Friday 22 December 2017


It's been a while since I've written here. I guess I don't have too much more to say. I am well settled into my sober life and well settled into my lovely new home. Getting prepared for our first Christmas here and looking forward to a quiet and simple one without too much hype. I want to make Christmas far more about the connection and togetherness of family than about contributing to the endless unnessessary consumerism and waste that will mainly end up as landfill all over the world, contributing to the rapid destruction of our planet. My sister put on a lovely pre Christmas lunch for our other sister and one brother and me the other day, and it was so nice to spend that time together and eat special food and talk and laugh and share what's going on in our worlds. I loved that it wasn't about gifts. It is good that we have mostly let that part of it go. I'm looking forward to spending a relaxing Christmas day with my children and their partners. I haven't quite let the gift part of it go in their case, they'd probably shoot me!

I've been busy over here the last few months in the gardens, with help of course, creating a San Pedro cacti garden by transplanting many large ones from a little rental house I have in the city. They are in a big 33 metre planter at the base of the retaining wall, and I've planted a variety of interesting succulents at their base. The cacti seem to be thriving and have got new bits already sprouting forth all over the place and nearly all of them are budding up ready to flower, and it looks like those flowers will be blooming any day. I've been bordering other gardens with rocks, some from my garden in the city and some from the Duvauchelles quarry, and had a watering system installed which is a godsend. I have to be careful how much water I use as it is a restricted daily amount. I just realised how I sound like a boring old lady talking about her garden. Perhaps I am. I have never created one from scratch before. It was at first absolutely daunting and I completely doubted my ability to achieve it. But I am liking what I've created and I hope it will fulfil my vision of what it might look like in a few years. Simplicity is the key for me, gentle grasses billowing in the breeze, some flaxes, casual, easy, hopefully independent one day!

How I feel is mostly quite at peace. It's lovely. Being here has changed how I approach my life. It has made me appreciate my time more and use it more wisely. It has helped me to live in the moment more. If it is a beautiful still day outside, it is suddenly not urgent to be at my desk, that can wait, while I take a glass of cold water out onto the deck and sit a while appreciating the beauty of the nature around me, being truly grateful for what I have here, and for the courage I found to embark upon it, and for my son whom I couldn't have done it without, and for my daughter who lights me up with her visits. 

My business has got a new momentum of it's own too. It is going well. My dear friend Dave has left, he is nearly 76. I panicked, of course, and sold about five caravans as a knee jerk reaction and a fear that I could not do this without him. All that did was give me a pocket full of money with which to start my next project, without taking anything much away from my income as they are never all rented at once. By a chance conversation with Gloria, I have now got a fabulous new maintenance man, Nick, who is very experienced, honest, enthusiastic and capable, and loves his new job. So all is well there. However, I am very saddened to have news from Dave two days ago that he has had a heart attack and is in hospital. Then last night, news that my delivery man of many years, John, who left about 6 months ago, has had a stroke and is a bit laid up and wobbly with that. I am shocked, and not sure how to feel about it. Did they stay too long? or is that when they left things started packing up? I suspect the latter and have told them both when they are recovered they'd better come back to work! I’ve loved having these fabulous men in their seventies work for me the last 5 or 6 years, their knowledge and experience has been invaluable, and their humour has always brightened my days.

Early in the new year a new project begins, the total renovation of my humble but gorgeous wee home in Diamond Harbour, that is sadly cracked and broken still, from all the earthquakes. I got a fairly decent pay out to fix it up but it all got sucked up into this build, so I have to finance it myself now. I've got a good team on board and feel quite excited. It is all part of my master plan, and will probably be sold to help pay for this home.

I am still loving waking up each day feeling alive and happy and content and ready to achieve good things. I find continual clarity of mind the most under-rated human condition of all, I think. As when you don't have it you don't know what you are missing, or that you are missing anything at all, let alone something vital and wonderful. 

This week I passed the three and half year mark since I kicked the booze to the curb.

I can't say I have any regrets. I have just one life, one body, one heart, one mind, and one soul. 

I am going to treat my body, my heart, mind and soul as the precious gifts that they are.
I hope to do this always. 

Friday 27 October 2017


It's been over four months now since I moved here. It's been great watching the seasons change from winter to spring and getting lots of salubrious and sultry days with the water like glass and the sun pelting down with not a breath of wind until later in the day. 

Growth in all ways is a beautiful thing, and there has certainly been some of that internally. However, growth in the garden remains a somewhat hideous challenge for me. The weeds are now bigger than the plants I planted and it all seems just too big, too steep and too daunting, and I am procrastinating badly. However, Rory came on Tuesday, bless him, and weed-eated around all of the plants and will come back next week and carefully spray wherever there are no plants. I have always consciously avoided spray, don't like poisons at all (apart from my previous passion for booze of course, and a few drugs). It is rather shameful what a turncoat I have instantly become when the alternative is to spend the rest of my days in the garden (which mainly consists of very steep tall banks) weeding my life away. Just not my thing I'm afraid. It's  enough for me just to keep up with the watering! I was a bit over zealous on that front last week and managed to run my tank dry! Progress has been made in the San Pedro cacti department. 36 tall ones have been cut off and the ends sharpened like pencils and are lying down at Rorys place drying out before being bought here for planting. The rest will be dug out, and they will go in the 33 metre long planter out the back and get full sun for the rest of their lives. I am so looking forward to that challenging enterprise being completed, but I'm dependent on others, so I must be patient, it will happen just when they can. I hope it is soon though, it's a long wait. I also hope the cacti don't die once planted, which is always a possibility I guess. I'll be an old hand at all this with a green thumb in a couple of years I hope, but in the meantime I feel a bit out of my depth. I like to have a man when I garden. I like to point and man dig. 

The internal growth I spoke of is more like an exercise in patience and humility. In a new community, without children to connect you with others, without alcohol lubricating the way into a social life, without living right in amongst the community, and being 61 instead of 30, it is a little harder to integrate oneself and begin new friendships. I have been making an effort though. I had a good time during the French Festival. I volunteered and was put on the merchandising stall selling French berets, flags, posters and caberet tickets. The Friday night was a fun party in the street with a live band, lots of dancing and revelling, much local comeraderie, and the stall was very busy. On the Saturday it rained but still quite busy. They gave me a French beret and a ticket to the caberet in the big marquee. I ran into an old Akaroa primary school friend during the day who was attending on his own so we agreed to meet at the door and sit together, which was fun, and we laughed and chatted away with ease. During the evening I ran into Al Park and his girlfriend Mel who were geared up to sleep in their car up in the hills. It was pouring with rain so I invited them to stay. We left the caberet quite early and had a real nice time here around the fire talking and getting to know each other better, until about 2am. They insisted on taking me for breakfast in Akaroa the next morning. 

A couple of weekends later Al invited me to go to the Rhododendron Gardens in Little River, owned by an old hippie friend of his. The gardens were in full bloom and open to the public that day and Al was providing some ambient music on the veranda as a favour for his friend. So off I went, and had a lovely afternoon in the most beautiful setting and it turns out the owner, Bruce, is an old friend I knew back in the eighties and hadn't seen for 37 years! He even helped Mum and Dad move into Clearbrook Farm, as both my brothers were away I think. The music was mellow, the sun shined down, the gardens were gorgeous. I remembered I had seen Al Park play once at the Town Hall before Marianne Faithful came on, one of his more memorable gigs. I had a curry in the slow cooker for Al and Mel so invited Bruce as well and we all had a nice meal together and lots of chat and humour. Bruce left, Al, Mel and I stayed up quite late, then in the morning they took me on a big hike up to the Whakamate Waterfall in the Hinewai Reserve. It was a long uphill climb starting from Long Bay, quite a challenge for un-fit little me, but I managed it and felt great afterwards, and we had a picnic up at Akaroa's version of Stone Henge. So yeah, new connections are being made, slowly but surely, and even though none of these people live here, it is nice to be making some new friendships.

 I am doing okay. I am grateful every single day for the beauty of nature. How can one feel too alone when they have the company of the ever changing sea to look at every day, and the sunrises and sunsets which are so much more noticed here, and the hills with their jagged outlines meeting the sky. It is a beautiful, quiet, safe and tranquil little piece of paradise. I have been here four months, and that is a tiny space of time in the grand scheme of the rest of my life. 

I am lucky. And "No thank you, I don't drink". Don't even think about it all that much any more.

Sunday 10 September 2017


It's 5.00am Monday morning and I've been awake for ages thinking about the amazing weekend I've had. I hosted a sober gathering for 14 friends from the Living Sober crew. I had some of them stay here and we hired my sisters and my nephews homes to house the rest of them. They all wanted to come and see my new home so it was a good excuse for a get together. Wow! It has been just perfect. It could not have been better in any way, there is nothing at all I would change. The warmth and kindness, the raw truth and honesty, the continuous humour, the stories and the laughter. The food, the bounty of huge sides of freshly caught Akaroa salmon supplied by my friend, the effortless flow of my new kitchen and the easy comfort of everyone helping. The resident barrista who bought her own coffee machine and kept everyone very happy with her continuous and generous supply. The quiet late night guitar and beautiful singing of our wonderful friend, and the powerfully sweet sound of all our voices quietly blending in singing Hallelujia and Here Comes the Sun. Hundreds of small conversations allowing us to know each other better, the feelings of closeness, trust and understanding. The safety of each other's company. The pride in Rory, who stayed for several hours the first day. Everyone just loving the home he has created for me and enjoying getting to know him after hearing so much about him for the last couple of years. 

There is a richness in my soul this morning as I look back and remember all the precious moments we have shared. The spirit of our laughter, the strength of our growing friendships, and the power of our connection has seeped into the walls and floors and ceilings of my home, making it warmer, richer, and filling it with memories of love and kindness and humour. I am so grateful to all who travelled so far to be here and share this weekend with me. I will never forget it.

A lovely long skype session with Mrs D who spoke to every one of us and then got me to take her on a virtual tour of the house, which I was hopeless at and she probably saw more ceilings and floor than anything else. A really nice wind down after most had left, with just three of us sitting by the fire and discussing the highlights, sharing some more food and feeling empowered by the experience we've had. And then just one staying a little longer, prolonging her drive home to Christchurch, and discovering we had a rainbow hovering above. A magic little moment to end a beautiful weeeknd. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday 30 August 2017


I'm sitting up in bed very early, with the curtains drawn back, waiting for the dawn. Just 5 or 6 lights shining a reflection into the water across the bay, and a very few scattered lights on the hillside. So different from a big cityscape of lights. Beautiful in its quiet smallness and simplicity. Soon I will have a bath, and from there I also have amazing views which give me such a feeling of richness within. Nature in all its glory, after city life for the last 12 years, is so very welcome back in my every day life.

Spring is officially here tomorrow but it's already started and it's wonderful to be having beautiful warm days lately, although it's raining just now. The boys laid the ready lawn last week and it is like putting the icing on the cake. I just love it and it looks amazing and really finishes the place off. Been doing some more planting too with the help of a lovely lady who Rory met at the dump and introduced me to.
The corten steel cladding is now finished and starting to rust and although it won't be to everyone's taste it is certainly floating my boat bigtime. Oh, and on my way home last night I picked up my beautiful copper sculpture after the exhibition ended at the Little River Gallery. It is an extravagence for sure, but one I will enjoy forever, and the money is justified by the fact that I could have drank and smoked the same amount in about 10 weeks.

Next weekend I'm having a gathering of some of our sober clan from Living Sober. There will be 16 of us if they all make it, and we are renting my sisters and my nephews houses to help accommodate them all. They are keen to check out the new house and it's a good excuse for a get together. It is quite an honour to have them all wanting to come, as they are coming from Auckland, Hamilton, Perth, Wellington, Blenheim, Dunedin and Christchurch. Most of them have witnessed me dreaming about building this house, pulling the pin for a while, then deciding to bite the bullet and get on with it, and the rest is history. They've been there, listening, sharing in the triumphs, and the pride I have in my son Rory the builder, the frustrations and anxiety sometimes, and the joy in seeing it all come together, so its awesome that they will be here now to occupy and share in it for the weekend. What I love about these new friendships is we are all like a bunch of licorice allsorts, so very different from one another but with a bond of trust and loyalty and honesty second to none. These people, my new sober friends, they really "get it". They understand what a big deal it is to be living a life with no booze ever. Mostly it is just fine and its my normal way of being now, it's not as if I think about it all the time or wish for my life to be different. But it is good to feel understood. It is good to be around people who have walked the same path and know the myriad of emotions involved in arriving at this place of inner freedom.....and staying here. 

The booze will always hold that lure for me. When I crave it I really crave it. I almost smell it and taste it, and I imagine that liquid honey sliding down my throat, and the feeling as it takes it's effect, and I long for it sometimes, still. But I don't ever long for all the crap that goes with it. I don't long to be less of myself because of it. I don't long to get loud and raucus and talk shit. I don't long to wake up and feel like going back to sleep because I don't want to face the day. I don't long to live with that nagging knowledge that I have a problem and I need to deal with it. 
I absolutely LOVE the freedom from all of that, and if it comes with the small cost of occasional cravings and a way smaller social life, I will live with that. I will also find the advantages in that. One is that it is way easier to make this transition to come and live here in beautiful Takamatua, where I have no friends, yet, and definately no social life, because I am already well used to my life being way smaller in the ways of social interaction. I am preferring quality over quantity. I am enjoying my own company too. I am getting things done. I still see my children as often as before and that is what matters. I am taking a leaf out of Charles Bukowski's poems and appreciating my solitude. I am okay. I am enough.

Thursday 3 August 2017


I've woken this morning bright and early with an amusing little epiphany. I was reading an article last night which linked solitude to creativity, so I am hoping I may become inspired creatively at some stage. 

Then I thought in the meantime I shall just continue to write my blog, even if it isn't so much about alcohol or the lack of it any more. It is about my life as I go forward without it. Then that led me to think about my life now as being on an even keel. No big highs and no big lows. Then of course that led me to think about a life of drinking, my previous life in fact, as being quite similar in a sense to very rapid cycling bi polar. Sailing along on an even keel for a day or so, then getting on it and having a major high episode, talking loudly, getting over excited, doing and saying things we probably wouldn't normally, sometimes getting a bit out of control, lots of laughter, or sometimes hot headedness, impatience, or anger. Possibly saying hurtful things to someone close in the heat of the moment. Sometimes just having fun, dancing, laughing and feeling happy. Then bed. Then wake up. Feeling low. Feeling lots of feelings that go with feeling low. Physically under par, feelings of remorse, guilt, shame, nagging worry, regret, sadness, lack of motivation, tiredness, all leading to feeling a mini-depression for the day. We battle on through, then towards the end of the day we decide to make ourselves feel good again, and away we go on a new tangent. Often they are just mini tangents where there is no bad behaviour, no particular excess and it's quite mellow, but another little drinking tangent it is, and underlying nagging worry and guilt accompanies it, for me. Have a few more and that mostly goes away, until the morning, or more often the middle of the night! Having close links to someone with bi polar I am qualified to make this comparism. I don't mean in any way that is actually anything to do with being bi polar. I just woke with the similarity in my mind. Like a mini version of it. For someone like me. Bi polar is something a person is born with. Some argue that alcoholism is too. Whatever the truth is in that, with bi polar a person has no choice. With alcohol they do.

So all of that led me to look at my life now, three years down the track of being sober at all times.

Although it has been a very emotional and enlightening journey, facing everything that life dishes up to me, good or bad, with my feet planted firmly on the ground, never once altering my state to soften hurt feelings or bad news, or to lift my spirits (funny wee pun) in times of sadness or in celebration, or to ease feelings of pressure and stress after a hard day's work. Or to cut loose and join in with friends and family and enjoy the familiar loosening up and fun and camaraderie and communication created by sharing an evening of drinking together. The latter is what I miss the most, sometimes achingly so. I think it is very sad that I don't fit in to anyone's life much anymore. Just because I don't drink. It says more about them and about our culture and our society than it does about me, I think.

So here I am, living in solitude a lot of the time, in the home I have designed, bespoke for me, with the help of an excellent and creative architect, and the tremendous effort, skill and passion of my adorable and generous son Rory, and many of his friends who've worked on it in their various professions. Now that this project nears completion I am hoping that soon some new creativity will enter my sphere and inspire me. 

In the meantime I am living my life on an even keel. I feel strong, good, quite alone not surprisingly, it's me that put me here where I know almost no one. It is beautiful here, kind of empowering, and I feel way more peaceful in these surroundings. I know I have set myself up for a fulfilled and purposeful life. I will be patient, grateful, and hopeful while that unfolds.

My rudder is steady.

Saturday 22 July 2017


It's cold and raining this morning and the power has gone off. Last night the Takamatua beach road was flooded so I was stranded if I had of wished to get out, which I didn't, so that was fine. It is a pretty serious storm going on out there, a state of emergency has been called for Christchurch, Banks Peninsula, Timaru and Dunedin, much flooding and slips on some of the highways. At this point there doesn't seem much point in getting up, but when I do I will feel glad that I chose a gas cooker and have a gas fire as well as a heat pump. It will be interesting to see if I can light the fire without electricity as it stupidly runs with a remote that I think requires electricity to ignite. I shall find out soon.

I woke this morning with a strong sense of trusting my intuition. It was right out there in the forefront of my mind. Trust. You see I don't really know what I'm doing with my business, or my life and future right now. In fact I've been winging it in every way for so long now, with the goal being simply to build this home and make this move, which wasn't at all simple and has been all consuming for some time. Now that I'm here, and the purpose and goal has been achieved, it leaves me room to ponder what is next. I find it exciting to not have a particular plan, to be open to whatever feels right. I'm kind of over my caravan rental business, but after spending a good hour on the calculator yesterday, and even with the most optimisitc slant on the facts, it is clear to me that I can't afford to not continue it. I do not have a magic wand to wave (yet) that gives me a secure income, and the ability to live here with no money worries. That is the next goal I guess. The one thing I do know is that no matter what it has cost, coming here feels so good and so right, and although it will take time to adjust and to feel a part of a community, I am prepared for that, and I know deeply that I am in exactly the right place and at the right time of my life. This is very reinforcing, and a good feeling to wake up with today. And right this second the power has just come on. I am glad I used the time wisely by getting these thoughts down on my tablet from the comfort and warmth of my cosy bed, with the view to die for, even if it is all stormy and foggy and rugged out there, it's just another aspect of the ever changing character of the harbour.

Feeling lucky. Now to get up and sieze the day. I'll go for a wee drive and observe the damage around the area. I am probably still stranded I would imagine. Slips and road closures yesterday. Not much easing up overnight it would seem, and forecast to be relentless today. The house feels good and strong and safe.

Wednesday 19 July 2017


Today it is 3 years since any alcohol has passed my lips and entered my bloodstream and played havoc with my brain. Today I am very proud of that fact. Today I can reflect back, with much relief and no regret, and see clearly the path I have walked these last three years.
Here I sit at my black granite and wrought iron table with my pot of organic lemon and ginger green tea, with Aunty Mary's beautiful bone china tea cup and saucer, looking out at the familiar beauty of the hills and sea and sky. As a child this outlook was all I'd ever known, so it didn't occur to me to be grateful for it every day. It certainly does now though. Every single morning when I wake I throw my curtains open and look with enormous gratitude at the few orange lights across the water as I slowly watch the dawn arrive. I vow never to take for granted the privilege it is to live here, to have built my home here, and to have taken alcohol out of my life, and discovered with wonderment, a life of happiness, contentment, fulfillment, clarity and peace.

At three years sober I am also grateful for the friends I have made who walk the same brave path, swimming against the tide of what our culture has taught us is the way to live. It wasn't an easy lifestyle to give up, and I can see why people remain stuck in their habits forever. It is easier to do what we have always done, to have what we have always had, than take away something central to our very being, our way of life, leaving an almighty gap filled with vulnerability, uncertainty, time to fill, self reflection, and social rejection, or at the very least non-inclusion. It's tough alright, and it takes a long time to battle the extreme emotions, and for me the aloneness, of living life real and raw. When you have a feeling you sit with it, look at it, feel it, understand it, accept it, it passes. All this is done very consciously, unlike the unconscious way we have used alcohol to dull or numb our it a stressful day, or something huge like a death or the end of a relationship. Or be it a happy occasion, a celebration, we have still used alcohol to dull our brains. That is what it does, it puts a carcinogenic poison into our bodies and bloodstreams and brains and changes our personalities and compromises our health. There can be no denying of that fact, even though it's fun at the time......and seems acceptable because everybody does it, and the very idea of it is rammed home to us on a daily and hourly basis with media hype, magazines, TV, movies, all forms of advertising, peer pressure and social media. Such is the drinking culture we have all grown up with. Not many choose to question it. I am pleased to be one that did.

So, today I am very happy that I took alcohol out of my life, and have made it to three years free of it.
I am happy with who I am, where I am, and how I spend my time. I am especially happy that as a direct result of me giving up drinking, my son Rory has given it up and stuck to it, and is now in his 19th month alcohol free. I am extremely proud of all he has achieved here building my home, his first build, and with his trademark "Passion for Perfection" the beautiful job he has done for his Mum. I am even more proud of his courage as a man, to choose to live a life so different to all of his friends and to walk that walk. He has no regrets. He is amazing. A legend!

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