On Friday evening, 1st June, first day of winter, I had an occasion here: thirty-one people and a ten week old baby, for me, the whole of the evening was counterpointed on the lovely sound of a baby drinking (those of you who came may not want to be bothered reading on, although it's not quite word for word).
My good friend, Rachel McAlpine, is a well known writer and, in fact, her most recent book, Scarlett Heels, has been selected by the New Zealand Society of Authors to represent New Zealand at the forthcoming Frankfurt book fair, at which New Zealand is an honored guest. So, Rachel and I put our heads together and decided she would come down from Wellington and read some of her saucy stories to a group of my friends. Apparently, she tried out different stories that were different from those she had given at previous readings, which made us into successful guinea pigs. She did this with panache, in-dispersing the stories with clips of 50's music to arouse nostalgia in those of us who were the appropriate age.
Now, all that sounds quite easy. But, this is Christchurch! Some six weeks ago, EQC took down the chimney in my living room and in the process broke the gas flue which made the gas heater unusable. I was promised a new heater would be installed on Wednesday the 30th of May and I specially requested a heater with a remote. The technician arrived, removed the old heater which although only 13 years old could not be supplied with a different flue and had therefore become redundant. During this activity he registered that the owner of the house was elderly and disabled; he inquired why we hadn't got a heater with a remote. When we explained he agreed he would contact his manager and was sure something could be done the next day. You will not be surprised to hear that nothing was done the next day. I was faced with 31 people coming to a room with cardboard wadding between us and the outside air and no heater. Fortunately the transference of heat from my wood burner room does operate into the living room, but, otherwise, I will have paid a small fortune in electricity getting the oil filled heaters to warm the room up. It is very large and south facing.
Then we had the problem of aesthetics. There was a large cardboard area where the heater should be. I ceased on the idea of removing my curtain from my warm room which has no door into the kitchen, and, luckily, we found that although the velvet was so heavy that we expected it to immediately fall down, the rail fitted perfectly onto the mantle piece without the velvet falling. The room no longer looked so hideous.
Rachel commented about the stories in that she felt the need for sex to be out in the open a bit more, given that when she was a teenager an older sister got pregnant and the rest of the family (all girls) knew nothing about what was going on.
That made me realise how fortunate I'd been, but fortunate through someone else's misfortune. My mothers older sister married without any knowledge and discovered the facts of life on her wedding night. From odd things she let drop, I think she became frigid. Before my mother married, that Aunt talked to my father and together they told mother what to expect. She was determined that Nick and I wouldn’t suffer the same way, so I was told about sex so young, I cannot remember not knowing. In the same way, I learnt about periods and could recognise immediately what was happening to me unlike a Ukranian friend in Melbourne the same age, who thought she was bleeding to death.
My parents enlightenment went even further. When girls in the 1950's got pregnant, they either had to have the baby adopted out, were forced into shotgun marriages or were taken to a back street abortionist. Not so with me, and anyway I didn't get pregnant. When I was about 16 my father said to me: “If you get into trouble, don't do anything stupid. Come to me, and we will adopt the baby.” Many years later I mentioned this to Mother and she could remember that they had agreed that thats what Dad would say to me.
After the stories and the music my friends had wine, cheese, bikkies and dips. And, would seem had a great time catching up. I admit I was tired and cannot be heard above loud noise so I retreated. But, altogether, it was a fun evening.