Archive for the ‘House’ Category

I’m writing this in the highest room in our house, right above our garage, with a window looking south over our under-construction driveway, through the macrocarpa trees, and across the valley. I don’t like having my back to a door, so my desk faces away from the window, but is nestled in under a large skylight window we installed many years ago, giving me a view up into some trees where I’m often rewarded with the sight and sound of tui and other birds flitting in and out of the trees.

The wall just to my right is only a metre high, and the angled ceiling swoops up from that wall above my head, meaning that I have to be careful where and when I stand up, in case I clonk my head on one of the beams. The wall to my left is at least four metres high – too high to measure, and the light fitting we have there is also too high for me to change the light bulbs, so currently only two of the four bulbs are working, but the light will be sufficient until it gets down to one lightbulb, when I’ll summon the husband to bring the long ladder!

There are cupboards and bookshelves along that long, tall wall, a credenza behind me, and in front of my desk, there’s a small open area with a small bookshelf and set of drawers. I’m tempted to move one of the bookshelves, and install an armchair or small couch, that would make a nice reading spot in the winter.

There is too much in this room – too many books, bookshelves, and cupboards, too much junk that I want to clean up and my husband wants me to clean up and maybe I’ll get to one of these days. Usually, though, I manage to block it out and focus on the screen and the keyboard and the words I’m typing or the photos I’m organising. These make me happy, and besides, there’s always another day to clean.


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I’ve had an educational week. These are some of the things I have learned:

After years of saying that my in-law’s steep staircase down to their basement and garage was made for tiny feet, and warning my elderly in-laws to be very careful, I should have listened to my own comments and advice more attentively. Do as I say, not as I do. It’s good advice.

It is possible, even whilst falling down the aforementioned staircase, to fear that the aforesaid elderly in-laws might also fall, and call out to them to stay where they are, even as I’m coming to a halt.

In another instance of do as I say, not as I do, I waited two days before seeking medical help. I was hoping it was only a sprain. I could put just enough weight on my left foot to be able to hobble or hop forward, provided I was holding onto my husband or some support. But after two days it was worse not better, so we headed off to the urgent clinic. Once again we are always urging the elderly in-laws to get to the doctor, to get ailments and medical issues that are worrying them checked out by professionals. Do as I say, not as I do. Yes, I might eventually learn this lesson.

I’ve never had a broken bone that required a cast before. (A broken little toe was untreatable.)  I had three casts in 24 hours. One was cut off within two hours, after I transferred from the urgent clinic to the Emergency Department at the hospital. The second stayed with me overnight, and was sawn off the next morning at the hospital. I’ve had to put trust in medical professionals before. But there’s nothing quite like learning firsthand an appreciation of their skills and concentration when they’ve got an electric saw in their hand cutting through a cast.
Also, I learned how they put on a cast. It is a surprisingly unsophisticated process.

I learned that I didn’t have much of a reaction to the gas and air (nitrous oxide) offered during a painful procedure. I was quite disappointed. Or perhaps I just didn’t have enough!

I renewed my appreciation of our healthcare system. It had been dented by my mother’s experiences, but not even 24 hours after first walking (ok, being wheeled) into the Emergency Department, I had had an operation, with screws and plates holding the broken bones in my ankle together while they heal, at no personal expense.

I learned how an asthmatic must feel. I had a difficult reaction to the breathing tube, and spent some minutes gasping for air. It was frightening. But I learned too that my yoga breathing techniques helped me keep as calm as I could (I didn’t feel calm, but I’d just woken up) until the medication made the air come more easily.

I learned that taking stairs on crutches is scary. I’m trying to gain confidence and technique. I’m learning to take it slowly. I’m learning that when necessary, going up and down on my butt will do just fine.

I’m learning that taking care of myself is going to be tough. For example, today is the last Pasta and Chardonnay night of the season. But I’ve learned that I can’t carry chardonnay when I’m on crutches! The pasta, too, is going to have to wait till my husband gets home after golf tonight. It’s not all bad though, if I can convince him to cook it or me!

I only arrived home last night. I’m sure I will learn a lot more over the next six weeks.

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The day dawned cold, crisp and clear, a welcome change from the rain and wind and bitter cold of the last few days, in this particularly wet and windy (so far at least) winter; a winter that has given us day after day of low clouds and dampness and some of the wildest winds we can remember, leaving our poor house with yet more pronounced cracks in the wall, and even when the winds have abated, Wellington has lived up to its windy reputation and there’s been enough to deter me from stretching my legs and clearing my head around the hills of Ngaio, and although there was no such excuse today, I worked out at the gym enjoying the views of Evans Bay – the water with just enough movement in it to sparkle like a bed full of diamonds in the low morning sunlight –  and anticipating the coffee on my way home, before spending the rest of the day here, doing some writing and correspondence (though still not the hand-written card to someone special, as I cannot decide which photograph to use), some chores around the house, and even some job-searching, and whenever I leave this rather dark office, I marvel at how glorious this house is on a sunny winter’s day, the low sun reaching all the way to the back walls of our rooms, filling the house with light, a rich warm glow from this distant mid-winter sun, managing to heat the house naturally (though maybe only for an hour longer, though certainly not two), before the smoke will start rising from the chimneys in the valley below me, and the street lights will come on, and maybe some mists will rise as the sky darkens and the hearty red wine calls.

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Still Life

(Photo Blogging Day 26)

I didn’t really intend to start a collection. But these things creep up on you. Blue and white china is popular in Asia, and the geometric pattern used in the vase at the back, and the small bowl with lid at the front left, is ubiquitous in Thailand. Every time I make a curry, I serve it in a bowl with a lid with the same blue and white china pattern. Just as you’d get in any restaurant in Thailand. (Okay, so maybe the curry isn’t as good.)

The blue vase at the back left is Thai celadon, which is traditionally green, but when I found this in blue, I couldn’t resist it. Blue, after all, is more my colour.  We bought the lamp in Thailand when we lived there. Then a few years later I was in Taiwan, and wanted a small souvenir from there, so the small vase in the middle is filled with pot pourri, and joined the collection. The other pieces are from Singapore, when visiting various friends and relatives over the next ten years or so. We could have added to the collection when we were in Delft, but didn’t find anything that appealed.

So it hasn’t really changed for about ten years. I’m happy with that. I think it is pretty perfect the way it is.

still life blue china

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Upside down

(Photo Blogging Day 24)

As a child, I loved the different perspective of seeing something upside down. What seemed very ordinary scenery around my house – green fields, sheep or cattle, dark green macrocarpa trees as wind breaks, and the Hunter Hills in the distance – transformed into something beautiful and magical if I bent over and looked at the view upside down. How many years of my adult life passed before I looked at my surroundings upside down again? Perhaps one of the advantages of yoga is that it has given me that gift again.

This is the view I see when I am in the middle of yoga’s fish pose, or matsayana. I love the wall hanging of a young man’s coming of age/circumcision ceremony in South Africa, and my Thai pots, upside down or right side up. But looking at this view upside down allows me to appreciate the Persian rug, the painting from the South island, and especially the usually ignored rimu ceiling, anew. Unfortunately my camera’s wide angled lens isn’t as wide as my eyesight, so you can’t see the warm, wooden stairs, reimagined as a ceiling when upside down. I like seeing them, and the hallway as a whole, with new eyes and a fresh perspective.

upside down

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(Photo Blogging Day 23)

In the six years and four months since I began A Separate Life, I have posted a number of photos of the outside of my house. A number of the header photos I have used have been views across the valley, some dramatic sunsets, or simply our driveway. I’ve shown photos of our trees, and our long-awaited deck. Here’s one of my favourite shots though – the newly constructed deck, late summer afternoon sun, and the shadows of our cabbage tree. In the years before our deck was built, I rarely saw the house from this angle. I had forgotten how much I like it.

Our house

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Inside comfort

(Photo Blogging Day 22)

When the wind is swirling around outside, the house is rocking and the trees swaying violently, there’s only one place to be. That is safe and warm inside, with expansive views across the valley. It’s a nice place to be, if I do say so myself.

Whereas it is hard to change the external architecture of a house, it is easier to put your stamp on a house’s interior. When we moved in 22 years ago, the house spoke of the 1980s. We’ve changed quite a lot, and it is now very much our style. (Although 20 years later I’m ready for a change of carpet.) We’ve been together so long that our style seems to have merged … well, to a certain extent. I love colour, and this is the second red couch we have owned. I’d seen it, and coveted it, for a long time. Finally I showed it to my husband. He fell in love with it immediately. It is a statement though. What does it say? Maybe simply that we embrace things that are a little different. Maybe that I don’t want to be a retiring wallflower? I think perhaps that I will always have a red couch. I like the idea of being 70 with a bold red couch.

You can see pictures and photographs from home and from all over the world are on the wall, the piano and the cabinet; my lamp came from Thailand, and so did the Burmese-style table it sits on. The embroidered elephant from India is slightly obscured, as is the solitaire game from South Africa. My piano was my great-grandmother’s and doesn’t really go with our more contemporary decor, but it is important to me, and so has pride of place. Even if I don’t play it as often as I would like.


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