The Life of Riley, and Us

Last time I gave you some big news: that the Mustard Yellow House was for sale, that we were moving to a regular house, and that we were getting a puppy.

Time for an update!

The Mustard Yellow House is still for sale. We’ve shown a series of people through, and lots of them like the house and even fall in love with it. But none have bought it, yet.

The thing about the tiny house sector is that few people are doing it, but lots of people dream of doing it. At any given moment those dreamers are at different stages of getting their dream ready: sorting out their budget, deciding about land, wondering about whether to be on-grid or off, wondering what a tiny house is actually, you know, like.

We are seeing people at all those different stages, none of which stages you could really call purchase-ready. Oh well, you have to keep at it, I suppose.

We are in residence. Our possessions are arranged sparsely in a two-bedroom house in an area of well-kept homes that you wouldn’t call “leafy” but that’s certainly not down at heel.

The house is well enough placed for me to cycle to the swimming pool in a couple of minutes or walk to a supermarket in 10.

Our only furniture was a small rimu chest and my beloved wooden armchair. So we’ve bought and assembled a few items: a dropleaf table, a working desk, a plant holder.

We’ve inflated an inflatable bed that has surprised us by being comfortable.

The Jenson three-seater.

We’ve shopped for lounge furniture and chosen a sofa. It seems slouchy yet tailored, and is low-slung enough to make life easier for our low-slung dog.

Whose name is Riley.

Riley is in his 15th week, his second month with us. He’s a Wirehaired Miniature Dachshund, the same breed as the late Connor, whose great-great nephew he is.

We drove to the Wellington ferry terminal and picked him up from a lady who had driven him and his brother up from the South Island and taken them across the Cook Strait.

He was a tiny warm bundle of wagging curiosity. On meeting me he chewed my beard gently, which I took to be a good sign.

His colouring is called Red Boar, or Red Brindle. His full kennel club name is Master Riley of Wickerby.

My personal full name for him is Riley O’Connor Wallasey Winklebug Avery-Barnett. But I’ll use it only if he’s particularly naughty.

He’s growing fast, is Riley. It won’t be long before he hits his expected adult weight of 5 kilograms and it won’t surprise me if he exceeds it. Which would mean he’s not strictly a Miniature — but we’ll see.

It’s so good to have a dog back in our lives, I can’t tell you. Besides being preposterously adorable to look at, Riley has a beautiful nature — affectionate, inquisitive, waggy when meeting people or dogs, cautious with species such as cats and chicken.

He has learned to ring a bell hung next to the back door to signal when he needs to go outside, and a ramp to get from the step to the ground, protecting his little Dachshund spine.

(Tom made the ramp of a found length of metal cladding and a strip of fake grass.)

Why did we name him Riley? Well, we considered quite a few names. Consulted online lists and just, well, tried them out on him — spoke the name while looking at him and waiting to feel a connection.

The connection finally came with Riley, a name that aligns culturally with his Uncle Connor’s and puts me in mind of the Riley Elf, a cute little car from my boyhood.

Strong likeness, don’t you think?

And, as I looked at our puppy and kept saying “Riley” to myself, Tom pointed out that the name would represent the life we wanted to offer him — the life of Riley. So it was decided.


I have to write something about a positive experience I’ve had that’s separate from moving house and adopting a dog. I was an election worker.

It’s something I’ve always wanted to try but never have. Though I’ve been a party volunteer in a few elections, long ago.

My job this time was to issue votes to people on election day, or before election day, at a polling place in the Otaki electorate.

I read my book of instructions, completed several hours of online training modules, and spent a half day going through role-plays with other trainees.

On the Friday before election day I spent a couple of hours at the local library issuing a total of about a dozen advance votes. This was my practice run for the big day.

Michael, Drew and Nick in election-day orange vests.

The big day was a long day too, from 8am when we set up the hall, through 10 hours of accepting votes, through the process of reconciling our numbers, through the count, and through the careful procedure of securing every item — including thimbles and notepads — for its journey at 9.30pm to electoral headquarters.

I was on high adrenaline for much of the day, watching my hands shake as I tore off ballot papers from their pad. And I also felt a continuous rush of whatever neurochemical it is that is caused by smiling, because I made a point of giving every queued voter a big grin as they approached — to be rewarded most times with a reciprocal smile.

The whole enterprise, this general election, was incredibly carefully planned and deeply imbedded in principle. Everything was designed to protect the integrity of the vote and to make voting a good experience for people.

I was elated at the end of it and proud to have had a role.

Also, it was the first time I’d been “out to work” for seven years. My first successful job application, my first job, apart from scarce freelance writing gigs; my first time among colleagues since 2013 and my happiest working day for at least a decade.

3 thoughts on “The Life of Riley, and Us

  1. Couldn’t be more proud of you for going out there and getting the electoral gig. I know you would’ve loved it cause of elections but I’ve enjoyed your discovery that you’re good with people. Which I always knew you’d be. Looking forward to reading more of your life’s adventures


  2. Hi Nick, I was happy to meet you, Tom and Riley at the dog park recently. I didn’t know who you were but asked if you had steps up to your bed for Riley, turned out you have a low bed. It was lovely to meet you and Tom and of course the wonderful Riley.
    Shirley Mason

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s