series of four outstanding New Zealand dramas. Given my earlier complaints about free-to-air programmes, it's been a real pleasure to have such fantastic TV to look forward to for the last month - fine scripts, brilliant acting, classy productions all round. Thanks, everyone, you've given me four great evenings.
              On the other hand - if this is what our TV makers can do when they get the chance, how come we've had to wait so long for them to get it, and how many other great dramas have we missed out on in the process?
              AND none of it had anything to do with the W.C., though I suppose you could see tonight's one, about the Springbok tour, as distantly connected with it. (I only recently found out what "off-side" means - I vaguely thought it was when some guy got too far over on the side, but my 86-year-old neighbour recently explained that it's when someone gets too far in front of everyone else on their team or "side". Which sounds more like "in-front" or "far-out" to me.)
               It was probably just a brief respite. Overall the W.C. quotient in the media is steadily going up. Today the Sunday Star-Times reported on the vitally important question of how beer will be served at Eden Park. The Alcoholic Liquor Advisory Council  (Alac) is concerned about caterers being able to serve four beers at once, and also about the fact that they will be cans, because cans can be thrown. So one caterer said in its liquor licence application that it would "reduce the 'high' risk of injury to fans from flying cans by ensuring staff opened the vessels [sic]  before giving them to customers". No wonder Harvey long ago gave up going to live rugby games....
                But now another caterer is complaining, because "the time taken to open all beer cans to stop them being used as missiles will 'negatively impact the experience for fans'." Though presumably not as much as being hit by a full can would. Translated, I think this means: 'If we have to open the cans it'll take longer and we won't be able to sell as many" - and at a reputed $8 a pop, no wonder the caterer is concerned.
                Alac would have much preferred what is known, I have now learnt, as a "wet pour" - serving beer in plastic cups, which can't cause injuries - but the park's $320 milion makeover didn't allow for this. Here's the unforgettable way David Allott, Eden Park Catering's venue manager, explained the problem:
                "Eden Park does not have the infrastructure to wet pour beer into the public areas of the stadium."
                 What a shame. It would have been so much quicker just to hose it straight in.