Saturday, 27 March 2010

A competition for the week I am away

Three questions 1) Which part of Israel is Acre? 2) Which European Emperor was defeated there? 3) Which film starring Paul Newman was filmed there?

A prize for all three correct answers in the comments box.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Flying away until April

My beloved and I are flying away for a holiday on the S. Island. Normal service will be resumed in April. I will then have stories to tell of hobbits and fossils and mysterious things......

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A stroll up the Botanicals

First a moccacino followed by an amble through Wellington's stunning Botanical Gardens.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Hort Lawn Cemetery

I have always had a fascination with cemeteries. The famous Zentral Friedhof in Vienna was a favourite outing for me when I lived in Austria. It was filled with the “great and the good” and musically famous. It was the peace of the place, the fabulous trees and birdlife that drew me there, not to mention the prospect of an imagination run riot as I read the names on the memorials. Who were these folk? What were their lives like?
Today, my husband and I went for a long walk, part of which was a stroll through Wellington’s original cemetery (which closed in 1892). There is a section that was consecrated for Jewish burial, and 44 graves and memorials are still there.
To quote from a sign at the entrance to Hort Lawn, the Jewish Cemetery;
“In the 1840s many London Jews were struggling and the younger ones headed overseas to seek opportunities as merchants. In New Zealand they were allowed to establish businesses and buy land. The New Zealand Company settlement scheme offered new prospects, and by 1848 there were 61 Jews in NZ (28 of which were in Wellington). A number of prominent Jewish colonial families are represented here including Nathan, Cohen, Philips, Levy and Levin.”
Two of the Jewish graves are noted in the small leaflet that gives a history of the cemetery
“Lipman Levy d. 1880 – In addition to importing boots, Lipman was one of the earliest members of the Wellington Philosophical Society. He was also involved in Wellington’s gold rush of the 1860s, opening a mine at south Makara. Lipman Street and Levy Street on Mt Victoria mark the site of his large house and garden”
“Benjamin Aaron Selig – When Selig was appointed Reader and Shohet (ritual slaughterer for kosher meat) in 1862, the Jewish community numbered fewer than 50 – not enough for him to make a living, so he took up watchmaking, which soon crowded out his religious duties”
I was saddened at the poor condition of many of the graves, Selig’s looked like it may have opened during an earthquake, it was so badly damaged.
So for your interest, stroll with me through a graveyard, divided in two (the main orbital motorway drives right through it).

Friday, 19 March 2010


I don't know what it says about our choice of books, but Ms Cookie has taken to checking out the books, then dozing off.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Welcome to Country 82

Dear visitor from Moldova, thanks for dropping in! Was it Matt or Helen I wonder?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Lost in translation

A number of years ago, I took this photo in Netanya, a town on the coast of Israel. At the time, I was highly amused by the multiple personality disorder of the restaurant, but I realised it probably summed up rather well the struggle that some Israelis battle with - identity. If you are a recent "Oleh" or immigrant, you might have an English/Australian/American/S.African/Spanish/French/Iranian/Ethiopian accent to your Hebrew. If you are "Second Generation" your parents may have raised you trilingual (Hebrew/English/Mother Tongue). If you are over 60, it is possible that trilingual includes Yiddish as the Mama Loshen.

I then got to thinking about my own crisis of identity at the weekend - that weird sense of isolation in the place you are supposed to call "home". It wasn't language that singled me out as different. It was a longing for something “other” which I found as nebulous and unfathomable as a sea fret. Sometimes it is as basic as someone using an idiom you haven’t heard for years, or a book in a second hand store that transports you to another place and time in a country far away.
The thing that is guaranteed to stop me in my tracks is smelling a wood burning fire in the air. It reminds me of bonfire night as a child in England, of crisp autumnal walks in the village I lived in the Vienna woods, and the refugee camps of Africa. I have been on a six year mission to get a wood burning stove in New Zealand. I suspect it would make me feel less of an immigrant and more like I’d come home.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Oh what a glorious thing to bee

A view from the “Top and Tail” of the day. At an early morning market I got talking to a British immigrant to New Zealand (she’d lived here for as long as me), who in six years had found it very hard to settle. Her parting comment was “I’m not surprised the Kiwi bird has been adopted by New Zealanders as a national symbol, because it sums them up well; they are reclusive, shy, and only come alive at night”. Whilst I could identify with her difficulties settling in our adopted country, I couldn’t totally agree with her assessment of the locals.
Fast forward to 11pm and picture the scene; three ladies sitting in a living room drinking cups of tea. The lighting in the room is subtle, and all three of them are watching a nocturnal scene through the French windows. Four big blokes, two dressed completely in white overalls, scrubbing and cleaning a collection of very odd looking equipment by the light of the moon and a few garden lights. One of the ladies smells of honey and is trying to make sure her sticky clothes don’t leave any amber nectar on the furniture.
The sticky female was me; I had just taken refuge for a few moments inside the house, to escape all the mosquitoes that had been eating me for dinner.
The evening was the highlight of my life in NZ so far. My bee-keeping buddy had invited me to help in the annual honey harvesting. The fraternity is wide and a fascinating collection of people from many walks of life. We took a drive north to the valley of the “Honey Extraction Beast”, a contraption that would have made Heath Robinson jealous. The HEB is joint owned by a couple of apiarists, and stored in this northern suburb. When we arrived, we were invited into the house for dinner. This was the first of many delightful surprises during the evening. It felt like a Harvest Home supper, as the table was weighed down with an amazing home cooked meal; and very welcome, as I had not had the time to eat a meal since breakfast.
We set up a line of equipment to process the honey. 29 boxes of comb (around 230 combs in total) were stacked at one end. Next to this, an aluminium bath with a rag stopped tap. Overhanging this was a heated electric knife for shaving off the wax caps on the comb. All the wax fell into the bath, to be processed later. Next the “Honey Extraction Beast”, which looked like the lovechild between a 19th century laundry cooper (with mangle) and a Caribbean oil drum. It spun four combs at a time in vertical cages, the final product oozing out of a tap at the bottom. The equipment was arranged on a massive black plastic tarpaulin and an arrangement of buckets of hot water sat on the edge, for washing of hands and equipment.
Add into this scene quite a few disgruntled bees that had also made the trip as passengers on the combs, and a mafia mob of mosquitoes.
It took us just over 4 hours to process the combs, and a good half an hour for the subsequent honey tasting. Three different varieties from three different parts of the city. One was judged to be quite citrusy/flowery and light, the other rich and dense, the other a good varietal bush honey.

After dropping off the empty hives at another suburb on the way home, I arrived back just before midnight.
Henceforward, having honey running down my wrists to my elbows will no longer seem unusual or even inpolite!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Freak storm comes through Wellington

Photo Kelly Sutton,

At 4pm I was quietly minding my own business doing some paperwork, suddenly the sky went black, the trees surrounding our office started to dance and the lights began to flicker. Our graphics lady then came to tell me it might be a good idea to save the work on the computer. The next minutes were surreal. A tornado passed through the northern suburbs and peeled the roof off one of the posh private schools. The Interislander ferry couldn't berth in the harbour and had to bob around for a while before it could come alongside.

All is now calm. Long may it continue.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Mexican before the Train Trip

I had a light meal in a small Mexican Cafe the night before the train trip.
Sadly, photography out of the train window was almost impossible. The sun was so bright and the windows so reflective, the photos had three layers of images. So, a few of trees before the light made photographs unworkable, and some taken at the midway point in the Tongoriro National Park. NZ used to be world famous for its flax. It is evidently the highest quality in the world, so in high demand for linen and ropes. The tuis think it is great too - getting regularly drunk on the nectar.

Hanging around in the Big Smoke

It is a truism in NZ, Aucklanders don't understand why anyone would live in Wellington, and Wellingtonians generally would not be persuaded to move to our biggest city. I just spent 36 hours there and on the way to/from the University building where I was taking a course, I took some random shots of the city -for your delight and delectation! It was early morning so I was free to stand in the middle of normally busy streets to get a few shots.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Things that go bump in the night

I apologise in advance for those of a nervous disposition. This was our late night visitor. He/she had a balcony view of a cat fight taking place on our driveway about half an hour ago.

I heard an almighty bump and squeal as our big tom cat got chased up the driveway by the local Mafia Moggyoso. Brave husband went out with a torch to try and locate and rescue "the boy". I followed him in hot pursuit, only to stop dead in my tracks when I saw this amazing weta.

I see baby wetas in the garden occasionally, but this one is a fully grown adult, getting on for 5cms long. They look vicious, but are completely harmless. They happen to have a penchant for dozing off inside running shoes or gum boots, enjoying the warm moist habitat. So if you leave your boots by the door, it's always a good idea to shake them before putting them on again.

This is the creature that Sir Peter Jackson named his special effects studio after.

So, now you know