Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Joys of Mail

Early on in our days at Shoestring Cottage we were at a garage sale where we picked up a “new” letterbox.  The man who sold it to us enthusiastically explained that it was a classic New Zealand design and demonstrated the remarkable “Tripsava” function, whereby you can tell whether the postie has delivered mail and thus save yourself an unnecessary journey to the letterbox.  As it is about three steps from our front door to the letterbox this is perhaps not essential, but we couldn’t resist the sturdy old fashioned letterbox nevertheless (and of course it was a bargain). 

Mr Shoestring has been meaning to renovate that letterbox ever since, but because of his recent “resting” status since his redundancy he has finally had the time to complete its refurbishment.  (He only did the preparation actually, the painting was done by his long suffering lifelong their pane lbeating workshop)  What a magnificent job they did.  It is possibly a bit too grand for the cottage, but nothing wrong with a few new accessories for an old girl like Shoestring, she certainly deserves some pampering.  Though the letterbox has such delusions of grandeur, it is nearly as large as the cottage.  

Rear view - no mail - trip saved!
Rear view - mail has been delivered
 When you have mail delivered the "flip up" flap goes down - go and collect it
 Letterbox seen from the front
This week it was announced that the price of a postage stamp was going to be increased (yet again) in our fair land, the reason being that fewer people were sending mail; to make it cost efficient to handle the post, the price had to go up.  I felt this was a pity.  I have received all kinds of wonderful unexpected things in the mail over the years and it seems to be a sign of the times that people are keeping in touch with tweets, emails, and even blogs (quelle horreur!) and that we have lost the desire or ability to communicate longer and possibly more coherent and articulate messages. 

Just this month my mother in law was saddened to receive news that her penfriend of 62 years, whom she had never met, had passed away.  They originally contacted each other through an advertisement in a magazine where people sought penfriends.  Her penfriend’s son had discovered the letters in his mother’s personal effects and felt compelled to send a letter to the sender.  He was touched to find out that his mum had maintained a relationship with a friend on the other side of the world for so many decades and wanted to let the friend know of his mum’s passing.  He said that obviously the correspondence with another woman on the other side of the world had been very important to his mother. 

So, having turned all these interconnected things over in my mind I resolved that from now on I will try to send mail to my friends – the contents may not be of great import, but it will be a pleasure to give somebody that  surprise of getting something other than a bill or a speeding ticket in the post.  (Of course in time I am expecting a veritable flood of return communications.)  My girlfriends and I went through a phase a few years ago of sending funny cards to each other and it is about time we picked up where we left off.  Watch out ladies, you are next on my list!

Strangely enough I was talking this over with my friend M at a party on Saturday night and she must have been thinking along similar lines, because she coincidentally had a card for me.  Things are starting to come together in the campaign for more mail.  I am hoping for a little blip in the postal service statistics, or if everything goes really well a steady rise.  Here is the card M gave me, very retro New Zealand kitchen, perfect.  It even has a set of scales and some mixing bowls, not to mention the kitchen utensils which make Mr Shoestring's heart sing.   

At the risk of becoming a ranter I couldn't resist showing you a photo of that thuggish plant I was telling you about last week.  Sure enough, as feared this week a zillion (perhaps that is a slight exaggeration) more of these wretched lilies had germinated and some of them had even bored their way through inoffensive and harmless leaves of their neighbours in their quest to cover the entire garden.  Can you see where this one has speared its way right through the leaf which stood in its way?  Tsk tsk, I can see desperate measures are called for - I just haven't figured out what they are yet.  

There was an even more gruesome discovery on Sunday morning.  Mr Shoestring gave a little gasp of surprise as he surveyed his domain, then went dashing outside to see what the ghastly yellow blobs were in the front garden.  One of them had completely covered some of the plants and we couldn't imagine what they might be.  A search on the internet revealed them to be "witches' butter", a sort of fungus which grows when the conditions are just right.  Apparently the fungus originates in bark and we hastily scooped up the repulsive fungi and hope no more will appear.  According to our sources the fungus is edible but when I told Mr Shoestring this news he said he had nearly been sick just scooping up the horrible stuff and wasn't about to try eating any.  

Isn't it repulsive?  It looks almost white here but was really a buttery yellow colour

I recently showed you a picture of my brugmansia, of which I was very proud.  Imagine how jealous I was when I visited my mum and saw her plant this week - smothered in blooms and the scent was intoxicating too.  I can see I am going to have to do better, perhaps if I plant it out in the garden instead of in a pot, and give it lots of shelter and good food I will be able to achieve similar results.  

Last week I dried a lot of prunings from lemon verbena.  This week it was ready to be mixed in with the lavender I had already dried, hopefully over the Easter break there will be time to make some sachets to fill with the mixture.  

A year ago our number two daughter Tessa gave us a nasty fright when she collapsed during a 100 kilometre charity walk she had entered to raise money for Oxfam.  We were very relieved this weekend when she completed this year's event, in a team called "Unfinished Business".  Her feet were covered in blisters and strapped with tape, but she was very happy and planning a roast dinner with her team mates to celebrate. 

We kept up the cycling this weekend and I am very pleased to report that I have no new cuts or abrasions, perhaps in the fullness of time I will master the art of bicycling after all.  I did almost crash into a poor man coming the other way because I had been daydreaming and not seen him approach, but a miss is as good as a mile and he wasn't unduly concerned.  Happy days, happy days!  The blackberries were ripe at last and also there were lots of apples on a roadside tree, so we have harvested some for a pie tonight.