Saturday, 29 December 2007

End of an era.

Ok, I know I’ve said au revoir twice now, but I’m compelled to write something about yesterday. In the afternoon I spent 40 minutes having an MRI (a noisy and uncomfortable medical procedure). In an attempt to block out the “jackhammer” noise of the magnet, I was given headphones to listen to the radio. It was a peculiar place to hear about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Three months after her arrival back to her homeland in 1986, I was visiting a friend working for the Foreign Office in Pakistan. They were turbulent days. Riots were common and often curfews were imposed very suddenly. But in the midst of this, there was a real anticipation and hope for change.

Whatever her faults and failings (what politician doesn’t have them?), she was a remarkable lady and will be mourned by many. She was a brave woman to return once again to her country, well aware that her days may be short.

My condolences to her children and family.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The Latte is on me


OK, this has to be my FINAL FINAL blog before being canned like a sardine and whisked away to the desert.

So this is a very early but Happy New Year to all who drop by once in a while.

In lieu of us not being able to share coffee and a chat until 2008, I thought I would send you a latte, courtesy of New York Cafe, somewhere in the Middle East.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Occupied territories

Our next door neighbour moved out last week, and took his dog and three cats with him.

Until this point, we hadn’t realised that his animals had acted like an invisible electric fence to our two cats. His three cats settled and occupied three stagepoints on our long driveway. Hence our cats never went beyond cat three, especially as by that point they were visible to the dog who was penned at the neighbour’s front gate. To our knowledge our cats have never gone beyond the boundary of our long driveway or even crossed the road at the top.

Today, we watched, fascinated, as they crossed the quiet street into our “over the road” neighbour’s garden. Minus the animals next door, they were able to wander at will. This could be a problem, as neither of them are very streetwise, and Otto is rather dim. He would probably find a nice shady spot inside the neighbours parked boat, and end up a reluctant seacat.

His lordship has just swaggered past my chair as I type this, none the worse for crossing the unoccupied territory.

Oh little town of Bethlehem

Yaakov Kirschen is a veteran cartoonist. He's been tooning Dry Bones since 1973. Here was his post yesterday. He puts the stories behind his cartoons underneath.

Bethlehem at Christmas (1996)
I used to have friends who lived in Bethlehem... a town just a 20 minute drive from where I then lived (in Jerusalem's "Greek Colony" neighborhood). Before we gave their city to the PLO I would hang out with them a couple of times a week.
Today's Golden Oldie is from Christmas 1996. My friends were trapped behind the lines.
It is now Christmas 2007, eleven years have passed. Their families are mostly dispersed, and those who remain in Bethlehem must smile for the TV cameras and take care not to offend their oppressors at this holy season. There is a name for what the remnants of their community live under. The name is Islamic Occupation.


Tuesday, 25 December 2007

stressed fairies

Another baby quake early this morning. At first I thought it was our large cat wandering around on the bed. Nope. Checked Geonet when I got up, and it was a shallow quake at the top of the N. Island. So the chances are that light sleepers everywhere would have felt it. For those who have Christmas trees, fairies may be clinging to the bottom branches and need assistance back to the top of the tree.

Off to feed some very soggy chickens – it’s also been raining all night.

Monday, 24 December 2007

The Daily Page

Ok, so I thought I wouldn’t have time to blog until my departure, but here I am again. I was muttering to myself early this morning after feeding a couple of big black glossy chooks (belonging to my neighbour – I’m feather sitting for a week).

Blogging is an odd business. I do it to tip out thoughts at the end of a day, like I did as a teenager into a Boots “Page a Day” diary. I still have my hormonal ramblings locked up in a sea chest in our living room.

There’s really no rhyme or reason to it – but the addiction developed partly when I started to see random visits from Heaven Knows Where on the blog counter.

How on earth do people wander across my middle aged, overweight, chocoholic ramblings? In addition to folk I know visiting the blog, others have popped in from Buenos Aires, Batangas in the Philippines, Salt Lake City, Delhi, Islamabad. Welcome and Bless You, but Who Are You?

I have a list of about a dozen bloggers I visit regularly, most of which were complete strangers to me until a year ago. Their opinions challenge mine, their humour brightens my day and their “favourite blogs” list has had me wandering all over the planet to meet yet more strangers.

I have wondered why these random connections are so important to me. Is it because I live a sneeze away from Antarctica and feel less isolated when I can “drop in” on acquaintances as dispersed as the FSU, M. East, USA and E. Europe? Perhaps it is the convenience of being able to bother a blog friend in the middle of their night, without disturbing them, or reading their alternative take on world news after you want to throw a brick at CNN and the BBC.

I suppose I’ll never know. But before I cook pancakes for some “let’s do breakfast” visitors, I thought I would stick my head round the door to say hi.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Au Revoir

This may be my last post for a while. I suspect the next time I will be writing from Jerusalem. Today is my birthday, so lots going on there, then I still have things to organise for my trip, and I’m working, going to hospital for tests etc etc (nothing sinister, just the sore paw). So may I extend warm wishes for a truly Blessed 2008 to readers who visit this blog every once in a while. It has been a fun six months, scribbling away. I have had 1,869 visitors since I attached a counter to the site on 13th June, so thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Shaking

Eight minutes ago we had an earthquake. I haven’t felt one like this in over 18 months. It was 6.8 on the Richter Scale, 40km deep and had it’s centre 50km south east of Gisborne in Hawke's Bay. According to the website I checked, in the last 3 weeks we have had 30 quakes.
Hmmm. Hope there was no damage in the Gisborne area. It is a huge region for fruit trees. I suspect much of it will no longer be on the branches.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Art Chick




Hubby and I chanced upon an episode of the “UK Apprentice” a few nights ago, and as a result I found out quite a lot about my other half’s taste in art. The teams had to hold an exhibition of the work of an “up and coming” artist in a top gallery in London. The artists chosen were fascinating and I certainly would like to own paintings by one of them.

My husband’s late father was an art restorer and dealer, so my other half picked up an early interest. I, on the other hand, had a limited exposure to great paintings until my teens, living so far away from galleries of note. I did, however, make up for this lack once I got to university, and when I started to travel and live in Europe.

So after the programme finished, we discussed what artists we would choose to own, should money be no object. Chagall was my first choice, followed by Ilya Repin (one of his portraits above). Then I’d want one of the Holbein’s paintings of Henry VIII, a Klimt, a Kandinsky, a Bruegel or two and a portrait by Bronzino.

My husband’s first choice a Rembrandt, followed by a Van Gogh. So I guess there goes our pocket money for the next Millenium.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Sore Paw 2

Otto has injured his leg; I suspect he fell off the fence whilst defending the property from "Enemy Cat". He has a problem with balance. So now we have two very sore paws in the house, his and mine. His sister threw up all over a Turkish rug when I got home too. So we have two sick kitties and an owner with a sore hand after so much typing today.

Vets tomorrow – if we can find a big enough “top loader” cat basket for His Lordship. I’ll have to borrow one, he won’t be able to slide into the usual cat carrier. Sigh.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Sore paw

I can’t believe that in two weeks time I will be flying (including transits) for 41 hours to reach the Middle East.

I will be travelling with my hand in a sling. Nope, I haven’t broken anything, but I have a tumour (benign), not a ganglion on my hand. This is causing me some limitations of movement, and I’m not going to be able to carry anything heavy with that hand. I am so grateful it is not my dominant hand, but it could make life interesting. It is uncomfortable to knit or type for too long, which is such a drag. Making a corsage yesterday was more painfully slow than usual. Sigh. I have an MRI on the 28th, just before I leave, so hopefully surgery will be possible on my return. Good job I don’t play the piano!

Baby greens

T’is the season for salads, and greens and fruit and eating in the sunshine.

Today, we ate lunch on the deck, and had salad and greens – well almost.

The “green” component of lunch, twice, was an “almost consumed” baby stick insect, which insisted on climbing on my plate and then my potato salad. The size of my thumbnail, it could have been missed easily, had it not been for the swaying gait of its baby steps across the china.

Nice to have a guest, albeit uninvited, for lunch.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Unidentified Flying Object


I’m dissolving – see temperature gauge on the blog (25 degrees in the shade this afternoon)! The cats manage to walk a few steps in the house then slump under a chair or table, poor things.

I just had an amazing encounter with a moth. He was lying on the pavement outside our local supermarket and obviously a bit dazed, it being the heat of the day, but he allowed me to scoop him up on an envelope and hide him in the shade of a cherry tree. I measured the piece of envelope I used and he had minimum 13cm wingspan. The markings made him look like an owl. If anyone has any idea what it is, I’d be happy to know. I’ve tried googling him, but with poor results. He appears on the front of an RNZI book on “Butterflies and Moths of NZ”, so I will need to order the book from the library.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Blossoming into full bloom

I love the fact that it is still possible to experience “Firsts”.

Today I graduated from my floristry course. The first “First”, was being welcomed to the graduation in the many languages of the Pacific. The second “First” was a blessing spoken over the gathering in Maori before we accepted our certificates. The third “First” was being hugged and kissed by at least three people as I received my certificate. The fourth “First” was experiencing the genuine warmth and pride of the tutors as they talked of their students, and watching a family who sang and danced as their daughter went forward and then presented her with ley and a bouquet of flowers. No one minded that she was singled out, other students were cheered from the crowds of fellow students through the windows. Some course mates shouted for each other, whistled and clapped, with a spontaneity that could perhaps only happen here.

Twenty three years ago I graduated from university. It was stiff, formal, and like an assembly line – a “degree factory”, as my husband referred to it today. He was particularly touched by the community atmosphere of our little celebration. No high degrees, no pomp, just a lot of hard work acknowledged with fun, tears and of course food and flowers.

Welcome to the South Pacific.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Is this a record?

We just dug up the "about to keel over" foxglove, which was still alive. It is 7 feet tall. Anyone know if this is a record?

Degrees of separation

Warmth is very important to me; whether that is the prevailing temperature outside, curled up on the sofa, or snoozing in bed. Warmth in relationships is also lifeblood. I find being professionally objective almost impossible in business. I have to have warm relationships.

Mercifully, I am blessed with friends who have kept up their friendship with me wherever I have wandered on the planet. I like to think I have done so too.

I have a great example – an ex-boyfriend no less. We keep in touch intermittently, mainly via each other’s blogs.

A thought struck me this morning. The temperature here today was very warm, even by summer standards, and this was posted on my blog thermometer. I checked the corresponding temperature where my friend lives, and it was a mere 25 degrees celcius colder than here.

His early morning routine includes helping on the farm where he lodges. This involves attacking the animal fodder with an ice axe before attempting to scatter it for the cows. When I feed my animals, I simply stick my head in the fridge and pull out the Kitekat.

For him to do his winter job in the mountains (teaching English in a very remote village), he has to trek many hours by horse through mountain passes. For my temporary job I walk down the hill, catch the train and I am in the capital in less than 15 minutes.

So little in common any more, except a funny present which he still has from me – a hot water bottle, which it appears is pretty necessary for survival these days.

So, although we haven’t seen each other for 10 years, live totally different lives, the warmth of friendship (and the hot water bottle) remain.

Lends a whole new meaning to “degrees of separation”

Last day of the Festival of Lights




Sunday, 9 December 2007

Wondering whether to procrastinate

Avoidance tactics were the order of the day today. In 22 days I leave the country for a mammoth 6 weeks overseas trip. Between now and then, I am graduating, working two jobs and trying to organise this hitherto “unorganised” adventure.

So in the light of this state of affairs, what to do today? Simple, garden and cook.

Our vegetable patch, a crazed and embarrassing wilderness, needs digging, weeding and organising. The olive tree needs to be moved and general pruning needs to happen sharpish, otherwise our house is likely to be grown over and vanish beneath lush native trees, bushes and flowers in 2008.

So, I have got a nice tan digging and weeding, and there is now fresh bread and home made muesli baking. I’ve also made an apple dessert.

As for the upcoming trip, well, I made it as far as adding several more entries to my “Things to do” list.

I suppose the day was a case of “Eats shoots and leaves”.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Culinary Grand Tour de Force

Living near the capital, we are spoiled by some of the best restaurants the country has to offer. But a unique taste experience happens 25kms north of the city in a village with just one row of shops.

If I mentioned Pierogi, possibly only those of Eastern European extraction would roll their eyes knowingly and groan with delight. I have no claim to any Slavic blood, but this dish is designed to send you to some kind of seventh heaven regardless of your lineage. Two hours ago I made a Polish friend green with envy when I sent her a text message from the restaurant. “Just ordered Pierogi. Jealous?” If it were possible to salivate via mobile, she did just that. Somewhere on the streets of Auckland strides a very jealous Pole, dreaming of her grandmother’s secret recipe and wondering if she can catch a late flight to the capital to get the last scoop from the pot.

Café Topor’s chef has elevated Pierogi to celestial status. There are two types on offer, and the vegetarian option, potato and goat’s cheese pancake, drowning in a mushroom sauce is truly nectar for the gods. Every chef of course has his special twist on the national classic, but at Café Topor, you are in the presence of greatness.

If you are planning to hit New Zealand for a holiday in paradise, let me know, and I’ll tell you where the High Priest of Pierogi exercises his magical arts. The rest of you will simply have to dream.

Droopy Daisy

I am so sad. Today was the last day of my 18 week course. We had a lunch to celebrate, but it was bitter sweet. I have enjoyed my tutors and coursemates so much.

We graduate in a week’s time, so we can still meet up and catch up again. But hey, how often in life do you get to hang out with a bunch of crazy daisy ladies? It’s been a joy!

So, this daisy feels a bit droopy this afternoon, but I had lots of laughs when I got home with the cats. One of the daisies bought our twosome a Christmas present – a mechanical mouse. They both loved it, and loved the wrapping paper too (ain’t that always the way?). Pictures later on Flikr

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Born to be wild

Today was a “starting to get back to normal” day, thank goodness. But I’m exhausted, and flaked out on the sofa for two hours this afternoon, after doing ZIP in the morning. Colds are so debilitating.

As it was a hot day, I waited until tea time to have a wander around the garden with a recently acquired wild flower book. We have quite a selection of self seeded, “lodging without paying rent” flowers sleeping in our beds. Here’s the roll call:
Mexican Daisy (sans sombrero), Arctotis (translates as “bear’s ear”, but it’s a daisy, not a teddy), Lesser Hawkbit, Bristly Ox tongue, dandelion, honesty, milkweed, three cornered garlic, garden forget me not, sourgrass, harakeke (NZ flax), blue bell, poro poro (nightshade), and of course the foxglove.

It makes weeding interesting, as so many of the flowers slumbering in the beds are snoozing nuisances. One day there is one, the next day the entire family has shown up for the weekend and are sharing the same bed. Eviction notices are being composed and next week, when I feel like digging, some of the above will be sent packing.

When you are a weed, you live in a cruel world.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Passion for Kasha

When I collected my husband from the railway station today, he was carrying a huge bag. I didn’t think it would be food, as there are no “real” food shops near parliament. Turns out he’d hit the city library just as they were selling off hundreds of withdrawn titles (be still my heart). The romantic gift of the day was a book called “The Art of Russian Cuisine” written by the former food editor of Izvestia.

I sense a few raised eyebrows. Izvestia had a food column? Yup, and this 632 page tome is testimony to the fact that there is more to Russian food than Borscht and Caviar – although rather a lot of pages are devoted to them.

This book was written in 1983, so I’m not expecting Novya Cuisine………but there may be a few recipes or comments in future blogs.

Requests for recipes will be replied to.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Bagpipes for lungs

There is a perverse law at work which goes something like this:

A week full of wonderful evening/weekend appointments = heavy cold, coughing, asthma attacks and a nose to rival Niagara.

Friday evening I missed a dinner with friends, Saturday morning I missed a VIP invitation to the new African Savannah opening at the Zoo, and today I will miss a gathering at our local Maori Marae (meeting house). What I did manage to do yesterday was the competition at a local flower wholesaler. I didn’t finish one of the three set pieces, and nearly keeled over whilst making a buttonhole, I was so dizzy, but I made it to the final photocall, then came home to the sofa. One of my course mates got the runner’s up prize, so we were all happy for her.

This morning I will go to class to do my final assessment, then I’m coming home to go to bed. Tomorrow and Wednesday’s weaving course at the Marae may be cancelled for me too.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Terry Street to Our Street

Years ago, I had the occasion to meet the poet Douglas Dunn at a poetry reading. I was reminded of this encounter this afternoon by a quirky series of events.

We have our lawns cut by a gardening company. Not because we are lazy (OK, maybe a bit), but because we don’t trust ourselves with the kind of equipment that is required to cut lawns on death defying slopes. The contractors have to use a strimmer for the entire property, such is the incline. Anything heavier, and gravity would drag them to the bottom of the valley.

Each week a different young man shows up, and when he’s finished, he drops the bill into our letterbox. Today my husband remarked that the chap who did the lawns today looked remarkably sleepy/hungover, so it didn’t surprise him that he forgot to leave the bill. I quipped that maybe he didn’t just cut grass but smoked it too.

Later in the afternoon, I noticed that one small area of garden which has grown it’s own lawn (and is flat) had been neatly trimmed and the massive poppies which also grow there had been carefully avoided and thus preserved. When I told my husband that the gardener had left the poppies standing he quipped “Oh, he’ll be coming back for them later”.

The link with Douglas Dunn is from his Terry Street poems. The last line of “A Removal from Terry Street” developed a double entendre in the 1960s when it was written.

On a squeaking cart, they push the usual stuff,
A mattress, bed ends, cups, carpets, chairs,
Four paperback westerns. Two whistling youths
In surplus U S Army battle-jackets
Remove their sister’s goods. Her husband
Follows, carrying on his shoulders the son
Whose mischief we are glad to see removed,
And pushing, of all things, a lawnmower.
There is no grass in Terry Street. The worms
Come up cracks in concrete yards in moonlight.That man, I wish him well. I wish him grass.

Vanishing Atolls

Whatever I may believe or understand about climate change, last night I met a group of people for whom it was an “ever present danger”.

Our community college last night put on a graduation show by the performing arts students. They danced and sang for two and a half hours (without much of a break), and their performance was truly breathtaking. The pieces came from Maori, Samoan, Tokelauan and Cook Island cultures. The Tokelauan s are watching their Islands vanish under rising sea levels. I quote from the programme:

“What happens when the Tokelau atolls no longer exist? When the next generation of Pacific peoples asks “where am I from?” What do we tell them? Oh, your island doesn’t actually exist anymore!”

I sat and cried as I watched a powerful contemporary piece showing children being taken through a museum, showing how their people used to live.

Most Tokelauans now live in New Zealand. They don’t have much choice. Makes you think.

Photos of the evening on Flikr (the quality isn’t good because of the stage lighting)

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Who owns the purse strings....

A Middle Eastern economic newsletter I subscribe to reported some disturbing news this week. An Arab investment group, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority now owns the biggest single share holding in Citigroup, bringing the total investment from Islamic investors to over 10%. A Saudi prince makes up the other part of the 10%.
This move has gone unquestioned by both regulatory and political authorities and has been approved by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I don’t think I am being overly sensitive, but how come it’s not OK for Arab investors to buy into US ports, but it is OK for them to buy big time into the financial fabric of the nation? If I were American, I would be concerned.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Florium Vincit Omnia

Don’t you just love getting short notice for things? Our tutor was given 48 hours to prepare us (students) to design flowers for a big event at a local museum. It will be attended by the head honchos from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – er, no pressure!

The organiser obviously didn’t have a clue about the planning which goes into organising flowers for large arrangements.

Oh well, we’re doing it anyway – our tutor being of the “bring it on” mould!

So tomorrow afternoon ten of us will do a culturally appropriate series of floral art from native plants and flowers at a launch of a Pacifika Performing Arts Event. Yippee doodle.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Business or pleasure?

Today I had the luxury of browsing for half an hour in a large bookshop in town. I ended up in the business section and was struck by how “samey” the books were. To get the right formula to publish a book on business you should:

1) Tell your readership that coming up with an original idea is easy
2) Making your first million is possible because you will be the first person with this idea
3) You will have a better life for your family because you will be in control of the hours you work.
4) You will achieve recognition that you are due and your sense of self worth will be at an all time high.

I think my friends who are in business would say the view is different from their bridge.

I think a more accurate spin on the above would be:

1) If you have an “original” idea, nail it to the floor and copyright it, because someone will surely come along and steal it.
2) To make a small fortune, you usually have to start with a large one
3) The hours you work will be controlled by the tax returns, bad debts, failed deliveries and broken promises of other companies. Your family may get to see you more than the average person attends their local church – if they are lucky.
4) You will be punished with self doubt over why you ever tried to run a business in the first place and would be happy to be an anonymous cog in a machine, if only you could work regular hours and go home and forget work at the end of the day.

Having said all that, I bought the biography of the siblings who started a super successful coffee franchise in the UK. But I did have a 50% off voucher!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Trying to find lots of things not to do

Ben Elton, in his early career, did a very funny sketch around the problem of emptying the kitchen dustbin. He talked for twenty minutes about every conceivable excuse he would come up with in order not to take the bin liner out and dispose of the contents.
One of his evasion tactics was to start a conversation with his flatmates about the late Queen Mother. At this point he knew he was running out of things to talk about.

My version of this happened this week. I had to do the final page of my portfolio and managed to think of numerous excuses not to. In the end, I decided to weed our garden. This was truly desperate. I filled a black wheelie bin to the top, shaken down, with dead forget-me-nots. My ankles were eaten to pieces by mosquitoes and I was covered in burrs from the plants, but I did feel good about the spaces created after the blue carpet had been removed.

The superiority didn’t last long. The gaping hole in the jaw of the portfolio awaited me. I have run out of glue, I reasoned. It will have to wait until tomorrow when I can borrow a glue stick and laminate the last page.

But in the middle of looking for an unrelated piece of paper on my desk (another diversion), I found more glue, so I fixed the page and went to bed feeling positively virtuous.
Now, I have to catch up on a week’s worth of housework, and the bin isn’t emptied until Tuesday morning, so I would have nowhere to put the weeds, even if I did dig them up (only a quarter of an acre to go).

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Southern Belle

My portfolio for my course is finished, and I intend to hand it in today, a day early. I feel as if I have laid a very large egg after roosting on it for sixteen weeks.

We have just come back from a fantastic three days on the S. Island. The weather was fabulous and time spent with friends just GREAT. I would move there tomorrow, but my better half has to stay in the capital for work. Sigh – roll on retirement!

The cats are exercising their cold shoulders, but will no doubt speak to us again when they want to share the duvet. Our house sitter tolerated them interfering with her portfolio, which included them sniffing the gluesticks and playing with the double sided tape. To be left in peace, she should have just taped them both to the ceiling. Er cancel that – Otto’s weight would have brought the roof down.

A highlight, apart from seeing our friends, was stumbling across an old fashioned village fair. The local rose and peony growers and societies had filled the village hall. It was spectacular. Also present the local crafts people, including miniature makers and quilters. After speaking to the quilters, we visited an amazing shop, in the backend of beyond, devoted to quilting and sewing. Photos on Flikr.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Over and out

Flying south for three days. Kitties in capable hands of a fellow florist. I expect them both to be able to tie bouquets and wrestle carnations by Tuesday.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Never ask a lady her age.

It was reported yesterday, in the local rag, that the government has finally got around to ordering new trains for our very creaky transport system in the capital. They have vacillated over this for years, the upshot of which is that there will be nearly NZ$300 million spent.

But the rolling stock is falling apart, not to mention the signals and the electrics on the actual tracks. The text service my husband subscribes to for the trains bleeps almost daily with some problem or another on the main commuter track.

He was reminiscing this evening about the age of the London underground trains. When he was travelling from central London to his school in Ealing, he thought the carriages were horrendously old, as most were from the 1930s. This was in the early 1960’s, so perhaps most were 30 years old or more.

The capital’s new rolling stock will appear in 2010 and 2011, replacing stock going back to 1954.

The British Rail slogan of the 1970’s was “This is the age of the train”. In our capital, the carriages would blush to divulge their’s.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Blow winds and crack your cheeks

........but please, no spouting of hurricanoes (apologies to King Lear)

The evening news reported 100km hour winds in the harbour today. One of my course mates said the glasses in her kitchen cupboards were rattling in the middle of the night because the house was moving. I believe it.

Our trip turned out very well, inspite of the weather. I take my hat off to the commercial flower growers. They really are amazing with all the risks of weather, pests, volatile market prices, and they still work 365 days per year. It must be for love too, as it can’t be for money!
The wind is still howling and our cabbage tree is waving around ominously. The cats have taken refuge underneath things, so I’m taking to my bed with cocoa, in the hope that I can catch up on last night’s lost zzzzzzs.

Weather is here.

I am in serious need of sleep. Last night we had a very noisy storm, complete with high winds, rain, thunder and lightning. I hid my head under the duvet, and half way through the night our Tortie joined me. Our big Tom cat curled up into my back and muttered every time we had a thunder clap. Hubby slept through it all. I did not.

Today I am supposed to be trudging through fields of lilies and roses at some commercial growers, about an hour’s drive north of here. Thankfully we have ordered large coffees en route.

Pictures on Flikr later.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

In stitches

I find it a bit difficult to identify with ladies who love to shop. To me shopping for clothes is tedious beyond belief, and other shopping only a necessary evil. My husband tells me I’m low maintenance.

There are, however, two exceptions to this; shops where I can buy books and fabrics. My husband’s comment when he is with me and a shop is within view is, “It is like getting a dog past a butchers”. He’s not wrong.

It seems I’m in good company. On Thursday, I was a guest at a local Quilter’s Guild in the capital. I sat in a room with at least 50 quilters. That is just for the city centre and doesn’t include the outer areas of the capital. I had to smile when the Chairwoman welcomed the guests and introduced herself by saying “Hi, my name is Judy and I’m a fabricoholic”. Moi aussi.

I blame my mum, who trained as a seamstress before WWII and only gave up sewing daily aged 77. I was always surrounded by fabric and pins as a child, and was forbidden to walk barefoot around the house, in case I was impaled by overlooked tailor pins.

I have lugged swatches of fabric with me around the world, and can’t resist picking up odds and ends in charity shops. But unlike most quilters, I make mine by hand, preferring to sit and stitch laboriously onto paper templates.

I think I will have to attend the Guild meetings regularly. I will sit in the circle and introduce myself “.............. and I haven’t bought fabric for three days!”

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Articulations

Last week I had a temporary crown fitted. The numbness in my face took nearly four hours to wear off after the procedure. Drinking coffee was a no no and communicating without drooling was impossible.

This evening, in the process of looking up details of books for the bibliography in my portfolio, I came across a book title which I am grateful I didn’t have to pronounce post dental work: “Peptidomimetics Protocols (Methods in Molecular Medicine) by Wieslaw M Kazmierski.

There is a reason I am studying floristry and not medicine – I simply couldn’t pronounce the book titles at the library.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Byebye blackbird

A good end to the birdy tail/tale.

I phoned the vet this morning, who said the lady blackbird had survived the night and would be released today.

As for Fraulein Jaegermeister, she hid under the cover on the sofa all night and didn’t come out to make friends with our visitor. She knows she’s in trouble. I just hope she doesn’t get spiteful and bring us another offering today. The birds are a bit clueless when spring sets in, and bask in the garden or hop around on our lawn, total oblivious to tortie tigers!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Kitty in the slammer

Our tortie is SERIOUSLY in the doghouse. She isn’t much of a hunter – too darned lazy for the most part, but tonight, in the middle of my cooking Moussaka for an overseas guest, she brought a squawking blackbird into the house. I managed to get it off her, but it flew into our bedroom window, fell out and down onto the grass 12 feet below.

I screamed for my husband, who was directed to find a shoebox. I had a lot of cotton wool brought from class yesterday (it was cushioning 30 stems of orchids), so the bird was placed carefully into the box. Its beak was bleeding and it was panting – I suspected a broken neck and expected it to die from shock. Temporarily, I didn’t know what to do I was so upset.

So, I called the vet, who told me to bring her in straight away. I just called and it seems the bird is staggering about. They will give her 24 hours to recover, and if she doesn’t, they will euthanise her.

Poor sweetheart.

And as for our Tortie, she’s on Navy rations!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Go to bed eyes

I am puzzled. When I wear cosmetics on my eyes (once in a blue moon), I always sleep badly, even after the war paint has been carefully removed at bedtime.

I proceed to dream in technicolour, 3D with surround sound.

It’s not something they tell you on the label.

Perhaps eyeshadow soaks into the brain to transform the “leetle grey cells” into multicoloured warp speed message scramblers. Max Factor with the X Factor.

If I want to sleep, I think I will have to stick to powdering only my nose.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Unhinged and brackets

Hubby dug up some information recently (in the public domain, so no secrets being broken), which makes you wonder what qualifications you need to work at the Pentagon. It pays to quote the article in full from Defense News:

Ken Pedeleose's eyes popped as he plowed through a bill for airplane parts in 1999: $2,522 for a 4½-inch metal sleeve, $744 for a washer, $714 for a rivet, and $5,217 for a 1-inch metal bracket.

Lockheed produced and sold to the Pentagon 219 1-inch metal brackets called clip strut support vapor barriers. Lockheed proposed charging $5,217.91 per bracket. This price was based on the premise that each bracket was produced in single-item lots, with each lot assuming the costs of setting up, tooling, manufacturing, overhead costs, profits and other factors.
The Defense Criminal Investigative Service found later that this was untrue: The brackets were produced in lots of larger quantities, and Lockheed knew this.
But the Defense Contract Management Agency rejected that price and, after careful analysis, said a fair cost was $258.90 per bracket. This price was based on Lockheed's own data, pricing methods and scales of economy, as well as historical data of previous purchases.
The final price is still in dispute; the Pentagon agreed in September 2000 to pay $1.05 in materials costs for each bracket until negotiations on a final price conclude.
When Pedeleose discovered high price tags attached to those C-5 parts in 1999, it was not the first time. Just a year before — in 1998 — he had wrestled with Lockheed over pricing for the very same parts. That struggle resulted in government savings of $34 million, according to his agency's estimates.
Nevertheless, at the time of his 1999 discovery, Defense Logistics Agency officials were negotiating a sole-source, virtual-prime-vendor contract with Lockheed to provide management and logistics support for 11,000 C-5 spare parts. The deal was signed in December 2000.
As the single source and broker for the parts, Lockheed was expected to apply modern commercial logistics technology and processes to anticipate the Air Force's needs for spare parts and coordinate with scores of subcontractors to make sure they were delivered just in time.
But the three-year contract was canceled by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in summer 2002 after 19 months and a cost of $89 million.
A Lockheed official, in a written statement, characterized the company's performance on the C-5 virtual prime vendor contract as "good."


They should appoint a busy housewife to run the Pentagon, she would certainly make a better job of the purchasing division.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Holy Hollyhocks Batman!

It never ceases to amaze me what appears in our garden. I suspect we have a fairy gardener who plants on our behalf.

This afternoon I looked out of the kitchen window and a 4 foot high hollyhock was staring back at me. It has never been here before. I suspect it’s a tourist from the south island looking for bed and breakfast accommodation. Well, it is welcome to our flower beds any time, gratis.

Thimble time

The chores are done, and I can’t cook or bake because the oven is disconnected. Yesterday we had tiles laid on the kitchen floor under the new cooker, so the oven is parked in the middle of the kitchen for us all to fall over. Mercifully the bread machine is still operational, so a cardamom and nut loaf is rising as I type.

Today is a quilting day. It is overcast and drizzly, feeling more like an English autumn than a southern hemisphere spring. A blackbird has been singing since 7am, so my needlework is accompanied by inflight entertainment.

The cats are patrolling the four extreme points of our section after “enemy cat” came calling at dawn. They occasionally come in with a thin layer of drizzle on their coats, and moan at me about the weather, as if I could do anything about it.

Local fish for dinner tonight courtesy of the best fish and chip shop in the capital (well I would say that wouldn’t I?)

If anyone would like to join us, let me know by 5pm NZ time, so I can phone in the orderJ

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Remembering a different Desert Storm

Today marks the 90th anniversary of possibly the last cavalry charge in history. Eight hundred mounted ANZACs defeated a 4000 strong Ottoman stronghold at the desert post of Beersheva, triggering a series of events which would bring down the Ottoman control of Palestine (as it was then known), and usher in the British Mandate. The same day that the ANZACs took Beersheva, October 31st 1917, a discussion on the Balfour Declaration was being held by the British War Cabinet which would pave the way for a homeland for the Jewish people.

At sunset, the 4th Australian Light Horse brigade attacked the Turks, riding straight into the sun. The horses kicked up so much dust as they approached the Turkish trenches, that the occupants fled, thinking that this was the beginning of a much larger attack. The Australian soldiers secured the city and intact wells and reservoirs. If they hadn’t succeeded, both the cavalry and their horses would have died of thirst, as they only had 24 hours of water rations left. It is said that when the horses smelt the wells of Beersheva, they charged, regardless of the military motivation of their riders.

Today in Beersheva there is a museum to commemorate the defeat of the Ottomans and many Aussies and Kiwis from the campaign are buried there.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Helping the medicine go down

One of the hazards of living in this part of the southern hemisphere is the strength of the sun. Because of the thin layer of ozone, or in some cases, lack of any, our skin burns very quickly. Skin cancer is a real issue too.

Today I went for a check up to a skin specialist, to make sure there was nothing ominous happening to my skin. Although I’m pretty sun-shy, I don’t want to take any chances. I am grateful to have been given the all clear.

I am however on antibiotics for a rash on my face which flared up recently. It seems to be an allergic reaction to something or another.

Tonight I did a double take with the container of antibiotics on the kitchen counter. On Saturday, our cat had a run in with the local feline Terminator. He came away with a gash near his mouth and scratches on his head. He is also on antibiotics –same shape container, same kind of label.
I was a nano second away from swallowing cat tablets and demanding Whiskas on toast for breakfast in the morning.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Flowers that bloom in the Spring Tra La

Yesterday, at our “World Famous in Our Town” farmer’s market, I bought a bunch of pink and cream paeonies. They are the most outrageously beautiful flowers on the planet. The blooms come with heads the size of a cricket ball, and when they open they will be the size of a plate. It is impossible to describe the colours and form, they are so mind bogglingly beautiful.

Anyway, I hopped on the train to work with two stems, for my boss. Within seconds of finding a seat, I noticed a lady staring at me and the flowers. Soon she left her seat to sit next to me and asked me where I’d bought them. In the 15 minute trip, we talked none stop about flowers and photography. She specialises in close ups of flowers, so we debated lenses and digital vs film photography. As we left the train we exchanged email addresses. Maybe one day I will decorate my flower shop with her photos?

Moral of the story, if you want to find a new friend, travel with a bunch of paeonies.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Feathered "Friends"

Most people are familiar with the rather terrifying Maori Haka done at the beginning of the Rugby games that the All Blacks play. It is a warrior dance of sorts, and is intended to strike terror into those who see it.

Some Maori like to cultivate the big, butch, scary image.

Today I heard a funny story from a Maori lady I know. Her huge 16 year old son rescued a duckling, which he brought home and is besotted with. Bang goes the stereotype. This lady has been digging up worms and feeding this feather duster around the clock. She said she was exhausted and that it was like having a newborn all over again. I asked her whether it was a male or female. Her reply was hilarious. She was hoping it wasn’t a male, as this breed of duck mates for life, and probably now thinks she’s its girlfriend!

If it is female, life is not going to be a box of fluffy ducks for her strapping son either. He will spend the rest of his years explaining the other “chick” in his life.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Sensational Syntax

A classic from the Sky TV Guide.

“King Arthur is the greatest of British literary heroes, celebrated in prose, film, video games and comics for a thousand years.”

I suppose he had been reading too much Julius Caesar “Veni, Video, Vici”?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Another natural disaster?

A few hours ago I heard the news about the terrible fires in Southern California. I feel so bad for all the people who have escaped only with their lives. A quarter of a million people evacuated in one county alone. It doesn’t bear thinking about. That is the population of our capital city.

I wish we could send you NZ rain to put out the fires. In the absence of this, we will send you our prayers.

"Windy old weather, stormy old weather...

....when the wind blows, we'll all go together" I love that sea shanty!

We have been promised 130km gusts today.

I need to batten down the cats before leaving for college. I don’t want reports of low flying, high miaowing kitties over our neighbourhood.

However, our tom cat is the feline equivalent of an Antonov 124, so he’ll require the whole driveway to take off.

Over and out.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Internet Server Prohibitors

I have a niggling problem. A bit like an itch that always needs to be scratched when you are talking to someone you would really like to impress.

There is an internet server here which really doesn’t like sending me emails. They arrive eventually, but I can actually time how long they take to fall into my in box. I have a list of friends who use this address and I know I have to play a waiting game. Four days was the worst, two days is the norm.

I have a friend, who lives the same town as me, who occasionally emails. Her notes wander via the rugby club, get drunk, fall in the local stream and flop into my inbox two days later.

Another friend, who lives in a town east of us (separated by a mountain), has the same e.t.a. with her emails. They wander up the mountain pass, sunbathe in the bay, then do their grocery shopping at a big centre north of us before sauntering in to say hello.

I get emails faster from a friend who lives on a ship than I do from my mate ten minutes walk away.

Being a technoduffie, this defeats me. Does the server need to wash, iron and pick off the fluff on the email first? Do the emails like to take a bubble bath and apply make up before leaving the server? Perhaps they have to take singing lessons every week, and my emails always arrive during class. Is it a plot? Perhaps I need to bribe someone deep in the bowels of some anonymous office block where the server is stored.

What counts for currency in the murky underworld of ISP’s?

Happy Holidays

It’s Labour Day here today. As per usual on a public holiday, our town is as quiet as the grave.

However, our household has been busy since 7.30am. I’ve done three loads of washing, vacuumed the spare bedroom, in preparation for a new double bed arriving today AND made a cake.

The cake is for the friend who is helping hubby bring the double bed to us. It is Lime and stem ginger cake and totally wonderful (a doddle to make). If you are interested for the recipe, click the comments box and I’ll send it to you.

The cats are discombobulated because we’ve been moving furniture again. We have sectioned off an area of our large living room to make it like a day room / library, with the sofa looking out through the French Windows to the deck. The cats now sit at our feet whilst we read and can “patrol” their territory from the security of a warm rug and our toes to scratch their ears. It’s a tough life being a cat.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

And all is right with the world

It doesn’t take much to make me content. The last few days have been great. Having had the mother of all colds/flu (not sure which), by Friday I was feeling normal enough to go out and visit with some friends at a bayside coffeeshop. This was followed by a brief trip to a chocolatier (just for fun and 8 chocolates).

Yesterday morning we had our weekly visit to our cool farmers market, coming home with a Hungarian basket worth of goodies. Last night we entertained four guests and I cooked so much there’s leftovers for dinner today. This morning hubby brought me tea in bed. An overenthusiastic cat managed to knock the last dregs over onto the blanket, but it didn’t stop me enjoying the beginning of the morning or the totally unrepentant purrs of the cat. After all, she’s cute and she gets away with murder.

For once we don’t have a howling wind, which means a possible amble by the beach and a few craft projects to be enjoyed on the deck. I am so blessed.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Ready Steady Cook

When I studied English at university, one of my little assignments was to study “The Great Vowel Shift” of the 15th century. I would jokingly refer to it as the Bowel Movement of the Middle Ages. Basically, it was what determined accents to develop between different parts of England. The Queen’s English as we now know it used to be considered the vulgar accent, whereas the Northern accent, the butt of many 20th century jokes, was the "Received Pronunciation" of the day. How things change. I blame the BBC.

Strangely, there are many culinary divides too. I recently read a fascinating cornucopia of Jewish culinary arts around the world. Here are some of the quirks of geography. There are distinct regions where one type was developed over the other.

Sheep/goat milk cheese vs cow’s milk cheese
Red lentil soup vs green lentil soup
Pickled cucumbers vs pickled turnips
Filo and strudel pastry vs puff pastry

The ubiquitous Eggplant, which seems to appear in every Israeli home started life in India, moved west to Iran, north east to Uzbekistan and south to Yemen. It galloped from Persia to Turkey and thence to Georgia, simultaneously doing u turn through Romania and the Ukraine, stampeding through the Balkans, and swinging across North Africa, finally coming to a screeching halt in Italy. The Romans most likely used the vegetable as a weapon of war. No wonder the Empire couldn’t strike back.

Cow’s milk cheese confined itself to northern Europe and parts of Eastern Europe. The goats and sheep provided cheese for the lunch box in N. Africa, Middle East, Persia and the Med.

The pastry boundaries are pretty clear cut when it is puff: GB, France, Spain and Italy. Germany and Austria couldn’t decide whether to strudel or puff, so did both, the rest of the world went phyllo. Except for a lost tribe in Yemen, who puffed too. There has to be a BBC link there somewhere.

The spread of stuffed cabbage is almost as terrifying as Egg plant. Some Gordon el Ramsi invented it in Persia and it boiled its way to Syria, Egypt, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, the Baltic States and the Austria-Hungarian Empire. It came to a halt in Germany. There’s a BBC link there too, if only I could find it.

So, history in a casserole dish.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Haute Fever Haute Cuisine

Yesterday, before I keeled over with all the dizzy, swimmy head symptoms of flu, I made a big pot of French Onion soup. It has been a lifesaver. Not only is it wonderful to eat with cheesy bits of baguette on the top, it feels like it is charged with vitamins and flu exterminators. Hurling in a slug of brandy at the end I think helped too.
I have had a fever for nearly 48 hours and I swear I couldn’t wrestle with our cat. Tackling carnations this week could be a problem – they’re real fighters.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Visionaries

I am sick as a dog. It is 5.20pm and I’ve just dragged myself from the sofa. My head hurts, my throat hurts and I am very wobbly. I am seriously in need of keyboard therapy before hitting the panadol and Earl Grey tea again.

Between dozing, I’ve been reading a biography of Golda Meir. I remember clearly when she died, even though I didn’t know much about her then – I was only 17 at the time. But she is fast becoming a heroine. It is extraordinary what one woman with a passion for her people can do. I ask myself where are the calibre of leaders like this today?

But then in my "inbox" this morning was a superb essay by Dr Daniel Gordis "One Treadmill, Two Refugees and One College" (see http://www.danielgordis.org/) and my hope was restored.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Vive les Anglaise!

It’s a good job I wasn’t eating croissant – I would have choked with excitement in the first 1.21 minutes, when England got its first try.

The boys did well. France played excellently, but it wasn’t enough on the day. I am concerned we will have another England / Argentina standoff next week, 25 years after the first one.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Nyet Nyet Soviet

I had a lovely Russian encounter this morning. I got chatting to three tourists who were looking for somewhere to buy fruit. The city is a bit short on markets in the centre, but I was able to direct them to a large supermarket about 5 minutes walk away. Mercifully, it has a name which is easy to translate into Russian. They were so happy, one of the party gave me a small balalaika fridge magnet as a gift. I could have hugged him. It only occurred to me later how incongruous “Fridge Magnet” and “Balalaika” are in the same sentence. A winsome American keepsake is adopted by Perestroika and boom, there’s the delicate red instrument sitting on my huge Korean fridge. It’s almost as sacrilegious as putting Bulgakov’s stories into hip hop.

England vs France tomorrow morning.

I won’t be able to drink French Roast coffee for breakfast due to my accidental incineration of the Mocka pot.

I can’t eat croissant, because I’m on a diet.

Chocolat chaud also out, due to sugar.

But there will be home made Barmy bread and marmite and a big pot of Earl Grey tea to steal the nerves.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Flambe Madame?

Today was a first. I almost set the kitchen alight with a stove top coffee maker. In my haste to try out a new recipe in the bread machine, I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing for my “elevenses”. I put the coffee on the stove, did some correspondence on email, then wondered why I could smell burning. I’d omitted the water. I threw the coffee grounds on the deck, but they were burning like charcoal and I could have set the deck boards on fire. Thankfully there was a watering can handy.

The house smells like old ashtrays and no amount of smelly candles seems to cover the odour.

For the record, the name of the bread I made was Barm Bread (Irish).

Make that Barmy Bread.

Sigh – it’s middle age.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Notability or Notoriety

A village of contradictions, that’s us. I found out today that a former Miss World used to live here and according to the local rag, we have a ladies wrestling team. Also we have an under 21 barbershop quartet who came first in a championship in San Francisco .

For a place with less than 14,000 souls, that’s not bad.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Hanging off the balcony

More surprises in the garden. For two years, we have had an anonymous creeper along the balcony which runs round half of the house. It never flowered, just “leaved”. This year it has burst into the most astonishing Wysteria. I am having Wysteria Hysteria. Where I come from, it adorns cottages and lych gates, and here it is, like a purple necklace adorning our house. I am beside myself happy!

It has brought on my annual hankering for a bee-hive, two broody hens and a laundry eating goat. I know that this spring fever is making my husband very nervous.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Men in Black - Nation in Black

We lost, 20: 18 to France. This is the second time the All Blacks has been pipped by France. Oh dear!

I would like to see a Fiji/France final, and see Fiji win, say 30:28

Not that I'm a prophet or the daughter of one!

If Fiji wins the World Cup, the South Pacific will be an earthquake zone in more ways than one. You will hear the roar.

And the rest is silence

Sunday mornings are usually pretty quiet in our town, but this morning, we couldn’t see a car or any movement on the motorway. It was beginning to feel like Yom Kippur.

France is playing the All Blacks and the whole nation is glued to its TV. The national grid is probably on overload at halftime, as we all go and make Chernobyl strength coffee to calm our nerves. We could be invaded by Australia, and no one would notice.

More later with the score.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Brain flexing

It is sobering to realise, reluctantly, that brain cells really do die or play hide and seek as you get older. I don’t consider “almost 46” old, but I sure don’t retain things in the cranium the way I used to. Supposedly, you can keep the brain agile with crosswords and sudoku. I am hopeless at both, so I’m trying the next best thing – Hebrew.

It’s a pretty language – all those squiggles, and for someone who is left handed, amazingly comfortable to write. Also, for a mobile txt freak, the absence of vowels is comfortingly familiar. At the moment, I have 100 words to play with, a bit like the magnets you see on some fridge doors. I hope to be able to string a sentence together by the New Year, but it is unlikely that I will be able discuss Coleridge, let alone find my way safely out of a paper bag.

In order to attend a language school to study this language, I had to fill in an online questionnaire about the level of my language skills. I dutifully filled it in, but put in the comments section. “I am a complete beginner, I know NOTHING. The only two words I understand are Shalom (Hello) and Balagan (Chaos/Nightmare). I believe both words are quite well used, so I started with them first.”

I think they got the picture, and are probably digging out their kindergarten books for me as we speak.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The answer is blowing in the wind

There’s a new Kit on the Block. We have seen her nervously tiptoeing about under the trees at the back of our house. She obviously knows that she is treading in the path of lions, because she sniffs the air all the time and looks timidly about her. She’s a beautiful Siamese. I’ve called her Ching Ching.

Minutes after she disappeared through the hole in the fence, our female cat wandered along the deck, stopped dead in her tracks, sniffed the wind, then shot off to the exact spot Ms Ching Ching had just vacated. An orgy of sniffing the bushes / flowers / grass then commenced.

How weird it must be to have such a sensitive nose.

But then yesterday I smelt gas in our kitchen. We’d moved the stove so the plasterer could finish off a wall. The hose had become loosened very slightly. Hubby couldn’t smell anything, but I stopped mid kitchen and knew something wasn’t right.

Perhaps I’m related to my cat?

And speaking of “something in the air”, it is reported that during Yom Kippur last week, the pollution in the air over N. Israel was 100 times less than normal. Imagine, if it were possible to make this happen once a year worldwide. No cars, or factories or planes emitting poisonous gases. Perhaps the ice caps wouldn’t melt as quickly? Logicians would have fun with that.

“A one day fast equals lower temperatures and saves the world” Discuss.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Universe stuff

A newish bookshop in town offers discounts every week on certain items. Today we had a 25% off voucher. Hubby got first refusal. We came away with the Sunday Times bestseller “The Road to Reality – A complete guide to the Laws of the Universe”. It’s a modest tome of 1096 pages.

Now, I scraped a CSE in Maths. I didn’t study Physics, Chemistry or Biology beyond the age of 14. I have a respectable O level in Geology, but there is where my scientific education ends. This hasn’t stopped me being blown away by the sensational universe we live in. I still get all excited about the natural world; it has never become passé.

So, I’ve been balancing this brick of a book on my lap and grappling with the contents page (grin). I went straight to the section on Fibre Bundles (I used to call them Fur Balls to a former boyfriend who lectured on them). An aside, he was a brilliant theoretical physicist and rather good oboist to boot. Funny how clever scientists are often musical too.

Back to fur balls. I had no idea how much our universe twists and turns about. Even if you leave black holes out of the picture, there’s an awful lot of movement going on, and you can’t see any of it. And what amazes me even more, if you subtract a letter out of one of those long “in parenthesis” equations that mathematicians are so fond of, we could all vanish / get sucked into a black hole or meet ourselves coming backwards. And speaking of meeting myself coming backwards, I nearly met Mary Poppins today. We’ve had wind gusts of 78 kmh.

Lumps and Bumps

Now I know why I was struggling to hold flowers in the last week of the semester. I have a ganglion on my right paw. The lump is a jolly nuisance as it is on the palm of the hand. Perhaps I just need to get someone to whack me with a large protea?
We had an earthquake a few days ago in the southern ocean (6.8) , which sparked a local tsunami warning for the west coast of the South Island. There was a stand down soon after. This from the website which is at the top of my “Favourites”

“EARTHQUAKES OF THIS SIZE SOMETIMES GENERATE LOCAL TSUNAMIS THAT CAN BE DESTRUCTIVE ALONG COASTS LOCATED WITHIN A HUNDRED KILOMETERS OF THE EARTHQUAKE EPICENTER. AUTHORITIES IN THE REGION OF THE EPICENTER SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS POSSIBILITY AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION.

Well, the “authorities” didn’t bother to call us, so I’m assuming that its still safe to paddle and make sand castles.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Redundant?

You have to laugh at some signs. Today in the bank, I noticed four massive safes side by side. On each was the notice

“Please keep the safe door shut”

I wonder how many management meetings it needed to come up with that one?

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Fifteen across

Yesterday I received a parcel from my Dad. It included a small country magazine called “The Dalesman”. It covers articles on nature, farming, local history and the “human interest” stories of that part of Yorkshire. It also has a crossword. As I sat filling it in late last night, I was struck by how easily some of the geography answers came to me. I haven’t lived in that part of the UK for 35 years (although I did live in another part of the county 15 years ago). It is said that you can tell the nationality of a person depending who they cheer on to win the cricket match. For me the litmus test was the crossword. Wherever I have wandered overseas, I’m still very much a Yorkshire lass when filling in the Dalesman crossword. The moors, the freezing cold seaside towns, the daffodil strewn dales – that’s me.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Environmentally correct

I don’t often read anything on the back of packets, but today was an exception. It is amazing the scientific research that goes into consumables. On the packet of a recent product bought from the supermarket.

BLANK is biodegradable and safe for all BLANK systems
All fibre used is obtained from sustainably managed sources
Our wood pulp is only bleached by oxygen or elemental chlorine free processes
Successful water and energy conservation programs have been implemented and are ongoing
BLANK utilises low weight plastic wrap to reduce waste

If the performance of this product is in any way unsatisfactory, please return a sample of the product together with the core to the address below.

I sincerely hope no on takes the company up on this offer. We are talking about toilet paper.
Oh, and its Australian.

September garden magic

It’s that time of the year again. Hail and howling southerlies one minute, glorious sunshine the next. Drunk Tuis staggering underneath the Kowhai trees and clacking and squawking at potential mates in their drunken stupor.

The garden is sporting a carpet of blue; forget-me-nots, bluebells and mascari (grape hyacinth). The cats are doing their sychronised grooming session in the only pool of sunshine next to the French windows. Oh the joys of spring in New Zealand.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Up, up and away

A new and exciting development; I will celebrate New Year 2008 somewhere in the air between Hong Kong and London. I will be enroute to the Middle East for the whole month of January, volunteering with a charity I am linked with, doing some language study and visiting a host of friends. I will follow this trip by two weeks in the UK with my folks.

I will be wandering alone; Hubby will stay home, write books and curl up with the cats. I’ve told him we need to buy a big freezer so I can start filling it with meals. He keeps telling me he can take care of himself – I will have to keep an eye on his secret stash of chocolate, to see if he is buying in siege quantities.
I arrive back in New Zealand the day before our biggest fundraiser of the year, organised by Rotary. I must be mad. I will be experiencing the rest of February from the sofa, recovering.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Dreaming of size 16

Well, I finally did the deed. I have disposed of my wardrobe of three years ago. This was the era of “under 75kgs”. Alas, I will not see it again. The Battle of the Midriff is seriously stressful when you love to cook! So my strategy is smaller portions, no treats with coffee at coffee shops, and definitely no eating after 6pm. I’ve also stopped using butter.

I’m aiming to loose 6kg by December (only 500g a week). I think this is realistic. Two of the girls on my course are on diets, so this may prove to be a good support. I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Malaprops

I was recently sent a book of mixed up proverbs/sayings. I thought I’d post a few, as they’re rather good. I’ve made a few suggestions of who should have said them.

Madonna “Brevity is the soul of lingerie” (Dorothy Parker)
Bart Simpson “Children under 12 must be accompanied by money” (James Dent)
Condoleezza Rice “I came, I saw, I concurred” (Irvine H Page)
Paul Burrell “Comment is free, but facts are on expenses” (Tom Stoppard)
Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum “The shortest distance between two points is usually under construction.” (Ryan Showers)
Richard Branson “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a delay of three hours” (Milton Berle)
George Bush “Ready, fire, aim” (Spike Milligan)
Tony Blair “If at first you don’t succeed, do it the way your wife told you to.” (Yvonne Nepper)
Michael Palin “I’m pink, therefore I’m Spam” (Stephen Griscom)

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Garden musings

Yesterday I dug over a patch of soil at the end of our garden which grows weeds in abundance. Every 2 months or so, I have to dig it over and weed every imaginable thing out of it. The previous owners of our property had dug lots of compost into the soil, so it will grow anything!

At 7am, as I filled a bag with “who knows what” weeds, a thought struck me. The Bible says Adam was made from the earth. As I looked at all the messy roots in my hands, which I HADN’T PLANTED, I wondered about spiritual parallels. Correctly nurtured, spiritually our lives can be like abundantly fertile soil; the type which you could plant a computer in and you could grow a whole network. Left unattended spiritually, you have to spend a lot more time digging out weeds which choke all the good stuff you would like to plant and grow there.

Sometimes in my garden I find beautiful flowers growing one year, which I know I didn’t plant. They mysteriously appear to adorn the flower beds, and I am left to scratch my head and think “How the heck did that get there?”

I wonder if God does something similar? If we keep our lives fertile with a good understanding and love of the Bible and worship of God, then He can in turn plant anything in us and cause it to grow.

I am also struck by the variety of life that lives in soil which has been left fallow. A farmer will tell you that a field left to rest is more abundant when the time comes to plant it. It isn’t until you dig it ready for planting that you see what “insect /worm busyness” has been going on underneath, preparing the deep fertility for seeds to grow.

Ultimately, the earth that we are made from returns to the earth. I ask myself, when my days here are finished, what will live on and prosper out of what I have sown into the days given to me.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

A very small miracle

Today is scorching. I was out in the garden weeding and clipping at 7am, thinking I’d better get ahead, not being one to enjoy my skin burning to a crisp. For the first time in my life, I have decided to try to grow some tomatoes. I have a big bag of potting soil and have planted directly into it. As I am the one in the family who can kill imitation flowers, it remains to be seen if we will have tomato salad this summer.

This lunchtime, I put more soil around our potted olive tree. It had been looking a bit dried out. I would have fallen over with surprise, had I not already been down on hands and knees. Right before my eyes, a single olive clinging to a branch! There is an old Arab saying that the olive tree remains a strong and useful wife, in spite of neglect and hardship. I can honestly say, that must be true. The tree doesn’t get a lot of sun and has to withstand our horrible winds. But there was a single olive.

I can’t tell you how much I am rejoicing, even though I cannot claim any responsibility for it.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Off Piste, or vice versa

Today we received a thick booklet in the mail from our local City Council. It is election time. There are Mayors, City Councillors, Community Boards and Health Boards to elect. Everyone is terrifyingly perfect in their one paragraph manifesto, including the current Mayor, and the least said about her the better.

I am tempted to vote for the Worker’s Party candidate for Mayor. Not because I subscribe any longer to rabid Socialism, but because I would love to imagine him ruffling a lot of middle class feathers in Council chambers. What fun! True Blue hubby is not impressed by my mischief making.

In the same lot of mail was a letter from the Tax Department to advise me that I had registered on the wrong tax code. This was particularly the case since I started working on the ski slopes!

Excuse me? I’ve never seen a ski slope, let alone worked on one. I had to wait on the line whilst a tax collector went to “investigate”. It transpires someone had given my tax number by mistake and put me down for a full time job in an obscure resort on the S. Island. Rather difficult to execute whilst studying floristy full time on the N. Island.

I’m impressed. They got onto the problem quickly and corrected it. I wish the debt run up by the current Mayor and council could be resolved as quickly. But perhaps they are on wrong tax codes too?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Mucking about

I am a list maker. My desk has a few; my purse has a few more. I blame menopause. Mostly, they are “things to do over the weekend”. Many are Wish Lists. The functional ones sit on the desk.

So, here’s today’s:

1) Finish floristry assignment, 2) Grocery shopping, 3) Cat food from vet, 4) Bank
5) Bake bread, 6) tidy house for Friday night visitors.

The list was abandoned after number 1. No 2 became Rock Pool Surfing. We went for a walk in our favourite village, ten minutes away. I haven’t walked on a beach in years (hate sand, have foot problems, timid of the ocean). But today, I went paddling in rock pools, chasing hermit crabs and playing with bits of seaweed. Hubby found himself a bit of limestone to perch on whilst I “Ooo’ed and Aaa’ed” over tiny creatures and bathed my hand with eczema in the warm salt water.

There is probably one day a year you can do this on our bit of the island. Normally you would be blown away or flash frozen. Today it was great to tear up the list and enjoyed the weather. Beats smoking as a de-stresser

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Pushing up daisies

The silence is due to assignments and exhaustion. After the initial flurry of interest with YouTube, I have been too tired to even check the Net. I have to do something about waking up BEFORE the birds. All sensible suggestions gratefully received.

It is years since I read a novel, but I have almost finished “Exodus” by Leon Uris. The film was definitely faithful to the book, and as far as I can see, the book is pretty faithful to history. Characters show up who are obviously based on historical figures. A good example would be PP Malcolm, a British army officer who is based on Orde Wingate, the brilliant military tactician and friend of the Jews.

Wingate’s life was cut short in 1944 when he was killed in a plane crash over Burma. He was 41. This week saw yet another terrible plane crash, this time in Thailand. Eight Israeli’s were on board, six are still missing. One always wonders at times of disaster, whether natural or man-made, what kind of potential was cut short or lost. Who on that flight could have been another Nelson Mandela, John Paul II, Ang Sang Suu Ki, Einstein. We don’t know whom we have lost.

On a lighter note, I’m battling with the latest assignment on my course – funeral sprays. These are the bouquets which are designed to be laid on a grave, they are flat, but 3 dimensional at the same time, and a real trial to hold in one hand. My fingers are so sore from manipulating up to 30 flowers and pieces of foliage, before binding them, bowing them and collapsing in an exhausted heap. My epitaph “Driven loopy by a leucadendron”.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

The Tube

Oh dear, I think I’m going to need help. I’ve just signed up to YouTube. OK, so that’s a big yawn for most people who read this blog, but I might just remind you I am OLD ENOUGH to be a grandma.

I’m totally hooked! I am finding music videos of people I have only ever heard on scrappy cassettes and I’m discovering people who are so INTERESTING! Photos of places in the world I would like to be. Oh Universe!

My 4am starts may start being in the company of “planet elsewhere”.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Don't Panic!

Ever had one of those, “Out of Control” moments, when you feel totally inadequate to the task? One hit me this afternoon. I have two large floral arrangements to do for the weekend, and I am working all day Saturday. Oh, and did I mention friends for dinner tomorrow night? Maybe I should just go and jump in a twelve foot pool and hope I bob back to the surface;-)

Thankfully, someone very kindly called me with a “If you would like to cut down my protea bush, you can have as many as you like” phone message. Yay, it’s a great start……….But now I need to plan the designs. I may be on a floristry course, but I have NEVER done arrangements before. And I mean NEVER.

Our cat got very excited sniffing the protea heads as I trimmed them and put them in water. She also liked the “Heaven’s breath” bush I came back with too. She’s such a girl, one day I’m sure I’ll find her trying on earrings and my high heels!

I’ll take photos and put them on the Flikr board after the fact, so that the floral design types out there can give me some constructive criticism afterwards.

I could be back to those 4am starts.

Happy New Year!

Today is the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It is also the start of Ramadan. Does anyone know the last time these festivals coincided?

Rosh Hashanah, like all the Jewish Festivals (bar Yom Kippur) has food associated with it. I mean, it’s Jewish right, so there has to be food involved! New Year involves dipping apples in honey, pomegranates (there’s probably a world shortage of these at Tescos and Sainsburys) and latterly, one of the more recent food developments (tongue in cheek), is to eat raisins and celery together, in order to get a "Raise in de celary!"

Apparently there is also a superstition. If you want to know if the business venture you are to get involved in will succeed or not, you are to raise a hen. If she grows big and fat, you know your venture will succeed.
We are having friends for dinner on Friday night. I’m shelving the meat balls and serving chicken stuffed with raisins and celery.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

11th September

I remember where I was when the Twin Towers were hit. Everyone does. A colleague had driven me to collect my car from the mechanic. We both watched the news coverage in the waiting room. Different nationalities milled around, including the local people. There was uniform horror as it sank in that this was no accident. It was around 6pm our time. We were both working in aviation and we simply could not believe our eyes. Later when we talked on the phone, we actually wondered if we would have a job the following day. We were living in an Arab land, and contrary to media coverage, that day there was no rejoicing on the streets. There was stunned silence.

The world changed that day, and everyone in my country of residence knew it. Arab clients wondered how I would react to them. “Are you leaving us?” “No”. Many thousands of expatriates did, and meanwhile we worked day by day with the consequences of airlines going bankrupt, people panicking and leaving the entire region.

Things moved on in aviation, but the paradigm of life shifted permanently. Ordinary Arabs were nervous. Three years after the event, a customer told me how he had applied to study in Britain, but then backed out, because he was frightened English people would label him a terrorist and attack him. A talented lawyer, he is still in his home country.

I suspect we will always remember this date. Life will be either “pre” or “post”. There are no more Songs of Innocence, only of Experience.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

TGI Sunday

I know Americans get a lot of flak for introducing the world to fast food, but there’s one thing you have to credit them for – breakfast pancakes.

They come in stacks, with totally outrageous sauces, syrups, jams and cream. And if you’re Kiwi, you eat bacon with the bananas and syrup – Ho Ho, The Rabbi’s Special!

For me, they are comfort food. I take mine with plain yoghurt and honey, chopped fruit and anything that I can argue is a nod to health. The butter dish sits at my husband’s side of the table. He has also glued the raspberry jam pot to his side. NOT FAIR!

By deduction, you will realise this was our supper this evening. My good intentions to dig the garden came to nothing as I caught up on the “dawn starts” this week. I planted myself on the sofa; two purring hot water bottles joined me and the next thing I knew, it was pancake time. Thank Goodness it's Sunday!

And on a completely tangential subject, does anyone have any suggestions of how to get a terrified cat into a cat carrier? A blog friend is having trouble with one of her rescue cats, and she is moving house tomorrow. The cat is freaking out and she is about to have heart failure watching her favourite so distressed.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Cracking the dawn

4am and I are becoming really good friends. The cats think its great that I’m puttering in the kitchen “Feed Me”, at that time “FEED ME!”

I have to get a strategy to beat this. Here’s plan A. Often, when I pray, I fall asleep. So from now on, I’m making a list of things I have to talk to the Creator of the Universe about. I trust He will forgive me if I nod off, mid-sentence. Plan B is to keep Latin nouns by the bed. Plan C is to leave my ironing out, next to the prayers and the nouns.

If I get really desperate, there’s always the translation of Esther in Hebrew loaded onto my computer……

Tomorrow morning may be different, as I am so tired. I did a four hour market stall this morning and this evening cooked a huge meal for four guests. Don’t ask why I went the “Labour intensive menu” route. I wanted to do Middle Eastern, and short of stuffing vine leaves, that’s what we had. It was appreciated, so I’m happy.

Because I cooked enough to feed a minyan, there’s no need to go near the kitchen tomorrow. I plan to put my feet up and read some of my library books and get inspired for my portfolio (due in two months).
And so to bed……..for a few hours at least.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Things that slither in the night

I occasionally dry laundry in our living room on a wire framed airer. When the cats want to play hide and seek, it is a great place to swot from, especially if there are sheets hanging over it.

This morning my husband came into the kitchen where I was making breakfast holding up one of my nightdresses.

“Is there a reason why this was on the floor in my office?” It was one which had been on the airer last night.

Then I remembered, Otto had been trying to catch the spaghetti straps and play with them. He’d obviously succeeded and taken it with him into his favourite snooze space – hubbies office.

Our butch moggy has transmogrified into a Drag Queen!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Spring Fever

It has to be the official beginning of spring, because our small town is boasting it’s first duckling.

We have several small streams and rivers running through the valley from the hills. The one that meanders past our post office, has a tribe of mallard on it. The nesting rights for the mound in the centre of the stream go out to tender each year. This year the proud parents with the “Licence To Hatch” have a solitary ball of fluff sitting between them. If they had been Mandarin Ducks, I would have suspected a “One Egg Policy”.

In a few weeks, we will have cars screeching to a halt all over the town. Mother ducks tend to be a proud lot and take their progeny for walks across the Rugby pitch to the Fire Station, from the Swimming Baths to the secondary school and have been known to park themselves on the lawn outside one of the churches. As it sits on a busy roundabout, their quacking tends to go unnoticed, unless it is on a Sunday during prayers. Then parishioners can honestly sing about “All creatures great and small”

Watching the dawn

It would seem that whilst my Latin nouns relax and drink cappuccinos, I have the wakefulness of someone who drinks 10 espressos a day. It’s 4am and this is becoming a habit. Getting to the flower market at 6am yesterday was no problem. I had half prepared our evening meal by 5am.
If anyone has any suggestions for insomnia, I’m listening. Oh yes, and Cathy (mother of baby twins and a two year old), I think I know what your suggestion would be – smile.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Florium Vanishum

This morning I bumped into a course-mate at our local coffee emporium. I’d had a sleepless night reciting Latin botanicals in the early hours. Each time I woke up, I could only remember half of each word. Despite help from my friend to learn them, over a very large coffee, when it came to writing down said Latin in the test, half of each noun got up in protest and walked down the hill. I will have to re sit tomorrow.

Mademoiselle Chat is now eating like a donkey. Her aches and pains are being fixed and she is now on an expensive diet. Big brother wants to trough the same food (he would,) but we have to keep the food separate, the cats separate, and trust that a month after this cordon bleu diet, Mademoiselle will be pain free and “un-bunged”. I knew things were getting back to normal this evening when she jumped on my keyboard, kissed me on the nose, and proceeded to file my next set of Latin notes on the floor. Perhaps she can learn them for me for next Tuesday?
Tomorrow I have to be up at 5.30am to go the flower wholesaler. The whole class is having breakfast afterwards at the coffee emporium, where I will probably find a party of escaped Latin nouns drinking cappuccinos.

Monday, 3 September 2007

A perfect sensory day

It is said that smell is one of the most evocative memory stimulators. A whiff of perfume can bring events to mind that sit right back in childhood. Taste has a similar effect.

Texture can also stimulate the creative juices. Flowers, fabrics, woods, beads, certain foods (chocolate mousse, toasted nuts, mangos, crunchy lettuce with croutons). For me, the list goes on. I am blessed to have five senses filling my world with a crazy paradise.

My top five: marshmallows, a large cat purring, wood burning in the autumn air, the dawn chorus, bread baking, coffee percolating.

I have to say, the most sensuous things I have ever eaten are marshmallows. They are ordinary looking, but when they are fresh, there is nothing to compare with them. Toasted over an open fire they are spectacular. Then there’s that great start to the day; walking past a bakery as a sleepy village wakes up. You sniff the different loaves on the breeze as you pass the time of day with a neighbour out walking his dog. Yup, a moment of heaven.

So I guess the perfect day would be waking up to birdsong, with a large cat purring at the bottom of the bed, fresh bread bursting out of the bread machine, coffee spluttering on the stove, and roasting marshmallows over a bonfire in the evening (after doing a bit of gardening, in order to deserve it.)

What about yours?

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Check ups

Not ever having had children, I’ve not had the stresses of childhood illnesses, accidents, dental appointments, nightmares etc.

However, I do have two spoiled animals. The boy needs dental treatment, and is constipated, the girl has fur balls and loves throwing up, usually on the expensive bits of floor in the house, the Afghan rugs. They are both currently on hunger strike as they have “gone off” the latest brand of cat food. Our Boy needs to diet anyway, but Her Ladyship doesn’t have any spare tyres to “spare”, so I’m concerned.

I have a feeling I will be spending a good whack of time and dollars at the vets this week. Her Ladyship goes tomorrow. We gave the new vet advance warning. Good to have a bottle of gin handy, either for Dutch courage, or to recover with after the Naughty Tortie appointment. Six months ago she took on a 6’4” vet and won. He has since left the country; the “New Vet” is his replacement. We are suspicious that vet turnover coincides with Cookie’s check ups.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A la recherche du temps perdu

I am a charity shop junkie. Second-hand Rose, that’s me. I buy four things, books, knitting wool, warm sweaters and tray cloths.

I miss tray cloths; odd, as I wasn’t raised with them at home. But we had a rather interesting neighbour when I was a child. She was a “Lady”. She had been widowed quite young and had the fortune of her late husband, who had made his money in the mills of Lancashire. Whether ethically or not, I can’t say, but our neighbour was of a different generation / time and class and I loved her and her big house. She was childless and I was allowed to visit her. I knocked on her door and would ask very politely if it was convenient to visit. I was always invited in and we would drink tea.

When you had a cup of tea at Mrs J’s home, it came on a tray, with large handles, a silver teapot and a tray cloth. This was usually starched linen with some kind of elegant decoration. The cup and saucer (no mugs in this household) were always china. She was remarkably trusting of the wide eyed seven year old who loved to drink out of the cups and ogle the pretty lace on the tray cloth.

People don’t use trays with tray cloths any more – except my friend Mrs B, who is a “Lady” too. I would love to see tray cloths make a come back. I have collected several in charity shops, which I suspect were discarded by surviving relatives when clearing out homes of departed loved ones. I like to think that many of them were made for “the bottom drawer” of a young woman about to be married. Most date from the 1930s or 1940s when home comforts were hard to come by, but embroidery skills were at their peak, so even the poorest girl could make something pretty for her new home. I can’t bear to see them tossed to one side, as if the hopes they embodied where trashed with them.

So I now have a drawer with a selection of cloths waiting for an appropriate 1940s tray, and a silver teapot is on my wish list for some birthday present in the future.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

When Harry met Gili

You have to take your hat off to her. Gili Bar-Hillel is the translator of the Harry Potter books into Hebrew. I still find it hard to get my head around – the language of the Torah and Prophets in Hogwart’s Academy. It is a real case of the sublime describing the ridiculous.

Bar-Hillel comes from a line of intellectual heavyweights. Her grandfather was a Viennese Philosopher, her parent’s lectured at the Hebrew University in Psychology. She has three degrees herself, including one from Harvard.

Evidently she has had huge translation challenges and is bombarded with letters from the kids reading the Hebrew version. One complained that Harry ate bacon (she wrote back explaining the difference in cultures). Then she has to figure out what words to use for “wand” or “prefect”, both of which are unknown concepts in Hebrew culture.

Good luck. I bet she’s glad that Ms Rowling has hung up her broomstick!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Colour my world

For part of my course I have an assignment on colour. It is huge and threatens to take over my life. We haven’t officially started this component yet, but I decided to get ahead and do as much research as possible before the paint bucket hit the fan.

Colour is highly associative for me. Orange = flavoured Smarties, Red = Dad’s rose garden, Yellow = daffodils on the York City walls, White = my ballet tutu when I was 4, Ginger = the cat I had for 12 years, Pink = the walls in my bedroom when I was 8, Lilac = grandpa’s sweet peas, Brown, the paint I insisted on for my bedroom ceiling when I was 13, Burgundy = my first ball gown. Black, not officially a colour, only reminds me of mourning or abayas in the Muslim world. I was horrified to see it is the official sartorial colour of choice in my adopted country. Sooooo depressing!

I have observed that women have a huge vocabulary for colours. They don’t just say “Brown”, they’ll say Mushroom/Cocoa/Rust; “Red” is Wine/Pillarbox/Jewel/Flame/Ruby, “Blue” is Cornflower/Air Force/Powder/Royal/Sapphire.

Blokes will tend to say “Yellow” and not refer to Custard/Mellow/Daffodil/Pumpkin.

Colour is a great way to get verbally creative. The collocations are infinite. Anyone remember Carnaby Pink? I had a lipstick this colour which I think I inherited from an older cousin when I was 6. I was in seventh heaven as I wore it with dressing up clothes.

Any funny colour memories out there?

Catch me if you can

Yesterday was the half yearly visit to the vet for our soppy tom cat. He is known to be the best solar panel in the S. Hemisphere. If there is a drip of sunlight anywhere, Otto can be guaranteed to be sponging it up.

Small problem, he has a pink nose. He is vulnerable to skin cancer like the rest of us down here where there is so little Ozone. So, from now on, I have to apply suncream to his tiny pink nose.

He’s going to hate me. He will sulk, he will run. I will be persona non grata. I can’t bear it – he’s my baby and I won’t be able to explain why he has cream up his nostrils.
He is the most good natured cat I have ever owned. Yesterday the vet had to put her fingers over said nose to stop him purring whilst he was having his chest sounded. I am just hoping that the kitty kvell (Yiddish for purr) doesn’t stop when he is sporting factor 30.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Out of the Stone Age

We are on broadband! My life has been revolutionised. But boy, the grief my husband had to set it up! He is very good with computers. He’s designed websites, and he knows the languages required to do such things. But installing broadband had him searching for words to shout at the screen that wouldn’t curl the paper around him.

How is Mr Average supposed to do this? Half way through a two hour long process, he commented that it could be worse; he could be calling customer services in another country and trying to explain his problem in the language of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have always joked that Help Desks in that country should be called Hindrance Desks. “Hello, this is your Internet Service Provider, how can we make life difficult for you? What can we do for you that will further ruin your day?”

I am thankful for small mercies and the big blessing of a hubby that simply doesn’t give up until he’s worked out the problem. Anyone reading this in New Zealand, and having the same problems, my husband charges $1000 / hr.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Movies

Have you noticed how dated films are from the 1950s and 60s? Either the sound is tinny, the acting wooden, the scripts corny or the sets wobbly.

Yesterday I saw one which was an exception. The plot wasn’t exactly good history, and it was rather long, but I would recommend it to anyone who would like to see something filmed on location in the Middle East in 1960. The film was “Exodus”. I had forgotten how handsome Paul Newman was, and that Ralph Richardson was once young.

Tonight I’m taking the jewellery “on the road” to a small bay town north of here. Just another step on the road to peace in the Middle East.

Friday, 24 August 2007

"Pain"oholic

Hectic, hectic, describes the last few days. But in the midst of them, I’ve been able to play with my new oven, and received a new recipe book, written by a friend in Haifa. So, today I’m making Challah bread (traditional for the Sabbath) and my evening reading has been a cute book by Peter Mayle (the same chap who wrote “A Year in Provence”). The book is called “Confessions of a French Baker”. Here is a slice from it.

“When normal methods of village diplomacy in Provence came to nothing, bread was the last resort. Once a year, on Christmas morning, villagers would take bread they had baked to the fountain, leave it on the edge of the bassin, and take away a loaf made by a neighbour. This was said to renew good relations between inhabitants who had fallen out with on another during the year”

Also, some trivia. Did you know that the croissant is in fact an Austrian invention, not a French one? It has its 424th birthday on Sunday. When Vienna was under siege by the Turkish military in 1683, some bakers raised the alarm when they heard strange noises below their bakery. The Turkish army was in the process of placing mines under the city’s fortifications. As a result of the baker’s vigilance the siege was lifted and the army left. To celebrate the end of the siege, the bakers of Vienna made bread in the shape of the crescent found on the Turkish flag. This is the original croissant. It’s more modern descendant was introduced in 1920 to France and we have been enjoying the decadent flaky pastry version ever since.

I confess, if there was a name for being a bread addict, I would have made it my own years ago. It amazes me the variations on basic ingredients of flour, water, yeast and sugar. I wonder what your favourites are? Mine are Peshwari Naan, fresh baguette, Semmel, Ciabatta, German rye and cinnamon bagels.

Sigh - I’ll never be slim.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Dancing to a different drum

I went to an interesting workshop yesterday on the Hebrew names of God. It involved a lot of drawing, movement and music. There were around 30 folk participating, and we all got to pick a name to work with. Mine was simply “Your Name”, or Sheem Kha. At one point we had to try and move our body in the shape of the Hebrew letters. I was amazed at the spirit of worship that welled up inside of me when I did this. Also, trying to pronounce this name was a bit like sighing. It was really beautiful.
I listened to some musicians on CD who have assembled music and song from ancient ME texts, including instruments which were known to have existed up to 4000 years ago. The artists, based in San Antonio, were amazing. What I found extraordinary was I recognised many lyrical phrases from modern Arabic music. It is fascinating how music can live for so long and be renewed and reborn in a different milieu. Some of the songs were in Aramaic, some Hebrew. They have a haunting quality which I have never heard before. I am checking today where I can get the CD of their music and will post details later.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Hello Dolly, back where you belong

Most of us have a black sheep in the family. In my case it was a sheep stealer. When I was dating my husband, I used to joke how different our backgrounds were. I would say that my wanderlust probably originated in being part Viking, part sheep rustler. As they say, many a true word…….

In an idle moment on the web, I put in the name of one of our relatives, about 5 generations back. The name is unusual, and I sort of knew what I was looking for.

I found George on board a ship bound for W. Australia in 1854. He’d been given 10 years for stealing sheep. I believe this was the relative who died a very wealthy Australian.
My arrival in the antipodes was legal and without chains, but so far there’s no sign of fame and fortune. Perhaps, however, there is some poetry in the fact that I landed up in a country famous for sheep.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Of mice and men

Ever had one of those days?

I have spent the WHOLE day learning about CPR and heart attacks. My homework is to find ordinary kitchen items to make up a First Aid box. Don’t ask why this is part of a floristry qualification………..

I have just arrived home, pooped and all pumped up about tomorrow’s practical First Aid role plays and scenarios, when the phone rings.

“Can we come and install your new kitchen on Friday?” Normally I would have been delighted to receive this call (the new cooker has been sitting in the basement for 4 months). However, I have three assignments to complete, half a kitchen to pack up, a meeting Friday night, a guest from the north Saturday lunchtime, a meeting Saturday afternoon, another Sunday afternoon and part of Monday. I have a theory test on Tuesday.

I have spent the last half an hour in frantic activity finishing off pickling lemons, making dinner and storing items in cupboards and boxes.

Just as I thought I could go out and pick up my husband from the station, our dear, dim tom cat came in with a mouse. Mercifully it was dead and I didn’t need to chase it round the kitchen with a non existent (already packed) frying pan. He put it down for a short moment under the dining room table and I was able to whisk it away before he noticed.

He is still wandering around the house bewildered, looking for his four legged snack.
I am about to need the CPR I was learning about this morning.