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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

A week ago, we packed our bags and the car, and headed over the hill – this one – to stay overnight with friends at their charming cottage amidst an olive grove.

They welcomed us with a lovely late lunch of delicious dark, seedy bread and cheese and tomatoes and asparagus and pâté and salami, and of course, being in a wine town we had to indulge in some local rosé, which is always perfect for a summery lunch and for nibbling with fresh berries from the garden.

Then came the business end of the day, as the croquet lawn was calling to us, and the game of the day was Croquet Golf – or was it Golf Croquet? My husband and I have only ever played once, some years ago, but beginner’s luck must have been upon us, as we took the first game 7-4. The second game didn’t go so well, with my husband wondering aloud, after further fortification from the rosé, just why the ball wasn’t going straight anymore! By that time it was close to 5 pm, and we figured that it must be time for some champagne – of course!

After a delicious biryani dinner and more berries from their garden, we took to the lawn for the deciding game, although by this time, our croquet brains had decided that attack was the best form of defence, and we all aimed at each others’ balls as often as we aimed at the hoops to score points. Appropriately, our hosts’ years of practice paid off and they trounced us soundly, so we retired to the campfire, and as the sun set and the almost-super moon rose, we chatted and sipped some more; a perfect end to a perfect day.

 

 

 

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I’ve had a lovely hour or so, immersed in the lives of the initial x365 bloggers, back in 2006 and 2007. Even ten years later, events of the last weeks have shown strongly that we still have a role to play in each other’s lives, that we are important to each other, and that we feel each other’s joys and, sadly, our sorrows.

Most shocking to us all was when our dear Deloney suddenly lost his Mlle. Vague. Some of our group wrote the most beautiful tributes to her and to him (here, and here), which are beautiful whether or not you know him. Susan in particular talks about grief and love, and should be read. I am not so eloquent so I have written privately, and I continue to hurt for him. But it’s not about me. There’s only so much we can do when we live on the other side of the planet , but I hope there is some comfort from knowing that others are thinking of him across continents and oceans, especially if he’s awake in the wee small hours and feeling alone. I see others of our number, or friends of friends, reaching out to him, and it warms my heart and restores my faith in humanity.

Lali is blogging again, which makes me happy even if I’m not always able to keep up with her posts. Most recently, talked about things she misses from her life in green Vermont, and it reminded me how exotic some of my friends are, when she refers to her childhood in Spain and South America, or life with deer, bears and an ermine. Now, whenever I think of Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, which I saw on display in Krakow four years ago, I’ll be thinking of her. Like several of my very brave friends, she suffers from a chronic and painful condition, and as she remembered the person she was when she could cope with her outdoorsy and active lifestyle, I just wanted to hug her … carefully,  gently.

When Lali or IB write about Vermont, I always think of an AFS friend met in Thailand and again briefly in Delaware at Sharon and Chai’s in the 1990s, and when Dona writes of her family memories that never fail to touch me, I think too of other AFS friends last seen in Thailand in 1981 who live near DC, and other bloggers I’ve met through my other blogs who live there or nearby. I love it when the various parts of my life intertwine

Another of our x365 group has reappeared on Fb, after a difficult time, and I am happy to see her again, but sad to think of what she has been going through, and wish we could sit and talk over a coffee, though I’m sure she has plenty of people doing that with her too, not least another of our x365 number who lives in the same city, and who regularly brings another unvisited city to life for me.

On the brighter side, the lovely and clever Indigo Bunting wrote a birthday limerick for me that has made my day. I also was amused to find that, in her quarterly list of birds (that has taught me to be more observant, and to appreciate and love birds along with their crazy names), there was a Greater Yellowlegs, which made me smile. In another internet life, I was given the nickname Legs, and those said legs are Greater rather than Lesser, and although they’re not yellow, they are very pale and would at least glow in the dark as does (I imagine) the Greater Yellowlegs.

IB wrote a birthday limerick for Helen too, in which she bemoaned Helen’s absence from our blogging community. I concur. It always makes me happy when Helen pops back in to comment. She staunchly resists social media, where even Mrs S has returned to our fold, but if she tried it, she might learn to like it. And when I think of Helen I think of Deloney, and another blogger friend “met” more recently who lives in their city, putting it firmly on the map of places I must go before I die, because there are people I must meet before I die too.

Vesper and Craig have both also had birthdays this week, as have friends in the UK, met on the internet and in real life, and in-real-life friends from here are also marking another year on the planet, so it is not simply birthday season in New Zealand in October, but globally in Mali’s Sphere of Family and Friends. On the Libra and Scorpio cusp, there are so many people I love and admire, and I love to be reminded of this.

Birthday boy Craig lives in Florida, and when – as lately – things happen there, I often think of him in the same thought as I think of the friends I met through student exchanges in 1979 and 1980 in New Zealand and in Thailand respectively, who also now live in Florida, and who all talk about storms and space shuttles and post photos of manatees and sunny beaches and alligators.

These links around the world, born on the ether and solidified over the years, or born in real life and maintained on the ether, make me happy and sad, they educate me and delight me and sustain me, and add to the richness of my life. Our hugs may only be virtual, but our love is real. I am so very lucky, and so very grateful.

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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.

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I tortured or bored – depending on their perspective – my Fb friends on the weekend, documenting for them the six-course degustation (tasting) menu my friend and I prepared for Saturday evening.

We had made the drive out of the city and up the coast to the beach house of friends we’ve known for years. In fact, one of them remembers me from my job interview before I even moved to Wellington in 1985, and we then worked together for the next ten years, albeit sometimes in different countries. It was nice to get out of town, to enjoy their garden with flower buds and asparagus spears and spring freesias, and flowering herbs and bees and eels and one stray goose, and to walk along the beach (though we did get soaked as the squall we watched come across Kapiti Island caught us before we got home).

Preparing and eating the meal together was fun, and I definitely recommend trying it with friends. Divide up the courses, make things you can cook in advance (my lemon tart for dessert, or the beef tagine that was pre-marinated and just bubbled away in the evening till we needed it), or need little preparation (whitebait fritters, salad, or cheese board). Match the menu with wine, drink LOTS of water and make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere afterwards (we were overnight guests), size the portions accordingly, and take lots of photos.

We’re going to try it again, but might up our game next time, with a more adventurous menu – or not.

 

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I discovered Loribeth in 2010 or 2011, finding at the same time a woman my age who seems to speak my language. Along with some of my other favourite Friends-Not-Yet-Met, she hails from Canada, a country that New Zealanders always feel that we know much better than we actually do. So Loribeth teaches me about life in Canada, the freezing winters and the hot, humid summers, the huge distances they travel (she’s taking me – virtually at least – on a road trip right now), the busy cities. She’s a writer and a reader, and as a result of her reviews, many non-fiction memoirs have now been added to my To-Read list, to be tackled one-day-when-I-have-time.

We may be separated by half the world, but I feel that we have much in common. Like everyone I write about in this series, I hope to meet Loribeth one day. I suspect it will be in Canada or the US, and the fact that she lives in the same city as some other Friends-Not-Yet-Met and near still others just across the border greatly increases the possibility of a meeting. Still, I regularly encourage her to escape the harsh Canadian winter and enjoy a gentle New Zealand summer, including a glass of wine on our deck (wind permitting).

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Today is the last day of a three-day weekend here in New Zealand. We have had magnificent weather – sunny and calm, chilly but not too cool. So yesterday we drove over the hill to Martinborough, participating again in our friend’s annual olive harvest. Their crop this year was abundant, and the 33 workers (okay, some of the kids didn’t do too much) who turned up were unable to complete the job (though some slackers spent some time with their (her)  foot up, and then left earlier than some, but not as early as others), as not only did time run out, but we all proved to be too short to reach the tallest 20% of most of the trees. But the bumper crop still meant that they ended up with 1.5 tonnes of olives, their most bountiful crop yet, and twice what we gathered on the first harvest five years ago. I wrote about the 2011 harvest here – check it out (it’s a much better post!) and see how the trees have grown.

P1190656 olive harvest

This year the sun shone more brightly, we ate Indian food and drank beer or wine for lunch, but the timeless tradition and the camaraderie continued. In a few weeks, we’re looking forward to our free bottle of oil.

P1190653 olives

 

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Susan’s life is almost the complete opposite of mine. As a child, I lived on a farm, and she was in an apartment in New York. I have few childhood photographs (and few adult ones either), and she had an adoring, photographer father. She blogs rarely these days, but her Fb feed is full of old photos of her father’s she has found, documenting the physical changes in New York City, and societal changes too, with photos of parties that look as if they were the inspiration for some scenes in Mad Men.

These days, her own photographs are more likely to be stunning scenes of rural life, winter shots, or of deer or other wildlife venturing into her yard, that always intrigue me. We both share a love of photos of beautiful blooms, though I suspect her camera (and eye) are rather better than mine. She has known tragedy though, as a girl and later as a mother, and I love the way she keeps her daughter Jill alive through her memories.

I would love to meet Susan one day, but to be honest, her stories of tics and lyme disease might keep me away.

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