Surrender to the Sea


I’ve just come back from four days down at Waihi beach, where the family has had an old bach for 50 yrs or so. It is on the East coast of the North Island, in a region aptly named the Bay of Plenty. I have walked the long stretch of these sands, with my feet in the sea, contemplating life for decades – it’s the one place I return to when I am needing space, and to get away and think for a while.

I find it remarkable how refreshing it is to just sit or walk, gazing out to sea, with that rhythm of waves reminding me of the endless progression of time, and a hint of eternity in the distant edge of ocean and sky. It seems never to change, whereas I am very different to the teenager who strolled along in the shoreline airing my hopes and dreams. I’m less self-absorbed than I was then, so do not send a lament out across the surf laden with weighty pleas. These days I’m content to let it all wash over me – reflecting on what a rich life I am enjoying, and what a pleasure it is to be immersed for a while in this huge splendour.

Of course, there are the occasional treats away from the sea:

A cycle down to the shops and cafes, where I sometimes meet with a friend. But these are but moments in a long stretch of simply basking in the joy of a uncluttered day spent mostly reading, sometimes eating, often swimming, and finally sleeping. My photos from last week tell it all:

A Weighty Subject

Cast your eyes across the photos of the fluctuating shapes I’ve inhabited in the last few decades

I wanted to write a post about ‘being fat’, but as I sit down to gather my thoughts, it is apparent to me that it can’t just be about that. For one thing, I’m feeling annoyed with my own poor body, for daring to respond to my habits and lifestyle in a natural and genetically pre-disposed way. And for another, in the big scheme of things, being overweight is hardly something to grumble about, compared to the very real health and disability issues that many are subject to. I brought it largely (ha!) on myself. And it rests upon me to remedy it, or resign myself to it. Certainly I don’t want to continue to whine about it.

Let me just say – in my own defence – that I am an apple-shaped person, who loves food and cooking, with a passion for life, and a desire to sample all of it. Sadly, my passions have run more into the creative and imaginary – so if I’m not making something, I’m watching or reading it. I was never an athlete, I abhor running, I despise the gym. My childhood nightmares all involved being the last one in a pack of runners when the shark/lion/wolf reaches for my flailing legs. For this reason alone, I hope you know what an effort of will it is to be attempting, for the second year running, My Peak Challenge (Sam Heughan’s fitness and donation package).

Up until my fifties, I could apply that same effort to my burgeoning figure, and find it responded well. As the photos attest, I have been successful at compressing and expanding this sturdy body over decades of indulgence.

But alas, the day has come when that same effort no longer pays off.


If you, dear reader, are one of the Slender, then feel free to leave this post (casting a sympathetic eye back at me), and await something more interesting. Right now, I’m basking in some well-deserved self-pity, but it will be fleeting.

For the first time in my life – only yesterday – I was unable to join the group who were to go swimming at Piha. It was a balmy humid day, the waves were just right, the water was warm, and I would have been in it, were it not for the sad fact that my togs (bathing costume) no longer fitted me. Yes, I tried wrenching them on just before departure, and I felt like a sausage, when you wrap your fist around it and squeeze. Parts of me reformed to bulge out in other places.

This was all most annoying, and I spent the long drive out to the beach bemoaning my fate, and accusing my body of treachery most foul. I would eat only lettuce from now on! In fact, I would not eat at all! See how you like that!! I blame AGE, I blame Fatty Liver, I blame my genes, I blame . . . I blame. . .

Instead, I drove today to the local mall to use funds I don’t have, to buy a new swimsuit. In a larger size! The mirrors in the changing room were NOT kind.

I hear you saying, “Why are you so bothered? A little fat here and there is nothing – you look fine!” (What, you’re NOT saying that? Why not?!!!)

Actually, it’s not fine when the extra weight is making my flexibility and fitness suffer, and giving rise to health issues that can only curtail my future plans if they aren’t dealt with. And there is diabetes in my family, which I would rather not get. I have learned that having fatty liver slows the process of weight loss down considerably, and although it is satisfying to know that might be part of the problem, I am not satisfied to give up now. I fear that the weight I lose this year, I will put on and more next year, but if I’ve learned one big lesson in Life, it is that FAILURE is something to accept, but you must keep trying and learning and attempting again and again. There’s nothing wrong with failing as long as you get up and give it another shot. There’s always more information, new breakthroughs, and above all, a body that will forgive and adjust if you give it enough reason to.

So, I’m writing this post partly to ‘bare all’ but mostly to record my own resolution to 1) lower portion size in what I eat, 2) reduce or cut out sugar from my diet, 3) have more vegetables or fruit and 4) less grains or bread. At the same time, I have actually been walking first thing in the morning for long enough now that it has become a habit I miss if I don’t. I intend to continue to walk and cycle, which I love to do, and will record my daily progress with @PeakPirates and @MyPeakChallenge. And most importantly of all, I am going to stop ranting at myself, calling myself names, and feeling miserable. That is the very thing likely to provoke me into a decision to give up altogether and let it all go, and I have TOO MUCH TO LIVE FOR to let that happen.

Now’s the time to extend a virtual group hug with all those of you for whom losing weight and increasing fitness is a very real challenge. HUG. My heart goes out to you. Feel free to make up your own reachable goal and share your progress with us at PeakPirates.

Me clowning




Timelines and Narratives

Okay, I’m the kind of gal who LOVES stories. The minute the words, “Once upon a time. . .” are heard, I’m pretty hooked. This has been true ever since we four siblings spent evenings on the parent’s bed, listening to stories my Mum read to us.

Now we are facing another year, and my thoughts always turn to what it might bring. I’m presently engaged in going through a long history of family memories, photos, letters and making the hard decisions about what goes and what stays. Having lately come into some story-writing myself, with the publishing of my first book (‘Following Claire’) – I find the bags of letters that were written between my mother and her many relatives and family back in Australia interesting. Mayhap I should consider reading them and piecing the story together? If only for the sake of the ones in our family for whom the story will otherwise be lost.

I look at the photo montage I put together a while ago, of the women in the family going back some generations, and wonder what those early lasses experienced and what they were like. Who else has studied the crags and furrows in ancestral faces and tried to read ‘between the lines’ so to speak? SixGenerationFemalesJenny

I’d LOVE to know, but few ever write their story down. Like us, they don’t see it as extraordinary, and so it is only ever hinted at in letters. Well, we’ll see if this year it becomes a firm project of mine. Much depends upon whether I get the work I’m hoping to, which will allow me some time to pursue some other creative possibilities.

And speaking of narratives, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying piecing this fun ‘Gabeaux Tapestry’ together of the Outlander book. Using the Bayeux Tapestry as a foundation, it’s quite a nice way of telling the story – without words. Where would we have been without that amazing long stretch of embroidered work?

I’ll finish this post with the strips of story – it is just a start, but has great potential, yes?






Saturday Stuff

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 22.15.14

Today I finally got around to putting my ‘Peak Challenge’ up for all to see. It’ll keep me on track if I pin it to my corkboard, and hopefully be something I can actually achieve. Last year the Challenge helped me lose weight and get into great fitness for the trip over to Scotland, and then of course, I ate my way around the Highlands, mostly driving. Had a great time, of course, but now I face needing to get back to what I was then in terms of health. So far so good. The early morning walks in the week days are fairly easy to maintain because the summer here has been pretty good. The weather this weekend was meant to be rainy, but by lunchtime had cleared and was a gorgeous scorcher of a day, so I took my bike and headed off in support of item 5. on the list above.

Naturally, at the end of the cycleway there is a cafe, and naturally, I checked it out. All my lengthy cycle trips are made more thrilling by a stop over somewhere, but I am happy to say, this one did not involve a food item which was sugar/fat (See item 2 above).

The rest of the day has been spent reading, and helping my flatmate to paint his front porch railing. T’was a fiddly job involving painting between curlycues and spotting white dots on my pants and hands. Still, future photos from that porch will look much better.

Catch a glimpse of my cycle along the newly finished path beside the motorway here. You might catch the black-backed gulls from one of my earlier posts.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 22.26.08


A trip to the country

A few months ago I had a significant birthday, hosted for me by some wonderful old friends of mine at their country home, south of the Bombay Hill, below Auckland. The two photos on the right are their home and the extensive rolling hills of their property. The photo on the left is me, yesterday, enjoying the warmer temperatures and feeding the hens. Two eggs were laid. Deep happy sigh.

It is so refreshing to get away from my little corner of the city, where so much noise and activity abounds, and stretch my legs and lungs out in the clear country air. I just love it. I have known my friend, B, since we met on the first day of teacher’s college at the age of 18, and we’ve been fast friends since. She and her husband are keen steam enthusiasts, and had a working steam traction engine for many years that he enjoyed tinkering with.

We talked and talked – B and I – on the usual meandering range of subjects. She recently had a knee replacement (a few weeks ago) and is walking around on it now. The afternoon evening was awash in light, with sparkling wine, cheese, crackers outside, a fine pork belly and vegetables, followed by a viewing for the first time (for them) of the fabulous little indie Australian movie ‘Red Dog’. Oh, I forgot to mention the delicious stewed plumcots that B made from the produce of her own tree. (A combination of a plum and an apricot – yum). I stowed into my bag upon leaving a home-made bottle of Kahlua, and another of Baileys.

I loved hearing NOTHING during the night, and seeing no light through my windows, until the first scruffling sounds of the chickens and a distant kettle going on. B and I headed to a cafe a wee distance away – yes, even in the country – and yacked our way through cake and coffee until close to lunchtime. Then I came home. SUCH a good time!

Looking back . . . and forward


Isn’t this the cutest early Mickey teaset?! It’s my mother’s – probably her chubby baby Australian fingers clasped that delicate handle and sipped from the cup. I’m now going through all of this kind of memorabilia, having moved my mother into a resthome before Christmas, and needing to clear out her previous apartment. It’s an – odd – time of the year to be doing just this. Perfect, I suppose, in that it is always a time of reflection on the previous year/s for me, and a looking forward to see what the coming year might hold.

In amongst her things are wonderful items that slow me down and make the process of clearing out so much harder:

Like the family bible, inscribed with the name of my great grandfather, Donald Urquhart (the Scottish connection). And the various badges and jewellery that all must have a story. The bronze plaque commemorating the great uncle I know died in WWI. I’m a sentimental lass, so although I have no room myself, and no children to pass these things on to, it’s very hard to part with them. Sigh. Do you feel my pain?

I guess we’ll store it all a bit longer, and let someone younger make the hard decisions. By then, the memory of the persons to whom these things belonged, will have faded.

Meanwhile, I come home and consider the coming year with some earnest hopes at the forefront. The biggest one for me, right now, is work. Although 2015 was a magnificent year as far as experiences, memories, travel, connections, creative endeavours go – but monetary-wise, it was not. So I’m scraping the bottom of the financial barrel and hoping that the possibility of a job I’d love that will be advertised in a few weeks, becomes mine in reality. I’m also picking up the pace with my exercise and diet again, along with Sam Heughan’s Peak Challenge. It was fun being encouraged by others and feeling part of a team to achieve some personal goals of fitness and health last year. Going to do it again in a few days. Check out @PeakPirates if you want to come too. (Or search for the Facebook page under that name).

Onward and upward!