We Are Selling our “Stuff”

For some reason, (surprise, surprise!) I have not been able to concentrate on writing at all for the past few weeks.  I have been totally dedicated to  selling our goods on Trademe  (our local on-line auction) preparing for our garage sales,  throwing stuff away and having farewell meals with friends.

Trademe is hard work.  After taking photos and measurements, deciding on the price and whether or not to have a reserve, then writing a description, the item goes up for sale. It is important to be honest about the condition of the goods, without killing interest.  Photos are good, because they can be used to illustrate problems accurately.  From there on it is a matter of checking the site and answering questions that are usually asked by people who have no intention of bidding at all.  It is very frustrating.

The secret is to get the opening price right.  Low enough to encourage a start to the bidding, yet high enough to close out the “tyre-kickers”  – and there are not a few of these around.  (Often the ones who ask difficult questions that are time-consuming to answer, see above.) Setting the asking price is difficult  because  I believe we all suffer from a common ailment known as “over-estimation of the value of our possessions”.  Bidders suffer from the opposite syndrome – “anything up for auction is worth nothing, but we will offer the bare minimum we can get away with no matter how fabulous the item is.”

Many traders, indeed, put no reserve on their goods and start the bidding at $1.00 with no reserve.  It is not hard to find fridges, for example, with 5 or more bids reaching a selling price of around $6.00. I think that this is really a way of free dumping, but there you are….

Fortunately, every so often, an offering will be snapped up by someone with wonderful taste and an un-erring eye for beauty. All, then, is right with the world.  They pay the correct price or even more without arguing, they come and pick up and enthuse mightily.  They even ask if you have anything else they can look at.  Bless them – they may even buy that something else!  Fate seems to arrange that it happens often enough to keep us interested in keeping going with the exercise which would, otherwise, seem futile.

Anyway, slowly we are moving stuff out.  We have had two garage sales on successive Saturdays –  fun times as old friends from Hospice came to assist.  This method of re-cycling old junk (or maybe not) seems to be losing ground, though.  Years ago, people crowded to sales like this in their hundreds.  Tales were told of punters arriving and knocking on the door in the dark hours before dawn and the advertised  7 am start.  Not so now.  The only consolation was that although visitors were relatively few, those that came spent well.  All the excess was taken by our friends from Hospice to sell in their shop.

Our next tasks now, are to pack those clothes that are travelling as excess luggage and to prepare for the packing company people who are coming next week. Inexorably, time is ticking away and it is now only 6 weeks or thereabouts till we leave New Zealand.


There’s an awful lot to get rid of on Trademe between now and then!


Packing – Who Needs It?

Garage sale preparations (shudder!)

Now we are struggling with the heart-break of packing and deciding what goes and what stays.  Have you ever done this?  I guess most of us go through it at one stage or another and that it gets worse as we get older and accumulate not only our own memories, but those of our children who no longer live under the same roof.  Moving overseas increases the anguish – we can no longer say, “put it in the lock-up”, or, “they (adult kids) can take them when they move back to set up a home”.  The constant tussle between need and want.  Do we need the twenty five or so school magazines, dating back to 1957 and up to 1998? NO!  Do we want them?  Do we ever look at them? NO!……but……..they are memories……… they are valuable(?) records of the past………… we may want to refer to them some day……..they are part of our story………..

Three sets of University notes, essays, choreography notes, pictures of bones, portfolios of drawings, photographic boards, text books  – the list is infinite.  Yesterday, we had a Skype connection with our daughter in London.  She wept as she decided which favourite bears we should fit in and what she should do with a carton of greetings cards, amassed over 30 years of living.


Music, from my piano days, Rachael’s flute lessons , my double-bass primer. Theory lessons from 1957. Books and notes from when I taught. The complete score of the Messiah from college days.  The Mikado, a gift from my father, again in 1957.  (Family and friends, slightly tipsy, each took a part and sang lustily, usually out of tune, except for my mother and her mother.  Now they are all gone.)  Do we need these old, brown, sheets of notation  –  Chopin, Bach, et al? No!  Do we want them?  Well -some.  I have binned about two thirds and have kept the rest against the day I finally get an electric piano.  Today, I have finally sold my real piano, after 25 years of ownership.  Never really been keen on the new sort,  but in a small house…………

Friends - time to say, "Goodbye"

Not even thinking about the books…………..

Please advise!

Markets – Aussie Style!

Do you like markets?  Can you cope with the crowds,  the jostling,  the weather,  the sticky fingers,  the lousy loos,  the buskers,  the dodgy  food, the tat,  the dirt,  the prices…………

Well!  Listen up!  In Australia, there is a market that is a market that you will love no matter how fussy you are.   It is in a town in Queensland called Eumundi.  It has just enough of the above to make it real, but it also has a huge number of wonderful stalls and shops, reasonable prices, quality,  original gear not made in the East, fabulous food,  giant trees providing shade, great coffee,  free parking provided with a shuttle- bus service – and we did not get to see even half of it!

We arrived around 9.30 am, having driven from Budrum, and as we came off the main road, we saw cars lined up in a large field and a queue of people standing by the gate.  There was a sign indicating that we should park there for the market and that there would be a shuttle along shortly, so  we went with it, parked and waited.  One by one and in twos and threes,  people got bored with waiting and opted to walk the couple of kilometres into the town and by the time the bus arrived we were almost at the head of the line.  Glad we waited.  The sun was already scorching and as we parked under the trees, having reached our destination, we could see the first of the ‘tough guys’  trudging along the side of the road,  already dragging their feet in the heat, looking totally disconsolate.  “Serve them right!”, we thought, as we murmured in sympathy.

A Canopy of Trees

By now, it was 10.00 o’clock and the crowd gathering.  The stalls, of course, were open  and business was well under way.  The market spread over acres of open ground, on which massive trees grew, providing a natural canopy.  Under the trees, in the middle of the stalls, were places to sit to eat and a play-ground for the children.  Nestled  in between all the permanent shops along and up from, the main street were more stalls and around the perimeter of the space were permanent stalls, rather like a row of garages, built to a high standard, which housed the more ‘posh’ businesses.

Excitement was in the air (and this happens twice weekly!). Children were leaping around, musicians were playing at top volume, stall-holders were spruiking  and edging cheekily into all this noise were the bird sounds made by the guys selling little bits of plastic, that if held in the mouth, and after some instruction and practise, allowed the player to imitate the sound of any bird they liked.

The Electric Didgeridoo!

I was particularly taken by the didgeridoo player, (a Torres Strait Islander), who had electrified his instrument!  He played with a flautist and the music was haunting enough to make one weep.  We bought a disc of the music in support of his and the flautist’s talent and I know we will enjoy many hours of nostalgic listening, when driving around the lanes of England.

Traditional Didgeridoos for Sale.

How that represents our society now – a Torres Strait Islander, playing an electronic didgeridoo, filling the country lanes of England with its haunting melodies.  It is all too weird.

Many stalls sold oils, soaps and cosmetic products made locally.  There was a wonderful stall where small appliqued leather bags made by hand were on offer.  Each was a ‘one-off’ and the designs were amazing.  With my usual efficiency,  my camera, by now, was US. I had forgotten to charge the camera battery the previous night  and the back-up was in the car in that car park on the edge of town.   So,  unfortunately, no pics.  I am really fed up about it, because those bags were really special.

Button Jewellery

Did manage to snap a well-priced array of very attractive button jewellery, though, which would have cost heaps more in a store in Sydney or Melbourne.

Our purchase of the day, was a jar of lemon balm and ironbark with local  cane sugar which my husband now uses for shaving and which I use on my face and my hands.  (Why?…….I hear my children ask.) Well, my husband swears it gives him the best shave he has ever had and my hands and face are as soft now, as they ever were. Good enough for me.

We loved the stall where the most beautiful roses were being sold.  The stall-holder grinned at us and flexed his muscles with great delight while holding a bunch of roses. “Everyone’s a show-man”!

The buffest florist in Australia!!
The roses, sold by the buffest florist in Oz.

We ate Momos for lunch, gave some money to the buskers and bought a bag of the latest local food – finger limes.  These are a small fruit, the size and shape of your average chili, but coloured a muddy brown to aubergine. Inside, are tiny globules of pulp, rather like miniscule, creamy-pink  fish eggs.  The chap on the stall where they were being sold, told us to add them to our gin, use them with fish, or just sprinkle them through a salad for a distinct ‘limey’ flavour.

When we got home, we did just that and they were great!

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The Sunshine Coast – Budrum and Birds

The view from Budrum Mountain.

Well, it is now well into January and my promise to myself to write a little about  Australia each day has been lost to the wind, so here are a few notes, – post-holiday- of the memorable time we had.

A most enjoyable family Christmas and New Year, came and went.  My cousin’s daughter flew off to Shanghai to begin a new job there and M and I drove to Budrum and Maroochydore to farewell the rest of the family.  The Sunshine Coast, as opposed to the Gold Coast, is further North.   The atmosphere seems quieter, less brassy and commercialised than Surfers Paradise.  The sea is just as sparkly and blue and the sands are the same pristine white,  but there are fewer high-rises and the cafes and bars are host to a slightly older crowd, more families with babies and retired folk, squeezing out a bit more warmth in their lives before it is too late.

Lush gardens in Montville

The vegetation is even more lush than further south and the countryside is heavy  with languid palms,  native eucalypts,  sculptured  ficus and old camphor laurel trees (the ones that explode in bush fires because of their oil content).  Budrum is on a plateau and benefits from its added height, as cool breezes float up from the sea, making life a little more bearable when the sun is at its hottest.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos join us for drinks!

Crows screech violently with old-men’s hacking voices each morning from  around dawn at four o’clock.  Occasionally the  liquid chimes of a butcher bird interrupt them, putting them to shame, then the purring chirp of the doves, slightly harsher than their English counterparts but just as insistent, come floating through the air.  Birds are full- time in Budrum  and in the past I have stayed on the other side of the hill, where sulphur-crested cockatoos, rosellas, galahs, butcher birds and a myriad of others would come and feed on the veranda each evening,  joining us for drinks.

The Glass House Mountains



We  drove up into the Blackall Ranges,  where we had wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and  the Glass House Mountains  (named by Captain Cook in 1770 because of their resemblance to the glass-making furnaces in his home town of Whitby in Yorkshire) We drove then, to the other side of the range and looked East, back over the plains to the Pacific ocean in the distance.  It was surprisingly cold, notwithstanding the summer. Facing East, a chill wind whipping around us, made us wish for sweaters, but we just had to live with the ‘goose-bumps’, intrepid travellers that we are.  Recognition of the appalling immensity of the Australian continent begins to register here, the understanding that however vast this particular aspect is, it is only the beginning of this vast sprawl of land. It is a difficult and uncomfortable concept for one raised on a small island!

Hazelnut - Yum!

We finished our trip in the charming village of Montville, home of the “world famous in Australia” Poets Cafe.  This is a tourists paradise, with cute shops selling the usual over-priced tat and an ice-cream stand selling the biggest single-scoop ice-creams we had seen for years.  Another great day!

Wild Weather

Today, our beautiful holiday weather hid behind looming, steel-grey, clouds.

We sat out on the deck this morning and watched the canal – smooth like glass, the limpid water a deep, greenish grey, almost reflective. The tide was high, although not quite as high as the King Tide we had experienced a couple of days before.  A couple of small boats puttered past, bearing lethargic fishermen trolling for who-knows-what, barely bothering to look where they were going.

A shoal of small fish, each about 10 inches long, seemingly transparent with a black-trimmed tail, enjoyed a meal in the water beside us, flicking off when they had exhausted whatever succulent morsels they had found.

The breeze we had enjoyed died away, leaving us in a sultry heat, silent, damp and sticky.

This afternoon, the rain came.  Huge drops crashing against the windows, picked up by flurries of a new  wind and hurled willy-nilly to saturate any unfortunate who was caught out in the open.

Down on the beach, a couple of dogs and their owners ran wild, as the water heaved up over the rocks. Silver spray filled the air,  hiding the sandy beach and the headlands, leaving only the iron silhouettes of sky-scrapers and apartment blocks to show that we were not alone in this place.

The Silver Coast

Gold Coast – still good, after all these years!

Palm Beach - On the Canal - heaven, I think.

So, here I am, sitting on the deck, the waters of the canal lapping at the edge of grass I cannot see, enhancing my impression of being on a ship sailing away. The sun is glistening on the water, the breeze is ruffling the trees and the mad rush of Christmas has died away.   Palm Beach, on the Gold Coast of Australia is looking pretty good.

Palm Beach - the Canal and Jasper



This morning, we are on the watch for dolphins bringing  their babies up the canal, a common sight at this time of the year.  We may see sting-rays or bull sharks too.  Not so welcome visitors, but quite at home here, enough so that it is not recommended to swim across the canal, but to stay in the shallows.

Fox-Tail Palm - the leaves are shaggy on the ends. Must find a really big one. It looks quite disreputable!



The Gold Coast does not seem to have changed appreciatively since our last visit 3 years ago.(Can it really be that long?)  The gardens are still beautiful with lush palms, heavily green gardens and discreet, earthy ochre and tan-coloured houses hidden in the foliage.

Spider Lily. Aren't they great? So pretty. It is lovely to find a 'new' plant.




Last night, out on the veranda, lumbering fruit bats flapped over our heads while we tried to identify constellations of stars, as they slowly wheeled over-head.  We were sipping champagne and nibbling on Stilton and crackers and felt at one with the universe. May 2012 bring Peace to Us All.

Australia for Christmas

I am sitting at Auckland Airport, gritting my teeth and cursing my own stupidity.  We purchased Christmas presents to take to Australia and have just donated a couple of them to the security services because they were liquid – two large bottles of gourmet chocolate sauce, one dark and one white.  I thought I would put them in my hand luggage to protect against breakage. Ha! I cannot believe that I did that.

Never mind, we have now bought 2 bottles of Moet and a bottle of Sapphire gin, so that should help me to numb the pain.

Manukau Harbour at Auckland Airport

Auckland Airport is looking good.  We spent the night at the Novatel as our flight was at seven a.m.  We drove over last night, had a leisurely, if rather overly-expensive dinner and went to bed, already feeling as though we were on holiday.  This morning, rose at 4.15 a.m.  it was wonderful just having to wander across to the terminal, use the automatic book-in and walk straight through immigration control. We found that actually, the whole exercise was totally unnecessary, as Air NZ had changed our flight without any notification and we are now to leave two hours after our scheduled time.

I like this airport.  It is smallish and friendly and although the food in the cafes is not so good, at least the coffee isn’t bad and there are comfy chairs to chill in and shops to browse.  I love the check-in board that has flights rated as ‘boarding’ ‘called’ and ‘relax’.  Haven’t seen that before, but it makes me chuckle.

Plenty of people travelling, I guess doing just as we are – joining friends and family for Christmas.  We are off to Coolangatta on the Gold Coast and staying with family in Palm Beach.  We are looking forward to blue skies and hot weather – escaping from the dreary wet and cold weather in NZ, I hate to say.  Summer seems to get later and later each year.

Off to the gate, now.  Will soon be air-borne.  Can’t wait!!

Forgot to mention that we have just had confirmation that the sale of our house has gone through and we are now unconditional.  The original bank refused to lend the money to our prospective buyers, so they went elsewhere and were granted a loan immediately.  Just what is that about??  Ours was the third house they had refused to lend money on and our poor buyers were distraught.  We would have been too, had we known what was going on.

Anyway, all is well and we can relax and enjoy our time in Australia, saying farewell to our Australian cousins.


Diana and Tiffany gave me a bunch of peonies when they came to stay.  I have to say that they gave us more pleasure than almost any other flowers we have received.  Not only were they things of beauty, they provided us with on-going entertainment, as the buds opened, matured and eventually died. It was too entrancing a sight to forget, so I took photos of every stage, and here they are.

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When they were new, the buds were a lush, unbelievable pink, shiny and tightly furled.  Then, they began to open and the changes were fast  even for the flower world.  Each time we saw them, there were obvious developments in shape and, more particularly, in colour.  The lush pink gradually softened and grew paler, leaving the softer pink streaked with fine crimson threads and with tones of peach.  By the end, the flowers were actually a creamy yellow, with the texture of fine, dry skin.

One of the more beautiful experiences in life.  Thank you Diana and Tiffany.

No Progress on the House

OMG.  If I was grey this morning, I am white this afternoon.

Open Home's Off, Luv!

The week progressed slowly, with the new purchasers signing a conditional agreement to buy.  All went well.  The open home was cancelled.  Their builder gave the verandah the OK, they paid the deposit and last night they came and we discussed all the final details. Lovely people and they love the house so we were very happy.


Just had a call from the EA.  The purchasers’  bank sent a valuer this morning.  Coincidentally, he valued the house for us when we bought it!  No problem though and he gave us a good and fair report (at least he said so).

Now, the bank wants further reports on the design of the house before it will cough up the money. I am devastated, especially as M spent a couple of hours this afternoon at the travel agents checking on fares to the UK in March!

Now we have to sweat it out again.  We were supposed to go unconditional today, but now, who knows?

Progress on the House

Our house is for sale!

I can hardly believe it, but it looks like we just may have sold the house.  In the week it has been on the market, we have had a few couples through.  Mostly, they were fairly non-committal about things, but a couple, who came through last Friday put in an offer.  It was too low, but we counter-offered and they accepted, conditional on their builder checking out a couple of issues they felt were important.

Of course, it was the balcony  which we had had repaired before we went off to the UK last year and which has been fine ever since, but with this ‘leaky home’ business, everyone is on hot bricks and all bases have to be covered.  Anyway, it  has no down-pipe and is really too small to need one, but they felt it should have one.  Grrrrrrr!  Of course, they would have to come when the rain was barrelling down and there was water everywhere!  On a sunny day they would not even have noticed it!

Can only wait and see, but the suspense is killing me.  I am amazed at how defensive I am about the whole issue.  It is almost as though someone has criticized a member of the family! Silly, when I know that everything is OK and that we passed all tests with flying colours!