I’m pretty proud to have helped create this little baby.
I work on a whole range of stuff, from departmental plans to self-published novels to theses to handbooks for trustees. I almost always enjoy my projects, the people I work with, and the challenges of shaping words as aptly and carefully as possible for a person or an organisation.
But every now and then a project comes along that really makes my heart sing. This was one of them.
I did classes once and loved it, but I couldn’t master the wheel or anything involving the addition of water, so all my creations were small, misshapen and bottom-heavy. I love them anyway, and one day I’ll try another course.
The Dunedin Pottery Collective has a shop in town, and I should never go in, really, because the prices are reasonable enough to make it always seem like a good idea to buy something, and there’s always something pretty enough to tempt me, and if I take a child, they’ll find something too — a little clay animal or a cup or a bowl. I don’t usually do much impulse shopping or retail therapy, but I do in there.
Anyway, a little while ago I went in because I have poor self-discipline and I secretly believe in indulging my weaknesses, and I came out with two cups, a jug, and a little cat for each of the boys. I knew as soon as I walked out that I had just set myself up for that awful mix of joy and guilt and shame and happiness that comes with unauthorised, beautiful and impractical purchases, but then I really compounded it by cracking a cup and the jug on the way home. I don’t know how it happened; I carried the Rabbit, caught the bus, walked up the steps, dropped my bag, and somewhere in there disaster struck. Quite amazing, actually, that anything survived.
So, there I was, all guilty and sad and bereft until Ian couldn’t stand it any longer and told me to ring the shop and let them know what had happened. The negotiations that followed were fraught and protracted, not because the potter and I we were trying to get a good deal out of each other, but because both of us wanted to be fair and generous, while also both being a bit useless with numbers and the arithmetics of the situation. And out of the awkwardness, I emerged with a new cup and jug and less money. ALL GOOD.
I also decided that I could make myself feel better by putting plants in the cracked vessels, so I bought a succulent that I divided and tucked in with soil and a little fresh water, sort of a new life from old, growing things in a broken world, converting beauty to a new form kind of a deal.
This cup is actually another cup I had, which cracked in the course of a revolting two-day, Skype-based hui for an organisation I’m part of — something had to break in that meeting, and in my rational mind I’m glad it was a cup, even though it had been my perfect elevenses coffee cup and it was the need to replace it that took me into the Collective shop in the first place.
So, now that we’ve come all full circle on this story, I have to tell you that when I looked at the jug plant the other day, it had tiny green weeds growing in it. This seems very metaphorical and really quite adorable to me. I am, essentially, a total dag.
We’ve been away for six weeks, travelling around the UK and Europe. A little bit exhausting, a lot wonderful. Here’s some snippets.
17-19 April: Dunedin | Hong Kong | Frankfurt | Edinburgh
It’s a long way from Dunedin to Edinburgh. Two 12-hour flights, hyphenated by a day in Hong Kong, and an agonising wait in Frankfurt before the final hop to Scotland. Hong Kong saved it — a sleep in a firm, flat bed, hot showers, a morning swim with the Cat, walking in warm rain through tropical gardens, steel, and glass.
Our first glimpses of the city were at night — just water and light, towers of it, everywhere. And then there’s the ferry and the narrow, twisting streets, the steep Old Peak Road, and the mist rolling in. I could live here, I thought, for a little while.
20 April: Edinburgh
Well, we struck it lucky finding this flat It’s old and clean and bright and spacious, with generous rooms, art, books, rugs, a good kitchen, and central heating, which is wondrous to an Antipodean.
And thank god for this comfort — with Rabbit waking through the nights and the Cat off his nut on an unholy combination of culture shock, exhaustion, jetlag, and aesthetic disturbance (“the buildings all look the same, the only interesting bits are the doors, and there’s no nature”), we’ve been extra grateful for the simple homeliness of this place.
Postscript: Things that can save a seven-year-old grouch: sleep, food, rolling down a hill, gardens, routine, attention, cuddles, a new bird book. Give that boy air is the answer, air and space and light and food.
21 April: Edinburgh
After one of those parenting nights from hell, I was in no shape for the day. But Ian’s aunt, uncle, and cousin came to spend the day with us. We had a cuppa, then went to the Botanic Gardens; the boys ran about looking for squirrels and birds, the Cat fell in the lily pond, and we caught up on each other’s news and the way the year’s been falling out.
I cooked a tagine, with salads and rice. The charms of this city are a little clearer today, easier to see.
22 April: Edinburgh
I saw my sister’s Edinburgh today. We did second-hand clothes and bookshops — perfect, small, quiet bookshops with careful and interesting selections of books. Can’t think of anything similar in Dunedin; we should create one.
23 April: Edinburgh
Date day. Nona, Duncan, and Dad took the boys to the zoo. Ian and I walked around the New and Old Towns, visited bookshops, ate Greek meze for lunch, had an afternoon in the flat on our own. Just lovely. Haggis for dinner. Pretty good.