Vague catch-up

I know, I know, I’ve been so slack lately about updating my diary. And I can’t even remember all that I haven’t written about lately…

I would have written up the trip to Dunedin, which was great fun, but I was waiting for lytteltonwitch to email me the photos she took of our Harry Potter costumes (hint, hint!) to illustrate the story (and illustrations really are essential!)

Anyway, in the meantime, a general report on life: Um… life is good, mostly. I managed to get away with neither a root canal or an extraction when I went back to the dentist, although by the time he’d found another old filling that needed repairing, and then insisted on a session with the hygenist, the bill had still grown to scary amounts. Oh well, at least I got a free toothbrush out of it… hmm, $350 for a free toothbrush… somehow it doesn’t sound such a good deal when I say it that way!

MrPloppy‘s business is going well. We’ve been dropping circulars in mailboxes around the surrounding streets, and they’re actually working, because he’s had a couple of customers from them. And once he starts getting customers that way, word of mouth should bring in even more. At this rate, he’ll have paid for all the business start-up costs soon, and then he can start paying himself a wage, which will help our finances enormously!

Breakfast meetup yesterday, at Trattorie. Just a small meetup, because the awhinas were at some meerkitten thing, and presumably the gwilks, who’d mentioned they might come, hadn’t woken up early enough. But me, lytteltonwitch, and Angela7715 were there, and had a nice (if slightly cold) breakfast, and exchanged a few books (and travel tips for the witch). I picked up Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult and Ladies’ Man by John Ramster, and gave One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey to Angela. There were no takers for Vast by Linda Nagata (possibly something to do with the not-so-glowing review I gave it), so it went into the OBCZ shelves instead.

Currently reading: The Cat Who Sang for the Birds by Lilian Jackson Braun and How Children Learn Language by William O’Grady
Currently listening to: Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Learner Report

I had my second lesson with my new ESOL learner tonight, and it’s going really well. She’s an Afghan refugee, who only arrived in New Zealand in March, and who speaks very little English, and is pre-literate, never having been to school. So we’re starting pretty much right at the beginning, with the basic language you need for survival: going shopping or to the doctors, filling out name and address details on forms, using the telephone.

As well as covering the practical stuff, we spend some time just chatting. We’re limited of course in how in depth the conversation can be, given her limited ability in English, but we still manage to communicate well enough. We’re almost exactly the same age, but our lives have been incredibly different. She’s fascinated by the fact that H and I don’t have any children – she has 3 children, the oldest 21, and the youngest 13 (makes me feel old!) And when I told her that H is the one who stays home and does the cooking and cleaning, she was amazed! πŸ™‚

The family spent years in a refugee camp in India after they left Afghanistan, so she’s had a pretty tough life. I visited one of the long-term refugee camps when I was in India, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of the conditions they were living in – just another reminder of how totally different our lives have been.


I think teeth are the best argument there is against creationism. I mean, what sort of creator would come up with a design for a chewing implement that’s got a totally unnecessary nerve running through the middle of it and is so prone to damage. Stumps of hard dead material would do the job just as well, and not hurt so much whenever they got a silly little hole in them. Or maybe it’s just an argument for a particularly sadistic (or just incredibly stupid) creator…

Anyway, my tooth DOESN’T have a hole in it. The dentist (not my usual one, because he wasn’t there, so I had to explain all over again about the whole gagging thing, and that poking too many things near the back of my mouth would have the potential to make me throw up over him) took x-rays and checked my tooth, and said the filling looks fine.

The bad news, though (or possibly good news, depending on how you look at it), is that the filling is raised a bit too high above the surface of my tooth, so I’ve been putting too much pressure on it when I bite down (I’ve always said that it felt a bit “wrong” but couldn’t put my finger on what it was), and as a result of that constant irritation, the nerve has probably died – the extreme pain over the weekend was probably its death throes. If that’s the case (and this is where the good news comes in), then the pain will continue to ease off over the next few days, and the tooth will be fine as it is.

However, if the nerve hasn’t died, and there’s actually some sort of serious infection going on, then he’ll have to do something more about it – and the dreaded words “root canal” (and even more dreaded words “about $1000”) were used about then. Or I can just have it pulled out. Neither of those is a particularly pleasant thought.

Anyway, he’s filed down the tooth a bit, given me antibiotics to take, and I’ve got to go back in a week for him to have another look at it so he can give me his verdict. Lots of dead tooth vibes, please!

Shiny computer!

I’m writing this not at the normal boring desktop in the cold study, but on a nice shiny new laptop sitting on a comfy chair in the nice warm lounge (well, it would be nice and warm if we’d got the fire going yet, but theoretically it’s warmer than the study). And the reason for this sudden luxury? MrPloppy bought himself a laptop today!

He’s been talking about getting one for his business for a while, but was waiting to see if he got the business start-up grant he’s applied for. But then he mentioned the other day to his father that he was thinking about a laptop, and his father, in his usual way, said he’d buy one for him. So he sent him the money last week, and this afternoon we went into Riccarton just to have a look at the laptops and look at what was available, not at all intending to buy one, but then we saw one that had all the features MrPloppy wanted, for a really good price, so before we knew it we were walking out of the shop the proud owners of a shiny new computer!

Of course, it’s only going to be used for business, and not for anything so trivial as me writing my diary or playing games or anything like that… yeah right πŸ˜‰

So, now that I can sit in comfort and write, I’ve got no excuse for not catching up with all the entries I’ve been meaning to write for ages but haven’t had time or inclination to do. So, where do I start? I can’t remember where I got up to last time I wrote (and we haven’t set up the laptop to connect to the internet yet, so I can’t check – I’m writing this in notepad and will upload it later), so maybe I’ll just start with this weekend and work backwards…

Today has been pretty exciting overall, really. Apart from acquiring a laptop, we also acquired a car! No, we haven’t won Lotto, we got the car for free! A work colleague is moving overseas, and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of selling her car, so asked us if we’d like it (!!!!). It’s pretty old, but still goes fine, so of course we immediately agreed. Of course, neither of us has a licence, so at the moment it’s just sitting in the driveway looking decorative, but MrPloppy has his learner’s licence, and various people have offered him lessons, so hopefully he’ll be able to get his full licence reasonably quickly. I still don’t think we actually *need* a car, but it will be handy – especially for MrPloppy’s business.

We had our end of the month meetup this morning (yes, I know it’s now the first, so it’s strictly the beginning of the month, but yesterday was the end of June, so it’s close enough). Just me, lytteltonwitch, and keenreda, but we had a nice breakfast (despite me somehow managing to leave my wallet at home – I was sure I’d picked it up as I was leaving, but obviously didn’t. Luckily Lytteltonwitch came to my rescue and paid for my breakfast!) at Trattorie, and browsed the OCZ (I picked up The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which I think I may have picked up and put back down at a previous meetup, but for some reason appealed to me more today).

Yesterday was spent curled up in a corner with a hot wheat bag pressed to my face. Sometime last year I got a filling in one of my teeth, and I’ve always suspected the dentist had left a tiny hole or something, because it never felt quite right, and was always more sensitive than any of my other fillings. Well it looks like I was right, because on Friday it started to hurt, and by Friday night I was in serious pain – so much so that I hardly slept all night. Obviously whatever hole the dentist left has enlarged itself enough that some sort of infection got in. A combination of vast quantities of painkillers and application of the wheat bag eased it a bit, and it’s a lot better today – just a nagging ache instead of extreme pain – but I think I’ll be ringing the dentist tomorrow!

Friday, apart from being the beginning of my toothache, was also my birthday. For the first time in years I had to actually work on my birthday (I normally take the day off, but there was an important meeting I had to be at so I couldn’t), but I took cake in to the office for morning tea, so it wasn’t too bad a day πŸ™‚ And in the evening MrPloppy and I went to Flying Burrito Brothers for dinner with Lytteltonwitch, awhina and MrAwhina, so my birthday did get celebrated in style (even if we weren’t that impressed with their seating policy – first of all they wouldn’t let me book a table, because they don’t take bookings on Friday nights except for large groups, and then when we got to the restaurant, they wouldn’t seat us until everyone had arrived – I think it was just a ploy to make us buy lots of drinks at the bar, because when we just hung around the front of the restaurant instead of going to the bar as the waiter suggested, he suddenly managed to find us a table even though the Awhinas hadn’t turned up yet… Oh well, at least the food was good πŸ™‚ (Mmmm, chicken enchilladas with chocolate mole sauce!)

My birthday presents were suitably cat-themed (I’m definitely turning into a crazy cat lady in my old age ;-)) – I got a scarf from the Awhinas, knitted in a pattern called “cat’s paw”, a set of handtowels with cats on from Lytteltonwitch, and a cat-patterned apron from MrPloppy’s brother and sister-in-law (who, even though we’ve said hundreds of times we don’t want to do presents, because the postage usually costs more than the present, still insist on sending us something – very sweet of them, but always makes me feel guilty that we never send them anything). I’d told MrPloppy he wasn’t to get me anything big, seeing as we’ve had a few big expenses lately (and seeing as I had an early birthday present the other day when I bought myself the Seasons expansion pack for The Sims 2 as a post-exam toy), so he just got me a new copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, because I’ve been wanting to re-read all the books before the last one comes out, and somehow we never managed to get a copy of the first one (I think I must have got it out of the library or read it on a bookring or something, because I’ve definitely read it before, possibly several times, but I can’t find a copy anywhere in the house). But being MrPloppy, as soon as he gave it to me he decided that wasn’t a big enough present, so insisted that he had to get me something else. So while we were in Riccarton looking at laptops today we also looked at DVDs, and got series 6 of The Gilmore Girls. So not a bad haul, really πŸ™‚

I’m losing track now of what I have and haven’t written about, and exactly what happened when. I think I left the last entry somewhere in the middle of Wombles‘s visit, which means I haven’t written about my exam, or getting a new ESOL student. The exam went ok, considering I did so little study for it. It was on the Tuesday after Wombles was here, so I knew I wouldn’t be getting any study done over the weekend, so had taken Monday off work to cram. But then I had to go into town in the morning to go to the ESOL-HT offices to get a new tutor assigned. That didn’t take very long, so I came back home ready to hit the books, but about 5 minutes after I sat down the phone rang – my brother, saying they were in Christchurch on their way back to Blenheim from Alexandra, and could they drop in and say hi. I couldn’t exactly say no, and I did want to see them (because I missed them last time they were here), but by the time they left half the day was gone. So my cramming ended up being incredibly crammy, and not particularly in-depth. Oh well, I know I’ve passed the course anyway on the in-term work, so even if I didn’t get a brilliant mark in the exam all it will do is drop my GPA a bit. And it’s been good enough so far that I can afford one not-so-good mark.

I had my first lesson with my new ESOL student last week. I’ll write more fully about it in a friends-only entry, but I think this student is going to work out much better. We’ve actually managed to set a regular lesson time, and she hasn’t got such a busy schedule as the previous student, so hopefully won’t have to cancel lessons as often. It’s definitely making my life easier to have a regular timetable.

And that must take me back to the Wombles weekend. I think where I left off the story we were at Awhina’s place, with the kitten dropping dinner plates all over the place.

On the Sunday, we went to Willowbank so that Wombles could see a kiwi. I’d never been to Willowbank before, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. Really well laid out, and (apart from a few unecessary cages of primates), didn’t have much of a zoo feel to it. And the emphasis is mostly on native species and significant introduced species, not just random animals. The best bits were definitely the kiwi house (which had more kiwis than I’ve seen in any other zoo – although you wouldn’t have known that by the attitude of most of the people going through it – most of them came in, spent about 30 seconds looking for kiwis, then walked out again before their eyes would have even adjusted to the dark. We, on the other hand, spent a few minutes just letting our eyes adjust, then quietly wandered through the huge kiwi house, and were rewarded by seeing the kiwis that were all over the place and very active – one even came right up to the barrier and stuck its beak through to sniff us), and the eel pond, where you could hand-feed the eels – they had obviously learnt that tourists = food, because as soon as we stepped onto the feeding platform they swarmed around it, and some even slid up onto the platform! Lytteltonwitch reckoned that she was an eel whisperer, because when she waved her hand above them, they all lifted their heads up out of the water and swayed from side to side following the movement of her hand. I found the perfect book to release at Willowbank, too: The Wind in the Willows πŸ™‚

After Willowbank we stopped off at the university so Lyttletonwitch and Wombles could find a geocache, and so I could find a chestnut tree in which to leave The Chestnut Tree by Charlotte Bingham (and it got caught!). Then, on instructions from Skyring, we went up to the Sign of the Takahe for devonshire teas… except that they’ve updated their cafe, and don’t do devonshire teas any more. So we just had lunch instead πŸ™‚ And left a few books behind – I left Malice by Danielle Steel.

Then, as we were already halfway up the Port Hills, we continued up to do a few geocaches… well, more than a few, actually – we spent the whole afternoon climbing up and down hills looking for the silly things. We only stopped when it finally got so dark that even Lytteltonwitch had to admit that it was a bit stupid to be clambering around on steep hillsides (and nearly falling off them in my case – I stepped on a slippery tussock and ended up flat on my back – needless to say, the other two were so caught up in searching for the geocache that they didn’t even glance back to see if I was ok! ;-)). It was a fun day, though, and Wombles certainly got to see a lot of interesting places! On our way back down I left Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy in the shelter marking the top of the Bridle Path.

The weekend ended with fish and chips (or feesh and cheeps, or fush and chups, depending on who you listened to) at my place, and Lytteltonwitch falling asleep in front of the TV – well, it was a very busy and tiring couple of days!

Oops, just remembered I forgot to write about another exciting adventure – last Friday (I think? I’m totally losing track of the days here – a recent Friday, anyway), Lytteltonwitch and I went over to Lyttelton for the Festival of Lights. It turned out to be a really fun night, but probably not in the way the organisers intended, because we got most of our entertainment from laughing at how badly organised it all was. For a start, although they’d been promoting the festival by saying all the houses would be lit up with Christmas lights, actually only a handful of houses were. Then they still hadn’t finished setting up all the stalls and things at the time when the festivities were supposed to be starting, so there were trucks trying to maneouvre in and out among the crowds. And nobody had bothered to mark out the parade route, so the parade (which consisted of the local primary school wearing masks they’d all made – actually it was a really good effort for small children, but it was the first time I’ve ever seen a parade where most of the marchers were walking along holding their mums’ hands!) had to be led by a man asking people to move out the way. Bob Parker (local politician, and one-time TV celebrity) was supposed to be opening the festivities, but obviously hadn’t been briefed properly on what he was supposed to be doing or saying, which made for some awkward pauses. It really was the ultimate in small-town festivals – tonnes of enthusiasm, but absolutely no competence to go along with it. We couldn’t stop laughing all night.

The highlight was the fireworks. We were sitting in a cafe, having exhausted the entertainment possibilities of watching a really bad band or wandering up and down the row of stalls looking at the lavender bags and architectural plants (who on earth would go to a festival to buy architectural plants?), when there was a loud bang outside. We took that as the signal that the fireworks had started, so went outside to watch. And nothing. We waited and waited, and 5 minutes later there was another bang, and a single firework went up. Then another long pause, another single firework. By this time we were almost hysterical with laughter, imagining a lone person in charge of the fireworks carefully getting each one out of the box, setting it up, checking everything, and finally lighting it… or maybe they couldn’t afford many fireworks and wanted to stretch them out as long as possible… Actually, after a few more lone fireworks the full display started, and it was really good (apart from the wind blowing the sparks across the town so they were landing on our heads, and we had to run back under the awning of the cafe for shelter), but it was a weird way to start it.

We left after the fireworks ended, but the excitement wasn’t over. As we entered the tunnel, we saw a truck parked waiting to go in. Half way through the tunnel, we heard a huge bang behind us. We couldn’t see what happened, but our guess was that the truck must have hit the tunnel on the way in (there’s quite a tight corner as you go in). We were so curious about what happened that we ended up turning round at the other end of the tunnel and going back to Lyttelton again. But by that time the truck was gone, and there was no obvious sign of damage, so we never did find out what it was.

Oh, and then once we got back out to my place, we encountered a car driving along the wrong side of the road! They were pulling out of a parking space in front of the Waimairi shops and turned towards us, but instead of crossing to the other side of the road, they stayed on our side, and ended up passing us on the inside. Very scary, but somehow an appropriate ending to a weird evening!

I released a few books around the festival (Me, the Moon and Elvis Presley by Christopher Hope, Blott on the Landscape by Tom Sharpe, and Agnes Grey by Anne BrontΓ«) and managed to add my own note of weirdness to proceedings by handing a couple of books to random people πŸ™‚ (The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot)

And one more bit of news. Remember MrPloppy blowing up the computer the other day? Luckily, it was still under warranty, so we got it repaired for free. And even better than that, because he’d not only blown up the power supply but also burnt out the motherboard and graphics card, they all had to be replaced. And because they didn’t have our models of motherboard and graphics card in stock, they had to give us different models, which just happened to be quite a major upgrade from the ones we had. So effectively we got a whole new computer out of it, and a better one than we started with! MrPloppy should blow up computers more often! (But not after September, which is when the warranty finally runs out)

Right, I reckon that’s me caught up. Well, mostly, anyway. There’s probably loads of other stuff I’ve forgotten about, but that’s everything that comes to mind at the moment, so that’ll just have to do you πŸ™‚

Ok, back into the cold study to a computer that actually has internet access to upload this.