'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Green-Lipped Mussel Girl




When I was nobbut a lass of about eleven my sister and I were taken on holiday to England by my parents. We travelled by ship each way. On the S.S Oronsay there we went through the Suez Canal, and tremendously wonderful for me it was too. But the voyage back on the M.V Rangitoto via Panama was even more wonderful as there were more children on board, and by then I had lost some of my appalling shyness and was able to enjoy their company. It was also, unlike the Oronsay, only one class, and that always means a happier ship.

And it was the best of the two ships for my parents too, as they met a lovely couple on the way home. This English couple and their three girls were to become family friends of ours from then on. The father, D. was coming out to New Zealand fill an important government position in Fisheries Research and it was through him I met the Green-Lipped Mussel girl.

One time I was staying at the couple's home, and D asked me if I would accompany him on a business evening meal. He was meeting a man from California who was very interested in the new research that indicated the our New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus) could help alleviate arthritis. It was enough of a treat to be in a restaurant ordering fabulous food off the menu, but I felt even more grown-up to be with D as he talked important business with Mr G. They were kind enough to even include me occasionally. Over dessert (crème caramel, as I recall), Mr G began to inquire about my 14-year old hobbies and activities. He seemed very interested and I expect I talked too much as I wasn't used to any adult paying me much attention. But I must have impressed this pharmaceutical mogul as he began to tell me about his daughter Alison, who was a similar age. In the end he gave me his address and asked me if I would consider writing to her, and, if we got on, being her pen-pal. Alison and I corresponded regularly for the next eleven years and I learnt a great deal about her affluent and rather decadent American life. We were as good friends as you can be through letters. Finally, when I was 25, and on my Big O.E*, I flew to Redwood City in California and met her for the first time. It was rather a disaster and nothing to do with either of us, but that's another story for another post.

* Overseas Experience

11 comments:

  1. The title fascinated me (that word again) and I wasn't disappointed. What an exciting life you had as a youngster. I am now, of course, intrigued.

    The one desert/sweet I cannot resist is crème caramel. Green-lipped mussels are important here too.

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  2. Forget all about my green suggestions (and Pudding's too, while you're at it) and follow your own heart! This one is great and only you could have written it!

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  3. Anonymous3.8.10

    14 were you! Where were your parents, -that's what I want to know!...

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  4. Thank you Geeb and Robert. Geeb, the mussels are growing there? Or the extract used medicinally?

    Anon - I'd like to give the impression I was exotically worldly and independent of my parents at 14, but that's not at all the case. They were probably staying with the family too. Welcome to TLVD, by the way. Um...do I know you I wonder? (Do whisper in my email box-shaped ear, if I do... )

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  5. The first thing I have to say is that my comment was made very late at night. The second thing is that it was made many hours after I had one small glass of NZ Sav Blanc in the spa. It was my only alcohol of the evening. So I have to admit to a brainfart. I cannot hide behind any other reason.

    The Wetern Isles mussels are blue mussels. My brain had obviously forgotten where I was. A perfect example of the last limerick I attempted on your post Limerick

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  6. A most acceptable post which will pass muster. The idea of travelling by ship via Suez and then Panama sounds most appealing and a wonderful memory too. Sorry things didn't work out with Alison. I'm intrigued to hear more. Surely there are GREEN trees around Redwood City? (Ignore Robert's green suggestions but not mine!)

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  7. Your apology is unnecessary but accepted Geeb. Sometimes I write on someone's blog and when I read it later I CANNOT REMEMBER WRITING IT AT ALL. This, naturally, is causing me some concern.

    YP. Thank you for your comment. What a relief to have passed muster this time.

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  8. Fascinating (and great title and picture!). It makes me realise how lucky, in some ways, I was that I took it for granted adults found me as interesting as I did! I also made friends very readily as a child (nowadays I am more reticent, knowing I'm poor at keeping in touch). Your story sounds like something in a play. I've heard elsewhere of long-distance friendships going wrong on finally meeting - again fore reasons that couldn't have been anticipated.

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  9. Elizabeth5.8.10

    You were braver than I would ever have been. I've been known to turn down wedding invitations because I was too shy to talk to people, though I have got minutely better with age, so I think you must have been pretty awesome to deal with this in the way you dd. x

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  10. How interesting! Some serendipity at work there, for sure!

    I'm too nervous to try green lipped mussel supplements. I am deathly allergic to some fish and very hesitant to try any new varieties. But I have heard very good things about this stuff!

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  11. Emily - thank you. D was a very kind man, and I didn't have a moment's hesitation about the dinner. As for Alison and me - well, we were from different worlds, really.

    Elizabeth - D was one of those rare adults who can talk to kids in such a natural way that you felt important and respected. He really listened, too. I learnt a great deal off him, as a result.

    Jay - it sound a sensible caution. But are you able to take omega oils?

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