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


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.