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


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


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.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Cultural Melange

Sometimes I can’t believe the diversity of this nation. Tonight I opened my last jar of pickled lemons, made with fruit from our garden. I have just made another batch from this year’s crop.

Supper tonight is made in a beautiful clay tagine pot, designed and made by a Danish potter who lives on the North Island.

Supper on Thursday is being provided for us by a Filippino friend who trained as a chef. He is doing a one-off fundraising stint and thought this would be a way to treat people to his skills AND raise money. The main course is Hungarian stroganoff. In his “day job” he trains young people to dance!

Today I was using Peruvian and Asian lilies for a bouquet. Both are grown here.

At the weekend we have an American friend visiting from Sydney who teaches Israeli dancing.
Just about the only “Kiwi” thing about this week is the weather.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Latitudinal degrees of separation

My Dad is a bit of a whizz at family history research, getting our tree back to the early 1600’s. This is quite an achievement, as most of our family were poor farmers and I suspect illiterate sheep rustlers!

Just recently he uncovered a letter from a correspondent who had written to him in 1995, asking for information about a distant branch of our family who he was also researching. This letter somehow got buried in all of Dad’s paperwork and only resurfaced last week. Twelve years on, he couldn’t remember if he had ever sent a reply to this man.

Now here comes the weird part. In 1995 I was about to move to E. Europe. I didn’t ever expect to be living in the NEXT TOWN to a relative in the S. Hemisphere!

So, tonight I called him, and he was thrilled be in touch again with my dad, via his daughter. The implications are I could be living a 20 minute drive away from a distant relative.

The world is shrinking terribly. I had better behave, or my mum and dad might find out what I’m up to!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Budgets here and budgets there

There was an alarming piece in our local rag this morning about the US cutting its funding to Israel. This due to the fact that it has WAY overstretched itself in the war on Iraq. The amount which Israel will NOT receive runs to the equivalent of some NZ$660 million. Reportedly this brought about an emergency cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. It seems the lack of this money will jeopardise the security of the country, as the defence budget will fall short.

Yes, that is a huge figure, but if I told you that reputedly our city council is in debt to the tune of a third of this amount, it kind of puts it in perspective. The defence of 7 million people, or the running of a city, which at the outside comprises around 350,000 souls. Oh, yes, and one of the biggest expenditures this year was planting native trees along the central reservation of an inner city motorway.

Go figure!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Culture and calories

Whilst waiting for my assessment results today, I went with two course mates to a local museum for lunch and a post mortem of the morning’s floral gymastics. But I was good, I didn’t succumb to the monster size chocolate muffins, and opted for a carrot and cottage cheese pie; (will someone please polish that halo).

We took time to walk around a temporary exhibition the curator had put together of a local artist from a small town close to us. William George Barker was a painting from the late 1800s until he died in 1927.

I am not a great fan of landscapes, but these were truly stunning. If he had lived closer to Europe, I am sure he would have been invited to be part of the Royal Academy. The touching part for me though, was not so much that he was “only” well known here, but that the way of life and people he depicted has almost vanished. There were three portraits of Maori leaders which were so beautiful, I could almost hear the people speak. Then there were the depictions of rural Marae set in the awe inspiring scenery of the islands. I suppose we should be thankful that in the early days of the European settlement of these islands, an artist of this calibre was able to capture those days on canvas.

Back to the books this evening.


I’ve discovered a remedy for stressed thumbs and fingers. Yesterday, after the “nth” time wiggling a bunch of foliage and flowers into a respectable bouquet, I was in serious need of some digital soothing.

If you walk down the hill from our “flower cabin”, there is a curious sign in a field. It reads “Rhubarb” with an arrow pointing right and “Jelly” with an arrow pointing left. They are very woolly and cute looking donkeys. Rhubarb was in a mood for ear tugging, nose scratching and cheek stroking, and I was more than happy to oblige.

Today I think I’ll put a few carrots in my pocket.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

A Pain in the Botanicals

So, now the hard work really starts.

Every week, on top of a written assignment, I have to learn the features of five flowers and five foliages. This includes the Latin classifications, diseases and uses in floristry (the latter two don’t have to be learned in Latin). Oh yes, and did I mention the practical assessments too?

We have five weeks of this! But because I am somewhat obsessed by tulips, this shouldn’t be too much of a chore; one of the ten this week is Tulipa.

But here is some trivia for you, did you know there are 10,000 varieties of maidenhead fern? Scary eh? That must have been someone's life work.

"So, what do you do for a living?"

"Classify maidenhead fern".

Quite a conversation stopper.

Monday, 6 August 2007

A signpost at last

There were lots of things that went bump in the night last night. I was woken up by what I thought was a steam train going through our wardrobe. The cats weren’t impressed that their beauty sleep was disturbed, especially when lightning and not our neighbour’s bathroom light, lit up our bedroom. The noise was followed by a deluge of rain, which continued almost until lunch-time. Then the sun came out, the clouds vanished and relieved twitters could be heard from all the birds in the bush surrounding our classroom. Such is the variety of climate in an NZ winter.

This pales to insignificance though with the weather experienced by the millions in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. It defies imagination; so many without homes or any hope of any assistance in the near future. May God have mercy.

Tonight I think I may have found the first signpost for my husband’s grandfather. It leads me to S. Wales just after the First World War. It’s a start.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Desparately seeking memories

We managed a blustery walk this afternoon, along the beach of a village close by. It was possible to see the S. Island, and some of her occupants. This wasn’t because I suddenly had telescopic vision, but because they were perched on the beach, bottoms to the wind, clinging to rocks for dear life. The black fronted tern is normally resident on the S. Island, but this group had caught a half price Southerly wind and taken a weekend vacation to the capital.

Of course there was the added bonus of landing just next to a very good fish and chip shop, and harassing windswept hungry locals trying to eat their fish in a Force 6.

We took refuge in a new cafĂ©; Polish, surprisingly. It lead to an interesting conversation about my husbands ancestors. They were German, Hungarian and Polish. As we read the menu, my husband commented that perhaps some of the meals would have been favourites with his grand parents and great grandparents. The sad thing is, we’ll never know. There is no family to ask any more who remembers or wants to remember.

I would love to do a bit of research, as I do think it honours the dead to remember them, even if it is only in conversation over Pierogi or Bigos.

Day of rest?

Oh the variety, but oh, the tiredness!

Sent text messages to all my overseas girlfriends this morning on the train - missing them all terribly. This was followed by six hours working for a famous crystal company, followed by several crazy hours learning how to do Irish style group dancing at a local school. The latter organised as a community event in our small town. My husband wasn’t feeling too well, so I went alone. Had lots of wonderful conversations with neighbours over the balletic fiddle and pipe playing of the band.

Came home later and reupholstered the “impulse purchase” chair of Friday. Went to bed in the small hours. I am seriously pooped and still have an assignment to finish today. Need to drag myself and husband out for a walk to blow away cobwebs.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Caveat Emptor

Have you ever gone out to shop for basics, and come back with anything but?

Here is how our day went. We met my husband’s sister in law for coffee in a local seaside town. The intention was to go for a long walk first along the beach. This turned into a short and very slow walk; I collected a beautiful selection of green lipped muscle shells and four varieties of sea weed (smelly but beautiful).

Then we went to a “purveyor of unusual foods to the restaurant trade”. I had one item on the list – Israeli couscous. We left with two lots of cheese, sauerkraut, Russian beer, S. African gumdrops and dried fruit (for my dad) and camphor cream for my sore feet.

After recovering at the coffee shop, we went to buy the next item on the list, bread from the German bakery. Tick. Next door was a French designer shop. They had ornamental candles for sale. I got one for $2, a globe in the same green as our living room. It was a 10th of its original price. So, not too bad;-)

En route to buy a bunch of flowers for a friend, we acquired a 1940’s armchair and beautiful book of tulips in a second hand shop. I now have a reupholstering project on my hands, to use up all that spare time!

Next time I only have three items on my shopping list, I’ll send my husband. He isn’t as easily distracted.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The Art of Flower Wrestling and Morris Minor maintenance

Mission impossible accomplished! I got the marks for my first practical assessment this morning. 30/30.

I can only say, it is the luck of the day. If you twist or scrunch paper the wrong way the first time, then you’ve had it. If the flower refuses to cooperate, even when wired, then forget it. I simply had a blessed day.

So I can now do the following: wire a Gerbera, wrap its stem in organza ribbon held in place by a pearl pin and “cross gartered” copper wire. Then wrestle it, with two lots of foliage into a perfect cone made of three lots of different paper, and tie with hand tied bow.

Not exactly a candidate for the Nobel, but you have to start somewhere.

Oh and as to the Morris Minor, I am still aspiring to own one, if I ever have a flower shop of my own.