When I was a first time mother I had what in New Zealand is known as a plunket nurse. This formidable lady's job was to visit new babies and their families and check that all was as it should be. My particular nurse was an "old school" type who struck fear into my heart whenever a visit was due. (Part of their job was to bring a set of scales and weigh the baby to see if it was putting on as much weight as it should, and how shameful if you failed that test! The baby's growth was plotted on a graph for easy comprehension of success or failure, as measured against the average weight gain for babies nationally if my memory serves me correctly.) My plunket nurse had some very definite beliefs, for instance the new mother should drink stout in the afternoons and eat plenty of raw peanuts in order to increase the production of breast milk. She also advised me to wear Savoy cabbage leaves inside my already hideously utilitarian beige coloured nursing bras. (I think there was a legitimate reason for this but it definitely not a very alluring look.) Anyway, one of her other beliefs was that a baby should be left to cry and not picked up, and she sternly told me, "You are making a rod for your own back" if she caught me picking up my howling first born.
For years I forgot all about this archaic "rod for your own back" saying but it has come home to me recently in a very strange way. In the Habitat for Humanity store I was having a lovely outing with my mum. We are ever so slightly competitive in case one of us finds a treasure the other would covet, so we tend to separate upon entry and make our way around separately. I happened to find the most enormous part completed needlework canvas and was looking at it despairingly, thinking that it was a shame somebody had lavished so much care and attention on a thing which obviously was never going to be completed. And which was hideously unattractive and drab.
The original worker had been very systematic and stitched only on a particular area, with commendable discipline. (I would have been hopping all over the place, filling in the most pretty and colourful parts and been left with a whole lot of brown and green to do at the end.)
Here you can see the demarcation line where stitching ceased.
Row by row the canvas has been worked, with never a deviation to a more interesting area.
Once my mum saw the canvas she insisted that I had to buy it, after all it only cost $4! What a bargain. Only when I got it home did it occur to me that there were hundreds of hours of work left to complete it and in a light bulb moment I thought, "Aha, this is what it means to make a rod for your own back!"
The colours are rather dull and dreary, the tropical parrots look like blobs of colour
and the castle looks more like a mud slide.
I have dragged the canvas out and shown it to all in sundry, hoping for some miraculous solution to the problem. Madam La Post suggested I turn it into a New Zealand scene and convert the birds into moa and pukeko. My mum came up with the idea that everybody who visits Shoestring Cottage must do a few stitches, in order to lighten the load.
But I do very much like the look of some of the unworked parts of the canvas.
The vegetation could look very lush and tropical with the addition of some more vibrant colours, I feel sure. Maybe some gold thread in the feathers of the birds and if I made the eyes with smaller stitches so that they were more defined?
It surely could be saved with more sympathetic shades and a bit of imagination, not to mention hundreds of hours of feverish stitching. Luckily I have all these left over wools my mum gave me ... perhaps this is all part of some wicked plan of hers?
The Takanini camellia I bought has turned out to be something of a disappointment. Rather than the blossoms being a red so deep as to be almost black, they are appearing as a paler and more commonplace shade and I am wondering whether it is because they are getting too much sun? I am also wondering if this bush is the same as another one which was already planted at Shoestring Cottage when we bought it. Sigh.
Lord and Lady Raglan came to stay this weekend, and it was marvellous to catch up with them again. They have been very much taken up with their new estate since moving there, so do not leave home more often than they have to. Lord Raglan is a man of intense but passing passions. (A bit like Toad in The Wind In The Willows actually, now that I think of it.) Over the years he has taken us on a journey through composting toilets, rainwater collection tanks, solar power generating for the home and various other things which exercise his imagination and make him into a campaigner. This week the topic was electric cars. He is convinced that Mr Shoestring and he should try to create one of their own. (But why stop there, a complete fleet would be good.) This is despite the fact that neither of them is a mechanic or electrical engineer, and that they do not possess a workshop or suitable tools between them. No matter, these are trifling details and easily overcome no doubt. In the end we took Lord Raglan to the private spa pool up the hill and put him in the water for a good soaking, and let him expound on the topic to his heart's content as we all nodded and agreed with all that he had to say about the wonders of battery powered cars. To lighten the load we also took him to visit Mr and Mrs Peaceable at The Peaceable Kingdom, who were very tolerant of the idea of battery powered cars. (It was a newer subject to them than it was to us, who had heard about it for quite some time already after all.) Mrs Peacable plied him with home made scones, blackberry and apple jelly, farm fresh cream and many cups of tea which gave him pause for thought and meant that he had to stop talking from time to time, so than you very much Mr and Mrs Peaceable. The visit to see the new calves on a beautiful spring day was the icing on the cake, or the cream on the scone.