Mid-winter, so time for the blue insulated bootees to come out, now reinforced with an additional layer of black foam that I found in a ditch on the Motueka Valley Highway, and I am pleased to say that these now excite admiration rather than scorn among the children's peers.
'What are those?'
'Cool! You could enter them in the World of Wearable Art competition.'
At least, I think it's admiration.
What happens in winter is this: you install central heating. Central heating is not applied to the house in New Zealand but to the person, by means of hot water bottles installed inside your coat. Then only your fingers fall off.
The picture demonstrates the principle.
The burnt hole in the brand-new sweater is because
a) it was a polyester garment that melted because
b) a certain stupid person was angle-grinding without paying attention to where the sparks were going. (Once I set the workshop on fire, too, when they went into a huge wad of wire wool. Amazingly combustible, wire wool.)
The yellow belt is as you guessed a luggage strap that I found on a ride after Christchurch had gone home from its summer holiday in Kaiteriteri. In January the whole of Christchurch moves to Kaiteriteri and lives in caravans with a bit of plastic grass outside - I kid you not - and erects a gazebo to protect the centre part of its 4WD from the rain that doesn't fall - I still kid you not - and everyone sits on folding nylon chairs reading the Christchurch papers for a fortnight. And because the campground is rather petite for the population of a small city they do this in something of an intense huddle and all the people of Motueka go there to marvel at the sight, a hundred thousand people crammed into the five flat acres that Kaiteriteri boasts, their knees wedged under flimsy aluminium camp tables with ashtrays and beer cans and hair dryers - all the essentials - balanced precariously on top, bare shoulders bright red and freckly in the intense sunlight. (January = July in New Zealand, of course, just in case you forget that the world is upside down here.)
For the belt buckle I retained the black steel luggage hook, and though I do wear it to hold my 25-yr-old Point North coat closed and to secure the hot water bottle, it's also to toughen the children to embarrassment for when their friends call. Nor shall I tell you which of these three predominates.
With the winter rain the children have found a new walk for their exercise; it goes up past the sewage ponds to the coast where all the wildfowlers lurk and where if you turn over old logs and look lively you can catch small lizards which promptly bite your fingers and scurry off into the grass when you drop them. Beachcombing is only less hazardous if the wildfowlers don't see you carting off their mislaid decoys because, imbued with the indiscriminate wisdom of their father, the children return with any and all treasure as is to be found. My policy on bicycle rides is to go as fast as possible but to stop whenever I see an 8mm bolt or a penny washer on the road. My wife believes I am addicted to useless junk but she doesn't know how long it takes to machine an odd-sized penny washer when I come to need one, and actually it only costs twenty seconds of riding time to stop.
Unf. the 8mm bolts are always munted and anyway bolts aren't washed up on beaches, but now I never need to buy flip-flops, nor indeed Holey Soleys provided my feet shrink a bit and I'm content to wear a bright and a dark blue one, which of course I would if they fitted. The pink ones are too small and both left-footed so if anyone chances to see twin children rather distinctively hopping down the road on their right feet, send me an address and I'll post them their missing beach shoes.
And - um - you never know when you might need a plastic VW wheel hub.