Sunday 27 December 2009

Boxing Day Blues

We went to see Sherlock Holmes tonight.  I couldn't hear much, because there was a young (probably 12 year old) boy behind me, who was giving his friend a running commentary on the film.  I couldn't get mad with him, 'cos he was so carried away, and didn't even see me turn around and glare at him.  His friend was trying to keep it low, and a couple of young girls smiled shyly.  That will make it two Christmas movies so far, the other one being Avatar, which we all loved.

I fear that the Machinist is growing weary of all the constant care needed for Bobby.  I've started to help him now, to encourage him to keep on just a while longer, as Bobby gets stronger.  We have a sort-of routine for him, but who, pray, can ever be prepared for their pet being bitten by a deadly snake?  Bobby is moving around more and more and peeing a lot.  We have to wrap a disposable nappy around his middle, then pull on pantihose to keep the nappy on.  We both chuckle as we do this.  Gotta keep it light...

The rain has been falling steadily for two days now.  Everybody is loving the cooler weather.  Even the spiders.  They're coming inside, despite our efforts of pest control.  Sam found a huge white-tail spider on the corridor ceiling.  "Make sure you kill it, won't you?" I asked him.

"Of course I will mom".

My point of view is this:  when I venture out towards the creek, or through the paddocks, I expect to see all types of Australian wildlife.  Creatures of all shapes and sizes and toxins.  But woe betide when they venture into my home and garden. 

I teased the Machinist that after 16 years of country living, I was good and ready for city dwelling.

We all know that's not true, but I am fed up with creeping and crawling things.  There was even a couple of snails stuck to the side of the front door to greet us earlier this evening.  While I dislike this type of invasion, I can't bare to kill them either.  The Machinist has no mercy, knocking them down and crunching them....

Everybody is extremely tired.  I think we all need a holiday from a holiday. We've lived in a blur this past week.  I actually look forward to the dust and grime of the Shop, which starts on Monday. How can you truly 'rest', when, at the back of your mind, there's so much to do?  So much potential?

Friday 25 December 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas (Even Tho We Have a Wet One)

This Youtube video really tickled my funny bone - especially as if features bad boy Robbie Williams singing A White Christmas.  I mean - you don't picture him singing such a family favourite, do you?  Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Merry Christmas

It has been raining all day and I am grateful, so grateful, because it is the closest thing I'll have to a white Christmas.  Friends and family have been coming and going all day.  We've just returned from wishing our neighbours a happy Christmas and our clothes are damp and pleasantly cool from nipping outdoors.  Everything is prepared for tonights dinner with friends and we've moved our Bobby into the lounge, so that he, too, can be part of the celebrations.  He is starting to move around more and more.  Here is a picture of him next to the tree.  6 days ago, he couldn't move and we had to periodically turn him from side to side.  Now, he is lying like "Frogman".  The Machinist has to follow him around with a disposable nappy, so that he doesn't pee on the carpet.  He is our Christmas miracle....

Merry Christmas to you all.  Good will to each other...

With love,
The Machinist's Wife

Thursday 24 December 2009

Christmas Menu

I spent the day in the kitchen today, preparing Christmas fare.  We will be eating, sleeping, reading and swimming tomorrow.  Preparation is the key for relaxation.  How smart am I?

On the Christmas Menu:

Lunch: Potatoe salad (chats, mayonnaise, chives, spring onions and crispy bacon), BBQ Porterhouse steak, grilled chicken and seven layer salad (mayonnaise, eggs, crispy bacon, lettuce, avocado, cheese, garden peas).

Dinner: Warmed slices of duck on a circular bed of pan fried potato medallions, clothed in green oakleaf lettuce with a large (side) salad of cherry tomatoes, snow peas, asparagus, avocado, cos, roasted macadamia nuts and walnuts with an orange dressing.

Mini chocolate Christmas cakes with chocolate sauce, topped with holly and berries (green and red winegums, cut into shape)

Trifle:  chocolate sponge (leftovers from the mini chocolate Christmas cakes) soaked in sweet wine and marsala, cherry compote, pitted cherries, custard, cream.

Ooops! What was that?

Another three kilograms have just crept up on me...

Strength to Strength...

Would you believe that the day after Bobby got bitten, another baby snake crossed Sarah's path on the way to her car.  Sam and his friend managed to kill the snake, chopping it into three parts.  When the Machinist and I arrived home from having the Machinist's wound dressed, the head of the snake had 'travelled' about 600mm away from the very place Sam had left it. 


Snakes.  Horrible things...

Bobby is getting better each day, albeit slowly.  He still can't stand up, but he's eating three meals a day now, with orally syringed water every one and a half hours.  His nose is wet.  He wags his tail.  His bulging eyes have returned to normal, and although there is still discharge coming out of them, he doesn't have that 'far away' stare.  This evening, when the Machinist was spoon feeding him his beef & vegetables, some of the food fell on the Machinist's hand, and Bobby eagerly stretched his neck, making sure he got all the morsels - just like a dust-buster. 

This is very encouraging for the Machinist.  "Babe, do you realise that the hand with my wounded finger, is the same hand that holds Bob's head so he can eat and get stronger?"

Monday 21 December 2009

Pet and Home Maintenance

Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses.  I'm learning more about mine as the days go by - especially when faced with unpleasantries. I can set a good mood amongst family and friends. I can lift spirits. I can encourage and comfort. I can communicate well and enable others to communicate as they should.  But... I cannot face the distress and helplessness of sick people and animals.

The Machinist, on the other hand, is excellent at caring for the sick and frail, as he did with our beloved Bucko here and here. I admire this quality in him so much.  He checks his Bob every hour, waters him, via a syringe, changes his soiled bedding, washes his butt with Dettol and dries him down.  Then he washes all Bob's soiled towels in water with bleach and eucalyptus oil.  It's been three days and each day, the Machinist has administered vitamin C by injection and orally by syringe.  All this from a man who couldn't change his own baby's nappies without dry renching. 

And talking about dry renching, I think the Machinist's stomach for 'smells' is getting tougher.  Today, he and I had to clear the blocked septic pipes.  I check that things are working smoothly, going where they should go, into the septic tank, while the Machinist rams hoses down the septic pipes, via the breathing hole. It's a nasty business, but someone's gotta do it. Unfortunately, our pipework is old and consists of ceramic pipe, narrowing to polypipe.  Each time we get a blockage, the Machinist declares that soon, real soon, he's going to ' all these odd pipes out and put plastic ones in...'.

Fun fun fun.

And with all that stinky trauma, on a hot and sticky day, we decided to claim some R and R for ourselves. 

I need to work on rustling up a decent Christmas spirit...

Sunday 20 December 2009



The Machinist had gone to let the dogs out of their kennel (if left outside, the young Shih-Tszu's bark all night and besides - Bobby keeps them company and calms them down). As he was making his way to his regular latrine, Bob was stumbling like a drunk. The Machinist's worst fears were confirmed when he inspected Bob's eyes and noticed that his pupils were dilated.
"Babe, will you just check out Bob for me?  He doesn't look right.  I think he's been bitten by a snake, but I don't know how it would have gotten into the yard..."

At the sound of 'snake', my heartrate increased threefold.  I couldn't think, but wanted to 'do' and couldn't focus what to 'do' first. 

"We need to get some Vitamin C into him.  Oh, and Robert recommends strong black coffee, too.  Where IS the Vitamin C?  I put it in the medicine cabinet.  It's not there now..."

"Here it is, Babe.  Calm down..."

Bobby must have been bitten prior to 11pm Friday night, before bedtime, which means by the time we noticed his agitation, he would have had the neurotoxin circulating his bloodstream for 8 hours or more. This is way too late, and you have to identify the type of snake to receive the correct anti-venom, otherwise the administration of the incorrect anti-venom can be fatal. (We lost two dogs previously on the same day - 22 December 2002, due to snake bite). 

And so - for the past 50 hours we've treated our beloved Bobby with Vitamin C injections, antibiotics, Vitamin C by mouth, strong, black coffee and lots of water.  He is mostly paralysed and incontinent.  He can hear us, blink his eyes, wag his tail a little, but he can't move positions.  We have to turn him ourselves, (so he won't get cramps) change his bed, dry him, disinfect him.  Our laundry is his intensive care ward....


Between Bobby's various home treatment, the Machinist attempted to work at the Shop.  He started cutting the alluminium coving for the kitchen floor and kitchen ceiling (skirting and cornice).  Being pre-occupied with thoughts of Bobby's health, the Machinist cut his finger on the circular saw.  It is totally mangled, and a friend had to take him to the emergency.  I had to go to work at the winery, and the worst thing was not knowing how both were faring during the course of the (long) day.  The Machinist now has to wear a finger pouch, and each time we tend to Bobby, I have to wash the Machinists hands and arms, as sometimes, the poison can seep through the skin (and fur) of the pet, onto the skin of a human, so it is better to be cautious and wash every time the 'patient' is handled. 

The vet advised that Bobby has come through the worst part of the bite, and he has a good chance of recovery, even though it doesn't look like it at present.  Paralysis can take a couple of weeks to get over (hopefully), so while my darling Machinist is the main care-giver for his pet, I will continue to be the main care-giver for my Machinist.

**Even though God created all creatures, I often fantasise about Him magnetising every snake off the face of the earth**


The Multi-Functional Room

The absence of our washing machine during the course of the past two weeks, due to the repairs of a faulty circuit board, has been extremely trying.  Our laundry has been out of sorts too - somewhat like an upset stomach full of gas and bloating, only our laundry has been bulging with a collection (a vast one at that) of bacteria-infested clothing belonging to 5 family members, plus sheets, towels, tea towels and overalls. Talk about irritable bowel syndrome...

Alas, the laundryroom's regular tenant has now returned and many -  MANY -  items of clothing have since flirted between washing machine, tumble dryer and clothes line.

Today, however, the laundry has gained a new tenant: the presence of our lovely Bobby (The Staffordshire Terrier) has changed it's function from washing room to Intensive Care Unit...

Thursday 17 December 2009

Facebook: A No-Brainer?

The ornaments were finally added to the tree.  Not all of them, mind you.  Some of them were boxed up ready to go back into storage.  Some, I left out to attach to gifts; - not only Christmas gifts, but any-time-of-the-year gifts.  The baubles always look celebratory and melodramatic. I like that about them. For added impact, Sarah has painstakingly popped bowl fulls of corn and threaded them, resulting in festive drapery with a movie-theatre aroma throughout our living rooms.

"That must have taken her ages"
"Yeah, as if we haven't got enough to do"
"I wouldn't want to thread all that popcorn"
"You wouldn't catch me threading it, either. She was up really late and finally fell asleep, with her laptop and a Bob (our American Staffordshire terrier) on her bed - with bowls of popcorn all around her.."

It's fun eavesdropping on Mancubs*...

(*Man-cubs:  Not a boy.  Not a man.  A boy becoming a man - MW interpretation)

I thought about the time it would have taken our Sarah to do this task, which she had planned and enjoyed.  She knew there were a thousand more important tasks at hand, but this one had relaxed her.  It was a no-brainer. She didn't have to think.

I have a serious penchant for jobs, projects and hobbies whereby I don't have to think.  Facebook is one of them, - even though I've had a love-hate relationship with it for some time now.  I am of the opinion that quality is better than quantity.  I don't need 486 (or more) 'friends' to prove my popularity (or not).  There's no way anyone could keep up with that number of people anyway.  Nor could they offer each of those Facebookers the friendship they deserve by regular communication. 

Recently, I went against my own self-induced grain. I 'friended' a lovely gal who I had known on a Yahoogroups*tm group some years ago.  She responded very warmly.  Before I could write back to her, I went through a few days of having to leave the house.  I didn't want to fob her off with a 'how are you?" or such, and made a mental note to write a decent, chatty response. 

Days turned into weeks turned into months...

Then, to my shame, I received this note through my email, courtesy of Facebook:

"Hello, do you use this? Wondering why you invited me here a month ago, only to get the silent treatment ???? I dont' mean that rudely, just really wondering what's up."

In my moment of regret, and not wanting to seem, or be - a hypocrite, I deleted this 'friend', amongst others who I hadn't communicated with in ages -  from my Friends List.  This morning, however, a note from my darling cuz, regarding a close childhood (but recently deleted) friend from England:

"Im so sorry to tell ya helen J.A. died today, bbe xxx"
And so I realise that Facebook is certainly not a no-brainer.  I will be re-thinking my attitudes towards a few things, actually.  But then again - it's that time of year for self-reassessments.

Friday 11 December 2009


This is what our dining room table has looked like for the past two days:

Hopefully, someone, somewhere, sometime, somehow will git the time and inclination to deck the halls with them.  If not for a tree that looks shamefully naked, but also, that we can enjoy a festive dinner ON the table.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Paranormal Activity

Last night, we went to see this movie:

I wouldn't recommend it, not because the story line took too long to get to the crux of the matter.  Nor that it looked amateur-ishly made, as in all the scenes, a hand-held video camera was used.  Not even because the sound quality was under par.  But rather, for the reason that films like this Creep. Me. Out.  I can handle ghosts, vampires, werewolves, axe-murderers, psychos etc, but the paranormal and supernatural are a fact of life and not to be messed with.

It didn't help that last night's storm brought with it dampened pollen spores playing havoc with my histamine excretions.  It didn't help that mosquitoes rejoice with wet muggy weather and their appetites increase.  Nor did it help that we had a late glass of orange juice.  And each time I got out of my mosquito net covered bed, I thought on the movie and freaked myself out.

The house is awfully dark in the early hours of the morning. I have to pass through two rooms and a corridor to get to the bathroom and thereby the first aid / supplements / medical cupboard. The house is awfully noisy in the early hours of the morning, too.  I have to pass through two DARK rooms and a corridor to stand in the light.  Time slows down and a lot can happen - in the mind of an imaginative Machinist's wife during the course of the journey.

I am grateful that the Machinist was sleeping facing me.  I am grateful that the Machinist was sleeping noisily. But most of all, I'm grateful for daylight...

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Today, We Relax

It looks as if a storm is approaching from the west.  The dogs sense it - large pupils, pacing, panting.  It's muggy inside.  A variety of birthday scents fill the house; bubble bars, soaps, essential oils and fizzy bombs.  In the kitchen there's still a lingering aroma of buttery lemon herby chicken, baked yams and carrots, sauteed cabbage and potato mash (pontiacs).  This is overpowered by the familiar baked chocolate sponge cake - a prerequisite for the finale black forrest with chocolate ganache.

We're off to town to see a movie and the thought of an air conditioned theaterette is promising.  The Grands won't be accompanying us, as we usually return way past their bedtime.  They like nothing more than to have the security of a routine, which anchors and comforts them in their later years.

Today, there is no guilt, for it is the celebration of a birth. Today, we relax.  Today, we live like kings and queens.

Another Main Player

Happy birthday to my first-born daughter, Emma-Lee, who we renamed "Zola Bud" when she was three years old, 'cos she could run barefoot with the same speed.  Things are different now, though, as she would rather create 3D images and dream of Pixar.  Lots of love, me Emsie.  Mwaaah xx

Sunday 6 December 2009

Family Bonds

For most of their years, we've home educated the Young Adults (fondly known as the Ya-Ya's).  Neither the Machinist nor I are qualified teachers, yet believe that parents have a vested interest in their children and thereby can bring about a love of life and learning in each of them.  The transition from school educated to home educated wasn't always easy, but thoughts of self doubt -  thankfully - didn't last for long.  The exultation of living life together twenty four hours a day held us captive.  We have flirted between home, work and pleasure for the past 16 years and oftentimes, these aspects of life have blended into one.

It's strange, really, when you consider our varied backgrounds.  The Machinist is an only child, whose mother married thrice which resulted in traumatic and sometimes physically abusive relationships, neither of which were suitable to raise the Machinist in.  He therefore spent his young years with his Ouma and Oupa who loved and cared for him deeply and completely.  Nevertheless, his lonliness was always evident.  I, on the other hand, although being born into a larger family, still experienced this same lonliness.  My maiden family, to this day are dispersed over three continents. 

Perhaps this is why we both cherish the notion of family.

There comes a time, however, when the chickens need to explore out of the coop. This fact of nature is not easy for the Machinist and I.  The Ya Yas still live at home with us, we know that we truly have their hearts, yet their instrinsic destinies are calling them by invitation.

"All the more reason that you and I remain best friends, Babe", emphasises the Machinist.

And with tears in my eyes I respond "I know, Machinist.  I know..." as I consider the joy of my first-love.

Thursday 3 December 2009

The Main Players

Since the twentieth of November, we've had three birthdays in our family, which have kept us running, organising and scratching for gift-money.  Firstly, the Machinist.  I love this pic of him.  My verile, hands on, get-the-job-done man (if you know what I mean).  Gulp.  We celebrated his birthday poolside.

Secondly, my dear dad - aka - Grandpa, who just turned 84 and still has an active mind - especially when it comes to his favourite topics: Politics and Christianity.  (He's knowledgeable in most things, but those two are his first-loves).

Finally, my middle child, Sarah-Mechelle - aka - Miss Marple.  Let's just say she has a knack for figuring things out.  My homegirl just turned 21 and she still doesn't have a key to our (front) door.  Please don't hate me for putting your pic on my blog, Poppet.  Love you. Mean it.

There's still two more family members to go before the end of the year, but I'll be sure to embarrass feature them here on the Machinist's Wife's blog. 

Oh, and in addition to our birthday-busy-ness, we've also been working on the Shop.  More pics of that to come tomorrow....

Sunday 29 November 2009

The Texter Nazi

One thing that really gets me going is when people text or talk on their phones in the movie theatre.  The Young Adults always joke about mom's big brown eyes, boring into the rogue texter's head.  "Muv will be watching the movie, and next minute, her head will jerk in the direction of a mobile phone's lighted screen. It's best not to make eye contact, 'cos she'll ask you to call the usher..."

The Machinist took me to see Twighlight: New Moon. Our seats were allocated;  - row Q, - which was one row from the back, on the right hand side.  Seat numbers 19 and 20.  The Machinist took seat 19, which was right next to an Indian chap.  I was on the end of the row, which suited me nicely, thank-you-very-much, as my plan was to hustle down to the toilets, return to my seat and drop my shoes off. 


It wasn't long into the movie, when I caught the Machinist's head jerk towards the Indian chap next to him.  "Excuse me. Would you mind turning that thing off?", he asked.  The Indian chap couldn't switch his phone off fast enough and promptly assumed a rigor mortis position.  I really don't think he dared to breath.

Later, a bright light appeared in row O, two rows in front of us on the opposite side of the isle.  Without warning, the Machinist leapt out of his seat, passed me by and was about to make his way down the steps, when he stumbled and took a flying swan dive towards the texter.  "Oh, no!", I thought..."he's tripped on my shoes..."

The Machinist landed with one hand on the back of Mr Texter's seat. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but he was pointing to the exit.  When he returned to the safety of his own seat, I asked him what he had said.  "I told him to put the phone away, or leave".  (Translated, for censorship purposes).  "..And what did he reply?"

"He looked at me with pure fear written all over his face and said 'I'm so sorry' in a startled rabbit kind of way.  I was so mad at myself for tripping the way I did, that's why I swore at him..."

"Sorry you tripped on my shoes..."
"No, it wasn't your shoes, it was the umbrella we bought for Sarah. I did the Irish jig with the brolly"
"Oh..." I couldn't even look at him at this point, as I hadn't been to the toilets as I had planned.
"I probably looked like John Steed and people would be thinking 'who's this old fart that takes his umbrella with him two days in advance of rain, - just in case'"

Aaah...The Machinist: My Hero.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Derby Punks

One of my favourite authors is Roddy Doyle.  Not that I get much chance to read fiction nowadays.  Most of the books I do read are on topics like business or food or renovations or interior decorating or or or ... you know - 'how to' books. And I do it out of necessity, seeing as we are doing everything ourselves, for the first time. 


Getting back to Roddy Doyle... many of his stories make me think of my own childhood and life at home with four older brothers.  Let me show you:

From left to right: Brother Gary (3rd boy), Brother Alan (1st born), brother Brian (2nd boy).  

Brother Robin (4th boy).  And then, there's me, as you know:

Helen (1st girl, 5th and last child).

What always cracks me up about these old photos are our hair styles and the clothes we wore.  Mam knitted almost every jumper that ever graced our tiny backs.  They were usually bright colours, so that she could ' 'em in a crowd...' as she would say. They lasted for decades and were worn by all of us (and others in between).  Usually, the pants were too large, hence the belts and / or braces holding them up, way above our waists.  Gotta love the high waists!

Don't we all look like butter wouldn't melt in our mouths? Don't be fooled; - each and every angelic child you see above was once a gang leader in our Midlands neighbourhood.  The Mods, The Troggs, The Dogs, The Bovver Boys, The Skinheads, The Slapheads, The Scrappers (in no particular order).  Mostly, though, we were known (and feared) by our surname, and on any given day, in alley ways and entry ways, down streets with either terraced houses, semi or detached and even on the new estates, you could hear local kids shout out to their mams, in somewhat high-pitched, anxiety filled voices:

"Mam, mam!  It's the Hudsons!"

Food Gardening and the Machinist Cooks!

If you look carefully at the photo below,  you will notice raspberry canes growing in between apple trees.  I can just imagine both of them together in a pie....

I love permaculture and companion planting.   My brother, Gary, told me years ago that the gardeners of old would plant by the moon.  They somehow knew what to plant depending on the phase of the moon. When the Machinist's Ouma was still alive, she often attempted to share her love of plants, flowers and trees with us. Random gifts of greenery in washed out jam tins were common.  A week at our home and their demise was common too.  It didn't stop her green-generosity, though.  The Machinist reckons she'd be smiling down from Heaven if she could see us now, knowing all her efforts were worth it.

She must have sensed our potential....

Today, our garden is brimming with life.  When we are in the pool, we are surrounded  by trees - most of them fruit bearing. It's gotten to the stage that I have to transplant and / or give plants away. 

Said raspberry canes were recently tranplanted to a damper spot, right up against the back orchard fence (corrugated zinc-allum, dug into the soil and cemented, for snake-prevention because of my Ophidiophobia). The Machinist surrounded the canes with thick lucerne mulch, and covered them with square mesh frames. Rusted. (Not the tin roof the B52's sing about).

With bum in air and head to the soil, I scoured the rest of the orchard for weeds, tugging madly at dominating thistles, while protected with leather welding gloves. It's a good job I'm hidden in the garden. How the Machinist must love me....

And talking of the Machinist, he made a delicious meal tonight.  Ground beef with sauteed celery, fennel, herbs, red onions and carrots over rice noodles. 

"Would you like some more, Babe, or do you want to leave room for a surprise I have for you?  Or, would you like both?"
"Both, please". 

Come on, I had to. It's polite.

Later, the Machinist disappeared into the kitchen, and came back carrying two dishes of The Surprise.  Cherries in Syrup with whipped cream.

Can  you feel it?

Saturday 21 November 2009

A Legacy of Analysing

Reading through my peeps earlier this morning and particularly the post by Grandma Nina, made me think of helping the Machinist the other day. 

Together, we were working on the stainless steel walls for the Pie Shop's kitchen. Local council's don't mind stainless steel walls or tiled walls.  Financially, it is cheaper for us to line them with stainless steel (a no brainer). Anyway, what the Machinist does is cut the length of stainless to size, fold the edges, 'rough' up the rear side of the steel sheet with an angle grinder, add glue along the roughed up lines, then add wood board to the steel sheet.  The reason he does this is so that the steel sheets remain taught, as the wood gives them extra strength.  It is a long, tedious and labour intensive process as each wall sheet weighs A LOT and we struggle to get them into place to match up with the steel framework and brackets the Machinist has already welded on the wall.

(That was a mouthful. Hope you can follow...)

To get back to Grandma Nina's thoughts on being particular about the work she does, (and in particular - parylisation by analysation), it struck me how alike she and I are in this particular 'field'.

Case in hand:

We had cut the stainless steel sheet to size on this machine:

Then we had to fold the edges on this machine:

We shuffle the stainless steel sheet into position, so that the marks on the steel line up with the folder guides.  The Machinist looks to me and I give him the 'nod' (or not) and he then presses a button and the machine folds the steel.  I was having trouble analysing whether the marked sheet lined up EXACTLY with the guides.

Me to self:

"Is it 1mm out?"
"What will happen when the guides come down - will they push the sheet a little?"
"Should I allow another one milimetre just in case?"

Then the Machinist to me:

"Are you ready?"
"Are you sure?"
"I'm waiting for a response from you.  Don't give me the thumbs up.  Give me the nod, then I'll know".

After all the heat in the workshop, it was unbelievingly, refreshingly good to take a dip in the pool, where all thoughts of accuracy, analysation and hot, heavy work faded into the depths of chlorine-shocked water.

Friday 20 November 2009

A (Very Young) Machinist's Wife

This is me, sporting one of mam's spaz-cuts, wearing a woolly ex-jumble sale frock (mam also made a lot of cotton frocks for me, 'cos I would change each lunch time.  Don't ask. Just one of those things...).  The school photo was probably taken after I'd had my morning bottle of milk, (hence the ample tummy) - gratis and courtesy of Southgate Infants School, Alvaston, Derby England.  Circa 1965.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Fun Pics from Days Long Gone...

The Machinist and I, and our first-born, Emma-Lee.  She won the Crawling Race and Best Dressed Baby of the Day

Helen and Emma-Lee - posing for the local newspaper, with runner-up baby. 

Monday 16 November 2009

Pie Love

"I was just wondering if you had an estimated opening date?

Myself and several mates regularly ride our motorbikes to Goulburn on weekends and would love to use your pie shop as our mid morning / lunch stop for food and drinks. Often we use the Bush Ranger hotel, but prefer to use this as our return stop on the way back to Canberra.

Looking forward to seeing you guys in business!!


~ Cranston ~

Monday 9 November 2009

Life Work

I've been thinking how life is full of chores.  We are born and we work for survival. Some of us get paid for the work we do, others don't. If you think of each aspect of your life, and the work, time and effort involved in these aspects, it would tire you out before you even began. My mam always says that if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well. I like to do jobs well. The Machinist says that sometimes, I go far too deep into things. Like when he helps me clean the kitchen.  Now the Machinist never used to help me clean the kitchen, but now that all our family's work overlaps, everybody does everything. We've taught our children to be multi-skilled, too.  As young whipper-snappers, they would never say "mam, I'm bored", because they would get a job to do.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes - the Machinist and the kitchen. When he helps me, I take the opportunity to wipe down cupboards, as I'm cleaning the counters.  I take the opportunity to wipe sauce bottles and display jars as I'm cleaning the shelves.  He tells me "Helen," - that's the name he uses when he wants to be firm with me.  Or when he's cross with me "we're not doing the bi-annual spring / autumn clean.  Just the necessities for now.  I've still got to change the oil on Sarah's car and fix spot lights on our car..."

I think that looking after a family is a full time job.  Not just the physical needs like clothes washing, feeding, teaching, health care etc but rather - their emotional and mental needs.  Raising young adults is a full time job.  Encouraging a husband is a full time job.  Caring for aged parents is a full time job and helping to inspire them all is a vocation.

Saturday 7 November 2009


Over thirteen years ago, we (the children and I) sighted a UFO.  The craft was rectangular in shape with lights on all four corners and it was moving in a way I can only describe as 'bobbing', as a boat would bob on the ocean. It bobbed for a few minutes then suddenly, took a 90 degree turn and sped into the dark of night.  A few weeks later, I did a search for UFO sightings in our area and found this story, telling of others who sighted a UFO in our area around the same time.

On Thursday, 5th of November this week, the Machinist and son were driving into town at 4.15am.  As they were leaving our tiny village, and had stopped at the 'T' junction, - preparing to turn right onto the Highway, they sighted a UFO above the gum trees straight ahead -  which is less than 150 metres away. The craft was bobbing; moving in the same way as the one our son had witnessed years ago.  Then suddenly, it disappeared.  It didn't speed into the darkness; it just disappeared.

On their journey into town, they saw a lot of kangaroo carcasses on the side of the Highway, which is unusual, as the high traffic movement and noise usually deters the kangaroos from the roadside.

As they turned off the Highway, into a country road which links the New South Wales border with the Australian Capital Territory border, they were plagued with more-than-usual kangaroo activity on the roadside, between the trees

Could their earlier sighting have something to do with this indigenous marsupial's unrest?

Friday 6 November 2009


There's  nothing like the natural beauty of the Aussie countryside

The sun-kissed earth...

The flora and the fauna...

Relics of times long past...

And young hooligans to bring us back to reality.  Fords: TIMELESS

Thursday 5 November 2009

Will You Sponsor Me?

In the year 2000, my brother and his family arrived in Australia from South Africa. They were jobless and (almost) homeless - mainly due to the criminal activity prevailent in the current South African government. Their right of passage to the land of milk and honey was a 457 Business visa, as the Machinist and I had sponsored them.  Unfortunately, my brother could not meet the requirements (which change almost every six months) of the 457 visa and sadly (devastatingly so), they had to return to South Africa at about this time in 2004, which was the visa's expiration date.
You will understand, then, the whirlwind of emotions when I received this request through our business email:

To whom it may concern

I am a qualified Electrician with 20 odd years experience. I also have my Wireman's Lic. If I am lacking some experience I am a keen, quick learner.

We are currently living in South Africa. I run my own Contracting business for the last 16 years doing new house installations, upgrades to 3 phase, highbay industrial lighting, rennovations, lighting and general maintenance for homes, restaurants, gated complexes, etc. I am a perfectionist in my field and have excellent client liason skills.

We had a Sponsor and were meant to leave in January for Perth but the contract was cancelled due to the economic crisis. Are you in a position to Sponsor me? We would love to relocate to Australia. If you can offer any help or advice it would be greatly appreciated. If given the opportunity I would be loyal, hard working and give of my best at all times. I would like to give my family the safety, security and all the opportunities that Australia offers. I would need to do my Trade Assesment once in Australia because you have to apply for that particular state and not knowing where I shall get a job makes it difficult to do beforehand.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards, X

What Gives With This Generation?

It's a hard thing - working for others when you've worked in your own business for most of your life. You tend to compare.  You tend to compare a lot. You have to tell yourself  "...self, don't worry about what others are doing.  Focus on what you will be doing...what you want to achieve."

Number One son (third year apprentice fabricator) is working for a large, 24-hour-production engineering company in town. This company's finished components are rated (by themselves for quality control purposes) from one to five; - number one being of the highest quality.  Number One son began producing a grade two component, and within a week and a half of his new employment, advanced to grade one components.  His supervisor has informed him that should his performance continue, the company will consider promoting him to a 'team leader', with an offer of higher wages.

Please bare with me, as I tell you this not to brag on my son (although it is better to blow somebody else's trumpet, rather than them blowing their own) but to put a point across.

After spending the morning of one of his days off up the ladder, applying ESP to oil-based paint on the ceiling beams at the Pie Shop, my son and I sat on the front step and he was telling me of his trials at work.

"You know, ma, I always wondered what it would be like to work for somebody else and now I do, and it is no big deal.  I thought it would be hard, but the truth is, nobody does more than what they have to".

"At about two minutes to three, everybody packs up, and waits to clock out, no matter what they are working on.  There is no inclination to go further, to better themselves.  They just seem to be happy to float along, just as they are."

"It's at the point that a few of them are getting mad at me, and fights are brewing, because now that the boss can see what can be done, he is expecting the same from them, and has, in the meantime - demoted them.  They think I'm a smart-ass, when all I want to do is just go to work and do my job...."

"I don't want to talk to Dad about this, because I don't want him to think I'm bragging or doing more for my new boss than I would for him..."

Now I know that most of you who are reading this are older and wiser and will probably understand me when I say that I could have offered my son EXTENSIVE counsel as a response, but I often think that less is more and the most I could mutter was

"Speak to your Dad.  He loves you and is very proud of you.."

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Fed Up...

I've just returned home from the first shift of the day in a torrid commercial kitchen.  Bubbling pots, steamy dishwasher, radiant warming lights, hot cooking oil, scalding grill. It's 32 degrees outside.  Hotter inside.

The Machinist has been working on a feacal-and-urine-infested horsefloat, and is aghast at what some fabricators can get away with as 'safe' and 'sturdy'. 

Roll on the opportunity to create wonderful metal art, as well as artistic pies! Delays suck...

Monday 2 November 2009

The Best (and Worst) of Two Worlds

Mam always said that as you get older, you revert back to your childhood.

I always thought that getting older meant when you reach your late seventies or early eighties. It seems that getting older is where I am now (even though I'm thirty odd years short of old age, as it's known). I often think of my childhood in Britain. I often imagine how life would be now, if I were living in Britain,  especially with my own family...

It seems that each time I see the green, undulating hills, the patchwork countryside, the old stone walls and buildings made from local rock- hundreds of years ago, I get the feeling that the land of my birth is calling me back, and I choke up.

The Machinist would never live in Britain. It's far too cold and wet for him, even though he adores the culture ( often declaring how he loves my 'Pommy Ways'). Our Young Adults would love to live in good old Blighty, so they say, but we all know how easy it is to speculate what life would be like in another land and how completely different it would be in real life.

I'm still content with my Land of Milk and Honey - even through the daydreams - and I find it quite a source of wonderment when I compare the two countries. Take today for instance; - on my way home from a shift at the Winery, I turned off the highway into our tiny village, and who should be heading into the undergrowth at quite a speed for his reputation? 

Mr Echidna.  (The Australian version of my beloved Mr Hedgehog).  Mr Echidna always makes me smile.  Granny tells me that Mr Echidna lives on the hill at the back of the Shop, along with Mr Fox ..."It must be a sign, Helen.  These native animals must feel quite safe and peaceful to be hanging around on our hill ..."

Later, Sarah arrived home and she had 'that' voice on - "Dad, Dad, there's a snake on the road, just near the light pole. I've left the keys in my car.  Do you want to come and sort him out?"

We all recognised 'the voice', and corridor doors, leading to Young Adult bedrooms were pulled open with gusto and in an instant, our whole family was assembled at the front of the house, squinting at the brightness, attempting to focus on the rippled tarmac, searching for The Ripple that would move and reveal itself as The Enemy.  Frustratingly, The Enemy slithered into the embankment and was immediately camouflagued, as patrons at the Hotel watched quizzically.  (Yesterday, a hotel patron had run over a baby snake and had excitingly headed towards the Hotel Kitchen to ask for a jar to preserve it so that the Hotel owners could add it to their snake-in-a-bottle collection).  We have the tourists trained, too...

If only, in a perfect world you could pick and choose aspects of what you like and what you don't like about the world you live in....

Friday 23 October 2009

Loosening My Jeans...

I'm celebrating today.  I'm celebrating with foods I want to eat, but shouldn't, 'cos if there's one day you should be allowed to do this, it is that one special day a year, right?  Let's see ... a bowl of French Fries with tomatoe sauce.  Creamy vanilla ice cream with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and loganberries.  (Times two helpings of berries).  M & M peanuts by the handful. A coke float. Steak, egg and chips.  And more coke.

Totally gorged.

It's hard staying awake for the DVDs. 

I've got to behave myself this year.  I know I should....

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Dough Girl

My first day at the commercial bakery today.  I had to report to Ray from Slicing. My job was to pack two million and forty six (??) loaves of bread into towers of bread pallets for dispatch around three states of Australia.  Each pallet held ten loaves which were stacked ten pallets high, two stacks per dolly.  In simpler terms, 200 loaves per load.

Because I am a Machinist's wife, I find most machinery fascinating. I don't understand the mechanical parts  or the technalities, nor do I care to, but watching How Things Work is always interesting to me. Including old bakery equipment.

Morning runs of bread included Multigrain, High Fibre, Wholemeal et al and the pace was pretty fast.  By the afternoon, the factory was almost 40 degrees and I was feeling pretty doughy myself - especially when Ray switched on the White bread run, which came hurtling down the conveyor belt at even greater speeds. It seems that most folk still prefer their white breads.

I am certainly not a shirker, but can honestly say - today's 7 hour shift was the hardest work I've ever done. It's 11pm and only now am I cooling down.  I ache from head to toe.  I don't know if I can do this.

Tomorrow, I have a shift at the hotel. That's somewhat relieving.  Nice and close to home. 

And the Machinist.  Gotta love coffee breaks with the Machinist!

Interest In Pies

The other day, all geared out in chef's uniform, I was filling in my time sheet, head down, totally focussing on dates, hours started and finished, total hours etc, when I heard a chap's voice enquiring about the local pie shop.

"What do you know about The Daily Pie?", he asked the barman.  "Every time we pass through town, I can see that progress has been made on the building, and there is a sign saying 'Opening Soon', but it's still not open.  When do you think it will open?"

The barman went into dumb-mute mode (he's a lovely chap), looked over at me and replied "You'd better ask the chef".

Now the delayed opening date of our pie shop is a tender, emotional subject and I know and understand that the locals are wondering and becoming impatient.  I cannot blame them for this.  For a split second, my heart was heavy and I had no idea how to respond without going into a Great Explaination and 101 Reasons Why The Pie Shop Isn't Open Yet, but I refrained, lifted my head, looked the guest directly in the eyes and said "Good help is hard to find these days, especially in a small town like ours".

And thus, the awkward-ness dissipated with laughter, and that familiar nod of understanding...

Oftentimes, less is MORE.

Monday 19 October 2009

It's Off to Work I Go!

I've been job hunting.

Work has been merely trickling into our Workshop, and it seems that the (alleged) economic state of affairs has caused many to fear,  and thereby - cease ordering. 

Our children have been job hunting, too.  It is a bitter-sweet time.  Bitter because after 21 years of self employment, I am back in the workforce, along with the children, and the cosy, secure life we all grew to love and depend on - a life working from home, albeit fugacious, has been interrupted. 

For now, anyway.

"Keep your eyes on the prize", I remind them.  (The prize being our Pie Shop).

'Tis a sweet time, because in hardship, there is a newfound bonding.  Oh, and laughter still lives here. In large doses.

"I'll be the stay-at-home-dad", the Machinist teases.  "Only there'll be nobody at home but me". 

Work on the Shop building is still of paramount importance, but there are a number of modifications to be made which require two or more pairs of hands and that is difficult, seeing as those pairs of hands are busy helping (and earning) elsewhere. Shift work, both in the workforce, at home, and the Shop is the order of the day.

I will continue to cook at the local hotel and when required, also work at a bakery in town. How appropriate is that!

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Working Through the (Dust) Storm

Despite the sky turning a 'mustard yellow' due to a dust storm yesterday, described by Josephine - the Tale Peddler, our garden mulching extravaganza continued.  Right into the afternoon, we carted and distributed wheelbarrows of euc-y mulch.  It always strikes me that before one job can be done, garden bed preparation has to be paramount. In our garden, you don't just lay a mulch covering; firstly, you pull larger weeds, poison smaller shoots, wait till said weed shoots turn yellow, carry a bucket and tongs to collect various sizes, textures and ages of dog-poop, move a variety of garden artwork (as in our Emma's face above, attached to the willow tree) and sometimes - even transfer plants to different locations BEFORE scooping on the thick layers that will serve and protect the plants during prospective summer droughts.  And as the day ambled on, we sang many a ditty like "Oom Pa Pa" amongst others from Oliver Twist, as the rain soaked our clothes and hair, but never dampened our enthusiasm.

"Mulching the garden before the heat is like buying presents long before Christmas", I declared to the garden supplies lady, who wore a quizzical brow. "It is so accomplishing..."

And today?

Today was an 'indoor' day, the house being warm and cozy, thanks to the last dregs of logs in the woodshed, courtesy of the Machinist and Samuel-son, who spent many days cutting and chopping in blistery winds...

Thoughts on Earlier Days

My thoughts of late have been towards the plight of the migrant.  Leaving England as a child and migrating to South Africa, was far different to leaving South Africa and migrating to Australia as an adult and parent.  Although many people live in places where climate and weather patterns are extreme and where  creatures and 'odd' traditions are commonplace, it is nonetheless overwhelming for some migrants, who have lived "protected" lives away from such things. To leave one's family and move to a strange land is traumatic enough. To face additional conditions which are shocking and dangerous can sometimes lend a migrant to utter despair

While in South Africa, if there was a snake around our homestead,  I would be the first to discover the snake. It was a known and accepted fact in our family. Rinkhals, cobras, mambas, puff adders and boomslangs. I've 'met' them all! And each time, mam would calm me down after the encounter, even though she herself was just as afraid.

In the dry creeks of the farms we lived on, we also encountered legavaans - similar to the monitor lizard, that become quite angered for no reason, it seemed.

One swish of their tail would put those of a slighter build on their back. Deadly scorpions would sometimes leave the rocks of the dry creek beds and venture into the brick crevices of the old farmhouses. My brothers would catch them and tease them. I still shudder thinking of the way their tails would curl over and twitch, ready to strike!  I am still wary of opening a box of matches which may be hanging around the house, because of what may be inside.

I can't help but wonder in awe at the enduring spirit of the earlier migrants, who ventured on - despite many hardships which our modern day systems could now overcome. In the Australian outback there are numerous graves, belonging to unfortunate folk who were bitten by some strange creeping or slithering creature, unable to either reach hospital care on time or receive efficient care or antidotes. There are those graves hosting folk whose constitution just couldn't cope with extreme climatic conditions either. Especially the finer ladies and children.  (A recent movie I enjoyed was "Jessica" - based on a novel by Bryce Courtenay - depicting the difficult life of early Australians).

And those who did survive have now become the great-grandmothers of our relatively young nation. Their letters and memoirs are recorded in our history books. I wonder if it ever crossed their minds that they would be instrumental in forming the grand nation we have today.

Sunday 20 September 2009

The Plumber and the Gardener

This is the Machinist, working on the plumbing in the ladies toilets at the Shop.  It's the first time he's ever had to do any plumbing himself, but being a man who can figure things out, he can't help but have a go at almost anything with "trade" attached.

For more updates on what the Machinist and our family have been doing at the Shop, take a peep here.

This is an area of my office and I'm not *game* to show you the rest at this time.  It is a hive of planning and preparation and LOTS of paperwork.

While the Machinist has been busy plumbing, I've been busy carting this woodchip off the back of the ute, in an effort to lay mulch on the garden beds before its too hot

A view of the herb bed, emerging from its winter's rest, waiting to be mulched and planted. 

Curious hens, waiting to see the results of the BIG MULCH -


 Table talk amongst our children is and always has been, -  a rabbit warren . We start off in one hole and end up in another -  quick smart....