My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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8-letter Word to Play. Puzzled?

Puzzled

It is not often a Scrabble Club player gets the chance to score over 200 points in Scrabble. Power tiles, Q and Z, are worth ten points and, if placed well, make a valuable addition to the player’s game score. By using all seven tiles on the tile rack, it means the player will get 50-bonus points in addition to the word score. The Scrabble board has double and triple hotspots which if used well, also add points. As with all word plays in Scrabble, players need to be able to hook their word to a tile already played and form a second word. In this way, more the points can be scored.

About two years ago, one of our novice club members had the seven tiles as shown in the image below. She asked another club member, a New Zealand expert ranked player, for advice. We do not use anagrammers or any wordfinder devices during our club day games. We play by NZ Scrabble Association rules. So, it is just us as the players faced with the challenge of the tiles.

Tile rack

Player had these seven tiles on her tilerack. There is an 8-letter word that can be played using all these tiles.

After pondering the board layout, deep thinking and much tile shuffling, an 8-letter word was placed to score 333 points.

Scrabble Game

Club Day Scrabble game in progress.

Later, our expert player reset the board and tile rack and got the rest of us to make the word. Yay! I did it. Can you? Remember, no word devices or anagrammers. Puzzled?

 

 

 

 


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Conveyor of a Wordless Message

Conveyor

Drivers are advised to adjust their speed to suit the conditions. On a windy stretch of road on my way home, I see a road sign that reads, ‘100 is NOT a Target’. Speed is a safety issue on our roads. Sadly, there have been fatal crashes near the intersection where I turn off this busy main road.  

A New Zealand Transport Authority driving safety advertisement appeared on television the other night. We walk with the Traffic Officer who talks to us in simple, billboard-like terms, as he goes about his job. Ordinary people will say they know their local roads well enough to drive that bit faster.“ I know these roads,” the Officer says to us.

The Officer has a wordless message to deliver. Deaths and injuries place an unbearable grief on loved ones and extract a terrible price in other ways on the community. He is the bearer of bad news to a family. Her pain speaks for itself.  And there are no words he can say to us in his role as the conveyor of the campaign message.

 


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“there’s no one like Macavity”

Cavity

I love T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. “Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,” Who can ever forget this cat burglar extraordinaire?  Hollowed-eyed and unkept, Macavity is never caught in the acts of his nocturnal crimes. Not a paw print is left after he has fled the scene. He keeps his thoughts to himself behind half-closed eyes. Macavity the mystery cat‘s “eyes are sunken in”.  The evidence of his crimes is well-hidden. Macavity just cleverly hides it behind each orbital cavity.  

macavity

Macavity the Mystery Cat


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Irrational Urge was Hard to Stifle

Stifle

Eleven years ago, Himself arranged for a stock agent to buy four, white-face beef animals at the local cattle sale held each Tuesday. We understand that animals can be nervous when they off-load from the truck. But, they tend to settle once they have explored the paddock, had a drink and start eating grass.

On this occasion, the new cattle stood quietly in the stockyard while Himself checked them over before releasing them into the paddock. Four black bodies charged through the opening gate, just missing Himself flattened against the fence railings. They stampeded across the paddock and hurtled through the live electric fence. They splashed across the stream into our neighbour’s property.

Himself’s language probably offended the animals as there was more cattle mayhem. Neighbours rallied to help herd the runaways home. One animal hurdled a 7-wire fence into another neighbour’s farm. Three fled in a headlong rush up the road before being rounded up. The final gallop was through my vegetable garden. They kicked divots of garden soil into the air and trampled my late summer vegetables. One dived back into the stream and joined the animal still on the neighbouring farm. It took three hours to restore calm and to secure the animals in the back paddock away from the stream and the road. That was on Tuesday after I got home from work. 

That night, Himself was on the phone to the stock agent. “From a forestry block!” Himself was heard to splutter. These four animals had had little contact with humans. Cattle hand-reared as calves are more used to humans and this is what lifestylers want on small blocks of land. On Thursday, all four animals were back on the truck to their new owner.

That weekend, it was drinks and BBQ at our place for the neighbours. Everyone had their similar stories of strife with cattle. In the heat of the moment, we had all felt the irrational urge to shoot the lot on the spot, an urge which was hard to stifle.


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The Ages of our Inscrutable Cat

Inscrutable

Ignoring the wet and windy weather, a tiny tabby kitten chased the leaves blowing around the enclosed courtyard next to the staffroom. No-one knew how he got there. He was not telling.

I found an old cloth and dried his fur. Next, some cold milk from the staff fridge poured into a saucer, was lapped up with gusto. A box emptied of  five reams of A4 copier paper became his shelter to sleep. There was talk of taking him to the SPCA. After work,  SPCA forgotten and during the 30-minute drive home, this kitten sat on the back seat, never moving, facing forward between the front seats. How was I going to tell Himself that just we had just become parents to another fur baby? After a lifetime of now departed cats, Himself had declared it was time to call it quits. Nestled under my jacket, the kitten peeked out as Himself gave me a hug. Eighteen years later, Himself and Pushy the cat remain constant companions.

T. S. Eliot considered naming a cat to be “a difficult matter” because a cat “must have three different names”. Eldest Grandson was learning to talk at the time the kitten arrived and his word for cat, ‘Pushy’, stuck as the “everyday name” we use. Pushy responded to this name. Whether he cared or not, he was not telling.

Living as we do on a lifestyle block, there are jobs to do. When Himself mixed milk powder to feed four-day old calves, Pushy got the first drink of warm milk. Hay was wheeled to the cattle in the paddock with Pushy in the driver’s seat. Rats have to be kept in check. When electric fences are checked, Pushy never walks never beyond the third tree down the driveway. He will sit and wait for Himself to come back. And someone needs to be Sleeper-in-Chief.

In keeping with Eliot’s rhyme,  

…, a cat needs a name that’s particular,

A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,

Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,

Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

Pushy the Cat

Sleeper-in-Chief annoyed at being disturbed

Over the years, his naming has included Pushy the Farm Cat, Rodent Officer, Pushy the Lazy Tabby Cat. I like to think of him as one of Eliot’s Practical Cats”. I have different  thoughts though when his tigerish tendencies came to the fore if we offend his sensibilities and he digs his claws in.  This is the same cat that protected Binky, the baby rabbit when it escaped from its hutch. This is the same cat that lifted his head when we returned after an absence of almost three years, and wanted to be fed. Cats can be quite difficult to read. We are not always sure of what Pushy is feeling or thinking. He is not telling.

And we will never know. Pushy is about eighty-eight in human years. Grandson’s  old sleeping bag is now his to sleep away his days. His deepest cat dreams and thoughts are beyond words. What is his cat name that he calls himself? He is not telling. Pushy, our old moggy, remains inscrutable.

Old Cat

Constant companions


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Al Jahili Fort in Silhouette

Silhouette

Himself enjoys listening to opera and during our married life, we have always enjoyed going to live concerts in New Zealand.  A few years ago we lived in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. We were delighted to learn of the Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Classics  Concert Season that ran from October through to May. We were in for a real treat.

In our first month in Al Ain, we settled into our apartment which was next to a mosque and a five minute drive from an historic fort. Each evening as we listened to the call to Maghrib prayer, we could see from our window, the shape of the mosque become darker, outlined against the clear sky backlit by the setting sun. As Muslims remembered God, the day began to draw to a close.  Later in the cooler evening temperatures, we, like the locals, enjoyed being outdoors under a clear, inky blue sky.

Jahili Fort in Al Ain

Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain lit up at night

Within this setting, we went to to our first concert at the nearby Al Jahili Fort in October for an open-air performance by the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. We both remember the evening very well. People from all over the world gathered in this ancient place, drawn by their common love of classical music. Alan Gilbert conducted Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Peter Zimmermann performed Brahms’s Violin Concerto. Pure musical magic. And it felt surreal for us to be sitting inside an ancient Arab fort, its high walls and towers etched in sharp relief against the dark night sky by uplights to form a magnificent silhouette


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Speckles, Dominant Henpecker in the Henhouse

Dominant

It all began with a cute, tiny ball of fluff, day-old Strawberry the chicken. She was Grandson’s pet project for the school Agricultural Day. Her 24-hour care, and that of her five Brown Shaver sisters, assumed overriding importance. The whole family was involved. Himself built the A-frame outdoor coop. Grandson’s Dad paid the bills. Grandson and his brothers did the cuddling. I did the cleaning, feeding and reminding Grandson of his project obligations.

Outdoors Chicken Run

Strawberry the chicken

Fast forward a few months, and I was not a happy gardener after the chickens’ sneak attacks on the green vegetables growing in my garden.

Hen-pecked Kale Jan 2016

Henpecked kale

I declared the growing chickens were no longer officially cute. Grandson, having earned his school Agricultural Day ribbon, was by this stage, enraptured with his X-Box. The garden was going to the birds. Only after chicken proof fencing was erected, did I feel I had wrested back control of my garden.

Chickens in Disgrace Jan 2016

In disgrace, Banned from my garden.

As the Brown Shaver pullets graduated to the big birds’ cage, they found out, the hen-house was not theirs to rule. Two senior hens had seen it all before. Gertrude, Vice-Henpecker-in-Chief was amiable as long as she got first peck at the grain feed. Speckles, Henpecker-in-Chief was not to be messed with at anytime. It was an avian offence for a young hen to stray into her field of vision. Many a Brown Shaver feather went flying as Speckles showed who was dominant

Hens

Hens-in-Chief: Gertrude and Speckles