Sunday, 30 March 2008

Beijing Olympics

I am disgusted at the recent Chinese actions in Tibet. I remember all too well the boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Now it seems that many countries who supposedly stand up for democracy are too lily livered to boycott again.

Whilst I understand it is sad if the athletes are the ones to "pay", I also think that China should not be allowed to get away with this behaviour. Tianamen Square is still a memory.
New Zealand is conveniently overlooking the Tibet issue, as it wants to sign a Free Trade agreement with China. Heaven help us when good men do nothing.

Saturday, 29 March 2008


I have just watched a young song thrush having a longgggg shower. I suspect this is the first time this young bird has experienced rain, because we have had a drought and hosepipe ban for almost two months. But now we are experiencing Kiwi rain at its finest, coming down in duvets.

I have watched him for almost half an hour on the high fence, fluffing his feathers, puffing out his chest and preening every millimetre of his rather splendid plumage. Between each session, he has flown into the adjacent tree (as if to check himself in a mirror), then hopped out again onto the fence for a fresh round of titivating. What a hoot.

Mercifully, Otto and Cookie are snoozing after coming in wet and being towelled dry by my better half. Oh to be a cat.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Hibernation countdown

Some oddservations (sic), as in “odd things I have found myself doing” as the winter solstice approaches. I blame it on two weeks extra to wait for “Daylight Saving” in this part of the planet.
Firstly, the cat alarm clock hasn't been working for the extra two weeks of summer, because the mornings are so jolly dark. Normally at daybreak, Tortie wakes us up by sitting on our heads and swiping anything not nailed to the bedside tables onto the floor.

As I try to throw her out for her morning constitutional, the expression on her face says “But it’s so dark outside Mummy”. So, for the last few mornings, the cat alarm hasn’t gone off. She’s had a winter lie in and so have her slaves. Lots of scurrying around and quick gulping of muesli and tea has resulted.

Then in my lunch break today, I found myself doing two winter pursuits – sewing patchwork and looking for something Russian to read. The former because it reminds me that I really do need to finish my quilt, and the latter because Russian literature reminds me of subzero temperatures in the part of E. Europe I used to live. It was where I ploughed my way through many classical Slavic writers, and somehow I associate them with short days, reading lamps near the sofa and the wood burning stove.

So, notwithstanding that we still have sunny days in the 20s, as far as I am concerned, Daylight Saving or not, IT’S WINTER, and Mr Chekov and I are going to enjoy it together.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Heavens declare the glory of the Lord

Sunrise, from our bedroom window this morning. The colours on the photo don't do it justice, as the clouds were hot pink. What a privilege it is to be a part of the great Universe.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Hi, nice to see you

Prompted by one of Gila's posts at "My Shrapnel", I would like to enquire who are the visitors to this site? It would be great just to know which town you are from, and how you came across my small corner of the blogosphere.

As there are seldom comments left on my posts, I don't know who folk are. Would you spare a few moments to introduce yourself?

Meantime, Hag Sameach and Happy Easter to all my anonymous friends.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Waiting for surgery

New Hearts

New Hearts

A Heart Beat

For a woman, the first image of a beating heart on an ultrasound is hard to describe – what a joy, what excitement. A healthy baby and the hope of so much for their future.

But for countless women, the news is not good. Their child is born, but later a heart defect is found, or the child isn’t thriving. They have no energy, get short of breath, fall dangerously ill. The news comes that they have heart disease or deformity.

In the Western world, there are many medical charities and foundations that assist children in this position. In the Arab world it is often very difficult to find help. In modern Iraq it is nigh impossible.

The reason I went to Israel in January was to volunteer with an amazing organisation called Shevet Achim. The name comes from one of David’s Psalms (Psalm 133), which speaks of “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity”. The charity is Christian, and they work with the Israeli (Jewish) hospitals to bring Arab Muslims to Israel for life changing heart surgery.

Shevet Achim raise funds so that the surgery and all the surrounding costs/accommodation and transportation are covered. Their staff support the carers and children from the minute they leave Iraq, to the minute they fly home.

This is news you DON’T hear on the international media. Jews helping and loving their “enemies” facilitated by Christians.

Please take five minutes and visit their site ( and meet some of the children who are currently receiving surgery in Israel. Read their blogs, meet the staff, and if you can find it in your heart to bring hope to a child, give a few dollars online.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Treated like Royalty

Our Pasifika friends presented us with a ceremonial mat and beads. It is a great honour in Pacifika culture to be given these items. I confess, I cried.

Furry Friends

And we thought we were daft with our cats!

Jazz and Jandals -Cooper's Creek

Cooper's Creek Vineyard

North to South

After an eight and a half hour drive yesterday in mid 20s temperatures, we arrived back home. It was a great few days away, but oh so great to be back. Our kitty sitter with nerves of steel needed them, as "The Boy" was sent to the vet in our absence, having had a knee pop out twice in one day. He is under house arrest now for 5 weeks. I'm not sure my nerves will cope with the howling and attempted jail breaks. He has attempted to jump out of closed windows twice today.

Here are some of the photos of the trip.

Cooper's Creek Vineyard

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Purrfect timing

There is a standing joke with our local vet about appointments for our cats. We have always maintained that we should routinely book two cat appointments the week before we go on holiday. This is because for the last three trips we have made out of NZ we have had a sick/injured cat the week before.

Tomorrow we head to Auckland for a week. Yesterday I had to take Otto to the vet because his knee had “popped out”. This is not the same knee he dislocated a week before our UK trip in 2005. That necessitated surgery and cage rest for 3 weeks (our house sitter had to endure the pathetic howls, not us).

This morning, in an attempt to distract a very large cat under house arrest, I joined him on the floor and we had a nice chat. It was then I saw the massive cat bite under his neck which both myself and the vet managed to miss yesterday!

I am sans car, there are no more vet appointments for the day and we leave at 5am tomorrow. I think I will be walking down to the surgery to collect antibiotics for a battered and bruised moggy who is trying to keep cool in mid 20 temperatures.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Monarchs in the glen

It has been a very dry summer, which is good news for one creature in New Zealand, the Monarch butterfly. Naturalists are saying the butterflies are at their highest numbers in the last 30 years.

The swan plant is the only plant the chrysalis hang on. When the butterflies emerge, they make for the brightest coloured flowers they can find. As our garden is full of dahlias, we are the “restaurant of choice”. One of our neighbours has counted over 100 butterflies emerge from the plants under her sunroom window. In Auckland, you can marry in the grounds of a property which is full of swan plants, so several thousand fluttering guests come to your wedding.

It is a magical time and the cats are dizzy watching the daily flutterpast.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Caveat Emptor

Last night we had two couples for dinner. I made two enormous lasagnes (I got a bit carried away). The garlic crusher came up in conversation and soon became the joke of the evening. At one point we had both crushers on the table, and a large magnifying glass, looking for any forensics which would point to it being made in NZ, the US or Austria. Zip! Ganged up on by 5 Kiwis, I think I lost the argument. Thankfully we were all agreed on which one would be donated to the garage sale.

Almost all of BOTH lasagnes were consumed. My memory of events past may have been under attack, but not my cooking!

I’m wondering what price I should sell the offending object for? Perhaps I should sell it with a photograph of the sale, so that if the purchaser gets accused in future of buying a less than effective tool, they will have evidence of the day. But then again, perhaps not. They may come and ask for their money back.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Otto assists packing for Garage Sale

...........and the postscript is, the duff garlic crusher can go into the Garage Sale! Victoire!

Dividing the spoils

We are having a Garage Sale on Saturday morning. I’ve never had one before, but in preparation for building work, (freeing up space in the garage/basement), I thought it might be a good idea. My husband isn’t so keen.

I am a “chucker outer” by nature. Comes with being on the move for 12 years of my adult life. At one point, I could get my life in three suitcases. Alas, no more.

As I pointed out to my Better Half, “Who is going to be lumbered with clearing out our house when we both kick the bucket?” We don’t have kids, so some poor soul will have to do it.

Now, I’m not planning to shuffle off this mortal coil any time soon, but I am keen to create a bit of space.

But there is a sore point. “His and Hers” garlic crushers. I brought one into the marriage, so did my husband. We both swear that we both brought the steel one to the marital kitchen. The other fancier, (and more useless one) we have both disowned.

I actually remember where I bought the best one – here I hold the advantage, as my husband doesn’t remember where it came from. But as he uses this garlic crusher more than I do - I’m not a fan of the noxious bulb, he swears blind it is his.
Well, for your information beloved, I bought that garlic crusher at the American School Summer Fair in Vienna in 1996. So there! And if I have my way, the other one will get sold on Saturday. Humph!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Lilies of the Field

For someone who studied floristry, I have a lot to learn about identifying flowers, especially the wild varieties. I wasn’t expecting to see flowers in Israel in January, but occasionally at a distance saw scatterings of red blooms in the Galilee. They seems too short to be poppies, but then perhaps?……

Today I was reading a post by Gila at “My Shrapnel”. She had just visited Sderot, which is famous for it’s poppies. I googled the Botanical name and sure enough, here were the “lilies of the field” I was seeing all over northern Israel.

I am indebted to Wikipedia for the following, and the Smithsonian Institute for the photo.
“Anemone coronaria (Poppy Anemone, Kalanit in Hebrew) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Anemone, native to the Mediterranean region. It is one of the most well known and beloved flowers in Israel. During the British Mandate of Palestine, British soldiers were nicknamed “Kalaniyot” for their red berets.”

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Newtown Festival - Fiesta Siesta

Newtown Festival - Extreme Makeover

Newtown Festival - There Be Dragons

Newtown Festival - Alpacas Welcome

Newtown Festival - You Too can Tutu

Newtown Festival - Fairy costumes

Newtown Festival - Let's dance

Newtown Festival

Newtown is a suburb of Wellington, known for its mosaic of cultures, from Pacific Islanders, to Palestinians, Sudanese, Chinese, Latinos, Syrians, Greeks, Italians etc. Today was their annual street festival.

Welcome to Wellington.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Brag book

Jean, Gay, Jessie and Maara, ladies I do fundraising with. They are the best!

Brag book

With Suzie, an awardwinning photojournalist.

Brag book

Beach-combing on the north shore with my Israeli friend Shulamit.

Brag Book

A dear friend I inherited from my husband. Lexie lives in Auckland and is the most gracious and friendly hostess.

Friends are friends forever

OK, now for a brag book. As I don't have kids, I'll brag about my friends instead. This is Kim the Kiwi, and Bon Bon, my Californian friend. K and B worked together at Emirates Airlines. I am the one in the middle under 6 foot tall!

My Left Foot

It seems damaging my foot is becoming a weekly occurrence. Last week it was the nail through the toe, this week a sprained foot (same foot too!). When I was collected from work yesterday, I couldn’t walk I was in so much pain. The devil of it is, I have no clue how I did it. It must have been a combination of strappy sandals (they have low heels!), high humidity and crouching on and off all day, trying to get items out of floor level cupboards.
Sigh. The sandals will go to a charity shop and I will attend my fourth wedding anniversary dinner tonight with a foot strapped up, smelling of witch-hazel.