Three things: 45 hour trip, Matthew the Horse, and the Gingerbread Man

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One of the problems with flying to New Zealand from the UK is that it is roughly 27 hours of flying. You can do these hours a number of ways, including, I believe, doing one straight shot, but you know that for about half those hours you are going to have some truly awful sleep. With my kids, those are not the hours I worry about. It’s all the other hours that they are awake and tired and so bored that not even an endless stream of movies will maintain their attention. Cue the meltdowns and the administering of too many sweets in an effort to placate. I would now like to bore you with how I plan to get through the 45 hours of travel that we will be doing very soon because I think I am onto something here and I want to put myself in the vulnerable position of bragging about my plan before carrying it out with completely unpredictable results. OK. So we leave Aberdeen at 6am and arrive in Paris at 9am where we will have 11 hours before heading off again. For most of those 11 hours we intend to hike about the city in winter weather, stopping for pain au chocolat and coffee every 90 minutes or so. We will probably make our way to Centre Pompidou to use the toilet, put up our feet, and take in some art and culture (oooh, like a retrospective of one of my favourite architects, Tadao Ando). We will stop at a produce market to buy lots of crunchy vegetables (this is what I always crave on flights) to eat on the subsequent flights. We will all be sufficiently worn out that when we get on the 2nd flight we will fall asleep for the entire 12 hour journey to Changi airport in Singapore. We will be at Changi for roughly 7 hours. My sister bought it to my attention this week that Changi airport has completely dressed itself up in Harry Potter theme for Christmas. This is very exciting to exactly 50% of my family who are currently reading these books, but not quite so exciting to the other 50% who have not read these books. The latter group will spend their time eating noodle soup, swimming in the outdoor pool, and visiting the butterfly garden. Regardless, all persons shall remain upright and moving and will spend no less than 4 hours of their time at Changi outside. See what will happen? By the time we get on the third flight–another 12 hour stretch to Auckland–we will be ready for settling in for another night of sleep. So that is my plan. It doesn’t prepare us in any way for jet lag, but it does get us through what could be a rather torturous time (and may in fact be even more torturous if no-one sleeps and everyone is physically exhausted, but I am not letting my thoughts go there). I’ll let you know how it goes. Oh, one other thing. Even though I know it benefits other passengers for families to board flights first, nothing has ever made less sense to me. That is at least another 1/2 hour for kids to sit (and often even longer, given how often flights are delayed), which brings everyone 1/2 hour closer to unpredictable potentials. However, my life partner seems very committed to boarding first (things like this remind me that he will always contain an element of mystery for me–how to keep things spicy, I guess), so we will have this discussion as we always do, in the waiting area by the gate. I have never won this battle, but I am hoping I will next time.

I went to London last weekend to spend a couple of days with a dear friend. I didn’t take a single photo while I was there (a sign that I was immersed in lovely conversation most of the time), but my friend did give me a fun book of nonsense poetry by Matthew the Horse that I read cover-to-cover. You can see some of his work here. 

The picture above is one toy from my childhood that I cannot bear to part with. Mickey. Obviously. He has bought me a lot of comfort, has a lovely cuddly figure, and has recently given S. a lot of hugs too. Poor S. has had an rough few weeks–he is on his second virus, the last one was a week-long stomach flu type thing which made me sad, bad, and then mad. The week before that I had to take him to hospital because I jammed his little toe in the hinge side of the living room door. What a mess that was. And just a few days earlier, in another door-related incident, he locked himself into our freezing little out-house-esque toilet using the bolt-style lock. That was very traumatic, mostly because he learned that he could not get under the door through the 5mm gap. The moment he was liberated, he picked up the phone to call none other than… the Gingerbread Man. Since that morning, the Gingerbread Man has received a great number of calls. They often go something like this: ‘Hello, Gingerbread Man? Yes. Uh huh. Stuck in toilet. Mum pushed cookie under door. Dad broke door. Stickers in hospital. Yeah. Yeah. OK. Wearing blue jumper. OK. Bye.’ I guess the Gingerbread Man moonlights as a therapist. Sometimes, S. informs me that Gingerbread Man is at a cafe. ‘Oh no, this won’t end well’, I think to myself. But then it turns out Gingerbread Man is drinking coffee and eating a scone. That’s creepy, right?

Three things: A to Z, chickweed, and minutiae

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HI THERE! These pictures are a glimpse into a little project L. and I have been working on together. To be honest, looking for the alphabet in the built environment just began as a way to get the kids to hurry up and walk and stop complaining. I even gave this beautiful book to L. last Christmas as an encouraging precedent. Now we have an Aberdeen ABC book of our own–a lovely memento of walks through the city.

Chickweed grows pretty well around here, but it is not always a great forageable because it grows at dog pee level. Recently we found these planters overgrown with it, and are considering it our civic duty to keep the chickweed growth down. It’s yummy stirred into hot buttery pasta with garlic and lemon. Or raw, which is how my kids prefer it.

This is a detail of our little nature shelf for all the treaures that would otherwise go through the wash or pile up on the kitchen counter. There are only two things that will make it through Australia customs… can you guess which ones?

Three things: Some news, nostaliga, and chicken dinner

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I have some actual news (as opposed to the minutiae of my life) to share with you today. We are moving. Far away. If you know me in real life I think you will already know this, as it has been on the boil now for months. In early December we’ll be leaving the UK and heading to New Zealand to spend a few months before we head to Parramatta, Australia. We are looking forward to being closer to family, in particular, and a bit of a lifestyle change. But we are also really sad about saying goodbye to our people here, the lifestyle we’ve got used to, and this beautiful land. We’re nervous about the future (spiders, schooling, snakes, church-life in a very different church world, lizards, climate change in an already hot climate, scorpions, work prospects for myself, etc). We have one month to go before we take an epic 45 hour journey across the globe (more to come on that!), and there feels like there is a lot to be done. It’s not actually the stuff that needs to be done that feels overwhelming, it is all the emotional stuff around that stuff. L., for example, is excited about a new adventure and is a relatively flexible kid on the whole, but there are tears when he considers life without his two close school chums (I feel similarly when I think of their respective parents). Because of the cost of flights, we are leaving earlier than we would have otherwise liked, and will miss all the festive activities that surround Christmas. L. is already rehearsing songs for the school nativity play, but will not get to perform. I love Advent, and Advent in the northern hemisphere is especially wonderful–waiting for the Light makes sense here in a way I am still trying to figure out for a summer context–but the season will be disrupted by our move. These are little things, really, but things like this can help with the sense of closure to the broader season. Any advice for getting through this time gracefully?

The above picture is one of me more than 12 years ago when I first left NZ for South Bend, Indiana. Look at our haphazard bags! We are much more streamlined these days. But then again, those were all our worldly possessions right there. Our next international move will involve boxes and a ship. Why am I smiling for this picture!? I want to shout at my young self. I’d just had a very long trip which was supposed to have included a 3-day honeymoon in Tahiti but it had been cut to less than 24 hours as we just missed the flight and they only went twice a week. Turns out that we would have starved for three days in Tahiti and not just the one, as we could only afford to buy locally grown oranges (delicious, but not exactly sustaining). I had not slept in Tahiti, and I had not slept the night before this picture was taken because we stayed in the Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Not in a hotel. In the actual airport–where nobody stays overnight because O’Hare is not a 24 hour airport–on divided metal benches under flourescent lights and a solitary man with a pocket radio painting the steel beams with paint that smelt like decaying mushrooms. So many things have happened in the last 12 years and there are so many things I would whisper into the ear of that young woman now…

We are having some friends for tea tomorrow and this lovely chicken curry is what we are going to have. As well as a bunch of things that we can cook over a fire. We have a somewhat large collection of wood we’ve collected exactly for this purpose that we need to work our way through before we leave, and fires with friends is our favourite activity.

Between places

He remembers being born at home.

At home in that flat with the thick carpet,

the dark window frames around beech trees and the sea.

That flat was our home–our homeliest home–

and still it was not meant to be.

 

I’ve taken to standing in stairwells,

sitting on porches, waiting in foyers,

and I only take that which is not nailed down–

the cups, the coats, and the combs.

But I have planted trees and placenta,

my own feet, in fact, and seen them bloom

so there’s not a room large enough

to contain us.

 

Foxes have their holes and birds their nests.

He’s drawn a picture, calling it ‘home with a bed’,

but the space between it and me is a place

in itself; the doorstep of desire, the yearning train journey.

And the closer I get to home with a bed

the more my bones settle into their stride.

Three things: Bonny Bennachie, Vincent van Gogh, and Halloween

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Hi you guys. How are you? I have missed being here! With a very long ‘very necessary things to do’ list, I should have spent my Tattie Holidays dragging the kids along on errands and sitting them in front of ‘educational programs’ on the telly while I got a few of these very necessary things done. But instead I chose to procrastinate on all fronts, and now these things are taunting me in the middle of the night. Perhaps not so necessary, but absolutely wonderful, was a wee hike up Aberdeenshire’s mountain, Bennachie. When I told my dad about the plan to walk up Bennachie, he said, ‘it must be rather similar to one of those Dutch mountains’. Thanks Dad. It was actually a little more strenuous than walking on the flat, but our kids did pretty well and it only took a couple of hours. It was also steep enough that I worried we may lose the two-year-old over the edge in the wind. We were rewarded with extraordinary 360 degree views and that glorious feeling of walking where people have walked for hundreds of years before us. On the way to the start of the hike we stopped to visit the Maidenstone–a Pictish sculpture that is about 1300 years old and is said to be a maiden who was turned to stone when she lost a bet with the Devil. The chunk out of the side of the stone is where the Devil touched her on the shoulder. Do you see the mirror and comb on what is supposed to be her apron? There is also an idea that it is a stone that marks a prayer stop. On the other side, very worn, there is what is believed to be Jonah’s whale inscribed. Seeing this stuff never ceases to amaze me. Touching these things that other people touched and even made themselves. Amazing.

When I was a teenager I became kind of obsessed with the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. Have you ever seen this work of his called ‘The Potato Eaters’? We all recognise the sunflowers, portraits of people in front of gorgeous wallpaper, and the pastoral paintings of his, but this early work of his made me realise just how much he saw the fullness or essence of all his subjects. And how, even in his joyful paintings, there is also a melancholy or a sense of searching for something that is missing. Last week we saw the film ‘Loving Vincent’, a work of art–actually 65,000 oil paintings–and now I am kind of obsessed again. I have listened to this song, ‘O Theo’, a million times this week, and have put the book, ‘Dear Theo’, on my Christmas list.

Finally, Halloween. This is not a thing I grew up celebrating in any way–I remember a few kids doing it when I was young, but on the whole it just wasn’t really a thing. In the UK, unlike what I saw in the USA, there are some seriously scary costumes, and I have even seen babies dressed up as car crash victims and the like. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I must say, I do like that one night is dedicated to frightening things, and this is the perfect time of year. We carved pumpkins, and then spent the evening scaring the crap out of one another playing torchlight-tag/murder in the dark in our extremely large, terribly cold, and possibly ghostly house we are staying in. I hid in my bed and listened to podcasts. L. made his costume (not quite complete in the picture–eyes+mouth missing) and it took him hours to cut the jagged edge around the bottom with the only pair left-handed scissors we have. The bluntest ones in the house. What a trooper.