Thursday, 31 July 2008

That's a lot of matchsticks

A tree felled by the storm in Nelson, NZ. Photo Steve Hussey

The question that arises is, "How come the dovecot is still standing and the tree isn't?"

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Thames by name, Thames by nature

The road outside Thames, Photo IAIN MCGREGOR/Waikato Times

Storm lower North Island

Civic hall about half an hours drive from where we live. Photo Mitch Lewandowski

Second Storm hits country

Jetskier along road in the Coromandel Peninsula. Photo Joanne Churcher.

We are in the midst of a storm which has brought down power lines, blown off roofs, and swept people to their death in the north of the north island. There is worse to come.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Face makeover

It took me a while to realise it, but my fall and black eye took a big toll on my husband. Both of us have been completely wiped out and exhausted for three days; I suspect suffering from shock. He has watched me like a hawk ever since it happened, constantly asking whether I am feeling OK, can I see OK, do I have a headache. I have felt so, so sleepy over the weekend, but I can honestly say, I haven’t felt ill – until I’ve looked at myself in the mirror. It has really been a horrible mess.

Something more disturbing than the looks I was getting in public were the looks my poor husband was getting. I could see the unspoken question; “Did he do that to you?” I wanted to wear a tee shirt with “I am a klutz, I fell over my own feet carrying shopping.”
Or as a humorous friend commented “Well, its great to see that you saved your hands by falling on your head.” My beautiful ski jump nose and my buck teeth are preserved, so all is not lost.

Thank goodness my face isn’t my fortune.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Surfing the storm

Photo courtesy Shaun Walburn

Auckland Yacht and Scout hut gets hit

Photo courtesty Trevor Whelan

Sea scapes

Near Mount Maunganui - Photo Shaun Walburn

Weather Bomb Update

According to today’s rag, three people have been lost at sea in the latest storm, over 2000 skiers were on Mount Ruapehu when the severe weather hit and 60,000 homes were without electricity.

Today it is sunny and mild in our suburb, but everything turns to custard tomorrow. Photo above courtesy of the Met Service, showing deep depression over NZ

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Weather Bomb

A storm has just hit the top of the north island. There are 50,000 homes without electricity in Auckland, our biggest city. At Mount Ruapehu in the centre of the north island the ski fields were hit by 200 km blasts. A human chain had to be formed to get people safely out of the ski lifts into the hostels nearby.

Rivers are flooding and it is predicted this will be the worst weather system in a decade. It is known as a weather bomb.

Friends of ours just moved to the S. Island from the USA. Welcome to your new home and we hope you packed your snow boots, snow chains and hot water bottles.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Muscle head

I love standing in checkout queues. It’s a great place to people watch, and make friends with small people sitting in shopping trolleys.

This afternoon, I was in front of a Pasifika gentleman carrying a large bag of frozen mussels.

Me “How do you cook mussels? We tend only to see them in vinegar in the UK”

I got a big smile (I think he was Fijian)

“Well, I put them in the microwave, then cook noodles and a few vegetables”

The guy behind him (Maori) shook his head.

“No, no, the best way is with a few cooked onions and cream.”

By this time the Chinese cashier chipped in,

“I’d take the noodle recipe!”

Fifteen minutes later I was unloading the shopping from the car and missed my footing walking up the drive (I tripped against one of the newly installed grates). I fell heavily against concrete and used my skull to cushion the fall.

I am now sporting a black and swollen eye. If only I’d had that bag of frozen mussels instead of tins of cat food in the shopping bag, I could have iced my face before my husband came to scrape me up off the floor.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

From the other side of youth

Having never had the blessing of children of my own, I have always been somewhat awestruck by the way other women have raised theirs. I am convinced I would never have been able to take on this task, but am so appreciative of the “finished results” of others.

Our lodger was a case in point. A great guy. I even got the chance to tell his mother that (in my very bad Spanish to her Portuguese). He had two great friends, ladies, and outside their parents, I think I’m their biggest fan. “Well done” to their parents too.

It is such an easy thing to knock the youth of today. When you are middle aged, you can be less tolerant, impatient, critical and cynical. But to be honest, I am encouraged by so many in their teens and twenties. They face challenges I never had to, sometimes they fall over, but it’s not my business to kick them when they’re down.

Thanks to all our recent visitors in the capital. You know who you are. I salute you, and even though I had just a few hours / days in your company, I can honestly say, I’m the better for it.

Conquer the world. I am happy to support you do it. Look at my mistakes, and try not to repeat them. You will make your own, but I won’t condemn you. Don’t be discouraged, the Maker of the Universe is actually on the side of the righteous and the holy. He wants you to succeed is not waiting for you to fail.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Nifty tips

I bought a book at the weekend with some really ingenious tips. A few examples:

How to keep your counter tops "cat free"
Put down double sided sticky tape. Kitty will hate how it feels on her paws and won't repeat the experiment. Or, assemble empty tin cans and aluminium cookware near the edge. All the clatter when it falls to the floor will give her a start. Again, not to be repeated for noise sensitive ears.

De-mineralise your shower head.

Fill a plastic sandwich bag with vinegar and wrap it around the head so it is completely immersed in vinegar. Secure with an elastic band. Leave to soak overnight and use old toothbrush or some tooth picks to clean the holes.

Unstick gum with egg whites

Use a toothbrush to scrub away the gum with egg white. Leave for 15 minutes, then wipe away remaining traces and launder as usual.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

In Memoriam

This week I did something I have never had to do before; delete a friend from my email address book because they had died.

I had lost contact with this friend. The last time we had met was a week before I married in 2004. We had sailed together and as our lives continued on different bits of the planet, we had literally drifted apart. But in July 2004, she was sailing with her family in Scotland, and I was "home" in the UK briefly for my wedding. We met up, and the intervening years melted away as we laughed over old sea stories.

For a couple of years I got the family "round robin" at Christmas, the last one with news that she and her husband were moving to Nigeria (she was a doctor). I had assumed that the lack of news after that was because of the challenge of living in Nigeria.

Then last week I had dinner with a mutual friend and he dropped the bombshell. Cancer.

My friend had three small children, the eldest her own biologically, the youngest two adopted.

Rest in Peace Lisa. I won't forget you.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Gone to pieces

I don’t remember a Saturday where I have done nothing. However, after two solid weeks of entertaining people, I decided today was a day to truly relax.
Out came a jigsaw I bought about a month ago at a charity shop. It must be thirty years since I did one. Even my better half was hooked. Does anyone know if there is such a thing as jigsaw addiction?
750 pieces later, I'm feeling truly relaxed.

Friday, 18 July 2008

All blacks

New Zealand can claim to be blessed with more coastline per capita than any other nation in the world. The other blessing is that we host some pretty amazing seabirds.

Take the variable oystercatcher. It’s a funny little fella and relatively rare, so we are privileged to watch it waddle amongst the pebbles.

Today, we were driving by the shore, which was strangely empty of its normal population of oystercatchers. I happened to glance to the other side of the road, only to see over fifty of the birds digging for worms on a community field. The tide was in, so their breakfast was being sourced amongst the worms on the flooded rugby pitch.
How appropriate that the new occupants of the field were also “all blacks”.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

An early spring

A friend brought me flowers from her garden on Monday evening. The weather doesn't know what to do with itself and bulbs are totally confused. We have daffys sprouting everywhere!
Hey guys, it's still winter!

Reindeer out of retirement

I have amazing parents; allow me to brag. Mum will be 84 this year, Dad 77. Dad has a heart condition, non Hodgkins Lymphoma (in remission) and very severe oesteo arthritis. Mum’s sight and hearing aren’t great and she suffers with a frozen shoulder and tinitus.

Ok, so, they have reasons to “take it easy”. Not likely. They recently started visiting a small home for mentally disabled adults. This week they were invited to the birthday party of one of the residents. In the course of the conversation, my Dad asked the manager if Father Christmas ever came to visit the home. The reply was that they couldn’t afford to hire one. My Dad has offered to brush off his outfit (stored for the last 7 years), and do his Father Christmas routine for the eight residents at Christmas. He did this for fifty years on the trot, but then felt it was time to pack the boots and outfit away.

So, the corridors will once again be ringing with “Ho Ho Hoing”. I suspect mum will get busy with presents for the sack too, as she’s always fitted the role of Mother Christmas perfectly!

Honestly, there are some folk you simply can’t tie down. I’m thrilled.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Sassenach breakfast

I had one of those “my goodness, that doesn’t happen any more” moments this morning. Oh dear, the world has changed, and no one asked my permission before they rearranged the furniture!

It was a small incident. Last night we had another dinner party, and there was some single cream left over from dessert. As a treat I made porridge (it’s that kind of weather here), and thought “mmm, a slosh of cream for the top”. As a child growing up in the north of England, we had milk delivered to our doorstep in a tall bottle. It always had at least two inches of cream at the top. My mum would ask me every morning, “would you like the cream from the top on your porridge?”
In the era of skimmed/lite/no fat/low fat milk in PLASTIC containers, the delight of eating high calorie oats is but a distant memory.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Cupboard Love

Our beloved Tom Cat, Otto never misses a trick. We rearranged some furniture to allow for a big gathering on Shabbat. Within a nanosecond, he'd discovered the missing drawer and was about to make himself comfortable.

Alarm bells

A few weeks ago, my mobile phone skidded out of my handbag when I put it on the floor. It appears I damaged it, but it worked normally until this week, when the speaker on it died. It means the phone doesn’t make any sounds so I don’t know that folk are calling or texting me. It seems it is unrepairable, which is a pity as this model phone is no longer available and I really like it. What is worse is the alarm no longer works, and that was vital to getting me out of bed. That is, until this morning.

Living where we do, we have on average ten earthquakes a day nationally – most are too deep to feel at surface level. Our town is on a fault line, so when the earth trembles in either the north or south Island, we often get the tail end of shiver. A bit like being on an old fashioned party line – one telephone line, several voices chattering.

This morning, at approximately the time my alarm would normally ring, Hanmer Springs had a very shallow 4.1 quake.

Sorry folks, but even Nokia doesn’t wake me up that efficiently.

Saturday, 12 July 2008


Allow me a two minute boast. I’m amazed how far I’ve come technically for someone who failed maths at school and had no interest in any scientific discipline. I am a complete klutz in anything to do with DIY, I simply don’t have the talents to problem solve when it comes to things physical.
In 1985 I used a computer for the first time. I have been using them daily ever since. I have no interest in all the whirly gig things they are capable of, or the languages the programmes are written in. I love them because I can type fast and get ideas out quickly. My computer is my window on the world and the way I have cups of tea online with friends far flung.
A few days ago, I decided to try set myself up with a new blog. The format and way to add things was completely different to Blogger, but I cracked a number of problems and figured my way around some HTML code which was proving difficult.
This from someone who doesn’t know how to operate the DVD or Video and is still navigating buttons on her mobile phone.
More about the new blog later.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

An unmissable academic opportunity

We live in a weird town for jobs. Because it is the seat of government, most of the top jobs are Policy related. We swim knee deep in Policy Analysts.

But now and again, a vacancy comes along in the Job Market section of our national rag which is too good to pass up. On Saturday, the following was advertised:

"Post Doctoral Fellowship in Biophysical Applications of Optical Tweezers".

Hmm, I just pluck my eyebrows with mine! I wonder if I qualify?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Duster Stations

Ever find yourself doing or saying things like your parents? Today I was trying to restore the house to its normal organised/tidy/clean self, after at least a week of neglect. We have old friends coming tonight for a fish and chip supper. I haven’t seen them for 10 years, and “properly” to sit down and chat for 14.

I remembered when I was small and my folks were having friends over, saying to my mum “They come to see you, not to see how clean and tidy the house is.” It was pointless chiding a duster waving, vacuum driving whirlwind. Clean and scrub and tidy she did – to the point of collapse.

Well, here I am, after an active morning washing/ironing/tidying/organising, collapsing in front of the computer with a LARGE mug of coffee, cranking myself up for the dusting marathon. I feel after two weeks of the house being surrounded by a mud flow that I have lost the battle already. And that’s without the FIVE times the cat threw up over the newly cleaned carpets!
“Oh mum, I see what you mean!”

Sunday, 6 July 2008

"May you live in interesting times"

Last night we had the marvellous experience of hearing the NZ Symphony Orchestra with a Macedonian soloist playing Rachmaninov’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”. I have never heard this piece played so well or so passionately. Simon Trpceski is only 29 and has had eight years already on the professional concert circuit. He got four ovations.

The symphony of the evening was Shostakovich’s 12th, written the year I was born. It is an extraordinary piece, the composer playing musical “hangman” with his Communist Party bosses. It was written for the 22nd Party Congress and interestingly, in order to perform it, Shostakovich had to become a Party member (for the first time). It seems that the “Powers” missed the subtleties of the themes, intended to scream out the injustices of the times. Instead it was declared a triumph. I left the concert hall feeling the composer’s despair. He was cursed with living in “Interesting Times”

Friday, 4 July 2008

The art of reusing the eclectic

I belong to one of those “Free Recycle” yahoo groups for my area. I just received a request, I quote “wanted - big preserving pan and an old mesh style satellite dish,”

The mind totally boggles. Does the satellite dish get used for straining fruit for jam made in the pan?

What other unconnected items might have a tenous link I wonder? Here’s my request “balls of double knit wool and a Morris Minor steering wheel”.

Go figure.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Another suitcase

Our Brazilian lodger leaves today. We are really sad. He has been such fun and I’ve enjoyed feeding his seemly endless appetite. His joie de vivre has been infectious and his humour a delight. He’s been considerate, tidy, polite and gracious. He is also mature beyond his years.

If the Foreign Affairs Department of Brazil needs a new candidate to train for diplomat, just let us know, and we’ll send a reference. But the fact is, you won’t catch him. He has his heart set on working in the Third World; to make a difference.
So, we will soon have an empty spare room. I wonder which “angel” we will be entertaining next?