Sunday, 27 April 2008

China on the march

Some pretty worrying stuff happening in this part of the world concerning the Beijing Olympics.

Yesterday, I was working in town. Suddenly a sea of red walked and shouted its way past the door of the shop (on the main shopping street). The crowd was so noisy, the customers couldn’t talk to us and had to wait until they passed by.

After the noise died down, the customer I was trying to communicate with told me that the Chinese people on the march were not from the capital. They had been paid to come to the city from a university town to the north. It is a university which has a large group of students from China. They were bussed to the capital to demonstrate.

Yesterday over 4000 pro-China marchers walked through the streets of Auckland, and several pro-Tibet demonstrators were beaten up.

New Zealand is promoting Chinese immigration...........................

Thursday, 24 April 2008


If Google Earth was able to zoom in REALLY close, today it would have seen a miracle on Ngatitoa Street.

Our small town is not unfamiliar to beauty; we are surrounded by rolling hills and native bush. The domestic sections are drama queens competing for the most colourful flowers and wildlife.

But today, as I walked home with groceries I was struck by a truly awesome sight. Over fifty Monarch butterflies enjoying the sky between number 14, number 16 and just over the road at number 19 Ngatitoa Street.

I guessed at twenty, then more appeared, then more, then another flypast. I stopped counting at fifty. Sometime this morning, nature’s starting gun had fired and they must have competed to get out of their cocoons.

All I can say is, you can keep the Beijing Olympics, we had our own “Opening Ceremony” here in our quiet corner of the South Pacific.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Goin's on, under the bed

One of the disadvantages of moving around a lot is that you don’t get to hang out with your relatives so often. Today, I was wishing my Aunty Bett was 12,000 miles closer. I had a question I wanted to ask her; “What is the secret to a good hyacinth?” You see, I’ve never grown them before, and I seem to remember Aunty Bett had a few nifty secrets.

For me, December was fragranced by Bett’s bulbs. Rumour had it she potted them in the autumn then put the bowls under her feather bed, to let them grow slowly. Now in a modern heated house, this wouldn’t be much good. But Bett still lives in a tied cottage on the Estate of a large mansion, and heating, in the style of the 1930s and the Puritans, never made it to the bedroom.

Bett’s Hyacinths were the best December birthday gift. She still has the green fingers she acquired in the 1930s and which she perfected during her Land Army days.

She’s also a Game Keeper’s worst nightmare. When the annual pheasant shoot came about at the Castle, many of the young birds took refuge in her cabbage patch and were hand fed from the back doorstep of the cottage. The stray cats from the farm hid their kittens in her woodpile and several of the older females were allowed to snooze on the feather bed upstairs.

So perhaps the Grandma cats dreaming on Bett’s bed know the secret of a perfect Hyacinth?

The Cat's Whiskers

For the first time since we were married, we have a lodger. He is a twenty two year old Brazilian, doing business in the capital for 3 months. It’s been wonderful for my husband to have someone to crack jokes to. At the end of a frantic day, I retreat to the bedroom to read (cat in hot pursuit), they chat in the kitchen.
Our quiet, somewhat timid tomcat has not known what to make of this boisterous latino spirit in the house. Loud laughter and arm waving have had him heading for the nearest chair to hide under. Mostly he takes residence during waking and sleeping hours on our bed. Our tortoiseshell cat has been exactly the opposite. She has flirted with this handsome lad and listened to his jokes. I’ve noticed her whiskers twitching in a less than normal way when he tells stories at the end of the day……I wasn’t aware that cats laugh, but she seems to be.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

A Night Like No Other Night

This weekend it is Passover. I am really excited to be a part of this feast, where the story is told of the Exodus from Egypt. I am told it is the only ancient story which has been told continuously for nearly 4000 years. No other culture has maintained an annual commemoration, uninterrupted, for so long. It is wonderful to be a part of it, to share a Seder meal - in our case in a hall with around 50 Jewish and Gentile friends.

It is also an “excuse” to fanatically clean. Well, maybe not fanatically, but certainly thoroughly. I love having a “bright as a pin” house. Since I celebrated Pesach with my husband, “Cleanliness being next to Godliness” has at least become an annual event (grin).

I’m still learning to get my head around the “No Leaven” practice. It means that pasta and home made bread is severely curtailed. And I’ve had to remember not to bulk buy flour, otherwise what to do with it?

So, Saturday evening will be a Night Like No Other Night, we will tell the story of the flight from Egypt, then have a wonderful “Free for All” feast to celebrate, especially The One whom we worship.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

A dessert too far

The news is full of elections, whether it is concerning the desperation of the Zimbabwean people or the corrupt circus of the US Primaries. I am heart sore about the former and depressed about the latter. Not only am I confused by the American electoral system, I am concerned for the American people, who seem to have to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

But enough of the depressing front page headlines, let’s move to the Food Section of the paper. Tonight, my husband and I went to the polls (this is known as a BBC link). Actually, that should read, “Went to the Poles”. Yes, we returned to our favourite Polish restaurant, and this time went with a Polish appetite. We took on the “three dessert plate” at the end of the meal.

To those who are not familiar with E. European desserts, this was a brave act, even for a self confessed pudding junkie. We are not talking dainty “centre of plate” concoctions, but serious shortcake, cheesecake fruit constructions with thick cream and fruit couli on the side.

Realising that we indeed may be finished off by 1.5 desserts each, we opted for a pannacotta as the third dessert. Not Polish, granted, but a delicious and delicate foil to the apple mazureka and baked cheesecake.

If I mention that I am writing this blog at 3am, after tossing and turning for the last hour, you might draw the conclusion that I overdid the meal tonight.
You would be right. Fantastic as it was, last night was definitely a dessert too far.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Mother tongue

I have always been fascinated by how languages develop, steal from one another and become gloriously wealthy as they are added to, whether by immigrants or invaders, or latterly, the media and the phenomena of the global village.

I have never been linguistically gifted, but have enjoyed coming from a dialect speaking household. I am sure this helped me when I lived here and there over the years, as dialect speakers tend to “tune in” quite quickly to other varieties of English around them. English is also very easy to play with, if it is your native tongue.

If ever there was a language to get my creative juices flowing, it’s Yiddish. When it is written with Latin script (instead of traditional Hebrew letters), I can even understand bits of it, as so many words are rooted in German. The dictionaries of Yiddish run to volumes. In drunken, Falstaffian excess, it has imbibed from whatever land it has been used in, and swollen, good humouredly to “popping point”, then reclined by a fire, dozed for a while, and supped some more.

At one time, it was considered almost dead. Given that a large proportion of its speakers were obliterated in the Holocaust, it is a miracle it survived at all.

The last few nights I have chuckled away to myself as I have read excerpts from a small Yiddish dictionary, sent to me by my mother-in-law. She was raised with Yiddish, but no longer speaks it. A pity, as I would have loved to have learned some of the “mama loshen” from her.

So, “wet your whistle” and try a few of these, Yiddish first and with an occasional Yorkshire dialect equivalent:

BALEBOOSTEH – A domestic goddess (think Nigella Lawson) - don't think we have domestic goddesses in Yorkshire:-)
BOYCHIK – a bit of a lad (whatever rogue springs to mind) RAPSCALLION
DRAYKOP – a smooth operator or someone who tries to trick you (used car salesman?) KITTLE
OY GEVALT! – “Good Grief/Gordon Bennett!” BYE ECK / GUM
KLUTZ – Clumsy oaf (think Frank Spencer) GORMLESS – accident prone, silly
KVETCH – To complain or moan CHUNTER - to grumble
MESHUGGENER – mad or crazy person ‘ARF BAKED – a simpleton
MISHMOSH – a hodgepodge
MENSH – a man of fine qualities a good human being JANNOCK – someone reliable
PUT THE MOCKERS ON – spoil the chances of success (makkes = plagues)
NEBBISH - a weak, inept person FECKLESS – useless (referring to a person)
NOSH – Food eaten between meals
NUDNIK – a pest / bore (or PHNUDNIK – a bore with a Doctorate)
SHLEP – drag or carry a long way UGGEREM
SHLOCK – junk or something poor quality
SHMALTZ – extreme sentimentality BLUBBERIN’
SHMEGEGGE – miserable idiot BARMPOT - stupid person
SHMOOZE – to chat up
SHPRITZ – to squirt
SPIEL – a persuasive argument

Saturday, 5 April 2008


This morning a memory was triggered by a question I read on a website. Those of you who have a low embarrassment threshold should stop reading right now!

The question concerned the advantages of wearing stockings instead of tights (pantyhose for my N. American readers).

These days, due to the temperatures in my adoptive country, I wear trousers as a norm. However, I hate wearing them, and much prefer to wear skirts.

In my youth, I took great pride in my stockings and suspenders. I think because I am pretty conservative generally speaking, it was fun to wear pretty undies.

Now that I have thighs like a turkey, and a girth like a tractor tyre, suspenders are a bit impractical, as generally they are “One size fits all”, and "One size doesn't!" However, in my slimmer days, I wouldn't have dreamed of wearing tights. It is a bit like being shrunk wrapped (maybe I am part turkey?).

Tights, are exactly that –TIGHT. I experience being suffocated from the ankles up.I love the breeze that you experience with stockings! Also, being quite tall, I have never found tights that are long enough without wearing braces to keep them up. There's nothing worse than running for a bus, then realising that your knickers are descending with your tights and that you can't manage to climb onto that first step without a ladder running down both legs and wrinkles appearing round your ankles. You spend the entire bus journey wondering if you will be able to walk when you get off at your stop, or if you will resort to waddling like a penguin!

I am sure there are ladies out there who have funny stories re the above.

Oh, and for the record, stockings really do make temporary fan belts in cars. In my years owning a Morris Minor, I once had to putt putt home, with a stocking for a fan belt (and a very cold left leg!)

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Ding dong, Hormones calling

I never thought I would blog about menopause, but forgive me if I have a few minutes giggling at myself. I have decided, as I hurtle towards the oncoming juggernaut, to put my foot to the pedal and swerve at the last possible moment. My theory is that the adrenaline rush might just overwhelm the hot flushes.

Now, I don’t know about you other gals out there, but I don’t sweat, I BURN. I have a temporary blast of foundry heat inside my upper torso, like I imagine a blacksmith does as he leans into a fire, or a baker as he scrapes out the back batch of loaves.

Then there are the dizzy headaches and the dizzy memory. Spatial and emotional disorientation – not to mention spectacle disorientation; as in “where are my blooming glasses?”

I seem to be twisting my ankle every other week – nothing to do with the gin and tonics on the balcony, or the manic dance I do every time I stand on one leg to put on trousers.

My centre of gravity has shifted, so that walking and jogging after the cat has morfed into a flat footed waddle which threatens my other ankle.

I can’t wear heels any more because the dizzy headache gives me temporary vertigo and it’s difficult to balance the gin glass when chasing the cat up a 1 in 5 gradient driveway.

Please tell me that old age is funnier.