I heard small voices this evening; stepped outside onto the verandah and saw Trev walking slowly along the deck next door, ankle-tapped by two small granddaughters. He was holding a long-handled net. Kylie saw me, and jumped up and down.
“Let’s go and see Pete!” she yelled.
Olive laughed. “You’re popular tonight!” she called.
I sat on the step at the end of the verandah and listened as Kylie told me how she and Jemma were helping Granddad and Grandma vacuum the pool. “We could vacuum your verandah!” she suggested.
I asked her how her Christmas had been.
“Good,” she said, climbing over the short section of lichen-encrusted wooden fence and around the verandah post. She kept circling around it, doing laps over the fence, presumably for the enjoyment of climbing, while she diverted the conversation to favourite toys. Jemma’s, she said, was Melvin the Monkey. She went to some lengths to ensure I understood that Melvin the Monkey had come from Furniture Fair. As for her own favourite, it was a whale. Of all the sea animals, she explained, her favourite was the mermaid, but they weren’t real. Her second favourite was the whale. Hers had a captain’s hat.
“I’ve seen whales,” I told her. “Dolphins too. I’ve seen lots of dolphins.” I wondered whether she knew about dolphins.
“Bottlenose dolphins?” she asked.
“Yes, but mostly dusky dolphins, and I’ve seen the little Hector’s dolphins, the rare ones. They’re only little; they’re cute.”
We talked a bit about dolphins and whales, and about mermaids, which aren’t real. Seahorses, too—she liked seahorses. She asked how big bottlenose dolphins were, and stretched her arms wide.
I extended my arms. “Even bigger than this,” I said. She stood behind me and measured “bigger than this” with her own arms. She could just manage to reach past my elbows. I pointed to the gate post.
“I reckon from there to about here,” I said, pointing to a spot nearby.
“How wide are they?” she asked.
I held my hands apart, trying to estimate honestly. “Maybe this wide?”
“Poo,” she said, indicating a nugget of sheep crap.
“Yeah, sheep poo,” I said.
She inspected the ground for more sheep poo, pointing out each lump and pat. Meanwhile, Kylie had realised she was supposed to be making sure Granddad and Grandma were vacuuming properly, so she ran back across the drive.
“We’ll come and see Pete again later,” she told Olive, loudly, so I could hear. I saw Olive smile.
Behind the grey and white clouds, the sky’s the most beautiful pink and mauve I can imagine.
[This is true. Some names have been changed to preserve anonymity.]
Photo 1: Kereru.
Photo 2: Hoherius meinertzhageni again. This male and female were on the underside of a lacebark (Hoheria) branch; a difficult position to photograph, but it does show how well camouflaged they are. I think the female was ovipositing.
Photos and words © 2005 Pete McGregor