Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Historic Hecate: A modern moggie miracle!


I've told before the tale of how, profiting from my absence in Australia, wicked 'Sherbertte', possibly with the connivance of her brother 'Sherbert', produced a brood of five kittens under my dining room floor. 

The sinful sexy pair were banished to the re-homer, grandma was speyed forthwith, and the wonderful Karen and Wayne at Kitty Kingdom got the babies innoculated, de-sexed and ... returned to home. Home?

We already had three resident cats. Five more was out of the question.  But 'look at my daughter's eyes' ... and the beautiful big black boy had already become his sole sister's best hairlicker ..

Of course, all five are still here. Eating us out of hundreds of dollars' worth of prime cuts, special biscuits, commercial catfood but providing us with infinite joy. Rag, Tag and Bobtail, the three tabby brothers who are the backing group for solo sister Tibby, gambol across my lawn chasing leaves an the very occasional mouse.. but ..

Nine months ago, we noticed that beautiful big Blackie (real name: Hecate) was very lethargic. He didn't want to play with the other little boys: just lie in front of the fire with little sister. And his belly was enormously distended ..

So we took him to Rangiora Vet Clinic, and the result was appalling. He had contracted Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Incurable and deadly. How? Why he, and not the others?

However, thanks to Kathy and Bryn, his knowledgeable 'carers' at the RVC, to Wendy's tenderest care and my mixture of love and irritation (the disease involves incontinence, usually on my bed) and bank account ... after nine months in isolation (with Tibby to cuddle, chase and clean) today, after trip two thousand to RVC, he was declared 'cured'. Oh, he'll never be a wholly healthy boy, like his brothers, but I've just been to tell him: 'tomorrow, you can go into the World Outside'.

He just looked at me. 'Tied to a bed in an empty room, like Andromeda tied to the rock'.

I wonder what will happen when we open that door?  My heart will be as light as a lilac-flower ...  I do, do hope he will gambol a little. Tibby, I'm sure, will take care of him.

A memorable day!

PS I think he is NZ's first case of cured FIP.  Historic Hecate!

Sunday, September 24, 2023



These last years, when I have very largely given up going to the theatre, one showday per annum remains a fixture on my calendar. Dinner and a show with my dear friend Richard Marrett.


Today was that day.


It wasn't supposed to be. Richard is musical director for the festive season musical at the (professional) Court Theatre, and I had marked that down as our 'date' for 2023. But ...


The Christchurch amateur (with the occasional pro) group known these days as Showbiz has never been an attraction for me. Copycat co-productions of recentish musicals I don't need. My last visit to one of their shows was to see Betty Helawell (superb professional) as The Merry Widow in 1967.


When I saw they were proposing My Fair Lady, I thought (rightly, as it turns out) oyoy! Someone else in New Zealand is amortising their production costs. Scenery and costumes ..


Why on earth would I want to see My Fair Lady again? I saw it in the selfsame Christchurch Theatre Royal in 1962. Paddy Moore and David Oxley. I saw the soso film. And, in 1972, fresh back from Monte Carlo, I took part in a production at the Opera House, Harrogate. I had a memorable time in Harrogate, and posed during the run for my first (and last) nude calendar boy shots ...


So. My Fair Lady? Again. Decidedly not enough to drag me from Gerolstein to the remnants of Christchurch. But ...


This Showbiz production had a hard time a-borning. On-off-Covidded-on again-recast ... nothing had gone in its favour ... but they persisted. Well, I guess they had these splendid second-hand sets and costumes ...  And they went to it with a will. A fine poster-advertising campaign, and WHAT! a live orchestra of 25?  Conducted, you've guessed it, by Richard Marrett. Who else? 


Odd. The Am-Pros can sport a full Broadway orchestra, while the professional theatre gives us three synthesisers and a vacuum cleaner? Something is screwy here. But what a plus! For me, that real, live orchestra is a sign of serious intentions ...


Richard, knowing my quirks and tastes, and my preference for seeing a show new to me over an old favourite, didn't even suggest that I come to see My Fair Lady redivivus. But ....


Last minute catastrophe. This happens when you have professional players in basically amateur shows. Professor Higgins got a better offer. Fair enough. But where to find another?  Someone was on the ball. Our old(ish) friend Michael Lee Porter -- I've known him since he was a student -- had just finished the long run of Come from Away around Australia ... MLP? Can you learn that huge role in x days?


He arrived post haste in Christchurch, and, bless him, he came to visit this ailing dodderer with a bottle of Tanqueray!!!  So, OK. I had to go see his show. Only right and fair. Well, it was half a century since I'd last had contact with it ... should be all right. Semi-fresh. (It wasn't, I remembered great chunks of the word-for-word dialogue and music ... )


Anyway, Richard came and fetched me in his electric white stunning-mobile, and we headed for Christchurch. And the Theatre Royal. I played the Theatre Royal in 1967-8 in NZ Opera's Madama Butterfly. It has been much remade since then, extremely prettily but with perhaps less eye for practicality than prettiness. The WC situation is disastrous. There is no clock anywhere (no, we don't all have mobile phones). The lack of a central aisle and the tiny space between the rows is, in spite of excellent usherettes, disastrous. But if you are seated in the middle of row E, and need a (disabled) loo ... 'go to level 2 ', I was told. Consultants? Bah! 


Anyway, on to the show itself. Was it well done? Yes, it was. I missed a few remembered (from 1972!) bits of the ur-text ... but from the moment that superb orchestra struck up the familiar overture and you heard that hardly amplified sound, I went YEHHHHH!  


Unfortunately, the overture was accompanied by some silly on-stage parading ...  we ARE still able to listen to an overture without looking at extraneous chorus business. By the way, if there were that many lovely flowers for sale round Covent Garden, what chance would Eliza have with her sixpenny bunches of violets?  And everybody so clean and scrubbed and hyperactive.


Well, chorus overacting is not limited to the amateur theatre. I fear I was once even guilty of it myself. But this lot, even if they mugged a good bit, sang and danced up a treat. And, like any chorus, waved their mugs 'full of' beer upside down: the streets of the Piazza must have been swimming in alcohol.


There were little niggles like this throughout. The four or five coins in Eliza's basket must have been gold sovereigns ... and which way do the horses run at Ascot? Right to left, if I remember (ummm) ... and ...  but who really cares? The production looked delightful and left the piece-as-writ pretty well alone. We got a fairly competent by-the-book re-staging of a slightly-slimmed version, with a lot of familiar and characterful choreography. Thank goodness. Pygmalion does not want a Calixto Bialystock.




Casting director, take a bow/curtsey.


These are amateurs?


Well, I known MLP isn't. And I know that Emily Burns who played Eliza isn't ... 


MLP first. Well, my friend, it's often difficult when you have to write about an old buddy. But its a joyous feeling when you can freely and heart-feltedly say 'Wow!'  This was a stunner of a performance ... You gave a third and even a fourth dimension to a character whose 'growth' has always been neglected in favour of the progressive changes in Eliza. Here, it wasn't just Eliza who changed, we also saw her effect on Higgins. And you sang!  (Well, we know you can do that) ... This was, quite simply, an anthology performance!

Emily Burns I saw some years ago as Wendla in Spring Awakening at NASDA. She is now a worthy professional, a beautiful woman with a fine soprano, and ... well, Elizas since day two have had difficulty with the accent thing, and like most before her, Ms Burns was at her best as the 'posh' Eliza. A little more directorial care might have evened the irregular accent out, but, that done, I would say this young lady could play this role on just about any stage in the world.

So? Is My Fair Lady just a case of Higgins and Eliza?  Definitely not. And Showbiz (how I hate that title!) have cast their production in depth. In real, appreciable depth.


John Clarke, who is surely no amateur, was an outstanding Doolittle, Cameron Melville gave the spoony 'On the Street Where you Live' in splendid fashion, and Libby Fraser invested Mrs Pearce with more character and importance than I had thought possible. Warwick Shillito was a dapper Pickering who could actually sing 'You Did It' and Angela Johnson (professional) confirmed her place as the grande dame of Christchurch musical theatre in the role of Mrs Higgins... 


OK. Suffice it that this, my third and last My Fair Lady, was a very efficient and enjoyable evening. They even just about got away with the mushy ending Lerner tacked on to Shaw's story, in spite of a poor staging of the last scene. Grin. I remember our 1972 Eliza, a member of Red Ladder, used to hurl the slippers at Higgins as soon as the curtain came down. Shaw's Eliza, of course, married Freddy ...


Anyhow, great work, all. Ms Burns, Mr Clarke, that grand, grand orchestra, the ninety nuns who must have huge opticians bills after sewing all those Ascot and ball costumes  ... But it was Higgins's show. MLP, my friend, you gave a new dimension to a character we all thought we knew so well. Which gave a very familiar musical a whole new interest and balance. 


My evening out, however, didn't end there. My Marrett evenings out include dinner and a show. And the dinner was pretty spectacular, too. We adjourned to the adjacent Argentinian restaurant, Casa Publica where we dined lavishly on Espetinho, and charred pineapple salsa ... until I had to call for a doggy bag. I wasn't leaving my Chorizo Argentino behind. And everyone knows I don't have a dog.

Home in the Marrettmobile ..  9 o'clock (it was a 4 o'clock show) ... it's like Berlin days. So lit up after a show and a rare evening out. I grab the Gordon's bottle and start to write ..

I'll have to keep my eye on Show Biz from now on. Their next production is Kinky Boots. I don't think it's for me. Just another The Full Monty. And, I fear, no lovely orchestra. Back to the synthesisers and the vacuum cleaner? Pop music. And, I think, another drag show? Yawn. One is fun, but ...  So I'll turn back to the Court Theatre for Christmas. Two Marrett nights in one year? I can never remember the title of the piece they are doing. Something about a man who talks to his father's ghost and ... It's not Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead or Rock a Bye Hamlet ... takes place in Elsinore. I think. I'm told it's Something Rotten. Anyway, I hav'n't seen it ... then in April there is to be the exquisite Fairystories at the Piano ... and Ravil Atlas will hopefully give us something previously unseen .. Christchurch is about to have a good season I feel. 

And guess what? The Piano -- much more comfortable than the Theatre Royal -- is right next to Casa Publica ....!
















Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Gerolstein in September ...

20 September. Sort of spring. The fields are not so soggy, and outdoor 'spring cleaning' has begun...

Down the back paddock the boys have been cutting up the remainder of the fallen trees: next winter's supply of firewood ...

Wendy's vegetable garden has been largely expanded to no less than a dozen planters ...

From this

To this

The waterways round here have not been well maintained, so in conjunction with Environment Canterbury we got cleaning ...

And where, you might ask, was I while all this activity was going on?  Why, where the boss always is!

And meanwhile, back in the front garden the tardy and sluggish signs of spring are showing just a tiny bit more. The magnolia has a few scraggy flowers (maybe it is saying 'Feed Me?), the rampant wisteria is sprouting multifold buds, the kowhai trees are in flower ...

Alas, no bellbirds nowadays. The peafowl and the paradise ducks and the pesky plovers have scared them all away ..

The azaleas are getting into full gear ..

The rose bushes are a mass of maroon sprouts ...

These huge sprawling trees -- whatever they are called -- just get bigger and yellower every year

The patio is covered with self-sown pansies of colours I am sure I never planted in the hanging baskets (very weeding intensive!). So why are the hanging baskets not giving forth? 

But my delight is my Charity bluebells (bulbs 10 for $10 and a good cause), planted by ME, mollycoddled and watched over by ME ..until finally the first flower has come forth ... what JOY!

I must swot up the life-cycle of the bluebell. Does the bulb proliferate? May I have a dell of bluebells next year ..

The Boofie Memorial is clad in wisteria

And .. hi Lily! hi Lilies! Hi lo!!

I shall have to ask the Guardian of the Garden what comes next ...

But, first. I need a rest. All that work (by others) is tiring ...  How that? Well, you try opening your wallet umpteen times a day! Absolutely exhausting!

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Turkey Lurkey Time


What's that? On MY lawn ....

Ooooh, little brother be careful.... its not a peacock!

Its big and ... gobbles!

Look out! It's headed for the veggie garden, and Mr P is courting his concubines there!

Hecate! Quick. En garde. To the kitchen window ...

Send out the reinforcements!

It's all right Mr P.  We'll protect you ...

Phew, it's hard work keeping this place safe ..

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Der Frühling kommt ...




August 24 is surely verging on spring? I still need to stay rolled up in my duvet and minks till 9am.  Nearly every morn the untrodden fields are white with frost ... the fire is guttering ... the kitties are snuggling ... I am cuddling Schnidibumpfl .. until the dominatrix bladder drags me from his arms ...

But the sure clock of the seasons is our Mr P.  First touch of spring and, wham up he goes like a ramrod. His tail I mean. And the hens of the Gerolstein Girls Brigade stop being bossy best pals and start being coy would-be-concubines. Which involves noise.

Mr P is getting old and clumsy. He's broken one feather on Day 1.  Oh. Wellgunde and Woglinde are hidden behind his tail. He ... um .. operates from the rear.  Sorry mate. She's pretending to be not interested. But it is only day one.

There was just one hour yesterday when I could venture outside and make a very small beginning on preparing the vegetable garden for the forthcoming ('Komm! komm!) planting season. Wendy knocked the rest off this morning while I was still in front of the fire. 

The strawberry plants have survived the frosts. Some chunky leeks. Some spinach, and herbs ... I'm afraid I'm not horticultural ... will others come up again, or are they annuals? I buried a few squidgy tomatoes last autumn ... I collected a bottle full of basil seeds ....

Ah! I also planted in May some charity stall bulbs. Ten, I think. I don't have green fingers, so I counted it as a donation. The ground was soooo hard in what I thought was a nice sheltered spot under the trees ... with my duff hand, I could hardly break the surface. So I shoved them in as best I could and thought: we'll see. Well, eight seem to have come up! Little green shoots! I made something GROW ..

Some are a wee bit smothered in ground cover. But the ground cover has flowers. Violets! Mother's favourite flowers .. I remember buying violets on the ramparts of Tourettes-sur-Loup ...

We have a little dell between my bedroom and the (sometimes) raging torrent that is Saltwater Creek. It was once an mini-orchard: 20 years ago we had five kinds of fruit therefrom. Alas, the frequently overflowing Creek has drowned all but one tree ... I'm not a litigious fellow, but I think the Waimakariri Council owes me a new orchard. And a new sleepout. And a new garage. One night, after a bottle of something, I shall intent a process ..

And see? On the hardy but weakening cherry tree ... the first blossoms of spring!

This one is further away from the river ...

Outside my bedroom and the lounge French doors, we have a patio. The one where Mr P loves to fornicate. It is made of tiles, which means that, like a suburban drive, it needs a regular water-blast to keep it moss and weed free.  Well, I wasn't up to water-blasting this year ... but instead of weeds (well, as well as!) beautiful flowers .. violas? .. came up! All over the place!

I couldn't get down low enough to photograph these ..

Well, maybe it's pre-Spring ...

I'll go searching for buds next time it's warm!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

EMILY: does she need a nose-job?


I've had a rather up and down time through June and July. The perils of old age attacked me from all ends at once ...

Starting at the top and descending to others less photographable. But equally hard to get rid of. And all combining to make poor me a rather melancholy, sleepy (14 hours out of 24) and world-weary old man.

However, not all has been entirely woebegone these last two months, and our beloved Emily has given us a few thrills. Alas, she hasn't quite managed another win, but you couldn't really get much closer without clutching the candyfloss..

Addington 25 May. Fourth in a blanket finish beaten a head by the starry MAJESTIC LOVE

I think I can ... ach! not quite!

Ashburton 4 June. She hates Ashburton. I think I do too. She messed up. And the toilets (human) were dirty.

Addington 9 June. Ran on for a very fair fourth behind veteran MADELEINE STOWE and the extremely interesting (see later) MAKE MY SUNDON

Addington 25 June and 30 June. Two disappointing runs. What is wrong with her? Answer: she has/has had a virus. Antibiotic treatment, so no races.

She resumed in the semi-classic Darren de Filippi Memorial for junior drivers. A wish of trainer Howie's. Darren and he were friends. Oh dear, will a junior driver get her away? She often 'does her little dance' when the tapes fly. Anyway, I don't have a junior driver. But trainer Howie did. Tom Bamford is now my Junior Driver. He got the wee girl away perfectly, not even un petit pas de chat! she ran nicely, and finished 6th of 16 behind LIGHT OF THE MOON and GIFT CARD both of whom look like future top horses.

Was she coming back to her autumn form? Hopefully. Only one way to find out. 27 July. The public and tipsters thought she was a no-hoper. Fifteenth favourite in a field of 16. And Jimmy, our regular driver, was on a .. what? ... cruise?! Let the lad drive her! I harrumphed. But, once again, Howie had a better idea. His, and our dear late Murray's neighbour, at Motukarara is Steven McNally, the still young driver of 499 winners (one for me!).  Well, Steven got her away brilliantly from way out under the stands and she led the charge until WAIHEMO HANNAH dashed past her at un unwise rate. Perched on Hannah's wing was favourite GALLEON'S AMBASSADOR. But little EM put her back into it. She gobbled up the audacious Hannah ... but so did the AMBASSADOR .. EM gave chase. The fifteenth favourite conceded a matter of an inch to the fave at the line...   Steven 499.9wins!

Wendy, on a rare holiday, watched the race from the Shore's Tavern in Yamba, NSW. I gather she howled as loudly as I and my babysitters did at Addington. But when people realise 'you OWN that horse? WOW!' ...

She's back on form! Well, her crucial four-year old season is fleeting. But, best of all, she comes through her races in such lickety-split lead-me-to-the-next shape  ... So. Bring her out again a few days later! Errrm... Mobile start (yuk). Sprint (yuk). Oh pouff! programming! But we went. We came 4th, breaking the 2.30 mark, after being sadly hampered by poor 7-win WINNING BONES (who turned out to have palatal ulcers). Well, she's the only one of the trotters I have owned, apart from SEPPL, who has got near the 2.00MR. Oh, the runaway winner was TI AMO BELLE, the same filly who beat EMILY (yes, by a nose!) in her very first race!

Last week, Wendy was back home, and we were also back to real racing.  2600 metres. Standing start. Very even field. Steven in the sulky. And the punters seemed to have changed their evaluation of our girl. She ended up second favourite. Fickle, fickle, thy name is punter ... The betting was rather incomprehensible ... these are all nice horses but ... the computer at Addington almost tied itself in snakes as the 2nd favourite became momentarily the 7th favourite ...

To me, the best horse in the race was our old rival MAKE MY SUNDON. But no ... somebody brought out statistics and it was TK MEGASTAR (which won Heat 2, when TI AMO BELLE beat us for Heat 1 in the fabulous Rangiora trot series) who was favourite.  Anyway, we were at about $7.

The race itself was déja vu. Emily and Steven: great start. Field split in two, led of course by Emily. But the quartette de tête also included MAKE MY SUNDON (3/5 in the betting!). And surely enough, before long, that speedy 7 year-old zoomed to the front. 

But EMILY didn't give up!  The two of them neck-and-necked down the straight, Emily inching closer and closer. 

They hit the line together ... But oh no! When the judge's call came out we were second! Beaten --- you guessed it -- by a nose! Blurry Hell! Steven 499.99 wins!

I asked Howie, does our girl need a nose job?  Should I sacrifice a little of my Jewish nasal equipment?

Well, one more go, before she has a wee break. Off to the race track in 45 minutes. GALLEON'S AMBASSADOR is in the field again. And BROTHER LOVE, which won the Kurt Gänzl and Wendy Williams Trot at Rangiora three starts back ... 

It is nice to be in the swim when good horses go racing. And I think the best of this year's crop are very good.

PS Emily began strongly, found the lead and led the race to the turn. GALLEON'S AMBASSADOR toddled along behind. They came swooping at her in the final furlong and she, lacking just a smidgin of her recent sparkle, was beaten into fourth place. She now goes for a nice wee freshener, munching Motukarara daisies for 2-3 weeks, before starting her spring preparation ...  not TOO many daisies now, Emily!