Thursday, December 31, 2009

The year 2010

January the first, 2010..
Another year begun.
Well, it’s begun nicely, for Gerolstein is shimmering colour-drainingly under a beautiful summery day (29 degrees as I write) …

Elena is munching the clover, while hopefully dreaming of future exploits, Rose and Mikie are scratching each other’s necks and having a grown-up hoon … and, on the Male side of the place, Boofie is doing the same for D’Arcy (below), before the two of them take a free-legged-pace (or, in D'Arcy's case, trot) around the fields with good friend Jake..

And way down the back, behind the trees, Duchess, Sally and baby Douchelette calmly chaw away…
Wendy is planting tomatoes and lettuces in the ‘under development’ new veggie garden, and I am about to start on the restoration of a Victorian linen chest which has suffered somewhat as it journeyed from Northamptonshire to St Paul de Vence, to New Zealand..

All is peaceful and pretty in the land of Gerolstein…
May it, I pray, remain so through 2010…

Elena's First Cheque

A very small one, but hey! a girl has to start somewhere ..

New Year’s Eve, and out we went. But not to some midnight party … we went racing, to the Rangiora Harness Club’s floodlit meeting at Addington Raceway, the HQ of New Zealand harness racing.
I went first, to do the meeting, greeting, hand-shaking of winners bit which I (as a now ex-committee member of the club) do when I am in New Zealand, and Wendy followed a few hours later with the float and our Elena. For Elena was drawn to start in the very last race on the programme. I was hopeful rather than Hopeful of a first-four placing, partly because our girl was lustily in season, partly because she had drawn number seven, near the outside of the mobile gate, with the hot favourite inside her, and partly because there were a number of horses in the race with fair form. Our best to date was a fifth.
But it isn’t now.
Starting from the outside, she had no chance of getting to the front – where she loves to be – and John had to drop her back. As I had feared, she was not on her best and most concentrated behaviour, but with a mile to go the pace slowed, and John zoomed her around the field to sit parked outside the leader. Into the final straight, she was still there, but when it came time to move up a gear and have a crack at the favourite, today that gear change didn’t come. She fought on, though, as she always does, and she passed the line in fourth place. Her first cheque! And a ‘bit of form’ which will help her get into other races.

Back in the big new stable block, she stood calmly dripping... I’ll tell you what, in spite of the millions that the brand new place cost, I certainly wouldn’t be calm in it. It is hellishly noisy and reverberating, and each box is equipped with chains with which to tether the horses. ‘Coaster’ Howe, in the box next to us, tidily clipped the chains back when he released his horse. A hundred other people just let them drop: result a continuous volley of explosive slap-shots (as the chains fell and slammed their clips against the wall) that goes right through your head .. I couldn’t stand it for more than ten minutes, I don’t know how the horses do…
Also, if you are unlucky enough to get the box next the wash-down, you end up with sodden gear-bag, sodden everything that's at floor level..
But the inconveniences and unpleasantnesses of the Addington barn were last night all forgot. Elena had her cheque.. $250 less deductions (which I imagine will be about 40pc, we shall see ... it’s a long time since I won a cheque in New Zealand!) .. I downed a small whisky in celebration, and then headed back to Gerolstein..
It was 11.30pm when we slumped into our cosy chairs, and ‘our’ Australian trainer was just running up the winners on the TV. So we saw the New Year in, with a very small bottle, and a couple of re-viewings of the night’s race, as we began to plan our next Elena outing…

Friday, December 25, 2009

Breakfast, Lunch and Wilma..

Whilst all my European friends fete their Christmas under snowflakes and in minus temperatures, here in New Zealand it has been a scorcher of a day..
Christmas day breakfast, served soon after dawn on the terrace at Gerolstein, was still under moderate temperatures ..

Christmas day lunch, served on the very much larger terrace chez Paul and Wendy Yesberg, was under a sky of perfect blue and a sun of perfect power..

And the day was topped off by a reunion with dear old Wilma, that splendid racehorse Lite Phantom, who for half a dozen years ruled over our back broodmare paddock, and who this year is manufacturing a baby for Yesberg son number two, Trent.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Emily for Christmas..

Emily Soldene was a part of my life for a long, long time, but even though her story is now written and published, and I have moved on to write the life histories of other folk, I still have a soft spot for her..
And today, Christmas day, my first action was to hook to the new bathroom wall a wonderful poster of the lady which I bought some years ago at fantastic price from Bloomsbury Auctions, London. Having it restored, and then finally mounted, has raised its value to that of a Picasso or a Durer ... but finally she is out of her packaging and on to the wall .. alongside the Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein playbill which adorned the old bathroom...

Now if Luxaflex will just get into action with that blind, the famous Bathroom will be finished!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Suddenly summer...?


A sort of summer has descended on Canterbury. We have sunny days with frigid mornings, and regular rafales of rain. Not at all what I remember as summer from my childhood. Especially in December.
December is school holidays, of course, and so little D’Arcy came home from Motukarara this week, the first stage of his education complete, and looking ever such a big lad ... if a little tubby. Tuck-shop-itis?

But Murray’s float did not return to Bank’s Peninsula empty. Mademoiselle Lucie is taking her uncle’s place in that nice, cosy box chez Edmonds.
I have to say we were not optimistic. Lucie has not grown out of her shyness and diffidence, and the idea of loading her into a horsebox … I think Boris (another uncle) holds the Gerolstein record at just under an hour of efforts, and we were prepared for that record to be broken. So imagine our surprise when a completely uncomprehending Lucie, without a backward look or a backward step, allowed herself to be gently encouraged up the fearsome ramp, into that dark, confined exterior, at the first attempt!

Elena has been to the races again. She continues to improve as she gets the gist of what racing about, and she is thoroughly game .. a real trier. This time, after getting rather mucked about at the start, she bullocked round three wide to sit parked – the favourite, in the lead, had no intention of letting her past -- but had to yeild that place to a gross outsider (which subsequently stopped). A bit of nifty driving and luck saw her slip into the trail on the home turn, and she ran on stoutly down the straight behind a leader-winner which was already gone. She finished fifth, showing every sign that with a little more luck and a nice draw she can soon be expected to do better. I should not neglect to say that the race was run in a downpour, and that far too shortly before the race it was announced that horses would be expected to wear mudguards and wet-weather dust sheets. Ours were at home. Robbie and Carla Holmes came to the rescue and Elena (who got thoroughly agitated at the delay and the remake of her cart) repaid them by beating their horse! Racing!
There is plenty of it at this time of the year, so the girl will be out again on New Year’s Eve.

Otherwise, we can hopefully take a small breather. All the Works – from bathroom and bedroom to re-roofing, to haymaking, to pine-topping, to fencing, to track-refurbishing and to drive-repairing are effectively done for the year (next year, I hasten to add!). As dawn breaks over our fields, Gerolstein can be seen to be pristine, and now we can sit back and enjoy it.

Except that I am off early January to visit mother in Nelson, then mid-January to see Barry and Rosie in Sydney, and finally 4 April it’s back to Europe… to Berlin, Jersey, my beloved Wight and to Paris for the northern summer ..

The year goes too quickly.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The little bit of Scotch in me..

This is a photo of Margaret McGregor Anderson born in Rattray, Scotland 28 May 1885; died Wellington, New Zealand, 21 September 1960. 'Maggie' was the daughter of Alexander Anderson, a mechanic in a flax mill, who himself had been born around 1855, in ... France, and his wife Annie née Morrison from Kirkmichael. I cannot discover any facts on the subject, but I imagine that the Anderson family were in France, like many Scots of the era, working in the textile and hemp industries. So, you see, I have a fair helping of Scots in me, and even a dash of pseudo-French, for Maggie Anderson (Mrs Edwin Welsh) was my grandma and, as a very little boy, I remember this photo hanging on the wall in my grandparent's living room in Miramar, Wellington.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

X marks the day!

We are there.
The very last finishing touches have been added to the shower-room of all shower-rooms, the skipful of debris has been trundled away, and today Richard the celebrated Revamper rolled in bearing bottles of bubbly…

Sunday night, all the lads who have worked on the creation of Kurt’s famous Bathroom will descend one last time on Gerolstein .. this time for the biggest party that I’ve ever thrown here…

I wonder who will be game to try the shower. Nay, even be photographed in it …

The final photo of the rest of the bathroom has to wait, for the artwork (two C19th posters of my heroine, Emily Soldene) can’t make it till Tuesday and, alas and alack, it takes Luxaflex anything up to two months to manufacture one simple blind to order. Perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen a sunny, buttercup-yellow fabric all the way from South Africa.

The creation of The Bathroom has, I have to say, had a roll on effect, and The Bedroom has also undergone something of a change. Its walk-in wardrobe has, of course, gone -- becoming the shower -- and, as a result, the adjacent second bedroom has been metamorphosed into a dressing room. Making, thus, for a more spacious bedroom…

In both of these there is still considerable work to be done: mostly on the shopping front. It was hard enough to find a firm which could supply anything but too-too-classic-darling beige, cream and grey blinds, finding linen – especially duvet covers – with some warm and happy colouring in them is even harder. I shall look round when I am in Australia in January to see if I can find some nice, bright, autumn coloured bedware, since New Zealand, incomprehensibly, seems to have sunk into the boring and the pale.

So, the makeover of Gerolstein is not by any means over…

There are, after all, still the living room, my study, the kitchen and the dining room, not to mention the cottage and the second bathroom, as yet untouched ... but definitely not this year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Roofless at Dawn .. Naked at Dusk

What a day. What a ….

OK. Where did we leave this story? Oh, way back! So the roofers are in. You knew I was having the house re-roofed ..
And the hay on the ground.
The bathroom in limbo, though operative..
The drive? Well, it was supposed to have been done last week, but no-one has turned up. This is New Zealand.

So early this morning, I was de-roofed. I was a little nervous, as the weather forecast was for thunder, lightning and hail. I was even more nervous about the hay, which had already been drizzled on, but then saved by two days of heat and wind.
Cees the Dutch roofer didn’t seem worried. It won’t rain, he said positively. It will rain said the TV and the meteo-computer…
It seemed Cees was going to be right. As we all laboured away – me digging up a tree and creating a vegie garden in nowt but stubbies and a kepi, Wendy doing horses and gardens, the lads building my nice new green roof, and Papa Tull turning and baling the hay – the sun sweltered down on us. ‘It’s pissing down on Rolleston’ came the news about 3pm. But not at Sefton!

Soon, the roof was done (double click on Cees for full-sized picture!), and the paddocks proudly boasted 57 big square bales of hay – a record! we’ve never had much more than 40 before! – and the rumbles suddenly got closer.. the sun vanished, a cold wind blew up .. and next thing, as the roofers rumbled off into the dusk, Wendy (who had at least the sense to grab a woolly) and I, still just in keks and kepi!, were tearing round the paddocks with old horse coats, trying to cover at least some of the hay..

Then, as the rain paused (was the predicted torrent of hail going to come?), and I headed soddenly for the blissful balm of my lovely new hot shower, Neil the hayman rumbled up in his big red tractor. And before we’d finished the second bottle of bubbly, there was hay in the barn!

But good luck isn’t endless. With just a few bales to go .. the big red tractor blew a tyre..

Now its 6.30am Tuesday. The big red tractor sits forlornly in the paddock waiting for 9am and a new (very large) tyre, the last four bales of hay, draped in the horse-coats once sported by Flying Chev and other dear departed pals, sit grotesquely in the front paddock .. the roofer lads are coming soon to do their finishing touches .. and later the bathroom/bedroom boys to rip down my bedroom ceiling and perform various other delights..
I shall shut my study door and shrink into the nineteenth century ..
Because outside – even though the hail never came – it is (contrary to the forecast) cold and drizzling. This is New Zealand. In the Summer.
I'm booked for a trip to sunny Australia in a few weeks time...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beauty Is and Beauty Does

The saga of the lovely Elena de Gerolstein, the tale of her growing into a racehorse and the head-scratching she has put us through, trying to get her to behave on the track in a manner conducive to a good performance, has been a long one.
But today it moved on a stage. As you may remember, Elena started off her career in trials enthusiastically, winning first a learners’ heat, and then a heat for unqualified horses, before – as the grade climbed a little, and the races became faster -- she started to show that annoying tendency to ‘race greenly’. Wendy tried kitting her out in various combinations of gear in order to correct her unhelpful propensities, but nothing seemed to solve the problem … until today.
Today, we put away the boring pole, we put away the Murphy blind, and we equipped her instead with a simple pair of half-blinkers. Hopefully, thus, she would concentrate on what was in front of her instead of at her side or behind! And the result was that the only thing in front of her was air.
A nine horse maiden field, including one unraced one whispered as being something special and others who had been already placed at the races. Elena drew three at the barrier, perfect for her, and in spite of doing her corkscrew-neck trick in the preliminary, she went away quickly and won a little battle for the front. And away she strode, with the entire field splayed out in Indian file behind her. Coming up to the home turn, the Indian file concertina-ed, as those with ambition pulled out to prepare their attacks, but round the bend, the one that attacked was Elena, who popped smartly three lengths clear.. and put her head down. The Something Special and the most experienced of the maidens tried to bomb her in the final hundred metres, but Elena wasn’t having it and she held on to win a half-head and a head in a three horse finish.
The time for the 2000 metres was a fair 2.34 (a kilometre rate of 1.17) with final 800 metres in 58.9 and final 400 metres in 28.9. Thoroughly respectable times -- especially in a very strong sidewind which, as leader, she had in her face all the way -- which are not far off those needed to win many a maiden race on raceday.
So Elena has added a ‘non-winners’ heat to her previous workout wins and that leaves only one more step .. she needs to do the deed on raceday.
Today has given us confidence that she should do something like that before too long. Of course, it would help if she drew three again, and if she were able to lead (which she clearly likes), but many a raceday field over the coming months will be weaker than what she beat today, so…
Watch this space!

Race 8 MOBILE PACE (Non Winners)

Distance: 2000m Weather: Track:
Place Book Horse Handicap Time Driver Trainer
1 3 Elena de Gerolstein Ft 2-34.0 J R Dunn Ms W J Williams
2 9 A Legend Ft C T Dalgety
3 7 Song For The Asking Ft D M Thompson
4 8 Matturity Ft P T Borcoskie
Other Starters not necessarily in finishing order
UPL 1 Rocket Fun Ft Don Ross
UPL 2 Mysterious Girl Ft G P & Mrs N M Hope
UPL 4 Anitagain Ft M P Jones
UPL 5 Kotare Rapide Ft M J Smolenski
UPL 6 T K Oracle Ft D J & Mrs C M Butt

Number of Starters: 9
Margins: 1/2 head, head, 1 1/4 lengths
Sectional Times: Mile Rate: 2-03.8 Last 800m: 59.8 Last 400m: 28.5

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The stupendously silly season


I should be waiting a little longer before writing this, until the stupendously silly season is over, but if I do there will be too much to say, because there has been too, too much to do..…

In a week or so, everything .. please. please, everything .. that is happening in the beleaguered land of Gerolstein will be over, and we shall be able to enjoy our ‘summer’ (if and when it happens) in the peace and calm of our lovely rural surroundings. But, for the moment .. (silent howl)

It started with the bathroom. If I had known what was coming, I would never have dared the bathroom. But I did. And – give or take a few final and decorative touches - it’s done. Yesterday a lady came to ‘vitroglaze’ the shower room, tonight it will be dry .. and I shall be able to inaugurate my Monsoon dump shower. It had better be a stunner.
The operation is, I think, wholly successful. The room has come out exactly as I imagined and wanted it. The tradesmen have been every one a gem, the thanks for which must go to Richard the Revamper: he may be extraordinarily expensive, but he is extraordinarily good, and we all know, to coin a cliché .. ‘you gets what you pays for’.

So, the bathroom done, and bedroom two metamorphosed into a delightful dressing room, we now move to the replacement of half the bedroom ceiling, and on Friday the roofers begin the entire re-roofing of the house. I can’t even think about that one. Please the Lord they don’t make a mess …

The saga of the trees ended happily. After the disastrous episode of getting fifty pine trees topped of ten to fifteen metres of huge frizzly spires – an exercise which cost us broken fences, smashed gates, ruined hay, a wrecked electric fence system (still not working) – I called in a classy firm by name Roseworks: and in a day and a half those young lads with their chainsaws and a bobcat had turned a mass of tangled, broken boles and branches into a neat pile of shaven tree-trunks (size a, to be sold), another of size b, to be cut up and used for the winter’s fires, and a third, large one of rubbishy bits (to be burned) .. all that remains now for me to do, in person, is pick up the thousands of pine cones lying in the paddock so that they do not damage horses feet or farm machines!

Today? Ah, today the haymaker arrived at 7am to mow, and any minute now I shall be turfed out of here by Spiderman who is coming to spray the houses, inside and out, in a usually very successful bug protection exercise. Tomorrow the men from Daikin come to instal Wendy’s heat pump, Friday it’s the roofer, the vet to ensure that Duchess is in foal, and also probably the man to grade etc our 500 metres of driveway..

And somewhere in there, are horses. They too have been active. D’Arcy continues his ‘finishing school’ at Motukarara, Lucie will follow him there very soon: she is very much a handful (I hesitate to say ‘her mother’s daughter’ given the notoriety of her mother) and has a cavalier disregard for fences. That is to say, she doesn't stop when she gets to one .. she goes over, under it, or straight through it. Ping. Mikie has the cart back on for the first time today. Elena has had a wee freshener and goes to the workouts on Saturday. And over in Australia very little Livia, only just turned two, is about to do the same! Amazing! An early two-year-old! And in France, Tenor has been to Caen (in spite of a blodge of muddy heel) and qualified comfortably…

Duchess (once scanned and, I pray, found pregnant) and Douchelette and dear Sally will move into the hay paddock as soon as we are baled which will be somewhat of a relief, as Douchelette seems to have inherited the female family traits and shows all signs of being a very lively lassie. A nice 4 acre paddock should keep her occupied!

My quiet spring. My lazy summer. To get a breather, I have booked a wee trip to see Barry and Rosie in Sydney in January..

But it’s a long way to January. Still, maybe after this week – after the baling, the spraying, the roofing, the building and all the rest -- life at Gerolstein will be able to relax back into its normal routine

Festive season? No way. Festive, for us, will be a bottle or two of bubbly on the terrace, in country silence, looking out at our horses and our gardens..
We’ll have earned it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good Heavens, ma'am ...

What are you doing in my family photo box?

It's evidently a Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium .. that's Dinah Shore and Alan Jones .. the rubicond chappie is Prince Littler ..and that's Gracie Fields's left shoulder and coif..

Ian must have collected this for one of his books..

Monday, November 23, 2009

Silent spring

While I've been tapping away, evening is falling....

And Wendy has headed for the garden again....

It was going to be a quiet spring

It’s not.

The bathroom, which will not be (has not been) finished on time in spite of the brave efforts of all the ‘house’ tradesmen and Richard the Revamper, thanks to the dilatoriness of the glassmakers, has of course been the Big Thing. But hopefully, in another five days, they will be all done and I will be able to revel in my lovely new waterworld.
Of course, having the bathroom done brought in a builder, who noticed that my bedroom ceiling was sagging, which brought in someone who confirmed it had been rained on, which brought in an insurance lady who said that, actually, the whole house needed re-roofing. So in fourteen days time -- and, amazingly for here, I have found a roofer who commits to it! -- that will start to happen.
Careless of all possibilities – roof, ceiling, works to come – I and a few bits of furniture have moved back to camp out into my soon-to-be-beautiful bedroom, and even if I have to sleep with a crash helmet on, I’m not moving!
Of course, now that the bathroom and bedroom are so incipiently swell.. I’m looking a metre down the corridor at what could make me a nice dressing room..
Well, who needs a second bedroom? No-one ever comes to stay!

New Zealand’s other tradesmen run true to Kiwi form. The man who was supposed to remake my drive hasn’t been heard from in six weeks, so today I pulled the plug. The man who is supposed to do the trees is equally incommunicado. Of course, they all want to be paid in five minutes (or in advance) when they do come.. The ‘contractors’ must all be awfully rich, here, the way they treat the folk who pay. Not me. no more.

On the horse front – and what other front is there? -- Duchess is being lined up for her insemination. When she had her pre-service check-up, Douchelette (one month old this week) came into the crush with her and, amazingly, eventually permitted us a first pat or three … her baby fur has gone, alas, and she now looks as if she’s been brylcreemed. Bt still beautiful.

Elena has been to the races again, at Timaru, and did better, but can still do much better. In a decidedly fast run race (they broke the two-minute mile) she started well and finished well, but got a bit lost in the middle stages. She missed the 5th prize of $125 by a nose!

D’Arcy has been bundled (literally) into Murray’s float to go off to Motukarara and his ‘finishing school’, where Fritzl and Seppl are already in training.. He was a bit bemused by the moving (edible?) room …

Ténor goes to qualify in France on Thursday, and today little Aussie Livia got her name registered and was entered for Australia’s rich Breeder’s Crown series. Well, one can dream! Livia, alas, will be Livia Degerolstein, as Australia is stingy with the number of letters and spaces you are allowed, and won’t permit cases, or apostrophes. The Victorian authorities rang me up today to ask what the name meant! Do you think they might have thought it was rude? Doesn’t everyone know where Gerolstein is?

But hey! At last most of our horses are doing something!

Which means it has no chance of being a quiet spring. And what about summer!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A room with a loo


We are getting there .. today the utilities were installed..

Richard Revamp has almost kept to his promise to be on time...

But the folks making the opaque glass walls for the shower are going to nut him. Apparently they work at a leisurely pace. At their price, I'm rather surprised..

Oh, how I long to get my bedroom and nightlife back in order!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Horse progress

Well, the day has been and gone. Elena went to the races. We haven’t come home from Ashburton jubilantly bearing a prize – Elena finished 11th – but with some motives for satisfaction. The result isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Firstly, she behaved. She went away well from her second line draw (see pic, she’s the yellow one) and, even though they went a cracking pace over the first half mile she went along with them. However, up front, there was a deal of cat-and-mouse going on, and during one of the sudden slowings of the pace, Elena .. tightly enclosed on the rails in the large field … got squashed for space, ennerved and ran out for a few strides. She made the ground back, but .. she wasn’t comfortable in there. And her hood had come adrift. Into the straight she was still in the middle of the field, and she trucked on past one or two of the fading ones and being passed by the fast finishers from the rear…
John, the driver, said she had done fine, and she will doubtless do better next time. But we have begun. After all this time, we have at least begun.

Back at home (where the bathroom and bedroom had been painted in our absence), it was time to turn the spotlight on baby D’Arcy. He is scheduled to leave us for his ‘finishing school’ at Motukarara this week, so it was time to teach him to walk into the barn. This is not a simple thing. Babies (a) don’t want to go ‘in’ places and (b) they have never experienced concrete under their feet. Last year it took ¾ hour and the threat of a mighty 4x2 to get little Mikie in, and finally we had bodily to winch him in.

So D’Arcy was walked down the racetrack, round the corner, up to the barn where big Boofie was acting as bait and .. wonder of wonders -- he simply walked straight in!
So he got his photo taken ‘on concrete’ (which he quickly discovered isn’t too much fun to scrape with your unshod hoofs) and I was in wonderment as to how he has grown since he was that wee boy with the bandage on his knee, just one year ago!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kurt's Folly and the Cup

While the New Zealand Cup was running... life didn't stop! The tiles are down in the Best Bathroom Ever, and the man has been measuring up the glass walls... Progress photos are rather difficult to take, as my lens isn;t up to it... but these are the two ends .. the green waterseal will be covered with opaque beige glass panels..
well, wait for the next instalment and you will see

As for Cup Day, well my tipping wasn't so bad after all. A super win for Monkey King in the Cup, an ALMOST for Running on Time in the big trot, a fourth for Explosive Turk, a superb second for Fake Chance, and the day finished in glory when dear Raggy simply murdered a fine field in the last race. And when I went to my archive, I don't even have a picture of him .. not even as a baby .. with which to decorate this post.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hey lads, it's the Coop!

Well, here we are at New Zealand’s biggest harness racing week of the year. Most of the best horses in New Zealand will be up against each other this week, starting with Tuesday…

If I say that, hopefully, we will be starting on Thursday, I don’t mean we’ll be part of it. Only once, ever, with dear little Dodo (Master Ado) have I had a horse run in The Cup Meeting. While all the tenors are fighting it out in Christchurch, we are going to shimmy 50 kilometres south to Ashburton, to give Elena her first race day start in slightly less town-hall company. Unfortunately, some of the big guns have the same idea, but hey .. you have to race!

Anyway, Tuesday the big boys will be up and I thought I might try to give you some tips. As with everything, except musical and theatrical history, my heart gets in the way of my head, so I’ll just give you my list of ‘I would love them to win and if I ever was a bettor (which I ain’t) I would back..’s.

Race one: De Gaulle .. a great man and a very nice horse owned by very nice people
Race four: Fake Chance for a place. The superstar favourite, who should be in the Cup, has ruined this race for the second echelon
Race six: torn between Running on Time, potentially one of the very best trotters in NZ, and The Fat Controller who is the uncle of our Duchess…
Race eight: Kotare Mach. Hot favourite, but we love the Kotares (our one is just across there in the paddock)
Race nine: Ronnie Coute .. GO RONNIE! (another relation)
Race 10: the cup. They unfairly denied Special Ops a start, so I’ll be cheering for the Monkey King. But anyone can win (and I pick Australia 1-2-3) as long as – and I have most of the right-thinking racing world with me in this -- its not that toxicomane called Changeover
Race eleven: sneaky outsider tip of the day: Passion and Glory (a little bird…)
Race twelve: Oh! Raggy! The ‘family’ horse… could he? might he? Cross your fingers for Raglan. (Alas he’s up against another horse I love called Second Wind, so maybe its quinella time)

And cheers for M J Fulham, Biella Star, Explosive Turk and all the other pals… but please, don’t spoil the Cup Carnival for me on Day One: no Changeover

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

4th November again already..

Three years today.
It feels like ten.

All my love,

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The birth of a bathroom


It's happening
Now it looks like a room at least..

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ladies' Day

My house may be full of men – workmen – but 28 October was definitely ladies’ day.

Duchess giving birth .. and, yes, little Douche is a girl.

And to top it all off, Elena got it right today and ran her best trial to date. She was drawn at the outside of the mobile gate, number seven of eleven starters, but John (Dunn) the driver urged her forward at the start, and continued to urge her on until, as they came past the winning post the first time, she was sitting parked outside the leader. A leader, may it be said, wearing the fearsome blue with white stars of the top-notch Purdon stable.

And she stayed there. As they came into the home straight, she was still there, having a go at the two Purdon horses, and she just kept on coming. I believe she even ht the front inside the last 50 metres. But then a horse named Flash Move, which had sat behind her, in the perfect spot, throughout, turned up its wick and dove past her to win by a fast finishing length. On the line, another fast finisher nosed her into third.
It was a grand run. She’d been three wide for more than half a lap, stuck in the unloved parked place for all the rest, all the old problems of steering had largely disappeared, and best of all she had fought on keenly at the end without John having to drive her out.
As for the competition, well she beat home both of the Purdon horses, and Flash Move went out last Friday at Addington for its first race as a pacer … favourite! So, obviously it’s well thought of. We shall see. And Elena? Well, hopefully 12 November, at Ashburton, will be the occasion of her long awaited race debut. She’s earned it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Born with the dawn

It hasn’t been a very bloggable October.
The weather has been pretty drear, and of excitement there has been very little…
Of course, the horses have done their bit..
D’Arcy and Lucie have been slowly and gently learning their lessons… learning what confinement, leading, brushing, coats, people, handling and so forth are all about. D’Arcy has been a fine pupil, Lucie a little less trusting thus a little less confident.
They have been growing-up pals, but now – owing to D’Arcy’s male propensities -- they have to be separated. Still, when it’s his turn in the crush, she comes to say hello..

Elena has been a couple of times to the trials with not wholly satisfying results, so we jiggle with her preparation and we try again..

However, today 27-28 October, things have leaped into action..
Yesterday one boss, one lecky, one plumber, and one and a half builders descended on my house. The bathroom disappeared into a skip in record time, and the hot water cylinder walked out the French doors… the only hiccough was that the new cylinder failed to arrive on schedule (this is New Zealand where punctuality is unknown) so I have no hot water until it does. And now that all is ‘unmade’, for the next month I am going to watch my new super-bathroom arise from the ‘ashes’..

And to celebrate the occasion, Duchess has given birth. At 5h45 this morning, as I slogged out through the chilly megadew to check her out, I noticed she was lying. She got up to greet me, and I could see instantly that she was no longer battleship-size. And alongside her on the grass, a little head…
Welcome to Gerolstein little feller! Or is it a girl. Too dawnish to do the ‘one hole or two’ test. I have christened baby Douche de Gerolstein in honour of the new bathroom. I think, if he’s a boy it may have to be Duc de Gerolstein ..
Baby photos being one of the reasons anyone has babies, here are the first of what will doubtless over the next days be many..

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Such is Fame...


Do you know that in Europe there is publicity for our little New Zealandish farm just everywhere!?

A whole window in a big department store in the heart of Berlin (where I took this photo)

It appears they've even named a town, and a beer, and a cycle team after us...

Such is fame

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Bit of a Surprise


Lucie's latest lesson. On with the gear and ..oy! .. the bit. Her facial expressions as she tries to work out how best to get rid of this thing that stops her chewing the rails simply had to be recorded!

Maddeningly Masport


Summer is icumen in and all the jolly little barbecues are getting ready to sizzle. And I looked out at our poor, greasy, dirty old thing, entwined amongst several-year-old branches of wisteria (that’s how long its been there) and thought… ‘one day…’

Then, on Friday morning, a rare event: some of that dreaded advertising stuff succeeded in getting past xtra’s usually efficient spam-blocker and on to my email. Mitre 10 Mega-hardware, down the road, had docked a rather better machine than I’d been vaguely considering by $50, just for the weekend. And it was a Masport: a reputed New Zealand brand whose logburner and lawnmower I already (reasonably) happily own.
So I went out and I brought one home. And if you think that’s the end of the story, I assure you it’s only the very beginning.
The next evening, we unpacked the three big boxes, carefully put all nuts and washers and suchlike safely into a big fruitbowl, and opened the assembly instructions. Immediate chaos. The text of the booklet seemed to bear very little relation to the pieces to hand. We didn’t have nearly enough washers, and there were several unidentified pieces, which we put to one side. But worse, much, much worse, were the verbal instructions. We’ve all read bad manuals: this one is the worst ever. Masport can in no way be a New Zealand firm. This nonsense is definitely translated by a mentally deficient non-English speaker from some Asiatic language. Or perhaps by an Internet auto-translating machine. It explains nothing, identifies nothing, describes things in a language I don’t recognise (do you know what phenolic means? I worked out nyloc, but how to recognise it?), it gives instructions in the wrong order, and instructions for impossible feats ..
Wendy and I opened a bottle of wine and settled down to beating the odds. We eventually got in the ‘two of plain legs’ and ‘two of axle legs’ (‘of’ incorrectly used it the manualist’s favourite word), though I alone wouldn’t have been able to, tried to guess what a ‘cylinder hook’ was and where it went (it didn’t seem to have a use anyway) and two hours and two bottles later, with bruised hands and scraped knuckles from trying to insert washers and nuts in places where only a midget’s hand could fit, we gave up for the night. Putting the handle on the hood was just too much. Why can’t they sell the damn’ hood with its handle ON?
I retired to my computer and tried to register the warranty for the Masport Misfit. It takes quite a while and it won’t accept your ‘form’ if you don’t fill in certain marked areas. One of these was ‘serial number’ (another was ‘phone number’, Masport is seriously unfriendly to we deaf folk who don’t have such things). I think Masport’s website must have been created by the same man who wrote the manual.
By 9pm, I felt like dismantling the wretched piece of machinery and dumping it on Mitre 10’s doorstep at midnight.
Instead, I howled off my frustration by e-mail to the Masport Customer Service department. And suddenly things began to improve. One by one, a young lady named Kim began to set things to right. I don’t know how many emails we’ve exchanged now, but each time we ‘speak’ another frustration vanishes. I won’t say the thing is, finally,100 percent assembled as it should be (and I hold the manual writer 100% responsible if it blows up at first lighting), but at least we have a barbecue… oh, and by the way, the Masport 4 model, guess what, DOESN’T HAVE A SERIAL NUMBER!

Masport needs seriously to get its act together. I won’t be buying another of its products until I am assured that it is a New Zealand firm, with New Zealand employees, manuals written by someone with at least a pass in School Cert English (and Engineering?) and a website set up by someone feeling and competent ... and while they are at it they should make Kim managing director. Or at least head of personnel or advertising. And get her to write the manual, too, as she obviously understands these things. Thanks, Kim.

PS The machine is scheduled to make its debut tomorrow night when a small slice of the Canterbury theatre world comes to visit .. If you read in the paper that half of New Zealand’s top talent was wiped out by an explosion at Sefton, you can blame the (?) Japanese author of the maddening Masport manual.