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.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lucie's lesson on line

Day two at school for D'Arcy and Lucie.
The day's new adventure was to learn to walk, on the lead, behind the jogger..
D'Arcy had to go first, because propinquity with his pretty niece has to be kept to a minimum. It took him a little while to get the jist of the thing: for a couple of paddock-laps he tried to play tug-of-war with me and my tractor, but he soon settled and when he had done a couple of model laps, Wendy trundled him down the alleyway to Yard Number One, specially set up for feisty young boys.

Safely installed, he was given the benefit of a bit of worldly wisdom from one of our Elder Statesmen

And before long, he was hooning proprietorially round his new kingdom and apparently not even thinking about fillies

We thought that Lucie, who gives an air of being a little more apprehensive than D'Arcy, would probably go less well, and need a soft and gentle lesson. Nothing of the kind! As the tractor moved slowly off, I waited for the customary first protesting tug ... but it never came. She walked nearly all the way, with just the odd little hop and skip when we went over a bump. A splendid first effort .. Wendy had no need to walk alongside her, and so was able to film the (as you can hear, decidedly windy) proceedings

Bringing up babies can be tough, but these two (so far!) are proving pleasing pupils!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Oh Lord! It's much much more expensive than I intended...
But what the hell, I'm only going to do it once in my life..
And its nothing to do with the fact that Mr Richard Revamp Design is cuter than its safe to be...

The Language of the Flowers


On 15 February 1996, Ian and I planted a magnolia tree in our garden at Fernenland, St Arnaud, to mark my fiftieth birthday.

Not too many years later, when we quit Fernenland for Gerolstein, we took the commemorative plant along. But it never seemed to thrive, and for ten years and more it gave us just a display of leaves and occasionally a shrivelled frostbitten floral bud..

Finally, now, with my 64th birthday hovering in the near future, the tree has burst into flower ..

I wonder if it's trying to tell me something,,

What a Difference a Year Makes

Not even a year. Here are D'Arcy and Lucie (still glued to their mothers) in December of 2008...

And here they are on 1 October 2009.
D'Arcy has changed enormously (he was, of course, only a month old in his 'hospital' picture), and has grown into probably the best-looking of all Gwen's babies. Let's hope that Beauty Does as Beauty is!
Lucie, who has the Sundon blood inherited from her mother, is rather finer than her uncle. She is also a Girl. And thus she hasn't done the boyish burst of yearish-old growing that D'Arcy has. But she's still as stunning as she was when a wee thing...
It's evident that Love You throws splendid babes..
And in a month or so we'll have another around the place!

Babes Behind Bars!

No, it’s not what you think. I’m talking horses. As usual.
It’s that time of year when those little bundles of long legs (and monstrous knees) that came into our lives 10-12 months ago take their first lessons in practical horseship.
Yesterday, Lucie and D’Arcy were hitched to the railings inside the crush, their warm coats removed, and…
A good springtime brushing such as they have never had before.. soft winter hair flying with every stroke of the brush, enough of it to stuff a large cushion! And, amazingly, neither protested..

Every foal we’ve ever had from the ‘Robinson’ breed – from Duchess through Boris and Wanda to Fritzl and Seppl, has always protested.. but not these two! What a nice surprise!
Then, on to feet. They have to learn to let their feet be picked up so that they can be inspected and their hoofs tidied and trimmed. Once again, they were fine. D’Arcy’s trim was quite a long one, but he stayed calm and only tried a few times to nip Wendy’s back..
Lucie was a little less sure but still far better than average. Phew!

Next, the famous wormer. Most horses make a frightful fuss over taking wormers. Lucie’s mother was the worst: she’d put up a ten minute battle rather than take anything by mouth. These days she’s less neurotic, and its down to five minutes, but Lucie ... well, as of today she’s the wormer champion. Although, after having taken the stuff she wasn’t at all impressed with its flavour…

D’Arcy, in his turn, discovered that lead ropes aren’t only for leading, they have other attractions. Like, a substitute for chewing gum! Well, I suppose a boy has to have some bad habits..

Lesson number one done, covers back on, and back to the paddock..
Rather more separate paddocks than before.
For D’Arcy has realised that he is male, and that Lucie (his niece, and anyway 2 months older than him!) is a Woman …

Tomorrow, lesson two…