I was working in the keep the other morning when I turned in my chair and saw a large grey shape in the doorway and thought, [EXPLETIVES], that is one big [EXPLETIVES] rat!
Then it lopped away at my big girly gasp which roused The Dog and The Puppy, and after some running and hopping and hiding, the interloper was captured alive.
We’re not sure how the rabbit got into the fortress. Presuming it gained entry through the cat flap by the dining hall, it made it past our presumably sleeping guard hounds (their performance against their KPIs will be noted accordingly) to reach the keep which is at the opposite end of the building. I suspect The Kitten brought it in for some playtime but the rabbit is unmarked.
Anyhoo, we have a rabbit in Fortress Mamea. And it’s a cutie.
You’ve already been introduced to our resident rooster, Ghost Dog. He does a pretty good job of looking after his girls: he points out food that he finds (whereupon he’s winged aside by his female companions), and now that we’re out in the country, he keeps an eye out for trouble.
There was something familiar about him and his harem that nagged at the back of my brain for some time.
And then I flashed on this:
Back in the Big Smoke, The Dog and I had a basic three-mile running route that I called, with writerly flair, the fleur-de-lis.
(I’ve just remembered I usually referred to it as the cloverleaf route but fleur-de-lis has a certain ring, yes?)
The first iteration of Fortress Mamea being in suburbia, the route followed roads and was all asphalt, so the dog ran on a lead. (We had another couple of routes, five and seven miles respectively, in the Waitakere Ranges where she could run off-lead.) The routes and distances were fixed, and for over a decade we ran those three, five and seven mile distances together.
The current Fortress Mamea is on a piece of land large enough to allow the dog — and The Puppy, now — to run off-lead without worrying about automobiles or newly-relocated townies who think all dogs should be on leads with muzzles. After a few months of getting to know the property, we have a running route that I have dubbed the corazón.
The corazón runs through two wooded areas (The Wood and The Copse) that are separated by paddocks, meadows, and the fortress itself. The running surface includes long grass (that can obscure uneven terrain), half-hidden tree roots (that can still catch a foot or toe), and loose sticks (that can stick, stab or trip you up). The wooded areas are pretty cool to run through (they make me flash on the opening minutes of Silence of the Lambs) — check it:
At first, The Dog ran the full route with The Puppy and I.
Lately, she has taken to running more efficiently:
For me, my fitness regime of, in effect, running around in circles, is more of a journey-rather-than-the-destination kind of thing.
For her, it’s a social thing: she still gets to run (mostly) (kind of) with the pack. Since she has twelve years and several thousand kilometres under her collar, I think she’s entitled to conserve her energy for other pursuits.
I’m nowhere near approaching the crossfitness heights of a certain Mr Tripuraneni but I’m doing okay, if I don’t mind saying so myself.
I logged a far-too-modest 45 weight-training sessions this year which is obviously less-than-once-a-week (and my belt notches certainly show this). I’m trying to console myself with the thought that it could have been worse (previous years have logged paltry single digits).
As for the running, thanks to a (personally) epic 12 kilometre run earlier today, I’ve managed to clock just over 300 kilometres in 2015, though this was only achieved on an average of one run per week.
I wouldn’t say 2015 has been busy; it’s been more… eventful. I turned a year older and my appetite — once a shameless point of pride — has shrunken to bird-like European dimensions. Maybe I’ve reached the point where my exercise goal of shooting for the moon and glorying in my pain tolerance should be moderated to shooting for the moon and being grateful I can still shoot for the moon.
First, my apologies for the cliffhangers — in case you were wondering:
- the buggered burner: Dave the Chimney Sweep rebuilt the burner and re-installed it a fortnight later. The time we were without heating was survived with little incident and few cross words, thanks to an oil column heater in the smallest room, and a steady supply of hot water bottles.
- the blown B1: this, too, needed a stint in a workshop, but The Boys from McQuinn’s were terribly helpful with a loan pump to keep the water flowing, and generous with their patience and knowledge (like I said, the people up this way are helpful and friendly).
- the correspondence of D F Mamea, Esquire, newly of Northland: those situation reports are of much interest to myself and The Goddess but I bet they are of little interest to you, Beloved Reader — you’re here because I’m (supposed to be) all about the scriptwriting, and the last few posts, as entertaining as they may be, haven’t really been about that; I thank you for your forbearance.
Having said all that about the relevance of our new digs to writing…
The previous inhabitants had let the property go to seed in various areas (q.v. burner and B1), the most visible sign being the establishment of Jerusalem cherry through The Wood and in the Green Zone. Although its green, orange and red fruit provide a splash of colour, its fruit is rather poisonous.
So, most days since we took possession of this land, I’ve been pulling that weed out by hand (Fortress Mamea is organic, thank you). It’s a simple enough job, mindless and repetitive (and immediately gratifying) but because a considerable part of the property is under this weed, it’s also an awfully immense task.
The only way to handle the size of the task at hand has been to a). prioritise the workload, and/or b). do it a bit at a time. Since the weed is fruiting right now, the priority is to pull out whatever’s fruiting because each of those fruit contain at least a dozen seeds, and any one plant can have as much several dozen fruit on them. Sometimes that gets boring — or overwhelming — so I stake out a little 5 by 5 metre area and pull out all of the Jerusalem cherry, and afterwards stand back and feel a little bit like General Sherman.
Which is a typically long-winded way of saying… I’ve started writing again.
The move to Northland, and the work required to tidy up the property and its surrounds for clear fields of fire, have consumed much more of my mind and energy than I expected. The blog posts — as you can tell — have been more about the new circumstances rather than trying to see the writing angle in things.
But I’ve started writing again. Which meant I had to dig out my notes and files to try and remember where I’m at with various projects. Some projects are so large and/or complex that I’ve had to prioritise my method of reacquaintanceship, or nibble at the edges to make sense of a small part of it. It feels a little overwhelming — a bit like a patient coming out of a coma and trying to come to terms with the time lost — but it’s manageable. I can prioritise. Or I can start small.
Just like with the damned Jerusalem cherry.
Relocating Fortress Mamea to a rural location means a little bit of doing without. Cellphone reception is spotty — upon departing the property, cellphones tend to trill with backlogged txts and messages. Our nearest neighbour is over a hundred yards away (in Auckland, our neighbour’s garage was five yards away). And our water comes from… a water tank on the property.
Yep, when it comes to water, we’re off the grid. Rain water is collected and stored in a large concrete tank, with the idea of collecting it over a wet Northland winter, and stretching it out over the drier months. Long, hot showers are being enjoyed while it’s raining outside; come summer, navy showers will be de rigeur. Water closet discipline is observed as a matter of course.
Between the living quarters and the water tank is a pump that, y’know, gets water from the tank to the tap or shower head.
I don’t know if I’ve owned up to this before but The Goddess wears the pants in our relationship: She’s DIY, green-thumbed, and an all-round nurturer; for my part, I require supervision when using power tools, am the destroyer of all pre-approved greenery, and love to be nurtured. So when the property was acquired and its various rural peculiarities noted, one of my fears was having something essential and mechanical break down.
Something like the water pump, which stopped working on the first month anniversary of moving in.
THE GODDESS stands over the reticent B1 PUMP, a wrench in hand.
... Oh dear.
Our WRITER, standing nearby, makes an involuntary noise, not unlike a whimper.
THE GODDESS (CONT’D)
Do you want to move back to Auckland?
This is just a... first act obstacle in an Alistair Maclean book.
That’s my boy.
Who you calling ‘boy’?
Would you believe that I’ve moved to a town that I first visited* only several months earlier? It feels like The Goddess‘ Five Year plan pulled a sack over my head and WHOA, here I am in Northland**.
It’s nice and green and open up here. The
town city is small without being tiny or compact, it’s to be home to a Hundterwasser Museum, and the overall vibe is of 1970s New Zild — unhurried and she’ll-be-right.
It also seems to have a bit of a rep. I was puzzled and a little concerned by people’s reactions to the announcement of our northward move. “How safe is it?” asked a favoured relation, which I misunderstood to mean the health and safety hazards inherent in a rural property. “Better have eyes in the back of your head,” a colleague emailed, with a link to a recent sudden and violent death in the district. And then there was the Mamea family reaction:
We’re moving to Whangarei, Mother.
... Whangarei is full of Maoris, son.
You do know that more than half of your grandchildren are part Maori?
Yes, and every day I forgive their parents.
I think we’re as safe here as we would be anywhere else in the world — safer, even, with our natural barriers. The natives are friendly — more than they’ve a right to be since we’re part of a wave of former Auckland residents increasing house and land prices — and there’s no sense of being judged on appearance.
I like how fellow road users use the two-second rule, obey the amber light, and merge like a zip. I like how, in shops and businesses, people are sincere with their howdedo’s, and they sound genuinely sorry for not stocking an item you’re after. I like how winter in Whangarei town looks like a rugged outdoor clothing convention, where mud-encrusted gumboots or jandals complete people’s ensembles.
There’s something about our new town that I can’t quite pin down. It’s friendly but not overbearingly so. It’s rural but not isolated. And there’s a shooting range five kilometres down the road (and ’round the corner, even!) from Fortress Mamea, a far, far cry from Auckland where the ‘local’ range was 50 kilometres away.
Why, yessir, I could get to like this place.
* Driving through en route to Cape Reinga or Kerikeri doesn’t count.
** Some dramatic licence there, obviously.
From the correspondence of D F Mamea, Esquire, newly of Northland.
Dearest Lovely Wife
Dave the Chimney Sweep arrived and went to put a temporary fix on the burner when he straightened and looked at me: Sorry, mate, he said, but it’s so buggered it’s unsafe to use.
He has thus uplifted the wood burner and most of the flue to rebuild in his workshop, and The Boy and I are now without heating.
I’ve told The Boy an old flatting trick of wearing as much of your wardrobe as you can to keep warm. (I refrained from telling him the other old flatting trick of heating the house by turning on all the hobs on your stovetop and turning the oven on high and leaving the ovendoor open.) We shall rearrange living and sleeping arrangements: he shall move his sleeping gear into one of the bedrooms (he’s been enjoying sleeping in the expanse of the great hall which is furnished with only two easy chairs and a most-kindly-lent 40-inch flat screen); I shall move my sleeping gear into the study; and the remaining bedroom shall become the new and temporary lounge with the easy chairs and flat screen. We’ll downsize our living spaces to maximise heat retention.
It’ll be fun. For the first week.