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


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 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”


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


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?