On Saturday morning, as I was ankle-deep shovelling out a rather large trailer full of fresh compost my neighbour came over for a chat.
Naturally this provided me with an ideal opportunity to down tools and do the neighbourly thing . . . not so much over the fence but more over a wheelbarrow full of foul smelling, er, "stuff".
And so I did.
As anyone who has ever shovelled sh . . , I mean compost, will tell you it is quite steamy, especially when freshly brewed and very quickly my neighbour started to literally disappear in front of me.
Through the mist I could just make out he was holding his nose and gesturing at the wheelbarrow.
"Cormporst?" he inquired.
Now I should point out here lest you think my spell check is broken, my neighbour is not from the shores of Aotearoa. Conversation can be a bit difficult. We are getting there though. I like the fact he gives it a go and I'm up for reciprocating.
And so that's where we were on Saturday morning. Having a chat over a wheelbarrow full of crap. And he was asking what it was.
Now I don't know if its just me (I suspect not) but when I find myself conversing with people who are new to the lingo I end up talking uber slowly and loudly. Like they are deaf.
Naturally, having been down this path before I'm aware I do it and so, after basically yelling: YES. IT'S COMPOST!! I dial it back a few decibels and try to deal with the next question. "What it for?"
Okay, so just hold that thought a few seconds and think about this.
I want to explain to my neighbour that I'm going to use the compost to help grow vegetables. So how do I do that?
I don't think it would make a blind bit of difference if I said the word slowly and loudly or quickly and quietly. He still wouldn't understand what vegetables are.
So maybe I could act it out. Like charades you may say.
Ever tried to imitate a carrot or a pumpkin? Its not like they do much is it? Apart from diving headlong in to the compost and emerging coloured orange with green hair I doubt he'd get it.
So I settle on a visual interpretation of eating. I think he gets it. "Aah, food," he says.
Next question. "What in it?"
OK, so now I'm struggling. Leaves and bark I can pick out and show him. I'm less enthused about the little bits of sheep manure i can make out in the pile but i figure what the hell, its all part of his Kiwi education. So I show him.
He looks at the handful I offer and is somewhat confused.
"Poo?," he asks.
"Yes," I say. "Sheep poo".
For a moment a look of horror comes over his face as he stares down at the handful I'm still offering. Then it occurs to me. he may be thinking I've, er, "contributed" to the compost personally.
"Sheep. baa, baa," I say hurriedly as the look on his face suggests he's making a mental note never to accept any carrots or pumpkins I might offer him. Ever.
'Baa, baa", I offer again, weirdly doing something, anything, with my hands to try and illustrate a sheep. Try it. You'll see what I mean. Its hopeless.
Anyway. Finally he gets it and his face lights up in a smile. Which is possibly one of relief that he's worked out I'm not some weirdo with a compost fetish.
Its a perfect time for me to call a halt to the chat and say I must get on. And so with steaming wheelbarrow I say my goodbyes and head off around the side of the house to the dump site.
Later that day when the trailer is empty and the gardens are all full I'm cleaning up. The task includes the sweeping out of the now empty trailer.
And it coincides with a stroll being undertaken by the new neighbour and his son, the latter no doubt now fully appraised by dad of the morning's conversation with the crazy guy who lives down the road.
How do I know? Just an educated guess.
As they sauntered by he called out, "Hello, baa poo".