Tag Archives: rent

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 15

422 Stanley Road, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand

November 2017 –

We had been looking for a home for some time. We had a list of necessary attributes a rental house must have. For example, allowing tenants to have a dog automatically cut out 95% of the houses. It must have space for a garden. It must have access to the internet. It wasn’t an impossible list, but it was impossible to find!

A house for rent came online. It was near a town called Waitara. It seemed to fit the bill. We expressed interest and drove the four hours to see it. Contrary to what the photographs conveyed, you had to turn sideways to squeeze past the dining table to reach the front door. And then the crunch came: of course the owners will be storing their furniture in the garage. Uh-oh! That was a warning sign. This would be a fleeting and temporary abode. We began the long journey home.

As we passed Mount Taranaki near a town called Stratford, Eric commented that in all the searching over the years for a place he had never once seen a house come up for rent from Stratford. Travel-weary, we decided to stay in Stratford for the night. The motel had a complimentary “Village Newspaper”. In it was an advertisement for a house to rent. We drove for a look. It was perfect. The next day we went to the rental agency. The woman who had responsibility for the house was away. We filled out an application form and left.

Not long after arriving home the phone rang. It was Maureen from the rental agency. The house we applied for had already been rented out, but she had another if we cared to come for a look. We arranged a meeting time and once again began the long journey in our old ute.

Maureen wasn’t there at the house. We hadn’t come all this way not to look so we went around the house ourselves. I remember commenting, “If they knew we were coming for a look you’d think they could have made the beds.” We went back to the ute and phoned Maureen. “Where are you?” she asked. “We’re here,” we said. Except – we were at someone else’s house on the wrong road!

Quickly we made it to the correct house and loved it. It filled all our conditions, except it didn’t come with any land for a cow. It had room for a garden. It was a fairly new house on a beef and cattle farm. It had a double garage, three bedrooms, and a spacious open sitting-room-kitchen-dining-room. It had a log burner. We said we’d take it, and would move in after the current tenants moved out in a month’s time.

So that is where we are today – four years later and the longest we have lived anywhere! Much has happened over that time. COVID19 struck and the business collapsed that Eric had spent years building up. Clients went from 112 down to 2, and those 2 didn’t pay. We were not an essential service. Friends helped – even blogging friends helped out. Yvonne from Australia for example sent a gigantic box of wine! What a wonderful thing to have done! We have survived! Linda and Barry, our wonderful landlord-farmers, said if things get tough forget the rent for a time and we’ll sort things out down the line. So far we have managed to pay each week if sometimes a little late!

I have never in my life had anything published and then out of the blue, resulting from the blog, two publishing companies – one in Britain and one in the States – asked for poems to go into anthologies. I am a published poet! Not many from New Zealand seem interested. In fact, as far as I know, the only person from New Zealand who follows my blog is Sylvie from Nelson – and Sylvie is French!

About two years ago our wonderful Springer Spaniel, Bubble, developed epilepsy. How terrifying to see such a lovely dog throw an uncontrollable fit. He went on medication which controlled the epilepsy. Then one Friday night he had a seizure. And another. And another. We phoned for an animal vet. Didn’t we know it was the weekend? Animals don’t take ill on Saturdays and Sundays. No vet was available. The next ten hours were the longest ten hours of my life as Bubble had over forty seizures. And then he died. We buried him in his favourite garden spot where he liked to sit and watch the farm animals pass by.

The farm is huge as is the neighbouring farm. During lockdowns we can wander maskless over hundreds of acres. There’s always something new and something different to see and do. There’s firewood to chop and gardens to weed and lawns to mow. There are preserves and jams and breads to make and new recipes to try. There are walks to take and TV and internet to watch. There’s a piano to play and books to read and blogs to maintain. There are poems and stories and music to write. There’s work to do – although sparser than we would hope.

What an adventure it has been! It is a ridiculous thing to ask “Who knows what the future holds?” But there has been a Providence directing these adventures in the past twenty years, and I have no reason to doubt that Providence has further adventures up its sleeve.

Out my window as I write

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 14

27 St Annes Street, Levin, New Zealand

August 2016 – November 2017

This house is going to be largely about dogs – canine and human.

Even prior to being ousted from the previous place we had found a house in town to live in. In fact, although we would spend part of each day at the previous place we had shifted most of our belongings to the new address and slept in the new place at night. We still had the cow and the goat at the old place. The end came suddenly and before you could blink we were ensconced at 27 Saint Annes Street, Levin.

It was a large two-story house with a steep staircase that had no bannister. To get to the main bedroom you had to squeeze past the staircase, which suggested that the upstairs had been an afterthought. Outside in the front were two gigantic trees; a gum and a copper beech. Next to them was a fairly busy road. At the back of the house was a substantial lawn with a large, but old, garage and workshop. We put in trellis gates to keep the dog at bay.

We always regarded this place as being temporary. It would give us space to search anywhere in the country for as near-perfect a house as possible. We made a list of what a rented house would have to have, and a list of what would be nice but not necessary. Every day we looked online at the houses available, from the top of the country to the bottom. In the meantime we got on with living a life.

We were permitted to have a dog, so of course Delia came too as did the cat. Delia didn’t like the place much. She was used to expansive rural settings where she could roam at whim. And then she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Luckily an expert dog surgeon was visiting the town. He said an operation would be touch and go. We held our breath, but within a week Delia was happily home as large as life. Six months later we went for our daily walk. We came home. Delia sat down and died – tail wagging.

A month or so later we had the opportunity to get a puppy – a black and white Springer Spaniel. We named him Bubble.

On one side of the house were neighbours Pearl and Norm. They were an older couple, and delightful. They would frequently pop in for a chat, as indeed we too would pop over to their place. Norm was into making home brew and I wasn’t beyond making a brew myself. Norm was a car mechanic and was called upon several times to fix our car. Pearl cared for half a dozen homeless cats.

There was a neighbour on the other side also called Norm; Norm and his partner Chelsea. All day, and for a good part of the night, you could hear them screaming obscenities at each other. (You get the idea). They had seven dogs; half a dozen fluffy lapdog yappers and a vicious Rottweiler. The Rottweiler knew how to jump the fence into our property right at the back where Norm had his marijuana garden. We were at times scared to go out on the back lawn, and little Bubble wouldn’t go there to pee. Luckily, Levin had a dog park of about ten acres. We would visit the park each day and Bubble would play and run with packs of other dogs of all shapes and sizes.

I continued to play the piano at the Levin Library when invited to give a concert. Usually I would play Scarlatti Sonatas or Haydn Sonatas. I loved it, and the library users appreciated it too.

Another thing that happened was a 7.8 earthquake. It was a biggie! It went on and on. In fact it was two earthquakes following one another without a break.

Rainwater had no escape from our back lawn, and the water from the roof of the house also gushed there. The back of the house with the wretched running Rottweiler became a muddy swamp. We made some raised beds to grow vegetables.

Then disaster struck. Norm-of-the-obscenities dropped dead at his front door. The body was taken away and the partying began. Crowds revelled at the house and a few stayed the nights. A second Rottweiler made an appearance. Chelsea could not control any of the dogs. They ran amuck. A month or so later their landlord called to ask why the rent had not been paid. He booted all out. The house had been trashed.

Peace at last, but we’d had enough of the place. With greater urgency we searched for a house we could call a home. We drove several hundred miles to view a place, but that is the next story. Eric went ahead to set up the new abode; internet and power and phone and so on. I stayed behind to supervise the removal truck and to shampoo the carpet. Three days later, with dog and cat, I set sail and left the wretched place behind.

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 13

12 Tui Glen Drive, Levin, New Zealand

December 2014 – August 2016

We instantly fell in love with this place during the open house that the rental agency staged. Other people attended besides Eric and me so we behaved as super nice as possible to the rental people. In the end we were lucky enough to get selected.

We met the owners. They seemed a nice couple. She was a New Zealander and he was originally from Vanuatu. Their work was one and a half hours drive away and they were tired of travelling. They would rent somewhere closer to work and rent their own place out to us via the rental agency. We signed a year’s contract.

There were several acres of land made up of three paddocks and an orchard, as well as the lawns around the house itself. The owners had half a dozen cows and about a dozen sheep; far too many for such a small property. They would feed them hay all year. Fortunately they took the livestock with them.

Billy the Goat’s house was placed in one of the paddocks and he was very much at home.

We purchased a young Aberdeen Angus cattle beast that we called Blossom. When she reached about eighteen months of age we would call in the butcher. Several months before the butcher’s engagement we bought another young cow, a Simmental, that we called Truffle. Truffle would replace Blossom.

The owners were keen that we keep the place tidy. We were permitted to have a vegetable garden under the tall trees at the entrance gate. It was infertile and shaded. The garden wasn’t overall particularly successful. We did have success with tomatoes however, as there was a concrete path all around the house and about six inches of soil with no grass growing edged the path. We planted tomatoes all along the edge of the path. Not only did the mature tomato plants flop all over the footpath making it impassable, but they produced literally thousands of tomatoes.

It was a very happy year and the translation business was going well. Such was the amount of work required that I volunteered to format the documents to be translated. I still do that to this day.

The house was modern and comfortable. I had taken up practising the piano with a vengeance. The Levin Public Library held concerts every Friday and I was invited seven times to give an hour’s concert. It was great motivation to practise the piano daily. I think the library viewed keyboard works from the Baroque and Classical Periods to be more suited to a library environment!

At one stage I had a heart attack. The ambulance arrived at the same time as the guy arrived to clean the chimney. He said he’d come back later. They put me in hospital for a week or so. The heart specialist said the arteries are so gunked up they couldn’t even do a stent. They sent me home with pills that thus far seem to be doing their job.

We got the ute (pickup) fixed while we lived here. It had become a rust bucket. And what a great job they did! It was cheaper to get it done up and made road-worthy than to buy another.

Usually a Rental Agency will come and inspect a house every three months or so and report to the owners. They were always pleased with the care we took. We signed a contract to rent the property for a second year. The day after we signed, the owners withdrew the property from the Rental Agency.  They would look after the rental agreement themselves.  There’s a phrase Rental Agencies have for clients who take over a contract once the paper work is done and the contract signed. I can’t remember what the phrase is but it’s not polite.

On the first Saturday after the takeover we had a six hour inspection. Every nook and cranny, every cupboard and shelf, was examined minutely. They left, giving us a list of things to be improved. They reappeared to do a similar inspection the following Saturday – and every Saturday. Eric and I would take the dog and go to the beach for the day. If it was raining we would sit in the car until sunset.

A list on the kitchen bench would greet us on return:

- There are water droplets on the board behind the kitchen faucets.
- The waste bin in the kitchen is in the wrong place.
- There is dust on the window sill in the dining room. (They would have had to have climbed under the table to see it).
- Who gave permission to plant irises in the vegetable garden?

On and on the inspections went and we still had six months to go on the contract. Things got worse. We came home after a day of sitting in the car and they had stripped every fruit tree of its fruit. The orchard was part of the rental agreement. The next thing a lawn mowing company moved in and cut down all the grass in the fields that was intended for the cow and goat. We had to quickly buy some hay. The fields were looking uncut and untidy, said the landlords. We were presented with a bill from the lawn mowing company for $180. The only thing we could do was to rent another house altogether and pay two lots of rent until our contract ran out. We made a submission to the Rental Association who ordered a hearing for the case.  We were well prepared. Would you believe? We got the month wrong and missed the hearing.

The landlords seized the occasion. They took us to court for abandoning the contract and destroying property. They wanted $6,000 in compensation. They had first gone to another rental agency so that new renters could be found. We had a letter from the new rental agency saying we had abandoned the building and had broken the contract which will now terminate officially in a week. But we still had stuff at the house – such as Truffle the Cow and Billy the Goat! We quickly had to finish packing and moving. Billy went to his new home – to be cared for by one of my brothers.

The sole butcher in town was away on vacation. We couldn’t take the cow with us into town! I found the butcher’s son who could cull it for the freezer before 7 am when we had to hand over the keys. Have you ever held a light for a butcher while he guts and quarters a cow in a field in the middle of the night? Then we had to clean the house. We made it out on time yet still the court case loomed.

What nasty things had we done? “They, your Honour,” said the landlords, “have made holes in the ceiling with a broom handle, all along the corridor. And here are photos to prove it taken during the rental agency’s final inspection.”  Eric pointed out that apparently they were not overly computer literate. The date and time is recorded in the photos on a computer. The photographs were taken the day after the inspection and at seven in the evening.

We knew we would get an unfavourable judgement. The judge had been efficient and curt. She clearly didn’t like us. We were dismissed with a wave of the hand and were to be informed of the outcome by letter. The landlord’s son had been murdered several months beforehand in a domestic dispute. We didn’t have such a heart-rending story to sweeten the tale.

It was the day of the presidential election in the United States. Hillary lost to Trump. The letter arrived. We have since referred to the landlord-losers in this case as “The Clintons”.

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 11

228 Allen & Eyre Road, Onewhero, New Zealand

January 2012 – February 2014

Despite vowing never to move our own belongings ever again we had not learnt our lesson. We made 13 trips with a loaded down ute (pickup), 16 trips in the car, and 6 trips with a large borrowed trailer. Thank goodness for kind friends to help out, especially with the piano.

This house was an old farm house and had been the childhood home of the current owner who was moving to run a farm several hours drive away. The husband and wife owners wished us good luck and set out for their farm job. The property we had moved to was a few acres of hilly land, and had an implement shed, a fowl-house, and a large barn and pigsty. It also had a lawn tennis court and an overgrown large bank garden designed as a rockery. It had wonderful pear and orange trees. The owner kept his four cows on the land. The neighbouring farm was a cattle farm, and Molly the cow enjoyed cavorting with the bull when it jumped the fence. There is no stopping a determined bull. The first time resulted in the birth of Prince – which the owners said we were welcome to rear and keep. We did that. Prince was short for “Prince of the Freezer”. The second fence jump resulted in a little girl called Lexie.

Prince and Delia

It was a typical farmhouse set up. The house sort of meandered with no particular plan. This room had been added over time, and that room had been altered over time. It had an excellent log burner.

Eric cleared the rockery and grew wonderful vegetables. The watermelons were the tastiest ever!

I kept a new-for-me breed of chicken called Coronation Sussex. They were very pretty chickens; white with a silver neck and tail. But after several months I learnt that they were violent. I couldn’t go near the hen house without walking backwards to keep an eye out for the attacking rooster and, believe me, he could peck and draw blood like a vampire. Anyway, they were lovely to look at and even lovelier to eat. I replaced them with ducks; a creature I had never kept before.

These were called Magpie Ducks – black and white. They were enchanting. At school a parent was one of the few breeders of these ducks in the country. She was delighted when I asked if I could breed them as well.

The property had sections where wild blackberries grew rampant. Blackberry in New Zealand is classed as a noxious weed. When I was offered a goat at school, left over from the Calf Club Day by the headmaster’s son, I said I would take it. It would eat the blackberry, and after it had done its job we would put it in a stew. Billy arrived. Have you ever kept a goat? They are totally loveable and utterly affectionate. Who would possibly ever want to put him in a stew? That was years ago, and to keep this narrative brief, he now eats the blackberries on the property of one of my brothers.

Billy learnt to escape the fenced field. He learnt to ring the doorbell. He learnt to open the door. He learnt to go into the bathroom and eat the toilet paper. Not knowing how he escaped his field, Eric watched him for an hour to determine the method of escape. All with no luck. Eric gave up and returned to the house only to discover Billy sitting on the sofa. The goat, the dog and the cat were inseparable. Billy taught the dog how to climb things. “I never knew I could do that!” said the dog. Eventually we got Billy a long chain for his own safety.

I was given a greenhouse for my birthday – made in China. The assembly instructions were atrocious. It took us three days to put it together. It was wonderful for about a month. And then a wind came and blew it into a crumbled heap. It wasn’t our fault; it was simply poor quality.

I played the organ at the local Anglican Church for weddings and the like and for their choir and sometimes on Sundays when the Anglican bishop visited.

Eric was able to cut up and stack in the barn a huge amount of firewood.

Disaster often lurks in many guises. We were about to run out of good luck.

The headmaster at school (I shall call him Arnold to give the bastard anonymity) thought he was thoroughly modern and considered the future with the internet meant libraries and books were obsolete. He was keen to do away with the librarian and save money. He frequently came to the library on the pretext of doing something else but really it was to check to see if I was hopefully doing nothing so I could get fired.

Our next door neighbour, a horse-loving housewife, decided to hang herself from a tree. She had a son at the school. I was asked to play the piano during and after the funeral. I asked the headmaster for permission to attend and that was fine. A good number of the teachers were present as well. The next day I was having a cup of coffee in the staff room and I said to another teacher that I was a bit surprised that Arnold hadn’t attended the funeral of the parent but went to a rowing regatta. She said he was usually great when something like that happened, and I said yes, that’s why I was surprised he wasn’t there. Another staff member had overheard the conversation apparently.

A short time later I was called to the headmaster’s office. Had I criticized the headmaster behind his back?  Had I undermined his authority? He ranted and raved and foamed at the mouth. I left his office without a job. I began looking for another job. Fortunately I had several pipe organ and piano students that I continued to teach privately.

Now some goats don’t like rain. They can’t get wet. They have no fat. They get cold and die. Occasionally Billy’s chain could get caught in blackberry and if it rained he wouldn’t be able to get into his little house. The weather began to spit. I went to check on Billy who was on a steep hill. My footwear slipped and I went arse over kite down the bank. I had broken my ankle. They kept me in hospital for a week waiting for the swelling to subside before they operated with three screws in the ankle. It was a slow recovery, which included stays in hospital for pneumonia, and hernias, and clots on the lungs. It was almost a year before I could walk again without crutches. It’s when I started this blog with “A Story a Day”.

The next thing the house owners turned up. The man had been sacked from his job on the farm. Would we mind ever so much if they stayed in the house for two weeks while things were sorted? We asked if they wanted us to move out but they said they wanted us to stay. Two weeks was all they needed. We cleared out the main bedroom for them. They set up their gigantic television in our living room. Seven months later we were still paying their food, their internet, their phone, their electricity, and their heating, as well still paying the weekly rent. Picture me trying to vacuum the house with crutches while they sat on the sofa with the television turned up high and massaging each other’s feet.

Eric asked if their daughter, who worked on a farm and came to stay regularly, could stop saying the F-word ten times in every sentence – especially when we had visitors. Neither of us have much against swearing but this was over the top. The mother explained that the daughter worked on a farm and such things were normal. My father was a farmer and I never once heard him swear.

Eric and I began to occasionally go away for the weekend. Secretly we were looking for another house. We would return to hear from neighbours that rowdy parties had been held in the house, one even with a huge marquee erected on the tennis court.

And then they went, with daughter, on a three week vacation to tropical Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! How wonderful is the unemployment benefit! They came back for Christmas. We had put up the Christmas tree. They erected their own Christmas tree in front of ours. Enough is enough! We said we were going in a week or so. They packed up everything of theirs in a huff and ostentatiously moved into the barn. We packed up our things except for the firewood and calf which they would not let us collect. In fact they covered our firewood with a tarpaulin and tied the tarpaulin down.

We left for Palmerston North where one of my sisters lived. We arrived, Eric and I, with a cat, a dog, a goat, and the remaining ducks that the mad landlord hadn’t killed.


There are some lovely people living in the Onewhero area. But after all this, and the gossip promoted by the “lovely couple”, our name was dirt.

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 9

331B Allen & Eyre Road, Onewhero, New Zealand

October 2006 – April 2010

Having survived a winter in Tuakau that felt more freezing than the minus 40 Celsius in Quebec, we were determined not to repeat the experience. There was a farmhouse advertised in the paper: a small two-bedroomed house in a rural setting. To get to it we had to drive across the farm, opening and shutting gates to prevent herds of snorting bulls from escaping.

The house was near a shearing shed, and clearly it once was what in New Zealand we call “The Shearers’ Quarters”. Twice a year a gang of shearers would descend on a farm for a week or so to shear and crotch the sheep. Every farm had its Shearers’ Quarters. These days shearers whizz to the farms in their expensive pickups from motels in town!

The district was called Onewhero (pronounced On-ee-fair-row). The “town” (two or three houses) had a garage for farm machinery, and a school that went from Kindergarten to the final high school year. Every country in the world shrouds the naming and numbering of school years in mystery. In New Zealand this was an “Area School” and went from ages 3 to 18.

Despite being described as “small” the house had a large kitchen-dining room and a reasonably-sized lounge with an open fire. In New Zealand the sitting room is always called a “lounge”. Barb was the liaison person with the rental agency and Neil was the farmer-landlord. Were they generous or what?

Neil was an Exclusive Brethren and would never enter a home that did not hold members of his same church. He would drop off meat for the freezer when a bull had to be put down. For example during a storm two bulls were struck and killed by lightning. Seeing that we were avid gardeners he arrived with fencing equipment and doubled the size of the property. Barb saw to it that a log burner was installed in the dining room, and that Christmas was “rent free”!

One of the house drawbacks was the shower. It was one of those rose head showers that drop water from a great height into a cold concrete cubicle with wooden slats. You used to come across such showers at camping grounds – at least in the old days. And it was right at the door entrance! I dare say a gang of shearers weren’t too bothered after a day of shearing sheep to be showering at the door. Water was another problem as all we had was rainwater, and in summer it didn’t rain much. Landlord Neil solved the water-the-garden-problem by hitching the garden hoses up to the farm’s creek water supply. It was great for the garden but not human friendly. We had to twice buy a tanker load of water.

Eric was working at nights and I had a full-time day job as librarian and general dog’s body at the Area School. For example, seven of my forty hours were spent teaching Music and Drama even though my teaching certificate had long expired. Of course, because of that, I only got paid librarian’s wages.

Eric and I bought lawn-mowing equipment and began working on weekends mowing people’s lawns and tidying their gardens. We had quite a number of clients, including a school property with large playing fields. And then disasters began to strike!

The textile plant where Eric worked was cutting out its night shift. Eric was jobless. Earlier my heart disease had so deteriorated that I could no longer help with the lawn mowing. We had sold the mowing equipment. The hospital phoned to say a vacancy for a heart operation had become available and I had an hour to get into hospital! There was no money coming in and things had happened so fast that we were unprepared to live off the $2.60 that remained in the bank account! That was when Eric found a job online to translate a Chemistry document into French. And then he found another, and another. Of course, at the start, money from overseas doesn’t happen instantly. For my part, five days after a triple bypass I was back at work with a catheter bag strapped to my thigh! I didn’t qualify for the sickness benefit said the government agency, and in fact I had been paid for the week I had away from work and that would be deducted from the next pay. Suddenly $2.60 seemed like a windfall!

There was a story behind my heart operation. The heart operation co-ordinator had phoned that morning and said you are way down the waiting list but sometimes things could be speeded up if you are prepared to go on another list. That other list is where you are operated on without much warning if someone dies or pulls out. I said that would be fine. At six o’clock that evening the phone went. It was the heart operation co-ordinator. The heart surgeon had phoned her and said a gap in tomorrow’s operations had occurred. Who is next on the list? She said she was at a restaurant and didn’t have access to her list. But wait! I have a phone number here in my purse of someone I contacted this morning. And that is how I jumped the queue – by months!

Eric got a job for about six months with a gardening company that maintained the gardens of mansions owned by rich Americas Cup yacht owners and cosmetic surgeons and the like.

The boss at Eric’s textile plant phoned to plead with Eric to come back and join the day shift. Eric thought about it and in the end said no. His translation business was growing and he did it all from home! Well actually he worked from the tiny laundry room no bigger than a cupboard, and had now bought a British-founded translation company that had a group of translating chemists around the world in 82 possible languages!

I kept chickens, specializing in the Faverolles breed; a variety of French chicken where the hens have earmuffs and the roosters have beards. (Now you know in the Twelves Days of Christmas Carol what a “French hen” is!) Eric built a fowl house of which Neil said: “When you asked to build a fowl house I had no idea you intended to build the most luxurious hen house in the country.”

Most years I was the chicken judge at the school’s annual “Calf Club Day”. Children would bring to school their lamb, calf, kid goat, or chicken they had hand-reared themselves to be judged by us professional breeders! There were very strict rules such as date of birth of the creature and the breed. Mum and Dad could help of course, but the care for the animal had to be the child’s own doing.

Flocks of wild turkeys by the dozen roamed the area and mingled with wild peacocks. In springtime the turkeys would nest around the property. I got half a dozen turkey eggs and a bantam hen hatched them out. When they grew their loud gobbling was constant and their turkey poo was gargantuan. Fairly quickly they became inhabitants of the freezer.

We got a middle-sized dog which we called Delia. Delia would parade the property with the rooster to make sure no hen flew over the fence into the garden. One day the rooster’s authority was challenged by a young upstart rooster and the old rooster lost the fight. Delia bit off the old rooster’s head. He was no longer in charge or of use. Now and again Delia would bring home a wild turkey she had killed and we would have a feast. She would circle a turkey, around and around in ever diminishing circles. The turkey would turn and turn following the dog’s movements.  The turkey would become giddy and fall over and that was it. I make it sound like she was a violent dog, but in fact she was the loveliest of the loveliest.

We became well known in the area and farmers unable, sometimes in years, to take a break from caring for their farm would call on us to look after their farm for a week or so while they went away on vacation. We would swap dahlia tubers and raspberry plants and plums and pears and such gardening things. At community parties Eric was always asked to cook the turkey. Not only could he cook a turkey to perfection, but they knew we had a convenient source. The cat thought so too.

We would harvest firewood together with others from the community. I attended a year of once-a-week night classes in cooking Indian recipes. Often on a Wednesday evening upon returning home there would be a neighbour or two waiting to taste my latest Indian creation. A neighbour kept ducks so my broody chickens were employed to hatched out and rear ducklings for them.

One of the loveliest things about the property was the peach trees. Self-seeded peach trees produced hundreds (and hundreds) of the most succulent peaches imaginable.

Thus we lived for four years. Eric’s translation business had so grown that there was no space – even for a filing cabinet. Barb came to our rescue. I think I have just the place, she said. Indeed she did!

1520: Something nice to read while having breakfast

Thelma was not well-off; in fact she was practically skint. She had three children and they lived in a little house with a fairly basic rent. Thelma’s husband had been cleaning the spouting when he fell off the ladder and landed on his head. After the funeral, Thelma tried unsuccessfully to find a job. She wasn’t skilled at much. She had very little to go on, just a few savings that were kept in a tin in the cupboard under the kitchen counter. There was enough there for five weeks’ rent and a little food and the telephone and the electricity and some school books and… By being extra careful, and by doing without herself, Thelma managed to stretch things for a week longer than expected.

But the day came… There was no money left. In fact, that was not quite true; there was a two dollar coin in the tin in the cupboard under the kitchen counter. Thelma knew exactly what she would do with it. Before moving out of the house onto the street, Thelma would spend the two dollars on candy for the kids. It was a complete waste, she knew, but it would be an opulent extravagance; a sugar-coated memory; a throw-all-caution-to-the-wind celebration. The children were at school. When they came home she would give them a chocolate each and move onto the street.

On her way out of the house she picked up a letter on the floor that had been delivered through the door earlier that morning. It was from the landlord; did she realize she had missed paying the rent eleven weeks ago? Honestly, it was enough to break the camel’s back. Thelma burst into tears. She dabbed her eyes dry, tried to look reasonably respectable, and headed for the candy shop.

Here, gentle reader, is where you step in. I know you want something nice to happen, and quickly.

Thelma was the one millionth customer to walk through the door at the candy store. She got a great big free bag of candy in all colours, shapes and sizes – more than enough to rot the children’s teeth, if they couldn’t find anywhere to use a toothbrush out on the street.

On the way home Thelma gave the two dollars (and some candy) to a woman begging on the sidewalk. Surprise! Surprise! The woman was part of a “Why-not-make-someone’s day?” television show. For her kindness Thelma won six hundred thousand dollars!

And, dear reader, if you hadn’t had such a kind heart, such a wonderful thing would not have happened to Thelma. Here’s the moral: see how you have already changed the world for good, and you haven’t even finished your morning coffee yet!

1406. Firewood

Curtis and Miriam hadn’t actually frozen to death throughout the winter, but they were never warm, never cosy. The wood burner in the house worked well enough, but they had to ration the firewood to make it last throughout the winter. The next winter they wouldn’t be caught out. They lived on the edge of a pine forest, so the coming summer would be a time to collect, chop and stack firewood.

Come summer, and Curtis and Miriam put several hours a day into the firewood. By autumn, they had enough firewood to keep the fire going all day every day throughout the winter.

That was when they received a notice from their landlord to vacate the house in several weeks. It was needed. It would no longer be rented.

Curtis and Miriam looked everywhere for another house to rent. The only suitable one didn’t have a wood burner. It had a heat pump. They moved in. They sold their firewood.

Come winter, on the proceeds from the firewood, they had a wonderful two weeks basking in the sun on a tropical island.

719. Cut the hedge!


There was no way that Calvin would cut the hedge. His wife went on and on about it.

“It stops the chilly winds blowing in from the snow-clad mountains,” said Calvin.

“It stops us seeing the spectacular view of the snow-clad mountains,” said Gillian.

Since it was Calvin whose task it was to cut the hedge, the hedge grew tall.

Then Gillian and Calvin moved away. Gillian’s job demanded it. They didn’t sell their house; they rented it out through an agency.

“You do realize,” said the rental agency man, “that if you cut the hedge and could see the spectacular view of the snow-clad mountains, you could charge an extra couple of hundred or so dollars a week. People will pay through the nose for a view like that.”

The hedge was cut down before lunch. To hell with the chilly winds blowing in from the snow-clad mountains.

Listen the story being read HERE!

558. Ballad of Giles the Tenant


It had hardly rained all summer, and then came a few heavy autumn showers. Giles discovered that the roof leaked in his rented bedroom. He phoned the rental agency and left a message.


Nice weather returned. Then it rained. Giles noticed that the unfixed roof still leaked in his rented bedroom so he phoned the rental agency and left a message.


The sunshine came back. Next it poured down. Giles moved his bed into the corridor to avoid dripping rainwater. He phoned the rental agency and left a message.


A cool early winter’s sunny day! Giles abandoned house. It was damp, and mildew was appearing on the wallpaper.


Midwinter. The rental agency was furious. They refused to give Giles his rental bond back. Irresponsible tenant.