Flash Fiction Competition for New Zealand Writers

For all New Zealand writers who haven’t heard, the NZ Flash Fiction Competition for 2014 is open. You have about a month to enter this competition. For guidelines, click on the following link. It’s open to New Zealand citizens and residents.

http://nationalflash.wordpress.com/competition/

I love writing Flash Fiction. I like the discipline of choosing words carefully, making each one count. Not that I’m good at it at all, I simply get pleasure from writing it. This is so different from the daily writing I do here on my blog and other sites, where my thoughts spill onto the page without much precision at all. It’s definitely time for me to be disciplined again. If you’re at all interested in some of my ramblings the link below is as good a place as any to start.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2886864-the-200-word-challenge-was-simply-a-warm-up

So, my thinking cap is on, my pencils sharpened, paper at hand – I’m ready to write.

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After the New Zealand Earthquake

I’m having a quiet afternoon, much quieter than the one we had here in the lower part of the North Island, New Zealand yesterday. About this time yesterday we were hit by a magnitude 6.2 eathquake, that really rocked our socks off.

Not knowing what was going to happen and needing to share my shaking with someone other than my husband, I wrote about it at this link – I’m not sure if we were having an after shock or whether it was just me shaking.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2098096-breaking-news-huge-earthquake-in-new-zealand

Fortunately we weren’t close to the centre, and judging by news coming in during the day some places had even more damage than we did here. The local paper shows pictures of chimney damage to the house next door to the one I grew up in the 1950s.

Our cat Smooch wasn’t too impressed with the noisy shake, he bolted like lightning out the window once the shaking stopped.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2100363-smooch-the-cat-didn039t-like-the-earthquake

I managed to find something to laugh about after the earthquake stopped though. My cup of coffee had emptied itself, leaving me with the need to clean up before making another.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2105146-i-do-hope-the-librarian-will-understand

Today the afternoon is quiet. I’m thankful for that. Do you have earthquakes in your part of the world?

Summer in New Zealand

I’m feeling quite excited right now. I have one more morning of teaching, well, school, and then it’s time for the long summer holidays.

The year has really flown by and I haven’t been here as much as I’d like. I’m looking forward to having more time now, writing more stories about summer past and present. Just like this one I wrote elsewhere a week or so ago about our family camping in the 1950s. I’m the wee cutie with the ribbon in my hair 🙂

http://www.bubblews.com/news/1805879-a-beach-a-tent-a-book-and-some-sandhills

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It probably seems strange for many of you, thinking about summer for Christmas. But believe me, when you don’t know any better, it’s just the way it should be.

I responded to a challenge on Bubblews the other day, trying to convince another user why Christmas in New Zealand was the best. Why don’t you check it out for yourself and see if you agree.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/1795591-the-real-reason-christmas-in-new-zealand-beats-them-all

And, just in case you’re still not convinced, let me leave you with a photo of the pohutukawa, New Zealand’s Christmas tree, coming in to full boom now, just in time for Christmas.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/1804730-pohutukawa-the-new-zealand-christmas-tree

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So, now I’m feeling the heat, so I’ll go and look out some of your stories about snow 🙂

1950s Memories of The Esplanade, Palmerston North, NZ

Place names didn’t mean much to me as a child. The Esplanade was a park we went to on family outings at the weekend. We usually walked there from our home a few blocks away.

In recent times I’ve wondered about it’s name, Victoria Esplanade, to discover it was planned to commemorate the 60th jubilee of Queen Victoria in the late 1900s. Something still didn’t seem right. In my mind an esplanade is something you walk along beside the sea. We’re an inland city, no sea in sight, but we do sit beside a river and, yes, the Esplanade gardens and walkway are situated beside the river.

The Esplanade has changed a lot since my childhood, but is still rather a special place in the city. My first memories are of the paddling pool. One warm summer Sunday my mother wheeled my new baby sister in her cane pram, while I pedalled along beside her on my new red trike delivered by Father Christmas. I still remember the delight of being able to splash to my heart’s content for what seemed like all afternoon as my mother sat and watched, chatting to the other mums.

Sometimes we went to listen to the local brass band playing in the rather grand bandstand, an impressive occasion to me as a child. Once the band had finished we were allowed to play in the bandstand, running around and around until we became quite dizzy.

A few years later, while attending the nearby school, our teacher took us to the Esplanade to study the native birds, listening to their bird song and hopefully snatching fleeting glances of the birds in the trees, those brave enough or curious enough to wonder about the mass of children on the path below.

Not long after that much of the luxurious bush was cut and cleared, but a small patch still remains, making the walk along the river path a pleasant one.

Now, more than 115 years later, we can be thankful for the foresight of the early city fathers who, having arrived from England and finding themselves in a landlocked community, may have missed walking along the esplanades of their seaside towns. By creating and naming this riverside space The Esplanade they could recreate some of the memories of home.

 The Esplanade remains a popular place for outings with both young and old.

 

Keeping Warm in the 1950s

Many of you are currently sweltering in the Northern heat, while I look for ways of keeping warm down here in New Zealand. Yesterday, while dressed in three layers and wearing thick socks, I thought about my childhood. Were the winters really as cold then as they appear now? The aging process has possibly increased my awareness  of the cold.

I grew up in an old wooden house with its share of places for the drafts to creep in, but  I don’t remember being cold at home. Maybe during the day we kept warm busy playing vigorously outside. The evenings inside seemed to radiate warmth, unless I’ve forgotten the cold times.

Our home had a large room we called the kitchen, a bit like a modern house with kitchen, dining room and lounge sharing an open space. The cooking happened in the kitchen on a gas stove and oven. Wedged between the stove and the hot water cupboard, a small fire place, a chip heater, burned all day, heating both the water in the adjacent cupboard and the whole room.

I loved chopping the kindling for the kitchen fire once old enough to be trusted to not chop off too many fingers. The tiny fireplace churned its way through firewood, coal and carbonettes and food scraps after meals.

Not only the warmth from the fire that filled those winter evenings. The whole family gathered, talking, reading, playing cards and board games and listening to the big old radio in the corner, creating a room of family warmth. At bedtime we kids trundled off to bed with a hot water bottle, taking the evening’s warmth with us.

The fire died down over night, but by the time we got up in the morning either Mum or Dad had re-lit it, enabling us to eat our breakfast at the big table in warmth.

Snow rarely falls in the part of New Zealand I live in, but we did experience heavy white frosts during winter months, so the nights were cold. Electricity was never used to heat our home in the 50s, so we maintained a good supply of wood and coal.

Your childhood winters no doubt differed from mine, depending on the part of the world you live in and the era of your childhood.

I sit here in the warmth of my home this morning, heated by gas, thinking about the sunshine that will arrive back here in a few months from now.

NZ, New Zealand – Where All Good Kiwis Come From

In recent months a few people have been asking me, where is this NZ you keep confessing to be a resident of? Well, sorry folks, it isn’t the latest US state, nor is it to be found anywhere in the UK. New Zealand is a little country consisting of three major islands and lots of tiny ones, tucked away in the South Pacific, almost at the bottom of the world.

Contrary to belief from many in the northern hemisphere, we’re not off the coast of Australia, but a good three hour flight across the Tasman Sea. Crossing that piece of sea is often known as ‘crossing the ditch’.

There are only about four and a half million of us living in New Zealand, but if the truth be known, there are probably just as many Kiwis living in Oz, Aussie, Australia.

The inhabitants of NZ are known as Kiwis, not the flightless bird variety, nor the scrumptious green fruit within a brown skin. Unlike the Kiwi bird, we’re not a flightless people and can be found living all over the world.

There are more sheep living in New Zealand than people – not inhabiting the same space of course!

Yes, we do speak English, it’s our official language along with Maori. We also are very active bloggers and inhabitants of social media sites.

We’re a country well known worldwide for our lakes, mountains, beaches and green scenery and take our sport and outdoor adventure seriously.

We have wonderful film makers here in NZ, especially Sir Peter Jackson, responsible for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy amongst others. And yes, that wonderful scenery in  Lord of The Rings is New Zealand.

New Zealand is the first place in the world to see the light of each new day, therefore when I write on Saturday morning most of you are still enjoying Friday night.It’s coming into winter here in New Zealand right now, with snow falling earlier than usual down in the South Island. So, while most of you are welcoming the sun, here we’re wrapping up warm – and writing our blog posts.

That’s just a bit of an introduction, for those who haven’t been too sure when I make strange comments such as ‘coming from down under.’ From time to time I’ll throw in a few more interesting, but not necessarily important, facts about this little place called NZ.

Budget Honeymoon 1971 Style

8 May, 1971, my husband and I were married and remain so now, 42 years later.

Our honeymoon budget was almost non-existent. A few months earlier we’d moved to new jobs in Rotorua, one of New Zealand’s major tourist and thermal regions and hadn’t yet had time to explore the region. We spent our first two honeymoon nights in a small town close to where we were married, checking out the local sights during the day. On Monday morning we returned to pick up our wedding gifts before driving north to our small Rotorua home. We chose to become tourists in our recently adopted town, at the same time saving money on accommodation.

While scrummaging around in a drawer of containing an assortment of bits and pieces recently I came across an old, long forgotten piece of paper – a docket from the first two night of our honeymoon.

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The nightly tariff was NZ$11.50, making the two nights accommodation NZ$23 and a meal for two people in the licenced restaurant cost NZ$8.05, bringing the total cost of our stay to NZ$32.05. To help you understand these figures NZ$32.05 currently converts to US$26.86.

The Avenue, modernised over time, is now the Avenue Hotel. In comparison to the cost of our 1971 stay, the nightly tariff now ranges between NZ$100 – $450. Our meal in 1971, probably steak and including wine, seemed expensive in those days, but it was our honeymoon after all. In comparison, last night four of us ate and drank at an affordable local Cambodian restaurant, the bill coming to NZ$117.

I struggle to imagine what I could purchase for NZ$11.50 today – a glass of better wine at a restaurant, coffee and a tiny light lunch at a café, or maybe a take away meal for one to be eaten at home.

Times change, but to be fair, so do incomes earned. If I could remember what each of us earned back in 1971 I could make a more meaningful comparison of the cost of the first two nights of our honeymoon.

The trip down memory lane has provided us with smiles all these years later. We now live back in the city where we were married, so perhaps we should extend the reminiscing to spending a night back at the Avenue Hotel sometime soon.