Last year I was in Seattle, Wa. (USA) for a few weeks and caught up with two old friends who took me out to shop for vinyl in Tacoma Wa.
We went to a part of town that had several shops specialising in old LPs and 45s. We trawled through the collections of dusty old albums and in one shop, my friend Paul pulled out a copy of Iron Butterfly's classic record Ball. Released in 1969, it followed up the 1968 release of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida but had a different style and sound.
"Do you have this in your collection?" he asked and when I said no, he was determined that I should have it and promptly bought it for me. I returned to New Zealand with Ball safely packaged between pieces of cardboard, taped tightly together. Just this week I unwrapped Paul's gift to play it because I finally bought a new turntable.
It's very cool because now I can play all of my old records.
"What's the attraction for you, playing these old things?" a friend asked.
Well, I said, I grew up with LPs and 45s. When I was at high school it was a real treat to save up one's babysitting money, catch the bus downtown on a Saturday morning (back then, the shops were open in downtown Auckland on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, then everything closed up for the weekend - yes, that's right!) and to head up to Direction Records and buy an LP I'd been coveting for weeks. It might have been Carole King's Tapestry, or the latest Steely Dan or Jefferson Airplane. Then to come home and put it on the turntable and listen ,listen, listen was more than fabulous.
I also told her that some of my LPs hold special memories. My Mom and I loved jazz and blues. We'd listen to records for hours and I still have those same records in my collection. Playing them brings back such memories of Mom saying, 'Put on some music!' because we always had tunes playing in the background, whether we were cooking dinner or hanging out on the deck with a gin and tonic, and listening to music was something we enjoyed together. I miss those times and putting one of our favourites on the turntable brings them back, albeit tinged with a sad nostalgia as I miss her every day.
And now Ball brings back memories of a fabulous, fun day in Tacoma with Paul and Ed, enjoying a warm, fine summer day together, on the hunt for treasures to add to our collections. Wonderful day, great fun, thank you Ed and Paul.
I should have known things were going belly-up yesterday when we sat in the movie theatre for 30 minutes, waiting out a 'technical' difficulty ...
Saturday morning, 1130am session at a small, boutique Auckland cinema, excited about seeing 'Hunt for the WIlderpeople' , there we sat, and sat, and sat ... pictures but no sound. My cinema companion was recovering from a head cold and associated hearing loss and she whispered to me, 'There's no sound. right?'
No sound. Silent movie.
It's extraordinary how a group of people can all sit there for fifteen minutes (me included), happily watching trailers, ads and movie with no sound, and nobody says or does anything. Human nature. Finally my companion said, 'I've paid good money to actually hear this movie. I'm going to go and see what is happening.'
She rousted out a theatre representative who said, 'Give us ten minutes' ... then, 'Give us ten minutes more' ... then, 'Sorry we cannot fix the problem, see us for a refund'. Many of the elderly people in the theatre then said 'What? We can't hear you!' but we heard and scuttled out fast to get our money back.
When plans change unexpectedly, it's always interesting to see what eventuates. It's not always good.
We decided to go for a walk at Westhaven Marina, braving wind and rain to peruse the new boardwalk. The walkway was very nice but the weather was not. I spied a bar up ahead in the mist and said, 'Say, let's duck in there for a minute' which we did for a refreshing pilsner and fish and chips. Very warming and nice.
Then we decided to try our luck at another cinema to see the same movie. Hopped into the car, only to find a front tyre going flat. 'Call the AA Roadside Rescue!' said my friend and the AA man arrived within five minutes which was fabulous.
After all of that, we needed another beer so scampered into a tavern only to find half of Auckland had the same idea. We took one look, used the bathroom, and called it a day.
"We came, we peed, we ran," said my friend. I was home by 5pm.
I don't often sit outside first thing in the morning in May at my place. It's usually too chilly.
With the onset of winter, the sun's daily trajectory lowers and the trees around my property block the warmth and light. Sitting out on the deck first thing can be cold and drippy as condensation patters down from the Clearlite roofing.
But this morning, what a treat, sitting down out there with coffee, toast and a cushion, to enjoy the morning scene. Little Boy cat was already settled in his chair, watching a very large wood pigeon enjoy a drink from the bird bath, while a small mama blackbird gazed up at this very large and colourful visitor from the grass below, no doubt wondering at the size of this guy (his weight tipped the birdbath bowl).
Out on the Gulf, not a ripple on the water, nor a breath of wind. No clouds, just a milky haze that seems to wisp and smudge around the top of Rangitoto Island. A couple of white sails as boats drift along and a paddle boarder down in the bay, coasting on a surface as smooth as bottle-blue green glass.
The neighbourhood quiet apart from the chickens down the road, squawking and enjoying their breakfast. Smell of wet grass, and the dense, salty seaweedy depth of sea-scent.
Sound of sparrows chirping and the trees twitching as tiny green-tinted birds with little yellow eyes flit from branch to branch.
Ah yes. a nice way to start the day and a treat to be outside without being chilled or dripped on. It's nice to take time to look up and look down.
You've heard about it.
People will say, 'I did the silliest thing. I was putting something into the back seat, set my mobile phone and keys on top of the car, hopped in, drove off and forgot all about them.' And of course you go, 'Oh goodness, that's awful!' and inside your head, you think, 'That's the dumbest thing - I'd never do that.'
I had firewood delivered this week. Whilst stacking it in the garage, I put my red sweatshirt, my cheque book wallet, my phone, and my car keys on top of the other car parked in the garage.
Driver of the other car backed out and drove off down the road en route to Warkworth. About half an hour later, I comprehended the magnitude of my misfortune.
I walked up and down our street. No sign of the items. I realised then that the cheque book wallet also had a couple of credit cards in there. Could things get any worse.
I could say to you now, 'Tune in next week to find out what happened to Jane's phone, car keys, cheque book and red sweatshirt!!' - shall I?
No, I shan't keep you in suspense. Two wonderful neighbours found everything, a scattered trail of very interesting items down our street. The mobile and keys made it all the way to the hill, clinging for dear life to the roof of the car until gravity and inertia tumbled them into a leafy gutter.
So. The moral of this story is do not ever, for any reason, put things on top of your car and also do not think badly of those that do and confess it to you.
Also - the unexpected is what makes for a good story. I could think of all kinds of plots that could come from that single absent-minded action ... mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, international spy pot boiler ...
As it happened though, I am happy for my story to end with a heart felt thank you to my neighbours for their honesty and kindness. Indeed the 'kindness of strangers' is something I have been quietly thankful for this week.
The phone and the keys did however enjoy their exciting trip.
When I tell people I am writing stories about past winners of the Golden Pliers, there is usually a look of 'what's that?' on their faces.
Last year I received a phone call from a man who asked if I would write a series of short stories about the past winners of the Golden Pliers. My response was exactly the same. 'What's that?' I asked and he went on to explain that it is a fencing competition.
Once again my mind went to swords and people in white outfits prancing about and then I wondered why they would receive a pair of golden pliers if they won?
Then he mentioned Fieldays at Mystery Creek and I knew about that, the fabulous agricultural show that attracts thousands of visitors each year. He said every year competitors gather to see who can build the best fence - meaning a farm fence - and the winner receives the coveted Golden Pliers award. The competition is prestigious, well organised and judged with precision and great care.
One thing led to another and now we are nearing the end of the writing/editing/proofing and the book will soon be at the printer's.
The man who called me last year was none other than Nick Liefting. That's him in the photo with some of his fencing gear. Listing his Fieldays records reads like the Academy Awards of fencing in New Zealand: longest ever competitor (40 years) year on year, 36 singles finals (28 years were first off the lines in both qualifying heats and finals), the longest margin of 1.5 hours after the second man off, the fastest ever heats time of one hour 8 minutes, the slimmest margin in time and points in a final (one fifth of a point) and finally, in his last year of competition in 2015 he was the first ever 60 year old in the final. He has won the Pliers twice.
The book has been a real labour of love for Nick. He traveled all around the country, and to Australia, to interview the past winners. He has organised photos, additional material, and me (no mean feat!) and it's all coming together. Anyone who has self published will know it is a huge process, especially for a book like this which will have photos and stories together.
It's been a real privilege for me to work with Nick and to learn more about the men who have won this competition. The final is a gruelling 5-6 hours of intense physical and mental work. As someone said in one of the stories, the finalists have 'left their pound of flesh out there' and the adulation and reward is well deserved.
The book will be launched at this year's Fieldays in June. I've never been to Fieldays and I have to say, I am looking forward to going. I shall be paying particular attention to the National Fencing Competition because now, what I don't know about fences and the men who make them, just isn't worth knowing.