After a few weeks of rushing around (by our now laid back standards), we’re now taking time out for Christmas and the New Year, by ‘Housesitting’ (and cat sitting), here in Irwell, a village about 20 or 30km South-West of Christchurch, while owner John takes time out to visit his step-sons and family in Queensland, Australia (our next stop after we leave NZ next May). We’ve swapped the campervan for a nice Nissan Sunny saloon car with automatic transmission. Its old (188,000km), but its clean, goes well, has a big boot and, best of all, its got air-con!
Irwell is in the Canterbury Plains, which is a relatively flat (and big) area of fertile land just inland from Christchurch, in the blackcurrant capital of the world (in season the Ribena lorries form a steady stream apparently). The village comprises about 17 houses, spread out in big plots of land and all looking very picturesque. Generously sized 3 bedroom bungalows of mainly wooden construction (just as well after they got heavily shaken in the earthquake, everything on shelves thrown to the ground – there’s still a few things stuck down with blue-tack!) with plenty of indoor space, with large gardens and paddocks that are all now in full bloom. It’s quiet and the perfect place to relax, which we have every intention of doing!
John is a smashing guy who we got on well with from the off, but he’s had a tough couple of years, having lost his wife only in late September of this year after 18 months of illness, John devoting all his time to looking after her. We didn’t find out too much about the last two years of Patsy’s life as John is still pretty grief stricken, but we did hear a lot about their lives prior to that and they were obviously a devoted couple and very happy.
We had a day and a half with John and had a very laid back and enjoyable time chatting, cooking, meeting his four cats and, last night, getting an Indian take-away meal from the nearest village, Lincoln. There was plenty of banter (Jackie told me I’d have to allow a bit more time to pick the takeaway up because of the rush hour, John agreed saying I’d have to add at least 17 seconds onto my journey time!), particularly when we helped John pack for his trip. We helped him pack a dinner service in bubble wrap and clothes that he was taking to give to his step-son and that caused plenty of amusement and entertainment for cats with boxes! Didn’t envy him carrying a cardboard box weighing 22Kg with a handle we’d made out of string and cardboard!
|John and Jackie discussing the finer points of packing|
|Box amusement for Tiffany and Tigger|
We had been to Lincoln earlier in the day, it’s about 10 minutes drive there (and half an hour back as we got lost! We’ve got it sorted now though) and has just about everything we’ll need: a New World supermarket, Chinese, Indian, Italian and fish and chip takeaways and restaurants, plenty of shops, café’s and coffee houses and the Famous Grouse pub with good food and beer (brand new as well – the original building apparently collapsed in the earthquake and has only just been rebuilt), there is also a library that has free wi-fi available 24/7, even when they are not open!! You just pull up outside and connect for unlimited broadband, we even saw someone connected to it in the coffee house over the road – ideal! We intend going there at pre-arranged times to have Skype conversations with people. Anyone for a video call one evening (morning for us)?
This morning I was up at 4:00am to take John to the airport, so this is now our first day in charge of 4 pussy cats and a house. We met Pete next door, a friendly guy in his 70’s who lives on his own and carves wood in his shed – a great, well equipped shed and he’s got plenty of really good wood, salvaged from collapsed buildings! Any help we want, he said, just ask. Mac also came over from across the road (that South African accent stood out!) and Jackie spoke to his wife Dawn on the phone later, so we can call on any of these people, and of course John by phone, if we are unsure of anything.
The 4 cats are Tiffany, a small Norwegian Forest Cat with big paws (she’s the mother of the other 3, who are all 10 years old), Rosie, black with white paws, chest and whiskers, Tigger a tabby and Ustinov, a tabby with white paws. The three offspring are huge cats in comparison to the slight Tiffany and we weighed Ustinov at 8kg last night, the others being a similar size! They’ve all got their own personalities and habits, so we’ve had the run down of each of them, written down in case we forget. I’ve also had a lesson on driving Victa, the ride on lawn mower and we’ve had a guided tour of the grounds, pointing out the various fruit trees, everything fruit you can think of and a walnut tree (never seen one of those before).
|Rosie (Note to self: don't forget to feed the fish!)|
|Big Tigger taking it easy|
|Ustinov having a bit of fuss|
So now we’re all set, the cats are happy and seemed to have accepted us, so now we’re chilling out on the patio in the heat. Its superb mid summer weather here with a clear blue sky and our main concern is not to spend too long in the sun! I think I must have died and gone to heaven! Did someone say it’s nearly Christmas? Surely not!
Jackie: A good synopsis of the house, I just have a few things to add about the people here. We’ve been looking for some fold up camping chairs since we got the van, the ones it comes with are indestructible, but not too comfortable, but they stopped issuing the green ones since they proved not man enough for the job a few times! However all the hardware /homeware stores we’ve asked in have said, oh no, can’t stock those things now, not since ‘those shops’ sell them so cheap, only we hadn’t managed to find any of ‘those shops’. Updating the blog etc on the am before we left the van in the site kitchen there was a pile of 4 chairs with a sign, “free to good home” It must be Christmas!
We then popped into a shopping centre to find a Vodafone shop to try and sort out our internet connection, there was a queue, so I went across to look in the jewellers (well you do don’t you?) I was honest though and said to the lady not to waste her time on me I was just passing the time, she said two things, why Vodafone, Telecom over there is much better (and no queue) and would you like me to clean your jewellery for you? How fab is that?