Monday, 31 May 2010

Forever friends

The first visitor I had in my new home, July 2004, swaggered in as if she owned the place, demanded lunch (I had none to offer her), then settled next to our only heating in the house, an oil filled radiator. She has been with us ever since, although only officially owned by us since May 2005.
This evening she is huddled next to that self same radiator and I have been curled on the floor next to her. She is now late middle age, and very sick. The vets are calling in a specialist as she is puzzling them all. Meanwhile I watch my darling girl with big saucer eyes purr heavily to comfort herself. I have made the floor cushion wet, crying by her side. I don't have her company for much longer, I am sure of that. I wish there was someway we could communicate with them to let them know, beyond any certainty, deeper than the deepest purr that we love them and appreciate all that they give to us.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

And now, for something completely different

This evening I met an amazing man, via some programme notes on the back of a CD. The CD is by the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (SAVAE) and their music is taken from era of Jerusalem’s Second Temple.
Abraham Zvi Idelsohn was one of the most remarkable musicologists of the 20th century. At the outbreak of World War One, he published the first volume of what was to become the ten volume “Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies”. This seminal work, covered the Yemenite community of Palestine, and the Jews of Babylon, Persia, Uzbekistan (Bukharian), Oriental Sephardim, Moroccan, German, Eastern European, Hassidic Jewish communities in Palestine and the Diaspora. It took 20 years to complete.
If you have ever danced around a room singing Hava Nagila, you have AZ Idelsohn to thank for it – he collected the song from the Hassidic community.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The German Invasion of NZ

A chance encounter with the plaque on the above photo started a conversation about the German "invasion" of New Zealand at the end of WWII. It transpires that a daring Kapitan Timms, Commander of a German U Boat landed a party of his able seamen off the Hawkes Bay coast in Napier. The submarine had some farm boys amongst its crew, and they nipped ashore to milk a few cows, returning to the sub with the milk. The tale is told by one of our most honoured military commanders, Air Marshall Sir Rochford Hughes, who evidently met with the U Boat's commander in the 1950s when Germany and Britain had become Nato allies.
The U Boat captain told him that they had been close to the Australian coast and were sent to Napier after an intelligence report that a freighter was loading meat there for the war effort.
“Among the crew were several young men brought up on farms in Germany. According to Kapitan Timms, fresh milk was a welcome change, though they complained about doing it all in the dark. I don’t think we were invaded, but it seems we had some milk taken which wasn’t paid for."
“Kapitan Timms was the sort of chap I believed implicitly. His knowledge of the coast and admiration for the country was also impressive.”
The NZ Ministry of Defence has no record of the landing, but there was some record of a German submarine in the Tasman sea at the end of 1944.
“On December 24 of that year the American steamer Robert J. Walker was torpedoed and sunk 200 miles [320 kilometers] south-east of Jervis Bay, NSW.” NZPA.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Oh show me a home.......

It could be said that certain things in life just don’t go together; yoghurt with shredded leeks, underwater video games, tango lessons on a glacier, octopus pancakes……I’m sure you could add your own ideas.
My day had a random feel about it. First up, croissants and coffee at our favourite French café (so far, so normal). This was followed by 6 hours of philately, about 200,000 stamps to sort ready for a charity to sell in the UK. I’d volunteered to do it and my better half came along as the roving expert.

Feeling somewhat brain dead by 3.30pm, we took off for another coffee at Jua Kali (“hot Sun” in Swahili) and I came home with a wildebeest.

I’ve always had a soft spot for wildebeest and warthogs – they don’t get on the cover of Vogue or get sent fan mail or flowers. But I find them very endearing. I always wanted a pet warthog, but wildebeest were sort of out of the question, especially as I always lived in an apartment in Africa, with not so much as a front lawn!
So, today, when I clapped eyes on Basie, I was smitten and simply had to take him home. I guess I could sum up the day and by saying I was a stampeded.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Fancy stuff and fancy that!

I am frequently amazed at how well God’s knows us and wants to delight us. For months I have been trying to locate a particular book (now out of print); a history of the British Royal Jewels. Gems are a hobby, and I have always been fascinated by the provenance and mystery of Royal jewels, ever since I found a book in my local library when I was eight years old.
On Thursday, a friend showed up at my workplace with a book she’d stumbled across on the Internet. Knowing that Russia and jewels are a passion she bought it for me! Generous and perceptive – I was really touched. So, Friday night I tucked into a book about Faberge’s eggs.
On Saturday morning, I fell over the other book I had been looking for in a local charity shop for the outrageous sum of $3. Bang went another few hours, racing through the first few chapters. Both of the books interlocked at one point, over the acquisitive nature of two branches of the same family – notably Queen Victoria and Czar Nicholas and his wife, the granddaughter of Victoria, Princess Alice of Hess. The Empress Alexandra was given Faberge eggs each Easter by her husband. As Empress of India, Victoria amassed the most amazing treasures, gifts from Maharajas and Princes in her dominion. Her son Edward Prince of Wales, probably doubled the jewel coffers on his trip to India in 1875.
Back to the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, I had a visit from a friend who had recently returned from a visit to a mutual friend overseas. He had carried back to NZ a present from this friend, which totally capped the weekend. I had lived in her home for two years, and even though we are about as different as salt and vinegar, she knows me well. She sent me an exotic and colourful gift in the bold colours that I love. Again, I was really touched.
It seems you don’t have to be a Queen or a Princess to receive something gorgeous from a far off foreign land.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Singing sweetly to myself

I work in an office next to a historic building. Native pohutukawa trees that shed their red prickles in our car park and block our gutters and drainpipes surround it. They are massive trees, and being English I catch myself looking for squirrels in their branches; delusional, as we don’t have squirrels in New Zealand. We do have possums, but mercifully the city centre is a possum free zone.
Every day I eat lunch with my co-workers in a small kitchen that overlooks a small veranda. We have started to throw out the crumbs from our sandwiches, and each afternoon as I wash up the coffee cups, I am rewarded with the sight of blackbirds and sparrows “taking afternoon tea”.
Oh did I mention that the historic building is the capital’s wooden cathedral?
This afternoon I caught myself singing as I did the washing up.
“All around the Cathedral, the saints and opossums, look down as she sells her wares. Although you can’t see them, you know they are smiling, each time someone shows that he cares. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag”
It was a truly Mary Poppins moment.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Couronne de la vie

I have only visited Paris three times, which is pretty shocking – as a Brit, I have no excuse. The residing memory I have of all three times isn’t the Rive Gauche, or the fashion, or the museums, it’s the bread and the life experiences that seem to curl themselves around the loaves.
First memory, sitting in a park twenty seven years ago, with a good friend from University, he a diplomat, me still a student. We had bought wine, pate and the ubiquitous baguette to eat for lunch. Whilst distracted in conversation opening the wine, and wrestling with the baguette, a huge dog came bounding towards us and stole the pate from our blanket and ran off with it. The owner of the said dog was very embarrassed and extremely apologetic, all I could do was roll around laughing it was so funny.
Second memory; visiting a S. African friend in the 19th arrondissement. Three times a day we went to worship at the local boulangerie, serving the morning bread at lunch being tantamount to heresy. I had no idea that such a routine could be so addictive – and how on earth did the French women stay so slim? A random fact; French bread contains no fats, sugar or preservatives.
Third memory; visiting American friends on the southern outskirts of Paris. Their village bakery was difficult to get out of, simply because the ability to make decisions vanished the moment you stepped over the 18th century threshold and sniffed the dough fragranced air. My schoolgirl French simply couldn’t cope with the complexity of choice and I left armed with far too much bread due to my linguistic paralysis. Later, wandering around the Jewish quarter of Paris, I found myself following my nose and buying more.
The smile arrives simply with the memory of French bread, so not surprising then at today’s waterfront market, I made straight for “Simply Paris”. All bread made by the café with the same name on Cuba St, Wellington. Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The stuff of fairy tales

Amanita Muscaria
In summer, we have roses outside our office window, at the beginning of autumn, we have this little fellow. I suspect there are fairies hiding behind it, because they always do in the story books.
But we won't be eating it for tea, it's rather deadly you see..........

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Living in Wellington but missing Africa

I miss Africa. I visited Malawi in 1988 and I later Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. I ended up moving to S. Africa for a couple of years, and totally fell under the spell of the continent.
This weekend I dragged my husband along to a delightful new shop in Wellington, opposite our National Museum, Te Papa. It is called Juakali and sells beautiful Fair trade products, jewellery and furniture from Africa. This weekend they had a lovely man from Congo giving drum lessons. You can drink good coffee, and Beverley the owner is chatty and hospitable. Drum lessons run for the month of May, so if you are in town, you have no excuse.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Why I love Wellington - Sunday Markets

Opposite the Museum Hotel, where travelling Hippos like to eat, there is a Sunday market, where travelling Hippies like to eat.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Beware of those who own stamp albums

My husband collects postal history of Palestine / Israel. It appeals to his analytical mind and passion for history. A few days ago, we were having a random conversation about Stanley Gibbons, the Englishman who catalogued stamps and whose reference books are a must have for any philatelist. We both thought it strange that he never made it into the “People of the Millenium” list. After all, he practically invented modern stamp collecting.
I decided to see what I could find out about him. It turns out he was trained as a chemist and had FIVE wives who all died young. Some have speculated that there was a link between these deaths and his profession as a pharmacist. It is also rumoured that he was found dead in the arms of his lover at the Savoy Hotel. It seems that fraternising with those who collect stamps could be classified as a “liaison dangereuse”.
How thrilling!