Sorry for my silence dear reader. May has been a busy month. First up, it was my birthday on May 8 and we went up to the North Island for a few days. Then I had to write some short stories for a competition I entered. And for the rest of May, I’ve been carried away with reading some excellent novels.

But I thought I’d show you what I bought myself for my birthday. Every year, I buy myself something and this year, I wanted a Rebecca Minkoff Hudson Mini Moto handbag. Not available in New Zealand, so it was off to eBay.

The problem with eBay for Kiwis is that some sellers won’t ship to NZ and, if they do, charge an arm and a leg for postage. If they ship via eBay’s Global Shipping Programme, eBay works out the Customs Fees due on the item. I find they are often way above what Customs would actually charge. In fact, my understanding is that if the duty payable on an item is less that NZD60.00, Customs will waive it.

So with handbags, the duty is generally less than this amount. My question is: who pockets the money? Is the money actually handed over to NZ Customs?

I find using NZ Post’s YouShop facility a really good way of getting items to NZ. You register, get a special ID number and use NZ Post’s postal address in the US (also in UK, China and Canada). The item is shipped to that address and NZ Post then charges you the postage to get the package to NZ.

I wanted the bag in a plum or burgundy colour, but didn’t find that. Instead, I spotted one in hot red. The seller was willing to ship to NZ and, because the postage was a bit steep, agreed to take USD20.00 less for the bag. It arrived in 5 days and it’s gorgeous.

Not much room but that’s what I wanted. I’m sick of lugging around stuff in my handbag and this is a crossbody bag, so bonus, hands-free.

I might do a What’s in My Handbag? post soon. That’ll be a short post hehehe!

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I have a soft spot for cows. And here’s a bunch of curious cows for you.

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I was up in Wellington the other week for a few days. I was walking by a tea shop and saw the most amazing tea cup. I decided to keep walking as I don’t need another tea cup. But…the next day, and the day after that, I went by the same shop and kept looking at it.

You guessed it. I went in and bought it. It was instant love. Just look at the amazing colours and patterns. Sort of Moroccan; Marrakesh.

I use it for my morning cappuccino and can’t help gazing at all the intricate patterns. Kicking myself that I didn’t buy two of them – just in case anything happens to this baby. Pretty sure I can buy it online though.

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What do you reckon Dear Reader? Think I should cook these up for dinner tonight?

I haven’t seen these sorts of mushrooms on the property before. I’ve seen other types of mushrooms – like these and these red and white spotted numbers. When I saw that last mushroom in the front yard, I nearly had hysterics as I was pretty sure (after Dr Googling) it was a toxic Fly Agaric.

As luck would have it, a high school mate of mine is an expert on fungus. Even has a PhD in fungi. We recently reconnected following a high school reunion in Australia (which I didn’t attend). She saw my name on the list and then found me on Facebook. We had a Skype chat and it was like yesterday talking to her. The years just melted away.

So I posted the photo below to her page and she told me that the mushrooms look the Armillaria species, which grow on living wood/roots. She also advised not to eat them – ah, wasn’t planning to anyway!

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The 5 year-old daughter of a friend of mine gave me some artwork over the weekend. According to her mum, she decided to draw Miss Rosie, Karma and Saffy, as well as Zeph, Zsa Zsa, me and El Hubs.

She was so proud to show it to me and describe each animal or person in the picture. Too too cute. Looks like Saffy might have to lose some weight hahaha!

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Did you have a good Easter break? I resolved not to eat much chocolate and, hooray, I ate just one small choc bunny. I bumped up my walking to around 17,000 steps per day. I have a FitBit and really love how it motivates you to get out and about.

We had some friends over on Easter Monday for hot cross buns and a sausage sizzle. Zeph is such a social dog and loves to get in on the human action. He is a cheese connoisseur and loves toast with butter. So we had to watch the hot cross buns and butter, as well as the Camembert we had on the table.

He puts his paws up on the seat, with a view to leaping up on the table and scoffing food. So we were all on guard, preventing Zeph from snatching delights.

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Here is something a bit different. A short piece I wrote on Julius Caesar’s assassination, which took place on the Ides of March (March 15, 44 BC in Rome, Italy). It’s entitled The Senators are Waiting.

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Mark Antony was already making his way to the Senate, which lay just beyond Pompey’s theater, behind the public gardens resplendent with cypress and umbrella pines. Caesar caught a glimpse of Antony, rushing up the uneven marble steps, leading to the large polished bronze doors.

“We must hurry Caesar. The Senators are waiting.” Decius, Caesar’s long-time friend, glanced at the great man as they walked together through Rome’s crowded streets.

“They can wait a little longer.” Caesar’s smile held a trace of annoyance. The sky to the south was a wash of dirty mauves and violets, a gentle breeze signalling a cool, if unsettled, day ahead. Caesar heard nightingales in the distance call farewell to the night.

“Calpurnia begged me not to attend the Senate today. My wife listens too much to the soothsayers, always declaring their dark prophecies.” He’d had a restless night, awakened by rolling thunder.

Street vendors hawked salted fish, warm pans of smoking sausages, and jars of wine. “For you, Caesar. A jar of my finest red wine,” called a mottle-faced man as they swept by. His throat was choked from the dust of the streets, and he considered accepting the cool, ruby
liquid before a member of his guard intervened. “Caesar, it could be poison,” he cautioned.

Caesar took in the guard’s oval leather shield, with its distinctive markings of moon and stars, the white horsehair plume of the helmet, bobbing in rhythm with the movement of his head.

“Oh, to be at war again Decius, instead of dealing with these wretched Senators. Always niggling about land and status. We could don our helmets and leave them to their squabbles.”

Caesar dodged a large earthenware pot, one of many placed at intervals in the streets. “Watch out Decius, it’s a blasted piss pot.”

“There’s death in every open window, Caesar. A piss pot or two could come down and crack us on the head at any moment.” Decius squinted his eyes from the rays of the wintery sun, as he looked up at the four-storied tenements that lined the streets and narrow passageways. Paint chipped turquoise doors, the only brightness in the gloom of poverty.

Stumbling towards them, hot with wine and young blood, four men in scarlet cloaks, escorted home by the awakening light of the new day.

“Caesar, we should return to the main thoroughfare.” The same guard, with a rough hand poised on sword hilt.

“I will be thankful to reach the safety of the Senate. I fail to see why you always want to walk in these dirty streets.” Decius covered his nose, the sweet scents of myrtle and cypress oils he’d applied earlier in the morning, failing to mask the sulphurous stench of Rome’s sewers.

In the shadow of the public baths just ahead of them, restless hooves were beating the ground, as the parade horses were readied for the afternoon gladiatorial display. A mulberry-hued saddle blanket was being placed on his horse, who whinnied as Caesar approached. He whispered into silken ears: “Ah, Jupiter. Soon we will fly through fields of scarlet poppy and yellow mustard.”

They reached the steps of the Senate, and Caesar paused to look at the deep marbled veins of the steps. “Decius. I’ve not noticed this before. It’s like life itself coursing through.” The sky was now overcast and sullen, the murmur of thunder in the distance. “Caesar, I….” Decius could not meet Caesar’s gaze.

Stepping across the threshold into the Senate, raised voices became whispers, the Senators swathed in draping white togas, turning to face Rome’s dictator. “Senators, I trust we won’t be locked in debate for hours. Jupiter is anxious to join the parade later today.”

The mosaic tiled floor was an intricate serpentine pattern. Caesar was always amused by the entwined blue serpents with red eyes, for he could match each serpent to a troublesome Senator. The terracotta wall to his left, contained niches for honorific statues.

“I see that bastard, Pompey, has joined us.” Caesar sniggered at Pompey’s marble statue before taking his seat, his well-built frame hugging its winged arms, his fingers drumming the wood. Light streamed through the high windows, softening Caesar’s hard blue eyes, and making gold patterns on the tiles.

Tillius Cimber walked forward. “Caesar, I wish to petition on behalf of my brother, to recall him to Rome. You sent him into exile last year.” A tall man with jittery movements, he looked towards a group of men, gathering behind Caesar. Coming closer, he grasped Caesar’s shoulders, pinning him down, awakening every nerve in Caesar’s body.

Shouts and the hands of treachery and deceit stabbing, slashing. Caesar’s voice tight with pain, the great man fell at the feet of Pompey’s statue, his life draining and seeping into the cracks between the mosaic tiles. “Cassius, Brutus. Even you?”

Mark Antony, delayed by Caius Trebonius in a hall outside the Senate, sunk to his knees before Caesar. Blood pooling around him, he looked into the wild eyes of assassins. “Brutus, Caesar loved you like a son.”

Caesar felt the cold sting of the tiles against his temple, his vision blurred by a red toga. A slaughterous red. He hadn’t noticed Decius wearing a red toga as they walked to the Senate.

He clutched a silver dagger, drenched with blood. Caesar’s eyes settled on the carved bone handle with its coiled serpents, uncovering the lies of Decius. “My friend, why?”

© Kim Martins 2016

 

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