This morning was a morning for birds, and it was a lovely way to start. I heard the kaka squawking like the parrots they are, though I couldn’t see them, but as I drove down our street, I saw three kereru at about 100 metre intervals perched on telephone wires, and then when I returned home, there was a tui attacking the cabbage tree next to my driveway.

I went to the dentist this morning, and as the dentist reached into my mouth with sharp metal implements, I hoped that an earthquake wouldn’t strike for the next 30 minutes or so, which isn’t an unreasonable fear when you know that there have been 57 earthquakes of at least a magnitude of 5 in the last month. I had to laugh last week when I saw an article giving advice about another of my occasional fears – what to do if you’re in the shower (or otherwise involved in the bathroom) when there is an earthquake.

I’ve written before about the tyranny of northern traditions at this time of year, and the fact that they really mean little to anyone growing up in New Zealand. So I was delighted to see that Air New Zealand has addressed it, coming up with an alternative, Kiwi-based Christmas carol. Watch the video about making the carol below, or listen to the finished version here:



I also highly recommend the movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople that stars the boy in the video – he’s a gem – and so as a treat, here’s the trailer:





Blogging ten years on

Ten years ago today, I wrote my first blog post. I had decided to try a blog project that involved writing every day for a year, using only the number of words that matched the number of years I’d spent on the planet, about people I’d met in my life. (That blog is no longer public.)

My first entry was about a friend I’ve known since we were both four years old. It was about her humour and kindness and anger at injustice. I’m pleased to say that we’re still friends; my husband and I had dinner with her in Christchurch just a few weeks ago. She’s also the friend who gave me the advice about earthquake preparedness I referenced in my previous post. I like having that continuity in my life.

That project brought a number of people into my life. I have an ornament (see below) hanging in my dining room window from the very first person to comment on that blog. I haven’t met Indigo Bunting yet, but for the last ten years, she has been present in my life. I am confident I will meet her one day. I’ve dreamed about it (though oddly, there was a bad flood at her house in this dream)! Either I’ll get to the US or she’ll get down here, and we’ll get to drink some wine together.

I’ve blogged about some of my blogging friends in my Friends-Not-Yet-Met series. Ten years on, we’re pretty much all still in touch. Whilst we no longer blog every day, and some don’t comment on my posts anymore, and I comment only belatedly on their blogs, we are still in contact. Over that time we’ve seen love stories unfold, books published to great acclaim, children born and other children graduate from high school and college. Each of these events has touched my life. We still talk about a possible meeting somewhere – Italy was always a favourite dream destination, though I suspect it is more likely to be Toronto or Vermont or New York  – and believe that it will happen one day.

Ten years on, I’m still writing, though I’ve been through a couple of different blog projects now, finally settling here at A Separate Life. I don’t write as often these days, and certainly not as succinctly as that first year, when I used only 44 words. I intend to continue, though. It seems that A Separate Life is here to stay.


Living on shaky ground

I’ve often talked about earthquakes in New Zealand, especially since the destructive Christchurch earthquake in 2012, and the fact that here in Wellington we live on a major fault-line, stuck right above the boundary of  the Pacific tectonic plate and the Australian plate. It is always at the back of our minds here, and now, after a major 7.8 earthquake struck in the north of the South Island two weeks ago it has once again been brought to fore. We were fortunate to be out of town, comfortable in our bed in the gorgeous resort town of Queenstown in the south of the South Island, completely oblivious that the earth had moved so much, until we were woken by my phone beeping, with texts asking if we were okay.

I hate earthquakes, and I have ever since I moved to Wellington, so I guess choosing a house on stilts on the side of a steep hill wasn’t the wisest decision, given that it moves (as it is designed to do) and shakes in the wind let alone in an earthquake. I’m glad I wasn’t here for the rocking and rolling and shaking my friends, family and neighbours experienced in Wellington, which was still so many times better than what the residents of North Canterbury and Marlborough and Kaikoura endured, and came home to a house that came through completely unscathed, which could have been very different, as I am sure it has been (or will be) for my friend from Kaikoura who was in the US on a holiday at the time.

This time last week I was in the home of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc when I experienced a couple of aftershocks, each around a magnitude 5. I found that for the first time the shaking didn’t bother me, as – unlike any earthquakes I’ve experienced here in my precariously situated home in Wellington, or even the aftershocks experienced a few days earlier on the fifth floor of an apartment block in Christchurch –  I was staying in a single story hotel room, and felt very secure and safe so close to the ground.

As my hairdresser said to me this morning, whilst these earthquakes – so soon (in the scheme of things) after the Christchurch earthquakes) – might not have materially affected our houses, they have changed the way we think. They have reminded us to consider preparations for a repeat or bigger earthquakes, including (but not only) simple things like:

  • using Blu-tac to secure pictures or photos or other breakables in cabinets and on shelves and on our walls (thanks to my Christchurch friend for this advice), or
  • to ensure we have comfortable shoes when we leave the house (and maybe socks, so we don’t get blisters trying to walk home), or
  • the need to attach some key pieces of furniture to our walls (an example of basic earthquake preparedness), or
  • the advisability of retaining a landline and a phone that works without needing power charging, or perhaps the need to ensure that we have extra supplies of necessary medication with us whenever we leave the house, or
  • the foresight to maintain our cars with at least half a tank of petrol (gas),
  • to always have some cash in our wallets (NZers are high users of EFTPOS, and often don’t carry any cash), and
  • not to eat all our emergency canned food supplies simply because we forget or can’t be bothered to replenish them.

What Charlie Taught Me

(The 15th in a continuing series)

Charlie visited again a week ago, but this time, for the first time, without her parents (though they were only across the city attending meetings and staying in a hotel), and so it was an adventure for all of us, but a successful one we all hope to repeat again, when I can learn new things, such as:

  • Biscuits taste better when we’ve iced them together, but …
  • That meat really was “in serious need of gravy!”
  • Quiet time is just as important as adventures.
  • It’s better to do things in the morning when you’re awake and enthusiastic, than later in the day when you’re tired.
  • Sometimes, if you have bad news, it is best to ease into it.
  • Te Papa is always awesome, no matter how many times we go, but it’s even better when we have no time limit.
  • Exercise is good, no matter what the temperature.


As much as I love Fb’s “On this day” feature, showing posts I’ve made on the same day in previous years, it can become tortuous at times, particularly during August, September and October. This seems to be travel season for us, though not for the last three years when we’ve been enduring an enforced (self-enforced, I guess) travel drought.

The last few years, with struggles at the same time with my mother’s health and financial commitments and house maintenance issues – all simply the stuff of life – and the dreariness of the end of a long winter, I’ve found that the reminders of sunnier, warmer, and more carefree times have not always been easy to see.

But ultimately, the best part of travelling is that it doesn’t just happen and then end – there’s the anticipation in planning, the reality of being there, and the memories that last as long as you want when you come home. There’s no doubt that the memories are special, and, if I decide to, are there to be enjoyed. This year, I’ve particularly been enjoying the photos and reminders of years past, when we were snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, or I was enjoying a champagne afternoon tea at Claridges with Laura, or

This year, I’ve particularly been enjoying the photos and reminders of years past, when we were snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, or I was enjoying a champagne afternoon tea at Claridges with Laura, or ballooning over Cappadocia or sailing the Adriatic earlier on the same trip, remembering the baby elephants frolicking in the sand on safari four years ago, meeting new friends in Slovenia three years ago, adventures with a Kiwi friend living in Europe in Switzerland, France, Italy and Poland over the last eight years, lively dinners that are never long enough with my UK friends in various locations, and of course, our most recent Lemons to Limoncello adventure three years ago. A bonus is that our trips often last several weeks (if not months), and my daily Fb reminder is almost like reliving the trips, crossing over each day into a different country, city, landscape or language.

Of course, I have to admit that reliving these memories have been easier this year too, as we’re now once again in the anticipating and planning stages of another trip, hoping to break the drought in 2017.



How I know it is Spring

(a variation on a theme)

kowhai spring

  1. For weeks, throughout the city, I’ve been enjoying seeing splashes of yellow from the blooming kowhai, and even though they’re ending now, the yellow is there on the footpaths and roads and in the gutters – just a reminder of the passing seasons.
  2. I need sunglasses again to drive, though I fight against it, squinting my way along the road.
  3. There is asparagus in my fridge, and I’m starting to think about salads, and less about lamb shanks.
  4. It’s birthday season for family, and friends – so many of us have October birthdays, and it is lovely to be able to share it with them all, celebrating surviving another year on this planet.
  5. After months of living in a uniform of jeans (blue or black) with black woollen tops, dressed up or down with jackets or jerseys, it is hard to make decisions about what to wear, never knowing if it will be a last icy blast from the Antarctic, or if summer temperatures will tease.
  6. Pasta and chardonnay nights have resumed every Thursday.
  7. The cruise ships have returned to the city, though I haven’t seen any yet, and I always wonder at the hardy souls who risk coming to New Zealand in spring.
  8. Wellington’s spring winds have returned.

Inbox personalities

Some time ago, I heard a discussion on a radio podcast (and subsequently found this article that prompted it) about what our email inboxes say about our personalities.

  1. If your Inbox has many unread emails in it, then you are an Ignorer, and are amongst the most productive, recognising that emails are representative of other people’s priorities not your own.
  2. If your Inbox is empty, then you might be a bit of a control freak.
  3. If your Inbox is full, but almost all the emails are read, then you might be deluding yourself into thinking you will get around to addressing them all.

I’m a combination of an Ignorer – I leave many of the Promotional emails unread – and a Saver, as I manage to convince myself that I will get around to reading them later, especially if they sound like they might link to interesting content. The Husband is definitely a control freak with an empty Inbox, and occasionally he freaks out when he picks up my iPad and can see how many unread emails I have. But it’s like my pantry – I never know when I might need one of those spices … um … emails.

So, which category do you fit into?