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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 3 - From a Villa in Grey Lynn - Don't touch the horse!

Frankie and her baby Olive, nearly two, have come to stay with me at my little cottage in Leigh. They live in Blenheim, where Frankie teaches 13-year-olds about feminism, which she says is a by-product of the war and the need for two incomes and has nothing to do with men doing their share of changing nappies, vacuuming, and cleaning the linen cupboard.

In my life without my big babies bringing their babies for me to look after, I wake up at about 5:30 am and write for a couple of hours before the world wakes up. However, Frankie insists that I should look after Olive in these stolen hours. She is indignant that this is only fair, as I spend more time with my other grandchildren, and Tom, her partner, always does the morning shift before trampling grapes in a vineyard.

Olive wakes at 5:30, so I now wake at 4:45, as I am told I must show commitment. I sit up in bed. My computer is on my lap, but I am wired. I am the little field mouse quivering with the expectation that something is going to pounce on me. I hear the baby make sounds which rise in crescendo and then pause. I wait for the pitter-patter, the door opening, Frankie rubbing her eyes, looking sorry for herself, and throwing that accusing bad granny look. Olive is in her arms, as fresh as a golden dewdrop, and when I smile at her, she smiles back as if she were for a moment uncertain I'd be pleased to see her. Tenderness suffuses me, and commitment to my new writing career goes out like the tide I see out my window. Frankie shamelessly goes back to bed with no interest in supporting my change of career so late in life.

I trudge out to the kitchen with sixty odd years of living scrambling to fill my mind and cloud my ability to see the world like Olive does. Then there is a precious moment when she enchants me, and I can throw these weighted memories away. She smiles at me as if she knows her power.

We make porridge with bananas, blueberries, and strawberries and pears stirred into it, and a dash of maple syrup. We walk down to the beach as the sun is warming the day up, and the little fishing boats are bobbing about. I sit on the spongy grass and lie back and think, "So this is what life is all about." Then I get an exquisitely agonizing pain in my back like a long injection. I grab Olive and run to the house, yelling, "Frankie, help, help, I have been stung!" Frankie is very calm and says she has been stung before, and it is only a wasp or giant ant, and she puts ice on a red welt, and I remind myself this is not Australia.

Frankie, Olive, and I go on our morning walk up the steps, which is all Olive wants to do. We get a coffee and fluffy, which of course, Olive doesn't drink, and then we walk down the steps, which is all Olive wants to do. We get all the palaver a little queen needs for the beach: a blow-up floating unicorn, sunscreen, water, wetsuit, towel, crackers, hat, bucket, and spade. We have two dogs with us, and one is the same age as Olive and is jealous of the attention she is getting. He chases Frankie's rather fat and lazy dog, Winnie, round and round and through the little queen's court. He then pees on the sand by the little queen and lies on her towel after digging sand all over it. While he is doing this, the little queen is being carefully prepared for her foray into the big sea. Out we go into the great water, where we put her in the floating unicorn, but she kicks and hollers and demands to return to shore, where she dips her pudgy little foot in the water, picks up some sand, looks at it, throws it down, and then hollers to return home.

The little queen sleeps for two hours.

The little queen wakes up. We take her to Matakana for an ice cream and go and look at the eels down in the river. A large hippy with his sulking girlfriend is sitting on the little jetty feeding a French baguette to the huge eels who are blind and only get the bread if they bump into it. There is a little family of ducks swimming round and round. We see this as a scene from a picture book, but for Olive, this is just another page of this book called life that changes every time she opens and shuts her grey eyes. The hippies offer her bread to feed the eels, but she spots some steps and smiles. We go up and down the steps for ages.

We go to a playground, as faded as an aging film star, which sits in the middle of a strange little village between Matakana and Leigh. There are no children climbing up the little castles and pirate ships, just chickens and rabbits. Olive has no interest in this picture book and just wants to go up and down the slide. We do this for ages. Frankie, getting into the spirit of things, dares to go down the slide, and when she gets to the bottom, Olive tries to push her off and pinches her. Don't we know that the happiness of a courtier must come only from making the little queen happy?

In this bizarre ghost town are two huge statues of red and yellow cows in high heels with sunglasses beside a beauty parlour offering false eyelashes and manicures. There is a wild west saloon which is closed, and beside this are real horses in a gymkhana ring and patting ponies. Olive shows complete disdain for all things we think will enchant her, only tilting her small head momentarily at the sound of a distant cock-a-doodling. She has no interest in the little white ponies, but Frankie pats the pony forgetting she is allergic to horses.

We go into a Fijian themed bar and put Olive in a high chair where some new courtiers bring her a coloring book, crayons, and a pizza. She bites the rubber, tries to swallow the pencil sharpener, and then demands to be released as she has spotted some little steps. She has found what she is looking for. We go up and down the steps for ages.

Finally, we go home with Frankie sneezing to monumental crescendos like Olive in the morning. At night, we tell the little queen's papa about her day. Tom, Frank sighs, all she wanted was to go up and down steps. "Well," says Tom, "that is what you should have done (for ages)."

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2 comentarios

05 dic 2023

Ashleigh, my lovely one, how are you SO brilliant. Is it acctually possible for every perfect blog to be better then the last?

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18 dic 2023
Contestando a

I try ha ha . Thank you my friend for your comment. It certainly is a lonley business writing. A bit like those small hours in the morning when the day is just awakening but you and the little one have been awake for ages.

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