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


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.