Conkers (and mice)

I’m so enjoying domestication I can’t tell you. Today, between flexible work hours, I mowed the lawn and watered my lettuces, but I also went out to the commercial part of town, spent a reasonable sum of money, and came back with absolutely nothing. Except, apparently, peace of mind (contents insurance), the right to drive legally (a NZ drivers license), and the ability to phone my Mum affordably (a new phone plan).

But I had nothing new in my hands- and better yet, that didn’t upset me. No, indeed, with my newfound roots (one week into my lease), I have discovered a deep urge to sign up for things – not because I can, but because it proves I exist. Yes please, send me an electricity bill, verify my address, show me my monthly bank balance on paper.

Do you know how hard it is to explain to authorities that you’re a regular, reasonable, (qualified even, though by that they read certified), upstanding member of society when you appear to have had no bills, no debt, no proof of residency, no joint possessions, and no dependencies, or dependency for that matter, for [insert timeframe here].

So, for these sweet six months I have slapped Andy and my name on every bill I can come up with, have redirected mail, have applied for a credit card, have sought to tick every box that immigration requires, and have generally willingly sacrificed myself to The System. And I’m loving it.

There are other aspects of domesticity that I’m also loving. First and foremost the wonderfully healthy horse chestnut tree in my garden. Yes- you read right, “my” garden. And, more to the point, the slippery, glistening, fresh-out-of-their-shells conkers that appear every day. One enormous wooden salad bowl is already almost full to brimming with them- the centrepiece of my living room.

I love conkers. I really, really love conkers. I love them on the ground, in my pocket, fresh, shrinkled, on bits of string, in bowls, on trees. I once almost got evicted from Australia (and seriously fined) for trying to smuggle a conker from the UK to my dying aunt. Two were found but I got a third in (admittedly, by mistake). She loved it. But I felt so guilty that I took it back out with me afterwards again. (I’m not sure if that’s true. Let’s pretend it is.)

That incident must have had a lasting effect on me. That, and my new found respect for the New Zealand ecowarriers, ecosystem, and the hatred that folk here have for introduced species. I would never, never, never, consider bringing in either a conker, or a shamrock, to these lands.

What joy then, to discover both in my very own garden. The shamrock here is even a weed!

I’ll be arrested for writing that. My kiwi friends will never speak to me again. It’s wrong, I tell you. Wrong wrong wrong. These things should not be here and are evil. This is NOT joyful or good. Like mice. Also like rats and stoats and possums (those, at least, are not from the UK but were probably still brought here by Brits) and rabbits and weasels and pine trees and daisies. And cats.

But I want to talk about mice.

My latest adventure took me back to Antarctica – it made me want to sing. I love that place. The light, the ice, the air, the space, the place, the magic, the everything about it. It made me want to cry as well. Anyway, on the way back (travelling on a ship), we visited some of the NZ sub-Antarctic islands, a different kind of paradise.

The one which is pest-free, Campbell Island, is also home to an albatross colony. I lay on my back for hours watching them swoop across my vision.

There is another set of islands, the Antipodes, which only have one pest on them: mice. And we’re going to kill them all. One million NZ dollars, of which one third needs to come from the public, and five days of good weather helicopter time, and that island can be set on its way to whichever way pest-free evolution takes it. Pretty simple really.

Warning lights went off for me when the project was first thought of – it was almost too easy, and if we succeeded then it would also be too easy to be self-congratulatory. To think the whole trip had been worth it and justified. No. There are far more complex, larger, harder, problems facing that area. Climate change, stress on ecosystems, fishing, resource management….  but what do you want to hear more about, genuinely?

Given that choice, let’s exterminate mice!

And you know what, sometimes it’s good just to do something achievable. It’s still a big ask – a million dollars and a rigorous campaign involving ships, helicopters, bait, ground staff, air staff, logistics, on-going monitoring…. but it’s do-able. And how great is that? In the light of so many unfathomable problems, riddled like a nest of squirming worms with difficulties and repercussions, let’s kill some mice and save some penguins and albatrosses.

You know, even if a family has huge financial and relationship issues, it’s still a good thing to bake a birthday cake for the kid. Or, better, teach him to swim, or ski, or dance, or fly. He’ll carry that with him forever. Like the Antipodes.



3 thoughts on “Conkers (and mice)

  1. Hello lovely – great to have you writing again – and ‘in my life’ – in that small way. Love to you both xxx

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