In the incessant rain, my favourite 75-year-old came to
visit. I think of her as my spiritual grandmother. A child of
the Great Depression, she knows the dying arts of frugality
such as preserving, baking, knitting, sewing and other forms of
stitching. A helpless child of the roaring 1980s, I dabble in
some of those arts by reading how-to pages online sometimes.
When she first arrived, we swapped goodies. It was Sunday.
She gave me half a bottle of juice left over from a church
morning tea, and a tinful of slice made from rice bubbles
soldered together with Moro and then smeared with chocolate
icing. As disgusting as it was delicious.
I gave her new potatoes, one kumara, and a packet of cream
cheese and another of salmon paté, which had recently been
retrieved from a supermarket skip. I had my own stockpile of
the salmon paté and made us sandwiches with it. As disgusting
as they were delicious.
We sat and looked out the bay window into the grey, and
agreed the rain was not so bad. In fact we found it
comforting the way it would not stop. Drizzle as a form of
She told me about the first draft of a short story she'd been
writing for a Women's Institute competition. The limit was
500 words. "I got to 499 words, not quite 500, so then at the
end I put amen."
I showed her my new tattoo. She said, "Yes, I've seen that,"
for I keep showing people even though they've seen it. Then
she said, "I must get around to getting something done
I knew she had been thinking about getting a tattoo too, but
I was surprised when she told me what. "I'll get my buttocks
done with spirals, so that when they have to roll me over in
the rest-home they'll get a shock."
She was a bit worried she had Alzheimer's. She had been
forgetful lately and had accidentally walked out of a
supermarket with a frozen chicken. But she had experienced a
bereavement, which seemed a likely explanation, I told her.
Out the window we noticed three wood pigeons in the mist.
They were sitting on the power lines. My friend admired the
trio. I reminded her of a time when we had seen seven kereru
in one cabbage tree, during a similar week of rain.
That was a few years back. I had recorded it in this blog:
one of the pigeons had seemed dishevelled and sad, not coping
so well with that downpour.
I asked my friend about the death of her loved one. She said
it had been "like when you've been eating a liquorice strap
and you've been enjoying that, and then it just runs out,
We discussed grief, passion, pain, and valiant attempts to
distract oneself from that trinity. Creativity could be a
vehicle for distraction, and that was not such a bad thing,
we convinced ourselves.
I flipped through the programme for the International Film
Festival. Opposite the listing for French flick Amour,
"a staggering, intensely moving look at old age and life's
end", was an ad for Allpress espresso.
"Allpress, they're good," my friend said.
"Yeah?" I said. "Do you like their coffee?"
"No, I like their sugar crystals. I always take the sachets
home from cafes because they contain just the right amount to
go on the sugar buns I make."
"Ah, one sachet per sugar bun, a perfect measurement. That's
"Oh no, not that much!" she cried. "One sachet to about six
sugar buns, or even ten."
I laughed and called her mean. Then we agreed no, just