While Autumn isn’t my favourite time of year, I do always look forward to the Agricultural and Pastoral (A&P) Shows that come with that season here in New Zealand. When I was growing up, the side shows were always my favourite spot and I’d spend hours wandering around there indulging in too much candy-floss before going on the Ferris wheel and Chair-o-plane. Inevitably, after all the spinning around, I’d spend the rest of the day feeling motion sick and sorry for myself.
I’m a little too old for such things now, and wasn’t too upset that the Ferris Wheel was nowhere to be seen this year (possibly due to the ongoing aftershocks?). There was a very fine bouncy castle in the form of a sinking ship, and I did mutter the obligatory ‘yarr!’ as I wandered by and wondered how many shots it would have taken to sink her.
As an adult, I gravitate more towards livestock, handicrafts and stalls. I also indulge in entering a few handicraft items for judging (alas, nothing as exciting as a familiar as first prize, but there is the occasional ribbon to be had!). This year I had great success gaining both first and second prizes, but as my entries were the only two in that particular class it wasn’t a difficult thing to achieve (although it would have been extremely embarrassing if I’d not been placed!).
Now that my favourite part of Autumn has been and gone, I'm resigning myself to the colder weather that will soon be here. I've stocked up on wood for the fire, have new needlework projects at hand to keep me busy and am looking forward to many cups of hot chocolate in front of a warm fire while watching it rain outside. This year, I've decided to embrace the cooler weather and enjoy it rather than be taunted by my fellow Oceanmasters bragging about their warm sunny days.
That is my story, and I'm sticking to it!
by Hera (age three and three-quarters)
I recently asked on my Facebook page for some help with inspiration with my Blog, particularly if there was anything anyone wanted me to write about. The responses were varied and showed that a worrying proportion of our Puzzle Pirates are fixated with cats. One idea that stood out was 'Top 10 pet peeves'. This suggestion scared me a little at first. Could I confess my top pet peeves without being forever more taunted with them? Possibly not, but once the idea had crept into my brain I just couldn't get rid of it. So thanks Gneiss Rock for the suggestion!
When I started writing I thought that ten would just be too many peeves to come up with. Afterall, I'm a calm and benevolent Goddess and not many things make me glare at my screen and grind my teeth. So, I was going to limit myself to five. But funnily enough, once I started it was remarkably easy to come up with a ten. I even had to leave a few out!
So, at the risk of being forever more taunted with these. I present my pet peeves (in reverse order):
And my top rated pet peeve is....
*I may be making this up...
Winter isn't my favourite season as I'm not a big fan of cold, wet and windy. I'm allergic to snow - it makes my nose, fingers and toes go all numb. If I could, I'd hibernate for the entire winter, but unfortunately I have those occasional silly real life commitments that demand I actually leave the house. And the cows get rather noisy if I don't give them their early morning snack of hay now that the grass isn't lush and green.
Having said that, this winter has been remarkably mild and I haven't had enough snow where I am to make a snow-pirate. Even when Christchurch had the worst snow in fifteen years which resulted in the airport closing, it hardly covered the ground where I live (normally, the reverse happens). The last three days have been so gloriously warm, that I've been able to spend it pottering about the garden pruning roses and filling in holes that those pesky wild rabbits have made. The lawn grass has started growing again, bluebells have sprouted all through my garden, Daphne and jasmine is in bloom and I've got daffodils budding up.
Oh yes. Soon, Spring will be here. Soon, the warm weather will be mine, all mine!
*...insert manic laughter here...*
Of course, there is still a little time to go before I can really celebrate the return of milder weather. Spring begins here in September, but we can't really depend on warm weather until closer to Christmas. I shall, however, remain optimistic that soon my Oceanmaster colleagues will stop bragging about their lovely warm days and will have to listen to me brag about how hot it is here, and how nice it is having a BBQ dinner outside.
Before we get to that, however, they will most likely have to listen to me go on (and ON) about the Rugby World Cup. In only a few short weeks that event will be hosted by New Zealand and while, unfortunately, there are no matches local to where I am (Christchurch lost the right to host seven world cup games due to the damage caused by the February quake), there will be more than enough games televised to keep me happy. Of course, there will also be a lot of friendly rivalry going on between me and my Oceanmaster colleagues as I know they will be supporting their own teams and hoping, in vain ( insert more manic laughter here!), that they will beat the New Zealand All Blacks and claim the World Cup.
Be sure to tell me which team you are supporting!
2011 hasn’t been the best of years so far. Natural disasters seem to be far too plentiful with extreme winter storms hitting North America, floods affecting the Philippines, South Africa, Rio de Janerio and Australia and earthquakes here in New Zealand.
On 22 February, I was sitting at my desk chatting to online work colleagues when another major earthquake struck. The house groaned and rocked, items I’d rather stupidly placed on the shelf above my desk tipped over and fell and I sat at my desk typing ‘Barnacle, earthquake!’ in the chat window. When the house hadn’t stopped shaking by the time I finished typing that, I took appropriate action and scooted my chair back into the door frame to wait the rocking out. It didn’t last as long as the 7.1 quake of September 2010, but the feel of this one was totally different. It is one thing to be woken up during the night with your family with you and knowing they are safe. To have them away from home is something totally different and much more terrifying.When the rocking stopped, I still had power and internet but my initial assumption that all was well was unfortunately wrong. Turning on the television I watched the ‘breaking news’ announcements that the earthquake had been centered in Lyttelton and that the damage caused by it was extensive. The earthquake had been 6.3 on the Richter scale but unfortunately it was shallower than the 7.1 quake of last year and did much more damage. One reporter related how he had been in his car at the time and cars beside him were rising up higher than his window before falling down again due to the way the ground was rolling.
The phone network went down and it was impossible to contact people out and about on their mobile phones. For three hours I was unable to get in touch with my brother who was in Christchurch inspecting damaged buildings from the previous quake. Thankfully, I finally got a text from him saying he was safe and unharmed. I was very fortunate that I had no family members or friends seriously hurt in the quake. Others have not been so lucky and are still waiting to find out about missing loved ones. I simply can’t imagine how agonizing that is and my heart goes out to them.
The international response to New Zealand’s first ever National State of Emergency has been fantastic and so very much appreciated. Urban Search and Rescue teams (USAR) flew in from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, USA, UK, and Singapore to help search for people trapped in buildings and are doing an amazing job in what can only be described as appalling and difficult conditions. People all around the world have shown their support for Christchurch by wearing the Canterbury colours of red and black. Facebook and Twitter came into its own with people posting photos (such as the amazing photos by Brian Neller on his Facebook page ), and official organizations using that form of communication to send information out to residents of the stricken area. Google set up a Person Finder which allowed people to enter in details of people that they couldn’t get in touch with and gave a lot of people peace of mind when others entered in that those mates had been seen safe since the quake.This tragedy hasn’t just affected New Zealanders. Christchurch is a tourist destination and many overseas visitors and students were sadly caught up in the quake. As I’m writing this, the exact number of people lost to the quake is still unknown. An estimated 1000 heritage buildings are to be demolished as they are posing a danger to life due to their structural damage and the ongoing aftershocks. Friends have lost their homes and businesses and Christchurch will never again be the city that I grew up knowing.
Having said that, people in Canterbury are hardy folk with an excellent sense of humour. We are already seeing Facebook pages celebrating their resilient nature such as the informative Rise Up Christchurch, the humourous You know you're from Christchurch when..., and the delicious Christchurch Baking Army.
Christchurch will be rebuilt. It will take time and it won’t be the Christchurch I knew so well, but it can’t help but be awesome given the people who live there.
Kia Kaha Christchurch!
I'm very behind in updating my blog, so I'm posting now what ought to have been posted back in January. Those who follow me on Facebook already know what an excellent time I had away this summer exploring first Auckland and then the Bay of Plenty just a little further down south. There was such a lot to do in Auckland, and we only had around five days there so we had very little time to squeeze a lot in! On the itinerary was a day trip to Rangitoto Island which is a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf with a ferry running to it twice a day. It has a lovely Pohutukawa forest and, being Christmas time, they were all out in flower looking spectacular. (Pohutukawa is referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree). We walked to the summit where we encountered something I'd rather not have been within a mile of; a rather large tree weta. I'm not a creepy crawly fan and definitely kept my distance from this fellow.
As much as I enjoyed the break from work, I couldn't help thinking a lot about pirates when I seemed to find cannons just about everywhere and even a landlocked pirate ship! Rainbow's End theme park was an excellent day out, but I avoided the pirate ship ride as I had just been tricked into going onto the roller coaster and, apparently, I'm getting too old for such rides. My stomach rebelled for hours after and I was relegated to 'holder of bags and camera' while others enjoyed the themselves. Another excellent day out involved visiting Auckland's Sky Tower. There was the option there to do the Sky Jump (jump off the edge of that? I think not!) and the Sky Walk. The braver among our group opted for the latter. Not being a fan of heights I hid so while others were enjoying the thrill of being strapped into a harness and walking around a rail-free platform 192 meters above the ground, I was inside rocking back and forth muttering 'can't look, can't look!'.
After Christmas Day, we piled into a mini-van and headed down to a tiny little town called Matata where we rented a beach house for a week. While there wasn't much to do in that town, it was in a great location for us to do more day trips exploring the Bay of Plenty. While we were there we experienced a 4.4 earthquake early one morning. The owner of the house came to check up on us and cheerfully told us that a few years earlier, the house that previously stood on the site had been destroyed by a landslide caused by an earthquake combined with flooding. So much for escaping the aftershocks we were having in Canterbury; it seemed Mother Nature too wasn't happy about my fleeing and decided to follow me! Either that, or Cronus was annoyed I hadn't invited him away on holiday and was directing some of his Godly Wrath in my direction. Anyway, spending the day chilling out on Ohope Beachcured my earthquake jitters; such a lovely beach and excellent swimming too!
I felt very sad when the holiday was over as those I met up with had come all the way from the United Kingdom (third year in a row for one of them!) and I won't be seeing them again anytime soon. I can't think of a better way to spend Christmas and the New Year than holidaying with lovely relatives enjoying beautiful summer weather. Despite the odd day of rain and the earth grumbling and rumbling, it was the Best Holiday Ever. I hope y'all enjoyed an equally fun Christmas break and that you are still enjoying the memories created by it. I'd like to wish you all a very late Happy New Year! Yarr!
It is my favourite time of the year again! Daylight Savings has started, days are longer and warmer, and my garden has turned from dull and boring into bright and sunny with daffodils, freesias and apple blossom all out.The window sill by the front door has a bottle of sunscreen lotion permanently sitting on it and my very large sunhat has replaced my rather hideous pom-pom hat.
YES! It is spring again!
The season had a rather shaky start. Literally. At the beginning of September a major 7.1 earthquake struck, the center of which was just a few kilometers up the road. It was a very rude awakening at 4.00 am! Bleary from sleep I was immediately aware the rocking was an earthquake because of the roaring noise, but what was really scary was the length of time the house rocked.
I grew up in New Zealand so was used to earthquakes. For others in the house, it was their first experience. They found the ‘rolling’ exciting, while I found it horrifying because it seemed to go on forever and gain in strength as it did so. In my experience earthquakes were always short and sweet, over before you really registered them happening. Not so this one!
After the rocking stopped, I failed to realize just how extensive the earthquake was and how much damage had been caused. We still had electricity, but there was no coverage on television. Internet was down (which in hindsight wasn’t surprising given the location of my ISP!) It was only later on that Saturday morning that I saw the news reports on all the damage caused.
I personally was very lucky and only had minor damage to my house. Others weren’t so lucky. One of my cousins living in Christchurch had his house move sideways and fall off the piles it was built on. Another friend of a family member fell out the side of his house from an upstairs bedroom when the brick wall fell away. Amazingly, given the amount of destruction, there were no fatalities.
Since the ‘big one’ we have had over 2500 aftershocks. The time lapse demonstration of just how frequently they are hitting can be seen at http://www.christchurchquakemap.co.nz/ They happen so often, I don’t tend to notice the little ones anymore. Anything over 4.5 does tend to get my attention though!
Finally, Hera’s top tip: Don’t climb ladders to prune trees when there are frequent aftershocks happening. It is very difficult to walk away from that with any kind of dignity intact!
(or why never to give Cronus a 'free pass')
For one brief shining moment I thought Cronus was my hero. My internet had failed halfway through a shift so I called him in up asking if he could take over. His voice was a little husky from sleep when he answered the phone and then listened to my desperate plea. By the time I finished asking, I could almost hear the smile in his voice as he answered to the affirmative. The smile turned into a laugh as he continued:
'You do realise I can do anything to your ships and you can't stop me'.
In my innocence, I thought he was just joking. Because I was so grateful for him coming to my rescue I did a very silly thing. I gave him a Free Pass. His evil cackle when I said that will haunt me for a long, long time.
My internet wasn't back for almost a day. In that time, I chewed my nails with worry for my ships. Cronus only had to take over for two hours, I thought. He couldn't have done that much damage, could he?
As soon as I was able to connect again, I sent a message to Cronus thanking him for his help (after all, it is always nice to be polite!). We chatted for a little while before he had to leave. His last message to me was 'Because you will want to know, the answer is 150'.
He refused to answer anymore questions.
Of course, that all became painfully clear when I went aboard 'Watching You' on Malachite. I couldn't move. I couldn't even see the deck of my ship. For a few seconds I could not begin to comprehend what Cronus had done in his few brief hours aboard my ship.
One hundred and fifty Cronus swordfighting and rumble dummies. Now that is just evil.
I thought I’d take a leaf out of Sunny Apollo’s blog this month and dedicate June’s blog to the letter S. June, the sixth month of the year, has been full of ‘s’ happenings: songs, sniffs, snivels, snow, soggy shoes, scalding sloops, solstice, shocking scenes, soccer and sinister sheep.
Thank you to all who entered into the song parody competition I ran in May (inspired by New Zealand Music Month). I had so much fun singing through them all and had a very hard time selecting the winners due to the excellent standard of entries. Congratulations go out to the five winners of Hera doll trinkets.
Sniffs, snivels, snow and soggy shoes are pretty self explanatory. The weather in New Zealand hasn’t been fantastic of late; I discovered swiftly that my shoes weren’t waterproof after a snowfall and that resulted in the sniffs and snivels. On the plus side winter solstice has been and gone and so the days are getting progressively longer now and I’m anticipating lots of fun teasing my Northern Hemisphere work colleagues in the not too distant future. (Yes, yes, I know that the worst of winter is always after winter solstice, but ‘lah, lah, laaaah! Not listening!)
Hands up those who have an Inferno sloop! These lovely vessels are just perfect for standing on when the weather is a bit nippy. You can’t help but feel a little warmer when you go below deck especially when you have the odd Cronus egg in your inventory to toss into the lava.
And speaking of Cronus, his ship startled me the other day when I visited it to…well…erm…never mind why I visited it. Apparently summer has put him in a very good mood indeed and he has redecorated his ship with a rather startling shade of paint to celebrate. Certainly that wasn’t anything I could improve on. And apparently he thought I did the painting (who, me?!) and he returned the favour. However, he is apparently way off his usual form and the result was far too tasteful to even take a screenshot. (So tasteful, I’m not even repainting).
And finally, Sinister Sheep. Yes, that is right, they are extremely sinister, far more so than my lovely cows. I’ve come to that conclusion after a my mother was involved in a hit and run with a sheep. The sheep did the hitting and running, while my mother did a rather inelegant somersault which resulted in her leg being broken in two places. So the moral of that story is never turn your back on your Sheepish Pet or else you may discover another way of obtaining a peg leg and getting your housework done for you for three months.
Oh wait. Maybe that isn't such a bad idea after all...
Recently, every time I log onto a certain ocean I get a very nasty four letter word tell from a pirate I shall just refer to here as ‘Pesky’. He seems to have my work schedule memorized, but also seems to find me within seconds of logging on even when I’m filling in for another Oceanmaster. I don’t mind pirates sending me ‘Ahoy!’ tells when I’m on, in fact I very much enjoy that. But the tells this particular pirate sends me gives me chills and causes me to grind my teeth. Looking through recent logs I find:
Peskypirate prods Hera. Blog.
Peskypirate tells ye, "Blog blog.
Peskypiate tells ye, "/e pokes. Blog :o"
Peskypirate tells ye, "BLOG"
I am well behind on my blog this year. My good intentions of monthly updates have fallen behind recently due to lack of time. Autumn has been busy here and while most of the calves I’ve been grazing have gone on to greener pastures (literally; I ran out of grass due to lack of rain), there still has been lots to do.
My current home project is to try and become more self sufficient. I’ll never achieve true self sufficiency; I like my creature comforts and need to buy in luxuries such as chocolate, coffee and tea! However, given I live on a 10 acre block of land (approximately 4 hectares), I’ve got the space to be growing enough vegetables to keep me from needing to buy any.
Sadly, my existing vege patch had been sorely neglected by the previous owners and has been in desperate need of mulch and fertilizer. Happily, I know a lady who keeps a lot of horses. And horses are fantastically good at producing fertilizer. Good job too, as I'm intending on expanding the vege garden as well as intending to grow soft fruits. And so, this autumn has seen me shoveling lots of barnacle rather than writing in my blog!
Chickens will be my next project. I’m hoping to get a few free ranch chickens to keep me stocked with eggs, but for that I shall need to make a hen house and that demands a lot more research on my part. (Anyone who has ever seen me carp knows I’m hopeless with a hammer!)
Finally, for those who have ever asked me for a Hera doll, I’ve a forum competition up that gives you the opportunity to win one. All you have to do is write a song parody for me – I’m not even demanding that you sing it*! Easy, eh? Go and give it a go!
*Although, you can if you like! It would be rather nice to have a few parody songs that I could listen to while I work in the garden!
Having a wonderful holiday exploring the West Coast of New Zealand. The weather is surprisingly fine without a hint of the rain that the West Coast is famed for and I’m even managing to improve my sun tan. The day we visited Punakaiki was very hot, so the cold salt spray from the blow holes was especially refreshing. We accidentally timed our visit for the perfect time to see the pancake rocks at their best. (And no, Cronus, they aren't real pancakes. You can't eat them.)
I have discovered that the rumours about terrible blood sucking sand flies are, in fact, true. When we stopped at a lovely deserted sandy beach to stretch our legs, I glanced down and saw my feet were covered with the nasty little critters. No wonder the beach was deserted! I shall be itching for days!
The cottage that I’m staying in is on a bush clad hill and built on poles. It has a lovely view of the Tasman sea, but I left my spyglass at home and have failed to sight even a single sail on the horizon. The house sways a little when someone walks about inside or when the wind blows strongly, which was a little disconcerting at first, but fun when realized we weren’t experiencing a small earthquake! The beach below was a stony one without a single sand fly to be a nuisance. Bliss!
I’ve visited a number of interesting places, including Shanty Town where I tried my hand at panning for gold. I swiftly came to the conclusion that pillaging for gold was much, much easier, but the chap showing us what to do looked rather bemused when I mentioned that. I also discovered an excellent supply of parrot familiars when I stopped at the Otira Viaduct (although, when one Kea started nibbling at my car, I began to wonder if it was a trained parrot that Cronus had sent to take out my brakes).
I do hope Cronus has been behaving whilst I’ve been away. I have been thinking about him a lot as I’ve been travelling, and have seen several places that I’m sure he would like to visit. I’ve even found accommodation that he would make him feel right at home. Nothing is too good for my darling Cronus!
Wish you were here! Fair winds!
Love Hera xxx
…no more work for a week or two!
Well, when I say ‘we’, I actually mean me. I’m packing my bags and heading off to do some exploring of New Zealand. Hopefully it will be sunny but as I’m heading towards one of the wetter regions of the country I’m taking my coat and lots of sand fly repellent. Unfortunately, there will be no internet access so I may get a little twitchy towards the end of my trip! (Life without the internet? How will I cope?)
Please keep an eye on Cronus whilst I’m gone. He tends to go a little overboard when I’m not around to keep him under control and I’d rather not return to a fleet of vessels painted orange or my lovely outfits replaced with tan rags. Fair winds!
December has snuck up on me even though the local shops have had Christmas trees on display since early November. Having lived for some years on the other side of the planet and experienced many a Winter Christmas, it makes me giggle that New Zealand is so traditional when it comes to the Festive Season. Santa all wrapped up in his winter red and white outfit, stockings hung up next to a roaring fire, snow and mistletoe are images we Kiwis embrace even though our Christmas takes place in summer.
I'm not complaining, though! I far prefer having Christmas Day get-togethers outside around the barbecue rather than stuck indoors. In fact, this year we are having a Pot Luck Christmas in a relative's garden (which will be very exciting if we all bring desserts!).
Christmas in game is an exciting time too! You should soon be seeing white-named 'Lucky' pirates wandering around accepting challenges. Look out for me popping in as Luckypavo. I'm a particularly lucky pirate to encounter as I'm terrible at both sword-fighting and rumble, the two challenges I'll accept this year. You should have a very good chance at winning a Lucky prize!
I've been poked a couple of times recently about a long promised picture of my 'office'. I expressed jealousy at Hephaestus' office space as my office is in a broom closet (I feel great empathy with Harry Potter and his room under the stairs). So, here it is complete with my treasured Hera doll made by Liliene of Midnight and my not so treasured (anymore, see below) Cronus and Hera mug from Zazzle
Finally, it has come to my attention that Cronus has been spreading nasty rumours about me. Again. I should like to point out that while I have decorated his ship on a couple of occasions, he takes screen shots and stores them up before writing about them. There were months (months!) between the times I decorated those ships! However, it is my nature to be jealous and if he goes around naming familiars in such a manner as he has on Hunter, I'll continue to be very cross indeed! (Expect coal for Christmas, Cronus. Lots of it!)
Spring! Huzzah, Spring! My favourite season has arrived in New Zealand and I'm so happy to have survived the cold and to be heading into warmer weather. The daffodils are already nearly finished; they came out quite early this year. The roses are all leafing up and looking lush, the bluebells are up but not flowering yet and the freesias outside my lounge window are smelling gorgeous. I forgot to take a picture of the daffodils out when they looked wonderful, so instead of subjecting you to wilted flowers I'm popping in a picture of the hills (photo taken from my gate). I know it looks photo-shopped, but trust me! It isn't!
The downside of all this New Zealand sunshine is that it is so harsh and stain/paint fades too quickly. I'm needing to restain all my decking this year which involves a lot of water blasting with my super charged new water blaster (FUN!) and painting (ICK! Where are swabbies when you need 'em?). Still, it must be done and I ought to have it all finished and the garden looking wonderful for the Christmas Day BBQ which I'm going to host again this year. Nothing nicer than celebrating Christmas out in the sunshine rather than huddled around a fire! (And yes, I'm already planning for Xmas. Aren't you?).
July has been such a busy month; so busy that I almost forgot to update my blog. Luckily, I've remembered just in time. Actually, I have Cronus to thank for this. Logging on to Crimson to find he had redecorated my lovely ship jolted my memory; I remembered I'm long overdue showing exactly what Cronus gets up to.
I'm very fond of my vessels; finding one full of barrels of rocks and myself trapped in the middle is a little disconcerting. It is also rather drab for Cronus. Usually, he has a flare for colour. Long will I remember the day he repainted another vessel pink and orange.
I've had my revenge, though! When next he appears on Crimson he may have difficulty moving around on the deck of the Pop Sickle. At least the pumpkins I left him match his paint work. I think it is nice that I put a little thought into how I redecorate and I do so hope he appreciates that!
Some of you have already guessed that I’m not a winter person at all. Now that winter has hit New Zealand I’m feeling very grumpy about the season and very envious of all those mates who send me tells bragging about their hot sunny summer holidays.
A nasty cold snap has hit New Zealand and it is currently snowing where I am. Snow is lovely if you are inside a warm house watching it fall. Preferably whilst sitting on a couch sipping hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. (Or, even better, sitting in front of a computer pillaging or making a run into Atlantis!) Having to actually go out in it changes snow from being lovely to being horrible nasty cold stuff. Unfortunately, because I have a number of cows and other livestock where I live, I don’t have the option of sitting inside while it falls. I have to go out wading through it to feed out, check electric fences and move stock. Winter has only just begun and I'm already rather tired of suffering the indignities of frozen toes and a red nose. I want my summer back now, plskthx!
So please, you lovely sun drenched pirates, don't brag about your weather too much to me. I may just cry.